Day 1


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July 20th 2006
Published: July 26th 2006
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Welcome to the USWelcome to the USWelcome to the US

This is what welcomes you at Newark Int. Airport. I'm not sure if it feels welcoming or not ...
Wow.
After getting up at 7, but being awake since 4 am, I at least managed to get to the airport bus without problems.
I actually even got the company of my second cousin's mother and her partner, who were going to Ireland. I told them to drink some Smithwick's for me :-)

At Arlanda airport, I checked for where to check in, and there my flight was on the board, all in ... RED ... delayed take-off until 12:00. *swearwords*
OK, at least I got my trip in business class, which meant being allowed into the SAS lounge, where I could relax with wonderful Danish rye bread and Västerbotten cheese, tomato juice, water, hot chocolate and finally coffee. Not to mention reading today's paper, of course. I'll nourish this memory a long time, I must say.
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The trip was no problem, even though we started out late. Food, beverages, films and my book made those 8 hours perfectly easy to spend.

Arriving at Newark airport, I decided to rush off the airplane, since I didn't know if there was going to be a queue later or not. Turned out to be a wise decision, since the queue
Soviet architecture at the airportSoviet architecture at the airportSoviet architecture at the airport

This even looks more like stalinist architecture than the Marriott of Warsaw ...
I ended up in for Immigrations (the place where they check your passport and your visas or visa waiver and make you leave your fingerprints (!!)) was the bad one. Well, I got through and I evenmade the Immigration's officer smile when I had no answer "No, I'm afraid not, but I'd wish!" to the question "Do you carry more than 10,000 dollars in cash?"
But let me tell you a small secret: I actually smuggled in a pear into the US! That's forbidden, meat and fresh fruit is forbidden to carry into the US from abroad. I wonder what the punishment is? Well, maybe I don't want to know.

I managed to get out, to ask for directions to get the (cheap) bus, buy my first thing at Starbucks (only because I needed the change for the bus, but still) and get to bus 62 heading for Newark Penn station. I got the train to NY Penn station, and managed to get onto the metropolitan subway :-) of NYC.
I was so caught up in trying to find my way around, I didn't really realize that I was actually in New York, New York until I sat down
NJ TransitNJ TransitNJ Transit

With all the laws and the jurisdiction in this country, this sign was obviously needed.
on the metro. Weird.
So, the hostel, at 891 Amsterdam avenue, was not bad at all, even when saharing room with up to 12 others. That is, until the day after, when the air conditioning broke down. That was definitely harder.
But I didn't find that out until Friday night, so I shouldn't get ahead of myself :-)

I thought I was going to do something on my first night in NYC, but as it turned out, I was totally wasted, so I walked down Broadway (parallell street to Amsterdam Av.) and then up again, bought a protein drink for breakfast the coming morning and went to bed. I also thought that I would wake up early, that is late Swedish time, but no, I slept until 8, which is about 14:00 Swedish time ...

But Friday would be my day out in NYC. I started out going south, heading for a map and travel book shop on south Manhattan, which eventuelly turned out to be very, very closed. The whole building was being renovated.
But the trip there was not bad, I got the company of Michelle from Grimsby, England, who also wanted to go down south,
Amsterdam AvenueAmsterdam AvenueAmsterdam Avenue

Finally in NYC, and this is the proof! Yellow NYC cabs on Amsterdam avenue.
so we both headed for Wall Street, "just because". Hence she took a picture of me and I one of her on Wall street, to prove that we've been there.

