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

Coco Chanel on Character: Kick-Ass Advice From the Queen of Elegance

Coco Chanel, the fashion icon of modern age and a role model for a contemporary woman did not ignite only fashion revolution, but a switch in role of a woman in society. Fabulous and unique, her path was not always the easiest one, but thanks to her stubborn persistence and dedication, she has greatly contributed to women being glorified, independent and proud.

“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”

Coco persisted in her vision to create fashion for women instead of creating fashion women should obey to, as if fashion was her weapon to show the world how women are free to choose and create the life to best suit them. And she did it with style – clearly depicted in her famous quotes:

“A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.”

“A girl should be two things: who and what she wants.”

It was beginning of a century and beginning of a new era: in the uneasy midst of war women got their right to vote and left safety of their homes to work in factories. No longer they were dependent on marriages and support of their men. With this newly established freedom, Coco gave them the right attire, stripping off the rigid corsets and dressing them up in comfortable dresses to follow the natural beauty of a woman clearly defined in her simple saying:

“No one is young after forty, but one can be irresistible at any age.”

This was not welcome at the time at all, but Coco stubbornly refused to act as a conformist and has conquered the rules in the end. And she did it like no one else could.

“I wanted to escape, and to become the center of a universe of my own creation, instead of remaining on the margins or even becoming part of other people’s universe.”

 “For a woman betrayal has no sense – one cannot betray one’s passions.”

Coco understand the time, understood women, and knew their power.

“If you’re sad, add more lipstick and attack. Men hate women who weep.”

It is not by chance that it was her business, maybe the only big business, that survived the Second World War, and continued to flourish further. Coco used style and gave women elements of seduction, and by doing this, she was encouraging them to feel free as they were, aware of their real powers neglected for so long.

“In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.”

By refusing to match the norms she has become the building block of the modern world, for the first time allowing women to be both comfortable and fashionable. Indeed, through her creations she was creating new dreams for women, dreams of freedom and equality, bringing entirely new way of thinking.

“Adornment, what a science! Beauty, what a weapon! Modesty, what elegance!”

Importantly, she pointed out to a crucial direction which makes women’s life easier and utterly exciting…

“I don’t understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little – if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that’s the day she has a date with destiny. And it’s best to be as pretty as possible for destiny.”

In addition, her perception of beauty and allure is everlasting…

“You can be gorgeous at thirty, charming at forty, and irresistible for the rest of your life.”

She was a creator her entire life. We lost her in January 1980. of natural causes, while she was working on a new collection for the upcoming fashion show. By providing encouragement, individualism and hope to women,Coco indeed lived as a queen, and died as a legend.

“It’s probably not just by chance that I’m alone. It would be very hard for a man to live with me, unless he’s terribly strong. And if he’s stronger than I, I’m the one who can’t live with him. … I’m neither smart nor stupid, but I don’t think I’m a run-of-the-mill person. I’ve been in business without being a businesswoman, I’ve loved without being a woman made only for love. The two men I’ve loved, I think, will remember me, on earth or in heaven, because men always remember a woman who caused them concern and uneasiness. I’ve done my best, in regard to people and to life, without precepts, but with a taste for justice.”

 

Coco… really was one of a kind. She lived up to her saying, created an empire and continues to live in the beauty of her creation.

“You live but once; you might as well be amusing.”

Quite.

 

Love Gina Wings

 

 

Are We Free? The Lie We Live.

A powerful short documentary film created by Spencer Cathcart and published in January this year has almost immediately become viral, spread worldwide and is subtitled to many languages already. It exposes, in a witty and critical way, the truth about our corrupt world, and raises some important questions as well.

“At this moment you could be anywhere doing anything. Instead you sit alone before a screen.

So what’s stopping us from doing what we want, being where we want to be?

Each day we wake up in the same room and follow the same path to live the same day as yesterday. Yet at one time each day was a new adventure. Along the way something changed. Before days were timeless, now our days are scheduled. Is this what it means to be grown up? To be free?

