New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down

A brief history of my New York experience

Summer 2006: I remember taking the train in from Scarsdale and standing up as soon as it went underground only to wait 15 more minutes for it to arrive. I remember being in actual awe that Grand Central looked the way it did. I remember buying a sixpack of Smirnoff Ice and pounding them on Jack’s roof, the sugar making us sick, and the squeak of the door freaking us out. My parents were upset that I had spent $50 dollars in one night: it was just a sign of things to come.

Thanksgiving 2006: The thing I remember most is the wind. It was cold and biting, but brisk and refreshing. It remains one of my favorite parts of fall in New York. We walked around Madison Avenue and tried on $25,000 watches. We ventured downtown and got drunk on Tequila shots at Mancora. I remember Jack breaking a glass; it was a Sunday night. There was a crosstown bus to the Upper West Side where we played poker in a deli and bought Cocaine the energy drink. There was Ali’s party where I did a shot, opened a beer on the wall, ran when I heard the word cops, and regretted not kissing her. We did pullups in Subway cars, slept in strange apartments, broke into liquor cabinets, and saw the tree at Rockefeller Center.

Summer 2007: I used a Wall Street Journal as a blanket on a freezing Fung-Wah from Boston. I remember steaks at the Smith and Wollensky and every desert on the menu. I remember sitting on a street corner at 4am with Seabass and Arjun waiting for a nightbus. I remember sneaking a stumbling Eli back into Jack’s apartment and finding his vomit behind the dresser 3 weeks later. We smoked cigars and I saw my first concert.

Thanksgiving 2007: I stayed downtown by NYU with Alex. We split Lucky Strike cigarettes and wandered around the streets with some vague sense of purpose. I bought a winter coat and we put gas in his Volvo. I remember $3 dollar sparkling wine with Jane and Michelle, and too many bodies in one bed. There was a party at Columbia and I bummed cloves off a cute black Barnard girl. I remember taking a cab back downtown and singing Hey There Delilah out the windows. I remember buying 40s, a beer wall and finding my friends doing Cocaine the drug off a Dell laptop.

March 2009: Graham and I had an apartment somewhere in the 60s. We recovered from Montreal, ran errands, and went to the Apple Store at 4am.

May 2009: This was my most supervised adventure in New York. We dressed in nice suits, and stayed in a hotel. A young associate at the Mercantile exchange extolled to me the merits of a John Allan’s membership and I collected several business cards. We did not get to ring the bell at the Stock Exchange.

Summer 2010: We went to Fairfield first, drank Johnny Walker Blue, and ate undercooked steaks. We taught Graham how to drive in Jack’s X5 and tried to find Fairfield college girls. I remember driving from Fairfield to Manhattan in rain so strong I had to judge the road by where the tail-lights in front of me were going. I’m sure we went out, got drunk, and had fun, but all I remember is eating at Mandarin Court and breaking several traffic rules trying to find parking.

October 2010: Jack and I got into a fistfight and I remember throwing Alex’s bong at him. It broke. Rishi got too drunk and we thought Eli passed out in the bathroom. There were parties at Columbia and too many of us sleeping on Graham’s floor. I remember getting lost in Harlem and ignoring the police who specifically told us not to walk through Morningside Park.

Thanksgiving 2010: Michelle and I drank Bloody Mary’s and hibernated at a cozy fall cafe in the village. We got stoned and watched the city from the safety of her Balcony. There was Green Tea and Whiskey, an overwhelming Uniqlo trip, a play with my parents, and not enough sleep.

Summer 2011: I drove down without a wallet, threw my phone at a wall, and drank for 2 days straight. I met two Nicks and liked one. I convinced a doorman that I was an Asian kid named Graham. Jack lost his phone and passed out on his doorstep. Collectively his dad referred to us as “Quite the pair of retards.” We did unlimited sushi sake and beer and I spelled the last name on my fake ID wrong.

Summer 2012: I met my Argentine girls and took photos I don’t remember. We went sake bombing. I spent too much money, saw my investment bankers and spent the afternoon in Central Park. We crossed Morningside Park after dark and drank a lot of whiskey in the Village. I passed out in my boxers in Larry’s apartment hallway and watched the sunrise over the Chrysler building.

