It’s been a couple of weeks since my trip to New York, but honestly, I’ve been waiting to find the right words to put how overwhelming it all was. Condensing everything into one small blog post isn’t going to be easy so let’s just call this an extended essay.
New York isn’t London. In London, if you dress well and you have the money to spend, you can pretty much get in anywhere. New York is different; somehow this city that has tried its upmost to be disposed of the class system and the land of the gentry, has formed its own factions. It begins with the waiters and bag handlers who will demand tips from you, to the 16-year-old models in the high-end night clubs looking down on me because I’m a mere 5ft 3.
After a treacherous journey, (which you can read about here), to be in a hotel gave that little piece of comfort which we needed. To be somewhere where I could change out of my sweaty leggings and jumper, and put some makeup on, to look as semi-attractive as the statuesque business women I had yet seen whilst in midtown Manhattan, was refreshing. Our Hotel was the Roosevelt, famed for being in films such as ‘Maid in Manhattan’, ‘Men in Black 3’ and ‘Wallstreet’. The lobby did not disappoint, with its red-carpet steps leading up to its jazz age decor and a bar which furthered on to the front desk, it was an overwhelming surprise. Quite honestly, I wondered how we had managed to afford such a beautiful hotel on student budgeting – the staff are the reason. Despite the fact that I looked pretty dishevelled, I questioned why the woman on the front desk could not even fathom to paint a smile on her face. I accepted it however that she must’ve had a bad day, as most of us who have worked in the customer service industry know… It only takes one bad customer to fuck up your good mood.
The three of us who came from Columbia had arrived early and we had around 4 hours until we could actually get the keys to our room, so we went to get brunch and explore the small part New York which was closest to us. It turns out that as Europeans, the
simplistic way that American’s lay out their streets still baffles us. Trying to find Le Pain Quotidien for Laura seemed to take us half an hour longer than it needed to. It was around the corner coincidently. The New York coffee did not disappoint, and after a rough night an organic and rustic looking egg breakfast was enough to make us feel refreshed and up for exploring.
Upon stumbling into grand central, after unknowingly walking through grand central marketplace, we were all ready to fall in love with the city that never sleeps. It felt as though we had all become teenagers again, and the freedom of running around an unknown city, where no one knew us, hit as we started to giggle and make fun of Gossip Girl (if you don’t know how Serena Van Der Woodsen arrives in NY, don’t even bother continuing to read this blog). Next was a spot of shopping on the arduous journey on the way to Times Square, it was only actually a 10-minute walk from our hotel, but our energy levels had dropped significantly from all the travelling. That overwhelming feeling, that you’re actually in Times Square, that place that you’ve see so many pictures of growing up and is referenced in so many movies sadly wasn’t with me this time, as I have already visited it. But to see it on Lucy’s face was fun enough, as the lights hit her face and she was happily serenaded by the naked cowboy.
After avoiding the temptation to start the drinking early, we went back to the hotel. Napping was the best idea we could’ve had. With the promise of good food and lots of alchohol, getting ready felt even more worth it. We found some small Italian restaurant in the west village, that was made of two small business alotments, and was hidden amongst regular shops and other restaurants. The doors to the restaurant Numero 28 Pizzeria had to be opened, with tables on the street to fit the amount of people who were eating there. It was family run as there was the mix of the older, Italian people with their accent, and clearly their children. I haven’t tasted food like it since I was in Florence. The Lobster ravioli that I had was simple, yet perfected, with some pieces filled with the broken parts of the lobster, and the other filled with large chunks of the muscle. The sauce was fortunately a far cry from the overdone Marinara sauce that the Americans seem to love. I could taste the basil and the freshness of all of the defined ingredients in the dish. It felt like home to me, and as I looked around I could’ve quite easily have been in Clapham Common where the mix of ethnicities and that vibrant yet comforting street culture prevails. The most surprising thing that I found however, was the tiramisu. I am a big foodie (if you couldn’t tell already). In every restaurant, if it’s on the menu I have to try it, because nothing has come in comparison with the one that I had in Florence. The difference between a basic tiramisu and a good one, is all to do with the texture and depth of the cream that is used. Numero 28’s was so close to that one I had experienced 3 years prior, that I savoured every small spoonful that I took. After orgasming over the food, and starting to be tipsy from the prossecco we had engorged, we ventured out into the west village.
Following the direction of the locals to the Fat Black Pussycat (try saying that correctly when you’re drunk), we ended up in the university bar next door. Apparently saying that you go to Columbia too means something completely different in New York. The bar was filled with arrogant prep boys (Patagonia fleeces included) asking what classes we were taking. Also, being a law student in New York seems to allow them to be quite touchy, but it’s easy to put boys in their place when they’re wearing Patagonia in the 28 degree heat – “it’s a fashion thing” according to them? In all seriousness, the boys turned out to be a lot of fun to have a giggle with – I even got invited to a business yacht party that weekend… Whilst the drinks were as cheap as they were in Columbia, they turned out to be the only ones we paid for all weekend. The night ended in giggles, stuck in an Irish bar with a middle-aged man from Newcastle and a German woman who works for the UN – I obviously had to try my luck to get an internship.
Laura forcing me up the next morning at 10am made me ready to strangle her. We had barely had 5 hours sleep, and I was controversially not interested in going to see the 9/11 museum. I had seen ground zero once before, but what I didn’t think my mental state could handle was knowing even more about the atrocious events, I can be too sensitive and too open to such emotions. Whilst underground and in the museum, I had some strange sensations which I can’t quite describe. Whilst walking down the slopes, and reading the information and gazing at the pictures I had the strangest feeling that my head was being compressed on all sides and that I was going dizzy. Usually, I would’ve put this down to signs of my hangover, I thought maybe I was being dramatic but what made it stranger was the way hat whilst defending parallel to the original steps which were in one of the buildings, my legs felt heavy and hard to move. These feelings aren’t something I can pin point down to anything, but it’s something that I’ll definitely remember. They stopped when I reached the bottom. One side of the memorial was beautiful, though I kept my distance. The faces of the people, and their lives was not something I could’ve handled. The tragic loss of human life isn’t something that anyone should have to go through, and for the families and friends of those lost, it’s a beautiful memorial.
On the other side however, my views on are slightly controversial. I understand the need to show the items, these things which humanise the events, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was in Disneyland and seeing the props for a movie. Everything there was to document everything leading up to the day, and what happened during and after. I just wish it could’ve been done without the “Americanism” of it, it made me feel tasteless for buying in to go in to the museum. As you exit this part of the exhibition, there is a finalised section about the terrorists who did this. On the left-hand side, it described Osama Bin Laden, and how these terrorists did such catastrophic events. With multiple small boards of information on this wall, the one that I read began with how it was Muslims who caused these events, it then went on to define the different between Sunni and Shia Muslims and that not all Muslims want to cause harm or such acts of terrorism. Nevertheless, the way it was finalised inevitably left the reader with the idea that all Muslims are bad. After researching this, it turns out I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Click here to find out about Dean Obeidallah’s view. Without this I thought the museum could’ve been much more tasteful and stuck to its purpose. It left me with a bitter taste in my mouth and a confliction in my head. Was I being cynical? Was this some fucked up form or propaganda? The water installations on ground zero are so tasteful and a perfect way to remember the victims, especially with the white roses – would it not have been easier to eradicate those who did this from memory? To make the terrorists nothing?
With this bitter taste still lingering, we left for the Staten Island ferry. Anyone who researches New York knows that you can get semi close to the Statue of Liberty by taking the free Staten Island ferry, but the badgering outside to even try and get to it was like something out of an apocalypse. Once you’ve got past the people trying to sell you tickets to the statue of liberty, you face the other fight of people cramming on board the ferry, most of them just trying to get home for their Friday night. Feeling the fresh air blow in my face, whilst my hair tangled around my camera was something that reinvigorated me. Seeing New York be compressed to only a coast line; a place where so many people live, have their individual lives and problems, and their own stories bought upon me that sense of surrealism like when looking at the stars. We “had the giggles back” as we kept saying all weekend. Trying to find a nice restaurant on Staten Island proved difficult on a time frame though, so we jumped back into the port, on to the ferry and got an uber over the Brooklyn Bridge.
The driver rolled his eyes when we asked if he would take us to the Brooklyn side, only a 7-minute journey but I guess like in London, it’s easy to get sick of the tourists. We were surprised by how far away the walk way started, after being told to get out, in the middle
of the road and right in front of police.But as the Gossip Girl jokes returned, we couldn’t help but admire the city more. I seemed to be always catching up with the girls as I was photographing the architecture, the mix of the old factory buildings which have been
converted to apartments on one side of the river, next to the glow of the titanium and glass covered skyscrapers of the other inspired me. I always love to remember where someone has come from, and in this instance New York has had quite a journey.
