When I woke up, all I wanted to do was sleep, but I had to get myself to the airport. I was so tired. My air-con flu was getting worse – that’s when you get a chill from being in such a humid environment and then suddenly going into ice-cold air-conditioned rooms.
With the greatest of fear I establish that today’s flight is on another little aeroplane. No 737 or Airbus today. Upon checking in, I wake up – I have to… and with my mind buzzing after receiving another text from back home about more pictures being published in the UK press I decided invest in some of my profits for a safe passage to New York.
For $45 dollars I get an upgrade to First Class. I normally prefer to fly economy and save my money. I sleep on flights, thus what is the point of being treated to a slightly more attractive air stewardess and sitting in a slightly more comfy seat?
But my purchase is an investment, I know how things work and with my Priority Boarding Card I was the second in line to enter the aircraft. No eagle-eyed airport staff waiting to pounce on me this time. Money talks in the USA. If you have money you can get what you want when you want it seems.
My equipment is my number one priority and for £25 its a no brainer!
I left the cattle class passengers having to check their bags in as I met the most gay air steward I have ever met in my life called Andy. I know some guys back home who would have loved him. Suggesting that I can sprawl out anywhere in first class and not even worry about my big lens in my bag, I was fast asleep before he could lay his hands on my shoulder again.
Next thing I knew I was at the JFK Airport once more. One more flight to go and I would be back at Heathrow. I drove straight through Manhattan for another time. The first time I did it I was actually scared. Not frightened but scared of getting lost. The skyscrapers are so high that the Sat Nav does not pick up the Satellites. Being a lost soul on 5th Street with Broadway staring at you in the face is a bit spooky when even with a map you wonder how on earth you are going to get out of the place!
I have now done this about 7 times and now know short cuts to the escape hatch which is the Lincoln Tunnel.
Parking up at the Red Bulls Arena in the same spot as the previous game, I headed to Harrison station and got the train to the World Trade Center. The new towers are beginning to grow, with no cameras on me, and no time to sightsee I eventually found the back street where the MLS were handing out media passes.
I could now relax. with pass in pocket, I walked through Soho and Greenwich – the more I discover New York gradually the scale indicating my love of this place grows, though very slowly.
Sitting around for 2 hours at the stadium after the most time-wasting journey every back to Harrison in New Jersey where the Red Bulls play, I met up with The Sun photographer Richard Pelham. We eventually get inside after a vigorous security check which included switching on all my cameras and showing that they worked.
Most people hate Manchester United. I don’t – I have supported them since I was about 7 when I refused to like Liverpool when they were winning all their titles. For all the hatred towards the Red Devils, you simply have to admire their marketing and understand that they have grown from within and not from sugar daddies like at Chelsea.
I wished that a few of my Swiss friends at UEFA were here. Manchester United had got everything right. Selling shirts outside to the hoards of Mexican fans loving Chicharito fans – pity he wasn’t playing, then there were the pockets of South Korean fans screaming at Ji-Sung Park who waved back with glee. The pitchside advertising magnetising fans to sign up to the Man U Facebook page – everything was geared by the Old Trafford club to exploit as much as they could from their US tour. The Manchester United religion is growing. The Manchester United photographers comment that unlike last time where there was only a handful of fans loitering outside hotels waiting for autographs, it’s now like Beetle Mania with fans in their hundreds wanting a glimpse of the stars myself and others take for granted.
The Serbs cheered at Vidic and the Americans wooed and heyed at Rooney as the likes of Michael Owen and Anderson went un-noticed.
Captaining the MLS Allstar team was David Beckham. Managed by the ex-Notts County manager Hans Backe who had the task of picking 11 players including some from the fans ballot – http://www.mlssoccer.com/all-star/ballot-2011 they played quite well I felt.
Beckham was awesome. It’s a pity there is tackling in a game of football otherwise he would still be the best player in the world – yes even better than Messi.
Ji-Sung Park has Terry Henry in his pocket. Man U ruled OK.
This was a stern test for Sir Alex’s team. The MLS really wanted to give a good account of themselves but with the magnificent Ashley Young again playing like I have never seen him play for Aston Villa, I really want to see the team who will win the Premier League next season should United not walk it.
