Friday, August 2, 2013

Empire State of Mind

For the full experience of this blog post, please have this video playing on a separate window:

My shower was extra hot this morning - the "Stahbucks" tasted better and the taxi ride felt smoother. Why? We were headed to none other than New York (New Yahkkkkk)! Mamma Mia was definitely the word.

The Amtrak took us to none other than Grand Central Station! As a frequent viewer of films involving one of the centerpieces of New York, including such quality movies as Madagascar and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, this landmark was a most welcome welcome to me as one of the city's biggest icons. We meandered our way out of the train and into a clog of humidity and humanity, with sweat and phone conversations dropping everywhere in sight. There would be no Singin' in the Rain today. We rode the wave until we walked into Grand Central's main terminal. It was a gorgeous sight to see, with every architectural detail, artistic flourish, and mathematical design exposed for all the world.

After navigating the labyrinth of the NY subway from Grand Central, we made our way onto the NYU campus (which is basically Greenwich Village) and walked into the information center only to find out that we'd been misinformed about the tour times and we'd missed it by a hour. Taking this in stride, we decided to sign up as our own guides and take the Ivy League Connection Express Tour. 

NYU Global Center for
Academic & Spiritual Life
The campus wasn't particularly a campus. It reminded me a lot of Academy of Art University in San Francisco, with its college buildings ingrained into the city. While set in a nice area, NYU felt disconnected, an university enveloped by the city instead of the other way around. I found that I was looking more for a more homey-like atmosphere, with a central area for students to gather and something more tight-knit. NYU just wasn't my particular cup of tea; you could say that it was a little strong in terms of independence. However, it was enjoyable to walk around and watch Liam and Eric get whupped, honorably, of course, at chess by "Wicked smaht" people at Washington Square Park.

After failing to pick out a lunch spot, we headed to Times Square, where we settled on getting some New Yahk thin crust pizza at John's Pizzeria (I prefer that over Chicago-style). I personally went for the traditional, wanting to compare it to New York-style pizza back home. I don't know if I missed something, but I found John's Pizza to be on par with Bay Area pizza! Either the Bay's just that good, or John's just didn't measure up to the rest of New Yahk. I guess I'll have to go back and find out!

To make our way to our next destination, we walked through the theater district. For a Josh who's been exposed to Broadway ever since he was a toddler, the marquees and bright flashing lights took on a big significance. These shows of thee I sing definitely took over the imaginary soundtrack in my head (along with Frank Sinatra, Frank Ocean, and Jay-Z) for the rest of the day.

Eventually, we reached Rockefeller Plaza, a sight I'd seen on TV many times and...a place that looked a lot smaller in real life. However, it was very cool to see the buildings originally developed by Mr. "Rock of Ages" himself, John D. Rockefeller.

Home to Saturday Night Live, Late Night with
Jimmy Fallon,
We got to stop in a couple souvenir shops in and around Rock Center. Although I didn't see the window from which the Today show hosts do their thing or the address for 30 Rockefeller Plaza ("30 Rock"), I did pick up a t-shirt from my favorite show (which you should know if you read my airport adventure post a couple days ago) Parks & Rec at the NBC Experience Store. The LEGO and Nintendo stores helped me engage in some afternoon child-like fun, checking out all the new heavily branded bricks and the new, but unfortunately not very popular, Wii U (Wii who?).

It was soon time for dinner, however, so we headed over to Ellen's Stardust Diner, an extraordinary place suggested by Damian. The diner hires wanna-be singers and actors looking for their big break in New York City, and many have gone on to star on Broadway and around the world. Throughout our dinner, we were treated to renditions of different Broadway hits, such as selections from Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid, to name a few. I suppose I should mention what I ate, which was beef stew, but for this meal, the songs were the highlight.

I really enjoyed the city of New York, mostly because it felt so lifelike. Its character, personality, and complexity felt almost human-like in its qualities, and I felt almost the same way (hallowed) as I do at Disneyland. If New York equals in feels the Happiest Place on Earth, that's certainly saying something.

