I’ve talked before about how, back in summer 2012, I participated in a study abroad program in Santander, Spain. But what I haven’t done is talk about how, even after almost three years after the program, I’m still communicating through Facebook with the people who took the program, despite the fact that they live in other states and other countries.
It’s interesting: in today’s world of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (and blogging!) people are extremely up to date with people they haven’t seen or spoken to in months or sometimes even years. So because of this, it wasn’t strange when one of the people I shared a great friendship with on the trip, a kid from Arizona, group messaged me and a bunch of the other CUNY graduates on Facebook, telling us of his plans to visit New York City for the first time.
(“Sure Arizona’s beautiful, but I’m in the mood for an overcrowded and overpriced dystopia filled with people insisting they’re better than me.”)
Now, you don’t need to be an economist or a mathematician to know that New York City has the priciest real estate in the country, and naturally hotels are overpriced as well. So my friend asked the group if anyone would be able to host him and his friend for a couple of days, because even if they had to spend a day or two in a hostel (are there hostels in NYC? I don’t think there are) it would help them out a lot.
I don’t know if he expected any of us to oblige this request (since his original plan was to be here for over 2 weeks!) but I showed no hesitation in offering them a stay at my place in Staten Island.
(“200 bucks for a night in my sewer. WHAT? It’s a nice sewer.”)
There are several reasons for my generosity, starting with:
- I have the space. There’s a couch in my bedroom, a foldout bed in the living room, and a foldout bed in the TV room.
- I currently make my own work schedule (more on that next week).
- My cousin’s friend let us stay at his place in San Francisco for free (which I talked about here) so this was my way of “paying it forward” as I had no money to pay
- It’s an ego thing. I knew that our mutual friends would want to hang out with him, so I wanted to be the guy they had to go through and work things out with. Kind of like their agent or manager. What? We all like feeling needed.
The Arizonans accepted my offer, booked their flights, and I began making preparations as the first guests of Hotel Seegitz (a non-profit organization, apparently) counted down the days of their arrival. Now, before I go any further I’m going to uphold my tradition of not using real names when I talk about some of the stuff that happened when the Arizonans visited. There were two of them, so from here on I’ll be referring to them as A1 and A2.
(This post is about to get…delicious.)
The Arizonans are both students majoring in jazz at Arizona State University, so in coming to New York they had a very specific itinerary in mind. Most people when they go to a city for the first time (and by most people I mean myself) make a list of landmarks they’d like to visit, see most of them, and play the rest of the trip by ear. But the Arizonans were the opposite: their schedule was so packed it didn’t leave a lot of time for them to do sightseeing or hang out with me / some of the other study abroad students from summer 2012.
The reason for this is that they’d wake up around noon at Hotel Seegitz in Staten Island and take the Staten Island Rail to the Staten Island Ferry then sail to Manhattan. So it was already late in the afternoon by the time they got to the city, thus leaving a handful of hours to do anything before they hit the jazz clubs—and they were hitting two to three a night CONSISTENTLY, staying out into the wee hours of the morning. One night, they didn’t walk into Hotel Seegitz until 5:45 am!
The reason why they were going so hard at these Jazz clubs is because, as A2 so succinctly put it:
In Phoenix we’re lucky if there’s a decent band playing at any of the three jazz clubs on the weekend, but every night here it’s like, “Okay, which of the THIRTY jazz clubs featuring the best musicians in the world do we go to?”
(I don’t know who any of these musicians are but apparently they’re a really big deal.)
On the same day the Arizonans landed I picked them up at the ferry in St. George, got pizza at Napoli’s real quick because they were starving, and we decided that the best course of action was to leave their luggage in my car and head back to the city. And I can’t resist mentioning that as they were poring over their pizza menus, one of them asked what a Sicilian slice is.
God bless their western souls.
Anyways, the Arizonans were eager to go to their jazz clubs, so A1 and I went to the Jazz Standard at E 27th and Park avenue while A2 diverged, heading to the West Village to go to Smalls Jazz Club. A1 and I watched the Mingus Band play, and even though I didn’t know the band or any of the songs (which A1 did) I had a pretty great time.
(“I’m sorry sir, but you’re clearly not hipster enough to be here. I’ll let it slide tonight, but next time, please remember your ironic, over-sized unicycle.”)
As we left, I remember giving A1 my critique of the music. I can’t remember the exact words I used, but I told him the music pulled me in, allowing me to forget about my cares and just be in that moment. I haven’t listened to much jazz so I told A1 I liked how improvisational it was and how impressive their skills were. I mean, you have to really like jazz to put in the years of practice to get that good.
