Friday, November 16, 2007
It could be the change of seasons. Perhaps it has something to do with my advancing age and diminishing hormones. It might even be about the 70 hour weeks I've been putting in for the past month or so. I am fairly exhausted, and my mind doesn't seem to be firing on all cylinders. In fact, only the part of my brain that controls my snarling mechanism seems to be functioning correctly.
I was reading this morning about how awful our life is going to be shortly, due of the effects of the writer's strike. Apparently, our insatiable appetites for crime dramas, explosions and cheap sexual innuendo are not to be whetted any time soon. The threat of having to wait until next year to catch up with "Lost" is looming largely on the horizon. And I thought, how does this affect me? And I realized, it doesn't. At all. I guess between reading and my computer, I've mostly weaned myself off the boob tube. Does Project Runway count?
And if America was so convinced a few months ago that Britney Spears is a talentless slag, then why did her album go to No. 1? Who's buying this tripe? The other day I had cause to notice that Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' new album Raising Sand was the #2 seller on Amazon, which made me want to know what the #1 choice was. That sound you heard was my head exploding when I discovered that spot occupied by Josh Groban's Christmas album. Is this the price we're paying for not teaching Music Appreciation in our schools anymore?
Who are the people moving into all the new glass condominiums going up all over my neighborhood and it's environs? A couple of years ago, I bemoaned the destruction of two century-old edifices within a block of my apartment. The church was torn down, save for it's Manhattan schist steeple and a 26 story NYU dorm is nearing completion in it's place. Just what my poor neighborhood needs is another thousand freshmen with entitlement issues arriving next September. The handsome old theatre, also demolished at the same time had been standing peaceably for over 100 years, starting life as a nickelodeon, then continuing as a neighborhood movie theatre, a grind house and finally reborn as a legitimate theatre. It had a beautiful neon marquee that, when I first spied it in 1969, seemed to be a welcoming beam, inviting one into an older city with a different scale. It was replaced by a 21 story glass ice cube, with floor to ceiling windows, interspersed with the odd blue or green panel, giving the whole project the air of a rather overblown cabana. Signs were posted on the building's framework announcing studio apartments starting at $885,000.00. The one and two bedroom apartments were considerably more, and I wondered who in their right mind would pay such prices to live on Third Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets. Not exactly a glamorous setting. Well, the project sold out immediately, and the owners have been moving in for the past few weeks. You'd think if you were spending that sort of money on a glass cubicle with floor to ceiling fenestration, you'd give some thought to your window treatments before you moved in. This is not the case with these millionaires. Third Avenue strollers have been treated to a display that rivals Calcutta as the new inhabitants have attempted to gain some privacy and light control by hanging garbage bags, shower curtains, cardboard boxes, anything but the floor-to-ceiling sheer curtains these residences scream out for. The effect is both comical and unsightly. Lately, a few residents seem to have caught a clue and hired the designers they should have in the first place. I can see that my binoculars will finally come in handy.
And what's with the casual homophobia I've been seeing among young people lately? Tim and I had dinner on the Upper East Side last Saturday. It was a chilly evening and we broke our leather jackets; mine an ancient Schott Racer, Tim's a handsome motorcycle jacket I had custom-made for him last Christmas. We stood at the bar and enjoyed a couple of beers while waiting for our table. When we were finally seated, we were exposed to 15 minutes of pointing, snickering and whispering behind hands by the two heterosexual couples seated opposite us. At first, I tried to ignore it, thinking I was just being paranoid. Finally, it reached such a frenzy that I asked Tim if he had noticed it. He had, and mentioned that it had been going on since we were at the bar. As usual I was oblivious. Finally, I just stopped, met their stares with a scowl and looked at them. At first they looked back, but my scowl deepened and I growled "WHAT?" at them. They quickly averted their eyes. I remembered then that my ex, Robert, had taught me to fight many years ago, concerned about situations just like this. When they next looked up, I was sitting back in my chair, punching my right fist into my left palm and staring at them. They never looked at us again, quickly finishing their dinners and leaving silently. I'm not sure what set them off. Two men dining together? Our leather jackets? Who knows? It's 2007. I didn't have to deal with this in 1977 and I'm certainly not putting up with that kind of bullshit now.
Finally, I just came back to the office from a meeting with a very nice client (my age!). She'd shown me around some upcoming projects and introduced me in an extremely complimentary fashion to her boss. I was putting my coat on and saying goodbye when I noticed an exceptionally handsome young man walk in, and speak with the receptionist. As I was taking him in, in all his glory, my client called him over. She then took me by the elbow and said:
Crabby? You betcha.
Maybe it's the moon. Or something. All I know is I have to shake this off, and fast. After all, it's the holiday season.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Am I still supposed to look forward to my birthday?
I have yet another one coming up in three days, and I'm just not up for too much fuss. That is, if there is any fuss at all. If there isn't, I'll probably be an interesting combination of peeved and relieved at the same time.
Actually, I know there will be an assortment of the standard events, because I've made the reservations for a couple of them myself.
I know that Tim has something up his sleeve this evening, and tomorrow evening Tim and M. and I will visit one of my very favorite establishments, throw down some serious bucks and drink and eat ourselves into a semi-catatonic state. A visit to an Upper East Side Older Gentlemen's Drinking Establishment may or may not follow. Sunday will be spent recovering and/or at the gym and a bit later at the (sigh) Dugout. Monday, the day itself, I will be working on a bid for miscellaneous furniture to be installed at New York's largest and currently most dangerous construction site. There may be a lunch involved, and possibly birthday cake. I think I'll hide in the evening, to recover from this surfeit of birthday gaiety.
Once again, I've prepared myself by telling anyone who asked during the past several months that I was 53, when in fact, I was enjoying my 52nd year. It's a simple way to prepare myself for the inevitable. And of course, one hopes to garner compliments along the lines of: "Gee, you don't look so bad for 53!". It rarely works.
If you see me out and about, know that I'll be accepting all manner of birthday wishes, various hugs, multitudes of kisses from them that wants to offer 'em, and commiseration from those who join me in my advanced age.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
It's not completely unusual for us to do this. In fact, it's rather standard for both of us to work like dogs. Tim always works six days a week, and my ten to twelve hour days add up to at least the same.
But this weekend, we barely got to see much of each other.
I rushed to his house after work on Friday, where we had a couple of late cocktails, hit the diner and crawled into bed. The next morning, we didn't even have a chance to have breakfast together. We both boarded the PATH train and headed off to our various responsibilities. I finished up in the late afternoon. Tim would be done at 8:30.
The plan was for me to pick him up, and then we'd have a quiet dinner. I met him just as he was coming out the door and we headed off directly into the madness that is Times Square these days. Our goal was a small French restaurant in the West Fifties that we tend to get to at least once a month. It dates from the early 1960's; a time when this neighborhood had several such establishments, due perhaps to the proximity of the passenger ship piers directly west. It is one of the very few survivors of that era, and it mostly attracts a clientele of a certain age, along with the occasional Hell's Kitchen claque of neighborhood gay boys and a smattering of theatre-goers. It is always packed pre-curtain, but the scene mellows out nicely as the evening progresses.
We took a table in the quiet back corner. The very lovely French women who work there know us now, and they bring us our Manhattans and a slice of pate, while we unwind a bit. Tim has learned this from my uncle, who wouldn't even open the menu until he was well into his second cocktail. We're not quite that severe. We order our meal along with our second cocktail, as the world becomes slightly bourbon-tinged and we're able, momentarily, to be together. I enjoy a perfectly sauteed trout, and Tim works his way through a hefty portion of Choucroute Garnie. The table is cleared, and now we're among the last few diners. Coffee and spirits are due to arrive. We lean back and regard each other. Tim reaches his hand across the table, and places it gently over mine.
We sit quietly, listening to the wonderfully endless Edith Piaf recordings, drinking our Delamain and Poire William, basking for this short moment in each other's company. Tomorrow, Tim will be back at work, and I'll have to make do with the occasional glance we share over the bar, from time to time.
But for now, we'll head off into the balmy autumn night, our shoulders brushing occasionally as we commence our journey home.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
I had no idea. I Googled it. I learned that it had been so decreed way back in 1988, on the first anniversary of that huge march on Washington. Why hadn't I heard of it before?
I continued reading the entry to discover this:
"It is highly encouraged for participants in this movement to wear gay pride symbols, such as the pink triangle, the Greek letter lambda, and rainbows, in jewelry and on their clothing, to demonstrate their presence in all walks of life, all ages and all ethnic groups, this contributing to being open, or "coming out", about being queer in every day life."
I wore khakis yesterday. And a short sleeve plaid shirt. So not gay.
It's sort of funny. With my sense of recall , you'd think I could pinpoint the exact day I came out. In fact, I can't. I know the year, and the season, but coming out was something that happened progressively.
