Yes, I know, New York City a spiritual home? Well, for me, yes. It is the place I feel calmest and sanest, aside from perhaps the Orkney Islands. Even the hum, noises, constant traffic, heat and loud people make me happy. I am weird that way. When I first came to NYC like everyone else I felt overwhelmed and identified with the noise and chaos and it felt scary and too much. but at some point, I can't remember the precise day, but I remember the experience - there was a moment on a street when the traffic stopped. Every once in a while there are those moments. Out of seeming nowhere, there is calm. And it's a door, like one of those doors in the movie The Adjustment Bureau (which I saw on the plane over - Virgin Atlantic flights being where I watch most movies...) - and this door opens onto the secret strata of NYC, the zen meditative side of it. It's a flash of insight and it transports you and you are OK. More than OK.
I came back from a yoga retreat once and thought, ok, this time NYC is going to seem nuts, but instead no - even in Port Authority there was a dance of people, and I was on the inside track with the friendly faces and energy. It's amazing when this happens, because it's available to anyone, it's not a club, it's a way of seeing.
I wrote a piece (you can read it if you want - there's a link on the side in publications) called 13 Minutes: Subliminal Car Music for Sarah right after that experience, because the cars outside my window began to sound like the sea. My friend Sarah Washington - a wonderful sound musician and radio maker who was working with ResonanceFM at the time - asked me to write a radio piece about the sublime, and this was my response.
Is that the only part of NYC? Absolutely not - there is the dark side, the part that was attacked on 9/11 and the darkness of the buildings at a certain time of night wherein they look almost evil, the smog and the horrendous smell that smacks you in the face when you leave JFK and get into a taxi on the way to visit your best friend in Manhattan. There are the many, many homeless people who are generally unwashed, under or overdressed, strung out and unhinged. There are people making more money than God by fucking people over royally here and in countless 3rd world countries. There is all that.
There are also many artists who work creating moments of beauty for free, for the love of it and some in hopes of getting paid eventually or noticed. There were the Keith Haring drawings that appeared out of nowhere in the early 80s on the blank spaces where billboards were supposed to be on the subways. Lines depicting mysterious babies radiating chalk halos. Who were these beings? Who was doing this?
There are so many moments like that, and everyone packed together and a sense that anything is possible.
This is why I miss NYC so much at times it hurts. Should I move back here? Another question in this time of transition. Not one I take lightly as I lost my cheap apartment and have no job prospects at the moment here, so it would not be easy. When I visit now I'm always essentially on holiday, which is of course a very different perspective, plus there's the eternal health care issue....
However, having said that, if anyone out there is reading this and lives in NYC and has a need for a writer/director/researcher/PhD holding-lecturer/guest artist/workshop leader..etc., please let me know! Any excuse would probably be enough right about now.
I am allowing the issue of potential separation with my husband sit on the back burner right now. I have so much to focus on here. I was watching another film though (again on the plane) called 'Never Let Me Go' and it occurred to me watching it, with an almost physical force, that I had missed this huge part of Bill, and that is his Britishness, a certain gentle and sidewise way of being (from the American, New Yorker point of view). It's a gut wrenching film, by the way, and well worth a watch, but be warned it's not easy viewing... But it amazed me, just being on a plane, that little distance from him and our lives and watching this film, how much I could see that I could not see close up.
I have a driving force to me that has its positive and negative sides. I can get a lot done, but I can also neglect the gentler side of me or anyone else. It's not done on purpose of course, and I don't say this to beat myself up, it's just an observation. As I pound on myself, urging myself on, I can neglect so much else that is quieter in me and others. I also say this with a certain wariness that I'm not doing the: I feel abandoned so let me see what's wrong with me routine. As I know that is possible, it's been grooved into me since age .5 so it can come to me with the force of revelation but be a pack of lies. Denial and distortion comes in so many varied forms and colors, don't it?
I'm going to post this now as I want to take a walk in Central Park and go to a meditation meeting across town. I feel a sadness welling up in me, and that is as it should be. No way out but through.
oh but before I go, one last image of NYC to leave you with - one day when walking at the interchange of 59th and 3rd Avenue between the Lexington line and the E and F (and with horror I'm realizing that I haven't done this in so long I hope I'm not mixing up my lines...), which if you've ever done it you will know is difficult, stuffed and ends in a bottle neck of people jostling for the steps to get onto the hot, crowded platform - but this one day instead of seeing people in my way and hearing random clatter, I heard everyone's shoes hitting the concrete ground like a symphony. It was music instead of disturbance, when I tuned into that channel. I realized at that moment of elation what John Cage meant about sound being music, and I have never gone through that interchange since without hearing the symphony. John Cage came up with many of his ideas about sound as music in NYC of course, which is no surprise.
Welcome to my blog..
"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty
When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.
I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.
As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. So blessed for the opportunity and hope to find a more permanent job doing same.
I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with having written a rough draft of a new book and some other projects.
Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.
For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani
Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now.