My photo for me, art and photography.

Friday, 5 September 2008

USA day 1: New York

Flight Stats: Just flown over Charleston en route to JFK
38000 feet, outside temp -61'F, Ground Speed 508 mph, 692 Miles to go, and head wind of 83kph


New York feels like one big family

Everyone here is really really friendly. Some of the streets sparkle. Extremely diverse culture. There is always something happening or being built. New Yorkers seem to love me for some reason - esp the guys (?!) don't know what's going on there, because I'm pretty much ignored by anything with a third leg in England... maybe it's the accent?. Some sidewalks (not 'pavements'... sidewalks) have metal edging.

The walk/do not walk signs aren't like in the movies - I didn't see any that look like that - there's a red hand, and a little white walking man. Anyway - regardless of what they look like, they do not seem to apply to cars and taxis. Almost got run over on 44th and 7th by a cab, a truck and two cars which decided that when it said 'walk' for pedestrians, they were exempt from the little rule that red lights for cars means STOP!

Doors in the sidewalk open up with stairs down into cellars, where men sit around on old upturned wooden crates, eating noodles out of styrofoam bowls.

Very VERY humid, cloudless, and it felt like I could almost touch the air and hold it in my hand.

The grid system made it really easy to get around - Not once did I feel lost or scared or unsafe - even at half past midnight (I should probably note here that I came to America on my own, I'm a 22 year old girl and only 5ft3) on a hunt for bottled water, because the stuff that comes out of the tap is absolutely vile - it tastes like pond water.

The zebra crossings every 100 yards (if that) was also some great planning - that, and the clear signposting at every corner really made it so easy to find my way around - I never found myself wandering around trying to find a place to cross, or craning my neck up at the buildings to try to find non-existant street names like I do in London (where I get lost even with a map and step-by-step directions from the tfl website) It is a great city for pedestrians, although I don't think I'd like to drive there because I'm too impatient to deal with having to stop every 2 minutes to let people across the zebra crossings.

The subways, however are incredibly run down, hot, airless, old fashioned and uncomfortable - although, to their credit, they have got air conditioning on the carriages (which we could really do with in London). The trains seem to run on their own schedule - they come whenever they feel like it. The subway isn't atrocious, but it could be a LOT better - they just need some money poured into it. I know I complain bitterly about the London underground, but in its defence, it is clean, well lit, well signposted, fairly efficient and suitcase friendly - with nice big barriers for people with suitcases that are too large to fit through the normal thing - also, the oyster touch-cards are much easier to cope with than figuring out which way up the metrocard has to be in order to swipe it in the subway, and faffing around trying to dig it out of your bag.

New York has a very special vibe about it - a warm, welcoming buzz - almost like the city is a living and breathing being that absolutely loves being full of people... Basically the complete opposite of London which is rude, unfriendly, brusque, full of drunkards and rather than a young, vibrant soul, is like a grumpy old man who has had a long day in the office and had enough of everything and everyone and just wants to be left alone in his armchair with his crossword and a beer.

Met a guy on the airtrain from JFK to Jamaica who I could have sworn called himself Daniel, but whose name is actually Tzvika - Bless his heart, he insisted on carrying my suitcase up and down most of the stairs for me! It was a bit strange, because I'm so used to being completley ignored by everyone in London, so I was a bit suspicious at first - nobody helps anyone out in London - you see mothers trying to struggle up two flights of stairs with a baby in a pram, two young children, and a ton of shopping and nobody stops to help her - they're too wrapped up in themselves to even notice her, or a tiny person struggling to get through barriers with a million suitcases... nobody helps them. It was so nice to meet someone with manners for a change, and more to the point, someone who is a complete gentleman! He even made sure I got on the right train in the subway, and once in Manhattan, pointed me in the right direction for my hotel... I was stunned! I was still kind of suspicious, because I am just not used to people being nice and helpful like that - In London, if someone is nice to you, it is either because they want something, or because they're drunk, so not quite themselves.

Even though Tzvika pointed me in the right direction, I did get a bit lost, but again, I was amazed by how friendly New Yorkers are - I asked a few people for directions - builders, doormen, random people in suits... and they were all really genuinely nice and really helpful - rather than the nonchalant 'I dunno.. somewhere over there?' *waving vaguely in an even more vague direction, which you get from Londoners, even when you know perfectly well they know exactly where it is, they just don't want to talk to you or help you - or they deliberately point you in the wrong direction because they think it's funny.

Equus tonight!
Really looking forward to it actually. Jetlag hasn't set in yet *touch wood* so hopefully I won't fall asleep midway. It should be noted that I was absolutely 100% against going to see this because of Daniel Radcliffe - it was on in London last year and a couple of my housemates went to see it and I had to listen constantly to one of them going on about the size of Harry Potter's magic wand (she's a little in love with Radcliffe) for weeks. That's what I found offputting - it's just a bunch of people going to stare at some naked guy who poked out some horses' eyes. Uh... no thanks. But then when I told dad about it, he said that I should really see it because it's amazing and really well done. Dad's opinion I'll listen to, because he knows his apples when it comes to stage stuff, plus, aside from this production, it's not been put on professionally for 25 years or something insane like that, so I was killing 3 birds with one stone really. Had a bit of a heart attack when I found out the prices- I mean, well over $100 for one ticket?... that's crazy! that really is absolutely insane! when you consider that I went to see Liza Minnelli, an icon in the music industry - a living legend, for less than that, and that a play in the National Theatre - Big, famous London theatre, I can get a bloody good seat there for £10!
Still, I'm killing many birds with one stone here: Seeing a broadway play in New York - a dream I've had for years, seeing a play that's being put on for the first time in a gazillion years, and which probably won't be put on again for a long time featuring a cast of pretty well respected actors, and although Daniel Radcliffe is no Judi Dench, Michael Gambon or Maggie Smith in my regard, I suppose the Harry Potter factor will be a yarn to spin the grandkids one day. It's also having something to actually do in the evening! I know I'm 22 and therefore legally allowed to drink in the US, but I'm not really the sort of person who will go to a bar on my own.. it's a bit loserish and about as far from my idea of 'fun' as you can get - especially in a strange city where I don't know anyone. In canterbury, yes, I'd happily go to a bar on my own because I know that at least 3 people I know would be there, but not here. And I didn't sit on a plane for over 7 hours to watch TV. I can do that at home. Anyway. It is tonight, and, as the old woman in the vinegar bottle said 'we shall see what we shall see'.

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