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Mixed Messages in Chelsea

Phonebooth1 Phonebooth2

What do these two images have in common?

Phonebooth3 Phonebooth4

They are posted on opposing sides of the same phone booth on Eighth Avenue in Chelsea. I've been meaning to post about this for a while, but this past weekend was the first time in a while that I walked from 23rd to 14th Street on what is arguably the gayest stretch of New York real estate aside from down and out Christopher Street.

Nearly every phone booth on Eighth has either a M4M sex ad on it, or an anti-crystal meth ad. Many booths carry both. The battle of the billboards is downright depressing.

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  1. How are these billboards in conflict with each other? It's possible to use manhunt AND avoid crystal meth. I do it all the time. Let's not demonize sex okay? Leave that to the religious right.

    Posted by: Rob | Aug 9, 2005 11:55:36 AM

  2. Hm, other Rob, I think Andy is trying to point out that these two ads, when run together like this, imply that gay men are crystal meth users.

    "What do they have in common?" Why are they being run together like that? I'm sure some gay men are crystal meth users, but there are better, more uplifting things to post messages about or advertise.

    Posted by: Rob | Aug 9, 2005 12:10:21 PM

  3. I think they are symbolic. They are TWO things that our community should avoid like the plague. Well, in my mind at least. I am not a "hook-up" boy! I hate 'em. But, they happen, and so does crystal meth use. However, at least hooking up can be done safely, and "tina" can not...ugh....

    Posted by: Roy | Aug 9, 2005 12:11:26 PM

  4. I'm not demonizing sex here, just commenting on a relationship that can't help but be perceived walking down Eighth Avenue, whether it bears out in reality or not. I'm sure many will argue that online sex sites are breeding grounds for crystal use and unsafe sex while others take your perspective, which is also completely valid.

    Posted by: andy | Aug 9, 2005 12:12:02 PM

  5. Or maybe the booth advertising company are actually really clever and post things like this intentionally to instigate debate on the subject(s), much like what we're all doing right here. If they're that clever, they must be gay.

    Posted by: Cyparissus | Aug 9, 2005 12:53:49 PM

  6. Sorry Roy, but you're wrong. "Tina", like virtually every other drug used by mankind over the years, CAN be used safely and in moderation by many people, and has been for decades. Certainly there are others who suffer from overuse of amphetemines via physical or psychological addiction, just as there are many who drink or smoke or get stoned too much. But when people make absolute statements about the ill-effects of any drug, its scary 'cause it seems to indicate that they're falling for the hype, rather than evaluating the truth.

    Amphetamine addition is not pretty. But neither is lung cancer, alcoholism, morbid obesity or Christian conversativism. Society is makes rather random choices about what indulgences it criminalizes, often with little balancing of amount of relative damage they do. Vast resources are then gathered to engage in a propaganda war against ("meth mouth" "Reefer Madness") or for ("Absolut Propaganda" "the Marlboro man").

    We live in a society that loves to demonize (certain kinds) of drug use -- particularly when they can be associated with icky things like sex or homosexuality. Anti-drug hysteria sells magazines and keeps hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people employed in anti-drug operations and prisons.

    I'm not saying that you need to support drug use, but everyone needs to be aware that most of the information put out about drug use in this country has been produced as PERSUASIVE material -- not as factual reporting. Take a look at John Tierney's op-ed piece in today's NY Times ( for an interesting discussion in this regard of the so-called "meth crisis".

    Posted by: Scott | Aug 9, 2005 1:33:27 PM

  7. Sorry, Scott, but there is a huge difference between the effects of drugs like meth and heroin and the effects of drugs like alchohol and marjuana. There is a difference.
    Compare a pothead to a meth addict. Meth is much more addictive and physically dangerous. It is a fact.

    Posted by: brett | Aug 9, 2005 1:57:13 PM

  8. "Used moderately and safely"? This is the toxic shit you're putting in yr body:

    Q.  What ingredients are used to make meth?

    A.  Over-the-counter cold and asthma medications containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, red phosphorous, hydrochloric acid, drain cleaner, battery acid, lye, lantern fuel, and antifreeze are among the ingredients most commonly used.

    Posted by: Deschanel | Aug 9, 2005 2:03:46 PM

  9. Scott is right, to a point.

    You cannot pass judgment on meth users and then give compulsive sexual behavior a pass.

    Both are harmful and addictive. Some people can handle one or the other, or both, but most can't.

    "Using drugs is wrong not simply because drugs create medical problems; it is wrong because drugs destroy one's moral sense. People addicted to drugs neglect their duties." - Bill Bennett

    I'm not a Bennett fan, but he's right about this and the same applies to sex.

