Travel Bloggers and Writers, in a large room, alone, with no coffee.....Saga 2 of 5
25.06.2010 - 25.06.2010 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.
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.
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.