Travel Tuesdays and the Grand Plan

Hello, stalwart desk chair adventurers! It’s been a turbulent few weeks in the New York area, and as some of you could probably use a diversion, I thought I’d chronicle a rather spectacular venture in which we were involved pre-Sandy. Long story short: San Diego native Jeff Niles used PPP’s New York Travel Guide iPhone app to propose to his now-fiancée, Diana Cuevas, in midair over the Statue of Liberty.

If silver screen romance is to be believed, the key components of an extraordinary marriage proposal (whether it takes place in one’s living room or on the moon) are delightful context and the element of surprise, both of which Jeff’s plan contained in spades. Our app’s role provided a little bit of each. In early October, Jeff wrote Shy Bear Apps, our partner in iPhone endeavors, to ask if they’d help him realize his ambitious vision.

Shy Bear worked with Jeff to determine more precisely what he wanted and how they might achieve it. They then postponed their regularly scheduled lives for a little while, and set about inventing the proposal functionality in time for Jeff’s trip to New York. Their start-to-finish window for this was about two days. Peter Pauper contributed mostly in a second-pair-of-eyes capacity, previewing iterations of the feature and offering (mostly helpful, I hope) suggestions. We discussed, considered, and finally submitted the proposal-equipped build to the App Store. Jeff downloaded and installed it.

A week later, Jeff took Diana on a helicopter tour of New York City. In the sky above its iconic skyline, he handed her his iPhone. They soared over America’s most famous green giant (sorry, Incredible Hulk), and a Push notification popped up on the phone’s screen, summoned by their proximity to Liberty Island. The notification led to a secret screen in the app containing Jeff’s proposal.

Excellent readers, she said yes!

Our congratulations to Jeff and Diana, and to Shy Bear for pulling off this not-insubstantial programming feat so swiftly and cleverly. We were honored to peripherally participate.








A quick postscript: If you reside in the tri-state area or another region affected by the hurricane (or the subsequent snowstorm, what even), and are still feeling its effects, our continued sympathies. I hope recovery efforts provide some relief shortly.

Another, less-topical postscript: We’ve decided to embrace subject matter variety! That is to say, we’d like to introduce a crafts (and other creative endeavors) section to Pauper’s Corner, and I’ve volunteered. Travel Tuesdays will therefore alternate with Artful Tuesdays henceforth! Join me next Tuesday, and we’ll draw dinosaurs. There’ll be excitement! Fun facts! Extremely large teeth!

Image credits:

First image – Luciano Mortula/

Second image – Shy Bear Consulting and Peter Pauper Press Interactive

Third and fourth images – Kindly provided by Jeff Niles for one-time use in this blog post.

Travel Tuesdays Encounters Lego Gandalf

Greetings, devotees of excitement and adventure! I promise this column will leave the U.S. Northeast next week. But I thought I should devote this week’s post to an event that draws a large and diverse cohort of travelers to NYC every year: New York Comic Con.

Though its name implies a focus on comics, the convention packs the Javits Center with fans of anything that can reasonably be termed a geeky pursuit. TV networks, video game companies, technology manufacturers, and representatives from a multitude of other industries show up to showcase titles and products they think will appeal. It’s essentially NYC’s answer to a certain wee gathering in San Diego each year. And while it’s not quite as star-studded as that film industry bonanza, it nonetheless offers many interesting glimpses of geekland’s leading edge.

I’d missed the event in years past, partially due to scheduling conflicts and partially because the phrase “Javits Center filled to capacity” instills in me a healthy dread. I finally resolved to brave the crowds this year, bringing my very tall brother with me in the hope that he’d prevent both of us from getting crushed. (He did well on that score, and didn’t roll his eyes when I called him “the Watson and Crick to my Rosalind Franklin” for accidentally attributing a comment I’d made to himself. He’s a really good guy. Full fraternal marks.)

My recommendation is as follows: If you attend NYCC on a Saturday (the busiest day), go for the people-watching, because the crowding ensures you’ll be doing a lot of it. And if you’re claustrophobic, for the love of Shoggoths, go on a weekday. Getting near any of the exhibitor booths in the main hall generally involves shouldering (as politely as it is possible to shoulder) through a crowd of other interested attendees. And you should plan on hitting about ten minutes of person-traffic for every five minutes’ walking time it would ordinarily take to reach your destination.

With that said, the people-watching is aces. The convention boasts an unusually high concentration of people in elaborate, beautifully-crafted costumes, often with applause-worthy creative details. My personal favorite: A full team of Ghostbusters bearing functional (taking “functional” to mean “lights up and does various electronic things”) ghost-vacuums that played the movie’s theme at intervals. We passed an amusing Walking Dead trailer-tableau on the way in, as well, but it didn’t quite top the roving musical Ghostbusters for me. Plus, if there had happened to be something weird in the neighborhood, we’d have been all set.

