New York Without The Stuff

Anyone who has spent a certain amount of time of time in my presence will eventually find out my dark secret: I fucking hate Toronto. Yup that Toronto, the one in Canada, where I spent two long years of my life and where apparently everyone is supposed to be like really, really nice. Ha! More like passive aggressive, amirite! Sorry. I don’t want to go too deep into it, since we’re all trying to stay positive here, but I did mention the T word for a reason. I once saw a fabulous bumper sticker at the iconic and now defunct Toronto department store Honest Ed’s (one less good thing about the city!) that really summed up my feelings about the place. It said:

“Toronto: Just Like New York, But Without The Stuff!”

Honestly I will take the one to my grave, it just really tickled me and is SO TRUE.

Anyway, the joke’s on me now since I’m living in New York in the time of Coronavirus and guess what folks: right now New York feels like New York but without the stuff.

This is a multifaceted tragedy; medically, economically, mentally, and culturally. We’re in it now so we have no idea what it is gonna look like with the benefit of time. All of those memes and posts about the planet finally getting a break from our rampant consumerism and mindless environmental damage, about taking an opportunity to stop and smell the flowers, feel a little off / trite / smug in light of how many people are openly suffering at this time and the fact that it is all still unfolding. I don’t disagree that things needed shaking up – OBVIOUSLY – but I feel like now is the time to get through this damn thing and be there for each other. From a safe distance of course.

However all these hours of day drinking – I mean, introspection – have really made me examine WHY I live in New York. Not just me, I mean why anyone lives in New York, why anyone lives in cities.

More work opportunities is a reason, yes, and obviously some people are born here. But someone like myself who is very lucky to have choices, many of which are far more comfortable, clean, stable and sensible choices, chooses to live here because of what it give me access to. I’m a culture junky.  Living in a place with such energy and history is part of it, but more importantly it’s the cultural life. It’s the music, the food, the art, and the fact that most people here value cultural life.

Take last couple of weeks: my last culturally active weeks for the foreseeable future. I was crushingly busy with a deadline and my full time job (that I used to have), but I also managed to fit in:

  • Watching Dry Cleaning perform at Union Pool, who struck me as somewhere between The Fall and Pulp and White Denim, and just so damned good.
  • A soul enriching visit to Quimby’s, weirdo independent bookstore and zine haven.
  • A trip way across town just to try the famous vegan soba dish at Cocoron – so great.
  • A quick stop in for happy hour at La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels to try a really weird Australian orange wine (help me I’m a natural wine asshole!!).
  • A book launch at the Murmrr theatre around the corner from my house, where I got to hear Rebecca Solnit speak soothing, poetic and hopeful words in conversation with Leslie Jamison.
  • My last gig for awhile, The Murder Capital, who crushed it at a Knitting Factory that was only half full of bodies despite being sold out, but overflowing with emotion.

To live in a New York City without any music or nightlife or art or food is to live…somewhere else. It’s early days in the quarantine, but something I hope to think about is what else the city has to offer. Mind you, I am practising social distancing so a lot of this will will be an imaginative or online exercise. I have still been able to visit Prospect Park daily, which I never took for granted and now I literally worship. Spring has sprung, the blossoms are blooming, and it is a balm to everything else going on right now.

I put air in my bicycle tires and took a long bike ride today, my first in NYC. Weirdly, today is one of the days I have most appreciated New York. Although I am obviously stressed about being jobless and how to pay my rent like most people, I also have had time this week to sleep, read, cook and clean. I had time to take a long bike ride and really SEE the city, without my brain being distracted by a long to-do list.

I cycled past a sculpture park at the Columbia St Waterfront District, was happily surprised to see a house covered in mosaics in Cobble Hill, stopped to admire some abandoned classic cars in Red Hook, and turned a corner to find myself staring right across the water at the Statue of Liberty herself. It felt poignant, I’m not sure why. There’s so much I don’t love about the USA but I still choose NYC, for now. I realised it is a beautiful place, and not just because of the stuff.

 

Bowl of ‘Zole: Pozole and Mezcal Festival

I’m going to be working at a pozole festival today and I am really, really, excited. It’s a one day event, and will essentially be a big room in Williamsburg filled with a chefs making a range of pozoles and a BUNCH of different mezcals to try. A dream! I feel like only in New York (I mean apart from Mexico obviously) could you have something as niche as a pozole festival, and I love that about it.

It got me thinking though – what is pozole? I have eaten plenty of it, of course, and I have even made it now, but I actually don’t know much that much about it. Although Mexican food is pretty ubiquitous globally now, pozole is not one of the standards….yet!

