Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas Wrapping

Well, the holidays have come and gone, and we're in that screeching downhill slide towards the New Year.

New York is completely deserted. The streets are empty. The subways are empty. My phone is not ringing. I had two e-mails this morning at work. I'm lovin' it!

Tim and I had a pretty wonderful holiday. In spite of our transit strike last week, I managed to get all my shopping done by Thursday, tipped out the building staff and my barber on Friday and spent about 5 hours wrapping presents. I hired a car to take me, all the packages and the a good deal of the food to Tim's on Friday afternoon. We hung out and relaxed. It was the last time we did that for the rest of the weekend.

Tim had me on a very tight schedule. We got up on Saturday, shopped for groceries and the boozy necessities, had breakfast and dove in. We made his Gramm's fruit cookies. I know people hate fruit cake. I rather like it. I wonder when the populist party line decided fruitcake was so gross? Pee Wee Herman even has a couple of half-naked gay boys adding an extension made of the hated fruitcakes he's received onto the Playhouse in his Christmas special. I was so tired on Friday night I fell asleep watching it. Tim woke me up in time to see Charo, Dinah Shore and Jambi! He's thoughtful that way. Mekka lekka hi, indeed.

We also made a mince pie. Tim reconstitutes the mince with bourbon. And some orange juice, but not much. Yeehah! We made a macaroni and cheese casserole, ready to toss into the oven. It's one of Tim's family traditions. I'd always heard about the all-seafood Christmas Eve dinners that Italian families enjoy. Tim's mom had four small children. She'd give them Mac and Cheese and fishsticks for Christmas Eve dinner and get them to bed. I sort of like that idea, and we carry on the casserole to this day.

I accompanied Tim to St. Aiden's for Christmas Eve services. So very different than the religious services I grew up with. I really enjoy hearing Tim sing in church. And I like the part when everybody shakes hands. I find it all a bit misleading. I keep wondering what the person I'm shaking hands with would do if they knew Tim and I had been rolling around on the floor bare-ass the night before.

I balance all this by lighting Hannukah candles! The Festival of Lights was very bright indeed this year!

Santa, in his many guises, was very good to me this year. I must have been extremely well behaved. I received theatre tickets (Mike Leigh's "Abigail's Party" starring Jennifer Jason Leigh!), a very sexy Canon digital camera that apparently does everything but have sex with you, Excellent Koss Pro-Am headphones, the Pet Sounds box set I've been drooling over for years, lots of books and DVD's and shirts, and neat things all around.

Tim seemed equally pleased with his swag. After 11 Christmases together, it's increasingly harder to surprise him, but I did fairly well, I think.

We had a small group of friends over for Christmas dinner. M. & Kevin came; we enjoyed Christmas cocktails, ate way too much, exchanged gifts and laughed alot. Tim and I even managed to clean up a fair share of the rubble before collapsing into bed around 11:30. Monday's clean-up was fairly painless.

The weekend will be upon us soon. We're debating going out Friday night, rather than Saturday. Does anyone know of fun Friday events in Manhattan? Saturday we'll stay home. Some champagne, an oyster pan roast, maybe some caviar. In bed before midnight. Sunday, Tim is working. I have no idea what the Dugout will be like on New Year's Day, but we'll find out! The worst possible scenario is hung-over tourists. And that ain't bad at all. Monday we can recuperate, and it's back to the real world on Tuesday.

To avoid the after-holiday doldrums, I'll spend January making plans for the rest of the year: renting our condo in Provincetown, checking into fares to San Francisco for Tim's birthday, planning!

Oh yeah, and I'll be hitting the gym with the rest of the holiday fatties. I have way to much money expended in my t-shirt collection to grow out of them!

Best wishes to all for a very Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Some Are Here And Some Are Missing

I've just been to Joe's blog, where I took in his latest and fourth installment of "The Mommy Box".

As I read, I became increasingly aware of a growing knot in my stomach.

Joe had thoughtfully supplied links so that his myriad audience could be clear about terms like KS and PICC lines. I thought about what a long time it's been since we've discussed our friends and loved ones using terms like thrush, neuropathy and CMV (look it up yourself).

Joe has chosen to relate this story in cliff-hanger fashion, a sure way to bring your readers back again and again, to which some of our most time tested writers will attest.

I perused the comments section, and in all 20 then posted, not one mentioned Tim. He's almost the invisible man to Joe's readers. The poor man's gone from porn star to skeleton and know one has seemed to notice.

Some weeks ago, while we were standing around guzzling beer, Joe asked me if I knew what a "Mommy Box" was. I did.

I also know what it's like to lose almost every friend I ever had to AIDS. I know what it's like to throw a suit in the trash, because I'd worn it to so many funerals I never wanted to see it again.
I know what it's like to see my best friend Barry, 28 years old, have a stroke and die, due to the toxicity of the drugs used to treat him. I know what it's like to see an entire generation disappear in a few short years, right before my eyes. I know what it's like to bear witness to all this, still standing, and wondering why.

And I've been thinking alot about this song by Neil Tennant & Chris Lowe:

I came across a cache of old photos
And invitations to teenage parties
Dress in white one said, with quotations
From someone’s wife, a famous writer
In the nineteen-twenties

When you’re young you find inspiration
In anyone who’s ever gone
And opened up a closing door
She said we were never feeling bored

Cause we were never being boring
We had too much time to find for ourselves
And we were never being boring
We dressed up and fought, then thought: make amends
And we were never holding back or worried that
Time would come to an end

When I went I left from the station
With a haversack and some trepidation
Someone said: if you’re not careful
You’ll have nothing left and nothing to care for
In the nineteen-seventies
But I sat back and looking forward
My shoes were high and I had scored
I’d bolted through a closing door
I would never find myself feeling bored

Cause we were never being boring
We had too much time to find for ourselves
And we were never being boring
We dressed up and fought, then thought: make amends
And we were never holding back or worried that
Time would come to an end
We were always hoping that, looking back
You could always rely on a friend

Now I sit with different faces
In rented rooms and foreign places
All the people I was kissing
Some are here and some are missing
In the nineteen-nineties
I never dreamt that I would get to be
The creature that I always meant to be
But I thought in spite of dreams
You’d be sitting somewhere here with me

Cause we were never being boring
We had too much time to find for ourselves
And we were never being boring
We dressed up and fought, then thought: make amends
And we were never holding back or worried that
Time would come to an end
We were always hoping that, looking back
You could always rely on a friend

And we were never being boring
We were never being bored

I realize that most of what's transpired in the last 25 years means next to nothing to the generation that grew up after the Plague Years. I'm thinking at best, AIDS is now looked upon as a mere inconvenience, something regulated with medications, but certainly no big deal. I'm glad that it appears to have come to this.

