Friday, April 20, 2007

The Shaggy B.D.

First things first. Happy birthday Matthew Kelleher.

Dropped by Shag tonight for Matt's official, actual birthday. The real Matt. Not the Saturday night who's that of Manhattan birthday Matty with the Polo logo you can see from space, enveloped by miles of male perfection. No, no. I skipped that Matty in favor of Phoenix Pride. The Matt I know was at Shag on Thursday, his real birthdate. Parker enthusiast. Notre Dame radio star. Rowdy rower. Jersey girl. That's my Matt.

Ben Harvey and I conspired to create an A Gay power foursome. The Fantastic Four! But better than the movie. I brought Matt and Ben Harvey brought the eponymous Charlie. Oh Charlie. As I have blogged frequently, I have been studying travels with Charlie, largely at Vlada, my usual watering hole, for months now. Of late, he has not been there, leading me to believe I am a more dedicated alcoholic and not quite the recluse I tend to see myself as. As a modern day Jane Goodall, crouched in the dark recesses of the noisy gay bar, jotting random notes in my head for use later in my online journal of events, I spied Charlie on more than one occasion, though never wanted to interrupt the natural order of things by talking to him. From a distance, he has a winning smile, which is not diminished by closer inspection. Tonight at Shag he reminded me that we had met before, some time ago at Beige.

It is at this point that the trolley really jumped the tracks. For weeks now, I have been on the brink of a nervous breakdown. I have had two different emotions colliding inside me for weeks, like a pair of hurricanes flung together in such a way that neither has an eye of calm anymore. On the one hand, I have my prolonged house closing, the stress of which has ruined my normally blissful slumber for three weeks now. The second storm was caused by the Bravo series Work Out, which is especially infuriating because it is neither a show that I like nor one I watch! But I did catch the season opener and the death of Doug on the show has hit me very hard. In particular, the "fat" trainer Jesse, who is the love of my life, showed callous disregard for Doug. "I don't need him in my life," he casually declared, cementing his guaranteed camera time. In hindsight, such blithe muggings for extra airtime on a basic cable channel look shallower than a child's wading pool and just as disgusting to watch as a soggy, full diaper floating in it.

Faced with Doug's mortality, I have been spurred into action, not to let that kind of pettiness rule my life. It fueled my endgame with Fat Ass, and in general, has left me with a constant sense of urgency about things said and done. It has made me more accomplished, and also more scattered in my thoughts, as I sift through the sands of my life, looking for the shards of broken glass to throw out. Compounding this with the Byzantine rules surrounding home purchase in the state of New York and I can hardly remember my own name. So when, after four hours of radio with guest host Cyd Zeigler, and sitting on an empty stomach and a full drink, Charlie mentioned Beige, I couldn't for the life of me remember the bar or its location in New York City. Even though I have been there at least 20 times in the last six years. This gave Charlie the upper hand to chide me for the rest of the evening about my inability to remember who or what I was. These kids today.

I barely got a chance to talk to Ben Harvey, or Matt, or even Cyd, who I dragged out on a school night. But since it is important to learn from every experience, I did get two things from this evening. First, the gays sure do like to worry. And sometimes they worry about things that mean absolutely nothing at all. Maybe we just like to worry for worrying's sake. Maybe it's a misplaced maternal instinct that, lacking anything to mother, we endlessly mother oursleves and each other. Whatever it is, Doug's death has reminded me that it just isn't worth worrying about. Whatever it is.

Second, I learned that even if I can't remember my own name, or a bar I got drunk in with Matt in Los Angeles (Cherry) or a bar I got drunk in with Matt and Charlie in New York (Beige), or the name of the guy who wrote about me in the New York Times in June 2003 (Bob Morris), I never forget to be an ass about grammar. By Manhattan standards, I may have a fourth grade education, but when's Ben's sweet, sweet friend Jeremy, who writes for the New York Times said "when Saddam was hung," I reflexively muttered "hanged" under my breath. Twice.

Because just like life, once just isn't enough to say everything you need to say.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Vlada Vignettes

2:30am. 96th Street Subway platform. iPod on shuffle. Tears well up in my eyes. Oh no. Bruce Vilanch is right. At a certain point, you do start breaking down all the time for no reason, like an old Buick.

