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On Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness

The Guys' Guy's Money Hacks

Robert Manni - Monday, March 30, 2015


Bruce Springsteen sings, “Times are tough. They keep getting tougher. The world is rough. It’s getting rougher.” And he was right.

If you have money, the past eight years have been a boom. The stock market has doubled and interest rates have stayed down. Sounds good, right? Unfortunately, during this period the average person’s standard of living has declined while their cost of living has skyrocketed.

Guys' Guys enjoy the high life, but they’re also practical and resourceful. They know how to do bend with the breeze and make do with the simple pleasures. Over the years I’ve learned a number of ways to manage my cash when times got tight.

Here is my list of money hacks for when you need them, and even when you don’t.

1. Eat at home – I’m not suggesting that you never dine out, especially in Fun City. But you can use your noodle when it comes money and to your dining choices. I lived the high life for years on agency and corporate expense accounts. It was great fun and an effective way to establish relationships and conduct business outside the office. But NYC is freaking expensive, so unless you have a fat expense account or are killing it as an investment banker, professional sports star, etc, dining out all the time is impractical. Yet, to partially combat their loneliness, many single people in the city eat out at least a half dozen times a week, and that gets expensive.

The other consideration is health. When you eat dinner at home, you can choose organic, healthy foods. And let’s fact it; most restaurants cook and serve GMO foods laden with butter, oil and salt. So eating at home more often will save you money and keep you healthier.

1a. Bring your lunch to work - When I worked in midtown a modest take out lunch would run me about $10-12 bucks a day. Add in a coffee and a snack and the total rises to closer to $20. That’s $100 per week and $400 per month. This does not include dinner and a cocktail with your mates. If you bring your lunch to work, and maybe a thermos of your favorite beverage, your cost is probably reduced by $70 per week and $280 per month. That’s real cash.

2. Shop online – In big cities, people love to unwind after work by stopping into a retail store on their way home from work and impulsively purchasing another piece of clothing to stuff inside their overcrowded closet. Remember the old 80-20 rule. We usually wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. You can always convince yourself that you need another pair of shoes, but this gets expensive.

Unless I need to touch and feel a product, I buy my stuff online. Oftentimes, I score free shipping, and if not, there is always Amazon Prime, which is a pretty good deal if you use it frequently. The other benefit of shopping online is that it keeps me out of the stores. Yes, I know we get sucked into buying stuff online via consumer retargeting ads, but if you have an iota of discipline, you can simply click to another site and poof, it’s gone. Bottom line, if you are on a tight budget, stay out of stores unless you know exactly what you need to buy.

3. Buy in bulk – There are certain household items we use every day, and this is where buying in bulk can save you real money. If you shop at the better supermarkets, you can usually find major savings on larger sizes. I recently bought a gallon of Bragg apple cider vinegar for $15 at a leading chain. That’s more than a 100% savings on the smaller size. And I use it every day. There are plenty of deals for bulk items online too, and most of the sites will throw in free shipping. I’ve even gotten free shipping on oversized bags of kitty litter. So not only did I not have to lug that big bag home, I also saved a bundle by purchasing the jumbo size.

4. Before going out for the night, have a snack at home – Guys’ Guys prefer top shelf booze. And in Manhattan, a mixologist drink will run you twenty bucks when tax and a tip are included. That adds up quickly. If you are on a first date, two drinks and a few appetizers is one hundred dollars. I’m not suggesting that you drink before a date, but if you’re meeting up with your buds, it’s not a bad idea to eat before heading out. I’m sure you can whip up something at home more tasty and nutritious than a greasy bar burger.

5. Give up eating meat – I stopped eating meat seven years ago and I have never felt better. Your body does not require eating dead animals to function. In fact, with the current abhorrent factory farming practices, you will be healthier if you forego meat. And guess what, a plant-based diet is cheaper and much better for you. I realize that this is not for everyone, but if you give meat a rest, your taste buds will quickly evolve to enjoying veggie burgers the same way you once craved a bloody bacon cheeseburger. Your heart, waistline, and wallet will thank you also.

6. Enjoy the simple pleasures– That means life’s simple pleasures like reading and spending more time outdoors. I do my best to read a book every week. E-books are cheap and portable, and there's always the library. The city parks are great places for a long walk or a run, and they are also fun for a date. Just being outdoors gives you a needed respite from the stale air in your office or apartment. And it’s free. NYC.gov also publishes a list of free events in the city every week and some of them are pretty cool.

7. Reward yourself – If you manage to do all of the things on this list, congratulations. You are healthier, you have more cash in your pocket, and so, you deserve a treat. Do something fun and forget about the money. It’s good for the soul. If you stick to a more mindful approach to your money, you won’t even notice a dent in your wallet.

These are certainly not solutions for getting out of real debt or making more money in business, but when you are living paycheck to paycheck, like 50% of America does, the benefits from these hacks can serve you well. I hope they work for you.

This week’s Guy’s Guy of the Week is you, the reader. You’ve patiently poured through this article and picked out some the tips that fell right for you to try. Now the next step is putting them into practice and saving some cash. Congrats!

The Guys' Guy's New York - Part I

Robert Manni - Friday, March 13, 2015


Like America, New York is a concept. The city, like any great brand, has a life of it’s own. After thirty years and 240 blog posts I thought it was time for your Guy’s Guy to share with you his favorite places in this great, elusive city. When I began my list, I quickly realized that the city changes so quickly that half of the places I was considering have closed. That doesn’t mean that these venues had something inherently wrong with them, it simply means that the city continues evolving. And, I don’t except that to change anytime soon.

