All done.

112 days since It wall started and I am sitting in Pittsburgh Airport waiting for my flight to New York and then onto Edinburgh! My legend of a mate Gabbie ran me down to the airport this morning, which was very nice as after the emotions I have went through in the last 24 hours I couldn’t have thought of a better way to be seen off! Its been a week of ups and downs…not only because the Tories made gains in the local elections or France turned their backs on ignorance in their national elections but because I was on the home stretch. Before all the reflection and memories, what have I been up to for the last week?

Waking up after Toronto was tricky as we had had such a great weekend, so when I got up all that faced me was exams, essays due, a presentation and saying goodbye. Quiet the comedown eh. However, I rolled my up my metaphorical sleeves and got on with it. Started by hammering out an essay on how the Tories have failed the Scottish people through their policies of apathy towards the number of children living in poverty. Its unbelievably easy to write opinion papers on the Conservative governments failings. I gave my final presentation with my team mate, Megan, on variances in PA state campus’ in relation to substance abuse citations. We used socioeconomic statues, in the form of government loans borrowed, as our independent variable. A class that I feel will help a lot for my upcoming dissertation. Thursday brought my final International Relations exam and US History since 1920 exam. Four classes I have greatly enjoyed, learned a lot and will be keeping in touch with my Professors, at their request, in the future. Just a Research Methods paper to write in JFK this afternoon. Easy!

5pm on Thursday it was all over. Time for the block party!

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It took a while for the parties to really kick in here but over the last few weeks there have been a few bangers! The Block Party was up in University Village (off campus housing) and was on the ‘bring your own bottle’ vibe. We went for the trusty case of Keystone Ice…12, 6% cans for $8 (£6.20). It was great to see everyone together one last time, even the young team! Mabel and I had a fashion disaster too…although it must have been easy for the guys to find us in the crowd.

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Friday was a great day to say bye to the crew. We headed to the brewery, had a bunch of drinks, great food and a good laugh! Not much more to say than that. Thanks for coming out guys. And thanks to Lisa and the guys at my work…three months late I finally picked up the gift voucher you guys bought me…Free Meal!

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Saturday brought our final outing to the bowling alley. #highroller

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Myself, Mabel, Thomas, Tim and Carly (Tim’s lady friend) headed up to the bowling alley to chuck some balls, eat pizza and sink some cans. We decided to go for the Olympic style names. AUS, SCO, BEL, MEX, USA. After two games I did not manage to win either. I tied for first in both games. Nail biting stuff, mostly for Thomas. It was a really good laugh. After, we headed to the bar for a few and I said good bye to the home of the $3 three pint pitchers. Goodbye Ginger Hill…you have been very good to us. I don’t know how, when or even why but I hope to step foot in you once again!

16. bowling crew

And that’s us up to Sunday my last day at Slippery Rock University. It was a weird day. We met up to eat something, grabbed coffee and I packed up my room. It was nice to sit in the art building and chill for the afternoon as Mabel painted me something for the man cave at home on a spare canvas she never used. She is unbelievably talented, but we will get onto that in a minute. The one thing that kept going through my head was I am super excited to get home to Edinburgh but I will miss the people here so much. It’s weird to be dropped in the middle of a rural area of another country and told to get on with the people that are in the same situation. I seriously lucked out!

Start with the Belgians. When I arrived here, I knew there weren’t any students from the UK so It was nice to meet some fellow Europeans that looked as confused as I did. Whether it has been dancing away in Pittsburgh, teaching me Flemish, hearing Tom complain how much he hates Slippery Rock, hearing Bella shout ‘Geeee’ everyday although she wasn’t talking to me or just having beers on Tuesday night Karaoke, you guys have been great. I feel I have now perfected my impression of Tom’s broken English when he is tired, which to be honest is very insensitive but pretty funny! I look forward to see you guys in the future. We aren’t that far away!

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16. bella greg

My local (Well New Yorker) American Gabbie! It’s crazy that if I had never laughed at your t-shirt in the QMU library we would have probably never met. I am glad I shouted you out in that lecture we were attending and grabbed some drinks in Edinburgh before I headed out here. You never once thought twice about running us down to Pittsburgh, run me down to the airport or answer any questions I had, regardless to the fact you are the busiest person I’ve ever met! Was great to meet Zac too. Here hoping I see you this Winter break.

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Timmy. Tim-o. Tim…yeah. I haven’t laughed so much in my entire life at the stories you have and the way you act. I knew the second you walked in the room on the first night wearing that LA Clippers beanie and donning a sweet moustache we were going to be mates. Whether it’s being the only two white guys in that club in Detroit, drinking as many beers as we could in 20 mins in Cleveland, singing ‘Land down under’ at the bar or just listening to you talk really loudly about ‘Yanks’ in the dining hall surrounded by Americans, I will miss you man. This picture sums up Tim perfectly. During ‘Greek Week’ he decided to start his own fraternity. He went for ‘A’ ‘U’ ‘S’ to celebrate his home land. Very few people got the joke. Classic!

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Finally, Mabel. When I first met you, you were probably the quietest person I had ever met. I think for the first two weeks I had only ever heard you say “Hello, I am Mabel and I am from Mexico”. Thanks for not caring that when I went to Uni the first time around, you hadn’t started high school. We had a great weekend in Pittsburgh, an absolute banger up in Toronto and cheers teaching me to paint and mix the colors (kind of). You’re welcome for all the Scottish words I taught you, the difference between ‘in’ and ‘on’, how to use a semi colon (;), teaching you the piano and giving you some horrendous chat up lines to use when you travelled alone. I am amazed at the art you make and I know you don’t want me to do this but I believe it’s great. Here’s some of your best bits!

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16. mabel art 3

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Thank you so much for the painting.

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I know you wanted to keep it…I will display it proudly…hopefully one day it will be worth some cash, then I could maybe afford a flight to Tijuana for some tacos…although I very much doubt you’ll be there. I look forward to seeing the ‘new’ Mabel again in August and always remember…Es Daya Bonita!

