NYC Journey – Days 2 and 3

The last blog post was about the first day of traveling in New York. Due to a lack of time, the decision was made to group day 2 and 3 into the same blog post.  Here are a few highlights of the two days.

Day Two’s First Stop – The High Line

After the first day of walking around nonstop, I woke up fully rested, and a little soar. After a few stretches and deep determination, I ventured out into the snow to walk the High Line. For those who do not know, the High Line is a reclaimed train rail system that displaces public art and is a beautiful walk way.

The first panaramic photo is from 11th Ave and 4th St. Due to the snowy conditions, the rest of this side of the High Line was closed. 


While walking to the other end of the High Line, there were nice pieces of art and political commentary.  Here are just a few examples:




The other end of the High Line ends in the Meat Packing District.

Once departing from the High Line, it was time to grab lunch.  Since I was in the Meat Packing District, it only made sense to grab a decent burger.

Near the exit of the High Line was a Bill’s Bar and Burgers location. Though I asked for a medium rare burger, the staff must have misheard and cooked it medium well.  Other than the overcooked meat, the meal was really good.  The pretzel bun was a nice touch; plus the pickles were a hybrid sweet-dill style. The chili on the chili fries came with chunks of ham, and the strawberry shake really hit the spot.

Madison Square Garden – AKA Mecca

The hostel in which I said was only a few blocks from Madison Square Garden, so it is only natural that I would have to check out The Garden.  Lucky for me, the Big East Championship was in town.  The bad news, Friday night’s semi final games were almost sold out.  By the time I got to the ticket stands, the only tickets left were $120…yikes!!

So, what’s a guy to do?  Haggle with a scalper.  The first couple of scalpers were a little too shady, but I finally found a man who was willing to bargain.  After talking him down $40, I was able to get a ticket before the first game started.

In the main lobby area, Villanova’s pep band was playing some great classic fight songs.

The first game saw Villanova battle Seaton Hall.  During the first half of the game both teams looked sloppy. Missed shots, missed opportunities both offensively and defensively. It was surprising to see Villanova play this way; but then again, I hadn’t watched a full Villanova game this season, so what do I know about it?

What’s funny is that a guy sitting in the same row as me wore a Villanova hat, but cheering for Seton Hall. Not sure if he was drunk, lost a bet, or a was a last minute band wagoner.

During the second half of the ball game ‘Nova came out stronger and Seton Hall started cracking under the pressure.  Even though Villanova got the win, both the Seaton Hall and Villanova fans sitting next to me were very respect of one another.  In fact, it was a pleasure and a treat sitting next to these fans.  I only wish I could say at the same about the next game.

What is it about Xavier fans!?!?!  Maybe it was just the three rows of fans that sat next to me, but DAMN!  They took annoying fanbase to a whole new level.

Seriously, these fans were worse than “Whoo Girls” at an all you can drink ladies night event! Every shot, and I mean every shot made by Xavier, in the first 8 minutes of the game, this group stood up, hands in the air, and reacted like their team won the Big Dance.

As you’re reading this, you may be saying, “Big Jer, you may be right, but it’s only a few friends.” No, this wasn’t a few friends.  Again, this group spanned three rows. THREE ROWS!!!  Here are a few examples of what transpired with this group:

  • 6 minutes into the game, the group talked about one of their friends that had a meltdown before the game.  I mean, could you blame the man for a meltdown.
  • While one guy went to get beer for him and his girl, the girl wasted no time hitting on the “friend” sitting beside her. It got so bad that I felt like I was an investigator on Cheaters!
  • On guy bragged about watching a couple making out for a long period of time.
  • Oh, and they all drank their beers from a straw! A freakin’ straw. Though I stopped drinking months ago, never (and I mean NEVER) did I drink beer from a straw.

During halftime of the Xavier game, the fan group continued to grow and starting merging into my row.  Deciding it was best for my mental health, I left and decided to walk around the lobby of the Garden.  Here are some great items I saw walking around the world’s most famous arena:

Day Three – No Sleep Till Brooklyn

For the last day in NYC, I expanded my geographical boundaries, and took the subway to the Brooklyn Bridge.  A good friend had recommended a pizza restaurant located underneath the bridge.

Grimaldi’s is a Brooklyn staple and a must for anyone visiting the Brooklyn Bridge. Their pizzas are cooked in a coal oven, which is appropriate given my West Virginian Italian roots.   As you can see, the place has a classic pizzeria theme.