When we arrived back at the hotel our fourth party member had finally arrived. After being held up a day due to work, Kaye showed us the greatest night around the city. Because of her past; being a model and walking in London fashion week, and now being a stylist who recently scored Vogue Italia, the stunning almost 6-foot, red headed beauty knew where to take us. We went through multiple clubs drinking for free, and surrounded by beautiful people. It was nice to feel at home in this sense as Columbia is
so casual. Getting to dress up is something that every Essex girl must do from time to time, and me and Lucy had really been feeling like we had let ourselves go. Arriving at the last club, Haus, we was greeted by a very attractive promoter, he lead us in and told us to find his friend where we got free drinks all night. The table was already surrounded by beautiful girls who must’ve all been about a size 4 (thank god I had my boobs pushed up my chin). At this point, I had absolutely no idea who @Fatboy_SSE was – in truth I’ve only just found out a couple of weeks after being home – he’s basically some comedian youtuber, and whilst I was told to look for some fat bloke, and there was one surrounded by people, he wasn’t the life of the party as you’d think. In fact, he was pretty reserved. New York’s VIP sections are strange, this one club had three levels to be at the top VIP, you had a table, or you then had a table in VIP (which was one step off the floor) and then you had VVIP (where fatty was) two steps above the ground and with its own private bar – which wasn’t actually needed as it was busier than the main bar. But it was a lot of fun, no one can complain when your being overfed drinks, and being chatted up by good looking men in one of the best club bathrooms I think I’ve ever seen (the sofa in there was a great idea).
The hangover had kicked in. It turns out after looking at the snapchats of my awful dancing, slapping my pussy when Nicki Minaj says “thick vagina” in front of a load of men and moving my arse way to many times for it to be appropriate, it was time to delete the snaps, laugh about it later and go shopping. We found this market like place, where food stalls set up almost permanently ad you could buy anything from Asian duck rolls, to lobster and wine. The mix of smells as we entered hit you and hunger was suddenly the only thing that needed to be satiated. Saturday was a slightly wasted day, but I definitely made a change in the economy with the amount I spent (sorry mum). As we giggled around, with three of us looking like a girl band all somehow dressed in dressed in mustard yellow for the day, it was soon time to go back to the hotel and start drinking again. I love my naps and I love my food – disrupt any of these two processes and I can often become grumpy. So, it wasn’t until after dinner that I felt like I could pull the stick out from my ass. The thing that hit me the most about this Saturday night was the sheer classlessness of New Yorkers.
That night we were supposed to be going to have a meal in the current hottest place in town – Catch. With celebrities such as DiCaprio often being seen there, the plates starting off at around $80, and us being told it’d all be for free… I was excited as hell. But after our driver taking us to the wrong place, and mix ups with the models and promoter who we were supposed to be dining with, it turned out that Catch did not steal my heart. Apparently, they would’ve bought out every dish and let it be a free-for-all between everyone anyway and even though half of the table might’ve been models that don’t eat, I certainly do. So, as we found a nice restaurant, Dos Caminos, across the road from it, we expected to have a pleasant meal. I had a lovely camarones en cazuela that was basically like a prawn paella, the prawns were fresh and there was nothing to complain about my own dish. Kaye was bought oaxacan shrimp quesadilla, which resembled a prawn pizza, but with it arriving cold it was easy enough for her to be put off. We assumed that hers was cooked first, and after her asking the waiter to take it away was left miserable. Granted the waiter did ask if she wanted it heated up, but no one wants prawns to be reheated. Before we had even finished eating, the bill came our way. They had charged us for a bottle of prosecco when Laura had specifically asked for the cava, (her Finnish twist on English can sometimes be hard for people to understand, so she said it twice as well as one of us saying it to the waiter), we also asked for Kaye’s meal to be removed seeing as she didn’t eat it and they had not offered her anything else. Once you’ve been put off of food it’s understandable that you don’t want to eat anymore. But with a stiff lip on the waiter, we ended up having the manager ready to come argue with us. With his aggressive body language saying, “we don’t even have cava” and using his index finger to aggressively and repeatedly say “where, show me where it is on the menu” … I stepped up and pointed it out – right underneath the prosecco they had wrongly charged us for. Now mistakes can be made, and obviously the waiter had made it seem our fault, but with no apology we paid and just wanted to leave. What struck me the most however was that as we paid for our meals, the insolent waiter moodily states “you know this doesn’t include a tip right”.
