Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Well my final day in New York. Have just about finished fighting with my suitcase, it's not that there's no room it's just that I don't want to pay excess baggage, and line the pockets of the airlines any more than necessary.
Ive avoided losing all of my photos by realising the hard drive I purchased would have needed to be formatted from Mac to PC when I got home, which would have instigated a major temper tantrum back in England.
Ive had my last breakfast on the terrace, watching the sun rise on the shining beauty of the Chrysler Building, and in two days time when I'm having breakfast back at home I won't hear the drone of traffic, honking taxis and the shrieking of sirens, but the sound of seagulls calling and church bells chiming.

My top moments here where: Amanda's graduation, seeing the rest of my family all together, the Dyke March, Sarah McLachlan and Norah Jones in concert, Figment Festival, The Mermaid Parade, The International Centre for Photography, hearing Alicia Keys sing Empire State of Mind live, Event Horizon by Anthony Gormley and whiling away time in the many parks and coffee shops just observing and photographing New Yorkers and their wonderful city.

Will North Shields seem quiet by comparison? Yes, but home is home and I'm ready to return. My batteries and senses are fully re-charged and I'm ready to get on with my life now.

Goodbye New York, see you again sometime.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

the smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd - New York Pride

The day started grey and overcast, but it didn´t stay that way for long. Spectators were already parked in anticipation and in their deck chairs on 5th Avenue by 10.30 am and the parade wasn't due to start until 12 midday. by that time there was no traffic traveling on 5th Avenue, apart from the cross-town streets being allowed to travel across on police instruction. It's quite a sight to see the major avenue empty, people pinned back to the pavements by barriers, and traffic limited to the odd dribble across it.

I was down at the cross-section of 13th and 5th, and it took about half an hour for the front of the parade to reach us, although we could hear it well before then, given that the Sirens motorcycle group were leading the parade. From then on there was pretty much a constant flow of various organisations and groups in colourful and outrageous costume, but to be fair some of the spectators would have been just as well suited to the stage.

As the parade progressed the temperature rose, so did a few tempers surrounding me, and with the crowd eight or so deep with people vying for positions almost constantly, I decided after an 2 hours to vacate the area and seek some shade and the pridefest celebrations down on Hudson St.

I found some shade on the walk down 14th St, and the festival area whilst busy and colourful was in essence commercially OTT for me. The icing on the cake came about 20 mins into my visit, when turning round, to be confronted by a man with a 10ft Python, asking if I wanted my picture taken with it. Anyone who knows me knows I have a serious snake phobia, and my exit from pridefest would have challenged Usain Bolt on a good day. Feeling somewhat ragged after that experience I sought refuge in a quiet bar and consoled and calmed myself with some iced tea, before making my way back home on a crosstown bus. The journey was slow, due to the parade still going (2.5 hours later, and as I looked up 5th as we crossed it, probably a good while longer to come.

I apologise for the late posting, but I know Ive been feeling under the weather due to too much sun, and I also think that PTSD (Post Traumatic Snake Disorder) forced me to have a rather quiet day yesterday.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

18th New York Dyke March

The march, subtitled 'barely legal' was due to kick off from Bryant Park on 42nd St and then go down 5th Avenue to Washington Square park, a distance of some 2 miles at 5pm yesterday. As suggested dykes started to assemble in the park during the afternoon, and I was fortunate to find a friendly group from as well as Mindy and Elaine from New Jersey.

At first there didn't appear to be a great number of marchers, but as the show kicked off from the 42nd street end of the Park women of all colours, and ages began to join the march and continued to do so for the length of the march, swelling the final numbers into the 2 to 3 thousand mark I would guess.

March is probably not the right word to use, as the pace was pretty sedate, mainly due to some argument over the amount of space on 5th avenue we could occupy, cones and road markings were the physical and metaphorical barriers that gay women, not just in New York have to face and overcome. Some did it surreptitiously, edging the cones a few inches back towards the middle of the road, others were more slightly more daring, walking down the white line marking of the road, and some were openly engaged in removing the cones and demanding the same freedom as everyone else.

