On the 18th May, I flew out to New York to play NYC Popfest, accompanied by my soundman Robbie and his girlfriend, Rach.
I’ve never been to New York before. I have been to the US, very briefly: in 1997, I flew over to Los Angeles to talk to some publishers. I was only there for three days and the jet lag was horrendous. I remember falling asleep while some lovely guy from Maverick was trying to entice me to join Madonna’s company.
So, different coast, new city.
From the moment we left JFK and caught the cab to Brooklyn, where we were staying, I was struck by both how alien and how familiar everything looked and felt. Every Briton, hell, every European has grown up with New York. It’s the lead character in so many of our films, TV shows, comics and pop songs. We may never have set foot in it but we’re simultaneously native New Yorkers.
The first night, when Rob and Rach had gone to their place, I decided to start my stay in style and went to the KFC a couple of blocks from where I was staying on 4th Avenue. As soon as I spoke, the three girls working there were so amazingly friendly, asking me where I was from, why I was over. GodDAMN but New Yorkers love English accents. This was repeated throughout my stay – I didn’t have even one negative experience in terms of unfriendliness.
Yet, the stereotype of New Yorkers that I’ve seen so many times is that they’re tough and hard and surly and fuhgeddabadit. Not true. We were tourists, we ambled round Brooklyn and Manhattan, being annoying, taking pics, rubbernecking. Not once did we receive anything apart from the friendliest, warmest treatment. Even the crazy people in the subway stations were nice! If Americans think New Yorkers are hard and unfriendly, they should spend a day in London on Oxford Street where people will knock you over and think nothing of mugging you as they walk over your prone form. Easily, easily in terms of relaxed friendliness, New York 1, London 0.
Saturday the 19th was all about aforesaid rubbernecking. We went to Central Park, Robbie and Rach went rowing, I tried not to fall in love with every cute girl sunbathing. Then on to THE SHOPS. Oh yes, judge me for my vapid consumerism but I love shops and shopping. We went to the Apple Shop and I was a bit underwhelmed. Apart from these two pretty girls:
There wasn’t that much there. I mean, I can buy Apple shit here. There weren’t any special or marvellous items, it was all just stock.
Then we went to FAO Schwarz because we wanted to see the piano that Tom Hanks dances on in ‘Big.’ But we got sidelined by FAO Schweetz, the best sweetshop I have ever been in ever. SO MANY STUPID SWEETIES. I spent $81 on sweets. Yep.
Then we rounded the day off with a two hour bus tour. As the bus rose on the Manhattan bridge, we looked to our right and there was New York laid out, twinkling and glittering and lovely and warm. We could see the Statue of Liberty in the distance, a tiny cheerleader rah-ing it up for her city, pompom in hand. It was a magical moment.
The next day was NYC Popfest 2012, and I’ll do a separate post about that, just too much to fit in here. And the day after that was a bonus gig! Wooohoo!
But, back to the touristing. We came, we saw, we ate, we felt a bit ill, we ate a bit more. Whether it was the sublime pizzas in Grimaldis or the meat overload of Katz Deli, we overdid it. But it was all good.
The memory I’ll have of New York is of walking through Brooklyn at around 4.30am, in the rain, mainly along 4th Avenue. I felt completely, utterly safe and at home. I could have walked those streets forever. Back home, I feel homesick for NY. There’s not many cities that give me that feeling.
Please, if you’ve never been: GO. You have to experience it, TV and films are not enough. Get to NY, NY and fall in love like I did.