Thursday, November 05, 2009

Lawn in the USA

The lobby of our hotel, where I'm writing this, is known as The Living Room. Last night it hosted an extended cocktail hour as Andrew Butler - him out of Hercules And Love Affair - played vintage disco; right now, it's filling up with suits taking advantage of the free wi-fi and plentiful green apples. The small tables double as chess and backgammon boards, restrained deep house skitters away on the PA and a couple of walls are backdrops for what in the rave days we called 'visuals'. It's not yet 9am.

If all that sounds painfully hip, relax: in the best NYC tradition, it's pulled back from the abyss by an unselfconscious and decidedly mixed clientele. That, and the indoor lawns. Grass is a big theme at the W, from the palm-sized glass cubes on those tables to the mini batting track opposite the lifts. That's it in the picture; Mario, the guy with the electric clippers, is charged with trimming it each morning. The longer you're here, the more of it you see: today there are half a dozen oblong blocks of turf on reception, and a couple of waist-high planters out the front.

If it's not quite Central Park by stealth, it's still more entertaining than American TV, which by and large remains rubbish. Other than the good stuff we know about back home (HBO, FX, some of the comedy), the most beguiling channel is BBC America, a not entirely seamless blend of last season's British prime-time (Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, Graham Norton, Robin Hood), dial-a-psychic adverts and lots and lots of Matt Frei. There, as among the suits in The Living Room, much talk this week has been of Michael Bloomberg winning a third term as New York mayor. City redevelopment will be a priority, apparently. Back on a green tip, he could do a lot worse than extend the excellent High Line project.

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