Pamela Harris

A Real Simulation February 7, 2013

(photo is from Area's photobooth)

I love seeing patterns on the street. Not in the design sense (I do, but that's not what this post is about) but in the people sense.

I've always seen patterns and started noting them a few years ago when the tranny hookers at Christopher Street and Hudson began to look like they had just gotten the baby to sleep and were dashing out to pick up a jug of laundry detergent. They'd be wearing gray collegiate sweatshirts that read Dartmouth or Yale, beat up pale pink sweat pants, and their hair was haphazardly tied up in a scrunchie. The kicker was they wore no make-up. I loved it, found it conceptually fascinating, and then poof! Make-up and size 12 stiletto's were back on the corner.

Then it was blind people. I saw them everywhere, for three days. Then people missing a limb; an arm, one leg, a hand. I'd see them all over town so it wasn't like there was a prosthetic convention going on in the neighborhood.

One of my favorite things to see is a tourist window shopping around the corner on Prince St., say - maybe their bag or coat caught my eye - then six hours later I'll see them in Chelsea. Sticking with tourists, I've had a week where all I saw were tourist couples arguing loudly. No-one swears like the French and I don't need to speak it to know that.

Occasionally the patterns show me things. This summer I was walking through Tribeca late at night and passed a woman outside Nobu wearing a micro mini paired with red-soled 8-inch heels. This isn't unusual to see since it's everywhere, all the time. This night though it hit me that she couldn't run if she had to. 8-inch heels and cobblestone streets don't mix well and if she was chased she'd surely be caught. Maybe New York is getting safer.

The pattern I see now is a broader one, not yet defined. It mostly involves people in their late 20's to mid-30's and it has to do with a desire for an '80's kind of decadence. Desire is the key word, since what really seems to be desired is a simulated decadence, a decadence that's safe and without an edge. Granted, I'm talking about a sliver of this age group: the sliver with money. Interestingly, in the actual 1980's this group made a bundle of money on Wall St. With this new faux '80's sliver, their parents - youth of the '80's? - make the money and support them.

What fascinates me is how accepting and even hopeful this group seems to be about being part of the status quo, the mass appeal. Even the hipsters, moneyed or not, seem eager to define their personalities through fashion that advertises brands from the 1970's, or their clothes co-op an entire ethos and lifestyle of a past generation -- any generation -- except their own. Their clothing choices isn't political: it's as if commercialism and identity have happily merged. The individual is no more.

Over the last five or so years a private club scene has blossomed here. The application process to join paints a picture of exclusivity, one where artists and creative types romp freely, yet this isn't the clientele and members know it. Anyone can join these clubs, something also known by members. The decor is simulated chic, the art offends or excites no-one, and even the personality of the crowd has a consistently homogenized tone. (Soho House is the one private club I've been to that has personality, plus they throw fun parties and from what I hear have a great breakfast scene.) These clubs do reach out to creatives with free memberships, but the comps I know are home watching Netflix or getting ready to take the dog out. (The art world has been turned inside out and culturally neutered, too, but that's a longer discussion.)

In the east village I'm seeing '80's hairstyles and dye jobs; fur is back on the street; drugs are being sold openly; there's a pile of new shows and movies in production that take place in the '80's; and music, even some EDM has hints of a Flock of Seagulls. All this isn't the point I'm writing about. What is, or what congealed all of this and turned an intuitive 'is it the '80's?' cog inside me was a company called Reviv.

A close friend spent the New Year at a fancy hotel in South Beach and one afternoon around the pool he noticed men and a couple of women sporting colored arm bands. Some had more than one arm band on. He asked his date what they were and she told him they had seen 'the doctor.' The doctor?

My friend wanted to better understand what she meant so his date took him upstairs to a lavish suite. Inside it had been turned into a spa, or more appropriately, a med-spa, called Reviv. Every bed and chair had a (mostly male) 30-something hooked up to an IV. Hot nurses tended them while a doctor casually roamed the room. Each client was receiving a personally tailored infusion, a doctor-concocted blend of saline and multivitamins and medications - some were getting oxygen - for whatever ailed them. All ailments were gotten by partying too hard.

Run by an ex ER doctor who threw around terms like 'Hydrating therapy' and 'MegaBoost' and 'UltraVive,' this was the womb you went to if you drank too much or snorted too much cocaine or needed to sober up so you could start drinking again. This struck me as real decadence, nothing simulated about it.

My friend isn't much of a partier and back down at the pool his date called over some of the armband wearers. This crew -- all trust funders -- ignored my friend and spoke to his date of how they wanted to start their own Reviv and make it global. My friend listened quietly, since he recently helped build a global brand which he sold for a huge chunk (and now heads another global brand). It was like this crew was playing at business, acting out what they'd do knowing full on they never would. And it wasn't because they didn't have to; talking about it was satisfying enough. Fantasy success has a built in safety net -- you never have to lose or fight for something. What struck my friend was that this crew showed no desire to go for the real thing. Simulation is sufficient.

I find it all disturbing. I know that change, ultimately, is good and I love when I see signs that we're moving into the future. Right now I can't understand or find purpose in how this sliver moves our evolution forward. Sometimes we gotta go back to move forward, so I'm hoping this sliver is the equivalent of an algae bloom, one that will eventually block its own sunlight and cut itself off at the legs.


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thefightbetting | May 11, 2013 at 09:12 am

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