The High Line and Radio City and the Pope, Oh my!

Another gorgeous day in NYC. It’s barely 27C withe clear skies and a light breeze and I thought I’d go check out the High Line this morning, seeing that it is one of the few things that appear to be open before 10am. Yeah, for all they call it ‘the city that never sleeps’, this place feels like nothing is open until the day is half gone.

  
Anyway, took a bus down town and went to check out the High Line Park. Even though most of the flowers are no longer in bloom as autumn approaches here, I have to say the whole thing is very impressive. A lovely green haven above the meat packing district full of trees and shrugs, grasses and flowers; benches to rest on and even places to grab a coffee or a bite to eat – all elevated over the busy city streets below. Such a wonderful concept – a 2.5 km long park that has been built on an elevated section of a disused Central Railway spur of the West Side Line. Apparently inspired by a similar garden project in Paris somewhere, it is obvious that a lot of people have put a lot of work into making it such a fabulously useful community space. 

  
You can get up to the High Line in about ten different places between and many of the access points even have elevators so it is completely accessible. I had a lovely walk through the greenery of the park this morning – it has pretty water features, spaces for laying on timber decks and reading or having your morning coffee and browsing the internet… I can imagine that in a place where no one has a back yard, it would be a very inviting place to come read a book or meet up with friends and hang out. Fantastic.
On my way back, I was looking for a Post Office, and ostensibly heading towards the Rockefeller Centre PO when I accidentally stumbled onto a tour of Radio City. I say ‘accidentally’, because I wasn’t planning on doing this today – actually, I wasn’t planning on doing it at all, but I was back from the High Line walk much sooner than expected, and when I saw the 11am tour lined up to go in, I thought, ‘what the hell’.

  
Now the only thing I knew about Radio City is that it is the largest theatre in the world – that’s it. And the only reason I knew that much even? It was a trivia question while we were on the cruise ship. The place just wasn’t on my radar for some reason. I acknowledge that I had heard of it before, but unlike many of the American’s on the tour who grew up watching Radio City TV shows and attending concerts, I knew absolutely nothing about the place.
So, Michael the Tour Guide, what did I actually learn?   
Originally J.D Rockefeller, who owned the land known in 1929 as the less than savoury, ‘Speak Easy Belt’ was planning on building a grand opera house in an attempt to gentrify the area, however the stock market crash and ensuing Great Depression put the kybosh on that plan. Nevertheless, Rockefeller decided to build a large complex of buildings on the property that would leave a lasting impact on the city’s architectural and cultural landscape. His plan was to create enormous and superior buildings that would attract commercial tenants even though the city was full of vacant rental spaces due to the Depression. It was ambitious and quite the gamble, and it came to stand as a reprieve from the financial woes of man and became an edifice of future optimism. He hired 75,000 men to build the Rockefeller Centre and the Radio City Music Hall. 
The Radio City Music Hall was to be one of the piece de resistance building in the complex and invitations to tender were sent far and wide for applicants to tender for the project. One relatively unknown designer, a Mr Donald Deskey sent in his tender, that he had apparently spent his last $5,000 on for the work and models to be able to adequately communicate his vision for the building. Fortunately for him, his gamble paid off and he won the job. Deskey chose an understate elegance and grandeur over glitzy excess (I’d love to know what some of the other ideas looked like) and his design included more than 30 separate spaces – the theatre itself, eight lounges, smoking rooms with individual themes and motifs. And he gave the building an over all theme meant as a tribute to “human achievement in art, science and industry”. Art was intrinsic to the actual design of the building, and he hired fine artists to create murals, design wall coverings and sculpture; engaged textile designers to custom design draperies and carpets, and many other craftsmen to complete wood panelling, ceramics, and lighting and chandeliers. The entire building is done in a fabulous Art Deco style that is just as stylish today as it was then. 

   

  

  The Grand Foyer is 60′ high and truly awe inspiring…. and I absolutely loved the Ezra Winter mural in the foyer (I was unaware of it but apparently I have also seen works by Ezra Winter at the Library of Congress in Washington and possibly several other Washington civic buildings as well). Ruth Reeves designed the uunique carpet which depicts a multitude of musical instruments. Oh and apparently ‘America’s Got Talent’ is filmed here – though why we needed to be reminded of that so much I do not know (thank you little girl in the tour group). 
   

