You know that feeling when you’re driving home and arrive without any recollection of the actual journey? Or when you’re browsing on your phone on the loo and minutes turn into hours and when you try to get up it’s like you don’t have legs anymore? It’s scary, both to fall off the loo and to lose time like that. Makes you think you’re not living life to its fullest.
This month has whizzed by and I am trying to figure out how that happened. Perhaps it’s fortuitous that Ramzan is upon us, and suddenly Time is a precious and cruel mistress to all. Now you’re hyper-aware of every minute inching its way closer and closer to when you can attack the fried food buffet like a puma on a mission (as I am every day of the year anyway).
Rest assured that although I am far away from the enforced dietary rehab of Ramzan in Pakistan, I feel your struggle. I too am embarking on a life-affirming cleanse-ritual starting today. As I said, the past month has been a blur. I’ve had a slew of houseguests, seven to be exact, all at different times and from different portions of the world. Along with houseguests comes the diverting but consequential delusion that you too are on holiday, don’t have to work, can go out for dinners and eat what you want because Life has no consequences.
This is how I found myself trying to have a conversation with a mime at a clandestine art pop party held in an old Chinese restaurant at 5 in the morning. We were there through one of my more recent acquaintances in New York. This girl (let’s call her Mariam) is a Social Creature, someone who somehow knows everyone. If we are at dinner she’ll know the hostess, the bartender and seven people scattered around the tables. Walk down the street with her – any street, really – and you can bet that she’ll stop at least twice to say “Hi!” and “I haven’t seen you since Julien’s birthday!” Like a movie character, she gets free food and drinks everywhere she goes, bouncers pull aside velvet ropes for her and she has yet to wait in a line anywhere we’ve been together. (The closest I get to that kind of recognition is when the Korean woman at my Laundromat shouts “Big stain man!”) I am not sure what Mariam does for a living, but I have a feeling it involves going out on some kind of Olympian level.
I too am embarking on a life-affirming cleanse-ritual starting today
She’s really nice, though, and last week she asked me and my houseguests out to go to this “party”, which here is usually a themed night out hosted by a club promoter or DJ where there is cool music and a theme. They’ve become a big thing, perhaps for the first time since the 1990s. I don’t go to clubs and never liked them, even when I was younger. The whole thing seemed so posey and contrived, especially if you were not into standing around being assaulted with thumping bass music. But I thought it would be a nice change for my friends; and Mariam assured us this was an unusual event.
We walked up a grimy staircase with mirrors on both sides that were reminiscent of a PTDC guesthouse. On the landing of the stairs was a man dressed in ruffles and a girl covered from head to toe in gold sequins, both seated behind a makeshift table. Mariam knew them both, of course. He took the entrance money and she raised a bored hand to stamp the work “Glam” onto our wrists. We walked inside and initially it just looked like a crowded restaurant. Except everyone here was dressed like Halloween meets a Willy Wonka revival production. There was a girl in a floor-length gown and combat boots talking to a guy dressed in the exact same outfit; everywhere we saw safety-pin dresses, silver pants, fake tiaras, bedazzled eyelids, Marie Antoinette wigs, leather harnesses, cigarette holders, painted faces, fringe dresses, platform shoes, linen smock, spiky belts and feather headpieces. One person was wearing an outfit made entirely of Victorian ruffs and looked like the Michelin Man’s more elegant cousin. Things only got weirder and weirder as the night wore on and I found myself pulling self-consciously at my old leather jacket which, compared to literally any outfit in the room, made me look like an elderly chaperone. At one point seven sailors entered in full regalia and I wasn’t sure if they were on shore leave or a boy band. They were pointed out to me by someone who was dressed like a homeless hippie but claimed to be Solange Knowles’s music producer and wanted to know if we would like to go to his after-party where she was to come. A useful thing the year 2006 taught me was “Never follow a hippie to a second location” and in that respect there is an advantage to being older, so I stayed put. I later found out that Kate Moss was there at some point, but I don’t believe that for an instant.
Five hours slipped by and when I found myself talking to a mime who was communicating with me through hand gestures and chopsticks, I thought it’s probably a good time to depart. Mariam had long since vanished in the sea of people but I did text her to thank her.
I’m glad my visitors got to see that grittier, weirder side to NY. I also proved to myself that I am not the person who can “live life to the fullest” every moment of every day. Nobody can; it’s exhausting. I am sure even Mariam looks longingly at an early bed time once in a while. And not that anyone is banging my door down with invitations (not even the Korean woman) but I welcome the next month of time-conscious reflection. To say nothing of the fried food.