NEW YORK STATE OF MIND

It’s not just a city, it’s an attitude

WASHINGTON D.C BUS TRIP 8 October 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — Adam @ 6:08 pm

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After an infamous bus trip from Sydney to Perth with a mate of mine when I was 16, I promised I would never travel by bus again. Granted, a 3 day bus trip to Perth is alot different than a 5 hour bus trip from New York to Washington D.C, but buses are truly a hideous way to travel.

So I was somehow coaxed into getting the bus to DC. Trinh couldn’t believe how cheap it was compared to flying, hiring a car or taking the train. I knew better. I knew that although the bus is cheap, you eventually pay with your sore back, your pounding headache and your sanity.

Enough of the bus experience though, let’s discuss Washington DC. Visiting this city is like stepping into Doc Browns time machine and setting it for 1972. It’s a city in serious need of an update. Everywhere you look is late 60’s architecture, mid seventies cars and people who look like they are stuck in Saturday Night Fever…..but not in a “cool” way! I’m talkin’ cheesey coloured striped carpet, vinyl covered lounges and bald, hairy chested men with open shirts and medallions.

Our hotel (or should I say, our 1972 time portal) was located only a few streets from the White House so that was our first stop. I’ll give you the best description of the White House as I can: Firstly, it’s a house. Secondly, It is white.

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As I stared through the fence at the most famous house on earth, I felt an urge to show my disgust at some of the decisions that have come out of this place. I felt I needed to display my anger at the man inside who’s behavior in recent times has caused the world such needless destruction and mindless warmongering. So I looked down at the Banana and Strawberry smoothie I was sipping, I raised it in the air and with a dramatic thrust I threw its contents onto the ground in front of me. With this, I confidently said, “This spilt smoothie is a reminder of the innocent blood spilt around the world from this countries cruel regime!” The tourists around me cheered and lined up to shake my hand.

Well, ok…..it didn’t quite happen that way. If you must know the truth….I actually made a complete idiot of myself. Two young girls asked me if I could take their picture in front of the white house. I said yes and stupidly put my smoothie down near the fence, only to have it fall off and spill everywhere. I think it even splashed the girls I was doing the favour for. Trinh and I left the scene pretty quick. We didn’t want to be put on the terrorist list for this. I’ve decided I’m going to tell my future children the first version of the story. Let them think their Daddy stood up for injustice and stared down the most powerful man in the world….armed only with a banana and strawberry smoothie.

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…and speaking of George W Bush, here’s another thing that resembles a big penis:

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Don’t get me wrong here, Washington DC has some impressive sites. The Capitol building, the Monument, the Lincoln Memorial are all great, but I just felt like I was on a school excursion. All around me were fathers pointing to these things and telling their sons that, “this demonstrates why America is the greatest country in the world. Don’t you forget that boy!”. There were so many poor kids being dragged around by their parents or teachers. Bored to death by lectures on why a big phallic structure signifies democracy and freedom. It was all a bit creepy. Or maybe I’m just a cynical old fool.

Trinh and I went to the COOLEST restaurant one night. It was Moroccan and it was crazy. We were seated on cushions. Waiters came around to wash our hands and we ate the food completely with our hands. Good fun. Throw in a half-naked belly dancer and it was quite a night. We ate so much that we physically struggled walking home.
Easily the best thing about Washington DC though, is the museums. We chose to visit the Air and Space museum and the Holocaust museum. Both were amazing. The Holocaust museum especially was incredible. Trinh and I planned to spend an hour or so there and ended up spending 3 hours without even knowing. We almost missed our bus home because of it.

So I’m glad we did the DC trip. It’s quite a come-down from the buzz of New York City, but thanks to the cool museums alone, well worth a visit.

-Posted By Adam

 

The Great New York Coffee Conundrum 27 September 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — Adam @ 6:39 pm

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Coffee. Oh Coffee!

That delicious bean had me at hello.

