New York City: Love, Life and All That Jazz

 

New York, New York… the city like no other in the whole wide world, has seduced most of us in at least one phase of our life… the city of art, glamour, love, fame, success and failure, a city to chew you up and swallow you whole without you even noticing, but, most important of it all, the Capital of the World.

I remember the line at the baggage claim and a seemingly long shuttle ride from Newark to a small room on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 42nd Street, which greeted me with an unmade single bed and clean sheets, a writing desk beneath a small window and a view on a city corner. Little I knew then that this tiny studio was a luxury in this city that has a life of its own.

Who was I then?

University student just turned twenty-four, with vivid dreams and a broken heart, I flew over the Atlantic to seek peace in the city that never sleeps, to create dreams fresh and new, to start over again and build the new me. Manhattan was the only place impersonal and great enough to provide me with anonymity which, back then, meant a whole life for me… Manhattan, a place of life more real than anyplace else, the story of invention and survival. I remember walking down the Avenue of the Americas, cutting across Broadway and chilling in Battery Park… long walks only my experienced shoes endured for it was my shoes only I wanted to walk in, despite the previous failure and disappointment. I was beginning anew, I was the new me and noone was either better or worse than I was. That feeling alone was relieving.

Not that I managed to publish my stories too frivolous to attract serious attention, yet what I managed to do was heal and reinvent myself – which was, back then, something I needed most. And, as a poet once said, it is not that we get what we want, but what we need that counts the most.

I did get what I needed. Freedom.

New York City, Urban Jungle, was a temporary home to many… beautifully assembled in a collection of essays on loving and leaving New YorkGoodbye to All That edited by Sari Botton – inspired by a same named story by  Joan Didion. She herself muses…

‘I want to explain to you, and in the process perhaps to myself, why I no longer live in New York. It is often said that New York is a city for only the very rich and the very poor. It is less often said that New York is also, at least for those of us who came there from somewhere else, a city only for the very young.’

The explanation is necessary, especially since Didion, in her own words…

‘It would be a long while because, quite simply, I was in love with New York. I do not mean “love” in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and you never love anyone quite that way again.’

Not only love, but youth, inexperience, zest for life and endless dreams, are all depicted in a seductive musing…

‘Of course it might have been some other city, had circumstances been different and the time been different and had I been different, might have been Paris or Chicago or even San Francisco, but because I am talking about myself I am talking here about New York. That first night I opened my window on the bus into town and watched for the skyline, but all I could see were the wastes of Queens and big signs that said MIDTOWN TUNNEL THIS LANE and then a flood of summer rain (even that seemed remarkable and exotic, for I had come out of the West where there was no summer rain), and for the next three days I sat wrapped in blankets in a hotel room air conditioned to 35 degrees and tried to get over a cold and a high fever. It did not occur to me to call a doctor, because I knew none, and although it did occur to me to call the desk and ask that the air conditioner be turned off, I never called, because I did not know how much to tip whoever might come—was anyone ever so young? I am here to tell you that someone was. All I could do during those years was talk long-distance to the boy I already knew I would never marry in the spring. I would stay in New York, I told him, just six months, and I could see the Brooklyn Bridge from my window. As it turned out the bridge was the Triborough, and I stayed eight years.’

More elusive but not less real, as a part of her A Love Letter to New York City, is a musing by Dani Shapiro, when she describes her love affair with the Big Apple…

‘I was trying, flailing, failing, in an attempt to chisel myself into a woman who existed only as a fantasy, airbrushed, photoshopped, as lost as that high school sophomore who wandered in a fugue state past the strip joints of Times Square. I was a girl who hadn’t gotten the memo about not taking candy from strangers—and New York was full of those strangers. A girl who was playing a part she was wrong for, whose own gifts were elusive and strange to her, contraband, brought home from a foreign country and best stored out of reach.’

She further continues, as if trying to show how you can leave the city, but the City never leaves you…

‘It has been ten years since we left the city. A decade—long enough for our friends to stop taking bets on how long it would take us to come to our senses and return to New York. What do you do up there? Whom do you see? What’s it like? They drive up to visit us in their Zip cars or rental SUVs, bearing urban bounty: shopping bags from Citarella filled with pungent Epoisses and chorizo tortellini; boxes of linzer cookies from Sarabeth’s; delicate, pastel Laduree macarons. In turn, we take our houseguests on hikes or to lakeside beaches or to quaint village streets lined with shops selling cashmere and tweed. But we aren’t hearty country folk. I don’t own muck boots or a Barbour coat. We don’t ski or own horses or build bonfires in our backyard. I spend most of my days alone in my writing study, with a midday yoga break in the next room. My husband now writes and directs films, and the closest he gets to an outdoor activity is when he takes his chainsaw out into our woods to clear brush. Our son, like us, is an indoor dreamer. We are urban Jews, descended from the shtetl, pale and neurasthenic. Living in our heads.’

