I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Friday, October 20, 2006

I hate New York

[no photos in this entry so it might be a bit of a twat to read, sorry]

I really really hate New York. Like I said before, the only reasons I was there (and there for so long, 3 nights) is because it was a cheap place to get back from while breaking my odyssey into 2 trips, and because I thought I'd need a chance to get over the mad timezone issues and jetlag before going back to blighty. I deliberately stayed near the airport because I didn't anticipate going to Manhattan, instead I just wanted to chill.

It was a Hilton Garden Inn, and I chose it primarily because it has a pool, free wireless internet access, and offers free "stay fit kits", which are weights sets and stuff that you can get from reception for use in your room.

As it happens the first impressions were good. Enjoying the fact I could watch multiple channels of English language TV for the first time in 3 weeks or so, I explored all the pay-movies and entertainmet options and found Snakes On A Plane on the movie system. Result! But on that first night I just went to sleep pretty early, it had been a long day. I might have had something to drink were it not for the first hint of something being a bit wrong: no minibar at all. Not a whisky-only one a la Tokyo, but nothing.

As it happens I only managed 4 hours kip or so, waking up at 11pm local time. And I stayed awake all night. Watched a lot of TV, Family Guy and stuff like that until 6am until I flicked onto CNBC for the next ages. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I bloody love CNBC. It's a 24 hour channel except it's not, it's more like three 8 hour channels. Asian markets, European markets, US markets, and repeat. Sure it's a financial news channel and I barely understand a lot of what they say, but I'm intrigued and addicted. They touch upon every industry in the world, literally, because there's a financial aspect to everything. They scratch the surface of tech, oil, banking, food, pharmaceuticals, everything. It's great. And I find it very visually appealing too. Bloomberg's main section is too small and the tickers are distracting, but CNBC has it right, at least for my eyes.

Before breakfast I took a shower, except I didn't. I couldn't actually work out how to get the water to come out of the shower and not the taps, but even if I had it wouldn't have mattered because the plug(hole) was fucked and water didn't drain. The fitting to pull the plug out didn't work. Sigh. So I went for breakfast, an All American Buffet affair full of omelettes and potatoes and stuff, then told reception about the bath and asked if someone could come and fix it. While there I figured I'd ask for a stay fit kit, and was told they didn't have any and weren't getting any. People kept nicking them in part or their entirety, so they've given up on them. Despite having posters up about them and stuff. Sigh.

They did come and fix the plug but the shower just didn't work, at least I think that's what they said, so I settled for a bath. A while later I thought, well, no stay fit kit but I can at least go and use the pool. Headed on down there and stared at the sign saying that it doesn't open until 4pm for a minute or so, waiting for the hallucination to be replaced with something a little more believable. Turns out it was real though. No pool until really late in the day. For fucks sake.

After a lot of CNBC I started to get restless. I wanted to get out. But I wasn't really in a neighbourhood of any description, just this hotel next to a big motorway and an airport. There's no minibar, and in fact no hotel bar. Well, the breakfast bit turned into a bar at 5pm... no stay fit kit and no pool, fucking hell. So against my better judgement I decided to go to Manhattan after all, specifically for a pint in a bar called Stout. (I had considered going to see Iron Maiden, but that would have been dumb)

At the desk I asked about the best way in and was told a cab was pretty much the only way, "the only safe way at least". So he called a cab for me and off I went. Driver was a nice enough bloke and talked a lot about cricket but tried to get me to pay him to drive around for 2 hours giving me a tour. It also ended up costing $80 but I only had $60 in me pocket so he had to find somewhere to park while I went to an ATM. As I got out there was a thump, and another car had smacked into the cab, its wing mirror landing at my feet. Nice one.

I fucking hate Manhattan. I can't deal with the road system at all, it just makes me feel lost. I want names, not numbers. And I don't want a system of streets and avenues that you're expected to learn, I just want to know names and I'll piece it all together in my mind thanks very fucking much. And Manhattan is crazy claustrophobic too. I like big cities FFHS, but most, if not all, that I've been to other than New York have got bits of greenery every few blocks, to break things up a bit. Not just one hoofing great park at the top. The buildings are so tall and roads so narrow that it's just really intense, plus the streets are always mad busy and I couldn't relax. I really don't like it.

