Tuesday, February 22, 2011
We woke up yesterday morning to find that it had snowed overnight here on Long Island. Only a few inches, but given the incredibly clear conditions the previous day, it still came as a bit of a surprise. To me, at any rate; probably just another symptom of my spatio-temporal dislocation.
I now have absolutely no idea what time or day it is. Which wouldn't be a problem, except my body also seems to be completely clueless. I'm getting more sleep than I'm used to at home, but feel tired all the time. I'm eating well, and at regular intervals, but feel hungry all the time. Even my digestive system is confused. It feels like my mind is subtly out of phase with my body.
And it's not just a physical sensation. I'm reading tweets and emails as usual, but everything seems to be happening at some significant remove. It's as if I'm observing my normal life through a time tunnel, from some indeterminate time in the future. Replying to an email makes me feel uneasy, like I'm breaking the laws of physics.
Perhaps my natural sense of dislocation is being exacerbated by the equally natural chaos that is gripping my brother and his new family at the moment. Having a tiny baby in the house turns your world upside down, and little Max was in a thoroughly disruptive mood yesterday - and the previous night.
When we did manage to get out of the house, I felt much more anchored in reality, even though the surroundings were subtly alien in so many ways. My dad, my brother and I went for a bitterly cold, but very welcome walk around Babylon in the snow, hoping to take some pictures.
This is one of the things that I most enjoy about visiting new places: wandering around and noticing the small (and not-so-small) differences that tell you you're "not in Kansas any more". Here, it's the wide streets, the construction of the houses (they're almost all made of wood, rather than brick), the fire hydrants, the mail boxes and the way that street names are displayed: vertically, on a square-sided pole at the street corners.
Looking forward to more of this today. The snow's still here, but the sun is shining again and I think (hope!) our hosts had a better night's sleep. Time to explore...
Monday, February 21, 2011
The thing about America that always gets me is the unexpected scale of things. I know, I know: it's a terrible cliche, and I shouldn't really be surprised. But still...
Maybe the supermarket that we visited yesterday - the wonderful Fairway, in nearby Plainview - was just exceptional. The store wasn't so huge, I suppose, but the height of the place made it feel more like a B&Q Warehouse than a Tesco megastore, and the sheer volume and variety of produce on display was mind-blowing.
It was a veritable cornucopia. Apples stacked several feet high. A huge display of coffee beans, with maybe two dozen barrels (yes barrels) of beans. Practically a whole aisle dedicated to milk, including two cabinets of soya and other non-dairy milks. A huge tank of live lobsters. Machines to dispense your own freshly ground nut butter (four or five varieties - I went for almond). More than a dozen varieties of olives, displayed in huge buckets.
Or maybe it's the wide open spaces here on Long Island. My brother also took us to Robert Moses State Park, on the south shore. From the roads and pavements (sorry, streets and sidewalks) of Babylon, where he lives, to the bridge across the (misleadingly named) South Bay, it all felt so vast and empty. And the beaches stretch for miles and miles. And the ocean... well, you get the picture.
I think we're going to a mall today. Not sure how it'll compare with the mall-sized department stores that I visited in Tokyo, but we shall see. I'll do my best to be nonchalant about it, but I'm making no promises...
Sunday, February 20, 2011
I'm visiting my brother and his family this week, including my month-old nephew Max. This is a more serious undertaking than it might sound, since they live on Long Island, just outside New York.
It's my first visit here - I've been to the US before, but always with work - and it was my first long-haul flight in several years. As ever, the time I spent flying was more than matched by the endless hours hanging around in airports. Alice dropped me off at Manchester Airport at 11am; I met my dad at Heathrow shortly after 2pm; when my brother met us at JFK it was after 1am.
We'd actually landed a hour and a half earlier, after an unpleasant rollercoaster ride of a final descent in 40mph+ winds. US Customs and Immigration can never be accused of speediness, but their performance on this occasion seemed to go above and beyond the call of duty.
The flight itself was fine. When you're used to the indignities of short flights with the likes of Easyjet, BA 'World Traveller' feels pretty luxurious, I can tell you. Plus I got to watch Megamind, which was excellent.
All in all, a long and tiring day, but I had cuddle with baby Max, a delicious meal and a comfortable bed waiting at the end of it. Definitely worth the wait!