Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Release Me

"How are you going to blog this one?"

I don't have a good answer. Peter Stickles is standing next to me, looking up blankly at the stage. I am transfixed by a bedazzled dragon on his neck. I should have taken a picture of that instead of the bowls of dime store candy on the table next to me. It is ten minutes before Madonna's new album Hard Candy is due to be released and Peter is waiting next to me in the basement of the Virgin Megastore in Times Square. His neck is the most interesting thing I have seen in the last two hours.

Originally, Jonathan had wanted me to join him at the midnight release so that we could pick up the new album and he could try to win tickets to see her free concert at Roseland on Wednesday night. But then he had to go out of town at the last minute and asked me to still go so I could pick him up a poster or something other cool giveaway stuff. So after the show tonight, I bundled myself off to Virgin and waiting for the excitement to happen. The excitement that never came.

When I arrived just after ten, drag queen and part time Tyra Banks enthusiast Shequida was presiding over the "talent" show that was supposed to constitute entry to win tickets. Everyone had 30 seconds to wow the panel of judges, none of whom I recognized immediately. The talent most often displayed was a gushing insistence of urgent homosexuality followed by the certainty of impending doom if somehow begging alone wasn't enough to get into the show. Ten minutes of this and I was certain that my idea of stringing together 30 seconds worth of Madonna lyrics from two dozen hits into a plea for tickets would have been a guaranteed winner.

I tried to take video and pictures of the event with my phone and send them immediately to Jonathan in Florida but my phone was not cooperating. So I went back to my office and picked up my camera and backpack and headed in for round two. Immediately upon arriving, I ran into DJ Corey Craig, one of the judges. I asked him how it was going and he just rolled his eyes in disgust. Apparently the talent had not improved during my thirty minute break. I stationed myself behind him at the judging table where I snapped some quick photos of him texting his friends, the other judges looking at anything but the contestants, and the sad bowls of candy.

Moments later, I noticed Peter standing nearby. He looked as cute as always. His skin is like that was a baby. I know he is older than sixteen but he doesn't look it. Tonight was Michael Carbonaro's birthday and I asked why Peter wasn't there helping celebrate. "I slipped out for this." His expression remained blank but I couldn't imagine he wasn't regretting the decision.

Shequida called the finalists to the stage. Only four minutes left to save us from this world of misery. It is hot and I want to go home. There is nothing here to get for Jonathan. What a waste of two hours of my life. The tickets are given out. One of the guys seems to have won solely on his looks. Good for him. The appointed hour arrives and everyone rushes upstairs to line up for CDs. I head for the door.

Well, I figure as I head outside into the cool night air, I will email Jonathan the photos and video so he will know that he didn't miss anything. I had considered standing in line to get a CD but the line was insanely long and after yesterday's fourteen hour flight home, all I want to do is go home and go to bed. I can get the CD tomorrow when it won't be an hour long wait in line. I feel bad that I am leaving empty-handed but at least I know for certain that Jonathan didn't miss anything by not being there. My text messages to him all evening have made the point clear, but the photographic evidence will seal the deal later, CSI style.

On the train home, I upload the photos and video and start my blog. Peter was right. What could I possibly say that would be interesting? Then I get a simple and final text from Jonathan "ps Peter got me a poster." Suddenly I am incensed! Where? WHERE???? There were no posters. There was NOTHING. My mind scans through mental images of the crowd at Virgin, coming up empty again and again. They must have been selling them with the CDs at the end of the endless line I refused to stand in. So now it's the worst possible outcome for the evening. Not only did I waste two hours of my life, but I didn't even get the one thing I was sent there to get. And someone else did. Now I am a douche. I could have had the same outcome just going home on time. I guess it is true that no good deed goes unpunished.

But at least now, Peter, I have something to blog about.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Hawaii: The Big Island

While Mike and I spent the first and last nights of our Hawaiian vacation in the tacky delight of Honolulu, the bulk of our trip was spent relaxing on the Kona coast on the Big Island. Hawaii really has two kinds of vacations: Waikiki and everything else. With one of the big tourist hotels in the heart of Honolulu you get a sliver of an ocean view, beaches crowded with tourists and uniquely Hawaiian activities (luaus and hula dancing) under the watchful and familiar gaze of Diamondhead. This is the Hawaii that looks exactly like Hawaii, retold in countless movies from the 1960s heyday of surf culture. More modern and sophisticated travelers like the unspoiled and less crowded splendor of other islands, where massive resorts have sprung up in former sugar cane fields and pineapple farms, delivering high end slices of paradise.

