Archives for the month of: October, 2012

Good morning blog fans. It’s been a while, but rest assured we’ve been busy doing things, sitting on buses, dodging hurricanes and more. Let me take you back 10 days or so…

Spend three hours on the bus due south west from Philadelphia and you get to Washington DC, the capital of the USA. We didn’t have long there and honestly, I don’t think we needed it. We had enough time to stroll around the area from The Capitol to The Lincoln Memorial, saw a few sites, tried to peek through the curtains at the Obamas’ house and then went back to our hotel. Perhaps if you had a couple of days and were more interested in US history, one could spend a few hours in the various museums that line the streets here and may or may not be worth seeing. We only had a little bit of daylight left though so we took some pictures at the George Washington Monument and got out of there.

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Lovisa didn’t think much of it. I bloody loved it!

*DISTASTEFUL PHOTOGRAPHY WARNING*

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Philadelphia, for much of my life, has been something delicious and creamy to spread on a toasted bagel. On Wednesday it became the second city of our enormous holiday. We arrived early in the afternoon, and after finding our charming little bed and breakfast, went out on an adventure. I didn’t know much about the city before we arrived but I did know that there existed such a thing as a Philly Cheese Steak, and I was not about to not eat something called that.

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It turned out to be pretty much exactly the same as a steak and cheese sandwich from Subway. Which shouldn’t have taken too much figuring out from the name.

The downtown area in Philly is pleasingly small and can easily be covered on foot. There is a lot of street art around which gives the place a very bohemian feel, and generally speaking I was surprised by how European it seemed compared to what you might expect from an American city. It even had a Jack Wills, presumably staffed by pyjama and Ugg-wearing English public school girls on their gap years.

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That’s just how the houses look in Philadelphia. Fancy.

To round off our afternoon of exploration, we paid a tramp $3 to take a picture of us in front of the Love sculpture and then went back to our lovely B&B hostess.

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As we sit on the Greyhound bus about to leave New York and head in to America proper, it feels appropriate that I should put together a highlights package from our time in the Big Apple. Four weeks is a long time to be anywhere, yet in New York it is nothing like enough and there are unquestionably things that didn’t get done. However I will do my best to compile a list of things that I would recommend be done by anybody, particularly on a tight budget, mostly in the hope that this will be picked up by people Googling for “things to do in New York,” and they might accidentally start following my blog, giving me an artificially inflated sense of purpose.

1. Go to a Mets game.
As regular readers will recall, we went to a Mets game a couple of weeks ago. As a fan of many sports but not baseball, I loved it. As a fan of many things, but not sports, Lovisa loved it. An all-American day out, with excellent seats at very reasonable prices (less than $20 each), there is nothing not to love about going to the ball game. I also think its important that you go and see the Mets and not the Yankees. The Beastie Boys are Mets fans. Which white rapper loves the Yankees?

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Exactly.

(For the mums and dads, that’s Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit. Yes, that’s the actual name of his band, and yes, they are without question the worst band that has ever existed, ever.)

2. Get the cable car to/from Roosevelt Island.
On our last day in town we went to Roosevelt Island. I barely even knew it was there, much less that it had anything of interest on it, but we wanted to be able to say that we had covered as much of the city as possible and since the subway stopped there, we decided to go. The island itself is nothing really to write home about, just a lot of high rise residential buildings and something that resembles a prison or perhaps mental asylum. One thing that it does have though, is a bloody lovely cable car that runs alongside the Queensboro Bridge, back to Manhattan. It’s not a tourist attraction per se, and the classic Midtown skyline views are a little obscured, but its an amazing way to see the east side of Manhattan, the East River and Queens. It is part of the MTA public transport network too, so all you need to ride it is your subway/bus ticket which unless you’re mentally in to walking, you will already have.

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Photo credit goes to Lovisa Berglund who is good at everything.

3. Make your own sight-seeing tour.
New York is the setting for hundreds of TV programmes and films so if you want to feel like a Ghostbuster or eat cupcakes like Carrie Bradshaw or play a massive piano in FAO Schwarz like Josh Baskin or go to Queens to find a wife like Prince Akeem (actually most of Coming to America was filmed in Brooklyn, so go there) then the Internet is awash with information on where your favourite movie locations are. On Sunday I walked up to the west side of Harlem to find W 144 ST and Convent, AKA 111 Archer Avenue, AKA the house that Royal Tenebaum bought in the winter of his 35th year.

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If you haven’t seen The Royal Tenenbaums then I would recommend not only that you do because its one of the great films of the 21st century, but also that you go the Trinity Cemetery anyway. It is used for a couple of scenes in the film but in its own right, it is just an interesting, tranquil place full of history, something not necessarily easy to come by in New York

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“Hell of a damn grave. Wish it were mine.”

4. Eat Thai food.
New York has a reputation for being an expensive place to eat out, and after a month there I can say that this is not far from the truth. However if you want to eat well and eat cheaply, you can, and without doubt the best way to do so is at Thai restaurants, that for some reason are phenomenally well priced. At one West Village place we got a starter, main course and wine for $15. Even on the Upper East Side, in what is now officially America’s most expensive zip code, we got a two course lunch for $7.50. These are good restaurants with fancy decor, generous portions and tasty food. They must be making their money out the back, human trafficking, prostitute smuggling, dog fighting or something. Just don’t think too hard about it and enjoy the crap out of your cheap dinner.

