Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fort Sumter Tea Party?

Jesse Jackson proclaims “The Tea Party is the resurrection of the Confederacy, it's the Fort Sumter tea party."

Jackson seems to have forgotten that the Confederacy were DEMOCRATS.

Hey Jesse, say hi to Ashley Jackson you fucking hypocrite race baiter.

That is all.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Returning to a Great Past Time

One of the benefits of getting off the road (my current project notwithstanding) is that I now have time to get back into music.  Even better, I'm back into it with my lifelong friend Stuart.  Stu and I used to sit around in school drawing album covers and planning intergalactic tours; and this was before either of us even owned an instrument.  I wrote about my previous band exploits with Stuart in these articles:

Once it was clear that I would be getting off the road, I ran ads on Craigslist and BandMix looking for like minded musicians.  My ad was long winded, but it addressed all the bullshit musicians deal with then attempting to connect and seek that elusive musical synergy with other players.  The ad did the trick and I hooked up with a couple of guitarists/vocalists who shared my appreciation for old school 80's hard rock...you know, hair band stuff.  I met up with these guys and we clicked from the start.  They had a couple of bass players in mind to complete the lineup.  Of course, I had one of my own.  In a few weeks, their bassists fell off the list for one reason or another so I proposed Stuart and after one jam session with the guys, he was in.

We've spent a month or two putting together sets of the music we like and never outgrew.  The last band I was in was heavily blues based and I spent hours on end playing a shuffle on the drums.  This music is much different and contrary to popular belief, is more complex and syncopated when playing it than I remember it being while simply listening to it.  I've had to rethink my playing considerably.  The term "Hair Band" really doesn't do the genre justice.  But I digress.  We've included some pre-80's Led Zeppelin ("Ramble On", "Thank You", and "Hey Hey What Can I Do") into our sets.  After all, Zeppelin is timeless and although the music can be deceptively complex, the synergy when you pull it off is fantastic; absolutely worth the effort.

Our first gig was (in my mind) a disaster.  We played a restaurant/bar in Rowlett and because the number of tunes on our set list was still lacking, we opened up for another band.  I've opened for plenty of acts over the years; no problem there.  But at this gig, I had to play another drummer's kit, which is similar to wearing someone else's underwear.  It was an electronic kit and the band had to play through the other band's PA system.  Electronic drums are no big deal.  I used to own a set.  Other peoples' PA is no issue.  It's just that most of the time, the other people know how to operate their PA and are open to supporting the other bands playing before them or at least allowing them to make necessary changes.  The leader of this other band (who shall remain nameless) was an asshole with a chip on his shoulder.  We pulled the gig off, but I couldn't hear my own drums and the band couldn't hear each other.  We learned a lesson about which terms to accept when negotiating a gig and an even more valuable one about which bands with whom we will share a booking.  The good news is we packed the place with our friends and the manager told us after that they had never had a crowd like that since their grand opening.  I tried to feel sympathy for the other band when the place emptied out after our set, but their leader was such a dick, I couldn't bring myself to.

We played our second gig last weekend and we did so using our own PA, lights, and my drums.  The event was a private party with a friendly crowd, although none of our own friends who know us well.  Still, it was a great show.  We had a few miscues, but only we sensed them and the crowd loved our set.  We're playing tunes that other bands aren't and even through the listeners may have never owned the CD or albums, they seem to genuinely get into the stuff we do.  The band is continuing to broaden our set list and we get tighter every time we get together.  Will it last?  Who knows?  These are the easiest going guys I've played with an a long time, so the attitudes are in line with mine.  We all have real lives and none of us aspire to be rock stars.

Needless to say, I'm excited to be playing again and especially about playing with Stu.  I've set up a practice kit in my man cave where we rehearse, so I can keep my working drums packed, saving significant packing, setup, and tear down time and effort. I even have a few cool drum toys in mind which I'm sure I'll be able to convince myself I can't live without.  Stu and I no longer aspire to intergalactic touring, but we both probably still have a few album cover ideas in our heads.


Drunken Fan

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Shrug In The City Part V - Among the People

This week, I decided to quit hiding out in my hotel room after work and go see for myself what’s changed in the Big Apple since I was here last.  Truth is, I haven’t been hiding out.  Those who know me know I don’t hide from anything.  The reality is I’ve been working long, late hours and have just been too tired to feel like getting out.  I’ve acclimated to the pace now, so I’m hitting the streets after work.

