Tuesday, November 11, 2008

...To Wrestle The World From Fools

In 1988, when all my friends were either newly dead or preparing to die, Patti came back from retirement to leave this gift.
I would listen to it over and over, feeling completely powerless over what was happening around me.
I don't feel that way now.
It's time to man the barricades again.
People Have The Power.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Folks Who Live On The Hill

I was asked not to write about our wedding. And I haven't.

The requirements we met to satisfy the state, the traditions we chose to uphold, the words we selected to say to each other are all sacred to us, now even more so as our very right to be together in this manner is threatened.

This past election day I sat teary-eyed and hyperventilating, watching the results of democracy in action. My fellow countrymen had spoken with their collective hearts and minds in a way I'd never seen before and I was completely bowled over by the outcome. The man who inspired this avalanche of emotion spoke eloquently, accepting the difficulties and challenges that lay ahead of us, and attempted to make sense of the events of the day.

I listened incredulously as he attributed his election to the:

"young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled; Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals...".
When we first met David, the gentleman who joined us together, he asked our reasons for wanting to get married. I explained that the two of us could not have been more committed to each other. A ceremony and a piece of paper with an official seal would not change that or make it any more so. What we wanted was our place at the table; and here was our chance to take that seat, no more, no less.
Now I'm a fairly basic man; my wants and needs are simple. There's an old song I know, written way back in 1937, sung by people as diverse as Irene Dunne and Nina Simone, and then forgotten. It has always brought tears to my eyes and longing to my heart.
Many men with lofty aims,
Strive for lofty goals,
Others play at smaller games,
Being simpler souls.

I am of the latter brand;
All I want to do,
Is to find a spot of land,
And live there with you.

Someday we'll build a home on a hilltop high,
You and I,
Shiny and new a cottage that two can fill.
And we'll be pleased to be called,
"The folks who live on the hill".

Someday we may be adding a thing or two,
A wing or two.
We will make changes as any fam'ly will,
But we will always be called,
"The folks who live on the hill".

Our veranda will command a view of meadows green,
The sort of view that seems to want to be seen.
And when the kids grow up and leave us,
We'll sit and look at the same old view,
Just we two.

Darby and Joan who used to be Jack and Jill,
The folks like to be called,
What they have always been called,
"The folks who live on the hill".
It seemed a dream I could never take part in. Until now.
I will never forget the way Tim and David held me as I struggled through my marriage vows, fighting in vain to stem my tears. Nor I will forget the way Tim looked at me as he bound his life to mine.
These are things that no one can ever take away from me.
Let it be known:
I am prepared to fight.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

My Back Pages

The picture?

Probably 1984. I'm not certain. It was taken one rainy Memorial Day weekend at Arthur & Barry's old farm house in Atwood, New York. Nolan, my schnauzer, still had her puppy coat. I'd just crawled out of bed to walk the dog. She never did like getting her paws wet.

I might be 29 years old here, perhaps 30. I can't remember my exact age, but I can remember how the cold wet grass felt on my bare feet and I can clearly conjure up the smell of wet puppy. I also recall how Robert and I hurried back upstairs to our tiny guest bedroom, skinning off our damp clothes and jumping back into the ancient iron bed and each other's arms as the puppy whimpered a bit and then settled into a sleepy heap on the floor.

That morning, 24 years ago, crept in my thoughts during my shower today. I generally wake up in a fog, groggy and sensitive with sleep. I need a bit of quiet and solitude before I can face the world. By the time I'm in the shower, I'm planning the day and ready to strategize my upcoming battles. Today, as I gazed out my bathroom window through the morning's hazy Autumn air and worked my Brazilian Rosewood soap into a lather I remembered today's date.

I nodded and took a deep breath.

A few Octobers ago, I wrote a small piece here entitled My Best Friend. As is my wont to do, the title comes from an ancient Jefferson Airplane song. It briefly detailed the years that Barry and I spent together before he died at the age of twenty eight, some twenty one years ago, last night. My great friend and blog mentor, Joe, graciously linked the post in his blog and I was visited by several hundred people in short order. Forty or so of them were thoughtful enough to express condolences and outrage. One reader even admired the tie Barry wore in the faded Polaroid I included.

Shortly after the piece was posted, I received an e-mail from Arthur. We had not been in touch in several years. A friend of his had followed Joe's link and forwarded the post to Arthur, now relocated to Fort Lauderdale. He was deeply touched and told me to watch the mails.

Some weeks later a large brown envelope arrived from Florida, containing a short note, a color copy of Barry's 1979 New Hampshire driver's license, and neatly folded within, the narrow Thai silk tie that Barry is wearing in the photograph. Arthur had a notion that I might want to drape it over the picture of Barry that graces the top of my piano. Instead I put it away, to rest along side a cache of old photos, notes and letters, ephemera that Barry and I exchanged. It held way too much power for me to view everyday.

It's unfathomable to think that we've not laid eyes on each other in all this time. Twenty one years later, I wonder what we'd have been like today. Back then, I would sit with him, laughing in the face of oncoming tragedy, then go home and cry until I could no longer. I wonder what two such young men might have grown to be, if both their lives hadn't been so cruelly waylaid, one way or another.

Even as i was blogging it, I knew I was not happy with the tone of the original piece. In fact I said:

"it doesn't convey our life, the humor, laughter, the sadness and pain of that time. I'm just not able to capture the very essence of Barry, in the much same way I can't remember the sound of his voice, no matter how hard I try".