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I have travelled to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, Orlando Florida, Cleveland Ohio, Detroit Michigan, New York City, Vancouver British Columbia, Toronto Ontario, Billingham Washington State and Southington Ohio. 13 flights, all six American Airlines, apart from the one I’m writing on right now were late but hey ho, at least I’m not being dragged off the plane. I got to see my family in Canada, good friends in Toronto and visit the home of the Detroit Lions. If anyone reads this blog and has the opportunity to complete an exchange…do it. You would simply be an idiot if you didn’t.

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And that’s it. My last blog post for #Maturestudent. Two of my professors pulled me aside before I left and said it would be a real shame, one used the words a ‘waste of on undergraduate degree’, if I never did my masters, so hey you never know. I might be back again. Time will tell.

16. flight

Bye.

What I am reading: Skagboysby Irvine Welsh. (Let’s be honest I haven’t read this is about a month). I did read a psychological profile of Donald Trump in USA today yesterday and it won’t be long before he loses it completely. Fingers crossed.

What I am listening to – Mahalia – Diary of Me & Moose Blood – Blush.

 

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Toronto, baseball, raving, The Falls and gummy bears.

Time to spend the weekend with this legend ! Oi Oi!

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The weekend had finally arrived! Time to head up North to see my boy Henry in Toronto. Henry and I have been friends since around 2010 and I knew that only being five hours south there was no way I couldn’t head up and say hello for the weekend. I had asked Mabel to join me about a month back and I’m glad she had said yes. Not only because I had never driven on the right side of the road, driven any real distance in an automatic car and had never crossed the border myself, but I wanted the company and to show Mabel that north of the boarder they know how to party right!

My legend of a roommate Jake had offered to take us along to Grove City to pick up the rental car on Friday morning, so come 0730 we were in the jeep and heading along to start our weekend. We picked up the Chevy (nice motor) and we were on the road by 0815. After a quick stop on the Interstate for coffee and donuts, we were back on the road and crossing the Pennsylvania/New York state border line. We listened to some old punk pop music, drank our rubbish coffee and before we knew it we were approaching the Canadian border crossing. We headed over Rainbow bridge and had a quick exchange with a lovely immigration officer and five mins later we were parked up in Niagara Falls.

The Falls were amazing! We grabbed some Boston Pizza and a drink and walked down to take in the sights!

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Very cool! We even hassled a nice English guy to take a quick photo of us. Cheers mate!

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After feeling the fresh mist of The Falls, we were back in the car and heading to Henry’s in West Toronto. We hit the freeway and before we knew it, with the help of Mabel’s GPS on her phone we were arriving outside Henry’s house! Super cool to see such an old house in the middle of a built-up area, filled with high rise flats and local shops.

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We made our way inside, dished out the hugs and met Henrys girlfriend Anna and their pug…Frank. What a legend he is! Mabel was super excited to see Frank as she has been missing her dog Molly since she has been away. This point was proved when myself, Anna and Henry were in the Kitchen and we could hear Mabel talking to Frank in full conversation.

Was great to get in, crack open a can of bud light that we had picked up in a seriously dodgy area of Buffalo, (we just typed in liquor store to the google maps…not the best idea) as we wanted to grab beers before we had to cross the border and start paying the high taxes on Canadian beers. The thinking man! Henry chucked on some records and we had a great catch up, got to know Anna and got ready to head along to the Baseball! Toronto Blue Jays vs Tampa Bay Rays! Couple of cans done, we headed out got on the streetcar (tram for all you Edinburgers out there) and headed along to the Stadium. We jumped in line and argued with the ticket guy for a while before having to go to customer services to find out the tickets Henry had bought on stub hub had been sold again after he bought them. Sore one. We quickly decided just to buy new tickets as they were already deep into the 2nd inning. Big up the lovely customer service lady though, you tried!

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Beer and a hotdog got, we headed to our nosebleed seats to sit down and see the game. After one beer and the dog we walked around the other side of the stadium to nip into a quieter section and enjoy the game with a lot better view. Now, I don’t know if it was because we moved and upset the energy in the stadium but from that point the Blue Jays fell apart. With a three-run lead going into the 8th, Tampa Bay hit three home runs (4 runs) and that was the game. We grabbed our jackets and got back on the street car, once again without paying, and arrived back at the house to find Anna and her friend tucking into some cans. We joined them, chatted shit for an hour or so and then headed down to their local for a beer. It was great to sit around drink beers and just relax, probably the one of the biggest things I’ve missed about home. It’s great to sit in the bar here, but being a dry campus, it takes away the joy of just chilling with a cold one and listening to some good music. After the bar, we arrived home, had some left-over pizza and another beer, then it was bed time! Day one in the 6…done!

The next day we woke up and took this beauty out for a walk and Henry explained how the development in Toronto is creating somewhat of a housing bubble, in a similar way in which is happening in Vancouver right now.

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Was interesting to hear and see the beautiful sights of the water front.

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When we returned, Anna was all good to go, so we headed to get the best pulled pork roll I have ever eaten. Amazing! If your ever in Toronto check out Porchettaco on Dundas Street! http://porchettaco.com. We walked over to the park to have a beer and our sandwiches and watch the dogs run about, Mabel once again in her element!

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After our sandwiches, we went for a quick pint to rest the legs and walked down to Kensington Market. The Market was amazing, filled with local produce, meats, clothing shops and anything else you could think about! This is also where we were handed free drugs. This was also Mabel’s first experience of Canadian liberalism at its fullest. To be fair they were pretty similar to legal highs at home, in the form of weed laced gummy bears. We had a good laugh about that, picked up more beers and ordered an Uber home.

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We also during the day tried to see the CN Tower from as many angles as possible. For the LOL’s eh! We did not too bad.

Mabel also decided that she loved it so much she was taking it home with her. Good work!

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Once home we stuck some records, introduced Mabel to Henry and Anna’s favorite slice of British Television in the form of…Masterchef. We also played the Masterchef drinking game where we take a drink every time baldy Greg says ‘I love a pudding’, they pronounce a word from another language wrong or serve something with ‘crisps’. Canned up, we had our amazing Mexican dinner. It was so nice of Henry and Anna to prepare Pork Carnitas for us as Mabel has been craving good Mexican food since she arrived her in January. Mabel also made us her special Guacamole, taught to her by her Mum, which Henry described as a ‘game changer’ in the food game. The secret ingredient will remain a secret to everyone apart from everyone Henry told at the bar, the Rave later on and his parents as Mabel made it. He was pumped up as always!

