Friday, August 31, 2007

Coney Island

At the end of the subway line, the beach!

August in New York City is hittable hot in the heat, and if you exhausted all the drinkable, refreshable, and coolable solutions you might want take a trip to the other side of the road and see the sea for a whale. I am not talking about the Hudson River on the side or the bathtub on the tap; no I am talking about the salty sea in front.

So you decide to talk the F line to watch the crowd in a Sunday afternoon. And what you discover at first is the line up for the food stand. Anybody who decides to come to that part of the American world has to eat a Hot Dog, Fries and Pop drink. You execute yourself, and while you line up you start to think about what is the big deal to have a Hot Fog – Dries - Pop all at once, you give up because it’s now your turn to order. It’s part of the tradition to arouse your taste bud with the world famous Fot Hog – Pries - Dop combo. So you eat!

America flag everywhere dispute the space with colorful sign claming that the oldest is the best. From my point of view, I usually see the latest as the best in a very consumerist traditional society, and not the oldest. I would probably leave the oldest the best in a more traditionalist society like Europe. But, for once, if tradition forces you delight your body, what else can you do, but eat the world famous Pot Dog – Dries - Fop combo

When your system has digested a plentiful satisfaction, it’s time to move around and investigate the place. Camera on one hand, hope on the other, you start walking in the oldest attraction park in NYC. The wooden riding train is the key attraction in this family fun park featuring Sunlite Pool, and 17 classic family and kiddy rides.

Lights, rides, screams and sounds are mixed in a cacophony close to the youth sweet music you remember from your childhood when you parents used to bring you to see the circus in town or the amusement park next door.

The best Madeleine I had was the smell of the cotton candy machine. No other smell can drive me back to my childhood faster than the smell of a cotton candy: the pink ones, not the brand new ones that have many different layers and colors, no, no, the sweet, gigantic and pink ones.

I stare at many kids during my trip to Coney Island to watch them enjoying a cotton candy, and I guess it crossed ages and generations. Kids still like cotton candy. It is probably the taste, the shape and the softness of the bit you do that make it so special. It’s hard to eat yet easy to get messy. What a beautiful invention that of a cotton candy, it’s the most delectable sugary stick kids love.

A bloc away from the smell and scream, the pier was longing the shore of food stools on one side and the beach on the other. The large wooden pier manages the traffic from one part of the country to the other, mixing classes, families and ethnics.

There a group of old ladies facing the human sea talking about what their life would have been if… there another group of old man facing the sea talking about the their life if they did not meet their respected wife… there a group of Puerto Ricans dancing and singing salsa… there a group of homeless people shrinking at the last bites of the summer… there an entire family who is playing on the beach an ancient and sport called tanning on a towel… there a group of bikers refreshing their machine with beer and other beverages… there a group of Japanese taking pictures for their return in their island… there us imitating the Japanese.

No place in the world can make people look in the same direction as the sea. Everyone at one point looks at the horizon and wonder what could be on the other side.

I am glad that I saw the last days of Coney Island.

I am sad that Money Island will replace it soon.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Red New York City

New York in August is Hot.

Spending the month of August in New York helped me to go deeper in this beautiful city, actually I should say higher in this sky-scrapered and well-rounded city.

In fact, it helped me to see with new eyes some of the virtues, advantage and weakness unknown to me, of the place. When you city-visit you put yourself in a frenzying mode to see it all in a minimum of time preventing yourself from being engage emotionally with the location. You are surfing on the skin of the city, living cliché after cliché to generalized and biased emotion to your traveler life, reinforcing what you’ve heard before. You try to validate what you have built in your mind before the trip, and make sure you check-out things from your MUST do list.

Have you really been to Paris, without seeing the Eiffel Tower?
Have you really been to London, without seeing the London Bridge?
Have you really been to Rome, without seeing the Coliseum?
Have you really been to New York, without seeing the ______?

