It’s at the beginning of this particular blog post that I must make a sad admission: I’ve royally fucked up the chronology of this trip. Not sure where. Way back in Los Angeles, for all I know. Point is, I assure you that if you’ve enjoyed the story so far it really doesn’t matter because I can promise you this will make everything all right: this third New York night was also that of my 28th birthday. And my birthday has always been and will always be on November 29. Not December 6. At least I got the Thursday right. I just realised the error because this night was also the first I ever went out on a pub crawl. A pub or club or bar crawl, for those of you who may not know, is where you get together with a group of fellow drinkers and have a beer or scotch or wine or tequila slammer or two or three at as many pubs as you can until you wake up in bed late the next day, wondering what the fuck happened. So let’s get back to it, shall we? While still enjoying the hostel’s music and $1 beers (because I was tipping, even though they were technically free) I met four very interesting, not to mention eclectically born and disposed, people: Carlo the 37-year-old Chilean-born Swiss dude; Heinrich the 25-year-old smartly almost to the point of camp dressed Austrian; and Jayapel, who I mentioned in relation to the lift in the previous blog post. And Emma. Oh, my dear, Emma. She took my breath away, and I’m unapologetic about the cliché. 27, and of Brighton, England, was Emma. But more about her I will indulge in later. I joined these four fellow intrepid travellers and a handful of others on the abovementioned pub crawl. I remember hitting only two bars somewhere on the Upper West Side’s south, because of restrictions shackling me courtesy of the devilish disease still leaving my system. There were drunken conversations about all sorts of things. There was a rotating pub crawl group game of beer pong versus an imposing American duo that remained standing despite the occasional game they did lose, and the countless drinks they had to consume as intermittent losers. (Please Google beer pong if you’re not aware of it.) And the one drink bought me for my birthday came from Carlo – the only person I actually confided in that that night was inexorably my firm placement within the realms of my late-20s. The last thing I remembered clearly was blowing away deer in a Buck Hunter video game with a small crowd of cheering people around me. Then I stumbled from the bar somewhere between 60 and 70th streets, sometime around 1am, concerned I was ready to pass out in some human excrement-saturated alleyway if I didn’t find the subway home. Which I couldn’t. Drunk, a little ill, and alone on possibly the least (based on age) and most (based on location) and least again (based on distance from loved ones) and most once more (based on excellent temporary company I’d found earlier in the night) significant birthday of my life, I searched in vain the Upper West Side’s wet, gleaming, deserted streets for the subway station. This endeavour failed so, almost on the verge of tears, I finally found and hailed a cab which returned me to the hostel and whose driver I tipped generously and gratefully.
After sleeping until 1.30pm the next day, I ambled downstairs for a late lunch that had completely bypassed breakfast. At this point, my notes tell me I had eaten just about nothing shortly before or during the previous night’s pub crawl; which explains the fact I was emotionally drunk by 1am. I didn’t miss much. In the common room that morning Carlo showed me a photo of him, Heinrich, Jayapel and some drunken others, which was taken just before the Austrian paid for a couple of rounds of tequila slammers; that sent all involved into a drunken frenzy resulting in a ostensively near-death hangover they were all struggling to recover from during this present afternoon, while scattered in various states of agony among the common room’s lounges. According to my notes and treasured memories, Emma was also in the lounge area, “looking hungover but good enough to eat in an Irish stew”. Here, I should further explain my feelings on this young Englishwoman. She was beautiful. Not in the sense that she was or ever shall be a model. More in the sense that a broad tractor-beam of light shot from her green eyes and encompassed her entire being and the room she inhabited, not to mention the people within it. Though I clearly noticed this more than others. It wasn’t love at first sight, and unfortunately it never I strongly suspect shall, whatever we once fleetingly shared, become love. Anyway, though clearly more hungover than me after a much later night and less sleep, I assure you she did look good enough to eat. In an Irish stew, if you like. She was there with a South African female friend she’d recruited somewhere during her New York explorations. We talked among other things about the fact that she worked for a Brighton-based travel company, and she put her name and details inside the jacket of a book I was reading; appropriately titled Youth in Revolt. I mentioned my ice skating in Central Park the afternoon before, and immediately her eyes sparkled a brighter shade of green out of interest. This despite the fact she had apparently broken a friend’s leg during her last uncoordinated glide on the ice many years ago. Still not sure about whether I invited her or if she invited herself, but however it happened she was coming along to what I intended on being another afternoon spent sliding clockwise around the ice in probably the best location in the world in which to do so. Due to her apparent inability on ice skates, I told her by way of nervous flirtation that I was looking forward to getting a laugh out of the experience. I would be disappointed in only that regard (laughter at her expense). We departed about 6pm, happily without her South African friend who had checked out that day. Not that I wouldn’t have enjoyed ice skating New York with two gorgeous women; I’d just taken a particular liking to this flaxen-haired, emerald-eyed, well-travelled Brit babe. Of course she was well-travelled. She worked at a ‘round the world travel specialising company. And New York was simply a stop-off on her way back home from a wedding in Buenos Aires after a journey around Patagonia – South America’s southern tip. Not to mention a bunch of years she spent around south-east-Asia, Australia and New Zealand. I wish I’d electronically recorded every enthralling thing she delivered to my ears via her simply hypnotising Irish-south English blended accent. But alas, many examples of her sharp intellect shall it seems remain deep within my subconscious until the day I die.