Why Does it Always Bloody End!

So I’m at Newark Airport now, once again a decent little wander that’s ended just as I’ve got settled in to the calmer pace of life (although as previously mentioned, sleeping on a couch is no longer a good idea at 29 – my back, and my achilles (admittedly probably not related) are killing me). It’s been a bit of a blur of the last couple of days – a little bit alcohol induced, but to a degree, that’s what we do!!

A massive crack in my shoe!

After the Highline on Thursday, I wandered up a bit into town, and tried to a bit of shopping – nothing too special, a few usual bits and pieces I tend to buy from Macy’s when I’m in the US, underwear and such like, and also (if any stuck out) a pair of shoes, as I managed to notice a rather damp spot on my foot as I got out of the taxi at Edinburgh Airport the other day – turns out I’ve managed to completely crack through the sole of my decent brown shoes, so time for some new ones!! Anyway, I headed for Macy’s and had a look about, nothing really stood out to me in shoes, but I thought ‘ok, fair enough, I’m just a bit picky!’ I can get shoes back home so not really a big issue there; then I headed down for my usual boxers/wifebeater shopping trip. I’m in the flagship Macy’s store, literally a city block long, and they’re out…seriously, I managed to get nothing that I was looking for – all sold out of what I needed, so this one will have to wait until Christmas!!

After that rather spectacular failure, I headed back to the flat and met up with Carolyn and, after a bit of faffing about, we headed back into Manhattan to grab some food. This turned out to be curry (I’d forgotten she was my curry buddy back in college) before we wandered to ‘the best Irish pub in New York’ [McSorley’s Ale House]. This actually turned out to be quite a good hipster/hole in the wall kind of joint. They have two kinds of beer: light and dark, so it was always going to do well by me! As it happened, the Dark was basically just a pint of mild; not dissimilar to cans of Mackeson that I get back home, so I was pretty happy with that. It had hints of sawdust and peanut shells on the floor, and so, beer selection aside (don’t get me wrong: I prefer the two to the mostly terrible 140-odd), it reminded me a lot of our old watering hole in Newport Beach: The Goat [Goathill Tavern].

From the Intrepid’s flight deck
Anyway, after a few jars there, we decided we were both shattered and buggered off back home. The next morning I arose (as one does), got some brekkie at the local coffee shop with the decent food and the wifi, and headed into town to go and wander around the Intrepid, a WWII aircraft carrier which they’ve turned into a museum. Now it’s a bit of a showcase of the WWII/’Nam era carrier and a cool airplane museum, with a flightdeck full of cool stuff. I probably wandered around the ship itself for a good couple of hours, and realising that it’s truly amazing how technology has advanced over the past 50-odd years! So much of the space was tiny, and so disconnected from each other area (although that might make sense on a warship…) After wandering through the ship and the bridge, I hit the flight deck where they had a couple of pretty cool planes, including a Harrier, a Tomcat and a couple of MiGs (among others). Then I headed back down to the quayside to the Concorde.

Some MiGs
I’ve always sort of loved Concorde – I’ll always be gutted I’ll never get to fly on it (especially as I’m currently writing the second half of this from comfortable class on a Dreamliner from New York). It wasn’t open to go into, but that didn’t bother me too much as there’s one in East Lothian with full wander-through access, but as ever, it’s just nice to wander around and look at the beauty of it. There are only a couple of aircraft truly that pretty to look at, even though they’re mothballed, but it’s nice to see that they can at least be museum pieces and not just end up in the desert in the South West of America.

Harrier

Once I’d finished lusting over the Concorde, I had a wander around the Growler, an old ‘50s Guided Missile Sub (one of maybe 4-8 the US ever had), which was the deterrent before ballistic missiles were invented. Now when I was maybe 15, I spent a night on the USS Pampanito in San Francisco with the Scouts – that was a WWII attack sub, but this thing just didn’t compare. Somehow it was way more claustrophobic, much tinier and felt like the tightest of tin cans! While it would be a great laugh to spend a night on there (as I did in SF many years ago), I just can;t imagine doing a tour in such a tiny space. I look around me now, and I’m confident that it was significantly smaller in all dimensions than the 787 I’m currently riding home.

 
Concorde

Then when I’d finished wandering around the Growler I headed off to find a pint and some lunch (although my enjoyment of the nerd-world meant it was already about 3pm). I found the Beer Authority, and had a few pints, a pulled pork sandwich and watched some basketball (March Madness after all!) before heading into town for a second shot at some clothes/shoe shopping. I found a smallish men’s store in the garment district, and immediately got distracted by suits…so a hundred quid later I now have a nice suit, but still no shoes…

The Menu – I kinda forgot
to take one of the food…

After a quick shot home and the standard faff about, we met up with Carolyn’s friend from law school and hit a couple of bars. We strolled home at a leisurely 4am-ish (if memory serves) and promptly passed out.

