Anyone seeing the interaction between Matthew and Myself this past Sunday (19th March 2017) would never have believed we hadn’t seen each other in 22 years. The last time we saw each other, we were teenagers. This time, two grown men met in New York City for lunch at the River Dock Cafe, within the Staten Island Ferry terminal. A momentous occasion to say the least. What I loved most was how, having not seen each other since 1994, we were able to chat and laugh like we might have seen each other regularly in our friendship that goes back to family friendships created before I was even born in 1980!
A physical demonstration of what real friendships should be.
It’s been around a year now that I’ve really looked into what Love is and how it works and, slowly but surely, I’ve been making changes and addressing things within myself to bring myself into line, operating from a foundation of Love. It’s not as easy as it may sound and, if I’ve come to realize nothing else, I’ve definitely found that Love simply isn’t that warm, fuzzy feeling we get inside when things go our way. I’ve had to take a stark look at certain areas of my life, air some dirty laundry and make some changes that have, at times, been really difficult and have taken some real levels of sacrifice. It’s brought about smiles at times, it’s brought about tears at times but this journey that I’ve been venturing on is bringing me to a new level in life. It may have taken 36 years to initiate the process but I dare say I’m on my way to becoming a much better person!
The day out in New York was a great one and anyone that knows me knows I love road trips.
I recently had major servicing done on my car so the opportunity to open her up on the NJ Turnpike was fabulous, thanks to Morrissey’s Auto Repair. Buick LeSabres have this way of cruising on a highway that you don’t get in a lot of other cars. I turned the music off and soaked in the scenery as my 2001 model glided along the asphalt with the comfort and ease of day spa. Bliss!
Considering I got to the City not long after the NYC Half Marathon, there was relatively little hustle and bustle. Although, I still get irrate with the constant tooting of horns, that just seem so unnecessary. In fact, I began to wonder if New York drivers purchase their vehicles with a warranty that allows for free horn replacement, they get on them that regularly. It’s almost like drivers feel they have a reputation to fall in line with. *sighs* I’m looking forward to leaving the tri-state rat race.
Coming down 10th Avenue, I spotted Matthew outside on the sidewalk. I was amazed that, 20+ years later, I was able to spot my old friend, just from his shape and size, amid the multiple bodies around him and, as I stopped at the light, it was good to bring that institutional British mode of conversation into play. The headlight flash!
Have you ever asked yourself how some of our local methods of communication work? It was an almost ecstatic feeling, knowing that he would be looking for flashing headlights. Usually, on America’s roads, I’ll flash my headlights and become frustrated because the recipient of my communication just cannot fathom the situation but here we were. Separated by about 100m, me in traffic, him swarmed by bodies but we knew exactly what was going on. I almost felt like I was back home, in London!
A swift, seamless transition took place as Matt jogged to the car, threw his bag in the back seat and got in the passenger seat, seemingly unrushed, in time for us to pull away with the ensuing green light. Manchester City were playing Liverpool so there was a quick decision made to watch it at the River Dock Cafe on Staten Island. The terminal was 4 miles away and it took us 29 New York minutes (Where the 29 stays at 29 for, what seems like, the next 29 minutes!) to reach the car park.
Reaching the car park, I was quickly confronted with the hustlers, who swore they could give us the best deal for much cheaper. It’s pretty impressive how these guys go from posing as your best friend to really not giving two flying monkey’s uncles about you or your life when you’re not needing their service or choose not to hand over that dollar. It’s something that I’ve seen doesn’t really exist away from the tri-state area. This need to obtain what you want by getting someone else to do it for you, with a willingness to discard any personal interaction or relationship when the situation isn’t right for you. It’s pretty sad really. Since when did we become a society that is so driven by the making of money that we are quite happy to lie and cheat others out of their own money to their face, with a damn smile?! Maybe for another blog but I’m fast learning that the American ‘Dream’ seems to cost a lot of money and seems to lack in a lot of Love. I’m going to go ahead and leave that dream to one side while I seek to Love those that I come across. Decorative paper in my wallet and digits on my screen, when I open my bank app, have become significant to me but not important enough for me to obtain at the loss of Love for someone else. There seems to be a massive difference in the levels of happiness achievable and experienced when one values relationships, while keeping costs down. As opposed to those achieved and experienced for the sole expansion of that ‘dream’ and that dollar. The riddance of care for relationships in the process leaves one to experience their financial achievements in relative loneliness, I find. There is only so much happiness found in relationships based on the money and success you have.
