This is a true story that involves Donald Trump, the Dalai Lama, and a doorman.
It was September 2003. I had just arrived in NYC from Arizona to start college. I packed a backpack, shipped some boxes out and didn't look back. I was on a mission.
It was one of those late summer, early autumn nights in NYC where anything was possible. The streets were alive and people had plans. The air was complex and misty. It smelled like the aftermath of a concert. There was an orange glow to everything. Perhaps it was from the streetlights. Or maybe it was the omnipresent charge of NYC energizing everyone and everything through its sheer presence. At least that's how it seemed to me after having just arrived here the night before.
It was about 2am and I was wandering the streets of Brooklyn with two girls I had just met at college. We still had energy and wanted to keep exploring. We decided we would walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan. By 4am we were in Times Square. NYC was still alive as ever at that time. No one seemed to sleep. So we didn't either.
We were handed a flyer that announced the Dalai Lama's event in Central Park that morning. That was it. Our destination was set. We had somewhere to be. We started uptown. By then, we had probably walked 15 miles.
When we finally arrived at the south west entrance of Central Park, we quickly realized that the park was closed until the Dalai Lama arrived and we couldn't get in. Police were everywhere and the barricades were up.
The sun was about to rise.
We had been on the streets all night.
We were sweaty and needed some place to sit down.
The girls decided they wanted to watch the sunrise.
Above us rose what seemed to be the tallest building we had seen all night: Trump International Hotel & Tower at 1 Central Park West.
I had to get us to the top. How could we waste a morning like this on the streets without watching the sunrise?
What followed could have been an outtake form Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
You can't just walk into the Trump International Hotel & Tower, but that's exactly what we attempted to do.
There was a doorman on duty. But how could we get by him?
I couldn't believe it but he was asleep. We took the opportunity and quietly walked right by him and into the elevator across the lobby.
We couldn't press a button without a key.
Or so we thought.
As we nervously huddled in the elevator, I explained to the girls the plan: we would start making a bunch of noise so we would wake him up as we came out of the elevator seemingly from upstairs. We would then walk out the elevator and approach the doorman as we angrily accuse him of sleeping on the job. He will assume we live in the building and we will take that opportunity to make our demands, which he will be expected to fulfill so as not to lose his job.
It worked just as planned.
We busted out of the elevator screaming about some made up conversation. We were talking about ballet or some pretentious nonsense to add to our wealthy, Trump resident persona.
We stopped and just starred at him as he was waking up rubbing his eyes. He was clearly embarrassed and ashamed. Perfect. Just where I wanted him.
I walked up to him and quietly explained that I didn't want to get him in trouble. I explained that he could avoid any trouble if he sent for a couple of bottles of champagne and breakfast for me and girls on the roof.
He didn't hesitate. He got on his phone and called the kitchen immediately. We asked him to escort us to the roof and set a place for us to dine and enjoy the sunrise.
This whole time he believed we were residents of the Trump International Hotel & Tower on Central Park West. One of the most expensive residences in NYC. Three sweaty, underage college students dressed like scallywags.
When we arrived on the roof, we were surprised to see a beautiful setup. Lounge chairs, tables with umbrellas, and a view of Central Park that was out of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.
The champagne and breakfast quickly arrived. Along with a bouquet of flowers.
The three of us were alone on the rooftop of the Trump Tower with two bottles of champagne, a full breakfast, comfortable chairs, and a view that very few people get to see.
The sun was rising.
The Dalai Lama's monks were drumming in the park announcing his arrival and practicing for the main event.
We felt it.
It was NYC's way of welcoming us and showing us what was possible.
It was a taste of the good life.
But it was based on deception and it wasn't our reality.
We knew that if we wanted that reality we would have to earn it.
I don't know what happened to the two girls after that night. I never saw them again.
But I'm positive that they still remember it.
I'm still trying to find a way back to that metaphorical rooftop.