This City is in Your Head

It took a wild week in NYC for things to start making sense! At the end of an early morning walk during which night slowly turned to day in the deserted city streets at 5:30 am, after an amazing night of dancing to Balkan and South American sounds in my favourite bar in the world, after deep conversations with new found soul friends, after listening to amazing inspiring presentations for one week of people who did mind-blowing projects in Mexico, Sierra Leone, Palestine and all over North America and Europe, I realized the irrelevant unfocused person that I felt myself to have always been actually is a dynamic immense evolutionary energy that is travelling through the future! When life stops being what it was and suddenly bends and shape shifts around your intentions, you see your reflection in other people’s eyes, you fall in love with life with all its pains and scars and thorns, when you are suddenly consumed by a passion to act, do, make, dance, be …. really be and can’t sleep feeling light surging up and down your body and mind, when you stop seeing beggars and hustlers and cars and smoke and billboards and suddenly find poetry in a cell phone, beauty in death and a reflection of your dreams in the sky, what is next? It doesn’t perhaps matter, “next” has already come and gone. 

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It’s amazing how the same place can bring out such different feelings in one: New York City can be the loneliest place on earth or where amazing people come to share their life’s work with you! I was told once that I smile too much for this city but at the end of the trip I felt it is the city that does not smile enough! Image

My trip to “the city that never sleeps” started with a long bus ride, during most of which I was sleep. Occasionally, I read mad Beat poems with titles like “Poets Hitchking on the Highway” and “I Would not Recommend Love” and would drift back to sleep. An interesting realization was the immense influence Charlie Chaplin has had on this American poetry movement (there is a hilarious letter from Ginsberg and Orlovsky to him from Calcutta). When awakened at the border, I was so sleepy I could barely answer the few questions that granted me entry. After arriving at the residence hall in New York and having some chocolate with its residents, I headed to my favourite bar, “Mehanata” aka “the Bulgarian Bar” in the Lower East Side. I really like the music and crowd here. The live band played an eclectic collection of Middle Eastern and Eastern European songs and the crowd broke into crazy dancing, the DJs who followed were amazing. 

One of the best things about travelling is meeting amazing people and I usually put an intention into finding deep connections. I was very lucky on this trip and met the resident DJ’s wife who knows everybody at the bar and we chatted and danced most of the night. We had amazing talks and shared stories and more importantly a deep connection. She introduced me to many people, including her husband who is an excellent DJ from Peru (incidentally from Arequipa, a city I had visited when I was there last year). As it turned out, I went to the same bar two more nights during my stay.

The next day, I was tipped about an annual Mermaid Parade in the Coney Island. It was an insanely crowded city fair, with a disproportionate mix of “cheese” and creativity but I always wanted to visit Coney Island for nostalgia sake and I got more than my dose! 

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After wandering around the parade for a bit, I walked to an area known as “Little Odessa” at Brighton Beach. This area is populated by Russian and Eastern European immigrants. It was a really interesting experience to be suddenly surrounded by fur jacket shops, Russian pastry (I tried some red cabbage piroushki, yum!) and butchery shops and so on. 

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In the afternoon, I made my way to Harlem which has an amazing energy and is full of incense sellers, preachers and vendors of different things. Many people would bring their lawn chair and an icebox and sit beside the sidewalk watching the people go by. I went to a museum of avant-garde black art called “Harlem Studio Museum” which was very interesting. Image

From there I walked to Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine which is the largest place of worship in the US. I was shocked by some contemporary art work that was at display there, including a series of painfully truthful statements about war and alienation. A particular piece called “9/11” was very powerful.

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I was here for two amazing conferences: PopTech: The City Resilient and IDC13: Interaction Design and Children which I will write about in the next post.

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