New York - article from July 2006 (copy-pasted from old blog)

New York Travel Blog

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16/06/2006 - ...start spreading the news, I´m leaving today...

Yesterday I had thought, it would be a good idea, to secure my sleep with some sleeping pills, but instead of making me sleep, they made me run to the toilet several times. I only slept 3 hours.
At 7.18 I took the bus to Kings Norton and after half an hour of happy chatting with the bus-driver, I took the train to Birmingham. The way from the train station to the National Express coach station is too long to take it by foot with lots of luggage, so I called a taxi.
The bus-driver was very nice and the bus ultra-modern. I had managed to book a "fun fair" and only paid 9£ for the ride to London.

After 3 hours I arrived at Victoria coach station and met my friend Lars for lunch. He had just finished one week of teaching at the Music Academy and it was wonderful to see him again!



I took the Piccadilly line to Heathrow Airport. I checked-in and had a nice chat with a woman in the smoking zone who was on her way to Beijing. I went to the gate and it looked like British Airways had lost the plane. A pilot ran back and forth between telephones and told the waiting passengers that he was trying to find out, where our plane was.
With one hour delay and an annoying lack of information we finally left the island to the USA. The unfriendly stewardess didn't help the general bad mood and so didn't the Indian couple next to me who honestly tried to steel my online pre-booked window seat. At least the good food on board made me feel slightly better and the small TVs attached to the seat in front of me offered decent entertainment.
We got our customs papers for the USA and filling those in isn't possible without at least some smiling, if not giggling. "No, I hadn´t been a member of a Nazi party between 1939 and 1945 and no, I'm not intending to kidnap an American child."

I spent the time reading and watching TV and after 7 hours of flight, New York came into view. Unfortunately only on the little virtual map on my TV...a look out of the window did reveal houses but no breathtaking view of the well-known skyline of New York City.
After landing we had to wait 30 minutes on the plane, because due to our delay there wasn't any gate free. I got really pissed off. Luckily I could now communicate with Brian via mobile to tell him what was going on. He and Debbie were waiting to pick me up and we had planned to go to a concert in CBGB´s tonight, but it got later and later.
Finally we got released but still had to go through customs. I was one of the first in the row but had to wait 20 minutes anyway. This wouldn't have been too bad, if not knowing that there were my friends waiting for me outside and if there wouldn't have been this man behind me who started humming the German national anthem after seeing my passport. And even worse: he didn't stop! Shortly before punching his nose it was my turn to tell the customs man EVERYTHING, while giving electronic finger prints. He wanted to know, where I will be staying, where I met Brian, how old he is, where he works and the exact address, where he lived. Then I promised not to overstay in this wonderful country into a camera and went to get my backpack.
With a guilty conscience I stepped out the arrivals hall and greeted Brian and Debbie - the concert had stared already and we didn't really have a chance to see it. So Debbie drove us to Brooklyn to Brian's place. Later Dukes and his girl-friend Jen came back from the concert and we got familiar with each other for this being the first time I met all these wonderful people in person.
At 3.30 I finally got some sleep.


17/06/2006 - first I take Manhattan...

Unfortunately I woke up again after 4 hours, had a shower and watched TV with Dukes (something between 400 and 2000 channels or so). Debbie and Jen had gone home yesterday but Debbie came over and we all had breakfast together. I had pancakes.



   

I was glad that my idea to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan was accepted and so we made our way through the upcoming heat.



 



We arrived in Manhattan and walked through the valleys between the skyscrapers of the Financial District. We headed for an Irish Pub. On our way we saw a film team shooting for Spiderman 3.


 
My head was constantly staring upwards and my mouth was wide open while admiring the buildings.

 

We had my beloved Strongbow Cider in the pub and walked on through the Financial District passing Wall Street and the Trinity Church (where the treasure of the Templars is hidden knowingly...lol).





Although I originally didn´t want to see Ground Zero, we went there anyway because it was on the way. I don´t comment this any further.

