The Bushwick Collective: Bushwick, Brooklyn

After I have posted this I will post a visual tribute separately. And I know I am dreadfully behind in my postings so after the most recent events I will work backwards.

I am feeling pressured; I feel the need to do the Bushwick Collective justice. I am a words person; my mum and many of my close friends are picture people. I love some art though and art on the streets, of the streets, definitely so. It’s like the roots of hip hop, coming from somewhere real. A friend of a friend told us about the street art in Bushwick. We googled it and then we decided to go to see it.

Bushwick’s history is not glamorous, but like most of New York City, gentrification is making it prettier and safer. A Scot that we met on our way back from Bushwick (after taking the wrong train; everything happens for a reason), who has lived here since 1989 as an artist, told us that it used to be a very urban, very dangerous area. It has a very different feel to Manhattan when you walk the streets, especially because they are quite empty. But there is a feeling of something …

We had the privilege of meeting the organiser of the Collective, Joe. He asked us to allow ourselves to be interviewed by the crew interviewing him. He had seen our reactions as we turned the corner and saw the most amazing artwork on the wall. And I mean amazing. We had seen it on Google Images but it is nothing compared to the impact it exacts when you see it in real life. Having come so far to see the art, and having the responses we did, caught his attention.

In recent times, the Collective has come under fire from corporations wanting to cover the art with billboards. Joe is fighting the corporatisation of Bushwick. What struck me though was his urgency, a deep rooted urgency that comes from something more than politics. His fight came from deeper in the heart than politics (which has a tendency to be more superficial these days, unless rooted somewhere much deeper). And so it does …

The Bushwick Collective is a tribute and legacy to his mother. She died from cancer. Joe is born and bred Bushwick, and wanted to do something positive for the community in her name. The beautification of the streets is how.

And he is not without his own critics. A graffiti artist routinely covers the art with his tag, repeatedly if the artists fix their work. He is against the gentrification of his Bushwick neighbourhood because it has resulted in higher housing prices, which then pushes the old neighbourhood out. He has a point, but … the continuing of high crime and poverty are not necessarily the best answer for the neighbourhood either. And I would argue that corporatisation is more responsible for the gentrification of many New York neighbourhoods than, as amazing as it is, the Bushwick Collective street art.

It is a loaded issue. We all struggle with change, and none of us want to see the neighbourhoods we grew up in, the memories we cherish, unrecognisable in a modern world.

When it comes to art and change, what is acceptable and what isn’t. I think that art has a capacity to make us feel, to see, to think … and to be real. And when we are real, without our masks or our protective cloaks, it is harder to not feel compassion for fellow man, to not see our similarities more than our differences. In a raw state we are all the same.

I sit with Joe. The art is amazing. It beautifies the area. Any area. Think Newtown in Sydney.

I love the Martin Luther King Jr art on King Street. I wrote about it for my Masters. It is amazing. And now with the Aboriginal flag the message is contemporarily Australian. Art can enable change. I guess it comes down to all of us to ensure that corporatisation (including rising housing prices) does not compromise art which in turn does not eradicate the rights  of all.

Four blocks for the Bushwick Collective  is reasonable I think.

And the impact for youth in the area, something to hope for, dream about, see potential in, is priceless, and changes lives.

This time next week I’ll be at JFK 😢

I had some major life epiphanies last night after an amazing night at the Kaufmann Centre at 92Y listening to Mary Badham but they will wait for another time. 

A quiet day today. Tattoos and shopping. Sitting on the lounge now relaxing with Dr Phil and Judge Judy hehe. 

A couple of photos from today’s journey to Daredevil Tattoo on Division Street. 

   
Hehe this arrived on my phone this morning. Luckily it was a little exaggerated.

  

 And the rain shouldn’t stop anyone from living lol. Go girls!    Oh I wish! 

 I laughed when I walked past and had to go back yo! Sure looks like a door.
  
The Empire State Building in the distance. I was walking to the apartment along Canal Street. Unexpected view. 

My tattoo is a quote: Out of the darkness, only light can come. 

❤️


The Upper East Side and Rain 

I am struggling to sleep normally. I am generally going to bed by 11 but tossing and turning until 3. Today it took its toll. I woke up at 830 feeling like death warmed up. Thank god Lauren was understanding and let me lie in for another hour. She went to the gym. I was functioning when she returned. 

