The Standard


The scene: New York City’s The Standard Hotel, Summer 2010

The question: What does success look like?

I was running out of 1oak after dancing the night away when I was stopped by a guy and asked what my favorite drink was. I told him “Mojito” and continued rushing out the door with my newfound girlfriend. I lent him my phone number out of sheer curiosity [he was white, and white men don’t usually approach me] and the next afternoon I was sipping on my drink of choice while out to lunch with him.

He told me how he had saved me in his phone as “LadyBluebyfarthehottestgirleverasIwasleaving” and I laughed.

He was a gadget guy who had developed some sort of social networking gadget. I would later find out he was in New York City in the middle of negotiations. I didn’t go out with him because I was interested in his money – even if I was, it wasn’t easy to tell he had any. He wasn’t dripping in jewels, wasn’t wearing a famous watch, and wasn’t donning expertly tailored designer threads. He was part of this new money movement I guess, and by his constant exclamations of “It’s on me, order whatever you want,” he sure acted like it. By the time he flew back home to LA about 10 days later, he was 3 million dollars richer from the finished deal.

I joined him on the roof of The Standard, sipped some more drinks and basked in the gorgeous weather as I got comfortable. He decided my age was a deal-breaker, I forgave him for thinking he even had a real chance with me and decided to enjoy the ride for what it was. I was pretty free time-wise, the weather was breezy and so I decided to spend the next few days languishing in another world. He was generous and genuinely kind deep down, and he respected me and thought I had a rare integrity, so I didn’t feel at all unsafe. The week was spent in and out of his hotel room with a slew of other characters, everyone from drug addicts, to attention whores, to classic douchebags, to insecure girls wearing too much makeup.

What was surprising about the damaged and immature late 20s-early 30s crowd was that they were all remotely successful. I remained the voice of reason in the group of misfits, and took the opportunity to learn about these people and this whole new world I wasn’t at all interested in permanently becoming a part of.

Soft porn was flashing on the TV, Katy Perry’s “California Girls” was blaring, corks were constantly popping and the guests were doe-eyed and hopeful. We ordered room service, I sat cross legged on the floor eating salads and sipping coke from glass bottles while I listened to a 33-year-old with her tits hanging out tell me about her freelance job as a web designer and her poor romantic decisions and overcoming her drug addiction. I saw blonds with cubic zirconias in their ears and dollar signs in their eyes, and I discussed  business with a 35-year-old Asian woman involved in real estate, asking her about the keys to becoming successful. Later, I would walk in on her giving my gracious host a blow job. It was like a 70s lovefest. I thought I would love the 70s, but now I wasn’t so sure.

Camera phone pic of the pool in the middle of the floor!

I would leave work and stop by in the middle of the party, joining anywhere from a handful to a dozen deranged people in this hotel room and sharing stories, listening quietly, or snacking on a free steak plate I would make room service bring up from the cafe downstairs. I splashed around in the pool at the top of The Standard, and tried not to care or feel embarrassed when douchebags eyeballed my ass as I slinked out. I turned down advance after advance, and blushed when they all gushed at how young I was. I sipped juice while they all got wasted, I met a different group of girls every night, I got eye fucked by tan shirtless gymrats who rebuffed me when I tried to smile hello.

And throughout it all, I felt saddened. The air was thick with desperation and confusion and people seeking love in empty bottles of alcohol and between strangers’ legs. It was ugly vanity and conspicuous consumption and constant disregard for themselves and others. And one night in the middle of a dark room, a few days after all the madness began… I’d decided I had enough. My host held me in his arms in his bed and pleaded, practically begged me to stay and I wondered why a grown man felt he needed me so much.

Although I didn’t partake in any of the rampant debauchery, I felt sick and I felt filthy. I hadn’t had an intellectual conversation in a fucking week. One week had changed my perception of things so much  that I feared what two weeks could do. What could a life of this do? Months later I heard reports of Sylvie Cachay and Nicole John [who creepily enough, was photographed with a guy I recognized from this fiasco a week before her death] and my mind thought… wow. Close motherfucking call. Those people were living in a world that not even money could sustain. Loose, wild, carefree and reckless. Money doesn’t solve everything. Certainly not death.

Suddenly, I grabbed my purse and my shoes and hit the cobblestone streets of the meatpacking district. But before I braved the night alone and headed far far away; I turned around, took one good look at the booming hotel and said to myself “If this is what it looks like, then I don’t fucking want it.”

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image – Lauren Manning