A Young Lad in America #2 November 21, 2007Posted by Rambling Man in A Young Lad in America.
Tags: A Young Lad in America, J1 visa, memoirs, new york
PART 2 – Manhattan
When I stepped out of Newark airport and was hit by American air for the first time I took quite a gasping breath almost immediately … this was New Jersey heat and I had never experienced the humidity before. I am, after all, one of the most pasty looking people from one of the most pasty looking races on earth … Ireland just doesn’t do heat !
Our initial destination was a fairly reasonable looking “youth” hostel on the lower west side of Manhattan – Chelsea to be exact. 21st and 9th, if I am not mistaken. And so we holed up in the hostel for a while until the representative of the visa company came and gave us our itinerary for the next 2 days of orientation ! It was great, we thought, that there were some real Americans who were going to tell us the lie of the land and not let us come to any harm in the big, bad city …
And so we went out exploring, with fellas I didn’t really know and fellas I haven’t seen since. We did like every respectable and patriotic Irishman does the minute he gets the chance abroad- went to the pub ! And a tacky Irish pub with fluorescent shamrocks in the window at that – even the waitresses wore tacky tartan skirts and a couple had roller skates ! What is it that goes off in our Irish heads that activates a homing beacon in the nearest watering establishment ? Several pints later – and much braver – we decided to go looking for some more trendy bars and ended up not being let in to Hooters ! We didn’t even know what they did in there but we wanted to get in all the same.
Next morning, the J1 company had arranged a local beat cop to come to the youth hostel’s common room to give us a safety demonstration … what to do if approached by “a hood” sort of thing ! We had one day in Manhattan and then we were on our own ! Going to Virginia to work on a farm ? Tough – make it there yourself !
Anyway this cop was a class act – typical rotund, khaki panted, beer gut kind of guy who gave us a run through of what to do and not to do. Two things I remember – it was the first time I have ever heard a bag or backpack referred to as a “pocketbook” – I mean WTF ? It ain’t a book and it doesn’t go in your pocket ! but hey, as the man said, “summa yoo guys might notta bin to this state befoa – heck I think summa yoo might notta even bin to this ciddy befoa !” I didn’t tell him this was my first time in the country !
Anyway one of my most favourite photos of myself was taken on this day. See from when I was very young, I always wanted to be a New York cop (still do !) – don’t know why, just did. I even took the pre-qualification tests online and filled out forms and everything. You had to be an American citizen though – so close ! The picture shows me leaning against a NYPD pickup truck and simultaneously jumping up from its scalding hot bonnet such was the heat of the surface … the look on my face is priceless and my arms bear the marks still.
One of my favourite head images – you know the ones that pop into your head whenever someone mentions that they were in New York or wherever – is of a crosswalk near Chinatown. We had gone out for a gander and at this particularly busy street we had seen the typical New York crowded street scene where every other vehicle is a yellow cab and the streets criss-cross off into the distance. It’s an image that I still keep fresh.
Intersections, yellow cabs, beeping horns, steam billowing from gutters, strange smells and sounds – I was on the film set of my youth … cop shows and murder mysteries – all happening in front of me !
It was close to this street that I had the famous Linguine alla Sinatra at an Italian restaurant in Liddle Iddly … the restaurant was just a small, musty tableclothed but homely looking room with a mammoth chef working away behind the counter and an annoyed waiter hurrying customers along – just the way it should be. So I had the linguine and asked the waiter why it was called Linguine alla Sinatra … his curt reply without even looking at me was “cos that’s how the guy liked it when he was heee !” Imagine – my arse and Frank Sinatra’s arse might’ve even been on the same chair, fifty years apart ! 6 degrees of separation and all that !
Now on my own and with two days left before I had to be in Garden City, Long Island, I would soon have to forage for myself.