Drinking to Liberty

Breakfast tea at Amrita on a cloudy but dry morning. There’s a young bohemian mum sat opposite feeding her two little impossibly sweet pony-tailed girls sat in plastic seats atop the table. It’s that kind of place.

The subway to aptly named South Ferry at the southern tip of Manhattan takes 30 minutes including a change at Columbus Circle and usefully brings you out at the Staten Island ferry terminal.

Ferry terminal - but where to?
Ferry terminal – but where to?

This free service provides a vital link to locals seeing as there is no bridge linking the two islands. The service runs every 30 minutes and with the rush hour over most of the passengers are tourists who like me line the outer decks straining for photos of the Statue Of Liberty.

The green lady
The green lady
Tim's all at sea
Tim\’s all at sea

The island itself has little to detain me today. Apparently there are miles of walking paths you can take around the island but that’s not on my agenda and after a brief encounter with the local pizza (which is different here but oh so scoffable) I’m back on the return leg which is a tortuous affair thanks to the sodding clown who has a captive audience for his loud unfunny balloon routine. I really hate clowns. A catastrophic ferry mishap today is something to be hoped for and I imagine the saturation news coverage “Cursed Staten Island ferry in another accident. One clown fatality”. Or maybe there’s a sequel here to Snakes On A Plane called “Clowns On A Boat”. Yes, I think that’s a go’er.

Next to the skyscaper museum which it turns out is closed today. Will try and return another day. The number 20 bus to Tribeca isn’t a long journey but it is informative as the driver fills me in on all the construction work going on at the World Trade Centre site. I’m his only passenger so he generously assumes the role of tour guide.

World Trade Centre site
World Trade Centre site

I’m a little underwhelmed by Tribeca (Triangle Below Canal Street). There’s a lot of transitional building work going on and the streets are very quiet. The area is typified by huge great warehouse buildings converted into stores and apartments. I’m guessing it’s an area you have to catch at the right time. Only last week it would have been different with the Tribeca film festival in full flow but today it feels like the morning after the party.

Typical Tribeca street
Typical Tribeca street
TriBeCa life
TriBeCa life

A short bus hop north up Hudson Ave brings me to leafy Greenwich Village.

Greenwich Village
Greenwich Village

This is another affluent residential area with some great independent retailers and retro/vintage stores. I’m lured into a coffee shop for one of their famous honey cakes. Pizza, cake; here we go again. I wonder whether I can prebook a defibrillator for my arrival at Heathrow on Monday.

Mmmm - Honey Cake
Mmmm – Honey Cake

The clothes shops draw me in and in one of them a farcical set piece ensues with me, a Jamaican customer and two shop attendants whereby we tried on a rack full of soccer zip-tops that never quite fitted and turned out to be ladies sizes. It was absurd, very funny and left me with one of those “what just happened?” feelings as I left the shop empty handed.

As I close in on Washington Arch it becomes apparent that it is graduation day at adjacent New York University.

Graduate graduating
Graduate graduating

A block along and the street is thronging with purple clad grads making a big day of the big day.

Grad alley
Grad alley

There’s a party atmosphere and it should be a fun filled evening. That can only mean beer – something I have largely been deprived of this week – so I seat myself in a basement dive bar on Douglas Street for a pint of lovely Belgian style Blue Moon ale served with a slice of orange. In no time I’m in conversation with a young journalist who is living in Brooklyn but hails from Wisconsin. Dave is a seriously interesting and engaging guy and it’s great to chew the fat with him on anything and everything as the drinks continue to arrive over the rest of the evening. In a freak incident it turns out that we are sitting next to a guy Dave knows from Wisconsin and hasn’t seen since school. Imagine bumping into somebody you used to be mates with in a place 1000 miles from home and you get the sense of the improbability we are talking about.

It’s gone midnight when Dave has to leave (work tomorrow). I have lost count of the pints and seem to have missed out on an evening meal. There are some universal truths and the post-drinking kebab is one of them. It’s raining now as predicted and with the subway service wound down to the basics at this hour I’m not back to base until 1:30am and I can’t help feeling there’s a hangover in the offing. Regrets? There will be none.

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