NYC 10: The 10 Worst Types Of People In NYC

This month marks 10 years since we moved to New York City. I’m writing on a variety of topics to reflect on a decade in one of the best cities in the world. Read all the posts.

Tourists. Not all tourists; just those who fail to understand that the city may not operate in the same way their hometown does, and then opt to get huffy about it. (These are the ones always complaining about how rude NYC residents are.)

People who don’t move in to the center of a subway car when there’s a mass of people on the platform.

Those who walk by a giant line for something, ask what the line is for, and then respond with “Oh.” Were you going to get in this massive line if it was some really compelling thing? No, you weren’t. Keep walking.

People on subways platforms who shout at people in the train to move into the center of the car when there’s no room.

Grifters. I have run into two in my life. One I dodged, one I did not.

People who cut their fingernails on the subway.

Food cart vendors who seem to be unable to do anything other than burn the hell out of chestnuts, leaving whatever street they’re on smelling of burning death.

Those who stand to the left on any escalator.

Stand-up comedians in Times Square who, in a desperate attempt to hand out free tickets so they get stage time, ask everyone they see “Hey, do you guys like comedy?”

But the worst people in all of New York City, the lowest of the low? The leeches who stand around Ground Zero and sell “NEVER FORGET” souvenir magazines to unsuspecting tourists. It is the most literal profiting off of a tragedy I have ever seen, and it is disgusting.

NYC 10: A Guide To Taxis

This month marks 10 years since we moved to New York City. I’m writing on a variety of topics to reflect on a decade in one of the best cities in the world. Read all the posts.

First. Find a corner where no one else is looking for a taxi. You don’t want to be that asshole that stands in front of someone who’s been trying desperately to hail a cab for ages, as they will complain about you for hours. Hours. If you’re feeling charitable, walk with traffic for a block before attempting to hail.

Second. Look for an available cab. Stare at the medallion number on top of the cab. If it is lit up, it is available; if it is not lit up, it is not available. Use this information to guide you in the next section.

Third. As an available cab becomes visible, or if a large swarm of traffic comes your way, put your arm that is closest to the street up at a 45-degree angle. (There is no specific thing you need to do with your hand, but I like a two-finger point, myself.) If no cab stops and no other cabs are visible, you may drop your hand until the next wave of traffic comes – although if you see someone else lurking for a cab, you may wish to continue the Hailing Gesture to indicate that this territory is yours and they need to go elsewhere, lest you complain about them for hours.

Fourth. When a cab does stop, quickly enter it. Do not ask the cabbie through the window if he will take you somewhere, because if you have to ask, he will immediately say no and drive off, which is legal because you didn’t get in the cab before telling him you wanted to go to Queens. If you have a suitcase or luggage, the driver may pop the trunk for you. (Note that if you have luggage and you aren’t going to the airport, they will grumble.) Do not get in a black towncar or a gypsy cab if they attempt to pick you up, as that’s illegal. If a pedi-cab (those guys on bicycles) try to pick you up, scoff loud enough for them to hear you.

Fifth. Now inside the taxi, indicate clearly to your driver where you wish to go. Unless you are going to a major landmark, give a cross-street. Do not give building numbers as it doesn’t help. Enunciate clearly all numbers, indicate what type of street it is, and repeat any multi-digit street numbers using just digits, so as to avoid confusion between similar sounding numbers. And be polite.

BAD INSTRUCTIONS: “51st and Lex.”
GOOD INSTRUCTIONS: “Fifty first Street and Lexington Avenue, please. Five one.”

Sixth. Tap the Taxi TV screen in the lower right corner to turn it off. Do not sit and watch Sandy Kenyon’s terrible movie reviews. Don’t worry, the screen will turn back on at the end if you’re paying credit.

Seventh. Relax, but retain a general sense of where you’re supposed to be going and where you are actually going. Traffic, street fairs, accidents, and that weird things where all the cops park on the same street at once (seriously, what is up with that?) may cause your cabbie to redirect. This is natural; going twenty blocks the wrong direction is not. If you detect the driver is going too far the wrong way, provide helpful feedback, such as: “Hey, buddy, are we going the right way? I said (repeat destination clearly).” If you are not familiar with the city geographic, you can turn the Taxi TV back on and put it on GPS mode.

Eighth. You have arrived! Pay the driver. Cash is king, but credit cards are accepted in all cabs. Tip nicely (at least 20%) because driving a taxi is not the easiest way to make a living. Get out on the side closest to the curb. If someone nearby was waiting for a cab, hold the door for them as they get in and close it behind them for an extra touch of class.

And that is how you take a taxi.

