Saturday, 4 April 2009

Goodbye

So this is it, last entry. I'm sitting in the same chair in London I was almost two years ago when I wrote the first entry on this Blog. Since then I've spent time in: Japan, Australia, USA, Mexico, India, Hong Kong, Macau, Canada, Bermuda and Barbados as well as watching too many concerts and sports events to try and even start to list.

If you've been following my travels for a while then you'll know that the majority of my time was in either Japan or New York. If you want to read my summary of Tokyo then you'll find that here.

As far as New York goes, well I'll miss a few things:
- the beer (no, not the Bud and Miller rubbish but the small microbrewery brands such as DogFish Head, Lagunitas, Smuttynose)
- late drinking (back to London closing times of 1.30pm is a shock to the system)
- concerts (in NYC I saw so many bands I like in really small venues for cheap prices)
- delivery (I could have ordered food from a different restaurant every night I was in NY and it would have been delivered to my door for free inside half an hour)
- 24 hour tube trains which never seem to break down (if NY can manage it why can't London?)

And there a few things I won't:
- the weather (5 months of the year is ridiculously hot and humid and 5 months of the year are ridiculously cold)
- the city is filthy (seriously, the whole place is just manky)
- it is a long way to get anywhere out of the city (in Greenwich I'm still close to the middle of London but it never feels like living in a city)

At the end of day the question I asked myself was: do I see myself wanting to live long term in NYC and it didn't take long to decide the answer was no. Do I see London as that place? That's a more difficult answer.

So there you go, a last few thoughts. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it.

"Nothing makes the Earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes" - Henry David Thoreau

Friday, 3 April 2009

Windies v England

OK, caught up with yesterday's post - time for today's. As I mentioned I went to two Windies v England ODIs while I was in Barbados both of which were played at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown.

Friday

The first match was delayed by about an hour due to rain. When it did finally get under way England were batting - but not for long. They quickly deteriorated to 68-8 and looked on course to beat their lowest ever score against the Windies of 114. Only a late rally by a couple of tailenders stopped this as they were bowled out for 117 (apparently the 15th lowest ODI score ever by England).

The Windies would have had to do something really awful to lose this game and after Chris Gayle hit 80 from just 42 balls (including 8 sixes and 5 fours) that was never going to happen. When Gayle was finally bowled the score was 98-1 (his batting partner having scored only 8 - for those of you who think I have my maths wrong there were 10 extras).

The Windies wrapped this game up by 4pm and finished on 117-2 after only 15 overs.

Sunday

Even though watching England get thrashed was obviously hilarious I was rather hoping that the second game would be a bit more exciting. The Windies batted first in this game and Chris Gayle started where he left off from hitting 46 from 39 balls (including 5 sixes). Unfortunately for the Windies they lost their way a bit then and were quickly reduced to 83-3. They kept losing wickets fairly regularly without scoring too quickly before Dwayne Bravo launched a late assault and scored 69 from 72 balls. In the end the Windies finished with 239-9.

The opinion of the crowd seemed to be that this may be enough as England had been so poor. However, we'll never know as the rain crashed down over lunch and the England innings was delayed for so long that their target was reduced to 135 from 20 overs to win the match.

England never really looked in danger of not making this total scoring well in the powerplay overs of the game to reach 136-1 with 9 balls to spare.

Barbados

Well, there you go. For the first time in almost 2 years I forgot to write a Blog entry yesterday - and I only had a couple of days left before I stop for good too. Anyway, what I was going to write about was my long weekend in Barbados where I stopped off on my way back to the UK (OK, its more of a detour than a stopover).

I flew down on Thursday morning and left Monday evening so had almost 5 days there. A couple of the days were filled with West Indies v England ODIs which I'll cover in a separate post but the rest of the time was split between the beach or the bar.

That was the view from the deck outside my hotel (which I would describe as cheap and cheerful at best). On Thursday and Saturday nights I headed along to the main bar area of St Lawrence Gap which was about 20 mins walk. This is about a mile long and is full of bars, clubs and restaurants. On Saturday evening I was sitting in a bar chatting to the bar staff when about half a dozen rather drunken guys wandered in - I assumed they were England cricket supporters but it turned out to be the BVI rugby team who were in town to play Barbados. I ended up getting into a few rounds of rather hideous cocktails and shots with them that night.

Friday night I headed to Oistin Fish Market which, from the early evening onwards if full of tourists and locals. This place is full of dozens of little fish cafes selling the days catch and Banks beer at really cheap prices (one place was selling bottles of Banks for BBD$3 (which works out to US$1.50 or about £1).

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Last bands in NYC

I'm running out of time if I'm going to finish writing this Blog this week so I'll have to cover two concerts in one post. My final two nights in NYC were spent at gigs so here we go.

Bloc Party at Terminal 5

Another band who seem to have expanded their US fan base since I arrived as they were playing two sold out nights at Terminal 5 whereas their last tour was at the much smaller Webster Hall. To be honest it really was only the songs from Silent Alarm that I wanted to hear and it seemed that way for a lot of the crowd as these were the songs the crowd were most into.

Some of the newer songs didn't seem to require anyone to be playing onstage except the drummer. However, they played pretty much everything I was hoping for from the first album.

Morrissey at Webster Hall

I can't claim to be a particularly big fan of either Morrissey or The Smiths (greatest hits for each of them in my CDs but that's it). However, as he was playing such a, relatively, small venue and it was so close to my flat I got tickets.