I guess so …

When you have a chance to stay longer in a place you start to remove the superficial layer you have build yourself into to unprotect you and let the city attack your skin and mind. I highly recommend traveling long enough in a place to develop your own routine and become part of the place to appreciate the time passing by and enjoy even better the surprising moment around the corner. This is a luxury travel since one might not have 3 months cash to spend one’s life wandering in a very expensive city like New York or Tokyo. But I was lucky enough to spend around a month with locals who introduce me to their part of the place. I thank them a lot for sharing their dear place to me. This is more or less the feeling left by New York after having spent a month in THE place.

Standing City
When you think of New York City you usually think of Manhattan. The city is huge, but in the middle of this hugeness, you can see something even bigger, higher and larger than normal. However you come to NYC, you are diving into it, so be it by plane, by car or by train. You have to come from outside the island and contemplate the city. It is almost going into a new dimension. You look at it, and you think: “There it is, that’s what it is”. The first time you see the city you do it from the top. Sky scrapers are in your face. The city is standing in front of you, and you standing in front of the city. That is the first impression you have, and you keep have it all the time. NYC is a standing city. You have to be standing all the time; it makes you grow up … physically (not to mention that you cannot sit in anywhere in the city). I guess it has to be done that way, being an island where people kept coming, the city needed to expend and the one way was from the top.

From the time you come in the place till you leave it, you move fast, otherwise you get crashed, compressed, sliced, segmented, parked, smashed, squeezed, reduced, packed, squared, compacted, and sometime balled out. To survive you have to step up, and move as fast as anybody else. No slow movement, no thinking twice what you want to do, where you want to go … clock ticking … $10, $20, $50, $100, $500, $1000, zero! Too late! Don’t think, do, but do it fast. Everything is fast, efficient and too the point: Buses, Subway, Queue, Cab, Tickets, Drink, Sleep, Eat, Move, Do and Think. Fast-Fats-Facts.

Positive Energy
If you are living in a place where you always go fast and you standing still, you better have a lot of energy. I saw somewhere that the average age in NYC is 35, and I am not surprise, this is a place where people have a lot of energy to keep up with this non stop 25Hours per day city. But NYC city is in the United State of America, and therefore is a positive person by nature. There is not “Half empty - Half full” thing, it’s much more “There is a glass and some water, and I am thirsty”.

Buildings are the skeleton, but people are the blood of the city. And New Yorkers are very unique people. They are so unique, that when they introduce themselves they are using number to speak to each other. “I am from 9 & 14”, “I see, Funny, I used to live on 7 & 12”. This of course does not fly for non-NYC people, but this is kind of ritual that one must go through when living in the place. I even cough myself doing it after sometime in the city. “I am from 24 and 35”. In reality I am from nowhere in the States, but I was happy to participate in the location-locution-introduction. When properly introduced, the NYer is actually very welcoming and enthusiastic about WHO you are, WHAT you do and the common interests you could share. I have never been asked WHY I was staying in NYC. It seems to be so obvious that nobody popped the question. It is very refreshing to have people welcoming you so warmly in their home. No WHY, only HOW. No justification only possibilities.

Hot – AC - Noise
The place changes shape with time. The first time I visited NYC was 15 years ago in the summer as well, and my recollection was that the Air Conditioning was full blast all the time. Nothing changed except that everybody has one AC in each room now. NYC is hot in the summer, and AC is a must. The bad thing is the AC raises the noise level. When you add the car traffic, police car, fire trucks and AC, imagine what level you reach. The subway noise levels can result in hearing loss for daily riders.

Universal – Multicultural - Diverse
When you put everything together you obtain a very stressful environment in where aggression is permanent, strong and damaging. So, why people are staying in such a horrible place?
Because this city is New York City, Baby!
This is a very rich place by history, diverse by its inhabitants, magnetic by tradition. People going to a city bring with them their culture and traditions that later on get diluted and mixed to immerge in a new sub-culture. Since its creation in 1776, New York welcome, accept and mix people into something new. I can only think of a handful of city which can come to such an evolution, and resonate for the world, being an echo for their people. The self fueling effect still exists today and brings a very special color in the rainbow of the planet.

Not much to say than watching the Bleu, Red and White NYC recent posts in this travel blog.

Food is as diverse, reach, and interesting as inhabitant of the city, but there is more than that. This is a national sport for every NYer, this is a serious business in which you have to know before it gets CIFO (Crowded In and Famed Out - state in which a place, person or activity became too popular and looses its authenticity and fade away under the spot line of the fame). Cooking is not an option when you have the best chef around the corner, and time is running off your hand every second. After sometime you start developing a close circle of friends who have the same taste as yours, or at least appreciate the same delicacies as yours. You have your cheeseburgers friends, your adventurous friends, your Thai friends, your Asia-Fusion friends or your Chic friends. Food is good for your soul, becoming an instant drug for your very disturbing life, an instant pleasure and gratification shared with the close friends you like. Food is a simple and gourmand way of buying your soul and body a piece of happiness.

Lighthouse of the Americas, New York is the reference is the land of opportunities. Anybody who believes in oneself can make it happen, kick-off some moves to become like what the city impose on you: tall, fast, universal, colorful, unique and crazy about life. Many artists dream to make it big in NYC because this is also an instant recognition and echoes of the world. You can be famous and live from your creation if you know what to do. This creates in itself a good reason to be in NYC for understanding what is the culture today, the true culture, not the Media culture.

When people move from one place to another, they still do exist in both. An invisible link has been created between the new and the old building a continuous flow of information, emotions and tensions between the two dots. In a migrant city of millions people imagine the net that all these links create, a giant platform to exchange. New York is wired with the latest human fiber optic forcing to share knowledge between its people. I am sure that the Dog Poop Girl was commented in Karachi via New York before it became an international phenomenon. I can not prove it, but I am sure that a Korean Grand-Mother living on the 42nd spoke to the Pakistani Taxi driver from Brooklyn about this and the missing link was created. This amazing net of invisible links reveals the unique force of the megalopolis, its constant awareness of its supplement. People know what is outside as well as what is inside. NYC is aware of what’s happening outside its wall.

New Yorkers update constantly their social, cultural and expert network, and force them to reevaluate their references to become more aware of their blind spots. The best thing that you could be in New York is a freshly political refuge from Zakitistan. Everybody will love you for your strength, your courage and ambition to change the world around you and their will privileged to have you in their kitchen. They might even help you endorsing a new constituent program to fight back the oppressor. The complexity, the constant intellectual debate and the contextual intelligence of a long time New Yorkerer will help him/her to proof read the world in a much broader sense than anybody else, beside a full time traveler or diplomat of course. How many international press photographs are registered in New York?

Don’t get me wrong, NYC is not for everyone. You have to earn it, give as much as you receive, you get suck out, dried fresh on your feet if you are not prepare. This is a do or died. NYC is very demanding on the body, soul. It gets into your bone, and you won’t be able to lie, hide or move after a while. This is so demanding that you discover your own limits. This is a special place for special people who one day decided to stop being normal and grab their life to own it fully and plentifully, fast forwarding their desire, aspiration and life. A NYer will not settle for a medium average experience. It has to be full, round and complete. The only question is “Can I afford it?”. I guess in a fast forward world you a need a new measure in your decision making process, money could be one of them.

New York City
This is a beautiful place where you are force to grew up fast, a place in which People are welcoming you for who you are, and take out of you the best of your culture and energy to mix all with the very complex net of knowledge already in place, self fueling the tremendous attraction, links and awareness of its own state.

For me the Big Apple is well rounded, always fresh and juicy. I ♪ New York City and New York City ♪ I.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

White New York City

Mr. New York City is a bright guy.

Mr. New York City is in his late 20's, and he is working for in the financial services at one of these famous boutique companies that everybody knows on the planet. He got the job just after his undergrad and worked very hard during the past 8 years to climb the social latter, doing everything and anything that a newbie had to do in order to make to the hotshot list.

