Sitting at a table in an open window earlier this week at Casa Mono, Mario Batali’s small, exquisite tapas restaurant at 17th and Irving in New York City, reminded me of the wonderful documentary Bill Cunningham New York. Mr. Cunningham is the New York Times fashion photographer whose On the Street series captures fashion among mere mortals walking the pavement of Manhattan on a day-to-day basis.
A love of fashion and looking good are, of course, essentials of culture in New York. An hour or two of quiet observation of the Manhattan street scene is, for me, always a welcomed experience.
Immersion in active navigation of New York City’s streets and cultural life and our ongoing engagement with business leaders and teams in the area, provide regular infusions of creative energy, insights and inspiration. Time in New York fuels new ideas and ignites ambition as new possibilities appear around virtually every corner or turn in the road.
As some wise soul once said, New York is millions of people saying yes. Needless to say, I love the City, its people, business culture and cultural institutions.
Let me not fail to mention that the time I regularly spend in San Francisco and Los Angeles also routinely inspires and informs my creativity. Each are different and magnificent in their own way. It’s just that New York is pure, unadulterated energy. Who needs caffeine when there is New York?
Of course, I also love returning to Washington. As I make my way from Union Station to Northwest, where we live, I never fail to appreciate the beauty, lush greenery, sense of groundedness and history I feel in the Nation’s Capital. Once home, walks through our neighborhood routinely involve short chats with a broad array of intelligent, interesting people from virtually every corner of the world. As dogs stop to sniff and play with each other, people will talk.
So, this is how life progresses for me. A life filled with beauty, history and rich conversation in DC, punctuated by creative infusions in New York, San Francisco and LA.
On the other side of the coin, there is the almost constant hum of negativity and incivility that pervades the political culture of DC. To see the world from a different perspective in the corridors of government here is to instantly become the target of vitriolic derision and moral denunciation.
On this day, the one just after the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court surprised the world by crossing ideological lines to cast his vote with “mortal enemies” of the radical right, I ask myself what life would be like if others in the leadership of our Nation’s governmental institutions chose to let go of saying no and spreading recrimination in order to spend a few minutes in pursuit of yes.
Perhaps, along with its rich historical infrastructure, lush greenery, globally diverse culture and intense concentration of talent and intelligence, Washington would be transformed. From the frowning faces of mean-spirited, do-as-little-as-is-humanly-possible politicians, we might suddenly see smiles of joy. On the streets of our fair City, drab pin stripes might even give way to colorful, audacious fashion. Booming entrepreneurship, now largely housed outside the beltway and in select urban corridors in the City, might even find its way to Capital Hill.
Perhaps, if this were to happen, I would not need to look to New York for on the street inspiration. One night, at a local cafe, I might even see Bill Cunningham capturing a blossoming of fashion and audacious creativity right here in my home town.
Who knows? It’s never to late to dream!
Are you listening John Boehner? How about you, Eric Cantor?