March 28, 2007

Elephant Walk

Tonight Eric and I stood over by the Queens Midtown Tunnel to catch the annual Ringling Bros & Barnum & Bailey parade of animals down 34th St. to MSG. The highlight is the elephants - about a half dozen of them, followed by some horses and ponies. No tigers, though.

It's quite a hipster destination, and the drunk frat boys of Murray Hill were particularly enjoying it in front of Twelve sports bar on the south side of 34th. But lots of people who walked by had no idea what we were lining the streets for.

Here's the account of last year's parade from Gothamist.

It goes by pretty quick and it's late at night (12:30ish) but it's probably the closest you'll get to an elephant in Manhattan unless you actually go to the circus.

March 26, 2007

Back For Good?

Well, at least until Las Vegas at the end of April. At least I get to go with a cohort. She doesn't know this yet, but I may drag her to the Luxor to do some Criss Angel stalking. I caught a marathon while flying back from Miami and I'm hooked. He's hot.

But for now, at least for a month, I'm back. I flew to Columbus, OH for the day yesterday, which is something I don't often have to do for my job. I know there are account exec's and Corporate America upwardly-mobile people who do that all the time, but I'd kind of rather stay in a town and settle in a bit. But I've actually been to Columbus before, visiting my sister, and I can't say I'm dying to spend a lot more time there.

We actually had to go to nearby suburb Dublin, OH - home of Wendy's and Dave Thomas. Dublin appears to be a cute, shamrock-speckled town, with little shops and restaurants surrounded by the strip malls and family dining establishments that completely dominate the Columbus area. After our meeting (at Wendy's corporate office, of course), we stopped into the non-chain Jason's Restaurant & Bar, where I had great lettuce wraps and a salmon and asparagus salad. Was it really local flavor? I don't know, we were the only ones there - it seemed maybe too sophisticated for the surroundings. But for a couple of New Yorkers, it was perfect.

The Wendy's offices literally had the scent of square burgers lingering in the air. The conference room had a huge drive-thru menu against the back wall. The kitchen had a soda fountain, with their trademark yellow paper cups, of course. I kept hoping for free fries but no luck.

Even the ladies' room was unmistakably "Wendy's." I felt like I was in one of their restaurants. Even the soap dispenser reminded me where I was.

I haven't eaten in a Wendy's in a while but I actually worked at one for five days in 1993. It was my first job out of high school (my parents wouldn't let me work during high school) and I was the Superbar girl. I liked making the garlic bread but I often burned it, and I would always forget about the tortillas which would get dry and crumbly if left out too long. A lot of the job was stirring and scraping - the salad dressing containers, the alfredo sauce... And then sometimes I would have to sweep up the fries that had been mashed into the carpet in the dining room, and even worse was cleaning the restrooms. No wonder I felt anxious when I saw that soap dispenser yesterday.

I eventually had to quit my Wendy's job because my OCD mom couldn't handle me coming home every day smelling like chili. For those five days I practically lived in the bathtub. But, it turned out for the best because it led me to working in clothing retail, which led me to music retail, which led me to my career in the music industry, which led me back to Wendy's. Funny how things work.

March 24, 2007

Back from the Beach

After spending four hours in the Ft. Lauderdale airport because I couldn't get on an earlier flight, I'm finally back - just in time to fly to Ohio tomorrow. I like travelling, but my work schedule has left me exhausted lately. Just keeping up with the emails feels like moving a mountain.

I've been to the Miami area several times, most recently last summer in Hollywood at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino & Hotel (the very same place where Anna Nicole just died). I've been going to Winter Music Conference since '99 or 2000, skipping only two years since then (once when I was unemployed, and last year so I could go to Budapest).

This year's trip to WMC made me want to not go back.

First of all, it was rainy. And cold. So cold that not only could I not swim in the ocean (one of my favorite things to do), but I couldn't even dip a toe in the hotel pool. I was wearing long sleeves and jeans (which had to be rolled up because of the downpour).

You have to understand, WMC is all about the hang. Nobody except radio programmers and aspiring DJs actually go to the conference itself (the panels etc), so you have to make yourself as visible as possible at all the parties, most of which are poolside or on a roofdeck. That kind of sucks when it's raining.

The events that were inside this year seemed more disorganized than ever. I felt like I was always arriving everywhere too early, with events starting 30-90 minutes late, open bars not happening, no free food where there was supposed to be free food...

Plus - and maybe it's because I was away last year - I felt more alien to Miami Beach than ever. I actually got turned away from The Setai for wearing flip-flops (at the beach!), and when I returned with heels on, the party I was there for wasn't even starting for another hour. I'd been there the night before as well for a Tiesto release party, which apparently Tommie Sunshine got turned away from though I got in. That was a disappointment too, since there were no free drinks or food for us - only for the suits in the back room who were having some kind of law firm corporate meeting. (One lawyer named Sergio stole a white wine for me, thankfully.) I also got turned away from the Delano for dinner, even though there were a million empty tables. The excuse? Too many reservations.

