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Home Main Forums Bar & Grill 25 years ago I fell in love with NYC

  • Average Gazoo (1823 posts)
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    25 years ago I fell in love with NYC

    I left Los Angeles after the Rodney King riots and spent the summer bouncing around the country, staying with relatives and old friends. I was looking for another place to live and researched what it would take to move to Toronto.  It really looked like Bush 1 was going to be re-elected and it was just depressing.   I felt like my life was burning away one day at a time in a country that was showing no signs of a much needed course-correction.

    I worked a couple jobs in a couple US cities but by October I was looking to head back to CA. I wanted to see NYC, Boston and DC before going back.  I parked my car in Connecticut and took the train into Manhattan around 4pm.  I came up from the depths of Grand Central like a salmon against the stream of suits exiting the city.  I walked 42nd to Time Square.  There was a row of folding tables set up on the sidewalk and pairs of men played chess and backgammon while throngs of people and sirens streamed passed them. I had been in the City less than 20 minutes and it was starting to get its hooks into me.  I have the picture I took of those tables and I remember what a revelation that moment was: NY wasn’t a dirty crime ridden dump full of rude people — it was a dirty crime ridden gem full of interesting people. And it wasn’t just 3000 miles from L.A. — it was a parallel universe.  A fallen world where the art deco vestiges of its 1930s glory towered over the streets like angels from another lifetime.

    I went on. South on Sixth Ave to the windows of Macy’s.  There was a live DJ and 12 club kids in rave-wear dancing in the store window to promote Swatch watches.  Other club kids came out and tried to hail a cab.  One of them wore red tights and 8-inch platform shoes, he had shaved his head and eyebrows. His friends were less extreme but cabs would pull over and then speed away when they got a better look at the group. I have a picture of that moment also. Someone near me said “they take a picture of that and then tell people in Iowa we are all like that”  I turned to him and said “I’m from L.A. (and joked)..the picture will make me less home-sick”

    I wasn’t homesick at all. I had been in the City for an hour and was already thinking about how to live there for a year. I didn’t get back to Connecticut until about midnight.  The next day I took my car to the city and found a cheap room in Little Korea (W 33rd). It was like a second date.  The City stirred my soul. I fought the feelings like when you date someone that you have reservations about but I knew it was love.  The feelings were strong and barely rational therefore: love.

    People reading, debating, playing chess with strangers. Millionaires next to crackheads. People that ran the shops owned the shops and they cared.  Unlike the stereotype, people didn’t hate each other — they loved each other like a big family. There was a “we’re all in this mess together” vibe.

    On the the 3rd day I went to the Hotel Chelsea. Stanley Bard welcomed me as if I was a long lost friend. His hotel had hosted Dylan Thomas, Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen, Alan Ginsberg and dozens more. Arthur C Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey inside those walls.  He quoted me $80 a night to stay there and I said that was out of my budget.  He asked if I was artistic and I told him I was a writer and was working on a piece influenced by Kerouac’s “On the Road” and I had to come to New York to feel the edginess and danger and the layers of spiritual energy that had that island humming like a cosmic beehive.

    Stanley turned around with a key in his hand, “Take room #100 for $35. It used to be home to a famous musician.”

    It turned out to be the room in which Sid Vicious had killed Nancy Sturgeon.  What better embodiment of the duality of Life; where forces seen and unseen dance to the music of fate and we are made whole by the love and grace others as we live in a world gone to hell.


    zoewashburne, , Coldmountaintrail and 21 othersdorkzilla, iggy, Land of Enchantment, FourScore, Enthusiast, closeupready, madfloridian, glinda, Tuesday, A little weird, pacalo, Ohio Barbarian, virgdem, caliny, PennLawyer, HeartoftheMidwest, xynthee, djean111, Smarmie Doofus, Marym625, Haikugal like this

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11 replies
  • Marym625 (29222 posts)
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    1. What a beautiful piece

    I love this. Thank you for sharing

    It’s on The Daily Radical

    Take Action #StopFCC https://www.battleforthenet.com/breaktheinternet/ "Once the decision was made to go into Iraq as an invader and occupier,  it’s like our nation lost its conscience. And it has not yet gotten that conscience back." Madfloridian  
    • Average Gazoo (1823 posts)
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      2. Thanks

      That night at the Chelsea sealed the deal and on Columbus Day of 1992, the 500th anniversary, I moved into the Belleclaire Hotel and “a year in NYC” turned into 17 years.

      Among many odd things about that day at the Chelsea was that I had been haunted by the film “Sid and Nancy” since the first time I saw it. I was working in feature films in Los Angeles in 1987 and a friend gave me the poster for that movie because he knew how much I loved it.  Much like the City, that movie isn’t for everyone. It is a niche movie, an odd love story that shouldn’t work but somehow has an enigmatic power beyond what its subjects seem capable of engendering. And it’s ending features the World Trade Towers prophetically looming like 2 tombstones above the star-crossed lovers:


      • Marym625 (29222 posts)
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        3. I don't remember if I even saw the movie

        I think I did. But I remember the book.

        You’ve had a very interesting life, what I know of it anyway, which isn’t much.

        I’m going to have to watch it, maybe again

        Take Action #StopFCC https://www.battleforthenet.com/breaktheinternet/ "Once the decision was made to go into Iraq as an invader and occupier,  it’s like our nation lost its conscience. And it has not yet gotten that conscience back." Madfloridian  
  • Ohio Barbarian (7829 posts)
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    4. Powerful piece. Thanks for sharing. I love visiting big cities like New York,

    London and Paris, but I prefer living in smaller cities. Probably just because I grew up in one and it’s what I’m used to. Beautiful picture of NYC. It is a great place.

