Thursday, February 15, 2007

SoHo Part 2

More Stuff About Growing Up in SoHo.

When my parents and I first moved back from Europe, we ended up subletting places. One was on St. Mark's Place between 2nd and 3rd Avenue, which I only vaguely remember. I also remember sleeping on the floor of a friend's loft in a sleeping bag. I think that was how my parent's discovered SoHo. So we ended up getting the loft and became SoHo residents. The area used to be a really tight knit community. Besides the fact that it was very centrally located, there was nothing to recommend it. We had two delis, about 4 restaurants, a smattering of upscale boutiques (portents of things to come), and a ton of art galleries. Pretty much all of the above were closed by 7pm. There was no grocery store, video store, dry cleaners, hardware store, etc. All of the basic necessities required a walk up to the Village. Weirdly that is pretty much the case today as well, except that people pay millions of dollars to live in this center of inconvenience.

In those days it was a small community, and everyone knew everyone else. I used to play with my friends Natasha and Arianna around the corner, and my friends Heather and Ama across the street. Everyone's parent was an artist and everyone's loft had a workshop or art studio in it. My first real great SoHo friend, whom I still have today, is Melanie Vesey.

Melanie had lived in Michigan with her mom, and moved to New York at age 12 to live with her dad, a photographer, and stepmom, a bigtime ad exec. Melanie was a whirl of energy, as she is today. Totally gorgeous, and always on the go, she became my partner in crime for the next few years, until she got into Interlachen Arts Academy and moved back to Michigan to study dance. Melanie was a year older then me, and thus was always a step ahead. She was my first friend who had an interest in boys, which was totally foreign to me at that point.

Her family was really really different from mine. They had a really modern loft: I remember them having a large red couch, a huge pink armchair and a shiny black 50s style kidney-shaped table. They always had candy out in little dishes. They had a dog named Nordan. They had a housekeeper -- something I didn't really think existed outside of The Brady Bunch. David, Mel's dad, had a huge record collection and there was always Iggy Pop or something like that blaring when I walked into their house. David wore Buddy Holly glasses and these stylish white shirts with tiny collars. Deyna, Mel's stepmom, wore poodle skirts and white shirts with matching 50s style sweaters and little black shoes. I distinctly recall Melanie showing me a pair of her mom's shoes and telling me that they cost $300. I remember thinking she had to be lying, that there was no way that shoes could possibly cost that much. At Christmas the Veseys family tradition was to go see the Big Apple Circus, which I thought was amazing. I also remember their Christmas tree was always decorated in red, white, and blue. The Veseys were not just glamorous, but very very cool.

My home life was the polar opposite: I grew up in a cluttered, antique mish-mash of furniture and trinkets and books. My dad always had piles of lumber lying around the house and my parents shopped mainly at thrift shops and discount stores. We had old books and magazines everywhere. Fashion was never a high priority, although my mom loves clothes and jewelery. Ironically, Melanie's parents were way more strict than mine, so I ended up doing way crazier stuff and getting in a lot less trouble than Melanie ever did. Her parents were the type that would ground her for being five minutes late. My parents gave me a pretty long leash, figuring I would deal with it. We still joke about how different our parents were and how differently we were perceived -- Melanie was thought of as the wild child and I was the quiet studious one, when in reality Mel was usually in bed by 10pm while I was off with my friends smoking cigarettes and drinking beer.

My other good friend was a boy named Loic who lived upstairs. He and his family were from France. Even though he was around my age he seemed a lot older because he had lived everywhere and spoke French and drank wine with dinner. The first time I got drunk was with Loic -- I think I was maybe 13 and we stole scotch from his parents liquor cabinet and went to the movies and poured it in our soda. This event ended with me throwing up in a parking lot around the corner from my house and Loic dragging me home. Fortunately my parents were out and I managed to feign illness when they came home and pass out.

This has been a long and rambling post...I promise to come up with a real story, or at least a shorter ramble, when I post tomorrow.


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