Saturday, May 4, 2013

Paris = Beauty; New York = Achieve

4AM (Adam K & Soha Remix) by Kaskade on Grooveshark

Some authors believe that the essence of a city can be encapsulated in one word.  

For Elizabeth Gilbert, Rome is Sex.  New York City is Achieve.  Los Angeles is Succeed.  Stockholm is Conform.  

For Daniel BellJerusalem is Religion.  Hong Kong, Materialism.  Oxford, Learning.  Paris, Romance.  New York City, Ambition.  

For me...Paris is Beauty, interminable Beauty.  You want to find an end to it, you want to be able to wipe the stardust from your eyes to say, yes, I have conquered Paris and its beauty no longer overwhelms me, I am no longer under its spell, I can move onto an exploration of another place.  

But it's impossible.  Just when you think you've seen all the beauty you possibly turn the corner, and yet another unexpected vista, church, museum, building, hotel, fashion house, beautiful woman and man takes you by surprise and suffuses you all over again with an intense romanticism.  That is Paris and always will be Paris.  It's why for hundreds of years before and from now, students, artists, lost souls, socialites, celebrities, they all flock to this city and want to be a part of it.  

However, after having lived there for almost a year, I can say...that Beauty may be the only thing Paris has left.  It's a commodity for France.  Tourism is the country's highest income generating sector.  France's gorgeous history, its mellifluous language, the beautiful buildings and world-class museums, its romantic magic.  That's all France has any more because its economy is dead.  Socialism - for better or worse - has strangled entrepreneurialism.  Unless you are involved with a highly nepotistic, entrenched national company (like power or telecom companies) and your uncle or father is a high-level executive, it is practically impossible to do what millions of Americans do every year:  start your own company and succeed.  

So barring being the beneficiary of nepotism or assuming you're not an art history major or wanting an internship at a fashion house or a museum, where do enterprising, ambitious French go?  London or New York City.  

My word for New York City is Achieve, just like Gilbert's.  

I've only just arrived, but the spirit and energy of the city is slowly seeping into my brain.  I'm getting excited again.  This is a city where all your dreams can come true - thriving private/public equity funding, venture capitalism, immense TALENT everywhere (I'm not even kidding, but it seems every single person I have met so far in New York City has at least one degree - usually more - from an Ivy League school or a top 10 arts school such as Julliard), innovation, making a difference, people with big dreams and big hearts.  This is the heartbeat of the city.

Today was a beautiful day.  I was at a friend's apartment, and here is its view of the new Freedom Tower that is rapidly going up near the twin towers memorial:

At the actual site of the Twin Towers are now two pools with the largest manmade waterfalls in the U.S. cascading down their sides.  Together, they are called "Reflecting Absence," honoring the 3,000 people who were killed in the 9/11 attacks.  The sound of the water falling is designed to drown out the city sounds so that the site is a place of quiet and respectful contemplation.

Behind the two pools, you can see what's been dubbed "Freedom Tower," or the new One World Trade Center.  It is going to be 104 stories, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.  It is almost completed. 

Rendering of the completed building.  It's going to be stunning and have amazing views.  I can't wait to go up there.  It will truly epitomize the essence of New York City per Gilbert and Bell: Achieve.  Ambition.    
When I first arrived in New York, I was a little sad to lose the immediacy of the never-ending Beauty that I had been accustomed to in Paris.  But then I thought about all the frustration that a lot of my French friends felt at being stifled in a political system that impedes entrepreneurialism and economic growth.

Every journey has its purpose.  Beauty can be a purpose.  And Paris helped me discover the importance of Beauty, of mankind, its past, its art and creations. It helped me see the need for beauty within me, that's in all of us, but which can be suppressed by the grind of the corporate machine.  Paris unlocked all my deepest passions for not just beautiful things, but a desire to make this world a more beautiful place by doing beautiful things for others.

Now this journey into New York City has a different essence, one that I hope to fuse with the lessons I learned in Paris:  To Achieve.  I'm so excited to see what happens...aren't you?

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