But are we really free?”

In a way, this depends on our definition of freedom, on what freedom means to us. There might be different answers, but in their core one thing is supposed to be present: the ability to become who we truly are, to fully develop our potential and by doing so, better the world we live in.

But, what is the reality we are forced into?

“We discover the world through a textbook. For years we sit and regurgitate what we’re told. Tested and graded like subjects in a lab. Raised not to make a difference in this world. Raised to be no different. Smart enough to do our job but not to question why we do it. So we work and work, left with no time to live the life we work for. Until a day comes when we are too old to do our job. It is here we’re left to die.”

Critical thinking has left our education system some time ago, and while we, as humans, claim to be superior, one has to wonder – how is this superiority manifested?

“They <corporations> gave us money, and in return we gave them the world.

We are like a plague sweeping the Earth. Tearing apart the very environment that allows us to live. We see everything as something to be sold. As an object to be owned. 

But what happens when we have polluted the last river? Poisoned the last breath of air? Have no oil for the trucks that bring us our food? When will we realize money can’t be eaten, that is has no value? 

We aren’t destroying the planet. We’re destroying all life on it. Every year thousands of species go extinct. And time is running out before we’re next.”

… and the consideration goes even further, raising some important questions…

“It’s funny to think humans once thought the Earth was the center of the universe but then again now we see ourselves as
the center of the planet. We point to our technology and say we’re the smartest. But do our computers, cars, and factories really illustrate how intelligent we are? Or do they show how lazy we’ve become?

We put this civilized mask on. 

But when you strip that away, what are we?”

Indeed, what are we?

Consumers of earthly goods? And if so, is this exceeding consumption making us happier and more satisfied? Or is it just widening the gap between who we are, and who we are meant to become?

“One day this sensation we call life will leave us. Our bodies will rot, our valuables recollected. Yesterday’s actions’s all that remain. Death constantly surrounds us. Still it seems so distant from our everyday reality.

If we all look at our innermost desire, we will see our dreams are not so different. We share a common goal. Happiness. 

We tear the world apart looking for joy, without ever looking within ourselves. 

Many of the happiest people are those who own the least. 

But are we really so happy with our iPhones, our big houses, our fancy cars? We’ve become disconnected. Idolizing people we’ve never met. We witness the extraordinary on screens, but ordinary everywhere else. We wait for someone to bring change, without ever thinking of changing ourselves.”

Nothing happens unless we make it happen.

Nothing changes unless we ignite the change.

And if we begin now, with all our efforts, maybe, just maybe, this world will become a better place.

And bear in mind, it is not for the sake of our Mother Earth – she is stronger than we might think. It is for the sake of mankind, more fragile than we dare to think.

“Stop waiting for change and be the change you want to see. 

We didn’t get to this point by sitting on our asses. The human race survived not because we are the fastest or the strongest but because we worked together. We have mastered the act of killing. Now let’s master the joy of living. This isn’t about saving the planet. The planet will be here whether we are or not. Earth has been around for billions of years. Each of us will be lucky to last eighty. We are a flash in time, but our impact is forever.

While we still can we must use our screens to bring us closer together rather than farther apart. For better or worse our generation will determine the future life on this planet.

We can either continue to serve this system of destruction until no memory of our existence remains. 

Or we can wake up. Realize we aren’t evolving upwards but rather falling down.

We just have screens in our faces so we don’t see where we’re heading. This present moment is what every step, every breath and every death has led to. 

We are the faces of all who came before us. And now it is our turn.

You can choose to carve your own path, or follow the road countless others have already taken. Life is not a movie. The script isn’t already written. 

We are the writers.

This is your story.

Their story.

Our story.”

 

Powerful in its entirety, ‘The Lie We Live‘ will open your eyes and inspire you to reconsider yourself, your life and your impact on this world.

Enjoy the full documentary, and remember to share.

 

 

Because Life.

Because Love.

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