My Glamorous Life: Riding North

Woke 5:00 AM New York. Fed cats, crossed town to Penn Station.

Uber software was misbehaving, so instead of Penn Station New York, it booked me in Penn Station Dallas, Texas—a three-day ride costing tens of thousands of dollars. The driver and I had a good laugh over it.

Amtrak Acela First Class Lounge, a dingy little smut box in a catpiss corner of Penn Station, was dark. It does not open till 7:00, and, by God, the attendant sat there in the dark, with her door locked, until 7:00 AM on the dot.


Acela Express has two classes: Business and First. First comes with meals, early seating, and (experimentally, on some trips) selectable assigned seating. For some reason, First cost only $5 more than Business on this trip, so I sprang for it, and was rewarded with a Greek omelet, endlessly flowing beverages, and a nearly empty train car staffed by two highly professional waiters. One was tall and lean; the other, short and round. I mention this only because it was highly cinematic.

The man seated across from me had a kind smile and a deep need for coffee. From his mildness, I inferred he was an alcoholic on a business trip.

I spent the rest of the ride with Guillermo del Toro. What did we do before the iPad? Oh, that’s right—read books.

Cab from Boston South Station to waterfront hotel: $9. The driver let me hoist my impossibly heavy bag into the trunk myself, and tug it back out again on arrival at the hotel. “Okay,” he said, scowling, as I gently lowered the hood of his trunk. I don’t think he approved of my beard. Or maybe he blamed me for the African Diaspora. My people didn’t do it. We were hiding in barrels.

My hotel room was ready when I arrived, and even included a clean little kitchen area, which I sprinkled with little bags of nuts and dried fruit I’d brought with me.

My friends and team mates Marci & Toby, without whom the conference and our company would not function, have been in the hotel for days setting up next week’s event, so I spent a lovely hour catching up with them. Marci, who’d just undergone her sixth surgery on the same shoulder, had her arm in a sling, so I asked permission before carefully hugging her.

Rehearsed my presentation. Took a nap. I seem to have entered a phase of life where naps are a daily thing. Bingo’s next, I suppose.

Left hotel on foot to go meet a guy for dinner. I don’t really know the guy, but we’re both designers, and meeting other people who do what we do is part of what we do.

Last time I was in Boston’s Seaport area was shortly after 9/11, when there was nothing here but the World Trade Center. I’m in Boston every year but I don’t know this terrain. Between Foursquare, Apple Maps, Google Maps, and operator error, I somehow spent 20 minutes walking in circles before I finally broke down and asked a cop how to get to the place where I was meeting the guy.

Called the guy to tell him I was running late and got his voicemail.

Got to the place. The dark-eyed hostess awakened thoughts I can’t write about in our present cultural moment as I followed her in search of the guy I was supposed to meet. The hostess asked me what the guy looked like and I told her I didn’t know. So she interrupted a septuagenarian couple’s dinner to ask if the husband, digging into his lobster, was the guy I was supposed to meet. “No, the man I’m meeting is a guy by himself in his thirties,” I offered, pleasing neither the hostess nor the lobster fan. We returned to the hosting stand, where the other hostess looked at a screen and said my guy had never shown up.

So I walked out in the light rain, left another voicemail for the guy, and worked my way back to the hotel.

Called my daughter to wish her goodnight—she laughed when I told her I hadn’t expected Boston to be cold. Cracked open a room service hummus and a bag of dried banana chips. Business travel, baby. It’s the life.


Also published in Medium

I Remember

THERE WAS THIS GUY, sax player, used to honk all up and down the Q Train to Coney Island. Thought he was Sun Ra. Wasn’t.

Chicago, Chicago

An Event Apart Chicago—a photo set on Flickr. Photos of the city and the conference for people who make websites.

AN EVENT APART Chicago—a photo set on Flickr. Pictures of the city and the conference for people who make websites.

Notes from An Event Apart Chicago 2013—Luke Wroblewski’s note-taking is legendary. Here are his notes on seven of the ten presentations at this year’s An Event Apart Chicago.

