New York, New York

Trip Start Feb 24, 2003
Trip End Aug 23, 2003

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Flag of United States  , New York
Monday, August 18, 2003

Why is that major dramas seem to follow me wherever it is I go? Back in 1993 I'd been in London for a week when the IRA bombed Bishopsgate, destroying most of London's financial district. Last year I'd been in Bali for 3 weeks and was not long home when terrorists blew up the two night clubs that I'd spent almost every night of my stay in. And now New York City... I was in the Metropolitan Museum getting chatted up by one of the security guards when the power went, it was then the guard took the opportunity to go down on bended knee to propose to me (I tell you Nathan - the ego took a good boost that day!). Half an hour later there was still no power and I overheard someone say the whole eastern seaboard was in a blackout. There was talk of a computer virus, a terrorist attack and a lightening strike at Niagra Falls. A "task force" has been set up to find the problem, but I don't think they're any closer to solving it. Let's hope everything goes alright in LA, afterall, it's been a while since they had an earthquake...

I arrived in NYC late last Monday night and settled into the fantastic "French Room" at the East Village Bed & Coffee - definitely a place I'd recommend to people not interested in staying in an overpriced sterile hotel room. Anne, the owner, makes you feel completely at home and although her dog Fang was a little snappy when I first arrived he has since become my new best friend (sorry Nic - but I'm sure you understand). I poured myself a huge glass of Baileys over ice and with plenty of refills sat at my window looking out over the street and planned my weeks stay.

Those who know me well will agree that I am one of life's greatest horizontal champions - I'd sleep til noon everyday if I could, but with New York being the city that never sleeps, I felt much compelled to do the same. I was out the door at half 8 and in at the epileptic's nightmare that is Times Square by 9. Plenty of sailor boys in their crisp whites caught my attention for a little while until I went into tourist mode. Now normally I'm a "traveller" spending quite a bit of time in each place I visit, getting to see things the ordinary tourist misses out on, but with only a week here I decided to get on a hop-on hop-off tour bus. The tour passes took me downtown, uptown, over to Brooklyn and on a night time tour. Playing the dumb tourist was great - waving to people from the top of the open double decker bus and standing right in front of the Empire State Building when asking where it was. I tried that a few times until the joke started wearing a bit thin. On me.

I was walking past a construction site when someone called "hey Zena" - must have been the short pleated skirt and knee high boots I was wearing... Anyway, it was this HUGE black guy, all sweaty and rippling muscles standing up on the second storey. I asked if I could take a few photos and was treated to an impromtu strip show. Talk about making me feel welcome!

Walking back through the East Village that first night I literally bumped into a few people. We got to talking about tattoos (one of the girls was getting her first one and asked for advice - easy... make sure you're straight when you pick out your design but get completely pissed before the needles start), New York and Sydney. When they found it was my first time here and that I knew not a single soul they invited me to tag along to a club they were going to the next night in the Meatpacking District! Anyways, the next night I was pretty tired from another day of sightseeing and actually called and cancelled, but then about 11pm I thought fuck it - when else am I going to get another chance to go out with the locals, so I went and danced the night away with some very cute gay boys.

Despite a major hangover the next day I was up early again to catch the Staten Island ferry. It was the perfect day for it - clear blue skies and only a smattering of people around. Later in the day I took the subway up to the Met and of course that was when the blackout happened. Saying goodbye to Nathan (after respectively declining his proposal) I took a walk through Central Park. I was invited to watch a basketball game and got talking to the guys there, all of whom were showing off for my photo shoot. It was exactly as portrayed in the movies - loads of back slapping, raised tempers, sly remarks and accolades. Walking back down through the park in the early evening with one of the guys from the game (thanks for your perspective on the park Erick) I passed wave upon wave of people, some of whom had walked from the financial district. Regardless, most had smiles on their faces and a word to share with the other walkers. I again stopped off to watch a softball match where afterwards the guys were having an outdoor get together back at their place. I went along for the candle light vigil before deciding I should try to find my way back to where I was staying.

Unsure of which bus to catch as I was used to getting the subway, I stopped off near Times Square to ask a policeman. The bus stop was right where he was standing but bus after bus was packed so I stayed talking to him for a couple of hours. OK, now this is where I have to quote the cop "please no pictures of me, and change names to protect the innocent", so let's just call this guy COP. It was extremely hot and I was hankering for a beer when COP suggested we go buy a 6 pack to drink in some dark corner. COP removed his gun belt and police shirt and sat drinking with me until I decided to start walking. Then the most surprising thing happened... COP offered me the keys to his apartment up on 77th Street, saying I was more than welcome to stay there, it was a hell of a lot closer than the East Village, and besides he had to pull a double shift anyway. Talk about New York's finest!!!

The power came up on the upper east side the following morning but didn't get to the East Village until the next night. Still, there were hardly any reported problems, just lots of community spirit, laughs and cold salads.

Kristina flew over from Ohio to spend the weekend with me, which was wonderful... we spent the days wandering through the shops of Soho and Greenwich, eating delicious food in Chinatown, and discovering the BEST mango daiquiris.

So there you go... I met loads of wonderful people in a city that is supposedly renowned for its rudeness, happy to give advice on where to go, what buses to catch and even where to get the best street hotdogs. I've travelled the world and have always said that I'd always call Sydney home, but now that I've been to New York City, that all could change...

Oh, and I'm already planning a December trip so that my children can witness a white Christmas!
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