New York, NY, USA! Famous and infamous in the same breath. The centre of the financial world. Home for Times Square, Central Park, and Broadway. The place to be seen, but not caught!
And home to the Industrial Designer Society of America's (IDSA) 2003 tradeshow. The show was all about "Cool"; what defines it, how it works, how to capture it. QFD partnered with the CAD software supplier PTC and stupendous product design house Smart Design to create a booth presenting the "Cool" of PTC products and their potentials.
I didn't really expect to enjoy New York. I've shied away from east coast cities for a while, the cities feeling too constrained, too convoluted, too frenetic for a boy used to organized west coast spaces and artificially chaotic caffeine-driven people. I was excited anyway; excited to see the show, excited to continue my camera adventures from Europe, and excited to see my PTC and Smart Design friends.
I flew east on a red-eye, an annoyingly short night eased by the spoils of a last-minute first-class upgrade on Alaska Airlines. Watching dawn spread over land continues to be a consuming and private event for me. In an awakening of millions of souls, one soars alone, absorbing the surety of the sun, the contagious beauty of a common earth, the unceasing motion of the world.
Many trains blazed through the Newark Airport's station before one obliged itself to engulf passengers into it's already crowded innards, passengers with multi-day baggage, no less. I was relieved that the bulky show items had were being shipped to the Times Square Marriott, otherwise I would have had to squeeze a place for cumbersome boxes amongst already-bored Wednesday commuters. The train raced and squealed along the rails, through dark tunnels, and finally into Manhattan's Penn Station. After the silky smoothness of European railway, this train felt on the order of primitive. A primitive, however, that had set schedules, wasn't surrounded by single occupant vehicles and had an amazing transit system waiting at the terminus. The lady I sat next to the rollicking train befriended me towards the end of the commute, illuminating me about the best stairs and, after a grin at my accent, wishing me a good stay in NY.
I ascended into organized disorder. Trying not to be too much a neophyte (difficult with too few hours of sleep, small glasses limiting my peripheral perception and unruly baggage in tow), I walked and stopped and scooted in and out of traffic flows, finally asking for and locating the uptown train. How to describe the feeling, the first experience with NY, underground and at 8am? Disorder fits, but there was a flow to the chaos, and a way of walking through the crowds I did not have. I fought through the crowds, even when I was moving with the flow. Yet others swept past, moving silently and smoothly to the click of heels. I was still too disoriented, too impeded by the openness and regularity of west coast commuting to operate smoothly.
I wasn't mobbed or probably even looked at sideways on the short trip from Penn Station to 42nd Street in Midtown. I was too busy navigating and being aware about being alive and awake to think about using my camera. Off the train and up for a first glimpse of NY proper, the streets of Manhattan! Well, NY Manhattan proper, since some would argue that the Bronx, Brooklyn, or even a different district of Manhattan is NY proper. Grey. Lights. Yellow. Taxi. Tall. First impressions are supposed to be the most important, yet I can say that NY's first impression has not defined my feelings of NY. I fumbled into the Marriott, checked in by tossing a VISA card at a patient lady who understood my mumblings, engaged in a valiant battle with a fork (still not at all enchanted with most hotel food), then fell into bed after a glimpse out my 41st story window (my love of high perches wins over sleep any day).
I organized myself for the IDSA opening downstairs, accepted my packages with a grin (oh yea, I'm glad they were shipped) and went to meet Tim and Bill from PTC and John from Smart Design. We opened the show in style, the PTC backdrop well lit behind four courageous fishers. Tim had several good grouses about the absolutely outrageous 'shipping' prices charged by the intra-Marriott moving union.
And of course, what to do after a show but find drink and food! We piled 5 companies into two taxis and rolled south into the Meatpacking District. The recommended place for eats was closed, but we found a nearby 24-hour diner that was open. (This diner was 24-hour except for 5 hours on Sunday morning. The weekly cleaning?) Burgers and beer all around. Tim and I played old men and escaped for bed, leaving Thomas, Chris, John and Bill to enjoy the abusive bar they had in mind.
This would be a day not to forget. I was up early to wander with my camera, searching for sights, sensations and delights. The streets felt different. Or, at least, I felt different about the streets. Sleep has it's magic. I still didn't have the flow I'd seen yesterday, but I could sense a motion, a focus possessed by those with the walk. The Marriott faces onto Times Square, infusing my second solo intro to NY with a mildly over the top, tediously touristy patina. But it was worth probing the patina of the 'Theatre District' for at least one walking loop; the grand gusto of lights, action, and cameras; long strings of taxis attempting to be everywhere at once; the interplay between hawkers and police.
I returned to the Marriott refreshed and ready to play dress-up (and eat a little food). I swooped back outside after the lunch session for a couple-hour wander in my IDSA finery, a break before being hotel-ized again that afternoon. My feet took me southeast then uptown past Grand Central Station. Rush hour traffic was not rushing yet, even at close to 4pm, but the people on the streets were still amazing. I was starting to get a feel for the NY walk. It is all about creating a flow, a focus and an attitude. "I'm going this way and don't mess with me." Seemingly much like European traffic, and all about creating and establishing right-of-way. I toured Grand Central, shared a laugh with a restaurant host about oblivious tourists and saw the lights flicker briefly once. Hmm.