We had the most extraordinary experience last night. One to top all others this trip.
Our friends Sally and Jon had met a lady called Berta the previous evening, and she had extended the invitation to join her at the American Legion in Harlem, for their Thursday jam session. We were going to a jam session in Harlem – it felt cool just saying it! But it was important to sign the book. You gotta sign the book.
We took the subway, then found our way through the streets – rows and rows of familiar looking brownstones – to the one in particular we were looking for. The sign on the door said simply ‘PULL UP YOU PANTS or STAY OUT’. And after a collective hitch of our pants, we went in.
The next couple of hours were just magic. We sat at one of seven or eight small tables, sipped on drinks which came in individual bottles tiny bottles, and took in the talents of the amazing locals who got up to do their thing. Pretty soon they motioned our way, and it was Jon’s turn play. ‘Hey DOWN UNDER!‘ boomed one of the locals, ‘Come on up here and show us how you play!’. Eeeeeek!
And of course, Jon absolutely blitzed it. He did us proud. The three of us were wearing the hugest grins, and I know that at least I had goosebumps. The ringing endorsement was when one dapper gentleman turned to another and said casually ‘that white boy can play’. Yup, that’s my friend Jon up there.
We’re both just loving this city, and it’s various enclaves and people, with their disarmingly familiar accents. Every day feels like a constant stream of nostalgia. The subway announcements are reminiscent of Bladerunner, all cheerful and chipper: ‘Stand clear of the closing doors please!’. And there’s the flamboyant gay guy who entertained us as we ate at a restaurant in the Village; he was, like, sooo, like, FANTASTIC, like, oh my God, like, I can’t believe how loud and gay and American this guy was!! (I said all of that in my New York accent). Love it.
And walking around town and on the subway, I am struck by all of these stylish men and women going about their life. I want to take their picture and tell them how amazing they look! But of course then I’d feel like a total tourist noob. So instead, I took this guy’s picture when he wasn’t looking.
Can you see how he’s got his own style going on here? He owns it.
And I have to relate how chuffed I was when in the Macy’s shoe department, a gent remarked to me (insert deep New York accent) ‘I like your dress. You look good’. Well thank you Mr cool middle-aged black dude, sitting with his wife while she tries on shoes, and giving me props for my fashion sense. You made my morning.
And if you’d like to see my ‘New Yorker certified’ outfit, here I am earlier that day, grinning cheesily on the Brooklyn Bridge (with my jaunty hat, purchased for $5 from a street vendor). Some more NY moments: Here I am in Central Park, where we ate a little picnic on a park bench. Fromage D’Affinois, trout salad, busker playing the saxophone. Oh God. How am I supposed to adjust when I come home in four days’ time? Sigh..
Here is Cam, fumbling blindly for his meal, when we dined at Buddakan the other night (for any SATC fans reading, it’s where Carrie and Big’s pre-wedding dinner was filmed).
I wish I could say it was another amazing NY experience, but as we were ushered through the huge, cavernous space to our table, with the pulsating beat in our ears, I realised it was a mistake. I think we’re just too old and grumpy to want to eat in a nightclub. The food was great, but we couldn’t wait to get back out into the lovely night air. Phew.
And before I go, I did promise many shots of me with rosy cheeks and wine in hand. So here’s one of Sally and I, scoffing a quick wine before our trip to Harlem last night. Cheers!