A studio in the East Village. Brunch with a philosopher. Two gentleman urinating in broad daylight. A lecture from the descendants of one of the first black female socialites of the Harlem Renaissance. A solo viewing in a SoHo Art gallery. A secret party in the LES. All these events have formed part of what I knew would be an incredible experience. It is a dream of the surreal(ism) kind.
When I arrived last Wednesday, things were not rosy. The customs queue at JFK had dampened my mood, the weather had dampened my clothes, and it was so cold that I stood at Howard Beach Subway Station, freezing, regretting half of my clothing choices. Never the less, once in Manhattan I dumped my things in the apartment I’m staying in and headed straight to the UCBeast to watch some Improv Comedy to prepare for the 2 weeks of classes. Eager. The next night, I watched my dear friends Adam Melchor, Tiger Darrow & Andrew Orkin perform at Rockwood Music Hall. They were incredible, as always. Friday night saw me watching the Manhattan Skyline from Sunset Park and dining in Chinatown. Saturday Night was Freestyle Love Supreme at the Lincoln Center Theater. Lin-Manuel Miranda was 2 feet away from me. I felt the best. Then on Sunday, I walked from my apartment across Brooklyn Bridge to Williamsburg. That is 8.5 kilometres. I was not prepared. All these events resulted in an involuntary 12-hour snooze on Sunday night to make up for my attempt to slip straight into the EDT time zone.
My class finishes at 12pm so I’ve had the days free to explore the city, and I am still amazed, even though my total time here in life is over a month (which, I now realise, is nothing). The Wholefoods Market is a mecca for the tastebuds. I have eaten at vegan restaurants and I have loved them. Chelsea and SoHo are my favourite places…is that me subconsciously identifying them with their London namesakes (?) There have been so many wonderful discoveries, both out here and in me.
Last Wednesday, my classmates and I went to watch some more Improv. After the show, there is what’s known as an ‘ImprovJam.’ This is where anyone can put their name in a bright red bucket, and if you are called out (groups of 8) you perform improv as a team. A more experienced friend I’d made from the first day said I should put my name in with her. After 9 hours of Improv, I could hardly call myself jam ready. But in the ten more minutes I had to decide, whilst the hosts were performing, I ran up to the front and put my name in. And, whose name was picked out first? The first name in the whole jam? Yep. Up on to the stage I went, and performed 10 minutes of Improv with 7 complete strangers. For some reason, I did it with an American accent too (?!) Result: it was amazing. And people believed I was American. My deceit aside, it was SUCH a rush that it really took me a while to go to sleep when I got home. In a week’s time, I went from watching the jam to being up there…loving it. Things have a tendency to come around full circle here, and double-time too.
I’ve found a metaphor for this place. If you went for a jog – scrap that – you went for a run and you fell over flat on your face, New York would just keep on running without even glancing down to see if you were still conscious. It will not wait for you. It will not pick you up. This makes it great when you do eventually get up, but a lot harder too. Thus, the ‘New Yorker.’ It’s a city where unless you feel you’re making some sort of contribution to it, either by working, or just looking down-right fabulous – which could been a genuine occupation here…must look into this – you can feel bummed out, because there is such a constant sense of drive and dynamism. This is a wonderful thing, but it can also turn into a subconscious hostility. I have eaten alone, a lot. But I have also met some lovely, warm, and like-minded people who have made me feel so welcome amongst them. But those moments have only come when I’ve put myself out there.
New York is a wonderful place if you can stay on top of it. But even as I write that, having experienced a teaspoon of real NYC living, I know that it’s so much easier said than done, and wish I could find a way to make it sound less patronizing. Dory can; Just Keep Swimming. I feel like it is possible. In 9 days, I already feel more secure. The philosopher I spoke to over breakfast said, “Creativity, or even life, is all endless process.” I would add to that and say that it’s process with progress. The process sets the wheels in motion, and the progress moves them forward.**
** Cortados can aid the progressive motion of said wheels. I had an impeccable one at Dudley’s yesterday.
And that is my New York City in a nutshell, if it were ever possible to confine this epic city to such limits. Halfway through this trip, I’m starting to uncover what I want from myself artistically, and that is constantly evolving, constantly progressing. It is very exciting, it is very overwhelming. But it feels like I’m doing the right thing, because I’m doing the truth thing and putting my heart in the place it wants to be.
Now to find the right way to stay…