Into New York City To Shop

It’s really been a long time since we went to Manhattan to do some shopping. Today was the day – all five of us: Helaine, Stef, my folks and me.

There was no rush, so we left the house after 10:00 AM. There’s always a little family conflict about this, but I like to drive to Stamford and catch the train from there. Helaine prefers going to New Haven to pick up the train.

She says it takes less time. I say there are a lot more trains go to Stamford to choose from on the way home. Maybe we’re both right. Unfortunately, the long term trend says when there’s this kind of family conflict, either I’m wrong or Helaine’s right.

We parked in Stamford and headed into the train station. I wanted some coffee, as did Steffie. As we got our drinks, the express pulled out! Next train: local… and a half hour wait.

We had no trouble getting to Grand Central Terminal. From there it was a quick subway trip on the “6” local to Canal Street.

Welcome to knockoff shopper’s heaven.

We’re used to hitting Canal Street and the Lower East Side on Sundays. Tuesday is a totally different animal. There’s actually room on the street to stand without being bowled over!

Usually, Canal Street shopping is done from storefronts and curbside stands. On this Tuesday, most of the curbside stands were gone.

I had read about a huge crackdown recently. Big raids on Canal Street had driven out the knockoffs. I still saw some fancy watch names, though no Rolexes.

At one time, Canal Street and $10 Rolex were synonymous.

As far as handbags were concerned, there was merchandise, but none of the high end labels, like Kate Spade, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Coach. These were the names that brought on the raids.

Still, looks can be deceiving. As we walked through the stores, the brand names we desired were being whispered at us, usually in Chinese accented English. After being asked at one store if that was what she wanted, Steffie said yes and was taken to the shopping underground.

Along with my mom and Helaine, Steffie followed the salesperson through a locked door in the back. As they walked out, the door was locked behind them. Then through another locked door, also locked behind them, and into a storeroom.

If they were going to be victims of a crime, this was as good a place as any… and I think there was at least some apprehension as their exits were successively bolted shut.

Where were they? I don’t think they could find the actual store the journey began in, much less the hidden warehouse!

After a little show and tell and typical Canal Street haggling, they were on their way… with a few bags and later, a wallet.

How prevalent is this kind of thing on Canal Street? The huge Heineken billboard, up on the side of a building says it all: “The only authentic label on the block.”

I hadn’t bought a watch in a while, and that was my prey today. Years ago, Canal Street watches, those $10 Rolexes, only looked good from afar. Today, they are masterfully complex and sturdy and Rolex isn’t the only luxury name represented.

I’m sure an expert can tell the difference&#185, but I can’t, nor can anyone I know. In fact, for all I know this was genuine merchandise.

My watch collection, a long running obsession, is filled with watches I trust are real and others I assume are pretend. Like children, I love them all dearly and play no favorites.

Helaine had recommended a rectangular tank style watch, but I though most of what I had seen in tanks were too large and bulky on my wrist. A leather band would be nice, since most of my watches have metal bands. I kept searching.

I settled on a mechanical watch – it’s called an automatic chronograph. As you wear it, a mechanism (visible through a crystal on the watch’s back&#178) winds the mainspring. The face has a main dial, with sweep second hand, plus dials for day of the week, day of the month and hour (in 24 hour notation). There are also two windows for year and month.

It’s very nice looking and, so far, has kept accurate time. Since it’s mechanical and won’t be worn on a daily basis, it will need to be reset before each use. That much is bad. The rest is very good.

Today was a very hot day in an area with little air conditioning. We tried to stay cool with lots of water and soda, but it was tough.

I suppose I was the first to get a little cranky, wanting to bail. That wasn’t nice – wasn’t right. I should have been more of a team player… and I wasn’t. I could blame my aching toe, but the responsibility is mine.

By the time I acquiesced, it was too late. The damage had been done.

We turned up Broadway heading toward SoHo and Greenwich Village. SoHo really is as happening as you’ve heard, with lots of stores and lots of people – mostly young.

After stopping in a few stores it was my dad’s turn to raise the white flag. In his case it was justified. The heat had become more than he could take. That’s the bad news. The good news is, he’s 79. He put up with an awful lot of heat and humidity as if he were half his age!

We cut across to Bleeker Street and found the Uptown “6”. As we approached the station I found the one shot that I think typifies this day in particular, and New York City during the summer in general. Leaning up against a subway entrance were two cops. They were resting and taking in the sights.

Their ease and relaxation set the mood for everyone around them.

Please understand, I am not criticizing their actions. In fact they were very appropriate for this time and this place and I have no doubt they were ready to be “cops” if necessary. Like I said, they set the mood.

We had dinner at Junior’s in what had been the lower waiting room at Grand Central Terminal and what is now a busy food court. This time we caught the express and made it to Stamford in about 45 minutes and the rest of the way home in an hour.

I know this because I’ve got a new watch.

&#185 – Actually, I’m not sure. With some of the products, I suspect they’re made in the same factory, by the same workers, with the same raw materials.

&#178 – I have just learned this type of watch, with parts of the works exposed, is called a skeleton watch.

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