Monday, October 19, 2009

Some Wee Random T'oughts

Last week when I was flitting from bridge to bookstore to restaurant to park all over the Big Apple (well, Manhattan really), I had a bit of an epiphany as to what is meant when one uses the term 'provincial.' It is usually used by people on the coasts as a pejorative when referring to someone from the flyover states. And, I'll admit to using it when referring to many from the flyover states as well, because, well... a lot of people around these parts are pretty provincial (here feel free to insert other synonyms like yokel, bumpkin, creationist... you get the idea). But, while the term gets used freely (and sometimes correctly) by people on the coasts when referring to central-staters, often those making the judgment are actually more provincial than the average hick from the sticks.

I'll give an example from a paper I wrote in an MBA class (more on the MBA cash-generating racket in a later post). If an average American travels abroad to, let's say Moldova, he/she may have a slight idea of what that country is about. The American may have read up on it in Wiki, a travel guide, or the like. He/she (here we're going to dispense with that and just go with... - hold for it, coin flip - yes 'she' wins) may also be able to point to the place on a map. But, for the most part, the American will have at best a cursory knowledge of the little country (landlocked in Eastern Europe for those of you scurrying to an Atlas).

The Moldavians, however will have a much better understanding of the American than she will of them. Because American culture and business is so ubiquitous in the world, the Moldavians will have seen American movies, read American authors, eaten at American style restaurants (there must be golden arches or a KFC sitting somewhere inside their borders). But my point is that even if the Moldovan view of America is slightly skewed to the pop-culture, fast food shell of what makes up American life, in a conversation, a Moldovan will have a much larger frame of reference as to background of his/her visitor than will the American to her host.

And the same lesson applies to the relationship between flyover states and the coasts in the US. Your average central states goat roper will know much more about New York, LA, San Francisco (yes, there actually are a whole lotta homosexuals there), Boston and DC, than the average coaster will know about Omaha, Tulsa, Des Moines (spends more on art per capita than any other city in the US - BTW), or Topeka (and here, quite frankly, I do have to say that there is nothing anyone ever needs to know about Topeka - the Scranton of the plains).

So ultimately, while a New Yorker lives 'here,' and someone in the flyover states is rightly deemed as living 'there,' the designation 'provincial' only applies in geographic fact, and not in the pejorative use of the term. Because, in fact, the geographic provincial, is usually less provincial in her understanding of the coasts than the non-geographic provincial is in her understanding of the rest of the country.

You may have to read that last paragraph twice. It's pretty convoluted.

For more information on the Republic of Moldova:
For booking travel to the Republic of Moldova:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

NYC...It Ain't Kansas

I returned last night from a trip to NYC. My friends Chris and Marisa were along for the trip as well, which finished off in New Jersey where Marisa and I had to work a trade show. But for three great days, we had the pleasure (and toil) of hanging in the Eastern Seaboard's premier city.

Rather than going into major details of the trip, I'll just mention a few things that we did that are different than the regular tourist fare of going to the Met, MOMA, Rockefeller Center, and that statue that the French so graciously provided to us. If you're in the been there, done that crowd, here are some ideas that you should add to your must-do lists for NYC.

1) The High Line: What a cool idea. I have never been to a city that has done as good a job of making a public park-like space from train tracks - and elevated ones at that. The fauna is impressive. The architectural details like benches, lighting, and surfaces are absolutely stunning. Walking along the few blocks that this park covers transports the stroller out of the Meat-packing and Chelsea Districts, and into a sort of fantasy space like no other I've experienced in North America. And the hotel which stradles the High Line lends some sort of futuristic, Logan's-Runnish kind of feel to the place (even thought the hotel itself looks like something designed from the last century's Eastern Bloc architectural manuals). You can learn more about this wonderful place by going to .

2) The Brooklyn Bridge: How great is it to spend an hour walking across a legendary span? The answer: very. We took a subway to the first stop in Brooklyn. We got off in a neighborhood dubbed Dumbo, and proceeded directly to the bridge. While it is a tourist site, it is one that rivals walks on other bridges like the Golden Gate in SF, or the Harbour Bridge in Sydney. In fact, it is better. When we arrived, there were probably about a thousand people walking, biking and running from one end of the span to the other. The views of Manhattan, the Manhattan Bridge, the islands in the harbor, and of course, Brooklyn, were fantastic. The information provided on plaques at each corner of the towers added significantly to the experience. And, defying stereotypes, all of the New Yorkers we encountered were outgoing and friendly. On the Manhattan side, just before we exited the bridge, we came across a good-looking guy selling some nice t-shirts that he had screen-printed using a photo-emulsion process. The shirt were the best I'd seen in the city. We picked up a couple of them before leaving and heading into Chinatown. To learn more about the bridge, here's a quick link:

3) Vegan/Vegetarian options: New York seems to be a ground zero for excellent no-meat meals. Even Newark's airport has a huge variety of pre-packaged vegan cold noodles for those on the go. And the city... well the city has it all. We dined again at the Candle Cafe, Baby Cakes for pastries, Blossom for a really nice meal, a fantastic soup place on Allen Street (just up the road from Baby Cakes), and a place in Chinatown where my dish sucked, but Chris and Marisa gave rave reviews to theirs. Being a big fan of salads, I do have a word of caution. Vegan/vegetarian restaurants are great for ordering things like tempeh, seitan, tofu..., but don't order salads. They simply don't make ones that are nearly as good as other restaurants. I was consistently disappointed with the lackluster efforts that went into the vegan places' salad offerings. Stick with what the restaurants claim to be their focus, and you'll be good. But god help you if you order a salad at one of these places. Salads get treated like an afterthought.