Manhattan is full if impatient people and I suppose I am one of them.  I'm sure they have their share of not so impatient people, but from what I've seen, the cab drivers are the worst. They will lay on the horns and scream out the windows seemingly for no reason.  When I was here years ago and got clipped by the cab in front of the Apple store, the driver screamed out "fucking tourist!"  Gotta love the compassion.  For some reason, the pedestrian lights are awkwardly timed with the traffic signals so it's common to see people winding around cabs and limos that are attempting to turn as people are in the crosswalk with the pedestrian light on their side.  Just Tuesday night here in Manhattan, a cab ran over a tourist during a road rage incident with a bike messenger.  But I digress.

I haven't learned to roll with the horns yet and when I know they're directed at me, I usually silently mouth "fuck you" and keep walking.  Admittedly, that's probably not smart anywhere, but especially not smart in a place like Manhattan where I have no equalizer in my pocket.  Yesterday on my daily half mile walk to work, I crossed 51st street at Lexington just as the pedestrian light started flashing "Don't Walk".  As I stepped on the curb on the other side, I heard a loud, long honk.  I was the only one in the crosswalk, so I know it was directed at me.  I silently mouthed "Fuck you", but this time turned my head to the right and in an example of micro give-a-shit attitude, added a scornfully sarcastic look at the driver...who just happened to be a cop.  He was parked in the right lane in front of some construction equipment.  Our eyes locked on each other for an instant before I sheepishly turned away, turtle tucked my head, and dragged my computer bag up the curb.  I could hear his car door opening and slamming shut as I ducked into a Duane Reade store and dashed down the cosmetic/feminine hygiene aisle, which wasthe last place I figured he would look for me. Fortunately, the store was in its morning rush and I was able to see him at the back of the store as I bailed out and onto Lexington without incident.  Lesson learned.  Make sure the driver to whom I direct expletives is not a cop.

I walk everywhere here.  So far, the only cabs I've taken are to and from Laguardia Airport.  Manhattan has some cool bikes for rent with little pickup and return stations scattered all over the city.  You dip a credit card and ride the bike wherever you want and then drop it off at another station.  People tell me I'm crazy for riding a motorcycle in Dallas or alone to the Arctic Circle.  I can attest that nothing is as dangerous as riding the streets of Manhattan.  You truly need a swivel neck.  It's clear to me that if there's one thing cab drivers hate more than pedestrians, it's bicyclists.  Maybe it's because we're getting around without paying them.  The coolest part of my bike experience was riding all over Manhattan late at night when the streets are pretty much empty.  For the most part, all I encountered was other bikes and cops.

Being a biker, I often notice Harley Davidson stores in tourist cities.  The irony is they usually have no bikes.  They're basically t-shirt shops selling Harley related swag.  It appears Manhattan has topped Harley.  There's probably a Harley souvenir shop here that I'll eventually run into, but it can't compare to the Ferrari store.  For the most part, all this store sells is shirts, hats, belts, coffee mugs, and shot glasses all emblazoned with the famous Ferrari horse logo, but there are a few Ferrari cars on the floor.  Many Harley riders make it a point to collect Harley shirts from dealers across the country and even around the world.  Most have never been to these shops, much less actually ridden to them.  Still, it makes me wonder why someone who can afford a $500,000.00 automobile needs to wear a shirt or hat telling the world about it.  The first time I walked by the Ferrari store, I wondered what the business model for a store like this looked like.  How many shirts and belt buckles must they sell to pay the rent on Park Avenue?  Maybe the joke is on my because there was a yellow Modena on the floor when I first walked by that was gone yesterday, replaced by the red one in the photo above.  Perhaps the guy I saw purchasing a $145,000.00 watch in the Tiffany Patek Philippe salon  bought it.

You can't experience the culture of Manhattan without hitting the museums and believe me, there are plenty to choose from.  I wandered by this one on my way to Greenwich Village.  I'll make it a point to stop in and gain some much needed culture.
I'm struck at what passes for art in this town.  I shot a few photos of what appear to be piles of scrap metal and rope.  Some "artist"  probably earned serious cash for these.  Maybe I should look for an artsy guy driving a yellow Ferrari.

