New York. 8 million people in the City, 20 million in whole metropolitan area. For me it has always been the heart of the world, and now I had the honor of visiting it by participating at WordCamp NYC 2019. I am thrilled, so please, let me share this story with you.

Thursday morning at home in Turku, Finland, started with a little panic: My 2 year old son had locked himself in a bathroom and naturally could not open the lock from the inside. And my taxi to the railway station would be outside in 10 minutes! I tried to keep both myself and the others calm and at the same time try to open the lock with a screwdriver. Luckily, I managed to open the door. I gave quick hugs to everyone and sped off to the station.

Train from Turku to Helsinki takes 2 hours: good time to do some Docker coding for an ongoing client project. Since the beginning of the year I have travelled approximately once a week to Helsinki, so this was a familiar ride. At the last minute, I noticed the train change will be at Pasila, not in Helsinki’s central station. I jumped off the train and quickly changed to the one going to the airport. Phew!

Suitcase on its way in the train to airport

On the airport I had plenty of time left until the flight, or at least I thought so. I decided to buy a traditional guide book of New York, although nowadays, you usually don’t need paper maps because of Google Maps and everything. While it is true, in big city like NYC, mobile maps do not work very well, since you need to use expensive mobile data and no way can you remember the route next time. Get a paper map, learn it and soon you will walk around like a true New Yorker. One nice thing about NYC are the street numbers. Avenues are in a grid by numbered streets like 49th, 50th, 51st and so on. After learning the system, you can easily navigate around the city even without a map. Oh and I also got a bagel to go.

In the end I didn't have time to wait for the waitress to warm up my bagel, as I had to hurry on to the gate. Walking while eating the bagel got mayonnaise all over my face. The walk to the gate took 15 minutes: and I thought Helsinki-Vantaa airport was supposed to be small!

Airbus A330 is ready to take passengers to New York City

The flight was a straight Finnair flight from Helsinki to New York JFK airport, and I had never been on such a big airplane with almost 300 passengers.

In the rare cases when I see people with an Aphex Twin logo on their t-shirt, I immediately sense a connection, and in a magical moment only made possibly by flying alone, a Finnish guy with such a shirt was sitting next to me. And he has been working very closely with Aphex Twin for years! It was revealed he was the world famous electronic music artist Aleksi Perälä, formerly known as Ovuca. For me it was a real honor to meet Aleksi, long term DJ who has made such a career. I remember seen his gig at famous electronic music festival Koneisto at Turku 20 years ago.

Me and Aleksi Perälä on fly to New York. It was awesome watch master at work, finishing his gig set with Logic Pro X on MacBook Air.

8 hour flight went nice while talking about how the electronic music scene has evolved in last 20+ years, among other discussions. Aleksi is going to play a gig in NYC at The Bunker and I even got invitation there: the challenge is that he will play in the middle of the night at 2am. Let’s see if I can make it, I should be at WordCamp at 8am in the morning :)

So how did Aleksi make his way to Aphex Twin's famous record label Rephlex? I would have guessed they just heard his music or saw a gig, got interested and boom, deal made. Wrong. "I had been sending demo tapes to them for 5 years, without any response. But then one day I got a letter from them and things started moving fast", Aleksi explained. So, you really have to work hard and be persistent to reach your dreams.

I thought the JFK airport would be huge, but actually from plane to train it was quite a fast trip. Well, the airport is huge, but it is SO huge it has its own train!

Taking a taxi to travel from JFK to Manhattan was a tempting idea, but it would cost a lot. I had decided beforehand, that if I had any energy left after the flight I would be more adventurous and attempt to travel all the way to Manhattan using the Airport train and the subway. Airport train was easy to locate and on the station I met a Finnish couple also planning to take a similar route. So, together by supporting each other, we managed to find our way to Manhattan 7 AV subway station without any major problems. From there, I had less than a 15 minute walk to the hotel... in theory. In the end, it took more than half an hour of wandering around trying to find the hotel entrance.

First view of New York City after I got my head up to ground from subway

Finally, at 6pm I reached my hotel room. After 17 hours of traveling, I was so exhausted I fell asleep immediately, not even having the energy to find the restroom.

To be continued in the next episode!

With love,
Sami

PS. I'm writing this while sitting on the subway, coming back from an unusual (for people visiting NYC) sight-seeing trip. To know what it is, you have to “come out to play-ay” in next chapter of this blog series ;)