Thursday, November 12, 2009

Newark to New York Part 1

A week ago, I flew to Newark, NJ to attend and speak at the 19th World Continuous Auditing and Reporting Symposium at Rutgers University. I'll pause a moment here to let the envious chorus of "oooooh's" subside...

OK, ready to proceed?

Newark is right across the Hudson River from New York City. I'm a mid-size city kind of guy - always have been. Yet, the view of the NYC skyline as the plane descends always leaves me slack-jawed - the Chrysler building, the Empire State Building, and especially the sight of Lady Liberty standing watch over lower Manhattan. Yet, the view will forever remain a bit odd with the twin towers gone. I only go to Newark/New York once a year, but the missing towers are still noticeable even 9 years after I last saw them in 2000.

Right or wrong, various song or album titles, lyrics, and/or artists will often just pop in my head at random points as a contextual reference point. Maybe a musical GPS if you will. So many songs have been written about New York City:
  • Old school: New York, New York - Frank Sinatra
  • Rap: No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn - Beastie Boys
  • Obscure rock: New York Groove - Ace Frehley (formerly of Kiss)
  • Classic pop: New York State of Mind - Billy Joel
  • Horrible, forgettable pop: The Heart Of Rock & Roll - Huey Lewis. Seriously, remember that crap?
New York, New York, is everything they say
And no place that I'd rather be
Where else can you do a half a million things
All at a quarter to three
Newark songs? Eh, not so plentiful. I tried finding some - at Amazon and Lala. Not many offerings. The Newark Airport Boogie vs. The Chairman of the Board? Yeah, right.

Once the plane landed and I got settled in at the Hampton Inn, I had big plans for Bright Lights, Big City Thursday night. I had hoped to pay a visit to the International Bar in the East Village - better known as The I-Bar. You can get a can of Schaefer and a shot of well whiskey for $4! I also learned a nearby club was hosting a Guy Clark tribute show in honor of his birthday (though Guy himself or anyone else I'd ever heard of wasn't playing). And, and, and I learned via Konrad Meissner that Tracy Bonham was playing a couple of shows. Bonham has recorded with the Blue Man Group among other ventures, and Konrad plays drums for about half the bands in New York, including The Silos - one my my faves.

As I studied Google Maps and New York subway routes, darkness set in and rain began to plunk against my hotel window. I then called the club where Tracy and Konrad were playing only to find out the shows were sold-out. A sigh escaped, my enthusiasm disappeared like a fart in the wind, and I talked myself out of doing anything. For all the reasons I wanted to go, I quickly worked up a competing set of reasons not to go:
  • unsure about the safety of walking the East Village at night
  • realizing the silliness of paying fares for trains, subways, and cabs to pay for a $4 Schaefer/Shot combo
  • watching bands start at 11 PM
  • facing the reality of knowing I had to make my meeting at 8:00 the next morning.
After deciding to hang out instead, I Googled restaurants near the hotel and stumbled across Nino's Pizza. Fantastic! Shrimp & pasta with garlic bread delivered from order-to-door in about 15 minutes for only $18. Quality food and some vino from the lounge downstairs - ahhh, who needed NYC?

The conference itself may sound boring. I can hear you saying "C'mon, continuous auditing? Are you serious? " Well...yeah, much of it was boring to be quite candid. But I enjoy attending each year nonetheless. The participants represent academia, auditing software solution providers, Big 4 CPA firm partners, internal auditors, and students from undergraduate, masters, and PhD levels. Are you honestly going to sit there, read that last statement, and not think what a great party guest list this could make?

The individuals the symposium draws is of more importance to me than the content. Its a pretty small gathering (about 100 folks), but it draws a group of folks from all over the place. Over the years, I've met folks from the U.K., Brazil, Venezuela, South Africa, India, Russia, Spain, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, and the United Arab Emirates. Clearly some language challenges arise as we try to understand one another. The U.S. is also well represented so I can always find someone who speaks in English as a first language. Plus, with folks from Texas, Georgia, and North and South Carolina in attendance, well hell, I can even slip in a "y'all" every now and again without having to translate for anyone.

The time allotment for my session was whacked to a minimal 10 minutes because the day was running behind. I was told to abandon my prepared stuff and just kind of wing it by making some comments of my own and taking a question or two. So I did, but I couldn't resist sneaking in a bit of toomuchcountry humor. After talking a couple of minutes about the economic struggles of the US in general and our industry in particular, I remarked not everything was bad. I reminded the audience I was from Music City USA and then led into the bright spots by dropping the line of a Billy Joe Shaver song Good News Blues (covered in this video by Todd Snider).

After a day of sessions on Friday, we adjourned as we do each year to dinner at the Spanish Pavilion in Harrison NJ.

The restaurant is a bit mis-named as I understand it. Regulars tell me the menu is more Portuguese food than Spanish. But what do I care? I smile politely and ask "Hey, could you pass the calamari and paella back down this way please? And yes, I would enjoy another glass of Tempranillo. And Sangria?? Well sure, if you're offering."

Saturday morning was more of the same though the clarity of it isn't great. The Spanish Pavilion gathering splintered with many of us going to the Hampton Inn lounge while others turned in for the night (the wiser choice perhaps). From there, the number of players vs. posers shrunk even more until finally a couple of us remained talking until 3AM.

My motivation for hanging tough of Saturday morning was to make it to Saturday afternoon and evening for the eventual trip to New York - the subject of part 2.


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