Thursday, September 22, 2011

I Love New York, but Damn!

Waking up from a 10-hour slumber on my own bed, with the familiar view of downtown DC and the familiar sounds of sirens and kittens' paws thumping rapidly across the hardwood floors. It's good to be home.

Somehow, it's hard to believe the different worlds I was just experiencing a few hundred miles north of here, from the transcendental, to the fashionable, to the ideological, to the powerful, to the impecunious -- all of which offered its sense of inspiration and part of the diversity that makes New York the great City that it is. There really is a New York state of mind, and regardless whether it's the upper crust of the Upper West Side, the chic in Chelsea or the broke in the buroughs, New Yorkers have to have a particular resolve to deal with the every day. The traffic and subways alone could test the patience of Saint Jude.

Getting over there was treacherous enough. Even though I was staying in Brooklyn, I had to go into the City to pick up the keys. Knowing that the soonest I could get there would coincide with rush hour, I figured it'd better for me to take the Bolt Bus versus driving in on my own and luckily their stop was close to where I had to pick up the keys. For those who don't know it, Bolt Bus a great way to travel up and down the Acela corridor without having to pay Acela prices ($16-25 on Bolt Bus versus $178 for the Acela). Unluckily, the bus started having smoke emanate from the engine area (probably from the 45 minutes of traffic we had to wait when approaching the tunnel) and had to evacuate. But, back to the lucky part, we were just a few blocks from the stop anyway. If I were more strategic, I would have used my bigger suitcase and had a smaller carry-on.

While I really wanted to meet up with friends that night, I got last-minute notice about a film premiere for two of my mentors, so I had to hustle up about 25 blocks to the Directors Guild. It would have been a bit awkward to arrive with all my luggage and Brooklyn was too far away, so I stopped in at the Eventi Hotel which was gracious enough to allow me to store my luggage -- even though I wasn't staying there. I stayed at the hotel last year, and have friends and colleagues who stay there on the regular. There's a reason -- the fabulous rooms, ideal location (just a couple of blocks from Penn Station) and superb service, all at a reasonable rate. Same goes for just about all Kimpton Hotels, I can't recommend them enough. The only reason I wasn't staying at this hotel was because I had a free place to stay and for those who know me, that is my favorite 4-letter word.

So I made it to the premiere, albeit a bit late. Hay House is launching a new series of short films called Tales Of Everyday Magic. Friday night premiered films based on the lives and teachings of Wayne Dyer and Gregg Braden who also spoke afterwards. This was a great intro to the weekend to come at the Hay House conference where I got to see Cheryl Richardson, Doreen Virtue, Wayne Dyer, Gregg Braden, Robert Holden and the treasured Louise Hay, herself. The whole weekend was really inspiring given my own work and I got new knowledge and tools that I look forward to sharing in my own work.

Speaking of inspiring, I got proof of the power of leading by example. While walking down 6th to return to the Eventi and pick up my bags, I started getting kind of hungry for some of New York's finest food (shock!). There was a block or two of random people interspersed including cab drivers and pedicab riders sitting around and grubbing down on something in these circular aluminum containers, some wrapped by bright yellow plastic bags, that they were obviously enjoying. Tourists are one thing, they'll grab whatever they see on TV, but one thing I've learned from all my travels is cab drivers the world over know the true meaning of cheap and good food. It seemed a lot of them were choosing someplace nearby, and I had to find out what.

And then it appeared, the corner of 53rd and 6th, the magical cart of a few men working furiously over a small stove to assemble hearty Halal Food for an extraordinarily long line of people from what seemed like all walks of life. Now, there were a few carts across the street and down the block that looked similar, but perhaps it's the mob mentality, I figured I'd follow those that seemed to be in the know. This was the first I knew of anything like this and I didn't want to take any chances.

While the line was long, the wait surprisingly was not. Or perhaps I was just too occupied by watching all the people-watching and food-watching to have noticed. Either way, I had no idea what to get, so I ordered the combination chicken and lamb over rice and what I got was a circular tin full of Paradise. The meat was tender and flavorful (and I just love how prayer is incorporated into Halal practices) and the white sauce, whatever that stuff was, was magic. While I was already in bliss, the hot sauce also added an amazing touch, and I knew I couldn't get a better "Welcome to New York" experience.

Dinner from the Halal Cart on 53rd & 6th. One of the best New York finds. Ever.
How could one possibly follow up such an introduction with justice? As I resumed my stroll back to the bags, I found Wafels & Dinges, a Belgian waffle cart that brought me back to my childhood memories of going stopping by the "Scandinavian" town of Solvang when driving along 101 coming back home from LA. Ya, I know that Belgium is not in Scandinavia (at least I do now), but for some reason, my mother thought Belgian waffles were the appropriate treat for me whenever we'd stop there. And while the cart made me so glad to be a grown up, the very exuberant young man behind the counter made me feel feel like a kid again, excited about the wonders of what dinges combinations I could come up with. I settled on chocolate sauce and whipped cream.

OK, bags picked up and subway-bound, I forgot user-friendly the New York subway sytem is not. Stairs, tight-fitting ticket entrances, crowded spaces, especially on a Friday night, and even more stairs. Figuring out where my friend's place was as soon as I got off the subway was a big challenge in and of itself. I hadn't been there in a year and I had forgotten my way around. It didn't exactly feel like the kind of neighborhood you'd want to wander around late at night, especially with luggage and I was so grateful for my Windows phone w/ GPS. I had only veered off track for a couple of blocks but after all the Manhattan walking and stair-climbing with my luggage, I was ready to sit on a sofa or something. I finally found the place and climbed, guess what, more stairs. While I appreciate the quiet of a top floor apartment, having to climb up a four-story walk-up makes me rethink that. Talk about work out.

Speaking of work, I was so excited to see some clients that I usually only get to "see" via Skype or by telephone. A lot of events tend to happen during UN Week (usually around mid- to late-September) and it draws some of the world's best and brightest, including my clients. I love the coaching work I do and given the nature of some of the meetings that happen, I've found it (as have they) really beneficial to be able to meet in person. And I was so happy to get to see a former client from Seattle who has since planted roots in New York. I'm really proud to see the way she has prioritized her Self and is moving forward in the direction of her success. She is living proof that once you make a decision about your life, things really fall into place. This can go for success and happiness, like in the case of this client, or can go in another direction. It really is your choice.

There are other side meetings and conferences that occur, like the Social Good Summit, where I got to watch the CEO of Skype speak more about education technology of the future, hear more about the One Day on Earth project and learn about Jose Andres' new work on clean cooking stoves. I'll write a story on Andres' project for another publication, but I have to say, I am so relieved that there'll be another One Day on Earth project this year. I was so bummed things didn't work out last year, but I fully intend to participate this year, especially since on 11/11/11, I'll be in Sedona for The Gathering.

It was a quick afternoon before having to haul ass to the Clinton Global Initiative. I got to represent the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for one of the events, and then after-party at the MOMA. I wish more of the exhibit were open to look at, but all we could see were a few installations on the second floor. So instead, I had to check out the guests like Bill Clinton (of course), John Podesta, Heather Graham, Barbara Bush (former first daughter and granddaughter), and I'm sure many others that I just didn't get to see (mainly because I wasn't wearing my glasses). I did run into the guy who first introduced me to General Wesley Clark and he said the Crush List member was there, but sadly I didn't get to see him. At the very least, I got to cross off another item from my bucket list.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Take a look at -- it's got a Food and Drinks section.