The great explores have always said if you want to truly explore use your feet and walk.
I recently took a quick trip to meet with a now friend about A HUMAN PROJECT. The meeting was a huge success and much will be coming from that meeting, but as amazing as the meeting was, it was the journey to the meeting that inspired me.
Let me give you some background. On April 30th at 9PM I flew from Las Vegas to New York’s JFK airport. My arrival time? 5:45AM local time. My day to Las Vegas had started at 5AM and I do not sleep on planes. So needless to say I was tired, but not sleepy when I landed in New York. It was now May 1st and I had till 1:00PM local time till my meeting. I checked into my hotel just blocks from the JFK airport ( thanks Expedia for the great pictures of the hotel, they were very well photoshopped ) and thought I would get some shut eye.
I was so full of anticipation. I was about to meet with an idol, a man that could single handling springboard A HUMAN PROJECT to new heights. I felt pressure to make sure I explained everything simply, quickly and with purpose. I had a 30 min meeting and I needed every minute to count. I started to get nervous. Sleeping was not an option. I called for a taxi/town car and was just going to head to the city. I had hours before my meeting, but thought I could get a couple touristy things in before the meeting.
Now about 7:00AM I hopped into the car and was headed to New York City. Something didn’t feel right. Something was bugging me. I asked the car to stop and let me out. I was going to get to New York in a more traditional way. I googled the route, 1 hour 45 mins via bus and subway. The driver was nervous to let me out. “You will be the only white boy in the area. It isn’t your type of area.” Well that just motivated me more. “It will be ok, need to go with my gut here.”
So just as quickly as I jumped in, I popped out of the car. It didn’t take long to figure out I wasn’t in my “element”, but something felt calming about it. Now before I took on this journey I knew I needed some wings, so I found a gas station and got a Redbull ( which gave me wings) and in that act met my first new friend on my trek. Bernard, my homeless preacher. Now I was wearing jeans, my I AM HUMAN t-shirt and a zip up hoodie. I had a back pack on and converse shoes. Why is this important? You will see.
Bernard came up behind me, saw that I had cash and said, “Good morning sir.” “Hello!” I replied. Bernard stood there. Looking at me with a puzzled look in his eyes. I replied again, “Hello sir.” “You aren’t going to judge me or be scared of me?” Bernard looked confused and stunned. “Nope, you said good morning, I said Hello. So how can I help you?” Bernard began to tell me his story. What he wanted and how he wanted to get to the city and maybe there he could find a job and hope. We talked about the bible, about God and about being HUMAN! He kept pointing to my shirt saying, “I AM HUMAN” I love that! Then he saw it, “I AM U!” He and I talked and then he asked if I could help him get to the city. “Of-course I can Bernard, but I know you like your liquor.” I could smell it on him heavy. “Yes I do, it keeps me warm at night.” he replied jokingly. “You know what else keeps you warm at night? A woman.” His laugh was rich and full of life. “And do you know how to get a woman? By getting a job! Lets get you working and warm!”
Bernard and I said our goodbyes as I gave him a few dollars and challenged him to find a new way to get warm at night. As I walked away Bernard yelled across the gas station lot, “Wes you are HUMAN, God bless you.” I carried on my journey, found my bus stop and hopped onto the bus. Only to find out I had gotten on the wrong bus going the wrong way! The bus driver laughed and let me off at the right stop and directed me to the right bus. This cost me about 15 minutes and my talk with Bernard had slowed me down as well. But no worries I had HOURS to get there. It didn’t take long for me to meet my next friend. An old man who had been waiting for the bus for the past 20 mins. He and I chatted about life, the weather and late buses. He looked at me and said, “I AM HUMAN” I like that. I looked at him and said, “I AM U”. He laughed and we both stood there just talking about nothing at all and everything that mattered at that moment. Up pulled our bus and as I got on I started to notice I truly was the only “white boy” there. I didn’t feel that way, I wasn’t focused on the skin, I was focused on the people.
The bus ride was fairly quick and dropped us all off at the entrance to the subway. I will be the first to admit I am not a subway genius nor have I ridden the New York subway more than one time. So this was quickly going to be an adventure. I had my phone and I had GPS so nothing really could go that wrong, right? RIGHT! Minus the fact that 30 feet of concrete makes GPS not work so well. First step; get a metro pass. Ok simple. Nope. Many options and I don’t do so well options. Lucky for me I met my next friend. One that could see a “white boy” in need and helped me get to the right metro machine and helped me get the right pass. We laughed and joked about “tourists” and then he started to walk off, but first he pointed and said, “I AM HUMAN, I AM U. I like that.” I smiled, “Thank you!” I almost shouted. I was set and passed through the gates ready for my subway journey! Now I needed to find the right subway. Lets pull out my phone and see what number I am supposed to get on, “E”. Okay simple enough, lets just put this phone away for now, I will look at the rest of the directions once I am safely on the “E”.
I hopped on the “E” and away we went. I pulled my phone out of my pocket only to realize, no sleep, travel, not eating well had caught up to my brain. “No Service” showed up in the left hand corner of my phone. “Well” I thought this is interesting. Let me see if I put the address somewhere and I can ask people how to get there. “Park Ave”. Yep that is all I had written in my notes.
