New York

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3 Years Living in New York

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3 Months in Brooklyn

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I flew to New York on the 2nd September 2005, exactly 3 years after I flew to Alaska. I lived in Brooklyn for 6 months with the Canadian artist who I met in Honduras, then I went on my first cycle around Europe. After 6 months apart I returned to the States and married Miss DJo (artist Name) in a convertible Mustang in Las Vegas before moving in with her in Queens. I lived there for a little under 2 years although during this time I saved money and went on my second cycle trip in Europe (from Greece to Croatia) followed by a 6 month backpacking trip around South East Asia. I considered my time in New York to be travelling, although I lived there I never lost that feeling of adventure and seeing the world for myself. I had a great time, experienced a lot, although the majority of it was related to killing brain cells.

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2. New York

Dots mark where I lived

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Me working on the door in a bar in Manhattan

I spent the first 6 months exploring New York trying to acquire some money for another trip. I worked on a door in Manhattan, as a painter-decorator in Long Island and in two restaurants in Brooklyn, 3 weeks in an English ‘Fish and Chip’ shop and a couple of months waiting in a Peruvian restaurant. I was so strapped for cash that I collected empty bottles to recycle them for 10 cents each, which was cool as I liked mixing with the local homeless People and listening to their stories, the homeless basically clean the city for pennies.

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Although I had 4 jobs different jobs only the Peruvian restaurant gave me fixed shifts so I generally had plenty of time to entertain myself. My dad came to visit for a week during which we got drunk, had a fight, did lots of sightseeing and then dad got a big tattoo on his arm.

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Dad getting a tattoo

I liked the famous tourist things to do, like the ‘Statue of Liberty’ or Times Square and over the years I took various people to see them so ended up seeing them all many times. The only one I didn’t get bored of was climbing the Empire States Building, the only one I enjoyed every time. I loved seeing the layout of the avenues and streets, the people down below looking like ants and seeing the shape of the land, the island of Manhattan and all the bridges used to reach it.

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A view of Manhattan and Brooklyn across the water

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People looking like ants

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The “BIG” Piano

When people came to stay, it was obviously great to see them but it was also great to see the things they could find to do in a city with so much to offer and I would get to do something different. My brother visited and we went to a basketball match and the crazy F.A.O Schwarz toy shop with life-sized stuffed toy elephants on sale for $20,000 and miniature toy Ferrari’s with a top speed of 15km/h for $50,000. There was also the huge floor piano played by Tom Hanks in ‘Big’. We went to the Met museum and did one of my favourite tourist things to do, only paying 25 cents for two people to enter instead of paying the huge $15 recommended price (recommended written in tiny writing).

 I also liked seeing the things that you don’t see if you fly in for a quick holiday, for example not many people see Coney Island with its ‘Shoot the Freak’ game where you can shoot a guy, dressed up in a freaky costume, with an airgun. It’s also the place they hold a ‘Hot Dog eating competition’ – there is a big sign showing the hot dog eating World record set in 2004 by Takeru Kobayashi when he ate 53.5 hot dogs in 12 minutes.

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The Hotdog sign in Coney Island

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A 2 Week Roadtrip

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I had originally planned to come to New York for 3 months so returned to the U.K at the beginning of December 2005, but I flew back after 10 days with my family with a new 3 month visa. When I returned we went on a little 2 week roadtrip to Texas and back, which started on the 11th December when I got the car from the airport, picked up Jo then we headed south staying in a cheap motel just outside of the city. Next day we went to the Mutter Medical Museum which was interesting with its different body parts on display with a range of different abnormalities.

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Foam Henge

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We stopped in Washington D.C to admire the freemason’s building work but then started heading West. En-route to Elvis’s house we bumped into something you’d only find in America, Foam Henge – a replica of Stone Henge in a field by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.

