Hey, I posted on Medium for the first time today, a retrospective on the XOXO Festival I attended this past weekend.
I’d like to append it here with a note of introspection. I am one of the old-school bloggers and creators that ushered in the community many years ago that, in its own winding way, led to the XOXO Festival. As I’ve noted in this space before, I’ve often been too slow to embrace my digital community in real-life settings, missing out on both the connections that I’d have made as well as the creative sparks that come from such settings.
Somehow last year I failed to learn my own lesson and missed out on the first XOXO. I was, frankly, miserable for weeks about it after the event concluded. This year I made no such mistake, and my determination rewarded me handsomely, as the event was every bit as wonderful as I’d imagined.
Six months into my 40s, six weeks into my new job, five weeks into a new apartment, and two weeks into being the father of a grade-school-age child, I have found energy and excitement in all the change. XOXO made a little bit of magic this weekend, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I came back from Portland with dozens of new friendships and a renewed commitment to making great things. I’m excited to see where it goes.
In the summer of 1990 I worked at the old 4 World Trade Center on the commodities exchange, the one made famous in cinema in “Trading Places,” although somehow the gravitas of where I landed my first-ever paying job only partially sunk in at the time. As a high school student, I drove with another kid to the PATH train in Harrison and rode in every morning. Worked four days a week for $250 cash checking trades for a dollar futures trader. Nice work at 17 if you can get it.
At lunchtime I either went to the fancy Wall Street McDonald’s, the one with the piano player and doorman and carnations on the tables, or to a terrific old-world coffee shop that used to be across the street from 4 WTC, sort of a cross between a diner and Katz’s Delicatessen, where I’d get honest to goodness New York knishes, and I’d eat them with a sprinkle of salt.
I don’t think I ever went up into the towers. 4 WTC was a low-rise, maybe 8, 10 floors, high enough that the day the power went out taking the stairs was annoying. I remember thinking that the trade center was both impressive and mildly disappointing in a “gee, it’s kind of desolate at street level” kind of way. Finding that coffee shop and that McDonald’s, walking up to the music store at J&R on Park Row, meandering all the way over to the South Street Seaport, now, that was New York.
Of course, the Trade Center was New York, too, inimitably, and remains so in our hearts and our memories, 12 years on. Tomorrow morning I’ll be in the neighborhood again, commuting in the reverse of that summer, in what is now a rather different slice of the city. There’s an old-school deli on my walk between the 2/3 and the PATH that I like to stop in for breakfast on the way. I haven’t asked about their knishes. I think I may.
Correction: this post originally listed the futures exchange address as 7 World Trade Center.