Tag Archives: Travel

Be Master of the Universe for $20

Tom Chiarella writing for Esquire explains his $20 theory of the universe, where a twenty “…placed in the right hand at the right moment, makes things happen. It gets you past the rope, beyond the door, into the secret files.”


On the plane, I approached the woman in seat 1A and held out a twenty. She asked if I was serious. I said yes. She took it and ran to 9B like her pants were on fire.


I could have stood in line at the airport cabstand for fifteen minutes like every other mook in the world, freezing my balls off, but such is not the way of the twenty-dollar millionaire. I walked straight to the front of the line and offered a woman twenty bucks for her spot. She took it with a shrug. Behind her, people crackled. “Hey! Ho!” they shouted.


I always grease Bobby H., the bellman at my hotel, and on my first night, within minutes of the pass, he suggested that I might request a room upgrade. He even gave me a room number to ask for. Another twenty at the desk and I was out of two queens, snug in my one king. The next day, we ran the same drill, and wham, I was in the minisuite. The twenty after that, I was in a full suite with a view of Times Square.


In my favorite midtown coffee shop, the Cafe Edison, they maintain VIP seating for a-holes like Neil Simon and August Wilson who supposedly come here to write. They keep the area roped off and generally empty, even at noon while a line stretches out the door. This has always pissed me off. So when I entered at noon one day, I folded a twenty, slipped it to the old lady at the counter, and she waved me into the VIP like she was whacking me with the back of her hand.


At 3:00 that very morning, I had called an Eighth Avenue bodega and told them I’d give them twenty dollars for a pint of milk and a Hustler magazine. The guy who answered the phone had a thick Arabic accent. “You are crazy,” he said. …Twenty minutes later, the guy was at my door with a quart of 2 percent and a shrink-wrapped valu-pack of three Hustlers. He sighed and smiled when I gave him the twenty.


“What do you wanna see?”

“You know,” I said. “I want to see the file.”

He picked up the twenty with two fingers and tucked it in his pocket. “I’ll show you what I’ve got.” He pulled a manila envelope from beneath the counter and took out four snapshots. The first three were simple bare asses–in a shower, at a kitchen sink, faceup on a couch. Beneath that was an enlargement of a cat licking a woman’s nipple. Pretty cool, but hardly what I expected.

“That’s it?” I said.

The guy pursed his lips. “That’s all I’ve got this week. That stuff doesn’t stay around here long. The master file would cost a lot more than twenty dollars.”

Master file! Damn. Clearly, I had priced myself out of the good stuff by coming forward with the twenty too fast.


I bought my way into a good table at a Les Paul show with a twenty. I got an usher at NBC to hold a front-row seat for Busta Rhymes on the Carson Daly show. I got a seat at Dos Caminos, Manhattan’s jumpingest Mexican restaurant, in five minutes despite the two-hour wait. I cut to the head of the line at the half-price Broadway ticket booth in Times Square. I got my shoes resoled in twenty minutes instead of two weeks. I got a little love by shoving a twenty into a homeless guy’s coffee cup.

I imagine this tactic is even more influential in today’s economic times.



Last Night’s Party: Nnamdi’s Birthday + Sundance

The night before my flight to Park City, Utah for the Sundance Film Festival I attended Nnamdi’s birthday party. While at the festival, I went to a couple screenings, snowboarded, drank Johnny Black, and ate ice cream. Many of the Sundance pictures below were taken by Pooja.


Pickens taking a shot while a girl grinds on him, which is about par for the guy.

Me and the birthday boy.

Sunset somewhere over the Midwest. I ended up sitting next to the wife of the co-producer of Spike Lee’s Passing Strange, which was showing at Sundance. I asked her “I presume you’re heading to Sundance?” “Yes…why else would anyone go to Utah?” she replied. Boom! Roasted!

The (amazing) ski lodge I stayed at in Park City thanks to Pooja! Note the mountain directly behind. THANKS POOJA.

Main Street where a good chunk of the festival action takes place.

Paparazzi chasing Ashton Kutcher. Pooja’s friend Mary ran and followed as well while trying to snap photos with her small point-and-shoot digital.

Pooja had to wear this ridiculous Nestle outfit. JUST KIDDING, POOJA.

Me, Mary and Tara after the screen of Max and Mary, the one of two films I saw during my entire 6 day stay. I am the worst Sundance attendee ever. Oh, I also fell asleep during this film, a quirky claymation which opened the festival.

Indie producer MRod taking answers from the imaginary audience during the make believe Q&A.

Pooja! Hiding from the sun! Although their web designer, Pooja was sent by Sundance to photograph the events and films. Check out her cool press pass. Show off.

I liked these bike racks stationed near the main bus depot off Main Street.

