Manhattan is a lover that never calls the next day. This golden island always gives more than it gets, and if you don't want it, well, look behind you, pal - the line of suitors stretches from river to river.
Sorry to get so emotional, but I moved to London three months ago and when you leave Manhattan, it's not just a change of address - it's a break-up.

Forget Tony Bennett singing about San Francisco. New York is the city where you leave your heart.

This torrid love affair started when I moved to Greenwich Village in 1981. Back then you could afford to live in town without being a Wall Street honcho.

I had a basement apartment on Morton Street for $350 a month. My windows were level with the sidewalk, and I became an expert on footwear.

I was so excited to be in the Village, I could barely sleep. I was always out, afraid I might miss something if I went to bed.

Whenever my energy flagged, I drank coffee at Joe Junior's diner and took a walk. Didn't even talk to anybody. Just took a walk, and came home fully charged.

That became my pattern for the decades to follow. Feeling low, or defeated? Can't think of anything to write? Take a walk. Catch a bit of a crazy conversation between two strangers. Absorb the life force from the streets. It always worked.

So I'm excited to return for a quick visit to see my family and walk the city streets. I'm looking for a Moment - something to tell me that Manhattan and I will always be friends, even if we're never together again.

And it's my rotten luck to arrive in the middle of a heat wave.

This is Manhattan at its worst. Soft wads of gum on the sidewalks, garbage simmering in the sun, odors from the corner drains rising straight from the pits of hell.

And everybody seems pissed off.

Was I kidding myself all along about this twelve-by-two mile enchanted island, or am I just getting too old to appreciate it?

I'm walking down Broadway, tired and depressed. It's steamy and sticky, and all I want to do is dive into any store and hug an air conditioner.

Then it happens. The Moment.

A crowd is gathering for Stephen Colbert's Late Show debut. A male-female cop team stands outside the studio, arms folded across their chests. The guy is big and muscular, not a man to be taken lightly.

I look at the name tag of this enforcer of the law and suddenly, my spirits soar.

CROOKS. I swear to God, the cop's name is Crooks. Imagine the abuse he put up with, going through the Police Academy.

I go up to him and point at the name tag. "You get sick of hearing this, I'm sure," I say, "but your name makes my day."

He laughs. We laugh.

And just like that, Manhattan and I are back on track. It's going to be a long-distance relationship, but I think we can make it work.



The Britishness is starting to seep in. I’m saying “loo” instead of “bathroom,” “chips” instead of “fries,” “flat” instead of “apartment."

I’m worried about losing my New York edge.
Can that happen? I don’t know. But I don’t want it to happen, mate.

(Jesus, did I just say “mate”?!)

So I grab the leash and take Bailey for a walk in Bushy Park to think things through.

This park is unbelievable - acres and acres of fields where you can let the dog run free and swim in clean streams.

Everybody in the neighborhood walks their dogs here, and you cannot believe the names Brits hang on their pooches.

Spencer.  Arthur.  Heathcliff.

Anyway, Bushy Park is the best place you could imagine for a dog to romp, but you’ve got to keep an eye out for the deer.

They appear out of nowhere. You never know how they’re going to react to the sight of your dog, so you always want to give them a wide berth.

Suddenly I see that Bailey, fresh from his swim, is happily trotting toward a young male deer.  

This buck is all by himself. That’s usually a bad sign, and sure enough, it happens:

The freakin’ deer rears up on his hind legs, rushes Bailey and tries to stomp him with his front hooves.

Bailey leaps out of harm’s way, but the deer keeps coming at him. There’s nothing in the world friendlier than a tail-wagging chocolate lab, but try telling that to an enraged deer.

He tries to trample Bailey again - and again, the dog dances out of the way. But the deer is getting closer.

This is a hell of a mess, because Queen Elizabeth - that’s right, the one whose face is on the money - owns all the animals in the British parks.  If the deer hurts Bailey, nobody’s to blame. But if Bailey hurts the deer, I’m in trouble with Her Royal Highness. Last thing I need now is the wrath of a queen.

So I rush up to Bailey, grab him by the collar and yank him behind me before going nose-to-nose with the buck - bellowing a stream of curses and threats you’d expect to hear from a New York City cab driver in a Times Square fender-bender.

No kidding - my rant brings new meaning to the words Joe Pesci.  It's "Bambi "meets "Goodfellas," and if that buck could understand what I’m shouting about his mother, he’d stomp me to death.

