The sculpture caught my abiding attention. The heroic knight slaying a ferocious fire-breathing dragon. The courageous victor, St George, represents righteousness as he rescues a princess who was slated to become it’s next meal. The scary beast, an amalgam of an American Pershing II and a Soviet SS20 missile represents unadulterated evil – this was a gift from the former Soviet Union in 1990.
This sculpture along with many others such as the knotted gun representing gun control dotted the storied landscape during my walk from the headquarters of the United Nations out to the main plaza where the rest of the city roamed.
The last session on the first day of Open Camps had just concluded and by now hundreds of organizers and attendees were piling out of the numerous structures from this 17-acre campus.
They walked steadily and with dispatch like on a high class mission. Perhaps they wanted to lay claim on the few remaining seats at the World Bar or the Ambassador Grill at 1 Nations. A martini with a splash of olive juice would be waiting for them and there they can offer a toast to world peace.
Not privy to their secret society gatherings, my mind existed in another planet. I had booked a room at the Hampton Inn Times Square and it was my goal to check-in, disrobe from business casual and lay claim to the bigger-than-life glitter of One Times Square.
And as the participants dispersed, swallowed by the unyielding portal of this massive city, I found myself steadfastly closing in on another attendee who had gotten a head start but was busy tapping on her phone. From the distance I couldn’t make out her face, but she was slim had a shoulder-length weave and a light complexion.
Please keep straight as I briskly walked towards her… I could hear her steps now, and I had to muster the courage to steal her attention.
“Hi ya, how you doing. Did you enjoy Open Camp today?”
She looked away from her phone then up at me. There was a long pause, and I almost thought she wouldn’t say a thing.
“Oh hi, yeah it was nice – most of it was over my head though,” as she rolled her eyes “But hey I enjoyed the synergy.”
“I know what you mean. The day was pretty intense. By the time we got to the last presentation, my head was in the clouds.”
“Tee hee hee, hopefully, we’ll both be more attentive tomorrow.”
“So do you live in Midtown?”
“Shoot, if only I could afford the rent. I live across the river in Brooklyn.”
“No doubt, so are you walking to the subway? The Williamsburg Bridge is 5 miles south you know.”
“Yeah, I’m a runner, but that’s too far for me to walk. I’m actually heading to an Asian grocery store – have to get something for my roommate.”
“Oh cool, well I love Asian food. Which one?”
“Johnny Air Mart – it’s the only Filipino store in the city”
“You’re getting on a flight to Manilla?”
“Tsss they do air freight and remittance, too.”
“Ok, so are you making some adobo, why walk two miles to get some Filipino groceries?”
“Man, you’re too nosy. Are you always like this?”
“Sometimes, feel free to slap me if I pry too much.”
“Well to answer your question. I’ve got a huge craving for Halo-halo.”
“Right on Sis,” after a long pause, trying to hold back my laughter. “Yeah, when we lived in the Philippines when I was little, I would scream and holler for the sweet taste of crushed ice mixed in evaporated milk. I would walk all over town for it back then, so I certainly would do that now.”
“So you’re a man of the world. My name is Stacy by the way.”
“Pleasure to meet you Stacy. I’m Chito and it means Amazing in Tagalog.”
Stacy gave a wide grin “Well it’s amazing to meet you.”
“Thank you, you have beautiful teeth by the way, must be from the sticky rice and coconut strips.”
“Well I must hurry up and get there. My roommate is waiting for her Halo-halo and her sweet tooth is getting quite impatient.”
“Well hope the two of you enjoy your Filipino desserts. Don’t eat too much so you can get a good night’s sleep.”
“Yes ain’t that right. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“That would be nice.” And with that I turned around and started walking towards Times Square. And the second she was out of sight, I let out a big Yelp
Visiting the UN to learn tech was enlightening, but seeing Stacy the next day would be well rad.
The next day was more productive than the first. I followed Stacy into a session on Python and even though we didn’t know the language, we got a lot out of the talk.
“So how did you make it to my session?” she inquired.
“I dunno, I was just following my gut, and next thing you know we’re in the same session together,” I responded with a devilish grin.
Open Camp is structured so that anyone can make contributions. What was cool about the auditorium was that each seat had its own microphone so volunteers didn’t have to run around to each person who had a question or comment.
There were a lot of people in the lobby just hanging out taking advantage of the fast WIFI speeds. And there were a lot of vendor tables showcasing their wares. Loved the hustle and loved seeing the collaboration.
What was cool about Open Camp was that it was free. That way everyone can have a chance to learn and contribute. Many of these speakers were also featured in other more expensive conferences like South by Southwest.
So we definitely got our money’s worth, and best of all it was free.
“So I’m glad you got a lot out of the event,” I mentioned. “Would you like to grab a bite before you head home?”
Stacy rolled her eyes. She pondered for a second “Can I trust him?”
But she was enamored by my attempt to impress her, and she decided to she would take a chance.
Knowing Stacy’s preference for Asian food, I took her to Chinatown to Toni’s Fresh Rice Noodles ,a hole in the wall that is embraced by the locals.
Stacy had never tried cheung fun – rolled rice noodles. The fresh rice rolls are silk smooth and made to order. But given her predilection for halo halo and exotic street food, I knew it would appeal to her liking.
At first Stacy wasn’t sure that a dish for less than $5 would be filling, but she soon was introduced to the essence of Cantonese food.
I only spent $15 on two rice noodles, fish bowls and tea eggs.
Stacy liked it, she ate like a native and I knew this girl could hang.