I recently had a chat with two incredible artists and nomads, Tony and Chris, that touched on the subjects of being infected by the travel bug, living as an expat, ex-loves, Brooklyn (past and present), Berlin (past and present), possible future, illegitimate children, and the creative and spiritual energy of Bali.
Tony speaks in stories, with the accompanying accents and quirky mannerisms of all the people he’s talking about. In less than thirty minutes, he was a German, a Brit, a Nigerian, an American, a Frenchman, and a Cambodian– he was all the people he had met, and of all the places he’s been. Fascinating, and funny; undoubtedly, funnier than the very people he impersonated.
Like all conversations with people you’ve known for almost half your life, the “Do you remember…?” moments arise, and naturally, the the three of us started strolling down memory lane. It was much like music: heady, swirling, pulsing, quick, enriching, rushing in.
Tony: Do you remember going to Buttercup Lounge? Yea, you remember. Walking down slick streets looking for the next party, dancing at Moes, sitting at the bar at Frank’s, drinking too much tequila, reclining in the park in Paris with a baguette? Do you remember playing Scattergories, Brooklyn Moon, visiting Copenhagen, lounging on the couch at Bar 25 in Berlin and confetti falling from the sky? There were things that I hadn’t thought about in over a decade that only needed a jog to the memory bank to come alive…and there was NY as it was in our twenties– dark, it always seemed to be night, reckless, half tipsy, bipolar– at once euphoric and depressed, rainy, loud, frenetic, sleepy, cynical, broke but never broken, and brimming with life.
There were other remembrances: Do you remember the underground place in Brooklyn where we had to knock twice to get in, the exonerated woman, Geraldine, you spoke to all night, the low ceilings of Ludlow Bar, eating pepperoni slices from Ray’s at 4am, going to church after 9/11, then Fort Greene Park, summer barbecues iun Long Island, cupcakes at Sugar, Sweet, Sunshine, and Stevie Wonder, a soundtrack for life, early in the morning?)
The most fantastic thing about traveling, as Tony pointed out, is that it keeps one in a state of learning and growing. He says traveling subtracts five years from one’s life. A) In a new country, one can be fresh…. at least, in the beginning. Then, there you are again, as they say, wherever you go there you are, and it may just be time to move. B) In a new country, you’re bound only by your own imagination. No judgments, no expectations. C) In a new country, you meet new people who are much like the people you left behind, except you haven’t had the fights with these new friends yet, and you may never, because you’re not the same person you once were…and it’s true, you care less.
Chris pointed out that we’re transients; we need to move, to go, to feel new earth, to see. It’s an incurable wanderlust. Give me new: What else, where to, who to? He wondered aloud how long it would be this way, and I wondered silently if there’s any hope for us? To stay in the same place for more than three years, five years, one month– interesting. When I think of leaving, the itch of excitement comes, and last year, I met so many people who were just the same– we are not alone.
“…..It was already late
enough, and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–” (The Journey, Mary Oliver)