At the end of my block is Riverside Park and directly across the street is a Magnolia Tree. For five years now I’ve photographed the blossoms on this tree as soon as they bloomed. This tree is my bellwether, the official notification of Spring. It’s important to have rituals in life, I suppose, something to connect you to the passage of time. At least my ritual is lovely and everyone is welcome to participate.
Even as a kid, Easter was a conundrum. One the one hand, we got Loot. On the other, we had to put our best clothes and go to church for long, LONG time. Growing up in a Southern Baptist Church in southeastern Tennessee in the 1970′s Church was already slightly longer than a glacial epoch on the average day, Easter services were somewhere around a geological period. One could rely on Special Singing, the Enthusiastic Witnesses, the Super Sermon, multiple Altar Calls and the Lord’s Supper (crackers and grape juice) Since even the Sinners made it on Easter Sunday, the hand shaking portion after the service was excruciating. (By my estimation, the first Easter service I recall started on March 30th 1975 and ended sometime late in the Reagan Administration.) All the while you are dressed in clothes still scratchy from the rack at Sears and bouncing up and down in anticipation of the Important Business of filling your basket with Easter Loot.
The Easter Loot was another confusion. As a Christian holiday, Easter Eggs and candy left by a giant anthropomorphic rabbit didn’t really fit the narrative. One of the Big Questions raised in Sunday School during the weeks preceding Easter was “Is the Easter Bunny an Angel, or does he work specifically for Jesus?”. Or the popular “Did the Disciples eat colored eggs at the Last Supper?’. You see, none of our Easter Traditions seemed to fit in with the frankly depressing story of Jesus showing up in Jerusalem, getting tortured, killed and then coming back from the grave. Face it, when a six year old can spot the obvious “how does chocolate fit into the Resurrection story?” issue, someone needs to have answers. (Christmas never posed an issue, after all it was Jesus’ BIRTHDAY and presents are part of birthdays!)
Now, I understand and in context it makes quite a bit of sense. The same way a Church back in the 70′s would use a their reputation for hosting the best potluck dinners and sermons laced with allegorical college football stories to bring the unbelievers to the Word, the early church co-opted pagan symbology. Rabbits and eggs really aren’t Lincoln Logs in a sock drawer, they are potent metaphors for faith, hope and renewal. I tried for some time to work chocolate into the equation, and finally decided it didn’t need to fit, it’s freakin’ chocolate!
I am given to understand little has changed down South, children still squirm in uncomfortable new clothes during interminable sermons waiting for the chance to fill their baskets. While I am not religious, I like that Easter still retains the mystery of the Egg and Rabbit for those who are. The knowledge that somewhere in a sweltering Southern Church (and they are always sweltering, even in the depths of Winter) a little boy or girl is bouncing on a pew waiting to get out in the new grass and beat the crap out their cousin over a pale blue egg tucked beneath a flowering Forsythia. After all, it really is about family.
I fell in love with the idea of New York City with the graffitied subway cars rolling past on the opening credits of Welcome Back Kotter, at the time I didn’t realize it was set in Brooklyn which is and isn’t New York City. (Ask anyone from Brooklyn where they live, you will see what I mean.) Taxi, Barney Miller (and Fish!), The Jeffersons, Baretta and endless movies all fed into my childish imagination of this amazing world full of gritty, wise and funny people living in this magical place far to the north of my childhood home in Tennessee.
I spent the majority of my 20′s in California, which has it’s own mythology equally worshipped by Americans and proselytized by the same purveyors of popular culture as New York. Yet I could never feel the same emotional connection to San Francisco as I did to New York, which I’d only dipped a toe in for one glorious afternoon. I loathed Los Angeles which possesses all the charm of a 60 year old man in clothes two generations too young for him attempting to pick up a college girl in a bar.
I finally made NYC in my mid-30′s, nine years ago next month. I came with no money, no prospects and no idea what the hell I was going to do here. (Because on television this is how one comes to New York City.) Looking back over the past near decade feel confident in saying the fairytale of New York is complete and utter bullshit, manufactured by people who came here for two weeks and left. The only way you make it here in 2014 is your parents made it somewhere else and gave it to you.
I still love the ebb and flow of this place, the mingling of cultures from around the world, the dynamic thrill of threading the sidewalk between thousands and thousands of people. I still stare at the skyline longingly each time I cross back into Manhattan, lost the in endless twinkle of lighted spires reaching into the heavens. I cannot sleep at night with the steady rumble of millions pressing against my windows. I FEEL New York in my bones in a way no other place has ever existed.
Yet, still, I am profoundly tired.
You see the New York of my childhood never truly existed. The fairytale of New York has only existed in the imagination of those who wanted to be here. Those who ARE here either struggle to hold the edges of their existence in this insanely overpriced mecca of commercialism together, or are so wealthy the idea of money simply does not compute. The bohemian enclaves of the 50′s and 60′s, the apocalyptic wastelands of the 70′s and 80′s, the whitewashed utopia of the 90′s now only exist in our minds. Their memory is a cultivated artifact of wishful thinking and pure nostalgia. The reality of those places is so utterly disassociated with the City as it stands, they might as well have never existed.
Modern New York is an amalgam of chain stores, banks and high end boutiques designed to emulate the worst portions of America for the diaspora youth of the Upper Middle and Upper Class so they feel at home while swiping their parent’s Black AmEx. It is a repository for MBA’s and Accountants who shuttle back and forth between their offices on Wall Street and Summer rentals in the Hamptons, while a river of money washes more and more them into the sewers of the American financial system. At it’s worst, it is a Pleasure Dome for the uber wealthy to watch the plebeian masses from on high while waiting for their helicopter to carry them to a waiting yacht. If modern New York were a Dantean Hell, Virgil would suggest cutting through New Jersey to avoid it.
People ask why I stay. Part of the reason is I am to poor to move. The other reason is once in a great while, I will turn the corner and there will be a slice of lost world. I will see a subway train painted with the neon of the past rolling past, I will slip into a dive bar and find a weary patron speaking of days lost to myth. Or I watch the skyline emerge from the night sky and wonder if there is any other place in the Universe where I could ever feel at home.
I was at first, hard pressed to understand what I was witnessing. After eliminating several scenarios, I was left with the only explanation that fit all the facts: The dog is actually an Extraterrestrial Alien who has taken control of this human and is using him as a Judas Goat! While I did not personally witness, I suspect “Fluffy” and his “Renfeld” led a troop of humans to a secluded corner of the parks to devour them.
Frankly, this is a better theory than the idea of this guy dressing the dog intentionally.
Newmindspace’s Annual International Pillow Fight Day 2014 in Washington Square, New York City. The theme: Heroes versus Villains...though in the heat of combat some friendly fire will happen. Like so many other odd things, the Pillow Fight has gone Global with strangers randomly bashing one another with downy softness all over the world.
This year, I decided I would stay inside the mob and was struck viciously about the head and shoulders with soft, comfortable weapons of mass napping. As I cried out “THE HUMANITY” I knew it was my job to endure whatever diabolic downy doom was presented to bring you this story.