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It’s 3am somewhere.

17 Mar

I’m guessing all taxi drivers are Indian at 3.30am. Not that drivers spontaneously trans-nationalate come the hour of the wolf, just that hard-work gets done by hard-workers.  I guess there are worse jobs, and traveling exposes you to a fair few nominations. Anyone who works in the travel industry is basically dealing with people at their most fatigued, expectant and stupid on a daily basis.

If you step back, amid the buzzing blue carpet sameness of airports, there’s a chance to see the world how a lion might.  The migration of the mumbling many. The food chain is clear, from the seasoned suits who can seemingly simultaneously shave, i-jack and eat economy scrambled eggs with a pin, to the blinky shufflers who wander to the airport help desk and ask,

“Which way to the airport?”

On this food chain, I’m the equivalent of a mid-sized zebra. Happily mid-pack and hidden. Average smart but have seen enough maulings to know you don’t argue with LAX security about taking your shoes off, bag-size or favourite flavour of chewing-gum

Mass travel, for all its indulgent gadgetry reduces us to base pack animals –  jostling  our way to the best feed and hoping it’s the other guy who gets it.

A lion or two wandering airports, literally, now there’s an idea! I’m gonna mention it to LAX security next time I pass through.


Some other things about New York…

9 Nov

Where are all the shy people?

Everywhere you go in Manhattan, people engage with you directly. There are no embarrassed mutterings or halfway greetings. It’s all a very direct, “Can I help you?”,”Yes sir, this way,” and my fave, a heartily clipped, “You’re welcome!”

If you pause on the street or  even look vaguely unsure of yourself for more than a moment, someone will approach and speak with you. This is not always welcome attention, granted, but it is always full of intent. You will be helped or you will be shaken. Voices will be quite loud regardless.

But where , I ask you, are all the shy people? The shuffling mumblers who smile and nod and move through their day with invisible economy. Many a time I’ve clocked the body language of a native I am about to engage, checked in with my own to make sure I don’t appear a maniac, only to have the confidence in their voice blow me back on my heels. The boundaries of  no-threat-body-language here is a squillion times more assertive than back home my relatively sleepy home town. Ultimately, with my mumbly Melbourne accent and looping gait,  I look like a victim waiting to happen. It’s hard for a bloke to swallow, but to appear otherwise  takes some serious macho schmacting. Better to look harmelss than insane.

It’s hard to see how this city’s social eco system can function when everybody is talking like they’re No.1. A world of alphas, silverbacks and pointy headed eastside out patients. But  it functions.  With a constant subtext of aggression yes, but it functions.



Pre-packaged joy.

There’s a Starbucks like, every fifty feet in this city. This is magnificent.

Yes, the entire chain is decked out in carefully positioned fetish regalia, a Willy Wonka for coffee drinkers, but it’s one of the few places you can sit without being turned and burned. That is, having your check slapped on the table and a none too subtle okay-fuck-off-now glance from the waiter the moment that last piece of apple pie has passed your lips.

Sure, it’s all *see caption*, but if you can scare up a couch by a window, it’s one of the best places for some lazy people watching. Venti Il grande venti venti per favore …etc…

To slag or not to slag.

Up in The Heights, men love to spit. Not just a discrete flint into an abandoned corner of dirt, but a full throated goober conjure and 3D snot missile at your feet. Back in winter, it all kind of dissolved into the snow, but here in Fall, it glistens on the sidewalk like a game of twister.

I think about those odd signs at Flinders St, as I remove my left hand from someone else’s lung load. “Do not Spit!” they proclaim…and the temptation is of course, to spit only on the sign. Prize winning maverick irony.

But here, it’s wall to wall.  If there ever were signs, they’d be long buried in piles of up-cough. I’m not judging…I’m not…I’m just saying it’s an exhibition of blanket masculine ignorance…

…is all.

Some Things about New York

7 Nov


G.K Chesterton wrote, “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” And all in all, that’s a pretty sweet quote cribbed by me from the Barnes and Noble Cafe wall.

This is my fifth time in NYC. I’m kind of used to it, but there are still things I’m reminded of each time I wander down a street or watch people blithely walk by just-the-cutest-squirrel-in-the-world-with-his-dancing-furry-tail-and-scaredy-cat-face. You want to spot a tourist in NYC? They’ll be standing next to me applauding a rodent.

Some things about New York…

One of us

In NYC, people scream at each other as a way of saying I love you. This takes some time to get used to. In many a Dunkin Donut, my fight or flight genes (well, flight or flight faster genes) have been ignited by some guy wandering in and barking a stream of seeming hostility at the poor counter dude. My ears hear, fuck you puerto rican scumbag,  they apparently hear, one donut please good sir. I edge towards the exit, but cash and food is cleanly exchanged and happy customers wander out on to the upper west side to scream on their phones and honk their horns.


Not the sandwich shop, the transit system, though the sandwiches are pretty sweet too. The subway is….awesomest. Gone is the Melbourne bred timetable obsession. No fear that if you miss that 10.23 to Parliament you won’t snare another train until, I dunno, Tuesday.  Here, you stroll onto whatever platform and some train comes along and takes you to some other platform lickety split.

Best of all about the subway is New Yorkers know how to do the kinetic dance of mass migration. Having some dude’s crotch in your Best Short Stories of 2009 Anthology is just the way it is and everyone adjusts with assertive courtesy – most sublime of all is the way all passengers are allowed to alight before anyone makes a mad dash for a seat. To do otherwise is to risk a carriage full of judgment. The only exception to this is mid-town.


Roughly talking, it’s 35th to 55th streets. The theatre district. Broadway.*

This is where all the stupid people on Earth  gather to point at buildings and stare at  lights. It’s horrible.

*Some theatre performed here.

Snow makes everything okay

To an aussie, snow on a city is..well..magical. There hasn’t been snow this time and I’ve missed it. Too early in the season, but still… Last time I was here, there was a light snow fall that was just about the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen. Everything slows down and even the ugliest borough has  a good hair day.

It was one of the few times I sensed what it must be like to see something like the ocean for the first time. New Yorkers don’t seem to get all gooey about snow. It’s just cold stuff that will eventually turn into brown liquid – the same way oceans have rips and big ass sharks.

Yellow Food

The reason I’m not sleeping. After hooking in to another pile of deep-fried midnight breakfast joy, subsequent belly rumblings have me witnessing the first hour of the Dunkin Donuts day just across 148th. It opens at 5am and shuts at 11pm. At some point on this trip I realized I was eating to the point of nausea…and then pushing through it. Steamed vegetables are considered highly optional here.


Some other things around New York….

* The up above mid-town pic as a screen cap from a new U.S TV mini-series “The Walking Dead.” It follows a band of survivors as they struggle to stay safe amidst a *zombie apocalypse* Jizz.