Tuesday, December 1, 2009


My life up to now has been up, down and sideways. I imagine that it's not so unusual in that regard. We win some, we lose some, but most of the time, it's a draw. In my particular history, three distinct periods stand out. I'm not huge on nostalgia, and I'm pretty happy with the way things are right now, but if I could turn back time, only for one day, it was be to one of these three eras: 1) My first semester at the University of Florida, 1987. 2) My first four years in New York City, circa 1991 to 1995. 3) My first three months in Buenos Aires, September 2006 to December 2006. Apparently, I love beginnings.

(Too bad I was still getting the fashion thing so dreadfully wrong during phases 1 and 2 -- see the above photo, from phase 2.)

For me, Madonna's "Secret" video perfectly captured what it was like to live in New York City in the early '90s, specifically 1994. (The song and clip, by the way, are my favorites in Madonna's entire aural and visual canon.) The cheapness and beauty, the ghetto fabulousness of it all. Sugar Babies. Flamingo East. Jackie 60 (the Tuesday night site of many an after-midnight rendezvous with one of Madonna's beautiful back-up dancers). The Roxy. Sound Factory. The East Village. Avenue B. Nights that lasted till da break of dawn. Lazy, hazy mornings. Sex in the park (Union Square Park). Early morning walks of shame back home -- or to work! -- after a particularly bang-up night. Those, to paraphrase a 10,000 Maniacs song that was popular at the time, were days.

By mid-decade, the velvet-rope era had kicked in. I never had any trouble getting on the right side of those velvet ropes, but I knew that something off was happening to my city. Then Sex and the City ruined it for me. We squeezed in a few more good years, but my love affair with NYC went downhill from 1998 to September 11, 2001, after which, we were just going through the motions.

When I arrived, it was okay to be poor in New York City -- it could be kind of glamorous even. Then everything turned hopelessly trendy. It became L.A. with skyscrapers and smart people, a city full of cheap girls sipping on Cosmos in groups of four, a city of haves, have nots and annoying wannabes. The Meatpacking District, once an emblem of NYC at its down and dirtiest, became a gentrified amusement park. There was even a British invasion, with Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen moving in (so eventually, did Samantha, a non-Brit, in Sex and the City).

People in BA always ask me how I could leave a city like New York. If it had remained the way it was in 1994, I probably never would have. But it didn't, and anyone who was around for the pre-Rudolph Giuliani Disneyland version of the Big Apple knows what I'm talking about.

But I'll always have my memories of New York City's golden age. Thanks to everything mentioned above in the second paragraph, especially and particularly the great "Secret" video, a perfect visual document of a near-perfect time.

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