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Manhattan hot doggery Gray's Papaya set to raise prices (again)

New York City hot dogs at Gray's Papaya

It's murder, I say! Murder!

Well, I don't say it ... Gray's Papaya does. The Manhattan hot dog institution is about to raise its prices once again. This will be the third price increase since I moved to the Upper West Side in 2004.

There's a rather dramatic sign hanging in the window at Gray's Papaya screaming, "MURDER!" It continues:

WE ARE GETTING KILLED BY THE GALLOPING INFLATION IN FOOD COSTS
UNLIKE POLITICIANS WE CANNOT RAISE OUR DEBT CEILING AND ARE FORCED TO RAISE OUR VERY REASONABLE PRICES
PLEASE DON'T HATE US


Okay, it's hard to hate the folks who sell two hot dogs and a drink for a modest $4.50, though I was much happier when it was a dollar cheaper, back in 2008. Seven years ago, one hot dog cost only 85 cents. Then it skyrocketed, on a relative basis, to $1.25 in 2005, inching up to $1.50 three years ago.

  • Gray's Papaya on the Upper West Side
  • The announcement that Gray's Papaya is raising its prices
  • The current price of a hot dog at Gray's Papaya (for now)
  • This is what the
  • The current price of the
  • The space in the window at Gray's Papaya features political messages from time to time

Airline industry best and worst of April 2011

airline industryThe most recent U.S. Department of Transportation data is out, and it's time for the airlines to brace themselves. The good, the bad and the ugly can be discerned from the data, and numbers are notoriously poor at showing excuses (I mean, "underlying reasons").

So, let's start with what looks good. Hawaiian Airlines is most likely to get you to your destination on time, leading U.S. carriers with a 94.1 percent arrival rate. It's followed by Alaska Airlines at 89.5 percent and AirTran Airways at 82 percent.

At the bottom of the barrel, for on-time arrivals, are ExpressJet Airlines (68 percent), JetBlue (68.4 percent) and Atlantic Southeast Airlines (68.5 percent). Think about it, a third of the time, these airlines won't arrive on time.

Overall, the airline industry posted an average on-time arrival rate of 75.5 percent. This means that a quarter of the time, they miss the mark. It's almost as easy as being a weather man!

Ryanair CEO wants someone else to pay taxes

Michael O'Leary, RyanairMichael O'Leary – loved, presumably, by his mother and probably not many else – truly wants passengers to pay less to fly. Of course, that's the point of a low-cost carrier like Ryanair, right? Well, O'Leary, the airline's CEO, loves his passengers so much that he doesn't want them to pay taxes. At least, not the UK's Air Passenger Duty.

Someone has to get slammed, though. If one tax goes away, there needs to be another to take its place.

Always thinking ahead, O'Leary has suggested that the burden be shifted to the hospitality industry, which could replace most of the revenue from the Air Passenger Duty with a modest levy of £1 per night on hotel rooms.

In fairness, O'Leary notes that the APD is the highest flight tax in the world, and it's keeping people off planes. Since 2007, he told the Daily Telegraph, "Visitor numbers to Britain have fallen from 33 million to 29.5 million." Now, the fact that the global financial crisis and subsequent recession happened during this period may (or may not) have something to do with the drop in visits to Britain, but doubtless, there's a role in it for the tax, too.

I guess this is a case of passing the buck in the most literal of senses.

Don't cry for Michael O'Leary ... he has a rockin' cheering section:


Airline tarmac delays: the first full year of results is in!

Airline tarmac delaysWe're now looking back on a full year of limited tarmac delays. In April 2010, the airline industry seemed like it was begging and pleading with the American public not to accept the insanity that the government was forcing upon them. Mayhem would rule, the industry claimed, as standards for performance would prevent everyone from getting anywhere. It would be ugly ... far uglier than the service the airlines had provided so far.

Throughout the year, Gadling has checked in to let you know that the airline industry did not fall apart as a result of shorter tarmac delays. With airlines only able to sit out there for three hours before facing hefty fines, the result has been noticeable – and positive.

"On the one-year anniversary of the tarmac delay rule, it's clear that we've accomplished our goal of virtually eliminating the number of aircraft leaving travelers stranded without access to food, water, or working lavatories for hours on end," says U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement. "This is a giant step forward for the rights of air travelers."

Spirit Airlines goes public ... with dirty laundry

Spirit AirlinesRemember when Spirit Airlines talked about going public? The company felt the need to disclose customer service as a critical risk in its initial public offering documents. One would expect nothing less from the carrier that used flight attendant-turned nutjob-turned spokesman Steven Slater to sell seats. Well, Spirit hopped into the arena of public finance, raising $187.2 million in its initial public offering last week.

What's interesting is that the folks with the dough – Indigo Partners and Oaktree Capital Management – weren't shy about looking for the exits. In addition to revealing the problems with "[n]egative publicity regarding our customer service," Spirit noted in its filing:

"After the offering, our private equity sponsors may elect to reduce their ownership in our company or reduce their involvement on our board of directors, which could reduce or eliminate the benefits we have historically achieved through our relationships with them."


Time to brace?

Five steps to a romantic New Hampshire getaway

New Hampshire romantic getaway
Put the stress and pressure of the workday behind you. This is exactly what was on my mind a few weeks ago. I needed to get away from the daily grind for a bit, and the back roads of New England were calling. I wanted something quiet, remote and relaxing. New Hampshire came to mind immediately.