Film Review: The Australian Dream

AustrlianDream

I’ve always found it hard to love Australia. On one hand it’s a place that has offered me so much – a peaceful upbringing, an affordable education and accessible healthcare, not to mention amazing friends, spectacular beaches and excellent soy piccolos. But I’ve always had a strong revulsion towards the place at the same time, which, paired with an acute guilt for feeling ungrateful, has made for a complicated relationship.

SNAPSHOTS OF BROOKLYN / sorta book review: MONTH 6

79888054_824221258049341_7727024612252319744_n

Found on the subway this morning….

6 months! I’ve been here for 6 months! The seasons have changed, the end of the year is here, and every day this city feels more and more like home. Sort of. Well, not really, but certainly more familiar. I’ve had good weeks and bad weeks but one thing is certain – I am starting to get to know the city, just like I wanted to. The neighbourhoods are starting to take on personalities, I have favourite nooks and corners, and I’m slowly getting a little bit better at navigating the subway. Very slowly! I don’t know what it is about the NYC subway system in particular, but it flummoxes me more than any other subway system I’ve experienced on a nearly daily basis.

On good weeks I’m just so happy / still surprised to be here, in New York fucking City baby! Reading the New Yorker every week, eating bagels all the time, hanging out in Prospect Park, drinking on weeknights, adding to my never ending list of gigs I want to see and places I want to eat. Dollar slices! On other weeks I feel like I’m being ground down to a fine powder, that I’m working so much just to afford to live here that I can’t even enjoy the stupid place. On these days I’m fighting so hard just to keep afloat, to merely exist, that I’m constantly questioning my life choices. But guess what: I’ve had that same malady everywhere I’ve lived. I think I suffer from a case of terminal existentialism and as it turns out – everywhere I go, here I fucking am!

MOVIE REVIEW: 63 Up

63-up-e4f2628

What a gorgeous thing Michael Apted has made.

Quick recap for those who have never heard of the ‘Up’ series (I’ve always called it ‘Seven Up’ but apparently I’ve been wrong). The Up series started as a one-off documentary, filmed in 1964, interviewing 14 British children from a range of backgrounds at the age of seven.

The central premise of the show is based on the quote, attributed to the Jesuits: “Give me a child until he is seven and I’ll will show you the man”. In other words – are we all essentially unchangeable, are our core selves formed by the time we are seven? How much does your background and what you are born into shape who you are as an adult?

MUSIC REVIEW: GIRL BAND AT ELSEWHERE, 09/10/19

As I watch four young well-dressed men make harrowing noises on a darkened stage with a velvet curtained background, Jameson in hand, I’m wondering what the fuck is wrong with me. This. This evil noise that Girl Band tap into, the metallic clash of the guitars, the headachy drums, the anguished screaming vocals. If I’m really honest with myself, being in a room where people are making this kind of sick music is my favourite thing about being alive. It’s fucked up that of all the things that you can experience in this world, this is the one for me.

Snapshots of Brooklyn: Month Three

 

 

Woaaah so this is a week or two late if the goal is to check in every month, and really reflects how loco things have gotten. Everyone knows how big and busy NYC is but guys, it’s really big and busy! Traveling about an hour to get anywhere every time I left my house seemed sort of cute at the very beginning and it’s really, really, not so much right now.

I envisioned days off (ha!) would involve trips to Queens to eat interesting food, taking the ferry, seeing art exhibitions, getting to know Manhattan, going to the movies during the day, wandering around aimlessly for hours and finding new favourite corners of the city. No, that has not happened. I have mainly glimpsed the city through the corner of my eye, through sweaty disheveled hair as I rush through the city trying to find the right subway entrance, often while lugging a heavy bag of mezcal. Because of the nature of my jobs I rarely have a full day off, and when I do have windows of time I am generally buying the groceries, doing the laundry, cleaning the house, trying to keep in touch with friends and family overseas, and keeping up with errands. I said this to a friend lately and he said, “but isn’t that just being an adult?”, and he does have a good point. How do people do this AND have a child or dog?? Or even just lots of plants? I have like four and they are always living on the edge of death.

BOOK REVIEW: Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. by Viv Albertine (+ Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon)

69355127_1219276628242356_5278205612088360960_n

It’s funny, I happened to read Viv Albertine of The Slits’ book (released 2014) right after I read Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth’s book, Girl in a Band (released 2015). Purely coincidence, but actually they make great comparison pieces if not companion pieces. Both books are about clothes, music and boys.

Kim Gordon is now 65, Viv is 64. Kim was hugely important in the New York no wave scene in the 80s and 90s, Viv of the London punk scene that preceded it in the 70s. There is not a lot of overlap. While Viv was just a teenager when she started running around with the punks who would become the The Clash and Sex Pistols, and her band The Slits had split up by 1982; Sonic Youth formed in 1981 and had a long and influential career until 2011.