On Saturday I had a going away party at the same Alphabet City bar where I gathered my friends almost 15 years ago, on my last night in town the first time I left New York for parts unknown (in that case, Los Angeles). Esperanto has been trucking along at the corner of 9th and C for two decades, as oblivious to my comings and goings as the rest of the city, and that thought is oddly comforting to me.
The place looks pretty much the same as it did in 2001, but boy has my world changed since then – or rather, boy has it expanded. 15 years ago a small band of high school and college friends came to see me off as I embarked upon adulthood with very little understanding of what that would actually mean. This past Saturday, in addition to those wonderful lifelong friends, I was surrounded by a crowd of people who were connected to me by new threads unimagined at age 21: grad school in Austin, a filmmakers collective in Brooklyn, a global humanitarian aid organization, my French conversation group, a producers guild, and a certain world body that shall remain nameless.
The next day, someone who hasn’t known me long remarked, “You have lovely friends.” He was exactly right – they are lovely friends and lovely people.
Taking stock of them all from the back of the bar, I was a bit overwhelmed. What a beautiful reminder of the amazing amount of love and friendship and cheerleading and general awesomeness of character in my life.
Then a French guy at a table a few feet away from me called me over to flirt/ask me if I was French. Of course I ascribed symbolic significance to this and I responded, “J’irai à Dakar la semaine prochaine pour améliorer mon français et ce soir-ci, c’est ma fête du voyage. C’est une très bon signe que tu as demandé ça!” Of course he didn’t really understand why it was a good sign, or maybe he just didn’t understand me, but either way I knew the universe was telling me to go forth and conquer French (and Frenchmen).
When the party died down my high school besties and I headed to a nearby new wave club that I’ve been going to since college. Like Esperanto, Pyramid has remained virtually unchanged since the first time I stepped through the door.
November 2001 at Esperanto, back in the days when you could smoke in bars and people took photos on film!
February 2016 outside Pyramid, where the concept of time is meaningless.
I am in thrall to nostalgia more than anyone I know, and it’s hard to overstate the rush of visceral emotion that washed over me when the DJ played “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” This is one of just a few songs I remember listening to and loving as a five year-old in England, which was my first (short-lived) ex-patriot experience and what probably set in motion my abiding wanderlust.
It was another powerful strike to the heart, which, combined with the deja vu of dancing with friends who I have been dancing with since I was 15, sent me into a heightened state of preemptive homesickness perfectly balanced with euphoria for the future.
The words of the song are vague enough that I could bend them to my fancy and convince myself they were karmically delivered for that exact, ephemeral moment.
In short, it was a very good night and a very good way to say goodbye (for now).