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A Bluffer’s Baedeker

May 16, 1991

NEW YORK (AP) _ Cliffs Notes, which may have helped you bluff your way through school, now proposes to help you bluff your way through the nation’s largest and most confusing city.

″Bluff Your Way in New York,″ is one in Cliffs’ new series of ″Bluffer’s Guides.″ If you can bluff your way here, say authors Ken and Nan Lawless, you can bluff it anywhere.

But you have to know how. If Bob Dylan walks up on the street and asks for the time, ″Don’t say you like his music,″ the authors advise. ″Don’t let on that you recognize him. Do nothing to prolong the encounter. ... Being in New York makes you cool. Let the celebrities ask you for your autograph.″

No veteran bluffer says, ″I stay at this fleabag because it’s 20 bucks a night cheaper than a decent hotel.″ Instead, say, ″I always like to be near the (name some cultural institution in the vicinity),″ whether you plan to visit it or not.

If you take advantage of a freebie or bargain, make it seem you have happened upon it as a bon vivant who knows the secrets of the city, not as a cheapskate. You visit Grant’s Tomb because of your admiration for the military genius, not because there is no admission charge.

Conceal your penury at all costs. When a waiter at an expensive restaurant describes a special without mentioning the price, you say: ″Ah yes, that sounds delicious, like a dish I had last week in London. How much would that be in American dollars?″

Make use of what little you know. If all you know about New York is that Popeye’s Famous Fried Chicken is good, ask, ″Is Popeye’s Famous still the best fried chicken in town?″ Regardless of the answer, you will have established yourself as something of an insider.

Drop little-known facts. New York held its own tea party in 1774 when local patriots boarded a cargo ship in the East River and dumped 18 crates of tea leaves overboard; Tammany Hall was named after an Indian chief; Poe wrote ″Annabel Lee″ in a cottage in the Bronx.

The guide also covers the usual tourist concerns.

Bars: The Billymunk on East 45th Street has a great name, and it sounds even better back home, as in, ″Let me tell you about the time we had at the Billymunk....″

Language: Nyawkuhs tokk diffrun. You can never speak like the natives, but you can understand them when they do by studying the book’s glossary. Law sounds like lar, toilet like terlet. To schlep means to lug awkwardly and to kvetch means to complain.

Cabs: Given your healthy complexion and guileless expression, you can never bluff a New York cabbie into thinking you’re not a tourist. But by using phrases like ″Cut through the park 3/8″ or ″Forty-two and Lex 3/8″ he may suspect you’re a regular visitor and refrain from taking you for a ride.

The ultimate bluff is to claim to have visited New York without actually having done so. So send away for the free Convention and Visitors Bureau map, pin it to the wall, and mark it up with X’s and comments.

As the authors note, ″Having been to New York (and being perceived as having been to New York) is a major reason for going to New York.″ They’re not bluffing.

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