Part One: to you now
I’ve looked for you everywhere. I know that you aren’t here, I know that, but I can’t help looking everywhere for you. I look for you inside the empty “I Love NY” t-shirts I hold up, trying to gauge if I’m getting the right size. I look for you when I take a rest, sitting on a park bench in Washington Square, the never ending buildings towering over the lonely green space, the playground in the middle, where other Dad’s push their baby-boos in swing-sets. I looked for you in this little SoHo shop for kids, in things I can’t afford to buy for you, well, not until I find the dusty rack in the back, the old stuff, 50% off – sorry kid, that’s what your Dad makes, and even at 50% off I really can’t afford it and when I throw my credit card down I hope it doesn’t get the “insufficient funds”. When I hold these things up, I look for your little body fitting inside, and I want to hold you, hug you to death, make you laugh, I want you to be there with me, in that exact and every instant.
I look for you on the street as we pass by a couple pushing their sleeping baby in a stroller, but something tells me you’re like me, you wont be able to sleep in a city like this. And I looked for you moments ago on the subway platform when another girl was singing her “Hookie Pookie” dance, your dance, and I was looking for you to step out from beside me, so unafraid of the world that you are, and walk over towards her, check this older girl out, and do the hookie with her on the platform.
The photo of you on my desktop isn’t enough, nor the one on my cell phone wallpaper, nor talking about how you are doing with Your Mother on the phone, hearing you make all your racket in the background. I want to hold you, feel the weight of you, pick you up, have you grab my index finger as you drag me towards something you love, something you want to show me.
I look for you passing by inside a cab, zipping down streets this way and that way, no idea where I am from one moment to the next.
I look for you outside my window, in the streets below, where kids and parents rush towards their day’s events together. I look for you everywhere, my girl. There is no sweeter sound than you, no sweeter feeling, no thing on this planet that can supplant me being right there, standing beside you, right there beside you in case you need me for something, just being with you, always right there, just in case, and following you around wherever you need to go. Just being there, close to you and YM – I can walk down every street in this city that never ends, turn down every new street I’ve never known existed until that moment, keep walking, keep turning, keep walking, keep searching, I can keep going and going but if you guys aren’t here and I can’t find you, this becomes the most full of emptiness city I’ve ever been to. It’s neat, it’s interesting, but ultimately it’s empty without you and YM here – so I look for you everywhere.
Part Two: for you later
Hey, maybe you’ve wound up in NYC to somehow pursue your dream as a dancer, or a poet, or a songwriter or a photographer or a writer or a designer or a filmmaker or an illustrator or painter or all of these thing, you made it to the dream land I once dreamed for myself. If you are there now, I wonder if it’s stayed the same? Does it still make the same impression?
First off, the buildings. They tower over you everywhere, on all sides, everywhere. Makes you feel like you’re walking around in little cold streams between mountain peaks on every side of you. They’re old, towering, and they are solid, they’ve all been there well before any of us now who are walking around between them and they’ll be left standing well after we’re gone, like mountain tops, like any grand natural landscape that just makes you feel small, makes you feel like you truly are, a mere flash in the pan. (And yeah, I know, this is a man-made mountain range on a flat island by the sea.) And I guess this towering over you with this imposing permanence, one you wont ever have, makes you hustle that much more, makes a New Yorker work that extra little bit, make what you can for yourself here and now, in your flash of life inbetween all the rock walls.
And that stream analogy kind of holds for all the people as well. People are EVERYWHERE. If you’re in Toronto and there is a street fair or after a ballgame lets out, and you go run down to where all those people are let out heading towards their cars and subway stations then you know a little about what an average day in NYC is like. People are out in the streets. People and cars are going every which way. A constant stream, gushing at some points, breaking the banks at times, traffic cops out at those places trying to keep the levies up as best they can in their random improvised white-gloved hand waves. Orderly chaos everywhere. All these people fighting like fish jumping to get air-borne for the largest flies, everyone a true individual within the clutter of so many people how else can it look from above except just a mess of a single species dominating a giant rock turned into a mountain range. Everything living is gone except us, our individuals, everyone just a little hipper than the next, just a little more this little scene than the next. It’s glorious (expensive) individualism that in the end oddly seems futile, end of day it just comes off as “oh, that’s that kind of new Yorker.” There’s just SOOOO many people with that general look, manner, dismissive glance when you don’t turn out to be someone or anything that is worth knowing in the end, that in the end you all just become a part of a larger group, a category or sub-category of this or that group.
One thing that strikes me about NYC is that I’m not sure anything is actually made here. Maybe some widgets here and there, but nothing large scale it seems to me. It seems that this is the doorman to the world’s economy, or surely to the US’s. Starts at the tip, Wall Street, where New York takes the first cut of everything there is to make in the economy. Okay, you got some thing out there wherever and you need to sell it, you need to trade its stock, you need to ship it, you need to value it in some world economy way, that’s fine, but it’s going to pass through NYC and as it does they are going to take a huge middle man share for that. That cut then trickles down to the real-estate barons, the clothing shops, the galleries, the artist, the theatres, etc. You got a widget out there that you make and need to make cooler to world? NYC can do that for you with all the best creative around and in the process another big cut comes out and that cut trickles out into the city. It reminds me of that leeward and westward talk in geography class about the Rocky Mountains, the raining clouds come heavy with rain towards the Rockies and in order to get over to the other side they have to drop the water to make it westward. Maybe that’s why the towers are so high in Manhattan, so endless, to ensure that ideas, money, the new, the talent – all the best, the first cut of everything falls from the sky and trickles through all the streams down below.
On the flight down I picked up Malcolm Gladwell’s “blink” at the airport and with flight delays I got a good chunk of it read. One part kept coming back to me while I was walking back and forth between Manhattan and Brooklyn where I was staying, just by the Brooklyn Bridge. Gladwell was quoting a study in which a large pile of African American students were taking a test, half the group just had the questions and they did quite well. The other half had the questions but there was a first question only their group had, “Are you African American? Yes-No.” This group of African American students who took this test, where they had to identify themselves first off did worse on their scores. Gladwell went on to state that the test proved that certain kinds of leads can trigger things in our unconscious that effect our performance, that somehow the students who started off identifying themselves as African Americans had in the subconscious negative connotations about themselves in this test and it triggered confidence issues, self esteem issues, etc, that led to a lower test performance. (I’m curious how those test results have changed in the Obama years.) So, as I walked around all of this New York architecture, the history of it, the fact that almost everyone on the planet has heard about New York City, the hustle, the bustle, the giant talent pool, the top-tier of world talent and finance, I wondered how that affects someone going into work every day, when their lead thought if their eyes are open is “I’m a New Yorker.” I’m an Actor in New York. Or “I’m a film student in New York.” Or “I’m a writer in New York.” I wonder if that raises their ‘test scores’, raises their drive, their confidence to keep pushing towards a mastery of their craft? We all know talent is born throughout the world, but in these “world cities” like New York or London or Tokyo or Paris or Los Angeles, I wonder if they not only attract top-tier talent but they also push it to its ultimate heights just by waking up everyday in a city with that around them. The first question they get to say yes to, “Did you wake up in New York city today?” somehow triggers positive cycles of thought and confidence and drive. For me personally, I love saying I grew up in Ottawa and I live in Toronto, sure why not, nothing wrong with that, but what would it mean to achieve that inclusion, that successful move from here to there, to a world city? “Where do you live and apply your craft, Shane?” Answering “New York” to that, waking up and knowing that has to have a positive effect on the overall creative performance. It’s like that saying, “if you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere.” And for us, sure, if you can make it in Toronto you can dominate Vancouver, but who cares? (ha)
It’s intoxicating, that’s all I can say about the place. It’s a playground for highly successful adults. And being around it for only a snippet reminds you of how far there is still left to go. Maybe I never make it that far, but maybe you will. Or maybe New York is a state of mind. I remember back in my University days where I wanted to transfer to SFU in Vancouver just so I could be closer to nature and the living world and feeling that Toronto was dead inside somehow. The brochures can fool you. However, when you look inside yourself, walk around, suddenly the living world is everywhere. So, maybe there is a ho-hum vibe to Toronto in comparison to New York or maybe that’s a state of mind I let myself sink into. All I do know is that if you could write your own life biography and everything you wrote came true, how could you not add a line or two about living in New York city “where his work as an artist reached new unimaginable heights?” In the meantime you keep chipping away, keep dreaming, and maybe pass the dream along. (I don’t mean to sound so fatalistic about it, but you go there and it’s just an absolute explosion of people, culture, ideas, and dreamed of potential – there’s this here and now thing to it … look, New York is in the shadow of no one and when you’re there you know it, and it makes it hard when you’re no longer there to think that it’s just out there, NYC, every day doing its thing … so maybe the trick is don’t go there, ever, stay where you are, everything is fine here! seriously.