One of my favorite things about my new apartment building is its roof—and my unrestricted access to it. In my old building, if you wanted to get to the roof, you’d have to risk a staph infection by climbing up a precariously neglected access ladder cloaked in rust, whereupon you’d have to maneuver a fakakta-ass hatch that wasn't really a hatch—more like a giant piece of heavy plywood, cut down to fit over the square opening to the roof—and jimmy it to the other side just enough so you could fit through the opening. And, after all that work, you’d be rewarded with a view that is now maybe forty-percent Manhattan. If only you’d have thought to go up there three months earlier to enjoy a view unobstructed by the twelve stories of gentrification that now loom over it from across the street.
Not only is my new building accessible (elevators, ramps, etc.), but the roof overlooks (most of) Manhattan in all its glory.
As breathless as I'd anticipated being, I just found myself...sad. That was not the emotion I was expecting???? At first, I chocked it up to the stress of moving—I’ll enjoy it more once I’m actually moved in!—and then I attributed it to the check engine light my brain flashes when I’m due for a med adjustment: maybe my Lexapro needed to be upped? Maybe something else in the endless buffet of meds I take in order to ensure that I don’t fully lose my mind and back a Honda Element into the sea needed to be reduced? Whatever the source of my unexpected sadness, I was sure it was an isolated incident. (LMAO SAID THE DUDE WHO HAS BEEN KNOWN TO SHED TEARS BY DINT OF LUNESTA COMMERCIAL.)
I decided to take the elevator up to the roof again a few days later. It was a gorgeous summer evening, so I knew the sun setting over Manhattan would be magical. And it was. For someone who is neurotypical. Once again, melancholy had cast its net over me.
After years of living in rooms not much larger than an Ugg boot, squeezing my six-foot-three frame into twin-sized beds, all in the name of saving some money to live in a city hellbent on making you overdraft at least once per lunar phase, then, at long last, finally being financially stable enough to afford a bigger, nicer place, with a view to boot, all I get is the urge to buy a pack of Marlboro Lights. Can I shave off some of my rent for this EMOTIONAL HIGHWAY ROBBERY???????????
Of course, being the naïve bitch that I am, distributing the benefit of the doubt like one might make it rain, even long after the recipients of said benefits deserve it, I was like, “Maybe I just need to come back up here at night so the glittering lights of the city can zap off the stalactite of sadness clinging to my heart :’))))))))))))))).” And they did! Haha, see u babes next week.
After returning from one last trip to my old place a few days later, I was officially moved in. I was exhausted, physically and emotionally, and all I wanted to do was shower and sleep. The next day, I decided again to wander up the roof, expecting another wave of sadness to come over me, but thought I'd at least take a picture of the view to send to my dad, whom I knew would appreciate it best—especially as someone who collects books of New York City photography.
I snapped a photo and pouted in annoyance at it, underwhelmed by its mutated encapsulation of the grandiosity before my very eyes. It’s sort of how, unless you have one of those cameras protruding from the sidelines of the red carpet at the Venice Film Festival, your iPhone photo of the moon is still going to look like a crumb from a bag of Smartfood white cheddar popcorn against a black backdrop. It wasn’t until I sent the photo of my view of Manhattan (the same one from above) to my dad, and made a joke about how the photo makes it look like I’m back in my college dorm in Long Island, that I realized the source of my recent gloom.
The view, made ever so evident from the photo on my phone, reminded me of the very view I had from my dorm room during my senior year at Hofstra University, a thirty-ish-minute car ride away. My room, which was on the eleventh-floor of a high-rise, had faced west, the entirety of Manhattan visible in the distance. I had been in the apex of my club kid years back then, living a double-life of going to class by day, and sauntering the world below Fourteenth Street by night. It was a formative experience for me, so much so that—and I’m sorry to hawk it two weeks in a row—I wrote a book about it. (Listen, I write full-time now, SO EVERY SALE HELPS.)
Every week followed the same routine: Monday Nights were Magic Mondays in the Lower East Side; Susanne Bartsch’s “On Top" was at The Standard if it was still warm out; Wednesdays were spent at The DL, where each floor had a different party, the top hosted by the Patricia Fields crew—or you could meander over to The Box a few blocks over on Chrystie, where my friend Darian Darling hosted a chic affair at which it was not uncommon to see a burlesque dancer spray champagne into the crowd from her cooch; and Thursdays was “POGO” at Hotel Chantelle.
