Monday, October 20, 2008

how do you do your best thinking?

a Saturday Night Live sweatsuit!!
what a concept!
I did my best thinking walking through the streets of the west village in new york city. These streets are so deeply satisfying as is the cup of coffee inside the cafe.

Yes the streets and residents and shops are well-kept and seem almost frozen in time (a better time?). Everything is VERY nice but without the ostentatious flair of Soho or either of the Uppers... or even Williamsburg, DUMBO, Park Slope... The West Village feels a little more heterogeneous (at least it is not overwhelmingly nouveau-riche, hipster, trust fund artists, or lesbians and babies. Maybe it has to do with the well-cultivated bohemian look the younger people here don, I believe the look to be more aligned with the souls of the older folks-- I believe maybe they did protest in Tompkins Square in '88 and hung out at CBGB's and maybe they have written great songs, made great films, paintings, stories, etc.)

Mostly though I think it is the scale that is so satisfying. The very HUMAN scale-- the relationship between the street width, the building heights, the sidewalks and the trees. Old trees. Cobblestoned streets. History happened here...
The perfect street by this criteria-- at least that I know of-- is called Theater Street. It is in St. Petersburg, Russia and it is home to the Vaganova Institute-- the training grounds for the world-class Kirov Ballet.

My mom called me this morning because she had heard the Vaughan Williams piece "Lark Ascending" on the radio and she had a strong emotional reaction to the memory of the choregraphy piece I made to the music in tenth grade. She called me to say how proud of me she is, and (in a vein similar to all mothers I am certain) how 'I am so special.' Of course, like most people in their 20s with career uncertainty, no significant other, etc. my thoughts went in the direction of-- "Oh no!! What happened?"

I distinctly remember being in 5th grade, right at the beginning of the school year, and thinking, "oh no, how will I ever do as much cool stuff as I did last year?" [At that point looking back on the year prior included such highlights as dancing The Firebird, winning the spelling bees (Spanish & English), being in the hospital with a rare life-threatening condition, knowing someone who knew someone in Dirty Dancing, winning a $75 savings bond in an art contest, starting to play the flute on a 'curved head joint', doing a REALLY good science project...] In hindsight of course, it all seems incredibly normal. Nothing really spectacular but yes, probably all combined pretty big stuff for a ten year-old.
It is funny because every fall I have pretty much that same fear. What will I do this year that is as exciting, impressive, inspired, as something I did last year?! And I always quiet those fears because they really aren't very helpful, and after so many years of them-- I've learned again and again that each year really is more exciting and full of surprises.
Also, I got sent a picture of one of my best friends at age 10 and its great and raw Harrington and amazing how much who he is now at 30 was already at work in his little 10 year-old version.
And I KNOW the same was true with me. And the same is true of my 6-month old nephew. He loves reading, music, and dancing, and laughing, and breasts. (Just kidding-- well, not really.)
I understand that part of getting older involves more reality interspersed with the creative flights of fancy... and yes, I have chosen to make a go of it in a career that embraces the imagination, which is why I really have to remember that even though it feels like a luxury to meander through these winding well-scaled streets... I have always gotten a lot of my best thinking done on my feet. And isn't that worth something-- knowing where and how you do your best thinking? What's your best thinking outfit? Tunes? Partners in crime? What's your best thinking city or country?

Lucky me, my best thinking starts right outside my front door-- even if it is a different street every other week. Maybe that's a giant part of it actually. I keep moving, different week-- different neighborhood... but each time I step outside my feet are taking me on a new adventure and my mind is at it again.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Plate tectonics & rogue waves

I have been thinking a lot about home and friends and family and how crazy it is that in the 21st century so often we are so far away from each other. Spread across states, countries, sometimes even continents. And yet, this physical distance doesn’t mean the end of the relationship. My grandmother and I were driving by a bevy of Western Unions about a month ago and she asked me what they were used for now… and I told her I thought they were mostly for people wiring their families money in other countries. There is a real concentration of Western Union-type places in my neighborhood in Boston—because there are a lot of immigrants from all sorts of places—the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Barbados, Sierra Leone, Haiti… to name just a few. And these people, while they are surely very engaged in their day-to-day American life—are also, I would speculate, incredibly tied to their roots in their native country. This is sort of fascinating to me and especially meaningful when I need a bit of perspective. Or a reminder that is is okay and even great to feel ties to different places.
I am in a bit of a transient/gypsy/tumbleweed state. I supposedly live in LA, but I haven’t been there for almost 5 months. That is where my ‘work’ as I’ve known it for the last few years is, my best friends, the (stuffed) bunny that I sometimes sleep with, my roommates, my adopted LA family, my car, my books, my boots (until recently)… et cetera. I have been on the east coast, in new york, in Williamstown, Mass., in Wellfleet, Mass., and now in New York again. In New York I’ve stayed in three neighborhoods at least—Fort Greene, Flatbush, and Williamsburg. Soon, I will move to the Lower East side for a week or two. A year or two ago I kept saying—“I want to travel… I want to work… I want to tour! I want work to bring me to new and exciting places! Indeed—I have gotten what I wished for. And most days I love it. I am excited to go back but it won’t be for a while yet.
And while it is true that I haven’t had more than 36 hours off since I started working on May 16th… it is also hard to imagine jumping back into my LA life. It is only 6 hours on an airplane but it is a sort of cosmic mental shift as well. 3,000 miles and you have a change of climate, social life, job, ‘home’ and more. Sometimes it almost seems to me that the erasure-effect that the ease of airline travel has on places being ‘far away’ from each other makes for a loss of mental awareness to the massive shift that is going on with such a trip/move.
I do feel lucky to have family and friends spread out across so many interesting, unique places. These places have an effect on us, inevitably, and make for an incredible patchwork of experiences that make us who we are.
And I like feeling the closeness, and I like remembering the distance-- and then getting excited that at some point pretty soon I will get on an airplane and 6 hours later I will get off and LA and my life will meet up again... and also I will see the place differently, for the changes in me.