Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A random walk down 42nd Street

It's always been a wonder to me how cultures intermingle in the streets of New York City. I'm here on business, an overnight trip of curious dimensions (I got a "free" hotel night at the Hilton for agreeing not to stay somewhere, which was a blessing and curse all the same), noticing the rhythm of the city again.

Starting on 42nd Street at 2nd Avenue, it was a British invasion. Specifically, two gentlemen boarded the elevator on the 16th and 11th floors, both British, and both with a Pfizer business card affixed to their briefcase or roller bag. Of course, it made sense, as I walked out of the hotel - Pfizer's world headquarters was across the street, which likely prompted some sort of meetings or working sessions and the trip stateside.

As I walked across Lexington Avenue, I started to perspire; another heat wave has descended upon the city, which is meant to only get worse, and I realized that it would create a furnace affect on my trip through the subway later that day. So, I did what any savvy New Yorker would do - I tucked in to the Grand Central Market, which was bound to be cool, with the keeping of the luscious produce and seafood selection that locals in the neighborhood use as their secret grocer.

It turns out that the Spanish are in town, seemingly Madrid-based by their accent and attire, and they were out in full force - at least according to the displays at the Grand Central Market. It could have been a tour bus that dropped them for the station tour or just coincidental timing, but three decent-sized groups walked in their promenade-style best, lilting their local tongue to mix with the butchers and fish mongers that peopled the booths.

By the time I reached the other side, I was in the main concourse and looking for the quickest path to the escalators up into the Met Life Building; it can be a "full pads" moment to confront the commuters who barrage the station from northern points from the city (Westchester County in New York state, Connecticut, and points even further afield). Luckily, I must have just missed either side of the rolling thunder of trains that can vomit hundreds of people into the concourse, who then organize chaotically into subway cars, taxicabs, and thoroughfare buses. I did catch the Connecticut rich kid "vagrants" who seemed to be sitting by one of the tracks, waiting to hitch a train back home after a presumably bacchanalian night in the city.

By this time, I was up the escalators and into the Met Life Building, almost at the end of my trip. Avoiding the final temptations of freshly made pastries that capture the air at this point, I was out the doors and over to the office.

A random walk down 42nd street took me past suburban kids, Spaniards, British, and so much more than I could not recount in this quick account - an easy reminder of the wonders that this city holds.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Muggles... what I tweeted last night after having the privilege of attending a private screening of the movie hours before the midnight premiere. As much as the digital revolution has fragmented the shared experiences that we have, it has also greatly expanded the impact of those events that touch various peoples.

Witness Harry Potter. In the pre-digital world, this would have been an uniquely British story about wizards and boarding schools, but it has captivated global audiences and transcended the borders of its now-uber-wealthy writer. We were part of the crowd that spanned the globe to see this movie, which I can say, lives up to the hype.

On a Thursday evening, we could watch the lines of children queuing up to get a chance to say goodbye to a childhood growing up with Harry Potter and watching the actor grow from a plump-faced little boy into a serious actor and apparent alcoholic. It did not matter for 2.5 hours in the theater, of a movie that was pretty gripping from beginning to end. And in the end, the boy with the forehead scar... lived.

What also lived were the random costumes that adorned the young who snaked around the multiplex that we exited. Witches, goblins, a golden snitch. I heard accounts of people dressed as the Hogwarts Express and random schoolchildren from various houses, as well as various magical creatures. To which I say, well done and enjoy. This is a movie worth seeing (and seeing again), celebrating the end of an era on a wonderful story that will likely live on for generations.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Best of Washington?

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The famous opening of The "Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens, could have been the opening of our evening at the National Building Museum last night. My wife signed us up to leave the comfy confines of suburban townhouse living to experience the nightlife of the "pretty people" of DC. And pretty people there were, of the "augmentation" type (I did not know they existed in such numbers here!) as well as the fashionable type. In all cases, they were on hand for the best that Washington DC has to offer in food and drinks as declared by the writers and readers of Washingtonian Magazine.

