Hockey Masks and Working Out in New York City

Earlier this year I was given the opportunity to travel to New York City for my job.  It’s funny, I honestly had never had the desire to travel to New York.  Never.  I never had dreams of walking down Broadway, looking up at the vast buildings or exploring the various places around town.  Really, not one desire.  Ask Kelly.  She knows the deal.  She had repeatedly told me that she wanted to take me to New York (she had been when she was younger) and show me around and experience it with me.  Again, I scoffed at the idea.  There was nothing appealing to me about it.

When I was younger, I thought, “How do people live like that?”  “How do people live on top of each other like that?” “Man, all crime happens in New York.” “Somebody dies on every corner of New York, daily.” “Lenny from Law and Order is insanely busy, he solves a murder every week.”  Seriously.  EVERYBODY.DIES.ALL.THE.TIME.  In retrospect, that’s obviously a very dark look at a city.  It is how it’s often portrayed though.  I mean, you can’t watch a TV Show, movie (here’s looking at you Avengers), or listen to a rap song that doesn’t depict violence in NYC.  So, you grow up with a bias about a thing you’ve never experienced.  I did anyways.  Odd how that works isn’t it?  Whether it’s life, a place or people, bias grows without you knowing it.  It can be through direct influence, stereotypes, or nurture, but bias happens to us all.

So, you grow up with a bias about a thing you’ve never experienced.  I did anyways.  Odd how that works isn’t it?  Whether it’s life, a place or people, bias grows without you knowing it.  It can be through direct influence, stereotypes, or nurture, but bias happens to us all. 

I couldn’t imagine big city life until I was in college.  I moved from a small town in Eastern Kentucky and when you come from a small town, your skepticism of big cities is strong.  I honestly spent my first semester of college trying my hardest to confine myself to campus or only getting rides with people to and from places.  It was only through a persistent roommate (Thanks Blaine!) that I got out and started to explore the city I had chosen: Nashville, TN.  “But wait Barry, this is a story about New York and you promised hockey masks, it says so in the title.  This better not be click-bait.”  I promise it’s not, but as one of our local sayings goes, “Sometimes you gotta go ’round your elbow to get to your knee.”

So, all of the above being said, I really never wanted to go to New York.  Then, a few things happened over time.  I had watched some documentaries (does that make me interesting or just old?) that talked a lot about New York.  I was beginning to get fascinated with the buildings and history of the city.  As a person who loves and has spent a lot of time taking photographs, I was also interested in the architecture and angles of everything there.  Then came Casey Neistat.  As a person who has participated in photography and videography, Kelly and I were hooked on his VLOG from the get-go.  We were introduced to him through this video which really drew us in to not only his personality, but how he portrayed the personality of the city in which he lived.  He LOVES New York.  Seriously, dude absolutely loves it.  Like, if he wasn’t married to Candice (seriously, we know way too much about this dude) I think he would try and marry his city (which would be awkward, but seriously, dude loves it there).

What fascinated me most was his portrayal of how the city functioned and moved and how much I began to learn about it through him.  Then, I got a call from one of our vendors asking if I would like to go on a trip to New York to meet with another vendor that we use on a regular basis, HP (for reference, if you haven’t read any of my other blogs, I’m in IT).  At first, I wasn’t feeling it.  Then, I found myself wanting to go.  I was actually looking forward to it.  I had already experienced the city through someone else’s eyes, but I really kind of secretly wanted to see it for myself.  So, I OK’d it with my boss, and we were off and rolling.

We flew out of Georgetown, KY and I was filled with trepidation.  Seriously.  Like, almost a sickening level of trepidation.  It was a new experience and I was heading out with a group of 5 other guys, only one of which I knew, on a very small plane to a very large city that I wasn’t overly prepared for.  Then, there was the fact that I wasn’t able to take Kelly with me.  Kelly had always wanted to be the one that took me to New York and now I was heading out without her.  I really wasn’t crazy about that part at all.  She’d wanted to help me experience something that she’d had good memories of and now I was leaving her behind.  I know what you’re thinking, “Not cool Bro, not cool.”  Kelly was beyond excited for me though.  Truly.  I knew she was and that was beyond awesome.  She encouraged me, looked at my itinerary with me (I flew out one day early, end flew back late that next evening.  It was beyond quick.) and helped me think through my packing, what we would be doing and what I would have the chance to see.  Again, awesome.

