Masala-dosa - a day in life in New York
By Reza Ganjavi
I've been in New York for a couple of months - doing some computer work. And practicing guitar and working on my next CD. I am driving right now - in a car I rented for a week. Time is so short and distances are so long that I had to practice guitar while driving. Now I can drive long distances while playing guitar with both hands, steering with a leg - using cruise control. I can even change lanes and drive on George Washington Bridge while playing the guitar! Rush hour traffic - it don't matter - rain - no problem - can play chords and sing - and can play classical such as the Grand Overture. I know it's dangerous but it is not more dangerous than talking on the cell phone while driving which I hope becomes illegal in the US.
Finding a place to live has been quite a challenge. It took a lot of time and energy - and it turned out that the first place I saw was the one that I ended up getting. It was advertised on Yahoo as "musicians preferred". I have a big room in a house. 3 other people live there who have their own rooms. The main guy is a professional Jazz drummer/teacher – the other guy is an actor/guitarist - and the 3rd is a Spanish girl new to the US. The girl who's moving out is the Japanese girlfriend of the drummer who's a pianist. It's a smoke-free, clean environment. Housing is so ridiculous here - a one-bedroom apartment in New York can cost $3000. People are renting their living rooms for premium prices! Most of the Indians who are here as software engineer live in camp conditions: 5 people in 2 rooms. I've met so many interesting people while looking for a place.
A guy, Frank, whom I met yesterday, wanted to rent a room that he had to walk through to get to his living room - in a basement of a house with really low ceiling. He's a waiter, also sells cars, is an artist, and has taken a test to become an undercover drug agent. He insisted on taking me for a test drive of his Honda that he'd put an Acura engine and a big muffler in it - I drove it - loud like a race car with a small steering wheel which gives you premium control. Then he drove it with the excuse of wanting to park it – and raced like mad. A make-it-happen kind of guy - he can get insurance for cheap, and referred me to a Russian hairdresser next door who did a nice job for $6 + a surprise $2 for wash and $2 for tip.
Do I like being in America? It's not a matter of like and dislike - It was a choice-less matter - but no matter what, I cannot feel a part of the 4-wheel-cultured and its implications on the human psyche as it is so evident here. The most important thing is to have enough time to play the guitar - and I do: The other day, after a struggle, and freeway and traffic and various types of the stress of modern life, took the guitar out in the car - and even one chord - even one note - was so soothing, beautiful, therapeutic!
It is so much easier to not have a car. Now I am entering Holland Tunnel between NY and NJ - my place is in New Jersey - 20 minutes outside heart of New York. The only good thing about driving is the chance to listen to good classical music on the radio. Luckily in NY the public transport is excellent - still not as good as Europe - but you can easily get by without a car.
Went to my future home and paid the deposit and dropped off a dresser my friend with whom I've been staying gave. They're also giving me a king-size bed. Going back asked a car for the freeway - and an Indian restaurant. He said: “Newark avenue is an all-Indian street.” Happily made the left turn and saw: "DOSAEXPRESS - South Indian Vegetarian Fast Food". A parking spot was open in the front.
Samosa for an appetizer. "Sir..." he handed over the Masala Dosa dish which they all had recommended : "Take your time, enjoy!"
[Down the street from it there's an "Indian & Chinese Indian" restaurant!
The whole time driving between 3 states I play the guitar - good chance to zero in on some passages, etc. - heavy traffic/Rush hour does not bother me anymore. Can do it with or without cruise control. People sometimes look and smile. Want a photo with my website on the window. Black cop babe looking and smiling - rolled down window... 'playing music?' ya - is it illegal? 'I don't think so' - do you have internet? Here's my card and threw it in her tow truck 'no!'