Streets of Rage 4 Review

The latest Streets of Rage instalment earns its place in the legendary brawling series, stopping just short of greatness.

The publisher, Dotemu, and co-developers Liardxube and Guard Crush Games, deliver a love letter to the best sideways scrolling beat ’em ups from the 90s. This is unapologetically a Streets of Rage game: if you liked it then, you’ll like it now.

From the moment you start the game, the similarity to each predecessor is clear. The new hand-drawn art style is gorgeous, but the beats are all the same. From the opening story crawl with the city in the background to the character select screen, it’s as it was back in the day.

Every punch satisfies, making the screen shakes with each connection. The music, while never achieving anything genre-defining like Streets of Rage 2, straddles the right line between remix/homage to the source material while spinning new tracks of its own.

The character roster offers surprisingly diverse play styles. Axel and Blaze are old favourites and solid sluggers, Floyd is a slow tank that deals damage up close. At the same time, Cherry offers speed and variety in attacks.

She quickly became my favourite character.

Adam is unlocked quite early, and he plays okay, though I haven’t spent much time with him so far. His entrance in the story is pretty darn cool, though.

The first level doles out the nostalgia, serving up a few frames down a violent memory lane. The enemies are riffs on an old formula with a few new variants, there are knives, apples, turkeys, so far, very familiar.

And Just when you think you know what’s coming, a new mid-boss steps out. The occasional subversion of expectation makes it exciting for returning players without any detriment to newbies.

Without wanting to spoil too much, there are some lovely call-outs to the original series. A boss called Estel has a special move fans of the first game will recognise as she calls in police support. One level sees you walk through a recognisable bar with a strange bartender and blast from the past boss.

Streets of Rage 4 doesn’t rely on blasts from the past alone, though. Some levels stand out on their own, the surreal art gallery, moody peer and Chinatown proving memorable after the credit’s roll.

Each level felt the right length and never relied on the same tricks. Some throw mid-bosses, others it’s a challenging variety and volume of enemies in waves. The developers tried different things to keep us guessing, and it paid off.

I loved the police level, waking up in a cell and wading through a prison I loved the police level. Waking up in a cell and wading through a prison riot not only looked good, having cops and goons fight each other and you made for some suitably chaotic scenes. This level served as a microcosm for the game. Enemy fodder came thick and quick one moment, then a few tougher ones slowed down the pace, offering different challenges. The shield cops take some getting used to as do the taser officers. And the boss, a hulk of a police commissioner, reminded me of the beefy Jim Gordon from the original Arkham Asylum game.

Streets of Rage hasn’t moved on much since the last entry in 1994. This is not the same leap a series like Resident Evil made from the third and fourth games.

In gameplay terms, this is especially true for the controls. Gamepads have progressed considerably since the original trilogy. Yes, there is a separate ‘pick up’ button now, and the back-attack is mapped to the shoulder, but the move set for Axel is identical to Streets of Rage 2 & 3. I kept tapping the back-attack button expecting to block or dodge. There is undoubtedly enough challenge to warrant this mechanic, and it would switch up the gameplay. I would argue that there was a more significant advance in controls between Streets of Rage 1 and 2 than the third and fourth instalments. It felt like a missed opportunity for the whole game.

The bosses don’t quite hit the spot either. I thoroughly enjoyed some, Shiva on the rooftop with cherry blossom trees looked great, and the first encounter with Mr Y was bombastic. But nothing felt as inventive as the likes of Zamza and Jet from the past. Shout out to whoever designed DJ though. That was a set-piece the final third of the game deserved. 

Overall, there so much to like here.

Battle Mode is fun, offering local play and online matches. I can see this being a better option once you uncover all the playable characters, though I haven’t discovered many yet.

The visual flair entertains throughout, the heft of the combat and responsiveness of the controls make it a joy to play. The story, while light in content, is delivered in compelling, bite-size comic panels between levels.

The shortcomings, while few, hold the game back. The bosses I can forgive as there is still quality in there. It’s mainly the controls which rob the experience of some needed depth.

