Movie – Blank City

Just by chance I heard about this documentary film and by even more remote chance, it was part of Birmingham’s FlatPack film festival.

The reason for my interest in Blank City is because it details Lower East Side, New York in the late 1970s, into the 1980s where seemingly everyone made films. Not being a film geek, I recognised very few film makers but it was great to see people like Deborah Harry being interviewed alongside all these film clips made by people literally on the street or in squats.

The neighbourhood then, particularly Alphabet City way out to the East Side – a place I only ventured to a few years ago after many years of visiting the city – was an absolute no-go area. As is documented, residents feared for their life every day walking back and forth but on the plus side they didn’t have any belongings or money so thieves knew there was nothing to be stolen. It was more of a narcotics thing and as well as the drugs scene, Aids came to be around this time so there is talk of lost lives.

Really, it’s amazing to see people survive as so little was known in the very early eighties.

I loved this film from the popular culture angle but film makers and geeks – and indeed photographers will enjoy the artistic element.


Smile factor 8½/10

Travel Thursday:Your most emotional travel experience (positive or negative!)

For me, every trip is emotional, travel is what I strive for. All my other loves are in my daily life but travel I have to wait for so there are always tears of joy at some point.

If I had to pick one time, it’s the first time I travelled to New York on my own. I’d been visiting a friend in Florida and tagged a four-day weekend in NYC on to it. I was petrified at first (first I was afraid, I was petrified etc etc). I checked into my hotel (won’t name) and felt I was in a brothel. I have no idea why I decided to stay mid-town, I really don’t like the hustle and bustle of 42nd St and Times Square and ordinarilly avoid at all costs. I think I was thinking it would be safer.

Also I couldn’t get into the what was going to become my regular haunt, Chelsea Star Hotel just above West Village and over looking the temple of New York, Maddison Square Gardens so after checking in and wondering if my luggage was going to be in my room when I returned, I stepped out into the sultry July day and walked the 10 blocks to Chelsea Star, who thankfully booked me in for the next day. Better than that, they put my mind at ease about staying at my hotel for one night as they knew them well.

On to the emotional bit, as if being in New York – and alone – wasnt enough, on my walk back up town, there was a spring back in my step.

I remember waiting with a throng of people  to cross the road, as I did, I looked up to my left towards Hudson River and there was a gorgeous sunset – like there’s any other kind.

I remembered there and then how lucky I was to live this life and be able to travel to all the places I have. And burst into tears of joy.

I always remember that moment if ever I’m on  a trip that isnt quite going to plan. Some people live their whole life and don’t get to travel to just one of the places I have, just one time. I’ve been dozens of times and love every single second.

Travel Thursday: Your all-time favourite place visited

Based on the most visited place for me over twenty years, it has to be New York.

The NYC you don't see; one of my favourite views, across Central Park to my neighbourhood

 Two years ago, I didn’t consider it a place I visited but my second home. I know (knew) New York better than I do London, or anywhere else I have lived. It was the first place I wanted to visit as soon as I could, never having had any interest in going to some beach on the Med and sitting still. Still don’t.

I have seen the world since then – well the parts of the world that I wanted to see, and then some. But it all started with this craziest, rudest, busiest of cities where I’ve always felt most at home.

But that’s the past, next week on Travel Thursday, most definitely, I’ll move forward!

Weekly travel post ideas for Ian Braisby blog

Two worlds become one

NYC merging with UK

Really, it’s a small thing but on Saturday I put on my pale blue, long fleecy robe for the first time in 2 years, (it’s as good as new) and made my weekend pancakes. If I was in New York, I would have watched at least one premiership match before I’d got out of bed and another one whilst getting ready for the weekend spent upstate.

Later I use my egg ring to make perfect size eggs for the muffin, in my super duper mini frying pan – all my pans have been returned to me  from NYC bent out of shape but that just makes me smile; my life has been bent out of shape for a couple of years.

