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

Thursday, August 21, 2014

It's all about the game, and how you play it

Holy shit I have the entire BA first class lounge at JFK T7 to myself. Surely someone else will show up in the next 90 minutes? Kinda hope they don't as it goes.

So I woke up really early on Wednesday, having fallen asleep dead at about 10pm Tuesday. I didn't really care about jet lag - it's not like I'm staying in NYC long enough to bother acclimatising anyway. But 6am really was too early to get out and do stuff, so I did what I always do: blog, and watch TV.

TV was shit. The most noteworthy thing was an advert for paid sick leave, and Jason Statham playing his zero trick pony act. Oh, and BBC America appears to only show Doctor Who. Come 9am and I thought about getting up and doing stuff, though the thought of just staying in my room did appeal. I hate New York.

But, no. Stuff to do. Since I wasn't flying today, my first port of call was the Intrepid Museum. This is a museum actually on an aircraft carrier, the USS Intrepid. It's an aviation museum and has a space shuttle and Concorde. Because planes.

To get there I had to walk a mile through Hell's Kitchen. Just past the police station next to my hotel I saw Mane Advocates which, sadly, is some kind of Better Call Saul lawyer rather than a wig shop. And that was the best thing about the walk. The route was largely nondescript and through a very non touristy party of town, except for 42nd Street which is famous or something. I did source a Diet Dr Pepper, the ready availability of which is one of my favourite things about the USA, and joined the hot queue for tickets at the museum.

After being in the queue for half an hour they were shouting that it was cash only. I hadn't been to an ATM, but thankfully the $80 I had leftover from Indonesia(!) was more than enough. Another half hour behind Mr Nike (Nike shoes, shorts, t-shirt, and watch; fanboy to the max) I got to the desk and asked for a ticket for Intrepid, the Space Shuttle, and Concorde. She said something and I couldn't make a word out. Turns out their mics were off. And their tills. And printers. The whole building had no power, which also meant she couldn't sell me a Concorde tour anyway because they didn't know if it was full. I could pay when I got there though.

Walked through, up to the flight deck, and ... wow. Shitloads of fighter planes and helicopters and it was fantastic. I didn't bother with an audio tour, just wandered around taking photos and looking surly enough that parents were making their kids move out of my way.

The A12 jet can fly at 85,000ft and go three times the speed of sound. Awesome piece of kit. But somewhat overshadowed by the space shuttle which is just incredible. It's actually not one which went into space, Enterprise being a prototype (and honestly named after Star Trek)  from which NASA learnt enough to warrant a redesign which would be too costly to retrofit. But it is a real thing and I did wander all around it and soak up all the exhibits surrounding it about the space shuttle programme. Got actual goosebumps thinking about the incredible feats of engineering that meant we had, for 30 years, essentially planes which go into space. So fucking awesome, literally.

Also in the shuttle pavilion was a Soyuz capsule, a cramped piece of shit which went up in 2005 and is on loan from a private individual who was one of the first civilian space tourists. I don't know if I'm jealous or not. It looks terrifyingly claustrophobic. As I circled it, a kid asked their dad if it had aircon.

There was a video narrated by Leonard Nimoy, and it was rubbish. I liked the reference on one info board to a "surplus 747". Space shuttles travelled at 20x the speed of sound. Wow.

Back out to the flight deck and into the quarters and decks. First, the admiral's deck, where the guide explained about the hundred phones and horns and stuff. Then the captain's deck, quarters, navigation rooms, etc. All fascinating. Some actual Vietnam vets were there and shaking hands with some actual USS intrepid vets. Aww.

Down, out, down, and in to the hangar deck. More like a traditional museum, albeit one in an aircraft carrier hangar and mess hall, lots of guns and turrets and helicopters and propellers and oh, a multi screen presentation recreation of the day 2 kamikaze pilots flew right into where we were standing, in November 1944, complete with smoke upon impact. That was quite bleak.

The Concorde tours are on the hour, and it was now 1301. I wandered over just to get a bit goosebumpy anyway, took some photos, and chilled on the seats under its wings for a while. One day I'll actually go inside one, but today was failing as much as my visit to Brooklands had.

So enough Intrepid. Bought some food and left, intending to now hit the High Line. This is a disused railway track above Manhattan that has, since my last visit, been reopened as a public garden and walkway above the city, just over a mile long. I really wanted to see it, but as I walked I started to fry - all the cloud had burnt away and the sun was beating down directly overhead. I bailed early and went to the hotel to escape the weather.  My phone turned red hot as 20 duplicate texts from Chris arrived.

In my room, I got online and chatted for a bit but mostly watched wrestling. Then I fell asleep for 10 minutes, which was worrying as I had to be at Stout by 5pm to meet Anil, an ex colleague who now lives in NYC. Set an alarm in case it happened again, and then stayed awake fine.

Stout is great. The beer and the pub. Normally when I go on holiday I, as anyone who has ever met me knows, seek Guinness and gauge my opinion of the entire country and all its citizens on how nice it is. Well, not New York. Here there are more Irish pubs than subway stations and indeed Stout is sandwiched between two and opposite another. More Guinness vendors than Temple Bar, so y'know what, fuck Guinness. Stout has 35 kinds of stout on the menu!

Anil was at the door as I arrived and we caught up. Actually we spoke a million mph about all kinds of things, including how hard to play the air miles game. He earns through work, me through credit cards, and we each play pretty hard and win. I explained my itinerary to him, which took some doing. We chatted about work and life - both of us enjoying both much more than for years - and then he had to go and meet his real friends. He wanted me to go with but, meh, it was 7pm and I had an early start. Plus I was in a bar with 35 kinds of stout on sale for fucks sake. And I didn't have the emotional energy to meet strangers. So, he left, and I ... also left. Stout wasn't really setup for people drinking alone. I couldn't hog a table to myself, but there was no space to sit at the bar. Never mind. Probably for the best that I call it a night drinks wise anyway.

Walked back toward the hotel and cursed my foolishness at missing out on the High Line. Checked it's website on my phone to confirm my memory of it shutting at 7pm and, no! It's open until 11pm! Huzzah! Bought a celebratory Diet Dr Pepper and headed straight to 10th and 30th. On the way I passed an Epoch Times vendor and hoped every byline was dated January 1st 1970.

The High Line is great. There's not much more to say about it than the description of what it is, and that I enjoyed it. I started off being quite annoyed there wasn't much evidence of the old railway tracks, but that went away when I realised I was surrounded by masses of old railway tracks and sleepers and had just been blind for the first 2 minutes.

I walked the entire length of it, stopping to sit and write a couple of times and helping out with some photos plus taking a few of my own. I thought it would be a marvellous location for a parkrun. And then I realised... I really liked New York today. I enjoyed everything. I didn't get lost. Nothing annoyed me except the beautiful weather. God fucking damn it, I'm meant to hate New York!

Back to the hotel, annoyed with my good mood. Sat at the bar and had a Guinness. It were ok. So were the second and third. I tried a sip of the "made with genuine Atlantic sea salt" ale and it was fucking horrible. They kept offering me food and I kept declining. Some Germans ordered wine and it wasn't clear whether they said "dry white wine" or "drei white wine". I watched CNN which had turned into The Ferguson, Missouri and Beheaded Journalist channel, and was amazed by the eloquence of a newscaster saying "as if this saga wasn't replete with metaphors enough".

And after everything, I realised I was extraordinarily excited about my next flight, which was by now less than 12 hours away, and so should go to bed. Checked the seat plan and it looked like there might only be me in the cabin. Checked the train times to get to JFK. Thursday was going to be ... long? Short? I'm really not sure.

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