New‐York, New‐York. What a city. I guess you can never get bored in here.
Woke up at around 8:30am, really happy that I don’t have to do any driving today. The plan was to take the train from Newark airport to Penn Station and back at night. From the hotel, we took a shuttle to the airport, and there waited for about 45 minutes for a late train to take us to Penn Station.
Once in Penn Station, I sort‐of got the feeling that I am at the center of the world. The amount of traffic going through that station is just unbelievable.
We were starving. Once in Penn Station, I located an Auntie Anne’s stand selling those pretzels I like so much (Miriam… I can explain… it’s not what it looks like). Our plan was to go for lunch immediately, however our destination was a bit far and we were really, really hungry.
My buddy Jonathan, whose father spent a good chunk of his life in Argentina (which explains his demanding taste), has commanded me, before the trip, to pay a visit to an Argentinean restaurant called Buenos Aires. Located in downtown, on 1st Avenue & East 6th Street, it was too far to walk so we took a couple of subway rides to get there.
Coming out of the “L” subway line at 14th (?) and 1st Avenue, we had about 10 minutes walk ahead of us. Not the fanciest location in Manhattan, but still, so many businesses and restaurants, mostly displeasing to the eye.
Then we arrived at Buenos Aires Restaurant. Not a very big restaurant, however right as we stepped in, I got the feeling that this is going to be a good meal.
One of the most obvious differences in the restaurant experience between North America and, say, Europe, has to do with the staff. The waiting staff in most non‐American restaurants I’ve been to are well‐trained, not only with the menu but also with the ability to give you, the paying customer, the feeling that you’re welcome. Being a waiter there is not a low‐paying, low‐class “job” that one takes just because no other alternatives were available (this is the general case; I’m not saying it applies everywhere in North America).
Following Jonathan’s command, we ordered a couple of empanadas and a one pound (!) skirt steak (called Entraña in Argentina).
The tasteful, delicious empanadas were only a sign to what was to come next. They actually had to fold the long skirt steak so it fits in the plate.
As Jonathan repeatedly says, good food is first and foremost about the ingredients. The steak we so happily consumed today didn’t look anything special. No spices; definitely no sauce. Just plain, high‐quality meat—that’s all you really need. And man was it good. Cuts easy, chewed easy, and tastes wonderfully—very easy to consume one pound of beef when it tastes like that.
Happy with the meal, we continued our journey. We stopped by the Apple Store on 14th street, as Jeroen was commissioned to buy an iPad for a friend of his in The Netherlands. Now this is something I can’t really relate to: there appears to be quite the hype surrounding Apple’s products. That’s a well known fact, but I never actually saw it happening until today. People flock those stores just to see what the cool technology is all about. It’s considered cool to carry Apple’s products. How Steve Jobs managed to get Apple to a position where so many people eagerly awaits and accepts anything the company feeds them—that I don’t know, but I have to say the guy’s a genius for doing that.
I should also note that the iPad appears to be quite the toy. Nice to have for those evenings you wanna surf the net while laying on a hammock.
I don’t have that much free time.
Next, we proceeded to B&H Photo Video. Now that’s a story worth telling. I am no photography buff however still I heard so many things about that store that, now that the time came to buy a camera, I had to check it out. One of my friends, a photography buff, once said that whoever hasn’t been to B&H Photo Video before, has never really been to a photography store before.
That place sells anything that comes between a person’s eye and the object being looked at: still cameras, video cameras, telescopes… if your eyes want to look at something, then those guys from B&H Photo Video want to sell you something to come between you and the object you behold.
And they have everything; and when I say everything, I mean everything. The store occupies two levels and an entire block; would be really easy to get lost there if it wasn’t for the signs. It is owned by a family of orthodox Jewish people; almost all of the employees there are Jewish, and almost all of those are orthodox—for a minute, I thought I’m in downtown Bney‐Brak in Israel.
What’s interesting about that place is how you actually go about buying something. Here is the process I went through to buy a camera:
- Consulted a camera specialist. There are many of those in the store, and they know everything. That’s what they’re trained to do, and apparently they’re trained very well. No question unanswered; no “I don’t know”; no “I guess”.
- Once you decide which camera you want, the “consultant” gives you a piece of paper and sends you to another line, there you meet with a person who fulfils your order, offers accessories and gives advice—you may call it a sales tactics to try to make you buy more things, and it may be true but it certainly saved me (the guy there was knowledgeable enough to tell me which type of memory card I shouldn’t buy as it limits the camera’s functionality, etc). After talking to him, you basically have the order ready; he gives you a different piece of paper (and takes the old one away), sending you to a different line.
- That is the payment line. About 10 cashiers, all they do is just get the payment from you, in any shape or form. You pay, and are given a receipt—and sent to another line.
- Your order is already there, packaged and ready to go.
Sounds complex? it isn’t, and the shocking thing here is that it goes so fast that before you know what hits you you’re already outside of the store with a bag in your hand.
Genius. Efficient. I like this kind of things.
We then walked towards Times Square, circumnavigating through millions of people.
My friend Ehud, whom I met in Menlo Park, CA just a few weeks ago, said this about NYC—and I think it pretty much sums up why this place is so great; he said—whatever humanity has produced and thought you should have access to—is there for you within short distance. Very true. NYC, and specifically Manhattan, has everything. I would probably never live there (I prefer smaller, quieter places), but I have to admit that if the modern world has a centre, then NYC must be it.