I wish more people remembered what it took to get here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I'm Walkin'

Like some 4,000,000 other New Yorkers this morning, I walked to work.

Our entire public transportation system is shut down due a strike called by transit workers. Cars are not allowed in mid-town unless they have a full complement of passengers. Taxis can pick up multiple fares, as they see fit.

Basically, we're in lock-down mode.

I'm reminded of the last transit strike, way back in 1980, a mere 20 years ago. That one lasted 11 days. Hopefully, this one can be resolved sooner than that.

I don't mind walking. My walk entails 31 blocks and 4 avenues, heading northwest. No big deal. I often walk home after work to clear my head, if I'm not going to the gym.

I was offered a ride within steps of my apartment by two women in a PT Cruiser. I thanked them, but told them I was okay...perhaps someone else would need the ride more than I did.

Back in 1980 I was employed by one of New York's then-premiere interior designers, Michael de Santis. Our offices were located at 2nd Avenue and 59th Street. Michael maintained a staff of 12 or so, all of us devoted to creating the deluxe designs he was rightly famous for. To this day, as I walk through galleries of once again cutting edge Karl Springer and Vladimir Kagan furniture, I know that many of these pieces were commissioned by our office.

It seems to me that my entire interview consisted of Michael asking me if I could type purchase orders. In fact I could. I started the next week. After a few days of typing purchase orders using the special hunter green typewriter ribbons we used for everything, Michael asked me to put together a table setting for Bon Appetite Magazine, utilizing advertiser's products. I had to visit shops and showrooms and assemble everything in Michael's empty apartment, so that the magazine could photograph him fixing a vinaigrette to pour over asparagus that I had arranged on a Wedgewood platter. So much for purchase orders. When people asked me what I did for a living, I would tell them: I shop!! Come on, I was 24 years old! It was very glamorous.

I was among three men in their 20's who worked for Michael.

There was Marc, blonde, and mustachioed, who was in charge of Michael's contemporary projects. Marc wound up being spirited away by a very famous prince he'd met at Studio 54.

There was Chris, chestnut haired, with an amazingly thick mustache, as well. Tall and handsome, somewhat dreamy of demeanor, Chris seemed to laugh his way through life. We were close friends for awhile. I last had word of him some years ago, when arriving to spend the night at a new acquaintance's apartment, I realized I was across the hall from where Chris lived. I mentioned this, and was asked: Do you mean, Chris C., the famous numerologist? Things change, I guess.

Lastly there was me, black haired and bearded. I took no end of pleasure stomping around the most genteel Decoration & Design building in either my Schott Perfecto motorcycle jacket and boots, or the assortment of 1940's haberdashery I was busy amassing including cashmere blazers from Bermuda and vicuna or rich jeweled toned rayon shirts. You could buy those things for a practically nothing back then.

We were well aware of the figure that we cut, as the three of us sailed down 59th Street at the end of the day. Michael's men: blonde, brown and black. Eyes met as heads turned and people stopped to watch our progress. We pretended to be oblivious to our effect on passersby.

It seems a very long time ago.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Dadzilla

If you are one of the 480 people who were sent here by this, welcome.

Please know that the other nickname being bandied about for me was Dadzilla.

I'm actually fine with both of them. I've been called worse. SuperDaddy was coined at a friend's 30th birthday party this past fall. It looks like it stuck. I don't mind. I've been wondering exactly where a 51 year old man fits in to the scheme of all thing gay, and I guess that question's been answered for me now.

Joe is extremely kind. I'm just a regular guy, as you would soon find out if you happened to hit the Dugout on a Sunday afternoon. It's just that my partner Tim's been bartending there for over 8 years and I'm usually hanging out, waiting for him to go home. Consequently, I've met a whole lot of people. You should know that I'm pretty approachable. And you can't miss me. Joe's clues could lead the walking dead directly to me.

It was a fun night. Joe arrived first, followed by Bryce and Neil, Dustin, Liam, Gregg, Greg and Mike, Eric, Erik, Jeffrey, followed by an assortment of attractive new guys. Lots of beer was consumed. Lots of hugging and random making out ensued. Some of us got way drunker than others. The whole thing was over by 9:00. Tim and I were home and in bed by 10:30.

By the way, Tim and I have nothing against Cher. We think she's just fine. We just HATE those songs. Play them at your own risk.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

All You Need Is Love

It was Thanksgiving, 1980. I'd just turned 26 and recently traded in an extremely glamorous job that paid nothing for one that rewarded me a bit more, but sent me spiraling down the road towards major alcohol abuse.

Robert and I had houseguests sleeping on our sofa that weekend. A dear friend, an ex-New Yorker, who had been banished back to his Florida hometown for misdeeds and most unbecoming conduct. We had worked together once in a showroom at the D & D Building. That, of course, is another story.

He was back for the holiday, this time with his new beau, a pharmacist by trade. Hooray, we shouted, upon learning this fact. And we weren't disappointed. Said pharmacist did not arrive empty handed. In fact, not long after introductions, he placed an extra large, economy size jar of Ionamin on the coffee table. I had never seen so many diet pills at one time. Ionamin is a fairly low grade version of speed, mostly prescribed for overweight suburbanites. Taken by the handful, it allowed us to stay up all night in the popular clubs of the time. Of course, we had to smoke endless amounts of grass, and drink copious amounts of white wine to keep from grinding our molars into a powder fine enough to snort.

The long weekend was spent hitting the bars, restaurants and clubs. Lunches at 1/Fifth, dinner at Trilogy or Clyde's, 12 West, The Eagle and The Spike. When we weren't running around on a tear, we were huddled around my coffee table. Along with the current dance music of the day, two records played in high rotation. One was the Rolling Stones' "Let It Bleed". The other had just come out a few weeks prior: John & Yoko's "Double Fantasy".

Now the Beatles had long ago made every attempt to alienate all but the most hardcore of their fans. John had proclaimed that he didn't "believe in Beatles". Paul had gone so far back to basics, as to create what was seemingly toddler music. After unloading a pent-up masterwork in the early 70's, George was just getting more and more severe. It was his Guru, or the highway. And Ringo was Ringo. The sum was definitely greater than the parts, though the parts could be quite amusing sometimes.

