The best place I could have chosen for my first ever fun run was the streets of New York City. Walking 50 blocks to the start line was a good warm up, and needed on a chilly but not freezing Saturday morning. I wore my dri-fit running shorts with the inner compression underwear and I could feel the Atlantic wind passing over the surface of my scrotum. It was at that point I felt I had truly arrived.

The run started from alongside the U.N. building on First Avenue, turned down 42nd and passed Grand Central Station, then followed Sixth Avenue outbound to Central Park. The streets we ran along were closed to traffic and we were offered a unique perspective. For some reason we ran quite fast. Probably because every second person was stopping to take photos and that fuelled my overtaking appetite. It could also have been the bystanders all cheering the same phrase "Go Runners!" from the footpath sidewalk. It made me feel like I was on a professional sports team called the New York Runners.

This blurry photo will attest somewhat to the event.

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Also, my phone was able to find some satellites and track the run for me, while on Aeroplane Mode and thousands of miles from home. I was very impressed by the handheld piece of technology that served as my map, run-tracker and camera for the event. The full path can be seen in the map below.
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I also repped my We Run ADL shirt. At the end we got free pretzels.

I also repped my We Run ADL shirt. At the end we got free pretzels.

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New York's Noticeable Differences

In one photo.

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Taxis are yellow. (Duh)
Starbucks are everywhere.
Trash in bags instead of bins.
Red hand instead of red man.
Health Inspector results on every food-service's front window (this is also how you can find secret restaurants and bars!)

American Museum of Natural History

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I've wanted to visit this place ever since I read Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything.

First, however, was a visit to Levain Bakery and their trip-advisor touted "Best Cookies in New York City." I bought a fresh double-chocolate peanut butter cookie and then took it to Starbucks to eat with my skinny vanilla latte.

West Side Cookie

West Side Cookie

The cookie was amazing, and may have contained a whole block of chocolate within. Was it as amazing as the American Museum of Natural History? No. There were actual parts of dinosaurs there and I got to see them and holy shit there were a lot of them. There was also a planetarium and a thousand other fascinating things.

Me pondering some dinos.

Me pondering some dinos.

I also had my first taste of American Macaroni and Cheese in the museum's cafeteria. That, fortunately, was nothing special and I was grateful that I didn't need to add another thing to my list of high calories treats I must devour as much as possible.

Then we caught the Subway back to our apartment on the Upper East Side.

Bradism in New York

Some readers may be put off by my last few entries. Since when was a travel diary? I realise most people come to read about my breakfasts and not my international gallivanting.

Today's breakfast was in the form of muesli from Trader Joes, bananas from a bodega on First Avenue and strawberries from some guy selling fruit on the sidewalk in the Upper East Side. It was pretty good.

Today's breakfast was in the form of muesli from Trader Joes, bananas from a bodega on First Avenue and strawberries from some guy selling fruit on the sidewalk in the Upper East Side. It was pretty good.

Like my words? Want to buy one of my books? I think you'll like this one:

If you met yourself from the future, what would you ask your future self?
What if they wont tell you anything?

Chase: A Tomorrow Technologies Novella. Available Now for Less than a dollar!

Takin' it back to the Whole Foods

Songs That Get Stuck in Your Head in NYC
Alicia Keys - Empire State of Mind
Jay-Z - Empire State of Mind
Matt & Kim - Block after Block
Kanye West - Bound 2 (due to the mention of Forever 21, which I notice regularly)
Beastie Boys - No Sleep 'til Brooklyn
Gonzales - Take Me To Broadway
They Might be Giants - Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
Greg Nice - Set if Off

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Unimpressed by Handheld Technology

It was on day three of the 28 day holiday when my phone died, taking with it my dream of instagramming bad puns across America. And also my sub-dream of playing Scramble with Friends in the toilets with WiFi across America.

