Thursday, 30 April 2009

Wednesday 29th April. Before departure. I leave it a bit late with the packing.

On the plane they have a water dispenser with these little blue conical plastic cups. I watch Milk, the Gus Van Sant film about Harvey Milk, the San Francisco District Supervisor who campaigned for gay rights and was murdered in 1978. The film features a voiceover by Sean Penn, who plays Milk. Towards the end of the film Penn's voice revisits a famous speech by Milk in which he refers to the common cause of what he calls "the usses":
"without hope, not only gays, but those blacks, and the asians, the disabled, the seniors, the usses, the usses, without hope, the usses give up. I know that you cannot live on hope alone. But without it, life is not worth living. And you, and you, and you... got to give them hope."
It's a moving scene, as 30,000 people are shown marching the streets of San Francisco, each one holding a candle in mourning for Milk's death.
I have arranged to stay with my landlord's nephew, Paul, but when I arrive at Newark I can't get hold of him. My mobile phone doesn't work in the states. The payphones are temperamental. I call twice but he doesn't answer. I find the bus stop I need to get to the train station and a young hispanic guy says I can borrow his cell phone to call Paul. This time I get through. The young guy also gives me a dollar to get the bus (they only take exact money). The bus is very full. There are two white faces onboard and one of them is mine. I don't get it. I sit next to a slender old Asian man who speaks little English. He tells me Newark Penn is the last stop. After a while the crowd thins and he gets up and moves to an empty seat. People are laughing and talking to each other. A girl hits a black guy in a hoodie over the head with a carrier bag as she goes past, smiling. The Hispanic guy from earlier walks down from the back and sits opposite my old Asian friend. They touch each other on the arm and share a joke. It's like everybody knows each other on this bus. I borrow two more cell phones from strangers. One at Newark Penn (another Latino) and one at New York Penn (Manhattan), where a young black guy tells me that he is from England too. He was born in Birmingham, left there when he was eight years old. 'You lost your accent,' I say. 'Yeah,' he says, 'I can't get the girls no more.' He plugs his phone into a socket in the wall and lets me ring Paul.

At the bar. From the left: Ronen, Nik, Rich, Paul, me. It is an Irish bar in Midtown. The menu includes baked beans on toast for $6. They play Robbie Williams, they play Coldplay, they play an old hit by Garbage. I eat some food and drink a pint of India Pale Ale and feel fine. I drink half a second pint and feel a lot less fine. It's 10pm, New York time.

I stay at Rich and Ronen's place. They are friends of Paul's, working for the same company. I get to bed just after midnight, New York time, about 22 hours after I got out of bed in London. About 18 hours after I shaved my hair in Phil's bathroom in Islington. I wake up at intervals, thinking about what I should write in this blog.

Thursday 30th. In the morning I open the window and look out. The apartment building is at the North West corner of Central Park, at the bottom end of Harlem. Outside a man is shouting in the street. His words are clearly audible. Warning: this clip contains murder threats and strong language. 
Having caught it on video, I ask myself if I should take it to the police? Or try to find Steve? I don't think the man can be identified from the footage, can he?