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Fed and watered we headed to the bar to meet henrys friends for some pre game cans before our night of dancing. Unfortunately Anna couldn’t come as she was working a 12 hour nursing shift at 0700 the following morning! The three of us hooked up with the mates a bar which had the cheapest beers we found in town. $6(CAN) a tin. Ouch! We had great chats with all Henrys friends, whom were super nice and before we knew it we were in taxis at the back of midnight going to the rave in which we had been sent the location hours earlier. Now this rave was not technically legal but the venue was amazing. We arrived in an old industrial estate and headed into the dark building. We got in, bought our drink tickets and danced the night away! The headliner was a Montreal native, Marie Davidson. She played live keys, a drunk machine, samples and spoke some French poetry over the dark and 80’s influenced beats. She was unbelievable! Will be trying to catch her in the future for sure.

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At around 0315 we headed home, walked in, spoke to Frank, finished a can and off to bed! What a day!

If I said it was easy to get up and start the day before 1130 I would be lying. However, as Henry pointed out, our livers have been trained into Undergraduate mode, something he has lost over the years, so we felt pretty good after a can of mountain dew and some pasta. 1330 came, we packed up our things, said our good byes and we were back on the road heading to Slippery Rock! We made a quick stop in St Cathernies, the home of the mighty Alexisonfire (one of my favorite bands and song that I have tattooed on my arm). I had no Idea why but I just wanted to be there. We also managed to get Mabel her first Tim Hortons. Yum!

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We then headed down to the boarder and started to think what we were going to do when America wouldn’t welcome back in Mabel with her Mexican passport! We wiped the sweat off our brows, got our best smiles on and proceeded through no bother. Trump’s influence obviously hasn’t travelled north yet! To be honest, even if Mabel hadn’t got through I think she would have been more than happy to head back and live in Toronto with Anna and Henry. I was happy to hear her say that Toronto had topped her favorite Cities since arriving here on exchange. If I’m honest with myself, I think I might be the same…Detroit is a very close second.

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We stopped in New York State for 15 mins to have some fresh air before the long drive home. I unfortunately made it a lot longer after taking a wrong turn and driving us into downtown Buffalo and then another that showed us areas of rural Pennsylvania we had no intention of seeing! Our five-hour drive, quickly turned in McDonalds for dinner and eight and a half hours later we were back dropping the car off.

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My legend of a roommate then picked us up as there were no taxis running to Slippery Rock. Home, knackered and buzzing from such a great weekend! I know you will read this Henry so I want to say, thank you once again! Yourself and Anna were amazing hosts that made our weekend the best one yet on exchange! You might even see Mabel back to live with you before you know it! She was buzzing! Legends!

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And that’s it. My tales of the States are coming to an end. One week today I will be home and boring as ever. I have three essays, two exams, a presentation, last karaoke night, dinner with friends, a block party and an all-day bender to enjoy before then! Keep it locked.

Bye.

Greg.

What I am reading: Skagboys – by Irvine Welsh. (This book is never ending)

What I am listening to – Everything punk pop. Yellowcard, Less than Jake, Fenix TX, Blink 182, Bowling for Soup, New Found Glory, Paramore, Knuckle Puck and everything else that came on shuffle in the car!

Checkout Marie Davidson too. Excellent!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAOYFJpxJHNNx1kk-_EFRPg

 

Darts, baseball, Frat party and a haunted house.

As I write this blog I will be home in less than two weeks! I still can’t believe how quickly this exchange has rolled in. With very little time left it was time to pack in as much fun before I jump on the plane back to Irn Bru Land! Oh my god I cannot wait.

With the Pittsburgh Pirates game coming up on the Friday night we all decided to head to Pittsburgh for an extra night to do some drinking and experience the city one last time. We had originally planned to stay over after the game and head home on Saturday but after rising hotel costs due to the Penguins playing in the playoffs we settled for Thursday night instead. A few people bailed due to lack of funds and Tim ended up getting a last minute ticket to see Robbie Krieger (The Doors) with his lady so it ended up just myself and the Mexican! With the change of plan we managed to get a last minuet AirBnB rather than a hotel and were sorted to head Thursday night.

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With Thursday coming around I met Mabel and we jumped on the trust worthy 18.25 bus to Pittsburgh. We got in, hopped and Uber and arrived at our AirBnB in Mount Washington. The setup of the AirBnB was four guest rooms, one being in the attic, in which we were assigned. I have never been in such a creepy house. It wasn’t great…

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15. creep bedroom 1

Nah! After a quick decision, we decided to take on of the other rooms that were vacant and headed out to the bars before anyone could say anything. We drank in the Southside, the street that has the most bars in America, or so I’m told. We were heading along to a bar we had drank in before and on the way, a nice gentleman that spotted us said, “$1.50 Coors light, all night”. U-Turn. We watched the Penguins beat the Blue Jackets and advance to the next round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. I also spotted a group of students that were making it along the street on a bar crawl and they were wearing great t-shirts that said;

If Jordan Belfour can make it to his Lambo…we can make it along East Carson Street”! BANTER !

We hit another few bars, had a good chat and decided to call it a night. I also decided to introduce Mabel to one of our countries greatest sports… a sport my brother once described as the ‘most exciting thing you can watch on TV’. Aye, alright Lee. Just incase your wondering I was player 1. I will give it to Mabel though she beat me on a final game of three dart high score by ‘tactically’ hitting a triple 18. hmmmm.

15. Mabel darts

We got back to the creepy haunted AirBnB to find another few of the doors shut to the rooms and our stuff still in place. If Mabel was not scared enough by the noises she heard when we got in what happened next must have terrified her. If I have been drinking I sometimes scream in my sleep, something I had warned everyone when we had stayed together before. Tonight, happened to be that night. I woke up to Mabel standing over me, shaking my arm, after walking over to my bed to wake me as I was having a nightmare where a spider was crawling on a baby’s face. She looked utterly confused and scared all at the same time. Sorry Mabel. How embarrassing.

