This memoir is a long time overdue. It’s being written out of order. That makes a lot of sense to my very non-linear mind. It owes a lot to the many people who read Courting Destiny, and my BFF’s–sometimes but not always the same —over the past almost ten years.
I had been wanting to leave New York for a long time. Since 1990 to be exact. I even got a job as an SSI Claims Rep because it was easy to transfer to different parts of the country. Unfortunately my father’s death in 1991 changed that plan.
I couldn’t imagine leaving New York as long as my mother was still alive.
But the only places I really loved, anymore, were Riverside Drive where I fortunately bought a coop in (1997), West End Avenue, all of Riverside Park, Central Park, Tribeca, The West and Far West Village, mine and my friends apartments.
The outside of my building looked exactly like Will & Grace’s. It was the building where George and Ira Gershwin spent their most productive years. The first time I felt like a real adult was when I passed the coop board’s interview. Quickest ten minutes of my life. My hair was just past chin length with carmel highlights. I bought a black pant suit with carmel piping that exactly matched my hair.
The board package consisted of my entire financial history, ten letters of recommendation–three professional, three employment, three friends and I forget what the tenth was.
I can’t do my own taxes (mental block) but I did the financial package myself
I loved the eight block, seven minute walk to my best friend, Lucia’s apartment on West 83d Street right across from Barnes & Noble and Harry’s Shoes.
Harry’s was the best store in New York, in my very unbiased opinion—first store besides Tip Top to have fashionable comfortable shoes. Pricey but so worth it. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Town Shop which used to be the bra store anywhere. After Selma Koch, the best fitter anywhere died it was never the same. And Laytners, omigod, Laytner’s—a linen, home goods store like no other.
All the stores are almost kissing Lucia’s apartment building. I loved her building. Most of the newer residents thought I lived in it. We had friends who had lived in Lucia’s apartment before her. They were Gay. Lucia married Javier to keep him in the country as a gift to our friend, Patrick, who insisted that she be put on the lease.
The story of how Patrick was the first person we knew personally to develop AIDS is long, traumatic, and deserves its own entry. Javier got it too as did nine more good friends.
It seemed like an entire subset of a generation died before ever seeing 40 or even 35.
For awhile there was a card shop on every corner–like the banks now. But the card shops were filled with the precursors to Papyrus. People thought I spent hours picking out cards. Ha! Any card in any of the shops was great.
Not the Gay joke ones—at least not for a straight woman to give to a straight person. But all the rest…..
I think of the Flower District with both great love and sadness. They were streets and streets, almost from Penn Station down through the West 20’s on Sixth Avenue, of incredible flowers and plants that extended from the stores to the edge of the gutter and the young men who would come out of the stores and offer me beautiful flowers.
Apparently I was a Gay magnet. When I was between boyfriends or sick of my boyfriend or just wanted something else to do I would go to Gay clubs with my friends and pick up men for the single ones. It was a skill I had in straight or mixed clubs too. But when I was looking for myself there was the ever present anxiety unless I was so shit-faced I could say anything and then well who wanted the men you picked up while in a very altered-state?
Anyway I loved Lucia’s building with a passion that should have been reserved for people. It was, and is, the second oldest elevator building in Manhattan or the Upper West Side, I forget. No doormen, just the intercom where I had the coveted “it’s me,” spot as later I would be “0” on Lucia’s speed dial.
20something years ago I was at Lucia’s daughter’s first or second birthday party and met Annie who along with her now-ex-husband, very young son and infant daughter had just moved into a classic six, (1800 square feet, pocket door door dining room, maids room and two other bedrooms) which was the most coveted apartments aside from large lofts in New York.
Annie and I became instant friends. I think we ignored everyone else as we talked through the party and forever after.
We were both former wild girls. Annie was a true punk princess who had lived with a member of a seminal glam rock band who wrote the perfect song for this post. (It’s a great little movie too.)
Annie was the first of us to leave New York for the South. After eleven years, a Master’s Degree, new career, one Southern husband, one married son and an adult daughter she’s still flirting with the idea of going back to New York.