I wrote this a couple of years ago to commemorate a guy I'm thinking a lot about today.
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.