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First Time Here, Buddy?

posted at 12:01 pm
on Oct. 21, 2002

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Start spreading the news: I’m in New York.

As a fairly well-traveled person, it is a surprise to me to realize that this is, in fact, my first time ever in New York, the Big Apple, the yin to L.A.‘s yang chung.

As a longtime Los Angeles resident, it strikes me that I have a unique perspective unlike any other, that I can be a cultural ambassador and an insightful observer of those things that make New York unique and different from Los Angeles, things that perhaps no one else has noticed.  I have only been in New York about 90 hours, but I think that I have already amassed quite a list of subtle cultural traits that make this East Coast megapolis so different than my home.

For one, the buildings are very, very tall here.  They call them sky scrapers, because they seem to touch or “scrape” the sky.  For example, I am in a hotel room on the 35th floor of my hotel.  This is 34 floors higher than the bedroom of my house in Los Angeles. From this, we can easily estimate that New York is at least 3400% more different than L.A., which means I should be able to find at least 3 or 4 more differences. And I have, believe me! There might be dozens of differences, in fact!

The next thing I have noticed that perhaps no one else has ever pointed out yet is that there are a lot of taxis in New York.  They are yellow, which is how I noted them, and they drive very fast.  Sometimes they get impatient while waiting for someone to go when the light turns green or a pedestrian is crossing, and they honk their horn.  In fact, I realize now as I type this, I can hear honking from somewhere nearby, probably the street.  I must look into this more.

The people in this city seem at first to be very similar to Los Angelenos, but I have begun to spot some differences in the way they dress.  For example, I have not seen anyone in sandals or tank tops yet (and I have seen many people—see below where I talk about the streets).  The use of bright colors is less common; instead, they seem to wear more dark colored sweaters, boots and scarves, which are more rare in Los Angeles.  I wonder if this is a historic relic from the founding of New York by the “Dutch,” sometimes known as the “Pilgrims,” or if it is a recent trend that will quickly switch back to the natural, Los Angeles way of dressing.

History musing over!  Back to the comparisons! Last night, when we came back to the hotel at 1:45 a.m., there were many, many people still walking around the edge of the open area in front of our hotel. Note: My map says this is called Times Square, but I am not certain this is right because it is not a square at all.  Anyway, at midnight in Pasadena, the shops and movie theaters I go to are all closed, and people do not walk around when all the shops and movie theaters are closed.  This was so striking, that I have decided to give the nickname “The City That Sleeps” to Los Angeles, because everyone is in bed and sleeping early unless they are stuck on a freeway somewhere on their way home.

Oh, which reminds me of another keen observation. I do not think people spend much time in cars—and they sure do in L.A., am I right, yes? But, I have spent a lot of time in elevators.  So, less time in cars, but more time in elevators.  Interesting!  I think this is definitely a byproduct of having so many tall buildings.  Tall buildings == many elevators == many elevator rides if you want to see more than the first floor of these buildings.  It’s simple when you think about it, and I’m surprised I had to come all the way to New York to figure this out.

I could go on and on about all the fascinating little things I saw. 
There was this one manhole that had smoke or fog or something coming
out of the little holes.  It also was accompanied by a very very bad
smell.  I looked for somewhere on the Web to report this, but I
couldn’t find such a site.  Still, such a bad smell and that smoke,
probably they should get that fixed.

Walking down the street was an experience all of itself.  You know in Los Angeles how the sidewalks are really wide and straight and so forth? Well in New York, you’d expect that, now that I told you there aren’t as many car rides, they’d have even wider, better side walks, right? Wrong. They do not.  They have narrow side walks, plus those sidewalks are often very crowded and filled with people who are wearing dark colored, heavy clothing.

* * *

OK, enough silliness.

I’ve had quite the time here in New York.  I came for the Online News Association conference, and to meet the folks in Variety’s New York office and demo the Web site for them a little.  It went fairly well, though one of them picked up a newspaper and started reading it.  And it wasn’t even Variety! Which is another thing: New York has a lot of newspapers! Oh, wait, I was done with silly.

The conference went well.  I had a long, drawn-out coronary waiting for all 4 people on my panel to show up at the conference.  Two of them: Terry of OnStar, and Susannah of USC (you know her!), were there early.  The other two, Steve of ActiveBuddy and Judith of Columbia, arrived about 5 minutes before my panel was to start, and had me panicking.

I initially thought my panel went quite well—it was about technologies other than the usual meta tags and flash, things that other news organizations could look into and develop.  In retrospect, though, I realize that the OnStar demo wasn’t newsy enough, and the other technologies, though I see a great application for them in newsrooms, didn’t seem to strike home with enough of the people there.  I also think I could have prepared a little more with my own intro and guidance for the panelists.

The conference lasted two days.  It was a well-run effort, with recordings made, and PowerPoints distributed, and good lunches.  I ran into many folks in the industry I already knew, and others I hadn’t met.  Quite good.

After the conference was over, Josh introduced me to several new friends.  One was Jami, who runs a Weblog at http://www.whatever-whenever.net/ and has an excellent sense of taste (literally) and direction.  Her sense of taste was proven when she took us to the bar with the best restaurant hamburgers I have ever tasted, and you know that coming from me, this is no faint praise.  These bacon cheese burgers were FINE!  Good beer and fries, too.

Then we went off to Fred’s apartment.  Fred’s Weblog is http://www.metascene.com/ , but sadly, Fred has a broken computer, so his online journal is sadly, horribly out of date.  This is a real shame, as his observations are so rye you can slice them up and use them to make a pastrami sandwich.

Also met that night, was Jami’s friend Cinde, a Floridian who swam upstream to go to school in New York, who is an interior designer who is also organizing a film festival She was a lot of fun.

More tomorrow!

Overheard

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?

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