This is a day by day account of our time in New York, where we went to on holiday and ended up getting a job by mistake. It’s the story of our adventure, the George and Patrick duo getting thrown into something far beyond our capabilities, and somehow bodging and bluffing our way through and out the other side.
It led to in all types of extraordinary situations, from having a barbecue on a scrap yard with a bunch of Puerto Ricans to being interviewed in a posh restaurant, and ultimately led to our work being exhibited in the world’s largest cathedral, along with a Rothko, in a $50 million exhibition*, for 6 months.
Day 1. 15/9 THURSDAY
We head into Manhattan not knowing today is the day it will all start. Or perhaps as Americans would like to say, ‘day zero’. Our task is to help my aunt Lucy out, and we go to her penthouse office on west 38th street to dye string and photograph some scarves.
Lucy was aware this wasn’t all too interesting for us, so she got on the phone and called her friend Lisa’s who’s in charge of everything non-religious at thishuge cathedral in the Upper West Side. Sounded rubbish to me but I went along with it. Lisa at first turned our offer to help down, thinking we’d get in the way and be a waste of her time, but Lucy being persistent and used to making things happen banged her drum and got things rolling. Lisa accepted. We took the 1 up the 110th street without the faintest clue what we’d be asked to do.
We arrive at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and see how enormous it really is- it’s the largest in the world in fact- and as we’re wandering around in awe we bump into Lisa and her colleagues. Lisa is a typical highly glamorous, successful,very busy Manhattanite. She briefed us as we walked to our new office, got us a bunch of papers and books, and left.
Our brief was to design a ‘resource and education’ centre for this big exhibition they were putting on, based on water and it’s scarcity and preciousness. We were given the first bay on the left, and were told that whatever we did had to hold leaflets and could also include key words to inform people, and that it had to be finished by Wednesday. Oh and we had a budget of 3- 5 thousand dollars…!
(the event had taken 2 years to organise and had cost nearly $50million, but we weren’t aware of this fact by then).
So we start with slating our predecessors. Bloody architects- bunch of over-charging, boring, un-resourceful, un-creating dimwits. This is what they pitched to Lisa-
But we did kind of nick their idea of doing a table of sorts. A simple, practical way of holding information leaflets and also approachable. And the mural. We nicked that too. But we George Hayford-Tailored it…!
So, now was a time to be realistic and opportunistic. George had the idea of doing the table out of metal. A good modern, crisp, and potentially inventive material. He also wanted to do the supportive structure to mimic the Aquarius sign, or waves. I listened to him wisely, as I know this is where caveman G thrives- during the initial creative phase.
This really was the brief sent from heaven- highly open, big budget, prestigious, office provided… did they really trustus?
I didn’t really understand the magnitude of what we were doing at that point. I was drunk, as I’d had a 40oz beer with Ron on the roof that morning. We’d been given lunch in an office, then got the train home and stopped to get a load of art materials on the way back. I thought it was a good idea to return.
Day 2. 16/9 FRIDAY
This is a big day, I think to myself as I wake at 9. We have to work out what the hell we’re planning on doing and then make models+ mini murals and then travel all the way uptown and pitch our idea to our new boss. George obviously doesn’t think so, or think at all, and stays in bed.
Having researched a few scrap yards and welders I head off to visit the first one on my list. I leave at 10, get the L to the Graham Avenue stop in Williamsburg. The next 2 hours I spend walking through areas of Brooklyn empty of people and full of belching lorries, muck, and industrial buildings. The few people I do encounter are v heavy looking Latino lorry drivers who give me a look of- ‘what the fuck you doing here’. I’m aware of ruining my Sebago’s and have to skip over the huge puddles of oil on the pavements.
I find nothing useful and head back, passing a scrap yard I was earlier too afraid to enter. Stopping, I decide I shouldcheck out what’s in this one, just in case. Will there be any sheet metal or oil drums we could use?
And then, bingo! Lying on a pile of scrap is a large, stainless steel, rectangular industrial sink. It was the right size and in reasonable condition, as well as being the perfect height for a counter. I take a photo and get the hell out of Brooklyn scrap metal country.
