Apologies for the gap in posts… It’s been an emotional few weeks and the brain needed to sort out all the happenings and going ons in this little life of mine.
My uncle Victor passed away two weeks ago in California. That was, and is, a sad occasion. When I was growing up in Jakarta, Oom Victor was the funny, clever uncle who was great to be around with. When I was a teenager in California, he and Tante Sara took me into their home in Chino Hills – to finish high school while my parents were back in Indonesia. They welcomed me warmly, and all I could think about was how sucky it was to leave my friends in far-away LA. The morning after I moved in, we received news that my father, mother and I were moving to Tokyo instead, so I didn’t end up living there in the end. I don’t know if I ever thanked my aunt and uncle for their generosity and kindness.
We all know that we are immortal, and that the journey has to end sometime, but I’m guessing that most of the time, we just forget. I forget. And then, when someone who has been in your life in one form or another from the moment you were born moves on, it throws you off balance.
I realize that it has been years since I had actually seen Oom Victor, me being in Munich and him in California. It has been too long with most of my family members. I just haven’t spent enough time with any of them. That was the price of choosing to live in Europe. Besides Opa Broer in Düsseldorf and Tante Carla and her family in Paris, there was no one else nearby. Opa Broer has also since passed. I see Tante Carla and Oom Carmel every few years, when we go to Paris. I see my family only when I visit them, or when they visit me, which requires hours of being in a plane.
What is heartening, though, is that in recent years, the younger generation of Rampens are starting to warm up to the Old World. Alicia moved to London a few years ago, and Ara is studying in Gröningen. It’s a start.
But now that I’m here, I have family nearby again, and I’m really appreciating it. We had Thanksgiving with the Sumitros and with Erik and his family. Friday night, when Dharma Swara performed at the Met, Alex, I’a and Aristo came by. Having them to share the experience grounded it, made it more real.
Because life here is still pretty surreal. I mean, only 11 weeks after adieu, I can actually say I performed with Gamelan Dharma Swara at the Met and the Stone, in New York City. That’s not normal. Things don’t feel normal yet. Like the Christmas tree we bought yesterday, our branches still need to settle.
One way I can describe it is that our existence has new colors. Munich, to me, is blue, white and green. White because it is clean, and there is a certain minimalism to people’s gestures and emotions. Blue and green are for the trees, rivers and lakes, and for the alps, especially in the summer. Life here feels brown, orange and red. It’s vibrant, slightly grimy, and fiery. Things have a definite bite and edge to them.
Yesterday, as I was walking through the residential parts of the Lower East Side, I ran into two fat rats hanging around the entrance to their home – an enormous hole, Tom and Jerry style. This LES rat flat was located on the edge of a huge outdoor parking lot, underneath a wire fence. When they saw me, one scattered into the hole and the other one only moved slightly away, possibly slightly annoyed. And here I thought there was no nature in the City. On another intersection, across the street from the Williamsburg Bridge overpass, I passed by a group of people who had plopped themselves down on metal folding chairs in the middle of the sidewalk, chatting and talking about life. On this unassuming, disheveled corner, dimly lit with amber-colored lamps, with cars passing, people walking, and trash littered randomly about them. Das Strassenleben in New York, halt. They were those “wow Pink, you’re not in Munich any more” moments.
And that is the point, really, of moving. To take in the world that lies beyond the comforts of our cozy couch. And often, what we see is not comfortable at all. Next to the multi-million dollar Trump and other tall towers, homeless people abound. You just gotta be okay knowing you can’t help them all, or even one person. Sidewalks and subways are crowded with people. The streets waft with the smells of baked goods, doggie doo, car exhaust, restaurant vents, urine. Traffic on the potholed roads is grueling. People, even those who earn a decent income, don’t have health insurance. As my hairdresser said, “If I get cancer, I will just die,” because she doesn’t have the right coverage. I see senior citizens do back breaking work, moving furniture or waitering in restaurants, cause they don’t have enough to retire on.
On the positive side, here is a place where people believe in themselves and their talents. Americans, and New Yorkers even more so, are fearless in pursuing their interpretation of a better life. Whether it’s more money, a more transcendent creative expression, better physical strength, or a deeper intellectual knowledge, they will go for what they believe in. People here are courageous, ambitious, tough.
This is why I could, on the way to the Stone, buy the most authentic tasting gluten and dairy free chocolate-dipped donut ever. Because Erin McKenna thought, I’m going to invest a lot of time and money to open a vegan and gluten free bakery, and people will come. And they did. And also why Dharma Swara performed at the Stone – because Matt dedicates his life to brilliant avant-garde musical compositions. And why we performed at the Met, near to some of the most impressive exhibitions of Japanese art in the world. Because DS holds such high standards to their craft.
As I write this, I am listening to the soundtrack of Begin Again, one of my favorite movies of the recent past. All of my creative interests combined into one art form – music, story telling, (cinema) photography. And, it takes place in New York. The movie and music describe my current mood perfectly. If you have time and are inclined, give it a try.
On that note… below images of the more picturesque corners of New York, New York. Because life is short, and you gotta enjoy the joyful moments. Happy Monday all!