Streets of Rage 4 is included with Xbox Gamepass and is an excellent addition to the library. I also played it on Switch and can say it feels at home on the big screen and on the go. If you loved the original trilogy, you’ll like this. If you’re new to sideways scrolling beat em ups, this is the best example in years.

It’s worth your time and money, and I highly recommend it. 

Stadia is Audible


I seem to stand in a thinly populated corner of the room when it comes to Stadia. Because I actually like it. 

The new streaming platform from Google was polarising well before launch, and those with contrary opinions have seen little to change their minds.  

The inherent mistrust of Google is a significant part. There are suspicions in the gaming community over data capture and subsequent usage (or abuse). That’s fair, I think. 

It is also a shared concern of mine that, given their track record, the search engine giant may well abandon this whole endeavour in a year. Consumers would be left in the lurch. 

What appears to get the greatest hate, though, is the business model. 

Some people are convinced that you are paying full price for a game you will never own. I understand this argument while physical media still exists. Still, anyone buying all digital (which I do) has little extra rights to their games than on Stadia. 

One example is Bioshock on iPhone. I own that game, but can’t download it, ever again. 

Another is the Catalina update on macOS, removing all 32-bit Steam games. Which were most of them. 

The majority of attacks on the business model object to the concept of having to pay to play games you own. I’ve seen it multiple times on community threads. 

This is slightly disingenuous, though. You don’t need a subscription to buy and play games, especially now Stadia Base has launched. You need to pay monthly to play in 4K, which is a sticking point for some. 

If you do resent paying for a privilege that shouldn’t be separate from a game purchase, it’s sweetened by an ever-growing list of games for Stadio Pro members. 

The angry forums don’t necessarily see it that way. Eventually, someone asks the question: ‘who signed off on this business model?‘ 

Despite the scepticism of the (apparent) masses, there is precedent for what Stadia is doing. 

It’s not Netflix for games. 

Stadia is Audible for gaming.

For £7.99 a month on Audible, you get a credit to buy any audiobook. This becomes part of your library. You can purchase other audiobooks, which also become part of your library. And Audible offers a wealth of podcast and fiction books to listen to with the ‘only on Audible’ tag. 

If you cancel, you keep what you have bought with credit and money, but lose access to everyone get else. 

This is similar to Stadia. Each month you subscribe, you get free games. You can buy any other games you like, steam them and play online multiplayer etc. 

If you cancel, you keep the games you paid for, can play them on any device with access to chrome or a Chromecast, except the Stadia pro games. That’s the main difference to Audible. 

Apart from that, it’s very similar (note – not the same, the 4K issue remains). 

I found Audible strange when I first signed up, but I got used to it. In the end, I cancelled my sub because I wasn’t using the free content enough. 

On Stadia, the free content is solid so far, and I’m building a diverse collection. But I’ve also bought a few games I’m enjoying as well. 

As with both, if I leave, then reactivate the monthly premium, I get full access back. It fosters the more friendly ‘drop-in, drop-out’ feel, far preferable to the more punitive approach to leaving a subscription other services adopt.

I’ll never convince those who dislike game streaming versus console ownership to change their minds. I don’t want to either, opinions are personal and should be respected. 

I also won’t argue against the criticism levelled at Google. It just seemed to me that a lot of ire was directed towards the business model, and I’m not sure the objection holds up under scrutiny. 

Google Stadia Review

Photo by Cristiano Pinto on Unsplash

Despite the adverse reaction on most online forums, I really liked the concept of Stadia from the unveiling. 

No downloads or updates, no specialised hardware taking up space and play on any screen, anywhere? 

Sign me up.

I convinced myself it was worth the money, so I pre-order the Founders Edition before the release in November 2019.  

I cancelled the order before shipping, though. 

Twice.

That’s not uncommon for me, though. I often get swept up in the thrill of new technology and want to be the first in line to use it. And as I pre-order so far in advance, it gives buyers remorse time to set in. 

Stadia succumbed to the latter, and I decided to wait for launch. 

Initial reactions weren’t positive. 

