Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Go West

Sorry I haven't been around much lately.

I've been suffering from a combination of late winter ennui and some vague stomach malady I can't seem to shake. Something akin to Winter Vomiting Disease, but not quite the same symptoms.

Passing the Jefferson Market gardens on my Sunday walk to the Dugout, I was surprised and amazed to see some silly pansies had actually managed to push themselves out of the frozen grey earth and bloom. Dumb flowers. The 17 degree temperatures we had that day pretty much mowed them down.

Now this morning, as I crawled bleary-eyed to a job-site at 6:30 AM, I passed several tree wells full of pale green daffodil shoots thrusting up out of the dirt. This actually cheered me up. Tim, in his inimitable Irish wisdom refers to this as my "crazy Russian" behavior. It's true. The first signs of spring can stop me in my tracks and make me stare in wonder. The long, hard winter is abating. I'm thrilled. What global warming?

To celebrate the coming season I booked some ridiculously cheap tickets for our yearly visit to San Francisco. We'll head out at the end of March, enjoy Tim's birthday on the 2nd of April and return later that week.

New Yorker that I am, San Francisco is the city I came to love much too late in life. Tim took me there for the first time around nine years ago. Most of my previous traveling had been on the East Coast, and quite a bit of that was concentrated in the South. Tim and I went out back then for Dore Alley, sort of. Mid-July is tricky in San Francisco. I was pretty adamant about not needing a jacket in the heat of summer, but of course I soon learned otherwise when I walked out of our room one morning to face a brisk 41 degree day. Not fair! Good thing I heeded Tim's advice about outerwear. I soon adapted to the sunburned-with-goosebumps look I managed to achieve.

We've pretty much been back each year, though now we prefer the spring. The city is in bloom and the palm trees along Market Street are pumping out pollen. As always, we will be staying, to our eternal shame, at Beck's. I know. But it's very convenient, and we rather enjoy the passing parade.

I'm hoping this trip will clear the winter cobwebs out of my skull, and give me a much needed boot...uh, pretty much everywhere else.

I'm ready.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Boots

At some point in our e-mail banter earlier this week, Joe asked me, apropos of none-of-your-damned-business, who the oldest man I'd ever made out with was.

That might have been John Cheever, but I'm not repeating that story here. Suffice to say it may have happened in mid-town many, many years ago and the illuminated Pan-Am logo on the 44th Street elevation of it's name sake tower floated like an errant moon above us.

Actually, I think the oldest man I ever made-out-with-and-more was Robert M., renowned viola da gamba player.

If I'm not mistaken, he was probably not much older than I am now. Well, perhaps a year or two. Maybe. At the time, I described his face in my journal as "a beautiful ruin". Payback's been a bitch.

In the early 70's, gay rights demonstrations occurred at the drop of a hat. You could be walking down the street in the Village, and some rabble-rouser would work his rhetorical magic and off you'd go marching and chanting through the streets, gathering a crowd. I remember an evening that began with dinner at One Potato and ending with us marching from Sheridan Square to Columbus Circle, headed by Bella Abzug, when the city once again refused to pass a gay rights ordinance.

I was passing Washington Square one Saturday afternoon, when a small demonstration appeared, coming down Waverly Place. For the life of me I can't remember what they were protesting, but my friend Mark was among the group, and he called out and waved me over. Mark and I were both 19 and attended the same art school. He had long curly chestnut hair and I had recently cut mine off, adopting the shorn seal pup look that was just beginning to come into vogue. The snide hippies at school would sneer "Lou Reed" when I passed. That didn't bother me at all. Walk on the wild side, indeed. Mark and I threw our arms around each other's shoulders and turned up Fifth Avenue, in a display of youthful pride, daring any on-lookers to comment.

Our scruffy group took to the streets with a police escort, and headed to the north end of Union Square. There we were greeted by a rampaging brigade of Marxists, not at all happy to see us. As the opposing tirades began, I excused myself and went off to chill in the playground that adjoined the open space. I climbed to the top of a small geodesic dome and sprawled there, watching the action unfold.

It was then a nice looking older gentleman approached me, asking what all the yelling was about. I tried to explain, but frankly, I honestly didn't care. It had been fun, and now it was not. This man was bearded, with sandy hair turning silky white, setting off deeply blue eyes. When he smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkled up in a most appealing way. He introduced himself, and after a bit of laughter, asked if I wanted to get some coffee. Or something.

We wound up back at his Gramercy Park apartment. Of course.

After much wine and kissing , he explained what really had attracted him to me was my Frye Harness Boots, so prominently displayed as I kicked back on the dome in the park. How would I feel about stripping down for him and leaving the boots on?

I'll pass the question on. Who is the oldest man you've made out with?

