Thursday, June 29, 2006

(T)here Comes (Goes) The Weekend

Well, exciting Pride week came and went and there I was, staring down the shotgun barrel of summer.

Sounds ominous, I know.

For some reason, summer is my busiest of seasons at work. Witness my blog. Can you tell I haven't been here in a while? With good reason. I've had no life to blog about. I've been so busy at work, I've been blowing off the gym, except the days I have my trainer, which accounts for why I'm not losing weight. I'm just going to be fat, but with more muscles. Oh, well.

Anyway, you can imagine how thrilled I was at the prospect of an extended Fourth of July weekend. A full four days off. Yippee! Maybe I'd actually have something to blog about! The only issue was that between my work schedule and Tim's, we'd neglected to make any plans. Which sort of suited us, since we both needed to chill.

Friday night I arrived at Tim's house completely wound up. I'd had the day from hell and I was loaded for bear. Tim wisely fixed me a cold, crisp, clear Martini and then wisely fixed me another. By that point my leg had stopped vibrating from anger and frustration. We indulged in our yearly tradition of Christmas in July, even if it was the last day of June. What better way to cut through the heat and humidity, than with Jo Stafford winter collection, "Ski Trails". I know, we're either extremely eclectic, or definitely deranged. I was even awarded a third Martini. My man knows that desperate times call for desperate measures. Even jiggers. I had just enough life left in me to grab some dinner and collapse into bed.

After spending a couple of hours lolling around abed on Saturday morning, we heading into town to do some shopping for M.'s birthday. M.'s hit a bit of a rough patch. The house he's been renovating in Florida is taking much longer than he expected, and he's down there almost every weekend, on top of all the traveling he does for his job, as it is. He was in town a couple of weeks ago to go to Folsom St. East with me, but had to head right back out again. On the Sunday of Pride, he was in his garage doing chores, fell off a ladder and did such a number on his hand that he had to have three pins put in and he'll be in a cast until August, at least.

While we found nothing I liked enough to give him, we did spend an hour in J & R Music World where I picked up Joan Jett's newly released album "Sinner", the new release of the first American Humble Pie album called, oddly enough, "Humble Pie", and Teddy Pendergrass' first solo album. Did I say eclectic? Deranged? Demented! Joan is great, the record's totally dykey. I understand that this has actually been out for a couple of years in Japan, but I'm happy to have it now. "AC/DC", indeed! The Humble Pie album, which was released in '70, or '71 has been remastered to a fare-thee-well, sounding as if Steve Marriott and Peter Frampton (yes, the very same) were rocking out in my living room. And of course, I'd never played the Teddy LP for Tim, and I wanted him to hear "I Don't Love You Anymore" and of course, "The Whole Town's Laughing At Me". He was suitably impressed. Can anyone tell me the reasons why some much of what was recorded on the Philadelphia International label is no longer available? It's truly criminal.

I made us a couple of smooth Manhattans using Old Overholt Rye. Very smooth. Tim was suitably impressed. I, too, make a fine Manhattan. We headed out for dinner at an old haunt we like in the Village, peopled by folks who may very well actually be old haunts soon enough. It's God's waiting room on the west side. I won't mention the name, because you won't like it. We've been going for years, and we're younger than most of the clientele by at least two decades, if not more so. It's usually low key and relaxing, but that evening, some aged gigolo was reciting his sordid sexual history circa 1952. Boys, nothing has changed. There's few things more boring than being subjected to a rendition of somebody else's past peccadilloes. And it went on forever. The rest of the room, staff included, was reduced to such violent eyerolling I thought a retina might detach somewhere. I leaned over the table and recited "Liaisons" from "A Little Night Music" to Tim. Eclectic?

After a couple of rounds of grab-ass and a few beers at Ty's, we retired.

Sunday, Tim headed off to work and I worked out with the trainer. Ow. My Abs. After an hour with him, I foolishly put in another hour by myself, pretty much guaranteeing I would not be able to move that night or the next two days. I showered and headed off to the Dugout where I was greeted by Dr. Greg, Camacho, Joe, Aaron, Erik, David and others, of both blogging and non-blogging persuasions. Much merriment ensued. Tim took care of his patients, dispensing Long Island Trainwrecks and several of his special Manhattans. I took in the visiting eye candy, including a very attractive grouping apparently from D.C., judging from their t-shirts. When Tim got off we had a couple of drinks at Ty's, then heading home to collapse.