Reviews I saw told of lag, from controller inputs to frame rates, even on some of the fastest broadband I’ve ever heard of. 

I breathed a sigh of relief at the money I’d saved. 

As a father of two with a busy job and a writing habit, I don’t get much free time for gaming. I still love it, despite this. 

My eldest son is getting to the age where I can play some Nintendo Switch games with him, despite his dislike of any games with enemies. He’s solid at Mario Odyssey but runs away from any Goombas in tears. He loves Luigi’s Mansion 3, and we’ve had some great sessions in co-op, though he hides from any ghostly interactions. 

I get the chance to play on my own sporadically, mostly when I travel. 

But when I crave a full-fat, big screen TV experience I have an Xbox One. I have it set to keep the games and software updated, so it limits the interference (a common gripe). 

My problem is my indecision at what to play and making sure I have it downloaded. (Full disclosure – I’m all digital, even on the Switch). 

Most games these days are massive downloads. The most recent Gears titles, GTA V, Halo MC Collection (although – that’s a lot of games) are around one hundred gigabytes or more with 4K texture packs. 

In some cases I’ve downloaded these monsters patiently, only to dabble in them for occasional ten or twenty-minute sessions.

Also, I have to be on my TV in the living room. 

All this meant somehow, despite the negativity, Stadia kept calling. 

In a moment of weakness, I managed to get a Premiere Edition on a good deal with a Stadia Pro Pass for three months.

The first thing to note, free games from the subscription remain available for the most part. I signed up at the start of March, expecting the free games to be two Steamworld titles and GRID. 

That was fine. 

What I didn’t realise was that I could also ‘claim’ the February titles (except Farm Simulator), as well as January games and Destiny 2 from launch. 

Having paid under the asking price, using just my Stadia Pro Pass, I had seven games to play. 

Sitting at my laptop over lunch, in a room far away from our router, I decided to try Thumper. It seemed an appropriate choice with the laptop inputs. 

The result was fantastic. 

I played through a few runs on level one with barely a hiccup, on a thin and light laptop with no graphics card. No fans kicked on, no additional heat on my thighs, it was adding no stress to the device.  

Later that day, I hooked up the Chromecast Ultra with Ethernet cable to my 4K TV. Destiny 2 loaded quickly, and I made my way to The Tower with no noticeable lag and only a frame rate dip or two in the most extreme action. 

It felt just as good as a console experience. 

The final test on day one was my personal Mac in the upstairs office. I played through the intro to Gylt (really enjoying that so far), a little more Destiny 2 and the start of Metro Exodus. The performance was high fidelity, smooth gaming on a Mac. It can be done. 

I’m really impressed. 

There are shortcomings, and for some, these would be dealbreakers. 

It’s in the back of my mind that Google could pull the plug at any time, and it makes me reticent to put much money in. If you feel that way, or mistrust Google, I get it. 

But I don’t see the Stadia Pro Pass as negatively as most. I’ve seen it is argued that it’s a paywall for 4K streaming, which is partly true, but it’s the same as the PS Plus or Xbox Live service. You pay money to get a service (in their case online gaming) as well as access to some free games. 

As a huge Apple fan, not being able to play on my iPad Pro – let alone my iPhone, seems a huge miss. If this continues, my disappointment will grow.  

Overall, however, I’m heartened by the first month or so. 

I don’t have blazing internet, by the way, its around 40mbs download. When the free Stadia tier comes out, I would heartily recommend people try it, keeping my fingers crossed this doesn’t affect performance. 

To me, it does feel like the future of gaming. If device support is rolled out, and the experience remains the same, I honestly think it would be my preferred way to play. 

Katz’s Deli

For reasons I won’t go into here, I should have been in New York with my wife. Instead, I was alone.

Katz’s Deli was the only benefit of being on my own, as my wife wasn’t keen on making the trip for a sandwich. 

I am wired differently. For a Katz’s sandwich, I would have gone much further. 

Of course, this was all assumed at the time. I’d never been to Katz’s before. I had seen it in When Harry met Sally and Man vs Food. I’d read about it on articles and blogs. 