Though I'd been sexually active for years prior, I did not come out until I was 18. Not out of any sense of propriety. I'd pretty much run the gamut of all the assorted late '60s/early '70s meet-and-greet places in the past couple of years, and I certainly was not shy. I just never had the opportunity nor the inclination to let anyone I was relating to on a social level know that I was gay.
Like so many others of that time, I had basically spent much of High School denying I was gay, even as I was acting on those desires. It was only in my senior year that I could uncomfortably admit to a crush on George Harrison, and then a bit later, on a man who sort of looked like George Harrison.
It wasn't until I was in college and actually interacting socially, as opposed to sexually, with living, breathing homosexuals that I felt comfortable enough or lonely enough or desperate enough to answer affirmatively when the question of my gayness arose among them. And it was with a huge sense of relief that I answered. The changes were immediate. No longer was I on the outside, judged with suspicion by one side or the other. Admitting I was gay was like jumping into a huge, warm, welcoming pool, much akin to this:
After all, it was the early seventies!
I was to find myself instantly part of a nascent community, seemingly full of people just like me. I was able to discern life patterns among my new found family and realize that there were viable options for me to live the life I wanted the way I wanted to.
Some months later, I was perhaps blinded by some safety-in-numbers notion when I decided it was time to tell my mother the truth as I now knew it. My mother always had her suspicions and was not shy about vocalizing them. I'm she enjoyed the sheer terror her inquisitions caused, but I don't think she was ready for the buoyantly affirmative answer she received that evening. In fact, she suggested I needed help. Perhaps of the electro-shock sort. Or, horror of horrors, aversion therapy. I was too far indoctrinated by that point, and refused her kind offers, much to her chagrin.
Having conquered strangers and my mother, I wisely held off having the same conversation with my father, letting him draw whatever conclusions he might from my arriving at his house in a Gay Activists Alliance t-shirt.
There was a point in my young life when I measured time by how many years I'd been out. I can clearly recall boasting that I'd been out of the closet and proud of it for three, then five, then ten years.
It's been 35 years since those heady days, and it seems I'm now heading out of another door, perhaps the other side of that self-same closet. The world that welcomed me so many years ago is now a distant Arcadian memory, rendered in sepia and sadly faded hues. I'm heading into much colder uncharted waters, with neither map nor guide. Those same desperately anxious emotions I endured prior to coming out are plaguing me again. I'm at least aware of what some of my viable options are, but I'm not sure I like many of them.
Once again, it might be cool if some of the other participants in my new journey could wear some sort of identifiable symbol, to demonstrate their presence in all walks of life, to show me how to navigate this voyage, to surround and support me in the way I've long become accustomed to.
Monday, September 24, 2007
This fact in itself was enough to drive my sister insane. Here I was, a newly minted teenager, and I really couldn't dance to save my life. Early in the 60's, I had mastered the twist, but here it was some five years later, and it was clear that I could not Frug, Jerk, Pony, Swim, Monkey, Mashed Potato, Watusi or Boogaloo. I had years of opportunity to learn by watching the gyrating dancers on the Clay Cole show and Where The Action Is. But I didn't. Given the chance to move different parts of my body in diametrically opposed directions, I'd melt into a flailing mess. My sister and her friends would giggle, roll their eyes and bemoan my future.
Thank heavens for Archie Bell & The Drells, who released their seminal recording "Tighten Up" that spring. In addition to a spoken introduction, relentless beats and a great horn chart, there apparently was a dance that accompanied it. I think my sister felt that this was her last chance to save me from a life of wallflower hell, and she decided I would have to learn the rather basic steps that was...The Tighten Up . If I remember correctly, it consisted of a semi-graceful shrugging gesture combined with mild hip thrusting and some alternating foot extensions. There might have been some finger-snapping involved. Simple. Any 13 year old could do it. In fact, it took me much of that Spring, my sister marshaling me much like Velma Von Tussle, inciting me to dance faster and get on the beat. Or off the beat, as was the case here. For that was just one of my problems; I was dancing on the beat. In hindsight, I've come to realize that my basic issue was executing the pelvic thrust necessary to successfully master the dance. I'd had little opportunity at that age to practice that particular movement. I've since learned. Eventually, I got the knack of it, and was able to Tighten Up to any song that came out.
It took a while, and a whole lot of Rolling Stones records to learn how to move my body in some sort of semblance of dancing, and eventually I learned to love it, dancing where ever I could; at summer camp socials, college mixers and finally gay bars. I actually entered my very first gay bar, The Ninth Circle, under the pretext of going dancing with two female high school buddies. Apparently, they could dance there and not get hit on by guys. I thought I could do the same, plus get a some of their unwanted attention paid to me. My thought process turned out to be entirely correct.
From there, I moved on to the Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse, where I spent a couple of seasons dancing on cobblestones in platform shoes. Friendships were made on dance floors all over town. We danced wherever we could to whatever was playing, a live band, a jukebox full of 45's or some young man mixing magic before our eyes. We danced at the Mercer Arts Center to the New York Dolls, before it collapsed into a heap in the middle of Broadway one afternoon. We danced at Cheetah, listening to Eric Emerson & the Magic Tramps. A bit later, we danced at the discos of the day, commencing with Flamingo, 12West and the Loft, with visits to Paradise Garage, Les Mouches, Infinity, The Sandpiper, and many, many, yes, many more. We learned to arrive late and stay until the next afternoon, fueled by no end of Mother's Little Helpers. We'd stay on the dance floor for hours at a time, taking short breaks to rehydrate and re-energize. We'd leave, our clothes completely saturated with sweat. Even our leather belts and shoes were salt stained. Eventually we would dance under the dome at The Saint, and then we didn't dance again for several years to come.
So I pretty much haven't been on a dance floor in well over a decade until a few weeks ago. Tim is not from the dancing stock I am, and has a limited attention span for this sort of thing. I, on the other hand, will get up and dance around my living room, should the spirit move me. But those marathons just aren't quite the same without the various requisite party favors, and I'm of an age where I no longer indulge in most of them. We have danced here and there; at a friend's big 40th birthday celebration, when the DJ played Jimmy Ruffin's "Hold On To My Love" and all of us old Saint boys hit that dance floor real hard. Or the time I dragged Tim onto the crowded dance floor at the Boatslip to dance up a sweaty storm. Exiting up Commercial Street, I realized that I no longer looked good dripping wet, just haggard, and that, as they say, was that.
That is, until September 8th, when the whole bunch of us attending Blowoff NYC. Now, I'd read and heard so much about Blowoff in DC, and greatly admired the men responsible for the music. I bought tickets, figuring if we changed our minds, we could always blow off Blowoff, but as the date drew near, I grew excited. We arrived en masse, meeting the rest of our party in the mostly empty HighLine Ballroom. I was a bit dismayed to find no one dancing, and the room vibe not unlike the dance in the gym in West Side Story. But the room was lovely, and the music was intriguing and insistent. I downed a couple of cocktails and talked to friends, inadvertently twitching to the beats. Eventually, I could stand it no more, and heading to a slightly secluded corner near the DJ where I could begin the dance.
There, in the shadows of the alternating DJ's I started moving my body, joined by Tim and an assortment of friends. It took a few moments to see if everything worked, and in fact everything did. My body seemed to have a few new gestures it had acquired, God knows where, and was insistent about trying them out. We danced in various configurations, merging and focusing our attentions elsewhere. I noticed a friend or two nudging each other and gesturing towards me, and thought, Ah, they're just pointing out their wacky old uncle Mark...all that's missing is the fringed lampshade on his head. I was having too much fun to mind.
Study the picture above and you'll see Tim and Joe and Little Tim and Jerry and Lars and possibly Tom and maybe Glenn. A holy host of others. I'm half hidden, partially obscured by a shaft of light, lost in music. Lost in thought, as well. I marvelled at how I pretty much dance exactly the same way I did back in 1975 at Flamingo. Not much has changed. The same sort of men dance their way over to me, communing for a few endless minutes on the dance floor. The same wordless energy is exchanged. I thought of the long line of men I had danced with over the past 35 years, most gone, some missing. For a moment, I entertained the idea that I might be acting as a sort of museum installation, a hazy time capsule view into the dance and mating mores of that long lost age. I jettisoned that thought completely, happy as I was to be right there, among my friends, back in the tribe.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Biblically, Cain was a son of Adam and Eve. Cain appears to have been a rather lackadaisical farmer, while his brother Abel was quite the cattleman.
Apparently, the good Lord accepted Abel's sacrifice of prime meat, while spurning Cain's offering of so-so grains and leafy things.
I understand this every time I dine at Peter Luger.
It seems that this put Cain crazy, as we used to say down south. He killed his brother, and then lied about it. When asked about Abel's whereabouts, he said: "Am I my brother's keeper?". This caused the Lord to get mightily pissed at him.
He forced Cain to wander the earth, and marked him with a sign, as a warning to others that Cain was not to be meddled or interfered with, but left to suffer in his endless punishment.
The Bible makes no mention of what form this mark took.
