Friday, February 18, 2011
There’s a girl dressed in all black checking names off a list when you walk in. If your name is on the list you get to go to the second floor in a tiny elevator. You can ask, but you are not allowed to go up the stairs. A woman in a fur coat tells the girl she’s with something called Fitz, with a z, and spells it out. Other girls dressed in black hurry out of the door and onto the dark street on some kind of important errand.
Upstairs, the elevator opens into a small, softly lit room. People are gradually filling it up, waiting for something to happen and getting complimentary vodka drinks mixed by two more girls in black. They carefully combine ice, juice, tonic, and a certain brand of vodka on a table at one end of the room, while a movie in black and white is projected onto the curtains behind them. All of the people working at this event are wearing all black and all are conventionally pretty young women. Many of the women and men spilling from the tiny elevator in bunches are conventionally pretty; some have foreign accents. There’s an animal skull on the wall. It’s impossible to tell what movie is playing because it’s on mute and the folds of the curtain distort the image.
The people are not watching the movie. They are mostly talking about the places they have been, the people they know who aren’t here. Introductions are made over the generic thumping dance music floating in from somewhere. “I actually tweeted you,” a man with long blond hair says to an older woman with impeccably painted red nails. Conversational clusters form. If you aren’t part of a cluster, you stand against the wall with your drink and look around at the other clusterless people. Or you get out your phone and stare at its blue glow—many people are doing that. “I’ve been to a few parties here,” a stylish young man tells his cluster of other stylish young men. “There were all these guys coming out of the bathroom together.”
Everyone in the increasingly crowded room is stylish. It’s unclear who is waiting in line to get another drink and who is trapped by the crush of people. A nervous-looking guy in a zebra-striped shirt keeps going back to the vodka table. Whatever is supposed to happen hasn’t started happening yet. The black-clad vodka girls use a new cup for every drink until they run out of cups. “Who does your color?” says someone waiting for a drink to someone else.
The elevator doors open, deposit more people, and close. This keeps happening. A woman makes a distressed noise and starts hitting the closing door like a prisoner pleading with her jailer. “Her boyfriend,” someone says knowingly. Finally the doors open and she stumbles in. Someone asks about if there’s a bathroom here or what and no one knows.
A signal has been made; knowledge of the next stage of this event passes through the crowd. A door opens and people press towards it in an orderly but eager fashion, like children queuing for a mall Santa. There are complimentary cans of ice tea on a table near the door but no one takes them. The generic dance music gets louder as the people surge into the next room. This is where the event will take place.
The center of the new room is occupied by a narrow raised platform covered in brown construction paper. There are chairs to either side labeled with numbers and letters, and if you have a seat assignment you sit down, elbow-to-elbow with the other seated people. Is a chair a sign of status? The others stand, crowding each other all the way back to the wall. A pretty girl in black is sitting at a podium doing something on a computer; maybe she’s controlling the music. Everyone is getting out cameras and cell phones with cameras in them. A video camera on a tripod is set at the foot of the platform.
More pretty girls in black come and take the construction paper away, and the narrow black platform shines like a freshly polished shoe. People type words into their phones, bring up menus, communicate over social networking platforms.. A man walks across the platform, leaving footprints of dust. The crowd grumbles at him—“He just did that?”—and the people nearest the platform wipe off the footprints with napkins and sleeves.
A hidden door slides open at the head of the platform and smoke or fog from an unseen machine comes billowing out. The music gets louder, more urgent, and everyone sits forward in their chairs, preparing their cameras. Without an introduction, a man strides down the platform wearing a full-length coat that looks like it’s made out of furry intestines. Gasps are heard. He stops for a split second at the foot of the platform then turns and walks away. Another man takes his place immediately, wearing a waist-length version of the same coat, then he goes back into the foggy opening.
Men are walking down the platform one by one, in a very organized way. Some of them wear makeup, one has a black mask on. They all look very similar; if they weren’t all dressed differently you might think they were the same man. Everyone takes photos of the men all the time, but they don’t stop to pose. They look like they want to get this over with as fast as possible. One wears a jacket with feathers, another has no shirt, another wears a shirt that exposes his stomach. “Look at the footwear!” someone says.
It is over faster than you would think. At the end all the men come out at once in a single-file line, walking up and down the platform as a group to the crowd’s applause. It’s like they’re proving that they all are different men, like they are displaying the end result of a complicated magic trick. A man in all black, like a stagehand, appears out of the fog and there is more applause. No one makes a speech or explains anything. There is nothing to explain, or it’s like that quote about jazz, if you have to ask you’ll never know. Everyone here knows.
The rush to get out the door begins. Some people push through the crowd searching for the vodka table, wondering if it’s still open for business. Others are talking about other places to go, upcoming events, past events this has reminded them of. The phones come out again. The elevator doors open and close, taking people downstairs now instead of up. Outside the street is lit up with headlights and neon. Some guys are standing at a closed loading dock smoking weed. Plastic bags are carried over the sidewalk by the wind. Women pull the collars of their fur coats up, their high heels clacking on the pavement.
(Image ripped off from Oakazine)