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 4ÂșC (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).