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!

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