Alicia and Jay-Z were right. New York is amazing. The streets really do make you feel brand new, and the lights honestly inspire you. SJP wasn’t acting when she bounced down the pavement in her Manolo Blahniks, she was effing pumped because she was getting paid a fortune to work in NYC.
Maybe having my sister in New York amplified my positive experience. Or perhaps it was being able to crash with old friends and spoon with a crazy Kelpie. It might have been residual jubilation from the realisation that I had looked death in the face on a flight with Turkish Airlines, and survived.
People who know me said “you will LOVE New York”, but others commented that it was smelly (they mustn’t have been to Athens), and there’s folks trying to sell you stuff every step (clearly never been to Rome), and that the locals were unfriendly (obviously never been to London) and that it’s expensive (cant have been to Sydney).
Maybe I was wearing rose coloured glasses, but it seemed to me that everyone in NYC was happy. The people on their way to work, the guys digging up the road, the men directing the traffic, the folk working at the convenience store. And why not?!? They live in New York baby! They all take the time to say “hello” and “excuse me” and “thank you ma’am”. I love them all!
The whole time I was in NYC, I felt like I was on a movie set, but this is how these people really talk! At the discount department store their names really are Lashaunda and Quaneesha and Dorrell. They actually do wear weaves and say things like “oh no you didn'”. Some of them really do get their swag on, and some of them have absolutely no effing idea about the rest of the world.
The one thing I didn’t rate about New York was taking a cab. The drivers have absolutely no regard for lanes, indicating, merging or red lights, it feels like you’re on that coal mine ride at Dreamworld, only you’re not strapped in as tightly and they’re playing the news on a screen on the back of the passenger seat.
From New York I headed South, towards New Orleans, via Memphis. People ask “why Memphis?” and I don’t really know. I looked on the map and it was on the way to New Orleans, and the home of Blues and birthplace of Rock n Roll seemed like as good a place as any.
Memphis has a different vibe to NYC (understandably) and while I could have gone for months undetected in New York, this was definitely not the case in Memphis. Before I even opened my mouth it was a dead giveaway that I wasn’t from around those parts, and I’m not sure if the biggest clue was my blonde hair, my fair skin, or my wolf.
The people of Memphis were very friendly, and though I didn’t feel unsafe, I am well educated when it comes to stranger danger (thanks Debs!), it didn’t help that Jim, the furrier (yes, a furrier that makes patchwork fur blankets, as opposed to a farrier that puts shoes on horses) I sat next to on the plane from Charlotte, said that there are 500 homicides in Memphis every year.
I couldn’t help but interpret: “Hey Noo Zeeeland, wanna catch a moovie and grab some dinner? You gotsta try the shrimp”, as: “I assume you’re travelling alone, and you possibly have learning difficulties cos you’re carrying a stuffed dog. Once I’ve had my way with you, I’m going to dismember you in a motel bathroom and then throw you in the Mississippi”. I know, I know, waaaay too many Criminal Minds eps.
The standard response to the movie and dinner invitation was “I’d love to, but I have to get back to my Maori boyfriend, he’s waiting in the hotel. In his grass skirt. With his spear.” African Americans are obsessed with NZ’s native people – the may-or-ees. Do they live in the same houses as whites? Do they go to the same schools? Do they do that dance thing a lot? How do NZers feel about mixed race relationships? What do the tattoos on their face mean? How come some are more black than others?
If you don’t like being called “baby girl” or “little lady” by toothless African American men, don’t go to Memphis. And if you’re a sucker like me, your wallet will be a lot lighter when you leave. Did you know $20 can feed a homeless family for a whole week?? Yeah, I bet he went straight to Denny’s with that donation and not to the Church of Christ Homeless Shelter…
For obvious reasons I was unable to visit New Orleans, and headed instead for Miami. Leaving Memphis I was “randomly” tested for explosives (still the holder of the world record for most random explosive tests) and subjected to one of those full body screenings, lucky I was wearing my good knicks.
