Published: August 6th 2007June 1st 2007
06/05/07 - 15/05/07 New York, New York
We arrived in New York, I started reading Amerika by Franz Kafka. Very timely. One tunnel and one black Lincoln town car later and we were on that expensive strip of land - Manhattan Island. We de-bagged in midtown and strolled around Broadway and Times Square soaking up the atmosphere. A man sat in his convertible car, not just with roof down but converted to an office, with a desk installed in the back and passenger seats. Printer, Fax, Flat screen monitor, pot plants, stapler and pen pots - the works. Now there’s a way to use and abuse Starbucks free wireless internet.
With a couple of days before Jen’s brother was meeting us, we nipped off to Atlantic City for 2 days of outlet center shopping and 2 nights of poker and Blackjack. Once again our foray into the Casino floor melee saw us leave in the black. Even $200 of poker tournament buy-ins covered itself with a 6th place finish from a 120 field, giving a small payday to cover 3 small tournament entries. The ‘midnight madness’ starting time ensures that hitting the finals table means you’ll see the sunrise.
Either the euphoria of reaching the latter stages or the double vodka redbulls had me confused. I was marveling at the sunset at 5:30 a.m. gong to bed!
Back to the NYC port authority on the greyhound (mostly courtesy of the Casino who pay you back $22 of the $33 round trip cost) and that evening we had tickets to our Broadway musical of choice - Wicked. I’m not a big muscials fan but you gotta do one whilst in town and you have to admire the costumes and sets even if you do cringe every time they break into song.
Next day we hooked up with Steve, Don and Alfie and road the subway into the Bronx for the Yankees v Texas Rangers game. An uninspiring Yankee performance and when we stood for the 7th inning stretch we kept going out the stadium where the stunning break dancing moves were much more worthy of the ticket cost.
After seeing some Chicago Police on Segways, we had discussed the idea of a Segway tour in NY, so harnessing the power of the internet we soon came up with a contact and then a time and place.
In front of the 59th Street Bridge
Meeting In front of the 59th Street Bridge in a small park on 2nd Ave we all learned the basics of Segway control and soon we were off - around the UN building and over the 59th Street Bridge, drawing looks of amusement and generally positive comments. “That’s the future man!” one guy shouted as we glided past. A couple of near misses with pedestrians, dogs and a fast moving fruit stall but generally it was incident free as we balanced fears of personal safety with pushing the limits of our new toys. Basically, Segways are amazingly simple to use and lots and lots of fun - we had a blast!
One amusing part of the tour was the story of the elephant statue in the grounds of the UN. Our guide explained that it was given to the UN by a coalition of African Nations and that members of the UN are embarrassed by the member of the elephant and have planted strategically placed bushes around the statue in order to hide its enormous 2 foot long penis. Our guide described this as New York’s best-kept secret. After the price of the Staten Island ferry and the hard
to find 230 5th rooftop Bar, maybe it is!!
Deciding on a trip to Miss view Miss Liberty and accepting our tourist status, we took an open-top tour bus zig-zagging down Manhattan island, with the most camp commentator you can imagine through Soho and the Village to Ground Zero, where we stopped to pay our respects at the 9/11 site and viewed the galleries and timeline of events of the day that surround the construction site. Not surprisingly there is a constant mob of conspiracy theorists with their ‘inside job’ banners and leaflets in deep and animated conversation with those around them willing to lend a hearing ear. I shall make no controversial comments on this forum, but some of their points certainly merit consideration. I was disappointed to find that the documentary Loose Change was ‘not available on this flight’
By the time we’d walked past the NYSE, snapped the obligatory Wall St. sign and stopped to quench our thirst at a historical tavern in the financial district and arrived at Battery Park Pier it was gone 4 p.m. and we’d missed the last tour boat calling at Liberty Island, however we could take a water taxi
tour passed Ellis and Liberty Islands and up the East River under the Brooklyn Bridge to South Street Seaport so we took that instead. And now I’m gonna have a moan.. Since 9/11 you cannot longer go up inside the statue of liberty to the crown, only enter the base, and you can’t do tours of the New York Stock Exchange. I don’t know how many other places you can’t visit (We made it to the top of the Empire State Building). Now, I know that we need extra security at high risk targets and I welcome airport style security checks at such attractions so we can all feel safer there, but if you stop access to those places completely then you’re letting the terrorists win. How can you stop access to the Statue of Liberty? It’s the US symbol of freedom and we’re no longer free to visit it! Come on USA sort it out!! Add security to prevent risk at high profile tourist sties but don’t stop access to the sites. That can’t be the right approach!! Ok moan finished.
Under the bridge at South Street Seaport, we saw a blaring of police cars. I think that
all Manhattan cops meet there to change shifts or something. There were literally 50 or so NYPD cars with lights flashing and suddenly they all pulled out, one after another, blaring their sirens. Very odd!
We were in New York therefore we shopped. Up and Down 5th Ave and Madison making the most of our happy dollar/sterling exchange rate, Abercrombie & Fitch, FAO Schwarz and the Apple Flagship Store, a Basement shop accessed by the spiral stairase leading down from the giant apple in a glass cube at street level. We waltzed into the Prada shop and flashed Steve’s Prada phone (not yet available in the US) where the usually snobbishly inattentive staff salivated at the site of it and stretched out their fingertips to try and touch the golden egg!
FAO Schwarz had the most amazing selection of stuffed animals. Huge giraffes, polar bears, impalas… with equally huge price tags. I desperately wanted the Huge Octopus from the ‘Polar & Aquatic’ animals section but with our luggage allowance, I was gonna struggle to bring it home. I did however pick up a poker set at the bargain price of $25 reduced from $300 and enlisted the help
of Don to add to his hand luggage on the way home! The clay chips weigh a ton!
On a Sunday we entered Central Park in the South East Corner and headed north toward the Met. We expected to see some characters and we weren’t disappointed. A roller disco was underway with people generally doing their own thing in time to the beat, a guy pulled up on his colourful furry custom chopper, another guy ran hoola hoop school for kids and adults, banging away a rhythm on his bongos singing ‘hoola hoop, hoola hoop’ over and over. We reached the Met museum of Art and for a couple of hours snapped priceless masterpieces to use as the wallpaper on our mobiles (without the flash of course) I now have Rodin’s thinker contemplating who’s on the phone.
Of course New York is equally about the bars, clubs and restaurants and we made the most of where we were with Porterhouse Steak, great pizza, great New York Deli lunches (cheesecake mmmmm!) and plenty of trendy bars and clubs. 230 5th Avenue is a secret roof top bar with great views of the Empire State by night in its various
coloured glowing guises
and when it’s cold they even provide Red Riding hood capes and OB1 Kenobi blankets to wrap yourself up in like an undercover Jedi - “These are the views you’re looking for.”
All too soon we were heading for JFK and the inevitable journey home that had seemed such a distant event.
We landed at Heathrow. It was drizzling with rain.
There are more photos below