Snapshots of Brooklyn: Month 2

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People like to say they do or don’t like cities, or that they’re city folk or non-city folk, which kind of suggests that cities are all the same. That they are passive. People also like to say, ‘a place is what you make of it’ which, while I get the sentiment, I don’t totally agree with.

Of course you can make the best or worst of a situation or a location depending on your attitude. But I also think a city is kind of like a person, with character traits and personality quirks that either gel with you or not. You can have a gut feeling about a city, good or bad, and you can fall in love with a city the way you do with a person. I can anyway. Sometime it’s quick, sometimes it’s gradual. Sometimes your relationship with a city can completely change. Just like with people.

London has my heart. It was love at first sight, the first sight I was old enough to recall anyhow, when I was 16 and we were visiting family. I can’t even tell you why, but straight away I felt comfortable there. I moved there as soon as I could and immediately felt more at home there than I’d ever felt in Australia. I still feel energised when I’m in London, inspired. There are places in London that overwhelm me with waves of love. Over the years, even though my relationship with London has often been long distance, it has grown deeper, and more complex.

It’s difficult not to compare New York City to London, even though that’s not fair. I know it’s not just me though – google ‘New York and London’ and you get tons of articles and listicles comparing the two cities. From a global viewpoint there are a lot of parallels, I guess they could be considered cousins.

I’m not in love with NYC, not yet anyway. Maybe we’re in the courtship stage,  maybe we’re only destined to be really great friends. Which sometimes is better anyway – less high-level emotion at stake.

I’m enjoying exploring this city, but it somehow feels harsher than others I’ve lived in – certainly more than London with its historical beauty, its accessibility to other countries in Europe, its free art galleries. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m older, more world-weary and heartsore, less bright-eyed and all that, but so far NYC has made me feel tired and a little overwhelmed. Maybe it’s the politics, the fact that I know I now live in a country that is officially anti-healthcare and pro-gun. That companies here are reluctant to hire full-time or offer benefits; the gig economy is rampant, the lack of a safety net is a reality. Especially compared with Australia, where the majority of people don’t have a clue how good they have it. It feels like consumerism clashes with poverty here in a more everyday, obvious way. It’s what I see on my walk to work. It’s not a new observation but: everything IS bigger here, more extreme. The highs and the lows. There’s nothing subtle about America.

Maybe London is not actually any easier – the politics certainly aren’t any better – but perhaps the British sense of humor, the sarcasm, softens the blow. The elegant buildings, the polite but controlled society, the culture of binge drinking which allows some release. From this vantage point the repressed nature of the British starts to seem nuanced and layered while the directness of Americans starts to seem brash, maybe even a little vulgar. It’s the Wild West here, people beg and busk for money on the train, they blast loud music on the streets, they actually have impromptu block parties around open fire hydrants in the streets – just like in the movies.

Which is exciting, which is fun, which reminds me so much of the looseness of Latin America while also putting into sharp focus the rigidity and conformity of Australia. Especially Sydney, that vapid bimbo of a city.

New York exhausts me, but I still have no footing. I met someone this week who told me it took her a full year to get the city in focus, to feel settled. She was from New Jersey! I’m taking my time, I’m reserving judgement. I haven’t figured out what NYC is to me yet. I’m intrigued by it, I want to get to know it better.

Basically, that’s why I’m here.

 

 

 

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Movie Review: Wild Rose, and the ‘unwritten poems that took a backseat to polished floors’.

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In many ways this movie is like so many others, but in other ways it is like no other. Or, as a pithier writer would say, and in fact did say, on the Roger Ebert site review: “Wild Rose may sound like a familiar tune, but you’ve never heard it performed quite like this”.

In short, Wild Rose is the story of a young Glaswegian singer with an intense love of – and talent for – American country music. She wants to go to Nashville and become a star with every fibre of her being, but she keeps getting in her own way. She is recently out of prison, has two young children who barely know her, a put-upon mother (Julie Walters) who is running out of patience, and shows no signs of growing up any time soon.

FILM REVIEW: Midsommar, and the horror of the domestic

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Hereditary felt like a revelation when it came out last year partly because it was a real movie, with real actors, and real depth and complexity, which happened to be a horror film. As a massive fan of the horror genre, I can tell you that films like that don’t come along all that often. Other films I can think of in that category in recent memory are Let the Right One In, Mandy, The Witch and Get Out. All of which you should watch immediately if you haven’t already. Hereditary was also something of a crossover hit and was talked about and seen by way more people than a horror film usually would be, probably because of the presence of – and incredible performance by – Toni Collette.

The thing about Hereditary is that the most horrifying parts of the film have nothing to do with the supernatural. In a way it almost feels like two movies. The most visceral and memorable moments of the film are rooted in things that are very much of this earth: grief, trauma, blame, guilt, mental illness. Themes that are familiar and awful parts of the human experience. Filmmaker Ari Aster has an incredible gift for conveying the emotion of sheer sickening dread that I’ve rarely seen done so well. Maybe the only other film I can think of that gave me that feeling of a full-body blow is David Fincher’s Se7en from back in 1995. Or the Tim Roth’s film The War Zone, and some films by Lars Von Trier. For me, the satanic and creepy elements of Hereditary even felt a little weak in comparison.

Snapshots of Brooklyn: Month 1

BrooklynBy snapshot I definitely do not mean photo because anyone who knows me, knows I consider taking photos some kind of punishment. I once spent six months in Africa and didn’t take a single photo. That is not a brag, it’s actually pretty stupid and embarrassing. I only joined Instagram a few months ago. Words are my preferred medium OK!

I do however want to capture these initial impressions I’ve had of living in America, before they start to seem totally normal and not worth even noting. It’s already starting to happen.

Music Review: Pissed Jeans at Brooklyn Bazaar 30/06/19. And how Matt Korvette made me realise why twitter exists

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I know, I know. No one writes music reviews anymore. See depressing musings on that topic here and here. I used to love reading them as much as I loved writing them. I wrote so many live music reviews in my time. I would stand there with my little notepad, trying to be discreet – writing snatches of lyrics to songs I didn’t know the names of that I would google later. I took it so seriously, and now it has all but disappeared as a genre. Oh well. Like so many things, I’m glad I got to enjoy it while it lasted.

In other news, oh my god I love Pissed Jeans. I saw them at Lee’s Palace in Toronto many moons ago and I never got it out of my head. Ever. Their onslaught of tight tight heaviness. The insane slinkiness of their singer (Matt Korvette). There was something so sick and yet so magnetic about that band. They lay dormant in my mind but I never crossed paths with them again – until now!

Book Review: Hardcore Zen by Brad Warner. Punk Rock, Monster Movies, & the Truth about Reality

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This past year, while being one of the most difficult of my life, has also been amazing for many things. One of those things is reading. For some reason, when I am single I always read more. I know that sounds really bad, like, ‘I’ve found a man now, I don’t need to be smart’, but actually I think it’s just a time thing. When you’re in a relationship so much of your leisure time goes to hanging out with that person. It doesn’t help that every person I’ve dated was not a reader (except for one, the German, I loved talking about books with him). Every time I’m newly single (god, that’s a depressing thing to write) one of the first things I do is get straight back into reading.

So. I’ve just moved to Brooklyn, and one of the first things I do when I move somewhere is join the library. I feel like I need to write a whole book, or maybe just a blog post, about how much I fucking love libraries at some point. I don’t think I know a single person my age who has a library card and it drives me crazy (edit – I met one!). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – public libraries are the greatest thing organised society has come up with.