Monday was a quiet day for us, just some lunch and wandering around. Then Tim went home in anticipation of some big housekeeping chore he was planning for the following day, and I spent a quiet evening reading.

Tuesday, I too engaged in some household chores, then heading up in the stifling heat and humidity to Macy's to avail myself of the big seasonal sale. I needed stuff for work, which I tend to keep very basic. You know, black, dark blue, khaki, accompanied by varying shades of pale blue. The store was full of tourists stripping down to their skivvies in the aisles. It was not a pretty sight. I did what I came for and got the hell out. I walked home through the deserted streets of Chelsea, planning my evening.

I've lived in my apartment for 29 years now. I have seen enough fireworks to last a lifetime. Years ago, in the pre-Giuliani, pre-Dinkins era, the neighboring tenants would have firework wars, shooting rockets off their roof tops at each other. I'd come out on my terrace in the morning and find the detrius of the previous night's battle scattered about. For weeks before the Fourth of July, I could lay in my bed at night and watch the colorful explosions rising above the tenements of Chinatown and Little Italy. It was rather beautiful. Of course, this doesn't exist at all anymore. Just the big bombastic East River display that sets off car alarms and drives every dog in the neighborhood insane.

I had to get out of the house, and away from the crowds and the show.

I decided on a rare trip to the movies. I headed over to the Chelsea multiplex on 23rd Street, running into that other bartending Tim, who is 23 or so. He'd been to the Eagle and was quite happy to see me, jumping on me and throwing his legs around my waist. All I could think of was the core exercises, and how much they'd strengthened me, because I probably would have collapsed under the weight of all that attractive muscle.

I hit the theatre, choosing between A Prairie Home Companion and The Devil Wears Prada. A Meryl Streep double header. It was practically a Sophie's Choice decision, but Prairie Home won out. Robert Altman has been one of my very favorite directors since I was in film school back in 1972, and I knew this was probably his last outing. I was well rewarded. It was a remarkable elegy to a brilliant career. I was completely entranced for almost two hours, oblivious to the talkers and laughers and eaters that attend movies now, thinking they're in the comfort of their own living rooms.

I left the theatre and headed down Eighth Avenue, thinking I'd buy myself a nightcap or two. Young Tim did not appear to be bartending at the View, and I just didn't have the gumption to open the door at the Rawhide. I walk by Gym and thought, what the hell, entered and got a Wild Turkey and soda. An arm was waving at me, gesturing me over. It was Gregg, hanging out with Liam and Eric. My very own personal Three Little Pigs. They'd been to the Eagle as well. Apparently, I missed three different wet underwear contests. Quel domage. I guess a lot of boys were avoiding the masses that day.

After a couple of drinks, I accompanied Gregg onto the little smoking porch, which was populated by a group of short twenty-somethings who were speaking to each other in faux English accents. As the four of us squeezed in, one of the loudest children announced:

"I can hardly breathe out here, now that these Muscle Marys have arrived".

I looked around to see the muscular guys. There was no one behind me. I realized they were talking about us. Just as the familiar signs of anger started seeping into my brain, I laughed and turn the young man, thanking him, explaining that no one had ever called me that before. It was time to finish our drinks, hop in a cab and head over to Big Lug.

We were just about the only Big Lugs to be seen there. I guess the fireworks had scared all the boys away. But the music was rocking, and I had a couple of PBR's and talked to some nice boys from Texas. Fun.

So now it's the weekend again!

M. is coming into town for his birthday dinner. We're going to Keen's, because it's familiar. I'll have to cut his steak for him. We're going to hit some bars where he can stand in a corner and not have his cast jostled. He needs to get out!

I'll tell you all about soon.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

(Pride) A Deeper Love

Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade, 1973

This might as well be a daguerreotype for all intents and purposes, right?

Yes, if you look close enough at that blurry, yellowed, fading photograph, you just might find (with the added help of names inked in way back in the steamy summer of 1973) a familiar face.

I blogged about it here, last year.

This year, I'm planning on keeping it real low key, but please know I'm there with you, as always, in spirit.

And if you're out having a cocktail sometime on Saturday around dusk in the Village, keep an eye out for us. Lord knows, we'd love to raise a glass!

