Thursday, May 15, 2003

The 30-hour blog.

Missed the lunar eclipse tonight. Our sky is overcast.

New York IX was a short trip, no more than 30 hours in that city all together. I’ve read that Tuesday flights are the least crowded, and ATA 224 was only about half full, taking off on time and landing at LaGuardia a few minutes ahead of schedule (but, it should be noted, that ATA seems to inflate its travel time estimates, thus scoring more on-time arrivals). Our flight attendant Terry was in a cheerful mood, and at one point she explained that when she was younger she had been a real estate agent in Florida. “I like this a lot better,” she said. Uncrowded flights must always be good; that and the fact that ATA isn’t, say, American or United.

(ATA = American Trans Air, headquartered in Indianapolis, with hubs there and at Midway in Chicago, where I left from. It’s essentially the same business model as Southwest.)

Real Estate Media’s — my company’s — offices are in Midtown, not far south of the Theater District and even closer to Madison Square Garden and Penn Station. HQ is in a class B office building in a district of largely class C retail space, which is to say a moderately grimy area. To reach REM HQ, the cab passed through the Queens Midtown Tunnel and across Manhattan at about 36th Street, which was slow going in late morning.

At times like that, I’m inclined to think that the famous hustle & bustle of Manhattan is just congestion, created by very specific structural circumstances. When the grid that became Midtown and Uptown was created, little room was set aside for alleys. None in most places, it seems. The upshot of that is that most deliveries have to take place on the street, jamming the place with trucks. That, and garbage pickup is from the street as well, which means that it piles up on the sidewalks. Maybe there isn’t enough room on a small island for the luxury of alleys, but in any case I believe it’s one of the main ingredients in Manhattan’s (in)famous urban feel.

I did see one thing on the way in that I’d never seen before: a paper shredding truck. It was a mid-sized vehicle with the company name on the side, and a small window that looked into the truck, where you could see wads of shredded paper. An ad on the side of truck promised a speedy, efficient shredding service that comes right to your office. Interesting that there’s a market for this kind of drive-by document destruction. But the company needed a zippy motto on that truck, such as: “We’ll get there before the SEC does!”

Most of the rest of the day was swallowed up by meetings, or by me visiting with people I know in that office (after three years, quite a few now), especially the managing editor of Real Estate Chicago, whose job is to shepherd the material we in Chicago provide through the production department, which is at the main office. At the end of the business day, my boss Michael took me and the managing editor, Cara, to a place called Murano Ristorante on 36th Street, very near the office.

Had a fine dinner there. But this is why I could never be a food writer: the extent of my knowledge of the soft-shell crab that I ate was this: boy, it was good. I’m not even sure how it was cooked or what kind of spices transformed it from a mere crustacean into a crunchy pleasure. It was a special of the day, and I was intrigued enough to order it when the waiter said that it had recently come into season. Further reason reveals that typically blue crabs lose their shells in the spring, and spend the summer re-growing them. In between, they get to be soft-shell crabs, if they land on a plate.

Tomorrow: Neither snow, nor rain…


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