So, we left.  As you can tell in the pictures below, I got to go to some really cool places.  I stayed in The Maritime Hotel (a maritime themed hotel with portholes for windows) and I was blown away with the attention to detail, the woodwork and the general aesthetic of the place.  We walked through Chelsea Market (The home of Food Network) and saw some truly beautiful restaurants and cool people (as in, they looked cool, I mean they may not have been, but it was like a stationary troupe of fashion forward people).  Then we went to another hotel and went to the roof that overlooked the city (The Standard Hotel, which I later learned was a location for a Met Gala After Party for Katy Perry) and was right above Chelsea Pier.  The views were amazing.  Seriously, I’ve never experienced anything like it.  Then we went back to our hotel and got ready to meet the gentleman from HP at the Gramercy Tavern.  At the Gramercy, I had my first “Tasting” and we were there from seven until ten.  Seriously, that was almost all eating time.  The place itself felt like it was straight out of the Godfather.  It was phenomenal.  As we were leaving, I noticed that people were just coming in to the restaurant to eat.  It’s at that time that I began to notice that it really is the city that never sleeps.

One of the other gentleman and I had neither one been to New York before, so from the Gramercy, we went to Times Square via The Chrysler Building.  I was beyond amazed at the number of people out and about at that time.  In our little town of Prestonsburg, the roads have been rolled up at that point and NOBODY is out on a Tuesday Night.  That’s a School Night ya’ll!  The Chrysler Building was beautiful at night and they had it lit up in a purple.  From there, it was a short cab ride to Times Square.  Man, the lights, the people, the input from so many places was insane to me.  NOW WE’RE getting to the title of the blog:

When we stepped out of the cab, and walked into Times Square, we were confronted by the lights, the sounds and the people from all around.  One guy in particular stuck out to us.  He was a shirtless African American guy with no shirt on.  He was in phenomenal shape.  His pants were sagging below where most people sag their pants to (I’m just trying to paint a picture here folks).  He had an Under Armor backpack slung over his shoulder and he walked up to the side of a building that happened to have a mirror on the side, slung his backpack down, opened it up and pulled some fitness bands from it while facing the mirror.  It was at that point, I looked up at his face and noticed, HE WAS WEARING A BLACK HOCKEY MASK.  I’m not joking.  Not even a little.  My friend and I stood there, awestruck, both fighting the urge to take a picture, but I think both coming to the conclusion that this was EXACTLY the type of person I had feared was in New York.  At that moment, he slung the fitness band under his feet, grabbed the handles, and began ripping off curls like there was someone behind him threatening his life if he didn’t get all his reps in.  It was unnerving.  Seriously.  Picture it in your mind.  Guy working out in front of a mirror, in Times Square, no shirt, extreme sagging pants, ripping off curls like there was no tomorrow, in a HOCKEY MASK.  A hockey mask.  I still can’t get that picture out of my head.  He was fit though.  Maybe he was just incredibly dedicated to working out and was hiding out from an old girlfriend until he was ready to show off the new bod.  Maybe he was hiding from the mob and getting ready to attack them Taken-style.  Maybe he was the new partner of the Ninja Turtles a la Casey Jones.  I have no idea, but what I do know, is that we walked on, not saying a word until we got past him.  A ways past him.

Then we went on around Times Square taking in all the sights, sounds, and lights that were in front of us.  We popped into Hard Rock Cafe’s Souvenir Shop for me to get some enamel pins from there and as we came out of the store, we were confronted with two very scantily-clad, painted ladies that were dressed as Lady Liberty.  We quickly moved on, grabbed an Uber, and headed back to the hotel wide-eyed and having shared experiences that we will NEVER have with anyone else and went to bed, looking forward to what the next day had to offer.

The next day was not nearly as eventful as the first, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.  We went to HP, reviewing some new tech and opportunities that they had to share with us (seriously, some very cool stuff, but VERY nerdy and I won’t bore you in an already excessively long blog post), and we moved on to the airport and made our way home.  Looking back, it was exceedingly quick, but was an experience I’ll never get to have again like that.  It definitely stretched me and my comfort level and allowed me to make some friends I would not have otherwise.  Best of all, I can’t wait to go back again.  There, I said it.  I can’t wait to go back and experience as much of that city as I can, with Kelly.  I can’t wait to go back with her and experience as much of it as possible with her.

So, to the guys who took me, “Thanks again.”  You helped me overcome some biases and fears that I had and helped me to stretch myself in a positive way.  To my boss, thanks for letting me go and learning to go headlong into the void.  And to Kelly, thanks for planning to go back with me and doing it all over again, I can’t wait to experience it with you!  And to Casey Neistat, keep making those VLOGs, maybe we’ll catch you there and make it onto YouTube!