Saturday, December 22, 2007

Phoenix Rising

It is so hard for me sometimes to know what to write here. I try to at least mention my adventures out on the town. Being something of a hermit, going to a bar is as close to an event as my life has these days. Well, yesterday a deer wandered right up to the bay window in the front of the house and was giving a disapproving glance at my Christmas tree when I spotted her from the kitchen. I really felt for a moment like I was in a Douglas Sirk movie, and not just because light was coming in from every direction at once. But when I went to get my camera, Mike scared the poor animal away. This is what passes for excitement and high drama at my house, so you will understand why a trip to a grungy watering hole is what I choose to write about in my semi-annual blog.

I wonder if grungy is really the right word for the Phoenix, an alt-boy neighborhood bar in the East Village. Seedy doesn't seem appropriate because I never worry about losing my wallet. And it isn't disgusting like The Cock, which in its past location had a bathroom so filthy I preferred instead to urinate outside against a wrought iron fence. That dump really knew how to put the anus in tetanus. Now that the Cock is by some necessity in the Hole (that, as they say, fits), I haven't been there since it moved. I'll just wait for the Health Inspector's final report and a booster shot.

The director Richard Brooks told a great story about making "The Blackboard Jungle" at MGM and how he wanted it to be "gritty" so, for instance, he had them make the walls near the light switches dirty, like in a real life high school. But every night, the old craftsmen of MGM would dutifully paint everything back to a pristine white because that was the MGM way. Most Manhattan gay bars are sophisticated and pristine, like an old MGM movie as are the fussy young queens who go to them. But the Phoenix is gritty, yes that's the word I want, but in just the same manufactured way the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland is dangerous. There is graffiti on the bathroom walls, but it's all very clever and occasionally political or deeply thought. There is a gruff bear of a man in the basement, but he is polite and runs the coat check. So the gay boys can have their sense of life in an old fashioned road house, but still order a fancy mixed drink without getting punched in the face.

The Christmas holiday is right around the corner and that means everyone is escaping the island of Manhattan like it's Paris 1940 and the Nazis are about to march in. And in much the same way, the gays like to have one last drink before they fly off to fly over places where mind-numbing conversations will take place in living rooms crowded with knick knacks and oppressive memories, and the last gay person they will see for a week will be a weary flight attendant more interested in his own frosted tips than your safety in the air.

Mike had just said good bye to his mother, who visited us for a week instead of the other way around, and was certainly in the mood for a night of East Village boys, his favorite kind. I invited him along even though I had really invited myself along. Terry and Jonathan had hatched a plan to hang out there together, but since they hatched the plan on my own Facebook Wall, I felt no compunction about inviting myself and a few friends along as well. As it turns out, that was the right move, as a little rain earlier had caused Cinderella to meet her midnight a little earlier than planned and Terry bailed on the whole thing. That would have left Jonathan alone to hunt his neighborhood haunt, and we can't let that happen, can we? Not right before Christmas!

I invited Zach to come along who insisted he would stay away from the gin and tonic this time around. He brought along his very newly single friend Jon, who looked very familiar to us all, but mostly looked like Zach in five years. The conversation spun easily between the five of us into a roundelay, layering over and over again in its series of recurring themes (the pending election, gay life, 30 Rock, Britney, Manhattan), while past acquaintances of Jonathan's made blatant overtures for rematches that he oh so coyly moved to the txt realm or rebuffed entirely. Meanwhile, Mike was struck by Zach's powerful and rigid stoicism, more than a match for his own blank visage. Jon was bored, and I passed the time waiting to see who I would run into at the bar.

I don't know many people in New York City, and I infrequently go to the Phoenix. But it never fails that someone I know is in that bar! This time around it was Michael, Melissa's contortionist of a roommate, who had shaved his head and packed on easily thirty pounds of muscle. If I were living back in Los Angeles, I would assume that he got a part in a movie and had altered himself for a character role, but in New York, even though he might well be an actor preparing for his Broadway debut, it seemed more likely that he just was tired of the old Michael and decided to make a drastic change. Having worn the same hair style for twenty years now, it is a notion I don't easily understand.

In the end, it turns out that everything else with me was still exactly the same. Outside the coat check, a drunken Jonathan confronted me about my electric blue polo shirt. "I know why you wear blue all the time," he smiled as though revealing a surprising secret. But it was no secret to either of the blue-eyed people in the conversation, whose own vanity led them to the matching color. We got into a competition about the blueness of each other's eyes and I insisted on one-upping him by telling him that my eyes change color with the color around them. Then with great effect, I zipped up my pale grey jacket and Jonathan watched my blue eyes turn pale grey. "I hate you," he said as he turned on his heel and stumbled up the stairs.

It is true that I am often an enormously unlikeable person. I don't know why anyone listens to our radio show. I tell Romaine all the time that we are two of the most unlikeable people ever and then we just laugh about how silly it all is. Maybe people like us together because we are both so horrible that we deserve each other. Out in the real world, my terrible personality keeps my number of close friends conveniently small and my desire to leave the house even smaller. But as long as I have a blog to write and a radio show to do, I will continue to burn my way through modern gay life, rise from the ashes once more, and do it all again the next week.

After all, it is Winter, and we have to keep warm somehow.

1 comment:

Robbie said...

Silly boy, you aren't unlikeable... you have a quick wit and the gift of banter. You are just the sharpest pencil in the box! Sounds like a fun night to me.