“New York is cold, but I like where I’m living
There’s music on Clinton Street all through the evening.
I hear that you’re building your little house deep in the desert
You’re living for nothing now, I hope you’re keeping some kind of record”
Released in 1987, Jennifer Warnes “Famous Blue Raincoat: The Songs of Leonard Cohen” made an indelible impression on my 25-year-old self, specifically the title song. I had always dreamed about possibly residing in a desert. At that time, pop culture had a lot of references to a barren bleakness including “Baghdad Cafe”
, U2’s “The Joshua Tree”
and from a couple of years before, the lesbian film “Desert Hearts
” to name but a few deep cultural examples. In each piece of entertainment, there was always something profound to be discovered, a new relationship to oneself or to another. Like Bono sang in the defining “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”
— the message was clear from the album’s title and the video to the song which featured Las Vegas that in the desert’s burning heat and atmosphere, one could become a phoenix, rising up from self-created ashes.
Then, I zigzagged my way below Manhattan’s 14th Street that dividing line between the art world and the 9-to-5 achievers. After a series of broken hearts and breaking a few — in tragic ways on my part — I found myself living on Lower East Side’s Clinton Street, a few steps from the corner of Canal Street. It was a 2500 square foot loft apartment above a Chinese refrigeration unit that kept food cold. Keeping a home above a business that was chilling things down was great during NYC’s muggy summers, not so hot during the winters.
Twenty-five years later, after traveling the globe, having a semi-satisfying career, I found myself wanting. Looking at the end of the road for, hopefully, another 50 years, what is it that I feel I should accomplish or try? What would make me feel that I hadn’t left a proverbial stone unturned? I hope to unravel these personal mysteries and hopefully, while I do, let go of fear, letting others do the same. In all seriousness, I’m scared shitless more than half the time. How do I step out and become what I always wanted to be?
So, at the age of 50, I find myself, as Leonard Cohen wrote in Famous Blue Raincoat “building a little house deep in the desert” more than prescient. Although, I’m not technically building a house — it’s built — we are refurbishing a townhome in the Palm Springs area and I do go back to Los Angeles several times a month for work and social activities. Also, I’m not living for nothing, I’m changing my life path and I’m keeping a record, like so many before me.
It’s funny how it all works out.