Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Weak End

I went out last night and it was so blah I didn’t even feel it was necessary to write about. I had been thinking about going out for a few days but it never coalesced in my head into an actual adventure. I should have trusted my first instinct, although I almost never do. David and his massive arms were in town from Southern California, for his annual Eastward migration for the decadent Black Party. I thought Ben Harvey could use a night on the town and even Roommate has been working late and I knew he might be up for at least one drink before heading home. Plus, feeling so much pressure to have something to blog about, I almost felt it was a requirement to go out at least once this week.

We converged at Vlada but even before we got there, I knew it was falling apart. I haven’t been in much of a party mood for weeks and most days all the up energy I have just gets poured directly into the radio show. That doesn’t leave much for the swim back. It was a rough work week for Ben and Mike so the three of us were not great company for David, who arrived from his continental flight refreshed and ready for fun. Aside from coming up with a perfectly sensational new drag name: Ana Phylactic, the evening was mostly a bust. Later on the train knowing I wouldn’t be blogging about the evening anyway I skipped my usual people watching bit in favor of the latest gay movie A Four Letter Word on DVD.

It was required viewing for work since one of the stars Charlie David was set to do the show today. I think I met him at Las Vegas Pride in May 2006 when he was there to promote Dante’s Cove but I was so insanely sick, I hardly remember anything about that weekend except collapsing in my frightful 1980s dump of a hotel room that looked like a tag sale from the set of the Golden Girls, filled with the utter certainty that I was going to die. I had even planned to do the show from home today, but he was going to be in studio and there was a party after the premiere tonight that the director (Casper Andreas) as well as the other star (Jesse Archer) really wanted me to attend.

Doing a radio show every night until ten pm doesn’t make me much of scenester. Most of the hot events in town take place between 7pm and 9pm, like back to back episodes of 24. That is smack dab in the middle of my show. It helps to keep my anonymity intact, but it keeps my celebrity networking to a dull trickle. So when there is something happening that I can actually attend, I try my best to show up. Plus, Casper and Jesse are sweet guys who are trying to build film careers out of thin air and I respect their tenacity. The first film of theirs I saw, Slutty Summer, is no Citizen Kane, but there is a lot worse gay pap out there.

Charlie came on the show and he was pretty as ever. He really is a desperately attractive man, and very sweet in a way only Canadians can be. As he left to attend the premiere, I told him I would try to make the after party. After last night, I was reluctant to risk another night on the town, and really should have thrown in the towel and tried for amazing next week instead. But as it turned out, Roommate was already having dinner at HK and since the party was there, it seemed fateful after all. Once the show ended, I put some candy in my pocket to fuel my long walk down and made my way to HK.

I have only been to HK a couple of times. It is a sexy little lounge in an unsavory area. There is a cute 24 hour diner across the street and down a block, a homeless mission underneath a bridge. So if you want an evening that includes both tapioca pudding and tuberculosis with your cocktails, this is the bar for you. I think the last time I was there Aaron Tanner was promoting a club night and he was practically run dancing in place like Edina during her Absolutely Fabulous fashion show, virtually willing fun to course through the room like a bump of K entering the blood stream. Tonight it was packed as only an open bar until eleven can fill a place.

I ran into Fred Caruso, dear friend and producer who, like all producers, was brimming with enthusiasm and hope. It has been forever since I saw Fred and he is exactly the same. And like most of my closest friends, even after five years, he still doesn’t know the hours of my radio show. He invited me to a reading of his new show. “Is it on a weeknight?” I asked, knowing full well that it was. A Thursday at 6pm. “But you can make that right?” I folded my regrets into a small origami crane and gently set it adrift from my lips to his ear before making my way over to Roommate and friends who were huddled in a corner like they were trying to keep warm.

The usual gang was there: George, Mike, and even Jon. Jon was some pounds lighter since I last saw him, although when you don’t see someone for a long time it is hard to be timely with a flattering weight comment. They all looked happy enough, though a little disappointed that they didn’t know the mixed drinks were free until it was nearly over. I caught up with the old gang, which as always meant Jon and I shouted bon mots at each other while George and Mike scurried over to be in the calm eye of the hurricane with Roommate. Jon (28) said he felt sorry for the younger gays at the party. “What are they all? 24? So sad. They don’t even know what’s coming.” All they knew was the booze was free and they looked good in a bathing suit. What more do they need to know at 24?

Thinking about those poor 24 year olds, I frowned for a moment and then changed the subject. “Take a good look. The next time you see me, I wouldn’t be able to make those anymore. Frowns are a discontinued item.” When Jon pressed me for details about going under the knife he expressed concern about the difficulty of hiding scars on a man. “They can put a scar across my forehead for all I care. I don’t mind if I look like Frankenstein’s monster as long as I look like the monster at 22. I can always come up with an excuse for a scar. A terrible car accident. An old boyfriend who came at me with a knife and got me here, here, here and here” I said pointing to either side of my jaw line and the opposite sides of my hairline. Then pointing to the sides of my eyes, I added, “Next year he is going to get me here and then here. “

On my way out, I said good bye to Jesse. He was so happy, filled with admirers and riding high on the opening of another movie. Fame is a long staircase and sometimes the stretch between steps can seem impossible for even the longest stride you have in you. Reaching that next stair can feel like an amazing achievement, even if it is only one step. But it’s like the song says, “I’ll build a stairway to paradise, with a new step every day. And I’m gonna get there at any price. Stand aside I’m on my way.” I wish all my famous and nearly famous friends an easy next step. I wish I knew what my next step was going to be, and where my staircase might lead me. The strides feel long right now and I don’t know where my foot will land.

I thought about my plastic surgery jokes on my way to the train. It is, for the most part, just cocktail chatter. I don’t have any real interest in getting work done. But it is a nice fantasy. Play acting really. At Grand Central, the place was teeming with people and giant lights. They were filming. As we got close, I saw the back of the director’s chairs said “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” I was giddy with excitement. Roommate just smiled. “Finally your dream of discovering the dead body can come true.”

On our way to the train we spotted Robin Williams getting into make-up for his scene. I flashed back twenty years to the ballroom dancing there for The Fisher King. Robin looked older. He is going through a divorce. But then I look older too. Tim Curran was just going over the photos from our first day at OutQ in April 2003. “You haven’t changed a bit in five years” he insisted. But I have changed, and in ways that don’t always leave visible scars. Though there are still cuts here, here, here and here, some wounds deeper than others, some that may never heal. Something I wish I knew when I was 24. But I guess it is all part of that trip up the staircase. Sometimes the climb takes more out of you than you thought. And in the end, only you can decide for yourself if it was all worth it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Man of the House

I have long thought that the only thing missing at my house is a wife. Not a woman, per se, but a 1950s vision of wifeliness. Someone who will cook and clean and greet me at the end of the day with dinner in the oven and a drink in her hand. And of course she’ll look fabulous doing it. I have even thought it would make a good business idea. Hire-A-Wife. Because sometimes you (this includes both men and women, mind you) just need a woman around the house in a very anti-feminist way. But this weekend, I learned it is just as important sometimes to have a man around the house.

Aside from a second bathroom, the weekends are the real reason Roommate and I moved to the suburbs. Yes, not waiting to pee is important, but it is quiet and peaceful. We can sleep in on Saturday and Sunday without the threat of homeless men screaming “White Jesus” just under the window or horns honking or impromptu street fairs. I can mix up a big country breakfast and when the weather is better we can sit outside in the Adirondack chairs with the New York Times and a steaming cup of coffee and watch the deer forage for food in the backyard. It is a little slice of heaven and it’s all mine.

Heaven of course doesn’t come cheap. There is always a price to pay. The commute to my little paradise is long and occasionally arduous, especially in the winter. The house was sold with all prior bad taste fully intact and like an ugly fetus, nine months later most of it is still there. During the long cold winter months, we took a break from remodeling and mostly got used to seeing ugly carpet and bad light fixtures. But on Good Friday, the microwave inexplicably died and showed no sign of rising again in three days. Suddenly, in the throes of a new Spring, it was time to make some serious changes.

To combat a serious lack of counter space, Mike has long campaigned for an over range microwave, but upon closer inspection, the hood and fan assembly I have are hard wired into the house and it will take an electrician and an exorcism to get it out. But even though we were replacing one under $100 microwave with another one, Mike still wanted to shake some things up. So we decided to also install a shelf in the nook of a hallway off the kitchen and seriously reconsider some of the older, never used appliances clogging up the counters.

Years ago when I was married to Craig, I somehow in the divorce ended up with his bread maker. I guess I was upset that he kept so many of the nice gifts my immediate family gave us, like the knife set my mother bought us and the espresso maker that Veronica got us. And even though in the ensuing decade and a half, I have only made bread in it once, I still dusted it off (mostly) and put it on the counter when we moved into the new house. It has just gotten dustier since. Mike thought it was time for an appliance intervention and cornered me in the kitchen about it. Off to the garage it went, along with the electric can opener that we never use because we both have full use of our hands. I want to put them on the lawn, along with the boxes of other crap the former owners left behind, in a free yard “sale” where people just take whatever is there. I don’t want any money for it because I don’t care and I would donate it to charity but our town only has a Salvation Army and the Goodwill (at these gas prices) is just too far away.

At Home Depot picking up shelf supplies, Roommate and I talked paint chips for the kitchen and dining room that are being redone before my upcoming Cinco de Mayo party. And I made an impulse buy of new light fixtures for the dining room and front hall. The previous fixtures were both Wal-Mart Tiffany knockoffs that made me resent the very existence of stained glass every time I saw them. The sad thing about remodeling a house is that the more you do, the more you hate what was there before that is still left behind, and the more passionate your hate becomes. When I first saw the house, the kitchen and dining room were the least of my worries, but as the rest of the house has transformed, they have turned into the most offending eyesores. The clunky ceiling fans and shimmery gold cabinets are too much for me now to bear.

We switched things around in the kitchen, removed the door to the basement and Mike labored to put the shelf together. By the end of Saturday, the kitchen was already 1000% more livable. Yes the light fixtures were still in the boxes, but things were already so much better I didn’t care. The next day, hottie Zach was coming up for Easter. Originally I planned to do a whole Easter dinner thing for him and his fun roommate and this dog. But at the last minute, he didn’t bring the dog or the girl and we switched it to a more low-key BBQ. I picked him up at the train and took him to the house. We sat in the living room and he asked the eternal question:

“So what do you guys do around here?”

Mike and I looked at each other, sitting there in the living room. “You’re looking at it.” Mike said, leaving out the part where normally I am not wearing pants and I haven’t showered yet. Zach being a man of action, we took him downtown to the lesbian coffeehouse and a walking tour. Then we drove down to the river to see the old firehouse I desire to turn into a gay bar and discussed the history of the area. An hour later we were back at square one.

“So if I wasn’t here, what would you guys do today?”

“Install some light fixtures.”

“Sounds fun! Let’s do that.”

Suddenly, we were motivated for round two of house remodel weekend. We got out the step ladder and shut off the power and set about to change the two light fixtures. While Zach and I busied ourselves with the electrical, Mike created a tool area in the basement and completely transformed that too. I felt like I was on Trading Spaces! While changing the chandelier in the dining room, I decided that the dining room furniture could use a changing around too. When it was all put together, it was suddenly like living in a different house. I couldn’t believe how happy we all were in our sense of accomplishment. I think even Mike smiled for a minute.

Then we fired up the grill and Zach went to town grilling the steak, sausage and corn on the cob he brought as well as the BBQ chicken I pulled out of the fridge. Meanwhile, I built a roaring fire in the fireplace that lit up the living room and warmed the house. An hour later, we had a grand BBQ feast to end the day in the newly gorgeous dining room, with the glow of the fire in the background. And the whole time I marveled at how handy Zach was, in a way that I am merely a rank amateur. Yes, there are things I can do and fix around the house but I just don’t have the patience for it. But all of us getting together and doing it made quick work of the project and it was a lot of fun.

When I drove Zach down the hill, I was so sorry to see him go. It was like saying good bye to Mary Poppins if she had a sexy smile and killer arms. I hope he had fun working on my house because I know I enjoyed it. It is hard to admit sometimes that you need help, but in this instance I am not shy. I do need a man around the house, if only to motivate me to get off my lazy ass. And a wife too. Because at the end of the day, you just want someone else to make dinner while you put your feet up, and just enjoy the life you have.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Food Stuff

I have been informed that I am remiss in updating my blog. Nothing could be further from the truth! First of all, this has been one of my most active months ever for blogging, and there is still a whole week left! And second, nothing has happened. It isn’t that I haven’t been reporting, it is just that there has been nothing to report. Following my last weekend of debauchery, the combination of too much alcohol and the saliva of strangers, left me the worse for wear. Since then I have spent the bulk of this week not wanting to leave my bed, let alone hit the town. So unless the image of me queasy in bed reluctantly watching The View go downhill is important to you, you haven’t missed anything.

This has been a week of pulling back the reins. I went off the rails a bit last weekend because I had been keeping myself pure for science. As everyone knows, I am participating in this anti-aging program and as part of it, I am routinely tested to make sure my organs aren’t exploding. While some celebrity participants in the program may use the benefits of it as an excuse to do enormous amounts of drugs and not die, I like to at least keep up the veneer of clean living when blood testing time comes around.

So for weeks, there was no alcohol and only special occasion visits to my beloved Taco Bell. But since my blood was taken last week, I indulged in a spicy Baconator with large fries and a Pibb Xtra at Wendy’s and a weekend of non-stop booze. My body was ill-prepared for the shock of it all and you have seen the hermit-like existence it has driven me to since. Then on Wednesday, the worst news ever, my blood test was screwed up and I need to do it again next week. So now I am back on the path to purity, which is a living hell for a junk food junkie like me.

The alcohol part hasn’t been that bad. I had been slowly pulling myself off anyway. Unfortunately with my radio hours and the confines of gay social life in Manhattan, going to bars is just about all anyone is in the mood for at ten o’clock at night when I stop working. I don’t mind being the sober one there, but not drinking does make going to a bar seem increasingly less appealing. But since I am already trying not to drink soda either, I end up looking like a depressing recovering alcoholic with a bottle of water in my hand or worse the only lame person still doing ecstasy on a weeknight.

The food part is much harder for me. My addiction to ice cream is legendary. It is rare when there are fewer than two different flavors in the freezer at any given time. I am also a big fan of pudding. And pretty much any kind of pie. Really I think it is fat that I love. Martha Stewart is right. Fat is what makes food taste good. I like tasty food, which means I like fatty food. The fact that my metabolism has long allowed me to keep up this pace does not necessarily mean it’s a good idea. I might still be thin, but that doesn’t mean I won’t drop dead from it.

Going to the supermarket is the worst. The products are designed to play directly to our darkest desires. At my market, as Roommate pointed out, the kid toys and books are in the sugar cereal aisle. Makes sense. That’s just smart marketing. How about my favorite recent innovation: Ready To Eat Cheesecake Filling. Who makes that? Satan? They have even given up implying that you are going to put it in a crust and serve it to other people. The name alone screams “consume alone in bathrobe.” Don’t even bother moving a smaller portion out of the tub into a bowl. Just put a gravy ladle into the container and enjoy. You know you are going to eat it like that anyway.

Sunday is Easter which for some people means a nice spiral ham and some potatoes au gratin. For me it means peeps and chocolate. At the office today, Mike offered up some Butterfinger eggs and Reese’s peanut butter cups. I politely took one from him, but later when everyone had gone home, I returned to the scene of the crime and grabbed another pair of each to eat alone at my desk. Bathrobe not included.

Now I am on the train home, knowing full well that I should just have a nice salad before bed and not finish off the mint chip ice cream in the freezer. But there is only one bowl left, so why not? Plus, I am depressed at the death earlier today of our microwave oven. If it isn’t replaced tomorrow, there is a real threat in my house of actually starving to death. Or worse: prolonging hunger while things are heated up on the stove the old fashioned way. It doesn’t help matters that on the crowded train, two women just squeezed into my seats with me carrying hot steaming bags of Popeye’s chicken for the cruel, long journey home. It’s torture really, but I suppose it won’t kill me, the way eating Popeye’s actually might.