You can all see the name of this blog up there in the left corner. Can you guess what my name is? I don't have a brother and I have very few outwardly discernible markings. I am partially of Russian descent, but I am not inked. The name Kane is derived from Gaelic, and seems to mean Little Battle, which seems to suit me just fine. How my family came to that name is another story for another time. When you combine it with my given name, which means war-like, it seems I must be quite a handful.
If you stick around, you'll be party to sporadic tales of long forgotten days (and nights), travels to our gay capitals, some whining about my impending dotage and the occasional rant.
But that's probably not why you came here, is it?
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
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. My friends 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".
One evening Mark had one of our more psychotic bears pinned against the bar, and was moving in for the kill. Tim caught my eye from his place 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, smiled and moved on. I walked over and asked to see the note. Tim had written "FLEE!!!"
Mark came over later and said "I owe you dinner; both of you!".
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
That summer, Mark crept up behind me and stuck his hand down the back of my jeans. If you know me, you'll know this doesn't happen all that often. I jumped sky-high. He just laughed. While he played with my butt, I brought up the famous dinner. We both laughed. Business was kind of shaky, I knew. Dot-coms were dropping like flies...the boom seemed 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. We'll drink to him.
The morning of September 12th, I woke with Tim at 5:40 AM, and looked out my terrace windows at the column of smoke rising from the pile of rubble where the Trade Center towers had been just the day before. Tim and I were not sure how this day would play out. He went to work, not knowing if he'd be able to get back to Jersey City that night. I sat down in front of the television to see if and how our city would be running. My neighborhood had been cordoned off the previous afternoon, and it would be weeks before I'd be allowed to venture about without showing ID. My office was closed that day, like so many others in NY, and I wondered what fresh new horrors the day would bring. I watched the news reports, almost numb. Within minutes of Mark and Alice appearing on the TV screen, my phone started ringing. People had recognized Mark and wanted to know if this man was my friend. After a very short time I turned off the TV, got dressed and walked the deserted streets to my equally deserted office. My plan was to bury myself in work for a few hours and get away from the mounting horror story.
I didn't realize there would be no escaping it.
I still come across Mark's name in my contacts and his card still resides in the ancient Rolodex on my desk. I keep them there, just as I'm keep a small part of Mark's spirit alive in this rememberance of the fun we had. I had a small laugh this grey, grim morning, thinking of all the bearded "Bingham Widows" that appeared as the news became widespread. I think Mark would have been mightily amused and bought them all a shot, if not dinner at Nobu.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
There are so many possibilities, so many sensibilities that makes it almost impossible for me to quantify music into such a category. Do artists of the 40's and 50's like Chris Connor and Billy Strayhorn qualify? Would the work of the Velvet Underground be somehow considered gay?How about 70's singer/songwriters like Steven Grossman and Michael Cohen? Was Glam gay? Is dance music other than Disco gay? What about Laura Nyro? Or Blowoff?
Or is it just that so-called thumpa-thumpa music, with or without vocals, that qualifies as Gay Music? The collected canons of Kylie, Madge & Donna?
I simply am not qualified to answer this.
Tim has bartended every Sunday for very nearly ten years at one of our local bars. Perhaps you know it. He has a regular job that he works at diligently five to six days a week. This bar gig started out as a just a way for him to earn a little extra beer money. At one point he was working every other Friday night and every Sunday, but we were younger then. If you're there, you've probably seen me. Yes, I'm that big guy by the jukebox. Always have been. Tim and I have seen people come and go. We've seen crowds assemble to overflowing, and ebb to a point where it's just me, him and the bar backs. We've been a popular hangout, and then, not so much. We've stuck it out through 5 different management teams, each with very different ideas of how to run the joint. The point is, the joint seems to run itself. I'm not sure why people come and hang on Sundays, but they do.
Years ago, we would listen to the same old and crusty dance mixes gleaned from the piles of sticky cassettes stashed under the bar. The jukebox was not turned on, and when it was, contained many of the selection were remnants of the days when one could two-step upstairs one night a week.
In our travels, I'd listen to the music at bars like the SF Eagle or the Lone Star and ask Tim why we didn't have many bars in New York that played a mixture of dance, rock and obscurities and classics. Tim likened the idea of playing that sort of thing to a house party on your dorm floor. You know, great loud music and a bunch of sexy guys getting drunk. I know...the Boiler Room and the Phoenix did start doing just that, but these were rooms filled with actual college kids, and we weren't looking for that.
I asked the manager if it was possible to add some CD's to the jukebox, and he said: "Sure, give me a list!". Which I did. Because I'm that sort of person. Read about it here. The first list added Radiohead, Iggy Pop, Roxy Music and Prince to the mix. There were to be new lists every couple of months, and I took great pleasure in spending my five bucks to hear a more varied mix of music. Many, many people liked it. A few did not. I remember clearly having a currently popular DJ come up to me as I was feeding the machine and say: "So, you're the one who plays the music we hate!" I had to admit that I was.
Management changed. The jukebox was removed. Management changed. A new jukebox showed up, and I was asked once again for programming suggestions. I made lists. The jukebox died. I got a call, simply asking me to bring a pile of CD's from home. I did. Management changed. I was asked to make a few CD's for the bar. I wound up making 15 or so. Many people liked them. A few did not. A new digital jukebox with an on-line library was installed. One could select just about any genre of music. I'd walk into the bar on a bright Sunday afternoon to a sad round of tunes by Willie Nelson, or a selection from the Josh Groban catalog. Management would beg me to please commandeer the jukebox and play something upbeat. I know how to do that, and was obliging. Since then, I've dropped a few dollars in every Sunday and played some drinking songs for the two hour window that everyone seems to show for these days.
Within the ofttimes difficult constraints of what is actually available, I've managed to find things to play. I've played songs that remind Tim of his college days. I've played songs that call back the years Robert and I got high in our Living Room with our big Koss headphones listening to the latest British import synth bands. I play songs that make Joe sing, and I try not to play songs that make him sad. I play songs that Damian and I laugh (or cry) about. I play songs that remind me of a dear friend who used to stand beside me every week and has since moved away. I miss him. I play songs that cause Tim to look up from his work and smile at me. I play songs that Aaron can rock out to! I play songs we can sing all together, or I can dance in place to. Many, many people like it. A few do not.
Last week, I was approached by someone I hadn't seen at the bar in quite some time. He looked over the jukebox while I talked with his partner. He came back to us angry and red-faced.
"What gives you the right to program the jukebox like that?", he asked.
I put my arm around his shoulder and gave him my usual line: "I'm just trying to avoid a Madonnathon".
Furious, he asked me his question again, as he shoved me off him. I straightened up and told him that when his boyfriend was the bartender, he could play what he wanted. I know, it was a dumb thing to say, and I sincerely regretted it.
"We're gay men. Why should we have to listen to this shit?"
It was then that I started pondering the concept of gay music.
"You're the reason everyone left this bar and went to the Eagle!"
I looked around the currently packed room, and gave some thought to the that perhaps the three floors, the cheaper drinks, the proximity of all those hot men and a roof-deck might have had something to do with that decision on their part, but decided not to say anything.
"I put money in that jukebox, and I won't hear it for hours! I'm leaving and it's because of you, and your shitty music!".
He stormed out as I turned and walked away.
I have to say that I was floored, and filled with doubt. Perhaps, I thought, I should stop. I'd surely save a shit load of money. Some friends saw the change in my demeanor and inquired as to what was going on. They were supportive, but still. I told Tim, who said "Screw it!".
A bit later, the gentleman's four selections finally played. Three of them were tunes I'd played earlier in the evening and the fourth was from Madonna's Erotica album.
I just wonder why it is that many, many people can be so supportive and encouraging to me, but all it takes is one negative comment to send me into a tailspin.
Then I think, maybe next week, I'll play "Heroin".
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Who Googled this?
mark hot bear joe my god
If it was me you were looking for, I'm flattered, as among the other searches that brought people to The Mark of Kane these last 24 or hours or so were:
Oddly enough, most of these actually pertain to me in one way or another, with the possible exception of breast augmentation. That's just push-ups, and I've been slacking off (a lot) lately.
Of course, Joe probably knows lots of Marks who might be construed as hot bears. Some of them might even identify as such.
Humor me and say Hey!
Thursday, August 23, 2007
You cannot underestimate the number of friends who have admitted to the shedding of tears as they were packing, or driving off down Bradford Street towards Route 6 and home. My own moment inevitably comes after I place our luggage in the car and walk back to lock up the condo. It's early morning, and the sun is rising out over the East End. The streets are silent, with the exception of the occasional gull's cry, and the distant stirrings of the trash men as they once again take up their daily task. I stand quietly in our yard at the edge of Winthrop Street, looking down at the Bay, promising myself I'll return next year. Then I go all silent and get into the car, biting my lower lip.
This year Tim made our farewell just a bit more bearable, by turning left on Bradford Street and pulling into the lot of Tip for Tops'n to enjoy one last Provincetown breakfast, thus prolonging our stay an extra half hour.
