Too wrapped in our own importance


What's wrong with living in New York? We learned last week that the inflation rate in the city is triple the national average.

What's wrong with living in New York? We learned last week that the inflation rate in the city is triple the national average. We already knew that for the money we spend on our rabbit-hutch apartments we could afford mini-mansions anywhere else in the land. The snow, falling as I write, turns grey and ghastly the second it touches ground. In the summer, the heat and humidity turns any windpipe into a strangled straw.

I could go on - the traffic, the crazies, the noise, the yellow-teethed rats and the filth in the street gutters. Yet, here we are and here most of us hope to stay. If we sometimes struggle to rationalise our collective madness, we need only tune into the rhetoric of our mayor, Michael Bloomberg, to be reminded of one, undisputable truth: it is simply the greatest city in the world and don't you forget it.

Recently, I have started to wonder if Gotham is protesting too much. In February alone, New York has blown enough hot air about its virtues to melt both polar ice caps - a calamity, which, by the way, would leave most of Manhattan under water. If we're so fabulous why do we need to keep saying so?

Enough already about Christo and his so-called Gates. Central Park is quite impressive enough, even in barren shades of winter brown, without being festooned in 7,500 giant tea-cloths in a sickly shade of orange - pardon, saffron. The display, ballyhooed as the art installation of the decade, looks to me like some Hare Krishna Martian colony has scoured the galaxy for a convenient spot to hang laundry.

Mr Bloomberg had barely got over the excitement of The Gates when he found himself tied up 24/7 trying to impress members of the International Olympic Committee. The message was predictable: why would you even consider such inferior capitals as London, Paris, Madrid or Moscow when we are offering New York for the 2012 Olympic Games? What's the dilemma?

No stop was left unpulled for the Olympic folk. One of our drawbacks is that we don't have any royals to trot out or palaces to entertain in. The Mayor's mansion was a poor substitute for Buck House, where the same officials found themselves during their earlier London stop. But we do have faux royalty. That's why the likes of Whoopi Goldberg, Paul Simon and Meryl Streep were all invited for dinner at the Mayor's too, along with, yes, Christo. (Martha Stewart is not out of clink until later this week.)

Clearly, there was a whiff of desperation in the city's presentation. Treats included fireworks on Wednesday night over Columbus Circle, following a jazz concert and reception at the Lincoln Center. There were suites for everyone at the Plaza Hotel and a video message from President Bush. The whole city was plastered with adverts for the 2012 bid.

Behind all this was the dog's breakfast that Bloomberg has made of efforts to build a principal venue for the games. The harder he has pushed for a new stadium over the desolate train yards on the West Side of Manhattan the more vigorous his opponents have become in blocking it. The stand-off means that, for now, the New York bid is a train-wreck and the IOC must surely know it.

In the midst of all this activity, the Mayor still had time to launch his most startling wheeze - to turn the whole city into a global brand. He has hired a chief marketing officer, Joseph Perello, to take possession of any image considered a symbol of Gotham and to flog the rights to use it for big money. Want to put the fire department initials FDNY on your knickers? Now you will have to pay for the privilege. Trust a business-tycoon-turned-politician to see a Statue of Liberty snow-globe and think "intellectual property".

It gets even dafter than that. On Bloomberg's orders, Perello has just filed an application with the US Patent and Trademark Office - number 78484751 - for the exclusive usage of two new slogans for the city. ("Big Apple" and "The City That Never Sleeps" are, apparently, insufficient.) Here they are: "Made in NY" and "The World's Second Home". I guess they were afraid that some other metropolis - say Bishop's Stortford, or Baghdad - might have thought of them first.

I have an alternative. "New York City - Big Apple, Bigger Mouth". Maybe it's time to let Gotham's qualities speak for themselves without the marketing. And getting rid of the rats might help.

To thine own Self be true

Occasionally I'm reminded that New York has its old-school clubs with 10-year waiting lists and bodies of deceased members mouldering in airing cupboards just like London does. There is the University Club, the Athletic, the Sky, the Lotos and so forth. I rarely penetrate any of them.

I spent this evening at Lotos to celebrate the American launch of Jonathan Self's gripping memoir, Self Abuse. I knew Jonathan years ago - I oversaw the laying of a wood floor in a North London flat he owned in the early Eighties. I never pegged him for a club sort. Apparently, the Reform, where he belongs, has some kind of arrangement with the Lotos where the event was. He could have warned me I was meant to wear a tie.

Jonathan is forgiven because the book is entirely gripping. Self is not a household name here, but I will do what I can to spread the word about Self Abuse. It's not reality TV, but reality literature may be a fair description.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Noddy Holder must be glad he wrote 'Merry Xmas Everybody' as he'll earn £800,000 this year from royalties.  

Noddy Holder: A true rock ’n’ roll hero, and a role model for sensible people everywhere

Rosie Millard
Ian Paisley used to pick out journalists in his congregation  

The Only Way is Ethics: Ian Paisley is rightly remembered for his intransigence

Will Gore
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam