Sharing Latkes

Sharing Latkes

 I once had lunch with Henny Youngman – the King of the One Liners – at New York’s Carnegie Deli. It was early in the summer of 1991, my first summer in New York City, and I hadn’t been to the Carnegie since I was a kid on vacation. I couldn’t wait to go back, so one day my college roommate and I met there for lunch.  (No, Henny Youngman wasn’t my college roommate!)

JOAKIM JARDENBERG – FLICKR

They don’t sit you at little, individual tables at the Carnegie Deli. You share space. Tables are lined together in rows. Two for lunch? There are two seats right over there. So you wedge in beside the next guy who’s cutting into a twelve-inch high pastrami on rye, share an order of pickled tomatoes. You engage, you interact, and you eat, together. You discover new items on the menu and new people at the table. 

Which is how we ended up getting stuffed on cheese blintzes while being fed one-liners by Henny Youngman – who made the Carnegie Deli his home away from home.

Me: “How’s your egg cream?” Mr. Youngman: “Compared to what?

The food here is fit for a king….  Here King, Here King!

For those of you who don’t know New York, the Carnegie Deli is at 7th Avenue and 55th Street, a few blocks south of Central Park, a few blocks east of Lincoln Center, around the block from the Ed Sullivan Theater and a short walk from Rockefeller Center.  It is, in short, in the middle of one of the highest concentrations of interesting people in the world. And tight concentrations of people drive creativity and growth.

“Density — the close clustering of people together in communities,” writes Richard Florida, “is a big factor in the technological and economic progress of cities and nations. Economists, urbanists, and place makers have found density to be associated with everything from greater energy efficiency to higher levels of skilled and talented people, higher rates of innovation, and higher income.” Those effects, in turn, are more concentrated where the density itself is more concentrated, in large part (and we’ll get back to this another time) because “diversity is more likely in places where density is more concentrated.” The type of knowledge that fosters creativity and innovation flows greater where you have an agglomeration of smart and creative people. 

When Dennis wrote in his last post about the origination of coworking in 2006 in New York’s creative community in so-called “Jellies,” that’s the culture from which the movement grew. A variety show of people, welcomed together into effectively public places, baked into a recipe for the future of coworking. Long tables, a shared space, an order of bagels and toast, an exchange of ideas and spreads and jellies, and “Take my wife . . . please.”

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