My best mate, Dan Reilly, moved to New York when I was 17.
He went there with nothing. Now he is a very successful businessman and the embodiment of ‘The American Dream’.
Soon after he moved there, I quickly went across the Atlantic to visit him and had some amazing times running around the Bronx getting up to all sorts of stuff with him. How my mum and dad let me go out there, I will never know.
For the next 10 years, I went back to New York every year in the summer for a couple of weeks to re-live old times and find some new memories too. It’s an ideal place for me to chill out, eat good food and have a beer at the end of the rugby season.
And, spending time with someone who lives there, you get to find all of the best places that perhaps don’t appear on the tourist maps.
On my first visit, back when we were just 17, we had one particularly memorable night at a bar which was appropriately called the Village Idiot. It was like a downbeat version of that film ‘Coyote Ugly’ where people dance on the bar and drink too much.
We went back several times after that night, chilled out, had a drink and listened to Country music. There was a fantastic vibe and I fell in love, not only with the place but with the Country music too.
I had never given that genre a second thought until then. It was hardly Top of the Pops when I was growing up in the 1990s!
But I started buying a few CDs. I remember George Strait’s ‘All My Exes Live In Texas’ was one of the first records I bought. I played it constantly for a long while.
Since then I have got into Johnny Cash, Pat Green and other artists. I always have my Country music on in the car.
It’s like a secret pleasure I suppose. Not many of the boys at the Tigers know I am into it and, because few other rugby players listen to Country, it never really comes up in conversation.
If I had not gone to visit Dan in New York as a teenager, I know for a fact that I would never have got into it.
Now, when I listen to my music, it always reminds me of going to visit Dan in New York. I have had some great times and cherish some fantastic memories.
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