When we got ‘down south’ the portion sizes became humongous and every other shop was a ‘Jesus Shopselling books, key rings, friendship bracelets and stationary all with ‘I Love Jesus’ or ‘Lord is Our Saviour’ written on them. On the way back we passed through the area affected by hurricane Katrina; New Orleans was like a ghost town with wrecked buildings all over the place, it was great seeing a wrecked mc’donalds but not so nice seeing houses and their contents washed up on the beach. One of the beaches we visited was cluttered with household objects torn to pieces, like pieces of furniture and kitchen items, and funnily enough there were loads of light bulbs that were undamaged and still intact.

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Us driving through New Orleans

We passed the Louisiana swamps but from there we only stopped to eat or sleep so that we could get back drove back to New York in time for Christmas day.

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The portraits on each others legs

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Me tattooing Jo

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Another 3 Months in Brooklyn

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Going out with a tattoo artist was pretty interesting, it wasn’t unusual to have someone come to the apartment to have a huge tattoo on their back or an entire sleeve where they have their arm coloured in. One evening one of Jo’s close friends came over and tattooed Jo’s portrait on her own leg despite having never tattooed before in her life, they both got drunk first obviously. It was all very entertaining and it came out pretty well. A few days later I tattooed a rabbit on Jo’s thigh and she tattooed the same on me, I have never been so nervous as I was trying to inject ink into her skin.

At the end of the first 6 months I had planned my cycle around Europe, booked my flight and had enough money to fund it. I enjoyed my work experiences in New York; the people I worked with were very nice, except for the two sexist, money grabbing owners of the Peruvian Restaurant on 5th Ave between 6th and 7th Streets which I shall not name. They treated the staff like dirt, using their minuscule amount of authority to take advantage of people and they treated the customers like Royalty in a really creepy way. The way I quit my job will always be something I look back on fondly I stormed out on a busy saturday night causing a huge scene, embarrassing them in front of their Royal customers and demanding they paid me the 4 weeks’ worth of wages that they kept aside until you left.

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Click for My Trip Around Europe

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A Few Years in Queens

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After the cycle and a couple of months in the UK I flew back to Queens in time to celebrate my 10,000th day alive (on the 17th October 2006) by taking M.D.M.A on a visit toMadame Tussauds, it was hilarious walking around analyzing the waxworks, but even high they looked unrealistic.

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Our wedding photo outside the drive-thru chapel

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We got married so that I could get a visa and stay in America longer than if I was just a tourist, it wasn’t just for the paperwork because the only reason I wanted to stay in the States was to be with Jo. The wedding was brilliant, we got married in Las Vegas and it’s a definite highlight for me although probably not one for my 2nd wife.

In November 2006 we flew to Las Vegas for 3 days, hiring a red convertible mustang, I remember feeling really cool cruising down the Vegas strip with the top down, like I was in the movies. On the second day we got the licence from downtown, then drove straight to a Drive-thru chapel and got married while sat in the car. We then took the car to the desert and drank some champagne before losing about $90 gambling in the evening.

We were hung over for our ‘honeymoon day’ but we still went on the 3 rides at the top of the 990 metre tall ‘Stratosphere’ casino. Two of them were fine but there was one where you are in a dodgy looking rollercoaster, hanging off of the edge of the building looking straight down at the car park, that I shall never go on again, I’ve done it and I’m glad I did but I shall nevert do it again.

I spent the next year in New York, working as a courier in Manhattan and Brooklyn. This was the best job I have had to date, getting paid to cycle around meeting some fascinating people, to add to the list of interesting people I had met outside of work.

During my time in New York I met artists from all disciplines, tattoo artists, sculpture’s, hip hop artists and an interesting guy called Alex Gray with great psychedelic artwork.  I met DJ’s, a professional kite flyer from Italy, I visited penthouses on Central Park and my favourite was a public attorney who used to tell me stories of how unjust the US legal system. I would say the vast majority of the people I met originated from outside of the U.S.

