The Other Side
“Nah. You just go in.”
He taps the bouncer’s shoulder and points to the two of us. The bouncer glances at us and turns back to him.
“Dey wit you?” Are all bouncers from Queens?
He looks at us disdainfully, unhooks the velvet rope and waves us in.
We are greeted by dim red lights, blacklights that indicate who forgot to de-lint their shirts, booths and bar stools clad in shiny black leather, and Swedish models with sashaying long blonde hair. This is it, we’re Home.
Or, rather, at Home, the latest addition to Manhattan’s Ring of Fire, centered around 27th between 10th and 11th. Celebrity (and celebrity whore) central. Crobar, Marquee, Quo, Bed, Scores, Bungalow 8. Disregarding Spirit with its winding lines of underage Asians eager to drop Ecstacy and bounce around the tackiest club in the city, this area comes with a patented “beautiful people” seal.
It’s Friday night, and tonight, I’ve forsaken my usual dive bars and three dollar Queens beers for a glimpse of the other side. The side where models who can’t speak English, investment bankers who drink Heineken and leer, and promoters with tables and free bottles of Grey Goose reign, and intelligent conversation and draught beers are obsolete.
Party Girl Extraordinaire and I have arrived at our first destination where she is meeting with a party promoter/model friend of hers. Upon coat checking our things, we are invited to join them at a table flowing with Finlandia vodka, cranberry and orange juice, and tonic water. After helping ourselves to two incredibly strong screwdrivers, we decide to “go look for the bathroom,” girlspeak for “wander around and people watch.” As we start to wander around, PGE spots a Dutch guy that Promoter/Model introduced to us. Not attractive in the least, but interesting and genuinely nice. One of the few Amsterdam natives who doesn’t take advantage of the liberty of legalized drugs. As PGE engages him in conversation about the differences between life in New York and Amsterdam, I continue to survey the room. All the men here are over six feet tall. All of them look like they just stepped off the cover of GQ. I don’t belong here, but tonight, I play the part.
My eyes rest on someone who is apparently trying to memorize my face because every time my eyes gloss over him, he doesn’t so much as blink. He stands there and smiles at me in a goofy, endearing way. I half-smile back, and he accepts that as an invitation to speak to me.
“Hi, what’s your name?”
“K-O-O. I’m Japanese.”
“You don’t look Japanese.”
“Well, I’m half German. My father’s German.”
I snort, “Interesting combination.”
“What about you? Korean?”
“I can tell.”
“Because of your attitude.”
Another snort, “Yep, that’s me. Typical bitchy Korean.”
Amidst our sardonic banter I manage to find out that he’s a graphic designer, he grew up in Manhattan and lives in the Upper East Side, and he’s 34.
“34? I would have guessed 27.”
“Thanks, a lot of people say I look young.”
PGE and I escape back to the table and slurp down another screwdriver as the club starts to fill itself to capacity. Pretty soon, Promoter/Model’s entourage has flooded the seats and the surrounding areas of their corner, and we decide it’s time to leave.
“My friend’s at Bed, and he’s got a bed. You wanna go?”
“Sure, where is it?”
“Yeah, let’s go.”
I make a bathroom run, and on my way back, am intercepted by Koo. I say my goodbyes and worm my way through the crowd of beautiful people back to PGE.
“What took you so long?”
“I saw that guy again, and we were talking for a bit.”
“Cool. Didja give him your number?”
“Yeah, but he was like, ‘We’re in different phases in life. At my age, I just want to mess around, and you’re in the place where you wanna get married, so…’”
PGE laughs, “Good one.”
“He’s a good kisser though.”
“Hah! You kissed him?”
“Eh, why not. Not like I’m ever gonna see him again.”
We get our things, thank Promoter/Model and Company for the good time, and head over to Bed.
We are greeted by another of PGE’s friends. This one, a 22 year-old U. Penn Wharton graduate and investment banker at Goldman Sachs. Despite his pretentious stats, he’s a nice guy.
“Where do you meet these people?”
Bed can only be described as lush. Flowing white drapes, sky blue, lavender and silver walls, sheets, cushions. It’s like stepping into a Greek play. I’m half-expecting everyone to be wearing togas and drinking out of goblets.
We settle onto Investment Banker’s bed and make ourselves comfortable despite the biting glares we are getting from his other female company. PGE snuggles up with IB’s friend whom he has been trying to hook her up with for months. I snuggle up with a vile glass of Bombay Sapphire and tonic. PGE points and laughs at the ridiculous expressions on my face as I try to choke the concoction down in an attempt to cure my sobriety.
We decide to head to our next stop. But not before PGE shares a kiss with IB’s friend, and I make a right where I should have made a left and find myself face to face with a row of men using the urinal. Whoops.
“Ugh, he’s a terrible kisser.”
“He looks slobbery.”
“Actually, he’s the opposite. He’s got tight little lips and his tongue darts in and out.”
We giggle the entire two blocks to Quo, our final stop for the night.
There isn’t much to note about Quo other than the dancers wearing see-thru mesh dresses and little shorts wedged so far up their asses I have to sit on my hands to quell the urge to pick their wedgies for them. Another bottle of vodka, more screwdrivers, and I’m still surprisingly sober. Somewhere along the line, I became immune to screwdrivers.
A very drunk PGE, a friend of hers we picked up at Quo, and I finally head to Chinatown for eats at 4:30. One free cab ride thanks to Nelson, our Puerto Rican private cab driver who regales us with tales about his former wife, a major pop star in Puerto Rico (he had the newspaper clippings and photos to prove it), and blasts Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir throughout the ride, and we’re in a small, dirty Chinatown restaurant. He gives us his card and tells us whenever we need a free ride around the city, we know who to call. Good idea, bad idea?
After having our fill of roast duck and beef over rice, we stumble back to PGE’s Chinatown apartment and collapse into bed/couch. In the morning, we are awoken by her surgeon cousin coming to collect some of his things.
“Get dressed, my cousin’s here.”
“I’m opening the door, are you decent?”
They talk for a few minutes, discuss the previous night’s debauchery and when they will finally get together so she can meet some of his fellow surgeon friends, and then he leaves.
On the car ride back to Queens, we blast U2 and drown ourselves in coffee and tea.
“You weren’t kidding.”
“About your cousin being hot.”
She laughs, “Right? I told you.”
“Shit, man. I would have been friendlier, but I was thinking, ‘Goddamnit, the hottest guy I see in a long time and I gotta look like just woken-up shit.’”
We both burst into laughter.
“My friend’s coming to visit this weekend from Toronto, wanna do it again on Thursday?”
I stop and think. “Yeah, why not? I can pretend I belong on the other side for one more night.”