The New World – Part 2: Should Have Brought Better Shoes
I have to start this post with a lavatorial anecdote, as I often do. This should have gone in my previous post but I somehow totally missed this photo (don’t worry) when re-treading my steps in America. As soon as the opportunity arose, I was in dire need to relieve myself and so settled on using the airport’s toilets. I completely forgot that I had read online and heard countless times that the doors of their cubicles leave enough space for someone to simply crawl under should they desire and was a little shocked as I turned the corner into the men’s toilet and discovered that was true!
I apologise for this very disjointed start to the blog. My intended blog starts from now!
Sleep is overrated. Who really needs it? A few hours after my head finally hit the pillow, I was up for my first morning in America to the soothing sound of traffic from outside. I washed my face, brushed my teeth and got ready for the day with the change of clothes I’d taken from my suitcase (which was no doubt eagerly awaiting my return to the hotel I was supposed to stay at). After packing my things and thanking the lady again when I checked out, my tummy was telling me it was hungry. Very hungry.
Having not eaten properly since the last meal on the plane (assuming you can call that ‘proper’ eating), I was absolutely starving and there was plenty of choice available. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get a proper greasy American breakfast in, so I consulted with Google to find a nearby breakfast place and found a café restaurant not too far from the hotel called andrews coffee shop. Despite the poor grammar (it’s America, so I’ll let them off), I thought it looked good and simple enough to check out and would quickly satiate my hunger. I got some bacon, sausages, waffles and the like, all smothered in maple syrup and stuffed myself silly. This is where I should point out that I am not usually a photographer of food, but had I known at the time that I would be writing about it two years later, I definitely would have done so purely for the purpose uploading them here. However, I’m afraid to say that I do not have any photos of the breakfast, nor do I likely have any photos of any food I ate in America (with the exception of a pizza – coming soon). Lessons learned there, so for now here is a video of andrews coffee shop just to fill that gap.
Before leaving the coffee shop, I decided what I’d do next while I waited to be able to finally check in to my hotel. As probably the most famous (or maybe second) building in New York, and one that I had seen in films and on TV since my childhood and wanted to visit since, I thought now would be a good time to experience it myself. It wasn’t far and it wasn’t totally out of the way of my hotel either. While walking through the streets of New York, my excitement caught up with me. I was finally walking the streets of New York. And yes, I did listen to Englishman in New York a couple of times while I was walking around. I’m weird like that. Thankfully it looks less weird to take pictures of one of the most famous landmarks in the world as it does to take pictures of food, so I do have some photos to share of The Empire State Building. The view from atop the building really was fantastic and I couldn’t have asked for better weather. I don’t have a bucket list, but if I had, I think that would have been one item ticked.
After that I decided to slowly make my way up to Central Park, taking in the sights and the sounds of the Big Apple (do people still call it that? I haven’t heard anyone say it in a long time) until I reached my destination. By this point I had already walked quite a bit so after taking a little rest on one of the many benches in the park, watching runners, dog-walkers and fellow tourists pass by, I aimlessly walked around the park, going in the direction of whatever I saw that looked interesting. There isn’t much else I can say about Central Park other than it reminded me a lot of London and I think even just walking around the city itself one got the sense of being in a real international environment, something I hadn’t felt in many years by that point and since. Now I was really knackered and decided it was time to go back to my hotel to have a lie down and think about my next plan.
My girlfriend will usually laugh at me whenever I say I want pizza for dinner, as it’s the usual answer I give to the age-old question ‘what do you want for dinner tonight?’ But I was in New York! America! Land of the free! Screw her! OK that was too much. But how could I not have a genuine New York pizza? It’s like going to Philidelphia and not having a Philly cheese steak! Right? Maybe or maybe not, but my Philidelphia story has yet to come (spoiler: I had a Philly cheese steak). It was getting late, but unlike the night before I had every intention of trying harder to find a place to drink so I thought it’d be a good idea to eat something to help soak up the inevitable deluge of alcohol that was on its way. I came across a small pizza restaurant located south of my hotel that was nearing closing time. They kindly let me order and this is where things got a bit confusing.