The next morning, we got up, got organized and headed out. The sun was blazing so we stopped to sit on the wall for a Gatorade and pizza breakfast. During the day we enjoyed coffee, more beers, sunshine and the Strip District. We had never been along that part of the city and I wish we had done sooner. It was very cool. Small local vendors, shops, bars and lots of Pittsburgh merch for the sports teams.

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Someone was very happy to find a local supermarket! I bought a glass bottle of soda (or as you may call it juice) that had 100 real sugar as there seems to be no dietary requirements for products in Mexico. It tasted like the liquid you get at the bottle of your ice pool. Lovely stuff!

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We had a few beers on a balcony bar then got an Uber along to PNC Park to see the Pirates take on the almighty New York Yankees. Mabel, being a huge baseball fan, was absolutely buzzing for the game so we made it along to do some drinking in the street and eat some free Chicken sandwiches that were being dished out.

15. pirates pre game

Seven o’clock came around and we were inside. First the stadium gave their respect to Mr. Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and former President Clinton’s ambassador to Norther Ireland, that had just passed away. Nice touch.

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We then threw back beers, hot dogs and Mabel got right in the spirt of a true American baseball fan. That was a free hat that everyone got, something I was equally excited about as the actual game itself. I recall after a few beers chanting ‘Free hat, Free hat, Free hat’!

15. excited mabel pirates

The Pirates ended up being the Yankees, which was very unexpected, 6-3 in a gripping game from start to finish. This is very rare for baseball. After the game the stadium put on a firework display! This, with the backdrop of the Pittsburgh skyline in the background was a sight I will always remember.

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PNC park you have been good to us. One day I hope to be back!

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The next morning was the annual ‘fake Pig Roast’ at the nearby student housing area, ‘The Heights’. I didn’t see a pig being roasted at any time. I did however have a great day drinking with all our mates in the sunshine and whopping locals at beer pong. The only defeat that myself and Mabel faced was a questionable decision that I didn’t agree with courtesy of Yannick and Freezy Frank! Well done guys, even if you didn’t really win. We did however enjoy playing two frat boys, that took their hoodies off to show there frat t-shirts that had the america flags on them and then having to quietly put them back on and vacate the table. Boom!

After a long day of drinking, having locals shout about my accent and have an angry girl kick us all out her house because she thought we ate her pizza we walked down to the bar. Not before a quick photo opportunity in the beautiful red sky evening. Big up spy with Tim’s Simpsons Australia flag!

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We spent the rest of the evening and into the night, eating, drinking and seeing friends. One of my favorite weekends I have had here in Slippery Rock! That sums last weekend. The only other thing was playing in the Univeristy Badminton championship on the Sunday night still pretty hungover. I didn’t make it to the final after a 24-22 (best out of 15, win by 2 points) beating in the semi final. Spy and I also finished 2nd in the doubles, however by that point I was ready to die. Good times.

Whats left? Nine days, four exams, two essays, a trip to Niagara Falls, Toronto, See the Blue Jays play baseball, see my boy Henry, play with Frank the pug, drink more Keystone Light beers ($18/£14 for 30 tins – Nice) and rave in a warehouse. Keep it locked.

Bye.

Greg.

What I am reading: Skagboysby Irvine Welsh. (This book is never ending)

What I am listening to – Killswitch Engage – As Daylight Dies & Motion City Soundtrack – Commit This to Memory.

A General Election? My thought from 3,600 miles away.

A couple of days ago I woke up and got myself ready for my 8am lecture in International Relations. I got showered, dressed, put on some Dilated Peoples to listen to and made myself a cup of black tea. The milk isn’t great here eh. I walked along to class and got myself sat down in a front seat, I don’t call this blog #Maturestudent for nothing. The next hour and fifteen minutes past as we discussed the crisis in the middle east, sanctions placed on developing countries by the United States and how the world is in a little bit of a mess. I then had my usual catch up at the end of the class with my Professor. She asked about the election that we would be having soon, I assumed having not had heard the news by this point, she was talking about the Indy Ref 2 vote next year or in early 2019. I chatted away, she looked very confused and I made to the dining hall to munch down some cereal, black coffee and donuts. Once I sat down I clicked on Facebook to see my friend Atif stating that we were having another General election. I couldn’t believe it.

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I watched our PM state that the country was divided and we required strong Tory leadership to guide us through the tough Brexit negotiations that her own party had created. A quick side note of weak Labour and Scotland trying to ruin everything for everyone was also thrown in. I understand that circumstances change at times and decisions need to be made but after her criticism of Gordon Brown in the past and stating there would, under no circumstance, be a General Election before 2020…well that doesn’t sit well with me at all. I clicked her off and tweeted my first thought, as I have the problem of doing sometime.

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This issue has been stuck in my head for the past few days now and it won’t go away. How do we get the best possible result out of this election? My first thought is that the Tories will create another campaign of fear, rile up the Brexiters, appeal to the dying UKIP massive and increase their majority. This for everyone that cares about anyone apart from their self would be a bit disastrous. As a Scottish National Party (SNP) member and voter, many would describe me as part of the problem. When you have, a right wing feeling in the country, many times in the past we have witness left wingers and liberals band together and elect the best alternative. This simply isn’t going to happen anymore. With the SNP strong as ever, the Greens making gains and other parties such as Plaid Cymru making noise the chance of a Labour Government anytime soon seems very, very far away.

Is Jeremy Corbyn a Prime Minster that represents the best values that the United Kingdom once stood for? I believe so. Is he a Prime Minster in the self determined, American style, UKIP loving, United Kingdom that has been building up since the Global financial crisis in 2008? I don’t believe so. I feel the same way about Mr Corbyn as I do about Senator Bernie Sanders. He is a kind-hearted man with a dream of social justice in the world. Are people willing to tax more taxes to help their neighbour, reduces military spending with insecurities around North Korea and Russia and bring back the idea of a fairer society. I don’t think so.

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So what do we do? I think a realistic and positive outcome for this election is as follows;

No more Tories in Scotland. It is important that we have the Conservatives make the difficult decision on how will be the next Secretary of Scotland. This cannot be the one out of fifty-nine Scottish MPs.

Further growth of the Green Party. With characters like President Trump in the White House, as a country we need to have a strong opposition against his ludicrous Climate Change agenda. I feel the Green Party will support with this greatly, not through votes but with the voice and influence on NGO’s and TAN’s.