Adjusting to life without a phone has been challenging, because it is more than a phone, it's also my watch, calendar, alarm clock, barometer, paperback novel, camera, GPS and Subway map. The only thing I haven't missed is making phone calls... After a few days though I've discovered a new kind of freedom. Freedom from worries about battery life and hot-spots. Freedom from knowledge of which team Nate Robinson was traded to over summer. I have a whole extra pocket of freedom now too. Who needs a smart phone when you can comfortably carry half a pound of almonds in your jeans instead? I do have my access to email and Facebook restored now, just not in a portable way. So if I post Facebook status updates such as "just pooped ten metres away from an actual Tyrannosaurus Rex skull" it will not be as live as implied.

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You don't get many chances to forget where you are in this city. At least in Midtown...
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Veteran's Day


I had to post this photo from today as it is the first and possibly only time I can legitimately record "Today's Weather" as "Snow Flurries" since I implemented the weather feature in 2006.

I think it's also my first legitimate use of a minus temperature as well!

I think it's also my first legitimate use of a minus temperature as well!

New York Exit

What could be written or thought of about New York after a fortnight visit which hasn't been written or dwelled on a million times before. Like the photos composed from atop the Empire State Building, anything you come up with will have already been composed, created or pondered a thousand times before. Probably that same day, (if you visit around sunset, and why wouldn't you?).

Two key themes stood out through almost every activity we participated in during our stay that I felt were worth saving. The first was how surprisingly I felt the city was connected to my life. This was notable because I rarely feel connected to places. It was nothing like a homecoming, more like bumping into an old high school friend who had attended the same lessons as me and reminiscing.

I first started to really feel this on the fourth floor of the American Museum of Natural History. Walking through the dinosaur rooms brought me back to the exact contents of the dinosaur encyclopedia I spent hours with as a child, so closely did their content mirror that it really felt like I was not on my first visit. Wall Street - although we did not spend much time there - had a similar ethereal vibe which I couldn't explain other than to theorise that that was where the decisions and fortunes of companies I've given hours of my time to had been forced to prove themselves. 2013 was the year I upgraded to my first paywave credit card in a world where money is becoming more and more immaterial. On Wall Street it felt like somewhere in these high-reaching skyscrapers all that invisible money was stockpiled, and in some dimension wires reached all the way across the ocean to my wallet in Australia.

The NBA arenas in Brooklyn and Midtown, regular features on my TV screen back home, were now also real but once again they already familiar. So many buildings and streets and sights were recognisable from TV and that, it seems, is the major factor in my brain when it comes to how homely a place in the world is.

The second recurring theme or impression I sensed during my time in New York was the size. Downtown and Midtown each would dwarf most other cities on the planet by themselves. Once you then consider the rest of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and New Jersey the city takes on a scale unfathomable to anyone who has in their lives depended on a single NYC toilet-bowl worth of water for their entire daily water consumption. The more we travelled, by foot, cab, boat, subway, bus and found ourselves in another city while still being in New York, the more I came to appreciate that New York is more than just the sum of its parts.

By that I mean, for most cities in the world, you could suck the entire population out through a large wormhole to a fertile parallel Earth, give them limitless resources and they could create an approximate equivalent city again before they all died of old age. Not New York, given its breadth and density and complexity I can't imagine it could ever be replicated. It's just too organic, in a way, well planned in the beginning with a grid of streets like fertile flower-boxes and then a huge boom of a human ecosystem developing and feeding off each other and all striving to be the best. I think New York's denizens also appreciate this. New York is like a machine, a game that you enter knowing the the general rules but also aware that they're not always enforced. Success in New York, essentially, is up to the player. There's a lot to gain, but unlike Australia there's not a lot of hand holding coming your way. If you are truly determined, like those vendors who spend twelve hours a day inside a tiny caravan with a BBQ in them, you might taste success and live your life in one of the shining examples of what humanity is capable of when they work together in a competitive way. In other words, concrete jungle where dreams are made, oh there's nothing you can't do, now you're in New York. These streets will make you feel brand new, big lights will inspire you, let's hear it for New York.
(Seriously that song gets into your head at least once a day).


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Tipping Tips

I have, when necessary, been able to tip competently in America. Reading articles on the internet helped me going into most tipping-required situations, as well as knowing that I could always resort to yelling "I'm an Aussie mate, G'day G'day G'day" if things ever became confrontational.

