Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My New York

1999 New York Gay Pride Parade

I’ve tried to write this several times.

At 17, I spent my first summer in New York attending acting school. On the drive over from Pennsylvania, we were all excited about my adventure, singing Santana and Al Green in the car. My parents were good at encouragement, despite bittersweet disdain for my summer absence. They knew I would never be the same. We were welcomed to the city by the feathers, glitter and gigantic SMILES of the 1999 Gay Pride Parade on 6th avenue—more than appropriate for my exhaustingly "ambiguous in all directions" self.

I’d previously been amongst the frightened pre-New Yorkers, swearing that I would be mugged or turned to stone from eye contact. A four sided rural upbringing will develop sheltered and cloudy outlooks on circumstance that may never be conquered by experience. My only time in the city was the summer before—at the talent convention where I’d auditioned for my spot in the following summer’s acting program. That gave me a tiny wet taste of the next ten years of my life and as usual I was ready-- maybe prematurely. Throughout the year, I pined in my room to be in New York—somehow I believed that it held an answer, a place of solace, and revolving location for identity and purpose. I’d worked retail with the intention to save for the summer, however more accurately spending every paycheck on the latest clearance shit of the week. I was ready for my stride to be created daily, the crowds beckoning for differing daily personalities. This was a time where I would walk forward without looking back, taunting onlookers with my proud disregard for security. And I would walk, endlessly—bright eyed and unaware of any fears that should have overwhelmed me. I asked questions and made friends easily with classmates and plenty of the fellows that lived and hung around my dorm. Gary, Lovett, Joe, Tom, and the rest of the summer kids taking classes at the School for Visual Arts.

I spent a lot of time denying ballet, it was such a second nature form for me, that I didn’t really know how to present it as a part of my life. Only recently have I been able to call myself a dancer.

Gary loved the Bible and would read it daily.
Tom and Gary were best friends and would do anything for one another.
Tom liked me all summer but I never realized this until my last week in the program.
Lovett liked me too, but was discouraged when he realized that I liked Tom.
I knew nothing about sex that summer. Propositions, thongs, group cuddling, hand holding, cleavage, cigarette smoke--were all new to me and I welcomed it.

Gary’s work was one of my first experiences of connection to painting and visual art.
All of the actors and I within the summer program would sing at random hours and Gary said he could hear us. He didn't seem to mind.

We watched the sun come up on many nights.

(An excerpt from ENLIGHTENMENT, my story.)

Diane von Furstenberg recalls being a young princess on Fifth Avenue; Chloe Sevigny slept in Washington Square Park; and Rufus Wainwright's "magic blankness" after writing Poses in New York mag's "My New York" Issue.

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