Luckily there were a couple of Smiths songs in the set including my favourite "How Soon Is Now". Otherwise, the final song (can't remember the name) was a bit mad. One guy from the crowd climbed on stage to hug Morrissey and was thrown back and from then on dozens of people were trying the same thing. There were 4 security guys at the front of the stage throwing people back before they made it - not sure if that was song specific or normal at his gigs.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Last post in NYC

So this will be my last entry from NYC. I have a couple of hours left in the office before I head off for the day but tomorrow I will be finishing packing in my flat and then Thursday I fly off. Back in London next week via a bit of a detour over the weekend.

So I'll have a couple more stories to finish up with next week but then this record of my two years of travels will be done.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Last of the early beer starts...

...or at least last of the early beers starts due to the 6 Nations in NYC. I'm not ruling them out completely in the future. Turning up for the France v Italy game wasn't really necessary to guarantee a seat either - in fact there were only about a dozen people in the whole bar for the start of that game.

However, the place was mobbed by the time the Calcutta Cup game started and I doubt you could get in the door when the Wales v Ireland game began. Not sure whether the whisky shots were a good idea - actually they weren't...

Friday, 20 March 2009

Jimmy's Corner

The leaving drinks are beginning to take their tole on me this week. Thankfully I have a night off tonight before the 6 Nations at 9am tomorrow morning.

Yesterday I went out mid-afternoon with a few guys from work which ran until around midnight I think. Ended up in a bar called Jimmy's Corner which is just off Time Square. Generally I wouldn't even consider going anywhere near a bar in this area but this place was a bit different.

It is owned by a guy called Jimmy Glenn who is a pretty famous boxing trainer and the whole place is filled with pictures and other memorabilia. Interesting place to look into if you are passing by.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Recession note

I was out for a few beers last night with a few of the guys. I hadn't realised it as I walked in but I was the only one who still had a job. The other three all having lost out in the last few months - they also don't hold out much hope of getting anything new in the foreseeable future and have been looking all over the world (America, Asia, Europe and Africa).

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

123 Burger Shot Beer

The Ting Tings concert on Monday was at Terminal 5 which is in the middle of nowhere in Manhattan terms (56th St and 12th Ave). However, we did come across a noteworthy bar after the show on about 51st St and 10th Ave: 123 Burger Shot Beer.

The name comes from the prices: $1 burgers, $2 shots and $3 draft beers. Now let me clarify slightly, the burgers are mini-burgers and you need to order a minimum of three and the beers are not pints (although its still a pretty good deal as they seem to be about 12oz). Also, the beer selection is pretty good: you would expect Bud, Bud Light and other such dreadful stuff (which is there) but there is also Goose Island IPA and Sam Adams.

As it was a Monday night we were never going to be there until silly o'clock but 1am was more than respectable I thought (especially after a 6 Nations weekend).

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

For the fifth time in about 9 months...

...The Ting Tings were back in NYC again. They've now graduated to playing Terminal 5 which has a capacity of about 3,000 which was sold out last night. Compare that to 500 person Bowery Ballroom they first played here last year.

I missed the opening band last night (Hottub) so I'll move straight to The Ting Tings. As usual they had made a few tweaks to the show - most notably the addition of four girls playing saxophones on a couple of songs and adding a verse of Talking Heads "Psycho Killer" to the middle of "We Started Nothing".

They could do with a few more songs though as the show is still only just over an hour - that's fine for Bowery Ballroom but at the bigger venues with higher prices not so much.

Found something a bit different while looking for mp3s today - a mashup of "Shut Up and Let Me Go" with "Give It Away" by The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Not sure if it works or not but check it out here.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Long Saturday of rugby

Having spent the usual morning/early afternoon in the Red Lion watching rugby (with the clocks changing here it was an 11am start rather than 10am). We then decamped up to The Australian and made our way through three Super 14 games.

It was about midnight when we finally left (13 hours after the day in the bar began). Only one more weekend of these early bar starts to go - but that starts at 9am...

Friday, 13 March 2009

Jacko impersonation

I see Michael Jackson tickets went on sale in the UK today - not going anywhere near that but I did see a Jacko impersonator last night on my way home.

Going through Union Square underground station you quite often get a few buskers etc as it is a very large and busy station. Last nigh there was a rather large crowd, about 50 people, all stopped to watch one such "act". Turns out it was a guy dressed and dancing like Jacko while the music blared out of his hifi. Why do I deem this worthy of mention? Well two reasons, its Friday and I've got nothing else interesting to tell you and the guy was only about 3ft tall.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

3am on a Wednesday

Even though the counter on the right of the screen says I have 2 weeks left last night was my leaving drinks from the NYC office. Kicking off at a bar called Whiskey Park near the office on 6th and about 59th I think a group of us left there around 1.30am and went to The Spotted Pig for food.

I have a dim recollection of seeing 3am on my watch roughly when I got home. Still I could feel a lot worse today and at least one person is a no show in the office so far.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Pela

Most of the bands I go and see are UK bands who are relatively unknown over here - well last night was a US band who is relatively unknown over here. Without the normal expat crowd this was a gig in the Mercury Lounge (the room at the back of a bar venue that holds about 150 people).

River City Extension - I arrived half way through this bands set (the crowd was probably under 30 at this point in the evening) but I'm glad I did. This is the first band I have bought the CD of at the gig for quite a while. I've been reading about them this morning and they are described as a "dockgrass" band!?!?! Anyway, I rather liked it whatever it was. Also, this band continued the growing trend I've seen of having some more obscure instruments in their band - cello and trumpet included here.

