Living On The Streets Of New York City | Circa 1989

 

Written by Victoria Marie Alonso

 

I left everything behind, friends and family, the safety of a home that did not feel like my home any more…  I did not belong anywhere and ran away at age 19 to pursue the one area in my life that seemed I was exceptional at theater. My dream was not making it big but to experience acting live on a stage in a place I had dreamed of going since childhood, New York.

At the end of this season in NYC, I ended up going to only one audition and was stoned so I forgot my lines. Ha. Drugs had taken over my life as I tried to escape my feelings of unworthiness, unacceptance and even greater no fear for myself because I wanted to die. I wanted to be free from this life so I decided to go out with a bang experiencing life as it would come to me through people, situations, and the dire need for survival in the end.

For a time before my flight to NYC I jumped tandem out of airplanes from 10,000 feet (about the length of 30 city blocks) in the sky to get the rush, the thrill, of feeling something. Along with the death-wish theme, I chose to do so on my 18th and 19th birthday to complete the cycle of birth and death if I did not survive. But the thrill did not ever last and neither did death come, so I planned my trip to NYC and off I went in the winter with no regard for the family and friends I left behind. I did send an occasional postcard or Christmas card.

I arrived in La Guardia airport at night with no plan, just my punk rock self, a little bit of luggage and no place to call home. I was living on the edge at last. The first night I spent at the taxicab driver’s apartment but when he wanted sexual compensation I quickly fled. I do not remember much after that except that I wandered around the city, smoking cigarettes, and looking for weed or any drug and a cheap place to stay.

I abandoned part of my luggage on a bench, for it was too much to drag around. Leaving once again a part of me behind, as I tried to figure out what to do next. I ended up at Hotel 17 in lower east side Manhattan. A cheap hotel I could rent for a week at a time for a place to call home off and on. It was a crappy bed and 4 dingy walls. I had $800 dollars to my name, and I was confused but was meeting new people along the way.

My actions made no sense except to me, for I wanted to die, and I figured the best way possible was to go out in a ditzy of adventure, through drugs, and the adventure of my life which ended with the death of a dear friend and much chaos in between.

After getting settled in my dirty hotel room, I opened a bank account and decided to panhandle for my daily meals. Rent was paid for the week, so I thought why not try a little begging. I was quite the sight in my black punk rock attire, partially shaved head, and fuchsia pink bangs. I decided I might get more cash if I used a Swedish accent, which worked quite well, until one wise ass asked me what the capital of Sweden was. I was not the greatest actor as I had presumed. I laughingly said Los Angeles for I had no clue as to the capital of Sweden. I got neither pity nor cash from this bright man. But I did get money panhandling and I also met two fellow punk rockers, one with a Mohawk with points as sharp as a knife and the other my lover for a brief time, but friends until we parted much later.

We were all immediate friends and companions, and I was happy to not be alone. We wandered and squandered our foils of panhandling. Eating the best pizza, scoring good drugs if a drug can be called good and meeting others of adventurous spirit. Somehow, I spent all my money amazingly fast and discovered a squat (an abandoned apartment dwelling) for like punkers and began my homeless experience.

I met many people that season one of which was Carrie, a 14 yr. old runaway from New Jersey. We became best friends. I also would take odd jobs I found in the paper, some of which were seedy events that I cannot stomach mentioning here. When it got too cold at the squat, I would move back to Hotel 17 and become fast friends with the night manager named Billy. Some of the other punkers would spend the night too and Billy would turn a blind eye for it was against the rules.

That was my life for a while. In and out of homelessness, taking showers sometimes at strangers’ apartments, getting free food in the park, sleeping on a bench in the park or at the squat and wandering the streets of lower east side Manhattan at 2am in the morning acting like an insane person to avoid being attacked by any one out to do harm. That was my best thinking. This went on for months and I was for the most part having the time of my life. I wanted to shoot up heroin, because my Mohawk friend did, but no one would let me because they saw how I was with the other drugs I did, and they worried I would overdose. So, there was kindness even shown in drug addiction, for surely, I would have died with a needle in my arm.

The sad ending is near with much being left out, but I must mention touring with a punk rock band called D.I. to Providence, Rhode Island. I was a groupie, and it was an adventure to such a quiet town compared to NYC. I also rested a while (after the tragic event I am about to describe) in Philadelphia at one of my new best friend’s parents’ apartment and watched a part of the Mummer’s New Year’s Day parade.

So, the tragic ending that brought me back home was that our squat was set on fire by a rival gang (I didn’t even know we had rivals until the fire, that is how oblivious I was). I was supposed to meet my friend Carrie the day before to do our hair some weird color, but I flaked which I rarely do. I feel somehow if I had met her that day her fate would have been changed and she would have lived instead of dying in that fire. I remember arriving on the scene with firefighters putting out the fire as they found her remains carried out in a body bag, unidentifiable, except for her steel toe doc martens.

This was the tragedy that sent me to a payphone calling my parents for an airplane ticket home. Carrie’s death really shook me to the core, and it is to the memory of her that I dedicate this writing.

I still remember the long flight home with frostbitten feet and hands, a hole in my nose from snorting drugs and no pride. I was broken inside and out and entered drug rehab (one of my parents’ stipulations) and got clean.

I then met my husband to be (just celebrated 30 years of marriage) had 4 children and a granddaughter who adores me. Lives can and do turn around. I have never returned to NYC and have no desire to do so. I am now having the time of my life off drugs…

I do wish to say I am sorry to Carrie and to the others I hurt in NYC. Drug addiction is real as is recovery.

 

Text © Victoria Marie Alonso

 

 

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2 Responses to “ Living On The Streets Of New York City | Circa 1989”

  1. victoriamariealonso

    Thank you Carolyn. I am glad am ok too! It was a frightening time but somehow it brought me to my husband so there’s that:) Thanks for commenting. Peace, Victoria

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