Barton was on the show this week talking about Global Colors and how he helps people who are quite literally starving in third world countries. People whose lives are genuinely difficult, not just filled with vacuous angst like mine. You know, people in war-torn, impoverished nations with a reason to cry themselves to sleep. Not histrionic, pampered homos who are so used to getting their way always that the moment they have to do something they don’t want to, they throw a temper tantrum better suited to kindergarten before naptime than a dignified grown adult person. His story about buying cows for a village in Africa nearly moved me to tears but it wasn’t the same brand of tears that welled up in my eyes at the smell of Popeye’s. What can I say? I am a pig. I love food. I am sorry there are people starving and I give and I help when I can. I do want an end to world hunger and while we are at it, I would like a Big Bacon Classic, an order of fries and a chocolate frosty to go. Thanks. I’ll just pull up to the window and wait. Don’t mind the bathrobe.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Dinner At Eight

Last night I was riding in the car with a slutty lesbian with a southern accent and I called her the "Paula Deen of pussy!" Everyone in the car laughed and in that moment I thought, "Oh I can't wait to post that in my blog." When I woke up this morning, it was still on my mind and when I started to post about last night I realized that the whole encounter was part of a dream I had, Romaine was not suddenly a blond from Alabama and it in fact never happened. I think it says less about how I amuse myself even when sleeping than it does about the sudden pressure I feel to write a good blog entry.

My last posting involved a very long night hanging out with Matt Kelleher. My retelling of Friday's events passed through his social network faster than Syphilis and by early Saturday night on our way to dinner for round two, the pressure was on! Matt is someone who has always been in my life in waves. When I lived in LA and he as always was in NY, we would see each other once or twice a year for intense weekends of type A gay behavior on such a grand scale that a routine schedule of that level of activity would cause the heart of an American Gladiator to explode. Perhaps it is for the best that we always have months in between to recover.

This weekend has been typical for us. We are like two planets in the same solar system with erratic orbits who have near fatal encounters every few cycles. Eventually we will either slam directly into each other and go supernova or our orbits will just naturally send us spinning further and further apart. This weekend, the planets aligned in their own way and we had two very intense days together. And then we won't see each other again for months, as Matt's orbit takes him very close to Uranus, and mine takes me back to the outer reaches beyond the gay galaxy (aka Westchester County).

After Friday night, I only had four hours of sleep and I was hurting by the time I got home at 1pm. It took all the strength and brainpower I had to pull together my blog posting, shower and change and get back to the city for dinner. I had noticed earlier this week that Chip Arndt and Matt Kelleher were carrying on a private discussion of their dinner plans Wall-to-Wall on Facebook (tacky, but in this case, helpful) and I endeavored to shoehorn my way into their social calendar. I never see either of them, so the ability to see both of them at the same time relieves a lot of my guilt about being a good friend. This set our weekend in motion and Ben Harvey's party ended up being the appetizer for a very long 36 hour meal.

Originally, Chip had wanted to go to a restaurant called "Employee's Only" which being me, I had never heard of. But since Chip really wanted Andy Towle, the Nora Ephron of gay society*, to come, it really needed to be a place very close to his apartment. (*Far Too Obscure Reference Alert: In a press junket interview for the film "You've Got Mail," Tom Hanks revealed that increasingly Nora likes to stay very close to home, down to filming scenes for their latest work together inside her own apartment building. He joked that her next film would be set entirely inside her apartment so she could just direct it from her bedroom.) Matt always the arbiter of where the gay sheep are headed insisted ELMO was the practical solution. Quickly the guest list snowballed and Chip made a reservation for twenty, which I feared (especially after his open invitation on my radio show on Friday) would be insufficient.

I met Matt at his apartment where Gary, who had not intended to crash there, was in need of a fresh shirt. "He's about your size. Bring him something cute!" Matt insisted, forgetting of course that I am the least fashionable person he knows and asking me to bring something cute from my closet is like asking a lesbian to tip better than 15%. It could happen, but not without a lot of anxiety and effort. Gary is blond and fair so I brought him a brown retro vintage Buffalo humor printed ringer t-shirt (origin unknown) and I wore a green Otter Fashion shirt from their collection that they thoughtfully sent me, knowing either one would work for him. The brown shirt was a little big on him, so we switched and he filled out the Otter top perfectly. And, in my personal fashion-blind opinion, the hue of the olive green really worked for him.

Dan also met us at Matt's place since he lives close by, a gay football widow free for dinner while Cyd had a game to play, and Matt's friend Brian and his statistically-handsome date Dallas met us around the corner for the short walk to ELMO. I met Brian forever ago at (I think) SHAG, Matt's favorite hangout and have always found him very sexy, but never more so then when he gushed about what a great writer I am. He has the eyes of a winning poker player and a smile that says "I'm going to eat you." an expression which is open to wild interpretation, although I mean it in the sense that he will in fact devour you if you aren't careful. On our walk to ELMO, we swapped our favorite 30 Rock lines (he is obsessed) and he expressed an interest in the wider use of the words "chortle" and "guffaw" and I promised to work them into the blog.

At ELMO, Chip and Rob were there, as were my friend Kevin, the sexy homo from Chicago and the original Jonathan with his friend Mike. We congregated in the bar for a few minutes as the ultra fit and flitty staff put the finishing touches on our two tables. We moved en masse to the back of the restaurant and then were forced to chose which tables to sit at. I immediately took the middle seat in the smaller table for eight. At San Simeon, Hearst had one of the longest tables I have ever seen, set inside a chapel he had imported stone by stone to make a dining hall. In Citizen Kane, Kane and his wife always sat at long ends where they couldn't hear each other but in reality, Hearst and Davies sat in the dead center facing each other with house guests emanating out from them newest to oldest. Once you got to the end of the table as Louise Brooks reported, the implication was that it was time to pack up and go home. In dining out in big settings, egomaniacs like me always want the center most seat so the conversation radiates out from you as if you are hosting the dinner party.

In the end it didn't matter much where anyone was sitting because it was a non-stop game of musical chairs (set once again to Britney's album playing in its entirety in the background -- did Gary tip someone twenty bucks?). At one point, Mike and Dallas were sitting next to each other and their arguing got so passionate I thought they were going use my bleu cheese dressing as lube and start fucking right on the table. Jason Bellini came in without Will Wikle, who was at home nursing a sore throat (insert your own cocksucking joke here). And Andy Towle finally arrived with his hot boyfriend. Andy's arms were massive and the talk of two tables. Plus, they allowed me to sandbag him with Bette Midler's famous hello to Bruce Springsteen at We Are The World: "You look fabulous! What happened?" which she followed up with "I remember when his arms were as skimpy as his chord changes." All the seat hopping was a little much for our appropriately hot waiter whom I dubbed "Supergirl" because of his famous S logo belt buckle. He dealt with our physical instability by just calling everyone "tranny," "fierce" and "hot mess" every fifteen seconds until I was almost sorry Project Runway and SNL existed.

From there, we of course had to go to a club. Matt offered up his tried and true SHAG but no one was having it. Finally we settled quite reluctantly on SPLASH because it was close by and we knew we could, with a little wrangling, all get in free. I was relieved because the DJ Tracy Young had been on the show on Friday and I told her I would stop by (which is usually a lie). At the door, the doorman our group knew (Derek) wasn't there yet and there was much strum und drang (and minimal guffaw and chortle) about getting ten of us in for free. Dallas was put in charge of this effort as we all bantered on the curb. The whole thing chaffed like a dry rubber leading me to grouse "We have two TV personalities and a radio person who just interviewed their DJ yesterday to promote the night and everyone is hot. What more do they want?"

I think John Blair is a lovely person but the state of NY nightlife is in such disrepair that SPLASH is one of the only options in town if you are in the mood for an old fashioned Saturday night muscle fest set to a bone-rattling beat. Yes, going there is like going back in time to the early 90s and they might as well require high-waisted acid-wash jeans at the door, but what else are we supposed to do? Andy's new arms are nice but they aren't the only game in town. Eventually Derek arrived and we were all ushered into the fixer-upper sanctum. I chatted with Tracy, who gave me some drink tickets which when he saw them caused Matty to do his trademarked clap excitedly and guffaw thing. His friends should know he didn't laugh like that until he started hanging out with my incendiary laugh, and for this reason, I apologize.

