Invaded – my old NYC apartment

invader45Photo from Gothamist

In preparation for my next New York visit I was checking out the locations of some of Invader’s last invasion, an invasion I’d again missed by a few weeks last October. Tabernac! Really must try and co-ordinate that better in the future.

Turns out that my favourite street artist has put a piece on my old building at Kingsland and Nassau in Greenpoint. Exciting! It sits nicely above a Sweet Toof piece I’d seen last time I was there. As if I don’t miss that apartment enough with its epic views of Manhattan. Can’t wait to get back there and see that as well as some of the 40 or so other pieces.

Now I can only hope that Monsieur l’Invader decides to hit up Walthamstow so my current home can be just as well adorned. There’s been a few pieces of street art and murals turning up nearby in the last few months so can but hope.

The New York Glow

Red Glow

Another marathon session of going through photos clearing the backlog. Always fun to look at photos you took over three years ago to work out which are ‘good’. When I filter photos I’ve just taken I always find it really hard to abstract my emotions from the event as opposed to what’s there in the photo. As Terry Gilliam says, if it’s not on the screen it’s not on the screen. Given the number of photos still to go through I should be pretty good at it sometime soon – or at least I’ll be more brutal about it.

The New York Drawings of Matteo Pericoli

Thanks to the Guardian I’ve just learnt all about Matteo Pericoli, an Italian who moved to New York in 1996 and started doing beautiful line drawings as a hobby while he worked as an architect. This hobby evolved into something more serious, and now Pericoli has a series of books showing skylines around the world. His New York views from famous people’s windows are my favourite though, showing a range of vistas from traditional NYC landmarks, through water tower strewn rooftop landscapes to just the windows of the opposite building. Pericoli has even won acclaim for creating the cover art The Beastie Boys ‘To The 5 Boroughs‘ album. Lovely, evocative stuff.

Film: Two Days in Paris (3/5)

Last night we watched the interesting indie flick Two Days in Paris starring/written and produced by Julie Delpy, and co-starring Adam Goldberg. Delpy and Goldberg play a couple who met in New York, but are visiting Delpy’s parents in Paris for a two day stopover at the end of a European trip. Delpy plays an artistic, slightly dippy photographer, and Goldberg a hyper-neurotic, hairy Jewish Interior Designer.

Paris, as always in such films, is the real star here. Beautiful angles of lesser seen arondissments and a wonderful glimpse into real Parisian life and apartments as we follow their whistle stop catch-up with the town Delpy grew up in. Delpy gives us all a look at how life can be if you’re young, artistic and Parisian, all of which plays nicely off the counterfoil of Goldberg’s closed, paranoid and generally rude boyfriend. That said their dynamic is enjoyable to watch, if slightly forced and leaving a feeling you’re watching a movie that Woody Allen might have done were he this young now. No bad thing in itself. That and the fact that most of the characters talk little English and Goldberg makes no real attempt to learn himself gives much of the film its meat, that and the wonderful characters of Delpy’s parents.

Well worth a watch if you like indie European flicks with a Woody-Allenesque feel.

Back in sunny London

Back in London again after my super fun week and a bit back in New York. Thanks to everyone for making time to hang out – it was great to see you all – and those of you who I didn’t get to see, fingers crossed for next time! Plus a big ‘up’ to Sandra for letting my couch surf for the week. You rock!

Now I just need to adjust to getting up in the morning for work at the time I was just about finishing carousing for the night… Ug. Thankfully it’s a bright and sunny morning, so the walk in should shake the last bit of sleep from my eyes. Then it’s the longer term trauma of re-adjusting back to London life after a week of the New York simplicity and intensity, with the usual question – “why don’t things in London just work as well as they do in New York?”. Or cost as little. I mean.. $25 for a week metro card in New York.. that’s about £18 for unlimited travel all over the five boroughs 24 (yes, count them) hours a day. It’s always a sobering thought. Not that London isn’t a great city, it’s just one you have to work at enjoying more than you do in NYC.

OK.. enough blog related procrastination. It’s back to work with me.

Brit Drinking

I was amused this morning to come across an article in the Daily Mail discussing how our British excess drinking habits appear to people from the US. The amusement was doubled by seeing a quote from my friend and ex-drinking partner in New York, Robert Kelsey – yes, he of book writing fame. The article can be summed up pretty succinctly in that we, as Brits, not only like our booze but actually need it to function as the witty, urbane folk that the rest of the world see us as. Alcohol in all its forms acts as a necessary launching pad to having a good time, impressing the opposite sex and finding a life partner – dictated perhaps by whether they have the same capacity for alcohol as ourselves, or maybe just enough propriety to not mention our drunken indisgressions once we sober up.

The whole world of British drunkenness has now been re-presented to me on my return from the US. As a Brit abroad it used to amaze me that our American friends would generally limit themselves to two beers a night, with rare exceptions. Now I have US friends who can, and do, imbibe to relative excess and handle it very well indeed, so I know that stereotype doesn’t hold true for everyone. The different does seem to be how drunk New Yorkers act when compared to drunk Londoners, and driving across town at 10pm last night after a great game of five-a-side football was yet another eye opener. The pavements of Old Street were overflowing with people barely able to stand upright, and seemingly intent on committing suicide with every passing car. Groups of skinny, rat faced boys, dressed in sharp shirts with slicked down mousey brown hair, seemed intent on catching our eyes as we drove past in obvious need of causing a fight with any excuse. “What you lookin at? I’ll fuckin’ have ya!”.

