Since I was a child, I've dreamed of living in New York City. As an artistically inclined, same-sex attracted individual, Manhattan was the ne plus ultra of living destinations. I lived Boston adjacent and went into that hub as often as I could. And Boston is a very cool city; but it was no New York. Ironically, Boston is rapidly turning into a kind of New England New York: with outrageously exorbitant prices to match. The cost of living in both cities has priced out the very people who flock there and give those places their character. Artists, performers, writers etc.
But New York was never very financially kind to the artistic types who were drawn there. When I graduated college, New York still beckoned; and if I'd been actively pursuing acting, I may very well have tried my hand at living there; despite the gut-churning reputation the city had of being entirely unaffordable; unless you were willing to live in squalor with rats, roaches and seedy strangers. You had to wait tables for people who had a global reputation of being mean. Maybe you could be a bell-boy at a hotel; doing more for the male lodgers then just hauling their luggage...Prostitution is a big step for most people. It's a line I couldn't cross (I tried once: more on that in another blog for another day). But it's a line that's easy to cross for some people. It's all about survival, right?
So, when I left the halls of higher academia, I got a job at a gay bar in Cambridge and worked there for three years while I dragged my feet about my future. Actually, it was more or less a three-year party, since not only did I work at the Paradise bar, I hung out there when I wasn't working. It and the people in it became my world. But then, I had friends who were moving to Los Angeles to pursue the dreams that we had all gone to college for. I knew I had to take action or that I would end up at that bar for the rest of my life.
I'd visited. There was no there, there, as someone once said. It was patently fake to me. The city nearly indistinguishable from the sets on the studio backlots that had built the town. Sunbaked in shadowless light at a constant low broil. Even in the winter, when it rained, there was never any thunder or lightning. Not once in the entire time I ended up living there did I hear the rumble of thunder. Have you ever read The Day of the Locust? It is an entirely accurate depiction of Los Angeles for someone who has moved there from the East. Of course, for some people (the British for example) L.A. is IT. They get there and they've arrived. That mechanical sunlight is just right. Who cares if it's fake. It's paradise.
However, because of its mind-boggling sprawl, Los Angeles had one thing going for it that other major metropolises didn't. Relative affordability. You could realistically afford to live there and enjoy a modest "lifestyle" without having to become a slave to the place (remember Slaves of New York?). I mean, just think of all the apartments in Los Angeles. If you couldn't find your own, you could easily find room-mates. The idea of "room-mates" was somehow more palatable in Los Angeles. I mean, we all grew up with Three's Company, right? Who wouldn't want to live with a bubbly, blonde California girl and a cute straight guy pretending to be gay? Split the rent and then have enough left over to have a drink or two at The Regal Beagle. By the way, didn't Jack Tripper seem pretty gay anyways? I never got that whole "pretending" thing.
"I just got a new roommate (wink, wink)..."
But, back to metropolitan living.
When one is in New York City, the most immediate impression one gets is the sheer number of human beings on the street. It's to the point of creepiness: you're nearly almost always within a half a foot of someone. Not so in Los Angeles. The streets are bereft of people. I mean, yeah, certain thoroughfares are crowded: Hollywood Blvd., Rodeo Drive, parts of Melrose, a few blocks of Sunset; but most other places you could fire a cannon and hit nothing but air. It's like the exact opposite of New York City. It's just as creepy to have no people as it is to have too many. I prefer too many people, as I'm a people watcher--however, only if you can get away from the throng when you've had enough.
My husband and I have taken up going on little jaunts to the Big Apple. Him for me, more so than vice-versa. He knows I love the place. He, however, does not. I mean, I can't say I blame him. The place is an absolute zoo. I don't think I've ever been to a place where more people have full volume conversations with themselves. Or, are they on Bluetooth calls? And umbrella etiquette is non-existent. You have to be on constant vigil for umbrella spokes to the face when it rains. I do think that NYC is starting to grow on him a bit. He's into maps and geography and the city is basically one giant map grid. For me, it's a wonderland of new experiences: at this point in my life, actually getting to know the city I always dreamed about. Definitely a case of everything old is new again: both for the city, and for my person. Who knows, maybe I'll be getting up close and personal with Paris in my 70's. You gotta stay interested in life for as long as you can, while you still have use of your legs. This last trip we went to see Hadestown. I was blown away by it. Take that Disney (what will they be giving us next, The Apple Dumpling Gang! The Musical?)
Was it a he or a she? Did they get the tuna fish? Did they wonder if it was actually tuna fish? Did they care? Is that a toupee...oh, dear God, it's a SCALP!!!
My mind wanders like that. And don't even get me started on my wonderment about the volume of trash New York City generates in a single day. Where does it all go? (New Jersey!--rim shot). I mean, when I start thinking about that my head could explode. It was raining in NYC too. And there was like a creamy-white, gravy-like substance running in most of the gutters. What was that? Manhattan-milk? Would I drink it if someone offered me money? How much money would it take for me to drink Manhattan-milk?
So, in any event, I guess the point of this essay is that I wouldn't live in New York City now. I mean, if I could live the way I always fantasized, like Lois Lane in Superman, with a little Alfa Romeo Spider in the garage and on someone else's dime, sure, I'd live there. But that only happens in movies like Superman. Her penthouse was at 1 Gracie Terrace on the East Side, by the way. It was recently up for sale for a mere 3.27 million.
On our way to the Roosevelt Island tram, we walked right by the door to The Chrysler Building. My husband has an incredible knack for walking right up to landmarks without even knowing it. It's like he's psychically drawn to these places. I was like, "Oh...it's The Chrysler Building. Right here. Here's the door to the lobby." So we went in. A rather imperious young attendant stopped us in our tracks. "This isn't open to the public." WTF? It's a lobby. They're called "Public Lobbies" for a reason. I barely had time to glance at the stonework before he was giving us the bum's rush. "Well," I said, good naturedly, "what if I had a dental appointment?" (There is actually a dentist up in the spire! Or there used to be).
"Well," he said, a little less imperiously but not quite good-naturedly, "we'd check you in." Needless to say, I didn't have a dentist's appointment. But I know what dentist I'm going to if I ever do live in Manhattan, if he's still there, that is...
I just called the Chrysler Building a bitch.
Oops. I just read that there are plans to open a new observation deck at the Chrysler Building. Sorry Chrysler Building. But if you brought back The Cloud Club then you'd have something the other buildings don't. A sweet-ass restaurant that people would pay through the nose (even by NYC standards) to dine at. Go big or go home Chrysler Building.
I mean would you do it? Maybe? Imagine the coin it would generate for the city. Or would you rather just take your chances dining next to a mountain of trash: just as thrilling and only slightly less dangerous.
In any event. If you're planning on seeing a show on the reopening Broadway and one of those shows is The Lion King or Aladdin; go see Hadestown instead. Support something original. And I'm telling you it will change your life.