Gorged with apple

Trip Start Apr 18, 2011
Trip End Dec 09, 2011

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Where I stayed
Putnam Avenue, Brooklyn

Flag of United States  , New York
Sunday, April 24, 2011

What a city! In one particular minute I feel like everything could change, a concrete jungle where dreams are made of, and so forth and so forth. So New York is big, really big; it's a melting pot of cultures; it's dynamic... but all of this I could have already guessed.

What has taken me by surprise is the people; the hostel owners, countless members of the public who have been asked directions, staff in restaurants, bars, and shops, have all been quite nice, as one construction worker told me in an extremely thick New York accent 'Don't believe everything you've heard, we ain't all bad" and I kind of agree with him. Yes this could be down to my accent, but no-one can really understand me, I have to slow down as if I'm speaking to a grandparent (at this point i would like to apologise to both my Nans, it is just the youth of today not speaking properly)

So there have been a few interesting events since I've been here - I arrived at Putnam (my residence for the next four days) only to be told that its had been raided by the police earlier that day and found to be 'imminently perilous to human life'. Nothing too doom impending just doubts that the floors can handle the weight of 34 people in a 3-storey town house and that there is no sprinkler system, either way the stickers on every door detail the consequences of staying in said rooms will result in arrest- not so good then.

Joseph (the hostel owner) informed me that the first night will clearly be free of charge and I am entitled to a full refund, nice compensatory package- but could really be likened to being made homeless in an alien country with an extra 50 pounds in my back pocket which I'm not so keen on. I decide to risk it and stay- after the first night I feel comfortable here, it's not the best hostel I've stayed in (The other owner who is away travelling for the last few months used to add a bit more of a feminine touch to the day-to-day running - i.e. a bit cleaner) but it is great value for money, 'comfortable-ish' bed, internet access, kitchenette; everything it said on the website- just a little less refined.

The only reservation I have stems from the diminishing number of guests - I am hostelling with a view to meet people- to possibly link travel plans; on the first morning the Irish girls I chat to, along with 3 different parties of Norwegians all leave to pastures new- I could have followed but I have budgeted around 35 pounds a day for N. America and the other hostels are around double the price. So I decide to stick it out at Putnam.

The goodness of this decision is put into question when on my third morning while waking conveniently early and getting ready before 10 I decide to go onto the internet and check emails, etc. After being seated for no more than 5 minutes I am ambushed in the kitchen by three police officers who are rather annoyed at my presence on the upper floors and want to know where I am sleeping. Here is where the British accent comes into its own, and I somehow calmly explain that I am looking for another place to stay and that I had previously being staying at the hostel. They go through to the bedroom where they discover another guest who is asleep and decide to give him a loud and aggressive warning along the lines of 'do you know where you are?', 'do you know the consequences of being in here?', threaten arrest, etc. After collecting my belongings to the bemusement of the police, I scurry downstairs where I find out that two rooms in the property are legally habitable; I manage to wangle myself a bit of floor space and settle down. So technically I am now privy to one toilet and sink, as showers and kitchen are out of bounds. The trip has become some sort of adventure and I quite like it.
I meet some of the more permanent residents who live/hide out/survive in the lower floors. Damn these people are interesting. Putnam boasts Vietnamese programmer who sought refuge in the US, now working in Times Square and also part-owner of the hostel; a very attractive Californian girl who's looking to make it as an international actress, she self declares herself as 'brilliant' (my sarcasm detector remains silent - so I assume she is a very 'modest' girl or a very good actress. There is a play-writer from London who too is looking to find a career and/or make it big; I also meet a photographer from Detroit who seems to be on a mission to destroy himself and is thrown out on my third night; There is a blonde Milwaukean PriceWaterhouseCooper auditor who works constantly, but i can see she probably likes to party; and half way through my stay, the other owner returns from volunteering in a Nicaraguan hospital to deal with building issues, now that must be a noticeable shift in your weekly routine!

I befriend a school teacher from the French West Indies who is also travelling alone, and together we experience all the main sites, she is very interesting and is not convinced by the rat race. Which to a certain degree has been part of my motivation to travel, not to cause change but to feel like I don't have to have a set routine, not just yet anyway. She doesn't teach English for its beauty but she sees it as a passport for her students to explore the world, I will determine the accuracy of this when I hit Asia.