 

We decided to go to the cinema and we made the worst choice possible: Jack Black´s new movie "Nacho Libre"...what a piece of shit of a movie!
I had bought a drink before, which size was called "small" and I bet there was at least a litre in there. The Americans really DO seem to like it bigger...
...I don´t start talking about the cars...or food portions...




After the movie we ate at Mary Anne's, a Mexican restaurant somewhere on Broadway. I had quesidilla.
We took the subway back to Brooklyn and watched a few Southpark episodes. I laid down in bed for a rest and really fell asleep for an hour or so. Since my arrival I was permanently tired. At 1.30 we went to sleep then.


18/06/2006 - Brooklyn and CBGB´s

It was father´s day today in the UK and USA. Just like to mention it, cos German father´s day is in May.
Dukes stayed at Debbies place this night and Brian and I went in the midday heat to his favourite bagel place. We sat in front of a church, enjoyed cream cheese bagels and watched the people on a street festival. It was another hot day and that´s how the rest of my holiday was going to be...
We bought a few things in a supermarket (I love to explore supermarkets in the different countries on this planet...says a lot about society...) and went back to his flat.
Debbie and Dukes came over and we played poker. Brian lost everything quite quickly and was in a huffed.




When I was young (haha...with 15...), I was a huge USA fan and knew all the 50 states by heart - in alphabetical order. We wanted to test this today. I got 45(alphabetically), Dukes 48 not in order and Brian only 38 not in order and he was in a huffed again.
We watched some more Southpark and then surprised Dukes with a visit to the diner "Duke´s".

 

I had a veggy burger, which was much too big...therefore the salad unit was as small as my nose or so. And I learned that the mayo I got is not used for the fries by Americans...but for the burger.

 

Afterwards we went to the CBGB´s to see Leeway. The venue is legendary and it is a shame that it will be closed soon.
And how weird it was, to sit at the bar in a concert venue and not being allowed to smoke. One time Dukes and I went outside to have a cigarette but were sent in again, because the NYPD was trying to solve a small turmoil and it got unpleasant.
After the gig I said goodbye to Dukes an Jen, who picked him up. I wouldn´t see both of them for an unknown time.


19/06/2006 - ...Monday in Brooklyn

And so the weekend was gone and Brian had to go to work. He didn´t like the fact, that I stayed in bed and slept another 2 or 3 hours. But I was still jetlagged, so...
When I woke up, I was craving for a tuna pizza. Brian told me in the chat, that such a thing isn´t existing over here (as it isn´t in England).
I went outside and bought a salami pizza (which are most irritatingly called "pepperoni pizza" in the US and UK). When I went back, I noticed, that the key didn´t fit in the lock. I wrote Brian a message that something was wrong and pressed all the bells of the neighbours, but no-one seemed to be there. So I sat down on the steps of one of the attached houses (just as you would picture it in Brooklyn) and ate my pizza.



The directions to Brians work place arrived on my mobile and I headed for Manhattan - Wall Street.
I met Brian and we made a copy of his key. He had forgotten, that the lock was changed a while ago.
Back in the appartment I had a shower and edited the first pictures for the blog.
When Brian came back from work at 6.30 he showed me his Life Of Agony collection. Truly impressive! I think, he would honestly deserve the award for "world´s biggest LOA fan".
Later we met a friend couple of Brian for dinner and afterwards we drank champagne and watched "Spaceballs" - what a combination.


20/06/2006 - Sightseeing vol. 1

Alright, today I finally wanted to explore New York and so I got up a bit after Brian and made plans for the day. At 10.30 I headed for the boiling Manhattan. I was so excited!
I took the wrong tube, what was about to happen a few more times during my stay. The NYC subway system is not just unbelievably dirty, hot and in urgent need of refurbishing, it also is terribly complex and confusing.
At some point I arrived somewhere. It was Battery Park, from where the ferries to Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty went. I saw the statue in the distance. OK, so that´s it. The boats were so crowded with tourists, that they strongly reminded me of the over-filled boats of immigrants coming over some time ago - what an irony.
I watched this game for a bit and decided not to take part in it. I didn´t even look after the price, but it most likely was too expensive anyway.
Later I learned, that nowadays you can´t climb the statue anymore and the view out of it is anyway on the ocean. So, I stayed where I was.



