Katz’s Delicatessen New York has the best Maztoh ball soup I’ve ever eaten. Dumplings the size of your fist. Mmm, brains. It’s also the location of ‘that scene’ in When Harry Met Sally. And Carnegie Deli has the biggest sandwich I’ve ever eaten ‘ The Woody Allen’, which is alternated pastrami and corn beef in a bowl shape, literally, genuinely, the size of your head. I managed about half of it before a semi-aneurysm, and suffered complete shame at having to throw so much food away. There’s a photo of it here. (That plate is a dinner-plate.)

Back from New York, back into the loathsome slough of the office. My hotel proved to be as bad as it was painted. I walked into it from Times Square, and it was immediately obvious that it hadn’t been decorated since the thirties. Peeling wallpaper, threadbare carpets scattered over the holes in the floor, and a lobby crowded with more scary, demented Falun Gong than China itself, all of them pinned with lacquer posters, or sat round a dilapidated table planning their leafletting like a mini-soviet. (FYI, if you don’t know who the Falun Gong are, check this. The best explanation is that they’re a bunch of idiots who managed to scare the Chinese government one morning, and have been persecuted for their efforts ever since.)

Half the Falun Dafa are shouting at the receptionists, so I grab my key and make for the elevators. Except they’re also crammed with Falun, and there’s more on the sofas, staring blankly at the ceiling. Reluctantly, I make for the stairs.

On the second flight, I pass the first (aged, bedraggled) prostitute. The third flight has what looks to my colour-blind eyes a puddle of either blood or diarrhea that’s trickled down the steps and been half cleaned with scrunched-up newspaper. I’m half-expecting the doors to have “Sam Spade, Private Dick” scrawled on them in magic marker.

I make it to the room, check the bathroom (stinks, no hot water, bulb’s blown), try the TV (no working channels) and look at the view (an intra-building channel, filled with take-out rubbish, piled up into nice burrows.) To be honest, so far this has exceeded my expectations from the reviews so I’m not unduly bothered at this point. I sit down heavily on the edge of the bed which collapses. Looking under it for the leg, I find crack pipes. $89 a night, ladies and gentleman. $89. I take them down to the sleek, silver-haired manager/owner, who quickly hides them, and then asks “any other problems”, and faced with incredulity and a demand to move rooms , reveals he has no rooms left. I spend the night at a slope, and thankfully move to a much nicer room the following morning, after the morning’s manager proves much more helpful. Max Payne, eat yer heart out.

New York City: Carter – Deals and Reviews – You will contract a parasite if you stay here: “I have stayed in some disgusting hotels, but they are usually tolerable if the staff is nice and friendly. When I said I had a reservation, the lady said, ‘$89 Now.’ They have no manners and in fact barged in my room while I was sleeping to ask me when I was leaving. They lost my reservation and messed it up 2 times after that. The ‘cable TV’ they offer has one channel on it. The bathroom had about 2 plys of toilet paper in it when I checked in, and the worst part: The pillowcases read in bright red, ‘Wanna ?’

You are better off renting a place by the hour.”

I’m off to New York on sunday, but I think I booked the wrong hotel…