Growth of Plaid Cymru. I feel that the Welsh people need better representation. This needs to come from Tory votes though. A reduced Labour presence in Wales, isn’t going to help anyone.

A good fair election in Northern Ireland. With everything that had happened in the last year, a fair representation in Westminster in Northern Ireland would be the goal.

Labour to Bounce back. Corbyn needs to start laying the ground work now for a victory in 2022. It will not be him but he needs to reinstall confidence in the Labour Party. This Ed Miliband, slap bang in the middle version of Labour doesn’t work. I wouldn’t be calling for a full blown socialist revolution but It is very important that Labour moves back to the Left.

Most importantly…Eliminate the Tory majority. There are many ways that this can be done however I feel it needs to come from the 15 million eligible voters that feel apathy is their policy. GET UP, REGISTER AND VOTE. With Brexit, Trump, the Middle East and North Africa’s issues, deeper cuts and austerity on the horizon you are the difference makers. Don’t listen to the rubbish that comes out of our Prime Minster’s mouth around a better economy, a more secure economy and working class people are feeling the difference. There are over 3.7million children in the UK living in poverty. It’s 2017. That makes me sick.

See below on how to do it. You have until the 22nd of May. Do it now! This is too important.

https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

Bye.

Greg.

All roads lead back to Ohio.

Back from New York and back to ‘reality’ again, or as President Harding said in the lead up to the 1920’s election, back to ‘normalcy’…weird. Nothing seems normal. Also, I rocked up to campus on Monday night after the baseball with four weeks until I return home! I knew this was going to be a slow week as I was planning to catch up on Uni work, try and not spend any money and be a bit boring for a while. I still managed to fit in some fun stuff, including a return to Ohio, which is too come.

13 ohio again

Before I even start I wanted to say I never really understood why Frats and Sororities existed but my question was answered this week. I know that in movies all you see is big muscly guys and good looking girls running around with red cups, which to be honest is about 80% of what they actually are. However I was glad to see the work that one had done this past few weeks in raising awareness of Autism not only in the world but also in the local area. This along side, campus clean ups, community work and leadership programs my red cup swinging opinion of these organisations has changed over time. They through some pretty decent parties too. Great work!

13. world autism month

Throughout the start of the week I caught up on all things Uni. I managed to get 100% for my second social justice essay after getting a 98% on the first one, in which I called for a recount. 100% of contempt against the current political establishment in the UK and their disregard for the EU 2020 intuitive to remove 20 million people out of poverty. It seems to be easy when you are proving that Tories demand a divided society. Easy. Oh, and I see there has been a General Election called today for June. Another five years of oppression for the working class? Can Scotland finally rid itself of Tory MP’s altogether? Can Labour bounce back, like Alan Partridge did after his Toblerone Addiction? We shall see.

On Tuesday Tim, Yannick and myself went over to the bar to catch up with some mates and sing a few songs. I chilled with a beer or ten whilst Tim and Yannick provided a perfect rendition of Eminem and Alex as always gave jaw dropping performances, this week of ‘Loveshack’ and ‘Born to run’. Excellent. Six or so pitchers or watery Coors light done we headed home. A Few conversations, in which I can’t totally recall led to my Thursday night fun. Olivia had explained that they were heading to Pittsburgh to stay in an AirBnB and head to a party a girl that they knew had ‘won’, at a bar in the city. With a spare seat in the car I headed on down with them. It was good to see Thomas and Bella as we hadn’t seen much off each other due to New York, studies and the sorts. We arrived in a student area in the East of Pittsburgh to a huge AirBNB with three bedrooms and beds everywhere. I was lucky that Ashleigh had brought me a blow-up bed as I just planned on falling asleep on the floor with the thickest carpet. Once everyone arrived, ten of us in total, we began to pre-game with some cans and listen to some tunes! A few hours past and we headed down to the bar in multiple Ubers. I really like the bar, ‘Howl at the moon’ it’s called, as they have a live band that play anything that is requested. I still remembered them from the last time we were in and this time they were equally as impressive. With perfect renditions of ‘Dammit’ by Blink 182, ‘The middle’ by Jimmy Eat World and ‘I write sins not tragedies’ by Panic at the Disco, I was in punk pop heaven.

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This is also where we purchased our cheapest beers to date. Get ready for it…$1 Miller High life…Buy one get one free. That’s 50 cent (40p) beers. What! Now that I think of it I didn’t take advantage of it. I had around six beers, grabbed some chicken wings from seven eleven and we headed home around 0130. Good night!

The next morning, we got up, tidied the empty cans away and we were on the road by 11am. We stopped at McDonalds on the way so that we could fill up on Junk food and cheap coffee. The real trooper in this endeavour was Chloe, who slept most of the way home in the car, tanked a McDonalds and got out of the car when we got back to Uni at 12.50 and walked straight to her class and gave a presentation. Bravo. I enjoyed my ‘Large’ fries, cheeseburger and egg McMuffin. I accompanied this with a coffee and once again a ‘Large’ Soda. I would just like to make a point that no one needs a litre of soda when eating. Some might argue its unnecessary. Not my place to say. It was almost the size of my head too. Score!

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Before I headed off on Thursday I caught up with Mabel, whom had been under the weather after having to get an operation on her gum and tooth. Sore one. I offered to go pick up her prescription from the pharmacy, which is around a 15 min walk away. My favourite part of this adventure was walking all the way there to be told that I couldn’t pick up her pills without proof of her health insurance, although she had been prescribed two days earlier. I had her passport, prescription signed by the doctor at the University and my passport. This was not enough it seems. I was then happy to be told, ‘This is America, we need to see proof of insurance’. This made me chuckle. I think that the pharmacist must have thought I wasn’t aware of this and I would be shocked. I should have explained to her the poverty I have witnessed since I have been here, the health inequality and contempt for the health insurance companies that make millions of honest hard working Americans, but I decided to say, ‘No worries, Il go get it’. If only I had my fit bit (RIP), I would have rinsed it that day! Four lengths of North Hall to the pharmacy must be worth something! Glad to say after a week of pain, tears, food deliveries (your welcome), Mabel is on the mend! We will be back on the cheap beers on Friday at the Yankees and Pirates game!

