I took a taxi from JFK to my cousin’s place. He’s in the upper east side, near East Harlem. It’s just a block from the top of Central Park, and twenty blocks of the Guggenheim Museum. On my first night we visited a Senegalese restaurant not far from where he lives, in an area known as “little Dakar” (Dakar is the capital city of Senegal, West Africa where I lived for much of my childhood). The food at the restaurant was fantastic: Phil (my cousin) had lamb on couscous with a spicy peanut sauce and I had lamb chops smothered with onions and a creamy mayonaise dip. Though the chops were small (three inches by two inches), there was at least a dozen of them: I ate and ate and ate. Delicious, and very reasonable: each of our meals was around $8!
New York City reminds me a lot of Dakar: there’s the same electic mixture of poor and rich, garbage dumps and luxury hotels. On Tuesday I had my first adventures using the subways: they have a cool system where you can buy a 7-day pass for a mere $17 that lets you ride the subway as much as you want for seven days. Unfortunately, I discovered the subways don’t always go where you want. In New York, you’ll learn how to walk. I’m not much of a walker, and I quickly developed blisters and my first purchase in NY was a pair of sneakers (my normal shoes aren’t walking shoes). Fortunately, the blisters didn’t burst, and after a few days of taking it easier and using the new shoes, my feet were okay.
Macworld Expo itself was interesting. I hung out at the REAL Software booth and helped them demo REALbasic and gave away flyers and copies of my magazine to whoever was interested. Everyone liked the magazine and I think many people will subscribe. My hope is that the magazine will encourage people to purchase RB as well. So far I haven’t seen a huge subscription spike, but subs are steadily being sold, so that’s good. I expect some will subscribe later, since we gave them a copy of the first issue at the show.
Cousin Phil and I toured the City. He took me to the New York Public Library, which was impressive. They don’t lend books there (you read them on site), but they had a nice area for you to hook up your laptop to the Internet and sit and research. Apparently there’s an excellent interlibrary lending system: you can order books, videos, and even DVDs via the Internet and they’re delivered to your local branch for you to pick up within a few days. Very cool. I got my first NYC hot dog (very good) and we went to Battery Park and saw the Statue of Liberty in the bay. We could also see from there the Twin Towers that aren’t there (we compared the current view with pictures from before being sold in the park). That night we ordered pizza and then I went downtown my myself to meet the TidBITS gang for ice cream. That lasted until midnight and I got back very late (I took a taxi home rather than risk the subway, and the driver drove fast and with little traffic, it was less than $8).
As a media person, I got in to see Steve Jobs’ keynote speech at Macworld, which was very cool (my first time). While there wasn’t any exciting new hardware to announce, I felt good about the software he revealed (though a little miffed that it will cost me $129 to upgrade to the next version of Mac OS X). On Thursday night I attended the REALbasic NUG meeting and passed out copies of the magazine: everyone was excited and impressed. (One guy chided me the next day: he was reading the magazine on the way home and missed his subway exit!) Friday night we went to an Italian restaurant called Vespa’s that was small and intimate and very cool. The food was excellent (I had breaded chicken with lemon sauce). Saturday was the Metrostars soccer game.
On Monday I walked to the Guggenheim. On the way I passed a film crew recording a scene for Molly Gunn outside a building that was supposed to be a private school. I didn’t see any stars, though I did pass a lot of trailers (including one that said “Molly” on the door) parked along 5th Avenue. At the Guggenheim the current exhibit is called “Moving Pictures” and is all about photography and video. It was fascinating, though I question some of the exhibits as being art. A lot of it was very adult material (nudity, close-ups of genitals, etc.), which often had no point that I could tell. There were some traditional paintings (Picasso, etc.) in portions of the building, but most was devoted to the photography exhibit. Some of the video stuff was interesting, but the way they were presented was poor, since they were often just TVs set along the walkway, or within a small room, and people would just enter and leave as the mood hit them, meaning you usually came in in the middle of a show (something I abhor). Many exhibits were obviously full of themselves. One was several huge screens all showing the same images of a bare-chested guy smearing mud on his body. Yup, twenty minutes of that and then he started over. Ooh, that’s deep. One video I liked consisted of a mother and her daughter laughing. Gradually the film was sped up and the soundtrack distorted, so you began to think maybe they weren’t laughing and hugging, but that the mother was strangling the daughter. It was creepy and that was the whole point. Very cool. There were some other cool exhibits and photos I liked, but they’re obviously difficult to describe (a photo’s a thousand words, right?). You’re best off visiting the museum yourself if you’re so inclined.
Overall, my visit to New York was great. I got to see many parts of the city, though I avoided the tourist traps like the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. I learned the subway system and how to hail a cab. I walked through portions of Central Park and bought hot dogs and croissants at the little stands everywhere. (I really like that.) What surprised me the most was how nice everyone was. People were helpful at guiding you on the subway, generally patient, the cabbies friendly (and spoke English, though always as a second language). The horror stories I’d heard of NYC were of a different town or time, I guess. It helped having a place to stay while I was there (I was less of a tourist), but it still was a surprisingly accessible city.