As the valet took forever to retrieve our car afterwards (the head valet apologized as his "slow" man was giving the task of grabbing our car, after finally arriving to discover that he was just a seemingly confused, disoriented college kid with over-sized basketball shoes), we reflected on the night that led to a getaway drive back home. Of course, the night was a fundraiser, money going to a good cause (Lymphoma and Leukemia Society), and so was some of the savories (drunken chicken, lamb burgers, chicken nilgiri korma, tomato tartare, and tuna crudo, to name a few) and sweets (cherry-almond "shooters" and those delectable Georgetown cupcakes). But alas, a number of the items we would have tried were flush out by the time we arrived at the table. Not to mention the loitering of the fabulous people, which have some peculiar tendencies to say the least.

With so much good food and so many pretty people, why leave in such a rush? Well, it's been some time for us married home bodies since hanging around hoards of single people preening for the attention of others, even if done expertly and demurely, as several exhibited their skills. After a couple of hours, it was enough, I suppose, to get a taste of what we could and head home to spend some time with our shaved pup. She was grateful, and so were we, as we really need to get ready for the really big event tonight - the final Harry Potter movie!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


On any given day, I receive about 150-200 emails that require my attention. As of 11am this morning, I have already received around 70 such emails from my work account alone, and the deluge has not yet begun.

When I open my Gmail account in the morning, there are usually a good 20-25 emails that sit in this box as well, most of them informational and promotional but some of them reminders of things to do or friends to chat with. That pile just contributes to the list.

Over the course of any given day, I try to process as many of these emails as I can. Perhaps anachronistically, I clear as many as I can from whatever day seems fitting, not so much that I have some priority set to them, but because it catches my attention to get done at the moment.

Of course, this means that I don't quite process all the requisite emails on any given day, but let's leave that dog lying for now.

The kids today, they don't use email - they use something else. It's called text messaging and social networking. When one asks to "Facebook" them, it is clear where yesterday's email is now going.

Alas, this is a sign of the times. As much as I would like to try an email-quitting experiment like the writer at Techcrunch is doing, I believe that I am stuck with this deluge. And as a side note, it is a deluge that keeps me writing more fun things like a blog post than an unending number of less-than-five-line responses that are curt and focused meant to end an email thread.

With that, I am back to the inbox for my daily Sisyphean task.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Beach Reflections

This morning, I bought a pair of Velcro paddles that catch a miniature tennis ball (you can buy your "beach volley" set here, if you are so inspired!). I was shopping with my wife at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, where her brother happens to be working this summer. So domesticated, to spend a morning at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, but I'm going with it.

Anyhow, I realized in the moment of picking up these simple paddles that I was really slipping into a moment from a different time, as someone much younger who was getting increasingly excited to drive down south for a week at the beach. My wife, who spent those same formative years back in China, could not understand why I wanted to drop six dollars on such a seemingly wasteful set of plastic paddles. But I had my reasons - this was a classic accompaniment to the beach of my childhood, with the requisite shovels and turret-shaped buckets that were standard-issue beach gear for the kids of northern families. And we are re-living those days when we pack up to join my parents and siblings for a "reunion-style" family summer vacation in Hilton Head in a couple of weeks. 25 years later, no longer kids (partners were never in the picture for fifth graders), but feeling like children again in recreating the simple times of those annual pilgrimages to the sea.

In the end, my wife broke down and allowed me my toy for the day. But that would be it - she would not allow me to throw a Kadima set in the shopping cart (another piece of standard-issue beach gear and incidentally a famous Israeli and Italian beach sport), as she could not get around the idea of blowing another six dollars on a different paddle game.

Friday, July 08, 2011


Every so often, an afternoon comes along that deserves a siesta. Today is such a day. With mid-90's temperatures and a blazing, blue sky, a July summer day such as this carries the conditions befitting of a hour's respite from the day's torching heat and mounting challenges. Good thing, then, that there is so much more work to do and that a pause is difficult to conceive at this point. But it is worth daydreaming - as good as a siesta, just done wakefully instead of eyes closing.

In any case, I found this portrait by the artist Roxanne Driedger to be appropriate. A sort of soft tribute to the innocent pleasures of an afternoon nap that seems so appealing right now.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011


I just checked this blog. Dormant since October 16, 2010. What has happened since that time? Where have I been? And what have I been doing?

It's been 263 days to be exact, almost 9 months, and a world apart, as that period of time can be. I have a new job, I have a new dog, and I suppose that I have a new outlook on life - although this can be nothing more than time changing me, as it changes us all.

Regardless, it is worth the reflection and then moving forward, to visit this blog more often than every 9 months.