The Past Two Months or so: Manhattan Edition

I skipped writing my update at the end of February, so this one will cover both February and March. As I mentioned in my previous update (and as many of you already know), my last two months were spent living and doing research in the heart of New York City. I had the privilege of living in a nice, spacious apartment in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan, about four blocks east of the new World Trade Center and just a few streets north of Wall Street. I was living up on the fifth floor with two other 26-year-old guys, Drew and Ryan. My main purpose for living in Manhattan for the past two months was to gather data for my doctoral dissertation (i.e., first book), focusing specifically on Redeemer Presbyterian Church, where Tim Keller is the primary teaching pastor. Redeemer has three locations, all of which are in Manhattan: one on the upper west side on 83rd Street, one on the upper east side on 69th Street, and one downtown on 14th Street. My time in Manhattan spanned nine weekends, so I rotated between these three congregations, attending each of them for Sunday services three times.

My trip started on Thursday, January 24th, when I flew out of Lansing, through DTW near Detroit, to JFK airport in NYC. This was my first time ever in NYC, and frankly I found it exhilarating simply to be there, especially living in the heart of Lower Manhattan. My first month there was spent mostly figuring out how Redeemer works and is structured, familiarizing myself with Manhattan (including its culture), attending various kinds of church events (i.e., much more than just Sunday services), writing, and trying to charm my way into the highest levels of leadership at the church. It took almost four weeks of making myself seen and mingling with the right people, but eventually I started to get interviews with pastors and other leaders at Redeemer. All things considered, I think that ultimately I got what I needed out of my time in NYC, that it was time and effort well invested, and that my data gathered from Redeemer will end up being an important, interesting, and insightful part of my book.

In the middle of my two months in Manhattan (from Thursday, February 21st, to Monday, February 25th) my fiancée, Ali, visited me. Highlights from our weekend together in Manhattan include dinner at TJ Byrnes in Lower Manhattan, visiting the 9/11 memorial, a fiercely competitive game of chess (she won), a taco dinner at Tacombi with a group of friends, a social event in a beautiful apartment on the upper west side, an excellent Italian dinner at Becco, seeing The Phantom of the Opera performed on Broadway at The Majestic Theater, a stroll through Central Park, a church service together at the Redeemer downtown congregation, dinner in Little Italy, and a very touristy lunch at The Counter in Times Square, among other things, before I took her back to JFK airport on Monday afternoon. It was the kind of long weekend in a foreign city that I am sure will provide memories to last quite a while.

After Ali returned to Michigan, I had one month left in Manhattan. The majority of my final month was invested in attending various kinds of church events, interviewing pastors and other key leaders at Redeemer, and writing. In total, I attended 35 church events in 60 days, including not only Sunday services but also supplementary lectures, social events, community groups, social service projects, worship nights, vocational groups, and much more. Whenever I wasn't running around Manhattan, I got in the habit doing work at a relatively new coffee shop around the corner from my apartment named R&R Coffee. Aside from their excellent soups and Intelligentsia coffee, one of my favorite parts of doing work there was that my walk home always looked something like this. In my two months in Manhattan, I ended up writing about 50 single-spaced pages of field-notes based on my "participant observation" as well as making some good progress on actually writing the dissertation itself. I also built a new professional website, published a short non-peer-reviewed article entitled "Postmodernism vs. Critical Realism," and submitted a solo-authored article for publication in an academic journal.

Aside from gathering data and writing, I was able to catch up with some old friends and meet some new ones too. I met up a couple times with my friend Rebecca from undergrad at Michigan, who was also in Manhattan doing research. I also met up with Kiel, another friend from undergrad who is now pursuing an MBA at Columbia. And my final Saturday in NYC, my friend Geoff (who just returned from deployment with the Navy) had a free weekend and decided to visit the city, so I got breakfast with him and then took the day to show him around Manhattan, including a trip up to the observation deck of the Empire State Building and a late night with a few other friends at Ryan Maquire's. It was a great way to spend my final Saturday in Manhattan. In terms of new friends, in addition to Drew and Ryan (who are both awesome), I got involved with Redeemer's post-college twenties ministry and through it met a few people with whom I ended up spending time on a number of occasions. My two months in Manhattan would not have been nearly as enjoyable without them. The evening before I left, Drew and Ryan gave me a proper sendoff by cooking dinner and inviting friends over to our apartment for "Monday Cooking Night," which we did nearly every Monday evening.

Of course, this update is not exhaustive; there are a handful of other restaurants, pubs, museums, and sites around the city that I experienced during my two months in Manhattan. But you get the picture. Overall, my time in Manhattan seemed to fly by extraordinarily quickly -- especially when compared to my 2.5 months invested in Seattle this past Autumn. I feel like I could have easily stayed for another month. (I am glad that I will be returning to New York City in mid-August for a weekend to speak at a conference.) And Manhattan is definitely the kind of place that I would enjoy settling down in after I'm married and finished with graduate school. Anyways, early on Tuesday, March 26th, I flew out of JFK airport back to DTW near Detroit. Ali picked me up from the airport, and we spent a few days together in Ann Arbor. We celebrated her 24th birthday at our favorite steakhouse in Ann Arbor. That Saturday, March 30th, we drove down to Sterling Heights to spend the day with her family. The next day, Easter Sunday, Ali and I visited my father's side of the family in Troy. My father drove me back to Lansing that evening. So I am currently in Lansing until I find a place to stay in South Bend. I figure that I should probably be down there to finish up the academic year, which ends in mid-May. We'll see how that goes.


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