John had not recorded in years.

Double Fantasy started out with an anthem like no other. It was huge, yet welcoming, from the sound of the little Buddhist prayer bell at the start, to the massed distorted chorus at the fade. It seemed like John was beckoning us back to the warm and jolly hearth that was the Beatles, and it was (Just Like) Starting Over.

We played this record over and over that weekend. In our enlightened states, we studied the passed around album jacket, searching for clues. The back cover featured a picture of John and Yoko, posed on the northwest corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West. They look fit and prosperous, facing east and an unknown destiny. Or was it? I was most unsettled by this picture, and still am to this day. Their expressions are grim, almost determined. What were they thinking? What did this photograph portend?

I know none of this means anything to most of you. The Beatles are something your older siblings, or even your parents revered. Their music, so ubiquitous, cannot even be heard clearly anymore, without the freight of 40 years accumulated memories and references.

You cannot begin to imagine a time when these things actually were fresh, new and had actually never been done before. Nothing was being recycled for the umpteenth time. It was being made up, as we went along. And we all wanted more. Even in the dreary economic and political climes that prevailed through the late 60's and all through the 70's, there was always the "sea of possibilities", as Patti Smith said.

Gun shots and Ronald Reagan finished all that forever. What a grim year 1980 was. The beginning of the end.

Friday, December 02, 2005

ZZZZZZZZ.....

I'm just dull, dull, dull.

A very quiet week. Worked like a dog, then came home and collapsed every night. I didn't make it to the gym once. Just call me Fat Daddy. Or better yet, don't.

I've had the head cold from hell, which finally seems to be abating. Last night I took a mighty dose of Nyquil and turned in. I woke up 8 hours later, in the exact same position I'd fallen asleep in. Very odd for me....I'm a big tosser and turner.

Hopefully, tonight's Martinis will kick the cold out of my system completely.

We're off tomorrow to M.'s house in the wilds of northern New Jersey. We've had an annual Christmas gathering in his bear-ridden house for the past few years. It involves tree decoration, a roaring fire, large drinks and even larger steaks.

M.'s been requesting a special Christmas cocktail. He even sent me a recipe for Oprah and Rachael Ray's Pomegranate Martini. It involves 1-1/2 cups of Pomegranate juice and 2 ounces of vodka. What's wrong with that picture? Sounds like instant throw-up to me.

I think we'll just invent a sort of Cosmo, substituting Pomegranate for the Cranberry juice, serve it to him in tall, chilled stemware, and Tim and I will just swill bourbon Manhattans, like the tough guys we are.

We plan on watching tapes of a mutual friend hawking his jewelry line on HSN. He's one of their star sellers. Here's a fashion hint: Kukui Nuts!!

Now that we're sledding headlong into the holiday season, I have no time for the malaise that has plagued me these past few months. I've gotten started on my shopping, and I'm not going to get all "project-manager-y" about it. It's going to be fun this year, dammit!

Anyway, we have enough things going on to keep me out of the bars on Saturday night until after New Year's. Of course, I'll still be at the same old dive on Sunday nights, with the exception of Christmas day. Now that would be just to awful to even contemplate.

Have I ever told y'all about hanging out in the International Stud on Christmas Day? In like, 1974? Depressing doesn't cover it. The evening definitely lurched on it's own accord into Tennessee Williams territory.

Maybe another time.

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.

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.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Crazy

Life's in a total uproar at this moment.

Nothing I can't handle, but no time right now to attend to The Mark of Kane. I will be back next week.

Lots to talk about.

Best to all of you!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Morning Again......groan.

Well, we made it through. A little worse for wear, but in one piece.

I had an early night on Friday and was at my job-site bright and early Saturday morning to receive the delivery. Pretty non-eventful, all in all. I managed to hook up with Tim for lunch and bought some Nautica sheets. A sort of tomato soup color. With a vague denim colored pattern. I came home and finally finished Annie Proulx's collection of short stories, Close Range. I read the final story, Brokeback Mountain, in about 20 minutes. Yes, that Brokeback Mountain. Her prose is dry and precise, and her handle on vernacular is remarkable. The story makes explicit all the submerged homoerotic themes not-so-deeply buried in the works of Thomas MacGuane and the films of John Ford. The denouement is, of course, tragic; followed by passages of breathtaking tenderness. I burst into tears reading about a makeshift shrine to lost love. After catching my breath, I read the whole thing again. It's misleadingly simple. I see that a big budget Hollywood movie is coming out shortly, with a couple of young glamorpusses in the leads. I'm not so sure about that. There's nothing pretty about these two characters. The sex is pretty rough and tumble. I'd like to be assured that Ang Lee has not directed an updated version of the old Marlboro cigarette ads. I guess I'll have to break down and see it.

I picked up Tim after work in the evening and we had dinner at one of those old fashioned French restaurants that used to dot Hell's Kitchen. We both wanted cocktails and they let us sit there for a good half hour, drinking Manhattans and sharing pate. Grandmere came out of the kitchen and sat at the small bar to rest her feet and sip her seemingly bottomless tumbler of Dewars. Tim had veal and I had trout, and we were in a pretty fine fettle by dinner's end. Feeling perverse, we wandered around the block to Therapy. We hung out upstairs, leaning against the railing and laughing over the young things pouring forth. We had a friendly bartender who fixed killer drinks and even bought the third round.

Having experienced a surfeit of pretty children, we hopped in a cab and headed over to the Townhouse. From the sublime to the ridiculous, or vice versa. We met some nice gentlemen closer in age to us, had a couple more drinks and poured ourselves back into a cab to my house.

You know of course we were completely hungover Sunday morning. Both of us blew off the gym, though I did manage 150 push ups without my head exploding. Tim went to work and I wandered over later in the afternoon. The first song I played on the new internet jukebox was INX's Elegantly Wasted. I was neither. Met a couple of fine looking young pups. Tim watched amused from behind the bar, and asked me how old I thought they were. I figured they were about 10. Ah, well.

On another note, can someone please explain Orlando Bloom to me? I just don't get it.

Friday, September 23, 2005

(Monday I Got) Friday On My Mind

At this very moment in time, life sucks.

It's 5:56 PM and I'm still at my desk. Where I'll be for at least a couple of hours. Tomorrow morning I'm up before dawn because I'm overseeing a delivery of product for an installation commencing Monday at 7:30 AM. I can handle that.

