Lost In Brooklyn

In March 2017 I was working for the New York International Children’s Film Festival. As a children’s film festival, the festival dates were over four weekends rather than during the week. At the time I was living in Connecticut and commuting on weekdays. So I did what I could to find places to sleep in The City on the weekends when I would be working 12 hour days during the festival.

It was the second weekend of the festival and I had made arrangements to stay at an airbnb a friend recommended to me in Brooklyn. The festival day came and went and around 7pm I was finally leaving the theater in Chelsea and heading to Brooklyn. Of course as I was exiting the theater my phone dies while I’m reading my gps directions. I had looked up the directions earlier in the day quite a few times and it was supposed to be a straight shot on the L. I felt confident that I remembered the stop I needed to get off at and the street address was 343 McKibbon Street, and supposedly right across the street from the subway stop.

If you know me personally, you know I have a horrible sense of direction. Why I thought I could successfully make it to Brooklyn without even a physical map in my hands I do not know. Why I did not just buy a new phone cord to charge my phone with the battery pack I had in my backpack when my phone initially died, I do not know. However if I had second guessed myself in the beginning then the middle and end of this adventure would never have happened.

Anyways I got on the L and believed I needed to get off on Graham Avenue. I arrived, stepping above ground and onto the street. The sun had officially gone down and it was now a dark cold night. I’m talking 10 degrees cold, with a windchill. No amount of layers could keep you even slightly warm. I looked around Graham Ave and felt a sense of abandonment from the buildings around me. Thinking this can’t be right, there are supposed to be restaurants and other businesses surrounding the building of the airbnb.

This was also when I realized the last time I ate was nearly 8 hours ago. I noticed lights on down the street inside a shop that I hoped was some sort of convenience store where I could buy a cord to charge my phone, and snacks to fill my stomach. I wandered down the street and to my dismay it’s a late night laundry mat. BUT to my relief across the street was what appeared to be a sandwich shop.

This shop was the definition of “hole in the wall”. The front door alone could not stay closed due to the wind and kept blowing open. The shop is comparable to the size of a restroom at a fancy restaurant bathroom. The walls were lined with a bar and bar stools, a sign declaring cash only sat taped in front of the register but an ATM sat in the corner by the window, only one menu hung behind the register, and that was it. Simplistic would be an exaggeration in describing this shop. However, this shop immediately become a safe haven.

I ordered a sandwich, the East of Eden, and sat down to wait. I managed to find a phone cord in my backpack in which you could see the wires popping out of the white protective rubber. I tried to fiddle with it in a desperate attempt to charge my phone, but nothing. By the time my sandwich was ready, the status of my phone was the same, and food became my main concern so I decided to clear my head and worry later.

Maybe it was because I was hungry and hadn’t eaten since breakfast, but this was the best sandwich I had ever eaten. I’ve never been keen on sandwiches so when I say this sandwich was delicious and the most amazing sandwich I’d ever eaten, I mean it sincerely.

I finished my sandwich and asked the guy behind the counter for directions. Explaining to him that my phone had died but that I knew the address. He plugged the address into his phone, and it turned out I got off two stations early. Feeling slightly better that I was fairly close to my destination, I headed back to the subway.

Two stops later I arrived at Montrose subway station and took the stairs to arrive above ground onto Bushwick Avenue. I began walking down Bushwick looking for my street, McKibbon, only to be disappointed with myself. Ten minutes later nothing. I turned around, back toward the subway station, desperately searching for people or lights from businesses. Finally just passed the subway entrance, I found a convenience store. I ran in excited to feel warm air and bought a new cord for my phone. I immediately plugged my phone into my battery pack, and headed back outside to begin my search for McKibbon for a second time.

One block later, I land on McKibbin street, which appeared more like a dark abandoned alley with no streetlights, and no signs of life. I began to panic. I turned to my phone praying for signs of life, but still a black screen was all that greeted me. I searched for another possible avenue but this was it.

So I gave myself a pep talk. Reminding myself of all of the dark alleys I had walked down before and survived, the skills I learned in the Krav Maga classes I took for 6 weeks in LA, how I should never judge a book by it’s cover, and began walking down the street. Broken glass and trash lined the sidewalk. Frozen pieces of feces laid on the ground, and if my nose hadn’t been so cold there probably would have been a rank smell in the air.

I kept repeating 343 in my head scanning the buildings down the block. I passed 340 and to my dismay the next building jumped to 450. I stopped in utter disbelief, questioning my memory and beating myself up for believing I had any sort of sense of direction. I immediately headed back to the convenience store, thinking that if this is the night that I die in a sketchy alley, at least someone may hear me scream over there.

