Monday, December 03, 2007

Stobes and the Big Apple

Living in Washington DC has many benefits. I like to refer to DC as a "small big city" or a "big small city"; being the Nation's capital means we enjoy many of the perks and fringe benefits of being a major metropolitan centre, without having to deal with a bazillion people living on top of one another.

DC also happens to be in relatively close proximity (relatively speaking) to urban centres that you may want to visit, such as Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Boston, Atlantic City, and Baltimore. (OK, strike Baltimore from the list.) But the top "close" destination has to be New York City.

I have lost count of the times I have gone up to NYC: I've gone up as a tourist (which really only counts my first trip up almost exactly four years ago), I've gone up to play Aussie Rules footy, I've gone up to help a friend's boyfriend move out of his apartment, I've gone up to attend Thanksgiving with a friend's family. And once in a blue moon I go up to NYC to meet a friend who happens to be in town.

If you asked a random Australian which city in the world they would most like to visit, I am sure that London, Paris, and Rome would feature high on the list. But New York City may be number 1. As a nation heavily influenced by the US, the Big Apple looms large in our consciousness. I still remember the first time I clambered out of Penn Station onto the streets of Midtown Manhattan, feeling a visceral thrill that I have only encountered when coming face to face with icons such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Eiffel tower, and Big Ben for the first time.

This means that when most Australians come to visit the United States, New York is a definite entry on the itinerary. This also means that when one of my old friends from home decides to embark on an American Adventure, the odds are very good that they will be visiting a city which is only a few hours from my front door.

This past weekend was such an occasion, when my mate Stobes flew into NYC on the final leg of his American odyssey. I've known Craig for over 15 years, but hadn't seen him in 4 or 5, so it sounded like a great excuse for me to trundle up for some booze and some laughs. He was due to fly in on Saturday afternoon, and be in town for a week; with Vegas already booked I decided that the optimal plan of attack would be for me to grab a Greyhound (the bus, not the drink) and pay a flying visit for Saturday night only.

Stobes assured me that he had sorted out some accommodation that would allow me to crash on his floor, so it looked pretty solid. Bus it up Saturday afternoon, get Stobes checked in, get fucked up in bars around Manhattan, pass out some time in the AM, pour myself back into a Greyhound for the homeward journey. Gold.

As luck would have it, my bus up on Saturday arrived in Manhattan a little early, while Stobes' flight from LA was a little late. I walked out of the Port Authority bus terminal at 4pm, while Stobes was not due in until 5:30. And it was bitterly cold. What was I to do?

If you know me well, and perhaps even if you don't, there was only one answer: head to a bar for a couple of lazy pints as I waited. I was under the (incorrect) assumption that Stobes' accommodation was just off Times Square on 48th St, so I headed up that way, turning a block or so off the main drag to find a bar that looked promising. Busy, but not overly so, the bar I chose had three large flat screen TVs displaying college football. It looked good to me, so I bellied up to the bar, next to two girls who were busy cheering for Boston College as their game with Virginia Tech wound to a close finish.

As is my wont I began inhaling my Newcastle while exchanging commentary and banter with the two ladies to my left. Alexis and Sue turned out to be good sorts, and we had a fine time making fun of BC as they imploded in spectacular fashion. As the game came to a predictably grisly close, Sue announced that they needed to purchase shots to get over the pain, and also announced that I was included. Three jager bombs, coming right up!

At this point it was 4:30pm. All I had consumed up to that point of the day was four of Saunter's delicious cinnamon rolls, and a cup of tea. It was going to be a long night.

After the jager bombs were consumed, and the TV switched to USC/UCLA, we continued to chat. At one point Alexis asked me for some relationship advice, as she had found herself in a tricky situation with two close male friends. As part of my advice, I labelled guy no. 1 "Michael", and guy no. 2 "Darren" (or "Dazza", as I explained he would most likely be called in Australia). Alexis and Sue seemed to agree with my diagnosis and prescription, and as 5:30pm rolled around I wished them well in their romantic adventures, and floated off to meet Stobes at his hotel.

As it turned out, Stobes' lodgings were actually not on 48th St, but in fact on the same block as the Port Authority! I decided that this would probably be helpful when I attempted to get myself home the next day.

I arrived at the hotel with perfect timing, as Stobes was just checking in. Or should I say "attempting to check in". Apparently there was some mix-up with the contact we were meant to meet. Stobes was a little disoriented; apparently he had booked the hotel through some hostel broker, but the building we were in clearly seemed to be an upscale condo building, so he wasn't sure exactly what the go was. The concierge eventually sent us up to a specific room, telling us to just knock on the door. OK.... Strangely enough this plan did not work, so Stobes went back down to inform the concierge he was full of shit. A few minutes later, back came Stobes with the concierge, who explained that we needed to get hold of our contact to sort the situation out.

Things were getting painful.

Stobes tried calling various numbers, to no avail. As we were trying to think of an alternative conversation, up popped the concierge again. Problem solved, we now had to go to this different apartment. Okey doke. This time the information provided was solid, as we entered a lovely looking apartment, presided over by a hard-bargaining Asian fellow who insisted on calling me "Jim". As in: "Oh, so you live in Washington DC, Jim? That's nice of you to come up and visit your friend." No worries, mate.

