Matt currently works at General Assembly as the Global Alumni Director. By the end of 2015 GA will have nearly 40,000 alums of our long form programs. These are people with ambition, work experience, an entrepreneurial spirit, and, now, equipped with some of the most important skills of the 21st century. When you combine all these factors, along with their global footprint, there’s nothing stopping the GA community from being one of the more important and influential networks in the world. It’s Matt’s job to help make that happen.
Matt was once the subject of an A+ final paper for a creative non-fiction class at the Univeristy of Pennsylvania. It was called “Cynamon: Legend In His Own Mind”. We think the title sums him up nicely.
What’s your historical London and New York connection?
My time in both cities started almost entirely by accident. When I graduated from college in 2009 I had every intention of staying in Chicago. But one day a friend approached me and said he needed someone to drive with him to New York to drop his stuff off at his parent’s house. At that point in my life I took any opportunity I could to go on a road trip. So, I volunteered and thought why not give New York a try. As soon as I got here I knew there was no way I was leaving, partly because I had no way of getting back to Chicago, but mostly because I needed New York. I quickly settled into a sublet at a place called “The Fractal Lounge” in Williamsburg where my roommate was on day 28 of a lemon and cayenne pepper cleanse. He told me his meditations were out of this world. It was clear this place was weird, and it was where I wanted to be.
London came about in sort of an equally cavalier way. I was half way through my third year in NYC and 6 months into a new job at GA. After a series of cryptic gchats I was called into a meeting with one of GA’s founders. He told me they were expanding to London and wanted me to head over there to help launch the office. He said it would only be for 3 months….I knew he was lying. But I gladly accepted without any hesitation. I was 24 years old, single, and my only possession was an antique rollover desk I got at a Hassidic thrift store in Bushwick. It was only as my plane started to descend into Heathrow that I looked out the window and thought, “Holy shit, I agreed to this and I’ve never even been to London before.” Fortunately, when I landed those concerns washed away and were replaced by a new set as I was detained at border patrol and interrogated for almost 9 hours. They ultimately let me in and I ended up staying for 2.5 years.
Describe your experience in London as a New Yorker.
Being a (self-anointed) New Yorker in London was weird on a lot of levels. But what I seem to recall most vividly is how drastically different my reaction to each city was. When I moved to New York it was love at first sight. I had total sensory overload and just couldn’t get enough. I thought I was at the center/centre of the universe. With London it was the total opposite. I didn’t really get it. It was dreary, damp, and inconvenient. Its charm was completely lost on me and I got the impression that it was my civic responsibility to commiserate with other Londoners. But much like someone with Stockholm syndrome, I slowly developed empathy for my captor. Love comes in many forms. While my love for London was the slow, defeating type — it was love nonetheless.
How can New York and London better engage with each other?
I don’t know how much they really need to? Both cities seem to be doing alright. But the best way for either side to get to know each other is to travel more often. So maybe the answer is cheaper airfare? Perhaps Ryanair is the answer to all life’s problems.
Favorite NYC secret spot: Rockmeisha – This changes often but my current favorite secret NYC spot is Rockmeisha in the West Village. It’s a tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant that I would probably describe as Tokyo dive bar food. I stumbled in there by accident the other night when the fancy Italian restaurant we had intended on going to had a 2 hour wait.
Favourite London secret spot: This is also a tough one but whenever someone was visiting I would always take them to Ye Olde Mitre. It was built in 1546 and hasn’t changed much since 1782.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I’ve always had ambitions of being a southern gentleman so I would probably pick Savannah, GA. But I’m keeping that on hold for a little while.
In flight entertainment: