On the morning of my 49th birthday, I was invited to write a brief essay based on a handful of artistic photographs taken in Central Park, NY for an Italian newspaper called La Repubblica. I was given a couple of hours to turn it around quickly. Thankfully, reporter and my editor/translator, Anna Lombardi, helped me greatly in culling stuff I'd already said about NYC in past interviews and articles while I added new aspects and cobbled something together. The published version of my essay was titled "Imagine New York with other colors."
Here is what I originally wrote (but I'm not sure what was kept and how it translated into Italian for the published version):
In the first season of HBO's True Detective, Matthew McConaughey's philosophical detective, Rust Cohle posits that "time is a flat circle." Appearing as a rustic paradise to picnic and play ball, roller blade or bicycle, run or walk your dog or stand still and watch birds, hold hands or break up, Central Park is an 843 acre, rectangle-sized time machine in the middle of New York City that can transport you to the past, present and future, all at the same time. A past where the roots were steeped in a rich soil bustling with nature-infused chaos bursting with the promise of an industrious tomorrow. When tomorrow came we paved trails and trimmed trees and celebrated each other with flowers, real and digital, while growing towers that scraped our skies and reflected profoundly in our lakes, challenging the future with our pride. Alas, these scorched earth pictures warn us of global warming and social indifference. Sparking dreams of a different tomorrow in a different place.
My exodus from native Manhattan to Brooklyn refugee came at time when I could no longer afford to dream in a place that could no longer afford my unbridled spirit. What Manhattan abandoned for brighter lights and bigger signs and whiter noise, Brooklyn brandished in her water towers and stoops and trees and people. I felt a better sense of community in Brooklyn, even when I was getting the stink eye from indigenous locals. The much scrutinized “hipsters” came later. But, in the late 1990s, I had to earn my way in. Brooklyn hazes you for your self-worth, especially in Red Hook. Ironically, 19-years since my Manhattan escape, Brooklyn has become more expensive. I can't win. Nobody put a gun to my head but I've given my life's blood and art to NYC and it sometimes treats me like an infection just because I'm economically (and aesthetically) allergic to champagne and caviar while my freelance veins proudly pump 70% cheap Chinese food takeout and 30% discounted peanut butter. Give me royalty checks or give me grape jelly.
I used to be concerned, does New York City care about when all the artists move out because they can't afford to be here? New York City doesn't care. At the end of the day, developers or landlords just want money. Once in a while, you'll find a kind landlord who's willing to give space to a certain type of thing, and that's beautiful. My landlord has tried to champion artists, which is why he converted the warehouse I spend most of my hours into an artist studio. But, at the same time, you have to take a bold look at your own career sometimes. If you're not making any money after many years, then maybe your career is a hobby. I hate to say it that way, but you do have to look at your own life sometimes and wonder, “What am I doing and can I continue doing this?” You can't stop doing what you love, but you do have to figure out a way to live.
History tends to repeat itself. So, you have to look back in order to move forward. NYC is still a great place for diversity, culture, food and art, but it will only be shaped by the last artists and curators standing in an economy that can’t afford the avante garde and the under-looked like it once did when my mother was the deputy director of the New York State Council of the Arts. Back when artists could afford to live small and create unhindered. Nowadays, it seems you need to have a 5-year plan and a digital app to hawk while you social network more than you create. Hype has become as necessary as a paint brush and pen.
--Dean Haspiel (creator of Billy Dogma, The Red Hook)http://en.kiosko.net/it/np/repubblica.html
Thank you, Anna! ~xo