We’ve arrived in New York City at the busiest time of the day – the evening around 5-6pm.  New York is pumping.  You’ve never seen so many people, cars, trucks, taxis, bikes, horse drawn carts all integrating together somehow in an organised chaos!  Its totally mental but somehow orderly.

Straight after checking in we’ve emerged onto the streets joining with the rest of the walking human moths drawn to the light of Times Square.  Its a torrent of humankind.  I don’t think I’ve blinked yet since I’ve been here.  Its hot too, and very humid.  The terrified look on a lone fresh faced rookie cop wasn’t much comfort other than I thought “thank F*8 I’m not that guy”. The streets have the odd exhaust chimney venting the 1,000 degree heating steam pipes under the city. Maybe its the only reminder that the city hovers precariously at melting point and at any second might erupt.

NYC’s streets and avenues are famously named with numbers in a grid like pattern in Manhattan. It makes huge sense and makes it easy to get around. A local told me it was about 10-12 blocks to a mile for the “streets” and about 20 blocks per mile for the “avenues”.  So if you wanted to get from 50th street to 40th street you’ll be walking about 1 mile.

Its much quicker to walk to most places. Just watch out for cars and taxis at the crosswalks.  Even when its your “turn” to cross the street if the cross walk is clear cars are allowed to turn through them.  They’ll inch up right next to you as you cross.  Its hard to resist performing your own Dustin Hoffman Midnight Cowboy “I’m walking here” scene.

Given everything that has gone on in the world over the last 10 to 12 years I really also wanted to talk to as many Americans as I could on this trip. Just about their lives and to find out more about them. I figured New York and Chicago may be good cities to gauge their views and hear about their experiences.  Politics, 911, the GFC and the “War on Terror”.  Apart from my preconceptions about the US in general from media, TV and the movies, these are some more specific things I wanted to hear about and discuss.

A big issue at the moment in New York among the people is gun control. Stemming from the cinema shooting in Colorado. The city has planned a gun buy back amnesty for this month.  Its getting great positive coverage on the news media here which has been great to see. But there is also a deeper and more entrenched gun problem within the gang culture which several community leaders are crying out not to be forgotten about in the coverage. Yesterday there was a memorial for a  4 year old boy who was killed in a playground by a stray gang shootout bullet in the Bronx.

I’d heard and read of the US news media’s conservative bias. I saw it for myself turning on the TV each morning in the hotel waking up to it. Fox ABC CNN, they all have massive Mitt Romney and Republican love affair going on.  It’s disgusting actually. At the moment they’re mostly slamming Obama-care and going around in circles about whose personal tax returns should be made available for all to see.  Its all very frustrating if you are a young American like Trish – a law graduate I spoke with in New York.  Trish is on her summer break and has just finished her law degree in her home town of Louisiana  She’s worried and anxious about the future.  Firstly about  even getting a job and then about health care. Her home town govt is rejecting the Obama-care package. She is quiet certain that people will die without it. She also doesn’t believe or trust that the Romney way will provide the growth or jobs America badly needs. She’s an Obama girl.  It was hard work trying to discuss with her that in reality Obama had let her down too given his govt’s non action against their “too big to fail” banks.

I’ve really seen first hand how diverse in culture the population is in America.  Probably the saddest part, as it is around the rest of the world is the divide caused by religion. Take the religious aspects out of it and things seem to blend a lot easier.  Well apart perhaps from the race based gangs. On the plane from Chicago to New York I sat next to a woman who was originally from Mexico.  She sat quietly in the dark reading what was the tiniest bible I have ever seen. I have no idea how she could even possibly read the text in broad daylight let alone in plane cabin darkness.

My initial thoughts were, you crazy brainwashed woman.. why are you doing this to yourself.. but then my thoughts quickly were distracted by the Jewish travelling group sitting towards the front of the plane who were receiving what I assume was their specially prepared Kosher plane meals as the rest of us waited for ours.  I turned to the girl peacefully reading her bible and said to her “please its okay turn your light on.. how can you even read that?”.  She smiled and replied “its okay I can see it,  I don’t want to disturb you… in the air like this it feels closer to peace for me” (Or something like that).  It just struck home to me how ridiculous religion can be how and when it imposes itself into our regular lives to political systems.  Religion shits me, but when in the context of the girl next to me as compared to the other clowns at the front of the plane – live and let live. 

