Archive for May, 2008
Some slightly-crappy photos at the entirely not-crappy American Museum of Natural History.
I’ve been wondering over the last day or two: how many Manhattanites have ever put any part of their body in the water that surrounds the island? Aside from those who might do some water sports, I’m guessing that it’s a very low number. And is there any island on the planet where the proportion of inhabitants who haven’t touched the surrounding water is so high?
Not seen many famous people so far in New York. I saw Richard Belzer outside Yankee Stadium the other day, though, cunningly wearing sunglasses to disguise himself. And yesterday, I was kind of a bit excited to see Liverpool’s former player and current assistant manager, Sammy Lee.
I’m thinking about doing a new masthead thingy at the top of this blog page, and I was looking at more old photos of my grandfather and found this one of him on Carnaby Street. I love this picture. Especially, I think, cos he’s posing near a “Let’s Streak” t-shirt. Anyone got any idea of what the other t-shirt says? The one beginning “Sex makes me…” I can’t quite make out what it says. Click the picture to see it hi-res.
In one of the notebooks that I have with me (I’m stupidly over-prepared in this area: one A5 notebook, four smaller notebooks, and twelve things to write with, ranging from pencils, past biros and gel ink pens up to a nice fat Sharpie), has numbers in it. They’re written in rows of seven. Each row is a week. Each number is a day. Beginning with Friday 11 January and ending with Friday 11 July. The total extent of my trip. I’ve got just over six weeks left. Sounds like a lot, of course, I understand that, but there’s so much more I want to do, and I have been thinking about changing my return flight and staying for maybe another month. It would make me feel less guilty about spending two-ish weeks in New York, for one thing.
I’ve started to feel like this, because this trip shouldn’t be about bumming around seeing my friends in this city. I could do that any time, really. New York’s a relatively cheap flight away from Europe; this travelling lark is a bigger thing to do, and to “waste” two weeks here seems a bit silly. But, so far, it’s been nothing but fun, so I’m not gonna beat myself up about it too much. Apart from the feeling that I’m not travelling. And this pause has given me time to thing about what I’ve achieved so far. It’s been a topic I’ve gone over with friends in a few emails recently, and I’ve still not really got my head around it.
Some part of me wonders whether I’m at the point where I should bring my flight home forward and go back straight from New York. I somehow feel I’ve proved I can do it, so save the money I’d spend going across the States for another trip, when I might be more in need of a two-month break. I’m kind of in the mood to get back into the flow of my life, too; to start drawing and writing some more, to try and organise what I want to do and just get on with it. But, yet again, in a possibly stupidly masculine way, I’ve started so I will finish. I might not get the chance to find two months to do this in the near future. I don’t know what the future holds. Well, I do, but I’m sworn to secrecy by The Interplanetary Overlord.
In a weird way, though, I’m a bit too lazy and cowardly to stop travelling. That would mean actually sorting out where I want to live and all the crap that goes with that sort of thing. I think I might go back to Berlin, but I’m not entirely sold on the idea yet. Blah blah blah…
Enough of my yakkin’, here’s a little animation that Marc put together of the Ichiro photos from the other day. Thanks Marc.
I wasn’t really planning on doing a blog post about going to see the Yankees this time. I’ve done plenty of them before, and I suspect for most of you, it’s just a bunch of photos of a few men stood around on some grass wearing big gloves. But, I realised over the weekend that this will be the last time I’ll visit this Yankee Stadium. You may know this already, but they are moving across the street at the start of next season into a shiny, new, slightly-Disneyworld-ish-looking Yankee Stadium:
For the second time in two days, I managed to find myself talking to a Christian. On Saturday, when I was in the park, one guy stopped his bicycle next to me and gave me a card and invited me to his church. We soon got off the topic of Jesus, and he was giving me some tips of things to see in the Bronx. And before the game yesterday, waiting to go the Bronx in a subway station (I was waiting in the station, not that the station itself was going to transport me there with creaking concrete, falling rubble, snapping electricity cables, etc.), an overweight fellow in a Seattle Mariners cap and t-shirt hurriedly came through the turnstiles and loudly asked if I was waiting for the train to go to the game. The train took ages to arrive, so we ended up chatting for a while. He showed me his Mariners watch which displays each day’s game on the face, and plays “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” at the game start time. He told me how he’d worked for Jesus in London and Kenya. And how affected he was after visiting the World Trade Center site the day before. He was loud in a touristy way. As we pulled into the station near the stadium, he talked of all the history of the stadium. He was getting withering looks from Yankees fans in the carriage as he said, “Aaah, The House That Ruth Built!” We said goodbye and he gave me his number in case I wanted to visit his church when I visit Seattle.
