A Trip to New York in Two Parts

Part 1: A little bitching and moaning

So went to an academic conference over the weekend and it was pretty bad, all things considered. If I had to assign a letter grade, it would have received a D+, almost a C but in the cold light of day, it just didn’t measure up. After mentally picking over the bones there were a few positives. First, the food was really good. I am pretty easy to please in this regard, but sandwich wraps are pretty tasty and they did have an impressive array of desserts following the main course. Second, I liked Queensborough Community College as a venue. Seeing how many of the people presenting at the conference were from or will be plying their trade at a community college, it’s nice to kind of keep it in the family as it were. Third, it is always nice to get together with like minded fellows and have interesting discussions about sports, history, comic books and the like. However, the negatives far outweigh the positives in this experience and many of the positives find their way into this part of the discussion. Beginning with the food; yes the edible stuff was great, but how in GOD’S name do you run out of coffee by 10:00am? We’re academics for crying out loud, we consume coffee like junkies; not good. Another key logistical problem was that the directions were a little off. It stated in the directions that the bus stopped on campus, so you’ll have no trouble finding QCC. What they didn’t realize was that the bus didn’t stop on campus over the weekends, which led to quite a bit of confusion. Finally, in terms of general complaints, what this conference and many, many other conferences need to do is cut the number of sessions. My session and a session in the next room needed to combine in order to have three panelists and even combining two sessions, we had 0 audience members. I’ve been through similar experiences so this wasn’t particularly dispiriting, but it still kind of sucks. Reduce the sessions, and maybe a few more people attending the conference would be able to attend different sessions.
A couple of pointers for my colleagues at the conference: 1. Dress like a professional. Showing up in jeans and a t-shirt doesn’t exactly make you or the academic community look good. In fact, it makes you kind of look like a slob. Did you notice that the people who actually had jobs dressed like they, I don’t know, had a job? If you’re doing this to fluff your CV, great, but you may be sitting next to someone who will be reviewing you for a job. 2. Have a point to your papers. It’s kind of simple really, but tell me and again, those potential employers, why we should give a shit about your topic. While some of what you’ve researched is cool, that ain’t enough. Have a point.

The thought of sitting through another two sessions without any other audience members depressed me, so I decided to make the trek back to Manhattan earlier than planned. Surreptitiously, a colleague had the same idea and we had a nice long chat on the way back into the city. We did veer off into the state of the field, which isn’t exactly the topic to lift ones spirit, but overall we had a good talk about masculinity, baseball, kids and New York. All in all, not a bad way to spend an hour.

Part Two: New York is great, even for free.

OK, New York is never free. It is amazing how fast I piss through money in NY. Having said that, my two big excursions were both free of charge this time around. After arriving Friday afternoon, nothing sounded better than an early evening walk around Central Park. I walked for about an hour, until I got cold and went and had New York pizza, though unfortunately not at the recommended places of Lombardi’s or Patsy’s. I just wanted to chill so I went to a place near the park, and overall I was pretty happy; not the greatest food ever, but exactly what I was craving. The next day after the conference I went to the NY Public Library, absolutely awesome. They had a fantastic exhibit concerning the New York area as represented on maps, 1600-present. Maps have always fascinated me and they played a significant role in my ultimate career choice. Maps are just freaking cool. Anyway, went to the great reading room and sat for an hour and read at one of the seats. It was quite impressive as well, but a little smaller than I thought it would be. After the library, I had a bit of an itch to buy a hat, so I walked down 5th Ave. to the Yankee Store. I had a mind to buy this year’s hat, with the patch on the back commemorating the new stadium. So I’m poking around the store, looking for souvenirs for the kids and I ask the guy behind the counter what time the game started. He looked at me like I was a piece of shit and literally grunted, “8:00.” I don’t particularly like a hard sell, but a little human decency goes a long way. I smiled said thanks and walked out of the store. I’m sure he doesn’t care about the $60+ I was going to spend, but a bit of friendly advice: take the stick out of your ass, smile, and talk to your customers like they actually warrant five seconds of your time. Next time I’ll shop at Modell’s.

I was excited to watch the game and seeing how I was only a few blocks away from the Mickey Mantle restaurant, I figured what a great place to catch the game. I got there, amazed at the amount of tables still available, until I was informed that the game had been cancelled. Oh well, I stuck it out, had an ok burger for an outrageous price, but a fun place nonetheless. It was nice to see that my Frank Thomas autograph is worth around $200. After that, not much to report, except that I wished during the entire trip that my wife was with me, especially after the lame conference and the awesome library visit.

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