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New York blog diary, November 2002

New York diary:
Blog from my New York trip, November 2005

Saturday 5th November: New York bound!

With a thick head after last night's alcohol-slopping Offline (that beer at 1.80 is always going to prove too tempting to resist), we headed out this morning to Heathrow and happily made the flight in lots of time (last year we were told that we'd missed the flight, only to be let back on at the last moment.)

The good news is that the Virgin flight is only half full, so there's lots of room to stretch your legs - the bad news is that they seem to have got our diet requirements screwed.

Instead of being able to feast on cheese sarnies and tasty jam scones, we've been given hairshirt vegan supplies.

Sure, the apple and grape mix was alright, as was the salad wrap, but I wanted lardy cake, Goddamnit!

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In New York...

We arrived in JFK on time and suffered the usual eye-scanning, fingerprinting bollocks.

The time difference meant that we were settled in Williamsburg as early as 7pm (US time) and ready for a night out (well, sort of - the jet lag was already kicking in.)

We grabbed a caffeine-turbo-charged coffee at the Verb cafe before chomping down on a delicious pizza slice at The Charleston, an old school pizzeria with ancient bar attached on Bedford Avenue.

One L train subway ride later and we were back in our old fave East Village bar, the Raven - and being greeted with a round of drinks on the house!

Ah, it felt great to be back!

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Sunday 6th November: misty Williamsburg morning

Up early thanks to a chorus of clanking pipes and a Tannoy-like noisy answerphone blaring out next door.

The morning was so misty we couldn't see the Williamsburg Bridge outside our window, but the haze soon drifted away as the temperature soared to distinctly non-November like highs - we're talking t-shirt weather!

Bedford Avenue was buzzing with energy and neighbourhood love as the NYC Marathon prepared to charge (or, in many cases, painfully limp) through town.

After grabbing a coffee and cream cheese breakfast from the Read cafe, we watched the massed throng of runners pant by, occasionally joining in the encouraging whooping (runners often write their names on their shirts, letting vocal spectators bellow out stuff like, "Go, Steve from Boston! Come on Stevie! You can do it! Woohoooo!!! hoop! Scream! Wail! etc etc).

The community spirit along Bedford Avenue was fantastic: families and friends were out in force to give out free food to the runners, and there were bands blasting out tunes all along the route.

We grabbed brunch at Bonita, a busy Mexican restaurant on 338 Bedford Ave before grabbing the L train to 6th/14th St.

Wandered about and bought a few records before strolling through SoHo where yet another huge movie was being filmed, with the area awash with support trucks, extras, catering staff and annoying, self important people brandishing clipboards.

Retired to our favourite old haunt, the Pink Pony on Ludlow Street for a coffee and sighed inside at the sight of the building site where the Luna Lounge once stood.

They're turning it into a hotel and many other bars are expected to follow the Luna's fate soon. That sucks.

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Back to Williamsburg (try as I might, I can't bring myself to call it "Billyburg") and then out to grab a beer in a seriously chilled, off-the-beaten track bar, called 'FIX'.

Judging by the glowing laptops in every corner, I assume that there must be free wi-fi in da house, and there was a DJ perched perilously up on high at the back.

The decor was unusual: the high ceiling had a fancy Victorian embossed pattern suggesting that it may have been a theatre or shop, yet there were dirty great big metal jig rails running overhead...

Heading home, we checked out the Soft Spot, a long, narrow piano bar on Bedford Avenue with a jukebox seemingly designed for dads (Beatles, Coldplay, Billy Joel - you get the picture).

Despite the cardigan and pipe music, the bar was mainly full of lively young 'uns wolfing down vodka shots and then staggering out into the street to sing Beatles songs together (what is it with NYC and the Beatles? We've only been here two days and heard their songs being played by buskers, on juke boxes and mass drunken street renditions.)

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Monday 7th November: Up the Hudson to Beacon

Up early-ish to catch the 11:50 Poughkeepsie train from the beautiful Grand Central terminal to Beacon, some 60 miles from NYC.

The tracks hugged the shoreline of the Hudson River for most of the journey, affording beautiful autumnal views across the water.

The train wasn't so pretty though, sporting a 1970s-style plastic wood veneer and super-sweaty, super-slidey fake leather seats.

We had to look hard to enjoy the view too, as the train had mean, squinty windows which could have used a clean.

The much-maligned railways back in Blightyland look positively palatial in comparison!

Anyway, enough of my transport-related whining and on with the day's report.

