Monday, August 27, 2007

Soccer Hall of Fame

Nothing much exciting happens around here, so you can imagine that it is a Very Big Deal when important people get inducted into the Soccer Hall of Fame in nearby Oneonta, New York. Yup, you heard it right- not only do we have the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY (about an hour and a half from Binghamton), but the National Soccer Hall of Fame somehow is located about 60 miles NW of here, right between Binghamton and Albany.
Friday night I'm listening to the local news and I hear that Alan Rothenberg is getting inducted into the Soccer Hall of Fame, along with HUGE soccer star (and the first female inductee!!) Mia Hamm.
HUH? Alan is from LA and his son, Rich, is a friend and classmate from my JD/MBA program. My surprise was not at his induction, since he is a HUGE soccer promoter and has been the president/corporate backer/business force behind every national soccer thing since the 1984 Olympics in LA (including bringing Major League Soccer to America, having a hugely successful World Cup here in 1994, Commissioner of Soccer, yada yada yada.
But does that mean that Rich is . . . HERE? I emailed him right away and, sure enough, he was headed to Oneonta with his family. Long story short- I attended the induction on Sunday and it was VERY cool- 2 hours of some of the best speeches I've ever heard!
They had the biggest turnout EVER for an induction (nearly 5,000 people- most of them seeming to be young girls). Mia is just plain-old famous- she has transcended gender and nationality at this point, to become an internationally-renown athlete. It was a zoo with her there, and soooooo cool to see what a role model she is for the young girls. Go Mia!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hip Hop apparently not going to save Binghamton's Economy

Today I read an article about how there is a growing backlash against Hip Hop music, because it incites violence, is so misogynistic, and generally offends people.

This reminded me of something I forgot to blog about last year when it came out: the City of Binghamton actually held a "Hip Hop Summit" and pinned its hopes on building some sort of gangsta music empire here. GREAT. I guess they figured that all the scummy people moving up here from New York City needed to be put to some good use (now I'm really starting to sound like a local!)

Perhaps the best part, though, is the fact that guy who was supposed to partner with the City and have all the music connections? The one who showed up at every city council meeting to talk about getting kids away from drugs and crime? Yeah, him. Well, he was sent to Broome County Jail on weapons and other charges. I guess he's working on building his street cred so he can really succeed in da muzic biz. Sheesh. Too damn funny.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Pod Hotel in NYC: Embracing your inner tiny-ness

People in California are often surprised to hear that, aside from passing through on the way to JFK airport to catch a flight to Europe, we haven't been to New York City since I moved here a year and a half ago. At least a couple of reasons for that, not the least of which being that it's far (at least 3 1/2 hours' drive). But John has two very big school-related hurdles to pass in September, so we wanted to take a little weekend trip as a reward to celebrate the culmination of a TON of hard work.

It's not that I'm cheap (OK, I am) but I just don't care that much about my hotel, other than that it be clean, safe, well-located, and- the most important characteristic- unusual/full of character (i.e., in my book, a converted convent beats out a Holiday Inn, even if it's half the price). Other than that, I'm going to be out and about during my visit so I just think it's a waste of money to pay a lot for a fancy hotel that I'm barely going to enjoy. Armed with my $150 price cap (but usually much less), I've stayed in some really great places. In just the past couple of years, I've been able to find excellent accommodations in great locations in some of the world's priciest cities: $120 in London, $120 in Florence, and my personal favorite: $70 a night for a huge pad in Rome. A tour of rates in Downtown Los Angeles and I found deals for $80 at the uber-fancy Biltmore (since the financial heart of LA is a tourist-wasteland on the weekends, I had hoped I'd find similar deals in the Wall Street area of Manhattan). Maybe I was spoiled by these experiences and the fruits of my LA research, but nothing, NOTHING, could prepare me for the rates I found for hotels in NYC.

SHOCK: Now, I know I live in the 347 cheapest housing market in the United States, so I had expected to be surprised by how expensive the hotel rooms were in NYC, especially compared to Binghamton, where $700/month rents us a huge, beautiful, 100-year-old old house in one of the best neighborhoods in town. But nothing could prepare me for this: Small off-brand hotels rating "Inexpensive" in my AAA guide started at over $300 for a standard double room. Oh, and those places are all booked up anyway. Someone suggested I check out the Holiday Inns- standard room at the Holiday Inn near Wall Street? $450/night (!?!?) It was not at all unusual to call up a hotel in the "moderate" category and find a basic room for two people for $700 per night.