October 2012: I was in the city for less than 24 hours. We got stoned and had to leave Michelle’s before I was ready. We did the whole Madison Avenue game, but this time with the intention to buy. It was unremarkable. There were a lot of bars on the Lower East Side and a fat girls birthday party. There was a pretty girl with pearl earrings in a grungy bar and we slept in the back seat of a Chrysler Grand Prix. I remember leaving the city and feeling very sad, only to realize that I was probably just coming down.

Thank God you Drank Gin Tonight

You are dressed in a gray v-neck t-shirt. You bought it on sale. Jones comes out of the crowd. The bi kid or so you’ve heard. You start discussing the gray v-neck shirt. You fucking faggot you think to yourself. The conversation is good though: it’s easy, it’s comfortable, but there is only so much you can say about v-neck shirts and soon it dies out.

Even before the club you felt out of place. You wished the party hadn’t started in some cramped dorm room where it was too loud to talk. But would that even matter? Does the place matter? Is it you not the location or circumstance? You avoided the question with a shot of Jager but it is tugging at your subconscious in the growing silence. Why couldn’t you make better conversation with that pretty blonde girl? Why did you let it fall into awkward silence? You liked just looking at her in a melancholy sort of way – you convince yourself she was like a fucking tumblr photograph, but secretly you wish you were still talking about v-neck t-shirts, gay as they may be.

In the club your feelings of social ineptness grow. You stand silently in line as two girls cut in front of you, inviting the boy they are with. You look around awkwardly. Everyone is probably too drunk to think you are awkward. You watch the girls get out of the endless stream of cabs, pulling their skirts down as the slide off the worn leather seats. Some forget and the tight black skirts ride up – it’s the whore parade you think to yourself – too bad they don’t notice you, you could use a parade of whores.

Inside the club you see another boy dressed in a gray shirt. He looks out of place. His eyes dart around like a dear caught in a car’s headlights and he scampers: pushing through the crowds, wandering back and forth, back and forth. As you watch him you think to yourself – I’m glad that’s not me, but then you think again and you too are wandering back and forth, back and forth.

How has your life come to this you think. The question runs through your mind like a stock ticker – over and over – almost always red. The red thoughts are enraging and you try and surpress them. At the bar you try and order a beer to beat the thoughts back but the marks on your hand give you away and the bartender gives you a dirty look. That fucking cunt you think to yourself as you walk away. You are still trying to repress that red ticker.

You need to leave. You have no good friends here just acquaintances. Those who don’t know you don’t want to know you. If you try and talk to them they give you dirty looks like you are that creeper boy in the gray shirt who was wandering back and forth. They are making you are that creeper boy in the gray shirt.

Your mind has given up suppressing the anger. You can’t drown it with booze. You need to leave and you desperately search for the pulsating exit sign. You walk out and see a girl too drunk to stand trying to hail a cab. You should try and help her get home you think to yourself, but fuck her – if she were more sober and you tried to be friendly she would treat you like a nobody. So you leave her stumbling on the side of the road with her hand held in the air desperately hoping someone will take her home safely.

You are back home. You tell your roommate about your night, and how you were at the club for all of five minutes. You don’t mention how the whole ride back you were thinking about how you had been ruined. You had been confident before you came here. You never felt socially inept. But now the feelings are so strong that they drive you to drink, and when you can’t drink to leave. He agrees that this is an unfriendly place and you calm down. You hope that it’s not you and that it’s just this toxic place but you aren’t convinced. Would that even matter? Does the place matter? Is it you not the location or circumstance? You hope you haven’t lost your ability to socialize like you lost your ability to write.

The empty green whiskey bottle is staring at you when you open your eyes. You missed your morning appointments and you hate yourself. You can’t believe you lost faith in yourself. You brush the sleep from your eyes and stare at yourself in the mirror. You are the fucking man you think to yourself.

