Back from New York!
Sunset from Brooklyn Bridge
Blog from my New York trip, October/November 2004
Thursday 28th Oct, 2004
Phew! A close one! Got to Heathrow running a little late, queued up for the e-tickers that Virgin had failed to send us, dashed to the check in desk and were promptly told that we’d missed our flight. Wha’?!
Despite my best doe-eyed pleas, the stern faced, check-in woman seemed emphatic- we were fucked. Our flight was history even though we were just 3 mines late and the plane wasn’t taking off for an hour.
Thankfully, the great god of harassed travellers was shining on us, and Virgin relented – we were on the flight!
A truly troubled sleep the night before meant I wasn’t able to take full advantage of the excellent video selections, but in between drowsy nod-offs, I managed to see the first 45 mins of ‘Shaun Of The Dead’ – which was surprisingly funny.
Arriving at JFK we were welcomed with a full “feel like a criminal” Fingerprint’n’Photo ritual at customs, but at least the staff were friendly – a first!
We blew $45 on a cab to Broadway where we picked up the keys to our apartment – a lovely bijou gaffe on Mulbery/Spring St in Soho, complete with two cats, one lithe and moody, the other spherical and inquisitive.
We walked through to our old haunt, ‘Space Unlimited’ in Greene St. Grabbed a reviving coffee, checked out some shops and went home for an afternoon nap.
In the evening, we walked over to Ludlow St in the Lower East Side for beers at Living Room and then on to Lolita (266 Broome St 212 966 7222) – dark, friendly bar popular with art students – to check out placard exhibition. Stumbled home, knackered, tired and desperate for sleep around 12 (or 5am UK time).
Friday 29th Oct, 2004
Woke up at 4am. Then 5am. Then finally forced myself to adjust to NY time and stayed in bed till 8. Way too much going on outside to hang about in bed any longer, so we walked over to Ludlow Street for a reviving coffee in one off our fave cafes, the Pink Pony.
In the evening, headed to the Trash Bar where I was supposed to be DJing but the organiser failed to show up on time. But that was soon forgotten about once we realised it was an open bar – that’s NY-speak for FREE drink!
We availed ourselves to some vodka before heading up to the Raven to meet old chums Davina and Jim. The curiously undersized pints of Stella flowed relentlessly. Ended up in drunk in a Russian restaurant (Odessa on 1st Ave) scoffing pegories.
Saturday 30th Oct, 2004
Walked miles uptown to the B+H uber photo-store on 34th/9th Ave only to discover that the bastard place was shut – on a Saturday! (something to do with crazy religious stuff).
Hot-footed it downtown to meet Mike at the Pink Pony in Ludlow St and hung out for hours – it’s a great place to chew the fat on a grey afternoon!
In the evening we hit the Raven on Ave A to see Jim (that’s DJ Dandy Sex to hit fans!) play some tunes. We got drunk!
Sunday 31st Oct, 2004
Coffee in the morning at ‘Once Upon A Time’ in Greenwich Village with Em and Matt. The cafe decor was a bit spartan, the staff slow and uninterested, the use of cardboard cups instead of china disappointing, but the home-made cakes were sublime!
B&H; is quite an experience – a sort of hi-tech futuristic shopping Mecca with bags of merchandise constantly flying overhead on elevated trackways.
I took advantage of the strong pound to splash out on a Nikon 800 flashgun and 1.8 50mm lens.
Took Hudson River walk and caught a tourist cruise around Manhattan. Weirdly enough some tourists decided to sleep through most of the cruise. Odd.
Had lunch in Central Park. Looked at the expensive shops on 5th Ave before taking the subway to Prince and grabbing a coffee in Cake-O on Mulberry – a very small, very dimlit cafe that can only fit about six people.
In the evening, we battled through bonkers Halloween Parade to meet at Davina at Barrow St Theatre. Walked over to squat party in Petit Versailles community gardens on E Houston/Ave C. Great mix of trannies, actors and activists. Stayed till 2am.
Monday 1st Nov, 2004
Cafe Cafe for coffee and pumpkin cheesecake, subway up to 190th and then on to Fort Tyron which was resplendent in Autumnal hues. Hoped to check out the medieval collection housed in The Cloisers, a pretty gothic-style building, sat atop the hill. But it was shut. Arse!
Despite looking like an old abbey, the building only dates back to the 1940s.
Lunch into Bleu Evolution (808 W187th St) and then watched a beautiful Manhattan sunset from the George Washington Bridge on 179th St.
