Saturday, May 21, 2016

A New York Minute

We’ve been moving cows to grass. May is rushing by. But I’m not ready to leave April until I write about my trip to see Callie in New York City.  Words and photos, this is how I deal with the passage of time and events, and my children turning into adults. I’ve never understood how other mothers can stand it if they’re not doing the same thing.  

I don’t know if Callie even knows what a “New York Minute” is, but she can probably guess. The expression attempts to describe the fast pace of the city. Johnny Carson explained it once as that instant between when the light turns green in Manhattan and the car behind you honks the horn.

It was the first time for me flying and traveling such a distance alone. Callie’s sweet face greeted me at LaGuardia and we shared an indulgent late night taxi ride back to her apartment. Just grabbing a taxi from the line in front of the airport was an adventure. The rest of the trip was the same, me tagging along as she lived her life. We strolled through the cherry trees in full bloom at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and dodged Sunday morning traffic on our bikes to brunch and back. We experienced the quiet awe of the 9-11 memorial and hoofed it though the east side and the west village. It was a treat to watch Callie at two dance rehearsals and see her in her element, cussing and discussing artistic expression.

Callie’s Crown Heights community of Brooklyn is predominantly West Indian/African-American and Orthodox Jews. It was a bit unsettling the first time we visited, but by now I feel at ease walking the streets.

Callie commutes everywhere by subway. She does it by rote, glancing at her phone from time to time checking routes as the stations whiz by. I enjoyed following her lead, free to observe the other travelers who avoid eye contact with you. One night a large black man with a beautiful booming bass voice was playing guitar on the platform. A middle aged white woman with boots and a long skirt got off a train and when she heard him, broke into song, harmonizing for a single verse and one chorus, and then stepping back on the train with a big smile. The guitarist, who had been looking down, raised his head and grinned as the wind hit us from the departing train. All in a New York minute. 

Callie dances with a company that performs outdoors, often in public spaces where the “public” might be in the midst of the performers. The venue is very much an element of the art.

The diversity of the city was evident at one rehearsal in particular in Battery Park on New York Harbor. Juxtaposed against the dancers were the local Hasidic Jews out celebrating Passover. The Jewish men were clad in black cloaks and hats and side curls, the women in wigs and modest skirts. They have large families and many young mothers were pushing a baby stroller. The tourists were there as well speaking unintelligible languages, as were the ubiquitous joggers, huffing and puffing and weaving their way through the strolling masses. They all watched Callie and the other performers with interest, but not surprise, as it was just another day in this city of contrasts.     

The highlight of my trip was the evening performance by her dance company, Kinesis Project, as part of their annual fundraising gala. We guests watched from an overhead balcony as the dancers performed on a perfect harbor evening with the Statue of Liberty in the background.

Sometimes when I lie in bed at night, I think of my daughter and imagine myself above the U.S. landscape whizzing across the countryside following a meandering route eastwardly to the Atlantic Coast. I picture the Rocky Mountains, the plains, the cities and farm ground, the Mississippi River, the homesteads and traffic, until I arrive at her Brooklyn brownstone. It is a surreal feeling and is comforting and unsettling at the same time.

She went to New York for the opportunities of the dance world. She didn’t realize it would instead be a coming of age, a reckoning with herself, and more difficult than she could have imagined. She now has the city and its challenges firmly under her belt and is ready to slow down, get back to nature and closer to home, but she’s having a hard time leaving her friends and artistic community. She repeatedly sets a departure date and then moves it back. She seems a little more determined this summer to make the move and I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but in the end I just want her to be happy. 


the performance
 photo by Stephen Delas Heras

the fabulous cherry trees at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden