Project Konigsberg #5 four and a half men

Saturday starts at 0425 with the TV and light still on and the aircon off. I feel wretched but manage to fall back to sleep. The 0630 alarm I set manages to wake me up despite being virtually silent and I still feel wretched. Down a load of caffeine free diet coke and grab a shower during which I manage to figure out how to get warm water out of it, and Jeremy Corbyn is elected leader of the Labour party.

We're meant to be leaving at about 0745 so I peg it downstairs and start blogging in a hurry. Departure time is delayed until 0800 and I just about finish writing and upload it, but no photos and no sharing the URL on facebook or anywhere. Out and round to 14th and Union Square for a yellow tube from a platform being serenaded by some very melancholy busking. The place isn't as chaotic as weekday rush hour but still not exactly calm.

At 42nd and Times Square we change and Mark asks someone if the approaching metro is going to 79th. The guy doesn't know, and recommends Mark asks me instead. It isn't, but the next one is. The train has a careers advert showing a medical assistant brandishing a forced smile while having their arm around a skeleton, and an advert for corporate medical insurance with a positive quote about how much money was saved by the CEO of "Nebraskaland", which sounds like an awful theme park.

Zabars is a New York classic deli and supermarket on Broadway. We wander around the shop in which they claim to sell the best cheese in the world, then go into the deli and order paninis and disappointing bagels. We're joined by the 12 year old son of another ex-Yahoo whose name I don't know, who is excited to join us on all the train rides and has been researching the plan and changes and etc.

A slow walk up Broadway to the M86 bus stop. Andrew is limping and broken. I source some caffeine free diet pepsi, the existence of which I was previously unaware. Our tickets are valid on this bus but we have to swipe them in a machine at the stop first and get a receipt, before boarding the bus by any door and showing the bit of paper to no-one. It cuts across Manhattan through Central Park and we end up on 1st, up which we walk to the second food stop of the day: Glasers Bake House. It's a proper old school bakery and I am bought a Kitchen Sink cookie.

The cookie has both sweet and savoury ingredients. It is GAWJUSS.

The M15 bus is next and there are enough blocks travelled to give me time to add photos to the blog post. Then we get off and walk past a signifcant quantity of dog shit to reach the pedestrian bridge to Randall's Island. I've written that this was crossing 23, but haven't consulted with the boss - it might be illegitimate, because Randall's Island is still part of Manhattan.

The bridge drops off in a park and next to a whole load of sports fields. There's some art work and we briefly walk the wrong way along the river front before back to the bridge. I wonder if we can get transported around by golf buggy, and after consulting maps and things it turns out that's exactly what we're going to do. It's a 6 seater shuttle service around the island with the rear 2 seats facing backwards and I get one of those.

The drive is AWESOME. The views of Manhattan are great and I take a few lucky pictures. We go past a magnificent bridge modelled on the Sydney Harbour Bridge called Hell Gate, and the ride in fact ends at Hell Gate Circle bus stop. We're now well ahead of schedule, like 70 minutes or so, but there's no bus for 40 minutes. No-one really wants to wait apart from me. I tether my iPad to Andrew's phone and try to upload the blog post.

Well hello.

Several attempts to get an Uber to rescue us from a non-Manhattan island fail, as we really should have known it would. But miraculously a yellow cab arrives, and even more miraculously he's happy for us to illegally squeeze all 5 of us in, with Peter on Mark's knee and an instruction to duck heads if we see any police. Over the bridge which I'll call crossing 24 and we're dropped off next to a metro station in Harlem. I'm still uploading photos, clutching the iPad in my hand, and don't want to descend and lose signal until it finishes. 5 minutes later it reached 99% then says no, there's an error, it didn't work. Fuck you Adobe.

The metro jourey down to Grand Central is mostly occupied with the idea that perhaps we have lost 2 crossings, but the kid shows remarkable understanding of the transport network and the rules and offers us ways to incorporate them. Perhaps this chaperoning lark won't be as onerous as I feared.

At Grand Central we take in the excellent surroundings and I grab Apple Store wifi and finally upload a proper blog post. Down to the dining concourse we aim for the oyster bar, in front of which is a large tour group and a sign that says they're shut because they don't open until 1130. It's 1115. So we leave the station by the Jackie Onassis Foyer and enter the swanky Hyatt hotel next door, whose bar is open and serves excellent Guinness and nuts.

