Okay, it’s Thursday morning, I finally got a half-decent amount of sleep last night, and I’m chomping at the bit to write something. It’s amazing what a little rejuvenating sleep will do for you, believe me.
Got your attention now?
New York has historically been a mecca of the weird and wonderful. It’s probably the most well-known city in the world and has always been at the forefront of culture, media and art. I’ve never been there, but one of these days I’ll get off my ass and go, because from everything Woody Allen and Federico Garcia Lorca have told me, it sounds like my kind of place. I’m don’t really want to wax poetic on a city I’ve never been to, and besides – you’ve seen enough movies. Even when it’s Toronto in disguise, New York looks like a pretty happening place.
Sometimes, though, the weird outweighs the wonderful. From the town that brought you Andy Warhol comes the newest trend in bizarro performance art: Hotel Voyeurism.
According to an article from the Los Angeles Times, the Standard Hotel has become a hot spot for voyeurs looking to catch a glimpse of some very pretty people parading around in front of huge bay windows in nought but their birthday suits – and sometimes they’re getting up to more than just parading.
Oh hell, let’s cut the innuendo.
The Standard Hotel features huge windows where you can walk along a boardwalk and watch people screwing each others’ brains out. Take all the pictures you want. Take video. Put it on Youtube. Apparently, these folks don’t care.
The hotel straddles the newly-built High Line Park, an urban greening project built on abandoned railways three stories off the ground. Tourists and the curious can chill out in the park with binoculars or cell phone cameras or whatever and just – watch the show. The best part? The whole package is dead-set in the middle of New York’s trendy Meat Packing district.
I know, I know.
This is all well and good for some people, I guess. Personally if I wanted to see naked people I wouldn’t be going all the way to the Big Apple to do it – apart from State of Affairs, isn’t that what the internet is for? Realistically this is just another flash-in-the-pan, shock value dog-and-pony show designed to stir up a little controversy and, by extension, a whole lot of tourist revenue. I have about as much patience for stuff like this as I have for people who get up really early in the morning to make sure they’re dressed or acting in such a way as to garner the most possible attention. You have fifteen piercings in your face, nine hundred tattoos, and every article of clothing on your person was purchased from Value Village? Snore. You like to check into a hotel, carnally master your significant other, and make sure the drapes are pulled way back while you get down and dirty? Please.
However, in the midst of this otherwise-unremarkable story, the Times did bring up a rather interesting point. Here’s the quote:
“This 21st century urban voyeurism is the next logical step in a society that has been peeping and poking into private lives, with all of us participating, on reality TV, through social networking, and in confessional interviews and memoirs.”
The article goes on to interview some of the passersby, many of whom have come from out of state or even out of country to check out this oddity.
Cultural expert (whatever that means) Hal Niedzviecki had this to say:
“A city like New York always has people who want to be watched and enjoy watching…[b]ut the way society is moving, rather than feel, ‘Oh, my God, there are times we have to close the drapes,’ it’s ‘Let’s keep them open, all the time, and let whoever wants to take pictures go ahead.’ Under the influence of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogging, that very New York attitude is spreading around the world.”
I don’t know what exactly qualifies old Hal as a cultural expert, but I’m a blogger/musician/man-about-town in one of the most cosmopolitan cities on Earth, which definitely qualifies me, so I’m going to take it and run.
We live in a funny world, my friends. When I was a kid growing up, the idea of protecting my privacy extended about as far as not letting strange men grope me in public washrooms. Fast forward fifteen years and suddenly some fourteen year-old douchebag has somehow managed to steal my credit card number and use it to pay off his World of Warcraft bill. The fact is, thanks largely to the internet, there’s no such thing as real personal privacy anymore, unless you choose to remain totally offline and therefore are comparable to Fred Flintstone.
