All our alarms went off: the hotel TV came on, my watch, Wifey’s phone then, like some little idiot Corporal Jones, my simple minded phone stamped to attention after everybody else. Are we under attack, have we got to go to work? No, worse, we have to step out into driving rain to get the airport bus to Terminal 5 at Heathrow. Home, as it is, to some of the world’s most exclusive shops, selling designer label luxury goods to the… who? It’s like they collected all the stuff designed to aggravate my inverted snobbery in one place. We amuse ourselves in these situations by attempting to squirt overpriced chemicals onto our clothes while avoiding the attentions of the grinning professional snobs whose job it is to peddle them. They know I’m not going to give them £40 for a bottle of Davidoff’s Cool Water but will ask if they can help anyway as I blast half litre of the stuff up my sleeve (to hopefully mask all future travel smells I may emit) while I announce, “I’ll see what it’s like when it settles down.” Wifey does the same, but with more style at the Givenchy stand.
A Slovakian New York lady plonks herself down next to me in the departure lounge (perhaps I smell nice), she is in her late 50s and turns out to be a splendid old goose. She spent a year in her youth following an Indian yogi who died a year later, “my family thought I was mad.”
She didn’t introduce herself but did a good five minutes of material on how small her hotel room was in London. “I couldn’t even get my suitcase open, but I didn’t complain because I overindulged in Paris and thought I should be punished, I could barely get in the shower and I daren’t use the toilet at all.” She was full of advice and encouragement and stuck to us as we got on the bus and all the way to the aircraft. I was clearly being groomed to help her get her oversized hand luggage onto the plane and into the overhead lockers. Because as soon as I had done so she set about working on some other poor sap to swap for a seat with more leg room. He happily obliged despite the fact that she was about 4’8”.
We thought she might be quite mad and were prepared to ignore her advice about getting the Air Train to Manhattan – “yes dear, the train flies through the sky” – but the queue for the cabs at 45 bucks a pop made us rethink. The line for immigration had already taken the fat end of an hour and had only speeded up when all the US citizens, air crews and executives had cleared. This meant Wifey and I were actually immigrated through the Diplomatic desk. I forgot to ask if this entitled us to any sort of immunity, which is probably for the best as you are specifically warned against making jokes with the officials. Even desperately lame jokes that they have no doubt heard a thousand times before anyway.
The Air Train track rises out of JFK to Jamaica where you can get a ticket for the subway, so we did E train, 6 train, 5 train to the Bronx for $15, saving maybe $40 at the cost of two hours.
Barry of The New York Mags met us at Pelham Parkway; one of many acts of kindness shown by either himself or his charming wife Evis despite the fact that; 1 he had only met us once, five years ago when we were all very drunk and 2; that he and Evis and their 4 year old, constantly exploding energy bomb of a son, James are moving to Miami this week.
My understanding of The Bronx was based almost entirely on the hip hop poetry of KRS1 of Boogie Down Productions and this doesn’t look like that at all. Trees and grass and smart houses not riddled with Uzi shells from constant drive-by shootings. Barry says he has travelled all over the States and never felt as threatened as when he was a student in Leeds. We had beer while leaning on the bar at Gleason’s and brilliant Italian food at our next stop. Our guilt at barely being able to touch half of it, as the exhaustion of being awake for 20+ hours kicked in, was washed away by the waitress bagging up our leftovers. Penne alla vodka for breakfast. Get the f*** in!
James serenaded us with “When The Mags Go Marching In” through a plastic megaphone as we walked home. “Louder” said Barry and James gleefully obeyed – now that’s parenting.
Right Song at the Right Moment “B” by Snuff – melodious machine gun paced punk rock with a smashing brassy bit right through the middle while blasting through the sky at 500mph.