It had been a while since my last trip to New Hampshire – close to 20 years since my last visit to the White Mountains. So, I had to reacquaint myself with the local options. In the process of doing so, I found five crucial steps to planning a great romantic getaway to the Granite State.

  • Rocky Gorge: Romantic nature in New Hampshire
  • Rocky Gorge: Romantic nature in New Hampshire
  • Rocky Gorge: Romantic nature in New Hampshire
  • Rocky Gorge: Romantic nature in New Hampshire
  • Rocky Gorge: Romantic nature in New Hampshire
  • Rocky Gorge: Romantic nature in New Hampshire

Are locals rude because tourists expect too much?

do tourists expect too much?We're all familiar with the "rude American." And, I'm sure we all are aware of the stereotypes involving people in other countries. There's really no such thing as a popular tourist, it seems, and it isn't unusual to hear locals described as cold, unfriendly or detached. Sure, there are exceptions to this, but enough complaints have circulated to give the claims at least a bit of credibility. Have you ever wondered why this is?

I have.

I've lived almost my entire adult life in cities considered to be among the rudest (Boston and New York), and I probably exemplify the complaints that tourists have about these destinations. I've also been a tourist and found that some of the "coldest" cities in the world (e.g., Paris) weren't bad at all. It's obvious that there's a disconnect, and this has been on my mind for quite some time.

I'm starting to believe it's that tourists expect too much. There's a difference between being a guest in someone's city and being a guest in his home. In one case, you make the choice, and in the other, you have to be invited. All too often, we behave as though the former implies the latter. It doesn't, and when we make this imprudent assumption, it annoys the locals. I get it. I don't blame them.

The four locals you don't want to take your picture

locals taking your picture
So many of my pet peeves really do find their roots in personal experience.

I was walking up Broad Street last week, right by the New York Stock Exchange. This part of New York offers an interesting mix. There are plenty of professionals dashing from one meeting to the next, traders from the exchange (identifiable by their jackets) outside for a chat or a smoke, tourists with their cameras out the ready and even the occasional street preacher.

In a hurry, I was darting up Broad to get to the Wall Street subway station. I was short on time and patience. It's not laudable, but it does happen. And as usual, I found myself running the tourist gauntlet so I could catch a train. One unfortunate soul stretched his arm out in front of me, camera in hand, and asked me to take his picture. I sidestepped his arm, declined and kept going.

Once I got on the 3 train, I had time to reflect on the experience. Many of us have been on both sides of that experience. We've been tourists looking for a helping hand, and we've been busy locals, trying to get from Point A to Point B with minimal headache. It's mutually frustrating ... and it's just part of life and travel.

While we'd all love to encounter polite locals, sometimes, we do need to be realistic. Not everybody is going to be in a position to help. The first step is to know which people to leave alone when you're looking to create a memory. Here are four locals to leave alone when you want someone to take your picture for you:

Arethusa Falls: A spectacular New Hampshire sight

Arethusa Falls, New Hampshire
For some, the word "hiking" leads to unpleasant thoughts. There are visions of heavy backpacks, ropes and buckets of sweat pouring off your body. For those not in the best of shape, it seems like an unfortunate way to spend a vacation. After all, the purpose of getting away from the daily grind is to recharge, not to wear yourself out.

This sort of thinking can be unfortunate. Not all hiking has to be of the sort chronicled by the so-called "adventure travel" folks. In fact, you can have a great time out in the woods without running yourself ragged. Hiking can be a blast, especially when you choose trails that are easy to navigate, not too hard on your body and still deliver an incredible payoff.

This is exactly what I found at Arethusa Falls.

Arethusa Falls is tucked away in New Hampshire's White Mountain region, not too far from Mt Washington, where you'll find some of the worst weather in the country. Unlike Washington, and nearby intimidating peaks Adams and Jefferson, Arethusa Falls sits at the end of a fairly short trail (not even two miles long). The path can be a bit hilly and rocky, but it's far from the sort of environment in which equipment is needed – a good pair of hiking boots is fine. You certainly won't need to toss a heavy burden on your back, as you'll be out for only a few hours.

  • Arethusa Falls
  • Arethusa Falls
  • Arethusa Falls
  • Arethusa Falls
  • Arethusa Falls
  • Arethusa Falls

New Hampshire hot dog review: Wildcat Inn

hot dog at the Wildcat Inn in Jackson, New Hampshire
Okay, if you follow my work, you know by now that I need to try a hot dog everywhere I go. Sometimes, it's far more fun to eschew upscale and go right for the lowest common denominator. On my trip to the White Mountains last weekend, I wasn't expecting to indulge. After all, the region, in New Hampshire, is only a few hours from where I grew up ... how could I find something worth actually writing about?

Needless to say, my perspective changed quickly.

I walked down to the Wildcat Inn and Tavern from my hotel, the Christmas Farm Inn, in Jackson, NH. It was one of the few establishments within walking distance, and after a full day of driving (well, as the passenger) from the New York area, I couldn't fathom getting back into a car. While the main menu looked good, it was the bar menu that caught my attention ... I was in the mood for something simple and filling. In my hunger and haste, I almost missed a menu item that was made for me: the "Ripper".

  • The
  • The first bite of the
  • Once you start eating the
  • Yup, you can even pair the

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