Drunken Brits at our best achieve Oscar Wilde levels of eloquence and witty banter, at least in our own minds and those of our drunken friends. At our worse, we’re lying on pavements in our own vomit, clothes in various states of disarray, blood on our faces from the last fight and looking forward, when we regain some small portion of our alcohol ravaged brains, to a chance to recount our heroic exploits to our friends, most likely over a pint. As an ex-ex-pat all of this is at times something to be embraced, and at other times a great source of embarrassment. Why can’t we just have a few, quiet drinks without feeling the need after the second to carry on? Why can’t we learn to get drunk while retaining some level of class? Perhaps this is the great leveller of class, with everyone from royalty down being a complete drunken idiot at some time. The only difference is that one drinks Krug by the carriage-load, the others drink cheap, strong Stella by the shitload. Social excess drinking is surely the glue of our entire empire.

Remembering: Seven Years On

It’s now been seven years since 9/11. Seven years of more unnecessary wars and death around the world. Seven years of George W Bush and the ridiculous, damaging policies of him and his cronies (thankfully not for much longer though). Seven years of loss for families whose loved ones never returned home from work that day.

To everyone who died that day – we remember. For everyone else – here’s to a better world.

Twin Towers Tighrope Movie

A new documentary, Man on Wire, has just been released that describes how tightrope walker Phillipe Petit carried out his audacious high wire act between the twin towers of the World Trade Center back in 1974. You can see another interview with Petit and director James Marsh over at the BBC, where there are also a few clips of the movie. It looks stunning, and for me certainly very emotional to see down from the views that we used to have looking out of the 96th floor.

Letting the Days Go By

I’m in a total Talking Heads fest right now. It’s funny really, as I was never a big fan of their hits back when they came out, now after some water under the bridge I’ve realised quite how outstanding they were and how much they’ve influenced modern bands. That and lead singer David Byrne was one of my more regular celeb spots back in New York, striding purposefully around the East Village with his spiky gray hair.

Short, but Sweet NYC Weekend

We’re now safe and sound back in Montreal after a (literally) whistle stop visit down to New York this weekend. Good fun but I have to say I’m looking forward to a night’s sleep of over four hours tonight!

The trip started at 7.15am on Saturday when we left Montreal. At 8.20am we entered the US and 2pm hit New York. Bit of shopping, drinks with Paula, then out to Williamsburg for our traditional dinner at the ever wonderful Sweetwater. Then down to Jess and Gerald’s to visit them and the hella-cute Auden. M crashed out at 2.30am while I went down to Union Pool to catch Gerald DJ in the back room. Splendid. Then 4.30am we were back upstairs to pass out.

9am Sunday I was up and awake, so went on a wander round the ‘burg taking some photos to test my new polarizing filter and compact flash card on a beautiful, bright sunny morning. Latte and a muffin in hand I woke M up, and we chatted with Jess, Gerald and Auden for a bit before heading off for a quick wander/shop down Bedford Avenue. With a pile of my favourite t-shirts from Artists and Fleas in hand, we ended up having Mexican brunch at Bonita – before driving the car back to the old apartment to pick up my last stuff (thanks Lisa!).

At this stage we were a bit off schedule, as I’d totally under-estimated the time needed to get 10 storage boxes full of books down four flights of creaky old stairs with my creaky old knees. Luckily my knees held out (unlike one of the boxes) and M performed miracles getting all the boxes into our car. Phew. So now it was onto the BQE where we ran straight into major traffic on the way down to Brooklyn Bridge on the way to see Stephen, Yi-Hsian and Kate down at the south end of the island (learning point: getting onto Brooklyn Bridge from the BQE is a pain, just take Williamsburg Bridge). Thankfully a parking space turned up just as we were about to give up and pay the $25 parking fee – for an hour… ug. So we headed upstairs and hung out chez Godfrey for a bit. Wish we’d had longer as Kate was being very cute indeed, unfortunately it was getting onto 7pm and we still had six hours of driving ahead of us. Arg.

Having said our goodbyes, we headed back onto the Henry Hudson Parkway off north. The sun was setting as we crossed into Jersey which was very pretty indeed, but worrying as I was already tired and we knew that sunday evening traffic on dark roads, plus over the mountains, would be quite draining. Thankfully we made it to the Canadian border by 1am, a bit late as we’d seen a lot of deer eating by the road so I was driving slower than I normally would just in case the deer felt suicidal. Unfortunately the border guard was not convinced of my travel plans, plus we’d overspent our dollar limit on shopping having not being in the US for over 48 hours (just). So we got to spend a stressful 45 minutes explaining my travel plans before they decided to let me in after paying some import duty. Phew. Borders are so stressful, especially when you’re sleep deprived and tired!

Finally we got back to Montreal about 2.15am, then we unloaded the car and I trogged the boxes up another two flights of stairs into the apartment. Yay, home! 3.30am I finally hit the pillow. Unfortunately at 8.30am my alarm went off as I had to move the car, so I bought us some coffees from up the road and drove M into work before taking the car back to the rental place. So now it’s 11.30, and any minute now I’m going to pass out and have a full eight hours of kip. Splendid.