Here’s to that time I yelled at an 80’s movie star in the coat check line while wearing a newsboy cap on December 31, 2001. But first, a back story.
On New Year’s Eve 2001 into 2002, I was thrilled to be ushering in a new year. I was living in Manhattan and still reeling from the 9/11 attacks. On that Tuesday morning in September, I’d seen the South Tower fall while I was across the street from the Empire State Building. I asked the guy standing next to me if he also saw the building fall or maybe I was having a mushroom flashback? I don’t think you can have flashbacks from mushrooms, but I really hoped for it because it would be better than realizing I’d just witnessed the fall of a New York institution. The Towers were as much of a symbol of New York as the Empire State Building. They were my literal guide to figure out which way was south and from a practical standpoint, I was now standing across the street from the now most iconic NYC building. (I quickly moved north to my apartment on the Upper East Side.)
Over the next few months, we surviving New Yorkers felt guilty for living while also existing under a low level of fear that another attack was imminent. Packages were feared. We were all sick of the maple syrup smell that hung over the city as the fires burned below where the towers once stood. Prescriptions for anti-depressants and anxiety meds went through the roof.
The one shining light: the Yankees beat the Mets in the Subway World Series and that was about all we had to celebrate. Until New Year’s Eve. We weren’t monsters for enjoying this holiday, right?
Even if we were, we desperately wanted to live and turn the corner on a bad year.
My friends organized a dinner at a chic new restaurant/lounge called The Park. It was in the hinterlands of Chelsea on 10th Avenue. I bitched the whole way over that it was “so close to New Jersey” and everyone breathed a sigh of relief when they realized this place was gorgeous, the crowd was gorgeous-er and there were performance artists, acrobats and vignettes of different musical performances. It was lit.
This is the part where I should explain what I was wearing, which of course needs another little backstory. In early December, I started working at Conde Nast, the magazine publishing company. I was working at The Golf Digest Companies, which had recently been acquired by “The Nasty.” In a building full of chic, including the most expensive restaurant ever built in Manhattan ($44 million dollars and you could only get in with your CN key card or as a guest), The GDC was odd company out. Dockers in a sea of Prada. A Hostess cupcake in a land of macarons. A non-ironic socks and sandals pairing in a tundra full of Manolos.
And I was a Louboutin stuck in a golf club bag. I knew literally nothing about golf (I thought handicaps were short for people who played golf despite their disabilities). I had a friend who worked at The GDC and I got the gig figuring it was a foot in the door. I was in marketing and wanted to get my butt over to editorial. I wanted to leverage my time at GDC into a gig at Vogue, Allure or Vanity Fair. I realized within the first week of working there that one of these moves would’ve been less likely than rebuilding the Twin Towers in under a month. Both would’ve been a miraculous as rewinding time so the 9/11 attack never happened.
I tried to make the most of my situation, but when I had to go back to work the day after Christmas, I was really bummed. Without vacation time, I said goodbye to my family on Christmas Day Eve just so I could be back in Manhattan to wake up early for work.
At lunch I consoled/punished myself by eating a salad instead of my usual grilled chicken with cheddar cheese on an onion roll and ranch dressing. When Brad Walsh asked me to join my coworkers at a happy hour for Boxing Day at the Bryant Park Hotel, I said, “Yaaaasssssssss!!!!”
I ordered Chardonnay. Three glasses. They bypassed my imitable Irish liver and when straight to my head (I blame the salad). We jumped in a limo and went to the W. I wanted to reenact the Titanic scene when Leo screams, “I’m the king of the world!” so I popped out of the sunroof. When we arrived at the W, I launched my body out the door like a missile, landing straight on my face.
Specifically, my nose. I broke it and also had a huge cut on the bridge. I looked like I’d just come out of a prize fight against Evander Holyfield. Boxing Day indeed.
