Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Velvet ropes of the first world

I find velvet ropes fascinating.  It’s a visual metaphor that gets used in reality way too frequently.  Which ever side of the velvet rope I find myself on, it’s not the right side.  Of course, access is the name of the game, in politics, society, technology, economy, you name it.  If the grass is always greener on the other side, then she who has access to either side, wins.  But doesn’t that mean the velvet rope disappears completely in a happy ending? Or are some people actually happier if there is a velvet rope in front of them that others cannot cross?  Perhaps it really is just exclusivity that defines luxury.  If you put a velvet rope around some poop, people will want to step in it.

Not everybody wants luxury.  Most people just want comfort.  Some are even simpler, looking for sustainability.  Any state is ok, as long as it’s stable.  Others require a more dynamic state of affairs: novelty above all else.  But even for people that don't actively seek luxury, a special offer of anything, made to only a few, gets everybody imagining that it could be them.  What if it was me?  What if I got in?  I might be exposed to a whole other experience, that would lift me and my little life out of this gutter I find myself in on this side of the rope.  Suddenly, my comfortable/stable/dynamic lifestyle looks pitiful, compared to whatever I’m not being allowed to have.  Whatever or whoever is behind that rope, has got it.  That poop is the shit. 

I went to a birthday party at a club last night.  It was the kind of club I never go to at home in NY, although I’m sure there are plenty like it.  Out on tour with a circus, in a cast with young and beautiful Europeans in the flush of fitness, I go with glee.  I will show them how an old school G boogies and conduct my own sociological studies between cocktails. We have organized, via friends of friends, to have access to a special VIP area in a club in order to celebrate the birthday of a pair of friends, twin Scandinavian blonde contortionists.  Our entry has been waved along with the drink minimum and the all important wait at the door, in the rain, with all the riffraff of the Reeperbahn that is not on the list.  I have stepped in the shit.  And I do feel lucky. 

I cross three velvet ropes to reach the VIP area.  It is behind the bar, a meter wide space that was probably originally meant as a way for kegs to get from the back room to the bar without having to traverse the dance floor.  I say that, because that’s what happened all night.  There was another group on the other side of another velvet rope, in the same kind of space.  Perhaps there was another rope beyond them, that they were also given the privilege to cross, or maybe they, too, were riffraff that just happened to abut our rope. I question silently how many ropes they got to cross in order to stand behind the bar in this crossway that amounts to a service road for bar backs.  At one point, in the beginning of the night, I feel penned in, the space is not enough, there are too many of us. Perhaps it’s better on the other side, out in the open.  I cross the rope.  I am given a pair of glow-glasses (that a lucky, very visible few in the club are sporting) and invited to dance on the bar.  I do. I have now crossed the rope into the real party.  But then I notice they cannot dance, and know that I have stepped into boring territory.  I return behind our ropes, and dance on our section of the bar.  The man asks for his glow-glasses back.  I return them with relief.  They are a migraine waiting to happen.  That shit stinks. 

Ultimately, we have a great time.  With the exception of sojourns to the restrooms, we stay behind our ropes, in our tiny section of the bar of a much bigger club that I never explore.  Why would I, when all my friends are here?  We behave abominably and it cracks us up.  The velvet rope keeps all the other riffraff away from us and keeps us riffraff away from them.  When people want to walk through, I make them dance through, like a troll that thinks he owns the bridge.  Some folks ask if we can take down the rope and I drop it immediately.  I was feeling penned in, anyway.  They seemed ready for a fight about it, that never happened.  They never came in. Once the rope was down, it didn’t look that attractive, after all, I guess.  Their Scandinavians were just as blonde as ours.

I try and stay out of the way of the guys carrying kegs.  They are the real VIPs.  They know the velvet ropes are just a way to make people feel special in otherwise very normal situations, and by separating people into tribes that have their own customs, they keep fights to a minimum.  But like most borders, they’re a pain in the ass if you’ve got someplace to go.  


I think about the refugees, fleeing from the world's most unstable, uncomfortable, terrible situations on earth.  It seems people that have been living behind the velvet ropes of the first world see these horrible situations as if it was like my night at the club, but it’s not.  Unless people in one corner of the club were getting systematically brutalized, starved and murdered and we still didn’t let them come behind our ropes until they waited in line in the rain, paid an entrance fee, got their bodies and bags searched, came with references from friends behind the ropes, bought the drink minimum and then did a dance to get through.  But that shit would be ridiculous.