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On Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness

The Guys' Guy's Guide to South Korea (Part 1)

Robert Manni - Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Did you know there are over ten million people living in Seoul, Korea? Now imagine a city larger than New York functioning like a well-oiled machine with no litter, garbage cans overflowing, and no potholes anywhere. The differences are dramatic between my home in NYC and my new favorite global capital. Let me share some of what I gleaned about a fascinating culture and people living halfway across the globe. In the course of a just over two weeks my wife, son and I visited Seoul, Je Jeu Island, Gimpo, Jeonju city and smaller cites and towns in the suburbs of Seoul where my in-laws reside and tend to their lives. It was an all encompassing trip highlighted by a four night stay in magnificent Seoul, a three-day rainy stay in gorgeous Je Jeu Island, and trips to the mountains, historic villages, a half-mile long underground cave, and a gorgeous spice and flower park. I’ve traveled the world on business and pleasure, but was still blown away by Korea. As I pour through an endless list of differences I jotted down, I realize we have a lot of ground to cover.

The People.

So where to begin? Let’s start with the people. My wife was born in Korea and I have gotten to know her family well over the past decade. They are very Korean and along with the other Koreans I’ve come to know over the years, let me make a generalization. Koreans are wonderful, generous, kind people with strong wills and incredible strength and stamina. My mother-in-law celebrated her eightieth birthday during our trip. Having been an athlete my entire life, I completed three marathons, and walked all over New York City for the past thirty years. I consider myself to be in good shape. But by the end of each day in Korea, while I was bushed my “Oh Ma Neem”(mother-in-law) was still marching around like it was 10am. Even factoring in my jet lag from the fifteen-hour trip and 13-hour time difference, she still kicked my ass.

To a person, everyone we met throughout the trip was polite, attentive, helpful, and honest. After a day of paying for meals and other stuff with “won”, the local currency, I finally relented and handed over my credit card. When the bills came due upon my return, there were no discrepancies whatsoever. Service was incredible in every restaurant, and there is no tax, tipping or service charges, even in the hotels. You get a bill with one number to pay. That’s it. How refreshing.

Even the taxi drivers were chill. They were polite, helpful and easy to talk to if they spoke any English, and if not, they chatted up my in-laws in Korean like they were family. I was fortunate to be surrounded with family who all spoke Korean. The vast majority of Koreans, even in Seoul, don’t speak English. And, Korean is not the easiest language to pick up. I could not make sense of any of the words I heard or most of the signage, although there was English on some menus and posted in the stores. Overall, due to the strong economy in the states, the exchange rate favored the dollar (about 100 won for 80 dollars). When we factored in no taxes or tipping, prices were reasonable unless we purchased foreign goods. And even those prices were in line with what you’d expect for globally recognized brands. Hotel rates were also very reasonable. We rented a massive two-bedroom two-bathroom suite with great views, a full kitchen, washer and dryer in Insadong, a very cool section of the city, similar to staying at a trendy hotel in SoHo. The cost was only $225 per night, everything included. No room tax, occupancy charges, or any other bullshit gauging techniques we are sued to in the states. $225 for the room, that’s it.

The Food.

Food tended to be a relative bargain also. When you walk along the streets of Seoul or any Korean city the streets are lined almost one hundred percent with places to eat and coffee shops. Koreans love coffee. For the most part, we avoided Starbucks and Dunkin’ because the local brands and chains were all very good and cheaper. The one weird thing was we had to pay extra for milk for our coffee. Dairy is not a big thing in Korea. So when you order a latte, it’s coffee with milk, not the fancy lattes we get in the states. Containers of milk cost double than what we pay, and yogurt and cheese were no bargains either. Dairy is kind of a delicacy in Korea.

We enjoyed our meals at so many different types and sizes of restaurants. They were almost all very good; they all served very fresh foods, and were relatively inexpensive. As mentioned, the streets were lined with restaurants situated one after another, only broken up by a coffee stop. Of course, in the city of Seoul there were stores selling clothes, jewelry, etc., but it was still nowhere near the ratio of stores to restaurants and coffee shops in the states. I’d guess that over ninety percent of retail establishments sold either cooked foods or coffee. The only bars to speak of were located near the corporate offices spread across various areas of Seoul. However, you could buy the local liquor, soju, which is a low-proof clear vodka-like spirit distilled from rice, anywhere at a very cheap price, usually about $2 for a small bottle.

When I asked my brother-in law why there were so many restaurants and why they were all so tasty and cheap, he told me that was the competitive landscape. If you opened a restaurant anywhere, it had better serve good food at reasonable prices or it would be out of business in no time. As a result, we ate delicious meals pretty much anywhere, even at highway rest stops. In the states when you pull into a rest stop there is usually a fast food joint. In Korea, rest stops have sprawling food halls with various food offerings, coffee shops, and places selling sweet baked goods or ice cream. The food at the two rest stops we ate at was surprisingly good and cheap.

In Korean restaurants you usually take off your shoes and sit on the floor. Most serve the table family style. This makes things easier all-around. Another twist was being served seafood that was still alive when served while cooking in a hot pot in the center of the table. Kind of makes you feel guilty about eating creatures we share the planet with, but the food was tasty nonetheless. I did not get sick the entire trip although I was grossed out when I bit into the head of an octopus in my stew and it exploded in my mouth. Yuck!

