Murtaugh List Challenge: Tackling IHOP’s All-U-Can-Eat Pancakes

IHOP PancakesSo I did it. I did my own personal pancake eating challenge, and it didn’t turn out the way I expected it to.

For those of you that don’t know, every year, IHOP does their all-you-can-eat pancake special in January. That’s right, I know the time of the year in which it occurs, because I’m a fatty that loves his food, and I’m there every year. I also know that Olive Garden launches their never-ending pasta bowl in late August/early September. Red Lobster starts their all-you-can-eat shrimp promotion around mid-September. Popeyes (at least used to) has their 8-piece chicken deal the Thursday before April 15th. And in New York specifically, you can get all-you-can-eat wings at Croxley Ales, Brother Jimmy’s, Lions Head and Pourhouse…just to name a few.

But back to the pancakes. The reason I put the all-you-can-eat pancakes on my Murtaugh List is because as I have gotten older, I have realized that everybody around me is a whole lot less susceptible to the all-you-can-eat deal. As a result, I don’t think I’ve taken any of my New York friends to an all-you-can-eat spot. Scratch that! I did get a trio of former co-workers to come to an all-you-can-eat wing place with me once, but I don’t think they knew what they were in for–and we surely haven’t done it since.

But I digress. On to the pancakes. I was really looking forward to this challenge for three reasons. First, I love food. Second, I love pancakes. And third, I really love overeating. There’s something very satisfying about overeating. When you overeat, you feel full, happy and like you’ve put some really good work in. The feeling I get from finishing a 1.5-pound burger is the same feeling I get from handing in a project at work. It’s weird, but don’t say over-indulging hasn’t made you feel that way in the past, too!

So how did my attempt at eating 60 pancakes go? I took notes on my phone after each “short stack.” Here’s the rundown:

Round 1, Pancakes 1 -3: “I really don’t think this is going to be that hard. I’m only one-twentieth of the way done, but I don’t see an end in sight. Yes, it’s early, and I probably shouldn’t have had the eggs, bacon and sausage that came with the all-you-can-eat pancakes, but you didn’t really think I was going to get through this without some pork on my fork, right?”

Round 2, Pancakes 4-6: “These pancakes are so good. IHOP knows how to dress up a pancake. They put just the right amount of butter on your plate, so you can get each pancake nice and lathered up before you pour the syrup over it. This round I went with the “pecan” syrup, which is very underrated. If you haven’t tried it, give it a chance…and give me more pancakes!”

Round 3, Pancakes 7-9: “This is too easy. Just 17 more stacks to go? I feel like a well-prepared Kenyan marathoner who’s been running in the mountains for the past 3 years, and upon reaching the 3-mile mark in the Olympic Marathon race of his lifetime says to himself perplexed, ‘Just 23 more to go?‘ All this pancake eating and marathon talk is making me thirsty. I’m just gonna take a gulp of this here water.”

Round 4, Pancakes 10-12: “Okay, maybe the water wasn’t such a great idea. Once the first bit hit my mouth, it’s like the sugar and yeast from the pancakes and syrup still digesting in my stomach harkened the water down to the depths of my belly, calling and pleading for more water, more hydration and anything but another fluffy piece of cake. So I quenched my thirst, and never has water tasted so good. I really think that if somebody wants to truly change the bottled water industry, they’d figure out how to make water taste as satisfying as it does after eating a lot of something sweet, salty or hardy, without me actually having to eat something sweet, salty or hardy…Oh, and by the way, this 60-pancake thing isn’t going to happen.”

Round 5, Pancakes 13-15: “My stomach is a swirl of water, eggs and pancakes. Now that I have finished 15 pancakes, I’m starting to feel embarrassed about ordering more. It’s 7:30am in the morning, I’m in semi-business-formal attire with a laptop and eating pancakes by myself like there is no tomorrow. What has my life turned into? Sooner or later, the waiter will give me that look. That look of judgment. I know it’s coming.”

Round 6, Pancakes 16-18: “It took 18 pancakes, but I finally got the ugly look from the waiter. You know that look that reads, ‘Brotha, for real? You gonna eat 20 pancakes on a Tuesday morning?‘ While I don’t like the look, my displeasure with it comes more from customer self-righteousness than it comes from shame.”

Round 7, Pancakes 19-21: [In third-person] “Tap out. Tap out. That’s it. Ball game over. Pancakes win! Pancakes win! Uzo goes down in 7 rounds. I don’t know what the hell you were thinking. Sixty pancakes? Yeah right, dawg. Get your game up. Don’t come in here chugging water, eating bacon and sausage, and scarfing down scrambled eggs while thinking that you’re going to be able to eat 60 pancakes. Be ready, and maybe you will break the halfway point next time. If there is a next time. You’ll be way over 30 by then. You might not be able to get up for such an effort at your old age.”

I want to throw up.

30-Day Challenge: 30 people, 30 venues, 30 drinks

30 Day Challenge UzoNYCIn my quest to better myself before I turn 30, I have devised the genius plan of getting to know New York City, New York people and New York drinks better. I want to do all of this in 30 days, and thus this particular challenge began last week on January 14th.

In this challenge, I will go to 30 different venues in New York City, with 30 different people and have 30 different drinks. Neither the venues nor the people have to be entirely new to me, as that would be too difficult a task to accomplish, as exemplified by my faithful pursuit of the “100 Days, 100 Things to do in the Summer” series. However, all of the drinks on this list will be new. And one last caveat is that unlike the other 30-day challenges I will pursue before my 30th birthday, this one does not require me to do one everyday. Instead, I have allowed myself to double and triple up on venues in single day given that this challenge relies on my personal schedule, my work schedule and the schedules of other people.

Anyway, the latest on my progress is below. I will update this post as more progress is made.

