team building activities

Nearly two years ago, in the summer of 2016, my family and I relocated from Brooklyn, NY to Long Beach, CA. Team building, corporate entertainment & game show trivia events know no geographic bounds, after all…

My wife and I saw this as a chance to offer our kids a better environment to grow up in, with better weather and more living space. It was also a big opportunity for me to expand TrivWorks to the West Coast. Not only would moving allow me to become a corporate entertainment and team building vendor in SoCal, but it would effectively give me a platform for bringing these unique group bonding activities to markets in the entire Western half of the country. Additionally, it would quite literally force me to identify and recruit new emcee talent back on the East Coast, who could lead these events in my absence.

Right off the bat moving here, I noticed many differences about how life was here from back in New York (which I dutifully collected in another useful blog post). I’d lived in the Northeast my entire life, including the past fifteen years in Manhattan and Brooklyn. It’s the only life I knew. But things in Southern California are different.

What are the big differences? I’d mentioned the weather above in passing, however it really and truly is a HUGE change. There are practically no seasons here! It’s always nice outside.

Like, every day.

No blizzards, no torrential downpours, no “Polar Vortexes” or whatever they’re calling cold snaps these days; just gorgeous and sunny, all the time. Sure, there’s some overcast days during what they call “June Gloom,” and during the fall and winter months it does get to be what folks on the East Coast might call “chilly.” But really, that’s about it.

I’m sure the weather has something to do with the second major difference between here in SoCal and back home in New York: the people are nicer. I’m sorry, but it’s true. They’re just…nicer. Folks smile here, they say “hello” and are for the most part super friendly and pleasant to be around. They don’t even honk here, and EVERYBODY has a car! When I was living in Brooklyn, I honked my horn in anger ten times a day, every day – it’s just a way of life. Here, though, it’s different.

And I love it.

There’s other things too, like the food (bagels are just as good, pizza is not) and the fashion (I get asked “why are you wearing a suit?” whenever I’m dressed up to emcee a corporate trivia team building activity in SoCal). Since there’s no ozone layer out here, I’ve also resigned myself to having to put on gallons of sunscreen every time I go outside, lest I turn into a lobster in two minutes flat.

For the most part, I think I’ve adapted pretty well. I feel less stressed and angry than I used to when living in Brooklyn, no longer having to deal with the honking, crowds, subways, weather, and other things which make life difficult in the Big Apple. But two years in as a California boy, I can tell that I definitely still have some remnants of my East Coast roots in me, and probably always will.

Here are some of the ways I’ve kept my “New Yorkness” despite my new West Coast environs:

My Hustle

To be clear, people work hard here in Southern California. REALLY hard. My wife, a school teacher, works just as many long hours here as she did in Brooklyn, with even less time for breaks. My in-laws work crazy hours as doctor and lawyer, respectively; so does just about everyone else in my orbit: friends, neighbors, fellow working parents.

However, being a self-employed entrepreneur means that paychecks don’t “magically” appear in my bank account every two weeks. I’ve known this reality ever since I took the leap to make corporate trivia hosting my full-time job back in 2011. Moving out to California, I knew that I was going to have to work twice as hard; not just to keep what I’d built back East going, but to establish a foothold somewhere entirely new, where I knew virtually no one, had zero connections – and zero clients.

As mentioned above, it’s much easier living here in SoCal than back East, and it’s easy to slip into a more relaxed mode. When the weather’s perpetually this nice and the people are as well, who wants to work? But I’ve never lost my focus, nor my work ethic – my fear, really. Because when your paycheck depends on whether you can find and sustain business or not, you’re basically operating on fear until you make it.

And so, I dived in with both feet – and still do, every day, two years later.

Each morning, I’m up at 5:30am. I could easily sleep until 7:30am, when the rest of the house wakes up. However, that’s not going to get me to where I need to be, is it? From there, I plow ahead full-steam all day, often working until 10 or 11pm at night. I work my heart out, doing anything and everything I possibly can to build my business, reach new audiences, and give my clients the absolute greatest game show event entertainment and corporate team building experiences I possibly can.