When I arrive back at home George is ready to be woken up, and told about my find. He mumbles a few words of approval and excitement when I show him the photo, and so we decide to go with it. After some lunch (cold takeaway pizza from the night before, re-heated), I make a model of the sink out of balsa wood, knowing that showing Lisa a photograph of some scrap metal was definitely not an option. I hadn’t measured it but I gave it roughly the right proportions. George goes up on to the roof with his spray paints and starts doing sketches of the mural.
We drag ourselves away from our heavenly workstation on the water tower and take the hour long subway trip uptown to the cathedral. By now 12 hours have passed and Lisa has been exasperated, convinced that we’d ordered lunch on them and done a runner, she even rung Lucy who duly agreed how uncommitted young people are these days…. I hadn’t contacted her at all as I didn’t think it was necessary.
We arrive at the office and see Lisa. ‘Oh my gaaad’, she says, ‘your back!’. She sees that we have a model and sketches of paintings and is relieved that we do actually mean business, and so we commence our pitch.
The pitch was carefully thought out over the subway journey, and included many small adjustments of language to ease them into idea. For a start, I didn’t use the words ‘scrap yard’, but ‘metal yard’. It was perfect because, a. it was a sink so was slightly ironic and b. it was already complete so we could spend our time improving and working on it, as opposed to building something from scratch. It would have a Perspex top cut perfectly to shape, and would have a pattern of holes drilled into the front, which with a flourescant light inside would radiate light. There would also be a projector hidden in the back, which would beam up an animation of key words onto George’s water painting hanging on the wall behind.
We had the chatty/ silent thing going on too, which worked tremendously to our favour. I did all the talking while George sat there looking wise, occasionally explaining a small part which they wouldn’t understand (in fact, no Americans could everunderstand George as he usually speaks quietly and not very much. In New York especially everyone speaks fast and loud and expect others around them to do the same). I think this gave off an impression that he was the brains behind it, and was wise, and perhaps even foresaw failures, while I was the bold, jump-ahead-of-the-gun guy. Whatever it was, it went so well that Lisa actually stopped us in our tracks and made us start it all over again in front of herboss.
Day 3- 17/9 SATURDAY
It’s off! George gets up (really?) and we manage to leave the loft by 10 30, only an hour after I had originally planned. Arriving at the metal yard, people give us looks of ‘why the fuck are you here’, and me in particular looks of ‘why the fuck are you here AGAIN!’. George is brilliant and making friends with everyone (quite a feat considering there is never any verbal communication, and that these guys we’re very heavy, dirty Latino scrap metal men). And so the tension is eased considerably.
I and one of the Latino guys get the sink off the huge pile of scrap. I had in mind lifting it off carefully so as to keep it in reasonable condition. He however proceeds to roll it off, denting and scratching it along the way. It’s only scrap metal, he thinks.
Once we weighed it in and bought it, we tried to make friends with some of the many scrap metal van drivers turning up in big chevvy vans with throbbing V8s and belching gas. None of them could understand me either, which was a shame as we needed a driver. As things took they’re course, I noticed how interesting the dynamics of this scrap yard were. There was an Italian guy sitting by the weighing scales who was obviously in charge of the operation. He couldn’t speak Spanish, yet everyone who worked there could only speak Spanish, so there was a dialogue which somehow worked of whistling and grunting, and the odd bike horn now and then. Then there were the father/son duos- so a strong heavy dirty Latino guy with a miniature version of himself, aged about 12.
While I was making adjustments to the sink using their tools, George disappeared- the first of many times. I went to look for him and, turning a corner, found him drinking a corona and having a barbecue with the scrap yard Puerto Ricans! I was offered a huge chicken leg and a Corona from a cool box, and then learnt he had made friends with a guy called William- who later became our Chevvy van driver.
We drive back with William, listening to Puerto Rican pop on the radio and with him whistling at every girl in Brooklyn we pass (definitely a bum man). We arrive at our loft and carry it into our building’s industrial lift, which, thank god, saves us carrying the damn thing up 4 flights of stairs. Once its on the roof, our new workstation, I go off into town to buy an acrylic top for it while George is at liberty once more- napping a bit and then taking full advantage of the spray paints kindly bought by the cathedral (we spent $140 on them alone…).