This is art?

One of the best parts of walking through Manhattan is taking in the architectural oddities.  Look in any direction and this city offers you an amazing contrast in structures and composition.  One can easily spot a hundred years of architectural evolution and cultural influence in a single city block.  A great example is the Flatiron building at the intersection of 5th and Broadway.  It was built in 1902 and reeks of Renaissance styling.  I've seen it in movies and photos over the years, bet never in person.  It really looks out of place.  I have to constantly remind myself to not look up with mouth agape and stagger around like some clueless tourist Texan.  I suppose stopping to take pictures is just as bad, but at least I keep my mouth closed.

Next entry, I'm heading underground and believe me, I will not be silently mouthing anything to anyone.  Well, I'll try anyway.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Shrug In The City Part IV - Johnny Rivers On My Mind

My "Office"
Well, shit.  Apparently, the office space I was assigned here upset the pecking order and I have thus been evicted.  This scenario reminds me of when I worked for DSC Communications back in the 90s.  I transferred back into a department in which I had previously worked in a different capacity, but I came back in with a new role which entitled me to an upscale high wall cubicle.  No more of those lowly serf cubicles with low walls and no privacy for me.  My cubicle would have eight foot walls and a door!  A glass door, but a door nonetheless.  Yep.  Me and George Jefferson...movin' on up.

Problem was, there were no high wall cubicles available on my floor and they wanted me to be close to my new co-workers.  So in an act of desperation and willful defiance of corporate protocol, I was assigned a walled office...in the corner...with windows, even! I was stoked, my co-workers were jealous, and managers who held loftier titles than I were pissed.  Knowing this sweet arrangement would be fleeting unless I quickly took roots, I took it upon myself to have facilities connect my phone lines and network drops in hopes that it would be too costly or too much paperwork for them to move me.  I didn't brag or gloat to anyone about my new digs.  I quietly moved in on Monday and was settled, comfortable, and productive by Friday.  The following Monday, I arrived to find that over the weekend, DSC had removed the door and installed an eight foot high wall cubicle inside the walled corner office, essentially maintaining the pecking order and ensuring that I had no view through the windows.

That was my job.  This is just an eight week project and if IBM keeps their word, it's the last travel project I'll have to endure in my new role.  I can work anywhere temporarily.  Hell, I've worked for the government, so I know just how bad it can get.  Nevertheless, I got Johnny Rivers on my mind.  "Welcome back baby, to the poor side of town."

Monday, August 19, 2013

Shrug In The City Part III - Getting My Legs

I spent Monday and Tuesday working in the Tiffany flagship store back office areas.  These are the corridors and dungeons hidden away from the view of a discerning public with large discretionary income.  After all, heaven forbid Tiffiany's clientele actually see where the working people behind the scenes earn their living.  These areas are accessed from the public side through enormously thick and opulent doors made of wood imported from someplace I can't even find on a globe and ornately trimmed with gold leaf.  The employee side of the door is just a slab of wood with various State if New York labor policies posted on it.  Some of them have a mirror with "Make someone's dream come true today!" printed on it.  I mention all this because I have been cautioned against the public seeing my survey gear on the sales floor.  I'll be the first to admit that my rig is far from pretty, but it's functional and it's important that I collect my data during the day to get a representative sample of the radio environment when a crowd is present.  I could work at night and deliver the best nocturnal wireless network in the City.  I just wouldn't want to be here to try to use it on Black Friday.

$8,500 Purse

For the most part, the back office staff are a relaxed and flippant about my presence.  Some of the sales staff were initially far from relaxed when I rolled my test cart into their retail area.  One guy pointed at my cart with one hand, the other on his cheek in a Jack Benny like pose and stated unequivocally that I was not bringing that on the floor.  I politely replied that in fact I was and then referred him to the director who authorized it.  He pulled his wireless network phone out to call and I offered the director's phone number.  When his call failed, I walked away, adding "That'll work when I'm done."  He must have obtained the proof he needed because I never heard from him again until he approached me later and asked me how it all worked.

