Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It's TODAY!


In about 16 hours or so I'll be touching down in Manchester! So hopefully within the next 19 hours I'll be HOME! (my sums might be a bit out, but you get the jist).

It's been a bloody loooooooooooooooooooooooong 7 months since I've been home, I can't wait. I was up late packing last night and up early this morning cleaning the apartment so it looks all nice when we get back... I am very VERY excited (if you couldn't tell already)...

I'M COMING HOME!!!!!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Another Rather Nice Car...

I saw this rather lovely looking car on the way home from work yesterday evening.
I'm not sure what make it is, but it looks very big, very wide and very American!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Blummin' Hot Again...

It's been blummin' BOILING again this weekend, and it's set to stay being hot, humid and sticky for the rest of the week (good job we're flying home in 2 DAYS!). Every weekend as I walk to the laundrette I pass this man selling watermelons, he usually has a lot more than this - so business must have been good yesterday. I'm always tempted to get one, they must be so refreshing on a day like yesterday.

Weekend Discoveries...

I'm afraid this weekend hasn't been very eventful - I've just been working really (and trying to find a suit - with no luck), however we did make a couple of discoveries.

First discovery of the weekend was that we can get on the roof of our building, not only that but it's got a soft squidgy floor so we can lie down on it, not only that but we have a rather wonderful view of the Manhattan skyline up there...

The second discover of the weekend was that our neighbours have a half pipe in their back garden - we could see them skating away from our roof. The ramps look a little ropey and it's surrounded by old trees, buildings and barded wire - so I hope they don't fall off too often...

The third discovery of the weekend was that suit shopping in 90 degree heat isn't fun.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

End of a Loooooong Week...

Last night was a pretty busy Friday night, after a very long week.

After work Abi, Nadia and I went for tea at a place called Cowgirl in the West Village, apparently it's featured in Sex & The City (Abi is now the unofficial Sex & The City expert of New York after her and Nadia went on a tour!). It's a Western theme restaurant (as you could probably have guessed by the name) and is famous for it's 'Christmas in July' - you can get a Christmas Dinner if you really want one (although in this heatwave, it couldn't feel any less Christmassy). It's a fun little place, the drinks are served in jam jars, there are antler chandeliers and there's a little tuck shop selling penny sweets and little toys. The food was mighty fine, and we discovered a new delicious delicacy - Rattle Snake Bites - they're jalapeno peppers, stuffed with shrimp and wrapped in bacon! They're delcious!

After stuffing out faces with ribs and steak we walked up to the Highline Park. It's the first time we'd been there at night, it feels very different, it's subtly lit (a bit too subtly in areas) and the view of New Jersey is lovely and twinkly. The Standard Hotel looks far nicer when you can't see it all, the windows being lit up and the fancy bar on the top floor sparkling away, made it look very atmospheric.

Luckily we got there just before it closed, so we were able to walk along half of it before they closed the park - then we walked through the Meatpacking District, where we saw this rather lovely car...

Then we walked to the river and up to a place called The Frying Pan to meet Kelly (who's visiting from Arkansas) and her friend Laura and Amelia. The Frying Pan is a big boat that's permanently docked by the river (with some other boats attached by walk ways) that's been turned into a bar. It's great, it just seems to keep going and going lots of different walk ways to seating areas, lots of old boatish things decorating the place, colourful fairy lights, even an old train carriage! There are train tracks running from the pier onto the boat so it must have been an old cargo boat or something.

We actually saw the Frying Pan from the boat during the Mr. Scruff cruise, but we didn't know what it was - we just thought it looked like a great place to go, so it was to discover where and what it really was. It was heaving and a really unique spot - I'm hoping we'll be able to go back there, maybe not on a Friday night though (and not with people from work!).

There was one more thing no Nadia's To Do list - The Empire State Building, so after a quick drink we got in a cab and headed across town. Nadia very kindly got tickets for Abi and I to go up to the top, to say thanks for letting her stay. It was lovely to go up again, and it was Abi's first time.

New York looked beautiful twinkling at night, and with the saxophonist playing some smooooooooth jazz it was a lovely and calming place to be on a Friday night.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Garden Party...

On Wednesday night I went to see Jack Johnson play at
MADISON SQUARE GARDEN!

It was absolutely brilliant.