The downside is I'm not on my way to Tim's house at this very moment, where I'm normally about to enjoy a flight of expertly prepared Martinis. In fact, I'll be sober as a judge for the rest of the evening. Grrr.

Friday night is my favorite night of the week. I look forward to it with er, mounting anticipation all week long. I generally haven't seem Tim in 3 or 4 days and I can't wait. Yes, I know it's ten years later. Yep, I know it's unseemly to like your boyfriend this much, but I do.

This has been our habitual tradition since we first started going out. It's been the very best way for me to get rid of my workday bullshit and slow down into the weekend. Years and years ago, Robert used to say that it took me until Sunday to unwind and then he had to send me back to the mines again. But that doesn't hold true anymore. By the time I wake up next to Tim on Saturday morning, I'm completely renewed and relaxed. And Saturday morning's even better than Friday night.

The really lousy thing about this weekend is that Tim has to work tomorrow in the late afternoon, which means he's putting in a 7 day week. He has his usual Monday through Friday job and then his Sunday gig at the Dugout. He's due at his job tomorrow just when I'm getting off mine. Grrr.

Our plan is to meet up after he gets off, whatever time that is. We'll have dinner someplace quiet and nice, and then go get us a couple of drinks.

Maybe he'll even let me hold his hand.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Redux

I've said it before elsewhere, but I feel I must reiterate:

The term "A-List Bear" is an oxymoron.

Say what you will.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Weekend Update

I'm feeling surprisingly chipper today.

We had a semi-busy weekend, and still managed to get decent rest, which is so important to us older folk.

Friday, after a grueling week, Tim showed up at my house a bit early. I got to answer the door in my briefs, dripping from the shower. After dressing, I managed to fix us a couple Manhattans using a bourbon new to us, Bulleit Frontier Whiskey. All in all very tasty. So tasty in fact, we had two each. I pulled myself together and we wandered out, on our way to dinner and Greg's 30th birthday party.

We dropped in at Live Bait for a burger for Tim and a crab cake for me, plus a couple of beers a piece, thereby guaranteeing us a rosy glow when we finally arrived at said party.

The invitation suggested that alcohol might make a swell birthday gift, but I'd already gotten a Virgin gift card for my musically inclined buddy, so we brought a couple of six packs and headed on up. The combined weight of those beer bottles was handy for the bicep curls I did all the way from the bodega to East 29th Street.

The doorman sent us to the wrong party at first. I could tell the minute we got off the elevator that the crowd of 20-something straight kids looking at us in wonder were not the invited guests. Back on the elevator again, this time consulting the invitation in Tim's pocket. Sure enough we arrived, were greeted by the host, saw Gregg and his (then) very attractive boyfriend, saw Mike and Eric, saw many of the other bear-type denizens that Greg attracts. The world's largest assortment of alcoholic beverages was arrayed in the kitchen. Not an inch of counter space was visible. We headed up to the roof and enjoy the 360 degree views afforded from the 48th floor. It was a lovely night; the moon was almost full, and most of us behaved accordingly. People were extremely friendly. A young man asked Tim and I if we were cover-models for Woofy Couple Magazine. We both thought that was sweet. We generally think that we'd be much more suitable for Mutt & Jeff Weekly. A thin young woman in an ill-fitting bear suit serenaded Greg, causing him to remove his shirt in embarrassment. She was exactly wrong and therefore just right. Midnight rolled around and we had to vacate the roof. It seemed like 90 plus people had crammed into the apartment, sending me into a spasm of claustrophobia. I looked around and noticed several of the same faces I've seen for years. They've never bothered to acknowledge me and that night was no different. When it seemed the most crowded, we begged off and left. I hear everybody went to Snaxx afterwards, but there was no way I was heading down into a basement after that crowd scene.

We hopped a cab across town and got out at 10th Avenue. The scene on 28th Street is completely bizarre. In my alcoholic reverie, it almost seemed like a Coney Island midway, with booths on both sides of the street. It's so strange to see all those people in their finery waiting in line to get into Crobar, choking on the smoke coming from the several vendor carts selling kebabs and such. Ah, the sheer glamour of it all. We pulled into the Eagle, which had that lovely shower curtain stretched across the ground floor bar, printed with instructions to go upstairs. We did.

I know you all love the Eagle. I can't stand that roof space. The halogen and sodium-vapor lighting that pours in through the chain link fencing from the parking lot across the street is harsh, combined with the grim brick walls towering over you. The crowd always seems to be waiting for the person behind you. The bartenders almost never make eye-contact with you when you order a drink. C'mon guys, there's got to be better places than this in New York. It's just not fun.

We headed home and slept in the next morning, had a very lazy day and went back to Tim's that afternoon. We thought we'd head out to Newark for a Portuguese dinner, or to Newark Avenue for Indian cuisine but hit the VIP diner instead. We relaxed and were in bed by 11:00!! On a Saturday night! Nice for a change to feel well rested on Sunday morning.

We headed back into town, Tim to the Dugout and I to the gym, where I got a really excellent workout in. I headed down to see Tim around 5:00. An alright crowd, not to bad for a September night. I was joined by the world renowned Joe.My.God. who spent a good part of the evening regaling me with tales of inappropriate behavior, keeping me in stitches. Gregg stopped by to tell me that he and his attractive boyfriend had parted company the morning before. I was sorry to hear that. They seemed cool together. And Ted's real cute. Birthday boy Greg dropped by for a beer, and we got to indulge in a decent birthday hug and some special birthday kisses. Tim had a good night, and we headed home, crawling into bed before 11:00 and watched the full moon shining down through my terrace doors.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Old Man

I've been invited to a bunch of parties in the next month or so.

One of my many friends named Greg is having a party tonight to celebrate his 30th birthday. Yet another Gregg is celebrating his 40th birthday in a big way a couple of weeks from now. Of course, a non-Greg, yours truly, celebrates his 51st birthday at the end of October.

A rooftop party with all your pals is a swell way to celebrate 30. Renting a bar or club and inviting the multitudes might be dandy for your 40th birthday. I spent my 50th at Keen's Chophouse with a few good friends, a mutton chop and several excellent Martinis.

More than ever, I've been hearing folks bemoan that 40 is the end of gay life. You're old, you may as well get fat, give up the gym and stay home with your cat. It's a sad state of affairs. I've always told Tim that I wasn't going to go down without a fight. Or at least until some child told me to hang it up and act my age. Go home, grandpa.