To be fair, this list was inspired by the New York Post’s Sunday feature highlighting the go-to haunts of some beloved New Yorkers. I may not be beloved just yet, but after surviving thirty years in the Big Apple, I have a few nuggets to share. Of course, this is just the tip of a massive iceberg of great places New York, and it skews heavily to Manhattan because that’s where I work and spend most of my time. Of note, being a Guy’s Guy list, the vibe is positive and casual. Cheers.

1. Business Lunch – A long career in marketing and advertising includes lunches with media reps, colleagues, and people selling something. Depending on what area of Manhattan I was working in at the time, I always kept a few go-to places up my sleeve. I loved my rare launches at high-end iconic restaurants like Il Mulino, Daniel, and Gotham, but my all-time favorite business lunch spot is the Union Square Café. The atmosphere is bubbly; the service friendly and impeccable, and the blue fin tuna burger is out of this world.

2. Drinks on a Second Date – You met her online and shared a Chardonnay at a bustling wine bar. The vibe was fresh and sexual tension filled the air. Now what? The Temple Bar on Lafayette Street just north of Houston Street. It’s sedate, seductive, and clandestine. The martinis are excellent and the atmosphere sublime for sealing the deal. You can even satiate your nervous energy with the little bowls of free popcorn that the servers bring out.

3. Where to Meet Beautiful Women – The real answer is everywhere and anywhere, but for pure percentages, you can’t beat the SoHo House. You need a membership or an invite, so this screens out a lot of people. You will see and meet lots of people, and especially women, in the fashion, film and media businesses. Everyone here dresses sharp and seems to go out of their way to be as “friendly” as they can be in this city. The drinks are great, there are a number of rooms and bars to choose from, and they have a pool on the roof chock-full of hotties on any summer day or evening after work. And who knows, you might meet that connection and finally sell your screenplay.

4. A Great Burger – Although I’ve been a pescatarian for the past seven years, I still love wrapping my meaty paws around some hot buns. Ha! Of course, these days the burgers are not made with meat, but if a burger joint can make a great salmon, tuna, or veggie burger, they usually make a kick-ass beef burger. Just sayin’. There have been loads of burger places on my list over the years, but my new fave is Bare Burger. There are a number of locations in the city now, but I’ve usually eaten at the one on La Guardia Place. The environment is casual, not too loud, and I have my choice of a few non-meat versions of the American classic. The rings and fries are awesome, and they come with a variety of toppings.

5. Tavern – There have been so many favorites over the years, but when I scratched my head for this post the first bar that popped into my mind was Swifts Hibernian Lounge on East Fourth Street. They vibe is cozy, the crowd is in good spirits, the bartenders are friendly and capable, the food is good enough, and the music is cool so you can hear yourself having a conversation. One note, there is no television, which if you can suck it up, you’ll find to be a very good thing. They pour an incredibly smooth Guinness and on weekends you might stumble in and hear some real Irish folk music being played at the seats directly across from the bar.

6. Pizza – Yes, I know you can get incredible pizza if you ride the M train for an hour to Midwood. In Manhattan, the best place to sit down and enjoy a pie is Lombardi’s on Spring Street. It is constantly jammed and usually filled with tourists now, but if you stop by at an off-hour or midweek, you’ll get a table and a fabulous coal oven baked pizza pie. For slices, I like Bleecker Street Pizza and Joe’s on Sixth Avenue near Bleecker. Both have fresh zesty sauces and crisp chewy crusts. Because of the high rate of sales, the slices are always hot and fresh out of the oven.

7. Cheap, Tasty, Nutritious Dinners – I love Koreatown. It’s located primarily along East 32nd Street and chock full of great places to eat at any time of day or night. Once you get the taste of Korean food, it becomes intoxicating. Although there are a few new places I haven’t tried that have great reviews, my favorite restaurants for hot, spicy squid, seafood tofu soup, or even barbecue are BCD and Kun Jip, both on East 32nd between Fifth and Broadway. The service is fast and furious and the soup is still bubbling when it gets to your table. Yum.

8. Brunch – I’m not into brunch. Why pay fifty bucks for eggs benedict? I don’t even like eggs benedict. And, I don’t like mimosas. And, I rarely drink before 5pm anymore, so you can keep that Bloody Mary. If I’m drinking early it’s got to be a margarita. But that’s me. So if my arm gets twisted to go to brunch (by my wife), I opt for El Toro Blanco on Sixth Avenue just south of Bleecker. It’s a nice place to sit outside during the warmer months. The avenue is wide and never too noisy. The service is very good, the guacamole is excellent, and their margaritas are sneaky strong, smooth and tart.

We’re off to a good start. There are no great surprises here, but these are all solid choices and they all fit a Guy’s Guy lifestyle. This week’s Guy’s Guy of the Week is Carlos Herrera, who invented the margarita in 1938. Maybe he wasn’t in NYC, but that’s a real Guy’s Guy.


The Things I Learned Running Marathons

Robert Manni - Friday, October 31, 2014


The first Sunday in November is a special day. Runners of all shapes and sizes come from around the globe to New York to share a special human experience while packed together for 26.2 miles traversing the five boroughs of the city.