We decided to do the Uptown loop on the bus tour today. It started well. And then it bucketed down. We were on the top level but under shelter (huge amen) and the rain was flooding our end of the bus as it moved – maybe an inch of water. Excitement plus. Obviously we grinned throughout its entirety. 

The buses are great to see the breadth of the city. We only take them to our destinations and then use the subway. I’m not overly impressed with the tours. 

We got off after the Upper West Side and Harlem. I loved seeing the sights and learning the history. I always do. A huge nerd day today. 

We got off for the Guggenheim. They have a collection by one of Lauren’s top three artists and a Storylines collection that focuses on the stories/narratives that artwork shares. Really is an amazing exhibition. I loved it – beware Extension English. I have the app and we will be exploring the life writing evident in some of my favourite pieces. Visual Arts students should look at it to strengthen their concepts too. Amazing. 

Then lunch at Subway, and then Lauren and I went our separate ways. I stayed to explore the Upper East Side and she headed towards home. 

I’m sitting at 92Y now, waiting for Mary Badham to read from To Kill A Mockingbird and Go Set A Watchman. The latter released today. I read the first chapter when it was released in The Guardian the other day; I’m not entirely convinced Harper Lee wrote it. Hehe. Probably shouldn’t say that but I bought the book today and after I have read more of it I shall apologise or outline my argument. Ultimately it doesn’t matter; what I have read, reads well. 

Australia has lost something by losing bookstores, like large multilevelled book stores. I have spent the afternoon in Barnes and Noble following my bliss. 

I love bookstores. 

I love New York City. 

I am getting a tattoo tomorrow. That’s a bit exciting for me too. 

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
   

And now, more traditionally …

Lauren said that I didn’t quite convey just how filthy New York really was. Up until today, our experiences of garbage putrefying on the sidewalk, rats in the subway, rank water falling from the heavens unpredictably, really conveyed to us how disgusting it was. If it wasn’t for the magic of the place, you wouldn’t stay here. Like, really wouldn’t. Lauren I hope that I have fixed that up; I don’t think I have – something to be seen and smelt I think.

We have walked heaps. We have been here (not counting Wednesday because we arrived at night) for five days. Today our feet are hurting. We went to a shop here in Chinatown to buy some buckets and some Epsom Salts (or their equivalent). No Epsom Salts. We did end up with sachets of brown stuff. We also ended up with really itchy and red feet. Woopsy. Luckily a shower and some of my cream for my allergic reactions seemed to do the trick. If it had worked we would be singing its praises – what can you do. If you never try you never know.

Side note: if you come to New York you really do need to purchase Go Walk Skechers. They are amazing.

Yesterday we saw Manhattan from the water. I was really excited to see The Statue of Liberty and really, really worried that I would be disappointed (similarly to when I saw the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris). Lauren and I never had any intention of paying to go to see only her on her island and I think that choice was vindicated yesterday. She is amazing! And I don’t see that seeing her close up or from underneath could do her majesty proud. I think that if you want to see her, go on a cruise of Manhattan (Landmark Tour of NYC). She is worth it. Absolutely worth it. I was awestruck. Interestingly, the only landmark or must do thing in Paris that I thought was any chop was the Eiffel Tower. I like this guy’s work hehe. Great gift.

And the cruise was great to go underneath Brooklyn Bridge.

Beyond that, our outing made me really appreciate how beautiful Sydney Harbour is. We really do have a harbour that has everything. To the extent that I may do a touristy cruise of Sydney Harbour when I get home (and it warms up lol).

After the cruise we went to get Subway (food Subway) for lunch. We do this pretty much every day except for tomorrow when we will mix it up and try 5 Napkin Burger on the Upper West Side. Every Subway restaurant charges us different prices for the exact same thing (creatures of habit lol), and every restaurant is different. Like the one on Saturday night near Madison Square Garden had a toilet that smelled and looked like people had urinated freely over the entire floor. Today’s were the cheapest for each of us, in different locations.

After lunch yesterday we went our different ways. Lauren went shopping. Tina headed to a tattoo studio to check availability for an appointment. No luck so she came back to the flat after watching some soccer (football) in the park adjoining our street. I googled other tattoo studios and sent an email off (no luck there either; I heard back today). Lauren came back shortly after and we cooked some dinner and then went to Brooklyn to see some stand up comedy.