It's unfortunate that age and it's sometimes attendant wisdom is so widely disparaged in our community. I'm wondering if this is a function of the fact that an entire generation of gay men died out, and there's been few examples of the what it's possible to be in middle age. I certainly don't remember the situation being this dreary and mean when I was in my teens and twenties. There seemed to be no end of fully grown handsome men of varying ages running around for the taking. And take I did.

I must admit I was one of those youngsters who liked "older men". My first partner was 14 years older than me. I had friends who were more than a bit older than that. They mentored me and made my entrance into gay life a bit less rocky, introducing me to a long standing culture, now almost vanished from our city.

Now, we're exposed to bloggers who post pictures of patrons at local haunts, captioned something to the effect of: Drunk and Old. The disdain with which one is greeted in certain bars in this city is palpable. The word troll is bandied about with abandon, apparently referring to anyone over the age of 37. Wise men in their 40's have trained themselves not to initiate conversation with said youngsters in fear of being labeled as such.

There are many things to be said for being in your twenties. Skin quality is lovely at that age. You have a great deal of stamina, if not a matching amount of technique. There's much to be said for youthful exuberance and idealism.

At some point last year I was asked to join Friendster by an acquaintance. I figured what the hell and acquiesced. My wise boyfriend, when asked, said:

"No, thank you. It reminds me of one of my mother's Catholic High School sororities".

In point of fact he was right.

I amassed a small group of said Friendsters. It all seemed like innocent fun. I still like being chosen to participate, a fact that stems from a childhood of being excluded and/or selected last for many activities. I was a bit crestfallen, upon research, to realize I was possibly the oldest Friendster in creation. Still, it seemed harmless.

At some point, a young man of 24 sent me a note, saying that we'd never met, but we definitely should. I found him quite attractive and replied, explaining that his note had made a perfectly awful day a bit brighter. I hoped to run into him at some point. He suggested the Eagle, the following Sunday. Slow as I am, I then realized that people were using Friendster to hook up. It hadn't occurred to me. I'm like that. Duh. I answered ambiguously, and we remained Friendsters for the better part of the next year, with no further contact.

Flash forward to a Sunday in June; a block party on West 28th Street, an homage to a San Francisco street fair that occurs every fall. I'm having a perfectly fine time. I've seen lots of friends and and I'm making new ones. My friend M. comments that my Mojo seems to be in overdrive. I'm extremely popular. Yay.

I'm outside the Eagle, leaning against a car when I spy the young Friendster in question not more than 8 feet away from me. I have a moment to study him. I'm thinking, do I introduce myself? It's been some time since we communicated. I'm cut short as our eyes lock for a millisecond. He knows exactly who I am, and turns away to his group of equally young friends. Ah, well.

The next day I log on to Friendster and see exactly what I knew I'd find. He's deleted me and blocked access to his page as well.

For days I wondered if this was the visitation I'd feared. That some young man would send me packing out to pasture. That I was "too old to cut the mustard" as the (very) old record goes. That I should invest in a wardrobe of Hawaiian shirts and elastic waisted jeans. That I should stop listening to bands like Rilo Kiley and Mates of State and Pedro the Lion. That I should just not bother ever showing up at the Eagle. Was it time to hang up the old jock?

Then I thought: Nah!

Like it or not, I will be old and in your face for as long as I possibly can.

And my final benediction to all those young men coming up now:

May you be blessed with long, long lives.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Porn

Remember, there was alcohol involved.

So, someone brings up that old game we were reminded of during the second season of Queer as Folk. You know...how to determine your porn star name.

You take your first pet's name as your porn-given-name and add the name of the street you grew up on as your surname.

Mine is:

Boots West.

Passable, at best. I look terrible in a cowboy hat.

Tim is:

Rags Ridgewood.

Spectacular.

Much laughter ensues.

What's yours?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Mark

I met him on a Saturday night at Ty's a few years ago.

He was tall; quite a few inches more than me. Now I'm normally not much interested in people taller than me. I don't like looking up. He was nice looking, just a regular guy, but he had a killer smile, which he turned on me like a klieg light.

"I'm talking to you because you're the most handsome man in this bar", he said, with a wolfish grin.

Oh, jeez, I thought. That old chestnut. I tossed him back one of my own.

"I bet you say that to every guy you meet".

In fact I learned later that he did exactly that. That he had learned that flattery would disarm a person long enough to drop their guard and talk with him. I was to prove no exception.

So we talked. He was new in town that winter, having just re-located from San Francisco. He was flying back and forth, setting up his dot-com PR firm here in New York. He wanted a chance to play in the major leagues, he said. He pumped me for information, all the while flirting outrageously. What did guys like me do for fun around here? Where did we hang out? So...I obliged and filled him in as best I could. I told him that we all tended to assemble at around 5 or so on a Sunday afternoon at the Dugout. That it he'd find people much better looking than me to work that line on. He asked about various neighborhoods and such. In the course of our first meeting, many friends came up, drawn to his animated features and begged introductions. I explained my situation with Tim, got a big kiss anyway. I knew he'd fit in just fine. When Tim collected me to go home, Mark said:

"I owe you dinner. Do you like Nobu?"

Well, in point of fact, I can take it or leave it, but I said yes, and we exchanged cards. I knew I'd probably never see him again.

The following night I was in the coat check line at the Dugout. Remember how insanely crowded that bar used to be at 5:30 on a Sunday? It was moving slowly and I was impatient. Suddenly I felt someone rubbing against my butt. I turned around and it was Mark, right on schedule. I showed him around and made a few introductions. Mark worked the room like a pro, grinning like a madman, introducing himself and buying many shots for any takers. He had a small fan club swarming around him. I was sure he would do fine. A friend and I watched him in amazement.

He came over at the end of the evening and thanked me.

"I owe you dinner".

"I know" I said, "Nobu".

There was the time Mark had one of our more psychotic bears pinned against the bar, and was moving in for the kill. Tim caught my eye from behind the bar and bit his lip. This looked like trouble brewing. I shook my head. Tim grabbed a Sharpie and a cocktail napkin. He jotted something down on it and held it up behind psycho-bear's head so Mark could read it. Mark laughed and broke up the clinch, and moved on. I walked over and asked to see the note. Tim had written "FLEE!!!"

Mark came over after and said "I owe you dinner; both of you!".

