dear friends, let this selfie attest to the fact that i’m alive and well! on the plane, i sat next to a good-lookin skater who smelled like a dream and binge-watched ‘curb your enthusiasm’ on his mac. we did not make out.
jeanette has taken me and princethecat into her desert mansion where we brush our teeth at twin ‘herz & purrz’ sinks.
12 hours after landing at LAX, i drove a rental car to a job interview. afterwards i met jeanette at school where we ate mabo tofu and salad. the restaurant was spacious and everyone had their own bench to sit on.
there is traffic and there is sunshine. at night the moon is low and yellow. last night, i saw the little dipper for the first time in years and i smiled.
Archie’s Pizza put up my drawing! While eating pizza w my most favorite pizza-eating brothers, Erik & Andrew, they were like “Jem, YOU should do a drawing for that wall!” and then they came up w a whole buncha names for the pizza we were eating: pepperoni and pineapple. I chose the best two.
I’m gonna miss Archie’s! I love their pizza. But oh well, I’ll cry into my tacos/ flipflops and let the California sun dry my tears.
I’m going back to Cali
My friends, I’m moving to Los Angeles. My last day in New York will be the last day of my lease: October 15. My first day in LA will be on October 16.
There are 1000 reasons why I’m quitting. When I moved here, it was with the intention of living out the second half of my life here. It was a gutsy act made upon the realization that I had reached midlife. I reasoned that since my father died at the age of 74—and because I was of his exact genetic stock—that at approaching 35, I was almost exactly at midlife.
I imagined having a small apartment in New York and living a highly productive and creative asexual existence, along the lines of Edward Gorey or Bill Cunningham. I imagined building and creating a nice nest where I would die content and alone among all my drawings and creations. I imagined going to the equivalent of “Elaine’s” and having heady conversations with my generation’s Fran Lebowitz or Dorothy Parker. Sounds romantic, but the reality of New York is that in order to be able to afford your own tiny space, have dinner out regularly and enjoy the kind of single life where you’re able to peruse a wine menu and buy a bottle of wine, you need to make a minimum of 65k+. And that’s a low figure.
The casual museum strolling that I was so taken with in Woody Allen movies is fictional. Or a relic of the 70s. Every time I’ve gone to a museum, I’ve paid full price to see a work of art be undermined by people taking selfies in front of it. I don’t mind selfies, but I do mind having to wait for the selfie to be taken while they are facing ME instead of the artwork. Then I mind that I only have a few seconds to view the piece before I have to politely move so that the next person has a chance to take their selfie. There’s no space or time. It’s difficult to experience art purely on its own value. The density of people here blocking you, making you wait, talking loudly, and snapping pictures creates an unintentional performance where the work of art is relegated to background prop.
I’m a calm, serene person, but living in New York really tests that!
I also moved here with 3 specific goals:
1. To meet my musical family.
2. To go to Europe and play some shows there.
3. To meet my next engineer/producer and record an album together.
In a 2-year time span, I did not meet any of these goals. People often tell me that I’m hard on myself, but as the keeper of my own flame, I am the only one who will keep tending it or let it extinguish. New York is expensive for someone whose day job is not their career. I made the same amount of entry-level money as I did in Oakland, but here I felt angry and exhausted all the time. I didn’t have any good energy leftover after the rushhourcommute-9hourday-rushhourcommute to make efforts in creative directions. My work suffered because of it. And by ‘work’ I mean my life’s work: art and music.
Regarding ‘work’, I felt like I had to explain over and over the meaning of ‘work’ to people. New York is career-driven and money-oriented, so people assume ‘work’ as what you make money from, ie your job. They never assume when you talk about ‘work’ that you’re referring to your drives, your passion in life, and your obsessed, unpaid pursuits. Does the meaning of ‘work’ change when you move cross-country? Why are people so confused here? Is it because they’re so rich or aspire to be rich? Anyway, in general, I felt like I baffled people here because my ‘work’ existed outside of any commercial paradigm.
In New York, there just aren’t enough people with chainsaws making gigantic, fucked-looking tiki heads on their lawns.
Additionally, I was song-constipated for over a year because the way I write songs, I realized, is very very very California-based. It involves walking alone for long stretches of time without being observed or heard. Here, when I start humming, I have to stop because I forget that someone’s ear is one-foot away from my mouth. They are startled that someone is humming, and I am startled that I startled them and then I lose the melody. There are always people everywhere.
The 4-month stretch of winter was inhibiting for me too. That’s 4 months where you can’t take a walk in the woods or around a lake just to clear your head and get the songs out. You’re stuck in your cold workplace, or your cold room, or some crowded bar where one drink costs $14.. plus tip.. and sometimes tax too. And it’s cash only.
I didn’t mean to write this blogpost. I tend to veer towards positive or neutral in my postings, but because I have been feeling conflicted and on-and-off depressed—more so than usual—I wanted to share some of my difficulties and failures to paint a broader portrait of my experience here.
I arrived in New York to live here permanently, but working FT on an entry-level income is not enough money to thrive and prosper. It was a hard decision to make, to return to California, but I looked hard at the objectives I moved to New York with and decided some things: 2 years was long enough and I didn’t want to keep drifting indefinitely, being broke and feeling spent.
I am grateful to everyone I met and played with and to everyone who helped me with shows and/or attended them. I am especially grateful to Keala for getting me here and having faith that I could do it. I did it for almost two years, but now I’m taking this dog-and-pony show back to California.
So, my friends, come find me in LA!!!! I’m very excited. I will be looking for a job and a place to live, so if you have any suggestions, I am all ears.
See you on Thanksgiving and Xmas, my fellow Californians!