On New York As A Center For The Arts:
Many of the fresh ideas, much of the art that's come out of New York, has come from people who have come to New York and either had poverty imposed on them or voluntarily chose to live on the margins of life while still being close to the center. The margin and the center were always right next door to each other in New York. And the margin is being pushed farther and farther out.
I'm not a believer in the occult, but there is something about these sights of memory that collect something, some kind of magnetic force about them, and you find it in the strangest places. I still find it in parts of the Lower East Side. There's something about East Broadway that never fails to get me, and I mean, it's fascinating in it's own right because you have this bustling Chinese population that's living in sort of the edifices of the Jewish community, that in turn was built on top of an Irish community and that in turn was built on top of one of the first prosperous residential neighborhoods in Manhattan, the place where George Washington lived right after he was inaugurated for example. So you have these layers, it's stratified and somehow you can feel it just walking down the street.
On Being Tough:
I'm an immigrant myself, I don't sound like it, but I am. In fact, I'm a foreign national as it happens, and I suppose one of the reasons I'm a foreign national is because I grew up thinking of myself as an outsider, being both an immigrant and having no ethnic community to belong to as a Belgian -- there aren't many of us Belgians running around. Anyway, outsiders naturally find their ground in New York. It's a place that's accepting of very, very wide margins of identity and behavior. It's certainly an important testing place too. In a way, it was more so in the recent past when it was considered so dangerous that I knew people that lived 40 minutes away in New Jersey and never set foot in the place. They were just scared. They figured they'd be killed. There's an early novel by Don De Lillo that conveys that sense very well too -- GREAT JONES STREET -- in which the characters are constantly saying, you know, "Look at us. We live in New York. Putting up with what we put up, we can eat glass. We can punch our way through bricks. This is because we live in New York."