In the spring of 2007 I started to feel the Downside of Living in NY. The winter was arctic and seemed to drag on forever, one night we had 29 inches of snow and it even snowed in April. Before going to New York I had heard it described as being ‘all about money’ and after living there for a while I began to see what they meant.  People were rude and I hated being treated like a walking wallet. It was quite a contrast from Uruguay where I found the people to be very pleasant and I would spend 20 minutes chatting with shop keepers compared to N.Y where they throw change at you and virtually throw you out the door.

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In 2007 we went on some short trips while I was saving. At the end of January we visited Canada where I got to see a country that is accustomed to metres of snowfall and went to visit a hunter friend of my new family. I’m not fond of taxidermy, preferring the animals alive so when he showed me his trophy room full of stuffed animals I nearly hand a heart attack. I remained calm and relaxed a little when he told me he eats all the meat on the animals so they don’t go to waste.

A photo from the trophy room

A scene from Canada

Sadly i didn’t get to drive it

Niagara Falls

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In mid-April we hired a car to drive to Niagara Falls. The falls were spectacular but the towns next to them were like a low budget Disneyland and while driving back through Manhattan we received an unfair parking fine which I contested with the following e-mail.

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“I wish to contest the $95 fine for parking outside 254 5th Ave, 17th April 2007, 2:20pm.

                   There are two reasons why I believe I should be excluded from paying this fine. Firstly I was with the car and was not given any opportunity to move it. Secondly there are two signs covering the area on the corner of 5th Ave and 28th St, where I was parked. These signs (of which I have photos) contradict each other, one says it is ok to park and the other disagrees. The exact wording on the sign, which I read before parking, states “No standing 7am-10am and 4pm-7pm Mon – Friday”. This suggests to me that outside of these times it is ok to Stand and being a temporary resident in a country with a reputation for being ‘free and liberal’, I did not think, for a second that there would be contradictory signs.

                   The police officer who found me would not even listen to my argument, that I was with the car and also allowed to be there, she seemed more interested in notching another ticket for the day, in an attempt to get a bonus or something. She stated that I would have to dispute the ticket, and here we now are. I am a temporary resident and unable to work in this country and really can’t afford to pay the $95 fine for something in which I have done nothing wrong. I also have to add that I do not wish to contribute to the illegal bombing going on in the Middle East and will therefore take this to court if necessary.

 Yours Hopefully Mick Hobday”

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Watching Manu Chao in Brooklyn Park

In the boiling hot summer I saw Manu Chao play in Brooklyn Park and my friend Jon, the investment banker from England, came and showed me a different side of the city when we went to Wall St and the Federal Reserve. We also went shopping at a 6 storey clothes shop that thought it was a night club and wandered around like zombies for hours as we’d had a massive joint before we went.

I also went to Puerto Rico, a beautiful Caribbean island that was absorbed into the United States in 1917 in order to get more soldiers to fight for the U.S army. It was great eating fresh mangos from trees as well as coconuts off the beach but sad to see how Puerto Rico has been Americanized with the typical chains of Burger king, mc’donalds, Walgreen and Subway type joints.

Puerto Rico

During October and November I cycled around Europe again, (Greece Lightning) before returning for another 6 months in the city during which I would prepare to fly to Asia. During the final 6 months I went snowboarding in Canada and experienced -40 °C and went to see an Ice hockey match, a highly paced edge of your seat game. I spent ages sat on the roof of my good friend Jay’s apartment block, looking at the N.Y skyline and thinking how New York is like a giant ant farm. Before flying to Asia my boss took me for some amazingly presented, fancy sushi, one plate came out looking like a dragon.

My time in New York officially ended when Jo and I split up in Vietnam and I went to Barcelona to start my cycle around Spain.

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For More Details

My Travel Blog Link

For a more detailed look at my time in N.Y with bigger photos

Brooklyn    Queens

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My Book Link

diary extracts from my time in N.Y and all the other trips I went on in my 1st 10 years

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