NYC 10: Concerts

This month marks 10 years since we moved to New York City. I’m writing on a variety of topics to reflect on a decade in one of the best cities in the world. Read all the posts.

LCD Soundsystem

If my blog archives are to be trusted, within the first two weeks of being in NYC, I had found my way to my first concert (Paul Van Dyk at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square) and my first book event (Neal Stephenson at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square for the release of Quicksilver: Volume One). Both were free, letting me get in very close contact with two artists that I had a deep love for almost immediately after arriving in my new home.

As a first hit, that was one hell of a drug.

New York is constantly busy with events, so much so that there’s no possible way that you will ever attend all, let alone most, of the things you might be interested in. I tried, lacking any better judgement, to do them all for a couple of years, before growing too old/too tired/too annoyed to keep that up.

Concerts are particularly tough. Plenty of concerts start way too late: regardless of day of the week, main acts for rock shows tend to go on around 10 and DJ sets are lucky if they start by 2AM. NYC is dotted with venues with shitty sight lines, crowds are ill-mannered, expensive drinks, and bathrooms that are indescribably bad.

But every now and then, you get that one really really great show, and your faith is restored, at least for a little while. And being in the Media Capital Of The World, most every band you will ever want to see will come to town at some point.

With all that in mind, some high points and low points of concerts I’ve attended in NYC.

THE ABSOLUTE BEST SHOW I’VE EVER BEEN TO AND PROBABLY WILL EVER GO TO

LCD Soundsystem’s final show at MSG, easily. You can grab the documentary of the show easily enough, and it’s worth watching, but James Murphy’s drive to churn out three of the best dance (and I mean that in the actual-music-that-makes-you-want-to-dance sense, not the unn-tsst-brostep-or-generic-trance sense) albums of the 2000′s turned his band’s final show into something unforgettable. It was an almost painfully long set, emotional to be in the audience of, and one of those shows that was truly a “had to be there” experience.

THE SECOND BEST SHOW I’VE EVER BEEN TO AND THE FALLBACK SHOULD I EVER START HATING LCD SOUNDSYSTEM, WHICH WON’T HAPPEN BUT I NEEDED TO CONTEXTUALIZE THIS SOMEHOW

Daft Punk at the Cyclones Stadium on Coney Island. This was the heyday of the Alive tour, with the pyramid and the mashups and the blowing of minds. An outdoor show with perfect weather, with the set just hitting its peak as the sun went down, and a perfect light show – it was magical.

THE SHOW THAT MOST MADE MY SIXTEEN YEAR OLD SELF HAPPY, AND THUS RUINED MY FUTURE ENJOYMENT OF THE BAND IN QUESTION

I have had three opportunities to see Nine Inch Nails play in NYC. The first, a fairly regular show at MSG in support of their 2000-era albums, was alright but perhaps a touch forgettable.

The second show came during the “retirement” tour, and as we crammed into Webster Hall in August of 2009, we were treated to the thing I would have most wanted when I first discovered Trent Reznor: a concert of The Downward Spiral, sequentially from Mr. Self Destruct all the way through to Hurt. It was beautiful, and perfect, and even as the band played stuff off the other albums to cover the second hour of the show, it was sort of set in my mind that when it came to the formative band of my angsty teenage years, it wasn’t going to get better than that.

The third opportunity is in a month or two. And it is an opportunity I’ve passed on, because after I’ve seen you on a retirement tour – especially one where you do wish fulfillment the likes of which that Webster Hall show managed – you’re off my desired ticket list. It’s not getting better than that.

BEST SHORT NOTICE SHOW

LCD Soundsystem again, this time for the show announced a day before it happened for Music Hall of Williamsburg. A tune up before the This Is Happening tour, where most of the new songs were played for the first time. Great small crowd, the band was in high spirits, and it was like a meeting of the LCD Fanclub, since you had to act really quick to have made it in.

WORST SHOW

Chemical Brothers, Hammerstein Ballroom. Half due to the guy drugged out of his mind who kept trying to squeeze in front of us when we were standing at the barricade, who ended up getting removed by security because he wouldn’t stop being a complete jackass.

But beyond him: such a shitty DJ set. Sure, the video display was kind of neat, but it was basically a “push play and then spent the night waving your arms in the air” sort of a night.

NYC 10: Twenty Years Ago, A First Visit

This month marks 10 years since we moved to New York City. I’m writing on a variety of topics to reflect on a decade in one of the best cities in the world. Read all the posts.

I’ve been told that some people have grand dreams of where they want to live when they’re growing up. There’s usually some story about a brilliant visit, some magical moment that sparks the thought in them that they want to live there later in life.

