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Jimmica Collins Writing the Essay Art in the World Progression 4 Essay Blagovesta 11:00 class March 10,

2010

Drowning on Land Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment. Buddah I didnt come to New York City, I fell into it. Instead of walking off of the airplane to freely discover this unfamiliar urban mecca, I fell out of the air as though I had been dropped right out of the sky, and I landed right into the Hudson River. The tall beanstalk buildings paired with the giant personalities of the fast walking city dwellers scared this small little country girl. The city engulfed me. The same new territory that was once exciting and new, now saddens. It feels like I am submerged into the thirsty throat of the city with no prior warning, or a parachute to guide my fall. I began to miss my loud argumentative family, the smelly farm across the red dirt road, my country undercover lesbian friends, and my nerdy admirer who took my decision to attend New York University the hardest. I begin to long for the things that I was dying to get away from. For me, these aggravating people and places are home. It quickly becomes apparent that I must find another form of home here in my new city in order to be able to breathe freely again as if I were in the crisp country air. In my search for a little piece of home I visited Sylvias soul food restaurant in Harlem for some good Southern comfort food to rid my mind from separation anxiety. Sylvias is a nostalgic place where I can sit and enjoy a meal that reminds me of home. I think of my family, fried chicken at Christmas, and the time when my uncle choked on a chicken bone at the dinner table until my aunt smacked him on the back yelling, Now, you stop that choking!. Remembering sporadic moments like these that should have been caught on camera for Americas Funniest Home Videos, makes me long to have more of those memorable experiences. But the minute after I walk out of Sylvias, I am
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Jimmica Collins Writing the Essay Art in the World Progression 4 Essay Blagovesta 11:00 class March 10, 2010

slapped in the face with the realization that Im not home; home is nowhere on my horizon, I may never see home again. Who is to say whether my home will be there when I return? With all of the fires and earthquakes happening lately no one can be sure. These grim possibilities scare me, and I privately shut down while still sitting at Sylvias dinner table; pushing my head back underwater. The state of mind is highly affected by the physical place in which you happen to be. The happiness and warmth that I thought I could get from Sylvias is now clouded by stupid, lurking fear who likes to pretend that he is my shadow. The restaurant has morphed from being a comforting place to a place of mocking and teasing. I realize that
in looking for places that fit my memory of home I, in turn, was avoiding actually experiencing these places for what they are.

Whether the food or service at the restaurant

is good or not is no longer issue for me. It is the aftershock of being in that place that is now the problem. Sylvias failed to meet my standards of home. I feel trapped in the city with only a replica of home to comfort me. I decided to go to see an off-Broadway show to rinse my mouth from the figurative bad taste of Sylvias and, hopefully, clear my head; a different place, a different outcome. I am determined to experience this place for what it is: A theater. Plus theater has yet to do me wrong. I went to the Linda Gross Theater. The building is a century old newly renovated gothic revival church located on 336 West 20th street in the neighborhood of Chelsea. The theater reminded me of an old English chapel that someone forgot to tear down. Overall, it is a solemn and peaceful place to be in, in comparison with the rest of the always busy Manhattan. The inside of the theater, kind of like Sylvias, takes me back to my hometown of historic Lexington, Georgia with its

Jimmica Collins Writing the Essay Art in the World Progression 4 Essay Blagovesta 11:00 class March 10, 2010

old fashioned, run-down and rusty style, dirty red walls, and oak wood floor tiles. On the small stage, the actors replicate the intense feelings and emotions of characters who are depicted on stage to represent real people. While in the scene, it is the actors job to pretend and act as though their circumstances are true. We, as an audience, know that everything being done on stage are only adaptations of other situations. Every bit of the act is make believe as we allow the story to pull us away from everything else going on in our personal lives. But, after the show is over we leave the theater and go back into the city, not forgetting pick up the emotional baggage that we left at the door when exiting. I see a baby giggling in her stroller after leaving the theater. I think of my niece who laughs at everything. I miss her smile. I tell myself not to cry. But though it, too reminds me of home, the Linda Gross Theater is a completely different experience from Sylvias. After all of the soul food, I feel separated from the city, an outsider, deceived. But as I leave the Linda Gross Theater it is okay that I have been tricked because I am simultaneously deceiving the theater. While I am watching a show, I am invading the privacy of the people on stage. I break down the characters 4th wall, as opposed to them shattering mine. I sit static in my seat, but my mind feels like it has more freedom, instead of being succumbed by memories. In his essay, Hybrid Places, Andrew Blum discussed all of the possibilities that places can be and how they can be more than just a concrete location in space. Blum argues that there are many different components in making somewhere a place. The whole range of human experience is absorbed through [his] particular conscience, Blum states. Our initial expectations and our cognizant decision to feel while at a certain place affects the actual

