New York City and Me

Closing in on the end of my two week trip to NYC on a New York Public Library Short Term Research Fellowship where I’ve been going through the Living Theatre archive that is housed in the Billy Rose Theatre Division. For some reason, as I walked through the Highline Park this morning before heading to Lincoln Center (the Performing Arts Library doesn’t open until noon), I had the urge to blog for the first time in a long, long time. Not sure I’ll even go through with it, but if you are reading these words, I have obviously posted.

The archive has been interesting and tedious. To be honest, nothing I have found has set my dissertation afire with new ideas or new evidence, but that is the nature of doing this kind of work. Considering that the archive was donated by Judith Malina, and considering that I’m interested in dismantling parts of the myth that surrounds the company, it’s not a huge surprise that I didn’t find the proverbial “smoking gun” in amongst the many, many letters and documents that I have been going through day after day after day. I am about to start my last day as a Fellow and my last day working in NYC on this trip. Tomorrow morning I board a train bound for Pittsburgh and home.

As I type these words, I am sitting in the little park in the center of Lincoln Center, shaded by trees, surrounded by small birds (sparrows?) hopping about and large, fat pigeons strolling like they completely own the place. Percussionists are ranged around the Paul Milstein Pool and practicing for a concert being held here tonight at 6pm. They are spaced throughout the center and so the sound moves about, coming from bass drums in one corner, cymbals from another. It looks like there will be a number of vocalist for the actual concert and I’m planning on sticking around for it after I finish my time inside. This little park has been lovely the past few days and provides a cool and restful space for writing or reading or just watching people move about the space.

Making these various trips to New York have been interesting, especially this one considering how long I’ve been in the city (I did take a weekend to visit folks and friends in RI). I was so desperately unhappy here during the three years I lived in Brooklyn, spending so much of my time defending myself from the city emotionally and mentally that every day felt like an assault. Yet now, I can visit this city and shrug off the noise of the streets and the subways, navigate the crowds with a level of ease and confidence, and in general accept the city on its own terms rather than trying to shut it out. Is it simply because I don’t live here and know that I’ll be leaving? Am I more centered in myself and my life? Probably both of those things have something to do with the change in how I relate to this city, and there are probably other reasons and changes as well. I find it interesting and a bit sad because I still regret that I spent so much of my time here with Joya in such an unhappy state because she deserved better from me during that time.

One last realization about my time here:

The city, especially when it is hot (and it was quite hot the other day), makes it impossible to forget just how embodied our lives our. I think that’s one of the elements of NYC in general that is a product of a great many people living in an urban space: your body is always present whether it is the heat and oppression of the subway platform, or the press of bodies in a subway car, or the awareness of space and bodies as you walk through mid-town (an awareness of space that most tourists don’t have which is why they are so damned annoying to New Yorkers—and while I am not a New Yorker, I am certainly, and proudly, not a tourist!), or the smell of the rotting garbage along the streets. Your body and its senses are brought to the fore in ways that cannot be avoided.

(The percussionists are currently playing sandpaper, creating a sshhhh-sshhhhh-ssshhhhhhsshhing sound that is revolving around and around the square.)

Honestly, I don’t want to go into the library in 20 minutes when it opens. I want to sit out here, enjoy the breeze and the shade and the susurrations of conversations and the squealing joy of children and the relative stillness in the midst of continual motion. I have a feeling that I won’t last too long in there today. I have one box on reserve and may not do more than that before leaving. Truth is, I’ve made my way through ream and reams of documents, taking over 1000 pictures of letters and box office reports and bills, getting through probably 3/4 of a 60 box collection—and most of that 1/4 that I haven’t looked at consists of documentation outside the period I’m looking at for my dissertation. I do feel like I have a responsibility to be here every day since I was given a fellowship for that purpose, but I’m close to diminishing returns here. This last box has production programs which I’ve seen a bunch of previously at UC Davis, but which I will make sure I document again and then, I think, I’ll come back outside, grab some lunch and just be and thank. Maybe write a little more. Maybe read. Maybe go for a walk in Central Park or maybe just come back out here and sit and watch and listen.

