My most vivid dreams come to me when I'm particularly tired, hot, and sleeping in a strange bed, so it was no surprise I started having them in New York. I dreamed Richard Bergeron was at a convention and everyone there was ignoring him, me included. I woke up then, staring at the ceiling of Stu Shiffman's Washington Heights apartment. Jesus! If I was dreaming about him now then this Bergeron business was really starting to get out of hand. Ah, if I'd only known!

Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Tom Weber. In rear is the flatiron building where Patrick
would work for Tor years later.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Tom Weber called for me at 10am, and the three of us set off into that bright September morning to explore Manhattan. Over and above the sightseeing, I wanted to buy a cheap replacement for the camera I'd left on the plane (which I did at the first shop we came to) and to come up with something funny enough to make Teresa fall over. As a foreigner, I was worried that I might have a problem achieving this. Humour, after all, is very culture-dependent and I was in a country where men managed to keep a straight face while answering to a name like Randy and, for all I knew, Horny.

We started at Columbus Circle ("Guess who's statue is on top of the column?" -- Patrick) and from there walked up the Avenue of the Americas. Traversing Park Avenue, we went through the Pan Am building and down the escalators to Grand Central Station, with its impressive main hall. The ceiling features the constellations of the zodiac -- painted in mirror-image by mistake -- and skylights that were blacked out during World War II and have been that way ever since. Seems that it's not only in Britain that a 'temporary measure' can become pretty permanent. We moved out onto 42nd Street and what, according to my notes, was "the good end", whatever that means, and then across Madison Avenue to meet up with Stu Shiffman.

"I'm very comfortable in women's underwear," explained Stu, over lunch.

Stu Shiffman

The four of were eating at a Japanese restaurant called Larmen Dasanko (which was part of a fast-food chain, apparently) where, having resisted all attempts to get me to try sushi -- raw fish is a disgusting concept -- I'd settled instead for a salad, noodles, and what my notes refer to as "strange dumplings". Stu had joined us on his lunch break, his striking statement being a comment on which part of New York's extensive garment industry he worked in, of course.

After the meal, Stu took us to see a rundown hotel that had been the first LIFE building, and then pointed out the "temple to Roscoe" opposite. This was a fur trade building with a lobby containing ornate Assyrian decoration and, honest to Roscoe, a gold lift door inlaid with the figures of beavers. Amazing. (And having encountered Grand Central Station and a fur trade building on a single day in New York, it was all I could do to stop myself naming this chapter MANHATTAN, TRAINS, FUR.)

Rob Hansen with pigeon

With Stu's lunch hour over, Patrick, Tom and I re-entered the subway system at Penn Street and travelled to South Ferry, on the southernmost part of Manhattan Island, to catch the Staten Island Ferry. At twenty five cents a time a trip on the ferry was, according to Patrick, "the best tourist bargain in New York". And so it proved to be. It was a gloriously sunny day, but very windy, so while we stood on the deck for a fair part of both the journey out to Staten Island and the journey back, we also spent much of the time inside, sitting on the long rows of wooden benches that seat thousands of commuters every day. At one point I glanced up and saw a pigeon casually perched on the back of a bench. Patrick, as deeply erudite as ever, knew why.

"It's following its ancient migratory route between Manhattan and Staten Island," he explained.

I was disappointed with the Statue of Liberty, which was obscured by scaffolding (in revenge, no doubt, for the unconscionably long time Big Ben had been similarly sheathed), but the view of Manhattan was priceless. This was the view of the island's skyscrapers that we're all familiar with, the one of Manhattan sitting low on the water that's been seen in a thousand films and TV shows. Magnificent.

Rob Hansen without pigeon

"New York is big on landfill," explained Patrick, gesturing expansively at Manhattan Island, "and the FDR Expressway is built on bombing rubble from London and Bristol that was shipped over as ballast in returning merchant ships during World War Two."

There was something deeply symbolic in this, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out what it was.

