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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Back by Popular Demand

It has been over a month since my last blog and whilst I have redeemed myself somewhat recently by increasing my Facebook output, there really is nothing quite like a good blog to tell a story or two.

Since my last blog the following statements are true (in no particular order):

I have had visits from the parents, my brother and a friend from the UK (not all at the same time!).
My football team is unbeaten and is 2nd in the league.
The one work deal that I have been working on for the past 6 months fell through.
I resigned from work.
I was effectively promoted by work.
I was told that our company is an acquisition target.
I was headhunted by another company (this statement and the previous 3 statements all happened in the last 24 hours).
I went on a date with a Russian model.
I went to see a new show on Broadway, twice.
I went to see New York Rangers play ice hockey.
I went to Atlantic City and gambled on roulette (not the Russian variety thank goodness...).
I went to an after party for the show Saturday Night Live.
I went to Sleepy Hollow.
I drank shots of pickle juice.
I woke up with a swollen uvula (see above).
I paid a bouncer to let me and my brother into the coolest club in New York (reason to follow).
It snowed nearly 3 inches.

Now that I have your attention, I will cover the above points in a more detailed and chronological fashion beginning with the visit of the parents and culminating in possibly the weirdest 24 hours of my professional career. There will be photos. There will laughter and far-fetched tales. Friendship, love, highs, lows, a touch of seriousness, a medical condition new to many of us, and maybe, just maybe, a tear or two as I narrate you through my life!

I begin with the tears.... Minky and Dad arrived for a two week vacation at Casa Timboyd!! Having navigated US passport control and located their limo, Minky and Dad arrived in Manhattan with little fuss and plenty of style. My cleaner had been in during the day and had given them the impression that I run a tight ship here... It was not to be a long lasting impression!

During their stay we had so much fun and really spent time savoring our favorite parts of the city - including the Highline (especially the new section), Chelsea Markets (especially Amy's Bakery and the book shop), the Meatpacking and the West Village, the Hudson River and Central Park. It was so nice to be able to not only spend all day with them (as I work less than a Greek tax collector) but also the evenings too as they were staying in my apartment rather than a hotel. We had some fancy dining however the nights that stood out for me were when we were at our old favorites - like AOC in the West Village, or at the 24 hour Diner (which strangely closes for 4 hours every day...) in the Meatpacking. We even had a couple of take aways and relaxed in front of the TV (some more relaxed than others... Minky, I'm looking at you!), doing crosswords or reading or playing the guitar or humming some tune by the Teenage Rocket Bottles... or whatever.. Every day would begin with croissants from Amy's Bakery (at one point I had a three inch thick shag rug made entirely from Dad's croissant droppings!!), and every night was finished with a crossword and waking Minky up from the sofa and telling her to go to bed. It was truly a great two weeks in Manhattan.

We had two wonderful weekend trips as well. The first was to Atlantic City (AC) so that we could get the gambling monkey off Minky's back! We went by coach which was surprisingly fast and comfortable and we stayed in a great hotel with lovely rooms. The famous AC boardwalk was right in front of the hotel and afforded us good exercise combined with a unique people watching experience. I say unique because in my experience, and maybe this is the middle class in me speaking here, one normally hopes to observe the ruling elite in all their glamour when partaking in a little people watching. This was definitely not the case in AC. It was like the national convention for crystal meth addicts was meeting in AC for their annual get together... There was a bicycle lane and a lane for morbidly obese people who have fat people go karts because they cannot walk anymore... It was fascinating and a little scary - the only comfort I took was that if any of them decided to come at me, all it would take is a brisk walk onto the beach where their Lard-Karts would become stuck!

I had one lucky night and one unlucky night playing roulette (isn't that always the way?) and ended up a little better than even. It was good fun and once we managed to prize Minky's fingers off the slot machine we had a very fast and slightly less comfortable coach journey home - less comfortable because it was much busier on the way back.

The following weekend we went to Tarrytown / Sleepy Hollow, which are two towns, practically joined together, about an hour north of Manhattan. Both are very nice, quaint commuter towns located on the bank of the river Hudson, and Sleepy Hollow is famous for the headless horse rider that apparently roams through the graveyard there. Also the Tim Burton movie of the same name starring Johnny Depp.

