A Travellerspoint blog

TBEX '10.2

Travel Bloggers and Writers, in a large room, alone, with no coffee.....Saga 2 of 5

sunny 50 °C

Bloggers Disclaimer of Truth - Day Two has really nothing to do with the actual conference either

Ah, New York, the city that never sleeps. Which is roughly what happened to us during the first evening. We did fall asleep rather quickly, but during the course of the night we were awakened by the incessant window air conditioner. The compressor kept clicking on, filling the darkened room with a sort of din not unlike several thousand vuvuzelas tuned to a bass key. It was swell. New York is populated by roughly 3 gazillion window air conditioner units. I have never seen so many in my life. They projected from virtually every window in buildings that were erected before I was born. I could only imagine some frenzied little electrical engineer sharing a beer with a frenzied little electric company accountant, the two wretches giggling over how much money was pouring into the company's bank account. Did I mention that it was hot? And humid? Relatively undaunted by an over consumption of alcohol combined with not very much sleep, we made our way down to the hotel restaurant. Coffee, that was the ticket. Coffee seems to cure most ills, as does a nice breakfast of eggs over easy, toast, and sausage. Mmmmmm, cooked meat products. The restaurant itself was decorated quite nicely, with small tables surrounded by a decor of artsy pictures and multi-colored wall sconces. Quelle atmosphere, as the French would likely not say.

Fortified with a solid American breakfast, we made our way over to the Cantor Center, home of the conference. We had been tweetered, tweetalotted, twinked, whatever one calls it, that we could pick up our conference badges at 9am. Point of order #1: it's always a good idea, when organizing such an event, to let the attendees know just WHERE they can obtain their badges. The doors to the Cantor Center were locked. Not fazed by this minor setback, we tried scowling. This behavior seems to work in New York on so very many levels, so it was worth a shot. Failure. Apparently our best scowl faces were insufficient. Changing our unsuccessful tactic, we tried knocking on the door. A rather large gentleman, dressed in a security uniform, appeared. We inquired as to why the doors were locked, since we were obviously in the right place and everything had been arranged FOR US. Just US. No one else. The security guard looked rather puzzled at our request to be allowed immediate entrance, as we were invited guests of TBEX '10. "Uh, there's no one here", he sheepishly replied. This poor man, how uninformed he was about the whole affair. It took 10 minutes to explain the situation to him, including the fact that there was to be a conference the very next day. "Dammit, that means I have to work tomorrow, thanks for letting me know". "Not to worry kind sir", we said, "simply put on your sunglasses and give everyone a good New York scowl tomorrow morning for making you work on a Saturday". I thought he was going to wet himself with laughter......we joked on for another few minutes and bid adieu. It's always good to leave 'em laughing.

"Well, that was fun, now what shall we do?" There was still an hour left before our Brooklyn friend was to call us to meet. "Right then, back to the park". Securely ensconced on a bench in the shade, we waited, knowing full well that the bastion of modern communication, the mobile phone, would soon ring. While we waited, we engaged in what virtually everyone on the planet does......people watching. New Yorkers are a peculiar breed, very similar to the many breeds of dogs they walk with earnest. It has always struck me how people and their animals start to look alike. The owner of the basset hound trots around droop-jawed. The well coiffed poodle is attended by a well coiffed human. People watching is fun.

Soon, our friend called. 10 minutes out. The subway was whisking her towards us.

Gruesome_Threesome.jpg

30 minutes later, surrounded by an almost mythical haze and a chorus of angels, our friend appeared. OK, the haze was the humid air, and the chorus of angels was a uni student playing guitar, but hey, it was a moment. Greetings, hugs, and quite a few "hey, look at you girl" followed. Being a native New Yorker, she wanted to show us everything. This, we knew, was impossible. So we settled upon what is an unnatural task for Isadora and me.......walking. 4 blocks of this, in the heat and humidity of a bright New York summer day, was quite enough. We called upon a chariot of the city.....the ever-present Yellow Cab, which whisked us with incredible rapidity south, toward the South Street Seaport. At last, water. And not the kind in a one liter plastic bottle. Our senses were alive. The king-of-the-queue feeling surged in us once again. Mostly because we queued up in a line for a Hudson River cruise. An hour passed, several cocktails were consumed, and there we were: diCaprio and Winslet, together again at the bow of the Titanic. Bastards wouldn't let us hang over the bow...something about insurance and blah blah blah. Nonetheless, it was, again in the immortal words of Jimmy Buffett, a lovely cruise. Who knew that New Jersey was on the west side of the Hudson, or that the Empire State building looks remarkably like the Chrysler building? Or that New York is working on a 3000 mile long waterfront park system (they have a way to go on that one). Any visitor to La Manzana Grande (Big Apple for our Latin friends) should take a river cruise. See the city from the outside. The Statue Of Liberty alone is worth the price of admission.

