Jukeboxparables

WT2010 – USA – Day 37/38/40 – Midtown Manhattan and Beyond

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on April 23, 2010

WT2010 – USA
Day 37/38/40 – Midtown Manhattan and Beyond
[On the iPOD] The Stone Roses / The Buzzcocks / Faker / The Cure / The Wombats / Bertie Blackman / Red Riders / Cut Off Your Hands

Thursday rolls around; In anticipation of big night I thought I’d take it easy during the day. First up was some house-keeping in which my case was actually getting Internet access somehow and organising things amidst plates of salad and servings Sencha tea. I found a restaurant that was happy to oblige for a good 2-3hours. Next I thought I’d get in some quick mid-day shopping (Thankfully I now own Iggy Pop’s – Raw Power on vinyl) Upon wandering back I came across Washing Park, a small park in Greenwich Village. It’s a big hangout for students and people were lazing around on the grass to the point of saturation. I got a beverage and decided to do the same for a while. A few random buskers including a guy in a gorilla mask give the park a nice background-sound tamborine-vibe. I kinda lost track of time just lazing about and people-watching in the park. It’s probably the first time I’ve just chilled out with no goal for the day in over a month.

I went to checkout a few bars in the night-time with the target being a pub/club in the Lower East. It was surprisingly quiet, the music was spot on but it was basically just a small pub and it had that relaxed vibe to it. I’d hazard a guess people were at a few sold-out venues watching bands that night? Who knows but I decided I’d throw in the towel and make up for it with an all-nighter on friday (hopefully)

Friday in New York! I made plans to continue the Seinfeld-themed spot visits from the random black and white cookie incident two days before. The ‘Soup Nazi’s” original kitchen has closed and he has since started a franchise called “The Original Soup Man” with a few locations in New York and elsewhere. I went out of my way to visit two such locations only to find that they’d closed down as well? This was all too much walking and train hopping for soup so I headed somewhere that I knew was open. ‘Tom’s Restaurant’ is the diner used for the ‘outer-shot-view’ of the diner that the cast would gather in daily in the show. The interior is obviously different though but the cafe/restaurant does tip its hat to the show and has some memorabilia inside. It’s an average day-to-day burger/style cafe restaurant. Nothing grand (and no I didn’t order the big salad)

On the way to Tom’s I did however manage to stop in the New York public library. Which just happened to currently be surrounded by scaffolding for cleaning/renovation? So much for that. I did go inside though (Free high-speed WIFI) which I thought I’d use to organise where I’d be going at night. The library basically looks like a museum inside and has endless halls and reading rooms full of art and the like. You could probably spend half a day looking at the art about. I decided I was all ‘museumed’ out and just bunkered up in one of the many grand reading rooms using the time to upload a backlog of photos. Upon random roaming around I also stumbled on an outdoor ice-rink, rad.

Dinner and a club/venue called Webster Hall in Lower-Manhattan. Just like back-home the place doesn’t really pickup till after 12am. The music was questionable for an “Indie night” with lots of 80’s mainstream hits being played I was having flashbacks at being at dodgy ‘retro’ hotels back home but thankfully there were a few different DJ’s and eventually they played as advertised. I’d ceased to care though because as it turns out it was a ‘birthday bash’ for a whole group of people that night and before I knew it I was being offered shots and drinks left right and centre. An utterly memorable night, I basically got no sleep at all, even after leaving circa 3am.

Saturday was spent nursing a sore head and swimming in a sea of blankets amongst other things.

On Sunday I was switching to a hostel because it’s cheaper and you always meet some cool people. Oh and I had to do laundry, ugh laundry day. After the menial tasks of life, I decided that since I was now in a new part of New York to go for a bit of a wander. Madison Square Garden, tourists, busy shops and people handing out flyers. I ducked for cover into a Macy’s because the name is an Icon for American shopping. It’s apparently the biggest store in America? 8 stories and two city blocks! I was just taking in the scope of the store rather than looking to buy anything, not that I’d spend $500 on a jacket anyway.

The weather was getting rather cold though, what better excuse to duck into a one of the many specialty stores peppered along 8th Ave for a browse? I wanted to leave buying a coat for the UK (since I’ll be facing winter back home in Australia) but found a really helpful attendant and the store had a huge range of rad (though pricey coats and jackets) I found one I loved and bargained it down 10% so hence had to buy it. Besides you have to spend on something whilst in NYC, my crowded suitcase is not going to like this one bit though.

Sunday night was amazing times with an amazing person. Sushi at a Japanese restaurant in the Art Gallery District, a spot of bowling, drinks and hanging out in time square only to witness an on-the-spot wedding proposal amid a cheering crowd. New York what am I going to do with you?

