Roxy and June Take Cafe Iguana

“I got a six-pack of tall-boys for me and three coolers for you.” Roxy breathlessly bursts into my apartment with a large paper bag. She’s ready for action in her Norma Kamali jacket and short black skirt and, judging by the way she’s swaying slightly in the doorway, I know she’s already had at least one on the walk over. I don’t think we’ve ever gone out sober together.

I twist the cap off my first cooler, taste the sweet tanginess of the bubbles on my tongue, and examine myself in the mirror. Tonight I opted for a black wraparound top and black miniskirt. Got my infamous “witches shoes” on, the little pumps with the four straps across the top and grommets pinning them all together.

“Can’t wait to meet some awesome guys tonight to sweep us off our feet!” She says enthusiastically, smiling broadly as she hikes up her skirt to adjust her tights. I’m not sure I need some stranger to sweep me off my feet, but I’ll settle for some attention in light of my recent breakup with Christian. I don’t mention him, because she’ll scold me for pining over him again.

*******

“Ugh! The line is so long!” Roxy whines melodramatically, as though there were a hundred people in front of us. In fact, there’s all of ten people, mostly men, waiting outside Café Iguana.

We’re in less than ten minutes later. Even though I’ve been here a half-dozen times, it still inspires a little bit of awe upon first entering. It’s not a big place, but it’s always wall-to-wall people. As in, I don’t know what the fire code is, but they’re dangerously close to a violation.

The wide, L-shaped bar is already three deep with people, the dance floor full, and the path around it all is crowded with bodies. Looking up to the open second floor,  past the giant iguana wrapped in Christmas tree lights and suspended from the ceiling, I see people lining the railing, overlooking the dance floor, jamming to Everybody, Everybody.

The male to female ratio seems to be about eight to one, and Roxy and I are probably the youngest ones in there. Most of the men are older, still wearing the suits they wore to work today. Simply put, the place is a meat market, and she and I are passing inspection by dozens of shameless eyes. I don’t much care for the place but she talked me into it, promising a good time. Whatever. It’s always fun with Roxy. If nothing else, it’ll certainly be entertaining.

As I push my way straight ahead to a small clearing near the DJ, I feel a hand brush my ass. What the hell! It’s almost impossible to avoid contact in a bar this crowded, but I suppose if you don’t like it stay home. It’s also so crowded it’s not only difficult to know what was intentional and what was not, but who you made contact with. Roxy is giving someone the evil eye.

Once we get to the clearing I turn back to face the “dancefloor,” which is one step down from where I’m now standing and looks like a writhing, rhythmic movement of limbs and bodies. Everywhere, people are scoping people out. I scan the sea of faces and spot a cute one, at the moment his eyes rest on me. He’s smiling at me, but there are far too many people between us and the bouncer gives me a nudge.

“Keep it moving!” he bellows, his voice booming over the thrumming beat in my ears.

“Go to the bathroom!” Roxy shouts into the back of my hair. I can hear the irritation in her voice, and I know without looking she’s got the look that kills all over her face. But people are moving so damn slow, some not moving at all, that it’ll take us an hour to get where we’re going. Someone’s spiked heel sinks into my foot. Ow!

I wonder why people come here. Why am I here? Oh yeah – I wanted to have an evening no other bar could offer. I can’t explain why, except that the people who come here are a little wilder than what I’m used to. Café Iguana is not our “usual” bar scene.

Anyway, ten minutes and a few bruises later, we finally get into the bathroom. It’s always steamy and the hairspray has literally burnt a hole in the air supply. There are already five girls in here, one doubled over the attendant’s stool with her head between her knees. The stall directly in front of her is empty, with the door wide open. I hear faint moans coming from the one next to it, a pair of red shoes peeking out from under the door. The attendant looks frazzled and I feel sorry for her; this is a thankless job and tonight is no exception.

“He’s so awesome, you know? He said I have the most beautiful eyes he’s ever seen,” a short brunette in an orange bustier says to a taller version of herself, who is wearing a black cropped top that barely covers her breasts.

“It’s so hot in here,” Roxy says to me, patting the back of her neck with a paper towel. She bends over and flips her long hair to make it fuller. I pull out my lipstick and lean into the mirror. The two girls, leaning into each other giggling, open the door to go out.

“Guess who’s getting a ride home tonight?” I say sarcastically, watching them stumble out the door, the sudden splash of loud club music pouring in as the door slowly closes behind them.

Another girl in a spandex outfit, who has been primping herself at the mirror since we walked in added, “yeah, every guy in here is only after one thing.” Her eyes never leave the image in the mirror. She grabs one of the hairspray cans on the counter and sprays her six-inch blonde bangs, as if they would dare to move anyway.

“Yeah, just once I’d like to meet a nice guy in a bar… my knight in shining armor!” Roxy says flippantly, laughing at herself in the mirror.

