Notes From a Narrow Island


I happened upon some notes I jotted down while I was in New York last August. I figured it’s high time that I shared these as I didn’t post anything much about my trip at the time. Without further ado…

1. People cheering during movie.
In an effort to get out of the searing heat, my mates and I decided to take in a film. Our unfortunate choice was ‘Salt’. At the end, when Angelina Jolie’s character killed the Euro-terrorist-bad-guy people in the audience started to cheer. One of weirdest moments I’ve experienced.

2. Knee braces
So many people wearing knee braces, with various levels of hobbling.

3. Glucose
This is in bloody everything! Now I will admit that I don’t always give as much thought as I should to the food I’m eating. However I started to obsess over this a little bit. Anything and everything imaginable is full of high-fructose corn syrup which is terrible for you. Even a pot of yogurt was full of the stuff.

4. Less reading
I’m used to being on public transport where nearly every one has their nose in a paper or a book. I could probably count the number of times I saw someone reading on the subway on one hand.

Grand Central Station Main Concourse

5. More Crazies
The quality and sheer quantity of ‘crazy folk’ in NYC has London beat hands down. A lot of the time you could tell that they’ve been ruined physically, mentally and financially by drugs.

6. Double bag everything
Any time we went food shopping, despite our insistance, all our purchases were double bagged. A couple bags of crisps? Double bag it! One item? Double bag it! And don’t even think about using your own bag. I tried this a few times and gave up after getting the glaring and a shout of ‘move!’ of my life.

7. More old people and kids.
Compared to London there are loads more seniors and children living in and out and about in the city.

8. Had been asked for directions 3 times by my third day there.
Pretty self explanatory. I recall that I was able to help them at least a little bit.

9. Lots of garbage cans, not a lot of CCTV.
As for garbage cans / rubbish bins, chuck this one down to NYC not having the IRA around for several decades. All major areas of London are void of bins as it’s just too easy to blow them up.

Two One Ways

10. To English sensibilities, people seem quite rude. Same with unspoken protocol.
This one is a bit hard to put my finger on. I missed the ‘unspoken protocol’ of everyone knowing where they had to be and where to go, like in the subyway / Tube for instance. The order, if you will. As for the rudeness, it just seemed people were a bit less patient especially in the service industry. I always got the feeling that I was interrupting them by being waited on.

11. Staten truly is garbage island.
This is a Simpsons reference. Home lands on a garbage barge and asks where it’s headed for. The answer – ‘garbage island’. My mate and I took the ferry over to Staten Island just for the ride and to see what we could find. It turns out, not a lot. There was a Staten Island Museum that was shut. The most interesting thing about the place seems to be that a large part of it used to be a land fill.

12. Tin foil hat crazies at WTC site.
This one shouldn’t be a shocker. All around the World Trade Centre site was all sorts of people peddling leaflets and spouting out conspiracy theories about the 11/9/01 attack. One was even trying to convince a group of school kids.

13. Lots of painted nails / garish finger nails.
So many terrifying sets of long, fake finger nails.

14. People seem to generally look unhealthy.
Maybe because people can’t go to the doctor without dishing out a fortune? There just seemed to be a lot of people hobbling (see knee braces above), coughing and just generally not looking well.

15. Public toilet privacy.
Lack there of. The cubicle walls are much smaller than what I’m used to.


For more New York City-ness have a look at my photos on Flickr.

Riding Trains Under The Ground

My first day in New York City included my first trip on the subway system. So first impression? It’s a bit dingy, makes me think of a dirtier version of the Berlin U-Bahn because of the squareness of the tunnels and that the Tube is far superior. That last one surely shouldn’t surprise anyone.

We took a number 1 train from 14th Street and 6th Avenue to Columbus Circle (I keep wanting to call it ‘circus’).  Well, we started at 14th and 6th but to get to the 1 platforms we had to walk to 7th Avenue. It was a bit like Bank for the tourist confusion factor. Along the journey there were several trash cans, some of them overflowing. Something you never see on the Underground for various reasons.


Once at platform level the ambiance didn’t improve much. The thing we really noticed was how filthy the tracks are. Sure it’s a bit sooty and mucky along the tracks but these look like they are never cleaned and are used as make shift garbage bins. The platforms in some cases can be quite narrow. I found the whole experience a bit claustrophobic.


Our silver train approached and we hopped on. The trains themselves are a bit like those airstream caravans on the outside. But with more American flags. Inside is quite minimalistic but at least was pretty well clean. As we made our way North you could see that there are stations in much better nick then the one we started at but they still all basically look the same. I’m keen to check out more stations to get a better feel for it all. For all the dingyness it still has a certainly quality to it. Not everything can be the same as London I suppose 😉

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