If you’re entered in this year’s race, I wish you the very best. It could turn out to be one of the most special days of your life. Enjoy it.

For me, the greatest thing about the marathon is that for one chilly morning anyone who puts in the training can experience what is feels like to compete in a world-class athletic event.  After all, very few of us know what it’s like to play a professional sport and perform in front of a rabidly cheering crowd. I love running, but I’m no elite athlete. I’ve done my share of 5k and 5-mile races and finished three marathons. Each marathon proved to be a different experience, but all of them taught me valuable lessons. Here are a few things I learned that continue to help me out today.

Stay focused. Connect your mind, body, and spirit.

Both the training and actually running the race demands a fine balance and integration of your body, mind and spirit. No matter what kind of shape you are in, you will find yourself challenged at some point during the relentless twenty-six point two mile course. It might be a cramp, exhaustion, bad weather, or an upset stomach, but trust me you will face something unexpected. And even if you train diligently and put in those long runs, a marathon requires an elevated level of mental toughness and a fighting spirit. Be prepared.

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Marathoners come in all shapes and sizes and speak all sorts of languages. During my first race I was surprised at how many runners who did not look like they were in great shape pass me. At first my ego got the best of me when waves of older and chunkier runners zipped by. I got down on myself and even questioned my training. Then I remembered reading that everyone’s physical body processes oxygen differently. Plus, I had no idea what kind of training regimen these people went through or how many marathons they had run. I shook it off and kept running.

Don’t worry about anyone else. Stick to your plan.

After a few miles of being overwhelmed by the magnitude of my first marathon and the presence of so many runners running elbow to elbow, I dug deep and focused on my plan. That meant plugging along slowly and steadily until reaching mile twenty. If I had a gas in my tank I would speed up towards the end of the race. I tracked along at a ten-minutes per mile for the first three quarters of the first marathon. And I did not hit the dreaded wall at mile twenty. I breezed through the final six miles and now I was passing everyone else. I crossed the finish line with both hands in the air. Let me tell you; it felt great.

Hydrate and eat well.

Running for four hours requires a lot of fuel so during each marathon I made sure to slow down at most of the water stops while also grabbing healthy snacks when I saw them handed out. This made a big difference in my energy level. And it’s the same in day-to-day life. Skipping meals or not drinking enough water results in mental and physical burn out. And who doesn’t enjoy eating and drinking?

Pat yourself on the back.

People in general and marathoners can be pretty tough on themselves. Instead of celebrating their amazing feats, they carp about what they did wrong and what they’ll do next time. I’ve been guilty of this also. Now I always give myself credit whenever I put in some hard work. Now that my marathon days are over (did I really say that?) I realize what an accomplishment it is just to complete this long race. I’m proud of a job well done.

Practice makes perfect. Train like a champ.

Like anything else in life, you need to prepare for the big opportunities. Whether it’s writing a screenplay, making a presentation, or running a marathon you need to invest time and psychic energy into the undertaking if you want to enjoy the experience and savor victory—however you define it.  My solo twenty-mile training runs were critical to my physical and mental state of mind during the marathons. I knew that if I could run twenty miles in September without the cheering crowds I’d be well prepared for race day in November. I was well prepared for each race and it sure came in handy.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Running a marathon is a microcosm for life. There is pleasure, pain, joy, tears, and camaraderie—basically a full range of human emotions experienced over a few brief hours on a Sunday morning. If you ever get the urge to run a marathon, by all means do so. And if you do, make sure you fully immerse yourself in the experience—from each mile of your training until you cross the finish line.  You’ll be happy with a job well done. What more can you ask for?

Have you ever considered running a marathon?

 

This week’s Guys’ Guys of the week are the 30,000 plus runners in Sunday’s NYC Marathon. Have a great race, people!

Ten Reasons to Love Central Park

Robert Manni - Monday, July 07, 2014


Although it sits smack in the center of Manhattan, many times we're too busy to take notice of one of the greatest parks in the world.

Some people have referred to it as the lungs of the city. For me, it’s been a great place to tap into my inner peace, nature, fitness, and family fun. I really love Central Park. When I moved into New York in the 80’s, Central Park was in many ways a scrub-filled wasteland and dangerous territory to traverse after dark. But thanks to the unflagging efforts of the Central Park Conservatory, things have changed for the better. Although we all have our favorite places inside this great urban oasis, I humbly offer up ten great things that make up my Guys’ Guy’s Guide to Central Park.

1. The Running Paths: Whether you are a weekend warrior or a marathoner, Central Park provides runners with a top shelf training ground. The six-mile outer loop is scenic and challenging with its non-stop rolling hills. There are innumerable cutoffs built into the loop that allow runners to chart shorter courses and avoid the hills. You can’t get lost and you can’t go wrong. Just stay in the running lanes and avoid the bikers who also frequent their lanes inside of the loop.

During business trips and vacations I do my best to find time for a run. It’s a great way to reset the body clock and check out the local terrain. I can honestly say that Central Park offers the premier running experience of any location I’ve run in the world. That includes waterfronts and roadways everywhere from Chicago to Sydney, South Beach, Santa Monica, Honolulu and Jalisco, Mexico. Nothings beats Central Park.

