Noo Yawk!

“I been from Greenwich, to Greenwich Village…with some mean time in between”

Flying Virgin America is the closest thing beneath the stratosphere to commercial spaceflight. The in-flight décor is one of futuristic, white-sheen, with touch screen in-chair video screens pumping local news stations and light entertainment, as well as a gimmicky pink and mauve lighting system which gives you the peculiar impression that you’ve bought a $130 ticket to ride a sexy, cylindrical Gravitron. In typical Virgin trend, Branson seemed to have blown away the stiff 1970’s flying vibe that clung like an old dag to the industry’s arse with a hip, smooth brand and unpretentious roster of captains who greet passengers in the boarding lounge prior to the flight. All that aside, I’m still waiting for my royalty check for Virgin Dating, Branson, you wily, English bastard. (pls see back-blog ‘Sir Dick and I’ circa 2007)

Arrived at JFK airport in the mid arvo I was hungry to enter the big city and replicate the title credit scenes of so many American films - barrelling into town in a yellow cab with some catchy 80’s synth ditty aided by a panning shot of cab churning downtown along the Williamsburg Bridge. Like Eddie Murphy in ‘Coming to America’, ‘Ghostbusters 2’, the intro to NY scene in ‘Almost Famous’. God! So many brilliant films of my youth and recent past! As them ‘scrapers neared and the sunset loomed, my turbanised cabbie, Singh smashed foot to the floor through suburban Queens, destination downtown Brooklyn for a solid dose of the ‘surreals’. With Letterman ads on the in-car tv screen, ‘NYC Cops’ by the Strokes in the background, and the first sighting of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings, everything suddenly felt very right.

With old workmates AJ and Hayley in town on a tourism work junket, I rendezvoused with them and our work compatriot Josh in the spiffing largesse of the Marriot Hotel, Brooklyn Heights. The Marriot was playing host to the week-long WYSTIC travel convention – a flash event for tourism clingers to get shitfaced on the boss’ greenback and schmooze and crack onto promiscuous global counterparts. Our rooms at the Marriot were so damn plush, replete with every trimming, bar the ceiling mirror. Fortunately, one of our allocated rooms was numbered ‘666’, clearly the choice suite of Satan when he’s in town for maiming and firey slaughter. I didn’t bother checking for a Gideon’s bible in the bedside drawer. The hotel was a polar shift from the previous night’s rest on the floor of San Francisco International, an airport so unconducive to slumber that it made the floor of LAX look like the ritz. I managed to gain shut eye for little over two hours, forced to compromise a cafeteria bench with my shivering carcass whilst the temperature of the whole terminal was intentionally relegated to a chilly ‘kill any chance of those vagabond bastards enjoying a skerrick of slumber’ degrees. Farenheit. Everything was falling into place and the gut instinct to hightail it cross-country to the big, meaty apple was undisputedly the best move I could have made. JD, AJ and myself freshened up and made our way through the golden, revolving doors of luxury to the bustling, balmy night air of Brooklyn.

First port of call was Little Italy, no guesses as to the demographic of this neighbourhood – a bustling, intense little pocket sporting an endless cavalcade of Italian fare and restaurants, certainly the bastard child of Lygon St and a town carnival if ever there was one. After a sumptuous pasta meal, we hit the subway across town a few stops to Greenwhich Village, birthplace of so many great musicians and beat artists, a landmark richly anticipated after reading of Bob Dylan’s early days as a teen performing in local coffee houses, and old beat tales originating from this loose, melting hub of art and creative vibe. I guess the pitfall of intoxicating oneself with romanticized reflections of days past is that the places in your imagination are generally always richer than the places themselves. They get built up and nostalgized and thrown high on a pedestal, and when little remains in reality to remind you of the place in your mind it can be a little bit of a let down. Since the 60’s went down, the village’s demand and escalating price of living led to the gradual erosion of the neighbourhood’s rich bohemian vibe. Still, seeing ‘Café Wha’ with my own two eyes, the coffee houses and leafy, historic streets was a great buzz, and a solid meal for the imagination and soul.