After many months of hard work, sleeping barely 5 hours a night, working 6 and ¾ days per week, eating at restaurant all the time for lack of time to prepare a salad, taking cab to avoid long hour subway traffic jam, he finally had his new cubicle on the corner of the floor at the 29th floor. He made it. He is a big gun, and probably the only one from Provo, Utah, the only place in Utah place where you have more car than cow per miles square!

He remember the first day when he arrived at university, it was everything was too big for him, place, people, food, time, buildings. But today, his city is his sandbox. He knows where to go, at what time, what to order, when to not go, where is the best dry cleaner in Chinatown open at 3 AM, which serve the best Chili Con Carne in a Plain-butter Katy roll takeaway. He knows the place, it's his.

He has no friends. Not outside the office space. No girlfriend or plenty I would say. Dating became finally an outsource job that he contracted out to the wing girl association, it's not because he can't do it, it's because he doesn't have time for it. How can you seal a deal of multi million dollars and have 15 extra minutes for some girl-chatting. He doesn't have time to call his mum back home in Provo, Utah, so he outsourced it as well to the write-back-home service 24/7 in multi language.

He lost keeping in touch with his beer bodies when he join the company. He was teased about it, but he though he was smarter than anyone and he will fall into the classic trap of loosing contact because you don't have time. But he did. And piece by piece he had lost his best friends one after another to finally ended up talking more often to his doorman at his 30 storey building in downtown Manhattan. Nice place, big and cozy, with a flat screen TV, constantly plugged on on mute control.

He became finally on of the 1.5 million permanent residents in the lower side of the island, with no preference whatsoever to go above the 3 digits line. No way will he cross the 99 street. No dating above that line either. Restaurant listing and cab fares are mainly the two topics he can relate with his colleague, not because they look to be bad people, neither does he. It's just because he doesn't have time. Look he doesn't have time to call his mum back home in Provo, Utah.

No friend is some sort of a good thing, because he is a serious man after all, he is living the life of many envious in the city of money, and friendship is some time investment. As a good analyst, he knows that a good investment is buying low and selling high, but friend always seems to be the opposite, stick when low, and change when high. This is a very volatile portfolio, with a high sub-prime back ratio on top of it. In other words, a few is good for him, not too many thing to remember and take care off.

Time is money, and money is power and power is good and good time is over. He will be happy later on in his life. He just put his self priority on hold for a while, and decided that he could be living the life of the greatest, one day when he will become his boss' boss. In 5 and ¾ years, if he makes his number he will have a chance to apply. His salary is officially fatter that his belly now he is using the rent-on-line your personal trainer 24/7 in Japanese (a smart way to improve his business Japanese while exercising).

Money was not the objective, maybe at the beginning, but as soon as your have what you need, what bothering making more. No money was the measurement of his sacrifice. No descent human being will put him or herself through that much pain without some compensation, and what better compensation than the Beautiful Liquid Cash.

He has enough for him, but not enough for his family that he dreams about he will have one day. He though once moving back home in Provo, Utah, but he was too much a city guy, he was missing the sweat, the noise, the color and the rage of the city of money to be able to do, He lack a serious motivation. When you only impact your personal life decisions are easy to make, no compromise possible.

No time, many girlfriends, many plastic cards and a lot of information in his head. Running around and around to find the best deal in town is his way of being the last of the jungle survivor. He sometime encounters himself as he was 8 years ago, fresh and naïve. He envies him just because he has to re discover the place again, the place that he likes being. He knows the amount of surprises and incongruous moments he will have to surpass to be a man in the place, and he wishes that he be that again.

No time, many girlfriends, many plastic cards, many info, and time passing by. He is now an old boy in town, people knows him at bar, restaurant and dance place. This is now a nice feeling to have the table ready for him before he makes a move. That always impress his dates when she pick the place and he knows the waiter in the house.