Two other notes about the food. There are lots of casual seafood restaurants along the coastline with large tanks out front filled with an assortment of locally caught fish. These fish can be massive in size. When you order, some guy walks outside with a net, scoops up the fish ordered, whacks it on the head or simply chops it up alive before throwing it into a pan. It’s just how it’s done. The other crazy thing is the tradition of eating black pigs. As the tradition goes, the black pigs are black because they mostly eat poop. They love poop so much that on the farms where they are raised they situate themselves under the outhouse floor so they can lap up shit as it comes out. I kid you not. There are all kinds of representations of this honored tradition throughout Korea. Fortunately my son, wife and I do not eat pork.

But, unless you enjoy Korean food, you may be disappointed. With the choices available There were restaurants in the business districts that served more western food and some were very good, and others not very. The one food that fell short was the pizza. The sauce tasted like ketchup and the cheese was nowhere near the mozzarella we take for granted in the states. That said, the food in Korea was pretty darn good if you are somewhat adventurous and open to eating Korean food daily. And that means at any time of day because Koreans eat Korean food at any time of daybreakfast, lunch, dinner, or as a snack. You can eat kimchi, fermented root vegetables, soups and rice at any time of day.

So the food was great, the people were chill and polite, and the cost of living is reasonable. Overall, Korea is a fascinating place to visit if you are an adventurous soul.

Let’s take a break here. This is just a sampler of a very exotic country. Lots more about Korea is coming soon. Until next time.

Saying Goodbye to Summer

Robert Manni - Monday, September 14, 2015

The media began bemoaning the end of summer on September 1st.

Guess what? We've still got another week of summer left. Let’s stay positive and recognize a handful of reasons why September is a great month and fall is a great season, Guy’s Guy style.

Farewell, tourists.

As a fan of the beach and the Jersey Shore, nothing pleases local inhabitants and beachgoers more than the disappearance of what are referred to as “Bennies”, tourists from northern NJ who come down the shore, go crazy and then leave after Labor Day. More parking spaces, no waits at restaurants and fewer drunken dudes from Staten Island pounding shots of bubbleberry vodka all make up the fall dream. The same can be said about the overload of summer tourists in fanny packs clogging our NYC sidewalks. Have a nice day and goodbye.

The weather rocks.

It’s summer for three more weeks, amigos. The beach is empty, the temp's perfect, the water warm and clean and it usually stays this way through October. In the city, the days are spectacular and the nights are no longer hot and humid.

The Women.

In NYC, the women’s fashion parade begins in full swing in September and for a Guy’s Guy, it can be heavenly. Women in NYC have style and go to great lengths putting together cool outfits. Beyond their $400 jeans and designer dresses, Manhattan women have made an art of putting together their hair, shoes, and bags and the results are pleasurable to the eyes of any Guy’s Guy. It’s all in the details, so let's give it up for the ladies.


The baseball season is rounding third base and heading for home while at the same time football and the accompanying fantasy football drafts are in full swing, making this the best time of the year for sports. Football has never been so popular and fantasy football has taken the game to a new level of fandemonium. Let’s face it—football is built for television viewing and now is the time to get our fill. And let’s not forget the US Open tennis and the NYC Marathon.

The Arts.

Film, books, television, the Met, the museums, Broadway and even the dreaded DWTS all kick off new seasons at this time of year.

Okay, these are but a few obvious reasons why they we can say “yay” to the end of summer. What I like about September and the new season is that it reminds me how each day is a new beginning filled with new opportunities. If we live in the now and focus on what can be, and tune out the media’s incessant ringing of the doom and gloom alarm, we can savor life as it’s meant to be, one beautiful day at a time.  And then we can watch the holiday sales ads.

Are you saddened over the end of summer or pumped up for the fall?

This week's Guy's Guy of the Week is Sir Thomas More, an old school 16th century Guy's Guy, and the subject of the Oscar-winning, "A Man for All Seasons."

The Guys' Guy's Guide to Weekend Road Trips

Robert Manni - Monday, June 29, 2015

There's nothing like getting out of town for a long weekend. And it’s even better when you travel to another city.

Guy’s Guys maintain wanderlust for travel and adventure. And although I’ve had the good fortune to visit exotic locales like Kuala Lumpur, Taipei, and Hong Kong for business, I still look forward to a stateside weekend getaway in the company of a Guy’s Guys crew. In fact, I recently returned from a quick jaunt to Pittsburgh where I met up with three old friends and one of my college roommates who hails from the Steel City. Why Pittsburgh? First of all, Pittsburgh is only an hour and change flight from NYC. It’s also an overlooked little city with a great layout, rocking bars, and wonderfully real people who work hard and show authentic pride in their hometown.

