This was the first time I've ever been to NYC. Born and raised in California, it's actually hard for me to fathom a lifestyle that is so uniquely distinct from the one I've lived within for so long. In many ways and unlike most other cities, it literally lives up to its legend. For context, I came here for two reasons: visit my girlfriend who's working on her PhD at the Teachers College of Columbia University and check in on some old friends from the days back in Houston. My days typically began somewhere in Manhattan -- around the Columbia campus -- and branched out to one of the other neighborhoods throughout the rest of the day.
First thing I noticed. The subway is humid and gross as fuck but public transportation is the only way to go here. The MTA isn't luxurious in any way at all, but don't get me wrong -- its accessibility is impressive. I made me realize how overpriced and unhelpful the Caltrain and BART system is back in the Bay Area. The first few days I was in NYC, the weather was horrendous. I don't do great in the heat, but humidity straight up kills me. Being in close proximity to everyone else in a small subway didn't help.
Going to the different neighborhoods, I was surprised at how old the buildings were -- or at least, how old each of them looked. Don't judge me. I grew up in California. All our shit is new. (Also, because of earthquakes) rustic red brick buildings are a strange sight to me. This all made the interiors stand out to me even more than they would because the more affluent occupants definitely upgraded the interior. That leads to the other topic I noticed: while the Bay Area is a poster image right now for it, there is some serious gentrification going on right now. Good or bad -- I'm still confused about how I feel on the topic, especially being a perpetrator myself -- it was strange to walk in a completely Puerto Rican neighborhood in Brooklyn with a O'Douds shop.
The last topic I wanted to reflect on the city is a heavier one. Coming from Silicon Valley, the Bay Area, San Francisco, or whatever you want to call it, I live in a bubble. There are upsides and downsides, but what caught my attention here was definitely not an upside. We are so fucking unbelievably disconnected from the rest of the world. The lifestyle I experience in NYC kinda forces one to cross paths and interact with others who exist within a completely different socioeconomic sphere.
After the first day while riding the subway, I thought to myself, "These people don't give a fuck about what app you're developing or how you're going to disrupt shit with your stupid startup idea." The conversations in a NYC coffee shop versus a SF coffee shop could not have been any more different from one another. In NYC -- even in a more affluent area -- people talked about normal shit. Their day. Current drama with friends and family. Somewhere good they dined recently. But in SF, people are talking about their signing bonus. How much Tod is making at his new startup. Or my personal favorite: how they're so busy that they drink Soylent.
Don't get me wrong. I reap from all this wealth here in the Bay. In many ways, I am biting the hand that feeds me. However, I just wanted to say that NYC was a strong (and important) reminder that my daily life is not representative of the rest of the world -- and if I'm to design change into this world, then I need to understand where everyone is at. Not just my particular bubble is at.
On a lighter note, bagels and cookies were no exaggeration. They are multitudes better than what we have in California, but our coffee is better. I mean we have more local roasters, and they tend to be more skilled at the craft. It was disappointing how much of a struggle it was to find a pour over coffee. Central America food that is not Mexican was more widely available, and I loved that shit. The amount of flavor overlap between Southeast Asian food and Central America food always surprises me (in a very good way), but it makes so much sense. Also, African foods were much more diverse than what we have in California. Plus, they are also so much better than others I've tried.
On average, people are better dressed in Southern California than NYC as a whole, but the people rolling through East Village and SoHo are flexing way harder than counterparts in DTLA. I have to admit that. I'm not even considering San Francisco because wearing your startup quarter zip is not a style -- it's just irrelevant. East Village and SoHo also captures a wider range of fashion from the hypest hypebeast to the fucking epitome of sufu.
I don't think I could ever live long-term in NYC. It's not for me. But, that's not to say I can't respect and admire the beauty this city has.
Of course, I had to take advantage of the time out here to visit some old friends from our days back in Houston. I met up with Clayton in his new laboratory in Brooklyn. And no lie, it is a fucking lab. This dude has dedicated so much love to O'Douds, and it can be seen in how much this business has grown. I remembered the first day I visited the dude in his spot across the street from Baby Barnaby's Cafe in Montrose to make The Pomade. I thought it would only be fitting to use this meet up to collaborate on something new. Not a pomade this time, but something completely new for us.
We're familiar enough with pomades that corresponding over email works well to formulate something cool, but being able to talk in person opened new doors because we needed to talk theory. It wasn't a conversation on implementation (i.e. hold, slickness, texture, etc.) but rather, it was a discussion on theory (i.e. material solubilities, emulsion stability, water contact angles, etc.). Basically, it was workshop that could have only been successful in-person. We still have many dials and knobs to turn, but we believe we're on the right path to make something pretty fucking awesome.
Also, I was able to catch up with dat boi Rocky -- former man behind Rustin Pomade Co. I'm happy to say he's living out his true passion in the fashion game.