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  • Kaelan Brown

Down The Rabbit Hole

And New York is the most beautiful city in the world? It is not far from it. No urban night is like the night there... Squares after squares of flame, set up and cut into the aether. Here is our poetry, for we have pulled down the stars to our will.” - Ezra Pound

I have danced encompassed by stars. I have felt the bliss of warmth thrown on me like a blanket from a city glazed in neon lights. Neon stars, neon signs, neon feelings. I was shining through it all. And how could you not in a place like New York City? From The Bronx to Brooklyn and back again, it’s hard to really explain New York in one story, because every day there brings something new. If I was on a desert island and I had one wish, it would be to invite 8,537,999 random people to come join me. We would call it New York and from there the city would blossom into what it is today. A big beautiful fucking mess. However, I’ve always been a fan of organized clutter. Jackson Pollock paintings, collages, and New York. One big lovely mess.

The thing I think is most interesting about New York is all of the rabbit holes to fall down, all of the easter eggs to find. Since my freshman year in college I’ve taken many midnight trips to the big apple, like a worm with an appetite for adventure. You could find me almost every other weekend of my freshman year standing on the corner of Broad and Boulevard in the dark, alone, at early hours of the morning, embracing a last minute deal from some online, Chinese bus service. Thirteen dollars for a ticket? Sold to the man with the crippled wallet, and not a care in the world to give about it. Id rush and pack my bags with a couple days worth of clothes, catch a quick Uber, and ten minutes later find myself being yelled at in broken english about baggage policies. The stress of these travels was all worth it though. Every second for a second in the city.

My ex-girlfriend, who I met in high school, decided to go to Fordham University in the Bronx before she left in her sophomore year to pursue a degree in media studies at UVA. I would travel all the time to see her, something that was stressful, but most definitely brought wonderful memories. On occasion I would find myself bored in my dorm room of Johnson Hall surfing the web, inevitably crashing onto the sandy rocks of the greyhound website. I would buy a 1:00 am bus ticket and arrive in the city at around 8:00 am, leaving me with a few hours to crawl into bed with Morgan and crash. I remember once arriving in the city at around 3:00 am, the bus dropping me off in midtown. I found myself standing in the middle of Times Square during a snowstorm, the street holding a silence that New York normally does not possess. The only people in the square were those on billboards and posters. I was alone, but surrounded. It was almost like I had landed in the middle of an oasis. The contrast of New York’s endless noise and confusion couldn’t be found on this snowy evening in midtown.

To those who have never been to New York City before, it is very easy to find yourself in situations that are unexpected. Sometimes they’re beautiful experiences, while other times they can fill you with fear. Either way, you’re always in for a ride. My friend Joaquin from high school has spent a couple semesters in New York City working at various music agencies. In the several times I’ve visited him there, I’ve accumulated a number of stories that carry into my songwriting, expanding my creative mind and forcing me to go places I may not have originally gone with my choices and experiences. I remember spending some time in New York once working with Joaquin on a couple of records that never ended up getting released. I was staying at Joaquin’s uncles house on the upper west side. The house was wild to say the very least. His uncle made his living in selling rare and uncommon antiquities and oddities, which accounted for the wild and outlandish decorating of the home. In his youth he was best friends to David Copperfield, the world renowned magician, leading to many of the decorations in the home being carnival or magic themed. The townhome was essentially what would best be described as a four floor acid trip, covered from floor to ceiling in figurines and statues of some of the most outlandish and often scary pieces of art I’ve ever seen. In one room of the house was a vintage roller coaster cart from Coney Island, a centerpiece to a mass collection of Ham radios that lined and covered the walls. Aside from that, gigantic pillows designed to look like various fruits and vegetables were throw all over the variously colored vintage couches that could be found in every room. At any given turn in the house there may have been a statue of a screaming cherub baby riding a sea turtle, or something of that sort. The house was eccentric to say the least, but this is the kind of thing you can find in New York City on any given day.

