From “The Boys” Velvet Ropes

There are new formations of clouds each morning. I think this means each day has the chance to be different from the last.
Each day changes. The weather changes, the news, the way we coincide with each other is different now; the way we interact and our crazy future is different too. Yet somehow, we sink to the gravity of our past, as if the past is the only thing that holds us down. Most often, this has nothing to do with our past. Usually, this is all on us.

I swear, I remember a time when I was quicker to get up and go. There was a time when my heels were not so worn. Then again, life and travel has a way of doing this to us.
Maybe this is why there are lyrics to a song that sing, “A memory of a man in his old age are the deeds of a man in his prime.”
Do you even see what I mean with this?
I think I understand this line more now than say, 25 years ago when I thought I knew everything about life. 

Are you ready for a dash of honesty?
There was a place called Elixir on Broome St near Broadway. We used to go there all the time on both Friday and Saturday nights.
I remember the bar was on the left. There was a few seats on the right next to the railing that guarded the stairs which led down to the bathroom. There were some pub tables with bar stools in the back. The lighting was dark, but the mood was cool, trendy, and definitely indicative of the times.

There was an actor there from a popular TV show one night. He was alone. I suppose he decided to stand near a group of my friends. This was his mistake number one.
His next mistake was to seem proud, as if the section at the bar belonged to him because after all, he was famous.
This was mistake number two.
He also thought it might be a good idea to say something to one of my buddies, who replied, “Didn’t you even notice that nobody cared who you are when you came in here?”
The actor (who nearly died that night) will remain nameless and quickly decided to make an exit before mistake number three grew worse, which was him surrounded by a few bodies, namely us, and coldly suggest, “Now would be a good time for you to split.”

Were any of us right? Were we wrong?
Who knows?
We were young and stupid. And me, I was still working on perfecting my stance.

I’d try to perfect my appearance. I tried to perfect everything down to the way I’d light up a smoke, which were Camel Lights, by the way. 
Even the brand had to mean something.
There was a way you needed to stand. There was a way you needed to hold a glass in your hand or a cigarette between your fingers; and there was a way you had to take a drag and blow out your smoke. All of this needed to say something. Everything you did was a statement to the open market. This was how you seemed tough to the other guys and both attractive and desirable to the girls that were watching. Meanwhile, truth be told, no one really watched. Most people in bar-scene world are so self-absorbed that all they have is ego and just like me, all they had was a stance of their own.

I admit to all of this with a slight feel of embarrassment. I admit to the fact that I had “Good luck,” outfits, which I had to learn to circulate. This way I didn’t seem like I was wearing the same thing all the time.
And truth be told, I would get dressed, look in the mirror and then I would change. Then I would look in the mirror again, not like what I saw, change, and then look in the mirror again. I’d change outfits and then end up leaving my house in the same outfit I put on in the first place.

I swear, appearance was everything.
There was the way you entered the bar. You had to stroll in, as if you were entering a big scene, but at the same time, I’d have to play this off as if nothing meant anything.
I’d have to stroll in and not seem to pay attention to anything. I had to exude confidence, which I had very little of.
I’d play this off as if I didn’t care if I was noticed or not, but yes, deep down, I always hoped that someday — I would be noticed and look cool.

I hung around with a somewhat wealthy crowd. I tried to play it off as if I had money too, or at least as if I had the ability to create wealth. Meanwhile, I hardly had any money at all. I just had my paycheck, which wasn’t much at the time and I spent it all to fit the part.

I remember meeting a girl that told me I didn’t belong with my friends. She was pretty too. I was insulted. I was embarrassed.
If I’m being honest, I held onto this insult the entire night and kept thinking about what she said. “I don’t belong.”
I saw her throw a drink in someone’s face. She assumed he was a friend of mine and then the girl told me, “See? I told you. You don’t belong with them.”
She asked me to leave with her, which I didn’t, because I couldn’t, and in fairness, I didn’t really want to be with her anymore. Besides, there was someone else that offered me her number and since some of her friends were talking to some of my friends, I guess the unwritten rule applied. This meant I had to stay. However, I always wondered what would have happened to my life if I had just said yes.
Then again, I suppose this showed me not everything was as I suspected. Not everything is a threat or an insult — this was only something based on my interpretation. This is how misunderstandings take place.
(How’s this for honesty?)

I never liked thinking or feeling less than. I certainly never liked feeling insecure. More than anything, I never liked the pretty ones. I used to call them “Velvet Ropes.”
I called them this because of the poplar clubs in New York City and how there was always a doorman and a big bouncer standing in front of the club inside a square of pavement that was sectioned off by a set of velvet ropes and stanchions. When one of the more desirables, the popular, the wealthy and the pretty would come in, the bouncer or the doorman would unclip one side of the velvet ropes and let them in. Hence, this is where I came up with the name, “Velvet Ropes.”
I never liked people that were so high on themselves and looked down on others. More accurately and honestly, I never liked the feeling that someone “Like them,” would ever consider to like, be around, or talk to someone “Like me.”

By the way, this is as honest as I can be. This is the inner monologue that went on in my head when I was out. These are the ideas I’d face. These are the reasons I missed out on several connections because my insecurity was covered by a sense of false bravado and blocked my ability to relax and have a good time.

Back to the rules of engagement is the unspoken rule that if one of my friends was talking to someone, I would have to at least make an attempt to talk with her friend. This was a certain informal formality in the single life. I never liked this part. 
Since I always change names to protect the less-than innocent, I will explain this story using the name Adam.

One night, there were two girls at a bar that was just north of Houston. The bar was not my kind of place but the crowd was decent. I was standing next to Adam and trying to pull off my look. 
Adam was standing next to the two girls. One of the girls was a Velvet Rope. To put this kindly, the other girl appeared less desirable. Adam tried his best approach, which did not work for the Velvet Rope.
The undesirable one hit it off. She and Adam were having a great time. It was clear, however, that the Velvet Rope was not enjoying herself.
She was the one that was used to receiving the attention. The less attractive girl was probably not one people approached first.
This was nice though. It was nice to see her laugh and smile and have fun. Adam was really making a connection. Good for him! And good for her too. And good for regular people living regular lives, just hoping to smile or laugh or have a good time.

The Velvet Rope was clearly unhappy. She was standing close to me but she was a Velvet Rope, which meant I could not allow the mask to slip. This also meant that I could not allow myself the possibility of a good time without caring what comes next.

The Velvet Rope was trying to break into Adam’s conversation but it wasn’t working. She began to huff and roll her eyes because she was not receiving the attention. In fairness, she was very pretty. She had great features and she dressed exceptionally well. Maybe there was something wrong with me at the time, but in fairness, I did enjoy this.
I enjoyed this the way a cat enjoyed toying with a mouse before its execution. No matter what, I refused to interact and follow through with the rules of engagement. I refused to sign that I, as wingman, had to entertain the Velvet Rope. Let her feel what I felt all the time.
Besides, she could have gone off, danced, gone anywhere else in the bar and done anything for attention. It was clear she wanted to be noticed and it was also clear that I did not want to give in.

Finally, after huffing and puffing, the Velvet Rope asked me in an annoyed, “Um, hello!” like-voice. She loudly spoke over the music. With all her “Velvet Rope,” privileged attitude. She asked, “And you are?” as if to gain some kind of aggravated, but forced introduction. 

I had on my black sport coat at the time with a white, buttoned down shirt and my collar opened over the lapel. I had a few silver rings on. My french cuffs were folded over the cuffs of my jacket. My hair was long, shoulder length, to be exact. I wore a pair of baggy, wide leg jeans, which were more like stove-pipes jeans. The denim was faded and ripped in certain spots. There was a thin silver chair around my neck. I had on a pair of black boots, which were popular at the time with wood in the heels. And yes, just for the record, this was one of my “good luck” outfits.

When the Velvet Rope curled her lip in a nasty, gifted frustration and agreed to condescend to ask, “And you are?” I pulled off my best look of “cool,” and simply answered, “Not interested.”
The delivery was perfect, by the way. No emotion whatsoever.

Unfortunately this eventually blew Adam’s rap but before the two left and after the Velvet Rope stormed off, I offered Adam’s girl a kind comment. 

“You’re a lot prettier than your friend.”
Adam looked at me like I was crazy. The girl looked at me like I was crazy too. But hey, let’s face it — she loved every minute of this.

Or, one could say I was just insecure. One could say that I could have had a good time if I stopped to enjoy the moment.
One could also say I had to stop seeing things seeing as one side or the other of Velvet Ropes.

Rare images of NYC nightclubs from the 1980s and '90s, including ...

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