A Millennial in the Press

The Set Up

July 16th will mark the one-year anniversary of our departure on the Millennial USA road trip. It is hard to believe how fast time passes, and harder still to comprehend the ease with which we settled back into domestic life. The grand video we planned never materialized, our travel log remains unfinished, and my tell-all memoir is stalled at page seventy-two. Our Instagram account remains the only complete chronicle of our journey, and the reason for this post.

As the crew’s social media Luddite, I do not have an Instagram handle of my own. So, I occasionally scroll through the Millennial_USA account to keep up with the people we met along the road and release a despondent sigh or two as I relive a time in my life when I was a far more interesting person. Back in December, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (fcacorporate) followed us. In response, I half-jokingly sent them a direct message offering our services should they need a car road tested for 10,000 miles, and, to my surprise, they responded. It was not the offer of adventure I was hoping for, but they promised to keep us in mind for the future. Four months later they made good on their word, asking if one of us would like to test out Fiat’s new 500X in Los Angeles. Since I am the only crew member still unemployed, Matt, Malcolm, and Phil were kind enough to let me represent the group, and two weeks later I boarded a flight for Tinsel Town.

The Arrival

My room.

My swanky room.

In addition to covering my airfare, Fiat put me up in the Mr. C Hotel in Beverly Hills, a luxury establishment that had my room’s radio preset to piano sonatas when I opened the door. Needless to say, I looked more than a little out of place when I rolled into the lobby wearing cargo shorts, vans, and a beat-up cotton T. Waiting by the elevators was Mike Driehorst, Fiat’s Editorial Director of Online Media. He welcomed me to the event and handed off my media packet, itinerary, and room key. I had a few hours before the poolside meet-and-greet, so naturally I went to the hotel’s gym for a quick pump.

For a car that was designed with younger audiences in mind, I was surprised to find that I was the only reviewer under the age of thirty in attendance. I was also the only reviewer not representing a full-time blog or online media publication. The majority of my companions were in their late thirties or early forties, had families, and went to events like these on a regular basis.

Dinner view.

The dinner view.

Dinner was a haute buffet on the top floor of the hotel. To a broke, unemployed Millennial it was heaven on Earth. Having loaded up three plates with vegetables, couscous, and filet mignon, I was the last to take my seat. I found room at a table with four reviewers whom I had yet to meet and listened to them recount exploits from previous auto events (apparently, KIA throws the best parties) and swap humorous anecdotes about companies who tried to gain their good graces. As an outsider, it was fascinating to learn about a profession that until that night I had no idea existed. Out of habit, I began to ask questions, and before long the table conversation had morphed into a full-blown Millennial USA interview. By the end of the evening we had discussed civil disobedience, gun control, national politics, sports, and, my personal favorite, government conspiracy theories.

But despite my success in conversation, I never felt completely comfortable. My eyes kept wandering to the twenty-something catering staff, who rounded on the hot plates and patrolled the room with wine and water. As the only twenty-four year-old in the room not wearing a uniform, I felt like I had betrayed the bond of the “Millennial struggle”, abandoning my people for the opulence of the older generation.

After dinner, I stopped by Fiat’s hospitality suite with my table mate, Lander, who writes for men’s lifestyle blog Joe’s Daily. For those of you who do not know, the hospitality suite is a hotel room that anyone in the press group can access 24/7 and is kept fully stocked with wine, beer, carbonated water, and a cornucopia of snacks. Lander and I sat on the balcony and talked about life for an hour before I called it night.

The Pre-Drive

Breakfast, like dinner, was a posh affair. I recognized the catering crew form the night before, except this time we were downstairs and in a much smaller venue. As a result, I overheard them swapping stories of the previous night while I fixed my bagel. My favorite ended with an inebriated youth running through the streets naked trying to wave down a cab. Like a caged animal seeing his cronies run free, I longed to join their sophomoric conversation, but as the press group’s sole Millennial, I was determined to prove that we are not all oblivious to social mores. After breakfast, a Fiat representative presented me with a contract that had a long list of things I was not allowed to do while driving the car, which included picking up passengers. Unsure of how I was supposed to test the car’s curb appeal without offering rides to beautiful strangers, I begrudgingly signed the document and headed to the shuttle.

