Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Friday, June 30, 2021

The most recent PricewaterhouseCoopers MoneyTree report (1Q 2006) sports a familiar regional ranking: Silicon Valley, even years after the dot-com bust, remains a powerful magnet for venture capital dollars, accounting for 36.56 percent of all VC funding in the U.S. Just as predictably, the New England-Boston Route 128 Corridor, renowned as a software and biotech incubator, clocks in at second place once again.

After that one-two punch is a cluster of regions in an effective dead heat. But one area is poised to break out of that nondescript pack. Southern California is building more tech critical mass, which is consequently attracting more venture capital investment, and thus changing the financing landscape:

“There is a distinct possibility that Southern California will eclipse New England in the very near future,” said Mark G. Heesen, the president of the National Venture Capital Association. “It is a significant shift.”

The growth of high-risk, early-stage capital in the region does not appear to be attributable to any single reason, but to a handful of factors, including the proximity of Silicon Valley and the Pacific Rim, the strength of universities, a critical mass of companies in a handful of industries and, of course, lifestyle.

So, when hotshot techie talent is being lured by hotshot startup, which sounds more enticing: Living in bucolic suburban Massachussetts, or sunny beachfront in California? Granted, those workaholic codemonkies probably won’t ever emerge from their cubicles long enough to take note of the weather; but it’s nice to know it’s there.

The macro implications — that the venture capital game could evolve into an almost-exclusively Californian proprietary industry — give me a dark chuckle, as well. Maybe finance circles east of the Mississippi will come to dismiss VC as one of those West Coast things…

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 06/30/2006 06:17pm
Category: Business
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With both of their present situations looking grim, Chevrolet and Major League Baseball are turning to nostalgia for a current marketing partnership campaign. The “Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet” TV/Web spot is an update from a 1974-76 ad that linked the automaker and the sport, only now updated to reflect the evolution and changes in both entities.

Curious direction to take, as both brands are but glimmers of what they were 30 years ago. Chevy’s been reduced to also-ran in the U.S. market compared to Japanese cars, and the MLB long ago conceded its former top spot in the American sports pantheon to football and basketball. And both owe their continued viability to inertia more than proactivity: Just as loads of consumers will blindly buy an “American” car (nevermind that auto manufacturing is so globally diffused that such a thing doesn’t really exist) no matter what, the lack of competition from other, more compelling team sports during summertime gives baseball a cocoon-like operating environment.

To me, the connotation brought up with the new commercial is more of faded glory than of enduring tradition. Who even remembers that original spot? (I plead youthful memory gap, as I was only 5 when it went off the air.) The net gain is to reassure an older customer base that’s dying off anyway.

At best, it might serve as a necessary reminder, to a largely disinterested audience that “we’re still hanging around!”. As long as each partner is comfortable unintentionally positioning itself as a lower-tiered spectacle, I guess it works.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 06/30/2006 05:59pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Baseball
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Thursday, June 29, 2021

disco art
July marks the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of Nik Cohn’s “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night” in New York Magazine. The article, which served as the direct source material for Saturday Night Fever, was presented as a non-fictional frontline report on what was going down with New York clublife in 1976. The rest is Tony Manero/white-suit-dancin’ history.

Funny how such an era-defining cultural artifact was based on fabrications on Cohn’s part:

…a combination of New Journalism extrapolating and deadline-pressure riffing. “At the time,” Cohn later wrote, “if cornered, I would doubtless have produced some high-flown waffle about Alternative Realities, tried to argue that writing didn’t have to be true to be, at some level, real. But, of course, I would have been full of it.”

But hey, weren’t large chunks of that decade, essentially and conceptually, made-up anyway? Like they say: If you can actually remember the Seventies, then you weren’t really there.