2. The Playgrounds: Now that I am the parent of a toddler, I pay attention to the myriad of playgrounds sprinkled throughout the park. In fact, there are twenty-one playgrounds filled with swings, sprinklers, and things for kids to climb on. The upkeep is top notch and they continually upgrade the facilities. Beyond the official playgrounds there are acres of land where you can let your little ones run free and explore nature. My son loves the park.

3. The Obelisk: Cleopatra’s Needle is 3,500 years old, seventy feet tall and weighs 220 tons. It was brought here over a century ago and sits a top Graywacke Knoll on the park’s east side at 81st Street behind the Museum of Modern Art. It’s covered in hieroglyphic text inscribed in its native Egypt from the time of Thutmosis. Although scaffolding now covers the obelisk as it goes under a sorely needed $500,000 refurbishment, most New Yorkers are unaware of this magnificent structure and its history. Just the story of how it was shipped across the Atlantic and then schlepped it to Central Park is amazing.

4. The Pool: Situated just off of 103rd and Central Park West is one of the park’s most pristine and quiet sanctuaries. Birds, waterfowl and turtles inhabit a crystal clear body of water surrounded by a walking path that is thankfully closed to bicycles. Like most New York celebrities, none of the creatures that live near the pool seem are bothered by the attention of the passersby's.  The moment you step off of CPW onto the path, you can feel the energy change. It doesn't feel like you are in a city, much less NYC. I have pushed my son’s stroller along the path around the pool in all four seasons and it's always serene and visually stunning.

5. The Ball Fields: Guy's Guys love sports, games and Central Park. Central Park houses twenty-six official baseball and softball fields, not including the open space where you can kick a soccer ball, toss a football, or play an ad hoc game of badminton. And there are thirty tennis courts available in the Central Park Tennis Club. So whatever is your preferred sport, I’m sure you can find a place to play it.

6. North Woods: One of the park’s three woodlands (the others are The Ramble and Hallett Nature Sanctuary), the North Woods offers visitors a feeling of hiking through the Adirondacks. That was what they had in mind. Nicely done. This is considered the most remote and woodsy section of the park and also one of the top ten locations for bird watching in the nation. Located just north of the 100-103 Street entrances by The Pool, you enter through the Glen Span Arch and are on your way to The Ravine featuring wildlife and rough terrain you can walk via a system of paths and bridges.

7. The Water: Besides The Pool there are at least half a dozen other significant bodies of water in Central Park including the Harlem Meer- northeastern corner, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir- East Side, Turtle Pond- below the Great Lawn, The Pond- southeastern corner, Conservatory- east seventies, Lasker Pool- near Harlem Meer and used for swimming and hockey, The Lake- west seventies, and The Boathouse which connects with The Lake. So take your pick. You can always find a nice place to enjoy water in any area of the park.

8. The Upkeep: With over 1.317 square miles of land and water, the park could easily fall into a state of ill repair. But, fortunately the opposite is happening. The park’s upkeep keeps getting better. With teams of landscapers constantly canvassing and sprucing up the grounds, you also rarely see any litter. Hats off to the Conservatory.

9. The Events: Whether its Shakespeare, Summer Stage, yoga, Pilates, taekwondo, concerts, movies, and architecture walking tour, or a Swedish puppet show Central Park has an event for everybody. And most of them are free. Just check out their web site www.centralpark.org for constantly updated info.

10. The Zoo: Rebuilt by the Wildlife Conservation Society in 1984, the Zoo and the Children’s Zoo have always been anchor attractions for the park. Study any kid watching the sea lions during feeding time and you’ll see what I mean. Whether you are part of a stroller parade or just waltzing by, the zoos are enchanting. More importantly they serve as reminders of the importance of man’s connection to the animal world.

Are you taking advantage of Central Park?


This week’s Guy’s Guy of the Week, for the second time, is Frederick Law Olmsted who designed Central Park along with some of the great parks in Chicago, Boston, Milwaukee, Montreal, Detroit, Louisville, Rochester, and many other cites.  

Why I Live in Harlem

Robert Manni - Friday, June 13, 2014


Growing up in suburban Bergen County, New Jersey, I never thought I’d live in Harlem.

That was then, but this is now. Having migrated to the city back in the eighties, I’ve see our metropolis transform its once tattered landscape into what many refer to as the “capital of the world”.  And as a result, as the years flew by too many Duane Reade, Chase, The Gap, and now even Seven Eleven stores have replaced the quirky independent businesses and local flavor that made up its neighborhoods.

Brooklyn is the latest victim. What was the coolest nabe on the planet just a decade ago has seen its real estate prices go through the roof while its streets got jammed with baby strollers and urban woodsman. We can only hope that the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island can hold back total gentrification for another decade or two. But there is some good news.

Harlem is in Manhattan and it’s become a really cool place to live. The once downtrodden 125th Street now has a Gap outlet, DSW and Joe’s Crab Shack, but thankfully most of the big brands have limited themselves to this main thoroughfare. Most of the Harlem’s sprawling landscape is checkered with brownstones and small independent business that have only recently set up shop. Sounds like Brooklyn circa 2000? Maybe, but Harlem has been a tough nabe to crack. And I’ll say it again—it’s still in Manhattan.

Here are a few reasons why almost four years ago your Guy’s Guy chose to move to Harlem and has never looked back.

Proximity.