 This is what it looks like from Centre stage looking out over the audience…  

 The theatre itself seats 5,905 people. And they can add in an extra few hundred if they build out more seating over the orchestra pit. The curtains weigh a whopping 4000lbs (nearly two metric tonnes) and have their own huge counterweighted system to draw them. The stage itself is 144 ft across – apparently that is half the size of a football field (American football I am assuming), and it can fit 38 Rockettes dancing shoulder to shoulder… it was about this point that I kinda thought, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve heard of Rockettes before, wasn’t that dancer character in Dirty Dancing who danced the merengue with Patrick Swayze supposed to have been a Rockette?’ Yep. Such is the extent of my knowledge of this enormously well known American institution. Anyway, Rockettes. There’s dancing. And there is lots of them. 

The stage is known as the ‘stage of 1000 illusions’, it has multiple moving parts that are all operated on elevators to raise and lower the stage to go between 26′ below and 13′ above the stage. The whole thing is operated on hydraulic elevators that use 20,000lbs of fluid to lift stages with 250psi pressure. Some guy named Peter Clarke designed the stage in the ’30s and it was apparently so well done, that thee US Military got in on using his technology during WWII, and the stage hydraulic system was kept under guard throughout the entire war to stop other countries from stealing the technology. In 1999 extensive renovations to the entire building were conducted at a cost of some $70 million, and the when they sent in a team of engineers to assess the state of the stage and it’s unique hydraulic systems, the engineers recommend that absolutely nothing be changed to the original 1930s system, as it was functioning beautifully and would continue to do so if maintained the same way it always had been.

  This stage has misty steam vents for genuine fog, the orchestra can be moved about on four different elevators, it has housed a 30,000 gallon swimming tank, held 16 elephants, been transformed into an ice skating rink, a basketball court, a stage for an awards ceremony. You name it – the stage managers and stage hands can recreate any new set required within a couple of hours.
   

  

Outside the threatre are is a space called the Grand Lounge where patrons enter and exit their seats and can also find the rest rooms. It has been designed to be ‘soothing and calm and quiet’, which is quite the ask with potentially 6,000 people milling about. Apparently the dark colours, soft lighting and diamond shapes that proliferate this area were believed to promote the use of quiet voices much like a library. It also has several ‘silent ushers’ in the form of large pillars that patrons need to navigate which breaks up the flow of people and allows the actual ushers to manage the crowd better – very clever, I thought.

      
Attached to the Grand Lounge is the Gentleman’s lounge – read: smoking lounge and bathroom. In the Gentleman’s Lounge is a large wall mural painted by Stuart Davis which was removed in the 60s due to the damage being done to it by the smoking. The smoking was banned and the painting was given to MoMA to attempt to restore it. It hung in MoMA until the restoration in 1999, at which point it was given back to its original position in the mens bathroom. 

        
On the other side of the Grand Lounge is the Ladies Lounge, which is brighter, softer and has 14 paintings by a leading illustrator from the New Yorker whose name I didn’t catch. There are also two rows of ‘powder tables’ complete with dresser chairs and mirrors where ladies could powder their noses. Also, very quaint, the original 1930 pedal operated hand dryers still work which was very cool.  

In it’s heyday, Radio City Music Hall was a venue for film and stage shows and would host both every single day. But in the 60s, patronage dropped considerably with the advent of television and they found themselves $1 million dollars in debt and forced to close down. By 1978, the building was condemned and was scheduled for destruction… but thankfully saved due to public protests. Radio City was rescued and given a heritage listing, but changed it’s format from being film and stage shows to being primarily a concert hall which occasionally shows films. Everyone has performed here – Meatloaf, Lady Gaga, Elton John, Whitney Houston, Tony Bennet… you name them they’ve probably had a run here.

 They occasionally still do have film showings on – the first Harry Potter film and the Lord of the Rings trilogy were played, but (and this is kinda cool) they remove the soundtrack and have a full orchestra play the film’s score. Radio City has over 2 million visitors s year now and is considered the “show place of the nation” or something like that. It’s obviously one of those things that the locals are extremely proud of but I had never really heard much about it until today (probably because it is far to modern to be of general interest to a history nerd like me).
Anyway, after checking out all these amazing things about the theatre itself, it was off to meet a genuine Rockette – the perky Becky. We all had our photo taken with Becky (and no, I didn’t buy my souvenir photo with the tall leggy Rockette chick for $21.75 + taxes), but she told us plenty of info about how the Rockette’s were formed, and how they were chosen. The girls have to be 18 years or older, be 5’6″ to 5’10”, be proficient in tap, jazz and ballet dance forms and have an ability to work well in a precision line… they match every little detail for uniformity – hand and foot movements, head and eye direction the whole lot.  

