Project Konigsberg #4 9/11

So this hostel is definitely one of the cheapest ways to stay in Manhattan, but I must confess there are things to be desired. When waking at 3.30am and needing a piss, what I don't want to have to do is get dressed and then be very aware and gentle with doors so as to not disturb the people in other rooms, and essentially be woken up by the effort required. I also don't really enjoy being drenched in sweat and having to turn the very loud aircon unit on.

Well, at least it gave me the chance to write the rest of the last post. Still awake at 0545 I figured, fuck it turn the alarm off and go have a shower. Today I could not get the hot water to be hot, which at least made for a somewhat invigorating wash.

Down in the lobby I posted to the private little group of us travelling and learnt the boss was on the mezzanine level doing his bit of fannying about with technology. I had all kinds of grief posting an entry to this blog and almost gave up but for the short grace period I was granted by Murray's work interruping his Friday morning.

Round the corner to 14th and Union and we got the metro to South Ferry, for the Staten Island Ferry. The train was suspiciously empty and there were lots of security/law enforcement personnel on display down in lower manhattan. Also the announcements were deafening.

breakfast

There was enough time to get food so we walked past the homeless folk and the closed film academy cafe untl reaching the 'All American Diner' truck where various combinations of meat and egg were purchased. I order an egg and bacon roll; she shouts it to the chef, he appears and points vigorously at me and shouts "you - cheese". It doesn't sound like a queston and I meekly comply. The folk running the place were awesomely stereotypical. If I could stand the smell I'd maybe even buy some cawfee just to hear it pronounced that way.

Back to the ferry terminal and the Americans are waiting for us with donuts. The outside is a popular rest place for lower Manhattan's homeless, it seems, yet inside is spotless and airy and bright and with reputable food outlets. Some scrolly messages in a huge font say something first about obesity, then about a McD's special offer. A ferry arrives and kicks off thousands of people, and then we board.

Hardly anyone is going to Staten Island in the morning rush hour. The weather is better than yesterday in so far as it's not raining, but it's still pretty warm and the clouds are doing a good job of looking menacing, a scene not spoilt by the passage of an orange ferry. I eat a load of potato leftovers from Murray's mystery breakfast and 20 minutes later we're in the only prior-to-now untouched borough. Crossing #1 of the day and #13 of the trip complete.

There's a slight hurry to get onto the Staten Island Rail Road, which is unjustified because we don't leave for like 10 minutes or so. Just 3 stops to Grasmere where we have a 1 minute connecton for a bus. Which we don't make. So we hang around in nondescript surroundings next to a bus stop which is not in use before opting for the one which is in use a couple of minutes before the S53 picks us up. We are 15 minutes behind schedule on the day already.

The bus takes us into Brooklyn, over water but not an official crossing per the trip rules. The bridge is double decker road, which I like. We decant at ... I forget. 86th Street? And are regaled with reasons to believe in Jesus prior to boarding the R for our longest single leg of the whole trip, and two crossings in one go: 39 stops to Jackson Heights.

There's an in-depth discussion between our route maestros about whether we've actually managed to fuck up and repeat a secton of track (we haven't) and why the Manhattan bridge doesn't seem to be in the plan any more. I stay out of it and play pinball. As we cross to Queens the current journey is stopped short, because we can get off at Queens Plaza and walk to the nearest F station.

The walk is entirely next to or beneath vast imposing raised metal metro tracks and roads and the scale is amazing. Mark is getting excited by the riveting. At 21st and Queensbridge we descend into what could almost, but not quite, be described as a fairly nice station. It's good that it's almost, but not quite, fairly nice, because we have to wait forever for the F. This train constitutes crossing 16 via Roosevelt Island, whose cab-free clutches do not grasp us this time.

The plan is changed again; we go beyond 34th and get off at 23rd for a quick and painless change to the PATH, which takes us all the way to Hoboken via crossing 17. We's in New Jersey again and have made up a bit of time. There's in fact a 40 minute wait until our next service, and 40 minutes is roughly beer-shaped so we all dive into the Texas, Arizona pub opposite on the stroke of midday.