Meanwhile I’m fighting for my life on the mean streets of lower Manhattan, dealing with Chinese Perspex sellers, dodging the throngs of people like me with little patience and time getting from a to b, and taxi drivers who refused to take a 5ft piece of acrylic in their taxi. The day ends with me having to wait in the lounge of the Sheraton hotel for 2 hours while George comes to the rescue and helps me carry it back with me on the subway. We get in at 9 30pm.
That night we end up in Williamsburg at 2am, and the L’s down. So we try taxis. The first one we get in we actually get chucked out of within 2 minutes because the driver can’t understand a word I’m saying. George tells me I shouldn’t shout so much, so I let him do the talking for the next one. He fails too (we’re even now…). So I eventually resort to typing ‘Eldert st. Irving av.’ onto the screen of my phone and pointing it at any driver kind enough to open his window. We might as well be fucking Chinese…
Day 4 18/9 SUNDAY
Another big day. George fails to get up, so I head to a hardware store in lower Manhattan to buy a load of tools to start work. I get back at about 2, wake him up, and we start cleaning the sink. It’s another clear, wonderful afternoon up on the roof and the sink and acrylic top look promising already.
That evening we had to work out the design for the Perspex top. Originally we had intended to do a design on the computer and get it printed big on vinyl, which would be stuck on the top. But it seemed too standard and museamy.
So that night once the Coors light started flowing, so did the ideas. We planned on turning the bowl of the sink into an exotic deep sea set, complete with coral and a spray painted foam mattress for the water and also having fish. There’d be 2 main fish, one to represent the Cathedral itself and one to represent its friends and partners. Then flowing behind each would be a trail through the water- which was done by cutting a series of streamlined slots into the Perspex top ‘following’ the fish on the seabed below. Using fish to symbolise our client and their friends was clever, as it meant we were glorifying their status and cause- we had now turned them into the living creatures which relied on the very thing they were protecting.
But then come the technicalities. What kind of fish? Toy fish? or a more realistic type? And the foam mattress??? We trawl the internet for fish (haha!) but get distracted by a certain unfortunate event which looms up on us.
George gets lost while buying beers from the gas station 2 minutes away.
George in the meantime had got too stoned to work, and was sitting on the sidelines in mute mode. Surrounding us in the loft were our housemates and various other friends eating, chatting and drinking. It was a great evening. Until the beer ran out and it was time to get more. I didn’t want to go as I had stuff to do, and nor did George as he was almost immobile. So we flipped a coin, and he lost.
George musters up enough energy to get up and stumbles around looking for his rucksack. He always carries a big rucksack with him wherever he goes, even if its just 2 minutes down the road. I think his reasoning is that an adventure can happen at any time- and so when it does you need a camera, spray paints, felt tips for tagging, a roll of pre made eye-stickers, a sketchbook, and whatever else he carries round in that thing. I remind him to take his passport for ID.
Half an hour later I’m starting to get a bit frustrated. I’m working and need more beer to carry on, and once again I find myself waiting for him.
45 minutes. George is officially AWOL. We call him. His phone rings on the table…!
An hour passes since he left and we’re wondering where the fuck he is. I mean, how hard can it be, buying a few beers from a shop 1 BLOCK AWAY! But then Nicole reminds me that this is George, and he’s in Bushwick, an area he doesn’t know at all. And he’s drunk, so he probably got lost.
An hour and a half. I stop work. We sit down and analyse the situation. We’re in Bushwick, which is known to be a particularly dodgy part of Brooklyn. It’s 1 30 am. George is somewhere out there. He can’t ask for directions because no one will hear him. He has enough money for a cab (22 dolars) but judging from the above and from our past cab experiences, he won’t have any luck with that either. Oh and he doesn’t have his phone on him. He could have never left and be on the roof, or come back and gone straight to the roof in typical unpredictable George fashion. So me and Ryan go up and check, but with no luck.
2 hours. Where the hell is he? We’re now actually getting worried. Its moving beyond a joke and we start to think of the options of what could have happened to him.
- George is lost.
- George is mugged
- George gets into a fight
- George has passed out somewhere
- (all of the above)
- George has been kidnapped?