Tonight, alone, I sit here and try to comprehend the dark and complex emotions I've been steeping in all day. Once again, I'm not happy with what I've written, if perhaps for different reasons.

An hour or so ago, I retrieved the tie and knotted it around my neck.

A deeply foolish and sentimental gesture, I know.

It's hard for me to look back at those days and I mostly avoid doing so. Most of the stories I could tell of that era don't include anything that even resembles a happy ending. I have great difficulty relaying the horror of those days to the bright eyed and eagerly curious young men I meet today.

Someone should, though, even if it's just a sentimental old fool like me.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Now That Everything's Been Said

Could it be more obvious?
Does it have to be made any clearer than this?

with thanks to Jeffrey Anderson of Jeff's Fancy Blog

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Summer Crossing

"They say it's not the same anymore...all in all, it would seem that the change in Provincetown which people speak of, especially those who contrast it to their salad days, is not so much that it is any less alluring or it's gay life less vigorous, but rather that with the New Conscience gaining ground elsewhere it is no longer one of (a) few ports in the storm. It is not quite the never-never vacationland of one's wilder dreams it once seemed to be, because you can believe it's really there now. It is beautiful, beautiful people live here, beautiful people come here. But no longer...on parole".

This heady, albeit heavily edited prose comes from John Francis Hunter's lengthy 1972 epic "The Gay Insider", a moldering copy of which presently sits at my left hand. I bought the book when I was all of 17 years old, and it still has some value as sort of WABAC machine to our not so distant past. In spite of the lovely and then brand-new liberation rhetoric, it only seems to reinforce the idea that people have been complaining about Provincetown changing for a great many years. One feels that perhaps even the Wampanoag must have complained about the changes wrought by those awful Pilgrims after they picked up and headed off to Plymouth for more fertile ground and potable water.

It seems like almost everyone had something to say this summer. Dear friends had taken to referring to the place as Problemstown. But the concerns at hand were no longer my issues.

Here it is: Perhaps it's not actually Provincetown that changes. Certainly, retail establishments open and close, new restaurants appear as some old standbys drearily trudge on, real estate prices creep ever higher. One generation is given the gift of growing old; another blithely replaces it.

Basically, the town seems to stay more or less the same; it's we who change within it.

And for some of us old yearly trustees, it's only the conditions of that parole that have changed.

We are sentenced to return year after year.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


In a prospect of Wisteria, somewhere near Lafayette Park in SF, last spring.

Last Thursday,

on the 14th of August, 2008,

at 4:00 PM,

in a small, maple-shaded garden on Court Street in Provincetown, MA

Tim and I were married.

McSuper, indeed!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Cruel Summer

So here it is, a couple of weeks into summer, and, well, you know that summer body I was supposed to have by now?

Clearly not happening.

Not this year anyway. I used to be in pretty decent shape. I worked out several times a week. I hired trainers to torture me every six months or so. I've donned headphones and run umpteenth miles on the treadmill. As a result, I've had the chance to watch men's eyes slowly gazing downward towards my chest during conversations, and had an inkling of what some of our better endowed sisters have had to endure. Frankly, I liked it.

However, two ruptured discs, gall bladder attacks and subsequent surgery and injuries to both knees and my right forearm all in the course of the last eighteen months have conspired to make me fall way off my gym routine. The fact that I've also come to hate my gym and everybody in it has not helped matters one bit.

I have a nearly seven foot tall pile of neatly folded t-shirts, none of which look particularly good on me at this moment. As their collected value is higher than some small nation's gross domestic income, clearly something has to be done. Of course, the fact that many of these shirts no longer seem exactly age-appropriate weighs on my mind, but none too heavily. I mean, what's the problem with a 54 year old in a skateboard t-shirt? Must I be condemned to a lifetime of Maude-wear?

But I waited a little too long. Oddly, even though I'm not all that comfortable in my skin this season, a whole lot of other people seem to approve of my newly acquired, um, coziness. A young man of my acquaintance, after I'd complained bitterly about my current shape typed: "well, get over it. I like you all broke down". So comforting.

I've noticed my popularity has only grown since I've added the avoirdupois. I may not be lovin' myself right now but a whole slew of guys seem to have a midsummer hankering for silver haired middle aged beef, if a bit run to seed. I'm not complaining.

In just a few weeks time, I'm heading up to the beach, and strangely, just when you'd think I'd be in a panic, I'm actually fine. I'm temporarily essaying that middle aged over-the-hill preppy look, and I must say, Bleeding Madras is my friend. As are seersucker shirts in Lily Pulitzer palettes. I'll still stomp around in a black motorcycle t-shirt or two, just to keep things interesting, but don't be surprised to see me decked out in Orvis, Pendleton or Vineyard Vines.

I seem to have received a new mantra:

Basically, I just don't care.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

1973: Pride (In The Name of Love)

Stashed somewhere in my apartment is an issue of David magazine, dated August 1973. It's really not much more than a glorified national bar rag, a prehistoric version of HX. In fact the ratio of drag queens to naked boys was pretty much the same then as it is today.

