Immigrant Day

Today we’ll call Immigrant Day.

After sitting in Riverside Park for half an hour in order to lower my core temperature to something I could manage, we set off for the Lower East Side to visit the Tenement Museum. When we got there at 10am we found that the tours didn’t start until 1pm!!

We wandered round Chinatown. Through the streets are all these tailor shops selling, mostly, underwear. Not sure why you’d need an entire shop to make bras for sexualised young girls but I couldn’t resist the photo.

Lolilta Bras on the Lower East Side

The underwear shops are ok but the rest of the area is pretty gross. We ended up at the Olympic Restaurant and we (finally) had breakfast. Me, eggs Benedict and Mirinda French toast and bacon. Nice and cheap and very filling. After gorging ourselves and taking advantage of the bottomless cup of coffee, we wandered back to the Tenement Museum Shop and sat and watched videos about it. Felt like we’d been waiting ages by the time 1pm came round (oh yes, we had!) but it was well worth the wait.

Oddly enough a Swiss woman took us round. There was a group of 15. The museum is actually a tenement that has been restored to the way it was in various times of it’s life. We went from room to room, hearing all about the families that lived there since the building was put up in the early 1800’s until it was boarded up in 1935, because of the changes to the housing rules.

An excellent tour. Similar to the merchant’s house in Bergen. An awful lot of people in a small space: 352 sq feet and sometimes with more than one family in there. Found out that tenement means a building with three or more families in it. It’s from the Latin word for three.

When the tenement was boarded up, the final person was allowed to stay because it was no longer a tenement, ie there was no longer three families living in it!

Also found out about the Jewish practice of Shiva. It’s the period of mourning right after death. It normally lasts seven days during which the family remain in the house with mirrors and windows covered up. No-one is allowed to work. This includes cooking and cleaning. Instead, friends would bring food. After the seven days, the family then walk around the house seven times to signal the end of Shiva – or in the case of the tenements, they walked round the block seven times. It was an excellent hour and a half.

Then went back uptown as Mirinda wanted to check out Bloomingdales. Had a coffee in the Showtime Cafe – a bit like Woolies Cafeteria at Town Hall, Sydney. Wandered through the shop then started walking back to 5th Avenue. Stopped in Pottery Barn – I see what Phoebe means. Staggered to Broadway and FINALLY got the bus back to the hotel.

Ooh, excitement! Someone is making a movie in our street. Unfortunately that’s about it as they’re just sitting round at the moment, looking bored. Going to dinner with Lisa and Jack at 7.30.

We went to The Palms, an expensive steak house downtown. Very nice. During dinner Jack (I think jokingly but not sure) came up with the title Great Arseholes of Australia. He intends to write this book once they’ve moved to Oz. Everyone thought it was really funny though I think it’s silly!

Walked back via Times Square then hopped on the subway. Got as far as 96th Street but the train had (inexplicably) turned into an express so we jumped off and decided to walk the rest of the way. Got down the stairs but the passage was full of water and people trying to wade through it. We decided, instead, to go back up to the platform where another train had, by now, replaced the express. Jumped onto this. It was all like one smooth action.

Anna is having her first haircut tomorrow morning so we’re going over to them at 10.30 and then going out into the country.

I’ll be glad to go home and be in our house. I DO really love New York but I hate this hotel room with it’s sealed windows and blind that won’t open. It’s felt like I’ve spent a week in a cupboard. Would have been better in a tenement with sixteen other families and a parrot. Also I miss making a coffee BEFORE getting dressed but I am sort of getting used to this when it comes to overseas holidays.

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