Statue_of_Liberty.jpg

Lady Liberty stands there as a sentinel, a welcoming beacon to travelers of the world. Little known is the fact that New York didn't have the money to build the pedestal for the statue, or that it is properly called "Liberty Enlightening the World", or that the site had to be authorized by an act of Congress (I'm guessing this took many months of valuable taxpayer time and money and extensive lunch time). Oh, and the US donated roughly $10,000,000 to various French charities in exchange for the "gift" of a statue......and this was well over a hundred years ago. Crazy world. Still, this simple statue is world renowned, and seeing her gaze over the harbor brings a tear to the eye. She is quite possibly the most potent symbol that America welcomes anyone (less the terrorist sort these days), and was founded by immigrants and mutts from all over the world.

Brushing weepy nostalgia from our eyes, we again walked and searched for an establishment purveying adult beverages and foodstuffs. Past Wall Street ("where's the wall?" [damn British soldiers kicked it over with little effort]), past the money and power center of New York, down a side street, around the corner, up a slight hill, past the newspaper vendors, down a slight hill, briskly bypassing a chain restaurant, we found a lovely little establishment. Hmmmm, a club sandwich and a beer, that would hit the spot. The ever-present drone of vuvuzelas came into earshot as another World Cup game appeared on the 45 big screen TV's strategically placed on every inch of wall space. You have to love football, and by football, I mean that "other" football, the one we Americans refer to as "soccer". To me, football is the Chicago Bears (or Isa's Minnesota Vikings) hitting the field to pummel opposing players into semi-consciousness. Kind of like that other blood sport, rugby, but with padding. Hey, no sense getting "really" hurt after all.

Well sated, and having disposed of 3 hours of ever-dwindling precious time, we again walked......seeing the large hole in the ground where once stood two mighty towers of commerce and where today into which large piles of money are thrown while egos argue about who gets the credit, weaving between rush hour pedestrians (New York rush hour is a bit of a misnomer - it never really ends), and eventually hailing a yellow chariot to carry us back to the warmth of Washington Square Park. Home. The park made us feel as if we were home. We were very fortunate to meet the brother of our native friend - a man whose has dedicated his work life to ensuring that the park remains a home to anyone and everyone. OK, it's a job, but one he bears with pride. And through his diligent efforts, we were made to feel at home. Hugs, kisses, and thank you's were in their most earnest. We parted company with our colleague, our friend, our second sister.

Later in the evening, after a refreshing dip in the bathroom sink, we departed the hotel to attend the pre-party of the conference hosted by Weber-Shandwick Travel and Lifestyle - "Cocktails Around The World". This sounded like just our sort of affair. The Omni Berkshire Place played host to the event, and they were exquisite hosts. The cocktails themselves were, shall I say, unique; yet free, which is no doubt the most important quality in a cocktail. Appetizers flowed through the room, born by a professional waitstaff, with the same volume as flows through the Amazon River Basin. There was certainly enough food for the attendees. Something about travel bloggers and writers though, and perhaps not entirely attributable to them: the conversation rose to a nearly deafening level, with each passing comment raising the volume ever more, as if each person had to be heard above the rest. I have never entirely understood this phenomenon.....the need to express one's comments at a decibel level considered dangerous to the hearing of an elephant. On the upside, the din was somewhat reduced by the near-constant tweetering (again, whatever it's called) so our ears were saved the indignity of becoming useless appendages. Still, I kid. Weber-Shandwick hosted a lovely party, and much networking was accomplished. This is business, mais non (again, French - I am so continental - ha)?

Late into the evening, we were whisked back to our hotel in yet another yellow chariot to once again face the window air conditioner and an overly comfy bed. And a little Comedy Central. It is of vital import that one end one's day with a bit of humor and a smile. And so came to a close Day 2 of the saga.

Posted by beerman 11:23 Archived in USA Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

TBEX '10.1

Travel Bloggers and Writers, in a large room, alone, with no coffee.....Saga 1 of 5

sunny 50 °C

Bloggers Disclaimer of Truth - Day One has really nothing to do with the actual conference

Ah, New York. The city that never sleeps. The Big Apple. Home of the Yankees. Yellow Cab capitol of the world. Really, you should see it.......more Yellow Cabs than you've ever seen in your life. Well, more than I've ever seen, and I've lived in Chicago, where there are more cabs than pigeons on any given block. And this past weekend (June 26, 27) New York was also home to the Travel Blog Exchange 2010 - TBEX '10, for those of us fortunate enough to attend. It is upon this occasion that I begin my first blog here in that Big Apple of Travel......Travellerspoint!!!

Ah, New York. The city that...no wait, sorry, did that....