We weren’t allowed to enjoy the view for long or even share it with you – stern notices all over the bridge warned against ‘loitering’ while any photography was expressly banned. Dumb.
Got the subway back to the appt, grabbed a quick cuppa and then walked over to catch the Eating it! comedy night at the Luna Lounge ($8 incl one free drink). It’s always pot luck when it comes to comedy – the last time we were at the Luna we struck gold with a stellar bill, topped by Bill Bailey.
Tonight, we weren’t quite so lucky, although we just about got our money’s worth. Hosting the evening were The Red Wine Boys, a local double act who flitted between well observed comedy and rather unpleasant audience bullying
I’ve always found it to be a bit of a cheap shot for an experienced comedian to harangue and humiliate passive audience members (had they been heckling that’s a different matter of course).
Quite a large chunk of the audience got pissed off and left. We stuck it out to the end.
Tuesday 2nd Nov – Election Day, 2004
Cafe Cafe for breakfast and then down to Chinatown to check out the amazing Pearl River graphics store on 477 Broadway.
Did some shopping around Soho and lower Manhattan. Bought the new Interpol CD.
In the evening it was off to the Raven for an election ‘party’ that went horribly, horribly wrong.
All around the bar were posters inviting people to celebrate Kerry’s victory, but by 2am things were looking very bad for Kerry.
Some drunken optimists insisted that things would get better, but it was all becoming very reminiscent of that dreadful night in Britain in 1992 when the Tories got back, despite poll results showing a victory for Kinnock’s Labour Party.
I was at an all night party that night and it wasn’t long before people were regretting taking their drugs earlier as the trip turned into a nightmare – four more years of the Tories.
It was a similar story in the Raven. By three most people knew it was all over. The mood hit rock bottom. People sloped off into the night, leaving their half-drunk drinks behind. We threw in the towel around half past three. How the fuck could Bush get in again?!
Wednesday 3nd Nov, 2004
New York woke up in a gloomy mood. Bush had won on an election that seemed to be more about God, guns and gay marriage than the war in Iraq, the widening budget, jobs and health care.
Grabbed a coffee and a delightful ‘Persian breakfast’ at Ini Ani (105 Stanton St 212 254 9066) It’ a small stylish cafe where you can enjoy tasty snacks to the accompaniment of people taping away on their laptops (there’s a free wi-fi connection available)
The cafe features walls made from corrugated cardboard, the coffee comes in huge cups and there’s a big window for watching the Lower East Side go by.
Walked up through AveC and admired the small community gardens before trudging all the way up 1st/
2nd Aves to 61st to take the ‘tram’ to Roosevelt Island. Except what New Yorkers call a tram is what the rest of us call a ‘cable car’.
Perched perilously high above the rusting Queensboro’ Bridge, the cable car is not for those with a fear of heights, but the views are fantastic.
Shame the same can’t be said about the island itself. Apart from the fabulous views of Manhattan afforded by a river walk, there’s bugger all of note to be seen – only a load of plain hospital buildings and a cluster of modern, medium rise apartments of no architectural merit.
We headed back to Soho for coffee @ Cafe Cafe and then home to catch up on the rest of the depressing US election news.
In the evening it was time for my NY DJ debut at the Raven Bar. The crap election result had knocked the party spirit out of New Yorkers, so the crowd was a little, err, intimate but I loved every minute of it (there’s something uplifting about playing ‘The Guns Of Brixton’ while watching yellow cabs go by from the DJ booth).
If you DJ at the Raven, you get free beer so I quietly drunk myself silly and tried to forget about the election result…
Thurs 4th Nov, 2004
Rain. Great bucketloads of the stuff. All day.
Up late and on to Cafe Cafe for coffee. Walked through Chinatown and wandered around Tribeca in a downpour. Visited the River Project and chatted with one of its enthusiastic workers, Scott, who let me play with his skate (nothing sexual, mind).
Battled against the rain through Battery Park and then on to J and R to buy a portable DVD recorder (to make a back up for my NYC photos – already totalling over 800!)
Back to Cafe Cafe for warming cuppa and then to the apartment to get DVD burnin’
Met Jim @ Delancey Bar at II. The stylishly-fitted out bar on three floors briefly endured a period of being the ‘in’ place, but things were happily back down to earth when we there.
In the basement, an all-girl garage band thrashed their guitars and drums. The ground floor has a long bar, street facing windows and an open fire, while the upstairs roof garden offers a great view of 8 lanes of traffic clattering over Williamsburg Bridge.
