Here's what we learned at the mall: we are OLD. You guys, we are really old, we are our grandmothers. We couldn't even be in Abercrombie for more than five seconds because not only did the entire place smell so much like a freshman frat party that we could barely breathe, but there was an impossibly thin little nymphette plucking around the store spraying even MORE Abercrombie cologne into the air, to maintain this sense memory atmosphere. And Hollister. Did I really shop here in college, and, if so, did I not feel a bit old? Hollister: the "California surf shack" exterior, the darkened windows, the emo music, the short-shorts. Haviland held up a pair and said, "These are boyshorts, right? These aren't actual shorts? Who wears this stuff?" I'll tell you who: the youth of America. That's how they get laid and do drugs, they just push the half-centimeter of fabric aside and they're ready for entrance, no need to disrobe. Look what happened to Jamie Lynn. We'd probs feel right at home at Talbot's or Ann Taylor with the rest of our age group.
The best part of our trip to The Mall was when this Kiosk woman asked Cait "Can I ask you a question?" and Cait was like "You just did," and just kept on walking. Anyhow, I love New Jersey Mall, 'cause it was mid-day on a Monday and so it was just us and the sweet smell of commerce. Also I love my friends, and I love my new sweatpants and they have in fact changed my life, I am approximately 10% happier than I was yesterday morning when I didn't have these sweatpants yet.
Anyhow, I used to really like the mall when I was actually a young person. I mean -- I used to think I liked the mall, just like I used to think I liked a lot of things that are embarrassing now, like chain wallets and boys who didn't wash their hair. We like, hung out there. Like it was our hangout.
10. The White Horse Tavern (The West Village):
When you're a little girl in the Midwest who dreams about New York, you dream about places like this. Once upon a time The White Horse Tavern was frequented by people like Dylan Thomas (who died there), Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Norman Mailer, James Baldwin, Hunter S. Thompson and Jack Kerouac. Poor writers/starving artists can't afford West Village residences anymore, so The Tavern's become a tourist attraction. [UPDATE: Totally not. Totally still legit place to go, frequented by verified cool people, I have been alerted of this by more than one person.] I bet places like this still thrive like in Brooklyn but I'm guessing they're in an area of Brooklyn that requires transferring trains, which I clearly cannot do, as I am super busy. New York Magazine describes the WHT as "the nostalgic high temple of the Alcoholic Artist." Those are my people.
9. The Hotel (Wherevs):
In junior high, hotel parties focussed on swimming, eating cake, and talking about boys. Sometime in late high school my friends started having a lot of "hotel parties" at the Wolverine Inn, a sketchy motel out by the freeway that seemed to take any business it could get, even large groups of rascaly 16-year-olds. My Mom the never let me go to any of these parties but that's OK, I had lots of fun at home staring at the ceiling fan, obviously.
But on Sunday night we had a hotel party and we agreed it reminded us a lot of high school parties, which is awesome, I like retroactive experience. Why'd we have a hotel party? Because Cait's 25th birthday cosmically coincided with The End of Les Misery Day and L Word Day! When Carly, Alex, Cait and I got to The W with our beer & carrots, remarkably only three hours behind schedule, the guy at the front desk was like "Any more than six people in that room is a disaster." We were like, fuck, because we're expecting about 30. (We didn't say that out loud, we said '10' and he shook his head and gritted his teeth like "prepare for SARS.") We were basically spooked into thinking that, were we to exceed capacity, we'd be eating each other's hair (and not in a good way, like how I want to eat Alice's hair) with our fingers up each other's butts and our elbows in each other's ears, and that security would march upstairs and murder us if we made any noise or if we were seen escorting many peoples up to our room. We panicked and started canceling the party but then we got to the room and were like, durr, it's totally fine. Then we drank some vodka and were like WHOOOO! It's TOTALLY FINE! and told everyone "JK" if they still wanted to come, and most of them did. Then we (Haviland, Cait, Carly, Alex, Myself & Ryan) had a slumber party which also reminded me of high school, with Carly and I playing the parts of the kids who keep talking really loud and making jokes while everyone else tries to sleep. Then the next day I went to Hollister and remembered that I am a dinosaur, not a high school student. Did you ever see that show "Dinosaurs" with the baby who hit his Dad on the head with a pan and went "Not the mama!" or whatevs? I loved that show. I was talking about it while we were at the mall actually, in the convo about what shows Ree-Ree was allowed to watch as a baby. Really I'm just a fan of anything involving muppets. This paragraph no longer has anything to do with hangouts, although, actually, I would like to hang out in Fraggle Rock, given the chance.
