One (More) Night in New York
Well, when I say “one night”, I, of course, mean “about 14 nights or so” in New York, but I’m sure there’s an expression along those lines. Maybe, it was “One Night in San Francisco”, but then I wasn’t in San Francisco so it wouldn’t have made a great deal of sense. In fact, technically speaking, I wasn’t even in New York (it was Stamford, Connecticut) so largely speaking it’s a nonsensical title and a peculiar way to start this latest entry.
Christmas in New York was a chilled out time, both psychologically and literally - the change in temperature from the highs of 6 weeks in tropical climates to snow on the ground in New York was expectedly a bit of a shock to the system. Beach one day, snow the next. I think I have given the perception of being a tad “underwhelmed” by New York in recent posts, bragging that I’ve been so many times now (well, 7 ish) that it has nothing to offer me, but I continue to return there so there must be something about the place that I like. In fact, it was a welcome break from the often stressful time of backpacking (as stressful as waking up with nothing to do, touring the countryside in the baking sun, sitting on the beach and drinking beer can be) but New York, or more specifically my brother’s house, offers an amount of sanity, which the shackles of pre-travelling life desire. And despite my apparent criticism of most things American, there is still a special vibe about the place and I do enjoy being there.
We managed one day of skiing and snowboarding. Personally, I ignored my self-imposed suggestion of taking snowboarding lessons and instead decided to wing it. I spent most of the first hour skidding down the hill on my hind quarters, but my surf skills soon kicked in and I was up and carving with the best of them in no time. Well that might be (yet) another exaggeration, but nevertheless I was doing it and loving every second of it. Previously, I’d wondered if there was any relationship between surfing and snowboarding, figuring on the basis of information from friends who do both, that there actually wasn’t. I’d also felt that I wouldn’t like to take up snowboarding for the simple reason that I would get really annoyed if I couldn’t do it regularly (one bonus of living in Guernsey is the opportunity to surf most days.) But I’ve changed my mind about both, and snowboarding holidays will definitely be in my plans for the future.
Christmas itself was a quiet affair - dinner with family on Christmas Eve and Day - good food, good drink and not a great deal else. New Year’s Eve was also chilled out - again a good dinner followed by a trip to The Thirsty Turtle in Stamford, a bizarre bar-cum-pub-cum-nightclub banging out the old school hip-hop, house and cheesy pop music. Save for a few extra decorations and a few extra clientele, it was pretty much identical to the previous time I was there, with the exception of the customary midnight countdown from Times Square. It was a good evening, extended marginally by a few more drinks at my brother’s house, until pass out, or other nocturnal activities, ensued.
The highlight of this trip to New York was had shortly in to the New Year. Firstly I was treated to a show on Broadway by Leo and Lina. I always find it a peculiar experience, especially when you go to a matinée showing. That is, you leave the insanity of the streets of New York, entering a glamorous theater with lots of well dressed people (and me) and then are engulfed by the atmosphere and glitz of the singing and dancing. And to do this all at two o’clock in the afternoon, when it’s still light outside and most other people are getting on with their daily lives just seems bizarre. But you only have to be in the theater for 10 minutes before you forget all that and lose yourself in the power of the show. We were watching Young Frankenstein, an adaptation of Mel Brooks’ 1970’s film. It was indeed spectacular, and very, very funny and certainly the best show I have seen in a theater. Admittedly, that accounts for about 5 total, but nevertheless it was a great time. In fact, it put the tacky cabaret show in Varadero in to perspective. That felt cheap and seedy, with poor choreography and just a great deal of arse. On Broadway, however, it’s a totally different fish. The set design is second to none, the music is fantastic, and the whole kit’n’caboodle just exudes class. Perhaps it’s not fair to compare cheap cabaret with a Broadway musical, but it was the feeling with which I was left. After the show, we made our way to New York’s oldest bar - McSorley’s - where they serve only two drinks. Light beer or dark beer. Ask for one, and you get two. And don’t expect to get a pint, or even a half - it’s literally a mugful - with a substantial amount of head** to boot. But the beer is excellent, and the pub has a charm and character unheard of in other bars. In there, the dust and cobwebs are actually a feature, adorning the numerous pictures and memorials of past presidents and famous folk.
The following day was Leo’s birthday and needed no better excuse for a pub crawl in Williamsburg, which, if my geography serves me well enough, is a suburb / division / region of Brooklyn / Queens. Either way, it’s full of bars and pubs and despite the dodgy weather and the first pub being “one in one out” (honest gov) the substitution for a Hookah bar made a great start to the proceedings. From there on in, we hit a few small bars, most of them playing a refreshingly old-skool mix of hip-hop and after a one or two many Irish carbombs (well, for certain members of our group, anyway) we were suitably pissed and in need of tacos. Three o’clock in the morning, pissed up in a taco shop somewhere in the New York area, surrounded by friends and having a great time, doesn’t get much better in my book. In fact, a fantastic lazy following day, where there was quite literally nothing on the agenda (in fact, looking for the agenda, which might only have had one entry on it - “look for the agenda”, would have been far too much effort), rounded off an extremely memorable weekend. So One Night in New York might not actually be such a ridiculous description for perhaps my most enjoyable visit to New York yet.
Needless to say, I will be back, endeavouring to explain the continuing enamourment I have with the place. But for now, my travels take me back to Mexico and Mexico City.