I didn’t have any dreams of moving here before it ended up happening. And I certainly didn’t have a magic moment, although I do remember my first trip to NYC somewhat clearly.

It was July 4th weekend of 1993; we were visiting the area to see a friend of my parents in Yonkers. And one of the days we were downstate, we drove into Manhattan to…well, I don’t quite remember the point, exactly. Some very light sightseeing.

We parked in Midtown; we walked along Fifth Avenue, not really doing much shopping. There was a stop in a Software Etc. on 48th Street, where I remember being mortified at the price of SNES games ($100!). We ate lunch at the cafe where the skating rink is. And walking back to the car, my mother tried to give the leftovers of my giant hamburger to a homeless guy, who promptly rejected it.

That was really about it. It was a tremendously short visit, and perhaps a bit self-explanatory why I didn’t get any lofty dreams of NYC at that point in my life.

Last year, though, I began making a detour on the way into the office: getting off the E train a stop early, walking over to Rockefeller Center, grabbing a coffee from the Blue Bottle that had recently opened in the Concourse, and then walking the few blocks cross-town to my office. And on one of this caffeine-motivated walks, I remembered that little time I spent on Fifth Avenue about twenty years prior.

And this is the thing, above all, I’ve grown to love the most about this city, that it is shaped and defined by memories, even those one would chalk up as innocuous. Even as New York rebuilds and reshapes itself – as the facades and storefronts change, as the skyline changes shapes, as people come and go – ultimately, your own mental map and memories are what make the city what it is for you.

Coming Up: “NYC After 10″

I do love me any excuse to celebrate a good ten year anniversary. And another big one approaches – September 27th will mark 10 years since Katie and I moved to NYC.

To celebrate such an occasion – and to once again give myself a fixed writing target so that my blog is not stagnant – I’m planning a month-long writing exercise of posts about New York, about how it’s changed, and about how it’s changed me. The intention is one post a day, in the style of my Games Of 20XX yearly things.

But, of course, I want it to be interesting and relevant to those who might read it, so – if there’s something in particular you’d like me to make sure I cover, please leave a comment or ping me on a social network and I’ll add it into my planned post list.

The Bearded Face Of A Media Villain

If it’s not already painfully clear to my friends, I love anecdotes. I love minutiae and trivia and obscure statistics. And I think that’s a big part of why I’ve taken to this whole sports journalism thing as a hobby: soccer is full of metrics (that are often meaningless), and every game I cover gives you a moment or two to hang on to longer term.

Take Thierry Henry. Thierry has won practically everything there is to win in the sport: Premier League, Champions League, World Cup. He is an intense competitor, and more than a little prickly in the locker room. So much so that I’ve only ever asked him two questions in the 18 months I’ve been “on the beat”, the last of which earned me a mild bollocking which included the phrase “I don’t know if you know what it’s like to play in a pre-season friendly”. (No, Titi, I don’t, but thanks for asking.) Even getting sassed at by Thierry is a fun memory, not a point of shame.

Sometimes, though, you don’t know an anecdote is happening until 9 months later. And that happened to me recently thanks to one Tim Cahill, although it wasn’t intentional on his part.

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Thanks, Ryan

Yesterday, I was heartbroken (as were a hell of a lot of folks) to learn that Ryan Davis, co-founder of Giant Bomb, lover of SUMMER JAMZ and New Balance sneakers, passed away suddenly last week. He was 34 and had gotten married four days prior.

It’s hard to explain what a good, passionate guy Ryan was. I became a huge fan of his largely because of his tireless video project, This Ain’t No Game, where he forced himself to endure every video game-based movie. (If you’ve never watched TANG, now is an excellent time to do so.) His voice and sense of humor pervaded Giant Bomb’s podcast and video work, which became staples of my gaming world over the last five years.

So many people have written about the spot Ryan held in their lives, and it speaks volumes to how beloved he was in a community that largely thrives off snark and bitterness. And while I didn’t know him personally (my only interaction being mumbling something at him at PAX East a few years back about being a big fan), I do have one small fairly dumb story. It’s not dissimilar from my one Steve Jobs anecdote, although it’s not nearly as good.

April 1st is, of course, April Fools Day and/or Internet Asshole Day, full of terrible “pranks” around the internet. (I don’t do April Fools jokes after the prank to end all pranks in 2004.) The gaming community ends up particularly burdened with site owners trying really hard to do something witty and wacky, and it drives most of us up the wall. Including Ryan.

Having just finished Bioshock Infinite, I decided to try my luck at cracking a timely joke, which will (of course) only make sense if you’ve finished Infinite.

