Welcome to the next level challenge. In many ways I had no idea what to expect in New York: parking, people, possibilities. My dear friend Taylor Browning hosted me at her shop and her home in Bushwick, Brooklyn. This was my first time driving in NYC, let alone with a 20' trailer. Needless to say it was some next level shit.
Once I got through all the bridge tolls and traversed the roughest of roads, I arrived at Taylor's shop to find out the flag had suffered far too much stress. All the bouncing around had broken a couple welds and I was quite fortunate to be arriving at the SMART Department metal shop. Taylor generously let me use her shop & materials to beef up the flag for city life and added road durability for the long haul. Many thanks SMART Dept.
After a day of fabrication, I was ready to hit the city and get the real dirt from New Yorkers. Luckily I was accompanied by Eric, who stepped up to navigate the dense streets for me. The first day out we toured Brooklyn, searching in vain for adequate parking. What we found was a series of gauntlets, weaving truck and trailer between double parked cars, delivery trucks, bikers, & pedestrians. On more than one occasion it was mere inches to skirt disaster as we passed through the hive of daily activity. Finally we found a spot in Bushwick and posted up, ready to be relived of the intense concentration necessary for driving. It being Brooklyn, people didn't mince words, and I quickly received two identical responses, "Fuck Trump". This sentiment was repeated both on the flag and in response to my inquiry about "how do you feel about America?". The spot wasn't the greatest for foot traffic and we decided to try our luck for another parking space with better traffic. After touring all of Brooklyn, we never found suitable parking. By the end of the day my nerves were shot and I was ready to relax my focus from my mirrors and periphery.
I got jumped into everyday city life and quickly realized what the New York stereotype is all about. The close proximity of people and machines and structures squeezes your psyche, morphing your guard and personality into that big city skin, which is necessary to survive. Eric had grown up in the city, never knowing any different and even commented that he might not know how to operate anywhere else. I posit if everyone in America had to focus on simple daily existence as much as New Yorkers do, there would be a lot less complaining. You do not have time stop spend your brain power in that way, you have to focus on survival. You might get a chance to relax at the end of your day, but you must prepare for tomorrow. You might have a brief moment to hear something going on in the world and respond with a terse "Fuck that.", but you quickly move on because you got shit to do.
The next day we were determined to get a parking space, regardless of legality, and set out for Manhattan. We threaded the needle of traffic across the Brooklyn Bridge and cruised the avenues, causing a few heads to turn. Eric guided us towards busy spots in the lower east side and I felt like it was going to be another day of intense circle jerking in the city. We cut down Broadway and then, almost instinctually, I whipped the rig to the curb seeing enough space to land. We hopped out, markers in hand, ready to get the art on.
Cutting through that city skin to get people's attention was initially a challenge, but once people saw what was happening, participation picked up. There were several comments reflecting speeches from the previous night's DNC speakers. "Don't Boo, VOTE!", "When they go low, we go high", "Finally a woman". Again, Mr.Trump repeatedly received the succinct NYC assessment. Some of the best comments came from New Yorkers who had been keeping their opinion to themselves, but now given the opportunity, let it fly. One gentleman pushing a janitor's dolly looked up, got the gist, grabbed a pen and wrote "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard." Another quick footed New Yorker dashed, "Think critically, demand evidence." There were many additions of love and respect, kindness and empathy. In some ways, the New York City stereotype is accurate- they love New York. That love gives them the strength to have respect for one another across the great diversity that is a world metropolis. That love provides them with the patience to coexist in close extremely proximity to one another. It is that love that translates "Fuck You!" to "Pardon me, I didn't see you there." Just think, if the rest of American could understand that respect is paramount to existence, we might be able to just get along.