In a New York State of Mind

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been enamored with the very thought of New York City.  I remember when I was in grammer school I always wished I could visit the Big Apple, but knew in my heart there was no way I’d ever get my parents to take me there.  My father had two vacations a year and each was spent visiting both sets of parents, one in Wisconsin and the others in Tennessee.  Besides that, my parents didn’t have a lot of money and would never be able to afford it.  So, for the time being, New York for me was a far away dream.  When I was about 12, I found a tee shirt at a flea market that said, Brooklyn across the front and I bought it because it made me feel connected to have a shirt with a New York name on it.  I loved watching movies shot in New York City just to catch a camera glimpse of a place I had longed to be.  I enjoyed just listening to people who spoke with a native New York accent. My dreams of visiting New York City continued all throughout my marriage and I had hoped to go on my first trip there with my mother in law who once lived there for about three years when my husband was a baby.  Unfortunately she died before we had that chance to travel together.  I remember sitting next to her as she lay in the hospital dying of cancer, telling her with tears in my eyes that we won’t get our chance to take that trip to New York together.  She knew how much it meant to me to go with her and it was just so sad.

Finally, about five years ago I decided I was finally going to go to NYC.  I took my son with me-David was 18 at the time and he enjoyed the big city just as much as I did.   It was everything I had ever dreamed it would be and more.  The City truly made my heart skip a beat.  Although I’m from Chicago, I found something different and really fantastic about New York that I never experienced living in Chicago.  Big Apple was a flavor I had never tasted and once I got a bite, I found it  irresistable.  A lot of my friends don’t understand what I see in it-after all, to them it’s dirty, congested and expensive.  Although I’m very aware of those things, I don’t ‘see’ them.  I am at such a deeper level than that.  A level I can’t even begin to explain.  Since that first trip with Dave, I’ve gone back four more times and each visit has been different, some better than others.    But every time I return home I feel like there is something I missed-something I didn’t absorb from the city that I had been thristing for.  I feel as if I have never been able to suck from the City what I need to satisfy something deep down in my soul.  I’ve been trying to put my finger on what it is that makes my heart sing about New York City.  While reading The Artists Way I think I may have found something in that book that describes almost exactly how I feel.

 “Manhattan is where the singers are.  Not to mention Broadway.  I am here because “art” brought me here.  Obedient, I came.  Per capita, Manhattan may have a higher density of artists than anywhere else in America.  In my Upper West Side neighborhood, cellos are as frequent and as ungainly as cows in Iowa.  They are part of the landscape here…..Manhattan teems with dreamers.  All artists dream, and we arrive here carrying those dreams…I’ve looked up into Leonard Bernstein’s ground-floor windows at the Dakota, and gone a little numb each time I pass the arched entryway where John Lennon was shot.  In [my] apartment, I am a scant block from Duke Ellington’s haunts, and there’s a street named after him too.  Manhattan is a town full of ghosts.  Creative power-and powers-course through its vertical canyons.”

I often go back to these words because they give me a sense of comfort.  Since I’m an  artist, I understand all the potential New York has for inspiring me, and how it is juicy with a creative element my soul absolutely craves.  I can feel the creativity that flows through it.  And yet, I have not been satisfied and I continually long to return.  When I explore the island on foot I can feel myself absorb its life force with every step I take,  and at times I can almost compare it to having a religious experience. Silly, I know, but I can’t help myself.

I had such a experience this past weekend when I made a trip uptown to visit the Dakota apartments.  I also wanted to walk across the street to Strawberry Fields in Central Park to see Yoko Ono’s beautiful, but simple IMAGINE memorial to John.  When I walked up the subway stairs and got to the street level there it was-in all it’s magnificent glory the Dakota towered,  hauntingly owning the corner of 72nd and Central Park West.  I can’t completely explain the feelings that pulsed through me.  I was awestruck and in some way jealous of the choice few who get the honor of inhabiting such a historic, lush residence.  I want to live there.  I caught a glimpse of Connie Chung through the large, black entry gate where Lennon was shot, and a few moments later another mysterious elderly resident pulled up in a taxi, paid the driver and hobbled in through the black gate with his wife.  I must be crazy because just being in the shadow of that building left me feeling numb.  I was like a little kid, wishing to just get in and explore the creepy attic and secret places.  I longed to know who lived there and see the beautiful interior.  I imagined living there, having beautiful views of Central Park through all the seasons and having the city there all the time to be my muse.  How lucky some folks are.

What ever it is that New York City has that stirs my soul will continue to draw me back time and time again.  I will never tire of it.  I will always carry it in my heart and like Julia Cameron says, art brings me here.  I too, am obedient.  I arrive each time in  New York City carrying my dreams in my heart, and someday I hope to carry them in my suitcase.   One day I hope to live there.  It’s my next dream.  It will come true.  I can wait patiently, after all, good things come to those who wait.

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6 thoughts on “In a New York State of Mind

  1. I loved reading this. The Dakota really is a beautiful building – and you have truly soaked in the echoes of many who lived there in the past. You’re right about New York — there is an energy of possibility here that drives things and makes ideas that would otherwise seem unattainable or impractical somehow — imaginable.

  2. Can’t believe you went to New York without me. Never been, but always thought I would love to visit it. Everyone says it’s a nightmare, but you make it sound beautiful. Thanks for letting me see a little of it through your eyes.

  3. Really loved this post. Your words and pictures capture the flavor of a unique city that crackles with an energy non-existent in other great cities. NYC has heart, courage, culture and incredible style. I thank you for capturing the romance of a city I once had the pleasure of residing in.

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