My friends Kathleen and Atom got married to each other last week, and Anne and I went to New York for their wedding.
It's the first time I've been to New York and the first time Anne and I have been able to go anywhere together for more than two days in forever, so I decided to keep business to a minimum while we were there (as it turns out, a lot of people I work with in various capacities live in Manhattan, and it would have been all-too-easy to end up with six hours of meetings a day.)
During the height of my "Hey, you're that guy on TV" years, I went to New York every couple of months for press events, meetings, and other PR-related things. I'm sure I went there for at least one Star Trek convention, but in my memory, New York, Philly, and Pittsburgh are all conflated and I couldn't tell you which was which.
(Hey! Want to know how to piss off everyone who lives in New York, Philly and Pittsburgh? Tell them you've been to their cities but can't tell them apart. Before you send in angry cards and letters, I don't mean the cities. I mean the conventions. In fact, I've done so many conventions in my life, it's a miracle that I can keep any of them separate from another in my brain, which I've tried so hard to kill with beer over the years.)
Anne and I were very excited to go to New York. We absolutely adore our friends, who are absolutely perfect for each other, and we were both tremendously excited to get some time away together in one of the coolest cities on the planet.
We took the Red Eye out of LAX, planning to grab some sleep on the plane so we could get the most out of the next day when we arrived.
Guess how that worked out? They don't call it the Red Eye for nothing.
Actually, it's pretty funny in retrospect: I'm reading a book that is magnificent. I won't tell you what it is, because you'd lose a lot of respect for me upon learning that I didn't read this book a decade -- or more -- ago. Suffice to say, it's one of the best I've ever read, and I'm well into the point in the book where I don't want to do anything except fall into it and keep reading.
Our flight took off at 11:40, and I read this particular book until about 2:30 Pacific time. We were supposed to land just before 8 Eastern time, so I forced myself to put the book down and get some sleep.
I reclined my seat to the maximum four degrees allowed, put on a silly eye mask, and settled in for a few hours of sleep.
That's when the turbulence started. Seriously! It was like the air was just waiting for me to close my eyes so it could start shaking the plane. Imagine that you're starting to fall asleep, and someone comes up and shakes your chair: "Hey! Wake up! Dude! Wake up!"
Yeah, it's hilarious now, but at the time? Not that funny.
So we don't sleep at all, sit in horrible morning rush hour traffic fro JFK to Manhattan, and finally get to take a little nap around 10.
"I don't want to sleep the entire day away," I said when we got into our hotel, "and end up so jet lagged I'm staying up all night and missing the days while we're here."
"Don't worry," Anne said, closing the curtains, "I'll only sleep for an hour or so, and then I'll wake you up."
Four hours later, we woke up, groggy but rested enough to go explore Manhattan a little bit.
First stop: food. We were staying at the W on Union Square, so we walked to Dojo West by NYU. I had a bowl of lentil soup with an awesome soy burger, and Anne had a tofu salad with this incredible soy ginger carrot dressing that was the size of Delaware. There was so much food, we had to share it and still couldn't eat it all. Total bill? About 17 bucks, which seems like a lot, but for the amount of food we got it really wasn't.
Like I said, I wanted to keep business to a minimum, so I used a simple criteria: I only set up business meetings with people who are close friends, so we could pretend it wasn't business (even though it really was.) Ha! Take that, uh, thing-that-needs-a-finger-wagging-from-Wil. (That doesn't make sense to me, either. Let's never speak of it again.)
The first business-but-not-really stop was at Rockstar games, so we could visit with my friend Lazlow, who is responsible for all the awesome audio, dialog and music in the Grant Theft Auto games. Lazlow and I met years ago when I was promoting Dancing Barefoot and he interviewed me for his radio show, The Technophile. We hit it off, and eventually Lazlow cast me as Richard Burns in San Andreas.
Now I'm sure you're wondering what business we could possibly have had to discuss, what with GTA IV about to ship and take over all of our lives in ways that not even Halo 3 and Rock Band could achieve.
Well, I'm kinda sorta, well, in GTA IV. It's not a huge part, but it's massively entertaining, and Lazlow wanted to show me how my character ended up looking and how all the work we did looked when it was all put together. I can't say anything specific about it, but in my totally objective opinion, it's awesome and will be the most memorable part of the game, probably spinning off a multi-billion dollar franchise of its own.
And the Rockstar offices? Sofa king cool. There's great music playing everywhere, lots of bikes, arcade cabinets, and tons of extremely focused people who care deeply about making sure the games they release are as awesome as they can possibly be. I saw a lot of stuff that I'd get thrown out of a helicopter for revealing, but I think I can safely admire how they've got an entire department dedicated to researching the cities, people, culture, and history of the places they set their games.
And Lazlow's dog is adorable, smart, supports Obama and followed us all over the building. Because every day at Rockstar is Bring Your Dog to Work Day.
The excitement for GTA IV's release was palpable, and so was the pressure everyone was obviously under as the street date draws near. We could have spent hours there, (I could have stayed in the research department alone for the rest of the day) but it was clear that there was lots of real work to be done, and we didn't want to overstay our welcome, so we thanked Lazlow for showing us around and headed back out into the city.
Next stop: Washington Square Park, which I didn't know was reduced by 50% because they're doing some massive renovation on the whole thing. I haven't been there in over a decade, but the stuff I loved about it back then: the students, the various musicians, the dog walkers and the weirdoes were still there. We passed a bebop jazz duo, stopped to listen to a different jazz quartet and watched some film students screw light bulbs into the dirt beneath a tree (I hope they were filming in black and white, and the finished cut has a clown flipping pancakes before it says fin and fades to black.) We saw tons of families playing with their kids, students playing frisbee, religious nuts squawking about their particular flavor of Armageddon. It was like the city had managed to temporarily cut the park in half, but didn't reduce any of the things that made it a weird and wonderful place to visit.
We headed back up fifth avenue toward midtown. It was starting to get dark, and we'd planned to meet up with Kathleen and Atom for snacks and drink, so we had time for just one more silly sight seeing thing I wanted to do.
"I really want to see the Flatiron building," I said.
"I really wish you wouldn't talk in hyperlinks," Anne said.
"Sorry. I'm a blogger. I can't help it."
"What's the Flatiron building?" She said.
"Oh, you'll recognize it as soon as you see it, " I said. "It's only about a fifteen minute walk from here."
More later . . .