3Labs

3Labs

We were dropped off at 3Labs in Culver City, where I finally saw the 500X in person. I snapped a few photos and perused the enormous swag table before taking my seat for a presentation by the 500X’s brand manager, Nicole Longhini, and engineer, Vern Bremmer. Primed with the car’s origin story and specifications, they released us for the main event: a tandem road test. Lander and I exchanged the universal guy nod and headed to a Bianco Gelato (white) 500X. I adjusted my mirrors and stuffed the center console with gratis beef jerky before starting her up. I was about to pull out when I noticed that none of the other drivers had left yet. New to these events, I asked Lander if we were supposed to wait for permission to leave, but he was equally confused, so in true Millennial fashion I said, “Fuck it” and piloted our Fiat out the door and into the Southern California sun.

The Drive

Cruising along the beach.

Our route took us north up the Pacific Coastal Highway to Malibu, where we headed into the mountains for some GoPro worthy maneuvers. After an hour of cruising and nearly being blindsided by a tour bus (it came out of nowhere), we arrived at our switch point–a seaside restaurant across from Zuma Beach. Unlike the Podunk gas stations where we rotated drivers on the road trip, this bouganivilleas-draped bistro had a whole courtyard reserved for our comfort. Crisp, white couches offered themselves in muted dedication while a table of refreshments beckoned us to partake in its bounty. To a seasoned road warrior like myself, I was hardly fatigued by the morning’s joyride, so I passed on the couches, but I did re-up on jerky before returning to the car.

Lunch

Immaculate lunch setting.

The rest of the drive transpired without incident. Lander and I returned to 3Labs, where they clocked our milage and garaged our Italian bella. Not ones to downplay their Italian identity, Fiat had lunch catered by The Urban Oven, whose food truck served up some savory Neapolitan pies. In addition–as if there are people who do not like artisan pizza–there was a buffet of salad, chili, fried chicken, and open-face sandwiches. I conversed with the other reviewers as they trickled in from the road, and everyone seemed to enjoy the car. Then again, Fiat was treating us like royalty.

 

The Post-Drive & Departure

That night we all went to AOC, a classy wine bar and restaurant near our hotel. Fiat reserved a private dining room in the back, where we were treated to a full menu of hors d’oeuvres, entrees, and desserts. I tried to keep pace with the persistent barrage of family-style plates, but I eventually came to terms with the fact that my stomach could only hold so much, and most of the food would go to waste. After dinner, I hit the town with some hometown friends and recounted to them the story above. In the morning, Steve, a Millennial from Detroit, drove me to the airport and I returned to my normal life as a job-seeking stiff.

Final Thoughts

As Millennials, we are reaching the point in our lives where we have accumulated enough wealth to make large financial decisions, like what kind of car to purchase. It is flattering to see companies like Fiat take note of our growing footprint in the marketplace and cater to us as consumers, but they still have much to learn when it comes to courting our favor. The pomp and pampering welcomed by older generations is dated and excessive to those of us who grew up in the shadow of the Recession. We are weary of large corporations and resentful of their ostentatious displays of wealth. Instead of taking me to a four star restaurant, why not pay the shuttle driver who brought me there a higher wage? True, I am generalizing, but after speaking to young people across the country who are struggling to start their careers, the level of comfort afforded me during the Fiat event felt out of place and elitist. If a car company wants my honest opinion of their product, put me up in a Courtyard Marriott, take me out for tacos, and hand me a set of keys. I am not anyone special, and that’s the point.

By my estimate, Fiat spent $1,300 for me to write a few hundred words on the 500X, and that is not including the fixed costs associated with orchestrating the event. Had I flown from across the country and taken full advantage of their hospitality, I could have easily driven the tab up to $2,000. That may not seem like a big number, but to give you some perspective, that is half of what I spent during our entire road trip.

To be clear, I have nothing but positive things to say about the people from Fiat and my fellow reviewers. I just hope that companies realize the value of humble hospitality as they continue to invite Millennials to these events. If this post gets me blacklisted from the automotive reviewer circuit, so be it. I spent two and a half months in a van with three of my closest friends. That tops any launch party.

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Click here to read my review of the Fiat 500X.

