Monday, November 28, 2005

Is That All There Is?

Man, I needed it bad.

After all the sturm und drang of the past couple of months, a few days of peace and quiet were definitely in order.

I headed out to Tim's on Wednesday night, completely exhausted from a 5 day week compressed into a truncated 3 day version. I was happy to just get to his house and collapse into a cocktail or two. Tim has amassed an extensive collection of holiday music, which we both enjoy listening to. The collection is boundless, and ranges from stark Mexican chorales to sultry 40's sirens to Wall of Sound madness. I tend to like the fact that the best Christmas songs were written by Jews, who seem to be able to capture the poignant longing and underlying sadness this time of year brings. I've also learned exactly where Brian Wilson got the idea for that railroad train that crosses your speakers at the end of Pet Sounds. Imagine discovering that same freight train effect on Fred Waring's Caroling, Caroling, released almost many years prior. Mr. Wilson apparently enjoyed his Christmas music along with the Four Freshmen and George Gershwin. But I digress...

After dinner Tim, ever the tradtionalist, served me cider and doughnuts as I slowly passed out on the sofa.

We slept in the next morning, waking at our leisure and watching the parade as we had our coffee. Yep, Broadway looks pretty DOA this season, judging by some of the numbers staged. Tim spoke with his brother and one of his sisters. His oldest sister had managed to get a serious case of food poisoning at a local Friendly's and had been hospitalized. What's with Friendly's, anyway? I remember eating at the one in Great Barrington, MA regularly in the 70's and it was fine, but the two times Tim and I have stopped at one on our way to or from Provincetown have been dreadful.

Because of the events of the past month, we'd chosen to spend Thursday with my family. Normally, Tim and I have dinner with a group of friends at Keen's. I told you I was a creature of deep and abiding habit. However, this year we decided to accept my sister's invitation to have us all over: Tim and I, my sister and her husband, my Mom and the late Alice's husband, Sy. It was a very mellow day. My sister really went all out, and we ate like kings. Tim made an apple pie, one of many desserts. I was stuffed. My sister and I managed to polish off 2/3's of a bottle of vodka between us while cooking and had some good laughs.

After dinner, we walked from her apartment on 35th Street up to 58th Street and had a couple of drinks at the Townhouse. Again, very low key. We were home and in bed by 11:30.

Friday we ran around Chelsea taking care of various errands. We're invited to a tree-trimming party next week and needed to pick up some ornaments. I needed some new stemware, and both of us decided it was time for reading glasses. I can no longer read the liner notes on CD's. We bounced around Chelsea, hitting the big vendors like Bed, Bath & Beyond, The Package Store and Barnes & Noble. We said hi to Santa at ABC. I think we know him from the bars. In spite of all the clamor about Black Friday and retail madness, I found most of these stores pretty much empty. Surprising, to say the least. I guess it's just the suburban outlets that get swamped like that. We hit Mr. Pink's and Authentiques, finding cool ornaments and some ancient stemware to replace the glasses I broke in the sink last week.

We headed out on Friday night and found the city strangely empty. Traditionally, this is a big tourist weekend, and usually the city is packed. Not so. We were able to get into a restaurant in the far West Village that is usually packed and we were seated between two tables that stayed empty the entire time we were there. We hit Ty's for a couple of drinks and then went over to the Phoenix for a night cap. Once again, everything was completely low-key.

Saturday we just lounged around, then went back to Tim's house in the afternoon, for a change of scenery. We headed down to Newark Avenue in the evening for a really great Indian meal. We walked home through Journal Square in time to see all the hipsters hanging out in front of the Loew's Jersey, waiting to see Bright Eyes. What a great concert venue! The bar next door was packed with hip children drinking and smoking. I'd forgotten you can still do that in New Jersey. We were home and in bed before 11:00! On a Saturday night! It was great! I woke up without dark circles under my eyes for the first time in weeks.

I spent the afternoon at the gym yesterday, trying in vain to exercise all that food off. I did my best, and then headed out for the Dugout. I know. Big surprise. I was joined by these bloggers, and was mightily entertained, as always. The usual people who show up for their yearly NYC holidays were there, and I met a few new guys, including a rather attractive 38 year old EMT, who thought I was his age. Bless those rose and amber spotlights! I even spotted a member of blogdom's (ahem) most elite cadre, slumming with his posse.