No Great Epiphanies

P1190021 While I technically have a week to go for Road Trip 2013—heading to RI, Maine, New Hampshire, & Vermont tomorrow—in a sense this return to my apartment marks the ending of the main event. New England will feel more like a coda now rather than an organic part of the trip. I was not planning on returning here until the 15th and it feels a bit odd to have interrupted what was going to be a solid month of being away. Still, I needed the break and couldn’t afford motels anymore and so I did what made sense. Though I still feel like I’m in travel mode and am living lightly even in my own place. I plan on doing some laundry today, unpacking what I don’t need for the next week, repacking the car, getting a few travel provisions for tomorrow and maybe watching a movie. If I was hoping that this trip would solve anything in my life—and to be honest, at least a little part of me was so hoping—I would be let down. However, while I experienced no great, life-changing epiphanies, I did have a few thoughts that might be worth noting. – I am so amazingly grateful to Joya and her family for bringing me to Kauai in 2005 & 2006. Just knowing that it exists and that I feel like I feel about it means a tremendous amount to me. Even if I don’t move there in 2 years, the desire to finally rest myself on that island gives me a certain kind of purpose and peace that I don’t know if I would have without those two trips. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you Joya, Erin, Cliff, & Ellen. – The west is heart-achingly beautiful. States like New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and Wyoming stop my breath in the same way that certain women do: women who are hard, emotionally jagged, proud, and dangerous. Those lands entice, seduce with their examples of naked power, their huge skies, their promise that you are only one small action from possible death. Here, bullshit and poseur-y will gain you nothing. Thrilling and strangely peaceful, these places (and those women) are made of extremes and violent clashings where the sky and the land contend with one another with little regard for my tiny, human life. Bliss and radiance, parched and poisonous death. Yet, that said, I do not believe I could live there, for all its beauty and intensity. I am learning—slowly, slowly—what I need for happiness. While I will always be attracted to and by the stomach-dropping, adrenaline rush of an extreme landscape that promises defiant ecstasy through definite danger . . . I am not suited to such a lifestyle. – I am capable of having a fight with someone I care about. Not a physical fight, but one with words. This capability is entirely human and natural, but one which I have avoided for a lifetime. The experience felt awful and I am unsure what the fall-out will be in the long run, though I hope not too negative. Still. I engaged when I wanted to run and argued when I wanted to sulk. So that, is . . . something to be proud of? Maybe? – Movement distracts. Takes me out of myself and allows for a more grounded me. As much as I love stillness, I find that movement clears my head—thought I must be in a certain amount of control of the movement for this to be so. I need to find a way to preserve that feeling when I am at home. To see myself as always traveling. As always moving. I am no more trapped by this apartment, this university, this city, this state, this lifestyle, than I am “trapped” by the car that takes me, in the proverbial blink of the eye, to Phoenix, LA, San Simeon, Watsonville, Palo Alto, Merced, UC Davis, San Carlos, Fallon NV, Wendover UT, Big Springs NE, and Gary IN. This moment, this now is of my own choosing. Each moment, each now, I choose to continue as a PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh. The world does not choose for me. Conditions make it easier or harder to make certain choices and I do not have the ability to choose to do anything, go anywhere. I am bounded by my previous choices, my body, my genetics, my freedoms, my capabilities. Yet, just because I do not have infinite choice, does not mean I have no choice. >D’you know like we were saying, about the Earth revolving? It’s like when you’re a kid, the first time they tell you that the world’s turning and you just can’t quite believe it cause everything looks like it’s standing still. I can feel it. The turn of the Earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinning at a thousand miles and hour and the entire planet is hurtling round the sun at 67,000 miles an hour and I can feel it. We’re falling through space, you and me. Clinging to the skin of this tiny little world and if we let go… – Doctor Who, “Rose” – I am blessed that I know many people in many parts of this country that will welcome me with open arms and open hearts. Joya, Dave, Doug & Judi, Kellen, Wendy, Noelle, Patty, Joy, Sarah, and Kris: Thank you. To all those friends I did not get to see this time around, thank you for the knowledge that you too would welcome me. Peace.

Hitting a Wall – Not Literally

I am 18 days into my epic road trip and today the amount of driving and the amount of driving left to go really hit me. Also, an examination of my finances revealed that California was way more expensive than I really had budgeted for—and by budgeted for I mean just guessed in a vague way. So tonight, when I pulled into Wendover UT, I decided to contact the people I was supposed to see in the Teton’s and let them know that after I hit Salt Lake City I just need to head east and not take an extra full days travel to go up to see them. I’m sad, because my “uncle” Peter is the man I’m named for and I haven’t seen him or his wife in nearly 20 years and because I was really looking forward to the whole intense Tetons/Wyoming beauty thing. But I just don’t have it in me right now.

Now would be a good time for a travel companion!

So, the revised deal is that I’ll be meeting my friend Kris for brunch tomorrow in SLC, then will hop on 80 east and settle into a long 36 hours of travel to get to Rhode Island. I may, ironically and depending on the timing, even spend a night in my apartment before heading to New England. To be honest, the prospect does not thrill me—the travel, not the apartment, nor the heading to New England. Like I said, now would be a good time for a travel companion.

I was planning on going out about 10 miles from town to take pictures of the sunset at the Bonneville Salt Flats, but even that seems beyond my capabilities tonight. Instead, I’m doing a small load of laundry here at Motel 6, will upload some pics from the last few days, and then try for an early bedtime. The trip to SLC is only 2 hours so I should have time in the morning to get to the Salt Flats for some picture taking. Probably not as nice as it would be tonight, but thems the breaks.

Overall the trip has gone well so far. A few bumps here and there and some unwelcome tensions between myself and a couple of friends, but until tonight I’ve been enjoying both who and what I’ve seen along the way and the prospect for the road ahead. Tonight I just feel like the next several days will be days of tedium and endurance and that I can’t wait to get the travel part over. Hopefully I’ll snap out of this mood and feel more refreshed tomorrow. Still, it’s going to be a long few days ahead.

I’ll upload a few pics of today’s travels through Nevada to my [Flickr]( account and try to keep you updated with more news—and hopefully a better attitude—soon.