Weekend again and this time its Easter! I know at home we close the schools, some people get Good Friday and Easter Monday off, but not being a hugely religious country, Easter is about Chocolate Eggs and…well that’s it. At 7pm on Friday the whole campus shut down, including the dining hall. Mabel and I headed over to Subway, threw back a sub and made it into the student centre for the showing of Star Wars: Rouge One. Now I have already seen this film but that didn’t change my bodily reactions throughout. I love that film; it is so good. By the end I had sweaty palms and a sore back from sitting up in my chair for most of the final hour. Combine this with the new trailer coming out that day, It was a good day for the Rebellion. With Tim in West Virginia, with his lady friend (disclosure: she is a friend that is a lady, we haven’t had the chat yet) Mabel and I had to find something to do. We ate at the dining hall and planned a trip to the local bowling alley. I must admit this idea has been brewing ever since watching the Big Lebowski on the bus back from Detroit. I explained that I only play once a year on Superbowl Sunday and can throw the thing, but not to expect any miracles. We took the twenty min walk over to the alley/pizza place and got out sliver, blue and red kicks on. I went first and rolled the perfect strike. I must have looked hard as nailed to the one person eating pizza in the back.

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Yes, we had the entire bowling to ourselves. After a few gutter balls, ones and twos, my appearance as a legend quickly diminished. Frist game – Greg 93 – 90 Mabel. Close, let’s be honest. Second game, I won, let’s just leave it at that. With the religious shut down in force It was a great way to spend a lazy Saturday! We walked home in the pissing rain and I went to write for the rest of the afternoon.

8pm rolled around and we hit up the International Club Sober Karaoke night! This sounds brutal but it was actually great fun. Everyone sang songs from their home countries and danced about like maniacs. I spent so long picking my song that I ended up not singing as we ran out of time. For anyone interested I was going to give a heartfelt and emotion rendition of ‘Don’t mug yourself’ by The Streets. We heard songs in Flemish, Japanese, English, Chinese, French and Korean. Highlight for me…Freezy Frank and Jordan serenading each other in a sort of Nelly and Kelly, R&B style sing off. Class!

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After an early night after the sing song I was up at 9am to head to my room mate Jake’s parents’ house for Easter Lunch. This time I was even more excited to be invited as I knew how good the food, beers and patter was. Myself, Jake and Edwin, Jakes friend from Philly headed up to the supermarket to pick up some gift beers and then we were on the road. We arrived before Lunch and this is where the day got very exciting. Myself, Jake, Edwin, Jakes young brother Nick and sister Miranda competed in an Easter Egg hunt in their huge back and front garden. Now I have never done an Easter egg hunt before and had no idea what to expect. 140 eggs hidden in the garden. Oft! We lined up, burst of the mark on the word ‘Go!’ and fought for every last egg. After returning with around 20, myself come in dead last, we all sat in the living room to open the eggs and get the candy out! This is what I thought anyway. Hell No!

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Every egg contained a dollar bill, two dollar bills or a yellow bit of paper with a number on it. Each number matched a prize that Jakes Mum had bought. These included lottery tickets, in which I won, gift cards for local food places, Starbucks, amazon and more. I couldn’t believe it. I can’t ever recall going to a friend’s house for lunch, getting ploughed with beers, having great food and leaving with almost $30. The hospitality I have been shown by the Miller’s is heart-warming to say the least. Being 3,600 miles away from home and family its displays of hospitality like this that mean a huge amount to me. Denise (and Brian), I know you are reading this so I just want to say thank you once again! I will never forget it! And Millers in general, if any of you are lucky enough to make it Scotland in the future, you know where I am! gives a shout.

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Ok we are now less than three weeks until I am home. Pittsburgh this weekend, Toronto next weekend. It’s coming to an end so fast. Keep it locked.

Bye.

Greg.

What I am reading: Skagboysby Irvine Welsh. (This book is never ending)

What I am listening to – LogicBlack Spiderman. *

*Everyone should listen to this song. It has great social commentary on race relations in the United States. The fact that this song has been described as ‘Controversial’, shows everything that’s wrong with this issue in this country. Great songwriter, great message.

New York part 2.

Saturday morning rolls around, still buzzing from the Knicks game we get up early and head out. One thing I never mentioned in my last blog was one of my greatest accomplishments in my life to date. In the morning, I woke up, rubbed my eyes and rolled over to see Alison awake. I asked her what the time was and she gave the usual response of, “guess?” I looked at the ceiling and said “seven fifty-six”. Alison tapped her fit bit and it read…7:56am. You have no idea how much joy that brought me. Anyways, back to Saturday morning. The plan for the day was to head down to Bowery for lunch and spend some time in Brooklyn. We started by heading along to Lexington Avenue to take the long walk down to Bowery and we were greeted by the setting up of a food and drinks market. I needed a photo eh…

 

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We walked down 40 blocks and walked into a hipster looking lunch spot called ‘Freemans’, another place Alison had found online. It was very popular, therefore we put our names on the waiting list and checked out some of the local shops. So much cool street art here too.

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We went into the ‘Octobers Very Own’ (OVO – Drake’s new shop), it was pretty cool, made some nice stuff, however as in Scotland money does not grown on trees over this side of the pond either. I left empty handed. Around half an hour later we headed back and had a sit in the sun outside. It was great to feel the warm sun on my face again. The weather over here is very up and down and I have seen very little sun, so it was nice just to chill for a bit.

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For lunch/brunch I had eggs, toast, beer and Alison had some granola…very healthy. The place was very nice, you know the kind of spot…wood around the bar that hasn’t been treated properly, dark green paint on the walls, old wooden chairs that aren’t comfy, deer and stag heads on the wall and an overpriced bill. Never the less it was great food. Next up was the walk over to Brooklyn. Last time we were here we did the Brooklyn bridge, took some photos and spend some time in Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill area. This time I wanted to see Williamsburg. We headed out of Bowery and over the Williamsburg bridge. Alison had told me of all the cool places to see, eat and drink so I thought this would be a good way to spend our sunny Saturday afternoon. Williamsburg is a small area in Brooklyn that has become very popular in the last five years due to its growing industries and proximity to the city. If you ever need an example of what urban gentrification looks like, go there. We had a look in an estate agents window and you could rent a one bedroom flat in the area for $3,700 per month (£2960) and it wasn’t looking to nice. Sore one!