It’s not a question of status or “being in the know” — it’s just a question of progress. I remember when I was in seventh grade, I had my first teacher ever tell me I couldn’t hand in a paper hand-written. It had to be printed off a computer. It became the standard, and that’s the point. I didn’t own a cell phone – ever — until this time last year, and at the time I had railed against getting one for the better part of half a decade. Now, one year later, I can’t imagine being without it. I’m still not happy about that, by the way, but the nature of my business demands it, just as much as it demands an internet connection.
But it comes with a price, and that price is your right to your secrets. I’m one hundred percent culpable for everything I write on this blog, no matter how controversial it might be or how much I might come to regret having written it years down the line. That’s my choice – I do this for a living, and I don’t apologize for my views. It’s the same thing with these folks in New York who’ve absolutely no problem with their naked, copulating bodies being plastered all over the web. The Standard Hotel, I’m sure, is completely clear on the fact that people watch their windows, hoping for a show. If you don’t want to give them one, close the drapes – or better yet, stay at a different hotel (the rates at the Standard run close to $500 a night anyway, so save a little dough if you’re not into being watched). But what does that say about us?
In a lot of ways I’m no different than physical exhibitionists. I put my thoughts and opinions on this blog every day, sometimes hoping to make a point, sometimes hoping to get a rise out of people. Why? Well, realistically, it’s because I like the interaction, the community of ideas that arises from the internet. I think that’s what the internet is best used for (well, that and porn, I’m not going to lie). I genuinely enjoy being a part of that community, and maybe even influencing it once in a while. And, yes, I get a thrill out of checking out my stats and discovering that five or six hundred people have visited State of Affairs in one day and left comments, or emailed me with responses or whatever. That part is 100% ego. I get off on it, probably in much the same way that exhibitionists dig other people watching them do the nasty (well, maybe not exactly that way – it’s not like I lie in bed at night fantasizing about blog stats or analytics. Usually.)
Basically what I’m doing, and what the New York Nudists seem to be doing as well, is acknowledging the changing social trend Hal Niedzviecki was talking about: privacy is a thing of the past; everybody gets to know everything they want to know about you whether you’re comfortable with it or not – and what’s more, they want to know. There is no explanation for something like Twitter other than somebody, somewhere is actually interested in what you had for lunch, or the stupid Fail picture you found, or which version of the Beatles box set you bought. As a culture, we want to see and we want to be seen – and we’re going to get both even if we don’t want them.
So why not run with it? If my privacy is shot and anything I say or do can and will be held against me, why not jump the gun? The articles you, my dear readers, have been so good as to continue reading these last months, are more-or-less an accurate depiction of who I am and what I believe (as long as you can read between the lines and get when I’m being sarcastic or purposefully combative). Thanks to my total lack of privacy, I’m going to offend somebody, somewhere, at some point just by existing, so why not take away the element of surprise? If I’m posting my opinions online and going out of my way to get people to read them, I can’t really turn around and act shocked when somebody calls me on a glaring error (thanks Meaghan) or takes issue with my point of view or whatever. I asked for it.
The patrons of the Standard Hotel are no different. Some might argue a display like this is analogous to the Roman Empire – wanton sex in the streets, no boundaries, no limits, whatever. I say humans are adaptable animals, and these folks have just decided to go with the times. They like being watched; anything they record for themselves will doubtless end up on the internet one day (I’m looking at you, Ms. Hilton); so why not eliminate the middleman and just get to it in plain sight? It’s not illegal – they’re technically inside a private establishment, and the whole thing is marketed so well it’s not as though someone is going to “accidentally” stumble into a park suspended three stories above the ground and “accidentally” catch a glimpse of somebody’s nether regions. If you don’t want to get hit by a snowball, as my kindergarten teacher used to say, then stay out of the way of the snowball fight. So I don’t see a problem with it. New York gets more tourists (like they needed them), these people get their rocks off, and a bunch of horny voyeurs and arty-farty types get to say they went to weirdo Mecca. Everybody wins.
And as for me, am I going to go hop a flight to NYC to check this place out? Oh, hell no. It’s just naked people. I personally don’t find the whole thing terribly interesting.
I’ll just wait until somebody posts the video online.