To me, this is a distinctly New York thing. Why? Because in New York, EVERYBODY hustles. Whether you’re an executive or professional at the top of your field, an underpaid worker bee slinging two side gigs to make ends meet (as I was), or somebody who’s miserably unemployed and trying desperately to find work (at other times, also me), New Yorkers know what it means to have to keep moving in order to survive. The cost of living there is SO high, the competition for jobs and business SO fierce, that you really don’t have much other choice, if you wish to remain there. I played this game for fifteen years, and moving to California didn’t extinguish that fire in me; if anything, it made my drive and will to succeed even stronger.

My Wit

I’ve always been a smartass. I was the class clown all through grade school, wrote for my college humor paper, my fraternity pledge name was “Joker.” My specialty isn’t telling jokes, it’s being witty & spontaneous. I’m lightning-fast with a quip, comment or comeback. When I started hosting bar trivia nights in Manhattan back in 2006, I finally found a way to channel that into something that was A) entertaining for an entire room, and B) something I could actually make money off of. A win-win!

Being a corporate game show host and trivia night corporate emcee in New York City means you HAVE to have that kind of sharp wit. Otherwise, you will seriously get eaten alive. Remember above, when I was talking about how hard it is to live there, and how everybody’s hustling? Well, at the trivia night it’s no different. New Yorkers have an edge about them, a hardened surface which comes with having to deal with so much on a daily basis, just in order to survive. Audiences at both public and private trivia events can be a handful: loud, obnoxious and of course, they love to heckle the person on the microphone.

I never had a problem keeping New Yorkers in their place, but that’s because I’ve always had my razor-sharp wit I could rely on. When I moved to Southern California, I wasn’t sure what would be in store – thus far, I haven’t had to use those chops nearly so often (see above re: “the people are nicer.”). However, I’ve definitely still got it; I keep my “wit blade” sharp if you will, either when hanging out with my friends, or in the rough-and-tumble world of Twitter, where clever jokes and snappy comments win the day.

My Love of Food

As I write this post, today has been marked by the absolutely horrible news that celebrated chef, author and TV personality Anthony Bourdain has tragically died (follow this link for more on this terrible story). I loved Bourdain; I have just about every one of his books on my shelf, thoroughly enjoyed his TV shows, and even went to a special restaurant in Montreal based solely on his recommendation (which you can read more about here). I’d even met the man once, while working at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan; I brought him backstage for a panel discussion he was participating in, and then got to take his picture with a friend of mine whom I’d brought to see the lecture as my guest.

I didn’t really have a strong opinion about food one way or another until I discovered Anthony Bourdain. But his books, his shows, his interviews…they were infectious.

Living in New York City is special for many reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is because it’s a food lover’s paradise. It’s one of the few places on Earth where you can find virtually ANY kind of global cuisine, within WALKING DISTANCE – and it’s GOOD. Even though for the first two thirds of my time in New York I was dirt poor and didn’t eat anything besides pizza, hard-boiled eggs and grilled chicken breasts, I started getting incredibly curious about food – not so much cooking, but the restaurants.

My trivia business started taking off right around the time I started dating the woman who I’d eventually marry. This newfound income came at the perfect time, as I now had not only a burgeoning interest in exploring restaurants, but somebody to share that with as well. It never went away; since our time together in NYC right up until now, my wife and I have both become true food lovers. It’s not as easy where we are to find or get to fantastic restaurants, and we don’t do it nearly as often as we used to back East. But we still love it, it’s our “thing,” and I owe it to both New York and Anthony Bourdain.

In Conclusion

To be honest, I don’t know if I’ll ever really feel like a Californian. I’ve identified as an East Coaster, New Englander and/or New Yorker for so long, that to simply up and move to the other side of the country doesn’t seem like enough of a seismic shift to change my sense of self. When people ask me where I’m from, it still feels quite unnatural to say “Southern California,” “SoCal” or “Los Angeles” because I’m not actually from here; it’s where I currently live and, most likely, will live for the rest of my life.

But you can’t take out of me what’s been steadily put in for so long, what’s developed after years and years of living and working in the Big Apple. They say if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere. But no matter where else I “make it,” I’ll always have a piece of New York with me, too.

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