   
 The biggest gig of the year for the Rockettes is the annual Christmas Spectacular which has been running since the ’30s. The show will be preformed this year 200 times, over 8 weeks, with up to six shows a day. The girls will put in 1600 hours of rehearsal time before they even get to opening night. This year there is two casts of Rockettes of 40 girls each… most of the Rockettes come from the US, but they also have 3 Canadians at the moment, 1 Australian and a couple of Brits. 

 For each show there are 25 dressers and wardrobe staff keeping their elaborate costumes sorted as they have numerous costume changes for each show. All the costumes are designed for quick change turnarounds, and the fastest costume change required for this years show is 80 secs and involves switching 23 pieces of costume in that time frame. 

   

  

 Becky tells us that one of the hardest jobs is being a replacement dancer in case something happens to once of the main girls. With 36 girls on the line, there is always 4-5 replacements on standby called ‘swings’ who will rehearse behind everyone in the line and memorising the dance moves of nine different peoples roles in case someone drops out and they have to be thrown in at the last minute. These girls could spend years rehearsing and never actually make it onto the stage. Fascinating, aaand, not a little bit crazy.
After the accidental tour I went for a wander down towards Rockefeller Centre – big mistake! Huge! El Papa is in town and in readiness for his Holiness’ arrival, they have put up barricades on every side street off 5th Avenue to stop vehicular traffic on either side from Lexington to 6th. It’s a freaking mess out there. And to make matters worse as you get close to 5th, pedestrian access has been restricted too by the addition of 8′ tall wire mesh fences! I had to walk one block over and three up before I could get into 55th from 6th, and even then had to convince a cop that I was just wanting to get back into my apartment. The city has obviously learned a trick or two over the years – they are using large sanitation trucks filled with sand parked across each E-W street to block the end of all the barricaded streets (wonder where they learned that trick). People are accumulating everywhere hoping to catch a glimpse of the Pope — bearing in mind that this was roughly 2:30pm and his flight was due to arrive at JFK at 5:30pm, which means by the time the singing and dancing and helicopters and motorcades are all done, it was going to be well and truly 6:30pm – 7pm before he came down 5th to St Patricks. I can see why the residents and locals have got the shits with this. I only hope most of it is gone so I can get a cab out of town in the morning without too much fuss.      Empty barricaded streets… 

Anyway, the afternoon’s plan was to meet the lovely Ms KPeth over at Tiffany’s on 5th (yeah, this was before we saw the over the top security measures put in place), and then off to Times Square in search of cheap theatre tickets. We did manage to meet at the allotted time… I was a little early so got in a pick up meeting with a NYPD officer about what the expectations re: road closures, barricade removal and Pope arrival currently were – was a little surprised to hear him confess that he really had absolutely no idea and that they were ‘providing a presence’ until told to move elsewhere. Good times. Yes, so back to Tiffany & Co. There may have been a very planned purchase from one of us and a complete impulse purchase from the other, but who can resist the shinies. 
After this we made our way down to Times Square again to see if we could find some reasonably priced tickets for a show tonight. You know, last time I was in New York, I remember hating Times Square because 1) it was fucking freezing and I could not get used to the way the wind just cut through your clothes, and 2) it was so crowded with people who were pushing and shoving and jay walking and yelling and touting at you and it all seemed so very chaotic. But now I find, that it’s not so bad. The crowd can get pretty full on, but it is mostly well behaved and relatively polite.  I think I can thank my two weeks in China for giving me a new perspective on just how cheek to jowl and rude a crowd can get… Xi’an and Beijing make traversing Times Square, feel like a stroll in the English countryside.
Anyway, we managed to find some great half price tickets to go see the Jersey Boys – had to be done, we are in New York after all. The show was excellent, fantastic music, all those great familiar songs, and the cast of performers were awesome. Very different from my other recent theatre experiences, but loads of fun. Makes me wish I could take in a few more shows, but alas… tomorrow I’m moving on.

