March 7, 2007

Arrival in Gotham :1


Since my blogger's mind seems to have skipped a track, I thought I might take a look back... and put up bits a kind of memoir I've been working away at. It's the story of my trip to NYC to become a children's book artist. The pictures are from my first portfolio that I took to New York.

Arrival in Gotham

The skyline appeared in the dim light of early dawn... must have been 4 or 5 in the morning.. there is was at last, we’d arrived. New York City! Skyscrapers bit into the skyline from one end of the horizon to the other. Immense, gigantic, huge... I’d think you run out of words to try and describe the view of New York from Weehawken or Parassamus or wherever the hell the bus was from across the river. But I was there at last... Manhattan. After sitting on the bus for what seemed like 3 days all the way from Denver I had finally arrived!

It was all so exciting... holding my breath as the bus ducked under the Hudson, through the first of many dark subterannean New York City tunnels filled with grime and ancient tiled walls. They all had famous names and bundles of electric cables and ventilation shafts and everything was covered with grime and dirt and beatup and crazy. All the way down the Hudson... all the way from Denver I’d been reading a book about New York City. It was a children’s book from the 1950’s with descriptive articles and hand drawn pictures of all the city’s sights. That’s what I was here for anyhow... to become a real artist. A children’s book artist more specifically.

My luggage consisted of one army surplus duffel bag filled with all my earthly posessions. Weighed about 45 pounds. I had $800 that I’d saved up working in Seattle. I was going to the Parsons School of Design on 10th street and 5th Avenue... right down in Greenwich Village. And it was all scary and exciting as hell.

There’s no describing the smells of underground New York. It’s a mixture of fumes, electricity, oily machinery toiling in the dark, urine and whatnot. The bus driver leaned out his window and yelled something about a garbage strike going on... and I noticed there were mountains of garbage stacked up everywhere. This is it.. the big time.

Hitting the streets, I basically didn’t know anything about NYC. I’d visted New York about 10 years earlier when I was in high school... but that was just a two day visit to Forest Park. This was something entirely different.


It was 6 am on one of those soaking humid late August mornings. First impressions are strong... and my first sight in the early morning dusk was of the trashed out empty streets outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Empty except for a lineup of transvesties all dressed up as glitzy women leaning against an alleyway. ‘Weird!’ I thought to myself and hurried on my way out of there. I remember one black dude in particular with an elegant woman’s hat on, a purple blue feather and matching dress... smoking a cigarette and blowing violet smoke into the thick damp air.

Other first impressions... giant 3 foot potholes oozing toxic bizarre unknown liquids. Could it be milk? Some sort of resin? It looked like milk, but that was all I could guess. Busted down everything.... signs busted down and coated with that special NYC grime... busted air vents, busted street lights, busted windows, busted everything. But the main impression was one of being towered over by the city... like a little scurrying bug where most everything was way up above me as I made my way through the streets below.

So... there go I, with my duffel bag over my shoulders on a hot August morning... arrived in New York. I walked. Walking was probably the ‘flight’ part of the ‘fight or flight’ panic thing. I walked and walked and walked... all the way over to 5th avenue and then all the way down to 10th street. Looking at the map I guess it’s about 3 miles or so... seemed like a long walk. But it didn’t occur to me to take a bus or subway.

(to be continued... maybe)


Paige Keiser said...

Wow, John! These are illustrations are fantastic and beautiful! What's interesting is even though the style is completely different, I can still kind of tell it's you.

I hope you continue your story as I'm eating it up! For one, I LOVE New York city, and two I want to see what happens in your journey. Why, I felt like I had been watching one of those exciting movies where it stops and suddenly says the dreaded words'to be continued.' :0)

June said...

Please do continue... I am hooked too!

John Nez said...

Thanks for reading along, ya'll. Devoted readers!

Not to worry... I wrote it out all the way up to where I landed my first book.


Anonymous said...

This is very interesting John. It's amazing how different your style was back then and how it's evolved into the style it is now.I love reading your blog!

gail said...

I love that first illo! I can see your style there. Funny how certain things just stay with you. Yes! Please continue. I've never been to NY. I want to know more!