Times change, and so do cities. We have to consider that Didion wrote her essay back in 1967, when New York indeed was unique, still untouched and unburdened by corporations – quite a different picture then it is today. To quote a native New Yorker, Rebecca Wolff, in her essay, ‘So Long, Suckers’,

‘New York City manifests itself now shame-facedly as a chump-factory, a chump-house. It’s Chumptown. Artists who live there are living dangerously, close to extinction, dangerously close to the source of their art’s diminishment, an outerboros of economic exigency.’

According to Wolff, New York holds no magic at all anymore, not even if you’ve just freshly arrived. She continues,

‘There’s this thing that happens, where I speak to a twenty-something or thirty-something sweetheart, a Joan Didion who’s moved to New York recently, and I realize at a certain point that their expectations are very low, compared to my own, because they cannot possibly imagine what it used to be like, the New York of the recent past, of the late 1970s, 1980s, 1990s.’

We might be closest to the truth upon reading cruel statement by Meghan Daum that appeared in The New Yorker in 1999.

‘I have not made a life for myself in New York City. I have purchased a life for myself.’

It might be true that New York City is no longer a city not for the young and ambitious, but for the middle-aged and rich, but this will never stop aspiring youth of coming here to, at least, take a bite off Big Apple. Because, after all, we must admit, there is an uncanny Magic in New York City – Magic no city in this world holds.

Perhaps Love, Life and Leaving of this fabulous city is best depicted in eternal

 

Love Gina Wings

Understanding Life: John Lennon on Art, Love and Peace

At 10:50 PM on Monday, December the 8th 1980, with three shots to the chest, John Lennon was assassinated at the Dakota building in New York.

Desperate attempts of a doctor in the ER, who was holding his heart in attempt to bring life back to it, bore no fruit. That distant December over twenty years ago marked an end to an era.

Painfully simple as that, a man who defined paranoia as a heightened sense of awareness, was shot to death that far night in December outside his New York home, and that triple shot, too easy to be performed for the consequences it made, has marked an end to an era of love, imagination, freedom and mind opening. One of the greatest thinkers of our time was assassinated not for his revolutionary rebellion, but rather for his ideas of peace on Earth. John Lennon was here to show us how beautiful life is, and how love is the ultimate answer. It is rightful, then, to wonder – why would anyone want to kill him. Really, why?

I am afraid we will  never grasp the answer.

It is disturbing, though, that so many peacekeepers suffered violent death: Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Benazir Bhutto, Bobby Kennedy, JFK – to name just a few who stood for peace and were either killed by deranged lone gunmen or else died in suspicious circumstances.

Is our society still unprepared for peace?

How come such a simple, natural idea as peace is perceived threatening to that extent that thinkers get killed for proclaiming it?

But, not to get lost, we are here to witness the revolutionary, yet, when considered thoroughly, rather natural ideas John Lennon tried to share. He understands the sixties fully, and has devoted his life to explore and utilize the possibilities recognized.

“The thing the sixties did was to show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn’t the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility.”

The life philosophy he shared was very simple, but efficient at the same time. Life is, after all, simple. Chasing your dreams is simple. One just has to be true to itself and persistent, not giving up.

“Make your own dream.

That’s the Beatles’ story, isn’t it? That’s Yoko’s story, that’s what I’m saying now. Produce your own dream. If you want to save Peru, go save Peru. It’s quite possible to do anything, but not to put it on the leaders and the parking meters. Don’t expect Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan or John Lennon or Yoko Ono or Bob Dylan or Jesus Christ to come and do it for you. You have to do it yourself.

That’s what the great masters and mistresses have been saying ever since time began. They can point the way, leave signposts and little instructions in various books that are now called holy and worshipped for the cover of the book and not for what it says, but the instructions are all there for all to see, have always been and always will be.

There’s nothing new under the sun. All the roads lead to Rome. And people cannot provide it for you. I can’t wake you up. You can wake you up. I can’t cure you. You can cure you.”

