Friday, January 25, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams ... a day in the life

Good evening from New York, where no day is ever quite the same as any other.

Well, each day does begin with a sunrise, or an alarm clock beep that precedes that gentle light.
After that, all bets are off. I remember the structure that I might yearn for, but have to be ready to improvise.

I am lucky to be able to sleep easily, and do usually wake before the 6:50 am alarm beeps.
Then. I will usually press buttons on the television's remote to see what might be going on beyond my bedroom. I am something of a news junkie, eternally wishing to place my day(s) into some perspective against the broader spectrum. Perhaps foolish, but I continue to try.

It is at this point that I frequently briefly re-enter the land of nod, for just one little farewell dream. Then I really am awake. I learn of overnight tragedy around the globe, and local weather and traffic reports.

Now. I think, what day is it. Am I going to the shop early, later, or not at all?
Depending on the answer, or if I can think of the answer, I may still indulge my news hunger, or get going. That means up to fix breakfast and switch on the computer.

If it's a work day, I will always have an egg, toast, juice, coffee breakfast. I never know when lunch might occur, so want to travel full. With the political/financial news on as background, I make a quick or not so quick visit to the internet, emails and this site.

I will see if there are any shop e-mails that I should know about before I arrive at the shop. Sometimes I will cringe, and wonder if I want to arrive at the shop.

By now, I may have gotten a phone call from a staffer who is ill, or for some other reason, won't be showing up. Cringing again. Even saying bad words out loud.

On to the shower, get the hair and make up done. Figure out which outfit to display to the customers. get dressed. Gather up all the folders that I will need for the day into the tote bag that I refer to as my portable safe, get keys, get out the door.

Now, my building has three elevators, but they are slow at best, so I usually walk down the three flights of stairs to the lobby, greet the doorman, and off I go to the glamor of the subway train.

My neighborhood station has both express and local (making all, all, all stops) service, and entry to the trains comes via a "Metrocard" that I buy monthly that gives me unlimited rides for a 30 day period. I sweep that little card through the turnstile, and gain access to the stairs to the dingy train platform. It is a narrow concrete area, between the local and express train tracks. I am very glad not to travel during rush hours often, because that would be scary with the crowding.

The wait for the train can be very short or irritatingly long. Sometimes we are entertained by a musician who hopes that we will help him exist in the city. Some of these entertainers are great, some just make me want the train to arrive more quickly. Sometimes I will see someone I know in the crowds waiting for the trains, but usually I just blend into the anonymous masses, with my head in a magazine or a book. Train riding time is a great reading time.

A train eventually arrives, and if the cars (carriages) are not too crowded, I can wedge myself into a spot of my own.

There are may different subway routes under New York, somewhat like London, so I can vary my route according to variables like weather, delays, whim.

One variation that I like in cold or wet weather allows me to transfer between two subway lines in the Times Square station. A benefit is that my underground walk between the lines often takes me past some very fine entertainers. Could be Cajun bands, Asian flutists, break danders, Peruvian rockers, Japanese Bowie wannabes, crazy lady playing a saw, gospel singers, totally fabulous drummers playing instruments of their own devise. And more.

I will not describe the various fragrances that you can encounter in the subway. They are too varied.

One subway route allows me to exit to Seventh Avenue, and I will walk two long crosstown blocks to the shop, that is on Fifth Avenue. This walk takes me past some interesting sights. Many new buildings are being constructed along these blocks, filling in tiny street level spaces with very tall slivers of expensive condominium apartment buildings; cranes are everywhere. The recent financial mortgage/credit crises may cause problems for these buildings as 2008 advances.

In the midst of these projects, some traditional businesses of this area continue. They relate to old line photography studios, commercial photography/advertising businesses, recording studios and some shops that make props for theatre. These prop shops are my favorites, because their windows, and the sidewalks outside their buildings always display a true surrealistic vision.
Example: golden mini Eiffel towers, next to huge pink flamingos, and all sorts of greenery, in every scale. Then there are some statues of the Virgin Mary, and a giant green pig, and some beautiful Japanese lanterns, and ... is that a hula dancer? Little blue rabbit statues next to a big kitchen sink. And more.

