The Island of Manhattan - my Home for 31 Days


Autumn in New York

Autumn in New York

M & M Store At Times Square

M & M Store At Times Square
M & M Store At Times Square

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Welcome To New York Ma'am!

I’ve noticed that when things go wrong here, the locals say “Welcome to New York Ma'am!”
Well today, Halloween – the All Hallowed Eve – a whole pile of things went wrong and I was welcomed many MANY times.

I awoke early after my big night of rock as we were taking the Staten Island Ferry to Staten Island to find the Decker Farm in Richmond to pick pumpkins for Halloween and needed an early start. Now I have travelled many times and am always extremely careful. I separate my cash and my cards and my ID and have a system so that I know where everything is at all times – it is safe and protected. Right? Wrong. Last night I decided not to take a handbag. I have deep pockets in Manny’s leather jacket on the inside where I wrapped up one $50 dollar note, my credit card and my room card. I held my ticket in my hand until I was sure that I was seated in the correct spot.

I kept my jacket on and continually felt up my left boob/pocket to check that everything was in place.

My ticket was section 330, Seat 6 Row H. I checked in through Gate 76 and was escorted to my seat. 30 minutes later a group of loud New Yorker bud swilling Armani suited men (quite possibly the twerps that lost billions of dollars in Wall Street - ouch) told me to move out of their seat. I showed them my ticket and sweetly said I was escorted here and believed it was the correct seat. They dragged over another security guy who promptly told me I was in the wrong seat.

“Welcome to New York Ma'am! – the loud New Yorkers shouted as I moved myself back to the correct seat.

I didn’t care – the new seat had a far better view and was surrounded by empty seats – bargain! I continued to feel my inside pocket throughout the concert and everything was in place.

As I exited - I checked and felt 2 cards and my cash.

I checked on 7th.

I checked just after I ran into Annie Lennox.

I checked as I grabbed my hotel room card in the lobby of the New Yorker and yes there were 2 cards in my pocket.

I raced inside ready for my Skype call and through all my clothes on the floor of the bathroom and talked excitedly for the next 30 minutes and promptly forgot about the cards.

Preparing to go out this morning, I went to my pocket – like I have done every morning so far – and I found the ticket and the $50 dollar note. My credit card is not in my pocket. I checked all my clothes, in my bag, on the bathroom floor, under my bed – nowhere to be found. I retraced my steps and remember that I felt it when I entered the lobby of the hotel.

So either it fell out of my pocket when I reached in for my hotel card or it vanished into thin air somewhere in my hotel room.

Ugh - can you believe it? Losing a credit card in my first week in New York?

I went on line, checked the latest transactions, made a list of all transactions in the past few days, emailed my bank manager in Australia and called Mastercard global.

“Welcome to New York. Ma'am” the fellow in the call centre said sarcastically - we'll send you a replacement card in 3 days.

A little freaked but with enough cash plus my ATM card, I was seriously not terribly inconvenienced, yet I tried to rationalize the reason for this experience. What did I have to learn here? Was I getting a little cocky about living in New York and needed to be brought down to earth a little? The card wasn’t getting that much action and I’m very careful with security. So what the?

Catching the downtown loop to Battery Park, I spy my first real glimpse of the Statue of Liberty then catch the free Staten Island Ferry. I got a good look at New York harbor – Jersey, Queens, Brooklyn with Staten Island is located at its entrance.

Politically incorrect - I have to say - this little island has a distinct “Blair Witch” feel to it. You know that well known poster of the old man and his wife holding a pitchfork? Yup – those folks live here in Staten Island - I'm sure of it! Initial response upon arrival - scary odd little place. Catching the bus from St George through to Richmond, I notice that almost every second building is a medical institution of some kind. There must be a lot of sick people here! I've never seen anything like it! Some hospitals looked like they had come straight out of the “One Flew Over The Cuckoos Next” movie. I half expected to see Jack Nicholson peeking out of one of the windows. :-)

It was a huge contrast to Manhattan and quite unsettling.

