The hangover. Oh, dear lord, the hangover. It was a bad one. I lay in bed for hours, awake but completely unable to move. Everything hurt. We listened on the radio to commentary of Spurs’ disappointing 1-1 draw with Aston Villa, just to add to the sense of misery. Bleary-eyed, we rolled out to the deli next to the hotel to get some breakfast, but all I could manage was some crisps and orange juice. It was time to get ready though – there was a ball game to go to.
On the train to the Citi Field Stadium in Flushing Meadow, we had the same pallid, sickly, tired, morning-after look that most people heading to early Sunday matches in the Premier League have. Normally we’d have blended in, but not here – this baseball crowd were all chirpy and fresh-faced and wide awake. It was all wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong.
Arriving at the stadium, though, things started to pick up and I started to wake up. For a new build, it was a gorgeous place. Instead of the soulless plastic of so many modern stadiums, it seemed to have the history of the New York Mets woven into the very fabric of the building. It was a very different experience to going to a football ground, with the ability to freely walk all the away around the stadium. With all of the food and drink stands and merchandise shops, it at times felt like a shopping mall attached to a baseball park, but that was a lot more preferable to the grim concrete concourses I’m used to. Sitting down to watch the New York Mets take on Arizona Diamondbacks I soon found that, despite expecting to know what was going on thanks to all those years playing rounders at school, I clearly didn’t know a lot about the rules of baseball. At times, the crowd would cheer for no obvious reason, at others I would be struggling to work out why a player was called out. Despite that, it was a really enjoyable afternoon, with a couple of drinks and a delicious hot dog helping the hangover no end.
Once again, I felt like I was in a movie, with all of the clichés like a blooper reel on the big screen, a “kiss cam” and of course a rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”. Every time the Mets scored a home run, a big apple rose out of the ground beneath the scoreboard. At one point, someone in my row bought a hot dog, passing the money along one way, and then we passed the food back to them – something I’m not sure would quite work back home. Later we watched standing at the back, in the warm, relaxing sunshine. It was a perfect day for it. The only drawback was that it was a comparatively very quick game, over in just over a couple of hours. But I’d decided the Mets would be my team from now on, so I got a couple of things from the main store and then spent some time in the excellent museum, looking back at the history of the team.
It was a wonderfully clear, sunny day and the train back gave some great views of Manhattan. There would be just enough time to finally visit the Top of the Rock. We headed to the Rockefeller Center, home of NBC, and after a bit of a queue, introductory video and photo opportunity involving that iconic picture of builders eating lunch on a girder hanging high above the city, it was time to get in the lift. They put on quite a show, with lights and video projected onto the elevator’s glass ceiling as we went up to the 68th floor.
The views were spectacular. Looking south, the view from 30 Rock is better than the view from the Empire State Building, because it includes the Empire State Building. It was such a clear day that it was easy to see very, very far – pretty much the entirety of New York City and a little bit beyond. I’ve never been good with heights, but could somehow cope here because of the tall panes of glass all around. I tried to go to the very, very top, which was a little more exposed to elements, but it was so crowded and narrow that I had to quickly get back down to safer ground. It was a great way to round off the trip, seeing exactly how the city fits together and looking back at all of the places I’d visited.
After that, it was time to quickly pack and check out from the hotel and then head back to JFK Airport as the sun was going down. The airport itself was a bit of a let-down, with most shops and restauants being closed even early in the evening, perhaps because it was a Sunday, but it was a very busy time with lots of passengers milling around, looking for something to do. The flight home, meanwhile, mainly involved catching up on lots and lots of sleep.
It was an unforgettable trip, packing so much into four short days. I already really can’t wait to go back.