Jimmica Collins Writing the Essay Art in the World Progression 4 Essay Blagovesta 11:00 class March 10, 2010

experience that a person actually experiences. In the Linda Gross theater, my experience is more satisfying because my conscious self is awake and absorbing what is taking place on stage. At Sylvias my mind is somewhat trapped in overwhelming memories of home, only to retreat back into numbness once those memories dissolve back into the constantly hungry mouth of the city. As I walk back from the Linda Gross Theater, I think about how places in the city affect our conscious and subconscious beings. One place, unpredicted, upsets me as another, soothes me. Blum again comes to mind. He speaks on the subject of the Honest Fake in section two of his essay called Airworld and the Cosmology of Nowhere. I particularly like the phrase, honest fake. It is a rather smug paradox. Reassuringly, I am not the only pitiful person who plays hide and seek with the places themselves. Blum uses the character of Ryan Bingham, from the novel Up in the Air, as an example of an honest fake. Ryan uses frequent traveling as an excuse for never having to emotionally connect with other people. He is never in one distinct place, so each location never has an effect on him. Because he moves so quickly emotions do not have time to settle in his mind. His reasoning is the possibility of being at home
everywhere, because everywhere is like everywhere else. Bouncing ideas from Blum and

Ryan, theater is my honest fake. I know theater is fiction, and I am content with that reality. Meanwhile, Sylvias breaks my sense of trust as she shields my eyes from actuality like a mother who tells her daughter that she can get pregnant from kissing. Being among the comforting soul southern food in the midst of an urban city makes me believe that this new place can be my new sense of home. This is a bold lie. This place is not my place. The city is not my city. The city seems to shy away from me as I

Jimmica Collins Writing the Essay Art in the World Progression 4 Essay Blagovesta 11:00 class March 10, 2010

reciprocate the same, with its many weekend rains, breath taking wind funnels in between the buildings, and un affordable prices. These are part of New York that you dont see in the pamphlets or on the NYU website. The Queens Museum of Art is home to the Panorama, a full scale model of New York City. The replica allows you to see all five boroughs along with its bridges and waterways. While attempting to distract myself from my constant reverie of home, I noticed an aspect of the Panorama that makes the structure designed by Robert Moses as an ideal New York City seem flawed. All of the buildings are there to see, yet the onlooker is not able to see inside of the structures, apartments, or homes. The Panorama allows tourists to see all of New York City at once in a short walk around the art piece, which is a privilege that cannot be attained in the actual city. Yet, the Panorama shuts us out from the deeper personal world inside of the tiny molded structures. Some of the most controversial, powerful, and emotional feelings erupt from what goes on inside of someones home or office, or symbolically someones mind. An ideal Panorama would be one that allows access into the inside as well as out. Looking inside would not stop things from happening, but it would not prevent occurrences and emotions from happening, but it could stop people from ignoring them. Now, as I look back on the small block of Harlem that Sylvias overtakes on the Panorama I know the extended effect that the restaurant has personally had on myself. I no longer see the molded building as just another place in the city; it is now a memory full of warmth, longing, and a small tinge of spite. Wait. Did I really just type warmth as a feeling towards that trickery of a restaurant? Sylvias is most definitely not a warm place anymore. I know Im trying to