Thank to the newly impress-your-date service he just join, he can make a good impression almost instantly when he walks in the any public place. For 9.99$ he has a full report of the people in the selected place and a phone conversation with the designated waiter for the date, a pre kick-out meeting for the next day date.

He gives a lot to the city and the city gives it back, but he knows that this is the rule. The place is demanding, as much as he is.

He knows that he will not that life style for ever, and this is temporary. He is blowing a lot of cash, and he receives as well o lot of cash. Money goes money comes, Time goes time comes. He goes and he comes.

Don't be under the wrong impression, he likes his life, he enjoy the sacrifices he is making everyday. The world his coming to him on a constant basis, but this has a price. If you want to be the leading role, you have to work hard and learn your lines.

Mr. New York City is a bright guy a bit rough, but it's because he has no time to be nice.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Blue New York City

Sexy-cities always lie for ever in your blood.

I am sure that if I tell you Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Bombay, Dublin, Goa, Hong Kong, Honolulu, Istanbul, La Havana, London, Madrid, Montreal, Paris, Rio, Roma, San Francisco, Sydney, Tokyo, Timbuktu, Venice or Vienna you have some stories that popped in your head.

This is the list of the most sexy-cities in the world, and no one can argue. You might want to add an extra one, or remove one in which you associate a bad memory with, but this list is undoubtedly universal and suffer no contestation on which one should be there or not. You might put them in different order, and I encourage you to do so, but these cities are there in the list on wont drop out.

How do you recognize a sexy-city from another one?
It is quite easy in fact.
It's the number of second between the answer and the next question.

Example 1:
Bob: Where are you going in vacation for Christmas?
Kim: Rio de Janeiro

[Insert 4 seconds here]

Bob: Ah Rio! Lucky you!
Kim: Have ever been?
Bob: No...never...I wish...

You never have to say from which country the city is, everybody knows where the city is exactly. Except maybe Timbuktu, but it's there precisely because it's far away from everything and you can only imagine being in this city when you want to get way from every where. This is the almost the lost city for lost soul.

Example 2:
Bob: Where are you going in vacation for Christmas?
Kim: Rio de Janeiro

[Insert 4 seconds here]

Bob: Rio from where?
Kim: You are kidding me, right?

While traveling, and when I am staying long enough in one place, I try to personify the city I am in. let me explain, I associate a person, a job, a story with the place I live. I start making a full story about where I am living, the social status, her or his past, the exact age and what happen to her/him before that make her/him the way (s)he is.

For example Amsterdam is for me an old lady who has been all around the world in 70's, but when back home after a long trip and could not reconnect to what is the real world. She can only work for non-profit organization yet still want a lot of money for it. Smokes cigarette hand made and drinks low fat soy milk. Rides a bicycle to work, but calls a cab when rainy day. Wears grey outfit, with purple socks. Long hair in the front but short in the back. She is a perpetual contrast, tired of fighting, enjoying good company.

Barcelona is for me an eccentric young man, 30ish, artist, living during the night, sleeping during the day…

Bangkok is for me a young Asian woman, small skirt, small girl, small money, small hope ... big dream

Buenos Aires is for me an old man, cigar, Panama hat, a face that tells stories without speaking, been everywhere, knows everything, came back to his city to enjoy the last breath he could have peacefully with his friends.

And I can go on an on for each city and try to see who they are, what they do. One day if I have enough time, I will probably try to do so.

I can also imagine later on a big party with Ms. Paris, and Mr. Buenos Aires drinking together and trying to talk about what would be the bright future of Ms. Hong Kong if she could only speaks English properly, or asking some news about the always missing absent the famous Mr. Timbuktu who everybody knows, but a handful of old people saw actually.

The party will be hold in a not so secret place where food will be provide but the greatest artist in the world and where beauty will echo to pleasure.

My neo-gods-Greek theater play will not be dramatic at all, funny I suspect with a grain of cockiness.

Missing the one, the one that is for me on the top of the generic of my no-Greek-gods movie, nominated many time for a leading role in major blockbuster movies ...

Did you guess?