Thursday, November 29, 2007

NYC Traffic: Not for Claustrophobes

A colleague of mine was in town this week from Germany, and we had some appointments scheduled together all day Tuesday. Being that this was his first time in the U.S., I suggested that it might be fun for him to stay in NYC - see some of the sights, take in the city, etc. There's nothing sexy about going back to your friends in Germany and telling them that you took in 'Central New Jersey'. So he took my advice, and booked an expensive hotel room right in Midtown Manhattan. (Most hotel rooms in NYC this time of year are about $400-$600 a night, with all the tourists in town to see Rockefeller Center, etc.)

My fateful hotel suggestion came back to haunt me as I sat in traffic for a good 2 hours during morning rush hour on my way to pick him up. I left my place around 7:00am - and didn't arrive at his hotel near Times Square until about 9:00am - a drive that would normally take about 30 minutes. I have 150 XM Radio Channels - so passing the time isn't so bad, it's more the white knuckled, caged-in, and other-worldly experience of driving in New York City.

First off, there are only 4 types of vehicles you will see in Manhattan:
  • Taxi Cabs
  • Limos and Lincoln Towncars (basically fancy taxis)
  • Delivery Vehicles
  • and a distant 4th...normal cars like mine

If you happen to be driving during morning or afternoon rush hour, you also have an additional crush of pedestrians on their way to and from work. Surprisingly, the crowds are pretty good at only crossing the street when the traffic lights tell them to. But not all of them. People are constantly darting out onto the streets, and running across wherever they please. If I could write J-walking tickets, I could retire a billionaire in about a month.

I'm typically a fairly docile driver; about as far as you can get from road rage. But in the 3 or 4 hours I was 'driving' around the city - I probably hit my horn 10 to 15 times. It's true, and not just a cliche - there really are overweight guidos in delivery vans laying on their horns and yelling, "OH! What is this guy doin! Move it buddy!!!" Polite Midwestern drivers will get eaten alive in this jungle. You see an opening - you gotta take it, or 3 cars will zoom in before you blink. Also, if you don't like close quarters - you better stay away. Cars are wedged in so close - I was fairly certain I was going to be sideswiped about 5 different times. This fear is amplified when you're driving a fairly new car without a scratch on it.

If you're not planning to cruise Manhattan anytime soon, here's how you can recreate the experience in your own peaceful suburb:

  • Get 5 friends, and have them box your car in with their cars. As tight as possible.
  • Find an elementary school, and get 100 third graders to play a giant game of tag all around the area where your cars are parked.
  • Open a can of bees in your car, and keep the windows up.
  • Now, everyone inch their cars forward - one at a time, but never more than 3 feet at a time.
  • Try not to run over any children, and do your best to ignore the swirling bees.
  • If available, put in a CD with recorded sounds of horns honking and policemen blowing whistles.

In the end it was worth it - my customers ate up this guy and his German accent, and we closed 2 pretty sizeable deals. We Americans are suckers for a foreign accent.

When you finally get clear of the city traffic, every corpuscle in your body wants to get out on a freeway and drive 100 mph. I also had an overwhelming urge to go running when I got home. I can't help but think that if you lived in Manhattan, you'd have this closed-in feeling all the time....

Friday, November 23, 2007

Straight Chill

This weekend I stuck around the east coast - deciding not to make the journey back to the Midwest for Thanksgiving. Since most everyone I know is a couple thousand miles away - I tend to play the loner card really well. If you've never gone out to a random bar or restaurant by yourself - and just enjoyed your own company, I highly suggest it. I just get into random adventures, and start up conversations with all sorts of people. Enjoyable and educational at the same time.

Thanksgiving evening, I found myself in an upscale gin joint - with a great low key vibe going on. I was having my drink of choice - Glenlivet with one ice cube, chatting up the bartender - when a great song came on. I couldn't have picked it better myself, and if you've ever been in one of my houses or apartments - you'd know that this very easily could come drifting across anytime I'm around.

Stress is not an emotion/sensation that I experience, and I try and steer clear of people who are angst ridden and 'stressed out'. So, if this holiday season you find yourself a little too worked up and strung out....just put on a little Bill Withers, pour some wine, and chill out.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

See You Around, Torii

Ugh. I'm not sure I was quite prepared to have Torii Hunter gone from the Twins. The news rolled across the ticker early this morning that Torii had signed with the Angels. It was no secret that Hunter was testing the free agent market, but I guess I kinda figured there'd be a bit more back and forth - with the Twins making a last ditch effort to keep him. But now we have no center fielder, and I also now have an expensive autographed Hunter Jersey hanging in my closet that I can never wear again. I guess that's why I invest in stocks and mutual funds rather than sports memorabilia.

Hunter was labeled as the heir apparent to Kirby Puckett - even taking up residence in the locker next to Puckett during the one season they played together. However, Hunter never quite captured hearts like Puckett - but truthfully, nobody could.

Torii's defense has been the best in baseball for the 5+ years, but his bat never measured up. He chased too many pitches, and had a stigma for choking in key situations. Still, Hunter was the only consistent part of the '07 Twins lineup, and his charm and team leadership were second to none.

