Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Day Eleven - New York

Traveling is not always just about leaving your home, it is also a lot about looking forward to coming back to that same home. On a trip five weeks long though and only eleven days into, I was already missing home but knew that there was no choice but to carry on, keeping busy by looking at the sights and generally keeping my mind occupied. In New York this is pretty easy to do as you can imagine. I can't exactly think of the banks of my own lovely lee (and the song of the same name) when a black guy is shoving a CD in my hand and trying to get me to buy it. He's an independent rapper, he has to sell his stuff someway and really, American know how to do this. I can't say that's ever happened on Pana really, the only people who come close are the Concern charity workers who ask you to give out your bank details under an umbrella on Oliver Plunkett Street after they have practically ambushed you. You see them, you try crossing the street but you've just missed out on one on the side you crossed to and you can see him turn as a person opposite you rejects him and bang, you're caught. Charity is fine, very fine actually but I personally don't like this type of charity collecting. Sure they don't force you to give but that's like saying the people who circled you in school and shouted "fight fight fight" at you and one other inevitably bigger guy, aren't making you fight. As for the CD, I think I actually bought one in the end but I bargained with him and got it for two dollars.

On the other hand you can certainly think of home when sitting in a diner somewhere, it being alien to you as you look about with your Biochemistry degree (not that I have one myself mind) wondering whether the NYC smoking ban was a good idea or not as you sip on an ice cold glass of Cola. You can't get Rasa over here, certainly not if you call it Rasa. No TK Red Lemonade either. Probably because it turns red with the addition of DTT but still it tastes good back home.

It's important to have links to home when travelling and that includes people you know from home and normally locate with home in you mind. A friend of mine, Christine, had come to New York on a J1 for the summer and we spent this day with her, or rather she did with us as she had come in from way outside the city to spend a day in Manhattan. The day didn't begin too early, we met up at Grand Central at midday, Donal following on after having a shower. It's only really a valid excuse but the air conditioner in ther hostel wasn't too effective at least for our room due to there being about 12 people in the room. That's a lot of breathing and a lot of warm air which, so my theory goes, means you get sleepy and so I have just made out a valid excuse for sleeping in late. It obviously wasn't that we were doing so much walking at all.
Not having had a brownie since Boston and trying to find a decent cafe in Times Square to have a chat meant that we went into one of New York's Europa Cafe's and discussed home, being so far from it, America, other people and all the rest of it, things you would no doubt find quite boring. However these things were important to talk about as they reminded us both of home and that was the important bit. If you are at your home reading this then you won't find that interesting but you get my drift.

Upon Donal catching up with us we queued up for Broadway tickets at the TKTS Booth unde those red stairs. This was not like a regular queue though for Americans call them 'lines'. People underestimate the cultural gap between Ireland and America at times for we all know what 'lines' mean when overheard in a dodgy nightclub. Yes indeed the guy with the hoody simply wants to get into a line to get his coat from the cloakroom, that's all. Oh and this line was wet, again what I would imagine a line to be like in a nightclub seeing as that line would probably be along the top of a wash basin or hand dryer. The TKTS Booth was due to open at 3pm but as we descended from the red steps to have a look about we noticed that there were actually already quite a few people in front of us, perhaps 50 or so people. We took our place though, suprised at the amount of people alreayd there for tickets and waited. Waiting is never fun, that's why there is always magazines in waiting rooms and such like but at least there were three of us together and that meant that we could talk and pass the time because, to be frank, the adverts around Time Sqaure were getting pretty boring. We really should have guessed that there would be rain on the way after seeing the clouds and indeed there was - heavy rain. I think Donal felt it first and then it just began to pelt down like bullets, soaking any bit of fabric it touched. I had brought a poncho with me, perhaps guessing that there would indeed by some rain and it helped a little as we learned the art of "tent-putting-upping" which I beleive is actually Japanese in origin. Not really but then it should be Irish in origin as the British kepy burning down the permanaent structures and it does rain a lot on the Emerald Isle...I must look into that one further for a bit of historical hijacking.
I ripped the poncho out and we put it above our heads trying to share the plastic sheet amongst us so that we didn't get too wet but water will always find a way and whenever we moved the water slid through creives in the poncho and down our backs. It's always the back isn't it? Murphys Law is alive and well, the first world wide set of laws ever, before the League of Nations and before the UN.

