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On Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness

Is Harlem the New Brooklyn?

Robert Manni - Wednesday, July 06, 2011


Image courtesy of David.R.Carroll

Seems like every five years or so another undiscovered, gentrified neighborhood emerges from the scrap heap of old-school construction, independently owned shops, and a bouillabaisse of ethnicities. For the past decade it’s gone section by section through Brooklyn. From Brooklyn Heights to The Slope to Billyburg, and more recently a resurgent Bushwick, Brooklyn has become the place to live in New York.

While Manhattan gentrifies with a Baby Gap, Starbucks, and Duane Reade on every corner and the usual suburban white table cloth restaurants like Olive Garden and Chuck E Cheese showing up for the tourist and even some tri-state inhabitants,  Brooklyn has been a beacon to disgruntled Manhattanites fed up with the homogenization of its once proud neighborhoods. And, although many real estate experts are touting Midtown West Side as the next place, I can tell you first hand that it is noisy, increasingly expensive, and clogged with traffic.

So, if you don’t want to move to Bushwick or Sunset Park, where can a New Yorker go to get that neighborhood feel, a culture hodgepodge, and access to the greatest park in the world?

I moved to Harlem, or as they call my “new” neighborhood, SoHa. I live off Frederick Douglass Boulevard, which I had no idea where it was until I took the C train uptown to check out the hood. FDB runs north past Central Park, picking up where Central Park West ends at 110th Street. SoHa, on the West Side at least, runs between 110th and 125th. There are lots of surprises in store if you decide to check it out. First, one of the best things about Harlem is that there are no true high rises so there is lots of blue sky, sunshine, and great views.  Depending on what avenue you live on, there is almost instant access to Central Park and Morningside Park. Columbia University is right up the hill and St. John the Divine is a breathtaking piece of architecture. There are wild peacocks roaming freely on their grounds, too.  Subway access is great with the A, C, B, and D all within a short walk and the price of real estate per square foot is about sixty percent of that which is ten blocks south and west.

But the real allure to SoHa is the exquisite mix of people and cultures and businesses that make it feel like a real New York neighborhood. My neighborhood is a mix of Senegalese, African Americans, Europeans, Asians, Latinos, and an endless wagon train of Upper West Siders and families fed up with the prices and congestion in their former neighborhoods. FDB has a string of restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating and of course now Starbucks has planted its flag with a sprinkling of shops.

So, do you really need to move to Brooklyn to experience that local neighborhood flavor? Let me know. I’m off for a run in Central Park.

The 'No-Problem' Problem

Robert Manni - Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Image courtesy of Nic McPhee

In today’s hyper-fast, modern world of anagrams, walking up the stairs while texting, and speed-dating, the human spirit always seems to find even more short cuts. Here in NYC, the pace is even more frantic. Just take a look at the streets of Midtown in the summer and you’ll see the impatient faces of New Yorkers shifting gears while attempting to pass random hoards of disorganized map-wielding tourists all looking up in different directions while they shuffle along in the general direction of Times Square.

And with our all-consuming need for speed, young Americans have resourcefully found one, singular mega-multitasking response to situations that call for: an affirmative or negative answer, “Thank you” or “You’re welcome”.  It’s the now ubiquitous, “No Problem”, the cure-all for modern communication, or lack of it. You hear it used repeatedly by the staff in quick service restaurants, retail stores, and anywhere young peeps are employed or hang out. I used to think this phrase was only heard during that weeklong Caribbean vacation and scuttled after returning to the grind. Now, it’s omnipresent.

“Waiter, can we have more water?” “No problem.” “I ordered the squid, not the octopus.” “No problem.” “Thank you for moving over.” “No problem.” “Sorry, I stepped on your toe. “No problem”.  I can keep going, but we all hear this neutral, yet annoying mantra deployed on a daily basis to address a cadre of situations. First, it usurped, “You’re welcome”, and that seemed oddly acceptable. I say, “Thank you,” and someone responds, “No problem”. Why would there be a problem?  Maybe this began when we started thanking employees at retail stores for doing their job at the cash register, with our, ”Thank you” implying, “Thanks for ringing up these shoes for me.” Could situations like this be when, “No problem,” popped into our culture and took root?  Maybe, but however it emerged, its uses have rapidly expanded and the trend doesn’t seem to be going away.