Might as well finish this thought first. I live in the Morningside area so all I need to do to get into “the city” is hop on the B or C train and boom; I’m there in ten minutes. That’s a lot better than squeezing in to a G train filled with twenty-somethings in Williamsburg or taking an hour on the F from Park Slope. Bay Ridge? Great place, but it’s a serious commute.  Guy’s Guys like to stay out late so while my friends are either waiting for a train at Port Authority or taking the subway to an outer borough, I’m already home and snuggled in bed. Yes, lots of people still live all over Manhattan, but the rental and purchase prices are now skewed to one-percenters or foreign money.  That’s just the way it is. So if you don’t mind paying $4000 or more to rent a 800 square foot one-bedroom in a walk up or the same for a  studio in a high rise, then you’ll love overcrowded Midtown.

The Parks.

Many Guy’s Guys enjoy sports and exercise, although it’s certainly not a mandatory requirement for the GG moniker. I’m a runner and it’s great if you live in south Harlem. I walk five blocks and I’m in the serenity of Central Park, a respite from urban life that keeps improving with age. And, if I want to stay closer to home, I put my infant son in his stroller and within two minutes we’re walking along the path around a pond in Morningside Park, watching the turtles sun themselves on the rocks. There is also Riverside Park, Marcus Garvey and many other well-maintained parks strategically located throughout Harlem.

The People.

Of course there is always an understandable push back against gentrification, but what I’ve noticed in my nabe is a lot of new jobs and business opportunities for the folks who lived in the area prior to the changes. And for the most part, most of the businesses are independent and privately owned and operated, which is a good thing. Hopefully, that will hold true for the foreseeable future. There is also a diverse mix of race, creed, color, sexual preferences, nationalities, and students.  That is what New York is all about. And from what I’ve seen, everyone seems to see the glass as half full as the communities evolve.

The Culture.

 Harlem has gone through so many changes over the last century that it has authentic culture. We all know the wonderful Apollo Theatre and the jazz clubs, but now there is a growing foodie movement led by hot chefs like Marcus Samuelsson and his always packed Red Rooster. They now refer to Fredrick Douglass Boulevard between 110 and 125 as Harlem’s Restaurant Row. To be honest, it’s happening, but slowly. Using that name is putting the cart in front of the horse. The good news is it’s a reflection of optimism and hope.

The Cost.

Like Brooklyn, Harlem real estate prices are going up, up, up. That said, there are lots of buildings and a massive stretch of blocks between 110th and 165th Street, so depending on where you look, you can find a bargain if you put in a little footwork. If you were fortunate and smart enough to buy between 2008-10, your average cost per square foot has increased by over thirty percent. If you are considering Harlem, my suggestion is to start looking now.

So if you are Guy’s Guy who doesn’t mind living in a quickly evolving area that might still be a little rough around the edges, a “middle class” family that has been priced out of the Upper West Side, or a student or artist who needs to keep their living costs in check, Harlem may be just the place for you. It’s the last affordable outpost in Manhattan and it will keep you close to the action—which is probably why you moved to New York in the first place.

Are you ready to make a move uptown?


This week's Guy’s Guy of the Week is the famed magician, Harry Houdini, who lived in Harlem at 278 West 113th Street for many years. There is still a plaque in front of the brownstone.

The Guys' Guy's Guide to Things That Are Better Now

Robert Manni - Thursday, October 10, 2013


There are so many things wrong today—government shut downs, GMO’s, NSA snooping and Miley’s coated tongue.

It’s too easy to add to the list and bemoan our plight. Instead, let’s go back thirty years to 1983 and compare notes. That was the year Michael Jackson dominated the charts, the Swatch was launched, McNuggets came out and Lotus 1-2-3 was our preferred software.  Here is my Guy’s Guy Guide to Things That Are Better Now. One caveat—technology is more advanced than in 1983, so we’ll put the tech-related items into context. Enjoy!

10. Central Park – From its lush greenery to the calming energy that permeates the sprawling fifty-block area to the expanded running paths and new playgrounds, Central Park keeps getting better. Central Park was, for the most part, a scrubby dump in the seventies and eighties that you could not venture into after dark. With the commitment from the city and the hard work of the Central Park Conservatory, it has been transformed again into the wonderful oasis as it was imagined.

9. Beer – No longer are we limited to old standbys like Bud and Miller. The beer industry has exploded with creativity, craft brews and innumerable fine selections available in bars, taverns and delis. You can even brew your own beer. This is very good news for beer lovers whose idea of excitement in the past was waiting for that shipment of Coors in a refrigerated container to show up on the East Coast.

8. Cooking – I thought about calling this, “Food”, but with the advent of GMO’s and factory farming, food has not gotten better. That said, the world of gastronomy has expanded and in many cities you can sample any kind of cuisine at any hour of the day. The “foodie” movement has given us an education on preparation and matching flavors. If you want more proof, check the frozen food aisle of your local supermarket. The section that once offered a merger selection of TV diners and frozen pizza has now become a smorgasbord of global offerings.

7. Clothing – Let’s face it, people can showcase their personal style a heck of a lot better now than in 1983. Men’s suits are more flattering, mixing and matching of patterns has become an art form and women have an endless selection of shoes, bags and hairstyles to embrace and call their own. Of course there's a down side: we’ve seen the casual movement turn air travel into a parade of tracksuits and ladies, those yoga pants are a bit too ubiquitous now. That said, it’s hard to argue with being comfortable.

