Monday, January 30, 2006

Every Picture Tells A Story

It's been a long week and it's only Monday.

I started work at the new office on Friday morning, as scheduled.

My new commute involves taking the L train two stops from Union Square to 8th Avenue. I haven't taken this line much in the past 20 or so years, not since Robert and Barry were at Columbia Presbyterian hospital. My, how things have changed. The former Toonerville Trolley has become a gleaming caravan of hipsters, on their way from Williamsburg to their glamorous careers in the Meatpacking District. I feel positively dowdy. The artfully tousled hair, the ingeniously applied makeup....and that's just the boys. Luckily, the ride lasts all of about three minutes, and I'm off in search of coffee and breakfast.

Of course, the new space was not in anywhere near move-in condition. After surveying the wreckage, I popped half a Valium and got down to work. I'm about two thirds closer to being able to actually work, as of 6:00 this evening.

Of course, last weekend flew by. It seemed to be Friday night and then Sunday night. I hate that.

I completely collapsed on Friday night when I got to Tim's house. We had our usual quiet night, crashing pretty early. And we slept in the next morning, not arriving back in the city much before 5:00. We did a couple of minor errands and came back to my house, where Tim took a nap for an hour or so.

When he got up, I fixed us a couple of Manhattans, and we listened to a cd that Bryce & Neil burned for us. Tim's eyes lit up when he heard the Caravelles. He knows I'm just a fool for that big, echo-y Phil Spector kind of pop. After that, I played some Crystals and then Laura Nyro. Two cocktails later, we jumped on the train and headed up to Hell's Kitchen. We had such a fun time the week before, we went back to the scene of the crime.

Posh was our first stop. The man at the door didn't card us, remarking that our grey hair was proof enough. Indeed! The bar was fairly quiet to start off, which allowed us to get a couple of drinks under our belts and watch the DJ. Our first conversation was with a gentleman who allowed me to park my jacket on top of his. When the conversation turned to the Dugout, as it often does, he mentioned that he'd visited, but the beer selection on tap wasn't up to snuff. In fact, after the past 7 years of living in Europe, he couldn't possibly drink American beer. ZZZZZ. I dispatched this bore, post haste.

We headed around the corner to Therapy, which was completely packed, had a drink and made use of their commodious bathroom. It's a more pleasant option than waiting in line at Posh and enduring dirty looks from the DJ, when you lurch into his lectern, as one of us may have done.

The evening ended back at Posh with a bunch of sympathetic young men, one or some of whom were from Manchester (UK, that is) and a very pleasant fellow called Owen, I think. It gets rather fuzzy here, but I do recall dancing with him, if you can call grinding my pelvis against his dancing. When I told him I had to take Tim home, he suggested I come back later. Sweet. I was snoring in the back of a cab minutes later.

Sunday I hit the gym and then the Dugout. A nice crowd, all in all. Some bloggers, some old friends, some guys I'm just getting to know. The jukebox was on the fritz and Tim was playing some cd's I burned a couple of years ago, when the old jukebox died. There were some songs I hadn't heard in a while, and I jumped around a bit. A clever young man came bounding up to me and announced that he had written the song I was just enjoying, and complimented me on my excellent air guitar skills. I had noticed him when he arrived at the bar, and had even commented on his appearance to a friend. We introduced ourselves and I asked Emerson (yes, that was his name) what year he was born in. 1978. In fact the song in question is from an album that was released in 1971. I was in high school. I congratulated Emerson on his superior prenatal songwriting abilities, not to mention his excellent opening gambit. I also told him that my beard was older than he was (September, 1975). Needless to say, I was charmed. He graciously accepted a big hug, and a kiss or two. I get kissy after a few beers, and after several, I'm downright amorous. You'd think Tim would keep me on a leash or something.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

On The Road Again

Well, by the end of this week, my office should be relocated from our stodgy yet totally convenient mid-town perch to new digs on the cusp of the Meat Packing District at the western edge of Chelsea.

I've spent the week trying to work and pack at the same time, realizing that pretty soon I'm just not going to be able to work for a day or two. We should be up and running, all deities willing, on Friday morning. I'll believe that when I sit down at my new desk with my cup of Balducci's coffee.

