Monday, 31 December 2007

Summary of 2007

I doubt there are many people reading this today - for the few people who have ventured into work you've probably already retired to the bar. Anyway, for my last post of the year I though I'd try and list all the sporting events and concerts I've seen over the year - obviously this list is more for my record than any interest to you readers so come back on Wednesday when I'll be back with my view of New Year in Times Square.

Sports

- rugby wise I’ve had a couple of trips to Twickenham to see Scotland and France (I’m gonna stop going I’ve never seen England lose there), a Tri-Nations match in Sydney and a couple of games with the Japanese national side in Tokyo;
- Premiership football at Old Trafford;
- NRL rugby league in Sydney (a really enjoyable game actually);
- AFL Aussie Rules (still no idea what is going on with this game);
- the hilarious baseball in Tokyo;
- Sumo (more of a tourist attraction than a sport really);
- NHL ice hockey (the best of the North American sports by a long way);
- NFL American Football (I’m actually getting more into this than I thought I would); and
- NBA basketball (tedious and boring – why do people watch this crap).

Concerts

London: The Killers; The Horrors; The View; The Automatic; Kaiser Chiefs; and The Bravery
Tokyo: Editors; The Stranglers; Interpol; CSS; LCD Soundsystem; The Klaxons; Maximo Park; Travis; The Draytones; Reverend & The Makers; Hadouken!; Rooney; The Fratellis; Bloc Party; Manic Street Preachers; Kasabian; and Arctic Monkeys
New York: Gran Ronde; The Von Bondies, Razorlight; and We Are Scientists

Wow, that’s not a bad list of events - its been a pretty good year really.

Right to end out the year, here are a few links where you'll find mp3s of a few tracks from my favourite albums of the year:

NYPC - The Get Go

The Bravery – Time Won’t Let Me Go

Enemy – You’re Not Alone

The Klaxons – Golden Skans

Friday, 28 December 2007

Best laid plans

My plans for my five day Xmas break had been pretty simple: I was going to go to the gym every day and go explore a new part of New York each day. Unfortunately this plan fell to pieces on day two when my back gave out and I ended up laid up for the majority of my break.

So what was going to be a post on my observations on a few areas of New York has been postponed. The only area I did see was Broadway between Union Square (14th St) and Madison Square Garden (34th Street). Not an area to visit again either: weird people and weird shops.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

My Alternative Xmas

Xmas Eve…what to do. Well as luck would have it the cinema up the road had a new film opening for its first showing at midnight. The film, well that the joyous Xmas tale “Alien v Predator: Requiem”.

So I’m guessing you have one of two questions in your head. Either:

1. who the hell goes to see AvP on Xmas Eve? or
2. so what was the film like?

If your question was 2 then really, you’re doing it wrong – the whole of life that is. Of course its rubbish, the first one was mince and the second is, impressively, worse – we’re almost talking Robocop 3 bad here (and that’s about as low as there has ever been). I'm not even going to get into it but the Alien series has slipped irrecoverably into "B" movie territory now.

But that's beside the pint. The question you should be asking is number 1: who the hell goes to see AvP at midnight in Xmas Eve. That’s why I was there, to see what type of person goes to such an event (that’s my story and no-one can prove otherwise). Well the cinema was about 80% full and this was a big place - it'd guess around 2,000 seats as there was both an upstairs and downstairs. The people there - cretinous morons. Almost every single one of them would talk to the screen: "Don't go in there"; "I wouldn't have done that "; etc . Add to that the cheering /clapping which occasionally broke out (e.g. the Predator's first appearance, any particularly gore filled Alien kill - you get the idea). A real bunch of mouth breathers.

So what have we learned today: 1. AvP II is rubbish (no surprise there); 2. brain dead idiots abound at midnight cinema showings on Xmas Eve (no real surprise there either really I suppose).

Friday, 21 December 2007

Xmas in the city

Before I get to today's topic an update: "thumbs up to "Coldbuster Smoothies" as I've had one every day this week and they do seem to make me feel better. Unfortunately I've been out drinking every night this week too and that hasn't helped.

But to today's observations, unsurprisingly the Yanks are pretty big on covering the city in decorations so I’ve taken pics of a few of the more impressive efforts in the city:

Right, I’m on hols for the first three days of next week so will be back spouting irrelevant nonsense to anyone bored enough to look in on Thursday next week. Until then, Happy Festivus (just click the link - its classic stuff).

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Order out

Now I don’t cook – I never bothered to learn how and reading the time and heat setting for the oven on the side of a box is as far as I ever get. In this regard NY is perfect for me. Almost ever restaurant/café delivers free of charge so you can eat a different type of food every night very cheaply (~$20 tops) without leaving your house (which is a good thing as its damn cold here at the moment).

Added bonus, to find these restaurants there is a great website called Menupages.com where you can identify whatever you want (by area and type of food) and the site includes the menus and phone numbers for every restaurant. Easy life.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Not your office holiday party

As I mentioned yesterday I was at a concert last night - but this one was a little bit different to usual. A couple of weeks ago I went through the websites of a dozen or so bands I like to see if any were due to play in NY in the near future - the only band with a gig in December were "We Are Scientists" who were playing a one off event called "Not Your Office Xmas Party". Looking into it, this event was being run by the "New York" magazine and tickets ($28) included a subscription to the magazine. Additionally, there were no actual tickets - your name was added to the guest list for the event.

So I rolled up to the venue at around 9pm last night - this was a rather trendy place called the "Canal Room". Not your typical concert venue. Also, upon entry a name badge was stuck to my shirt. This is not your normal concert.

At about 9.30pm a guy (about 40ish) gets on stage and introduces himself as the President of the company and proceeds to (borderline drunkenly) welcome everyone to the firms party. It was around about now that I though I had somehow got into the New York magazine actual holiday party...of course if you've clicked the "Not Your Office Xmas Party" link above you'll know that I was being a gullible idiot and that this was the beginning of a parody sketch of holiday parties - to be honest it was a bit hit and miss: the President guy was quite funny; the uptight office manager who was annoyed no-one had responded to her party confirmation e-mails was good; unfortunately the effeminate HR guy was rubbish; and the "stand up comedy" office intern wasn't great either.

