Tuesday, January 4, 2011

a double triptych of trips

it is so difficult to condense and be concise with my thoughts, especially since this is a retrospective. i'm four years removed from my first new york minute, and the details still burn bright in my mind. i am a recorder, a maker of photographs for memories, but i need very few to remember each of the six visits i've made to new york. my life has changed so drastically here in north carolina since that first fumbling trip. my hair is a foot shorter, and when i look in the mirror, i can see myself and know i'm figuring it all out. i'm finding, no, making a place for myself in the world. putting that into words has been a struggle.

new york isn't magical to me. it isn't all romance and movie scenes. it's real, and i respect the city, its grit and grandeur. my family, for the most part, doesn't understand my predilection. they're the type of folks who have spent most of their life living in the same small towns in sleepy eastern north carolina, which is perfectly respectable. sure, some of them travel -- some even more extensively than me (which isn't difficult, when you haven't left the east coast) and to more exotic locales. when part of my extended family wanted to visit new york a mere eight months after my first enchanting trip, i couldn't pass up the opportunity to play tour guide to my favorite city. it was at this time i attended my first new york museum, the guggenheim, and started to understand that new york was more than simply manhattan. i took my first cruise down the hudson, saw the island from afar, and realized there was so much of it i'd never experienced (including the other four boroughs). my perspective widened and my curiosity heightened.

after shuffling through new york with two very different groups of people on two very different trips, i was ready to have the city to myself for once. in spring 2008, i spent a week couch-crashing in jersey for a much-needed holiday. on my very first night, i was privy to a dichotomy of northern real estate. my friend A lives in a 3 bedroom luxury apartment in union city. he shares it with two roommates, and all three commute at least an hour a day to and from manhattan for work. another friend and his wife rent a tiny junior one-bedroom in greenwich village, where my knees touched the door while sitting on the toilet, and the shower was in the kitchen beside the sink, but it was only steps away from a thousand different activities at any hour of the day or night. the greenwich apartment was more expensive, and you had to climb five skinny flights of stairs to reach it.

it reminded me that there is a price for everything, including the two years i've worked in a soul-sucking office job. i thought my reasoning was fairly simple -- make enough money so that i don't have to worry so much anymore. the cost has been high, though. there was no art in my life, no mental energy left after a nine to five day doing something which has so little meaning to me. i'd stopped making music. i'd stopped writing and painting.

new york began to open itself to me during this visit, unfolding its streets and folding me in. i began to be able to navigate on my own, and spent entire days in the city with little guidance, moving easily between neighborhoods. i visited museums, relaxed in parks, ate amazing food. i remembered what it felt like to be human, to appreciate creation, and to create for myself (via photography, my not-so-new hobby, err, obsession). the solitude was therapeutic in a way i could neither deny nor entirely comprehend. new york was capturing me, one block at a time.

my next visit was a short three months later, in late summer. another group trip. music kept me coming to the city (this was our second music-related trip -- this time, we went to see les paul play). this quote from my july 30th, 2008, journal entry is fairly telling:

"back from new york. not thrilled to be, but oh well. back to the daily grind at the job i pretty much hate. this trip was okay. not my best ever, but still pretty fun... of course, i'm a little sad to be back here [nc], working and not playing. i always enjoy my times in ny/nj, and with A, and with my friends. it was a good vacation, probably the last one i'll have in a while. i am really looking forward to some interviews i may have this week, and working with my new photographer friend mac, and moving on with my life. who knows when my next new york adventure will be, or under what circumstances. i'll be waiting though. i miss my skyline."

in two months, i would quit my office job. with no back-up plan and no well-paying prospects in sight, i immediately delved back into the one uncomplicated part of my life -- caring for children. i forgotten how much i loved it, how simple and satisfying it could be. i also started to push myself with photography, to learn the camera and how to make it capture my worldview. i did another informative (but slightly soul-sucking) short stint in a job i didn't love, as a mall studio photographer. i also started to call myself what i'd become -- a nanny. at this point, my brain rationalized that childcare was a means to an end, a way to make the money i needed to support the artist i was once again becoming. i thought i would eventually need to choose between them, to be either a nanny or an artist. i couldn't fathom how much the two would inform one another and pave a path towards my future.

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