Social Vampire Diaries: New Year’s Eve

partymon

The club is pitch black. Shapes and forms move around anonymously, highlighted only by a thin, inconsequential haze. Todd finds a person he knows, some skinny gay kid who works as a promoter. Names are exchanged. I shake this lithe thing’s hand. I can’t hear or see him.

“What’s his name?” I shout into Todd’s ear.

“Wilhelm,” he says. “WILL-HELM.”

I’m pretty sure this kid’s name is just Will, and he is probably from Idaho, where everyone he’s known since diapers refers to him as “Billy.” Just another twenty-something who moved to New York City to be fashionable and fabulous and knew what bait would make people buy in. You have to make the people here articulate you, the essence of you – the way you dress, the way you do your hair, your name. You must be memorable, like some character from Party Monster, lest you fade into an incurable anonymity. It’s not Will. No, not pedestrian Will. It’s Wilhelm. The annoying correction makes it memorable in a place where you forget 99% of everyone you meet.

Next to Wilhelm is a shorter, jumpy little kid who looks like one of the backup dancers in Madonna’s Truth or Dare documentary. He’s got holes in his shirt and a sweater wrapped around his waist, sort of like how Brantley looked when I first met him, only less wholesome. The drug dealer, not the drug doer. He aims his chin north and whispers something into Todd’s ear. I catch enough to know that it pertains to drugs.

I trail behind the hulking mass that is Todd Jenner, snaking through the crowd under a black ceiling and a shining disco ball. I sit down and hold court on the top of a vinyl booth, tucking myself away from the swoozy, boozy masses. And for the next two hours, I’ll stay mostly here. This is the type of place where you get your wallet yanked out of your purse and you walk home in the freezing cold with no jacket because someone stole that, too.

Everyone here tonight is some caricature, a sitcom version of what Manhattan is supposed to be like. I’m sitting next to some balding models-and-bottles guy who looks like an investment banker even though he probably isn’t, given the fact that it’s New Year’s Eve and this place didn’t charge a cover. All the real investment bankers are either on yachts in St. Barts or standing in the middle of the Boom Boom Room wearing suits and ties, wishing they were in St. Barts. The children and the cheapos are here tonight, ringing in 2013 in a veritable ghost town.

“You got any coke?” David asks — quiet, meek little David, with his awe-shucks grin and his apple cheeks, those tufts of toe-head blonde. No one in this city has been spared the need to go go go, to talk too much, go out too much, see and be seen until seven in the morning.

“No,” I say, but to indicate that I’m not judgmental, I offer up would-be alternatives: “I don’t think Todd has any either.” And then David disappears for an extended period of time, maybe an hour.

Carrie Who Hates Me is standing in the center of the dance floor, coming in and out of the light as it switches from pitch black to dusty azure. Her hair hangs into her eyes like a well-groomed sheepdog, grazing her eyelashes nearly to the point of voluntary, fashionable blindness. Pretty soon she will need someone to guide her around, pull on her skin-tight designer jeans, thread her little arms through the sleeves of a leather jacket. Carrie taps away on her iPhone, its glowing screen lighting her up from below, while the floor of bodies moves around her.

Todd dances near the DJ booth – if you can call the person clicking the mouse on his MacBook Pro a DJ.

David eventually returns. He leans over in front of me while the boy in the ripped shirt from earlier tells him he has “really, really amazing coke tonight,” as though coke is some kind of fine delicacy that the chef changes on a whim, which I guess isn’t far from the truth. For me, though, this is not a selling point. For me, this brings to mind the people who are actually making the coke, cutting the coke. I imagine how it gets here on boats, smuggled in bags, skated through security to land here, of all places, on some black dance floor in New York City to assist the tired masses – the masochists who live in this place and feel the need to milk it dry, ring that towel until there’s nothing left, get out every last drop of it.

David leaves with the drugs and the Fairy Drug Dealer sits next to me counting money in a plastic sandwich bag procured from Drug Deal No. 2, an exchange that happened with models-and-bottles guy and a girl with bleached blonde hair who looked like some extra from that first scene in Blade, where those ‘90s vampires danced around to rave music in a basement, waited for the blood to start spraying from the fire sprinklers overhead.

