I went to New York Central Art Supply in the East Village this morning to pick up more paper for our sampler gift boxes and I admit I got a little carried away. I LOVE paper and I haven’t been to this store in well over 7 or 8 years. Along with our usual Tibetan sunflower paper, I also picked up a nice gray paper and this delicate white rice paper to play around with. We’ve been getting quite a few wedding favor inquiries so I wanted to experiment with packaging.
Unlike the East Village, New York Central has hardly changed since the years I used to frequent it way back when I was an art student at the Cooper Union a few blocks away. It was nice to be back after so many years and still feel like it was familiar. The surrounding neighborhood, however, is hardly like it was when I lived on St. Marks during college…or even just 8 years ago when I lived on 12th street (crap, I’m freaking old). I don’t come to this neighborhood very often so I forgot about the new stuff like that curved glass monstrosity that’s sitting on the former parking lot of the old Carl Fischer building that we used to cut across every day. It’s hard not to think of old memories whenever I pass by that old Cooper building. I look up at the 5th floor windows and think about how we threw eggs from that window, aiming at the then Cooper Chicken awning across the street (I know, TERRIBLE, but we were 18). It was a weird time to be in art school – the country was in recession and war in the early 90s – and I lost my interest in art. What I do remember about those years was that I grew up and actually lived life. I’m not saying that I had a sheltered childhood, but I spent so many years in high school focused so intently on drawing, painting and sewing, that by the time I got to Cooper, it really wasn’t all that interesting to me anymore.
Walking around in the drizzle today, I recall the morning I walked home from a friend’s apartment 2 months into my freshman year. It was my first time staying up all night with friends since I moved out of my parent’s house and it all felt terribly grown up. The group was mostly older, in their junior year, and we talked about art and life and looked at paintings in this smoke filled studio. When I left it was already at the cusp of dawn. The streets were eerily quiet and empty and I walked home alone down Lafayette towards Chinatown totally and completely happy.
You may guess by now that I am a complete nostalgic sap. When I moved to the West Coast after the Cooper years, I met my match in nostalgic sappiness through a classmate in music class. We later shared a house with 2 other people in Portland (Mark being one of them) and one of our favorite things to do was stay up late till the wee hours of the night, talking and reminiscing about New York. We didn’t know each other then, but we lived parallel lives (me at Cooper, him at the Jazz Program at the New School) and we both left the same year to come to Olympia to study music. We would lounge on the couch and stare at a NYC subway map that he had taped up on the wall and talked like old folks about food and restaurants, beloved streets and neighborhoods, and characters and experiences that we shared in common. Good times.
I’m actually better about letting go of the past since I’ve had kids. It’s not hard to do when you have so many things to look forward to, but when you live in the town you grew up in, it’s hard not to run into shadows of your former life.