- George is raped???
- George makes friends with a bunch of guys and goes off somewhere
- George gets arrested
- George is a paper plate
We go back over this list and analyse it more thoroughly. So,‘lost’. I point out there are 2 categories of ‘lost’. There’stemporarily lost, where you’re within the radius of an area whereby you’re still capable of finding you’re way back. And then there’sinfinitely lost, where not only do you have absolutely no idea of where you are (as in ‘temporarily lost’), but on top of that you’re so far from where you started that nothing even remotely nearby could help you find the way back. So effectively you’re fucked. Off into the wild, ‘The Road’ style. Ryan in his typically mil-it-ar-y fashion pointed out that you can cross in and out of the ‘temporarily lost’ zone without knowing it. Interesting point.
The great thing about Manhattan is that it has a view! This strikes me as a key method that George could locate himself. He’s spent countless hours on the roof here, so will know how big the skyline ishere. Therefore if he heads closer to Manhattan, it will get bigger, and he will figure he has to go back the other way, and vice-versa. He also has a tendency to climb high, whether it’s a tree, a hill, a roof or water tower or whatever.
But then there’s the danger he could cross the Williamsburg bridge into Manhattan, lose his bearings and get out the other way, to New Jersey. The view will be the same, but just flipped, which we’re guessing he won’t notice. We collapse with laughter.
-So mugged? Kindof likely.
-Getting into a fight? Unlikely.He keeps to himself and would never hurt a fly. But who knows, he might just get into a situation unknowingly with some dodgy Brooklyn boys.
-Passing out somewhere?Likely.
-All of the above. He’d b very unlucky but its still possible.
-Kidnapped. (pause). Very unlikely. ‘but not entirely out of the question’, Ryan soberly points out. We all burst out laughing.
-Raped? Again, very unlikely. We then proceed to debate what’s more likely- raped or kidnapped?
-Making friends with some guys and going off somewhere?Likely.
-Arrested? Likely. NYPD would be suspicious of a bearded, mute bloke unable to explain himself and so would probably give him a hard time
-Lost? VERY LIKELY. Back to beginning of conversation.
We tire of this and have a cigarette and beer break. It’s a dark scene. It’s now 2 am and I’m knackered, worried about his existence and I can’t be bothered or have any time to deal with this in the morning. But he’s my best friend here so I will have to. I get some beers for us. Oh shit, I forgot, we don’t have any because we sent George out to get some and he never came back.
3 hours have passed by now and I’m starting to get seriously worried. I’m even looking out of the window every time I hear what sounds like a cab. But then I have a brainwave- his passport! He took it with him for I.D. to buy the beers. So… if he’s found, or arrested, or has to explain himself in someway it will be an invaluable document to have!
But then I think hang on, this is George, he’s probably left it behind. So I check. I look downstairs but to no avail. Then Nicole suggests I check our room, so I go up in search of this indicator of his fate. And there, passed out on the bed, is George.
We all laugh so hard we’re in tears. He wakes to the commotion of things being thrown at him and the air mattress being deflated, looks around unknowingly, and says, ‘Yo dude. I think I passed out. Shall we get some beers now?’.
Day 5 19/9 MONDAY
Shopping! Armed with the cathedral’s credit card and tax exempt form I head off and buy $80 worth of fish bait. The guy behind the counter asks me what I’m fishing for, looking a little bemused at my wide ranging and exotic array of fish bait. I then head to K Mart to buy a foam topper for a baby’s cradle, and then up to midtown to buy fluorescent lighting and Christmas lights. Meanwhile George spends $100 on more spray paint, coral and mini twigs in a bag. We meet back at the loft in time for lunch.
Go! Go! Go! One and a half days left. A race against daylight hours. The exotic deep sea set is all ready to go, as are the slots in the acrylic top. We have an extension cord coming out of our loft window and up onto the roof, which within 30 minutes falls off bringing the magazine rack down in the flat and the cat running for its life. We must be the sub-letters from hell…
That night we have no work to do, as its dark and we can only work in the daylight on the roof. George suggests we do a ‘day trip’ to the top Rockefeller centre at 11pm, so we finish off our Pizza and Coors Light and head off to a gaze at our new home- this amazing twinkling metropolis which we’ve been swallowed up by and slowly digested. It’s a great night. I’m happy and relaxed, and reflect a bit on this weird and wonderful journey we’ve found ourselves in.
