Friday, January 26, 2007

Go Ask Alice

In the winter of 1968, I applied to one of New York City's then-many specialized vocational schools, The High School of Art & Design, located on Second Avenue and 57th Street, a distance of 21 miles and a million light years from my Brooklyn home.

To my great surprise, I was accepted. This fact was announced during my 9th Grade Junior High art class, to the great chagrin of the very same boys and girls who had so enjoyed torturing me and calling me fag for the past six or seven years. I was unprepared and totally surprised when they expressed disappointment at the fact that we would not all be going on together through High School; all I felt was relief at the thought of getting away from them. Call it an early life lesson.

I had always been a restless child. At the age of 11 or 12, I would cadge some change from my mom, hop on a train and travel to Coney Island or Prospect Park. I enrolled myself in the Brooklyn Museum Art School at the age of 11, spending mornings sketching and painting in the galleries, and afternoons wandering the Botanic Gardens or haunting the dusky dells and hidden glades of Prospect Park. Just who were those men traversing the Vale of Kashmir, and why were they staring at me? Call it another early life lesson.

The opportunity to go to school in Manhattan was mind-expanding in many ways; the city was to become my Wonderland. It seems I spent more of the next three years wandering the streets than in classrooms. In the early, early morning I'd fall asleep on the Lexington Avenue express, only to miss my stop at 59th Street and awaken as the train pulled into 86th Street. This was usually taken as an invitation to write off the school day and spend the morning at the Metropolitan Museum and the rest of the day gadding about with friends in Central Park.

The photograph above was taken by my dear old friend Mark Horowitz on one such day. Judging by our clothes, it's early spring, 1970. We've reconnoitered at one of our favorite spots, the Alice Statue, to commune with some of our current literary favorites. There may have been refreshments consumed, which would account for my perplexed expression, and the general amusement of all concerned.

I was to have many such adventures in the thirty seven years to follow. Some have faded, some have disappeared, just like the New York City that existing in 1970.

Why is it that I can remember the moment this picture was taken, exactly?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Making Plans for Nigel

Gosh, am I crabby!

It wasn't so much the weekend, which was rather nice as those things go. I can't quite put my finger on it. Perhaps it's that feeling of ennui that seems to settle on me like some heavy shroud after the holidays. It's been bugging the crap outta me.

Mind you, my holidays were a little rough, but I enjoyed them, in spite of all the drama. Strangely enough, I've been feeling so much better these days, which only serves to fill me with a bit of dread, when I think about going under the knife next month.

In order to keep my mind occupied, and avoid said dreadful feelings, I spent last week purchasing tickets to San Francisco in March, reserving our room, arranging for our time in Provincetown in August, basically making plans to keep all those nagging gloomy thoughts at bay. Could I be any more gay? The flight is $258.00 round trip, which means we'll have no end of extra beer money to throw around. The room couldn't be cheaper. Beck's, don't you know? And P-town? Looks like we'll be staying in our little Winthrop Street hideaway a bit longer than usual. Our landlord just wrote us a very nice note thanking us for our years we've spent in his condo, as if we were doing him some kind of favor, and asking if he could expect a return visit. I think we'll wind up there through at least a portion of Carnival, in addition to our regular time. I hope my gall bladder-less liver can stand it.

Of course, all this activity is just busy work. Not that I really need more. My job has kept me at my desk until all hours, and I find that I'm completely exhausted come Friday night. I crawled to Tim's this past week, not even going home to change, so complete was my weariness. I'm thinking we were in bed by 11:00 at the very latest.

We actually did nothing on Saturday, just chores around his house, then traveled back to town at dusk to run a few minor errands before settling down in my apartment for a couple of extremely lovely Knob Creek Manhattans each. I had purchased a few old English import CDs during Tower Record's awful demise, and I enjoyed Tim's reaction as he heard all 7:38 minutes of Propaganda's "Duel (Bittersweet)" for the first time on my monster Nikko amp. He said: "Wow".

