England, France, USA

Blinded by the lights

Date September 2009
Posted November 2010
When an American dream isn't enough
The little tin can yawed and bumped in the strong alpine winds as lightning shot across the blackened clouds. Like the passengers in a ship on an endless rough sea we had nothing to do but appreciate the convenience of low-cost short-haul air travel. Bound once again for England there was this time the satisfaction of knowing that this time it would be merely a visit: the tying of a few loose ends in the north, some much-need Indian food and then a coach ride back south to visit siologen in London before leaving again for Paris. The month in France since the adventures in Belgium had been relaxing, although time was found for a few escapades which will be covered some other time.

Largely inspired by such well-travelled Australians as siologen, dsankt and qx I'd decided to expand my horizons, quite literally, by taking a voyage to North America. At some point in July dsankt had decided to join me after all, breaking up his journey back to the southern hemisphere with some time in NYC. The first half of 2009 had shoulder-barged the personal bar a few notches higher and it was a safe bet that the following months would be just as unpredictable, exciting and rewarding. And maybe a little dangerous.

Getting there was anything but simple, largely due to an incident in Paris which nearly saw us miss the flight but which makes for a good story, abeit one that'll be recounted another day. Maybe. But we made it, blew the last of our Euros on little cans of Stella and proceeded to make the transition into a drunken state whilst waiting to board. At this point ds observed that the date, 9/9/09, didn't bode well for a flight into NYC. Many hours later after a connection in Montreal we did reach NYC, although by this time the events of the preceeding days, copious amounts of coffee and beer, an eye infection and the mild jet lag had reduced me to a zombified state. I leant against a bin outside the airport while we waited for the bus to the subway station. Then we were riding the 'E' train, changing for the '7' and, finally, arriving in Long Island City in the New York City borough of Queens.

Conveniently dsankt had hooked us up with somewhere to stay (rent free, naturally) across the Lower East River from Manhattan. Leaning out of the 25th floor living room window we could see the flashing advertising boards of Times Square which was only three or four stops on the subway from our closest station. Our empty room provided all we needed: space and shelter. We were fortunate enough though to have at our disposal the rest of a fairly desirable NYC apartment, which meant internet access, hot water and a shower. Thoroughly worn-out we arranged inflatable mattresses before crashing out, to be woken only half an hour later by a message from NYC's own adventurer, historian and all-round ambassador for the city: one Moses (Moe) Gates.

In our battle-worn states we'd secretly hoped they wouldn't call, content with sleeping off the jet-lag and saving the ninja antics for another day. Instead we journeyed again by subway, half-dead, down through Manhattan to the Williamsburg district, rough instructions guiding us to an almost hidden backstreet establishment modelled on the Prohibition-era 'speakeasy' bars.

Moe was joined by the likeable Floridian, Shane Perez (finder of the coveted 'Florida Door') and also relative newcomer to midnight urban adventures, Eric Ruggiero. It's always amazing how easily a shared interest or point-of-view, or attitude to life can transcend so many social barriers. Clustered around the small table sharing war stories it was as if we'd known each other all our lives. As we talked about NYC's high-rises and bridges it became clear that our first night in town was not going to be relaxing or easy-going.

Five-strong we waited for a gap in the pedestrian traffic on the Williamsburg Bridge, allowed the traffic running on the car deck below to die down and had a last check for cop cars. Deciding that now was a good time we clambered up onto the ironwork of the giant suspension span connecting Manhattan with Queens. Choosing a careful route between security cameras and exposed sections of stairway and ladder we ascended through the latticework and reached a platform at the top of the Queens side pylon. If arrival in NYC had seemed surreal then words cannot describe how it felt to now be standing way above the streets having just illicitly climbed a major river crossing in post-9/11 New York City.

That tin can, Basel, Switzerland (2009) courtesy of adventuretwo.net


Heron Tower, London, England (2009) courtesy of adventuretwo.net


ANTIBTDI, Paris, France (2009) courtesy of adventuretwo.net


Nearly there, Montreal, Canada (2009) courtesy of adventuretwo.net


View from the window, New York City, New York State (2009) courtesy of adventuretwo.net


Home, New York City, New York State (2009) courtesy of adventuretwo.net


Williamsburg Bridge, New York City, New York State (2009) courtesy of adventuretwo.net
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Further reading...

Moses Gates allcitynewyork.com
Shane Perez shaneperez.com
Eric Ruggiero ericruggiero.com

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