At one point, the dancers climbed on top of the bar over us and we all did our level best to ignore their gaze, lest they try to shove their giant crotches in our faces in the hopes of getting spare change. All of them had completely outsized packed-to-the-brim thongs which because of my height kept ending up in my hair (is it possible to get MRSA in a hair follicle? I hope not). It also caused me to suggest they were "holding Nana's purse for her" but it was either too loud or too late for the joke. When the bowl of fresh fruit appeared on the bar, I knew it was time to disembark from the Love Boat and started quickly looking for the exit and bottle of hand sanitizer.

I made my good byes and dashed out into the still of the night. My stomach was still aching from the night before and the beats and cheek implants made me dizzy. It was a sweet weekend with Matt but the shirtless John Blair muscle crowd had a nostalgic feel to it, like watching RENT on Broadway. Even though it is still the current production, the whole thing felt like a creaky revival. At one point for old time sake, Matt stuck his tongue in my mouth like we were back in Terminal Six at LAX in 1997 or back at SPLASH in that same year when I got really drunk and shoved my hands down his shorts, but the whole experience just ended up reminding me that we are too old for this kind of thing and so was everyone else there.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Matt and Ben

This blog is primarily dedicated to my adventures out on the town, which might lead some people to believe I am a raging alcoholic. Everyone that is except my grandmother who insists that I don't drink enough. While it is true that many of my nights out happen in dank bars, over the last couple of years I have severely cut back on my drinking. Yes, I still go out, but instead of eight to ten drinks, I am down to one or two. More recently, I went a solid six weeks or so without a single cocktail. That ended last night when I didn't so much fall off the wagon as throw myself onto the Oregon Trail and allow an entire wagon train to roll over me.

Much of this new found sobriety has been necessitated by my move to the suburbs. Invariably I need to drive home at the end of the evening, leaving me at a serious drunken disadvantage to other New Yorkers. More of it has to do with getting older. To paraphrase Catherine Deneuve, at a certain point you have to choose between saving face and saving your ass. To continue drinking heavily means choosing your ass over your face and that is something I have just never been willing to do. Mornings are unpretty enough with your face memorizing every pillow crease from the night before without the telling boozy puffiness lending it a helping hand.

But last night was Ben Harvey's party celebrating his much-heralded TV show debut on HERE TV. I absolutely had to go to support him. And since it has been a while since I had a few cocktails and I knew I didn't need to drive home later, it was the perfect opportunity to enjoy a rare liquor-fueled night on the town. When I arrived, Ben offered to make me a cocktail and while waiting I threw myself on the mercy of his tastefully modern sofa with Cyd and Dan, sitting close together like a comedy team. It was nice spending time with them since I don't ever get enough time to see them. Dan listens to the show on his commute home quite regularly so he usually knows what is going on in my life, but the one-sidedness of it leaves me a little wanting.

Matt Kelleher finally arrived a few minutes later with his adorable blond charge. Gary is a Notre Dame (Matt's alma mater) senior in town looking for jobs and fun before his May graduation. If Roommate had been at the party he would have known immediately that Gary was just my type: tall, blond, sweet with a naturally perfect body and just a hint of chest hair. Matt was busy instructing him in the ways of New York and helping to prepare him for life in the outside world, by way of parties filled with gorgeous gay men and enough liquor to explode ten livers.

Ben arrived in our circle with drinks for the two of them and I held out my hand expectantly. At first Ben was confused but then he realized that he completely forgot to bring me my drink. "What were you waiting for?" he cried. "That was half an hour ago!" It was the very same conversation I had with Jonathan two days earlier. I suppose I am a fool for expecting people to keep their word even in intensely trivial matters, but if seven years in New York City has taught me anything, it is that reliability is essential to keep life running smoothly (as everyone who stands on subway platforms knows all too well). Or maybe I am just spoiled by the military-instilled precision of my parents, later reinforced by the even greater efficiency of Roommate.

Ben finally made good on his promise but unfortunately, my body had completely forgotten what alcohol was and two drinks later, I was flying like Sally Field in a perfectly symmetrical habit. Chris Van Cleef was there and my last blog entry was the talk of the party and the halls of HERE TV. One of his friends even quoted it in his Facebook Wall, citing my blog as "honest and trustworthy." I felt so famous! But Chris was tickled by the blog entry and insisted that he was stone sober when I saw him, which means I guess we can chalk up his willing sexual personality to nothing more complex than a willing sexual personality.

The party was fun, but Matty had another party to go to and I had one eye on the clock for the drunk trains home and the other eye on his blond companion. On our way out, outside the bathroom Sara of the Josh and Sara podcast made the feisty demand "You better not put me in your blog!" which naturally guaranteed she would make it in. (As a side note while I am on the subject of the bathroom, I fell madly in love with the art over Ben's toilet which as I dimly recall was a series of faux mid-century comic panels that started with one of the characters saying in effect: It rains here two out of three days, and during the rainy season, it snows like a bitch! That caused me to laugh so hard, I actually doubled over. So yes I was quite drunk at that point.) Ben's cousin Christian arrived late, almost simultaneously with us leaving so I barely got to say hi. And the presence of Dave Rubin's boyfriend made dry humping his leg even more embarrassing and inappropriate, though I did it anyway.

Matt, Gary and I decamped from Ben's fabulous party to another fabulous party, back in Union Square at David Coleman's place. I tried to tell a very drunk Gary about the remarkable view of Grand Central Station and why the Chrysler Building is my favorite in all of New York but he was instantly obsessed with playing Britney Spears on David's iPod-driven music system. He even went so far as to replace the iPod with his own iPhone and proceeded to turn himself into impromptu DJ. Moments later, egged on by Ryan Newman, he engaged in and narrowly lost a dance off. I felt like I was in a scene out of a gay rip-off of She's All That.

Conor was there, his collie eyes obscured by eyeglasses, reminding me once again of my preference for Clark Kent over Superman. Ben was there too, making a rare public appearance without Bradford. I also ran into Barton who was sexy and lovely as always, and who sat by with a bland expression while I dirty danced with Gary to Radar. In my state, I tried to convince him (unsuccessfully) that I am not the kind of person who does this sort of thing, but he just looked back with an expression lacking both moral judgment and belief. Moments later, the party broke up with most of us headed over to the Chelsea Hotel. And then things got interesting.

It was a night of firsts for me, though none I would recommend. The first first came on the dance floor in the basement bar of the Chelsea when Gary took his shirt off and then insisted I take mine off. I have never been shirtless in a gay club in my life and the only other time I was shirtless in a gay social setting was August of 2001 and we all remember how that ended! Later another clubgoer tapped my bare shoulder and sniffed, "Have you noticed you are the only two people in here with your shirts off? This isn't that kind of place you know." In that moment, I just hoped that he thought we were both too young to know better as opposed to one of us being too young and the other one being definitely old enough to know better. My shirtlessness also got an askance glance from Barton on his way out, again with his trademarked judgment-free judgment which to me is as unrealistic and suspicious as sugar-free, fat-free Cool Whip.

Gary ran into Matt's friend Ian, whom he had met when he met Matt down in South Florida last week. Ian and other friends at the Chelsea who were not at the party pulled the three of us out of the Chelsea and off to another house party. Ian's driver Joe pulled his Bentley up to the curb, graciously took my tacky backpack and ten dollar coat from the Barney's Warehouse Sale and laid them in the trunk with the kind of care usually reserved for fragile antique crystal. I squeezed myself into the backseat with Ian, Gary and to my right, Itay Hod from LOGO News who is just as sexy in person if not more so, while Matt rode in the front seat. Joe drove us to the elegant apartment of Tim who thoughtfully hosted a passel of gay men well into the wee hours of the morning.

