Thursday, October 27, 2005

Birthday Bar Crawl

If I had enough sense, I'd be afraid.

Tim and M. are planning a birthday bar crawl through Hell's Kitchen and it's environs this Saturday night. I'm not quite sure what that will entail, but I've heard the words Posh, Siberia and Therapy bandied about.

I'm definitely having three, count 'em, three Martinis before and during dinner. And perhaps a glass of well aged port with dessert.

Sunday looks like it's gonna be painful.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

This Bird Has Flown

October hasn't been the kindest month, so far.

Our close family friend, Alice, passed away last Thursday morning. While we knew she was quite ill, no one was prepared for the speed of her demise. Within 24 hours we were all numb and grieving, standing in a field in some Long Island town that seemed entirely composed of cemeteries, saying a few kind words and shoveling dirt on the plain pine box she asked to be buried in. I think she would have been mightily amused by the half dozen blue jays that came swooping down on that gray morning, making a huge racket and careening madly from tree to tree above us. Alice was always one to fly in the face of social conventions.

She had no children of her own, and frankly, I don't think she cared much for them. She was the least maternal person I knew as a child, and always treated me as a small, backward, somewhat addled adult. We cultivated a relationship many years later. But she truly was a cross between the Pied Piper and Mame Dennis to my Mom. She liberated her from her staid, religious family background, and showed her an extremely different way of living. They were inseparable for over 40 years.

On her last day, the nurse asked Alice if there was anything she wanted, to which Alice whispered out of the corner of her mouth:

"Yeah, I want to go dancing."

That night Tim and I drank several cocktails in her honor and listened to Peggy Lee, who Alice resembled a bit at times.

The weekend seemed pretty much a blur. I can't really remember many details from Saturday. It was just nice to be quiet with Tim.

Sunday, the weather cooled. You could definitely sense the changing of the season. I had a change in Sunday plans, as well.

Yup, I went to the Eagle.

Of course, I went way too early.

I drank a lot of beer in a very short time.

It did not calm my nervous demeanor.

I had that new-kid-in-town feeling, but not in a good, fresh meat sort of way.

I got to watch a group of guys play pool.

I listened to some old classics I haven't heard since we danced at 12West in 1979. (For you disco aficionados, the highlight was "Hold Your Horses" by First Choice and I just checked the LP for the date, Joe.)

I talked to the bartenders briefly, and even got a buy-back.

I watched a previous year's Mr. Eagle remove his framed picture from a display over the pool table, exchange the current 8 x 10 glossy photograph for one featuring a different pose, and re-hang it.

I ran into a couple of people I knew who promptly asked me if Tim and I had split up. When I told them we hadn't they moved on.

I took a leak twice and each time had to chase off the same ancient piss troll.

I removed some awful little queen's hand from my chest, after he'd grabbed me 3 or 4 times. I didn't feel the need to explain that you generally have to buy me a beer, or a least exchange a word or two with me before I'll allow that liberty.

I drank more beer.

I hopped in a taxi just as the place was filling up and heading downtown to pick Tim up after his bar shift.

Did I have fun? Hmmm. Hard to say.

Would I do it again?

Probably.

Why?

Not sure.

Finally, Saturday's my birthday. I've never been big on large birthday celebrations. Tim and M. are taking me to Keen's Chop House (yes, I know they changed it to Steak House a few years ago, but I'm not ready to adjust quite yet) for some serious drinks and a serious slab of meat. If you know me at all, you already know what I'm ordering. And if you see me out afterwards, I'll be accepting sloppy birthday kisses all night and what the hell, all the way through Sunday evening.

I mean, after all, how often does a fella turn 51?

Monday, October 24, 2005

Wrong

So I guess I was wrong.

The kids in my neighborhood are apparently snatching up the violently striped and vigorously appliqued faux rugby gear that Mr. Lauren is selling on the site of an old antique store at University and 12th Streets. I've witnessed this inexplicable fashion parade on the subway, and trying to maneuver my way through the Union Square area. The other Rugby stores are in Boston, Chapel Hill and Charlottesville. I seem to have forgotten that I too live on a college campus. I dunno, when I was in school, either kids had a lot less money to burn, or we were just a hell of a lot more creative, not swallowing some designer's retro-revisionist viewpoint whole hog.

Speaking of Union Square, is it safe to say that one senses the possibilities of imminent spontaneous combustion on any given weekend? Tim and I generally have to leave 14th Street around University Place to avoid the plague of youthful shopping zombies.

My final straw was turning on my TV only to see a bunch of most attractive young models jumping around in all sorts of stars-and-stripes bedecked Tommy Hilfiger outfits to the tune of Jefferson Airplane's "Volunteers". It's way too late to start complaining about the mass marketing of the cultural touchstones of my youth. Surely, I'm not the only one who has cringed upon hearing The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" or the Kinks "Picture Book" used to sell cars and computer peripherals. I understand the need to target audiences and the how to utilize the nostalgia for one's youth in the name of commerce. But come on....50 year olds are not buying Tommy Hilfiger, and their children clearly aren't all that interested in revolution.

Maybe they just like the guitar chords.

I wonder what sort of advertising will be geared to these kids in 30 years.

Monday, October 17, 2005

da Barge

After working late Friday night, I grabbed my briefcase from the jobsite and joined in what hundreds of thousands of people do every day.

I commuted.

Now, as a Manhattanite, I can walk to and from work, should I so choose. Or I can ride the IRT a total of one stop. This is emphatically not a commute. When my company re-locates to the Chelsea/Meatpacking District in a few months, I'll practically be able to crawl there.

However, when I was done installing private offices for wealthy people on Madison Avenue and 61st Street, I hopped on the W train to 34th Street, and grabbed the PATH train out to Journal Square to see Tim. It took less than 40 minutes, all told. I didn't even get a chance to finish reading the Times. And I had the opportunity to open Tim's front door and announce:

Hi, Honey, I'm home!!

Tim did his best, and served me a Martini and listened to me complain about my day. How married are we?

Saturday morning I awoke in shock. No grey skies. It was bright out! The sun was actually shining after what seemed a month of rain. I've never been as wet as I'd been in the past few days. One morning I came to work completely drenched, having encountered torrential downpours leaving my house, and again leaving Grand Central Terminal. I actually poured water from my shoes. Even my butt was soaked clear through. Not an especially nice sensation. My apartment, normally not the most weather-tight, was like a damp sponge. And water was leaking down my chimney into a bucket I put in the hearth to catch the drips. What a mess.

We had minor errands to run, but mostly relaxed on Saturday, in anticipation of the party we were attending that evening.

Tim and I wandered through Chelsea that night looking for a suitable place to have an easy dinner, pre-party. We passed RUB (Righteous Urban Barbecue) on 23rd Street, and as it has been highly praised by some A-list bear/bloggers (you know I'm joking on both scores) we thought we'd try it. Well, it was an adventure. It took all my willpower not to stalk out of the restaurant after the first ten minutes. Suffice to say, if I brought any folks I know from Weldon, or Conway or Mufreesboro, North Carolina to RUB, and fed them the Pulled Pork, they would laugh long and loud. Even folks from Rocky Mount and Roanoke Rapids would have a good chuckle at the ridiculous imitation of barbecue this dump serves. If you're desperate or don't know any better, try it. Otherwise....go back to Virgil's or where ever you've been getting your NYC pseudo-barbecue fix. A must to avoid.

Oh, and if you see a little dark haired waiter who can't seem to lift his eyes off the floor as if he's looking for small change, trip him. He sucks.

Our friend Gregg threw himself a stupendous blowout to celebrate his impending 40th birthday. He rented the Lackawanna Railroad Barge, which is moored in the Hudson River at 24th Street and invited a large group of family, friends and an assortment of bear-ish types of all ages. Strangely enough, we all got along. I think that might have had something to do with the open bar which lasted from 9:00 to 1:00 AM. Gregg hand picked the music, and eventually the floor was full of drunken men, shaking their asses. Entertainment was provided all evening by Scotty The Big Blue Bunny, The Pontani Sisters and Tyler Fyre. Among the bears were Gregg, Greg, Mike, Ted, Eric, Erik, Frank, Mark, Mark, Mark and Gustavo. You'd think some of our parents would have had more imagination.

Apparently, Ted has nicknamed me Super Daddy, and all through the evening people were calling me that. When Gregg's sister and cousin both came over and asked if I was Super Daddy, I knew the name was going to stick. I can live with that. It's a whole lot better than other things I've been called in my life.

I really enjoyed Tyler Fyre and his fire-eating, sword-swallowing act. I did have to turn away when he brought out the power drill. It seemed he gave me the once over and some positive eye-contact when he left the stage, which everyone apparently happened to have caught and commented on. Tim suggested that kissing him might be a bit dicey, considering all that kerosene, or whatever it is he ingests and blows sky high. I was mostly thinking about the sword-swallowing aspects.

I drank copious amounts of Maker's Mark, and then switched to Red Stripe. We all were pretty well lubricated. Making out ensued for some of us.

The party was a huge success!

Tim and I headed over to the Eagle for a nightcap and then poured ourselves into bed.

Sunday, I hit the gym, then headed over to the Dugout to meet up with this man again, and have a beer with him. After he left my evening went speedily down hill. The less said about it the better. I spent a little more than an hour walking around the far West Village, visiting former sites of my youthful glory and fuming. No, Tim and I are not fighting. I was, however, STEAMED.

The bottom line is this: don't be surprised if you see me at some other Beer Blast next Sunday. You New York boys know the one. If you see Super Daddy standing alone in a dark corner, be sure to say hey! I'll be needing all the moral support I can get.

I don't want to have sex with you

Apparently, children are wandering the Castro section of San Francisco handing out little printed cards that say:

"I don't want to have sex with you. I just wanted to say hi!"

Though the thought behind it is lovely, inclusive and not judgmental, the possibilities of mis-use are endless. Not to mention the troll potential.

One can only imagine the floor of, say, the Edge, littered with dozens of ripped, torn and tossed away cards.

That being said, I still like the idea of acknowledging each other, even if we're not going to jump each other's bones in the immediate future.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Autumn in New York

Thank Christ the weather's changed.

After what seemed like the longest summer ever, cool temperatures have prevailed. I'm a Spring/Fall kind of guy. I'm not fond of the our more extreme seasons. Summer I can deal with, but I can't stand snow. It depresses me. Not enough to make me move to Florida, however.

Friday night I sat sweating in Tim's apartment. The humidity was brutal. After a couple of Martinis I asked Tim to play Jo Stafford's Autumn in New York, hoping that would conjure up a cooler climate. It helped a bit, and Tim, getting into the spirit of things, then played Jo's Ski Trails album. I guess between Tim, Jo and myself, we were able to effect the change. Today is glorious and gray.

Saturday night we had dinner with Tim's friends Richard and Howard. Both are retired gentlemen. Richard had booked a 7:30 table for the closing night of Casa di Pre on 12th Street. This seemed perilously close to an early-bird special to me. I haven't had dinner on a Saturday night at that hour since I was a child. Casa did not disappoint. The food and service was as mediocre as ever. No, actually the service was worse. I actually suggested stiffing the waiter, since we would clearly never have the opportunity to return, but instead overtipped as usual. The owner, Susie, kept grabbing my hand and bursting into tears. They've received an offer the could not refuse for the restaurant lease. It's a prime location, on the cusp between the newly glamorous West Village and the Meatpacking district. The new proprietors are planning a Scandinavian restaurant. It was gratifying to see all the various factions who regular dined there turn out there for the finale. The Franciscan fathers and the Fratti, the Episcopal priests, the retired leather men, the ancient withered woman with inch long russet eyelashes, and eyeshadow to match.

The Village is changing at an alarming pace. It seems like just last year that people were complaining about the riff-raff on the streets, and the tawdry shops that were cleared out of Times Square and into more residential neighborhoods. Now it seems like we're standing in the way of progress and re-gentrification. One wonders how long the old Christopher Street establishments like Ty's and even the Dugout will remain before somebody buys their leases out to open yet another Ralph Lauren shop.

Has anyone visited the Ralph Lauren Rugby boutique on University Place? I can't quite get a handle on it. Just who are those clothes for? The store is a jumble of English school boy clothes and rugby gear guaranteed not to be worn on any playing field, all awash in labels and appliques and embroideries featuring some combination of RL's monogram, or a skull and crossbones motif. And all cut too small for your average rugger.

Speaking of which, after dinner Tim and I slogged through the teeming rain over to Gym. It was fairly early, and the bar had a fairly dense crowd already. There were several ball games and a wrestling match competing for the patron's attentions. I found it over-stimulating. Frankly, I can't give it away in this bar. Tim and I stayed for a drink and walked back out in the rain. As luck would have it, we caught a cab and headed over to the Phoenix for a night cap.

I like the Phoenix. I enjoy the fact that it's a sort of bar-with-training-wheels. Like the Ninth Circle was for me. Young people of all ages can come and learn how to mix and mingle and throw back cocktails safely here, before heading out into the big scary gay world. I like Jim, the bartender. I like the educational jukebox; a primer in obscurity. Tim is always popular here, but this is another space I can't give it away in. Unless they're just timid rabbits and I frighten the bejesus out of them. It's been known to happen. Anyway, as we stood there drinking and drying off, more and more people we knew appeared. Greg and Michael, Bryce, Eric and Mike. Jim, who up until quite recently was in a band with Bryce called The Isotoners, was completely confused. My worlds are colliding, he wailed. He knows us a friendly neighbors, and couldn't imagine how we all knew each other. I had to explain the genesis of our inter-relations, not an easy task when you're drinking bourbon. Suffice to say everybody drank way too much, and rampant hugging ensued.