Still that wasn't the point of the evening, that was to see "We Are Scientists" and they were damn good playing around 1hr 20min set finishing around midnight. Pretty much all their first album and a fair number of new songs (and they're probably overdue a 2nd album by now anyway). Anyway, you'll find a couple of their songs here and another couple here (I recommend: Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt; and Inaction).

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Cold

Not just outside but I am full of it too. To that end my normal fruit smoothie I have for breakfast was replaced by a "Coldbuster" which includes: orange juice, orange sherbet, peaches, bananas, immunity boost and an antioxidant power boost. Hopefully it helps as I have a concert to go to tonight.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Knicks v Nets

So I took in my first Knicks basketball game on Saturday night - might be my last too. This really is a boring sport. I was surprised at how few people were at the game as well - much less than for a Rangers game and this was a Saturday evening game between the two local sides.

Anyway, I did remember my camera so here are a couple of pics from the game:

If you vaguely care, the Knicks won 94 - 86. Now, more interestingly, here are the cheerleaders:

Friday, 14 December 2007

Customs ruins Xmas presents

So I’ve been sending and receiving Xmas presents in the last couple of weeks and I’ve decided that Customs declaration forms ruin the whole thing – you have to declare on the form (which is attached to the package) the goods included and the value of these items...not much surprise left after that.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Lack of motivation

Now as you may have noticed during my time in Tokyo I was pretty good at going out and doing the touristy thing and it was pretty easy as it was so different to anyplace I’ve been before (and it was nice and warm). Now, in NY things are a bit different – I’ve been here a few times before an already done most of the main touristy things (even if it was 10 years ago).

However, even excluding that factor, I still don’t have the same motivation to go and see things here. I guess that’s because there isn't the same amount of history to see and it isn't as new to me as Japan was either - also because its pretty damn cold here too.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Sounds of the 80s

So Saturday night, after my works Xmas party and after the Hatton fight, a colleague and I find ourselves at a crossroads. On the one side of the street is a bar called The Naked Lunch where a group of my colleagues are drinking (but there is about a 20 minute queue to get in). On the other side there is another bar where I can walk straight in and get a beer. I have a pretty strong opinion on queuing to get into bars so we go for the easy beer option and see if the queue will go away.

I liked this bar and it was playing really good music (including my oft mentioned favourites New Young Pony Club) and had Samuel Adams Winter Lager on tap (I was a bit dubious about trying this stuff after the last “festive” beer I tried – see beer mistake post below – but this stuff is damn good). After a beer we decide on the plan of trying to bribe the bouncers at the other bar – suffice to say this does not go well so we reluctantly joined the back of the queue. After about 10 mins we did get in (and it wasn’t even that busy inside).

So this place, with the queue outside, has no draft beers and is playing what appears to be the greatest hits of the 80s – seriously, “highlights” included “Heaven is a place on Earth” and “Sweet Caroline” - I don't remember hearing "Living on a Prayer" or "Summer of 69" but I can't believe they weren't on the playlist.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Santacon

Walking back from the bar on Saturday afternoon I came across about 50 people dressed up in Santa Claus outfits crossing the street in front of me – I figured Stag Night and continued on my way. But there were more, and more, and more of them all over the streets – and one Easter Bunny?!?!!?

My flatmate had noticed this phenomenon too but was similarly confused as to what was going on. Same goes for a few of my colleagues when I asked them on the evening. By coincidence I noticed the answer on Fark.com – apparently this is Santacon.

The object of this exercise, nothing tangible that I can tell. Just dress up like Santa, go to a bar, drink, repeat...

These things are all over the world too: London (Saturday 15th December); and Tokyo (Saturday 22nd December).

Monday, 10 December 2007

Celeb Spotting No.1

I was in the Red Lion bar again watching the Llanelli v Munster game on Saturday afternoon. This was on at the same time as the Liverpool v Reading game which was also on in the bar. It was about 20 minutes into the game that I realised that the guy sitting 3 stools along from me at the bar was Alan Hansen.

OK, so its not an "A" list Hollywood type celeb but there you go.

Friday, 7 December 2007

NY subway

This seems to be one of the more confusing underground networks I’ve come across in the world. This is primarily for two reasons: there are a number of different trains which will stop at the same platform although some will be then stop at all the following stations and some will stop at only a few; and there are no signs indicating what the next train will be (i.e. fast or slow) or when it will arrive.

Also, when you are on the trains the signs at the stations to tell you where you are rubbish (twice I’ve gone past the stop I actually wanted)….and another thing, some entrances to the subway are for uptown or downtown only so if you go in that way you can then only travel in one direction (again pretty badly signposted).

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Pay-per-view

So I watched the Barbarians against SA in a bar on Saturday lunchtime – this cost $20 just to get in the door to the game thanks to Setanta. This money is cash collected on the door by Setanta: the bar doesn’t see any of it!

A bit of research tells me that this only occurs in some bars though? I guess that some only have the channel for internationals (and this is where Setanta pop up and charge) and some have a subscription so have already paid Setanta – back to The Red Lion for The Heineken Cup this week, no $20 fee to get in there.

I'm probably going to come across a similar problem on Saturday night when I try to watch the boxing - as it is pay-per-view there are only a few bars which are showing it and they are charging to get in. So not as easy as you might think.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Gym

So I signed up with a gym last week – buy one year get one free seems a reasonable deal. Still a bit more expensive than London (although to be fair it was the Greenwich Council run gym I used) but not to bad. A major attraction of this gym chain was that there is one about 5 mins walk from my flat, another about 15 mins with a pool and one about 5 mins from my office with squash courts.

