The high-end extravagance of New York's foodie culture has hit the skids. The $30-plus entrée? A thing of the past or at least, on the wane. Bars, in the meantime, are enjoying almost unprecedented crowds. Not everyone wants to cough up significant chunks of change for dinner, but a good stiff cocktail? That's a necessity.
Remember last year, when excruciatingly long waits on runways led to a city a nation of outraged travelers. We traveled all the time and we insisted things get better! Nothing like a few deadly plane hijackings to change all that. Nowadays, JFK and LaGuardia are like ghost towns, with folks opting to stay home rather than fly the "friendly" skies. The good news? Since fewer people are heading to the airport in the mornings, there are more taxis and gypsy cabs to take the rest of us to work.
The Instant Memorials
And not just Union Square Park. When George Harrison died in November and crowds quickly, effortlessly whipped up memorials of candles and flowers on the Strawberry Fields mosaic in Central Park, it was a sign that we've gotten good at this. September 11 memorials remain on the Brooklyn Heights promenade and in front of firehouses all over the city. The Missing posters still turn up. And the wall of remembrance in Grand Central Terminal is to remain standing indefinitely.
Open a piece of office mail without first donning a pair of latex gloves? Don't think so. A few months ago, few of us knew anything about anthrax. Now everyone knows it hits in either cutaneous or inhalation form; that there are multiple "strains" or varieties of powder-form anthrax; that you treat it with Cipro; that in recent years the U.S. Army was producing the stuff….
Targeted for anthrax? Now you're truly a player in this town.
The Carol Burnett Show Ratings
In late November, Carol Burnett, Vicki Lawrence, Tim Conway and Harvey Korman sat around and shot the shit for an hour, and about 30 million people tuned in. No one was prepared for a tribute to the late-seventies variety program to beat ER, the World Series and Monday Night Football in the ratings. Why'd the show do so well? "I think a lot of people just want to go back to a time when maybe life was a little more innocent," Burnett posited. Indeed.
Survivalist Contingency Plans
Stockpiles of bottled water, gas masks and antibiotics are no longer the province of Y2K fanatics. Indeed, ask Christie Brinkley or Gwyneth Paltrow, and they'll tell you that moon-man suits, gas masks and extra cell phones and radios are the norm. Of course, not everyone is rushing out to purchase personal HazMat suits: Some are looking into estate planning; others embarking on new fitness routines to prepare for… whatever's next. It's best to be prepared.
Germs, Taliban, and Bin Laden on the Bestseller List
The book business is truly in the toilet. So what's new? For now, terror tops the list, literary agents aren't submitting pitches until the September 11 air has cleared, and Brokaw's Greatest Generation has been knocked down a few notches…
The National Guardsmen
Under Giuliani, we became used to a beefed up police presence. But the National Guard? They're a new addition to the urban landscape. Anyone who travels through Grand Central Terminal, Penn Station, or NYC airports or across local bridges or near Ground Zero regularly encounters the discreetly-outfitted troops in camouflage fatigues.
For Sale, For Rent
New Yorkers' favorite cocktail-party chit-chit still revolves around real estate. It's just that, now, instead of "How much are you paying?" they're asking, "Are you staying?" It's a new market, and high-end properties that would have had multiple bids above asking price on opening day are just sitting there.
The Most Eligible: FDNY
The appeal of wealthy, powerful Wall Street types seems so passé. Women are going for tough, brave and burly. You know -- the hero type?
Red, White, and Blue
Until September 11, there was something, well, uncool about being overtly patriotic. Old Glory is now everywhere: on lapels, in cabs, and the windows of immigrant-owned businesses. Who knew that when the New York Times printed a full-page replica of the Stars and Stripes with the instructions to tear out and hang up, just about every New Yorker would?
The Perkless Office
Holiday party? Forget about it. Company car? Don't think so. Expense account? Fuhgeddaboudit… It wasn't long ago that many NYC companies had masseurs patrolling the halls of the workspace, ready to administer their services to any employee in need of a quick stress-buster. Those were the days.
Layoffs and a New, Improved Unemployment Office!
With the deluge of layoffs (including huge numbers of staff at Citibank, Merrill Lynch, American Express, and McGraw-Hill, among many others), the Department of Labor's Unemployment Offices have been forced to improve efficiency. Streamlined paperwork and no more lines!
The Return of the Squeegee Guys
Remember Rudy's first term, when his "quality of life" crusade led to the eradication of the windshield-washing pests at every FDR Drive, West Side Highway and local bridge on- and off-ramp? Well, it worked, and for most of the past eight years, the squeegee guys have been scarce. They're back.