1. Tuesday, January 14, 2014 – 6pm

  • Venue: The Flatiron Room, West 26th Street, Chelsea – The venue was awesome. It’s actually quite amazing that I had never been here before, given that I worked on 26th Street for a long time, and I come to 26th all the time to visit friends that live/work in the area. Nevertheless, if you are looking for a truly vintage, old-school place where you can chill after work, The Flatiron Room is just the place. They play some light, live music in the background, without coming across as pretentious, and the crowd is pretty laid back as well.
  • Person: An Old College Friend – I can’t divulge names, right? Anyway…I probably hadn’t seen this college friend since our 5-year reunion back in 2011. We had a good conversation catching up on what each other is doing professionally. Her advancement in filmmaking is quite stunning, considering the number of films, projects and dollars she has made/raised. I almost thought about asking her to hire me to be her entry-level production assistant, but I thought that was too much to ask during happy hour.
  • Drink: I went with The Flatiron Room’s “37 West 26,” which is described as, “Inspired on whisky and wood, this is a delicious concoction which combines art & flavor; Johnnie Walker Black, Drambuie, figs, bitters, and fresh lemon juice.” Clearly, the Johnnie Walker Black is what brought me in, but I ordered a second drink because of the Drambuie and figs, which combined for a nice tart, yet flavorful, taste.

2. Thursday, January 16, 2014 – 6pm

  • Venue: Brass Monkey, 55 Little West 12th St, West Village – I’ve been to the Brass Monkey several times–both for personal and work events. It’s a decent place, especially in the winter, when it’s not swarming with people looking to soak up the sun on it’s not-so-spacious rooftop. On this cold, Manhattan night, I was reserved to the 2nd floor, where there was plenty of space for me to go to the bar, eat and watch the Knicks lose.
  • Person: I was out with several people here. In such instances, I will use the person I talked with the most as my the unique person of the day. In this instance, it was a co-worker at Google that I haven’t done much work with, but did share a project with at one point. I learned a lot about his background in digital media, his climbing of the corporate ladder, and his thoughts on the meaning of life.
  • Drink: Because I’ve been to the Brass Monkey quite a few times, there was nothing new that I considered worth trying. However, we did end up at that same co-worker’s apartment for a nightcap, where I had a glass of Michael Collins Single Malt. I’m no scotch expert, so I won’t fake the funk here, but it tasted like decent scotch to me…no complaints.

3. Friday, January 17, 2014 – 6pm

  • Venue: Buddakan, 75 9th Ave, Chelsea – This building is attached to Google’s location at the Chelsea Market Building, and yet I hadn’t been inside Buddakan since beginning to work at Google last August. I don’t know if I would have picked this pricey place for a happy hour spot if not for the considerable discount I managed to get out of going at this particular time of day. I was starving by the time I got here, and so I ordered the “Bo Bo Plate.” Despite it’s diminutive size, the plate was full of food awesomeness, as it contained 6 different samplings of the restaurants appetizers, including tuna spring rolls, sesame shrimp toast, boneless spare ribs, carrot dumplings, and cantonese spring rolls. The boneless spare rib and the carrot dumplings were the best things on the plate!
  • Person: Business School Classmate – This person is someone who is becoming a better and better friend every day. During this particular encounter, we discussed the usual, which involved talks on working too hard, learning spanish, lost cell phones and “why in the hell did we go to Buddakan for happy hour?” Regardless of the conversation, this particular happy hour comrade of mine is always welcomed company.
  • Drink: The Solid – Comprised of “town branch bourbon, lillet, ginger, and orange,” The Solid was a rather tasty drink. I did order two, but I don’t know if it was because I really liked the mix of bourbon and ginger, or if the other drinks on the specialty cocktail list just didn’t inspire me. It was probably a little bit of both.

4. Friday, January 17, 2014, 8:30pm

  • Venue: Fish, 280 Bleecker St, Greenwich Village – I had seen several friends check-in at Fish on Foursquare over the past couple of months, so when one of my friends recommended it as a spot to go to for dinner, I was excited. I ordered way too much food though, as their menu is overflowing with seafood goodness. First of all, the lobster bisque was excellent, and to be honest, I have a high-bar when it comes to bisque. Second of all, if you’re really hungry, definitely go with the paella, which is full of clams and lobster, and enough food to feed even the hardiest of sailors. And third of all, the lobster mac & cheese was killer. With my older age, I’m realizing more and more that fewer and fewer restaurants in New York City are messing up mac & cheese. I feel like “S’mac” has made NYC restauranteurs raise their game. I hate to end on a sour note, but if you think just because Fish’s lobster bisque and lobster mac & cheese are good, that the lobster mashed potatoes are good as well…think again!
  • Person: College Friend – This was actually a double-date (yes, in my old age, I now look forward to these), and so I could have picked between three people. But most of my conversation was with the other male at dinner. We talked about each of our long-term career goals. I want to be the black Rupert Murdoch and he’s looking at maybe bringing a budding digital media company into the New York fray and Madison Avenue. Other topics included drinking in New Orleans, the promise of new start-up Walker & Company, and some youth programs here in New York City.
  • Drink: Malbec – I’ve probably had a Malbec before (I’m almost sure I have), but I’ve never known that I was drinking it, because I have never ordered it for myself. It likely got served to me at some overly-swanky, pretentious, Ivy League event, where I never thought to ask anything beyond “red or white?” That said, I liked the smokey taste of the Malbec, so this wasn’t the last time I ordered this type of wine. However, it was not exactly the best wine to pair for an evening of seafood, but I liked it anyway.

5. Saturday, January 18, 10pm

  • Venue: Beauty Bar – I had heard of this place many times, but had never been. I try not to go East of 3rd for fear of getting roped into taking a cab home, but this was for a friend’s birthday, so I took the risk. Beauty Bar was very crowded when I got there, but the back was rented out for the birthday party, so that was a relief–especially since it was barely 10pm and the place was already swarming with out-of-control, crazy people. But in the back, all was well, with plenty of open space and a short wait at the open bar.
  • Person: Since this was a party, I talked to many people, but one of the people that stood out was a guy who happens to have worked with an old college classmate of mine. They both worked at an education non-profit, and I got to hear about how much social media is involved in his day-to-day job, what he’s going to be doing at South by Southwest, and how he’s trying to get his boss to use more Google products. I promise that I didn’t pitch him any ideas!
  • Drink: I messed up on this night and didn’t get a new drink. Somehow I forgot about my duties to this mission, and I went with my old faithful, the “rum and coke.” So, I won’t count this as a new drink, but the venue and person still add to the tally.

6. Sunday, January 19, 6pm

  • Venue: Hornblower Hybrid Yacht, Pier 15, Seaport – I managed to snag an RSVP to the “Yelp Holiday Hangover” party aboard the Hornblower Hybrid yacht. Needless to say, Yelp throws a good ass party. I didn’t know a soul there, and the racial diversity was a tad bit lacking, yet despite that, I managed to get quite comfortable, and the unlimited food and drinks were probably the reasons why. Aboard the ship were over a dozen vendors serving up food, drinks and massages. I personally fell in love with the shrimp rolls from Luke’s Lobster, the Meatballs from Littletown and the Hornblower’s own sliders, which I probably had 9 of.
  • Person: Girlfriend – My lovely girlfriend accompanied me on this trip out into the East River. It was a cold night, and before we got to the inside of the boat, we had to wait in below-freezing temperatures for about 45 minutes–so big props to her for withstanding the cold. Once inside though, we spent the initial hour waiting in lines for food, giving us plenty of time to discuss our 30th birthday parties, why so few black people weren’t on board, and how much we thought that whole Yelp shindig costs. Obviously we had some other, more private, conversations, of which I’ll only divulge one discussion relating to a certain lady behind the cookie vendor’s table. For those who were on the boat, you know what I’m talking about…
  • Drink #1: Vodka Collins – I got two unique drinks on this trip (to make up for the mistake at Beauty Bar). The first drink was the Vodka Collins, which tasted as if it were weak on the alcohol, but as I later found out, was quite strong. The soda water and sweet & sour mix do a tremendous job of hiding the vodka. It tasted great! However, I think the addition of some lemonade and a dash of liqueur would make for an interesting drink as well…no?
  • Drink #2: A Manhattan – Yes, it’s true. I’ve never had a Manhattan before. As a fairly big, burly, black man, I’m extra sensitive about being seen with too fancy of a glass in my hand, so the thought of ordering a Manhattan has never even crossed my mind. But because the drinks were free and being served in plastic cups, I was game to give it a try. I personally don’t see the allure of the Manhattan, but it’s not an awful drink.

7. Thursday, January 23, 9pm

  • Venue: Flatiron Hall
  • Person: Business School Classmate
  • Drink: Flatiron Margarita

8. Friday, January 24, 5:30pm

  • Venue: Wood & Ale  

9. Friday, January 24, 8:30pm

  • Venue: The Park 112Don’t sleep on this sexy, little, venue in Harlem! The Park 112 has an awesome decor, a Chef Roble like take on some traditional African-American inspired dishes, and one good-ass chicken wing. I won’t harp on the food too much, but I will say that going with the steak will not let you down. There were 2 things wrong with this place. One, the waiter tried to holla at my woman, completely disrespecting the the 3:3 ratio of men to women at the table (don’t worry…I checked him). And two, as a place clearly new to the wintry weather of New York City, they didn’t put one of those exterior “keep the cold air out of the entrance” protector thingies around the front door. Still, it was a wonderful night with wonderful people.
  • Person: Friend/Husband of Business School ClassmateAnytime I can talk to one of the three people that listens to my podcast, I’m a happy man. We haven’t gotten to know each other all that well yet, but I suspect over time that will indeed happen. Nonetheless, I enjoyed our talks on the media industry, the Boondocks and checking folks that tried to holla at your woman.
  • Drink #1: The Uptown – Good.: - Dark Rum of Jamaican Type, Lime Juice, Orange Juice, Pineapple Juice, Grenadine, Orange Bitters, Triple Sec
    Drink #2: The Upper Manhattan – Great! - Michters Bourbon, Antica Formula Vermouth, Angostura Bitters, Hennessy VS, Macerated Cherry

10. Saturday, January 25 – 9pm

  • Venue: Bayard’s Ale House – A nice cozy place in the West Village. Certainly no The Park 112, but a great place to meet up with some friends, which is what I did. Wound up making a whole night out of it, which is something I usually don’t expect when I walk in at 9pm. But the food (pasta, white wine sauce, salmon) was good, and so was the company!
  • Person: Business School Classmate - This guy is a troublemaker–not unlike-myself, which is why we get a long. I have this habit of making fun of the people I like the most, so we talked about how unsuccessful, unlucky and un-handsome he is. Naturally, he’s actually successful, luckily landed a great girlfriend, but he’s still an ugly-looking dude.
  • Drink: Moscow Mule – Somehow I never had one of these before, and yet I managed to drink about 500 of them. I thought I would wake up with a stunning hangover, and I didn’t. Perhaps the drinks were watered-down, or maybe I’ve built a tolerance unknown to mankind. Either way, you can’t go wrong with a Moscow Mule. Seriously, how have I never had this drink before?

11. Wednesday, January 29th – 6:30pm 

  • Venue: Landsdowne Road – Admittedly, I like my happy hours one way: cheap. After all, if I’m going to go out to drink every day after work, I can’t possibly afford to pay full price 5 times a week and twice on the weekends. And while Landsdowne doesn’t go for that Happy Hour mumbo-jumbo on Wednesday nights, they do have pretty good chicken wings.
  • People: The Doctor – Not my doctor, but my friend the doctor. Like me, I don’t think he’s about this paying full-price life, so I’m surprised he decided to take me and two other friends out to a place that appeared to be strictly about making a brotha pay full-price…but I digress. The conversation focused on LeBron James, mentees and the impending Super Bowl.
  • Drinks: I failed on the new drink thing!

12. Wednesday, January 29th – 11:30pm

  • Venue: Patron Mexican Grill - This place ended up on my list of things to do on Foursquare, so why the hell not? I didn’t get any food, so I don’t have much to report on this place, other than this is a great bar to just chill, drink and be among every day New Yorkers like myself. What else do you want out of a weeknight binging experience?
  • People: Business School Friend – The idea that someone can fly into town on a Wednesday, call you, say “let’s drink”, and you end up drinking until 1-2 am in the morning on a weekday is a good thing. Can’t say that’s not what I would have done even had he not come into town that night, but it certainly made it less pathetic. Topics of conversation included, women, food and women. Our usuals.

