Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Little stories from the Big Apple

"Hello, New York? Petstarr called, and she says to tell you YOU'RE FREAKIN AWESOME."

Yes it's true, New York is quite possibly the coolest city in the entire universe, and that includes cities on other planets that humanity hasn't even discovered yet. Even a Martian civilisation that had kitten vending machines on every corner and free beer fountains in the town square wouldn't beat New York for sheer urban excellence. The city just IS.

Three things about New York from TV that are actually true:

1. Phones actually make that cool ringing noise they do on 24.
2. Smoke actually does rise out of vents in the ground (from the subway).
3. There is such a thing as a chocolate babka.

We arrived on Friday night after a mammoth 28 hour journey (no, that's not a typo) and were immediately confronted by freezing-arse refrigerator weather and people we couldn't understand.

"Where you goin'?" said the taxi rank man outside the airport.
"Manhattan," we said.
"Manhattan, that's forfeye dollzfah too an paytoll onway."
"Um, sorry, I..."
"You're holin' up da line miss moo on."
"But I..."

I thought that decades of American TV and movies would have stood me in good stead to understand these crazy people, but apparently not. (In case you're interested, it was $45 for the two of us and we had to pay the toll on the way. Apparently.)

We're staying on Bleecker St in the West Village, right in the middle of groovy bohemianville in the centre of hiptown. The famous Blue Note jazz club is a few blocks away, and we're a short walk from Washington Square plaza where old men gather to play speed chess and big rastas smoke big reefers while city dwellers let their dogs sniff each others' bums in little fenced off 'dog runs'.

"Bishop to rook three, MOTHERF*CKER!"

The obligatory squirrel photograph

On Saturday we went down to the financial district at the bottom of Manhattan. We took the cheapskates' option and got on the free Staten Island ferry to scoot past the Statue of Liberty, rather than the tourist one you have to pay for that actually takes you TO the statue. Meh - who wants to climb that many stairs anyway, right?

Funny, you never realise Lady Liberty wears sunglasses until you get right up close...

Back in Manhattan we walked to 'Ground Zero', the site of the former World Trade Centre which is now just a big old hole in the ground. All of the poems, flowers and messages that once covered the walls of the construction site have been removed, replaced with big sprayed-on signs saying POST NO BILLS, which seems a bit tough. Despite being basically a big patch of dirt with diggers on it, the place was actually rather moving - you can really imagine what it would have been like at the time, with the smoke and dust and papers flying around (not to mention the rubble and fire).

New York City cops, New York City cops... (WTC site in background)

Checked out Chinatown, which was like a mini version of Hong Kong full of vendors selling the ubiquitous I HEART NY shirts (ok ok, so I bought one) (and a mug) (and a magnet, so what? You're breakin' my balls over here!) and knock off handbags. Caught the subway to Union Square and came out in the middle of a funky little produce market, right in the middle of the city. It was fantastic - people selling everything from 30kg pumpkins to goats cheese and clam dip. The only thing ruining it was the hired entertainment - a Christian band who kept wrecking everyone's hedonistic pumpkin and cheese buying by singing "Come to Jesus, Jesus loooooves you" while weird people danced spastically in front.

Hurrah for pumpkins!

Speaking of weird people - there are rather a lot of them in this town. If Saigon is where old bicycles go to die, then New York is where crazy people come to live. Walking down 42nd St today some man stopped me at the traffic lights:

"Hey, nice dress!"
"Thank you!"
"It's really nice."
"Thanks a lot."
"Can I take a picture?"
"Um, that's a bit weird. No."
"Ok then!"

Another strange conversation ocurred in a souvenir shop (yes, where I was buying my I HEART NY mug, ok ok).

"Where you from?"
"Ahh you want buy digital camera?"
"No thanks, I've already got one."
"What about digital man?"
"Pardon me?"
"My son, you take him back to Australia. He digital man."
From the back: "I'm 8 megapixels!"

Much of this free entertainment is, funnily enough, more amusing than some of the comedy you actually pay for here in NYC. Went to a comedy club in the village just around the corner from our apartment on Sunday night and was told "Dave Chappelle was here last night!" Sure buddy, and tomorrow night he will have been here tonight, right? Tip for entering stand up comedy venue: don't enter half way through an act, and don't be Australian. Didn't hear the end of Steve Irwin jokes all night. Still, that was better than the first timer who stunned everyone by standing in front of the heater and exclaiming "DOES IT MAKE YOU UNCOMFORTABLE TO SEE A JEW IN FRONT OF AN OVEN?" Um, no, and ps: that's a heater.