I’ve lived in Japan for 8.5 years now and their idea of pizza is a bit different to the UK, and very different to America, as I was about to find out. I looked at the price and considered that for probably double the cost in Japan, I would get a decent sized pizza that I would usually be able to eat myself. I don’t remember now if it had the sizes listed on the menu, but if it did, I certainly didn’t notice it. When the waitress came out with the tray, I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had taken two of them to bring out; it was so much larger than I naively thought. The waitress noticed my surprised and asked ‘Do you think you’re gonna be able to eat all that?’ I replied honestly with a no and she readied some takeaway box without my saying anything. I explained to her the dull story of how things are different in Japan, etc which she had a good laugh at. ‘I was gonna say most people just order slices, but the customer is always right!’ I wish she had said something. Now I had some heavy pizza that I didn’t know what to do with.
With that lesson well and truly learned, I went off into the night with my pizza slices as I looked around trying to find a place to grab a drink. As I walked, I thought about how stupid it would be if I entered a bar with a box of pizza so I gave it to a homeless guy on the street. After not really finding anything in my area, I consulted again with my good friend Google (I guess I wasn’t truly alone on this journey) and discovered that there was a small British pub about a half hour south of where I was. I thought it’d be interesting to compare, so off I went in search of The Spotted Pig.
With the exception of business trips, I don’t often go to bars alone, but in this case I didn’t really have a choice. It was an odd feeling at first, but after a few beers I began just listening to what was going on around. Listening to all the voices and interesting accents as I took in this crazy environment. I unfortunately don’t have any pictures of this bar either; I think I was afraid that I might be singled out as a weirdo if I took too many photos in some of the smaller, more local places, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t able to avoid any attention entirely. I had been listening to a group of women who were sat at the bar talking to the owner and had another one of those ‘I’m really in America’ moments. It turns out that they were all lesbians and the way they talked to each other about their sexual exploits and work lives, really reminded me of Sex and the City, something else I used to watch as a teenager that was set in New York (a slightly embarrassing admission there – don’t judge!). And despite me just quietly sitting at a high table sipping on beer all on my lonesome and not trying to bring any attention to myself, one of the girls came stumbling out of the ladies’ loo and stopped right next to me. I looked at her and she looked me up and down with her very drunken eyes, running her finger up and down in only what I can assume was an attempt at checking out what I was wearing. I’m not the most fashion conscious of people, but I guess what I was wearing was enough for her to determine that she wanted to spark up a conversation.
She kindly invited to me to her group and before I knew it, I was surrounded by a very pleasant but very inebriated group of lesbians who were fascinated at this heterosexual male Briton who had suddenly joined their group. The sister (who turned out not to be a lesbian and had slept with various Indian princes and other famous people I feel I should have known) of the girl who brought me over, at first was a little standoffish. She took her sister aside and was obviously having a serious conversation about what she had just done as I awkwardly tried to make conversation with the rest of the group. She came back and apologised to me and I said with honesty that it really wasn’t an issue at all. Once I’d got talking to her a bit more, she warmed to me and as the pub was closing, invited me out with her sister to go meet some of their other friends at a lesbian bar. How could I refuse? The night was still young and I was interested in seeing as much of the city as I could.
Fast forward a little bit and after we had some drinks and all got to know each other a bit more, she then invited me to go to gay karaoke bar down the street. Well, this night was getting more interesting as it went on and I was totally on board. I regret to say that I did not show any of my karaoke prowess there. Alcohol can give one confidence, but it wasn’t giving me that much. My memory of the latter half of the night, as one could imagine, is not quite as clear as when I arrived at The Spotted Pig, but I remember meeting lots of people who I will never meet again and kindly being dropped off in a taxi to my hotel in the wee hours of the morning. Should I ever go back to New York, maybe I’ll swing by there in the hope that I’ll bump into them again.
My phone’s pedometer tells me that on this day I walked a total of 17 miles or so, which I think also must include all the time I spent walking around trying to find a hotel the night before, but needless to say, by the time I got back to my hotel I was completely shattered. But in the city that never sleeps, I had little intention of doing so either.