(Originally broadcast on Dec. 4, 2009, on The Frank Show, here.)
I want to provide you with a service. Free of charge. Consider it a Saint Nicholas Day present. Now, if you saw an interview on this program earlier this week, then you know we interviewed someone who helps expats here get to know this city with directions, recommendations, and helpful tips. Well, I was thinking. With the lei strengthening this week — ok, well, just a little – maybe some of you are thinking of traveling for the holidays. New York is such a huge destination at Christmas time for tourists, it’s such a wonderful place to be during the holidays that – actually, if you live there, you can’t wait for it to end so all of you will finally go home.
But that’s not the point. For any of you from here thinking of visiting my home town, I want to share just a bit of a newcomers guide with you to New York. I hope it helps in some small way ease the transition.
First of all, after you land and take a taxi to Manhattan, the change you get from the driver – don’t be shocked – will be correct. No, he will not keep a few dollars for himself just in case. That does not mean you shouldn’t tip him. As a former taxi driver myself, I suggest between 15 and 20 percent. Especially if he actually gets out of the taxi to open the trunk.
Speaking of tips, let’s get this out of the way. Tip everyone. Everyone expects it. I mean everyone. Even the guy who sells you that Rolex watch or Hermes scarf from a cardboard box on the sidewalk.
Now, once you get into the City, that’s what we call Manhattan, the first thing you should do is go into a subway. That’s like the metro here except it’s dirtier and darker. Don’t worry, you’re not going anywhere. Just go to the booth where they sell tickets and ask the attendant for a subway map. They’re free. And they are as good, if not better, than any map of New York you can buy.
Now go back up to the street and start walking. In any direction. But don’t get confused or scared. You might get lost because the streets are all straight, north and south, east and west. Compared with Bucharest, it’ll seem very confusing at first, but you’ll get used to it.
As you’re walking, if you see any stray dogs. Run. They are not supposed to be there. They do not have cute little yellow tags on their left ear. Oh, and don’t spit on the sidewalk. People seem to spit a lot here, I’m not sure why. But in New York, they take that sort of thing seriously. At least since Mayor Giuliani. Then, when you get to the street corner, cross it. In fact, don’t wait for the corner. And don’t wait for the green light. If you do, you’ll be the only one standing there. No, cars will not stop for you. As a driver there, we know that’s not our job. It’s yours to get out of our way. After all, we’re the one in a car.
And yes, you will see a lot of police. Everywhere. Just standing around. It’s ok. They’re supposed to be there. It does not mean they’re expecting terrorists. Just other New Yorkers.
Now soon you’ll be hungry. You see, if you knew it or not, that’s why you go to New York. To eat. A couple tips there. Eat beef. Not pork. Beef is basically America’s pork anyway. Since we’re not in that TV market, I guess I can suggest Gallagher’s Steak House, on West 52nd.
And speaking of eating, we eat all the time there. You’ll know what I mean when you see the average size of an American. So after dinner, of course, you’ll want to go to Carnegie Deli. You know, to have a sandwich for dessert. Try the corned beef – lean – with some celery soda.
After you leave, turn right down Seventh Avenue and walk into Times Square. You’ll know it when you see it. It’s like Disneyland only it seems less real. Now, if you’re like most Americans, you’ll be hungry again. Stop anywhere and get a slice of pizza. It is the shaorma of New York. But never ever eat it with a knife and fork. Fold it in half.
Pretty soon, you’ll be tired and ready for bed. Don’t try to call a taxi. I don’t think they have phones. Just go to the street and wave. And of course, as you get ready to sleep, you’ll start thinking about breakfast. My final advice, take your own slanina. Trust me on this. You will not be able to walk into a grocery store and order a slab of pork fat.
Oh, yeah. And between meals, enjoy the shopping and a Broadway play. They sell great candy at the theater.
And that’s my helpful commentary for this week. As always, we’d like to see yours. Especially if you’re going to New York. I have a grocery list of food I need you to bring back.