Instead of travelling by train or coach, we took matters into our own hands and I hired a very cool and powerful Chevy and with a mixture of luck and GPS made it safely to our location very quickly. When we arrived we went straight to the former mansion of Jay Gould (a very rich man) called Lyndhurst. It was absolutely beautiful, set in wonderful grounds and with great views of river. We were practically the only people there and were free to roam the grounds as we pleased, which given that it was a lovely day, we did just that. We had a little picnic on a bench in the forest followed by a walk around the grounds which included a large field full of scarecrows. It also included the highlight of my day - a groundhog, which I became mildly obsessed with and stalked it for quite some time to get a photo. I looked like Bill Murray in Caddieshack when he's after the gopher!

Revitalized by the calm serenity of Lyndhurst we set off for our hotel and had a nice relax before heading out for a drive and then dinner at a nearby steakhouse. The next day we had booked tickets for a tour of the Rockefeller estate which was even more impressive than Jay Gould's house although the restrictions of a guided tour leave you less time to take it all in like we had the previous day. Stunning house with even more stunning views of the river. No groundhogs though - but there were several chipmunks! Minky also saw a snake which was less cute and cuddly. After, we drove down to the river and sat on a bench and watched the river in the sun. It was so relaxing and felt a million miles away from Manhattan even though when you looked downstream you could see the skyscrapers of New York in the distance.

Later that night, after a meal down by the marina, we had tickets to the Sleepy Hollow haunted mansion show and so with two Minky sized hands in my back pushing me forward we walked around a very elaborate and scary haunted show, filled with actors and actresses (we hope) dressed in various stages of death and decay. It was good fun.

Alas, Minky and Dad's trip came to an end and with just a 24 hour turnaround before Dougie, my friend from the UK, arrived, I had my cleaner come in for an emergency croissant clean up. I won't go into too much detail of Dougie's trip as we spent a lot of time in bars and hence I don't actually have much detail of what we got up to. The highlight of his visit was probably him introducing me to two friends of his from New York who run a bar on 14th Street and 2nd Ave. Heather and Pete are really good guys who I have seen a couple of times since and who invite me to pretty much every bar event they have going on - so that was a good outcome from Dougie's trip.

I had a couple of weeks before Jimmy was due to visit so I decided to be adventurous and I went out on a date with a girl! I thought it would be a good thing to do even if it just got me out of the apartment for a few hours. I was wrong. It started well - she was very attractive (Russian, aged 26, model, brunette, graduated university on the dean's list...) and we had good conversation and got on well. Anyway, I don't know what it is with me and women but somehow I bring out the crazy in them - I have tried to work out what it is - I've been told that maybe it's my tendency to go for blondes (well this one was a brunette), or Eastern Europeans (guilty as charged on this count - although Jimmy will testify that this criteria was missing with a different crazy girl on a different evening out). I still don't know exactly what I'm doing wrong although I am informed by Jimmy that it is practically everything that I'm doing wrong and I am an "enabler of crazy". OK - so back to the Russian - the evening went well (I won't go into details but we may have kissed...) but she had to leave for a vacation in Vegas the following morning (her flight was at 8am) so we parted ways and I thought to myself - well done old boy... still got some of that old Bethel charm! But a little voice in my head was beginning to point out her slightly intense eyes as we parted ways - almost like those of an infected person shortly before they turn into a full blown zombie in a horror movie! I did what I always do - I ignored that voice and thought - what's the worst that can happen? She's off to Vegas for a week...

Over the next 5 days I lived out the answer to my question - she became obsessed with me, sending me upwards of 100 text messages a day, declaring her undying love for me on facebook, phoning me at 4am, 5am, 6am etc and telling me that had I been in Vegas with her we would be married by now...

What I did next is not something I should be very proud of, which is strange because I am extremely proud of it! For those of you familiar with the TV series Friends you may recognize this as the "Yemen" strategy - basically to breakup with his obsessive and annoying girlfriend, Chandler tells her that he has to move to the Yemen for work. After 5 days of what can only be described as cyber-rape I implemented the "Yemen" strategy and informed Miss Vladivostock that out of the blue my old business partner from London had asked me to move back to London to set up a new company with him (some truth never hurts) and that as much as it pained me I would not be able to see her or communicate with her anymore as it "would be too painful for me"!!  It worked! Although I haven't been on a date since - it's probably still too soon for me to be out there in the general population turning girls crazy...

Whilst all this was going on I went to the Press Night for my friend's Broadway show - Chinglish. It was terrific and I laughed much more than I thought I would and enjoyed myself throughout. My friend was superb and it felt nice when having a drink with the cast after the show not to have to lie when I told him how good he was. It was also kinda funny because he was going through a similar thing to me and the Russian, with a Filipino girl he had started to see - so we got to laugh at each other!

