I moved to New York City on June 15, 1972 within two weeks of my return from my sophomore year at college. I couldn’t go back -- my father had gone bankrupt -- the sophomore year wasn’t even paid for. That college, St. John’s in Santa Fe, New Mexico, had provided me with two years of intellectual training, and a sanctuary from a hellacious adolescence with a pair of reprobates, my erstwhile parents. As an aspiring author, I had begun to flourish and find my footing as an artist in the rarefied atmosphere of the college, abiding in that elite population... Admittedly I was thus ruined for the prospect of having to earn my own living, and upon the lowest possible rung.
Those parents were divorcing -- my father was unemployed, except under questionable circumstance - and my mother had moved in with her mother. My father’s apartment, where I had last lived, was inhabited by three degenerate bachelors… There was for a nineteen-year-old pissed-off woman no home to go back to. I had no skills, no job prospects, and remained furious with my parents for many, many years.
How could I live with those people who, after urging me on to attend college, had trashed my every hope? But wasn't New York a good idea... wasn't the town teeming with brilliance, with artists, writers, painters, galleries... and publishers? I put on the brave face and though it seemed New York was my desire and goal, in actuality I had no choice. I was drawn to the place irrevocably.
So I began my adult life -- a rough two and a half months living here and there, scrounging at part-time work. At last I found a full-time position as a secretary in a small advertising agency that catered to Wall Street. I could not type worth a damn but I faked it fairly well. My best friend from school, George Coe, arrived in August, and we got an apartment together at 92 Horatio Street for what seemed an astronomical $300 a month.
Georgy was gay, I was gay, my boss was gay... and it was a very exciting time to be gay in New York. My coming out was something of a burlesque, one ridiculous amour after another, punctuated by marathon drunkenness, a few near-rapes and some portentous amateur S&M. While I never exactly ‘made it’ in New York, I made it through multiple perils, adventures, humiliations, and ecstacies philosophically intact -- by the time I departed the town for good in 2005.
“Marie 1973” is based on the idea I had sometime in December 1972 to keep a detailed diary of an entire year in New York - my first full year. It was a sort of challenge to myself, as well... could I stay a full year? It opens with a New Year’s Eve party at the Mercer Arts Center, with Georgy and I "tossing down surges of Mumm's." In a small, cheap diary I jotted down the days, and sometimes full details of my travels uptown and down.
As I worked on the manuscript I found more files to draw upon, manila folders full of typewritten accounts, hacked out while my boss was out of the office. These include dreams, of which I had a vivid, constant supply, poems, and short moody pieces. There is also a long, unfinished manuscript based on an epic dream I had of an Apocalypse... entitled “The Flame.” (I didn’t then know that D’Annunzio already had taken that title.) I worked on "The Flame" for my entire life, the latest foray being the fall of 2001, when the impact of September 11 brought many of its details again to life. It remains in that limbo/maelstrom of the unpublished.
In short, this text of “Marie 1973” is not strictly as it was originally written, in a fell swoop of a year. It is a congealment of many writings from that year, including letters written (and copies kept) but I anyhow promise the reader that nothing here has been very much made up. Any additions have only improved on the kaleidoscopic reality... I wasn't living any kind of linear life anyhow... and I do maintain the flat, staccato, inadvertently comic style of the original diary.
I began working on the diary as a novel in 1995, and finished it about eight years later. The excitement of publishing online led me to imagine it being presented as a serial diary, day by day. In the forty years that have passed we need not repeat that New York has roiled with change... but some things I am certain remain the same: there are still kids arriving on Manhattan Island with dreams, little money, and the will to prosper.
Some apologies may be in order to the friends of the original Georgy, who appears as something of a villain. Not that he wasn’t a villain, to me. But to enlighten readers as per that constant iteration of his wanting to change his name to Christopher -- he did finally become Christopher Coe, and the author of one novel, “I Look Divine.” We did not remain friends past the year 1982, when I published my first book...
... because he wasn’t very interested in reading it. So I have to say I’ve not yet read his. I do believe he’s reading "Marie Stanley," wherever it is he's landed. He cannot complain that "Georgy the Christopher" does not come over as a loud, clear and strong character, mirroring the wild and beautiful man he was... however deleterious his personality. But was I then any kind of charmer myself?
We came to New York to be writers, and in the immortal words of Robert McAlmon “to be geniuses together.” We may concur that was duly accomplished.
IN MEMORIAM OF THE YEAR 1973 .... ON MANHATTAN ISLAND...LIVED BY ONE TWENTY-YEAR-OLD PERSON... HEREIN NAMED
Copyright Terence Sellers 1973-2013