N I G H T L I V E
Words Alexandra Stevens
I have a peep-toed bootie on my left foot and a strappy black-and-white heel on my right, examining my reflection with one foot hidden, and then the other. I’m late, as usual, struggling to get dressed, as usual. I was supposed to have left my apartment twenty minutes ago, and the great shoe debate is the very last of my motions in preparing for a night out. Realistically, my outfit is mediocre at best, regardless of my shoe choice. No matter how good you think you look, the denizens of New York have a subtle and disarming way of one-upping even the sleekest of ensembles. I remind myself that I’ll probably question by outfit choice at least four times throughout the night depending on how many painfully beautiful people I find myself surrounded by, and my shoes will probably make little to no difference. I toss my rejected stilettos into my closet and go.
I’m meeting my friends in the Meatpacking District for sunset drinks on a hotel rooftop, a go-to New York City hangout option as soon as weather permits. I find myself perched on an uptown Q train, wishing a book would fit into my clutch, avoiding eye contact with the leering stranger I’ve inconveniently sat across from. Being the writer/bartender/broke cliché that I am, cross-borough cab rides are reserved only for a certain point in the night. Twenty minutes later I’m above ground again making my way westwards, finding my group waiting patiently for me outside. A few minutes later the elevator spits us out at the top floor where, after a brief wait in line, our IDs are glanced over and our hands are stamped.
Inside the first level is a bar leading to a hot tub, bubbling beneath disco balls and backlit by a panoramic view of the city’s west side. A couple people mingle around the tub drinking while a solitary man stands knee deep in the steaming water, bending himself into dramatic, yoga-like positions that show off his Speedo-clad ass. We make our way up a flight of stairs to the roof, met with a decent crowd and an excellent vista of the cityscape below. There’s a refreshing breeze when you’re up this high, and the DJ spins just-loud-enough deep house. The ground is carpeted in wall-to-wall astro turf, inviting people to lounge on the floor with their drinks, giving the air of a very chic (and very crowded) backyard soiree.
People watching is undoubtedly one of my favorite parts of going out, and the crowds of New York nightlife never disappoint. Your choice of venue will obviously effect who you rub shoulders with, but most popular clubs will present familiar characters. In a crowd of fifty, expect at least four models. There’s usually a direct correlation between tables and models; the more space in a club dedicated to VIPs, the higher the percentage of gorgeous girls (or boys) with an agency. The exception is industry events, like Fashion Week after parties, which boast a much higher model ratio than a normal night out. Models are friends with other models, of course, and travel in model packs, therefore always increasing in numbers of four or more.
“I’ve had like, four of these now. Why don’t I feel drunk yet?” Someone slurred behind me. The drinks were admittedly too sweet for my taste, but I’m not paying, so I can’t complain. About ten feet away I spot the token old guy; greying and weathered, the old guy is either rich, vaguely important, possessing an artistic talent, or some combination of the three. The old guy can most likely be found surrounded by sugar babies or wandering around alone, drink in hand and looking lost. Then there’s his female counterpart, the old club lady, who is eccentric and fabulous. The old lady is usually bizarrely dressed, frequently rocks a vibrant and unnatural hair color, and is having more fun than you did on your 21st birthday. She’s seen mingling with everyone, and she is either a known public figure or a complete mystery.
At some point in the night you’ll see a couple practically (sometimes, unfortunately, literally) having sex, publicly annihilating each other’s faces to the obvious discomfort of everyone around them. There’s usually the group of girls who are clearly underage, woo-ing and spilling drinks on each other. You’ll spot at least two or three people wearing a coveted item you want but can’t afford, along with a handful of edgy hair cuts or colors that look totally amazing and briefly make you contemplate what you would look like with that same pink-and-orange bowl cut. You decide against it (for obvious reasons) and go back to making mental notes on all the incredible outfits you might draw from instead.
“Can you take a picture of us?” I heard a girl asking someone behind me, the third or fourth
time I’ve heard the same request in the past twenty minutes. So maybe New York nightlife is a little - okay, a lot - superficial, and people tend to value being seen over anything they could be seeing. Drinks are wildly overpriced and you might not always have space to dance, but you’re paying for the environment. You could just make yourself a gin and tonic at home, but in turn you sacrifice the sound system, the entertainment value, the fashion inspiration, and the likely possibility that you’ll meet someone interesting. I’ve also never bumped into Diplo or Rihanna in my living room, so there’s that.
Two bars and another club later, it’s suddenly closing in on 4 am. People have begun to slowly trickle on to the street, looking for cabs, delis, or dollar pizza. My group is in search of the former, and the most sober person (that would be me) toes the curb and flags down a taxi. We pile in and then announce our destination, a key move in taking a taxi further than a couple neighborhoods; if you make the mistake of meekly saying “Brooklyn?”
from outside the cab, you’ll be met with a rolled up window and the sound of rubber on pavement. Despite the expense and questionably life-threatening driving, taking a cab home at the end of the night can be a satisfying experience on its own if you’re sober enough to pay any attention to what’s going on outside.
I turn off the cab TV and lean back in my seat, watching the city fly by out my window. The sidewalks are illuminated by neon signs and fluorescent storefronts, casting shadows behind the drunken revelers singing and laughing in the streets. Every other block brings something I make a mental note to return to in the day time - cafes, thrift shops, art galleries and boutiques. With a slight bump we roll on to a bridge, crossing the water and leaving Manhattan to spread itself across the horizon behind us. The orange-hued lights on the bridge create a strobe-like flicker in the faces of my friends as they shout over each other to recount the events of the night. At that moment, I wonder if I could ever live anywhere else.
Photography Sebastian Müller & Latoya P. Henry