The City That Never Sleeps

I just returned from a visit to New York City this week and figured I would post some thoughts on my trip.  I have been to NYC before, but I was a kid and we only drove through the city, we didn’t actually walk the streets and experience the city.  This was a business trip for my day-job at RoundTable Toys attending the annual Toy Fair convention.  Much of the time we were up there, we were at the trade show which left us only short windows of opportunities to experience the city life.

We flew from Raleigh, NC to NYC on Saturday, and what shocked me the most about our trip up there is that we actually had more snow in North Carolina than we did when we landed in New York.  After finding our hotel (Park Central), we realized that we were only 7 blocks away from Times Square.

We went straight to the Apple store (the cube) which is located across from Central Park.  This place was a madhouse, and without question the busiest place that we visited in New York.  I was actually quite surprised that almost all of the computers that I saw people carrying around the city and at the Toy Fair show were MACS!!!  I guess that its only fitting that a place known as The Big Apple actually prefer Apple computers.

We then checked out FAO Schwartz, Trump Tower & then headed back to meet for dinner at a cool Italian restaurant a few blocks from the hotel called Pazza Notte.  Coming from southern upbringing, I was a bit shocked that an Italian restaurant didn’t actually have Italian dressing for their salads!!!  I also could not read a thing on the menu at this place, but luckily the owners of RoundTable Toys had been there before and we figured out how to order a meatlover’s style pizza.  The pizza was cooked in a smokehouse style oven & was truly delicious.

On Sunday, our Toy Fair experience began…  I didn’t really know what to expect at the trade show, but it was definitely much larger than I could have envisioned.  The show was held at the Javits Center, which was literally 3 football fields wide with 3 levels and hundreds & hundreds of aisles of toy companies and product lines.  Over the course of 3 days we must have walked more than 20 miles just inside the show.  Highlights of the show included a replica Delorean time machine from Back To The Future, extreme pogo stick jumpers, Dan Dunn’s speed painting exhibition & hanging with the Myachi guys at their booth.  We also checked out conferences on social marketing & innovative new sales channels such as the Sears marketplace (which is setup very similar to Amazon’s Seller Central).

On Sunday evening, we ate at a small Mexican restaurant a few blocks from our hotel called Cancun…  This was a poor choice as they were only serving from a limited Valentines Day menu.  I don’t think I have ever eaten at a Mexican restaurant ANYWHERE that didnt have a freakin Taco or Burrito on the menu.  After an absurdly long wait time for our food, I ended up with a Filet Mignon, which was very tasty, but not quite the authentic Mexican experience that I was expecting.  It was at this time that I started realizing that NOTHING in NYC is normal!!!

On Monday evening we had tickets to see The Phantom Of The Opera.  A co-worker and myself decided to split away from the main group and get something quick to eat and meet everyone else on Broadway later that night.  I realized that there was a Hooters literally across the street from our hotel, so that was the eating destination for the night.  I figured that of all places, I would know this menu by heart!!!  We sat at the same table that legendary Dolphin’s QB Dan Marino sat when he visited the place.  They even had a sign above us that said DAN MARINO’S SEAT, my buddy Rand would be jealous at this as he has had a man-crush on Marino for years!!!  All Hooters in North Carolina have a wide range of wing sauces, so it was quite a shock to see that Hooters in NYC (OF ALL PLACES) only had like 4 wing sauce choices!!!  As I said before, NOTHING in NYC is normal!!!  The wings were great, our waitress was great and actually it was one of the quickest meals we had at any place in the city.  I left with a replica Hooters girl shirt for my wife, which I’m looking forward to seeing her in very soon : )

After our Hooters experience, it was onto the show.  Let it be known, I am not an opera fan by any stretch of the imagination.  The production for Phantom though, was AMAZING…  From the costumes, the lights, smoke & sound system to the HUGE sets that I’m still not sure how they got on and off the stage so quickly, it was like seeing a movie play out live before your eyes.  The only thing I didn’t really care for though was the singing…  I didn’t realize that nearly EVERY line in the entire show was sung,  I assumed that there would be musical parts in some of it and regular acting/speaking parts in other parts.  Some of the musical parts were really cool, but when multiple actors and actresses where singing different lines at each other at the same time, much of it came off sounding like a wall of unorganized NOISE.  Anyway, it was an experience that I won’t soon forget, for better or worse…

Our last day at Toy Fair was on Tuesday and we didn’t spend a full day there, as we had finished our goals for the show by then.  Although the weather had treated us well during our stay in NYC so far, it started snowing like crazy during the last day.  We had to take a cab back to the hotel during the midst of what a southern raised person like myself would consider a blizzard.  I’ve been on a lot of thrill rides in my life as I am a roller coaster freak, but I would have to say that a cab ride across NYC, in the middle of a blizzard, with icy roads, with a foreign cab driver who couldn’t understand us & we couldn’t understand him would have to rank as one of the top 10 thrill rides that I have ever been on.  I have no idea how we weaved in and out of some of the spots in traffic that our cab went.

On our final night in the city we had reservations to eat at Il Vagabondo on the upper east side.  This is a well known place in NYC where many celebrities frequently visit as was shown by the numerous pictures lining the walls in the place.  Although this restaurant’s menu is primarily authentic Italian, they actually had a menu that I could read and know what I was trying to order.  This was definitely one of the highlights of the whole trip as the food was excellent and the service was a level above anything we had experienced in NYC.  I felt like Tony Soprano was going to waltz in the door at any moment, if that gives you any idea of what this place caters to.  They even had a bocce court in the back room that we played a few games on.  After dinner we walked a couple of blocks down to a local piano bar named Mimi’s.  This was yet another memorable experience as they had an older guy who changed costumes based on song requested and gave comedic performances of each song.

Our plane was scheduled to leave early the next morning, so by the time I got back to my hotel room and got my bags together,  I didn’t even risk going to bed.  I spent the last couple hours outside the hotel getting my last taste of the city life and taking in the sights, sounds & smells of The Big Apple.

The whole experience of NYC was very cool and very eye-opening.  The big city experience is something that everyone should get a chance to check out at least once in your life.  You realize that there is a whole different world out there outside of Eastern North Carolina (or whatever smaller city that you may be from).  With that said, I was more than ready to bring my tail back home to the south.  As the plane came toward the runway at RDU, I was thinking just land this baby and I’m home.  Raleigh has only looked better once before in my life when my wife and I drove straight through without stopping for 17 hours from her parents house in Wisconsin a couple years ago.

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