Loading onto the bus – “Where you headed Maam?”
Oh crap – I left the directions at the hotel.
“Um we are picking pumpkins on a farm.”
“Say what?”
Silence in the bus as the locals stare down the weird foreigners with no friggin clue where they are going.
“Um we are looking for the Decker Farm I think?”
The bus driver said ‘Sounds like you are lost – Welcome to New York Ma'am”. “You need the Historic Richmond Town” – so we took a punt and decided what the hell - i there were no pumpkins there would be old buildings – sounded fine.

It took 25 minutes to drive through very poor housing, tiny houses, even smaller streets, many American flags and extreme poverty. However these cute little houses were all adorned with the most incredible Halloween decorations. Graveyards in the front yard, witches, ghosts, pumpkins, cobwebs – it was incredible and better than some of our Qld Xmas light displays.

Arriving at Richmond, we were dropped off on the side of the road, I took out my camera – and the battery was dead.
“Don’t say it – I know – welcome to New York aarrgghhhhhh!!!!!!&&##!!!”

The most glorious autumn colours, historical buildings and oddest of sights - yup - I have no way of capturing any of these images.

Walking down the street through rustling brown and gold leaves floating to the earth, squelching under feet - crisp and happy - we walk past houses that look haunted by their past, imprinted by painful memories and broken down organically by time – the way that the autumn leaves gradually dissolve into the earth and fertilize it for new growth.

I was sure that old man and his wife would chase us down this deserted eery street with that pitchfork in one hand and screaming ‘ “Welcome to New York” – the scene was breathtakingly beautiful and unsettlingly evil all at once.

We walked around the village and discovered the Pumpkin Patch sign in time for an old yellow school bus to come along and take us to Decker Farm - no charge - just like the Staten Island ferry.

This quirky strange little place began to look warm and comforting. Chatting to the bus driver her entire family live in Staten Island and refuse to move to Manhattan - she has lived here her whole life. As she speaks about her family and we drive through old farmland and family suburbs, with young famillies trick or treating through the magically decorated houses and it becomes clear about the home town appeal of living here.

My initial creepy feeling about this place begins to dissipate by the time we reach the Decker farm – the one remaining farm on the island. I sample pumpkin pie, (Almost as good as grandma’s pumpkin scones) pick pumpkins, (large, orange and sweet) take a hay ride and buy some locally knitted ghost and witch puppets. The farm itself is 200 years old, most of the buildings remain albeit held together with prayers and moss and it is easy to see that life on it throughout thsoe 200 years would have been extreme.

Back on the bus, back on the ferry, we leave American history behind and return to Manhattan - the city where everything and everyone is seemingly for sale. The quest - find Chinatown by walking through wall Street, down to Broadway past the City Hall and magnificient parks and discover life on Canal Street - the home of Chinatown and discount shopping. (I'm safe - no credit card remember?)

On the map it looked close but one hour later we were still wandering aimlessly - hungry, tired, smelly in the sweltering heat of the Autumn day until I finally spotted a Hungry Jacks symbol with asian writing on the sign. My craving for seafood and rice complete I feel extra brave and make the fool hardy decision to take the subway back home.

It’s Halloween remember? Kids and parents and trick or treating on every street corner, Halloween Parade blockades are installed at strategic spots along Broadway and throngs of people push me down the subway before I locate the map and confirm which track to take.
I decide to take a punt, if I take the 4 to Brooklyn Bridge - I can change to the J and get off at 14th Union Square if all else fails.

I saunter over to the turnstile and swipe my Metrocard (I purchased a 30 day card for $89 on Thursday – I was so proud of myself) WRONG!!! It wouldn’t let me through– insufficient funds! What the? I’ve used it twice. I go over to the guy at the ticket machine –

“Welcome to New York Maam! – You’ll need to buy another ticket – I can’t help you.”

Arrrgghhhh – fine – I buy another one – and gain access to the track and hop on the 4 - fingers crossed and hopefully heading north. My stomach churns when two French ladies beside me ask in broken English “Does anyone know where we are going?” To which a loud little guy from New Jersey declares that he has no clue either. Lucky for all of us, this lovely young tall local guy announces that we are headed north towards 14th. Phew! The Jersey guy is pissed and tells the whole carriage about how bad Manhattan subways are - very loudly proclaiming that a foreigner would be screwed trying to take the subway tonight giving me the chance to pipe up - “Well yes I’m from Australia and I don’t know where the hell I’m going” .

