Start spreading the news
I am leaving today
I want to be a part of it
New York, New York
These vagabond shoes
They are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it
New York, New York
Songwriters: John Kander/Fred Ebb. Sung by Frank Sinatra
We have been in New York now for almost 2 weeks and there is so much to report I am not sure where to start. I really want the blog to catch up to the present so will attempt to do that over the next week with more frequent, shorter postings.
* * *
We fly in to Newark airport, which is in New Jersey and, thanks to advice from Kathy, the manager of the Australia Council New York Greene Street Studio, take a shuttle bus that I pre-booked back in Australia that drops us off right at the door. (It’s a very reasonable $35, the fare for 2 people plus 2 pieces of luggage). Kathy greets us outside and takes us up to the studio, a loft apartment on the top floor of the building known as the ‘King of Greene Street’. Well, if the building is the King, Kathy is definitely the Queen! She is a fabulous, warm, loquacious and very city-savvy woman who has been looking after the studio since the 1970s and Gerard and I both like her from the very start.
The studio is almost too good to be true. It is big and white and open-plan with very high ceilings, huge windows that face the street along one end, and a bathroom and well-equipped kitchen at the other. In between is a living and dining area, a separate bedroom, and a number of wonderful big indoor plants, but the whole space is dominated by two huge white studio walls that are almost frightening in their scale and potential. There are trestle tables and a work bench and loads of neatly stacked art supplies left by previous artists. There is also a giant skylight in the ceiling and, housed directly under it, an old exposed motorized exhaust fan.
Everything is clean, well ordered and comfortable. It is also so much bigger than I remember when I visited here for a week back in 2002, which was just 6 months after 9/11. Back then, I had the London Studio at Commercial Road (an enormous space that actually felt far too big for me) and I flew over to spend a week with my friend Julie Gough, who had the Greene Street Studio at the same time. It was during that visit I fell in love with Greene Street and wished I could one day return as the artist in residence. It had such an inviting atmosphere, so comfortably laid out for both living and working, and was just a little reminiscent of my own apartment in an old building on the Hobart waterfront. So now my dream has come true and here I am, in the New York Studio for three whole months.
Kathy gives us a detailed tour of my temporary new home – what I can and can’t do, when to put the rubbish out, how to wash the dishes and not block the pipes, how to operate the tv (which has HBO and Showtime and hundreds of regular channels), how to get to the roof garden (yes, it also has one of those!) and, most importantly, how to get in and out of the building using the lift, which opens directly into the studio. I have to admit, as Kathy is talking, I am having trouble taking everything in – I feel a little glazed over by a wonderful combination of happiness and tiredness.
We have lunch with Kathy in a café across the road, go back to the studio to unpack, and then head out for a walk to explore the local area as the evening sets in. Soho, and in particular Greene Street, is renowned for its beautiful cast iron fronted buildings. The architecture is classic, the streets are paved with cobblestones and just about every shop is high end designer, with beautifully decorated, funky window displays that look like works of art in themselves. There are not many people on the street but we dodge piles of rubbish bags scattered along the footpaths. The sun is fading and the light is a little sulfurous – I’m in a Woody Allen movie, walking in a dream.
Back in the studio we turn on the tv and find out about the Boston Bombings in which two brothers set off explosives that kill 3 people and injure over 180 taking part in the annual marathon held on Patriot’s Day. The news is devastating – the bombings happened around the same time we arrived at Greene Street. We can’t sleep, so we watch 5 On Demand episodes of Nurse Jackie, one after another, on Showtime. We also get introduced to the boiler, which hisses and roars through the heating pipes like a huge mechanical beast. It starts up randomly all through the night.