The game itself wasn’t the best I’ve seen, but it was a fun afternoon. The couple from Milwaukee who were sat next to Derick and I were nice and shared their candy floss with us, as we shared our Crackerjacks with them.
One of the concessions stands had the campest man I’ve ever seen at a sporting event working behind the counter. Not wishing to underestimate your average sports fan’s view on gay culture, but I’m guessing a black man with a very gay voice, lots of showy jewellery and long pink nails is gonna get a some strange looks.
I got to see an Ichiro home run, which is nice. This isn’t the home run, but he’s a series of pictures of him that highlights his quite odd cutesy stance at the plate.
Outside the stadium, here’s a picture of a guy who had just been vomited on, and a picture where you’ll see a dude wanted his fingers to be in my photo of the scene.
I finally got around to putting a bunch of photos on Flickr. Naturally, there’s a few you might have seen before if you’ve been reading the blog while I’ve been swanning around the Americas, but there’s a bunch you won’t have seen, and even those that you have seen, you’ll now be seeing larger than they are on here.
In the spirit of openness, I won’t deny that the skills of Photoshop have come into play here and there. Nothing too much, though. Mainly a tweak of the levels, a touch of contrast now and again, and the odd hint of sharpness boosting. Essentially, though, the images are the same as they were when they were eaten by my Sony DSC-W90′s lens and shat out of its USB anus into my MacBook, err, toilet.
If you wanna see ‘em, klicken Sie hier, por favor, madames et monsieurs.
For this Memorial Day weekend, I’m staying on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. A friend’s gone away for the weekend and a deal was struck where I got a lovely apartment to myself for the weekend in exchange for feeding her cats. I spent a good portion of my Saturday in Riverside Park. Uncle Leo’s son Jeffrey did a good job. It’s a lovely park. A park that will forever, though, be associated with a certain magnificent moment in cinematic history…
Then Tom and Meg kiss, the camera rises up, Harry Nilsson’s version of “Over The Rainbow” comes in, and the audience leave the cinema with tears in their eyes. Not me, of course, I’ve just got something in my eye, alright?
Now, though, it’s Sunday morning. I’ve got an enormo cappuccino and an even enormo-er local newspaper, and I’ve got a few hours to kill before the Yankees-Mariners game, so, back to the park.
That’s one of the wonderful things that I’ve done this week that I haven’t done for ages. Having a bath, too. My oh my, I can’t tell you how marvellous that was. Little things that I hadn’t even considered that I’d miss so much.
My time in this Newest of Yorks is pretty much an intermission. A break from packing and unpacking. A break from the unfamiliar. And, as you may have noticed, a break from daily blogging. The feeling of being a travelly-type-person has kinda disappeared. Mainly, I imagine, because I’ve been staying with friends and I’ve hung out with other friends, too.
I’ve enjoyed eavesdropping a lot. Actually understanding what fellow subway passengers are saying has been excellent fun. Highlight so far was a large woman chatting to her friend who looked kind of in the ballpark of an whiskey-soaked version of Ric Ocasek: “…she’s so fuckin’ fat. She got all fat ‘n’ shit comin’ out of her bra!”
I’ve enjoyed getting drunk with Marta and Ariel, friends I met earlier on my travels, in an Irish bar where some middle-aged Yankees fan called Jimmy decided that I looked and sounded like Russell Crowe (I don’t). This is Jimmy:
That evening ended up going back to some dude’s roof with several midwestern ladies, a mystery New Yorker who may or may not be a psycho killer, and the incredibly tall host who claimed to be the writer of the Tom Hanks film, “Big.” It certainly was a swanky enough apartment to be owned by the writer of a hit movie, but either he uses a pen name or he’s telling porkies. Further confusion came when one visited to bathroom. You had to go through the bedroom to reach it, and in the bed was an elderly woman snoring loudly with the TV on. Still, liar or not, his apartment had an amazing view of the city, and someone bought a crapload of beer on the way, so fun was had by all before taxis were stumbled into.
