Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Kind of Magic

Unusual weather we're havin', ain't it?

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.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


In response to the recent spate of High School year book picture postings, I hereby offer this snapshot for your delectation and amusement.

I think this picture was actually taken in 1971, given the extraordinary amount of time it took us to pull together the senior class year book for my graduating year. In fact, we didn't receive them for another year, returning in the Spring of 1973, at which point this picture and many like it had been reduced to the merely comical.

By the time I graduated High School in 1972, my hair had finally made it's way down to my shoulders, though it remained the mess of raven curls you see here before you. Of course, in my senior year, I had it cut in a then-fashionable shag haircut, losing the curls and gaining layers. It proved to be a highly unmanageable style for me, and a challenge to my Gillette SuperMax 200 watt blowdryer, which was incapable of producing neither the heat nor the wind required for that tousled, windblown look so many of us were attempting at that time.

Yes, I am wearing overalls in my High School graduation picture; such were the times. My mother was so proud. She refused to purchase the ready-for-framing 5" x 7" or the series of wallet sized prints the school was shilling. She should have been relieved. I did not, as others did, pose with a woolly glued-on beard. Nor did I pose in the style of Veronica Lake, or submit a cartoon in place of my photograph, as some of my more clever classmates did. Our yearbook, bound in faux silver leather, resembled nothing so much as Andy Warhol's Index, all moody black and white, with second-hand camp overtones.

For the photo shoot, I merely turned up in my teen aged notion of fancy dress-up. I'd had the overalls for a while, even affixing an applique to the rear yoke of an American Beauty rose, in tribute to the Grateful Dead album of the same name. I'd conspired to team the overalls with one of my very special and favorite shirts, a pearl buttoned western model; pale cream festooned with faded yellow cabbage roses and still paler green foliage. Paired with my ubiquitous Frye harness boots, I thought I looked terrific.

The hair was the first to go. Having spent the night dancing in the sweaty basement of the Ninth Circle, I happened to catch my reflection in the window of the D train carrying me back to my mother's house in Brooklyn. The hour I'd spent with SuperMax had been all for naught, and I was horrified to note that my hair had morphed into something resembling a Jewfro. I was at the Jack's Barbershop on Brighton Beach Avenue at 9:00 AM the following day, where Jack enjoyed himself immensely as he clipped, then cut, then sheared my hair down to a close cropped buzz. When I next appeared, my friends ragged on my new look, sarcastically calling me Lou Reed. I took it as a compliment.

A bout of mononucleosis that winter took care of the baby fat, and in a couple of years, contact lenses would replace the gold-rimmed aviator glasses. The flower-sprigged shirt still resides in the back of my closet. The fabric has faded and yellowed, and it now resembles some remnant of wallpaper as one might find in an old deserted whorehouse. Tim attempted to try it on some time ago, but stopped when his muscles threatened to burst the seams and shred the fabric. I hadn't realized I was such a waif.

The Gillette Supermax rests on the top shelf of my closet in all it's orange glory; a triumph of early 70's design and a failure in every other way.

I've never understood people who claim their High School years were the best years of their lives. Mine were hell. I look at this picture and all I can see is a young boy who is just about busting to get out of the life he's been living and get on with another; any other. I sort of want to pat him on the head, and tell him to take it easy... that things will work out alright in the end.

He would have decked me.