On page 19 there's a half-page photograph of that year's Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade Rally in Washington Square Park. Yes, children, that's what it was called way back then. A march down Sixth Avenue, and a rally in the park, attended by oh, perhaps several hundred. It's a beautiful warm and sunny end of June day. The photographer is shooting from the elevated make-shift stage, capturing a panoramic view of the large crowd of attendees enjoying the speakers and entertainment. Sprawled against the police barricades up front are a rather inelegant group of revelers, set slightly apart and thereby in relief from the rest of the mostly young, mostly long-haired throng. They've been caught in mid-cheer!

There's William, my very first boyfriend, standing a little apart from the group, looking bemused and skeptical. He's not sure the libertine sentiment of the day meshes with the conservative rhetoric he usually spouts. There's Peter, the very first human being I came out to, the bright sunlight illuminating his halo of red curls. There's Liz & Eileen, great and good friends from high school who took me to my very first gay bar, and Miles, who I was crushing on real bad for a while back then. I even wrote a song about him. You'll never hear it. Oh yeah, his boyfriend is sitting on the barricades. I forget his name.

A the apex of this group is your correspondent: tall and thin with aviator glasses, horseshoe moustache extending to my chin and that black curly hair. I'm wearing a blue chambray western shirt and my arms are straight up over my head applauding. Can you pick me out?

I have no idea who was on stage at the time the pic was snapped, but I do remember that it WAS a show. The stars of our very small orbit, Alaina Reed, Sally Eaton & Cliff Grishman, our singing buddy Steven Grossman and Miss Bette Midler performed as Sylvia Rivera of S.T.A.R. waged war with Jean O'Leary, sparring for stage time to vent their opposing viewpoints as regards drag.

My very first celebration of Gay Pride and and my personal Liberation.

I marched the next year with Bobby, my second boyfriend. That June we marched up Sixth Avenue to rally in Central Park. The following year I marched solo, but made out in a summer storm with Gary, whom I met at the rally. I remember licking the rain off his teeth. Funny how some details never fade. The next several years fade into a blur, and then I have no recollection of parades or rallies. Robert and I would spend Saturday night deep into Sunday morning at Flamingo, 12West and later The Saint, and would be too wasted from our weekly ritual to partake in the yearly ritual.

Flash forward several years...a much less happy time. I'm completely cut off from anything that resembles a gay community, such as it is. My friends are either in the process of dying or have just up and done it. And I'm feeling the need to re-connect on any level. With anything. In fact, I mentioned this to the woman I worked for at that time. Who told me it wouldn't be good for our business for me to attend the parade, and besides, people like us didn't associate with that riff-raff. Or words to that effect. Needless to say, that Sunday I was down at the corner of 12th and 5th Avenue, watching the parade from start to finish. I stood, all goose flesh, during the minute of silence, and gasped, moved to tears, by the cheer that roared up immediately after. The young Act-Up boys and girls were tremendous; just what my anger needed. Was that the year they lay down in the street at various times throughout the parade route to dramatize our impending deaths? Perhaps their courage planted a seed in me to seek my own freedom again.

I went back to the parade, either by myself or with new-found, hard-won friends in later years. Of course Tim and I got to go for a few years, and had the best time of all. We would marvel at recurrent themes: screaming Hispanic drag queens, topless lesbians in wheel chairs, pneumatic muscle boys in ice cream colored wigs and matching speedos.

But Tim's been working the bar on Sundays for the past several years. And it's PRIDE now. On Christopher Street! Big business. It used to be his best day of the year, even if the work was grueling, and the bar never seemed prepared for the hordes of humanity that would descend, post-parade on the foot of Christopher Street and the river. He still does pretty well, but there are other, more popular bars now, and at least he's out of there at a somewhat decent enough hour.

So Pride has become an excuse for me to spend the day at the gym, clean out my kitchen cupboards, or mope at home. I won't go down to the bar, it's just too insane, and I hate to see Tim so stressed. Valium only helps so far.

I posted this three years ago, found the picture two years ago, and combine them here for you today. It's still a heady rush to see those young people on the barricades. I'm not sure of my Pride schedule this year. I still won't head down to the bar, and the notion of watching the parade appeals in a rather limited fashion. However, I could very much do with an event that reinforces the idea that we might still be a community, something I'm finding difficult to believe these days. I would like to be proven wrong. I'd like to believe that all I fought for, all I marched for, all I protested and all I lost in the battle was not in vain. That the rights we're still trying to attain, are in fact, attainable. That, when push comes to shove, we will storm the barricades again, young and old.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I'll Keep It With Mine

...as much as the priest tried to capture the importance of Mr. Saint Laurent, it was his former companion and business partner, Pierre Bergé, who spoke most movingly.

The two men, who remained business associates and friends long after their romance ended, decided to create a civil union together in the days before Mr. Saint Laurent died, Mr. Bergé said. The French union, known as a “civil pact of solidarity,” carries mutual rights and responsibilities, but is short of a marriage.

“It’s going to be necessary to part now,” Mr. Bergé said, addressing his friend in the coffin. “I don’t know how to do it because I never would have left you. Have we ever left each other before?"

Mr. Bergé’s voice broke. “But I also know that I will never forget what I owe you, and that one day I will join you under the Moroccan palms.”

-an item that appeared in the Paris Journal of The New York Times on Friday, June 6th that made me cry on the PATH train to Tim's house. The gentlemen in question who created their Civil Pact of Solidarity were 71 and 77, respectively.

I personally do not intend to wait that long.

Friday, June 06, 2008

All Tomorrow's Parties

Tim and I enjoy a good German meal now and again.

