FoHDiary Day 1: Time To Jack
I’d hoped for one of those dream experiences. You know the ones. Where everything is perfect, like in some 80s comedy classic like Home Alone or Coming To America. Lot’s of learning out of cab windows taking photographs, eating giant pretzels, dancing on oversized piano keyboards embedded in the floors of toy shops etc. You get the idea.
Nope. None of it. Instead my first 24 hours in NYC have been, frankly, nightmarish. Don’t worry, this post will turn into something vaguely academic in a bit, but before then I need to have a rant about my bag containing my laptop, hard drive, recorder, camera and phone charger, being dragged across the state. Hence this post turning up a day later than planned. Add into that a nightmarish family who’d taken both their kids out of school to go on holiday (“I’ve told your head teacher its a family emergency”) and said family taking my window seat, a bumpy flight, a bizarrely circuitous route into the city, and generally feeling out of it because of the time difference, what was supposed to be a “hit the ground running” bit of field research ended up with me sitting in a bar drowning my sorrows with the hispanic bar man (Bernado, who will probably occur several times over the next two weeks). Suffice to say I became that guy at the bar. Think the guy in Carry On Cruising and you’re nearly there. Anyway, onto more beard strokey type things.
Flying into JFK is an experience. As the flight path twists out over the sea before spiralling back in on itself to land, you catch a furtive glimpse of Manhattan. It’s bigger, darker, and certainly more intimidating than I’d imagined. Given the nature of this project I was referencing the scene on the pier with Venus Extravaganza and the ghettoblaster in my head, and the Emerald City Sequence from The Wiz. Instead, I was presented with a distant city bristling with 50 story high needles of glass and steel.
And once you’re in among the skyscrapers the same intimidating scale isn’t lost, if anything it’s amplified. It’s no wonder central park is so big, it’s needed just to allow New Yorkers a moment of direct sunlight without it being reflected threefold off building facias and down to street level. It’s different from any other city I’ve ever been to. Oddly, it feels smaller. There’s less space. The buildings aren’t part of the city. They’re obstacles to get around, and although long straight grids allow distant vistas and vertices to display themselves, the buildings don’t feel like part of the city. They’re incursions and extrusions that life has to happen around.
That being said the reason I’m here is, in part at least, to think about escapism. Or hedonism. Or rebellion. Or even conservatism is a roundabout way (small c). It’s odd that in the city that never sleeps, a city full of excitement, creativity, and endless variation, that night world (see Haden-Guest) developed so fervently. If we think of night world as escapism, why on earth was it’s epicentre here?! There are a million other things to occupy even the most “degenerate queer” or bourgeois yuppie. Why escape? I have a sneaking suspicion that the city offers too much. Constant shift and change on some churning undercurrent of what is deemed this week to be culture. Lest we forget: a city is never finished. But when confronted with all that constant, erosive change, I’d be tempted to find something constant and/or simple. Wouldn’t you? And what could be more simple than 9 hours of four to the floor kick drums? Or fucking yourself up on drugs to imbue that PLUR sensibility upon yourself and those around you? Perhaps over saturation causes simplification. And in a city with the likes of Warhol and Basquiat still prancing around, it’s unsurprising that places like The Loft, The Gallery, the Paradise Garage, and Better Days all cropped in to offer something simple and unequivocal. Acceptance and unity through some shared musical tropes. Simple musical tropes.
I myself would crave some simplicity. I’ve hit absolute saturation point with this election stuff. Just pick one of them and be done with it.
CeCe Rogers confirmed for the 18th too! Whoop whoop!