Reality Check

This past Sunday, almost a week ago and before Sandy happened, I said I wanted to go to this new Korean restaurant Gaonnuri. I was craving Korean food because I missed my mom’s cooking and wasn’t with my family during this week. I also thought it would be interesting to go to a restaurant that was located basically in the middle of the divide between uptown and downtown manhattan. Besides, I’m a sucker for a great view. When I checked to see if it was open, I saw their most recent facebook post: “Hope everyone is coping well with aftermath of hurricane Sandy. We will be open from dinner today in efforts of resuming back to normal. Cheer up everyone and our best prayers are with all those have been directly and indirectly affected by this monstrous storm.”

So, if there was one thing I was going to do today, it was going to Gaonnuri.

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view from the top

I got my morning newspapers (leave it to NYTimes to always be there) and it looked like what was going to be a good day. Wherever I walked though, everyone around me looked so sad and blah but I was determined to stay positive hoping it would be infectious to those around me.

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The sun was being shy and hiding behind the clouds but then it finally peeked out a bit. As I walked around the east side and up lexington/park in the 30’s I was suprised to see that these buildings were out of power too which made me feel even more lucky.

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The chrysler building looking absolutely beautiful despite it all

I grabbed breakfast, stopped by Barnes and Noble and walked by a bunch of dark stores because anything under about 34th street on the east side was closed with handwritten paper signs with either apologies or instructions to another nearby location.

Once Halloween ends, the holiday season is supposed to be officially “here”. But I went to Bryant Park and although the holiday shops were there, maybe a quarter were open for business and in the others the owners were organizing or cleaning up. The ice skating rink and Celsius, the restaurant with rinkside views both weren’t open when it usually looks like this.

I sat and read my papers. People came around to see if the plugs in the park were working (which they weren’t), sitting and reading like I was, or asking for money because they were (actually) homeless. A man came by saying he was a combat veteran, could he have some money. I actually was so alarmed by his disheveled appearance when I made eye contact with him that I instinctively said “no, sorry” but I made sure to be a bit more calm the next time. A couple minutes later an old woman came by asking for some spare change for her and her family and I don’t know if it was because of her feebleness but I gave her a dollar. To my surprise the guy next to me did the same.Reality Check 20

In the paper I read about all the direct and indirect effects of Sandy from the “unlikely political pair united by disaster“, an “estimate of economic losses now up to $50 billion“, to the paralyzed life at Carnegie Hall, to the makeover of puffer jackets. (click text to read ny times articles mentioned). I don’t think I’ve ever read the NY times so thoroughly as I did today.

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looking up from Bryant park

Heading towards Gaonnuri/ktown, tourists were still milling about, shopping, negotiating prices for tours of the Empire State Building and coffeeshops were packed with people charging their phones/doing work. Ktown was busy as it was not very affected and people populated the restaurants especially during lunch time.

I headed up to the 39th floor to Gaonnuri and got seated near the window, which was easy since many people were not there anyway. I made friends with my waiter who explained that it had been a bit slow since they reopened like the facebook post mentioned. Regardless, the view took my breath away. Gaonnuri translates into “the center of the world” and it really felt like it: it was surreal.

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no editing necessary

I ordered the Kalbi and Daenjang Jiggae, which was not only recommended by Arom my waiter but exactly what I was craving. Not only was it pretty delicious, it brought back such great memories.

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Throughout the whole meal though, I was just imagining seeing the same view at night where the lower half of Manhattan would be shrouded in darkness. All those buildings I saw were filled with people- families, elderly, kids, businesses…

As beautiful and breathtaking as it was, it was equally heartbreaking. Needless to say, I was thankful for a great meal, great view and great service.

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the empire state building on the left- so close!

I was brought down to reality just as quickly as I was taken up to the 39th floor. Ran some other errands and made conversation with about 6 strangers today in an effort to be friendly and brighten their days.

“In life you can never be too kind or too fair; everyone you meet is carrying a heavy load. When you go through your day expressing kindness and courtesy to all you meet, you leave behind a feeling of warmth and good cheer, and you help alleviate the burdens everyone is struggling with.”- Brian Tracy

On any other day I’d usually go for a run along the Hudson River but today I decided to walk. It was foolish to think that all of lower manhattan was experiencing the same thing as what I saw yesterday. Today, when I walked the route I always run through-the one I took for granted- it was the same story but different chapter.

You know that scene in The Notebook where Noah and Allie lay down in the street? You could have done that where I walked today and no cars would have come by for quite some time. The highline (one of my favorite places in New York) was closed so I walked down 10th avenue. The places I took a friend to in Chelsea that one time- brunch, the highline, chelsea markets- all were dark and closed.

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Bags of trash lined the streets, unattended fire hydrants were pumping out water, there was even a point where taxis and cars lined up for about 5 blocks. I asked the nearest policeman what that was for and he said “it’s the line for gas”. I even saw one man with empty juice and milk jugs at the fire hydrant filling them up. Sure, that would’ve been a great photo but it was too upsetting to capture on camera.

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litter on what is usually a clean chelsea street

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along the Hudson River

I snuck past the gates that were blocking the entrance to the path alongside the river only to see very few other people. Even fewer running, I guess for a sense of normalcy. Bikers were there and some couples were walking enjoying what was a beautiful view of Jersey.