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After a wonder through the streets that were littered with cafés, craft beer bars and independent clothing boutiques we made it down to the Brooklyn Lager brewery. It felt good to get a few beers in at the bowling alley that was attached to the brewery, crazy I know. On the Saturday in Aberdeen, back home, it was the Brewdog AGM and I was gutted to be missing it after an absolute screamer last year with Steveo, Davey B and Sunniva. Next year team, next year! After sinking some beers and hitting Joe’s Famous Pizzeria on the way back we headed over the bridge, got a beer and a cocktail in bowery and travelled home! After getting home to see Alison’s fit bit step count at 32,000 we crashed out. What a great day!

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Sunday morning! Our last day together, due to this we decided to skip the morning church service…just like we have every Sunday ever since we have met and long before that. We decided to have a more relaxed day and enjoy the sun. By now it was pushing 24c. Boiling for our Scottish skin, I’m surprised Alison didn’t burst into flames. We grabbed our regular morning Starbucks and walked down 9th Avenue to the Chelsea highline. We stopped for a bit to bask in the sun and do some people watching and then we were off to get some world famous tacos. Mabel, my Mexican amigo, had told me to make sure I go to this specific taco joint as it is the closest thing I will get to have authentic Tacos, similar to the ones she gets in her native Tijuana.

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I stood in the queue, that was huge for twelve o’clock, but this did make Alison feel better as in her mind if some place is busy then you are less likely to get food poisoning. Logic 101. I ordered four tacos and two glass bottles of orange and pineapple (weird) Fanta and we grabbed a seat to enjoy. I must say they were excellent, both myself and the wife in agreement! I know can sympathise with all the complaining Mabel does about American ‘Tacos’. I will never be the same again. Munch done, we were off to head to central park! On the way, we stopped in at the New York city public library, a beautiful building filled with so much history and culture. It’s also where Carrie almost gets married to Big in the Sex and the City movie…ah culture, drink it in!

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By this point the sun is out big time! I can feel the burn and I love it!

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We grabbed a Starbucks near the park and headed in to have a seat in the sun. We lay and enjoyed watching all the kids run around without a care in the world and their parents chase after them. We then took a walk to areas of the park we missed last time and ran into a roller disco. It looked like a lot of fun, if only I had my skates. Il need to borrow some from my friend Lisa at work, she is the captain of the Edinburgh Roller Derby team, I thought of you Lisa when we saw this. The kind of thing you would be all over! The park looked beautiful. A great way to finish off the weekend with Alison!

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Around six o’clock we decided to go back to the hotel room and chill for a bit before grabbing some dinner. I was happy to see when I got in that the Masters final round was coming up the 15th hole. Over the next hour or so I drank red wine, munched pringles and was able to celebrate Sergio Garcia winning his first ever major. I was so happy for him as he is one of the big reasons that I played golf start with. My brother and I stayed up one night to watch Garcia chase a young Tiger woods all the way to the death in the 1999 USPGA championship. A true legend now and a gentleman to go along with it! Golf done, we headed down to Pizza suprema, another dark and dingy pizza spot that served up unbelievably tasty and cheap slices. Hand in hand we headed home through the busy New York night to our hotel.

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The usual drilled followed the next morning, after packing our stuff, we headed to Starbucks and sat in central Park enjoying our last hour together. We had a little stroll and returned to check out our room. We hopped in a hotel car and sat in horrendous traffic out of Manhattan to Kennedy airport. I felt bad as my flight was at 15.30 and Alison’s flight wasn’t until 19.00 but we agreed to go out at the same time to keep costs low. I didn’t feel bad when American Airline, true to form, delayed my flight until 17.15. Nice! Especially when I was getting off the plane and heading straight to PNC park in Pittsburgh to see the Pirates baseball game. I took the educated decision that most would do and headed to the airport bar as Alison and I were now both through security in different terminals. I am not one to complain, however, I will have been on 13 flights by the time I head home to Edinburgh and 5 of them have been with American Airline. Four of them were delayed, I missed one due to the other be delayed and I have been given a refund on baggage that they mucked up. The service is horrendous. If you have seen the recent United airlines fiasco, ripping people out of their seats on overbooked flights then it’s safe to say that, American Aviation, you need to get a grip. Three beers later, after watching a rare Yankees win, I was on the plane and headed to Pittsburgh.

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I landed in, grabbed my bag and jumped in an Uber. My Uber driver was quality. Young Jeffery and I had a chat about everything Pittsburgh and before I knew it I was at the stadium. It was good to catch up with Tim again, after all the International Students had spent the weekend in Washington D.C. at the cherry blossom festival. Tim filled me in on the gossip and we tanned cans of decent beer. Due to the horrendous performance on the field we jumped in our designated drivers can and we were back in Slippery Rock before midnight.

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A great weekend seeing Alison and four weeks until I am home. I am really starting to look forward to that!

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I can’t believe all the cool stuff I have managed to fit in so far and I still have a few crackers to go. Next weekend we head back to PNC park to see the Pirates take on the Yankees and the weekend after myself and Mabel head up north to Toronto to see my main man Henry! Keep it locked, plenty more to come.

Bye.

Greg.

What I am reading: Skagboysby Irvine Welsh.

What I am listening to – Comeback Kid – Wake the Dead & Young Fathers – Tape One.

New York part 1.

Well…One of the hardest parts of doing my exchange, apart from being away from Irn Bru for so long, must be staying away from Alison. After getting married last year and more importantly being together for the past seven and a half years, I knew it would be very hard to leave her for four months. To be honest I cried like a baby in the taxi when I left in January and after being in PA for a few weeks couldn’t think of anything better than going home. It is the reassurance and positive attitude that she has that has not only allowed me to see through this exchange but also a huge part of the reason I’m here in the first place! You can only imagine how excited I was to see her in New York this past weekend. Good thing this is a blog and you don’t have to imagine…Il just tell you!

