One month you storm Manhattan on an adventure, sleeping in boutique hotels, waking to wander the streets of Soho. Next time you might visit friends and family, camping out on a living room sofa. But sometimes, of course, you have to work.
How to make the most of business travel? The top trick to compensate oneself is hospitality points. Probably the most generous program is Starwood Preferred Guest. SPG to its friends. Hotel brands included range from Sheraton Four Points to Westin and St. Regis. Although I am now for all intents and purposes unemployed I can remember the ways of a professional. And I can certainly use loyalty points like it’s my job.
I spent my most recent trip to Manhattan at the Parker Meridien in Midtown Manhattan. It’s a Starwood hotel. You can tell we’re in midtown from the view. I expected to see the Mad Men falling icon pass my window at any moment.
This is not a quaint spot. The ambiance is very Swedish airport. But the bed is extremely comfortable, the bathroom large and streamlined, the living area spacious. Especially when, as is common with loyalty programs, they upgrade your room.
The service is also remarkably personal and warm. The New York service industry respects its professionals, and their attitude returns the respect to us, the customers. Don’t you love New York waiters?
Hard work, of course, will make us hungry. On business trips, especially given the associated jet lag traveling East, I rely on early morning meals to support mental function. Breakfast at Norma’s in the Parker Meridien is, as electronics gear salesmen have said for decades, “Insane!” I recommend it. Highly. The crispy French Toast, covered in crunchy caramel, will make your eyes roll back into your head with joy.
Another compensation for business travel is the congenial company of colleagues. Even without an expense account, L’Absinthe, a quietly sophisticated bistro on the Upper East Side, is a wonderful spot to eat. Witness the sole meuniere. In California, this would have arrived with pedigreed almonds. We would have known the exact location of their original tree. Or the dish would have been accompanied by cilantro-mango puree. Let us agree that New York does classic best. How about that lemon squeezer? Do you think it could keep lemon juice out of one’s eyes? You know, that squirt, then “Ouch!”?
Let us also agree that sometimes when one meets up with long-distance colleagues, one finds one has more in common than previously suspected. Between Maxminimus, Reggie, Boy Fenwick, and me, 5 pairs of tortoise shell glasses had washed up on the table by the end of the evening. Wine and martinis only partially responsible.
All business travel requires a goal, and metrics for success. The true strategic imperative for this Manhattan trip was, of course, the purchase of some Belgian loafers.
My Aunt Priscilla used to wear navy with kelly green piping. This entire recent initiative was spawned when ADG suggested that I had to return to my roots and purchase a pair. Their product managers have got the offering strategy equivalent of Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Cherry Coke, and Cherry Vanilla Diet Coke, down pat.
But in the end I could not quite shake my color-phobia. Change, as all strategists know, comes hard to established systems. I ordered the pair below. In something like six months, apparently, I may get a call. Or not. Artisans provide less certainty than machine production.
Luckily an expert consultant was available to review my decision-making parameters.
He and his senior partners, Reggie and Boy Fenwick, were shoe experts. I was in good, um, hands.
It’s wonderful to achieve a management objective. Networking with colleagues always a pleasure. But don’t neglect, as you rush from meeting to meeting, to look up. Seize the moment, allow the random rush of a city to surprise you. Behind the buildings there is always sky over Manhattan. This year, blue sky with chance of snowflakes.
To Reggie, Boy Fenwick, ADG, and Beauteous Daughter, I send my thanks and much affection. Next time in California.
Note: No compensation of any sort was received in connection with this post. Only some fairly astonishing memories.