On the subway home my mind is tired but refreshed, and I have the idea of outsourcing the animation to one of our friends back in England, as we have neither the time or skill to do anything. At all. I write openly on facebook that we need a simple word animation done by Wednesday morning, and can pay $120. My brilliant friend Theo takes it up, so before bed I to summon up some last remaining brainpower and write him a half-decent brief.
Day 6 20/9 TUESDAY
One day left! We start working at 9 30, in the rain, on the roof. I’m drilling 2 large holes for each slot- and connecting them with the jigasaw, while George files the insides of each existing slot. These slots are for the information leaflets to drop down into, and are later spray painted chrome by George.
After lunch the fun job starts- the mural. Spray painting is George’s territory and he does it brilliantly. Meanwhile I plan what kind of design/ logo to drill into the face of the stainless steel sink. Its time for fast decision making and I decide to do an enlarged Aquarius logo- a large, flowing, double wave. I get the go ahead from G before starting drilling.
We have about 200 holes to drill and its 4pm. And we have to cut out a piece of square metal sheet to cover the back…
Are rare occurence caught on camera- George doing some work!
It’s a race against time which we lose miserably. At 7 30 its too dark to see what the hell your doing, and only half the 200 or so holes are drilled. I duly get out the fluorescent strip lights (intended to be put inside the body of the sink to illuminate our pattern of drilled holes). By this time I’m breaking and burning off drill bits at an alarming rate- stainless steel is particularly tough to drill- and the shops are shut so we can’t buy a third pack of hardened drill bits.
The night goes from bad to worse. We just about manage to cut a rectangular panel for the back. George is the vice and the light, and I’m the controller of a highly erratic replacement jigsaw (don’t break on me now, please…). Then after dinner I attempt to finish off the half drilled Aquarius symbol. I’m stressed, worn out and nearing retarded mode. I soon reach complete retarded mode when I break all possible drill bits and have to give up, leaving a very unfinished looking ‘n’ shape drilled into the front of our information centre. Shit. How the hell are we going to explain this one?
George tells me not to give up, and that it can be done in the morning. I tell him it can’t because William (our Puerto Rican Chevvy van driver) is picking us up at 6am. And he can’t go any later otherwise we’d get caught in the traffic caused by the many closed roads for the UN General Assembly. George tells me to delay our pick up, I tell him we can’t (we also had security lined up to meet us at the cathedral at 7 30). This dialogue goes on backwards and forwards until we give up trying to reach a conclusion.
Then we asked Nicole to come up for her opinion. She’s almost blind so I don’t know why I thought it would help. She laughed when she saw the very unfinished ‘n’ drilled into the front, and told us we HAD to finish it. I told her it was impossible. We then vainly tried playing around with the angles of the fluorescent tubes inside, which to me seemed to have very little effect at all. By now the Coors Lights were out and being desperately chugged.
Bed time at 1 30. I’m filthy, tired, and have an incomplete project being delivered in 4 and a half hours time. I have a shower and pass out without a care in the world. George stays up because people are talking about the burning man festival, the mecca of psychedelic festivals.
Day 7 21/9 WEDNESDAY
I wake at 6.20 to two missed calls from William. Shit. We then realise that it is too early to wake up the guy who operates the lift, which had got the damn thing up the roof. Therefore our sink, which could barely carried by 2 strong people, had to be carried down 4 flights of stairs at 6 30am. There were 4 of us- William and his helper, George and me. It was probably the worst way to wake up you could imagine.
Drenched in sweat, we pack up everything and clamber into the Chevy, starting the long slow drive through Brooklyn and up Manhattan to the Upper West Side. I eventually fall asleep to the sound of Latino pop music and the hum of traffic as we cross the Williamsburg bridge.