Monday, February 13, 2006

Snow Ball

I hate snow. With a passion

That said, it was a lovely weekend.

Tim and I enjoyed an early Valentine's Day on Friday night, as he has to work on the day itself. I'm not a big proponent of Hallmark-inspired holidays, but I do like any excuse for an expression of sentiment. I don't need excuses to buy Tim flowers or take him to dinner; I do that regularly, but it's always nice to have another reason to do it again. I picked up a card that featured a beefcake image of a 50's guy in a posing strap in the desert on a buckboard wagon and scrawled a mash note inside. I bought a miniscule amount of chocolates and cookies, as Tim has just engaged a trainer again, and I didn't want to mess with his work out. I picked up a large bunch of exotic pink tulips, his favorite, from the florist. No street tulips for Tim. I arrived and discovered he'd basically done the same for me, minus the flowers. Ignoring the fact that I'm still fat from Christmas, he gave me a box of Li-lac chocolate covered cherries. Ignoring the fact that I'm still fat from Christmas, I ate a lot of them. Dammit. He also put out a very lovely cheese plate. Nothing says I love you like a rank wedge of moldy cheese, right? Hell, it works for me.

Tim had to work on Saturday afternoon, so I took the opportunity to hit the gym. I've never been to the gym on a Saturday before, and it was packed. I managed to squeeze in a decent workout, and got home in time to meet him. I'd been watching the Weather Channel, consoling myself with the posted project snowfall amounts of the coming storm...maybe 3 inches Saturday night and another 3 on Sunday. Tim napped, I read. It was very cozy. When he got up, we had a couple of Manhattans and experimented with the Koss Pro4AA headphones he'd gotten me for Christmas. Combined with the Nikko amp he'd given me last year, I now possess state of the art audio equipment, circa 1982. I mean this in the most positive sense. I think the bass response alone can act as a defibrilator. Good thing my neighbors love me. Or maybe they're not home.

We headed out into the light snow flurries to grab a quick dinner at Jones', thinking it would be as empty as the streets we were walking through. Clearly people were taking the coming storm seriously. No one was out! However, the restaurant was packed. After a couple of beers, we realized we wouldn't be able to wait around much longer, left and picked up a couple of hotdogs at Gray's Papaya. As we munched, I made the obligatory weenie-breath joke. I think we manage to have a hotdog dinner every couple of years under similar circumstances. See, it's not just Martinis and Manchego for us.

The snow was really starting to come down as we walked around the corner to Pieces, the first stop on the scheduled Blarg Hop. Of course Joe, Ed and Aaron were already there. This was not our first time at Pieces. Tim and I have visited on occasion. We have no compunctions about walking into any gay bar in our path, suitable or otherwise. Pieces is what I'd imagine an a gay bar in the mid-west to be like. And not a very good one. However, it was a suitable venue for a basic meet and greet. We got to shake hands and learn a few names before it was time to move on.

At the Stonewall, we were put off by the $10.00 cover charge. No wonder those bars are all closing. Who the hell would pay that to go there. We turned heel and headed to the upstairs bar of the Duplex, a tiny room now crowded to the rafters with bloggers. We got our drinks from the poor overwhelmed bartender and proceeded to flirt shamelessly with a most attractive blogger across the room.

Soon it was time to move on to the Monster, where the more reasonable cover charge was deemed acceptable. Some of us headed for the piano bar area. Some of us made a bee-line for the bathroom. After attaining drinks, a bunch of us headed downstairs to the disco. Feeling that this we had to experience everything, we danced to a few dreadful numbers with Joe and Aaron and others. The reflection of my middle-aged body flailing in the mirrors surrounding the dance floor was enough to make me stop soon enough. Plus the fact that I was spilling bourbon all over my hands.

Next stop, BSNY, or Boots & Saddles, or Bras & Girdles, as it has been known on the street for years. What was once a seedy and appalling dive is now, thanks to a renovation that makes it resemble a lobby in a lesser Holiday Inn, an even sadder seedy and appalling bar. Here I got to shake hands with Eric, but due to the crush, exchanged not a word. Next time.

The snow was really coming down as we headed to Ty's. Apparently, I was in the advance guard. Arriving before the crowd, I told the handsome bartender, Gary, that 30 of my friends would be joining me in the next few minutes. He didn't believe me. Then he did. Ty's, tiny to begin with, was overwhelmed with bloggers. Gary fixed me two of the strongest drinks I've ever had. If I kissed you, made you kiss someone else, or just generally made a fool of myself I apologize. Unless you enjoyed it. In which case, let's do it again next week.

