Native About New York: Matika Wilbur, Brunch and Killing Things
Amid hippie waiters with dreadlocks, at a bar-cafe in the Lower Eastside of Manhattan, as it rained heavily outside on the street, I sat at a corner table and quaffed cappuccino and whiskey and waited for the illustrious photog Matika Wilbur to boom in with an arsenal of equipment and hair like oil from the deluge erupting up & down the eastern seaboard. ... Since hurricanes Irene and Sandy, New Yorkers have grown a serious hate for rain and thunderclouds. You can see the anger on the face of the Manhattanite as he hunkers down from his new enemy under a broken black umbrella. There was a time when New Yorkers loved the Hudson and East rivers. Now, I’ve never seen more people readily throw sacks of garbage and body bags into both. “You turned on us,” they say. “It is over between us. You flipped.”
The night prior, Madam Matika, the peripatetic talent, had given a TED Talk at Columbia University re: her craft and gig, Project 562, but I couldn’t attend. That night I’d been in the midst of a serious rat & roach problem at my Brooklyn apartment. I’d found the beasts earlier in the morning feasting on my bagels and reading my Maxim. And even as I stomped their skulls and cried out for “Raid! ... We need more Raid here!” I knew it was I who was the invader, the encroacher, the newcomer. These were the real New Yorkers, and now they’re dead. I killed them all with chemicals and my boot heel. And then I began to wonder who was the real beast in that brutal, unforgiving scene in that, my ramshackle flat ... It was me.
I’d first interviewed Matika in the fall of 2013 for NBC News. I remember ringing her hotel room in California from my desk in Midtown Manhattan. It was noon on the west coast, and she was barely waking up. She’d shot some photos the day before on a reservation off an old dirt road. In a groggy kind of voice, she proceeded to tell me that, one day, she decided to sell all of her useless shit and then zipped off in her car and immediately took on the life of an itinerant artist – one who’d capture the essence of 21st century Native America with a camera lens and a tape recorder.
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