When visiting Grimaldi’s be sure to bring your appetite; the restaurant does not offer pizza by the slice. Here are a couple of photos from inside Grimaldi’s.

After lunch, I walked around the area to let the pizza settled before crossing the bridge.  There were some great looking murals painted near the Brooklyn Bridge.

The view from dock outside of Grimaldi’s was awesome, and, of course, I couldn’t resist a typical tourist selfie.

While walking to the bridge, I was able to meet two young men from Japan.  They were visiting New York and had been in the city for less than three months.  Though these men had been living in the city, this was their first walk to the Brooklyn Bridge…in fact, it was their first time to Brooklyn.  The two men were surprised to hear I was only in town for a few days, but when I explained the flight is only two hours, the quickly understood.  What surprised them even more, was that I visited the city alone.  They applauded me for the courage to visit the city solo, and when I again reiterated the two hour flight, they didn’t flinch with their assessment of courage.  I, in turn, applauded them for their courage to travel to another country and live in it for nearly three months.

Walking across the bridge was incredible.  Even thought it was below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, it was still a great walk.  The see the people, look at the cars driving below me, and feeling a strong spirit of community was a lot to take in for me.

 

Closing Notes

Though there are other things I did at the end of my trip, this felt like a great way to end the story.  Not to sound too cheesy, but this vacation opened my eyes in different ways than planned.  In fact, the only plan I had for this trip was to take a few days and get away.  What it turned into was an opportunity to clear my head and gain new experiences.

If you have ever thought about taking a solo vacation somewhere, but never have, I strongly recommend it.

New York – Day 1 of a Beginners Guide

While having lunch with an acquaintance a few weeks ago, it came to my attention that traveling to New York to Knoxville is currently inexpensive.  After conducting research, and accepting a couple of days off from work, I decided to visit The Big Apple.

Never traveling to New York before, I also decided to document each day.  When I visited France and Italy right after High School, I took a journal with me, but didn’t document a large part of the events.  That lack of documentation is something I regret, so I decided not to make the same mistake again.

Not only is this the first time I’ve been to New York; it is also the first time I’ve ever taken a vacation this far all by myself.  No traveling partners, no friends to visit in the city…all alone.  Don’t get me wrong; I’ve traveled alone for work related conferences and events, but to travel for leisure alone

Years ago, this type of trip would have scared me to death.  The fear of being alone somewhere new, the idea of not sharing it with somebody always caused me not to do it.  No longer having that type of fear, I went ahead and booked a flight and found a hostel.

Planning and Landing


Allegiant Air flies out of Knoxville and lands in Newark. The flights are set three days a week: Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.  For this trip, I decided a Thursday to Sunday mini-vacation would be perfect.

Upon landing in Newark, it is really easy to find the air train to the train stop at the airport.

Standard selfie in the hostel bedroom

The train ride to Penn. Station is roughly 40 minutes and allows you to see rustic, urban views of New Jersey, plus a cool skyline of New York City.

Knowing I was going to be at Penn. Station, I was able to find an extremely affordable hostel via airbnb in Chelsea. The hostel cost less than $80 a night, and is conveniently located on 8th Ave.  In fact, this hostel takes all the profits from the hostel and uses it to help feed the homeless.  How cool is that! To learn more about the hostel, visit their aibnb site – Chelsea Retreat Rooms.

Day 1

Once I unpacked at the hostel, it was time for a late lunch. After searching online for the best pizza in Chelsea, I came across Pizza Suprema. Their margarita pizza was awesome. So awesome that I ate it before having the chance to do the  obligatory eating a pizza selfie! 

While eating, I doubled checked the weather and one thing was certain, my first day in town was going to be the warmest. With that in mind, I decided to walk to Time Square and soak in the touristy sites.

Walking to Time Square was great! In fact, I had a stereotypical event happened, in that an up and coming drag queen offer to “buy” one cigarette from me. She then went on to tell me about her show and mentioned a “private” viewing.

I don’t have any photos of Time Square to really share. Maybe later on in my trip. Hell, if you want to see photos of Time Square, there’s always Google!

Later that evening I was able to take in two great shows, and I’m not talking Broadway…or the private show that was mentioned earlier.

Two Night Stops

The Comedy Cellar is a place I’ve wanted to visit for years.  All the greats have performed there and I wanted to experience it first hand. Since I didn’t make a reservation, I had to wait with all the other slackers and procrastinators to see if there would be any room left for the show. While waiting to see if my name would be called, a traveling drug dealer shouted at me between his blunt hits –

Get your black eyes to stop avoiding my black face. I don’t have any cocaine for you.