The first nice surprise came when I went past the very closed travel shop to go to South street. There I found old ships, a figure head carver (Sal, with parents from Napoli and Sicilia, I don't think I've met anyone that southern Italian before!) and generally a good atmosphere. Good tip if you're in NY, head down to the old port.
Then it was the Immigration boulevard, heading north towards Allen street.
I knew I'd appreciate one store on Allen street, I'd looked it up before, it's Moo shoes, with "vegetarian" and non leather shoes. As it turns out, beside that is a vegan restaurant and on the other side of that a bookstore! Three excellent hangouts on a row. I ended up telling the guy behind the desk at the bookstore about maternal and paternal leave in Sweden, he was amazed ... expecially regarding the pappamanad, 'father's month', then he looked like he'd move to Sweden any minute :-)
So that's another good tip: Allen street 152
Flood in the subwayFlood in the subwayFlood in the subway

After the rain and thunder this Friday morning, this is what the subway entrance looked like. Nice reflections :-)
to 172. (no, don't ask. this is the US and sometimes streetnumbers don't follow. If someone knows why, please let me know!)

When I reached my next stop, St Mark's place (wich is a street, not a place), the rain started. Hence shopping was a good idea. Sock man and Joe's record shop got visits from me, and the owners were glad to helap, not like when you see young people just working somewhere to make some money and they REALLY don't give a shit (sorry) about what you're doing there. St Mark's place was a generally funny street, when it comes to shopping, even though I didn't go to Angry Kim's, which obviously is an experience, I was told by a guy a the record store.

I continued my trip upwards, and when the thunder and rain was getting just too much, I gave in and went to see "Lady in the water" at Loewes close to Union square. Not a very good film, although apropriate in that weather.

When the movie wass finished, I went to eat and was served by Magnum P.I.'s twin :-D This guy looked at least very much like Tome Selleck.
Wall streetWall streetWall street

OK, more proof! I'm hanging out with the Wall street people! Or, then again, maybe I'm not. Photo by Michelle of Grimsby.

My plans to continue to Central park and other stuff just vanished after getting an omelette, so I went to the hostel again, jsut to find out that there was still no water! The water should have been off from 10 am to 5 pm but now it was 8 pm and still no water! And to top that, no air conditioning. Great. I didn't sleep well at all, but finally the sound of music woke me up (I have Dead can Dance's version of "Saltarello" as my alarm tune on my cell phone, wakes me up nicely!) at 5 o'clock and I had to head for Newark airport to pick up the rental car.
So next story will tell you all about the week with a car!

Summary:
The US is a strange country. People have loads of nice sounding phrases ready for you, but it's very rare that they actually mean what they say. Usually, they're not at all interested in anything but getting payed (I guess, I don't know what else they might be interested in).
Black or coloured people still work at the bad jobs, even though the hispanics and some asians do the even
Wall street 2Wall street 2Wall street 2

OK, more Wall street and sky scrapers. The only good thing about sky scrapers is that they create shadows on sunny days.
worse jobs. Incredibly fascinating. You might say that slavery was abolished in the 19th century and that blacks got to be treated as equals after the 1970's, but that's not really true, yet.

Still, it's usually civilized, except that they use too much waste. Paper cups, paper plates to eat on, plastic bags everywhere etc. Too much waste.

So, sorry that I've kept this story from you for so long, but internet cafes are hard to come by when you're at motels. I I had a computer wiht me, it would be no problem, but I didn't want to drag my 17 inch powerbook all over the north east US.

By the way, Sven, why am I heading the wrong way??


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Avenue of the immigrantsAvenue of the immigrants
Avenue of the immigrants

Appropriate, isn't it? Not a very nice road, though :-(
End of China townEnd of China town
End of China town

This is where China town ends. Fascinating to just happen to walk through it.


27th July 2006

... as to why you're heading the wrong way ...
... I can't really answer, since I don'tknow which way you feel you should be heading. Though a wrong turn somewhere is a possible answer. Still, if what you're doing is deciding how Americans are on the basis of how New Yorkers are, then I can understand the question. It would be like deciding how Swedes are by visiting Degemora or Jukkasjärvi. The US is a large, diverse country, where no one place is indicative of the national character. That undefinable object is probably undefinable, anyway. It reminds me of a story of how drivers differ in three east coast cities: In Philadelphia they supposedly know you (the pedestrian) are there, but don't really care. In New York they know you're there and aim for you. In Boston they don't know you are there. So which one is American? Beats me. Try another place, another turn. And above all, enjoy. Sven

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