Eventually we reached the top of th queue and after much discussion on what to go and see we ended up with three tickets for Shrek the Musical. Chicago was $98 and that was with a discount (the TKTS Booth sell tickets at a 20% to 50% discounts as the shows are all same say shows). Shrek was a shade under $50 so that sounded good immediately after the Chicago price was conveyed to us at the desk. Funnily enough no prices are listed on the elctronic boards that disdplay the show times and the percentage discount but I remember the Chicago one saying it was a 50% discount so if you want to see an expensive show then this is the one for you. Shrek was a reliable bet for us though, should be funny and we'd know bits from the film so we wouldn't get lost. We didn't go straight from the tickets to the show obviously, we were soaked and needed changing so after paying a visit to H&M where clothes may have been found we ended up splitting up. Christine and I went to look for a hoody for her as her jacket and top had completely soaked through and although was now drying in the heat, must still have uncomfortable. We went searched through a lot of shops and ended up going through Fifth Avenue in the search but unless she wanted to take out a mortgage there was no way she was getting even a pair of socks there because we had choosen the centre of New Yorks fashion district to look around for a cheap hoody and in the end we hopped on the subway to get to Harlem and to the hostel.

Donal was pretty much set to leave to get the show, I showered and changed while Christine rested and we went off then, hungrily it must be said, to the Broadway show. We made it on time, just about. Before I go any further let me take this opportunity to say that being late is not an actual problem for what it does is it prevents you from waiting and so its a preventative measure. After all I did already discuss the virtues of a waiting room didn't I?
On the way in I looked at my watch and saw that we had five minutes to take our seats and having not eaten anything since that brownie around 12:30 I mwas in the mood for a dinner but they only really had M&M's and water and other stuff like that inside the theatre and they chraged me $8 dollars for a pack of them and a bottle of water. I thought, afterwards, because at the time I was just desperate, that the guy who set those prices should have gone down with Bernie Madoff. The show though was great, very funny, well made, the music was very good and all in all I thought it was well worth the $48 I paid for my ticket because when will I next be at a Broadway musical? Who knows? Phone me if you do know, that'd be the berries.

Food was the next thing on the agenda, we had virtually starved our way through the day, except for the overpiced M&Ms, the packet of which I have had framed, and were all quite hungry for a proper dinner. TGI Friday's was somewhere I knew little about but knew enough that while in New York it was probably appropriate to eat there and it must be said that the three of us did quite well with the food although the post-10pm service charge was something none of us liked. Tipping is a strange practice really over here, it actually helps the worker to make up a decent wage because in most places they don't get enough of a basic wage in order to liove their lives. In essence then you are expected to buy their food for them and put nappies on their kids. That's the truth of it when really you shoud be rewarding them for good service so they can treat themselves and the employer paying for the daily nescessities through a decent wage because with the current system there is only one person gaining and that is the emplyer. The worker is being ripped off because tips are not a guaranteed income but yet that workers bills are always guranteed to come in the letterbox when meant to. Customers are ripped off in that they know that they must always pay more than the menu actually says. It's a ridiculous system, not that I mind tipping for good service, but not the point where the server must depend on what you and others give them over the period of an evening. It's unfair on them and in this instance in TGI's, was even unfairer on us. Still, we had dinner in Times Sqaure at 11pm and it feels good to say that.

Not long after this we ambled to Grand Central and Christine found her train home while we went on the subway, already talking about what to do the next day. It's a paradox, you have to plan the next day out and yet by doing so you're just making the time go all that quicker but what were we meant to do? Use a poor air conditioner in a room of 13 sleeping bodies as an excuse?!

1 comment:

  1. Lateness is really just politeness at the end of the day. I'm sure we can prove that if we have enough tea this year!
    What's the deal with tipping where ye are, 15%? I guess if they're really nice you can tip more..but yeah if the service is poor still having to tip can be annoying.
    On the prices not being what they are written down - Europeans handed us the exact change for things we sold them so many times, only to look surprised at the extra that had been added on for tax. From our perspective it seems unnecessarily complicated to have two different prices, one quoted and the other the reality!