While the life-size Lego replicas of iconic things and free candy on the exhibitors’ floor were certainly exciting, I thought the best part of the show was really the less-flashy Artists’ Alley. In it, independent creators (mostly of the visual variety, but there were some writers as well) showcased their very impressive work, often signing it for anyone who asked. I bought a fabulous print of a giraffe wearing Wonder Woman’s tiara from illustrator Janet K. Lee, and went home happy.

Travel Tuesdays Revels in Bafflement

EVERYBODY SPARKLE!Greetings, sofa sojourners! As PPP is located in the sprawling outskirts of New York City (perhaps even on the train of its gown), you’ll hear a fair bit about the island metropolis and environs in this column. I thought I’d devote today to one of my favorite aspects of the city: the rule that on any given outing there, you’re guaranteed to encounter at least one baffling and beguiling thing.

On occasion, so profound will be the strangeness of this thing that you will find yourself unable to conceive of any possible context for it. You will tie yourself in mental knots trying to reconcile the thing you saw with what you know of the nature of cause and effect, the standard motivations of humankind, and other seemingly fundamental truths. Even when you assume that people decided to do the thing you saw because they wanted to do a strange thing, you will fail utterly to guess at how they arrived at enacting that strange thing, specifically. If you are like me, provided no one was inconvenienced or hurt in the unfolding of the strange thing, this unfathomability will delight you.

Picture a street like this, but containing about a thousand percent more fast-moving sparkly people.What I saw on in SoHo last Saturday didn’t quite evoke such perfect shock, but deserves an honorable mention. A friend and I were walking uptown when we heard shouting behind us. A pair of people sprinted past, sporting red dresses and trailing spangles. We caught the many-directional glimmer of costume sequins as they flew by. Then another appeared, and two more, all in red dresses, and each more elaborately and refractively adorned than the last. I spotted glitter and metallic crepe. The shouting grew louder. Eventually, it coalesced into what I realized was a call-and-response pattern, along the lines of “Marco/Polo.” (It wasn’t “Marco/Polo,” though, and I didn’t quite catch what pair of words or phrases they repeated back to each other. Presumably something appropriate to running through crowded streets in red dresses and really great makeup.)

Red dressThe bulk of the vermillion pack drew level with us. There were about fifty people in all, including one sublime soul in a cow costume. (And, I feel obliged to note, a red dress over it.) They passed us in a rush, too quick for me to photograph, and we spotted stragglers weaving through the dumbstruck crowd for the next ten minutes or so. I didn’t manage to take any good pictures (and am ethically unsure about posting photographs of strangers without their permission in any case), so you’ll have to be content with the above sparkly red stock art. But trust me: It was grand.

I could in all likelihood figure out what circumstances contrived to gather the crimson chargers with the help of trusty ol’ Google. In all honesty, though, I’d rather not know. I’d rather simply believe that we live in a world where cavalcades of sparkly red people could breeze by us at any moment, shouting with gusto.

Photo credits:

Sequins (C) Graça Victoria /

Soho street scene (C) emin kuliyev /

Red dress (C) terekhov igor /

It’s up to you – New York, NY!

View from my room at Element Times Square.

I know it’s a day after the 9/11 anniversary, so I feel compelled to discuss and celebrate NYC. The New York International Gift Fair is normally our most successful show of the year. Why? I have my theories – it’s not only a good show to see all the new items, but New York is a great tourist town. So, why not combine your business trip with a mini-cation? I would. It’s not cheap, but it’s one of the best cities in the world to visit. The lights, the action, the culture, the theater, the food, and all that jazz.

For those of us in the industry, attending the trade shows offers perks as well as pitfalls. Pitfalls include making sure freight gets to the convention center on time, working with tradesmen who have strict union rules on how things have to be done, and the general principles of Murphy’s Law. But in NYC, the perks are that there’s so much to do and see!

Naked! This is how the booth looks with the walls up, but none of the product out.

Nothing starts off as pretty as it (hopefully) appears on opening day. A lot of sweat, tears, and even blood occasionally are shed by us through our own manual labor. I’ve cut myself on the Lucite shelves many a time. But then, I’m a bit of a klutz. We go in on a Friday to set up the product, and hopefully finish the same day, as long as everything goes according to plan, and all product has arrived. If not, then it’s back again on Saturday to make sure everything is perfect for show time! We set everything up in relatively good time this season.

I stayed at the Element Times Square hotel this August and I really like it. It’s within walking distance to the Javits Center, but there’s a shuttle just in case it’s raining, too. I like the mini-kitchens the rooms have. I can bring in water and yogurt and have drinks and snacks in the room or even reheat leftovers from dinner at a local restaurant. Plus, they have a nice free breakfast there each morning too (and wine/beer and snacks for happy hour, but I wouldn’t know about that). I normally go to a Broadway musical while here, getting my discount tickets from TKTS in Times Square. The one restaurant I can recommend from this particular trip was Havana Alma de Cuba, down in the Village. The food was delicious and the drinks were full strength.

Liz, our new Sales Assistant, helping customers.

If you’re planning a trip to The Big Apple, you can also check out recommendations in our best-selling guide:   

The completed booth.

See you next NYIGF — January 27-30, 2013!