Came across this old entry from my journal when I was brand new to the job and brand new to New York City. Seems like such a long time ago, definitely bittersweet remembering that time in my life. I think I had just turned 24.
“We met underground, the first person I have ever met underground. I just love saying that. It sounds like a fairy tale, like she was a troll or something.
The whole subterranean encounter was guided by the Fates. She never takes the F train out of Queens, I never take the F train from La Guardia to the East Village, but there we were, the only two people in the car as I get on the Manhattan bound F train at Roosevelt Avenue.
I see her dressed like a glam angel, velvet pants and glitter all over. I sit across from her and then become shy, I think it was too obvious. I could have sat anywhere in the empty car, but I go out of my way to drag all my luggage across the car, to her sights, directly in front of her. Now, I just sit and let my mind fantasize about what could possibly happen at this particular moment in time. I could get a wave of courage and say something profound or charming, I could make and hold eye contact, sending soft electricity into her spiky Central American head.
Instead I sit facing her, but looking down or away, pretending to read the ads for laser eye surgery, reading and rereading the lame “poetry in motion” lines, trying to figure out how the authors got their stuff on these Barnes and Noble ads.
“Do you need a map?”
“Excuse me?” I reply.
“Do you need a subway map?” she asks again holding up the map she was using as a fan. This was the start of the hottest Summer on record for New York City.
Realizing that I look like a tourist just off the boat with my luggage, I see where she’s coming from.
“No, I live here, I’m just getting back from work.”
“Oh yeah? What do you do?”
“I’m a flight attendant. (I cringe saying that, now I’ll have to make an effort to prove my heterosexuality) I’m just getting back from San Francisco. (Again, digging myself deeper)”
She just looks at me for a second and says in a straightforward manner, “Do you want to go to a party with me?”
I think about how odd this is. The script of the conversation says, “This girl is a freak” but the look in her eyes and my sixth sense says I should roll with it.
“Sure,” I say, trying to sound as causal as possible, like that’s something strangers ask me all the time, “but I need to go by my place to get changed and drop off my stuff.”
“Okay. Let’s do it. My name is Alley.”
I take a shower while I let her meet my roommates, not knowing she was completely ignoring them and filling her notebook with line after line of brilliant prose and poems about the same things I was thinking about in the shower.
She said the party was way-the-hell-and-gone up in the seedier parts of Washington Heights, which was one of the reasons she talked to me in the first place. That isn’t a neighborhood a young girl should be walking through alone at night unless she’s familiar with it.
Even as the two of us passed the toothless drunks and hardened thugs, I didn’t feel too comfortable. Every loud dominoes game was silenced as we passed. All eyes were scoping us out, sizing us up, and contemplating our agenda. Alley strode confidently down the avenue and side streets toward dark and lonely Riverside Drive.
It was along one of the eerily quiet back streets that I realized I really didn’t know this girl and she could be setting me up. We were walking through one of those nightmare gray and black asphalt roads with lurking shadows stirring in the peripheral. I don’t really remember, but I think she was smirking. I could be robbed and killed and no one would even know. I’m sure a gunshot would be ignored around here; I’m sure a scream would get no response at all. I tell Alley what I’m thinking in a laughing/joking manner. She doesn’t reply. Gulp.
We do finally find the dilapidated building just across the Hudson from New Jersey. We buzz the apartment as the sound reverberates throughout the dusty building. Some guy who sounds wonderfully effeminate and not at all threatening lets us in.
The apartment is full of kids who left home to make it in New York City. They are all aspiring musicians, playwrights, actors, and models, all celebrating gay pride in glittery pixie dust, short shorts, fabulous hair, gorgeous costumes, and numerous drugs. It was like the 70s were wrapped up and shoved into this cramped apartment.
Everyone was having a great time telling stories, prancing around, drinking cocktails and enjoying the sweltering summer in the city. Then there was one guy who stood out immediately. A very out-of-place, straight-laced, Jewish teenager in the middle of a living room full of queens and fag hags. He knew no one in the room when he arrived at the party. He was supposed to meet Alley there, but I delayed her a good hour. So this innocent, awkward, straight boy was at the mercy of the fucked up queens and their desire for fresh seventeen year old tail.
He was awfully glad to see us, though he did hand out water-colored flyers to the whole gang, inviting them to his next gig at the Sidewalk Cafe. Those one-man shows of his became huge in Alphabet City, that boy can be a superstar if he wants to be- Adam Green, The K Mart Cafe Poet.”
Funny thing about Adam is that he is making it. I saw him later that same summer in England at the Reading Festival. Even now I see him on MTV in Zurich. One of the songs he wrote as a teen is the song they sing in the closing scene in Juno. Check him out for yourself.
Alley formed a band and then another band and yet another band, often with her twin sister. Right now she’s in School of Seven Bells with former Secret Machines/UFOFU guy, Benjamin Curtis. Small world, I used to watch UFOFU play in Texas when I was a teenager.
With all the success Adam and Alley have had, I can only hope that some of that magic rubbed off on me from that summer. I guess I’m just a late bloomer.