Jun 16, 2010

Leaving New York

It's quiet now
And what it brings
Is everything

Comes calling back
A brilliant night
I'm still awake

I looked ahead
I'm sure I saw you there

You don't need me
To tell you now
That nothing can compare

Leaving New York, never easy
I saw the light fading out

leaving new york by REM

I'm not one of those people who frequently uses pop song lyrics to express my state of mind. However Michael Stipe is a talented songwriter and his poetry seems apt for me right now.

Poetry -- an elegant compression of words into an emotionally evocative form -- to define it non-poetically.

New York City is all poetry.

I've spent five years here, five amazing discouraging beautiful loving depressing happy sensual pitifully sad encouraging disgusting inspiring horrifying challenging wonderous indelibly memorable years. I can't remember experiencing such a spectrum of emotions over such a compressed period of time. And that's what sums this place up, an adrelenine junkie's delight, an adult Disneyworld with a quotidian elegance that never fails to entertain and amaze. It's a human symphony performed at allegro with a score that would overshadow even Mozart -- from the bums digging through trash cans to world-class artists creating beautiful insights to Hasidic Jewish business men hustling their next deal to glamorous models turning 6th Ave into a runway to aspiring subway muscians filling the tunnels with life to my hipster neighbors whose style make me smile, they all fill this city with the addictive pulse of human energy.

I love it here. I'm going back to California.

When I moved here from San Francisco five years ago I told myself I'd be back in time to renew my CA driver's license. I couldn't bear to give up that tangible tie to California that I carry in my back pocket every day. Well, as anyone who knows me will attest, I'm not one for dogmatically sticking to a plan, so I'm as surprised as anyone to be returning two weeks before my license expires.

When I left San Francisco I had a full-blown case of New York lust. I was frustrated with the limited San Francisco art scene and wanted to swim in New York's huge pool. I found the city brimming with as much inspiration as intimidation (though the latter lost it's grip as I pulled back the curtain on how the art world works). I wanted the cachet that comes from being a New York artist, I wanted to waltz into MOMA whenever whim dictated, become cozy with those aloof Chelsea galleries, listen to art luminaries at the innumerable lectures, stroll the aisles of the trade shows and immerse myself in all the other activities that fed my artistic soul -- theatre, dance, symphony, performance art, architecture, music. I did that non-stop for my first two years and while it certainly refined my eye and was great fun, I lost my own vision in the process of trying too hard to fit in. I feel like New York was the MFA I never got, an impactful rush that remakes your vision and leaves you feeling like a rat who been flushed down the sewer and swept into the East River, grinning ear to ear from the rush and the killer view of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Make no mistake about it, I'm hooked on Gotham's siren song. But the city doesn't feel enough like home to stay. Instead I'm going to a place that does, and that has the second-largest art scene in the states -- LA. I loved it when I lived there twelve years ago as I found poetry there too, less compact and intense as compared to New York, but with rounder corners and a more balanced integration with nature. And not surprisingly, that happens to be a reasonably poetic description of who I am.

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