6. Publishing – Instead of following the music industry's demise until it embraced digital offerings and sent more bands out on tour, the publishing industry was taken by surprise when self and hybrid and independent offerings created stars. Before they knew it, sales of eBooks were in line with physical book sales. This is great news for both readers and writers. Meanwhile, the publishing industry is busy peddling celebrity books because they don’t require “breaking” a new name or building a brand. Snooki had brand awareness before her novels launched.

5. Social Media – Okay; we didn’t have social media in 1983, and you may not care for those pithy, inspirational sayings from your Facebook friends, being on the receiving end of a poke, reading political rants or seeing photos of someone’s sushi lunch, but keeping in touch with long lost acquaintances can be fun. And if you’re not interested, you can turn it off at any time. Period.

4. Weed – We’re moving from draconian Rockefeller laws to medicinal use, and that’s only the beginning. Pot is going to become legal at some point during the next decade. Why? Follow the money. Marijuana is the next cash crop and it’s ripe for reaping tax revenues.

3. Gay Rights – Who would have conceived of legislation legalizing gay and lesbian marriage back in 1983? We’ve come a long way in accepting and protecting the rights of everyone regardless of their sexual preference. There isn't enough love in the world so let’s hope this will soon become a non-issue.

2. Coffee and Tea - Similar to beer, we’ve moved from a handful of mass brands to a plethora of exotic, great-tasting blends from around the world that are featured in small independent stores on every corner of the city. The same goes for tea. Once there were two big, boring brands on the shelves. Now we have dozens and even yerba mate comes in an array of flavors. That’s a good thing.

1. Broadcast Media – Cable grew from a handful of new channels to the thousands of selections we have today in a short period of time. We can watch whatever we want, whenever we want, wherever we want, with or without commercials on a multitude of devices. That's cool. Okay, I don’t like those housewives shows either, but you know what I mean.

This is just a first pass. There’s also been advances in traditional medicine, an increased awareness of holistic healing and yoga, cell phones with cameras that capture so much more good and bad behavior, and of course Duck Dynasty.

Now that doesn’t necessarily make this a better world than thirty years ago, but it’s too easy to fall into a malaise and cry about once what was. Hey people: things change and they will keep changing faster than they did over the past thirty years. Guy’s Guys look on the bright side. How about you?

Do you appreciate the many changes in our culture since 1983?

 

This week’s Guy’s Guy of the Week is Frederick Law Olmsted who won the Central Park design competition in 1857. Nice work, amigo.

Celebrating the End of Summer

Robert Manni - Friday, September 06, 2013


The media began bemoaning the end of summer on September 1st.

Guess what? It continues for another few weeks. Let’s stay positive and recognize a handful of reasons why September is a great month and fall is a great season, Guy’s Guy style.

Farewell, tourists.

As a fan of the beach and the Jersey Shore, nothing pleases local inhabitants and beachgoers more than the disappearance of what are referred to as “Bennies”, tourists form northern NJ who come down the shore, go crazy and then leave after Labor Day. More parking spaces, no waits at restaurants and fewer drunken dudes from Staten Island pounding shots of bubbleberry vodka all make up the fall dream. The same can be said about the overload of summer tourists in fanny packs clogging our NYC sidewalks. Have a nice day and goodbye.

The weather rocks.

It’s summer for three more weeks, amigos. The beach is empty, the temp's perfect, the water warm and clean and it usually stays this way through October. In the city, the days are spectacular and the nights are no longer hot and humid.

The Women.

In NYC, the women’s fashion parade begins in full swing in September and for a Guy’s Guy, it can be heavenly. Women in NYC have style and go to great lengths putting together cool outfits. Beyond their $400 jeans and designer dresses, Manhattan women have made an art of putting together their hair, shoes, and bags and the results are pleasurable to the eyes of any Guy’s Guy. It’s all in the details, so let's give it up for the ladies.

Sports.

The baseball season is rounding third base and heading for home while at the same time football and the accompanying fantasy football drafts are in full swing, making this the best time of the year for sports. Football has never been so popular and fantasy football has taken the game to a new level of fandemonium. Let’s face it—football is built for television viewing and now is the time to get our fill. And let’s not forget the US Open tennis and the NYC Marathon.

The Arts.

Film, books, television, the Met, the museums, Broadway and even the dreaded DWTS all kick off new seasons at this time of year.

Okay, these are but a few obvious reasons why they we can say “yay” to the end of summer. What I like about September and the new season is that it reminds me how each day is a new beginning filled with new opportunities. If we live in the now and focus on what can be, and tune out the media’s incessant ringing of the doom and gloom alarm, we can savor life as it’s meant to be, one beautiful day at a time.  And then we can watch the holiday sales ads.

Are you saddened over the end of summer or pumped up for the fall?

This week’s Guy’s Guy of the Week is Sir Thomas More, an old school 16th century Guy’s Guy and the subject of the Oscar-winning “A Man for All Seasons”.    

The Guys’ Guy’s Random Guide to NYC and SoCal

Robert Manni - Thursday, August 29, 2013


I’m an East Coast guy who feels at home in SoCal.