8. The Factory (East Midtown NYC):
When you're a little girl in the midwest who dreams about New York, you dream about places like this that no longer exist. Andy Warhol's legendary studio -- where he mass-produced silk screens and assembled a team of "Factory Superstars" to help create paintings and be in his films and contribute to the overall atmosphere of hipster genderfuck artist revolutionary drug addict totally fabulous awesome super-cool way-hot hot hot hot people doing Important Things with Art to Change the World. It's okay that it no longer exists though because if it existed now, it'd probs have a blog and then Gawker might make fun of it and then New York Magazine would write an article about Gawker making fun of the Factory blog and then all of our heads would explode and we could make a film about that and put it on YouTube and then we'd be famous for like 15 minutes, or whatevs.
Sidenote: I wonder if the concept of a concrete "hangout" has been displaced by the advent of cell phones. You know? Like now we can find out where our people are instantly, even when they're on the go, so we no longer need a common meeting place where it's likely you'll find the people you can't get ahold of at that moment. Does that make sense? Also, someone's cooking cheeseburgers outside and I want one even though I just had dinner.
7. The Fleetwood (Ann Arbor):
This is like The Salt of The Earth Hangout: The Fleetwood was the bomb. It's a 24-hour greasy spoon diner -- and always the same kids outside late with their rusty trucks in the lot back behind the restaurant. Gross bathroom, mediocre food, bad service ... but also when we were teenagers it felt TOTALLY REAL AND LIKE HONEST. We felt like authentic punks sitting out there at 2 A.M., smoking cigarettes and eating ketchup-drenched french fries with the kids who wore leather jackets adorned with safety-pinned fabric scraps bearing Food Not Bombs and Anarchy logos and had pierced everything and dyed everything else. Maybe that's the essence of a Real Hangout -- defined by the patrons rather than the establishment itself.
6. The Peach Pit (Beverly Hills obvs), and here's why:
a) Every every moment is a good time for a cheeseburger, even if you're 5'8 and 110 pounds -- a frame often suggestive of a more restrictive diet -- cheeseburger and fries, Nat, thank you. Deluxe. I want at least two animals killed to make this sucker. YUMM, megaburgers.
b) The Peach Pit After Dark -- the nightclub attached to the Peach Pit run by Valerie and David and later bought by Dylan to save it from going under-- showcased a totally random assortment of 90's pop acts: Collective Soul, Donna Lewis, The Barenaked Ladies, The Cardigans, Eric Benet and Tamia, The Goo Goo Dolls, The Brian Setzer Orchestra, Duncan Sheik and Monica.
c) Nat, obvs. He's like Debbie Navatni -- the wise sage of all things adolescent. A way to a teenager's heart is through their stomach, etc.
5. The Planet (West Hollywood but filmed in Vancouver):
Here's the thing ... if I knew that all my friends, all my enemies, and all my ex-whatevers would be at one specific coffee shop ... that'd be pretty cool, 'cause then I'd know exactly where NOT to go. But also, if I knew where Leisha Hailey was gonna be I'd probs wanna be there. Also, in The L Word, when you break up with someone, they don't just leave your life, they leave the entire universe. Even if you met them at The Planet, they will never again be seen at The Planet, because they're in the vortex with Papi and Mark, so you know. Urm. I like going to coffee shops where I can be a weirdo in my hoodie with my laptop and Ave Maria while everyone else functions like normal social humans.
4. Worldwide Plaza (Midtown):
Haviland loves Worldwide Plaza. Seriously -- if it was a warm day in 2007 and anyone wanted to do anything, Hav or Heather would always suggest Worldwide Plaza. It's an outdoor seating area near a few food establishments and it's close to the Broadhurst (where Hav worked) and New World Stages (where Heather worked) and also near where everyone on Broadway worked (Broadway) which meant we'd always run into people she knew there. There's lots of sun, which Haviland enjoys and I try to stay away from as much as possible, lest it interfere with my intense Gorey-esque darkness and porcelin skin. Probs if I'd been like "I'd like to get married" or "I'd like to hold a relay race for handicapped animals of all shapes and sizes," Hav would've been like "OOO how's Worldwide Plaza?"