Now the only thing on my mind is where am I going to sleep. My phone is dead. I clearly do not know the address and even if I had found the correct building, I realized I did not know the apartment number so I could not get buzzed up.

Every minute I glanced at my phone hoping for salvation in the stupid tiny rectangle robot that I constantly scorn in my day to day. I think about using a payphone to call a cab, but those were chucked in the early 2000s when iphones took over the world. There weren’t even cabs driving around to hail and just say take me to the closest hotel. I was stuck, loitering outside of a convenience store that had a sign stating, “No Loitering.”

Twenty minutes had gone by and my phone was still dead and my fingers were beginning to go numb. I noticed two men heading in my direction, both with brown paper bags which had the contents of some sort of alcohol in their hands. I could hear them whispering about me so I walked closer to the light outside of the convenience store. Of course they were heading inside of the store, and as they passed me one asked if I wanted to party, while the other one laughed. I innocently smiled, thinking I had to make moves. Whether it was to get back on the subway and head home to Connecticut or to buzz the building I had found until someone let me in and I could sit in the stairwell where it was warm.

At that moment two innocent looking guys turned down my street, McKibbin street, so I followed, thinking stairwell it is! They walked past the buildings I had passed earlier and that’s when I see it. The glowing neon lights of a sign fit for a bar. The two guys I had been following found their destination at a car and I passed them with tunnel vision in full effect.

I entered the bar, and it’s tinier than the sandwich shop I had had my dinner at just an hour ago (let me also state here it’s only 9:30pm. The night is still young, but my soul is aging by the second).There’s a group of guys in front of me discussing something serious, talking over one another blocking the path to the bar. I managed my way around them with my huge backpack and made eye contact with the bartender.

The first thing out of his mouth was, “You here for the party?”

I was so surprised by the coincidence that just minutes before a bum had asked me that same question, and with the combination of my tired back and cold feet, and the adrenaline pumping from my fear that I may not find a warm place to sleep tonight, I broke down.

I dropped my backpack and let everything out to the bartender, that’s a part of their job right? I told him everything, beginning with, “I’m lost.” Explaining how I started in Chelsea, got off at the wrong subway stop, my phone died, and I had been trying to charge it for a half hour, the place I’m staying at is on this street, but I don’t know the address, and I had been outside for almost an hour, and all I wanted was to find a warm place to sit to charge my phone and possibly have a drink.

The shock in his face was more than apparent, a bit of pity was also in his eyes, and that’s when I realized I probably looked more than pathetic in his eyes. However the second statement out of his mouth was if I wanted to charge my phone from behind the bar. I jumped at the offer, thanking him profusely. He then explained to me that the bar was closed for a private party, but that he’d let me stay, and that it sounded like I needed a drink, to which I agreed.

I immediately sat down, stripping my layers off of my back and got comfortable. I ordered a whiskey and coke and he poured two shots of vodka, one for him and one for me. We cheersed to my night of getting lost and I thanked him again for being my salvation. We made small talk about the private event and my insane night until he was taken away to help prep the tech. I sat there and observed the people coming in and out of a door leading to what appeared to be a bigger and louder room. My main observation being it was all men.

At that moment a group of foreigners came inside from the street. I guess they had been invited to the party because the man in the group immediately wandered through the back door. The two women took the empty seats next to me, and my new friend the bartender took their orders. I instantly noticed their Irish accents and my heart warmed a little inside. After their drinks were made, I interrupted their conversation to ask where there they are from. Sure enough one woman was Irish and the other Scottish. I informed them that I had lived in Donegal for a summer three years ago. We began to share stories of Ireland and it’s beauty, asking one another what brought us here, I told them my long winded story and they laughed, because it is rather funny. They told me how they are on their way to Los Angeles in just two days. I jumped with excitement again, and explained that that was where I’m originally from. For the next hour we talked about sights in New York and must sees in California, and about the OJ Simpson documentary that had just won an oscar, and for a moment I had forgotten about the warm bed I had been searching for.

The bartender informed me that my phone is finally charged and displayed were two missed calls, a voice message, and text messages all from the woman from my airbnb, worried about my whereabouts. I quickly found the address, and typed it into my GPS, and the building was literally across the street from the bar. Realizing the address was 340, not 343. I left the bar thanking the bartender again for his kindness and hugging my two new friends, knowing I’d never see them again, but exclaiming that they turned my horrible night upside down into a memory I’ll always cherish.

I called the woman from the airbnb, telling her I’m downstairs and how sorry I am for being late. At this point it’s 11pm and I was supposed to arrive at 7pm.