“Oh yeah – tall, dark, handsome, rich, nice red Porsche…” the tall blonde adds with a thoughtless smile. I guess there’s no harm in dreaming. I don’t think I’ll meet Mr. Wonderful in Café Iguana, or any bar for that matter. Any relationship just seems, I don’t know, doomed that way.

Roxy and I head out to the bar – a formidable attempt to get a drink. She plows her way through the crowd of dancing drunks like a boss. Something cold and wet spills onto my arm, and I feel a tug on the back of my hair but I don’t turn around. Roxy’s going full speed ahead and I don’t want to lose her.

When she finally reaches the bar, she leans seductively over it, waves her AmEx card, and orders two Long Island Iced Teas. I stand behind her like a shadow, waiting for her to hand me my drink. She’s talking to some guy with a pony tail next to her so I survey the crowd, hoping to catch sight of my friend with the gorgeous smile.

As I mentioned, the men here are mostly mid-to-late twenties; some businessmen judging by the suits, some look like they could be models  – a veritable sea of dark-haired men (haven’t quite figured that one out yet). There are few standouts – meaning, they don’t fit the unspoken criteria for entry and yet here they are.

I accidentally catch the eye of this scary-looking, slightly balding older man. I quickly look away, but in this arena I already know it’s too late. I made eye contact. He empties his glass and slithers over to me. I try to engage Roxy in conversation, but she’s deeply engrossed in Pony Tail and she merely hands me my drink and turns back to him.

“Smile!” Baldy leans in and smiles at me. “Aren’t you having a good time?” He says something else but I don’t hear him over the noise.

“Observing. It’s what I do.” I don’t look at him, but continue searching the crowd for someone. Anyone.

“Well, I was watching you and you have the most gorgeous smile I’ve ever seen.” What a line of bullshit! I feel like saying something rude, but instead pretend I don’t hear him. Go away, go away, go away….

“What’s your name?” He’s not getting the hint. I’m getting annoyed. I take a long sip of my drink, and shut my eyes to savor the dizzying effects of the liquor. There’s really nowhere for me to go; I’m surrounded by people and I don’t want to lose Roxy.

“Hey!” Roxy yells into the back of my hair, slapping her hand down on my shoulder. I spin around, nearly spilling what’s left of my drink. She introduces me to Pony Tail, whose name is Damon. He is something to behold. He smiles a perfect smile, and his eyes linger briefly on my breasts. Jesus Christ. I turn around again, annoyed.

Baldy has disappeared, finally, so I resume my people-watching. Ice Ice Baby is rocking the entire bar and the dance floor is one big, cohesive seizure. Things are starting to get a little blurry.

The entertainment is now up on the bar, and all eyes are on the two lovelies who get up there every night and proceed to reveal their latest lingerie. Tonight it’s red lace panties under very short dresses. This is what attracts the sleazy assholes who hit on me. I wonder why I degrade myself by even coming here.

“There you are!” This man, dressed all in white with his shirt unbuttoned to the navel and a small gold medallion resting on a tuft of chest hair, says to me with a broad smile. I glance around me. He can’t be talking to me.

“Ven…..conmigo!” He grabs me by the arm, confirming my worst fears. He’s certainly very sure of himself, and I’m suddenly worried about what’s coming. Lambada is playing, of all things. For the love of God, why?

He pulls me tightly to him and begins to move. I’ve never been good at dancing with a partner. My body doesn’t understand someone else leading. It can’t get much worse.  We’re moving so fast it’s making me dizzy and I’m just too weak to get away. Now this is funny. I’m so drunk that I can’t help but laugh at this ridiculous predicament I’m in and that I look like a complete fool. I am laughing so hard I can’t even dance anymore, his body and his arms pulling me along like a giant rag doll. Might as well go with the flow, as Roxy always says. Am I really doing the Lambada?

He eventually gives up on me, bless his little Latin soul, because he thanks me and kisses my cheek like a true gentleman. Still, I try to lean away from his kiss, but I almost lose my balance. Someone’s hand presses against my back. Lambada King moves on to his next victim and I’m suddenly alone. With no drink. And no Roxy.

I start to make my way back to the bar to buy another Long Island Iced Tea. “Hey beautiful!” I hear someone say. I don’t bother to look. Besides, if I turn my head around too fast I’ll get dizzier and fall down. No, really, it’s happened before.

Dancing people are bumping into me but I’m numb and just allow myself to be propelled by the crowd. I wonder where the hell Roxy has gotten to. Probably in a dark corner upstairs with Pony Tail. I hope she doesn’t leave without me. Not that she’s ever done that, but alcohol can really mess with your sense of security in a public place surrounded by strangers when you can’t find your friends.

Fresh drink in hand, I’m about to start searching for the two of them when I see him again, the guy who smiled at me from the other side of the bar what seems like hours ago. He’s seen me too. He’s smiling shyly at me, so I smile back and take a long sip of my drink. It’s going down like water now. He makes his way over to me. God, he’s hot! I take a deep breath.

