Ollie: Being a Bluejay has its perks, so I've found out. It had been at least eight years since I was last let loose in New York City and coincidentally, the last time I was there was with Chris, having just finished Buddy. This time, nothing could have whet my appetite for the Big Apple more than a choppy, seven day trans-Atlantic cruise. Phew.
The history of that journey and all that have undertaken it didn't really hit until passing beneath the Verrazano Bridge; with Staten Island to the left and Brooklyn to the right. Skyscrapers still in the distance, the soundtrack from The Godfather ringing inside my head and the sun pounding the water.
Sailing up the Hudson River escorted by two police boats and an armed helicopter should be the only way to approach the city. Waving to the Statue of Liberty and 'trying to get as many iconic financial district buildings into the photo as possible' was the name of the game.
Oh yes, and New York in January is cold. Very cold. Dan and Greg are putting their 'brave faces' on.
After what seemed like an eternity still on the boat, waiting for every passenger's passport to be checked (they take customs pretty seriously in the USA) we almost ran towards Times Square. We must have walked fifteen miles (Dan's estimation). We checked out Strawberry Fields in Central Park, temporarily accompanied by a clearly off-his-head-on-something-not-very-good for you Beatles nut who treated us to a version of Imagine and then wound up at an amazing pizza joint in Hell's Kitchen.
Hungry and thirsty, B-Side Pizza Bar was possibly the greatest find of my lifetime, err, apart from my beautiful girlfriend, of course. Garlic and cauliflower purée with black truffle pizza... don't mind if I do. Hell yes. Some local IPA to wash it down and we were ready for a late evening visit to Guitar Centre, one of the largest and most daunting music shops in the world. Oh yeah...New York, guitars, guitars, New York... I promise not to dwell too much for anyone not interested in guitars but suffice to say; there was guitar shopping. Ask Chris for further details. New York is home to a lot of beautiful vintage instruments and if you're lucky enough (and rich enough) you might just get your hands on one; somewhere like Southside Guitars in Brooklyn where we had some great service or Rivington Guitars in Manhattan, both had a plethora of 50s and 60s Gibsons and Martins.
The all too brief four days we had in NYC were spent museum-wandering around MoMA, the Metropolitan and the Guggenheim as well as ascending the third tallest building in the world: One World Trade Centre. On a crystal day, like the one we were graced with, you can see for miles and miles.
Currently showing at MoMA was the kind of art installation that you can only get away with if you're exhibiting at MoMA; A lady, a mirror, nudity, a piano, a projector screen, you get the
idea... Interesting stuff.
Only surpassed, in my humble opinion, by an exhibit at the Guggenheim whereby members of the public are invited, in private, to use a solid gold toilet for as long as they want. Yeah. Solid Gold. I couldn't help feeling a little sorry for the fella whose job it was to ensure the joint was left clean after each use. Quite an experience however.
Greg checked out A Bronx Tale, keen to experience some 'Broadway Magic' and we all gorged ourselves on amazing dinner at a place called Hearth in the East Village. No doubting Chris won with his choice of dessert opting for homemade apple crumble doughnuts instead of three small squares of dark chocolate.
The other major highlight was heading into Madison Square Garden to catch a Knicks game. The NY Knicks had been on a losing streak and we came so close to watching them break it... but they didn't. They went down in the last few seconds of the game to Atlanta. On the upside, we did manage to get our faces on the enormous screens in the centre of the stadium.
Also, we watched Victor Wooten, legendary bass player extraordinaire, rocking the national
anthem before the game started and then spotted Chris Rock in 'Celebrity Row'. Watching basketball at the MSG is about so much more than just the game... if you ever get the chance, check it out, you won't regret it.
On the day before I left, a day earlier than the other boys, we made the most of being stateside and had some band photos taken with Lena Shkoda; one of Brooklyn's top photographers. She shoots on film as well as digital so we can't wait to see what she's come up with. Dan snuck this shot from the shoot.
I could write more about banana and buttermilk pancakes, snow in Washington Square or record shopping on Bleecker Street. Maybe seeing the armed escort outside Trump Tower two days before his inauguration or the best sushi I've ever known at MOMO in Brooklyn but I won't because there's too many little moments to recall. Suffice to say, aside from missing my girl and my family whilst on tour, I think I'm going to like being a Bluejay. A lot.