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WT2010 – USA – Day 33/34/35 – SF to LAX and onwards to New York

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on April 17, 2010

WT2010 – USA
Day 33/34/35 SF to LAX and onwards to New York
[On the iPOD] Cut Copy / Yeah Yeah Yeahs / Sonic Youth

Okay time-schedule showdown time. How long’s it take to drive from San Francisco to L.A (according to my GPS 5hours 40minutes) the plan was; set alarm to 5:40am, leave at 6am, arrive at LAX to return rental car and hop a plane to New York which left at 1:35pm. Basically left myself 1hour for messups. I woke up at 3:50am for some reason so went back to bed and then the next time I’d look at my clock; 6:49am! OH SHIT! (alarm failed) I then ran down stairs to find that the valet would take 20minutes to get my car. Eventually left at 7:15am, front-wheel drive rental car drift on the streets of SF. I ended up tale-gating a honda civic over bumpy roads and in my half-woken daze could have sworn it was NFS: Underground for a few minutes. Anyway onto the freeway in no time at all and then calculating in my head if I’d be able to make it with fuel stops and such.

Long story short; I made it and I was checking in for the flight as it was boarding (returning the car took some time also) All good though. I was flying Virgin for the first time and was utterly blown away. The planes basically looked brand new interior wise (obviously recently refitted) You have an LCD touchscreen where you order anything you want (and swipe a credit card to pay for it) so you get custom food, movies and… Internet! WIFI on a plane and it was pretty damn quick, they also had charging sockets under every seat. My friends were in a spin when I was chatting to them live whilst flying across the USA. Radness.

It’s funny how quick a 6hour flight goes when you’ve got access to your own laptop and the net. I think I’m over my fear of flying too, well it never was a fear of flying it’s more fear of crashing into a mountain at 860km/h but that stems from not being in control of the plane I think. What’s this? JFK airport, New York!

I was off the plane in no time and had a cabbie come up to me asking me where I’m headed. I was a bit weary, in alert mode even when he lead me to his ‘taxi’ which was a 4WD with no taxi logos on it and New Mexico license plates. So right away I asked for ID. I was put at ease though when he conversed with the ticket-booth guy about a slow-night of work (they knew eachother) As it turns out he uses a 4WD because he aims to pickup families and such but was having a really slow day. I was still weary about being ripped off so I fired off questions; how much will the fare be, how long will it take to get there. He did mention “plus tolls” and there were no tolls on the way aside from the $18 cabbies pay to park at the airport. Should I be paying this? It didn’t seem right. But we got to talking and it turns out his family had moved from India and we discussed Cricket, America, Australia and the Melbourne racist attacks. In the end he was really knowledgeable and was weaving in and out of traffic like a madman (which is good when your in a rush) And he waved the $18 toll with whatever I had. Still felt the fare was steep (NOTE: I’ve talked to some locals and basically always go for yellow cabs as other ones such as the one I took charge a lot more) I checked into my hotel at 11pm! (you lose 3hours flying LAX to JFK because of the time difference so It’s a 9hour flight) So quickly showered and was keen for the following day.

The last two days involved 15hours of driving, a 6hour plane trip and dealing with a 3hour time difference which is probably why I woke up at 1pm! I’m using the internet and google maps a lot to plan out my day, this is bad because my current hotel has the worst Internet I’ve come across in years. It’s like 28.8k speed and drops out every 3minutes for long periods. It’s utterly frustrating when your trying to look at maps and get a scope of where to go. It took me over an hour to get moving. But oh well I decided to just leg it, roam around and follow my nose as usual.

I’ve got my eye (or ear) set on some albums I’m after that I know you can buy in America, ones which I couldn’t be bothered ordering back home. I went to three different music stores in Lower-Manhattan to no avail! On first impressions Midtown to Lower-Manhattan is a little bit like (for all you Australians) Newtown in Sydney, Fitzroy in Melbourne and The Valley in Brisbane but it’s also so much more. It does vary as you move through certain areas (it’s broken up into several sub-areas such as East Village / Greenwich Village / Tribeca and so on) which vary from the trendy to the arty to bluecollar and that’s just below the Midtown line (which is determined by the L-train that goes over the river into Brooklyn) Oh and of course it’s so much bigger than any of those places in Australia.

Instead of being one ‘main strip’ of cool shops and restaurants it’s basically all over, the shops and restaurants only broken up by blocks (off the ‘main’ roads) by blocks of old-style brownstone rowhouse villas (would you call them Victorian? I’m not sure) Before I knew it it was dinner time and I was utterly done in by the walking (and perhaps still getting over the past few days) Planning a big day tomorrow I called it a day.

11am, dusty road. I’m gonna walk ’til it burns my bones. But before that my first encounter with New York’s subway on my way to the American National History Museum. You can buy a Metro card (the cheapest of which is $27 for 7days unlimited use, perfect) It’s so easy to navigate New York in general because of America’s love of ‘numbered streets’ that is in Manhattan you’ll find 1st st run parallel with 2nd, 3rd and so on all the way into the 100’s and they generally run East/West and are denoted by E on the East side and W on the… and then they have 1st Ave etc run North/South. So basically if someone gives you an address like 42nd / 5th Ave you know exactly where it is, how to get there and how far away it is. Likewise the subway stops are named after the streets they stop at. Simple.