If the Twins don't find a way to keep Santana, I'm going to be even more disappointed...and I'd rather not complete my trio of useless jerseys: Randy Moss, Torii Hunter, and Johan Santana.

Thanksgiving buzz kill.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pucker Up....or Something

In an average week, I'd wager that I shake about 40 hands. 40 different people, 40 unique handshakes. Everyone has a different grip, different pressure, single pump or double pump... In general, the handshake is pretty straightforward: Extend hand, meet other hand, grip, pump. I still meet plenty of people that don't know how to shake a hand properly (and this annoys me) - but 99 times out of 100 you can pull off a handshake without any problems.

But on the east coast I've recently become cognizant of a different greeting - popular in more social environments: the cheek kiss. Specifically, this seems to be the popular 'hello' and 'goodbye' for any female outside of the professional business world. If you're not from the east coast or Europe, you've probably seen this most often on tv....when Posh Spice kisses Donatella Versace goodbye on some red carpet. It's not really cheek kissing in the Michael Corleone/Fredo sense of the word - more like cheek nuzzling while making a kissing noise. I think...

Now, this cheek kiss looks all well and good on tv, but when it is suddenly thrust upon you in the first person, as it was to me recently, I was terrified. Let me explain...

Tuesday night I was at a swank little watering hole with a few people, and a buddy introduced me to a young lady friend of his. A hot Asian by the way. But I digress. Anyway, we chatted for about a half hour, and then when she got up to leave - she came at me with the cheek kiss. I had an immediate momentary panic - is she going for the left side or the right side? Is it a single cheek or double cheek? Do I actually kiss the cheek, or just make the kissing noise in the air? And where do you put your hands during this whole affair? Do I do the ass-out, A-frame position?

To the best of my beer-fogged recollection, I think she really did most of the work. I pretty much just froze up, didn't move, and it was over before I knew what hit me - literally.

This greeting is clearly not something we practice in the Midwest, and the social norms of this greeting have never been bestowed upon me. Though, I guess this gesture makes sense in some regards - I've never really felt comfortable shaking hands with women friends/colleagues. Too formal; feels like we should be negotiating a contract and then signing some paperwork. But the standard 'hug' is a bit too cozy for most situations....and I'm not much of a hugging person anyway.

So, as they say - "When in Rome". I guess it's time to get on board and get used to this cheek kissing thing. There's really no other option here - because when the chick comes at you with the kissing thing - what can you do, thrust your hand out quickly and intercept her with a handshake? If I do that, I'm going to end up jabbing a whole generation of women in the gut, and I'm not sure that's the image I want to be putting out there.

Note: Man on Man cheek kissing is not allowed. Stubble burn from another man is not going to sit well with me.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Fragrance Makes the Man

east coast mark doesn't have a 'Mission Statement' per say - but if we did, it would include a line about helping my fellow man move beyond the 'frat boy' stage of life. That said, it's time we discuss fragrance and cologne.

east coast mark feels you should never leave the house without fragrance. Your scent is a primitive calling card to those around you and lets them know you're around...and that you mean business. At a subconscious and animal level, your scent and pheromones telegraph a sense of vigor and prowess to the opposite sex. Long story short - you want to telegraph the right story.

Still, there's so much confusion amongst men about which cologne to wear, when to wear it, and how to apply it. I'm here to help.

First off, buy a decent cologne(s). That bottle your mom gave you in 10th grade is not going to cut it anymore. Spend some time at an upscale store - Nordstroms or Macy's - and smell 10 or 15 different scents. My belief is that you need two different colognes - a daytime and an evening. A fragrance you wear to dinner with a woman is not necessarily the same fragrance you should wear during the day closing an important deal, or meeting your key clients for lunch.

Secondly, how should I apply my fragrance? A common mistake is applying the cologne to your clothes. Many men think that spraying your cologne on your shirt will allow it to last throughout the day. This is actually the complete opposite of what you want to do. You want to apply the cologne to the areas of your skin that will generate heat, and allow the fragrance to mix with your natural pheromones. I recommend the neck, behind the ear, and on your wrist. These are areas where the skin is thin, and the blood is pumping. Picture a quiet dinner with a woman - and you lean in to hear her whisper into your ear....and in return, she gets a pleasant scent from the cologne gently emanating from behind your ear. You get the picture.

Some dont's:

  • Don't apply more than 2 sprays of the cologne. You're an upscale gentleman - not a frat boy with a collection of 30 Abercrombie T-shirts.
  • Don't think certain situations don't require cologne. A scent is your calling card - and better to smell pleasant than to smell like stank sweat sock. I never leave the house without fragrance. I mean, you never know - right?

Every time I go home to visit my parents, the same situation invariably repeats itself - almost verbatim: I'll typically spend the day with my family, but often go out to meet old friends in the evening. After a shower - I always apply fragrance and dress for the evening. When I say goodbye to my mother, she detects the scent and ALWAYS says, "Oh. So do we have a date tonight? I can smell you. You must have a date. Who are you meeting?"

If you can learn anything from my mother - it's that your scent means business, and it's time you get with the program. Me? I wear Polo Blue during the day, and Polo Double Black in the evening and winter. Grab a sniff of these two next time you're by the cologne section of the store - and you can take a little piece of east coast mark with you.