Tim worked overtime as a host, entreating smokers not to toss their butts over the side of his balcony onto the neighboring balcony below, filling drinks and otherwise making sure everyone had a good time. Gary settled in on the floor next to the music system, and once again, replaced Tim's music with his own iPhone and set about on another three hour musical journey dedicated almost entirely to the Britney canon with a reverential devotion usually reserved for patron saints and Madonna. By this time, I was just too drunk to keep up the pace and switched to water to keep me from shriveling up like a prune before morning. Gary once again took his shirt off and convinced me to do the same, which lead to first number two: being photographed in public with my shirt off. I had always said I would never, NEVER do that, and yet, here I was, shirtless and grinning like an idiot for the camera.

An hour later, I experienced my third and final first. Gary and I were canoodling on a lovely leather armchair and suddenly, drunk and shirtless in a strange apartment, dawn nearly breaking through the window like a runaway freight train, I felt lost. But how could I be so terribly unhappy? Here I was, in the arms of an adorable guy at a fun party and yet not having J.G. in my life made me feel as lost as a rudderless ship at sea. If I still had his number in my phone, I would have sent him an ill-advised "I am lost without you in my life" text message at six a.m. I was coloring outside the lines and it just wasn't for me. And yet being so fiercely self-reliant as I am, needing someone like this has never been me either. There I was, left between the devil and the deep blue sea, not knowing where to go next or what to do. But true to form for me in moments like this, I mustered my strength and emanated fun without actually having fun until the feeling passed.

A while later, Matt was ready to go and we all put on our shoes and coats and headed out into the soft, lush opening notes of dawn, quickly hailing a cab and heading to Matt's apartment. I thought about just going directly to Grand Central to head home, but realized that a couple of hours sleep would probably be better than just heading home cold. "We'll sleep until ten and then all go to brunch!" Matt offered brightly, still in full cruise director mode, and then seconds later he was fast asleep. I woke up at 11:30am and Gary and Matt were still dead to the world. I put a mirror under each of their noses to make sure they were alive, patted Parker pug on the head and stumbled out the door. It was a great night, to be sure, and probably one of the last all-nighters I will ever have. Hanging out with Matt is always a reliable treat, and there is so much comfort and trust in spending time with someone you have known for more than a decade. In the end, it turns out there are some things, I know I can rely on: old friends, pillow face and always myself.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Posh Slice

I hadn’t seen Steven DeLuca since my birthday party back in November. He is one of my oldest friends here in the city and as always our encounters are infrequent. I love Steven. He is one of my favorite people. He invited me recently to the opening of a new play that he and his boyfriend are producing and I reacted in horror. “Why would you invite me? Do you want it to close?” Suddenly, Steven was reminded that I am, in fact, the famous Kiss of Death for all live theatrical productions.

When he was a theater manager and he grew tired of the show that was running, he could send me an email assuring me that there would be two tickets on the aisle for me and sure enough within hours of my attendance, the show would close. He played the card one too many times and even the theater closed. I even invested in an off-Broadway show. It was great. It had a terrific theatre in a great location. The New York Times gave it an unqualified rave. I lost every penny I put into it. Steven met me out tonight at Posh alone. He had invited his boyfriend Carl, who decided to stay in. But Carl did have a message for me. “Don’t come to our show.”

I had planned for us to spend a quiet evening together, catching up just the two of us. But before we could get deeply into the weeds of our daily lives, I got a text message from the original Jonathan. He was, naturally, in the neighborhood and anxious to get together. I blew him off this weekend, preferring to stay cloistered in my Desperate Housewives practical, and had promised him that I would go out with him this week. I just didn’t plan on it being tonight.

Jonathan was there at Posh with his friend Mark, who didn’t stay long. Mark was dressed in a crisp white button down shirt that said he cared about how he looked. He was all wrong for me. Anyway, he is just out of a long term relationship so I don’t think he was looking for anything longer than an episode of Criminal Minds but just about as sordid. He left quickly to walk his dog which is sweet in a way, but it just reminded me that having a dog in Manhattan is cruel for the dog and frankly having a baby at home is less of a chore.

Jonathan was a bundle of enthusiasm, although not about his recent appearance in my blog. “You said I am a whore.” I am certain I didn’t use that term. Then he insisted I implied it by saying that he was out at the bar looking for sex. Except that he was out at the bar looking to get laid and that was simple reporting. Whore is judgment, and I am not one to judge like that. Anyone who knows me knows that if I think you are a whore, I will just say it to your face. So I guess Jonathan now joins the long list of people who for one reason (giving “massages” under another name) or another (in the closet) have reacted badly to their portrayal in my blog. Tough.

The three of us quickly grew weary of the Posh life. There was a somewhat large black man, twirling around like a drag queen though the empress had no clothes. He tried to entreat me to dance with him at the urging of his friend who was giving me the eye from across the bar. But I insisted to him that I have a wooden leg and was afraid it would fall off. He didn’t take Heather Mills for an answer easily and before he came back around on another ecstasy-fueled pass, we closed out our check and headed for Vlada.

Earlier on my way into Posh, I had run into Josh Rosenzweig on the corner. When I told him I was going in to meet a friend, he told me to drag my friend over to Vlada instead. They had had a screening thing earlier he proffered evasively, and then everyone had decamped to my favorite vodka bar. Later at Posh, I suggested the party at Vlada to Steven and Jonathan, but both of them already knew about it, having been invited much earlier than I had. So much for being a HERE subscriber and a national radio show host! I hadn’t been back to Vlada since that last disastrous night with roommate, the other Jonathan, Ben Harvey, Dave Rubin, and the ever notorious Clay Lee, which was just too fucked up and personal a night for me to blog about the next day. But here I was back again, and so was Ben Harvey and Dave Rubin, who didn’t even tell me they were going to be there. I gave Ben Harvey a steaming heap of shit about emailing with me all day and not even mentioning it. I was joking and he knew I was joking, but still he had a bemused look of panic on his face. It might have been the free alcohol.

Chris van Cleef was there too, as cute as always, and hammered. Like take me home and violate me hammered. Fortunately he was on his way out to eat which was a good thing because he was a jagger shot away from an anonymous gang bang in the bathroom. One of the downsides of working in a gay office, like I do, and the HERE folks, you get to know so much more about your co-workers than would ever be legally permissible in a straight environment. And at a certain point, you just kind of get used to behavior that otherwise would raise eyebrows.

I couldn’t stay long at Vlada. I had a train to catch, as always. And not drinking the signature infused vodka, there is no charm to that place. Besides, my primary reason for going out (catching up with Steven) was lost in the shuffle. I left him at the base of the staircase with Josh and JC, whom he has known even longer than he has known me. Even original Jonathan knew JC from an ill-fated date that started at the gym and then never went anywhere. So I am sure the four of them had plenty to talk about.

But on my way out, I made a pair of promises. And if there is one thing I like to think I am, it is someone who keeps promises. I am not perfect mostly because I am self-centered and have a terrible memory, but I really do try to keep my promises. First, I promised to call Steven and hang out with him again within the next two weeks. That will be easy. Then, in saying good bye to a very drunk and clingy Ben Harvey, I promised not to say anything really bad about him in my blog, of which he is the most frequently mentioned player. But then he reversed his position. He wanted me to say things about him because he wanted to be the “bad boy” of my blog. So be it. Who am I to stand in the way of a dream?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Long Ago And Far Away

When I was about eleven or so, I flew to the East Coast to visit my mother's family. I stayed a few days in New York City with my Great Aunt Caroline, who had a lovely two bedroom apartment on West End Avenue. To her the nondescript tower in a utilitarian park setting she inhabited was "penitentiary living" with "Salvation Army furniture" compared to her previous apartment on Central Park South. And even though there was only space in the living room for an upright piano, she accepted her reduced lot late in life with equanimity and her familiar blend of cheerfulness and unflagging optimism, great dignity with never a hint of pretense. After all, there was still a piano where party guests could gather around, belting out off-key standards filled with laughter and joy.

Caroline was more Tallulah Bankhead than Auntie Mame, her refined MGM-inspired cadence straight out of a lavish 1930s Manhattan comedy, always in a smart suit from Lord & Taylor and never out of doors without a hat. To her, everyone was "Darling" and sexual matters were always discussed with the casual candor of one poring over a shopping list. It is impossible for me to sum her up in a paragraph or two because to me she was so singular, so much greater than a pile of words. It reminds me of the line late in "Touch Of Evil" when Marlene Dietrich says of Orson Welles, "He was some kind of a man. What does it matter what you say about people?" She was some kind of a woman. There isn't anything more you can say.