The focus of this past weekend was a Rolling Stones concert at Heinz Field, the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I’ve been doing the daddy thing with my young son 24/7 for the past two years, so when the invitation hit my email, my wife urged me to get out of town. She knew how restless I’d been, and I’m thankful for having someone as thoughtful as her. It also gave my son a break for a few days as he wondered why his “Da-Da” had disappeared. The weekend went by in a flash, and like any worthwhile road trip with your buds, it left me with what are now memories of a good time with old friends and a classic, riveting performance by the ageless Stones under threatening gray skies. The weekend prompted the notion of what makes a good road trip and how to make the most of a few precious days off from our ultra-busy lives. So, here is my Guys’ Guy’s Guide to Weekend Road Trips, with a nod to the Rolling Stones for their rocking’ vibe.

1. START ME UP - Book your flight and lodging accommodations early, especially if you are attending a big event. To a certain extent, dealing with airlines and hotels is a crapshoot. That said, it’s always advisable to set up your trip as far in advance as possible. Since this last minute road trip was built around a rare Stones appearance in the Steel City, finding non-stop flights and a room within proximity of the concert venue was tricky. I tracked flights and prices for a few days using the usual digital apps, but ultimately found the fastest, cheapest and most accessible methodology by simply booking directly with an airline. The hotel was a different story. Even three weeks prior to the show, almost every room in town was booked. Fortunately, my friend who hatched the road trip plan and bought tickets on Stub Hub at retail prices, managed to use his elite status with a leading hotel chain to score us the last room within walking distance of the venue. Two of us needed to share a room, but we scored two queen beds so it was kind of fun to bunk up with an old buddy for two nights. Beyond sleeping, we didn't spend any time in the room, so it turned out fine, even with some snoring involved. That said, from Friday to Saturday night, the room rate was jacked up fifty percent due to the concert.

During my career in business, I’ve made it a goal to get my packing down to a perfect science. Now I travel almost anywhere with the minimum amount of clothes and sundry items in tow. I have little tricks for saving space by wear running shoes on the plane (which I can use for walking around or working out) and packing a second pair of lightweight shoes, sneakers or sandals in my overnight bag, which I carry on. I pack sparsely with a minimum of clothes. You can always buy a shirt or pants if you need them when traveling anywhere in the US and most overseas destinations. And, I always leave room in my bag for a keepsake t-shirt, hat, or whatever.

2. WAITING ON A FRIEND – Make a flexible plan for your time during your short trip. I’m not suggesting you become a slave to a schedule, but it’s always nice to have a blueprint to work from. In this case, one of my college roommates hails from Pittsburgh, so of course I made sure I connected with him in advance of our arrival. He met us on Friday night and acted as our tour guide. We hit a few bars near our hotel and eventually had dinner and drinks at the Jerome Bettis Bar 36 (his number as a Steeler). The food was good and the drinks were cheaper than NYC, which was no surprise. And, being a gracious host, my old roomie paid the check without our knowing before heading home for the evening. That’s class. During our dinner, my roomie gave us the names of other restaurants, bars and cultural things to consider for Saturday. The next day we walked from our hotel to the Strip District, which is known for its farmer’s market, seafood shops, team merchandise kiosks, and bars. It was off the beaten path and an area most visitors would never know existed. The walk was great for getting our bearings and a feel for the city. We eventually found a bar that served the best Bloody Mary and lobster nachos that I’ve ever tasted.

3. SALT OF THE EARTH – Make friends with the locals. One of the best things about Pittsburgh is the people. I first met folks from Pittsburgh during my years at Villanova University, on the Main Line near Philadelphia. For some reason, a lot of kids from Pittsburgh attended the school and I became friends with a lot of them. To a person, well almost, they are down to earth, straight-talking, real folks and a lot of fun. I immediately noticed the similarities even during the cab ride from the airport. Our driver was friendly and proud of his city. He pointed out where many NFL quarterback legends from the Pittsburgh area lived and he even offered to give us a ride back to the airport on Sunday. I took his number because my roomie told me that unlike NYC, cabs are hard to find in downtown Pittsburgh. There was a shortage of cabs so we ended up using his service again on Sunday.

During our stay, the locals at the bars, concert, and even the people working in the shops and restaurants were friendly and real. We got tips for where to go and what to eat, where the Stones were staying, etc. It was a pleasure interacting with everyone.

4. GIMME SHELTER – Checking out the weather forecast in advance can be helpful. With the risk of sounding like grandma, I suggest checking a weather app before packing for your trip. In this case, the forecast called for intermittent rain for three days. I wisely packed a water-resistant windbreaker and bought a Pittsburgh Pirates cap at one of the many team merchandise shops. A few hours before the concert it was raining heavily and all the bars along the river walk were jammed. Fortunately, the people were cool and super-friendly. One guy even bought us a round of beers for simple letting him get to the bar to order drinks. It was that kind of crowd. Coming from Manhattan, this was a nice reminder of how chill people can be given the right circumstances. About thirty minutes before show time, the rain stopped. The skies cleared as the Rolling Stones took the stage. We had stopped by Heinz Field that afternoon to pick up our souvenirs, so we did not have to deal with a crowd that was fifty deep waiting to buy $40 t-shirts, so we had time to enjoy a cold brew while watching the crowd pour in.

5. SATISFACTION – There’s nothing like a quick road trip getaway to reinvigorate your spirits and remind you of the importance of good friends.