I may be in a rare category of people who actually remember their very first cup of coffee. I must have been no older than 14 or 15….geez, maybe even younger. I was at home with my sister Belinda, we had just rented the video cassette (remember those?) of “Aliens”. (Yes, most of my life memories are linked to movies).

Belinda needed a toilet break, so we had to press pause (and I mean that literally…we didn’t even have a remote back then. We physically had to walk up to the big, clunky VCR and press down this huge lever that paused the tape. Oh boy, we had it hard back then!) I decided to use the time wisely and make myself a cup of tea. I was a tea man from an early age.

I checked the pantry and discovered we were all out of Bushells tea bags! All we had in the cupboard was a year-old box of cocoa, a no frills satchel of chicken noodle soup and half a tin of something strange called Nescafe Blend 43? I must have been feeling pretty wild so I gave the Nescafe a go.

I had no idea how to make coffee so after putting in 3 heaped spoonfuls, half a cup of milk and two or three sugars I was set.

WOW!

Watching “Aliens” strung out on coffee was amazing! As the caffeine seeped through my veins, my young pubescent body didn’t know what hit it. All it knew was that it was party time and every organ, blood cell and nerve was invited!

I was instantly hooked. And so my long love affair with the coffee bean began.
From that day until the day I left for New York a mere 2 months ago, our relationship has been strong. We do everything together me and coffee. When I was working all hours to finish assignments for university, it was coffee who kept my spirits up. When I would struggle to get up for all the crappy jobs I’ve had to endure in my life, coffee was there each morning lending a helping hand and offering encouragement. When I would party a little too hard and wake up naked in an empty field with no knowledge of who I was or what I had done the night before and without any sense of feeling except for the sting from the freshly drawn tattoo’s on my body and the throbbing beating from inside my dehydrated, alcohol soaked head…..it was my old pal coffee that helped me remember my name and what took place the night before.

Sure, we’ve had our ups and downs…like the time I tried to quit caffeine….we decided to have a break and see what happened. You know? Just not see each other for a while and take it from there? That lasted all of 3 days. Who was I kidding? I needed it back. Thankfully coffee forgave me. We’ve been inseparable ever since.

So I land at JFK airport in New York City. When I get to the apartment there’s nothing I want more than to indulge in a nice cup of hot coffee. Here’s where the problem begins:

Our apartment has a coffee percolator (or a “coffee drip”-which is what they call it). It makes a kind of dark, slimy liquid that resembles coffee….but it certainly aint coffee! Thankfully, like any big city these days, there is a Starbucks on almost every corner in New York, so in a mild panic, I ran into the one across the road and asked for a “flat-white” coffee. The girl behind the counter looked at me as if I just loudly broke wind in front of her and says, “a what?”.

Americans have no idea what a “flat-white” is. It’s like asking them to “slap some bangers on the Barbi and open a nice cold one to sink out the back with your mates.”- They just don’t get it? So I was instead given a weak “caffe latte” and sent on my way. Well, that just didn’t cut it I’m afraid. I like my coffee strong with a nice smooth, but full taste.

My next stop: Little Italy in downtown New York. Surely the Italians will sort me out. They practically invented coffee! I looked for the most Italian looking cafe I could find and made sure they had an espresso machine. I was given a foul tasting liquid that not only make me sick, but burnt my tongue as well.

I have since looked everywhere! New York has no good coffee! It’s official!

My relationship with coffee was on the rocks. We hadn’t seen each other for so long I thought we’d never patch things up and get back together. I was trying to reach it everywhere but it simply wasn’t returning my calls. What’s worse, I was actually putting up with the Starbucks Latte’s and the horrible home-made percolator. I felt dirty and ashamed, like I was cheating on my beloved coffee with its cheap and flirtatious cousin.

Repairing any relationship takes commitment and work. I was determined to get my coffee back but I didn’t know how. At night I would think of my espresso machine back home and wonder what it was doing right now.