I drove on with the Metro and was spat out at Time Square. Although the look of it was really interesting, I didn´t have this feeling of sensation that I expected to have. You probably had seen this place so often, that you expect there to be more than there actually is.

     

I wandered a bit through the lightened streets and ate a hotdog at one of those famous stands. I had no idea, that they offer Sauerkraut to it. I skipped that.
I walked up Broadway towards Central Park.

 

When I arrived at the park, I rested on a bench. It was much too hot for such adventures, but I still had a lot on my list.





In Central Park is a place called "Strawberry Fields, which was created as a memorial for John Lennon. I didn´t fully get the reason for the name of the place, except the song title of course, for there weren´t any strawberries. ;-) The assassination took place at the Dakota Building, which is at the same height at 72nd street.







I decided to let it be (;-)) for today and on my way to the subway station I jumped into a Chinese place for a 10-minutes massage, which I really needed after the long flight 4 days ago.
I drove back to Brooklyn and got dressed up for the evening, because we were invited to an opening party (of the dental office where Debbie is working).
I met Brian at 6.00at his work place and we went to the party. They had nice little bits and pieces to eat but we decided to go and have something proper at 8.00.
Around the corner was a place called "Jekyll & Hyde" and I would describe it as an event restaurant or so. Scary people led you inside the building, bar chairs sank in the ground, a talking Sphinx, a corpse band and alike...



I liked it and the food was nice, too.
This evening I noticed how little we actually talked about Life Of Agony. We all only knew each other because we loved the same band.
Unfortunately something had been wrong with the fish I ate and so I spend a large amount of the night with stomach cramps and nausea - again.


21/06/06 - shopping and hospital

Today I slept till 12. Wow! I was quite surprised. That must have still been the jet-lag. I got ready and worked a bit on my essay, which I had to send off in two days. I made some progress and at 4.00 I left to Manhattan to meet Debbie after work. We wanted to do a typical girl´s thing and go together to Macy´s, apparently the biggest department store on earth.



Well, it was big, but it looks like we´d even missed out a part of it.
Next to clothes and shoes, we strolled along articles for bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchens and much much more.
Full of expectation, Debbie and I followed a sign which said "Ladie´s Lounge", imagining elegant restrooms. But we found this:



Well, that was sort of disillusioning.
I was looking for a little gift for Brian as a "thankyou" for bearing me for 12 days. And we found something wonderful: a plush toy bagel. Perfect!



Debbie and I looked for a Thai restaurant at Time Square but weren´t successful. We found another restaurant, which looked inviting and had delicious steaks.
As it seems to be rule on my holidays, I can´t get through without any health problems. This evening my fear of having a bladder infection was painfully confirmed. I told Debbie and we went to a chemist to buy some medication for relief. I decided to wait until tomorrow to see a doctor but Debbie offered to bring me to a hospital. We drove to Brian to get my passport and he jumped with us in the car although I protested. It was 11pm.

In the hospital we waited one hour, till I was registered and seen by a nurse. Now we had to wait for a doctor to see me. When I asked the woman after lots of paperwork, how long it might take, she said: "It´s busy today, but I hope, you won´t stay forever!". I was a bit irritated and answered: "Umm... I... I DO hope so!"
3 hours passed in which I constantly had to go to the toilet, tried to persuade Debbie and Brian to go home, because both had to work in a few hours. But they stayed and argued about which of both demolished me and Brian made us a good entertainer while waiting.
At 3am I went to a nurse and asked when it was my turn. She saw through her papers, laughed shortly and said: "We are not even close to you. That will still take about 4-5 hours!". I went back, desperate, and told my tired friends about it.
We left the hospital to go to sleep. I would try it again the next day.