The four of us (my buddy from Pittsburgh did not attend the show) took our seats a few minutes before show time and with beers in hand stood together for the next two and one half hours of razor-sharp rock n’ roll. The show was electric, sensational, riveting. We had perfect seats at the end of the catwalk. And unlike most of his rock band brethren of the same age, Mick Jagger can bring it. His voice still fills up a venue, and in this case a stadium with 55,000 seats. The guitars were loud, almost to the point of distortion. The beers were cheap (Yuengling 24 oz cans for $12) and unlike the stadiums and arenas in NYC, you could cruise around holding toting the can.

After the show, the four of us had a few final drinks at a nearby steak house before calling it a night and saying our goodbyes. The next morning our cab showed up on time and we were back in NYC a few short hours later.

Every road trip is different and each one has its own special flavor and surprises. That’s one of the joys of getting out of Dodge for a long weekend.

Safe travels and happy trials to you, amigos.

This week’s Guy’s Guys of the Week are the Rolling Stones. Twenty-five years ago they seemed old for the rock n’ roll game, and we all had a few laughs at their expense. Today, it feels like they’ve stopped aging. Could it be that they are now in better shape than most of their boomer audience? Rock on, Mick, Keith, Charlie and Ronnie. You are all Guy’s Guys.

NYC vs. SoCal - Part 2 (The Subtle Differences)

Robert Manni - Monday, August 25, 2014

This isn’t your usual comparison between LA and NYC. We’re not talking movie stars and masters of the universe or beach bunnies and fashionistas or the Yankees and Dodgers. Those comparisons been covered quite well by numerous insightful writers and bloggers. This post targets those under the radar differences in how people live on both coasts. For context, my in-laws are in Temecula, ninety minutes southeast of LA and I visit them every summer. So through my Jersey-bred Guy’s Guy lens, I’ve spent the last week studying the day-to-day nuances of the people and the area. Here are my findings on the nuances between the two coasts. 

Oil and Water

In most cases, these two liquids don’t mix. But in SoCal they’re fundamental resources that drive the economy and lives of the vast population of this sprawling state. The highways are jammed with gas guzzling vehicles at all hours across the myriad highways woven through the mountains, plains, cities and beachfronts. For the most part, the vast terrain is stained brown and parched except where developments have been built and landscaped. All the foliage needs constant hydration to counteract the impact of an ever-blazing sun. Without oil for transportation and water for hydration, this state is cooked. Back East, we don’t see the importance of these resources in the same way. We have the option of mass transportation. And, the ravages from flooding far outweigh the infrequent dry spells. In SoCal, drought is the norm. There have been rumblings about privatizing the water supply since. If the water supple continues to dwindle, watch these closely.

Old vs. New 

In SoCal, you constantly see land being cleared and vast, new developments being built. In New York, it’s all about gentrification and the re-re invention of neighborhoods throughout the boroughs. What was once a ghetto is now a million-dollar listing. In New York, old becomes new. In SoCal, everything is new except those off the beaten path, barren and forgotten small towns in the valleys that look like they were built in the seventies.

The Ubiquitous Taco

In Manhattan, if an establishment serves decent tacos, it gets a write up in the coolest city-centric blogs and publications, lauding its creativity and authenticity. In SoCal, there is a Mom and Pop taco shop or chain store situated on every other street corner. And most of them still beat the pants off any Mexican food you can find in the Big Apple.  The inverse is true for pizza and bagels. They’re great in NYC and for the most part still fall short in SoCal. Go figure.

Health Foods

Advantage SoCal. Chains like Sprouts and Roots are light years ahead of Whole Foods and the small health food stores permeating the city. The produce is fresher, bigger, tastier and far less expensive. I bought a gluten-free tuna wrap the other day for three dollars. I did a double take on my way to the register, thinking the sandwich dude had messed up. But, no, the cost was one-third of what I pay in NYC or Jersey. In fact, all the food in SoCal is way cheaper than in New York. But with the exception of mahi-mahi, the seafood in SoCal is in no way comparable in quality or taste to what we get on the East Coast. Go figure.

Stores and Service

Let’s face it. Everyone in New York who works in retail hates their job and most of them let you know it. Who hasn’t dealt with the grumbling, grunting retail employee whose idea of friendliness is a curt “no problem” when you ask for a bag to carry your groceries? In SoCal the vibe is looser, sometimes to the point of absurdity. Yesterday the check out guy at Ralph’s in Temecula looked at my San Diego Padres baseball cap and exclaimed, “Cool hat!” I wondered if he was talking to me. After all, the Padres are the local team. Does anyone say this when you wear your Yankees cap in New York? The other night I ran into Albertsons to buy ice. The check out guy looked at my paper coffee cup and said, “Ah, having a late night cup of Joe?” People just don’t say things like that to you in New York. As innocuous as this comment is, it would feel intrusive.