There really is something familiar about everywhere you go in New York. My folks summed it best when they travelled through the big apple late last year. Sustaining pangs of déjà vu as they lumbered through the freezing Christmas streets, they put this odd sensation down to the fact that they’d bore witness so many films set in NYC that their subconscious memory had been infiltrated to a point where streets and landmarks, as well as feeling surreal, inevitably produced a sensation of noticeable familiarity.

With a couple of pints behind us in the village, we proclaimed the city our lobster and got ready to shuck. For some unknown bloody reason we ended up in a near-empty karaoke bar, drinking $2 cans of swill amidst the company of some seriously inebriate, never-had-beens belting out and massacring hits from decades gone by. Josh and I reached a point where we were forced to show them all how it was done, delving into a rousing rendition of Dirty Dancing’s ‘I’ve had the time of my life’ – me on manly vocals, with Josh providing scintillating female falsetto. Need I say it brought the house down. With a fire breathing barmaid and a host of hilarious characters, it was declared that the best nights out are almost always the shady ones that from the outset appear doomed to fail and spoil all desire for a quality night out. And suddenly, you sing a bad 80's tune, smash cans, get acquainted with the locals and bear witness to an exemplary evening that will probably go down in history and never be forgotten. With warmed throats we found ourselves nearing plastered territory, chatting with a local chick about her penchant for John McCain, as well as with another bloke, an archetypal 'Fahgettabouddit' Itali-Yorker who provided some classic New York advice that would last more that the night. “Be Good. And if ya can’t be good…be dangerous”.

Funnily enough, New York for all it’s stories about fast living, rough attitudes, muggings and crime felt safer at night time than walking through the CBD of Melbourne after a 2am lockout. In fact, of all US cities with population of over 500,000, New York sits comfortably at fifth safest, well ahead even of San Francisco. There are cops hanging about every busy street corner, a presence totally unthreatening yet extremely mind-easing. Despite the build up equivalent of Australia’s population wedged with the confines of Manhattan Island alone, there is the sense that with such a diverse society of people ‘doin their own thing’, New York just ain’t got any time to waste with pissing each other off.

Upon leaving the karaoke bar we acquainted ourselves with two Californian girls, Orita and Kaitlyn, who’d been privy to our unfortunate Dirty Dancing vocal sequence earlier in the night. Our smooth Australian accents (and vocal proclivity) were too much for the attractive west coasters, deciding they had little choice but to join us for another beer. Feeling dangerous after bringing the karaoke house down, we also thought it might be a good idea to attend to our checklist of NYC objectives and plant ourselves in front of a moving taxi while retorting “I’M WALKIN” HERE, JERKORF!”. Dangerous, but not stupid, we reasoned that certain death, whilst noble and potentially humorous in this circumstance, would probably put a dampener on the evening, not to mention bear the probable loss of our female company. The next pub, sans karaoke and, by and large, people - by chance happened to be host to a dwindling bucks night of bloody Australians. Internationally, Aussies seem to sport a magnetic attraction with each other and rarely will a night transpire without some interaction with a fellow countryman, for better or worse. One bloke from Sydney sat down in our booth and passed out before we got his name. Later, outside we chatted with Pete from the back of Bourke, a fish out of water huffing an unfiltered Camel in the heart of a long way from home. Pete was a relic Australian from the past, a real life Hogan-era dinosaur.

Shenanigans on the subway aplenty, we made asses of ourselves and decided that New York was a bloody fantastic place. The sense that in such a massive, vibrant city one can get away with anything as long as you don’t piss people off or break the law was such a liberating feeling. My inebriate brain hit ecstacy point with the knowledge of a great night up our sleeve and more to be had, feeding off the sleepless energy of this beautiful, insane and truly marvellous city. Start spreadin the news….i aint leaving today. Nor tomorrow. And probably not the next...

No comments: