On London, and what it means to be an artist

11/24/16

It’s Thanksgiving Day and I’m in London town.

I haven’t been to London since 2003. I like it, I guess, but it always felt remarkably similar to NYC.  Apart from seeing my family, there wasn’t much of a point in visiting.

It felt appropriate to get out of the US given the election results and the fact that Thanksgiving is largely a bullshit holiday, with the exception of the gratitude it should bring out in all of us.

I try to avoid being a traveler who seeks a replica of the place they live. I sometimes fail in this, because I enjoy a well-decorated, homey cafe. Neighborhoods with art galleries, fun little lounges with room for dancing and couches for chillin’, live music spots, and colorful locals are my jam and are some of my favorite elements of NYC. I find myself unconsciously seeking these places and people when I travel but I humbly accept their absence. Better yet, I love the local take on a familiar favorite.

London

London is cool though, in its own right. On this trip I skipped the usual sightseeing jaunts like the palaces and Big Ben, in favor of checking out a couple of new (to me) neighborhoods, Camdentown and Shoreditch.

London, England, double decker bus
London, 2016

Camdentown

How to sum up Camdentown? In short, it’s busy af. Thanksgiving means nothing to the Brits but late November is part of the holiday wind up.

The Camdentown market was jam packed with shoppers. I have almost completely renounced my shopping habit (almost), so I didn’t really enjoy wandering through the crowd and checking out chintzy ‘I love London’ gear on the main road or the funkier yet poor quality tops and jeans in the market proper.

The fish and chips I had were bangin’ though!

Mmmmmm.
Hook, Camdentown, London.

And, the cafe I’m drinking wine and writing in is freakin’ adorable.

Sexy.

Shoreditch

The winding streets and alleys of Shoreditch are dotted with funky street art and graffiti. Vintage shops filled with overpriced dresses and stylized jeans abound. I stood in front of many in search of a wifi signal. The occasional offbeat cafe restaurant draped in a royal blue and white motif or covered with floor pillows made me yearn to ruminate in them, write, and well, ruminate in them.

I wandered into an art gallery full of thought provoking pieces in mixed media.

By Lola Michaels. Espacio Gallery, Shoreditch, London. Nov 2016.

The beautiful piece above inspired me to reminisce about the good old days with my relatively recently departed Dad. RIP.

As I turned to leave, the girls at the desk started chatting me up. One asked if I was an artist. I’m always surprised to get this question, feeling like its obvious that I’m a doctor, when it’s clearly not. Then I think, ‘Ooooh, maybe because my outfit is so awesome today people think I look artsy.’ It’s also usually not that.

I sheepishly replied, ‘No.’ then added, ‘I’m an aspiring one.’

‘What kind of art?’

‘Writing, but I’m just starting out’, I repeated, armpits moistening. We chatted a bit more about Harlem and NYC before I left.

Why didn’t I claim the title of artist? Part of me feels like an imposter doing so; I’m well acquainted with this feeling from my medical training.

One doesn’t need degrees to be an artist (although people will gladly charge you for them).  To be an artist in its purest form, you only need to be making art.

It need not be stellar and it need not even be shared. It just needs to exist. This is enough to make it beautiful and worthwhile. I have to remember that my writing (even when its mediocre) and whatever else I make is a part of this.

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