I wonder how far this will go. Will we reach a point where “no problem” becomes the go-to response to “Hello”, “Goodbye”, “I’m sorry, but you’re very ill and don’t have much time”, and “Will you marry me?” Let’s hope not, but if it does, what else can we say, but, “No problem.”

Do you have a problem with that?

Think You Know The Real Jersey Shore?

Robert Manni - Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Image courtesy of B.Katz

I’m not referring to the Snooki, J-Wow, Situation/graphic T-shirt and short shorts with heels version that has been glorified on MTV. I’m talking about the rolling ocean, sandy beaches, warm sun, and the diverse people who make up one of the most easy to access getaways within an hour or so from New York City.

The Hamptons, You Say?

The Hamptons are beautiful, posh, and sexy… a mini-Upper East Side with sand. But the same ocean is available with an hour less travel, more realistic rents, and without the unyielding NYC ‘tude. I personality do not want Manhattan Beach, so let’s talk about the Jersey Shore.

Asbury Park

You can drive there in about an hour and the train from Penn Station rumbles south through New Jersey’s armpit and stops everywhere along the shore. I hop off at Asbury Park, a newly hip, in-progress gentrified version of Billyburg sans the suspender-wearing dudes in handle bar moustaches and chicks dressed like Lucille Ball and Ethel Murtz in their fifties dresses. This summer AP hosted art shows, bowling alley burlesque, roller derby girls, a water park for kids, surprise guest gigs by Springsteen, a rainbow of cool , artsy people, an oyster festival, a five-mile run, and of course a great beach and rolling sea.  The town has been down and out for decades, but is on its way back, and it’s fun to see diversity welcomed as it rises.

Ocean Grove

Ocean Grove is the next town south─a square mile hamlet featuring Victorian homes, a commercial free boardwalk, a surfing beach, a tent village, colossal flea markets and art fairs, an annual 4th of July parade that will make you think you are in Mayberry, and the nation’s largest open air auditorium that that features retro acts like Herman’s Hermits or Peter, Paul, and Mary, and doo wop shows. It is hilarious and everyone puts on a great show. Moving further south, each small town maintains its own quirks and traditions.

Where You Can Find Me

I hit the beach, body surf, run on the boardwalk, play golf without a two hour wait, and occasionally frequent the indigenous Jersey Shore Italian restaurants that serve the tastiest thin crust pizza and are favored by the local good fellas. You’re probably wondering about the culture. There’s a burgeoning music scene and some theater, but you’ll have to seek out the more refined stuff that we take for granted in NYC. That’s part of the charm. Refreshingly, the shore has no pretensions. It’s a place to escape the hyper-energy of our lovely city. And of course, if you so desire, there are plenty of seaside bars with thick guys and buff girls in heels downing trays of shots, but that seems to be the norm everywhere these days, unless you live in Manhattan.

The Jersey Shore is not everyone’s cup of whipped cream-flavored vodka, but I’ve used this seaside backdrop for family vacations, marathon training, making a new set of friends, golfing up a storm, and hosting a number of dates at a beach-front condo that I would not have been able to buy if it were located in the Hamptons. But that’s just me.

Think The Jersey Shore Is For You?

See you on the train or better yet, look up and wave hi when you walk along the boardwalk past my condo in Ocean Grove.


5 Easy Steps to Get A Response From Your Initial Online Correspondence

Robert Manni - Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Image courtesy of Tom Taylor

After making all the decisions to create your fascinating online persona for that dating website, the real challenge begins. And you’ll need a plan.

1- No Winks.

After reading and carefully reviewing her profile and photos and determining if she’s a “person of interest”, send her a brief─that means shorter than the U. S. Constitution─note that explicitly expresses your interest in engaging in some friendly dialogue and implicitly expresses your desire to meet her in person.

2- Lead with a positive.  

Always tell her that you enjoyed reading her profile. Know that she’ll probably go right to yours and check out your photos. Don’t take this personally. You’re not a piece of rump roast to her, but she probably gets more online action than you do─ by a good measure─ because guys are still more aggressive when it comes to overtly pursuing the opposite sex. If you pass her ocular test─yes, ladies can be visual, too and they most likely won’t waste time if they don’t connect with your looks and vibe even if you write like Longfellow.