I was aware of its importance and had already decided it was going to be great. 

Spoiler; it is great. 

The jet lag next morning in the US is the toughest, at least for me. I never sleep well enough or long enough that fist night, let alone with the sense of guilt I had about being there alone. 

I’d been up at five AM eastern time, which isn’t too bad in New York. It’s quiet but not dead, and plenty of places are open. 

A nearby Starbucks provided me with a caffeine boost and a brisk walk to Times Square and back did me some good. I rested at the hotel after that before heading to the subway. 

It was Katz’s Deli time. 

I arrived at just past nine in the morning. It was empty. As good as the food is, not many locals went there for breakfast. I started to wonder if they’d even serve sandwiches at that time. 

Luckily, they did, and I was asked what I wanted by a nice lady behind the counter. 

There was only ever going to be one answer; a Rueben, with corned beef and a side of sweet and sour pickles. 

Why the Rueben?

I’d first visited New York seven years previous and my only sandwich experience with was Carnegie Deli. I’d ordered a pastrami sandwich on rye. As I left, the waitress shouted at me for not giving a big enough tip, despite me collecting it and enduring slow service. I took it back to my hotel, which was nearby and found it dry and disappointing. 

That first trip really started my interest in American cuisine, though, and I began to watch as many shows as I could on the subject. I’d seen the Rueben on TV a few times and decided the cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing was just what my sandwich at Carnegie Deli was missing. 

By the way, Carnegie Deli shut down a few years back. It stood proudly near its namesake hall for decades; then was gone. Sad. 

Back to Ruebens, My first one was in Orlando. It wasn’t good. The second was in LA and not much better. I tried a ‘southern style’ Rueben in Las Vegas and really liked it. Still, with coleslaw instead of sauerkraut and pork instead of beef, I now consider it sacrilege. It wasn’t until I got to New York with my wife a few years later that I tried my first proper NYC version. 

It was from another now-closed deli on the Upper West Side called Arties. It was freaking amazing. My wife and I still talk about it. We shared the sandwich while sitting on a rock in the sunshine in Central Park. That, my friends, is a memory. 

By now, I was craving more than just any Rueben, though. I had to go to one of the originators in the US, and it was only ever going to be Katzs’. You might roll your eyes at being so obvious, but you know what? Germans make great cars, Apple knows a thing or two about phones and Italy are nifty in the kitchen, If you’re after something great, seek it out from the greatest. 

Katz’s is unassuming, just tables edged by a long counter, where you make your choices. Not long after I’d ordered my sandwich from a nice lady, she cut off a few chunks of meat and placed upon the counter. 

I stared at them, wondering what they were for. 

After a while, she said, ‘they’re for you to try.’ I must have looked like a real amateur. 

‘Oh. Thanks,’ I replied and felt too embarrassed to take more than one piece. I made a stupid yummy noise and watched the lady work. By the way, they warm up the sauerkraut and cheese in a microwave. Do not fear this; trust the process.

My food was ready in no time. I was quickly sitting alone in the restaurant, devouring the sandwich, pickles and leftover meat samples. 

I experimented with the mustards on the table, I decided I wasn’t too fond of the sour pickles, and I even took a picture of the chair from When Harry met Sally. It was all incredibly lovely, except the Rueben. That was sensational. 

It’s strange how much higher the standard can be for something with so few ingredients. 

I’ve eaten burgers all over, and you can find good, great and even spectacular examples in several places. The same goes for pizza. 

Ruebens? 

Nope.

Only one city to get them; New York. And if you’re looking for the best one, the choice is even easier. 

Go to Katz’s.

French and Mexican in The Keys

Before we get into food, the Florida Keys are really cool. 

Getting there from Orlando, the first base of our holiday, boils down to road or air. 

At the time of the trip we had a two-year-old in tow and my wife was carrying our second. Driving was out of the question. 

We took to the air. 

The plane was a third full, and with a max capacity of thirty-something, it goes without saying that it was the smallest, most empty plane I had ever been on. 

My wife hated it. 