Lanterns at The RaleighSo I trotted over to The Raleigh, where I felt welcome. I could listen to the great music coming from the Stones Throw party at the pool, and I had a nice, reasonably priced meal with impeccable service. Screw the snooty Delano. I'd rather sit on a patio with lanterns swinging in the breeze above me, and a twisted-trunk tree with an orchid growing out of it in front of me. Until I can afford to actually stay there, I think I'll keep making reservations at the Richmond, the hotel next door. At least that worked out well.

Click for more!My trip wasn't all bad. I met lots of interesting people: the PR manager for J. Sisters (resulting in a free manicure), the co-owner of Rowland Coffee Roasters (manufacturers of Cafe Bustelo and their new cafe con leche in-a-can), and a hot model/rapper/actor/political activist named KDubb The Truth. Besides standing in front of BT in line at Walgreens, I also managed to get some meetings in and see and be seen, which is really all you can do down there. I wish I could've accomplished more, but the rain definitely thwarted a lot...

I spent most of my time at Cafeteria, which is ridiculous because that's one of my favorite New York places and Joshuayou'd think I could find something different in Miami. But generally unless you're at a nice hotel, the food is touristy and a rip-off, and chain restaurants (even fast food) have such bad service and are so dirty you don't even want to go in there. Cafeteria had great events, great networking, good food, and a hot bartender named Joshua who works nights til 6 a.m. and was making me gigantic tequila gimlets in big plastic cups.

An exception to Miami's bad food problem is the late night must-visit Raffy's, which looks totally scary but it's great cheap Cuban food and they have a nice overhang to protect you from the rain. It's part of the Rabrinni Hotel which looks terrifying.

Definitely the best part of the trip wasn't even officially related to the music conference, though it fit alongside it well: Night Tennis, hosted by Sony Ericsson, which was a UV tennis tournament set to dance music. Let me say that again: glow-in-the-dark tennis. !!! They played all these crazy remixes and mashups (like one of my favorites, Party Ben's "Pump Up the Doorbell" MP3) and there were strobe lights and video projection - it was like being in a videogame. Plus it was open bar, and closing out the evening were DJ sets by Paul Oakenfold and MURK (who I really wanted to hear but I was too tired and had to make it back from Downtown Miami).

I was really hoping to track down some of the event organizers or someone from Sony Ericsson but it was really a consumer event, so I had to just enjoy myself. I was standing courtside, so close that I actually got hit in the elbow by a tennis ball. Awesome! Best of all? The whole thing was FREE. For everyone.

For more photos from my trip, check out my photo blog.

March 11, 2007

Life on the Road

Last year I travelled a lot for vacation: Budapest, San Francisco, St. Thomas... This year I seem to be travelling a lot for work, but the destinations aren't nearly as exotic: West Chester PA, Dublin OH, and I just got back from Minneapolis.

I actually had really wanted to go to the Twin Cities, mostly to see Mall of America. But I also had this idea that my hometown Syracuse was very midwestern and that I would feel at home if I visited some actual cities in the Midwest. I was wrong.

MOA yee-hawWhen I went to Colorado a couple years ago, I was struck by how western it was. I felt the same way about Minnesota. I'd been to the Midwest before, but mostly Chicago and Ohio and Detroit, which are more "mid" than "west." In Minneapolis, even in the Mall of America, I felt like I'd come home to the prairie.

I'm bummed actually because I'm a big follower of Laura Ingalls Wilder lore and I think my quick trip made me miss out on a bunch of stuff, but I'm sure I'll find my way back to Walnut Grove at some point (and South Dakota, and Wisconsin, and Wyoming...).

Even during a quick business trip, though, I had some good eats while I was in town. Immediately upon my arrival I bolted to Fuddrucker's, where I had the best burger of my life. The eating continued at the mall when I had a coffee-flavored peanut butter, marshmallow and pretzel pressed sandwich at P.B.Loco (which is kind of doing the same thing as Peanut Butter & Co). And I managed to save just enough appetite to have a good steak salad and the locally-brewed lager Leinenkugel at the Firelake steakhouse downtown. So much for detox. At least our waiter was dreamy.

My last night in Minneapolis we had a great business dinner at the city's best Italian restaurant, Zelo, whose architecture is particularly interesting with gothic arches in this old furrier's shop.

I really wish I'd had more time to check out the city but it was really all about running from meeting to meeting and then meal to meal. At least my hotel (the Millenium, which is a bit run-down but served its purpose) was centrally located on Nicollet Mall, so even though my early morning schedule kept me from really going out at night, I did get to see some stuff. Orchestra Hall looks beautiful at night with lots of twinkly lights (and the ice and snow that was left over from the area's last storm). Walker Art Center is a definite must-visit for next trip.

breakfast pizzaHad a bit of a hard time getting back last Tuesday, with high winds over LaGuardia causing many airlines to cancel flights. I was stuck in Chicago O'Hare for a bit, but I busied myself eating a breakfast pizza at Wolfgang Puck's. When in doubt, eat food you've never had before. Always entertaining.

So now I'm back safe and sound, and ready to head to Miami and OH next week. I promised myself I would take a vacation to Nashville this year...I hope I can stick to that plan...