Letting Each Moment Leave Us Breathless; My Second and Third Days In New York City (TheByteWeek Issue 13)

Coming back from the Museum of the Moving Image, I’ve learned three things in these past few days; first and most importantly is to not leave a backpack containing a laptop, charger, two notebooks, and three pens in an art gallery during an auction for pieces created by South Asian artists. The story behind that series of events is actually quite straightforward, though the important news is that the plot culminates with my personal belongings returning to me the next day. The second lesson is that weather is highly unpredictable, and no amount of planning or foreshadowing (quite literally, in terms of precipitation) can stand as a reasonable warning towards an incoming rainstorm. Finally, I learned that, while life is made up of proverbial moments that leave us breathless, we must actively make sure that we enjoy each and every single one of these moments instead of thinking about the moment in passing as a faded memory. Furthermore, we must insure that we don’t spend the rest of our lives trying to replicate a moment for whatever reason; I’ll return to the final lesson later, though, considering my ability to retell events in an interesting way needs significant work.

The 19th of July began with the knowledge that, at some point during the day, I’d be attending the Indo-American Arts Council Benefit Auction at the Aicon Gallery on Great Jones Street, at approximately 7:00 PM. Knowing that arriving to the event on time would require skillful planning on my part, I decided to spend the day walking in the Union Square area and not risking it. Around lunchtime, I was informed of the Strand Book Store on 12th St. and Broadway Ave.

As anyone can imagine, I made it to the bookstore and spent an hour taking it all in; reportedly, the store houses over 8 miles of books (about 12.9 kilometres), and quite frankly I’d believe it. I didn’t particularly spend very much time tracking down an individual book, but instead chose to browse the shelves, taking note of the publications I found all while making sure to take note of anything that seems interesting. Over the course of the hour, I managed to find books from the mid 1850’s, both available for sale and otherwise, all the way to current day (though finding “Recent” books in a bookstore doesn’t seem like a very monumental feat). I realized quite quickly that, if I didn’t continue on soon, I’d spend the rest of my life in the shop.

Continuing on Broadway Ave. I found myself entering forbidden planet, a comic book shop that coincidentally seems to be the graphical equivalent of Strand; I didn’t ask anyone for confirmation for fear of shattering my already fragile dream however. Not very much time was spent in forbidden planet, and I continued along Broadway until I arrived at 6th Ave. (changed in 1945 to “The Avenue of the Americas” by then mayor Fiorello La Guardia to “…bring grandeur to a shabby street…”); in all honesty, I wouldn’t have paid very much attention to the street had it not been for the name, and realizing that my curiosity had gotten the better of me I continued along 6th Ave. to discover what secrets it held. Sadly, the name appeared to be merely for show, though if I’ve been misdirected by own observation I’d be more than happy to return to rectify any existing error.

I did learn about The New School though – it’s a liberal New York university founded in 1919 as an institution designed to encourage understanding and knowledge – and I was utterly fascinated by the philosophy that students are to choose and run their own courses (with certain input from academic advisors and professors). To prove this point, the student at the front desk at the school’s welcome centre pointed out that one of his courses included a subject named “Games 101,” a course I later noticed highlighted in the school’s Wikipedia entry (any similarity is, without a doubt, entirely unintentional I’m sure).

Without being disingenuous or needlessly sarcastic, I must say that I’ve been fascinated with The New School since the moment I learned about its existence a few days ago. It seems quite interesting that the school focuses on its students instead of its monetary and financial gain, and the fact that the education is the focus and not the prestige of its graduates is refreshing. Following my brief time spent talking to students and security guards at The New School’s welcome centre, I continued walking around the area until it was time for the Aicon Gallery event.

Before I continue, I’d like to mention that I was apparently only a few blocks from High Line Park, and the Meatpacking District and would have ventured there had I known of my proximity. Ironically, this all ties into the ultimate point on moments, though I do digress. My second day in New York City ended with a delicious dinner at Schiller’s Liquor Bar. Granted, I also ended my second day forgetting my bag filled with almost all of my important technological equipment (really only the laptop), but I digress once again.

So far, I’d spent my first day trying to not be a tourist, all while accomplishing the sole feat of being a tourist, and I’d spent my second day having no plan whatsoever. I decided on my third day to fix these mistakes by spending time doing what I should have from the start – setting out with a planned destination in mind, instead of wandering around a city aimlessly. Ironically, the day I decided on that, I completely missed the fact that I was standing in front of the Flatiron Building. There is an explanation for this; having forgotten the bag, I’d arranged to retrieve it the following day, and exiting the 23rd St. subway station, I wasn’t paying attention to anything but the street names so I could get to the right building where a mutual acquaintance works. As consolation, I got my bag back quickly, but didn’t notice an important New York City landmark (for both tourists, and otherwise). As far as not wandering around aimlessly, and going out with a plan, I was focused on going to High Line Park, and sneaking in the Meatpacking District if I had time – first however, I was intent on finding lunch.

