This is the single, solitary photograph that I took in Montreal. I liked the play of light on the glasses, and the juxtaposition of vertical lines with repeated circles. Though only the most token glimpse of late lunch at the well-known Olive et Gourmando, it tells you what you need to know: bounty, satisfaction. If you ever find yourself in Montreal, go there. If you can, also track down the bakery Au Kouign Amann in the hipster neighborhood called Plateau Mont-Royal (I felt at home here, hehe). Finally, visit the Jardins Botaniques.
That was Montreal, plus old stone streets and poutine and maple everything and the minor exercise of my vastly diminished French. I don’t think four days is sufficient time to really bond with a city, but anyway, I admit, I was distracted.
My four days in Montreal followed a week in New York City. And frankly, I was ghosted. I moved to Manhattan when I was seventeen, with newly minted independence, an education paid for by my family, and all of adult life before me, yet still far enough way that I felt no responsibility for it. I lived in late night and early morning cafes, cheap restaurants, yoga studios, and indie rock venues. I went to class and I learned book things, but I breathed the streets and people. But somewhere along the way, I choked on that air. I withered for want of plants and soil. Once, I tore from my dorm room and practically ran the thirty-odd blocks to Battery Park to sit under a tree and mourn for how far the sky felt and how sorry the ocean seemed, its waves unmade against a concrete wall.
So I left. I found my way back west to mountains and desert and the pinyon-juniper belt. I remembered the city as a place I lived once, filled with both opportunity and human crush – entrancing but no home for the me I knew myself to be. I never looked back.
Then, two Thursdays past, I found myself headed to a Korean diner in Midtown at 3 a.m. Somewhere between the stop lights and taxi lights, the smell of laundry and the smell of piss, I remembered: There is a part of me that lives in New York City and nowhere else.
She wants the whole damn world. She also wants to share. She walks quickly and vacillates between cursing the slow and and reveling in the game of navigating a packed sidewalk without bumping or bothering a single soul. This girl; I remember her.
I remember the feeling of books and art and ambition, everyone’s, all around me. I remember the length between avenues and the brevity between streets, how to navigate by color and the height of buildings. I remember the sound of myriad languages played together like a musical chord. I remember the sound of a city so vast, you can sing while you walk and no one will hear you. I sang so much more when I lived in Manhattan. I remember loving this city, and feeling loved back.
And now I feel the city inside me, calling me back to a home I thought was no longer mine. It makes sense, I guess. A curator friend once told me, “You can’t guarantee that your work will matter to contemporary art, but you can swim out to where contemporary art is happening and at least stand a chance that it might.” And then he said, “Which is Brooklyn, right now.” I scoffed and said that Los Angeles is practically established art ground these days and anyway, I’d left that other metropolis behind. Apparently not. I’m not booking a flight or anything; I have business yet with these mountains and the tides of art in my current home. But New York City remains, like an itch in the back of my mind. I can’t help but wonder what futures may unfold from the planting of this seed.