Also on this walk is a wonderful baker's supply shop. Everything that anyone would ever need to bake or decorate anything. It is all here. Pans, sprinkles, silver and gold decorations, cookie cutters, muffin tins, lots of stuff to go on top of tacky wedding cakes, mixing bowls, doilies, cardboard boxes of every shape and size to put a cake in. Etc.

Also pass by some very down and out folks, either asleep on the sidewalk, or waiting for some kind of connection at a corner or two. This is the city.

Finally round the corner at Fifth and get to the shop. If I am the earliest shift, that means I start the day fresh and will unlock the door and let the rest of the day evolve little by little. If I arrive after others have started up the day at the store, it is an entirely different day. I often feel that I am playing catch up for the next eight hours, putting out fires that I did not set.

It is all totally unpredictable. Phones ring, people show up. Some of these encounters are very pleasant, and some require detonation skills. My role is to inspire my staff to do their best, and to make sure that each customer is well served. And meanwhile to do all requisite corporate politicking. And make sure that the shop's merchandising always looks great, and all the items are fully restocked, and all the computers and other pieces of equipment work properly, and the banking and other financial doings are done on time, and so much more. Oh, we also always have to have fresh flowers in big vases all over the shop.

I usually work during my 45 minute lunch break, as that is a time to get into the somewhat calm office area, and to check on e-mails. The days usually flies past. Our shop's busiest times occur shortly after we open, then during the lunch period 12 to 2, and finally when folks are on they way home after work, 5 to 7. The earliest that I will go home would be 6; it is more usual for me to leave around 7 or later.

When I leave the shop in the evening I can glance up Fifth Avenue and see the bright lights of the Empire State Building, and the beautiful deco Chrysler Building. Then it is down into the subway, for the return uptown to home.

I may have to pick up groceries in order to prepare dinner. Once home, I can relax, change into tee shirt and jeans, read my mail and e-mail, fix dinner, pour a glass of wine. Check the news, listen to some music, maybe have time to call a friend if it isn't too late. But it often is too late! So most of my catching up with friends has to wait until one of the two days off per week. The pattern on those days is more varied.

All in all, I do find myself squeezing much into each day, and often do wonder about why it is that I live in this city. Then something extraordinary happens, and I rejoice!

It is always such a pleasure to finally cut the lights out, and rest my head on my luxurious down pillow. I am asleep in a minute or less.

Pleasant dreams to all.


  1. I love how your day evolves! Lovely.

  2. What an amazingly busy day. It sounds quite glamorous and exotic to me, but it must be quite a tough ride sometimes. I don't think I could stay looking neat and smart for so long. I'd start out fine then end up in a real mess. I spent one year traveling up to London everyday by train and tube. It was horrible, though the big city buzz was fine for a while.
    Thanks for sharing all this. I can now see how precious your time off must be,
    Best wishes LWB

  3. Hi Frances,

    Loved reading about your day in minutae, could just picture those flamingos hugging the Virgin Mary while a blue bunny cuddled a green pig! How surreal. I'm glad you don't have to do the rush hour thing too. I found we had two more things in common - a fondness for the Chrysler building and a down pillow each... I hope you pause to smell the flowers while you are working, sometimes.


  4. Hi Frances! What a day - no wonder you sleep so soundly! I used to work off Fleet Street in London and had to do the daily commute into town with the monthly travel card, dashing for tube trains or buses depending on which service was delayed...... It sounds more exciting in NY though!

  5. You seem to cope well with your long day, and I'm sure you continue to be charming and look well-groomed throughout. I would fine it an immense strain. I don't like you working through your lunch break - its not fair or good for you really. I hope you get something to eat! and I hope your bosses appreciate you!

    When you talk about the musicians in New York it reminded me of a book I read as a child - A Cricket In Times Square. Must try and get hold of it to read again.

  6. Fascinating day Frances. I used to travel to New York a lot and can really visualise your journey. This is so different from most of us here I suspect. Your job sounds absorbing, just make sure you have time off too (speaking as a reformed workaholic!).

  7. I have been eagerly awaiting your turn and am not disappointed in the slightest! I am fascinated and beguiled by the fact you live near Central Park and go to work on Fifth Avenue. As someone who has long wanted to visit New York, it sounds wonderful to me.
    And now, with your description of that Bakery supply shop, I'm faintly desperate to visit! I can't find anything in the UK that compares with how well/much the USA does with baking sundries. Maybe I should start to import them for my business idea!

