This account is for us, really, so that we can remember stuff. Feel free to wade through it if you're interested in what we got up to...
This was our third trip together to visit the ever-exciting New York City. Flying Air India on Valentine's Day, we arrived in the afternoon to be picked up by Jerry and whisked back to his house in Richmond Hill, Queens. Jerry had his daughter Victoria with him and it only took the car journey for her to get used to us enough to participate in games and engage in bilingual chatter. Once arriving at Jerry's, we settled into our basement apartment and opened the cool Amazon package that was waiting for us: a new Fuji S7000 digital camera. Our old camera had served us well, but was giving us problems, so we took advantage of the great exchange rate and bought this one online. We practised taking photos upstairs - Victoria refusing to eat her salmon until it had been doused with lurid pink Parkay margarine and the three of us guys downing margaritas - until Ana came home from her show. Later, Nick and I presented each other with Valentine's Day cards and gifts. He got some underwear and I got a wonderful gay comic book that details the cosy lives of Adam and Andy, two hunky guys who are in a long term relationship and very much in love with each other.

The next day, we rose and took the first of many trips into Manhattan via the J train. We did a bit of West Side sightseeing while we were there, including photo sessions in front of my old apartment and at Lincoln Center. We walked to Amsterdam Avenue, where we met up with our friends for brunch at Sarabeth's. Nick and I shared Eggs Benedict and French toast. That evening, Nick and I made our way to the Village. It draws us like a magnet, and what a wonderful atmosphere there is in the Village! We did some shopping on Christopher Street and then had amaretto sours at the Monster Bar to end the evening.

On Monday (President's Day), we travelled into the Wall Street area with Jerry where we emerged from the subway to find the Brooklyn Bridge standing right in front of us. Having seen the bridge only from afar and in films such as Sophie's Choice, I couldn't resist walking across it for myself and taking some iconic shots with the new camera. It was freezing cold, but the experience was incredible. Afterwards, we did some shopping for electronics - Nick wanted to buy a keyboard for his Palm - and then had lunch at a surprisingly gourmet buffet place that served delicious dishes from all over the world. We shared Greek wraps with sweet potatoes and mixed vegetables, followed by cookie bar desserts. (The beginning of my five pound weight gain during the week). After lunch we paid our respects at Ground Zero. Jerry showed us the girder cross that was left standing in the rubble after the twin towers were destroyed. The whole area has been cleaned up and plans are underway for its rebuilding. While we were there, a BBC news crew interviewed Jerry on his thoughts about Tony Blair. Jerry spoke eloquently and we expect to see him on TV over here some day. Next we went to Century 21, a huge building full of "cheap" designer goods that have gone unsold for a reason. We saw a blue leather Gautier jacket that cost over $500 (expensive, but probably around £3.50 given the fantastic exchange rate at the time). We then made our way to South Street Seaport, where we were massaged by a chair and watched a Japanese tourist trip his nose hair at Sharper Image before buying a couple of Christmas ornaments (highlander and S'mores) for our collection at The Christmas Dove. One of our main shopping destinations was next: Abercrombie and Fitch. We are suckers for their catalogue and were initially disappointed that there were none in stock; however, being greeted at the door by a young male model wearing only a Hawaiian swimsuit and only too happy to pose with us for photos made up for this loss and inspired us to buy four shopping bags full of clothes in the store. Jerry was kind enough to take our bags back to Queens on the train while we stayed in the city to have a couple of Village drinks before heading to the Lower East Side for an evening at New York Jacks.

The next day, we made the journey up to Harlem to Time Out's surprise recommendation, Charles's Southern Style Kitchen on Frederick Douglass Boulevard. The restaurant is between 151 & 152 Street, but Nick and I were late meeting our friends because I had a dyslexic moment and thought we were supposed to be on 125th street. Still, it gave us an excuse to take a bus ride. Charles's, a little dive just up the road from a sign that reads NO BARBECUES OR PICNICS (is this a regular street pastime in Harlem?), serves the best ribs, fried chicken, and greens this side of South Carolina. In fact, it was better than any of the soul food that we had last summer. We were the only ones in the restaurant and it was a very child-friendly place for Victoria. After we had our fill of Southern cookin', Nick and I headed off to Central Park Zoo to see Roy and Silo, two gay penguins in a long-term relationship whom we had read about back in England. I'm not sure which penguins were the amorous two; however, we enjoyed seeing them and the polar bears, sea lions, and colourful birds in the warm tropics area. We arrived half an hour before closing time, so we didn't have long before we were off down Fifth Avenue to shop and sightsee. Nick bought some new, slimmer trousers at Brooks Brothers and I stocked up on T-shirts and socks at Gap. We went to see Wicked that night, the new Broadway musical about the early years of the witches from The Wizard of Oz. I had hoped for spectacle and was not disappointed. Winged monkeys flew over the audience, a giant mechanical dragon belched smoke, and the two powerhouse actresses delivered unforgettable performances as Glinda and Elphaba. Kristin Chenoweth (Glinda) was my favourite, bringing a touch of Karen from Will & Grace to her role and singing the hilarious hit, Popular. We were surprised to see the actress wearing a rhinestone neck brace - I later found out that she has been suffering an injury since last year - and enjoyed the way that she slyly incorporated jokes about her "condition" throughout the show. Afterwards, we searched in vain for West Side Cottage (which had moved to the other side of 9th Avenue) and ended up eating an Elvis bagel at a shop on 8th Avenue. The bagel had peanut butter, cream cheese, and honey on it and was huge!

