Given how glossy everything looks on TV, in the movies and in the commercials, etc, I always get lulled into thinking the US is some kind of well-oiled machine. It's clear in term of transportation, certainly, it is not. Even roads, the arteries of America, are often in a terrible state. Pot-marked, misjoined and full of bits of car. I'm sure Iraq has better roads than the ones in some New York suburbs. But then the US has more attention, money and man-power turned on Iraq than any New York suburb.
The first houses I saw were horrible. Even the small ones were a designed in a kind of ostentatious but cheap way which makes them look nothing but tacky. Some are made to look like little castles or colonial mansions, but are the size of small bungalow. Occasionally dangling fairy lights would adorn the obligatory porch. The following houses were rows of tall, ominous red-brick blocks, which were actually more pleasing on the eye. There is a lot to be said for not allowing too much free expression.
I was taking the express bus service from into the centre of New York. It's a kind of taxi service with a fixed price and takes several people at a time to their respective doors. The service promises qualified drivers and ours was qualified in driving whilst texting back to headquarters. It was a good reminder that American Traffic Lane Laws are that the fast lane is the one you are in.
We drove through Queens, an area with a bad reputation and even worse roads. It's a very run-down suburb. The first person I saw was stood fixed like a slouching sentry, guarding the street, but staring left. I have never seen anyone looking quite so Snoop Dogg an' shit.
I was dropped off at the Hilton and went upstairs and found the Lady Catherine fresh from her day’s conferencing. Sometime later, we headed out to find food. We'd phoned ahead, but the healthy food place (called The Pump as they were going for a gym-going clientele) had lost our order and was now closing. They gave us a couple of free energy muffins and were very apologetic, which was nice and unexpected as I am used to the Dutch shrug when anything goes wrong. It being late not much was open except late-night stores and a few unhealthy restaurants, so we scrounged some less-lethal looking things from one of the former and returned to the hotel.