Making the decision to take a side trip to New York City when I was visiting Philadelphia was a rather hard one to make. I came to Philly to attend the CreatureKind Christian Vegan Retreat. I couldn’t fathom flying in and out of Philadelphia just for the retreat.
I had visited this amazing city about 5 years previous when I visited the Simple Way Community while I was visiting Christian intentional communities, and I sensed that God was encouraging me to take the risk and discover the divine appointments He had arranged for me.
I really don’t understand how this all works, except for that if I can really trust in God and be able to hear His guidance, miraculous encounters take place.
During my week in Philly five years ago, I found out that I could go to New York City on the Megabus For a very low rate, and just stay a day. I was so tight on money then and although I really wanted to take this trip, I was unable to do so.
This time, my focus was on doing things that would help me promote Jesus Vegans community and to make connections with the vegan community on the east coast.
So when I decided to go to New York City, I only had one connection. Jamie Gioe, a woman who I met at the Ozark Area Community Congress, spends the cold weather months living in the Big Apple–a stark contrast to the super simple life she lives on her land where she lives off the grid in a tent. We hadn’t had a lot of time to connect at the weekend gathering, and I wanted to learn more about her and her lifestyle.
I really respect how Jamie is restoring the land and able to live very much in alignment with nature. When I told her I was thinking about visiting NYC, she invited me to eat lunch with her, and thus I felt encouraged to take the plunge and spend the amazingly small amount–$25 round trip–to take the five hour (there and back) journey.
When I finally decided to go, there was only one day available in my schedule. I had made 3 appointments with very inspiring people on Wednesday. Monday I did my work exchange trade–making vegan food all day so my housemates would have a week’s worth of food. Tuesday was the day.
Jamie was not available to meet me on that day, and even though I was disappointed not to have anything scheduled, I decided that maybe sightseeing was okay. People gave me advice for things to do, including Central Park, Metropoltan Museum of Art, the High Line.
I met a microbiologist from Colombia who had been attending a conference in Philadelphia. We struck up a friendly conversation while waiting for the Megabus at 8am. While on the bus, I put out the word through Facebook, “I need a recommendation for a place to go where I might meet some vegan animal rights activists. I really didn’t expect that someone would be able to help me. I had put out some feelers for connections in Philly on a few Facebook pages with only one result. And this was really last minute.
The woman from Columbia seemed to want some company on her sightseeing experience. I was reluctant to join her, because for the most part, traveling alone lets me be flexible and more open to divine appointments. Not wanting to hurt her feelings, and also thinking, “Maybe I can be of service. After all, I don’t have any specific plans,” I agreed to join her and explore the city together.
When we got to Time Square, I noticed 4 large steps leading nowhere. I asked a man who had just descended the stairs, “Do you think that is a kind of soapbox where you can make speeches?” With a very charming Irish accent, he said, “I don’t know–what would you give a speech about?”
“Veganism,” I quickly said.
“Oh, my girlfriend, who is in the shop over there, wants to be vegan. She is vegetarian. I eat the food she makes–but I still eat meat,” he said.
He seemed curious and willing to talk. Soon, his girlfriend joined us. I really enjoyed all aspects of our conversation, which actually went pretty deep very quickly. We even talked about their spiritual walk–they had left the Catholic Church because of their corruption, and yet still wanted to follow Jesus.
After talking about 20 minutes, it seemed like it was time for us to depart. I love how the conversation flowed–and we all became Facebook friends. They had no idea that there might be some support for them in Ireland, where they did not know any vegans or vegetarians, so when I did a google search and found the Vegan Society of Ireland, they were delighted.
My new friend who wanted to tour New York City with me had now disappeared. I was rather relieved, because I knew that these kinds of encounters were not ones she would be excited about. But I also felt disappointed, because I would have liked to have told her honestly that I realized I just needed to be free to have these kinds of conversations and going to varoius tourist destination would not really work for me.
