|Learn to read|
It was odd seeing Paul in a place outside of Australia. As he played a ‘free’ show a bucket went through the audience for his tips. He was also selling his latest album (it’s amazing) out of his backpack, like every other struggling musician. I may have seen him plenty of times before, but only on this night did I utilise some testicular fortitude and meet him. We chatted about the time he played ‘Taillights Fade’ by Buffalo Tom, ‘The Fabric of the Cosmos’ by Brian Greene, Sonic Youth living near my American university and how much he loves The University of Wollongong. He was such a gent and his wife/bass player is smoking-hot in real life.
Leah and I hung around at the bar until close, stopping for a deli sandwich on the way. Once she left to go to bed the door opened and in popped my friend Michael. He is from my university in Australia and is doing the same exchange program as me. It was about 2 or 3AM by this stage so we grabbed another beer and caught up with some crazy eyed Canadian before getting some eventual/overdue rest.
|Michael is impressed by the city's bright lights.|
Our plans the next day were thrown about when Michael slept in...until 2PM. A quick shuffle about and we ended up with bagels for breakfast/afternoon and our arses on subway seats. We headed to Manhattan, hanging out around midtown checking out the extraordinarily busy streets before I caught up with my Auntie and Uncle and Michael went to the empire state building. The day was blistering, so before my rendezvous had to stop at a pharmacy to try out/wear some deodorant.
My Auntie and Uncle took me out for pizza, hitting up the same place I went to the day and years before. A quick cup of tea followed before I met up with Michael again and we headed back to Williamsburg. A quick change of clothes was followed with a journey through some of Williamsburg’s more interesting streets. Homeboys were sitting on stoops, Puerto Rican flags were hung over the streets and on the corner a crackhead was giggling as some guy kept telling her to go home.
We made it safely to Barcade, possibly the best idea for a bar in the world. As well as its extensive selection of draught beers, Barcade is filled with 1980s vintage video games that run for a quarter. For every beer we would spend a few dollars playing Tetris, Mrs Pac-man, Paperboy, Marble Madness or Crystal Castles. The typical hipster Williamsburg crowd was out, with Buddy Holly frames and plain lenses being a fashion staple. There was even one guy posing for photos for about half an hour.
After a few hours Michael’s need for a burrito had to be satiated so we stopped by Bedford Ave to grab his dinner. After a cheesy, beefy and beany delight we went to a bar that was full of dogs. Literally. There was a bunch of dogs hanging out the bar while the owners drank. A pair began to fight and I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to throw one dollar bills on the ground and place bets or if I should let the owners know. Like all good dogs they became friends and I even met one of them (Ace of Spades Frehley Kiss). The night had skipped forward to about 3 or 4AM by now and there were vague recollections of jukebox tunes, shuffleboard and various other confusing memories. Another deli sandwich, a tall can of Budweiser and it was time to call it a night...sort of. There was a bit of vomit between the sandwich and bed, but I was thankful the next day.
Another sleep in followed the previous day the girl at the bagel shop seemed rightly perplexed when I greeted her with good morning...at 2PM. An hour on the subway was spent sitting next to a man who was possessed. When he slept his eyes would roll back into his head, yet his eyes would not fully close. Instead they flickered, offering one of the most frightening sights of my whole life. After a long ride through Brooklyn the train stopped at Coney Island, a perfect place for a hot hungover day.
|Woody Guthrie's street.|
We headed to the beach to see what the fuss is about and I was immediately stuck by the number of people out there. Given the water’s reputation for being cold and dirty there were a lot of punters out there giving the tiny waves a chance. Swimming would have been a great elixir for a hangover, but given neither brought our gear we opted for some rides instead. After having our fortunes read to us by a machine like the one in ‘Big’ (I have to stop being judgemental/need to cultivate with a redhead (exact words)) we lined up for Wonder Wheel. It’s a ferris-wheel with sliding cabins. It may have been idyllic for a hangover, but the sunshine and relatively fresh air was pretty spectacular.
The carnies harassed us for games as we walked along the boardwalk and streets on our way to Cyclone. It’s an old roller coaster that looks pissy from the ground level. Maybe it was the fact that it was old and by the sea, but the inherent safety issues and hidden levels of speed made for a pretty great ride. Finally we stopped for a hotdog at Nathan’s, home of the hotdog eating contest, before catching a train to Dumbo.
Coney Island was brilliantly tacky. It’s rundown, bright, loud, obnoxious, dirty, yet it’s an amazing fun and great place. It’s a metaphor for America, or at least some of the parts I’ve seen.
|Lucky I ordered the medium, not the ginormous.|
Dumbo stands for down under Manhattan Bridge overpass. We found a grassy knoll under Manhattan Bridge and tried to shake off the rest of the hangover. Michael’s non-stop talking continued despite the extraordinarily loud trains travelling over Manhattan Bridge every 90 seconds. The sun began to set before we made it back to Williamsburg for Pizza.
We planned a quiet after the previous one’s expensive and painful results. We caught the subway under the river and went to a Union Square cinema in Manhattan. Our entertainment was provided by the best busker I have ever seen. This young guy was playing an acoustic guitar through a portable amp and had the lid of a tin of tuna paper clipped to the sound-hole. His pinkie would tap out the beat whilst his other three fingers would play the guitar. He shredded some Michael Jackson tunes whilst singing along pitch perfectly. Better yet, he was not homeless, simply needing the money to cover his University Books. At the cinema Michael reluctantly joined me in seeing Piranha 3d but was glad he did by the end. Everything about the film was hilarious, even the sexy bits. If there was an award for ‘most bitchingly awesome film with giant boobs’ this would have it wrapped up. We joined crazy-eyed Canadian for a sandwich and nightcap (dark chocolate stout) before our quiet night ended at around 3AM.
An early morning was planned as we had been terrible tourists over the last few days and I was going to see my Auntie and Uncle again. We met at the Staten Island ferry for a quick ride across the river and immediately returned. From what I’ve learned Staten Island is not the place to be.
|the giant green lady will crush us all|
The four of us went for a jaunt through Wall Street before saying good-bye to each other. It had been a lovely surprise to be able to catch up with my Auntie and Uncle so many times and they were generous with their well wishes.
Michael and I then headed to Union Square so I can finally replace my shoes. It had been over a year since my last new pair, but Vans in my size seem to be incognito in this city.
We later headed to the apple store so that Michael could join the masses of people who ignore one another and purchased an iPhone. We went next door to F.A.O. Schwartz and tried to play the massive piano by the line was too big. A quick rest at Central Park ended the day in Manhattan before heading back to Williamsburg.
Williamsburg has been a pretty great place to spend a few days. It's not far from Manhattan, but has enough going for it in its own right. There's people selling books on the street everyday(I got some Kerouac and Kafka for $4!!!), lots of great restaurants and bars and everyone here seems to be young. Ignore Times Square, it's a bunch of flashing lights and tourists, head to Williamsburg instead and you'll have a great time.
Tomorrow we head off to Boston before landing in Amherst for the start of school. It’s a shame this improvised road trip is coming to a bit of a hiatus, but I promise, there will be more, afterall it's only week 3 out of 50 on this magnificent rock.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are from NYC. I have to admit I was unsure for them for ages until I heard one of their songs at the uni bar in Wollongong. Eventually I found my way to this gem of a track which I had somehow missed 7 years ago. It's amazing and I feel bad for those 7 years I went without it.