Originally posted November 4, 2011
13 years, 1 month, 8 days.
How do you measure an era of one’s life (ok, that sounds a little cheesily Rent-esque, but you get the point).
That’s how long I lived in New York City—that sprawling, electric rainforest of cultures, experiences and concrete. Lots of concrete. Love it or hate it (or love to hate it), it’s a city that demands to be respected and pushes you to the edge.
I arrived there one week before turning 18 to embark on the dream of an acting career. I left at 31 to embark on an evolved version of my dream: to bring orgasm to the world through acting in film (if you had asked me two years ago if I would have ever written that sentence, I would have looked at you like you had three heads).
I lived in Washington Square, Kips Bay, South Williamsburg, Clinton Hill, Morningside Heights,Yorkville, Washington Heights, Cobble Hill, Astoria and East Elmhurst (with a 2 week stint in Midwood, Brooklyn thrown in for good measure).
I was in Brooklyn during 9/11 (four days after my 21st birthday), walked from the Upper East Side to Times Square during the 2003 blackout and spent part of my last evening in the city at Occupy Wall Street.
I worked in the offices of NYU, behind the bar of an East Village 24-hour diner, taught in the studios of numerous yoga spots, served coffee at the Washington Heights Starbucks, sold jewelry at a fine crafts gallery in Brooklyn, and coached many people in the subtle but extraordinary practice of Orgasmic Meditation.
I performed in theatres in the Lower East Side, Times Square, Hells Kitchen, the Upper West Side, Chinatown, and both the East and West Village. I co-founded a theatre company that is still going strong and co-wrote/co-produced a play that went on to the 2007 NYC Fringe Festival. I shot an indie film and numerous commercials all over the tri-state area.
And yet, none of this really matters on the surface. What stays with me is the feeling I have when I look back. The lightness and freedom when I fall into a pile of fresh snow (immediately followed by the dread I feel when hiking through the dirt slush that hugs the curb for the next 3 months). The sticky, thick wetness of a NYC apartment in summer—sans air conditioning. The electric buzz of Times Square blinking her offerings to tourists hungry for…well…whatever they can imagine.
And the people. Actors, writers, musicians, yogis, teachers, students, homeless dudes, people posing as homeless dudes, drug dealers, waiters & waitresses, prostitutes, lovers, haters, fighters, peacemakers, Wall Street champs, drag queens, buskers, subway drivers, bodega owners…I can’t possibly list them all here.
My last day in NYC was a Friday. October 7, 2011. Warm. A little Indian summer just before the apple-crisp winds of autumn. I spent the morning packing up the last of my things. Sent a few last minute packages in the mail via the post office a block and a half away. A bus ride and a few subway stops later, I’m in Union Square. I swing by Trader Joe’s for a bottle of wine (thank-you-gift) then walk down Broadway and stop by the $1 shelves of the Strand. Looking for an airplane book (something Paulo Coelho-ish?), I instantaneously stumble upon The Celestine Prophecy, a parable from the ‘90s focused on the energy of the universe, synchronicities and the next phase of our evolution. “How perfect is that?” I think to myself. And in that moment, a book by that exact title (How Perfect is That) pops into my view. Follow the synchronicities. I walk through NYU land, past Tisch, beyond Houston and into Soho. I make a quick stop by my work and then I am off to the southern tip of Manhattan.
And it is here, at Occupy Wall Street, that I finally felt like I was perched on the perfect bridge between the life I once wore and the open space I now faced. I know the rosy, warm, soft hum of human connection, having spent time in SF and Burning Man and through practicing Orgasmic Meditation. And right there, in the cultural epi-center of the planet, the energy of fiscal greed was alchemized into pure love. It blew my mind. I could dance here to the drummers and whatever came out of me was innocent perfection. Old men, young girls, dirty punks with metal in their faces and crisply-dressed Wall Street players (their ties coming out of place as they self-consciously swayed to the beat) all met there. All accepted exactly as they were. Myself included. And for a few moments, in that swirling, intoxicating rhythm of my heart, I fell through the veil of self and other. We all…just…were. Together.
Holding my breath, I slipped out gently (so as not to tear the fabric that snuggled the group) to a friends place on Wall Street. I connected with her, floated on back up to Union Square for some goodbyes at Bar 13, and then made my way to the R train (the first train I took when I moved to NYC in 1998) for my final subway ride.
And as I stood on the late night platform, the raspy, singular sound of a man and his guitar jangled in my ear.
“New York State of Mind.”
Now…how perfect is that?