Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Olla Podridas

Etymology: Spanish, literally, rotten pot.
1 : a highly seasoned stew.
2 : hodgepodge.

So says Merriam-Webster.

It pretty much describes the past week for me.

Dinner and theatre last week with my friend Arthur, visiting from San Francisco. An odd evening. Neither one of us was sure we'd ever see the other again. Arthur's been ill, and after undergoing two rounds of chemo, is starting a third round in June. Due to his weakness and shortness of breath, we picked a restaurant that was both close to the theatre and his hotel, thereby pretty much guaranteeing an inferior meal. Does anyone have a really good theatre district suggestion? Tim and I eat with a fair amount of regularity at Chez Napoleon, but that's pretty basic, albeit Gallic fare. I mean something festive. We wound up at Thalia, which is around the corner from the Eugene O'Neill Theatre where Sweeney Todd is playing. It was noisy and emphatically nothing special. The check was close to $130.00, and both of us basically had salads, entrees and a shared dessert. It's not the money, but I would like to at least enjoy the meal. At least we were able to talk.

The play, on the other hand, gave great entertainment value. I'd seen the original grand production back in 1979, and it took a few minutes for me to scale back my expectations and enjoy the charms of this chamber performance. But I did, indeed. All in all, a great evening of music and theatre.

The following night, I had my first real session with my new trainer, the Nazi. Suffice to say, I'm getting back in the saddle, and I hope to see some improvements in the coming month or so.

I had a four-day weekend, and spent all of Friday and a good deal of Saturday hoeing out my apartment. My kitchen alone required a cleaning worthy of Augusten Burroughs. I got rid of books and periodicals, as well as no end of crap I'd stored that had been accumulated by my ex. All gone. After scrubbing the floors, I extended my arms in Maria von Trapp fashion and spun around once or twice. Alright, once. I'd actually forgotten that I have a decent size kitchen by Manhattan standards. It would be pretty wonderful, if I actually ever turned on my stove and cooked. But I don't.

Friday night, arriving at Tim's, I went to hug him, only to be told he had a miserable cold. Grrr. And he had to work all day Saturday. And Sunday. So much for our weekend. We had a quiet night. I went back to my house and cleaned all the following afternoon, with a few breaks to run around Union Square in search of some decent running shoes that won't bankrupt me. No luck there either.

I picked Tim up from work at 9:15, and we walked through insanely crowded Times Square over to the afore-mentioned Chez Napoleon, where we indulged in a few cocktails, some simple cuisine and a post-prandial eau-de-vie apiece. We had a couple of drinks in the neighborhood, which was refreshingly quiet due to the holiday weekend. There were more sailors on the street in Hell's Kitchen than gay boys.

Sunday I hit the gym again and headed over to the Dugout. I got to meet up with a battalion of bloggers who were traveling a circuit that included Bingham Cup rugby games, the Eagle and XXL. Frankly, I was jealous of their itinerary. I consumed a copious amount of diet beer and conversed with friends old and new. My dear friend M. even made a rare surprise Dugout appearance. I was hopeful that we would all head up to the Eagle for our bi-yearly visitation, but that was just not to be. Tim was exhausted. He suggested a stop at Ty's. With the heat and the over-crowding and the fact that he was tired from seven consecutive days of work plus a head cold, he became quickly short tempered at the bar. And suddenly, so was I. We managed to have a rare rip-roaring fight while hailing a cab and went home, both of us cross and sullen.

I hate the morning after a fight. I crawled out of bed so Tim could sleep in, undisturbed. We'd pretty much made our peace, but we were still walking on eggshells. We spent a quiet morning gradually getting back to some semblance of normalcy, had brunch at the Noho Star and looked in some of the neighboring furniture store for some nice storage pieces for my newly enormous kitchen.

So much for my exciting week. Feh. I think the rotten portion of that definition is most apt here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Gone Fishin'

I'd like to thank everyone who indulged me by allowing me the opportunity to vent the other day. I didn't really mean to mount the pity pot, and I sure as hell wasn't fishing for compliments, but I do want to say thank you to all of you who were so kind and so full of positive reinforcement.

While I thought I had put forward an honest assessment of how I was dealing or not dealing, as the case may be, with incipient old age, it seems what resonated most was the fact that I thought my drawing power was diminishing.

It's a fact. It is.

Does it matter in the long run? Absolutely not. I'm not the type to cry over old photo albums, mourning my lost youth. I don't have any photo albums, anyway. I've led a remarkably undocumented life, photograph-wise, which seems rare in this day and age. And if I keep forgetting my sexy little Canon SD-450 camera, it looks like this trend will continue.

As I've mentioned before, I have whole-heartedly embraced the person I've become. After all, I am Superdaddy (thank you Teddy, wherever you are), and I will defend that title to the death, or at least on-coming senility.

