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New York City

Photo by Neil Shea

Subway Rorschach

In the new city we carry our newborn son down the block and into the subway. His first journey, diving under rivers, piercing webs of pipes and wires, rattling past ghost stations and lunch boxes lost by the sandhogs a century ago. They say in new cities you are given grace—some time in which to believe anything, to dodge blame, to gather memories that years from now will fall like hail on unlucky relatives. Who knows? We’re tired and the kid, this lump, warm and dense as dough, is getting heavy. While the car idles (and before he spits up) a woman speaks to his bobbling head and says, “Mixed-race babies always have that look.”

Author: The JT LeRoy Story. Directed by Jeff Feuerzeig. Amazon Studios / Magnolia Pictures, 2016. 110 minutes.

Extras

Disgrace is a public phenomenon, defined by public measures—of perception, opinion, consensus. To suffer disgrace is to arouse a collective sense of betrayal, bounds demolished, moral or social compacts violated. Reprieve from disgrace is also a public phenomenon, something a certain kind of documentary makes plain. Having suffered disgrace, occasionally a public individual will sit for a documentary portrait, as both former New York congressman Anthony Weiner and Laura Albert, the writer behind the literary persona JT LeRoy, have recently done. Weiner and Author: The JT LeRoy Story apply documentary means to restorative ends, where a kind of suspense attends the effort to marry a frayed reputation to a private self, disgraceful behavior to mitigating context, image to some more tangible thing. 

Leaving Los Angeles

There’s some paradox, some string theory, maybe, whereby if Los Angeles disappeared into the ocean, New York would also grudgingly cease to exist. They are each other’s negative image, linked by mutual loathing. I grew up in Long Island, came of age in Manhattan, and though I couldn’t tell you when the brainwashing started, when this seed was planted, at some point I knew it as sure as I knew my own name.