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My First New York

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By Parker Posey
Arrived: 1984


I was 16 the first time I came to New York City. I had two close girlfriends who had grown up in Manhattan that I met at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Tanya and Sasha. We had taken the acting program there, and I visited them the following spring. My parents and I arrived from a small town in the Deep South into the city, and in the cab, as I sensed their fear of the unknown, I could sense my attraction to it. I looked into all the cars passing us, amazed that it could all exist without people crashing into each other—What instinct! I thought. Where does it come from? It all seemed choreographed to me, and unbelievable. I thought: this is a place to truly put your trust in God, to test accidental nature, to live like an existentialist!

Tanya and Sasha and I sang and danced through the streets, jumping on park benches, swinging on lamp posts, doing silly dances, and no one judged us or seemed to even notice. People and their lives would walk by, and I loved the fleetingness of it all, loved that they dressed like they didn’t care. Some people looked as though they’d been in the same clothes all week, and I thought, Yeah, who cares! I loved asking for directions and talking to strangers I would never see again. I almost got run over by a bike messenger, something I had never seen in my life. It felt like a miracle I wasn’t dead.

Sasha’s mom, a painter, lived in a loft in Soho, which seemed to me like a huge attic but without the furniture. A bed was somewhere behind huge paintings that leaned against each other like giant books in the middle of the living room—which was the whole apartment, the whole house! Exposed brick and wooden floors, exposed lightbulbs, a homemade bathroom with a tub on a platform of mosaic tiles, and her mother’s jewelry all around—earrings from Afghanistan and other exotic things that looked like travel to faraway places. I thought about her neighbors just on the other side of the wall, and I got a glass and pressed the bottom to my ear and tried to hear them. Endless entertainment. I couldn’t wait to live like this.

We climbed the fire escape to smoke cigarettes and take pictures of ourselves in the sunset looking serious. And we played Ping-Pong and pool somewhere in the West Village and drank beer and ate burgers at the Corner Bistro. Sasha liked the Clash and I liked the Jam, and the Beastie Boys were just beginning. A cute guy offered to buy the jeans I was wearing for a hundred dollars, and I almost took him up on it, but then I thought, What would I wear? He said they were for his girlfriend. Now I think he was hitting on me.


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