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Monday, March 7

I probably awoke at a more respectable hour on this day. In fact, I know I did. I was due a trip into the big smoke that is the big apple of New York City in New York state. Yeah.

So, the day started at Dunkin' Donuts. Let's get our priorities straight. Sure, my host had work to do, and I had explorin' to do, but we needed our boilers stoked with some coffee, some breakfast style food and the sugar high that comes from a donut or two. After breakfast, my host received a phone call and I sauntered off to the garage to buy some chewing gum. I may have bought a newspaper as well - this was for my imminent rail journey. The most effective way to get to New York City, from our location in New Jersey, was to take the train. I was dropped off in New Brunswick, near the location of the comedy club, and I set about taking the train. It's really not difficult. There's a line and you get on it... preferably in the direction that's headed into New York.

I arrived in New York and got off at the correct station, having been forewarned that there is a station that comes up earlier than I needed to get off that is, in fact, a bogus stop and not the one I should get off at. Geddit? Me neither, but I didn't get off at the wrong location, which was nice.

I arrived in New York city, with my mobile phone in my pocket, and got a text message. It was from someone in Newcastle wanting the telephone number of someone in Carlisle. I didn't realise that text even worked over there. It looked like it might be an urgent request, so I satisfied it and asked the person who made it to help me publicise The Musical! - I was hoping she'd send round a round-robin email. This didn't happen. Such is life.

I then set about wandering around New York City with no particular agenda. This is potentially dangerous territory. I've remarked before that I am at my worst and most impulsive when I have no agenda. I might find myself, on impulse, joining a cult and flying to Indonesia - assuming I can fit it in between commitments. Anyway, I made it my mission to buy a small streetmap. It was interesting to note that the price of the map bears no relation to its size. I paid quite a few bucks for this so-called map. Still, it gave me some concept of where the hell I was, which was nice.

The problem with wandering round New York is that I've done it before. I didn't really fancy wandering around any museums, nor did I want to go to the job of the Empire State building at that stage. I would have quite enjoyed going to the top of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center again, but sadly they were demolished in a tragedy back in September 2001, so they were closed. Even wandering down to ground zero didn't seem worth doing, since I had done that on my last trip.

I didn't really want to do any shopping in New York, since there was nothing in particular that I wanted to own. I was interested in Broadway - more specifically which shows are playing there. I was also due to see a show that evening on the aforementioned street. I was to be met by my hosts and we were going to see Spamalot which is the Monty Python musical, written by Eric Idle. I was really looking forward to that. In the absence of a plan, I headed to Times Square and had a wander around the theatre district of New York. Then, I headed up town to Central Park and had a long walk around that. That's always worth doing. If nothing else, I needed to walk off the diet of fat and sugar in which I'd been indulging myself since my trip to Southampton the previous week.

On the way to Central Park, I stopped at a cart on the street and bought a Pretzel. This came with a dusting of small white pellets which I took to be salt. They were salt. Boy, it would have been funnier if they'd turned out to be small diamonds, or portions of crack-cocaine... but no... I'd paid a dollar for a pretzel, salt was about all the vendor was going to be able to afford to cover my dough-based snack with. However, the salt was in some sort of roughly-ground natural state. It was really strong. After a few bites, my mouth had shrunk to half of its normal size. I was seriously in need of liquid. All I could taste was salt. I took to brushing the rest of the salt chunks (for they weren't a dusting or pellets, they were CHUNKS) off the pretzel and trying to eat it without. The salt had left its mark and this bread-like snack turned out to be one of the saltiest things I've ever tasted, and I've been in the Dead Sea... and perhaps a little of that seawater got into my mouth... so that would have been really salty. However, my primary memory of saltiness is this New York pretzel. Anyway, it's not important. I ate it. Then I had a drink. Then everything was better.

