Thursday, August 16th 2007
Before the crisis New York City was a different city. Before the crisis I was a different fellow. In August 2006 I was gearing up for New York Fashion Week, followed by Coterie (Market Week) with the U.S. Open Tennis at Flushing Meadows thrown in there somewhere. After it was all wrapped up I’d head across the pond to England and Euro Militaire. In those years I was living in Los Angeles but kept an apartment in New York City as on average I was spending a week a month there. But during Fall Fashion Week a week became nearly a month.
I often met up with a modeling friend of mine, Georg Eyerman, who lived out in New Jersey. Together we’d visit Avenel Hobbies (now shuttered) or drive out to Long Island in his Mach 1 Mustang and visit Baseline Hobbies in West Babylon.
It was especially hot and humid that August. Reuters reported it as a heatwave.
Temperatures near 93f (33c) with 80% humidity. New York’s electricity company Con Ed was having trouble with its power supply. Everyone was roasting hot and using their air conditioners without end to keep cool. It started out in Brooklyn. One-by-one the city began to suffer from rolling brownouts and then blackouts. Brownouts are when there is still electricity but Con Ed reduces the load to prevent a blackout. Blackouts occur when the brownout doesn’t work. Gramercy Park—where my apartment building was located suffered a brown out. There was just enough electricity to power the air conditioning in my bedroom but not the rest of the apartment. The microwave didn’t work and worse still the the lifts were out of commission. I lived in the 24th Floor. I walked down and up once and had enough of that nonsense.
Meatpacking District was unaffected by the brownouts so I reserved a hotel room at the Soho House.
My friend George kindly picked me up from my apartment for a visit to Baseline Hobbies and then would drop me at the Soho House on the return. Off we went to Long Island and spent up a storm at Baseline. They always had loads of hard-to-find kits, accessories and magazines. We had a lunch before heading back. On the way into the city we watched huge dark storm clouds building over Manhattan. Whilst it didn’t rain a drop on Long Island it poured stair rods in the City. By the time we exited the Mid-Town Tunnel the rain was over but the streets were full of puddles.
Georg dropped me on West Broadway near the hotel. As we were in typical heavy New York City traffic I quickly thanked Georg and jumped out his Mustang. I had just closed the door when I realized I was outside the Soho Grand and not the Soho House. Too late. Georg already was merging into traffic. I raised my arm to shout to him, and as I did the mobile phone held high in my hand slipped out and landed in a deep puddle of water. Retrieving it I noticed immediately the screen was full of water and malfunctioning. What to do? I had a big bag of model kits and no cash. I had spent every last dollar at the hobby shop and lunch after. So, no chance now I could hail a cab. I tried a nearby ATM. It was locked. With the electricity cuts you couldn’t open the electric security doors to access the ATM.
I couldn’t look at google maps. There were no smart phones yet. I tried to text, but the screen on my pre-iPhone Nokia was waterlogged from being submerged in the puddle of water.
I would walk. I’d done walking in the City a plenty. But I knew both where I was going
and wore proper trainers. Today, I wasn’t quite sure how to get to Soho House from West Broadway and I was wearing a new pair of sandals. I reckoned if I continued walking south I’d find the Meatpacking District and then my hotel. Walking south was my first mistake. I walked. And walked. And walked some more. Nothing looked familiar. After smoking about ten cigarettes and noticing my feet beginning to hurt I decided I’d taken poor direction. I realized then I was in Tribeca. Meatpacking District was north of Tribeca. I changed direction. Making my way west towards the East River. I knew sooner or later I would cross Greenwich Street. I could then walk north until Greenwich became 9th Ave. Soho House is on 9th.
Finally I found Greenwich. Feeling buoyed with confidence I began trekking north. And walked. And walked some more. I found myself in an area of warehouses as it grew dark. I was a bit worried. I continued to walk, my pained feet bleeding now. Ahead, I saw two men walking towards me in the growing darkness. I grew uneasy. As they grew near I realized it was a man and a woman out for a stroll holding hands.
“Did they know the Soho House Hotel,” I asked?
“Don’t worry about it,” the man replied in his Queens accent. “Just keep going north on Hudson. Five minutes in a cab. Twenty minutes walk.”
As I went to thank him his face was lit by a passing car. It was Artie Bucco from the fantastic HBO television programme “The Sopranos,” actor John Ventimiglia. I instantly was at ease. I watched every episode many times over. I almost asked him to make me a nice osso buco.
Off I went once again—limping and smoking yet another American Spirit to distract from the pain of my feet. Soon I saw the Gansevoort Hotel ahead and knew then I was safe. It stood just across the street from the Soho House. Finally, I walked in the front door of my hotel, soaked in sweat my feet raw like uncooked hamburger. I accepted my room key from reception and rode the life up to my room. As I slid the key my door and unlocked it the lights in the hall began to flicker. Before I had even walked into my room the electricity went out leaving me in darkness. The rolling brownouts had struck the Meatpacking District. Worse yet they were now blackouts, leaving the hotel without electricity nor air conditioning.
Kicking off my sandals I looked at my bloody feet. Putting down my bag of models from Baseline Hobbies I grabbed a towel and headed up to the hotel’s roof for a swim in their pool on a hot sticky August evening and a cold drink.
As always. May the road rise with you.