Hopes High Pants Down - The Move to New York City
I was chatting with someone online recently who gave that oh-so-common sigh of appreciation for those who made the big move to New York City …wishing he could do the same, but full of fears: “It’s just too expensive, and I don’t have a job or connections and [etc. etc.]”.
Screw that. No, I mean, seriously, if you want something badly enough it will happen, by hook or by crook.
By hook or by crook. I’ve never really thought of that cliché before, but I suddenly like it very much. You can manage things by hook (just letting yourself be hooked into things, going with the flow), or by crook (manipulating, pushing and/or forcing your way in). As is in everything in my life, my move to New York City was a bit of both. And yes I’m sure I’m completely bastardizing/misunderstading the real meaning of this old saying and the words in it (and yes there’s more than one meaning of the word ‘hook’) so if you’re one of the smarty-pants that regularly whacks off to the Oxford English Dictionary you can just calm yourself down right now. I had that phase too, but it obviously didn’t last as long as yours. <Wink>
As regards this New York City move of mine I’ll give you the punch line, then work my way back into explaining just how I got there.
I started my first day in New York City (a hot summer morning in August 2001) by getting dropped off on a random street corner in Queens with no clue where I was, a heavy suitcase of stuff, one large and awkward oil painting under my arm, and a few hundred bucks in my wallet. No place to stay that night, no job, no friends, no clue. I actually considered myself fortunate, oddly enough. A few hundred bucks seemed like enough to me, I was on my way.
No clue either that in just a few short weeks the biggest catastrophe ever to hit New York City (or America for that matter) was about to happen.
This all started back in Seattle, where I had successfully sexed my way into a “career sex lifestyle” after my stint with software program management didn’t settle very well. Mind you I am a very intelligent guy, and sitting in a corner office with a view of the water and earning nearly six figures (for a 26yo) was an excellent thing, but the siren song of sex was stronger than any of these worldly comforts. It’s just how I am wired. Things change slowly.
The chapter of how I got to be a sex kitten (if it even makes sense to understand where it came from, sometimes it just helps to acknowledge that it simply ‘is’) will be written at another time.
Suffice it to say I had long since left the “corporate world” and given myself over to nightly crawls through the chat rooms, a few public parks, and daytime slogs through other slutty forms of sexual entertainment. Making it a “career” made sense.
I was living at the time in a rented house (that I could easily afford on a software salary) and it became clear as the months/years ran on that my insatiable desire for sex was not adding anything to my dwindling savings; my endless sexing wasn’t contributing to my art career either. My artistic energy came in fits and spurts … looking back, mostly on the few days/weeks when my sex-centered vision cleared up enough that I could take time to care enough to care for the rest of my life. But no sense writing from a saner perspective just now … I’m remembering what it was like to be lost in sex-all-day-long.
There was never enough sex. Never enough.
So here I was with a big pink Victorian-ish rented house (painted pink on a whim, too much money and available time), dwindling cash reserves, a massage business that was lucrative but chaotic, and an art career that seemed destined for “greatness” if I would only “just be discovered by the right people.” Joke, silly boy. You were spending way too much time off in the chat rooms to finish that many paintings.
New York City seemed the answer to all these troubles. I’d been chatting with other masseurs online who scoffed at my meager earnings, boasting of their several thousand dollar weekends with clients, flaunting their large rolls of cash. All doing things I would give away practically for free at Seattle rates.
Money was calling. An endless supply of hot gay men, money, and of course a promising art scene. “For my art” was the reason for moving I gave to everyone publicly, but I know it was the sex and massage earnings-potential that truly drew me to the Big Apple. I smelled sex. Lots of it.
Next door to this big pink monstrosity (it was rather quirky I suppose, not all so bad) was a rental house with random college kids living in it. I never had any conversation with them, and didn’t keep up with who was coming and going. They seemed quiet enough.
And no, I never had sex with any of them. They were not straights I had any attraction to. Actually seemed kinda mean.
There was a girl there – I’ve forgotten her name so I’ll just call her ‘Sarah’ – who had moved into the house as a roommate perhaps a month ago. I would occasionally see her laying out to catch the rare Seattle sun on a summer day. I might have said hello through the fence now and then.
I’m a gay man and have always only been sexually attracted to men, but there’s something about the sight of a pretty woman which still at least makes me want to be friendly. Won’t do anything with her, but I yearn to be friendly. It’s a refreshing change sometimes from the constant sexual tension of the man to man encounter. (At least, I feel that tension, whether he does or not is something for a song somewhere). Sarah was leggy, pretty, long curly reddish-brown hair in big natural ringlets that I’m sure made her the envy of many. You don’t see too many naturally bouncy curly haired girls.
This day she was laying out in the sun crying to herself, clearly upset. I pulled up to the fence and asked her what was wrong.
