New York City: A city overflowing with 8.5 million people that it’s a wonder anyone runs into anyone else he or she knows when walking the streets. But with some effort and planning, you can certainly make it happen.
Last month, I piggybacked off of a work trip to New York to also meet with friends whom I don’t get to see often. Even with Manhattan and the surrounding areas being so well connected and not very expansive, the challenge has always been coordinating schedules and plans with friends living in different corners of the city.
Further into adulthood with the demands of jobs, families and life, you realize that even the pleasant experience of meeting with friends often takes work and coordinating can be stressful, but when we take time for people we care about, it truly makes all the other demands of adulthood that much easier to bear.
Thus, in between lectures at the Sentiment Analysis Symposium, which I was attending for work, team dinners and meetings, my husband and I were able to make the most of this business trip and see a few familiar faces along the way.
The real work
Last year, I had the opportunity to attend the Sentiment Analysis Symposium immediately after starting work at LivePerson, and for me, it was a great introduction into the world of text analytics and natural language processing methods.
This time, after having worked in this space for a year, the symposium did not have the same novelty as it did for me last time, but it was still interesting to hear perspectives from consumer behavior psychologists, marketers, data scientists and analysts on ways to study consumer sentiment by analyzing their text, images, and videos and emojis.
The focus of this year’s conference was on artificial intelligence, and with my own employer delving into the world of virtual assistants, or bots, the topics discussed were certainly relevant. However, I particularly enjoyed the session by Marija Bogic and Andra Magerusan of InnovationBubble on meeting consumers’ real needs by uncovering the unconscious.
The symposium itself was only two days, but since our company’s office is headquartered in Manhattan, I spent the remaining days working from our NY office to connect with colleagues there.
Just a few blocks north of the LivePerson office is the Yotel, where we stayed due to convenience. The Yotel is in west midtown, just a few blocks from Times Square. It isn’t a place I would recommend people stay for luxury or comfort, but it’s clean, and it gets the job done. Using a compact, “smart” concept, this hotel offers no-frills accommodation at a very low price, but is equipped with all the basic amenities. Given its bare-bones philosophy though, I was surprised by its outdoor balcony bar which was quite inviting and has a pretty cool view.
If you’re saving money on accommodation at Yotel, you can afford to splurge a bit on food. Tamarind in lower Manhattan is an upscale Indian restaurant that I have now tried twice, and both times, the food has been excellent, but what I was most impressed with was its level of service and atmosphere. It’s sometimes hard to find an elegant Indian restaurant because so many of them are tucked away into ethnically-centered neighborhoods. Tamarind however, is located at the heart of Tribeca and offers the ambiance and service of most fine dining. This time, we dined with a work group, and the chef offered us a indulgent multi-course prix fixe meal, taking into account our various dietary restrictions (vegetarian, gluten free) and adjusting the menu accordingly. Here, you will not want to miss the samosas, bagara baingan, or the carrot halwa.
Also in Tribeca is the Tuscan eatery, Pepolino. On Monday night, my husband and I had an early dinner here since we would be meeting friends throughout the later part of the night for light bites and drinks. This authentic Italian restaurant had no wait, and the food was satisfactory. I ordered a fresh and light pesto pasta with a glass of rose, and my husband got the ravioli marinara. Neither of these dishes were anything to write home about, but the cooler air of the early evening and relaxed ambiance are what made dinner so enjoyable for me. For us, the patio outside of this rustic restaurant was an ideal spot for my husband and I to catch up since we had spent the weekend apart traveling.
Drinks at La Dama
Dinner at Pepolino was followed by heading further south to the financial district to meet my old reporter friend from Guam, who now works at FX Week in downtown Manhattan. We met her at La Dama, a Mexican restaurant featuring zesty Latin fare and colorful murals. This place had a very casual and friendly vibe, and it was clear as my friend joked with the waiter that she had dined here often.
Games at Fat Cat
After drinks, we took the train up to Greenwich Village to meet an old high school friend of mine for pool at Fat Cat. This underground venue has many games such as pool, shuffle board and foosball, and also offers live music on most nights. When we walked in, a live jazz band was playing, but in between sets, the venue played recorded sitar music. At first, I couldn’t quite place it all, but later I realized that the melange of music was aligned to the worldly view that Fat Cat touts, a cross-pollination of ideas that is central to Fat Cat’s mission, so I give it a thumbs up. Beyond being a popular nightlife destination, this place offers classes for youth across a variety of creative disciplines and has served as an outlet for budding talent. After a few rounds of shooting some pool, and learning about the challenges and thrills of startup life from my enterprising friend (he always had a knack for business), Jis and I headed back towards the purple glow of the Yotel.
Friendships take work too
The next few days ensued in a similar fashion, catching up with my college roommate and one of my dance team members from my time at UF. I learned that my former roommate was now taking improv classes for fun outside of her regular job at Pwc, and that my dance teammate had become managing editor at the NJ Business Journal. It was inspiring to see how far these ladies had come in their careers, but it still felt like no time had passed since college as we laughed over cocktails at the Vine.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, as vibrant as New York City is, I also love getting out of the city, and this is made easier because Manhattan is so well connected to the surrounding areas. It’s convenient to meet with friends outside of the island, which I did on two occasions that week:
- The weekend prior to the work trip I was able to spend time with my good high school friend at her place in New Jersey. The charming town of Glen Ridge where she lives was a quiet neighborhood with beautiful homes and perfectly manicured lawns, just a short train ride away from the buzz of the city.
- On the last night in NY I took the train to Stamford, Connecticut to see a childhood friend I hadn’t seen in about a year, and who recently announced was pregnant. The night I visited her, she and her husband had just discovered the baby’s sex, so she saved me an icing filled cupcake to reveal her baby’s gender. (It’s a boy!)
The week before the trip, I had felt overwhelmed, sifting through my calendar and coordinating to meet everyone one-on-one. But I was grateful I did.
Within a single week, I saw six friends from four different stages of my life, and it took planning, phone calls, coordination, several text messages and trains to make it happen.
Over time, I’ve recognized part of growing up means the intimacy of some friendships may fade, people change, the groups of friends you know or experiences you have are different, but at the end of it all the most important thing you can do to keep friendships alive is to stay in touch and show up. Occasionally, things fall into place and it’s easy to run into each other at major events such as weddings or baby showers, but other times, even the leisure part of a visit can take work.
Yet as with many labors of love, the pursuit is often worth the effort.