Sooooo good they named it twice

Trip Start Mar 26, 2009
Trip End Jul 18, 2011

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Flag of United States  , New York
Thursday, April 2, 2009

New York, New York, the city that never sleeps, the big apple, zoo york, whatever you wanna call it this place is not of this planet! If you have never been here then drop everything that you are doing right now and start planning as you have got to see and experience this place before you die. As this is not America, this is not Sex and the City, Friends, Seinfeld or whatever film or travel guide you have seen, this is the melting pot of the world where you will never ever be a novelty or feel alienated, where anything can and does happen daily, where whatever time you go on this island or where ever you go you will come back with a story, where it brings out the best and worst of people, this is not your city or my city or even the belongings of the inhabitants, this is the place where they killed John Lennon, the place where they flew two jumbos into of the biggest and most iconic skyscrapers in the world, the place where 18,815,988 people reside in 6,720 square miles (go on the wiki) of concrete jungle, the place where you don't mean anything and the city means everything, this is the capital of the world this is New York City baby!!!

OK so i had been lucky enough to have had been there 3 times already, with every time taking a completely different view and take on this metropolis with me, so as i come out of central station from getting the express train down from a nondescript town 35 miles outside of the city i am thinking, yeah been here done that just here to refresh the views, but i am so wrong. This city is as impactful as it was all those years ago in 1995, i can remember being completely in awe the very first time i was here, as a 15 year old it was like being in another world, the overpowering skyscrapers dwarf everything, the sea of yellow taxis that continually sail by, the street and avenues that stream off into the horizon, the army of people that bustle down the street each as different as the other in every adjective available and everyone just with their own mission, completely oblivious to what is happening around them, focused on one thing and not giving a new york f@ck if anyone that gets in their way. So as we hit park avenue and 43rd from Grand Central i can kinda shake off the initial shock that you are hit with as you enter the mad house, from living in London and Madrid for over 6 years i am used to obscene amounts of people in the street, but as i look up and see the Chrysler building brandishing its unmistakable addition to the familiar skyline and as the soundtrack to the city is played at spinal tap volume no 11 in stereo with its non stop sirens, honking, crazies shouting on street corners about all sorts of things, so many languages being spoken at all levels it would challenge any academic to understand them all, of construction work, business deals, arguments, lost tourists, beggars and hobos, i cannot omit the excitement, fear, tension and freedom that overwhelms me that no other place could of where i am... what little did i know.