13. Friday, January 31st – 6pm 

  •  Venue: Hundred Acres – Much to my surprise, Hundred Acres is one of the few places in Soho offering up a decent happy hour special. In fact, it’s better than decent given that Hundred Acres is “giving” away well-sized appetizer plates for just $6 a pop, from 5-7 on weekdays. I must go back.
  • Person: Business School Friend – This was a gathering of all the people in my cluster, so I actually got to talk to a lot of different individuals. This particular person has a tendency to poke fun at me, albeit usually because she was provoked, but her words always come via this British accent, so I let it slide.
  • Drink #1: The Bandit – Peloton de la muerte mezcal, tequila, chipotle, lime
  • Drink #2: Not Guilty – Alibi whiskey, broadbent madeira, fresh lime

14. Friday, January 31st – 11pm 

  • Venue: Bareburger – A wonderful place that I don’t go to enough. I went with 3 other people, and while the time spent talking about things  under the slight influence of a 4-hour Cluster reunion happy hour was enjoyable, the burger made my day. The idea to make an already outstanding burger and then put brisket on top of it is utterly amazing!
  • Person: Business School Classmate – Again, I have three people to choose from here, but I’ll go with the one that say directly across from me. Besides, that’s who you end up talking to the most in a 4-person, 2 people to a side, table arrangement, right? The topics of conversation included me leading us to Bareburger post-happy hour, the wisdom of crowds, and naturally, life post-business school.
  • Drink: Lionshead Beer – I’m not much of a beer drinker, but I didn’t have much choice. When in Rome…do things you don’t like to do.

15. Saturday, February 1st – 12:30am 

  • Venue: The Wooly – If you don’t know about The Wooly, it’s your own fault. But I digress. When I walked in, I thought I was 100% crashing a birthday party. But 3 minutes into it, I saw 3 friends from business school (not a coincidence I saw one, but 3?), and I ran into a friend from my high school football team. Small world.
  • Person: Business School Classmate and HK Resident – While I didn’t spend too much time talking to him, the idea that he would just “swoop in” to New York City from Hong Kong on a whim makes him my kind of guy and “the” person I talked to at The Wooly. He literally asked us what was going  3 days prior to his arrival via a group email, and then he asked where I was Friday night. Wasn’t sure if his email was meant to lead us on or truly genuine. Nonetheless, it was a happy surprise to see him.
  • Drink: The Dark and Wooly – If you want to know, you have to go…

16. Saturday, February 1st – 11pm 

  • Venue: Millesime – A nice little place in the Gramercy/Flatiron area. I had never been there before, so much to my surprise, it was quite the space for something I hadn’t even heard of. That said, it was a pretty weak pre “Super Bowl” party for the most part, with few people dancing and not very many people there to begin with.
  • Person: Old College Friend – Reminiscing with college friends, no matter how often you seem them, is always a blast from the past. You’re talking to people who knew you when you were a wide-eyed, 18-year old from Texas, and at the same time, you see them through your 18-year old eyes as the 18-year old they once were. I think that’s why it’s always important to stay up with the people you meet when you’re younger. Even though growing and growing a part is sometimes a natural part of life, it’s hard to beat relationships where the main image of that person in your head is that of an innocent youngster–and vice versa.
  • Drink: Hennessy and Cranberry – Nothing special here, but I was always opposed to mixing these two drinks. In fact, the very idea that I made this concoction disgusts me. Dark liquor with cranberry juice…are we serious? Yes. Yes, we are. It was good…but never again!

17. Monday, February 3rd – 6:3opm 

  • Venue: El Cid – This is a quaint little spot in Chelsea–very underrated. I probably average .75 trips here every week, because there’s never a huge crowd and they are practically giving away Margaritas.
  • Person: Business School Baby Cluster Mate – A friend from business school was looking to work for my employer and wanted some tips and advice on how to play the hand she’s working with. I did my best, and I hope I was of some help, but I often ramble on about “my way” of getting into the company, which may or may not have been any use to her. She appeared to be eagerly taking notes and paying attention, but I’m nearly 100% sure that was all for show. Just kidding…I hope!
  • Drink: Something new, but I don’t remember what it was called, dammit!

18. Wednesday, February 5th – 9:30pm 

  • Venue: Ms. Lily’s – A wonderful place full of great Jamaican people, decor, and of course, food! I thought I had died and gone to Jamaican heaven. Let’s just start with the food–it was amazing! I had the Jerk chicken, some “Jacquitos” and several other mouth-watering tapas (like Mac & Cheese Pie) that will make you spend all of your money at Ms. Lily’s. It was well worth the price though–I don’t know how more people aren’t filling this place up!
  • Person: College Friend – I’m just now beginning to realize that labeling my friends as that of being from “work,” “college” or “business school” is pretty lame. I don’t know how else to do it without saying too much. I could give physical descriptions that wouldn’t help anybody actually figure out who they are, but that doesn’t lend much to their relationship with me–which is really what this is all about, right? Well, in this situation, the conversation definitely wasn’t about me. The two of us actually were dining with one of his good friends from high school who has a burgeoning start-up out in Silicon Valley. So a lot of the conversation was around recruiting black people in the tech space, marketing and career moves. Great stuff if you there…very boring and business sounding if you weren’t.
  • Drink: Soju Margarita – The only downside to Ms. Lily’s is that they don’t have a liquor license. But if you order their Soju-infused Margarita, you won’t regret coming here!

19. Friday, February 7th – 6:00pm

  • Venue: Local West – Great place across from Madison Square Garden, where I was going after happy hour. If you haven’t been, you’re missing out on quintessential New York City happy hours.
  • Person: My Brother – My brother was in town, so before we went to the Knicks game, I tried to get him a little liquored up before he watched my egregious Knicks play really bad basketball (they actually ended up winning this one though). Topics of conversation included plans for the weekend, plans for the future and sports.
  • Drink: Jalepeno Margarita – As someone who loves a good Margarita, I felt like the damn drink had been reinvented when I tried it with a jalepeno in it. Who the hell knew that kind of kick got added to one of my favorite cocktails just by the drop of a single jalepeno? It’s almost scientifically amazing. So much so, I can’t believe that much kick came from just a single jalepeno–they must have dropped something else in there. But whether they did or didn’t, it was absolutely delicious!