There's lots I might squawk about. It's too crowded. It's too expensive. Real estate prices would be comical, if they didn't foretell the demise of so much of what is nice about this town. It's too gay. It's too straight. It's over-built. Everything has gone condo. The beach is too far. You take your chances skinny-dipping. The water's too cold. People drink too much. The bars suck. The art scene isn't what it used to be. Too many of the restaurants don't use enough native ingredients and rely too much on Cape Cod staples. It's a god-damned tourist trap.
None of this matters.
When I'm there, it's the most beautiful place on earth. People who normally wouldn't know their impasto from their gouache get to talking about just how they would paint the scenery. If they could paint. I study the way the light reflects and refracts, fetishizing an aluminum chimney stack that I can see through our living room window, noting it's changing character throughout the day. Tim will wait patiently wait for that sunset moment when the sky flashes green and then turns the deepest Prussian Blue. Usually at that moment, we can be found enjoying jazz and cocktails on our little deck behind the hemlocks, having endured MaryAlice's pots-and-pans dance set, and looking forward to an evening out and about.
Truth to be told, we were rather mellow this year. Extending our stay beyond the usual Saturday to Saturday routine was a brilliant idea, and I'm not sure why it hadn't occurred to me before. Oh yeah, time and money. That would explain it. But now I'm older and can spare a bit more of both. And we have a very sympathetic landlord, as well. Knowing that we had several days to cut loose, we managed to crash every night for the first few days around 10:30, sated with too much sun, food and drink. It was only after I put my foot down on Monday night that we made plans to go out and stay out the following night, at least until the bars closed and we could join the masses at Spiritus. I'm glad we got there once. It doesn't quite seem to have the appeal to me that it once did. Mostly, we'd stop by around midnight and watch the cast of players gathering on stage. That was satisfying enough for me.
We've taken to having a nightcap on the porch of the Gifford House in the late evening with the other, more mature gentlemen, as I could never spend much time upstairs at the A-House without starting to twitch. I can remember cold, late August evenings in that room, when the lighting, decor and music combined to make it seem as if all the handsome men in the world were present in that very spot. Alas, while there are still many lookers, the room is not the same. The lighting has been minimalized to the point of inky darkness, all the better to view the second rate porn projected on the giant screen just above head-level. The decor has been stripped to accommodate said projected image, and all eyes in the room tend to fasten on the filmed action, making it extremely difficult to have any sort of meaningful eye contact, or strike up a conversation with a sympathetic stranger. While the upstairs DJ amuses himself with his home-made techno travesties, the overly eclectic melange of music available on the downstairs jukebox saturates the room with Lipps, Inc., Toby Keith and Julie London. In fact, we were witness to a gentleman who had chosen that moment to propose marriage to his young boyfriend, kneeling right there on the ancient stone floor, while "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" blasted forth.
We were happy to learn that our favorite bartender, Jimmy, who we have dined with frequently in the past at his post in the Lobster Pot has opened his own restaurant, Jimmy's Hideaway, creating a elegant series of darkly paneled rooms out of that sketchy old basement where the Szechuan restaurant has been for years. Friends have told us that Jimmy has a way of making everybody feel as if he wants them, and in fact he does. I like to think he's extra nice to me. Maybe it's the way he calls me Daddy. Or the fact that he came out from behind the bar to attack me while we were waiting for our table. He's just friendly that way. By the way, try the cod.
Most of all, it was wonderful to catch up with all our friends. We've been going the same week for years, and as such, have met and maintained friendships with a large variety of guys from all over the country, even the world. We decided that we're summer camp friends now. We exchange the occasional e-mail during the year, but pick right up where we left off the previous summer. Bo and Jeff, Chris, Steve, John, Pete and many others, all falling back into our old habits and rituals. Meeting at the pool. Comparing dinner notes. Drinking copious amounts of beer.
More than anything, I finally unwound and relaxed. It took several days, but I managed. Tim would nap and I would read as the bay breeze blew across our deck. I managed to finish Ed White's "My Lives", then read the autobiography of an obscure 70's rocker, Andy Pratt, and finally reading "Brideshead Revisited". I read portions of this aloud to Tim when he awoke, to his great amusement. Tim passed his waking hours reading an historical account of the Pilgrims, relaying to me just what despicable characters they were. Who knew?
I never called the office, and I didn't check my voicemail. I turned my cell phone off.
We enjoyed the envy of our friends, as we were the very last to leave. We extracted promises from all and sundry to meet again, same time, next year.
Our reservations have already been made.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
You win. I AM the very worst blogger in the history of blogdom. In the history of computers, even. Possibly. There might be worse.
I told y'all I was ambivalent about this, right from the start. My life's just not that fascinating. I work way too much. I won't blog about that. When I'm not working, I'm trying to find time to spend with Tim. Between our various jobs and commitments, it's hard for us to find two consecutive days when we're both not working. We're able to deal with this, but it doesn't make for scintillating copy.
So let's see, I haven't been here in more than a month. Bad Mark. That's not true...I have been reading and enjoying your thoughts and comments. I had hastily posted an entry last month, entitled Another Country, regarding some perceived mistreatment I felt I'd received at the hands of some of the younger denizens of our forest. Having thoroughly vented my anger, shock and dismay, I went to bed and slept the sleep of the just, or at least that of the very tired.
I was surprised to see comments appear the very next morning. As I've mentioned before, this blog resides in a dark and mostly uncharted backwater here on the Internet, and only the most intrepid explorers seem to come upon it, and then again, only having followed the most explicit of instructions. Comments drift slowly through the ether on their way to the Mark of Kane. Therefore, I was surprised to see so many people I know and many I've yet to meet jump to my defense and offer consolation, advice and even a scolding or two. Many relayed their own encounters with other less than cordial bar habitues, some suggested delicately that perhaps it was time to hang up the old jock, and one gentleman even chastised me for the clique-ish behavior of my friends on the random Sunday afternoon. Imagine!
Just for the record, I don't actually spend an exorbitant amount of time in gay bars. Tim tends bar on Sundays and I spend (count 'em!) 3-1/2 hours there every week, meeting said clique-ish friends, playing the jukebox and roaring at an assortment of pirate jokes and John Waters dialog. I'm easy that way. Aside from that visit, Tim and I might drop by for a post-prandial at some local boite on the occasional Saturday evening. Mind you, we're generally home and asleep by midnight, way before the fun begins. In fact, both of the evil events I spoke of took place when I was out under the protective plumage of a bevy of bloggers.
So I was sort of surprised when I read this article. It seems I've been "mean-girled", not once, but twice. I am a fairly large target, so it's understandable. Maybe I should have seen the movie, just to know what my options for retaliation were. My only cinematic object lesson of that sort was Heathers, and we all know how badly that ended. When I was in high school, we much to busy extolling each other to "smile on your brother" and "love the one you're with", which sort of precluded this kind of nastiness. Our pettiness mostly extended to gossiping about who didn't inhale or couldn't handle their drugs. Well, forewarned is forearmed, and if anyone tries this shit with me again, I'll just have to kill them. Read about it here. If I ever write again.
So it's been that sort of a couple of months. Ask me what I've been doing? Working, mostly. Trying to go to the gym, and realizing I need to change facilities immediately. I'm just too old for the New York Sports Club, and the eye rolling is getting fierce. A few weeks ago, I was mistaken for the artist, Nayland Blake, and while on many levels I'm flattered, on others, not so much. Who here remembers the donut-feeding video? Though I did love his life-size gingerbread house. The whole gallery smelled wonderfully spicy.
We managed to get away for 3 or 4 days at the beginning of the month, heading off to New Hope, PA. We used to do this on a more frequent basis, but our weekend work schedules haven't permitted it in a couple of years. When Tim first brought me to the Raven ages ago, I was charmed by the drunken antics of the local country squires. It was almost sport to watch them lurch out of the bar, crawl to their respective cars and floor them out of the parking lot. I stopped staying at the Raven years ago, when I discovered that several locals had copies of the room keys and I was unpleasantly surprised to find one such enterprising individual entering our room late one night after the bar had closed. We moved across the street for a spell, but now it appears that both the Motel in the Woods and the Best Western have also been acquired by the Raven management. I was pretty disappointed by the lack of clientele, both at the bar and the restaurant, both of which I've enjoyed immensely in the past. All in all, it was rather lackluster, and the few people we actually spoke with were either staff or fellow New Yorkers. This left us lots of spare time to drive up and down both sides of the scenic Delaware River, poke through post-hippie New Hope and gentrified Lambertville, and hit the outlet shopping malls in Lahaska and Flemington. Oh yeah. Have I ever told you about our major requirements for vacation spots? Yeah. Gay bars and outlet shopping! See? We are shallow. That seemingly Venusian landscape above was taken at Peddler's Village, in Lahaska, PA. If you've never been, it can be overwhelming. Mind you, it's a sprawling complex of shops that specialize in collectibles, chotzkes and crap. And it's landscaped within an inch of it's life. There are expensive restaurants, and yes, you can spend the night in one of several hotels. Trust me on this: it's the whitest place on earth. Bar none.
