New York, New York

September 4, 2021
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NEW YORK is the meeting place of the Atlantic Ocean and the Hudson River, and it is a city almost everyone has heard of.

Famed for its grand architecture and exuberant landmarks, New York is a place filled with excitement and an endless list of things to do. World famous places and landmarks like Central Park, the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty are found here.

I went on Airbnb and got a booking for $50 a night staying on a couch in Harlem. Harlem has become quite gentrified. Five years ago, you could get an apartment for $500 a month and that’s now gone up to $1900 a month.

The lovely young woman I stayed with was from the Dominican Republic and had been brought up in downtown Manhattan.

She had worked at Deloitte for three years and then chucked in her job, and now had no money to start up her own business. But renting out the lounge meant she could start putting money aside for that.

So, there I was in New York. I got Uber shared pooling and it only cost me $16. The Uber driver who picked me up was from Morocco but after five years he had become a naturalised American. Another two women using Uber were in the cab as well. They were from Kuwait and wore hijabs.

Anyway, we drove past the Trump Tower and the two women said, “boycott the Trump Tower.” They said they had been here for a year and told me about why they had left Kuwait. I couldn’t believe it, I did a quick Google search and in Kuwait you can’t protest, let alone vote. They all said that they were Sunni Muslims, and they were surprised to find out that I knew what Sunni was. I said I had been to Pakistan.

I told them I wanted to go to Iran and see all the beautiful mosques and other buildings in places like Isfahan, and they said oh we wouldn’t go to Iran because we are Sunni and Iran was Shi’a. I commiserated and said it was tragic that such divisions were so strong.

My plan was to spend Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night in Harlem, which is about a twenty-minute ride on the A train and about ten stops from Brooklyn.

In Harlem, it is quite safe to walk along the main streets because people catch public transport until 2 or 3 in the morning, and it is a city that doesn’t sleep, more so than London. And it is a real city that uses public transport, which was excellent.

The buzzer didn’t work at the Airbnb when I got there on 145th Street. I was lucky to have a mobile phone number to use. That would have been an issue with no key and no buzzer. Always get a mobile number.

I went to a Jazz club called the Metropole Room on 22nd Street. There was a guy called John and his band playing. I got there at 9:30 p.m. and after watching him drink several glasses of wine one after the other, they played a few songs, and then finished after an hour.

I was surprised to learn that when your order a drink, you have to order two drinks minimum there. So, I had a yummy cheesecake and two cocktails which were reasonably priced at $11 each. Then they tried to get me to pay a mandatory tip for the band!

Afterwards there was a girl called Allie who was doing some Carpenters songs and some other jazz songs, which I really enjoyed.

On the Friday night, I went to a comedy club called Tribeca Comedy Lounge on 22 Warren Street. It was only $2. The comedians were great. I really enjoyed getting out and seeing New York culture on my first two nights.

I also explored the city during the daytime, including the famous beatnik quarter known as Greenwich Village, where a 1969 riot by drinkers in a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn, against police who were trying to arrest them for being that way, kicked off the modern gay liberation movement.

The Staten Island Ferry is free, and a good way to view the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline: the classic view. I also went on a boat tour that took me to Ellis Island, the famous immigration station that is now a museum.

I also went by ferry to Red Hook, an old manufacturing and warehouse district due south of Manhattan Island, with lots of old bring buildings and lofts and a generally run-down air. These days Red Hook has become an artists’ colony. There are plans to extend the subway to Red Hook and build 45,000 apartments, which are needed, but I expect it won’t be the same.

The new building on the World Trade Centre site was truly impressive. I’m glad something was rebuilt. Three buildings came down on that terrible day, incidentally, not just two.

I don’t know what to make of all the conspiracy and inside-job theories, the theories that the authorities knew what was going on but had somehow let it happen. Perhaps they had been keeping tabs on these individuals but simply hadn’t realized what was about to happen — nobody would be very keen to own up to that!

See, also, my other post about New York with a particular focus on Red Hook, A Fickle Easter in Brooklyn.


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