We hopped on a Greyhound Bus and took the long trip out to West Hartford, Connecticut to visit her younger brother (and my grandfather) Justin and his wife Laura. Where Caroline was the eternal ingenue, Justin was the sly character actor, an inveterate storyteller filled with Will Rogers hominess and smiling charm. He was so beguiling and had he had even a whit of wickedness in him, Justin would have made one hell of a con man. As always Laura was the villain of the piece, a severe dyke haircut with attitude to match, Mercedes McCambridge inside and out. My mother always said that Laura never believed in anything she couldn't put her fist through and I don't doubt it.

Laura and Justin (she always came first) lived in a comfortable white house on a cul-de-sac, buried so deeply in the suburbs that their house was virtually impossible to find without a guide and I think that is just the way they liked it. As a kid I was in awe of this bucolic life with the small stream that ran through the backyard and the ducks that would wander in from the wooded water looking for bugs to eat. "Don't feed the ducks. They shit on the lawn." Laura yelled after me as I ran off to the backyard to see them, while inside the house Caroline played Carole Lombard, Justin politely watched from a wingback chair and in the kitchen Laura disassembled all of the groceries into a phalanx of unmarked Tupperware containers to which only she had the secret combination.

I think I have always been torn deeply between these two fantasy worlds. Caroline's life made me want to live in Manhattan and Justin's made me yearn for a quiet suburban existence. When I first moved to NYC, I had to have a two bedroom apartment, so that I could have a guest room. Caroline's wise father always insisted that an extra room in Manhattan was a necessity because it is the kind of place people want to come to and you need to always be ready to accommodate a guest. But last year, the other side of me won out and I bought a house as close as I could get to the life Laura and Justin had. And that all came to the fore for me today on this very rainy day as my dream of a stream came true in the backyard.

It is just pouring here and the gentle slope in my yard has formed an impromptu river that is now casually pooling in my neighbor Junior's yard. I woke up around noon and equal to the weather built a huge roaring fire in the fireplace, cooked up some pancakes and bacon and settled into a chair in the living room with the real estate section of the New York Times. It is my favorite section of the paper because it always has a "hero" story in it about someone who found a charming, undiscovered corner of the city and with far less money than effort turned it into their dream. How fitting then that I should follow that up with a viewing of the new TV movie version of "A Raisin In The Sun."

I am just amazed at how well that fifty year old play has held up and how deeply moved I was by the power that comes with personal ownership, not just of a home but also of your own life. Of course, everyone in it is going to win an Emmy, but more importantly it was a great story of standing up for what you believe in even as everything around you falls apart, even when the road to what is right is the hardest. It is so easy to just give up and fall in line with the decay of life, to accept a smaller piece of the pie than you deserve, and ultimately a smaller version of yourself. Life has stages, as Caroline knew, and there are times of monetary excess, but real richness comes from inside you and the people in your life, not from having a room with a view or a grand piano.

Near the end of Gore Vidal's tremendous essay "Remembering Orson Welles," he writes of his friend: "I have a recurring fantasy that if one were to dial the telephone number of someone in the past, one would hear again a familiar voice, and time would instantly rewind from now to then. I still have Orson's telephone number in my book (213-851-8458). Do I dare ring him and talk to him back in 1982?" Caroline's number (212-877-8916) is the only one I still have memorized even though she and her telephone are both long gone. It is rare when a day passes that I don't want to pick up the phone and see if she will answer. I miss her loud inimitable greeting, booming "Well hello darling, so good to hear your voice!"

I miss Justin and his mad scientist logic. I even miss Laura and her brusque dismissal of everyone's bullshit but her own. But it is impossible to go back in time for one last visit. And now Caroline's voice echoes only inside my own head. I work in Manhattan and live in the suburbs, and like the rivulet in my yard, I know how fleeting it all is. Life is too important to miss out on all the small joys, to separate ourselves out one from another over pettiness, to accept defeat just because the things we once cherished are no longer there, or are hard to attain. "How did we get to a place where we're scared to talk softness to each other? What gets into people who ought to be close?" Walter intones to his wife in "A Raisin In The Sun." Nothing truly permanent can get between people except the quickness of time. The water in the yard recedes, the memories fade, but the emotions remain as sharp as ever. Standing up for what you want and know is right often means no simple solution, perhaps not even a happy ending, but that struggle is better than the soft easy existence of accepting less than you deserve.

Before she died, I visited Caroline one last time. She was bedridden and in her 90s by then but still cheerful, filled as always with wonderful stories and memories. Even though she stopped believing in God when she was six years old, her fascination with the Bible never ceased and at the end, the trials of Job were much on her mind. Like him, I think she also wondered why an all powerful God would give you everything and then take it all away, piece by piece, reducing life to nothing more than a simple test of faith and emotional strength.

It made me sad at first to see inside her hall closet as I grabbed my coat to leave. There they were. All of her soft felt hats with the long dangerous hat pins jammed into the sides, never to be worn again, suitcases that had been around the world a dozen times, never again to see foreign shores. But as I walked down the hallway, I realized that it was so Caroline. There was no reason to believe she would ever travel out of that apartment in style again, but that was no reason not to be ready for it at all times.In the moment, there is nothing to do but enjoy this stage to the fullest until the next one comes along. Enjoy the friends and family you have while you still have them. Accept the realities at hand and not worry about the dreams. But always be ready for what's next.

Friday, March 7, 2008

MYOB: Mind Your Own Botox

I really didn’t want to go out tonight. I got five hours of sleep last night, staying up late to catch the emotional and ultimately satisfying conclusion to this season of Project Runway. Unfortunately, I had to get up at the (for me) ungodly hour of 8am to try to get a parking ticket dismissed. I was unsuccessful, although the fine was essentially cut in half and I did get some good fodder for the show. But the fine wasn’t the only thing essentially cut in half when I got far less than my usual nine to ten hours of sleep.

My new sister Laura called me today and we both waxed poetic on our shared love of sleep. It is to what I attribute what little youthfulness I have left. Yes, I have turned my body over to science and I am always open to whatever crazy surgical options are out there, but my primary defense against aging is enormous amounts of sleep. It is why, when the original Jonathan started texting me during the show, I initially begged off his demands to hang out tonight.

I like going out with him, and he is right. We have finally gotten into a groove. So who am I to kill the momentum? But he does like to go out a LOT more than I do, mostly in his perpetually endless quest to get laid. I suppose what he really wants is a boyfriend, but Jonathan is in the prime of his life with a hot set of abs. He practically has a duty to the gay community to make himself frequently available in tight t-shirts for casual perusal and the occasional proposal. So I reluctantly agreed to give him five minutes at Therapy, which in my head was thirty minutes, and in his head was two hours with at least one round of shots included.

After the show, I tossed off my Digg.com hoodie and threw on my coat and raced out the door. Therapy is not far from my office and I know now to the minute how long it takes to walk from one to the other across the northern reaches of Times Square, even when Wicked or Mamma Mia is letting out along the way. Naturally, I was the first to arrive, and as always I was greeted with the up and down stares by the up and down stairs that are part and parcel with being the latest chunk of fresh meat to pass the threshold. The looks didn’t last long and I was able to mercifully return to anonymity while waiting for Jonathan to arrive with his posse.

He spotted me through the door and broke into a half-hearted trot like he was hurrying the whole time. Jonathan was hanging out for the evening with his friend Will, and had run into Mark and Rob along the way. That’s the nice thing about Hell’s Kitchen now. You can collect gays like lint on a roller as you walk around the corner from The Ritz or Vlada to Therapy. I barely spoke to Mark and Rob, but then again, I was only there for thirty minutes so it is disingenuous to say I really got to know anyone.

