Monday, June 20, 2005

Folsom......East

Yeah, I went too.

So is leather over or what? I don't mean as a fashion accoutrement, or winter weather wear. It just seems like something left over from the Middle Ages, like drag queens. Oops. I know, shriek and yell, but both communities, such as they are, seemed based on archaic and arcane codes and philosophies. And strangely, or actually not so strangely, both are rather intertwined. In fact, one of our oldest leather purveyors is for all intents and purposes an Imperial Court hotbed!

I corralled M. into going with me. It being Sunday, Tim had to work. After tending our donations, we walked past the many booths set up to hawk the various wares one finds at these street fairs, leather goods, poppers, dildos and porn. The many ancillary organizations also had representatives, though the only ones I recognized were the Metrobears. This area was strangely underpopulated. Some people here and there, but the majority of the attendees headed straight for the Eagle and spent the afternoon getting pleasantly wasted. I have to admit I joined them.

It was fun to see some old friends, make a few new ones (thanks and a tip of the hat to both Joe & Guido for separately giving my libido a general kick in the ass) and watch the circus in front of me. I stayed a few hours, drank a few beers and generally enjoyed the hell out of it. There were the usual Eagle cliques including scary older leather men who should be re-evaluating their look as we speak and young'uns who can't be bothered to pay attention to anyone else but their little friends and can't stop posing for pictures. What is that? If it's not photographed it didn't happen? I never saw so many people taking pictures of themselves. Lots and lots of regular guys, though. No end of significant eye contact.

I wish Tim had been there with me. This is the 9th Folsom event, and he was at the first one only. I went down to the Dugout after a while, which is traditionally dismal during Folsom. His business was way off. Next week should make up for it though. Pride is insane down there. Then we'll head off to New Hope for a few days of heavy drinking,trouble making and general meeting and greeting.

Can't wait!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Pride (In The Name of Love)

Stashed somewhere in my apartment is an issue of David magazine, dated August 1973. It's really not much more than a glorified national bar rag, a prehistoric version of HX. In fact the ratio of drag queens to naked boys was pretty much the same then as it is today.

On page 19 there's a half-page photograph of the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade Rally in Washington Square Park. Yes, children, that's what it was called way back then. A march down Sixth Avenue, and a rally in the park, attended by oh, several hundred. A beautiful warm and sunny June day. The photographer is shooting from the elevated make-shift stage, capturing a panoramic view of the large crowd of attendees enjoying the speakers and entertainment. Sprawled against the police barricades up front are a rather inelegant group of revelers, set slightly apart and thereby in relief from the rest of the mostly young, mostly long-haired throng. They've been caught in mid-cheer!

There's William, my very first boyfriend, standing a little apart from the group, looking bemused and skeptical. He's not sure the libertarian sentiment of the day meshes with the conservative rhetoric he usually spouts. There's Peter, the very first human being I came out to, the bright sunlight illuminating his halo of red curls. There's Liz & Eileen, great and good friends from high school who took me to my very first gay bar, and Miles, who I was crushing on real bad for a while back then. I even wrote a song about him. You'll never hear it. Oh yeah, his boyfriend is sitting on the barricades. I forget his name.

In the center of this group is me: tall and thin with aviator glasses, a fu manchu-type horseshoe- shaped moustache extending to my chin and black curly hair. I'm wearing a western shirt and my arms are straight up over my head applauding.

I have no idea who was on stage at the time the pic was snapped, but I do remember that it WAS a show. The stars of our small orbit, Alaina Reed, Sally Eaton, Steven Grossman and Miss Bette Midler competed with warring drag queens and militant lesbians for stage time.

My first celebration of Gay Pride and Liberation.

I marched the next year with Bobby, my second boyfriend. That year we marched up Sixth Avenue to rally in Central Park. The following year I marched solo, but made out in a summer storm with Gary, whom I met at the rally. I remember licking the rain off his teeth. Funny how some details never fade. The next several years fade into a blur, and then I have no recollection of parades or rallies. Robert and I would spend late Saturday night deep into Sunday morning at Flamingo, 12West and later The Saint, and would be too wasted from the weekly ritual to partake in the yearly ritual.

Flash forward several years...a much less happy time. I'm completely cut off from anything that resembles a gay community, as such. My friends are either in the process of dying or have just up and done it. And I'm feeling the need to re-connect. With anything. In fact, I mentioned this to the woman I worked for at that time. Who told me it wouldn't be good for our business for me to attend the parade, and besides, people like us didn't associate with that riff-raff. Or words to that effect. Needless to say, that Sunday I was down at the corner of 12th and 5th Avenue, and watched the parade from start to finish. I stood, covered with goosebumps during the minute of silence, and gasped, moved to tears, by the cheers that immediately followed. The young Act-Up boys and girls were tremendous; just what my anger needed. Was that the year they lay down in the street at various times throughout the parade route to dramatize our impending deaths? Perhaps their courage planted a seed in me to seek my own freedom again.

I went back to the parade, either by myself or with new-found, hard-gained friends in later years. Of course Tim and I went for a few years, and had the best time of all. We used to marvel at the recurrent themes: hideous Hispanic drag queens, topless lesbians in wheel chairs, muscle boys in ice cream colored wigs.

But Tim's been working the bar on Sundays for the past several years. And it's PRIDE now. On Christopher Street! Big business. It used to be his best day of the year, even if the work was grueling, and the bar never seemed prepared for the hordes of humanity that would descend, post-parade on the foot of Christopher Street and the river. He still does pretty well, but there are other, more popular bars now, and at least he's out of there at a decent enough hour.

So Pride has become an excuse for me to spend the day at the gym, or clean out my kitchen cupboards, or mope at home. I won't go down to the Dugout, it's just too insane, and I hate to see Tim so stressed. Valium only helps so far.

I think this year, I just might have to haul my butt down to Fifth Avenue, to be reminded how, yet again, everything changes and nothing does. It's my new leitmotif. It's so reassuring.

Anybody wanna join me?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

My City Was Gone

Tim and I had the walkin' jones this past weekend.

Not as bad as that time in Philadelphia when I dragged him on foot from South Street to the Museum of Art. He's never let me live that down. Some cities are made for walking. Like San Francisco, where just a couple of weeks ago we walked from the Castro down Market all the way to the old Mint (not that scary building looming over the Safeway) and then back up to the Eagle. Boy, did that first beer taste good! Even Provincetown is good for a decent hike on Commercial Street all the way back to Route 6.

New York is one of the great walking towns. We hit the both upper East & West sides this weekend, areas we rarely seem to travel to check out what was going on in the silk stocking and cotton sock districts.

This city is changing again. Perhaps we've lived through a long stagnant period without major architectural developments. New York has undergone building booms before. The 60's and 80's were rife with demolition of staid old landmarks, to be replaced by a multitude of spanking new towers, gleaming and otherwise. Most of this occurred in neighborhoods we didn't generally frequent, as a rule. But as more and more money is invested in this small island, all areas are fair game for development. Witness the mutation of Times Square from it's 100 year tradition as flesh purveyor to Disneyland manque.

I've lived in Manhattan since 1975. Prior to that, I was in school here from 1969 on. I've seen a whole lot of changes in 36 years. Often in my mind's eye, I will picture some locale, only to realize I'm imagining it as it was 20 years ago. After the plague years, it seemed to me that the city was a ghost town, haunted by spirits and times departed and gone. I've seen neighborhoods change and cultures vanish wholesale, all in the name of progress and profit. Consider this an elegy for the East Village, the Lower East Side, The Meatpacking District, even Chelsea. I've seen the Brooklyn I fled from decades ago become the hippest place on earth. Go figure! I'm currently watching our ancient stomping grounds, Christopher Street and it's environs beset by conquering hordes of heterosexuals, claiming it as their own, while the last few gay businesses hang on by their proverbial fingernails, press-on or otherwise. A hike through Hell's Kitchen is revealing many of the same signs of impending mall-dom.

I'd say I'm not a curmudgeon, or even a luddite, but that's just a downright lie. Things change. I generally don't like when they do. Lots and lots of people are just thrilled by the prospect of hundreds of new and oh-so-exciting clubs and restaurants and clever little shops in places where small businesses flourished and folks led quiet lives. Every generation gets the opportunity to look down it's nose at the ones that came before. Its a god-given right of passage. The neat thing is that there's yet another generation of young'uns breathing down their back as well. As Stephin Merritt says: "You think your youth a permanent truth". Ha.

I guess the real reason for this typically all-over-the-lot semi-rave is the fact that within a block and a half of my home, they're tearing down a 150 year old church and a 103 year old movie house. To be replaced by luxury condos and who knows, a new entrance to the NYU dorms, respectively. Both were amazing structures that lent this neighborhood much of its interest, if not charm. Newcomers will now have the benefit of living here minus the very things that made the area interesting.

New York was our abandoned playground; we were able to romp among the unpatrolled ruins of a great shadowy metropolis, all but ignored. Now its a corporate theme park.

Tim and I will just have to keep on walking.