The broker fellow seemed to be running some sort of operation where he leased various apartments out on a short-term basis. He insisted on getting the cash (a not insignificant sum) up front, which Stobes and I went out onto the street to procure from an ATM. As luck would have it, Stobes' limit did not suffice, but I chipped in and awarded him a short term loan to tide him over.

Back in the apartment we handed over the cash, the Asian broker-dude was happy, and we were happy. For a very reasonable amount of dough we had a lovely apartment in Midtown Manhattan, with a glorious view.

This done, we immediately went out to hit some bars (and grab some food). We decided to head back to the bar I had come from: it was decent, it was close, and I was assured by Sue and Alexis that the french fries were fantastic. The bar had become a little busier during my absence, but Stobes and I managed to slide into a couple of stools at the bar when an elderly couple left. We both ordered beers and burgers, and sat back to catch up on life and such.

Before too long, however, the portly gentleman to my left proceeded to butt in. You know the guy: in sales, late forties, fat, and does not shut up. Being a hardcore republican (self-described as "being to the right of Attila the Hun"), he wanted to engage us on our opinions of the US, and wondered how things worked back in Oz. At one point he mentioned in passing that he was from Nebraska, and always carried a gun on him. Stobes was a little startled by this news, and I have to admit it wasn't exactly what I was hoping to hear from the man.

After enduring a round of "Who Would You Select as Person of the 20th Century", Stobes and I decided to make our escape, fleeing around the corner for a couple of Brooklyn Lagers. After knocking back those, Stobes professed his desire to have a beverage or two in the Greenwich Village. Why? I have no idea, but we jumped into a cab and set sail for the Village. Once again the cold inspired us to jump into the first place we saw once we abandoned the taxi on Bleecker Street. The bar itself was nothing to write home about, except for the stupendous rack on one of the bartenders which forced Stobes and I to play an extended round of "Fake or Not Fake?".

Around 11pm I received a text message from my friend Jets Girl, who worked as a wine manager in a restaurant in Manhattan. She had just gotten off of work, and implored us to head up to a dive bar near her place of employment. We didn't need much convincing, quickly knocking back our current beverages and cabbing it back uptown. There we found Jets Girl and friends (some of which I had met before), and joined them in seeing how much we all could drink.

Given that I had been drinking since 4pm, it was inevitable that I would lose track of time. Thus it was with some degree of surprise (albeit drunken surprise) that it was almost 4am when Stobes and I stumbled out of the bar and into a cab back to the apartment. Before we crashed we grabbed a couple of hot dogs from a street vendor, to put the proper New York stamp on the evening (a slice of pizza would have been better, but our intoxication plus the cold dampened our search efforts).

Arriving at the apartment, I stripped the two Ikea seats that formed the bulk of the living room furniture to construct something resembling a bed, and crashed. Hard. I came to for the first time around 11:30am the next morning, and was immediately dismayed that I had. To say that I was hungover does not adequately convey my misery. My brain felt like someone had put it in a vice, and was trying to see how tightly he could wind it. My guts kept flip-flopping between "fine" and "intense nausea". Fantastic. Stobes arose around noon, and was able to supply me with some painkillers, thank God. Stobes discovered that while we had been sleeping, New York had been blanketed in snow. Stobes marvelled at the view as I curled into the foetal position and prayed for death.

Eventually I got ready for the day, as we watched some of the NFL pre-game shows. As the Seattle/Philadelphia game got started, we decided we should head off and find some eating establishment at which we could properly infuse out bodies with caffeine, sugar, and grease. That way I could catch my bus back home to DC in proper condition, and Stobes could return to his apartment for further passing out.

Wandering in the down town direction, Stobes and I came across the Tick Tock Diner, directly adjacent to the New Yorker Hotel, itself yards from Madison Square Garden. Stobes and I proceeded to order half of the menu. It was the clear course of action.

The food totally hit the spot, and the table favourite was probably the fantastic sausages. I didn't get around to posting an "after" picture, but let's just say that the only survivor of the carnage that ensued was the wheat toast. I was a little upset when the waiter didn't pass comment on the wanton culinary destruction that had just taken place, but then again, this was New York. I'd have to aim higher in the future to ensure that I made an impression.

Our appetites sated, Stobes and I returned to the apartment. I grabbed my bag, shook Stobes' hand, and wished him well for the remainder of his journey. I then walked down the block and into the Port Authority, right on time for my bus and able to snag a seat with no one next to me. Bonus. I rolled into DC just before 8pm, and was able to spend a laid back evening before passing out. Good times.

Before I go, I wanted to share a photo taken around 3am on Saturday night. This is what happens when you go outside a bar and get talking to random people. Even then, I can't explain the random English dude on my left. Enjoy!


  • Crushed.

    You were in NYC this last weekend, and so was I!!!!!!! I guess I have to wait all the way until THURSDAY to see you now.


    By Blogger Betty, at 2:36 PM  

  • Sorry I missed ya. Was pretty sick all weekend. Next time... first shout is on me.

    By Blogger Dr. Pauly, at 8:06 PM  

  • This was a funny post. Only in NYC I say. I love the guy giving you the criss cross finger.

    By Blogger Joaquin "The Rooster" Ochoa, at 10:07 AM  

  • Oh dear...and we dial-a-shotted you! Thank god for the soothing powers of breakfast.

    Well, at least your NYC day/evening/morning has given your liver adequate prep for Vegas.

    By Blogger Jules, at 10:04 AM  

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