Years ago, we'd hop on the IRT and hit Yorkville, having lunch at the Ideal on 86th Street. Sometimes, we've had late night dinners at Rolf's. But those days are over. The Ideal is long gone and Rolf's has gone from bad to wurst. We've been hitting Heidelberg these days, with mixed but mostly pleasing results. I could and have complained about the heterosexual-to-a-fault clientele and the staff that seems to have been cast from a roadshow production of Dracula's Daughter.

So it was with great joy that we remembered another neighborhood option. This particular restaurant is located on a popular Gramercy Park side street, across from one of Zagat's big boys and a myriad of boites that serve as gathering places for all those newly revived Sex And The City zombies.

Now, I've spent quite a bit of time in this part of the city. I worked on Park Avenue South for several years. I went to college just a few blocks away. One of my best chums lived in the Hotel Irving, now a smart condominium, then a Single Room Occupancy hovel directly overlooking the gated Park. To cheer his tiny space up, we painted it Kim Novak lavender, replaced the dim bulbs with orchid tinted spotlights and played the Velvet Underground non-stop. Why is it that the coolest people always come from Ohio or South Dakota? When not cutting classes to promenade down the Morton Street pier, we'd climb a bar stool at mid-period Max's Kansas City, which was on it's way from the Bad and the Beautiful to the Scrawny and the Strung-out. Our tenure there coincided with the Glitter and Glam days, and it was not surprising to open Rags or Interview and spot one or another of my classmates adorning a banquette in a Biba shirt and the latest maquillage for men.

William, my first boyfriend, moved to this neighborhood from Clinton Hill shortly after I left him in a most unceremonious manner. Broadway, in those days, was lined with printing and publishing establishments, and he relocated to those empty streets to be closer to work. His previous position had been a bit further down the avenue and I was heading there to meet him one Friday afternoon when the Broadway Central Hotel collapsed in a huge heap right in front of me. Though we were no longer together, we did remain friends, at least for a while. Now the Broadway side streets were peppered with photographer's studios. I spent many nights crashing on his sofa, staring out the window as flashbulbs exploded, momentarily illuminating the varied ateliers across the alley.

I've had a long and storied history with these blocks. The restaurant we were heading to has been in place for probably 18 or 20 years. I'd always noticed it in passing, but in those days it seemed a bit expensive. Today, that's less of a consideration. So we made our way there, entered, noting the lively yet low key scene at the bar, and were seated in the intimate dining room beyond that. The room had clearly seen better days. One could see ancient ghostly shadows where artwork had once adorned these walls. Those had been replaced by framed magazine ads, an intriguingly motley collection of cookbooks and an odd assortment of seemingly random bibelots scattered here and there. But it was dark enough not to matter, and the beer was excellent. As was the meal that followed.

Tim feasted on Oxenmaul and Schweinshaxen. I had herring and a rack of wild boar. We were extraordinarily happy with our choices. As the neighborhood crowd began to slowly vacate the premises, Tim and I shared strudel and coffee. Studying the room, I became aware of a dark lithe woman, who was in the process of pushing the vacated tables up against the walls, changing the linens and tidying up. As she worked her way around the room, I could hear the bar behind me beginning to fill up. She finally reach our table, and in a basso profundo whisper said:

"Hi, I'm Ina. We have a party here every Saturday night and you are both more than welcome to stay as our guests".

Thanking her, I looked around. The bar was now full and spilling over into the dining room, where we were being regarding with curiosity. We had much curiosity of our own, as the denizens were decked out in ways we had not seen in years.

There were huge Amazonian women in miniskirts with hands the size of dinner plates. One, in particular towered in the vicinity of seven feet, aided by platform shoes and a back combed wig. Her skirt was slit to reveal linebacker legs and her polyester lace blouse was torn at the seams from the strain of those powerful latissimus dorsi. There were women who looked like Donna Jordan, the eyebrow-less star of Andy Warhol's L'Amour. There were women who looked like Rose Kennedy and and women who looked like Sister Parrish. There were women in smart business suits and women in couture that could only have been purchased on E-bay. There were women who looked like Reba and women who looked like Tootsie. And there were just a few well dressed men scattered among them like Arctic explorers.

Tim and I glanced at each other, not quite knowing how we'd slipped from Teutonic to Tranny in such a short time.

When I got home that night I Googled the name of the restaurant and that of the hostess we'd met. I was amazed to learn that this was a rather long standing and famous party for gentlemen who enjoy the company of gentlemen who enjoy the company of gentlemen in dresses. It had been going on for at least seven years, and we had no clue, never knew of it's existence. But then, these are not circles we get to travel in frequently.

Of course, we've gone back since, to partake of the excellent cuisine and watch the beginnings of the evening take shape. We don't stay too long. I wouldn't dream of ruining the fun. We brought M. one evening, but he was severely traumatized when he entered the Men's Room and was confronted by a lovely lady with her skirt hiked up at the urinal.

For those so inclined, I've left enough clues here to lead even the living dead to this spot, if they were of a mind to attend.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Where The Kissing Never Stops

So, a while back I went to San Francisco, and all you people got was this lousy....wait, y'all got nothing. I didn't write about it.

I know. It's weird. I just wanted to keep it to myself for a while. Talking about it, I mean. Just to maintain the buzz; keep it a little precious, keep it mine. I'll explain later.