I’m not sure if it’s because America has become so homogeneous or because there are so many New Yorkers who’ve relocated out west.  But for some reason, as soon as the plane lands and I get my bearings, I’m good to go in SoCal. For context, I’m a Jersey guy living in Harlem, and like many New Yorkers, I’ve traveled the golden state numerous times for business or vacations. I spent the past two weeks in Temecula, which is not LA. By the end of the trip I realized that I could be happy living in NYC or SoCal. Hey, a Guy’s Guy needs to be flexible. So, with respect to the great interior of our nation, here are some musings and differences between our two coasts and how they impact culture, Guy’s Guy style. Some are obvious while a few are only found below the radar.

Geography and Culture

Tall buildings anchor NYC. SoCal is spread out. Duh. But, this creates makes a major difference in how people live. Subways, buses, taxis and walking dominate city living. We’re in each other’s face all the time, so like it or not, there is a constant energy exchange.  And that’s good. But, that also means that you’ll never experience loneliness like you do in the big city. In Manhattan, everyone is in a hurry and there are a lot of crazies, so unfortunately, at times, the vibe can feel more suspicious than friendly, unless you are a tourist.

In SoCal you drive and drive and drive, so you’re literally alonewith your thoughts or Sirius Radio.  That’s not a bad thing, but it makes a difference. You hear “hello” and “have a nice day” and “no problem” a lot more in SoCal, but I’m not sure there isn't much behind the words beyond a subconscious desire for a human connection.

Food

Is it me, or do the portions seem a heckuva lot bigger in SoCal than NYC?  You also get more bang for your food dollar in SoCal.  And, understandably, with all of its farms, the produce and veggies in SoCal are big and fresh. Taste? Let’s give that to New York, where you can eat any cuisine from any part of the world at anytime. However, for some reason, New York still struggles with Mexican food.

Names of Streets and Towns

In New York we have global iconic, old school names for streets like, Fifth, Madison and Lexington Avenue. We coin names for new nabes like Chumbo and LoLo, but there are no new towns in New York. In SoCal, new towns are being built every day, many with American Indian or Mexican names, like Temecula, San Marino and Aliso Viejo.

In Temecula, if you make a right off Galleron Avenue onto on Butterfield Stage, then make a right on Rancho California Road you’re in wine country. There are a lot of “Vistas” and "Ranchos” out there and a growing wine country. There are also a lot of “Old Towns” in SoCal, built on what were once the actual centers of frontier towns. Pretty touristy, but they can be fun if you can stop thinking like a New Yorker for a few hours.

Fitness

In NYC, we run in parks like Central, Prospect and Hudson River Park. It took me a day to figure out where to run in Temecula. First, you have to hit the pavement before 8am and then it’s all sun, hills and asphalt. I thought Central Park had challenging hills until I took a few laps around my mother-in-law’s community. Because there is no real mass transit, there are a lot of stay-at-home moms who are really into fitness. They hit the gym regularly and it shows. Check plus for SoCal on that one.

Ambience

New York is one noisy place to live. Pulsating jackhammers, rumbling subway trains, police sirens, taxis honking their horns and people yelling are standard sounds we New Yorkers are accustomed to hearing before 8am. During my two-week stay out west at times it was so quiet that I could actually hear the wind pick up at about 5pm every day. Wonderful.

Sports

Padres or Yankees? We don’t even have to go there.

Music

Believe it or not, many radio stations still play the big hits of the Eagles, Doors, Jackson Browne, Beach Boys and the other the west coast icons all day, every day.  Cool.

I’m all in on New York. It’s my favorite Guy’s Guy city and there’s no place else like it for people, energy, women and opportunity. That said, a Guy’s Guy is open-minded and I could actually see myself living the quiet life out west in a few years. Well, maybe. It’s really about what works for your state of mind and lifestyle.

This week’s Guys’ Guys of the week are the New Yorkers who moved out west for a mellower life and the actors who chose to live in New York because of its vitality and energy.

Are you East Coast or West Coast, or does it even matter?

 

Five Fresh Ideas for New York City

Robert Manni - Thursday, May 30, 2013


Life in the Big Apple has been polished under Mayor Bloomberg.

The smoking ban in public spaces is a major success, the parks are more picturesque and utilitarian than ever, people automatically scoop up their dog poop, and the influx of tourist dollars into the city is at an all time high. Sounds pretty good. But, that’s skimming the surface. Here is my Guys' Guy's Guide to polishing the Big Applemy list of suggestions to further upgrade our lives in the big city.  Some of these concepts have been discussed and dissected, but they are worth a closer look from a common sense perspective.

1. Ban All Motorized Vehicular Traffic in Central Park.  The biking and jogging lanes have been significantly expanded, but New Yorkers are still forced to dodge speeding taxis and private limo services as they speed through the park throughout the day. There are numerous cross streets where these vehicles can cut through the park form the outside without snaking their way inside the park while polluting the air and endangering pedestrians, joggers, and bikers. We are diluting our quality of life to save a minute’s time for speeding taxis. Really? Hey, Mr. Mayor—which is more dangerous, enjoying a large soft drink or sprinting to avoid being run down by a taxi? At least ninety percent of the motorized vehicles in the park are taxis. Ridiculous.

2. Drop the Big Soda Ban Legislature. This well-intended law was justly shot down in court at the eleventh hour and is still being debated. This law is misguided. Sure, sugary drinks are bad, but why draw a line in the sand at 16 ounces? That’s not going to cure obesity and diabetes. People will find a way to get their fix. Do we ban soda, ice cream, Oreo cookies and pre-sweetened cereal? Educating the population to the dangers of sugar is a timely concept. Choosing one size of one product and ostracizing it is lunacy.