On a more positive “news” note, the NASA Mars Rover “Curiosity” is landing tomorrow and its getting great coverage on the TV networks.

Tonight we took the subway out to Queens to watch a baseball game. Citi Field is an almost brand new baseball stadium and is home to New York’s 2nd baseball team – The Mets.  The Mets are kinda like the Dockers, well except they’ve actually won a premiership (World Series). The New York Yankees are the town’s favourite and more successful team.  Tonight they are getting panced by the Miami Marlins. Actually, maybe they are more like GWS.. even down to their matching orange.  It’s 13 to nil by the time we leave at the top of the tenth. It doesn’t matter because we’ve jumped on the San Francisco Giants bandwagon anyway.  It’s an awesome stadium though. Plenty of room and food outlets. It has a great entry hall, a big open void to the ceiling with walls lined with old baseball facts and nostalgia.  The subway journey was an experience in itself. Getting on and off at Grand Central station!  It’s hot as hell down in there under the streets. Even literally hard to breathe.  Schools of humans stream past you to their platforms. Everyone knows where they are going to except me!! The trains themselves are clean and cool.. ahh awesome air con.  It’s a welcome respite from the heat from the bowels of the NYC monster.

Don’t listen to the street hustlers as you approach Empire State trying to sell you upgrades. Pre-buy your ticket and ignore these guys even though they promise a quicker journey with a shorter line. This trip has been my first introduction to the street selling types you find at every popular tourist strip or attraction.  Watch out for the $1 water bottle street sellers too. They just fill used water bottles with tap water.  You’ll see them on the pedestrian walkways and over passes in Vegas too.

At the top of the Empire State apart from scaring the ba-jebuzz out of you 96 floors up you’ll get to see all of Manhattan and just how crammed in everything is. It’s well worth the wait to get to the top here or at one of the other observation points (The Rockefeller building).

After taking the ferry out to the Statue of Liberty we were hungry and looking for a New York sandwich style shop.  A NYC local happened to hear us discussing it and she gave us the best food tip for this trip.  Cucina Liberty in Battery Place.  This is the type of New York style deli I’d heard so much about and their food looks awesome. I only got to have the sirloin steak sandwich which they cooked up fresh. They have a great little outdoor eating area out the back of the store.

Even the fruit drink Snapple has a Broadway theatre and centre showing Broadway shows.

The coolest fire escape layout I saw in the US.  If you look closely you can see Donkey Kong jumping a barrel.

This is the John Lennon memorial in Strawberry Fields. Its in Central Park almost opposite the spot where John was shot.

Out long Central Park down from Strawberry Field is the American Museum of Natural History and the Hayden Planetarium. Well worth checking out and spending a few hours at this place.  Start at the less crowded Planetarium because it is way cooler and actually connects with the main Museum.  You’ll be greeted with a video from the centre’s director and Lando Calrissian of Science Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Australian Bar is owned by an aussie guy who lives in New York and we took the opportunity to watch the Eagles vs Geelong game (replay).

New York is a city which you can both love and hate. The things which make it the world’s greatest city are also those which are it’s frustrations. You go there with the expectation that you must love it.  The city is alive, exciting but beyond busy. There is so much to see do and eat within its hundreds of streets and avenues.

The cities attractions are mostly all a 1-2hr wait to see.  It’s no different I presume when you go to see other big name tourist attractions like say the leaning tower of Pisa.  Pollution is a by product of this beastial city and it makes the humid and hot summer here a hazy backdrop for the each of the famous landmarks you go to see.  I didn’t really take many photos because of this. But also because there are that many photos taken already. 20 more pics of the Statue of Liberty taken by me as graceful a marvel it is – is just 20 more to the millions already taken. Again love and hate. Then though, waiting in the lines is where you’ll meet and talk to so many different people.

I suppose for me, personally I’m more into outdoors style holidays and breaks away from the city.  Beaches,  fishing camping and just being away from crowds. It would have been good to get out of the US cities and see more of their country-side.  In saying that it was pretty amazing and an experience for me to get out and sight-see first hand in these great cities we only know by reputation or from big and small screens in Australia. San Francisco was by far my favourite place to be of the cities we visited. I liked the city’s pace and it seems to be much closer to more interesting “out-doory” areas to see even just over the Golden Gate bridge.

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