Earlier this spring I started working with Johnny B. Truant to co-produce the online version of BlogWorld. BlogWorld is a giant live event that happens twice a year, bringing together over 150 speakers in blogging, podcasting, and web TV to an audience of thousands. Twelve sessions run simultaneously for three days straight; there’s no way to attend all those sessions if you go to the event, so Johnny and I produced the online version that includes all 100+ sessions, plus we shoot our own behind-the-scenes content (we did more than 25 interviews this year) for the “virtual ticket” purchasers.
The slightly obsessive, bossy, and annoyingly organized project manager in me loves producing online events; it’s like that chemistry set that I wanted in elementary school — a huge, potentially explosive adventure that could be tidily organized into clean, neat little plastic compartments. (I also glued together dozens of matchboxes into drool-worthy closets to organize my friends’ Barbie clothes and accessories. I know, scary.)
I love taming a ridiculously large and potentially unwieldy project; making the ravening beast sit up and prettily request a treat. I hardly finish one such project before I start dreaming about the next. (Also I fantasize about carrying a whip just like Indiana Jones. That would be badass, wouldn’t it?)
As it happened, the live version of Blogworld was set to happen in New York City; Johnny and I were there last week to be a part of the action and shoot behind-the-scenes content for the people who purchased access to the virtual ticket.
I was stoked; regardless of how intense our shooting and post-production schedule looked, I was going to finally see New York City! I had about 5 hours on Thursday night — assuming we were able to meet all our deadlines — in which to run wild, break things, and stay out of jail. Or, you know, be a tourist. Here’s the top three weird and wonderful things about my incredible trip. I tried to keep the list short because I write so damn much. I could write twice this much. Ten times this much. (And it would all be neatly organized.)
1. The Single Most Useful Item I Packed
This is almost two things. I had already purchased a small purse with a shoulder strap to replace my cavernous satchel, figuring the last thing I needed to do was invite people to lift my wallet, cell phone or other necessary goods from it’s gaping maw. That turned out to be essential. But even more helpful was a single item I tucked inside. The day before I flew out, I went to the bookstore to pick up a tiny Moleskine notebook, figuring the big green steno pads I normally favor were not going to survive the space squeeze. But I happened to see this tiny little notepad in a metal case near the checkout counters. The clever little clasp used a small inkpen to hold the spring-loaded covers of the case shut. Hah! No more fumbling for a pen, I thought. It even came with two fresh notepads for reloading.
And the investment (about $10) was worth every penny. Dude, I used that thing every day. Notes about what we needed, carefully drawn maps and instructions, important phone numbers and other critical information. But when it came to my 5-hour foray into the city, it was invaluable because of all the maps, notes, and addresses I had written in there. Not only did my little notebook survive the crush of the city and event, it now has a permanent home in my purse.
2. The Most Unexpected Thing About Where We Stayed
Some marvelous staff person at BlogWorld made our hotel reservations for us, so I can’t claim any credit for this gem. We stayed in the Yotel New York, which (I later learned) is not in the prettiest area of midtown Manhattan — although it is close to the convention center where BlogWorld was held — but it may be the coolest hotel on the island. Click here to image google it. Then come back. I’ll wait.
It reminded me of an iPod, with an Asian twist. Everything about the Yotel is a pristine, glossy white, with purple uplighting. There’s a giant white robot in the glassed-in lobby that will store your luggage for you while you wait to check in or out. The tables in the Japanese-influenced restaurant appear at first to only be a few inches off the floor, but they actually have recessed space beneath the tables so that even though you sit on the floor, your legs drop comfortably below. The tables can be lowered and covered so that voila, you have a dance floor. Btw, the food was outstanding. My puffy white queen-size bed folded neatly up to create a couch in my room, and my glassed-in shower sported one of those giant, square rainfall showerheads. All of it faced a floor-to-ceiling window looking out on the city. It was compact and luxurious at the same time.
3. The Craziest Thing I Paid (A Lot) For
On Thursday, I had a 6:30 pm dinner date in the East Village, about 30-something blocks south of the Yotel. But since I had 1.5 hours before I had to be there, I decided I would first walk the 20-something blocks from the Yotel to Central Park to kick off my Thursday night tour of the city. I decided this at 5 pm, when I left the lobby. I decided this having never seen the mad crush that is Times Square in New York City at 5 pm.
