Comment

New to me, New York City

by Angela Meyer , December 2, 20125 Comments

Photo credit: Angela Meyer

Like Loco, Pola and Schatze I was drawn to New York City to find a millionaire playboy. Wait, that’s not right. But in my nine days in NYC I did sometimes feel that I was acting a part in a movie. The island of Manhattan itself feels elevated somehow, surreal. In my photographs taken from the Brooklyn Bridge the city has a certain cardboard cut-out effect. I ran into the cultural ghosts of Ninja Turtles in Chinatown, Dana Barrett on Central Park West, King Kong on top of the Empire State Building, and Joe Buck next to a neon sign.

But the city is not elevated, isolated, a movie set. While I was there, very real events were occurring, and had occurred. People were affected by these, not just in New York, but around the world. So the city to me was both a hyperreal version of itself (and a trip often glosses over like a dream afterwards, too) and a place where, of course, people breathe and bleed.

I arrived just after flights resumed post Sandy. At JFK airport, there were sandbags. The cab was expensive due to gas shortages and the roads were quiet. The electricity was still out in many places and had only just come on in the Lower East Side, where I was staying. Coming over the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan, the score from Christopher Nolan’s Batman films entered my head. But the abstract idea of those skyscrapers and the reality of their imposing (and majestic) grandeur were separate to me until that moment. To Fritz Lang in 1924, Manhattan’s skyline was synonymous with the city of tomorrow, and it is still a dramatic sight to the first-time visitor.

I spent my first day over in Brooklyn with one of my hosts, Lyndsy, bleaching and washing artworks and equipment after the devastating flooding of her friend’s studio. In the week to come I would overhear many conversations between locals; catching up, discussing the people they knew who were most affected. In the Mexican restaurant later that night, Lyndsy and I were surrounded by tired and dirty volunteers. So many people helped out, and are still helping out, and I witnessed an amazing shift in the city in the week I was there. The first few nights were so quiet, and I knew that wasn’t normal (is it in Annie Hall where Alvy needs to play the city noise to get to sleep in the country?). On the last two nights I was almost comforted by the fact I could only sleep with the aid of ear plugs.

Photo credit: Angela Meyer

The other weather event was a blizzard, which was a novelty for this Australian who has only ever seen snow twice, and even then it was light or already fallen. This time I got to trudge through a blizzard, and even slip down a stoop after a literary event. I was fascinated the next day by the blend of snow and Autumn leaves peppering the streets.

Photo credit: Angela Meyer

And then there was the election. I’d spent the first few days of my trip at a conference in the South, and had seen the Republican posters stabbing lawns, and watched sensationalist Fox news coverage over my breakfast of grits. But on election day in New York I saw window-washers in Obama jumpers, hot dog sellers in Obama hats, and I saw NBC setting up their ‘democracy plaza’ for the live coverage of the results, near Times Square. I’d had a long day out walking around so I went back to my accommodation and watched some of the coverage (surreal again, coming from where I’d just been) on the TV. I switched it off and said goodnight to my hosts and had just laid my head down when I heard a tremendous cheer arise from the street. Shivers ran down my spine. People shouted ‘Yeah!’ ‘Obama!’ and whistled and cheered. There was a general, happy, low buzz that continued as I fell asleep.

Photo credit: Angela Meyer

The city I experienced was alive, and came alive, while I was there. It went from a saddened and quiet presence with its hat drawn down over its eyes, to a whooping, well-lit animal; boozing in hope and solidarity, and to numb the pain a little. New Yorkers began to rush and press again but always stopped to help and be curious and tell little stories about their slice of the city. And all the while there remained, from behind my eyes, a layering to the city, of fictional characters and of people from the past, which only made the place seem richer. I know I was fortunate, though, to be in NYC at such an eventful time, because it meant that those cultural associations didn’t come at me like snow and blind me to the now; to the life of a truly great city.