He’s from Brazil, and now living in New York. He’s asking me questions and suddenly leans into my neck. He says he likes my perfume and leans in again, this time brushing my neck with his lips. Holy wow! That was forward. My stomach flips over.

“So… are…?” What did he say? I can’t hear him over the music. I just smile and bask in the warmth of his proximity and attention.

And then all of sudden Roxy appears, screaming in my ear something about a song and, “we have to dance!” She pulls me along, shoving her way up onto a bench and dragging me with her. I try to protest, but there’s no stopping her and she can’t hear me anyway. I’ve never seen her dance this way before. I down what’s left of my drink that didn’t spill on the way to the bench and start dancing. I’m laughing but have no idea why or what’s so funny.

“What battery are you on?” I hear someone shout at us. Roxy is trying to tell me, as we’re dancing, how she kissed Pony Tail and he wanted to take her home but she wasn’t ready to leave yet so she gave him her number. I don’t know why they bother. They never call anyway.

I start to tell her about Marco when I realize he’s gone. I scan the crowd and see him standing nearby, talking to some girl with boobs spilling out over her top, and he’s leaning into her neck. I can’t believe it. What an ass!

Some guido grabs me by the waist and is dancing behind me. I make a drunken attempt to unwrench his hands from me but he seems determined to hold on. “Get your hands off me!” Works like magic.

Roxy has been seized by his friend and, laughing, she performs some bizarre dance on his leg. What the hell is she doing? The two guys offer us a ride home and Roxy starts to follow them but I say no. I may be drunk but I’m not stupid.

We grab a cab from the line of cabs waiting outside, and head home.

 

Creative writing. Original piece written in Spring 1992. Any similarity or resemblance to persons, real or imagined, is not intentional and solely for entertainment purposes.

 

Clubs Shatter Peace of Gramercy Park

New York Chronicles – September 10, 1989

September 10, 1989 Sunday

Yesterday Alena and I took the subway uptown to MOMA, which was awesome, and an opportunity for us to hang out alone and get to know each other away from Daphne and the other roommates. We talked about our upbringings and families, and things we like. She’s very easy to talk to, not judgmental or critical. We wandered around the museum, checking out the Cubism exhibit and some of Picasso’s work, and some other now forgotten modern artwork. I enjoyed the Cubism pieces, but I’m not much for modern art I guess. I got bored and hungry and suggested we get dinner. We stopped at this Chinese place on the way home – lots of great food and we split everything. So good!!

Last night Jane and two of her friends, and Alena and I went to the Cat Club. All black walls, black stage, and black floors, very industrial looking and a bit bare bones in a New Wave-ish way. There were a lot of music flyers advertising upcoming artists I’ve barely heard of plastered to the walls inside the doors. The huge industrial-looking bar was on the left and then a few steps down was a cavernous dance floor only half-full of a menagerie of interesting characters. The music was awesome, but I had one drink and just kind of watched.

September 13, 1989 Wednesday

I got a letter from Charles, postmarked from Italy, telling me he won’t be home now until the 21st or 22nd. I guess I’m a bit disappointed, I don’t know.

Classes are fine – I really like my Human Society and Culture class, and the instructor is great!

I dropped off the phone deposit at Bell today for $100. Hopefully we’ll have a working phone in a few days.

Last night Jane took me to Veniero’s down 11th, oh my God! There’s this enormous glass case filled with Italian pastries, cookies, cannolis, little fruit tarts, and so much more. I think I died and went to heaven in there. The first order of business is taking a number, and waiting on line until it’s called, though good luck deciding what you want when you can’t get near the case until it’s your turn. The space inside is small and Old-World feeling; it reminded me of Greece and the pastry shops on every corner. The store is split in two: between the shop side for carry-out, and the seated side, with its copper tiled-ceiling filled with little 2-top tables pressed so closely together there’s barely room to walk between them.

We bought a box full of cannolis and cookies, and two coffees, and headed back to the dorm. I’m not sure its proximity to our dorm is going to be a good thing.

September 15, 1989 Friday

I’ve decided to go home tomorrow morning. I called Erikah on my lunch break and she said she and her mom would pick me up at 30th Street Station.

I wasn’t feeling well last night so I decided to stay in and go to bed early. Well. Daphne and Alena were so loud coming in and out of our bedroom, flicking on the overhead light, in and out, light on, light out. I was so pissed. It was mostly Daphne. I have been trying to tolerate this situation but personally I don’t think I should have to.

Anyway, they went out for about an hour and then came back. Then Daphne’s friend Dimitri was with them, and he needs a place to stay – guess where? I didn’t get to sleep until after 2:30 thanks to all their commotion, and I had to get up at 6:30 for work. I was so pissed.

Apparently Jane had said no way to Dimitri staying over so she was pissed when she found out. She had a talk with Daphne while I was at work, so when I got home at lunch Daphne confronts me with all this drama the minute I walked in the door. Tried to blame the whole thing on Dimitri and everyone but herself. Like then I’m supposed to feel bad, which I absolutely didn’t because no one asked ME if it was okay for him to stay, or for HER to live with us for that matter. She said she “sensed hostility” every time she walked through the door. And now she’s never going to see her sister because of her “Greek Pride.” What a crock of shit.

Still, I was worried about Alena since she’s the one who actually IS my roommate. I was afraid she might be upset by all of it but everything is fine. She seemed unphased by it, even as Daphne moved out today.

Daphne’s parting words: “I’ll just have to commute every day an hour and a half now. But so what? I’ll just have to suffer.”  Yep, good luck.

September 20, 1989 Wednesday

This guy in my Human Society and Culture class sat down next to me on Monday, I mean right next to me, and all through class his arm would brush against mine while he was writing. Today he was right behind me coming into the classroom today, followed me all the way up to the second to the last row and sat down – out of a choice of, count them, four seats in the row – right next to me. I was dying. He has beautiful eyes. He was fidgeting a lot and tapping his pen on his desk, loudly. I was trying so hard to keep a straight face. If he sits there again, I’m going to have to talk to him.

Meanwhile, Charles sent a message through his dad to my mom that he ran out of money. He and his friend are in the south of France working in a vineyard picking grapes for a living. Well, at least he’ll have stories to tell his children one day.

I’m still amazed that I was so in love with someone for such a long time and yet now I haven’t the slightest idea of what it really is anymore. I’m not even sure I know what it is, I guess that’s what I’m trying to say. I hardly think of Rob anymore, and thank God for that. I do feel something for Charles, although I’m not quite sure what it is. Then, there’s this guy in my class that makes me feel giddy, even though we haven’t said a single word to each other. So weird.

Daphne has moved temporarily back in. Ugh. I knew it was only a matter of time. She’s already making excuses for herself. I do like her – she’s riot and we have great fun together – I just don’t want share a room with her. Or deal with the bullshit.

September 22, 1989 Friday

Nothing like a fire drill to end the day. The entire building – all three towers and 14 floors – evacuated. So we’re all standing outside on 11th street in various states of dress, while the firetrucks pull up and the guys get out and go assess the situation, which is likely just a smoke alarm activated by something burning on somebody’s stove (we are an apartment-style dorm, after all) and some asshole opened their door and activated the entire building’s system.

Daphne started talking about going to bartending school, you know, to earn some extra cash. Jane glanced over at me and snickered. Under her breath, she muttered, “stupidity knows no bounds.” She’s not so fond of Daphne, methinks.

 

New York Chronicles – September 8, 1989

dugout

Photo credit belongs to Jason Fernau, via Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York website.

Last night was a riot. We went first to the Dugout, a neighborhood bar two blocks away from the dorm. Three steps down into the brightly lit bar, its façade lending the impression of an old English pub with wood shingles and a single gable window above the door, and standing room only among the wooden tables. Three frosty drafts went down like water and Alena and Daphne decided we were going to MKay’s.

MKay’s is midtown and more upscale and it was crowded with well-dressed people. We detoured downstairs to the lower level which was more clubby and darker with the flashing lights of DJs and dance music. We met these Italian guys from Milan, which was about the only thing any of them said that I could make out since I think they had about a dozen English words between the three of them. Two more beers went down and it was hilarious – the six of us struggling to have a conversation above the booming music and soon it was just lame.

Getting up for work this morning was rough, and I was still nauseous. I worked from 8 to 4, with an hour lunch break which was great because I really needed the fresh air. The area I work in is basically in the basement, with a separate entrance from the main Admissions office upstairs; we’re kind of like the worker trolls hidden in the basement. I swear I’m going to spend a lot of time underground in New York, and I’m not talking about the “edgy” side of the city.

My boss is nice enough but strange as a three-legged bird, and I haven’t yet figured out which eye to focus on when I talk to her. She’s tough but not unkind. Kind of like a retired military sergeant. Her husband, who works there too and I’m not sure exactly what he does, is a dead ringer for Howdy Doody, and equally as strange. He has an off-color sense of humor that I’m sure isn’t appropriate for the work place, and more than likely he’s got a closet full of bondage paraphernalia at home, or he’s a serial killer. Which, when I think about it, makes it very difficult for me to look him in the eye.

 

**Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York is a favorite of mine. There’s also a Facebook page and a published book. It makes me very nostalgic for the New York of my twenties.

November 15, 1987

We’re back from our weekend getaway. We got in around 10 p.m. Friday night at Jeff’s parents’ house. I met both parents and they’re very nice. Jeff and I went out driving later – very fast, but I wasn’t afraid. We talked about very strange things, like death and the afterlife.

Saturday morning Mike and Wendy picked us up. We went to the Mall and I absolutely loved it. There were some really great stores, like the Sharper Image. A great many “catalog” stores. Afterwards, we went to see Scott in the hospital. He’s doing fine, has a pin or two or three – I don’t know – in his leg. I don’t really know him, so I stood back feeling uncomfortable while the guys visited. I felt like I was somehow invading his privacy.

Wendy and I saw the cutest little girl in one of the rooms down the hall. She was all alone and crying, and we got her to stop crying and actually fall to sleep. Afterward, the four of us got sandwiches at a deli and waited for the train into New York.

I LOVED New York. We dubbed our trip “Jeff’s 20-minute tour of New York City,” since he sort of took charge of where we went and what we saw and because we seriously ran through the city. We had taken a train in from Hoboken, and got off in Greenwich Village.

I saw lots of neat stores everywhere to shop in, if only I had the money and we weren’t on a whirlwind tour. We stumbled onto a sex shop called the Pleasure Chest, and the boys dragged us inside. It was wild! I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s way more kinky than Spencer’s. There were glass display cases full of dildos in every size, shape, and color, and other things I had never seen before. And they had these little penis erasers! Now those I would have loved to have. I can’t imagine the looks I’d get in class with them!

We raced through Washington Square Park – this beautiful park surrounded by trees and a huge fountain in the middle, and a huge arch on one side that looked like Paris. There were people everywhere, sitting on park benches and children in the smallest playground area, dogs on leashes, legions of artist-types lounging around the empty fountain, and students with backpacks.

There, and on several of the streets we walked through, I saw purple and white flags hanging all over the place. Turns out this is NYU, or, New York University. It never, ever occurred to me that people go to school in New York. This has to be the coolest place ever to go to school. How cool would that be?

Anyway, Jeff’s Whirlwind Tour came to an end and we took the train back to Hoboken. We went out to dinner at some restaurant there, and had a great time. I love going out to dinner and getting served. Wendy got trashed and so did I – we had an excellent time together. We stopped at Mike’s sister’s apartment. Mike kept dropping the keys at the door, on purpose, because he knew I had to pee.  Everyone was laughing. Except me.

**Disclaimer: I don’t use the upgraded service; therefore, you will see ads at the bottom of my posts (ads I don’t see because I’m not you). As it has come to my attention that certain ads may not align with my world views – I am compelled to add the following statement until further notice.

I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT SUPPORT DONALD TRUMP. NOT YESTERDAY, NOT TODAY, NOT – EVER.

Flashback: February 24, 1990

Tuesday morning I had my Medieval Lit in-class paper – I didn’t even finish. Then yesterday my Irish Renaissance paper was due, and a Math test I didn’t get to finish.

Last night we partied in the dorm – Roxanne, Julie, Chris, Ian, Luke, and I. The living room looked like a tornado went through it. I left around 11 to visit Michelle and Lori in South Tower and apparently they all thought I was out wandering the streets alone. Ian was so worried he went out looking for me, wandering all over the village. When he didn’t find me he came back to the dorm and wrote me this bizarre yet very creative poem that didn’t rhyme, in which he called me an “infant arachnid.”

Roxanne is feeling paranoid about her weekend with Bryan. She thinks she’s pregnant. Her period is so irregular it’s entirely possible that it’s coming soon, but worrying about it just makes it all seem worse. Meanwhile, I’m having doubts again, about the whole thing with John. It’s so easy for me to be away from him right now. I think it’s time for that whole “space” thing again. I keep having doubts about him. Thinking about the future just scares me to death.

I wish I could talk to James Joyce sometimes. I feel like I’m struggling to realize myself, and perhaps he could help. Mom and I got into a fight on the telephone yesterday about silly things. I started to cry.  She called back a little later, we cleared the air, and I realized we share the same irrational fear. We both feel like when one of us gets mad, the other will stop loving us. It’s a sad realization – our bond is so powerful that sometimes it hurts, sometimes I feel like I can’t leave her, and it’s like a force is pulling me back to her and when I resist it tears me up. I wonder if she feels the same?

Sometimes I get so messed up that it frightens me – because occasionally I feel like I just want to die.  To close my eyes and sink into nothingness. Let the tears stop flowing and reach a higher plane, full of light and warmth, for eternity. God put me on this earth for something – I don’t think He wants me back for a while. But who is out there? I sometimes can’t find her. The fog moves in and becomes so thick I can hardly see her, and then she drifts away. God, please don’t let me fall into boring patterns when I grow up. All my life I wanted to grow up, and now I’ll be 21 in a few months. What then? I still don’t have a clue.

 

A 20-something’s “Bucket List”

I’ve saved college papers, creative writing, bits of prose, writing prompts… and recently stumbled across a list of things I wanted to do, written during my years at NYU – at the tender age of 20. I didn’t know this was officially called a bucket list. It’s silly.

Cruise around Manhattan (Booze cruise). There were a number of these going on at the time, not a few of them NYU-related events.

Empire State Building. Never been, unless I was there when my dad to took me to New York when I was 6. I’ll have to ask him.

Statue of Liberty. I was there when I was 6. I have no memory of it, only the memory of the plastic statue souvenir I had for years afterward.

Go to Italy – Florence, Rome, Venice. I spent the night in Rome when I was 11, on a lay-over to Greece. Doesn’t count.

Soho. I’m not sure what I meant by this. Soho isn’t far from where I lived and we did some serious shopping there.

Balloon Ride. Must’ve sounded appealing, though by the time I was 27 I had absolutely no desire to do this. Specifically – I had a friend who operated them and I flat out turned him down on a ride. *I’ve got an interesting story about this I will share in another post.

Weekend in New England (Bed & Breakfast). I spent a few weekends in New England visiting friends… does that count?

Waterskiing. I had a friend in my mid-20s who owned a boat and waterskied. I’m sure my neuroses kept me securely in the boat by this time.

Go to an antiques auction. We had a close family friend who was a world famous antiques dealer, so I guess he inspired me.

Rollerblading. This was a new craze, everybody was doing it, and it was a fast way to get around the city. I wanted to do it too. I did buy a pair and tried to teach myself. Embarrassing.

California. A short and boring trip to Laguna Beach with my parents when I was 16 wasn’t enough. Years later… and several trips to San Diego and Santa Barbara… it was wonderful and reinforced my desire to live there, though I haven’t been back in 19(!) years.

Study abroad program. I really, really wanted to go to England, though I never pursued it. If I had a do-over – I would go for sure.

Ballroom dancing. Two of my roommates were on the NYU team, and I really wanted to learn. I’m still thinking Todd and I should learn together. And I’m sure he’s laughing right now.

Acting. I really wanted to try acting, and fantasized about being on a soap. It sounds laughable now; however, there really was a summer course in acting at NYU that was taught by people in the biz, including soaps, so this wasn’t so far-fetched an idea. At over $3,000, it was costly for its time. I didn’t take it, but did take an impactful acting class at my college.

Picnic in the Park (with champagne). I emphasized champagne on this list, like it was mandatory. I did do this once, on a meaningless date, so I guess I “could” check the box. However, there was no champagne involved and I have a confession to make. I don’t really like champagne. I really REALLY want to do this with my husband. With wine instead.

Buy a wig. This one is just bizarre. I will write it off as a Gemini thing – the chameleon tendencies we have.

Work in retail. Now this one is a real stretch. Hasn’t everyone worked in retail at some point in their lives? In my 3rd year at NYU, I got a job working mid-town at Express. It was a blast, and I met a handful of soap actors who shopped our store because it was around the corner from the studios. Retail beckoned again in my mid-twenties when I went to work at Macy’s. There might be money in retail, but not at an hourly rate or when it’s commission-based.

Dog show. What in the -? I have no idea why or what even made that enter my mind.

There was a lot of New York-based stuff I never did: A helicopter ride, Strawberry Fields, Central Park Zoo, American Museum of Natural History, Chinatown’s Mott & Canal Streets, Mulberry Street between Grand & Canal, Feast of San Gennaro, Battery Park, Wall Street and the NYSE.

I passed through Chinatown a handful of times, though I ate in this really fabulous noodle house on the fringe once. I walked on Wall Street, does that count? I spent a bit of time in Central Park, sunning myself on the hill next to the Met while I studied, but I never visited the zoo. I listed the Guggenheim, which for some reason I never went to; I did go to the Frick, MOMA, and Met many times.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral. My roommate and I stopped in there during the holidays and it was breathtakingly beautiful and, not surprisingly, filled with people.

Tavern on the Green. I got my wish on graduation day with my mom and my dad. We had lunch there with a bottle of Dom Perignon and I don’t remember what any of us ate except the exquisite lobster bisque. (The Dom was not my idea, by the way).

Comedy clubs – Caroline’s, Boston Comedy Club, Comic Strip, Dangerfields. I frequented the Boston Comedy Club for its proximity to where I lived. One trip to Dangerfield’s was an unfortunate blind double date. The comedy was great. The date was not.

Top of the World Trade Center. This is bittersweet. I never did go to the top, though I passed through the WTC on the subway to downtown many times.

Tony & Tina’s Wedding. This show had only been running for a few years by the time I got to New York, but it sounded like so much fun I wanted to go too. Never went.

Carriage ride around Central Park. I saved this for last, because it was quite an elaborate fantasy I had created. I imagined myself in this beautiful forest-green gown, riding in the carriage with my man. There was no man at the time, but the dress was real – I found it completely by accident while I was shopping with my friend at Bloomie’s. Silly as it sounds – I imagined this event in more detail than my own wedding. And I never forgot it. Perhaps I will one day live it out?

This find inspired me to write a new one. I wonder what will be on it?

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to New York, Baby Girl

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September 2, 1989

I’m sitting on my bed now in Third Avenue North. I can’t believe I’m finally here. I’m feeling really nervous and anxious, mostly because there’s really nothing I can do… which sounds incredibly stupid since I’m now living in the city that never sleeps.