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

The last time I saw Mark he snuck up behind my and stuck his hand down the back of my jeans. If you know me, you know this doesn't happen all that often. I jumped sky-high. He just laughed. While he played with my butt, I ventured to ask him about the famous dinner. We both laughed. Business was kind of shaky, I knew. Dot-coms were dropping like flies...the boom was over. He was going back to San Francisco in a couple of days to hustle up what business he could find.

The last time I saw Mark was on TV. September 12th, 2001. His mom, Alice was talking about him and all the other men Flight 93, and there was a picture of Mark in his baseball cap, flashing that lunatic grin.

I'm thinking Tim and I are going to finally have that dinner this week. He owes us. We'll drink to him.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Breathe

I've been in a peculiar mood. Lethargic and on edge, all at the same time.

I suppose part of it is that dreaded "back-to-school" feeling this time of year brings. 46 years later and September still has the power to make me feel anxious. Perhaps I need to up the Buspar dosage in mid August to compensate.

I was concerned because as of this morning Robert and Don were still in the French Quarter. Plan after plan to get them out and on their way to New Iberia seemed to have fallen through, and now I'd lost phone contact again. Finally, He called me this afternoon to say that he and Don and the doggies had made it out with a doctor who was doing triage work in town, and were safely ensconced in a nice little house. Phew.

I can't trust any of the coverage coming out of the city. It's been wrong so often, and now the networks are really working their voodoo on it. It's turning into heartwarming family stories and toys for tots. You know it's a real horror-show, but we just ain't hearing too much about that. The news media has been instructed not to show pictures of the dead bodies that are turning up all over the city. We just get to hear how Oprah and John Travolta flew in to help. Also, for a city with as large a gay population as New Orleans has, you sure as hell ain't hearing much about them. Except maybe that all those Sodomites surely brought the wrath of the Lord down on that city. Which is not what I want to hear right now.

I got an e-mail today from a couple of guys I met years ago. They picked me up in tandem at the Dugout back in the days when they used to close down Weehawken Street on Sunday afternoons. I took them home with me and we had a real nice romp outside on my terrace. They've been living in New Orleans for years now. They have a guest house in the Marigny section, and I've been thinking about them all week, as well. They got out of the city Friday last. Their house was relatively unscathed, but it's definitely last call in that town for a while.

I've been so completely drawn into this disaster that it's surprised me to find no water on 12th Street when I walk out of my house in the morning.

I promise to get back to postings about bar hopping in the near future.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Had To Cry Today

I spoke with Robert this morning.

Bourbon Street's dry and will likely remain dry. The waters did not make it far into the quarter and, in a demonstration worthy of middle-school physics, found it's own level, and appears not to be spreading.

The French Quarter is full of gay people who had no where else to go. Life, or some perverse and twisted form of it, continues to go on in New Orleans. Friends are calling each other to offer canned goods from their larders. Stores appear to be open, and thriving. Don, Robert's partner, was able to buy a case of bottled water last night at regular prices. Restaurants have been giving away their stock of perishables to locals.

Our president allowed Air Force One to dip to 1600 feet to get a closer look at the devastation. Amazingly enough he feels this disaster can be tackled with the few National Guards remaining in this country, and no new taxes. Gas prices? Well, tough...suckers! His corporate cronies are really reaping the profits now. Think Halliburton will get the contract to rebuild the levees?

I've had enough of the network coverage of the tragedy. Enough with the same horrifying footage looped ad nauseum to Grieg's Elegy. I'm calling a personal moratorium on earnest anchormen decrying the grim news over and over.

I'm reminded of September 12, 2001.

After watching news coverage all night of the tragedy that was taking place outside my bedroom window, I woke up to see my pal Mark's mom on TV and learned that he was on Flight #93. I shut the TV off, got dressed and went to work in an otherwise empty office. Yes, I know it's denial. But that's how I got through.

And that's how my dear friends down on Bourbon Street are getting through as well. They're just putting one foot in front of the other. Eventually, you discover you're walking again.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Bourbon (Street) Blues

Well, it's real bad.

Robert and his partner Don decided they had no choice but to weather the storm from their Bourbon Street home in the Quarter. They live on the 3rd story of an old stone house. Robert, 65 years old, is currently disabled and in a wheelchair. They have 2 large dogs and a cat. The owner of the building they live in, Jack, is in his 80's and also wheelchair bound. He has a large dog as well. Brian, a doctor who lives in the former slave quarters out back, also stayed behind to take care of the less mobile guys.

I spoke with Robert on Sunday night when they'd made their decision to stay. I was hoping to change their minds, but no luck. When we talked Monday morning, it was already raining quite hard and the wind was playing with the wooden hatch to the roof, which they figured they'd lose.
I sent my love and watched the news reports.

I was unable to contact Robert all day Monday and far into Monday night. Finally at 4:00 AM my phone rang. I was deep in sleep and didn't hear the ringing, but I woke to hear a voice speaking conversationally in my apartment. This scared the crap out of me until I realized it was my answering machine and Robert was calling to let me know they'd made it through.

I ran for the machine and spoke with him at length. All their windows had blown out and everything they owned was drenched, but the 2nd floor was mostly unharmed and they were camping out in a vacant apartment with Jack and Brian. They'd had the foresight to get plenty of bottled water, candles and Power Bars. There was no electricity, but they had running water and telephone service.

Unfortunately, they had no access to news of any kind. They didn't know how bad the city was, or that the levees had been breached. They did see some looters in the neighborhood, but have been pretty much left to themselves.

I spoke with them again this morning, after hearing that the entire city is under water, and of course, there was no flooding in that part of the Quarter. Yet. Robert explained that the French Quarter was the old city, and as such was built on higher ground than the sprawl that came to be over the years.

They know nothing about martial law, or mandatory evacuation. They do know that they are glad they didn't go to the Superdome and will more than likely not travel to the Astrodome unless someone can guarantee their safety.

Meanwhile the Mayor of New Orleans and the Governor of Louisiana have made the media rounds, alternately crying, zoning out and calling for "a day of prayer". It seems hard to believe that high-rise structures with glass curtain walls were considered safe in a hurricane prone area. It seems hard to believe that there are no apparent contingency plans, no back-up pumps, no ideas for repairing levees when they break, other than with sandbags. I suppose this is project-manager mentality, and it probably doesn't fly in the deep south.

I'm sorry that it seems like one of this country's most interesting cities will most likely disappear. When it gets re-built, IF it gets rebuilt, it will most likely be a sort of Creole deep-fried Disneyland. The poor people who had the misfortune to lose everything they had, will be displaced again, and New Orleans will become yet another participant in the mall-ification of this once great, once interesting country.

