Our journey begins like all great odysseys, in the San Jose airport at 11pm on a Wednesday waiting for a broken down United plane to get fixed. If there’s one thing that I learned from this trip it’s that flying United fucking sucks, beacuse after flying for 4 hours and landing in Chicago for a layover, the next United flight is also delayed because somehow they have to replace an entire PA system on the plane? By the time we get to Newark, which seems poorly named because it is not in New York, I have complete sympathy for the mom spilling red wine all over the terminal and we are almost late for the event which the school paid us to go to New York for: the Blackstone Launchpad™ powered by Techstars® Propel entrepreneurship pitch contest.
I’m not really sure how or why the three guys I met in an entrepreneurship class and I got invited to the contest, but by the time we arrive at 2pm on Thursday, two out of the four members of our team are falling asleep in the front row of the introduction ceremony. People from other schools like Cornell and Texas A&M are dressed up in like full on suits and the conference space in the middle of Times Square has glasswork designed by Frank Gehry, so naturally I feel right in place in my khaki jeans, sweater and flannel jacket. One of the first things they did was give us a tote bag, a shirt, and three books, one of which was What It Takes by former Lehman Brothers CEO and Billionaire Trump Supporter Stephen A. Schwartzman. Sadly none of the speakers ever makes the joke that we now have What It Takes, which really feels like a missed opportunity.
After some schmuck from Techstars (still not really sure how the event was “powered” by Techstars, because it appeared most of the building ran on standard electricity) finishes his self-congratulatory introduction we head over to talk with three “mentors,” who I firmly believe were all just random executives in New York who wanted to get out of a day of work by talking to us for like five minutes. While talking to a man who can only be described as a comic depiction of a bro-y investment banker, karma catches up to me as my nose starts to bleed after making several jokes about cocaine. Naturally the investment banker doesn’t blink an eye, and directs me towards the nearest napkin dispenser. Then comes the first designated networking time of the conference, which we promptly ditch to go get food and return to our Airbnb in New Jersey, where I finish my homework and get a solid 5 hours of sleep after not sleeping for 36 hours.
We get back to the contest at 8am the next day, obviously the perfect time for an event for college students. We eat the super bougie breakfast of $5 yogurts and bagels provided to us, and honestly I don’t remember much else of that day. We were spoken at by who I assume were notable people and got to listen to people from other schools pitch their business ideas. Be on the lookout for businesses offering: boba in a soda bottle, a smart wheelchair subscription, a way to sell out your memes to advertise for corporations, a stock market for trading cards, pre-popped rice-like treat imported from India, and Rent-a-Swag from Parks and Rec but pitched as a totally original idea in a kinda misogynistic way. This is the future people. Needless to say, we did not win the 25 thousand dollar grand prize with our pitch which included the only skit performance of the day, though I am proud we got the most laughs of the entire competition. That night we decide to try to take public transport back across the Lincoln tunnel to New Jersey and experience the Port Authority Bus Terminal, or better named Dystopian Future World Where The World Is Controlled By Buses Which Herd Massive Lines of Humans Into Themselves Through Factory-Farm-Like Troughs.
The next day we got up early again to make the most of our free day in the city. We start by going to a box office to get last minute tickets for Mean Girls: The Musical. I have never seen Mean Girls: The Movie, so I have no idea what made me so intrigued to the idea of the movie being turned into a musical, maybe because it nothing about the premise even suggests that there should be songs involved. After getting the tickets, we buy tickets to a standup comedy show from some guy on the street with no indication that the tickets are legit, and go get the best bagel I have ever eaten. It was amazing, and simply was better in every way compared to every bagel I have ever had. Then we walk around central park where a Buddhist monk offers me a lifetime of peace for only one dollar. Sadly I don’t have any cash so I have to pass on the lifetime of peace. We then go to see Mean Girls: The Musical. My condensed review would read: Expectations met; girls were mean. We eat dinner and then go to the comedy club, were there is a two drink minimum. The comics at the club were funny, except for one who bombed and it was a pretty good experience except every time the waiter brought a drink to our table he would practically scream VIRGIN for all the tables around us because none of us ordered alcoholic drinks. Somehow we leave without paying for any of our drinks.
Approximately four hours later at 4am, the books from the contest won’t fit in my backpack, and because I didn’t even get a carry on bag for the United Flight, I leave What It Takes on the streets of New Jersey and I’ll likely never have What It Takes ever again. Luckily one of the other guys finds a lifetime of peace on the street and lets me have it as we ride in an Uber with Supreme seat belt covers to the airport.