After having gone to the one near my flat a couple of time – which is huge by the way (about 30 each of running machines, exercise bikes, etc plus weights rooms and various classes) – I decided I would check out the pool last night. This could not be described as huge, or even adequate. The pool was probably 10m long at best – what use is that?

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Currency

Every time I come to Yankland I get annoyed with the currency here – why are they the one country on the planet that hasn’t worked out that it is quite useful to make your bank notes different colours and sizes.

Also, the largest bill in common circulation is $20 (i.e. about £10 at current rates) which is rather annoying. Apparently a lot of places won’t even accept $50 bills (let alone $100). I suspect this may reflect the countries obsession with credit and credit cards in that they expect everyone to pay this way for pretty much everything.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Snow day

I ended up in a bar around 31st Street on Saturday night - when leaving at about 3am I decided that I would just walk the 20 or so blocks south to my flat to sober up a bit. I only made it about 3 blocks before I decided it was far to bloody cold and got a cab.

By the time I woke up on Sunday the place was covered in snow:

Friday, 30 November 2007

Rangers v Islanders

Its been almost a month since I last went to an ice hockey game and last night was the NY derby match - hence, that's where I was last night. Relatively cheap ticket last night compared to the Leafs game I went to but on the plus side I did remember my camera this time:

Quite a good game with the Rangers winning 4-2. The more interesting thing though is the fans, American fans really don't get that excited about the game and need the P.A. system in the building to tell them what and when to cheer! The exception to this is at the National Anthem which they play before every game (and that's for all sports too, not just hockey - in fact if there is a Canadian team playing you have to put up with two anthems). Anyway, the crowd went nuts at the anthem - not singing along but cheering, more so than when goals were scored. Personally, I was struggling to keep a straight face at this point.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Moving In

The last thing I had to do last weekend was move into my flat – no more free life for me unfortunately as I’ll have to start paying rent again dammit. Anyway, here are a couple of pics of my place which, although it is located on a main street on 2nd Avenue is actually very quiet as it is at the back of the building:

It only takes 30 mins to get to work so a quicker commute than I had in London (although I do have to use the underground).

It feels like I haven’t sent you off to any mp3s posted elsewhere for a while but this is a goodie – Editors cover version of Lullaby by The Cure (Bonus: Editors cover of Acceptable in the 80s by Calvin Harris is there too).

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

New York 7s

On Saturday the New York Rugby Club were hosting their annual 7-a-side tournament on Randalls Island – this is an Island in the East River at the Northern end of Manhattan.

The tournament included about 100 teams split between 9 different competitions (Men's Premier, Men’s Club, Men’s Social, Men’s Old Boys, Men’s Collegiate, Women's Club, Women’s Collegiate, U-19 Boys, U-19 Girls). The games started at 8.20am running until 6pm and were played across 9 pitches on the island – I say pitches but most of them looked like they had been marked out that morning and resembled ploughed fields in some cases.

The main "show" pitch was actually artificial - anyone who's played on one of those before will know you're liable to lose a few layers of skin from those. Also, check out the goalposts – they were all converted football posts. Anyway, back to my story, I watched Wales get stuffed by SA on my computer before heading off to the 7s so didn’t get there until about 1pm. Now it was damned cold on Saturday with a max of just 4ºC (it was ok when the sun was shining but got damn cold when it disappeared behind a cloud) so not the weather for 7s really.

I wandered round the pitches and watched games from most of the competitions – overall the skill level wasn't bad with the exception of passing which was universally awful but it was an entertaining afternoon. I’m afraid I have no idea who won any of the competitions as there was no announcer and I had no idea which team was which.

Potential for a drunken Blackheath side to turn up next year…

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Thanksgiving Parade

On Thanksgiving itself I headed out to watch the Macy’s Parade which runs from West 77th Street down Broadway to West 34th Street – the parade starts at 9am and apparently takes about three hours to complete. Understandable when there are more than 10,000 people in the parade itself which includes bands, floats and (massive) balloons.

I took up position on the corner of West 57th and Broadway at about 9.15pm at the back of a crowd about 6 deep and was almost dead on time as the parade reached this area at 9.20am. It took until past 11am for the end of the parade (Santa on his Sleigh) to pass me by.

Here are a few pics for the parade (I have about 70 pictures in total and none are of the same thing twice):

Now this is a kids parade, so I was rather surprised to see, in the middle of the parade, someone in a Hooters Owl costume with a couple of the girls…unfortunately as I was 6 rows back I couldn’t really get any good pics of this which would have been probably of more interest to the majority of readers than the pics above…


Monday, 26 November 2007

Thanksgiving

So first of the Yank holidays I've been in the country for and its their biggest one - Thanksgiving. This is an annual holiday to give thanks for the things one has at the end of the harvest season and is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. Actually, most places seem to have the Friday as a holiday too so a nice 4 day weekend.

As for the origin of thanksgiving, here we go: in 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast which is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. This harvest meal has become a symbol of cooperation and interaction between English colonists and Native Americans. Although this feast is considered by many to the very first Thanksgiving celebration, it was actually in keeping with a long tradition of celebrating the harvest and giving thanks for a successful bounty of crops. Native American groups throughout the Americas, including the Pueblo, Cherokee, Creek and many others organized harvest festivals, ceremonial dances, and other celebrations of thanks for centuries before the arrival of Europeans in North America.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Best restaurants in the World

A couple of people sent me this story so I thought I would mention it - Michelin has just finished its first review of Tokyo and awarded it 191 Stars (spread over 150 restaurants). This has blown away the competition as the previous highest was Paris with 97 (London apparently has 49 and New York has 39). The list is here.

Did I go to any? No.
Do I recognise the name of any? Yes, China Blue was in the Conrad Hotel I spent 6 months living in (I'm not a great fan of Chinese so I never bothered...)

