Conquering NYC one temp job at a time

The author takes a train to yet another job hunt

The author takes a train to yet another job hunt

By Richard Momar Yapo Cuanang

The year was 2002. It was a bumpy ride from Atlantic City in New Jersey up to the unruly Hudson River. I was in New York for the first time on board the Irish Mist. The vessel was hitting the poles, but through the effective maneuvering of the captain, we anchored calmly.
The air was hot when we arrived. The World Trade Center was gone, the Manhattan skyline missing America’s symbol of financial dominance.

Thoughts of 9/11 were quickly replaced by blurry images from Fifth Avenue to Times Square: the blinking restaurants and glossy shops, the yellow cabs whizzing past traffic, the double deckers waiting for tourists taking a bite of the Big Apple. It was an emotional juggernaut.

“This is it,” I told myself. “I’m in New York.”

The smoke in the air was as good as it got. It smelled of the New Year’s Eve champagne that is shared among the throngs who kiss at countdown.

On my 35th birthday, several months after I arrived, I woke up with the urgent need to raise cash. By this time, I was bunking in a Lefferts Boulevard apartment with my Ilocano friend, Marcial. I was bartending part-time at a Latin restaurant in Flushing where the mojito is our flagship cocktail. Ten days of USTA tennis tournaments and I was awash with cash. I met lots of celebrities and people who were unforgiving if you served them the wrong drinks.

After the tournament I was back searching for a fulltime Job. It was a struggle. For many months I did not have a job. But Marcial and me – survivalists to the core – met with this Jewish businessman and agreed to be suppliers to his restaurant and catering business. We scoured the five boroughs looking for things he needed: fresh lobsters, vegetables, tableware, anything.

We would always come back with our find and he seemed to like our resourcefulness. Why wouldn’t he? Our rent was $1,200, and we had utilities and phone bills to pay.

In Queens, I met Tita Mel, a storeowner and entrepreneur. I made her a deal to make one-of-a-kind scarfs bearing President Obama’s signature. We had high expectations, but ran out of steam on learning we couldn’t sell at the inauguration grounds in Washington D.C. without a ticket and a city permit. My only consolation from this failed venture was that I was able to sharpen my negotiating skills as a budding entrepreneur.

Real estate was a new territory to conquer. Responding to an ad at Craigslist, I met a gentleman promising investment insights and portfolio. After my interview, I was issued with a voucher, which entitles
me to schooling at the New York Real Estate Institute. I passed the course and met many great people. My only investment was $60 for the book, $60 for metro card, and $15 to take the state exam. Unfortunately, I came slightly short.

I made some cash on the Rolling Stones concert at Prudential Center hawking real estate training to jobseekers or those contemplating a career change. Bonus of it was my shift ended early, and I was able to listen to some 60s music. I had a mezzanine level seat with a $750 value. Don’t ask me how I did it, but I did it.

As I write this article, I am in South Carolina to visit my aunt and uncle and recharge for a couple of weeks. I will be back in New York eager and ready to take on the challenges and perils of surviving.

I have dreamed about coming here, and here I am. I want NYC to work for me. I want this city so bad and have this need to conquer my greatest fear and enemy: my ego.

red line

FANTASIA FLORAL DESIGN for flower orders that will Impress that special person in your life this Valentine’s Day or for any occasion. Click here to order your Valentine gifts

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: