Day Twelve was to be our last day in New York before we made the trek to the bus and on to Washington DC, with a brief layover in Philadelphia to see an author I have wanted to meet. It was strange thinking this at the time because we had gotten so used to New York, to the accents, to the moods and to the area as a whole. Don't get me wrong here I am not saying that we 'knew' NYC, no one, in my opinion, can ever really know this place because it changes quicker than you can get to know it. Maybe you can get to know it as an overall concept but in physical bricks and mortar it's fluid and as such then difficult to know, if at all.
This musing wasn't going to keep us from feeling a little disappointed that we were leaving however. We'd have to make the best of the place while we still could and our starting point, admittedly a little bit of late one, was the USS Intrepid. This is a WW2 spec carrier with all different types of planes on it and Concorde next to it on the quayside. It would be impossible for this not to be good but we had left the hostel late, a feature that was to continue into our time in DC, and were hoping that it wouldn't shut before we came along.
The reaon we had left late was because we hadf laundry to do and an average sized amount of it and looking back it probably took an hour to do as we semi-struggled with the industrial strenght machines. We went in, asked for instructions, bought mwashing powder in a plastic bag that said "Made in Mexico - Effective and Economic", prayed it wasn't H5N1 infected and proceeded to pour it into the machine too late. There was no drawer like in machines at home but a rubbber cover with a special pipe, opened to allow to to out in the powder as water sped through it but the water had gone through before I realised and I think the manager wanted to scold me when I explained the problem. Instead he got a container of water and rinsed it down manually. Well I did, he filled it. We then dried the clothes, 5c a minute, folded them neatly so as not to iron them as there wasn;t one around and we finally got back to the hostel. Although it may have seemed like time wasted it wasn't because where is more local than a laudrette in Harlem? The accents and things we heard were just brilliant and way too lengthy for this.
Finally we left for the USS Intriped and as we sped walked our way down the Lower West Side from the Times Square subway stop, the signs were promising as we could still see people on the deck of the ship looking around casually. These were later on to turn into the world's most evil people by the way..keep reading. Seeing the hopeful signs I had begun to get excited and when the guy sitting casually in the shade asked us if we needed help I confidently asked which way did we get on to the ship. He didn't tell me but rather informed me that the ship was closed. There was no point, arguing although it had closed early. Donal had half guessed so he wasn't too gutted but I was, I was disgusted. Concorde was there, just over a fence somewhere or something and here I was a few minutes too late to see it. Think back to when you were a child and wanted that extra sweet but upon almost getting it, it's moved or taken away. This was that feeling only that the TV remote control was also just out of reach of the playpen and Fifty Cent or another self styled gun loving "ho-dog" or whatever name his "homies" have given him on a give day, is playing on the TV. They used this form of torture in Guantanamo if you believe some people. You see the thing was, I walked down a little bit to at least picture the ship and then saw Concorde, standing gracefully, 220 feet long next to the carrier, reflecting the sun with its gloss white paint, a symbol of mankinds progress a nd a symbol also of its regress. They allow you to walk through it and all. We'll leave it be at that, where's the waterboarding guy?
Oh and the people on the ship who had went on time were evil for enjoying themselves up there when I know, for a fact I will jave you know, that at least half couldn't tell on aerofoil from a wing. And for those of you that know, that was a trick. Those evil bastards wouldn't have known though.
Going by customary tradition we had to have a steak in New York due to it being our last night and having seen a place right under Madison Sqaure Garden earlier in the week, we headed for that. It was closed. I was actually not to unhappy that it was if I am to be completely honest with you because it's name was "Ken and Pauls" or something like that and I just knew it was going to be expensive because, and pardon me here now for they are not all like this, but I guessed that two yuppies who made it big in stockbroking before running from the impending bubble, opened this place and came up with this great name by putting their first names on a sign. That's the imaginative capability of two former stockbrokers or accountants and you know that generalisations are always true. Then of course, as we continue with our generalizations, they jumped the price on the menus because if the soup is $10 then it must be the world's best and that isn't always true. Cutting this long story short, we walked a little further, basically across the road at Madison Square Garden to a little restaurant doing a finbe Porterhouse steak for about $24. Deal, although doing that every night would be a disaster both healthwise and financially, one night every now and then is acceptable and we found our last night in New York as being completely acceptable.
What was even more acceptable still was the Empire State Building and the view from the top which was to cap off our time in New York with a bang, in a literal fashion so it happens as we saw some early fireworks from up at the 86th floor with the breeze blowing through the stars to cool us down. Getting up there was a bit of a disaster though as you had security checks, screaming kids (it was that playpen and the tv remote I tell ya), long lines (yeah those ones) and sore feet. Organization and uniform design do not seem to be the fortes of the people running the whole show as the guys in the burgundy and black, initially sounding like a good combiation until you see that burgundy is the main colour and not the trimming of the uniforms, look like they applied for their jobs straight after being thrown out of a high class circus. The organisation is about the same for although the lines were orderly, they were slow and cumbersome as you curved your way around velvet-roped empty space. Frustrating was not the word but at the end of the day it was worth it as the view is something else up there.
You ascend in the lift and your ears pop numerous times adjusting to the rapidly changing air pressure, you watch the floors tick by in anticipation (one middle aged Japanese guy in the lift looked very, er, anticipated, in a way only Japanese people can manage to). Then you emerge and take another shorter lift from 80 to 86. And then you see the crowd of people already on the deck. There was enough room though and I managed to loose Donal and get great night shots of the Manhattan skyline which shows that 1) the crowd was big and 2) the crowd was big, but not big enough to prevent me using the wall as a tripod for timed long exposure shots. Forget the last part, just me showing off. It was a clear night and the eye could see for miles even before we got the extra lift to the 102 floor, indoors and with very few others in there, this oasis of silence allows you to reflect on the view, to really pay attention and hear yourself say "wow". Lights as far as the eye could see, silhouttes you recognise fro mthe silver screen, streets you've crossed before but not look like slithers with ants crossing them. Being 1200 feet up in a building built in the 1930s, depsite the frustration while queueing, really is something to try. And it really is something to cap a week in New York with.