December 27, 2015
It had the smell of smoky damp cement. One after the other I watched them file through, moving cautiously, tentative smiles on their faces as they tried to make sense of the tunnel in the almost pitch black darkness.
Shrieks and laughter echoed from the back of the line, mixing with random sounds from the main room up ahead. I’d told the caterers twice that they had to be silent for the arrival, why couldn’t they just listen. I prayed that everything was ready.
Small alcoves lined the old Subway tunnel, like the ones you see on a motorway. I had a couple of us tucked into them, small candles, black lipstick and hoods. I caught the intrigued eye of a women as she slowly crept past, one arm outstretched and the other clutching her husband. They expected me to lunge at them, or say something. I stayed still, eyes front.
Slimy and rough textures. The goal was sensory isolation, followed by sensory abuse.
Another half mile down the tunnel, still in almost total darkness, they would be served mystery canapés. Slimy and rough textures. The goal was sensory isolation, followed by sensory abuse. Forcing them to focus on the taste, smell and feel of small experiences before the onslaught of the main event.
I watched out of the corner of my eye as two topless women in body paint appeared next to the lady three from the front. She gasped and giggled as she was separated from the group and lead off for a private performance.
They had given me a pretty huge budget, but it had been insane knowing that the potential investment came down to this. I think I’d rather a fifteen-minute presentation, show some charts and answer few questions. I’d spent the last few weeks in a manic hunt for locations that could help tell the story of my site, that could live up to the promise of the business. It had to be something that hadn’t been done before, it had to tell the story of exclusivity.
It had to be something that hadn’t been done before, it had to tell the story of exclusivity.
The venues I looked at in the city had been done to death, and they cost a fortune. I’d found this place through a friend of a friend who had a small dinner event down here, I knew I’d have to sweet talk the council to do it for thirty people, plus staff, but a contact of my dad’s helped me pull off the impossible. We never got permission for the booze, but I figured I could plead ignorance, it was worth the risk. They would follow the tunnel for another half mile, experiencing a few more surprises, various shots and concoctions to loosen them up. An aperitif for the final stage of the experience, a sensory celebration within an abandoned Dumbo subway station.
We had started them off in the city, letting them get a few drinks in them before they were blindfolded and dropped off at individual artists’ studios. The most eccentric I could find, with the most interesting locations. Once they arrived they spent the first fifteen minutes blindfolded, while the artist introduced themselves and their vision for their project. Following that, they would spend the next two hours sculpting, painting, sewing, crafting some kind of creation, anywhere from a basement to a Soho living room. There had been no reports of clients getting molested so far, which was a success. It was a tricky line between expressive personalities and overtly sexual, especially given faces and shapes of some of these specimens. I’d made sure the most beautiful had been teamed up with women, just to be safe. Either way, I’m sure something interesting must have gone down. I just hoped my funding pitch didn’t end in harassment allegations. The various creations had been picked up and would be on display in another chamber.
I listened as a heavy groan began to creep up the tunnel, at first it wasn’t at all obvious it was a tuba, the long meandering notes washing their way up and adding a sense of urgency.
I listened as a heavy groan began to creep up the tunnel, at first it wasn’t at all obvious it was a tuba, the long meandering notes washing their way up and adding a sense of urgency. I was starting to relish my role, this architectural feeling of controlling an environment, subjecting people to ideas.
At the end of the tunnel they found themselves in the station area, still dark but lit with a red mood, one large table running down the center. The group was greeted by their host, the leader of a secret New York society dedicated to the preservation of the adventurous human spirit. All the guests looked around at each other as much as the environment, they had been dressed while still blindfolded, black suits for the men, black dresses for the ladies, all custom made, no two alike.
After a powerfully delivered initial greeting and a toast to explore the human senses the band fired up and the figure of a woman emerged from a side entrance, the only one dressed in color, red. She laid on a thick sultry tone and began worked her way through smoky jazz classics, raising the tempo slightly after each tune.
It cost three times as much as the other dresses and I didn’t care if the others noticed – it fit her perfectly and she looked brilliant as the lights caught her outline.
I locked eyes with Charlie, she pulled away from her conversation and started making her way towards me, Charlotte had helped me chose the full length gown for her and we had given the designer special direction on the customization. It cost three times as much as the other dresses and I didn’t care if the others noticed – it fit her perfectly and she looked brilliant as the lights caught her outline.
She was full of congratulations, her voice had taken on a sort of purr, a mixture of the alcohol and an effort to embrace the theme. I kept it short, but snuck in a selfie of the two of us before sneaking back off out the back, not wanting to make myself part of the spectacle.
The local council had given me only until ten o’clock, but the effect of the blindfolds earlier and the long tunnel entrance meant none of the guests really knew what time it was. They had been stripped of phones and watches that afternoon. I should have made better arrangements for storage considering I now had around 500k worth of watches sitting in a box.
Heavy chains rattled as two huge Blue Tuna were strung up one side of the room and sashimi cut with quick slices from huge Samurai blades. On the other the guests could select a cut of meat before it was seared using a flamethrower then quickly diced and seasoned in our version of steak tartar. Guests were still being pulled off into hidden rooms for private and small group burlesque shows.
I had no idea what the drug of choice was for these people but I’m sure it also had an affect on the appetites.
We had probably gone a little heavy on the food. After all the excitement they were keen to taste but not to eat a lot, which was fine, we had a couple of simple options that worked given the restrictions of the environment. The banquet table served as a social facilitator and a great display for the hand blown cocktail glasses. Everyone charged into the drinks and likely a bit of something else – I had no idea what the drug of choice was for these people but I’m sure it also had an affect on the appetites.
As it does, the night disappeared, we announced it was time to leave but it was met with heavy resistance, these were the type that were used to efficient counter offers, some offered more money others straight refusals. They finally agreed to go but only if I joined them, which I relented too eventually – despite promising myself that I wouldn’t get involved in the party. I gave Marcus a solid debrief on the pack down. He was getting along pretty well with a couple of the young burlesque actors and remained in character. Don’t we all dream of being the master in a cave filled with fire, cocktails and black clothing and painted skin?