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The reason for our northbound jaunt was to visit the famous Dia:Beacon art galleries, home to a ton of Andy Warhol art and big studio installations.

Housed in a huge old Nabisco factory overlooking the Hudson, the gallery offers an immense 240,000ft of exhibition space on three floors.

There was some good stuff there too - I liked the huge, square and round metal holes in the ground and Em got very excited by a series of large wooden boxes (they didn't quite do it for me).

What did do it for me was the food - the locally-sourced apple, cheddar and Dijon mustard wrap from the cafe was a sensation!

Later on, we took a stroll around Beacon, which was a typically pretty, small American town full of picture-book houses - the kind of sleepy town that could easily drive you to committing terrible acts out of sheer boredom.

In the evening we grabbed a quick beer at Fix and then hooked up with our old buddy Jim for a monster quaffing session bar at The Levee on Berry Street, W'burg. We finished the night drinking some cod-Celtic bear that claimed to have been made from Scottish heather!

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Tues 8th November: Hanging in Williamsburg

Crawled out of bed into a dazzling, gorgeous November morning and scored a-much-needed hangover-relieving coffee at Atlas Cafe on 116 Havemeyer Street, Brooklyn.

As seems customary for Williamsburg cafes, the place was full of hipsters quietly hogging the Wi-Fi with their Apple Macs and making coffees last for hours.

We felt too done in to hit Manhattan, so spent the day wandering about our 'hood, checking out record stores, second hand clothes stores and taking pics on my on-loan Fuji F10 compact and Nikon D70.

In the eve checked out the open mic night at the Lucky Cat bar on Grand St.

The acts (mercifully) were only allowed to play two songs each although most of them weren't too bad.

Star of the show, however, was the clearly 'confused' performer who started to tunelessly strum a borrowed guitar while warbling, 'how many senses have I got?'

After 30 seconds he'd been given the correct answer from the crowd, so he decided to individually show off 'some weird jazz chords' he'd just learnt.

The crowd weren't impressed so he departed to minimal applause.

The next act came on to sing about her tree. It was that kind of night. I loved it.

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Wed 9th November: Greenwich Village and Offline at the Raven

Bagels and coffee breakfast at Read Cafe, Bedford Avenue, W'burg and then L train to 1st/14th.

Walked down to Chinatown (for Em to buy paints at Pearl) and then a trip to our old haunt, Cafe Cafe on Greene St, Soho.

Wandered around Greenwich Village in the afternoon and Em got excited by some knitting shops.

Met up with Dave from the u75 boards at an Irish pub om 11th/3rd to watch the mighty Cardiff City on tele - sadly, the game wasn't on, so we went to another boozer and avoided the torrential rain (for a while, at least).

Off to Dave's on 6th Ave/16th to buy a warm Carhart jacket (a snip at $65!) and then home for a right royal drenching.

In the evening, it was the NYC debut of Offline at the Raven, Ave A/12th - and it was a hoot!

I rocked out with my usual mix (ska, indie, glam) and Jim quietly cursed me for playing all the tunes he wanted to play.

A couple of peeps off the boards came down and the place got busy, despite the continuous thunderstorm outside.

Naturally, a near-Biblical quantity of Brooklyn beer was wolfed down and by 4am the mixer appeared to be doubling in complexity.

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Thursday 10th Nov; hangovers and shopping

With the screwball woman next door blasting out Mick Jagger at nine-fucking-am followed by a cacophony of heavy rolling objects, power drills and shouting people, sleep was off the agenda.

Hosting a monumental hangover, we stumbled down to Bliss, a veggie/vegan restaurant on Bedford Avenue.

Into Manhattan for a wander around Greenwich for a bit of sight-seeing, shopping and snapping.

The Fuji F10 camera continues to impress although the lack of manual controls is driving me mad.

In the evening we grabbed a bite in Coney's (Bedford Ave) and grabbed a beer later.

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Friday 11th Nov: museums and mash-ups

Breakfast at Read in W'burg, subway to 5th Ave and watched a bonkers Veteran's Day Parade go by - apart from the vets, there was a bizarre collection of people taking part.

Chinese human rights activists, military vehicle enthusiasts, brass bands, scouts, school bands, cars advertising private shooting clubs, a car with a waving beauty model - we had the lot.

Notably, the biggest cheer of the lot went out to a group of anti-war vets who'd tagged along at the end.

Walked up to 1133 6th Ave at 43rd to visit the International Centre of Photography.

