Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Are you trying to seduce me, Lady Liberty?

Where London took its time to warm up to me, New York seems to have pulled out all the stops.

Leaving Heathrow was easy enough, though one incident at customs left me with a bad impression. I was lining up to go through border control for one final check of my passport before leaving the country, when I let an elderly Indian lady through, who was in a wheelchair (who may or may not have been rather deaf). At this point the customs agent in front of my line yelled out to his mate across the room “Oi, she could do with a shave!”. To which they then exchanged an across-the-room high five, and took my passport out of my hand, while I stood there in shock. He looked at my passport photo, then at me, and asked if I was alright, but in that way that suggests you had better be alright unless you wanted a full cavity search. Deciding that this was not a battle I should fight if I wanted to make my flight, I nodded for yes and retrieved my passport. Not my finest moment, but nor was it Britain’s.

The flight was decent enough. I flew Virgin Atlantic, and was thrilled to see that the two seats next to me were empty, and I was looking forward to a very pleasant flight when all of a sudden a rather large sweaty man appeared, and took his seat next to me. Still, he turned out to be a very nice guy, and was very happy to discuss the fineries of investment banking in New York, at some length. I spent part of the time listening politely, part of it trying to learn something, and part of it hoping that maybe he knew somebody who could get me a job there.

Our flight arrived on time, and I was a little nervous at clearing customs – I was mentally prepared to avoid all joking and humour with the guards whose sole job is to make life difficult for anybody that highlights the difficulty of smuggling ostrich eggs. Turned out to be all rather uneventful though, as I was just waived through with only one question (‘You came from London?”) to slow me down.

I was being met at the airport by my good friend Rohan (from university), and was waiting in the arrivals lounge when a man from the information desk approached me and asked if I would like two free tickets to the Yankees game that night.

I said yes.

Rohan arrived soon after that, and after finding out about the night’s sudden entertainment plans, we marched straight onto the train into town. With the game due to start at 7.30, we were running a little late but hoped to still see a good chunk of regardless. Then it started to rain. Really rain. Hard. We doubted whether the game would start, but we decided we’d go to the game anyway. We arrived at the stadium at 8.30, to discover that not only had it stopped raining, but that the brief downpour had delayed start until just before 9pm, meaning that we got to our seats just before the first pitch was thrown.

Nobody does live sports like the Americans. Lights blazing, bright colours, and spectacularly massive television screens promised that we would be in for a very slick evening. The game opened with the National Anthem (complete with karaoke for those of us who don’t know all the words), and then we were into it. It was really a lot of fun to watch, though I did get confused a couple of times and cheered for the wrong team (not the best idea at Yankee Stadium!).

The game ended around midnight, with the Yankees beating the Kansas City Royals 8-2 at the bottom of the ninth.

So far it appears that New York is a very different place to be, and if last night is anything to go by, I think I’m going to like it here.


  1. Marvellous. Have yet to get to NYC - it's on my list... really must shorten that list...

    By the way, I would report that incident at Heathrow Customs when you get home. I daresay it wouldn't be the first time it happened. I don't think anyone would blame you for not wanting to create hassle for yourself, but I definitely think it should be brought to someone's attention!

    Have fun! (And eat your vegetables). Love, Mum.

  2. A free Yankees game on your first night in new York! Very cool!

    Hope you can keep this up when you get to Washington... perhaps ... dinner in the White House with the President? An appearance in the Supreme Court?

    The photo of the New York skyline. Is that a timerift or a portal between dimensions I see opening? ... in that vague shadowy reflection of a building? Oh wait ... that also happened a few years ago in the last city you were in ... it must have been real ... because I saw it on TV ;-) Best keep an eye out for Cybermen and maybe for Daleks... If you get a chance to chat with them, please bring back an autograph or two...

  3. I knew you'd get a big American sausage in your mouth asap..

  4. Got to love that kind of serendipity when traveling, Steve, like the free tickets to a Yankee game and you're fresh off the plane! In the new billion-dollar stadium, no less.

    I couldn't help but notice how thin the crowd looked though... rain effect?

  5. Partly due to the rain, but probably mainly due to the fact that the Yankees had clinched the pennant the day before against the Red Sox, so it wasn't such an important game for them. This also meant they didn't field their A team either; so no A Rod!