If you read my book, you know that Magic Mondays were my favorite. If you didn’t read it, here’s a quick recap: Magic Mondays were hosted by my best friend and singer-songwriter, Breedlove, who brought the same people together every Monday night, charming us with his infectious pop-cabaret hits that we knew by heart and gladly sang along to, spilling Tecate all over as we did. The Magic Monday crew became as close as family over the years. Our other friend, Ky, who was a photographer at the time, photographed Magic Monday as it moved from venue to venue, and eventually turned her photos into a book called American Nights.
On the rare occasion that I’d stay in, I could look out my dorm window and see the city, glistening in the distance, and know that my friends were all there, waiting for me. It was like opening a jewelry box to check on my most-precious possessions, making sure they'd remained in the same places I'd left them. Just knowing they were nearby was a comfort.
My new view is quite that: new. It is not the same city I once knew—at least not on the surface. My old haunts have been converted into trendy collaborative work spaces, or juice bars that serve overpriced smoothies with umlauts in their names. Most of my friends—my chosen family—no longer live in New York: Breedlove lives in Orlando; Lady Starlight lives in Germany; Darian Darling lives in LA with her long-time BFF, Justin Tranter, along with many of the other folks pictured above—most of whom used to live only a stone’s throw away from where I live now. Looking out at my view now, it feels like I'm opening my jewelry box, only to see more and more velvet lining peeking through, my treasures no longer where they used to be.
We were all superstars, a generation of icons like the ones who came before us, like those who comprised the Warhol Factory and frequented Studio 54, like those occupying the tables at Max’s Kansas City, when you could walk in on any given night in the seventies and bump into Debbie Harry or a Ramone without batting an eyelash. These were the eras that made us flock to New York in the first place with the intention of ushering in our own, setting the stage for the next generation that would inherit the streets from us.
But, like a superstar is wont to do, my friends have gone on to conquer different corners of the globe. Except this one, who is still in New York, writing this sad newsletter, and instead of slamming back beers, is slamming back antacids.
One of the benefits of getting older (and regularly attending therapy) is, if not fully understanding the spectrum that comes with any one emotion, accepting its complexity. Letting things sit side by side. It’s not something you can flick a switch for, nor something you can learn overnight. Or so that’s what I’m told; I’m stubborn and impatient and a gross jerk!!!!! I have hours of backlogged therapy homework, and sometimes I skip a dose of my meds because of an afternoon nap that raged out of control, which is probably why I’m up on my roof, holding back tears, filled with sadness morphing swiftly into resentment.
I resent most of my friends for leaving. I want to show them what I’ve become—what they've helped me become. Look at the superstar you raised: you facilitated the growth of a shy, eighteen-year-old, barely out and wandering around from New Jersey into someone who would walk down the street in various degrees of gender-bending attire, hair styled sky-high, donning gowns of sheer chiffon, leather and denim, turning the fear of a raised eyebrow into a craving. You planted this seed, watered it, nurtured it, and now what? Where did you go? I want to throw a fucking tantrum, even though the thought of going to a night club right now, as someone who needs to do no fewer than eight different kinds of breath work techniques to leave the house for just one drink, gives me diarrhea.
It’s these complex, oftentimes irrational, feelings that I need to feel in order to arrive here: I miss my friends; I miss my New York—even though I’m surrounded by both, one never far away by means of a Facetime call or a fifteen-minute train ride into Manhattan. But I still love New York, even though, right now, it makes me sad. That sadness will fade, and it’ll come back (“New York” by St. Vincent is in my library on Spotify). But we’ll find each other again—in different states, in different cities, writing new stories to tell the next time we’re in the same room again.
Besides, I think this was the plan all along. Isn’t that what any parent, guardian, or anyone who’s taken on the responsibility to raise a human wants: for their kid to stand on their own two feet? I’ve planted roots here, and I plan to let them stretch out a little more, let the light from my star reach a little further. I also have a lot of growing up left to do.
And, for now, this is not a nest I wish to flee.