so howz youse doin?

So whaddya need ta know 'bout the "Greatest City on Earth?"

Well for starters, just remember, North is Uptown, South is Downtown, West is to the Hudson River, and East is, take a guess, towards the East River. 5th Ave is the dividing line between East and West numbered streets, (W 19th St is west of 5th Ave, E 19th is east. of 5th) Blocks numbers run by the hundreds every avenue, e.g. 340 E 19th is the fourth block west from 5th Ave (between 8th and 9th Aves). You followin' me? (Do you think I'm funny? What, do I amuse you?)


The easiest place to catch a yellow cab is on one of the avenues. Its best to flag cabs going downtown for points downtown and visa-versa (cabbies don’t particularly like going around the block) Its better to cross the street if someone else is trying to catch a cab on the same block as you - unless you want to wrestle them for the door handle. Look for a cab with its rooftop number sign lit, and if the cab is not off duty, it will stop for you. When you reach your destination, always ask for a receipt (in case you forget something in the cab as it drives away, it may help you find the lost items later). I add on a 15% tip to the number on the meter and round up to the nearest dollar or half dollar. Most fares within Manhattan will cost $5-7 dollars on average, $10-15 if you’re going from Downtown to way Uptown.


With 3.5 million people riding the subway each day, things can get quite crowded underground. Always try to buy a bunch of tokens whenever you wait at a token booth (10-packs of tokens=$15.00). During rush hour, the lines can be long, and token clerks and passengers alike are not in the best of moods. Also, know your destination before you pass through the turnstile. Uptown trains often have different entrances than downtown trains. Down on platform level, look at the destination signs posted above the track to see which trains stop on which side. Late at night, the best place to board is towards the center of the platform, where the train conductor will be when the train stops in the station. During rush hour, move to the ends of trains because an incredible number of people will be stuffed into each car. Once on the train, try to keep away from the doors - you’ll will jostled by people getting on and off, as well as being a sitting duck for pickpocketers. Finally, check out the ads near the roof of each car. I always get a warm fuzzy feeling seeing the “Torn Earlobe” plastic surgery ads.


Crime is down, and the city is safer than it used to be in the early 80’s. But always know where you are going and the route you’re using to get there. Never wear expensive gold chains or put your handbags behind you at a restaurant. Never get involved with three-card monte or pea in a shell con games - you’ll never win, and if you do, the crooks will chase you down and steal your money. Though most streets in the tourist core of Manhattan are quite safe, if you feel uneasy, walk to the nearest avenue - they’re usually more crowded with activity. In the subway, especially at night, stand near the yellow signs marked “Off Hour Waiting Area.” These areas are monitored by the police and electronic signs will tell you when a train is arriving at the platform.

What to Wear

When in doubt, black is the color of choice. Whether its an expensive Donna Karan suit or just a black t-shirt and jeans from the Gap, black is the uniform most favored by New Yorkers. It hides stains and soot well. Wearing an attitude is also part of the New Yorker uniform. Try out the following choice phrases: “Fuh-gedda bout it.” “Whadda-you lookin’ at?” “Yuh know wha ahm sayin’.”

What to Eat

A regular coffee is with milk and sugar, a coffee lite has extra milk, coffee black is rarely ordered by New Yorkers. You can have a bagel with a schmear (cream cheese) with your coffee, but some New Yorkers order a buttered roll - go figure. Sidewalk vendors sell hot dogs (a.k.a. dirty water dogs) and other culinary delicacies such as roasted chestnuts, salted pretzels or potato(e) knishes. Some carts are mobile grills where you can get New York specialties like gyros, souvlakis, or barbequed meat on a stick, with a side of French bread speared on top. Pizza is everywhere - thousands of places sell it by the slice. Though a lot of pizzerias are called Ray’s, the original Ray’s is at the corner of W 11th and 6th Ave in the West Village. Korean delis are delis run by Korean families, open 24 hours, with huge salad bars inside. The biggest are Penn Plaza Deli at 7th Ave/34th St and the Coliseum Food Market at Broadway and 60th St. Buy your salad, or roast turkey, tortellini or mongolian barbeque by the pound and get it wrapped up in a plastic takeout bag. If you must eat in a restaurant, there are 30,000 of them in the city. Reservations are necessary in better restaurants from 6:30pm to 8:00pm - height of the dinner hour. Figuring tips is the easiest part in New York. Just double the 8.25% tax line on the bill - quite an adequate gratuity for your starving actor waiter.

Getting Back to the Airport

The cheapest way is to catch the Carey Company Buses from their terminal across the street from Grand Central Terminal. Buses leave every 20-30 minutes, fare is $13 to JFK and $10 to La Guardia. The catch is that it can take a long time to get there because of New York City traffic. Allow a good 2 hours to JFK before your departure time, 1-1/2 to La Guardia. At JFK, the bus goes around to the 11 separate terminals. Be aware of where your airline is as the bus circles around.

A more scenic route, whether you want it to be or not, is by taxi. The fare from Manhattan will run about $40 to JFK, including bridge tolls and tip, $25 to La Guardia. If private car is more your style, call for ‘car service.’ These private limos (Lincoln Towncars, usually) will pick you up at a designated time and place and will drive you straight to the terminal for a preset fee, usually $35 to JFK including tolls and tip. You don’t have to worry about the meter and have the luxury of not having to cart your bags a long distance. Try the following companies: Allstate (212) 333-3333, or Carmel (212) 666-6666. (Yes, those are real phone numbers!)

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