With the clock hitting 5:15, we needed to find our way back to Grand Central to make our train at 6:15, so we headed back towards Times Square. The crowds and cars had picked up, while tourists still ruled the streets; cameras flashing everywhere, bodies frozen in fake smiles to post on their Facebook pages. Tracey had warned me earlier in the day that I wasn't walking as fast as some of the others. Normally, I'm quite a fast walker, but the city had so transfixed me that I had slowed down. Naturally, I picked up the pace, but
Photo creds to Liam.
still allowed my eyes to take in the bright enormous neon signs that lined Times Square, headlines scrolling across the ABC building, loud visual advertisements bursting with pop and color. People standing stationary in the crowd jostled me, asking for donations to their cause, or money for their souvenir. I walked past, but the number of solicitations continued to grow. An African-American man had stopped Eric, so I stepped in to listen as well. "Hi, hi, nice to meet you. Are you tired of that Drake and Jay-Z s--t? I got somethin' different, it's a new style, and I'm just starting out, so if you could support..." He started rapping to nail in the sell. Eric and I listened in, and honestly, he wasn't that great, but we listened. Eventually, Tracey walked back toward us and told us we had to leave, or otherwise, we would miss our train. Immediately, his whole attitude changed. "Aw, man, it's cause I'm black? Isn't it? Isn't it?" "Let's go," said Tracey, and as we thanked him and walked away, he snatched his mixtape back from Eric and started issuing multiple racial slurs at our cohort. His voice faded as the crowd engulfed him in their sea of consumerism and marketability.

As girls held up signs offering "free hugs," Liam muttered to us, "there's nothing in life that's free." Are we all driven by the sea, moving forward by the waves of selfishness and self-motivation? We try to sell ourselves and to sell others out, faking our way through the cold channels of relationships and accomplishments. We stand two-faced and focus on our own ships, resorting to ignorance and race cards to get our way. Is there anything that comes free? Today's part of the journey showed us a big city environment where the bright, beautiful, and bombastic find a way to coexist (or clash) with the bubbling, boiling, and toiling. These juxtapositions that have made up multiple parts of the trip are forcing me to think more deeply on how to see these realities. We walk into the doors of Yale tomorrow, forced to confront these realities as we tackle grand strategies in those hallowed halls. I don't know how much I will change or grow. I don't know where my ship is compared to all of the other ones floating into this elite Ivy League program. But I am willing to rebuild my ship with the assistance of others and learn from them. I'm prepared to confront this confusing, scary, gorgeous world we have and make it at least a little better than when I found it. And I'm ready to find out where the final destination of our ships are heading.

Tomorrow, tomorrow...

Send me feedback by commenting below and emailing And for a more intimate look at my Yale experience, follow me on Instagram @joshthebosh to see a more visual Ivy League Connection. This concludes the college tour portion of the blog; check back in soon for reflections on the Grand Strategies program at Yale! Congratulations to you if you noticed the musical references mostly at the beginning, but throughout the post.

“I believe in the supreme worth of the individual and in his right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty. I believe that the law was made for man and not man for the law; that government is the servant of the people and not their master.  I believe in the dignity of labor, whether with head or hand; that the world owes no man a living but that it owes every man an opportunity to make a living. I believe that thrift is essential to well-ordered living and that economy is a prime requisite of a sound financial structure, whether in government, business or personal affairs.  I believe that truth and justice are fundamental to an enduring social order.  I believe in the sacredness of a promise, that a man's word should be as good as his bond, that character—not wealth or power or position—is of supreme worth.  I believe that the rendering of useful service is the common duty of mankind and that only in the purifying fire of sacrifice is the dross of selfishness consumed and the greatness of the human soul set free.  I believe in an all-wise and all-loving God, named by whatever name, and that the individual's highest fulfillment, greatest happiness and widest usefulness are to be found in living in harmony with His will.  I believe that love is the greatest thing in the world; that it alone can overcome hate; that right can and will triumph over might.”

- John D. Rockefeller, inscribed at Rockefeller Center

1 comment:

  1. Too bad about the NYU tour. Considering that, like the SF Academy of Arts, it’s spread over a large area, s site tour really may not be practical.

    Your Statue of Liberty photo will definitely have a place of honor in the next version of the ILC web site.

    I think that Eric and Liam maybe got the message that those chess players in Washington Square take chess very seriously.