Late in the afternoon, we arrived at the New York branch of Forbidden Planet, which had more floor space than its London counterpart (then still located on Denmark Street) but not, so far as I could tell, a larger variety of stock. I felt a moment of nostalgia for L.A.CON II when I looked up and saw the now-familiar figure of an inflatable Terl the Psychlo hanging from the ceiling.

Moshe Feder, Lise Eisenberg, and Teresa Nielsen Hayden were joining us at Forbidden Planet, which they duly did, for a foray into the East Village, a part of Manhattan in many ways reminiscent of London's Camden Town. The plan was for more touristing, so with Moshe getting into the role of tour guide with great enthusiasm and demonstrating his encyclopedic knowledge of New York, we set off.

New York's Forbidden Planet

I was happily snapping away with my instamatic, capturing such delights as a moving van whose lettering revealed it as being operated by 'Van Gogh Movers' and the 'Think Big' shop whose stock consisted entirely of gigantic versions of everyday objects ("Holy elephantiasis, Batman!") when I somehow lost my grip and it fell to the sidewalk, popping open and ejecting the film. This was not my day it seemed, particularly as Teresa fell to the ground soon afterwards and I had nothing to do with it. We'd just turned onto Canal Street ("Formerly a canal!" -- M.Feder) when it happened. Teresa took one look at a shop called 'Three Roses' -- a shop with a neon sign outside that featured two roses -- and down she went. Poot.

Two roses...or three? (To be fair, it does look as if one has fallen

Canal Street soon merged with Chinatown and it was near there, in the depressingly scuzzy Columbus Park, that we sat down to decide on what we were going to do for dinner. While Moshe and Lise got into their traditional heated argument with the Nielsen Haydens over where exactly we were going to eat, an inevitable ritual when eating out with New York fandom, I glanced around at the various crazies wandering around the park and either muttering to themselves or talking loudly to no-one in particular in a remarkable reenactment of a Worldcon Business Meeting. Parked just outside the park were a pair of blue and white buses which, according to the writing on their sides, belonged to the 'Department of Correction'. I was deeply impressed by this evidence of American open-mindedness. In Britain, the taste for 'correction' among Conservative politicians usually leads to them quitting in shame amid ribald comments from press and public. How much more enlightened they must be about such matters in the US, I thought; instead of persecuting such hard working public servants they'd set up a whole department to minister to their needs.

Having finished fighting naked in the mud, arm-wrestling, or in some other way solved their dispute while I was contemplating correction in America, the New York fans had finally decided that we should eat at a pizzeria near Andy Porter's apartment. Then, not only would I get to sample real New York pizza for the first time but, since Andy lived in Brooklyn, I'd also get to cross the Brooklyn Bridge. On foot. Which suited me just fine. Of course I had sore feet by the time we got to the other side (it's a big bridge), but I wouldn't have missed that view of Manhattan after dark for anything.

Rob and Brooklyn Bridge

"For a flat stomach eat flatfish" advised the sign in a shop near Andy's apartment, a dubious piece of advice I had no intention of following. Andy was tall, stout, bespectacled and bearded and had no sooner ushered us into his apartment than he was showing us a detailed breakdown of the voting in the fan Hugos. Since Patrick & Teresa's IZZARD had been among those fanzines nominated they examined this with no little interest. IZZARD had placed behind the filking fanzine FILK FEE-NOM-ENON, and the figures revealed some surprising information.

"There were twenty people who voted for us in first place and FILK FEE-NOM-ENON in second," said Patrick, clearly appalled that such perverts were allowed out without supervision. "Who would do that?"

Who indeed? Patrick was still marvelling at this when we got back to their place a few hours later, and fretted about it as we all sat around talking and winding down. I had a feeling Patrick would lie awake trying to square this particular circle but me, I intended sleeping as soundly as I could.

Well, it wasn't that sound a sleep but I was refreshed enough the next morning to get into a long and involved discussion with Stu about the Jewish influence in comics (which, as those of you at all familiar with American comics will know, has been huge). We breakfasted at a nearby diner with Bill Wagner, a neighbour of Stu's and yet another member of the fannish enclave that then existed in northern Manhattan. Bill was large and droll and, though not active in fanzines, was probably the funniest person I met during my whole TAFF trip.

Like Friday, Saturday was given over to sightseeing, but the pace was much more leisurely and included Washington Heights itself. The area has now been taken over by drug dealers, but in 1984, though grubby and rundown, it still had a certain charm. It also had a pretty good little park, reached by way of a lift at the 190th Street station, that looked out over the Bronx on one side, and the Jersey Pallisades and Hudson River on the other. We spent a couple of hours here, a welcome change of pace, before joining up with the others and getting into some serious touristing downtown in the afternoon and early evening. But, really, as enjoyable as all this was, the best bit was back at Stu's apartment that evening when I finally achieved my burning ambition. All through the afternoon, Teresa had been falling over as Bill and Patrick made various wry remarks, but none of my own seemed to make it. During a conversation at Stu's she asked me what had happened in North America in 1812. I knew the answer.

"The US invaded Canada," I replied.

Laughing, Teresa collapsed in a heap on the carpet. At last I had succeeded. The only thing is, I still don't know what was so funny.

Bill Wagner at South Street Seaport

The following morning, Stu, Bill, and I set off for my final day's sightseeing in New York soon after 11am, and I manfully resisted the urge to sing 'Feelin' Groovy' as we drove under the 59th St Bridge. We stopped off in Chinatown for a dim sum breakfast at the Nom Wah Bakery before continuing, by way of a stop off at the South St Seaport -- another area oddly reminiscent of London's Covent Garden -- on our journey to Manhattan's southernmost tip. I shouted for Bill to stop the car when we got near the base of the World Trade Center, leaping out, whipping my glasses off, and craning my neck to get a good photo of the twin towers. We drove for another block after this before I realised that I'd left my glasses on the roof. Amazingly, when Bill slowly brought the car to a halt they were still there. This was an enormous relief. As wonderful as I was finding America, I doubt I'd have appreciated spending the rest of my trip seeing it as if it was underwater.

"You needn't have worried", said Stu, airily, "my cousin the optometrist would've only charged you a couple of fortunes for a new pair."

Having allowed ourselves to be seduced by the charms of Barnes & Noble ("World's Largest Bookstore") we were late meeting Patrick at the Empire State Building, not that he seemed to mind. Despite it no longer being the tallest building in New York there was never any doubt in my mind that it was the Empire State Building I wanted to gaze across New York from and not some newer pretender such as the World Trade Center. There's something mythic about the Empire State Building, something somehow a whole lot more real. The view from the observation deck was terrific, a 360 degree panorama that took in the five boroughs of New York and, closer to home, the Pan Am Building, Central Park, Liberty Island, Macy's, the art deco splendour of the Chrysler Building, and a billboard that read: "BP -- America's Newest Gas". Hey, hang on a minute....

On the way back to Stu's we drove along the road that ran alongside Central Park, leading Stu to wax lyrical about the park.

"It's a wonderful place", he enthused, "really neat. Inside, you can't hear the traffic."

"Only the screams of the mugged", agreed Bill.

"That's an exaggeration!" Stu protested.

"True", said Bill, "but I swear the first time a guy came up to me there and said 'loose joints?' I thought he was talking about his medical condition."

That evening, my final one in New York, I went out for dinner at the Dyckman House Restaurant with Stu, Bill, the Nielsen Haydens, Stu's fannish neighbours, Sue-Rae Rosenfeld and Frank Balazs, and a guy whose name I didn't catch. It was probably Horny. We ate, we drank, we talked, and I'm sure we all had a good time, but on this my notes are silent. New York had been fascinating and overwhelming. I'd seen more of it than of anywhere else in America I'd so far been, but I'd barely tasted what it had to offer. At once ugly and beautiful, grubby and exhilarating, New York was somewhere I promised myself I'd visit again one day. Until then there was still tomorrow to look forward to, and my journey to the nation's capital -- Washington DC.