Sunday, July 20, 2014

A "Football" Fan's Guide to New York

Next week, there will be 3 "friendlies" -- what soccer fans call exhibition games -- featuring legendary teams in the New York Tri-State Area. The schedule is as follows:

* July 26, Saturday, 5:00 PM, at Red Bull Arena: New York Red Bulls vs. Arsenal.
* July 30, Wednesday, 7:00 PM, at Yankee Stadium: Liverpool vs. Manchester City.
* July 31, Thursday, 8:00 PM, at Red Bull Arena: Bayern Munich vs. Chivas (Guadalajara, Mexico).

AC Milan and Olympiacos were supposed to play each other at Citi Field, but the game was moved to Toronto.

I've been doing "How to Be a Yankee Fan In (Name of City/Metro Area)" for the various roadtrips that Yankee Fans make. Now, I turn it around, and offer European soccer fans a guide as to how to get through their visit with a minimum of fuss.

Some of these items will be team-specific. Some will be general and apply to as many as possible.

Please note: This post will use American English. A coach is a sports team's guide, not a long, tubular means for getting around town, or from one town to another, above ground: That's a bus. A truck is a truck, not a lorry. If you ride in either one on a freeway (not a motorway), I admit, calling a rest stop a "motorway services" makes more sense than calling it a "rest stop" or a "rest area," but that's what we call them. That thing you ride in to get between floors is an elevator, not a lift. I'll be spelling words like "color" and "flavor" with no U, "realize" won't have an S, and "defense" won't have a C. The last letter of the alphabet will be pronounced "Zee" (although Canada, with its British influence, uses "Zed," and "U" in words like "honour"). And after what our respective countries did in the recent World Cup, I'm calling the sport "soccer." You don't have to like that, but you do have to live with it.


Before You Go. Make sure you've got everything: Passport, plane tickets, hotel reservations and game tickets. (Don't even think of buying them on the spot: They're sold out, and scalpers (what we call touts) will demand prices higher than Per Mertesacker's hair.

If you haven't already found lodging, well, good luck. But the easier hotels to get into may be the cheaper ones in the Outer Boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island) or New Jersey. So that might well be a stroke of luck for you. But, unless you're going for one of the Red Bull Arena games and getting a hotel in New Jersey, you're not likely to be staying close to the game site, no matter when you ordered.

New York is in the Eastern Time Zone, so it will be 5 hours behind the British Isles, and 6 hours behind Germany (Bayern).

Get your money changed before you get on the plane. At this writing, one pound = $1.71, and one euro = $1.35. Or, in reverse, $1.00 = 58 pence and 74 euro-cents. U.S. coins come in denominations of 1 cent (a.k.a. the penny, copper, the only one that doesn't appear as silver, portrait of Abraham Lincoln), 5 cents (nickel, Thomas Jefferson), 10 cents (dime, Franklin Roosevelt), 25 cents (quarter, George Washington), 50 cents (half-dollar, John F. Kennedy, you probably won't see this one) and 1 dollar (currently with Sacajawea, a Native American figure from our early history). U.S. bills come in denominations of $1 (Washington), $2 (Jefferson, you probably won't see this one as it's rarely printed), $5 (Lincoln), $10 (Alexander Hamilton, an early political figure), $20 (Andrew Jackson), $50 (Ulysses S. Grant) and $100 (Benjamin Franklin).

Tickets. The sellouts make any explanation of seating and pricing, in these cases, irrelevant. If you don't have your tickets already, you're almost certainly out of luck; if you do, then you don't need this particular help anyway. So, I'll move on.

Getting There. You're flying. Let's face it, there's no central point in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean where the New York Subway and the London Underground meet. Besides, think of the delays you'd get. And by the time a transatlantic bridge is built, they'll have to name it for Prince George's grandson.

Most likely, you'll be flying into John F. Kennedy International Airport. Do yourself a favor, and hire a car service to take you to your hotel. It might be more expensive than a taxi -- which currently runs $52 -- but you might have a smoother ride. It should take just under an hour. There is a bus service from the International Terminal to the Subway system, which will then take you to Midtown Manhattan, but it will take about an hour and a half. If you return to JFK via subway, make sure to take the A train marked Far Rockaway or Rockaway Park, not Lefferts Blvd.

Once In the City. The City of New York, which is within the State of New York, has an estimated population of 8.4 million -- making it roughly the same size as London. It was founded by the Dutch in 1624, as New Amsterdam, in the colony of New Netherland. On September 8, 1664 -- there is no planned celebration for the upcoming 350th Anniversary -- the English took it from the Dutch without firing a shot. It was named after the brother of King Charles II, the Duke of York -- later King James II.
When the British occupied Manhattan after driving George Washington's Continental Army out in 1776, they burned it, and this is why there are very few remaining pre-19th Century buildings anywhere in the City (unlike such other Revolutionary-era cities as Boston and Philadelphia). After the British went home, the City's port, and location between two rivers, made it the richest in the Western Hemisphere, and was a big reason why America became a world power over the next 200 years.

New York City is divided into 5 Boroughs:

* Manhattan, or New York County, is the central island, named for the natives' name for it, "place of many hills."
* The Bronx, or Bronx County (otherwise always "The"), named for an early Dutch settler, Jonas Bronck).
* Brooklyn, or Kings County, named for the Dutch city of Breukelen, and, as Kings County, named for Charles II.
* Queens, or Queens County, named for Charles' wife, Catherine of Braganza.
* Staten Island, the former Dutch name, or Richmond County, named for Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond, one of King Charles' many contributions to illegitimacy.

The City is also part of "the New York Metropolitan Area" or "the New York Tri-State Area," which includes parts of New York State not in the City (such as Long Island, Nassau and Suffolk Counties; and the Lower Hudson Valley, such as Westchester County) and the States of New Jersey and Connecticut.