Heading to Brooklyn last night and Williamsburg the other night we used Uber. I recommend this for night and distance travel. If you live downtown obviously. A little expensive (cheaper than a cab) but safe. If you have the funds.

We arrived in Brooklyn quite early. There were two guys drinking on the corner. We assumed they came out of a pub, unnamed, behind them. You wouldn’t know it was a pub unless you were local and knew it was a pub. I loved it. People with tattoos. As unattractive as I am feeling in my own skin, I seem to always feel just fine in Brooklyn. I really like it there. Younger people but similar to the Newtown, Sydney of the nineties (yep, feeling my age lol). It is an area that is cleaning up and none of the stereotypes were in view (a little disappointing all throughout NYC – no real stereotypes of the place at all – TV has a lot to answer for lol). After a drink (soft drink) we headed across the road to The Knitting Factory, a pub slash venue for music and comedy.

We bought our tickets and waited for doors to open. Minimal seating so we wanted to be comfortable.

The thing about stand up comedy in venues away from home is that you need to know the references to find the comedy funny. Luckily for me I have been brainwashed/submerged in American  pop culture (and I am quite ashamed by this) and know a fair bit about American politics (enough to get the jokes) so I found it reasonably entertaining. However, I found myself offended by racial and gender stereotyping. Other people were laughing. But I was offended. I question if I have become too politically correct for my own good or if the values in our societies have denigrated that significantly. Food for thought …

We left after the (almost) second act and Ubered it home. An early night for the start of our Hop On Hop Off bus tour today.

I really like the atmosphere in Brooklyn. I think that if I were to move here I would consider Brooklyn (only if I couldn’t afford Manhattan bahahahahaha bahahahahaha bahahahahaha).

And so, today. Lauren and I subwayed it in to Midtown to catch the bus. I love learning stuff. Really thrive off  it. I am a bona fide nerd. Proudly I think. The beginning of my tour experience was so nurturing today. And as a result of it, I know that I do not need to visit Soho, Noho, Greenwich Village. They are no longer the sprawling artist capitals of NYC. They are gentrified. The bus tour covered what I  needed to see.

I stopped at Battery Park to walk to Battery Place to visit the Jewish Heritage Centre/Museum. A beautiful walk by the water and through gardens. Lauren continued on the bus to see the Whitney Museum. We organised to catch up at the High Line after our respective museum visits. Sculptures caught my eye. Flowers cleansed my soul. My statue made me smile; I love that she could be seen again today, if only from a distance.

I am a little obsessed with the Holocaust. My students will tell anyone. I think I feel some shame that my heritage is linked to it. And I think by teaching it I try to do my bit to ensure that we learn from those mistakes.

As I walked through today, often wiping escapee tears, it really dawned on me how we haven’t learned anything. Greed and ego stops the human race from evolving, growing, learning. And it angers me. Before religion, before race, before gender, we are all human. Beyond that, we are all visitors to this planet, that we wilfully destroy due to greed and ego. I don’t get it. Us. Our ways.

And when hurt, shouldn’t we endeavour to support others that are hurting, to ensure that those after us do not hurt.

Hippie ideals, I am sure some will mutter. But, really. What is wrong with us?

Hmmm  … pause for intermission before I gather listeners around my soapbox ey.

So I left the museum. Satisfied that I had been. And made my way back to the bus pick up point to continue on to meet Lauren.

I love this city.

The new tower is beautiful. I love it. It is elegant and sleek. Beautifully designed and beautifully executed; a building to be proud of. I love the memorials. Tasteful.

The High Line. Interesting. A nice walk. Interesting performers. Interesting concept. The highlight for me was a painting on the wall of a building. Albert Einstein, the answer is love. Segues perfectly from my last rant, don’t you think? 😉

I found Lauren and we walked to the bus pick up point. The Big Bus pick up point. And we waited …

And we waited …

And we waited …

And we waited …

And then a bus came.

Came to tell us that they were full.

Full.

No one was getting off.

No one was getting on.

No answers.

An apology.

We walked.

And as a result we saw beautiful clean streets with beautiful old brownstones in Chelsea. Lovely. And I had a late lunch.