Again, with every wild and positive experience one may have in New York, there is always going to be one that fills you with fear. I remember being on the subway once, stopping at an underground bodega with a friend to get a late night snack. I was waiting outside of the Bodega, while my friend went in to order when I saw a homeless man rush quickly inside. After a few minutes of standing around outside of the bodega the man burst back out of the glass doors, eyes lit with fire, running towards me in a frenzy. “Out of my way you fuck!”, he screamed as he slammed into me, face forward, running off into the night. On my ass, face staring at the ceiling of the subway station, I was absolutely stunned. New York is not a place to take lightly, as there are many issues with homelessness and drug abuse there. This is all to be expected from a place that is home to over eight million people. New York can be a cruel mistress. My friend walked back out of the bodega with a look of fear washed over his face. Apparently, the man who had knocked me over had been shouting and screaming inside the bodega, asking for cups of various temperatures of water. When the cashier wasn’t able to give the man what he wanted, he had threatened the people in the bodega with a knife that was tucked in his back pocket. After several minutes of silent tension in line for the register, the cashier was eventually able to threaten the man away from the store, leading to my eventual fall on the floor. This isn’t uncommon in the big apple. Crazy things lurk at the end of every street, around every corner, on the opposite end of every door. It’s deciding what doors to open that’s the real adventure.

One of my favorite things about New York City is the kinds of people you will meet there. With a selection of over eight million, it’s hard to not find at least a couple of people you might get along with. One of my favorite people that I’ve met in the city is my friend Joaquin’s Aunt Wendy. Wendy is an eccentric artist, who has made her living off of renting out her home as a space for business meetings and photoshoots. She lives in a well lit Soho apartment with walls of glass filled with aesthetically pleasing art, furniture, and a beautiful view of Manhattan. Her business truly is no joke. Subjects such as Jake Gyllenhaal, David Bowie, and The Strokes have all had photoshoots in Wendy’s apartment. When I first met Wendy, she immediately embraced me as one of her new Nephews, treating me with a spread of bagels, lox, and various fruits for brunch, and an apple pie for afternoon dessert. In this part of the city I find myself living much more lavishly than I ever would have though, oftentimes being treated to brunches with Wendy. Last time I saw Wendy she wanted to show Joaquin and I a new art project she had been working on. She took us into her bedroom where we were met with a mile high pile of cardboard boxes, every inch of them covered in worn out, designer stickers. She explained that for the past several months she had become inspired by the stickers that were posted by people on telephone poles, building walls, and various surfaces all over the city; each with a story, each special in their own way. She showed us the process she used to peel the ones she liked most off of their original surfaces, to later be placed on one of the cardboard boxes that we now saw before us. Only a half hour later, Joaquin and I found ourselves wandering the lower east side, climbing telephone poles with exacto knives, peeling off stickers to bring back to Wendy. In New York City, craziness is ignored, which to me is bittersweet. One could look at this quality in a negative light, claiming New Yorkers to be self absorbed, and distant from those around them, only worrying about themselves. While this may be true, I like to think of this quality as another reason to be creative. New Yorkers don’t care about what people do, which leaves space for the streets to come alive. We were climbing up street signs in the middle of the day, surrounded by people, peeling dirty old stickers off of stop signs and trashcans, and nobody gave us a second glance. Nobody wanted to know what in the world two boys were doing wandering around the city, sticker collecting, but that’s just New York.

I enjoy falling down rabbit holes. I think that maybe if I were a woodland creature, I may be a rabbit. I like to dig, I like to explore, and I can hop from one thing to the next with ease. Spontaneous endeavors and wild adventures in the city that never sleeps; poetry to my ears. Besides the expensive cost of New York City, I don’t think I see any real flaws to it. While some may find the city congested and loud, I suppose I find solace in those environments. I would rather learn to dance than get lost in the shuffle, and noise just makes life come alive in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I think that there are pros and cons to every situation and every place. However, never have I found a place so fast paced in changing and so open to creativity. I think any flaws of New York are easily fixed within moments of them being discovered due to the sheer amount of mental capacity that the city holds. Something being “impossible to find” or “impossible to do” in New York seems like a flawed statement in itself. New York for being as small as it is (in the grand scheme of things) has one huge heart, one hell of a voice, and a shiny exterior, custom painted and curated by the finest artists around. If one wants to find themselves, they need to start opening some doors and falling down some holes. New York has plenty of those to offer, and more being opened and dug every day. I’m still falling down those rabbit holes every time I go there, and maybe someday I’ll find myself popping out on the other side.

I hope I never do. It’s still too fun.

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