Neckbeard Telecaster - this lot seemed to be a bunch of mates on a piss-up rather than any sort of organised band (there were 12 of them on stage including at least four who had no apparent purpose). Anyway, probably up to about 50 people by now in the venue and the sound was not bad but I do remember thinking it was all a bit similar and songs seemed to blend into one.

Holly Miranda - back to a band with a random instrument added - violin's do seem to be becoming popular in the bands I'm seeing. I'd sum this group up in the same way as the one above, not bad but I do remember thinking it was all a bit similar and songs seemed to blend into one.

Pela - I've had the the album on my ipod for the last couple of weeks (I hadn't listened to their stuff for a while) and although all the tracks are good there really aren't any that are great. Live they are very good though, a full house (so about 150 I guess) got an hour long show including some new tracks which sounded really good and a cover of the clash song "Guns of Brixton".

Check out "Trouble With River Cities" by Pela here.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Connection issues

At the moment I'm trying to organise my name going back on the bills for electricity, telephone and Sky etc. There are a couple of issues here though:

1. a lot of the companies have some number beginning 08 which I can't call from this country.
2. the difficulty in trying to keep the same number from BT (which will help with Sky Broadband) is ridiculous.

I suspect this will not be solved by the time I return...

Monday, 9 March 2009

Rangers v Bruins

Early start at the hockey yesterday as the Rangers game was picked up by NBC to be shown nationally. As a result the face-off was at 12.30pm.

Another excellent game in what looks like being my final ice-hockey game before I leave the US. A scoreless first period which the Rangers just about shaded. However, the the 2nd period the teams exchanged early goals before the Rangers took control and scored another couple of goals to lead 3-1 going into the 3rd.

The Bruins (who are currently top of the Eastern Conference) woke up in the 3rd period and scored a couple of goals to get level and they looked more likely to go on and win. However, it was the Rangers who scored to win it holding out against a 6 on 4 powerplay at the end of the game.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Wedges

Haven't been in the Australian bar for quite a while but ended up meeting a couple of guys for beers there last night. Disaster occurs in that the wedges they served have been changed since out last visit - this may seem a minor annoyance but these were fantastic wedges.

Still probably won't stop me spending the day watching replays of Super 14 matches there all day tomorrow.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Steaming?

A relatively common sight in Manhattan are large tubes rising from the street and venting steam in to the air.

I've been curious what these are for a while so when I saw another set at lunchtime today I decided to try and find out. Apparently, this is a heating system which carries steam from central power stations under the streets of Manhattan to heat, cool, or supply power to high rise buildings and businesses. This has been going on since the system was fist introduced in 1882.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

I'm sure I've written this before but...

I'm really looking forward to getting away from the awful weather in this city. Just when I thought I might get a couple of nicer weeks before I leave the snow falls and the temperature drops.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Billie Jean King Cup

Never heard of it before? Not surprising as this was the first year of the competition. Also, the advertising wasn't great as I only noticed it was on last week.

Anyway, it was a mini tournament at MSG last night featuring the Williams sisters, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic. Two semi-finals of one set (with no deuce and a first to seven tie break if a set finished at 6 all) followed by a three set final under normal rules.

First up was Venus Williams v Jelena Jankovic. To be honest Jankovic never really threatened in this match while always having to work hard to hold her serve. She eventually did drop serve and lost the set 6-4:

The second match between Seerena Williams and Ana Ivanovic was much closer with Ivanovic twice getting to 15-40 on the Williams serve but being unable to win any of the 6 break points. Williams had one break point and took it to win 6-3:

After a half hour break (where there was a presentation to Billie Jean King and a speech by Bill Clinton) the final got underway. A close first set where breaks were traded turned on a very long 9th game. This game probably took 15 minutes to finish on its own before Serena finally won another break and then served out the set.

After this break Serena cruised through most of the second set to open up a 5-1 lead. Although Venus did get back to 5-3 that was it with Serena winning in straight sets:

You'll notice that I moved round to a better seat later in the match, the crowd (which was pretty full to begin with) started to leave from about the middle of the first set in the final (about 10.30pm) and by the 2nd set most of the crowd were either heading home or heading to better seats.

Winner of this event got $400,000, runner up $300,000 and just for turning up $250,000. Not a bad nights work any way you look at it.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Radio City Music Hall

This a a rather famous venue in NYC which originally opened in 1932.

Over the last year and a bit I've kept an eye on what/who was appearing at this venue to try and spot something worth the visit and finally something appeared. This weekend David Byrne was appearing in two shows so I went along on Friday night.

Now, the time on the ticket for most concerts I go to is the doors opening time and this will be at least and hour (and possibly two) before the first band starts. However, I suspected that there may not be a support act and that the 8pm on the ticket may be the actual show time. I was right on both counts with David Byrne starting at about 8.15pm. Plenty of people were wrong and were still filing in about 45 mins later.

Radio City itself is pretty massive inside with an all seater capacity of about 6,000 - normally I avoid seated concerts but as I was still a bit unwell and had been to the gym a couple of hours earlier I was quite happy with a seat.

Unfortunately, I also thought that cameras would be banned inside (and there were plenty of signs saying just that). However, first announcement from David Byrne was take as many pictures as you like. That left me with my rather crappy camera phone hence the poor quality.

