28 April 2005

New York calls (Tribeca Film Festival)

Opportunity knocked in the shape of a conference attendance for Stuart, so I tagged along and got my fill of culture, film and general big-city vibes.

NYC is shockingly inspiring, specially since the film festival is on in all its glory with big name movies (Schlöndorff et al) as well as blocks of shorts on outlandish themes such as Celluloid and Digital Landscapes or Past Life Regressions. A highlight was the appearance of Nina Hagen, whose movie (7 Dwarves) was pretty unfunny - specially dubbed into English - but who is a teen idol of mine from her Rock-Punk days and proved as embarrassing/entertaining in the flesh as I had hoped.


Nina Hagen with daughter at the film premiere

Otherwise I spent a lot of time wandering the streets, enjoying a place that is older than a few decades and where people have a history. The first few days of my stay I was based in a friend's flat in the East Village, which was a bit like actually living here rather than just visiting. Although I really just ended up doing things tourists do: breakfast with the New York Times and blueberry pancakes in a diner, then a trip up the Empire State building, later a visit to the Natural History museum. It was only on the weekend that the locals joined in with my pace of living. Still there were trips with big bags to the laundry, mopping of floors and shopping to be done. But at least there were some people in Central Park who had the leisure to amble down the lanes, go for a walk with the lover or take a long lunch. The streets gained a new pace, slower, lighter, less ordered than in the week where the mood is stern and focussed.


Stuart finally arrived for the conference, but was very busy, so I was still treading the streets on my own. Sometimes I am paralysed by the variety. A shop in Greenwich Village has a counter for take-away drinks, offering tea and coffee in a bewildering choice: 20 kinds of tea bags, three flavours of hot coffee as iced versions, flavoured syrups, different kinds of milk, sugar, sweeteners and toppings. Compare this to the food stall in Chennai that serves tea. Hot, sweet, milky. That's it.

02 April 2005

The Friday Brunch Ritual

Friday brunch is THE big weekly event here in Dubai, where everyone and their dog fall out of bed late and find a place to stuff themselves.

It happens on fridays, because it's the first (and for some people in this overworked city, their only) day of the weekend. Whole families and groups of friends make their way to their preferred restaurant, hotel or beach club to partake in an hours-long orgy of slow but steady overeating. The buffets are so long that they as thematically split up into breakfast, lunch and desert. There are pasta and egg stations (for omelettes and scrambled eggs and such), roast and waffle stations, stir-fry areas as well as quesallida toasters ans so on. There are tables with salads and fruit, bread and pasties, freezer boxes for ice-cream, juice dispensers and cappuccino makers.

It is actually impossible to eat a bit of everything if one still wants to be able to walk home afterwards. Newcomers to the Friday brunch ritual (as we were only recently) invariably overeat early on in the session, while experienced brunchers (as we are now) start slowly with a bit of breakfast and pace themselves so that there is still space to finish off with a creme brulee and a coffee at 4 pm (the brunch having started at around noon). Good, easily manageable reading matter is a must for us, but to other groups, who arrive in large family formations, it's more important that children's entertainment is provided. Scarlett's (our favourite eatery in the Emirates Towers) has face painting and computer games, while some hotels offer free access to the pools area or cartoons on big screens. This means that everyone is happy for a few hours, until it comes to getting up and rolling home.