Anyway, that's me done for the week as it Thanksgiving weekend in Yankland so I'm on holiday for the next couple of days. I've got a fair few things to do over the long weekend so I'll be back next week to tell you about those.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Land of the Expat

Having watched the Heineken Cup matches in the morning (Setanta Broadband) I headed off out to watch the Scotland v Italy game. I was going to a bar called Nevada Smiths where to meet the Scottish boyfriend of my colleague who had won the 100 free beers (see yesterday's post). Anyway, he had told me it would be fairly busy – that was a bit of an understatement.

I walked into the bar at just gone 11am (1 hour before kick off) and was confronted by about 200 Scotland fans complete with a couple of pipers in the middle of a rendition of Flower of Scotland. I don’t think the bar had expected so many people as they only had two guys working behind the bar which meant each round took about 20 minutes…especially bar news when, having just been handed a full pint, Scotland equalised and I ended up wearing half of my new pint.

I'll gloss over the rest of the game (which we really deserved something out of) and spin on the the next bar I went to at about 3.30pm - The Blind Pig. Nice bar actually, not sure what the Yanks made of the half dozen drunken Scots who staggered in in the middle of their afternoon. These guys included one bloke who was the same age as me from the Borders - we reckon we must have played rugby against each other for years.

I moved on again in the evening to Bua Bar where the guy whose flat I am moving into was having his leaving drinks. I left at about 10pm when I was losing the ability for coherent speech. A reasonable start to NY life continues.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Free beer

One of the girls I work with won a prize draw from her University alumni association which gave her 100 free beers at The Town Tavern bar . It got rather busy but I still think I managed to account for a reasonable number of the 100. Well that dealt with Friday night.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Police action

At 5.30pm last night a message came over the loudspeaker system at work that we couldn't leave from the front of the building as 57th Street and 5th Avenue were cordoned off by the police. According to my colleagues this isn't something that happens every day. Looking out the office window (from14 floors up) true enough, the street was cordoned off and police cars were all over the street.

About 5 minutes later another announcement came through telling us that we now could leave from 57th Street but not from 58th - so whatever was happening had moved one block further North. Another 5 minutes passed and it was all over and the streets were reopened.

So what happened? I have no idea and can't find anything in the news about it either.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Disturbing Image

Wandering around on Sunday afternoon I saw something which just played up to a Yank stereotype – a girl walking into Burger King still finishing off the remains of a McDonalds takeaway…oh dear. To be fair to her she was actually quite slim rather than the B.O.U. which probably goes with the mental image.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

The Red Lion

Heineken Cup weekends in London typically meant me being in the bar even more than usual over a weekend with typically two matches on Friday night, three on Saturday afternoon and two on Sunday afternoon.

Well Friday night games here mean Friday afternoon so thanks to Setanta Broadband I watched the Ulster v Gloucester game at my desk. For the Saturday matches I had e-mailed a number of bars in NY which claimed to show rugby to see if they were showing the matches – the only reply I got was from The Red Lion.

So off I went for a 12.30pm start to watch Wasps v Munster followed by Leinster v Leicester. A nice 4½ hours propping up the bar on a Saturday afternoon watching rugby – its like I never left London.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

The Fillmore

On Friday night Razorlight were playing a gig in a venue called The Fillmore in Greenwich Village. With nothing better to do I decided to head own to see if I could find a tout in the area to get a ticket.

The doors opened at 8pm so I was wandering round the area (in the freezing cold and rain) from about 7.15pm to 8pm before I found a couple of guys selling tickets – so I was one up on my previous attempt to go to a gig in Tokyo a couple of weeks ago.

Now gigs in London follow a pretty set pattern: doors at 7pm; support act at about 8.15pm; main act at around 9.15pm; and last song around 10.45pm. With the doors opening at 8pm I wasn’t sure if this meant no support or a later start time. Having got in and got a beer the barman showed me the schedule for the night: “Gran Ronde” at 9pm; “The Von Bondies” at 10pm; and “Razorlight” at 11pm.

Gran Ronde – Never heard of them before but they were the best band of the night. They’re apparently from LA but have a very UK Indie sound (the lead singer’s vocals remind me of Robert Smith). As a bonus they were selling an EP at the gig which was only $5 (~£2.50 at current rates). I’ve only managed to find one mp3 posted elsewhere on the web but I recommend you check it out “On and On”.

The Von Bondies – A band I bought the album of a couple of years ago but wasn’t that impressed with – if you don’t recognise the name you may recognise the song “C’Mon C’mon” which is the theme to “Rescue Me” (Denis Leary’s TV show about NY firemen – if I actually took my time and though out writing these things up a bit more that would have been a good link to yesterday but I’ve written half the post now so on we go). Live they were OK but nothing special.

Razorlight – My major issue with Razorlight’s first album was that although they do write very catchy songs they did all sound pretty much the same. The second album was, I thought, better and a bit more varied. Live it was pretty good but surprisingly Johnny Borrell has no personality on stage. Anyway, here’s a few songs for the few of you who don’t own at least one of their albums (which I doubt is too many of you – Nick, be quiet).

The gig finished at just before midnight so it was close to 1am by the time I got back to my flat. The good news for the future is that the venue is about 10 minutes walk from the flat I should be moving into later this month and they have some pretty good bands coming up. Anyway, buy the Gran Ronde album if you ever see it.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Denis Leary & Friends

I was looking through the “what’s on” listings for NY last week and came across “Denis Leary & Friends” at the Beacon Theatre on Thursday night - I managed to get a ticket and went along. The show was Denis Leary going about half an hour of his own material and then introducing other up and coming comedians none of whom I’d heard of (Adam Ferrara, Mike Birbiglia, Jim Jeffries and Robert Kelly).

I’m trying to remember some of the funnier comments made to pass on so here (roughly) goes:

Denis Leary – If you need to hold a press conference to state that you’re not gay, then you’re gay.

