Monday, 4 October 2010

Empire State of Mind

Greetings from the Big Apple, and welcome to a different kind of blog for the next few days. Since the promise of free wireless turned out to be something other than the truth, I'm forced to buy a giant cup of coffee in exchange for an hour of free wireless access. That means that I've got more caffeine running through my system than the Red Bull canning factory, and my internet usage has been severely curtailed.

I'm also doing my best to use the iPad on this trip, and I'm discovering that it doesn't really facilitate my kind of tab-happy web browsing - which means it's tough to keep track of eleventy-three different pop culture stories.

So if you're willing to indulge me, p0pvulture will be your shiny, not-quite-so-orange Judith Chalmers, as I peel back the eyelids of the city that never sleeps.

Our first impressions as we arrived at the Gershwin Hotel is that $300 dollars a night doesn't get you a whole lot of space - the 'Superior Double' may boast stripped wooden floorboards, but there's so little space in the room you have to look under the bed to see them. *Note to self - never look under a hotel bed.

The hotel itself is self-consciously 'arty'; the kind of building that ought to have a giant pair of designer glasses across its frontage (no lenses, natch, just the frames). And maybe it's the close proximity of the 'Museum of Sex', but it looks as though the facade is dripping in giant illuminated sperms. Welcome to the world's foremost bukakke hotel...

Yesterday we hit the town with our friend Beth who rose to the challenge of 'official tour guide' with considerable aplomb, except for the fact that she didn't choose the most appropriate footwear. By mid-afternoon, having walked for about fifty blocks, her feet were red raw - a rookie error for a native New Yorker.

Along the way we visited FAO Schwartz, where we tried out the giant piano from Big. I was half expecting to see a sign like the one in Wayne's World ('No Stairway To Heaven') that said 'No Chopsticks'. Turns out, no such sign was necessary, since it's impossible to make music on a keyboard when five shoeless kids are throwing themselves up and down the keys on their knees.

We also went to the Top of the Rock, a rather exciting-sounding experience at Rockefeller Plaza, which justifies them charging guests $21 per person to ride in a lift. When you work with big banking clients you get to travel to the 50th floor for free. Still, the views were spectacular and I was able to take some great pictures of the whole of Manhattan. Suddenly that new camera I bought in Duty Free at Heathrow didn't seem like quite such an unnecessary indulgence.

The thing that really hits you about New York is the sense of space. It makes you realise that most representations of the city that you see in TV and the movies are studio based - either filmed indoors or on a small-scale backlot. They might be able to recreate the architecture and the major landmarks, but without the sense of vastness that you get with the real thing.

Oh, and here's a tip. When you're trying to balance a budget, stay the hell away from Saks Fifth Avenue menswear department. Some might say that $2,000 is a little pricey for a jacket - until you've felt the exquisitely tailored lamb's leather on your skin, I say you don't know what you're talking about. The only problem is, I have to decide whether I want an Armani frock coat or a new car. Decisions, decisions...

For lunch we took the advice of several friends and visited Carnegie Deli - famous for its gargantuan sandwiches. We ordered the 'Ruben' - a gruesome deposit of sliced pastrami, sauerkraut and melted Swiss cheese that looked like something you'd expect to see on the pavement outside a nightclub. After diligently chomping on it for about half an hour, I got the disturbing sensation that the sandwich was actually regenerating.

There seemed to be more on the plate by the time we threw down our forks in defeat, than there had been when we first began our Herculean undertaking. It's worth a visit, provided your skin is thick enough to deal with some of the most unfriendly service you'll ever encounter. I thought we were going to be put in detention for sitting in the wrong seat.

Today we're going to immerse ourselves in the heart and soul of New York - yesterday was like inspecting the city's hair extensions and nail art. Wish us luck!

1 comment:

  1. Gareth. I do enjoy following your musings on life and it's exciting to see you in New York. As a ex resident of the city, here are some spots you should be checking out. - this is where I used to have some fun times, free and easy, if you know what I mean :)
    Also, well worth it for the pork on offer is this is where I met my life partner Gregory. Happy daze. Go on Friday man, it's Foreplay Day.
    Finally, if you're tight on space in your hotel room, then next time try these guys for a choice selection for a great stay and eggs easy up in the morning.

    Happy holidays