I've really enjoyed working on 43rd Street these past few years. We were in the building The New Yorker was published for the better part of the 20th Century, until Conde Nast strong-armed them up the block to their corporate death star.

The building is located central to just about every subway line, there's a newsstand, shoemaker, barber, copy shop, post office and restaurant on the ground floor. You can walk ten steps in any direction and practically fall into a typical NYC deli. The best part was that Tim works three doors away. Literally. Not that we had time for lunches or even many visits. We're both too career minded to do that. In fact, the few times I ran into him on the street bordered on shocking. I know. I'm weird. But it was nice knowing he was in the vicinity.

I have no idea what working in the new neighborhood will be like. God knows, I've spent enough years running around there at night, but I don't have a clue where one gets a tunafish sandwich. Man cannot live on Spice Market alone. Last Fall, Tim and I took a walk around the building, which looms over Chelsea like some old battleship. I quickly discovered that one could have a meatloaf blueplate special with a drag queen, but it doesn't look promising for more pedestrian fare.

If I survive the move, I'll be up and running again on Friday...fingers crossed.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Report From The Front

I'm happy to report last night's bar crawl was successful. At least for some of us.

Dinner was great, very relaxing and lots of fun. The boys had a Navarin of Lamb and I had Lapin Maguerite (I'm not translating that due to the ewwww factor...suffice to say it was served in a light mustard, wine and cream sauce). I had three Manhattans with dinner and left a happy man.

The three of us headed over to Therapy on the early side. Once we got upstairs, retrieved drinks and took our post at the railing under the skylight overlooking the staircase M. began to noticeably twitch. I knew it. All that young flesh was driving him insane. And not in a good way. Nothing interested him. Bored, he pulled out a copy of HX and started to read. I took it away from him. I saw some very nice young men, and finalized what has been a fairly recent sociological revelation for me.

Apparently, the young don't cruise the way we used to.

A couple of weeks ago, I met Ryan's friend Jason, from San Diego. Very nice. Every time I looked his way he'd be looking at me, but then his eyes would dart away. I only found out he was interested in me when Ryan came by and told me that Jason liked me.

Us old school guys generally locked eyes when we saw someone we were interested in and proceeded to bore holes into each other until we met. Apparently, the kids today have a more furtive technique. Lots of little glances, with quick look-aways. I had ample opportunity to test my theory with a muscular youngster last night.

M. could bear Therapy no longer, so after two bourbon and sodas, we headed around the block to Posh. Tony is right; Posh is a bad name for a good bar. It was packed but not too packed with a friendly crowd and I was extremely popular. Tim and I had a blast and definitely will return. M. hated it even more than Therapy. To appease him, we headed down to the Eagle.

Whereas the other two bars were well lit and friendly, the Eagle was dark and grim. Honestly, would it cost some of those bartenders anything to actually interact with their clientele? Perhaps a smile? There are a couple of friendly guys, and then there's one or two who are just dismal. Listen, they ain't that fuckin' hot, and if they are, what the hell are they working there for? I have a feeling it's not the greatest bar gig. There's a lot of bartenders and I can't imagine the tips are that great, once they're pooled and split.

Tim and I agreed that we'll be spending more time with our neighbors in Hell's Kitchen this season. It's nice to be fresh meat in your own town.

As for M., well, after last night, the only place we'll be going with him is back to the Townhouse.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Grrrrrr.....!!!!

So...I'm not eating all that Christmas crap and I'm back at the gym, beating myself up. Somehow I've managed to gain 5 lbs. What's up with that?

Of course, it's not going to help that I just made reservations for a lovely French dinner in Hell's Kitchen tonight. Something about January says "Cassoulet" to me. Aren't meat and beans supposed to be the perfect and most easily digested of comestibles? Oh, never mind.

The Manhattans before dinner and the buckets of beer I'm sure to swill afterwards won't help either. We're going out with M. tonight. He's heard of this new (ahem!) bar called Therapy. We'll take him for a drink after dinner. M.'s favorite age-group is 55 through death. I think he'll be in for a bit of a surprise.