So after checking in to the Tudor, a very smart hotel on 3rd ave we dive in a cab down to the East Village to join a punk/rock and roll tour of the area that murf has fixed up for another hidden extra of my birthday (worth his weight in gold that man). We arrive and are met by a guy with peroxided hair called Bobby Pinn whom begins to take us though the area showing us the old hang outs of The Ramones, New York Dolls, Iggy Pop, Madonna, The Stones, The Grateful Dead, The Damned, The Stones and The Who but to name a few and also old venues (of which most of them cease to exist) that back in the day Andy Warhol used and CBGBs. An absolute class start to the trip, highlights being seeing the actual building that appears on the Physical Graffiti Album cover by Led Zeppelin and visiting Filmore East which is now a savings bank but boasts a history of concerts in a list to make you drool imagining seeing at this tiny venue bands like the Beach Boys, Miles Davies, Ray Charles, The Who, Ike and Tina Turner, The Doors and Pink Floyd and also had many live albums recorded there such as Frank Zappa, The Allmand Brother and Jimi Hendrix (loving the wiki) very cool stuff.
That night we head out to meet Javi (a good Spanish friend of mine that met when i first arrived in Madrid and took me under his wing introducing me to all sorts of delights such as all day drinking in La Latina, Calimocho (a fantastic Spanish drink of red wine and coke, try it) and hidden gems in Lavapies who was going to be by chance in New York during our stay) so we headed up to a so called comedy club on the upper east side in some so called comedy club, i must admit i struggled to get in to the very obvious comedy, but i am a sarcastic brit, but the with last of the brugal that i polished off in the hotel kicking in, meeting up with javi and the fact that it was the last night of my 20s made it all that much better. Murf romped it home on the raffle winning 4 books one being on reptiles (oh the envy) and we had a great laugh with javis group, one of being ana the girl he was staying with in New York who was an amor, and i was almost restrained as the brugals took hold and i tried to mount to stage to announce to the New York crowd that i was 30 and then invited by some trendy trendy new yorker and his drag queen friend back to their flat the following week as his plus one on a Sunday get together... i found their rather colourful card in my pocket the next day and thought i would have to get my gimp outfit scrubbed up if i was to attend that eye brow raiser... great way to hit the big 30 in The Big Apple. 2nd of April 2009... wow i am actually 30, i cant believe it, the last decade has flown by, well not soo much that at least i am glad that i can put it in to distinct categories, the lost twat years, the trying to settle down to the Ilkeston life years, the Boots years, the London years, and finally the Madrid years. Its been a complete ride that i hope to follow on in to my 30s so as i wake up far too early and far too excited for a man of my age i wanna get out there into the jungle to enjoy the glorious day that awaits us (elena again has done her sun dance over night) and go wild. So after waking up Murf by jumping on his bed and Elena following me in playing "today its your birthday" by the Beatles we go by the advice of a doorman and find a proper NYC greasy diner (which Elena always pronounces "dinner" and makes me laugh, although with some things i say in Spanish i am not one to make fun) to try and soak up the previous evenings hangover. I make sure that every one at the counter knows that i am the birthday boy and respect should be payed... no one really gives a shite about the loud mouth brit and after battling my way through the barrage of questions of how i like my egg, toast, coffee, meat, the temperature that my plate should be and the density of the sauce (too many ridiculous options... i mean 8 ways to cook a fried egg, really!) we make our ways to the heart of the madness, time square. En route i manage to buy an extra battery for my camera from one of the dodgy Indian stores for $50 which i think is a steal as it came down $100 in about a minute and also Darren - i will never get ripped off - Murfin was whispering in my ear " i would not pay no more that $70" so i am well happy, but as i am informed by Elena - i once haggled for over 2 hours in Morroco for a €10 reduction on a bag and got a free belt at the end of the touture - Lario that she could have got it for $25 i am not affected and as the birthday/the previous nights buzz runs high i try to display my showmanship of the loveable Englishman attitude by giving the carosal of postcards in the next shop a casual spin claiming that i could get at least 12 postcards for $1 instead of the signed 8, just as the words leave my mouth the whole cowboy display collapses in my hands scattering postcards all over 3rd Ave and forcing us to buy 5 of the most disgusting post cards of New York for $3 off the 2 angry Lebanese store owners... a point well proved i feel. On to to time square we get the standard photos and give all the ohhh and awwws that it deserves, murf also joins me giving it our best in my little round the world trip side project of doing a stupid dance in every place that we go to for a mega montage at the end... but results have to be viewed so i have posted the vid. After making our way south of time sqaure and taking various photos of elena and her favourite building the Flatiron (and she even as she continues to brag to Murf of her bartering skills in Morroco while i am taking the photo and how crap i am) then we say bye to the big man as he takes himself and his fragile back off for a massage to loosen a few knots and we head to Union Square where we have arranged to meet Javi, and pick up the trial. Javi as always is out of contact, he always calls me the "golfo" which means player and also "crapula" which means roughly party animal (but i love this word so much that i have to use it every day as it makes me laugh, that much actually that as a leaving gift i was presented a fine zippo with the engraved words "MR CRAPULA" from my mates tom and uncle nestor... love it but for those who do not know he is the source of Spanish words in this category) but its a joke as he is just the same,  just a skinnier version and a tad older but he seems to have the same outlook on life as me thats why i like him so much. So after almost 2 hours waiting for the joker and leaving numerous messages on his phone we finally meet up in a Starbucks for him to tell me that he had fell asleep in the park and he had a dream that i was licking his face which later he realised was a dog... you see what kind of company i keep! After several Spanish hugs from Elena me and the dog lover we are informed that we need to take a 5 block walk back in the direction that we had just covered to get a photo of Javis favourite building of which he has not yet seen in the flesh (can you say that about a building... i am gonna roll with it) of the, surprise surprise, flatiron... if anyone asks me why i have so many photos of this place, please refer to this paragraph as by now for me its a cool song that radio one have got their hands of and have to play it 3 times an hour making it an absolute hair puller overnight. On to Soho we go, checking out a bizarre monkey penis shop that javi had found the previous day en route (?) and then over to china town walking past the newly opened Top Shop on Broadway. Now i am not being funny but i can remember buying a flannel multicoloured waistcoat from Top Man back in the day, matched with some Niko cream jeans from Burtons and i thought i was the don but everyone knew that they were clothes so copied and ripped off to only ease the pockets of our parents as we tried to "look cool", but then lilly whats her name gets a few second hand outfits, they twig on the that the cheap stuff can now be sold for double the price, before you know it moss gets a range in there and its a brit invasion... i really wanted to tell the 500th mug in the queue as they tried to get in that they could probably get kitted out at paul smith for the time and money they were investing there but they seemed happy looking at the union jack that we always display with sooooo much pride back home i thought better of it. Chinatown as ever was tip top, what a crazy barrio, nothing like the embarrassment of the street that we have in London but a full blown neighbourhood, in fact as we got lost in the mini city while Javi tried to get a photo with the worlds "biggest" inflatable sperm whale and i was passed a flyer of the offers of the day at Mr Wangs store of which i am told of how much i could save by just signing the small form at the bottom for a tv if i used a coupon that was attached cant be any catch there right..., but wait a minute, it was all in Chinese so i could have been signing up for a year at sea with the navy and been non the wiser!! Its really something that you have to sample as its just mind blowing, i spent most of my time just looking in disbelief at the things that were on sale and the general daily mayhem that was happening all over and the place and loved it. This was all capped off by witnessing a game being played on every available table in the nearby park, with far more spectaters than players, i could not even try to explain the rules but i wished i could have understood what they were saying as it looked a right laugh, just loads of banter from the crowd as the players would make their moves to a lot of hssssssss and ahhhh, "i wouldn't do that" (they seemed to say) and so on but with the players ranging from cool hand lukes to psychos who would turn on the crowd with whatever misfortune that came their way for the competitors to be throw from the table making space for another challenger... brilliant! From there we walked through little italy and found a small terrace bar to have a few beers with amazing sights of the empire state building in the background, seemed almost sereal to be sat there, especially with Javi as we usually meet up for a drinks in Madid so we would kinda get lost in conversation and every now and then we would realise where we were and would have to celebrate with another round. That night we headed out to a concert that Javi had recommended at the Webster Hall in the east village (which is a old theatre which now is converted into a nightclub but still have concerts in the original hall, and i hear is pretty famous to the area) with some band playing that he could only describe as Romanian gypsy music with a pulse (Elena seemed to know the style from a Spanish film that she had seen so it was a date but to be fair they had me on Romanian gypsy music) ,so we got a the tickets and headed down there to meet with him and his friends, after getting in well early and not wanting to be stung on the over priced beers we went back to union square to a bar that Mknew called the W for a couple of cheeky beers and after wetting our whistles there in the very poooosh evironment (probably the last i will see for a while) and we were ready to partake. It was, well mine at least, first experience of this type of music. The concert was an absolute riot, the band were called Balkan Beat Box and i can recommend them to anyone who wants to try something a little bit different, the music was an energetic display of samba, hip hop, and funk all played over with a non stop Eastern European style marching band melody played very enthusiastically on variety of wind instrument, hard to explain so you will have to download it. The singer was a hyper little Mexican guy it seemed who give it his all, running around the stage breaking into free style raps, then playing a bongo section, then tacking the second drum kit but he seemed to take the most pleasure from shouting "jump New York city" every time he caught his breath in, to which the crowd duly replied. In fact i have never been in a place where the floor was literally bouncing, seriously if you stood still it was like being on a boat and with the crowd being a mix of New York Latinos and the rudest bad boys you couldnt help but just let yourself go and with the sweat rolling down the walls, people "blazing up trees" left right and centre (no smoking but a joint seemed to go fine) i treated the NY crowd to rusty moves that i learnt from the streets of Ilkeston, DE!
When the concert finished the place opened its doors for the club and was soon flooded with what seemed to be a very bad boy crowd, mostly black with a lot of hats, bandanas and baggy pants. All of them made a bee line to their prfered dance floors for a good old strut. We headed into the basement where two old school pimps were mixing everything in from 80's floor fillers to bad ass electro beats, so as i am there being grinded by this big mama at my side and i cant help but think that i really should go to some more Romanian gigs... now that i am 30 and that!