Please note, I didn’t ask this man for any drugs, nor was I looking for any.

What I was looking for was a way to get into the 8pm show.  Luckily for me, I made friends with door man, and secured the last open spot for the show!

The lineup was stellar. An Emmy award winner writer for Last Week Tonight, a writer for last years Emmy’s…the list goes on and on. Plus the food was okay.

After getting my laughs in for the night, I walked on down to Smalls Live to catch the 10pm show. With a one drink minimum, I loaded up on coffee and relaxed while the group played some killer jazz. The first act consisted of a pianist, xylophone player, soprano saxophonist, tenor saxophonist stand up bass player, and drummer. The pianist was a Brit and looked like a stand in for Ed Begley, Jr. the xylophonist looked like the hippest dude in the room, and all the women chasing him during intermission was living proof of that statement. The drummer was the front man and has been coming to Smalls since 98.

Enough rambling for day one.

Any suggestions for the rest of the trip?

Fighting a Mountain

Hatfied McCoy 2014Back in June, I ran my first half marathon of the year.  The Hatfield and McCoy Half Marathon was held June 14th and runs through both West Virginia and Kentucky.  This was a great event for several reasons:

  • Family – Jennifer, Max and I got to spend time with several family members.
  • Nostalgia – I grew up in the great state of West Virginia and (for a short time) the Commonwealth of Kentucky, so it was fun to run in places I haven’t seen since I was a child.
  • Conquering a mountain…this will take more than one sentence.

Part of the half marathon runs up Blackberry Mountain (elevation shown below) making the difference between the minimum and maximum elevation 635 feet.  In other words,  this half marathon was the most difficult run I have ever tried.

Hatfield Mileage

 

Training for this event required more than just running my regular routine.

Conditioning

I had been increasing my running mileage each week, but I realized that wasn’t enough.  In addition to increasing mileage, I also increased the number of hills I would run.  Though running Cherokee Boulevard would be a fun treat, I kicked it up a notch by adding Noelton Drive and Mellen Avenue.  To mix up my weekly runs, I would run the hills in my neighborhood or go to Dowell Springs.  By running different inclines at different levels and points, it conditioned my body to withstand conquering the Mountain.

Core Training

Working on my core, specifically my lower back and hips, really helped with my running.  Having a stronger lower back and abs section allowed me to run further due to having a more solid foundation.  Building my hips enabled me to increase my speed and keep my body more balanced.

New Running Stance

In a previous post, I mention working with the team at Provision Physical Therapy.  They watched me run on a treadmill and showed me a better running form and stance.  They taught me to lean forward and to have a midfoot strike.  This helped me increase my speed, and in the long run, will help prevent certain injuries.

Visualize

Mountain vs Red ViperLeading up to the race, I decided to visualize the Mountain as an actual person/character.  Being a fan of Game of Thrones, I pictured the Mountain as…the Mountain.  As I would run, I picture myself going to battle against The Mountain.  By doing this, I made sure not have the same fate as his victims; more importantly, it allowed me to think of the race in a different, comical position.

Notice how all four of these steps align with one another perfectly. Without the first two points: Conditioning and Core Training, I would not have had the strength to have a new running stance.  Without visualizing the Mountain, I could have lost interest in conditioning every week.

Though these points are tied to running, the same school of thought can be tied to other plans and objectives in life.  Think of your business, does your strategic plan have connected steps that align with your main business objective(s)?  Do you just put something together and hope it works, or do you create a plan that is measurable?

If I would have just went out running three times a week with no plan, I probably could have finished the half marathon, but I wouldn’t have finished with these results:

Hatfield Results 2014

What kind of mountains have you conquered?  Please feel free to share your story in the comments section.

 

7 Centimeters Vs. 13.1 Miles

Measuring TapeAt the beginning of the year, I began a weight loss program that was fueled by a “biggest loser competition” and training for a half-marathon.  The good news is that I won the competition, but the bad news was that I was unable to run the half-marathon due to a nagging injury.  Though I would like to speak more on the victory, this post will focus on the latter and how one small detail can derail big plans.

The injury occurred while completing a run 10 days before the half-marathon.  After the run, my right calf was in extreme pain, to the point it was hard to put weight on it.  After checking with my doctor and two physical therapist, the answer was a little surprising: my left foot was over 7 centimeters shorter than my right foot which caused an overcompensation in the right leg when running.  While training for long distance running, the overcompensation got the best of my calf causing it to be over used and extended.  Fortunately I worked with a fantastic physical therapist (Dean Douglas and his team at Provision Therapy) and am back to my regular distance while improving my overall pace.  With this experience, I was able to take away some points that can be applied to work and life.

Details, Details, Details

devil-details-cartoonEver have a great idea and have it fall apart over one little detail?  Well, that’s what happened to my training.  I’ve also had this happen with projects at work and situations in my life.  I’m sure everyone has run into this problem at one point and has heard the old saying:

The devil is in the details.

How to resolve this?

  • Learn from your mistakes: The best advice I received early in my career was from my mentor Dick Prince.  When I made a big mistake during my first year in banking, Dick could have given me a hard time.  As a member of the Bank’s HR department, he could have easily fired me.  At the very least, he could have lectured me for hours but instead, he asked me what I had learned from the mistake.  After spending a few minutes explaining what had went wrong and how it could have been avoided, I walked away knowing the mistake wouldn’t happen again.
  • Ask for Help: Is asking for help something you struggle with?  It took me a long time to realize that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, in fact it shows you are smart enough to know your faults. When it comes to a work project, I have a detailed-oriented person I know and trust review any important work that will have a lasting impact.  I encourage them to pick apart the entire project, and am ready to handle any criticism.

 

Balancing Act

imagesBecause there is a difference in height with my legs, my body is out of balance.  It wasn’t until I started performing balance exercises that I realized how out of balance my body was.  Fortunately no one was around to video my balancing training.

Balance in life is just as important.  Not being focused on the job can lead to a termination; but being so focused on work to the point of neglecting your family can lead to divorce.  Instead of thinking about juggling, think about integration.

Juggling vs Integration

People often think of time management as juggling which often leads to conflict.  This conflict causes an internal struggle of deciding what should be more important in your life.  Instead of thinking of it as choosing one over the other in a battle of supremacy, think about how each positively balances the other.  This type of perception eliminates any negative tendencies and instead focuses on how different aspects of your life complement your total well-being.

Closing the Gap

By keeping an eye on the details and living a balanced life, you will be able to close any gaps in your life.  This will, in turn, help you conquer tough challenges and uncover new opportunities.

Hopefully you have found this post insightful and entertaining.  Again, big props to Provision Therapy.  Check them out at www.provisiontherapy.com or find them on Facebook.

What mistakes have you experienced in life that you have walked away from knowing you won’t make again?

Where Have You Been?

Question MarksOn New Year’s Day, while attending an annual brunch hosted by my good friend Dave May, another good friend, Dave Lewis, made the comment, “Are you still blogging?  I haven’t seen any recent post.”

While explaining to Dave why I haven’t been blogging two things came to mind:

  1. Since moving to Knoxville over 5 years ago, I have came to know several people named Dave/David.
  2. Has it been that long since writing a post?

It’s true, there hasn’t been any writing lately.   There are a few new post that will go live in the days to come, but instead of just jumping back in the route like an automated program, I thought addressing the absence of writing would be a good start.  Which got me thinking: what have I been doing?

  • Keeping up with Max
  • Spending time with Jennifer
  • Running from time to time
  • Work
  • Reading
  • Light traveling
  • Watching football
  • Lots of playing Madden on the Xbox

I’m not saying life got in the way of blogging, it’s just blogging wasn’t a priority.  I had choices and blogging wasn’t one of them.  There are two activities that could have been reduced to make time for blogging, and if you don’t know which two I’m talking about, maybe you should take a look at your own activities.

For now, I’m writing again and the goal is to find enough balance so that I don’t have to write a quick post about an absence.

So for those few (very, very few) readers out there…

Im back Frank Costanza

It’s 2014 and time to start anew.  Sorry for the absence.  Hopefully I’ll be able to produce material that’s enjoyable and informative.

What have you been absent from lately?  Was it worth it or do you miss it?

Lessons from Bill Murray

bill-murray-birthdayYesterday was Bill Murray’s 63rd Birthday.  Bill has been a staple in my life.  As a child, I was fan of Ghostbusters; as a teen, I was a fan of Caddyshack; and now no Wes Anderson movie is complete without Mr. Murray playing a supporting role that steals the show.

But beyond his roles in Hollywood; what can we learn from Bill Murray?