He agreed, and of course started talking about how intense his music classes at school were. I listened to him as we took the train to Union Square and showed him around. See, A2 was still at Smalls, so A1 and I had some time to kill. So I took him to Union Square for a bit, then we walked to Washington Square Park. Of course I was sure to point out the apartment building my uncle lived in for 25 years at the bottom of Fifth avenue, and pointed out any landmarks I could on the way.
(“That townhouse costs about 12 million dollars, that one looks about 20…”)
I started going to the city at seventeen, exploring and familiarizing myself with all its nooks and crannies over the course of ten years, so for me it was fun to spoon feed all the information to someone on their first visit. A1 was pretty overwhelmed (in a good way) at everything Manhattan had to offer, but the truth was, even if he dedicated a week to sightseeing, he still wouldn’t have time to see and do everything the five boroughs have to offer. New York City is just that HUGE.
On the flip side, it was interesting for me, someone who’s lived in Staten Island their whole life, to hear the comparisons between Arizona and the areas of New York City my guests visited. For example, take an incident that happened on their third day here:
After getting off the subway at 66th street near Lincoln Center, A1 brushes up against a middle-aged blonde woman (dressed well in a pale brown overcoat) who’s already on her way somewhere. Upon contact, the woman explodes, shouting (and I quote) “EIGHT MILLION PEOPLE IN THIS CITY; WATCH WHERE YOU’RE (F-ING) GOING!” Followed up with the always classy double middle fingers, just in case she wasn’t hammering her point by screaming.
(“Logic and reason are useless, my sons. TO ARMS!”)
At no point did this lady stop moving. It’s kind of like road rage, only in Manhattan it’s with pedestrians and not cars. In situations like these, I slow my pace down a bit to create a buffer and go on my way. Since New York is my city, I felt the need to justify this behavior, explaining that she probably forgot to take her medication today and mentioning there’s also a lot of mental illness in New York City. So watch your step—literally.
A1 was scratching head and even said, “Dude. I think she was talking about me.”
She was, but I didn’t say anything.
A2, equally confused, couldn’t process what just happened, saying, “Why would you let something so insignificant ruin your day?”
Oh boy. The answer to that question digs deep into the psychology of New Yorkers, and there’s simply not enough time to cover the fact that people in this town are overworked, overstressed, sleep-deprived, and insecure. Awful weather year-round doesn’t help either.
(“I don’t care if that sissy Mary mayor shut the city down; I’m going to work! I’m tuff!”)
Even though I told them to be careful around the people here, I really should have been a bit sterner. See, I couldn’t hang out with them every single minute of the day because one, I’m working on a project at home, and two, they went out to pricey jazz clubs every night, something that wasn’t in my budget. Because of this, they did some dangerous stuff behind my back.
For example: on a Friday or Saturday they were riding the Staten Island train at like 4:30 / 5 in the morning with a bunch of really drunk dudes. Like…really drunk. So A2 notices that one of them is wearing a tank top and, joking around, whispers to A1, “Hey. Wouldn’t it be funny if you went up to that dude and said ‘Nice sleeves’?” Instead of realizing he was making a joke, A1 decides to yell “NICE SLEEVES” to the drunk dudes as he’s getting off the train with A2. And of course, because it’s Staten Island, a place where everyone is confrontation ready, the sleeveless brute flew to the door and started banging on it, thirsting for Arizonan blood.
(This is a sober female’s handiwork. I don’t care to know what a drunk male is capable of.)
Of course I choked on my biscotti when I heard this news the next morning. (Kidding; I ate breakfast hours before they woke up) Then I told them to be careful, gently reminding them that people here aren’t known for calmly sorting out their issues over a friendly brunch.
And then what happened? We head over to Brooklyn, and just as two guys are jogging shirtless, A1 yells, “Nice shirt!” to them, a few minutes later adding, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we got into a classic New York brawl?” And of course, I couldn’t help myself from yelling, “KEEP PROVOKING GROWN MEN AND YOU WILL!”
(And when it happens it won’t look anything like West Side Story. Trust me.)
But in the end, nothing really terrible happened to these fresh-faced Arizonans. They spent a week steeping themselves in New York’s jazz scene, and I tagged along to do a couple of fun things like…
(Have the best ice cream of my life at Oddfellows in Williamsburg.)
(Visit the Williamsburg Bridge.)
(Enjoy fleet week in Staten Island.)
(Let it all hang out on Central Park’s Great Lawn.)
Overall they had a blast, and extended an invitation for me to stay with them in Phoenix, ideally when they don’t have school.
So I’m thinking maybe…New Year’s?
I’ll figure it out.
That’s all for today. As always be sure to subscribe to this blog by email if you haven’t already, share the post with anyone who might be interested, and of course, leave a comment below sharing your thoughts.
See you next week,
J. F. Seegitz