The Mark of Kane wishes y'all a very happy and fulfilling pride weekend.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Brooklyn Shame

It was to be the most beautiful day of the month, to date. After seemingly weeks of clouds, cold and rain, we were finally blessed with singularly blue skies that morning. An impromptu invitation, tendered just days prior, summoned us to the borough of Kings where we were to take part in that yearly chimera, Pride.

The plan was to meet, greet, drink and snack at Bryce & Neil's new home, then head out to view the festivities. I was definitely on for the meet and greet, and even the drink portion. I wasn't so sure about the festivities to follow. I'm not a crowd person. I figured I'd be surrounded by my nearest and dearest and that way it would all be alright.

Our challenge was actually getting to Brooklyn. Stop snickering, please. Yes, I was born and raised in Brooklyn, but way out at the opposite end of town, out by the ocean. As a small child, I could to hear fog horns at night when I lay in my single bed. I've now been in my Manhattan abode much longer than I ever lived in the house I was raised in. I know certain neighborhoods, and how to get to the various landmarks of my childhood, in their current incarnations. So I consulted Mapquest to find that the address to which we were heading was indeed in the heart of a neighborhood I had lived in some thirty three years prior.

I hadn't been back. Well, maybe once. I didn't leave under the most auspicious of circumstances.

Back in the early spring of 1973 I followed William home on the train, one Saturday evening after the bars had closed. He didn't know quite what to make of me, this 18 year old trailing him down West 4th Street and onto the subway platform. He certainly gave no indication that he knew what I was doing. I followed, jogging behind him as the train pulled in. At the very last moment he locked eyes with me and reached behind to hold the doors open. I stepped in and fell into the seat next to him, smiled and said: "So, where are we going?"

I'd never been on this train line before, never set eyes on this man before.

In true William fashion, he seemed both annoyed and kind of fascinated with the stunt I'd pulled. He questioned me, asking what I would have done had he been in a relationship, or had no place of his own or just plain not interested. I shrugged. These were chances I liked to take then.

The neighborhood itself, one I'd never heard of, was called Fort Greene/Clinton Hill. He lived in the Clinton Hill section in a small double wooden house that had served as the servant's quarters for the Vanderbilt mansion on Clinton Avenue. The scant block and a half from the train station was fraught with danger, to the point where the blocks were impassable after dark. The sun was just ascending as we headed back to his house, and bed.

I spent the day and then the following weekend and then the better part of the next year until I convinced myself that I wasn't getting nearly enough attention and promptly went out and found more.

Though William and I maintained a tenuous relationship for several years, calling each other on our mutual birthday, I never returned to that beautiful terrible neighborhood. Well, maybe once, when a handsome artist took me home with him. But never again.

Until now.

Tim and I emerged from the train on Fulton Street, blinking in the bright sun, like the intrepid explorers we were. It took mere minutes for me get my bearings. I knew exactly where I was, and not much had changed. We wandered up to Waverly Avenue, to make a short pilgrimage to the place I lived. Strangely, little of the landscape had changed much, though the denizens populating it were quite different than what I remembered. I was almost giddy when I spied my former, albeit temporary, home, regaling Tim with ancient gossip and histories long past. We meandered along, admiring the architecture, as I mentally took inventory of the past.

At our host's beautiful and spacious home, we were greeted with surprise, as if we'd forded the Amazon to attend. We received an extensive house tour, and manned our station at the bar, fixing drinks for all who required them. Tim mastered the cranky blender and was soon sending out his trademark potent concoctions. I thought I might sip Bourbon through the course of the afternoon, to achieve a golden buzz to match the golden day. Cocktails in hand, we climbed to the roof, taking in the amazing views. We were suitably impressed by the Broken Angel building, which had not been there the last time I was in the neighborhood, and now loomed eerily above us. Tim was quick to point out the location of the Empire State Building, which thrilled our hosts to no end. My attentions were elsewhere.

Looking down Greene Avenue, I spied the former site of Adelphi Hospital. Back in 1973, my paternal grandmother, having lost her husband some months earlier, returned from the trailer park in Sarasota she and my grandfather had decamped to years before and came back to Brooklyn to die. It seemed to be her plan. There was ostensibly nothing wrong, she just didn't want to live, and so, wasted away. Learning that she was a mere two blocks from where William and I lived, I was moved to visit her. I'd neither seen nor spoken to her much in several years. We were emphatically not a close knit family. I spent a few evenings with her, mostly in light conversation, as it seemed we didn't have all that much to say.

