Last Tuesday, the students of SPI went on tours of various publishing companies around NYC. I was chosen to blog for the Center of Publishing for the event and was sent to HarperCollins.
Category Archives: Summer in the City
The nice folks over at Bon App would probably be sad that I just wrote my hed about their magazine in French.
They’ve tried really hard to rebrand in the last few years. Check out the logo change:
And I’m not saying it hasn’t worked. I’m not an avid reader of the magazine, but the staff that I met today at my visit to 4 Times Square (the home of Condé Nast’s publications) were young, entertaining, and relaxed. They told us about the chaos that is a typical creative meeting, boasted about their Twitter and LinkedIn skills, and described the delicious things their coworkers bring for lunch.
I know you’re wondering. No, they didn’t give us food to taste. However, we did see the test kitchen – and if you ever feel like breaking into the Condé Nast building, you should know that they sample every day at 3pm.
The biggest difficulty in running a food magazine? The lag between recipe development and the issue itself. You’ve got to get strawberries in February and turkey in July, and that gets expensive. Also, who wants to write about Thanksgiving in July?
Advice from one of the juniors editors:
- Learn how to do video.
- Get on social media & get good at it.
- Never say no.
Today, I decided that it was high time I made it to Central Park. We got out of class early yesterday, and it was really, really nice – but I was so tired that I ended up just curling up in bed with A Clash of Kings and taking catnaps in the afternoon sunshine.
But this morning, I was well rested and just a little stir-crazy. So I called up my new friend and fellow Vagabond Rachel and suggested that we head up to the Park.
It was such a relief after two weeks of city to see some trees.
We did some wandering and climbed some giant rocks to sit in the sun and read. Then, because we both burn faster than lobsters, we moved to a shady spot by the Pond, where we idled away a few hours. Briefly, we considered going to the Zoo, but for $12 it just didn’t seem worth it. It turned out, however, that we didn’t need to pay to see a zoo’s worth of critters.
We saw four turtles!
And lots of small birds…
…and several big birds, including this guy, a flock of sleeping ducks, and some playful geese…
…and several schools of fish, more pigeons than I want to count, and dozens of adorable dogs out walking their owners.
We were also lucky enough to see our first NYC rats, a big brown pair (nothing like my cute research rats) that were bold enough to attack a pigeon.
They kind of creeped us out, so we decided we’d had enough nature for the day and ran off to get cupcakes at Magnolia’s.
After a long first week of classes, I finally got a chance to leave the (windowless, over-air-conditioned, in violation of fire code) room in the Woolworth and hit the streets of New York! This weekend is going to be all about summer festivals (the theme of our issue of Vagabond), and today I had a chance to check out the Big Apple BBQ Block Party.
Going to paste in the blog post I wrote about it for Vagabond:
I’m stuck in a swarm of people, munching on half of a pulled-pork sandwich smothered in a delicious white barbecue sauce, when I hear the honking.
For a moment, I think nothing of it. After all, this is New York City — honking drivers are as common here as pigeons. But then my friend Phil nudges me. “You might want to get out that camera,” he says. He claims that his own photography skills are suspect, but he’s been spotting the best photo ops all day, so I crane my neck around to check out the vehicle that’s slowly pushing its way through the crowd. It’s a little truck, hardly worth noticing, except that it’s lugging a massive pink pig carcass.
“Ew,” I mutter, digging around in my purse for my iPhone, but I’m too slow, and the truck has gone by before I have a chance to snap a picture. So we dump our empty Styrofoam box in a nearby trash can and follow it. This might be a weird aspect of the barbecue, but it’s definitely one I don’t want to miss out on.
The Big Apple BBQ takes place every year in Madison Square Park. It’s sponsored by Southern Living, but the various makers of sausages, ribs and pulled pork are from all over the country. The park and the surrounding streets are crowded with tents, each of which has its own complicated, meandering line of eaters stretching as far as half a block. For $9, you get a sandwich, four ribs, or a sausage. Phil and I decide to divide and conquer, splitting each different entrée in half and trying to make our wallets stretch as far as possible.
