Everyone is in love with a ‘Golden Era’. I mean, if you believe a certain Woody Allen movie at least, we’re all desperately nostalgic folk at heart, each of us secretly convinced we don’t belong in our own time. Perhaps we wonder if we’d have made a better fit in some long-dead decade. Did we miss the music that was really for us or the fashion? Or was there some other long ago spirit or sparkle that didn’t quite have the patience to wait for us?
In my case it was probably the 1960s. Not so much the fashion or the music (although I do sometimes wish I wore a beehive) but the spirit. That was the decade of revolution and change in every sense.
I think a lot about moments, about eras, about timing – possibly because I have absolutely no sense of the latter. But it’s fascinating, right? Why did our greatest classical artists – Michelangelo, Rafael, Leonardo da Vinci – all breathe the same Italian air? Why were three of the world’s most influential philosophers – Plato, Aristotle, Socrates – all knocking about together in Ancient Greece? Why were two of America’s greats – F Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway – drinking side by side in that magical Paris of the 1920s?
There had to be something in the air. Creativity doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It needs inspiration. It needs encouragement. It needs chaos and contrast and, for me at least, apparently it needs Bogotá.
Embarrassingly, I’ve just – literally, right this moment – come to the end of a prolonged spell of writers’ block. You may remember that I travelled from Cuba to El Salvador this Christmas, via Mexico, Belize and Guatemala? Well could I think of a damned thing to write about? Nope. Not a bean. Not even in Cuba, a country I’d long dreamed of visiting. Instead I resorted to photographs, other people’s poems and one of my essentially pointless ‘101 Reasons’. I even told a friend that Banana Skin Flip Flops had abruptly come to an end.
“I just can’t think of anything to write about,” I whined. “That’s it. It’s done. There is absolutely nothing left.” She pulled one of those half-amused, half-sympathetic faces. “Oh dear,” she said. “What are you going to do with yourself now?”
It was a good question. But there were definitely other things I could do in Bogotá, for it is a city of opportunity after all. I knew I’d just have to find a different way to indulge my artists’ ego.
So I started to think about Bogotá and my friends here, particularly the foreign ones and I soon realised just how many of them are Hollywood waitresses. Not literally, of course, but Hollywood waitresses in spirit. They make their money one way or another and then they set about making their dreams happen the rest of the time: writing, painting and creating like a brave little band of bees. They far outstrip the number of determined dreamers I knew at home in England. And I’m sure they have Bogotá to thank.
Because eras are about factors (this is one of my favourite articles on creativity by the way) and right now Bogotá is bloody full of them. In the same way impoverished writers used to flee to Paris knowing they could make ends meet, a foreign artist can now rent a room in Bogotá and pay for it with part-time work. That’s near impossible in Europe or the US. But it’s not just money, of course, consider your average Colombian’s positivity towards chasing dreams, the inspiring, hectic and ever-changing chaos of the city itself and the motivation of being part of a movement and bam, are we on the verge of a Golden Era or what?
(I may be biased but I also believe immigration stirs the creative juices. Immigrants bring outside experiences that both challenge and are challenged – an exchange of ideas that fuels inspiration and innovation. The city feels in the thick of all that at the moment)
I couldn’t resist discussing this with a friend (her Golden Era is 1920s Paris by the way, she cannot resist it) and we decided that not only was Bogotá on the verge of a Golden Era but that Woody Allen himself should come here and make a film about it. Seeing as I’d lost all ability to blog, I offered to write to the maestro and tell him what he was missing. It wasn’t like I had anything better to do.
But, of course, in the midst of drafting some inane prose singing the city’s praises, its magic finally worked itself on me and, well, here we are again. That letter may remain unfinished but, thankfully for me at least, so does Banana Skin Flip Flops. Until next time Mr Allen.