James McMullan was really there, though. He accompanied Cohn on some field research, and remembered enough to come back with photos, sketches, and paintings of the club scenes in those Brooklyn discos (detail from one featured above). He also caught the underlying mood, relaying the reality that Cohn couldn’t/wouldn’t:

What [McMullan] saw was a world not of disco glitter but of melancholy yearning. The real [Bay Ridge disco 2001 Odyssey] “was like a tired old supper club,” he says, “that had quickly, but not entirely, been converted to a dance club.” (In the paintings, much of the club’s floor is covered by a dingy, rec-room-style carpet, so vividly captured you can practically smell it.) He used a flash for the photos, and “the flash revealed all this stuff that in the dim light you weren’t able to see. Particularly in the backgrounds. You saw people’s non-party faces, as it were.”

The paintings now stand as a kind of unofficial storyboard for the film: the real film, the gritty, vaguely hopeless one, not the smoke–and–Bee Gees cartoon that persists in memory.

The dance floor never looked more somber in literal portrayal. Which, in a way, makes the sunnier nostalgic memories somewhat inevitable.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 06/29/2006 11:32pm
Category: History, Movies, Pop Culture, Publishing
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How many chances does Radar Magazine get? Maer Roshan’s much-hyped, yet seldom-published snark machine is coming back hard again after finding renewed financing.

Plans call for an online launch in about a month, and a print re-incarnation of 6-10 issues during 2007. That would be an achievement, as the previous runs of Radar yielded a grand total of five issues.

This time, the magazine might just stick around, because plans are for it to be a cornerstone of a budding media concern:

In [Jesse Jackson's son, Yusef] Jackson, Mr. Roshan has found an ambitious investor looking to build a media portfolio beyond Radar. Mr. Jackson, 35, said yesterday that Radar would probably not be the last media outlet he acquired, but he said he did not have a short list of companies. “I pray that this is the first of several acquisitions.”

In 2004, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Burkle tried unsuccessfully to acquire The Chicago Sun-Times. They also teamed with a group of investors last year to buy the Washington Nationals, but lost out.

Here’s an acquisition candidate for Jackson: The Village Voice, which is in editorial turmoil of late and would do well with a dose of new ownership. Two New York-based pubs would be a fine foundation for a media play.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 06/29/2006 10:17pm
Category: New Yorkin', Publishing
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Wednesday, June 28, 2021

baby, one more time
I guess having her first pregnancy immortalized in sculpture wasn’t mass-media-saturating enough. So Britney Spears is pulling a Demi Moore this time around, posing for a series of concealed-nude photos for the August issue of Harper’s Bazaar, including a cover shot.

No, the preceding link won’t lead you to any more belly-baring pics. But this one will, as will this one. Enjoy.

I must confess to conflicting emotions over this. On the one hand, I shudder at the sheer absurdity. On the other, Brit’s new brunette look kinda turns me on.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 06/28/2006 11:49pm
Category: Celebrity, Publishing, Women
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He may have shunted his trademark movie setting to London, but Woody Allen knows New York is still his big moneymaker. As pre-publicity for the release of his latest opus, Scoop, Allen is filling column space in not one, but two Big Apple-centric magazines this month:

- For The New Yorker, he writes “Thus Ate Zarathustra”, a send-up of Friedrich Nietzsche‘s philosophical allegories via the fad-diet milieu;

- Meanwhile, in New York Magazine, Allen and his newfound ingenue Scarlett Johansson are the centerpiece for a writeup on all the upcoming summertime fun. He’s even on the cover, posing in a Billy Wilder-Marilyn Monroe homage.

Nice to see the nebbish embracing his media roots.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 06/28/2006 11:26pm
Category: Celebrity, Movies, New Yorkin', Publishing
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non-existenceI’ve always contemplated the nature of my existence. Now, thanks to this recent “Get Fuzzy” installment, I can stop. Bucky Katt calls it: “Greeks don’t exist”.