Next I saw a man who had a big sign that said, “Need money for weed. Why lie.” I was so intrigued, and I took a picture. I realized that I wanted to reward him for his honesty, and he did seem like an interesting character. So I gave him some coins, and we had a rather uplifting conversation. I broached the topic of veganism, and he wanted to talk about how children on the average eat 85 pounds of sugar a year. I enjoyed our connection, and felt inspired to empty my change purse of change and give it to him.
Next I saw a policeman standing on the sidewalk talking to someone.
“Can you tell me where the nearest vegan restaurant is,” I asked gaily.
Although the cop did not know of any vegan restaurants, we had an interesting talk about how he commutes 2 1/2 hours each way from his ranch where he raises cows and other animals. “But I don’t eat any of the animals I raise,” he said. “They are my friends.”
I didn’t push the issue of how animals that were not his friends were suffering because he did eat meat, although I encouraged him to rethink his thinking! He was very friendly and I really enjoyed our 5 minute connection.
I decided to do a search for a vegan restaurant, and the nearest one was called the Little Beet. As is often the case, I could not find it and needed to ask directions. I was standing on the sidewalk, looking confused, and a security guard standing in front of an impressive looking building said,
“Can I help you find something, miss?”
I was very touched by his offer of help. He told me where the restaurant was and he asked me where I was from. When I said the Arkansas Ozarks, he said, “Ah, Clinton country.” He proceeded to tell me that he sees Bill Clinton every day because he works in the office building that he works for.
He was very supportive of me being vegan, and said that he wished he could stay on a vegan diet–and that he had done a long fast which gave him a lot of energy. He was interested in living in the country and being self-sufficient, and was intrigued by Jesus Vegans Community which I told him about.
I gave him my card and told him to connect with me if he felt drawn to do so.
The Little Beet was just a few shops down. I really liked the vibe, and was glad to see a giant map on the wall of urban farms and all the local places that they got their food. I was disappointed that they served various meat dishes. This was NOT a vegan restaurant. But hey, google can’t always be right, and they had a large selection of vegan food.
I ordered some butternut squash soup and found one of the few tables that had an electric outlet. I was disappointed that already my battery was low on my phone, but happy to find an outlet!
I found it rather entertaining just to watch people and soak in the atmosphere of a busy self-serve restaurant during lunch. I felt happy to be there.
I looked at my phone while waiting for it to charge, and found that someone had answered my request for a recommendation! Deborah Prost was a Facebook friend who I had never connected with, and I found out later she was home sick from work and thus had the time to share some great vegan places to go to, including the Orchard Grocers on the East side of Manhattan.
Hopping on a subway and finding the vegan deli was extremely easy. As is my usual habit, I needed to talk to about 10 people in order to get there. One person actually lead me astray and I went on the wrong subway train. But everything worked out, and I arrived at my destination happy to be finding vegan connections.
After chatting with the cashier at the Orchard Grocers, I went next door to the Moo Shoes, a vegan shoe store. “The first cruelty-free store of its kind in NYC, MooShoes was founded in 2001 by sisters and Queens natives, Erica and Sara Kubersky,” is how it is described on their website.
I enjoyed a friendly talk with the shoe sales woman. I’m not interested in being fashionable, but I was glad that there was a vegan option for those who are. When I asked if I could take her picture, the sales woman demurred, but said I could take a picture of the very large cat who contently lay on the counter. This cat had been hanging out in the store for 17 years!
I went back into the grocery store, thinking I might buy a sandwich. I’m not eating much bread these days, and even though the sandwiches all looked delicous. I decided to buy a green juice.
I noticed a man sitting at the 3 person counter, and decided to strike up a conversation. He was friendly and willing to talk. I immediately asked if he was a vegan, and the answer was “yes.”
Jeremy was a very inspiring and interesting person, having been a vegan for 19 years and having some connection with the Animal Liberation Front. He shared some stories of how he engaged in some activism and we really connected on a deep level in many ways, including talking about spirituality. He was glad to hear that there was progress being made in Christian circles around the issue of raising awareness about animal rights from a Biblical perspective.
He told me about his neighborhood where many people from the Carribean live–people who were very low income. Many of them were vegan, and able to be vegan even though they had little money. He said that he was really glad to experience this first hand because he didn’t want veganism to be seen as something that only rich people could afford.
I really liked how our conversation flowed with both of us being good listeners. I wish I had taken notes immediately afterwards because I just learned so much from him. But the fact that my heart’s desire of meeting a vegan activist had been fulfilled. He happily gave me his email address–he has never been on Facebook–and I am sure we will stay connected.
Jeremy recommended that I visit the Buddha Bodhi Vegetarian Restaurant, which was conveniently within about twenty minute’s walking distance. Our conversation came to an ende because of a business appointment he needed to get to, and after exchanging hugs, I headed for the next adventure.
I want to pause right here and say that even if what happened up until now was all that transpired, I would have been happy! But there were more treats to come forth.
Looking at the menu, which was actually all vegan, was an interesting experience because such dishes as jellyfish and tripe (vegan, of course) were offered. I was able to chat with the owner’s son, who was proud that they had been in existence for thirteen years! He said that all the food was made with traditional spices and tasted very much like something that you would eat in a regular restaurant where the dishes contained meat.
I ordered a few items, and actually was not all that inspired. But then, I am really going in the direction of eating more raw and fresh. But it was an interesting experience–and the coconut pudding was delicious. The server and the owner’s son were quite friendly.
I saw 3 guys eating at a booth, and I asked them if I could take a picture. They willingly agreed. We struck up a conversation about veganism, and I found out that one of the fellows was a strong vegan, and he was attempting to inspire his friends to go vegan. We had a great connection, and I became Facebook friends with Derryl, a young man who is raising his daughter vegan. He even joined my group, Free Thinking Jesus Followers–he is a Christian. One rarely finds Christian vegans while wandering around! But I think Jesus might have somehow arranged this divine appointment.
I wanted to make sure I got to the Megabus stop on time, and even though I had a few more hours left in the city, I decided to try to find a chocolate shop which seemed to be in the direction of my bus stop.
I got totally lost trying to find the chocolate shop, and decided to charge my phone and go to the bathroom at a coffeeshop. I have learned the hard way that if I am in a big city, bathrooms are hard to find and coffee shops usually have them. As I stood in line at the bathroom, I asked the guy who was waiting behind me if I could take an informal poll.
He agreed, and was very pleasant. I asked him if he loved animals. Yes. Did he eat meat. Yes. He admitted that he had to experience cognitive disonance in order to eat meat. He was not defensive at all, and since I know I have cognitive disonance in some areas, I was not about to judge him. I hoped I planted some seeds. I just love to talk about veganism, and find that most people are very receptive.
As I continued walking down the busy street, I was pleasantly surprised to see a chocolate shop–and it was vegan! It was the one I had given up on finding. I went in and checked out the offerings. Very pricey! So I merely bought a rather small sweet which cost $3 and I savored it slowly when I got on the bus. Yummy! I took a picture of the cashier and talked to the person who was sipping on hot chocolate in the very tiny dining area.
I found the Megabus station right on time, and boarded the top level of the double decker bus which was at maximum capacity. I think it might have been like a commuter bus–leaving at 7PM. I had arrived at 10:30 and was leaving 8 1/2 hours later. That doesn’t seem like a huge amount of time to spend for a 5 hour round trip–but it was worth it to me!
The bus ride flew by, as did the one when I came to New York. I caught up on emails, Facebook, texted, read, and meditated. How can two and a half hours go so fast?!
I arrived at the bus stop at 9:30, and easily caught the high speed rail train to my home stay in the Kensington neighborhood. I was able to do my prayer time and spiritual practices via texting with my friend Kim, and was happy to be soon sleeping soundly.
What a beautiful and rewarding day. I felt grateful as I drifted off to sleep, thinking about how kind Jesus was to me, and how much had happened without any plans at all. I really believe that I was able to tune into guidance and that He helped me to find my way in NYC, where even my mistakes turned out to be something beneficial.