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 at 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 time at Macy’s was to throw ourselves on mattresses stuffed with all kinds of memory foams, 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 reserve. The idea of laying back, turning around over and over, while pretending to be laying on my own bed when in reality it is within a department store, however hallowed its halls might be, is disconcerting. Never mind the woman on the next mattress in her yellow sundress taking her shoes off to lay on her stomach and change angles as she decides what works for her. Now that is the way you buy a mattress. I know it, okay? But I cannot and shall not fall in line. I have Adi to do it on my behalf.
Soon came the tut-tutting of the saleswoman 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, observing, “I’ve been noticing that you are standing around for the most part, while your husband tests mattresses out.”
Adi got his chit of approval and showed me all of his shining teeth. I was 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, 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 picture of neatness, stacked with rows and columns of mattresses, boxsprings, and more mattresses. A head popped out of the corner accompanied by a grin and a booming voice. “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 engulfed the two of us in his big arms and gave us a tight hug.
A start with a hugging salesman. Prophetic of good times to come? It was certainly symbiotic for both parties – we got our mattress – and good on Javon, he made a sale without breaking a sweat. He added to the experience by giving us tips. 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 had apparently inclined her head to let 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 Little Italy of 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 took a step back. 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. 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.
Back in Javon’s Fifth Avenue hood, two hours passed by in a whirl of nattering. The perfect salesman had done his job sans judgement on my refusal to sink into the mattresses. 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 greedily 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. Women came out in throngs in lovely 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 along the roads, and people spilled onto the streets, diving into drinks and appetizers at cocktail bars. Yellow cabs rushed by us with passengers and Hello Dolly ads as the balmy night air caressed our hair and welcomed us to the city.