I get another coffee, only this time it tastes like the water out of mop bucket. And it’s possible it might actually be water out of a mop bucket. I know this because I worked in a juice bar in high school. Appalling stuff happened there, not least of which were the dry, gnarled state of the GMO carrots we sent flying down silver chutes for people like the ex-heroin addict named Jim, the one with the ponytail and the sad eyes.
Finally, I sit down to my stinky, meaty meal and force my plastic utensils into the too-small box like a round of Operation, coming in vertically with the hands of an unpracticed, clumsy surgeon. Nothing tastes like anything because I burned my tongue earlier today on over-priced, over-salted soup, and so I layer everything on top of itself in the hopes that three meh flavors will make one decent one. It doesn’t.
My friend is late and so I stand alone at the entrance of the premiere like a deer in open season. Wearing a beanie from Urban Outfitters and a patent leather backpack with my water bottle sticking out of the top, I look decidedly like some broke person’s elementary school student. Zac Posen breezes past, smirking at me in a friendly, familiar way that says, “I know that you know that I am Zac Posen.” And he’s right: I do know that he is Zac Posen. I stand his scented wake, the air having churned around him in a clandestine, special way for which it does not churn around everyone. Or maybe he was just walking fast.
Friend now in tow, we ask the woman with the clipboards where to check in. She raises her eyebrows dully and says, with no small amount of judgment, “Are you two walking the red carpet?”
The check-in line is badly organized, bottle-necked like an Orange County highway, which is fine, because Karlie Kloss walks right past us, all eyeballs and shoulder blades. She’s so close that I can see the ends of her hair, which are perfect ends, ends that get trimmed every two or three weeks. I bet she doesn’t even know what being a supermodel is truly like.
Once in our seats, we play “Spot the Celebrity” from the mezzanine but the only person I can make out is Anna Wintour, who did not coat check her white Prada fur from last season, despite the fact that it is 81 degrees in this room. Her bob glistens under the amber light, every hair in place, just as God intended.
One of the HBO higher ups comes on stage and praises Lena Dunham, who also comes on stage, looking like the physical manifestation of a Studio 54 disco ball, all glitter and shine. Barefooted and high heels in hand, she starts making her thank yous in an infectiously adorable voice, more girlish in person that you would imagine. It is a disarming uptown precociousness mixed with downtown hip, a girl who was clearly educated and raised extremely well but who, in two minutes, says in gratitude to a friend in the audience, “At this point I would call you if I needed an abortion.” This is the magic that is Lena Dunham.
I try to stymie my judgment when she says, “I’d like to thank my godfather Jerry Saltz.” I turn to my friend and say, “Wait, like THE Jerry Saltz?” There are some people who are just born into successful, impressive families. And that’s fine. But my godfather made money selling computer parts on eBay. The closest thing he came to arts and culture was a waterbed and a circular driveway. I don’t have Jerry Saltz-like advantages.
But I don’t judge because the work is good and the show is good and everyone has a good laugh.
We walk into the after party where young men and women in ironic plaid pass around fried food and hotdogs. My friends introduce me to the heir of some baby powder kingdom who, seven years ago, I had a couple grossly uncomfortable dates with. We look at each other sideways, so much time having passed, and my dedication to truth and honesty leaves me only with a cryptic, “Yeaaaah, we’ve hung out before.” We have an awkward conversation before a blonde girl with a gold necklace who probably wants to be an actress saddles up next to him. He introduces her by first and last name before leaving to get a drink.
At 11, I decide it’s time to go home, even though there is plenty of people watching to do, even though there is an open bar and free food and Judd Apatow. I get into a cab. It smells like cigarette smoke and the windows are cracked but my driver is playing opera from the Chamber Music Society station and this is the cab scene that you only see in movies. We head down the Queensboro Bridge towards Brooklyn, over the black water of the East River, past steaming pipes, curving around Silvercup Studios.
The “DINER” sign is missing one more letter since last winter. “DIN” it now reads.
We crest another bridge, a smaller one, and all of Manhattan glitters on the black horizon, each iconic spire jutting towards stars. Brahms continues to play and my shabby little neighborhood reveals itself like a studio lot, discarded pine trees lining sidewalks, Christmas lights still up, thrown on houses in a sloppy, epileptic fit. And then we turn onto my street, which is, quite literally, the street Hannah Horvath lives on. Not Lena Dunham. That girl lives somewhere fancy.