Day 1: Frank Sinatra

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At the Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY after red-eye flight

New York is a buzzing sea of endless possibility. The phrase, “Go big or go home,” comes to mind. Potential is not enough here. People live, eat, breathe their dreams. There is no lying around in bed wondering what could be. These swarms of ant-like humans suffuse themselves in dreams bigger than reality; the impossible seems possible. The power behind the complete commitment and purpose is intoxicating. I want to be part of this organized madness.

~

Arriving in New York on September 11th by red-eye flight has not made for the most relaxing trip. What would it be like to die on a plane, boxed so high above the ground, no place to go? I feel claustrophobic, scrunched between two men, one larger, stuffing Reese’s peanut butter cups in his mouth and drinking corn syrup out of can, a constant crinkling as he digs into his potato chip bag, the other younger, stretching out for a nap, eyes already closed. I do not sleep.

As I get off the plane, I feel a sense of freedom and relief. Gratitude washes away much of the grimy feeling typical of being in a space with stale air and limited moving room. I am in New York, I am jobless, I am free. My dream has turned into reality, no longer buried in a dusty box of memories.

My first New Yorker encounter is a taxi driver who does not give me a fluffed up description of New York. But this honesty is what I value most in people. It is spoken from the heart, not marred by the thinking brain. I feel lucky he is willing to share with me, but perhaps this is just the New York way. When I ask him what he loves about New York, he tells me that his home is in Pakistan, not here. That is where he longs to be, with his son, his mother. He does not miss his wife. His mother and child are his blood. He works in New York for them. When I ask about his son, he tells me of his own father dying when he was young and how this has been hard on his mother. He left his own son some years ago, now only visible to him by Skype, to work until he can return with enough money to buy land and provide a better life for his family. He does not want his son to suffer as he has. He is an educated man, an accountant, but his Visa was not renewed a couple years ago, so he works as a taxi driver. It is still more money than what he would make back home. He doesn’t want to experience the city that never sleeps. His family is more important. New York bores him. Several times, he has taken passengers to Times Square. He has no desire to go himself. He must come to the airport two hours early and wait in line to make the day worth his while because of the huge fees to work there. I am his first customer at 5:45am. Here illegally, he will be deported some day. He shrugs as though this is a joke and responds, “At least the ticket home will be free.” He will turn himself in when he has finally made enough money for his family; he hopes only five more years. His son will be eleven then. As he drops me off in Brooklyn, I wish him well. He smiles at me and says thank you for talking to him. I am a nice change from the men in black suits yelling into their phones. Looking at him one last time, I imagine the day he returns to his family.

Brooklyn is a mesh of color. I feel out of place with my pasty skin. I am the minority here. Seeing my friend in his apartment makes me happy. It has been his dream to be here; he told me the first day we met eight years ago. I know he will do well here. His apartment is cozy, flatmates unique and interesting. Although I have not slept for twenty-four hours, I am hungry, and we eat in a diner that reminds me of an episode from Seinfeld. I want to see the sun, and so we walk to Prospect park and soak in the vitamin D. How can one sleep during the day when there is so much to experience, and I am here only a week?

My friend has a class tonight, so I wander around East Village alone and happen upon some comedy and good company. One of the comedians, who interacted with me during his bit, takes me out for coffee after the show and puffs up my ego, encouraging me to delve more into my creative side. “If I were an agent, I would book you,” he says. “You have charisma! People want to be around you! Go for your dreams! If not now, when?” The compliments are endless. He pays for my coffee, leaves me a list of comedy hot spots, and tells me to go after my dreams of being a writer and throws in a few more nudges to do something on stage. I sit in the coffee shop speechless and beaming several minutes after he has gone; I feel like a million bucks, and I hear Frank Sinatra singing in my head “New York, New York.”

~

“Start spreading the news
I am leaving today
I want to be a part of it
New York, New York

These vagabond shoes
They are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it
New York, New York

I want to wake up in that city
That doesn’t sleep
And find I’m king of the hill
Top of the heap

My little town blues
They are melting away
I gonna make a brand new start of it
In old New York

If I can make it there
I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you
New York, New York

New York, New York
I want to wake up in that city
That never sleeps
And find I’m king of the hill
Top of the list
Head of the heap
King of the hill

These are little town blues
They have all melted away
I am about to make a brand new start of it
Right there in old New York

And you bet [Incomprehensible] baby
If I can make it there
You know, I’m gonna make it just about anywhere
Come on, come through
New York, New York, New York”

“New York, New York”-Frank Sinatra

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