3. Require GMO Labeling for Foods in NYC. This is a better idea than a 16-ounce soda ban. Our mayor is known for suggesting bold moves to protect our health. What about GMO’s? Let’s discuss requiring labeling of all products that contain GMO’s that are sold in New York. It would be a true show of leadership by the most forward-thinking, sophisticated city in the world. Could it work? It’s worth a deep discussion. Nothing will slow the onslaught of GMO’s until our leaders take a stand. Washington? Forget it. How about it, Mr. Mayor?

4. Stop Serving Alcohol at 2am. Maybe I’m getting old, but having spent many a long evening in our city bars, I assure you that only a few things happen when people continue drinking for two more hours between two and four am. You either get totally wasted, argue meaningless sports trivia, get into a fight, or wake up next to a woman named Brenda who looked far better at three o’clock than at ten in the morning.

5. Upgrade Weekend Subway Service. Now that we have to cash in our 401K’s to ride in a taxi, the subways are teeming with people 24/7. The advent of the $1 penalty for replacing your Metro Card has generated a boon in revenue. Yet our weekend service flat out sucks. Weekends are cherished times for hard working New Yorkers. Who wants to spend an extra hour underground waiting hopefully that the C train will show up and be running local? You get the picture.

I could continue about overflowing trash bins, subway acrobats blasting music and dangerously swinging around poles, bike riders on the sidewalks, but I’ll save that for another post.

What are your ideas for improving the quality of life in our fair city?

This week’s Guy’s Guy of the Week is Mayor Bloomberg. He’s well intended and has improved our quality of life, but he has a long way to go before he leaves office. Be bold, Mr. Mayor! Be a Guy’s Guy.

Don't Judge A Man By His Bag

Robert Manni - Thursday, October 18, 2012

You can’t deny it. Almost every guy you see in NYC carries a bag.

I mean everything from a nylon pouch with a string, to the ubiquitous Jansport backpack, to messenger bags and briefcases of all shapes and sizes. I’m definitely not referring to the dreaded metrosexual man purse or a fanny pack. People, including guys, in New York City (and not just in NYC) carry around a lot of crap and we need some way of schlepping it around. So carrying a “bag” is no longer a chick thing. Guys have every reason and right to carry some type of bag around without having to listen to comments about their being the dreaded metrosexual.

Who wants to stuff everything in their pockets?

That’s why cargo pants are so popular with guys. We also have lots of things to carry around. And you have to admit that it looks pretty stupid when you see a guy with bulges all over him in all of the wrong places. And I know that a lot of ladies roll their eyes when they see a guy with cargo pants or shorts on. The only thing that’s hotter are a pair of beige khakis (kidding). And the only thing a guy can squeeze into a pair of slim (notice I did not mention “skinny”) jeans is a tight butt and a Metro card.

So what about these man bags…or should we call them “man pouches”?

Maybe I’m a spiffy brand of Guy’s Guy, but like most women, I need different sizes for different bag occasions. For work I prefer my Jack Spade ballistic nylon square-shaped messenger bag. I purchased it online three years ago and it remains in tiptop condition which is quite an accomplishment considering all of the wear and tear it’s taken on the subway, in foul weather and from being dropped on the floor in so many bars and restaurants.  Bottom line is that this bag has served me well and I plan to keep on hoisting it over my shoulder until something breaks. If I have a big meeting or interview, I carry a black Ghurka portfolio. Very soft leather and it looks sharp.

For weekends in the city or a casual two-day getaway, I have a few Victorinox backpacks in different sizes. They are extremely well constructed, not too pricey and they hold all kinds of stuff. My favorite has shoulder straps that rotate. This is an amazing asset, but unfortunately the company no longer makes this type of technology. Tragic.  Having a rotating shoulder strap makes it so much easier to navigate around with only one strap on your shoulder without the other strap sticking out. And you’re not forced to reach around and slide both straps off, which can be a hassle. Plus, who wants to look like a hiker in Manhattan?

I can usually be found around town toting my bag fully stuffed with groceries, wine, whatever book I’m reading, sunglasses, blah, blah, blah. I determine which bag to carry depending on how much my wife will want me to carry for her. After a trip to the Lobster Place and the fruit and vegetable store at Chelsea Commons, I’m weighed down like a pack mule so I need a top quality bag that won’t fall apart. Cuts down on those plastic shopping bags, too.

And I have a few others for business travel, trips, and vacations or even for a day at the beach. Modern life in the city requires a dude to lug a lot of things around. That’s just how it is.

So what’s the point?

Let’s file this one under “Life”, but if there is a point to this post it’s that we are all people and we all have to carry things around. And it’s ridiculous and out of touch to think that carrying a bag around is only for ladies. Men and women have so much in common yet they continue drifting so far apart. Maybe if we stopped judging each other and schlepped a few miles in the shoes of the opposite sex, we’d see that we are all humans that carry around a lot of baggage—physical and emotional. We all need to be loved rather than judged. That’s something worth carrying around in the back of your mind the next time you scoff at the guy with the leather bag slung around his shoulder.

Guy’s Guy of the Week: Zach Galifianakis as Alan in the Hangover "It's not a man purse, it's a satchel."

What old fashion judgments of men are you carrying around? 

--

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