Thursday, 27 September 2018

Anniversary Snapshots: 24th September 1993

I should’ve posted this a couple of days ago really, but never mind, it’s still a 25th anniversary, give or take a few days!  The anniversary of the very first time I flew.

I had the chance to travel through my work on a complimentary trip.  Free flight, free hotel and free entertainment laid on - I know, pretty good.  Destination New York!  Just for the weekend.  Never been on a ‘plane before and my first flight was to be 3500 miles across the Atlantic – talk about nervous / thrilled / overwhelmed, all at once. 

I recorded the experience in real time through a few scribbled notes.   It’s strange when you look back on things like that and try to recapture the memories, not just of where, but also of who, you were at the time.   I loved the feeling of flying,  I remember that.  So enthralled by the beauty and stillness of the world from above that I recall thinking, “if we crash and I die, I don’t care, it’s worth it.”   Must say, I don’t feel the same way now, but it probably wasn’t a bad way to get through my first flight.

So that bit was good before we'd even landed.  Then, the excitement of my first glimpse of America.

I made notes as we came into land:

There are just loads of huge lakes and woodland.   Now more built-up – also lots of boats and light aircraft. Getting ready to land, can see the cars on the roads. 

We’re in the US and I can’t take it in!

A ride in a fancy stretch limo took us out of JFK and into Manhattan.

Some of it looks like London… until you look upwards!  Impressive NY skyline.  Little old houses in amongst blocks, I scrawled in my small spiral-bound notepad.

I was with a group of strangers, all in similar roles, travelling for their work.  It’s one of those situations where you’re with people, but you feel quite alone really too.  We were taken to a jazz club the first night to eat, the ‘Red Blazer Too’.

Jazz, sautéed mushrooms was all I had to say about that.

Later, I added briefly and clearly suffering from jetlag:

Yellow cab back to hotel.
No – look at TV and video in cabinet.

Nirvana news item on WNYW! “Morality in the media”.  Knocking the lyrics.  Kmart not selling. “Rape Me”.  News item: Wildman of 96th Street...  a long-term resident, mental inst., murderer!!

Then dozed off, but not before noticing and being bewildered by there being a phone in the loo.

Next morning, some sight-seeing.

Really interesting.  Harlem. Famous places – Madonna’s house, etc. . Central Park beautiful. Upper East Side – rich.  Upper West Side, saw 96th Street…

(No 'Wildman', at least I don't think so.)

I took photos.



Central Park

We did a bit of walking about and I quickly jotted down other things of note, as an aide memoire:

So many yellow cabs. Jewellery/watches, bartering. People seem nice – not aggressive. Good atmosphere in Chinatown. Turtles for sale.  “Have a pleasant Sunday” 

(I’m not sure who said that and when, it was Saturday.)

I remember it was weird, though, seeing a policeman with a gun.

That night we had a late dinner at somewhere called China Grill

…Left there gone midnight.  Back to hotel for change of clothes.  Off to ‘China Club’, back 3.50am! Bit of a dive but pics of famous people who’ve been there on walls. Keith Richard, Rod Stewart, etc. and guitars on walls.  Mostly club/soul music. V American in feel. No hassle, no bad atmos, just people enjoying themselves. 2 Buds then cab back and off to bed.

I clearly didn't realise at the time, though, quite how cool that club was according to this feature

Beyond Hip and Unhip, There's the China Club

Back when the China Club started, Reagan was president and Adam Ant was a major musical figure. After fifteen years as one of the hottest rock clubs in history, it's as strong as ever. (Where do you think the Yankees party?) The secret? No attitude.

I suppose I was just not with the people I'd have chosen to go there with!

The following morning, I walked to Tower Records, just round the corner.  Felt I couldn’t go to New York and not buy something in a record shop and I seem to remember that in the UK in 1993, Tower Records seemed a bit of a novelty. 

Breeders and Buffalo Tom, good prices, I wrote (and bought 'Last Splash' and 'Big Red Letter Day'.)  Weird mag called Nose – brutal pics!  But I wasn’t that impressed with the store, overall:

Not much, weird selection, ‘Rock + Soul’ together!

After that it was a boat trip. I found some photos earlier that I’d taken from the deck, shots of the Twin Towers, and it feels a little strange to look at them now.  I didn’t get as far as climbing up the Statue of Liberty, but I bought a mug in Macy’s, with a pictorial map of New York on it (I do like a good map) and some Hershey’s bars in a little deli in a side street where I suddenly felt as if I’d walked into a film set, all those plumes of steam rising from the manhole covers....  it all felt quite surreal.  Actually, the whole place felt like a film set.  What a a brilliant city to visit, though, on my first ever flight.

