Keys Disease

Keys Disease
Battling Keys Disease at the Futura Yacht Club in Islamorada, Fla. three years ago.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

2017 New York Auto Show: Hey, I Actually Get Paid for Some of This Stuff

Ford's new pursuit-rated Responder Hybrid police cruiser.
I'm not the kind of guy to turn down a payday, even if it involves attending an auto show...even if that auto show is in New York. Auto shows are simply something one, who earns a living covering the auto industry, must tolerate from time to time. There's just no escaping it.

I do enjoy the Chicago Auto Show. It's a sufficiently big deal to attract many of the industry's movers and shakers; yet, not so large that a person working alone can't cover everything. It's manageable. Of course, it's Chicago in February, but even that usually isn't a big issue. The other big shows I can live without, unless there's a payday involved.

When a client asked me to accept its invitation from Ford to fly into New York City (ugh) a couple of days before the show to cover a couple of pre-show events it was hosting and then attend the first of two auto-show media days, I was all over it. Neither a fan of auto shows nor New York, I had plenty of reason to turn down the request, but as a freelancer, I've learned to never say, no. Here's the basic tenet of freelance journalism: Yes, makes you money and No, doesn't. As a freelance journalist, once you grasp that basic reality – embracing it, if you will – you still are not guaranteed a living wage. Nope, you still must scrounge for assignments. However, when those assignments are offered, you are savvy enough to accept them...no matter what.

Having mastered the making-money-versus-not-making-money law of freelancing, I found myself in New York city last week. My first two days of Ford/Lincoln events were less than demanding. Checking into the Park Hyatt Hotel on the edge of Central Park around 10:30 a.m. on Monday, I had to catch a shuttle from the hotel to the first Ford event at noon. Although I had no intention of dragging my video gear around the Javitz Center on Wednesday, I brought it with me on this trip in the hopes that I would be able to tape pieces on the three vehicles Ford and Lincoln were unveiling. Indeed, hope is for missionaries.

Sometimes I crack myself up; thinking that I might get a couple of just3things videos out of this trip was nothing short of sheer Pollyanna optimism. Ford's venue for both of its reveals that day was small, cramped, noisy and marginally lighted. It just didn't work for me. My video gear remained in my room for the balance of the trip.

The afternoon reveal was Ford's new hybrid Police cruiser called the Responder. Based on the Fusion Hybrid, it's a rather cool exercise in urban policing. Ford promises it will be pursuit rated by the big law enforcement bodies that certify such things. With a top speed of just over 100 miles per hour, it should do fine in the city. As a hybrid, Ford projects an annual savings in operational costs of about $4,000 per car. Not bad for cities that want to catch bad guys on the cheap.

2018 Ford Explorer
Ford returned us to the hotel to regroup and freshen up before returning us to the same venue later that afternoon to see the 2018 Ford Explorer. Something akin to Geraldo Rivera's reveal of Al Capone's vault on national TV 30 years ago, pulling the sheet from the 2018 Explorer was greeted with a collective yawn by the attending media. It's not that Explorer isn't a terrific SUV, but the 2018 is pretty much a mirror image of the 2017: second verse, same as the first. A few extra high-tech goodies inside provided the entire story. I was back in my room and in bed by 9:30. Woohoo! Do I know how to party or what?

It being a gorgeous evening, I chose to walk the 20 or so blocks back to the hotel. It was basically a straight shot that even I could manage without getting lost. I poked my head inside St. Patrick's Cathedral and strolled by Carnegie Hall.

With nothing on the day's agenda until leaving for the Lincoln event around 4:30 that afternoon, Tuesday was more or less open. Although I could have done some additional sightseeing, my right knee, which goes under the knife this week, was screaming at me after the previous evening's hike. I chose, instead, to write the stories required of me on the Responder and Explorer. Lunch in the hotel restaurant and a short 10-minute catnap filled the rest of the time before our late-afternoon departure to the Lincoln event.

Lincoln picked a different venue closer to our hotel for its get-together. Although much of the presentation was devoted to an explanation of Lincoln's terrific sales advances the past few months, we were afforded a sneak peek at the totally redesigned Navigator scheduled to be officially revealed at a press conference on the show floor the next morning. It is truly impressive.

With the auto-show media days beginning the next morning, a number of carmakers had receptions and parties scheduled that night. Leaving the Lincoln event, I headed to the Acura party. I arrived too late to see the live performance by Elle King, but did touch base with a number of Honda and Acura execs and PR types. I was disappointed to have missed King. I like her music and have a couple of her songs on my playlist.

Dodge Charger SRT Demon! Oh, Momma!
From Acura, a buddy of mine and I headed to the reveal of the Dodge Charger SRT Demon at Pier 94. Quite the extravaganza, Dodge pumped a lot of dough into the unveiling. I can probably leave the description of the car to just one thing: 840 horsepower! Because of Dodge's participation in the Fast and Furious franchise, Vin Diesel, the Sir Laurence Olivier of his generation, put in an appearance, as did the Dodge Brothers from the Dodge advertising campaign.

Wednesday kicked off the two-day press-conference blitz. Although initially I was there to cover the three Ford/Lincoln reveals, my client asked that I cover an additional three events during my only media day. Back to that never-say-no thing. I had roughly 90 minutes or so between press conferences I had to attend to write the assigned stories. I used those 90 minutes to write. By early afternoon, my client requested I cover three additional unveilings. My response: You guessed it, YES!

By 4:00, I was tired, cranky and my knee felt like someone had pounded a red-hot nail into it. I hadn't eaten lunch. I hadn't even visited the Little Auto Writer's Room to attend to a personal biological imperative. I still had a story to write that deadlined at 5:30. I had been working at a table in the food court most of the afternoon. My laptop was about out of juice and I adjourned to the media room where I could plug in. At 5:20 I finished my last story of the day and the seventh piece I had written in about 24 hours. It was Miller time!

Hitting a couple of more carmaker parties that night, I returned to my hotel room just before the stroke of midnight. Ford scheduled my airport shuttle at 7:30 a.m. for a 10:00 flight out of Laguardia. Setting my alarm for 5 a.m., I fell into bed and was immediately asleep.

Answering my alarm the next morning, I popped out of bed, made coffee and wrote the eighth story of this trip before showering and heading to catch my shuttle. Flying to Atlanta, I picked up a Dodge Charger SRT Daytona for the 160-mile slog to Greenville. Walking in my door at 3:45, I set up my laptop and knocked out the my ninth and final auto-show story by its 5:00 deadline.

Hey, it's a living.....

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