letter from america

I’m back. Here follows the boring “what I did while I was away” bit.

Flying is one of the most tedious activities known to man, and yet my flight to Washington is more than a little eventful. First of all a female passenger trips up in the aisle somewhere over Newfoundland and manages to smash her head on the armrest of the seat behind me, then rises to her feet screaming and showering blood over the other passengers. As if this weren’t enough, when we’ve landed and are queuing up to pass through immigration, a gentleman in front of me collapses with what could well be deep vein thrombosis. Even as the stricken passenger is sliding in and out of consciousness, his wife shrieking and medics on their way, an immigration officer is still persistantly attempting to ascertain the reason for his visit. Welcome the USA.

I quickly drop my bags at the Topaz, the city’s ‘most enlightened boutique hotel,’ where my room has two TVs, two hi-fi systems, and a yoga annex. Yes, a yoga annex. Sadly I don’t have time to explore my sprituality as it’s time to head straight off to the MCI Centre for The Wizards against The Bulls. It’s a pretty straightforward victory for the home side, and Michael Jordon has one of his quieter nights, hitting just seventeen points and being outscored by four other players on court. He doesn’t drive to the basket very often, content to set up chances for the other players, but a couple of times he hits one of those unstoppable, tongue-out, fadeaway jump-shots, the flashbulbs explode all oer the arena, and you get a small taste of just why he’s one of the greatest figures in all of sport.

The next morning I check out before breakfast and walk downtown to the Vietnam Memorial, where I throw up. Yes, for the last 24 hours or so I’ve been suffering from some kind of bug or virus, spending much of the time in a state of near-delirium, and this culminates in a most unpatriotic display of projectile vomiting at the base of the wall. Thankfully, there’s no-one else around, and I am free to sheepishly wander the mile or so to Union Station to catch a train to New York.

Of course there’s no cure for illness better than a night of alcohol abuse, so my host Veronica and I meet up with Wendy Mitchell, author of an indispensable guide to the city’s seediest dive bars, and her friend Carrie, who looks like Britney Spears and proves to be very popular with the drunken Irishman at the first bar we visit. Much serious drinking follows, and we end the evening at a bar where hotly tipped combo The Rapture are DJing. There’s almost no-one in attendance, leading me to wonder whether this current New York revival is really only happening in London (although I will recommend that you keep an eye out for the quite tremendous Ambulance Ltd – remember kids, you read it here first).

Yesterday was a day spent doing all the things one is supposed to do in The Big Apple. I buy books and CDs, I check out a film and, most importantly, I head downtown to the Century 21 department store, a port of call each time I’ve been here. It’s right across the street from Ground Zero, yet the building was pretty much undamaged by the 9/11 attacks – I guess even Al Qaeda realise that you don’t mess with a man’s right to buy cheap underpants.


  1. Aaaaah. An entry without bollocks. Wb.

  2. City of God is really quite enjoyable. Did you like it?

  3. Yes, very much, although I was a little annoyed by all the “Brazilian Goodfellas” comparisons that were being made. It’s a lazy comparison, just because a film has a narrator and portrays violence in a reasonably stylish manner. It was beautifully filmed, though. Benny’s leaving party disco was a brilliant set-piece.

  4. Agreed – very lazy comparison. I like the way it all comes back to the chicken at the end. The way you have totally forgotten about it appearing at the start – because the middle content of the film is so good and just sucks you in. It is very clever – I doubt I’ll see a better film this year.

  5. you travel a lot.
    you sleep in boutique hotels, where you watch two tv-channels at a time.
    you meet the beautiful people.

    that job of yours brings a fortune, eh?

  6. Well done on getting Despot or Sexpot featured in this weeks Kerrang magazine, nice one!

  7. Charlotte – I wish my job paid a lot, but it really doesn’t. Staying in a boutique hotel at winter rates is much cheaper than the advertised rates. Flying to Antwerp and back last week cost less than a train trip to see my mother, who lives 60 miles away from me. Travel from a major hub like the UK is extremely cheap, quite often it’s cheaper to go somewhere else and spend time – local prices are always much cheaper. I can travel to Milan and stay for a weekend with a friend for the same price as a night out at the pub in London… the most expensive consideration is accomodation, but I stayed with friends in NY, Antwerp and for most of my time in Chile.

  8. fraser, you’re a lucky one, living in london and having a lot of friends around the world.
    I wish I were in your shoes. would be nice to know someone in london, new york, tokio…

  9. Fraser, glad to see you made it to “City of God,” it’s my fave film of 2003 so far. Although I still highly recommend “Adaptation” as well! And are you trying to imply that *i* don’t look like Britney Spears? Okay, I don’t, but at least I know where to find cheap drinks. So any friends of Fraser’s are invited for a bar tour next time you are NYC.

  10. You wrote a book about drinking. Carrie looked like Britney Spears. Both are extremely impressive facts, I think.

  11. can we buy friends like yours, i wonder…

  12. Were there penguins? Just checking, like.

  13. cheerioh, scary
    long time no see. where are your penguin buddys?

  14. Charlotte: There will be penguin-ness soon.


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