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Millennial U.S.A. Reviews the Fiat 500X

As a result of the Millennial USA road trip, Fiat invited me to Los Angeles to test drive their new crossover, the 500X. It is best described as the athletic love child of the compact 500 and spacious 500L. You probably remember it from this ED-inspired Super Bowl commercial. Since I was flown down as an authority on long-distance road trips and the Millennial mindset, I wrote my review of the 500X with those two topics in mind.

2016 Fiat 500X Trekking Plus

Performance

As a red-blooded American male, I cannot drive an underpowered vehicle. Thankfully, the Italians did their homework and made sure the 500X had some oomph under the hood. Its 2.4-liter MultiAir2 Tigershark engine produces 180 hp, 175 lb.-ft of torque, and a noticeable growl. With an average curb weight of 3,100 lbs., a solid stomp on the gas makes the car go in a hurry, but do not expect race car times at the track.

The 500X has three drive settings: Auto, Sport, and Traction+, which you can toggle between using a knob on the center console. Auto optimizes your fuel efficiency and should be used when you’re stuck in traffic or want to punish yourself. Sport should be your default setting, as it brings out the true personality of the 500X and will be responsible for all of your favorite driving memories. Traction+ maximizes low-speed traction by providing additional wheel slip assistance, and was added for those of us not living in the Sun Belt. The 500x is also the first Fiat in the U.S. to have an all-wheel-drive model, which will make off-season road trips less daunting should you need to cross a snowy mountain pass or drive through heavy rainstorms (I’m looking at you, Lubbock, Texas).

My daily driver is a 2012 Honda Civic, and the 500x handles about the same. I could feel the extra weight whipping around turns, but I was otherwise impressed with the car’s tight suspension and responsiveness. Its crossover profile keeps the 500X from feeling top-heavy and provides the low center of gravity needed for spirited maneuvering.

Technology

The 500X's Uconnect display.

The 500X’s Uconnect display.

As far as technology goes, the 500X has all the road trip essentials. Its Uconnect GPS navigation system is simple and easy to read, but still requires the traditional plug and chug button punching of older systems. So if you need to make route adjustments on the fly, your phone is still the quickest solution. In the audio department the 500X boasts a BeatsAudio sound system, which accommodates AUX, USB, and Bluetooth connection. Taking advantage of the SiriusXM Radio, I made sure to play some classical music for a proper test of fidelity, and after many minutes of Verdi it gets my stamp of approval. Sadly, I did not see a CD player, so you will have to leave your binder of middle school mixes at home.

Comfort

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A snug fit when the front seat is back.

The 500X comfortably accommodates two. I am 5’11” and got lost in the passenger side legroom. The back seats are more of an afterthought used only out of necessity, like if it’s your turn to DD or if you need to shuttle around your nieces and nephews. That said, I was able to extend my legs across the entire back seat, so in-car napping is still a definite possibility. Long story short, if your trip lasts over one hour and you are taller than 5′, riding in the back will take mental perseverance.

For those of you who feel the need to be pampered while you drive, you will be happy to know that the 500X has heated front seats and steering wheel in addition to extensive driver and passenger climate controls. There is also a forward power sunroof and stationary rear sunroof, so everyone in the car can enjoy the bounty of Phoebus.

Storage

The trunk of the 500X can handle the majority of your daily loads. For additional space, the car has 60/40 rear split seats and a fold forward passenger seat. Should you need to do some light smuggling, the rear cargo floor can be removed to provide clandestine storage space. There is easily enough room for two people to pack a month’s worth of gear and provisions.

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The “cool” box.

One fun, somewhat gimmicky feature is that the top glove compartment is connected to the AC system, so you can keep food and beverages cool while you drive. It is by no means a refrigerator, but it’s better than nothing on a hot California day. I signed an agreement preventing me from purchasing alcohol on the drive, so I don’t know if it will accommodate a PBR tall boy, but I did manage to squeeze in two Dasani water bottles.

 

Safety

Since we are all young and invincible this section doesn’t really matter, but I will include a few words for the parents in the audience.

Visibility is excellent and the car comes with the standard complement of backup monitoring and driver alert systems. If your child does get into a collision, you can take comfort in the fact that he or she will be protected by at least one of the car’s seven standard air bags.