    Thanks, Frances, it was lovely.

  8. City life is so exciting isnt it? So much ot see so many smells soudns adn colours to add zest to your day and oh what a day you have!

    I am so glad that you find time for us in it. Your busy life adds a tinge of verve to my day when I read about it!

  9. You are so, so busy Frances that I can see how you can't get enough time to do all the things you most enjoy.

    What a wonderful blog-I was with you every step of your journey-it may sound silly but I feel I can almost hear your tone and accent in your voice, your words are so alive to me.

    However much I love the country I do so love to visit cities too, be it for short trips!
    It is so fascinating to read about your life-I was also looking forward to it. One day I will come to New York and live it for myself.

    (And I'll let my hubby read this blog-he worked in New York many years ago for about 9 months!)

    warmest wishes

  10. I am faintly exhausted now...isn't it funny how different lives are? Here I sit, thousands of miles away, in a country area many people yearn to visit, and there you are, looking at the Chrysler building and I sigh a little...but wonderful to be able to read about it with such decription. :)

  11. What a contrast your day is to the many of us here who wake up in a rural landscape. I really enjoyed waking up with you and taking that subway ride to work.

    We've visited NYC many times - but the city one sees as a tourist is never the same one that the 'native' lives and breathes. It's such a vibrant pulsing place it must demand huge amounts of energy just to keep up.

    One day , if you have the time, please tell us more from a New Yorker's persective.

  12. Loved that took me back to the brief period I worked in London ...the underground ...the streets ...the musicians.
    So fascinating to get a glimpse of other peoples lives.I could visualise those flowers in the shop!

    Thank you.

  13. Hello Frances,
    As you said our lives are totally different which is why I so enjoyed reading about yours. I would like to swap but just for about a month, preferably January. I could leave behind muddy fields, muddy jeans and muddy dogs and be chic, elegant and sophisticated for a change. I'm not sure whether I could cope with the commute to work, I have never had to do that!
    Best wishes

  14. Its years since I was in New York- it always fascinated me. The contrast for me is not your life with ours, but the bustle of the city with your innate calm and just seem to float above it all!

  15. Dear Frances,

    I loved reading about a day in your life. It brought back memories of when I used to commute through in London on my way to Bond Street.

    I can picture your fine shop on Fifth Avenue, where those vases of beautiful flowers sit among desirable items of fashion.

    I enjoy the country air, but sometimes miss the "buzz" of City life.

    A beautiful written diary into the day in your life in New York, thank you for sharing it with us Frances.

    Love Camilla.xx

  16. I prefer to read this as a blog, nicer to look at.
    As always your writing is just so exquisite and you take us (literally) to another world. Thank you so much. I don't know if I would have your energy but you sound as if you really love your job and your city too. But I can see why you treasure your days off. I am much the same though my little job does not compare with yours. Keep writing and painting and brightening our days.

  17. That was a lovely blog Frances and once again I was transported across the ocean. I could almost feel your relief at being home once more as you changed into more comfortable clothes. that glass of wine is precious isn't it? xx

  18. Like KittyB I am fascinated and beguiled by your life in New York. It's somewhere I long to visit - so totally different from my own days here in Wales. Your journey to work seems so exciting and fascinating. All those people! The muscians! So much to see all at once! And now I too am really envious of that baking shop... sigh. One day I hope to visit NY, until then I will continue drinking in the sights and sounds via your blogs. xxPM

  19. Love that description of New York, Frances. But it's too hectic for me, except on a visit. But you seem quite serene despite the bustle and hustle.
    Best wishes Fenniexx

  20. Hi Frances,
    Sorry to read about your fall and hope you are ok, such a shame about the beautiful trousers, hope they are not badly damaged.
    I'm glad I posted about the falls, now i see I'm not alone and that many of us seem to trip and fall , hopefully not doing serious damage though.
    Love Elaine X

  21. Dear Frances
    so glad I found your blog!(from profile details).
    Do hope you are feeling better?
    We seems to have many of the same interests.
    So pleased you commented on my blog.
    Yes, if often 'visit'PG -in the blogosphere........