The female sales associates are a serious looking bunch.  So far, all have been extremely courteous and some even friendly.  Standing for hours at a time in cruel shoes (thank you Steve Martin), I'm surprised they're able to smile at all.  One in particular has hair pulled into a bun so tight I swear she has a goatee.  I got a kick out of watching one who quoted $8,500 for a purse with a straight face.  I almost tripped over my own jaw.  What's this purse made from, dinosaur foreskin?

On the 4th floor, Tiffany has an elaborate dining table display with about a dozen pieces of high end China, crystal, and sterling silver at each setting that would make a table at Chez Quis look like McDonalds.  You’ll find it next to the baby registry (the spot in Tiffany's for those truly born with a silver spoon in their mouth).  There are so many pieces at each setting I’d starve to death figuring out where to start.  I’ve been eating lunch off the hotdog carts out on 5th Avenue.  Tiff’s has a nice employee cafĂ© with what appears to be good food.  But since I spend all day walking every square inch of all thirteen floors of this place, I really need to get outside for a break from the constant onslaught of 1940’s jazz music and show tunes and to get some sunshine.  Just once I’d like to take my sloppy dog up to the 4th floor, spread it out at that table, and chow down.  I wonder how long it would take security to throw me out after they show up and I ask them to refill my tea.

I was working in the silver department when a mom and her two perfectly coiffed children walked in and approached the counter.  The kids were a boy and girl that I’m guessing were ten and eight, respectively and were dressed to the nines.  The girl wore patent leather shoes and was topped with a bright red beret.  The boy had neatly parted short, bright red hair and wore a coat and tie.  So a well-to-do New York mom drags her kids in to Tiffany’s during one of her shopping sprees. Nothing strange there.   The famous FAO Schwartz toy store (at the intersection where taxis run down Texans) is a few blocks away. Maybe they were going there next.  I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation at the counter because basically I’m nosy.  I figured mom needed new silverware or something.  Maybe the girl wanted a silver hair comb.  After all, they’re a bargain at $300.  Maybe I figured wrong.  I listened and learned that the boy was there to purchase a sterling silver napkin ring engraved with his initials.  This wasn’t a gift for someone else.  He wanted it for his place at their table (which probably closely resembled the one described above).  What kind of ten year old boy wants a sterling silver napkin ring?  When I was ten, I wanted Hot Wheels and GI Joes.  Not those lame clean shaven ones.  I wanted the  Adventure Team figures with the Kung Fu gripThe most feminine thing I wanted was a pair of clothespins so I could attach playing cards to my bicycle to have them sputter in my spokes as I rode along imagining I was on a motorcycle - that is until the cards loosened my spokes so far that my wheels collapsed and I plowed into the curb.  But I digress.  Reflecting on it, the joke is probably on me.  After all, I’m the one working in the store where this kid is buying a sterling silver napkin ring and he’ll probably grow up to a Unites States Senator or something.

The store has been very accommodating to me, especially in terms of workspace.  Whenever I travel to work at a client site, space is always in high demand and I usually find myself camping out in a loud, windowless, and freezing cold  telecom closet located in the corner of the basement.  It’s different here.  They assigned me a prime ninth floor office with windows overlooking Central Park.  I actually get to spend very little time there because I’m always on the move.  But when I need a place to land and analyze the data I’ve collected, I can do it in style.
Old Digs & New Digs
For those who read this and think I have sour grapes for "rich" people and the folks here at Tiffany.  That is SO not the case.  As an Objectivist, I am all about free enterprise and Capitalism.  I don't care that there are people who have so much.  I don't care how they obtained it.  I'm just thankful they spend it.  Their purchases offer an income to hundreds of Tiffany employees; employees who are willing to work for it.  Don't let my subtle and often ill-fated attempts at humor mislead you about my opinions towards the Tiffany staff or their customers.

Enough about Tiffany.  I'm back in the City this week and intend to get out and see something beyond the diner next to my hotel.  I'm staying in Midtown, where pretty much nothing interesting is.  I'll have to venture downtown to get to the good stuff.  Stay tuned...


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Shrug In The City Part II - The Kickoff

I've been here two days and thus far, it's a pretty uneventful week.  I probably just jinxed myself with that statement.  Ironically, I'm working in midtown Manhattan, literally two blocks from where I almost became road kill and meaty Texas style dog food on my last trip here.  It's rained both mornings, making for an interesting walk to work seeking out building overhands to hide under.  I suppose I could splurge and buy one of the million umbrellas that miraculously pop up for sale from the street cart vendors when it rains here.