BOTTOM OF THE MARKET REFERENCE POINT: Just for fun, I checked out a hostel (I swore I'd never stay at one of these dormitory-like places again after college, but the cost can be a good barometer of what you're going to be paying for a proper hotel room in that city). Cost of a double room in a lame hostel? $80!! I've never seen a hostel for more than $50/night for two, so that's a new record for me. And it forced me to get a little more realistic about what we'd ultimately pay.

PRICELINE: Several people suggested I try one of those "dutch auction" hotel sites where you plug in your price range and they find you a hotel, but you don't know which hotel you are getting until it's already booked, something that sounded somewhat exciting but also lame that you could be stuck with some loser hotel and have nothing to say about it.

THE BOONIES: I was about to do the thing when I went on the site, and others like it, and found that the cheapest hotel listings were around $250 but, more importantly, were hotels in places like "Newark International Airport" and "Weehawken" and "Seacaucus, NJ"- HELL NO! We're spending 2 days in the city, we care primarily about location, and, besides, $250 to stay hear the airport? I was starting to work on John to see if he would reconsider the chosen destination for his reward-trip.

GENIUS: Then it struck me: If we are going to pay a bunch of money for a tiny place, why don't we embrace that tiny-ness and stay at one of these hotels I'd looked into staying at in London: A "pod" hotel!

"CAPSULE" HOTELS: By way of background, there are these wacky "capsule hotels" in (of course) Japan where you basically stay in a sleeping bay that looks like a sleeping compartment on a train. This concept has not gained popularity outside of Japan, where business men favor it when they've missed a flight or are too drunk to get themselves home. This is NUTS and not what we are doing, just to be clear.

THE POD HOTEL: The American version of a "capsule" hotel is really nothing like a capsule hotel, it is just a place that embraces extremely high density (which is really saying something in a place like NYC, where everything seems to already be so dense). I think it's going to be more like the stateroom of a ship, or our tiny house in Hermosa Beach, where things are just on a much smaller scale and you don't have room to turn around in the bathroom, which is just fine . . . as long as you aren't paying $600/night!

We're excited about this!! The Pod Hotel in NYC is the only one of its kind in America, I think, and I'm still not totally sure what the concept is. I will report back after our trip, but all I know for now is that it is new and fuses very cool, clean design with minimal space in a way that appeals to me aesthetically and practically. And the price? $169/night and it's located in an ideal mid-town spot just a few blocks from Rockefeller Center.

Although I'm totally embarrassed to admit this publicly: I did opt to save $150 and get bunk beds (!!!) Hey, if we're going to be staying in a tiny place, why not embrace it and stay at a place that accepts the fact that the rooms are tiny, and makes up for it with excellent design and furnishings that are suited for the purpose (flat screen TV, anyone?)

Now we've gone from being totally dejected about paying $300/night for a sketchy dump in Manhattan, to feeling like we're really trendy for staying at this hip new hotel option. Can't wait to report back!

Monday, August 06, 2007

BREAKING NEWS: Woman accidentally sells ashes of husband's dead wife at rummage sale


Elmira woman sold the wrong turtle at rummage sale

Anita Lewis of Elmira is desperately seeking the woman who bought a
ceramic turtle from her on Saturday. Lewis was unaware that the large,
brown turtle contained the ashes of her husband's previous wife.

Lewis said the object was inadvertently included in items at her
rummage sale Saturday at 811 Grove St. She's hoping the woman still
has the turtle and can return it to her.

If you know the woman who bought the turtle or have any information to
share, call John Cleary at (607) 271-8293 or e-mail him at

-- Gannett News Service

p.s. THANK GOD! Ashes recovered . . .

Woman recovers turtle containing ashes

Anita Lewis has recovered the turtle containing her husband’s previous wife’s ashes.
Lewis, of Elmira, accidentally sold the ceramic turtle at her rummage sale Saturday. Later, her husband, Terrence Lewis, told her the urn contained the ashes of his first wife, Marcia Lewis.
The turtle was recovered at the Salvation Army Thrift Shop in Horseheads after a tip from an anonymous caller to the Star-Gazette.-- Gannett News Service