Tuesday, April 26, 2011

2011 New York Auto Show, Part 2

Once secure in knowing that I could leave the 9-5 in parking without having to take out a mortgage, I decided to enjoy the nice—if windy—weather with a walk through mid-town. I am no stranger to New York, having grown up in its shadows. I am also not ignorant of cities. I’ve visited a number of them and lived in Boston for several years. Still, the New York experience is like no other. No, I have not been to Hong Kong, Shanghai or Tokyo. But from my limited urban experience, New York takes everything to a degree not found elsewhere. The most immediate attack on my senses was not the smell (New York still smells worse than other cities), not the visual intimidation of its scale; it was the noise. While I might live in a remote setting, and Watertown isn’t a metropolis, I am compelled to listen to traffic and air-impact guns sounding all day long. Those are but a whisper when compared to the relentless din of New York City streets. I found I never got used to it.

The energy of mid-town, with its masses of people and vehicles, creates an excitement which is hard to ignore. Not only were sidewalks and roadways crowded, but every store was packed with people. I wandered into Macy’s, the self-proclaimed “World’s Largest Store.” From the look inside, you would have thought it was Christmas Eve. Say what we want about the state of economy. I can tell you that in that part of Manhattan, it is nothing if not a boom time.

I stopped for a time in the vicinity of Herald Square to watch the passers-by, both pedestrian and vehicular. With respect to the vehicles, I noted that the Lincoln Town Car is passé, and that black Mercedes, BMW, Land Rover and Audi vehicles are ubiquitous. There were no exotic cars to be seen that day, though our fanciful cars like one Aston and a few Porsches. Of note was the fleet of the NYPD. Unlike most police departments, which drive only Crown Vics, or only Dodge Magnums, or a combination, it seems that when the NYPD requisitioned their fleet, they just asked for one of everything. I can recall: Ford Explorer, Ford Escape, Ford Fusion (hybrid?), Chevy Impala, Crown Vic, Dodge Magnum, a Pullman (three-wheel contraption) and several Toyota Prius. Yes, Prius. I guess if you sign on to do police duty in NYC, you have to check your machismo at the door. Given that the weather was fairly nice, I was surprised to see few two wheelers: a few couriers on single speed bikes, a few Vespa and only one motorcycle, a V-twin Suzuki sport bike. There was one cantankerous dude on a long board, a huge long board, who got frustrated when turning cars would not let him proceed through the intersection. Exasperated, me picked up the board and walked across, like the rest of us.

When retrieving the car, I had to help the lot attendant locate the Start/Stop switch. After his moment of embarrassment, he raved about the car and how beautiful it was. While he is a lot attendant, he is also in a lot of very pricey cars all day long. I accepted the complement. After picking up Swade in the 9-5 and shuttling him to his hotel later in the day, we parked and did a bit of shopping on foot. Even as the early evening came, the crowds seemed not to abate at all. I fancied that perhaps we’d go up the Empire State Building to show my Aussie friend a rarified view of Manhattan; that was, until we got close enough and saw that the queue counted into the hundreds. So much for that. Afterward, we dined at Ben and Jack’s Steakhouse. It was superb. I think Swade was caught off guard when the waiter, in my absence, asked if he’d prefer flat or sparkling mineral water, only to see a $10 charge for mineral water appear on the bill later, and again when he asked what the very pricey steaks came with. You guessed it—nothing. So we each had a simple dinner—steak and fries. Simple. Fabulous. Yes, expensive.

After leaving Swade at his hotel, I headed up-town where I was staying with friends. Driving through the Upper East Side, I came upon a display window for a small shop, whose name was too high up to be seen. In the window were white T-shirts with the KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON poster imprinted on the front, the very same one which Saabsunited and Swade posted so often during the trying times prior to the Spyker sale. How a propos, I thought. When I parked the 9-5, between Park and Lexington Avenues, I admired its presence in that tony neighborhood. It looked distinctive among all the other fancy cars, in large part because of its Glacier Silver color which contrasted not only with the other cars, but the grayness of the New York background. Then, too, it's just a fine looking car, no matter where it's parked.

Coming next—Part 3, the rest of the Auto Show.

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