I walked down West street all the way down to Morton Street which I believe is Greenwich Village. Crossing was difficult as the cars just kept going with no traffic light to stop them on the west side highway.

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Again, if there were people, they were wheeling their life in suitcases/bags. I even saw some girl holding her belonging in a bucket as she was getting interviewed by NY1. Some storeowners came by to check up on their businesses. Overheard someone saying “I can’t wait to get electricity tomorrow.” I read that in the newspaper earlier and i’m hoping at least power will be restored as reported by Saturday.

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Meatpacking was completely quiet. You can forget about brunch here this weekend. Pastis, Dos Caminos, Gaslight, the Apple Store, Sephora, Spice Market and any other restaurant/store that would otherwise be packed and booked was closed with only the cobblestone paths the same as before.The Boom Boom Room at the Standard hotel was just a room with not so much boom.

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meatpacking district deserted

I also passed the building where the facade had collapsed. It’s one thing to hear/see it on the news and another to see it in person.

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one of these things is not like the other

Another thing I noticed today, was that even though some people were obviously homeless/in the dark for the time being they didn’t look it for the most part. I saw girls with makeup on their faces, their designer bag in tow and an outfit that was equally comfy as it was fashionable all the while hailing a cab and holding a duffel bag.

If tropical storm Irene last year was an eye-opener, Hurricane Sandy was a reality check. It’ll be interesting to see how all will resume once power comes back and a sense of normalcy is restored. Will Sandy bring people together and bring a sense of solidarity or will it drive people apart in separate efforts to ensure survival? Will people buy along the once highly coveted waterfront? Is something like this going to happen again? How will this effect the election? These are some questions I can’t help but wonder. I am especially curious as to how people will dress/how recent events will be reflected in fashion, a cultural barometer.

A friend of mind recently posted a status that read: “I’m starting to think that most of our efforts should be invested towards not changing the world but instead keeping ourselves from being changed by the world. Only then could we hope to perchance change the world”

I can’t really offer a practical reason for why I walked basically all of Manhattan within the past week in the cold, especially into the depths of downtown away from my cozy warm place when I didn’t have to. But I do have to say that I don’t regret reading/seeing any of it. Instead of it depressing me, I am doing all I can with the information and awareness I’ve gained because I know it can always be that much better but it also can be so much worse. I’m also encouraged by the other articles I’ve been reading and am convinced this past week will make me a better entrepreneur and person. Besides this article that mentions the role of empathy in leadership, this article I read yesterday describes traits of an successful Entrepreneur.

“Optimism:  Optimism is looking at any event and seeing the positives rather than the things that will hinder progress. It is the absolute ideal that leads to achievement as nothing can be done without hope. Therefore, it is the very essence of success. An Entrepreneur with optimism is always looking for ways to make things better. Rather than focusing on what hasn’t worked, they will diligently search for an answer that will work.

Creativity -Can you think outside the box? Can you try what has never been done? Dare to be different! Sometimes, imagination trumps knowledge! While it is true, there is risk with being creative; it is also true that doing the same thing expecting a different outcome is a certainty to failure.

Risk Taker – Having the courage to step out into the unknown. It is the entrepreneurial, risk taking spirit that ventured into uncharted waters. It takes people who are genuinely creative and willing to risk, to break in to new markets and race out ahead of those who will realize a new path has been blazed and follows suit.

Energetic – Having the drive to reach the finish line no matter what it takes!  They do not get caught up in the mental and emotional blocks that often halt the lesser inclined. They have a passion for performance that is always brought into everything they do. Tie that to creativity and an ability to take a risk and it is no wonder that those with all three traits delve ahead of the pack.

Charismatic – That certain magic glistening in the eyes and the ability to convey enchanting words that hold a convincing power no one can resist. It is amazing but charisma will often take one farther than knowledge. These individuals appear competent, powerful and determined. Charisma is such an important quality, and yes, it can be developed. Bottom line, charisma in terms of a business asset has to do with how well one can influence others by connecting with them.

Optimism, Creativity, Risk-taking, Energy and Charisma. The uplifting point is that each of these can be developed and learned. Choose the weakest one and begin to strengthen it. By living today, just a little better then yesterday, each of us can strive towards the goal of leaving our mark on the world and being someone that left it just a little better then we entered it.”

I overheard a couple earlier and caught “Gives me motivation! Inspiration!” from their conversation. Not sure what they were talking about but in spite of everything, I have renewed motivation and inspiration. I smiled as they proceeded to walk away together, laughing, very much in love, making sure that the other wasn’t going to be hit by cars as they were crossing the street.

I certainly can’t change the world but I can keep myself from being changed by the world. I think it’s up to those who were unaffected, barely affected, or plain unaware or in denial to make sure that the spirit of this wonderful city does not dwindle and that the future of the city remains bright. Even though it will be challenging, I’ll be doing my best to spread beauty, inspiration and kindness. I hope you’ll do the same.

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Thank you to all the police officers who have been so helpful in helping direct the traffic. The volunteers, ConEd, Red Cross, the Mayor’s Office, everyone who has been productively and proactively helping the city recover in whatever way possible. NY times has also been an amazing wealth of information: click here for continued (live) coverage and updates.

Everybody has something to offer. Use your time, passion, skills and willingness to help all New Yorkers in need following Hurricane Sandy. Help, donate or volunteer at: NYC serviceRed Cross. or donate blood at:

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