Once Upon a Time in 1990s New York City

Written by | Gay Voices

st. marks nyc

As spring finally teases us hello with the first warm weather, I can’t help but look forward to summer, a subject that invariably gets me thinking of my 20s in New York.

I’m so glad I knew New York when I did. On summer weekend mornings, hungover from making the rounds of a then-gloriously queer, debauched Alphabet City, I would take a bottle of Evian and walk all the way down the West Side — most often along Ninth Avenue, but if I wandered, I knew that as long as a boy could find Broadway, he could find his way back home. At Washington Square, I’d turn and traipse into the East Village thinking that, if there is such a thing as heaven, it must be modeled after Park Avenue South on a summer morning.

Sometimes I’d run into a cute guy at a cafe, perhaps someone I already knew from gay watering holes like The Cock or Wonder Bar. We’d head back to his place, ostensibly to listen to his CDs, but we both knew he’d invited me home to fool around. We’d smoke weed, have sex and then lay around naked — feeling listless but oh, so lovely.

Later, he’d try to impress me — taking me to dinner at some little hole in the wall he’d discovered that was cheap but, he promised, “the best” representation of its ethnic cuisine. Eventually, we’d part with a kiss for all to see, unafraid, before I would head north and he would head south, home.

I remember one particular dark-haired guy — short like me — wearing a tank top and cut-off jean shorts. I came across him performing a fire-eating and hacky sack act somewhere near the cube at Astor Place. We ate cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery, which he bought with tips made from eating fire. Fittingly, he was very hot.

He lived across from Stuyvesant Village. His mother had leased him an apartment in one of four towers facing the East River there. I’ll always remember the long, blissful, sweet day we shared: the perfect, cloudless azure blue of the sky behind his beautifully tanned, nude body, the smell of fire and fuel, sex and sweat.

I felt so safe and so limitless in that New York — a New York that is gone now, for a lot of reasons. But I hope that one day this summer, a blond college kid will leave his iPhone at home and venture out with a cold bottle of water and walk all the way down to the Village. I hope he sees a friendly face smiling back at him — sitting by himself at a cafe or performing near a park – and that they go back to his place where they can admire one another’s naked bodies, lit by the backdrop of a limitless blue sky. And I hope that moment in time will become something they’ll never forget: the New York they will always be glad they knew.

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Last modified: April 10, 2018

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