Angela Meyer is a Melbourne-based writer. She has published short stories, reviews and articles and has blogged for 5.5 years on literature at LiteraryMinded. She is a former acting editor of Bookseller+Publisher magazine and will be finishing up her Doctor of Creative Arts through the University of Western Sydney in 2013. She regularly chairs panels at writers’ festivals, and you can catch her at the Perth Writers Festival in February 2013.




  • http://www.dontunderthinkit.wordpress.com Rupert Denton

    Hey Angela,

    Great piece. I was recently in New York and had a fantastic time, such a dynamic city. I was shocked by how friendly the people ended up being (besides those living on the catwalk that is Williamsburg). Where in Brooklyn were you based? You’ll probably say Williamsburg and then I’ll be like “Oh did I say I found them unfriendly? I meant to say really I loved them all.”

    Then I’ll get a nosebleed.

    Okay great, so this comment has officially gotten out of hand.

    Also, your blog is awesome, I just discovered it (yay hyperlinks).

    Thanks!

    Rupe

  • http://literaryminded.wordpress.com Angela (LiteraryMinded)

    Hi Rupert,

    thanks for reading! I didn’t actually stay in Brooklyn, I stayed on the Lower East Side, which is such a great area. But I did get to Brooklyn a couple of times. People are super friendly in NYC. Always helping with directions, making a joke etc. Loved it.

    And thanks for clicking through :)

    Angela

  • http://www.dallasangguish.com Dallas

    Great piece Angela. I could almost smell the damp streets of the Lower East Side…. Ah, the sweet scent of bagels, baloney and gadolene ;)

  • http://www.dallasangguish.com Dallas

    That should be gasolene….

the-story-of-the-lost-child

Kill Your Darlings

What We’re Reading: Readings staff share their August picks

Looking for a book recommendation? After a busy month dominated by the Melbourne Writers Festival’s huge range of events, staff from Readings bookshop share what they’ve been reading. Read more »

daniel-handler

Kate Harper

‘I think about terrible things happening’: An interview with Daniel Handler

Given the current age of acute media-fuelled panic over childhood trauma and accidentally fucking them up, Daniel Handler’s (aka Lemony Snicket) dastardly depictions of children fighting to survive can be read as tales of wonder. Kate Harper chats to Handler ahead of his upcoming Melbourne appearances. Read more »

o-MAGGIE-NELSON-900

James Tierney

Usefully Uncertain: A review of Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts in nine fragments

I first read Maggie Nelson in the April of last year, during the early feverish stages of an autumn cold. Her slim 2009 volume Bluets is a bare and consonant appraisal of blue – as a colour, as music, as meaning sexual content and the fuzzy indigo of depression. Read more »

One-Direction

Rebecca Shaw

Right Direction: The value of fandom

I have a pop-culture confession to make to you, Internet. It isn’t something I’ve been trying to keep hidden for fear of seeming uncool, because that ship sailed long ago. But it is something I haven’t opened up about until this point. I, Rebecca Shaw, have become a One Direction fan. Read more »

abortion

Rebecca Shaw

Choice Without Stigma: Dismantling the abortion taboo

Abortion is still illegal in the criminal code in Queensland – even in this, the Year of Our Beyoncé 2015. While women are unlikely to face practical obstacles to abortion due to the law, it can still cause isolation and unnecessary fear, and creates a stigma around the act. Read more »

17177200132_2383e88c36_k

Rebecca Shaw

Rage Against the Marriage: The inanity of same sex marriage debate in Australia

I am someone who is completely comfortable in my sexuality, and who classifies myself as the genus Lesbionisos. I am 100% certain that I am not abnormal, an abomination, or in any way inferior to heterosexual people. Sometimes I even secretly think non-heterosexuals might be superior. But I haven’t always been this assured. Read more »

