What I miss the most about those days are the crazy little places and the wild little dives that we went to or that we ate in. The City was a much different place to me. I was young and learning more about the romance I have between myself and the different streets and different places. There were different feelings which pertained to the different parts of the Downtown venues or Uptown, plus there were the Eastside or the Westside places, which all came with different vibes. There was a separation between daylight and nighttime and the places to go or the things to do, say like, get a haircut at Astro place, and get ready for the sun to go down so that we could howl and be crazy.
As a young man, I was learning more about the late-night afterhours places and how the styles can change, according to location or addresses. The nights were endless, or so they seemed. The walks in the morning, as in the walks of shame after some crazy night out with the boys; howling too loud or laughing too loud and being both young and crazy, to which, I swear, there were and losses as well. But in all, there was something about this playground. There was something about New York City. There was something about me and my interaction with strangers, which on occasion, I chose to break away from my flock of sheep so that I could be myself, without judgement.
I say flock of sheep because after all, it seems this is what the crowd is. At least to me, it seemed everyone was following some kind of trend or conformed to a common theme. Whether it was style or music, fashion or lifestyle, there were different groups of people doing different things. There were different cultures and different forms of art. There were these Downtown places, which I stumbled into on accident with a group of my friends.
This was down by Avenue A. There was someone doing a reading on stage, and us as a crowd of drunks and lunatics, of course, we burst through the door.
We were loud as ever and crazy with hopes to find the right party. Only, we walked into the wrong room and all eyes were on us. Our entry was followed by a loud shushing sound because someone was live and on stage. My friends laughed but me, I turned to look before I left. I wanted to catch a glimpse because there was something about this to me. There was a hope I had and a dream of mine that maybe someday, — this could be me.
Ah, my City. I have seen her from so many different angles and different perspectives. I have seen her less than attractive side. I’ve seen the cop-spots, crack houses and the dope dens. I’ve seen the long legs of “Working girls” as they parade themselves by the Westside Highway to perverted Johns, looking for a quick fix of sex for sale.
I’ve seen places like 116th Street. I’ve been to 134th and Willis. Then again, I have also seen the most incredible afternoons in the park; as in Central, as in a horse and carriage ride with someone that was less important than the experience itself.
I remember the first time I passed the theater where they showed the play Rent. I remembered the story about the writer and how he died right before his opening night. There was tragedy to this, of course, but there was inspiration here as well.
There was something so empowering and so incredible to me about a man that was not afraid to expose himself in such a beautiful way. He mocked the stereotypes. He exploited the ignorance and revealed that in the hearts of all is the need to love, to be accepted and to find our own pursuit of happiness.
There was something so amazing to me about someone unafraid to leave the closet or be himself, to love who he loves or what or how and for a man to be himself so openly without fear is incredible to me. I have met the so-called tough guys. I’ve met people that can physically destroy others and yet, none of them were ever this brave; to be themselves without the decoration of intimidation.
I say this is amazing because in the world of flocks and sheep, I will always admire the bravery of anyone that wholesomely walks away from the flock without apology, just so they can breathe and live freely.
I have been through the cobblestone streets and down by the Meatpacking District. I’ve done my tours down by SoHo to pretend as if I was some kind of hero or rock star.
Not a dollar in my pocket, but yet, I dressed the part and rehearsed the role to act as if. And the clubs, the Limelight, Emerald City, Webster, The Red Zone, The Sound Factory, and of course, The Tunnel, — I remember them all. I remember the sound of the music and the flashing lights, the techno-version of songs and the screams, the power behind the deep bass which hit the soul. I remember the first time I walked onto the dancefloor and heard the music stop to have lyrics interject and say, “James Brown is dead!”
This was another lifetime ago. None of those places are around anymore. Most of them were shut down for one reason or another. But still, the times have changed and being out doesn’t necessarily mean what it used to mean.
The raves, the halls, the way we danced and the way the City expressed its romance in different ways to different people is all a beautiful memory to me.
The temporary love affairs, which only lasted a few short hours were known as one-night-stands; and the games we played to earn them are laughable to me. I’d have to play my part and act as if I cared beyond the shadow of a doubt and be sensitive. And she, well, she would of course have to pretend that she had never done anything like this before.
Which, in fairness, I admit to having my share of one-night-stands and during each of which, they all claimed the same thing. “I’ve never done anything like this before.”
“Me neither,” I’d say, which they knew was a lie but then again, they were lying too, so what’s the difference? In the end, the ritual was only a formality. In the end, our routines were designed to create the means to an end. And the end was sex, which I clean up to avoid the crassness of saying we acted out our roles to forgive our transgressions (So we could fuck).
I remember a morning walk down by 14th and wondering if where I was could have been anywhere near the place Jim Carroll was when he wondered about his poetry and the substance of poets like Frank O’Hara. I wonder if I could ever write anything as simple or beautiful or as powerful as the poem, “Having A Coke With You.”
I never did a reading. I never had the courage. In fact, I stay away from readings for more reasons than I can count. Yet, I think about them and wonder who would show up. Would anyone be there? Would the seats be empty? Would anyone show up to show up unexpectedly? Would you?
I still have this idea about writing a showcase. I have an idea about a little play that I would like to put on. Only, unlike the opening night for the show Rent, I want to live to see the curtain rise. I want to be alive to watch the faces in the audience and know that they were there to see a moment of new perspective.
I’ve seen a lot of things in my City. I’ve seen the pretty little bridge and tunnel girls and the spoiled and fancy debutantes come in in their expensive outfits — I’ve seen them laughing at the bums and mocking the homeless. I’ve seen them stuck in the city after they missed the last train home, and like pretty little train wrecks, I’ve seen them sit on the floor where earlier, those same bums laid down with piss-soaked pants and vomit, and yet no one saw the irony in this.
I watched a young bridge and tunnel man as he taunted a homeless person outside of Grand Central Station. He was laughing about the fact that his pocket was filled with money and the homeless man was filled with drugs and poverty. I watched fear take over the young man’s face when the homeless man explained, “You’re a long way from home.”
Suddenly an unexpected view of truth took hold. The homeless man pointed his finger and directed it all around. He said, “You see this here? This is my house. You’re in my home now.”
The young man that taunted was trying to impress his friends. I assume the joke was over once he realized the homeless one had nothing to lose.
“I’m not afraid,” said the homeless man.
The funny thing about this is I was older. I was on my way to work and the sun had yet to rise. I was a youngster once. I was looking to prove myself and perform to look good.
Fortunately age stepped in and taught me a few things. First; don’t be an imbecile. Don’t act. Don’t pretend. This City is open to us all. There’s no need to be anyone else because she embraces everyone, — seriously everyone, including the transvestite I used to see on 9th Avenue that used to ride around and sing opera songs.
I admit it though, it’d be nice to have a day in the City and walk around, see things, be out there and feel free. It’d be nice to do a reading somewhere. Sometime