Archive for the 'America' Category

In New York

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

I imagine that Manhattan looks amazing if you manage to look up and see the city.  But when I’m walking through the streets I have to constantly watch my feet.  The pavements are uneven and crowded with people who don’t appear to be paying attention to where they are going.  Today I nearly lost my footing when someone pushed their bag into the back of my knees.  I spent time dodging the tobacco smoke and the ash that gets flicked my way from the people who walk and smoke.  I had to navigate road works and building works.  And of course you have to avoid the cars and taxis that drive at you even when you have right of way on a crossing.

And then there is the noise.  The constant honking of car horns, the blaring of sirens, the construction at the World Trade site, and the yelling people.  And the people here yell all the time.  I accidentally knocked into a man in the supermarket and he turned and screamed into my face whilst I was apologizing.  People who are walking by themselves will be yelling into their phones or their blue-tooth headsets.  I met Marty for lunch today but we didn’t talk much.  He couldn’t hear me in the restaurant and I didn’t feel like shouting through lunch.  I’ve always thought that people from New York talked loudly and now I know why, you almost need to scream to be heard.

But despite the noise, the smells, and the chaos on the streets, this is a city I could grow to love.

Pittsburgh Snowpocalypse

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

I’ve just looked out the window and there are two people using cross-country skies to make their way up the street.  Apparently there is 2 and a half feet of snow outside.  I say “apparently” as there is no way I’m going out there to find out.

The worry though is that I do need to go out tomorrow morning.  I have a flight to catch to New York and I’m hoping that the weather improves so that the airport can open again.  I really don’t want to miss my flight home on Monday as it will be such hassle finding another flight.

When I first arranged this trip I had planned to go to the Perl conference that is on at the minute in Minneapolis.  A few weeks ago I changed my  mind because I was worried that the weather would be too bad…

Snowy Weather

Snowy Weather

Snowy New York

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Yesterday morning I went for a walk through the snow in Manhattan.  It really was postcard perfect, especially along the river front.

Hudson River Bank

Hudson River Bank

Shopping in Manhattan

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

This afternoon I decided to brave the Century 21 department store.  I had a pleasant morning and an enjoyable lunch with Marty and Nozaki-san, so today was a good day to try it.  I would love shopping to be a pleasant experience, but with a slogan of “fashion worth fighting for”, Century 21 is not the place to go if you are looking for calm.

The horror started as soon as I entered the store. I tried to find some new socks for Marty but got fed up really quickly of getting pushed out of the way by the men shopping there.  Maybe they didn’t see me, but it seems that good manners are left outside the shop.

I moved to the handbag section and tried to find a new bag.  There were some lovely things and they were certainly inexpensive but I didn’t see anything I liked enough to fight my way through the crowds.  I did overhear an argument between a member of staff and a customer.  The customer was asking the sales assistant to please not kick the baskets at her. The sales assistant was standing with her hands on her hips saying “I didn’t kick anything”, sounding horrifying like a defiant child.  I moved quickly away from that fight and went to look at ladies clothes.

It was chaotic and disorganised and I was disgusted by how much damage had been done to some of the dresses.  Beautiful dresses made from high quality fabric with plucks and tears.  I did manage to find some clothes and went to try them on.  Well, wasn’t that an experience.  Someone took the clothes from me to make sure that I wasn’t hiding items.  They don’t trust the customers to be truthful about the number of items they have.  They also take everything from you when you leave so they can count the clothes again, and then hand back the items you wish to purchase.  But the strangest thing for me was hearing the sales assistants talk about the customers stealing things, and the big signs up about shop lifters.  There are ways of checking clothes that don’t make your customers feel like suspected criminals.

My final stop was at the shoe department.  I haven’t quite worked out how you are supposed to try on shoes that are joined together with cable tags and I yelped the first time I didn’t notice the security tag at the back of one shoe I tried on.  I only managed to put shoes on my right foot, but even if I had managed to put on both it’s not like there was room to walk around.

When I went to buy the shoes the sales assistant didn’t actually speak to me or even look at me.  She continued a conversation with two other assistants about one of the customers in the store.  The words old and fat were used.  Truly delightful.

And why did I put up with this?  I’m now the proud owner of a beautiful Calvin Klein suit that cost me about 25% of the original price and a pair of Stuart Weitzman evening shoes that cost $21 instead of the retail price of $340.

Perl Oasis++

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

There are times I wish that the world was a smaller place or that I lived closer to the conferences I want to attend.  Getting to Orlando took a long time.  I was flying from Tokyo via Seoul and New York.  The detour to Seoul added about 5 hours to the trip but it did mean that I was able to fly in business class.  I am willing to trade the extra time for the ability to sleep on the plane.   It was a bit horrifying though to fly over Tokyo 10 hours after I had left my apartment that morning.

I also wish that travelling was more pleasant.   To travel you have to be willing to queue for hours and to allow people to go through your luggage.  You have to be prepared to remove your shoes and belts and to let a stranger run their hands over your body.  You have to be pleasant while someone asks you questions about your intentions and takes your picture and finger prints.  And you have to be prepared to put up with whatever silly security precaution the airports are going to run with next.

The new procedures for flying into America seemed pointless to me.  All my hand luggage had been x-rayed so I don’t know what they expected to find by opening up my handbag and having a quick glance inside.

Thankfully, Perl Oasis was an excellent conference and worth the time spent travelling.

I attend a lot of conferences and I’m always on the look out for the things that improve the attendees experience.  At this conference I loved the basket of travel accessories that was at the registration desk.  The organisers had put together the sorts of things that people forget to bring with them and were giving them away for free.  It’s a lovely idea and I took a packet of anti-histamine tablets as I keep forgetting the air conditioners in hotels drive my sinuses mad.

Essential Items

Essential Items

School Bus Demolition Derby

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

As part of my education on American things my friends took me to the Big Butler Fair.  I’ve been to fairs before but we weren’t there to see the ferris wheel or the the dodgems.  We went to see a school bus demolition derby.  I had heard the phrase “demolition derby” but I wasn’t sure what it meant.  I knew it would involve destroying something but it never occurred to me that this would be the destruction of vehicles that people were driving.

School Bus Demolition Derby

School Bus Demolition Derby

It was a strange experience.  Someone had mentioned heats so I thought that maybe 2 buses would compete at a time.   I was wrong.  There were two heats of 5 buses and then a final.  I still don’t know what the point of the heats was.  Maybe it was to try to eliminate some of the competition but all 10 buses were allowed through to the final.  (One bus broke down right at the start so only 9 buses actually competed.)  To win the competition you had to be the last bus running.  At the start it was quite tame.  The vehicles reversed into each other and slowed down if it looked like they would come close to the front of another bus.  But by the end it was viscious.  The rule about not crashing into the driver disappeared with the thrill of smashing up someone else’s engine.  What better way to stop a bus than hit it until the engine goes on fire?

There was something fascinating about the whole thing but the destruction and the possibility of the driver getting hurt made me feel a bit strange. But it was certainly a memorable way to end the 4th July weekend.