Soothing, yet unsettling. Infinitely mysterious, vast, immense, however familiar. The sea rocks my dreams but also leads a main role in most of my childhood’s nightmares. It travels throughout the world bathing our souls and our bodies and our memories and our futures, and it never ends. It never ends.
The sea brings you to me and leads me towards you. Every time I immerse myself in it, you are there with me. However we choose to call it, the sea, is just the sea. Loving brave waters that heal minds and kill bodies and hold the ashes of those who will never return. The sea is life. The sea is love. The sea hides our fears and, sometimes, it makes our dreams come true. Sea, let me forever sail you.
This is the sea.
Exitmusic – The Sea
Pearl Jam – Oceans
Akron/Family – Italy
Beach House – On The Sea
Zulu Winter – We Should Be Swimming
Bobby Darin – Beyond The Sea
Iggy Pop – The Endless Sea
The Who – I Am The Sea
Deerhunter – Sailing
The Waterboys – This Is The Sea
Without you, the emotions of today would merely be the dead skin of the emotions of the past.
Sitting on a borrowed window ceiling facing Broadway: everything’s shaking. Must be the subway passing under my building. Or maybe it’s me. But no, it can’t be. Because I feel such peace despite of the hundreds and hundreds of passers-by that walk, not at a slow pace, never at a slow pace, towards West Houston, towards Bond Street, towards Bleecker. That’s New York for me: an endless source of energy that most find stressful and some of us breath quietly while our hearts skip a bit. Or two.
Under my borrowed window ceiling I can see it all. I can grasp it all. The top of the biggest and most majestic buildings are within reach, so close; so unimpressed I am by them, yet so incredibly thrilled to be part of their history. Gigantic blind windows look at me and I look back at them trying to imagine what’s happening behind them. Trying to rebuild pieces of history, the pieces of the history that made of SoHo, my neighbourhood, what it is today.
Gentrification is the keyword. Some call it the SoHo effect. It started here, and it expanded all over the city and out of the limits of the island, reaching Brooklyn, reaching Williamsburg, reaching the world. Or maybe not yet.
First came the workers. Then came the artists. And the junkies. And the filth. And the decadence. And the 70s and the 80s opened those windows, those incredibly huge windows for the world to see them. And the Bohemians lit, photographed, painted, poemed and sang and made love to a million and one fire scape ladders.
Give way to the riches now.
Aliens and Nationals that don’t know better bump into each other on the turmoil that’s Broadway while the savvy navigate the little streets and get lost in their beauty. A bit tainted, true, but somehow immaculate in the perception of the those who have a soul.
Superficial as it is, tacky is it can be, loud as it shouldn’t be, appreciated for the wrong reasons, SoHo can be, IS, a refuge for the tormented souls and the appreciative types. And I know, I know the best corners to observe it without being pushed into the follies and the simpleness engraved on the asphalt, on the shop windows, in the models and the actors and the megalomaniacs and the mythomaniacs.
SoHo A Spotify Playlist
Hamilton De Holanda – Samba Do Soho
The Pogues – A Rainy Night In Soho
The Puppini Sisters – Soho Nights
Nick Cave – A Rainy Night In Soho
Soho 3 – Riding My Bike
The Tiger Lillies – Soho Boy
Alonzo Levister – Soho (Take the F Train)
Tom Waits – Downtown Train
Yo La Tengo – Downtown
Lloyd Cole – Downtown
Interpol – NYC
CocoRosie – West Side
Ella Fitzgerald – Manhattan
Kings Of Convenience – Manhattan Skyline
New York is my impossible love. The most attractive, magnetic, mesmerizing yet toxic of the loves I’ve had. The one who excites me the most, the one who makes me suffer the most. The incessant liar, the constant soul-batterer. The most interesting, the funniest. The one who makes me cry the most; the one who makes me laugh the most. The one I never manage to forget no matter how hard I try. The one I always used to go back to whenever I was clueless. And the one I always end up running away from. Supposedly forever, each and every time.
Málaga is my steady love. It is the kind of mature, safe love that doesn’t quite manage to stir my soul, but that succeeds in giving me peace. Málaga is the protector, the provider. It never disappoints me, it never hurts me, it never tells me lies. It doesn’t give me much in terms of adventure, passion or liveliness. It is not gale, but gentle breeze. Málaga is bliss. A golden cage of soothing waters and healing suns. It is always there for me no matter what.
And Madrid… Forever on the borderline between familiar and stimulating. Always in the reserve. Waiting for me to pick it, while I also wait, wait for it to pick me. But life always pulls us apart. Madrid is my remote love. Always my first choice when my other lovers fail me. Fascinating Madrid. The only one of my three loves that manages to make me feel strangely at home, yet incredibly full of vibrant energy. Madrid. Not impossible at all, but maybe just improbable for now.
