Saturday, June 30, 2007

Sell, Sell, Sell

New York City has a remarkable number of opportunistic salespeople. I often see clusters of men selling surprisingly realistic fake handbags and sunglasses out of cardboard boxes around the World Trade Center site, and whenever it rains people pop up at the entrances to many subway stops selling super cheap umbrellas.

I saw an innovative salesman last weekend. It was pretty hot in NY, and downtown was busy with open top tour buses. This gentleman had fabricated a stick with a collection of small buckets at the end, and was waving bottles of ice-cold water under the noses of the folk on the top of the bus, asking only a single dollar for instant refreshment.

I didn't hang around to witness a transaction, but I would imagine that the dollar bill was placed into the same receptacle that the water bottle came from. Genius.

America. Land of opportunity.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Weather Report

The weather in New York appears to be remarkably predictable. When the man in the radio tells me that it will rain in the early afternoon, lo and behold the skies open up at 2:30pm. When he says that the temperature will reach 73 Fahrenheit, it rises to within a degree or two.

This is in stark contrast to my experiences of London's weathermen who seem to wave their hands about a bit and say that it might rain a bit sometime later in the week (maybe), and the temperature could be "seasonal". Perhaps.

Apparently it's to do with the fact that New York's weather is mainly driven by the American land mass, whereas the UK's is at the mercy of the vagary of the surrounding waters.

I now have a Pavlovian reaction to the word "rain" in the weather forecast and pack an umbrella: I know I'm going to need it.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Move Over Darling

I took a domestic flight this weekend from New York to Portland. The thing that amazed me most about the procedure was the length of time it takes to get from one side of this country to the other: a good six hours.

Thanks to the power of modern technology I was able to check in online, and also select my seat with the help of that marvellous website seatguru. This site suggests which seats on a particular carrier's aircraft are better or worse than average. I snapped up 5E for the extra legroom it provided (forgoing a clear view of the movie screen).

They called the passengers to board from the back of the plane first, and by the time the last five rows were beckoned forward the plane was pretty full. As I made my way on board my heart sank.

The lady in 5D was enormous.

She was so big that she literally oozed into half of my seat. SeatGuru had already warned me that the middle seat in row five was a little narrower than normal, but that was a small price to pay for the extra legroom provided by the shift in configuration from steerage to business class at that point of the plane. It was going to be a long flight.

I eased myself into the seat, wedged myself under a large part of her torso, and tried to focus on pleasant thoughts. I think I managed to snooze for a while, and she periodically shifted around just enough to give me some breathing space.

The real moment of truth came at about hour number four. "Am I squashing you?". At this point any flag waving American would have felt obliged to let rip. Not the Englishman. "Oh no, it's quite alright". What was I thinking?

This place clearly isn't home, yet.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Anyone Can Play Guitar

Having enjoyed the UK Air Guitar Championships in London last year, it didn't take much encouragement for me to think about attending the New York regional competition.

The event was held at the Bowery Ballroom, and was hosted by serial air guitar failure Bjorn Turok. It took a little while for the things to get going, but once they did the usual mix of hair metal and mayhem was unleashed on an unforgiving audience.

Highlights of the evening included a 65 year old who should really have known better, a man in a complete cow costume, an air-violin interloper and lots of very tight spandex. The stage names were also pretty inspired: Shreddy Mercury was a personal favourite, and Bobba Frets (including full helmet) gave a damned good workout.

The overall quality of the competition didn't seem to be up the same standard as the UK event, but I'm holding out hope for the national finals in August.

For those about to rock, we salute you.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Credit to the Nation

It looks like I've finally managed to secure a credit card in the United States.

I applied shortly after I got here, and because, to a large extent, I didn't exist, I couldn't get one. I recently received another invitation to apply and this time it looks like I was successful. I haven't actually been sent the plastic as yet, but my online account now shows a linked credit card.

The mildly amusing thing about this application is that my credit limit is almost exactly 2.5% of the amount I have in the UK. I understand the reasons for this, but it does all seem a little pointless.