Why am I crying? And it’s not even crying. It’s movie crying. A welling of tears, a trickle out of one eye. That’s how I know it’s not real. But why the tears? Was it something someone said at the bar tonight?

“You are forty, so who cares what you think.” That can't possibly be it. That was hilarious.
I click to the next song. kd lang singing Big Boned Gal. I am already welling up. I might as well go full tilt boogie. I search kd for Three Cigarettes In An Ashtray.

“Two cigarettes in an ashtray. My love and I in a small café. Then a stranger came along. Everything went wrong. Now there’s three cigarettes in the ashtray.”

I saw kd lang sing this as the encore at her concert in Reno last year. Next to seeing Ella Fitzgerald in her final concert at the Hollywood Bowl before they cut off her legs, this is my most treasured concert memory. Suddenly, I am my own grandmother, welling up at Johnny Hodges. My mind turns to the call with my home insurance lady Mary Anne today. We spent an hour on the phone talking about my new house to determine my coverage and when the questioning turned to possessions, I got very depressed. First item: jewelry. I don’t own any and I’m a man and who cares. But then as we went down the list, I realized I don’t have anything of value. Some sentimental things, but nothing worth keeping when I am gone. I am the only thing I have of value.

Damn, now the song is over. Need to start it again if I am going to maintain this dramatically somber mood.

“I watched him take her from me. Now his love is no longer my own. Now they have gone. I sit alone. And watch one cigarette burn away.”

This is good but it doesn’t really match the mood I am in. True, I was at a bar tonight with Ben Harvey but Vlada hardly counts as a “small café.” And true, someone did horn in on us, but so what? We were just talking.

I switch to kd lang’s cover of the Valley of the Dolls theme song. I have a remix of it in my iPod that is a better match to the late hour otherworldliness of the subway platform. And earlier our conversation was straight out of the movie (and probably the book, although like most books I can discuss in casual conversation, I have never read it).

Normally, I look for Charlie at Vlada, but this time, Charlie’s friend Ben Harvey was there. I need to use his full name because he can’t be Ben because Ben is Ben. Some people just sound better with their whole names. Like Dan Renzi. And I link to his Friendster profile because it tickles him when I do that in my blog and I know he is reading this.

Ben Harvey and I have been emailing for weeks now, since we finally met at the Godawful Gay Expo, which I think should be their official name. I think he was reluctant to meet me at the event for some reason, but in some ways he seems like a reluctant person. I am also reluctant and I sensed that we are alike, although I know someone who always says to me “guys like us” which invariably is a comparison of how we look and I think I am much cuter than he is. So at the risk of seeming like THAT guy, Ben Harvey and I are alike I think.

Heavenly development though, he got hit on tonight and I was completely ignored. That was delightful. Some people who like being the center of attention (like me), like it all the time. I only like it part time. So when I am not in the mood, I am delighted to retreat into the shadows. Tonight, Ben Harvey was the shimmering light of blond deliciousness and I was the fat friend in the shadows, drinking down the remnants of my thirties like so much melted ice in a cocktail glass.

I made no effort today. I spent hours dealing with the new house. I cooked dinner at 1pm and socked it away in the fridge for later enjoyment. I barely brushed my hair and wore an eight year old Gap shirt that every gay man in the world owns, just like always. I rolled into work with my winter parka and an air of resignation an hour before the show. Typical. I was all set for a night of TV viewing at home. Lost, Top Design, Top Model. Top ass sitting in a recliner in front of a 50 inch TV. But Ben Harvey sent me a text message (txt to the kids out there) but then followed with an email in case I was too old to be a text messenger. Eh. He’s right. I am on the cusp.

In the bathroom at Vlada wondering why gay men don’t know how to flush a urinal, trying to do something with my hair in the mirror. I catch eyes with the gay at the sink next to me.

“It looks good.”

