Lofted 18-and-a-half stories over downtown Manhattan lies a New York rite of passage. A disco bathroom who’s mirrored walls could battle the Studio 54 basement in stories of vice and debauchery. If you’ve ever been granted access behind the rooftop lounge’s vaulted doors, you’ve surely sampled the blind-eye hospitality of its stairwell powder room, if only for the view.
Drugs, sex, and cocaine confessions on exhibition for all of lower Manhattan; these are not humblebrags, merely standard stories from the 18th and-a-half floor, set deep in the AMs of my salad days and the height of Boom’s notoriety.
My introduction to the Manhattan institution was through word-of-mouth. “You can fuck, do drugs, smoke, anything you want,” my friends said, “It’s amazing!” Award-worthy copywriting. Their experiences before mine surrounded a new best friend of theirs. A career coke dealer familiar to all (yet mentioned by few) within the downtown club scene. They had spent the past few weeks as her familiars; bouncing between Boom’s rooftop deck and amber lit lounge, making pit stops in between for chatter-box candy. “She grabs your hand and pours like, a mountain of coke on it,” they tell with zest, “We didn’t even know what to do with it.” I list her as a must-meet personality.
Within a few days, my friend’s secure themselves with a connection inside to Boom – these still our nascent clubbing days when entry took pre-planning. I take care to dress slightly more Meatpacking than Lower East Side and we rally nearby. Thankfully, entry proved easier than reputation, and, in no time, we were on our way up.
The most ironic (and stereotypically New York) thing about the place is that although it’s reputed as impossible to get into, the lounge is typically quite sedate – granted its glittering décor, couched within a 270 degree view of Manhattan, drips with elegance; the ambiance is still, typically, quite sedate. Tonight was no different. “It’s nice,” I said, “But where’s this bathroom?” We make a round of the ovalled bar and settle into some cocktails; my friends’ new provider of the white on-route to meet us.
“Hi guys!” she bellows with her unmistakably Australian brogue, “Sorry I’m a little late.” As long as you show up with Bolivia’s best, you’re always just on time. “Hey! This is our friend, Matt.” Next thing I remember I’m waiting within the rose neon glow of the 18th and-a-half floor for entry into what could very well be disregarded as a maintenance closet. She knocks on the door like she owns the place, “Com’on. Hurry up in there!” I’m smitten. The door cracks open and a 30-something couple sheepishly step out, “Sorry,” and we scuttle in behind them like it’s a dive-bar stall.
Showcasing its own private million-dollar view beyond the marble vanity, and spacious enough to host a party of seven, this bathroom is disco revisited: Anything and everything goes. Really, if it wasn’t for the doorway, it could keep a couch. But what’s the need? The four toilets – two of which for decoration only – all lined abreast were just that. My new best friend grabs my hand, “Here,” and pours a mountain of coke so high that I don’t know what to do with it. Suddenly everything becomes clear. This is the place.
The frequency of my attendance grew with my libertine view on the work week. Every day had a night and I was sure to capture it, with Boom my de facto starting block – its bathroom an excellent place to meet, and host, new friends. A door of opportunity, if you were, where I could be invited in by complete strangers, without so much as a ‘hello’, to partake in their powdered pit-stop. “Want to join us?” was far more polite than shutting the door behind a solo flyer; introductions reserved post benevolent bumps.
One evening, shortly upon arrival, I’d opened the stairwell doors to take up office when a roar of hostility hits me from above. “Hey! Fucking hurry up in there!” I know that voice and knock bellowing from above. And a few more steps up and my assumptions prove on-point: It’s my Australian friend of the night. “I’m calling the management!” she continues. Not one to shy from drama – or lending a favor for a favor – I investigate, “Funny seeing you here. What’s going on?”
“I’ve been waiting for, like, 30 minutes,” she says, “and these fucking assholes won’t come out!” Management arrives to affect the same as she, though with proper decorum. Dead air. A murmuring crowd ebbs and flows through the neon glow. News spreads like a virus. I press my ear to the door to the tittering of two, possibly three, people. “They’re definitely fucking.”
Management returns with security to subdue both parties. “I want them kicked out!” my Aussie friend decrees. Three officious knocks. Last chance. Keys comes out, “Alright guys. It’s time to go,” and so do the entrenched threesome. Two women and one man, tee-heeing together, at first, as if caught in a high school broom closet. They’re escorted downstairs, my friend barking in tow.
Rather than chase the dust-up, I take full advantage of my spot in line and slip myself in solo. Snap the lock behind me and what do I find? Hard evidence of their indulgence lined out on the marble counter. A gift for all my patience and support. Don’t mind if I do. Toot Toot.
Well within the February month (and near apex) of my clubbing career, I began seeing a voracious young art student unfamiliar to the glitzier side of New York. Just as I had been introduced to Boom, I believed it only fair to pay it forward. On an evening I’d planned to attend with my friends, I spin the copy, “You can fuck, do drugs, smoke, anything you want. It’s amazing!” She, being young and free, chose her haunts in lieu of my invite. Fair enough.
The night was business as usual: Party prattle in-between bathroom breaks, rooftop cigarettes, and compulsively checking my phone. 2 a.m. nears. My phone beeps: *Where r u?* I squint to read. *B-o-o-m :-)* I type; smiley added to imply invitation. She replies almost instantaneously *Can we come?*. On friendly terms with the doorgirl, I ride down to vet her and her friend in. I feel lithesome with liquor, lines and libido. I’m met with an ebullient smile from my date. “They’re with me.” They’re stamped for entry and we ride on up. The amber light blanketing the lounge feels exceptionally rich tonight. “Oh my god,” she tries to find the words, “This is so… fancy!”