My savior came in the form of my sister Debbie, who visited us in New York and brought along her stove-top espresso coffee maker for me to borrow. Bless her! I can tell you that my first real coffee with that, took me back to that night watching “Aliens”. Quite a buzz.

My sweet coffee was back!

To any entrepreneurs reading this, I suggest you invest all your money and start a coffee shop chain that sells REAL coffee in New York. Import it from Australia if you have to. It’s a million dollar idea just waiting to happen. It amazes me that there is no good coffee in this city. I’m told it’s the same around the country too. Maybe it explains why Americans are so darn annoying and agitated. They’ve never tasted good coffee. If they could maybe just sit and enjoy a good cuppa, maybe the world would be a more peaceful place?

Something must be done!

…but for now, I’m just happy my relationship is back on track. The future looks bright again with my sweetheart sitting in a mug by my side. Promise you’ll never leave me again?

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-Posted By Adam

 

Damien Rice @ Wamu Theater, Madison Square Garden 9/9/07 13 September 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — Adam @ 6:48 pm

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It was the concert of one of my current favourite artists. The concert I was looking forward to for a while and for those keeping score at home, the concert I insulted Neil Finn for.

Overall, I really enjoyed it. Damien is an amazing singer/songwriter but I gotta say, after seeing James Taylor a few weeks earlier I couldn’t help but get picky with Damo.

My first criticism relates to playing to your strengths. Damien Rice’s success is mainly due to his quiet acoustic playing and his great voice and lyrics. His best songs are the ones where it’s just him, his guitar and his voice. Unfortunately Damien obviously likes to think of himself as a bit of a rocker. Alot of the songs he chose to sing were full band numbers covered in guitar effects and feedback. They were still good fun for the most part, it’s just that when he did strip back and sing his ballads alone on guitar or piano, they easily outshone his attempts to “Rock”.

Second issue I had: I think Damien just got a new voice effect toy for Christmas. This effect that he switched on and off all night made his voice sound scratchy, like an old radio broadcast. At first it was interesting but after a while it became simply annoying as we all just wanted to hear his lyrics clearly instead of heavily muffled and dripping in feedback. I’m all for experimenting with new sounds, but it was clear the crowd was into it.

Final issue: Damien, mate…old pal…dude…we paid 60 odd American dollars for your concert and we know you only had 2 hours on stage. Why did you decide to play extended jams on EVERY damn song that night? I love a good jam session, but when you play the exact same thing for over 15 minutes, it gets kinda dull for the listener. This aint the Grateful Dead my friend. I’m sure you were having a blast, but you obviously thought you were back in the garage at home and forgot we were there listening. When you told the crowd that you are in the mood to jam tonight, did you notice that the reaction was a bit sombre? We didn’t come to watch a jam mate. No offense buddy. Don’t hate me, I’m just giving it to you straight ok?

I’m gonna forgive Damien Rice for his shortcomings that night because when he was good, he was INCREDIBLY good. I enjoyed the show, but I could see that with a bit of tweaking and a little less self-indulgence, it could have been absolute magic. I still love ya bud.

– Posted By Adam

 

First New York Scare! 12 September 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — Adam @ 11:48 pm

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I’m going to milk this one for all I can. My first real “Only in New York” moment occurred last week. Forgive me if I make it sound more exciting and dramatic than it actually was but hey, it’s my blog…..you want accurate re-telling of events? Boy, are you in the wrong place!

Twas a morning like any other. Our apartment is on the 17th floor of a large complex facing the east so I awoke to the usual New York sunshine pouring through my window. My sisters were staying with us but they had left early to bike-ride around Central Park and Trinh was on her way to work. I had the place to myself. That meant I could pursue my regular morning routine of making coffee, firing up my laptop, sitting at my desk overlooking 6th Avenue and checking emails wearing nothing more than my bright blue jockey underpants I wore to bed. A rare treat…and not something I like to inflict on others. I’ve noticed house guests simply don’t appreciate a half asleep, half naked man in bright blue undies in the morning. Strange I know, people just can’t see beauty in it’s most pure form.