Typically enough, then, I got lost on the way to the bar. I'd looked up the address and got dropped off as near to it as the cabbie could get (while being near that ATM) and was really trying to make an effort to get to grips with the grids and numbers and streets and avenues but no, I couldn't. I went the wrong way and got lost. It probably took me half an hour to get there and I really needed that first pint.

The first pint was shit. Horrible. It was an oatmeal stout and just gross. Tasted neither of oatmeal nor stout. But the next 2 or 3 drinks were quite nice, so it wasn't all bad. I couldn't help but be wound up by all the people surrounding me though, and they were legion. See, this pub had a bunch of TVs on showing sport, mainly football. Proper football too. Soccer. But unfortunately for me, two New York sports teams were playing in New York that night. The Rangers and the Mets, I think, one at Madison Square Garden and one at a place reachable by train from Penn Station.

The bar is just across the road from Madison Square Garden, which is next to Penn Station. Stout was filling up rapidly with thousands of New York sports fans before their games and all haters of football, loudly so. And their choice of drink was winding me up too. Here we were in a bar called Stout, with a menu containing something like 40 types of stout. Duh. So what were they ordering? Budweiser, except that wasn't on the menu. So Bud Light, which was. Of all the people I heard order a stout, they ordered Guinness. For fucks sake, not Guinness! You can get that anywhere, especially in New York! Have a fucking different stout! You're in a bar called Stout! The only thing that didn't wind me up was the guy ordering 2 pints of Stella, and saying to his mate "be careful with this, you can't drink it quickly, it's lethal stuff!".

I'd had enough. Going to Manhattan was a mistake. I'd rather have been bored to tears in the hotel than here. But I wasn't prepared to get a $80 cab back and with 3 or 4 (US) pints inside me I figured I'd make a stab at getting public transport back after all. To hell with the danger.

So, to Penn Station and a ticket machine. I managed to pick single, and pick my destination, but then it asked me whether I wanted a peak or off-peak ticket. Well, it's 7pm, so surely I want off-peak. I saw no indication of what hours the two terms referred to, nor could I understand why it would offer me the choice really, but anyway. Bought the off-peak ticket and then got to the platforms, where all the "next train" signs said PEAK. Oh. Back to the back of a queue and a second ticket bought, I made my way to Jamaica, then the SkyTrain to the airport, then the shuttle bus back to the hotel. Back to my room and to bed. A fucking terrible day.

On Friday there was no way I was going anywhere. I was bored to tears for a lot of the day but just sat there watching CNBC or other crap, dicking around on t'internet, and just being miserable. Actually I spent a lot of time looking up the possibility of flying home a day early but never ended up doing anything about it. ba.com wasn't letting me do anything with my booking, and I got close to redeeming my Virgin Flying Club miles for a one-way flight to London... until I remembered that if I didn't take my BA flight, I'd lose the return leg, which I need to use next May. So I resigned myself to staying the distance. At about 7pm I went down to the hotel bar and looked at the beer menu. In a special Samuel Adams holder thing, on Samuel Adams printed paper, the top beer listed was Samuel Adams. Ordered a pint of that and was told they didn't have any. So I had 2 bottles of Budweiser, and a burger, then returned to my room. Watched Snakes On A Plane (what a fantastic film!) and went to bed.

Checkout was at noon. I checked out at about 1155, and by 1235 I was in the lounge. The flight wasn't until 2001, although it left an hour late. Such a ridiculous amount of time at the airport isn't everyone's cup of tea but I was happier than a pig in shit. Airside equals no longer in New York so far as I'm concerned, and obviously lounge equals free food and beer. I listened to a bunch of music (thanks to my new headphones) including the new Trivium CD which I bought in the airport, wrote an entry on here, chatted to Chris on IRC, and just generally prepared myself for coming back home and flying in non-Business Class for the first time in 14 flights.

In a perverse way, New York was the perfect way to end this part of my holiday. If I'd been going home from Tokyo, say, then it would have been a real wrench. But being stuck in a place I hated for 2 days gave me the opporunity to think about what was ahead in a massively favourable light. I was really looking forward to catching up with friends, my sofa, Sky+, English people, but most of all NOT BEING IN NEW YORK.

No comments: