I met him on a Saturday night at Ty's a few years ago.
He was tall; quite a few inches more than me. Now I'm normally not much interested in people taller than me. I don't like looking up. He was nice looking, just a regular guy, but he had a killer smile, which he turned on me like a klieg light.
"I'm talking to you because you're the most handsome man in this bar", he said, with a wolfish grin.
Oh, jeez, I thought. That old chestnut. I tossed him back one of my own.
"I bet you say that to every guy you meet".
In fact I learned later that he did exactly that. That he had learned that flattery would disarm a person long enough to drop their guard and talk with him. I was to prove no exception.
So we talked. He was new in town that winter, having just re-located from San Francisco. He was flying back and forth, setting up his dot-com PR firm here in New York. He wanted a chance to play in the major leagues, he said. He pumped me for information, all the while flirting outrageously. What did guys like me do for fun around here? Where did we hang out? So...I obliged and filled him in as best I could. I told him that we all tended to assemble at around 5 or so on a Sunday afternoon at the Dugout. That it he'd find people much better looking than me to work that line on. He asked about various neighborhoods and such. In the course of our first meeting, many friends came up, drawn to his animated features and begged introductions. I explained my situation with Tim, got a big kiss anyway. I knew he'd fit in just fine. When Tim collected me to go home, Mark said:
"I owe you dinner. Do you like Nobu?"
Well, in point of fact, I can take it or leave it, but I said yes, and we exchanged cards. I knew I'd probably never see him again.
The following night I was in the coat check line at the Dugout. Remember how insanely crowded that bar used to be at 5:30 on a Sunday? It was moving slowly and I was impatient. Suddenly I felt someone rubbing against my butt. I turned around and it was Mark, right on schedule. I showed him around and made a few introductions. Mark worked the room like a pro, grinning like a madman, introducing himself and buying many shots for any takers. He had a small fan club swarming around him. I was sure he would do fine. A friend and I watched him in amazement.
He came over at the end of the evening and thanked me.
"I owe you dinner".
"I know" I said, "Nobu".
There was the time Mark had one of our more psychotic bears pinned against the bar, and was moving in for the kill. Tim caught my eye from behind the bar and bit his lip. This looked like trouble brewing. I shook my head. Tim grabbed a Sharpie and a cocktail napkin. He jotted something down on it and held it up behind psycho-bear's head so Mark could read it. Mark laughed and broke up the clinch, and moved on. I walked over and asked to see the note. Tim had written "FLEE!!!"
Mark came over after and said "I owe you dinner; both of you!".
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
The last time I saw Mark he snuck up behind my and stuck his hand down the back of my jeans. If you know me, you know this doesn't happen all that often. I jumped sky-high. He just laughed. While he played with my butt, I ventured to ask him about the famous dinner. We both laughed. Business was kind of shaky, I knew. Dot-coms were dropping like flies...the boom was over. He was going back to San Francisco in a couple of days to hustle up what business he could find.
The last time I saw Mark was on TV. September 12th, 2001. His mom, Alice was talking about him and all the other men Flight 93, and there was a picture of Mark in his baseball cap, flashing that lunatic grin.
I'm thinking Tim and I are going to finally have that dinner this week. He owes us. We'll drink to him.