#aeachi—conference comments on Twitter.

Chicago (Foursquare)—some of my favorite places in the city.

An Event Apart Chicago—sessions, schedule, and speaker bios for the conference that just ended.

AEA Chicago 2013 on Lanyrd—three days of design, code, and content on the social sharing platform for conferences.


THE NEXT AEA event takes place in Austin and is already sold out (although a few spaces are still available for the full-day workshop on multi-device design).

A handful of seats are available for the final event of the year, An Event Apart San Francisco at the Palace Hotel, December 9–11, 2013. Be there or be square.


Become a Web Developer: Avi Flombaum of The Flatiron School on Big Web Show 89

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AVI FLOMBAUM, dean of The Flatiron School, is my guest in Big Web Show Episode No. 89. A 28-year-old Rubyist, Skillsharer, storyteller and entrepreneur, Avi founded Designer Pages and NYC on Rails before creating The Flatiron School—a 12 week, full-time program designed to turn you into a web developer.

Listen to Episode No. 89 of The Big Web Show.

URLS, URLS, URLS

To Leiden, To Leiden

THEY’RE SLEEPING in New York. They’re sleeping all over the world. Even here in Leiden, The Netherlands, they’re still mumbling and drooling in their beds. But not me. I’m awake and packing for my return home to NYC after three glorious days here in this ancient university town, where I was privileged to speak at the first Inspire conference. And all you got were these lousy photos.

Related: Design Problem

From Chicago, With Love

Marina City, Chicago, IL, USA. Part of a photo set by Jeffrey Zeldman.

HEY, FRIENDS. I write from the magical city of Chicago, where I’m enjoying the first Happy Cog Summit. Next week, following our meet-up cum strategy session cum karaoke party, comes An Event Apart Chicago, three days of peace, love, and web standards (plus more Chicago magic).

I won’t be writing here much while these events continue, but I’ve started a Chicago 2012 photo slide show for your pleasure, and will add to it as time and aesthetics permit. You can also stalk me via my new Foursquare Chicago list.

Once An Event Apart kicks in, starting Monday August 27, and until it ends Wednesday night, August 29, I’ll post links and notes here—and you can follow the hot tweet-by-tweet action on A Feed Apart, the official feed aggregator for An Event Apart. Yowee!

My Glamorous Life: Lucy Ricardo, C’est Moi

TRYING A NEW breakfast place. I tell the cashier, “Extra crispy bacon.”

“Extra bacon,” she says.

“No, not extra bacon. Extra crispy bacon,” I say.

A fast-paced volley of shouted Spanish follows, between the cook, the cashier, and the server. A customer in line behind me chimes in. He is either describing my order to the cashier or telling her about a dream he had involving velvet chickens. I’ve got to learn Spanish.

The cashier turns her green gaze back to me.

“Extra bacon,” she says.

“Um, no,” I say.

No bacon,” she says.

“Yes, bacon,” I say. “Spinach mushroom omelette, bacon — no toast, no potatoes.”

I will never be able to make it up to her, or to the other customers in line behind me. Or to the pig, quite frankly.

“Extra bacon,” she announces.

I say, “Thank you” and leave a tip in the jar.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas: An Event Apart San Francisco, Palace Hotel, Dec. 12-14

HERE I AM at the Palace on Market Street for another thrilling installment of An Event Apart.

An Event Apart San Francisco features twelve great speakers and sessions. Following the two-day conference comes an intense learning session on Mobile Web Design led by Luke Wroblewski (author, Web Form Design).

Starting Monday, December 12, 2011, follow the live Twitter stream on A FEED APART, the official feed aggregator for An Event Apart.

Hum along to the interstitial AEA Playlist on Last.fm or Rdio.

Stay in the loop! Follow An Event Apart on Twitter or Facebook, or subscribe to our mailing list.

Air Travel As We Know It

My thrice-delayed, once-cancelled flight home has been resurrected and is boarding. No one was ever so happy to be flying coach to Newark.