After my long dark season, it was just ever so slightly amazing to have all our travel plans unfold before us so smoothly. In our household(s), I'm the one in charge of travel arrangements. Mostly this has worked out just fine, in spite of a few mishaps and one major blow-out akin to W.W. III in a hideously post-modern hotel in West Hollywood, but that's another story. In this story, the limo picked us up right on time. The plane took off on time and even got us into San Francisco early. Our luggage arrived with us. Our cab driver did wonderfully until he left the freeway and made a right turn on Market Street instead of a left, but we straightened him out fast. It's not like we're tourists, or something.

We arrived at the convent formerly known as Beck's, checked in, and headed out immediately, as is our wont to do. I love walking up Market to Castro, noting what's changed, what's new, what's gone. All of our old favorite haunts were still in place, some having received a new coat of paint, and so after a nightcap or two, we headed back to our monastic cell and crashed.

We really didn't veer too much outside of our regular program of things we like to do in San Francisco. These include walking, shopping, drinking and meeting up with scads of handsome men. I'm very thankful for my many years of service given at the Dugout. Almost to a one, so many of the men we saw were people we've met in the past decade or so at the bar. Over the years, some people have taken to referring to me as The Dugout's Mayor. When people laughingly approach me and ask if I am the Mayor, I always reply: "Why, yes I am, and I hope I can count on your vote and future support!". In fact, Tim's been working there for over 10 years, and we've been hanging out there much longer than that, and so it would seem a pretty sad state of affairs if I hadn't actually met all the people I have.

We spent Friday, navigating downtown, visiting the California Historical Society and doing some shopping at Gump's and Old Navy. Tim napped and I hit the gym. We headed up to the Edge for yet another festive Friday after-work gathering, where we were greeted by our pal (from the Dugout) Bruce, who tends bar there. It's a merry room, full of happy handsome men ending their week in much the same way we did so many years ago, but no longer do. After a couple of drinks and much flirtation, I spy Bob (from the Dugout), who's stopped by on his way to Michael and Larry's (from the Dugout) house for a drink. I shamelessly ply him with bourbon; we hug and kiss as we catch up. Just out of sight, I can catch the sound of one of Tim's old friends complaining that I'm hanging out with "that beary boy" too much. Tim shrugs. I send Bob weaving up Collingwood to Michael's house and talk to the new bartender, as the shift changes. A fireplug of a man introduces himself as Henry. I smile and shake his hand, just as he leans in and sinks his teeth into my left pectoral muscle. Hard. I yelp as Tim walks by, surveys the scene, smiles and says "I think you could do much better!" I gingerly extricate myself, and follow Tim into the bathroom, where, over the trough, we decide it's time for dinner and a change of scene.

Saturday, we trolley down Market to Polk Street, and walk it's length to Russian Hill. There exists a plethora of shops we like to poke around in, though, like everything else in the world, it's changing too. We go to the Swan and Bob's, rituals we'd never forgo. We try on several garments at Johnson Leather; the gentle people who work there could not be more accommodating. I spy a really nice CPO-style jacket that Santa will be bringing to a very deserving man this year. We drop into Naomi's and afterwards have a Bloody Mary at the Cinch, so potent and chock full of garnish that it almost requires a knife and fork to consume.

With new found vigor we climb up the hill to Lafayette Park, only gasping a little at it's summit, to watch the white caps break on the bay. San Francisco is in full bloom, and I stop every three minutes to inspect flora such as I have never seen before. I'm never going there without a guide again (this one will do quite nicely, if you're of a mind!). Tim is very patient with me, and indeed, enjoys pointing out the houseplants gone mad that we see all around us. We can't look at the towering Jade trees without thinking of those poor dessicated plants in dusty McCoy cachepots that we both remember from our varied childhoods. After a brief rest, we walk the rest of the way back to the Castro, through Japantown, haunting the edges of the Fillmore and collapsing in our room.

The evening is spent having pre-dinner cocktails at 440 Castro, where the boys are amusing themselves by reciting the dialog along with Mommy Dearest, which is being broadcast on half a dozen monitors. This movie has always made me itchy. It's so poorly done, and by one of my-then favorite directors, Frank Perry. It looks cheap. It destroyed Faye Dunaway's career. The child who plays Christina is frightening, as is the adult that follows her, and who did the wigs in this movie? Mostly, it's a bunch of mean-ass one liners strung together with some frighteningly violent scenes. My friend Eric always refers to the wire hanger sequence as Kabuki Joan. Needless to say, we don't stay long, but wander the area, dropping into various bars at our whim until it's time for dinner. The weather turns very cold very fast and my teeth chatter as they haven't since I was a child. We think we'll have a night cap at the Twin Peaks, but the bar has been commandeered by a gentleman who is clearly under the influence of something that has made him a desperate dervish. He bounces from lap to lap, begging people to come home with him. It's our turn to head home, instead.