To the gig itself. Well the show lasted about 2 hours. I was expecting the set to mostly cover his solo work and Brian Eno collaborations (the name of thew show was "Performing the songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno"). However, there were a good number of Talking Heads songs thrown in later on which was excellent.

You'll find an mp3 of "Strange Overtones" which I think is from his most recent album with Eno linked here.

Friday, 27 February 2009

6 Nations (Week 3)

It has been agreed that the session after the 6 Nations a couple of weeks ago was in no-ones best interest so tomorrow we will try and maintain some sort of order through the afternoon. This may be aided by me still feeling awful.

As for the Friday night game in Paris, well that kicks off at 3pm here so I'll be finishing work at 2pm today I think.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Tokyo Police Club at Webster Hall

I was rather glad last nights show was at Webster Hall - not because it is a venue that I particularly like but because it is only 5 mins walk from my flat and I felt pretty terrible. I think my body has finally rebelled against the healthy living I've been aiming for this year. To the show:

Harlem Shakes - underwhelming to say the least. I struggle to remember what they even sounded like but I do remember thinking that it was instantly forgettable which is what appears to have happened.

Born Ruffians
- remember The Levellers? Well so do these guys as that is what they sounded like.

Tokyo Police Club
- here's a band who do generally sound better live than on their records, the exceptions to this rule being my two favourite songs - curious. Anyway, a good hour and a bit set from them last night (which is good for a band with only one full length album and whose songs average well under 3 mins each). Bit of a dead crowd though.

You'll find a couple of mp3s here.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Rugby on Yank TV

Sunday evening and abc (one of the bigger TV stations here) had one hour devoted to highlights of last weekends San Diego 7s - actually it got cut down to 45 minutes as the basketball game on before it overran...

Anyway, I was waiting for some really basic commentary trying to explain even vaguely what was going on but no, they just used the normal commentary. What it did prove is that it is impossible to show a whole weekends worth of 7s in 45 minutes (and 15 minutes of that was most of the final) and try to make any sense of it.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Atlantic City (Part II)

I'm not a gambler - had a few tries in Vegas and never really found it particularly interesting. So what else is there to do in Atlantic City?

Well people watching in this place is pretty good and although I don't get anything out of gambling I can stand to watch it for a while (especially when I have no idea of the rules of the game and try and pick them up along the way). Each of the hotels has its own theme as well with the Wild West casino probably trying the hardest.

Also, AC has a big outlet shopping district. Again, shopping not something that I generally have much interest in but the prices here were ridiculous. Even with the current FX rate I think the US is cheaper than the UK and here the normal US prices were generally 50% off. As if I didn't have enough stuff to transport back to the UK anyway.

Finally, I found a couple of good bars - The Tun Tavern was a micro brewery with some pretty good beers and also Firewaters which was a bar in the depths of the Tropicana hotel. This picture will tell you why I liked this bar:

Monday, 23 February 2009

Atlantic City

When I'm discussing my trips in the office the Yanks quite often have pretty strong views on what the places I'll be visiting are like - this is especially true if the place is in or near NYC. For example, going to Times Square for New Year was the worst idea possible.

The overwhelming view of Atlantic City was that it is worth a look but you probably don't want to spend much time there. When you look at a list of the top attractions you can see why as this includes the tallest lighthouse in New Jersey (not North America, not the US, not even the East Coast but New Jersey...).

So what the hell was I doing there. Well, if you've never heard of it Atlantic City is a gambling city with about a dozen or so giant casino/hotels on what is actually quite a nice looking beach.

Watching the clientele as I made my way around the casinos this place caters to the lower end of society and no wonder. It costs $35 for a bus ticket from NYC and takes just over 2 hours. On top of that the casino's refund part of the fair when you arrive (I got $20 cash form Bally's - not $20 voucher to spend in the casino but just cash...). If Vegas was as easy to get to I'm sure it would be overrun in the same way.

Best description of this place - its somewhere between Las Vegas and Coney Island (and that isn't a good place to be). I can't imagine what type of hell this place must be in the Summer when it is flooded with people.

Anyway, I'll tell you what I actually got up to with my day in AC tomorrow.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Katz's Deli

I was watching the Travel Channel or Food Network a couple of weeks ago and came across a show which featured "Katz's Delicatessen" and the ridiculous sandwiches they serve there. Turns out this place is only a few blocks away from my flat so I went for a visit on Monday after working up an appetite at the gym.

It was busy (but I expect it always is). Having finally made it to the front of a sandwich line I ordered the Reuben (corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing). These sandwiches include 1lb of sliced meat. Having finally managed to grab that I moved to the separate queue for chips and another queue for drinks (I think there is at least one other queue for soup).

To be honest the picture doesn't really do it justice. There are two things that are very big in Katz's: the sandwich and the bill. Now this is a really good sandwich but (even on its own) it costs about $16...for a sandwich!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Los Campesinos!

Sunday's ice hockey match was an afternoon match which meant I had enough time to get back home and changed before heading out to see Los Campesinos! at the Bowery Ballroom that evening.

Titus Andronicus - this band seemed to spend a lot of time just trying to make as much noise as possible and the lead singer was pretty dreadful. That said, when they did actually play music the band seemed quite good. The final song of their set was a duet of Green Day's "Time of Your Life" between the lead singer with his guitar and the violin player from Los Campesinos! which was good too.

Los Campesinos! - I put this band in the same sort of area as British Sea Power for a few reasons:
1. their are loads of them (7 members here);
2. they have a violin player;
2. their music is a bit odd; and
3. although they have some really good tracks overall I find them fairly average.