We hurried into Manhattan on Wednesday morning to catch the cast from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy signing copies of their new book at Borders on Columbus Circle. We waited "on line" for over an hour but finally got to see the Fab Five in person. They signed two copies of the book for me (one I sold on Ebay for $71) and Nick made the guys laugh by asking them if they had to perform "special wrist exercises" to get them ready for such signings. The rest of the day was spent mostly downtown. We walked and walked and walked and finally ended up at Benny's Burritos for a blissful sit down to cruet sized margaritas, a basket of chips, and huge plates of Mexican food. Afterwards, we still had enough room to go to Magnolia Bakery for a piece of German chocolate cake the size of Connecticut and a small macadamia nut cheesecake. It was after we went to Benny's that we discovered the paint-your-own ceramics shop, Our Name is Mud. We were enticed into the shop by the long chain link fence that featured hundreds of tiles fired in tribute to the World Trade Center disaster of 2001. Inside the shop, we decided to make our own New York souvenirs and sat down for an hour of tile painting that resulted in two glossy keepsake trivets featuring stuff we had done. That evening, we saw the Broadway revival of Gypsy, starring my long favourite, Bernadette Peters. The show was directed by American Beauty's (and Kate Winslet's) Sam Mendes, who set the whole thing on what looked like a soundstage with proscenium arches, which allowed the audience to see Momma Rose mouthing words of "encouragement" to Baby June onstage. After the show, we waited by the stage door and I was thrilled to finally see and talk to Bernadette Peters in person. She autographed my CD and program and, although she seemed very tired after a gruelling performance, stayed until everyone who wanted to had taken their photograph with her. After Gypsy, we went to the dark and dangerous Eagle club in the meat packing district for their "Night at the Adonis" party. Upstairs there was a guy giving buzz cuts with his clippers to anyone who felt in need of a hair cut. There were cheap drinks to be had and the whole evening was fun, making us return to Queens around 3:30 in the morning.

The next day -surprise! - we did more shopping in the morning, this time in SoHo and the Village. We both bought trainers and jeans (I was amazed to find that Canal Jeans has closed down!) and we ate a sandwich and a yummy coconut lime bar at Dean & Deluca. It was on Prince Street that we saw the firemen and later I had my photo taken with a mounted policeman. We did a lot of looking around in the Village, and went to The Leatherman, where we each bought a pair of leather shorts. Mine were specially made for me by the nice man who worked there. We made our way uptown that evening for a spectacular Vietnamese take-out meal at Rita and Carl's apartment. We brought some nice wine - I think the red was called Two Bears or Bears in a Boat - and I drank most of it myself. The dinner was fantastic and Rita made delicious individual chocolate spiced desserts (like British puddings with a molten center). We rode back to Queens in Jerry's car and collapsed into bed.

Friday was our last full day in New York. I felt it necessary to don and be photographed in Ana's Teletubby costume and there are now shots of both Nick and me wearing Po's head. After this outlet of frivolity, we hurried to Fifth Avenue in Manhattan where there were live underwear models in the window at Saks Fifth Avenue. The build-up to this was a bit much, and they were quite tame, but willing to be photographed with each of us. We then went to Grand Central Station to admire the newly refurbished building and then to the Chrysler Building, with its fabulous Art Deco design. After that, we walked to 9th Avenue, where we had lunch at the Galaxy Café and then bought a blondie at Amy's Bread, across the street. We returned to the Village to pick up our glazed tiles and my leather shorts and spent some time in Christopher Street Bookstore, an institution. We had made reservations for the window seat at Paris Commune, our special Valentine's Day restaurant and we ate a nice meal of meat loaf and pasta with a very inexpensive bottle of French champagne. Afterwards, of course we bought desserts at Magnolia Bakery and ate them in the cold at the park across the street. We intended to go to the Boy Wonder competition at Wonder Bar, but both of us decided we'd had enough excitement for a while.

Our last day was spent with Jerry and Ana in Queens. We had a great chicken and rice lunch prepared by Ana and what seemed to be her quilting circle of Peruvian friends and relatives. Afterwards, Jerry took us to Best Buy, where I bought a memory card for my new camera and a DVD of the very cute country singer Kenny Chesney, just because he looked cute on the box. He sings well, we discovered at home, especially the song No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem. Jerry took us to Target to buy TollHouse chips and it was there that we became hysterical over the Elmo incident. The box promised that Elmo would talk if we followed the simple, child-friendly instructions, which read: PUSH. BOW TO HEAR ME TALK. After squeezing, prodding, and poking Elmo to no effect, we decided that we hadn't followed the instructions fully, so Jerry and I proceeded to make deep, reverent, Japanese-style bows, hoping it would encourage Elmo to talk. I think it was Nick who discovered that Elmo was wearing a BOW around his neck! I'm still laughing out loud at the thought of us standing in Target, genuflecting to a Muppet...

It was a bit sad to board the plane for our flight back to England (with a dangerously heavy suitcase that was empty when we arrived a week ago). We had such a terrific time, but we know that we will one day return to the Big Apple. In the meantime, our glorious live in England continues…
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