I’d had way more than a couple of drinks before I got there. I’d basically been drinking all day and all evening in preparation for the ‘big event’. And the ‘big event’ wasn’t even my first Upper East Side Soiree or my first night at Carnegie Hall. It was a private dinner, after all of the above, at the Rainbow Room. And, as it turned out, what happened after that.
But let’s rewind for a second.
There was something about this trip that seemed to be making me uncharacteristically attractive. To the opposite sex.
Lunch with a ‘peer organisation’ had been a very boozy affair in the rooftop restaurant of one of those University Clubs where New Yorkers pretend they’re aristocrats who receive deeply-padded wine lists from Far Eastern waiters. For an American (why don’t they drink?) my host had put on a valiant effort with a bloody mary, a gin and tonic and half a bottle of very dense, strong red wine.
I’d gotten into the habit of accompanying or replacing a “goodbye” with “lots of love”. It was one of the many affectations I was currently cultivating. So I deployed it on the sidewalk after lunch with the American Peer. She responded with a loud, drunken ”I Love You” in return. There was an awkward moment as we realised that we would never see each other again.
I stumbled up to the lower edges of Central Park to meet up with a journalist from a UK radio station who I was supposed to be looking after. I hadn’t seen her for 48 hours and was therefore, perhaps, somewhat derelict in my duties. During drinks at the Plaza (I was getting very fancy at the age of 27 – I ordered an Old Fashioned) I received a text message on my yellow Nokia mobile phone telling me that The Radio Journalist had been asking questions about my relationship status. Oh dear, I thought. Whilst thinking that was ‘on fire’ for some reason it also crossed my mind that I was out of the league of both the American Peer and the Radio Journalist thank you very much.
We trundled up to the Upper East Side Soiree where champagne was served at the front door by a waitress dressed like a turn of the century maid (including a doily on the head) and I immediately started loudly regaling The Radio Journalist about how the host was my ex-boss who’d managed to seduce one of our donors and how her desire to live in this fabulous house was not to be be-dimmed by the fact that the donor in question was short, bald and rotund and had black satin sheets on his bed upstairs. The Ex-Boss glowered at me and I made my excuses about ‘setting up’ back down at the concert hall.
The concert itself was a blur of boredom (something by Bruckner) and fascination on two counts : that I was able to perch myself on what was basically a barstool at the back of one of the boxes after the day that I’d had; and that The Croatian Hand Model was able to sit at the front of that same box with impeccable, straight-backed poise, as if it was she, not the orchestra, who was on display. I also remember that I’d somehow managed to strew the floor of the box with cigarettes, lighters and a stick of Clearasil coverup, all of which I couldn’t risk recovering without having a serious stool-orientated accident.
And onto the Rainbow Room. Yet another manifestation of The Croatian Hand Model’s largesse. She thought it would be nice if she invited each of the principals from the orchestra to a post-performance dinner. No – there wouldn’t be any political or logistical issues there. Never let it be said that after a lifetime of touring the planet, an orchestral musician doesn’t still need assistance to hail a taxi to travel five blocks. And never let it be said that co-principal musicians can’t manage to have a blazing row about who qualifies as the principal on the occasion of a dinner that neither of them actually want to go to.
For some reason, the dinner had the air of a wedding. I don’t quite know why it felt that way. Maybe it was the photographer who was asking us to lean into each other so that we could get our booze-raddled faces and the Empire State Building all in one shot. Maybe it was the fact that we were over-eating and over-drinking at a time of night that really should have been reserved for going to bed, given the fact that we were supposed to be on a train from Penn Station the next morning.
The Radio Journalist was also there but by this point in proceedings her head was regularly and heavily nodding towards her main course whilst one hand remained aloft, Liberty-like, with an enormous glass of red wine in it whilst she tried to chat up the principal oboist, who was likely to be as receptive of her advances as I was.
We each received a copy of the photo and an encouragement to spend many many dollars on reprints before we departed and when we failed to do so we were ejected into the night. It was cold. Skin-blasting hurricane up the avenue cold.
The oboist and the clarinettist had decided in the elevator that they were going to have a nightcap in a bar in Chelsea where muscle-bound Eastern Europeans in jockstraps gyrated on the bar and took showers on a podium in the middle of the dancefloor. I’m in, I said.
The gin and tonics were enormous and seemed to be fluorescently lit from the inside. The Musicians complemented each other on their beautifully-executed solos in the Bruckner whilst they tucked dollar bills into jockstraps and encouraged me to rub my face into a nearby jiggling lunchbox.
I reflected on my day of ostracizing partner organisations, giving journalists salacious scoops, encouraging major donor prospects to believe that dinner constituted a donation (again) and classed ‘cross-organisational communication and integration’ as staggering around a tacky-floored dancefloor at four in the morning, slackjawed at the wet-bodied display that was going on in front of me, whilst a small proportion of the woodwind section looked on in bemusement.
I decided that risking hypothermia and walking back to my hotel room was a good idea. It was somewhere near Bloomingdales. Which must therefore be around 2-3 miles away. The phone rang at around 1pm. I’d missed my train to Boston. It was the Boyfriend. “Sorry, did I wake you?”, he said. “What time is it there?”.
“I had a very successful day”, I said. “I went to a Carnegie Hall AND a gay strip joint. I had the BEST time”.
“Good for you”, he said.
“Gotta go”, I said. “Lots of Love’. And went back to sleep.