I think it might be the 5th time I've seen Jack Johnson play, each time the gigs have been very different and in completely different venues, from Shepherds Bush Empire to outdoors in Hyde Park and now in the middle of Manhattan.

I was a little further back from the stage compared to the KT Tunstall gig, I defintely couldn't see the whites of their eyes, but I think I was in a good position for the speakers - there was no echo or anything, all the bands sounded great.

As usual Jack brought his Brushfire Records friends along with him as the support acts. ALO performed first, I missed their first couple of songs as they started at 7pm, but they were brilliant - I think they're one of those bands who are a bit better live than they are on their albums. They covered Eye of The Tiger in the middle of one of their own songs - it was great.

Then G.Love did a solo acoustic set, he played one instrumental song that was about 10 minutes long, it was beautiful and felt quite celtic, I think he's got a new album coming out so maybe it's one there?

Then the main event - Mister Jack Johnson took to the stage...

The crowd were SO loud, I loved being at the back being able to see everyone dancing and clapping, the whole arena were singing along to his songs and dancing around, it was such a friendly warm atmosphere - I've noticed that at all his gigs, everyone seems to be so happy.

He played a lot of his new stuff which sounded fantastic and a lot cheerier than the stuff from his last album, a lot more electric guitar and big chorus's, lots of sing-a-long songs. He played a lot of his older stuff too, and he made changes to some of the songs, making them sound new again - it was absolutely brilliant.

Unfortunately, as I was so far back, all my photos just look a bit like a glowing white box in a sea of black, so I took some little videos instead. At the end of playing Taylor, they went into covering the Joker...

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This was one his new ones, At Or With Me...

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For the finale, he invited everyone who had played that night back up on stage, so the whole of ALO, G.Love and a singer from Hawaii called Paula Fuga (she sung a couple of songs with Jack earlier on - she's got a lovely voice), and they sang a new version of Better Together...

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It was a blummin' brilliant gig and very nice treat for the middle of the week.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

1 Week To Go...

This time next week I'll be shutting down my computer, getting on the subway and heading back to the apartment to get our bags and we'll be off to the airport! Whooooooop Whoop! Not long to go now...

Hiro There...

Last night I went to go and see KT Tunstall play at the Hiro Ballroom at the Maritime Hotel. I only found out about the gig Monday, so it was a bit of last minute thing, but it was a chance I didn't want to miss as she was doing a solo acoustic gig.

The Maritime Hotel is a rather fancy looking place from the outside, it has lots of porthole windows dotted over the side of the building and it has a very nice looking outdoors bar/cafe bit round at the front, and there's also a tasty looking Sushi restaurant too. It's not very far away from work either, just over on 8th Avenue.

I had a wee bit of time to kill before the gig, so I went to get some tea at a place called Flight 151. It was a plane themed restaurant/bar (surprise surprise) and they did some mighty fine ribs. The best bit about Flight 151 is the loos - when you locked the door a little recording comes on with a 'Bing Bong' sound and an air stewardess tells you the the Captain has turned on the 'No Slob' sign and asks you to return the seat to it's downward position and for you to wash your hands. Then a little later the Captain makes an announcement, saying if you look to your left you'll see a loo and if you look to your right you'll see a basin... it was great little idea.

Anyway... back to the gig.

The doors opened at 7pm but the gig wasn't scheduled to start until 9pm so I got there for about 7.45pm - it was a bit empty, only a few die-hard fans were standing right up at the very front of the stage, so I went to get a drink and walk around the Ballroom for a bit.

The Hiro Ballroom is underneath the Maritime Hotel, it's another restaurant/bar/gig venue and it's one of the most beautiful venues I've ever been to I think. You walk in and there are dozens of hanging lanterns all glowing red and orange and yellow. There's a bar downstairs under a gazebo type structure, and upstairs there's a cozier loungey bit with those paper walls that you see in the films...


Eventually 9 o'clock rolled around and KT Tunstall took the very small stage. It's been about 2 years since she released her last album, so this was a little warm gig ready for the release of her new album in a couple of months. So there was no band, just her, 4 guitars and a gazillion pedals with looping effects and drum machines all built in...

I think it's the closest I've ever been at a gig... front row! It was a pretty intimate venue, I think it could have only held around 500 people or so, maybe less?

She played a lot of new stuff which sounded great, although she did have quite a few technical problems with her many many pedals, but she made a joke out of it and kept the crowd going...