With uncanny modesty, he shares the feeling of being unrecognized or not understood – something we all have experienced and endured on some level. He is no different, which just adds to his core belief that we are all one.

“When you do something noble and beautiful and nobody noticed, do not be sad. For the sun every morning is a beautiful spectacle and yet most of the audience still sleeps.”

He truly understood life, and he understood it very soon.

happy-by-lennon1

But, knowing oneself goes a long way. Combined with persistence of dreaming and sixties’ readiness for such a social phenomenon and – voila!  a genius is born!

“People like me are aware of their so-called genius at ten, eight, nine. . . . I always wondered, “Why has nobody discovered me?” In school, didn’t they see that I’m cleverer than anybody in this school? That the teachers are stupid, too? That all they had was information that I didn’t need? I got fuckin’ lost in being at high school. I used to say to me auntie
“You throw my fuckin’ poetry out, and you’ll regret it when I’m famous, ” and she threw the bastard stuff out. I never forgave her for not treating me like a fuckin’ genius or whatever I was, when I was a child. It was obvious to me. Why didn’t they put me in art school? Why didn’t they train me? Why would they keep forcing me to be a fuckin’ cowboy like the rest of them? I was different
I was always different. Why didn’t anybody notice me? A couple of teachers would notice me, encourage me to be something or other, to draw or to paint – express myself. But most of the time they were trying to beat me into being a fuckin’ dentist or a teacher”

Growing pains are not that painful once you read this. We are all going through similar trials and tribulations, and that is a great and awesome part of being a human.

“I used to think that the world was doing something to me, that the world owed me something. And that either the conservatives or the socialists or the fascists or the communists or the Christians or the Jews or the fascists were doing something to me. And when you’re a teeny-booper, that’s what you think. I’m 40 now, I don’t think that anymore—because I found out it doesn’t fucking work. I am part of them. There’s no separation. Were all one. “Give peace a chance,” not “Shoot people for peace.” “All you need is love.” I believe it. It’s damn hard, but I absolutely believe it.”

And, logically enough, this musing is topped with a simple life mission:

“My role in society, or any artist’s or poet’s role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all.”

By expressing what we feel,. we create a body that is society, our expression is a landmark of the time we live in and as such it stays recorded and is remembered.

Lennon’s time was turbulent and ever-changing, rebellious and peaceful at the same time. Revolutionary to say the least. In retrospect, it is no wonder youth was finding ways to survive and cope with the contemporary times.

“I think the music reflects the state that the society is in. It doesn’t suggest the state. I think the poets and musicians and artists are of the age – not only do they lead the age on, but they also reflect that age. […] Like The Beatles. We came out of Liverpool and we reflected our background and we reflected our thoughts in what we sang, and that’s all people are doing.”

“The basic thing nobody asks is why do people take drugs of any sort? Why do we have these accessories to normal living to live? I mean, is there something wrong with society that’s making us so pressurized, that we cannot live without guarding ourselves against it?”

And, as we all know it well, to John, Love was the ultimate answer. He loved Yoko, and by loving Yoko he loved the whole wide world. It was painfully simple. And beautiful.

“But I can be alone without Yoko, but I just have no wish to be. There’s no reason on earth why I should be alone without Yoko. There’s nothing more important than our relationship, nothing. And we dig being together all the time. Both of us could survive apart but what for? I’m not going to sacrifice love, real love for any whore or any friend or any business, because in the end you’re alone at night and neither of us want to be. And you can’t fill a bed with groupies. It doesn’t work. I don’t want to be a swinger. I’ve been through it all and nothing works better than to have someone you love hold you.”

Maybe his love is best described with the following saying which leaves nothing to be added.

“I was asked in an interview which was more important: money or love?

I told the interviewer that if he had to ask the question, he wouldn’t understand the answer.”

It was Love that denied his fear of death. love is denial of death itself, Love will always conquer death.

“I’m not afraid of death because I don’t believe in it. It’s just getting out of one car, and into another.”

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

Was there an uncanny prophecy in the seemingly innocent words he shared once?

“Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King are great examples of fantastic nonviolents who died violently. I can never work that out. We’re pacifists, but I’m not sure what it means when you’re such a pacifist that you get shot. I can never understand that.”

‘The Day John Lennon Died’ came in 2010, on the 30th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon. The film traces John’s final day from a radio interview, to signing an autograph for his eventual killer, to working in the studio and finally on his way back home to see his son when he was shot and killed.