Two French girls greeted me and let me in. I quickly explained myself telling them I had been across the street this entire time. They laughed saying it’s perfectly alright and that they’re having a party so I can relax because I’ve finally made it.

I hadn’t done much to research about this airbnb, having the recommendation from my friend I wasn’t worried. So upon entering the apartment I was slightly overwhelmed by the pyramid of shoes I was greeted with and the circus like decor. Tapestries were everywhere. Hanging off of clothes lines, thrown over the bathroom door, covering the ceiling lights. I could not count how many tapestries were in this tiny loft. I also could not tell you the color of the walls because of the wonderful artwork covering every inch of the space.

Behind the wall of shoes, I was greeted by a party. Numbers of people stood in the kitchen and the pathway that lead to a rectangle tin box which was introduced to me as my room. Inside was a cot, a lamp, and space for my belongings. I could stand up straight and have about an inch or so between the top of my head and the roof of this tin box. Granted I am five foot three so this tin box was the perfect size for my shorter body size.

At this point it was just after 11:00pm, and I had to be up at 6:00am the next morning. But there was a party going on, and I had just arrived, and I wanted to meet my hosts and thank them for their hospitality.

Finding my hosts ended up being a challenge. In the kitchen I was greeted by Bri, a resident of the loft, who had just moved in only days before from New Jersey. She instantly hugged me and asked me what my horoscope sign and who my favorite bands were. After that our conversation was endless. She told her story in that she was an aspiring actress, and currently making a documentary about people. To which she asked if she could interview me. Flattered I said yes and she showed me her corner of the loft. That was when I realized the numerous tapestries hanging in the loft were dividers for the many rooms. I soon discovered that eight people lived in the loft and a rather large dog, and a feisty cat.

Bri asked me questions about my background and the simplistic yet most difficult question you could be confronted with, “What makes you happy?” I absolutely loved her and her ideas. My interview escalated to a philosophical conversation about free will and idea of manifesting your future, and optimism verse realism. An hour later we decided we needed a smoke break.

I still had yet to meet my hosts. French and jazz music was buzzing through my ears, reminding me of my own experiences abroad. Forgetting that only two hours ago I was standing on the street in the cold, terrified and convinced I was possibly going to die.

Bri lead me outside, towards the fire escape. In the halls of the building we ran into another party of people coming inside. Without hesitation Bri introduced herself and myself and invited them to the party being held in the loft. They reciprocated an invite to their own party just down the hall. We told them we would venture over in a few.

Outside on the fire escape we met Daniel, another lost soul. He pleaded with us that he was searching for a party, but had no idea what the apartment number was, and he had three friends waiting outside for him to find it. I sympathized with him, explaining briefly of my own lost journey. We told him about the party down the hall, and gave them their apartment number. He thanked us generously and disappeared inside.

After our toke Bri and I headed inside only to run into Daniel for a second time. He informed us that that was not the party he was looking for, and they were more than unwelcoming to him and his friends. Surprised by the conflicting attitudes we had received from that same group, Bri invited Daniel, and his friends, to the party happening in her loft.

Back in the loft, Bri was more than excited to have more people to interview for her documentary. I made a point to find my hosts. Gabriella and her husband were sitting in the living room with their horse like dog resting at their feet. Gabriella greeted me in English, informing me her husband only spoke French. My tipsy soul told her that I had studied French in highschool and college and that I was enjoying hearing the accents and French language. She then started to speak French too quickly for my knowledge. She laughed at my confused face, and told me that they would be making fresh biscuits in the morning for breakfast. I had to tell her I would be leaving at 7AM, and that I would more than likely have to miss it.

Daniel and his friends, which three ended up equating to six, had arrived and the loft began to feel smaller in size but bigger in volume. Daniel’s friends ended up being a group of filmmakers studying at PACE, and one guy who lived twenty minutes away from my house in Connecticut who was just visiting his friends for the weekend. I laughed thinking this world was truly small. I told them I knew two girls who studied at PACE, not knowing how big or small the school was assuming there was no way they would know Alexis and Jessica, especially when I didn’t even know their last names, and the only descriptors that I had for them was that they were both blonde, and roommates. Sure enough they knew them.

I finally sat down to rest, and smiled at my surroundings. Reveling in the fact that this night had been one of the biggest roller coasters of my life. I had no idea when I was sitting in the hole in the wall sandwich shop that I would end up in this beautiful apartment meeting the most interesting people. I traded phone numbers with Bri and others, fully aware that I would probably never see them again, but it didn’t matter to me. My night went from tragically horrible to so beautifully wonderful. Everyone I had encountered helped me in one way or the other, whether just from their kindness or their insight. The grace and warmth I felt that night blocked out the cold I had physically felt when it had all began.