Another example of the differences—my wife and stopped by a local Coffee Grind at 9:15pm for a decaf lattes. The Place closes at 9:30. We’d had not been there in a year. However, the owner told us we looked familiar. Then he gave us one half dozen doughnuts that he was planning on tossing. And they were really good. A bonus example: I called Sports Authority to find out the stores hours. The place was closed. Yet, someone answered the phone. “Sports Authority. Hi, this is Eric.” Never happen in a New York minute. I chalk all of this up to the fact that unlike in the hectic grind of New York City, people in SoCal have more time to be friendly. Another cool thing. The supermarkets sell wine and booze and most have banks under the same roof. And for some crazy reason, despite the non-stop, scorching sun and baking heat, the tanning salons do quiet well out here. Go figure.


In New York, pedestrians usually seek out the sunny side of the street. In SoCal, drivers keep their eyes peeled to find a spot in the shade. What the heck do you call those silver and black mats drivers prop up against their windshield to block out the sun? Go figure.


In SoCal you can hop in the car and be in the mountains, the beach, golf or gambling within an hour. Technically you can also do this in New York, but the Catskills are not six thousand feet high, as far as I know.  And my beloved Jersey Shore is not Malibu. And the number of accessible and affordable golf courses in SoCal dwarfs New York. And all the Indian Reservations in SoCal are less seedy than Atlantic City or the dumps in Queens.

Sounds like your Guy’s Guy is contemplating a move west. Maybe. But despite all of its crabbiness and dirt, there really is no place like New York. There is a passion that permeates the air, the energy and everyone you meet in the five boroughs. Hell, even the guy flipping pizza on Carmine Street dough has attitude, gravitas and a few stories to tell. I’m an East Coast guy through and through, but I do love the So Cal lifestyle and with each trip out west I find more to enjoy about it, despite things that seem weird to a New Yorker. Go figure.

Is your vibe East Coast or West Coast?

This week’s Guys’ Guys of the Week are all the people who love New York and SoCal and find the joy wherever they’re at.

The Guys' Guy's Guide to Vacation

Robert Manni - Thursday, July 10, 2014

It’s defined as a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually for rest, recreation or travel. But vacations can be stressful.

If you want to know who is ultimately responsible for any vacation-related tension, take a look in the mirror. So nowadays people have a hard time enjoying themselves during their precious week off. Back in the day, we’d accrue an annual vacation and actually use the allotted days. But with all the tech and connectivity in our lives, at times it feels like there is no escape. How many times have you or one of your colleagues taken more than a week off at a time or used up all of your vacation time? Not very often. Whether you’re headed to Brazil for the World Cup, the Jersey Shore, or a quiet staycation in the city, you need to plan your invaluable time off wisely. Enter, Guy’s Guy, with a few pointers for making the most of your time off this summer and beyond.

1. Level Set at Work – Face it. No one cares about your new pair of chartreuse board shorts or your upcoming week off in Belmar, New Jersey with your crew. All they care about is that your work gets done without it being dumped it on their lap when you’re out of the office. You still have your cell, iPad or laptop so they can and will find you. That’s why it’s important to sew up all the loose ends on your projects the week prior to your departure. I suggest leaving your boss and colleagues a project status that includes next steps that if necessary can be addressed in your absence. If not, they will email, text or call you. If you are so paranoid that you think you’ll be fired the day you return to the office, you have no one to blame but yourself. Cover your ass and then let go.

2. Unplug – My brother had a great idea when a group of couples vacationed together to Anguilla. After we were settled in, had a quick swim and cracked open that first bottle of rum, he placed a bowl in the center of the dining room table and dropped his wristwatch into it. We all followed and it worked as a reminder that in terms of time, all that mattered that week was either the sun was out or the Caribbean night was lit up with stars. It was a great step for detaching from the grind. Listening to the local reggae station on the jeep radio was about as techie as we got that week, and it made for a great trip. I know that it’s challenging to break the FB, Instagram and email addiction, but if you can do it, you will be a happy camper.

3. Explore – Since you are supposedly off the grid for a week, consider going local and trying some new things. This could include water skiing, snorkeling, drinking the local beer or rum, or just checking out a different type of cuisine than you eat at home— and not a chain, even if the local Mickey D’s offers a specialty burger featuring local flavors and toppings. No chains!

4. Take Stock – Congrats! You made it halfway through another year. While sipping that Planter’s Punch poolside, take a deep breath and think about the good things in your life and how you are probably better off than eighty percent of the people in this crazy world. Think about your dreams and aspirations, and what you’re doing to manifest them. For starters, if you are healthy, you’re way ahead of the game.

5. Read – They don’t call them beach reads for nothing. Summer travel and reading go hand in hand. You can read on the plane, on the beach, on a deck with a cocktail, or in your room. Reading nurtures the mind and it’s a great way to mentally escape and let your imagination take over. If you’re looking for a fun, frothy summer read about love, sex, power and money, consider my first novel, THE GUYS’ GUY’S GUIDE TO LOVE.

Are you ready to rock your vacation?

This week’s Guys’ Guys and Gals of the Week are all the fellas and ladies who leave their problems at the office when they check out for their week off.

The Guys’ Guy’s Random Guide to NYC and SoCal

Robert Manni - Thursday, August 29, 2013

I’m an East Coast guy who feels at home in SoCal.