Most likely, you won't need to visit Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, the Lower Hudson Valley, or Connecticut; or The Bronx or New Jersey except for the games in question, so I'll spare you the descriptions.

Aside from your time at the games, most of your time in the City will be spent in Manhattan. North of 14th Street, streets will be a bit easier to navigate, as they will follow the 1811 grid plan. South of 14th Street, you may end up as confused as a foreigner would be in London, as this oldest part of the City doesn't always pay attention to the grid. If you're a comic book fan, there's a running gag that Metropolis, hometown of the optimistic superhero Superman, is Manhattan north of 14th Street on a beautiful spring day; while Gotham City, hometown of the brooding crimefighter Batman, is Manhattan south of 14th street, a few minutes after midnight, on a cold rainy day in November.

In the grid, Manhattan has (almost exclusively) numbered streets running (more or less) east-west, and (mostly) numbered avenues running (more or less) north-south. The numbered streets go up to 264th Street in The Bronx. Brooklyn and Queens also have numbered streets and numbered avenues, but they're a lot more confusing; when someone in New York says, "34th Street" or "5th Avenue," 95 percent of the time, they'll mean the one in Manhattan.

"Lower Manhattan" or "Downtown" is pretty much everything south of 14th Street, including Houston Street (pronounced HOW-stin, not HYOO-stin like the Texas city), which is, effectively, Zero Street. "Uptown" is pretty much everything in Manhattan north of 59th Street, from the southern edge of Central Park upward. "Midtown" is between 14th and 59th, and is where, aside from the games, most of the touristy stuff is -- if you're a Londoner, think of the postal codes beginning with EC, WC, SW1 and W1.

From the East River to the west-bounding Hudson River, the avenues run: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Lexington, Park, Madison, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th. There is a 4th Avenue, but it only runs from 8th Street to 14th Street, becoming Park Avenue South at Union Square and then Park Avenue at 32nd Street.

The outlier is Broadway, which starts at the southern tip of Manhattan (known as The Battery), and remains more or less straight until 10th Street, at which point it curves to (more or less) the northwest, until 78th Street, at which point it straightens out again.

Where Broadway intersects with the numbered avenues, there are frequently "squares," although this does not accurately reflect the actual shapes of the intersections. These include:

* Union Square, at 14th Street and Park Avenue.
* Madison Square, at 23rd Street and 5th Avenue.
* Herald Square, at 34th Street and 6th Avenue.
* Times Square, New York's version of Piccadilly Circus, at 42nd Street and 7th Avenue.
* Columbus Circle, at 59th Street and 8th Avenue.
Times Square

The delineator between the East Side and the West Side is Broadway from 8th Street on down, and 5th Avenue from 8th Street on up.

6th Avenue is also known as Avenue of the Americas, and 7th as Fashion Avenue due to its going through the Garment District. 6th and 7th Avenues stop at 59th Street, where Central Park begins, bordered by 5th and 8th Avenues, and 59th and 110th Streets. West of Central Park, 8th Avenue becomes Central Park West, 9th Avenue becomes Columbus Avenue, 10th Avenue becomes Amsterdam Avenue, and 11th Avenue becomes West End Avenue.

North of Central Park, in Harlem, America's most famous black neighborhood, 6th Avenue resumes as Lenox Avenue, but all 3 are also named for civil rights leaders: 6th/Lenox is Malcolm X Blvd., 7th is Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., and 8th is Frederick Douglass Blvd.

You may hear a reference to "the Lower East Side" -- especially if you're one of the Liverpool fans coming over. (I'll explain that later.) Between Houston and 14th Streets, east of 1st Avenue, you'll find Avenues A, B, C and D. This gave the neighborhood the nickname Alphabet City, and was long a haven for Eastern European immigrants, especially Jewish ones, but it fell victim to crime and drugs by the 1970s. Eventually Hispanics and gentrifiers combined to clean it up, and now, it's reasonably safe. In the Latin-New York accent, "Lower East Side" has become "Loisaida."

On 1st, 3rd, Madison, 6th, 8th and 10th Avenues, traffic runs one way, Uptown. On 2nd, Lexington, 5th, 7th, 9th and 11th Avenues, and on Broadway, traffic runs only Downtown. Park Avenue is the one avenue on which traffic runs in both directions. The major cross streets, such as 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd and 59th have two-way traffic, but most of the numbered streets run in only one direction.

The Subway system is going to sound complicated. And it is. I won't go into the difference between the IRT, the BMT and the IND.
There are lettered lines, and there are numbered lines. The 1, 2 and 3 trains have red logos, and go under 7th Avenue until Times Square (42nd Street), then go under Broadway. The N, Q and R trains have yellow logos, and they're the reverse, going up Broadway until Times Square, and then under 7th Avenue, before curving and heading Crosstown to Queens. The A, C and E trains have blue logos, and go under 8th Avenue, although the E curves at 53rd Street and heads to Queens. The B, D and F trains have orange logos, and go under 6th Avenue, until the F curves at 53rd Street and joins the E.

The 4, 5 and 6 trains have green logos, and go under Lafayette Street, then Park Avenue, then Lexington Avenue. Until the much-discussed, finally under-construction first phase of the 2nd Avenue line opens (they say it will be at the end of 2016), this will be the only north-south line on the East Side. The 7 has a purple logo, and runs under 42nd Street to Queens, where, due to its going through several ethnic neighborhoods in that Borough, is known as the International Express (but only runs express trains during rush hours). And the L has a gray logo, and runs under 14th Street to Brooklyn.

Note that some trains are express (2, 3, 4, 5, A, D and Q, only making the most-used stops), while the others are local (making all stops). And don't worry about the G, J, M and S trains, because, most likely, you won't need them. (The G is the only line on the entire system that does not go through Manhattan at all.)