20. Saturday, February 8th – 2pm 

  • Venue: The Meatball Shop – I love this place, and how can anyone not? It’s full of meatballs, drinks and the type of people that can appreciate both. I really do think that the type of people that regularly come to a restaurant that only serves meatballs are my kind of people. Because doing so means you’re not always worried about some diet, trying the newest fad or are following all this crazy “make anything out of ramen” fad that’s taking the city over.
  • Person: My Other Brother – My other brother came out to New York City as well, and the topics didn’t change much here either. Conversation included Chelsea v. Harlem, working at “G,” and future career plans.

21. Saturday, February 8th – 9pm 

  • Venue: Congee Bowery - Awesome Chinese food. Enough said.

22. Saturday, February 8th – 11pm 

  • Venue: Essex Restaurant – A place I’ve been to one too many times without ever having eaten there. You know my rule…once I have partied there more than 3 times without trying the food, I no longer trust your food.
  • Person: Old Business School Classmate – My classmate in from Europe was there to grace the party with her presence. She’s beginning to come back to America so often that I think she really likes it here. It was a loud party, so as per my Grandfather-like hearing, I barely heard myself talk, but topics of conversation included life on the other side of the pond and the craziness that was the very party we were talking amongst.

23. Sunday, February 9th – 12:30am 

  • Venue: Random Place in LES – I literally never saw the name of the two places we ended up in, so I can’t tell you what either of them was called. This place certainly isn’t worth remembering, so the owner should be thanking me for not seeing the sign, or patting himself on the back for hiding any type of branding for his bar.
  • Person: A New Person – This conversation was going very well and then she went awry. We talked about simple things like relationships, traveling and finding jobs, then she dropped some really stupid stuff on me and I shut it down. The End.

24. Wednesday, February 12th – 6:30pm 

  • Venue: SNAP – It always amazes me how SNAP manages to be this really cool-looking bar on 14th Street, literally on the point of intersection of The Village, Meatpacking and Chelsea, and yet at 6:30pm on a Wednesday, you could walk in and make up 100% of the clientele.
  • Person: Co-Worker – I went here hoping to get a bunch of fellow co-workers out. Only two made it (how cool am I?), but it was a very good conversation. The one I talked to the longest told me a lot about the culture at the company, plans for an internal group he leads, and with our other co-worker who was there, we broke down the salary negotiations of new-hires.
  • Drink: Vodka Cranberry – I know, you don’t believe that I’ve never had this drink before, but I really haven’t. Anytime I have a choice, I get a Vodka-OJ, not a Vodka Cranberry. I only fell victim this time because well-vodka was the happy hour special. So, yes, this was my first Vodka Cranberry, and no, I don’t feel ashamed for saying it.

Final Count:

  • Venues: 24
  • People: 23
  • Drinks: 19

THE END 

I did not get to 3o, 30 and 30, but it was a noble effort. Had it not been for a 2-week stretch in the middle of this that caused me to have to spend quite a few more hours per week at work, I think I could have gotten this done. But no excuses…this was my bad. On to the next one!

 

The Murtaugh List Challenge: Things to do Before Turning 30

Murtaugh ListFor those of you who don’t know what the “Murtaugh List” is, it was defined in “How I Met Your Mother” as the list of stuff you shouldn’t do after you turn the age of 30. It was pop culture taking from pop culture, as the character Detective Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon was often caught saying “I’m too old for this shit” throughout the entire LW franchise.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to bring you my own Murtaugh List. Because on March 12, 2014, I officially become too old for this shit. I will turn 30 that day, but before that day comes, I have a lot of stuff to do. When I was a sophomore in high school, I made a huge list of career accomplishments I wanted to complete by the age of 30. Very little, if any of those have come true…who knows? I lost the list. And quite frankly, who worries about their careers once you turn 30 anyway? By then I’ll just be complaining about my back and heart burn all the time, won’t I?

So instead of trying to accomplish, or even more appropriately, trying to get on the right path to accomplishing all of my hopes and dreams, I’m going to practice being young, dumb and full of—well, you know what comes next. So much like Barney took on the Murtaugh List in this infamous episode of “How I Met Your Mother”, I’m going to do all of the crazy things young, idiotic, 20-somethings are supposed to do that 30 year olds won’t…and naturally, I’m going to do all of it by the time I turn 30.

However, I can’t go into my 30′s without any type of personal development whatsoever. So within this list, I’m also including some goals to help overcome the many deficiencies of my first 30 years on this earth. The list is below. I know what you’re saying: “There’s no way I can finish that in two months.” Well, that’s kind of the point. I’m going to give it the old college try. I once studied and took 3 mid-terms, did a football workout and went to the movies in a 24-hour span…so challenge accepted!

Note: For updates on my ventures through Murtaugh List, always check out the “Murtaugh List” link the header up above!

  • Partake in a footrace
  • Crash a party I’m clearly not invited to
  • Eat an ungodly amount of pancakes
  • Make a rap song
  • Go to a rave party (do those still exist?)
  • Run 10 gassers
  • Get published on espn.com
  • Wear torn jeans
  • Get over my love of 90′s television
  • Spend money on something stupid
  • Invite friends over for a cheap meal
  • Bore someone with my high school glory days stories
  • Do something stupid with my facial hair
  • Rewatch a movie from my childhood
  • Display unnecessary bravado
  • Travel somewhere with a backpack
  • Do something I’m scared of
  • Cook an awesome meal
  • Take a “fun” day off of work
  • Stop to appreciate a moment
  • Master a party trick
  • Don’t be defined by cultural expectations
  • Take a big risk
  • Join a networking group
  • Do something I’m not good at in front of others
  • Be grateful to someone
  • Stay out till 4am on a “school” night
  • Watch MTV
  • Eat nothing but dessert for a day
  • Finish a webseries
  • Host a dinner party
  • Spontaneous out-of-town trip
  • Send postcards
  • Do a fast
  • Spend 24 hours out in the city
  • Try out for a sports team
  • Run a race for charity
  • Write a poem
  • Enter a food eating contest
  • Meditate
  • Buy a gift for closest friends
  • Mentor a young one
  • Take a toastmasters class
  • Play in a professional poker tournament
  • Make a major investment
  • Have a crazy Atlantic City experience
  • Go to a club 7 nights straight
  • Play video games all night long
  • Learn to make a signature cocktail
  • All-u-Can Eat Chicken
  • 30-Day Challenge: 30 Sit-ups everyday
  • 30-Day Challenge: 30 unique persons, 30 unique venues, 30 unique drinks
  • 30-Day Challenge: 30 days to a better blog
  • 30-Day Challenge: Tell the world something they didn’t know about me
  • 30-Day Challenge: Have a “Twitter” beef with someone
  • 30-Day Challenge: Promote a Kickstarter campaign each day
  • 7-Day Challenge: Challenge something I believe in
  • Consider becoming a mayor on Foursquare as cool
  • Watch 5 enlightening documentaries
  • Overspend at a place of business
  • Spend entire day on my couch
  • Learn a DIY craft
  • Buy a suit and never get too big for this suit
  • Start a tradition
  • Eat food that is spicy to me
  • Read a classic book I should’ve read in high school or college
  • Travel solo somewhere
  • Commit to a cause

NYC, Still Has It’s Lure and New Yorkers Live it Everyday

new york cityFor those of you who don’t know it, Gina Bellafante writes the Big City column for the New York Times, where she often waxes philosophically about living in New York City. From time to time, she tends to anger her readers when she questions just how special New York City is in the grand scheme of things. She’s basically Susan Dominus without the preordained love for New York.

I happened across one of Gina’s articles from May of 2012 in which she tries to dissect the allure of New York and how the city may or may not be all that alluring. She starts with a tale about how her husband used to live in New York while working in Nashville. She then digresses into all the things New Yorkers claim they love about the city (restaurants, Broadway, museums, jobs) while trying to prove they either are things New Yorkers don’t actually do or can get from some place else n the U.S.

And to be honest, she had her points. If her data is indeed accurate, and 60% of MoMA-goers are tourists and only 17% of theater-goers are New Yorkers, than there probably is something to be said for the fact that some New Yorkers don’t take advantage of living in New York some of the time.

But I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the allure to New York is some mystery that possibly is the result of a Hollywood love/film fest for the city or hometown pride from the biggest voice in the crowd. There are plenty of every day things to love about New York, and in the interest of time, I’ll just go through a few of them.

Sure, as Gina mentioned, this isn’t the best place to come get a job. Sure, some of the creative job opportunities are clustered here, so there are networking effects that make it advantageous to be where your contemporaries are. But now thanks to the internet, the cost is far much lower and the chances equally as good to become an internet video star or prize-winning columnist from the comforts and cheap rents of Ohio. Not to mention that unemployment in New York is higher than the nation’s average.

But even though we can’t find jobs like they can out West or in the middle of the country, we still spend all of our money on door covers and bottle service. That’s right, when it comes to nightlife, there is not a city in the United States that can hold a candle to The City that Never Sleeps. Sure, most of the partying is nothing more than a vein attempt by 20 and 30-somethings to show off money they probably didn’t earn, but it sure is fun. And I don’t care what stats Gina pulls out, partying is something that the locals do better than any NYC tourist does.

While I probably could poke holes in Gina’s argument that New Yorkers don’t do culturally-related things—well, actually, how about I just poke holes in it. I’ll just go with the first thing I know to be misleading, which is her claim that foreigners make up 60% of those who frequent MoMA. Because while that is indeed true, we’re still doing better than a lot of the rest of the U.S. that comes to New York to visit. Because if you break it down into percentages against the population, over 5% of New Yorkers go to the same destination, versus 1.8% of domestic visitors, who should be inclined to go to cultural attractions. And that 5% doesn’t even account for people that live outside of the 5 boroughs.

And speaking of culture, New York kind of invented it in the United States. Where were hip-hop and punk founded? Where did Fashion Week begin? Isn’t Madison Square Garden both the mecca of basketball and greatest music arena in the world? Last time I checked, all of those things are alive, well and a part of the daily ongoings of New Yorkers. Oh, and try to get a seat when the New York Philharmonic plays in one of the parks during the summer and tell me New Yorkers don’t have any culture.

Last but not least, Gina just has to look at her own life to demystify the allure of New York. Her husband worked in Nashville while living in New York. That’s not an everyday story some place else in the U.S., but here it’s the norm, because New York is full of diversity. I have decade-long friends that swear they live here when I know they work in Philly, D.C. or even L.A. And try to beat the ethnic diversity we have. Nowhere else in the nation are you going to find a city where a quarter of it is black, a quarter of it is hispanic and 10% is Asian–and nobody thinks twice about it.

Don’t get me wrong, I know New York has it’s problems. It smells like trash sometimes, we have a huge wealth gap, and as I speak, the 7th Snowmageddon of this decade is going down outside my window. But let’s not pretend like people don’t know why they love New York and that those same reasons aren’t things we partake in on a regular basis. Yes, like the rest of the country, we’re getting lazier, dumber and are watching more Netflix. But I’ve been outside of New York–hell, I’m from outside of New York–and if you think the middle of Texas or somewhere in Mississippi is more alluring (deservedly or otherwise) than New York City, then you haven’t been to those places.

My New Year’s Resolutions for 2014

New Year's Resolutions 2014Well, here we are again. I’m making yet another resolutions post that is sure to bite me in the ass when I look at it at the end of the year. Then again, given that I somehow forgot to write a resolutions post for 2013, maybe it won’t be until 2016 when I write my next resolutions piece.

But before I go into how I want to better myself (and therefore, those around me) in 2014, I first want to recap some old resolutions. And since I had no resolutions for 2013, I will instead go back to what I told myself I would do in 2012.

So here is my post for resolutions in 2012. I won’t go resolution by resolution, but there are three that I do want to point out. One, exercising more and eating less was something I definitely failed to correct in 2012. That was my first year of business school, and while I thought I would be able to maintain some type of eating regularity and consistent working out, the classes, pizzas, happy hours and trips abroad put a damper on that. I probably gained 10 pounds in 2012.

Two, I said I would write more, and that didn’t happen. In fact, I wrote less than I ever have in 2012. I went into business school with the hopes of profiling my time there for classes to come. After the first month or so, I realized that writing my MBA Voyage posts late at night had to be replaced with homework and “networking” late at night. It suffices to say, there was not a whole lot of blogging going on in 2012, and summer and fall internships certainly did not help with that. As a result, no resolutions post for 2013.