22/06/06 - hospital and hospitality

I caught up with sleep and went to the hospital again at 11am. After 2 hours everything was done and I had my damn prescription. In the afternoon I had to walk through the heat to the chemist again to get my medication and then I got ready for the evening.
Brian and I met his dad, who once lived in Germany and wanted to try his language skills. We went to a German restaurant called "Blaue Gans" (blue goose).  I don´t confirm 100%, that it was authentic, but it was quite good! We talked a lot...but not really much in German...
Later I watched one of my favourite movies with Brian: Four Rooms.


23/06/2006 - Sightseeing vol.2

At 11am I drove to Manhattan for my second sightseeing trip. First I went to see the Crysler Building. I wanted to see the Gargoyles up on the skyscraper, but I learned that it is not possible to get up there as a tourist...and you can´t even see anything from the street, because the upper floors are all taken backwards a bit...
I went on a few yards to Grand Central Station. Wow! This really is a train station, but appears as an opera building! I stood for a while and was stunned.



I drove on to see the Flatiron Building. This is really funny.



I seemed to have a great ability of taking the wrong trains. I can´t even figure out anymore, what exactly was going wrong but I needed one hour to arrive somewhere again. I was in a bad mood and thought to go to see a movie (The Da Vinci Code). I somehow ended up at Wall Street, hoping Brian had time for lunch, but he had eaten already. I visited Trinity Church and then called my mum for about an hour. It took ages to finally get her on the phone to tell her I´m alright. The time difference of 6 hours truly makes it difficult...
I decided, not to go to the cinema and not to walk through Chinatown today. It was simply too hot.
But I walked slowly up 5th Avenue heading for the Museum of Modern Arts, which is for free on Fridays. I wanted to see my favourite painting.
On my way I had a rest in an Irish pub for a cider.
When I walked on, passing all those expensive shops, which air-conditionings cooled down the pavement through open doors, I was excited to see the contrast of old churches and modern skyscrapers.





I arrived at the famous Trump Tower which has little trees growing on it.



I entered the building of the MoMa - the Museum of Modern Arts. Since 10 years or so a reproduction of Vincent van Gogh´s Starry Night accompanied me in all the places where I had been living, till I gave it away, when I left Germany. I love that painting and I knew, that it was in New York. I always thought, I will never have the chance to actually stand in front of it and see the original. Even when the MoMa was in Berlin for a while, I missed to go and see it.
Now I was here, grabbed one of the free tickets and asked my way through it. I just wanted to see this one painting. I got more and more nervous, as if I was about to meet one of my favourite stars or so. And when I finally arrived in the right gallery, I already saw a bunch of people standing in front of it. There it was! Totally unexpected, tears started gathering in my eyes, when I got closer. I was deeply moved. I´d never expected, that I would be standing in front of it one day. And it made me really happy, that you were allowed to take pictures.



I took in every brush stroke and noticed that Vincent must have painted this work in a truly weird state (schizophrenia, LSD, Absinthe?). Not just the painting itself, which really is kind of scary, when you know, that he often actually did see the world around him like that, but the paint strokes of his incredible ductus aren´t really carefully made. You can see the canvas between the paint, which you don´t notice that clearly in the reproductions. It was amazing! I must have given a funny picture, standing there with wet shimmering eyes and a broad smile on my face. How wonderful!
I went back to Brooklyn, cooked for Brian and me and we watched movies. I was still dreaming of the Starry Night!


24/06/2006 - loathing and laughing

Saturday. We slept long and decided to spend the day as much as possible with doing nothing. There was a metal festival in Brooklyn today where it was said, Joey from Life Of Agony will have a guest appearance. But we didn´t now, when in the 10 hour or so program exactly and so stayed where we were and watched football.
In the evening we went to a comedy club. Debbie had free tickets. That was really interesting to see something like that for real. The doubts about the fact, that it were only female comedians vanished quickly and my face was aching from all that laughing.