I had been to Hawaii before in December of 1999, freshly released from my career at AOL, and living on my small farm in Southwest Michigan. Eric Mueller organized a big trip with many of his friends, and we all made the journey across the ocean. Mike was stationed there at the time, so it was an opportunity to visit him and get a little touch of warmth just as winter was settling in hard on the shores of Lake Michigan. That trip was a blurry sea of drunken sailors (the sixth fleet was in town that weekend) and wild gay adventures. A fight between me and one of Eric’s friends on the second day left Mike and I alone for most of the rest of the trip there, which is just how it was this time around too. Having already experienced Waikiki we were both ready for the other Hawaii.

We landed in Kona and the airport, much like the one in Honolulu, was a quaint throwback to a kinder, gentler time before terrorism and security made airports so utilitarian, ugly and walled off. The Kona Airport looks like a cheesy movie set, not unlike the opening sequence in Postcards From The Edge. I am not even convinced it was real lava rock the building was constructed with. It might just as well have been stucco spray-painted black by an eager production assistant. The biggest difference on the Big Island was a decidedly slower pace, set by a much older crowd.

The condo my Dad rented was in an old but well-maintained complex right on the ocean. The accommodations were functional, in the barest sense of the word. For someone who likes to be pampered and taken care of at all times, my Dad weirdly has no lust of luxury, another trait I largely (though don’t completely) share. The condo was disappointing, although given my father’s history with such things, I don’t know why I was surprised. However, when I learned that it was only $1300/month, it was magically transformed in my cheap eyes into a castle worthy of our adventure. After all, that was less than our old apartment in Manhattan.

Our week in Kona was supposed to be about relaxing, and it was. We logged in some nice time at the swimming pool, doing our best to avoid the elderly and small children. Of those of legal drinking age on the island, we were among the youngest people there. But with the six hour time difference from New York, dinner was at 5pm most nights and by 11pm, we could barely keep our eyes open. Combining that with the pace and demographic surrounding us, it was easy to feel like charter members of the AARP.

But we used the early to bed, early to rise scenario to our advantage. True, our one trip to the local gay bar, Mask (of course), was cut short when I nearly fell asleep in a bowl of stale popcorn there just after 10pm. But with our 7am wake-ups, it left us with a whole day of exploring, even after throwing away a few hours in the morning over lattes and bagels at the Café. On Tuesday, we drove for two hours to Volcanoes National Park, where we hiked into the crater of an active volcano and I posed for a series of wacky photos, including “warming” myself over a steam vent. When I recounted my activities to my friend Paui, he said that he treated the steam vents like a magical spa, opening his pores and lungs until a park ranger advised him that he was basically breathing in microscopic shards of glass and maybe putting his face in the vent wasn’t the best idea ever.

The volcano has been quite active recently and it is a good thing we went on Tuesday because Wednesday the sulfur dioxide levels were so dangerously high they closed the entire park. But by then we were miles away at the green sand beach. Hottie Zach recommended a trip there, and it turns out it is one of only two such beaches in the entire world. And not wanting to go to Guam, we made the trip to this hidden gem on the Big Island instead. Having been around the world, I have long since given up the notion of discovering a hidden treasure. The first time I went to Notre Dame in Paris, somehow I thought it would be tucked away in an old neighborhood, not surrounded by gift shops and a Haagen Daas store. The green sand beach was another story.

It is not far from South Point, the furthest south you can go in the United States. This is the place where the original Hawaiians probably landed when they came up from Tahiti. From there, you have to walk several miles along what is barely a path with no sign to guide you, to a beach that is literally cascading out of a rock outcropping. The sand is a deep olive color but green it is. The water was a pastel blue that day and the contrast was incredible. We were there for hours and all told saw perhaps two dozen people. Most of them, like us, making a solitary march through a barren landscape to encounter a fabled nook nestled in the far side of the world. Without question, one of the most satisfying experiences of my life.