The set was pretty good and they do have some fantastic songs to play live. Overall, I doubt they are a band which will get much more success than British Sea Power as their sound is a bit odd. Check out and mp3 of "You, Me Dancing" (which is fantastic live) here.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Devils v Sharks

With a fairly major hangover I headed out to Newark on Sunday afternoon for a Devils game. They were playing the San Jose sharks who have the best record in the NHL at the moment and have another one of the leagues top stars in Joe Thornton.

This turned out to be probably the best ice-hockey game I have seen. The Devils opened the scoring on their first shot of the game after only 30 seconds and that set the tone for the first 10 minutes with goals flying in at both ends resulting in the Devils taking a 3-2 lead and that was how the 1st period finished.

Into a tight 2nd period and it looked like there would be no scoring but late on the Sharks scored two goals (including one on a 5 on 3 powerplay with only seconds left in the period) to take the lead 4-3.

Into the 3rd period and It was the Devils who started to get on top with a couple of powerplay goals early on to retake the lead 5-4. With 10 minutes left and the Devils on yet another powerplay it was San Jose who grabbed shorthanded goal to tie the game at 5 all. However, with less than 5 minutes to play the Devils scored their third powerplay goal of the period to go ahead 6-5 and that was the way the game finished (although not before they had to withstand a period of 6 on 4 play with a man in the penalty box and the San Jose goalie having been pulled from the game for an extra skater).

Hectic stuff - nearly enough to get rid of my hangover. Added bonus, there was a free cap giveaway for all spectators at the game.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Lost Saturday

Things started with good intentions - I was the first person in the gym at 8am and stayed for an hour before heading off to the bar for the 6 Nations games. Still in a reasonable shape that took me to about 1.30pm I suppose.

The next bar was Peculiar Bar next door as it has a much better selection of beers. I think we were probably only there for a couple so call it between 2.30pm and 3pm we moved on from there.

Now, I remember going into "Off the Wagon", I remember playing beer pong, I remember the barman telling me I wasn't allowed to play whisky pong and I vaguely remember being told that my sidekick had just been thrown out. I have no recollection of leaving the bar, walking home, going to McDonalds on route (apparently around 8.15pm) or getting home...

Friday, 13 February 2009

Weekend of beer II

Another Yank holiday crept up on me without me noticing - its Presidents Day on Monday so I won't be here.

As for the rest of the weekend, as well as the 6 Nations games to watch I've also got some ice-hockey and a concert. Although none of that is on Monday so I'll have to see what I can come up with for then.

As I write this I'm reading about yet another plane crash, as well as the two out of NYC there is one in City airport in London...at least my flights aren't for another 6 weeks (I'm sure Caribbean Air is really good too...).

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Starting to think about packing

With a little under 6 weeks to go until I leave I've started to think about packing and how to transfer all the stuff I have accumulated back to London. When I left I had two suitcases full of clothes and that was it. Even allowing for the stuff I dropped off in December I still think I have more than I started with as well as a number of books etc which are rather heavy when you add them up.

At the moment it looks like I will be shipping a few boxes back (takes about 3 weeks I think). Certainly better than trying to drag it all through the airport which I'm not even sure would be physically possible.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Razorlight

Back to where my NYC concert going started in late 2007 - Razorlight at The Filmore. Having checked the website for the venue during the day it said that doors opened at 6pm and the show would start at 7pm - a bit early I thought but not impossible.

Anyway, I ended up getting stuck at work until 6.30pm so by the time I had got home, changed at to the venue it was closer to 7.30pm and I assumed I would have missed the opening act. Not so, the website had been lying and the opening band didn't actually come on until 8.15pm.

Diane Birch - the normal drummer, bassist and guitarist were stuck at the back of the stage as this music here was dominated by the lead singer playing either a piano or an organ. Add in a trumpet player next to her and it was a bit different to the norm. It was perfectly listenable but sounded like lounge music before heading off almost in a country & western direction...not really my sort of thing.

Razorlight - now I like Razorlight's first two albums but the latest didn't survive on my ipod for long. It really was pretty bad. So I was rather hoping that they didn't play much of the new stuff and stuck with their old albums.

To be far the few new songs they did play sounded better live than I remembered them from the album so I might give it another chance. Also, they did change the tempo/style of a few of their older songs which I always quite like bands trying out.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

NYC Comic-Con

Most people who know me will know that I am a pretty big science fiction fan - therefore, when I saw that there was a comic book convention in NYC I figured it would be worth a look.

Now I should clarify here that I have always tried to avoid getting into comic books as the stories are never as good as books (yes, even Watchmen would have been better as a real novel) and it is ridiculously expensive. That said, these types of shows typically include things on TV, movies and computer games so not just comics.

This event ran for 3 days over the weekend and I'm pretty sure there were some people who were there every minute of every day. As it was 6 Nations weekend I was only there on Sunday afternoon. Those would include the people who dress up for such things as their favourite characters (typically from Star Wars or Batman as far as I could tell).

Now these people are in the minority (about 1 in 50 at a guess) but still, what is the mindset you have to have...beyond me.

The place was huge with hundreds of stalls and was pretty damn packed. Sunday afternoon seemed to be bargain day with most stalls having marked stock down to half price as far as a I could tell - if you were a comic book fan then I suppose I could see how it would take all day to get through everything.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Monster Jam

I've got some real Yank culture for you today. On Friday night I made the 2 hour treck out to Nassau Coliseum to see "Monster Jam" - yes, that is monster truck racing...