After the show Brian was interviewed by a TV team from Timelife about what we had just seen.





We went to a pub at Time Square and relaxed with some beers. Afterwards we had an exciting way back home to Brooklyn in a yellow cab.



25/06/2006 - off to Atlantic City

Debbie did fall asleep yesterday and I had to say good bye this morning. I was strong, cos I knew, that this wasn´t my last visit to New York. But it was hard to say good bye anyway.
Brian and I both love casinos. Las Vegas had been a too expensive option and so we decided to go to Atlantic City in New Jersey. Brian had taken a few days off.
We took the subway to Manhattan, had a quick Cheeseburger at McDonald´s and took a Greyhound bus.



The journey took only 2 hours and I saw some landscape of the "Garden State" New Jersey. The passengers of the busses are unloaded directly in front of the casinos, and equipped with time-limited 25$-cards for slot machines. So you have to start gambling immediately. We had ours for Sands.



I love these machines, but it really is frightening to see all those zombies sitting at them. It doesn´t matter how much they are winning, they don´t show any reaction whatsoever and just go on playing. We sat down at several slots and tried our luck. On the display of each machine you are welcomed with "Hello friend". That is sick!
We played for a while and I was honestly disappointed to learn, that most of the machines were banned, where pling-pling-pling, the coins would fall out at the bottom. Now you get vouchers and those you can exchange in money or push them in machines again. I had around $8, Brian a bit more, we got some cash and tried to find a hotel. All the casino hotels were booked out, so we chose a motel named Golden East near the boardwalk.

 

Atlantic City, as you might expect, is situated directly at the Atlantic ocean. I pointed over and said: "I´m living somewhere over theeere!". The city is surrounded by water, which gives quite  a contrast to the desert casino city Las Vegas.
Brian told me a few things about this place. Atlantic City once was casino city number one till Vegas was built. Then everything went down here very quickly and you can still see it, although the city did recover a bit. Everything looked run down and sad except the casinos of course.
An interesting fact is, that the streets in the American version of Monopoly are named after the streets of Atlantic City.
After a little walk over the boardwalk, where you had all imaginable possibilities to spend your money (souvenir and $1 shops, restaurants, massage places for the gambler´s backs an even fortune teller, who most likely told you which casino was the best for you today and who got nice sums of bribes), we went to the first hell. I always wanted to see Caesar´s Palace and they had one as well.



Everything was Rome-styled, what I found quite amusing. Brian played his first round of Black Jack. I watched and left my money in my pocket for now. I´d never before sat at a real casino table. I watched the gestures of the players, there were different signs for everything. I would have been lost, if I´d tried this alone.
We wandered through many places, but stayed most of the time in the Tropicana. Inside everything looked like a Mediterranean holiday and even the sky was designed so realistically that you could completely lose your sense of day and night.
We ate at an Irish Pub and went on playing, Brian with Black Jack and I with slots till 2.30, till we went back to the motel.


26/06/2006 - ...get back to New York City

We got up at 10am and checked out. We had another stroll over the boardwalk and watched murderous seagulls attacking tourists who were holding anything eatable in there hands.
We chose the other direction today and wasted our money the same way as we did yesterday, Brian with Black Jack and me with slots. I had put a limit of $50 for myself and had only gambled away $30...Brian a bit more.
At 1.45 we took a bus back to New York. This time we needed 3 hours.
When we arrived, we had another valuable nutritional meal at McDonald´s and drove out to Brooklyn to relax the rest of the day. I cooked and we watched TV.