“Welcome to New York Ma'am!”

And this lovely fellow proceeds to give me directions to get off closest to 34th Street. He is from Queens and headed towards 59th Street for the Halloween Village celebration.and proceeds to guide me to the correct station to disembark and even gives me directions for which street to take.

Sure there have been rude people here - but for the most part - I have met such helpful people here in New York. They don’t have to help – but have gone out of their way to welcome me – he he – on several occasions – and give me whatever helpful hints they can.

I exited at 33rd Street – Park Avenue – ahhh – no credit card – no shopping – a good thing. Crossed Madison Avenue – ah – visit another time - don't look - head down - focus on getting home. Continued down to 34th and once I saw the familiar ledges of the Empire State, I knew I was close to home.

Streets packed with costumed trick or treaters, the air is alive with celebration, colour and magic tonight.

I feel very welcome in New York!

The Return of the Rock Chick

I was sold one limited view ticket for the 25 years of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concert. Limited view – I thought – how bad could it be? :-)

Well view was substantially better than the folks seated directly behind the stage. I saw side of stage and the screen in the ceiling and on the side. Seriously it was a fine view considering the talent I was being served – and what a feast that was!

Tom Hanks introduced the evening. Tiny neat little man – well spoken – clean – slight – he read from the autocue facing me very succinctly. He looked much shorter that I would imagine. He introduced the first act, Aretha Franklin – a larger than life character resplendent in her bright red sparkled full length gown – divine up swept hair. For a woman in her 70s, she is incredible. And her vocal range would put a girl 1/3 of her age to shame. She sang all her famous hits and was joined on stage by Annie Lennox and Lenny Kravitz. Finishing with R.E.S.P.E.C.T. she introduced her band and most of them were related to her in some way and all looked well fed and of normal size. They were the exception to the rule.

From the grey haired roadies on the ground directing bump in and bump out to the stage hands, techies and backing musos to finally the rock stars themselves – being 50,60 and 70 doesn’t necessarily mean looking older. Either the drugs they have done over the past few decades have mummified them at an eternal 30, they have their plastic surgeons on retainer or they are secretly robots programmed for our entertainment (ya never know) but these dudes looked healthy, fit and sensational.

Jeff Beck and his band were up next and were exceptional. Jeff is in his 60s I think and looked 30. It looked like perhaps his daughter – couldn't be anymore than 20 years of age – was on bass guitar – and her playing brought tears to my eyes. John Pattitucci eat your heart out – she was the stand out musician of the evening. Jeff had several special guests – Sting – one of the beared old dudes from ZZ Top and Buddy Gay.

Metallica – the best front man ever – performed all the song I know from Alex and Niko playing Guitar Hero :-). Enter Sandman was just fantastic!!! They connected to the crowd in such a personable fashion - I really appreciated them. They gigged with Ray Davies from the Kinks and Ozzy Osbourne - I know - who would have though right - Ozzy friggin Osbourne!!! Ozzy looked fantastic – tiny, slim, healthy – he was literally bouncing on stage with his consistent – "Come on F**kers!" to the crowd (Eerytime he yelled it I thought of you Kate – he he) Topped off with U2, (Bono - by the way who needed the autocue to sing his own songs - what the?) Bruce Springsteen, Fergie from Black Eyed Peas mixing it up on stage, the night was a perfect way to introduce me to MY KIND of New York.

All the guys performing on stage (with the exception of Aretha and her band - they looked human) looked like gods! After the show I took off in the last song and exited with the staff and noticed all the agents and managers looking exhausted old and fat. Interesting mmmmm???? Food for thought. This concert reminded me how much I missed being a rock chick. I would have performed most of the songs that I heard tonight myself while gigging and it certainly brought back memories of life on stage and on the road. Since ending that incarnation and focusing on being the mother and/or corporate bitch characters, I have shut down the Rock Chick, stuck her in a cupboard and locked the door. Yet tonight I really wanted to let her out and rescue her from the deep dark recesses of suburban have tos!!