    Ignorance is the foundation of tyranny.   
  • tripleQ (796 posts)
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    5. Beautiful

    Thanks for the paean to one of my favorite places.

    Sorry it ended on a sour note – the mention of wild, disturbed Nancy S. who was murdered horribly by a person she loved.

    But I guess that’s fair.  New York is great, but despite the lights and glamor, people suffer there like everywhere else.

  • dorkzilla (2526 posts)
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    6. NYC is the tits!

    It’s always wonderful for a NYC native to hear other people’s view of your beloved city.  Though now I’m older, I love living out in the leafy suburbs where I can retreat to quiet after all the noise and bustle. But as long as I live in the US, I will never live far enough away where I can’t see the skyline on my daily Hudson River walk.

  • closeupready (2283 posts)
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    7. I first visited in 1993 – fell in love with it, and came back for good in 1996.

    Been living here ever since – I won’t live here forever, and I’m growing very tired of some things that have changed (and I’m simply getting old now, lol) – the New York I loved in 1993 has essentially disappeared.  I guess that’s what happens everywhere, doesn’t it?

    But I think it’s the only city in the US that is as free as cities in democracies should be.  That is something that I felt here more than anywhere else (personal freedom, as a gay man) – I still feel it, that I can be just as gay as I want to be, period.  I wouldn’t be able to do that anywhere else (except perhaps San Francisco, but who can afford San Francisco except trust fund babies?).

    Yes, if I won a jackpot, I’d hightail it somewhere else where I could live like a big fish in a small pond, but for people who just have to work, it’s about the best place to do that, IMHO.


    The opinions and views expressed herein are solely those of the author.
    • Average Gazoo (1823 posts)
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      9. Thanks for the rec. I know what you mean about not being the same as it was in

      the 1990s.  I live 2 hours from the City now in a town full of NYC expats and we all say that.  Some recent arrivals told me that “New York is increasingly  filled with the most boring people you could ever meet — investment bankers with no imagination.”

      Looking back it was surprising how fast and how much it changed. I caught the last year of Dinkins mayorship when the police force was basically on strike / slow down and helped Giuliani get in. There were both fewer laws and less enforcement in those first days.  I came across a block party on West 24th on my second day there — trash cans full of beer, salsa music blasting and people dancing in the street. It was heaven.  People smoked weed everywhere — on Wall St, on the Ferry, in between the subway cars, standing right next to cops, etc.

      The gay scene in Manhattan was very different from L.A. because it was mainstream and open. People didn’t just say they didn’t care, they REALLY didn’t care. The stereotypes were gone and the divisions were eroding.  L.A. had nothing like The Townhouse or Uncle Charlie’s. In 1992 NYC still had the whole timeline of gay hangouts, from Julius to The Spike to Marie’s Crisis to Limelight to upscale video bars full of white collar guys. Nearly endless variety. Places closed one by one as their rents went way up.

      As a patron of any business in the City now you are acutely aware of the fact that their business model has to pay the ridiculous rents.  It reminds me of the shops in the long corridors of the Bellagio in Las Vegas — soulless and ostentatious.



      • closeupready (2283 posts)
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        10. Are you up around Poughkeepsie? I love it up there, but it's far,

        that’s the only thing.  I do sometimes feel tempted to look around for places there, though, I will admit.

        The gay scene is weak now in NYC due not just to the escalating rents, but hook-up apps.  There is still a scene, but it’s really young, and I feel so out-of-place.  New York’s population has become boring and suburban, yes, I agree with that view.

        Recently at lunch, I was walking down 8th Avenue in the garment district (around 38th Street) and I passed an older Spanish guy wearing a pink bra – it was an exhilarating sight, a throwback to New York’s big, bad era!  I chuckled, and wanted to actually give him a kiss, or a tip, or whatever – thank God there are still drag queens here who aren’t sniveling cowards, and will get right in your face.  :rofl:  :hi:

        The opinions and views expressed herein are solely those of the author.
  • Coldmountaintrail (4715 posts)
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    8. +++

  • Average Gazoo (1823 posts)
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    11. Today is the anniversary of the death and this article popped up

    in my FaceBook feed:

    The next morning began as always. Those residents with office jobs hurried off to work, checking their reflections on the way out and sticking their heads in the door of the former ladies’ sitting room to say good morning to Stanley, who always arrived by seven o’clock sharp. The artists tended to sleep late, but a few lumbered across the street for a swim at the Y or went for coffee at the corner diner. At about eleven o’clock, the clerk at the front desk received a call from outside the hotel. A man who did not identify himself told the clerk, “There’s trouble in Room 100.”

    The clerk sent a bellman to check out the situation, but before he returned, another call came in from room 100. “Someone is sick,” a different male voice said. “Need help.” The bellman entered the room and saw, to his horror, Nancy’s blood-smeared body in only a black bra and panties lying face-up on the floor, her head under the sink and a knife wound in her lower abdomen….


    I remember that sink because it was not a bathroom sink but rather a sink like you would have in a mud room — deep, concrete and on steel legs, like something you would wash clothes in. The room was shared-bath when I stayed there. They had changed the configuration because Stanley “did not want it to become a shrine.”  I think they had split the room down the middle because it was narrow.  I don’t blame Stanley for trying to defend his hotel from such infamy. So many other things happened there that were wonderful and should not be overshadowed by one dark chapter.