Guess my New York edge is intact, after all.

The deer stares at me wide-eyed, totally transfixed.  At last I run out of foul language, and the buck backs up a few steps before turning and prancing away.

I’m out of breath. I check Bailey to make sure he’s not wounded. Then I look up and see a pointy-nosed British guy in a plaid cap, standing there with a basset hound on a leash. 

If you’ve ever seen the comic strip “Fred Basset”, this guy and his dog look like that strip come to life. He’s witnessed the whole thing and appears to be in a state of shock.

“Sorry I got a little rude, there,” I say.

He waves it off. “Oh, never mind. That was...quite effective, actually.”

He touches the brim of his cap, says, “Come along, Winston,” and walks off with his hound.

Winston. I mean, please.

I take Bailey in the opposite direction, cutting our usual walk short.

Hate to cheat my faithful hound out of his usual exercise quota, but after what we’ve just lived through my stomach is fluttering, and there’s no delicate way to put it:

I’m desperate for the loo.



We’re eating in a Mexican restaurant on the River Thames in Central London and I’m munching on corn chips when suddenly, I feel it - a sharpness in one of my molars.

I’ve broken a tooth.  God damn!

Before leaving New York I made sure I had a clean dental bill of health while I was covered by insurance from my job.

So what happens? Soon after kissing the insurance goodbye, my molar loses a one-on-one battle to a corn chip in London.

Go ahead and insert the British dentistry joke of your choice here.  But the way this thing shakes out is going to surprise you....

“I should sue this restaurant!” I say to Kim, only half-kiddingly. She just laughs.

“This isn’t America,” she reminds me. “We don’t walk around suing each other.”

True that.  When it comes to teeth, the Brits are especially tough. There's an old lady in our neighborhood who considers dentists a luxury.  When she has a bad tooth, she gets out the pliers and pulls it herself.  (Needless to say, she doesn't spend on cosmetics, either.)

So I quickly give up on the notion of suing the restaurant. Even if the case got to court I’m not sure I could keep a straight face before a judge wearing one of those ridiculous wigs.

Besides, I’ve swallowed the evidence.

I jam my tongue into the broken tooth, feeling the tingle of the raw nerve and the size of the gap. I figure this is going to cost me big-time.

Believe it or not, this isn’t a new scenario for me. A few years earlier, same deal - I was enjoying a meal during a visit to London when suddenly, I felt a tooth break.

It was actually a crown over a molar that had undergone an unbelievably costly and time-consuming root canal procedure in New York.

Lousy thing split right down the middle. So I went to the local London dentist, fearful of the whopping bill to come.

The diagnosis was amazingly simple. The dentist examined the expensive wreckage, shrugged and said:

“Well, that’s the last tooth in the row. You really don’t need it.”

She grabbed a pair of pliers, braced her foot against my jaw, yanked out the broken crown and tossed it on the sawdust floor.

I’m kidding about the foot against my jaw and the sawdust floor, but the rest of the story is true. She pulled the tooth, charged me a few bucks, and that was that. I’m down to 31 choppers, and it’s no big deal.

Now, as I approach that same dental clinic with my latest problem, I figure my luck has run out, and I’m braced to drop a fortune on a crown.

They can’t just pull this tooth. It’s not the last one in the row.

This time, the British receptionist sends me to a room with a Polish dentist and a Latvian hygienist - both women, both as intense as Olympic bobsledders.

“Let’s have a look!” the dentist declares.

Two injections numb up half my head, and then the drilling starts. And I mean drilling.

“Lift your hand it it’s too much for you!” the dentist says.

I don’t lift my hand, because she’s good at what she does.  Also, I'm afraid of her.  She’s going to get me through this with a huge filling, but no crown.

They work for the better part of an hour to patch up that tooth.  Drooling down my shirt, I thank them both and go to the receptionist to pay, braced for the worst.

“That’s fifty-one pounds, please,” she says in a chirpy voice.

I almost laugh out loud. That’s less than $80, for all that work. Eighty bucks! I once went to a doctor in New York who glanced at a growth on my eyelid, said I needed to see a specialist and charged me $150.

I gleefully pay the fifty-one pounds and head home. For the first time since my tooth broke, I can eat without pain. As soon as the numbness passes I’ll be ready to dig into a Shepherd’s pie.

Nothing crunchy in a Shepherd’s pie. Don’t want to press my luck.