4) Chelsea Art: OK, Chelsea is very well-known for its galleries, granted. On this trip we blew off the major museums in favor of dropping in on a bunch of galleries in the district. It was a good choice. The gallery staffs at all of the places were helpful, but did not hover. They are used to people walking in and treating the galleries more like museums. While the prices at some of the galleries would make one debate whether one needed a painting or a place to live, there were some that offered good quality pieces that wouldn't dent the wallet any deeper than would the purchase of a new (nice) bicycle. The only issue we had while we were in Chelsea was that there were so many galleries, we couldn't visit them all. We did go into several that had names we recalled from art history classes in college. But it is impossible to visit them all, because one can't spit in Chelsea without hitting a gallery - we know this, because we tried.

The next trips on my schedule are to very different worlds from Boston and NYC. Vegas and LA loom in the not-too-distant future. While not a fan of Sin City (at least the strip), I do love the City of Angels (actually prefer it to NY). I'll have more on that later.

One Final note: New Jersey gets a well-deserved bad rap for being one of the most singularly ugly places in the US. The portion of New Jersey that faces New York (places like West New York, NJ) , however, is fantastic. The Jerseyites er Jersians (whatever) living there have the best views of the city, a slightly less hectic lifestyle, and fantastically easy and cheap transportation into the city. They also have the best running trails/paths outside of Central Park (and again, with much better views). We ran along the Hudson every day on the Jersey side, and enjoyed the spotless, well-maintained walkways and stunning views. I would advise anyone wanting the best picture of the NYC skyline to take a shuttle through the tunnel to the Jersey side ($2.50 each way), and be amazed at the view. The round trip will take about 45 min. Nothing better.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I have a client/customer who called me the other day to talk about nutrition and health issues (as many of my clients do). He is a guy in his 80s who has faced a lot of health challenges in his life, but manages to keep going through good diet, exercise, chiropractic care, and rolfing. As we talked about his various illnesses and structural problems and the way he had gone about treating each one, he illustrated how he had achieved the most success when seeking treatments that addressed the causes rather than the symptoms of the various ailments. I found that I was aware of most of the issues we discussed with one exception, rolfing. While I knew what rolfing is on a very basic level, I didn't understand the science behind the practice. I equated it more with getting a heavy-duty massage than anything else.

After my client's unequivocal endorsement, I began thinking that maybe I ought to look into more of what rolfing entailed. At age 43, I'm probably over halfway through life, and I thought it might be a good thing to go through a series of sessions that might realign my body to get it ready for the next 2-4 decades. So I began checking around and speaking with people who had been through the ten steps of rolfing. All, with the exception of two friends, claimed to have experienced mild to profound changes in how they felt after the course of treatments were done.

I checked names of good rolfers in the area through friends and websites, and made an appointment. Over the next few weeks before my first appointment, I thought about canceling several times a day. A full compliment of rolfing takes ten or more sessions. I had heard from a lot of people that rolfing really hurts. Since it deals a lot with work on the fascia - the connective tissue that maintains our structural integrity - it almost seemed impossible for a session not to be painful. It was with great trepidation that I walked into the office for my first experience. I figured that if I was able to survive it, I could always just bail on future treatments.

The session started with me standing and walking around in front of the rolfer in my underwear. Thinking that the experience was going to be like that of other massages I'd gotten, I had brought shorts to change in to. As my rolfer explained that rolfing was done with the client in his/her underwear, I thought furiously to try to remember if the underwear I was wearing had holes in it. After dropping trou, and noting (praise Jesus) that I had somehow put on a good pair that morning, the session began. For the first treatment the focus seemed to be on my front core, neck and arms. I certainly noted what was being done, but I can also say that, in my case, it wasn't painful. I felt something in my neck release, and my head changed its position a bit. It immediately felt more comfortable than the position it had been in - presumably for the past 20 years. Next came rib and chest work, which again, slightly changed the position of my shoulders. She (my rolfer) had me do some breathing pattern that was associated with what she was doing. I felt some subtle changes. Finally came arm work.

Those who know me well, know about the ongoing issues I've had with tennis elbow. I've had acupuncture, hour-long massages only on the arm, physical therapy, cortisone shots, and painkillers to try to get it fully under control. I mentioned this to my rolfer who began to work on the area. In the course of her efforts on my arm, I did learn a couple of things. I found that my right hand doesn't stretch out flat without a bit of effort on my part. I also learned about tingling sensations (um, the kind in your hand and arm), and places in your chest and shoulder where blood flow can be restricted causing this sensation to occur.

I won't say that there was a major breakthrough with my arm during the treatment, but it seemed pretty promising. Instead of moving forward to a second area for my next session, we're going to focus on the arm again, for what my rolfer deemed as session 1.5.

As I walked out of my first session, I didn't feel nearly as relaxed as I do when I leave a sports massage - the type of massage I normally get. But I did notice something very dramatic. As I took a few breaths, I found that I could inhale deeper and with much more ease. And now, a week or more since the first experience, I still have the ability to breathe much better. The rib work she did on me has somehow allowed this enhanced respiration. It is pretty amazing. Because, even though I do a good amount of aerobic work each day, I always have had trouble breathing deeply. For the past week, that has not been an issue.

I'll certainly have more updates on rolfing as I progress through the stages. But, for me, I'm turning into a believer that one can receive some noticeable benefits from the experience.