I thought I liked it until we hit turbulence; I wasn’t a fan after that. 

My two year took it in his stride. 

One thing that made the flight enjoyable was the view. A propeller plane doesn’t go so high, so we got to see all the islands and the water. The latter was blue, peaceful, and so inviting. Like a starving man seeing a banquet, the whole family was desperate for a swim. 

The landing was smooth enough, and Key West airport took the planes lead; tiny and almost empty. 

Getting our bags and rental car were a breeze. 

I could go on to talk about the beaches; Bahia Honda in the shadow of a large, decaying bridge. Fort Zachary Taylor is very cool and the collective stubbornness of its soldiers interesting. 

But I wanted to talk about food. 

First up: The Greatest Almond Croissant in the World. 

I haven’t tried all of the almond croissants in the world, but I would fight anyone who claimed there was a better one.  

The place is called La Grignote, a French artisan bakery close to the southernmost point of the US. 

Ironically the only reason we went there was because Banana Cafe (La Grignote’s more famous neighbour) was full up. 

I’m so glad fate intervened.

For me, a great croissant pasty has to have snap on the outside but chewy on the inside. Not only did La Grignote’s rendition nail these two, but the almond cream also had a real punch. The consistency meant it all mixed beautifully in your mouth.

That’s the magic; three clearly distinct textures meeting and making a better one. It’s a form of gastronomic performance art. 

Despite only having three days in The Keys, we visited the place twice. I would easily brave another choppy flight for an almond croissant again. 

In a slightly different part of town is a joint called Bad Boy Burrito. 

My knowledge of the place came from another twist of fate. 

The night before we left Orlando I was watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, which turned out to be a Key West episode! 

Of the few places featured on the show, I had to pick Bad Boy Burrito for two reasons; fish tacos and their homemade pineapple habanero sauce. 

Why those things?

  1. In the UK fish tacos aren’t very common. They are one of my favourite things ever. 
  2. I love spicy things, but I have a condition that means I have to be careful. The sweet element of this sauce said I could get the heat and still tolerate it. 

I was expecting to like the food. It was right up my street. Yet somehow it exceeded my expectations. The fish had a nice bite to it, the tacos had the perfect amount of chew, and the salad topping snapped nicely on my teeth. 

The sauce was the star of the show, though. The pineapple habanero was sweet upfront and tangy spice at the back. But on the recommendation of the waitress, I got one taco with a green sauce. She said it went better with the fish. Perhaps she oversold it versus the pineapple habanero, although it was still damn good. I’d definitely suggest a trio of tacos and at least one fish with the green sauce. 

You should also know; I had to fit this in as a snack because my wife and kid didn’t fancy Mexican food for lunch. 

Don’t blame them. 

We are used to the cold. 

The idea of spicy food in over thirty degree Celsius heat wasn’t floating their boat. 

It was fine. I like snacks. 

A Castle, a Pyramid and a Burger

Imagine you are in Las Vegas for the first time. You land in the evening to find an airport that should be bigger and an immigration line that should be smaller.

You’ve already read advice about a taxi from the airport, making sure they don’t take the more expensive freeway route. You’ve seen the place in pictures. You know the names of the hotels and the concept of The Strip.
Then you see it.

Neon reflecting off glass, lights hanging in shapes you can’t quite make out, The Strip is real. It’s alive and pulsing with cars and people and noise.
The scale is incredible. On paper, the buildings were close neighbours. In real life, each hotel looks like a self-contained town, it’s own territory.

And like a fairytale come to life, your hotel is a castle, with flags and turrets topped by blue or red roofs. From the inside, the childlike wonder is quickly eroded. Smoke plumes left and right, bells from machines punch the air and patrons stagger from one device to the other.

Stand still for too long, and you will be offered the chance to buy a room at the hotel, and you aren’t sure if you want to even spend the night.
It’s not the venues fault. After the initial excitement wears off, it dawns on you that this is Disneyland for adults. Particular kinds of adults who like drinking, smoking, gambling and eating. No description fits the place better.