Accompanying me on this adventure into the minds of travel bloggers was the lovely Isadora. Rather I should say that I was accompanying her, since she has the better blogging pedigree. Though, in all fairness, I am more adept at muling all the luggage. We set out very early that Thursday on what was to become a fine summer morning. Chicago's O'Hare airport gleamed like a, well, nothing really....airports generally don't gleam. Perfect day for flying though. Even more perfect day for landing, which really is the most important part of any flight. Alright, takeoff, then flight, then landing....all equally important, but let's not nitpick here. We landed safely at LaGuardia airport, jewel of Long Island (and I say that in very nearly the most sincere voice I can muster) to the same lovely day. My senses were keen and sharp, and within 45 minutes I had located the Yellow Cab stand. I was on top of my game....I knew that this was to be an adventure that I could tell my non-existent children about when they were old enough to decipher my gibberish. My non-existent grandchildren would talk of the day that their grandfather strode to the queue, stood boldly, laden with several hundred pounds of luggage, and waited for the next cab to appear. Visions of Leonardo diCaprio standing on the bow of the Titanic wove through my brain as I stood in that queue. My Kate Winslet stood before me, radiant in her flip flops and flowered sun dress. We were the kings of that queue. About that time, a cab pulled up and pulled me back, screaming and kicking, into reality. We were not the kings of the queue. At least not to the rather impatient people waiting behind us. And so began our quest, our journey through the Apple That Never Sleeps.

We were graced to be admitted to the Washington Square Hotel after a mildly harrowing cab ride. And I say mildly harrowing only because truly harrowing would have involved the cabbie using his brakes a mere three times in the 45 minutes of roadway joy rather then the more conservative seven times that our driver managed. I believe that our driver was actually trained in his profession, though that training might possibly have taken place in downtown New Delhi, or possibly Baghdad at the start of the first Gulf War. The receptionist greeted us with an eye fully cognizant that the two people that stood before her had just experienced not so much a near death experience as an "interesting" ride from the airport. Plus, the heat and humidity of the day had exploded all over us, giving us an appearance not unlike two people rescued from three weeks of wandering the Sahara Desert with barely a bottle of gin between them. We were not a pleasant sight. Plus, I hate gin. Notwithstanding our less-than-freshly-showered spryness, we were checked into our room.

The Washington Square Hotel is really quite quaint, which in my mind has always been a euphemism for "old with tiny rooms". Rather like a Realtor describing a shed as a "fixer-upper". Seriously though, it is a very nice hotel. You can reach everything from the center of the room....without moving. Except the remote for the TV. I kid......it is an altogether charming hotel. No really, it is nice...I'm not kidding this time. They really do have a remote for the TV.

We unpacked with a lightning rapidity, which is quite difficult considering that lightning moves pretty fast. A quick survey of the complimentary map of Manhattan, kindly provided by the friendly yet suspicious receptionist, gave us a clue that we were indeed in Manhattan. Armed with this insightful bit of information, we strode confidently to the lobby and out the front door. Damn if it wasn't still hot. This city adventure was to test us in ways yet unknown. Yet we were determined to face the city with bravado and a sense of unbridled curiosity. Right across the street was test #1: Washington Square Park, which was constructed to honor the 100th anniversary of George Washington's inauguration as the first President of the United States of America....well there is a hugely impressive arch commemorating that event - the park could have been there earlier, but there were no signs about that. And we checked. No signs. But we wandered slowly through the park, taking in the beauty that is an American city park. OK, it's only a block and a half by one block, but the flowers were still nice. And the pigeons...the ever present pigeons. I imagined them as Jimmy Buffett described them in "Swine Not".....as "pigilantes" - patrolling the park and keeping it safe from the dangers of mankind. I like pigeons, even though most city dwellers refer to them as flying rats. I like rats too. They seem to clean up after we trash dropping humans. Rats are really very clean animals, as are pigeons. Quite honestly, I saw more people than pigeons in need of a good bath. But enough biology. The park managed to consume a full 40 minutes of our preciously dwindling time in the city. "Now what", I asked my stalwart companion and muse. "I do believe it's time for an afternoon repast, a cocktail as it were", said she. Right, just what we needed, a new mission. Several blocks along was located a Shangri-La of sorts, a bar. Setting ourselves upon the rigid wooden barstools, leaning heavily on the darkly stained oaken or possibly plywood bar, we steeled ourselves for a bit of sustenance. OK, that may be a tad over dramatic.....we had a couple of drinks. But they were good drinks, the kind of drinks that settle into the recesses of over-tired travelers and soothe the very soul, allowing for a kind of renewal of spirit that leads directly back to the hotel and the comfort of a warm bed with ridiculous amounts of blanketing. Sleep came quickly, but not before an hour of Comedy Central and the Discovery Channel. Cable is good. Sleep is better, though the Colbert Report was quite amusing. A feeling settled in, deeply into our being, that there was more adventure, more challenge, and more cocktails, yet to come. And so came to a close Day 1 of the saga.

Posted by beerman 18:06 Archived in USA Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

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