We may have seamlessly reconnected after our extended hiatus from each other’s presence but, 22 years of physical separation brings with it much conversation. There was a distinct blur of catching up in the period of time we spent driving to the terminal and then boarding the ferry. Topics and their assigned words spilled out in excitement as “How’s the family?” became “How’s life?” became “How’s this mutual friend we both haven’t seen in ages?” became football became Arsenal’s woes on the field and a myriad of other lines of conversation. There was a constant smile and the one or two moments of silence lacked the awkwardness one may have expected could happen. As we discussed Matt’s travel plans for the future, we boarded the ferry, cracked open a beer and took a quick selfie!
I’ve not taken the Staten Island Ferry during the day before. I’ve only taken it later in the day so it was good to have the new experience. There was a distinct quietness in the atmosphere and the water was still. The hum of the engines beneath us provided a mechanical form of background noise that fit in with the view we had of the docks across the water. Between us and the docks stood Lady Liberty, her torch held high, seeming to attempt to make a statement that was drowned out by the skyline of New York City behind her. Maybe her message was whispered. Carried by her messenger, the quiet breeze, that flowed along the cold water surface, punctuated with seagull octaves, before being warmed and smoothed by the spring sun above, allowing it to serenade the ear. One couldn’t help but smile.
When we entered the River Dock Cafe, there was a shift away from the echoing bustle outside, to a quiet smile from the barmaid, who quickly took our order for food and drinks. There was a strange collection of customers, quietly speaking to each other, as the TVs above the bar were split between an March Madness basketball game and the game we came to see, Manchester City vs. Liverpool. Somewhat of a Chelsea fan, the score I wanted to see would be a tie. Preferably 0-0. As an avid Arsenal fan, Liverpool losing would have been a gentle respite and glimpse of hope, towards a glimpse of hope, for Matt! The game ended up finishing 1-1.
As Matt delved into his burger, letting me know how unhealthily he had eaten all week, I attempted to carve into my Alaskan salmon with a little class, as any hungry man would do! The salmon was cooked to perfection and the noodles were al dente, just as they should be. Washed down with a Blue Moon, the meal was definitely worth the cost and, without doubt, I’ll be visiting again.
After chatting on the veranda, sharing sight of the New York skyline, Matt’s visit, and our reuniting came to a close with the ferry crossing back to the City and an easy drive to JFK Airport.
I could have taken the Sunday to work, driving for UberEATS, but I’ve learned from my current relationship that making money should be a distant second importance to the cultivating of relationships. You know, we often talk about places that we consider ‘poor’ and ‘uncivilized’ without ever considering how happy these people actually are. Have you ever noticed how there is a distinct increase in unity where there is a lack of money? Even when someone is in financial need. Financial need, of someone in the ‘first world’, is a place you will find a hunger for interpersonal relationships. But we are civilized, right? Hmmmmmm…
The bible reads, in Mark 8:36, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
‘Soul’, in this scripture, refers to the life source of a man, as opposed to merely the noun that a soul could be. Soul, in this scripture could also be ‘passion’ or ‘love’. What does it profit anyone to gain the world if they lose their love, passion, desire in the process. Slaves to money live empty lives and, in this journey to Love, it’s a lifestyle I’ve been moving from, after a virtual lifetime of being a hustler for that extra money.
I still remember, from the youngest age, giving up playtime to steal porn magazines for the older guys on the estate for money to go buy sweets and comic books. Further along, I’d give up playtime to wash cars for members of my local council and I’ve nearly always had more than one job. Even if I hadn’t needed it. A working class trait, a Jamaican trait. It definitely runs deep in my veins but Love doesn’t allow us to work ourselves to the bone. Why? Because, on top of loving others, we should also love ourselves.
The more I look at Love, the more I can see how important relationships are. Whether it be with family, friends, employers, random strangers holding open doors, or offering a service from behind a cash register or food counter. Being mindful and expressing Love in these moments, continuously, enables us to live our lives happier than any amount of riches around us or sitting in a bank account.
This journey to Love is showing me that, operating from this platform, to start with, is forcing change and seeming sacrifice. In the long run, however, I’m seeing that I’m headed towards, not just being a better man, but towards being stable and, ultimately, a very happy man, with so much to offer others. Especially those close to me.