Saw moving and powerful set of El Salvador photos and a major exhibition of pics from the mighty Andre Kertesz.

As ever, I felt truly 'umbled after seeing his work...

Took a stroll around Central Park which looked lovely in autumnal hues.

We were going to hit MOMA for the Friday freeload (4-8pm), but the heaving mobs queuing up outside didn't look like fun.

Instead, we swished into the adjacent Museum of American Folk Art (free on Fridays from 4.30pm skinflints!) and checked out some cool art. I really liked the big old weather vanes.

Hotfooted it back to W'burg for a quick shower and change of clothes and to pick up my records ready for unexpected return DJ slot at The Raven - which turned into a marathon three hour slot - I loved it!

The DJ booth is right next to the bar, so there was a never-ending supply of free beers rolling my way while I worked - outstanding!

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Sat 12th November: hangovers and hopelessly lost

After the strong coffee at the Atlas had failed to wake us up, we headed home for a kip and then walked into Brooklyn looking for a big arts event around Bushwick.

Walking deeper and deeper into a barren industrial estate as darkness fell, it occurred to us that maybe we'd taken a wrong turn somewhere along the line.

We doubled back and found the subway stop on the flyer and looked in vain for the promised directions.

After a few failed attempts to follow likely looking hipsters, we hit the subway only to find that all services had been suspended (their inability to pass on basic information - like the service being totally down - makes London Underground look like the masters of communication).

After a hefty trudge home we feasted on top notch Mexican burritos at Buffalo Cantina on 149 Havermayer, W'burg.

In the eve we checked out a 50s style bar/diner, Tainted Lady on Grand Street.

Bedecked in vintage photos of 50/60s glamour pussies, the bar has a knowing tacky retro charm, although customers were a bit on the lean side for a Saturday night.

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Sunday 13th November: brunch and jazz

Up at midday to meet some chums at Relish, a hugely popular, old-school diner or Wythe and N3rd, W'burg.

Enjoyed a fabulous brunch and then walked to Marcy Ave to catch JMZ train to Fulton and than ACE subway to the electronics mecca, B&H at 9th/34th.

Bought 1gb memory card for the Fuji and a travel tripod and managed to resist being further tempted by the outrageous amount of photographic clobber on offer.

Back to the appt for a chill out and then out to Zebulon on 258 Wythe Ave for a bit of trombone-led experimental jazz (I know that sounds terrible, but it was really entertaining).

The dimly-lit venue was the perfect place for some bonkers jazz, and the enthusiastic bar staff helped create a nice vibe...

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Mon 14th November: Ellis Island

Our plans to visit Philadelphia flew out of the window when we checked out the Amtrak fare - over $100 each!

Instead, we grabbed breakfast at Read, caught the subway to South Ferry and boarded the tourist-tastic Circle Line Ferry to Liberty Island (we stayed on for that bit) and then on to Ellis Island to check out the excellent Immigration Museum.

It's well worth a visit and offers some fascinating insights into attitudes towards immigration and the sheer grimness of life for those at the bottom of the heap.

Intelligence tests - involving memory tests - decided if an immigrant would be given citizenship, but all blind, ill or infirm people likely to become a 'burden to the state' could be guaranteed a sharp boot back to their country of origin.

In the evening we hung out with Matt at the Lolita Bar on Broome St and supped a fair few Brooklyn ales.

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Tues 15th November: Harlem and museums

Breakfast at Atlas (cream cheese and coffee, natch) and caught subway to Harlem.

Walked most of 125th Ave - it felt a bit like Brixton without the street hustlers, although the mix of falling apart old shops and shiny new multinational megastores didn't inspire.

Walked through Central Park and then down 5th to the Museum of the City of New York at 104th - which turned out to be one of my favourite museums in the city!

In the evening, we enjoyed a lovely meal around Matt and Jen's in Soho.

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Wed 16th November: Soho, shopping and a last DJ stint at the Raven

Breakfast in Read, Bedford Ave and then caught the subway to 14th/3rd Ave.

Strolled around taking pictures and shopping before heading for SoHo and grabbing coffee and cakes at Cafe Cafe.

Back to Williamsburg to pack our bags (boo!), chill out and then head to The Raven where I was DJing again.

A load of chums turned up and - once again - the beers flowed rather too freely, meaning that we stumbled out with only two hours to go before picking up out pre-booked 5.30am cab to Newark airport (eek!) and then back to Blightly, with a lingering hangover...

(Nov 2005 photos to follow shortly)

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