Fear and loathing and Prozac in SoHo

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The Independent Culture
I HAVE been depressed all week and consequently I have been holed up in my apartment like some kind of female Boo Radley. Every day I go get a coffee and a bagel from the deli and return to sit glumly at my kitchen table, failing to write anything until lunchtime. At around 12.30 or 1pm, I stagger into my bedroom for a protracted blubbing session on my bed. At 2pm - or, on bad days, 3pm - I decide to Pull Myself Together. I get up, sing karaoke to Jean Knight's 'Mr Big Stuff' - Mr Big Stuff, who do you think you are? Mr Big Stuff] You're never gonna get my lerve, etc - and then, overcome with panic about deadlines, I lurch back to the kitchen table and begin the whole process once more.

On Thursday night I was due to attend a dinner party. I decided to go - partly because I did not seem to be responding well to solitary confinement, and partly because going to eat at another person's apartment is a rare thing in New York and I was genuinely excited at the prospect. While trying to get myself into some kind of presentable state for the occasion, I swallowed a couple of the Prozacs that a friend gave me a few weeks ago.

Now, of course I knew in my sane mind that Prozac, however reportedly miraculous its results, could not be expected to transform me from a tear-stained WC Fields look-alike into a sunny-faced Pollyanna within a single evening. Had I applied reason, I would also have made the intelligent guess that Prozac is not compatible with alcohol. But whatever - I took the Prozac, and of course my mood was not affected in any way: except that I developed a violent headache and found myself gripped by feelings of fear and loathing towards my fellow man.

The dinner party was truly grim. It was held in a SoHo loft full of art. There was a pair of shoes sitting in the middle of the floor, connected to the ceiling by a piece of wire. There was a collection of letters up on the wall, written by some old guy in the 1940s, when his wife was dying of pneumonia. They had been found in somebody's basement and the 'artist' in question had had the genius idea of putting them in frames. This work was called Excuse my Dust. (The man whose loft it was spent a long time explaining the title, but I got so bored I went and sat in the lavatory until he had finished.) There were also some silver patterns on the wall that looked like the stuff you do with stencils when you're a kid. The loft owner informed me smugly that they were actually ancient Indian sexual signs representing body parts in orgiastic situations. I had to stand there for ages, nodding my head, while he droned on about it: 'So, like, this trapezoid is an anus . . . .' And all the while I was wondering what would happen if I were suddenly to lose control and shout, 'I don't care about your putrid erotic murals, you dandified cretin - and if you say another word about them, I will chop your head off.'

I knew I was being unreasonable because of feeling low - but still, the New York art world is pretty hard to take at the best of times. About a month ago, I went to a party in another SoHo loft. This place was cluttered with racks of Mills and Boon paperbacks and giant plastic potted plants like you get in airports, and wall unit displays of porno magazines. It turned out that the hostess of this soiree, a red-haired woman in her early twenties, called Pagan or Axel or something, was an artist and all this horrible stuff was her work. Oh. Oh, how interesting.

She was bouncing around this party of hers urging her guests to play a game where you put on a blindfold and try to eat a marshmallow hanging by a piece of string from the ceiling. Boy, did I take a dislike to Pagan. She had an old factory time-clock up on the wall in her hallway, together with all the old punch cards of the people who used to work at the factory. This was another of her artworks - a witty tribute to the fascinating (and, let's face it, rather sexy) world of blue-collar labour. Pagan really did make you nostalgic for the days of compulsory national service.

Anyway, to get back to this week's dinner party. The host insisted on playing incredibly loud rock music. At one point, he asked me to put another record on. At the bottom of his pile of nasty rock CDs, I found a nice old Harry Belafonte tape. Everyone was outraged. It was 'black music for white people' someone said, and all the other guests nodded sagely. I said I thought that (a) Harry Belafonte would be surprised to hear that and (b) if it was black music for white people, then it was altogether fitting, since everyone present was white. This line of argument did not go down well, and halfway through 'Island in the Sun', the tape was rudely pulled out.

Then the host decided that he wanted to dance. Everyone in turn had to get up and cavort about the room with him to Prince's 'The Most Beautiful Girl in the World' (which apparently counts as black music for black people). I decided it was time to leave. The host felt that I owed him a long public goodbye snog. I did not. There was an unseemly tussle which everyone at the dinner table watched with a sort of silent, zombie fascination. After I had successfully fought him and his tongue off, my host turned nasty and said my new haircut made me look like an Avon lady. I smiled very sweetly and bade the company goodbye.

Back home, a family of mice had moved in while I was out, and one of them was scuttling about my bedroom. Along with everything else that Prozac wasn't doing for me, it certainly wasn't improving my attitude towards wildlife. I made a late night call to the building's superintendent, who wasn't picking up. I shouted menacing things at the mouse (which by this point I was beginning to think might be a rat). And then I gave up. As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods. I had planned to have a nice cosy cry before going to sleep, but I settled for standing on a chair and screaming instead.-

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