Sunday, January 25, 2015

Happy Loftstelversary

Today, January 25th, is an important day for me.

It was exactly 4 years ago on January 25th 2011 that I arrived, cold and wet, at 580 Greene Avenue to embark on a completely life-changing three-month stint in the USA, some of which I spent in Brooklyn and some in Indiana.

I will never forget that time.  It was maybe the best I've had so far.  It did so many wonderful things for me, I did a lot of learning and had my eyes opened to a lot of things.

I will always be glad I made the somewhat irrational decision to skip off to New York City with no clear purpose in mind, no contacts, no friends, no job, no nothing except what was in my case and a bed in a place called Loftstel.
I'll also never forget my arrival at this place.  I landed at JFK, got on the subway and felt immediately at home...until I messed up one train and ended up far from my destination with absolutely no way of finding it - I didn't have a smartphone, not even a map.  And the area I was in was not full of friendly looking coffee shops.  I remember a petrol (gas) station and I remember dark, snowy streets.  Oh yeah also it was like 10pm and there had been heavy snowfall.  So there I am tramping through the snow and slush dragging my case, sticking out like a sore thumb in these deserted and completely unfamiliar streets.  I pretty much decided to let instinct take over and turned out I was right on the money.  I found my way to Greene Avenue, somehow, walked down it until I hit 580 and buzzed to be let in...and that's where it all began folks.
I can remember all this in vivid detail - how the big shoe racks on either side greeted you as you walked in the door, the stairs straight ahead, a living room space to the left, the RA desk round the corner.  I was cold and wet but I'd made it to this warm and bright place.  It was pretty fucking magical in fact. Susan Kimani was the RA on duty at the time so she signed me in and I remember looking at the photos and descriptions of the four RAs that were on the wall and thinking they must all be models...eventually I learned nope, they were just four preternaturally attractive people who in ordinary photos looked like models.  I remember lugging some of my stuff up the stairs and leaving some at the bottom.  All the way up to the fourth floor 6-bed girls room which would be home for the next two months.  I had a top bunk.  Sleeping below me was Kait Snoddy of Manhattan, Kansas.  Across from her was Wave Bonardi of Switzerland who I still count as a soul sister today and was one of the most important people during my time in Loftstel.  Next to her was Camila, an exciteable Italian 19 year old studying dance.  And for a while that was it - we had some others come and go but essentially (Camila left a couple of weeks after I arrived) the room was Kait's, mine and Wave's the whole time I was there.
I met Kait first and we made our introductions and then she took me to the kitchen on that floor where I met a bunch of other people...from my first night I remember Wave, Joe, Erik, Tuan, Camila and Ugur.  Probably there were others but those are the ones I remember meeting right off.

I could continue describing almost every part of my time at Loftstel.  I never want to lose those memories which are very precious to me.  I won't because it would take me forever but I will address some highlights of Loftstel living

  • 25-30 potential new friends/people to hang out with, an ever-changing rota of faces and some constants who became a real core family
  • The fire escape from which you could climb to the roof
  • Being able to see the Empire State Building from my actual bed.  Like, open my eyes, there it is.
  • The weird way we all managed to deal with laundry, cooking, sleeping...I was in a house with all these other people with wildly different schedules, priorities, purposes, habits...but not once did I ever find it a hindrance.  We somehow all just danced very intricate steps that meant noone ever crashed into anyone else.  Hanging my laundry off my bed was a technique I employed to save money on the tumble dryer.
  • Parties, at any given time.  Enough people in one part of the house? Now it's a party.
  • Late, late night philosophical discussions with the fantastic and smart people of the Fourth Floor Kitchen (the best, most sought-after place in the house, for some inexplicable reason)
  • Eating pizza and drinking Malta on the roof in a tshirt in February
  • My first and eventually frequent experiences with deli sandwiches
  • Learning to love the cheapest of all cheap beers
  • Everybody gathering around the back door wanting to play in the snow but also not be cold
  • The inevitable romantic dramas and gossip of a group of mostly 20-30 year olds of varying genders and sexual preferences all living in a house together, drinking a lot and having impromptu parties all the time.  (Although of the four main 'couples' that were happening while I was there, one of them kept it going for a pretty long time...I thiiink they broke up by now but if so it was fairly recent).
  • Erik.  Just...Erik.  He's like noone I've ever met before or since.
  • A guy who I won't name but who was the single weirdest, freakiest individual I have ever come across and will fascinate me til the end of my days
  • My most important Loftstelmates, Joe and Wave
  • My other core people - Kait, Agus, Eduardo, Gbolahan, Erik, Velvet, Adam and then also Gabriel, Fernando, Franco, Diego, Ludmila, Dani Bach, Dani Cornara, Kenso, Susan, Claudia Bach, Montse, Derek, Charles, Kiki, Priscilla and many more
  • Bed Stuy.  A neighbourhood filled with pride.
  • Tiny Cup Cafe where they had the best waffles ever and also delicious biscuits and gravy AND where a little girl drew a picture of me and her dad gave it to me.  Also the place next door to Tiny Cup that had this crazy delicious quiche.
  • The G train...oh G train oh G train...where the fuck are you, most of the time when I'm trying to get places???
  • Little adventures with my people - to parks, to restaurants, to bars (that one time and me and Kait got kicked out cos we were only 20 at the time) to concerts, to movies, to yoga class, even to Carnegie Hall
  • The stoop (front steps) leading up to the main front door which was not in use.  Which made the stoop a great place to just sit.
  • A true, true judgement free zone.  I enjoyed feeling just completely 100% Tessa with blue and pink hair and any hobo-esque, scruffy, scrappy clothes I wanted and so much time spent in sweatshirts and trackies.
  • The cultural exchanges that happen when so many people from different countries live together at once.  Agus and her dulce de leche and mate tea, Velvet and her low budget high fashion, Bholi's insights into the differences between families in Nigeria and families in America, Susan's Binti fashion line, Adam's jazz, Wave and her special coffee maker, me and my tea, the millions of Brazilians commitment to partying.  Not to mention all the languages flying around.
  • Finding a place where you belong simply because you don't know where you belong yet.  

  • Sharing with total strangers a search for whatever it is you will do in life.  Some people have by now found it, some are still searching.  Agus is married.  Charles is doing really well in his dance career in Canada.  Joe lives in Chicago and we talk sometimes.  Wave met me in Liverpool, then again in NY, then she went west to San Diego where she was born to find relatives of her long lost father.  She found them.  Adam graduated NYU and plays music all over the place, I've seen him a couple of times in the city.  I was able to meet both the Danielas on their respective visits to NY while I was at AMDA.  Ludmila got married and had a baby and lives upstate in a grand place with an orchard.  Eduardo is a dear friend who I've also hung out with when he visited.  Bholi and Erik were the people who took me in for my first couple of nights when I arrived back here and Bholi (that's Gbholahan) actually drove me and my luggage to The Strat on AMDA move in day.  
There's some who would read this post and say you're looking back at it with the rose-tinted spectacles of nostalgia but they would be wrong.  You can see from my original blog written at the time that I really did love living there that much.  It was crowded, not everyone was a great person, everything is shared, everyone knows everything about everyone.  But none of that ever bothered me and I never would have wanted anything else.  

Full details are here

Interestingly the post that is exactly four years ago today is entitled 'Touchdown'.  The next one is called 'The first day of the rest of my life?' 
Four years later here I am saying yep, 20 year old Tessa - you were right.  
I knew there was a reason I wrote that blog!

Here's a photographic summary

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