NYC Awaits! (CapJazz people, for you)

If you are on CapJazz this year, and checked your email, then you probably know the host hotel has been announced. NY Hilton, which is on Sixth Ave and 54th.

I know the area. It’s about three blocks from the Iridium. You’re not quite in Times Square, but you’re just about there.

This newsletter is good news. Means that the systems behind the scenes are running more or less as I predicted, and the lineup will begin coming together more smoothly after the Fest, which is the weekend after the long one coming up. Patience. We got this.

We should also hear more about the reservation system improvements, as such, after that as well.

But for now, I would like to take a second to welcome my friends from out of town to the city I call home for over two decades.

Here’s some survival tips for your trip:

Rule #1: please take the yellow cabs.

I don’t use Uber on principle. Lyft is great, but here it’s just not necessary. We have ample taxi service and/or livery cabs in the outer boroughs. Sorry but not sorry, but the app-service taxi is really, really not necessary here, especially if you’re in Manhattan. If I’m in a city with plentiful local taxi service, I’ll always take the local taxi service. Yeah, sometimes you’ll hit every pothole, but luck of the draw. Most of our cabbies are decent, hardworking guys who know this city inside and out.

There’s a flat rate to/from JFK and Newark Airport; it’s a bit ‘up there’, but I promise you: it’s less than the surge price surprise you might get.

Info at the Taxi and Limo Commission is here: – rate is $52 plus extras. It’s a bit pricier coming out of Newark.

I second wholeheartedly what the newsletter has said about the LaGuardia airport: avoid it if you can manage to. It’s being renovated right now, and I think it’s going to go on for a while. It’s a pain to get to or from also. JFK is bigger, more efficient, and serviced by ample lines of public transit (which I don’t recommend if you have large suitcases, because cumbersome), but it’s soooo much easier to get to or from it.

Which brings me to…

Rule # 2: Please know the unspoken rules of public transit, if you’re taking any.

Couple of tips:

  • Swipe the Metrocard at your walking pace; it takes a second to get it right, but that’s the trick. Just hold it as you walk through the turnstile and it should do it.
  • Do. Not. Block. The doorway. I’m guilty of this in rush hour and get elbowed – rightly – for it. Let folks off the train.
  • Seats are first-come and first-serve. Courtesy is at a premium, please do not count on it. Just being realistic here.
  • The empty train car during rush hour is empty for a reason.
  • When in rush hour, please avoid public transit and/or walking. Trust me. You will get mowed down otherwise.
  • Don’t make eye contact if you don’t have to, and please, please don’t get frustrated if you’re held up in a tunnel “by a dispatcher” or “due to an investigation”. This system is 100 years old and it is starting to show.
  • Don’t give to panhandlers. There’s one on every train. But I learned the hard way after I gave some soup to a girl who was appealing to everyone to “please have a heart” and then looked back to see her disposing of that soup, untouched, still in the bag, into the nearest trash can.
  • Pay close attention to the weekend service changes. Download the iTrans NYC app (Apple, Android); it keeps you posted on the reroutings and which lines go express instead of local and vice versa. And yes, they’re a pain. Yes, sometimes you can’t use a line altogether. See above as to how old the system is… and please know it’s what we rely on. This is why we don’t own cars here…


Rule #3: Please do not eat at chain restaurants!

Seriously. I mean it. This is a city almost infamous for its cuisine. We have a Restaurant Row where you can very literally eat every cuisine around the world. Please don’t make like a tourist and eat at Olive Garden when you have Intermezzo in Chelsea. And Red Lobster is only good for its lobster pizza, but you will find better, tastier seafood at the Grand Central Oyster Bar (it’s expensive, but well worth the price). If you’re going to spend money on food, please spend it on good food. Compared to everything this city has to offer, chain restaurants are an utter waste of time.

Since I know a lot of my CapJazz friends are reading this (Jackie, Kathy, LaVonna, Faye, I see y’all!) I propose a gathering at one of the spots I will suggest below. If any other CapJazzer is reading this, send me a Facebook PM and I’ll be glad to include you in the plan-making. We had a delightful brunch on board 2015 CapJazz – if you were there, you know it.