I like the way she uses technology and pedals in a very inventive way, she had programmed one of her guitar pedals to play certain chords, so she put the pedal up on a stool and played it like a keyboard - just using three pedals for the three chords in the song, it sounded fantastic.

There were some very avid fans in the crowd who already knew the words to the new stuff, there was also a rather creepy cluster of balding men standing front row center stage constantly gazing up at her... She seemed to recognise them, so I think they might be the types of fans that go to every gig... it takes all sorts I suppose. Everyone seemed to having great fun though.

It was an absolutely brilliant night, and yet another completely different gig in New York, another amazing venue and another memorable performance... bloody brill.

Here's a video of her singing Black Horse & The Cherry Tree (it's a bit long, so I hope you're sitting comfortably...)

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(My new phone takes videos, so that's why I'm putting more little clips on the blog... it records in really good quality, but when I upload them the videos get crunched down and become more pixelated, so I'm sorry if some of the quality gets lost a bit...)

... and here's a video of the last song she sung, a cover of 'New York I Love You'.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Waiting For The G...

Most nights on the way back from work we have a little wait for the G Train at Metropolitan Avenue station, and most nights there's a busker. There are a few that we see quite regularly, there's a girl who plays the ukulele and sings old 1950's songs, there's a young guy who plays the guitar and sing Radiohead songs, there's an Xylophone player who plays beautifully calming music, there's a Chinese man with dreadlocks who plays slide guitar, there's a couple who 'sing' together (but they really shouldn't!) and play the banjo, and there's a man who sings songs about waiting for the G train.

But last night there was someone new, someone playing on the other side of the platform, someone who looked remarkably like a French Where's Wally!

The sound of his accordian filled the whole station, it was fantastic - I don't think I'd ever heard an accordian player as accomplished as Wally (apart from Pops, obviously!). His fingers were lightning fast and he made it look so easy.

Just before the train came he played a song from the Amelie soundtrack, I love all the music in that film and it instantly made me smile hearing him play it. I was too mesmorised by him to record the whole thing, but I took this little video of the ending (the train rumbled into the station two seconds later)...

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Friday, July 9, 2010

It's Red'ot!

It has been blummin' BOILING here recently - on the Tuesday after Tom left it just about reached 40 degrees (or near enough, what's half a degree between friends?), and it sounds even more impressive in Fahrenheit, 101 degrees!

The heat hasn't been helped by the problems on the subway, yesterday morning Abi and I were standing on the platform waiting for the L Train to arrived for about 25 minutes (they usual arrive every 3-5 minutes during rush hour). There was no air conditioning, no ventilation, no fans, no breeze, no nothing down in the station, it was horrible.

I'm an SO grateful of the air conditioning in our apartment, not everyone has air conditioning, let alone a built in system, so we're very lucky. Lots of people buy those systems that sit in the windows for the summer, I think this summer must be seeing record sales judging by this shop just by work...

All of those boxes are a/c units!

New York amazes me, it is hotter than hot during the summer and then come winter it's perishingly cold. It's definitely a city of contrast!

I don't to complain about the heat too much, because the sunshine has been absolutely beautiful and everything feels so summery at the moment - but it's just a wee bit sticky.

Cheerio Tommy!

It was so fantastic to have Tom here for the July 4th weekend - although time went far too quickly. We did loads of great things and managed to tick pretty much everything off the To Do list - I had an absolutely FANTASTIC time and it felt like a lovely little holiday for Abi and I too, so THANK YOU!

No the countdown's begun to us flying home... 12 days!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

In Search of Dinosaurs...

On Monday morning Tom and I went off in search of DINOSAURS! So we headed up to the Natural History Museum nice and early and as we walked through the doors we were greeted by these little chaps...

The museum was already pretty busy and it had only been open for half an hour or so, it's such a fantastic place - it was great to be able to go back there with Tom, looking at all the fascinating animals and dinosaurs.


The T-Rex and Tricerotops looked just as awesome as last time, I don't think I could grow tired of looking at them - they're extraordinar, as were some of the other creatures they had one show - this one was called a Thomasus Langridious...

(Only joking Tom!)

It was great to go back to the museum and see the Dinosaurs again and go into some of the rooms that I missed last time, including the Deep Sea Room where they have a scale model of a massive blue whale...