I work in the Music Industry yet rarely go and see a live show as it is too much like work. Tonight reminded me of the joy that rock and roll brings. It seriously does - how can you be angry and depressed when your heart beats in time with the drums and bass!:-)

Observing the audience I saw a mix of Armani suited Wall Street Guys – Bud in one hand and head banging with the other – families dragging their early reluctant teens with them – invariably Dad wearing his tattered daggy original Metallica T Shirt plus the standard groupies – albeit older – still killer bodies however with the faces of grannies.

Dodging the end of concert crush I escaped in the final song, raced out through 7th, took the block down to 34th and weaved in between paparazzi, stretch limousines waiting for their masters to emerge, screaming fans and police and security everywhere. As I dashed down the street, I tripped on the footpath and fell to within an inch of Annie Lennox freshly emerged from one of the sidewalk autograph signing areas. I apologized and told her I loved her in the Wizard Of Oz – (no idea where that came from) she giggled and wished me a good night.

Back to the room home in time for my Skype call with Alex and Tim – clearly more important than star watching across the road with the Papparazzi.

The Rock Chick safely back in the cupboard for now - had a blast! Thank You New York!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sleepy Little Town

Yesterday was stuffed with activity. It didnt seem like much but I woke exhausted.

The plan was to do a little shopping and then take the Downtown Loop to check out Soho and finally check out the Statue of Liberty.

Yeah well, I'm not very hurried here at all. After sauntering around the neighbourhood, checking out stores and shops and having a leisurely breakfast at herald Square, I stumble across St Francis of Assisi church and I'd check it out. A mass began just as I made my entrance and so I spent an hour and a half listening to my first New York Catholic sermon. The mosaic above the altar was spectacular and I must admit I was enchanted by the artwork through the church. One in particular showing Dante Aligheri and Christopher Columbus was especially attractive. The church was built in 1929 - not its not terribly old. however it has that real 1930s New York feel to it. (Like Empire State Building and the New Yorker hotel which is home for a while) There is an air of creativity and freshness and the new with this style of decor that is juxtaposed against its dated colours.

The fransiscan priest spoke in the thickest of New York accents I have heard so far and his whole sermon was dedicated to the love of the Jews. Apparently there is vicious rivalry in NY between Catholics and Jews. (Catholics being Irish and Italian) I chatted to an old man after the service who recalled his youth in the violence of racial and relgious uprisings in this regard. Forgive my ignorance, however I have seen so many Jews since being in New York. I say that word carefully, it is merely an identifyer for people dressed in traditional clothing, the hat and the curly hair down each side. I've not encountered contact in thsi way in Brisbane - ever. So it is fascinating to be introduced to a whole new world here.

Sitting in the church, taking in the images and listening to the words, I understand a little more about the symbolic language in this "story" and feel quite priveleged about the education I have been given. A mass in the middle of the day in busy New York city, people from all walks of life and it is jam packed! Wow you'd be lucky to have 100th of that number attend on a Sunday - the prime time in Brisbane. Very interesting!

Suitably inspired, I leave the church and become hopelessly lost somewhere between 6th and 5th avenues. I emerge right next to Victoria's Secret stores. It's a Sign!!!!! :-) Oh Alex - this shop is divine - just perfect for a Capricorn birthday shopping trip! :-) Then I visited JC Penney and checked out the levels of fashion options. Bought a couple of things for myself - another religious experience!

Back home to sleep for a couple of hours as I am off to the Rock and Roll Hall of fame concert tonight at Madison Square Garden featuring: Aretha Franklin, Annie Lennox, U2, Lenny Kravitz and Metallica. It's great to be so close to this concert hall. Walking back home I watched the aging stage hands bump in the incredible truckloads of gear. Those guys have probably been on the road for most of their lives. Now grey haired, they still look as hooked on the music as ever.

Getting Down to Business

Halloween starts early here. Officially it is celebrated on All Soul’s Eve however television shows are crammed full of costume ideas and Halloween specials and last night while walking home at midnight, I encountered many teenaged trick or treaters testing out their costumes.
Pumpkins line the streets – real pumpkins – smelling sweet and juicy – colours and shades of harvest – purples, reds, oranges and yellows – an incredible sight. Costumes feature in store windows and everyone is offering 50% off for anything to do with Halloween. There is big money in this holiday.

