This is the twenty-fifth issue of Letters to J
. We hope this one reminds you to get your punch card stamped (and to celebrate the Biden/Harris win).
(Jasdev ⇒ Justin, 11/9/20)
Do you have any places in NYC where they know you on a first-name basis?
— Justin, in letter #24.
Oh man — getting to a first-name basis at a local (and unfortunately since-closed) Gasoline Alley was the first moment when the city felt like home home. There’s a common thread amongst non-native New Yorkers that the city, despite its density, can be incredibly lonely during the first couple of years and I doubly felt that when I crash-landed here after a breakup.
My first apartment was a sublet near a Lower East Side bar that both started my practice of sleeping with ear plugs and taught me how to navigate an apartment-complex-wide bed bug extermination when a unit a few floors below me reported an issue. After that lease and in Jasdev fashion, I overcorrected by moving all the way to Park Slope in Brooklyn. It was quieter than the LES, but almost too quiet with me being the only non-married-non-pet-or-kid-having tenant in my building. Moreover, trying to rally Manhattan friends in Brooklyn taught me the incongruence between time and distance that Nikhil called out in an old thread:
Distance ≠ time in people’s minds. Going to Brooklyn is worse than going downtown, even if travel time is nearly the same.
I’ve since rebounded to Manhattan and moved between the two dashed neighborhoods in Stuyvesant Town–Peter Cooper Village (explaining the “New York, NY 10009” footer in our letters).
That’s where Gasoline Alley comes in.
The coffee shop was along the Manhattan distance between my apartment and a couple of regular commutes: Peloton’s office (back when I worked there) and Madison Square Park (which we’ll 100% visit in post-COVID times). GA’s name was just too slick to not check out.
Each pit stop — and punching of my loyalty card — taught me more about the staff’s lives and marked the memories from that day. R brought the wholesome energy. M rocked a wicked cool Wonder Woman hat. Other M would fill me in on the exam she was studying for. Asking them about their days was returned with space held to share slices of mine. And over the past five years, I became a J they knew by name.
When I started writing this I decided to restock beans and made an order — well, they arrived yesterday and the Gasoline Alley squad remembered me after all this time <3.
It’s probably time to pay them a visit at their NoHo location (one of the last two remaining) and start some new friendships and another punch card.
While I usually end our letters along some tangent, I need to be a bit more vulnerable this time. I’ve been struggling with a medical issue lately and it’s…difficult (on top of the already Hard Mode context of starting a company during a pandemic).
I’ve written about handling injuries and medical blips in the past, yet it’s tough to internalize my former words in this moment. So I’m curious. Have you ever navigated an injury or medical issue? Are there any words of reassurance you would give younger Justin as he handled it?