The rest of my trip

It occurred to me this morning that I have been very remiss about finishing up the blog entry about my US trip.

First, there are a couple of pictures of the Washington DC leg that I didn’t upload. First is a picture of my friend Rebecca, who drove me around Virginia and is a much better photographer than I will ever be! Thanks so much for your driving skills, your time, and your company, .

I’d never been to a vineyard before (despite having lived in Northern California for a year) so this picture of the vines at Chrysalis, the Virginia vineyard we visited is interesting to me:

When I got to New York, the fact that on the day I visited downtown Times Square was pedestrianised was, frankly, amazing. Except for the one year many years ago that I went to Times Square to watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve, I’d never seen the whole of the square turned over to pedestrians and sunbathers.

The flat where I stayed has great views in several directions. The Hell Gate Bridge is the span over the East River that carries Amtrak trains from New York to Boston. I travelled over it many times when I lived in New York City. Apparently it was the inspiration for the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia. You decide!

The angle isn’t the best for that comparison, I’m afraid. The Wikipedia article linked above has better pictures. But, from the flat, the view was great.

The other windows look out over First Avenue. Here’s a picture looking south:

One evening as I was hobbling back to the flat from one engagement or another I saw this little shrine hanging on a lamppost:

The first restaurant named “Elephant and Castle” I encountered was in New York City, when I still lived there. I had no idea that one day I would actually live at the Elephant and Castle, but there you are. The restaurant is still there, on Greenwich Ave. in Greenwich Village.

The menu is kind of brunchy, and it looks like the burgers are good.

We pick up our story on Sunday, June 7th, when I checked out of my room in Carman Hall and rushed back to the flat to drop my bags. I then set off for Katz’s Delicatessen (watch out for the presentation). I was there going to meet some fellow Shepheads for a pastrami on rye and some good conversation.

What I didn’t plan for was the traffic on Second Avenue. The bus from 106th and 2nd crawled. Yummy mummies with large strollers and many children boarded and exited regularly. We finally got down to E. Houston Street (remember, you non-New Yorkers, it’s pronounced “HOUSE-ton”, not “HEW-ston”) and I strolled in, about 1/2 hour late.

When you walk in, you get a little ticket which you must guard with your life, as if you lose it you have to pay some exhorbitant abount like $50 for your sandwich and soda. The waiters and servers mark the ticket with your check (=UK “bill”).

I got into the pastrami line, and heard, “Chris!” from the queue. It was Dick, who had waited as long as he could hold out and then gotten into the queue just before I did. I tipped the server $2 and got a huge sandwich and 4 half-sour pickles. It was fantastic. I will not have another sandwich like that again, or at least until I next visit New York.

We discussed almost everything except Jean Shepherd. Some obliging tourists sitting next to us took our picture (they were, amazingly, Asians from London!):

I enjoyed it immensely except for the trip downtown. We took the subway back uptown, and I rested until dinner, when I met the inimitable David Housel for Italian food at Patsy’s yet again. It was really good to connect again, and the pizza, onion/pepper/extra garlic, was good too. Luckily I wasn’t going to be kissing anyone that evening.

Monday noon I made my way down to Grand Central Station to meet my friend Jerry, my oldest friend, in fact. He came down from the upper reaches of the metropolitan area and we had lunch in an Irish bar on Second Avenue. As usual, we solved all the world’s problems, and I told him about our college reunion, which he missed, as he always does, as he doesn’t do reunions. I think he would have had fun, but he disagrees.

Monday evening was dinner with John again; this time a very boozy one as he has a very large stock of Canadian whisky with which to make Manhattans, and seemingly no need for a jigger.

Tuesday noon I caught up again with my friend Nick and his partner, Barnett. You may remember that I bumped into Nick by chance on the W train at South Ferry. This time we met at Christopher Street subway station and made our way a bit south to the Caliente Cab Company for Mexican food. I snapped a picture of them both—Barnett is on the left.

After lunch, we drove to the Strand Bookshop, where I bought too many books (I failed to recall that they all had to be carried back to London). I put my bag in the trunk/boot of Barnett’s car while we shopped.

Afterwards, they drove me to First Avenue and gaily waved goodbye. Two minutes later I remembered, too late, that my bag was still in their trunk. So, I took a very unscheduled ride to Staten Island on the ferry to retrieve it. It was nice to see them again, but quite annoying under those circumstances.

Back again to the flat, taking the 1st Avenue bus all the way from South Ferry, which was time-consuming but scenic. I packed and booked my Super Shuttle ride to JFK for 2:30 pm Tuesday.

What a mistake! I realise that traffic is bad in Manhattan, but I did leave a phone number with which to reach me in case of mishap. The Super Shuttle was 1 hour late. The great experience I had in Washington was nullified by the piss-poor service I got in New York.

Traffic was so bad that the driver took every short-cut and rat run in Queens to get us there. I did indeed get there in enough time, but it was nail-bitingly close. I think I’ll only take Super Shuttles FROM airports in the future; taking it TO airports is just cutting things much too close.

I struggled with the boarding-pass printout machines at the airport, then got into the “Fast” Drop-Off queue, which was anything but fast. In all this, I had the keys to the flat in a postage-paid envelope, which I wanted to drop in a mailbox before leaving the US.

When I got to the TSA station before security, the agent flipped through my passport. I am used to that, as the expiration date has been changed twice, necessitating a trip to page 23. He continued to flip through it for about a minute (as enraged passengers behind me looked on and imagined that I was a criminal of some sort). He asked me “Why haven’t you traveled overseas on this passport?” and I showed him my British passport and explained that I am a dual citizen and I travel on my British passport everywhere except the United States. That seemed to satisfy him, and he grunted and flipped my passport back to me. He had missed the fact that the passport itself was issued in London.

I got through Security, and then asked someone in the departure area where the nearest mailbox was. “There aren’t any mailboxes up here.” he said smugly, as if by that action the US Postal Service was single-handedly defeating terrorism at JFK. So, besides keeping tourists from posting last-minute postcards, I couldn’t mail the keys back to my (absent) hosts. Argh! I posted them on Thursday from London.

The flight was uneventful. I changed seats to a window seat in front of a bulkhead with an empty seat to my left. Another man travelling with his wife complained loudly to the cabin attendant that the seat didn’t recline and he should have been informed of that fact when he checked in. She apologised, and he complained so loudly that he and his wife were bumped up to Premium Economy. I was sitting next to a rather large gentleman so asked for the window seat once the man and his wife had departed. I had slightly more room and slept well. I think I got the better seat.

Getting home when we landed in London was fraught. There was a Tube strike going on, and although it didn’t change my plan to take a taxi from Paddington it meant that I had to wait in a very long queue to get one, as I arrived during the morning rush and the stockbrokers who were rolling in from the suburbs were all trying to get cabs too. Got one after an amazingly shortish wait and finally dropped my bags at home around 9 am on 11th June.

All in all, a good holiday, barring the foot troubles.

5 Responses to “The rest of my trip”

  1. babymicrophone says:

    Nice pics and some really nice smiles!

  2. chrishansenhome says:

    Thanks! If you say the pics were nice then I guess that means I did better than I thought I had.

  3. spwebdesign says:

    The Hells Gate Bridge and the Sidney Harbour Bridge always remind me of the Thatcher Ferry Bridge. I wonder if it was also inspired by the HGB.

    I hope your foot is doing better.

  4. phornax says:

    Very nice photographs!

  5. momshapedbox says:

    update on the foot please!!!