Tuesday, 15 May 2012

A state of mind that needs New York


David Shrigley offers some motivational words at the Hayward Gallery

I would love to say the radio silence of the last few weeks was the result of glamorous nights out, fantastically exciting work assignments and the inclination to lie in the sunshine and not on the sofa but that would all be total fucking bollocks. I’ve barely left the house, work has been frustrating and there’s been nary a ray of sunshine since late March.

Basically life has been awash in beige and not even a diehard love of pith has been enough to motivate me to write/moan and consequently possibly punish you all with my beigeness. Consider my silence community service if you will.

Spring despite itself... taken moments before I was smacked
in the face by a cyclist. Yes this has been my life lately.
So it started with that chest infection. Which lead, thanks to a weakened-to-non-existent immune system, to the rising of an, it turns out, latent tooth infection. In the same tooth that endured root canal last year. Why have root canal when you can have RE-root canal I ask you? Throw in hormones and an appalling case of homesickness and you kind of get the drift. The misery was so exquisite it could find company with no one.

Anyway, I’ve slowly been pulling myself up by the bootstraps. Work has been better, drugs have helped with the dental dramas and endorphins have somewhat softened the blows of homesickness. But the biggest band-aid of all has been researching and planning our trip to New York.

A trip to Selfridges for medicinal purposes
Two more sleeps and we’ll be on our way and I can barely keep inside my skin for the excitement. It’s been 10 years since I was last there and it’s always had a place in my heart. In fact I cried last time I was there because I didn’t want to leave and swore the next time I came back it would be to stay. For good. Obviously that’s not the case but I’m making an honourable exception because Lovely Boy has never been and it’s top of his “I’m Not Moving Back to Sydney Until I’ve (Insert Adventure Here)” list. And I suppose in the interests of full disclosure, I could do with a dose of my favourite city (sorry Berlin – total Sophie’s Choice moment).

When I was 21 I spent three months in this incredible metropolis ostensibly doing an internship in a small commercial gallery in Chelsea but really, actually, having the most life affirming, life changing, most fucking brilliant time. All those clich├ęs about New York – the energy, the diversity, the confidence – they’re all true and if you’re an impressionable, under-confident, awkward early twenty-something who’s open to the experience, it just seeps into your soul. You can’t help but soak it up. It was a pivotal moment for my erstwhile younger self and I still have acutely real memories of it all. The jazz bars, the architecture, the energy, the nightclubs, the art, the shopping, the hangovers. It’s going to sound hackneyed and a bit smug/ridiculous/over-earnest so read quickly but the truth is, New York was the first place where I really felt liberated enough to let myself just be myself, without judgement or question or apology. And god it felt amazing. I was me without the backstory and the angst and the uncertainty. Me at face value. It was a powerful lesson and one I've arguably failed at times to remember since.

I imagine everything and nothing has changed in the city since I was last there and I can’t wait to appreciate it all, all over again. 

Francesca Woodman
Not that we’ll have much time for idle basking in the forecasted New York sun. I’m already worried we’re not going to have enough time to see and do and eat and experience everything we want to. Nasty street hotdogs and a baseball game are high on Lovely Boy’s list. Mine is considerably longer. Tomas Saraceno on the roof of the Met, Francesca Woodman at the Guggenheim, the Brooklyn Flea, all the other fleas, David Chang’s Milkbar and award-winning Mexican in Brooklyn, rooftop cinemas, the High Line, Sephora, the view from the top of the Rockefeller, dinner in the back of a pawn shop on the Lower East Side… the list goes on.  

The High Line
While my body hums with anticipation, the wait has been made bearable by dental distractions and one recent lovely cultural outing. Several months ago, while relatively inebriated, Lovely Boy, Tori, the Hungry One and I booked tickets to see Tim Minchin’s musical version of Roald Dahl’s Matilda, a Royal Shakespeare Company commission that has finally made its way to London. The relatively inebriated part is important because for a while there we forgot we’d even booked the tickets and when we remembered we couldn’t then remember when we’d booked them for or who had the email with the tickets to print. A series of careful deductions solved the mystery and on Thursday we found ourselves at the Cambridge Theatre in Seven Dials.


Tim Minchin’s genius is well established and the success of Matilda was made abundantly clear recently when it won seven Olivier Awards, including one for Minchin's song book. The set was extraordinary, the precocious talent that was the young Matilda was extraordinary and Minchin’s witty lyrics brought a spiked, intelligent, knowing humour to the dark themes of Dahl’s classic. It took two whole days for the sweetly demonic “My mummy thinks I’m a miracle” refrain of the opening song’s chorus to unclaw itself from my brain. A funny, brilliant man if ever there was one.


I’m not sure if we’ll see anything on Broadway while we’re in New York but if we don’t manage it I suspect we’ll just add it to the list for next time. As long as it’s not another decade.