Thursday, April 30, 2015

Joining In: Getting Even More Social

Right before I dove into the black hole, the pitch--dark hole of Tribeca Film Festival that is for the past two weeks (believe me, I'm actually not complaining)...Oh, and we'll get back to that, don't worry...

    I was introduced by a friend to the New York Social Network, that happened to be hosting an event one night. Immediately, I thought, "OK, cheesy. I don't need an organization to set me up with any lame name-tag-wearing events where we play 'getting to know one another games.'" No thanks, I'll pass on those. I experienced my share of awkward middle school dances, and I didn't feel like reliving them in my late twenties.

    I didn't attend that particular event, but I began perusing the NYSN website. Once I saw the lineup, and I chose an upcoming event to try out, I realized that this organization is completely different. Truly, no cheese (except for the delicious kind on appetizer trays at their happy hours). They offer a packed weekly and monthly schedule of an array of activities: from hiking and walking tours to rotating Indian dinners and after-work rooftop drinks, you can find something that either challenges you to transition out of your comfort zone or an activity that aligns with your schedule and interests.

    So, the event that I chose--let's just say that I had no real clue what I was actually attending. Described as a subway and station tour/flashmob, I feel like I might have skimmed over the meaning of "flashmob." Clearly, I have selective sight and hearing. I assumed we'd be riding the subway, socializing, and gaining some insight on some hidden and overlooked curiosities of what is normally our mundane, occasionally function transportation system that is all too often a source of frustration and big, fat sucker of your time and patience. If you had any to begin with on a Monday morning commute.

    It took place on a Saturday night, and the meeting/check-in location was at a midtown pub. It was packed. Some people imbibed heavily before the tour began, others looked freshly eighteen and took selfies for thirty minutes. You were given headphones, and I realized that this tour would be incorporated with a "silent" group dance party. I've heard of these "Quiet Events," where you don huge earphones and typically, just dance. At "Quiet Clubbing" events, multiple DJs often play, and you can switch between them by clicking a button on your headphones. The color displayed on the outside lets you know what someone else is listening to, so perhaps, you both can get on the same channel and groove in sync. Hilarious premise, but it's a "thing," apparently. Anyway, this experience would be similar. Our tour guides led and backed about two hundred of us, quiet dancing machines, down into the crowded New York subway system. The tour guide would interject with notable bits of history...and to also instruct fellow subway goers to dance right along with our group. We freestyled in the middle of Penn Station, in packed subway cars, downtown Fulton Center, and everywhere in between. People either took our photos and boogied down with us, laughing, or they found us very intrusive and irritating. I get it. You're in a hurry. You're tired. We're an enormous group of dancing people invading your personal space. I probably would have given us the side eye too.

    Many abandoned, obsolete underground subway stations still exist in New York, and I've always been intrigued by these capsuled, untouched pieces of monumental NYC history, but a revolution in mass transportation that's respected worldwide. Most, or truly, all of these are inaccessible to the public. The widely known, "crown in the jewel" City Hall station, though, provides tours a few times a year to the member of the New York Transit Museum, but that's all, folks. It can be briefly seen, though, when taking the 6 train from its last stop at Brooklyn Bridge downtown as the train wraps around to begin is ascent uptown. Note: Do not sit at the very front of the train, and grab a seat or stand very close to the right side windows. It's eerie. I've been planning to make this short little ride for quite some time now, but simply never did...until this flash mob tour. So, one more checked off my New York to do & to see list. The stunning City Hall station (just see the photos below!) features skylights, chandeliers, shockingly meticulous tilework, and more. Due to the expansion of the subway line, the station's usage declined. It was boarded up in 1945. Thank goodness, though, that its existence and architectural beauty has been exposed once again by those who care about preserving the memory of the New York transit system as well as historical landmarks. Viewing this station, nose up against the window, proved to be a major highlight of the whole night's excursion for me, personally.

    As for the finale of the flash mob tour? We emerged from the underground world and began walking and dancing through the streets of Manhattan. We crowd the evening with some freestyle dancing in Times Square and congo line of about three hundred people--yes, we added a few willing tourists who were more than happy to join in. Hey, it was a great photo opportunity.

    After returning the headphones at yes, one of those "Quiet Club" events, where we were all invited to remain for drinks and more dancing (whew! tired much?), I chose to head home. It was midnight. I didn't drink, but I enjoyed myself. In a city where you base many relationships--from work to romantic to friendships--on culinary and cocktail adventures, it felt a bit uncomfortable but good to spend a night doing something different.

All in all, I realized that I may not be too cool to dance. Cue Eden XO's smash single. 

I'll be participating in more events. Tonight, with the New York Social Network, I'm going to a taping of the The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. 

I guess, my point is, get out there. Whether you're in New York or not, there are plenty of social organizations. We could all use a little shove out of our normal routines. 

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