And In The End…(part 3 – almost home)

25 02 2010

Thursday….yes, I’m dragging this out beautifully aren’t I?

I’ve been home two months now, got a new job and a new car. I’m even moving to a new city, but somehow in my head I’m still in New York City. Mainly because I’m incredibly lazy. (Actually in my head I’m somewhere between San Diego and LA, it’s 9.15am and I’m sat on the beach watching women play volleyball. That’s just they way it is.)

So, my last Thursday in the USA was to be my final day in the hostel. How would my new mice friends cope without me? I didn’t care. One more night and I was off to a real hotel. One with a bar and a concierge and ‘intimacy kits’. Hurrah.

But for Thursday I had to first get out of bed. Wednesday had been quite a day/night/following morning. I eventually got out and about and decided to head south towards Little Italy, SoHo and (forget it, Marge it’s…) Chinatown.

It was a much quieter day, one that I really can’t remember too well. There was some shopping. I think. I got up too late to go on another tour, this time to Brooklyn. That’ll have to wait until next time. So I got on the subway and went south and began walking again. I’m not sure there’s more of a pleasuresome way to spend your day than wandering around Manhattan. It just brings a smile to your face. I was hungover, I had a cold coming on after all that standing in the rain listening to a tinny Rod Stewart and an even-tinner Michael Bouble, but I was happy as happy could be. I meandered through Chinatown, Little Italy, SoHo and NoHo and around Greenwich village. There was no panic to fit in as much as I could before I left. After three months of days like this I was the most content man in the world.

Stop!

Stop!

Carry on!

Back at the hostel I met up with Holger again and we decided to go down to the Rockefeller and see if we couldn’t go and see the city at night from quite a way up. There was also a pub crawl being organised by the hostel later in the night so it was a bit of a plan.

The Rockefeller Centre viewing platform is just great. I can’t really explain it, but as I say, I’d clearly reached some sort of epiphany after all this time. We managed to finally work our cameras to work at night while getting the background in as well. That’s the important bit apparently. I got reasonably excited to see the ball that drops in Times Square when the new year begins. I of course only know about this from Will Smith’s “Willenium”, a classic of its or any other time.

Ball-dropper just out of picture

While we were up there some bloke proposed to his girlfriend. All very romantic, but he seemed to do it by passing her a note. As it was about 7.30pm on a December night, she couldn’t read it and asked him to tell her what it was all about. What followed was a very unromantic scramble for the available light close to the emergency exit. He eventually got a bit fed up of it all and just got down on one knee. Luckily there was a photographer lady up there at just the right time to take their picture. For $25. Who says romance is dead? And I wonder what was on that piece of paper?

By this time the hangover was beginning to drag us both down. The pub crawl idea was beginning to look as appealing as Jordan in a flannelette nightie. This was confirmed when we met in reception to see who else was coming along with us. My heart sunk.

Yes, there was a good mix of people but unfortunately there were a few too many Brits. I have to say that while I’d met several lovely people from my own land, the only people who’d really pissed me off had been English. God, we’re wankers at times. No other nationality had made me feel as uneasy – with the slight exception of that time when Anders got back into the car after a petrol stop on the way to Vancouver and began the conversation with the question, “So what do you make of the Treaty of Lisbon? These foreigners, eh?”

Gulp…

Anyway, at the hostel there was this one girl for whom it was pretty clear that no-one else could know as much, be as uber-clever or be quite so above and beyond the horrific masses than she. She actually took the time to stop someone mid-flow to tell them that they weren’t entertaining her enough, imploring the rest of the group to be “more funny, cos I need cheering up.” She needed beating up.

Holger and I decided that beer was not the answer. For once. The answer lay in food. Lots of food. Just down the road, we got our wish.

On the corner of Amsterdam and 94th all our Peruvian chicken dreams came true.  At Pio Pio ‘The Matador Combo’ managed to combine chicken with rice & beans, tostones, salchipapa and an avocado salad. I think we ordered some fries as well. To think we nearly had a starter. Any Matador who had this before stepping in front of a bull is in for a gouging.

Is that enough?