To that end, I did what any other self-respecting middle-aged gay man would do. I hired a trainer. Again. It's been a few years since I've worked out with a trainer. I hadn't actively thought about doing this. In fact, I was trying to avoid doing it. But I was approached a couple of Sundays ago while sitting on a Nautilus machine by Evaristo, a clever trainer-on-the-go, who offered a free workout with him. It seemed serendipitous, and I took him up on his offer. We worked out this past Sunday, and may I say that two days later everything still hurts? Big time. I'm shocked. I hit the gym three or four times a week, and clearly, I'm just massaging my muscles much the way Japanese farmer massage their Kobe cattle. I'm just been pushing the fat around. This man killed me. We did mostly floor work on the mat, and some stuff with cables. I was out of breath and scarlet in no time, sweat running off me like a river. So I hired him. I'm seeing him twice a week for the next 2-1/2 months. My goals are simple. I just want to fit into my old clothes. I have a small fortune invested in tight t-shirts. And it wouldn't hurt if I was happy with the way I look in a wife beater by the time I head to Provincetown.

Shallow? Who? Me?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Old And In The Way

I'm not sure what's been bugging me lately.

No, that's not true. At all. I know what's been on my mind.

I'm getting old.

I know. Not big news. But I'm sure as hell feeling it lately. And it's been bothering the crap out of me. Not the actual act of getting older. That's inevitable. It's making peace with the Mark that's fading away, and trying to come to terms with the Mark that's coming into play.

For the most part, I've been more than mildly surprised and pretty much pleased with how I turned out. Neil Tennant says it best in Being Boring:

"I never dreamt that I would get to be
the creature that I always meant to be."

All through my early years I was convinced I would somehow manage to change into someone else. In my teens, I desperately wanted to be older, received and accepted among Men. In my twenties I was convinced that thirties Mark would somehow be different, more together, less emotional, better dressed, built built. It just wasn't to be. My twenties and thirties were turbulent. You couldn't pay me to relive them.

After living through the holocaust that was my fourth decade, turning 40 brought me a modicum of comfort. I was newly single for the first time in many years. A journal from that time notes that I was totally surprised to find I was this "growly old man". I'd lived for so many years under the influence of someone much older, if not wiser; a man who had definite ideas of what was or wasn't appropriate for gentlemen "our" age. It took a little while to shake free of those shackles and tend to the nascent Mark, so long neglected.

If you're thinking that 40 is the end, let me be the first to assure you it is not. I found it to be the beginning of a life free of self doubt. All sorts of social and peer pressures fell away. Compulsions that drove me dwindled down. I settled luxuriantly into a relationship with a man who was my equal. I learned to be comfortable in my own skin. All was good.

Now, I find myself standing on top of a hill looking down the road at the rest of my life.

I can deal with the physical artifacts of aging, so far. A friend, upon seeing an old photo exclaimed: "My God, you were such a babe! What happened?"

At the time, I just growled at him, but the true answer to that question is: Life. Life happened, and I don't mind the markers it's left on my features. Time has sharpened and refined my face. I've grown used to it, as well.

However, I'm well aware that I don't have the drawing power I once did. Whereas once men would follow me home, now I can walk across Manhattan and garner nary a glance. Granted, in the right venues I still have my fans, but I am aware that my physical attributes have an expiration date, and I'm approaching it.

Maybe it's time to really cultivate my abiding avocations, music and reading.

I could get to many of the books I'd meant to read for years, albeit with fading eyes. Just recently I've started to need reading glasses when I have my contacts in. I have to take my regular glasses off in order to read when the contacts are out. I think I need to see my optometrist immediately.

As far as music goes, I find I need to gather up the patience to listen to new things, and it takes longer for me to absorb them, and even determine if I like them. I find myself delving deeply in the music of the past 40 years, as anyone in the Dugout on a Sunday afternoon can attest. Contemporary pop hold little to no appeal to me. As Joni Mitchell famously said about some young upstart: "That child has nothing to say to me."

Lastly, going to the gym these days has turned into a trial. I belong to the New York Sex, uh, I mean Sports Club. The gentlemen at my 14th Street location all seem to be between the ages of 18 and 35, putting me almost 20 years older than most of them, if not more. As has been pointed out in other blogs, some of these boys seem to have descended from Olympus, or other nearby mounts. They have little or no patience with an old duffer like yours truly. I might as well be invisible in my gym. Thank god some of the trainers say hello, or it would be a very lonely workout. I've had to learn to be mean and stand my ground there, because those kids will try to mow you down. If they're not pushing you out of the way, they're hooking up with gay abandon. I've learned to put my blinders on, work fast and get out. I think everybody's happier that way. But it would be nice if some of the people I've seen in social settings would at least nod in recognition. Ah, well. Fond foolish wishes!