We then attempted to get some gelato from Eataly. Failed. Flavour choice was restricted.

We then made our way to the subway and for the first time went into the Downtown option rather than the Uptown option. We were going Crosstown in our minds so it was confusing. And then our Metrocards wouldn’t work; it takes eighteen minutes for them to reset. Luckily a lecturing and cantankerous Subway man opened the gate for us and we could get through, “just this one time.” Pfft … then we did this for the rest of the day. Nah, joking. I just wanted to. Lauren didn’t. Maturity.

We headed home and taking a slightly different route from the subway, realised that the streets on the other side of us are the cool, hip parts of Chinatown. Who knew. Lol. Quiet night in. Soaking our feet. Prank Sentralling Sara. Prank messaging Nicole. Nice messaging Belinda. Getting dinner from Sticky Rice around the corner (nice). Planning tomorrow’s adventures.

And now I have written myself back into jet lag and the awakened state.

Bugger.

The Excitement is Building 

I am jet lagged. It took a few days. It is 8.30 on Sunday morning here and I fell asleep around 4 this morning. My eyes are stinging but I need to stay awake and push through it today. 

😳

First world problem. I know. 

So yesterday we slept most of the day, exhausted from our night out in Williamsburg’s finest pubs. What a great night! The sort of night that makes you grateful to be alive. 

And then last night John Butler Trio at Madison Square Garden; the only air conditioning in the city set to cold at the moment lol. And JBT did not disappoint. If you say you love music and you see them live, I have no idea how you don’t become an instant fan. The musicianship is spectacular! 

We didn’t stay for Dispatch. Heard a song. They were good. But we decided the city was calling to us. I’m sure the people near us were shocked. I wanted to give our tickets to someone outside but we were told that it was impossible to do. A bit sad. 

And it was a bit weird. Dispatch Hunger have solid politics and ethics. In principle they are my type of band. They work to raise awareness, and manifest change for the disenfranchised and voiceless. The vast majority of their fans are white middle class. In such a multicultural city the glaring lack of multiculturalism staggered me. 

   
 
And so we went to The Empire State Building. But not before a homeless woman with her cat exacted the irony from me about where we had been. 

I perpetually feel perplexed. I would like to give all of the homeless money but I would end up homeless myself. I feel conflicted every time we see a homeless person. What is wrong with our world that so few feel anything and even fewer act. What is wrong with our collective consciousness that in reasonably affluent sections of the world this is even an issue. 

Why is there not more brotherhood? 

Anyhow, my upper working class guilt was assuaged slightly by the views from the 86th floor of The Empire State Building; memories of Deborah Kerr and Meg Ryan at the forefront of my mind. Staggering views of NYC at night. The vastness and the potential. Protected from the harsh realities on the pavement. 

But what a frustrating journey to the floor. So many lines and no warning that it requires patience. Oh, and I found out why there was not a blend of culture at The Garden; the cultures were working. 

Said a lot. Raises questions about the veritable success of Lincoln’s Proclamation. Well I think it does. We live in an interesting world. And I don’t mean interesting in a significantly positive way. I raise my eyebrow but don’t pretend to have any answers beyond the idealisms I have always nurtured. 

And then the impact of minimum wage clearly seen at McDonald’s. Minimum wage there results in no pride in the quality of work; no apologies for en masse mistakes to orders for multiple customers. 

However, one greedy arse customer got his comeuppance. He knew he had received someone else’s order and thought he’d be greedy until he opened the order to find a meatless cheeseburger and a bun less quarter pounder. That’s what you get buddy for being a greedy arse bahahahaha. Our order took half an hour as a result, even though they tried to give Lauren his cold order. No pride. 

And today The Statue of Liberty on a cruise and I see about my tattoo. Woo hoo. 

Nothing Gold Can Stay 

I love NYC. Do not make any mistake about that. I think I would love living here but it isn’t perfect (is anything). I’m going to list the negatives: 

1. Some of the locals are lovely (most of them; not the Maccas teams) but they are in the minority. The foreigners (obviously excluding us) are not. They are rude, selfish and disrespectful. Some cultural groups seem to be worse than others but I won’t go into particulars here. I sometimes hear Aussies speak and cringe, trying not to open my mouth because they are so ignorant and happy to advertise it. 

