Intrepid Optimist

Intrepid Optimist is the place where I can share my stories; fact, fiction and thoughts from the past and present. It’s Written by myself for people who believe adventure knows no age

Welcome to the (old)Big Apple


A few years back I wrote the following first time  impressions of my arrival in New York. Times, as always, have changed and I am pretty sure I would no longer get credit in the bar and I hope the now fifth or sixth generation Irish policemen may look a little more kindly on  vacationing Englishmen. As to my gay companion? Well even I have learned to accept that things have changed.

The year was 1970. I was on an Air India flight, taxiing down the runway to the terminal of the John F. Kennedy International Airport.  I was arriving in America for the first time. and I had just US$5.00 to my name.

As we were docking, a stewardess was calling out names of people who had messages waiting for them.  I was one of those and my message informed me that my friend, a doctor, would be delayed due to  an emergency at his hospital for about two hours and I should await him in the airport bar. Normally waiting in a bar would have been no problem for me, in fact I would have loved it – but on five dollars –the aspect it did not look good.

Getting through US customers did not take long and I was still left with time to waste and little cash. I was standing at the main entrance in an attempt to escape the air-conditioning, as a white, stretch limousine; the first one I had ever set eyes on, pulled up in front. A very tall, imposing Afro-American, dressed in a full length, white fur coat and a  taqiyah cap, sprang out of the vehicle and rushed past me into the airport. In his haste some coins fell from his pocket and I called after him but he dismissed me with a nonchalant wave of his hand. No one else showed interest so I stooped low and collected what was there.

For a moment I was mightily impressed that anyone could afford to throw away one dollar and seventy five cents, which was the total of the coins I had picked up. But his loss was my gain, I now had six dollars seventy-five cents, enough to be in the bar with confidence.

I was on my second beer and getting into conversation with the barman – they had time to talk to customers in those days, I laughingly recounted the limo incident and mentioned my temporary lack of liquidity. He was amused but not surprised, explaining that the man would have been either a film star or a musician but more than likely was a pimp. As to my financial predicament;  he would allow me credit until my friend arrived.

I had not even left the airport and already I was beginning to feel at home in America. Being a firm believer that you should try the local produce, I switched from beer to Manhattans and was in great form by the time my friend arrived to collect me and pay the tab.

My host lived and worked in Staten Island. As he was at work all day, I was left to amuse myself. I had been advised to be very careful, New York at that time was experiencing a huge crime wave and a there was high incidence of murders. Debarking from the ferry at Manhattan the first day and being a bit confused, I  approached a very large policeman for assistance.

He must of caught my accent because he hissed, Get the fuck away from me Limey!  I was later told that he was probably second or third generation Irish, as were most of the New York police. They did not hold Englishmen in high esteem.

I was somewhat taken aback andnot risking more of his wrath moved quickly on to enquire of someone else. Being from Manchester and of the theory that working class folk were friendly folk, I approached a man wearing blue over-alls. As he turned around to answer me I saw that he was sporting a large stars and stripes handkerchief, sprouting from his overall pocket and to match, a  pair of pink jogging shoes. I had chosen a homosexual and an overly dainty one at that.

In contrast to the belligerent Irish cop, he was  thrilled  to meet a gen you ine Englishman. He was most helpful but to my embarrassment, insisted on accompanying me to the subway and sat by me all the way up to 42nd Street.

About bbryanthomas

Not so young man about town who, having witnessed and enjoyed life, is presently having fun, writing about those by-gone times and life in general.

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This entry was posted on July 7, 2017 by in Stories.
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