The Subway fare is $2.50 -- 1.46 in pounds. Free transfers can be made from train to bus, or vice versa. However, there's a $1.00 fee for every new MetroCard. You're better off getting a 7-Day card for $30, since you're almost certainly staying for a few days.

Going In. This is where I tell travelers how to get to the stadium, how to get into it, and what they're likely to see when they do: Distances from home plate to certain key points in the outfield, whether the field is real grass or artificial turf (a.k.a. a "plastic pitch"), whether the stadium favors hitters or pitchers. But since soccer doesn't have varying field dimensions, that won't matter here.

If you're going to Yankee Stadium, home of MLB's New York Yankees, and starting in 2015 of Major League Soccer's New York City FC, to see Liverpool vs. Manchester City: It's in The Bronx, specifically the South Bronx. Once, this was one of the most notorious, most crime-ridden parts of the City, but it rebounded in the 1990s. By the time the Yankees started winning Pennants again in 1996, it could be truthfully reported that 96 percent of the crime in and around the old Yankee Stadium (which, like the Mets' ballpark, was replaced in 2008-09) was ticket scalping.
The intersection is the same: 161st Street and River Avenue, with the elevated line over River Avenue. The old Stadium, which opened the same month as the original Wembley Stadium, April 1923, was on the south side of 161st, and a City Park ballfield is now on the site; the new one is on the north side of it. The Subway stop is also the same: 161st Street-Yankee Stadium. If you're coming up from the West Side, take the D train, which should take about 25 minutes from Midtown; from the East Side, the 4 train (which becomes elevated just before reaching the Stadium), and it'll take about 20.

When you come up the steps of the D station, or come down the steps of the 4 station, you'll be led onto 161st Street, which is also named Babe Ruth Plaza. George Herman Ruth Jr., a.k.a. the Babe, the Great Bambino, the Sultan of Swat, the King of Crash, the Colossus of Clout, the Majarajah of Mash, etc. -- this guy had more nicknames than James Brown, the Godfather of Soul. He was the man who made the Yankees baseball's greatest club, and he was the greatest player who ever lived, or ever will live. He started out as a great pitcher, then early in his career he became the greatest hitter ever, in spite of eating like a pig, drinking like a fish, smoking like a chimney and screwing like an alley cat. To put it in footy terms: Imagine a young Gordon Banks getting established, then becoming George Best, with all that implies, and keeping up such a performance level until he's 40 years old, and the fans loving him for all his flaws, and you've got what Ruth represents to his sport. Sadly, Ruth died when he was just 53 -- it was the smoking that did him in, not the drinking or the eating or an STD or a jealous husband.

Most likely, you'll enter Yankee Stadium through either the home plate entrance, Gate 4, or the right field entrance, Gate 6. These are connected by a Great Hall that includes banners of past Yankee greats. You don't have to know the names or achievements of any of them, but the names of Ruth, Lou Gehrig (1920s & '30s), Joe DiMaggio (1940s) and Mickey Mantle (1950s & '60s) will be the most familiar on-site.

I should mention that the old Yankee Stadium was home to many great events besides baseball. It hosted many championship prizefights, most notably Joe Louis defending the heavyweight title against Max Schmeling, the unwilling stand-in for Nazi Germany, in 1938. In 1965, Pope Paul VI visited, and delivered the first Papal Mass anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. As for soccer:

* Glasgow Celtic, aware of New York's strong Irish heritage, came in 1931.
* Hapoel Tel Aviv, with New York's strong Jewish heritage in mind, came in 1947, not so much to play soccer as to raise funds for Israel's independence. When Israel's national team was formed, they played their first match at the old Yankee Stadium.
* In 1952, Liverpool played Swiss club Grasshopper Club Zurich, and Tottenham walloped Manchester United 7-1.
* In 1953, shortly after being embarrassed by Hungary at Wembley, and 3 years after their World Cup defeat to the U.S., England salvaged some pride by beating the U.S. 6-3.
* In 1966, Pele and his Brazilian club, Santos, beat Inter Milan.
* In 1968, a local team, the New York Generals, beat Pele's Santos and lost to Real Madrid, while Santos beat Napoli there.
* In 1969, Barcelona beat Juventus, Inter beat Sparta Prague, AC Milan beat Panathinaikos, and a Milan derby was held, with AC Milan beating Inter.
* The original version of the New York Cosmos played their 1971 and 1976 seasons there -- for reasons I won't get into here, they bounced around the Tri-State Area before moving to the Meadowlands in 1977.
* And in 1976, England beat Italy there.

The pitch will be laid out from left and center field to first base. In the summer of 2012, the new Stadium hosted Chelsea vs. Paris Saint-Germain (attendance: 38,202), and Real Madrid vs. AC Milan (attendance: a sellout of 49,474, including myself). Last year, Chelsea returned to face Man City (attendance: 39,462), which was beginning its partnership with the Yankees to help build NYCFC. So the people running the Stadium know what they're doing with this sport.
Having seen a match at Yankee Stadium (but not yet at Citi Field), I can tell you that there really isn't a bad seat in the house. My seat, in the upper deck, which would have been way up in left field for baseball, was right over one of the goals, and I got to see Iker Casillas make some sick saves for Madrid. (And I got to see Cristiano Ronaldo score a hat trick, and Kaka get cheered by both sets of fans, for both of whom he'd played.)

