Sunday, November 4, 2012

My Grand Entrance: First Ten Days in NYC

There's a moment every few hours that takes me out of myself and makes me think, "am I really here in New York City?" It still doesn't feel real, which is how most big changes in my life have felt. This isn't the first time I've moved hundreds of miles away.

Nothing ever feels as dramatic as I expect (the leaving of friends, the leaving of an apartment, the quitting of a job), so then I find myself suddenly in a completely new environment that feels a little unbelievable. Or in this case, completely unbelievable. NYC is a dream place to live. It's part of so many pieces of pop culture and there's so much history here, but I never thought I'd actually do it.

I've lived in NYC for ten days now and what a strange ten days it's been. Unless you've been in a coma or a drug-induced world for the last week, you probably know NYC was hit by a hurricane. It's strange to have experienced my worst hurricane here in the city after living in Florida for seven and a half years. It feels like Florida's last joke on me (at least I pray it is the last).

Just three days after our arrival, Hurricane Sandy showed her ugly face (by the way, Sandy is the worst hurricane name ever). Thankfully, Harlem, where we live, is a good place to be in a hurricane (who knew?). Our power didn't go out. There wasn't any flooding. A few trees went down, but that was it. We huddled together getting drunk with our candles ready and watched musicals (not Grease) and Sex and the City (why not be as gay as possible?). 

Since the storm came so quickly, we didn't yet have our internet installed or have cable, so we were a bit cut-off from the news coverage Transportation was down and we were left in a safe bubble. I got most of my information from posts on Facebook (using my iphone) and from my mother in Houston who was watching the coverage. It felt so odd that the rest of the country was watching the horrible things happening just miles from me, but I saw none of it. Here in Harlem, it was pretty much normal life (except we couldn't leave).

Of course, when these things happen, it's easy to put on the humanitarian hat and say all the right things (we were lucky, at least we still have power, we should be thankful), but come on. I'm brave enough to admit that I was a little pissed that my first week in NYC the entire city shutdown. Yes, I could still take a shower. Yes, I had access to food and water. Yes, I had power and heat, but did this really have to happen the second I made one of most important moves of my life? It does seem a little unfair (judge me all you like).

We did, of course, make the best of it. I spent part of the week at the local Starbucks, so I could still do my job (I'm currently still employed by my Orlando job, so work was not shutdown for me). We explored our area, ate takeout from local hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and watched movies. Even while doing these rather normal activities, I still felt astonished that I was here in the city. We live in the Sugar Hill area of Harlem, which has a great history. It is where the wealthy African-Americans lived during the 1920s (the Harlem Renaissance). The buildings are beautiful. We live across the street from a big park. There are trees and leaves. It actually feels like fall.

Life here is completely different from anywhere I've ever lived. Suddenly, I don't own a car and there isn't a big box store on my street. I've never lived in an apartment that didn't come with blinds. I quickly learned how important blinds are when a small girl, who lives in a third floor apartment in the building next to ours, shouted at me to put some clothes on (I was unpacking in my underwear like any Florida boy would do). I've also learned that people in NYC don't know how to layout a grocery store. They make absolutely no sense (motor oil with baby food, tuna fish in the baking aisle). I've also been surprised by how friendly everyone is in our neighborhood. More people have spoken to me on our street in the last ten days than the four years I lived in Orlando.

Once the subway started coming back, we were some of the first on it. We just wanted out in the city so badly. We spent Thursday shopping and Friday we got to have our first real dinner out at a great Indian restaurant that we went to when we were visiting in March. Then on Saturday, I fell madly in love with the The Strand (an amazing bookstore). I can only imagine how much money I will spend there in the future.

Today, we had brunch and went on a fun (and free) adventure. My partner, Dustin, won some tickets to a double feature at a small theater downtown. In true Dustin fashion, he's already found contests to enter and won one. The tickets were from The Village Voice. We didn't know what to expect, but the poster promised male nudity, so why not?

When we arrived, we realized it was going to be quite a small engagement. The theater sat about thirty people and we were the only ones there (15 minutes to showtime). We sat down in the old red seats and pulled our coats tighter. It was almost colder in the theater than outside.

With five minutes to showtime, there was still no one else there and then suddenly another man appeared. He was Brazilian and bundled up. He came over and introduced himself. We assumed he did this because it would have been slightly awkward not to, due to the small space, but then he said, "I'm the director. I hope you're ready for four hours of film."

I suddenly wanted to flee. We had actually decided ahead of time to stay for just one movie (two movies back-to-back can be a bit draining). He went on to inform us that he really wanted our reactions after each film and that there would be a Q&A with him. He didn't seem at all concerned that only two people (who had free tickets) had shown up to his screening. We suddenly felt very awkward. He began the film and thankfully only stayed in the room for a few minutes.

With no one else there, we could talk openly as the movie progressed. It starred an attractive man (big surprise, the director was clearly gay and male nudity was promised) who was engaged to a hideous woman (no explanation as to why these two were paired together). One of the first scenes was clearly shot in a hotel room, but was supposed to be someone's apartment. The woman was a terrible actress and the attractive male lead was so-so. Thankfully, the main character quickly goes to Greece (alone) to see about some property his grandmother left him. Once there, he meets up with the property manager (played by the director who can't act at all). He literally sounds like he is reading his lines off of cue cards and possibly can't see well (there were awkward pauses).

It's all rather boring for the first bit and then suddenly, with no explanation or development, the main character finds a human clone living in his closet. The clone is another attractive male and he's naked the whole time (I guess clones don't come with clothes). The lead doesn't seem that confused or surprised by all of this and proceeds to treat the clone as a dog (feeding him in dog dishes, putting a collar on him, shouting sit and stay). It sounds more erotic than it was. There was plenty of nudity, but it wasn't very sexy. The clone also never speaks, so the lead is forced to have many awkward one-sided conversations.

A little over an hour in and a few penis shots later, we decided we needed to get out as quickly as possible. This man really didn't want my reaction to his movie and I really didn't want to see another one of his films. We decided it was best to leave one at a time. I went first to see if it was clear. Thankfully, the bathroom was on the way out, so if I saw the director, I could just claim to be going to the bathroom. He wasn't in sight, so I made a dash down the stairs and didn't look back until I was around the corner. Then I texted Dustin and told him to make a break for it. Part of me feels bad knowing that the director came back to an empty theater, but sometimes self preservation kicks in and you have to save yourself. Our absence is a reaction in itself.

In many ways, this is what I came to NYC for. There are stories everywhere. So many people. So much art. Bad art. Good art. Great art. There's adventure on every block and history at every turn. It feels like I'm in the right place for the first time in my life.

-Stephen (No Clone)


  1. I take this as a recommendation for young California writer's to move east, yes?

  2. Great stuff Stephen! Glad you guys are doing well.... xoxo - K and D