On the way back from the theatre I was pleased to see the removal of the barricades process has already started and with a bit of luck I won’t have too much trouble getting out to the airport in the morning.

All things NYC and a Little Great Wave.

Woke up stupidly early this morning and I meant annoyingly stupidly early – 4:30am – and couldn’t get back to sleep.  Which is a pain in the arse no matter where you are but when you are playing tourist in one of the largest cities in the world, it means you have about SIX HOURS to kill before anything is open.  No shops, no museums, no nothing.  Only thing I could have done was go find a Starbucks after about 7am or head to the park to go for a walk and watch all the crazy dog walkers and joggers go by. Nothing opens until 10am… Grrr!  ūüôĀ 

Blargh.  Anyway… eventually it gets to be past about 9am and I decide to go out for my first New York ritual and grab a bagel with ‘just a little bit of cream cheese please’ – yes, of course he still drowned it in cream cheese  anyway, but you gotta ask, no? And then went wandering up Madison Avenue to find the New York Beretta Gallery.  If anyone was watching, a few weeks ago, I was at the Beretta Gallery in London and after screws for my 87 and was duly told they have absolutely no handguns in England, but that I would have much better luck in New York seeing I was headed this way anyway.  So I potter around, (read loiter until 10am when everything opens) and go check out the Beretta Gallery New York.

Very pretty place by the way, looks almost identical to the English one with slightly less plaid.  ūüôā  I get to chatting with one of the gunsmiths there in the Gun Room and am pretty much told the same thing ‘nope, we don’t have any handgun parts at all’.  WTF?  This is America (Fuck Yeah!) where all the guns are, surely they have a screw for me… but nope.  No screws.  I did have a great chat about concealed carry laws in New York and the US in general and it is nice to know that at least some people working in the industry think that the US has a problem with their attitudes to firearms.     
    

After being completely unable to get a screw in New York, I decided to walk up town along Central Park to go to the MET.  As promised back when I was in Tokyo, I was again in search of the Great Wave of Kanagawa. It was a beautiful day for a walk and the park is looking all lush and green, not all frozen and uninviting like last time I was here. 
    
Got up to the MET and have to say I don’t remember the fountain out the front, courtesy of one of the Koch Brothers… must be some sort of willful political blindness.  

I pretty much made a bee-line for the Asian Centenial Exhibition to see this elusive print, and ta-da! There it was, in the flesh, err paper so to speak.    

I know quite a lot of famous works of art that seem to suffer dreadfully from over-reproduction; the Mona Lisa comes to mind… just about everyeon you ever meet who has been to see it in the Louvre will tell you how underwhelming it is considering it is such a familiar and famous work of art.  And it precisely because we see it everywhere that finally seeing it in its original form fails to move us.  This can happen with lots of art works, though there are many really famous pieces that I have seen that do not disappoint – Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Starry Night’ or the ‘Bedroom at Arles’; the Cluny Tapestries; Kandinsky (pick an number, any number); Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’; Monet’s various waterlillies… you get the idea.  When seen in original form, these artworks still have the ability to impress and astound.

I am happy to say the Great Wave of Kanagawa has not suffered from the constant reproductions that I saw of it all over New York, Boston, Japan, China, and even London.  The print is smaller than you might expect, but it has an amazingly subtle texture that is just not evident in photographic or printed representations.    So Mr K, it is still well worth hunting.  ūüôā 
    

After conning a Japanese tourist into taking my photo with the art work to prove I actually saw it!  I had a good look through the rest of the Asian Centennial Exhibit.  There were ceramic and pottery items, netsuke pieces, lacquerware, gorgeous kimono and the most stunning collection of painted Japanese screens from the Edo period – more even than I saw in any of the museums and palaces we went to in Japan.  The exhibtion closes in just a few days, so I was really quite lucky to be able to go and see it.