If you're going to Red Bull Arena (which, like the team, is named for the Austrian soft drink), home of MLS' New York Red Bulls, to see the Red Bulls play Arsenal or Bayern play Chivas: It's in New Jersey, in the city of Harrison, across the Passaic River from Newark.
Your best bet to get there from Midtown is to take the A, C or E train to World Trade Center, and then switch to the PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) line, and ride that to Harrison station. Another option is to go to Herald Square, 33rd Street and 6th Avenue, and take the PATH system in, but you'll have to change trains at Journal Square in Jersey City. Either one would take you almost an hour. The PATH fare is $2.50, just like the Subway's. If you're transferring from the Subway to PATH, the cards from one can be used on the other, but it will be separate fares, not a free transfer, so it's $5.00 each way.

There is another way, and if you prefer the English pubgoing experience, it may be more to your liking. New Jersey Transit, a commuter rail and bus service, runs trains between the New York and Newark versions of Penn Stations. (Before the advent of Amtrak and commuter-rail service, this was the Pennsylvania Railroad, which was used as a purchasable property in the American version of the board game Monopoly.) It takes 20 minutes and costs $5.00 each way -- the same as using both the Subway and PATH.

Once you arrive at Newark's Penn Station, you can walk out the east entrance onto Market Street. This is the Ironbound section of Newark, ringed by railroads and the Passaic River. It is mainly a Portuguese neighborhood, but with a few Brazilians due to the language. It's got a bit of an old-country touch (Iberia Restaurant was built to look like a castle), but if you're friendly, the people will gladly return that.

A number of bars (we usually don't call them "pubs") on Market Street cater to Red Bulls fans, including MMM Bello's Pub, Titanic Bar, Catas and El Pastor. Lots of beer, lots of sangria, lots of glorious meat. (The Portuguese are big on barbecue.) The area also has lots of seafood restaurants and bakeries. It's a special place: It was these people that turned me on to the game after a youth of thinking soccer was "boring" and that people who said, "You don't understand the nuances" were full of shit. They showed me how wrong I was. They showed me just how exciting the game can be.
UPDATE: El Pastor closed later in 2014, and the building has been demolished. Sad.

It's 9 blocks down Market Street from Penn Station to Jackson Street. The walk across the Jackson Street Bridge, over the Passaic River, is a Red Bull fans' sacrament. (This shouldn't be a problem for  you unless you're really afraid of heights.) Once over the Bridge, you will enter the city of Harrison, and the Arena will be on your right. Just follow the crowd. The entire walk from Penn Station down Market, over the Bridge, and into the Arena is one mile. It should take about 20 minutes if you don't stop at any of the bars (ha ha).
Red Bulls fans on the Jackson Street Bridge

UPDATE: On Saturday, someone climbed the Bridge and threatened to jump, forcing the Newark police to close it. So fans had to take PATH from Newark Penn Station to Harrison anyway. The jumper was talked down, and the Bridge was reopened in time for foot and car traffic after the game.

Upon arrival at Red Bull Arena, entry gates are as follows: Gate A, southwest; Gate B, northwest; Gate C, northeast; and Gate D, southeast. Based on ticket information that I've seen, most of the Arsenal fans will be put in the upper deck of the North stand, which means you'll probably enter at Gate B. The field is natural grass; it replaced an artificial pitch, because Thierry Henry hates the plastic stuff.

Food. Little of the food available at any of these stadiums is especially nutritious, less of it is on a short line, and still less of it is cheap. Much of it, if you're willing to spend the cash, is good, though. But you're betting off eating (and drinking) both before and after you head into the stadium.

I do not, however, recommend to either Liverpool or Manchester City fans that you go into the bars on River Avenue across from Yankee Stadium. It's not that you won't be allowed in -- once changed to dollars, your money is as good to them as anyone else's -- but the places will be festooned with baseball memorabilia, and it might not be the atmosphere you're looking for. And for Arsenal and Bayern fans, you'll have to walk 5 minutes out of Red Bull Arena just to get to Rodgers Boulevard, the main street of Harrison, before getting to anyplace decent -- hence my mention of the Market Street bars.

So here are some better options for you, club by club:

Liverpool: The local LFC supporters meet at the 11th Street Bar, 510 East 11th Street at Avenue A. It's small, and gets jammed (or "rammed with geezers") on matchday. But it's Liverpool through and through, and their Scousers' Guide to NYC may also help you. L train to 1st Avenue, walk 1 block east on 14th Street to Avenue A, walk 3 blocks south on A to 11th, and turn left. The bar will be on your right.

The Starting Gate, out in the Woodside section of Queens at 59-10 Woodside Avenue, is also a good bar for Liverpool fans. I saw Dirk Kuyt knock Man U out of the FA Cup here a couple of years ago. 7 Train to 61st Street-Woodside.

Manchester City: The Mad Hatter Pub is the home of the local Man City supporters' club. It's at 360 3rd Avenue at 26th Street. On matchdays, copying the "WELCOME TO MANCHESTER" sign for former United and City star Carlos Tevez, they hang a "WELCOME TO NEW YORK" banner out front. 6 train to 28th Street, 2 blocks east on 28th, then 2 blocks south on 3rd.

Arsenal: "14th Street is Red." Well, the blocks of East 14th Street between 1st and 3rd Avenues are, anyway. The Blind Pig at 233, between 2nd and 3rd, was established as the main bar of the NYC Arsenal Supporters after some unpleasant experiences at Nevada Smith's, New York's original soccer bar. The old Nevada's was established in 2002 at 74 3rd Avenue, but the main bartender there got fired, he opened the Football Factory and took a lot of his customers with him, and Nevada's never recovered. The building was a dump and was condemned, and a new one has opened at 100 3rd Avenue at 12th Street, but it still hasn't bounced back.

A "blind pig" -- also a "blind tiger" or a "speakeasy" -- was an illegal drinking club, established during America's unfortunate, spectacularly failed experiment with Prohibition, from 1920 to 1933. The place is decorated with "Roaring Twenties" style and pictures, including of Chicago's leading bootlegger, Al Capone.

