Until today, I had spent just two nights in New York, 23 years ago. I was in my early 30s, not very well travelled, and very, very scared.
I stayed in the Mayflower Hotel on Central Park and, on my first venture out onto the streets, was approached by a short, fat, scruffy woman, with a thick, black moustache and a large, ripe pimple on her cheek. She told me I had a curse hanging over me, and that if I went to her house, for the measly sum of $3000 she would remove it.
“When you were born, somebody cut off a lock of your hair and put it in a dead woman’s hand.”
Given that I was bald until I was about three (think Yul Brunner), I very much doubted that this would be possible, but it unnerved me.
“You’ll always lose love,” she added. Jeez. This day was just getting better and better.
“How do you know I haven’t found it?” I asked, in my best Jessica Fletcher style interrogative voice.
“You’re not wearing a ring.”
“That means nothing. Anyway, I have my work.”
“You’re gonna lose that, too.” Boy, she sure knew how to cheer a girl up.
As I was writing for Today newspaper and needed amusing stories for my column, I agreed to pay her $20 and we went to a bar where she continued to unravel the little I had left of my life. When she left, the waiter brought me a free beer as he had noticed I was in deep shock.
Today newspaper went bust and closed and I never found love. Well, that’s not strictly true. I’ve always been very good at finding love; it’s just not very good at holding on to me, and all the dollars in the world aren’t going to solve that one.
I was so distressed at my New York experience I flew to Canada (yes, that distressed) and thought I would never return to the city that had promised so much from the movies. But, having been living in LA for five years (and I love it there; I really do), I suddenly became restless for the bustle of another city. Despite my financial advisers telling me that I should buy property in Las Vegas or Miami, where the best deals are, neither place offered me much. The former has just slot machines and sand, the latter just has Judge Alex. Even for me, buying a property in Miami would be a stalk too far.
So, I thought I would try New York again. Everyone told me it was a very different place now – cleaner, safer, and with nicer people (they were horrible to me when I came here before; apparently, because I looked as if I came from Brooklyn, which is now very cool).
The journey, paid for with my Virgin Atlantic points, started well (once I realized I was at the wrong terminal): a massage, champagne and prawns in the Upper Class lounge, and a lovely conversation with an executive coach who was going to Boston. As one of my exes ran off with a nurse from there, I hate the city and everything about it (I can be mean like that), despite never having visited.
The flight was marred only by two women who chatted for the entire seven hours. So, I took refuge at the onboard bar (I love that Upper Class service) and also watched a couple of episodes of The West Wing, which I somehow managed to miss when it was first broadcast.
I nearly got sent home at Immigration for reasons I will not put into print (nothing sinister, I promise), but as I had greeted the officer with “You are so much more efficient than LA Immigration,” he smiled sweetly and explained what I should and shouldn’t say regarding the purpose of my visit when travelling on my particular visa.
With a trip straight back home narrowly averted, I looked for my pre-booked taxi in a melee of cars, while talking hysterically on my mobile to the car company and begging people to show me where zone C was.
Finally, I was in the taxi and heading for Central Park West, where I was going to be staying at a friend’s apartment.
First impressions: it’s just like bloody London, I inwardly screamed, as the driver filled me in on his family from Bangladesh (VERY like London, on that score). At one point, I could have sworn I was in Mayfair. A friend, who hates New York, says it is “London without sky.”
But I am going to persevere. I had a good night’s sleep and am now going to go exploring. The apartment is gorgeous – very light, sunny and with a well-equipped kitchen, and there is a Whole Foods nearby.
I might head back to where I was 23 years ago to see how it’s changed. Anyone got a spare $3000 to hand? I’m determined to get that damned curse removed once and for all.
I’m a Welsh Alien In New York. Here I come.