The_Gift_2015_Film_Poster1

Anwen Crawford

Memorable Chills: Edgerton’s Gift

The Gift is Australian actor Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut — he also wrote, produced, and stars in it — and it bodes well for Edgerton’s directing career. A psychological thriller, The Gift is efficiently and quite memorably chilling, at least for the first half. Read more »

wolfpack-1024

Joanna Di Mattia

Escaping The Wolfpack: Inside and outside the screen

The Wolfpack introduces us to the six Angulo brothers, who were kept virtual prisoners for 14 years in their Lower East Side apartment. More than a captivity narrative, this is a film about the influence of cameras and screens, and the transfixing, liberating power of cinema. Read more »

f9a2809e-97eb-400d-b491-b4b6a6f09930-2060x1236

Clem Bastow

Telling Stories: Women screenwriters and the obligation to represent

There is something in the recent call to arms for female writers and directors to ‘tell your story’ that leaves me feeling bereft, not vindicated. The idea that As A Woman I must write about women first and foremost is a special kind of hell. Read more »

golden-age-of-television

Jane Hone

How the Golden Age of Television Brought Us Back Together

I recently heard someone say that it used to be that at 6pm, everyone would sit down to watch The Cosby Show. It seemed at once a quaint and almost sci-fi notion ­– millions of people watching the same show at the same time. How things have changed. Read more »

glitch abc tv

Stephanie Van Schilt

A Glitch in the System: The ABC’s undead gamble

In one gasping breath, Glitch shows that the ABC is stumbling towards something beloved by TV audiences the world over, but that regularly eludes the Australian and film and TV industry: genre. And not just any genre, but the ‘return-from-the-dead’ zombie-style genre. Read more »

family-hour

Anwen Crawford

By Screen Light

Television and depression have a history together. We’re all familiar with the trope: the person who stays in on a Saturday night watching TV in their pyjamas is the sad schlub with no life. Read more »

ss_8df8236403f5aad45eeedd33d2bd545e45435b39.1920x1080

Katie Williams

The More Things Change: Choice and consequence in Life is Strange

You can either be a benevolent hero or a monster, but few games deal with the multitudes contained by actual people. And what does it matter, anyway? There’s no such thing as regret when it comes to in-game decision-making – not when you can so easily restart the game to see what outcome will result from choosing Option B instead. Read more »

svfw crop

Katie Williams

Silicon Valley Fashion Week?: Fashion, technology, and wearability

Last week saw the inaugural Silicon Valley Fashion Week? (yes, with a question mark) unfold in San Francisco. The show promised ‘drones, robots, and mad inventions’, and tickets sold out swiftly; attendees were clearly eager to see more inventive clothing in this heartland of nerds. Read more »

AnimalCrossing copy

Katie Williams

Digging For Meaning in Utopia: Storytelling in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing is a series of games in which – as my partner once remarked incredulously – ‘nothing ever happens.’ In its latest incarnation, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you become the unwitting mayor of a town populated by anthropomorphic, bipedal animals. Read more »

Edinburgh

Jane Howard

The Impenetrable City: Getting lost at Edinburgh Fringe Festival

I just saw a one-on-one performance piece that ended in my bursting into tears and the artist sitting with me and holding my hands in hers for maybe ten, maybe fifteen, maybe twenty minutes. We had a shared piece of history, and her work was delicate and took me by surprise, and I have a cold, and I am homesick, and I don’t know why I’m in Edinburgh, and I’ve cried a lot, and now I’m in a gallery because I couldn’t face another show. Read more »

Resized__863

Jane Howard

A Mess of a Brain: A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing at Edinburgh Fringe Festival

In some ways it seems like an impossible task to take Eimear McBride’s A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing and translate it to any other art form. How to find a life for a book that is so internal, so unrelenting, in anything other than the pure words of its narrator as they appear on the page? Read more »

Keith - photo Shane Reid

Jane Howard

Local Courage, Global Reach: The National Play Festival

There is something to be gained from observing any collection of works in close proximity, and in these readings you could see the way Australian playwrights are reaching out into the world. Together, these works show the minds of our playwrights in robust health, with works that are itching to find their audience. Read more »