Monday, 15 April, 2013
Chicago, Illinois, USA
After all of that wrestling fun last week, I headed over to New York – partially because it’s the most iconic state in America, but also due to the fact both Elliot and friends I had previously met travelling were there.
Bradley and Ronit actually live in Brooklyn – which they kindly allowed me to take advantage of. Now, New York isn’t cheap, so a free roof had me more grateful than a clipboard charity dude when a pedestrian is actually willing to listen. So once again, cheers, guys!
To be frank, accommodation was out of the equation once I was made aware of the tip money expectancy; blimey! In New York, they tip like the bar staff is their younger sibling and homeless. In fact, the extras can often be even bigger than the bill itself – it’s all pretty mesmerising to a lad from Yorkshire.
When that dreaded time came in a New York bar, and it was my turn to get a round in – I was pretty nervous about the tip. While, I was aware I would need to go big, I was a little uninformed as to exactly how big. The person alongside me got served first, ordered one beer, paid with a twenty and then threw down his entire change as a tip. My heart sank.
I was up next, and with a gulp, gave the tip my best shot. Sure, it was nothing like the amount left by the guy in front, but I still laid down the biggest tip I ever had. While, the barman didn’t express feelings of joy, he also didn’t look dissatisfied, so I’ll count that as a win. Drinking in The Big Apple is just so problematic.
Eating here, however, is fantastic, and New York offers the greatest pizza I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. The cheese is so stretchy, the crust is so chewy and the sauce is simply unbelievable.
The only downfall is that you receive your slice when it is piping hot – talk about Temptation Island resting in your palm! Therefore, you know how terrific it is going to be, can’t resist, and burn your upper mouth every time. Sure, you can label me impatient, but it’s just so damn good – even the strictest of vegans would struggle to withstand a bite.
I must have had pizza every day while I was in New York. Thus, I naturally have a pizza story to offer. I was reading my book in a pizzeria near Central Park when MTV walked in and started filming a dating show in the corner of the room. This had me intrigued; therefore, I kept peeking over the head of my novel.
I’m not sure how intimate or romantic this date was ever going to get though, the couple had four big, burly cameramen hovering over them. I was also sad to find out that the whole thing was scripted.
The purpose of the episode seemed to be to make the guy look like a clueless loser when it came to women – he was made to talk about vegetables, offering details on which greens are good for which reason; all while his date kept gazing out of the window. I felt sorry for him, until I remembered that he had actually agreed to say these things!
I guess the price of fame hurts more than an overflowing New York tip jar hitting you in the head.
“Hey, Mum and Dad! You have to watch MTV today, I’m famous!”
“Wow! What did you do, son?”
“I went on a date. The girl didn’t pick me though; she ended up going for the muscly topless guy with the groomed eyebrows. He took her to the beach, laid down a picnic of all her favourite foods and then gave her a necklace passed down through twenty-two generations of his family. I just spouted on about vegetables. But, who cares? I’m famous!!”
“Great job, son!”
After a few days in New York, Elliot and I headed to Illinois – our itinerary was very much becoming based on the location of people we know. Elliot’s cousin, Paul, is currently studying in Chicago. Once again, another thumbs up on the free roof.
On our first evening in The Windy City, Paul took us out for a dinner event with his friends and girlfriend. On our walk to the restaurant, he informed us that his girlfriend (for all of three weeks) was Korean.
On hearing this, I offered him a stereotype that I picked up while living in Ulsan – Korean girls become clingy quickly. While a generalisation, I did witness the typecast play out rather frequently. This news left him stuttering with concern, which amused me greatly.
Coincidentally, the seating arrangements placed Paul’s girlfriend, Paul and I, side by side – this layout had the evils within my brain talking!
Paul’s girlfriend and I started making small talk, which lead to us speaking Korean. My Korean is terrible, as I only know about four sentences, but to Paul I appeared to be fluent, which was the important part.
I asked if she has a hanbok (a traditional Korean dress), she laughed, nodded and then said ‘yes’ in English about three times.
I immediately leaned in to Paul’s ear and told him that I just asked if she’d marry him and choose a wedding dress this week; his face went ghost white and I was extremely satisfied with my performance. The wedding is scheduled to take place on 1st April 2014.
The following day we went to one of Chicago’s most famous eating establishments, The Weiner Circle. On a side note, this one is really starting to feel more like a food blog than a travel blog – I guess America has taken effect on me.
The Weiner Circle, gained its fame due to the unconventional way the staff and customers interacts when discussing an order. Basically, the exchange is usually rude, aggressive and can often lead to heated arguments – but that is the places’ gimmick, you go there to experience the wrath.
That said, forewarned or not, you’re still a little thrown off by the encounter when you’re at the front of the queue. I looked at the lady about to take my order, to which, she squinted her face and said, “Yo! ‘Sup lil bitch! What you wanna have, cheese dick?”
I was startled; nobody had ever called me cheese dick before, I didn’t really know how to take it. I just became incredibly English and muttered my way through a reply along the lines of, “Oh yes, splendid! The hotdog sounds quite spiffing. Thank you ever so much.”
Not sure she dug my charm. Once again with a squint, she said, “You best tip, too. You cheap ass mo’ fucka!” How did she know I was cheap? Perhaps news of my poor tipping performance in New York had already spread across the country?
As I took my seat I noticed that I didn’t have a straw to go with my coke, did I go back and inquire? Nope, I just took the top off and drank carefully. What? I didn’t want to run the risk of having a sausage slapped across my face.
Once again a big thanks to Selena, Bradley, Ronit, Paul, Kelsey and Emma for being excellent hosts throughout our trip. You are all great company and saved us a fortune. If any of you are ever in Leeds, you can have my couch and my mum makes a lovely cottage pie.