Left me first preface this text by pointing out that it is 23:45 according to the clock, but my body is insisting that it is closer to 5AM. Fortuately, I am no stranger to what has been termed ‘Dawn Patrol’. Combined with being an insomniac it has actually worked out quite well.
My first impressions of New York are simply that I am drunk. My second impression is that the walls are completely taking the piss as they are making the sort of noise usually associated with a poorly tuned radio. the water pipes in this place simply appear to be fucked.
We landed pretty much on time. My flight was rather uneventful apart from my having the misfortune to be the only person in the entire cabin to be sat behind a person that reclined his seat to the maximum reclined position for the entire duration of the flight. This includes the times he was eating, Chatting to his next door neighbor or being forcefully told by the cabin crew to put the seat back to its upright position as the pilot would quite like to land. I really would have minded too much, but this guy also decided to jump around in his seat like a child that has only been fed blue Smarties for the last week. My little screen was careering around so much that it proved impossible to look at until this guy fell asleep - just the three hours into the flight. After that I watched the New Star Trek movie - surprisingly good - and Wolverine - entertainingly bad.
We landed pretty much bang on time. Customs was actually a piece of piss. I was about the 13th person through and I didn’t have a hard time at all. Even the customs agent was a cute woman. Listening to some of the other passengers whilst waiting for my luggage told me that I had been pretty unique in my experience. Call me old fashioned but I wonder just how much reading the form and filling it in to the letter and then being polite and erudite to the notoriously fickle customs agents had an effect on my treatment compared to others.
Unfortunately the smoothness ended there. I waited roughly 45 minutes for my bags to appear on the conveyer belt. Rather typically one me did put in an appearance, it got stuck on the ramp leading to the conveyer. Typical Blakely luck.
But that's in the past. I’m at the hotel. I’ve never stayed in a room that is so large but containing so little. It really makes me wonder about the American mentality. Seeing the vast waste of space that is my hotel room (easily twice the size of the Paddington Hilton and I considered that spacious), yet contains little more then a bed, a desk and a very old TV and and a bathroom that makes me think of the 1970’s. Then looking at the cars on the way here and the giant billboards lining the roads. My honest first impression of America is that size is everything, but content is nothing. I’m truly interested to see if this impression is taken away over the coming weeks, or simply reinforced.
For my first night, I decided to look for some food. Instead I got drunk. I found an Irish pub not too far from the hotel. The bartender had the sort of Irish accent not heard since Sean Bean tried his had at one in Patriot Games. Upon asking for my drink I was truly expecting to have my parentage questioned once hearing my accent. That never came to pass, and I simply settled myself at the bar and watched the baseball on the TV. An old woman came and sat next to me. She ordered a red wine, and had a racking cough. The other side of me where three gents drinking light beer. These I gather were the real New Yorkers. Every sentence contained at least two ‘fucks’. One memorable phrasing went roughly - ‘I mean the fucking girl is really fucking nice. I can see myself fucking marrying her fucking ass. But the fucking girl has this fucking thing about fucking books. She’s read this fucking shit that been made into a fucking movie and now she’s bought us tickets to see the fucking thing’. For the record the ‘fucking’ book is the Time Travellers Wife. I couldn’t resist recording them on the iPhone.
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I made my move after that and ended up at another bar called Jakes Saloon.
I really enjoyed this place. I got chatting to the bartender, Frank. He gave me some tips on local beers, and of a place to check out in Washington. I also got chatting to another guy - a jewelry salesman. We three talked about baseball, and rather unusually breast cancer. His company had done a sales drive today donating 20% of their profits to Breast Cancer awareness. It seems a strange topic for pub talk, but obviously hit close to home for the bartender. He told us how his wife has discovered a lump and got it sorted. Now they are big supporters of efforts to raise awareness. As my body was now screaming out for sleep, I bid farewell, but said I would likely pop in for a nightcap tomorrow.
So an enjoyable first evening. I actually spoke to strangers and sat in a pub with no self consciousness. Is the start of a recovery, or is it the placebo effect of being way from Guernsey. I guess time will tell.
This morning (as we are now past midnight), I ‘ll be on a tour of the city and a harbour tour. This will take most of the day, but I should get a load of photos out of it.