It may have been exhaustion from other bad jokes or the fact that Bioshock Infinite jokes hadn’t yet gotten obnoxious (we’d hit that milestone maybe an hour or two later), but it apparently amused Ryan enough to get a retweet out of him. And the subsequent back and forth of further Infinite/April-Fools-Is-Terrible jokes with my compatriot Benjamin Birdie also got retweets from him.

That initial retweet has been stuck at the top of my ThinkUp dashboard since April – something with the recent betas broke the insights from updating, and I’ve been too busy to really sort out fixing it. But perhaps it’s not broken; maybe the accomplishment of making Ryan chuckle on the worst day on the Internet for jokes is an achievement worth holding on to.

Anyway.

Dumb personal Twitter-based anecdotes aside – I’m not sure what the gaming industry will be like without Ryan in it, but I hope he inspires more people in it to be more honest, funny, and actually have a good time. More folks like Ryan, and less Dorito Popes, please.

A 20 Year Old Gaming Mystery, Solved At Last

While I don’t have a hard and fast date for an anniversary, this year feels like it’s roughly the point at which I’ve hit 30 years of playing video games. (Having just passed my 33rd birthday, this is a rather large amount of my life.) In that time, I have played countless games across most every platform ever released, and I have a surprisingly good memory of nearly every game I ever played.

Or perhaps I should say, every game, save one.

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Some Thoughts On DrupalCon Portland

It was somewhat funny to attend my first DrupalCon this week, given my personal trajectory of CMS systems over the years. For those that haven’t been with me since the very beginning: after cobbling together my own rudimentary CMS in 2000, I switched to Drupal for a good 18 months. An attempt to upgrade to the bleeding edge around 2003 nuked all my data, and in a fit of rage I switched to MovableType. A later fit of rage would take me from MT to WordPress. At the office, we’re embarking on a big transition to Drupal – so this as a training event made sense, even if I’m over a decade removed from my personal experience with it.

My conferencing experience has generally been in one of two buckets: Apple (I’ve attended 5 WWDC events over my time at WCMC) and OReilly (Web 2.0 and the retrospectively hilarious ETech Conference). But an open-source conference was something new, and so I wasn’t sure what to expect – although my personal stereotypes and biases towards any given nerd software bubble started to come together.

A few scattered thoughts:

The Drupal community, happily, is more diverse than I expected. Women were well represented – not a majority, but a constant presence. There was a wide range of ages and nationalities. There were thankfully few neckbeards or fedora hats.

As someone who is far removed from his engineering days, I was thankful that the tracks are broad and diverse. Standouts were Relly Annett-Baker on content strategy, the NBC Universal team on “internal open source”, and all three of the keynotes – which strikes me as a rare thing to have three keynote speakers that all knock it out of the park. There are direct lessons that I’m taking away that will make a difference to our community as we move forward with Drupal.

There is, however, an odd tension in the community around Acquia, a consulting/hosting/development company that seems to be partnered and competing with every other vendor at the show. We spoke at length with Acquia during our planning for Drupal at WCMC, and it’s interesting to see the dance from vendors who both have to compete in their space and sometimes rely on them for business. “Mafia-esqe” is how one person described it to me.

While I really enjoyed the content of DrupalCon, the venue (the Oregon Convention Center) was ill equipped for a modern conference. Flaky wifi, bad cell coverage, and a complete lack of power outlets meant I spent an larger amount of time swearing and worrying about power management than I should have.

One technology shout-out: GroupMe is a life saver when you’re traveling with a team to a conference. We had a total of 7 people from my office at the conference, and for coordinating meals / session seating / late night outings, it was perfect. We already use it in the office for some level of emergency coordination, but as a non-emergency tool it was beautiful. Highly recommended.

The conference was in Portland, giving me cause to visit Stumptown for the fourth time in under two years. Removed from my usual downtown hotel, being stuck near the convention center gave me more cause to explore by bus and MAX, and I finally ticked off most everything that was left on my Portland todo list. Visits were finally made to Pok Pok (that drinking vinegar! those wings!) and Screen Door (that fried chicken! that cake!), to Bunk Sandwiches (that cubano!) and Voodoo Donuts (that Portland Cream!). Salt and Straw (that ice cream!) ended up getting my business twice. As I joked on Twitter yesterday – Portland is why I’m fat. (Bring on THE WEEK OF SALAD AND WORKOUTS(tm).)

Having now done Portland to excess, I’ve put together a Foursquare list of all the places I’ve been and loved. It’s surprisingly complete: hotels, coffee shops, upscale restaurants, quick eats, bars, and green spaces all made it in. (It is actually be longer than my similarly themed NYC list.)

Struggling with the dark and responding to the light.