I have coffee in my ’weekend’ Shabby Chic mug that reminds me of having eggnog in my coffee pretty much all the way between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s day. I bought this pretty china thing to celebrate after viewing the apartment that I then moved into and then going round the corner to discover that the Shabby Chic store had come to New York.

Today I feel like my New York has merged into what I have now and it feels kind of nice.

Shabby Chic MugOn Monday I once again make perfect, fluffy scrambled eggs with my very expensive whisk and mini pan. I also delighted in the first time I wore my brown, brogue shoe boots teamed with my pink and caramel knee high argyle socks and cropped jeans. Oh I have missed you! I bought them from my new shoe shop discovery Aerosoles that was across the street from my daily NYC coffee shop. The novelty of having my really good black boots is wearing off but just being able to wear different jewellery every day to go with what I’m wearing is a joy each morning

The day I bought the Aerosoles

Again it’s the small things but each time I use something I haven’t seen for a couple of years it feels brand new. Obviously I have had to buy and/or acquire lots of new things but a lot has been trashed, taken to charity or is ready for selling.

I’m going to be like this for a few weeks yet and then again when my new bedroom and lounge storage furniture arrives. Then I will see everything back in place.

New York Comes Home

Manhattan Mini StorageIt’s a long, sad story but just to say after two years, I have just had my worldly belongings delivered back to me from New York. 

Having spent the best part of two decades travelling to the USA and to New York in particular, I’ve known for a year or two now that my transatlantic life is over, at least for a good few years. Again, I don’t want to dwell on that, more the odd feeling I have now that I have all my CDs, books, clothes, photos, family keepsakes and toiletries back.

 Yes, I now have enough shampoo and conditioner for the rest of my life – seriously I do – and certainly enough toiletries for next 2-3 years. If you know me, you’ll know I don’t buy any old rubbish. Feel free to knock on my door if you run out of shampoo but your hands are not going on any of my ‘can only purchase in North America’ Bath & Body Works luxuries.

Some of my belongings I haven’t seen for well over two years and I’ve been asked what I was looking forward to most. The answer is everything! However, what I unpacked first were my CDs (Whitesnake then CherryGhost came to hand first, yes I have eclectic taste), my really good black boots I’ve had for over a decade, ALL MY CLOTHES but particularly all my boots and my toiletries. Some people are hooked on shoes, I like things that smell nice, feel nice and make me feel good first thing in the morning. And they’re a lot cheaper, take up less space and I can replace when I run out.

I’m relieved when I see all the photos and family memories plus my Dior jewellery collection and my ‘real’ jewels as I forgot to add them to the insurance itinerary. The Audrey book came out a little battered and I haven’t attempted to unpack my twenty year old Villeroy & Bosch china as I heard it clinking – never a good sound at £20 a plate but it’s had a good run and the broken plates are more tolerable than a broken heart.

Christian Dior Tiffany Jewellery

Quite frankly, I’ve had enough of international heartbreak and the feeling I have now that everything is around me again is indescribable; it goes way beyond elated, a marathon past ecstatic and a world beyond relief.

Imagine having a lifetime’s worth of collections and memories you’ve carefully chosen or had given to you with love and then you are without everything. Whatsmore, I’m not able to go back to pack and transport it myself so I’ve had to rely on strangers handling all my worldly goods. Five nail biting, hair twisting, lip biting months later (4 months organising, 1 month in transit) and 18 very large, some humungous, boxes arrive. Within five minutes, two helpful gentlemen have unloaded everything into my welcoming home.

It turns out I didn’t need to move the furniture out of the way; it’s a lot easier with just boxes that stack up rather than when moving a whole house of odd shaped furniture.

So back to the odd feeling; I thought I would feel a little sadder seeing my home being ‘New Yorked’ but it just feels super good. I bought the boxes from my NYC storage company so my lounge is piled high with cartons that state ’Manhattan Mini Storage’ in huge blue letters but I don’t mind at all.

My clothes are piled up on the dining table and in the bedroom awaiting new furniture and I don’t mind at all.

I’m actually enjoying waking up and seeing that I’m surrounded by it all.