I’m not sure if it’s because America has become so homogeneous or because there are so many New Yorkers who’ve relocated out west.  But for some reason, as soon as the plane lands and I get my bearings, I’m good to go in SoCal. For context, I’m a Jersey guy living in Harlem, and like many New Yorkers, I’ve traveled the golden state numerous times for business or vacations. I spent the past two weeks in Temecula, which is not LA. By the end of the trip I realized that I could be happy living in NYC or SoCal. Hey, a Guy’s Guy needs to be flexible. So, with respect to the great interior of our nation, here are some musings and differences between our two coasts and how they impact culture, Guy’s Guy style. Some are obvious while a few are only found below the radar.

Geography and Culture

Tall buildings anchor NYC. SoCal is spread out. Duh. But, this creates makes a major difference in how people live. Subways, buses, taxis and walking dominate city living. We’re in each other’s face all the time, so like it or not, there is a constant energy exchange.  And that’s good. But, that also means that you’ll never experience loneliness like you do in the big city. In Manhattan, everyone is in a hurry and there are a lot of crazies, so unfortunately, at times, the vibe can feel more suspicious than friendly, unless you are a tourist.

In SoCal you drive and drive and drive, so you’re literally alonewith your thoughts or Sirius Radio.  That’s not a bad thing, but it makes a difference. You hear “hello” and “have a nice day” and “no problem” a lot more in SoCal, but I’m not sure there isn't much behind the words beyond a subconscious desire for a human connection.


Is it me, or do the portions seem a heckuva lot bigger in SoCal than NYC?  You also get more bang for your food dollar in SoCal.  And, understandably, with all of its farms, the produce and veggies in SoCal are big and fresh. Taste? Let’s give that to New York, where you can eat any cuisine from any part of the world at anytime. However, for some reason, New York still struggles with Mexican food.

Names of Streets and Towns

In New York we have global iconic, old school names for streets like, Fifth, Madison and Lexington Avenue. We coin names for new nabes like Chumbo and LoLo, but there are no new towns in New York. In SoCal, new towns are being built every day, many with American Indian or Mexican names, like Temecula, San Marino and Aliso Viejo.

In Temecula, if you make a right off Galleron Avenue onto on Butterfield Stage, then make a right on Rancho California Road you’re in wine country. There are a lot of “Vistas” and "Ranchos” out there and a growing wine country. There are also a lot of “Old Towns” in SoCal, built on what were once the actual centers of frontier towns. Pretty touristy, but they can be fun if you can stop thinking like a New Yorker for a few hours.


In NYC, we run in parks like Central, Prospect and Hudson River Park. It took me a day to figure out where to run in Temecula. First, you have to hit the pavement before 8am and then it’s all sun, hills and asphalt. I thought Central Park had challenging hills until I took a few laps around my mother-in-law’s community. Because there is no real mass transit, there are a lot of stay-at-home moms who are really into fitness. They hit the gym regularly and it shows. Check plus for SoCal on that one.


New York is one noisy place to live. Pulsating jackhammers, rumbling subway trains, police sirens, taxis honking their horns and people yelling are standard sounds we New Yorkers are accustomed to hearing before 8am. During my two-week stay out west at times it was so quiet that I could actually hear the wind pick up at about 5pm every day. Wonderful.


Padres or Yankees? We don’t even have to go there.


Believe it or not, many radio stations still play the big hits of the Eagles, Doors, Jackson Browne, Beach Boys and the other the west coast icons all day, every day.  Cool.

I’m all in on New York. It’s my favorite Guy’s Guy city and there’s no place else like it for people, energy, women and opportunity. That said, a Guy’s Guy is open-minded and I could actually see myself living the quiet life out west in a few years. Well, maybe. It’s really about what works for your state of mind and lifestyle.

This week’s Guys’ Guys of the week are the New Yorkers who moved out west for a mellower life and the actors who chose to live in New York because of its vitality and energy.

Are you East Coast or West Coast, or does it even matter?


The Guys' Guy's Guide to Traveling Light

Robert Manni - Thursday, June 27, 2013

I completed a three-week business trip through Asia carrying only one bag.

It’s not for everyone, but it worked out fine. I’ve been all over the globe for business and pleasure and over time learned not to let unnecessary luggage, clothing and other stuff weigh me down. And I don’t like checking bags if I don’t have to. You’ve seen how some people tote around all their junk wherever they go. I recall an overnight business trip to Miami when new Account Supervisor that I hired showed up at the airport with three full suitcases for the quick trip to a warm climate. Okay, I know some woman carry a lot of stuffand guys do this also. But it was unnecessary and unproductive and we spent extra time dealing with her baggage. Predictably, although for other reasons, she did not work out. The point is, you can travel light, leave your baggage at home and still be effective. So here are a few Guy’s Guy tips based on my experience—you can decide if it's expertisefor traveling light and efficiently while not missing out on the fun.

1. Carry a foldable nylon bag in your luggage.  Sounds easy. It is. That extra bag can carry anything you pick up along the waypresents, a shirt, books, whatever. Believe me, this comes in handy on trips lasting more than three days.

