, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A little noisy at night but only a couple of people coming back late. However I suspect that I’ll be coming back at those times over the next few nights now I won’t be having 22 hour days. Woke a little early but nothing major and with a bit of luck, and a doze after waking I may have avoided the jet-lag. Only one thing to do first thing in the morning with where I’m staying. Bagel and coffee while walking through Central Park.

OK so I didn’t manage both. The coffee was easy. The gag in Shrek 2 when they run from one Starbucks across the street into another one is pretty close to the truth. You can easily pass two or three others before you have finished your drink. It wasn’t till I got to the centre of town before I got to have the bagel but at least it was authentic. By then I’d made my first subway mistake. Waiting on a platform for a train that was never going to come. I just hadn’t paid attention to the fact that I needed to go down another level to a lower platform. It took me two trains to pull in for me to realise, but didn’t disrupt me much.

So far today I’ve had a quick look at Madison Square Garden which is really just a concrete circle with things attached to give it an odd shape. However oddity is something that is the norm here. (As an aside I think that I’m starting to sound, in my head, like the woman Sarah Jessica Parker plays in Sex and the City, at least when I ask questions or make statements like the one above). Something that I have noticed here is a propensity for people who have mp3 players to be walking along holding them out and up. I keep mine in my pocket and really can’t see why I’d want to have it on display as they do.

So with a small shopping detour its off to look at Grand Central Station. I think a quote from the film Madagascar is in order here. (Not the monkey one.) It’s grand and it’s central. Grand really doesn’t do it justice. It’s almost got it’s own shopping mall all to itself. The place is lavish in it’s lighting and absolutely spotless, (even without a cleaner or bin in sight). Actually the whole of New York is extremely clean, from the streets to the subway. There’s a few cities in England that could learn a thing or two!

While there it was the chance to take some photos of the Chrysler Building before heading to the even taller Empire State Building. (Where I am writing this). Now I wanted to be here for sunset for obvious reasons and all the info supplied had warned about lots of queuing. Queue for security, queue for tickets, queue to go to the top. With this in mind and the need to leave in good time for the ice hockey game tonight that I have a ticket for I arrived early. And promptly had to queue for nothing. So now I’m up above New York with 3 hours to kill. I’ve taken photos (probably about 60) and feel the need to take the weight of my feet. Having walked 16+ miles yesterday, and having already done nearly 9 today (its not even 3pm yet) all I can say is that I’m glad I’m wearing comfortable shoes. The fact that I’ve managed to find somewhere to sit is a minor miracle. Up on the 86th floor (where most people go as the 102nd is an extra $15 and you’re stuck indoors) there are only two benches, each with room for 4 people. I actually asked one of the staff who worked at the gift shop on floor 86 if there was anything up the extra 14 floors but to my amazement he told me that he’d never been up there. Now I would have thought that in his training or whatever they get they would get to go up there so they could answer questions like mine. In the end I found out from one of the security guys. It wasn’t worth it so I stayed put. That means I’ve been hogging this for quite a while now and had several neighbours come and go, but I doubt the staff will say anything. So the question now is ‘How long till sunset?’ To be fair it’s no hardship up here. The views are wonderful and its a clear blue sky with 25 miles of visibility so I guess I’ll just take it all in again. One of the things that is quite fun while up there is catching bits of other peoples conversations. I think the funniest bit was someone describing Central Park as ‘that treey bit you can see the other side’.

Sunset arrived and with as much haste as I dared I took my photos with the lights of New York on. They seemed to come out well from the look of the on the camera’s screen. Will have to look at them on the computer to really know.

With a bit of a power walk and the reliability and frequency of the subway that I was starting to rightly rely upon I was easily able to dump my rucksack and make it back to the Penn train station in ample time to go out of state for the first time. (The other will be when I leave and head for Newark airport).

It’s said that New Yorkers are the friendliest people around and I have to say that so far I can’t fault the statement. Whether it’s the accent that shows me up to being a tourist I don’t know. Certainly I’ve not had anyone comment on it in the way that I’ve had on previous visits, but I suspect most of that is the number of tourists over here. I’ve found myself being surprised by the number of English accents I’m hearing, though so far I’ve avoided saying ‘You’re from England? Where about in England are you from?’

So why do I feel New Yorkers are friendly? Well it would have to be due to the journey to the evenings ice hockey game. Now I’m off to New Jersey for a couple of reasons. One is availability. Trying to get a ticket for one of the two New York Rangers matches happening while I’m here seems to have been a task to challenge the keenest intellect. Matches were marked as sold out. Second was the price of tickets changing second hand. On e-bay the usual price was in the hundreds, no matter where you were sitting. Madison Square Gardens will have to wait to have its interior seen by me on another day.

I had 3 conversations that evening. One on the train, a nice chap who was on his way across the width of the states from the sound of how far he had to go, to try to see if they could have a future together. I wished him well. The second was on the way to the stadium. One thing I have noticed is that if you mention England in a sporting conversation then two words automatically follow from an American. Manchester United! I’m not a fan. I’m more rugby than football anyway but I suspect the owners will be delighted at this news. The final chat of the evening was the father and daughter sitting next to me for the game. After the now traditional Manchester United greeting we settle down to a real exchange during breaks. I’ve bought one of the cheaper tops so that may have endeared me to him a little. As things turn out, he’s from Romania. No idea how long he’d been over here but he genuinely seemed happy to be a local, having a family over here, with his other daughter now at university.

During the game I decided to do the traditional American thing. Hotdog and beer. The quality was good on both counts and I went back for more during the break. I soon found myself cheering on the home team, living out each near miss as much as the people around me. Hi-fives where shared when goals were scored, groans when disaster struck or a near miss. In the end we won. We being a team I’ve only seen once and in all likelihood won’t see them play again. I don’t think my allegiances are that fickle, but they were the first major sporting event I’ve attended so I will be keeping track of how they progress.

The journey home was pretty uneventful until I decided to stop off at Times Square. There had been a Broadway strike on and it had been ‘crippling’ the local economy. I think that by local economy they mean the street vendors. I came out of the subway station and there was an addition to all the neon. The glare of television cameras recording at night. I quickly surmised that they weren’t waiting for me. Shame, I’ve been waiting to break into the big time ever since being the star of a Horlicks television commercial at the ripe old age of 6 months. Maybe when opportunity knocked I was out or had the music too loud! Interviews a plenty were afoot with an ‘agreement’ over the stage hand strike having been reached. The street vendors were delighted, and had covered another 16 miles and needed to rest my feet for the night.