I moved to New York City a few weeks ago.
One of the first people I met was the actor Wallace Shawn, who was in one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride, and who lives in my neighborhood. Within a short time I was attending art gallery openings, discovering kimchi in Koreatown, and swimming at Chelsea Piers. I even randomly met Laura Bush, the former First Lady.
Most of all I was excited and stimulated by the vibrant street life. Everyone seemed to strut as if they were the most important person in the world. They all seem to be rushing to something significant.
In Spain, life moved at a slower pace. I would walk the streets on Saturday mornings at 9 a.m. looking for a place to get coffee. My favorite cafe didn’t open until 10 a.m.
The sky was amazingly blue. The yellow buildings cut dramatic edges in the skyline. I would walk the beach with my headset trying to immerse myself in peaceful solitude. Often I sat at the cafe for hours writing, all the while enjoying the slow passage of time.
Alicante is a wonderful place, but I was bored. I felt uninspired. One day I warned a close friend against moving there. She was my age and had been commuting to Paris to do fashion shows. She happily introduced her new boyfriend and explained their plans to buy a hotel. My boyfriend shared enthusiastic comments in their sonorous native French. The sky was blue. The ocean sparkled. It was a Hollywood moment.
I pulled her aside. “Are you crazy? Do you really want to polish your coffin for the next thirty years in this place?” I continued,” You are beautiful, talented! There is so little going on here.”
I resolved to leave.
Many of my friends were concerned. “New York City is so expensive. Wait until you have arranged work. Or at least until you have saved more money.” Others were incredulous. “How is that possible?” My French boyfriend was encouraging. “You will do it,” he said.
And I did. A few months after I left Spain I found myself signing an agreement to rent my dream apartment. Even as I sat at the table, it almost fell through. Fifteen minutes before I signed, the broker told me the fee was larger than I anticipated. We came to an agreement. Crisis averted.
I adapted to the rhythm of the city quickly. In the last few weeks I have delighted in pouring over images created by a magical photographer. She has invited me to three visual events. I bantered with a wealthy businessman who I discovered owns a portrait of his father that my grandfather painted. I also was introduced to an impressive collector who shared images of paintings he owned by Picasso, Motherwell, and Degas.
The city is full of people who are All in. No one seems interested in staring endlessly at the television or the deep blue sea. They want to talk about ideas and then sprint out the door to execute them.
There is only one issue I have with New York: the light is no good for painting. As a portrait artist that is a serious concern. But even here I found someone to help. Another artist, Ron Sherr, suggested I use LED lights.
The first day I arrived in New York couldn’t have been more different than Alicante. It was gray and raining. I walked the streets beneath a giant hooded jacket. But I couldn’t help noticing that even in the rain people were moving quickly and they were focused. They had purpose.
Everywhere I looked, someone had designed something from garages with murals to elaborate window displays. I imagined I could feel the heart of the city and I felt elated. I was totally crushing on the city.
It was just the beginning. I was immediately swept up into ceaseless activity. A close friend took me to the Met to marvel at the Impressionists and the Rodin sculptures. We spent another afternoon at the Frick. I visited a friend’s studio in Brooklyn and talked for hours about the challenges of portrait painting. For an artist, the city has so much to offer.
And I experienced day-to-day life. I stood in awe at the bagel shop as a man gave me a real time reenactment of a Seinfeld episode.
There is never enough time in the city. There is so much to do. So many ideas to pursue.
Making the move from Spain has helped me realize that I prefer “interesting” to “comfortable.” I prefer “challenging” to “easy.” I have realized that bliss is living in a place where everyone thinks what they are doing is the most important thing ever.
That may sound inconceivable, but its true.