The immediate Dugout freakshow seems to have abated since last week, and I was not asked if I was the hosting the Bear Brunch, or if I into spanking, or was I posing for the cover of Bear's Life. The answer is still no to all of these inquiries. The bar has been contacted for additional articles about the so-called bear phenomenon, so I don't think we'll hear the end of this yet. At least no one put their arms out and lurched at me like a zombie. This week. No. Really.

So I'm back at work, and I'm thinking about all the holiday stuff I have to do, and all the shopping and gifts and parties and.......I'll think about it tomorrow. I'm too relaxed.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Sunday

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:

"Hey!"

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.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Talk Talk

Life's what you make it, indeed.

Well, I'm back.

By last Friday, even I couldn't stand being me. I'm working ridiculous hours (I mean it's only furniture, fer chrissakes!) and when I'm not working I'm moping around, or trying to project manage all the ills of the world I've been presented.

Doesn't work.

I give up.

By Saturday, I'd come to see the humor in my situation. I was clearly being tested. When it looked like things couldn't get much more bleak, a simple jest of God snapped me out of my doldrums. I won't discuss it here; never the less, here I am.

Friday, after a full week of maniacally trying to save the world, Tim fixed me dinner. I had two Martinis before hand, and we polished off a bottle of wine during dinner. After dinner we tried some awful pear-flavored crap that someone had gifted us with. It was definitely not Poire William, and I tossed mine into the sink. It's the time of year when the apres-dinner drinks assortment has dwindled down to a pitiful selection. Instead I opted for a couple of fingers of scotch. Mistake. As Sebastian Flyte might say, the wines were too various. I woke up on the sofa at 3:49 with a splitting headache. I crawled into bed, and when I woke many hours later, it felt like my brain was scarred.

I kept a rather low profile during the following day. Tim and I subwayed up to 86th Street and wandered down Madison Avenue at dusk, window shopping. We got back on the train at 59th Street, and heading home for some hair of the dog. I fixed a couple of Manhattans for us, and following the advice of a fellow blogger, cranked up the stereo and sang along at the top of my lungs. Of course, I don't think he had the Ronettes, Darlene Love and the rest of the Phil Spector oeuvre in mind, but it worked somewhat for me. We headed out for a quiet neighborhood dinner.

After dinner, we wandered across the street to Dick's Bar. I know. Usually at that hour there's maybe 4 people there falling off their stools. We like to visit the bartender, Carmine, who just won the prestigious Mr. Metrobear sash. I know. Instead we were delightfully greeted by Gregg, Erik and Liam, who were there to check out that new event, Bear Cave. I know. If you were out over the Halloween weekend you might have seen the three of them dressed as Pigs. As we were clearly the only bear-types and more importantly patrons there, we decided it was time to move on.

A mini-crawl ensued...including visits to Urge, The Cock and of course The Phoenix.

I woke up in much better shape the next morning...never mix, never worry. Hit the gym for a couple of hours and went to the Dugout. Some gentleman was insistent that we'd been having major chats on Bear 411. Um, no. And he definitely needed to take pictures of my beard. I was a bit more gracious about that. Met some new fellas and hung out with some old buds. I had fun, dammit.

I woke up on Monday morning like a character in a 1930's horor movie after the vampire's been laid to rest. The air had cleared and there seemed to be blood coursing creakily through my veins again.

I have some major issues that need to be addressed, but you what? I think I can handle them.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Pink Moon

A small black dog has stopped by for a visit, and seems to be taking it's sweet time leaving.

In deference to those who suffer greatly from depression, I must clarify, keeping things in proportion, that I'm basically suffering a small malaise. You know, the usual things: the basic and ultimate futility of life, the consequences of aging, a lingering IRS problem that just won't resolve itself, people dying. Like I said, the usual.

It took me years to realize that I actually wasn't a depressed person. In fact, I'm basically a stupid optimist in the face of reality. I will admit to fairly constant anxiety, which, after experiencing the panic attack from hell in San Francisco some years ago, I learned to treat with a clever prescription taken once daily.

Last night I felt the need to apologize to Tim for "just not being myself" lately. He agreed with me. I'm not myself. And I just have to fuckin' snap out of it. This is supposed to be my favorite time of year, after all.

I know if I focus on the holidays, and their attendant social functions, I can force myself out of the inertia I'm feeling. A vacation would be really cool, but I basically don't have anything I can plan until April.

Something's gotta give.