Price

Fiat offers the 500X in five trim models: Pop, Easy, Trekking, Lounge, and Trekking Plus. Base prices start at $20,000 for the Pop and end with $27,100 for the Trekking Plus. To put that in Millennial math, the Pop costs 54 Coachella passes and the Trekking Plus costs 73.

Millennial Appeal

Fiat’s 26-year absence in the United States means that there is no pre-existing narrative for Fiat owners other than the one Fiat creates. After an inspired ad campaign of supermodels, scorpions, and unabashed sexual innuendo, it is clearly a narrative geared towards our demographic. I mean, what do twenty-somethings like more than appearing stylish and getting naked partying?

The 500X with Mopar options.

The 500X with Mopar options.

Speaking of style, the 500X has seven interior environments and twelve exterior color options. If you want to take things a step further, Fiat’s Mopar accessories allow you to customize the mirror covers, bodyside molding, rims, and exterior graphics. In other words, the 500X provides ample opportunity to express your personality–something Millennials love to do.

Lastly, it’s a discussion piece. Owning a Fiat now is like owning a Mini Cooper twelve years ago. Its sleek Italian lines stand out on the road and the car becomes part of your identity. As a generation of attention seekers and early adopters, Fiat and the 500X represent the perfect opportunity to showcase our prescience and flair. But like most things, it’s only a matter of time before our parents follow suit in an attempt to stay “hip” and ruin it completely.

Click here for my thoughts on car review culture and being a member of the press.

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Captain’s Log – Philadelphia, PA

After a long week in NYC we moved on to our stops with the most historical significance: Philadelphia and Washington D.C. First up was three nights in the birthplace of our nation. Both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were debated and adopted in Philadelphia, PA. We arrived on a Sunday evening with very little time left in the day. Our host was Matt’s good friend from college, Andrew, who is now a medical student at Temple University. Andrew lives in a three-story town house with two other medical students on the border of a neighborhood called the Gayborhood.

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Home Base

The first night we took it easy, cooked Millennial gruel and took advantage of Wi-Fi. We arose the next morning ready to hit the historic sites. But we didn’t get started till the afternoon, as Phil had a mid-day phone interview for a job he’s been pursuing. Matt, Will, and I check out the Philly Cheesesteak scene, opting not to go to one of the most famous places. After walking down South Street we decided on Jim’s, which turned out to be delicious! After lunch we scoped out the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall area, but decided to come back the next day bright and early. Instead, we headed over to the Constitution Center and spent the whole afternoon in the air-conditioned haven of patriotism. We explored every exhibit and had a healthy dose of competition when we face off in Presidential Trivia and opted for the Know-It-All difficulty level. Although Phil and myself beat Matt and Will, it was a humbling experience all around because it was a lot of guessing.

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Independence Hall

That night we basically spent the whole time looking for a pool table to no avail. After a beer or two we just went home. The next morning we got an early start for what would be a long day. First, we walked over to the historical district where the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall is located. The Liberty Bell first was a series of panel exhibits to read and then the bell on display at the end of a one-story hallway. There wasn’t much to it. Next we got our tickets for an Independence Hall tour. Our guide showed us through the room in Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were created and adopted. It is amazing to know that these documents still guide our country today, 238 years later. Our whole country started by a great idea, written down on a piece of paper.

At this point, it was time for some interviews! But first we needed lunch. So we headed to the famed Philadelphia Public Market. This was definitely the best public market of the trip, with Cleveland probably being a close second. Based on several recommendations from previous travelers and Matt’s roommate, we ate at this stand called DiNic’s where we got pork sandwiches. They were huge and delicious, living up to the hype. There were so many places to get treats at the public square that is was very hard to resist. We ultimately booked it out of there after taking a thorough exploratory lap. Next stop was Rittenhouse Square to get those interviews.

Rittenhouse was a nicely shaded and bustling town square with lots of Millennials. Matt and I talked to a young surgeon who was applying for a residency, along with some Philly natives. In an hour or so, we hit our usual quota of two interviews per group. Next up was the Mütter Museum. Mütter is a medical museum that contains a collection of medical oddities, anatomical and pathological specimens, wax models, and antique medical equipment. The museum is part of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. After being sufficiently weirded out by some very strange displays we walked over to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and climbed the Rocky steps. At this point, we were exhausted and started to make the two-mile walk back to the Gayborhood were we relaxed and took a nap. After feeling well rested, it was time for dinner and to hit the town a bit.

