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If You Can Make It There

gottadance

Dozens of wonderful movies have been made about making it in New York City. Heroes and heroines flock to the big city seeking understanding and/or excitement. Often they hail from small towns with nothing more than a suitcase and a dream. They emerge from buses and trains into a bustling mysterious brightly lit metropolis. They pound the pavement for a room and a job, knocking on countless slamming doors (a la Gene Kelly; Gotta Dance! Gotta Dance!) They find a room, perhaps even an efficiency or worldly roommate. They get a job and make it all work. They won’t quit ’til they’re a star!

Movies about the big adventure that is NYC aren’t really made anymore. NYC appears quite frequently in film but less as a place to conquer, and more as a posh playground. They still come from small towns and less glittery cities. But the heroes and heroines of today are more likely to find shelter in a 2,000 square foot loft than a room in a boarding house. Young women don’t share an “interview dress” but news of sample sales. And it’s been a few decades since a call girl found it entertaining to window shop at Tiffany. The scrappiness is gone. The roughing it and hard knock pursuit of a brand new start of it is a thing of the past; and for good reason.

You’d be hard pressed to find a legitimate boarding house in NYC. There are efficiency apartments still holding on, but they’re most decidedly not for out-of-towners. If there are buildings which house nothing but theatrical agents, even Gene Kelly wouldn’t be allowed past security. It’s a different city than it was 80, 70, or even 20 years ago. It is a town less about cab drivers answering back in language far from pure, than it is about gentility. Searching for grittiness can become a scavenger hunt. There is a gloss to the city that doesn’t sleep. Our heroines of yesteryear would not know what to make of bicycle paths, pedestrian malls, man-made beaches and midtown pop-up swimming pools (that are nothing more than oversized dumpsters). For the out-of-towner arriving to make their fame and fortune, these sights might be comforting and not the least surprising. Their perceptions of NYC, gleaned from television & film will be confirmed; it is a luxury cruise ship! The food is copious, the entertainment splashy and every need is easily fulfilled.

Of course there is still a grittiness to be found in the city, and there are still wonderfully diverse foods and entertainment. But it gets harder and harder to live an urban life beyond the homogenization. With each passing year the city becomes more a place for tourists and less for residents. People come from all over the world to see the prescribed sights. The intensity of the city and its lights might be exotic but the ads, retail and amenities are very familiar. A person could come to NYC; complete their tourist attraction checklist while eating, drinking and sleeping in very familiar places. But what of that young man or woman arriving with three bucks, two bags, one me? How do they find their way in a town priced at tourist levels, no longer as welcoming to the young yearning to be free? What does it mean to a city, and a world capital to no longer be the incubator of extraordinary young talent? The world will always welcome bankers and engineers, but what of artists?

NYC will never (willingly) go back to its hardscrabble ways. The tourism dollars are simply too good to turn down. But it is possible to recapture the opportunities and promise of the big city. Dotted throughout the island are examples of how. There is (at least) one subsidized residence for actors. There are small-business incubators supported by the city. There is even health insurance for freelancers. Gathering these meager resources and augmenting them to support artists and innovators would be a great legacy for a mayor. City sponsored art projects, theatres, and music would open the door for those Ruby Keelers and Gene Kellys and who knows whom else. The only way to ensure true diversity is to actively support success. It’s really up to you New York, New York.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2013 in Cultural Critique

 

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@ Work :( TTYL

Have we all heard just about enough about the dangers, both physical and evolutionary, of texting?  Do we need another article haranguing against smart-phones on dinner tables?  Isn’t it crystal clear to us all that “living in the moment” is now only a behavior for which we pay thousands of dollars to experience in a spa? Technology has changed our orientation to the world around us.  But I don’t particularly care about all that right now.

What I do care about is personal phone calls at work.  (Quaint, isn’t it?  That sentence conjures up visions of Judy Holliday at the switchboard.)  For reasons which allude me, the technology of a “phone call” has obscured the intent of the call.  The fact that people needn’t speak to communicate, or use a telephone belonging to an employer, seems to have blurred the lines for many.  Show of hands, how many times has the clerk at your checkout register been tapping his/her acrylics onto a phone?  Have you ever entered a boutique and not heard the shopkeeper on a personal call?  The last time you frequented a restaurant with a host/hostess, were they looking down and squinting, behind their station in the dark?  There are work situations in which personal communication is not only permissible, it is probably encouraged.  I was recently on a film shoot at which the principals (waiting upwards to 15 minutes between takes) typed away, happily passing the time.  But those particular employees were not actually working while making their personal calls.  Their attention was not expected to be anywhere but on themselves.

