Dear New York,
I’m nobody. Nobody in particular that is, other than a seriously deluded Aussie who’s decided to pitch it all on one toss – and for what?
A publishing deal.
I know, you’ve heard my story before. You’ve watched small people like me spill out of trains and planes and cars in which they’ve hitched a ride, standing and staring in wonder, battered suitcase in hand, our necks craned, our eyes sliding along the hard edges of your tall buildings towards a barely visible snatch of blue sky.
That blue, without warning, is our touchstone, souvenir of the familiar world we left behind us.
New York, you are our beacon. Our Everest. Our last stop. Our all or nothing.
I thought I was years and years away from paying you a visit. But I have a friend with a phenomenally good change-the-face-of-digital-learning idea who is coming to New York for her own shot at the big time. I googled contacts for her, agents and potential persons of interest. It was a dangerous move. I began filling out my own online auto submission forms for my own lovely books. And yes, they are lovely books. My other friend, Brunette, said so. And she wouldn’t lie. Not to save my pride, anyway. Eventually (in no time at all actually) as I googled and searched my fingers found their way to six little keyboard strokes that began with a Q, followed by an ANTA, and ending in S. The sale fare was flashing a small word that dulled the edges of my known world: ‘Hurry’, ‘Hurry’, ‘Hurry’, ‘Hurry’.
And that’s what New Yorkers do, isn’t it? You hurry. I used to say to my friends, when I wanted to get a laugh, ‘if I am going to reincarnate as anyone in this world, next life around, please God let me be a New Yorker’.
I repeated this to my friend with the great digital publishing idea and she didn’t laugh. She said ‘we’re all New Yorkers’.
‘If New York is your magnet, you are a New Yorker,’ she said.
That got me thinking.
About Leonard Cohen actually. A New Yorker who’s not a New Yorker but had his moment with Janis in the Chelsea Hotel.There’s a crack, there’s a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in.
Not that that has anything to do with Janis. Although it might. It’s just a glorious collection of words that shine for me when the lights go down. Which reminds me of a dream I had after I clicked Pay Now at Qantas. I was dressed in traveling clothes, the kind someone like me who walks very long distances on pilgrimage through alien lands might wear, expensive clothes that make you look like you live in the gutter, which when you travel like me, walking 1500kms through, say, Italy and the Balkans, you often do. In my dream I was in a stranger’s room in New York. I lay on the bed, face down, just on the edge, exhausted with the strongest sense of ‘home’. I thought ‘they won’t notice’. It was my Goldilocks moment.
So here I am, standing on the eastern shore of my southern homeland, having committed to my ‘single bold stroke’ (I read that in an American marketing textbook a few years ago and I’ve been on red alert ever since for my ‘single bold stroke’). I wonder where I might stay when I come to visit? I thought maybe Peter Carey. He’s an Australian author too, like me. There can’t be that many of us; we’re such a little country when it comes to numbers. And he lives in New York, at least if the stories I read about him in magazines are true. I’m sure he’d love to welcome a compatriot who’s traveled so very far for the same reasons he did.
Then again, maybe I’d rather stay with Carrie Bradshaw. I know she lives in New York. And we’ve spent loads of time together in my loungeroom – loaning me some floor space is the least she could do. Besides, these days she’s hardly ever home in her little flat.
Then there’s Liberty. My unwavering light. I know, I know, she’s made of stone and doesn’t have a beating heart . . . although I am one among millions who will beg to differ. If I do nothing else, I will do this: I will come to New York and pay my respects to Liberty.
And I will bow my head for freedom.
Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. (Praise Janis. And Kris.)
For in coming to New York, by laying to rest a dream I’ve held so close for so long, I am setting myself free for other dreams, yet to be dreamed.