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1. I have a huge nickel/dime/cent collection amassed, never having got to grips with what was what and how they added up to make dollars. My scrutinizing the coins and making the shop person count them for me got a little tiring, so I contented myself with just handing over dollar bills. 2. Now back in London, I miss being ID-ed in bars, even if the person in front of me shuffled in on a zimmerframe and were ID-ed too. 3. I never made it to Central Park. People are shocked by this. I am sure it's a great park, but then I considered how I actually feel about parks and the epiphany was: I don't much like them. They make me feel melancholy with their concrete pathways and clipped lawns and railings. They make me think of endings, not beginnings. 4. According to a number of New York friends, contrary to what I assumed, I don't speak clearly at all but am in fact quite often impossible to understand, particularly on the telephone. One friend's theory was that it's because I use half as many vowels as an American. Plus lots of New Yorkers mysteriously thought I was Australian... 5. I retract what I said in a previous blog about bad coffee in NYC. 7th Avenue in Park Slope is a coffee lover's haven. 6. I also retract what I said about the grid system. Yes, it took me 3 months to figure it out, but it makes sense now. 7. New York men differ from London men in the following way: they assume a lot more and move a lot faster. They also buy the drinks. 8. Further NYC/London differences: i) Fingernails are important, and there is a nail bar on every corner. ii) You can pay a little extra to have all your laundry weighed and done for you (luxury!). iii) Everyone is Jewish. Or Irish. Being both, I felt quite at home. 9) Bypassers will stop to watch buskers playing. In London, to actually stand and watch a performer...well, perform, feels far too intimate. We'll duck our heads and hurry by, maybe chuck a little change into their instrument case but certainly not attend to what they are doing. People in NY will stand expectantly around the musician, waiting for the drummer to set up, waiting for their next lick, markedly un-selfconscious. It's sweet! 10) I couldn't imagine being made to feel more welcome in a foreign town. God bless Brooklyn! See you in 2010.



Some mornings, you wake and it is as if the air holds a secret - all is crystalline and bright, the overlapping edges of past and present sanded smooth as sea-glass. Other days, the sky is forced ajar. Normal pleasures - conversation, music, food - barely impact, they are flimsy panaceas from the dull lag, points on a surly clock face. You want to just crawl back under the covers and disappear. You want to be 6 years old again, warm, sleepy and safe. Or failing that, you want to be numb. When the night falls, it gets easier. Candles are lit, glow worms populating the room. Tea comforts. There is a surrender that comes easier during these hours. I have rituals on days like these, to try and impose some kind of order; one is a visit to the Village Grocery. There are about ten similar shops a stone's throw from my apartment, and maybe it's an odd criteria for choosing a place to buy food (price, quality and hygiene come lower on the list) but me, I spend my dollar at the friendliest store. At the counter is a young Chinese girl dressed in a fleece and an apron, who like a charming dictator bosses around the small Mexican men who work on the shop floor. 'Gustavo! You need to water the lettuce, it droop again!' 'Anastacio, where are frijoles?'. She's obviously smart and sweet but has a wry air about her that makes her 25 going on 60. I see her one day as an exacting university lecturer, whopping her lazy student's asses. "Are you sure you want this tomato/avocado/banana?" she always asks, furrowing her brow at a bruise or an over-ripe spot that went totally unnoticed by me. She also likes to precisely sort my purchases into different sized paper bags, leaving aside the most delicate items for last. I would not want to work for her.

'Do you ever get a day off?' I asked her this evening. I couldn't think of a time that I hadn't seen her there. She explained she was in the middle of paying her enormous college loans, but yes, Saturday was her one day off. 'I disappear! You don't see me for dust!' We'd said our goodbyes and I was just heading out of the door when she suddenly spoke: 'Thank you for asking though...I really do appreciate it'. Sadness brushed her face, then she said sincerely, 'Nobody does ask that, and well...I am happy you did'. It was unexpected and touching. I temporarily stepped out of the shadows of my own life and into a stranger's, whose sorrows are little known, only partly divulged. And whilst sadness still aches and stings, in the moment it appears as something that is common to us all it is also shorn in that same moment of the painful, personal versions we hold so tightly to our chests. I left with my collar high to keep the brisk wind out, heavy and lopsided with carefully packed shopping but a little lighter than before.