Now here’s where the rant builds up steam.  I have lost count of how many of New York’s finest I have seen texting or making personal phone calls while working.  I suppose the traffic officer would argue; “Hey, I can give tickets and text at the same time.”  Perhaps, but you’re in uniform and; a) it is unseemly to be engaged in personal activity, and b) you are an officer, and if you’re not seeing something and saying something, why should I?  I have also seen “beat” officers, standing and texting on a corner, officers in squad cars (thankfully, the passengers not the drivers) texting as well.  Now unless that is how the police department now communicates with its officers (and for all I know, it is) I find this truly distressing.

I am not suggesting that we all don’t have personal emergencies that need attention.  But what I’ve witnessed is far more lackadaisical than an emergency would ever suggest.  Somehow, because we have the technology, we’ve decided that rules of the workplace and common decorum need no longer apply.  I’m no techie wonk, but I’m willing to posit, that we’re only going to get more little sexy toys with which to play.  Perhaps we should engage, now, in the real face to face conversations about what is appropriate and what is not.  Maybe I’m just an old fashioned gal, but I enjoy being looked in the eye, be it by a police officer or dinner companion (or one and the same, if it’s Tom Selleck in Blue Blood.)

 

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2011 in Cultural Critique

 

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Vive Le Difference!

I am a feminist.  I do not waiver pronouncing that fact, and do not understand people who do.  “Well, I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, but I do enjoy the right to vote, work, control my fertility, etc.”  Good G-d, just say you’re a feminist.  It’s not a dirty word, and it is not synonymous with man-hating.  But I digress.  I believe that women are much more than the sum of their parts (augmented or otherwise.)  At times, I have resented the male to female reassigned peoples that equate womanhood with wearing make-up and high heels.  I am about as femme as they come, but it is a choice not a condition of my gender.

Here’s the rub.  I live in the world.  My beliefs aside, I know that as a woman I am judged on my appearance far more than my male counterparts.  I also have no doubt that I have used that inequity to my advantage at times.  Like cheese and fish, the gender-physicality-inequity phenomenon, becomes more pungent with age.   One need only turn on the television to confirm that more 60+ actors are considered swoon worthy then 60+ actresses.  Thanks, in no small part to the baby boomers, the pendulum has swayed just a bit in the past decade.  For their part in this incremental change, I’d like to personally thank Helen Mirren and Diane Keaton.  (If anyone had ever told me I’d be thanking an actress for getting naked on screen…)

I doubt the gender-physicality phenomenon will ever be anything other than unequal (on the screen and on the streets.)  It’s just not how we are wired.  One need only walk through an art museum to be reminded that this disparity is not a new phenomenon.  Women (for reasons I won’t attempt to argue) have always been the preferred vista.

Personally, I have made my peace with this situation.  For quite some time actually.  I believe it all balances out.  I don’t take any particular pleasure in pointing out that (socially) men often get the short end of the stick.  Women have far more freedom in expressing themselves.  We have latitude in our attire (if you don’t believe me, try to remember the last time you saw a man going to work in a dress.)  We (mostly) walk through life with an air of perceived innocence (has anyone ever looked askance at a woman alone in a playground?)  We are not viewed as undesirable dating material because we a) don’t have a degree b) live with our mother or c) don’t own property.  We are expected to express ourselves emotionally and physically, and might even live longer for doing so.  For me, the social benefits of my gender far outweigh the physical bias.

I have no issue with the fact (yes, it is fact) that men and women differ biologically.  Having differences is not a license to be treated differently however.  I enjoy and expect equal rights.  I have not a doubt in the world that many many will take issue with all I have expounded upon above.  (Some) women in particular, are very angry at having their appearance be acknowledged in any way.  It’s not a constructive use of anger.  We live in a world of mostly sighted people.  Like most mammals, we use our sight to learn about others and our environment.

So as I age, and hopefully I will, I accept that unlike Mr. Tom Selleck, I may not become increasingly dreamy.  As long as I also get to chide people for cursing (in public) with impunity, talk to unknown small children without being mirandized, and hug and kiss my friends in public without notice, I’m not complaining.

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2011 in Cultural Critique

 

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