ROCKY!!

ROCKY!!

Although this should seem obvious, we affirmed a basic truism with dinner that night: don’t get Mexican food unless you’re in California. While the Mexican food we had was edible, it also wasn’t very Mexican or great at all really, and we were particularly peeved because it met our Yelp criteria of one dollar sign and at least four stars. Anyway, the moral is don’t order Mexican food in Philadelphia. However, we redeemed ourselves by finding a bar in Philly that actually had Pliny the Elder on tap, which is something I have never seen, but for the Russian River Brewery itself in Santa Rosa. It was a serious treat to have the apex of California beer on tap all the way on the east coast. Moreover, we were able to find a nice, empty pool table and a nearby bar where the ongoing trip competition ensued. Phil and I were feeling real good about our skills since we got in an impressive one-on-one sesh one night in NYC. However, our hubris was our downfall (when is it not?), and Team Matt + Will beat us, adding a notch to their win column. (But Phil and I are up overall!)

The next morning, Phil, Will, and I went on a pretty decent run. We drove to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and parked nearby, and then got out to run along Boathouse Row. We went about one and half miles in until we turned around and ran all the way back to the Museum where we ended the run on the same steps climbed by Sylvester Stallone in Rocky. This was much more epic than the afternoon before.

We returned from our run and began the process of packing up, eating breakfast, and getting on the road. However, we did get on the road by noon which gave us plenty of time for our next stop: Washington D.C.

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Captain’s Log – New York City

Downtown Manhattan

Downtown Manhattan

We arrived in Manhattan late on a Wednesday evening. Matt’s friend from Yale Danny and his roommate Sam were saints for letting us stay in their “cozy” Stuyvesant Town apartment – not to mention Danny was in the midst of a med school application death march. We are eternally grateful. Our first night was rather uneventful and we rested and relished in our ability to watch a live A’s broadcast against the Mets.

After a nice run along the East River to the Willemsburg Bridge the following morning, we met up with the one and only Maria Pestana. Living in Brooklyn now, she shared stories with us about city life and New York culture. She loved the up-front nature of New Yorkers who, while quick to tell you off if you deserve, are just as quick to tell you to keep doing what you’re doing. We enjoyed brunch at The Smith before parting ways and hoping on the Stanton Island Ferry.

Matt - on a boat

Matt – on a boat

The ferry caught us off guard in a couple of ways. First off, it’s free. On this trip we’ve discovered that nothing, except parking in Cleveland, is free. We staggered into the ferry building confused, searching for a ticket station. When we were informed it was free, we hopped into the line that was naturally taking shape in front of the doors. As we got closer to launch, we noticed an inordinate number of cutters and thought, “Classic – rude New Yorkers.” Wrong again! The ferry practices a strict, no line policy and standing in line with our cameras around our necks we came to terms with our tourist ways. On the island, we set out for interviews. Will and I found some luck with some skateboarders who talked about the stigma against unsanctioned sports. They argued that there are just as many kids getting into trouble on the football teams but because they play for the school, they are championed. Given all the NFL news lately – this insight seems especially keen. Our time on the island was short and we hopped back on the ferry – there is something so pleasant about being on the water on a sunny day.

September 11 Memorial

September 11 Memorial

Back in Manhattan, we started making our way towards ground zero. The walk along Broadway is an busy one and a steady stream of tourists, suits, and millennial truth seekers make their way up and down the road, past the Charging Bull, past Wall Street (conveniently located across from Trinity Church – you know, for confession), and onto the 9/11 Memorial. If you’re ever in New York for one day, go here. The tribute is stunning and emotional and beautifully immortalizes the memory of those that were lost on that infamous day. September 11, 2001 is part of the shared historical consciousness of all millennials and how we tackle the far flung ramifications of the tragedy will undoubtedly be part of our generations legacy.

