Birthday Parties, Pujas, and Press Screenings; My Fourth and Fifth Days In New York City (TheByteWeek Issue 14)

I’m in pain because my feet hurt. I’m almost certain that I’ve burnt my legs, arms, and neck. My feet are covered in blisters, and my legs are surging with an excruciating amount of pain. To top it off, I look like a raccoon because of the glasses I was wearing throughout the day. I also feel indestructible and, redundantly, invincible because I just walked across the Brooklyn Bridge twice – to Brooklyn from Manhattan, and back. I’ll admit that this isn’t a major milestone, but I’m going to bask in my glory and accomplishment for just a little longer; taking into account how little I exercise, how little I actually go out for walks, and how out of shape I am, the Brooklyn Bridge is my physical Everest – my psychological Everest is another subject entirely.

These past few days have been spent, in one way or another, experiencing moments of great emotion and circumstance, beginning with the 50th birthday I had the pleasure of attending on the 21st, the pooja (Hindu prayer ceremony) I attended on the 22nd, my first ever press screening that I experienced on the 23rd, and today’s trek across the Brooklyn Bridge and back. Suffice it to say, I haven’t spent very much dilly dallying in this city, and my days have been filled with a significant amount of movement and campaign.

I digress however; the 21st was one of my first planned days and the itinerary had me visiting Chelsea, the Meatpacking District, and the Highline, a former railroad track converted into a public park based in Chelsea and the Meatpacking District. As anyone can surmise, my original plan was to visit the Highline and then move towards Chelsea or the Meatpacking District depending on the weather and my state of exhaustion. The actual park is absolutely spectacular and can honestly only be described by saying that it’s exactly what it sounds like; the park is about a mile long (about 1.6 kilometres), was a former train line and has been converted to serve as a public park – there are benches, lawn chairs, lounge beds made out of wood, a water area for children to play in, several restaurants and cafes, performers playing trombone and other brass instruments, and an insane number of tourists that I only contributed to. Honestly speaking, my favourite part of the park was the amphitheatre dedicated to looking at the street below – a raised series of benches help form an auditorium that overlooks a portion of the street with a glass facade in front of the seats.

I concluded the afternoon by having lunch at The Park, an interesting concept where the dining room leads into an open air atrium that leads into a private lounge, used for special events, and the Meatpacking District’s street side. Lunch was delicious, and I’ll admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the ambiance; at first I thought the restaurant’s design was fascinatingly gauche, but I changed my mind once I sat down and relaxed. The entire design was earthen and physical, with a strong emphasis on browns and darker colours to bring a very relaxed and Terran feel to both the atmosphere and the guests. I’m flourishing, of course, but the point is that the restaurant looked good, and the design was quite remarkable.

That evening I attended a birthday party in Brooklyn, spending the night among academics, intellectuals, and those well-versed in culture, philosophy, and intellect. I’ll spend no time denying the fact I was definitely worried that I wouldn’t fit in, though, as is becoming the norm, “Fitting in” is in no way a problem. The hosts were welcoming, the guests were inviting, and the conversation flowed throughout the majority of the evening. The party fascinated me in that it took a very emotional and sentimental turn once it came time to deliver the necessary speeches by the necessary people – the host, and “Birthday boy,” as it were, received everything but a standing ovation from almost everyone at the party. I mean to say that he was quite loved, and that his welcoming attitude was spread well amongst his friends and close companions. It intrigued me simply because it grew to be so emotional instead of jokingly so.

The following day began at 7:30 in the morning to catch a train that would get me to Times Square at 8:30 for a 9:00 showing of The Dark Knight Rises. My review is now available, and I’ll spend no more time on the subject than is necessary – it was a good film, and that’s all that needs to be said about that.

My evening on the 22nd was spent attending a puja – a Hindu prayer ceremony – for an acquaintance moving into a new office building and beginning a new part of her career. At first I considered dedicating an entire article to my experiences, but I quickly realized that, unlike the Iraqi wake, there wasn’t anything incredibly revealing in the ceremony. It was fascinating to attend my first puja, and it seemed hilariously anachronistic for the pundit to have been using a Gefen Honey Bear, but there wasn’t very much that occurred during the ceremony that drew an immediate reaction from me. Indeed, much of the ceremony was spent in silence, allowing the pundit to pray for the health and well-being on the individual and her business, but an equal part was spent breaking character to laugh or share in a joke among the other attendants. I suppose the fact of the matter is that the event wasn’t solemn or mind-boggling like the Iraqi wake – it all seemed rather standard, apart from the fact that it was a Hindu ceremony praying to Ganesha and Saraswati for good luck, good fortune, and good health.

I regret having to sound so mundane, but I suppose that’s an important fact to draw from the evening – despite it being my first puja, it didn’t feel any different than any other major prayer. The familiarity was overpowering, right down to the family members joking with the holy man, the attendants knowing little about the actual proceedings, and everyone seemingly enjoying themselves and struggling to hold back sheepish giggles during a very important and traditional event. It’s humanizing knowing that the core qualities of tradition extend far beyond the boundaries of culture and ethnicity, and it helps to know that no matter the age of the individual, fumbling a certain phrase of prayer can, and will, always be considered funny. It also helps knowing that holy men, regardless of their ethnicity, cultures, traditions, and genders, will always attempt to draw out an event to greater lengths than anyone around them can deem necessary – I had no idea, but apparently the pundit repeated a certain phrase far too many times.

The 23rd had me attending two press screenings as a guest of a film critic/ writer/ journalist that I had spent an evening with sometime ago. Allow me to paint a picture of fear: attending a press screening as guest while having absolutely no credentials apart from writing for an almost nonexistent blog that receives less traffic than U.S. Route 66. To top it all off, I had the pleasure of sharing the same room as the first critic who gave one of the most anticipated films of the past three years a bad rating, so I definitely wasn’t in a room with bit players in the film industry. Reflecting back on my fear, I don’t particularly know what I was so worried about – I suppose I was saying something so horrifically wrong that I would be shunned from society, but now that I think about it, I doubt I’m even capable of saying something so devastatingly vulgar. The fact remains that I spent much of my time viewing Celeste and Jesse Forever wondering what I was doing in a Sony Plaza Theatre screening room, and the remaining time trying my hardest to not draw attention to myself by restraining my breathing.

I’m speaking with hyperbole (in hyperbole? I feel like that’s the kind of mistake I was trying to avoid), of course, because I wasn’t afraid to the point of not breathing, but it’s the overpowering sensation of unimaginable talent that gets to a person – especially a small time blogger. Hilariously, I was so nervous the first time that, walking into Broken Lizard’s The Babymakers, my worries had vanished. An overwhelming sense of calm washed over me, and I was far more relaxed. That being said, I feel like enough attention can’t be drawn to the fact that I casually (in the most abstract sense of the term) attended two press screenings. I say this with all the gusto I can muster: go figure.

In all my time writing reviews, I genuinely never thought I’d ever actually attend a screening of a film, guest or otherwise, well beyond it’s release date in theatres.

In a sense, these past few days have been filled with more than tedious emotional circumstances; instead, they’ve been filled with gratifying personal moments, small victories, and overcoming relative amounts of panic, terror, and fear in one way or another.

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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