The subway itself is grungy and dingy in areas and the entrances can sometimes be pretty hard to find, they’ll be the size of 2 food card stands around a corner with no signs directing you there. If you have a map your set though. Once in the subway it feels safe and the trains seem to run pretty on schedule (better than Sydney’s timing at least, but not as clean) I was at the Museum in minutes.

It was somehow already 12pm and I stood staring at the map of the museum kind of in disbelief, 4 levels and a few city blocks in area. It closed at 5:45pm and even then I knew it wouldn’t be enough time so I set off double-time. It has everything on show in such detail that I honestly don’t know where to begin, nearly 300 photos on my flickr page is only a fraction of what was on show. I was literally walking into areas and taking photos of 1/20th of the stuff on show and had to skip taking photos in other areas all together. I was determined to see it all and vowed not to stop and loiter but at times it’s just too hard you want to know all about the exhibits and you find yourself standing there reading explanatory captions.

I booked one of the ‘shows’ in the 3D dome which was ‘Journey to the Stars’ narrated by Whoopi Goldberg. It was rather awe-inspiring but too short! Entertaining though, Carl Sagan would have been proud. In the end I was being told it’s closing time but I’d ALMOST done it. I’d missed 2 areas of the Museum and my legs were dead tired but no time to whine it was time to try out an iPad!

I walked over to Apple’s newest store (not the famous cube which was too further a walk) but the store is just as stylish (basically a glass cube set in a building, check out the photo) I walked in to find many tables filled with iPads and literally a customer and every single one, there were one or two free and I quickly hopped in a spot to pick one up. Mini review/thoughts to follow;

From the photos I always thought the desktop looked empty, but I quickly realised this is just because I’m used to my Iphone with everything packed in tight. I first clicked on iTunes, the processor and memory is FAST. Displaying 4albums wide and scrolling down yields no lag at all. Next the iCalender, very easy to navigate and view, basically a dream for you organisational nuts like myself. Then photos and movies and a few games.

I couldn’t stop playing around with it, I noticed I was mostly using it in sideways (wide mode) but you need to put it down to type that way. When you’ve got it in Vertical mode the keyboard is perfectly spaced for thumb typing, just like you do on your iPhone but SO much quicker. I’ve heard a few reviews comment that the keyboard is retarded in those mode but it’s quite obvious, its meant to be held in this mode and perhaps put down to type in the other. The spacing is perfect and I found myself 2 thumb typing almost as quick as I qwerty typed in horizontal mode with no errors! Most of the people near me were older folks asking questions to the staff and then being awed with how simple the replies were in this machine doing what they want.

In the end when I walked out and took out my iPhone it felt completely wrong, like my world had shrunk and this miniature machine was unusable! To call the iPad ‘just a bigger iPod touch’ is utter utter lunacy. It’s like being a graphic designer and comparing work on playing card sized screen compared to a dual-display widescreen 24″ lcd. Size matters! It opens everything up and lets you do so much more. I think apple has built all these little apps into iPhones and Ipodtouch’s that we’ve become accustomed to organising our days on miniature devices. In reality you can’t get much done on them and the iPad is proof and parcel of it, everyone should wakeup and realise this. I was already thinking I’d chuck away my iPhone for one, but then realised hold on; it’s not actually a phone. So is it better than my newly acquired macbook pro? For what I’m doing right now (traveling the world and using a macbook mostly for Internet / Maps / Emails / Organisation / Blogging) I think it’d serve me just as well. The only place it’d fall down would be multitasking things. OS4.0 is apparently going to change this. The other reason I didn’t get one on the spot was lack of 3G thusfar, I’ve been in the heart of Tokyo, L.A, San Francisco, Portland, Vancouver, New York and utterly struggled with WIFI on my phone. There are not enough reliable/fast and open! WIFI connections out there. It’s just that simple. The device with 3G capability will be killer though. Using the GoogleMaps App to direct me from the Apple store to the Empire State building was utterly ridiculous in how easy and great it is.

A short walk and I was standing at the bottom of the Empire State Building, something everyone in New York has to do apparently. An elevator takes you to the 80th floor and then another takes you to the 86th (good number) where I walked out to be gobsmacked at the site. People are right; everyone in New York should see this view once. It was getting right on dusk so the sun would be setting soon and I walked round ‘n round looking to all points of the great sprawling city. You can see both rivers either side of Manhattan and into New Jersey and North / South as far as the eye can see. It’s kind of a ‘Sim City’ feeling because your literally above everything around you. You hear a siren blaring in the distance and try and spot it down the traffic lanes that curve off into the horizon to be swallowed up by rows of skyscrapers. Yellow taxi cabs herd and graze at traffic lights. Several bridges cross the river either side of you and you wonder where they lead and who is on them.

It kind of eerie how calm it was up there, I was expecting an unnerving wind that would push you towards the edge but it was completely calm no wind at all and I happily lent against the fence vying for a good vantage point for a photo opportunity of the sunset on the horizon. Crystal clear skies also, I’d fluked the perfect weather to head up! The perfect end to a day exploring NYC.

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CHECK OUT MORE PHOTOS AT FLICKR