Jonathan spent most of my precious time there updating me on his current life situation. This is my kind of friend. After talking for four hours straight, it is so nice to hang out with someone who wants to talk about themselves for a few minutes. I wish I could say the same about Will, who was very tight-lipped about himself. He generously bought me a drink but was less forthcoming about the details of his career, preferring to leave it at “entertainment.” Handsome as he was, I assumed lawyer or agent, because “entertainment” is usually what someone says when they work in the industry but they don’t fall into one of the customary artistic disciplines. Plus he was wearing a suit at ten pm. He will likely be a very successful agent because he has a trait unique to the profession: Will is able to look you square in the eye with complete intensity while looking over your shoulder at the same time.

For the first time in a long time Jonathan caught part of our show this past week and of course it was the most tired part of it: Romaine for the 1000th time accusing me of having had botox. It is such a lame and dull bit and it amazes me sometimes how willing she is to fall into again. As we were discussing it a man walked through our group and then circled back, “Did I hear you say Botox?” When I affirmed the topic he insisted I was far too young to have it yet. “Are you even thirty yet?” he asked, which is more plausible as a flirtation than a reality, even in the moody lighting of Therapy.

And as much as I would have liked to get complimented a little more, I really had to leave. I had committed to myself that I was taking the 11:10 train and that meant leaving even in the middle of my favorite topic of conversation: myself. It is true that I could have stayed for hours more, and even had a cocktail or three. But sadly, the world is not as dimly lit as Therapy and I am not getting any younger. Yes, botox is definitely in my future and it won’t be the only thing on the menu I order. But in the meantime, a full night’s sleep is just what the doctor ordered.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Remakes

I woke up this morning to the startling news that one of my favorite movies as a kid is being remade. It wasn’t a particularly good movie as I recall, but it has stuck with me a long time. Escape To Witch Mountain was the story of a pair of kids with paranormal abilities and some evil men who wanted to exploit them for their own gains. It might as well have been the story of Walt Disney live action going all the way back to poor little Bobby Driscoll, but that is a story for another day. What I remember most about the original movie was a scene where the kids, having been kidnapped, are lured into a brightly colored playroom with an ice cream fountain in it. Even as a kid I remember thinking that being kidnapped wouldn’t be so bad if I got to have all the ice cream I could eat. And even now, I think the swell of joy I felt in discovering a bar in the basement of the house I bought last year is a direct result of my love of Escape To Witch Mountain. But now it is being remade, as Race To Witch Mountain, with Duane “The Rock” Johnson set to star as the good guy who rescues the kids from all you can eat dessert bars.

I am very ambivalent about the idea of remaking a movie. In general, I think the best reason to remake a movie is when there is a kernel of a good idea that falls apart in the execution. The Bourne Identity with Matt Damon was a remake, and even though I never saw the original, I have to assume that it (and its terrific pair of sequels) was a vast improvement. I don’t think, however, that any improvement was exacted on the original That Darn Cat by forcing Christina Ricci and Doug E. Doug to squander their careers in the effort. The same cannot be said for Anne Heche who sacrificed her own acting career to make Janet Leigh look better.

I never thought of Janet Leigh as any kind of amazing actress. Yes, she was a very reliable contract star of the 1950s and beyond, and lovely to look at too. But one would never utter her name in the same sentence with a Katharine Hepburn or a Barbara Stanwyck. In Psycho, one of my favorite movies, she is perfectly fine as Marion Crane, though I never gave her performance much thought. Then Gus van Sant made his much ill-advised remake with Anne Heche in the role and suddenly Janet Leigh was a revelation. Marion Crane does some stupid things. She steals money from her boss to run away with her hunky boyfriend but is spotted leaving town. A cop pulls her over and she mouths off to him. The sloppiness goes on and on. She is one dumb bunny, but Janet Leigh played her as cool and confident. Anne Heche played her like the dumb bunny she was and suddenly all of the sympathy you have for the character goes right out the window. The next thing you know, you are tapping your foot impatiently waiting for someone to come and stab the crap out of her in the shower. But maybe that was just lingering resentment at Anne Heche.

For a long time, I thought it might be interesting to remake something like Gone With The Wind. The movie is legendary but it is not much like the book which is far more emotionally detailed and intricate. The movie is already almost four hours long and barely scratches the surface. Even a miniseries of 7-10 hours just doesn’t seem like enough time. However, remaking it as a single season series, running 22-25 episodes could be just the thing to capture of the scoop and character of the original novel. Though it is doubtful that any network would have the stomach to pony up somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million dollars to remake one of the biggest classics of all time into a format that depends on the audience sticking with it for the better part of a year. No, it is better to take something like my beloved Tenko, which is largely unknown in the U.S. but has such compelling source material that if done right, could be amazing. But then again, isn’t that always the fundamental problem with remakes: doing it right?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The In N Out Urge

I have spent more time in downtown Manhattan in the past few months than I have in all seven years I have lived in New York City. Part of this is Jonathan, who lives deep in the thick of the trademarked real New York experience I never had. I had wanted to live in Manhattan for my whole life. My mother’s tales of living there as a child and later visiting her grandfather and Aunt Caroline, turned it into a magical storied place of excitement and wonder. Living here has not disappointed. It really is more like the movie Enchanted than you could possibly imagine. However, I always knew it was expensive and endeavored to not make the leap until I was able to live in grand style. Fatefully at the end of the last century, my wish was granted and I packed up my hopes and dreams and moved alone into a gorgeous apartment building on 42nd Street and the West Side Highway.

My palace in the sky was a brand new two bedroom corner apartment on the 26th floor with beautiful views of New Jersey across the Hudson River. In the evenings, the cruise ships that docked just North of me would sail past my window, flashbulbs ablaze on the deck as hundreds of passengers took my picture simultaneously. I would throw myself on the mercy of the divan in my living room as Ella Fitzgerald sang “Manhattan” and wondered how little me ended up in such a delicious tub of butter. The fourteen months I lived there were, without a doubt, the nearest thing to heaven. Of course it was very lonely in heaven, thousands of miles from my family and friends, with no boyfriend to share it all with. But it was hard to ask for the moon when I had the stars.

When I first got to the city, I was averse to taking the subway. I would walk or take cabs everywhere. This limited my movements to primarily just the center of Manhattan. I joked that I never went South of Houston unless I was fucking a celebrity, and I have yet to fuck a celebrity. But lately, I have been veering closer and closer to star sex land, and I have even grown to love the subway. It is desperately efficient, and not just because the smelly underground platforms have the uncanny ability to retain both all the heat in the summer and all the cold of the winter. A subway ride is an extension of the general magic of the city. The wonder you experience at turning a corner and accidentally encountering a street festival is extended to a subway car when you unexpectedly ride for eighty blocks with a mariachi band. Tonight on my subway ride downtown there was a man playing the saxophone, first on the platform and then later actually in my subway car. He was doing a rendition of My Favorite Things which I am certain he thought was the Birth of Cool when in fact it was the Cesarean of Suck. It is magic here, just not always top quality magic.

I was heading downtown tonight to join Josh in his final fling in the city before he heads to West Hollywood. He showed me, quite casually mind you, his new apartment using Google Earth on his iPhone, his arms flexing in his tight t-shirt as he worked the numbers. Something tells me he is going to fit right in there in my old stomping grounds. When I arrived at Urge, drag queen Gusty Winds was perched, legs akimbo, on a stool on stage preparing the first round of drag queen bingo. I have been trying not to drink of late and from her first riff on the joys of Oprah’s Big Give, I knew this night would be the ultimate test. Josh was joined by his friend Dann, and two straight girls, but I don’t remember their names and no one is reading my blog to see links to the Connexion pages of women. No offense. Barton joined us midway through the first round, although I could tell by the look on his face that he could have lived his whole life without being there.

The first game required players to get “two lines.” I muttered to Dann that I was wish I had done two lines before I got there. Dann guffawed loudly, and never hearing such a thing before while performing, Gusty Winds seized on his laughter like she was having an aneurysm. “Someone is laughing,” she half-asked, which frankly is not a flattering reaction to give when you are performing on stage. Dann and Barton much enjoyed my antics from our banquette, while Josh and his female friends earnestly played the first round of bingo. The girl closest to me won and handed the card to Josh, who collected the $30 prize. This money went directly to the charitable fund that supplies drinks to needy alcoholic New Yorkers, primarily those in and around a small banquette inside the bar Urge.

