Henry and Mrs T embark on the greatest 'liaison trip' of all time. First stop New York in the spring.
'Spring revival' says the Wall Street Journal. Yes I know we could read this in Melbourne, but we'd be diverted by the political shenanigans in our very own Banana Republic. (What price an outbreak of the Zika virus, comrades?) So here we are, with heavy traffic from the airport due partly to the economic revival and partly to an explosion in a factory under the rail track with rivets popping and steel beams bending. With a truck accident on a freeway, it is going to be a bad day for commuters, but after only two days the rail service is back to normal. Take note, Mr Andrews.
The trip from Melbourne was without incident and the main point to note was the friendliness of Qantas staff who thanked us fulsomely both when we arrived and when we departed for travelling with the flying kangaroo - Mr Joyce, your policy is working. The trip from LA to NY in an antique 747 was far less glamorous and Henry even spotted some tape apparently holding some small bit of the wall beside seat J1. Another sign of America's spring revival is rapidly increasing domestic air travel with one hour security queues in Chicago yesterday being noted on the ABC news. 'Heads will roll if this situation is not fixed quickly' a nymphette newsreader asserted, most likely with her memorial day holiday in mind.
'Fed fears, Money Flow combine to Upend Markets' was the front page WSJ headline. 'The spread between yields on two- and ten- year Treasuries is at its narrowest since December 2007. Concerns at falling bond yields spilt into equities markets and 'Fed officials' said or hinted that the second rate rise will occur in June; 'inflation is firming' according to another expert. Henry is pleased that his policy of being short US equities may be within sight of paying off and 'firming' inflation will probably bring a wry smile to Glenn Stevens' craggy visage.
Donald Trump is the 'presumptive' Republican candidate and some senior Republicans are beginning to hedge their bets. The Trump Meister himself has suddenly beginning to act Presidential, speaking more reasonably on TV interviews and backing away from some of his more outrageous statements about women ('fat pigs!'), immigrants ('I'll send 'm back') and China ('They're raping us'). Bernie Sanders is vowing to fight on, and asserted overnight that he could still beat Hilary, especially if the rules allowing so-called 'super delegates' voting were reformed, which ain't gonna happen Bernie. So it looks like it's the Trump Meister verses the presumptive first lady. With First gentleman President Bill in the White House, just about anything might happen.
Our biggest surprise concerned the degree of civility experienced in New York. Three general examples: people mostly make way at doorways; generally speak pleasantly when asked for help; and a burly policeman on the beat cheerfully answered questions and took the trouble to check that we understood the advice. We never felt threatened whilst walking about. A young woman even stood up to offer one of the Thorntons a seat in a crowded subway carriage.
Could severe recession have made people more civilised? Has new civic leadership improved public manners? Are there more police on the beat, and have they been trained to be helpful to visitors to the city? These are all questions that are no doubt understood by residents of New York but, whatever the reason, we both felt there has been a big change in public civility since we once lived here 30 years ago. We learned that 53 million people visit New York each year. Public civility is a great selling point.
I nerved myself to offer a brochure on my editor’s Econart to a staff member at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). I was pleasantly advised by an elderly volunteer and learned there is a process for handling such matters. I was given the single sheet of paper that outlined this process, headed ‘Artists’ Viewing Program’. The brochure was accepted and in due course will be reviewed by a committee of curators.
This approach is so that ‘they may be exposed to the work of artists that might not otherwise come to their attention’. The single page lays out rules for the process and explains that review may take several months after which material will be returned. This is a wonderful example of public civility of a high order.
Another, weirder, surprise is the number of advertisements on television for health products. Claims are couched in careful terms and side effects are mentioned at length. Always the punch line is ‘consult your doctor’. The balance was such that Henry and Mrs T agreed we would we discouraged to try new drugs rather than encouraged by this approach but in a world of aging people with presumably many afflictions this is an understandable bias.
Last night was our first attempt at fine dining. We booked at the Bull and Bear restaurant at the Waldorf Astoria hotel. We started with a Waldorf salad – what else would be so appropriate? – and shared a mighty Chateaubriand with a sauce of mushrooms and grapes. Accompanied by a Pinot Noir from the Napa Valley. Wonderful meal, and conversation with a young Norwegian couple at the next table enhanced the occasion. Norway is our next stop, so it was especially helpful to get the inside run on places not to be missed, including the Munch bar at the Continental hotel in Oslo, where we are booked to stay.
Do not think we ate at the Bull and Bear every night. So far it has been snacks in our room and on one occasion a meal at a cheap – relatively speaking – Indian Restaurant that was frankly nowhere as good as the Milan in Kew.