May 11, 2009
Our last day in Chicago – left the cases at the Amtrak Office and wandered galleries talking to nice people we met in them. Started raining so we went to cinema and saw State of Play…was good.. Walked out into absolutely torrential rain and we had no dry clothes to change into because our cases were locked away. ’Shall we get a taxi?’ I naively suggested but ‘ It’s only 20 minutes walk to the station’ I was told.
Forty minutes later, soaked through to my skin, standing on a corner waiting for the lights to change I was mildly (well, sort of) remonstrating (well, quite cross if I‘m honest) when a bus came hurtling round the corner and a meter high tidal wave of muddy puddle water totally drenched me. To my toes. Only me. Eddie was behind me.
I started to speak civilly again only when we got on the train (led there by a Redcap who was like Tom Hanks in The Polar Express) and were offered wine and cheese and biscuits and yet more wine by 3 of the funniest guys with the sexiest of New York accents…I didn’t actually think that people spoke like that outside of TV/movies. They were wonderful….imagine the smoothness of Idris Elba with the cheekiness of a young Will Smith. .
The compartment was fun and the journey not so much exciting as really varied ;- clapperboard houses in varying stages from burnt out hulks to miserable disrepair to manicured suburban; the mighty Hudson River; fishermen; all manner of boats from simple rowing to power to paddle steamers to rowing eights; the most beautiful, huge colonial mansions overlooking the river; familiar place names like Erie, Buffalo, Cleveland, Poughkeepsie, Garrison (where Hello Dolly was filmed) , Irvington (where Washington Irving lived and based Sleepy Hollow) and Westpoint…not at all what I expected but a massive fortress with ramparts (very post apocalyptic). As we neared New York we went through tunnels decorated with some very unusual, spooky graffiti .
The hotel was ‘Only 5 minutes walk’ away from Penn Station…opposite Madison Square gardens where 65 played…and it actually was!
Sirens. Impatience. Neon. Staten Island. Sirens. Statue of Liberty. Brooklyn Bridge. World Trade Centre Site. (Young men of Afro American and Asian appearance were trying to sell photos of the actual attack. Hmmm. Distasteful and odd). Flat Iron building. Sirens. Museum of Modern Art. Radio City. Rockefeller Centre. Sirens. Times Square. Broadway. 42nd Street. . Chrysler. Grand Central Station. 5th Avenue. Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met). Street Markets. Empire State Building. Sirens. Non stop. Police everywhere. Ladder 24 is just round the corner from the hotel and they are in and out a lot.
The metro was crowded and the only seat left was next to a massive hulk of a guy – his thighs were bigger than my entire body. He was wearing a shirt that said (without the ….) ‘F… you, you f…… f… ’ and he had the most aggressive facial expression. And alarming posture. The train jerked and knocked me into him. In the quietest, most gentle voice he apologised ‘I’m so sorry ma’am, please forgive me.’
Standing next to a group of teenage boys, eavesdropping, we realized that we could only understand one word in ten and that America will soon have its own alternative language….The Wire has a lot to answer for.
We noticed in both Chicago and New York that an awful lot of people walk along, on their own, talking, laughing and occasionally arguing loudly with themselves. It looks really peculiar. Some were certainly smoking illegal substances (especially the one who head butted his reflection in a window). Others just had these odd things in their ears and were clearly communicating with the mother ship.
I loved this advert ‘Owning a car is so pre- recession.’
Couldn’t find anywhere that was showing the City/United Derby at 9 in the morning. It’s our fault City lost, when we watch in Sheffield they win.
Central Park…sunny but very windy. As we sat we were literally attacked by a giant pink dragon and then a ferocious shark. As the wind changed the kite runners moved away and we settled to watch a baseball game, a ‘Grannies for Peace March’ (which I was not qualified to join), posing young men showing off their Calvin Klein underwear, a young man who wandered aimlessly (through family picnics all celebrating Mothers Day) wearing a T-shirt that said ‘F… your mother’. …was he;- a) making a statement about commercialization b)oblivious c)a non English reading foreigner ? Answers on a postcard.
Our sons being thoughtful and far sighted, had given us a Christmas present which amazingly coincided with USA’s Mothers’ Day….. Tickets for The Jersey Boys on Broadway – to finish off our world trip with a musical extravaganza..
Ours sons are simply the best.
The show was (I have to say this at least once in America) AWESOME. Funny, musically excellent, sad, exciting, fast, slick….wonderful. And now we know what happened to inspire the song ‘Oh what a night!’
I don’t know how to finish this blog. I don’t even know what will happen to it then…will it disappear into the ether? But, we catch the plane tomorrow after we post this and will be home sometime on Tuesday 12th.
We have had a truly amazing few months, been privileged to have such experiences and I have loved sharing them by writing about them. Thank you for reading it.