Thursday was my day to find Thanksgiving supplies for Alex in order to post back home in time for her celebration. At first it appeared that there was none to be found. Many a shop girl told me that they had to wait until after Halloween before showing the new holiday stock. Then I visited K Mart – not like ours – a very snazzy smart looking store on 7th just behind Penn Station – and there I struck gold.

In amongst the Dracula capes, witches hats, broomsticks and Michael Jackson white gloves, was one line of scarecrows, autumn leaves, green men and all the thanksgiving dinner items I could possibly desire.

My first assignment out of the way, I detour back across the street to the United States Post Office. Nothing like our tiny little suburban shops, imagine the Treasury Casino building times 4 – majestic imposing edifice promising through rain hail sleet and snow to deliver – (disclaimers – as long as you fill in the right form clearly and are prepared to wait in line for two hours) Yes that’s two hours of my life that I will never get back. I must admit, after buying the enormous box to mail the thanksgiving treasures home in, and feeling extra proud that I found the correct customs form and completed it, I got to listen to the most jaw dropping conversations while standing in line.

New Yorkers are always talking. Walking along the street, they are talking into their cell. They talk to themselves, talk into their cells, yell at each other – friends and strangers alike – on the street – they are always making noise and communicating. A cacophony of accents from every country on the face of the earth is heard on every street corner, however in the post office line, I only heard one – strong, broad, loud and clear New Yorker. Fascinating!! I smiled to myself as they discussed the Yankees playoffs, co workers not using the GPS on their I Phones, (apparently that is a major travesty), girlfriends dissing boyfriends, husbands cajoling wives and then cooing to their girlfriends in the next call. I stood there and smiled as an entire culture of system, structure, expectation and design was on display. I learned much.

When I finally had my number called, I could almost hear angels singing and bells ringing. Alas, my excitement was short lived. Wrong form – here’s the right one – fill it in and get back in line. Nooooooo – but I did as I was told. (As you do in this fair city!) This time it only took 25 minutes – I felt blessed by the good fairy of the USPC and found myself back in front of an associate before too much longer.

The lady had to type in all the form particulars herself and explained as she went that the USPC like most US companies had laid off 75% of their workers to go automated, on line, self service and more work for each worker lucky enough to retain their job. I did notice signs advising the public to buy their stamps on line – simply print and paste and then self post! Amazing!
The poor lady entering my information struggled with all the details and collapsed in laugher when she got to the name of the suburb. Wooll OOooN Gerrrbba – no that cant be real? Seriously? You guys have weird names huh? Oh well, maybe she needed a little entertainment?
My post office experience done – it was time for breakfast – at 12pm. There are some amazing places to eat here. I must say the selection and standard of food available here is broader than my memory of San Fransisco. Autumn is the season for soup and there are plenty of healthy options available. I found a little shop called AU BON PAIN and had a naked chicken salad – no dressing in sight – yoo hoo – and the most mouth watering bread stick I have ever tasted with my chicken soup. Breakfast and lunch in one meal!

I headed off to 35th to find the Jacob Javits Convention Center to register at the New York Marathon expo for event volunteers. Then I had a meeting with one of the hundreds of New York volunteer centers in the city and registered for orientation and training for the endless array of events coming up in November. Wow I could seriously work every day while I’m here. This city runs on Volunteering and I learned much about why that is and how corporate this aspect really is. In fact this whole city is Business and Marketing 101. I keep remembering the Maths Professor I sat next to on the way to LA and this city is based on numbers. There is a cause and a system and a structure and an organisation and a corporation backing all of it - set up for every possible human need. Walk around the streets – huge advertising screens are sending messages marketing a variety of “social” needs – sponsored by some hefty major corporations – and selling in every word and image and sound.

Why go to Uni for Masters in Business – just spend some time in New York – observe – question and soak it all in.

