the metropolis recaptured

this story in spanglish

The sheer extremism of the recent Buenos Aires heat wave segued me right into a certain Avenue B studio, whose Chinese slumlady knocked on our doors the first of every month, flanked by a couple of Chinese goodfellas: the first girlCave in girlHistory.

Having just landed in the metropolis from her
cocooned small town existence, girlontape was in a constant state of shock and awe: the junkies, dealers & hos waiting and smoking outside the all-night deli... the tiny punk bar around the corner: darker & badder, louder & grungier, filthier & friendlier than any joint that ever was... the ubiquitous DIE YUPPIE SCUM graffiti...

and her beloved - now long-defunct - Fluffy Donut Diner on 54th St. Here she would sit at the horseshoe-shaped formica counter alongside the kinds of people who can't afford New York any more, breakfasting on coffee & cigarettes while reading Henry Miller and Raoul Vaneigem before clocking in at the Italian network ("the slavery of everyday life!") on the 40th floor of a black glass tower, where she dreamed of "freedom from capitalist oppression."

Long-distance conversation with my dad:
-How do you get to the office every day honey?
-On the subway, dad... like the rest of the proletariat.
-The NY subway is a deathtrap! I forbid you to take it ever again!
-How am I supposed to get to work?
-In a cab, of course.
-Uhmmm... I won't make rent if I do that.
-I'll pay for it!
-That's sweet dad, but -

and while she tried to reassure him by ridiculing his fears it was also true that
girlontape - though she never in a million years would have admitted as much to her overprotective father - was scared shitless pretty much 24/7.

Summer nights she would lay awake in her stifling 5th-floor walk-up, watching how the moonlight threw the shadows of the bars on the windows across her futon on the floor & hoping they'd withstand the inevitable assault by the inevitable rapist-robber-serial killer lying in wait for her as for every other young woman who dared to brave the metropolis alone: here was the russian roulette any self-respecting grrrl hoping to escape a lifetime of dullness in suburbia had to play -

while in the ragged back yards a junkie hurled violently and a soprano practiced her scales. Mysteriously they would go into their routine at the same time every night, in a counterpoint that
girlontape found to be emblematic of the metropolis, its struggle and its gallantry:

art and annihilation, the agony and the ecstasy, the ethereal beauty of the Chrysler piercing the heavens and the Vietnam vets flying the Stars & Stripes upside down in Tompkins Square Park, the armies of cockroaches and the dragon

(in winter gigantic waves of steam come rolling out of the sidewalk grates: "That's the New York dragon," she was told) and indeed it seemed to
girlontape that something terrible and marvelous - a treasure or a curse or both, the significance of which she had yet to decipher - must lie coiled within the metropolis' entrails.

"The first two years you just want to get the hell out," the inhabitants explained. "Then you get hooked & never leave. You'll see." "That won't happen to me,"
girlontape scoffed. "I've got places to go, people to see!"

But as much as she fantasized with symbolically blowing up the media establishment that was her bread and butter (like the Situationists) and then fleeing to Paris to live in a garret and write novels (like Henry Miller) the truth of the matter was that
girlontape - shitting bricks, thrilled to the core - was the happiest she'd ever been in her brief, sheltered, nomadic life.


Ray said...


What a poignant, beautifully-written piece! You've conveyed an experience so uniquely yours, yet simultaneously universal for all young women who choose New York for their rite of passage--and taken the grit of the city and turned it into poetry.

girlontape said...

thank you so much Ray! the intensity of the apple - is there anything else like it? I can't say it ever really waned for me either.

girlontape said...

autrement dit: you can take the girl out of NY, but you can't take NY out of the girl