Published: May 29th 2012May 29th 2012
A nice building on Broadway.
I arrived in New York after a turbulent sixteen hour flight from Johannesburg. For someone who was once so scared of flying that I had to have hypnotherapy, I thought that that was quite impressive, and I allowed myself to feel a bit of self-pride before focusing my attentions on getting out of JFK and finding my way to the hostel that I had booked. I got on the airport shuttle, smiling to myself to hear the announcements made in the distinctive Noo Yawk accent, and then set about trying to navigate the subway. I knew that it didn’t bode well for future subway trips that I was having to blindly guess which lines to take and which side of the stations to stand on. New York City Council, if you’re reading this, more signage is a good thing. Miraculously, I didn’t get lost, and I got off the train at Morgan Avenue. From there, I had directions to the hostel. They seemed to be straightforward enough. I wouldn’t get lost. I was fairly confident in this, as I set off like a pack mule with my backpack, rucksack and shoulder bag slung over my shoulders.
My confidence soon began
Dinner at Fette Sau.
to waver, and within fifteen minutes, I had got myself well and truly lost in the middle of Brooklyn, in a neigbourhood that was clearly not a good place to be lost in. Hot, sore and tired, not to mention extremely frustrated, I sat down on a bench and indulged in a few tears before getting my iPhone out and putting the hostel’s address into the map. I very nearly cried again to see that I was now over a mile away from where I was meant to be. By this point, I was ready to flag down a taxi, but there were none around that I could see, so I got up, told myself to man up, and ploughed on. It took about half an hour, but eventually I was walking through the door of the hostel and checking in for four nights.
I was feeling pretty exhausted, but I had a pressing matter to deal with. I had left South Africa with only one pair of trousers, and despite just wearing them on my very first afternoon at the Lion Park, even they bore marks of my time with the cubs. There had been a small hole
The subway station near my hostel.
on the thigh, put there by a set of overenthusiastic teeth, and this hole had started to get big enough that I really needed to invest in some new clothes. I bought a pair of jeans for $20, and a cardigan, because I didn’t have anything warm after being in Africa for six weeks. I could have gone back to the hostel and got some sleep, but I figured that as Broadway was just a few minutes away, I’d go and wear in my new jeans whilst wandering amongst the bright lights of NYC. It turns out that Broadway is a thoroughfare that runs almost the entire length of Manhattan (who knew?) so those bright lights were miles away. After passing a fifth subway station, I decided to call it a day and headed back past the shops and restaurants and street food vendors that I had spent the last hour walking by.
When I got back to the hostel, I got talking to an American guy called Karel, who had checked into my dorm room not long after me. He invited me to go out with him that evening, and I agreed. I didn’t have any dinner
A subway station. It looks innocent enough, but don't let it fool you - the NYC subway is a nightmare!
plans, and it would be nice to explore a bit of New York with someone who knew the area. We headed out to the Morgan Avenue subway station, using a route that only took about five minutes, and Karel explained where I had gone wrong earlier. In fairness, though, I had just been following the directions given to me by the hostel; a small typo makes a lot of difference!
We got off the train at Bedford Avenue, and Karel led the way to a place called Fette Sau. Set back from the road, it was a barbeque restaurant with an outside courtyard and an inside bar full of long picnic tables. To one side was the food bar, where we ordered a tray of various meats including ribs and pulled pork, as well as potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans (not your normal Heinz 57 beans) and bread rolls. It took about fifteen minutes of waiting in line to get our food, and we very nearly didn’t get a seat, the place is that popular. Karel said that if we had arrived any later, the queue would have been out of the door and spilling onto the street. I was so glad that I said yes to going out that night. Not only was it nice to have such fun company, but it was also great to experience an off the tourist trail place that I just wouldn’t have found by myself.
After having a drink in a bar, we got the train back to Morgan Avenue and bought a bottle of Baileys in the liquor store and a tub of ice cream from the convenience store, before walking the short distance to our hostel. The night ended with us drinking glasses of Baileys mixed with ice cream, and looking through the trashy magazines that I had bought to read on the plane. One of the nice things about travelling is the people you meet and the friends you make; one of the less pleasant aspects is knowing that many of these friends will only be around for a little while before it’s time to move on and go your separate ways.