Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Some of you may have read about an explosion that happened in midtown a couple of weeks ago. First indications were that a generator had blown up, but it later emerged that the loud bang was actually due to the rupturing of a steam pipe under the city. The explosion erupted with such force that a nearby building lost 16 floors of windows to the blast.

New York runs on steam. Apparently it's an efficient way both to heat and to cool high rise buildings. There are seven steam manufacturing plants in the city pumping some 30 billion pounds of the stuff through a system of old, rickety pipes. (Can you tell that I've been reading wikipedia again?)

In the wake of the explosion, the local power supply company is now checking the steam supply to our building, and this might cause interruptions to the hot water, heating and air conditioning services next week. Oh, joy.

Who'd have thought steam could be so disruptive?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


We lost our Internet and telephone service for 48 hours last week. It's very weird how dependent I seem to have become on the electronic world. How was I going to find out what was happening back in the UK? How was I going to find out what was on at the cinema? How was I going to find a suitable restaurant to eat in that evening?

I spent a good few hours angling my laptop in various positions around the apartment and out the window to try and hijack a neighbour's signal - a feat I managed for about 5 minutes at a time.

The nice man from the cable company came as promised on the Friday afternoon, unplugged the modem and plugged it back in again, and we were back in business.

How embarrassing. I probably should give up the day job.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Pump It Up

On my way to work the other morning I saw something that made me shudder.

We live in an apartment block that has a 24 hour McDonald's on the ground floor. As I walked past I noticed a truck with a hose running out the back to a connector on the wall of the "restaurant". I looked a little closer and noticed that the truck was delivering cooking oil. A lot of cooking oil.

Rationalisation is easy. McDonald's fries a lot of food, they're going to need a lot of oil. I just think that seeing it all in one place conjures up a rather unpleasant image.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Hot In The City

Preserving the theme that an Englishman can always talk about the weather, I am pleased to report that it's hot. Damned hot.

Forget all this "dry heat", "humid heat" nonsense: it's just ridiculously hot. Temperatures are well into the 30s, and show no sign of respite.

It still seems odd to me that, due to the air conditioning that is absolutely imperative in these conditions, my electricity bill is higher in the summer than the winter.

I'm melting.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


The 4th of July seems to be quite a big deal in the United States. I was just looking forward to the day off work, but ended up being impressed by how "into it" people seemed to be.

Flags were fluttering on every possible pole and building, the local news showed various barbecues and parades, and I read somewhere that America would be spending $2 billion on food for the occasion. Mostly burgers and hotdogs apparently.

At 9:20pm Macy's sponsors the country's biggest fireworks display. 40,000 rockets were fired upwards from four barges in the East River over a period of about 25 minutes. Not even the rain could dampen that show.

The odd part is that fireworks are illegal in New York State (along with a reasonable number of the other states, too). Maybe that goes some way towards explaining why 3 million people turned up to view the spectacle last night.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

London Calling

We had dinner at Gordon Ramsay's first New York venture, a restaurant called Maze at the London Hotel. Large fluttering Union Jack flags welcomed us as we stepped into the elegant hotel space. We were dining in the bar (rather than the full restaurant), and this gave us opportunity to sample more of the smaller plates that are offered in this area.

The food was really good. Rich flavours and well sourced ingredients gave each small plate a real lift. Highlights included a verdant asparagus risotto, perfectly fried sea bass, and the "essences" of a BLT served in a martini glass. This may have been Ramsay-by-numbers, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

The price was right and the service mostly spot-on, yet the place was surprisingly quiet. Maybe it's the location in an anonymous part of midtown, maybe it's the fact that Ramsay's reputation in the states is based only on the US version of his foul-mouthed and abusive Hell's Kitchen, rather than his cooking. Either way, I can't see the restaurant lasting a long time in its current incarnation unless a few more guests show up.

If you're in town soon, snag a table.