Memoir

Call of the Wild

Drowning in drinks and other ways one gets lost in New York City.

Call of the Wild

There is a command you hear all the time in New York. We’ve all heard it and we’ve all probably said it. I had been here less than six months when I heard it for the first time. My eyes were still wide and the idea to go out in the Meatpacking District didn’t yet seem like a terrible one.

Just after midnight, I found myself in front of the club that Andy, my roommate at the time, said to meet at. Twenty yards away a car door opened and Andy stepped out. He called my name and waved me over. I got in.

In the back seat with Andy was a fast-talking music executive, who I’ll refer to as Chris, and the second half of a joint. Andy introduced me to the former as I shared in the latter and found myself entering a situation that could only ever happen in New York.

Chris was on the hunt for “the next” female rapper. Andy, a musician and producer, made beats on his beloved MPC2000 and Chris wanted to use them in his quest. We were in the backseat of a black car sitting behind the luminescent glow of a laptop. Chris went on at length, and with vigor, about the project and his inspiration for it.

Things don’t happen like this in Western and Central New York, where Andy and I are from, I thought to myself. But as fresh-faced New Yorkers, buried somewhere in our minds was the understanding that the city is a weird place. People do things differently here. We were open to the strange, and if things of that nature were happening, it could only mean we were doing something right.

The laptop played instrumentals at what seemed too loud a volume for the confines of a car’s backseat. Outside, passersby looked like mannequins that had sprung to life and jumped through their 5th Avenue window displays. With all there was to take in, it was a while before I realized someone else was in the car.

Chris went on to tell us about another producer he was working with. This guy was a full-blown professional from Queens. He made his debut in the 80s, but his influence still ripples through rap. He was on his way to meet us and Chris spoke of him in the same manner he did all things—sped up a notch. Chris talked fast, moved from one topic to another, made his points quickly, and acted as if he had little time to spare.

A car rolled up behind us. It pulled into a parking space slowly and with grace. The driver got out and moved with the same demeanor with which he drove. He was dressed in a velour suit, with the hat to match, and walked with sure feet. Chris introduced us. I’ll call him Marty.

We walked to a table in the back of the club. Gyrating club-goers did little to conceal their acknowledgement of the scent that followed us from the back of Chris’ car. We sat down and talked to Marty about which tracks of his we liked best as food and drink were brought to the table by a fleet of servers. Chris mentioned that we wouldn’t be paying for anything.

We ate and we drank from the top shelf and then Jake showed up. Jake was fun to talk to and, in some ways, a lot like me: a small-town kid who couldn’t believe he was in New York City. But we were here for different reasons. Me, because of a longing curiosity to find out what goes on here, and Jake because he was an actor—a famous blonde heartthrob in town filming a Beatles-themed movie.

The minute hand continued around the clock as the night progressed. Night became early morning and the strangeness of it all seemed to fade – taking sobriety with it. Marty left. We did shortly after and Chris had his driver take the four of us to his apartment. The drive was short. We headed north, then east and the car stopped on 23rd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues – in front of the Chelsea Hotel.

The Chelsea Hotel? Isn’t this place famous? Didn’t more than one Dylan stay here? Ginsberg? Patti Smith? Leonard Cohen? Joplin even? Hasn’t this been New York’s holding tank for curious minds for over a century?

We walked through the lobby’s dark walls and up the stairs, between the giant paintings that hung there, to Chris’s studio. He made a phone call beneath a vaulted ceiling and twenty minutes later there was a knock on the door. Chris opened it and exchanged pleasantries and a handful of money for a six-pack of Corona.

You can have beer delivered to your door in New York?

Chris talked to the guy at the door for ten minutes, all in Spanish, then decided to sit Indian-style on his bed and sniff the back of his hand. Jake had to be up at eight a.m. to shoot a scene in which he was to drive a cab, so he left around four a.m. Andy and I stared off the balcony while Chris listened to Brazilian music and talked to no one in particular about its relevance. We left an hour later and, despite the haze that comes with hours of drinking, I realized with profound clarity that I, without a doubt, was living in New York City.

Then it dawned on me. Not just the day, but the command that we all hear. The one that leads us down rabbit holes and into strange scenarios like the one I was walking away from. The command Andy made to me hours ago at the start of the night: “Come meet me for a drink.”

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