A series of tactical pisses later, we leave and jump on the 7 to Courts Square, crossing 25 to Brooklyn. There we change onto the G to Bedford Nostrand and emerge from the wrong exit of a block-length station. A short walk later and we arrive at Pilars Cuban Eatery, our lunch venue. Murray is already there having woken up on a floor in Queens an hour ago. He looks worse for wear than the rest of us combined.

This tube ride is full of bleak. Adverts for delicious death.

Outside is not much better.

Andrew's Giants cap is as stained, discoloured and broken as our souls.

I pause for a moment's reflection. But no, I got nothing.

The Cuban food is fantastic. I have the yuca sofrito hash with scrambled eggs and chorizo and stuff and wash down with a Mothers Milk stout. Peter recites the rest of the day's route from memory and is proving more useful by the hour. Murray and Andrew both perk up from drinking what I'm told is a fantastic Spanish cider and in fact everyone is feeling pretty good right now. Murray's even considering rejoining the tour proper, but then downgrades that to meeting us at our next scheduled break, then downgrades further to meeting us for booze in the evening.

It really wasn't a big boozy meal, but somehow we spend more on liquids than solids.
EL NOM.

Now comes some really hard work. I had no idea what lay ahead and might not have agreed to it had I realised except who am I kidding, really? 3 stops on the G to Fulton. Walk to DeKalb. 2 stops on the Q to Union Square via the Manhattan bridge, crossing 26 and some great views of the Brooklyn bridge. Union square platform for the 4 is insanely busy, and we get the second train up to 125th where we change onto the 6 up to Parkchester in the Bronx, via crossing 27. There are no express trains on weekends so this is 12 stops rather than 3.

Mark's research for Parkchester was to read the name and assume the syllable "Park" meant we'd be in an Epping Forest equivalent district. Instead the metro is under a bridge in the middle of a roundabout called Hugh Grant Circle, surrounded by liquor stores, a Chickenfest, some other eateries and a Duane Read pharmacy. The bus stop is crowded and gets more so; no bus arrives for a fair while and when it eventually does it's way too crowded to board. The second and third one arrive soon after and we get the last of them.

The Q44 takes a long trip through the Bronx and Queens - including possibly the first part of NYC that looks vaguely nice - to Flushing, where traffic is crazy and 90% of the people are of Chinese or Korean descent. A few blocks from the bus stop is the 7 metro which we take to 111st, with views of Flushing Meadows and the Mets stadium. It's a 15 block walk to where we want to be but a bus rescues us half way and, finally, after all this schlepping for about 3 bloody hours, we reach the Lemon Ice King of Corona. Sure we've done two crossings since lunch, but we really honestly have gone through this 9 leg journey (including the walks) to reach a place to buy some flavoured ice.

They are very bloody nice flavoured ices, admittedly, and cold enough that my eyeball sockets are in agony with each bite. There's an argument about buses which is soon resolved and the Q23 takes us to 103rd in a largely Colombian district. We ascend the steps up to the metro station and I'm wondering just how many bloody sets of stairs we've taken in all these days. If it hadn't been for all the booze and the air quality, with the amount of ground and stairs travelled on foot this might even have been a healthy holiday, physically. Mentally is another matter.

Anyway, back to public transport. We take the 7 to Woodside and 61st and re-plan our route for the last 5 crossings. At Woodside we switch to the LIRR for which tickets are required and obtained. The platform tells us the 1728 is running 5 minutes late and the 1733 is on time, both at the same platform. This seems unlikely. Lots of flights leave LaGuardia while we wait. The train is just one stop to Penn, via crossing 28.

Penn is busy as usual. Here we are changing to the Port Authorty bus terminal, which I thought we'd already seen on Friday but that was in fact the George Washington bus terminal. I'm not hugely au fait wth US history but he seems like someone who should have something a bit more ... good ... named after him.

This bus terminal is a largely deserted huge building with hints of desolate airport terminal. There's posters pimping the benefits of the frequent rider club to Atlantic City, and loud classical music being pumped out everywhere and it feels a bit Clockwork Orange. I'm expecting Droogies to appear at any moment.

There's a bus in 4 minutes so we bypass the ticket machines and go to the gate, where a woman tells us we need tickets as the drivers don't accept cash. The bus shows up while Andrew disappears and we resign ourselves to missing the 1800. But the bus doesn't move to the boarding area, and they change drivers, and just generally faff about long enough for Andrew to return and hey presto, we sit at the back of our NJ transit bus through the Lincoln Tunnel - crossing 29 - into New Jersey and towards Hoboken. We've now crossed to or from NJ underground, overground, and by water.