The Blind Pig gets filled up quickly on matchdays: If you're not there by 45 minutes before kickoff, your chances of finding a seat becomes roughly the same as Abou Diaby's chances of being fit for the game. (UPDATE: Ironically, Diaby played against the Red Bulls, and came closer to scoring than any Arsenal player!) In a way, the place became a victim of its own success, and a second bar, O'Hanlon's, a block away at 349 East 14th Street at 1st Avenue, took in the spillover, and even that gets packed now. (A big reason why is "The 'Stache," their bartender, who with his close-cropped head and his handlebar mustache, could be mistaken for a late-Victorian bare-knuckle boxer if not for his NYC Arsenal Supporters T-shirt. He's almost as popular as the Pig's fabulous barmaids.)

On FA Cup Final day, pretty much every bar on 14th between 1st and 3rd was taking requests to show the Final on its TV, including the Bait & Hook, a new seafood-themed place that boldly displayed a Chelsea flag out front. The one at which I actually watched the Final was The Winslow, at 243.

Between them, the Pig, the Winslow and O'Hanlon's will be participating in 14th Street Is Red: An Arsenal Supporters Social. Click on the link for details.

The first time the Red Bulls held a special days for the NYC Arsenal Supporters -- complete with a  postgame question-and-answer session with Thierry Henry -- the New York Gooners marched out of the Pig, down 14th Street to the PATH station at 6th Avenue, and onto the train, singing and chanting all the way, as Americans who've never heard of Arsenal looked totally perplexed, not knowing what was going on. They've made a tradition of that. No doubt, it will happen again.

Bayern: Lunasa, at 126 1st Avenue at 8th Street/St. Mark's Place, is the local hangout for fans of the pride of Bavaria. Zum Schneider, a bar designed to look like a traditional German beer hall, is at 107 Avenue C at 7th Street, and has been the gathering place for fans of the German national team these last 3 World Cups (so, as you can imagine if you've never seen it, it's been hopping.) If you get to "Zoom," make sure you have cash, because they do not accept credit cards. Either Lunasa or Zum can be reached by taking the 6 train to Astor Place, then walking east down 8th/St. Mark's. 

As in London, street food is a key part of New York life. Pushcart hot dogs are a guessing game: I've had really good ones, really bad ones, and everything in between. But at $3.00 (when even the smallest entrée at a fast-food place will likely be twice that), it's cheap, it's fast, and it's hot. Most of the hot dogs are beef, but I can't rule out that they may be pork.

Which brings me to the question of religion. If you are Jewish, look on the pushcart for the logo of Hebrew National beef franks. Their slogan is, "We answer to a higher authority." Also, many of the pushcarts will be manned by Muslims, and won't handle pork, but they will sell Hebrew National for the very reason that their hot dogs won't have pork, or non-meat fillers for that matter.

Likewise, if you are Muslim, there are pushcarts labeled "The Halal Guys." They will have food that caters to your needs. The Halal Guys also have a store on 14th, between the Pig and O'Hanlon's. And, of course, there are lots of restaurants in New York that serve only kosher or only halal food.

Stuff. There may be stalls outside the stadium selling gear of the teams playing inside, but inside the stadium it will be all about the usual home team. So don't expect to see Arsenal or Bayern memorabilia inside Red Bull Arena, for example.

During the Game. This is the part of the post where I describe visiting New York baseball fans' potential for interaction with the fans and atmosphere of the host ballclub. How much of that will be an issue for Liverpool vs. Manchester City or Bayern vs. Chivas, since none of those clubs will be facing a "home team"?

Liverpool vs. Manchester City: On the one hand, Man City and the Yankees are now in partnership with New York City FC, which will begin play at Yankee Stadium next March. This would seem to make Man City "the home team" for this game. On the other hand, Liverpool is still far more popular in this country, probably (though neither team's fans will want to hear this) 2nd only to Man United in American popularity. So it may be that the stands will be, roughly, evenly divided between Liverpool and Manchester City. This will probably not cause any trouble, as the clubs don't have yet a contentious history with each other -- the recent Premier League race, with City edging Liverpool out, notwithstanding.

Bayern vs. Chivas: Although German remains the largest ethnic group in America (ahead of the Irish, all blacks combined, and all Hispanics combined), and Bayern recently opened an American office in New York, they don't yet have the kind of North American presence as do the bigger English clubs, the 2 Spanish giants (Real Madrid and Barcelona), or even the 3 Italian giants (AC Milan, Inter and Juventus). Chivas is probably the most popular club in Mexico, and New York and New Jersey have a huge Mexican immigrant community. If you are a Bayern fan coming over, you will almost certainly find yourself outnumbered. That said, I don't think the Chivas fans will go out of their way to antagonize you. Since your clubs are separated by an ocean, I'm guessing there is no competitive history between you, and no reason to openly dislike one another. And, surely, Bayern will have some goodwill drummed up with Mexicans in America (born in either country) due to the Bayern-boosted German victory at the World Cup.

Arsenal vs. Red Bulls: This is the one match involving an actual home team. The Red Bull ultras -- the Empire Supporters' Club, the Garden State Supporters, the Viking Army and others -- sit in the South stand, a.k.a. the South Ward. (Newark divides itself into "wards," and this carried over into the Arena even though it's not in Newark.) These are ultras, not hooligans: They will wear costumes, play instruments, chant, sing, and use a lot of profane and even sick humor -- but they will never initiate violence. If necessary, they will defend themselves, and many of them are large, solidly-built individuals, and New York and New Jersey does come with a tough reputation. But their first choice is peace: If you don't start anything, neither will they.

