So, of all the things that can happen to you while visiting New York, one of the big ones is to see a hip hop crew perform in your subway car. This happened yesterday and I admit to being completely remiss in not reporting it yesterday, but you know, life in the Big Apple… The J train pulled out of Essex St and simultaneously and at the same time, five young guys in through the door between carriages with caps at jaunty angles and trousers slung low. “Good afternoon, ladies n’ gentlemen and welcome to our show.” They cleared out the open section between the doors and those standing there obliged, then started up their music while three of them sat in single file on the floor down between the seats. The music was loud and one of them began swingin’ an’ flippin’ off the poles and armrests, while the others urged him on. They each took their turn on the pole and on the floor and juggling their 5 panels from head to foot and back again. There were spins; there was walkin’ on air. There was a lot of shit to cram into the few minutes over the Williamsburg Bridge, but they did their stuff, rapped their story and ended with, “…well d’as our show”. Plenty of money was proffered into their hats as we pulled up at our station and they were gone.
Cool as this seemingly was, us poor Brisbane folks needed to take our cues from the local folk – remember the golden rule of not engaging anyone on the subway. After staring straight ahead and straining to activate peripheral vision till headaches had begun, it seemed our fellow travellers were all smiles and gawking. Phones were clicking and filming. The crew performing wore wide smiles and were extremely polite, so we relaxed and smiled and stopped the sore throat routine and came close to the point of yelling out, “Yeah – d’as wot I’m talkin’ ’bout!”, but not quite. Still, we felt very New Yorky.
We set sail this morning to more markets, this time the New Amsterdam Market at the South St Seaport in lower Manhattan, down the businessy end. J train to Chambers St and a brisk walk across the on ramps to the Brooklyn Bridge, passing by actual squirrels in a park and ducking down to the river to the Seaport. Breakfast was the first order of this day and I had read about and, for some unknown reason, was the only one of our foraging party keen to seek out Squire’s Diner. It’s a Diner, people! It had booths and a menu and wide as something really wide. Strangely, it appeared before us in the bottom of an apartment complex and I managed to convince the diner-dissing duo to give it a go. We got a booth, as you do and ordered kwafee with milk, as you also do. The menu had a ‘From the Griddle’ section, from which number big son and I chose the pancakes with butter and maple, but to the apparent amazement of our waiter, no bacon. Pip went the eggs benedict – served with hash and non-Canadian bacon, as you don’t often do. I was very satisfied with the solid thunk of the syrup jar being delivered to the table and the mugs of pour-over coffee were fresh, flavourful and entirely bearable for the full Diner experience. That’s ‘Diner’ done. Tick.
The South St Seaport and more particularly the New Amsterdam Market was the former home of the New York Fish Market till it moved out to Jersey somewhere. The New Amsterdam Market had fish, but it also had a boatload mighty slick artisanal food stalls ranging from savoury yoghurt to heirloom apples; from bespoke printers to mushroom hunters who had possibly gathered a bunch of orange fungus.
A great little find! We saw a tuna butchery demo, but missed the spear fishing demo (possibly luckily) and tasted handmade sauces, syrups and savouries. We also purchased, on the advice of an older than me guy wearing a Breaking Bad sweatshirt, some fillets (pronounced in New York as ‘fillays’) of a fish unknown to us, called Porgy. Three fillays for 6 bucks, not bad, eh? We then walked the fish back to Vesey St, where had to collect passes to the 9/11 Memorial, before walking 6 blocks down Church to the monument. Another crew of wise-cracking, hip-hoppers (this time in fetching, matching orange camo outfits) delivered a comedy show to about a hundred Sunday trippers. I was impressed that they managed to work the money collection into the show to prevent everyone just walking at the end. It was all jolly japery on the way to monument.
There were long queues due to the airport-style security checks and screenings and a convoluted pathway way to corral visitors through to what is really a large park. There are two spectacular fountains that cover the footprint of each tower and the names of those who died are cut into the brass around the top of the fountains. There was no sensation of mourning or sadness, but there was a lot of “can’t imagine what it must have been like on that day”. I didn’t know what to think really. There was poignancy in the names around the rim listed under their Fire unit or flight number and the black fountains really evoke a sense of awe, but as all the new building goes on around it and the freeway rushes by below it, there wasn’t any sense of emotion for me – I guess it’s really there for the huge percentage of New Yorkers who lost friends, family and colleagues.
We then took the fish to visit St Paul’s Chapel on the way home and saw George Washington’s pew. The fish really liked that. We then caved on the confusing issue of why the J train that bought us to Chambers St could not be caught there and retreated to a cab home. A cabbie who somehow managed, hand on horn, to get up 50mph through the tiny streets of Soho and then to roar over the bridge to our place. Pip got a one litre can on Asahi and a bottle of wine and we headed up to the roof to enjoy the sunset, before activating Number Big Son in his tour role as travelling fish chef to see what he could do with the Porgy. In all honesty I feel I can now say, “I loves you Porgy”.