This is truly one of the major natural disasters of our time. The Gulf Coast has been decimated beyond recognition. People will re-build, but it will never be the same again.

I'm doing some research to find charities that are dealing directly with this crisis. Does anyone know of one?

My heart goes out to all who are experiencing this first-hand, and all the people trying to find out what has happened to their loved ones. My thoughts are with y'all.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Why Meme?

The meme: List ten songs you’re currently digging.

Here they are...I've been hitting the treadmill to some of these; some are perfect for sipping those Friday night cocktails:

Garbage: Run Baby Run
Mates of State: Goods
Doves: Some Cities
Bettie Serveert: Tomboy
Bob Mould: (Shine Your) Light Love Hope
JamisonParker: Your Song
Velocity Girl: Crazy Town
Kelly Clarkson: Since U Been Gone
Brian Eno: Needles in the Camel's Eye
Jeri Southern: You Better Go Now

I'm too new at this to tag anybody else, but if you want to join in, be my guest.

And a special tip of the hat to my music pal, who will know who he is when he sees that a full 1/3 of the songs listed are things he introduced me to during our brief search for new, interesting Dugout music. Thank you, Greg.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Oh yeah....

If you'd like to be party to my eternal shame and you live in the tri-state area, catch tonight's re-run of In The Life on PBS at 10:00 PM.

There's a short segment called (oh Jesus) Bear To Be Beautiful. I won't elaborate, but you will get to see The Mark of Kane refer to himself as a "Moose". Later on he appears again as the Mother Theresa of Beardom, explaining it all in a most sickeningly earnest way.

This was shot almost two years, at the height of a blizzard. I only did it cuz I was crushing bad on the director. We spent an evening talking about everything I hated about the so-called Bear community and then through directorial cunning and slick editing (hah!) I was made into the simp of all time.

That sound you hear at 10:15 tonight is me, cringing.

Back In The Saddle Again

I hated last week.

I had some sort of weird stomach bug that announced itself a week ago Friday, moved in and visited with me for a full week. I was a most inhospitable host. I tried killing it with megadoses of Immodium. Apparently Immodium has changed it's formula. It's now a sickly green, slightly viscous fluid that really, really tastes bad. And it doesn't work. At least not in the doses recommended. By the end of the week I had taken to drinking entire bottles. Finally, the bug left on it's own accord sometime around Friday afternoon. Just in time to see Tim!

My dear friend in San Francisco is quite ill. After fighting HIV and all the hell it has wrought on his poor system for years, he's now been diagnosed with lung cancer. He could barely speak. All I could think of was that stupid editorial Andrew Sullivan wrote a couple of months ago in the Advocate. You know the one where he wrote about how sorry he was that he wasn't symptomatic enough or suffering enough from his HIV infection. His editorial infuriated me, and I thought about writing a letter in response, but then came to the conclusion that there were people more directly affected who could speak more eloquently than I. I was not disappointed in the response the piece got. I think Mr. Sullivan should be looking over his shoulder at all times...you never know when that lightening bolt's gonna strike!

Tim and I have had a very busy month, and both of us couldn't wait to get back into our rut. We're both creatures of habit, and it had been several weeks since we'd followed our usual weekend schedule. We did our best to return to a semblance of normalcy these past few days. Friday night saw delicious cocktails: Martinis for me and bourbon Manhattans for Tim. Three each. Tim's dry Martini is a miracle to behold. He pours a bit of vermouth over ice cubes to coat them, and then tosses it out. Vodka is poured over said ice cubes, shaken, the poured into the appropriate stemware. The result is then poured down my throat...an icy silver thread that I can feel as it moves through me. We sat quietly, and listened to Etta James singing Billie, then Ella singing Cole Porter, a bit of Bobby Short singing Rodgers & Hart and finally a very drunken Frank yelling at an equally drunk Roger Edens on a bootleg recorded at a Cole Porter memorial back in 1966. We were equally as festive.

Saturday afternoon, we hauled ourselves down to Tompkins Square for the newest edition of Wigstock. We hadn't been in some years. The last time we attended, it was held at the Hudson piers, went on for 8 hours, and was heavily corporate-sponsored. This year Bunny and crew were able to pretty much do the same thing in 2 hours and 20 minutes. We arrived a few minutes early, garnering a great viewing spot, which we shared with Greg and Frank. I greatly enjoyed Dina Martina, she of the most intense camel-toe ever seen! It was so horrible I couldn't tear my eyes away. The crowd was low-key, mellow, actually. By the time John Kelly channeled Joni Mitchell, I was happy and ready for some cocktails.

Back at my house, we listened to Eliane Elias while I fixed us a pre-dinner bourbon Manhattan. I called Robert, who was deciding to ride out Katrina in his home on Bourbon Street. He seemed adamant about it, and I know there's precious little I've ever been able to do to steer him in one direction or another. We then adjourned to Gene's on 11th Street, where we had 2 more Manhattans apiece and a quiet dinner. After dinner, we headed on over to Ty's for a night cap. We talked with various friends and then I met a gentleman who thought I was the most handsome man in the bar. Now, that's really not saying much if you've ever actually been in Ty's on a Saturday night. I volunteered to step under a spotlight so he could see what I actually looked like. It wasn't necessary. There was no deterring him. Introducing him to Tim did nothing to dampen his ardor. He offered a trip to Paris as a bribe. He then suggested canoeing on Pilgrim Lake in North Truro. Apparently one of his many houses is right there on the hillside overlooking the lake. I finally was able to wrest myself away from him, but I do have his contact information "in case I change my mind". Tim thinks all this is quite comical.

Suffice to say that yesterday I did nothing. I spent the better part of the afternoon on my sofa finishing the Collette novellas I started reading up in P-Town. I've had a couple of conversations recently regarding summer reading and when I've mentioned that I'm reading Collette, most people react as if I've spent the summer translating ancient Celtic runes.

I had a pretty good time at the Dugout yesterday afternoon too. After a slow start, a nice laid back crowd assembled. Several people got pleasantly toasted. A friend came up with a business plan to sell Tim's used jeans on e-bay. I was all for it! I talked quite a bit with Greg and Greg and Ted and Brian and even Dustin, and got acquainted with Kevin of DC. Tim had a good night and we were still home at a decent hour.