One thing they might do that you should be aware of: When Tottenham came to Red Bull Arena on their 2012 tour, the Red Bull ultras chanted, "Fuck the Queen!" That was wrong. They didn't do it when Tottenham and Man City came in 2010, but they did do it in 2012. Hopefully, they won't do it this time. Maybe, due to Henry having the Arsenal connection, and due to Queen Elizabeth herself supposedly being an Arsenal fan, they'll be a bit more respectful. But don't be surprised if they make a few references to tea and crumpets, or (forgetting that Cockneys only come from the East End) call you some insulting version of Cockneys.

After the Game. It's a perennial issue in large stadiums: Gates usually open an hour and a half before the scheduled start, and so the stadium operators and safety personnel have that long to get tens of thousands of people inside, but these people all want to get out within 10 minutes of the game's end.

I realize that it's a tradition in English football to treat the police as a necessary annoyance. But with the many rivalries in New York sports (usually between New York teams in the same league, or between New York and Philadelphia teams, or between New York and Boston-area teams), they're used to the possibility of violence. Therefore, you should not treat the NYPD, or the New Jersey local police, as if they're "the Old Bill." No "What a waste of council tax, we paid for your hats!" or other such taunts. (Besides, if you don't live in New York City or Harrison, you didn't pay said taxes.) These men (and a few women) are seriously trained, they know what they're doing, and they do not fuck around. If you follow their instructions, you'll be able to get both in and out of the stadium area safely.

What you do once you are out is up to you. If you feel like getting a postgame meal, or just a pint (or a few), you are free to do so for the extent of your money, so long as you don't cause a disturbance. The cops will arrest people for D&D (drunk and disorderly conduct), and vandalism will not be tolerated under any circumstances. But if you don't make a nuisance of yourself, they'll leave you alone.

Sidelights. This is the part of the trip guide where I talk about other sports-related sites in the city's metropolitan area, and then move on to other noted tourist attractions.

During the week in question, aside from their July 26 match with Arsenal, the Red Bulls will be playing on July 30, but away to Real Salt Lake, in Utah in the Rocky Mountains. They will return home on Saturday, August 2, home to MLS' Boston-area franchise, the New England Revolution.

The New York Cosmos, who are in the North American Soccer League (the U.S. pyramid's "second division"), will be playing away to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers (Miami area) on the 26th, and return home on August 2 to play the Carolina Railhawks, so unless you're sticking around that long, and feel like schlepping out to Long Island, I'd suggest ignoring them.

The New York area has a team in the National Women's Soccer League, called Sky Blue FC. They play at Yurcak Field, which is the 5,000-seat soccer and lacrosse stadium of Rutgers University, a three-minute walk from its 52,000-seat football stadium, on its Busch Campus in Piscataway, New Jersey. You'd have to take New Jersey Transit rail from Penn Station to New Brunswick, then a campus bus from the station to the stadium. They'll be away to FC Kansas City on July 27, and home to the Rochester, New York-based Western New York Flash on July 31.
Yurcak Field

Most of you won't be interested in baseball. If you're curious, let me tell you that the resemblance to cricket is superficial at best, and any Englishman who calls it "rounders" or "a schoolgirl's game" doesn't know what the hell he's talking about, and, to use a phrase you'll recognize, baseball fans will get the right hump with you.

The Yankees will be playing at home against the Dallas-area-based Texas Rangers through July 24, and then play 3 games against the Toronto Blue Jays on the 25th, 26th and 27th. The games on the 24th and 27th are 1:05 PM starts, the rest are 7:05 PM starts.

When one of the City's baseball teams is at home, the other is usually on the road, so they don't eat into each other's attendance. On the 27th, the Yankees fly out, and the Mets come home, to play their "local" rivals, the 100-miles-away Philadelphia Phillies. (Until 1997, there was no Interleague play, so while the American League's Yankees and the National League's Mets competed for popularity, they did not play each other in regular-season games.) The games on the 28th and 29th are 7:10 PM starts, and the one on the 30th starts at 12:10 PM. Take the 7 train to "Mets-Willets Point" station.

I would suggest avoiding the area's other sports teams that are in-season: Minor-league baseball's Staten Island Yankees and Brooklyn Cyclones ("farm teams" of the Yankees and Mets, respectively), and the WNBA's (women's basketball's) New York Liberty. Although tickets are cheap compared to Major League Baseball and the NBA, respectively, the experience probably won't be worth the effort. And the NFL won't even play any preseason games until August 3, so you won't get the chance to see the Giants or the Jets in even the most meaningless of contests.

Citi Field (named for Citibank), home of the Mets, is in Queens, between the neighborhoods of Corona and Flushing, on Roosevelt Avenue between 123rd and 126th Streets. You'll take the 7 train (which becomes elevated, or "the el," upon entering Queens) to the stop labeled "Mets-Willets Point." If you're leaving from Midtown Manhattan, the ride should take about 35 minutes.

Across Roosevelt Avenue is Flushing Meadow-Corona Park, where the U.S. Open tennis tournament is held every late August and early September, and where the 1939-40 and 1964-65 New York World's Fairs were held. If you saw the Men In Black movies, you'll recognize the Unisphere globe, which is one of the surviving structures from the 1964 Fair.

The name "Flushing" comes from the Dutch "Vlissingen," and, no matter how much the Mets stink, has nothing to do with plumbing, although Citi Field's predecessor, Shea Stadium, was often nicknamed the Flushing Toilet.

The Mets were founded in 1962, to take the place of a pair of teams that moved to California for the reason of greed after the 1957 season: The New York Giants (who played in upper Manhattan) and the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Giants moved to San Francisco, the Dodgers to Los Angeles, and have maintained their nasty rivalry to this day, thought separated by 389 miles instead of 14.

The move of the Giants was upsetting to many, that of the Dodgers to many more, as they were the only team that Brooklyn could then claim as its own, and they moved to the untapped market of the California, and took their rivals with them.