My choice spots are:

  • Kabooz’s Bar & Grille aka the Home of the Great Appletini. It’s inside Penn Station, Amtrak concourse, 7th Ave side, hang a right at the Krispy Kreme and past the pizzeria, (please bear with me here!) and there is really no losing dish there for food. Appetizers alone can make a meal. Best. Wings. In. City. Great sit-down restaurant, and yes, I know the owner… and manager… and waitstaff. Big tables are a bit limited, so we’d have to occupy a whole section. MENU:
  • Houndstooth Pub. Just up the street from Penn Station at 8th and 37th. Happy Hour is until 7, heavy-handed drinks, food is OK. They have two large rooms that can be booked for private parties, and there was music in that place too, but not sure how private-party booking will work. HINT: they’re part of MENU:
  • Trattoria Bianca. Italian/American cuisine, serves as one of the two in-house restaurants for the Wyndham New Yorker hotel, on 35th and 8th. Oysters, prix-fixe dinner is also pretty good. Sometimes pricey, but worth it. MENU: – also on
  • Toyama Sushi. Normally I have my sushi in Brooklyn, but this is my Manhattan pick. 35th and 5th Ave, just off the train. MENU:
  • Intermezzo. Chelsea, just a quick train ride downtown. Italian place, tiny little trattoria with amazing (and a bit pricey) food. MENU:

Of course, we can do the tried-and-true routine of “walk down the street and see what’s interesting”. Seriously: that’s how I discovered some of my favorite places. I found Kabooz by accident coming home from the post office across the street from Penn on the 8th ave side. Same with Trattoria Bianca; I stumbled onto it when I was hankering for oysters. Houndstooth and Toyama I have history with; I shot some good music at Houndstooth and worked in the building just above Toyama for 5 year. Intermezzo I found while on LivingSocial.

Seriously: there are no losing places for food in NYC. Explore, and you are not apt to be disappointed. The smaller the hole in the wall, the better the food, that’s the general rule.

For my CapJazzers – if you want, any of these places or any other you may find and suggest is A-OK by me. We can even go to Brooklyn Heights (quick train ride away) and have a quick meal at the Heights Cafe after a walk down the famed Brooklyn Promenade. I dormed around the area, and there’s a pretty great park by Brooklyn Bridge as well. I’l start up the chat in a couple days.


Here’s my thing, though. Because I live here, and because I don’t have a car, my perception of transit to pier is a bit skewed, so take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt.  NYC is an extremely walkable city, but please note that it’s seven avenue blocks to the pier and then three down. The pier is on West Side Highway and 51st Street. Because I know we have a shuttle, I gotta tell you: please. take. the. shuttle. Suitcases.

However. Massive however: please account for traffic. NYC traffic is the stuff of legends. Last time I tried to drive crosstown, from Midtown to West Side, it took me a half-hour at least. There will be about 3,500 of us, and I do not know how many of us are locals to NY overall. While I’m no fan of lugging suitcases down a street any more than the average person, it may well be the best way to get from the host hotel to the pier. Cabs are at your service, which I recommend, and I recommend sharing cabs as much as possible.

Pier does have parking; if you connect with New York-area cruisers who have vehicles, it may be worth carpooling? I do not know; you tell me.

Myself, I’m cabbing it up. No car here, and I am not about to rattle up the subway with my big suitcase and camera. If I want my back to remain intact, cab it is.

All I’m saying is, don’t discount walking to pier.

I’m also saying, check out Yotel on 10th Ave as an alternate hotel. It’s much, much closer to the pier, but I cannot vouch for the price. There’s a Marriott Midtown West, around 10th and 47th Street.

Of course, everything I’ve written before in The Experienced Jazz Cruiser’s Guide to Jazz Cruising applies. Pack with care, and remember that comfortable walking shoes in NYC is a must. I mean it: forget style. September in NY is humid and hot; any shoes other than sneakers and flip-flops will equal to blisters. Not fun.

See everyone in just a few months!