"Laughin' at the grammar cause they didn't understand us
Must've thought we slow, but little do they know
I came up in here to take advantage of that shit y'all take for granted"
- J.Cole, "sideline story"
When you've grown up in the UK with it's cult of coupons, money saving expert's, and meal deals, the abundance of money that is evident in so many places in Manhattan takes some getting used to. And once you get invited to the right parties, it's like visiting another planet.
I arrived in New York on Friday, and somehow got into a loft party in a $4 million space, on the 32nd floor of a gigantic building. The audience there was somewhat alien to me: They were all models, artists, in the fashion industry, or in finance (so much money in this town).
Two girls taller than me put their arms round each other and strike a pose for the official photographer next to one of the pieces of artwork. Perfect genes, perfect life. I smiled as that Billy Bragg lyric came to mind: "For the girl with the hourglass figure, time runs out fast." The DJ plays a dance remix of Lana Del Rey's "Born to die" as I take a photo with "Rossco" and "Skye", who are the two people everyone wants to fuck. You can see the rest of the room follow them around with their eyes as they laugh and do shots with the bartenders. I come close to asking them about Zoolander 2, but it seems to be an obvious thing to talk about.
Just as I had hoped, everyone is working on something interesting or exciting. And honestly, it feels so good that the networking is with good-looking people. (This isn't the case with technology startups, the normal networking events I attend). Tonight, my eyes AND my brain are simultaneously stimulated. I talk to a fashion editor about helping her get traffic for her new magazine. I speak to a video editor about doing some fun stuff with his green screen in his studio this week. I'm in the smoking room with three artists. None of us know each other, and we're grinding into the familiar gears of New York social etiquette. Then I ask "What do you think of life so far" and watch everyone's eyes momentarily dart to each other looking for social queue for the appropriate way to respond. No-one expects existentialism after midnight at busy parties. A girl with full red lips replies "I don't...know..." These conversations are something of a social experiment. I wheel out a few of my favorite one-liners throughout the night. I make a friend and we meet another finance bro. I get to use Mike Skinner's classic "We first met through a shared view...she loved me and I did too." She hasn't heard the song, but she laughs. Damn, that line is just too good.
America is an ongoing juxtaposition of all the movies I watched when I lived with my parents in the suburbs, meeting the onslaught of reality. Oftentimes, the depictions are a lie (with the insanity of Hollywood Boulevard being the ultimate example). The silver lining is: When you're with the right people in the right places, the fantasy becomes real. You're the star. How you gonna write the script, kid? Being amongst the money, the models, and the high-rise apartment looking out over Battery Park and South Cove bay onto the water, Manhattan-based movie American Psycho came to mind. It's author Bret Easton Ellis recently looked back on the book, and its' protagonist, Patrick Bateman, and stated: "American Psycho was about what it meant to be a person in a society you disagreed with and what happens when you attempt to accept its values and live with them even if you know they're wrong. Well, insanity creeps in and overwhelms; delusion and anxiety are the focal points. In other words, this is the outcome of chasing the American dream. Isolation, alienation, the consumerist void increasingly in thrall to technology, corporate corruption... Despite the idea of interconnectivity via the internet and social media, many people feel more isolated than ever, increasingly aware that the idea of interconnectivity is an illusion." the more I spend time in America (and honestly, NYC is edging over L.A. right now as where I'd want to live) the more I realize this is the world I want to be a part of.
Perhaps I'm banking on intense self-awareness to save me from the fate of so many who chase this dream and forget who they are because of it (and there were more than a few at the party last night). I try and remember I'm sharing the same skies as so many others who have arrived on the east coast with a head full of ideas and dreams of making it, just like the number of entrepreneurs dreaming of the investment cheques which will make everything okay. Less than 1% will make it. It's post-industrial American natural selection.
Came back to my apartment with dreams of blowing up, though the cockroaches in my Airbnb keep me grounded. This is for every British kid who wants to be someone. Go to New York.