Greenwich Village, New York City
Lady Liberty is a matchmaker of sorts.
Recently we dined with a director, a producer, winners of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for Documentary and an executive partner in an internationally known art studio. An evening courtesy of New York City’s compressed economy.
You’ve heard the saying: If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. This is New Yorker-spin. If you can make it in Toledo, Ohio then you can make it anywhere. There’s an economic phenomenon that’s given many a New Yorker a boost.
No doubt about it, New York is interesting. Extremely interesting. It’s a shock-a-block. A city where the sucking sound you hear, is money out your pockets. A city where residents rub elbows with the rich and famous and the not-so. A city that that brings 180 other countries together. New York’s secret of success is its numbers.
While there is onerous competition for everything, restaurant and movie seats, parking spots, even husbands I’m told, the compressed economy is a benefit. The city, with its population of eight million and millions more commuting in from the suburban states, creates endless, changing opportunities to rise, fall and rise again. There is a continual stream of possibilities for people, meeting new people, creating new business opportunities, ideas and resources. The instructor at the New York University marketing course I took a few years ago said being “out there and available” is the successful strategy in a compressed economy. In smaller places with less people there are fewer opportunities, every client can make or break you.
This dynamic, the huge volume of people, was in play at the Corner Bistro a few weeks ago where we met the ebullient documentary director Jason — we googled him as soon as we returned to the hotel– movie and documentary producer and writer Jared and art executive Jenny.
I didn’t even want to go. MacGyver said we were going to the Fourth Avenue Grill for dinner. “We’ve been there before, you like the burgers,” he insisted. Didn’t ring a bell with me. We walked down Sixth Avenue toward the Village and turned the corner and I saw the sign. Oh no, the Corner Bistro, I mumbled. Yes, we’ve been there, and yes, I like the burgers, and yes there’s always a lineup. I was hungry, I wanted to eat and I didn’t want to wait.
“Where do you want to go,” he asked me. Hmmmm, Saturday night, eight o’clock, every good restaurant has a lineup, another predictable feature of a compressed economy, I chose this line, about a dozen people deep waiting for a table, in the broken-down, cash-only, famous-for-its-rude-bartenders and cheap home-style, barbecue burgers joint at 4th and 12th streets, another New York marvel, that two streets cross on a grid system of avenues and streets.
The guy meting out the tables was walking the line.
He reached us.
“I need six,” he told me. “How many?”
Two, I sighed.
To the group behind me: How many?
Three and one coming, they said.
I need six, he repeated and headed back to the dive bar’s dining room of rickety, wooden tables.
The bearded Jason turned to MacGyer and said: “We could be brothers.” For what seemed like five minutes, I waited, not unlike a high school experience, for someone to propose sharing the table.
None of us appeared to be axe murderers or con artists and besides it’s only dinner, we could stick to first names — except now there’s Google and I was once a journalist. I said twice to the now group of five, “I’ll tell him we’re six.”
Finally Jenny caught my eye. I think she nodded yes, let’s do it. Starving, I sprinted off to find table guy and snare the table, before anyone changed their mind. Turns out the table was a booth, which is why he wanted six. We crowded into the corner and all ordered cheeseburgers and fries, Corner Bistro’s specialite.
Once we had introduced ourselves and admitted that we are over-the-road, long haul truck drivers, Jason, the acclaimed director of the 2007 Sundance documentary winner Manda Bala, Send A Bullet (see the trailer), about corruption and kidnapping in Brazil, confessed he’s a Hazardous Materials junkie. He collects UN numbers, which not only surprised us, but his friends as well.
“You see 1203, dime a dozen, everywhere,” he tells the table. UN 1203 is a Flammable Liquid, Hazard Class 3, also known as gasoline.
We told him an insider HazMat story, our favorite, how companies save money by skirting a placarding rule with the inclusion in the trailer of an unrelated product.
Jared produced Manda Bala, which the New York Times called “brilliant…a timely piece of art.” He also co-produced the 2010 Michael Douglas film “Solitary Man.” He’s up on his trucking since he deals with the production crews moving movie equipment. His wife Jenny, they’re newlyweds, they met at Sundance, is the administrative assistant to artist-provacateur Jeff Koons.
Only in New York.