It wasn’t long ago when I made a habit of traveling to New York City every winter.
At one point, I had an opportunity to settle there. I gave it some thought, but I decided against it. I knew too many people here in the L.A. area. And my father had just joined the rest of my family here in Southern California. After being in the same business for about 45 years, he had sold his leather tannery and made the move to the “New World” permanent.
I don’t regret not moving to New York. I wanted to catch up on lost time with my father.
Regardless, I do have many memories of my stay at my aunt’s house on Murray Street in New York City. She lives two blocks from where the twin towers used to stand.
New York City transforms you. I’d never been a believer in generalizations about city cultures, but after a few trips to New York, I came closer to the belief that there is a great difference in outlook between the two coasts.
Perhaps this is a product of the weather, or the way our urban life is set up. Or maybe the fact that New York is closer to Europe has something to do with it. I am not implying that Europeans are more intellectual than us. I’ve met my share of airheads from that continent.
I can’t even claim that in the realm of art Europe is ahead of America. Many of the world’s best contemporary artists happen to be American.
But being closer to Europe does give New York a certain sense of cosmopolitanism. And I am sure the weather has a lot to do with the apparent differences in culture. New York winter makes you have a different wardrobe for every season. You have to put some thought into the boots, the long coat and the hat. Somehow, a person with a black hat, a gray scarf and suede gloves looks more intelligent than the person in jeans and a white T-shirt. It could also be that I am being the superficial Angeleno.
In New York, you can’t be outside for long periods of time during winter. Staying indoors and having friends over can be a productive way to spend time. When you have friends over, you have to talk. And when you talk, you are exercising the brain.
The way New York City is planned (or not planned) lends itself to certain activities. The best museums in the world are only a few subway stations away. And after an intellectually challenging visit to the Museum of Modern Art, you can drop by at a local Italian eatery and cap off the evening with a visit to a jazz bar.
You can be home by 11 p.m. without worrying about where to park your car or whether you’ve had one single malt too many.
After coming back from New York, I’d have withdrawals. Keeping the subway map handy on the bathroom wall always reminded me that there is another world on the other coast. I’d always promise myself to stay involved in the art scene even after my return to California.
There are enough museums and galleries here in the Los Angeles area to keep me occupied. But after the first few weeks of genuine attempts to explore the arts here, I’d lose steam.
I am a member of Los Angeles County Museum of Art (I think my membership has not run out, I have to check). And in my search for new museums, I came across the L.A. Louver in Venice. During my visit there, the director gave me a suggested list of all the local galleries worth visiting. That was about three years ago; I still have the unused list somewhere.
I can blame the geography of our densely populated county for my lack of drive. But ultimately, I find it hard to be as interested in the art scene here than when I am in New York City. In some ways, art lovers in Los Angeles may even be more dedicated than their counterparts in New York City.
Here in Glendale and the surrounding areas, there are few options to stay connected to the art scene. Traveling to the Westside increases those choices exponentially. And although the collections of museums and galleries cannot be compared to the grandeur of the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, there is enough to keep the dedicated involved.
I need to refurbish my dedication. I am going to start with baby steps by dropping by at Harvest Gallery to see the group show “Inner Dialogue.”
Next step is to find that list from three years ago.
PATRICK AZADIAN is a writer and the creative director of a local marketing and graphic design studio living in Glendale. He may be reached at respond@ fromthemargins.net.