    Posted by: Mitch | Aug 9, 2005 2:10:43 PM

  10. Mitch Please don't quote Bill Bennett about addictions in light of his addiction to gambling

    Posted by: Donald | Aug 9, 2005 2:54:01 PM

  11. Donald, Bennett's personal failings doesn't make the statement any more or less true.

    Posted by: Mitch | Aug 9, 2005 3:00:10 PM

  12. On the contrary, I would think Bennett's particular addiction would give him keener insight, and make his statement on the general subject that much more authoritative.

    Some of the more ridiculous, idiotic and stupid statements I have ever heard on the subject of drug abuse came from people who, upon gentle questioning, admitted they in fact never used drugs themselves.

    Posted by: Cassius | Aug 9, 2005 3:02:48 PM

  13. Mitch that may be true but it is false moralizing coming from him.

    Posted by: Donald | Aug 9, 2005 3:07:11 PM

  14. People can use 'tina' safely?
    Sounds like someone who's taken too much 'tina.' Coz there's nothing safe about crystal meth.

    Or about compulsive anonymous sex.

    Or Bill Bennett.

    Or these days, walking through Chelsea on your way to a club, esp. if you're black.


    Posted by: Dave | Aug 9, 2005 3:18:12 PM

  15. It is completely unclear to me how someone can say that a drug that you mix/make/bake whatever in your kitchen (as if you actually know what your doing) can be used safely and in moderation. That crap rots your brain - period.

    Sorry, but that sounds like a HUGE rationalization for behavior you know is wrong and harmful. And for the record, I'd say the same about compulsive sexual behavior - gay or straight.

    Posted by: hoyaboy | Aug 9, 2005 3:25:13 PM

  16. I have a solution. Avoid Chelsea.

    Posted by: cafegogo | Aug 9, 2005 3:29:39 PM

  17. I agree with the Times' Op-ed piece to a point. I have always been a realist about drugs, and I cringe at the hypocrisy embedded in our society's view towards them. That said, to deny there is a meth crisis in our community is exactly that: denial. OK - crisis is way too dramatic a word, but whatever word you would like to replace it with, we are still referencing an alarming twist in the culture of our community. The two ads on the phone booth are about two facets of this community's culture that feed each other in a vicious cycle. Please note that I am trying not to make too-broad generalizations. In fact, referring to 'our community's culture' will no doubt fire up some defenses, because OF COURSE not everyone has used tina, or hooks up, or cruises on line. but those with minds truly open to discussions about these issues have to realistically deal with the synergy(?) between online hookups and tina. my take: tina makes people horny. it also makes people practical about finding sex in order to satisfy their sex crave. so: what's more practical than finding sex online? you put your best face/pix on, and hunt for exactly what you're in the mood for. the cruising sites have designed interfaces that are as addictive as video games if not more so, because they feed on desires that are super-heightened by the tina the users are smoking while they click away. again: not every tina user cruises online, and not every online cruiser is on drugs: but just from my own personal experience, more often than not, those looking for sex on line are being fueled by drugs. period. there's not really a way around that.
    i think propaganda of any sort, whether it's political or health-related, is in general ineffective to the audiences these ads are trying to reach. Everyone knows when they read propaganda that it's just that: propaganda. So the receptive part of their concsiences turns off and instead the viewer takes in the artwork/entertainment value. Not that all propaganda is wrong. Yes - people should be educated about what they are doing to themselves, but in a calm and factual way. Scaremongering is SO late 80s. This comment is way too long, so I'm stopping, but would be happy to continue a dialogue about these issues through email or whatever. peace.

    Posted by: Rami | Aug 9, 2005 3:39:31 PM

  18. Scott,

    Having personally witnessed Meth destroy the lives of many people around me, and turn formerly fun lving beauties into paranoid skeletors, I can say with no hesitation that you are wrong, and you need to get a fucking clue.

    The problem with meth is that when people first start using it, the use is not obvious to those around them. By the time it becomes visible, it is too late - the user is suffering from an addiction that robs the user of all self worth. Don't tell me otherwise, I've seen it.

    Now you may say that alcohol too can destroy lives, and that is true, but the speed and ruthlessness with which meth operates puts it in a class all by itself.

    Is it possible to use the drug and not become an addict...sure. It is also possible to get fucked up the ass by every whore in town and not cathc something. But is that somethign you would recommend? I hope not.

