I was in New York last week for the BlogHer conference, the first time I’d been to New York in 20 years. It was exactly 20 years ago, July 1995. I remember because I went with my best friend and we flew there on her birthday. Enraptured by the Greek and Roman collections at the Metropolitan Museum, I canceled my sightseeing plans for the following day to go back and meander amid the broken marble.
This time, I avoided the siren song of the antiquities I can’t find in New Mexico, but there was a giant Venus de Milo across the street from the hotel.
I only had a day for sightseeing this time, and spent most of it walking, which I love to do when I travel. The weather gods smiled on me, because the day was cool and lovely, not hot and muggy the way I remembered from my previous trip, and the way it would be during the conference itself, when I sweated more walking the few blocks to Central Park than I did walking all over lower Manhattan.
The idea of walking long distances on a summer day without needing sunscreen is foreign to me, but in New York, the skyscrapers provide practically continuous shade. I’m originally from LA, but that’s a big city that goes out, not up. And after nine years in the Land of Mañana, the pace at which people and things move in New York seemed even faster than I remembered.
From the southernmost tip of Manhattan, south of Wall Street, which once marked the boundary between the Dutch and English settlements, I took the Staten Island ferry. It cruises past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, where my Irish grandfather first set foot in America in 1929.
Talk about bad timing – arriving in the land of opportunity on the eve of the stock market crash that plunged the nation into the Great Depression. I don’t think that’s exactly what they mean by luck of the Irish.
The hotel was conveniently located, but I don’t like Hiltons. The federal program I used to administer had its two annual conferences at Hiltons, which tends to nickel and dime you to death on everything. The chain hit a new low at midtown Manhattan though, not even providing coffee makers in the rooms. I haven’t seen that anywhere except Vegas, where they want to keep you out of your room and in the casino at all costs.
Best coffee of the trip was from a donut vendor on Little Brazil Street, 140-somethingth, between 5th and 6th Avenues. It only cost a dollar. That was hands down the best bargain of the trip, though the $5 gyro from one of those food carts was a close second.
In general, Manhattan isn’t a place to look for bargains. I took this picture of a parking “special” because $10.14 a half hour – a half hour, which is $20.28 an hour, more than most workers here in New Mexico get paid – for parking didn’t seem like much of a deal. I reconsidered later when all the other signs said more than $13 or $14 a half hour.
One of the differences between traveling when I was young and didn’t have much money and traveling now that I’m middle aged and don’t have much money is that when I was young, I always wanted to eat at the Plaza Hotel or Tavern on the Green or some other place I couldn’t afford. After some flush years in my 30s and 40s, I learned that eating in expensive restaurants and shopping at expensive stores doesn’t make you happier than gyros from street vendors and treasure hunting in consignment shops.
Considering the money I’ve spent over the course of my life, I regret money spent on things but not on experiences. I’m grateful to have the memory of every trip I’ve ever taken, including this one. When I was young, eating in fancy restaurants seemed more like an experience than a thing, but now that I’ve BTDT, paying $50 for a steak I could grill just as well at home isn’t the kind of experience that’s memorable in a good way.
The conference itself was an experience worth the cost. I may not have started blogging here again if I hadn’t gone. The prospect of mortification at showing up there with nothing new on my site drove me to post, and talking with so many other writers motivated me to keep writing, both on the blog and on other projects.
Those writers’ cards form a small mountain on my desk, and I look forward to exploring their sites and linking to their posts over the next few days. I’ve started reading some of them, but am being careful not to let exploring Undiscovered Blog Country derail me from my own writing – which is exactly what I would have done last week. Hopefully the post-conference anti-procrastination inoculation will remain in effect for a while. If so, Manhattan will have been a bargain after all.