By December 31, five days later, I had a scab on the bridge of my nose and a weird swelling. I naturally threw a newsboy cap on top of the problem, along with a high-neck blouse and black jeans. I was as chic as could be with the nose of someone on the losing end of a prize fight.
When we walked in to The Park, we were whisked up the stairs to a private dining room above the fray. Dinner was first and the food was surprisingly amazing. I don’t remember what it was, but I do remember thinking it was the most delicious food I’d ever had and that I was finally going out at night like an adult.
Post-meal, we ran around looking at boys and standing around looking cool. I drank a lot of Veuve Clicquot. I spied Ellen Degeneres with her new girlfriend after her recent breakup with Anne Heche. I saw acrobats bend their bodies in ways I didn’t understand. I danced. It’s singlehandedly the best New Year’s Eve party I’ve ever been to: it was better than the hype, the crowd was cool, drinks flowed easily and everyone’s expectations were exceeded.
At 3 a.m., my friend Kelly and I got into the coat check line. It was a long line and everyone was moving slowly. When a couple cut in front of us, I got surly quickly. It turns out it was Mary Stuart Masterson, the 1980’s movie star, and her husband.
“Excuse me, we’re in line and you can’t cut,” I said with a strong slur.
She ignored me. I tapped her on the shoulder.
“I’m talking to you,” I said.
“We were already in line,” she said and turned around.
“No, you weren’t. You need to leave the line before I call security.”
“Just chill out,” MSM said.
“I’ll chill out when you’re behind me,” I said.
She continued to ignore me.
“I am a physician! I need to leave sooner than you!” I said.
My friend Kelly, who has always been surlier than me for a lot of reasons but at this moment in time it was her job as an Investment Banker working on Ford for 100 hours a week, turned to me and gave me a confused look. “Huh? You’re a…doctor?”
I gave her the “shut up and roll with me” wink.
“That’s right. I am a PHYSICIAN. I have patients, not patience.”
It looks good on paper and in my head, but not in spoken form. I was just confusing the fuck out of everyone and it made me happy.
MSM tensed, but her husband pulled her out of line and toward the front.
“You’re ‘Some Kind of Awful!'” I said loudly enough for her to hear.
They cut in front of someone else about eight groups ahead of us. While it still made my wait time the same and they were still cutters, they weren’t celebrating it directly in front of me.
Why was I so surly? The booze was number one. The collective stress of the past few months was number two. Irritation about my broken face was number three. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, was that I didn’t appreciate anyone thinking they could swoop in and take my place away from me. I’d gone to the end of the line to wait my turn to make it fair for everyone else. We were all in it together and someone disrespecting me by cutting was disrespecting us all.
Given what we’d all just been through with 9/11 and how much good I saw in my fellow New Yorkers who spent months helping first responders and victim’s families as well as each other, it made me angry that someone else thought they were more important than any one of us in that line. It’s the one thing I wanted us to keep: decency and mutual respect. MSM was a dick and so I gave it right back to her.
My present spiritual self wrestles with this–when I see an injustice or an injury, I stand up. If it’s of this line magnitude, then is it worth it to make a stir? Maybe her cutting is saving me from a beam falling on my head. Is it worth it to resist or important to stand up for what’s wrong no matter how trivial? Or is it about something that’s unhealed within myself? Who knows. Sometimes, you’ve just got to yell.
In the cab ride home, Kelly said, “Some Kind of Awful. I just got that. Some Kind of Wonderful was really Eric Stoltz’s movie.”
“Yep. It was. Trust me: I’m a physician.”
We laughed. I got home and went to bed. I rested my body, head and broken nose the next day wondering what the year ahead would hold for me. Probably more newsboy caps.
The funny thing is that I forgot all about The Park and this night until I walked by it last week in New York City. The hinterlands of West Chelsea are now developed and chic thanks to the High Line. But the memories remain. While standing at the cross walk, I laughed at this story re-playing in my head. It made me feel some kind of wonderful.