Saturday 21 April 2012

New York 2012 - Part 1: Introduction

Or, "What I Did on my Summer Holidays, by Christopher James Harrison, aged 27 and a bit"

The flickering needle jumps into red. New York crawls out of its bed.

A bit of a departure in terms of subject matter, this blog here. I've had no gigs to speak of recently (and I'm not sure there's much else in my life left to blog about), although I've had a terrific time of late. More of that in a little bit. 

Incidentally, since you asked, I can next be seen onstage with Hi-on Maiden at Riffs Bar in sunny Swindon on May 17 before we head off to Nijmegen, Holland to make a racket at the Rockcafe Backstage. I believe the next Carpathia gig is on 25 May at the Boston Music Room in Tufnell Park. July, August and September are looking pretty busy for Hi-On, and I recently had contact with one Lee Abraham who is writing his next prog-rock masterpiece which should feature some six-string gymnastics from your humble narrator. All in all it's shaping up to be a rather nice year for me musically. 

Apart from various weekend jaunts to Ireland and mainland Europe (musical and otherwise),  I haven't really had a proper holiday since I went to Stockholm for a week in June 2008. In fact, unless you count Christmas periods, I haven't really had any extended break from work since then either. So when my grand friend Sasha "it wasn't a rock - it was a rock lobster" Zivojinovic decided to take his beautiful lady to New York to see the Blue Man Group and invited friends to join them, I had to give it some serious thought. 

I've been meaning to return to the east coast of the USA for many years. I haven't been out there since 2008, and have some fine people whom I count as true friends in residence in the various states on the eastern seaboard. For three years in a row, 2006-2008, I visited on Labor Day weekend for a few days of jamming and hanging out with said fine people, but since then I haven't made it for various reasons. On top of this, I've wanted to see New York City for some time. The sights, the sounds, the smells. 

No-one else had elected to join Goc "better start packing...oops!" Kaboodle & Sasha on their trip, and while I didn't want to be a third wheel I really did want to go. After a bit of rumination (and a lot of brow-beating from Sasha, who needed a guitar-shopping partner!) I booked up, and the departure date rolled around a couple of months later.

Spotting LOST numbers at airports always makes me a little trepidous...

There's something moving in the sidewalk steam...

The day before we were scheduled to depart, I was suffering. There's a line in a Pain Of Salvation song, which I'm probably misquoting, but which sums it up quite well - "It all catches up on you when you slow down". It was no surprise to me that I would get laid low with some Devil Bug after a few days off work. In the words of Super Hans, I was being sick out of both ends. I even managed to yak in the street on the way back from the doctor, which is up there with one of the classiest things I've ever done. True to form, I plonked myself on the sofa and started watching my Stanley Kubrick DVDs, which for some reason always make me feel a bit better when I'm ill. Thankfully, come the evening, the torrent had stopped coming forth and I packed my bags ready for the 5:40am taxi call.

In a wi-fi enabled taxi (who would have thunk it!) and in the quiet of pre-rush-hour London we made it from SE13 to Heathrow in under an hour. Once checked in and through security, we did what every self-respecting holiday-goer does, and went straight to the pub for beer and breakfast. I opted out of the booze initially, still feeling a little bit delicate after the previous day's vile extrusions. However after a cup of coffee and a sausage sarnie I was right as rain. Onward to the flight!

Most of the flights I've taken in my life have been fairly uneventful. My very first was to Guernsey as a child, and I've loved it ever since. The most memorable thing that's happened whilst airborne since would probably be on a family holiday to Florida in 1997. After a 9 1/2 hour delay at Gatwick with two children, my mother was presented with a miniature bottle of Bacardi and an even smaller can of Diet Coke. This sent her, blissfully I would imagine, straight to the land of boozy nod. I still remember that day. I was given a fiver and sent to the bookshop, where I bought myself a copy of Douglas Adams' "The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul". This proved particularly memorable given the amount of time we'd spent delayed in that great cathedral of despair, as the first paragraph reads thusly:

It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression "As pretty as an airport." Airports are ugly. Some are very ugly. Some attain a degree of ugliness that can only be the result of a special effort. This ugliness arises because airports are full of people who are tired, cross, and have just discovered that their luggage has landed in Murmansk (Murmansk airport is the only exception of this otherwise infallible rule), and architects have on the whole tried to reflect this in their designs.

This flight to New York was colourful, to say the least. I was seated (after swapping seats twice to accommodate couples who were determined to sit together) next to a very slight lady who had more holes punched in her than anyone I've seen outside of a Slayer gig. Security must have been a nightmare for her. She was very nice, and we had some rather engaging discussions about music, art and her kids. Complimentary drinks and the first meal came, and after the second complimentary glass of red wine the poor lass conked out. I settled in to watch a film on the seat-back screen, but before I'd got very far my companion groggily awoke and began to frantically look around for something to be sick in. I scrambled out of my seat to allow her to rush to the ladies for what would probably be a photo-finish. Unfortunately the facilities were occupied, and the couple seated by the bulkhead had the floor in front of them decorated in short order. For the rest of the flight I was on constant "get out of seat" alert, but thankfully she seemed to simply need to sleep it off. Sasha was not so lucky, and found himself seated next to a middle-aged lady who was clearly under the influence upon boarding, and who proceeded to a) nick vodka from the bar whenever no-one was looking and b) spill every single drink on Sasha. How she got on the plane in that state is a mystery to me, but the staff dealt with both the resident alcoholic and the lightweight in seat 63 with cheerful aplomb. My dear friend seemed mostly well for the remainder of our time together, apart from a slight wobble on the runway at JFK (as the second airsick bag came into use, the first fell over onto the carpet narrowly avoiding my shoes). 

Into the queue for the predictably humourless border control fellows, we couldn't wait to get out of the airport and on our way. Once admitted, we took the AirTrain all the way to Jamaica Station and then began to navigate the subway system. While it is an enormously simple system to navigate when in full control of your faculties, when you've been on the go for as long as we had it seemed monolithic in difficulty. We asked a harassed looking transit cop (fresh from what had to have been a frustrating encounter trying to explain to someone the difference between "uptown" and "downtown"), who sent us in the right direction. Eventually we emerged into the New York City sunshine at West 103 & Broadway. Goc and Sasha went to their digs and I trundled down Broadway to my own to try and wash the flight off of me!

"And I'm hovering like a fly, waiting for the windshield on the freeway..."

In Part 2, our intrepid international inhabitants tromp through Central Park, irritate some joggers, spend a ludicrous amount of money on fruit-related gadgetry and discover something in a toy shop that makes them grin like the jet-lagged loons they are.

Until then,

Christopher "here comes a bikini whale!" Harrison 

Soundtrack to this blog:

Budgie - Hammer And Tongs
Spock's Beard - Walking On The Wind
Gentle Giant - In A Glass House
Frank Zappa - Shut Up 'N' Play Yer Guitar Some More
Karmakanic - Turn It Up
Marillion - Chelsea Monday
Iron Maiden - 22 Acacia Avenue (live)