2. The blue blazer. I’m not suggesting that you need the stodgy style with gold buttons, but a smart, up-to-date neutral blazer pairs up with anything, and you can wear it onto the plane. If you dress nicely on the plane instead of a Wallyworld tee shirt and gym shorts, the crew generally treats you better. Just sayin’.

3. Running shoes. Going for a run or doing cardio after a long flight is the perfect antidote to jet lag because it helps reset your body clock. And it works up an appetite for a nice meal after having stale peanuts thrown at you on the plane.  You can wear running shoes onto the plane to save space. If you don’t bring sneakers, wear the bulkiest shoes you have.

4. Wrinkle-free dress shirts. Kind of a no-brainer, but worth mentioning. Nowadays they make these shirts out of comfortable materials and they look just fine without ending up in a ball when you take them out of your bag. I suggest neutral solid colors that can be easily matched.

5. A tie. I bring one tie, something solid or neutral or at least without a design like the Rolling Stones lips and tongue logo. If you need another tie, buy one. It will be fondly remembered as the tie you bought in Brussels.

6. A pair of jeans. Most businesses are more casual now than and you can look sharp in jeans and a blazer on the plane. Plus, you can wear jeans multiple times before washing.

7. Khakis and a polo shirt. Yeah, they kind of suck, but they come in handy for meetings and when jeans won’t do. There are updated versions now that come in different cuts and colors so you won’t look like Wally Cleaver at the client dinner. A short-sleeved neutral polo always comes in handy.

8. Simple workout gear.  One breathable performance tee (leave the tanks at home) and a neutral pair of shorts. Not ocelot prints, please.

9. Bathing suit. Easy to pack, doesn’t take up room and it comes in handy when there is a pool, beach, or steam room. Solid colors, please.

10. Leave your emotional baggage at home. Yeah. Let travel take your mind on a short trip also. Travel is good for the soul, regardless of potential business stress. Decompress and do your best to enjoy yourself. YOLO, amigos. 

Are you traveling light and leaving your baggage behind when you hit the road?

This week’s Guy’s Guy of the Week is Ryan Bingham, George Clooney’s character in “Up in the Air”, an excellent film about a traveling corporate downsizer.

Five Fresh Ideas for New York City

Robert Manni - Thursday, May 30, 2013

Life in the Big Apple has been polished under Mayor Bloomberg.

The smoking ban in public spaces is a major success, the parks are more picturesque and utilitarian than ever, people automatically scoop up their dog poop, and the influx of tourist dollars into the city is at an all time high. Sounds pretty good. But, that’s skimming the surface. Here is my Guys' Guy's Guide to polishing the Big Applemy list of suggestions to further upgrade our lives in the big city.  Some of these concepts have been discussed and dissected, but they are worth a closer look from a common sense perspective.

1. Ban All Motorized Vehicular Traffic in Central Park.  The biking and jogging lanes have been significantly expanded, but New Yorkers are still forced to dodge speeding taxis and private limo services as they speed through the park throughout the day. There are numerous cross streets where these vehicles can cut through the park form the outside without snaking their way inside the park while polluting the air and endangering pedestrians, joggers, and bikers. We are diluting our quality of life to save a minute’s time for speeding taxis. Really? Hey, Mr. Mayor—which is more dangerous, enjoying a large soft drink or sprinting to avoid being run down by a taxi? At least ninety percent of the motorized vehicles in the park are taxis. Ridiculous.

2. Drop the Big Soda Ban Legislature. This well-intended law was justly shot down in court at the eleventh hour and is still being debated. This law is misguided. Sure, sugary drinks are bad, but why draw a line in the sand at 16 ounces? That’s not going to cure obesity and diabetes. People will find a way to get their fix. Do we ban soda, ice cream, Oreo cookies and pre-sweetened cereal? Educating the population to the dangers of sugar is a timely concept. Choosing one size of one product and ostracizing it is lunacy.

3. Require GMO Labeling for Foods in NYC. This is a better idea than a 16-ounce soda ban. Our mayor is known for suggesting bold moves to protect our health. What about GMO’s? Let’s discuss requiring labeling of all products that contain GMO’s that are sold in New York. It would be a true show of leadership by the most forward-thinking, sophisticated city in the world. Could it work? It’s worth a deep discussion. Nothing will slow the onslaught of GMO’s until our leaders take a stand. Washington? Forget it. How about it, Mr. Mayor?

4. Stop Serving Alcohol at 2am. Maybe I’m getting old, but having spent many a long evening in our city bars, I assure you that only a few things happen when people continue drinking for two more hours between two and four am. You either get totally wasted, argue meaningless sports trivia, get into a fight, or wake up next to a woman named Brenda who looked far better at three o’clock than at ten in the morning.

5. Upgrade Weekend Subway Service. Now that we have to cash in our 401K’s to ride in a taxi, the subways are teeming with people 24/7. The advent of the $1 penalty for replacing your Metro Card has generated a boon in revenue. Yet our weekend service flat out sucks. Weekends are cherished times for hard working New Yorkers. Who wants to spend an extra hour underground waiting hopefully that the C train will show up and be running local? You get the picture.