I’ve enjoyed meeting up with Keith, one of my best friends, who just so happened to be in town on business. And I enjoyed the time I spent chatting to two random chaps while I was in a hotel bar waiting for Keith to finish his meeting. One of the guys had gone to the lav, and the other said something to me after I’d order a beer from the waitress. I didn’t hear what he said, so I turned and asked what he’d said. “She’s hot!” he said, gesturing to the waitress with his Stella Artois bottle. “Aye” I replied, slightly uncommitedly. We got chatting. He and his brother-in-law were in town with their wives, who were upstairs asleep. This seemed to be reason enough for them to ask the waitress to buy a couple of ladies across the way a drink. Classy.
Mainly, though, I’ve been taking advantage of the large amount of arty museums. Some Klimt stuff at the Neue Galerie; some rococo stuff at the Cooper-Hewitt; Murakami at the Brooklyn Museum; “Dargerism” at the American Folk Art Museum; the Whitney Biennial; and “Take Your Time,” the Olafur Eliasson show at both MoMA and P.S.1. Here’s a bunch of pictures of Eliasson’s work.
I know, I know: the blog gets a bit dull when life is easy and there are no hassles to overcome.
One of the great things about “swanning about South America in a rather louche way” (quote: Anne of I like) is that travelling and waiting around are no longer daunting tasks. I’ve been on enough flights and long bus journeys lately to completely get used to mentally hibernating for however long the journey takes. Even after being awake for 36 hours, I was still up for going out for a few beers with Derick and Jennifer when I arrived in Brooklyn after three hours waiting at São Paulo airport, a seven hour flight to Panama City, another hour of waiting, a four-and-a-half hour flight to Newark, and then an hour-and-a-half fannying around inside the airport, and another hour’s cab ride. Tiredness seems to be something that can be ignored now. I hope that sticks around.
So, yes: I’m in New York. This part of my trip doesn’t really feel like it is part of the trip; more like an intermission. Over the last month I’ve become increasingly ready to see some friendly faces and see some familiar sights. So, I decided to rearrange the US leg of my tour to travel east to west, instead of the planned route west to east.
Something that should be noted is US immigration at Newark airport. Apart from being dreadfully understaffed, creating an hour-long queue of sweaty tired travellers, it was excellent there. US immigration does have a terrible reputation, (example) but of the four times I’ve flown into New York over the past four years, I’ve never experienced anything other than polite friendliness. Last night, the officer and I had a chat about the Yankees. It was a thoroughly pleasant experience.
They speak English in the United States. That has been a joy so far. Even though I have found myself answering questions with “sim” a couple of times, like this morning when I did what I’ve been looking forward to most for the last couple of days: getting a cappuccino from Cocoa Bar on 7th Avenue, Brooklyn.
Apart from the UK, Germany, and the US, I’ve spent more of my life in Brazil than any other country. I’m glad about that. I’m leaving tonight, but I hope, one day, to come back and spend a lot more time here. It’s a magic place. I’m gonna miss it.
Had to get some photos of Oscar‘s work in Parque do Ibirapuera before I leave Brasil this evening. Here’s a Google Earth screenshot showing the whole area.
The fluid grey shape is the roof of this covered area, connecting three buildings. This is what it looks like underneath.
This is the Oca (hut). Not sure if that’s its real name, but that’s what I was told it was called.
And finally, here’s the Auditório Ibirapuera (Ibirapuera Auditorium).
Back in São Paulo. I’ve got a nice hotel room; it’s on a corner (thus two views) on the 24th floor. The view last night and this morning.
The safe in the room has a warning on it. Look at the size of the safe…
…and now look at the warning.
My last day in Rio de Janeiro, here’s some pictures. The first bunch taken wandering around the Santa Teresa area.
The tram viaduct.
And Ipanema beach.
