Now, how am I going to do this? Lots and lots to write about my New York visit, but doing it all in chronological order is so passé these days (I did that when I went to NY in 2006, and I hate to repeat myself). I'll just randomly talk about incidents, I think, over the next few blog entries, unless something else comes up.
Firstly, I should report that scary internet acquaintance number 1 and his equally scary-sounding friend turned out to be the most fun people I've ever met! Seriously, my existing friends should prepare themselves to be bumped down my favourite-people list a couple of places. I might even start referring to them as Dee and Ry, rather than continuing to describe them as scary strangers, that's how much I like them. And likewise, I had an enormous amount of fun with scary internet acquaintance number 2 (or, as I might want to call him from now on, John) - we went to the enormous FAO Schwarz toy store, as featured in the movie "Big", and played on the giant lighting-up piano! And saw sea-lions playing in Central Park, which I didn't realise was a thing you could do in New York. AND had a genuine New York hot dog from a cart and found to my surprise that it tasted quite nice!
Also, the city is teeming with squirrels! There are a whole lot of them in Central Park, who come scampering up to see you in case you're bringing them nuts, and another gang who hang out in Union Square, who I spent an enjoyable time feeding cashews early on Saturday morning.
I got recognised by one (geordie-accented) person in the city while I was seeing the sights, and two people on the plane home, one of whom was American. Obviously my fame is becoming a global phenomenon. I've just had another email from David Blaine's people, saying he wants to talk to me, too. I'm going to say no thanks, but it's very flattering.
While I'm talking about memory-related things, let's mention my pretext for a holiday there in the first place, and congratulate Ronnie White for winning the US Memory Championship! He really was on another level to the other competitors, and I'm looking forward to seeing what he does in the future. He's also got a book out, if you're one of those people who collect memory books - called "The Military Memory Man" and subtitled "An Afghanistan war veteran shares his secrets of memory techniques", or something along those lines. Personally, if I'm looking for a good book on memory, the author's war record isn't the first criterion I use for making my decision, but presumably that kind of thing goes down well in Texas. Ronnie, although a very nice person, is what the Americans call "conservative".
By one of those funny coincidences that make me suspect that my subconscious has got a mind of its own, I randomly picked a book from my bookcase to read on the plane (couldn't make up my mind, so thought to myself 'I'll move my finger along the shelves, and see where it's got to when I've counted to ten'), which turned out to be "Are You Dave Gorman?" I'd completely forgotten this, but during their travels chronicled in the book, Dave and Danny stay in the Roosevelt Hotel, just like I was doing. It's a very nice place, if you ever want to go there. Right next to the awesome-looking Grand Central Station, which certainly lives up to the 'Grand' part of its name (and also the 'Station' part, although that's less of an exceptional thing to say about it. It's a little bit too much to the south of Manhattan to really justify the 'Central' name, though...)
It was in Grand Central, in fact, while I was heading back to my hotel on a break from hanging out at the US Memory Championship and being told by everyone present how great my memory was, that I heard someone say "Hi, Ben," and turned to see who it was. I was a bit surprised by the casual (and midlands-English-accented) greeting, as if from someone who'd expected to see me there, since I didn't recognise the woman at all. "It's Kelly, from Boots," she explained, and I said "Ah, yes," as if that made everything clear.
I still have no idea who she is. But the important thing is that the American memory competitors and hangers-on think my memory is wonderful, so who cares if it turns out that I work alongside people who I completely forget as soon as I'm away from the office?
Finally for today, a conversation between two American women I overheard in Times Square one night, talking about one of the many, many groups around there of shouting people informing the world about their religious beliefs:
"They were wearing, like, Jewish symbols, but they were reading from the Bible. Shouldn't it have been the, you know, the Jewish thingy?"
"No, that's not it..."