We headed out for dinner, with the intention of visiting the new pub that has taken the place of the venerable Sazerac House on Hudson Street. Studying the menu outside, I found it lacking, until we entered to discover that aside from the porch the restaurant was almost non-existent, devoured by a huge bar with a scene not unlike the Blind Tiger, which took the place of another old favorite, One Potato, several years ago. The Village is completely over-run with young heterosexual couples seeking the latest trends and slumming in what's left of our hangouts. We repaired to a quiet Chinese restaurant, and watched them fighting each other for taxi cabs and lining up to get into swinging boites from the relative safety of our window seat.

After dinner, we swung down Hudson Street and around to Ty's, where Little Tim is now tending bar weekend nights. It was fun to see him in action, and he poured us several killer bourbon & sodas. We hung out with Dennis and Michael, discussing our penchant for staying at Beck's when we go to San Francisco. I explained that I've always been disappointed, that I've never seen anything come anywhere near the level of debauchery so many people have spoken of. And now, with the new gates, it's practically cloistered. A well known blogger has made his distaste for the place well known to me, suggesting that we could shack up in a four-star hotel for about the same price. When I point out that said hotel is not in the Castro, the conversation tends to die.

It was about that time that Ty's took to showing Gay Sex in the Seventies on their large overhead monitors. I hate watching television in bars; I get mesmerized, just like everybody else. I might as well be home. But I was completely sucked in when I turned around and saw my old pal from the Firehouse, Vito Russo, right above me. And then several others. And then the very bar I was standing in, only 30 years before. It was as if I had fallen through a tear in the time/space continuum. I found myself cheering as the bars of my youth appeared on screen, as well as the sites of many an enjoyable evening of exploration. I recognized one man after another.

I will have to watch this in a non-bar atmosphere, when I haven't necessarily consumed my weight in bourbon. To this end I ordered a copy of the DVD from Amazon on Monday. I'll be sure to have something to say about it here. Rest assured, it will not be about the unkempt hair, or the mustaches.

Sunday night, all my friends abandoned me to their various holiday weekend events, leaving just me, and then finally Damian, to act as representatives of our posse. My very excellent friend Ryan was in town from San Diego, and had come down to spend a couple of hours with me, to talk music, grab some ass and have a generally great time together. At some point in the evening, two California guys recognized Ryan from Palm Springs, and pushed their way over to talk and flirt with him. He introduced me, but one of them clearly wasn't about to pay attention to the likes of me, while his friend deigned to place his limp hand in mine and pointedly looked over my shoulder, all at the same time. I got the picture and cleared out. Ryan was back by my side shortly thereafter, telling me he thought they were assholes for their lack of manners and complete disinterest in me. I'm getting used to it, sort of. I actually had a chuckle over their behavior.

On Sunday morning, I picked a copy of David B. Feinberg's Spontaneous Combustion off my bookshelf, which deals with gay sex in the Eighties, quite a different time than the DVD I'd seen portions of the night before. I've been reading the short chapters over the past two days, and I find it quite startling to be completely thrown back in that landscape of pain and bewilderment once more.

I've sometimes thought that because we survived those trials together, we'd all somehow be nicer to each other. I guess I was wrong. Silly me.

Boy, am I crabby.

Monday, January 08, 2007

...And Presents Under The Tree....

As you can tell, this is way past-posted.

Praise to the diety of your choice, but somehow I made it through a most difficult holiday season. I don't recall one quite so rough as this in several years. And the blame can be squarely laid at my feet. Or spine. Or the odd internal organ.

As I've mentioned before, I managed to somehow managed to mangle my spine on Thanksgiving Day, causing me no end of problems, even keeping me out of work and the Dugout for a day or two. Imagine! With the help of my good doctor, some excellent physical therapists and a couple of prescriptions I've grown a bit fond of, I was able to continue spending overly excessive hours at work, attempting to get my holiday shopping done, attend the bevy of work related lunches, dinners and sundry other functions, all the while enjoying the expressions on people's faces when I told them what I'd done to myself. That perverse pleasure was to be short-lived.

I spent the pre-Christmas weeks installing a project on 52nd Street and Fifth Avenue, right in the heart of New York holiday insanity. You could not walk down the street without being mowed down by groups of tourists walking five abreast. Bringing my trucks in was nigh unto impossible. The stress level was astronomical. To top it off, I'd not done much shopping, and the holidays were bearing down on me. I was feeling run down, but put on a brave face and did what I thought I had to do.

I was surrounded by no end of Scrooges, each expounding their own Bah! Humbug! theories on why they hate the holidays. Granted, there are myriad reasons. I know, it's a false construct, created by big business to force poor schlubs into debt, and it really doesn't mean anything. Right? Never the less, Tim and I have always enjoyed this time of year. I like planning things and December is nothing but plans. Our schedule was completely booked for every moment of every weekend, way back around my birthday. Lots to do, lots to do.

So, then, what was this random stabbing pain I'd have in my back? Was it related to my disc injury? Perhaps the physical therapy? Every now and then I would feel what felt like a sword passing completely through me, under my rib cage. I soldiered on, thinking I was perhaps favoring my injured side and had thrown my back out in doing so.

I had stopped going to the gym for the duration, and there were no end of client dinners and lunches, as well as the usual Christmas crap that fills most offices around this time. I must admit, I did partake a bit too much.

The Friday prior to Christmas, I noticed that I was having trouble bending forward without pain. I still attributed this to my back. Tim and I went about our business the next couple of days, preparing for our holiday feast. We spent a pleasant hour and a half on line at Ottomanelli's Butcher Shop on Bleecker Street, waiting to pick up our roast beast. Double decker tour buses passed every three minutes, and the guides would ask us what we were doing, as if this might be some new fabulous Greenwich Village boite with a velvet rope and misleading signage. We bought cheeses, olives, salmon, pate, rillettes; all the things that make a festive spread. By Sunday, I thought I might be having a heart attack. The pain had settled into my mid section, and was severe at times. I knew my heart was not located there, nor was I having any of the tell-tale signs. I was resolute in my idea of not spoiling our holiday, as I had on Thanksgiving.

The day itself arrived, and I was in flat out agony, yet we had a blast exchanging gifts. In the pic above, Tim's gifts are on the left and mine are on the right. You can also discern this by the Catholic School stocking that says Timmy, and the other stocking that features a bear rolling around under a tree. It looks like he has rug burn, too.

Tim listens to me blather on all year long, somehow remembers, and then gets me the gifts that I really want. As you can see, I got tons of music and books and DVDs, a great shirt, some beautiful antiques and an excellent bottle of cognac. I had a leather jacket custom made for him, and bought him a few trinkets to amuse him.

We took a walk and set about making dinner. I had prepared the standing rib roast a la Anne Willan, glazed with English mustard, and Tim made Yorkshire pudding. I was unable to baste the roast because I could not bend the upper half of my torso. Dinner was marvelous, however, and we enjoyed, as always, the soothing company of our dear friend M. We had a bit of dessert and port and collapsed into bed, exhausted.

I woke up feeling better the next day, and thought the worst had passed. Wrong. I went home on Tuesday, heading back to work Wednesday morning. My receptionist took one look at me and said I looked awful. I felt that way, as well, thank you. In a mere half hour, I was back to the same place I was in Monday. I called my doctor, who called a few specialists. Each and every one of them was on vacation. This was clearly not a good week to be sick. He asked me to come to his office. When I arrived, he took one look at me and sent me to the emergency room at Beth Israel, where I spent the next TEN hours. That's a horror story for another time, but I did learn that the gall stones I've had for some years had flared up, and guess what? My gall bladder would have to come out.

Well, the operation is scheduled for Valentine's Day, so that's another holiday I'm going to screw up. It's done laparoscopically, so I'll be home that night if all goes well. I'm planning on taking the next couple of days off, and Monday's a holiday.

Don't be surprised if you see me out and about on Sunday night.