Six days ago I arrived in Rio de Janeiro, a bit nervous about the tales of danger on the streets and beaches here. And while I’m still a bit wary, I’ve gone from someone who forced himself to come here out of duty to see the city, into someone who loves it here. It’s such a beautiful city. Walking around, taking the bus, or in a cab. All fantastic. And it’s impossible for me to put my finger on what it is about the place. It’s a stunning landscape, of course, and there are beautiful people everywhere, and the weather makes things agreeable; but that’s not it. I’m not sure I want to be able to put my finger on it, but whatever it is, Rio is great. Really, really great. I’ve still got some grains of sand on my flip flops, and I don’t wanna brush them off.
After several days of meticulous observation, I have completed my research.
The Big Jesus Thingy has been Photoshopped so that we can see his face and Sugar Loaf in the background; rather than the reality which would show us the back of Jesus’ head from this angle.
I wanted to go and visit the Museu Internacional de Arte Naïf do Brasil at the weekend, but, well, it’s a bit of a palaver to actually get there. Not its location – it’s right next to the little choo-choo train that takes you up to Big Jesus Thingy – but actually getting in. The website has no opening times on it; the booklet that the hotel has about galleries has no opening times; and when I called the number, there was no answer. Hmmm. So I sent them an email, which prompted a strange exchange, asking if I could come between 2pm and 5pm on Tuesday. Yes, I can. What time exactly? 3pm would be great. Okay, see you then.
I didn’t have my watch with me, and I arrived half an hour early. The gate was padlocked shut, and after several rings of the buzzer, it seemed like nobody was going to come and open. So I had a coffeee nearby, waited ’til 3pm, and went back. This time, someone came out and let me in. Not really sure that this place is gonna get many passers-by dropping in for a look. Which is a real shame, because it’s a magnificent place. Three floors with small-ish rooms crammed with great Brazilian and (mostly) Latin American naive art.
Here’s some details of a few of the paintings rather than whole paintings, cos, well, the detail photos turned out better. Like an idiot, I forgot to jot down all of the names of the artists and titles. Sorry. I do know, though, that the one above and the next five pictures are details of a massive painting (4 x 7 metres) of the city of Rio de Janeiro by Lia Mittarakis called “Rio De Janeiro, Gosto De Você, Gosto Desta Gente Feliz” (“Rio De Janiero, I Love You, I Love Such Happy People”)
This was by someone from Ecuador…
… and this was by someone from Mexico.
The rest are all Brazilian if I remember correctly.
Across Guanabara Bay, in the city of Niterói, there’s this Oscar Niemeyer-designed slice of magnificence, the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói. There was some art inside, but virtually anything that they put in there is gonna be fighting a losing battle with the building itself.
I did some sightseeing. First stop, getting the little train up Corcovado hill to see the Big Jesus Thingy. That’s not it’s proper name, you’ll be astounded to learn. Whatever’s Portuguese for “Christ the Redeemer”; that’s its name. If Jesus Christ is planning to come back one day, I really hope it isn’t his ego that is holding him off from doing it before now; because if it is, then we’re buggered when he does come back. A thirty-metre-high statue not enough, Jesus? Not being a religious type, I did find myself thinking of chuckles the whole time when I was up there. Like, for example, the other hills having different Christs on top: Christ the Not-that-arsed-about-redeeming, Christ the Short-order Cook, Christ the Huckster. Etcetera and etcetera until it got really quite saucy and inappropriate, and his outstretched arms were showing us how big his wang is. Still, nice statue. Here’s some photos that look exactly the same as every photo taken by every tourist. First some snaps of the view.
Now some more of the big fella.
Here’s some dead moths that have gathered in one of the floodlights.
And some pretend Jesuses.
After praising the Lord, I got a cab to Pão de Açúcar, Sugar Loaf Mountain. A couple of cable cars and you’re up there with a different view over the city. The view from Jesus was looking out to sea, the view from Pão de Açúcar was better; you get a right good view over a massive amount of Rio. And from up there, it looks fantastic. All the buildings squished in-between the hills and the beaches. Magic stuff.
My sightseeing day was topped off nicely by a cab driver who showed me a laminated flyer for a strip club and telling me they did good massages “and a bit more… if you want!” And then spent the rest of the journey honking his horn at girls walking by, and turning around to look at me every time to make an “ooh she was nice!” face.