Depth

You sit sinking deeper and deeper into the blue felt. The walls start closing in around you before the blue felt turns to water – and you plunge. Plunge into the depths, the wooden facades crashing down above followed by the heavy stones which rush in with force only to be countered quickly by the strength of the water. And it’s overwhelming, the stones now rejected are still weighing on you whilst the eddys and currents beat you around like a doll. You flail unsure of where to go – struggling to find your center. The sunlight peeks through between the shattered stones and the splintered wood as you fall further and further. Soon you are weightless and free from the current’s wrath, now just a mere puppet as you hang suspended in the last reaches of the light. Any chance of escape is gone and it seems as if you are resigned to be swallowed by the abyss. You beat and you kick and your mind races – there must be a way out, find the way out, you are better than this. The water and your mind goes black. You have trapped yourself; maybe you aren’t better than this after all.

On Travel and Writing

They were like the men and women who stand about airports and railroad stations; they want to go away, and most of all they want to go away from themselves. For they do not know that they would carry their globes of boredom with them wherever they went. One man on the pier who wanted to participate made sure he would be allowed to cast us off, and he waited at the bow line for a long time. Finally he got the call and he cast off the bow line and ran back and cast of the stern line; then he stood and watched us pull away and he wanted very badly to go

(John Stienbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez)

It’s easy to become fascinated with the idea of leaving or running away just as it’s easy to become fascinated with the concept of writing. The two are inextricably linked by one simple idea. A tried and tested practice in both fields that will forever associate the writers with the mysterious dreamers who are never fully there, or at the very least never want to be there. I think the connection is a simple one. There is an idyllic view of writers like Hemingway and Fitzgerald in a Paris salon with cigarettes burning finger tips tightly wound around an empty tumbler. And they sit there huddled over the table unshaven and ungroomed maybe slightly drunk, definitely slightly lost, reading dirtied pages – maybe theirs or maybe the work of someone else. And it is this visualization of the writer as a mysterious being, shrouded in a cloud of cigarette smoke and an aroma of booze that connects him with those running away. Because ultimately, as Stienbeck points out, those running away really want to go away from themselves and often instead of running away at all they choose to just drown themselves in the romantic version of endless scotch and cigarettes sitting outside on cold lonely nights looking at the lights in the distance.

The funny thing about all of it is, is that when you personify the writer as a Hemingway or a Fitzgerald, and succumb to the lifestyle with a drink in your hand and smoke in your hair you actually cease to be the writer at all. You distract yourself from sitting down and writing with constant cigarette breaks and a constant state of intoxication; ultimately leading you to believe that you are the writer, when in fact you are nothing of the sort. You simply become the man on the pier watching others do what you have convinced yourself that you too are doing.

Similarly I think that travel and writing exemplify the same characteristics in that you can be whoever you want. You can be whichever character you choose in the pages of a novel, or you can paint a false picture of yourself in an autobiography. Similarly when you travel you are never in the same place long enough to make a lasting impression. You can be one person in one town, and when that story runs its course you simply up and move to the next town, to a new persona.

In short it seems that its easy to become lost and misguided with both travel and writing and in reality those two dreams and goals can fast become vices if not properly monitored. I was hoping to end up at a more meaningful conclusion, but instead it seems as though I’ve just run in a circle of thought. I wish I could make a grand generalization or some profound sweeping statement but instead I’ll go outside smoke a cigarette and have a drink repeating until it seems that I have, in fact, written the next Gatsby.

Loki Loki Loki

So I’m staying at this Hostel in Cuzco which has the following: A travel agency, a bar/restaurant, a gym, and a movie/video game room. It’s not a bad deal for like 8 bucks a night. There are just two problems. I don’t know how much drinks at the bar cost, and I have put many many of them on my tab. Moreover I got a little bit drunk last night and may have accepted a job to stay here and work over Christmas. It’s just so much fun (and I get 50% off the drinks AND I would probably then be able to figure out how much they cost…)

So what should I do. Stay in Cuzco and rage for 6 months, or fly back to Boston and Christmas in Jamaica and then go take 3 engineering lab classes at Duke?

CUZCO Peru

Dear friends. I had a lot of really mean unforgiving things to say tonight which I´m glad I´m not saying… They probably would have haunted me tomorrow. Long story short I hate clubs. I should have lower standards and for fucks sake I do not want to see my bar tab tomorrow. I really wish I could see all of yall soon, and I really wish i wasn´t iiving in Substance Free housing next semester cause that is going to suck so much fucking dick.

chau
ishan

Naked.

Cleaning lady stared me down as I came out of the shower butt naked..

tehe.

What’s everybody up to these days?

– chon