After a quick turn around the MET to make sure no one had moved anything or added anything amazing to the Medieval galleries, I decided I would head back down town via the Central Park Zoo… which I hadn’t been to before, but I was led to believe they have puffins, and well, you know – any port in a storm I guess.  Turned out to be not my best laid plan.
  The Central Park Zoo has obviously been there for quite a long time, I didn’t see a plaque saying when it was established, but I imagine it has been around for ages.  Unfortuantely, many of the animal enclosures evidence old zoo practices where animals are overcrowded or have enclosures too small for their natural habits to emerge.  It was not the saddest zoo I have ever visited – that distinction still rests with the Barcelona Zoo – but it definitely wasn’t a highlight either.  You can tell that there has been a lot of work put into trying to make the facilities as good as possible for the animals, but two grizzy bears stuck in a paddock barely big enough for a pair of Border Collies?  I’ not so sure those poor bears have a great life.  
  

Anyway, there were penguins, and snow monkeys, a snow leopard, sea lions, red pandas and eventually puffins – but weird looking tufted puffins, not the Atlantic puffins that they have on all the banner pictures around the zoo.  False advertising!  I am just going to have to go back to Scotland one day in the right season and do it right.    

After the zoo, I head back to my B&B and managed to relax a bit with my feet up and a Barq’s Root Beer, which I felt was heartily deserved after all that walking this morning.  At around 4:30pm it was time to head back out and meet KPeth for our first foray down to Times Square to have a poke about, find some dinner and go to a show.
  

The Pope is going to be here on Friday, which is awesome and people seem excited that he is coming – here he is in his official bobble headed goodness with his best buddies – Batman, Iron Man and Superman.  Go Francis, you’re the Man!  I do wonder though… how does the Pope feel about being turned into a bobble head???   

In keeping with my Asian Centennial theme from earlier today, we ended up at a sushi restaurant for dinner called ‘Black Rice Sushi’ over near 45th and 9th.  I had the terriyaki salmon and tempura vegetables to celebrate finally seeing the Great Wave and the food there was really lovely – shame about the hipster mason jug drink glasses though… you’re a Japanese restaurant, don’t do that.    
 

Then after dinner onto the show!  Originally we had tickets to see Gigi, but they closed their run down early and we had to choose something else.  Being a bit of a fan of the medieval period, Shakespeare and high brow wit, I suggested we go check out ‘Something Rotten’, which turned out to be a fabulous move.

The performance was awesome fun.  From the moment the cutrains went up to the standing ovation at the end of the show, it was a riotous gallop through all things Renaissance, Shakespeare and musical theatre.  There were just as many outlandish codpieces as I had expected, just as many double entendre jokes and some very impressive costuming goign on – those chorus women were wearing their corsets and stomachers, yet still had an impressive range of movement going on.  The characters were well written and the threatre in-jokes were hilarious, though I am certain I must have missed some of them.  It was a lot of fun, and seeing it on Broadway with such a quality cast was a real treat.  My favourite charcters were Thomas Nostradamus, who was highly entertaining, and the rock star style Will ‘Power’ Shakespeare, who seemed to be channeling Tim Curry.  Just fabulous.  I would highly recommend going to see this show and shelling out for some good seats, it was totally worth it. 

 

And after all that… I’m really quite exhausted (not to mention my pain levels are through the roof). Good thing nothing opens in this town until 10am tomorrow, hey?  ūüėČ 

  

On Ferguson.

Benjamin Watson, a football player for the New Orleans Saints posted his thoughts about Ferguson on his Facebook page, and it has since gone viral.¬† I’ve seen it reposted, and have re-read it, about three times in the last 24 hours… and to be honest, living where I do, the big ol’ mess that is Ferguson, is so far removed from our safe(r) little part of the world that much of what is happening there does not effect us at all. ¬†On top of that, being an educated middle class, white chick from the other side of the world means, I can’t possibly hope to ever fully understand the race struggles that have gripped America for generations. ¬†So I can’t speak with any authority whatsoever on what is happening there – but I do feel that this is one of the most measured and sensible responses that I have seen from anyone on the topic:

benjamin-watson-620x466“At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:

I’M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.

I’M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.

I’M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I’m a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a “threat” to those who don’t know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.

I’M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.

I’M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.

I’M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.

I’M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I’ve seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.

I’M CONFUSED, because I don’t know why it’s so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don’t know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.

I’M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take “our” side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it’s us against them. Sometimes I’m just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that’s not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That’s not right.

I’M HOPELESS, because I’ve lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I’m not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.

I’M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it’s a beautiful thing.

I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn.

BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.”