This particular morning I had a writing project I was keen to finish so I spent a couple of hours beating away at the keyboard until it was completed. At last I finished, I re-read what I’d written, spell checked and grammar checked. My job was done. I felt good. I stood up and had a big stretch only to nearly fall over when I looked down onto the street to see crowds of people looking up at me!!!

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The entire Sixth Avenue block we live on was closed. Police cars, ambulances and curious onlookers filled the street. All of them looking up at me! I immediately thought it must have something to do with my bright blue undies. What else could it be? Are daggy undies outlawed in these parts? Was I being arrested under the “Obscene Undies Exposure” act of 1977? I felt confused, embarrassed and I must admit, just a little bit liberated……hey, it’s not everyday you are on show in your undies in front of hundreds of people! There was something primal and appealing about it.

After the initial shock, reality started setting in. Could it be possible that my undies were not the cause of all this fuss? If not my undies, then what? Visions of bombs exploding, buildings falling and people with guns shooting other people flashed through my mind. I slapped on some clothes and ran downstairs thinking I may be the last guy evacuated from the building. Nobody told me! I’m gonna die! Oh The humanity! Why me lord? Why??!!

I got safely outside and joined the crowds of people looking up. I asked the man next to me what was going on. Apparently, there was a guy a few windows above mine about to jump. Pretty sad. You can’t help but feel for the guy. I watched for a while until I realized I wasn’t too keen on seeing someone jump to their death. Seems I was in the minority though as the sidewalks were filled with gawkers. I went upstairs and decided to get on with my day.

Back in the apartment I kept a check of what was going on downstairs. After a while, more and more people were filling the street and more and more police were showing up. They had even inflated one of those big air mattresses to catch the guy if he jumped.

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Things were getting weird. I looked down and noticed the swat team arrive. Now why would a guy jumping off a building warrant a swat team? I started to think that maybe I was given the wrong information. I ran back downstairs. As the lift opened on the ground floor I was greeted by a team of swat men with guns telling me to “clear out!, clear out!”. Those blue undies of mine were very close to turning a different shade of colour.

Outside I was told the so-called guy jumping was not just a jumper but a crazy jumper with a gun! I decided to stay away from the building for a while.

The story ends pretty dull. The guy gave himself up, was taken away by the cops and the crowds cleared. Things got back to normal as if nothing had happened.

The funny thing is, this didn’t seem like a very strange situation to these people. Just another day, just another crazy New York occurrence.

So all in all, my first New York scare ended happily. The crazy guy was safely taken away, the ambulance crews were not needed and my blue undies were left virtually unscathed.

-Posted By Adam

 

Food Heaven on the Upper West Side 11 September 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — Adam @ 6:59 pm

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I know. I have got to stop writing about food. However, after my gyro blog I felt I needed to redeem New York’s name as the culinary capital that it is. With two of Adam’s sisters in town not long ago, we all trekked up to the lovely upper west side for a simple mid-morning snack – a bagel spread with smoked salmon dip (something I saw on a food travel show which stuck in my head).

We grabbed some bagels at H&H Bagels, where they are “Like no other bagel in the world”. There, the bagels (being essentially boiled bread) are sold in a wide variety of flavours – plain, onion, poppy seed, blueberry, sourdough, pumpkin, etc. The original plan was to grab 4 bagels. We walked out with 7.