2. Minimum wage ensures that workers do not take pride in their work. Service is slow, servers are rude, and the food isn’t the greatest quality. 

3. For a nation with significant unemployment there is plenty of work for rubbish removalists and cleaners; governments need to spend the money and kill two birds with one stone. 

4. Australia might appear to be a socialist nation (yep, especially with Abbott at the helm) but free healthcare really should be a given in every country. 

5. Synonymous with point 3, rats love garbage. They love NYC too.  

6. Air conditioners either work or don’t so you freeze or boil. And you have no control. 

It is late and I am tired. Cruising the waters tomorrow. And then attempting some serious writing at Bryant or Central Park whilst my fellow traveller cruises some shops. 

John Butler Trio was amazing. The views from The Empire State Building are amazing. The never ending lines to get there need to be advertised more clearly so that you know what you are in for. 

❤️

The Best Night Ever … Almost

Oh my gosh! So Lauren’s sister’s best friend has a friend in New York through her husband. He took us out in Brooklyn tonight. We started at a pub called Enid’s. I am shy and introverted, anyone that knows me well knows that this is true. IN front of kids I am great; give me an adult audience and I fall apart.

Except for false confidence and oh my lord, that is in force tonight. We started at Enid’s on Manhattan Avenue and we met Ben and his Australian friends; all great people. We had a few drinks and moved on to Irene’s in Brooklyn. If ever in New York go outside of Manhattan (as hard as it is to get a cab driver to bring you back) and go to this very quaint Polish pub. We actually met Irene the owner who has family in Australia, We have exchanged details and if she contacts me I know to contact her family in South West Sydney and let them know that she is thinking of them. We left our details in the hands of the sober barmaid, whom Irene referred to as family.

She spent so much time with us, sharing stories about Australia and we ended up singing “Home Among the Gum Trees” by John Williamson. Amazing.

Being so old 😉 I had to leave before the others and had to catch a cab back to Manhattan. No easy feat. We organised Uber and they cancelled on us. Ben (our host) fought several cabbies to get me back, explaining it was illegal for them to refuse if their light was on. And as a result, after three or four said no, even with me sitting in the cab, we found the best cab driver in the world.

His area is Brooklyn not Manhattan. When we collectively got lost (I’ve only been here three days, actually two) he stopped his meter. We drove around for a fair bit after that to find my exact door because he didn’t want me to get out anywhere but home. He said that it wouldn’t be right. He is from Colombia. He came here for freedom. I told him that he did all New York cabbies proud tonight (3.30am) and I tipped him accordingly. He seriously did not let me out of the cab until another fare came up. He made her use her internet to check to see how far I was from home, and then he didn’t drive away until I was inside, even with another fare. I let her know she had the best cabbie in NYC. She just laughed like I was drunk :-/.

For the first time I successfully used our keys to get myself inside the flat. And now I am typing this. And then I am going to sleep – I am way too old for big nights. And tomorrow night, and by tomorrow I mean tonight. is John Butler Trio at Madison Square Garden.

Oh and btw, the best night ever … almost, because a night in Dublin comes close if not surpasses it.

Unexpected nights are always the BEST.

Oh and btw #2, I am now, in my own books, a true New Yorker!

Spring to Come

Listening to John Butler Trio on the grass in Central Park on a hot day with a cool breeze.
Does life get better than this?
“Out of the darkness only light can come.”
I think about where I’ve been, and I never ever would have believed that this broken girl from Campbelltown would be sitting here today.
Blessed.

Serene.

Happy.

And gullible and naive. On our walk through Times Square to get here I fell for the selling ploys of a street musician trying to make it. I bought his signed CD.
He had better become famous.
I have loved the idea of New York City since I was a child. Everyone in the movies went there to escape and to find themselves, fulfil their dreams, become all that they were meant to be.
“After the lonely, long night, comes the sun.”
I intend to start being all that I was destined to be when I return home.
I have promised Lauren that when I make my first million with my writing we will fly back first class and stay in a thousand dollar a night hotel near Central Park.
And I don’t want to be a liar 😉.
I am my only obstacle.

What is your dream?

Who do you want to be?

What is stopping you?

Amen, New York.

