It was amazing seeing lines 40 persons deep at every single Himalayan restaurant in Jackson Heights. I had never seen anything like it. The restaurants were overwhelmed, no one expected this many people to come. What a great problem to have. Some workers told me they wanted to wring my neck but most were laughing as they said it.
From 30 friends the first year to 80 people in the rain the next to 800 in 2014. The momo is an amazing ambassador for the Himalayan community. Whenever I mention to someone a momo, they want it – regardless if they know what a momo is. This momo thing has legs.
Photos from Sahadev Poudel and Joseph DiDio. I took some of the more rough pictures here.
My volunteers were so essential. We just made sure the plan was good and no one panicked and we let the people figure out the map and the event themselves. The event is purely what you make of it. Great crowd – I think everyone had fun.
Here is Joe Depace’s video. This is before the event officially started – I wish he would have stayed around for the whole thing! I love Joe but I had to corral my volunteers so I couldn’t give him proper attention. Joe is a prolific documentarian of New York City.
Here is an utterly complete video by Sahadev Poudel of Himali Sworharu. I love how the volunteers were able to fluidly react to the voting systems at the end.
Looking at the map of Jackson Heights, it’s really just a grid with Broadway intersecting it. That affords a pretty open representation of the neighborhood. The first version of this map just had Roosevelt Avenue as a space for titles, then a few horizontal lines representing the avenues, and Tibetan prayer flags coming down representing the streets.
Looking at a map of the border of Nepal and Tibet, I thought about the angle it was on and the importance of the Himalayas (whose peaks are the border itself), and I thought I would use that diagonal border as Broadway. Yes, it would be a little wobbly, and probably no one would understand it but me, but whatever, it was the dream and the dream must be done.
I thought a lot about trekking, the signs you may see would represent each momo place. There are also the rope bridges here representing the avenues, and clues to some of the special activities going on throughout the neighborhood like t-shirts and momo drawing.
The pricing structure has been an experiment for the last 2 years. Instead of dictating a dollar amount, in 2013 I asked people to give 2 bills of any denomination in exchange for a momo map. It was a great experiment, just to see the thought process of people coming to the crawl. Some were into it, and some were utterly frustrated when I refused to give them change. Also, the thought process of how much they thought they should pay is so interesting: How much is it worth? Should I give how much it’s worth or the least possible amount I can get away with? Very interesting psychology. I tried not to look at the dollar amount and was sure to thank everyone equally.
The only issue was the participation of one vendor. The event really is a no-brainer for makers to participate. A normal set of momos is 8 for $5 or 6, and here we asking them to sell 1 for $1. At one cart the trouble was getting permission from the owner. At the time of the crawl, I was still dealing with the back and forth miscommunication so I ended up getting a volunteer set up shop at the cart, buying box by box of momos, then selling them for $1 each until the vendor got the hint. To keep us all honest and happy, all the extra money was a tip. This lasted for about 40 minutes until the vendor eventually started doing it himself. You gotta do what you gotta do….
This year’s trophy vision was a spinning golden momo atop a mountain. As always, I’m much more prepared with knowledge after I do the projects, but here was the process:
The trophy had a base of a tin can, buffeted by aluminum foil, then covered with clay to form the mountain. I tried not to overwork it too much so it would be rough like an actual mountain. I figured the painting later would take care of the snow aspect.
To have the floating golden momo spin, I bought a rotating dashboard device and put its guts inside of the momo trophy base. It did have a flimsy solar panel attached but it broke off so the batteries were the only power source. Overall the trophy turned out pretty janky but whatever, it was a dream and you gotta go with the dreams. Here is my father working his lathe on the trophy:
I only feel comfortable using spray paint, so I sprayed it as mountain-like as possible, having grass, dirt, and then snow on top. I believe it even has some texture to it with this snow paint I bought, though its hard to tell in the pictures. Before the crawl, it was stored at Himalayan Connection.
The Momo Trophy can now be found at Lhasa Fast Food AKA Tibetan Mobile. The batteries have to be replaced every week or so.
I definitely wanted a visual way of representing the votes. I knew this was going to be an almost unmanageable number of people, so it seemed that being able to count the votes quickly by hand would be impossible. I also wanted no lag, everyone to be active and joining together to create a moment.
I made these flags with every restaurant’s name on them. They were large enough so people could hold them up.
All my events I love things to reveal themselves. I want people to figure things out and discover. I just get the boat ready then untie it and see where it goes.
By the time it was night we were voting. It was cool how it was getting windy and weather was turning. The nightfall seemed like a transition from the crawl to the vote. The first people who came back to vote got to hold the flag. The next people who wanted to vote for this restaurant had to join that clan. All the flags eventually had holders and as more people came back to the plaza, the clans got bigger and bigger and the places who weren’t going to win began to emerge. After the growth slowed, I began to eliminate places from contention and asked their fans to join another momo crew. This continued until we were down to 3 crews which became too unruly to count.
To accurately count the final crews, I had all three line up next to each other. Still, this was too complicated and clumsy to count, so to create order and accuracy I had every person hold hands with a person of the crew next to theirs. This was totally breaking down barriers of touch-phobia and it felt like we were back in elementary school.
Here’s a great video capturing the voting procedure from the Asian American Writers’ Workshop:
GangJong Kitchen, Little Tibet, and Lhasa Fast Food AKA Tibetan Mobile were the finalists. In the end, it was Lhasa Fast Food taking the championship winning by ONE vote over Little Tibet. Every vote counts.
Poster for the Momo Crawl created by Zachary Katz. Everyone loved it and was proud to put it on their business. I even had a black and white version created that didn’t allude to Tibet like this one, but no one wanted it because this one was just too good. This year Zach is on again with a secular version. You can see more of Zach at http://www.zkdesign.biz/