The editors over at New York Magazine apparently removed their collective heads from whatever holes they've been hiding them in and published this article this week. Oh, it's maybe 5 years too late as far as the scene goes, and definitely 10 to 15 years since this was a spankin' new concept to be reckoned with.
I do, however, like the fact that the writer refers to Sundays at the Dugout as "beery, sweaty, like a frat party gone on way too long in some cases, at least judging by the bushy gray facial hair in the dank room, for decades".
I do hope he's not referring to me when he mentions bushy gray facial hair. My beard is well trimmed weekly, thank you.
I showed up at the Dugout pretty innocently one autumnal Sunday afternoon back in 1993. My relationship with Robert had deteriorated completely by that time and would soon collapse. I was seeing a gentleman on side who had the misfortune of falling in love with me just as I was in the process of ending what ultimately was a 19 year relationship. I was in no possible way ready tocommitt myself to anyone at that point, but it was fun to have a drinking buddy who could show me around. I hadn't been out and about in a decade or more, and he was more than willing to cart me over to the Spike and Eagle, or hang out at Ty's or Chelsea Transfer. Even dives like the Barbary Coast were fair game. This particular Sunday was a superlative example of New York in late September. We had wandered down 5th Avenue, through a book fair, and somehow landed down on Christopher Street. My friend suggested we head down to the Dugout for a couple of beers.
Now, years ago, we used to hang out on the Morton Street Pier on Saturday and Sundays, then congregate at Keller's for beers as the sun went down over the river. New York was much more of a raw town back then. No one really cared that a bunch of gay men with moustaches and beards were hanging out on the street, drinking beer, hugging and laughing right back at the straight people who were forced to drive by the bar due to the collapse of the West Side Highway. We'd wander back and forth across Christopher Street, dropping in at Badlands and the Ramrod, carrying our beer cans with us.
When my friend and I arrived at the Dugout, I was surprised to see Weehawken Street completely closed off, and about 200 nice looking regular guys hanging out, drinking and smoking. We had a beer, possibly two, when I noticed my friend looking positively green. He wasn't feeling well and wanted to go home, so I walked him up the block to the PATH station, said good night, turned around and headed right back to the bar.
Now, at that time I was pretty shy, and after procuring a brew headed out to the street. I found myself a spot leaning up against a tree on the opposite side of the street; the perfect vantage point. I knew no one. I lit the cigar I had in my pocket and watched the crowd. Like I said, regular guys. Not the overly tanned, vaguely sissified muscle boys who were just beginning to show up on the scene and soon dominate it, but the kind of guys you went to school with, or worked with, or checked out on the train. I liked what I saw.
As the sun went down, and the sky grew dark, the crowd thinned out and a general clean-up was announced. People started leaving, which saddened me. I ground out the cigar, and finished my beer. I had just tossed the cup in the trash and was turning to leave when a big, handsome, well-built kid bellowed:
right in my face, startling me. I gave him a quick once-over, and smiled inwardly. We talked and he offered to drive me to my apartment across town where Robert was waiting for me.
We started dating the next night.
But that's a story for another time.
I'm glad the Dugout's still going on. It's definitely not what it was a few years ago, when it was THE Sunday party to be at. The glamourpusses have moved on. At one point the bar was full of fashion designers to the stars, art bears both major and minor, corporate warriors, VH1 shills and other TV talking heads, and an assortment of handsome guys from all over the country came to hang out. The scene has moved on, but Sunday's still going on in an abbreviated fashion. The famous cliques...you know, the boys who hung out by the pool table and the guys who staked out the juke box, have moved on. New recruits keep showing up, however.
Andrew, the late manager, Tim and I always felt that the evening should be just like a floor party at your dorm, back in school. Loud music, too much beer and too many shots, and all kinds of fooling around in the corners. A little messy, but a whole lot of fun.
You know, I haven't even addressed the bear issue. I guess there's going to be a second part to this.