Earlier in the week, the Huffington Post had an article titled: “The Life And Times Of Bill Murray In One Awesome Infographic”  While reviewing it a few items came to light:

Be True to Yourself

People say I’m difficult and sometimes that’s a badge of honour. – Bill Murray

As the infographic points out, in 1999, frustrated with “Hollywood” Bill dropped his talent agency and replaced it with an 888 phone number.  What some would consider career suicide actually benefited Bill; just take a look at the numbers:

Bill Graph In the 1980’s and 1990’s Bill was in a total of 26 movies.  In the 2000’s Bill was in 24 movies!  He almost did the same number of movies in half the time.

Though one may take a quick look at this and question if the quantity had any quality, then one may forget that Bill received his first (and currently only) Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in Lost in Translation.

Be Loyal to Your Friends

There are people who drove me crazy, but they got the job done. And when I see that person again, I nod my head. Respect. – Bill Murray

Though Bill may not be “friends” in the traditional sense with the following people, he has been very loyal to them throughout the years.

  • David Letterman: Bill was David Letterman’s first guest on both his late night shows and has appeared 22 times on David’s shows.  With the most recent being this great clip.
  • Wes Anderson: Since 1998, Bill Murray has starred in 6 Wes Anderson films.  Though that may not sound like much, that is every film Wes Anderson has done since 1998.

Regardless of who you are, once you make a connection with Bill, you’re in it for life.

Know How to Have Fun

I don’t want to be that guy mumbling into his drink at a bar. – Bill Murray

It seems comedy comes easy to Bill because he knows how to have fun.  Recently he has made news for crashing parties and randomly playing “guess who” to people on the streets.  If anyone else did this, they would be accused of being crazy or self-centered, but not Bill.  He truly does this to have fun with people and, in his own way, celebrate life.

So, take a few pages out of Bill’s book and enjoy the infographic, courtesy of Mike Seiders.  Oh and Happy Belated Birthday, Bill Murray!

Creating Fans

Ali BabaWhat makes a business build a strong following?  Here’s one great example

If you live in Knoxville, by now you have heard about Ali Baba’s Time Out Deli and hopefully you were able to experience it before the owners decided to close the deli.  Every visit was an experience and no two visits were alike.  The two men who ran the establishment had a passion for what they did.  They loved talking to people, took pride in their work; and it created a strong fan base.  Here are three basic rules the owners of Ali Baba’s stood by:

Create a Great Product

Sounds simple, but many businesses fail because their product is too bland.  In the case of Ali Baba’s, they decided to have a menu that offered different items.

  • Traditional Deli Sandwiches: Pastrami sandwiches, roast beef and many more deli sliced awesome sandwiches.
  • Burgers and Such:  The Vol Burger, hot dogs and chicken sandwiches.
  • Middle Eastern Dishes: Falafel options, hummus and the infamous King Solomon Chicken plate.

By no means did I try everything on the menu, but the items I did eat, I loved.  They made the best pastrami sandwich in town and the King Solomon Chicken was a great dinner any day of the week.

Provide Excellent Service

A company can have the offer the best product every made, but without focusing on service, it is destined for failure.  The two men who worked at Ali Baba’s were always happy to see customers and went out of their way to show their appreciation.  They never made their customers feel like an inconvenience and were always willing to share suggestions to customers when customers were debating what they wanted to eat.

While waiting for the meals to be prepared, the guys would either be going on with some kind of banter, make you laugh at a quick joke or would have a conversation about what was on their television. There were a few winter nights I would walk in there tired and cold, but because of their warm personalities, I always walked out happy and feeling good.

Be Different

Ali Baba’s wasn’t for everybody.  It was a vibe that was all its own.  They didn’t try to be all things to all people.  It was a deli in East Tennessee with a Middle Eastern twist.  You couldn’t order a beer with you Vol Burger; though you could purchase a hookah.  They didn’t have fountain drinks with unlimited refills, but you could purchase exotic canned sodas.  People chose to eat at Ali Baba’s because they knew it was something they couldn’t get anywhere else in town.

These three basic principles helped sustain Ali Baba’s Time Out Deli for 40 years. It created a loyal fan base of people who flocked there on a regular basis.  For those loyal individuals who lived outside of Knoxville, they would always make sure to stop by when passing through town.  It was a deli, but more importantly it was an experience.

What was your experience at Ali Baba’s Time Out Deli?

Never been, then what experience have you had with a business that left you wanting more?

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