Mom drove me up here with all my stuff packed tightly into her little BMW, and I directed her to my dorm. She says she’s not familiar with New York like she is Philly, and she’s afraid of getting lost. I tell her that’s ridiculous, since New York is a grid of numbered streets and avenues and if one street goes one way, the other will go the opposite. I don’t know how the hell she doesn’t get lost in Philly with all the streets named after trees. Where’s the logic in that??

We checked me into my dorm and they give you these big-ass commercial laundry-like carts to throw all your stuff in so you don’t have to make 300 trips up and down the elevator and out to your car. Afterward, we took a walk together down the block to one of the corner delis and mom bought me some groceries and other supplies for apartment living. We passed a resale shop with antiques and instruments in the window and mom said I should learn to play an instrument while I’m here. Like the flute. Um, yeah. Like that’s gonna happen.

She’s filled with advice for practical and impractical living, and made sure to ask me if I knew how to tell a man was gay. Which, by the way, is the most fucked up thing she’s ever asked me. Growing up in the restaurant business has exposed me to countless people of all persuasions, not to mention that several of her close friends are gay. I’m guessing she’s afraid I’ll fall in love with someone who won’t like me that way. And now I’m wondering if this happened to her?? At the time, I didn’t think to ask.

Saying goodbye was tough. More for her than for me, I think. I was anxious to just “get to it”… stop dragging out my former life and embrace the city. She hugged me tightly and (teary-eyed) told me she loved me and I need to call and, “don’t hide yourself away here.” I think she meant don’t hide in your dorm room, which I am predisposed to do when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

I’m living in apartment-style housing, so there are two bedrooms shared between four roommates, a kitchen and common living area. There’s only one girl here right now – Jane – a senior who’s been here since her sophomore year. My roommate isn’t here yet and I have no idea when she’s coming, since I never spoke to her. I only know that she’s Greek, which is comforting since I’ve grown up half my life with a Greek stepfather.

I’m almost completely unpacked, except for a few small things. My room, on the fourth floor, overlooks the courtyard, which is incredibly noisy with the sound of those rolling carts going back and forth and voices floating skyward past my window like they’re on amplifiers. I cleaned the bathroom, which was really disgusting with all these little hairs scattered everywhere, and I’m amazed that Jane didn’t feel the need to do any cleaning last week when she moved in. She said her roommate, “A,” doesn’t come until Monday. Jane’s a bit strange, but really she’s just very outspoken and doesn’t mind being so. She doesn’t know Roxanne either, so hopefully she’s a transfer like me who’s starting over.

The next day felt a little better. My anxiety has abated, if only a little. I got up and decided to venture out, took a cab halfway uptown and wandered the rest of the way. I walked all the way back home. I’m so tired now.

Jane invited me up to her friend Linda’s room to watch movies tonight, which was really nice and I decided to go cause I knew I wouldn’t be doing anything better. They told me not to take anything A says personally, she just has a strange way about her. Great. I can’t WAIT to meet her.

The news lately has been all about racial divide and disputes, which admittedly I casually paid attention to but it got real today. While I was walking home, I passed 3 black men dressed in white and standing on the sidewalk facing a gathering crowd. Holding a microphone, one was talking about the white man and his indifference just as I was passing through. I have never felt more conspicuous in my life, not even on that bus in the Bahamas.

On Labor Day Jane and I pondered again where my roommate is, and wondered if she was even coming. If she doesn’t show up, I’ll end up with a single – at least for a little while. The anxiety hasn’t fully abated yet. This is going to be very hard, much harder than I anticipated. I have these fleeting feelings of going home, not staying here, and working full time. But I have to give it a chance.

A” seems alright – a little strange – but I like her. She’s quiet in some ways, but then she’ll drop some judgmental statement like a casual fart. Not sure how to take it yet.

I hung out tonight with both her and Jane and met some of their friends who seemed nice. It’s really nice of them to include me and I appreciated the gesture. And Jane gave me a tape. I’ll have to listen to it soon.

September 7, 1989

Today was the first day of classes. I had The Family at 9:55 and Literary Interpretation at 2:50. My roommate finally came yesterday! She’s really cool. Her sister is staying here too because she’s on the waiting list for housing. So apparently she’ll be staying with us for at least two weeks. I’m not sure how this is going to work, but whatever. I’m not the one who has to share a twin bed with her.

We’re going out tonight! First time clubbing in New York.

 

 

New York, Early Spring 1991

 
Another generally irritating day, where I had a list of things to do and only accomplished half of them. I’m carrying this annoying bag filled with the work of the day, and it’s so heavy that when it swings it nearly knocks me over. I had to stop at the store to pick up a few things, so now I’ve got another bag. It’s pouring down rain out, and the wind is threatening to invert my umbrella. So there I am, struggling with these three things and dropping my mail on the wet floor at the guard’s station as I struggle to locate my ID and at the same time keep the soaked umbrella away from my pants.
I stumble into my apartment, violently thrust forward by the weight of my bag as it slips off my shoulder. I sigh heavily with an air of annoyance, and I feel the tears burning behind my eyes. All I want to do is sit in my bed in the dark, with the covers pulled up to my chin, clutching my lifelong friend Teddy. And cry. What an incredibly frustrating day! Nothing went right.
Instead I find my roommate stretched out on her bed with the blinds up, listening to music. She’s doing absolutely nothing. Most of the time she does nothing. She’s been sleeping all day. I am instantly pissed to find her there, invading my right to privacy again.
“Hi!” she sings cheerily. She’s only a sophomore, and already she has her life planned out as far as graduation from Harvard Law. She’ll probably do it. The only thing she seems to worry about is not getting into Harvard because she only has a 3.7 GPA. It really irritates me to hear her complain about this.
Last semester I was contemplating law school – I even have a dusty white box in the back of my closet with about twenty bulletins. Criminal justice is fascinating, and I’ve always been interested in helping people (and the money doesn’t look too bad either). But then I changed my mind because I knew I wasn’t ready to handle the workload, and I sure don’t have a 3.7.
It really bothers me that she worries over such a tiny little thing, when she already has planned out everything else. This summer she’s studying in Korea. Next year she wants to do the Washington semester.  She’s already got an internship for next fall. I don’t even have that – I haven’t even begun the search for one. That’s just another thing on my long list of “Things to Do.” It bothers me that she already knows what she wants to do after only two years in college and I’m still playing the guessing game after four. I want to know too! When I talk about the uncertainty of my future and worry about graduation and finding a job, she looks at me blankly like I’m a lunatic.
So I stumble into my room. I can’t even look at her. If I open my mouth I’ll say things I’ll regret.  I want her to get out. I swear she hasn’t left that spot since she crawled into it last night. I toss my bag on the floor, rip off my jacket, kick off my shoes, and fall into bed.  I pull the covers up over my head, and lie still. I wait. The tears are stinging my eyes. I slip one hand out from under the covers, groping for Teddy’s leg somewhere behind my head.
She either gets the hint or is getting hungry. She turns off the radio, closes the blinds, and leaves me in the empty darkness of our room. I close my eyes and try to envision something peaceful – a warm, sandy beach, blue ocean, me, and nothing but the sound of seagulls soaring overhead. But, as usual, it doesn’t work. Something is gnawing at the pit of my stomach, and I just want to cry and cry.
I want someone to come along, take my hand, and show me the way. I’m on some rollercoaster ride to nowhere and I just want to get off. I wish the end of this road wasn’t so dark and scary. I wish I had some answers.
©taraversus2016

 

Snowfalls, Remembered

Over a glass of Knob Creek, and after an impromptu cleanup of an overflowing toilet in the kids’ bathroom…
 
All this snow – and a Facebook post by a friend who lives in New York City – had me thinking about snowfalls past.
While I was a student at NYU, I loved the days it snowed and blanketed the city in pristine white. There was this one magical snow that I have never forgotten. It was the end of 1990- the beginning of 1991 – I was home on break but returned to the city one weekend to spend time with this guy was I was dating. We decided to go to the movies – we saw Awakenings in an intimately small midtown theatre and I was blown away by Robert DeNiro’s performance. I was feeling hormonal and particularly emotional, and tried so hard not to cry and embarrass myself.
It had started snowing during the movie so that the scene outside the theatre was positively beautiful. The side street was white and unadulterated by tire marks, and there was the occasional cab skidding by on 3rdAvenue. Otherwise, just the snow falling silently all around us, ghostly steam rising out of the manhole covers, and people leisurely walking –so black and white, like a scene out of a silent film. I could hear the sound of my own heart beating. He took me by the hand and together we walked the distance back to our dorm. I don’t remember what we talked about, or even what I felt – other than overcome by the magic of a silent, white New York on a snowy night, telling myself I never wanted to leave. If you’ve lived there, you know those moments don’t last. The next morning would be brown and potholes full of icy, dirty water would have to be navigated, along with slippery sidewalks and cold, gusty winds.
I don’t often remember whole events in my life, but certain scenes just stand out. Kind of like old photographs in an old dusty album. They are memories, but only tell a tiny part of the story.
Another snippet – a frigid, snowy night on 3rd Avenue again. My roommate and I were distracted from our studies by the sounds of our neighbors in the suite next door, making a ruckus from their window catty-corner from ours. They had started an impromptu baseball game with a stranger in an apartment across the street, baseballs crafted from snow collected from the rooftop above the 12th floor. Snow they carried down the elevator. Our friend was pitching the snowballs across 12th street and the stranger was hanging out his 4th floor window hitting them with a frying pan.
Most magical snowfall ever? The night Todd and I stole a kiss under the moonlight while the snow fell silently all around us, just a few weeks before we went public, the second time.
What’s your most magical snowfall? Tell me, I wanna know.