by Louise O’Brien
There’s quite possibly more to it than all this. We probably have more to live for than the extended weekend that has become our lives. We aren’t a cohesive group. We don’t all share the same ethos or standards or even the same taste in clothes, drugs, music, politics. We argue more than we agree. We step on each other’s toes to get to men, to get to the bar, to be the first to get on that comped list, in that VIP lounge. But once the doors swing open, once we descend the staircase, pull back the curtain leading to the main floor and smell the distinct aroma that is a mixture of testosterone fueled sweat and the powder that pollutes the air when prescription tabs are exchanged – that is when we know we are home. And the rest stops making sense. The world is our oyster, we have a thousand lives to lead before daylight, let alone before noon when we will actually emerge from this womb. The night has begun.
Where the People Are
I am a firm believer in the philosophy “Life is what you make it.” It sounds trite, but the place to be should always be wherever you are. If you spend Saturday night in the Pacific Avenue branch of the New York Public Library, you should be having the time of your life.
However, to be a New York “club kid” (truth be told, that term has floundered as of late, having originated in the late 1980’s, but I challenge the public to come up with a better word for us) you have to have your thumb on the pulse of…well, whatever medium it is that helps us decide what is hot and what is not. There are more clubs to choose from than sands through the hourglass that make up the days of our lives. Since the weekend officially starts as soon as you can’t deal with the week anymore, there is no limit placed on a good time by such petty grievances as work the next morning or there being nothing to do.
In the ultimate catch-22, however, it has become hard to discern whether the place we are in is hot because we choose to go there or we chose to go there because it was the new hot place to be. I have been told recently by my older friends — the ones who lived through the Michael Alig murder, the closing, re-opening, closing sequence that dominated the Limelight, the various locations of Junior Vasquez’ residency, and nights when Madonna and RuPaul actually dared to mingle with the commoners — that club kids died with the end of the twentieth century, that we whippersnappers haven’t a clue what their “movement” meant. As soon as I finished laughing at the fact that they referred to mindless drug taking and engaging in lurid sex acts in public restrooms a “movement” I realized that they were right. Whatever has sprung from Zeus’ head this time around does not resemble the beast it once was. We have created something they don’t understand…at least I think we have.
Riding Their Coattails
I remember reading several books on the Beat Generation and wishing I knew what it was like to have contemporaries. You know, the people you discuss ideas with, the ones that fuel your creativity. If my friends do that (and often they do) trust me, they have no idea.
In one of the many texts dedicated to the discussion of this glorious time in literature, one of Jack Kerouac’s former girlfriends, Joyce Johnson, wrote a book called “Minor Characters.” Although it was marketed as a book about her affair with the great wordsmith, it subverted into a book about herself. She was too young to officially be considered a “Beat” artist of any kind. Actually, in pale contrast to these virile men with a voracious appetite for life and art who were hopping freight cars and being introduced to bebop, her age group actually became defined as invisible, phantoms of young people. How could they possibly compare? What movements could these youngsters fuel with their staid observations, their abject voyeurism? They weren’t doing anything. They were reading about it.
I was struck by that idea — struck into despondency. A whole group of people had been subjugated to a degree of less importance simply because they had the bad luck to be born a decade too late. But isn’t that how many groups arrogantly view their successors? Younger? Yes. Better? No way!
The Ho Hum Generation
Now in a grandiose show of playground warfare, I will tell you why we are better.
First: The tradition of snobbery that prevailed is decaying as we speak. Although the occasional traditionalist will still venture a laugh at a less than perfectly dressed fellow reveler, the prevailing sentiment is that we are there to party, not to judge. There is room for us all in the kingdom of beats.
Second: We are a “been there, done that” category of people. For this reason, we are often attacked for our lack of innovation – gone are the days of the Tide twins, who literally regaled themselves in costumes constructed of entirely of cardboard laundry detergent boxes. Drag queens are a bit less prevalent in the “big” clubs than they once were, although they still enjoy a healthy, albeit less mainstream following. However, I think this works to our benefit. We are less likely to try to shock each other or out do each other. Mostly we are there for the music, for the people we know and the many we will meet before the night is through. If you happen to be dressed like a whack-job, good for you. But that with a token will get you a subway. We’ve seen it all. We know what we feel like concentrating on — the D.J.s, the lights, the spectacle of ordinary people dancing as one body to a beat you can literally feel in your throat.
Third: The appreciation of the D.J. was not as much a part of the older folks experience. Firstly, although most of our favorites have been spinning for years, the music is better now than it has ever been. Then, I can’t really say there were many true fans of electronic music as an art form because it hadn’t yet become one. But one night in the company of Jonathan Peters, Carl Cox, Danny Tenaglia, Sasha, John Digweed and if you have a brain in your head you will see that it has become one. These people have attracted legions of devotees who will literally fly across the country, if not the ocean, to hear them live. Arena concerts have been replaced by a Saturday night on the main floor at Sound Factory. We react with collective gasps, sharp intakes of breath as if a mass of people have congealed into a single set of lungs, when we hear something that sends us over the edge. It turns out I do have contemporaries. Ideas are rarely exchanged – if they have been, hell if remember them. But a sentiment prevails, something that has me conjoined with a stockbroker from New Jersey pounding his chest in a juicehead trance on one side of me and an 18-year old visiting New York City for a night of clubbing after her prom on the other. For the moment they are here with me. We may never remember the many nights that led from one to the next in our version of permanent midnight – we’ll probably remember this feeling for a while though.
There will be much disagreement with this account of what club life is like in 2001. I welcome it. As a body of people, outside in the daylight, walking down the sunlit sidewalk on Tenth Avenue blinking at the blue sky after a night out that has bled into the next afternoon, you wouldn’t even know we knew each other by looking at us. We rarely agree in the real world. There are only infrequent moments when what we share trickles out the door of the clubs and into “life.” Mostly, our commonalities only rear their heads on the dance floor. I, personally, am quite content to keep it that way.