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New York, Day 1 and 2

The Customs Officer looks dubiously at me and my carefully filled out (because mistakes, corrections and crossed out sections are emphatically not allowed and reason for immediate refusal of entry into the United States) Immigration form and asks "Rego Park, New York, NY -- where is that?" "In New York", I say, "though I don't know where exactly." "Oh no", says he, "It may be in New York, but not in New York, New York -- you know, like Albany, or Niagara...You ever been to Niagara?", and without further ado, he takes a big black felt-tipped pen and crosses out the relevant section on my Immigration form and writes "Rego Par [sic], NY" in bold lettering across it. That's it, I think, I'm not going to be allowed entrance now because he's ruined my green entry form, while poor Jules has been waiting in Arrivals for me for 5 hours, and now it's all been for nothing! He goes on to tell me about Niagara and how the best way to see it is by going across to the Canadian side, then waves me through. Relieved, if slightly bewildered, I realise I'm not to be ignominiously deported, after all. I swear, of all the countries in the world (except Israel), crossing as a tourist into the US is more of an ordeal than a mere formality. Still, at least this time, he cracked a smile at the end, whereas I'd gotten used to a surly, dour-faced, and unnecessarily rude reception on my previous visits, so maybe the recent survey that said 70% of tourists rate US Customs to be the most unpleasant of Customs in the world has had some effect.

Rego Park, it turns out, is in the borough of Queens, New York, NY. It's the home of freakspawn's sister, who had offered to put us up in her new apartment there. When we got there, she had just nipped out down the road to get us some keys cut, but we didn't have to wait long before she arrived back. As she had recently moved in, the place was big, light, airy and fairly bare, and both anonypooh and I immediately fell in love with it. We went to the local supermarket to stock up on fruit and breakfast food, then after a while ventured out into a light drizzle (the only rain we were to encounter in our week-long stay) at the Pio-Pio Peruvian restaurant which is tiny but immensely popular, and if you've ever tasted their chicken, you'll know why.

In the middle of the night, Jules got a call from her husband telling her to ring in to a UK radio station right that very minute, to claim the £1000 she'd won in one of their competitions. If that wasn't a lucky omen for the rest of our holiday...

Lisa left for work early the next morning, but Julia and I took our time getting ready and deciding on what to do first, then took a leisurely stroll to Queens Center Mall where we had coffee and cheesecake and a look around the shops. I'd decided that while I was in New York, I would get a new pair of trainers as my 2001 souvenir Nikes could definitely do with being replaced, they're so old and tattered now; but I didn't see any I liked and I ended up buying a Hawaiian Slipper ring instead. After a restorative cup of tea and a change of clothes back at the flat, we took the R into town and wandered around the Theatre District to check out the available shows, as the plan was to go see one later in the week. Or go see a film...By the time we got back to Times Square, my ankle was giving me real problems, as I had optimistically, but as it turned out rather stupidly, elected to wear some modest heels for the evening. So while Jules went to intercept Lisa as she came out of work, I popped into the Skechers and got myself a pair of comfortable, casual, champagne with little pink flowers embroidered on them, sporty sneaker-type-but-not-quite, shoes. I had to fight another woman for them, as they were the only pair in my size, and she was convinced in hers too; but luckily when she tried them on, she found they were too small for her and she beat an embarrassed retreat.

Under Lisa's guidance, we made it to a Moroccan restaurant with live rai music and a belly dancer, where the food was delicious even if my portion was woefully small, consisting of only 4 (four!) jumbo shrimp. However, since my starter, of beef and runny egg in a spicy tomato sauce, had been more substantial, it didn't really matter, and we had a fantastic time, soon to be eclipsed by our next stop: Mo Pitkins, the venue for Corn Mo and Hair Supply.



( 14 Speak Like A Child — Shout To The Top )
Mar. 31st, 2007 12:56 pm (UTC)
I can't tell you how much it tickles me that your first tourist activities were in Queens! I lived there 13 years, and so many people just view it as the place where the planes come in. (And when I was reading about your nerve-wracking customs experience I was shouting at the officer "IT'S IN QUEENS!!!") I'm glad you didn't get turned away, glad you're enjoying things so far.

Though I doubt you're taking a long side trip up there, I think it's a bad idea to tell tourists to go to Niagara and see it from the Canadian side, because there've been tales of couples who cross and one who isn't a citizen then gets stuck in Canada and sent back home to go through the whole entry process again. So, no.