After a brief rendezvous at the apartment, we headed to Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn for a comedy / improv showcase at Glasslands. The show was $8 and there were no chairs – a risky move with fickle comedy fans. But the performers were excellent and the evening culminated in a routine by Ted Alexandro (look him up, he’s hilarious). We finished the evening enjoying a beer on Bedford Avenue. Of the many talents that the city of New York attracts, comedians and their consciousness raising routines may be the most important.

Malc inspects a high end Colt

Malc inspects a high end Colt

The next morning we once again met with Maria who served as our local tour guide at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or simply, “The Met”. The is a phenomenal museum and operates under the “recommended price of admission” model – perfect for cheapskates like ourselves. We proceeded to enter the enormous museum that rests on the East side of central park around 82nd street. The museum is in-consumable in an afternoon but we tried our best. One of the most interesting rooms outlined the development of weaponry throughout history and included a suit of armor that was designed as guns were becoming increasingly popular. The armor had dents from musket shots that were left by the blacksmith to display the durability of the armor. Malc and I enjoyed imagining the roles that our distant ancestors played navigating these violent and dangerous times – were they blacksmiths or swordsmen or chefs or peasants in the field? Gah! If only they had Instagrams…

We explored the museum for several more hours before “museum overload” kicked in and the reading of small display panels was no longer possible. After a gyro, Maria mistakenly signed up for an interview before heading back to her life and we ventured deeper into the park to explore and track down some more millennials.

McSorely's Old Ale House - Est. 1854

McSorely’s Old Ale House – Est. 1854

That evening we headed to the greatest bar in America – McSorely’s Old Ale House. Legend has it that Honest Abe himself spent time at what is one of the longest continually operating pubs in the country. You enter the establishment through an unimposing doorway under a sign that states, “Established 1854”. To your right, the long wooden bar sits twelve. To your left, three simple wooden tables seat six to eight people a piece. At your feet, sawdust covers the plain wooden floor. We walked to the back room with seating and tables for another thirty or so. Will, Malcolm, and I took a seat at a round table and ordered two lights, and two darks (which equates to eight small mugs of beer). Soon enough, another group of four was plopped down at our table. The walls are adorned from floor to ceiling with plenty to ideally discuss – old, faded portraits and newspaper clippings, a proclamation by former Mayor Bloomberg establishing McSorely’s historical significance. Inevitably however, the circular nature of the tables forces the different groups, brought together by any number of external and internal stimuli, to actually look at each other. The stalemate always breaks. Pretty soon we were deep in discussion with this other group of bar goers. And when they left, another group of elevator industry employees – fresh from an elevator conference together – joined us. Stories and laughs were shared by all and the generous bunch insisted on paying our tab. So we left, spirits lifted by the community atmosphere that McSorely’s fosters.

The next day we left for Brooklyn to stay with another one of Matt’s gracious friends, Pat. Pat lives in an old brink apartment building not far from Prospect Park. The beautiful thing about New York is the convenience of transportation so once we found a parking space, old Homer never needed to move again. There is something so liberating about navigating the subway system and walking everywhere you need to go.

Matt - in a speakeasy

Matt – in a speakeasy

We returned to Manhattan that evening to explore some of the hip night life. We went to a speakeasy which required that we make a reservation at three in the afternoon. When it was time for our reservation, we entered a hot dog joint. Inside said joint, there was a telephone booth and Malcolm picked up the phone and dialed one to confirm our reservation. Then, the wall to his left slid open and we entered the bar on through the trap door. Manhattan is chalk full of bars like this – in a saturated bar market, the creativity comes to the forefront.

The next day we went out to a musical entirely written, produced, and acted by Yale students. It was delightful and fun to see some of Matt’s buddies that we had met along the way preform and conduct the orchestra for such an impressive display of the creativity, ingenuity, and talent. After the show, we made our way to Katz’s Deli for some famous New York pastrami sandwiches. While there was a bit of a sense that the deli was the victim of its own success and had succumb to tourist catering at the expense of making great sandwiches for the people of New York, the sandwiches are still delicious. At $20 a pop however, they should require purging to finish.