I have the addresses of Posh and Siberia in my wallet as well, clever boy that I am. Maybe we'll actually pull off that Hell's Kitchen bar crawl after all.

Or just wind up at the Eagle.

I'll let you know.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Keller Bar: 1974


It was the sort of night I've since learned to recognize.

The bar was full of shuffling, listless men. The room was enervated, it's inhabitants desultory. The center seemed to be missing. Sporadic hollow laughter echoed in the small space. This clearly was not where it was at, tonight.

Not two years prior, I'd walked around this block several times, trying and failing to work up the nerve to enter Ty's. I'd gaze through those plate glass windows as I passed at the crowds of newly proud gay men inside. Frankly, they intimidated the hell out of me. All those leather jackets. All that freedom.

Since my mid-teens, I'd traveled the fringes of where men met, trying to figure out where I'd be welcome. Youthful misadventures in Times Square and at the Everard sent me downtown, to see what all the shouting was about in the Village. Liz and Eileen, friends from my senior class in high school introduced me to the Ninth Circle ("the music's great...we can dance and no one bothers us!"). Following that first evening, I headed back the following weekend by myself. When that bar burned down some months later, I high-tailed it up to the Eagle's Nest. And I decided it was time to face the pride of Christopher Street head on.

Ty's was, and still is in many ways, a tough room. I learned early on to sidestep the sharp tongued regulars crowded by the window as you walked in. I would chart a narrow course between the jukebox at the door and the cigarette machine at the back. I would catch sight of myself in the long mirror over the bar as I passed, and soon learned to catch the eye of other men as well.

The bar had always been crowded when I visited it; tonight was different. I wondered where everybody had gone. I gulped down the remains of my beer and headed out onto the crowded street. I stood there watching the unceasing parade of men and debated a walk up to 21st Street.

A man, who up until a few weeks ago, had worked as the doorman there ran up to me.

"What are you doing here?", he asked.

I looked him over, taking in his broad shoulders and red hair.

"We're all down the block!", he added.

I was studying his red beard.

"Don't you wanna go? I'm just rounding up the rest of our crowd."

I didn't know until that moment was that I was considered part of any crowd. The idea thrilled me. He threw his arm around my shoulder and we walked west. I wasn't sure where we were heading, but it seemed near the river.

The few blocks of Christopher Street before one arrived at the river were grim and run down. Every vacant space was reserved for truck parking. The Miller Highway, so recently closed, loomed over a dark and dreary stretch of diners, garages and abandoned construction sites. One had to navigate through a labyrinth of parked trucks and displaced traffic to arrive at the gray river. A few long shoreman bars were sprinkled here and there. Some had been co-opted in recent years by the burgeoning masses of gay guys infiltrating the vicinity. Keller's was one such place.

As we turned the corner onto West Street, I saw a few motorcycles parked in front of a small bar. A bright rosy light cast itself across the pavement from the two windows, illuminating the chrome detailing on the bikes. The red neon sign, hanging above, threw the now silent trucks parked under the highway into stark relief. We opened the door and walked in.

It was a small, rather plain room, shaped like a shoebox. A door, with a window on each side. A rough wooden bar that ran the length of the room on the left. A pool table and jukebox on the right. A few strings of Christmas lights and dozens of handsome men crammed inside. The jukebox featured a mix of current soul and rock, along with the Ronettes singing "Walking In The Rain" and the Shirelles essaying "Chains". Later "Shame, Shame, Shame" would play incessantly, as the patrons danced in place, and the bartender hollered in faux-annoyance.

Keller's became my haunt and I was soon there every Friday and Saturday night. On Sunday afternoons, we'd take our beers out onto West Street and congregate to the alternating amusement and chagrin of the families that drove by. A can of beer was .75 cents. A quarter tip was deemed acceptable. It cost very little get off your face. This being the early 70's, there were no end of drugs to be had. I specifically remember a preponderance of THC, available in a pretty purple capsule, and the lovely visions it provoked.

I remember the men I met at Keller's.