Shelter From the Rain on My Walk to Work
Uber Snoot
Lack of drama and personal injury notwithstanding, I'm surprised at a few other aspects of this project.  First is the Tiffany store staff.  I expected uber snooty stuffed suits, like that dickhead waiter at Chez Quis from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, but I've already met some really down to earth people.  Everyone asks about the contraption I use to conduct my surveys and just what the hell I'm doing with it.  They're all anxious for me to complete this project, although none more so than I.  They all just want ubiquitous connectivity to their wireless devices.  I just want to go home.  One guy who saw me working yesterday tracked me down today and told me he still doesn't have wireless connectivity in his office.  He didn't seem to get that what he saw me doing yesterday was part of the design phase.  I explained that the deployment would follow, ever the skeptical New Yorker, I doubt he's holding his breath.

I've learned a few interesting details in my first two days here. First, I always thought Tiffany & Company (which I always called "Tiffany's") was named after some rich girl who probably ate regularly at Chez Quis.  Apparently Charles Lewis Tiffany was a guy.  The building in which I'm working was built in 1940 and sports an art deco influence.  The flag poles on the Fifth Avenue side of the structure were added during WWII, but violated the art deco spirit, so engineers constructed a means of retracting them into a crawl space in an interstitial level above the main showroom floor.  This process involves and old school rail contraption on which the poles roll in and out.  I'm looking forward to shooting and posting photos when I'm crawling around in there next week.  The guy holding the clock above the front entrance is an actor, one of many who compete for the opportunity to stand up there all day in green body paint.  I can't imagine standing there all day in the summer months, much less in the brutal New York winters. Makes my gig look easy by comparison.

Tiffany designs and builds jewelry on premise at this location.  I was escorted by closely following security agents into rooms with untold dollars worth of custom Tiffany product in various states of creation by amazingly detailed craftsmen.  Really; they won't even approximate the value of jewels and precious metals in these rooms, although the store manager described the famous Tiffany Diamond as being worth "tens of millions of dollars".  They take loss prevention seriously here and this building has an array of security cameras that would make a Las Vegas casino blush.
Dinner (& my hotel) View
I know.  This Tiffany history lesson is boring, but bear with me.  I walk miles throughout the various floors and climb stairs all day long and it takes me a few days to get my legs.  I walk back to my hotel at the end of the work day and I'm whipped.  Thus, I still haven't gotten out to explore the City after work.  Hell, I've eaten dinner at the same little sidewalk diner both nights that I've been here.  The people watching is great there and the food is good too.  I'll get out and explore soon.  Nevertheless, I'd like to think that I'll get through these two months here incident free.  Oops.  I probably just jinxed myself again.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Shrug In The City Part I - The Big Apple Chronicles

Some may be aware that I recently changed job roles in my company.  Actually, I resigned in an effort to get off the road.  I’ve been at it hard as a road warrior more than fifteen years now and it’s gotten old to say the least.  Or, maybe I’ve gotten old.  Of course I have; I’m 50 years old now, but that’s not the point.

I first started traveling for business in 1989 at NEC, my first post-military job.  Despite the occasional separation from family, I was hooked.  I loved the pace, the nice hotels, the trade shows, and the frequent flier miles.  Today, travel has a glamorous appeal only to people who don’t have to do it.  The truth is that travel in a post 9/11 world - in a word, sucks.  In my mind, it wasn’t just the horrific events of 9/11 that ruined travel.  The economic impact of the technology bubble burst had an impact as well.  In the years from 1997 to 2001, tech companies had an abundance of cash and restrictions on corporate travel for road warriors were few.  We were expected to hit the road and entertain clients.  Those were the good old days.

