Saturday 5 April 2014

New York State of Mind

A week past on Wednesday 19th March, I had the good fortune to travel to New York City with my wife as a special birthday treat because she had always wanted to go there.

Now, New York is a place that's never taken my fancy because I have always thought of it as being weird, dangerous and wacky. My views being coloured by the many tv shows and films such as Taxi Driver, Taxi, Fame, Kojak, Fort Apache, the Bronx et,. al.

Landing at Newark Liberty Airport it certainly looked as though my fears were going to be realised.The route to Manhattan via the New Jersey Turnpike and the Lincoln Tunnel certainly aren't very impressive with the views of the concrete island across the mainly industrial landscape of New Jersey being uninspiring and quite foreboding to say the least.

It's only when you get inside Manhattan that you realise the magic of the place if there is such a thing. It's not so much the people but more the concrete jungle that seems to make it. I'm not saying you won't find the odd New Yorker in New York these days but you certainly won't find as many as you used to. It seems a  funny place with a population that seems to be in transit. New York has always been the great melting pot with Ellis Island and it's registration rooms close to the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island where hundreds of thousands of immigrants passed through on their way to the new world but I wasn't quite expecting to find the volume of " New Americans " I found rather than the second and third one's I'd been expecting. There was no Cagney and Lacey, no Top Cat or Officer Dibble, no Tony Manero and not even a Bill Cosby to be seen anywhere. And as for New York taxi driver's they seem to be an extinct breed. Sure there are plenty of people driving taxi's but they're not from New York and seem to be in the main 1st generation immigrant's from the Asian continent.

It wasn't all bad though, we did meet one resident New Yorker even if he is originally from near to Chicago on our first night there. None other than Bill Murray who was more than hospitable when he offered me a rather large Glenlivet on hearing my Scottish accent which I declined in exchange for photograph. To which Bill kindly agreed to in his own cordial way when he said " I'm here for you man ". He also managed to put a smile on our faces when he said suck in the gut and smile for the camera just as the photo was taken.

Anyway, I'm rambling on here and I could go on about how we spent four days in the Big Apple tramping the concrete pavements. How we visited Little Italy, Chinatown, The Red Lobster in Times Square. How we  rode uptown, downtown and all over town on the Metro Subway on a thirty dollar 7 day unlimited travel ticket. I could talk about how we visited Katz' Deli on E. Houston ( pronounced Howston ) Street. How we almost trod the boards of Broadway at the August Wilson Theatre when we saw Jersey Boys or travelled along second avenue at night on an uptown bus. I could go on at length about the Native American Museum or the Albanian Street vendor who ripped us off for $10 bucks for a hot dog at Battery Park. I could even talk about central Park and the way it seems to draw you in, St Patrick's Cathedral or Tiffany's but I won't as I'm sure you'd find it tedious.

Instead I'll tell you about visiting Capitol Fishing Tackle which is situated right in the middle of the Big Apple. tucked, in behind Macy's at 132 West 36th street.

Now, I'd been looking forward to popping in here and while my wife shopped at Macy's I did just that. I didn't really know what to expect as the only thing I had googled about the shop was the address and when I found this wee gem right in the thick of it so to speak I was more than just a little surprised.

I think I'd been expecting to find something along the lines of the Glasgow Angling Centre which is big bright modern and bold but Capitol Fishing was none of these things. It was actually like a traditional fishing store the kind of which you used to find. It didn't have a massive frontage, neither did it have a boring vinyl sign. Instead it had a fantastic old style black boarded red and green neon sign that says Capitol Fishing Tackle - and cutlery. Something which is absolutely priceless considering this is the 21st century and I can only assume this hark's to the fact that the shop was founded in 1897. Wow ! How many tackle shops can boast such a lengthy history in these days of the internet where stores like this seem to be dropping  off the horizon like flies in a room that's been sprayed with a full can of raid.

Inside, the store didn't disappoint either. With it's traditional style rod racks, that are only about four feet high, glass fronted lure display cases and walls lined with photo's of what would be considered record breaking fish here in the UK, the place is a complete gem. The Tiffany's of tackle shops. A one and only never to be copied outside of New York experience. A Mecca of tackle shops that people should make a pilgrimage to and even if you don't need anything you should make sure you buy something just to commemorate your visit. In fact it was one of the few places in New York where the guys behind the counter seemed to actually and genuinely have time for you but I guess that's what comes of having a shared interest.

After buying a couple of the baseball hat pin hooks you don't seem to get in the uk and see guys like Larry the Cable Guy wearing on his Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy show, I was able to chat with Neil and Gabe but mainly Neil as an older gentleman came into the store and Gabe helped him.

Neil was a wealth of information on what happens fishing wise in and around New York. He also had information  on places as far afield as Mexico and Florida because that's how widespread Capitols client base is. Ex presidents and the Sultan of Brunei complete with Uzi toting guards have also shopped there with the Sultan asking for the shop to be closed while he browsed their wares. Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen used to drop by when the store was in the Chelsea Hotel.  There are photo's on the wall of guys with massive ( by our uk standards ) flounders, stripers and skipjack's that have been caught in local waters. Muskies that have been caught upstate, Dorado that's been caught in Mexico by two young local guys who are originally from Mexico but travel back there each year and Neil was even able to tell me about the time he drove all the way to Florida just to fish. If we were to take a 24 hour road trip to go fishing it would need to involve a ferry or tunnel journey to Europe.

Well, I chatted for a wee while with Neil while he told me about the photo's and a wealth of information he was too. He was like the New Yorker's I thought I would have met more of in NYC. The real new yorker's. The one's who could tell you a little about the place and who were happy to chat and pas on some of their knowledge as long as you didn't outstay your welcome. We did meet a few more of these real new york folks during our stay in the Big Apple but they seem to be a bit few and far between in a city that's most definitely geared up for domestic and international tourism these days.

So, after chewing the fat and sad that I couldn't buy anything more substantial from what was on offer I said goodbye to Neil and Gabe.

Taking a photo as I left this amazing oasis in the concrete wilderness,  I headed back to find my wife at Macy's and we shopped there for a bit before heading back to our hotel. The Renaissance Hotel 57 on East 57th  and Lexington where we got changed and headed out to see Jersey Boys at the August Wilson Theatre just off Times Square. We had a few beers in Emmett O ' Lunney's Irish bar  on what was to be the penultimate evening of our trip and did some more New York tourist stuff the following day but if there's one place that I'll remember fondly in New York it's Capitol Fishing Tackle that also just happens to sell Cutlery ! Oh, and just in case you're looking for bait or tackle while you're in New York, this place has the lot.

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