Back to: Sunning at the Beach

Forward to: The city that never sleeps, part 2

I have been fascinated by New York from the moment I stepped out of the cab and onto the streets. The buildings, the people, the whole atmosphere amazes me. Being a Londoner I'm used to big cities but New York is more than just a city. It's a unique environment in a country of deserted downtowns and suburban cities New York remains a heaving mass of activity from Brooklyn to the Bronx.

Enough nonsense, down to business. Upon arriving in New York on Friday we got a cab to the place we were staying, which was with an old work colleague and friend of my Dad in East 50th street. We arrived to find that they were about to have 11 people around for a dinner party so we wouldn't be able to set up the sofa bed till after that. No problem, it’s their house, so we joined in with the party and got thrown into to the deep end of Manhattan culture. We had our host's gay flat mate, another older gay guy, a loud Jewish woman, two Mexican Nationals (one of whom was without a Green card) and a sprinkling of other New York businessmen. Maybe Ann Coulter was right; maybe the US was being taken over by gay liberal Manhattan hot shots! Luckily I snapped out of it, time to put down Coulter's latest book, Slander, and tune back into reality.

Our host announced that he and his flat mate would both be away at the weekend so we would have the place to ourselves which was a relief. It was also pretty damn cool coming to New York and getting a free Manhattan apartment for a weekend.

The morning after the tiring evening we faffed around in the house in the morning and in the afternoon we decided to take a wander down in Little Italy and Chinatown. In the process of getting around by subway we managed to make every single mistake possible, wrong line, wrong direction, one stop to far, one stop short, express train instead of local, they just keep on coming. However after that first day of chaos we adapted and generally sussed out the system, and only messed up one or two more times.

On Friday evening we decided to go to a Jazz concert in Harlem that we had seen advertised in various places. We got the subway up there and found the Marcus Garvey Park, we found the bandstand within the park but there was no Jazz to be heard, only a group of youngish teenagers huddling under a doorway with their stereo playing singing and clapping along to their music. We trudged back to the subway in the persistent drizzle feeling dejected. After alighting back at 51st street station we stepped out into the heaviest rain I have ever been in. Thunder rolled and lightening crackled down from the sky now heavy and dark with clouds. After walking the three blocks back home we were drenched but the rain had actually managed to cheer us up, at last a change from the thick, humid heat of the last two weeks.

On Saturday we stirred ourselves earlier and headed off the Museum of Modern Art. The main site is currently undergoing renovation so it has been moved to a warehouse in Queens. We trundled off with our now well honed subway navigational skills and arrived at the Museum without a hitch. We gritted our teeth and paid the $8.50 student admission charge ($12 for adults!) and started to look around. We liked what we saw, a Pollock, a couple of Rothkos among them. After about 1 hour we reached a dead end and began to look for the next level or room, only to discover that we had seen the entire collection on view. We were both extremely disappointed and as we trailed up to the shop I mentioned this to one of their staff. He replied that they had had a large number of complaints and that if we asked for a refund we would get one. We went up and asked, got our refund and headed to the shop were we spent almost the entire $17 on their over priced postcards. The MoMA have obviously decided that they will make more money if they rip people off and gamble with refunds than if they charge people a fair price, disappointing profiteering.

On Saturday evening we headed off to Rich and Happy and Stoned: Noders Take The Stage!. We were treated to an evening of classic Sondheim songs all for a good cause. It was top to meet Infinite_burn and Sondheim, the only disappointment was that we missed kit lo, who has been the night before, and Chiisuta, who like many other NY noders was off at the Sparta gathering. We woosed out on going out with them afterwards as we were both pretty tired and had a bit of trek home.

On Sunday we did the Guggenheim Museum and the Frick Collection. The Guggenheim had a crappy photography and film exhibition on and so their permanent collection was only partially on display. The building is amazing though and worth the trip by itself. I was unable to take the Frick Collection seriously having just seen Austin Powers in Goldmember so I followed Stella around annoying here and playing with the audio guide.

On Sunday evening we headed off to the Empire State Building to go to the 86th floor observatory. It was quite a wait to get up there but it was definitely worth it. We marveled at the view of the still vibrating city below. After clambering down we returned home to find that the gay flat mate was away for one more night so we were able to steal his bed for one more night of comfort.

Oh yeah, New York really does never sleep.