Urban Arts Show Image courtesy of New York Natives, photographer Meagan Drillinger
By Meagan Drillinger

DRILLINGER DOES is a weekly column that chronicles the exploits of urban daredevil Meagan Drillinger throughout the five boroughs. Every Monday is another adventure — from whiskey tours and no-pants subway rides to sex club date nights.

New York City has a habit of bringing the unlikeliest of people together in the weirdest of situations…whether that’s bumping into an ex in line at the Chinese consulate (really happened) or stumbling upon a stranger in your best friend’s apartment lobby who you met once, briefly, at the Mexico City airport (also really happened). For better or for worse, this is part of New York’s charm — which is how I wound up at a backpack fashion show/graffiti exhibition/DJ showcase on the Lower East Side with said Mexican stranger.

The Urban Arts Showcase likens itself to a “true old-school Hip-Hop experience.” It’s a series of pop-up fashion shows, graffiti art, and B-boy battles that attempts to highlight New York’s legendary hip-hop culture and roots. The events bring together the unlikeliest of characters — from all walks of Brooklyn, some bridge-and-tunnel, and even a few haute Manhattanites — so it seemed like the perfect spot for this Astorian to bring her new, slightly random friend from Mexico.

Back story: I was in line at Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City in May 2014. As I was waiting to board, a man behind me asked me in Spanish if we were boarding Zone 2. “Yep,” I replied, and went back to facing front. The plane left Mexico City and landed in JFK without anything of particular note happening. I took a taxi home to my apartment and went about my week.

That weekend, I went down to Williamsburg where my friend was hosting a dinner party in her warehouse-turned-loft apartment — the kind where rustic farm antiques and distressed mirrors somehow play nicely with Vitamixes and milk frothers. It was pouring when I left the party, so I waited in the entryway of her building for my Uber to arrive. All of a sudden, a group of thoroughly drunk dudes stumbled down the stairs to face the sheets of rain. One of them turns to me. “Didn’t I see you in Mexico?” he asked.

“Don’t think so, man,” I said, annoyed. Drunk people. The worst. (Unless it’s me; then it’s cool.)

“No, really,” he persisted. “I stood behind you in line at the airport in Mexico City. I asked if we were boarding yet.”

Suddenly I recognized him. Thick-framed glasses, a flesh tube in his ear: Mexico hipster meets rocker with a mix of plaid thrown in. What followed was a series of “OMG’s,” “How is this possible’s?!” and “I don’t even know the guy who lives here!” We exchanged numbers. He was living in Guadalajara but was planning to move to New York in the next couple of months. We agreed to keep in touch because of this weird twist of fate and made plans to hang again.

We never did. A year went by. Life in New York, as it often does, got in the way.

Cut to: early April 2015. Sitting around at home, my phone buzzes loudly with a WhatsApp message. Ed’s name pops up. “Hey, Meagan! I know it’s weird but I would really like to meet what I could name as my first friend in New York. It’s going to be almost a year. Would you spend one or two hours to have a beer with me? I hope you remember who the hell I am!”

Hey, why not?

The Sunday of the showcase, we met up at Spitzer’s for a few beers and some serious “How the hell has your life been?” catch-up, after which we made our way to Open House on the Lower East Side. Inside, the bar was pretty much a perfect example of what is uniquely New York, but less in the way the event had probably intended to be. The crowd that had gathered was a weird medley of every type of New York stereotype you could imagine: bridge-and-tunnel, Brooklyn hipster, Brooklyn thug, ORIGINAL Brooklyn (old Italian/Jewish/Russian men), The Bronx, posh Manhattanite…and then, of course, an Astorian and a Mexican. Graffiti art hung on the wall — impressionistic visions of Gonzo the Muppet, printed T-shirts, and stickers that read, “Cost F*cked Madonna.”

The whole evening was capped off with a backpack fashion show, where thoroughly disinterested models (read: regular models) paraded “hip-hop” designer backpacks up and down the length of the bar with looks of sheer boredom on their faces. It was one of the most unusual events I’ve ever seen, and, to be honest, I’m still not entirely sure I understand what exactly was going on. In fact, it was actually terrible. But a room filled with people who, under regular circumstances, would never typically meet seemed like a perfect place for Ed and I to have our New York reunion.

Urban Art 628x419 Drillinger Does: Urban Arts Showcase
Image courtesy of New York Natives, photographer Meagan Drillinger
Backpack Fashion 628x419 Drillinger Does: Urban Arts Showcase
Image courtesy of New York Natives, photographer Meagan Drillinger

Nine out of 10 times in New York we’re dodging people or places because of unpleasant and awkward memories. But in a city that so often makes us feel lost and alone, despite the millions of people we DON’T want to see, sometimes it’s nice to be brought together with native and new New Yorkers whom you would ordinarily never encounter on a day-to-day basis…even if it’s somewhere that involves watered-down vodka sodas and a most ridiculous fashion show of backpacks.

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