Perhaps it was the rain. Or the fraying of a relationship. Or the combustible matter that has been created by all this therapy. But New York was like damp ashes.
I first went there in 1994 when I was 24 and knotted. I’d just met Abraham, a handsome ballet dancer in Berlin with the biggest thighs I’d ever encountered. I spend most of my week in Manhattan swerving between excited coke-accelerated city-worship and squishy, soft-hearted longing for my new boyfriend back in Berlin.
Back then I was doing lots of clubbing and desperately casting around for some secure base. I did lines on a car-bonnet outside the back of CBGBs, I caught lice in a bed in the East Village, I poured hundreds of quarters in to a payphone on Avenue A trying to call Berlin, I chased a South African male model through the crowds at Twilo, my heart turned tiny. It was a bruising time.
But I went back maybe a dozen times between then and now. With different boyfriends, different parties, different drugs. I went back sober, and working. I filmed and I stayed in swanky hotels in Meatpacking District – where earlier I’d hung out in an artist studio watching him mix tar and cut out rent boys from the gay weeklies. I filmed in Central Park, on top of the Met. I climbed the Empire State at dawn and photographed pigeons looking down.
And the City purred on. Sunshine on the village, the Christopher streer pier, sushi at Hiro, beer by the waterside. It got clean, it got safe, it got bombed.
And the last few times I have wondered why I am there. Is it all just one big consumer experience? The shops are like beautiful art installations. The art installations feel like shops. I feel pampered and pleasured. But I don’t feel real. I don’t feel engaged. Just handled.
Maybe it’s the crunch, or the jetlag, or the invisible smoke still rising from Ground Zero. The city made me sad.