During my wandering through Central Park, I received a phone call. The call was from a comedy club in Liverpool, which I was due to play an open spot at on Thursday night. They asked if I was still coming. I confirmed the start time and that I was coming. I felt quite laid back about it, despite the fact that I take open-spot gigs like this quite seriously these days. It's quite important that, if I'm going to put the effort into gigging for free, I get somewhere with them. However, it was hard to be too eager over the phone. I felt really cool. I felt like saying - "Yeah... I'll be there on Thursday, I'm just going to finish this stroll through Central Park, yes, that's Central Park in New York, America... oh, yeah... it's the jetsetting life for me... yes... I'm a shit comedian, but luckily I've got a real job, so I can afford to have fun... yes... I'm sorry... I'll just come and do my crappy little songs for you. Thank you. Bye." Sad, isn't it, when your fantasies don't have happy endings! Anyway, I was just pleasant and professional as I took the call and then I put the phone away and enjoyed the late-wintry air of Central Park some more.

After leaving Central Park, I toyed with the idea of going into Tiffany & Co. - a bit like Audrey Hepburn often didn't in the movie where she had breakfast outside the very shop I stopped at. I looked in the window. They had mirror balls. I'm a big fan of mirror balls. I have two! Indeed, I can make people laugh with my proper big mirror ball and motor - provided it's in context. Actually, I didn't feel any good reason for entering Tiffany & Co. I felt a bit scruffy. I thought their mirror balls actually looked tacky and there was nothing I would have bought inside the shop, even if I'd seen something which I thought was within my means to buy. So I walked past.

The day was flying by and my isolation from society at large, as I wandered the streets, was doing me some good. I probably benefitted from the exercise too. I took lunch at a Subway, interested to see how it compared with the one in Newcastle I've been using a lot recently. It was virtually identical - even down to the table of lads next to me, who were from Newcastle. I decided not to talk to them.

I wandered over to EasyInternet, Stelios's straightforward internet cafe, and went online for a bit. I chatted to my U.K. ladyfriend over the net, following it up with a phone call for a few minutes. I may have been a few thousand miles away, but I had the technology to communicate, so why not!?

After this I went shopping. I was looking for any musicals stuff that I might like to bring home with me. I chose nothing. Some of the street sellers were selling nice little pictures, but they looked like they'd inkjet-printed them off the internet, so I decided not to bother. I went into a music shop and browsed sheet music and found it to be consistently expensive. I remembered that I have no NEED for many of these things and I'm only inclined to buy when I feel like I'm getting the privilege of a good bargainous price. So, I walked away having experienced the existence of these goods without having experienced the effort of paying for them.

Soon it was time to meet with my friends. We met in a fast food restaurant - I think it was McDonald's (could have been Burger King). I noticed that the restaurant had a Broadway theme and even showed a marquee (that's American for banner-in-front-of-theatre) for Titanic The Musical. This ill-fated ship had spawned a musical whose CD had suffered a similar body-cracking fate when it was sent by an ebayer to me a few weeks previously. Luckily, I had new copies of this musical waiting for me in my bedroom back in New Jersey, having ordered them from the U.S. Amazon. I also had copies of Avenue Q, a musical I'd heard a little about and thought might be entertaining. Anyway, this was not an evening for either of those two other shows, which I would not be listening to for some weeks to come. This evening was about Spamalot.

On my travels, I'd already located the theatre. It's in the same street as The Producers and Phantom of the Opera, and it was opposite Fiddler on the Roof. Such is the way that the dense theatre district operates. As a show, it was certainly in good company. I'd located some nearby eateries and we headed over to see if we could get some pre-show food. The eateries I'd located were soon passed over for another, nearby, and delightful Italian place. We ate heartily and were ready for the show.

On the way to the show, we spotted John Lithgow in the throng of people enterting the theatre. We were certainly in good company. This show was popular. As I'd picked up my pre-ordered tickets, I'd watched the box office staff disappointing various callers who were hoping to see the show and were offering increasingly ludicrous suggestions as a way in - "Oh... I don't need a seat. I'll just stand... at the back... in the gallery... I'll face away from the stage too if you wish... I'll sell ice-cream while I'm at it... no?". A popular show it was indeed.

We watched the show. I had mixed feelings about it. I intend to write a review. If I do, you'll read my feelings on the subject. I did enjoy a lot of it and was impressed by how many of the scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail had managed to make it to the stage in some form or other. I also laughed extensively at one gag. The cast were talented and it was good to share the same air as heroes like Tim Curry, Hank Azaria and David Hyde Pierce (him from Frasier). My feelings were still mixed.

A drive home, following the show (my hosts having driven to New York) and we were soon tucked up in bed. I only had one full day left in the U.S.

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