I highly recommend "Grey Gardens," if Christine Ebersole is still starring. It's really the most amazing thing I've seen on Broadway. (Take a peek at "Time Out" and see if you're interested in what it's about, because it's not the usual, but I loved it beyond reason.
Mar. 31st, 2007 01:11 pm (UTC)
Well, I for one love Queens now! On previous visits, I'd stayed with friends in the East Upper Nineties in Manhattan, which has its own rather genteel charm; I find Rego Park to be a much livelier and somhow more real place to be in. Thankfully Lisa has said I'm welcome to come back anytime!

I think it's a bad idea to tell tourists to go to Niagara and see it from the Canadian side, because there've been tales of couples who cross and one who isn't a citizen then gets stuck in Canada and sent back home to go through the whole entry process again

Really? So Mr. Amores the Customers Officer messed up on that as well! What a dolt!
Apr. 1st, 2007 03:11 pm (UTC)
Surely if you have a passport, and are only visiting as a tourist, this would not be a concern?
Mar. 31st, 2007 02:32 pm (UTC)
Good to see you are playing the Berkeley! :)

Hee .. I'd forgotten all about MY customs experience .. where he asked me if my husband trusted me away alone - cheeky sod.

Mar. 31st, 2007 03:16 pm (UTC)
I took out an account on eMusic last night, and got 25 free downloads as a reward. I wasted no time in getting me some DB and Jason Webley from that site ;-)
Mar. 31st, 2007 04:40 pm (UTC)
wow...25 freebies! Excellent choices .. can I take it DB will be enough to tempt you across the Channel next time!
Mar. 31st, 2007 09:22 pm (UTC)
Try and stop me! I'm his newest biggest newest fan!
Mar. 31st, 2007 11:38 pm (UTC)

And I think we have to make badges for the club who can claim that they are that now! ... I'm IN!

Wonderful songs. Lovely guy.

Mar. 31st, 2007 05:55 pm (UTC)
Cheese cake, rings, new shoes and New York sounds like you had a blast!

What is it ith you guy's and customs?! *LOL*
Mar. 31st, 2007 09:24 pm (UTC)
Bad karma. Must be. Though I don't know what we might have done in a previous life to deserve the grumpy Customs officers in this. Still...
Mar. 31st, 2007 06:08 pm (UTC)
I think customs officers just get bored after a while. In september, my customs guy, after he saw that I'm from Munich, engaged me in a conversation about the octoberfest and the legal drinking age in Germany.
I knew that Rego Park is in Queens! Everything I know, I learned from Law & Order lol.
Mar. 31st, 2007 09:30 pm (UTC)
No, that can't be it. I'm sure Customs officers the world over get pretty bored from time to time, but whenever I go to the US, I get the grumpypants, leading me to believe that they're actually trained to be that way.

And what is it with the ridiculous questions on the Immigration form? "Have you ever been convicted of a crime for and sent to prison?" "Did you ever, or are you intending to, kidnap an American child?" "Are you a member of a terrorist organisation?" -- as if anyone in their right minds, wanting to enter the States, would ever say yes to any of that!
Apr. 1st, 2007 03:16 pm (UTC)
Oh they have stupid questions like that on most countries' immigration forms nowadays. Can't imagine what would happen to anyone stupid enough to say yes.

...probably get refused entry on grounds of terminal stupidity. And rightly so.

I got the world's grumpiest immigration guy coming into JFK once too. Apparently, if you are a backpacker and have no real idea where you are staying, you still have to put an address on the form. What sort of stupidity is that? Any address - it doesn't even have to be valid. I got rejected for not knowing where I was staying and the BA guy who was sitting in the immigration hall advised me to put "101 Main St, Littleton" (or whatever town it was) and the guy didn't bat an eyelid at the immigration desk after that!! Ridiculous!
Apr. 1st, 2007 04:32 pm (UTC)
Are there even other countries that do Immigration forms? I've never encountered any, and yet I'm quite well-travelled, even if I do say so myself. And I don't see why I as a tourist would have to fill one out -- I'm not immigrating, I'm passing through!

Apparently, if you are a backpacker and have no real idea where you are staying, you still have to put an address on the form.

Yes, I've come up against that one once, too. I just gave the address of a bookshop I happened to know. ;-)
( 14 Speak Like A Child — Shout To The Top )
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