Next stop was the Apocalypse Bar, a rock’n’roll dive bar on 3rd. Finished the long night’s drinking at the newly opened Skinny Bar. Drunk.
Fri 5th Nov, 2004
Wandered around some bookstores and record stores around Astor Place/Broadway, and then on for a late lunch at the Pink Pony (yummy spinach and cheese omelette). Back to apartment to tidy up, clean up and pack up ready for our move to Williamsburg.
Matt and Jen over, suitably downbeat after their week in Winsconin lobbying for Kerry.
Had some drinks in the flat and then on to the Raven. Great atmosphere! DJ’d again and had a good response too (although one woman disliked my Ramones tune so much it was greeted with a flying beermat.
Happily, the remainder of my set was without any more flying objects. Some coked up ex-MTV VJ frothed enthusiastically about some of my set. I didn’t have a clue who he was but over-animated cokeheads are always a pain in the arse.
Fortunately, he soon disappeared to bore some other bar with his fast fading fame and we settled down to more drinking.
After Em had risked the wrath of the NYC chapter of the Hell’s Angels by sitting on their seat, we staggered back to the flat, grabbed our bags and got a taxi to Matt’s apartment in Williamsburg.
After much fumbling in the dark we managed to work our way through multiple doors and odd-shaped locks – we were in!
Sat 6th Nov, 2004
Up around midday and took a walk down Bedford Avenue. Scored an excellent brunch at The Read Cafe – a laid back small cafe with an outdoor section at back.
Wandered about Williamsburg and met up with Mike and Matt at the Vibe Cafe. Beer at Teddy’s Bar and then back to the appt for dinner party.
Sun 7th Nov, 2004
Down to Bedford Ave to watch the Marathon go by. The vibe on the packed street was uplifting and moving, with residents cheering on the runners.
Samba bands played, bagpipes swirled and maracas shook. Snack at Read Cafe. Walked over Willamsburg Bridge to check out Freakatorium – a small museum full of freakshow oddities, shrunken heads and weird Victorian paraphernalia.
Coffee @ Ini Ali and subway back to Billyberg (yes some people actually call it that!) Met Matt at 7 and grabbed dinner at Fada (N8/Driggs), an unpretentious French restaurant just off Bedford.
Then on to Southside Lounge on Broadway/Whyte. The bar’s been described as an “old man’s hipster bar” which means it attracts a wide range of folks from old ‘Burg residents to artists and musicians moving into the area. It’s dark, friendly and off the beaten track. We liked it.
We capped the night off with a few more beers at Iona – a pleasant enough small bar with a table tennis out back..
Mon 8th Nov, 2004
Breakfast @ Diner on Broadway – a hip, relaxed and nicely weathered authentic diner. Walked down gnarly Broadway and caught subway to Hoyt-Schermerhorn in Brooklyn. Walked to Brooklyn Heights and took in the fabulous view.
Trucked on down to Red Hook, an industrial area following the traditional pattern of gentrification: industries close, people move out, artists move in, papers talk of a ‘happening, edgy new area’, new cafes and bars open up to serve new community, fuck-off expensive art stores/boutiques follow, yuppies move in, rents soar, artists move out…
Took lunch at Hope and Anchor Diner, 347 Van Brunt St, Red Hook (718.237.0276) who served up a fabulous veggie burger. The service was friendly and fast and the music eclectic and inspired.
Walked back through Brooklyn to catch a breathtaking sunset from the bridge.
In the eve, hooked up with Matt and Jim. Checked out Hoopalooza at Galapagus – fucking excellent! You haven’t lived until you seen hula-hoop duels and punk rock hoopers! Outstanding fun – and free too!
Tues 9th Nov, 2004
Our last day – boohoo! Fabulous veggie breakfast at Bliss on Bedford Avenue, W’Burg and then caught the L subway to Union Square.
Spent some time in bookstores and clothes shops before heading down to the Lower East Side to meet Jim at the Pink Pony. Couple of coffees and then back to the flat to pack up and reluctantly load up our stuff into an airport-bound cab.
Apart from promptly realising the foolhardiness of wearing zip-festooned combat pants through security, the overnight journey went fine, albeit sleeplessly.
Arrived in London to find that tomorrow night’s Offline has been given a good plug in Time Out. Great news.
And now for some sleep…
(Expect a big update to the photo gallery soon!)