Some years later, during one of the several unsuccessful reconciliations my father and I endured, he mentioned those visits to me, in concert with several other heretowith unknown and completely devastating factoids regarding my childhood and daunting adolescence.

Apparently he had visited his mother shortly after I left one evening. As the two of them lit up their respective cigarettes, my grandmother, a sort of Jewish gangster's moll in kewpie doll disguise, turned to my father and drawled:

"You know, Gene...your son's a fag".

All this came back to me, echoing loudly in my head all through that lovely afternoon, surrounded by all my wonderful friends. I laughed as I told the tale to all who would listen.

I've learned to compartmentalize the hurtful past, yet I'm still astounded that it retains the power to completely un-nerve me when it rears it's ugly head.

I went downstairs, grabbed the Maker's Mark bottle by the neck and poured a long golden stream.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Jukebox Hero

It's a well known fact that I cannot be in the same room as an idling jukebox.

Decades ago, Robert would notice me twitching, and lean forward to tell me:

"Don't worry. There's always some nervous fag who'll put money in the jukebox."

To which I learned to reply:

"Uh, Robert, that nervous fag is me!"

Well, times have changed, I haven't been with Robert in years, but I'm still the man taking charge of the jukebox.

Now, this has nothing to do with the fact that I'm a total control freak.

Wait, that's a lie!

It has everything to do with it. It's a well known documented fact. It took Tim mere months to announce that he found me overbearing. I still am. He's just gotten used to me. Or maybe I've just mellowed some.

Doubt that!

But I digress.

Just as music often serves as a trigger to remind one of a special event or circumstance, to this day, some songs remain completely emblematic of the bars, restaurants and eras I first heard them in. Some of these songs were in the popular rock and soul idioms of the day, some show tunes (I am a middle-aged gay man, after all!), and a few of them are old hits that never went away.

The original jukebox that Robert and I discussed was in a small, dark bar/burger bin called One Potato, which stood on the corner of 10th and Hudson Streets up until a decade ago. Robert and I would head there on Thursday nights, way back in 1976, to start the weekend off properly. We'd often meet up with our pale friend Richard, drink several beers, pump the juke box and devour burgers at tables fabricated from old whiskey barrels. A waiter took to referring to us as The Men when we'd arrive. I'm not quite sure I understand what that appellation separated us from, as the room was invariably filled with only men, and the occasional sympathetic sister. The bartender soon upped the ante by announcing us as the Father (Robert was about to turn 36), the Son (I was 21) and the Holy Ghost (yes, Richard was that pale). The nickname stuck. I loved it.

The songs I heard there were Linda Lewis' helium voiced rendition of "It's In His Kiss", The Supremes singing "Stoned Love" and "Up The Ladder To The Roof", Melba Moore's "This Is It!" and songs from the first productions of Chicago and A Chorus Line, which were fresh and new then.

It's as if these songs are date-stamped or time coded, their association cemented with a specific venue in another time, another place.

Other Jukeboxes, Other Rooms:

The machine in the student lounge at the School of Visual Arts, where I was chided for playing David Bowie's "Changes" back in 1972. Too gay, apparently. I made the acquaintance of the kid who programmed the box and by the end of the semester it was stocked with New York Dolls tracks, as well as my very own T.Rex 45, "Ride A White Swan".

The jukeboxes at Village gay bars such as the Ninth Circle, Ty's and Keller's where I hung out from 1973, onwards. Endless Lou Reed, Rolling Stones and David Bowie's Aladdin Sane album bring the Ninth Circle crashing back, while the Ronettes "Walking In The Rain" and the Shirelle's "Chains" revive Keller's for me. The small jukebox at Ty's seemed to play the obscure Cy Coleman instrumental "Chloe" all the time.

