When I got to NY, my iPhone stopped working. So I asked a lovely woman at a desk at the airport, and she gave me a tight set of directions to 4th street where I needed to go. In following her directions a man that smelled of white rum offered me assistance, very kindly, whilst not so discretely taking $10 from me. It was the nicest mugging I have ever experienced. Not a great start; in the rain, with a backpack I could fit into and still on 6am GMT….I found my way home eventually (which involved a lovely woman called Linda getting out of her cab, letting me use her phone, and teaching me how to effectively get a cab myself).
I think such a grainy start had an impact on my next day in the city, which resonated with a quote my friend Scott gave me when I told him how I was feeling…
“What gives value to travel is fear. It is the fact that, at a certain moment, when we are so far from our own country… we are seized by a vague fear, and the instinctive desire to go back to the protection of old habits. This is the most obvious benefit of travel. At that moment we are feverish but also porous, so that the slightest touch makes us quiver to the depths of our being… There is no pleasure in traveling, and I look upon it as an occasion for spiritual testing… Travel, which is like a greater and graver science, brings us back to ourselves.” — Albert Camus
This quote really made me appreciate my situation. I have been stripped of my securities and as a result. I am more open to learning than ever. As a result I feel vulnerable but because of that, I am about to learn faster than ever!!
I went to an open mic at The Nuyorican call ‘All That’ where I realised – the quality of poetry in Mouthy and the UK isn’t just a UKthing, it is a global thing. In other words – yes I smashed it. And the atmosphere was lovely, I got invited to brunch and raving I also went to a crazy sounding poetry show at The Bowery where a man made a lot of insane (skilled, but still insane) noises for an hour then insulted his audience repeatedly. And I learned even more that seeing what you don’t like is equally as educational as experiencing what you do.
But the Poetry highlight was definitely the Knicks Poetry, Urban Wordpoetry slams where hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of scholarship fee’s are up for grabs and the finals sell out Broadway. This concept is exciting – because it shows how big poetry can be.
I felt so alone my first couple days, staying in a BnB set up. But after that I moved to stay with my SERVAS hosts: individuals, households and families that are willing to take in strangers because they want to learn more about the world and share their food and thoughts.
My first host was Sarah-Jay a writer and businesswoman took me into her house inQueensand business owner and mother of two and she is a total inspiration. I came at a bad time, so she said she couldn’t spend much time with me but still managed to set up my room and have numerous conversations with me; about teaching her children Spanish, illegal milk and food to name a few. I found talking to her very soothing, and I found watching her work so hard as a mother and a business woman very inspirational. People always tell me I will run out of energy one day, when I lost her mid conversation to a work call at 9pm for 30 minutes, I realised how untrue that will be.
My other host was physiotherapist Jacqui Bishop in (desperate housewives style beautiful) White Plains. She was like that crispy chip at the bottom of the bag that has soaked up all the vinegar. She makes the whole bag of chips worth it. She picked me up from Grand Central towards the end of my time in NY and offered me a car tour of NY; times square, The Brooklyn Bridge, The George Washington Bridge, The Statue of Liberty, The UN building. As well as sneaking off every now an again to find a baked good for us to share. We soon became friends, discussing spirituality, child raising, self honesty and society over great sushi, sushimi, black ink tortelini or poetry. She came to all of my poetry events with me, gave me one of her books on ‘The importance of Forgiveness’ and let me stay in her mediterranean multicoloured home. I didn’t want to leave her! And I left knowing I would see her again.
So there it is, I had to sit on it, take out a few pairs of underwear and a towel to get the zip shut but that is NY in a 65 lt backpack (minus the crazy raving with a fantastic new friend called Katie, my first raspberry macaroon, self destructive shoes and missing Joel so much I ate his sleeping bag…but we can save that for when I get back and you all start asking me how it went).
You can read more of Deborah's journey here Mouthy Poets Blog
Article by Deborah (Creative Writing) / 22nd December 2011