Three, I did successfully get to know and relate with more people. I don’t know if it was a purposeful intention, or just the nature of being in business school, but I got to meet a lot of new people while at Columbia, some of whom are good friends now and will be years from now. So while I failed at doing some of the entrepreneurial productions I intended to do, and didn’t do a whole lot more reading, getting to know people made up for all of that…and then some.

But on to 2014!

I’m going to narrow this down to five things. Usually, I elaborate way too much about my goals for the new year, and then all of my elaborate plans come back to haunt me, because I don’t ever follow through with them. This time around, I’m going to be straightforward and to the point–well, except for one resolution.

1. Make More Deeper, Long-Term Relationships – I’m a man that hasn’t done as well as I should have building long-term relationships. I have always been fortunate enough to meet and become acquaintances with a lot of cool and interesting people, but over time, if someone is out of my everyday life, I usually don’t do a good job of maintaining that relationship. It has been something that has plagued me with both friends and family, and I’m going to try to rectify it in 2014. When I have made this resolution in the past, the focus has primarily been trying to get to know more people. Now, my focus is to try to get to know more of the people I already know and build deeper relationships. Being an MBA, I certainly have thought about ways to monitor my success, but I’m not sure that’s a good way to approach something like this. So basically, I’m going to try to do 3 things every day (call, email and help) with three different people, and then 1 thing every week. I’ll monitor those activities–and hopefully that’s not too unnatural of a thing to do. Apparently, there’s an app for that.

2. Learn Some Stuff – Besides career-oriented stuff, I want to learn some things that will make me a more well-rounded person (as disadvantageous as it is, I kind of like being prince of all trades, and thus a master of none–although, I am trying to master one thing!). The first thing I want to learn is spanish. I already bought Rosetta Stone. When I got it this past September, I wanted to be done with Level 1 by the end of the year. That did not happen. But the overall goal was to be done with Level 5 by the end of 2014. As long as I can do that, the goal will be accomplished. I also want to learn to speed read, which apparently I can do here. I haven’t even began that, so whether speed reading is something I can actually do remains to be seen, but I’m gong to give it a shot.

3. Organize Time for All of My “Media” Goals – As you all know, there are so many media-related things I am or want to be involved in. From almost a dozen interests in websites/blogs to producing a web series, I love the idea of monetizing content, and it’s something I truly overcommit myself to. And sometimes that means really good ideas don’t get the attention they should. I’m going to make a plan for the year on what I will be working on, and hopefully that will allow me to tackle the projects I’m most interested in. So if you don’t see a web series from me in 2014, it won’t be because I failed to do it, it will be because I flat-out didn’t have the time.

4. Find a Balance Between Living Life and Money – This sounds like a real first world problem, and that’s because it is. I’ve always struggled with trying to save as much money as possible, even when it comes at the cost of doing something that could be a life-long memory. That’s not to say I don’t take up many opportunities, like going on a Cuba and Mexico trip I couldn’t afford, or buying a laptop for a new venture I wanted to start. But as I try to build deeper relationships, it’s a hell of a lot easier to do that when you are spending money. Don’t get me wrong, you can build relationships without money, and my best relationships are certainly with people whom I met when I didn’t have a dollar to my name. But having fun without money at this age involves a lot of effort that busy New Yorkers often don’t have time for. Going out for dinner, drinks, a show or even arranging a vacation are easy ways to do things together. Having people over or playing cards requires putting in time, energy and organizational skills that some people just don’t have or have time to do. I don’t know how I’m going to strike this balance between fun and saving, but I’m going to try really, really hard, and report back on it throughout the year. One thing that will make it a whole lot easier is if I don’t upgrade my apartment like I’m planning to. If I can avoid doing that, or at least put it off, that will make things a whole lot easier on your boy’s wallet.

5. Get to 225 – I did a great job of losing a decent amount of weight this past summer when I was training for a half-marathon. It has been a lot harder to run that much since I’ve started working, but I hope to pick that up again in the New Year. Surely, I don’t see any reason why I’ll have more time in 2014 than I did in the last half of this year when I went back to work, but this whole weighing more than I should thing can’t go on much longer. Your boy is turning 30 in March, and not too long from now, losing weight is going to be much harder than it is at my current age. My goal is to be 225 by March 12th–my birthday. I’m a little less than 240 right now. If I can make the time to run, I will be that weight by then. But the goal is to maintain it throughout the year. I looked at my loseit.com progress for the last 12 months, and while it’s clear that my food consumption is higher than it was this past summer, it’s the exercise in November and December that hurt me the most. So, I’ll step that up, with the goal being to burn 3,500 calories a week. That’s a lot, but with me being in a basketball league and having more time on Sundays with football over, this should be something I can accomplish.

Summer NYC 2013, Activity #30: Flatiron Hall NYC

Flatiron Hall NYCFlatiron Hall
Neighborhood: Flatiron/Chelsea
Venue: Bar & Restaurant
Atmosphere: Casual, Chillin
Crowd/Scene: Afterwork, Happy Hour
Foursquare Check-inhttp://4sq.com/GS1Hu1
Rating: 3 Stars

I know what you’re saying (if you looked at the Foursquare check-in): this was after Labor Day!

Fair enough.

However, this year, there were only 99 days from Memorial Day to Labor Day. So in order to complete my “100 Days, 100 Things, 100 Posts” series, I had to extend the project 1 day. Not that I actually got to 100 things on this final day, but the process wouldn’t have been complete without finishing strong on the last day, right…?

…Or I just wanted to get to the number 30.

Oh well!

Anyway, Flatiron Hall was talked about by everyone I know in the Chelsea/Flatiron area this past summer. It opened sometime around May/June (who cares really?), and it has since been a very well-reviewed afterwork place. In fact, everyone I know that works in this neighborhood has invited me there for drinks afterwork, and it has only been 3/4 months since that had become an option!

So as you can imagine, when I got there, I was expecting it to be the most crowded place in all of Manhattan. And it was…but just on the main floor! But in the basement, where I was meeting several of my business school brethren, it was actually quite chill, relaxing and not at all crowded with overworked Manhattanites.

So how was it? It was a better than alright, but nothing special. I think the reason it has gotten so much fanfare is because it’s exactly what you want afterwork. There are no frills, long lines, loud music or overly rambunctious 22-year old investment bankers throwing caution to the wind (boy, I’ve never sounded so old!). Instead, it’s a nice group of late 20s, early 30′s individuals, most of which live or work in Chelsea, which almost all but eliminates the prospects of having too many bankers in one place…and that always makes for a better evening.

