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Friday, February 6, 2015

Cultivating Our Impractical Sides

Pathway in East York. Toronto, Canada
Pathway in East York. Toronto, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Venus Over New York
Venus Over New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Times Square, New York at night
Times Square, New York at night (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
High Falls, Rochester New York, at night
High Falls, Rochester New York, at night (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some part of me is told in this article...


Bill Hayes saw a girl on a Manhattan-bound subway train one day recently and noticed she was reading a book with a title along the lines of “Becoming a Practical Thinker.”

“I had an impulse to tear the book from her hands,” Mr. Hayes wrote in The Times. “Don’t do that,” I wanted to say.” Practicality will not get you where you want to go.”

His own experience serves as a guide. He recalled when he first arrived in New York City, he hopped on a train headed for Far Rockaway, which as any New Yorker will tell you is the opposite direction from Manhattan.

“But taking wrong trains, encountering unexpected delays and suffering occasional mechanical breakdowns is inevitable to any journey really worth taking,” Mr. Hayes wrote.

His career move at age 48 – coming to New York City to try to make a life as a writer – revealed his impractical side. And the more he cultivated that side, he said, the better off he was.

“Every life-altering decision I’ve ever made has seemed, at first blush, misguided, misjudged or plain foolish,” he wrote, “and ultimately turned out to be the opposite: every seemingly wrong person I’ve fallen for, every big trip I’ve splurged on, every great apartment taken that I could not realistically afford.”

The notion of what is practical, for something as simple as lunch, depends on where you sit. Or work. The media business in New York conducts its affairs over power lunches at Midtown restaurants like Michael’s or the Four Seasons. But for new media companies, influenced by the business ethos of Silicon Valley, a sit-down lunch feels too formal.

When Kanyi Maqubela, a partner at Collaborative Fund, decided to invest $500,000 in an education start-up, he met with its founder over food truck pizza in San Francisco, took a walk and sat at an outdoor plaza.

Lunch at a restaurant would be impractical, Mr. Maqubela said. “It’s harder to pull out a computer and go through an investment deck and a slide show,” he told The Times. The entire meeting lasted about 45 minutes.

For transportation in New York, you can’t get much more impractical than a Citroen, as the cars have all but disappeared from the area. But Brian Brandt, who owns a record label for contemporary classic and jazz composers, has been driving Citroens for 40 years, since he bought used 1966 DS for $300 when he was 17.

A few years ago, Mr. Brandt decided to apprentice as a mechanic under Winsley Thomas, who worked at the company’s headquarters in Englewood, New Jersey, from 1968 until it closed in 1977. Local Citroen owners bring their garage work, but it’s not a lucrative business.

“I guess I have two impractical businesses,” Mr. Brandt told The Times.” There’s such a lack of return in the record industry, but I still enjoy setting up recording sessions in concert halls.”

Like a lot of baby boomers, Kevin Monko, 58, once dreamed of playing music for a living. Life’s practicalities intervened, in the form of a job as a commercial photographer, a wife, children and a move to the suburbs. But on a recent weekend, he was playing guitar at a farmers market outside Philadelphia.

Mr. Monko has recorded a CD and along with a rotating group of mandolin players and trombonists, plays various gigs.

“When I am playing music, I can’t get much happier,” he told The Times. “I am lucky enough to get people to play with me in a variety of bands, and we go play in different places, make a little money, and just have a lot of fun.”

Taken from TODAY Saturday Edition, The New York Times International Weekly, 31 January 2015