The business of setting up home is a strange blend of weariness and exhilaration. I find myself oscillating between these two extremes as the process kicks off. On Saturday we made our way to Macy’s on Manhattan’s Herald Square. If you are not from this country, you need to know that it is the iconic American departmental store that sets the heart of the locals throbbing (you can call me out on this one if you are not a fan, but what are the chances of that, eh?).
The idea behind spending our time at Macy’s was to throw ourselves on mattresses stuffed with all kinds of memory foams and promising firmness in varying degrees. Adi is firm about it being firm, you see.
And throw ourselves we did, Adi with immense pleasure, I with some reserve. The idea of laying back, then turning around and pretending that I am sleeping on my own bed when the reality is that it is actually a department store, however hallowed its halls might be, is disconcerting. Never mind the woman on the next mattress, in her yellow sundress taking off her shoes to lay down on her stomach and change angles as she decided what worked for her. I know, that is the way you buy a mattress. But I cannot and shall not fall in line. I have Adi to do it on my behalf.
Then came the tut-tutting of the sales woman guiding us through the sacred rituals of choosing The Mattress. This grey-haired matriarchal figure was not in the least like our cordial little Mrs Marple. She cast a gimlet eye upon me, and observed, “I have been noticing that you have been standing for the most part while your husband has been testing it out.”
Adi got his chit of approval and showed me all of his shining teeth. I, in the mean time, played the part of the sheepish one. Then came the deal breaker. The part where all kind of hearts, young and old, stumble and fall. Prices.
Adi’s grin started fading bit by bit. Till it was time to take ourselves out of the vicinity of those rectangular beacons of firmness to think sanely.
In almost every situation in life, when you feel overwhelmed, it helps to take a step or a few steps aside, and just let it be.
That is what we did, and the result was that while sauntering down the all-important doyen of avenues, Fifth Avenue that is, we espied a store that declared itself to be Mattress Firm. ‘Surely a sign’, we thought to ourselves, and entered the store past a bunch of police crowd control barriers, wooden, blue and pretty. A sign that Fifth Avenue had been the venue of a parade earlier on in the day.
An old-world lift whisked us into a massive hall which was a neat picture stacked with rows and columns of mattresses, boxsprings and more mattresses. A head popped out of the corner. A grin accompanied by a booming voice as the words came our way, “You folks are the first people to step in, so come here quick. Give me a hug! Let’s have a group hug, y’all.”
Javon was his name and he pronounced it as Gio-vaan as he indeed engulfed the two of us in his big arms and gave us a tight hug.
A start with a hugging salesman is prophetic of good times to come. Symbiotic for both parties – we got our mattress – and good on Javon. He achieved his sale without breaking a sweat. And he added to the experience by giving us tips on how to catch the best views of NYC while sitting atop rooftop bars, which burgers to chomp on, the best track for running in Central Park, meeting celebrities like Julianne Moore (who inclined her head to let him him know that it was indeed her). He also mentioned his momma who lives in Little Italy in the Bronx.
Now this Italian neighbourhood is not the same as the Little Italy which I had come upon in Lower Manhattan. The Bronx one is the original they say, and no, the Italian mafia has not sunk its claws into it because its notoriety means that even the dons had to think twice about dominating the area. Which is not to say that there are no mobs around.
On our first day in Jersey City, we had met a burly and chatty cab driver who drove us into Manhattan. He had alluded to the infamous Bronx as he noted, “Two blocks up and down my house in Newark, it is not quite safe. But then I have lived in the Bronx. So I know how to take care of myself.”
We shall go one day to the Bronx. Before which I shall arm myself with copious quantities of coffee to steel the nerve. Not a bad plan, right?
Back in Javon’s Fifth Avenue hood, two hours passed by in a whirl of natter. The perfect salesman had made his sale, sans judgement about how I was not focusing enough upon disappearing into the mattress, and we had snagged us a deal that was a neat thousand dollars cheaper than Macy’s. The business of achieving the perfect sleep dealt with, we strolled down Fifth Avenue where we gleefully grabbed bags of dark Lindt chocolate and indulged in fashion dilemmas in Adi’s dearest Abercrombie & Fitch store – ‘Why I am in the flagship store!’ he remarked with awe because he had made it a point to drag me to all of its European locations. This was followed by a long drawn dinner of delicious Indian fare at Moti Mahal.
The euphoric moment of the day was unplanned – it lay in the transition from daylight to dusk.
New York at night. Those of you who have walked its bedazzled streets by night know this that the city knows how to work it once dusk falls like no other. Oh, the streets were a miasma of activity. The women came out in throngs in dresses, tipsy boys hollered around the streets, pretty young women waited in dimly-lit sidewalk cafes (waiting for their dates?), dogs sat patiently in bicycle trailers as their owners whizzed by us, and people spilled onto the streets drinking and diving into appetizers at cocktail bars. Yellow cabs rushed by us with their passengers and Hello Dolly ads as the balmy night air caressed our hair and welcomed us to the city.