3- Tell her a little bit about yourself and find common ground. 

I said a little bit, not how you won the spelling bee in the fifth grade. Save that for when you are driving to her house for Thanksgiving. And mention some things about you that are relevant to her interests and what she is seeking in a dude.  You enjoyed visiting Kuala Lumpur, too? Mention the race track in the city and eating durian fruit.  This way she’ll know you’re for real, paying attention to her profile, and not just contacting her because of that revealing pic of her in that snakeskin manokini.  In fact, don’t mention that photo even if she’s built like Pamela Lee.

4- Ask her a question. 

Better yet, ask her an open ended question, so there’s an opportunity for some tasty dialogue. And by all means, make it as clever and insightful as possible to peak her interest and demonstrate your written communication skills. You’ll have to handle this part on your own.

5. End by telling her that you are interested in learning more about her. 

This sounds obvious, but so does holding the door for a woman. You’d be surprised how many guys don’t paying attention to the details. And women are all about the details.

And for now, no last name, no phone number, no invitation to go skiing. This is where you want to leave things for now. Save those other bits for after she responds to you. That’s where the real fun begins because if she responds, she’s telling you that she’s interested in learning more about you. Then you’ve got your shot at the title. Now go for it.

Do you think you can follow these five easy steps?

Do You Want An Online Profile That Works?

Robert Manni - Wednesday, June 08, 2011


Image courtesy of hapticflapjack


Of course you do and the good news is that it’s so damn easy. Easy that is, if being you comes natural, because women want to meet a guy who is comfortable in his own skin. And if you’re not, should a smart, successful, attractive woman want to hang with you?

Now let’s get that profile in order.

1- Be honest with yourself, and with her. 

The key to success in online dating is honesty. I know, you’re thinking, “I thought everyone shaves a few years and pounds off their profile.” Yes, and most guys add some hair to their head also, but who are you kidding?

If you just turned forty and look great for your age and want to stay thirty-nine for another year, I don’t condone, but I understand. It’s when you lose track of yourself and still think you are in your thirties after you turn forty-five is when you are setting yourself up for a fall. And isn’t looking great for your age a good thing? Be reasonable, and if you’re challenged on this by a prospect, fess up. If you don’t, it will come back and bite you.

And no juicing on your income either. If you chose to avoid checking that box, that’s your prerogative.  Be wary of women who say that income and occupation don’t matter as long as the guy is passionate about what he does.  I’ve found that many of the women who say they are interested in guys with a dream find us far more interesting after we’ve made those dreams come true. Just sayin’.

2- Of course you love to travel. 

Maybe because of the economy you haven’t been able to take as many fun vacations as in the past, but that does not mean you don’t love to travel. Women love traveling and will want to know where you’ve been and more importantly, where you want to go…with them. So keep it real and keep your sights set beyond the water slide at Wallyworld. Think Europe, the islands, and Asia for starters. If you haven’t been to any of these places yet, tell her where you want to go there and why, beyond buying booze at the duty-free shop.

3- You are an epicurean.  

Do you know any women who don’t love great food? Think about it and bring out your best restaurants and cuisines. We’re in a big city so this can even be an out of the way café, but it had better serve something more exotic than cheese steaks. And make sure you have someplace fun in mind to take her if you can score that second date. I know dining out is not as creative as kayaking or bird watching at dawn, but the women I know in Manhattan love to be shown off at a nice restaurant that serves great food.

4- Your status and what you are looking for. 

Be truthful. It’s the right thing to do and it will save everyone time. So you are divorced. Twice.  Or you’re over forty-five and have never been married. This is NYC and that’s not that uncommon these days. Just have a good reason for your choices besides you like a variety of partners every month.

5- Have a plan. 

Ask yourself if you are looking for one person or if you are want to play the field for now. Don’t be a heartbreaker. There are lots of great women online who are looking for more than becoming a notch on your belt. You’re a smart guy and can quickly find out what her game plan is also. Remember it goes both ways.

So be honest, be yourself, have fun, and be safe.

Can you handle the truth?


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