When I wasn't working or outlet shopping (I bought one shirt...not exactly a great haul. Tim came home with bags!!!), I mostly spent the time reading. In the past 30 days or so, I have read the following books, in the following order:
Midnight at the Palace: My Life as a Fabulous Cockette, by Pam Tent.
Michael Tolliver Lives, by Mr. Maupin.
The Fabulous Sylvester, by Joshua Gamson.
Can anyone discern a theme here? Sherman, set the WABAC (it's okay, you can pronounce it Wayback) machine for San Francisco, 1969.
True confession: I once had Tim make a pilgrimage with me to 2400 Fulton Street. If you know why, you're definitely my friend. Anyway, Sweet Pam's book is very nice, and it's odd and sad that the only published record of the Cockettes was written by one of the 3 or 4 genital females involved in the group. Mostly, everyone else has passed on, in one way or another. The Cockettes came to New York just as I was on the cusp of coming out, and I remember that debacle well. My former next door neighbor was an Angel of Light, and I clearly remember the pailletted billboard of Hibiscus at the corners of Christopher and Seventh Avenue, about the smoke shop. In truth, I wish I'd been there.
Mr. Maupin's book was a lovely read. It's always nice to meet up with old favorites; past denizens of his stories and the City. As I mentioned before, Michael's voice is clearly Armistead's; it's pretty much the same first person voice as Gabriel Noone in The Night Listener, which makes me read much of this as thinly disguised autobiography. Again. I can say that the three-way pick-up technique is pretty much as described. I find it funny that many of Armistead's fans are having a small field day finding small errors in quotation and chronology! I mean, come on!! Don't fault the man for a couple of bong hits! Or is it a vaporizer these days?
Lastly, the Sylvester book is sheer and totally surprisingly genius. The man has caught the zeitgeist of those times, but exactly. I would have thought that the last chapters would be the hardest to endure, knowing quite well of Sylvester's sad demise. Instead, the chapter that recalls the concert at the War Memorial Opera House in 1979 completely shattered me. Yes, I have that concert on vinyl, and yes, Joe and I just did our best imitations this past Sunday (these girls don't need them jewelries!). It's a document of the way we were, and our very own amazement at just how truly fucking fabulous we were.
The thread that runs through all these books is the nascent, newly forming gay community that so many speak of, and which, in reality, seems to have splintered into a million different rainbow colored shards. Two of these books peer back to our beginnings, while the other is firmly entrenched in the now, glancing back with nostalgia and longing for what sadly no longer exists.
Finally, Mr. Tim and I are heading up to Provincetown for a full, that's right, count 'em, TEN whole days!!! Yay!! If you're there and see us, say hey! If not, could you be just a little envious that two total working stiffs are off having such a good time at last? We truly deserve it.
I'll tell you all about it when I get back.
Sooner or later.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
I received the above from my dear, departed friend Arthur, who sent it to me mid-winter, 1977 as a sort of Valentine during the first year of his residence in San Francisco. Arthur and I had been all sorts of running buddies in New York, and upon his relocation to San Francisco during the previous summer, he became one of that city's most tireless boosters. We played a sort of snail mail can-you-top-this, each of us sending clippings and notes so the other could see what they were missing. I sent Arthur invitations from the most clever discos and all the news of Christopher Street and beyond. He'd return photos and bar rags, so I'd know exactly what he was up to; all the fun I wasn't having. Three months after this exchange, I trumped him by sending clippings from every local paper detailing the deadly fire at the Everard Baths, that prelude to the disasters that followed.
As you can see, Arthur has sent me "Love from the City that knows how...". I took great umbrage at that, being all of 22 years old. I wasn't sure what he meant by that, but I was sure I didn't like it.
The article itself was clever, though I had no idea who this Michael and Mary Ann were. I didn't quite grasp all of the references. Some of them seemed quite sophisticated and even daring to be appearing in newsprint. I pondered over such arcana as Oil Can Harry's, The Glory Holes, Fifties Queens and Grace Cathedral. I had no idea what an It's It was, or why one might want to consume more than one in a single evening. Michael seemed very exotic; both wise and jaded, a denizen of a city as foreign to me as Vale of Kashmir.
It wasn't until the following year that I was actually able to actually pick up the collection of these serialized chapters, and was disappointed to realize that the main focal point of the story seemed to be a singularly unpleasant opportunist named Mary Ann Singleton. I was not much interested in her foray into the provincial mating rituals of Men and Women of the Marina. I mean, I'd already read Cyra McFadden's "The Serial" the year before, and had had my fill of hetero high jinks. Michael doesn't even appear until page 45 of so, if you don't include a brief walk-on at the Safeway, where he rescues his boyfriend from Mary Ann's clutches.
It seemed that Michael was my age, but so much wiser. Even in my penthouse on 12th Street, I felt hopelessly inexperienced and woefully unsophisticated in comparison to his romps through the City.
But I did enjoy the book to a degree. I resented the truly byzantine plot twists required to keep a daily newspaper audience interested. The author, a nice looking man with a moustache and floppy hair, had an interesting voice, and when he wasn't sending his characters after child pornographers or trying to update Black Like Me, had a chatty and animated style that held my interest.
Unfortunately, by the time the second collection was published, I'd had my fill of Mary Ann and the Episcopal Cannibal Cult, and didn't read another Armistead Maupin book for the next couple of decades, until Tim brought me to San Francisco, and I understood. Upon my return to New York, I hit the Strand and assembled my motley shelf, volumes One through Six, all different editions. I plowed my way through, reveling his his love for the city, hating the mechanical plotting, and learning to completely despise his heroine. It wasn't until the final book that the author revealed his hand, showing Mary Ann for the bitch she'd always been. In an odd way, I felt vindicated.
My first encounter with Mr. Maupin occurred when San Francisco and I were still new. It was one of the crowded, rowdy after-work Friday afternoons at the Edge. There were men in jeans and men in business attire. There was a slightly manic air about the room, and it was clear that many of the assembled had started the weekend early. Tim and I found a place and were about to settle in, when I turned and faced an older gentleman about my height, whose eyes were literally inches from my own.
Now, Tim and I had enjoyed a rather silly adventure the night before, when we'd entered Daddy's and literally had to peel some of it's inhabitants off us. One benighted soul approached me with his arm outstretched, zombie style. I gulped and glanced over at Tim. The man in question wrapped his arms around me, settling his cheek on my chest and looked up at me with seemingly puppy dog adoration. Quickly, and out of desperation, I shouted "Look!", and pointed to the street. The man turned, freeing me, and I yelled to Tim "Run!", and we did, laughing out of the bar. If you're going to act like a cartoon, you might get treated like one.
The gentleman at the Edge the next evening wobbled a bit, and fixed me with what seemed to be the same doggy stare. In our extremely close proximity, I noted that his eyes were among the saddest I'd ever seen; he seemed to be silently beseeching me. After the previous night's escapade, I smiled and excused myself. As he wandered off, I heard the man behind me mention something about Tales Of The City, and I realized I'd been locking eyes with the author. But the author had moved on, finding fans elsewhere in the bar who recognized him and who rushed over to acknowledge his stardom. I felt awkward after our encounter, and watched a bit from afar. He seemed more happily engaged, and Tim and I continued our evening.
A couple of years ago, I was standing in the Dugout on a Sunday night as the bar began to empty out. I was bouncing from the jukebox to the bar and back again, as it my wont to do. A man bounded up to me, pointed to my chest and asked if I was from California. I was wearing my California Golden Bears t-shirt. I laughed and said: "Nah, I'm from Brooklyn, I just like the shirt!", and smiled. He mentioned that he was from San Francisco and I told him I would be heading out there in a couple of weeks. I noted my then-mania for walking the many staircases in the City and he laughed, telling me he'd once lived beside a prime example. As we talked, a considerably younger man walked over and joined us. We'd been discussing neighborhoods we liked when his companion volunteered that the two of them lived in Parnassus Heights. At that point my new acquaintance frowned and introduced himself as Armistead, his friend as Chris. He felt the need to mention that he was a writer, and I had the opportunity to say: "I know exactly who you are!". They were in town working on the film adaptation of The Night Listener, which they were shooting at the Jersey City Medical Center. The three of us fell into a rather deep conversation about East Coast winters and we discussed the casting coup they'd felt they pulled off. The two of them stared intently at me, all the while caressing and petting each other as they looked me over. It seemed odd, the now empty bar, the three of us held deeply enthralled by our conversation. Or whatever.
Tim finally bound up the stairs, exhausted, and took his place by my side. I introduced him, but he was too tired to take notice of who I was talking to and I soon begged off, bidding my new and clearly disappointed acquaintances a good night, as I took my boyfriend home.