We only needed to tip a handful of times in New York, as we carefully chose eateries without table service and our apartment was room-serviced weekly rather than daily. We were carrying our own bags, opening our own doors as much as possible and walking dozens of blocks instead of catching taxis. In Boston, however, things changed. We checked into a five star hotel that we'd found a good rate for via a "Secret Deal" on Hotwire. After five hours on Amtrak we dumped our bags on our floor and headed into Boston to find dinner before the Celtics game. When we returned after the game we found that our housekeeper Rosa had visited our room, avoided our hastily discarded luggage and turned down the sheets for us complete with slippers by the bed and chocolate on the pillows. This was a whole new level of service that I hadn't been expecting and I quickly started to calculate how often I might need to tip for room service and if this secret deal was going to turn out to be a bad investment. We tipped Rosa about five dollars for every day we spent in Boston. We decided it was a good exchange for a few chocolates and refills of the coffee bags. The slippers never fit me, which was disappointing, but I guess we got our money's worth by having the linen changed every day.

We never met Rosa, but we left her notes with our tips each time we went out. Actually, I don't know for sure that we never met Rosa. We could have passed her in the hall once or twice. She never wrote back to us. Towards the end I was really close to tipping her a copy of John Grisham's A Painted House which I bought second hand in New York to read after my phone died. I decided not to, not because I thought it would be socially acceptable, but because it was such a terrible book. I found it at The Strand bookstore off Union Square on a rack of books that said "Half-Priced Mysteries" and as I'd never read any Grisham and the price was good I decided to buy it without much diligence. The Strand was such a momentous, lovely bookstore and from that day I regretted not finding a better book. The mystery was, "Who's painting our house?" (Luke, the pre-teen narrator wondered allowed). "I think it's that disabled hillbilly kid who's staying with us while his family harvest our cotton," his mother replies less than a page later. THAT WAS THE MYSTERY!? I put up with two hundred pages of visual depictions of post-war rural America and 1960s baseball for THAT? I forced myself to read it to the end, partly because I don't like giving up on books and partly because I had some constipation around the midpoint of the trip from so many different foods that I needed to eat. I finally finished reading it somewhere in Connecticut and sighed with disgust. Bloody Grisham. So in the end I did not leave it for Rosa and instead abandoned it on a table in Faneuil Hall Marketplace with an attachment "Free Book. One out of five stars."


Harvard Square

Harvard Square

Harvard Butts

Harvard Butts

The Bears with Keytars are Coming

I think the aspect of Boston that I like the most is the way that they preserved so many of their historical buildings and locations. Amongst the Macys' and bank skyscrapers of the financial district you can find nestled the meeting places and churches and market halls of pre-revolutionary America. It's very nice, kind of like a past-meets-present thing.

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I might be the first person to ever travel continuously from the vibrance and sunshine of Venice Beach, California to the sunny and slightly less vibrant Mildura, Victoria. A trip that began on a Number 3 Bus in Los Angeles concluded with a 1000km drive with Sydney in the rear-view mirror.

Originally the plan had been to start driving from Sydney Airport and not stop until the discarded TVs on the side of the road dried up. This strategy found us in Hay. Hay would have made a logical stopping point, except I hate Hay. I can't actually explain why I have such a vendetta against a tiny town surrounded by nothing but 200km of dusty flats on every side. Three years ago I bought and ate an overpriced and decidedly average pizza there. It's possible I never let that go. We did refuel as we passed through this time, and I met two of the locals who were enthusiastically friendly and that did soften my hatred a little. But for people living in Hay the thrill of meeting a stranger is probably on par with the thrill I feel watching a 3D movie.

I think Hay's isolation contributes to the polarisation of feelings. If you had a bad pizza like I did, you really have nothing to dwell on for 200km afterwards except that. Maybe some day I will get over my prejudices and give Hay another chance. On this day though I was driving tight. Mildura was the next major stop and that had the advantage of not even being in NSW! So on we drove.