The analogy would not be to Wimbledon FC moving to Milton Keynes. Think, instead, of Brooklyn as New York's answer to the East End (complete with docklands), and imagine that, near the peak of their success, West Ham had moved to India -- and took Tottenham with them. (Not Millwall. Millwall would be considered "minor league" by U.S. standards.) Then imagine that Chelsea really did have "no history," and only started a few years after the move, and started as a joke, until they had a couple of titles, and their fans became obnoxious far beyond what their success had yet earned. That would be the Mets. (Except that the Mets are shit now. Would that Chelsea would become the same!)

Citi Field holds about 41,000 people, opened in April 2009, and has hosted soccer already, with Greece playing Ecuador, which made sense, as Queens has lots of Greek and Hispanic immigrants.

Both New York baseball parks allow tours. Yankee Stadium: $25. Citi Field: $13. Madison Square Garden, home of the NBA's Knicks and the NHL's Rangers, and the site of some legendary prizefights and concerts, allows tours, for $27. This is the 4th in a series of buildings with the name, opening in 1968, on top of Penn Station, after the original Roman-inspired Station, built in 1910, was demolished in 1963. Between 31st and 33rd Streets, between 7th and 8th Avenues. 1, 2, 3, A, C or E train to 34th Street-Penn Station. Across 8th Avenue is the main post office, with its columns inspiring comparisons to the old Penn Station, and a move to make it the next Penn Station is in the planning stages. (Because of lease issues, the Madison Square Garden Corporation may have to build a new arena in the next few years, despite already having seriously renovated the current Garden both in 1992 and again completing a 2-year renovation job this year. Location to be determined.)

Barclays Center, home of the NBA's Brooklyn Nets since it opened in 2012, offers tours for $24. 2, 3, 4, 5, B or Q train to Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center. It's built across the street from the Long Island Rail Road's Atlantic Terminal, one of 3 major rail stations in the City.

The Prudential Center in Newark, home of the NHL's New Jersey Devils since it opened in 2007, is hosting "Walking With Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular" this week. However, I can find no reference to tours of the arena being available. It's a 5-minute walk from Newark's Penn Station.

Also allowing tours is MetLife Stadium, the home of the NFL's Giants and Jets, in the Meadowlands Sports Complex of East Rutherford, New Jersey, which also includes a horse racing track, and an arena that used to be home of the NHL's New Jersey Devils and the NBA's New Jersey Nets, who now play in Brooklyn.

This stadium, which opened in 2010, has already hosted a number of matches, including the U.S. vs. Argentina in 2011 (I was there), Brazil vs. Argentina in 2012, and a recent Portugal vs. Ireland match. Tours are $20. (Its predecessor, Giants Stadium, hosted the original Cosmos from 1977 to 1985, and several games in the 1994 World Cup and the 1999 Women's World Cup.) It is hard to get to, though. On game days, New Jersey Transit runs rail service right there, but if you're going from Penn Station, you have to change trains at Secaucus Junction. Without it being a game day (and with the interest, Arsenal vs. Red Bulls really should have been moved from the 25,000-seat Arena to the 82,000-seat Meadowlands), you may need to have to go to the Port Authority Bus Terminal at 41st Street and 8th Avenue (A, C or E train to 42nd Street), and take a NJ Transit bus.

As I said, the current Madison Square Garden and the current Penn Station are in the same complex, Pennsylvania Plaza. Penn Station is the City's hub for Amtrak, and is the main terminal for both New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), which provides service to "Lawn Giland," New York's Nassau and Suffolk Counties, America's classic suburban region. Unlike its predecessor under the name, Penn Station is not a tourist attraction into and of itself.

That is not the case with the City's other major rail center, Grand Central Terminal, at 42nd Street and Park Avenue. It is truly a spectacular sight, and like Penn Station and a few other locations, can truly be called "a city within a city." Like the old Penn Station, it was threatened with demolition, because its Midtown real estate was so valuable. But a group led by former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis saved it, got it cleaned up and renovated, and last year it celebrated its Centennial in grand fashion. Although Amtrak no longer operates out of it -- you can no longer take trains from Grand Central to Boston, Montreal and Chicago -- it is still the main commuter hub for people from the Lower Hudson Valley and Connecticut, through the Metro-North Commuter Railroad. 4, 5, 6 and 7 trains to 42nd Street-Grand Central.

As for the City's main tourist attractions: If your secondary goal, beyond the primary goal of seeing your match, it to see a "Broadway play," I would advise against it, as you may well be very disappointed. Tickets are expensive and not easy to get, and may not be worth it. This is hardly a golden age for Broadway: Nearly every show is either a borrow from London's West End, a stage adaptation of a movie you may already have seen, or a revival of a classic musical featuring performers whose names are not especially well-known. (And are not likely to be, either: Although a few major actors got their start on Broadway, the days when The Ed Sullivan Show -- which helped the Beatles rise to superstardom here -- could, thanks to Sullivan's status as a Broadway columnist for the Daily News, raise performers and songs from nearby theaters to iconic status are long gone.)

An NY CityPass will be expensive, but it will save you a large amount if your goal is to cram in as many tourist attractions as possible. You can tailor your pass to the sites you want to see. For example: The $109 version gets you the Empire State Building, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Modern Art, the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island or a Circle Line Cruise around Manhattan Island, and the Top of the Rock observation deck at Rockefeller Center or the Guggenheim Museum. With CityPASS, you'll skip most ticket lines.

As for the museums: While London's are free, New York's are not. They have "donations" -- or "suggested general admissions" -- running from $15 to $22.

