WARNING: This is not a deli. I repeat--this next destination is not a deli. It’s just a normal old restaurant. If you feel lied to and cheated, just know that our president feels lied and cheated here as well. This is the cafeteria at the New York Times.
First of all I beg for forgiveness. How can I be a deli writer when I stray from my holy purpose? I hope you find a place in your heart to forgive me for this wrong doing of writing about a non-deli.
During one of my first days here in the city, my dad told me we were invited to visit the New York Times for lunch. His friend from high school, Peter Liberman’s wife Sarah Soffer worked at this famous news institution. We were invited for lunch at the restaurant in their main offices at 620 8th Ave. The paper’s home used to be on 229 West 43rd street and their old office building is still usually referred to as the New York Times Building. It was their home from 1913 to 2007 (they started in 1851). Even though they’ve been on 8th Avenue for 10 years in many ways it still feels new. I was excited to visit the institution and restaurant that harbors the fakest of the fake news, more fake than those handbags in Chinatown (joking of course!)
Outside of this large new building it was a wildly chaotic scene. You know in movies when they have a shot of a crowded New York city street? The people flow systematically and waddle behind each other. Its orderly chaos. Shoulders bump and cabs blare, but that's about as wild as it gets. This scene outside was chaos, but it seemed preposterously hectic. Thick gyros and hot dogs filled the air with a greasy smell. People jostled each other almost violently to try to escape the brutal humidity. People crossed the street randomly it seemed; it was as though they were purposefully avoiding the crosswalks. This recklessness left cabs shrieking and a lot of “you're number one” fingers being flashed back and forth. Living in the docile city of Durham, North Carolina, where you don’t honk unless you’re life is on the line, seeing horns blaring when a car would wait .2 seconds after the light turned green was quite a sight to see. Seeing the familiar font of the New York Times and escaping into the icy blast of that waiting room was a huge relief.
The real struggle was the door. The door to enter was incredibly heavy. Do you understand how awkward it is to struggle opening a door? In no case ever in your life should put effort into opening a door. But look-- I’m not the bulkiest boy in the world, but usually I can open a door no problem. Well first I’m pushing at the door with all my might until I realize it’s a pull, so I had to recuperate. But then I’m yanking on this door, and it’s scooting forward at a pace of an inch an hour. I’m now in a boxer’s stance, my chest all squared up just trying to open this thick metal door. It probably took less than 6 seconds to finally slip through the door, but at this point I’m drenched in sweat. No wonder Trump calls it the “Failing New York Times.” AM I RIGHT? OR AM I RIGHT? I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself.
Sorry for that detour about the door. Anyway, inside this waiting room it's night and day. The mugginess was replaced by the best air conditioning job I’ve ever experienced. I wish I knew who ran their air conditioning because they deserve a Nobel Prize. Honestly, stepping from a loud, burning hot city street into an utter silent, cool building is a spiritual experience. The Dalai Lama should write an op-ed about it. Strangely, inside the waiting room there were no seats. They really didn’t seem to want you hanging around.
A courtyard bursting with different hues of green stood outside. Something about plants in the city is exceptionally beautiful to me. They seem to burst and thrive inexplicably. It’s a testament to life’s ability to flourish. In this courtyard there were maybe 20 yards of dirt and sunlight crept through shoddy crevices yet life sprung. To me it was exceptionally beautiful. It seemed almost fitting for this paper. It's not that the paper is truly “failing” as you may be lead to believe, but imagine the changes it’s facing. Suddenly our world is digital, and the whole model changes. The news doesn’t come to us, we come to the news. Papers are obsolete. Suddenly advertising money is lost. In a matter of only a few years, the model they stood on since 1851 has vanished, and yet value springs. Reporters may be one of the last defenses in maintaining this democracy. Truth is still the most valuable thing here. And I find that exceptionally beautiful.
We rode up to the 14th floor where the restaurant is. The huge room was spectacular. Its huge glass windows gave a magnificent view of the city. Circular tables lined the walls and people sat typing away and chatting across the massive room.
The real highlight was the restaurant which was astounding. Every possible food you could think of filled the walls. Sushi to Indian food to even my personal favorite, deli food. It was honestly fantastic. A massive room filled to the brim with food is quite the sight to see. I’m talking all the options of food possible. Every different flavor of soda, every single kind of salad and whole shelves filled with differing flavors of cookies. I choose a plain bagel with some cream cheese and also (please forgive me lord) some non-deli food (Indian food...I’m sorry lord.) The food was delicious. The bagel was perfect, and unlike what I was expecting, it didn’t have the styrofoamy consistency most non-deli bagels have. The cream cheese was nice and didn’t have that cold, straight-from-the-tub feeling like it came from Kroger.
To me though, the food was astounding but it was really just a bonus of the trip. To see this building was such an incredible honor. I always think about the walls of the delis and how the oldest ones are draped in old autographs and ancient posters. I always am fascinated by these homes of history. Although here the walls were empty, it had that same feeling. And although this physical home is new to them, the whole space felt rich and storied. I saw in this cafeteria reporters finishing up their articles anxiously before the weekend. I saw in their eyes their exhaustion, their diligence and thoughtfulness. Here there were people, over a hundred years after this paper began, thoughtfully creating now, when it perhaps matters the most.