I spoke with Robert this morning before the phones went down, and they were surviving. He said it all felt a bit Wizard of Oz-ish to him. I told him to avoid flying cows. A small hatch to their roof had blown off, and rain was blowing through their boarded-up windows. He and Don were pretty cheerful in spite of it all. I've tried calling him again since the storm passed but the phones are apparently out now.

Join me in sending good thoughts to my friends in San Francisco and New Orleans, if you would.

Monday, August 22, 2005

A Meeting By The River

Friday night, Spring 1975 and I'm hanging out by the cigarette machine just inside the door of the Ramrod on West Street. Lights and shadows thrown by the abandoned elevated Westside Highway play against the plate glass window. In point of fact I'm being plastered up against the machine by a big, blond, bearded, burly man called Blaze, who's visiting from Los Angeles. I believe he is the first person I've ever met from LA, not to mention the only person I've ever known named Blaze and he seems impossibly glamorous to me as kisses me and laughs and then kisses me some more. I want to go home with him in the worst way, and he's having none of it, though he sure as hell seems to be having a good time. After what seems like an eternity of playing around and great aching frustration on my part, I wrench myself away and excuse myself, saying I need to get some air. Or something. I left Blaze looking around for his next victim and headed out and down the street to Keller's.

At Keller's I meet Don, small and neat, compactly built, darkly handsome. Also from Los Angeles, strangely enough. Must be my lucky night. And because I've just spent the last 1/2 hour kissing Blaze to no avail, I push Don back against the wall and kiss him long and hard. He seems to be enjoying himself too, but when I open my eyes I see he's looking over my shoulder. At Blaze. Who is looking at me.

Slut, he calls me. And laughs. Don laughs too. Few 20 year olds are reknown for their sense of humor. I was definitely not one of them. Blaze then introduces Don to me as his partner. Hmmm. Small world. We hang out together for a while, but a subtle tension in the air makes it abundantly clear that nothing is going to happen. With either of them, together or separately. I'm way too young, inexperienced and literal-minded to even try and comprehend whatever arrangement they have. After a bit, Don peels off and leaves me with Blaze again. Who asks me out the following evening. He kisses me some more and tells me he'll meet me tomorrow night, Saturday, at that new club that's just opened on West Street, between 12th and Jane. It's a date.

30 years has softened my memory, and I have no recollection of whom I actually did go home with that evening. Rest assured, I did. And no doubt I was as primed as a pistol. Bless the lucky man.

Saturday night finds me heading up West Street in my newest pearl buttoned western shirt and hoodie. There's a small crowd under the awning in front of the new club, which I seem to remember as a landscaping concern in previous incarnations. I would pass by and admire it's arboreal graphics as I made my way up to the Eagle's Nest from Keller's, most weekend nights. Now those trees had been replaced by a simple logo, spelling out the simpler new name: 12 West.

In the spotlights illuminating the crowd outside, I spy the glint of his blond beard. Excited, I race over to Blaze, and hug him. Only when I realize that he's not hugging me back, do I turn and notice he's with another man. Not being the brightest of youngsters, I smile and introduce myself. I've yet to understand that the Blaze has made this date with both of us. I look my rival over. He's not as tall as me, and he's definitely older. But then who isn't? We both have short, dark hair. He has a beard. I have a moustache. He's not the slightest bit happy to meet me. His name is Arthur, and he's apparently asked Blaze out, not knowing that that fuck would show up with a child in tow. It's his membership to this new private club that we're to avail ourselves of. Arthur is incapable of hiding his displeasure. But what the hell, he relents and the three of us enter 12 West.

A large vestibule and coatcheck greets us. I can hear some of the extended dance music that was new that year, everywhere. We turn a corner and enter a large square room at it's apex. The room is well lit; it's white brick walls bathed in a rainbow of everchanging colors. Overhead, a series of woofers and tweeters create a sound unlike any other I've ever heard. I've spent some hours dancing in Soho lofts like Flamingo, or stumbling over the cobblestones at the Firehouse. This is nothing like either of those. The only decor are a series of semaphore flags hanging overhead, perhaps a tribute to the river flowing sluggishly right outside the door. We've checked out coats and are dancing a trois. Arthur is thoughtful enough to supply the latest of dance accoutrements, Burroughs amyl nitrate poppers. He breaks one of the yellow mesh-enclosed ampules under his nose, then holds it under Blaze's nose, and then passes it to me. I follow their example and when I return, I find Blaze and Arthur dancing together. And then not. Blaze and Arthur are yelling in each other's ears and I'm ignoring it, enjoying the sound and sensation. Blaze suddenly says "See ya later, I want to check this place out" and disappears. It's the last I will see of him. But the music is too good and I keep on dancing.

Arthur's a smart man. He's checking out the gyrating 20 year old in front of him, and decides it's time to make lemonade from the lemons he's been dealt. He moves in and starts unbuttoning the faux pearl snaps on my shirt until I'm bare chested. I can see that he's checking me out appreciatively. Maybe this isn't going to be so bad after all. The music is heading for another peak and he pulls out another Burroughs ampule, this time holding it under my nose first. Ah, seduction. He runs his hand lightly over my sweaty chest as we dance.

Later, we're ensconced on a cushioned banquette, somewhere away from the music. Arthur is curled up next to me, offering me a rather thick, well made joint. We laugh about our friend Blaze, who has apparently moved on to greener pasture. Arthur wants to know if I'd like to go home with him. I do and we do.

We dated for a few months there, until he threw me over for my best friend. I wasn't happy about that, but somehow Arthur and I became running buddies. We'd hit the clubs, the bars, restaurants, plays, movies and parties. Yes, I was 20, and he was 34, but it suited us both. I got a crash course in arcane gay etiquette, and in turn I took him shopping for his first Schott Perfecto leather jacket, his first 501's and his first flannel shirts. Some people had a lot to say about our unlikely partnership, but were forced into silence when Arthur threw a surprise "You're Legal" party for me when I turned 21. He even invited that handsome southern boy I was crushing on so bad to be my special guest.

Arthur moved to San Francisco in 1976, just after NYC and the rest of this country celebrated the Bicentennial. We've remained friends for 30 years. The first time we visited him, he threw us in his car, drove over the Golden Gate and hiked us down the Tennessee Valley trail to the Pacific. We were so astounded to reach the ocean that Tim and I ran into the breaking waves with our boots on, laughing.

I spoke with Arthur yesterday. The news wasn't good.