Saturday, 23 May 2009

Day Four in New York: “Move it you bitches or I’m gonna call immigration and shake this fuckin’ place up!” (Head trannie at Lucky Cheng’s restaurant)

Sunday. Joff and I have planned to spend the day apart then meet up at the hotel later, change for dinner and trade New York stories. I head out armed with sunglasses, camera and most importantly my pre-prepared New York City Streets playlist on my new dinky Creative Zen. The songs are not necessarily New York in origin, most have been chosen to give one the essential oomph needed for pacing the streets, so we get ‘Sir Duke’, ‘Into The Groove’, ‘Decepticon’, ‘He’s On The Phone’, ‘I’m Coming Out’, ‘Queen Bitch', ‘Don‘t Stop Till You Get Enough' …

It is hot out. Have I mentioned that? Phew. I head down to Greenwich Village and sit in Washington Square Park where a fantastic swing band are in full, er, swing. It is a quintessential New York scene, the music is straight out of a Woody Allen movie, women are dancing, everyone applauds. The band leader introduces the players in turn then says, “But the most important member of the band is Philip - Philip the bag” and so everyone throws money into his guitar bag.

I leave the park and put my headphones back on and right away ‘Everybody Dance’ by Chic comes on and I get a lump in my throat, it‘s my favourite Chic song by a city mile and one of my favourite songs period. (Yes, I said ‘period'). I walk the length of Bleecker Street to it, including past the legendary Bitter End, stop on a shady stoop for a dollar slice of pizza which I could happily live off, then walk the length of Christopher Street in my tarty vest and get thoroughly sunburned for my troubles. Christopher Street takes you all the way to the
Christopher Street Pier which is chocablock with ripped shirtless men as well as little kids with their fingers stuck together with melting ice lollies running in between them. The breeze off the Hudson River is like being kissed all over. I sit on the boards and Ryan Adam’s ‘New York, New York’ comes on. Second lump in the throat.

Then I start walking walking walking, it’s my absolute favourite thing to do in New York, besides drink Martinis. If I could do both simultaneously I’d be made up. From Christopher Street I walk all the way (via ‘All The Young Dudes’ and Soulwax on Seventh Avenue, powered by Starbucks, I never go there at home) to the Rockefeller Centre at 50th Street. For $20 dollars I take the speedy lift up to a breath-taking glass-fronted viewing platform, ‘Top Of The Rock’, on the 70th floor. The views, to my mind, are superior to the Empire State because you can look at the Empire State itself. I would go again at sunset to watch the shadow stretch to Queens, it is my new ambition.

Central Park on the other side is speckled with the white dots of thousands of people basking in the sunshine. You can see for miles, the whole of New York. I feel momentarily sad there’s nobody to gasp at it all with. No matter. I take the most amazing photographs from every direction, and then the memory stick in my camera crashes. Seriously. It explains the dearth of good pictures on the blog. Sob. I really don’t want to talk about it. It’s with the manufacturer now. My hopes aren’t high. I sink into a bit of a sulk but drag myself out of it because I am missing the holiday. A page in my New York notebook says ‘I am writing this on top of the Rockefeller Centre!’. I stayed chipper.

Back on Fifth I see a group of models waiting for a photo shoot with the most amazing sculpted hairdos, all of them smoking like navvies while a gaggle of make-up and wardrobe queens flutter at their edges, preening. They are very young and so skinny and they look rich and famous and ill and completely Bret Easton Ellis. Fabulous. I get a cheese pretzel (ha, models! carbs!) and head to 238 East 72nd Street. For those in the know it’s the outside location for Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment building on Sex and the City. It actually looks not quite right when I get there and it turns out they’ve used a few different locations for filming. In any case I am a bit giddy. Here is me sitting on the stoop:

“You can drive down this street all you want, because I don’t live here any more!”

Time is ticking so I decide to walk all the way back downtown along a single avenue, in this case Second. I watch the neighbourhoods change a few blocks at a time. Frighteningly young couples leave very swish apartment blocks with minuscule dogs (New Yorker’s are so into teeny rat dogs) and I feel an utter financial failure. I happen upon my favourite New York picture of the week so far though as the Empire State makes a sudden unexpected appearance over an otherwise non-descript street. Imagine seeing this every day …

My shoulders look like two quarters of Edam by the time I get back to the hotel. I am bright red. Joff actually screams when he sees me. I am badly burned but in a surprisingly small amount of pain. We change and head further downtown to
Lucky Cheng’s (First Avenue at First and Second). It‘' a Chinese restaurant staffed entirely by drag queens, mostly Chinese and Japanese. It’s not for the faint-hearted. I am one of those people who seriously lives in mortal fear of crowd participation and they are on me like a rat up a glittery drainpipe. There is a mike in my face before I’ve even sipped my first cherry martini …
“Oh we have a couple of handsome boys over here. What are your names sweetie?”

“Greg and Jonathan.”

“I love your accent, where are you from honey?”

“But you have such nice teeth!”

Cue laughter. Fortunately I can’t get any redder because of my chronic sunburn.
“Whereabouts in England?”
“Oh, say it again!”


And so on.

Food eventually gets ordered somehow while various overdone and fabulous trannies stalk the restaurant abusing all and sundry. It’s hysterical. A large party of fierce black girls dressed to the nines hog the main table in the centre awaiting the arrival of the birthday girl.
“She’s black and it’s her birthday? We’re gonna be waitin’ all fuckin’ night. If that girl rolls in in sweats and sneakers I’m gonna fuckin’ slap the bitch!”
The birthday girl is Star, she arrives looking amazing with her friend Shanaynay (seriously) and they get straight up on the stage and speed bogle for the cheering crowd with their two inch Teflon nail attachments waving about while various drag queens speed around the room with steaming Chinese entrées, all the while hurling racial epithets at one another’s overdone faces.

I assume my moment of shame is over. Oh no no no. I’m to be the recipient of a lap dance in a mortifyingly slutty competition. I am coupled with a very nice Park Avenue-ish lady, who seems clean-living but is currently fairly liquored up, lucky for her. The first couple are up and the girl dances like a seasoned whore and I am already terrified but can’t stop laughing. I take the chair as my lady warns me “I’m wearing a tight skirt and I have no idea what I’m supposed to do."
“It’s alright, I’m gay, we’re onto a winner.”

She bumps and grinds for two minutes and we come a triumphant last. I neck my next Martini like it’s luke warm tea.

We haemorrhage money into the place, eat our desserts, and are eventually kissed goodbye by our gorgeous waitress ‘London’. I fall about laughing in the street when I read the receipt which says that we were served by ‘Jap Bitch A’.
I’ll always love you New York.

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