I noticed the line for the Shake Shack simply because it was so long – at first I thought it was two or three separate lines, but I realized my mistake soon. I suddenly found myself caught between two schools of thought; I wanted to try the burgers to see if they were really as good as people were making them out to be, but I didn’t want to waste too much time. Considering that it actually took me 45 minutes to get through the line and order, I wasn’t sure if I had made the right decision at the time, but the burger proved me otherwise.

The burger was cooked medium, meaning that the patty was juicy but it was somehow prepared in such a way that the juices didn’t dribble out of the burger and onto everything else. Quite the contrary, the meat was medium soft, but somehow managed to retain the overall fluid density of a well-done preparation – that is to say, the juices were there, but they weren’t going anywhere. The buns were prepared in such a manner that they were incredibly soft, and very warm, but not overcooked to the point that bits were breaking off into crumbs. At the same time, the buns were toasted to a golden brown and tasted, quite honestly, heavenly. Finally, the shack sauce was unlike any burger sauce I’ve ever had it was not too sweet, not too salty, not too thick, and not too creamy.

I was speaking to a friend earlier – discussing the overall structure and taste of the burger – and concluded that everything else we’d had was a subpar replica, a quasi-burger, that was incomparable to the creation manufactured by Shake Shack. I will mention that I was incredibly hungry, so obviously that influenced my train of thought.

Incidentally, this is also when the New York City skyline decided to cloud the sun and release the second round of the downpour that began on the 18th. I got very wet, and a bit cold, and decided to call a personal day; I spent the remainder of the afternoon lounging around here and there, taking short but leisurely naps for no reason at all. In summation, I spent the remainder of my Friday quite casually, until 7:00 PM when I went with two others to the Museum of the Moving Image for a viewing of Cabaret, the 1972 film adaptation of the 1966 Broadway production based on the 1951 play based on the 1939 novel. The film was absolutely magnificent; Liza Minelli provided a wonderful performance, Michael York was fantastic, and Joel Grey was terrifyingly sublime in his performance as Emcee of the Kit Kat Klub. My third day in New York City was remarkably lackadaisical, and my third night was filled with Cabaret.

Until now, I’ve touched upon my first two lessons; I’ve lost and regained my technological identity, and I’ve learned to never bet on or against an uncontrollable natural source – which only leaves me with my third and final educational sentiment.

These articles, and in many ways this blog, are designed as both a helpful tool, and a memorial journal of my ideas, experiences, opinions, and thoughts, and though it exists on a public forum, it is undoubtedly for my own pleasure entirely. It’s always been a fervent rule of mine that I’d stop writing the moment I couldn’t, whether this occurred due to natural reasons such as a lack of time or rational reasons such as a lack of ability, though until such a moment the blog will be a compilation of my individual memories.

In more than a few ways, I’ve dabbled with the notion of moments and events, and have come to the current conclusion that much of the time we spend experiencing moments is also spent trying to recreate memories from past moments. This isn’t to say that a married couple attempts to reproduce the moment they first met, or first declared their love for one another, as much as they attempt to reproduce the emotions of these moments. It’s an absolutely logical human reaction to want to be able to experience moments once again, though it’s less reasonable to compare and contrast events to events; the couple would quickly realize that, if the relationship had positively progressed, that the emotions are still very much present or that, if the relationship had negatively progressed, that they might not be present at all, though it’s undeniable that they’d discover a new moment to remember regardless.

Yesterday’s Aurora, Colorado shootings aren’t the entire reason for this sudden proclamation, since the idea has been rattling in my mind for quite some time, though they certainly are the catalysts for my sudden declaration of memory. Lives are lost, families are torn apart, memories are crafted and destroyed in an instant, and while the pundits and so-called “Intelligent and Educated” individuals drone on about the cause-and-effect of tragic events, human lives are forced to recreate and relive moments all while comparing, contrasting, and critiquing their past decisions and memories to see if they’ve gathered any meaning.

I lost my bag two days ago, and got it back yesterday, and now this memory is ingrained in my subconscious for whenever I’m capable of recalling it. In much the same way as the moment I realized that I had completely missed the Flatiron Building, this moment will be a reminder of this 11 day trip I’ve found myself on. These are individual moments that deserve attention, and instead of spending my time trying to relieve my past vacations in the city, I should be spending time making new memories (considering the weather’s unabashed randoms, I do have an excuse, however). Much like my past memories and experiences, the present ones deserve as much attention, pomp, and circumstance.

If there’s anything to take from this article, and if there’s anything to truly be gained from my vacation in New York City, it’s this: life is made up of moments that take our breathe away, but only if we stop and really let them leave us breathless. Otherwise, we’re just spending our entire lives trying to relive and recreate the past instead of enjoying the present.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

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