Here is the link to his Facebook page: http://tinyurl.com/oo9szxv

America – Fuck Yes and Fuck Noes!

I never thought I’d be spending three and a half months of the last ten, in the United States of America (‘Merica, fuck yeah!)… and I certainly never thought I’d be covering all four corners of the country; going as far north-west as you can get (Alaska) to as far south-east as you can go (Florida), to as far south-west (San Diego, California) as you can get to, and as far north east as you can (Maine), not to mention a whole bunch of places in between.
I went to Alaska, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, California, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, DC, Maryland, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania again, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Delaware, Massachusetts and I’ve probably forgotten some! (Illinois too, but airports don’t count!) ¬†There are lots of things I really enjoy about the US, but as per usual, there are plenty of things I don’t like too.
US – The things I like…
  • Food portion sizes are huge – you can often get away with sharing a meal.
  • They let you turn right on the red, when there’s no traffic.
  • Fun trying to pick accents – from the lady beside me at the MET Opera with her thick New York accent to the lazy drawn out Southern drawls.
  • Mardi Gras is absolutely unique and there’s nothing like it – best party ever.
  • American BBQ is awesome. ¬†They say ‘life is too short to eat bad BBQ’ and our favourite was at Famous Dave’s BBQ… maybe we should open a franchise in Oz!
  • New England is beautiful, the scenery, the architecture, the history, the lobsters (could never live there though – too bloody cold).
  • Parades are fun – Mardi Gras Parades, St Patricks Day Parades etc, are a lot of fun, everyone is in a party mood. ¬†Few too many marching bands, but small price to pay.
  • The Grand Canyon is truly incredible, I’ve been there twice now and each time it just took my breath away.
  • Love the political satire television shows. ¬†For a country that is largely apathetic about their politics (less than 40% of the population turns out to vote), they sure get plenty of good mileage out of beating up politicians.
  • The US has some of the most incredible museums and art galleries with extensive and impressive world class collections. ¬†I wish I could access them more often (Australia really feels like a cultural wasteland in comparison).
home-team-fuck-yeah-.jpg
US – the things I don’t like..
  • Food portions sizes are huge – if we wanted to eat different things, we always ended up with way too much food.
  • Taxes are added after sale. ¬†The sticker price is never the price – taxes are added in at the checkout. ¬†Just add the damn taxes in and detail on the receipt how much tax was paid so people aren’t constantly forced to work out the taxes (the rate for which is different in every state!)
  • I hate all the beggars. ¬†I know they are often disenfranchised and/or¬†marginalised¬†individuals, dealing with homelessness and other major social issues. But America’s inability to look after their most vulnerable is a bigger problem than my handling a $1 to a beggar can fix.
  • Pennies can get fucked, they aren’t worth what it costs to make them, they take up too space in your purse and a penny buys nothing.
  • Dollar notes can get fucked too. You think you have plenty of money left in your wallet and then discover they’re all $1 notes… but so long as you have this tipping culture, NO ONE will ever want to get rid of them because handing over $1 coins would feel cheap.
  • America needs to join the Modern era and use the goddamn metric system already!
  • You can not get a decent cup of tea ANYWHERE. ¬†American’s love their coffee, but have no idea how to make decent tea.
  • Public bathrooms… I’ve had this rant before, but it still pisses me off. ¬†Locks with ‘Vacant/Engaged’ are so simple and sensible. Why aren’t they more prevalent?
  • An American person may be lovely, but American people are just plain rude… there is a reason why they carry on like Canadians are obtrusively polite, it’s because Americans are generally quite self involved and often, very rude.
  • Ditto for situational obliviousness, Americans will just stop and have their conversation taking up an entire sidewalk, or get off an escalator and come to a dead stop, not even noticing the people coming up behind them.
  • Roads are a disgrace, especially in the north – most highways are pitted so badly it’s like 4WDing down the freeways with potholes as big as a pitbull. ¬† Also, the four way stops are shit, no one knows who has right of way – put in some roundabouts and be done with it.
  • Tipping – it’s so fucked. ¬†If staff were paid a decent living wage BY THEIR EMPLOYERS, then service staff wouldn’t need to rely on the social expectation that forces the public to pay just so they have enough to live on.
Next trip… maybe Russia/Scandinavia!

Always travel with your Parking Fairy.