Religious protestors tried to give us some shit on the way, with various banners at various stages. ( the same ones I spotted at the Mermaid Parade two weekends ago - don't they have anything better to do than check out other peoples alleged sins? Or are these the same kind of people that held people of colour as second class citizens in the USA until the Civil Rights Movement got up and fought back for equality. Still it's not fair to paint everyone with the same brush, and a church on route came out to support the march, by offering water as well as a singing choir, to restore faith in the fact that not all religious people condemn and contort the bible to suit their own bigotry.

Shortly before reaching Washington Square Park there was a moment or two when the weather could possibly have rained on the parade, but hey, it would only have caused an even bigger rainbow than the already colourful parade. Once into the Park the marchers made it their own by celebrating in the fountain, a local tradition.

What do we want? Equality. When do we want it? NOW!

It's Official - Elmo is a lesbian

Yep you read it first here. While waiting for the 18th New York Dyke March to start yesterday, Elmo arrived at the ladies 'restroom' at Bryant Park and proceeded to hang with the Dykes outside for the start of the rally. Way to go Elmo!

Friday, 25 June 2010

Good Morning America- you can't beat breakfast and a free gig in the park

Up and out by 6.30 with a couple of thousand other people to go to see Alicia Keys perform in Central Park. Herded by the security guards, jostled by the American R n B fans, observed by the secret service agents, and instructed by the TV producers - but it was worth it all just to hear Alicia Keys sing Empire State of Mind, a modern day anthem to the city.

Liberty & Ellis Island

Decided to behave like a proper tourist yesterday with a trip on the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty and visit the immigrant museum at Ellis Island - what I hadn't bargained for was being treated like a suspected terrorist. Having purchased my ticket for the trip - sadly no tickets that would allow me to climb 340 steps to the crown of her head, oh dear how sad never mind, are you mad it's 90 degrees. I guess the taste of things to come was advertised neatly enough with the warning sign pictured. Now guns and pepper spray I can kind of understand, and explosives well yes - but cool boxes? Are the US government so hard up they have to make sure that all visitors eat in the venue canteen?

We are lead ushered into the security check queue, which snakes its way into a tented area, whereupon all metal items must be placed in a tray, coins watches, cameras, etc etc. Belts removed always gets me - I mean do they do that so that suspects can't run away without losing their pants?

Anyway having proved none of the party are carrying anything they shouldn´t and we are not posing a threat, we are allowed to board the ferry and take a pleasant breezy trip to Liberty. Once there we decide not to alight, on seeing the queues to get back on board to go to Ellis, but instead remain and head to the former immigration centre.

Once inside my eye is taken by a large pink BARBIE sign. (no opportunity for cross-selling missed here) 'Explore your heritage through Barbie' it proclaims - heaven forbid my heritage is in the slightest way connected to that pink plastic partner of Ken!

We collect our tickets fort the film show and duly arrive in cinema 1 to be informed of the basics of the history and the purpose of the centre by a no frills park warden. The film begins, but unfortunately only the sound and a very small percentage of the screen is working, as for some reason there's a clipboard in front of the projection inside the booth. I would be happy to just listen to the commentary, alas the 'locals' can't do this and start to get up to leave, talk loudly and generally behave like spoilt Barbies. After about five mins only foreign visitors remain, the problem is sorted, the film re-started, and an appreciation of the trials and tribulations of the early settlers to America imparted.

On return to Manhattan on the ferry, the first person that greets us is a street vendor, selling 'Obama Condoms', well you just have to smile, if only the parents of the hoodlums working in the security check area had used them eh.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Wednesday - It's too darned hot

Didn't venture out until late in the afternoon, due to temperatures in the low 90's and humidity to match. It's like trying to swim in soup, and not a cool bowl of Gazpacho. i wandered at a leisurely pace down 5th Avenue to Washington Park in Greenwich Village, and then wandered around the village in search of inspiration. However it was surprisingly quiet, which in a way was good, but deprived me of any colourful characters.
I'm sure as the week progresses towards Gay Pride weekend things will change, with the advent of the Dyke March on Saturday, from Bryant Park to Washington Park, and then main parade working it's way from 36th down into the village on Sunday, ending with a street festival, which the weather in whatever guise it takes will not dampen.