Ended up in a bar called the Village Lantern after that, swilling white wine and listening to a crap band who were clearly pissed - although by the time we left we had bypassed them by a considerable degree. Woke up on Monday with the worst hangover I have had in quite some time (typical) and could barely manage anything more strenuous than breathing. And even THAT was a struggle. Spent the day slothing around the village, listlessly looking in shops and trying not to die.

The Chrysler Building

Speaking of which (not at all, actually, but I couldn't think of a segway) American money is retarded. All the notes look exactly the same, which inevitably leads to you accidentally tipping a waitress $50 instead of $1 on your $2 coffee - something you only realise after she's gotten down on her knees and kissed your feet while saying "Bless you" a thousand times. And pennies - what the hell is the POINT? Who cares about six cents change on ANYTHING? You find yourself amassing hundreds of the little buggers, and THERE'S NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT. You can't even give them to a beggar, or you'll look cheap. You simply have to carry them around in your wallet for the rest of your life, and you'll finally die by falling in front of a subway train, weighed down by the weight of 5 million pennies. Welcome to New York.


  1. Well, sounds like you're having a shit time and can't wait to come home ;)

    What the hell was the deal with the digital man? Do you plug him into your iPod or something?

  2. 'American money is retarded' -- love that!

    I found the dial tone thing really offputting -- was I ever going to talk to a human being?

    The Chinese food in the US is heaps better than in Australia. Watch out for garlic tho -- the Yanks are big on garlic.

    Subways are great places for eavesdropping on conversations, esp S&TC style talk.

    Seriously, tho, we still want to know what you thought of Damo's double touchdown and whether he has a snowflake's of winning Idol...

  3. Wahahah. Fantastic story so far. I like the "8 megapixels" joke. :)

  4. Awesome, PetStarr.

    Can we expect any pics?

  5. Yay! first dispatches! You're funny-o-meter is working fine at 12,000 miles from Australia, or whatver the true distance is. I can't believe you're staying on Bleeker St! If you see Paul Simon lolling about, say hello. Good to hear you're having an awesome time - would admit to being jealous, but then again, sitting at a desk with a great view of a concrete car park, re-writing press releases with a twat boss breathing down my neck is hard to beat, I'm sure you'll agree.

  6. Lucky you Pet.

    Meanwhile over here in Adelaide we have been entertained by Melbourne Cup and the Arias, more to the point Bec Cartwright's outfight at The Cup. What the hell was her crazy, wacked out stylist thinking?

  7. Hope your having fun in New York? 8 megapixels? Why didn't you take it?

    P.S. I'm wohoring my blog around the interwebs. Check it out at:
    Its about volunteering and charity work.

  8. Funny... you're in new york, and for some reason it seems that the people you talk to sound like Amy Wong's father from Futurama...

    I was expecting more of that mafia-esque/brooklyn accent.

    "Fordy-fife dollas, and youse pay a toll onderway, huh? Bewdiful"

  9. Have fun over there - as you're on Bleeker, try to get down to Chumley's - it's an old speak-easy, which still has the passges they used to race everyone in and out when they were raided. Food's okay - big range of beers. It's at 86 Bedford St - a bit hard to find, as it is just a door in the wall with no sign; from memory, it's on the left hand side of the road heading south.

    Also, for freshly hand-piped cannoli, go to Rocco's Pastry, on Bleeker between between Leroy and Carmine. You won't regret it.

    Enjoy your trip!

  10. You're in one of the most amazing cities in the world and you're actually bothering to sit on a computer instead of tracking down Lou Reed, The Strokes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs? You're almost crazy enough to live there!

    Have fun and don't forget to tell some New York City Cops they ain't too smaaaaaarrrrt!

  11. Fabulous! Cant wait to read more of your travels.
    Be safe, watch your drinks and handbags xx

  12. whoaaaa.. NYC!? when did this happen? wow.. freaking cool.. I'm hoping against hope that I accidently find myself there in 4 months time myself (if this job contract comes thru) so yeah, I'm on the edge of me seat here over any crazy stories ya have ;)

    keep us informed.. oh.. and bring forth shiny photo's.. (even if you need 8megapixel man to do 'em :P )

  13. PetStarr, I am so jealous!

    I can't wait to go to NY someday.

    Enjoy your trip honey. :)

  14. Hi Petstarr,
    Your account of your NY trip is amazing and hilarious! I have been living here for the last 6 years, and it is very interesting to hear someone else's account. For the life of me I can't remember how I felt when I first landed here. Hope you do come back someday!