Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Pansy Hits New York!

Will it hit back?

I will be (well, am kind of being forced to: I have reached the limit my employers allow me to accrue) taking some vacation time in the coming month and since Virgin America is offering rock-bottom fares (if you are willing as I am to fly at 7am) from LAX to JFK, I will be coming back to the city that I always feel is my home, New York. I did live there for a period in the early 80's, and those were my real formative years. I was on my own, barely formed, a product of good schools and good breeding from a nice college town in New England thinking I was going to the big city to become a... a what? I didn't know at the time (and barely do now), but I was determined to shake the Noho dust off me and become a New Yorker.

And I did.

New York at the time was a very different place: still reeling from the near-collapse socially and economically from the 70's, with a pre-Giuliani Times Square that still featured porn shows and third string movie theaters showing either grindhouse crap or movies who had been long out of the major theaters, with prints which crackled far more than the stale popcorn that was served. You would pay nothing to see "Footloose", but you might get rabies or Dutch Elm disease in the process.

I lived in a crummy 4th floor walk up in the East Village bordering Tompkins Square Park, which at the time you entered for two reasons only: to buy heroin or get killed. I had three room-mates, little electricity, a tub with no shower, and for one memorable February no heat or hot water. But when you are a kid in your twenties and you are gay and with thousands if not millions of others like you and the clubs stay open until dawn it's pretty much a paradise.

I was somewhat unlucky in my timing; the Studio 54 era which had so entranced me as a teen and inculcated the idea in my feverish little mind that I had to move there ("Tales of the City" had the same effect, but NYC was a cheap bus ticket and I knew people who lived there) was running down and a curious new disease was rearing it's ugly head: AIDS. Over the years I lived there, several dear friends succumbed.We were partying like it was 1999, but we were also haunted by this spectre: acquaintances would drop out of sight and you'd later hear that there was going to be a funeral. Horribly, no one really knew how it was spread. People who were diagnosed were treated in hospitals as delicately as Strontium-90; our president, that amiable oaf refused to refer to the disease and the pulpits heaved their usual bile about it being God's revenge for our sins (please call the number on your screen to donate, thanks). It was a bullet I dodged perhaps because I was never so desired that I actually had the chance to be slutty, or perhaps I just looked too much like jail-bait to get picked up. Or maybe, deep down I was just too much a prude to really want to.

In any case, after a while our landlord saw an opportunity to make another $1.50 per month on that dump and evicted us. At Christmas. I decided to decamp to Boston for a while and eventually wound up here in Los Angeles, which has new and different ways to grind your soul into pate.

Of course, I have returned to my old home several times: Times Square has been Disneyfied so much that it bares more resemblance to The Grove than it does to the gritty crossroads of yore. Tompkins Square Park has been redone with the gentrification of the neighborhood; the old Life Cafe is still there serving designer coffee and waters, and my crummy apartment is still above it, no doubt renting for far more than I could afford even with 3 room-mates in 2007. There is also nothing more magical than New York and it's environs in the fall: even the still warmth of Indian Summer will have an evening chill warning of the coming winter, and the smell of the dried leaves in Central Park is almost more than the smell of the hot dog vendors. I don't know if I will hit Indian Summer when I am there, but I am hoping. I am also hoping for maximum foliage as well...

As much as my time there was bittersweet, there is no place like it. I always get a thrill being there, even if I also give a hearty sigh of relief when I get off the plane and see the wacky pylons of the "Theme Building" at LAX.


The non-blonde said...

This is fascinaing. I only know NYC since 1999, after the big cleanup. I'm witnessing the gentrification and shift in the East Village and LES. I'm there a couple of times a week because it's the most vegetarian-friendly area in sight (and probably on the entire East Coast). The husband and I have contemplated moving there, but the prices are so outragous for a space one third of what we have here in Jersey (I'm pretty attached to my closet space and to having a real kitchen), it's just not worth it.

When are you planning to be here? shoot me an email if you might have a free afternoon.

tmp00 said...

I might- I plan on doing some shopping (well, duh!) and think my host might want a few hourse pansy-free!