Mr. Maupin's new book arrived yesterday and I've already read a couple of chapters. The voice is clearly Armistead's, and not that of callow young Michael. One could chalk this up to the many years between books and the fact that the author is a decade older than his character and no longer feels the need to pretend that he's anyone other than who he is. Here's Michael at 55, a report from the front. Here's Armistead at 63, handily surviving all the latest hurdles thrown up before us gay men of a certain age.
I'll tell you how I like it, soon enough. I might even pick up a few pointers.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me."
-The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, T.S. Eliot
I've written a bit on this subject a little over a year ago here, and posted some additional thoughts here.
At the time, I was feeling under-appreciated, and was dealing with my diminishing powers of attraction. Yes, I know, shallow. So be it. The feeling certainly haven't gone away, and as expected, has only intensified this past year. It's been made abundantly clear to me to that men of a certain age are at best tolerated, and at worst, scorned and shunned in this social whirl we call Gay Life 2007.
I'll be 53 this year. In the ordinary work-a-day world out there, that's no big deal. I'd still be working, giving my children cause to roll their eyes, and no doubt bouncing a grandchild or two on my knee right now, instead of sitting at this computer ranting. I can clearly remember my grandfather at my age. He seemed infinitely old to me.
Among our so-called brethren, I seem to be viewed exactly the same way.
I have a fairly large number of friends and acquaintances and we travel grouped in various permutations thereof, as is our wont to do. I've been wondering why I sometimes find myself at the sidelines of a group, going completely silent, and feeling as if I have nothing to say or do with anything that's going on. As if I'm suddenly locked out. I certainly don't feel a part of any sort of community at large. It's as if a door is closing.
The sort of men that used to find me attractive mostly no longer do, which was a quite a shock, and took some getting used to. It's not a matter of whether my mojo's working, because it does work, if only for a much more select and rarified group. I've become an aquired taste, like anchovies. I'm a fetish object: the (much) older man. I have my fans, thank you! But I've continually seen men's eyes take on that opaque cast when they're introduced to me these days, their handshakes making very clear their complete and total disinterest.
"it's hell to lust for your tormentors, to know from the beginning that your deepest need can only betray you, only expel you from the tribe. So when you grow up, you find a tribe of your own, with guys just like you, to keep from feeling that way ever again. Only you do, sometimes..."
-Armistead Maupin, The Night Listener
In the past five months I've had a couple of experiences that, if I wasn't the stubborn man I am, would have sent me home permanently. Both occurred in waterholes I've frequented on an irregular basis, Therapy and The Boiler Room. Both times I was with a fairly substantial crowd.
At The Boiler Room, a young man was leaning against the corral, his legs sprawled out directly in front of him, into the passage. As I approached, instead of moving them in to allow me to pass, his legs remained there until I was standing right up against them. I felt as if I was back in grammar school, dealing with the class bully. Would he let me pass? In fact, he would not. Instead, he fixed me with a challenging glare, while all conversation halted around him. I looked at him, thinking it must be some sort of joke. It was. On me. I decided to step over him and head to the bar. Upon my return, he was ready for me, and I, him. Back in the same position with him, I reached out, and grabbed the front of his skinny ribcage in my fist, using it to balance myself as I stepped over him again. He gasped in pain as I walked away.
I thought this might be an anomaly, an encounter with some rude drunken fuck who was looking to make my night, or anyone's, miserable. As this seemed so random, I chose to let it pass.
Until I was in Therapy a few weeks ago, making my way towards the bar. I couple of young men were sprawled decorously across the service area, and as I jockeyed myself into a position where I could order my drink, I noticed one of them fix me with the exact same challenging glare. This time, both boys looked me up and down, in that cartoonish Marlene Dietrich sort of way. The taller of the pair reached out and ran his hand across my chest. I smiled, just to be friendly, and reached for my drink. The young man then leaned forward and said:
"You let just anyone touch your tits like that?"
I didn't answer, because I suddenly knew where this was heading.
"You're disgusting!", he spat, as they both laughed and quickly walked away.
I found a quiet place to stand in that very crowded bar; I had to collect myself before I could rejoin my friends. I stood, pinned up against the wall, listening to the sound of my own heartbeat over the thump of the cruddy music.
Perhaps Open Season has been declared on me.
I know, you probably think I should stay home, that I'm too old to stand around in bars anymore. I'm beginning to see why men my age seem to drift off and desert their bar stool after a while. We're just not welcome. I know what those glances mean now.
"He wants awfully to be on the inside staring out; anybody with their nose pressed against a glass is liable to look stupid".
-Truman Capote, Breakfast At Tiffany's
I think of all the men I know who are in their late thirties and early forties, who think their lives are going to be all over for them shortly. They won't be, not by a long shot. Gay life is just entering a new and unfamiliar phase, a journey with all the old points of navigation missing or long gone. We're each going to have to go it alone. Again.
Getting old in our community these days is even worse than you can imagine.
You're all going to get here sometime.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Friday, May 18, 2007
But I digress.
If you were to walk into my apartment, you'd be immediately confronted with a seven foot tall record cabinet, filled to overflowing. If you were to take a left, you'd encounter another storage unit, not quite as tall, but equally as full. Making the final right into my Living Room you'll pass the Mission Oak upright piano. Stop to admire the many framed photographs of the two of us strewn across the top and then cast your eyes upon the third and final bank of LPs. Previously, if you continued on to the bedroom, you'd need to fight your way past racks of Cd's stretching towards the ceiling, as well as errant stacks and piles, placed like so many land mines, atop the speakers and turntable. One false move could and often did cause an avalanche of plastic jewel boxes.
The house I grew up in had a minimal hoard of recorded music; mostly my parent's distinctly different collections of 78's and a handful of seminal rock and roll 45's purchased in the late Fifties. My sister had a small collection of LPs by such current hit makers as the Beatles, Rascals and Doors, but these were stashed in her room, and I was under strict orders to avoid any contact with them under penalty of death, or at least a severe beating. Since we had nothing to play them on, I would mostly sneak in and study the cover art when she wasn't around.
I received my first two very own albums in 1967, when I was 12, and I was hooked. I had to visit the record department of any department store we visited. As I grew older, I could not pass a record store without entering. This habit stuck with me well into the last decade, when record stores basically disappeared off the face of the earth. I moved out of my mother's house in 1974 with a three enormous cartons of LPs, movable only with the aid of dollies. The boxes ran the full length of the living room wall at my tenement apartment on 6th Street. By the time I moved to 12th Street, the collection threatened to overwhelm the new apartment until I had shelving units made. There the records have remained, alphabetically, ever since.
I remember seeing my first CDs at Tower Records and feeling disdain, thinking here was yet another second rate method of selling recorded music, not unlike the 8-track tapes and cassettes I had little use and no respect for. Over packaged in their long boxes, they yielded little information about the product within, and I felt the reduced size of the album graphics, so much a component of my LP enjoyment, was laughable. I couldn't imagine paying twice the price for music I already owned.
I might have kept that attitude up if I hadn't been gifted with a miniature Sony CD player in the mid-Eighties, along with a $150.00 gift certificate to Tower for my choice of Cd's. I spent a Friday evening shopping, hooked the little beast up, and was instantly hooked myself by the sheer volume and brassiness of the sounds that issued forth.
The Cd's first were stacked on my mantelpiece; that pile grew too big, and begat other stacks and piles, as I assembled a veritable mountain range of music. Soon, even the old turntable was covered with Cd's; rendered inaccessible and all but unusable.
Until last week.
Now that no one buys Cd's and most music seems to be purchased via download, I had a large wall-length cabinet fabricated in which to put all those jewel boxes away. Last Saturday, the clearing process was completed and I spent a lovely afternoon alphabetizing.
Afterwards, harvesting a seed planted by the Farmboyz, I fixed some lovely Manhattans for the two of us: Knob Creek bourbon and some Blood Orange (not peach, but not bad) Bitters, and cranked up the dusty old and newly available turntable. I'd really not heard it yet, in conjunction with the monstrous Nikko amp Tim had gifted me with, and I was excited to haul out a stack of re-inaugural LPs.
As we'd watched the Cockettes documentary that morning, I pulled out the two Sylvester & The Hot Band albums I've had for years. I handed the first one to Tim, asking him to sample the ancient scratch 'n sniff gardenia affixed to it's cover. He grinned, and handed it back. It had still retained it's scent these thirty five years later.
From Sylvester's Bazaar album, I played "My Life" and "She", followed by:
"Gettin' Ready for Love" and "You Got It" from Diana Ross' Baby It's Me album
"Spoiled" and "Main Line" from Ashford & Simpson's I Wanna Be Selfish album
"Aching Kind" and "Trashy Rumors" from Michelle Phillips' Victim of Romance album
"I'm Not In Love" from 10cc's The Original Soundtrack album
"Introduction to the Concert (By The Women's Club President)" by Anna Russell
"Madeline's Theme" by Giorgio Moroder from the Electric Dreams soundtrack
"Nineteen" and "(If You Emptied Out Your Pockets) You Could Not Make The Change" from Maggie & Terre Roche's Seductive Reasoning album
"Love for the Sake of Love" from Claudja Barry's Sweet Dynamite album
"Changin'" from Ms. Sharon Ridley's Full Moon album
"Hold On (To My Love)" from Jimmy Ruffin's album of the same name.
