People think they should go to New York. It’s something that should be on your bucket list (like ‘skydiving’ or ‘saying yes more’ or ‘eating more salad’). This is of course, without talking about the concept of bucket lists as a purely bourgeois way of thinking (There are things you need to do before you die, other than struggle to stay alive? Fuck me!).
You just know you should go. It’s something that has to be on your list as a ‘travelled’ person, and of course – who doesn’t want to be a travelled person? We all know that the only way to live our best lives is to travel a lot (for the instagram opportunities), not eat carbs (except for the instagram opportunities) and take pictures of our lives to prove we are living our best lives (on instagram).
As an aside, it’s difficult enough for me to speak about my own experiences here as I cannot stand the way social media forces us to live a public life. I didn’t go to New York because I wanted to rub it in anyone’s face, or to prove I had the money to go, or for whatever reason people think they should. I largely went because my girlfriend really wanted to.
Russell Brand made a good point about travel as a (non) form of therapy: No matter where you go, you’ll still be yourself. If you’re sending mind daggers to those motherfucking hippies across the road and their disgusting haircuts or if you’re in India (word is that you can find yourself there) – you’re still going to be a cynical, frustrated, hairy guy who was born without an excitement gland; at least in my case.
Did I find myself in New York? No.
Did I have a New York moment? (Whatever the fuck that really is) No.
Did I discover new ways of thinking? No.
Did I come away with a lust for life? A need to just grab life by the pigtails and go at it? (I like pigtails) Nope.
I don’t believe that travelling somehow makes you a better person, or that it opens your eyes (to just what exactly?). I went away for nearly 3 weeks, spent a shitload of money and I still hate the hippies across the road and their ugly unwashed hair. I still want to cry when the dogs bark too much in the car and I haven’t suddenly come to a friendly truce with peas – those little green cunts.
So what made it so amazing then? Because let’s be honest – millions of people living on top of each other, all on each other’s shoulders trying to see further than the next guy is not particularly inspiring. And tall buildings are… tall. The hot dogs are … mystery meat in a bun. The people are … not as rude and endearing as you’d expect; they’re kind of just busy. The subways are … confusing at first, but not in a romantic ‘oh my god we just ended up at the most ROMANTIC Italian restaurant with only half a table and a chef who literally makes the parmesan in his own armpits’ kind of way, more like in a ‘for fuck’s sake we got on the express and now we’re 10 stops too far, goddamnit’ kind of way.
What I sought out in New York was art. And I found it. I saw Van Gogh’s Starry Night and it hit me right in the gut. I felt ill. I saw my first (two) Frida Kahlos, I saw Goya, Jasper Johns, Jackson Pollock, Dali, Warhol, more Van Goghs, Cezanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Koons, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Monet, Manet, Turner and Gauguin.
What we hope to achieve, when we create things is a connection; an assertion of our vitality, proof we exist. I was here and I made this. Do you see it? A long dead man who painted two Tahitian women could never have known what that image would mean to me. That these two women, painted more than 100 years ago would be present in the room where I first fell in love. This is the power of art.
I have stood in rooms filled with the very best humanity has to offer. I have communicated with all these people and felt what they were saying. To me and to all of us. This is the power of art.
What made New York great? The possibility. Not the bullshit financial opportunities – like some reimagined jungle from Death of a Salesman. Rather, it was the feeling that things are achievable. There’s a place where there’s space for audacious projects, a place where people will queue to see Girl With A Pearl Earring – because it’s important. The point is, this place doesn’t need to be New York – it can be anywhere. That’s what’s amazing about New York.
Now go look at some art.