“Do you know what time it is?” the Fairy Drug Dealer asks.

“1:44,” I say.

“I’ve got to go to work,” he tells me, though I don’t know to what end.

“Where are you working?” I ask. Obviously simply selling blow isn’t paying all of the bills. Maybe it’s more of a recreational thing, a hobby of sorts.

“We’re doing an after-party.”

“Oh, really? Where?” This is merely a routine line of questioning, a common courtesy in continuing a conversation, not an eager plea for an invitation.

“Oh, just, like, the Lower East Side.”

“Yeah? Where at?” My journalistic tendencies for probing often mislead people into thinking I give a shit.

“I really can’t say. I mean, if you’re with Wilhelm or Blaze or Frankie you’re good. But otherwise… I can’t really tell you.”

AWWWWW, SHIT. JUST GOT BURNED BY A TWO-YEAR-OLD.

“I was just asking,” I lobby back. “I don’t really care.”

“You really shouldn’t,” Fairy Drug Dealer says, putting emphasis on the “really” in a way that is patronizing and condescending, as in you “reeeeaaallllllyyy should because this is the coolest party ever and I’m the coolest person ever but don’t go home and slit your wrists over it, Party Girl. One day you’ll be as cool as us. Don’t worry.” And then he leaps off of the banquet and flits away, disappearing into the dark. This is why old people stop going to clubs – little shitheads like this that still live for after parties and boring conversations with half-developed retards with fake names and iPhones.

Standard

Social Vapire Diaries: Labor Day in Hamptons Part I

Image

Sweaty clusters of people stand in between silver terminals waiting for the train to Montauk to be announced. Everything about train stations is constructed to give me anxiety. If a train stations were a mode of communication, it would be the broke-ass beeper I inherited from my dad back in 1997. That damn little terminal with only three platforms announced at a time, the paper maps that are the only way you can figure out what your line is called, the hovering for crumbs of information. I’m not good at this.

I stand alone, my acid-wash denim sack at my feet, watching all sorts of Labor Day randos congregate in the same subterranean space. There are the twee gay men in front of me are trying to figure out if they need ice for their cooler or not, the girls with the Louis Vuiton totes and Chanel jellies, the bros wearing Rugby shirts from their college alma mater. Then there’s the man in the orthopedic shoes and the polyester pants. Every part of him twitches, his cheek wrenching up towards his lower lid with the frequency of a speedy reliable metronome, hands shaking a black leather wallet. He’s a rattling, nothing of a vision, transparent if he weren’t so matte, dusty as an old shelf.

Platform 19 scrolls along the screen and everyone starts running down the stairs like there’s an emergency greater than snagging a seat for the 20 minute train ride to Jamaica station, where we will transfer to another train for the 2 hour continuation to Montauk.

Speedy, selfish asshole that I am, I score a seat near a window and spend the next ten minutes listening to the conductor tell the scrambling masses behind me to “MOVE TO THE BACK OF THE TRAIN, PEOPLE. THE BACK OF THE TRAIN.”

Dudes in fedoras are piled into the aisles like refugees on a boat. Girls clutch medium-sized roller bags to their chests, awkwardly wrapping their arms around boxes of canvas and wheels. I’m saddled in between surfers and small families, fratty investment bankers and their punishingly high-maintenance girlfriends. We’re the Labor Day stragglers, fancy enough to be on a train en route to the Hamptons, but not fancy enough to take a car.

“THERE ARE NO SEATS IN THE FRONT. NOT EVEN STANDING ROOM. WALK BACK.”

Despite his persistence, the conductor does not seem increasingly irritated. I suspect he expects the worst, always, and operates on an even-keeled level of mildly annoyed for the better part of his workdays.

“WALK BACK. WALK BACK.”

Through my filthy window, bodies scramble along the platform, juggling bags and chairs and all sorts of travel things. Something dings, doors close, and we glide sluggishly towards a tunnel, blackness giving way to weeds and graffitied walls, fleets of numbered school buses.

Standard

The Social Vampire Diaries: Dominican Edition, Part 2

An hour later, the owner of the house arrives from a day of golfing, tan and sweaty and chortling anecdotes under a baseball cap.  Manservant has already provided us with white plates filled with various sliced meats and carved away cheeses.  Salami, swiss, beef and pork, everything room temperature and sweating in the excessive heat.

