“To live in this town you must be tough, tough, tough, tough, tough!
You got rats on the west side
Bed bugs uptown
What a mess this town's in tatters I've been shattered”
The Rolling Stones
That album sure did inspire me to want to move to the city. Made living in New York sound cheap, fun and crazy. I was looking for some way to find myself, a chance to leave that life that I was living then, and leave it far behind.
I wasn’t ready to leave home, not just yet. But I did find a way and I had that chance, through a grueling chain of events, to be there on that plane, the one that had just touched down at La Guardia. A weeklong excursion, high school, the drama club. That overwhelming sensation that at that very moment when our plane did land, that I had found my true destiny.
We walked out of that plane and down onto the tarmac, the noise sudden, loud and brash. The sky smog-filled, the air hot, moist and dirty. Masses of people soon became visible. There was a general confusion, an erratic electric eclectic energy. This wasn’t L.A.; this wasn’t anywhere that I had ever been to before. Every pore on my body was suddenly vibrant, alive and awakened.
We stayed at the Hotel Edison, heart of Times Square. 25 high schoolers, two adult chaperones, the cute twenty-something Gay couple, my drama teacher and me. There were no cell phones, no computers, no social networking, kids who could afford it might call their folks once or twice. A completely different time and place, mothers must have been going crazy with worry. It really didn’t seem to matter to us, to me.
The Hotel Edison was skanky, smelled like piss, the carpets rolled damp underneath. There was a palatable odor of decay, but I felt like I was in heaven. I guess that I could have stayed there then, but I knew somehow that if I would have, that it would have been hell for me.
There I was, just turned seventeen, the fragrant humidity of the streets piled with someone else’s trash. Pimps, their hookers, lost boys and girls, everyone strung out. Drag Queens, X-rated adult theaters, guts spilled out before me. So bitter, so sweet. Explicit weirdoes, guys on the street, selling to anyone, loose joints. The facilitator kept telling us just to ignore those things, walk past, and pay no attention. I felt like I had found paradise.
We were there for the theater after all, the bright lights, the great white way. Did I mention that by this time I also wanted to be a model, a fashion designer and a ballet dancer?
I think now that even though I did want those things and that I would have loved to have taken any one of those paths, that eventually I would have to choose and through a process of elimination and sometimes harsh realizations, that ultimately I would focus my energies on the visual arts. That still would take some time to fully realize.
I ended up seeing eight plays in seven days that week. That included some Rockettes show, Glenn Close in a Sherlock Holmes story and Annie. I was so sick and tired by that point, having snuck out the in the middle of the night, ending up standing in line at Studio 54, walking afterwards, half the night, alone, lost, high on the uppers that Sam had shared with me.
Years later, after I had been living in the city for a while, he and I would meet again, a bar in Times Square. He was starting to go to New York City regularly, we met, had drinks, I was in my prime. We eventually would have a falling out and now I hear that he is on his deathbed.
We went before all that, back to our week in the city, to a play before we knew what our future would bring. It was about a grown man and his father. It was towards the end of the old guy’s life, terrific sets, end scene. Knew that that scenario was no longer a possibility for my dad and me. That was something that would haunt me for some time to come, like whenever I achieved professional acclaim or reached a long sought after goal, not unlike that one day when I had lived longer than he.
Mom picked us up at the airport after that trip was over; I had come back, home. A few of my friends were there to welcome us; they were stuffed into the backseat of ma’s car. I was just quiet. I didn’t say anything, didn’t tell Andre that his cashmere jackets were ruined by some New York City rainstorm, didn’t tell anyone anything that night.
That drive back to the trailer as ma dropped everyone off, one by one, I looked off into the dark night of that old little town. What little it offered me, what I would then still need to endure there and how I would need to plan to leave as soon as possible.
Add a Comment