That evening, we made our way to the High Line – a park on the Lower West Side of Manhattan that is a converted train track. The track used to ship raw materials into and out of Manhattan’s warehouses and factories. Opened in the 1930s and eventually abandoned by the 1980s, the railway lay in disrepair for years – although residents of the area would explore it and durable grasses and trees began springing up along the tracks. Plans to demolish the track in the 1990s were eventually canceled due to the persistence of a grassroots campaign and the area was re-purposed into open space park running above the hustle and bustle of the city streets below. It’s very romantic and Malc and I enjoyed an enjoyable stroll past countless couples – personally, I wished to be with my girl back home.

The High Line

The High Line

This was our last night in town and Malc and I slunk our way over to a local dive for some billiards before meeting up with the other two boys who were meeting up with friends. We met some locals around the pool table and they talked about growing up in the area around the High Line and exploring the abandoned tracks as kids. They also talked about the gentrification of Manhattan into a millionaires playground and how most New Yorkers live in one of the other burrows. Another conversation later that evening with a young real estate professional also discussed the high end clientele that his company caters to. While New York City has been an international city for a long time, I hope Manhattan maintains some room for working class people.

We retired that evening with our sights set on Philadelphia – the nation’s first capital and birthplace of the Constitution.

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Millennial Video #1 – West Coast

Our first video of our time on the West Coast – seems so long ago.  Enjoy!

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Captain’s Log – New Haven, CT

Swim Team House

Swim Team House

We departed Rhode Island en route to New Haven, Connecticut – the site of Yale University and the place Matt called home for four years. We were absolutely starved when we rolled into town so we made an immediate stop at Pepe’s for their legendary pizza. This place is consistently voted best pizza joint in America and the thin crusted, bath mat sized pizzas did not disappoint. We demolished our first pizza handily but the second one proved to be too much (although Will probably could have picked up our slack). Bellies full, we moved on to set up shop with some of Matt’s old friends.

We entered the swim team’s house where we reunited with our Portland host – the legendary Andrew Heymann. He and his roommate were working on getting the historic three story building into shape with a week before the start of classes. Although the house is rented by swim team boys and has no Greek affiliation, it may as well be a frat house. The scent of stale beer emanates from the floorboards and empty kegs occupy a substantial amount of floor space. We are lead up a tiny, rickety staircase to our second floor accommodations before heading out to explore Yale’s campus.

Yale Pool

Yale Pool

Matt served as tour guide and snuck us into the Yale gym under the guise of new recruits. The gym has a rich history.  It was built through the bequest of a very wealthy, elderly donor. Legend has it that she requested for her donation to go to a church, but the school didn’t need a church and she was quite old. So the building commenced on what appeared to be a giant, Gothic looking church. The entry hall looked very church like and the donor was pleased.  However, the rest of the church was no church at all – but a gym. And we toured this gym, home of the squash hall of fame, an indoor pool, rowing gyms, and much more. The building would be the first of many impressive structures on the Yale campus – easily the most beautiful of the Ivy’s that we toured.  Our other major stop was at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library which houses a copy of the Gutenberg Bible – the first book printed with movable type.  It’s awesome to see how far mankind has come – maybe someday the first Tweet will somehow be archived in a vacuum-sealed glass case.

That evening, we were introduced to Yale’s version of beer pong, known as “caps.” This aggressive game was apparently invented by Yale Swimmers decades ago and explained the empty kegs around the house. Teams of two sit atop empty kegs on either side of a table 22 inches high and 5 feet wide. One full red cup rests in front of each team and players trade turns tossing quarters across the table into the opponents cup. It is a messy, fast-paced, and a all-around great game.  The college kids where clearly more adept at consuming the amounts of beer that the rules of the game dictated, and while Malcolm and I started hot, we soon lost our edge. The night was fun and we slept well.

Meta Appreciation of Art - New Haven, CT

Meta Appreciation of Art – New Haven, CT

After breakfast the next morning, we set out again in search of millennials willing to talk with strangers. We tried to avoid the campus in search of native New Haven dwellers. For this purpose we went to New Haven Green which boarders the old campus of Yale. New Haven is not known for being a particularly well-off city, and with one of the country’s premier private universities in the middle of it, the dichotomy can be a little striking. Still, as with most areas we’ve seen, New Haven seems to be on the rebound. Will and I spoke with a young interior designer who had moved to the area with her husband and was struggling to find work. She was frustrated with the stigma that interior designers get and feels that the undergraduate work she did in architecture isn’t taken into consideration. It was another enthusiastic and insightful interview. We went out for dinner at a burger joint known as Prime 16 before packing up and heading out of town for the Big Apple.

