As I arrived back at Newark airport, and into freezing temperatures much more suitable for my demi-Goth pallor and wardrobe, I realised that the Two Fingers To 50 Tour was about to come to an end. In a scant couple of days I would have to go back to normal life – well, as normal as life can ever be when you’re a criminal barrister. And I would still be 50.
So, armed with my list of cool hangouts courtesy of Alex Newport (see my previous blog The Two Fingers To 50 Tour: LA), I decided that I needed to spend the next two days ticking as many of them off the list as possible. And not to have chips with everything, as seems to be de rigour in every NY eaterie I had been to previously. I didn’t want to be fat and STILL 50!
And so it was time for a whistlestop tour of the coolest corners of Brooklyn – which now has some fantastic vintage and artsy type stores, far different from when I stayed there for a few weeks in the ’90s when it was taking your life into your hands to go to the local shop for a pint of milk. Now, with its old buildings refurbished and looking great, it’s actually a much more attractive place than most of Manhattan, with a great villagey feel.
There was also an opportunity to trek around SoHo, NoHo and all the other places in Downtown NY which end in Ho. This area was also pretty dodgy the last time I visited 20 years ago, but now it’s all expensive lofts and a lot of the small, quirky shops have been replaced by the inevitable chains. I did discover the amazing Monk Thrift Store near First Avenue, though sadly I was unable to unload any cash on the treasures within, due to being within 0.02kg of my baggage allowance for the plane home. Bugger!
(From top left: various views of Manhattan and Brooklyn, including the fabulous Monk Thrift Store.)
Still, the time was ticking on when I would have to return to the UK, my supposedly ‘normal’ life, the chaos of the criminal justice system and Officially Being 50. So I had better make the most of it.
So I traversed what seemed like the whole of Manhattan from my base at the Empire Hotel by Central Park, from the Lincoln Centre to the tat of Times Square. I even had to steel myself to pass through the portals of a tacky I Love US souvenir shop on 42nd Street, because I’d never survive relatives’ wrath if I didn’t get something to bring back. (If I could fit it into my luggage, that is.) Luckily, the Empire was highly convenient to get to anywhere – especially the local Starbucks (that free wifi again)…
And so, as I woke up to snow and a quick trip to Central Park on my last day, I knew I’d have to face up to being 50. So it seemed rude not to enjoy a traditional American breakfast of buttermilk pancakes in Applebee’s, which they swore blind on the menu was only 460 calories. I didn’t believe them, but I ate it all anyway.
(Above: views of Central Park, and breakfast at Applebee’s.)
After a trouble free journey back out to Newark Airport – US public transport seems to be particularly reliable – I was finally back on the plane to Heathrow. Obviously, it was just my luck to be seated next to what appeared to be the only weirdo on the plane, who spent the whole journey shuffling about in his seat with the blanket completely over his head, muttering. If I’d have pressed myself any closer to the window to get away from him, I’d have been riding on the wing. (Note to self: try to fly premium economy next time.)
It was a weird feeling as the Tour came to an end at Terminal 2. But I soon knew I was home when I struggled down to the tube station with my baggage… and discovered that, due to engineering works, I’d have to de-train somewhere in the Wild West of London, lumber onto a bus and continue my journey from Ealing Broadway. Welcome home, FFS.
So, for those of you wanting to escape a Big Birthday, I can strongly recommend leaving the country. If only the holiday feeling would last longer than the tube journey.
And so, the Two Fingers To 50 Tour has officially come to an end. I am already planning the Up Yours 60 Tour. In the meantime, the diet starts tomorrow.