Armed with our bag of boiled bread and hungry, we went in search for salmon dip at Zabar’s across the road. But what waited for us there was oh so much more than just salmon dip. Zabar’s, a gourmet food emporium, has been described as “an upper west side institution”. The sultry smell of marinated olives greets you at the door as you enter. Inside, every shelf, stand and aisle was bursting with the freshest produce. Amongst the frenzy and madness of the place, you could find any kind of food imaginable from cheeses and freshly prepared salads to cured meats and smoked fish. The tantalizing scents that drift by as you wander through are intoxicating – olives, cheeses, spices, freshly baked crusty breads, cakes and coffee.

Zabar’s was meant to be a 10 minute deal – dip in and come out with .. well.. dip. We spent about an hour in there and (still feeling like our visit was cut too short) walked out with slightly more than we had planned. In our basket we had a tuna salad, a lobster bisque dip, a pickle & dill potato salad, a mixed green salad, a jar of basil pesto, a tub of tabouli, 3 types of cheeses, a foot long French baguette, a Russian coffee cake, a cinnamon bobka (had to be done to please the inner‑Seinfeld in us), 3 chocolate crepes, freshly ground coffee and, just because it went so well with what we already had, a tray of fresh sushi. Let’s not forget the 7 bagels already waiting to be eaten.

The lesson to be learnt from this – never shop hungry! The lazy summer picnic at Central Park that followed was definitely the best way to enjoy our delectable feast.

 

Posted by – Trinh

 

“Take me out to the ball game” – 29 August 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — Adam @ 6:49 pm

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Adam and I joined a few of the boys from work to partake in a traditional American past-time – an outing at the baseball. The game was between arch rivals the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. I slapped my Yankees cap on and got into the spirit of the game.

Despite being sportingly challenged, I thoroughly enjoyed the night. There is something special about Yankee Stadium erupting when a Yankee hits a home run, which was done that night by some dude named Rodriguez.

Americans are passionate about their baseball. Yankee fans all around us were chanting and jeering “Boston sux! Boston sux!” (you’d think they’d be able to come up with something better after decades of intense rivalry). This was slightly worrying to me as a friend from work sitting with us was wearing a Red Sox cap. There were countless scuffles between hot-headed fans, and on more than one occasion police had to escort undesirables out of the stadium. Oh, the fun!

If there is one thing Americans are more passionate about than baseball, it’s being American. Rivalries were put aside, fists and caps were lowered and heads were held high when, as is tradition, they played “America the Beautiful” during the 7th inning. Around us, the jeers of “Boston sux! Boston sux!” suddenly turned into the not-so-sweet sounds of “O beautiful for spacious skies…”. Another strange tradition was the sand-sweepers coming out to sing and dance to “YMCA” whilst sweeping the pitch. They are a funny lot, these Yanks.

The final score was a Yankees 4-3 win. What a night it was – the lights, the noise, the hotdogs, the beer! Who would’ve thought this could be so fun!

 

Posted by – Trinh

 

SPOT THE DIFFERENCE! 10 September 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — Adam @ 7:18 pm

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One of these men is an icon who is loved the world over………The other is John Lennon.

Ok, I’m sorry…I will never compare myself to Lennon again (Only in my dreams). I did have this photo of me taken with that Lennon photo in mind. I wanted it to be an exact copy, only I forgot he did the peace sign thing. Bummer. That damn guy and his peace-peddling ways ruined my chance to look anywhere near as cool as he did. So inconsiderate of him!

With two of my sisters in town, it has been ten days of running around the city and doing as much as possible. Lots of sightseeing, museums, restaurants and of course bars.

Visiting Ellis island and the Statue of Liberty was one of our targets. What is usually the first thing people do when visiting New York, took me about a month and a half to get to. I usually try to avoid the heavily tourist populated hotspots but I’m glad I did this one. The statue was cool, yes….but it’s just a statue. They actually have a great Immigration museum….I know, it sounds kinda boring but it turned out to be incredibly fascinating to see the stories of these people finding a new home in America. One of the best museums I’ve seen.

Not much more to say. This post was simply an excuse to post the above photos and put myself next to John Lennon. I really need to get a life.

peace.

-posted by Adam