Tuesday, April 28, 2015

365 Project - Day 118 - "In Need of Rejuvenation"

April 28, 2015 - "In Need of Rejuvenation"

The City is my "Happy Place". It has been for a very long time. It always will be.

And by "The City", of course, I'm referring to New York City. Specifically the borough of Manhattan. Even more specifically The East Village. Even more specific than that, Alphabet City.

I remember my first real trip to NYC - back around '82 or '83. I was quite young, and we were there visiting my Godfather and his family. He worked in Manhattan but lived in The Bronx. We spent time in Little Italy and Chinatown. We went to the World Trade Center at night and I looked up at the towers in absolute amazement. We tried to get tickets to go see "CATS" on Broadway, but we couldn't. No one could. The show was still quite new and was the hardest ticket to get at the time.

As I grew up there were infrequent visits to Manhattan. I went to the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting with a family friend in the mid-80s. I remember seeing Nell Carter as part of the performances... and I remember seeing the tree lit up and it seemed to me to be the most beautiful thing in the world.

When I was in my mid-to-late teens trips to NYC became much more frequent. My girlfriend at the time and I would take the train down there regularly. A very close friend of mine from Florida had moved to NYC to go to art school, and I'd go down there to visit her quite often as well. At one point I was heading to Manhattan just about every weekend. That's when I really got to know my way around... especially in the East Village. That's when NYC truly became my "Happy Place".

Eventually my kids were born and day-to-day life took hold of me and trips to NYC were less frequent: maybe just a few times a year, if that. We'd go to Radio City Music Hall for the Christmas Spectacular. We'd occasionally go to a Broadway show. That was about it.

That all changed around 2008 when I started earning a regular paycheck again and the kids were old enough to occupy themselves. Holly and I started going down to Manhattan at least once a month, every month. We'd go to the Museum of Modern Art to visit Van Gogh's "Starry Night" and to have lunch at Café 2. Then we'd head down to the East Village to wander around while I did some street photography. We'd spend a lot of time at Tompkins Square Park. We'd have dinner at our favorite restaurant - The Life Café (or sometimes at our second-favorite restaurant - "Dojo").  We'd end up at Sophie's Bar, talking to Brian, our favorite bartender in the world - for hours on end. It was sort of like the TV show "Cheers"... we'd walk in to Sophie's and it would be filled with regulars who all knew us and would say hello. We had "our seats" at the back corner of the bar. In fact, when Anthony Bourdain filmed an episode of "No Reservations" in Manhattan, he went to Sophie's... and sat in "my" seat! When I saw the episode I sorta had mixed emotions about that!

We'd go down to Little Italy every September 19th - the Feast Day of San Gennaro - to eat lots of food and to go to the special Mass at the Church of the Most Precious Blood... and then watch the statue of San Gennaro be paraded all the way up Mulberry Street. It was a family tradition.

Sometimes we'd stay overnight at the (in)famous Chelsea Hotel with the ghosts of Robert Mapplethorpe, Sid and Nancy, Dylan Thomas and countless others.

Every time I'd go to NYC it was a rejuvenating experience for me. I'd feel so "alive" - the moment I'd exit Grand Central Terminal and catch that first whiff of city air and the first sounds of city streets. By the time we'd board the train to come home I'd be bursting with ideas for poetry, paintings, drawings, photographs, music and all sorts of creativity. It felt wonderful!

In very early 2014 I lost my job and my health went south. The regular trips to Manhattan had to stop. I only made it down there a few times during the course of the year... the last time being in September, soon after I was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. My best friend Lenny spirited me away for the weekend. It was the best thing anyone could have done for me at that time.

So far 2015 hasn't been any better. The year started off well enough... only to lead to a very serious bout of depression and anxiety that got the better of me during February and March. Then, of course, I lost my brother on April 1st... and the depression has only gotten worse.

And so I am finding myself desperately in need of a trip to Manhattan for some rejuvenation. I need to photograph people. I need to sit in Tompkins Square Park for a while. I need to have a few pints of Guinness at Sophie's Bar... and a few at Sidewalk Café... and a few at Mona's Bar. I need to have some Chicken Yakisoba and a pitcher of Sangria while sitting outside at Dojo. I need a dirty-water dog. I need to visit my beloved "Starry Night". I need to stand on a street corner listening to the heartbeat of the city while I stare at the Chrysler Building glowing in the night.

I need to feel "alive" again!

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