I wonder if the place has changed all that much in 25 years?  Perhaps in some ways yes, but not in others  - much like us.


  1. Great post, C. I have also had that film set feeling on visits to NY.

    The Red Blazer Too closed on June 1, 1997, and the venue is currently occupied by Swing 46, another jazz & supper club.

    1. Thanks for that! I didn't look at the Swing 46 menu but wonder if they still do sautéed mushrooms....

      The thing that got me about being there too was, and I know it's going to sound silly, but the obviousness of everyone having an American accent. We get so used to it on TV but not as the norm, so when nearly everyone but you speaks that way it makes it seems a bit surreal. I travelled a lot further after this trip and got more used to all the differences around the world but will never forget this as my first time out of Europe and that odd sense of disbelief at being there!

  2. Wow C - What a great post and what a great destination for your very flight. You mentioned this trip when I wrote my American Odyssey post about NY but now we have the detail and the very notes you made at the time. Great that you've kept them.

    I'm trying to remember when the US started being called the US. It was always just "America" when I was young and then perhaps "the USA" but now always abbreviated to the US.

    Great memories and pictures - Yes NYC has changed a lot in 25 years but as you quite rightly say, just like us, it also hasn't changed much at all.

    1. Ah, glad you enjoyed this Alyson. A plastic crate under the bed houses all my travel ephemera, but I hadn't looked at it in ages and had completely forgotten what I'd written.

      I can't think when 'US' became the norm but I used the term back then in my notes. Prior to that, though, yes like you, as a child it was nearly always just 'America'.

  3. What a fabulous experience and congratulations on still having your old notes and other ephemera to hand (I lose everything). Never been to America but you capture my imagined excitement.

    1. Thanks RR and lovely to hear from you. I just have my one plastic crate of travel memorabilia but I can't throw it away. It's a great memory prompt - I'd forgotten so much in 25 years!
      V glad I made it across the pond albeit only briefly and only to one city, but imagine having time and chance to explore the whole country!

  4. New York New York so good they named it twice, and I've only been one, too... your trip took in some really cool sounding places, but it's always a weird double edged sword travelling for work, alone and yet connected to strangers. That sense that you are somehow in a movie is so strong.... and I agree that it's very odd that they have American accents! Hee heee.... you imagine they go back to speaking like we do once we are out of earshot. It was 1979 and as a girl who'd barely ever been outside of Wales, let alone the UK, I found it all so overwhelming, thrilling, and was star stuck by the city itself.... the noise, the bustle, the way everyone looked so stylish or insane and their booming voices. No-one seemed feel the need to apologise for who they were, no-one seemed to need MY MOTHER's approval to do anything - imagine that - I couldn't!!! Not before New York! I remember falling asleep eventually leaning against the window of the hotel looking at the sky scrapers and the 24 hour possibilities because I didn't want to miss a second.

    1. What a lovely read, Yve. 1979! I can only imagine how incredibly mind-blowing it must have been for you at that age and with never having had such an experience before, wow.

  5. What a great post. I'm impressed that you kept your notes. I used to keep notebooks like that, back when I was going to be a writer. Weird to re-read them now. Might be similarly weird to re-read our blogs in 20 years.

    Only flown twice in my life, both times to Kefalonia. Never been to New York though if I could go anywhere, it would be there, just for one visit. So much of my cultural life has been based there over the years.

    1. Rol - you are a writer.

      And C, forgot to mention this track, which seems very appropriate:

    2. Rol - thanks, glad you enjoyed. Notebooks are lovely. They're more than just notes, it's the bits you read between the lines sometimes- the crossings out, the doodles, etc. E.g, my barely legible scrawl on the sample I included here tells you my state of mind at that particular moment I think! Agreed about re-reading our blogs down the line too. Hope you get to go to NY one of these days, you owe it to yourself!

      And as Martin says - you ARE a writer!

      You both are - and thanks for the link, Martin.

  6. Ah, C, so much for this Yank to comment on, but I'll stick to that fabulous photo from Central Park. That beautiful building in the background is one of my favorites in the city. It's the San Remo, just a couple of buildings down from the Dakota. So many celebrities have lived there, from Diane Keaton to Bono (penthouse, of course!). Madonna tried to live there when she was getting her first taste of money, but the board rejected her! Tough to imagine now. What a great piece on so many levels. Your notes are amazing.

    1. Hi Brian, really lovely to read your thoughts on this as an American! Love the little snippet about Madonna. Yes, what a beautiful building. It was a gorgeous sunny morning for that stop in Central Park as you can see from the sky and I just couldn't believe I was actually there. Wish I could have had longer to explore more.


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