On a related note, I can’t tell you how often I’ve wished that those slippers with the puffy balls, and matching skirt-kilts, didn’t exist, too. But that’s Hellenic democracy for you…

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 06/28/2006 10:50pm
Category: Comedy, History
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Tuesday, June 27, 2021

ready for action
The traffic stats on this blog are off the charts today, which can mean only one thing: Jill Wagner fever is hitting the InterWeb, again.

And here’s why: “Blade”, the Spike TV series based on the movie, is premiering tomorrow night. Wagner is co-starring as some sort of ass-kicking superheroine, sans fangs (actually, with fangs — sorta the point of the show). No word on if the series features Mercury motor vehicles

If “Blade” is a hit, I’ll attribute it to Wagner. I’d better — she’s bringing in the lion’s share of the traffic around here…

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/27/2006 11:44pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., TV, Women
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ice that ruth built
The Bronx, that most maligned of boroughs, is embarking upon an image-boosting PR campaign.

I’m sure a proposed Rangers-Islanders regular-season game in Yankee Stadium, in the recent tradition of other outdoor megastadium hockey games, is part of that master plan.

Technically, this wouldn’t be the first time an official NHL contest took place in Major League Baseball digs. The Tampa Bay Lightning played several seasons in St. Petersburg’s ThunderDome, setting playoff attendance records. Of course, that was before that joint had a baseball team as a tenant; but the now-known-as Tropicana Field was built for baseball in the first place, so I think it counts.

And oh yes — you’d better believe I’m snagging tickets for the game at the House That Ruth Built, should it come off. I’d even take nosebleeders, just to say I was there. Of course, I’d probably have to wear about 12 layers of winter gear to keep from freezing to death, but it’d be worth it.

(Via Gothamist)

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/27/2006 11:39pm
Category: Baseball, Hockey, New Yorkin'
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I’ve been holding my tongue on how crappy the weather’s been of late. Nothing but rain, and more rain, every damned day. And before that, enough chill in the air to make me wonder if the summer heat would ever arrive in the Northeast.

It did. Which made the miniature snow drifts I saw lining 42nd Street late this afternoon a curious sight.

The funny thing is, it took several seconds for my brain to register what my eyes were feeding it. Somehow, when I looked down, I just took the piles of slush in stride.

Why was there snow on the street in the middle of June? I assume it was the product of a snow machine, used for a movie or commercial shoot earlier in the day. There was a lot of it — I’m guessing it extended for half the block — so I’m sure it got the job done.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/27/2006 11:02pm
Category: New Yorkin', Weather
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entertainment, bitch!
One of the gifts I got for my recent birthday was an iTunes Music Card. Always appreciated.

The gifter of said card — who I know drops by here on occasion — will be happy to know that I’ve cashed in part of that Card on not one, but two episodes of Chappelle’s Show. The permanently-hiatused series was just added to iTunes Music Store, and the kicker: They’re “uncensored” versions. Which actually means that the curse words are no longer bleeped out… but the pixilated scenes of nudity remain pixilated. The old double-standard in American popular culture.

Anyway, the two episodes I bought and copied onto my iPod:

- No. 204: The infamous Charlie Murphy True Hollywood Stories episode, featuring the drop-dead hilarious “I’m Rick James, bitch!” sequence.

- No. 207: I got this one for the two main sketches — The World Series of Dice and Mooney on Movies. Mooney’s final punchline alone was well worth it.

Yes, it’s a celebration, bitches — on my iPod, during my morning train commute! It’s tough to keep from laughing; my co-riders probably think I’m nuts…

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/27/2006 10:50pm
Category: Comedy, TV, iPod
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Monday, June 26, 2021

Wait a minute. I just spent a four-day weekend in Tampa, and I didn’t check out the recently-opened Maxim Men’s Club and Steakhouse, featuring seared beef and bikinied bimbos?