After dropping your bag in the entirely adequate room, you walk through the hotel and find a walkway to the next. You find yourself inside a pyramid. Only this one has the rear end of the Titanic next to a food court. Why wouldn’t it?

The pace changes once again, taking the short trip to Mandalay Bay, with its shockingly white tiles floor and open walkways.

Out of nowhere, the sports bar is on your right. You nearly passed by. Now you see, hear and smell it; you know you’re in the right place.

Burger Bar.

To a tourist, this looks like America. A generous, polished bar offering beer after beer. Screens on every wall and in each booth showing basketball and football. Waiters and waitresses clad in black buzz from table to table.

Once seated, the menu is a laminated paper equivalent to the bar. So much to choose, so little time. The premise is simple; pick a ready-made burger or get creative and build your own. It has to be the latter.

Start with the meat. The Kobe beef is enticing, but you’re here on business. You can’t expense that. Especially when the ‘back up’ is Certified Angus, cooked medium (which comes out nicely pink in this establishment). Decision made.

Next up is the bun. When did you last get to choose the type of bread for your burger? Have you ever? Pretzel intrigues you but is that crazy? You pick sesame. You’re a traditionalist. At least in the bun department.
Toppings. The combinations are dizzying, like seeing the strip all over again. Only this isn’t amateur night, you consider yourself a pro when it comes to burger.

Pepper jack cheese & peppered bacon. Let’s make it sing. Guac will offer balance and contrasting texture. Then a fried egg. That’s right. A freakin’ fried egg on top.

With a side of sweet potato fries (settle down, we’re all friends here) your order is almost complete. Because you haven’t ordered a drink. You were so busy with your food you neglected the vast array of liquid refreshment.

There is always a way out in these situations.

‘What do you recommend?’ You ask the waiter.

‘I highly recommend the Dogfish Head IPA.’

‘Great, I’ll have that.’ Order complete.

The beer arrives first, served ice cold in a goblet. The first sip kicks you in the mouth, smooth on the tongue at first, but the bite is hard. The next sip is less of a surprise, you get the sweeter notes this time. Somehow the beer is hearty and refreshing at the same time.

The food eventually getS to you, highlights of a recent NFL playoff have kept you company. It’s a strange game, but you could get into it.

The burger is significant, requiring both hands around it. Gripping it gently in place, the first bite pops the egg yolk, and gastronomic chaos ensues. A beautiful mess.

The bun and meat are strong in flavour and density. The toppings play together well, crunchy bacon, lumpy, creamy guacamole and hot moist egg white. The taste of the yolk jumps in and out, combining best with the peppery beats. No two bites are the same, it’s a dynamic workout for your mouth. Adding the egg wasn’t ego, It wasn’t folly, it was divine. Your perfect creation doesn’t last long.

The sweet potato fries are okay. Ranch dressing makes them all taste like slaty garlic mayo anyway.

You’re quickly full up and more than satisfied. Two unknown teams are playing basketball on the TV next to you.

You order another beer. This is adult Disneyland after all…

Portable Writing…On Your Phone

Despite being in my early (mid) thirties, I still love a video game. I doubt I’ll ever grow out of it. When I’ve come to a crossroad, such as having kids, or my wife not wanting to be in separate rooms during the precious few evening hours, I’ve just evolved. 

My main way of getting a gaming fix is from a handheld. As of writing this post, the Nintendo Switch is my jam. 

When I hit a similar issue with writing, I knew I had to adapt to that as well. 

In the end, it was the exact same solution. 

Portable gaming? Portable writing!

I started this post on my iPhone, for example. Using something like iCloud (which I have found better than OneDrive) syncing content between devices is easy – even for an Apple nerd like me who writes across a Mac, iPad and iPhone, sometimes in the same day.

When sitting at a desk or sofa aren’t available, I can always get a few words in.

As any article on writing will tell you, a daily habit is required. If you only have one space and limited time to write, that habit will elude you.

My advice is to harness those screens we all surround ourselves with. Write when you can, where you can and on whatever you can.