Wanting to get my bearings, I decided to catch one of those Hop On Hop Off buses to give me an overview of the city. So I take the subway to 42nd Street as most activity seems to begin there. I get a Metro Card for the month so now I have a card that I can use on trains, buses and subways until I leave. Great system!

I find the northern end of 42nd street and locate a Gray Lines bus and take the Uptown trip towards Central Park. Now we’re talking! It’s like two different cities. The Garment District – where I am staying – and the Central Park district – Lincoln Centre, Columbus Circle, Upper West and East, Harlem, Fifth Avenue and the Museum Mile.

It’s been a divine day weather wise and I sit at the top of the open bus and finally find some use for my thick jacket – brrrr – freezing. The colours in Central Park were just as I imagined. Yellow leaves line the city streets, beaming from dark black trunks coursing down to ruddy brown pavements littered with variegated shades of brown and green and red and orange and purple and yellow leaves. We drive past the famous landmarks - New York opera House, Donald Trump Towers, Time Warner Center, Columbia State University, Dakota Building where John Lennon was shot and I marvel at the stately wealth of these haughty 19th century buildings. Rich with attitude instead of history, unlike London or Paris with their hundreds of years of glory in their stories, these New York Buildings hold an air of majestic unusual for such a short length of time. There is a sense that New Yorkers love their stories and live and breathe them so intensely that they leave their mark on every street corner, park bench and brick in every building.

I only get random peeks at Central Park as the tour bus weaves its way through the Upper West Side. Reaching Riverside drive I see across the Hudson River towards New Jersey and it looks warm and inviting as the colours of Autumn hug its terrain. As tempted as I was, I dare not disembark until I plot my subway route. It would be easy to spend every day around Central Park – and get lost without one clue how to return home again.

This was my reconnaissance mission. Two and one half hours of mental note taking for returnables, I felt a pang of disappointment that I didn’t choose accommodation in this area for THIS was the New York in my imagination.

Turning the corner to return to Columbus Circle, I spy the famous Plaza hotel and smell the line of horses and buggies prancing for would be passengers for their jaunt around the park at night. That smell would be enough to clear anyone’s sinuses and I imagine the manure would contribute enormously to the incredible gardens in that area. :-)

It is almost nightfall, the sun setting adds a purple tinge to the well lit New York sky and as I make my way from 42nd Street on foot back to 34th Street, I am amazed at how familiar this already seems to me.

Dinner was at Tir Na Nog again. I had been fantasising about the steak and the second visit did nothing to dispel that infatuation. Mouth watering food, buzzing atmosphere, the staff already seem to know us and the meal is like grandma’s hug – warm and familiar and just plain lovely.
Walking back from the restaurant, I look up at the sky at the blue lit tower that I have been looking at every night and wondered where the Empire State Building was. Then it dawned on me that I had been looking at it all along. It looked very close, so 9pm at night, I decided to take a closer look.

It is open until 2am each day and regardless of the late hour, there were queues of foreigners coiled along the length of the Second Floor. Taking the NY Skyride first – a Movieworld type simulated ride of a helicopter ride in New York was a great introduction to the city – from this alien’s perspective.

Then we queued and lined up and after an hour finally reached the Observation Deck on 86th floor. Not terribly cold outside as one would imagine, I walked around the top of the ESB and tried to identify various landmarks from a bird eyes perspective. Gorgeous place to be at night – so glad to have visited on the spur of the moment.Walking home at midnight, throngs of people move on the sidewalk walking in time to the beat of whatever song is playing in their heads at the time. It feels safe on the streets at night – people everywhere – music, talking, laughter, eating, drinking – I’m wondering when these people ever sleep?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Steady Rain

It s Wednesday 28th October and a light drizzle greets me outside on my first full day in New York.

Breakfast at Starbucks – of course- there is practically one on every street corner. I buy a turkey salad sandwich and cup of green tea. It’s 9am and the workers rush has subsided somewhat and there isn’t much of my anticipated “have to” energy on the street. Everyone has a job to do but there isn’t much adrenalin – very casual and laid back. Every line in every Robert De Niro movie I’ve ever watched is yelled up and down the street as I saunter past unhurried and unsure where to go first. I’m looking forward to my opportunity to yell “Hey I’m walkin’ here!” – and am somewhat disappointed with the polite calm of the pedestrians, taxis, buses and cars. They’re all just going along with their business of the day. I purchase a bright pink umbrella from the nearest drug store, button up Manny’s oversized leather jacket and head off towards Macys.