The two best-known New York Museums are opposite Central Park from one another, a mile apart. The American Museum of Natural History is at 79th Street and Central Park West (8th Avenue). C train to 81st Street. And the Metropolitan Museum of Art -- a.k.a. The Met, not to be confused with the opera house, the baseball team, or the London police -- is at 82nd Street and 5th Avenue. This stretch of 5th is known as Museum Mile, and also includes, among others, the egg-shaped, Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. 4, 5 or 6 train to 86th Street, 4 blocks down Lexington, and then 3 blocks west to 5th Avenue.

The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is New York's center for classical performances, with several venues, most notably the current edition of the Metropolitan Opera House. 63rd Street and Broadway. 1 train to 66th Street-Lincoln Center. The other major classical venue is Carnegie Hall. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? "Practice, my boy, practice!" The old joke is wrong: Anyone who can afford to rent Carnegie Hall's main auditorium may do so, regardless of level of talent. It's at 881 7th Avenue at 57th Street. 1, A, B, C or D train to 59th Street-Columbus Circle, or F train to 57th Street.

A block away, at 56th Street and 7th Avenue, is the legendary Carnegie Deli, of the giant (and expensive) sandwiches named for legendary entertainers and athletes. Sadly, the similar Stage Deli, a block away at 55th and 7th, closed a couple of years ago.

The Russian Tea Room, a famous restaurant mere steps away from Carnegie Hall at 150 West 57th, is to be avoided: The service is only passable, and the food would be mediocre at half the price. In fact, I would avoid the best-known restaurants altogether. It's been said that New York offers the best cheap meals and the worst expensive meals in the world. So if you have the bucks to blow, and you want to be able to say, "I ate at (fill in the blank: Smith & Wollensky's, Gallagher's, Peter Luger's, or wherever else)," go ahead, but you have been warned. (The famous Italian restaurant Mama Leone's has been gone for many years.)

The closest thing you may get to a true British pub experience is the Atlantic Chip Shop, at 129 Atlantic Avenue at Henry Street in Brooklyn. The place is decked out in British memorabilia, and when there's no football or rugby match on TV, they usually have a British film on -- the last time I was there, it was Monty Python and the Holy Grail. 4 or 5 train to Borough Hall, then 4 blocks down Court Street, then turn right on Atlantic and walk 2 blocks.

The owners also run the Park Slope Chip Shop, which is closer to a genuine chippy. 383 5th Avenue at 6th Street -- remember, that's Brooklyn's 5th Avenue, not Manhattan's. R train to 9th Street, walk up 4th Avenue to 6th Street, and 1 block over to 5th.

North America's premier soccer bar/football pub is The Football Factory at Legends, at 6 West 33rd Street, across from the Empire State Building. Many of the big European clubs have supporters' clubs that watch matches there, and the atmosphere can be quite intense (but never violent). B, D or F train to 34th Street-Herald Square, then one block over on 33rd Street.

It is one of several places in the City where you can pick up copies of First Touch, the area's free weekly newspaper dedicated to the sport. Despite this being the off-season, it is still being published. (Seems there was a recent tournament of some kind, that it covers in some detail.)

A Salt and Battery is also a good fish and chips place. The fish is top-notch, but they do have what we call French fries, rather than chips. Next-door is another English-themed place, Tea and Sympathy. 112 Greenwich Avenue at 13th Street. 1, 2, 3, A, C or E train to 14th Street.

If your taste runs more to the Irish or the Scottish, one place I like is The Parlour, at 250 West 86th Street. It's the home of the New York Bhoys, a Celtic FC supporters' group. The people and the food there are both superb. 1 train to 86th Street. If you're interested in something strictly Scottish, Caledonia Scottish Pub is at 1609 2nd Avenue at 83rd Street. 4, 5 or 6 train to 86th Street. And if you're Welsh, Longbow Pub & Pantry is in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn -- but be advised that they also have "fries" instead of "chips." 7316 3rd Avenue at 74th Street. R train to either Bay Ridge Avenue or 77th Street, then walk a block from 4th Avenue to 3rd.

The Freedom Tower at the new World Trade Center is nearing completion, and while its observation deck is not yet open, the Tower is already certified as the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. It looks over the site of the original Twin Towers, at Liberty and Greenwich Streets, and expect long lines if you want to visit the 9/11 Memorial. E train to World Trade Center, or R train to Cortlandt Street.

Because of security concerns after the 9/11 attacks, it is no longer possible to tour the New York Stock Exchange building at Wall and Broad Streets. However, it doesn't cost anything to walk down Wall Street, the center of the financial world. 2, 3, 4 or 5 train to Wall Street.

The South Street Seaport area is one of the City's last remaining bastions of pre-Civil War (1861-65) architecture. In fact, one of the reasons John Lennon said he loved New York so much was that it reminded him of Liverpool, especially with the dock areas. However, the Pier 17 shopping center, which had lots of goodies, has recently been closed, and will be demolished to make way for a new one, supposedly to open in late 2016.

Speaking of Lennon, his widow Yoko Ono -- and, I think, their son Sean Lennon -- still lives at the Dakota Arms Hotel, a 1 West 72nd Street at Central Park West. The great composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein also lived there until his death in 1990. (It was also used for the original film version of Rosemary's Baby, so it was a little creepy even before Mark David Chapman showed up.) At the 72nd Street entrance to Central Park, there is a tribute to Lennon, appropriately enough named Strawberry Fields. C train to 72nd Street.


This is usually where I close the blog post by telling you what a terrific city you'll be visiting, and hoping that you'll have fun.

Well, whatever you might think of London, there is no better city on Earth than New York. While it is very easy for things to go wrong there, if you follow these directions, you should be fine, and be able to enjoy yourself immensely. Good luck.

Just in case, if you do have any trouble, contact the British Consulate General, at 845 3rd Avenue. The telephone number is (212) 745-0200.

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