I don’t have a Parking Fairy, truly wish I did, but alas… I do not. ¬† I do know plenty of people who do seem to have a Parking Fairy, and I am constantly jealous of these blessed people. ¬†Mr K has a Parking Fairy – always gets that perfect park right out front at a packed event, finds money in the street to buy lunch on a day he forgets his wallet, stumbles onto the perfect widget for any given purpose with ease! ¬†I am firmly of the belief that the Parking Fairy can be a fickle bitch, but her fondness for Keith was totally working in my favour this trip, so I am totally not complaining!
15 Reasons to Travel With Mr K and His Parking Fairy
  • Mr K always got the cabs whenever he needed one in New Orleans. ¬†The town would be packed and people going in every direction and he always seemed to turn the right corner and flag down a cab immediately.
  • When it came to finding seats to watch the Mardi Gras parades, Mr K would choose a spot and it would turn out to be the best spots for seeing all the toasts and highlights.
  • Wandering around Bourbon Street on Fat Tuesday, and the need to pee gets the better of you… I’d be wandering around for half an hour looking for a place, but Mr K walks straight into what turns out to be the best little bar with great food and great music and we end up there for an hour!
  • Mr K decides that we should go to the Kennedy Space Centre and we get there and the place is half empty! ¬†No queues, no waiting, no problems… the day before however, was a madhouse.
  • Mr K scores a free car upgrade for our drive from New Orleans to Orlando in Florida – bye bye crappy Ford Focus, hello fancy town car.
  • Things go a little awry and we find ourselves running late to check in for our flight in Orlando… I get a bit panicky, but Mr K chats to the check in staff and suddenly they are putting us in expedited queues and throwing our luggage in without charging us!
  • Things like this never happen to me – somehow Mr K scores a spare seat between the two of us from Orlando to Washington, giving us a heap more space and comfort for the flight.
  • We get to Washington and find out that the Richard III run at the Folger Shakespeare has been extended. ¬†I enquire on the phone and get told that they are sold out. ¬†Mr K tries the box office and gets the last two seats in the house for our preferred night.
  • We find ourselves standing around in the cold outside the National Archives freezing our tits off, waiting to go in… when out of nowhere a teacher from a Kentucky school group of high achievers who have a booking come up to Mr K and offer to let us tack onto their group and jump the 45 min queue!
  • I have no idea how he does this – but he gets us another free car upgrade in New York, so instead of driving around in a Ford Focus, we are driving around in a VW Passat with a leather interior and all the bells and whistles (for ‘bells and whistles’ read: seat warmers, which were very much appreciated up there!).
  • We decide to go to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts on a rainy Sunday and it seems half of Boston figure that was a good way to spend the day too. ¬†All the on street parking is taken, the parking garage is $22 for the first three hours and we go ‘eek!’. ¬†Mr K decides to do one lap and ‘lo and behold, finds *the* closest park available and it was free.
  • Go to check in at the Bellagio for the week, and Mr K has a chat with the reception staff resulting in a free room upgrade… from a resort room to a Spa Tower fountain and strip view room! Awesome.
  • For the hat trick, Mr K goes to pick up our third hire car in Las Vegas and, you guessed it, somehow manages to get us another free car upgrade from a cheap compact to a Chevrolet Impala (how does he do it!)
  • Then in a stunning use of the omnipresent Parking Fairy, Mr K finds a hat. ¬†Now this one needs a bit of explaining. ¬†When we were in New Orleans, he found a nice New Orleans Saints Hat that he liked in a hat shop however, it’s not in his size. ¬†Not to worry though, they have them everywhere in a chain called Lids, which are in Washington, New York, Boston, and Las Vegas and well everywhere really… but not a single one of the probably 10-12 Lids stores we try has the ‘right hat’. ¬†As we are getting ready to leave Vegas, I spy a small little sports store at the airport terminal and suggest he have a poke around to kill some time while we are waiting for our flight. ¬†Wouldn’t you know it, after weeks of looking the first racks Mr K walks over to have the hat he wants and in his size. ¬†Unbelievable.
  • And just to put the icing on the cake, he managed to score us four seats to ourselves on the flight on the way home so I got to lay down and try and sleep!
goth parking fairy
The moral of the story is… if you have a Parking Fairy of your own, make sure you get good use of her, and if you don’t – always travel with someone who does have one!