There are televisions downstairs for all of you sports lovers. There are plenty of singles trying to mingle. And there are definitely more than your fair share of groups that come to Flatiron Hall to have more “fun” than one probably should be having on a Tuesday night when you have to get up and go to work on a Wednesday morning. So Flatiron Hall has a little bit of everything for those who want it, while still maintaining an overall atmosphere that is conducive to drowning the workday’s sorrows in a glass of alcohol and complaining about your boss with your subordinate, who wants nothing more than to complain about his boss when he goes off to his next happy hour.

Despite the great atmosphere, this is another one of those beer-snob places, so I was “forced” to order a beer–albeit, after I had at least one rum & coke. I went with the pilsner (per my newly discovered liking for it at Die Stammkneipe / Der Schwarze Kölner), and it wasn’t bad at all. I probably should have stopped at beer, but I wound up in a 3-shot square off with a friend of mine, which wasn’t really a problem, but it didn’t make getting out of bed on a Wednesday morning any easier. That said, I was right back at Flatiron Hall the next day for a friend’s birthday celebration!

Summer NYC 2013, Activity #29: Bathtub Gin

Bathtub Gin NYCBathtub Gin 
Neighborhood: Chelsea
Venue: Lounge & Restaurant
Atmosphere: Trendy, Biz Casual
Crowd/Scene: Dinner, Late Night
Foursquare Check-in: http://4sq.com/1blYnnV
Rating: 4 Stars

Bathtub Gin…oh how I have longed to visit this place! And when it finally happened, it just so happened on a very random night during my first week back at work.

I had the wonderful pleasure of being taken out by my new team at work to Gaslight Lounge, where I got to meet a ton of new, cool people that I will be working with for the foreseeable future. But once we got done with Gaslight Lounge, a bunch of us headed over to Brass Monkey for even more post-work liquid consumption. And it was there, that I really got to meet the people that I would be working with for the foreseeable future!

Once we were done at Brass Monkey, I wound up leaving with a few people and walked over to Bathtub Gin on a spur of the moment kind of deal. Somehow, I managed to get in despite wearing a t-shirt–but hey, when you look this good, who’s going to keep you out of the club? And once I got in, the interior of Bathtub Gin was about as awesome as I had made it out to be in my head after having heard numerous, positive reviews about this fine, speakeasy establishment in Chelsea.

Bathtub Gin looks like a speakeasy should look like. The furniture is fresh, clean and seemingly new, but it also looks like it was ordered special delivery from the 1920s. The lighting is dim, and the colors are also dark, adding to an already preconceived ambiance of underground, sneaky and sexy. For about 7 seconds, I don’t know if it was the post-work liquid consumption speaking, but I felt pretty surreal being in what seemed like a really unique establishment.

That said, I don’t have much else to tell you about Bathtub Gin. I didn’t do much other than order a few beverages, run into a friend on a date, and talk up the doorman, whom I gave my business card to. So other than assuring myself that I can get into Bathtub Gin Sunday through Thursday so long as my favorite doorman doesn’t change jobs, that’s really all I’ve got for you. It’s a cool-looking place, with decent drinks, and an ambiance that would make for a great date, birthday party or anything in which you need to impress someone from out of town.

Summer NYC 2013, Activity #28: Gaslight Lounge

Gaslight Lounge NYCGaslight Lounge
Neighborhood: Chelsea
Venue: Bar and Lounge
Atmosphere: Trendy,
Crowd/Scene: Afterwork, Late Night
Foursquare Check-inhttp://4sq.com/1blYobv
Rating: 2 Stars

Gaslight Lounge is alright. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time there, but that was mainly because I was there with co-workers, getting to know them for the first time outside of the office walls. That said, I probably would have a more favorable opinion of Gaslight Lounge if there had been more than just my co-workers and me in there during happy hour.

I’m usually not one to complain about having too much space–and I’m not doing that now. But the reason you go to Happy Hour is to be around other people, and usually other people that are just getting out of work like you. Well, Gaslight Lounge appears to have defied all statistical probabilities, because I did not know that you could have happy hour in New York City and have your venue, foot for foot, be the emptiest place in all of Manhattan!

It was amazing! I mean this place is on 14th Street and 9th Avenue, and at 6:30pm on a Thursday, there wasn’t a sole patron in the joint! Again, personally, I’m not complaining. But if I’m ever looking for a place to go afterwork, either by myself or with less than a truckload of friends, Gaslight Lounge probably won’t be at the top of the list if I feel the need to enjoy my drinks while still living in what at least has the trappings of a civilization. Perhaps the need to be amongst the rest of society is what spurred me to go to Bathtub Gin later on in the evening.

Summer NYC 2013, Activity #27: Gallow Green

Gallow Green NYCGallow Green
Neighborhood: West Chelsea
Venue: Rooftop Bar
Atmosphere: Trendy
Crowd/Scene: Afterwork, Late Night
Foursquare Check-inhttp://4sq.com/167FYTM
Rating: 4 Stars

Don’t ever say lending a helping hand won’t get you anything in life! For me, it got me free drinks and a trip to Gallow Green! I helped a friend and a small business out with a very tiny IT issue, and the next thing I know, I was being graciously rewarded with drinks at a place that I had been meaning to go to all summer long!

Gallow Green is awesome! You would have to be crazy not to think that a literal greenhouse a top the Chelsea, Manhattan skyline would not be as wonderful as it sounds! Plush with vegetation of all varieties, you can’t help but be sucked into the cool, spunky, jungle-like ambiance of this place.

The drinks match the unique decor and vegetation. They have a special concoction for all of the major liquor verticals. And if you are a big fan of rum like me, try the Matamoros, it is one of their better drinks in my opinion!

With a specialty cocktail in your hand, the presence of greenery all about you, and a decent view of some of Manhattan’s finer skyscrapers, it’s hard to do better than Gallow Green if you want to share drinks with a friend, date or group. It’s a little off the beaten path with its location in West Chelsea at Sleep No More’s the McKittrick Hotel, but much like life, it’s worth the trouble.

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