One thing I don’t understand is why would any Manhattan resident ever want to own a car. Forget the fact that you can get almost everywhere with public transit (and walk to the places public transit doesn’t get to); DRIVING IN MANHATTAN IS AN INSANE EXERCISE IN A WASTE OF TIME. There’s way too many cars there. Look how they’re parked.
Anyway, our next goal was to wrap our teeth over a good New‐York cheese‐cake. Readers of this blog have raved about Junior’s; turns out they have a store in Times Square. We went. We ordered. We demolished it. It was very good. Here’s what they have to offer:
Nancy and her friend Ellyn came to NYC to see the concert, so we met near their hotel on 57th & 7th and went for dinner in some sushi place—of course, I didn’t eat anything (no room left). Then the time came to take the transit north to 175th street, where the United Palace Theatre is located, so we went to the Columbus Circle station and went on subway line “A” all the way north. That’s about 120 blocks in 20 minutes.
Got our tickets—front row, dead centre again. I then noticed Rudy Pensa, the guitar luthier who made more than a few guitars for Mark over the years. He was standing there chatting with a few friends; I went ahead and introduced myself, telling him that I admire his work. I really do love the sound of those Pensa’s.
An anecdote from the last tour is that I was actually well & ready to purchase a Pensa guitar while I was in New‐York: at the day of the concert (in Central Park), I met Rudy at the Meet & Greet, introduced myself, we had a little chat and he asked me to meet him at his store the next morning; he never showed up, and so he’s now approximately $7,500 less rich than he could have been.
I had to do some travel research for tomorrow as there’s a few exciting things happening then, so I split from the gang and went to a nearby Starbucks for some Internet access, passing through some suspicious‐looking dudes. Unpleasant at best but what can you do. This is NYC: and there’s place here for everybody.
Went back to the venue 20 minutes before the show. Upon entering, there was Rudy again talking to one Mr. Paul Crockford. They didn’t really seem to put too much effort into hiding the contents of their discussion (they were almost yelling; but then again, who wouldn’t; it was very crowded), but that’s OK, I won’t tell anyone. Frankly I wasn’t much interested in their discussion as I had other burning things on my mind, however once I heard the name “John Monteleone” I just had to turn around, then I noticed Rudy introducing Mr. Monteleone to Paul.
Huh. Interesting. Jeroen claimed vigorously that the song Monteleone will be played tonight; I didn’t buy it.
The night before, on our way to Newark, we listened to Pieta Brown’s album in the car. It’s a great album, I suggest you get your hands on one of those. Anyway, I got her album today, we had a little chat. Was nice.
Entered the concert hall and the show started within minutes.
I have nothing much to tell about the venue that isn’t going to be written by Richard and Guy anyway, so I’ll keep it short—the sound is great, it’s nice looking but way too much decorative details.
Audience is generally noisier and less polite at the east coast than in the west coast, that’s for sure. Jeroen told me some more horror stories about the audience’s behaviour during Pieta Brown’s show; and during the first 10 minutes or so of Mark’s concert, people were still walking around, finding their seats, arguing with other people who may have taken their seats, obstructing the view and whatnot.
A tall, big guy working for the theatre has been commissioned to watch for the stage; for whatever reason, the venue’s management has decided to have him sit by the stage exactly at the middle, which made his head obstruct quite a bit of the stage’s view for the first few rows. A few songs into the show, an MK crew member came up to him, they had a few words and I never saw that staff worker again.
The show went smooth, with Mark playing as if he never pinched any nerve. Good stuff, great performance of Sailing to Philadelphia with a melting outro solo played with much taste over the high frets—fantastic.
Everything went normal until it was time for the band to play Get Lucky, as they have been doing during most shows so far. I noticed Mark being handed the acoustic guitar, but I guess I should have paid closer attention, because then I would notice that the capo was at the 2nd fret rather than on the 4th.
Mark then started a 3–4 minutes speech about an interesting New‐York story, basically giving the background to John Monteleone’s work. Turned out that the band was saving Monteleone for this particular show, which—completely not coincidentally, I’m sure—seemed to be fitting as John Monteleone himself was sitting at the audience.
What can I tell you, folks… I was ecstatic, and didn’t really do much to hide it. I really like that song, and heard it played live only once before—during the Hurlingham Club gig last September. Tonight’s performance of this song, though, was a completely different story: it was well‐done, perfect all the way to the last note. Amazing, I have no other words to describe it.
A setlist change, at last!
Come on, lets bring some sailors for the next concert and have a go at So Far from the Clyde.
I recall clapping rather violently after that song was played; I absolutely loved it.
Telegraph Road sent the audience (with me in it) to the sky with a mind‐blowing solo that sort‐of made me not want to play guitar ever again, because, really, what’s the point. Considerably violet riffs, that outro solo was a perfect fit for a wild dance party.
Great concert, great experience. What a way to end the day.
After the concert, it was quite a long subway ride down to Penn Station as the subway stopped in each and every stop. Another half an hour in Penn Station for the NJ Transit train to Newark airport, and then another 45 minutes wasted waiting for the hotel’s shuttle to pick us up. Utter failure by the hotel’s staff, but then again, what can you do.
It’s a part of the experience, I guess.
Tomorrow’s going to be an exciting day, meeting a cousin I never met before (and never thought I ever would) plus a visit to the hospice where Nancy is volunteering. And of course, a concert in Upper Darby at the evening.