5. Don’t go to the top of The Empire State Building.
The most iconic feature of the New York skyline, and you’re standing on top of it, taking pictures of everything else. Don’t be an idiot. Go to The Top of the Rock at The Rockefeller Center and people will actually know where you’ve been when you show them your holiday snaps.

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And finally…
Just go for a walk. If you need to, get on the subway first, but then get off somewhere, anywhere, and just walk it baby. There is always something to see, someone to look at, a place to eat, a building you want to live in. I gave Williamsburg a hard time before, but I could still go for another walk around because its in the best city in the whole world, and I’d rather be in that over-hyped, over-hip, wanker village than Shoreditch, any day.

That’s it. New York, you were a dream. Take care of yourself, I want to be back in you very soon.

Having been disappointed by middle class douche bags’ attempts to gentrify and make Williamsburg an artistic sanctuary for people who think they’re too interesting to live in Manhattan, today was a day to see a genuinely interesting and lively part of New York. With that in mind, we hauled our Northern European asses up to Harlem. Ok, there are some men on the street selling slightly dubious, slightly anti-the white man t-shirts, but basically Harlem is the tits. Without wishing to be a racial stereotyper, black people are fun and throw a good party, and in this part of town, it just pours on to the street. There are bodies everywhere, talking, laughing, joking, playing jazz radio from their wheelchairs, and obviously having a nice time. A far cry from Williamsburg where pained white boys are doing their best to look as down to earth as possible, even though they literally can’t be when their rent is so high.

Now I’m off to finish filling out my Nation of Islam application form. Be safe.

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I wrote a bit before about cupcakes and how they’re good and not bad. It’s a good job I had this revelation because there are cupcakes everywhere in this city and if I was still being a cynical old bastard who didn’t buy in to it, this photo would never have happened.

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According to those in the know, Williamsburg is all that and a bag of chips. It’s where all the cool new artists and musicians hang out and it’s up and coming and it’s got a lively scene and its the new Greenwich Village and … stop. Williamsburg is boring. Williamsburg is like Brighton if there were only 6 shops in Brighton. Two ‘vintage’ (musty, dead people’s clothes) shops, a cheese shop, a Swedish coffee shop and a couple of tattoo studios. Even so, it takes ages to walk around because you’re constantly checking around another corner in the hope that you might yet find the interesting part that all the hip young crowd are giving it a large one over. You won’t find it; it isn’t there.

I can understand that it seems like a nice little neighbourhood to live in and the price of an apartment here certainly seems to reflect that property here is desirable (you can easily spend over a million dollars in one of the local estate agents). For a tourist though, there really is nothing much to be gained from hanging around Williamsburg, except the smug satisfaction that you had an expensive coffee in the same zip code as some next big thing, art school drop out wanker. I would suggest that if you want to see somewhere that’s just like Greenwich Village, you could do a lot worse than staying in Greenwich Village which is already pretty much exactly the same thing as Greenwich Village because it is in fact Greenwich Village.

Today was Columbus Day, celebrated every year on the second Monday of October, to mark the anniversary of the discovery of America by Spain. For reasons most likely better known to them than me, the numerous Italian communities in the US have adopted this holiday to celebrate their heritage. This means a parade through town and an opportunity for the local mafioso to get their Ferraris out.

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(This was yesterday. I got distracted and never finished. What you gonna do about it?)

The other day we took a bus downtown. This bus to be exact.

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It turns out getting the bus in New York is exactly the same as getting the bus in any other city. The view is better than when you take the subway and the daylight feels like its doing you good, but you have to share your legroom with all the local degenerates and people you would deliberately walk on the other side of the road from. And school children. Disgusting, fighty little school children, pissing off their mum.

I was hoping that the first Presidential debate on Wednesday night would provide some inspiration for a scathing, satirical condemnation of the American right and its ridiculous candidate to be the leader of the free world. Unfortunately it was boring as shit and I fell asleep after about half an hour of their to-ing and fro-ing over what Romney’s taxation policies are/were/aren’t/weren’t. The only conclusion I can draw from these election campaigns is that American voters are still completely preoccupied with Al Qaieda, the ‘threat’ posed by China and paying as little tax as possible. This country is mental, paranoid and I would rather live and pay my tax dollars just about anywhere else in the world.

Still, its bloody nice for a holiday so let us continue.

Yesterday it was 27 degrees and we went sunbathing in the park.

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Glorious.

A lot of people have been asking how I could afford to take me and my girlfriend away on such a lavish holiday for so long. Well today I can finally reveal where the money came from.

If you were lucky enough to have met me a couple of years ago, you would have found me sporting this trademark look.

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A distinctive blend of handsome, sophisticated and yet somehow, animalistic sexiness, the green glasses were a perfect means to position myself as desirable and highly sought after at a time when the spectacle wearing market was becoming flooded with faux nerds and hipster geeks.

Let’s just say my friend Gregory was willing to pay good money for the rights to this look when he was looking to brand his new coffee shop.

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So much money that he couldn’t afford the apostrophe after his name on the signage. Gutted Gregory. Thanks for the holiday though.