With nice stewards in a nice stadium, it was a very pleasant evening. At the end of the game I said my goodbye’s to Richard who was traveling by Amtrak train to Washington DC as I began to edit and send my pictures from my trusty Apple Mac Book Pro.
Yet again my pictures were met with amazement by the American photographers. None had spotted the linesman fall over – and cries of AWESOME made me wish that I had left with Richard through sheer embarrassment. I had just done a normal days work that I would have probably graded myself as C+… but to the Americans they had not seen pictures like it!
Once again I churned out the line that I don’t shoot baseball and blah blah blah but they weren’t having any of it.
I left happy, not cause me ego had been polished but I knew that back home the pictures the UK papers would receive would be pretty weak.
After a drive to my hotel in Edison – about 40 minutes south towards Washington DC I went to sleep knowing that the Daily Mirror knew what a football picture was compared to a soccer picture and it would be printed the next day. The time difference was annoying, I could have done far better but time was quite literally not on my side.
I was beginning to want proper Euro League football again. Like West Bromwich Albion and Manchester Untied, I too needed a now sterner test. I need to be challenged too and sit again next to my colleagues who I know will push me at every game to the point where if I don’t get the picture, then I don’t get paid.
My next day in New Jersey resulted in an unexpected trip back to New York. I so wish that I had contacted my friends and met up – New York is such a lonely place when you are on your own. I can cope with being alone in California with ease but NYC is a place where you need to bounce off someone.
I somehow ended up in B+H Photo again.
A Mecca for Photographers. You know when you are only a block away as people with Leica’s are spotted! To me it’s no Yodobashi Camera Store in Tokyo but its a fun place anyway.
Scarily I headed straight for the TV cameras again. Prices of ENG cameras are almost affordable. I question if I want to be a photographer or follow my dreams of being a film cameraman. I go to the darkroom section in B+H. I never confess at my photography skills but I was a damn good colour printer. I look at all the equipment and chemicals – I so want to print again but equally being lazy just am so happy in sending a picture on my laptop and then do something else.
I find the synth and keyboards section. Just like in Tokyo, I put on a pair of headphones and create amazing sounds using technology I so wish I had in my house at home. My keyboard playing is terrible though I did get to Grade 6 theory in music and I’m soon quite literally working with a Swedish man with amazing dreadlocks adding sublime 5ths and 7th to his catchy melodies in the middle of a shop in New York City.
The shop assistants are less patient than the ones in Tokyo who let you stay all day playing with their products. I decide to leave.
I drive back to Washington DC. In LA they were complaining that it was a ‘bummer summer” – on the East Coast its like a sauna. 107F my car recorded. The air conditioning could not cope. One sure way of getting brown arms is having the windows open driving for 5 hours in bad traffic with the iPod connected to yet another stunning Rental Car music system. My left arm glowing red, I wonder if anyone will comment why my left arm is so much more browner than my right!
More fun chats and mad messages on Facebook to fellow photographers and people who I so miss back home. I know in 3 days time I will probably be in England, suffering from hayfever regretting not getting off my backside and walking around Washington DC – seeing the White House again but the biggest bed ever and a massive flat screen TV is too much to miss out on. My body is tired. Although I need a run. I need the gym, I also need rest.
Beckham helped pay for my World Cup in Germany 2006. He has certainly helped with my agencies finances on this jaunt. Like my celebrity photographers comment, I join them in saying … Thanks David!
– though from my knowledge to date – my ‘sports photography’ has been outshone by my ‘celebrity’ and ‘moments’ photography by a massive 9-1. For the last match, I will really try to concentrate on recording sports action again.
I then think about going straight to Germany – already I get annoyed in having to do domestic football in England upon finding out that Borussia Dortmund play Hamburg. In days long gone after a trip away for so long I would have had a small break or gone to somewhere where I wanted to be (usually Tokyo) but times have changed and I need to dig deep and conquer the EPL again.
I may have a sun-tan, have browner arms than all my friends who have been to Spain for two weeks relaxing, but I certainly have no holiday.
One big lie in then another epic exhibition match for the America paying public – this time Man U v Barca before a self-imposed sleepless night.
Then I fly back and hope to sleep like a long en route to Heathrow… that reminds me, where DID I park my car!!?