Yep, it sure is.
Crikey, never seen so many buildings competing to scrape the sky either.
But I reckon that most of the people who read these words actually know more about New York than I do, so I'm not going to bother preaching to the converted among you, and if you haven't been here, then all you have to do is look around this travelblog site, there's bound to be several entries by people who will be writing about all the things that you ought
to write about.
Getting here wasn't the best, what with the debacle at Heathrow, yet another connecting flight back to Frankfurt, then being stowed in Lufthansa cattle class for 8 hours, knees around my ears (Lindo certainly has an advantage here). The movie was a rom-com called 27 Dresses, and as sleep was impossible due to only being able to sit bolt upright, I was forced to watch it. The screen was about 3 meters away and directly in front so I couldn't get away. I wasn't wearing headphones but I had the plot pretty much figured out by the time the opening credits had finished, it was like torture! Somewhere high over
the Atlantic, We were handed immigration cards to fill in, which are a fairly no nonsense affair, it's the USA you're entering don't forget, but there is a list of questions on the back which fortunately helped to lighten the mood, like "Are you a criminal", "Do you have any drug convictions", or "Are you a member of Hitler's Nazi Party", but the best one is "are you a terrorist?"
Hang on a minute, this must be a trick question! Either that or they're having a laugh! What...? No..., it's for real? Oh I see, they've really got their border security sewn up now, what with making people provide an address with zip code, forcing hapless passengers to basically undress at the security gates, closing the checkin counters at 30 minutes prior to boarding and now this curly question, which no self respecting terror prospect can possibly lie about.
So they've got the lazy, casual terrorist beat. For instance Abu Mohammed strolls leisurely up to the checkin counter at 25 minutes to boarding time and is told that he can no longer make the flight. Noooo! All his cell's careful planning has come unstuck. Osama is going
like little rabbits with a long fluffy tail, cute as a button!
to be furious!
They've got the disorganised one too, who doesn't really know where he's going
And they've got the honest terrorist. Ali Bin Asraf, aboard a plane halfway over the Atlantic, being somewhat more punctual than his contemporary Abu, and with a legit address like Beverly Hills 90210, begins to fill out the immigration form. He answers the questions no, no, no, no, no, and then, oh hang on, what's this "am I a terrorist?" Well, I intend to be, so I'd better answer yes to that one. He hands in his card at the JFK Airport immigration desk, and he's immediately off to Guantanimo Bay. No one told him it wasn't an occupation that the Americans appreciate!
The smart people over at the Department Of Homeland Security will be patting themselves on the back for coming up with such ingenious countermeasures! The only terrorists who are going to make it through to the States are the punctual, clever, dishonest ones, and as we all know, there can't possibly be any of those. If they'd had these types of countermeasures in place before 9/11, it would never have happened! If only...
After all the drama
at Heathrow (read previous blog, I'm not going to repeat it), the actual arrival at New York's JFK airport was a complete anticlimax. They didn't even look at us and the only thing I was asked, disinterestedly, was how long I was staying here! Maybe it gets tougher on the weekend.
Well, so here we are, in New York at last; another country, another type of toilet cistern. I don't really have anything bad to say about the place; sure it's a bit daunting and a little scary at times, but 8 million people live there. That's twice New Zealand's entire population in a space smaller than Christchurch, all piled on top of each other. They certainly don't have backyards, but what they do have is Central Park. On our first day looking around, Lindo and I decided that we have to walk it from south to north. We managed to get ourselves pretty disorientated and walked around in circles initially, but eventually we figured out how to keep on a more or less northerly direction. We pass squirrels, some turtles, and lots of people playing baseball, jogging anti clockwise, walking their dogs, cycling and power walking. Well, there
these van like things run regularly to and from New Jersey, and they are the most rickety, worn out, old things since school busses!
were a few thousand sitting down as well, picnicking and making the most of the early summer days.
Lindo plays a couple of shows:
The first one went like this.
We were walking along 2nd ave, between 11th and 12th street towards the subway, after deciding not to enter an open mic down the road on account of it being a bit theatre like, when we pass another one, and this one looks a little more suitable. There is a guy at the door and he sees Lindo's guitar and is like "come in, come in, music, comedy and poetry". This looks sweet as, so in we go.
Lindo puts his name down on the list, he'll probably be on around 11pm or so (it's 9 now). There aren't that many people there, but it's not too bad, better for music than comedy as comedy requires more audience participation and a larger critical mass is needed. There is an older guy doing his routine on stage, heavy Nu Yoik accent, just reeling off jokes, not really waiting for audience reaction, which is good because apart from the occasional cackle it's pretty quiet (except for noisy trucks, cars and sirens
don't forget to put a flag on it...
hurtling by on the road out the open front door). It's cool, early days. Once he has finished, the MC, whose method of saying time's up is to wave her iPhone at you, jumps up on stage and in a way too enthusiastic voice, which distorts the mic horribly, thanks the joke teller, tells a joke of her own and then announces the next guy. This is the format, essentially. Except that maybe 2 or 3 performers after we arrive, the MC pulls out the "I'm really hating my job, I'm so unhappy and I've got my period" gag. Just that it's not a gag. Lindo and I exchange slightly alarmed looks...
