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When last you heard from this happy traveler, he was looking forward to spending a few days digesting a very respectable portion of sandwich. Well, my adventures in this exciting, noisy, stimulating, baffling, and beautiful city have continued since then.

Judith (another import from our London office) kindly volunteered to be my tour guide and show me to the nearest grocery store. It was here that I first got to experience that most famous of New Yorker traits – sarcasm. They do it so well that it’s hard to get mad. After floundering over the sheer volume of choice available in the supermarket, and buying $240 of groceries (who said food was cheap in NY?) I helpfully told the lady that I would be needing home delivery.

No kiddin’? Ya don’t say? I never woulda guessed!”
Translation: “No shit, Sherlock!”

Judith laughed at me – how rude!

 

 

For those that have never been here before, the top three-quarters of Manhattan are organized into grids, with 1st Street up to around 150th Street running East to West, and 1st Avenue up to 12th running North to South and 5th Avenue slicing the city in two. There are also a handful of named avenues, like Lexington Avenue, Park Avenue and Madison Avenue, and of course Broadway, which slashes across Manhattan in the only erratic diagonal of any of the streets.

I live on 34th Street; Broadway and 5th Avenues are my closest intersections. That’s right next door to the Empire State Building so getting home is as easy as pie since I can see it from anywhere I go in New York.

I finished work last Tuesday evening, after struggling the whole afternoon to resist the soporific effects of a half ton of pastrami combined with mild jet lag. We have the most amazing coffee machine in the office so I made frequent return visits to the machine to try and stay alert. Domas (who is here from our Latvian office), Judith and I decided we would go walkabout and would meet at her apartment after 8pm.

I took a roundabout way home, practicing the gentle art of ‘Cross-Towning’. This is the most effective method of getting around on foot. Navigating the sidewalks is slow due to the many red lights barring your crossings over the streets and avenues. So when presented with a red hand (the old ‘Walk/Don’t Walk’ signs are no longer used) all you do is change direction, making your way closer to your goal in a zigzag fashion.

 
         

This was how I discovered I had gone an avenue too far and ended up walking down Broadway. I spotted a Cell Phone store and impulsively stopped to see whether I could get a local cell phone and a second amusing encounter with a New Yorker:

New York shop assistants will apparently give you their undivided attention for about three seconds before getting bored and/or irritated that you are in their shop. This rushes you into making a decision and consequently I ended up with a new pay-and-go phone and loads of minutes. However the assistant was quite interested in where I was from and what I was doing in the States and we got to chatting. Playing on the store radio was an American disk jockey playing a prank call on some poor unsuspecting boyfriend, with the collusion of the his girlfriend; while the assistant and I we were talking his phone kept ringing. It was his girlfriend, and he said, “Man, she’s buggin’ me! Here, you talk to her!” The phone was thrust into my hands, and trying to think quickly I answered.

“Hello?”
“Hello? Bobby?”
“Um, no, this is Ross speaking.”
“Who?”
“It’s Ross here. I found this phone in the street a minute ago, and was just going through the numbers looking for someone to call when it rang.”
“What?”
“I found this phone in the street. Do you know who it belongs to?”
“Say again?”
“Can you tell me whose phone this is? I’d like to return it. Do you think there will be a reward?”
“Are you serious?

(Bobby’s laughter proves too infectious and I crack up too)
“No, not really. Hold on a minute…”
(Hand phone back to Bobby)
It’s your girlfriend!”

I’m starting to like this city!!

   
 

I got home quite late, and the time to meet Judith and Domas was rapidly approaching, so I took a quick shower, changed and headed out. We took a slow meander up Broadway towards Times Square.

I had previously been told to prepare for disappointment in the ‘square’, since it’s just a stretch of Broadway with lots of lights. However, I loved it. I did a great deal of gawping and staring and pointing and taking lots of photos. There is just such an incredible buzz and energy in the whole area. It’s so brightly lit it’s like daylight. The amount of juice running through all the billboards could probably power a small African country for a year.

I tried to get some arty shots of fast-moving cabs and lights and more lights and people on the move and some lights. Judith and Domas laughed at some of my choices of subject matter but many of the shots have come out quite well.

 
 

We looped around and strolled through the Rockefeller Centre. Apparently spring had appeared (literally) overnight as the weather had warmed up significantly, and all the flower pots in the city had just been planted with spring flowers. Tulips, Daffodils, Hyacinth and Lilies abounded on all sides and made for a very fetching walk, with the scent of fresh flowers managing to overpower the smells of even the numerous hotdog vendors. The mellow mood was slightly interrupted as we were nearly bowled over by a tiny old lady who shouted “MOVE” while we were waiting to cross at a set of lights.

On Wednesday, I decided to check out Grand Central Station, which is less than five minutes walk from the office. In yet another strange feat of timing, I walk into the concourse to be greeted with a full-blown Scottish pipe band. There is very little that can be quite so unexpected as being blasted with bagpipe music in an American train station. They are having a Scottish exhibition in the station, with stands selling whisky or haggis, bands, tourist stalls and various other attractions. I felt rather underdressed with all those kilts marching around the hall. Grand Central station is stunning! It is a remarkable edifice, with polished marble everywhere, and a vast stylized green-painted ceiling. More neck-craning and shameless tourist behaviour!!!

Right, must be off!
In my next instalment I’ll attempt to do justice to Central Park and the Empire State Building.

Until then, sweet dreams…

 
 
 
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