Saturday was a quieter day. We got up at a godly hour of later and headed up to The Bronx to find Ghanaian food – Carolyn having been in the Peace Corps there and wanting to share the joy with me. The Bronx is so much more of a place I would like to visit; it had tones of many other places in the world, but not so much America – sadly I only had about twenty minutes there, but next time I’m in New York it’s somewhere I’ll have to visit properly. We got to the resturant only to find that it was shut for renovation, but there was a lady outside who directed us to their sister restaurant in Harlem, so back on the subway we headed down to 125th, MLK and Malcolm X streets.

Harlem is quite a cool place. It’s less scary than perhaps the modern world might have you believe, although that may just be changes with the times. In actual fact, just across the road from the Apollo Theatre is an American Apparel…it just doesn’t have that racial fear for the white man that it maybe once had. Anyway, we got some food – two lumps of dough (fufu and … [I forget what the second is called]), one of which is yam-based, and the other fermented corn, alongside two ‘soups,’ which were sort of thinnish stews of red sauce with meat (slightly peppery, quite nice) and a sort of snot coloured one (also that consistency) which was boiled okra, also with assorted meat. Both were reasonably pleasant, and it’s definitely a new food type to add to my list, but admittedly a touch odd.

At the Show

Once we were done eating, we had a wander around. Up to the Apollo, along and over to Strivers Alley and then just about and around until we couldn’t do any more. In truth it was until I couldn’t do anymore – somehow I’ve managed to strain my Achilles either walking about the Intrepid or otherwise doing god-knows-what. It’s normally my calf that goes (shin-splints), so I’m not really sure what I’ve done, but hopefully it’ll clear up soon!) Then we headed over towards Hells Kitchen to meet Gavin (who did a year abroad at Irvine), and his Albanian friend Bezzie (I forget his full name, it was abbreviated to this after the introductions). We’d got tickets to go and see Cut Copy, an Australian electro-pop band (who only Gavin had ever actually heard of). We grabbed a bit of pizza beforehand and then headed over to the venue. It turned out I was basically the first person any of the three had met who had been, or who had any desire, to ever go to Albania, so Bezzie and I talked about how amazing a country it was for a while, and how much I want to go back and see the bits that aren’t Tirana.

The show was good, not exactly my normal thing, but enjoyable in a slightly Banarama-type music that I’ve never actually heard kind of way…Once that was done we had a couple of pints then headed out, home and back to sleep.

Sunday dawned fairly well. Following a conversation with Grace and Mike (Carolyn’s flatmate and her boyfriend) we’d decided to do brunch, which it turns out in NYC is all you can drink! Now, being an Englishman who remembers (although not personally) the experiment with that concept in an Oldham club, and the subsequent media shitstorm, I can still barely belive such a thing is legal (actually apparently it’s not, but brunch has a vague exception…) Anyway, we headed for some fancy brekkie, with literally gallons of bucks fizz…it was good, but god did we drink…
After that we started wandering about, but with me being a spot hop-along with my cripple ankle, I couldn’t keep up when drunk Carolyn decided to go running around Manhattan. Once she’d disappeared from sight, I found myself a decent pub and settled in, waiting for her to call me back. This continued through two or three pubs (the first one cut us off once she arrived, probably quite rightly too!), but eventually we settled into a bit of day drinking. We crashed out around half 9 [that’s bollocks, Carolyn decided she was done around 9, hailed a cab and we headed home…at half 9 she went to bed – tired Carolyn is a bit of a pain in the arse!].

Today was a bit of a simpler day. About a week before I flew out, I got an email off her asking what time my return flight was. Turns out she’d managed to get tickets to the Daily Show! We rocked up to queue from about 1pm, and hung about for the hour and a half until they handed them out. The one upside to going back to Scotland is at least it will be warm! Everyday I’ve been here, it’s been about 8 degrees colder than Edinburgh!! After we got those tickets sorted we went and found some Ethiopian food (seriously, this has been a great trip for random country cuisines!) before meeting up with a couple of others to go and see the taping.

It was awesome.

Once it was done, it was tragically time to head for the airport, a spot of booze, a comfortable seat, but ultimately the end of my trip and once again that horrific return to reality. It’s been an amazing trip; I’ve met some cool new people, hung out with one or two I’ve not seen for ages, and drunk an inordinate amount of beer. It’s been wonderful, and it’s only because I’m lucky enough to have friends around the world that I can do this.
The early seeds of a new trip to Morocco next year also came up, and maybe even cooler, a trip to Rwanda the year after that. But those will both have to wait – Carolyn is a truly anal planner, however I am not. My next trip is to Iceland in June with my parents, and I have little in mind beyond that at the minute. But as long as my backpack lasts, and I know where my towel is, there will be a trip to somewhere in the back of my mind (or two, or three). And they will all happen, eventually.

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