She came over and told me that she had been deceived by the living situation here, and what seemed like a house full of friendly guys was not so at all. She felt scared, and trapped. It sounded like there was sexual things going on that she didn’t want to talk about. She had another place that she was hoping to move to (to get out of this hell, she said) but she couldn’t afford the security deposit at the new place, and she was sure the men in the house here would not give her back the deposit she had left with them already. Stuck.
How much was the deposit, I asked. $500. Yeah, that sucked, I said.
I’m not remembering what it was I said to her, but offered some kindly advice and just listened perhaps. I said goodbye and went about my day, wished her well.
I knew as soon as I got inside the house though that her plight was all too real for me – although I did fantasize about being “stuck” in a house full of sexually inappropriate men I admit – but for another person to be in such a situation was untenable. I started to grow really really angry inside, and just rather immediately, impulsively decided I would give her the $500 the next day.
I had only just decided to move to New York City the month before, had sold all my furniture and given notice to the landlord. (Here’s your pink house back, gotta go, sorry.) So I was now ‘flush’ with $1200 in cash. Big boxes of “free stuff” were still sitting out on my curb. Trying to book clients like crazy to earn last-minute cash.
Giving Sarah $500 to escape a hellish living situation seemed like a good thing to do. And it was. Sometimes you just know the right thing.
I wrote her a check, saw her the next day and gave her the money in a sealed envelope, telling her to read it once she got inside. I didn’t want her thanks. Embarrassed perhaps, who knows.
The next day I saw her in the passenger seat of a Volvo station wagon loaded with stuff out front, fully packed and about to drive off. She saw me in the front yard, hopped out of the car, joyfully came running up the yard and threw me a huge huge hug. “You are an angel!” she said, “a true angel. I am moving into a much better space, and your check covered my security deposit there. Thank you sooo much.”
She reached into her pocket and pressed a tiny little angel charm into my hand, telling me it was given to her by a friend. I too should pass it on when it seemed the time was right, she said. And then she was off, without much further ceremony. Hopefully to a happier/safer living arrangement.
I felt incredibly good about myself. The kindness of a near stranger. And I did feel blessed somehow by that charm. I believe in these sorts of things.
I then set myself the task of finding a place to live in New York. Of course I had no thought of finding a job first – I completely presumed (semi-correctly) that I could just sell massage to make a living. And I assumed that there would be dozens of interesting guys to stay with and have sex with in exchange for rent. Sounded good to me.
This is literally how my brain operated. As a sex kitten, everything was seen through sex-colored lenses. It just made sense to me, felt right as .. sex. One two three sex. How are sex you today? My name is sex, what is yours?
I’d been in the gay chat rooms for well over 10 years at this point, knew how to ‘work it’, and started signing into the NYC chat rooms as “ArtBoyNeedsARoom” or something similar. I can’t remember the actual screen name. There were a few hits here and there, and after many false starts I eventually did find a slightly older gentleman – let’s call him ‘Lenny’ – who lived in Manhattan and the Hamptons and was willing to let me move in with him. Maybe 20(?) years older, good looking in his almost-balding-not-yet-willing-to-buzz-it-all-off way, an apartment in midtown and house in the Hamptons with an extensive art collection. We clicked, talking about art and my being a bottom. (He was all the top.) He showed friendly interest in my art, and definite interest in having sex with me. A top with a big dick, or so I remember from the few photos that came my way. I was to pay for my one-way airfare (which I insisted upon doing, although I never remember him offering that part himself), and he would take care of the rest. He would pick me up from JFK and drive me back to his place, to stay, to commence my life in New York City. No rent, he would pay for food, I would just be his to play with, and we could talk art. I didn’t ask too many questions, I was just too excited at the possibility of finding a cool place to stay, sex, free rent, and a chance to “make it big in New York.”
The day came for the flight, and the move, and I vaguely remember saying good-bye to the west coast, my parents, and all of my past there. Things just hadn’t worked out, the east coast was going to be better for me – or so I thought. In reality there is no bad or good. It just is, of course.
I drop these little philosophical tidbits all the time. I rarely try to back them up, I just assume you believe me.
I flew to JFK flirting the whole way. There was a flight attendant on board I was desperate to have sex with in the airplane bathroom and then go home with - Lenny be damned – but soon enough I landed to a hot and humid New York City, suitcase in hand, large awkward painting, and plenty of naivete.
Lenny was there as planned, waiting for me in the baggage claim area.
First thing of course: the picture he’d sent me was obviously 10 years old, and taken from a distance. I realized I’d never really had a good look at him. We’d talked on the phone and I’d seen his cock photo and this vague shot of him standing on a hiking trail 50 feet away. He wasn’t quite the fantasy I’d built up in my head, but he was still a good looking guy. I didn’t panic, mind you, I just made a note to myself. Always ask for more photos.