This has been the most enjoyable experience of my first city travelling alone- the people; their stories and dreams, it's refreshing to know that people can live outside the set boundaries of the 9 to 5, however the long term feasibility of this lifestyle choice remains to be seen. I think I might open a hostel :)

The people I have met will not be the only NY memory- the food I have eaten has been fantastic, the first night I popped two blocks down from the hostel to Momma's kitchen where I was served BBQ chicken, yams, broccoli, rice and peas on a plate the size of a dustbin lid. After finishing this to the amazement of myself, and everyone in the surrounding Brooklyn area, I rolled home.

**Important news flash - please see below**
April 19th 2011 is a day which will live in infamy- my first taste of bread in over a year (those couple of naan breads don't count okay). The breaded good which takes the title is a chicken, bacon, cheddar and sundried tomato focaccia- it seems too small initially, so I double up the sandwiches on top of one another to increase the visual impact of this momentous occasion- I all too quickly remember the instant comforting fill of bread and wash it down with a latte the size of my head.

I also tuck into the delights of 99 cents New York pizza, I momentarily worry about the health implications as the oil drips onto my plate but it tastes so good I really couldn't care less. The hot dogs are okay, pretzels disappointing but I suppose it depends on where you go.

Now for the really 'touristy' bits. I have seen so much of the city, there are many highlights; the buzz of Times Square; the views from the Rockefellar Centre, the variation between Brooklyn, China Town, Little Italy, the Lower East Side, Greenwich Village (the list could go on), experiencing American bars, The Brooklyn Bridge, The Statue of Liberty, I feel like even though the apple is big, I have consumed a fairly hefty portion.

On entering the MoMA for a nice slice of Andy Warhol, Picasso, Dali and others, I see a series of artists and builders busying them self with some sort of installation, with the tone of modern art I wonder whether this apparent work is an actual piece of art itself. i cant understand whether the partition rope around the perimeter is for safety or just indicates the boundary for viewing. I suppose that proves how in touch with modern art I am, unable to distinguish the difference between a building site and a thought provoking life exhibit.

Although Yolene becomes my travelling buddy for the week, there are large portions of New York that I venture out to alone. In order to see the Statue of Liberty on the cheap; I decide to take the free Statten Island ferry which goes past Liberty island. The view is okay, I suppose if I really wanted to I could return and do it properly, but it has no massive appeal to me. On arriving at Statten Island, I decide to go and get lost and see what I discover, I notice after passing through some of the run-down areas that the people on street corners appear to be wearing a lot of red i.e. head-to-toe, I become very aware of the blue hoody I am sporting and walk a little quicker. This is the most threatened I have felt, yes I know it's ridiculous that my heart rate quickened as result of me realising I was wearing a different colour to everyone else, but I got out alive and evaded the fashion police, so good times.

I feel like I could quite easily fall in love this city (I suppose thats why they sell so many of those t-shirts), it has everything; and I have really enjoyed coming through the initial struggle with accommodation, so much so that I stay longer than expected. But as the deadline for being in LA and my onward flight steps a little nearer I feel like I should crack on with a bit more of North America. Via the majesty of an overnight Greyhound bus tomorrow I will wake in Toronto.

So start spreading the news I'm leaving today.
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Nicola Carleton on

This is fantastic and I'm so jealous. I love reading these entries, can't wait for the next xxxx

J on

Missing you already but i must say, it sounds like your having a right hoot. Please don't get shot by the red Shiite aha.
Whilst you have you taste for bread again, check out THE BURGER BAR of Manhattan! Amazing.
Glad you went up the rock too, its an incredible sight and one that allows you to fully appreciate New Yorks skyline.
Another enjoyable read Matteous, you must keep them goin :)
hope you're well x

Anna on

It sounds amazing Matt. I'm so jealous but really glad your having fun. Enjoy LA!! Xx

lorraine and steve on

looks like your having a great time. cant wait for the next update.

Angie on

Your having a ball!! You sound like you've been away for a month never mind a week! Keep it all coming buddy, take care x x

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