I found out about the barbeque online, but I could have followed my nose to the park from my apartment at 3rd and 23rd. The city smells like smoke and grease for blocks around Madison Square Park, and while I usually dislike the way the smell of smoke lingers in my hair, today I find it kind of pleasing. It’s been a long week of work and class, and to be outside getting a little sunburned at what feels like an overcrowded backyard barbecue is a welcome relief.
We follow the pig to a tent with a large furnace before thinking better of our decision to document, and line up for some ribs instead. As we wait, we watch a crew of men heft ribs on and off the grill, flipping them and smothering them in sauce. Then we take our second lunch and go sit on the curb to people-watch as we eat.
There’s a musician near us playing a folksy song, and I find myself tapping my toes as I gnaw the tender pork from my ribs. A friend walks by — it seems like everyone in Manhattan is in Madison Square Park today — and I wave sticky fingers, blushing and licking the barbecue sauce from my teeth. She laughs and snaps a picture of me. I give her a thumbs-up.
Later, we walk through the park itself, collecting free stuff and watching kids and old men alike spin a wheel to try to win a Weber grill. Cheerful young salespeople offer us pickled cucumbers and carrots, and a threadbare musician twangs a guitar and serenades us with off-key renditions of unfamiliar songs. And, to top off a day that celebrates a culture of carnivores, we walk by a tent where a barbecued pig’s head is handed around on a platter for visitors to take a picture with.
An uncomfortable-looking guy in a suit is trying to pass the pig’s head off to someone else, but no one will take it from him. He stands there, looking about awkwardly, until a short, broad woman walks up.
“I’ll take it,” she says. He looks relieved. “If you kiss the pig.”
And so the poor guy does.
Oh, and just so you all know… I changed the story a little bit, but the guy kissing the pig was Phil. When I laughed at him, he shrugged and said, “You can take the boy out of the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy.”
This week has been amazing. Right from the get-go, the speakers were fantastic, and I was much more interested in magazines than I ever thought I’d be. Can’t wait to see what the next five weeks will bring.
But wow. It’s been a long one. We’re all exhausted and a little burnt out and rather surprised to discover that there’s a city out there, beyond the subway and the Woolworth and Gramercy Green.
A demonstrative quote, from Patrick, one of the Vagabond guys:
On Wednesday, he says, “Wow, that lecture was really great. But I am a little tired. I guess it’s just been a long couple of weeks, y’know?”
Me: “Patrick, it’s been three days.”
Patrick: “I said weeks, didn’t I?”
Today, we had one of my favorite SPI classes so far: the App Slam.
I’d seen it on the schedule, but didn’t really know what to expect. (I think my brain went immediately to a poetry slam and, when that became too confusing of an analogy, simply gave up.) I certainly didn’t expect two tired, snarky, beer-loving thirty-somethings to whom we had three minutes to pitch an app our group had conceived of in a short 30 minutes.
Sounds a little stressful on paper… but in reality? It was just fun.
All week, our speakers have been going on and on about digital natives (that’s us, the generation that grew up unaware that life can carry on without computers), and it has sort of started to flow in one ear and out the other. After all, to digital natives, it’s impossible to comprehend the generations that make a fuss out of being digital natives. It’s like making a fuss about opposable thumbs or sliced bread: it just doesn’t compute. But today, it all sort of made sense. While our parents might struggle to work an app, we dream them up as easily as a limerick. Every single one of the apps pitched today was useful, clever, and appealingly witty.
My travel group sketched out an idea for an app that would use crowd-sourcing to provide a listing of free events in certain cities. Users would be able to see different events and go to them, rate them, comment on them, or upload pictures of them. The events would include everything from samples at Whole Foods to free parks and museums to street fairs.
The judges’ comments were snarky, but approving:
Judge 1: “It’s a good idea.”
Judge 2: “Other people have done the cheap events idea. But I’ve gotta say. No one else has ever been that cheap.”
The winning app, though, was called Heckled. The main premise? It would text you comedic messages at random intervals throughout the day, hopefully making those boring meetings you have to attend just a little bit more fun and awkward. In short, a silly, annoying, and really excellent idea.