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There’s no place like New York City: Hari Raya, tornadoes, Madonna and Murray-mania

There’s no place like New York City: Hari Raya, tornadoes, Madonna and Murray-mania

Posted on September 28, 2012 by pennedinparis

Strong winds whipped up our hair and skirts as we dashed through the deserted United Nations area last Saturday to our first Hari Raya open house in New York City. Like out of a scene from The Wizard of Oz, two tornadoes had just touched down in the eastern boroughs of the city; this was no normal weekend.


A steely black shroud enveloped out apartment as two tornadoes hit New York’s eastern boroughs of Queen’s and Brooklyn last Saturday. Tornadoes are usually a rare phenomenon for the north-east coast of America.

Our friends were waiting outside Malaysia’s Consulate General to whisk us into a ballroom brimming with revellers dressed in a kaleidoscope of vibrant Malay attire. The Hari Raya greeting signs, the stampede as more bowls of assam laksa turned up, the laughter, the welcoming faces…just as we remembered it.


Hari Raya New York Style

I met H.E. Dato’ Hussein Haniff, Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary Permanent Representative of Malaysia to the United Nations (try saying that with a mouth full of mee), who was celebrating his second Hari Raya in NYC.

“We try to bring the atmosphere of Hari Raya from back home for all Malaysians living here in New York to enjoy.” Given the numbers of attendees had doubled this year—harassed kitchen staff struggled to keep the food flowing—looks like he had succeeded. If only his day job were that straightforward: securing Malaysia a position as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council by 2015.

Did he had a message for the folks back east?

“I like to wish all of Malaysia Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri, and look forward to seeing more progress for our people and our country.”


H.E. Dato’ Hussein Haniff Permanent Representative of Malaysia to New York’s United Nations

A message shared by the Consul General Syed Bakri, 44, who apologised profusely for the beef rendang running out early! “Today’s an open invitation to all Malaysian’s here.” Bakri had used Facebook to invite the “tens of thousands of Malaysians from all walks of life living in New York: students, business people, restaurant workers, professionals and university professors.”

No speeches, much mingling and the late offerings of kari ayam had the kids pestering the servers for more.

Ignoring the tornado warning watch posted until 2100hrs that evening—the tickets for Madonna’s evening performance did state it was an “All Weather Event”—my eldest and I headed north to the Yankees Stadium, Bronx.

Surely it would take more than a funnel of disturbed wind to shock our Madge? But she didn’t pitch up until 1030pm, and without any prior supporting act and the persistent rain, it took a while for the soggy audience to feel the love through their damp derrières and watery-Budweisers.

The queen of reinvention’s MDNA tour performance had all the highs and lows of what I can only imagine a night on the euphoric MDMA drug (one of the triple entendres meant by her album title) might entail: from her bizarre gun-toting entrance and blood splattered projector images of the opening number, her seamless metamorphosis into a cheerleader, a choral singer in gothic church scenes and then fashion icon.


54-year-old Madonna hits the stage in the Bronx, NYC, on her MDNA tour

But just when you thought all rabbits were out of the proverbial hat, the 54-year-old seemingly tried to turn back time and reinvent herself as a virgin for her trademark song “Like a Virgin”. Humping a wet stage half-naked, while holding an umbrella, sporting with the words “Forgive Me” printed on her back, an act sealed at the end with a flash of her still peachy-bottom, admittedly provoked cringing embarrassment rather than any sense of eroticism. Nevertheless, Madge proved to all that still has a body that most soon-to-be grannies would die for.

Monday brought us crashing back down to reality: an autumnal crispness hung in the morning air, children were packed onto the little yellow bus ready another academic year, curriculum evening loomed in bold letters on my kitchen calendar. No wonder the lure of Britain’s Andy Murray playing in the storm-delayed men’s final of the US Open proved too much to resist.

Armed with a picnic, a clutch of greenbacks and a wistful hope we might get in to see the action (tickets had sold out hours earlier with prices exceeding US$3000), I hopped on the subway to Flushing Meadows that evening with my 9-year-old budding tennis player.

We sat on the concrete floor of the outside grounds, eyes fixed on the giant screen, as Murray sailed through the first two sets. A fretful feeling set in as the realisation that history might well be unfolding before our eyes—it’s been seventy-six years since a Brit (Fred Perry) last won a Grand Slam singles title—and we were the wrong side of the mighty Arthur Ashe stadium…

Now stranger things have happened in a post-tornado city just as the lovely Kansas farm girl Dorothy discovered: a kindly American couple passed on their tickets having decided to leave early and we were in! We found our seats—not quite believing our luck—in the 23,000-seat stadium, joining the ranks of Sir Sean Connery, Donald Trump, Pippa Middleton, and in our particular row 322G a group of beefy Serbian supporters shouting “Novak”. At the end of a gripping five hours play, every single Brit stood up for Murray’s last few breathless match points against the defending champion Novak Djokovic; the atmosphere was surreal. Did he really just do it?

Oh yes, Murray did 7-6, 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2…

And after that whirlwind of a weekend, I’ve now clicked my metaphorical sparkly red shoes three times to return to “no place like home” : cooking, cleaning, the mad dash to get homework done, and fortunately, not a tornado in sight.

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