Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Start spreading the news... I'm leaving today, I want to be a part of it... New York, New York!

No kidding. Despite my many prejudices about the United States and my massive dislike of their culture and (lack of) social system, I bought myself a bus ticket to New York City! And what a trip!

It took me three attempts to get to New York. I wanted to leave on Friday night, but after calling 15 different hostels that were all fully booked, I gave up and decided to wait a day. So I went to the bus terminal on Saturday night, looking forward to see NYC. Seemed like some higher powers didn't want me to go leave though - I never got on the bus, they wouldn't even sell me a ticket because an extraordinary mob of people who wanted to go to NYC had showed up before I did, so after spending an hour at the bus terminal the bus left without me and I had to spend money on a cab ride back to OJ's place... F*ck. So on my last attempt on Sunday, I arrived two hours ahead and bought the ticket. Incredibly, they once again managed to fill another bus with passengers, myself not among them, leaving about 40 people still standing in line when the bus left. This time they showed a little more competence though, and arranged another bus within half an hour, so finally, I was on my way to New York... But not without being yelled at by a stupid old fat ugly bitch of a bus driver who claimed I didn't have the right papers to cross the border, who said nothing but "Hrmpf, get on the bus" when her co-worker corrected her and told her that my papers were fine and my EU passport was all I needed. Grrrr.

At the US border two hours later, a very bossy immigration officer stamped my passport after I had filled out and signed a form to confirm that:

  • I was, in fact, not a terrorist, and I didn't enter the United States with the intention of terrorist activity.
  • I never tried to hide and/or refuse to hand over a child that had been adopted to the US.
  • A few more priceless things which I sadly have forgotten :)

Wonder if anyone ever answered "yes" to the terrorist question? :O)

Luckily, the gruesome giantess of a bus driver was replaced by a friendly and cheerful American man at the border. Getting a new driver, crossing the border without problems, and having two seats for my fat ass when the rather chubby American woman who sat next to me got of the bus in Buffalo made everything look brighter. Great success!

My first place I to set foot in within the States was the town of Syracuse, where we stopped for about 20 minutes at four in the morning. This was where I had my first bite of American food, at Dunkin Donuts - welcome to the U-S-and-A! :-D I dozed off as pretty much the minute I got back on the bus, and woke up several hours later to the beautiful sight of the New York City skyline! After getting of the bus at a really noisy underground bus station, I grabbed my bags and walked about 12 blocks down to 1291 Bed & Breakfast, a cosy Swiss-owned, but very expensive (45 USD per night) hostel, where I dropped off my stuff and went for a walk in the city that never sleeps :) I randomly ended up going to Central Park at first - a park that's just as big as the impression movies and books gives you. My personal reference to Central Park is from a chapter in the book Hannibal where Dr. Lecter stalks the ignorant Clarice Starling when she's jogging - but anyway :) It's a huge park with roads going though it, most of them only for skaters, bicyclists and horse riders. Once again wish I had brought my roller blades :) After walking around the park for a bit, I found the place I was looking for: Strawberry Fields - the John Lennon Memorial, sitting right across the road from the place he was shot in 1980. It felt really nice to see memorial and just stand there and pay your respect with the rest of the mob who were standing in silence, or quitely humming Imagine :)

Other than that, I won't bother telling boring details about the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building or whatever - the 150 pictures in the gallery should tell the story just fine. Instead I'll try to describe how cool it was to walk around on the streets you've seen in so many movies and TV-series, read about in books or heard about in school. Walking past the place where they host the David Letterman show, watching all the crazy advertisement displays on Times Square and all the yellow cabs is just the beginning. There are some things on Earth that you only see in huge cities like New York - for example a guy in a convertible with a full computer office setup instead of a passenger seat :-)

Another quite extraordinary thing happened, which I dare say is another one of those things you only experience in cities like New York. I was at Times Square taking night photographs with my SLR and tripod, when I suddenly, among all the other noises from cars, clubs, TV-screens etc., heard what I thought was some guy in a car playing Ozzy Osbourne seriously loud on his stereo. Turned me head and realized I was wrong - Ozzy Osbourne and band was playing live on the roof of Hard Rock Cafe! AWESOME! 8-)

To me, another great experience was meeting and having a chat with Afro-Americans. It's kind of funny how you sometimes meet (white) people who dress and talk as if they are black and bad ass. When you meet the real thing (though most of them are friendly and down-to-earth and not at all bad ass), they don't seem to be so silly and ridiculous :) It is however, very, very, sad that pretty much all the low-status workers, such as street sweepers, cleaners etc. you see are black. Come on, this is 2007, even USA ought to have ethnic equality by now.

I wouldn't say the Americans were absolutely lovely people, but they really were very nice, though a lot of the them seemed a bit remote, as if they were putting too much effort into searching for something... Whether it was the almighty Lord Jesus, a masters degree or a pay rise I'm not too sure. But they really were nice people, though evidently not very worldly. Not as open-minded and friendly as e.g. Canadians, Aussies or Kiwis. Now that I think of it, it might have to do with the infamous American dream... Survival of the fittest, maybe they put all their energy into their work because they are striving to archive something. Like I just said, I don't know precisely what, and I'm not too sure they know it either. And now that I'm a bit rude already, it really is true that there is loads of fat people everywhere! A lot more than other countries anyways. However, my general impression was that people were either relatively normal build or way to fat. And, especially in New York, you're still able to get healthy food, for example by going to Asian places. But let me give you an example: The reduced fat milk they had in my hostel had 5% fat in it! Quote from the milk jug label: Reduced fat milk - fat reduced from eight to five percent. And yes, it fully tasted like cream when I used it on my morning cereal - YUCK!

But forgive me for generalizing so badly. Though a lot my prejudices were comfirmed, New York was a totally fantastic experience. I'll highly recommend going there and I would love to come back some day. Would be a blast to go there with a whole bunch of friends, though I'm glad I did it on my own this time, as it was important to me to experience the whole package of getting along and around in NYC, instead of being guided around with your mind all focused on something completely different. Honestly, this trip to the United States might just have been a really important thing for me, as I've always felt I had to see the country I've heard so much about and heard so many opinions about, with my own eyes. But what a city - so much fun!


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