Practically frothing with excitement about the New York trip now. Less than 4 weeks to go! Digging round my ever-growing ‘MISC’ folder on the PC I came across the diary of my last visit in 2003. I get goosebumps reading it. Figaro now gone, The Cock probably too. Don’t remember the ‘dealer’. You can see my will to write fizzled out towards the end. The city must have taken me over. But here it is in its original form. We had a time …
Flew past Greenland and over Canada. Saw Manhattan from the plane for the very first time as we circled to land. Very turbulent flight and bumpy landing. After Immigration, grey-haired policewoman looked at my passport and said “Hello Gregory. Welcome to America.” Taxied in from Newark, New Jersey with Manhattan skyline to our right. Came through the Lincoln Tunnel and saw the New Yorker building and later the Flatiron. Booked into Grand Union on 34 E 33rd Street between Madison and Park. You can see Empire State from the loo. Walked all the way up 5th Avenue to Carnegie Hall to collect tickets for Friday night then ambled through the southern end of Central Park around the skating rink. Stopped at TGI for a Guinness on Fifth then ate baby eggplant in garlic at Hunan, Seinfeld’s favourite Chinese restaurant also on Fifth. Went to bed early, absolutely exhausted.
Up early for coffee and food at the Brooklyn Bagel Company then straight up the Empire State Building round the corner on 5th. Cold, sunny and very windy day so outside observation deck was closed but views absolutely amazing in all directions. Went shopping in Diesel and Bloomingdales, bought Adidas baseball shoes for twenty quid. Egg salad sandwich on brioche with potato straws, asparagus and Leffe in French-style bistro next door to Bloomingdales. Went to Macy’s, already in Christmas mania mode. Plaque in store dedicated to dozens of Macy’s employees killed in World War II and another to employees with 50 years of service to the store; most recent one retired in 1996!
Great views of the Chrysler building as it went dark. Home, shower, power nap, change, and race back to Carnegie Hall (through Times Square, fully blazing) for Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Simon Rattle. Wealthy middle-aged New Yorkers outside with hand-written signs reading ‘Spare tickets needed’. Sir Simon forgot his score when he came on stage and then had to tell someone their hearing-aid was whistling. Funny. Orchestra played Sibelius and Schubert. Standing ovations all round. Serious minks and socialites in the foyer.
Went to cool midtown bar called Fusion, full of local gayboys who seemed to know each other, nice atmosphere, Stella and G&Ts. Don’t forget to tip the barman. Made friends “standing in line for the bathroom.” Quote: “I love your accent . . . oh queue! . . . oh bloody!” Got drunk very quickly on huge measures. Went to all-American sports bar on way home through Midtown. No smoking in any bars so pavements full of smokers. Walked past Madison Square Gardens and Chelsea Hotel by chance on the way home. Plaques outside the Chelsea for loads of its famous residents, but none for Sid ‘n’ Nancy or Quentin. Sleep.
Greenwich Village. Cold but beautiful sunshine. Caught the subway downtown and walked to Washington Square. The Arch under wraps but park still very lovely. Stopped at Le Figaro Café on corner of Bleeker and Macdougal (Beat hangout, especially Kerouac) for mushroom omelettes and loads of coffee. Wrote postcards. Walked round the Village and saw Village Cigar store, Christopher St, Gay St and the Stonewall, stopped for more coffee at Pennyfeathers.
Walked across to the East Village, saw CBGBs on the Bowery then across to Alphabet City. Stopped for a drink on Avenue A in a bar playing Oasis! Saw someone wearing my coat! Walked down St Marks place as it got dark. Fantastic, down-at-heel and genuinely boho vibe, but definite creeping gentrification. Loads of Hispanic punks and skater kids, first genuine sub-cult weirdos we saw. Beautiful.
Home, power nap, shower, out for drinks in Chelsea. First bar Barracuda had cruisy room in the front with lots of men by themselves, back room was groups at tables chatting. Huge age and ethnic range of men, with a smattering of straight women. Hardcore porn playing on TV sets around the room. Geordie forgot to tip the waiter (table and bar service in most places) and he never came back! Moved on a couple of blocks to G Bar. Modern and stylish, central circular bar with major ripped shirtless barmen. Crowd slightly more dressy and fewer girls. The bar across the road had a dwarf bouncer. Beer, G&T, Southern Comfort - Andrew fantastically drunk. Fierce black queens and some very drunk men. Group of Brazilian boys, including beautiful Ricardo who I spoke to outside while having a cigarette. Ricardo was a photographer who’d come from Brazil and had been in Manhattan 4 years. He lived in Midtown and didn’t go out to Chelsea all that often, scene was a bit homogenised, muscley and clean. Much preferred the more mixed and sleazy bars in the East Village (where we‘re headed Monday). Lovely guy, flirted outrageously. Stayed at G till the bitter end then wobbled all the way home, on foot I think. Brilliant.
Metropolitan Museum, Guggenheim (didn‘t go in), Reservoir, Queensboro Bridge, UN building, Empire Diner on 42nd St for something with blue cheese.
Liberty and Ellis Islands, Ground Zero, Brooklyn Bridge, Bread in Soho, Marie’s Crisis, Monster, The Cock, met English Andy, dealer, got taxi to middle of nowhere.
Upper West Side, Dakota Buidling, Central Park, Tiffanys.