Just a friendly reminder that life existed before our phones became the the smart ones.
I recently spent a rainy Saturday at the New Museum on the Bowery in lower Manhattan. The New Museum is just a train ride across the Williamsburg bridge from me. Had it been a sunny day, I would have walked.
The New Museum is a Contemporary Art Museum showcasing global contemporary works. Each floor features a different exhibit, peaking with city-spanning views from the Sky Room. The building, designed by Tokyo-based architects, stands-out quite dramatically on the Bowery, positioned as a fresh geometric force against the traditional brick buildings of New York.
Inside the floors feel clean, airy and spacious. It may be one of the few museums in the city that feels comfortable mid-day on a Saturday. You won’t find excited groups of tourists snapping photos at every piece in the room. But, if you go soon, you will be able to contribute to the massive Whose Terms exhibit, which I found to be a fantastic rainy-day activity.
I was intrigued by the exhibit on the first floor, where I came across the phase, “absolute tension (perfect equilibrium)”. It sounded like something I had learned in University, but I couldn’t remember what. In Laure Prouvost’s, “For Forgetting” she explores memories and possessions. I had to look up the meaning behind absolute tension, and it appears to be related to Buckminster Fuller’s theory on Vector Equilibrium, or synergetics. Synergetics studies systems in transformation. I suppose the parallel Laure is trying to draw is between the constant motion of the body and the mind, and the constant transformation that we as humans endure. We somehow manage to achieve a steady-state equilibrium that is the act of “living”, born of the absolute tension that is the essence of existence & life itself.
It is often in moments when I step outside the city walls for a weekend that I think about my own life choices, and exactly what it is that inspires me to stay in the middle of this mayhem. The truth is, it is a very personal and perhaps at times selfish attachment. I center my life in New York because it is exactly what I need to center me.
People for centuries have been referring to the magic that is New York City. When I think about what I define as its magic, I think about the people it connects, the boundaries it removes, the challenges it sustains, and the pace at which we as individuals evolve in the midst of it. I think about the resilience it brings to one’s character, by giving you the freedom to explore. I am perpetually amazed by my everyday.
Perhaps the most formidable trait the city empowers is the thinking (and flourishing) outside of American societal norms. It redefines normal, in the most refreshing way. Normal in New York is lugging your laundry bags up your five floor walk-up to the lingering stench of your neighbor’s drug habit. Normal in New York is living with roommates at any age. Normal in New York is finding a cheaper and healthier meal at the restaurant downstairs then the one you cook yourself. Normal in New York is grazing dozens of strangers while navigating the rush hour maze, and not finding it weird. Normal in New York is using the bed you sleep on in your studio apartment as appropriate seating for guests at your house party. Normal in New York is crying profusely on a crowded subway after a rough day, and being allowed to do just that – without any judgement. That’s New York’s normal. It isn’t for everyone, but for me, it is a life worth living.
I am not so foolish as to be blind to the City’s downfalls, and acknowledge they are abundant. But the beauty behind those of us that remain here is that we persevere against them. What is life if not full of obstacles and the small successes we celebrate in the overcoming of them?
So I would like to raise a glass to New York — thank you for being my home.
February. I’ve never been a fan of February. Aside from it being an odd calendar month, it is the coldest, darkest and least interesting time of the year. This year, February has already left its mark. Snow storms, thunder storms, ice storms… and the central park penis.
I usually leave the city in February, for at least a long weekend. This year I stayed put. It has been a testament to my limits. Dark days, cold walks and treacherous commutes. I miss sunshine, and I miss my bike. Then again, at least I brought mine inside…
But at the end of the day, I love a challenge. This February, my challenge has been to remain inspired by this city, amidst all of this snow. I’ve discovered that the worst approach to this challenge is to remain inside and that the best approach often involves hours spent inside a random museum.
I’ve discovered that the city has a world of warm underground luxuries, like Sakagura, a delicious Japanese tapas restaurant in the basement of a random building in the East 40’s.
New York, I love you, but can you please warm up soon?
I grew up in Vermont, and then I moved further north to Montreal for five years. After dabbling in some warmer climates, I made my way to New York. After 6 years of breezing through NYC winters, this one has frozen me in my tracks, quite literally.
I can’t quite pinpoint it, but the city changes when winter hits hard. Maybe it is because we walk more in New York, and every gust of icy wind feels that much more present. Maybe it is because cities seem less inspiring when everyone in it remains hidden behind layers. Maybe it is because the sounds become silenced from inches of insulating snow. The sheer essence of New York – its people, its places, its sounds, its smells – is frozen in time.
So while this winter runs its course, I think I’ll stay inside for a while. New York, wake me up when primavera arrives!