It seems like it wasn’t all that long ago that I attended The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. I remember the experience like it was yesterday… because… well, let’s face it, it was practically yesterday. I mean, hell, I still haven’t had the chance to even really begin paying off my student loan debt. Unfortunately, New York City is not a woman who is overly sentimental, and not even my love of the nostalgic will stop her from changing more rapidly every day.
While I was away during the course of the past year (working to try and pay off some of that aforementioned student loan debt), I was saddened to learn that The Grand Saloon (on 23rd b/w Lex & 3rd) was being closed for good, and I wouldn’t even get the chance to have one last drink there. I mean, Grand Saloon was part of my development at The Academy. Relationships were forged there, relationships were damaged there, my opinions of people were forever changed (both for the good and the bad), money was spent, cigarettes were smoked (outside, of course), and plenty a night was wasted in the nearly-almost-empty-unless-an-AADA-alumni-threw-a-fundraiser-party dive bar… and I’ll never get to revisit that establishment for one last pint of Stella.
Now that I’m back, I find another part of my AADA experience fading into the past. During my first year at the school, I stayed in the New Yorker Hotel along with other freshman students (part of an agreement made through AADA and a company specializing in Student Housing). While this might sound kind of cool, you need to realize that the New Yorker is on the intersection of 34th St. and 8th. Avenue (which, for the uninformed, is the epicenter of hell). 34th Street, while being home to Macy’s department store, is also where some of the filth that was chased from Times Square ended up. In fact, 34th Street is the only place in the city I’ve ever almost been pickpocketed. 8th Avenue, on the other hand, is somewhere that I don’t ever want to find myself. It’s just plain dirty… and, apart from needing to visit rehearsal studios around 8th, I’d never go there.
Back in my first year of school, I didn’t know any better. I hadn’t traveled the city (apart from the walk to and from school), didn’t give myself the time to, and knew that 8th Avenue was the only thing that separated me from the magnificent Times Square.
Like I said, I didn’t know any better.
Anyhow, my first year of The Academy was also when I experienced my first drink (which, for the record, was Georgi vodka and room temperature Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi — is it any wonder I don’t like drinking?), and thus, the first time I was intoxicated. I vividly remember sitting in Zoe’s room on many a night slipping into a stupid happy state of semi-consciousness. Now, I’m a drunk who likes his food… and I rarely ever did food shopping for my New Yorker shoebox (this wasn’t for a lack of grocery stores, I just didn’t know they were there; in fact, I only shopped at the K-Mart on 34th, because it was on the way to school). Because of this, I needed a source of food… preferably cheap food that was available very late at night.
Just around the corner was this establishment… “Halal Bakery & Pizza.” The only thing worth touching was the pizza, and by “worth touching”, I mean that the pizza was incredibly cheap. Now, it didn’t taste like pizza… but when you were as drunk as I was, it didn’t really matter. I still remember the almost cardboard texture of the tasteless imitation pizza hitting my tongue… and then how it felt again shortly thereafter as I threw it up on the pavement.
Yet now, I discover, it’s to be torn down to create something new… true to form to that Chameleon-like state that New York constantly finds itself in. Again, it’s not the food that I’ll miss — on the contrary, the food was terrible — it’s the memories. Passing that red awning reminded me of living in the New Yorker, stressing far too much about being kicked out of school — my mind far, far away from worrying about continual employment or repaying student loans. I’m afraid that without that disgusting food being so readily available, it’ll be harder for me to remember being woken up late nights by my drunk classmates Joey and Maggie knocking on my door; of excitedly rehearsing repetition work sitting on the carpet; or of shoes strewn on my floor after a hazy night walking back from the Grand Saloon.
Perhaps those memories will fade without any landmark to remind me of their existance… or perhaps they’ll come blowing back to me with the breeze one night when I surprisingly don’t find myself angry walking through Times Square, and I remember how I felt as I excitedly walked down 8th Avenue on my way to hang around Toys “R” Us, passing the Halal Bakery & Pizza joint as I left the New Yorker.
I guess all I wanted to write was…
Thanks for the memories.