One might say I was reveling in my long ago youthful glory; it's true, I was.
I went out to dinner that night humming, a very happy man.
Next week, we tackle the 45's.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
by Joni Mitchell
Slide into tables
Crowd into bathrooms
Talk talk talk around the clock
I don't feel so good
I don't feel so good
Push a button to escape
Preacher on the tube crying "Lord!"
There's evil in this land
"Rock and roll music!"
"Cast down these dope fiends
and there noisy bands!"
"Damn their souls!"
Preacher preaching love like vengeance
Preaching love like hate
Calling for large donations
Rolling lawns and angel bands
Behind the pearly gates
You know he will have his in this life
But yours will have to wait
He's immaculately tax free
"Multiple hundreds of thousands of..."
"Hundreds and millions of dollars"
"A hundred billion dollars!
And who is paying the price?
"Your children are"
Scream into the mike
Spit into the loving cup
Strut like a rooster
March like a man
God's hired hands and the devil bands
Packing the same grandstands
"Pot in their pockets!"
Raise a screaming guitar
or a bible in the air
Theatre of anguish
Theatre of glory
God's hired hands and the devil bands
Oh come let us adore - ME!
Lord, there's danger in this land
You get witch-hunts and wars
When church and state hold hands
Tonight I'm going dancing
With the drag queens and the punks
Big beat deliver me
From this sanctimonious skunk
We're no flaming angels
And he's not heaven sent
How can he speak for the Prince of Peace
When he's hawk right militant
And he's immaculately tax free
"Our nation has lost its guts!"
"Our nation has lost its strength"
"Our nation has whimpered and cried"
"And petted the Castros"
"The Khomeinis' and the Kaddafis'"
"For so long"
"That we don't know how to act like a man"
"I think that we should turn the United States Marines
loose on that little island south of Florida and
stop that problem!"
"I am preachin' love, I am!"
Copyright © 1985; Crazy Crow Music
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
It's perpetually Spring. The Calla lilies are in bloom, yet again. I stop and smell the jasmine draped haphazardly over the rotting eaves of some garage. I admire floral displays of such hue and abundance as I have never known back East. I ponder why that florist shop on Market below Noe has continuing success with their almost Martian xeriscapes, when there is such a wealth of absurdly lush and colorful flora to be found almost anywhere else. One could assemble a creditable nosegay just careening down any street. Perhaps that is the very reason. The palm trees bloom and send blankets of pollen to cover the cobblestones below them. I sneeze.
It's time for our yearly pilgrimage.
Extreme creatures of habit that we are, you could read last year's account, change a few minor details, and it would pretty much serve as a primer for this post.
To start, it didn't rain. Well, only a little. Of this, I am extremely thankful. I haunted weather.com for weeks prior, hoping against hope that we wouldn't have a repeat of last year's drenching, which truly put the word damp in damper. We were rewarded with a few days of sun, some dramatically foggy moments, and the odd downpour to be sat out beneath a bus shelter or random bar.
Our accommodations, such as they were, still provided a modicum of amusement, mostly when we would mention where we were staying. Oh, the faces! The shock! The requests for our room number! The gating of Beck's has pretty much ended the window shopping scenario that most people seem to imagine when they hear the name of the establishment. Truly, I saw nothing untoward at all this last visit. It's almost disappointing. I've been to cotillions with more action.
The Castro is undergoing the same changes that Greenwich Village and Chelsea have been affected by. Much of the younger, possibly more au courant crowd has moved on, leaving a generation of shopkeepers and tourists scratching their collective heads and wondering where everyone has gone. The Castro business guild has been debating ways of drawing people back to this ancestral stomping ground, including, but not limited to such ideas as a large rainbow arch over Castro, or a giant ruby slipper, or even paving the streets with yellow bricks. Though I fail to see the direct connection between this neighborhood and Oz, I do recognize the last dying gasps of some ancient Judy-ism, as much as I'm aware of all those youthful retinas detaching from the major eye-rolling that is sure to ensue if this plan is facilitated.
And so this is what the Castro seems to be all about these days. Scores of young people, seemingly off a recent MUNI or BART purveyance, haunt creatively named boites like the Bar and the Cafe, while those a bit longer in the tooth head for such old (and I do mean old) standbys such as the Edge and 440 Castro. Both camps pass each other, the older group eying the youngsters warily; the youngsters blank-eyed and mostly oblivious to the fact that they share this environment with fellow travellers on similar journeys. There is little to no interaction between said groups, except general annoyance.
As has happened elsewhere, it seems the received wisdom is that we no longer require a ghetto, that we can now be socialized and assimilated among the general populace. Apparently, the Internet has put an end to actual face-to-face encounters, and bars and meeting places have been rendered obsolete. Hmm, don't think so. I do think it is a function of overinflated real-estate values, and a symptom of the current herd mentality.
And I do find it very sad. Not that bars are closing, because they always have. The idea that we'll no longer be able to share common ground together, to honor and pay tribute to one another saddens me immensely, as does the cavalier attitude that is mostly displayed when the subject is broached.
That said, we had a marvelous time, as usual.
Though our flight was late, we still threw our bags in our room and headed out into the night and the Castro for a welcoming cocktail. At the Edge, we met up with Kelly, our bartender for the evening. He explained, when asked about the blindingly hideous rainbow awning and sign that had been erected at the sight of the extinct Pendulum, that though the new place had been creatively named The Bar on 18th, they have taken to calling it Skittles.
We crawled home shortly after, having been graced with the last two pizza slices at Marcello's gratis, and passed out.
We spent the next day wandering, checking out the new Bloomingdale's on Market Street and the huge mega-mall that surrounds it, which was surprisingly vacant. We headed to the gym, and met up with a bartender we'd made the acquaintance of last year. We work out hard, and head out to the Edge for it's very lively Friday after-work scene. We immediately run into our good friend Noah, who re-located here last year, and now is making plans to head back East. Apparently, it wasn't the end of the rainbow, after all. We hang with him and our bartender friend, Bruce, who we know from the Dugout, and who buys us drinks all night. We meet many new people. I run into the same intense gentleman I met there last year at the very same time. He doesn't seem to remember that he's hit on me before. This year he has a nose ring and tattoos on his neck. He still un-nerves me and Tim laughs at my awkwardness. Tim is very popular on this visit. I'm amused to watch the people behind him regard his hindquarters and take on the expression of drooling, hungry dogs. One gentleman lurches up to us and asks Tim if I'm with him. When Tim gives him the bad news, the gentleman looks me up and down, then plaintively asks him "How can I compete with THAT?". Another announces, as he is leaving late in the evening, that he's been captivated by Tim's ass for hours. Crawling up Castro, we run into our good friend Michael, who hugs us for hours, embracing us as we exchange updates.
The weekend progresses accordingly. We shop. We buy a pile of music at Amoeba Records and Medium Rare. This time I came prepared with a shopping list. We have an early Sunday brunch at 2223 Market Street, enjoying the peaceful half-filled restaurant at that hour. A while later, there's a line down the block. We inspect the new-ish Ferry Building. We hop an empty cable car up California Street, enjoying our very own personal amusement park ride. We jump off at Polk Street and troll the Swan Oyster Depot for bivalves, See's Chocolates for gifts and Bob's Donuts for, well, donuts. We stop into the Cinch for an excellent Bloody Mary. We stroll the SOMA area, looking for a leather vendor to replace the now closed Image Leather, formerly located on Market and Sanchez. I bought Tim a wrist band there years ago, and he wanted to replace it before it rotted off his arm. Unfortunately, the bored children working the counter at the two emporiums we tried before giving up just couldn't be bothered to deal with a couple of old dudes like us. Fill in random eye-rolling here.
We hit the traditional one-two punch of the Eagle/Lone Star Sunday afternoon beer extravaganza, getting to the Eagle just in time to see it fill up with an assortment of misshapen, malformed, downright scary supplicants this side of the Bar in Star Wars. We wave to fellow New Yorkers. We are then introduced to the largest, buffest, most handsome man I have ever seen, and I ask Tim if we can move; I can't stand next to him because he cancels out my mojo completely. Tim laughs and takes me to the Lone Star. I've had more than a few beers and several shots, so I'm in fine humor. In line for the trough, I suggest that if the boys were a bit thinner more people might be able to piss at the same time. A gasp goes up through the crowd, and I am pushed by unseen hands into the private bathroom. When I emerge, I suggest to the assembled crowd that there should be a law against serving vegetarian chili at a Beer Blast. I've had to hold my breath and look at the window the entire time I was in there. The very large handsome man from the Eagle arrived well lubricated and places his arms around me, smiling. I feel like I'm oh, maybe 14. Tim is followed around by a flotilla of darkly handsome Spanish men, who clearly would like to peel him off of me and have their way. He's loving every minute of it. We rock out to songs we haven't heard in years, nay decades, impressed by the scope of the playlists.