3. Harlumbia (Uptown West):
In Manhattan you've gotta keep re-inventing space because there's not enough of it to go around, not really, like Carrie Bradshaw says (YEAH I'm quoting Carrie Bradshaw, and it is SOOOO not the first time I've done this): "After a breakup, the city becomes a deserted battlefield loaded with emotional landmines. You have to be very careful where you step or you could be blown to pieces." I think it applies to more than just breakups, though, you know? It's anything -- anything strong that left a mark. There aren't many neighborhoods in this city that aren't already cocked and loaded towards things I miss, and I've only lived here for a few years. And so I like to attack neighborhoods like I do with music (I play it on repeat 'til it's more associated with this repeating moment than with it's prior life) -- I can't afford to lose my favorite neighborhoods to the ghosts it now shelters, so I make myself go there, create new memories, new associations, fresher and different context. Like: this still exists, this place where you were, and that now you are. I feel like I've reinvented this particular neighborhood over and over and I must because it's my favorite: it was where Jake lived in John Jay, it was where I went to summer school, it was right below where Chase lived and so I'd walk there after stopping at Mo's because I was not just a friend but a friend/drug mule and then it was the closest neighborhood to my apartment and so then. also. also. also. It was where we spent most spring afternoons in '07 ... with her friend who sold used books on 110th and she'd play Jimi Hendrix on guitar and I'd read and we'd watch the genius kid play chess and we'd play chess and smoke cigarettes and drink liquor out of juice bottles. Then it'd become evening and we'd get food and walk home and cook it. I'd managed to avoid the area 'til about October, which's quite a feat considering its proximity, but then I was ready and I walked right to it and sat down with her friend the bookseller and we talked for a few hours about what happened this summer and what's happening now and it was really good, really nice. I walked there the next day too to go to my favorite stationary store ... day after day when there wasn't much else I could handle, other people in particular. But I was starting to feel safer & stronger. I was in physical therapy once for about seven months, and we'd do all these exercises to strengthen my quads to make my knees better and walking to Harlumbia I guess was like physical therapy for my little baby mind. Now I can do lunges.
2. The Mall, OBVS.
As a pre-adolescent, I loved the fuck out of the mall. There was nowhere we'd rather be: trying on Guess jeans at Hudson's, snatching fresh-baked samples from Mrs. Field's, paying $2.99 for poppy cassette singles at Musicland or Recordtown or whatevs, people-watching from a window table at Olga's while enjoying Orange Cream Coolers and gooey greasy pita bread-and-cheese "sandwiches," imitating what we imagined to be grown-up sex noises while sitting in Sharper Image's suggestive massage chairs. The boys would shoplift handfuls of gummy candy from Mr. Bulky's and we'd buy BFF necklaces from Claire's or get $3.00 makeovers at The Body Shop. I guess it was a safe temperature-controlled space for our parents to send us, though mine was obvs the last to permit such things (fascist, etc.) -- safer than downtown, where I fled to as soon as I got old enough to know better. Maybe the mall was a space station where I could pretend to be like all the other kids, potentially -- my present state of being wasn't nearly as important as what I'd possibly come there to improve via purchase.
Who'd be there? Who might we run into? What fun adolescent hijinks might occur? The mall as a centerpiece of teen culture is somewhat passe at this point -- I think the internet is the new default blame for adolescent hijinkery. Now it's impossible for me to enter a mall without feeling my very presence in such a space is ironic. Now when we go it's very specific -- we're looking for these items, these are the stores where we may locate said items, etc. But just going to the mall to hang out -- to pretend we're there for anything but commerce -- seems ludicrous, almost. Also,the mall is in decline, I read all about it in The Economist. You can also look at pictures of dead malls at deadmalls.com. It's kinda gross and fascinating. As I've mentioned, I'm mildly obsessed with Detroit and its structural decline, and deadmalls is no Detroit, but still.
1. My Apartment:
My place is the best place in Manhattan to hang out, and here's why -- I can't possibly be late for something that's happening in my own apartment. Plus, all my stuff is here, so if I need anything, I can just like -- get it! Also we have The Roof, another top hangout. Also it's the cleanest/neatest occupied-by-twentysomething-peoples apartment I've ever seen, seriously. Except for my room, my room is not one of the cleanest rooms I've ever seen, because I've got a lot of stuff. Which brings me back around to why this is a good place to hang out = all my stuff is here. And by "all my stuff" I mean "my new sweatpants" which you must realise is how other people probs feel about getting new cars. I haven't even wiped my hands on them yet (I tend to confuse my pants with napkins when I'm eating and computing at the same time), that's how much I love them.
I've sat in corners at parties hoping for someone who knew the virtue
of both distance and close quarters, someone with a corner person's taste
for intimacy, hard won, rising out of shyness and desire.
And I've turned corners there was no going back to, corners
in the middle of a room that led to Spain or solitude.
And always the thin line between corner and cornered,
the good corners of bodies and those severe bodies that permit no repose,
the places we retreat to, the places we can't bear to be found.
-from "Corners" by Stephen Dunn