New York, New York – memoirs of a middle-aged rock chick

It seems some people are genuinely curious about my long and sometimes colourful life, so after much hesitation and rewriting, I am going in for another little chapter. It is a part of my life that is so dramatically different from the life I live now, and have lived for decades, and even to me some of it sounds a bit far-fetched. However, when I was 18, and had just graduated high school in Copenhagen, I moved to New York City and lived in Harlem. I really wanted to go to New York, I also wanted to go to acting school, and I guess I had the right combination of optimism and stubbornness, because I managed to save some money and get a plane ticket to New York in december 1988. I had 600 dollars to my name, an open-ended ticket and it is a bit of a miracle that I got through immigration, as I clearly intended to get a job.

80s New York

It was the late 80s, and New York was not the clean, safe-ish place it is today. Things were rough, I heard gunshots in the night, saw poor and homeless people, it was cold, and the friend I came to NY with left very soon. I stayed, though, got accepted to acting chool, and got a job tending bar at Jimmy’s Corner, close to Times Square. Jimmy’s was a small, dingy, boxing themed bar, owned by a former boxing coach, a scene from Raging Bull was shot there, and I shook Mike Tyson´s hand once (back when he was champion and not yet a felon). I also moved to the East Village, where everything I liked  was: rock music, long-haired boys, art scene, interesting people.

I was alone, broke, and way out of my depth, and New York was overwhelming, but I still loved it. I loved the New Yorkers and their weird openness and very direct way. For someone who had spent a great deal of time trying to dechiffer other people, to fit in, to act like others acted, to guess what others were thinking, this New Yorker directness (by some perceived as rudeness) was a huge and welcome relief. In a way I felt more at home than at home – and I quickly learned that a lot of people feel that way about New York.


Rock n’ Roll forever

I hung out in the rock n’roll scene, and I worked at 6 Bond St. that also had rock n’ roll acts and club nights. The scene was big at the time, with shows almost every night at Limelight, Cat Club, CBGBs, and semi-private parties that were happening all night.  On any given night we might be partying with the Ramones, Lemmy, Guns n Roses etc. I jumped right in to the action, head first, with all the excesses that were availabe to me in late 80s New York, drinks, drugs, you name it. What made the most impact, however, was the friends I made; a bunch of tough, outspoken, “too much” young women, very unlike my friends back home. We came from all over the place, we were all a mess, all displaced, lost, but had found a home in the rock scene.

A common reaction to my rock past is: “So, were you a groupie? (he-he)” the question more than implies that the girls in rock n’ roll are bimboes. My experience was exactly the opposite, the women had jobs, we were waitresses, bartenders, chefs, or worked for the record labels or in PR, while all the young men were in bands and trying to get signed, with no money and a way more bimboish lifestyle. I had a bimboy living on my kitchen floor for  quite a while. There was great loyalty and friendship, and I made friends for life, but our youth, and various dysfunctional states, also caused a lot of drama, back-stabbing and more.  A small world, a village in the Village, for better and for worse.

Thawing out
After 6 months in NYC I started acting school at Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, which became a life-changing journey inwards, and really planted the seed that would later lead me to yoga. I had not cried in years, I was a tough cookie, but acting school and the daily relaxation and introspection, started to slowly melt this frozen part I had inside. Over that first year in acting school the constrast between my rock n roll nightlife and my day life of body-awareness, breathing excercises and emotional digging, became very stark. A lot of old pain was unburied in acting class and then numbed right after with drinks, drugs, and Marshall-therapy at a rock show.
The exercises were very similar to what I later came to know as mindfulness meditation, except for acting the purpose was not primarily healing or calming the nervous system, but  a preparation for creating imaginary circumstances with your senses. However for me, it did become a journey of self-discovery, a path to get to know myself as an emotional creature. The process ultimately led to me leave the rock scene, in order to take care of myself.

I stayed in New York for almost 6 years  – it is where I became an adult and a big part of who I am, direct, too much, tough, tender, and all <3


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