Yesterday, I hit the gym for the first time in a week. I hate slacking off like this, but I've had no choice, due to my work schedule. People are just going have to deal with a fatter Mark. Tough. I headed to the Dugout in the afternoon and was pleased to see that Tim had installed the lightbulbs I've purchased. It's been really grim in there all summer. No one was bothering to replace light bulbs as they burned out. Eventually, the entire bar was basically illuminated by the light of the jukebox. And with the new digital internet jukebox, we were dependent on the light from the screen. So I bought of slew of pink and amber spotlights and Tim screwed them in. Few things are more flattering to gentlemen of a certain age than rosy lighting. The bar was pretty crowded, though the mix was odd, skewed more towards Metrobears and leather for some reason. I had an alright time.

Thanks to all who have dropped by recently. I know I've had no end of bad news lately, and there's certainly been enough black crepe tossed around here to open a Brunschwig et Fils outlet. I'll try to intersperse the bleaker blogs with the bar crawl entries.

Speaking of crawls, any interesting ideas as to where two middle aged guys can hang for a couple of hours and throw back some beers on a Saturday night? All suggestions are appreciated.

Monday, October 03, 2005

These Are Days

Well, the past several days have been a hell of a run, and most of it really wasn't hasn't been blog-friendly.

Meral, my co-worker, is going through an incredibly awful time. Both of her parents are gravely ill. Mom is in Canada, and Dad's out in Brooklyn. For the past year, she's been dividing her time, running between the two of them. However, Mom has taken a marked turn for the worst, and Meral flew off a week ago to be with her. We have LOTS of installations going on right now, and I'm doing them alone. I can deal, and god knows, the occasional Valium works wonders. Its just stressful, and I feel terrible for the ordeal that Meral is going through.

My favorite non-related relative, Alice, went to the doctor this week and had bad news as well.

Alice and my Mom started outy as working girls together in the early 60's. They were part of a secretarial pool at a company located on Fifth Avenue and 43rd Street. Once a year, my sister and I were dressed up and taken by my Mom to her office, where we sat in a conference room, bored out of our minds until it was time to visit Stern's Department Store to see Christmas Village, around the corner on 42nd Street. As little Jewish kids, we were reminded that, no, we could not see Santa, speak with elves or receive a gift. We were there to just admire all the pretty lights, and the twirling cut outs of figure skaters cavorting on fake snow and glitter.

Years later, I discovered that Alice and my Mom kept a bottle of Jack Daniels in their desk drawer, and would enjoy a nice mid-afternoon (or even late morning) snort. They ran around Manhattan when ever Mom could pawn us off on my grandmother for the night, or ship us off to summer camp. A memorable story involves one or both of them throwing up pure bourbon on the old Women's House of Detention at 6th Avenue and 9th Street. I believe they switched to Dewar's sometime around then. Something about Bourbon not being a summer drink, I believe.

The girls became fast friends, and I came to call Alice Tante, which is German for Aunt. I still call her that.

Alice loved to cook, and along the way, introduced this kosher kid to the Raw Bar at Lundy's in Sheepshead Bay, as well as the varied glories of the international cuisine of the day, featuring myriad forbidden combinations of meat and dairy. I was a happy, satisfied boy.

Alice lived and still lives in Manhattan, and seemed an impossibly glamorous figure to me. Her husband, Sy, was in the music business, management and money matters, mostly. Due to an early partnership with Sid Bernstein, Sy's office became the go-to address for all the thousands of young girls looking to purchase tickets to see the Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1965. Alice, Mom and my sister spent most weekends that year opening envelopes, collecting checks and sending out tickets. Yes, Alice and Mom were on the field at Shea, screaming along with the rest of the teenagers. My sister and I had been shipped off to summer camp, of course. The girls needed their space.

However, en famille we did get to see the Rascals, Cream, The Who, The Staple Singers, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Sarah Vaughn, Liza Minelli, Pearl Bailey, Peter Allen, The Critters, The Vagrants and even a band I seem to recall as The Fuzzy Bunnies. Usually these concerts were preceded by dinners at long gone Manhattan establishments: The House of Chan, Les Champs, Dan Stampler's Steak Joint, or Peter's Backyard. Alice would always order ginger-ale cocktails "for the children", and when they arrived and the waiter had left, pour a substantial splash of bourbon in each one. I realize now that it was most likely an attempt to quiet down a rambunctious 10 year old, but it seemed really sophisticated at the time.

In point of fact, Alice basically taught me how to drink, curse and eat well. I never did pick up the smoking habit, but I can do the other three with elan and eclat!

Of course, Mom is not dealing well with the news. Alice has been her running partner for 40 years. We're a pretty unconventional family. I've always wondered how this scene would play out. It remains to be seen.