Things brighten up when we arrive at the Cathedral. Lisa is delighted by our arrival, and says, ‘oh my god, you guys are AWESOME’ about every 5 minutes. We are now the star players and with big boss behind us we have all sorts of people helping us set up- which was much needed. The animation arrived from Brighton and was perfect, and I even managed to finish drilling the 100 holes or so, completing our sacred Aquarius sign. (I learnt a new technique of doing light revs of the drill and found out it bites when decelerating).
We left at 5, very nearly finished and walked through those huge cathedral doors with relief, satisfaction, beer, sleep, pizza, and going out to come.
Day 8 22/9 THURSDAY
The grand opening
That day I have to finish things off at the cathedral while George goes to the MoMa- he had come here for a holiday after all… It turns out to be pretty stressful and I’m drenched in sweat, but I manage to calm down and get changed into a smart jacket just before the doors open. The drinks are ready, there is an enormous cheese table, with all kinds of cheeses piled high along with grapes and bread. There are incredibly beautiful women in pearls and arm length black gloves amongst the hundreds of people suddenly filling the space. It’s the kind of private view I like. For one thing, I’m in it, so I don’t have to lie my face off and say how great everything is (I’m the one being lied to!). A number of high powered people congratulate me, including a very sincere man who turns out to be the Dean- a much cooler version of our Archbishop of Canterbury.
I spend my time chatting up women- first the gorgeous and very glamorous ones near my age bracket, and then move on to schmoozing the powerful 50+ Manhattan art director types. One of them asks me for my business card which I confess to not having, so I take hers instead. I do my usual private view thing of failing to look at any of the art. George then turns up in his rucksack, shorts and his Crosbie Stills T-shirt not thinking everyone else would be wearing suits and evening dresses…
It’s a pretty special moment. Our bay looks brilliant, the shinny sink radiating light from its front and top, and George’s phycadelic whirlpool mural behind it with Theo’s animation beaming onto it. We are then paraded as V.I.P.s by Lisa to all her friends. We stand there as she tells them the whole story, over and over. She must be pleased as six days ago she hadn’t a clue what to do and took a very big gamble hiring us- the wacky duo from England- and yet it payed off.
Then there’s the after party which we go to with Lucy. I can’t quite concentrate on much that’s being said but manage to fill up with plenty of food and wine and keep on board through our joint interview. Towards the end of the night this pretty arrogant guy asks what we’re doing here- only to backtrack veryapologetically when I tell him we were the two guys from England who did the information centre.
We leave late. Its George’s last night so we celebrate hard on 14th street. He makes friends with some guys on the street who we go to a party with, one of whom carries a small dog in her rucksack! We all get chucked out of the party, then go to a gay club which we also get chucked out of. George hugs the huge black bouncer and gets pushed away and yelled at.
We get the J train back. In my state I let George and our new friends lead the way, waking me at every change or stop. We eventually stumble out at Halsey street and I mumble to him that we have one more thing to do- not to get stabbed walking home. He takes care of the situation and we eventually arrive home at 5 30, elated and completely finished.
GEORGE: A HUMAN STORY
This whole thing came out of a silly game we were playing in Wales after far too many ciders. Unable to use the table tennis table as it was covered in an array of homemade steam pressing devices we had invented an instant classic, barn pong. Using the exposed wooden beams in the loft conversion of Patrick’s barn we were rallying over and under bouncing the ball off of anything from the back wall to the hanging lamps.
After a few hours of unwavering commitment to this new venture into extreme ping pong we resided to our beds at opposite sides of the room. The game continued with a new emphasis on using the slice volley to swerve the ball and deceive the opponent. This is where an unflattering bet entered the competition, the winner would decide the fate of my last week before the beginning of term. They would be deciding if I would be visiting New York.
At the time it seemed resoundingly appropriate as my summer project was based on aphorisms, I had chosen ‘Look Before You Leap’ and changed the meaning to encompass my(our) boyish carelessness for adventure. I eventually lost this game of fate by only a mere point played out after a few hours of tiebreaker.