There was Warren. Under the influence of said THC, I ran my hand under his shirt over his seemingly huge smooth muscles, and announced that his chest felt like vinyl. I wasn't quite sure why he begged off minutes later.

I remember Bob, of French-Canadian descent, from New England. Taller, wider than me. Bearded, like the lumberjack stock he was. I spent an evening boring holes in him with my eyes while he socialized endlessly with his friends. Frustrated, I turned to leave the bar. He reached out and grabbed me under the arm, lifting me out of my spot and pulling me wordlessly out the door. He steered me around the corner and led me into a small clearing hidden from the street behind some parked trucks. Smiling, he cracked a Burroughs amyl nitrate ampule between his teeth, pulled me to him, and kissed me hard. The universe spun. It was a strangely magically moment.

Jim was hugely muscled, Native American. He was 51 when I met him; my age now. My friends and I referred to him as Lucifer, due to his widow's peak and his red coloration. Jim was the walker of great Hollywood star, and would vacation with her at her Caribbean estate. He must have sensed my interest, because one evening, as I was leaning against the bar, he came over, and lifting me onto the bar itself, kissed me. The crowded room roared with delight.

Of course, I met Robert there. It was a non-traditional Monday night, the bar was almost empty. I was out with one of my school chums who turned heel and ran immediately upon entering and confronting the dive that Keller's was. I stayed behind and sat on the pool table, leaning against the wall. A blonde, bearded man walked in with a group of friends. It was quite clear that they were slumming. I watched them intently. The blonde kept his eyes on me pretty much full time while entertaining his friends. Eventually, I had to leave. I walked to the bar, wrote my number on a card and handed it wordlessly to the blonde, as I walked out the door. He called me an hour later. We had our first date the following evening. I turned 21 that day. We spent the next 19 years together.

You can still see the room that used to be Keller's on West Street today. It actually doesn't look appreciably different on the outside, in spite of the rotting asphalt siding, and the gates pulled down over the blacked out and broken windows.

Some evenings, when the Dugout gets to be too much for me, I've been known to wander around the corner to stand once more in front of Keller's, and breathe in the cool night air.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Blogging About Blogging

Of possible interest to nobody but me, I'm one of 22 nominees for the title of Post Of The Week over at Troubled Diva. This, for an entry I posted back on December 8th, though I understand that travel and holiday schedules may have accounted for the lag-time.

Frankly, I'm shocked. Flattered, but shocked.

I know I have a small loyal core of readers, and a fair percentage of them have become friends. But I also know, judging from what other bloggers write about their blog stats, that I'm way, way low on the most-viewed list.

I average between 25 and 40 hits a day here in this dark, brack-ish backwater I like to call The Mark of Kane. I know. Pathetic. Of course, there was the day when I got over 480 hits, but that's because Joe.My.God. blogged about an evening we spent, and his huge loyal following broke their collective heels trying to find out just who this Superdaddy was.

I came to blogging in a rather circuitous way.

Tim and I were out on a Friday night last Spring, and, as is our wont to do, we decided to check out the Eagle. Which was completely empty. I mean, you could have swung a dead cat in there and not hit a soul. Bowling alley time. So, I inquired, and was told that alternate Fridays were Snaxx nights. Which meant nothing to me. You can tell exactly how hip I am, can't you?

So, bored at work one afternoon, I decided to Google Snaxx. Nothing concrete. No website, no announcements. However, there were no end of listings for a blog entitled Thought Not. There I learned who had attended Snaxx in previous weeks, but not where it was, or when it was scheduled. I figured I'd do a little research and started to check out the various blogs that were linked there.

I found out a bit more about Snaxx, but not much. And I still haven't been to Snaxx to this day. The odds don't seem to favor me.

However, I did discover that I liked reading these new-fangled blog-thingies. Among the many reasons I really enjoyed Joe's blog, aside from his excellent story-telling, was the seemingly dozens of random blogs he had linked.

I would get to work, drink my coffee and spend an hour or so reading many of the blogs on Joe's list. It was fascinating to find so many people so interconnected. And many of them were enjoying the same (ahem) activities Tim and I did.

The blogging bug bit, and I've been here going on nine months. I'm certainly not the most prolific of bloggers, nor perhaps the most interesting. Yet, you guys do come back.

And for this I thank you.

Oh, and by the way, I'm fully aware of exactly how self-serving this is.

Bite me. It's my blog.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Round Table on The Hudson

I generally hate the end of the holiday season.

In past years, I've had to gear myself up against the impending January slump. Normally, I'll start making plans for the coming year, arranging trips, making reservations, etc. Anything to keep my mind off the long winter stretching out ahead of me.

I'm not sure what's different this year. Maybe it's our unseasonably mild weather. Would it be completely cynical to be thankful for at least some of the effects of global warming? I'm convinced that after typing the last sentence we'll be struck by a freak blizzard this afternoon.

This year, we wound our way out of the holidays very nicely. I spent a quiet Friday evening with Tim, enjoying the last of the Christmas treats. Saturday we got up and disassembled the tree and then cleared up . It took a better part of the day; it was almost as pleasant wrapping all the ornaments and putting them away as it was taking them taking them out five weeks ago. Our tree was still pretty supple and maintained most of its needles through the process. We'd been laughing at the truly frightening state of most of the kindling that passes for retired Christmas trees scattered all over Manhattan. It's really amazing there aren't more fires. Some of those trees have never seen a drop of water since they went up.

We finally got back to my house around 8:00 PM; just in time for cocktails. I fixed us some Manhattans (Old Grandad...no cracks, please) and we relaxed a bit. My hands were killing me from hauling two huge bags of Christmas swag back to my house. I'm unpacking them slowly, enjoying a second Christmas morning.

Some years ago, Tim bought me a Nikko amplifier that dates back to the early 80's. The case is actual walnut and brushed chrome, as opposed to the matte black metal that became prevalent around that time. It's a powerful beast; the lights dim in my apartment when I turn it on. And I've learned to let it warm up a bit if I want it to blast, which I do. The major purpose of this purchase was to supply me with a Mono switch. I have stacks of music like Phil Spector, early Dusty Springfield and mid-period Beach Boys that require Mono. My old amp made all that glorious music sound like mud. This amp is killer...the sound travels across my floor in waves, climbs the wall behind my sofa and smacks me in the back of the head. It's amazing I haven't been evicted.

Saturday seemed like a Mono night to me, so we listened to the Crystals singing "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)" and Dusty wailing "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself". After a couple of drinks, we hit the streets and wandered to a small neighborhood cafe called Jones, which has been there since 1982 or so. It's a tiny room, maybe 10 tables and a bar. A small kitchen turns out New Orleans bas cuisine like po-boys, gumbos and stews that are delicious, filling and cheap. I've always liked the attitude of the joint too, even when it's full of NYU students and couples on first dates. Back in the 80's, they had t-shirts that had their name on the front and "Not Your Kind of Place" on the back. A small portion of that feeling survives today. Tim had chili and I had gumbo, we drank a bunch of Red Stripes, and I played the great (free!!!) jukebox that features both Big Star and Aretha. The cool waitress gave us refrigerator calendars when we were done. After dinner we strolled over to Ty's and left after 12 minutes. It was completely empty. I have no idea why. We hopped a cab to the Phoenix, had a beer and then went home to collapse.

Sunday I hit the gym for the first time in weeks. Yep, I'm fat. I promised myself I wouldn't kill myself on the first day back, but I got into it, and boy, do I hurt today. Last night I couldn't raise my arm to scratch the back of my neck without yelping. I guess I better get back on schedule.

Speaking of schedules, I hit the Dugout at 5:00ish, to be greeted by David, who was making his first foray into our establishment. I'm not sure what phase the moon was in, or in what alignment the planets had arranged themselves, but for some reason, within minutes the bar was thick with bloggers. Joe, Aaron, the Farmboyz, Bryce and Neil, to name-check a few. Enough to give the Algonquin a run for it's money, if we so desired. Mostly, we were in fine fettle, many of us more than a few sheets to the wind. Some of us were even squiffy! I understand that David had a very positive outcome, so to speak, from the evening, and I'm hoping he'll return. Evening highlights included of a discussion about foot worship, a sing along to the Ronettes, random and fairly indiscriminate hugging, and the occasional kiss or two. Or three. Some parties continued on to the Eagle, and some, like Tim and I, headed home.

I was fast asleep by 11:00.

Tim woke me up with a kiss at 6:00, to tell me that my "luxury apartment has no water whatsoever, for a change". Sure enough, he was right. But it came chugging out of the faucet a short while later, and we were able to get our week rolling, none the worse for wear.

Monday, January 02, 2006

What We Did

Hope all of you are well recovered from whatever New Years adventure you indulged in.

Tim and I managed to sandwich an intimate and very quiet New Year's Eve between two nights of running around. Tim's been off for the past 10 days and wanted to get out. So I met up with him on Friday night. We had a few drinks at Ty's and grabbed some dinner, but I was tired from the condensed week and possibly the flu shot I had that morning. So we hung out for a while and went home, but not before stopping at Marie's Crisis to discuss the historical authenticity of the etched mirrors over the bar with Jeffrey, and then on to a sad nightcap at Julius'. For old time's sake. Not mine. Tim's.

We slept in and started out quietly on Saturday. We picked up some oysters, and stopped by Myers of Keswick for some tea (PG Tips, if you please). Tim and I walked through the mostly deserted Village streets, laughing at the dessicated Christmas trees that suddenly appeared everywhere, batting away the monstrous snowflakes that were beginning to fall. We got back to Tim's, kicked off our shoes and relaxed. We started watching Season One of the Rocky & Bullwinkle show (I'd given Tim all three available seasons as a stocking stuffer) and we had a pot of strong tea. Needless to say, I started making nap-like noises almost immediately. Tim nudged me awake and poured more tea. We made it through about 12 episodes, and decided we'd had enough Moose and Squirrel for one sitting.

We enjoyed a spread of excellent cheeses (Humboldt Fog, Neal's Yard Stilton), pate and rillettes left over from Christmas and enjoyed a couple of cocktails. Then Tim fixed the oysters in a light cream sauce over biscuits. We had some of our homemade cookies and a small glass of cognac for dessert. Later, we watched Gypsy (Rosalind Russell & Natalie Wood), like the big middle-aged fags that we are. The clock struck 12 exactly as the three strippers came out to sing "You Gotta Have A Gimmick". All in all, an auspicious omen for the new year. We shared a bottle of champagne, finished the movie and went to bed.

Sunday, we headed back into Manhattan, Tim to the Dugout and I back to my house. I was going to hit the gym, but forget it! I'm just not motivated. I need a kick in the butt. I did, however, do 360 push-ups because I was feeling really guilty about not going.

When I got down to the Dugout I was immediately greeted by my good pal Ryan, who is back visiting from his new home town, San Diego. It was so great to see him. And he called his very attractive friend Jason, also from San Diego, who turned up minutes later. We discussed their local watering hole, Pecs. Apparently they have been saddled with an internet jukebox as well, and all they ever hear is Alan Jackson and the like. I instructed them on how to use the search engine and find whatever obscurity they liked. Jason was thrilled to find the band James, and we both enjoyed hearing them. Hopefully they'll take this new technology home with them and end the country music reign they're currently under. Jason spoke about how Depeche Mode was soooo big when he was in high school. I thought about how we didn't share that recollection.

I had the pleasure of some serious bonding with Ed through a better part of the evening, and finally meeting the Farmboyz. And seeing them at work. Those boys could give lessons. After Tim got off work, we kidnapped Ed and the three of us went up to the Eagle. Tim wanted to check out the evening, which turned out to be semi-crowded and fairly low-key. We met up again with said Farmboyz, Ryan and the very lovely Jason, and ran into Gregg and Greg and Mike. I'm sure we said hello to lots of other people, but by that time, I'd consumed many beers and it gets a little fuzzy. I do remember some really nice good night kisses and hugs and a few random squeezes. Who said being over 50 was fatal?

So I'm back to work today, and it's a new year. My computer crashed last Friday and it took all day to recover everything. However, recover we did.

All things considered, I guess I'm a lucky boy.