On the day, I went away (good bye –aye-aye)
Goodbye was all, I had to say (now I-aye-aye)
I want to come again and stay…
There are times in life when there is nothing for it, but to channel your inner Frank ‘n’ Furter, and give in to your deepest desires. Which is a long-winded way of saying I am gong home, to New York. My spiritual home, my Transylvania, my rock. Ok, it may only be for 4 days but that’s enough time to re-fuel, to see how it’s doing, to fall in love again.
I read a statistic the other day that said the USA was the second most popular place for British Ex-pats to emigrate to after Australia, with 29,000 of us moving there every year…Am I missing something here? It’s hard enough to get in for a holiday, let alone move there…Brits are no longer allowed to enter the Green Card lottery because there’s too many of us there, I don’t want to be a student again (and that would only give me access for a limited time), I don’t have any special talents (well not any I can write about here) which would get me an O-1 visa…see I have done my research and I just can’t see a way in permanently…God I am boring myself now. So I accept I may never live there, but as long as I can visit twice a year I think that’ll do me (which means I can’t give up the day job any time soon then).
Anyway, I’m sure you don’t want to read a blog about me going on holiday so instead I’ll tell you the story of when New York changed my life. 18 months ago I made the radical decision to attend a screenwriting course there, and got on the plane 3 days after finishing a very long work contract. I hadn’t written a creative word in at least 12 years and we were asked to turn up for the course the next day with 3 ideas for screenplays. I usually love long plane journeys for catching up on movies but this one was spent in a state of panic staring at my closed laptop which had only ever been used for spreadsheets…not a single idea would form in my head, this fear, coupled with the fact I was convinced everyone on the course would be 21 year old trustafarians made my first day at the New York Film Academy terrifying. I believe I was actually trembling when I arrived for registration. We were herded into a room and the two tutors introduced themselves before going round the room, asking us our thoughts on the best and worst films. At first I couldn’t think of a single film, let alone my favourite so I ended up with obvious choices – Best: It’s a Wonderful Life. Worst: Titanic. I have a habit of accidentally arguing the opposite of what I believe so I may have actually stated that the wrong way round that day, but I don’t think anyone was too interested – they were all trying to think of cool films to quote themselves. Afterwards a British-sounding girl next to me said ‘Who wants to go to the pub?’ I put my hand up first and a joke was made about Brits and drinking and several of us (of many nationalities) trundled off to the nearest sports bar.
There is something strange about the first time you meet people who will become life long friends. It is almost as though time stands still and there are three people who were there that night whose faces I will remember forever as they were that evening, etched on my memory. On my first day at senior school one of my (still) best friends came over to me and said, ‘You look alright, do you want to be friends?’ and I can still see her grinning innocent 11 year old face every time I look at her…Clearly I am attracted to the people with good opening lines.
The next day we were split into groups. Our group consisted of ten of the most diverse, interesting people I have ever encountered – not a 21 year old trustafarian in sight, and a tutor who seemed to care passionately about his subject.
The next two months were very Dead Poets Society if you like (though nobody killed themselves at the end) whoops *spoiler alert with a bit of The Breakfast Club thrown in… each of us played to our individual stereotypes while re-enforcing them and then breaking them down with every new discussion and twist of the story. There were a lot of stories told over that time, and we got to know each other through our thinly veiled descriptions of ourselves – sorry – our ‘characters’, from the roles we played in each other’s screenplays, from exploring New York City together and from the endless karaoke nights.
There was something so natural about this progression from ‘the fear’ on the airplane to the warm friendships (and actual screenplay) which developed that I hardly noticed the transition until it was gone. We all went back to our corners of the globes, with different lessons learned from the same experience. I’m sad to say it is unlikely that we will ever be in the same room together again, but that moment in time will remain with us forever.
I always loved Richard Dreyfuss’s’s last words at the end of Stand By Me.
“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?”
Well Rich, I have, I met people who have impacted on my life as much as any of my friends did when I was 12 and the fact we were learning together and discovering a new world in the same way we had done when we were when we were 12 made it a unique experience in my life and if I ever lose sight of why I am trying to be a writer I will remind myself of that time and the memory of those faces will propel me on to make it happen for them, for us.
This weekend at least three of us will be together again in New York and we will tear up the town like we did that first time, make new memories, recollect the old ones…and, most likely, drink too much and sing out of tune…so erm….see ya!