Next up was the arrival of the one and only Jimmy "Bad to the Bone" Bethel, but first I'll give you all a quick recap of my football team's progress this season. After about 8 seasons of ignoring everything I said they have finally listened to me and after losing every game of the prior season, we have now played 9 games this season, winning 7 and losing just 2! We are second in our division and are practically qualified for the play-offs already. It is a remarkable turnaround that could easily be turned into a Hollywood movie one day (I imagine that I would be played by either Brad Pitt or Ethan Hawke...), and the only thing more remarkable than our turnaround is the number of idiot Americans on the team who I have overheard taking credit for it!

Anyway, back to Jimmy. I'll set the scene - the cleaner has been, the stretched limo has been booked, Thin Lizzy's The Boys are Back in Town has been downloaded to my iPhone, the beers have been stacked in the fridge and the red wine is in the rack. Basically - bring it on!!

In true Bethel style, I arrived at JFK shortly after Jimmy's flight had taken off from Heathrow, so I had a long wait ahead of me. I did a lot of people watching, smoked a few too many cigarettes, became the official photographer for reunited families at the arrivals gate, and did my first Facebook "Check-in". A few hours later and Jimmy emerges from a thorough customs check and finally the Bethel Boys are truly back in town. Not put off by the fact that our limo driver was almost certainly Albanian and thus more than likely related to Arta, we plugged in our iPods and rocked New York as we entered in style.

That first night we had a few gentle beers, destroyed an enormous plate of nachos and tried to participate in a pub quiz - there was a problem with the microphone which meant the quizmaster only had enough time to say "Apologies - we appear to be having microphone iss-", annoyingly every time the microphone started working he repeated this same sentence at which point the microphone gave up again at the exact same point. He did this maybe 40 times over the next 45 minutes and after three rounds of the quiz we gave up and went home.

I could lie to you about all the cultural things Jimmy and I did during his stay and how we ventured off around the city during the day - but I cannot be bothered. Our first attempt to do such a thing was the next day - when we headed out to the Diner for brunch, I had a fairly greasy cheese and bacon omelette which did not combine well with the previous nights' beers and nachos and after 5 minutes of shopping at All Saints I had to run home to shart (sorry!). Chastened by our attempts to go out we gave up at that point and played PlayStation. That evening we scored tickets to my friend's Broadway show and after had drinks with Steve and the cast of the show at the bar next door to the theatre. It was good fun and with a Cheeseburger to line our stomachs we left Steve with a girl, and Jimmy and I headed to the meatpacking to continue our night out. We were in for a show! We went to Gaslight - a favorite of mine as it is the least pretentious bar in the meatpacking and hence I always get in! Well that night it was packed with weirdos! There was a midget who looked like Carla from the show Cheers, who was doing a never ending dance routine that was equal parts scary, strange, energetic and awkward. Throw in the usual Wednesday night crowd of Wall Street type men in their 30's and 40's trying to hit on attractive gold digging girls in their 20's and it was compulsive viewing. Jimmy and I bagged a sofa with a front-row view of all the awfulness and sat back and tried not to giggle too hard!

For some reason I have a bit of a reputation with James of claiming that I am like the mayor of New York nightlife and that I have to fight women off me when I go out, except that every time James is with me not a single women has even glanced at me. It seems that I am destined to keep this reputation as the whole time Jimmy and I sat there not a single woman approached me... And then Jimmy went to the toilet and as soon as he left his seat this hot Latino chick comes and sits down and says she just wanted to tell me how hot I was (my first instinct was that maybe I was sweating too much and she was just pointing this out...), and all of a sudden she gets up and runs out of the bar with two friends, at the exact same time as Jimmy comes back from the toilet!! He still doesn't believe that there actually was a Latino chick!

So after a few hours at Gaslight, and after being informed that both the attractive blondes working behind the bar were from Eastern Europe (Bulgaria apparently - uh oh I thought...), I decided it was time to show Jimmy the pretentious side of my neighborhood and we set off for the uber trendy club Tenjune. Now it may have been jetlag, or the fact that the drinks are strong in NYC, but when we walked up to the doorman to go in he took one look at Jimmy and then asked me in all seriousness if he was alright! With a cheeky grin on his face Jimmy slurred yesssss.... And the doorman asked him to prove it by walking in a straight line! Jimmy proceeded to walk in a line that not even a snake would claim to be straight, cheeky grin still firmly in place, and waited to be granted access. Luckily I know the score in these situations... bribery is king! So I bribed our way in to what was now a rapidly emptying club where we had a glass of water, walked around unsteadily for about 20 minutes and then left! Decisions made at 3.30am are never good ones!