And so, while I wait for life to push me into the arms of the one love I really want to be with, I keep dancing back and forth between my schizophrenic lover New York’s disproportionate appetite and Málaga’s humble security that keeps me anchored to the land, to reality, to my roots.
Home Again - Beach House
A Day in the City - Tribes of the City
Travel is dangerous - Mogwai
NYC - Interpol
Future starts slow - The Kills
Answer to yourself - The Soft Pack
For Now - Twin Shadow
Come back home - Two Door Cinema Club
Dance Away - Smith Westerns
Can you find a way? - The Rapture
I have a ring that I always wear on my little finger. It’s worth nothing: my 12 year old nephew made it for me years ago, and for that sole reason, it’s my favorite accessory ever.
I’ve lost it a million times. But, so far, I have always managed to retrieve it. Always. And whenever I come across it in the bottom of my backpack, on the corner of a shelf, inside my toilet bag, on the basin, wrapped around my scarves or trapped in the lining of an old coat, I somehow feel complete again. Without it I’d feel naked, under construction, out of focus, unfinished.
I have a ring that I always wear on my little finger. Sometimes I even manage to wear it on my ring finger, though it doesn’t reach the end of the phalanx, but I like to wear it that way. I have lost it a million and one times. Actually, I don’t even know where it is right now. But I know I’ll find it again. I always do.
January 1st 2012, 6am.- Sleepless in Shanghai. Walking around aimlessly. Friend of the Night on my Ipod. Then Corporeal. Then Gold Lion.
No money in my pocket and the air is crisp.
People look at me. It doesn’t bother me. No time for much more than this but somehow it feels like enough.
I met Blanca when we were both 4 years old, and we basically have been in each other lives since then through good and bad, happy and sad. And right now we are, as well as really good friends, temporary roommates. Until I move back to New York, that is. But as well as a great friendship, Blanca and I share something very important that makes our relationship even more significant than it already is, and that is our common passion for travels. Blanca is a flight attendant. So she travels. A lot. Which makes her, not only a really great roommate (because she is not here most of the time, ha!) but also a very interesting person.
Though she travels for work, it wasn’t until 2005, a difficult year for her, that she decided to take a trip completely on her own for the first time. “My sister got very ill with breast cancer, and I went to Thailand with a really good friend. I was depressed, I was very upset… After a few days together in Bangkok, my friend left to go to Sidney and I stayed in Thailand alone for about 10 days… I really needed to be on my own. I travel for work, but on that occasion I really wanted to do it alone because when I am away, I am on my own a lot, but it’s not the same as actually doing everything on your own: having to book hotels on your own and be on your own all the time. I loved it. I had a great time. I met loads of people. I traveled all around the country and it definitely helped me feel better.”
"I think I was always meant to travel" reflects Blanca after taking a sip of her latte "I come from a family where everyone travels. My eldest sister, for instance, has lived in Australia for almost twenty years and she has lived in many other countries as well. She’s always been a great inspiration for me. But not the only one. Traveling has always been a major thing in my nuclear family." "I am a very sociable person, so I really love meeting new people and hanging out with them" she carries on, "but there’s something special about being alone in a new city. The sense of freedom more than anything else, the opportunity to be whoever you want to be and do whatever you feel like doing… That is priceless… No strings attached with the place or the people you meet along the way whatsoever."
Meeting new people is definitely one of the perks of traveling on your own. But what about finding prospective love interests? “Love stories whilst on the road? There’s been a few…” recalls Blanca. “But there’s only one that’s been interesting. Anything else… well… there’s been a few.”
“I have lived in England and in Australia” continues Blanca reminiscing with a smile. “Living abroad is absolutely recommended. Every single person should, at some point in their lives, live in a country that’s not their own. And it’s even better if you don’t know the language or the culture is different to what you are used to. Learning a new language or learning to appreciate a new culture makes us richer, more complete.” Her face grows somber when I ask her if she ever felt insecure on a trip. “Only once” she recollects. “Funnily enough, it wasn’t in a third world country or anything like that but in England. I was staying at a friend’s flat, but he was in Scotland. He had a flatmate. I was in my room but my suitcase was downstairs. Suddenly I heard some noise and went to see what was happening. Then I saw this guy, my friend’s flatmate. He was very drunk and apparently hurt. He was bleeding badly, and I wanted to help him, but obviously didn’t want to touch him so I was looking for a pair of gloves while asking him if he wanted me to call an ambulance. He refused almost aggressively and started yelling at me. I then noticed he had a knife in his pocket. I freaked out and went outside, called the police, waited for them to get there, grabbed my stuff and checked in a hotel.”