If I’d packed myself, certain things like chai tea bags (still in date!) and laundry liquid wouldn’t have been worth transporting but I have done about a dozen washes so it came in handy. My house has smelt wonderfully like a Chinese laundry for a few days as after being in storage, almost everything needed washing, even the clothes with tags still on.

It’s odd having things like horrid American loo roll; honestly, no matter what how many dollars I spent, the quality was never as good as the UK – and I didn’t get the pretty patterned one I get from M&S.

I have all my New York coffee table books on my coffee table and it doesn’t make me feel at all gloomy, maybe a little nostalgic even.

I’ve come a long, long way in two years.

Anyway, I have lots of Canadian trips to look forward to this year; a whole new country to fall in love with. (although I kind of already have).


My home is New York’d.

Zabar food store New York

Zabars: An Upper West Side, New York institution. A good bag too.

Don’t Dream it’s over; Final Part

I kept it quiet, in fact I still haven’t told any of my friends I’ve been, but on Monday 23rd August, I attended an appointment at the American Embassy to reapply for my tourist visa. 

My best friend knew, as she made the appointment for me from her landline (£1.20 per minute, spent approximately £40 on 3 phone calls in addition to cost of visa application, visa photo, police check + photo, transport to London, day off etc). I started to application process back in May.

A couple of days before, I met someone who went through the exact same thing, although her partner came over to the UK and they had a civil partnership. Later that evening I told a newer friend but those are the only three that knew/know.

It’s just over a year since the last application, I have a job and my own place, 2 of their criteria fulfilled. The other was to be married and have children but I feel that’s drastic change in lifestyle just to have 2-3 visits to the US each year.

The day is shorter and faster than last year’s visit:

  • 10.10 Arrive
  • 10.30 Appointment (last one of the day)
  • 10.20 Seated after the 4 external checks before entering the building
  • 11.30 Called to reception to check forms
  • Called back twice to complete yet another form
  • 1.30pm Coffee is cleared away and there are 6 people left in the hall after lunch time. 4 interviewers are still working.
  • 2.45 2 of us left, I’m called to interview.
  • 2.52 Denied again. Interviewer doesn’t see sense in applying again; maybe wait 2-3 years for the next time.

“The suspicions have been aroused” by my extended stay, despite me NEVER overstaying, going there numerous times over 20 years and never breaking any law.

All I have to do know is figure out how I can get all my belongings collected and packed from two different NYC locations and returned to me. I can’t wait to have everything back.

The end.

Music Monday – C is for Chic

If I have musical heroes, they are Chic.

Their records are just the half of it, they, Nile Rodgers or Bernard Edwards or both, have produced a stack load of my favourite artists including Duran Duran and Madonna but also ‘supergroup’ The Power Station (2 members of Duran Duran, Tony Thompson – Chic’s drummer and the brilliant Robert Palmer). Sad to note that Tony Thompson, Robert Palmer and Bernard Edwards (just 43) all passed away but left not only a huge musical legacy but a big influence on me.

They’ve also produced (revived) Diana Ross and Sister Sledge and so many more.
What I have learnt is that Bob Clearmountain, known to me as Bryan Adams’ main producer but also works with Springsteen, Bon Jovi and hundreds of others, engineered their first album. So in fact they link up a vast majority of my favourite artists.

Let’s go for a top 5 of these genius artists:
Dance Dance Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)
Le Freak – known for being a gigantic influence on a huge variety of bassists, the bass line in this is the most amazing. Apparently this track was the biggest seller for Warner Bros until Madonna’s Vogue came along
My Forbidden Lover
He’s the Greatest Dancer (Sister Sledge but heck, it’s their track. “One night at a disco on the outskirts of Frisco, I was cruising with my favourite gang”. That line made me go to the only place on the west coast of America I ever wanted to go, San Francisco.
Good Times – in my top 10 of all time and possibly the most sampled track of all time although possibly Rodgers & Edwards are the most sampled producers of all time?

My childhood, indeed my life is deeply enriched for hearing Chic.
Nile Rodgers