Arriving at JFK several hours before Patrick I was informed that my destination was notoriously dangerous and advised to make it to the safety of the loft before sunset to avoid and trouble with local heavies or gang bangers. I had taken a long bus to central Brooklyn deep into the heart of black culture and an incredible contrast to the rural countryside of Wiltshire and Hereford, where I had spent most of my summer. I got off the bus unsure if I had gone too far or veered of course, and opened the scrawled map Patrick had drawn me to ensure my safe arrival, it was a list of tube stops I should pass to make it to the loft. I was off course already so began dragging my oversized suitcase along the avenue, it was approaching dark and I stumbled across the name of a street that coincided with a name on the scrap paper. The last of the summer sun had drawn all but a few of the families and groups of friends to their porches were games of dominoes and boom boxes were fuelling the evening’s playful atmosphere. Brooklyn’s charm soon turned as I wandered further into Halsey and the groups became larger and beefier. I was wheeling my case at full speed and soon found the crossover I needed.
“Fuck yo loft” a tag on the sidewalk made sure I knew I was in the right place. A young guy in skinny jeans and pointy shoes was at the door to let me in and when I made it to 309 I was surprised to find nobody in. Soon enough a man in an open shirt with a beer in each hand had found me expectantly waiting and offered the use of his mobile, the number I had to call wasn’t answering so I was offered the use of his bathroom and was intrigued to find his loft embellished with a swinging chair much like you’d find attached to a tree. I settled down from my panicked state and began to feel immediately at home.
I left my case in the living room and left to explore the roof… A graffiti heaven with a water tower beer garden, I befriended a German and we decided we needed to find some supplies. The next person to join us on the roof hooked us up with the chron and we set about losing our minds. I had picked up a few coors lights and we were merrily making conversations when I heard a very british accent from the firedoor entrance to the roof! Patrisha had arrived! We’ve been looking all over for you George he calls out, I am too out of it to understand his relief and we join our hosts in their beautifully decorated open planned loft. The first thing you notice upon entrance is the 20ft mural of a bionic vagina, sick.
Waking up in this alien place to your housemate painting was such a revitalizing experience. Ron, a charming Boston action artist, who worked during the day a s a wine taster, was living out his dreams with a home studio and bedroom balcony! I soon asked if he was in need of an intern, my first job… a beer run to the local off-licence only a few feet from the lofts. Cheers to that! From then on the beer breakfast was a stalwart of Brooklyn living.
An unexpected part of this journey through mind body and soul is how Patrick and I’s adventure in NY crossed paths with a wonderful woman with strength and the aura to control our whirlwind of excitement and drive for adventure. We met in the cathedral after instructions from Lucy to go and take notes and plan ideas for the information centre. We couldn’t contact our boss to be, so I thought we should approach an important looking group that were observing the construction of one of the various installations being put together that day. It turned out to be the right thing to do as we were quickly introduced to our incredible boss, Lisa and rushed off to our new office. We were briefed and warned of the difficulties of the job and the tight deadlines we had to adhere to. We were offered several chances to back down and being bold we stood up and asked to be counted. The faith, rather unexpectedly, was repaid as we delivered a finished project brimming with meaning both conceptually and spiritually.
We had delivered for the most deserved of clients and that first sip of wine at the private view was a sweet ending to our 6 days. We were now friends. I had found myself in awe of my working surroundings, daunted by the challenge, but sided with a heroic project leader in Patrick. I was pushed to the limit and at the time I didn’t know why I was rummaging around scrap yards or carrying tonnes of metal down flights of stairs. I could have been living it up going out every night and visiting the numerous galleries in the Chelsea district but it’s only now that I realise I have learnt some valuable lessons.
I felt new emotional depths of empowerment and life affirming joy- to be successful in our job, helping a woman who’s mother had just passed away, Lisa, at a time of great need. As much as New York was a culture shock and as much as Americans and I find it hard to communicate, the ideology of yes you can do it had rubbed off on me and I was ready to take this home and start the term in high spirits.
How to order pizza if you English
Patrick- you can’t. get an American friend to do it for you.
George- you definitely can’t. its so hard and takes so long, and I ended up with half the amount of pizza I needed.
How not to get a panic attack on the subway
Patrick- I love every minute the New York subway so can’t help with this one.
George- why is everyone travelling so fast? Why is everyone looking at me strange? I must have looked like I came straight from the Forrest or something. With a scruffy beard and scraggly hair. Everyone was in the groove of New York buzzing off each other and there I was, like an alien.