The following morning, we rise early and cross the street for a quiet and lovely breakfast at 2223. We're among the first people to be seated, and it's a pleasure to watch the dim, coppery room fill up with handsome people. I'm so relaxed I almost hate to leave. Instead, we board the Divisadero line on Castro and hop off at Haight, where Tim walks me past the men and the mansions of Buena Vista Park and all the way to Amoeba Records. In the past, I've been so in awe of this temple, I walk out empty handed. Not so this time. I filled a basket with things I had to have, and two hours later paid just under $60.00 for a pile of music I'm still exploring. Tim loses himself in the extensive jazz and vocalist section, and even lucks out with a bargain priced sinister-looking Johnny Cash box set. Sated, we decide to take Stanyan Street back. Astute Tim points out the huge and handsome Victorian house that appeared for years on all of Rod McKuen's Stanyan Street records, and I could just hug him. We head up into the hills, admiring the groves of eucalyptus trees towering over our heads and the beautiful houses we pass. At 17th Street, we climb until the City and points beyond are completely laid out at our feet. Better than church, I tell you. We check out all the little staircases that abound in this area, stopping to admire the prehistoric plants that grow everywhere. I point out the turn, where just a year or so ago, Tim and I spent a morning dreamily exploring the Vulcan Steps and Saturn Street Stairs. We mosey downhill towards the Castro again, stopping at Medium Rare for some "good soul choices", as the proprietor once said of my selections. This time, I'm studying the galvanized box that contains Jerry Bonham's "Remember The Party". The shopkeeper asks if I'd like to see a copy of the play list, and I have to admit that I own the set, courtesy of a great friend, and listen to it frequently. He seems impressed.

We work our way down to the Eagle later, to continue our Sunday worship services. My old pal Doug is at the bar, and the patio is filled with friends: Stephen (the Dugout), Noah (ditto), and many others. We don't stay long at the Eagle these days; the collision of so many diverse tribes makes for a sometimes uneasy afternoon. This afternoon it's a group of gentlemen who seem to have engaged in either a riotous powdered paint pigment war or some arcane occult ceremony. Dreading the messy and inevitable contact, we head instead over to Bear Central and immediately find Guy (the Dugout) and his partner, Mark, and Chris (the Dugout) and so many others. Much hugging, drinking and general merriment ensues. At some point, Tim tells me that he's got to stop kissing guys who are standing around the peanut barrel. His allergy is kicking in and his lips are tingling. In the midst of all the fun, I am noticing the condos that tower over both patios at the Lone Star and the Eagle and know that there will be trouble ahead with both due to newest group of marauding Yunnies (Young Urban Narcissists, don'tcha know) that are invading our once crumbling turf again. We kiss all our friends, old and new, one last time, and bundle into a taxi and home.

The following day, we hike through Chinatown to North Beach, past the Italian restaurants, pausing only to watch the birds and the Tai Chi people in Washington Square. As Tim explains the meaning of the barnyard animals and angels that solemnly protect St. Peter & Paul's, we climb, climb, climb up Filbert Street to the top of Telegraph Hill, only to catch our breath before we trot down the Greenwich Stairs to the Embarcadero. We share a sandwich with some seagulls, leaning on a railing over the Bay.

Our last day is always sad. Both of us would like to be here permanently. But it would be very hard to extricate ourselves from our middle-aged lives here and re-settle. I have an elderly parent. We both have great long-standing real estate deals here, unmatchable in San Francisco today. It's like spending a week in the paradise of your choice, knowing that time grows short, the meter's ticking. We love the pace of this city; it's decidedly unflashy demeanor. We long to be a permanent part of it's citizenry, knowing that it most likely will never come to pass.

I can see us growing old here.

So we dream.

And return every year.

Next year, if the Gods allow, we'll go twice!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

It's A Great Big World!


I think not!

I've been watching a bit of the news coverage, and wondered what that odd resonance I was feeling was all about. It took a bit of observation to note just how high the hair is; just how tailored those "plain" dresses are. Were those shoulder pads I spied under those leg-of-mutton sleeves? Were there rats in those hairstyles? I seem to remember my Mom in a similar style back in 1947, when she was a swingin' high school bobby soxer.

I guess I'm just wondering which old perv has a thing for post-World War II babes.

The many wives of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young certainly didn't look like this.

It warms the cockles of this old-school fag's heart to see that the MGM glory days of Virginia O'Brien, Cyd Charisse and of course, Judy Garland, have not been for naught.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

This Flight Tonight

I've had enough of winter.

I've had enough of New York.

I've had enough construction sites.

I've had enough of high-end office furnishings.

I've had enough of mid-century modern.

I've had enough of the Dugout.

I've had enough of the L train.

So it's time.

Time for Tim and I to head west to the one of the few places we know that are guaranteed to have us feeling much, much better in no time at all.

Liz Hickok's San Francisco in Jell-O: Alamo Square

We have loads of plans, and a bunch of people to catch up with.

I hope to come home revitalized and happier than I've been in months.

If you're out there, I hope to see you tomorrow or the next day. Or the next. Or the one following that!

If you're here, I'll see you soon.

Hopefully, with my smile restored.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Winter's End

It seems the storm clouds are lifting.

Man, it's been a long, bleak winter for me. Perhaps I should have hibernated.

I've never been a fan of winter, but this year was ridiculous. Normally my seasonal malaise lasts the month of January. I'm old enough to realize that it's mostly caused by the emotional letdown of that follows the long season that begins with my birthday at the end of October and runs through New Years.

I've also learned how sensitive I am to the lack of light at this time of year. I live in a rather bright apartment, but I seem to be leaving and entering it in twilight at this time of year, and it makes me feel rather grim.

There's also the possibility that I'm actually dealing with something deeper and darker; depression, if you will. When I find that I'm thinking of consulting psychopharmacologists, and my partner is suggesting therapy and/or a 25 year old boyfriend, it's basically time to check the lock on the henhouse. Again.

