I could weep.
And I did last night, soft sudden sobs in the privacy of the Beacon Theatre, surrounded by kd lang and a few thousand New Yorkers.
Probably because being with kd was like hangin’ out with an old friend. We’ve traveled together for years . . . I was there right at the start for her.
She was wonderful.
She knows she’s wonderful. And she knows she’s loved for being exactly who she is and she reflects that back to us, so we’re all laughing with each other because who we are is funny.
She was light. She was skippy. She offered a rendition of Hallelujah that was nothing less than what anyone expected yet brought us all to our knees and then onto our stamping feet.
She gave New York her best because New York will accept nothing less than her best, hers or anyone else’s.
That voice. Her and Sinead O’Connor, along with Annie Lennox, were the voices of my time. I always thought kd and Sinead were the voices unparalleled at the end of the last century. I still do. Not just because of the strength and beauty and power, but this and more: conscience, passion, inspiration and Love.
The voices of my time.
Yesterday I did a victory lap on the Staten Island ferry, a Liberty sail-by, a soft wind blowing on a gentle sea. We saluted each other, the journey and the road ahead.
People ask about the highlight of my journey.
Washington DC was a stand out day. Seeing a bear in Pennsylvania was a stand out moment.
But what about New York, they ask. What about New York?
I think back on this or that moment or event or incident . . . there is none.
New York is the whole.
A whole month of being absorbed into a city that requires nothing more from us than who we are, and allows breathing room for all of us to be anyone we want to be. No-one stands out here, not even the rich and famous. We are all absorbed into New York City beyond the dizzying boundaries of insecurity and self; we are not just part of the whole – we are the whole.
For one month I have experienced not a single bored moment, not a single loose end. Rarely did I make it to bed before midnight. Rarely did I sleep beyond dawn.
So there it is. I have a ticket out that flies at dusk. This morning, hand on the fridge door reaching for yoghurt, I understood the title of historian Geoffrey Blainey’s most famous book: The Tyranny of Distance.
And through those words I understood why Australians of inspiration and talent raise their heads above the horizon and look beyond the equator to reach for creative excellence.
Driving home through dense Sunday traffic from Pennsylvania on Sunday night, Alicia Keys was singing on the radio about New York. American culture, in the United States of America, has time and place on its side.
Outside the US, it is a wannabe import.
It’s like walking through olive groves in Spain – suddenly olive oil makes cultural sense; at least to me, a 6th generation Antipodean who has inherited just about everything cultural from somewhere else.
So too America.
Now it all makes sense.
New York, New York.
Love of our lives.
We cannot stay.
Or we can, for a while.
Or we can, for a long long time.
New York: your soul is expressed in the courtesy of your people, in the motivational wind in your streets.
It was you who taught me to swallow my self-consciousness in a world that no longer surrenders privilege, and stand for those less able to stand, to offer my seat unequivocally on the subway, on the bus.
Returned to my world, this translates into stepping off my own path to carry the fishing rod for the old man with the walking stick, down the dunes to the shore.
New York: Montmarte of our Age, where all an artist need do is stand on a street corner long enough to absorb all the inspiration she needs to begin work right there, right there on the street.
New York you are ordinary in your appearance, yet boast the extraordinary; you are chaotic yet impressively functional.
New York: we won’t find the soul of this city in all of the people all of the time, nor in its physical manifestation – yet the soul of the city is reflected in her high flyers and her huddled masses.
New York expects nothing more from me than who I am – who we are – and she demands I – we – bring to this world all the talents with which I – we – were born, joyfully and unapologetically!
Creativity is not mine – or yours – to judge. It is ours to express.
This is her gift and her glory.