A guide to New York taxis
New York taxi drivers are crap. They don’t speak English for a start, and have no clue of where they are or where you want to go (which you’d think would be pretty easy in city with numbered streets and avenues, in square blocks!). They also refuse to take you if your carrying a 5ft piece of acrylic, or if you want to go to Bushwick, or if they can’t understand you. And to top it off they drive yo-yo style like my Granny, which makes you want to vomit if you’ve spent all night drinking and have just stuffed your face with pizza.
How to get a job by mistake in Manhattan
George- I wouldn’t advise it. I kindof just wanted to chill on the roof but I went along with it and it was an adventure.
Patrick- Firstly go in September, when New York is in overdrive mode. Then approach all the very busy high powered female Manhattanites with deadlines in a few days time- therefore in crisis mode. Don’t waste their time. Be charming, English, in control, and re-assuring. And offer to take something off their hands.
How to understand George if you’re American (*most read*)
Patrick- Me and George communicate with no difficulty at all. I mean, I have spent about 4 weeks with him this summer so maybe I’ve had a bit more practise, but I don’t see why you guys find it so hard. You just have to listen, and read the bushy mousetashe a bit. He doesn’t like being put on the spot either, so give him questions with an easy route out. Another good one is sticking to yes/no ones, which involves the old nod/ head shake.
George- I can’t understand you guys either.
How to play the Hessidic Jew game.
This is a particular stroke of genius by GHT. It all started when we found ourselves in Williamsburg on a Friday night, and suddenly we’re in the Hessidic Jewish quarter andeveryone on the street are wearing 19th century German villager costumes. They’re also particularly unfriendly and disapproving. It was a very trippy experience. We were sitting on a street corner, and just watching everyone giving us highly disapproving looks and blanking our friendly greetings.
‘Dude lets play a game’, says George.
It goes like this. You take it in turns to greet one/ a group of them. If they ignore you (highly likely), it’s the next persons turn. If you get a wave/ greeting back you score a goal. George beat me hands down 3 nil, in the space of about half an hour.
How to find a straight girl in New York.
New York is full of incredibly gorgeous, single, straight girls, so it’s very, very easy. We both, however, failed miserably, with me being led astray by a dangerous Brazilian lesbian and George kissing the alpha gay (‘Jage’- see photo) at the gay club we got chucked out of.
George- didn’t even try.
How to communicate with Latino scrap yard heavies
Patrick- I don’t know. I wasn’t very successful on that front…
George- grunt, smile, give ‘em a nod. Get involved. Show them your willing to get stuck in with a beer; Act casual; And have a beard- that probably helped.
How to walk on the ‘sidewalk’ in Manhattan.
Patrick- This is tricky, as you get out of the subway and there are swarms of people just like you- the most important people and doingthe most important thing with the least amount of time to get from A to B, going in every possible direction. You have to be quick on your toes. Find a gap. If it narrows you go sideways. Overtake slow and fat people as soon as possible. Or just find a ‘pavement daddy’ (like a road daddy, but for the pavement) and follow in their wake. Be decisive at junctions. Plan in advance. Use skyscrapers as compass points, it saves time.
George- I found this the most hectic thing ever. I often changed to the other side of the road if the pavement was too busy for me, almost getting run over in the process.
How to carry a sink weighing a ton down 4 flights of stairs at 6am, with 2 Latinos who you can’t understand
Patrick- Well, if you’re sneaky and selfish like me you go to the BACK, as most of the weight will be carried by the guys at the front. Careful not to break your back in the process. Pick a leader who directs the operation. I tried to be that person but there was some confusion as to my authority (William is 60, stronger than me and GHT put together, and judging the scrap yard’s demography has probably been doing it since he was 12).
George- I loved it. The physicality made me realise I was really alive. It was about… being.
A short note from the client.
To come. It will probably start with something like ‘you guys are orrrrrsome!’
We spent $1800 in total- far below our $3-5,000 budget, and a 1/25th of the $45,000 our predecessors quoted!
*SOUNDTRACK* For when you’re the boss…
*these figures may not be accurate. awaiting confirmation