Left moody and thinking “we wouldn’t get this back home”, Laura and Lucy went back to the hotel so that they could be alive for the next day. Kaye was still to meet her cousin at Catch – this time the night club above the restaurant. I was excited, I was expecting a spacious lounge type club, where the tables were booths and only the best alcohol was being served. At the front door, apparently saying the person’s name who your with isn’t enough. The rude promoter out the front who was letting people in, looked like a shit copy of Jared Leto’s joker and in all honestly, I would’ve thought he was gay had it not been Kaye showing me his Instagram page and a photo of him making out with his 16-year-old model girlfriend. Standing outside could’ve was like a zoo; there were sugar babies with 60-year-old men slapping their arses as they walked past, men creeping past as close as possible saying “coke coke coke coke coke” and constant gasps of adoration “omg its Catch”. When Kaye’s cousin came outside even she couldn’t get us in and she apartment shares with her promoter. We had to wait for this young boy of 19 to come and let us through the gateway. But with even the 16-year-old saying “oh they won’t get in” and the treatment from the Joker, I started to question myself. I had never felt so unattractive in my life, it was degrading. When this shit model wannabe of a promoter came to the door to greet us he politely shook Kaye’s hand, and I knew to be polite… This was a nice thing he was doing right? As I grabbed his hand and said enthusiastically, and in my best britishness “Hi I’m Amy”, he didn’t even have the courtesy to look at me. I wanted to leave. Or hit someone. How dare they? I’ve never had this in London? Where on earth has there somehow become a class system where models are at the top? I’ve always valued myself in having a brain and being semi-attractive but no – I just feel like shit. When we waited for the elevator up, Mr promoter was snobbish enough to say that he didn’t want to get in the lift with two girls before us, but when we arrived I had to giggle. The floor moved, and there were security men flashing torches on the ground constantly. Kaye’s cousin handed us a drink of Jack Daniels and the tiniest dash of cranberry which may as well have been non-existent. I realised that if we were going to stay here I needed the alcohol, but there were so many people that each time I bent my arm up to raise my glass to my lip, it was knocked away from me and poured down the person in front of me. Models were on the chairs, as what I could see of the furnishings they were non-existent and this may as well have been a house party. There was a Lakers player who they all seemed to swoon and adorn over and even though he was loving the attention, I don’t think he could’ve got out of there even if he wanted to. I was in 5” heels, but I was still too small to be able to even see around me. What I did notice though was how the models accidentally bumped the light at one point, and basically broke it. It was so cheap, and when I looked further around at what I could see even the pipes on the walls were badly fitted. I wondered what this place would look like when devoid of sweaty flesh. The mutual feeling on mine and Kaye’s faces were obvious, we needed to leave. And whilst I felt shocked, and like I needed to be back home where intelligence was appreciated, I can now laugh at how pathetic the situation was. If this is what New York’s elite consider classy, selective and a good time, I’d rather never travel the Atlantic again. The thought of the 50-year-old men boggling over 16 year old girls, the large percentage of them not even able to drink yet, disgusts me but I suddenly now understand why everyone seemed to go for Kylie Jenner despite her age.
The next day, with the amount of drink that had entered our body this hangover was lethal. After having tried to search for a good time after Catch, with most of the promoters having done their job for the night, we found a shit bar, drank too much and went home early. Whilst Lucy and Laura were refreshed and took an early trip to the
steps of the Met to take pictures like Blair Waldorf, me and Kaye stayed in bed. Once we had finally got up food was needed and with the only suitable breakfast food in Grand Central that we found being pizza, we were slightly saddened. With the memory of a disappointing night, we were determined to make things a lot more fun, the weekend couldn’t end like this? So, when our waiter made a joke about prosecco… We was all in. Half a bottle each later and one huge slice of pizza full, we ask for the bill and he yet again jokes about having a long island. This man was the best person I had met in New York. Lettingus carry around Long Island Ice Tea’s in takeaway iced coffee cups, whilst running around New York to go and meet the girls was a lot of fun. Though I don’t think they were impressed when we turned up late, half cut and with the giggles. Central Park is beautiful, but I question the eurocentrism of it. Is the Belvedere Castle not just representing a longing which America has always had; to be better than its European ancestors? And when entering the MoMa, how comes brilliant works by Van Gogh and Picasso are on display. Seeing Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” (1484-1486) was a life changing moment for me and I still hate that I didn’t get to sit in front of it gazing for as long as I would’ve liked. In truth, I didn’t get to enjoy the MoMa for as long as I would’ve liked. With a time-frame to eat, pick up our bags and get the coach for the journey home it was all very rushed. But standing in front of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” (1889) made the whole trip magical. How did his genius come to be? Was it truly madness? And for those of us who are considered on the spectrum of having mental health, issues isn’t it just a beautiful outlet? I find a connection to the artists that I adore, because through their words or through their art I feel the same conjuring of emotions that I find hard to explain. The way he transitioned the seemingly flat night sky into something with such depth and change is something of beauty in itself. There were so many pieces at the museum, which I’ve only seen images of, which I was thrilled to witness in real life. I felt like I had been set a-glow for the journey home to ponder over the weekend’s events.
New York is crude, and it is magical.