‘we walked off to look for america’

May 11, 2009

May 4th– 11th

Leaving Chicago

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!

New York

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.

radio city

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.

What next?

Well, ………….what we call an end is often a beginning!



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