Oh, I should calm down. This ain’t “Maxim”, as in the lad mag. It’s actually “Maxxim”. Which means this is just a run-of-the-mill gimmicky girlie club, hoping to persuade clientele who wouldn’t normally patronize the plethora of all-nude joints on Dale Mabry. The crucial technicality is the use of nipple pasties: “But honey, they weren’t actually nude!” (I’m sure that flies well with the wives…)

Still, that name, along with the nature of the not-really-nude tease-like girlie dancer entertainment, certainly is meant to mislead fans of the magazine to stop by. If Hillsborough County can’t shut the place down, then perhaps Maxim parent Dennis Publishing would be interested in the unauthorized brand dilution going on here.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 06/26/2006 11:46pm
Category: Florida Livin', Publishing
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I managed to pick up a rare find while in Florida: Legal Cuban cigars.

No such thing? That’s what I thought too. But according to the display at Central Cigars in St. Pete, these were part of a forty-something-year-old stash owned by an auction house that went bankrupt. And so the stogies ended up for sale, where I stumbled upon them late Saturday night.

There were several varieties available, but I went for the Belicoso Breve. No special reason — mainly because there were only three of those left, and I knew I’d distribute them to my friends Tom and Kirby. And so I did, leaving one cigar for me here in New York.

I’ll have to find the right occasion for lighting this one up. It’s been a long while since I had a quality smoke.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 06/26/2006 11:11pm
Category: Florida Livin'
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Sunday, June 25, 2021

Part of the fun during my Florida visit this weekend is hitting a couple of garage/yard sales. (Not my idea, I was just tagging along.)

At one such residential bazzar, I spied a certain book title on one table: “How to Survive an Alcoholic Marriage”. At the same house, a few tables over, I spied another volume for sale: “Poems for Perseverance: Because Sometimes, It Takes More than Love to Stay Together!”.

I’m thinking I’ve already learned far more than I wanted to about this household and how it (dis)functions.

I did buy a kitschy wooden toy snake for myself at this particular house. It’s just about the proper thing to pick up for fifty cents at a yard sale.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 06/25/2006 11:26am
Category: Florida Livin', Society
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A frequent subject of musing by many folks — in particular, white-collar wage-slaves who make a decent living but essentially live from paycheck to paycheck — is how the homeless people they encounter every day manage to persist on their staked-out street corners or intersections.

Specifically, that musing turns to severe skepticism about those homeless and their motives. We’ve all heard the speculation from co-workers:

“You know that homeless guy on the corner of such-and-such? I just saw him at an ATM machine taking out money!”

“That homeless lady we see on the drive in? Can you believe she was talking on a cellphone this morning?”

“I saw that bum from the park walking around in brand-new sneakers!”

The implication is that these observations somehow “out” the alleged bums and expose their panhandling as a scam. If they’re walking around with ATM cards and cellphones, they can’t be on the level, and their begging for handouts must be some kind of money-making scam.

Which is just a convenient justification for washing away any guilt felt from not giving Mr. or Ms. Bum any spare change that week, or even acknowledging their existence. If you convince yourself that those people don’t really need the money to survive, that they’re just engaging in a ruse to fool you, then you win by not falling for it. It goes even further than that: It turns a defensive posture — reconciling a not-so-nice act of snubbing a person in desperate need — into an aggressive stance — foiling scam artists and putting them out of business!

All of which is nonsensical. Fact is, homeless people may be down, but they don’t have to be out, in the sense that they’re deprived of everything but rags that they wear. In the hypothetical examples cited above, for instance:

- It is possible to maintain a bank account without a residence.

- Pay-as-you-go wireless phone plans make it relatively easy for someone without regular income or residence to stay connected.

- Lots of barely-use, looks-like-new clothing items wind up at Goodwill and the Salvation Army. It’s not like they’re going to scuff them up before giving them to someone to wear.

And I’m not going to bother to point out the fallacy in thinking that someone can somehow make a killing by spending untold hours on a sidewalk, hoping to cull a few quarters from passerbys.

