Tuesday, March 4, 2008

First post 3/4/08

I am Tourguide Stan, a sightseeing guide of New York City. I like meeting people from around the world and showing them my town. Their viewpoint is important, so I make things easier for them while they are here. As "TourguideStan" I have videos about NYC on YouTube.com, and a set of photos on Flickr.com. My business web site, for those of you wanting the finest personalized aid in sightseeing, is www.oconnorgreentoursnyc.com .

This blog is to be an informal take on what it's like to help people see the best that New York City has to offer. It will host personal observations, quoted conversations, issues with city government, notes on organizations I belong to, celebrity mentions, and funny stories bordering on jokes. This blog will be a place where you can look into Midtown Manhattan through the eyes of an expert with 15 years' experience in getting people here and taking care of them during their stay. There will also be the occasional complaint about tourists who you'd think weren't smart enough to make enough money to come here, but who do come, and make amazing -- sometimes appalling -- assumptions about what NYC is like.

Case in point: On a group tour before The Attacks, we were at the World Trade Center. I said, "The World Trade Center's eight buildings, including the Twin Towers, hold about 50,000 people during the workday. The site sits atop the PATH trains from New Jersey. Rush-hour PATH trains bring about 1000 people here every five minutes. Also, seven subway lines are very close by, which can get an additional thousand people into or out of the area every minute of the day." A guy who knew nothing about trains then responded with the query, "Where do they park?"

Wherever possible, terms will be shortened into acronyms, like these:
New York Times (NYT)
Statue of Liberty (SOL)
Guides Assn. of New York City (GANYC)

My Nikon Coolpix L1 is always on hand, so I take lots of videos and photos of life in the big city. Lots of space on my computer is devoted to that. If possible, I'll post photos here, or links to them through Flickr and Youtube. For Youtubes about NYC, search for TourguideStan. Likewise, look on TripAdvisor.com, where I field questions about sightseeing and other NYC-travel topics.

My basic problem in life is that I am kind of in a box of my own design. A middle-aged owner of a pedicab who would rather do bus tours, what we call 'step-on' work in the trade. But I get very little step-on guide work. Instead, I take people around town on the pedicab. Ten years from now, I hope to be doing step-on work rather than still pedicabbing, since it's way easier to sit in a seat and talk, than to pedal people around and talk. My bike has no motor; it's all me. I don't want to make my living pedaling a 160-pound bike with two passengers ('pax' in tourism jargon) weighing 400 pounds when I'm 65.
Then again, I am in truly exceptionally good health. Biking builds muscles while letting you change the view in front of you, and you get to sit down the whole time. I lost about 35 pounds when I stepped off the double deckers for good, and my back, shoulders, butt and legs are really strong now. (Additional dividend: double-decker guides wear long underwear from October through April. I don't.) The doctor is impressed by my heart. Blood pressure averages about 110 over 80. I've never had an operation or broken bone.

Biking is a passion of mine. I strongly believe America needs more bikes and fewer muscle cars. Buying a high-powered motor vehicle you don't need tricks you into a fake feeling of personal power, while depriving cold homeowners of oil they need for their furnaces. An out-of-shape guy in an SUV is like Charles Atlas' 97-pound weakling wearing a muscle costume. My muscles are real, and capable of getting two adults and their suitcases from Grand Central to any midtown hotel in less than 10 minutes during Friday rush hour. No Hummer will ever match that.

I've done RAGBRAI, Cycle America and the Moosa Tour. I'm getting married soon and putting a road bike on our registry!

My politics are center-left. I read the Times and the WS Journal, but usually don't agree with the Journal's editorials. I don't always agree with the Times' either. While I believe in fiscal responsibility, my opinion of Republicans who say they want both a small government and lots of government spies, soldiers and hi-tech weaponry is that they are seriously fooling themselves. You can't have a giant military and a small government. I wish our president were more like his father. Maybe the Dollar wouldn't be at an all-time low if he believed in a peace dividend and not a five-year war costing us nearly half a trillion dollars.

But that all-time low is good for me and for my business: tourism is one of the few American industries helped by the rise of foreign currencies vis-a-vis the Dollar. Business is good. And everyone wants to come to New York City.

Let me tell you a few tourism-industry facts.
The western hemisphere's biggest draw is the United States of America. The United States' citizens come more to NYC than to any other American destination, God bless 'em. They may only come for "Gray-ound Zee-row" but they come.

That said, I won't be getting into long arguments with those who want to change me into something I'm not. No time for that; there is a never-ending supply of travelers who need a little help.

People keep telling me I should write. Here we go.


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