27/06/2006 - breathtaking views and baseball

At lunchtime we got up and had delicious cream cheese bagels.
We drove to the Empire State Building. It took us 3 hours through queues for security check, ticket purchase and the elevator till we got up there, but I definitely HAD to. I didn´t even dare to try and calculate how many people leave a minimum of $20 per capita here every day.
When you arrive at the 86th floor, you can´t to anything else then gape in silence. What an unbelievable sight that is!







And from here I could actually see the gargoyles on the Crysler Building.




It is difficult to imagine, that the Twin Towers had even been higher than this.
We went further up to the 102nd floor - about 300m height.





Mwahahaha...and after this lofty adventure we got back to the ground...the baseball ground, to see the Yankees! But not without taking one of those tourist pics with us which was taken on our way up in front of a green screen.



With beer, hot dogs an Pretzels we took our seats in the last row to see the game. But unfortunately not without hearing the American national anthem before start. Only for Brian I stood up, but I didn´t sing along or held my hand on my heart and I didn´t applaud afterwards! And I promise, that you will never ever be seeing me like that as long as I live...
And at the 7th inning there was another round of patriotism and a song for the soldiers was played.








I love Baseball, but needed a bit to understand the rules again. Just last year, I had learned the rules for Cricket and both games are very similar although they don´t have same roots.
The Yankees lost against Atlanta and with sunken hearts we left the stadium.
Nevertheless, I saw it as my duty to buy a Yankees cap.



We drove to the apartment and spend the rest of the day with watching TV.

28/06/2006 - my last day in NYC

My last day. We got up early and I packed my stuff. We ate yummy bagels and watched some TV. Originally we wanted to go and see China Town and Little Italy today, but I decided, that I´d rather stay in Brooklyn and have a walk through the Brooklyn Heights (which was described in my guide).
So, we started our little tour and it was unbelievably hot. The Heights were really nice to walk and my guide described details, we passed.
The best place was in the end with a stunning view over to Manhattan.





  



A TV team from channel 2 stood in front of the skyline and filmed. Brian seems to be a magnet for such things and there he was again giving an interview (about a possible Hurricane in New York and if he was prepared).



We finished our walk and completely wet from sweating we arrived again in Brian´s air-conditioned apartment.
After a good rest at 5.30 we headed for the JFK airport. I had to say good bye to this wonderful neighbourhood Park Slope.



I definitely fell in love with Brooklyn, but on the journey with the cab we passed some areas, which I wouldn´t really call nice neighbourhoods.
Already in the cab I fought with my tears. It´s unbelievable what a great time I had had here and what truly wonderful people I was allowed to meet.
I will miss all of it!
This city stole a piece of my heart, that´s for sure. And I will have to come back one day to claim it back... or to voluntarily give away the rest of it...

The airport is gigantic, 9 terminals. Again, I had checked in over the internet, so the only thing to do was to walk to the Fast Bag Drop, where everything was sorted after 5 minutes.
And now I had to say good bye to Brian. I stayed strong and didn´t walk crying through the security check.
I waved and then Brian disappeared out of my sight.
I wanted to spend my last dollars for chocolates and drinks in the shop, when I noticed, that I had forgotten my change and even more important, my hairpins, at the security check. I went back but my things were gone. The young man whom I had given the things, didn´t look in my eyes and I was sure, that he had nicked it. It only were $3 or so and for me it was more important to get my hairpins for getting my hair under control after the flight. Two securities picked 3$ out of a box for me and sent me away, without the pins.
I bought water and a chocolate bar and went to the Duty Free shop for cigarettes.

The flight was again one hour delayed. I was lucky to have gotten a window seat. At the aisle sat another woman and I was happy about the empty seat between us, although I imagined already how a fat, old, smelly man was on his way to fill this space.
At some point I noticed, that the woman was standing up and a bit frightened I raised my head. But there was an extremely good looking young man, who looked at me one moment too long to deny that he was checking me out.
During the flight we had some small talks, but I got more certain every time that he must have been a French man and so I didn´t put much effort in conversation anymore.
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photo by: herman_munster