A million and one great stories, she has. One of them includes two handsome hitchhikers in Calgary, Canada. “My Aussie friend Ali and I were cruising around. We had rented this massive car and were on our way to Lake Louise when we saw these two really cute guys who were hitchhiking. I was driving and it didn’t even cross my mind to stop, but Ali was like -come on, stop, they’re really cute!- So we stopped and picked them up. They sat on the back of the car and we were all speaking English but at some point I began feeling really uncomfortable and wished I could say something in Spanish to Ali but she wouldn’t have understood, of course. So I then began throwing puzzled looks at her. She must have picked up on what I was thinking because, after a while, she looked at the guys straight in their faces and asked them directly: -You are not going to kill us, are you?- We all ended up laughing about it and no one got hurt.”
Independent, positive and jovial, Blanca considers that traveling is, above all, “a means of freedom.” “I love going to places that I don’t know. I love getting lost in different cities. I love meeting different people. I love different cultures, different accents… Yeah, I love traveling. And there’s just not a single place in the world I wouldn’t go to. Because you never know. Take Bahrain, for instance. I remember the first time I had to go there for work: I wasn’t happy about going at all; I honestly thought I’d hate it. But you know what? I loved it. I had a great time there.”
Asked about where she’d be right now given the chance, she eagerly responds “Cape Town. Or Brazil!” And as for ideal travel companions, she coyly replies “you, of course!” (Why, thank you! :)) and, well… ideally ideally? Someone I were in love with. Hypothetically, that is!”
-So… are you sure we can overcome anything?
-Anything, except death?
- Yes, we can overcome anything except death itself.
I had been dozing whilst reading on the beach, and this rather unwelcome conversation had trespassed its way into my dreams. It was taking place between a young mother and her son, who couldn’t have been more than seven years old, as they both collected shells along the seashore. The child’s rather sorrowful expression softened on hearing the words from his mother that, for now, there was nothing to worry about.
Now, as I make my way through New York’s financial district; walking the perimeter of Ground Zero, where seven years ago the Twin Towers stood tall, I am reminded of that same conversation that had awoken me with a start and had made me smile that day on the beach. Although now, there is little to smile about. If truth be told, I am not only thinking of the almost 3,000 people who lost their lives on that fateful 11th of September 2001. As I pay my last respects to all those men and women who went to work that sunny, late-summer day who had no way of knowing that those would be their last moments, I cannot help but think, too, of the first time I came to New York, some months before the terrorist attack. Still weighed down with all my luggage, fresh from the airport, he brought me, eyes covered, up to the bar on the highest floor of the South Tower. The sun was sinking and Downtown Manhattan lay before me shimmering, golden, inviting… This vision was nothing like my expectations of a raw, white, grey and black winter; of looming buildings peering out with suspicion and mistrust; of monstruous claustrophobia and vertigo-inducing concrete and glass forms. As I watched the night fall over a Manhattan bathed in gold and white, all of a sudden I saw her, looking back at us. From that height I could just make her out: a dot, a small speck of Pantone Green the size of a little tin soldier, in the middle of the river. The Statue of Liberty. The archetypal emblem of New York, the first vision that would have met the new arrivals from Europe; those immigrants arriving on the shores of the New World on ships in search of opportunity, with little more than a pocketful of dreams and a need to start again from scratch. At that very moment I decided, without realising it at the time, to begin a love affair with Manhattan and with the person who was standing by my side. My love for Manhattan has endured; the other fell away, as did the towers that witnessed its inception…
Lost somewhere along the self-indulgent lanes of melancholy, I end up, quite without realising it, on bustling Broadway. The city compels me to wake up, it throws me from the false idyll of the past; it pulls me, with a jolt, from a place that, to be honest, I would rather not have gone back to. Still rather bewildered, I notice that everything carries on as normal around me, as it did scarcely an hour ago. Irate drivers honk their horns, as if this would make all the other cars simply vanish; disorientated tourists, wrapped up in their huge maps, bump into lamp posts; brokers vociferate into mobile phones. Somewhere, from amidst all of the clamour, I hear the chirping of a bird. And then it comes to me: if we can overcome anything except for death - just as that wise mother had said to her son - we will, of course, never be able to replace the loss of all those people who fell victim to that horrific attack. But battered buildings and broken hearts? Yes, those things, we can overcome.
Note: This text was written some time ago after a stroll around the Ground Zero site. It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years already…