(via iphone3)

I’m beginning to understand why I never get any PR companies asking me to attend blogging events.   It not because I’m not a parent.   It’s because I am bad in writing reviews of blogging events.

I’m one of those people who find it difficult to separate an event from the people that I am with at the time.  I’ve had as much fun in dusty Bakersfield as I’ve had in exotic Hong Kong.  It depends on who is at my side.  This is important for me to remember when going out with friends. I’d rather be with good friends at McDonald’s then with acquaintances at a four-star restaurant.

On Saturday, Marinka invited me to join her and her kids on THE RIDE, a new-fangled NYC tour bus “experience” that has been getting positive reviews by the local media. Marinka was invited as part of a blogger PR out-reach, and asked them if she could bring me.  They reluctantly agreed.   That means, in blog-speak, that we didn’t pay to go on the Ride.

I first met Marinka in August 2008, when she was a complete nobody in the blogging world.   I wanted to test having guest posts on my blog, but I wanted to do it differently, so I just chose the first five people to write a comment on my blog.    Marinka was the first.  As a test of her skill, I presented her with a topic to write about, and I purposely chose the most ridiculous one ever, “I Woke Up Today with a Penis! Can My Marriage Survive?

As anyone who has ever seen the movie “A Star is Born” knows, it wasn’t long before our fortunes turned, and I was the one bowing at her feet.

On Sunday, I was Marinka’s guest.

The Ride differs from typical tour buses in that the seats face one-way, theater-style, towards a large glass window which is open to the public.   The riders look out at the passing city like it is a movie on a giant screen.  Those on the street can see you, so there is a good amount of waving and photographing going on back and forth.

As we passed a few landmarks such as the Chrysler Building and Central Park, two cheery twenty-something tour guides entertained us with jokey information about the city.  It felt as if were were on a ride at Disneyland. To add to the artifice, actors/entertainers were placed on the street to interact with us.

We might see a UPS courier delivering a package on 45th Street.

Tour guide: “Hey, look, there is a UPS guy, working on a Saturday.  In NY, there are so many people wanting to get a break in show business, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was also a dancer going for auditions.”

A second later, the UPS guy would start break-dancing for our entertainment, and then the bus would move on,  just like in  the Pirates of the Caribbean ride!  Except here, real-life New Yorkers, just walked by, ignoring it all.

The bus was also a character.  Lights blinked, and videos blasted, and the bus even spoke, in that deep electronic voice of Knight Rider, joking with the tour guides, and telling us New York facts and statistics.

My review of the Ride: It is very very clever, making the typical 70-minute bus tour ride around Manhattan as old-fashioned as the evening news in the age of Twitter.

I am a fan of clever.   I love Disneyland.  But in all honesty, I’m not sure I enjoyed seeing New York City turned into Disneyland.   Will the tourist on “The Ride” go home thinking he had a real experience?  Why don’t tourists just walk the same twenty blocks themselves, carrying a tour book? Will future generations of tourists be disappointed when no opera singers approach them outside of Carnegie Hall with a song? Does EVERYTHING have to be interactive and pre-packaged?

If I were on the bus by myself, without Marinka and her kids, I would be counting the time, waiting to get off it and back on the noisy, crowded street with real smelly people.

If I were a thirteen year old tourist with my parents, I would hate it even more. I would not enjoy having tourists in the street taking photos of ME sitting in a bus with my parents, all of us in the dorky “I Love NY” hats.  I do not want to be part of the entertainment.  But maybe that is just me.

That said, everyone in the bus loved The Ride, including Marinka’s kids. They got a big kick out of seeing the performers in the street. I mostly wondered if they were getting paid union wages, and where they waited before their cue.  In their car?  At a Starbucks?

Should you go on The Ride if you are visiting New York?  If you have ten year old kids, and have never been to New York before, the Ride could be a lot of fun (although pricey, $59-$65!).  I also think stoned college students might find The Ride a fun and campy experience if they go on it at night, when the lights are on and there are less kids in the bus, and after the ride, go off for some pizza.

Did I have fun? Yes, I did. I was with Marinka. I’ve know her long enough now to have developed some a rapport.  When the Knight Rider “bus” made some cliched New York-centric joke about cupcakes in “Sex in the City” or “Robert DeNiro” in Taxi Driver, we could just glance at each other and, without words, know each other’s snarky response.

And that was fun. It is always who you are with that counts, not where you are.