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Captain’s Log – Providence, RI

(Guest log by Chief Officer Newhart)

Brown University Brown  Bear

Brown University Brown Bear

Many people write-off diminutive Rhode Island, and, after a raucous stay in Boston, we were ready to do the same. The drive to Providence was only sixty minutes, but after a long day on our feet, the whole crew was visibly fatigued. A Yale crony of Matt’s provided our Ocean State accommodation, but she and her roommate were both out of town, so we had the flat to ourselves. The location suited our purposes well, being only a few blocks from both the Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) campuses.

As soon as we finished unloading the car, I went off to forage for gruel meat. The surrounding neighborhood was unique in that it was comprised almost exclusively of colonial homes. Affixed to the front of each building was an unassuming plaque denoting the builder and the year the house was erected. The only downside of staying in such a quaint and historic district was that I was hard pressed to find a legitimate grocer. After a half hour of searching, my labor brought me to Eagle Market. The store sat on a dilapidated corner and the unwashed windows made it difficult to ascertain whether the store was open. Normally, I would have moved on, but desperation makes all men bold. So, I marched up to the door and gave it a tug. To my surprise, the door gave way and I entered the empty corner store. A soccer match, announced in what I imagine was Portuguese, played in the corner and a lean, weathered man swept the beige linoleum floor. He asked what I was looking for and I told him I needed some sort of ground meat. He thought about it for a second then told me to follow him over to the meat counter, which was suspiciously empty. The aged grocer shuffled into a room behind the counter and I soon heard the clanging of containers. Already suspect of what goes into ground meat, I walked around the counter and peered into the back. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the man holding fresh strips of beef, which he then brought to the counter and ground for me on the spot. Content with my scavenging abilities, I returned to the apartment and promptly succumbed to a heavy slumber.

Providence gruel

Providence gruel

I woke an hour later to the aroma of hot gruel wafting through the apartment. After dinner the topic of frozen treats emerged, which invariably led to our trek through the neighborhood to the local ice cream parlor. Being connoisseurs of cooled desserts, each spoon full was followed by a critique or comment importing the speaker’s knowledge of flavored milk fat. The remainder of the evening was spent paying tribute to the late Robin Williams. Having just visited Boston, we decided to watch Good Will Hunting.

The following morning we ventured into downtown Providence and ate at The Classic Café. Next on our agenda was the RISD Museum. Despite its small size, it houses a broad range of artifacts and artwork from across the world. I highly recommend it. It is worth mentioning, however, that the RISD Museum considers camera tripods weapons, so you will be asked to check them before proceeding on to the exhibits. After the museum, we interviewed millennials at RISD and Brown.

Both Phil and I had a desire to explore the downtown, so we all piled into Homer and drove to the Rhode Island State House, whose impressive exterior seemed to be the state’s vain attempt to be taken seriously by the rest of the Union. By now it was the midday, which meant that coffee must be consumed. The usual deliberation took place, as all parties put forth arguments as to why the coffee shop they preferred should be chosen over the others. Eventually, a consensus was reached and we went to Small Point Café. There was a moment of tension as each member raised his americano to his lips and took the inaugural sip. Silence ensued as each drinker contemplated his beverage. Then, in near perfect unison, they exchanged that smug, indulgent smile, which is the hallmark of all men who are content with their good judgment. After coffee the crew meandered to Symposium Books, where we thumbed through the racks and cultivated our minds with book backs.

Lovely Newport

Lovely Newport

That evening we began watching interviews from the Midwest. We made it through Madison, Chicago, and Peoria before calling it a night. The next morning we headed south to the seaside town of Newport. Since I woke everyone up before 0900, our first stop in Newport was coffee. Once the crew was properly caffeinated, we walked along the wharf. Newport is, without hesitation, a tourist city. The waterfront was packed with all manner of nautical themed restaurants and shops. Once we had our fill of seaside charm, we piled back into Homer and headed to the nearest liquor store. Our next stop was New Haven, and we knew better than to enter a college town without an offering for the natives.

 

 

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