Sunday, April 29, 2007

Getting Started

I recently spoke about travel writing at the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA)'s national conference — and the usual question was posed by a member of the audience. "How can I get started as a travel writer?" he asked. He was thinking about the cost of a big, exotic trip and the uncertainty of getting a published clip from it. I answered as I always do — start local. All you have to do to be a travel writer is walk out your door and look around.

At that moment, we were in a hotel conference room on East 42nd Street in New York City.

Grand Central Terminal was on one side of the hotel and the Chrysler Building on the other side. Both of those would make excellent travel stories (Grand Central Terminal, with its international food court, shops, architecture, Oyster Bar restaurant, Campbell Apartment, history and connection to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who helped to save it from destruction — and the stunning, Art Deco Chrysler Building, which could be a lead-in to a travel article on Art Deco Manhattan).

There were at least a dozen more possible travel stories within blocks of where the man who wondered how to get started was sitting.

I admit that not every place is as rich in travel-article possibilities as New York City. But if you want to be a travel writer, chances are you're already sitting on a mine of material. Start digging.


P.S. — Even if you don't want to be a travel writer and find yourself in New York, I suggest that Grand Centr`l Terminal is worth visiting. Here's the Web site for more information: If you're interested in Art Deco New York, start with the Art Deco Society of New York,

Monday, April 23, 2007

Springtime in New York

After a deluge that roiled the Hudson River and unseasonable cold, spring has finally come to Manhattan. It's warm today and almost hot, but not too hot. People in my neighborhood are sitting on the grass, their faces turned toward the sun, or picnicking or thronging the promenade that stretches along the Hudson River from the Battery at the southern tip of the island to midtown. There is an unspoken joyfulness.

If you're visiting New York, think about coming to Lower Manhattan. For a few days, you'll find trees with masses of delicate, white blossoms lining the streets and in the parks. They are perfection before the petals fall, creating delicately scented carpets. Under the trees, tulips, daffodils and irises are in bloom. They will be followed throughout the spring and summer by a kaleidoscope of flowers. Some of the loveliest gardens in New York City are in Lower Manhattan, along the river.

You can stop in the World Financial Center to buy lunch (or gelato at Ciao Bella!) and then take your food to one of the benches facing the river, where you can look at the yachts in the North Cove or watch the freighters and sailboats. Toward 5 p.m., when the tide flows out, you may see cruise ships on their way to Europe or the Caribbean. As the water warms up in the later spring, you'll see people in kayaks, and there are several places where you can rent (or borrow) boats and gear and join them.

Is this Manhattan as you imagined it? I bet it isn't!


Sunday, April 22, 2007

After the storm

I was in Los Angeles last Sunday trying to return to New York City, which was being pummeled by a storm. After my Delta flight was twice delayed, I overheard another passenger asking to be rebooked on a plane the next day. I asked, too, and was immediately accommodated. The very nice woman at the service desk made several phone calls to locate my checked luggage, which I was able to retrieve. I was amazed. I've encountered so many rude or indifferent people at the airline "service" counters, that's pretty much what I expect.

I feel very good about Delta right now, in spite of the fact that the food service in Economy on the more-than-five-hour flight consisted of non-alcoholic beverages and a "snack."

I don't know whether my experience in the Los Angeles airport was an aberration or whether Delta (and perhaps other airlines) are taking greater care with hiring and training. If they are, hey! I noticed!