In the thick of it

July 15, 2009

New Yorkers love public chess more than most Americans

New Yorkers love public chess more than most Americans

When they say NY is a city that never sleeps, I think they mean that it won’t let you sleep. So last night I’m in a dorm of 12. No worries, I’ve never had a problem in a large dorm before. Calling it an early night at 11, I wander in and the light’s already off. Creep in to bed with eyes almost cramping shut. Some guy then comes in, turns lights on, rustles around, mostly closes the windows and turns off the AC before getting into bed. Fine. Let’s try to sleep now. Nope, there’s a truck reversing outside that sounds a lot like my alarm back home. Normally I’m fine with traffic sounds and sirens, but it’s dead quiet except for this single reversing truck. It finally stops reversing. Next port of call, the couple come into the dorm and spend 20-30 minutes giggling, surreptitiously drinking, and taking flash photos. Gave them the benefit of the doubt at first for settling in time, but eventually cracked it and politely told them to shut the fuck up. Right. Time for sleep? Nope, I’ve got my second wind now and can’t shut my eyes. Fuck. And woken before 7 in the morning by another cretin who can’t even try to be quiet.

Some people like their bikes extra-fresh!

Some people like their bikes extra-fresh!

Wander out into the upper west side for a last explore before heading to the other hostel, generally to eat up time, but also a bit of a farewell to the area. Went a bit further north and ran into Columbia University with it’s stock assortment of stately university buildings. Not much else exciting on that trip, so came back, got my heavy bags, and headed downtown to the Chelsea Star Ho[s]tel. I only have two more carries of my heavy bags, once to JFK, and once home. Trust me, they’re heavy and unwieldy enough that I’ve been counting.
New York has a surprising amount of green space

New York has a surprising amount of green space

Anyway, arrived at the Chelsea and no, they don’t book in until 3pm. Fuck, that’s when I’ll be in queue at Jon Stewart. But they will hold the bags, though I’m a bit loathe to leave my laptop + passport backpack in plain view at reception, I figure fuck it, it’s survived 88 days so far, and I’m fooling myself if I think I’m going to carry it around for the next half a day. The guy on the desk was one of these fellows who answers every question with “um, just give me a minute”. I departed asking “do you have a water fountain?” and he replied as above. Not giving him a minute, I proffered the position of myself removing my entity from reception and finding perhaps some merchant of quenching liquids elsewhere. He was happy with this suggestion.

Seats you can swivel around next to the Hudson

Seats you can swivel around next to the Hudson

Wandered up the mile and a half to the converted warehouse that is the Daily Show studio, and the area is sort of a light industrial backwater of Manhattan. Well, I say backwater, but it still has things like twin 40-storey towers and whatnot. But little interesting to discuss. Still far too early to queue, I headed along to the Hudson river and wandered for a while up the shoreline. I lay for possibly the last time in soft, thick, green grass. Yes, it exists. It doesn’t have to be harsh, yellow, and interspersed with dirt patched. Soft green grass. It’s actually springy. It’s like walking on sponges instead of hay bales. Passed a few burned-out piers that the residents seem to love having around before heading back for an early spot in the queue.

Righto, will do!

Righto, will do!

So with about two and a half hours before doors open for the Daily Show audience, there was already about thirty people in line. By the time the suggested arrival time came along, the queue was completely full. I might add that two and a half hours is a long time to be standing in the one spot, especially when you’re tired of your ipod and you’ve finished chatting to the person next to you. Eventually the doors opened and yes, another airport-style security point. This time, however, I found a new trick – my baseball hat makes a nice cup shape that holds all the metal shit in my pockets and on my belt, allowing me to deconstellate well before reaching the scanner. If only I’d found this trick earlier! Still, I can use it once more tomorrow.
Burnt-out docks on the Hudson

Burnt-out docks on the Hudson

But into the set of the Daily Show where the wait continued and finally the comedian came out around 6pm to get us riled up. Can’t remember his name, but he was very quick and great off the cuff. Good stuff. Then Stewart came out, fielded a few questions to build rapport, and it was on with the show (July 14 episode if you must know). It was a good show, though the guest was a bit ‘filler’, and it’s pretty clear Stewart adores his job. Halfway through the episode I realised that I should have asked in question time for Stewart to do his GW Bush impression. Dammit, now I have to come back to NY to ask him next time…

Inside a giant wine bottle sculpture

Inside a giant wine bottle sculpture

So remember what I said about NY not letting you sleep? Well fuggedaboutit. I reached the Chelsea Star to book in and the guy on the desk was cluey and alert to the fact I’m enormous and had real problems with the idea of me fitting in their dorm beds. From the sounds of it, they also have 6′ beds. I knew that this might be a possibility, and didn’t really have an alternative at this late stage, so I was ready to grin and bear it. He started pushing a suite, usually for $289 but he could give me a massive discount. No can do, haven’t the money, I’ll just grin and bear it. Out of interest, how much could I have the room for? $55 plus taxes. Ya feckin’ what? Um… I might just do that. Win-win. They have an empty suite and will get some more dollars, and I get to sleep. So here I am in a suite with three queen size beds (plus a foldaway!) and an airconditioner that no-one else will turn off, in the heart of downtown (30th & 8th). I get to sleep. On the last night in NY, I finally get to sleep. Finally. I love you New York, it’s like a goodbye kiss.

My stalwart companions throughout the trip

My stalwart companions throughout the trip

A final note. The photo here shows the companions that have been with me pretty much every step of the way. The shoes were my backup shoes, but I learned in SF that my Converse All-Stars were not made for walking around for seven hours. The baseball cap was from Perth back home, and has been with me every day except the first day I got horribly sunburned. It was a solid blue when I started, and sweat and the desert sun faded it that way. When not in use it gets tucked into the belt at the small of my back. The sunnies were the best of a bad bunch from Venice Beach, though I’ve grown to love them. The phone was a shitty phone, really shitty, from a T-Mobile store next to UCLA. The case to the left of it is the camera case, the camera being with me every day but of course not in shot. The ipod wasn’t with me all the time – when I had the car it was replaced by the set of keys. The wallet is obvious. The belt was from Mexico to replace the belt that was too big for my thinning waistline, which is now thickening from all the guzzling I’ve been doing in New York. There’s scorpion patterns woven into it, because I’m classy that way. This is the stuff that would be with me every day, my standard loadout. My travelling kit. The bonus is that everything is on the belt or in pockets – my hands are free and I don’t have to juggle anything.

I suppose I should wander out one last time into the New York night. Tomorrow night at this time I’ll be halfway to my LA stopover.

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