Clapping and singing and yelling hallelujah

Up and about by 7:30. Headed downtown for the Harlem Tour bus. No sun today. On the way we stopped at the bakery near Lisa & Jack’s for some yummo pastries to take with us.

Got the tour bus with 22 others and headed back uptown. The woman giving the tour spoke both English & French fluently, changing effortlessly between the two. Half the bus was French so this was handy.

We set off down Broadway thanks to Marco, our Columbian driver, who spent most of the trip being told off. Our guide pointed out the building she lives in as it was once the home of Caruso and other great singers. Our tour began properly in Sugar Hill. We found out yesterday that Sugar = Money in jazz-speak and this was/is the moneyed area of Harlem.

We passed Duke Ellington’s house and lots of other famous black residences. Originally Harlem was named by the Dutch and was spelt Haarlem. It was initially a pretty classy spot, inhabited by Manhattan Islanders who wished to leave the immigrant riff raff behind them, downtown. Although they were all immigrants, this riff raff was the newer kind! Italians, Chinese, some Jews, etc and the old riff raff didn’t want a bar of them!

We discovered today why NY is called the Big Apple. During the Jazz Age (like the Ice Age but not as long and nowhere near as cold), the touring musicians thought of the US as a big apple tree and each town they played in was an apple. Naturally NY was the biggest place to play (because if you made it there you’ll make it anywhere etc etc) so it became the BIG Apple. Why they thought of the US as a big apple tree, I don’t know.

After Sugar Hill we drove down to the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture. We were only here for half an hour and wandered through an exhibition of photos depicting various moments of important black history (since the advent of photography anyway). I found it quite interesting and rather sad that a part of humanity had to live through such oppression for so long. Though, to be fair, all races have, at some time or other, had to fight against oppression.

A lot of people blame the English for black slavery but the Romans took a lot of ancient Britons for slaves when they first invaded and I’ve yet to hear anyone abusing the Italians for that. Mirinda, however, was angered that they seemed to be blaming the whites for everything when it was the African tribes themselves who happily sold each other into slavery in order to settle tribal debts during war. Good job we were only there half an hour!

Tour of Harlem

We then drove past President Clinton’s office – why he has an office in Harlem is anyone’s guess. They all made jokes about it but no-one actually had a reason. And then on to some gospel singing.

Now we thought this was going to be just a concert but it was a church service – a real one – with all the trimmings. It was in a small church with a terrific choir made up of junkies in rehab. Very powerful stuff. I really enjoyed it. Clapping and singing and yelling hallelujah. Came out feeling uplifted in a way I’ve never felt before.

Back to the bus and back downtown via Central Park West. Past the Dakota and Arnie Schwartzeneger’s house/apartment. We got dropped off on 42nd street and hit the subway back to the hotel for a break, picking up bagels (one with cream cheese and lox, the other with raisins & walnuts) for lunch. Mirinda then had a snooze and I watched Beetlejuice for the umpteenth time – great movie.

Tonight is the big halloween parade through Greenwich Village so we set off on the subway. Went all the way down to 14th street. We wandered round Greenwich for about an hour – not unlike Paddington, Sydney – then had Chinese for dinner. After eating we joined the crowds waiting for the parade.

It was great! Lots of people in outrageous costumes (and that’s in the crowd) and brilliant puppets of scary things. There was even a Bin Laden who was roundly boo-ed. A lot of men dressed as women including an impressive Statue of Liberty.

We had a great spot for a while but then the police changed the barriers meaning we ended up further back than when we started. We were philosophical about this but two families in front of us (wives, husbands, kids, babies, grandfathers, etc) were not happy at all! They had bought all their furniture and had been sitting there for months. They abused this copper but he just shrugged and smiled.

We left before the end of the parade heading uptown for the subway. Back at the hotel early but pretty much exhausted.

I watched as much of the World Series as I could before falling asleep. Found out that the Yankees won – Derek Jeter scored a home run on the stroke of midnight to break the draw. The series is now 2-2 with another game tomorrow night.

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