On Bagels, Misfortune and The Kindness of Strangers

I’ve been living in the USA for exactly 104 days.  Is that a long time?

It doesn’t feel like it.  And yet it does.  The past three-nearly-four months have felt both fleeting and viscous, transitory and never-ending, both lethargically slow and scarily short-lived.  My weird, binary experience of time can probably be split into two categories.

Time Spent in New York and Time Spent in New Brunswick.

Living in New Brunswick, New Jersey is complicated.  Complicated, because it’s a great location, home to a great university.  Complicated because this is where I’m supposed to be having my College Experience.  Complicated, because it’s one 50-minute bus ride away from New York City, my spiritual homeland.

This isn’t a post about why I don’t like New Brunswick, or why I resent the University of Manchester for not being partnered with any New York universities, or how I have to move to New York soon, not only because it’s the thing I want more than anything, but because I can’t not.  That’s another story for another day.

Yesterday, I spent the day in New York.  I spent the morning lying flat on my back in Bryant Park, reading Toni Morrison’s Jazz and staring at skyscrapers and feeling the burn of the glorious April sunshine on my face.  I ate cinnamon-powdered-sugar-maple-syrup-drenched Challah French Toast and drank coffee and tasted chocolate-flavoured egg cream served in a tiny shot-glass at 2nd Avenue Deli, an unmissable landmark in the bagel-Mecca that is Manhattan.

I stood outside the Chelsea Hotel, thinking about Leonard Cohen.

I went to an industry talk called Film and Brands, held at the SVA Theater and hosted by Tribeca Film Festival.  Here, I listened to a panel of experts and arseholes, and their musings on the cross-section between art and business.  I was impressed by the intelligent, articulate Judy Hu, Global Executive Director of Advertising and Branding for GE.  I was surprised by the easy, eloquent wisdom of Mark Crumpacker, Chief Marketing Officer of Chipotle Mexican Grill, and disgusted by director of the mediocre Rush Hour Brett Ratner, and the greedy, self-satisfied arrogance that permeated his every word.  It was all very interesting though, to hear powerful people talk about transparency, accountability, creativity, efficiency, and fascinatingly, philanthropy.  The talk shattered some of my less-rational beliefs about the mutual exclusivity of the business mind and the creative mind, reminding me that that innovation and logic are one and the same, and that success is comprised of both.  It was probably exactly what a naive twenty year-old needed to hear.

I had dinner at Murray’s Bagels.  After consulting extensively with the woman in front of me, a stylish seventy-something with a grey Mohawk, I decided to have the NYC Deli Special; New York pastrami and mustard on an Everything Bagel.  And coffee, of course.  As if this mind-blowingly delicious New York delicacy wasn’t epiphany-inducing enough, I happened to strike up an eye-opening conversation with “Sylvester”, a charming middle-aged writer, hailing from the West Indies.  He was working on a collection of short stories, and had some choice advice for me when he found out that I was a writer too.

He wrote me a note.

But, I digress.  I was in New York yesterday for a reason.  I was in New York, trying to procure rush tickets.  I waited outside the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on 47th at 9.50AM, looking to get $30 rush tickets to Death of a Salesman, starring the legendary Phillip Seymour Hoffman and the shockingly underrated, devastatingly handsome Andrew Garfield.  Outside the box office, scheduled to open at 10AM, stood a small line of what looked like less than thirty people (thirty being the allotted number of daily rush tickets).  I was there for approximately 48 seconds before being turned away.  But, I accepted this defeat gracefully, in the knowledge that the peak-time traffic into New York was probably accountable for my misfortune.  I accepted this because I had a contingency plan.

The contingency plan being to rush the Tribeca Film Festival, and more specifically, the world-premiere of indie-darling Free Samples, starring the curly-haired love of my life, Jesse Eisenberg.  I was stringent in my reading of the fine-print of Tribeca’s rush policy; the rush line will be opened no earlier than 45 minutes before the scheduled performance.  Eager to secure tickets, I headed down to Clearview Cinemas in Chelsea at exactly 8PM, only to be told that I “couldn’t loiter” and to come back at quarter past.  So, I circled the surrounding block languorously, listening to Where Do I Begin by The Chemical Brothers and wondering what it would be like to live in Chelsea.  I returned the cinema at exactly 8.15PM, to find that a line of 37 people had materialized.

We all know how this anecdote concludes.  I walked back to Port Authority, disappointed.

Except, I wasn’t really disappointed.  How could I be?  It wasn’t like I’d had a wasted day.  Because the best thing about this city of twinkling skyscrapers and kindred spirits and Everything Bagels, is that in New York, there is no such thing as a wasted day.

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