The reality is that a lot of people slip through the cracks by losing their apartments or houses, but they don’t lose everything at once. Often, they don’t even lose their jobs when they lose their homes. The accoutrements of everyday life are not that hard to maintain — a $50 cellphone bill is a lot easier to pay than the rent is. Electronic interfaces for bill payments, along with free Web access at libraries and other places, make it entirely possible to hang onto something of a life infrastructure even when some bigger-picture essentials become impossible to maintain. Whether or not this represents misaligned priorities — should someone without a roof over their heads fritter away any time or money on notebook computers and blogs, even if they represent potential lifelines? — is a different debate.

At root, the reaction against seeming incongruities in homeless lifestyles stems from one thing: Fear. They’ll never articulate it, not even in their thoughts, but in the back of their minds, it’s there. Someone working 40, 50, 60 hours a week and still just barely making the mortgage payment and monthly bills looks at the unkempt guy with the “Please Help Me” sign in his hand, and some accessory item that doesn’t seem to fit with that look. And subconsciously, they take stock:

Gee, I have an ATM card too; and a cellphone that looks sorta like that, and I just bought the same kind of sneakers last week.

And suddenly, the assured separation between normal member of society and dreg of society blurs. And the fear is that it probably won’t take much — a layoff, a medical emergency — to fall off the normal rung down to the dreg. Those visual cues set that off. Thus, the hostile rationalization, to reassure that the precipice isn’t really that close, and that the everyday weltanschauung that gets one through another cubicle-contexted day is functional.

So, the next time you think you’ve cracked the case when it comes to homeless people, stop for a second and think about what you’re really focusing on. You don’t have to dig into your pocket for spare change, but you also don’t have to develop a mental armor just to safeguard your own self-image.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 06/25/2006 10:15am
Category: Internet, Society, Tech
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Saturday, June 24, 2021

A lot of the women I’ve talked to abhor the idea of riding the subway.

As someone who rides it practically every day, I’m puzzled by this revulsion. I mean, sure, it’s not the prettiest physical environment, but it does the job. So what’s so bad about it?

Reading an overview of the indecent exposure incidents that most women routinely experience while riding the trains gives me a better idea of why the ladies avoid descending into the nearest station.

Women know the drill. Just as some men reflexively check to see if they have their wallets on a crowded train, women check their bodies.

Pull in your backside and your front. Wedge a large bag for protection between yourself and the nearest anonymous male rider, who might, just might, be planning something. Put on your fiercest face, and brace yourself for contact that seems too deliberate to be accidental, too prolonged to be random.

A few weeks ago, a girl told me offhandedly that she would never take the subway, solely because she was a “bus girl”. I didn’t ask for elaboration, but I have a feeling I now know the backstory.

I tend to ride on lines during times when they’re not especially overcrowded. I’m not sure if that makes thing better or worse for female riders. I’ve seen the “fiercest face” look on many a ride, and it’s certainly offputting. Most days, I’ll spot a woman I wouldn’t mind starting up a conversation with, for just that ride if nothing else. But the tension level is so high on the other end that I’ve yet to venture forth. So much for the subway being a prime spot for meeting people.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 06/24/2006 10:17am
Category: New Yorkin', Society
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Friday, June 23, 2021

capper league
It’s been a fine year for the National Hockey League. So fine, in fact, that unexpectedly higher league-wide revenues of $2.1 billion will lead to a significantly high salary cap for 2006-07, to $44 million instead of this season’s $39 mil.

Some might say this validates the institution of a salary cap in the NHL. I wouldn’t. But that’s a debate for another time.

I guess I can stop worrying about how the Lightning are going to field a competitive team next year. Although Tampa Bay is already working on that, focusing on trading for the No. 1 goalie they’ll need to get back on top.

