Kojak. The Streets of San Francisco. Cagney and Lacey. Hill Street Blues. Ironside. Quincey. Starskey and Hutch (and Huggy Bear). Roseanne. Married with Children. Taxi. Happy Days. Cheers. Mork and Mindy (na nu na nu).
Growing up watching these shows on British TV in the 70s and 80s, gives your impression of America as a land of scandal and murder on every street corner, and of crimes that always seems to get solved within an hour. (And the baddies are useless shots who always leave a fatal flaw in their grand plans). Or of total manic family life when it’s a hoot a minute and everything ends up smelling of roses, complete with family hugs and a moral issue stuck in there somewhere. Actually, the scandal and murder on every street corner part was maybe not far from the truth in America in the 70s and 80s. Maybe a few more Steve Austin`s (The Six Million Dollar Man) could have helped keep the peace.
To an impressionable kid like me it was all great stuff. Id be hooked on every episode, awe struck with the larger than life city streets and the strange things people were eating. What the hell were Bagels and Pretzels? Where could I find some? Not from the corner shop down the road that’s for sure. “What’s that your after, pretzels? Never heard of them.” Relaying that Starskey and Hutch were always eating them cut no ice either. “Ask them where they got them then.” Ok, thanks.
And of course the old chestnut; ‘World Series’ in American sports when no other country in the World can take part? That’s one way to guarantee that the trophies don’t leave American soil I suppose. But still.
Everything seemed so much bigger in America. The streets, the cars, the buildings, (especially the buildings), the houses, the hot dogs. Growing up, it was always a place I wanted to visit but I had convinced myself it would always just be a pipedream. That was until I finally got my act together in my early thirties and decided that come hell or high water, I was going.
Up until then I’d spent all my time and money following the (mis)fortunes of my beloved Newcastle United FC all around our green and pleasant land, and then all around Europe. While that was really a labour of love, America was a different kettle of fish. Like I said, a supposed pipedream.
The fascination I had with the USA was twofold. It was basically America in general, New York City in particular (with Los Angeles not far behind). My first trip over there had to be focused on NYC though. I had to get in amongst it, to experience it all for myself.
I had to have a stroll up 5th Avenue, have a look around Central Park, buy a hotdog off a street vendor, ride in a yellow cab, buy a ‘I love NY’ T-shirt, stuff like that. I also fancied having a look at the corner of 53rd and 3rd, the spot Rod Stewarts `Georgie Boy` met an untimely end; `An ambulance screamed to a halt on 53rd and 3rd`. Damn those New Jersey gangs! I’d read countless guidebooks, and watched films and documentaries until I had square eyes. I felt I knew the city and streets before I even saw them for real.
As for L.A. That seemed a remarkable city to me. Or should that be a remarkable twenty thousand (or thereabouts) small cities rolled into one. So many places there jump out at you just by their name. Hollywood. Santa Monica (and Santa Monica Boulevard), Sunset Strip, Beverly Hills, Bell Air etc.
And then there were the other places I was just as keen to have a look at: New Orleans, Memphis, Houston (for the Space Centre), San Francisco.
I dare say I would also find trips to Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Missouri, Wisconsin (oh I could go on and on!), just as interesting. The funny thing is, the one state I have no real interest in is the one most Brits head to most often, Florida.
So we finally got round to booking a week over there. We being me and my mate Malc. After being advised to go off season (cheaper!), we were left with the choice between march10th and september10th 2001. Saying as March was only a few months away, that swung it. (As well as being only five days after my birthday!). I think I’d waited long enough without the extra six months added on. At long last a week in New York City awaited me.
Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave eh? Ok. Let’s go and have a look. I want a big bite of the `Big Apple`. Start spreading the news………..