So, this is going to be a learning process. With so few people to guide me, I'll have to blaze a new trail myself.

I'll probably be writing about these travails a bit. I hope you'll indulge me.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Cocktails for Two

Life's in an uproar.

Our president is listening to our phone calls. Chris Daughtry was tossed off American Idol. Howard Dean's an ass. Rufus Wainwright is channeling Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall. Mary Cheney, the bitch, has written a book no one wants to read. Will & Grace is one episode away from it's conclusion.

I, of course, am concentrating on the important stuff. Reading the New York Times, I came across this.

Children, what are you thinking? Are you all that bored? Are your palates that jaded?

Furthermore, may I say: Yuck.

I'm a simple man. I prefer a simple cocktail. Trust me, a Cosmopolitan is something I find way too fussy and way too modern. Call me a Luddite.

If we're going to have cocktails, these are the rules:

Martinis:

I'd like vodka, please, straight up, very dry, with an olive. By vodka, I mean Stolichnaya, and none of those fruity flavors, if you will. I like Stoli because you can actually taste it, as opposed to Ketel One or Grey Goose. I love the sensation of the first Martini, as that silver ribbon of vodka travels down your throat, saying howdy in turn, to various regions of your alimentary canal. Ahhh. By dry, I mean I want you to pass the bottle of vermouth over the glass in a sort of benediction, but don't actually pour any in. No. I kid. I want you to pour a bit over the ice cubes, coat them and then throw out the excess. That's enough.

Manhattans:

I prefer a bourbon Manhattan. And I'm pretty happy with whatever bourbon you have on hand, with the exception of Jack Daniels. Which isn't bourbon anyway. It's sour mash. Marker's Mark, Knob Creek, Wild Turkey, hell...even Rebel Yell will work just fine. Now here you must follow the traditional recipe. If you make it like a Martini, it will be undrinkable. Here's how:

2 parts Bourbon
1 part sweet Italian Vermouth
Dash of bitters
A good cherry

If you make this I will drink several. If you'd like to get me in an amorous mood, give me at least two.

In the heat of summer, I can be tempted to drink Gin and tonic. A gin Martini is purely for those heading down those twelve steps.

On cold winter nights, a wee dram of single malt whiskey is lovely. I'm a fan of Lagavulin and Oban.

Holiday dinners at our house always seem to end with Port. Tawny and 20 years old, please.

Bourbon and soda is a fine drink for hanging out in bars as random as Ty's and the Townhouse. Actually those two are not that random, are they?

And if pushed I will consume Miller Lite by the gallon. Actually, you don't have to push me.

However, if you approach me with a glass of alcohol that's been sweetened with the essence of a lasered vanilla bean, or chilled with nitrogen, combined with agar agar, or otherwise bastardized with such foolish frippery, I may slug you.

There. Doesn't that look refreshing?

I'm going to have at least two of these, and possibly three tonight when I reach Tim's house.

What better way to cast off the day, and unravel the sleeve of care.

I'm so glad I have my very own personal bartender.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Chapter One. I Am Born.

A Friday night, early last Spring.

Tim and I have the urge to shake up our routine. No jazz and cocktails tonight. The weather's warming up and so is Tim. He wants to be out and about! I'm all for that.

I'm kind of vague on the details. I'm sure he came by my house, consumed a drink or two, unwound some and grabbed dinner somewhere. It's fairly late when we pull up at the Eagle, thinking we'll see the sights and have some fun.

Imagine our surprise to discover that New York's hottest bar is almost completely empty. The first floor is closed. The second floor is deserted. The roof...well, maybe there's a dozen or so highly dispirited gentlemen eying each other warily. Puzzling, to say the least. We drink our beers, look around, and beat a hasty retreat.

The following day I call my good pal Eric, who keeps tabs on all things social. He tells me that everyone goes to something called Snaxx every other Friday. And by the way, nobody goes to the Eagle on Friday nights anymore, just the tourists. Oh.

Some time later I Googled Snaxx. Now, if you Google Snaxx, you don't actually find a Snaxx website. What was first listed then, and still is, was a certain blogger's post relating who he saw at the past Friday's event. Sort of like that Romper Room thing where one looks through the magic mirror and says: "I see Willy and Mike and Crystal and"...well, you get the picture. I wasn't so much attracted to what seemed like a really serious attempt at social exclusion. I could smell it a mile away. We're neither hip enough nor interested in being a part of the PLU (People Like Us) crowd.