As much as we loved our quiet days in Kona, we knew living there permanently would probably make us crazy. A week was more than plenty of time. By Friday we were sad when we sipped our last latte at the café and made the winding drive down the hill to the airport. But at the same time, we were ready to return to civilization. Waiting for us on Waikiki beach were rooms at the famed Royal Hawaiian hotel, with soaring ceilings and comfortable beds. Gay life was just a short walk down the road at Hulas where I ran into Michael, the former Mr. Gay.com who was a guest on my radio show way back in 2004. Suddenly, my week of anonymity was at an end. Our vacation was drawing to a close and this last bar crawl was the perfect way to ease us back into real life.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Hawaii: The Unexpected Father

Late last year, my dad let me know that he was renting a condo in Hawaii for two months and that for much of that time it would be empty. “I am only using it for a few weeks,” he offered, “but it is cheaper to rent it for two months. So if you want to use it, it will be empty.” This was the impetus for my current Hawaiian vacation. A free place to stay plus a flight paid for entirely in miles equals my kind of fun! I didn’t know anything about this condo before getting here. Only that my dad has been renting it out for years and for a time two years ago when he put his house on the market before heading off on vacation here, had briefly ended up signing his Dear Abby letters “Homeless In Hawai’i” after it sold unexpectedly fast.

Throughout my childhood, my dad was always a planner of elaborate vacations. In his mind, he figured we would never remember the boring parts in between, or the parade of stepmothers, if circus-like adventures clogged our tiny minds leaving no room for anything else. The downside of this strategy was the invariable disasters that would ensue on these road trips, always reminiscent of the National Lampoon’s Vacation movie series. Although in the end, he was right. I remember them quite vividly.

My concerns based on our shared history led me to email my Dad to make sure that the condo had the basics: cable and internet access. His wry response that it did, as well as running water and electricity, did not make me feel guilty in the least. After all, when we went to Lake Powell last summer, he booked us into a single-wide trailer with a backdoor that didn’t close properly, utilizing only a heavy rock on the outside to keep the urgently needed air conditioning from escaping. Never mind that it did nothing to keep roving serial killers from pushing the rock aside and just wandering in with a hatchet and a few hours to kill. The TV, mounted hospital-style in the corner of the living room only received two TV networks, forcing me to engage against my will in a night of So You Think You Can Dance and Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader.

While the condo in Hawaii did have internet access and basic cable, it also had an additional feature I had not anticipated: my own father. Apparently, he was able to successfully move some other business around and extend his stay at the condo for the full two months. He offered to pick us up at the airport, and sure enough, when our plane landed at the Kona airport on Sunday night, there he was, waiting just outside the Polynesia by way of Hollywood lava rock building. I always like spending time with my Dad, especially when he is away from the rest of the family. And Hawaii is really his element. Finally, he is able to be the hippie artist he always was inside, and hobnob with other disaffected burnouts of the me generation.

Mike has gotten particular joy out of hanging out with the two of us. Additional pieces of the Derek puzzle fall into place, while others go questioned back into the pile. While I have previously assured Mike that I picked up all my worst habits from the father, he didn’t believe me until he saw them played out right in front of him by someone else. Like me, my Dad is incapable of leaving the house once. There is always something left behind that must be immediately retrieved, and sometimes a departure can have as many as three or four false starts. Dad also shamelessly ogles, as Mike discovered at the green sand beach while he was transfixed by the blond wahine who briefly abandoned her bathing suit in a 60s era giggle fit and I stared at the hot guy ignoring her nearby.

One huge area of departure for us is humor. My Dad does not get my sense of humor at all. “I can’t tell if you are kidding or being serious.” It is as if his brain is unable to process sarcasm. While walked back to the car yesterday, we were discussing Dad’s new Hawaiian friend who goes only by his last name of Ransom. “It was like I said to Ransom yesterday. Send a million dollars or I am going to kill you.” I could hear Mike rolling his eyes behind me while my Dad just turned to me with a blank stare. “Why would you say that to him?” When I said I was joking, Dad asked me to repeat it but Mike tried to stop me. “It wasn’t funny.” I did the bit again and explained that I said it because his name was Ransom, like a ransom note. “Oh. I get it now. Mike’s right. It wasn’t funny.”