Have I ever really paid attention to that note? No. I still fall for it every time.
The first surprise was that we weren’t going back to his Manhattan apartment, he actually was spending the summer in the Hamptons and we were driving directly there. He told me lush stories of the beautiful setting awaiting us, a lovely home right off the water.
I can hear you scripting the story – no, he was telling the truth. It was a lovely home. We’ll get there soon.
I was just disappointed (shocked) that I wasn’t going to be jetting off to a fabulous Manhattan life on my first day. The thought of being away from Manhattan for the summer hit me hard. I tried not to look disappointed. And the Hamptons were just a subway ride away from Manhattan, I figured. Truly, I had no clue about distances. Honestly I figured I could just hop on a bus and be in Central Park in a half hour or so.
Hah. Well, we drove and drove and drove down the Long Island Expressway (LIE) and finally made it to the sleepy little Hamptons town that he lived in. There were 4 or 5 homes in a little cul-de-sac right off an ocean inlet. It was quite pretty. A nice two story home with a huge deck in the back. View of the water, lots of horsetails but no direct beach access. Still, good enough.
My first two days were blurry but for a few memories. He was kind to me, and we had sex at least a dozen times. His dick was as big as he advertised, and he enjoyed the doggy position – which I never did, but put up with. Actually looking back now it was the best thing. He liked being on top, he liked being in charge, he liked controlling his bottom. And he was nice but not the prettiest thing. Handsome in his from-behind way.
And I needed a home. So I took it in the guest room, I took it in the bedroom, I took it on the deck, I took it in his jacuzzi, I took it everywhere. He showed me his big art collection, I listened as he gave me extensive backgrounds of the major artists that he collected. I liked that part. Cool stuff in his house. As usual though with collectors, way too much stuff. Stacked against the walls even.
He also pulled out his first cigar to smoke. Shock.
And he also had a large rather frumpy unattractive bloodhound that I hadn’t been told about.
Two things I really couldn’t stand. I’m allergic to cig smoke, and dogs - yes I love dogs, but frumpy bloodhounds? Hmm. No.
He apparently had a birthday coming up in a few days, and I was to be introduced as his guest of honor; but it felt to me more and more obvious that I was his live-in boyfriend. To be introduced to a “quiet birthday party” of his 12 closest friends at his house was completely freaking me out. It was only day 2 that this came up.
I liked the sex, I liked the home, but I felt isolated from my source of sex and income (Manhattan!) and now trapped in a smoking den of Bloodhound and unwanted Boyfriendhood.
So after three days of this “arrangement” I told Lenny I needed out. It wasn’t going to work.
He took it surprisingly well. I don’t remember much drama. The next day he offered to drive me into the city and let me get on with what I wanted to do. I think he let me sign onto the internet from there and I remember frantically going into the chat room looking for a possible next crash pad. I didn’t find anything. People smell desperation and run the other way. The good ones do, that is. The mean spirits smell this desperation and think of pleasant games to play.
The ‘tomorrow’ came, we packed my few belongings up in the car and drove the LIE back towards Manhattan in near silence. He clearly wasn’t very happy with me. Or maybe he was just evaluating what he’d gained/lost in the bargain. Who knows.
All I remember is that Lenny dropped me off on a street corner in this place called “Queens” (not looking like Manhattan at all) at 6am in the morning, at the closest possible subway stop to the Expressway and then drove away.
OK wait, but not without first rolling his window down and taking pity on me at the last minute. He asked if I had any cash on me, and I said (truthfully) that I did not. That money I had left over from giving Sarah her escape money was quickly spent on my airfare, food and other expenses in my final month in Seattle. I had an empty wallet.
Lenny reached into his wallet and pulled out … surprise … $500 cash and gave it to me. Then drove off.
I was stunned. Truly stunned. I’d never told Lenny the story about Sarah, never felt the need to. Here was the universe giving back to me what I had so boldly and lovingly given out before. $500. I literally stood there in shock for a moment or two, thinking about what exactly this meant. I think I took from it an important lesson: no matter what happens, you’re going to be taken care of.
One trapped girl for another.
It emboldened me actually. Now I could set forth into the world knowing there was a spiritual safety net under me. I still believe that, although I try to avoid going too far out into the wild that it would take that much of a miracle to bring me back.
Still, the question was obvious: now what? I had no idea where I was, it was already almost 80 degrees at 6am, and I had a ton of schtuff to carry and no home. Fun. Who’s gonna sex me now?
I’ll write that soon.
Here’s a peek at the Seattle studio that I left behind. One of my first large oil paintings is in the background against the wall - and the square painting on the easel is the only one I took with me, carried under my arm this whole time. It now hangs in a private London collection. Another interesting story in itself.