She manages to pull it together for the next couple, but it seems that the weird vibe is catching on, and both of the next 2 bomb terribly, falling apart on the tiny stage. It doesn't help that there is a really wasted guy who comes over to talk to us, during a performance, and the MC has to tell him to shut up, he walks towards her on the stage, she starts freaking out...someone pulls him away. He comes back over to us and asks us
top of the Empire State Building
costs about $30 to get up to where this photo is taken, and another $20 to get to that bit way up there. they're very good at unlining your pockets!
for $20 to go and buy some chicken wings, there is a small stand off between us but he gives up and leaves. Next performance, which also bombs, sees an argument escalating between the MC and a comic who is pissed off because she skipped over him by mistake, I think. They are loud whispering at the bar, in full view of the stage only 3 metres away, and the last thing he says before walking out starts with "think really carefully what you say next..." and the next bit I didn't quite catch but she bursts into tears.
The bar only has about half as many people in it now, unsuprisingly, but there has been an old man getting very drunk and he pipes up heckling in a loud slurry voice while a poet is trying to read a poem. Then an overearnest guy comes up, stands right in front of him and shouts in his face "shut the f**k up man, just shut the f**k up!" The drunk guy sits down, and then the shouter gets up and does a couple of awful songs, but not before heavily criticizing an earlier performer. And then he does another
one for good measure. I think this is about the time that the MC takes the stage and quits her job, which is running this open mic night, and tells her boss, who is watching the whole thing on a web cam somewhere (it's all being filmed) to go f**k himself.
But it just keeps going, the guy who made her cry comes back with a pizza. He goes outside to eat and she follows him out. I cant hear what is being said, but I can see the gloves are off. She comes back in periodically to keep MCing (even though she has quit!?), and then goes back to have another stoush with pizza guy. Eventually someone else gets involved and tries to keep them apart, but it's just no good.
Meanwhile, there is still a procession of comics trying to be funny on stage while this whole drama is unfolding. Because people are dealing with the heavy vibes, they're not really listening and there are about 3 comics in a row who get pissed off with the few people that remain for not listening, and end up making fools of themselves (I guess they were also
just bad comics...), and then MC lady comes back on and screams into the mic, announcing the next one. It's a complete circus. I've never seen anything like it.
As it gets closer to the end, the drunk guy moves away from the bar to where there are a few comfy seats and slumps down. The next comic gets up and doesn't do much more than play with the mic stand, pace nervously, scratch his head, say "ahhhhhh" and "jesus christ", and pull a piece of paper out of his pocket while mumbling "now let me see what I wanted to talk about". While this is happening, the drunk guy collapses, a couple of people go to his aid and an ambulance is called.
The show must go on though, and the poor frazzled MC, who is by now a complete emotional wreck and has been reading out the abusive texts sent to her by her boss for some form of entertainment, announces that Lindo is next. This is his opportunity to take part in possibly the worst gig of his life, while police and an ambulance crew take care of a wrecked old man on the floor next
New York stock exchange
and the biggest flag so far
to him. The cops ask Lindo to stop for a couple of minutes after his first song, but once they get the guy on the stretcher and out of the building, he does 3 more songs, and actually manages to lighten the mood somewhat. I think it was the "Can't Tell Me Nothin" cover that did it. We left shortly after, rushing to make the last trains and busses back to Jersey City, flabbergasted by the nights events.
Well there's a case of truth being stranger than fiction for you!
The second show was a far less bizarre event, also an open mic night, at a flashy place called Arctica. Our host, Chris, managed to make to this one, which was a stretch for him as he has to get up at 4am every morning to go and work at CNN!
We had dinner here as well, and this is the first time I've ever been asked how I want my burger pattie done. Medium rare thanks...
We did plenty of proper tourist things, one being going up the Empire State Building. However, on the way there we passed Madison Square Garden. Now Lindo and I watched
Led Zeppelin's The Song Remains The Same almost countless times back in the days when I had hair and fancied myself as a cross between Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. The live footage for this concert is filmed here, and as we pass by the loading bay doors, it all looks rather familiar. Then we notice 3 sleek black tour busses parked along the street, and the huge PA and lighting trucks. There's a show on, so we ask the security guard who's playing and he just turns his clipboard over nonchalantly, written on it is Kanye West. Lindo has been singing "Cant' Tell Me Nothin" almost obsessively in order to memorise the lyrics for over a week now, and so we're like "aiight dawg, lets go check how much the tickets are!" It's sold out, but there's a mean ass dodgy scalper out the front who will sell us 2 for $300 each, how about 200.., no? how much you got then... At this point we decide we should high tail it out of there.
Yeah, New York, it's cool.
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