Thankfully my camera battery stopped working as soon as I arrived in New York City. Why was this a good omen for the start of my vacation? I had different goals for this trip. In visiting NYC and DC, I didn’t want to see the sights. I didn’t have a strict itinerary. I didn’t have many plans at all except the flights into and out of the USA and the bus from one city to the other. I’ve been the tourist and I’m good at that role, but it’s not who I wanted to be this time. This time, with my word of the year in mind, I wanted to leave the expectations behind and focus on what was important to me: friends and family.
I arrived in New York City on Valentine’s Day evening. It was a little later than I expected–darn winter weather–but once I got in the taxi and we started driving in the direction of the bright pink Empire State building (for Valentine’s Day), none of the travel hassle mattered any more. I was here in the City, about to meet my aunt and visit her apartment for the first time. It’s hard to believe I’d never actually visited her home before; she moved into the same apartment the week I was born. And yet, there were many connections we missed out on before I realized that I am a playwright. Knowing that we shared artistic impulses to create and move far away from our immediate families in addition to blood connections, I was even more excited to spend the weekend being shown around her city. Indeed from the first night we attended a funky party at the neighborhood yoga studio where she teaches (can I have more “love potion” please?) and she showed me her old art studio on the walk home. Throughout the trip, we kept finding more characteristics in common: red wine, classic/retro style, tea . . . I cannot say enough how great it was to find a family member who knows exactly what I’m going through in this first year away from undergraduate, out in the world struggling to make space for myself and to create. I cannot wait to go back and visit again.
I probably would have hung around the East Village all weekend because though I have more “street smarts” from living in Toronto than I did in Austin or Houston, I was a little overwhelmed by the big City with more than two subway lines and even more important streets and intersections it was assumed I would know. I’d visited NYC before, but with my parents and sister, my high school marching band, and a college roommate from New Jersey. All people who knew their way around better than me. Thankfully, I do have plenty of friends in the City ready to show me around once again. I met up with my creative writing friend and past suitemate at Veselka’s for brunch (amazing Polish diner, featured in Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist) one day and visited her dorm at the New School the next day. I had a few drinks in a Chelsea area bar and then searched out some late night, authentic New York pizza with a friend also visiting the City over the long weekend off from her Theatre PhD program at Brown. And as a Rice Player still adjusting to life outside “the cult,” I was happy to meet up with not one but two past Rice Players managing coordinators who are living in NYC and working in the theater. I must admit I never saw myself moving to New York before this trip. It always seemed too big and too overwhelming. It’s still a bit much, but if they can do it for a few years, why not me? (Don’t worry Toronto; I’m not moving on that soon and if I do, I will miss your artsiness and less hectic pace). It’s sad I didn’t make any effort to take pictures with them, but we had our priorities straight on catching up, discussing great theater, and eating some great food (see picture of cupcake).
Oh, and I made time for a show/that was originally my excuse for going to NYC in the first place: Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information. One of my professors at York, Dr. Darren Gobert, just wrote a book on her and gave us an in-depth peek into the conclusion, which included a long section on this her newest play, at a colloquium session. Once I heard it was opening soon, I told my friend at Brown and we made plans to meet and see it. If only I could have gone on opening night and listened to the opening night talk Gobert gave . . . Still, one of my NYC/Rice Player friends managed to get cheap tickets the day of so we all three saw it. I should have predicted they would be more critical than I was, but then again, what good are theatre friends if they don’t help you seriously rip apart any performance you see? I still think I had a better time because of my in-depth knowledge of Churchill’s script and clearer view from the balcony. While it may not have been as experimental as expected, watching the live performance before I critically engage with a script on a textual level is rare treat for me.
If nothing more, Love and Information was a great excuse to learn how my friends are conquering the world in NYC and to get wonderful inspiration and encouragement (and “new” clothes) from quality time with my aunt.