My right elbow takes an absolute pasting because the ride is bumpy as hell. We enter Hoboken, birthplace of Frank Sinatra and baseball, apparently. I chat away with Helen, and Andrew tells me about the educational establishment named Stevens Hoboken Institute of Technology. Sadly they have now removed Hoboken from their name. Hoboken itself actually looks really nice, probably the first and only part of the entire journey where I think, I could potentially live here and not completely hate it.

We get off the bus way too early and walk a couple of blocks to the PATH station. This means no-one else gets to see the railway station's majestic ticket hall and my win from yesterday remains unique to me. What's also unique to me is that my metrocard ticket doesn't bloody work to get into the station, but no-one else notices I'm missing until they're all down on the platform. I try plenty of times since I'm holding no-one else up, but eventually think, fine, it's clearly broken, and go buy a new card with $10 credit. This one lets me in and I skedaddle to the platform and onto the train.

The PATH route map is different on weekends to weekdays, somehow, so instead of head direct to WTC we have to change at Grove. And unlike everywhere in New York, the trains are boiling but the platforms pleasantly airconditioned. Grove to WTC is crossing 30 and we are now done with New Jersey.

WTC station is remarkably new and white and clean and totally out of character with every other station of any kind of transport we've used all trip. Up onto the surface and we take a slow and somber and sobering walk through the 9/11 memorial park, with a stop at both North and South pools. The experience is in fact so sobering that I develop a desire to counteract it with some drunking. We're not finished, but the end is in sight.

An UberXL is ordered and we pile into a large car that takes us over the Brooklyn Bridge for crossing 31. We ask the driver to turn the music down so Andrew can regale us with the theme from Taxi from his phone, which is accompanied on percussion by a superbly timed triangle ding from Facebook notifications. Murray is alive and online and demanding instruction on where and when we are all going to be drinking. I think "Percussion by Facebook" sounds like an awful fragrance.

In Brooklyn for the last time we get the G inland from Hoyt/Schermerhorn to Court Square, where we change onto the E and... holy shit, this is crossing 32, the final one, back to Manhattan. We've done it. Sure, we haven't actually done every single possible crossing but we have managed 32 (or 30) river crossings on and off Manhattan without deviation, hesitaton, or repetition. Blimey.

Peter lives on the E so we say goodbye to him. His company has been nothing like as traumatic as I expected and he probably has a decent future ahead of him of frankly ridiculous public transport related holidays. But the immediate future of the adults is to go to PJ Clarke's on 3rd and get negronis and oysters and beers. Numerous fried goods are ordered and Murray arrives, on a mission to work through Carrie from Sex & The City's favourite 11 cocktails. But before he even gets to order a third we are apparently on the fucking move because someone thought it was a good fucking idea to go and get a fucking metro for fucks sake. On the train I try to read the cyrillic and realise how much I've forgotten since May.

VICTORY.

It's raining and we're going to Greenwich Village. I don't really understand why but then we get to a pizza place called John's opposite a decent beer pub called Blind Tiger and fine, whatever. The pizza is very nice though too thin crust for my liking; I'm more a Chicago man. Arithmetic is done because it's time to settle up. Some of us owe the group a fair bit of cash so ATMs are sought in the rain. By the time everything is sorted the heavens have properly opened and it is tipping it down. I cross the road to the pub because I'm not scared of a bit of water, and the doorman taps me on the shoulder to tell me that none of my friends have followed me. So I go and stand in the rain because for fucks sake it's just a bit of rain, and one by one the rest of them run across and into the pub.

It's fucking heaving. Andrew bids us farewell via an unintended hug, Andrei orders beers. There are 28 on draught, the Sam Adams stout is really nice. We squeeze into a narrow part of the bar by the wall and talk loudly about victory and baseball. Mark and Murray are both pretty broken while Andrei and I are still going a million miles an hour. Murray heads off first, Mark second, and we find two seats at the bar so fuck it, let's have one more drink here. I get a New York-brewed witte bear which is crazily lemony and a decent spot hitter. There's a lot of talk about flights and stuff and Andrei's visit to the UK in November and then it's even time for us to leave, now it's gone midnight.

Another Uber is called. I am, more by luck than judgement, dropped off exactly where I want to be, at the door of Walgreens for more caffeine free diet coke action. And fuck it, let's celebrate and get a white chocolate Hershey bar too. I'm on holiday, can't I live a little?

Back in the hostel and the monster grump on reception has a smile and a wave when I pass through. Maybe he's glad I'm checking out tomorrow. I know I am.

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