Jim Jeffries – …so I’m stuck with this plastic egg up my ass. I don’t have a lost of time left so we’ll cut straight to day three.

Robert Kelly – A lot of the puritans in the audience are offended by my cursing, they always say “well Bill Cosby didn’t have to curse”. Well Bill Cosby was accused of assaulting 13 women. You know how many women I’ve been accused of assaulting? Only five.

Mike Birbiglia – So I’m moving into a new building and a woman opens the door for me as I’m moving my bed. She says “I wouldn’t normally open the door to strangers but a rapist wouldn’t have a bed like that”. What I should have said was…nothing. What I actually said was “You’d be surprised.”

Friday, 9 November 2007

Beer mistake

To follow up yesterday’s pizza issue comes something much more sinister – beer problems. I had originally stocked up with Sam Adams which is pretty good stuff. However, come time to refill the fridge and I thought I’d try something new so I went for “Harpoon Winter Warmer” – oh dear.

Allow me to quote the blurb on the bottle:

“Harpoon Winter Warmer is a full-bodied rich ale that uses a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg to achieve its spirited flavour. Enjoy, our classic holiday beer.”

No, if its all the same to you I won’t. WTF are you doing putting cinnamon and nutmeg into beer – seriously. Not happy, and I’ve got 6 bottles of this stuff to drink.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Pizza mistake

One thing the Septics can do is make pizza, and there are pizza places everywhere. This is one area where NY has Tokyo beaten as I actually gave up ordering pizza there as something was never quite right.

However, I made a bit of a balls up the first time I went to a pizza takeaway here – I ordered a pizza, I mean I ordered a whole pizza. As I waited for my pizza I realised everyone else was coming in and ordering slices (which were pretty damn big). When my “small” pizza arrived it was probably about 18” across – only cost about $15 though so pretty cheap.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Jets v Redskins

On Saturday night I had a few beers with my prospective new flatmate and the guy who is moving out. It turns out that there was a spare ticket going for the NFL match the next day between the NY Jets and the Washington Redskins if I wanted to go.

So off I went on Sunday morning to get a bus from central Manhattan to Meadowlands which is situated about 20 minutes away in New Jersey. This is a big place which holds just over 80,000 people:

Anyway, the game was pretty good actually and I saw pretty much everything that can happen in an NFL game: the Jets returned the opening kick off for a touchdown; a rushing touchdown; a passing touchdown, a two point conversion and a bunch of fieldgoals including one from the Jets with only 10 seconds left to tie the score at 20-all and send the game into overtime.

The Jets got the first possession in overtime but couldn’t quite get into fieldgoal range and when the ball was punted to Washington they marched down the field and won the game with their fifth fieldgoal of the day. Being honest, if the Jets receivers could have caught the ball they would have won – they dropped three absolute sitters with no pressure and probably another three which were tough but gettable catches.

One rather annoying point was that they stop serving beer after the 2nd quarter so no beer for the entire 2nd half of the game. I guess this is to give all the supporters the chance to sober up before they drive home – no joke, I really think this probably is the reason.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

NY marathon

Sunday was the NY marathon – I assume this made the news in the UK as Paula Radcliffe won. The route, which passes through all five boroughs of the city, actually passed by the building I am currently staying in on 1st Av & 65th St.

However, I lived in Greenwich for 9 years and the London marathon used to go past my door for most of those years – in all that time I was never bothered about going to watch it so why was I going to bother with the NY marathon.

In any case, I had something much more interesting to do, tune in tomorrow to find out what.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Flat hunting

I kicked off my flat hunting on the first Sunday I arrived and saw three places – weirdly the first place I saw was being vacated by an Aussie guy who was moving to London and had an interview with my company to join the London office (i.e. for the hard of thinking – the office I left 6 months ago).

I then managed to squeeze in another two on Monday night after work – the annoying thing being that I am looking for a place in downtown Manhattan but my office and the hotel I was staying in are both uptown so I have a fair amount of traveling to get through to do this.

Anyway, the places I am looking at are all flatshares and have ranged for $1,250 to $2,400 per month. Actually, these two (i.e. the cheapest and most expensive) are the two I ruled out straight away (cheap one was just rubbish and the expensive one wasn't that great and also a bit marooned with nothing to close to it). Of the remaining others, one was slightly too far away from life which left me with two:

2nd Av & 9th St (East Village) – a duplex apartment with two bedrooms, two separate bathrooms, kitchen, living room (including a sofa bed for you cheapskates) and small terrace outside (although I doubt this gets more than an hour of sun a day); located on 2nd Av which s a pretty busy street (although the bedrooms are at the back); the East Village is described as “a young person's neighborhood, with its experimental music clubs, theaters and cutting-edge fashion”.

7th Av & 11th St (West Village) – a small apartment with two bedrooms, one bathroom, and a combined kitchen/living area; the place is on 11th St which is a quiet tree lined street; the West Village is described as having “quiet and residential with a busy streetlife that keeps humming until later at night than many other parts of the city.”

Although I suspect that the West Village is a nicer part of town I’ve gone with the East Village place as it was a lot bigger and the rent was actually $100 a month lower – in any event it is only about a 20 minute walk between the two places. Now I just have to sort out the lease which (with no Social Security Number, no previous rental history and a UK rather than US salary) should be fun…

Friday, 2 November 2007

Rangers v Leafs

My plan on Saturday had been to go for a walk around the Greenwich Village area to get a better feel for where I did and didn’t want to stay. Unfortunately it was chucking it down and I didn’t make it any further than a couple of blocks from the hotel to a diner for breakfast before deciding I had no real interest in getting soaked. Bored in the hotel I was feeling a bit tired so lay down on my bed at about midday – I then woke up again at 6pm (not a great plan for dealing with jetlag).