Naturally, it began pouring down rain as I launched myself from the lobby. Not one to be deterred (I only had ONE free night in NYC!), I ducked into a shop and purchased an umbrella — the one thing I didn’t pack, but wished I had — and set out anyway. Swooped down through the garment district first, then made my way up through the theater district, and into Times Square. I never knew before this that Times Square is a whole buncha city blocks, not just a single intersection like Dick Clark made me believe all these years. I strolled up Broadway with ten jillion other people, past barkers of every description, a lady offering an orange rat to pet, Mickey Mouse and Goofy, a three-card Monty kid, a magician doing tricks, lots of crazy people. I tried not to gawk. But I gawked anyway.
The rain stopped and I dipped into a sparkly shop filled with women from India (?) in gorgeous flowy robes and picked out a souvenir necklace with a shiny little silver bow tie pendant, covered in genuine faux diamonds. A kind of Liza-Minelli-Big-Apple-Cabaret kind of thing. Happy!
At 6 pm I realized there was no way in hell I would be able to snag a cab in this crush, and I suddenly started looking for a train station. No luck. Where are all the stations when you suddenly need one? Nowhere I could find, and just moving a single block was an exercise in brute strength, never mind speed. Then I saw the young man with the bike.
I had no idea how much it would cost for him to get me halfway down Manhattan (seriously, like 50 blocks!), but he was the most game, energetic, and earnest young man you could ever want to roll the dice with, and after nervously ascertaining despite our Turkish-English language barrier that he could find me an ATM on the other end of our trip, I hopped in his pedicab and we were off. He squeezed between SUVs and taxicabs so close I could run my fingers along their chrome. My gut twisted in that familiar, roller-coaster thrill ride kind of way as we barreled past the crowds, swooped in and out of traffic, and dared 3-ton vehicles to stop us. I started cheering when he made it through traffic lights, whether or not we had the green. Probably more when we didn’t. He started pedaling harder, grinning madly and glancing back at me periodically to make sure I was still aboard.
Once we hit midtown the traffic eased a bit, and he started pointing out landmarks. Madison Square Garden. The Empire State building (glimpsed up above us on 5th Avenue), the first church built in New York, NYU campus spots. And as we eased into the East Village area I finally began to relax. Everything down there looks exactly like it did on Sesame Street. How can anything go wrong on Sesame Street?
I reminded him about the ATM, and he pulled over, about 6 blocks shy of our destination. I was 10 minutes late, and undeniably exhilarated. I had just seen more of NYC than I ever would have on a subway. And what a way to see it! I didn’t care what it had just cost me, although I did feel a minor pang of worry about my driver, who probably never had to carry someone so far from tourist central. He calculated my fee, and I looked in my wallet. I had three twenties and a ten, just enough to cover it with $15 left over for a tip. He’d earned every cent. I paid up and got out to hoof it the rest of the way, but he insisted I get back in and let him finish the job. So we pedaled up in style, and I felt like the queen.
4. The Birthplace of Punk
Well, I tried for three, but I’m ending up with four. I told you I write a lot. After my amazing dinner with friend Michael Margolis (for whom I also produced a kick-ass online event), I got his grand tour of the East Village, and we went down toward Bowery (not all the way to Bleeker, where CBGB was) and tooled around St. Mark’s Place, birthplace of punk and a whole helluva lot of other cultural influences. Michael also introduced me to the secret cocktail lounge Please Don’t Tell, which is accessed through the vintage phone booth in the hot dog joint, Crif Dogs. (There was a wait of 2 hours to get in, amazingly. On a Thursday night at 9 pm. No lie.) When he flagged me my first cab ever, I was wrung out and done in, glad that taxi drivers take Mastercards and already know where my hotel is.
There’s no possible way in the universe my week in NYC could have been better.
Wait, except that I never got to meet my friend Malissa of Girlboxing over in Brooklyn at Gleason’s for a few rounds. And I didn’t get to head upstate to see my former trainer and world-champion boxer Bonnie Mann and her family. And…
Next trip, baby. Next trip.
(Pssst. Vegas is in January.)