After we had taken in as much natural history as we could, we walked through Central Park in the blistering heat (it was ridiculously hot) and headed down to the Meat Packing District to walk along the Highline.

It was so incredibly hot, walking at any speed was tiring and sweaty work - so by the time we'd reached the Meat Packing District we needed a drink. We stopped off at a little place called Brass Monkey for a nice cold pint(ish) or Summer Ale.

Cheers!

Then we walked the length of the Highline. It was nice and quite, I think lots of people were out of town for the July 4th weekend, but it was lovely. We walked right up to the barrier of the new bit that they're building, juding by the plans it looks like they're less than half way through the build for the park, it's going to be amazing when it's all finished... I wonder when they'll complete it all?

Yellow Pianos...

I found another one!

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This was in Times Square just after the fireworks. I'm still going to try and find some more, Tom spotted a few on his extensive travels around Manhattan.

Macy's July 4th Fireworks!!!

After our day at Governors Island we went back to the apartment for a little rest in the nice air conditioned cool before heading to Manhattan to watch Macy's July 4th fireworks along the river.

Last year Tom and I went to go and see the fireworks but our view was a wee bit blocked by a building and some trees, so we wanted to find a better spot this year...

We went up to 42nd Street and walked over to the river, as we got closer to the river we noticed more and more people walking the same way and as we reached the river we could see big crowds had already gathered. Most of the side roads had been blocked off by the police and they seemed to be telling people to move further up, so at 47nd St. we were told to go to 51st, then at 51st they told us to go the 57th... so we kept walking up until we found a decent spot (and until we couldn't be bothered to walk anymore as it was 9pm and it was still over 30 degrees!).

As the fireworks started everyone serged forward towards the barriers to try and get a good view - luckily we managed to find ourselves a spot where we could see on of the six displays (they have 6 simultanious firework displays going off up the river so as many people can see as possible, they were setting off over 1000 rockets a minute I think!).

Here are some little videos of the fireworks...

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They were amazing and everyone seemed to be enjoying them, lots of Ooooos and Aaaaahs, the ones that looked like smiley faces and planets were very popular, there were some HUGE ones too and the finale was spectacular. I didn't catch the whole finale, but here's the last burst...

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Governors Island...

On a very, very VERY hot July 4th morning we went on a little trip to Govenors Island. It seemed only right to go and visit the most colonial feeling part of New York on July 4th.

Governors Island is a 172 acre island off the coast of Brooklyn (saying the coast of Brookly makes it sound like there are nice beaches all around the edge, there aren't). The little stretch of water between Brooklyn and the island is called Buttermilk Channel (I'm not sure why though).

I'd not realised just how easy it is to get to the island, from out apartment you just take the G train a few stops and then walk just under a mile to the pier, hop on the free water taxi and then 5 minutes later you're there!

It was a scorcher of a day, so waiting in a queue with the sun beating down on our necks wasn't the greatest feeling, but it was well worth it because Governors Island is beautiful. I thought it felt a lot like Jersey or Sark, it feels very peaceful, very green, very friendly and some of the buildings look fairly similar.

I've been on Wikipedia to do some research and have found out the island used to be used by the British Colonial assembly for New York's Royal Governors, and from 1783-1966 it was used as a US Army post. Then from 1966-1996 is was used by the US Coast Guards - now it's a New York landmark and has a preservation trust looking after it.

Tom had done some research and found out the Rosanne Cash (daughter of Johnny) was playing a free concert in the afternoon, and I'd noticed that She & Him (the band with Zooey Dechannel in it) was playing a free concert after that.

Unfortunately the tickets for She & Him sold out before the time that they were supposed to be released, but we did catch a bit of Rosanne Cash playing infront of the lawn inbetween some of the islands houses.

A lot of people go to Governors Island for the day, taking a picnic and hiring bikes for a couple of hours to cycle round the 5 miles of cycle path on the island, so that's exactly what we did - we made ourselves some sandwiches and after some research Tom found us a very suitable mode of transport for our island exploring...

As you can see, the views from the island a rather fantastic - we pulled over to have a look out at the water and the boats sailing past the Statue of Liberty...

The pedalling was a bit hard going (some of us were pedalling harder than others... Abi?), but the views we were getting made it completely worth it. It was such a perfect day to be exploring the island.