“Do you want anything to drink?”

This is the beginning of a very long weekend being waited on constantly.  We will not be allowed to provide for ourselves the rest of the trip.  In addition to manservant, there is a cook and a housekeeper.  After two days of feeling like a handicapped baby, I walk into the kitchen to get something for myself, waving my hands like white flags to the chef in an apology for invading his domain.

“Pear?” I ask, holding the fruit with the intention of wrapping it up in a napkin and taking it outside to eat with, you know, my teeth.

“We do it for you,” he says.

I insist it’s okay.  “I’ll just take it with me.”

“No, no, no.”

I reluctantly hand my pear to manservant, who will deliver it to me thirteen minutes later, cut with the same serrated knife that everything soft here is cut with (the cheeses and fruits all come out looking like DIY crafts projects) and served on a plate with carrot garnish.  I just wanted to eat my fucking fruit.  Just like I want to make my own coffee, scramble my own eggs, toast my own toast.

I hate being waited on.  The process is not only gratingly inefficient, but makes me uncomfortable.  Growing up, we had maybe two different maids for maybe a week apiece.  My mom was always grumbling about how they didn’t know where anything went and porcelain figurines were routinely disemboweled.  As a result, my mess has always been (comfortably), my mess.  My fruit, my fruit.

Manservant serves me wine that begins to warm mid pour.

Juan is from the island, though he currently lives in Puerto Rico, developing large swaths of property in – from what I can immediately gather from his rather, um, abrasive personality – what are likely hostile coups that involve burying the previously owners in their shanty houses before covering them with dirt and erecting something more profitable.

“My grandfather owned half of this fucking island,” he boasts with his trademark Central American slur.  He is nearing forty or turned it recently.  He has the aging face of a petulant baby, big eyebrows stuffed above eyes filled with raucous self-satisfaction and big pillow lips that laugh with his good fortune.

He says something about “being at the top” and American Express black cards.  “There’s nothing higher than this,” he says.  “Where do you go from here?”  He leans back in his char, his arms behind his head, his tennis shoes stretched out in front of him while he surveys his domain.  Actually, while he surveys his parent’s domain.  This is his family’s house.

Juan, apparently, does not care much for his family.  At breakfast one morning, he tells us his family is not “some big, white-teethed family that plays football on the weekends.”  He leans in over his eggs as though we are about to strike a business deal and says something starting with the word “fucking.”  I myself am not one to stray too far from the filthy word trough, but when Juan says “fucking”, it sounds especially depraved, vicious, even.  “Fuckkkeeeng,” he says, his tongue chocking on the “c” and the “k” in the middle.  He laughs like el diablo.

My disdain for Juan grows exponentially over the course of the trip, each hour providing another fifteen reasons not to like him.  He is offensively arrogant.  He talks over everyone and never listens.  You watch him sitting down at dinner, his eyes on the mouth of whoever is speaking, lying in wait until their lips cease moving so that he can move onto what he wants to talk about.

He rails George Clooney.  “Gay,” he spits.  “He has to be gay.  That guy could have anyone in the world and look what he goes after.  Trash.  He’s dating, what?  A waitress right now?”

Eva bristles.  “I know that girl.  She’s very nice.”

“He’s gay.  Anyone with standards that low has to be gay.”

Eva holds onto her wine glass and I watch her breathing become faltered in the way that it does when she becomes impatient or frustrated, a hiccupped seething.

I was not brought here specifically for Juan, though Jack did bring me thinking that, well, maybe something could happen and was worth a shot.  Shot in hell, I think, sitting across from him and feeling my skin burn feverishly in the physical irritation I develop while in his presence.  Funny enough, Juan sort of has a girlfriend: a trashy, unemployed Russian with a young child and a fake nose, who, oddly enough, George Clooney might likely be interested in as well.

Standard

The Social Vampire Diaries: Dominican Edition, Part I

The man next to me is on the bad side of sixty, the whites of his eyes yellowed like butter and his nose ruddy with broken capillaries, both of which are the result of a lifetime of excessive drinking.  He’s working on his third 9 a.m. Bloody Mary while he tells me about the laundromats he runs in the Dominican Republic and what to do when I go through their notoriously loose customs.  He leans in towards me when he speaks, offering me uninvited life advice like a creepy uncle.  I want him to go away.

