Tuesday, December 06, 2005

We're So Pretty, Oh So Pretty

In July 1989, I went on an East Coast trip with my family. We started in Orlando and spent a few days at Disney World, then we went up to Washington, D.C. and spent a day or two there. Then we went to New York. The trip just happened to coincide with my "I Am Such a Bad-Ass Punk Rocker" phase, so it was no secret that New York was, for me, about as good as the vacation could possibly get.

I was 15, and had it all planned out. I was going to finish high school and defect to New York. End of plan. Everything else would, um, I don't know, fall into place or something, I guess? Maybe I'd go to Juilliard and study music. Maybe I'd join a band. I'm sure there would be some outfit that would be able to use my mad piano skillz.

At one point during our visit, my family and I took a tour around the Statue of Liberty, and we sailed by some apartments on the river. I picked out my future apartment right there from the water. My dad and stepmom were greatly amused. "Oh? And how are you going to afford it?"
I'd get defensive and snap, "Hey, I'll get a job!" They didn't seem to appreciate my big dreams.

I was obsessed with anything and everything punk back then, most especially the Sex Pistols. Oh, did I ever have a crush on that nice boy, Sid Vicious. I had his poorly received posthumous album of covers (still do, at home somewhere), books about him, the book by Nancy Spungen's mother, And I Don't Want to Live This Life, and I had seen Sid & Nancy about 472 times. If you don't know the story, the facts are that Sid stabbed his girlfriend Nancy to death in Room 100 of the Chelsea Hotel in 1978. Up for debate is whether Sid murdered her or whether Nancy wanted him to kill her in some suicide pact gone awry.

Great stuff, right? I mean, you can totally see why I wanted to stay in Room 100 someday*, or at the very least, visit the hotel. It isn't at all creepy or anything. I did a little research before the trip, because I knew my dad and stepmom would have none of it if I said, "Hey, can we swing by that hotel where Sid Vicious killed his girlfriend? Pleeeease?" If I said, "Hey, did you know Bob Dylan stayed at the Chelsea Hotel? Isn't that cool? Can we go see it?" it sounds much better.

Dad, at first, went for it. It was almost too easy. "Hey, dad, Dylan Thomas once stayed at the Chelsea Hotel. Did you know that?"
"Hmmm, no."
"We should go see it! Yeah?"
"Eh, OK."

But my stepmom got wind of the plan and knew right away what the deal was. "Is that where that drug addict killed his girlfriend? You're not going there!"


On Friday, Darren and I took the subway to Chelsea for lunch, and we got a little turned around. While he tried to figure out which way to go, he nonchalantly pointed out a building in front of us, "And that's the Chelsea Hotel."
"Oh my God!" I took out my camera and snapped a few crappy pictures, while I explained my fixation on this place. Oh, sure, I've more or less gotten over Sid Vicious and no longer think of him as suitable husband material, but I still like the Sex Pistols all right. Regardless of where you are in life, for me at least, it's cool to see something you've always read about or just been left to imagine. The Chelsea Hotel was much, much bigger than I expected. It's a pretty building, too.

Now that I've accomplished that "goal," my next one is to do a photographic mission in which I tour the city taking pictures of places mentioned in rock songs, including 53rd & 3rd ("53rd & 3rd" by the Ramones), 45th between 6th and Broadway ("My Own Way" by Duran Duran) and St. Mark's Place ("Alex Chilton" by the Replacements; I didn't realize we were there the other day, unfortunately!).

Hey, at least I've gotten a little more realistic, haven't I?

*In an excerpt I read of "Killing Yourself to Live", Chuck Klosterman writes about visiting the hotel to see the site where Nancy Spungen died. The clerk at Chelsea wasn't all that excited to see him, and informed him that Room 100 is now an apartment and that, no, he couldn't see it. The clerk then went on to complain about the ongoing morbid fascination with the room and how he wished people would just get lives. I logged onto the Chelsea site after reading that article, and noticed they were selling souvenir room keys with "Room 100" on them. They're not there anymore, but it looks like it wasn't bothing anyone too much, huh?