However, I was intrigued by the weblog format. Some had comment sections and blog rolls. I liked the immediacy of the form, as well as the interactive aspects. So I surfed around. I spent the better part of a day at work reading, fascinated by the multifaceted views of thoughts and events that transpired daily. There seemed to be an entire community of sorts out there in the ether.

After reading quite a bit, I was able to identify vague groupings of these bloggers. Amazingly enough, local bloggers had just met up a West Side bar called Barrage for what looked like a great time!

A blog that appeared on the blog rolls of so many of blogs I was reading was Joe.My.God. I visited his blog, only to recognize him as one of the many people who used to hang out at the Dugout on Sundays a few years back when it was the place to be. So, I read. And read. And read. And read.

And then I posted.

It's been a time, baby! One year!! I'm really happy to have made the friends and aquaintances I have this past year, and to have the opportunity to deepen those already established.

I'm still kind of ambivalent about this, and a bit bewildered as to where this all might end up, but I'm here, dammit!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Daddy School

I had a call late last night from my friend Arthur, who lives high on a (Russian) hill in San Francisco. I've known Arthur since I was a teenager, and if you've been hanging around here much, you might remember how we met.

After that initial meeting Arthur and I dated for a few months. Later, he hooked up with my then best friend, a fact I had some issue with, and subsequently broke my heart. He was vague about the reasons he ended our relationship, and I was puzzled. We spent a summer basically avoiding each other; he on Fire Island, me trolling the Village bars learning some hard lessons about what I had presumed love to be. It was a hot, lonely, dreary summer, and those dreams died hard. On the odd occasion when I would run into him, one or the other of us would pretty much flee after a few general niceties.

By the time Autumn rolled around, I'd managed to achieve some semblance of equilibrium. It must have been apparent, because somehow, slowly, we became friends again. I guess he sensed I wasn't putting out deranged stalker vibes anymore. We somehow managed, mostly through humor and flirtation, to cobble a friendship together.

We were a strange pair, he and I. I'd just turned 20 and he, 34. But apparently we shared enough things in common to mutually charm each other.

I enjoyed dancing at the private clubs of the day, and he had memberships to all of them. I was able to introduce him to the new dance music they were just beginning to call disco, and he showed me how taking Seconal could temper an errant acid trip. He would watch and critique my pick-up technique, giving me pointers, and I'd show him how not to dress like an accountant. He taught me never to make out with the host's boyfriend at a party, and listened patiently when I complained that the host had basically raped me a few nights later, when I met up with him on his own. I learned to never drink a tumbler of bourbon, straight up, unless I could deal with the morning after. I learned how to attract a third man of our liking, so we could drag him home and have our way with him. We became fuck buddies and theatre, movie, bar and bathhouse buddies, as well.

He encouraged me to write, calling me Wordsmith, and I began a series of journals. Some years ago he started his well-revered website which reviews all things cultural and asked me to write for him. I'm still a sporadic writer at best, but I think of him every time I sit down to do this.

He advised and consoled me when I thought I had met the man of my dreams, and it turned out to be Robert.

Arthur decided in 1976 to move to San Francisco. Could there have been a better time for that pilgimage? Robert and I were well together by then and Arthur's influence was waning under Robert's tutelage. The three of us spent the Bi-Centennial weekend that year walking around town cruising the multitude of sailors that had arrived on their tall ships, high out of our minds on THC.

Arthur sold his co-op and his furniture, and left. I still have his cocktail table in my living room.
He'd visit every year or so, but those dwindled off and we slowly lost touch in the 17 years that followed.

When I declared my emancipation from Robert, I sent Arthur a short note. He was on the phone offering a shoulder I didn't need almost immediately. We've seen each other many times in our respective cities. He's shown Tim and I all of San Francisco and Marin, and I go to the theatre and dinner regularly with him when he's here for reviewing purposes.

A year or so ago, Arthur and I sat in Cafe Luxembourg with another older friend of his. After some time, the friend wondered aloud as to the genesis of our friendship. Arthur explained that he had dated me when I was a child, and the friend was suitably impressed. He then asked why we had broken up. I did not know the answer to this. Arthur explained that we had been out on a date, and I had had the temerity to hold his hand in public. He knew then there was no future in our relationship.

I wish he had explained that all those years ago. I could have shrugged that off so easily. Instead, I carried that failure with me for many years, wondering why I was good for everything else, but not good enough to be his boyfriend.

He also told the friend that I had quickly met someone else, the world's most attractive man, and when the two of us walked down the street, we looked like an advertisement for Black & White Scotch, both of us bearded, such was the chiaroscuric effect. The jealousy was plain in his voice.

Arthur's had two courses of chemotherapy this year, and has endured all the radiation a body can in one lifetime.

He's coming to town at the end of the month. We're going to see a play and have dinner. Best of all, we'll talk.