We visit friends and have dinner at Chow. We lurch up and down Market Street at varying hours. I look at a deeply discounted biography of Jackie Curtis, Superstar In A Housedress, complete with DVD documentary, and regret not buying it. Perhaps it will be there next year.
We discuss moving here. We do this every year, and stop at every realtor's office we pass to see what's available. It's a pipe dream we have.
I'm not sure San Francisco is the answer for me. But it could be a part of an answer. We'lll just have to figure out how.
On our last night, we have a farewell drink at Twin Peaks, where we are regaled with stories by an old-school New York queen who retired here a few years ago. In his rather Roger Debris (didn't I meet you on a summer cruise?) way, he tries to figure out our New York bar pedigrees. I'm not particularly forthcoming as I regard the yellowed painting hanging in a corner of the bar. It features the bar itself, as viewed from the balcony. A clearly young couple has just ventured in the door, attired in wife beaters, jeans and matching cowboy hats. The regulars have all turned en mass to view the new arrivals, who stand stock still, front and center. The painting has been there for years.
For years Tim and I have caused a similar commotion every time we ventured into this room.
Tonight, the men look up, slide down the bar to offer us a couple of stools, and welcome us into their fold.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Because the tri-state area is seemingly composed of many micro-climates, our weather forecasters tend to alarm us city dwellers with warnings of major storms heading towards the Hudson Valley, or rumbling across Long Island Sound. In most instances, these meteorological occurrences have little or no effect on us, aside from a darkening sky or a few drops of rain. So, when a kind of snowy Armageddon was predicted for Friday, I paid little heed to the warning, heading off to the office in a little more than a black wind breaker. I mean, it is almost spring, and, all things considered, we'd had more winter in February than we had during the entire Winter season altogether.
Flurries came and went during the course of the day, but from my office windows facing West 15th Street, it didn't look like it was going to amount to much. I'm endlessly optimistic; what can I say?
We had quite a few plans scheduled for the weekend: dinners, theatre, celebrating St. Patrick's Day. I had some shopping I wanted to do before we head off to San Francisco later this week. I'm not one to let a little weather phenomenon knock me off my schedule.
I'm also not much of a fan of snow, altogether. I'm not sure why. I don't like the quality of the light reflected off snow drifts. Years ago while reading D.H. Lawrence, I made note of the following dialogue: "I hate the snow, and the unnaturalness of it, the unnatural light it throws on everybody, the ghastly glamour, the unnatural feelings it makes everybody have". I read this at a young and impressionable age, and it has probably informed my way of thinking to this day. I despise climbing snow drifts and sinking into ice-filled slush puddles. I hate the way the streets of New York look, later in the day, when the snow is forty shades of grey. I find myself praying for a cleansing rain to wash it all away, not unlike Travis Bickel.
So I was pretty much loaded for bear, as I waited for Tim to arrive for our pre-theatre dinner at our favorite old-school French restaurant in Hell's Kitchen. We had a truly lovely dinner together; warming soup and perfectly sauteed trout, a cocktail apiece, a half-carafe of wine, coffee and dessert. We then hiked through the drifts and boisterous tourists to the theatre we were to attend that evening.
We saw "The Year of Magical Thinking". I'd read the book in one sitting last year on our flight out to California, beginning it in Newark and turning towards Tim with tears in my eyes as we descended over the bay, landing in San Francisco. I could not imagine what would be performed on stage as a representation of Miss Didion's record of loss, but was more than willing to give all parties the benefit of the doubt, considering that the producers had enlisted Vanessa Redgrave.
It was spectacular. I've not witnessed much like it. Miss Redgrave is on stage, without intermission, for about 1-1/2 hours, reciting a continuous and torturously painful monologue. I found myself not breathing, so as not to miss a single syllable. Truly an amazing evening. Moving beyond belief. Strangely uplifting. The moment the curtain fell, the audience rose to it's collective feet, howling with praise. I couldn't even speak to Tim until after we'd left that theatre. In fact, my words, standing on under the marquee were: I need a huge drink.
Now there are dozens of places where one can have a drink in Times Square. In fact, we probably would have headed up to Therapy, where the bartenders can be counted on for an excellent pour, and the boys are not too bad to look at. But the weather was awful, and on a whim we crossed the street into the seemingly deserted lobby of the Marriott. Some years ago, we had thought it would be a hoot to have a cocktail some early Saturday evening at the View, a revolving bar that tops this dreadful piece of, dare I say it, architecture. At that time, we were confronted with a huge line of people wanting to do the very same thing, so we turned heel and left.
This time, there were no other people. It was strange to ride the unenclosed glass elevator by ourselves, and we were seated immediately at a small table adjacent to the edge. Of course, when we arrived the much vaunted view was invisible, hidden behind clouds of snow and steam and fog. We passed up the opportunity to indulge in either the buffet or the cheese and dessert bar, instead ordering a couple of Maker's Mark Manhattans, and waiting for the power of speech to return. We discussed the play, deciding that we'd see it again. The drinks warmed us up and we were amazed to see Manhattan slowly start to reveal itself, 50 stories up. As we were crept by the snow-covered tenements of Hell's Kitchen, a trio was seated at the table across the aisle from us.
Now, I'm an older gentleman, and I have some firm and rather antiquated notions regarding what constitutes proper comportment at various venues. The trio, a man, a young woman, and a large person of indeterminate gender all immediately pulled out their cell phones and digital cameras. The woman and her ambiguous friend, both of whom seemed to have recently received major breast augmentation, took a great deal of time adjusting them, so as to display them to their best advantage in their extremely tight t-shirts. Now, I've been guilty of this myself, but it just didn't seem the venue for this sort of manipulation. While shouting on three different phones, they started taking flash pictures of each other. As we were seated against a glass wall, there was no escaping the flash or it's reflection. They then began shooting pictures of the view, pointing directly at us. I glared at them, to no avail. This went on for about 20 minutes, climaxing with them standing directly in front of our table, and asking the waitress to take their pictures with each of the three cameras. Amidst all the shrieking and flashing, one of them chose that moment to break wind. Tim looked up at me and noted in a deadpan voice that Glamour, as we knew it, was dead. I reminded him that Gloria Vanderbilt had caught hell years ago for being photographed combing her hair while seated on a banquette at El Morocco. Tim pointed out this this was not necessarily the same thing. The waitress asked if we wanted to get in the pictures, to which I responded : Absolutely not! She caught on, and offered to move us to a much quieter area, which we accepted immediately. She moved our stemware, we carried the miniature cocktail shakers, and were soon settled a distance away, where we could watch the trio annoying every other patron in their vicinity from afar.
We managed 2-1/2 revolutions and three cocktails around Manhattan, noting that the View Bar doesn't really have that much of a view, least of all in the Times Square direction. It's set back too far on the building itself, and one cannot view the street scene at all, just the empty office space moldering away in the surrounding towers. The interior view is equally dull, as you pass brightly lit bars and buffets. It is rather akin to enjoying cocktails while seated in front of an open refrigerator. As we passed the dessert buffet, I asked Tim if he could see any sign of the cheese selection the menu spoke so highly of. Tim chortled, as he does, and noted that there was probably a can or two stashed somewhere.
We were finally able to relax and enjoy ourselves, luxuriating in that amorous sense of well being that several well made Manhattans can engender. Tim mentioned how cute he thought I looked in my baseball cap in the snow and I suggested we head home.
I was awakened the next morning by a small muffled voice coming from the pillow beside mine. I could just make out the following groan: Patrick, your Auntie Mame is hung. Poor Tim. We slept in very late, had coffee and Irish scones and crawled out to survey the wreckage of the city. Completing a few errands for our upcoming trip, we heading out to Tim's apartment in Jersey City.
Last year on St. Patrick's Day, we dropped into a local bar of considerable tradition for a holiday drink. We were greeted by a huge crowd of Tim's neighbors, a friendly mixed bunch. At one point, someone recognized us from around the Village and with great excitement announced to the bartender that Tim and I were gay lovers. The Irishman behind the bar looked us up and down and then replied: Tell me something I don't know. Everybody had a good laugh and the bartender bought us several rounds.
We had planned to go back again on Saturday, the day itself. After a traditional dinner, we headed over to the bar, only to discover that the local Hibernians had started rocking the boat early in the day, and by the time we arrived, had all decamped for home and Chinese delivery. We were greeted by an elderly inebriated bartender who'd removed his shirt, and a very large woman who was seated at the bar, singing Macho Man loudly with the Village People record playing on the jukebox. Time for us to go!!
As we walked home, I turned to Tim and asked him to please take me away from all this. It's our standing joke. He repeated the same thing to me on Sunday night, when I came to kiss him behind the bar because the Ronettes were singing "Be My Baby".
And in fact, we are getting away from all this.
Later this week we're heading west for five days of debauchery, Northern California style.
After this winter, we deserve it.