Luckily we were only three blocks away from my apartment, although with Snakey Bethel walking with me it more like 9 blocks. We stopped off at the gas station so Jimmy could go for a quick wee - whereupon he walked in on the largest black man I've ever seen taking a dump whilst reading a newspaper! Awkward 30 seconds whilst Jimmy calculated his next move (closing said door), and then we were back on our way home.

We woke up in the afternoon the next day and watched movies in the dark until we had to head out to our New York Rangers ice hockey game at Madison Square Gardens. Great game and good atmosphere. Had 2 hot dogs each then walked home and had an early night.

Over the weekend we mixed lazing about during the day playing PlayStation games with going out in the evenings and having fun. On Saturday night we met up with one of Jimmy's colleagues from Db and had a few drinks with her before heading into Chinatown for a late Chinese dinner, before we headed to my friend's bar where they were hosting the Saturday Night Live after party (starting at 3.30am... as I said before - no good decisions are made!). As soon as we walked into the bar I triggered all sorts of crazy girl alarms and utilizing some unspoken telepathic communication method, the craziest one of them all stepped forward and stood about a foot from where I was standing. Just stood there, staring. At one point, having foregone the pleasures of blinking, I nearly asked her if she might need some eyedrops... Eventually the lunatic (who wasn't unattractive - her best assets were obvious) introduced herself as Mary - at which point James and I started referring to her as Scary Mary (even to her face - water off a ducks' back...). A quick point here to any psycho women who may have stumbled onto this blog - if you say the following sentence to a man at a bar, no matter what he replies, the answer is always, always, yes!: "Am I making you feel uncomfortable standing here like this?". Anyway, apparently knowing the owner of the bar has advantages - Scary Mary was thrown out after a quick word from me!

So moving on - we didn't see any SNL celebs unfortunately but we did get to hang out with my new friends Pete and Heather and they were great hosts - with one exception... Heather's insistence that we drink her "famous" shots - known as the Pickle Back. Essentially a shot of whiskey followed by a shot of pickle juice (yes you heard right). I don't remember too much else from that night and I was slightly dazed and confused when I woke up with an extremely painful uvula in the morning (and no Antonia that is not a naughty thing - you're thinking vulva and I can tell you it has been a while since I woke up with one of those, swollen or not!). The uvula is the dangly bit in the back of your throat - mine was the size of a golf ball and it made swallowing the much needed painkillers very difficult indeed!

On Jimmy's last day we managed a full shopping journey through Soho, concluding our trip with beers and tapas before heading back for Jimmy to pack and then dessert me - sorry leave me... The trip went way too quickly and the apartment was very lonely without him, although he was good enough to leave behind vast quantities of sock fluff for me to remember him by - he must have to buy new socks weekly!

On the Friday of Jimmy's visit I found out that the one deal I have been working on for the past 6 months had been rejected and so with Jimmy winging his way back to UK, I decided to face up to my professional quagmire. Whilst I like my business partners, I haven't been mentally engaged professionally for some time, and I decided to grab the bull by the horns this week and just tell my partners that I was quitting and heading back to the UK. So I went out with my partner Chris last night and over appetizers informed him of my decision. He refused my resignation and promptly told me that I would be head of Waterline UK. Somewhat surprised at this totally unwarranted promotion (I put in about 2 hours of work a week for the last 6 months) we finished dinner and went for some drinks (you guessed it - at Gaslight!) when one of our other partners called him to inform him that he'd just had dinner with the CEO of a fairly large consulting firm based out of the UK (about 400 employees with revenues about $50m) and that he wanted to buy out Waterline and to put us in charge of his firm in North America. He mentioned an acquisition price of $6m (quite frankly ridiculous but I'm not going to say anything!) and has set up a meeting for us with the company founder in the first week of December! So I went from quitting, to head of UK & Europe, to selling out and running a 200 employee practice in the US.... Very confusing...! And to top it off, today I was called by headhunters on behalf of a large firm called Wi pro (I inserted the space between the i and the p so that no one googling the firm would find my blog and read about how little work I actually do!), and they want me to head up their North American Derivatives practice. Just when you think you've made your mind up....

Anyway, that covers the last 5 weeks! Oh - and it snowed 3 inches here in October - crazy....

Lots of pics for you - I will go through and label them tomorrow. Hopefully this blog will satisfy my demanding readers! And as my sister Antonia always likes me to say - win some, win some!!

Love you all xxx