Fast forward to 2013 and while these aren’t exactly the bad old days, from a business travel perspective, they certainly aren’t as good as they once were.  Expense controls are tighter than ever, to the point where productivity suffers.  I was never one to cheat on expense reports and risk my job for a few bucks, but I refuse to lose money when I travel at my company's benefit.  And don't even get me started on the 21st century Works Progress Administration we call the TSA.  Still, week in and week out, I hit the road working for IBM attending sales meetings with account teams and subsequently designing and deploying the networks whose deals I helped them close.  As much as I had come to loathe travel, the dynamic nature of traveling to different locations and working on a project for a few weeks and then getting to do something completely different on the next one was far more appealing than most occupations, which dictate commuting an hour each way to sit in a cubicle and do the same thing day in and day out.  I could never see myself doing that for the rest of my working career. 
At the start of this year, I had the luxury of working a four month project close enough from home to actually be home every night.  I got to actually sleep in my own bed.  I got back to playing my drums and found a band to join.  My dogs actually quit growling at me when I came home at night!  Despite losing airline and hotel patronage status, I found myself enjoying the “normal” life.  As that project began to wind down, I found myself dealing with a deep seated sense of dread, although I couldn’t quite place its source.  Then it hit me.  My working "vacation" was over and I was about to reactivate my status as a road warrior.  I considered the possibility that there might be an occupational compromise I could strike and decided to respond to a few of the weekly recruiter calls and emails I had been receiving.  Low and behold, the perfect opportunity came my way.  A very high tech company in a field I was (and still am) fascinated with needed someone with my skills in a pre-sales engineering role that required very little travel, except for the occasional day trip.  I responded, we did the interviewing and negotiating dance, they made an offer, and I accepted.  When I submitted my resignation to IBM, I made it clear to my manager that I enjoyed my job, I felt fairly compensated, and that unlike others who had recently left my team, I was not seeking additional money.  I simply needed to get off the road.  During our conversation, I mentioned a comment that my family made that they’d seen more of me in the last four months than in the previous fifteen years.  Knowing I couldn’t be bought back with money, IBM offered me a new position in a pre-sales role with little to no travel.  Essentially, they offered me my cake and a chance to eat it too.  I wasn’t unhappy with my job.  In fact, it’s the best I’ve had in my adult life and I feel fortunate just to have a job in these days of hope and change.  I simply needed a break from all the travel and given that I signed on at IBM in a road warrior capacity, I never considered a possibility that I could have an alternative role there.  I was simultaneously excited about the opportunity and humbled by their desire to find a way to keep me.  I accepted the offer and made the grueling call to the recruiter for the other company.  From a recruiter perspective, I was considered a moderately big fish and this guy stood to earn a nice commission on my negotiated first year’s salary.  I felt guilty, but it’s my life, my career, and my family.  Plus, at the very least, I opened a door for someone else to seize an excellent opportunity there.

The irony of all this is that as I type these words, I’m sitting on a plane flying home from New York City.  Before I resigned, I helped close a deal for a wireless network at Tiffany & Company at their flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City.  I was fortunate (or cursed) to present well on the topic at hand during a technical discussion and thus brought a sense experienced credibility that perhaps T&Co had yet to see from other potential vendors competing for the project.  So when the deal was closed, it was pretty much sold with my name on it as the design and deployment Architect.  When I negotiated my transfer deal with IBM, I made the case for the potential follow on business with T&Co and for keeping my word to them to deliver this one last engagement.

Contemplating the start of this project, I reminisced on my last trip to the City.  The last time I was in the Big Apple, I was hit by a taxi crossing the street outside my project site (the Apple cube store) and then bitten by a dog while working inside the store – all on my first day.  That day set the stage for the rest of my week there, which might explain why I’ve not been back since.

The project kicked off this week and I found myself in the City for the first time in five years.  While walking up Broadway in the morning rush, I was instantly reminded of the electricity in the air, of the pace of the people, and of the sense of truly being at the center of the universe.  More than anything, I was minded of just how much I hate New York City.  Everything about navigating the City is a hassle.  Everything costs a fortune, everyone is in a hurry, politeness (let alone compassion) is unheard of, and nobody smiles because nobody is happy.

This duration of this project is eight weeks of design and deployment with a potential for three more weeks to babysit the store after the network is commissioned.  Since I’ve had little more than politics to write about lately (and I’m as sick of that as my readers are), I’ve decided to make the best of this opportunity and seek out a little inspirational fodder for writing.  Check back here for updates as the weeks pass.  There are so many camera opportunities, some of the people in the City make People of WalMart look like Breakfast at Tiffany's (no pun intended).  I'm actually kind of excited about it.

So, look out Manhattan!  Shrug is coming town to take a bite out of the Big Apple.  Hopefully, I can chew through to the core and not swallow any worms.