My friend Gabbie had agreed to take me to the airport a few weeks back and followed through by getting me there in good time on Wednesday morning…Legend! I had a few hours in the airport, where I submitted a couple pieces of work that are due in the coming weeks, you know just to get myself ahead so I could free up more time for exams. After smashing out two reports I was aboard the plane and off to JFK, New York City! One hour in the air and I was down.

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I grabbed my bag, jumped on the $14 bus into the city and was in the hotel room an hour or so after. We stayed at the dream hotel on W55th and Broadway….ohhhh fancy. After a quick shower and a spot of wi-fi, I received word from the wife that she was approaching Manhattan. I threw a clean t-shirt on, lathered on the man spray and headed back down to Grand Central Station. I stood aside the road and couldn’t have been happier to see my beautiful ginger lady friend jump off the bus and into my arms. What a day!

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After we got ourselves sorted we headed back to the hotel and planned our trip. Alison and I had come to New York on our honeymoon last year so were very excited to see some of the sites that we never managed to get around to last time. For everyone that has been to New York before I’m sure you know you would need a good month to get around where you want to go. This time we decided to see more of Brooklyn, Bowery and a few museums and restaurants that Alison had so carefully selected online. Alison is very good at finding us great places to eat and sites to see and I never knew why she had such a great knowledge of cities that she has spent very little time in…then I realized, vloggers and bloggers. Alison likes to watch a lot of vloggers (video bloggers) online, the kind of vloggers that 16-year-old girls watch to pick up fashion tips. What I didn’t realize, after making fun of her for the past few years, was that they have excellent suggestions of cool places to go too. If it wasn’t for the vlogger’s she watches we wouldn’t have eat in the great restaurants, ABC Kitchen, Freemans and the Big Apple Famous Joes Pizza. We also wouldn’t have drank in cool bars such as The Wren in Bowery, The Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg or the PHD rooftop terrace bar in Manhattan. Good times!

We started our trip off on an extremely cloudy and rainy Thursday morning by heading to the MET (Metropolitan Museum of Art) in Central Park.

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I loved the system that they had when we arrived at the payment desk. They had suggested payments for Adults, Seniors, Students and Kids, however it was up to you what you paid! I thought this was great as it allowed everyone regardless of disposable income to enjoy the wonderful art they had on display. Alison and I went for $24 for the two of us, that was the suggested student ticket price, Alison just wants to feel young again….said the guy turning 30 next year. We enjoyed seeing many great pieces by the likes of Picasso, Diego Rivera (the Mexican dude, I saw the murals of in Detroit) and many more American and worldwide artists.

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Next we headed along to a place in the East village called ‘Shake Shack’. Another spot Alison had read about online, we got great cheese burgers and milkshake. After we were fed and watered, we headed home in the rain and got ready for what I described as the most exciting part of our trip, going to Madison Square Gardens to see the New York Knicks play basketball. This was mine and our first ever basketball game and it was great. The Washington Wizards ended up winning by three points, in a 103-106 thriller. We decided to pay a bit more for our tickets and we sat on the first row of the first deck. The seats were great and the patter in between quarters was just as good! We will defiantly be back to see the NBA again, however next time we end up in New York I would love to see the Rangers play hockey.

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The next day the rain was on its way out to start welcoming the sunny weekend we ended up with. We decided to explore the south of Midtown and visit Chelsea again, one of our favorite places to go in the city. We started by getting on the highline, a privately funded above street walkway, filled with art, gardens and places to sit and escape the hustle of the Manhattan sidewalks. I enjoyed looking at the artwork as it had all changed since we were there last summer. It was great to see some protest art again President Trump and some of the decisions he has made since taking office.

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Boarder Wall. (check out the #Wallsthatunite campaign) http://artwareforgood.com/walls-that-unite/

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Relationship / Non-Relationship with Russia.

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The divide he has created.

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After we enjoyed the highline we made our way down to the Chelsea food market to get some coffee, cakes and find the taco spot that Mabel had recommended to us before I left. We found it and penciled it into the diary for lunch at the weekend. With a few hours to kill before our reservation at ABC Kitchen we walked the streets, enjoying each other’s company and seeing some of Bleeker Street. Bleeker Street was filled with shops of all varieties, café, bars and small parks and memorials that you could sit and enjoy. A great place to go see.

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Before we knew it, we had made it over to ABC Kitchen for our late lunch at three. The place was fantastic, I never knew a turkey sandwich, chips and a beer could taste so good. It was the first place I didn’t grudge paying the standard ten-dollar price tag for a beer. We ate up, headed over to the cinema! Yes, it was time.

I have been reading Irvine Welsh, pretty much exclusively, for the past five years and can’t get enough of his stories, but more importantly his characters. Ever since reading trainspotting, seeing the movie and moving onto other stories such as ‘Skagboys’ and ‘The Blade Artist’ I have loved the relationship between Renton, Begbie, Sick boy and Spud. Since arriving in the States I knew I wouldn’t be able to see ‘T2: Trainspotting 2’ anywhere near the time that ever one saw it at home. Having the world premier back in January in Edinburgh I was very jealous of everyone talking about it for the past few months. The one thing I have been consistent with however was not reading or watching anything about it online. You can only imagine my excitement when the opening credits rolled. It was very weird watching a film, this time celebrating the beauty of the city I now call home, in a dark cinema in New York. I won’t say too much but the scene with Begbie’s confrontation with his son, the ‘Rangers’ bar scene and scene filmed in Cav (Scarlett I didn’t see you but I hear your there), I feel were perhaps lost on the local audience. Alison did say that there were several parts of the film that got a very different reaction to the first time she saw it in Edinburgh back in January. It was also great to hear music from Edinburgh locals ‘Young Fathers’, a group that won the mercury music prize a few years back and have been impressive ever since I first heard them in 2007. I was introduced to them by one of the rappers in the group that I used to sit next to a Uni. Hearing Wiley in the movie and the new version of ‘Born Slippy’ (Slow Slippy) was amazing. All I can say though is, Wow! I need to see it again…soon!

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That took us to Friday night! We still have Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning to go! That’s coming next.

Bye.

Greg.

What I am reading: Skagboys – by Irvine Welsh.

What I am listening to – Jamie XX – In Colour & Joey Bada$$ – The Amerikkkan Bada$$