Flying US Airways you’re also not allowed to “congregate” in aisles, near exits, or outside restrooms on any flight. If only that was standard practice on Turkish Air, I may have made it to the bathroom in time!
I absolutely love Miami. It’s like the Gold Coast, only less fake tan and less terribly obvious plastic surgery, and interestingly fewer tattoos and cases of steroid abuse. In Miami I wasn’t the chubbiest person for once! There was a lot of junk in a lot of trunks, and some serious thighs around the place. I actually felt like I was dressed incredibly conservatively, with minimal make up, and a smaller than average booty – there really is a first time for everything!
Guys in Miami actually drive cars with hydraulics, flickin’ switches ‘n’ sh*t. Women actually run in hot pants and crop tops. Spanish is so prevalent it could almost be the first language of Florida. There are three shops in two blocks selling petite pooches and Mustangs are like eyebrows – everyone’s got two!
As sad as it sounds, one of the most exciting things to happen in Miami was the arrival of some new contact lenses. Third time lucky and after only 11 weeks of waiting. After managing to conserve my daily lenses for 54 whole days, and numerous nights, there is nothing like the feeling of fresh lenses.
As luck would have it, I found myself rooming with a Canadian whose ancestry was “black, Indian and Scottish”. FYI “black” and “Indian” are not words “whites” are allowed to use (I only made that mistake once)… So Taleesha (actual name) spent a great deal of time white bashing. We can’t dance, we have no style, we don’t understand tradition and we’re all about stealing the black men.
Not surprisingly Taleesha asked several questions about NZ’s native people. In particular, in which ways were Marries treated differently to whites. When I responded “we don’t really differentiate” she threw back a “oh so what you’re sayin’ is that you don’ let them have their culture?? They’ve gotta act like whites?”
Now what is the right answer here?? You don’t get a call from the receptionist: “your 1pm meeting is here, she appears to be part Maori”. When your sister brings her new boyfriend for dinner your dad doesn’t call a secret meeting in the kitchen to air his concerns that the chap’s grandfather was part Maori. What I’m saying is that they live next door, we go to school together, we play sport together, and yeah, sometimes we marry each other. No biggy from where I’m sitting.
Another room mate was a middle aged New Yorker: “Nyew Zeelund huh? That’s near Greenland right?”
“Oh, near Iceland?”
“Nope, still the wrong hemisphere”
“Oh, hang on, the Arctic!”
“NZ is kinda near Antarctica?!?”
“Oh yeah, yeah, that’s what I meant”
One of the other joys of staying in a hostel is doing laundry. You’ve got up to 100 people sharing three washing machines and one dryer. When it was my turn to use the dryer I had to remove someone else’s clothes. I found myself at a crossroads, trying to decide whether to put the washing on the floor, on a shelf, or fold it. As I didn’t have any other pressing matters to attend to, I made the decision to fold the washing…
When I returned an hour later to collect my own freshly dried laundry, I found it spread all over the bench with the knicks on top and a crowd of people gathered around it. I squeezed myself through to collect my personal items and uttered a “gosh, that’s a little awkward, look at my underwear just spread all over the place, and with an audience…”.
“You think that’s awkward?” an English girl asked “some guy came in before looking for the person who folded his washing so he could thank them.”
“Really?” I said
“Yeah” she remarked “what kind of a freak folds someone else’s washing?!?!”
“Oh gosh, some sort of perverted weirdo obviously” I replied, backing away, clutching my delicates.
It was with great sadness that I farewelled Miami, although flying over the Caribbean I quickly dried my tears. Four nights in the Bahamas before Brazil, life’s tough!
I ate: $2 chicken soft shell tacos – Hola!
I perved: At the topless men in Miami, using only my peripheral vision, cos they watch you to make sure you’re watching
I laughed: At the theatre in New York, James Corden is one of the funniest men on the planet