Jimmica Collins Writing the Essay Art in the World Progression 4 Essay Blagovesta 11:00 class March 10, 2010

cut myself off from every emotion just to avoid feeling any at all; my Up in the Air syndrome. I use the simplest excuses as a desperate attempt to forget where I am and escape back into my rabbit hole portal; an image that I use to describe hiding from the city with memories of other places. We find the smallest things as an excuse from simply being present. A fellow observer of this human tendency is Rebecca Solnit. In her essay entitled Shape of a Walk she discusses the complexity of walking, and how it is used as an art form. Solnit claims that walking has become an act of resistance to the mainstream. Walking is used as a way of straying away; a simpler, common, yet effective form of separation. The artists described in her essay use their difference within urban society as art. One particular artist whom drew my attention is Richard Long, with his sculpture called A Line the Length of a Straight Walk from the Bottom to the Top of Silbury Hill. Long uses muddy boots like paintbrush along the floor of a gallery. He walks in a spiral as a representation of his complex and continuing experiences. Long says, A walk expresses space and freedom and the knowledge of it can live in the imagination of anyone. He uses his alienation as a positive rabbit hole. No longer is he stuck as I feel when I realize that I am lonely and in an unfamiliar place. Long effectively breaks the shackles that are holding him in place by exploiting walking. Apparently I need to exploit something so that I can finally free myself from these heavy feelings, but I am not sure what. So to try and center my mind in New York, I went to see a show entitled, Our Town, by Thornton Wilder. There cant be any resemblances to Georgia on Broadway. The play opens and there are two mothers in their separate homes making breakfast, washing dishes, and setting the table. Yet, every action

Jimmica Collins Writing the Essay Art in the World Progression 4 Essay Blagovesta 11:00 class March 10, 2010

being done is pantomimed with invisible plates, and imaginary food in an abstract kitchen that the audience is not able to see. The absence of props says that something in their lives is incomplete. As the children finally trudge down the stairs the mothers dont even bother to look at them directly. The families continue their normal everyday routine, absent, in robot form. The entire family has fallen into a trap that sucks the passion and life from each of them. They hide behind their households and their small town, and become contently lost. Our rabbit hole portal in contrast to Solnits art of walking, could actually be the thing that harms us the most. The characters in Our Town lose their sense of place as they go on day by day living like they have a billion years left to live. Their actions relate to what Blum says in his chapter entitled, The Need for a New Model of Place. He explains, Sense of place is first of all an innate faculty, possessed in some degree by
everyone, that connects us to the world. Having a sense of place is what grounds us to who

we are, what we are, and what we are to do. Like the characters in Our Town we tend to get trapped in these places, resulting in a disconnect from ourselves, from other people, and from our presence in the world. All of these places in the city have a drowning affect on me. I see myself, yelling for help, in the souls of the static characters on stage. We

become so content with our situations that we begin to become blind to what is really there. The main character, Emily, dies giving birth after having lived an unsatisfying life. The play challenges the audience, to wake up from their stationary lives and become passionately loving people, experience the adventure in something new.

I want to live, see, and feel absolutely everything that the city wants to offer.

am told by my two protective older sisters to not walk alone in the city at night because, Folks up there crazy and [they] dont wanna have to come up there to hurt nobody!
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Jimmica Collins Writing the Essay Art in the World Progression 4 Essay Blagovesta 11:00 class March 10, 2010

Well, I decided to throw their advice out of my head and walk back to my dorm one night, at two am, alone. With mace in hand, I kept my eyes widely open for even the

slightest hint of rapist movement like I had seen on the show Crime Scene Investigation. I found my night experience to be quite a different experience than walking during the day. During high traffic hours, I am always dodging groups of tourists or trying to get

around slow pedestrians on my way to class. Contrastingly, at such a late hour, I am usually one of the only few people walking down ninth street on my way to University Place. I noticed how peaceful the city actually is when there is time to really listen to it.

The public sidewalk became my temporary sanctuary. I actually had time to think about moments of my day, from the cute guy who turned around wearing a gay pride t-shirt and the disappointment that swept across my face afterwards, to the dining hall lady who gave me extra veggies in my salad because I complimented her new haircut. There was a light chilly breeze on my face as I was able to look up at the buildings for once. The shape of the building in front of my dorm is a beautiful pyramid like rectangular prism that I never had a chance to notice before. I took in a deep breath of city air. And you know what? It wasnt as bad as I thought it would be. Works Cited