I then had one hour to make it to Madison Square Garden as I had a ticket for the New York Rangers game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Ice hockey really is a cracking sport to see live – much better than on TV. The Leafs won 4 – 1 and although I forgot my camera (I was rushing after falling asleep all afternoon) my new mobile has a camera so I was able to take a few pictures:

Thursday, 1 November 2007

The longest day

I’m not bad at sleeping on flights and I had managed to get about 3 hours on the flight across. However, as I’d only slept about 5 hours in the previous two nights in Tokyo and as I was landing in NY at about the same time as I took off from Tokyo (i.e. midday) it makes for a long tough day.

I did have a few jobs to keep me busy in the afternoon though (one of which was starting to write this rubbish). Also, I had to get a haircut and try and pick up my bank cards for the US – I say try because unsurprisingly HSBC UK, US and International had completely failed to organise for my stuff to be available for collection at a branch as I had requested…

I got back to the hotel at around 5pm and made it to about 8pm (i.e. 9am the next morning Tokyo time) before I had to go to sleep. Slept to about 3am and I have struggled to get out of that pattern yet (i.e. sleep by 9pm and awake at about 4am).

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Music selections

When I was walking around this weekend it occurred to me that there were a fair number of songs with “New York” or “America” in the title. Having searched through my mp3 library I found 32 tracks (actually only 29 as three of them were cover versions of the same song).

These are now loaded onto my iShuffle and I’m listening to them as I walk around here – the best of these include “American English” by Idlewild and “North American Scum” by LCD Soundsystem. However, my favourite has to be a track I haven’t listened to for years – “The American” by Simple Minds (couldn’t find a link where the mp3 was available but you can play the track on the link I have posted).

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Flight and Customs

I haven’t quite got used to checking into business class fights yet – I turn up and there’s no queue so I’m invariably through to security with loads of time to kill. I did it again this time. However, this flight didn’t cost me anything in excess baggage unlike my original flight to Tokyo from London.

I was flying JAL and their seats aren’t quite as good as BA – the food wasn’t great either for a 12½ hour flight.

I wasn’t sure what to expect at Yank immigration (especially as I’ve had my Visa for 6 months but never used it) but it took no longer than the usual Visa waiver to get through and the line didn’t take long either. So having landed at just before midday I was off into town within about 1 hour which was pretty good going.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Tokyo – Epilogue

One last story before I start on my NY stories – on my last night I was in Geronimos and they have put my 15 shot plaque up. No joke, I haven’t been saving this, they really did just put it up that week.

So here it is, my mark left in Tokyo:

Happy now.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Tokyo – just a cracking place to live

So its my last full day in Tokyo today. As you may have gathered I think this place is great. There is no crime, the place is clean, the people are amazingly respectful of each other, its easy to get around and there are loads of good places to go out at night (and they don’t close). On the negative side, well – they have earthquakes, can’t think of anything else.

Last thing before I leave, if you ever find yourself in Tokyo (and I recommend you do) here are a few of suggestions:

- Bars: Train Bar; Geronimos; the Golden Gai area

- Restaurants: any of the three Ty Harbour restaurants, Bourbon Street (which is where I'm off to tonight) and also have a go at Okonomiyaki which was v good

- Baseball: get a ticket to see the Swallows in the cheap seats

- Sumo is worth an afternoon (but get a seat upstairs rather than a mat downstairs)

- Sightseeing: Ueno Park is full of things to see; Senso-Ji in Asakusa is impressive; and Yoyogi Park is full of weird stuff going on (including the Coz-Play girls)

- Culture: the Kabuki theatre was interesting

If you missed any of those things then look below, I've talked about all of them at some point over the last 6 months. Right, time for NY…to be continued (probably next week).

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Tokyo random stuff

As I only have a couple of days left in Tokyo I’ll have to put a few random thoughts and stories into today’s post so if you’re all strapped in, we’re off:

Why do they not use daylight savings time? In the summer the longest days is 4.30am to 7pm and in the winter the shortest is 6.45am to 4.30pm. Surely the summer would benefit for at least one more hour in the evening.

I found a Scottish bar on Saturday night (called Scottish Glamour) which served Haggis (to be eaten with chopsticks…) – slightly odd stuff but not bad:

The next bar I was in was a little Japanese bar which (like a lot of bars here) was big into Whisky. However, they also had a beer from Scotland or more accurately from the Borders (brewed about 30 mile from Hawick). How exactly a Japanese bar imports Traquair Ale I have no idea.

I'm not entirely convinced that an orange t-shirt went well with my grey jacket but I still can't decide.

On Saturday morning I went to visit Ebisu, it was the last place in my Tokyo guide book I had a map for that I hadn’t visited. Not a lot to say about it really, only interesting fact I now know is that it seems to be named after the beer Yebisu as it was where the brewery used to be – all the people who worked there moved to the area and it turned into a town which was named after the beer (I think that’s right anyway).

If anyone uses Skype then I have recently installed this application so drop me an e-mail with your ID. If you don’t know what it is then, briefly, it’s a free application that allows you to make free telephone calls over the internet to other Skype users – your computer just needs a microphone and a speaker and you’re off (it also has a Instant Messenger type application as well).

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

RWC (Team of the tournament)

So having watched the majority of the matches I’ve decided to put together my “team of the tournament” – now keep in mind that this is the players I thought stood out in this World Cup so past performance doesn’t count:

15. Percy Montgomery (SA) – I don’t think there is a standout performer here but Montgomery was very solid and kicked well from hand and at goal.

14. Drew Mitchell (Cons) – Underused by the Convicts and yet still scored 7 tries. Always looked dangerous with the ball (when thy actually put him on the pitch).
13. Jacques Fourie (SA) – Tough one this with no-one really outstanding, I would have gone for Steyn or Bai but they both play inside centre. Fourie was solid enough and picked up a few tries.
12. Luke McAllister (NZ) – OK, he should have been lining up a drop goal against France in the last 10 mins but other than that he made some cracking breaks.
11. Bryan Habana (SA) – Just too quick and can step at full pace as well. Add in that he isn’t small and you can see why he scored 8 tries.