I am saved by the flight attendant who hands Drunk Uncle a hot cup of coffee to sober him up upon our descent.

“Aren’t you a sweetheart,” he says, smiling through his tobacco-stained teeth.

Aren’t you a drunk.

I hope he doesn’t have children.

We are greeted at the gate by an employee of the airport who asks for the $10 per person “visitor’s fee” that Drunk Uncle warned me about.  “Crooks,” he slurred in between peppered swigs of spiked V8 and booze.  The man then takes our respective IDs and disappears into some office where our passports are stamped by someone who apparently doesn’t care to ask us questions about the purpose of our visit or personally assess the possibility we are drug mules or prostitutes.  Drunk Uncle also told me that the Dominican Republic was essentially just the halfway point for illegal activity, providing a place for coke-laden propeller planes to fill up their tanks en route to Miami and fraudulent South Americans to launder their cash.

The air outside is hot and sticky and decidedly warmer than New York City.  A man in a starched white uniform waves at us, a cell phone pressed against his ear.  This is Jack’s friend’s driver and manservant.  He walks us to a mini-van parked outside and we fly out of Santo Domingo.

From what blurs past my window, the outskirts of the city are grossly impoverished.  Houses are shacks made of cinderblock and corrugated metal.  Business signs are largely the hand-painted block letters of a failed graphic design student.  We pass a grocery store with a sign indicating you are not to bring your guns or your babies inside.  The poverty and the heat here feel like the kindling for terrible things under the right conditions.  The normal rules of the developing world seem prudish by the island’s standards.

Families of four ride on motorcycles with no helmets.  Mothers, fathers, infants, usually some tiny baby wrapped in a dishtowel.  Our driver lazily swerves in between puttering mopeds and barreling semi-trucks.  He brakes late and hard at red lights.  Eva is sitting next to me, grabbing the sides of her seat and muttering “oh my god”s with her characteristic breathlessness.  Jack’s sitting up front, having volunteered for the front seat in an accidental act of altruistic martyrdom.

“Did you just…did you just see that car???”

We have narrowly avoided what is likely our seventh car crash in the span of the last thirty minutes.  This driver – this happy, smiling man with big ears and a charmingly loose grip on the English language – is likely the worst driver in the Dominican Republic.

Jack is holding onto the space between the roof and the door, talking to either us or the driver, though it’s obvious that the driver sort of sees everything and sort of doesn’t care about any of it.  People walk through tidal waves of moving traffic.  Cars creep onto roads at the perfect time for cataclysmic carnage.  Motorcycles ride towards us in the opposite direction.  Half of the time there aren’t even painted lines on the road so as to aid in the flow of traffic by indicating who goes where, which would likely fuck with their incredibly inefficient system called Everyone Goes Everywhere Whenever They Want.

There is a lawlessness here that usually accompanies a haphazard respect for human life.  It’s different than the Auto Bahn chaos of Europe or the crazed fury of Mexico.  This is the kind of place where if you were to die, no one would care.

After an hour and a half of white-knuckles and held-in breath, we arrive at the gates of the “resort”, which is really an extremely large, extremely isolated community far away from the poverty of the Dominican city centers.  We drive through winding, empty streets with natural grass embankments and lush tropical flora, eventually arriving at an ambiguously Mediterranean house with a large glass door and a few security guards in powder blue polo shirts.

The driver takes my bag, wheeling it over the stone and grass walkway and into an over-air conditioned and massive living room filled with kitsch raw silk pillows and glass vases filled with fake flowers.  It’s like the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland and some Orange County nouveau riche mansion had a one-night stand and this place was the resulting bastard child.

We walk through the house and into the backyard, where trees hang over a narrow blue swimming pool and Spanish tiles.  “Your room,” the manservant says, pointing to a guestroom with a giant king-sized bed swimming in white mosquito netting, flanked by bedside tables littered with inspiration self-help books with a vaguely Christian bent.  The towels in the bathroom are all monogrammed, as if to remind the guest where they are staying while they dry their hands after using the toilet.

To be continued…

Standard