Now this event was rather cheap ($30 had me in the front row in the middle of the stand) but I'd guess that of a capacity of about 15,000 there were only about 5,000 people there. Maybe people were scared as there have been a couple of fatalities at such shows in the least few weeks including a kid in the crowd being hit by flying debris - maybe being front and centre wasn't the best seat after all, maybe the expensive seats are way back away from the action?!?

Anyway, to the show itself. These trucks are ridiculously loud - I can't believe that every driver isn't deaf. The first event was a straight race round the arena and over a couple of rows of cars. There were 8 trucks so four first round races followed by semi-finals and the final:


In between the trucks there were also BMX trick riders and motocross bikes making ridiculous jumps. To be honest, after the initial 5 minutes interest value of the trucks these other sights were probably more interesting - certainly very impressive (although I did think that I really shouldn't be spending my Friday night watching BMX riders...).

Other than the initial race the trucks also had what they called a cyclone contest, basically a doughnut contest and then a freestyle round where they just did whatever they liked for 60 seconds. You can tell that they are struggling a bit for ideas if these are considered events.

Incidentally, I had my first beer of the year on Friday night. Wasn't planning on breaking until Saturday but I found a bar in the venue which had DogFish Head on tap so decided to break 12 hours early.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Last day of no beer

Well, my dry January (which has run an extra week this year) is almost over. Combined with a slightly improved diet and 5 gym visits a week I have lost 11lb (5kg) from my first gym visit (7th Jan) to my last (5th Feb).

This news of course may completely mess up the betting if Hutch actually got round to running a book on my weight for when I return to the UK. Anyway, I expect that I'll net about half of that after the 6 Nations are over. The problem with having to watch the games in the morning you see is that it rules out being able to go to the gym for the rest of the day.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Speed The Plow

OK, so my two forays into the world of theatre in NYC this last week were both more stand-up comedy than what would probably count as full on theatre. Well, after these warm-ups I went headfirst last night into "Speed The Plow" - a play by David Mamet which is on Broadway at the moment.

This play currently stars William H. Macy but when it opened in October last year it was headed by Jeremy Piven. Reading the news stories about this change it seems like Piven wasn't great and didn't like reading that so quit at short notice.

Anyway, this play is to do with a film producers who has to decide whether to push the movie with the big star or the film based on a philosophical book to his boss. The other two characters being a junior producer who stands to make it big from the "big star" film and the temp secretary who pushes the book idea. I don't intend to write a full summary of how it all plays out as there would be too many angles to cover.

However, the show itself was really good, the character of the junior producer (played by Raul Esparza) is the best of the three by a long way. Also, added bonus, although my seat was actually at the very back row of the mezzanine as the upstairs was nowhere near full everyone in the upper mezzanine got to move forward about a dozen rows so I got a much better view for the same price as the cheap ticket.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

No movement after all

After a couple of fire-drills at the end of last week I haven't gone anywhere and probably won't for at least another couple of weeks. That just about suits me as I have a few concerts etc to see in the next couple of weeks - also I'm off too see something very different on Friday night but you'll have to wait until Monday for the report on that one.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Sleepwalk With Me

If you've been paying too much attention to my Blog over the last year and a bit you may remember I went to see a stand-up comedy show soon after I arrived in NYC. Well when I was looking through the list of shows in NYC last week I noticed that one of the comedians I saw that night had written his own show called "Sleepwalk With Me".

Although this is predominantly a stand up comedy show it is based on the sole topic of the comedian's real life bouts of sleepwalking and how it has affected his life over the years - including a story of jumping out of a closed 2nd floor window of a hotel to escape a missile that was about to blow him up.

As such it is not as fast paced as a normal stand-up show and is focused on one specific issue (with a few tangents I suppose) and is pretty entertaining. As it was just in a small theatre and cost half as much as last weeks Will Ferrell show it was probably better value for money. From the show:

"...I think the funniest thing that can happen to a hypochondriac is you get cancer because it confirms every fear you've ever had in your life. You're like, 'See? I told you! Remember when...I thought I had rickets? I was probably right about that too...There's gonna be a lot of changes around here!'"

Monday, 2 February 2009

Superbowl

I made a bit of a poor decision last night, with the score 20 - 7 to Pittsburgh and the game into the 4th Quarter I decoded that it was all over and I couldn't stand any more ad breaks so turned the game off.

As some of you may have noticed Arizona staged a big comeback to snatch the lead with less than 3 minutes on the clock (I was going to say less than 3 minutes left but that 3 minutes probably took about half an hour at least)...and it wasn't over then as Pittsburgh scored again to with in the last minute.

S0, what is now being considered one of the best Superbowls ever and I missed out on all the excitement as it had been amazingly dull and I switched off...

Friday, 30 January 2009

Looks like I might be moving on...

...although where seems up for grabs at the moment.

Yesterday I was all set to spend two months working in the Caribbean (would have been good with the Eng v Windies games currently on the go) but that didn't pan out so now the latest potential in Switzerland but I won;t find out anything more until next week.

This weekend - well I've found another show to see but that's about it.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

You're Welcome America - A Final Night With George W Bush

Didn't take too long to find something to go and see at the theatre here - Will Ferrell has just started a show where he plays George Bush recounting his life:

Firstly, the entry into this was less organised that a concert - they didn't open the doors until about 15 minutes before the show was due to start so plenty of people were still trying to get to their seats when the lights went down.