 

This holiday season, let me remind you of the most unique greeting, delivered long ago and far away… a greeting that will never grow old…

war is over

Love Gina Wings

 

What Dangerous Liaisons Can Teach Us about Connection Between Sex and Power

Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power. – Oscar Wilde

In his only novel, Les Liaisons Dangereuses first published in 1782, with English translation first appearing in 1898, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos depicts the seductions and deceit in France high class society circles at the end of eighteenth century. The plot revolves around Vicomte de Valmont and the Marquize de Merteuil who use their powers to turn sensuality into a game, thus creating a tangled web of seduction, affairs and betrayal. A story of infinite games of romance, Les Liaisons Dangereuses is, in its core, a story of power, questioning the connection between ultimate power, personality and sexuality: a question so actual and all-consuming, that the book was made into a great movie, Dangerous Liaisons, released in 1988.

This underlying question in core of the work is best depicted in the movie excerpt exploring independent woman’s survival in a wicked world of eighteenth century France.

 

And the dialogue script, revealing all there is to be known of woman’s position in a society:

– I often wonder how you managed to invent yourself.

Well, I had no choice, did I? I’m a woman. Women are obliged to be far more skillful than men. You can ruin our reputation and our life with a few well-chosen words. So, of course I had to invent not only myself, but ways to escape no one has ever thought of before… and I’ve succeeded because I’ve always known that I was born to dominate your sex and avenge my own.

– Yes, but what I asked was: how?

– When I came out in the society I was fifteen. I already knew that the role I was condemned to – namely to keep quiet and do what I was told – gave me the perfect opportunity to listen and observe: not to what people told me which, naturally, was of no interest but to whatever it was they were trying to hide. I practiced detachment, I learned how to look cheerful while under the table I stuck a fork into the back of my hand. I became a virtuoso of deceit. It wasn’t pleasure I was after, it was knowledge: I consulted the strictest moralists to learn how to appear, philosophers to find out what they think, novelists to see what I can get away with and in the end, I distilled everything into one wonderfully simple principle: Win or Die.

– So, you are infallible, are you?

If I want a man, I have him. If he wants to tell, he finds that he can’t. That’s the whole story.

– And, was that our story?

– I wanted you before we’d ever met: my self-esteem demanded it. Then, when you began to pursue me, I wanted you so badly. It’s the only time I’ve ever been controlled by my desire: single combat.

 

The whole situation makes one wonder is it all plain romance, or unconquerable yearning for power. Is power the secret, underlying motivator in all our endeavors? And, if so, what is to be gained from it? – the question even more important in lieu of the fact we are willing to put everything at stake just to taste it…

power… try it… own it… master it…

Irresistible in its entirety, Les Liaisons Dangereuses is a revolutionary masterpiece which has launched a whole new era of revealing the most deeply hidden truths, almost exclusively of power and control.

Love Gina Wings

Good morning, Starshine

… the Earth says ‘Hello!’

It is a beautiful day and we are alive while the Universe has conspired to serve us the best Life there is…

This is how I wish you felt, and maybe this can help…

 

I wish to live simply. I wish to enjoy the moment, the Present, because Present is all there is.

We can be easily misguided to think how easy it was some fifty years ago to enjoy the moment while high on acid, but the world has changed.

It has. And it has not.

For all of you who have not seen the movie Hair – I strongly suggest you do – the folks in the video are in the emotional turmoil facing everyday fear of being drafted. And that is just a part of their problems. Yet, they are happy.

Not because they do not have problems, but because they are not trying to change things they cannot affect.

We have achieved so much. We have everything: not only can we buy fancy cars and beautiful houses, we are buying health, ordering beauty and are putting ourselves on happiness wait list.

Why is it then, that anxiety and depression are on the increase? Have we learned nothing?

Not so long ago, we wanted things. We used to wait for them. We had to put effort into obtaining them.

No wonder we felt great happiness and joy once our wishes came true.

Today, everything seems attainable, instantly. No wonder we are failing at experiencing true joy and happiness.

Just think of it: how happy would you feel if you had to work (and wait) a whole month to be able to purchase that fancy gadget?

Make yourself wait for things you want…

Try, and see what happens.

Love Gina Wings

 

 

Welcome!

This is going to be an exciting journey.

Like you, I was wandering aimlessly through life for quite awhile… only to realize the most interesting (and happy, for that matter) people I know are the ones still wandering.

Or, as the poet once said; ‘Not all who wander are lost.’

We are taking a journey of self-discovery, to build self love.

Wear confidence, and let the smile be your umbrella!

Love Gina Wings