    Posted by: Lucky | Aug 9, 2005 3:48:15 PM

  19. Meth can be safe if used in moderation?

    *inserts over-used cliche about denial*

    Posted by: Mac Adkins | Aug 9, 2005 4:05:21 PM

  20. i'm not sure i like the word 'propaganda' in reference to this discussion. propaganda is political term, and what we are really dealing with here is salesmanship. one ad is selling the flesh industry, always a ripe market on 8th avenue, and the other is selling the current brand of non-profit scare-mongering and touchy-feely community activism. Make no mistake, though, both ads are designed for one purpose: making money. One gets it from you, the online slut, and the other gets it from the government, in the form of emergency grants to fight this 'epidemic'.

    does any of this negate the powerful and often debilitating effects of either of the services offered? Not at all. Just remember, if we're not buying it, they'll stop selling it.

    it's really that simple.

    Posted by: Aatom | Aug 9, 2005 4:19:19 PM

  21. Crystal meth is horrible. My ex couldnt pick which he wanted more, me or the meth. So I chose for him and showed him the door. Now his new partner has the same problem. Meth not only ruined him, but my trust of relationships. It hurts more than just the user.

    Posted by: Butch | Aug 9, 2005 4:38:39 PM

  22. I'm not advocating that anyone use meth. In fact, I don't use meth. What I'm advocating is HONESTY in discussions about meth or any other drug. Sometimes meth will kill you and/or ruin your life. Sometimes it won't (and, whether people like it or not there ARE people whose meth use is moderated and not ruining their lives, careers or relationships. Maybe they're dumb for taking the risk, but it's patently absurd to claim that meth is killing/ruining EVERYONE who uses it.)

    My point is that we can't possibly make proper decisions about how to handle issues about any drug as long as the debate is based on faux-panic about a "crisis" that's been declared for political or media reasons. One of the scariest things in this country is the willingness of its citizenry to be manipulated by fear -- giving up freedoms and abandoning meaningful public debate because someone "in charge" has said that there is a "crisis" that must be handled. The political right has mastered this technique. Sometimes a so-called "crisis" is really just a "problem" that will be best resolved by thoughtful investigation and discussion of the real facts involved. Racing to arrest 7-11 operators in Georgia for selling Sudaphed OTC isn't going to do anything to really help those with a meth problem, any more than sending Tommy Chong to prision for selling bongs slowed down the use of pot. It's just stupid ignorant American politics and it makes me crazy -- whether it's about meth, Iraq or homosexuality.

    Posted by: Scott | Aug 9, 2005 5:44:07 PM

  23. I love how there's a White Party ad in the column to the right of this conversation.

    Anybody going this year?

    Posted by: Mitch | Aug 9, 2005 6:19:28 PM

  24. Scott- I am not advocating panic, but it seems to me you are painfully unaware of the toll this drug is taking on not just us, but Americans in general.

    Personlly, I think the way to lessen the use of this drug is to attach shame to it. A few years ago it was glamourous to use "tina" - see it even has a cute name. Well I won't call it tina. And I'll point out to everyone who uses it that it is far from glamourous.

    What I certainly will not do is add to the problem by saying, well gee, some people use it with no problems at all! Because those people are far outweighed by those who are ruined, and the costs of this drug are too much to make light of it. So you should stop doing that.

    Not all drugs are equally bad/good. Some can be used without long term problems. Some can help people be creative or inspired.

    Meth isn't that drug.

    Posted by: Lucky | Aug 9, 2005 6:46:55 PM

  25. Remember the 90's? They started out so happy. the music was happy and people were smiling in the clubs because they were all high on ecstacy. Not so bad, right? Then GHB came along, and suddenly people were accidentally dropping dead in the clubs. GMHC had to permanently cancel the Fire Island Morning Party because of all the overdoses, losing their biggest fundraising event. Pretty soon GHB became socially unacceptable. You don't hear about it anymore, because everyone figured out that nobody needed to have quite that much fun. Anyone who still uses it is probably too embarrassed to tell anyone, and they should be. Then Crystal came to the east coast, and all the early morning club smiles turned to gritted teeth and bug eyes. I hope more people don't have to kill themselves before it becomes socially unacceptable as well. I think the tide has turned. More and more people are realizing that it is not worth the risk. Nobody who has seen a friend struggle with addiction would ever say that it can be used safely. It is a powerful and destructive substance, emotionally and physically. For a supposedly social drug it is incredibly anti-social and isolating. Have you ever seen someone at the end of a few days of crystal meth bingeing? It's frightening. Sure, some people can use it and walk away, but some can't. But that's the way it is with most drugs. They can be a fun party, or an endless nightmare depending on who you are and whether you have educated yourself about what you are doing.

    Posted by: aaron | Aug 9, 2005 7:37:28 PM

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