Saturday, August 9, 2008

Vignettes from the Big Apple

My networking adventure took me to New York City this past week, where in addition to meeting some business contacts I caught up with a couple of old friends (one of whom I hadn't seen in 26 years....) Manhattan is not for everyone, though I think the city gets a bad rap for being unfriendly--people really are quite nice and helpful for the most part. A lot of the fun is just in watching the scene--as I walked from where my sister-in-law lives on the upper west side to midtown (roughly 4 miles), I probably heard close to ten different languages. Some vignettes:

  • New York is a city for walkers of all kinds, but especially for dog walkers. It is highly entertaining to see the improbable combinations of human and canine--ranging from fat old ladies walking tiny chihuahuas dressed in sequins and (yes) tiny booties to anorexically thin young women dressed to the nines in platform heels dragging along old and tired sheepdogs. And, of course, there are the paid dog walkers with pooches of various breeding and vintages--the logistics of picking up the poop alone worth the viewing.
  • I don't see how Starbucks makes any money in New York, despite having a cafe on every other corner. At each one I stopped at, there were several people camped in with latte and laptop--some of whom were clearly there for the duration. Apparently Starbucks now charges for wifi in some places, but one helpful counter attendant told me that if you sit by the window you can pick up a connection for free....
  • The day I left, I took the subway to Penn Station to catch the Amtrak train to Albany, where I'd left my car. On the platform where I got on the #2 train, an enterprising--though probably impoverished--violinist was playing classical music with his instrument case open for contributions. By the time I arrived, around 8:30 a.m., he already had several dollars. The thundering approach of the train sometimes drowned him out, but the strains of Madame Butterfly's "Un Bel Dia" were a peaceful contrast to the stress and bustle of the morning commute--people smiling and nodding, taking pictures or just listening with eyes closed to the beautiful music.

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