NYC Reflections, part one
I was going for a Fieldwork facilitator training session. The Field (www.thefield.org) is a national network of independent performance artists and Fieldwork is their 10 week workshop wherein artists develop new work with weekly feedback from the other artists in the workshop. It then culminates in a showing of new work or works-in-progress. I've participated in Fieldwork in Chicago and Houston and Several Dancers Core, the sponsor for Fieldwork here in Houston and in Atlanta, sent me to NYC for the facilitator training.
All of which isn't terribly interesting unless you're involved in the Field, so I won't talk much about that.
But I made arrangements to hang out in NYC for a couple of days extra because I've never really been to NYC. Or as I told people who asked if this was my first visit, I answered, "It may as well be." You see, back in 1982, I was a senior in Giddings High School, and the drama teacher had found a fairly reasonably priced package for student groups to go to NYC---for a weekend. As I recall, it was a long weekend. Maybe Friday through Sunday? But that was more than 20 years ago, I didn't know enough to really look for the things NYC has to offer, and we were pretty well herded about our routes by tour guides and sponsors. So it's hard to say I actually experienced NYC on that trip. Perhaps the most interesting thing I recall about that experience was that our Beta Club (does Beta Club still exist?) had been to Austin to see the road show of Annie and then we saw the Broadway version in NYC. (Our original Broadway choice, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, had just closed a week or two before and we'd listed Annie as our second choice before we knew the Beta Club was going to Austin to see the road show.) So this future theater major got to see the differences between the road show and the Broadway show while still in high school, which I guess was sort of a remarkable thing for someone from Giddings.
The only other time I'd been to NYC was when I was in New Jersey a couple of years ago and a group went into the city to eat dinner. And that's all it was, really. Took a train into NYC, ate, took a train back to Jersey. Not really a trip to NYC.
So. This may as well be my first trip there. I was pretty much on my own and was able to wander around a bit without anyone's agenda but my own.
We were done with the Fieldwork training at noon on Thursday and so my adventure began then. I had lunch with a Fielder from Atlanta, a little Cuban place on 8th Avenue, if I recall, and then I went back uptown to the Field offices on 6th Avenue and Spring Street, to get my bearings.
I walked a whole lot after that. A whole very lot.
From Spring Street, I walked south to Christopher Street, to visit Oscar Wilde Books, said to be the oldest gay and lesbian bookstore in the world. I was fairly impressed. My experiences with gay bookstores have not been terribly positive. Most of them are over half, if not 80% or more, porn. Oscar Wilde Books has a small section of skin mags, but for the most part, it is a bookstore with honest to goodness literature on its shelves. Of course, they didn't have the one book I'd sort of been keeping my eyes open for, but I did pick up a clever little graphic novel by German cartoonist Ralf Konig called Maybe . . . Maybe Not. I'd run across the name before, but had not seen any of his books and I did find it clever and fun. My souvenir from Oscar Wilde Books.
Then I walked a few more blocks south to meet up with an internet connection that is really the result of my working at Northwestern University Press during my Chicago days. I'd say more about it, but it might sound more impressive than it really is. It's a nice connection to have in the world of book publishing and I'm grateful to have it and it was a very pleasant hour spent in Cafe Loup, chatting about books and such. But to say much more might give more weight in my readers minds than it has in my mind.
This acquaintance asked me what my plans for the evening was and I said I'd seen an ad in the Village Voice for a dance concert in Battery Park, assuming I could find Battery Park. He suggested that I just continue walking down 6th Avenue and take in the city some. This turned out to be a very good suggestion, as I did get to see things above ground that I might have missed underground on the subway. There weren't a lot of very touristy sort of things, really, but it gave me a feel for the city in a way I might not have otherwise had.
And that route took right to the one site that everyone was talking about, the one that I was neither seeking out nor avoiding, but suddenly I was one the edge of the crater that is Ground Zero.
I suppose I should say something about NYC and the week before th 5th anniversary of the attacks, especially since I type here on the eve of said anniversary.
First, there's not much in the print media about it, but I found a variety of attitudes about the World Trade Center. Of course, there are signs all over the city of the collective grief. I walked past a fire station and just inside the open garage doors is a huge memorial with pictures of all the men who died from that station. There are plaques and other signs in businesses memorializing the friends and family members lost. I was staying in Brooklyn and each day I walked past a small granite marker memorializing, I presume, people from that neighborhood who died that day. So there's that, which is to be expected.
But there were other opinions expressed, some spoken to me, others overheard. There's a definite feeling by some folks of wanting to move on, not dwell on the event. I heard a comment about how the Towers were ugly and disliked anyway. I heard small rants about how tired of the sentimentality one person was, the manipulating of emotions to carry forward all sorts of agendas, personal and political. This is a city that not only grieves, but is trying to move on from the grief and is feeling held back by the grief.
Obviously, it's complicated. I can't imagine living there through all of it.
It's hard to say much about the enormous crater. If I didn't know what it was, it could easily been seen as a construction site. I kept looking around at the buildings around the crater. There were a few on the south side that appeared to still show signs of the destruction, but I was amazed at how pristine other buildings looked. Then I realized that I didn't know what had been there before and maybe these pristine buildings had been protected by other buildings that were now gone. I just don't know.
Going back, a minute, to that 1982 trip to NYC, we country kids were herded through the World Trade Center plaza. I remember being between the two towers. It was a misty, foggy day and the towers disappeared into the mist above us. We were supposed to go into one of the towers, but we'd lost time somwhere in the touring and didn't have time to go in. I do have a picture of them, though, in my old photo album with all my NYC pictures. I also remember taking the pictures, getting down on my knees next to them, looking up and clicking.
I did eventually get to Battery Park, but I think I'll save my dance reviews for the last NYC blog, talk about them all at one time. It was a treat, to say the least, to see companies like Pilobolus, Trisha Brown, and Phildanco for free . . .
Briefly, I want to mention that when I got back from NYC last night, I had in my mailbox an acceptance letter for a short story. It seems my "Vernal Visitation" will appear in the next edition of Windhover, published by the University of Mary Hardin Baylor. I always hear aspiring writers despair about rejections and things never getting published. By way of backhanded encouragement, I'd like to point out that this story has collected a few rejections letters since I first wrote it---in 2003. You know, actually I think I wrote the first draft in 2002. I don' t think I got around to revising it until 2003, though. Anyway, the point is this: These things take time. Aspiring writers, take note!