In the second round, you needed to get a plus sign. I was half paying attention, mostly tossing bon mots at Barton, and reacting with both real and mock horror that in all his 36 years, he had never seen the lesbian episode of The Golden Girls where Dorothy’s friend falls in love with Rose. It was especially painful because he didn’t know who Danny Thomas was and I tried to use Blanche’s reaction to the news that Jean was a lesbian to remind him of who he was. Since he runs a non-profit, the pop culture touchstone that wedged his memory free was St. Jude’s Hospital. I wish I had been paying closer attention to the game and hadn’t tried to find the bathroom during the calling of numbers because I ended up one number away from a win without knowing if the last number I needed had already been called. As it turns out, Barton won that round, splitting it with another guy, and leaving the $12.50 in winnings back in the needy drunks fund at the center of the table.

His insistence that he is a “good guy” was tested moments later when he won the third round all by himself, and somewhat reluctantly, dropped the $65 into the center of the table. It was only fair since Josh was the one buying everyone their bingo cards all night. But still, I felt his pain at parting with all that delicious money. After all $65 can actually get you pretty far in this town, though primarily from Manhattan to JFK Airport. Maybe even Newark if the traffic is light.

I guess the lesson here is that life in the big city is fueled by money. The more money you have, the better your life can be. You can have apartments too big for one person to live in, and cars that take you anywhere you want to go. But in the end, it doesn't matter where you live or how big your apartment is, what matters most in Manhattan are the little moments. It's a song on a lazy afternoon, the laughter of friends, sunset along the river. Yes, the $65 could have been very helpful in hailing a cab out of Urge and off to an apartment for him and the train home for me, but then we would have missed that delightful walk up Second Avenue on a quiet cool evening in New York City.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Friday Night Owls

Even though I went out last night and proclaimed myself too old for this shit, I turned around and went out again tonight. I had originally planned to go out on Saturday night, but with piles of snow planned and no other reason to go into the city, I decided to just do two nights in a row and take the rest of the weekend off. SIRIUS has been working on installing a home studio for me and I had hoped it would be up and running today so I could just do the show from home. Unfortunately, it still isn’t working. So since I was going to be in the city for work anyway, it wasn’t that much trouble to splash some cold water on my face, run a comb through my eyebrows and head down to Chelsea for a cocktail or two.

Ben Harvey, absent of late from my life and as an active participant in my blog was my primary motivation for hitting the town. He had sublet his apartment but since it was unoccupied this weekend, he decided to crash there and make a weekend of it. Since it was his plan, I let him be the ringleader and choose our first bar of the evening: the ever stalwart Barracuda. Nestled in the shaved armpit of Chelsea, Barracuda was the bar I spent the quiet evening on 9/10/01 in, canoodling on the couch with that year’s Jonathan before the morning came and changed everything. I really like Barracuda when it doesn’t smell like raw sewage or becomes so crowded you can’t breathe.

As usual, I arrived late. Jim from SF, visiting his friend Derek for the weekend, was already impatiently there after a ghetto meal around the corner at the Dallas BBQ. The original Jonathan was also there with his friend Chris, who was visiting from Atlanta. I don’t know why people choose this time of year to come to New York. It is the worst time to be here. Perhaps their friends invite them to dissuade them from ever living here. Ben Harvey finally arrived with his “cousin” Christian in tow. Christian probably was at Barracuda the last time I was there with Ben Harvey (although he must have been the additional person I failed to mention). Christian is tall and cute but I didn’t really have much interaction with him last time because there was just too much stuff going on. Ben Harvey was busy playing host to a veritable sea of homos and I was just trying to remember as many names as possible to blog later.

What I need with Ben Harvey is an intimate dinner for two so we can just sit and talk. We invariably end up on these group dates where we have to steal away to a corner just to have a private moment. Plus we are both half deaf from working in radio so meeting in noisy gay bars is like bats meeting in sunlight. Romaine and I are going to do his show with Dave Rubin at HERE TV next Tuesday and he has promised lunch afterward. I just hope there is a way we can both ditch our spouses and have each other all to ourselves.

Also making a cameo at Barracuda tonight was Daniel from last night at Pop Rocks. He arrived rocking three headbands at once (blue, silver and teal) and a classic Jennifer Beals shoulder shrugging sweatshirt. His outfit said “Let’s Get Physical” in a very 1982 kind of way, which remembering 1982 as vividly as I do is always welcome. He read my blog posting from last night and was surprised to see the link to his Facebook profile (it’s just something I do in my blog. Only in New York, kids. Only in New York). But really he took me to task over calling his friend’s shoes “chunky clogs.” Apparently they were really cool (I honestly don’t remember a single detail about them, including what he told me about them tonight), and he insisted when he got back from the bathroom he was going to read me to filth about them. I never saw him again. For someone as painfully unfashionable as I am, it was probably for the best that I didn’t hear a dissertation on the shoes. He might as well try to explain the insignificance of quantum mechanics to me using a flashlight and a toy car. But I try to be as honest as possible in my blog so I apologize for missing so crucial a detail.

One by one, the gays started to peel away from the evening. I thought I would be the runaway, forced to leave at the height of fun to grab the drunk train home. But it was Jonathan, with his early a.m. gymnastics meet who was the first to call it quits. He did a single lutz, knocking a beer out of some homos hand and then headed for the door. Barracuda was somewhat lifeless, so Christian wanted to move on to another bar. On our way out, we said adieu to Jim who had a reasonably early flight home the next afternoon. That left just the three of us left, which is the ideal gay male bar group. Two people might imply couple on the hunt for a three way. Four looks like two couples wrapping up dinner with a post meal cocktail. Five or more is unwieldy. And we all know that one is the loneliest number in any gay setting. But three is the magic number so off we three went to Gym.

I have written extensively about Gym the sports bar. Normally it is the kind of place where men drink white wine in a glass but the wet weather gave the place a muskier smell than usual. “It really does smell like a gym in here!” Christian exclaimed with the enthusiasm of Kim Cattrall in Porky’s (although my enthusiasm was always saved for co-star Boyd Gaines). I thought I might need to put a sweat sock in his mouth later, but apparently nursing on an Amstel Light was enough for him. The crowd at Gym was lackluster and soon the high def footage of girl’s gymnastics on the flat screens was luring our eyes away from the men. It was time to move on to the next bar.

We wandered out into the elements again and around the corner to G, the site just two shorts weeks ago where I was most gratefully carded at the door. The bar was packed and finally it seemed that we had found where all the men were tonight. We weren’t the only ones who thought the same thing, casually bumping into easily a half dozen other veterans of Barracuda and Gym that night. I only had time for one quick drink and a really scandalous punch line from Christian that made me want to hump his bones in the bus station before it was time to make the mad dash to Grand Central Station for the last train of the night. Sadly my last ten minutes in the bar were spent cornered in the most boring conversation of the week with a guy who mistook me for someone who gave a shit about anything, while Christian and Ben bantered out of reach of my flailing arms. Finally I announced as loudly and rudely as I am certain anyone ever has that I had to leave RIGHT NOW. I made a feeble gesture of pulling out my phone to check the time but it was clear to all that what I was really saying was “get the fuck away from me you boring homo.” I don’t know why people don’t like me.

Christian, no stranger to the drunk train into Westchester County, was a disbeliever and assured me that I would be back in the bar in fifteen minutes and sharing the couch with him later in Ben’s apartment. As tantalizing as seeing Ben’s apartment and Christian on the couch are, I knew I would make it to the train with time to spare. I am an old hand at this now, as Regis told Laura Linney on the Oscar red carpet this year seconds before I thought she was going to beat the living shit out of him. True to form, I am only on time to things that will leave without me (movies, trains, airplanes, etc.) and landed in my seat on the drunk train between horny straight guys and skanky straight girls with plenty of time to rub it in Christian’s face in a thoughtful text message to Ben Harvey to wrap up the night.

And now I sit on the drunk train, as usual, lap top on lap, blogging about my evening, searching for a thread of a theme to wrap things up with. I do so love a neat ending. But really all I can think is what a fun time I had tonight and in the words of the immortal bard: When will we three meet again?