We woke up early to watch the inauguration.

Pooja photographing party goers at the Sundance Channel’s “official” party. The open bar starting at 4 pm was kinda aggressive though. Also: Robert Redford was there!


All the beers had this sticker on the neck that said “Unlawful to Remove.”

My old college friend Jesse’s director buddy Justin was there attending with his short film.

Pooja made me keep her wine glass filled at the open bar. Drinking on the job!


Some of Pooja’s Sundance team members.

Ari and I are a bit tipsy I think.

Not knowing too many people, I sat at the bar and befriended also sortsa interesting film-y people.

After the party: Jump!

Me and the bear.

Tze took us to the mellow EW tent. Thanks Stella for sponsoring.

Pooja with her boots with the fur. The whole CLUB WAS LOOKIN AT HERRRRR.

Then we went downstairs to some other party that Tze’s friend Michael took us to.


Tze posing so Pooja could snap a photo of that girl in the blue’s short dress. I am ready for summer in NYC.

Then we took a cab about…3 blocks to this condo-party.

Karaoke! Michael was killing it.

Tze’s turn on the mike.

SINGING!!! He didn’t even have to look at the screen for the lyrics.

Jumping up and down on a bed….

Leads to a broken bed.

Not sure why but this guy wanted to put this empty box on his head. FUN!

Downstairs was a dance party…with this really low hanging chandelier.

The next night Pooja’s brother Chirag arrived. He’s posing with all the FREE SUNDANCE SWAG. Uh, wait, that’s my snowboard.

Sundance sponsors and us.

The highlight of the trip for me was the sweet credential I had (Thanks to my work related affiliation with MySpace) that allowed me access to the MySpace Cafe which was essentially a restaurant that was fully branded by MySpace. What made it so great was that the full service menu was completely free! And it was also where a lot of the celebrities would hang out and grab a bite. Thanks TOM!

The wait line for extra tickets to Sin Nombre. The second of the two films I saw while at the festival.

Sin Nombre’s director ended up winning the Best Director award.

The worst thing about Park City is that there’s this area near Main Street that just stinks.

I bought a thing of ice cream at the grocery store and made it my goal to finish it before I left. So…I ate rocky road ice cream every single night.

And lastly…Pooja made me take photos of the last two items. Apparently she’s never been to Burger King before. That said, I’ve actually never seen “French Fry sauce.”

Also, these are the following people I recognized at the festival.

Benjamin Bratt, Virginia Madsen, Mike White, Zach Gilford, Harvey Weinstein, John Krasinski, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Pierce Brosnan, Denise Richards, Joe Francis, Seth Green, Christina Milian (she could get it), Ashton Kutcher, Christopher Meloni.

Compensation for US Airways Hudson River Crash Survivors

In addition to $5,000 for lost luggage and belongings, US Airways is providing the 150 passengers on Flight 1549, which crashing in the Hudson River, the following compensation:

CEO Doug Parker wrote that passengers would get “coveted” Chairman’s Preferred status – but only until March 2010. The membership gives each passenger and a companion first-class domestic travel when seats are available, one upgrade to Europe or Hawaii, choice seats and priority check-in.

Just an upgrade? Seems weak sauce to me.


On my flight today, my fellow passengers and I nervously chuckled when the safety announcement video shown to us got to the part about evacuations in water landings–a “rare occurance” according to the video.

Capt. Chesley B. Sullenberger III, you are a hero.

The Widest Avenue in the World

Avenida 9 de Julio located in Buenos Aires, Argentina is the widest major road in the world. It features six lanes in each direction and “under normal walking speed, it takes pedestrians normally two to three green lights to cross it,” except for yo’ mama who’s so fat that she only needs one step to cross it. Hi-HO!


Woman First to Fly with Just Her Feet

Jessica Cox, 25, missing her arms due to a birth defect became to first person to pilot a plane using just her feet.

That’s quite a “feat.”


Dubai Then and Now

Dubai in 1990.

Dubai now.

A common question on people’s minds is how the world financial crisis will impact this booming city in the gulf. New York Magazine writes:

The conventional wisdom now is that what ultimately safeguards Dubai’s future is not its near-mythical energy and savvy but its oil-drenched sister up the coast. When credit began to tighten around the world, and skeptical stories about Dubai began to appear in the financial press with headlines such as a long way down, Abu Dhabi helped stave off panic by injecting $6.8 billion into local banks. This surprised some; there’s a long-standing rivalry between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which considers its neighbor, in the words of one American, “like the obnoxious, overspending brother-in-law.” Yet it has become abundantly clear that Abu Dhabi still considers Dubai family and that no matter what crises occur, it will come to the rescue.

[Photos via]