Once again, Guinness is served in imperial pints while everyone else gets short-changed. As the smaller drinks approach emptiness Andrew and Mark seek out an off licence, for it is legal to drink on NJ Transit and we want to exploit that fact. They return from a different directon to their departure and we skedaddle down to track 12 of the main Hoboken station. I am apparently the only one interested in the fantastic ticket hall.

On the train we occupy a bunch of seats and start talking and are really politely told it's the quiet carriage so we might want to move. A couple of carriages up and the beer is cracked open. I am handed some horrific hoppy thing that's 8% and bleurgh, but swap that for Mark's "Arrogant Bastard Ale" which is a mere 7.2%. This is the weakest of the ales purchased, and the bottles are huge. What have we done? And this is for a 27 minute journey.

Well, it should be 27 minutes, but we don't move anywhere and then 10 minutes late are told to piss off back to track 1. I'm pretty sure it's illegal to open-carry alcohol off the train but we have no choice. On the new train we head off fairly sharpish, our destination Teterboro for the Bendix diner.

Oh, Teterboro. There's no platform, you are just unceremoniously dumped on a small piece of concrete with a ticket machine and car park, next to a busy motorway flyover and ... the wrong side of the tracks. Literally. On the other side is a padlocked fence all the way along. the diner is, of course, over there.

There's no way across. Literally. The nearby road is lacking in much sidewalk and the motorway certainly is. There's no other public transport or cabs, of course. We're in the middle of fucking nowhere. There's a huge Walmart and Costco ahead so figure the latter will have a diner in it. As we approach we note it isn't quite a Costco yet, but rather a huge building site. So we skirt around the edge of Walmart, past its drive-thru pharmacy, and enter.

It's like that episode of South Park when Walmart comes to town. The place's scale is ridiculous and hilarious. There's a branch of Subway and I'm tempted to ask for a Subtember 11th sandwich, as advertsed by The Onion. Murray finds giant slabs of meat at a counter who will cut them for us, and some sliced breads. Andrew mans the meat while Murray goes searching for knives; Mark is despatched for butter; I search for soft drinks. Andrei says fuck this noise, I'm going to Subway.

I walk for what seems like hours and find nothing but industrial quantities of warm soft drinks. There are some vaguely sensible servings of what claims to be juice but this doesn't satisfy anyone's desire for fizz or caffeine except Mark, who angrily grabs some Minute Maid. Vegetables appear from somewhere and then while a tag team procession to the loos occur, the self-service till is attacked and we appear to have 3 carrier bags of picnic food.

Back round the other side of Walmart and our step count is pretty high. There is a bench at the station and it's used as a picnic table. Some people get upset by the colour of the bread. I make a 3 meat sandwich with mustard and leave everyone else to their devices while I wander on the railroad track and take some photos. And then have an ice cream. Everyone is a mix of disappointed or angry apart from me, I am fuckng delighted by the absurdity and chaos and fail. Schadenforeman.

A train appears in the distance, and then parks up at the passing point. A person appears, from nowhere. For our entire time there, there has been a private aircraft taking off from the TEB airport every 90 seconds or so and I am flabbergasted at the idea of so many rich people being in the airport at once. It's stupid. Apparently there are 420 flights a day and none are commercial. Eeesh.

The northbound train comes and goes and the southbound comes. We board, clutching bags of leftover meat and ice cream, and head a couple of stops up to Anderson St. Here is an actual excuse for a town with a variety of small shops and Asian cuisine and the least subtle corner boy action you could imagine. The sun has been blazing for a while and we perch at a bus stop. Hackensack is not impressing any of us and we're not sure how to pay for the bus.

The 175 eventually turns up and someone throws a load of cash at the driver. We're split up and down the bus, taking it to the terminus back on Manhattan via the George Washington Bridge, crossing #18. It's a long ride through boring New Jersey, the single sight worth seeing being a detached Better Call Saul-esque bungalow.

The NYNJ Port Authority Bus Terminal seems to not really be in use and we are dumped on the street under a bridge. Up on the side road we wait for a B13 or B11. Someone drives straight through a huge pothole and manages to splash about 8 people at once, then two 13s come and decide not to actually stop. This is the start of their route. Tempers of everyone in sight - not our group - are flaring, and a siren starts to blare. This is proper angry uptown New York and Andrew's accent is changing to reflect this.

