Friday, July 11, 2008

Carpet Bomb

A shag carpet is made up of thousands of fibers, interwoven to create a lush, full experience. Over time, it can fade, unravel and pill. Eventually, it just becomes so worn out; it becomes necessary to replace it with something else. Shag is a bar in the West Village, or I should say was, since it closed last night. Matty sent me a text message asking me if I was going and initially I said no, but at the last minute, changed my mind and decided to watch a bunch of gays roll up the old carpet and toss it to the curb.

The bar was more packed than I had ever seen it. Nothing like the very last last call to really bring out a crowd. The gays were six deep on the sidewalk, practically spilling into the gutter, yellow plastic cups firmly in hand. Inside, it was wall-to-wall and sweltering. “Why pay for air conditioning?” one of the patrons observed wryly, a tall radiating fan in the corner doing what it could to blow the heat out the door. Matty was there of course, exuberant in his greeting, and introducing me to Johnny as “the guy in New York you need to know.” That is really who Matty is since I don’t know anyone or anything about the gay world I live in.

Naturally, Conor was also there, melting in the heat but maintaining his cool in a crisp button down. I spied him across the bar while talking to Matty and once Matty swirled away into another cluster of fit and dismissive gays, I made my way through the throng to say hi. I have written before of Conor’s intense border collie stare, though I never mentioned how oddly calming it is on me. I feel so relaxed around him that I am fairly certain I could fall into a gentle nap on his shoulder, even in the midst of a gay melee at Shag.

He introduced me to his roommate Mary, who was a fun bundle of energy, although it may have been the alcohol fueling her along. It was easy to remember Mary (and Johnny) since I just read an article about the most popular baby names and apparently John and Mary were the reigning champs from 1880 until well into the 1950s, where Mary has since fallen off the radar and John has slipped down near the middle of the top ten. Someone introduced me to a guy named Eric and made a big “Eric, Derek, Eric, Derek. Separated by just one letter.” Cute though basically inaccurate. Those are the only names I could remember.

I really didn’t want to stay long. I just wanted to give my last good byes to a bar I had only attended a few times. A spiral bound notebook floated by for people to write their final messages in. I wrote “Dear Shag, I hardly knew you! I only ever came here with MattyK and now that you are closing I will probably never see him again.” I closed with my movie star signature, which doesn’t always come out right, but this time, it was flawless. On the screen over the bar, stills from the past played. Conor remarked that they were filled with old photos of him kissing Matty (remnants of a past heat now turned socially chilly), which inspired one of his friends to take a picture of us kissing. It turned out to be a very funny photo of us lunging at each other with open mouths like we are both trying to eat the other one. Hardly romantic.

I said good bye to Conor and then looked for Matty. I saw him run into the back a while earlier and apparently he never emerged. I sent him some text messages while I waited by the door but he never responded. While waiting, a guy walked up to me and asked how my radio show was. I was so surprised, since no one in the city knows who I am or what I do for a living. My blank expression made him smile. “I used to be the manager of XL” he told me, referring to another defunct Manhattan bar where Romaine and I played Faggot Feud once with Amanda Lepore and Richie Rich. “I live in Tennessee now.” I suppose that was to explain why I haven’t seen him, but given how infrequently I go out, he could have stood at the corner of 23rd and 8th for the last three years without moving and I probably wouldn’t have seen him anyway.

One of the guys at the bar told me that he didn’t even know the place was closing until hours before he arrived. I explained to him that he was part of the classic retail paradox. “If you came here more often you would have known it was closing, but then again, if you came here more often, maybe it wouldn’t be closing.” Then again, it seems like all of NY nightlife is unraveling like a cheap carpet these days. It might be more a sign of the times than a faded love for Shag.

On my way out, I spotted Brian crossing the street to join the fray I had just abandoned. I called out to him and he looked right at me, but then just kept walking. I know he should have recognized me. I always look the same and I am by some measure the worst dressed gay in New York, so you know that sticks out in a crowd. I don’t know. He looked a little frayed and pilled himself rolling into the club. I guess like so many other previously beloved New York establishments, I too can fall quickly into the remnants pile and fade away into the night.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Dereck, I listen to your show everyday and just started reading your blog. I just wanted to say "thanks" for making me smile and even laugh out loud while driving home everyday. I think your great!!

Thanks,
Tommy