Is he talking about my hair or referring to me as a third person object? Either way, it’s enough to propel my carcass out of the men’s room and return to the gay fray. Ben Harvey and I have long entwined discussions about gay media, radio, dating, and relationships. A few laughs here and there, the biggest when I talk about going to Starbucks the next morning after drinking in gay bars all night and pulling a dirty wad of ones out of my wallet, change from the various twenties I tossed out the night before. “I have to stop stripping.” I say as I hand the money to the cashier. It’s a good line. Maybe I will use it at pride this weekend, although in most parts of the country, you get fives and tens back when you pay for a drink with a twenty. It might not work outside this moment in time.

Ben Harvey goes to the bathroom for the 70th time. A man walks past, but then stops. He has a variation on the worst line in bar history.

“Why aren’t you smiling?”

So many good answers. “Because you didn’t keep walking.” Or “Because you are talking to me right now.” I choose “Because I am an alcoholic and my glass is empty.” He moves on. I have too much baggage for him.

Another man walks over. Will my empty glass and I get no peace tonight?

“I am in town from Texas. I have been in New York for four weeks. In all the time I have been here you are the most masculine I guy I have seen.”

I stifle a girlish giggle. “You are kidding right?”

“No I mean it. You are so masculine. What do you say?”

“Leave now.”

He whines. “Most guys at least say ‘thank you’ when you compliment them.”

“Sorry. I meant, you should leave now before I say or do anything so you might still believe that. To be honest, I am just too old and too tired at this hour to wave my hands about wildly.”

And then there was JT and of course Jonathan. The third cigarette in the ashtray.

Ben Harvey and I were having a perfectly nice time at Vlada. First we are standing downstairs but Ben Harvey is fragile and needed to sit down. We move upstairs, but then Edie, who is talented but loud, starts in on her show and a couple of homos who work in radio can’t hear each other talk because they are both varying degrees of deaf now. It comes with the job.

We move to the seats downstairs and continue our conversation. Suddenly, exuberant and crazy in love, JT gallops into our conversation. He is nice enough. 26 and full of enough energy for us both to think he might be taking drugs. But what? Through his succession of ridiculously hot friends, we learn he is a dancer or maybe choreographer. I hear a connection to Britney Spears mentioned but since she shaved her head and beat a parked car with an umbrella she hardly seems like the kind of reference you want printed in bold on your resume.

JT introduces us to his “famous” best friend Jonathan. Jonathan is a cutie 25 year old who is as comatose as JT is gregarious. It is almost as though JT is actually sucking the life out of him in the middle of the bar, right before our eyes. Ben Harvey and Jonathan hit it off, but Gay Commandment #1: Thou shalt not covet thy homos best friend if thy homo hit on you first, even if thy homos best friend is way hotter than thy homo and totes into you.

In my good ear, I half hear Ben Harvey tell JT that I am his boyfriend. Happy to run easy interference I play my role to the hilt. Of course, I also use this as an opportunity to tease Ben Harvey mercilessly. “My boyfriend LOVES it when guys hit on him. He loves the attention!” Well the attention from JT goes on too long and too dramatically and Ben Harvey wants to leave and even I start longing for a nap. Earlier JT didn't believe I was really 37, but now he is annoyed enough to use it against me. "You are forty, so who cares what you think.” His flounce is especially pronounced as he dismisses me like a school bell. Hmmmm... maybe I am the most masculine guy in New York City.

Jonathan, who isn’t “famous” at all but instead, is a very attractive dog washer at Biscuits and Bath, leaves. JT invites us to someone’s apartment for a party, but I am far too old to be attending impromptu parties at strange apartments on a Wednesday night. Ben Harvey is right. It is time to call it a night. So I leave Ben Harvey on the corner of 8th Avenue with a promise to blog our evening for posterity. And then decide to take the subway home. I could take a cab, but I want the extra time to really work over the details in my drunken head.

This endless post later, I am ready to climb into bed. Tomorrow I will get up early and watch a sea of TV before heading into work. I probably should have stayed home and watched TV tonight but that’s what an old person would do. I have decades of that ahead of me, in my house filled with sentimental favorites and nothing of real value, listening to kd lang and thinking about the good old days when I saw her in concert and what life was like with record players and before the internet. But tonight I am the only thing I have of value and I choose to release my asset (such as it is) from the vault, to put my cigarette in the ashtray and experience life in the small café.

Just this once.