Eventually a 13 willing to take passengers comes along and we crawl through Washington Heights and over crossing 19 into the Bronx. We jump off at the first stop and buy water while Mark attempts to get some juice for his vape. This doesn't seem like an area where that might be feasible. Someone sings at us while we walk through some mean-ish street to the High Bridge park, and wander back across crossing 20, which is excellently pedestrianised and beautiful.

On the other side we ascend 97 steep steps to the base of a water tower and the Manhattan side of the same park, and on the main street at its entrance we app it up for an UberXL to take us to Metro North, some kind of weird non-MTA metro thing. Traffic if horrific so we bail on the cab 3 blocks early and walk past a shitload of homeless crackheads and other poor bastards who are not a great advert for that situation. The station is pretty neat but in what I probably unreasonably consider to be a pretty sketchy place.

The tickets seem ludicrously expensive - $8.75 each to go one stop - and me and Mark both query, numerous times, whether our existing passes are valid because there's a little sign saying Metrocard. But they are not and we have no choice but to fork out the dollar for a 4 minute peak journey. Fucking hell.

That one stop is crossing 21, and deposits us at Yankee Stadium. We have tickets for tonight's game against the Toronto Blue Jays, huzzah. But we're a couple of hours early and this means visiting Stan's sports bar. It's already quite crowded but we do secure a table for 5 and the real drnking commences.

It's shit beer but we don't really care. The cans are 750ml and too big to put your hand round properly. They come thick and fast and a Yankees fan friend of Andrew's arrives. I think I've got the basic rules sorted so grill the Americans for tips on edge cases and the words to the star spangled banner. But by game time I am 7 drinks in and feel like I know fuck all and care less.

There's a big queue for securty and some of my belongings are scanned twice. We get another beer then attempt to transport it inside, and are told no, get back out and scull it. Even though we're airside, only drinks purchased in a section can be drunk in a section. Apparently the game has already started and Toronto are 2-0 up already. Damn it.

Up some ramps to the bleachers, we find the place and then i go for a piss, during which Toronto hit a giant double home run and they are 5-0 up in the first inning. This is horrific.

In the bleachers, we settle down but this is a section where no-one comes round bringing beer for purchase, and it's impossible to buy rounds at the stalls up top because it's a strict limit of 1 beer per transaction and per person. What's more, they ID everyone so it's a fucking good job I've got my passport with me. It's also extravagantly expensive and tastes shitty, as do the viciously messy nachos with beef and jalapenos and what apparently is "cheese".

Back on the seats and Mark is spitting feathers. He repeatedly insists on attempting to inject the English football atmosphere and experience into the NYC baseball experience, which he hates. There is also a lot ofconfusion about the rules and what we can see, or not see. It's making some sense to me. Mark gets told off for swearing, and every time he screams "come on lads!" the natives wince.

The buckets of popcorn are big enough to sell for £400k on the property market in London, and have 2400 calories of popcorn in. Fucking hell. Toronto Blue Jays fans walk around in "I heart BJs" shirts. Our floor stops selling beer early so I go upstairs to buy a 312 but they're out of that so I spunk $15 on a huge plastic beaker of Beck's. Fucks sake.

The Yankees are getting completely destroyed 9-2 when I leave, but when I eventually return the score turns to 9-5 as a massive home run with 2 men on the bases happens just as I sit down. There's an advert for the "official buffalo wing" of the Yankees and at the 7th innings a woman blasts out God Bless America. Then there's Take Me Out To The Ball Game and then oh god we're all so shitfaced and this game is dead.

Murray wants to go meet Anil. So does Mark. Andrei wants to go home. Andrew and Scott are staying. So 4 of us disappear out but there is unfeasible anger at Anil being drinking in Queens, at a venue impossible to reach without breaking our transit rules. Murray heads off anyway and leaves his bag with me, despite Mark apparently thinking I'm not to be trusted with it.

Crossing #22 happens on the D and some breakdancers put on a show in the vestibule. Murray disappears. Our train goes too far in Manhattan so we change on the 6 back to Union Square and Mark goes off in search of vaping hardware. I successfully source some caffeine free diet coke and back in the room put the TV on. There is only one channel and it's 90% adverts. I fall asleep with it on. Goodnight, 9/11.

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