10. Juan Martin Hernandez (Arg) – Best 15 in the world has now got a pretty good claim to be the best 10 in the world – maybe not great against SA but was masterful in every other game.
9. Fourie du Preez (SA) – Before the tournament I couldn’t understand why SA didn’t pick Ruan Pienaar at 9 but du Preez has played amazingly well.

1. Andrew Sheridan (Eng) – More of a nod to the comedy Convict scrum really.
2. Marius Tincu (Rom) – I remember this guy from previous Romania games and from a few games for Perpingan, as usual he was an absolute dynamo.
3. Martin Scelzo (Arg) – Solid in the scrum and showed up a bit in the loose too.
4. Ali Williams (NZ) – Showed up everywhere in the loose and was fantastic in the line outs, one All Black who I don’t think can be criticised.
5. Alun Wynn Jones (Wal) – I always think he looks a bit small for a 2nd row but he puts in a good shift every time I see him play.
6. Rocky Elsom (Cons) – The last position I picked and it’s a struggle (I’ve resisted the option of picking two opensides). Burger and T-Pole are close but I’ll give it to Elsom as he has improved immeasurably since first appearing on the scene and wasn’t his usual penalty machine self.
7. Nili Latu (Ton) – A hell of a lot of competition here with Quera, Juan Smith and Dusatoir all in the running but Latu is my overall player of the tournament so he gets in.
8. Gonzalo Longo (Arg) – I was originally going to say Henry Tuilagi as he was immense in the games he played but he only played in two. Longo was man of the match three time I think so in he goes.

Looking at the BBC team of the tournament they agree with 7 of my 15 (and they cheated by using two opensides).

Monday, 22 October 2007

RWC (Last weekend)

Was it a try or not? Being honest from my viewpoint in the bar I couldn’t tell but it seemed 50/50. I don’t remember the replay being frame by frame though which made it more difficult to tell – anyway the difference was 9 points in the end, not 5 or 6. Also, for the whole of the first half all England did was hoist up ‘n’ unders – not rugby which I want to see winning the World Cup (unless it is Scotland obviously).

The 3rd/4th game was a bit of a surprise though – Argentina having stuffing France says they have to get into the Tri-Nations now. I know the argument is that all their players play in Europe so they should go into the 6 Nations but their fans aren’t here are they! Also, the Tri-Nations tales place after the Northern hemisphere domestic season ends so the players are all available.

Tune in tomorrow for my team of the tournament – only two positions left to decide on.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Moving On

It looks like my short stint in Tokyo is nearly at an end - I say short but of course this was supposed to be 2/3 months and is now nearly 6 months. Not that I'm complaining mind, this place is great – I defiantly think that it has displaced Toronto as my favourite city I’ve ever been to.

At the moment the provisional plan seems to be that I will fly out of here to New York on Friday 26th - curiously as I fly over the date line, although the flight lasts 12.5 hours, the time difference is 13 hours so I will actually land before I have taken off (if you see what I mean). This is still not set in stone but seems to be a lot more certain that any other previously suggested leaving date so we'll see.

I've started the NY office manager looking for a temporary flat for me and might have to think about starting to pack up soon (for those of you who have been reading from day one you might remember that I got stung pretty heavily for excess baggage on my flight here so that could be fun again).

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Tokyo: a damn big place

I hadn’t actually realised but Tokyo is actually the largest urban area in the world with more that 35 million people here. The next largest is Mexico city which is less than 20 million – a big difference. For reference New York comes in 4th at 18.6 million and London is 28th with 7.6 million - so Tokyo has almost 5 times as many people as London.

Now the figure of 35 million is arguably slightly misleading as that includes the suburbs as well such as Yokohama and Chiba which are cities in their own right - but still, it is all one urban mass.

When it comes to the city on its own, Tokyo comes in 10th at 8.1 million with the largest being Seoul at 10.2 million. Again, for reference, New York is 11th at 8 million and London is 15th with 7.1 million (so not nearly as big a difference there).

Off on a tangent, I see there is a new Killers track out and this website currently has an mp3 of it available for download.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Off the cuff

I haven't had to resort to writing one of these off the top of my head for a while and considering how hungover I am this could be interesting. I went out last night a couple of beers and some food with a colleague to the Ginza Lion Beer Hall - do you see where my problem might have started.

After a couple there we toured round various bars in Ginza basically made up of whichever would let us in (Ginza is a big Japanese only area for bars) trying to find Coyote Ugly which my colleague swore he had seen at the weekend. We eventually found it at about 1am only to be told we weren't getting in - probably a fair call from the staff at this point in the evening.

We must have taken a wrong turn on the way back to the hotel as we ended up on the wrong side of the train tracks but not to worry - we did find a bar which was filled with a lot of the hotel staff who had finished work. Having lived in the hotel for more than 5 months now I'm a known face so we joined then for a few beers. I think I left around 4am so am not on the best (or indeed any) form today. Roll on tomorrow.

Beware: Japanese people on bicycles

A I’ve alluded to before there really is virtually no crime here and everyone follows the rules or etiquette almost exactly – except in one instance, bikes. You have to keep your wits about you the whole time as they are flying along all over the place – on pavements, through lights the wrong way up on-way streets.

I checked and the rules seem to be the same as in the UK – i.e. on the road and follow the same laws as cars. Well pretty much no-one follows those rules here – they’d rather fly along the pavements trying to hit me!

Sunday, 14 October 2007

RWC (Week 6)

Bollocks to the World Cup – would someone just beat the sodding English so I can just enjoy the tournament. Still 36 – 0 in the group stages surely can’t be turned round…it better bloody not anyway.

Now, a word about scheduling – putting all the games on at 9pm in France is sod all use for anyone in, say, Japan (or NZ or Convictland). That makes kick off times here 4am and even later (or should that be earlier for the Antipodeans). Now I suspect that these are some of the bigger markets so would it really be so difficult to have the games on in the afternoon in France?

