Kuzma: Breaking out of the USSR. In 1974, the Soviet oceanographer Slava Kurilov jumped overboard from a cruise ship, thirty-six feet down into the water, dreaming of freedom and love. We should all be jumping somewhere. Into a manhole, into a mine shaft, into an ice-covered pond. To some extent, all of us live by noble deeds not yet accomplished. What do you like most about NYC? It’s the spirit of competition. Taking advantage of your losses. Victory is a hologram of unstable illusions. There are only the expectation and the memory of victory.
New York Grandmaster John Fedorowicz said that chess is a competition with yourself. I think that NYC is a competition with yourself too. Ninety-nine per cent of the time, you’re losing. Eighty-eight per cent of that time you’re pretending you’re winning, putting on your regular pink little smiley face. Business, art, family, social life – this principle is universal. Only one per cent of the time makes you unique. The most important skill is harvesting crap. Shovelling shit.
When you’re in a melting pot, as you say, the first desire is to hop right out of that pot. But all the guys who did had problems. Remember Boris Vian, Henry Miller, Vladimir Nabokov, Patricia Highsmith. Something was out of kilter with all those guys, am I right? I mean, the pot’s fine, of course, and magical too, but you need to see the horizon. The variety of New York in all senses of that word gets no encouragement from the institution of the family, of morality. But we’ll tackle the social manifesto and actual habits in a separate interview. The real melting pot is in books. We’ll talk more about boring books later on. Today, the smartphone in your hand has room for an entire library – building, shelves, lighting, and all.
Ajuan: In China, there were strict regulations for girls when I was little, so I felt a strong social pressure. My parents didn’t want me to be an artist. My crayons were taken away. I had to be good at math. Consequently, I wanted to go away someplace where you can be yourself. In New York, you can hear several languages while walking a few blocks. People live here to pursue their dreams. They are captivated and don’t care about what others do. In a way, there is a lot of freedom. You can minimize the social pressure by doing things you like.