From then on without breaking into an hour for hour recap over the next three days, we had a couple of days which were overcast and with plenty of showers so we got to go and check out the MOMA and Guggenheim and also had a look around the National Photography Gallery, always nice  to get a bit of museum time in and they all seemed to deliver. Also i crossed for the first time the Brooklyn bridge which i cant believe that i had never done before as from now has to be a must for any New York trip, if you dont know it the most iconic and famous that there is from the island, that has two brick towers that support a span of wire that link to the bride, there is a wooden walkway for pedestrians, a cycle path and two levels of traffic run beneath it constantly feeding the city. The views as you walk over can only be described as breathtaking, with the already alien surroundings of wires from the bridge that zig ziag in and out of your vision, you have the lower side of Manhattan with its spectacular skyline that almost never seems to shrink as you get further away from it and, the Manhattan, Washington bridges that run to its side and with the Chrysler and Empire State sticking out further up, you begin to grasp just how awesome this city is in size, it is a real work of art to see, a real symbol of the power that city holds. From over the bridge as well in Brooklyn even better views await in the new super cool area of DUMBO (down under the Manhattan bridge overpass) of bistros, restaurants, boutiques and little flea markets in the quite industrial area that now seems to be of the fashion and is beginning to pull in the trendies followed in by the tourists. There was one pizza place that was just under the bridge with queues outside like it was opening night so we gave it a wide birth not wanting to wait. We found out a few days later that some friends that were staying with Javi had been there and put themselves in the queue thinking just the same so after two hours they were a bit gutted to get a cheese and pineapple with some crushed papaya for $25... you live and learn.

