Stamford, Connecticut. That’s Connect-icut. Got to get that right. That’s where I am.
At the train station –
Woman: “The train’s at 12:54”
Me: “So that’s to Grand Central?”
Woman: *Quizzical expression* “Uh…New York.”
That’s what I get for trying the lingo. I then asked her about getting a ticket, and she spoke slowly and deliberately, as if to a child or a greasy foreigner. I mean, I guess I am a foreigner, but c’mon! We all speak American, right?
The train is 10-15 minutes late…so casually announced, without any sort of insincere apology. Wouldn’t get this shit in England.
I guess now is a good point to run through how the rest of yesterday went. The flight as great: half full seat-wise and completely full stomach-wise. Virgin done well there. Was actually a very decent flying experience, but to be fair my last ones have all been Easyjet and Ryan’s Hair, who are hardly the paragons of the skies. As the Arabic girl warned me ,I did very little reading and instead watched Contagion (nicely handled Soderberg pandemic flick. Nobody ever goes overdramatic. Civilisation just slowly falls apart. Very restrained.) and Martha, Marcy May, Marlene (As good as Glenn had told me. I got the Martha, I got the Marcy May, less so the Marlene.)
Sorry for the shit handwriting, by the way. Was squatting at Stamford station. Bit run down, but someone said “God bless you” when I sneezed, which is a plus. It’s all steel and scuffed, unloved concrete surfaces.
Anyway, I digress…my way through arrivals at JFK was very swift. I was expecting some American bombast, or at least some saccharine, so-earnest-it-hurts greeting, but simply got a bored guy telling me “Right hand, four fingers. Right hand thumb” followed by the inevitable “Left hand, for fingers. Left hand thumb.” I obliged, smiled at the camera and tried to rouse him from his misery with an upbeat “thanks very much!”. But no “Welcome to America!”, not even a smile, just dropped my passport on the counter and looked for the next person. Illusions totally shattered.
Sandy welcomed me in arrivals, wearing his Racing shirt. I duly pulled mine out of my luggage, slipped it on, and we embraced. “Mowgli” and “The Iron Lady” together again. Must’ve been an odd sight.
We caught up on the hour’s car journey back to his, covering the pre-requisitve topics of bad drivers, pot holes and girls. His houseguest, Juliana, is – as the Facebook pictures seem to suggest, his missus. All I knew at that point was that she was Brazilian and they met on Busuu. Sandy warned me that her English wasn’t great, but it turned out to be perfectly decent and far better than either my Spanish or my Portuguese. Turns out knowing all the words to “Mas Que Nada” isn’t that useful after all. She’s very sweet and makes a mean caipirinha. A fancy pasta ‘n’ cheesecake dinner later and bed was achieved, 5am UK time. I didn’t think I really got jetlagged, but waking up at 9AM NY time did really feel like mid afternoon. Sandy had left at 6.45, so Juliana and i had an impromptu English language lesson over a Philadelphia and left over cheesecake breakfast. The Philly was on bread, but I was totally tempted to slap it on the cake, to hail my arrival in the land of ludicrous eating habits.
Sandy returned at 12 to take Juliana to the airport and me to the train station and now here we are on the delayed 12:54 express to Grand Central. The views are grimy, but the seats are shiny. They were leather, once, I think.
First stop: Harlem – 125th Street. A man sits on the bench, wearing a hoodie and sandals. Maybe Americans aren’t so different.
“Ghost of Shelly” @ New York Public Library
“Much of their courtship took place by Mary Wollstonecraft’s grave in St. Pancras Churchyard, London”. – Wow. What a way to snag a fella. Go Mary Shelly.
Coming out of the station (which is, true to name, both Grand and fairly Central) I turned East and headed toward the UN Building. Two things strike you immediately about the streets of New York. First is the sheer scale, second is the bewildering variety of t-shirts. The place exudes a confidence, reflected in the grid street layout. This town ain’t messing around.
The architecture blends well – nothing seems archaic like parts of Central London do. Needs another 400 years under its belt. I’ve taken a few Hipsta pics so far. Left the big boy camera at home for the first day while I flaneur the fuck out of the place.
On 42nd and 3rd, I accidentally delved into my first puddle while crossing the road. It smelt faintly of piss.
Visted the New York Public Library. There I:
– Corrected a tour guide’s knowledge of Mary Wollstonecraft. (She isn’t the same person as Mary Shelley).
– Helped a lady up the stairs with her bags then guarded them for an awkward 5 minutes while she retrieved her man friend (drunk) from the 3rd floor.
– Got offered a job by a doctor of Indian descent once he discerned that i was Indian enough. Turns out he studied Medicine and Ahmedabad University.
I took a quick look at Bryant Park (free Oxford University Press books to read!) then went to Time Square, which is a neon hell hole populated by life sized Elmos and Army recruitment officers. Met Sandy for some sketchy pizza (ostensibly broccoli and mushroom) and took a walk to Washington Square Park, via the Flatiron Building. Was meant to go to Union Square, but guess I’ll save that. Add it to the “to do” list.
Before Sandy’s Spanish lesson, we took in a little of the Village. Lots of 24 hour chess shops. Now sat in a “pub” on East 36th street, waiting for him. Let’s see how it goes.
So far a Hoegaarden costs less than it does in London ($4 + $1 tip) and bar patrons, such as the Metlife happy hour-ers to my right are very friendly too. One of them has an ex-brother in law who owns a pub called The Perserverance in London, apparently. They are Rich, Ken, Sam and Kathy. Ken fancies Sam. Rich is married but doesn’t want to see Ken get with Sam so is alpha male-ing the hell out of him. Kathy is the arbiter of taste and I don’t think I’ve met the standard.
The barmaid is attractive and reassuringly tattooed. She refills the glass of water for the clearly drunk girl (Sam) without being asked. Perfect.
Read the New York Post (trash) and watched the baseball on the TV. It’s a fucking odd thing to look at. Nobody seems to hit anything. But I’m seeing the Yankees on Monday, so hopefully they’ll up their game a little.
Turns out the phrase: “I’m from London and I used to work in media, but quit to write full time” is generally a sure fire winner. I can only imagine Sean must’ve cleaned up when he was in town. Will hopefully ask him about it when we meet up.