We round the ovalled bar and settle into some cocktails with my party. At this point my (then) reputation precedes me, “You got any…?” I lead her up to my favorite place. Unlike my Aussie mentor, I’m less possessive with the door. A simple shimmy of the handle proves sufficient. Occupied. The rose neon glow keeps us company for now. “This bathroom is unreal,” I convict, “It’ll consume you!”
A pair of starry-eyed young men peek out, disappointed to discover they’re time is up. We scuttle in behind them and lock the door. Virtue has no place within its shagged and mirrored walls. She is consumed. I grab her hand, “See,” and pour out a healthy heap of her request. Sniff.
Voraciousness heightens. She takes full advantage of our reunion and proceeds to rape the willing.
As we’re entangled in lust, light, and porcelain, I catch our reflection in the mirror. With the right lighting and setting, even the sloppiest of activities have a certain decadence to them. My lips curl into a smile and I return my eyes toward matters thrusting atop me…
Knock Knock KNOCK.
“Coming,” a half-true. We re-trou and recompose, slightly saddened that our rendezvous wasn’t properly consummated. I unlock the door to prying eyes and ears. With a cursory look at our audience, we both giggle as if caught in a high school broom closet, “Sorry,” and scurry out.
Shortly thereafter, a new friend had tagged himself into our group. He shared in our tastes, not to mention was remarkably forthcoming with his – especially with me. Kismet. One evening, early into our friendship, we all found ourselves within the amber haunt. We’d been bouncing around for some three hours now, ergo we were well lit. Within due time, my coupled confidants fall prey among themselves. My new friend and I gesture to another: Perfect time to refuel. Hup Hup!
It being quite late, we scurry in the bathroom without wait. “What were they fighting about?” he inquires. Sniff. “Same old bickering shit,” I ricochet. Sniff sniff. He entrusts his fuel with me and turns to use the toilet. “It’s so cool you’re comfortable around us,” he flatters from over his shoulder, hips swaying to expose his privacy. A 60w bulb enters my mind to what he’s digging at. I casually turn to the downtown view, “Ya. I get along with a lot of people.” My retort lands somewhere north of Katmandu. He continues as planned in ostentatiously shaking off the last drops before zipping up. “Go ahead, have some more. I got it for us,” he implores. Don’t mind if I do. Sniff. His hand finishes the cycle and pockets it, then proceeds an inch more center to massage his groin. Here we go…
“Coke makes me so horny.” It doesn’t matter if your gay, straight, bi, pan, or beast, everyone knows the eye he’s sending me means only one thing. I brace myself as he lunges into my personal space.
“Woah. Woah. WOAH! It’s not what you think, man.” He merely pauses. I’m backed into the corner. “Com’on,” his hand moves to cup my groin – he’s just not getting it, “What the fuck! Cut it out.”
Now he stops dead, and confounded, “But… I thought…,” his voice whimpers, “Please don’t hate me,” he’s crashing, “I’m so sorry!” A stroke of humility kicks in and I do my best to allay his spiraling self-hate, and save the night. “It’s ok, man. We all do crazy things when we’re drunk.” His crest rises some, “You don’t hate me?” I repeat myself while nearing the door. He brings out his baggy and begins to flick it, “One more?” I smirk in return while unlocking the door. “In a bit,” I turn to exit. The rose glow mercilessly assails my pupils – a moment of lucidity. I follow him out. My salad days stay behind.
Days later I’d find out my friends had parlayed false impressions of me in exchange for him keeping them up. Well played…
Three weeks later, I abruptly reapply for a day life.
Recently I returned to the million dollar view that is Boom. I hadn’t been in ages so it was due time I make an appearance. It was I, a close friend I kept from these former days, and two others whom we’d known for a while. We arrive at the door; same faces, facades, and fiendings. “Hi! It’s just us four” Stamp, stamp, stamp, stamp; my entry remained seamless. Reputations evidently linger. As we ride the elevator up, our voices shared in one destination: the bathroom.
I arrive to bask in the warm amber light. Just like my first night, the room was relatively sedate; everything running as it always had. I do my best to recreate the past, “Remember that time we… I wonder if my friend still works here…That view!” Routine fails to ignite. It feels like seeing an old friend, only now devoid of our former chemistry; all flint no gas. Had I been forgotten? No! I burry the thought. Nothing has changed but the faces in dress. Perhaps I can spark it from the back. “Bathroom?” We skip the obligatory rounding of the bar and set out for sanctuary beyond the rose glow.
“Ahh. Now this is more like it.” We instantly put our feet up. Familiar motions in the familiar setting begin to circle. Conversation bandies around our best times within the shag-mirrored walls. I share one. They share another. Rinse and repeat. Time drags. “Are we just doing this all night?” obliges itself into the mix, “Should we go back down?” The lounge as an option fails to catch. “I’m perfectly comfortable here.”
Processions resume. I disappear deeper into nostalgia. We wait our respective turns for what’s fueling our presence, hoping the past can spark the present – rinse and repeat – though nothing kindles but our memories.
I catch my reflection’s glaze in the mirror. It’s all been done.