There is a great moment in Paul Auster's 'New York Trilogy' (and Auster incidentally must live just a few blocks away from where I am writing this, being a Park Sloper too) when the narrator Daniel Quinn receives a middle of the night phone call to his lonely New York apartment. "Is that Paul Auster, of the Auster Detective Agency?”. The call sets off a chain of motion, in which confused identities - including that of the fictional Paul Auster (himself a New York novelist), the mythical detective Auster and the actual Paul Auster whose work of fiction we are reading - are implicated. It's something to do with Derrida, as it goes. Well...I kind of had a similar story. The other day as I was sitting with Alicia Jo Rabins (a very talented songwriter - solo and with 'Girls in Trouble' who I'll be performing with on November the 11th) in a Brooklyn bar and drinking coffee served by an alarmingly tactile French waiter, she mentioned a recent shoot with a photographer named Jason Rogers. She commended his work, and told me what a brilliant experience it was working with him. 'It would be great to have his details' I said, as the waiter stroked Alicia's hair with his outstretched tongue. 'No problem, I'll send them over' said Alicia, as I narrowly missed a tentacle.

Lovely Alicia Arriving home, and not having heard from Alicia yet with an email address, I decided to hit 'stalker's best friend' aka Google. 'Jason Rogers photographer New York' I typed and Bingo! I clicked the web link and revealed was a collection of wonderfully eerie landscapes, desolate, tender, funny. It reminded me of work by one of my all time favourite photographers, Richard Billingham 'Ray's a Laugh', and being in an efficient mood, I fired off an email: Hi Jason, I found out about you via my friend Alicia Jo Rabins who I believe you did a shoot for just the other day. She had only great things to say about you and mentioned that you are in the process of building your portfolio...I wonder if you would consider taking some photos for me? The very next morning came a response: I would definitely be interested in discussing what kind of shoot you were looking for... but: I have to be honest with you though, I'm not sure I have done a shoot with Alicia. I'm not sure if it matters to you, but I just wanted to be clear. Recommendations sometimes come from the most random of places... Hmmm, could it be..the wrong Jason Rogers? Yes, turns out Alicia's was a Jason 'Rodgers' as I discovered the next day, also a NY photographer of repute.Yet this confusion of identities was one of those happy (very Austerian) serendipities. When, a few days later I arrived at Jason's apartment just a few minutes walk from my place, Daphne his 2 year old daughter is busy stroking the Lion King through the television glass. Somehow between Simba's song and the demanding affections of the family dog, Jason and I discovered a whole range of references and inspirations in common - my own doppelganger, just in a different artistic field. A couple of weeks on, the tiny new addition to the family (daughter no.2) came on her first ever cultural trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, (it's ok, we're in Park Slope, it will be ablative verb flash cards in a month or so...) with me, Jason and Jason's wife Sarah. We went there with the intention of exploring some ideas for the shoot, it was a great creative day, and thank God Sarah had a sense of direction to compensate for me and Jason's combined lack of one. (Jason did flag up the fact that Sarah might be just a smart 'n' sly cookie; seeing as the MMOA is circular, we would eventually arrive back at our projected place anyway, but she certainly pulled the trick off convincingly if so).

Start of the day at Cafe Regular/Sarah and the statues It's strange seeing work by great artists 'in the flesh', kind of like meeting famous people, some of whom are surprisingly uncharismatic, others who are so much more appealing and attractive than expected. Weirdly Van Gogh's art, with it's wavy lines, stipplings and shifts of perspective left me feeling dazed but unmoved, and though Vermeer's paintings had remarkable luminosity, his chosen themes of comely housewives peeling apples in modest attitudes irritated me. It was other less revered artists that touched me most (maybe, unfairly it's to do with expectation); Pisarro's painting of poplar trees reminded me of brilliant autumn days after a strong rain fall where the air is thin and clear as glass and every leaf seems volted with it's own light from within. Like TS Eliot's line in the 4 Quartets: Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children, Hidden excitedly, containing laughter. Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind Cannot bear very much reality.

Spanish Gallery/Narcissus/Roxy Paine's Maelstrom On the outside deck sprawled Roxy Paine's 'Maelstrom', a metallic sinuous sculpture that reminded me of a fig tree whose boughs reach into the ground and root themselves creating a maze, a prison or a shelter depending on your outlook. But they were also Wizard of Oz-like, their branches resembled clutching fingers and thumbs.

Or Lepage's 'Joan of Arc',a work that elicited a mixed reaction from the snobby Salon critics: apparently the ghostly presence of the saints was seen to be at odds with the otherwise naturalistic style. Which goes to show how time-bound and close minded critics can be, as that's surely the real beauty in this work. Is Joan of Arc a visionary - or is she possessed? Are they saints real apparitions, or the figment of furious, even insane imagination? We emerged into the late afternoon sunlight, blinking, talking endlessly and attempting to decipher the many worlds - Egyptian, Japanese, Renaissance - we had briefly visited. Detectives following trails and tracks, about to give up the secrets of our next destination...