18 NOVEMBER 2000, Page 84

No life

Complex logistics

Toby Young

Just my luck. In the year that I decide to give up my flat in Greenwich Village and move back into my bedsit in west London, it suddenly becomes incredibly fashionable to keep homes on both sides of the Atlantic. According to last week's cover story in Newsweek, the coolest part of the world to live in right now is a place called `NY-LON', a hybrid of New York and Lon- don that the magazine defines as 'a single city inconveniently separated by an ocean'. It sounds a lot more glamorous that SHEP- BUSH, a singular ghetto inconveniently bisected by the Uxbridge Road.

Or does it? I'm not sure the term will catch on. What will the people who live in this imaginary city be called? NY-LONs? I can't think of another group of internation- al bright young things who've taken their name from an item of women's underwear. What's next? The PANTIES? NY-LONs doesn't have quite the same snap to it as the jet set. Even Tom Wolfe's term for the type of person who divides his time between New York and London — Mid- Atlantic Man — sounds better and he intended it to be derogatory. During my NY-LON phase, I was fond of describing myself as an 'ICBM' which stood for Inter-Continental Ballistic Mis- sile. But I recognised that it was far too self-aggrandising to catch on. It's difficult to think of yourself as a 'missile' while standing in the non-US passport holders' queue at JFK immigration. Once you've had your passport stamped it can take another hour to get a taxi, followed by a 90-minute crawl along the Van Wyck Expressway, before you end up in Manhat- tan.

The hardest thing about being a NY- LON, though, was the endless air travel. It's one thing flying Business Class, quite another travelling in steerage. I flew back and forth across the Atlantic about a dozen times a year and, on every occasion, came down with a severe case of Economy Class syndrome. Even after I'd mastered all the frequent-flyer tricks — ask for a bulkhead seat, bring your own food, get up and stretch your legs every hour, drink plenty of water, always fly during the day — I still felt like a three-day-old cadaver by the time I arrived. I usually flew Virgin-Atlantic, mainly because they show their movies uncut, but I always thought the airline was hopelessly misnamed. After a Virgin flight across the Atlantic I felt well and truly f----ed. If I could have afforded it, I would have flown Upper Class. Then I would have merely felt buggered. Newsweek introduced the NY-LONs by describing the lifestyle of Ron Kastner, a theatrical producer in his fifties who flies between the two cities up to five times a month. This was meant to make Kastner sound terribly glamorous but, by my esti- mation, he must be suffering from a per- manent case of jet lag. For some reason, travelling east has few deleterious effects, but following the sun west wreaks havoc with your internal clock. Arriving back m New York after ten days in London, I wouldn't simply feel tired for a week, I would be completely knackered, as if some- one had dipped me in a vat of chloroform. Perhaps a better name for the NY-LONs would be NYTOLs, Nytol being a non-pre- scription sleeping pill sold in chemists. I don't miss the conversations I had with my fellow NY-LONs either. According to Newsweek we compare notes on smart restaurants that have branches in both cities, like Nobu, and talk about what clubs have opened in the previous month. Not in 1113' experience. In my crowd, the sole topics of discussion were how to obtain American visas and whether to pay tax in the US or the UK. The most popular people at par- ties weren't drawn from what Newsweek describes as 'the NY-LON nexus of film, television, pop music, publishing and the New Economy', but immigration lawyers and accountants. OK, I'm exaggerating, but only slightly. The real problem with being a NY-LON is that the sheer logistics of living in both cities are so complex that you spend more time working them out than you do having fun. In the end I prefer living in London, if only because it's so much simpler. Having said that, though, I am going to New York for four days next month, my sixth trip this year. After shuttling between the two cities for five years, I'm not quite ready to hang up my NY-LONs.