Bowling was on the cards that night at a place javi had found again just over the bridge in the Bedford area, which again came up trumps, hidden away down a few back streets where i was wondering if the chain on my wallet was gonna be enough against a switch, then Javi appeared and beckoned us into this bar that was a proper American bar, pool tables, big pithchers the lot, all that complete with enormous takeaway pizzas being delivered to the bar with a 5 lane bowling alley at the back complete with the stars and stripes hanging on the wall. The power house combination of Rigby/Lario brought it right home and after a shaky start we managed to win with a steaming (albeit flucky) performance from myself, producing 2 strikes on my last throws getting the all important points, check out the evidence in the vid if you dont believe me... oh thats right, you cant! Elena took a photo instead of the video robbing me off my only winning moment on the bowling alley, but never mind i am sure that the staff of the night will keep the legend alive by telling their kids of where they were that night when i reached the dizzy hieghts of 86 at bowling (ermm might have forgot to mention that the competition was dire as well but a win is a win right... right!!)

On Sunday we managed to blag a night at the lovely anas flat so we uped and left the Tudor to move to the upperEast side and decided to spend the extra day in Central park. Which went by chilling, taking photos, dancing with a big group of the most bizarre peole you have ever seen (im talking on guy on stilks, girls like extras from flash dance, tramps and rollerbladers all freestyling to dj who had set his decks up there and had no sign of stopping as we left), and then meeting a big group of Ana's Spanish friends who all work and live over in New York on another beauty of a day. Not before going to a mass for palm Sunday at a gospel church in Harlem, which had to be one of the best experiences of the trip so far, from the animated 3 preachers in a good the bad and the insane kinda style. One who just bellowed into the mic about the "power of the lord", one who gave his sermon to some well timed gags referring to himself in third person as "rev" the congress as "da church" and the choir were treated more like as his backing singers "well gooo owwwn choir tell the rev who much you louuuuurve jesus" with the final act being a man that you would normally cross the street to avoid giving a lot a "can a get a witness" and repeating a lot of statements with "i am gonna say that agian" all the way through his big hitting speach of how "jesus excites us" speech finished off with a freestyle dance in front of the happy clapper choir showing us just how much jesus exited him. With the congress just full of Eddie Murphy lookalikes when he is dressed as an old woman, constantly getting to their feet prrrrrrrrrasing the lord, with arms held aloft screaming "thankyou jesus, thankyou lord" fantastic, you would have had no problems understanding why there were security as the collection plates were handed in by the sisters and emptied into a large gold box as the money that people were throwing in was insane!!! but even as a non believer i came out of there on a real high so i imagine for them it was a rock concert.
As the day drew to close we were invited over to one of guys flats that we had met that day, to go and sit on his roof terrace to have a few beers and see the island by night as he lived over on Roosevelt island and he promised that the views were something that you would never forget... he did not disappoint. When we got the cable car from Manhattan over to island, viewing the sunset as we streamed though the Skyscapers and over the Hudson i knew that we were in for something special and if the incredible views from his flat were not enough well whe went up to the roof terrace well it was for me,  the top of world. The views are hard to put into words and even though i am well pleased with the photos that i took,  they still do not give you what it is like to be there and see the great city of light gleming at you fon the little island to the side... a very lucky man and i feel even luckier to have sat there drinking american beer, and eating a spanish supper with a group of about 20 spaniards who could not have done enough to make you feel more welcome.

All in all i have loved every minute of being here, from passing such a milestone in my life to have been able to do it all with the girl of my dreams, some of my very best friends, in the city of all cities with the best luck in the world. So when Elena and i stood there getting our photo taken with the now undistinguishable sparkling buildings to our backs, with the sirens that continued to scream into the night, with yellow blurs of taxies full of all off sorts of the people that pass through the island every day that provide the interaction that you always get... be it good or bad and the wind starting to pick up with yet another drastic east coast change in the varied climate out here, i hd to kind of agree with all the tshits, badges, ash trays and hats that i have seem in a abundance since being here that i too love NY and being the way that it has looked after me over all these years, i think that it might just like me... maybe a little bit!

student card savings so far: $36, cheeky discount in the moma
git of the day: the joker who told me from the back of the queue  "come on, lets go buddie"  as i decided to have chicken or tuna on my sandwich (and called me a jerkoff as well as i told him it was a tough choice... didnt respond to the wanker sign i gave him though)
new fact learned: alphabet city is named and called so because they did not want to waste numbers on such short streets.

p.s for anyone reading this and wincing at the dribble of poor spelling and puntuation well i have just found the draft button and did not realise that i was publishing these rambings pre revison... opps!
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