Things to Do In New York When You’re Dead
Whenever a disaster occurs, like 9-11 in 2011 and Coronavirus which is happening 3-20, I get some form of PTSD from 1978. In 1978 I was a 21-year-old tearaway in the middle of a Civil War in West Beirut, and I spent my time ignoring curfews, taking drugs and drinking, and picking up girls. It was fun but terrifying. One memorable evening I went to a disco with some friends, fighting broke out outside, and we ended up stuck at the club for three days. So stress levels were sky high, and also the level of carelessness was sky high, promiscuity, addiction, violence reached levels I’ve never seen before.
More often than not, it was a slow eroding of the infrastructure as the downtown business section would open, and close, and open and close, till it stopped opening at all. Half the city was busy dying, the rest of us playing hide and seek with the grim reaper.
9-11 was like Downtown Beirut between rounds of fighting, 3-20 is like West Beirut at night. To find anything to do took some risk taking and a whole lotta rewards, but it was an underground scene and though I’m not attuned to it, I doubt 20 somethings are spending their lives indoors at night right this minute. I do wish I was drinking… We awoke in the afternoon and drank non stop till we fell asleep on the beloved of the night, outside the rat-a-tat-tat was like the rainfall on the roof of your old cottage, and you have the comfort that, as Malcolm Gladwell noted about the blitzkrieg on London in WWII, the less you were killed, the more alive you felt. If we, big if, made in to the end.. I lost friends, and I lost friends of friends, and as the last act, I left to New York City and CBGBs.
Which leads me to, after knowing things to do in Beirut, what to do in New York City. Well, at least we have electricity, but somewhere in this big city the alone meets the loneliness. Me, I prefer being alone, but I prefer being alone with other people and that isn’t possible right now. I like being amongst a crowd where I know no one, consuming pop music: that is where the two sides meet for me. In the day, I enjoy wandering the empty seats (I always go out on New Year’s Day, any time where the city is quiet), with nobody around me walking down Third Avenue to St. Mark’s Place. One of my fave memories of nyc when I was in my thirties was walking on a Sunday afternoon, hour after hour, in a city that might not sleep, but sure enjoyed afternoon dozing.
Right now, options are minimal and while if I was 40 years younger, I would be crowded on to what night life there is, today I don’t wanna go out unless there is music at the end of it. With no music, we are left here prisoners of our own (not unfounded) fears. I’ve never been to prison and so if this sounds simplistic to people who have been imprisoned so be it, but I have been stuck, and one part of having the options taken away from you is a guiltless indulgence of blah.
For folks like me, strict loners whose appearance of ease is a facade, the strict adherence to aloneness, to not hanging out with anyone, is like a right to be surly, to sit at home listening to music. And working from home, the advertising agency I work for is currently , mostly, remote. I have ups and downs with working from home but moment for moment I don’t hate it.
So, not unlike Beirut, there are good points and bad points. It is a fascinating period of time, a place where we see what happens when humans natural urge to congregate comes up against a virus that won’t allow them to congregate. Music, sports, and religion, all places where people with feigned shared interests join together, to pretend anything means anything at all.
When I came to the US the dream was not to be a part of a world where outside forces, where political calculations, were part of the plan. The hope was the US was a perfect place where everything took care of itself without my participation, the opposite of Lebanon. The perfect government is just like the perfect harmony, like McCartney behind Lennon on “I Dig Pony,” if you don’t want to notice it it still sounds good, and if you do listen to it you also respect it. It wasn’t to be, maybe nowhere like that exists, maybe the days of rugged individuality died with the taming of the West where the government stepped in and knocked the individual down till the became extinct.
You can never turn it off, you never could but not to this degree, you can’t turn it off and you can’t change it, it won’t leave you alone and worst of all, it won’t leave you alone in the Trump years. People might or might not be better off financially, emotionally we are battered beyond belief: we can’t hide, we can’t not participate, we can’t be left alone.
So what to do in New York where only the smallest clubs are open for business? I got a ticket to catch Glen Matlock (the Sex Pistols bassist) , who I knew slightly back in the day, though I was disappointed to note that he isn’t doing any Rich Kids material. A Sunday as well but since I don’t have to worry about getting to work I care not too much (and Mickey Leigh is opening!), plus since it is only half capacity it might not be too crowded… Otherwise, I can work without 90 minutes of commute, and without constant interruption, and wander about Astoria if the weather is nice.
It’s like getting a sneak peak of an alternative (or possibly the very same) timeline in which the human race is annihilated via our own personal asteroids, destroying us but allowing the planet, and other animals to thrive… so what you should do is look out your windows and see the first act of the end of us.