Eight Miles High!


Friday April 12, 2013

At 7.30m Manhattan is alive. I have already had my first coffee and feel fully recovered from a journey that took 30 hours door to door, 18 1/2 hours in the air, a mere 12 hours 25 minutes from Sydney to Los Angeles (that is practically racing). I am at Starbucks across the road from my deluxe single room at the Y. I am half expecting to meet someone I know here. A few years ago I bumped into Dustin Hoffman and greeted him with a memorable, ‘Hey!’ He walked on.

It is cold and wet in a Melbourne wintery sort of way. So glad I bought along my sweater and waterproof jacket. (Yes, I did momentarily think of leaving them at home).

This is a fantastic location – next to Central Park, a step from Broadway just near Columbus Circle, opposite the Lincoln Center and its cinemas.

My room is Spartan, though the Spartans would probably think it was luxurious. A bed, desk and lamp, bookcase, hanger with 3 coathangers, a TV that almost works and an air conditioner. (I bet the Spartans never had all that). I quite like it. I asked the chap at reception what the ‘deluxe’ meant in the room description and he told me it meant that I did not have to share the bathroom with anyone else. Great. The Y is satisfactory and cheap.

In fact, ‘cheap’ seems to be the operative word for this part of my trip, tacked on at the last minute when I managed to get tickets to Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival which is on over the next two nights.

Delayed by an hour and a half in Melbourne, I reached the West Coast only 40 minutes over time after the roughest flight across the Pacific I have ever had. The fellow next to me said that it was because the pilot was flying high to catch the tailwind. A rash of Flying High jokes came to mind. ‘Buddy didn’t catch it!’ I don’t think he would have understood.

United is what could be described as a utilitarian airline. It could be the airline of some Communist dictatorship of the Cold War erea. The entertainment system is one step above handing everyone an Etcha-Sketch. There are no fancy back of seat individual screens. I don’t mind; I do my best sleeping on long distance flights. The service is variable but usually alright. The food is not good, even by airline standards. However, the fares are cheap. Though the fact that I left my set of Shure earphones, which have served me well for ten years, in the back of the seat made it slightly more expensive. I slept most of the way on the flight from LA to New York and the five hours seemed to pass in a flash.

I did not automatically have Economy Plus seats this trip because I had let my Mileage Plus miles drop below the requisite number. I didn’t feel like paying the extra $160. Still, my seat up the back from Sydney was okay. I would definitely recommend an upgrade if you can afford it.

It took an hour and a half to clear immigration, collect my luggage and get through customs. I got a grilling from the immigration officer who wanted to know my entire life story then wanted a brief comparison between United and Qantas (should I have asked for a travel consultant’s fee?). A hint to fellow travellers: do not use irony or sarcasm. For example, when the immigration officer wants to know why you are travelling by yourself resist the temptation to say, ‘Because I have no friends’ even if it is true.

I should have said that I was attending a number of businesses conferences because the fact that I was here to go to three music festivals seemed to make no sense to the officer, who I might add seemed to be an immigrant herself. ‘Why are you doing this?’ she quizzed. My answers seemed to puzzle her. Apparently, my itinerary was highly suspicious and a potential threat. Hello to my friends in North Korea!

Mastering the subway system – but accidentally paying twice for one leg and getting diverted to Rockefeller Center – I eventually made it to the YMCA at 11.00pm, an hour from JFK. Not bad, though I imagine it could be daunting for newcomers. (I just found out the Super Shuttle is only $20, and less if you book online, and that is inviting for the return trip on Tuesday).

After checking in I went in search of food and a nearby pub looked inviting. I decided to open my gastronomic journey to the USA with a burger. It was overpriced and arrived in almost airline food portion size with no sides (my budget did not allow for extras, so I passed on paying $6.95 for fries!). The Heineken beer was better. I need to scope out the neighbourhood to find some better eateries, which I believe are nearby.

Today, I am hoping to meet up with Bill Flanagan, former editor of the late, great Musician Magazine and now one of the heads of MTV. I am also waiting to hear about several interviews. Then this evening it is down to the Crossroads (festival). I am also going to try and make it to the Museum of Modern Art or The Met.

Chris Hatzis, Triple R’s new Program Director, also told me about B&H audio which sounds like the gadget store of my dreams. I was hoping to record a show with Chris because I thought he might be still living here when I arrived. It is Triple R’s good luck that he is not.

It is 8.00am…time to hit the streets.

Brian Wise

Brian Wise was the Editor of Addicted To Noise‘s Australian site from 1997 – 2002. The site won two ONYA Awards as Best Online Music Magazine in 1999 & 2000. He has also been Editor since its reincarnation in 2013. He also presents the weekly music interview program Off The Record on 102.7 Triple R-FM (rrr.org.au) in Melbourne. It is networked to 45+ stations across Australia on the Community Radio Network and is a four-time winner of the Best Music Program Award from the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia. In 2012, it was nominated as a finalist in the Excellence in Music Programming category. Brian was also the Founding Editor & Publisher of Rhythms Magazine and is now its Senior Contributing Editor.

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