Let’s not sugar coat this – your standards won’t be as good. Personally, I took the positive from that. If you’ve ever read any writing tips from Hugh Howey he advocates ‘writing rough’ and I agree. The most important thing, especially the early days of a new work, is to get ideas onto the page.

Portable writing is the perfect way to do that.

I’ve gotten paragraphs out while my kid slept in my arms, I’ve worked on chapter order sitting on a train, I may even have jotted an idea or two down while on the loo…and you can too.

I wouldn’t recommend editing anything on your phone though. I see it as a champion device at the ideation stage. It is easier to carry than a notebook and you alway have it with you. Never miss a moment of inspiration again.

The proliferation of screens has completely democratised my writing process, and I hope it could do the same for you too.

The Best Burger in NYC

You’re in Manhattan, just after dark. There is a slight chill in the air, meaning the steam coming out of the grates in the floor is a pleasant surprise.

The fairy lights are lit on the trees, the city is bustling and you’re hungry.

You enter Le Parker Meridian hotel from the entrance on West 57th Street, a few blocks south of Central Park. There is a bar on your left as you head in, with a few tables intimately glowing red from the colour of the candle holders. You move through towards a marble clad hub with concierge on one side, reception desk on the other.

Between the two counters, a dark wooden floor leads to a wall. It look as though only hotel staff should be walking there, until you see the sign.

A neon sign, hanging as discreetly as a neon sign can, on the back wall. It is the shape of a burger.

As you follow the path, the hubbub of the hotel is slowly drowned out by Jimi Hendrix. You notice the air begins to crackle with the smell of cooked meat.

When you reach the end of the corridor, a small door opens into a joint with the most epic dive bar scene. The walls are cluttered with pictures and writing, the tables are all full, bearing scars from beer spills, drumming hands shuffling patrons. Why this jewel of American street food sits in such a grand hotel, you will never know.

The counter looms ahead of a queue, which persists no matter what time you go. The hard written sign above the cashier warns you to decide what you want before you get there. Or it’s back of the line.

‘Cheeseburger, medium rare, with the works,’ you say. Skip the fries, you think. If you’re still hungry, just order another burger. You didn’t even have time to consider a drink, but who needs one?

Now the wait. Because you know it’s being cooked fresh to order in front of you. You see the patty you think is yours and track it like its your card in a magic trick.

These magicians aren’t going to fool you. You’re not letting that thing out of your sight.

Finally, they call your order and hand you a brown paper bag which is heavier than you’d imagined. There are no free tables, but that doesn’t matter. This is a street burger, after all. Somehow, spilling out onto West 57th and taking your first bite out there seems more private.

When the moment arrives, it’s one you never forget. The condiments would overpower any normal burger, but the ground beef has enough to punch back. The balance of flavour is astounding, sweet and spicy dance across the ketchup and mustard, the crunch of the onions push against the soft bun and crumbling meat. The pickles snap on your teeth and the cheese folds over your tongue. It’s the best burger in New York. Hell, it’s the best burger in the world!

Now if only you’d had a drink and some fries to wash it down with.

I Don’t Want To Blog

I hope the title of my first blog doesn’t dampen your enthusiasm to read any further. I promise there is some content in here and an explanation for the title. 

It is true though, I don’t really want to blog. Not because I dislike the medium, quite the opposite. I really like reading blogs. I also like the idea of documenting and projecting my own opinions on things. What I don’t want to do is blog for the sake of it, just to build a platform for my other writing. Ultimately that is what this is – I am writing about my other writing. That’s what I want to do, my other writing. Not this. 

Whether you are reading this because you know me, recently heard of me, or just luck (good or bad), I’m an aspiring novelist. I say aspiring because I’ve only finished one piece of work. It’s a sci fi book called the last human. I’m starting to blog about myself and my process to help give an insight into how and why I write. Perhaps it will be helpful, either as an inspiration or a cautionary tale of how not to do things. Perhaps it’s personal therapy and no one will ever read it and eventually I’ll stop paying the bills on this website. 

I guess it doesn’t matter. It’s written now. Out of my brain and onto the page. This page.