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Okonomiyaki (and Monja-yaki)

A couple of weeks ago I ended up in a little restaurant in Shinjuku which served Okonomiyaki (known as Japanese Pizza) – this is a mixture of flour, egg, cabbage and onion all mixed together with meat or fish sometimes added. The Okonomiyaki ingredients are served in a bowl for you to mix up and the tables in the restaurant have a hot plate built in for you to cook the dish. It ends up like a pancake sort of thing, only takes a couple of minutes and is damn good.

Monja-yaki is the same sort of thing but differs slightly in that it doesn’t form a pancake/pizza when cooked as the batter is much more water based. As a result the result isn’t a solid omelette/pancake like the Okonomiyaki and consequently takes a while to get through. Still good though but I’m not a big a fan as the Okonomiyaki.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Boots of beer

We visited the last of the Ty Harbour Brewery restaurants last week and it was again excellent. This one was actually at the brewery itself and the menu had 1ltr Boots of beer for sale…didn’t expect it to be in the shape of a boot though:

Before I go today, a couple of music downloads to send you off to: "I Ran" by A Flock Of Seagulls (trust me - even if the name means nothing to you you will know the song and its a classic); and Radiohead released their new album (In Rainbows) as a download only yesterday - the catch here being you can pay what you like for the download (i.e. from zero to however high you like). How much did I pay? Well, how moralistic am I in your eyes...

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Friday night continues...

…I don’t think I mentioned that Friday was the birthday of one of the girls working here and her choice (after the boat was abandoned) was to go to Geronimos as she had never been. She may not want to go back now as she had about 8 shots in about an hour and a half and was then escorted back to the hotel. Incidentally, I now owe a barman there ¥5,000 as I lost a bet that England would lose by more than Scotland over the weekend (neither of us were arguing that we either team would actually win). Anyway, three of us continued through Roppongi…but you’ve heard this story before and know the ending already so let me tell you about something different.

I was looking thought the concert listings for Tokyo yesterday afternoon and noticed that Hard-Fi were playing in Shibuya. After years of effort in London I had reached the point where I generally knew when all the bands I wanted to see were on, when the tickets went on sale and any presales so its rather annoying to be back to the start in a new city on that.

Anyway, having scrambled around for the afternoon it became clear that it was sold out and that if I wanted to go I would have to take my chanced with the touts outside. I arrived outside the venue (Club Womb) just before 6pm (just as the doors were due to open) to find nothing: no touts; no queue to get in; and the doors still closed. At 6pm exactly the doors opened and people began sedately arriving and walking straight in – all very different from going to a gig in London. I hung around for about 20 minutes before deciding that it was a lost cause and wandered off. Just another example of how different things work in Japan.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Booze cruise

As a change of pace for Friday night we found a boat with a bar which runs for 3 hours on the Sumida River (actually it does the same hour round trip 3 times).

Quite a good view of the Fuji TV building (with the miniature Statue of Liberty in front):

Being honest it was pretty dead on board with a bloke doing Elton John covers so it was knocked on the head after an hour and we headed to Roppongi…

RWC (Week 5)

If asked before the weekend what the best chance of an upset was I would have picked Scotland to beat Argentina and I'd like to think that isn't a biased view. I mean seriously, England shouldn't have been close to the Convicts on current form, France would surely only beat NZ by having one of those days that only France seem to have and Fiji were out of their depth against SA.

So lets go game by game:

Eng v Cons: Just being rubbish at scrums shouldn't lose you a match where you should be so far ahead in the backs and breakdown while being competitive in the lineout but apparently not - Fat Matt Dunning might be able to kick drop goals but he really can't scrum;

NZ v Fra: I suppose its not a huge shock and I have said all year that NZ were going to choke again although I did think it would be against SA in the final - still always funny to see NZ lose and especially to a forward pass (it was pointed out to me yesterday that it wouldn't have been forward in Super 14s anyway);

Fiji v SA: If Fiji had scored that try in the corner with ~15mins to play when it was 20 all I think they would have gone on to win it. Great performance as I had them down for a real hiding in this one; and

Sctd v Arg: Such a winnable game as Argentina did nothing all game other than play for territory - they never looked like scoring a try (and the one they did from the charge down was offside). Scotland only abandoned trying to play the territory game in the last 20 mins and the Argies looked tired then. We still don't recycle the ball quick enough and lost too many balls in contact but disappointing to lose a game that could have been won.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Tokyo lights

It is difficult to describe just how bright Tokyo is – every street is covered in neon signs and bright billboards from the ground to the top floor of every building. There really is no need for streetlights.

I’ve taken quite a few pictures when I’ve been out in the evenings to try and collect a few that do justice to just what it is like to walk around this place at night and these just about do the trick:

Geronimos. On a Tuesday. This can’t end well.

A useful rule I’ve discovered is that if you’re going out to dinner in Tokyo try and avoid a restaurant anywhere near Roppongi as you will probably end up in the bars afterwards. Further evidence, as if any was needed, of this occurred on Tuesday night after we had been to Bourbon Street restaurant (excellent food – we will be back).

Admittedly the move to Geronimos was due to me wanting to remonstrate about my plaque having been missed out in a rather more sober manner than I had tried last Saturday at 2am (it actually looks like the whole of July has been missed so I suspect I’m not the only one with a complaint).

Anyway, back on 26 June when I first wrote about this bar I mentioned anyone who hit the drum in the bar had to buy everyone in the bar a shot – there were only about 8 to 12 people in the bar all night so the three of us all hit the drum (at least once):


Each month there is a leaderboard showing the people who buy the most shots in a month (no idea what you win and no intention of finding out):

Anyway, by the end of the night we pooled our collective totals together and now sit 3rd on the leaderboard for the month (this was on the 2nd so I doubt we’ll survive the weekend). A late finish on a Tuesday is not the ideal start to a week.