Years later, a restaurant called 103 Second Avenue opened, amazingly enough at that very location. Periodicals of the time never failed to comment on the cool humans that provided the service there. If they didn't know you, or like the looks of you, service could be sketchy at best. It was next door to the entrance of The Saint, and had a bit of that element to it, but it managed to combine the remnants of the punk scene, the nascent New Wavers and neighborhood types like myself. It was a favored hangout, and we'd head there after long sleepless nights to drink coffee, have some breakfast and come down from whatever substance we'd been ingesting all night. On that jukebox I would play Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights" and "Duel" or Femme Fatale" by Propaganda, or "Dazzle" by Siouxie & The Banshees. One of the minor highlights of my life to that point was stumbling into the restaurant at dawn, only to be handed money by the owner, and told to play the pretty morning music.

Which brings us to today. A wildly popular blogger who shall remain nameless has threatened to out me as a jukebox nerd. He's discovered that I have a pocket full of crib sheets when I arrive at the Dugout on Sundays, and he's looking to make the most of it. It's true. I am a nerd. I take notes. There's no way I can contain in my head all the songs I think to play during week. I write things like REM: "It's The End of The World As We Know It" and ABC: "The Look of Love" on my old business cards on a Wednesday or Thursday as the songs occur to me. Then I play them on Sunday.

I thought I better blog about this before he does.

Control Freak?

You betcha.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Rainy Night House

It took us 1-1/2 hours to get from 12th Street to 47th Street last Friday night.

But we were men on a mission. Neither a subway system that seemed perilously close to total collapse nor a hike from 6th Avenue to 10th Avenue in a teeming torrential downpour could dampen, so to speak, our ardor. For we were heading to GB: NY3, a convocation of contemporary digital scribes, better known as bloggers.

The opening event, a meet and greet with cocktails, had called for us to assemble at 7:00 PM at Barrage, a chic Hell's Kitchen boite. We thought to make a smart New York Entrance around 9:00, but clearly the fates had other plans in mind for us.

Instead, we arrived at 10:00, less smart than late, and completely soaked to the skin. Umbrellas had proved completely useless on our crosstown hejira. Rain water poured from all our visible extremities. I'm sure we did not present a pretty sight as we stumbled into Barrage to face the battalion of bloggers assembled there.

A quick glance around provided me with the information that I needed to hit the bar post-haste to begin assuming my liquid personality in order to deal with the daunting multitude already assembled. We indulged in a fast bourbon to ward off any possibility of chill and dove in.

At first, I think my vast size and age, not to mention wetness, was a bit off-putting. I could see people regarding me from corners of the room with what looked like terror in their eyes. But friendship prevailed and what a pleasure it was to see so many of my local favorites, like Bryce and Neil and Eddie and Michael and Mike P and Glenn. And to meet locals I hadn't met before like Vasco and Vinny, or sort of met and finally connected with, like Eric. And to meet visiting dignitaries I'd corresponded with like Mark & Brian and Scott. And to make the acquaintance of people like Sean and Byrne.

And of course, no event, not even an ordinary Sunday night, is complete without my Blogdaddy.

The evening progressed with advanced alcohol consumption, accompanied by a blinding flurry of photographs. Some of these, mostly any that I might have appeared in, are quite frightening.

An aside: Clearly the camera and I are not friends. And I'm learning that flash photography is definitely my enemy. It didn't help that I was wet, either. I'm thinking I need practice sessions with some sympathetic photographer. I've tried ad naseum to take my own picture with my smart little camera, and have had to erase every single one in disgust. I know I don't look like that!

Among my vague recollection of the rest of the evening, I remember the appalling mirror and spotlight set-up in the Men's room, which could make the heartiest soul pee-shy. I recall an unwise attempt to have a shot with Scott. What was I thinking? A shot, while I was imbibing bourbon? When the shot turned out to be a Lemon Drop, I wisely declined. Someone else I know had one and soon confessed to being D.R.UNK!

Let's just say that Saturday was spent in recovery. We missed Part Deux, a meet and greet with cocktails that took place at the Eagle. We were in bed by 11:30, and therefore totally refreshed for Part Trois.

Imagine my surprise, while standing at my post in the Dugout, to see Mark & Brian wander in. They had planned to leave town on Sunday morning, but apparently there had been some changes made, and well, here they were! Followed by many of the same gentlemen from the previous night's frolics. There was dancing, there was singing. There was another armada of alcohol consumed. I became ballcap stylist to Scott. I even got to meet some non-blogging civilians, and to further an acquaintance with a very comely gentleman, who knows exactly who he is.

Sign me up for next year. I had too much fun.