(First published on Urban Times on 07th Nov 2012)
Cosmopolis: a large city inhabited by people from many different countries ~ the Free Dictionary
Filmmaker Alana Kakoyiannis shot a short film a few years ago titled Cosmopolis. It’s the story of a New York diner that was turned with the help of new management from a crummy hole in the wall to a place from which you couldn’t keep the patrons out.
Owner Kostas Kaloudis explains that he started off with some soul. Instead of doing one of the same, like replacing the interior with a new and snazzy look, he decided to keep the old furniture and decor, while focusing on a fresh attitude toward service i.e. being genuinely friendly and paying attention to his clients’ individual needs.
Soon he developed a dedicated clientele. People came because they felt at home there. They were being taken care of. The place was small and it often got crowded, but it didn’t matter. ‘Sometimes you gotta wait, but it’s worth the wait,’ a regular explains.
Kaloudis also drafted a dedicated team. The supporting staff performed well and were treated well, adding their two bits of goodwill and accomplishment to the establishment.
Some of them gradually expressed interest in the business. Kaloudis recognized their initiative and began teaching them the ropes, treating them as future caretakers, if not future owners, of the business. ‘The classic American dream,’ he says.
What’s The Point?
Some of them expressed interest in the business. Kaloudis recognized their initiative and began teaching them the ropes.
Shot in 2007, at the beginning of the subprime mortgage crisis, this short film may appear a world apart from current reality. Things have changed since then. Life is not so feel-goody anymore. Places like the New York Diner are the stuff of fairy tales. Things don’t just happen this way.
Or so many people would like to believe and persuade others. It suits them that way. It’s easier to surrender to despair and not be accountable, trashing the entire system in the process. Then you don’t have to answer to yourself or anyone at all about why things didn’t work out, or what you could have done to make them better. It’s easier to go on the back foot and blame it on the beaver.
The point of the matter is, when down, you must get up. The less time spent complaining the more time devoted to getting things right again. Bar the necessary reforms that need to be made to rectify widespread social, financial and political injustices, which ought to be tackled boldly and decisively through bipartisan initiative, all efforts must be concentrated on getting back on one’s feet. Getting back in the game.
Focusing on getting things done is failure’s greatest undoing and the best way forward
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the US elections and the squabble over the course of the future and the vitriol that has been accompanying it for some time now, we need some sobering insight into what works rather than what doesn’t, reminding ourselves that focusing on getting things done is failure’s greatest undoing and the best way forward.
This is what this film reveals. Not the desperation that is preventing people from pursuing their dreams but the creative spirit that makes things possible. Whether pre-recession or post-recession, or even mid-recession, this is the stuff that takes a hole in the wall and turns it into a place people appreciate. Turning it into a pleasant and profitable enterprise. Into a location of opportunity and hope.
What better way to reveal this insight than tell the allegory of a diner that has become a gathering place for people from various ethnic and social backgrounds? Here is a tale of humanity, captured in a microcosm, in a “cosmopolis” that is part of cosmopolitan New York City, in a country that was built from people from all over the world, in a time of globalization.
What a beautiful title for a beautiful idea. For a reinvigorated, accomplished place.