So, it was with great pleasure that I felt the storm slowly abating over the last couple of weeks. Small epiphanies and episodes have gotten me through some of the events that darkened me these past few months, and I intend to hold these hard-won lessons close. I've even learned a bit about myself, and I've decided to leave myself alone for a while.

The above drawing was done by my great friend Rob, who I've known for years and is one of the very few redheads who actually like me. I met Rob well over a decade ago at the Spike. If I remember correctly, I was rocking out to Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" when he approached me. This drawing is the cover art he created for a cd compilation he sent me at the height of my dark season. It starts with a cover of that same song by The Bad Plus. The cover art seems to be a Rob's-eye-view of me. It made me very happy when it arrived.

I was at my desk, working until 11:30 PM last night. Today it feels like small sandy creatures are paddling through my eyes. I'm looking forward to the weekend.

To that end, I'm about to hop on the E train down to WTC, board the PATH train, and head for Tim's. I'll have a couple of his superlative martinis and he'll decorously sip a Manhattan or two. I'll get a good night's rest and tomorrow night we'll dine with M. at one of the Village's old school Spanish restaurants. I'm not saying which one, because it's mostly a low key scene, and I'd like to keep it that way. Later, we'll have some drinks at Ty's and head home, to set our clocks ahead.

I'm going to do the same thing to myself.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday, February 15, 2008

Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel

We were going to head up to Syracuse this weekend.

Tim's cousin had passed away, and we were to meet up with the rest of his family to attend the memorial taking place on Saturday. We had planned on flying up Friday, spending the long holiday weekend visiting Tim's old haunts, hanging out with his siblings and casting an eye on the local real estate market.

It would have been nice to get out of the city, and the rut I've been in since the holidays. Work and a lingering illness have both conspired to leave me grim and cantankerous. Some of you may have seen me once or twice in a cantankerous mood. It's not pretty, is it?

Like any other project management type, I rearranged my week in preparation for our departure tomorrow morning. I got the laundry done early and rescheduled my bi-weekly haircut appointment for Wednesday.

Now, John has cut my hair since 1974, and trimmed my beard since shortly after it appeared in September of the following year. We were introduced to each other by my late, lamented friend Arthur, way back in those plummy days when he and I were involved in an oddly successful cultural exchange program. Through the years my grooming habits have evolved from a once a month mowing to the every-other-Friday-morning-at-8:30 that it's been for the past ten years or so. I like the ritual of getting up early, hauling out the laundry and heading for a cafe on University Place, where I can sit in the window and drink my coffee, watch the world go by and listen to the extremely well progammed music, always thoughtfully selected. Sometimes it's jazz vocalists, sometime a British Invasion band. Sometimes it's a new jangly tune, or some long lost treasure I haven't heard in decades. Sometimes, in my vulnerable early morning state, I'm moved to tears.

As I sat there on this grey and rainy February day, I was intrigued by a turn the music was taking. The mix seemed to heavily favor dance music of the mid 70's, an atypical choice. There was a fair amount from the Philadelphia International stable, then the music veered from Lou Rawls, to be followed by Tavares. I had been lost in my reading, but the combination of "You'll Never Find (Another Love Like Mine)" and the LP version of "Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel" made me raise my head and smile. These songs are so time-and-place specific for me, never failing to momentarily transport me back decades. As the songs faded, I grabbed my umbrella and headed for my barber.

John and I exchanged our usual pleasantries as I grabbed a magazine and he prepped me for my haircut. Robed and toweled, I sat back and concentrated on the sounds of combing and clipping while John commented on how quickly my beard grows. "It's more white than black now, too", he helpfully pointed out. Noting my scowl in the mirror, he added "At least your beard is white; we have a lot of friends whose beards never had the opportunity". It's true; I had to agree. Once there was a rowdy gang of us that frequented John's chair; now the shop is quiet and mostly patronized by neighborly older gentlemen.

As I regarded my face in the mirror, "Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel" began to play again, this time on the radio. I smiled, recalling the summer of 1976.

It was the last week of June, and hot as blazes. It was the weekend of Robert's 36th birthday. In years past, he traditionally spent this weekend as a guest of one of his many friends with houses that abutted both bay and beach in the Pines. Not so, this year. There were no such invitations forthcoming. We'd met some eight months earlier; been a couple for the past 2-1/2 months. It seemed to me that the notion of Robert dating a 21 year old rubbed people the wrong way. It wasn't until some time later that I became aware of the two other men he'd been seeing concurrently. Both were socially prominent in this small community. They'd deigned to tolerate each other. I was just too much. I hadn't realized my function as his escape valve from that high pressure situation.

Stranded in the city, Robert was mad and growling. Brightly, I promised him a wonderful weekend, wondering how I could compete with the carnival that was taking place out on the South Shore. It wasn't necessary. Robert showed up at the door of my Sixth Street railroad flat on Friday night with a grin and a small suitcase, fanning seven one hundred dollar bills at me, telling me to pack my bag. I was young enough not to question him.

I'd been to Fire Island several times before, mostly day trips, with the occasional overnight stay, when I was lucky enough to charm my way into an invitation to do so. Robert and I, along with his friend Jeffrey, had even taken an early ferry out to escape that year's overheated spring, spending the day huddled in the wind against a storm fence on the beach, dreaming of the season to come.

It seems to me I can't remember the chronological occurences of that long ago weekend. Instead, vivid memories fly out at me like pages from some precocious child's picture book. I do remember checking into the Boatel, a three story cinder block horror overlooking the deck of the Blue Whale. The room itself was grim: a bed and some ancient rattan furniture. A shared bath. But our balcony overlooked the harbor, and the room overlooked the daily tea dance ritual.

I remember:

Walking the beach arm in arm, graciously greeting the amazed and more than slightly put-out faces of the gentlemen who had neglected to invited us.

The sandy sheets and oil slicked skin when we returned to our room.

The bottle of Jack Daniels on the floor at the side of the bed.

Waking up to the pulsing music from the deck below as it filled the room, and sent us, sunburned and satiated, to shower and shave and join the throng.

The amusing melange of chemicals we managed to ingest during the course of that evening.

The phosphorescent water breaking over me as I stared, slack jawed, from my seat on the water taxi, as we headed towards dinner in Cherry Grove.

Robert handing me my very first hundred dollar bill to pay for dinner, which mostly went uneaten, due to that same amusing melange of chemicals.

Dancing barefoot and shirtless at the Pavilion, my white painter's pants rolled up around my calves, as the two gentlemen looked on.

Collapsing in a heap on the bed in the early morning hours, the music still insistently playing.

Robert whispering in my ear that heaven indeed must be missing an angel.

The next morning we agreed to share a grudging birthday Bloody Mary with Bill, one of the two gentlemen in question. As we sat on his deck overlooking the Atlantic, I saw that Bill was wearing a small amulet, a medal I recognized as Robert's. Noticing my eyes fall on it, he fingered it, lifting it from the chain around his neck and winking at Robert. Foolishly, I took his action as a formal and open declaration of war; a battle I would ultimately win.

We spent the rest of the day jumping like dolphins through the rough surf, our swimsuits worn around our necks for safe keeping. We returned to our room just in time for the final tea dance of the weekend. Full ferries were pulling out of the harbor as men got once last dance in, heard one more song, snagged another kiss that would carry them through to the following Friday afternoon.

Showered, Robert and I stood on our deck, watching a late ferry head out into the setting sun. The evening was warm and I had wandered out, a thin towel knotted at my waist. I gazed out as Robert wrapped his arm around me and waved to Bill on the top deck of the boat. I could well gauge his expression from my perch. As the ferry left the harbor, I raised my arm in farewell as the sky filled with lead and gold.

"You haven't even looked at your magazine", John said, gesturing to my lap. I looked up, surprised to be sitting on 12th Street.

I shrugged. "I guess I'm just not awake yet".

John turned off his trimmer, and lifted the hexagonal gold framed mirror off the counter. With a sweeping motion he showed me my cleanly shaved neck, the back of my head, and lingered on my bald spot, waiting for me to frown or comment.

"Excellent", I said, and stood up.

I paid him, confirmed my next appointment, and headed out into the cold February morning.

Friday, January 04, 2008

I'm Still Here

You might have noticed that I've been around even less that usual.

In fact, I took a month off to see if I actually wanted to continue blogging and suss out what my possible reasons for continuing might be. I wasn't sure I wanted to share every hue and cry, every sigh and whimper that my aching psyche endured last year.

Having successfully ridden my wave to shore these past several years, I made landfall most ungracefully, skidding and bumping my way across a rocky coast. It has not been pleasant. I've had to learn to undo many of the social and behavioral traits I developed over the past forty years and suck up a few hard lessons along the way. Old dogs can learn new tricks; they mostly don't want to. However, sometimes they're forced to, and so, here we are.

I've been spending time trying to figure out just who I am at this point in my life and thinking ahead as to where and how I might want to live out the next 20 or so years if the fates are kind enough to allow me that much time.

Armistead Maupin has said: "Age is the last closet you come out of in the gay world. There are such gloomy visions of gay men aging. But if you worship beauty above all else, if you worship sex above all else, you're in trouble. If you're not working on your heart every second, you are going to have a very sad old age."

Now Armistead has a year or two on me, but I've never been anything if not precocious. And he's right. It is a painful process, akin to coming out all over again, but with considerably less stellar results. While I've not been one to worship sex and beauty, I have been known to use both to my advantage, at times. I'm well aware that those days are numbered, if not over. It wasn't easy leaving the dance floor, but I've done it, thinking I'd just try to find a good perch on the sidelines where I could still listen to the music and watch the other dancers cavort.

Tim watches, aware of what I'm going through. He's been a comfort to me when that was necessary; laughing with me when that was necessary, and cheering me on pretty much full time. We've been discussing plans for the next year and several years to come.

So here's one of them plans:

I'm going to give myself one last spin around the floor. I'll spend the spring pulling my act together, dropping some poundage, getting back to my work out. I'll do my level best to avoid the unopened and unused box of Just For Men (Real Black) that's been taunting me from my medicine cabinet for the past year. I've adjusted my level of expectation to almost nil. We'll have a bit more fun, then cede the floor to anyone who wants it. I can retire as an elder statesman and write my memoirs.

Aren't you glad you didn't have to go through the past couple of months with me?

Having said my piece, I am planning to continue with this blog. Perhaps more anecdotally, if that's even possible. Short pieces. Observations. Hopefully not about this old canard, either.

We shall see.