Past, Over: Bridge And Tunnel O.D. At Tunnel

Rod Townsend (aka our commenter Momo), sometimes receives telephone calls from The Past, a mysterious entity that remembers where things used to be in New York before Starbucks and Whole Foods came to town.

"Hello?"

"What's up, barfbag?"

"Oh no! Is this the Past calling again to lower my self-esteem?"

"It's tough love, I promise. What have you been up to?"

"The usual. Work. Going out with friends ..."

"Ah, going out! New York clubs are the best."

"Well, we didn't really go to clubs. Clubs are sort of filled with douchebags."

"What? Clubs are the great equalizer of the city. They're where artists mix with Wall Streeters. You can be at a random place and find yourself doing the bump with Madonna or doing a bump with Calvin Klein."

"People don't mix like that anymore. And clubs aren't safe anymore. Someone died in Bed just a few weeks ago."

"Huh? People die in bed all the time."

"No, no. Bed. It's a club on 27th Street. Instead of tables and chairs they use beds."

"How, um, thematic. Let me guess—it was an overdose. Overdoses are funny, right? Like funny-sad, I guess. Hazard of the lifestyle, you know? The clubs were always ready for that kind of shit. Just a block from your 'Bed' used to be Tunnel, and outside was always at least one windowless van sitting with a driver. Anytime there was an overdose they would sneak the body through the back to one of the exits on 27th Street. Not the main one near the highway, but one deeper in the block. The one that eventually became the VIP entrance. And then became the main entrance. Anyway, they'd put the loser into one of the vans outside. If the ODer was just messy, they'd leave them next to a dumpster in the West 30s. If they were more messy, or a white woman, then they'd be dumped off right outside an emergency room, usually St. Vincent's."

"Wait, why would white women—"

"Because the papers would pick up on a missing white woman. Men, especially gays and ethnics? They just don't make good headlines. Anyway, at St. Vincent's they'd either wake up or get revived or whatever, not remembering how they got where they were and just go home. Or they could die, but that probably never happened. Not to anyone I ever heard of anyway. Awesome, right?"

"Um, I don't know, but this wasn't actually an overdose. The guy fell down an elevator shaft after a struggle with one of the club employees."

"RuPaul?"

"No, one of those gigantic bouncers working the door or something."

"Why would they replace queens with body-builders? Totally the wrong kind of hormone therapy for that kind of job. Drag queens used to work every threshold at Tunnel. The queen at the front door could always pick the happy from the crappy, the fab from the flawed. That kind of editing sort of made it less democratic, but it resulted in fun crowds inside. Even the interior VIP area would have another lower-grade queen at the door, managing all the Betties and the Toms."

"Who?"

"Betties and Toms? B and T's. Bridge and Tunnels? Anyway, inevitably a Tom would try to impress his Betty and try to pay a rope queen off. When the money wouldn't work the Betty would always try to show that she was 'fun.' Meanwhile you'd just breeze past these people hearing the person at the door explain with mock sincerity, 'Sorry, sweetie, it's just not that kind of party.'"

"But if you flash cash, it shows them that you can buy a bottle and get a table."

"A table for what?"

"To sit and hang out?"

"Are we talking clubs or a mall food court? Take notes here. Clubs are for 1) dancing, 2) drug use, 3) socializing/hooking up/carousing, 4) drug taking, and most importantly 5) fabulizing. It's about spectacle and magic and drama."

"But what about impressing people and showing off? Club-goers like receiving reinforcement of how special they are."

"Awesome people usually don't need to be told they are awesome. They just are. Like you, my dear little Present. You're awesome; you just don't know how to act in an awesome manner. But you will. At least you will when I get through with you. I'll call you next week."