Forgetting to pack a handbag would be the silliest thing I have ever done on an overseas trip – I think – until I walk into Macy’s bag sale and marvel at my intelligence in simply having to buy one here today.  It could be Harrods in London – very similar hustle and bustle about it – as I navigate my way through the delicious smells of the leather bags. Avoiding eye contact with the Louis Vuitton range at the end of the store, I stay in the middle and take a good hour to decide. Those who know me will be surprised with this comment. I’m an IN/OUT in five minutes kinda girl yet today in New York I feel as if I have all the time in the world. Knowing I am here for one month, reduces the tension and there is no real need to do anything at all today. This is a new feeling for me – a rainy wet day, lingering jet lag haze washing over me with no particular goal that MUST be achieved – I could get used to this!

I purchase the bag that met the bag benchmark – hey I didn’t say I wasn’t pedantic – just unhurried -  - and got the latest swine flu gossip from the shop girls as they made the sale. 80% of the floor was away with flu, they told me – it was rife in Texas and working its way up to New York. The temperature inside the store was boiling hot – the girls said it was like this every day and they attributed this to the high rate of illness amongst the staff. They were noting which items were contaminated – telephone, benchtops, cash register – and by the time we were done, I was totally freaked out about touching any door knobs, escalator railings or public items of any kind. (geez doesn’t take much does it?)

I found another store and bought myself a lighter jacket, socks, PJs and a couple of shirts and spent $40.00. Really lovely stuff and incredibly cheap. Making a mental note of the address so I can return later, I made my way up to 38th street checking out stores along the way. My focus today was to purchase the hand bag – check! – and the thanksgiving decorations. Halloween everywhere – nothing for Thanksgiving. Apparently they wait until after Halloween before they put them out. Pumpkins line most streets in pseudo city rustic displays  - they look great next to the copious bags of rubbish on the streets. Actually I’m surprised – New York city is very clean and tidy. Smoke billows up from the grids on the street corners on a regular basis. I’m assuming this is from the subways below.

After walking for 4 hours, I find my way back to the room to drop of my booty, Google thanksgiving decorations and then go back out again. Jetlag catches up and I sleep for three hours – ah delicious. Comfortable, divine bed – window open to the city, dry and warm away from the rain – it was a really great sleep – speaking from experience of not sleeping well for a very long time now.

Waking up and fuelled, I go to Penn Station across the road and take my first subway trip to Times Square. It was only one stop – I could have easily walked it. Ah well, Subway conquered at least! Disembarking at 42nd Street, I saw Bubba Gump to my left and nothing of consequence to my right. Did I make a mistake? Surely THIS can’t be Time Square? Not willing to look like a tourist and ask anyone, I walk up the street and spy a street chock a block with theatres - ooh I think I’ve found Broadway!  Walked up and along until I reached the Times Square I knew from TV. Buzzing with people seeking cheap theatre tickets, neon lit advertising signs, it rained down hard on me while I negotiated my way through the umbrella-ed throng and visited the M and M store and then Toys R Us. How much do I miss having little kids right now? Marie Rose – don’t ever take Hamish to M & M store – he will have a coronary with all the chocolate. Toys R Us – I searched the Boardgames floor but didn’t find the Christmas games I was looking for. Apparently they don’t come out until late November. Still Twilight and New Moon games – yes Alex I bought one for you – and seriously gave myself a talking to about consumerism and the benefits of NOT spending $$$. The talk won and I walked free from both stores with only one tiny purchase.