And consider: The NHL raked in all this dough with no television money to speak of (sorry, OLN; not sorry, NBC, despite the decent playoff ratings). If the league can actually build upon this apparent momentum next year, it might be able to get a broadcast TV deal that pays. Scary thought.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 06/23/2006 12:12pm
Category: Hockey
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See that menacing stormcloud on the horizon? That a cue for you to not only seek shelter, but also to rip that wireless phone from your ear: British studies indicate that talking on the phone in inclement weather increases the likelihood and severity of lightning strikes on humans.

I’ve always wondered if there was some sort of connection here. Wireless phones are nothing more than fancied-up radios, after all; if they can pull in transmission frequencies, it stands to reason that they’d attract atmospheric electricity, too. It sounds like an urban myth, but I guess it’s true.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 06/23/2006 11:48am
Category: Tech, Weather
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Arrived late last night for the start of my Tampa Bay weekend getaway.

The flight was as pleasant as it could be. I didn’t get the full al Qaeda patdown security treatment, as I’d half-suspected I’d get. I guess I’m looking somewhat less terroristic these days.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out my Delta flight turned out to be on a Song jet. This, despite Song being folded by parent Delta months ago (a bit of obfuscation on the Song website to claim that it’s “joined forces” with Delta — the discount flyer was a Delta subsidiary from day one). I guess the brand is undergoing a gradual phase-out.

But despite what it said on the ticket, we got the full Song treatment: Sassy-talking flight attendants, in-seat entertainment monitors (there wasn’t much to watch/listen to, unfortunately), and onboard drinks (I had the mojito — it was far from great, but what do you expect at 30,000 feet up for five bucks?). So it was an unexpectedly enjoyable trip down.

This morning, I discovered that I managed to forget to pack one thing: Hair gel. Hello, unruly follicles. Fortunately, it’s easy enough to replace.

Now, time to re-explore Tampa Bay. I don’t expect to keep much more of a log of this until I get back home.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 06/23/2006 11:21am
Category: Florida Livin'
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Thursday, June 22, 2021

Nothing like a little a lot of oil money to ramp up a middle-of-nowhere Central Asian republic. Kazakhstan’s former capital, Almaty, is experiencing a nouveau-riche renaissance, with world-class towers creating a skyline as urban as its residents’ newfound lifestyles.

“It’s hard to describe what it was like in Almaty just a couple of years ago,” said Natalia Sludskaya, editor in chief of the Kazakhstan edition of Cosmopolitan magazine. “There’s a new style here. Men are more ambitious. Women are getting married later, they have their own apartments. Attitudes about sex are changing very fast. People know how to dress. Everything is changing.”

I know what you’re thinking: There’s actually a Kazakh version of Cosmo?? No sign of it on the Web, but I guess someone’s producing it. I’m guessing it’s in Russian, as that’s the language of choice in this former Soviet jigsaw piece.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 06/22/2006 12:33pm
Category: Political, Publishing, Society
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The countdown ends. I’m flying out tonight, will touch down at Tampa International around midnight.

Weather-wise, my timing seems about right. Forecast for New York this weekend looks like nothing but thunderstorming. Tampa Bay’s also showing thunderstorms, but of the local variety: Routine everyday ones that last only 30-45 minutes. I’m well-used to that rhythm; as long as some sun peeks out at some point, I’m fine with it.

I’m crossing my fingers that my airport experience this time won’t involve the usual bullshit “security” profiling. I was spared the special shoe check the last one or two times I flew, so hopefully my luck will extend.

Partly because I left it until the last minute this morning, I managed to overpack slightly. Not too much fun toting a bag full of clothes around, but I took the subway to the office this morning, and will be taking it again to the airport this evening, so I’m not doing much sustained heavy lifting. (I would take a cab out to JFK, but the subway station is right here, and I want to ride that AirTrain again.)

Anyway, that’s that. A couple more posts here today, and then airborne. See you in Tampa.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 06/22/2006 11:48am
Category: Florida Livin'
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