18 May 2010

Another List, I Know...

Well, I've once again survived the journey back to the west coast, and have begun to move into my routine here. Menus are being planned, soft-boiled eggs consumed, and many friends have been hugged. As I slowly shed my jet lag and make up all of the sleep I lost in my last few days in New York, I have been listing mentally all of the wonderful discoveries I've made in this first year living there:

1) Some brilliant late-at-night eateries, including (but certainly not limited to) L'Express for 24-hour French food on Park Ave. at 20th Street, Cosmic Cantina (3rd Ave. at 13th) for organic, vegetarian, and raw food burritos, Chickpea (14th Street) for falafel, and 71 Irving (Irving near Gramercy Park), which isn't open too late, but makes great sandwiches, coffee, and pastries.

2) The antiques garage on 21st or so between 6th and 7th Avenues, I think, though I will need to double-check this one. Two levels of the garage rich with vendors or vintage clothing, artwork, jewelry, and such. The Mister and I have spent way too much time here agonizing over whether or not to buy the table lamp that needs all the glass plates in its shade replaced. Only place I know with a vendor that sells almost nothing more that antique corkscrews and bottle openers.

3) New York shows are cheaper than California shows! Go see concerts in New York!

4) Dog-watching: better than anywhere but Paris.

5) Harlem. If nothing else, it is so worth just wandering around this neighborhood on a warm afternoon. It has a more vibrant street culture than elsewhere in the city: there are rowns and rows of vendors selling incense, books, reggae music, ice cream, perfume, and thick spears of fresh fruit on skewers. People are friendly here, also! And, you are bound to see at least one good-looking man dressed in a suit that seems plucked out of the '20's. Sundays are the best: you can here the singing in the churches from the street, and all of the older ladies come out in their brilliant hats!

6) Thursday night Chelsea gallery walk. Largest concentration of pretentious conceptual art and free wine in NYC. No matter how cold it is outside, don't bring a jacket because the body heat in the galleries is sweltering and you'll end up carrying it around more frequently than wearing it.

Well, there may be more later, but for now these are the most memorable bits.

Today, I am trying a new muffin recipe--I'm trying to replicate the Morning Glory muffin at the Grey Dog's on west 16th Street--as well as a quick raw food recipe from Jónsi and Alex's cookbook, a pdf of which can be found here. The Mister is coming into town tonight, so we'll taste-test and update with results tomorrow...

11 May 2010

We All Want to Grow with the Seeds We Will Sow...

And once again, I type this rather weary post from the floor of the JFK airport, for the last time in this, my first year in New York. It seems as though I have been in the act of "going home" for several weeks now. And, I suppose, I have. Boxes have been mailed home, bedding and such has been stored away in a unit in Brooklyn, and my (giant!) suitcases are stowed away until my flight departs. I'm through with most of my work now, with only a few things to be mailed off early next week. I can say now that I've been inducted into the league of true college procrastinators--I've only slept an accumulation of about six hours in the last three days. It's a new record for me, I believe, but I'm feeling alright. Just don't expect me to pick up the phone in the next four days while I sleep this mess off.

However, the stress of the end-of-semester rush was tempered by frequent artistic encounters that made it all worth while, the most exciting of which, was of course, the Jónsi show that kept my dove in New York for an extra week after his semester ended, the show that will divide my life into periods of "before" and "after."

(photo of stage animation found here)
Saturday night's concert was indescribable. Of course I have been haunting the internet for decent videos that capture how that night felt, but I've been startlingly disappointed with them all. If you want read reviews, see pictures and videos of the show, there are plenty here, on Jónsi's website. It was a rather short show for the most part, mainly selections from Go and other originals not on the album, but from the moment Jónsi quietly, seriously stepped on stage with his guitar and nothing else, in his white marching-band-jacket-turned-bower-bird, to play my favourite song, "Stars in Still Water," I was in tears, and remained thus for the remainder of the show. Every member of Jónsi's band was phenomenal, from the lovely Alex Somers, of course, to múm drummer, Ólafur Björn Ólafsson, to bassist Úlfur Hansson, to the rather unknown-before-now and positively brilliant percussionist, Thorvaldur Thór Thorvaldsson, who had so much raw animal energy that he nearly belonged on the animation screen on the stage.

Not only was the band brilliant, but show itself was unlike anything I've ever seen. The animations projected onto the sheet in the back--and the beautiful gridwork of antique window frames that was revealed when the sheet was dropped--as well as the broken, sooty glass frames and museum curio tanks was stunning. Each song was animated differently and the images bled seamlessly into one another with trees, falling snow, predatory chases, and flight. The structure of the set list was unusual, but very effective; Jónsi opened the show with a string of nearly all his slowest, moodiest ballads, building with xylophone solos up to colourful performances of the singles, "Go Do" and "Boy Lilikoi," then leapt straight into the cinematic, uplifting epics that crowd toward the middle of the recorded album, ending the main set with a thrilllingly delicate acoustic version of "Around Us," which was one of the most powerful things I've ever witnessed.

The good news is that there were cameras all over the stage--a good sign that there may be a tour DVD! No recording can compare to the live show (even Jónsi's voice is that much more ethereal and angelic on a live stage), but God, would I love to have any kind of reminder of that night.

M. Benjamin and I also spread a bit of our own art that night--we sent the fist copy of our limited-edition chapbook backstage to Jónsi and Alex as a gift. We hope that inspires them even 1/1214 the amount that they have inspired us.

This time of the year I am consistently drawn to music and art that feels like growth, feels like new beginnings. I am drawn to music that reminds me that hope isn't so far away, and that it's okay to cling to it once in a while. Jónsi's album and tour has been just that for me; the dominant themes in the music and animation on stage were unfurling things, things outgrowing death, and their rebirth in colour. As the music swelled to it's ultimate peak in colour in flight--the collision of two animated hummingbirds that "broke them into blossom" as James Wright might say--I felt my own body regenerating itself after such a long emotional hibernation in New York. I could feel the go do in the swelling season. This is the beginning of the "Summer of Go Do."

Now, as I watch my last New York evening for several months fade from windy to golden, I look forward not only to a summer's worth of doing, but to a summer's worth of holding onto hope. I've long believed that most any intelligent, ethical person out there ends up a cynic--myself certainly included--but I don't think that we are fallen. There are always beautiful souls like Jónsi out there to remind us that even the trees, in the dead of winter, have the hope to bloom in the spring.

Here are some lyrics--these may no be the "officially" accurate ones, but that are the one that I hear and the ones that affect me.

"Stars in Still Water"

Put your clothes now out to dry;
it's early morning--
the day is unfolding ever so softly.

I will always be, oh, alive within.
It's a never-ending song that I sing alone:
I am awake.
The only one awake.

I see the sun break out--
it's loud--
no clouds, no crowds,
no one out, true...

Only that you...

Don't stop in still water.
Don't stop in still water.

Now the sun's in your eyes--
It dries away your tears.
Let the wind be the only one
to move you so gently.

I will always be, oh, alive within.
It's a never-ending song that I sing alone:
I am awake.
The only one awake.

I see the sun
grow faint--
it's late--
in shades we did the best we could...

Only that you...

I see stars in still water.
There are stars in still water.