I got a good night’s sleep and woke fresh for Friday. Moving day! Back I went to the Hudson. It hadn’t changed much. The rooms were still very nice but still FAR TOO SMALL. There were no new celebs spots. At least I don’t think so. I could’ve sworn Tim Roth nearly walked into me in reception. He nearly bumped into me, mainly because I was walking straight at him thinking, “he looks like Tim Roth.”

But I arrived far too early to check in to my room so dropped off the bag and went off to explore the city with Holger. We had some shopping to do. Some people from back home had suggested I need to buy them ‘gifts’, as if my return after 3 months wasn’t enough for them. I’d managed to put this off for long enough with the excuse that my suitcase was just way too packed for me to fit anything in, but as it was now packed with clothes that just didn’t fit me any more I was about to gain some space. I headed for H&M and stocked up on clothes that did fit me (at two-thirds of the price back home – bloody Britain).

Holger and I decided a visit to Century 21 was required. It’s a very cheap department store just over the way from Ground Zero. How it was not destroyed that day is amazing, but then again if you seen the pounding it takes on a daily basis from bargain-hungry shoppers you’ll realise just how resilient this place is. It’s also mental. I started getting palpitations. This is where all the Brits where. And they were Christmas shopping for Britain. I escaped to Starbucks over the road and waiting for Holger to get what he wanted. It took him and hour to buy 3 pairs of underpants. Off we went to SoHo and NoHo and the real shopping began. I found sensible clothing of a sensible nature at sensible prices. He went off looking for jeans. After 90 minutes trying them on in G-Star he informed the assistant who’d been with him all the time that he really wasn’t sure and that they were probably the same price in Germany. This guy was possibly the coolest, most laid-back shop assistant in the city. Holger had nearly reduced him to tears. We Europeans really aren’t popular at times.

Back to the hotel and having arranged to meet Holger again for something to eat I nearly stayed in, suffering from what was becoming a really bad cold (and it wasn’t getting any warmer out, snow had been forecast). But it was my last weekend in the USA, so sod it. On a tip from Anna who I’d met in San Francisco we headed for Chinatown. Anna had told me to go get myself a Chinese hot-pot. It was the only thing that would blow this cold away. Little did I know what I’d let myself and Holger in for.

So off we went to the Grand Sichuan in Canal Street. It didn’t look especially appetising, but it was full. At 10 on a Friday night, that’s a decent sign. Looking at the menu it looked simple enough. You get the cauldron brought to the table and order all sorts of raw meats, fish and veg and cook it yourself. Yes, it’s a CAULDRON. It’s full of chicken broth and the pot we chose had a divider down the middle. Half was simple chicken stock, the other half was full of little red chillies – and that’s what matters. The stuff we cooked in that side of the pot was so hot it was painful. Holger was nearly in tears, his German exterior crumbling with the excruciating, yet quite tasty, experience.

***LATE EDIT – WE HAVE PICTURE EVIDENCE OF THE CAULDRON***

Look at the pain in my eyes. I'm dying inside.

We even ordered more stuff to cook, through the tears. It was at once the best and worst meal I’d had in New York.

I decided what we needed now was a bar that served beer. The guide-book pulled out a plum: DBA.

I'm a sucker for bars with beer menus

Necessary post-cauldron drinkies

DBA wouldn’t tell you what DBA means. Luckily there’s a guy on the door called Keith. He’s from Somerset and looks like Bill Bailey’s weirder brother. He also looks like the big guy from Time Team, whilst having that delightful Englishness that Americans have loved ever since Spinal Tap first toured here. He works the door and gets free beer for doing it. What a job. DBA serves over 15o beers, 130 scotches and 60 tequilas. No wonder Keith didn’t work anywhere else, I doubt he could’ve managed the walk.

Keith... just about to check my ID

Once again the night blurred to a finish. I remember getting very upset finding I’d missed Brendan Benson at Le Poisson Rouge. I also remember the many rats that crossed our path in that area. One of them was huge, and may have been a cat. A very big cat.

Anyway, it was the weekend. My last weekend in the USA.

I promise the next post will be the last one. I have a totally new life back home that I can’t begin until I get this thing sorted out. It’s losing me money.

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