Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Here, in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Southwest Asia, is Dubai.

Would you want to live there, or vacation there?

If I were starting out and dreaming of being a dancer, where would I go to make it and build a dance company -- New York, L.A., or London, Paris, Tel Aviv? What about Dubai?

How much money would you need to visit Dubai for a week? I checked -- about $1500 minimum -- the lower price hotels are $150 to $200 a day (the highest price is $20,000). Could you find a room, a tourist home in the area where Dubai's workers live?

Whenever I mention New York City to a techie (an Indian, a Filipino, who's helping me with my computer), they say, "Oh I'd love to visit." I always say, "Don't come unless you have a lot of money -- it'll cost more than $100 a day -- you can't live comfortably in Manhattan, unless you're earning about $100,000 a year."

(Maybe that's too high a figure, but I don't encourage anyone to come NYC for a vacation or to live.)

When I was in my teens, before I came to New York, everyone said, "Don't do it -- it's expensive -- you can't find a decent, inexpensive place to live -- you'll have to get a full time job -- you can't study dancing if you've got a full-time job."

But I found a part-time job in a settlement house that paid me two-dollars-an-hour, and a cold-water "railroad" flat on 15th street, six rooms, no heat, no hot water, five flight walk up --$30 a month. I rented out four rooms (painted the front room blue, and slept on a futon on my robin's egg blue floor).

My roommates each paid $15 a month. The biggest problem was our bath schedule -- the tub was in kitchen (a double-sink covered by the board we used for a dining table). The next biggest problem was getting roommates to pay -- like me, they had part time jobs and were short of money.

Today, the money numbers are different, but the situation in Manhattan is the same. The highly-skilled sound designer/engineer for our podcast (A.I.R. Broadcasting --it's coming soon), lives with four roommates, and pays $500 per month for a room that's smaller than the smallest room in my old cold-water flat. He's currently handling three part-time jobs, so he can pay his bills.

So what about Dubai? With its lavish restaurants, bars, theaters, hotels, and gigantic mall -- all places where music is undoubtedly played -- surely there's high level employment for a young, skilled, sound engineer. It sounds like a heaven for techies.

Dubai, once a pearl-fishing village, has been transformed into a paradise -- a tax free, free-trade oasis, with Internet, media, finance, maritime projects, and state-owned development companies that need beautiful buildings with massive space, and spectacularly fancy decor. The government is already advertizing space in the fabulously unique, sail-shaped Burj al-Arab, claiming it's the most expensive hotel in the world.

There's also an unfinished 160 story Burj Dubai (it'll be our planet's tallest building). It overlooks a coastline of man-made islands that are currently under construction -- each island, shaped like the leaf of the datepalm (it's the center of the archipelago) -- each frond named after an important place on the map of the world.

And Dubailand, the mall that's, scheduled to be completed in 2014, will cover 107 square miles, with 45 "mega projects" and 200 sub projects -- sports, entertainment, fashion, the largest collection of theme parks in the world.

The list of world-famous corporations involved -- well, I have to say it reminds me of the names on Bernie Madoff's list of investors.

Right now each "name" seems like a brick in a foundation put together -- brick by brick -- without cement, just the gel of evocative, cleverly worded enticements, which give you the feeling that you're going to be surrounded with glamor, breathtaking luxuries, endless joys.

So is Dubai a Mecca for the educated, skilled, ambitious, creative new generation of entrepreneurs -- the super-brainy, innovative techies?

Should I tell our sound designer/engineer to head there?

The fact is, Dubai's in a slump right now. According to various, reliable news reports, its business ventures have been hit with the economic troubles that have hit the U.S. -- real estate prices dropping 50%; new construction all but stopped. Though the major backers downplay the rising debt, despite their $15 billion investment bailout, unpaid bills are mounting.

But, I know from my own experience -- you can get a foot-hold, and create a brilliant future for yourself, if you're starting from scratch and things look bleak. Why? Because there's less competition.

Fabulous, grandiose Dubai ... Is it a new world? Or is it the old world, high-gloss painted, polished, silver and gold-plated, set with gems. Is it an Emerald City in Oz?

Gee, if you're feeling feisty, and you can scrounge up the money, why not go and have a look!
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