  

September 11 2001

We decided when we woke this morning to find a supermarket, buy some food and then have a relatively quiet day. The very good thing about having so much time scheduled here in New York City is that there is no desperate need to rush. We left the apartment by 7.55 am and headed a couple of blocks down to the renowned (here in Chinatown) Hong Kong Supermarket. We found some items but opted to not buy fresh vegetables there. If you like Asian dishes, it is the right place for sauces and tofu and that type of ingredient but not like a ‘normal’ supermarket at home.

We found the Organic Food Market on Greenwich Street this afternoon. We were heading to another supermarket just down from it (where we ended up buying M&Ms and Lauren bought her ice-cream) when we found this market that radiated natural from the street.

We were both mesmerised. Organic produce for as far as the eyes can see. Cut, packaged, ready to eat. Vivid colours, beautiful smells. It was amazing. Literally, awe struck, I was wandering around in a daze. I really wish we had one at home. More expensive than your regular supermarket but … if you can afford it, well worth it, and only just a little more expensive.

But I digress.

After returning from the Hong Kong Supermarket we decided to head towards the 911 Memorial site and museum. We debated purchasing tickets online, but for the extra money when tickets were still marked as available at every session, we decided to risk just heading down there. Neither of us has data on our phones and my sense of direction is always cactus for the first few days in a new city (Courtney will agree with this; many times we found ourselves lost during our European adventures in 2009/10) so thank God Lauren has a keener sense. Also though, thank God NYC provides a lot of free wifi. We managed to secure it in most places, even just on the road.

Lauren wanted to go a discount sporting goods store (very similar to Rebel in Australia but significantly cheaper) called Modells. Ironically she bought nothing whilst I purchased a pair of black Go Walk Skechers (yes Karyn, see I do listen to you hehe, but couldn’t get them before I left home even though I had looked everywhere within reach). I tried them on and my feet just died and went to heaven. I had no sockettes with me or they would have been worn for the rest of the day (my feet are just slowly dying now as I sit here typing this). I cannot wait to start walking tomorrow!

After there we headed towards the Memorial. And I pause …

I woke up on the morning of September 11, 2001 to get ready for work as always. A text message came through from a friend. Her sister, also my friend, had left for the US and was due to be at the World Trade Centre that morning on a sightseeing tour. Natalie hadn’t heard from Janine. I turned on the news. And I sat and I cried.

We heard shortly thereafter that Janine’s flight had been delayed in Los Angeles so she hadn’t yet made it to New York. Read into that what you will … We were so relieved. But for the grace of God …

That news footage though, is etched into my memory. My very visceral response to it, is etched into my memory. For days, it was all I could do to come home, glue myself to the television, and watch and cry.

What sort of world had we become … and what sort of world were we going to become. So many lives gone in an instant.

Tragedy. Devastation. Injustice.

The victims were no more responsible for their Government’s foreign policy than we each are for ours. In democracies though we have become politically apathetic; another diatribe for another time.

The Memorial is absolutely beautiful. In the bustle of the city, also very serene. And very tasteful. Almost an acre each in size, matching water features where both towers once proudly stood. The names of the deceased mark the surface that we view from, at night illuminated. I read that the deceased are grouped together from feedback from their families. I thought that was a beautiful touch. As I choke back tears again. The entire centre was tasteful though, and well thought out.

It is a must see on a trip to New York. It reminds us that in tragedy we all work together, we all cry together, we all survive together. One reminder after another that realistically not much differentiates us from one another. When we really think about it.

I started to feel quite ill inside. The energies are strong there. Empaths will struggle; I am relieved that I am wearing my sugilite pendant. I still struggled. Lauren felt it too. It’s just so sad, and so much sadness and tragedy in an overwhelming quantity. It is not a place one ventures in to to smile.

We are grateful that we did it today, our first day; a measure of respect to this city and its people.

Who have been very generous to us. If we need help, we have asked and received every time.

If you travel to New York and you decide to go (and you really must – the first time I have felt comfortable with the security checking that you endure travelling because it makes security checks reasonable), download the apps from the App Store (911 Museum and 911 Memorial Guide). Robert de Niro narrates a tour, and it is personal and easy to listen to, and free. It added another dimension to the excursion.

Tomorrow though, the more touristy aspects begin. A hop on hop off bus tour to get our bearings and a New York pass to see some sights.

Then Saturday night, John Butler Trio at Madison Square Garden. Woo hoooooooooo!!!