I could continue about overflowing trash bins, subway acrobats blasting music and dangerously swinging around poles, bike riders on the sidewalks, but I’ll save that for another post.

What are your ideas for improving the quality of life in our fair city?

This week’s Guy’s Guy of the Week is Mayor Bloomberg. He’s well intended and has improved our quality of life, but he has a long way to go before he leaves office. Be bold, Mr. Mayor! Be a Guy’s Guy.

Do You Still Want to Live in NYC?

Robert Manni - Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Image courtesy of Shmuli Evers 

Back in 1978, Mick Jagger sang about “rats on the West Side, bed bugs uptown” in the Rolling Stones’ eponymous New York song, “Shattered”.  Hey, those guys really did know a thing or two.  And now it’s over thirty years later and people from all over the world still look to our fair city as the modern-day Rome. It’s still the perceptual global center of culturefor better or worse, finance, media, food, arts and attitude. And despite the news reminding us each day of how our western world is crumbling, like millions of others, I choose to live here.

But What About Paris, London, and Shanghai?

There are lots of great cities spanning the globe and as new media and mega brands shrink our planet, there is only one New York City. Having traveled extensively, although far less than some, I can honestly state that no city has the mash up of people and energy of New York. Everyone here seems just a bit more intense and into what they’re doing, even if they aren’t doing much of anything. From the Central American guy spinning pizza dough, the sidewalk bucket drummers, the struggling artists who’ve been forced to create the next great neighborhoods beyond Manhattan, to the titans of a damaged Wall Street, New Yorkers are a buzzing group that refuses to be stopped.  How can you not like that?

But It's So Damn Expensive!

I have no sane response to this except that the runaway cost of living and punitive taxes we face make every New Yorker scrap a little harder.  That’s what we do. We make it happen. We may vent about the snail-paced subway service on weekends, having to spend $10 for that sandwich we wolf down at our desks, or the stifling aroma of broken garbage bags landscaping Manhattan’s sidewalks during summertime, but we still chose to live here and we’ll be damned if anyone is going to say anything negative about our town. That’s what sets New York apart and that’s why people from all over the world continue pouring into our city. And many of them never leave.

Not necessarily a pretty picture, so are you convinced that this is the place to be? 

Think You Know The Real Jersey Shore?

Robert Manni - Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Image courtesy of B.Katz

I’m not referring to the Snooki, J-Wow, Situation/graphic T-shirt and short shorts with heels version that has been glorified on MTV. I’m talking about the rolling ocean, sandy beaches, warm sun, and the diverse people who make up one of the most easy to access getaways within an hour or so from New York City.

The Hamptons, You Say?

The Hamptons are beautiful, posh, and sexy… a mini-Upper East Side with sand. But the same ocean is available with an hour less travel, more realistic rents, and without the unyielding NYC ‘tude. I personality do not want Manhattan Beach, so let’s talk about the Jersey Shore.

Asbury Park

You can drive there in about an hour and the train from Penn Station rumbles south through New Jersey’s armpit and stops everywhere along the shore. I hop off at Asbury Park, a newly hip, in-progress gentrified version of Billyburg sans the suspender-wearing dudes in handle bar moustaches and chicks dressed like Lucille Ball and Ethel Murtz in their fifties dresses. This summer AP hosted art shows, bowling alley burlesque, roller derby girls, a water park for kids, surprise guest gigs by Springsteen, a rainbow of cool , artsy people, an oyster festival, a five-mile run, and of course a great beach and rolling sea.  The town has been down and out for decades, but is on its way back, and it’s fun to see diversity welcomed as it rises.

Ocean Grove

Ocean Grove is the next town south─a square mile hamlet featuring Victorian homes, a commercial free boardwalk, a surfing beach, a tent village, colossal flea markets and art fairs, an annual 4th of July parade that will make you think you are in Mayberry, and the nation’s largest open air auditorium that that features retro acts like Herman’s Hermits or Peter, Paul, and Mary, and doo wop shows. It is hilarious and everyone puts on a great show. Moving further south, each small town maintains its own quirks and traditions.

Where You Can Find Me

I hit the beach, body surf, run on the boardwalk, play golf without a two hour wait, and occasionally frequent the indigenous Jersey Shore Italian restaurants that serve the tastiest thin crust pizza and are favored by the local good fellas. You’re probably wondering about the culture. There’s a burgeoning music scene and some theater, but you’ll have to seek out the more refined stuff that we take for granted in NYC. That’s part of the charm. Refreshingly, the shore has no pretensions. It’s a place to escape the hyper-energy of our lovely city. And of course, if you so desire, there are plenty of seaside bars with thick guys and buff girls in heels downing trays of shots, but that seems to be the norm everywhere these days, unless you live in Manhattan.

The Jersey Shore is not everyone’s cup of whipped cream-flavored vodka, but I’ve used this seaside backdrop for family vacations, marathon training, making a new set of friends, golfing up a storm, and hosting a number of dates at a beach-front condo that I would not have been able to buy if it were located in the Hamptons. But that’s just me.

Think The Jersey Shore Is For You?

See you on the train or better yet, look up and wave hi when you walk along the boardwalk past my condo in Ocean Grove.

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