As for the show itself, some of it was hilarious - one long rant about trying to set up a crack platoon of harpoon wielding monkeys to fight terrorists was great. I can roughly remember one scene that made me laugh so here you go:

"So its the night of the 2000 election and there is nothing to watch on TV but election coverage - which is really dull. Anyway, late at night I get a call from Gore to concede the result so I tell him - Sweet, I'm gonna go and set off the M80s I bought last time I was down Mexico way. He says - What? I shout Nerd down the phone and hang up.

So about an hour later, just after I've finished taping the M80s to a hellboy figure, he calls again to take back his concession. I tell him he can't do that. He says he can. I say he can't. He asks why I think he can't? After a bit of a think I tell him because of the Geneva convention and hang up.

Apparently I was wrong on that one, turns out the Geneva convention is mostly to do with what happens when we colonise the Moon."

A few times when statements are made the screen at the back of the stage will say "True" or "Real Quote" to emphasise that Bush really did what was being talked about - it wasn't just made up by Ferrell's character - e.g. he proclaimed June 10, 2000 to be Jesus Day. To be honest he could have used a lot more of these are there are only about half a dozen through the show.

Overall, the show doesn't rely as much on real life events (of which I think there are more than enough to get an hour and a half's show out of) as it could. The show instead relies primarily on random stuff Ferrell has made up rather than on real life events. Still, an entertaining show nonetheless.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Snow

When it snows in NYC (and there is rather a lot of it this morning) it isn't like the UK where the salt trucks drive around all over the place to get rid of it (in fact I haven't even seen any such trucks) - here they just get on with things. This means that the only snow that is cleared from the pavement is where a shopkeeper has taken the time to do it themselves and the roads become one major mess of, the best word I can think of is, sludge - not good to wander through on the way to work.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

What's left?

I have only 8 weekends left in the US before I leave - discounting this final weekend of non-drinking and the 5 Six nations weekends this only leaves 2...

I've been asking a few people in the office what is left in NYC that I haven't seen/done - to be honest I'm not getting that much in response although one common suggestion has been to see a show on Broadway, not really my kind of thing but I'll have a look at the listings and see if anything sounds interesting (musicals are definitely out before I even start this).

Monday, 26 January 2009

Notes from the gym

I'm spending a lot of time in the gym this month (14 visits since 7th Jan) so here are a few things I've noticed:

1 . on Friday afternoon/evening it appears to be model day - I say that because there are always about half a dozen girls about my height who look like they weight about as much as one of my legs. My only other theory is that this is an anorexic group outing in which case it would probably be better to go somewhere other than the gym!

2. Sunday mornings on the other hand, is when the guys who wears vests and spend their whole time lifting weights while staring at themselves in the mirror turn up. The good thing about this is that the running machines are always free.

3. There are always 2 or 3 guys in the gym who are wearing baseball caps - why????

Friday, 23 January 2009

Still 2 weeks to go before drinking resumes

Another weekend of Heineken Cup rugby and visits to the gym beckons - there aren't even any American Football playoffs to watch this week as they are having a break before the Superbowl next week. I would head to the cinema but I can't find a movie I even vaguely want to see.

At least the weather has improved (i.e. it is no longer well below 0C) so I might head out to do something cultural - if such things exist in Yankland...

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Could someone fix the exchange rate please

Its a good thing I'm not spending too much money at the moment as the £ to $ exchange rate continues to go through the floor - apparently it has hit a 7 year low this week. This is actually having an effect on my plans for the next couple of months as I was thinking of going to Austin for the SXSW music festival in March but unless things improve I might do without.

I don't actually need to transfer any cash across at the moment and I'm hoping that as it becomes clear that Obama can't just click his fingers and fix everything in the US things will improve...I hope...sometime in the next month would be nice.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Rangers v Ducks

There aren't even that many good hockey matches to see this month but this was one game 'd been planning to go to for a while. The Anaheim Ducks (they dropped the "Mighty" a few years back) have been one of the top teams for a while now and as they play in the Western Conference they rarely play in NYC.

I expected the Ducks to win and the opening 5 minutes suggested this would be the case with the Ducks controlling possession and creating all the chances.

However, it was the Rangers who scored first although this was almost immediately cancelled out by the Ducks and that's how the 2nd period ended. The Rangers went ahead again in the 2nd period but the Ducks equalised again.

Into the third and this time when the Rangers scored the Ducks couldn't find an equaliser despite the Rangers taking a penalty with only 1.57 left in the game and the Ducks then pulling their goalie (i.e. playing the last couple of minutes with 6 skaters to 4). In fact the Rangers managed to get an empty net goal to win 4-2. Add that to a couple of pretty good fights and this was a good game.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Inauguration

One of the things I've leaned from living in Yankland is that it is possible to go through life without ever watching the news or being vaguely aware of current events. A lot of US TV channels don;t seem to have news at all so it is rather unsurprising that Yanks in general are a clueless bunch when it comes to what is going on in the world.

