I do believe cities are organisms with minds of their own: solaris-like, they transmit and shape us to their ideas, purposes and intentions.
In New York for instance, I always felt that the metropolis was, essentially, on my side. For one thing, it never failed to bequeath me amazing places to live: the 450-dollar rent-controlled one-bedroom with a view of St. John the Divine... the 1000 square-foot loft with the Brooklyn Bridge soaring magnificently just outside its early 19th century sash windows... the exquisite co-op on Avenue C overlooking the bird-studded willows and rampant roses of a gigantic, award-winning community garden.
The city, too, had its oracles: ergo the dark-skinned taxi driver of indeterminate third-world provenance who, one night in August 2001, suddenly said a propos of nothing: “There is very bad energy in the city right now, very very bad, very evil.”
“Uh-huh,” I said soothingly. “New York never was a bed of roses…”
Here he turned around and looked me in the eyes: “But you, miss, you must not worry. You will be protected.”
In that moment I knew this was no idle cabbie psychobabble, and that a message was being delivered to me; instantly I believed every word and felt comforted, though I knew not of what. “Thank you very much,” I answered him sincerely, and then forgot all about the incident.
Shortly after that a ridiculously overpaid copy-writing gig fell into my lap, I made seven grand in seven days, and took off to Italy on what turned out to be an epic voyage involving Capri, Tuscany, Rome, the Dalmatian Islands, various creative breakthroughs, and insane amounts of mind-blowing sex. My return ticket was dated September 12, 2001.
Yes… New York always loved me tender, loved me true in spite of my inconstancy. Buenos Aires on the other hand, was never easy to please or be pleased by.
Right now I’m in one of those – phases? ruts? wtf?? - lulls in which, for example, going out is no longer an experience of coherence and joy but rather a sequence of irritating situations, interspersed with rare, tiny jolts of quasi-harmony.
Caveats: any and all conversations with Kat and/or Alexandra, of course, fall into the realm of coherence and joy. So, mysteriously, does going to Café Dadá under any circumstances, in any mood and in any company.
However all good things: Dadá dinners, girly boothside banter, bottles of champagne on the house, must come to an end and I’m back in the stream of warm incoherence, thinking: Why am I being driven to Club Tequila in this 4x4 with tinted windows? Who am I… what is it all for?
And trying to zen it out: There goes the Bellas Artes Museum... there goes the giant metal flower – opening or closing? Ugly or beautiful? Meaningful or junk? Can’t tell, never could – and wham! We hit a good patch. Alex is saying: “I was living on the Lower East Side, dating one of the Ramones – “
Kat: You’re shitting me! Oh my god!
Stef: Did you hang out with Iggy Pop on Avenue B?
Alex: No, but I once had a long chat with Kurt Cobain… I met Eddie Vedder - that whole grunge scene, let me see, who else…
Stef: YOU MET THE LOVE OF MY LIFE? What was he like?? What did he say???
Alex: Oh, right, and Chris Cornell -
Kat: Aaaahhhh! I don’t think I can survive the statement you just made.
Stef: Forget freakin’ Chris Cornell, TELL ME ABOUT EDDIE VEDDER!!!!
Alex: Oh he was way too PC, sooo political….
Sted: OMG I SO LOVE THAT ABOUT HIM. Let me touch you so I can be at one degree of separation from MY IDEAL MATE FOR LIFE (caressing Alex’s sleeve) Oh, Eddie… Eddie….
From the front seat, resentfully: What are you girls going on about?
Stef: Uhm, the rock stars we used to date?
The front seat has no comeback. End of coherent, joyful patch.
Cut to int. Tequila: the mainstream Argie elite in all its crushing lack of imagination, taste, and glamour. No one, not even the pole dancer, has a clue. “I can’t believe they don’t take credit cards!” fumes Kat’s friend, recently flown in from my galaxy far far away. “I’ve got money to burn, this is ridiculous! Don’t they want my business?”
Alex: Welllll… money-laundering, you know how it is… strictly cash-based…
Stef: Wanna go to kim y novak?
Cut to our formerly favorite den of perdition, where unexpectedly I hit an oasis of coherence in the shape of my erstwhile wannabe slave/long ago lover: he’s as dishy as he ever was, and so I’m reminded of the gloriously S&M start of our acquaintance three years ago (more on that elsewhere, but here was my outfit the night we met: notice the riding crop in my right hand.)
I always love to nestle up to this lovely, lovable Brit’s badass body while listening to his sexy Newcastle-inflected voice, which is now confiding that since we last saw each other he slept with – CUT!
(OK I so did not need to hear that, and you my readers so do not need to hear it either, in short: goodbye forever tainted lover!! Goodbye, oh brief glimpse of coherence.)
Fast forward to where two different creeps come trawling up to me & Kat and can’t believe it when they are brutally rejected. You have to understand that a. Kat is beautiful & fabulous & so am I, and b. Both these guys are utterly repulsive.
“Why do they think they can do that? I mean, like, don’t they mind looking like such supreme jackasses?” asks my oh so guileless friend.
“Because,” I explain patiently, “According to the world-view being generated as we speak by the pea-sized brain of the average latino machista, all girls are dumb no matter who they are or what they look like; but gringas are especially dumb, because they always feel obligated to be polite when asked: 'Where are you from?'”
“I want one of those T-shirts,” says Kat.
“The one that says KEEP BACK 200 FT? I keep forgetting to go to Once with my stencil, then keep regretting it every time I go out…”
“You’re so beautiful when you’re all pissy and irritated and hating everyone,” says Kat.
“Ha ha,” I say mirthlessly.
So it all kinda keeps being annoying and joyless, when wham! We sail into another oasis of coherence, because across the room full of repulsive guys trying to make eye contact, and beautiful modelly guys eye-contacting potential sugar daddies, I make contact with – Shane.
Who has many points in his favor, and none against – that’s probably because I’ve met him like, three times in my life. In favor: tall, handsome, manly not machista, Canadian, a photographer, zero sleazy. Against: your guess is as good as mine.
Shane waves hello, Shane comes over, Shane meets Kat, everyone likes everyone, everyone is a photographer, we shout shop over the Kim y Novak disco madness, I wonder yet again why Shane values my opinion about his pictures so much, I like Shane because he’s passionate about photography and therefore my brother in arms,
I want him to succeed and make pots of money at it and I want the same thing for Kat and for myself and for all artists everywhere, Shane worries about his landscapes versus his portraits then says, self-consciously because he’s young: “I really shouldn’t talk to you about photography in night clubs all the time,”
while chugging along the track of my own parallel preoccupation I wonder: Why do I never feel like taking pictures when I go out anymore? I carry my sacred Lumix around religiously but far from being the extension of my body it once was it now lies, inert and forgotten, in my purse as I reach around it for another cigarette,
and at the same time I know it’s because the city in its solaris aspect has somehow withdrawn its nighttime favors and beauties from me. It is telling me to go, or to go inward, to be alone, to grow up, away, towards; to find the next thing, vision, level of meaning, whatever.
“Oh my god!” I yell above the disco din. “Let’s blow this joint already!”
“Please let’s!” Kat yells back.
And we jump into our respective cabs.