I had to get off the Blarg Hop at that very moment. The little voice in my head that takes care of me told me it was time to go home. And I listened. As usual, once home, I got too comfortable on my sofa and so was awakened hours later by lightening illuminating the snow drifts outside my windows. I crawled into bed with Tim and woke up a couple of hours later. We both blew off the gym. Tim headed to work and I headed back to the sofa.

I walked across town at 5:00 PM. The streets were empty of people, totally silent, and completely blanketed with the new snow. I worked up a decent sweat climbing the drifts as I walked from Second Avenue over to the Hudson River. It was actually beautiful. I knew within hours it would look like hell, and it did.

There were maybe 15 people in the Dugout when I got there. A few tourists and us die-hard regulars. More die-hards continued to show up in the next couple of hours, making for a low key family night.

The blogger I'd flirted with shamelessly at the Duplex arrived and we got acquainted, enjoying each other's company quite a bit, I'd say. Tim announced last call a little before 9:00 PM and we closed the bar. We found a lucky cab after trudging through a couple of blocks of snow, bade good-night to said blogger and headed home.

In bed by 10:30, fast asleep by 11:00. Perfect ending to a lovely weekend.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Dreaming


So, it's 34 degrees and I just sent off the deposit check for our Provincetown vacation.

Only 26 more weeks to go. Jeez.

That's our bedroom up there. It's even smaller than it looks! I sleep on the left.

Our (ahem) living room is featured below.


Unfortunately, that's not our dog.

When I first entered this space, I turned to Tim, and paraphrasing the immortal Karmen Ghia, said:

"White, white, white is the color of our condo!"

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Bloggers Go Blarg

Blarg sounds like something Snoopy might say, or perhaps it's the sound one might conceivably make while kneeling at the porcelain appliance in one's bathroom after a night of over-indulgence.

However, it's actual a clever amalgam of blogger and bar(hop), which is exactly what a bunch of us New York bloggers will be doing the Saturday, February 11th, commencing at 10:00 PM.

We'll be traveling Christopher Street from stem to stern. At least that's the plan. Nine proposed stops...not quite all the Stations of the Cross. A few have been left off for the sake of brevity and sobriety. Oh, and we're to write about it the next day. HA! You may have to wait until Monday or Tuesday for a slow-poke like me. I'm thinking Sunday may be a day of serious recovery.

Anyway, we're sure to laugh a lot. And drink a lot.

For details, go here!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Dazed, Not Confused

I'm in a bit of a daze today. It was that kind of weekend.

Tim and I met up at my apartment on Friday evening. Both of us seemed to have had the day from hell, and to top it off we had theatre tickets. The tickets were a Christmas gift from Meral, who knows how much I like Jennifer Jason Leigh. I'd never seen her on stage and here she was in "Abigail's Party". Meral and I also share an admiration for Mike Leigh, so it really was a great gift. I just wasn't in the mood that particular moment to sit in a darkened room for several hours watching actors emote.

I don't know about you, but it's been so difficult to find a pre-theatre restaurant I really like. I don't mind Becco, but I wanted something a bit more simple. We wound up at the Film Center Cafe, a place I used to like very much. It was alright...I told Tim they made excellent Manhattans and in fact they still. We had one and did our best to shed the last remnants of our rotten days. Two Manhattans would have been so much nicer, but I didn't want to fall asleep during the play. Dinner was passable, marred by a radio speaker literally blasting Z100 right over our heads. Not exactly dinner music.

We made our way over to the theatre, found our excellent seats and really enjoyed the play. It takes place in the mid-70's in England, and it's about the party from hell. Fitting! The cast was uniformly excellent. As an added bonus I got to enjoy the audience of older theatre-goers, fingers firmly in their ears as the Sex Pistols were blasted out not once but twice. All these years later, and that album still makes people recoil.

After the play, we walked up 9th Avenue, checking out shops and restaurants. We had a drink at Posh, and then Tim suggested that since we were the oldest people there, we might as well go someplace where we would be the youngest. Yep. We headed off to the Townhouse.

I know it's fashionable to bash the bar, but we've never had a bad time here. Tony's right in describing it as a "bubbly wake". Tim and I had a good laugh about this and mis-spent a few minutes deciding where we would want to lay out the body. Between the friendly staff (Hi handsome greek bartender who is not in any way, shape or form related to the gentleman who contacted me about this post!) and the Dugout boys in their coats and ties, we had a great time. Tim was popular to the point where I almost had to sandblast a couple of his admirers off him. I was, as I always am, popular with the working boys. I wonder if the highlight of my life will be a freebie from a Townhouse hustler. After four drinks, I shocked Tim by suggesting we leave. I'd had enough. He's never heard me say that before.

Of course Saturday was a very low-key day. We slept in, had a big Polish lunch and wandered through the rain down Avenue B on our way to the Lower East Side. I'd received a glossy postcard in the mail from a real-estate broker, announcing that he had broken the record for neighborhood sales at 85 Stanton Street. When Tim first became a friar in 1979, he taught school for a time at Our Lady of Sorrows at Pitt and Stanton Streets. We both wanted to see the luxurious building that was commanding so much money. Of course, it turned out to be a typical LES tenement. The changes in that neighborhood are scary. Is the market that big for crowded cafes, t-shirt shops and hipster bars? Do people really want to pay $32.00 for an entree on Clinton Street? I suppose they do. I guess I'm as much at fault by purchasing a $24.00 t-shirt at Supreme not minutes later.

We headed home to crash, had a couple of cocktails, listened to an old Fred Astaire album, and talked about my old, long departed friend, Hubbell Pierce. Hubbell taught me how to drink Martinis many, many years ago. I'll write about him sometime. Feeling nostalgic as all hell, we went downstairs and had a drink at Dick's. Sitting at the bar, we chatted with Dwight, who had pumped the jukebox full of rock and roll. Dwight was sweet, with that very attractive affect of axe murderer about him. After a nightcap at the Phoenix, it was time to call it a night.

I crawled to the gym on Sunday, then hit the Dugout, meeting up with Aaron and Joe. Somehow, I wound up consuming way too many shots of Wild Turkey. Unfortunately, I also inspired Joe to have a shot. I've never seen anyone turn quite so green, even under the pink and amber lights. Very colorful. Aaron did better. Suffice to say, I fell asleep on my sofa when I got home.

Hate that!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Chelsea Morning

I survived my first week in Chelsea.

I've worked all over the place...the CBS building at 52nd & 6th, Bush Terminal in Brooklyn, the D & D Building, East 59th Street, East 56th Street, Madison Avenue, West 25th Street, East 77th Street, West 53rd Street, 200 Lexington Avenue, East 58th Street, East 55th Street, West 38th Street, Park Avenue South, West 43rd Street and NOW (drum roll, please).....76 Ninth Avenue, better known as 111 Eighth Avenue. I know. What the fuck.

I now work in that behemoth of a building better known as the Port of New York Authority Building, which takes up that very large city block between 15th & 16th Streets. You know, the one with the gold leaf flying sea gulls in bas-relief on the front.

Frankly, for the most part I'm happy. We have a huge new space with 15' ceilings and southern exposure. I have so much more space I'm losing things. It's easier getting around the city to see my clients than I imagined it would be. And I'm walking around trying to get a better handle on the two neighborhoods we straddle.

The 8th Avenue side is Chelsea Central. The building frontage is basically two ATMs and a Banana Republic, which I think speaks volumes.

I have to tell the truth...I've never liked Chelsea. This neighborhood probably has the worst housing stock in Manhattan. With the exception of a few streets surrounding the Seminary, it's always been pretty grim. In those years when Chelsea hopped, hopped, hopped, it filled up with pretty stores, restaurants and bars. But these seem like a flimsy, plastic veneer over the decay that is still visible everywhere. No amount of new condo construction thrown up in a multitude of former parking lots, nor rooms full of mid-century furniture can hide the fact that this has always been a very poor neighborhood, and still is. And to me, it's a neighborhood full of ghosts. Chelsea seemed like the bedroom of the Eagle's Nest and the Spike, much as the East Village was considered the bedroom of Greenwich Village in the 50's and 60's. There's a quick aside in "Dancer From The Dance" where one of the protagonists spies a dark eyed, serious young man walking home on a Saturday afternoon along St. Mark's Place and crows something like "Now there's a boy who spent the night tied to a bed in Chelsea!". I've always thought that boy was me.

Of course, as we all know, this neighborhood has undergone significant changes in the past decade. One might even say that it's long jumped the shark! Hell's Kitchen and environs much further afield have conspired to make this area seem almost as quaint as Christopher Street does now. If the parade hasn't entirely passed by, we're definitely going to see Santa in a few minutes. At it's height, I was almost loath to walk Eighth Avenue. I remember walking up the street with Tim and after the last bevy of overly buff men passed, blurting out: Too Big, Too Tan, Too Old, Too Much! Times have changed and these once mean streets are now full of nannies pushing baby strollers past the remaining bodegas and the shops that still purvey cruise wear.

As for the Meatpacking District, well...as Madonna said: This used to be my playground. I've walked these streets for decades and while the bones appear the same, the flesh is entirely new and somewhat unreconcilable in my mind. As I walk past the smart young men and women drinking and dining in their incredibly hip dens, I think...if you only knew what went on in the rooms you're sitting in now. If those floors could talk!

So far, I'm enjoying working here. I may even have to start dressing better.