I decided to walk home instead of taking the subway again. Searched through all the souvenir shops – Alex – once you email me a complete list, I will make your purchases and post it all to you. (The US Post Office is the next corner from the hotel – very convenient and open 24 hours) Still no luck with Thanksgiving supplies however one local New Yorker recommended that I visit 14th street tomorrow – some party supply store near Empire State building. I had lunch at 5pm at another Starbucks – Ginger Tea – ham and salad sandwich – and was introduced to the delights of NY theatre by another local I chatted with. This lady lived in jersey and was in town for the evening to see Steady Rain – an off broadway show starring Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig. There are some great shows playing at the moment. I have decided to simply purchase the tickets each afternoon at the discounted rates. I don’t care what I see when and eventually over one month will surely get to see everything. 
Walking back from 45street – it took me no more than 15 minutes to reach 34th – home – this city has an incredible system – so easy to get around on foot. My temperature has been high all day – rain – jetlag –and every store is incredibly hot inside – so I found an Asian massage place down a dodgy looking alley. Cheap, safe, comfortable and perfect – just what I needed.

Tonight is the first Yankees game at the Bronx. I was offered tickets for $100.00 this afternoon and I turned them down as I wanted to watch GLEE on TV at 7pm. The joke is on me – GLEE has been replaced for the next 3 weeks with the Yankees games on FOX – so next time I will take the tickets and just go. This city seems to be a little nuts over their sport.

Looking back over the day, I did nothing of significance but had a great first day. I can see that it will take me a good week of daily 8 hours of walking to become orientated with just a few of the city areas that I am interested in.

I feel quite at home here already.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Safe and Sound

If this was 1909, I would be sailing somewhere in the Pacific Ocean right now on my nine month voyage to New York from Australia. Living in this age and with such incredible technology and convenience, my trip from Brisbane to New York was really very easy and comfortable. We flew out at 11.05am on 27th October. I was fortunate enough for Marie Rose to acquire Exit Row seats for the Brisbane to LA and LA to New York legs of the journey. As with everything in life there is a positive and a negative. Upon settling into my 58B seat in Brisbane I realized that being in the Exit Row meant there was nowhere for me to stow my “stuff” with me for 13 hours. Then a very large tall loud gruff man with a beard and long grey hair squeezed into the window seat beside me and began to cough all over me. Ugh – this will be one long flight.

Then the balance – seated next to the kitchen galley and the open space, many people stretched and exercised near the seats and there was many interesting chats and stories to be had. The staff were exceptional and the 58A coughing man turned out be to a Maths Professor at UQ – qualify – Pure Maths. We had the most amazing conversations as he travels the world researching indigenous peoples – the hunter gatherers – in order to discover how they relate to the “number”. Fascinating – I was educated to believe that indigenous peoples were uncivilized due to their so called lack of society structure. The professor reminded me that these peoples are so intrinsically connected to nature and its comprehensive structure that as we westerners seek to build a whole structure from the smallest of detail – and call that civilization – indigenous peoples already have a whole structure – called nature – that they know intimately – and they seek to break down this whole structure into the smallest of details. They don’t need to build anything as it is already there is their perspective.


Sleeping easily in between meals and stories from strangers, LA appeared in the window before I knew it and so began the race hour. One hour to gather on board luggage, get through customs, find the luggage, transfer from Terminal 4 to Tom Bradley Terminal, re check in luggage and board the next plane bound for New York. Made it with time to spare!

Sitting in another Exit Row seat, I slept most of the way to New York, disembarking at JFK in amongst clouds of fog, finding the shuttle bus, listening to stories from more Aussie tourists and inching our way along the Queens tunnel until we reached 34 Street on the island of Manhattan. Feeling awake and happy to finally be here with such little fuss, check in was smooth, quick unpacking and before I knew it I was back on Eighth Avenue walking down towards Madison Square Garden – just across from the hotel, to a lovely steak dinner at Tir Na Nog – an Irish Bar and restaurant.
The New Yorker Hotel is situated in a convenient central location making it easy for me to plan my assault on this city.

Back in the hotel room, lights from the city streaming through my window, the sounds of taxis beeping, sirens raging and a light rain outside, the channel surfing through the American TV shows capped off a first day that was only complete with a Skype call with Manny and Sam. Having free Wi Fi broadband access in the room makes it easy for me to work for a couple of hours each day and gives me access to all the information I will need for this month in New York.

Sleep at midnight, waking only once and rising at 8.30am – I feel quite safe and comfortable.

Central Park

Central Park