There is much to love about owning your own house. If you hate something, you can get a mad fever and rip the shit out of it. The house came with a tacky wooden shelf in the kitchen, with little hearts carved into the bottom. It looked like something you might find holding figurines at the Precious Moments Chapel and Gift Shop in Carthage, MO, but not that high end. The worst part about it was its placement, at eye level right next to the refrigerator and the entrance to the basement, where you could frequently bang your face into it. I have to assume that after the previous owners lost an eye or two coming around that corner, the look of the thing no longer bothered them. The same could not be said for us, and one night in a fit of rage, Mike tore it right off the wall leaving two hearts where they had painted around it and a deep gash in the plaster that I assure you was far more pleasant to look at than the shelf had been.
How fitting that I should spend the anniversary of home ownership at someone else's house. Kevin and Christopher (who travelled all the way down to Florida to meet me in April) invited me to their small gathering for Memorial Day at their weekend place, which is situated on a small island in the middle of a lake in New Jersey. Kevin wasn't there, having dropped briefly into the tour of Spamalot, leaving Christopher to tend to the parrot, the BBQ and two dozen theatrical types from both the world of Broadway and the wilds of Jersey. It was like West Side Story, if you set it on an island, and made the Jets thin and gay and the Sharks straight and boozy. Everyone there was a star, including the local kids over which the Broadway gays threatened to launch a revival of Oliver! just so they would have a fitting starring vehicle beyond the bright lights of the private island.
Mike and I arrived and in the midst of my being painfully adorable and calling Christopher to tell him we were hopelessly lost (even though we were there), I made the wrong right turn and ended up driving all the way around the lake. Because the house is on an island, everyone (and everything) must be transported by row boat. We were greeted at the dock by Logan, a foxy teen from J Crew heaven in a button down shirt, loose shorts and an endlessly grin behind sunglasses, hired to row, clean up after the drunks and give the gays something to look at and feel bad about. Later when I found out he was fifteen(!), I seriously considered pulling a Shelley Winters (a la A Place In The Sun) and falling out of the boat in the dark row back to shore. But then I realized I was at a party full of Broadway professionals and I had no chance of outdoing any of them in the dramatic movement department, tempting though it might be to try.
Christopher was cheerfully manning the grill as we arrived, so filled with 1950s brio only a chef's hat and Kiss The Cook apron or a slender smoking pipe with pork pie hat could make the scene more complete. I have no doubt that by the July 4th party one of those two ensembles will be in place. Perhaps Kevin will wear one and Christopher the other. Everyone at the party was very friendly and lovely and sweet and I am afraid to say anything about any of them because people always take it the wrong way. Also, I only have the capacity to remember two names and while I think I might have actually pulled out three or four, I don't want anyone to feel bad that I didn't remember their name. They are actors after all and not being known, named or recognized is even worse than a bad review.
I will say that Hannah was a high point at the party. She had appeared with Christopher in the West End production of Spamalot as, ironically enough, the Lady In The Lake. She is currently in the Broadway production and even though I have never seen the show, know nothing about her role or her ability to sing, I assure you from watching her devour half a watermelon while sitting with a straight back and a naked ballet toe, that she will be the best thing in the show. That she later rowed entirely around the island without breaking a sweat and informed us all that of course she rowed for Great Britain in college came as a surprise to no one. She is tremendous. Logan thought so too and while I am certain he long since lost his virginity, I suspect that he wishes that he lost it to Hannah. I know I did. She seemed completely oblivious to the fact that his chin frequently tried to rest between her breasts as she gorgeously reached for something else to eat. She was a star among stars but so unassuming about it that no one seemed to mind being upstaged by her.
Mike is not what I would call social and being in a sea of outgoing people seems to make him want to retreat even more. At one point, he wandered off to one of the hammocks and rested a while on an outcropping over the quiet waters of the lake. It really was a perfect day for it and he wasn't the only one who sought refuse in a hammock or two. He did briefly engage in the handmade game Christopher imported from his Minnesota childhood. Similar to horseshoes, it involves tossing over sized washers into holes in an AstroTurf-covered platform some feet away. The other guests I believe mistakenly called the game "holy war" which didn't seem fitting for a nice backyard diversion from a quiet Northern state. Those of us spectating on a nearby rock tried to rename it "glory hole" in a fit of inappropriateness, but Christopher's ancestors can rest easy knowing that name didn't seem to stick either. Speaking of Minnesota, I knew when I made my hamburger there would be mayonnaise in the fridge to put on it, although Christopher insisted that Kevin is the one who loves mayo and he has always been partial to the Miracle Whip (with the H not at all silent).
Christopher and I spent some nice quality time talking about the joys of home ownership and all the miseries that go into owning something on an island. He confided a charming anecdote about the move-in that I remembered from the 2004 New York Times article Kevin sent me. I don't blame him. My patter when showing people my house is so canned, I could just give them a recording on my ipod and let them tour on their own like in a museum. Their island paradise did fill me with insane mad jealousy that made my own house seem instantly less magical when I got home. But of course, I only got to see it when it was filled with happy people and sunshine. When you don't have to drag supplies across an ice-covered lake only to discover you forgot to buy milk, it is easy to fall in love with the charm spell that can descend on such a place. In the end, I realized that owning a house on an island, while lovely, is really a whole lot of work and misery and aggravation, punctuated with brief moments of blissful happiness. Just like marriage!
Back home, I looked out on the rose bushes I just planted and made plans for an arbor in the backyard where that rundown dog pen used to be. Earlier in the weekend, Mike and I tore the ramble shack overgrown pen apart, digging scoops full of broken glass out of the ground, remnants of a drunken teen night of target practice some years ago. We cleared old branches and dirty trash and one of every kind of ball you can imagine (tennis, whiffle, soft, literally everything but a shuttlecock), like archaeologists discovering an unkempt former civilization happily long departed. Someday I thought, people will feel the happy bliss I felt on Christopher and Kevin's island sitting in my backyard and while they smile contentedly, all I will remember are the piles of broken glass and be filled with resentment that I can't afford to surround the house entirely with water. I suppose I should just be patient. It has only been a year, and the house keeps getting better and better, one tiny improvement at a time. And the way it's been raining, my own private island might not be that far in the future after all.