No big deal how many “Park Ave” could there be in New York City? Now completely confident in my navigation details I began to chat with people again. The first person I saw was a younger looking man that seemed quiet and shy. After a few moments of bouncing around on the subway I approached him. “You know where Park Ave is in New York?” I asked. “Yes just get off at the World Trade Center exit”. See that was easy. Now with that out of the way I asked him where he was headed. “I AM HUMAN” he read out loud. “I am headed to school.” He replied. “Awesome which school.” I now had a new conversation going! “A university downtown.” “What are you studying?” His shyness was a bit difficult to get past, but then; “Robotics.” He replied almost as if to get me to leave him alone. He didn’t know me too well, but you just told a Trekkie you are building robots! I was sold! BEST FRIENDS FOREVER! He and I talked for 3 or 4 stops and he asked me what “I AM HUMAN” is all about. I was able to tell him all about A HUMAN PROJECT and our mission. He opened up to me about a few things from his childhood and then said he would take a look at the website as he had to jump off the subway for class. My robotic friend was off to build his “DATA” and take over the world! As the doors shut I yelled to him, “Don’t build any robots that will kill me!” A nerdy thing to say, but his reply, “I will only build ones that help us HUMANS!”
I stood there feeling like a total geek and loving it. A huge smile came over my face. Only about 45 more mins and I would be at my stop. My journey through New York was amazing. The people were just plain out awesome. I met a carpenter, a young woman from Peru who was in USA for the first time to go to school with all her belongings in ONE bag. I met Brazilians that were on there way back to Brazil to get things ready for the World Cup. I met a man that had spent the last 10 years helping to rebuild the World Trade Center ( he had some great stories ) and I met the cutest little blonde baby! All of this was amazing, but my stop was coming up and I had to exit the subway. Full of life and excitement I looked at my watch, one hour to spare! I had an entire hour and I was only a few blocks from my meeting. I could get something to eat, relax, strike up another convo or just plan sit and people watch. The world was mine for the taking. As I got out of the subway I opened up my maps and had GPS again. “45 mins to destination.” WHAT!!!!!!??? Yep you see there are many Park Ave in New York, many. Well this time I was tempted to walk, nope 1.5 hours walking. Back to the subway I went, this time with screen shots of the route and knowing all the stops I had to make. ( see I learn )
They say that everything happens for a reason right? Well they say that because it does. I hopped onto the subway getting ready for my 30 min ride BACK in the direction I had just come from and well magic happened.
For the last month besides embarking on, A HUMAN PROJECT I have been learning the guitar. I have also been telling the children I speak to that learning how to play HURTS. My fingers are bleeding, my hands are killing me and even my fingernails are all messed up! But I use this to show them that sometimes life hurts and if we just give up on life we can never jam. We can never jam with super stars like Dave Matthews or John Mayer. That you have to fight through the pain, but once you do it can all be worth it. I tell them that I dream of some day playing on a stage ( even for one moment ) with John Mayer, Jason Marz or even the great Dave Matthews. Well my friends my trip inside New York was about to take a very personal turn.
The last person I met on the subway was a nice young man. His name, Bryan. Bryan and I started talking and he told me he had just come from Australia. Me being the curious one that I am, asked why he was in Australia. He told me he was a band tour manager and that a band he works with was down there on tour. “How awesome, any band I would know?” He seemed embarrassed to tell me so I let it go.
We talked for another 10 or so minutes as he told me about his life and working with bands. Then like a little annoying toddler I asked him again, “So what bands are they?” He laughed and said, “Well it is really just one band. Not sure if you have heard of it,” he was about to crack and tell me, “Dave Matthews Band?” HAVE I HEARD OF IT??? What do you think I live under a rock in the middle of Mars??? “WHAT?” I carefully hid my excitement. Ok not too carefully. “Yes Dave and the band were in Australia for a few weeks.” I then told him about how I have been talking about Dave Matthews ( I can’t call him “Dave” yet ) and more about my work with children. He handed me his business card, told me to reach out and he would talk with everyone to see how they can help with A HUMAN PROJECT. “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” As he jumped off the subway I just stood there not knowing whether to cry or hit my knees in prayer. My journey inside New York had not only been full of amazing stories it had been even more affirmation that my life journey and A HUMAN PROJECT was the right path. That everything in life truly does happen for a reason. From Bernard to Bryan I was supposed to travel to New York City on a bus. I was supposed to get on the wrong bus, take the wrong exits and miss exits. I was supposed to be there.
I was 1 min early for my meeting and was even able to stop and get ice cream for Gary ( that is another story ). The meeting went beyond amazing and was well worth the 24 hour trip. Yet the trip some 50 miles or 4 hours depending how you travel, ( joke you may laugh there ) to Gary’s office, was the real meeting(s) for me. As I left Gary’s office my body began to remind me about the basics, you know; water, food and sleep. I knew I only had a few hours left before my body would give out so I grabbed a salad and headed back, headed back to the hotel for my early morning flight. Now if you thought the journey to Gary’s office was amazing, just wait till you hear about the journey back to my hotel!