Well, ………….what we call an end is often a beginning!
May 6, 2009
30th april-6th may
Mile High City and I am wearing a t shirt that says ‘Take a deep breath and get high’.
We travel from the motel in to the city on the metro gazing at the distant, hazy panorama of the Rockies. Everyone else is reading.
I fall in love with a huge blue bear which is peering into the Convention Centre. Every public building in Denver has a work of art outside it (how civilized!) but the bear is best.
We meet a man who recognizes our accents and is proud and delighted to show Eddie his i-phone with photos of him watching Manchester United on a recent trip to the UK!
We climb to the top of the Capitol building with an army of well behaved school children and got squashed in a lift with a real, live senator. We realise too late that we should have talked about Madeleine “our friend the MP” in a loud voice.
I almost buy leather straps that go on Indian pigtails and then realise that I am nearly 60 and it just won’t do.
We spend hours in the art museum at a Rock Concert Psychedelic Posters show…we make posters, write in hippy blogs, make groovy light shows, chill out to the big screen and remember concerts we have been to. It’s an exciting surprise to wash hands in the marble and chrome restrooms and hear the sink sing ‘Row, row, row the boat’. (there’s art and then there’s Art !!)
We discover the best bookshop – The Tattered Book Cover Store. It has wood everywhere, excellent coffee and food. You are actively encouraged to sit and read books and magazines at tables or on comfy chairs. I shall open one in Mossley.
En route to Chicago through Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois.
We stop for coffee and are complimented on our ‘so cool’ accents – this has happened several times now. Eddie helps mend the coffee machine so we can have some.
The radio stations are all playing classics (though we really got fed up with Maggie May which was played constantly) and the adverts are so entertaining. We are tempted to apply for the Buffalo Bill’s Home for the Recently Retired (from 55 upwards!) we giggle at husbands being encouraged to buy all sorts of rubbish ‘for the missus’ but we are most entertained by the one which explains how we can get hold of an exceptional bull to service our entire herd with superstar quality semen. You just don’t get this on Key 103.
We are regularly passed by monster men in monster pick up trucks with monster tool boxes in the back. They have stickers which say things like ‘Show us your hooters’. Another sticker says ‘American by birth. Lineman by choice’ and we are nowhere near Witchita!
Dead deer, coyotes and porcupines litter the sides of the highway.
Wind farms. Shiny aluminium grain silos. Trees heavy with dark pink blossom. It feels like spring today. We pass through Madison County but see no bridges. And then….then…we cross over a huge, huge, muddy river….it’s the Mississippi!!!
Our hotel is in Chinatown on the outskirts of Chicago. It’s very pleasant and when the manager discovers that we are/were teachers, he invites us to join an Educator‘s Conference being held here and describe the Education System in the UK. It is so very tempting and there is free wine but we decline and drive in to drop off the car.
Then we revisit old haunts which we last saw several year ago in freezing temperatures. It’ s so different now…a balmy spring day, tulips everywhere.
We find shops….shops…where I remember to my delight that clothes sizes are different here and I am automatically 2 sizes thinner. I only last 15 minutes trying to find a dress for Emma’s wedding (mainly because Eddie only lasted 5 before moving inexorably towards the Apple Store).
Best bit of Chicago so far has been the Newberry Library. If you haven’t read The Time Traveller’s Wife don’t bother reading the next paragraph. They have tours on days we weren’t here but a lovely man took pity on us (we were from the UK and he loved out accents) and we got our own private tour…it was fantastic., we met lots of interesting, very clever people and saw ancient manuscripts and maps. I didn’t mention TTTW cos it’s a very serious research building but I am almost certain that Audrey was there researching and I wanted to tell her that she wouldn’t remember me but we’d meet in 2012.…oh and then there was the naked young man in The Stacks. Wonderful. I plan to send our guide a postcard from the John Ryland.
Met some lovely, helpful people here, walked along Lake Michigan, admired the stunning architecture, saw a photographic exhibition, ate well and enjoyed wheat beer. Almost made a Chicago Cubs baseball game (next time, Rod?I want one of those big fingers to wave about) and discovered that modern contemporary art is sometimes, sometimes a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes but that Buckminster Fuller was a seriously clever guy.
We tried to see Leonard Cohen at the Chicago Theatre. Yeah…tickets left…. only $250 EACH. Sigh.
Wednesday…one more day in the city and then overnight train to New York.
We had our last day’s walk in the mountains and it couldn’t have been more perfect.
We had such a wonderful , beautiful time. We met 4 lovely Americans who were so thrilled about Obama and so apologetic about Bush.
We saw no-one else in the white wilderness that was the Rockies.
Snow. Deep snow. Unexpected really deep snow.
Wet socks. Wet boots.
Next time we hire snow shoes because they looked brilliant