The city that never sleeps… (pt 1)

Written by neil on 19 August, 2008 in New York and Touring with no comments.

From the city that never sleeps to the town that doctors say may never regain full consciousness. It’s quite a come-down, I can tell you. There are really two parts to this story, so I’ll do a bit of regaling now and fill in the rest when I have some pictures.

On Sunday the 10th of August, Doug and I were getting ready to fly to New York. All was not well; at the time we still had no place to stay, no guarantee of a backline and had only the flimsiest idea of what was going on. Unlinke the European tour, nobody had been able to get out there and check out the scene; we were flying blind.

Undaunted, Jops and I packed our trunks and, pausing only to go and do a little acoustic cameo at the Nelson, set off for Heathrow airport. I’d opted for the cheap parking option, meaning a detour via ‘Purple Parking’, an operation that asks you to leave your keys in the car. This does provide a few lingering suspicions that even as you pull away in the minibus, your mileometer is being disconnected, minicab plates being fitted and the interior being carefull photographed so that all that will be there when you arrive is some suspicious tyre wear and a lingering smell of ‘feu orange’…

The customary horrors of airport security and airline food breached, in what felt like no more than 96 hours or so we were breathing the fresh clean carbon monoxide of New York. With no idea of what was going on, we checked the e-mail inbox and were overjoyed to find the offer of a couch from Jrff Ruhle, of New Jersey. To get from JFK to Morristown, New Jersey means travelling on no less than three different rail systems, each with different pricing, mapping and ticketing systems, to travel a physical distance of around 40 miles.

Jeff was putting us up at his parents’ place, a lovely, timber-framed house out in the woods. We were phenomenally lucky to have a twin room to ourselves. We made ourselves at home and went back into the city with Justin and Kurt, two college couch-surfers from Tennessee.

New York is an amazing place to eat. All human life is there, explaining the crowds, the smell and, fortunately, the cuisine. We dined well in Greenwich Village and marvelled at how little it cost. This was a theme for the week – giant portions of fine food at rock-bottom prices; Caleb was in his element.

Lady Liberty - trenchant satire or an idle moment with a marker?

For Doug and I, there followed another two days of walking the streets of the city. There’s a lot to see and a lot to do. New York is so big, so full and so busy that it seems to distort time, somehow. perhaps, like mass distorting Einsteinian space-time, if you cram so many busy people into one space, time gets shortened, contracting like a watch approaching the speed of light; the sheer speed of life in New York seems to compress the seconds. The days flew by.

We were surprised by a lot of things in New York – it feels like a safe city (or Doug and I are just oblivious to peril) – even at three in the morning in some fairly seedy districts, we never felt intimidated or endangered. Even when a huge guy came over and accosted us, all he wanted to do was give us his hip-hop CD. Finding out that we were musicians from the UK he was thrilled to bits, shook our hands and offered to promote us!

In spite of what I’d heard, it’s a friendly city. Almost everyone that we met was open, talkative and interested to meet us.

It’s an exhausting city. Between the heat and humidity (which we were informed was mild for the time of year), the crowds and the size, getting around really weras you out. I slept like a log in New Jersey at night, lulled by the army of cicadas making an industrial noise outside.

As much fun as it was to wander the city, we both new that the trip wouldn’t really begin in earnest until Caleb and Paul arrived.

part two to follow.

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