This deficit does have its uses however - take today for example, I have absolutely no interest in watching 10 hours of coverage of the inauguration of Obama and I can easily avoid it. Actually, I've no idea what is going on in NYC with regards to this. I'm sure that Washington would be a nightmare to be in today though - the concert a couple of days ago was just cringeworthy.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Nets v Celtics

OK, before I say anything about this game let me first try and justify why I was actually there after I had sworn off ever going to basketball again:

1. as I'm not drinking I have a lot of free time to fill
2. I got a deal on a cheap ticket
3. the Celtics are the reigning champions so possibly a team worth seeing
4. it was an afternoon game so easy enough to get to the arena and back

To the game itself:

This ended up being nothing but a training run for the Celtics who motored out to a 18 - 2 lead and never looked back. In fact by half time it was 68 - 39 and a real hammering.

The Celtics apparently have three main star players (Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen - no, I've never heard of them either) and with the game over by the half they made limited appearances off the bench in the 2nd half.

The Nets did bring the score back a bit playing against the Celtics second team but not that much with the final score 105 - 85.

There wasn't a massive crowd there either - I'd guess at best it was about 60% full (as I've said before American sports fans are massively fair weather fans and the Nets are pretty average) and by the end probably only 20% full.

Basketball - definitely the worst Yank sport (and that is a pretty big achievement).

Friday, 16 January 2009

Unimpressed with prototype seaplane

SO obviously the big news in NYC was the plane landing on the river yesterday - it seems to have "landed" at about level with 57th St - which is the same street my office is on. However, as it was v cold and about a 15 minute walk to the riverside I decided I would (like almost everyone else) follow the news on TV - mainly watching the plane float down the island.

Apparently it is now moored at the south of the island. If it is still there over the weekend I'll maybe go and see what I can see. Its not everyday you get to see a plane in the river.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Pavement writing

As I walked back last night I saw a group of people huddled round one area of the pavement in the distance. Given the area I assumed someone was selling something as that is not uncommon on this street - what is uncommon would be any sort of crowd round one of the stalls.

As I passed I saw that I was wrong. What was actually going on was people were crowded round a freshly cemented area of the pavement (about 2m square) to write in the wet cement...sure enough, as I passed this morning the whole area was covered in names etc.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

New Music

Last year was a pretty poor year for music in my opinion - very few new bands who I thought were any good and poor albums from returning favourites (ahem...Bloc Party). However, I'm fairly optimistic for 2009 - why? Well Interpol and U2 are due to release new albums sometime this year.

Also in the next few weeks there will be a new Franz Ferdinand album and an album from a band called "White Lies" which sounds good too. In truth both of these have leaked all over the internet already as far as I can see so here are a couple of links to try out:

Franz Ferdinand and White Lies

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Tedium

This is not shaping up to be an interesting month at all. Some of you may remember that this is my month off drinking - in fact I am aiming to be dry until 7th February which is when the 6 Nations starts so an extra week on the end.

Other than watching the days creep past this month I'm trying to go to the gym a bit more regularly than I was at the end of last year but that generally grinds to a halt after the first week I go about four times and I completely seize up! However, that's where I'm off to now for a lunch time visit - after Friday, Saturday and Sunday visits this could be the one to finish me off.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Weather Comparison

For quite a while I have meant to look up how different the weather is in London compared to NYC - predominantly because every Yank seems to think NYC is vastly superior and that it is cold and constantly rains in London.

I finally got round to this last week and was rather surprised by the results, in summary:
- average monthly rainfall in NYC is 105mm which is more than DOUBLE the 49mm average in London
- average temperature is 17C in NYC and 15C in London so not much difference there
- NYC is generally warmer than London for 8 months of the year

That doesn't even take into account the ridiculous humidity you have to live with in NYC in the summer. Basically, it seems like Yanks have a somewhat distorted view of how much better NYC weather is than London.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Continental

A quick recommendation for this airline for long haul - the food wasn't up to much but the TV system was great. It had over 250 films on demand so even I could find a few I liked - including a couple of my more obscure favourites in Swingers (which still has the most cringe worthy scene ever made) and Clerks (which is just odd).

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Top League

Even though I was only back to Japan for a week that was enough time to fit in two matches from the professional rugby league over there - actually it was a double header at the national stadium with IBM v Toyota and Suntory v Kobe Steelers.

Actually, each team had a player I had heard of playing for them:
- IBM (Mike Hercus, the US stand-off who has previously played for Sale and Llanelli)
- Toyota (William Ryder, a long time member of the Fijian 7s team)
- Suntory (Hale T-Pole, Tongan flanker who I thought was on the Ospreys books)
- Kobe Steelers (Pierre Hola, Tongan stand-off who player in the World Cup)

IBM 20 v 47 Toyota

Although Toyota did eventually run away with this game it was a different story in the first half with IBM scoring a couple of breakaway tries to lead 17 - 5 at the half.

They held on for about another 10 minutes into the 2nd half before the bubble burst and Toyota ran in six tries. To be fair Toyota were blatantly the better team and had all the territory and possession for almost the whole game.

Suntory 67 v 3 Kobe Steelers

This was supposed to be a close game between the teams who were second and third in the table...and to be fair it was very competitive for the first half hour or so. In fact coming into half time Kobe were pressing for a try with Suntory leading 17 - 3 but down to 14 men. After pressing for several phases a 50/50 pass went to ground and was picked up by a Suntory winger who ran the length of the field to score and make it 24 - 3 at the half.

The second half again started quite close but Suntory started scoring at regular intervals and pulled further and further away. In fact Suntory scored three tries in the final three minutes (two by a 2nd row) to really pile the points on - they only missed one conversion as well.

There was a reasonable crowd in attendance too, I'd guess not too far off 15,000 there. One last thing, as this was Japan some of the teams had very Japanese mascots with them: