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Published: September 25th 2008
We arrived at JFK airport after a slow, turbulent flight from Iceland. At JFK we finally got in a yellow taxi, Brooklyn bound. The driver did everything he could to get us lost, but with GIS maps in the back seat we fought back pretty hard and managed to get to our BnB despite his deliberate turnoffs and detours. The guesthouse is great; a warm cosy brownstone house on 38th St in Flatbush, Brooklyn. We found out that famous people who were born in this area include Busta Rhymes, Shaggy, Barbara Streisand (?) and Notorious BIG. Wahoo! Waking up the next morning and walking around the block we discover that yes we are the only white people in the whole neighbourhood, and yes some cars have bullet holes in them.
Matt was very sick during our New York stay and was sleeping day and night, with small breaks for food. Jane went on short bursts to explore the Big Apple, taking the subway into Manhattan. It seems New York is abuzz at the moment with activity. During our three day stopover there was the Wall St drama still unfolding, the Yankee stadium closing, a visit by George Bush to the
UN for his goodbyes, a guy attempting to hang upside down for 3 days at central park, Brooke Fraser playing a gig, Kiwi runner Nick Willis winning a race on 5th Avenue and Phil Goff signing a free trade agreement for NZ. Busy times!
The weather here was stunning and perfect for a nice stroll over Brooklyn bridge; perfect for taking in the harbour, Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and Staten Island. Once over there Jane visited Wall St, Broadway, Ground Zero, Madison Ave, 5th Ave, Times Square, Rockefellar Centre, Grand Central Station and many Halal stalls and souvenir shops. Visiting Wall St on Sunday was a good idea, no turbulent workers or chaos, just a few tourists and a statue of George Washington. Times Square was a head-spinning place. Row after row of lights, screens and signs coupled with the traffic and crowds creates a very intoxicating vibe. The city is amazing; better and worse than you expect. The food is diverse (as are the people), the sights interesting and the buzz is constant.
The city is very divided, and what street you live on or sell your wares makes a difference. Ethnic enclaves are very prominant,
as are business districts and fashion streets. For a tourist there is so much to take in and so much people watching, if that's your thing. Seeing as this is our first trip to the States there are also other differences that are noticeable to Europe; namely food, culture, ethnicity and architecture. The food is so decadent and American; more sweet/spicy/fatty/colourful than you have ever seen. The people so diverse; Haitian, African-American, White, Asian, Jamaican, Jew, English, Polish, Russian, Indian, Arabic.... There are many things that we realise NZ has adopted, but also many reasons we stand very far apart from the US. We read the magazines and know the culture, but we are definitely on the outside looking in. Here famous people are truly important as are prominent jobs, clothes and status!
Our neighbourhood was also quite different to home. Almost 100% black, the residents have African and Cenral American roots (Haitian, Jamaican, etc). The houses are not bad, but there are many guys just wandering around staring and basically wasting their time. Graffiti and rubbish are definitely more prevalent than in Manhattan, and when a car covered in bullet holes pulled up next to Jane , she
almost took off in a sprint.
Aside from all this, New York is such a playground. So much to see with so little time, but leaving us wanting more can't be a bad thing!
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