It was lovely seeing people enjoying themselves on the island, cycling around, playing football, playing frisby or tennis, it was very peaceful and the whole island has a very calm and friendly atmosphere... well, it did until we started zooming round in our Quadcycle!

After our legs gave way from all the pedalling we took our bike back and mooched around for a little while. We had planned on going to see She & Him, they were supposed to hand wrist bands out at 3.30pm but for some reason they started giving them out at 1pm, so they'd all gone by the time we got there. Still, it gave us a bit more time to explore and I think we would have been burning in the sun if we'd been standing out in the sun for the whole time.

There are lots of little areas of the island that have a group of houses surrounding a communal lawn, it must have been lovely to live there and have a little island community. I'm not sure what the houes are used for now, maybe they're still occupied - they all look like they've been well looked after anyway.

This was the Commanding Officers residence - complete with cannons!

One of the lovely yellow houses had been turned into a little shop selling lots of different crafty things designed and made by local artists. Some of the things in the shop had been on sale at the Renegade Craft Fair that I went to the other month.

The windows of this house were beautiful, they had tiny little gold anchors painted across them...

You can see the rocking chair out on the porch through the window, and the handmade croché blanket laying over the back, it was a picture perfect old American house.

Governors Island was beautiful and is such a little gem in the middle of New York, it couldn't feel more different to Manhattan with all the skyscrapers and the noise, or Brooklyn with all the hipsters. It was a different world, one that I'm sure Abi and I will be going back to very soon.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Luna-tics...

Our Saturday activities weren't quite over yet - after the brewery, the bowling, the Thai food and the bumping into old housemates, Tom and I headed off down to Coney Island to have some fun at the new Luna Park.

I think I mentioned the Luna Park in another post, but it's a new bit of Coney Island down on the boardwalk, they must have invested quite a lot of money into the area because they have about 10 brand spanking new rides and lots of different games to play.

After surveying all the rides we picked the two that looked most fun and most scary and decided upon the Air Race and the Brooklyn Flyer. The Brooklyn Flyer was our first target...

You sat on a little two seater bench (that looked remarkably like two school chairs glued together), got strapped in and then were taken up to the top of the big tall tower - then you started to spin! It was FANTASTIC! The view was great, and as you whizzed round it felt a bit like you were going to knock into the other rides. Then about 60 seconds later it was all over.

The rides started look lovely as the sun started to set and all the lights started to come on, it looked far more impressive at night (I suppose that's why it's a Luna Park!).

The next ride we wanted to go on was the Air Race - it was clearly the most popular because it had the biggest queue, so we joined it and watched as the little aeroplanes full of screaming people came worrying close to our heads. Unfortunately as we were queueing the shut the ride down for some reason, so everyone ran over to the Electro Spin instead. Then as we were queueing for the Electro Spin the reopened the Air Race! So we ran over and got back in the queue for that... luckily it stayed open and we got our seats at the front of a little yellow plane that spun round and round and upside down (and stayed upside down!).

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(I hope this little video works)

The Luna Park was fantastic, it was great fun going on the rides with Tom (just like at Universal Studios and going on the Hulk ride 7 times in a row!), I'm hoping I'll be able to talk Abi into going down to Coney Island and trying out the other rides with me... I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ugly Original...

After feeding our faces in Sea, we had a mooch around Bedford Avenue looking at some of the stuff in the Artists Flea Market. On our way to the subway station I noticed a red tricycle with an umberella and clothes hanging off it, then I spotted someone I recognised...

It was my old housemate Jae! He was selling stuff from his Ugly Original clothing line. It was lovely to bump into him and he gave me a big hug - I'd not seen him since the day I moved out last September, so it was a lovely coincidence.

Sea...

After the bowling we popped into Sea, a rather fancy looking Thai restaurant just off Bedford Avenue. Abi and I had spotted it a wee while ago and had been wanting to go and try it, so having Tom here was the perfect excuse.

It's incredibly stylish inside, with the long pool running down the middle and the Buddha statue standing at the end, they've got larger dining tables at each side of the pool and the fanciest toilets I've seen for a while (I didn't take any photos this time).

The food was delicious and very reasonably priced - we had all sorts, ribs, chicken satay, crunchy seafood salad, crispy duck salad and a couple of other things and it was still only $15 each.

We're definitely going to go back there soon, we're going to go and see what it's like in the evening. We're also going to get one of these for the apartment!