For the most part, Dad has kept to himself on this trip, not wanting to get in the way of our planned vacation. Although, he did introduce us to the Holuakoa Café, which has been our center of gravity for four days now, with our morning lattes and everything bagels with cream cheese. Even now I am blogging on their patio, enjoying the cool ocean breeze on an overcast day. Dad was here earlier, sitting at a table sketching but he has since gone off to the gym and then who knows where else. I would offer to have him join us for 30 Rock later tonight, but if he doesn’t get my sense of humor, Tina Fey will seem like an alien from another planet. I guess in the end it is fine. You should have some things in common with your parents, but the older you get, it is important to have your own identity. And maintaining a sense of humor about that relationship with them always helps.

Hawaii: Honolulu Nights

Hawaii is a special kind of place. There is a reason they shoot TV shows and movies here. It is very distinctive and always memorable. LOST is currently filming here, and I hadn't been back since it started. Now everything here reminds me of the show. I just hear the announcer voice saying "previously on LOST..." as we pass a brand new housing development set among the tropical foliage or a dilapidated and rusting mechanical structure that just begs for a Dharma Initiative sign swinging in the wind outside.

Of course, my TV heart really belongs to the best of the Hawaii shows: Wind On Water. In this epic of the 1998 TV season, Bo Derek plays the mother of hot sons (one of them William Gregory Lee, now steaming up the homos on Dante's Cove) who herd sheep by day and surf competitively by night. The timing of these activities never really worked out for me, but the hot sons were reason enough to savor both episodes of the show that aired before it was cancelled. True, some people may better remember a show like Hawaii 5-0 or Magnum P.I., but those shows ran for decades! Wind On Water has lived more intensely for me and with less to work with. Now that's a classic!

Our flight landed in Honolulu for the start of our exciting Hawaiian vacation. After staying up all night and flying for 14 hours, we were a little tired, but still anxious to get our vacation started. We checked into the hotel, showered, and then headed downstairs to grab a drink and then some dinner. We walked down the road to Hula's, the best known of the gay bars in the area and it was deserted. Granted, it was late afternoon, but it was still a Saturday. One of the bartenders flirted with me a little but I think he just wanted to keep us from leaving. After two drinks, we wandered off to find dinner.

Initially, we had planned to go to a cheeseburger place on the beach but it was packed when we arrived and really didn't want to wait. More wandering and we ended up at Chili's which not only was a perfectly acceptable dinner location, but allowed us to see through the window to the Denny's we would assuredly be eating breakfast at the next morning. After dinner, we made our way to the other gay bar but it was even more tragic than Hulas. Skinny bar waiter twink kind of looked my way for a moment, but I could barely keep my eyes open. It was scarcely ten pm local time (4am in New York) and we were walking zombies. Back to the hotel we went to sleep.

The next morning, we got up and headed out early to Starbucks for a cup of coffee and a muffin to enjoy sitting on the gay beach. Some gays wandered by but mostly we watched a group of tourists learning how to surf. After checking out of the hotel and ditching our bags there, we gorged ourselves at Denny's and then took a leisurely stroll to the mall. This was the highlight of the day.

Before I left New York, I realized that every article of clothing I owned was in terrible disrepair. All of my jeans were falling apart and even my shorts from last season were threadbare and ratty. I insisted on finding at least one pair of shorts and possibly even some new jeans at the mall. Went to J. Crew and everything fit horribly and it was outrageously overpriced. Next we hit Banana Republic where the shorts fit even worse. Plus, I accidentally tried on a pair of skinny leg jeans. The jeans got on alright, though they were weirdly baggy at the knees. But my meaty calves were too much for the skinny and in pulling the jeans down, I got stuck in them below the knee. Starting to feel claustrophobic and fearing I may need assistance while my pants were around my knees, I began to wildly tear at and kick off the jeans. Finally, I managed to pull them off inside out and ran from the Banana like it was on fire.

Over at Old Navy, I did fine a pair of cargo shorts with an orange flower on them that fit great. At first I was reluctant to get them, but filled with the aloha spirit, Mike insisted they were perfect for me. After that, we looked at some backpacks at Oakley since I was complaining about my ultra ugly but free Gay.com backpack I was still carrying around after the Fresh party in SF (and the demise of my old PlanetOut.com backpack). I got a new backpack with more zippers than I need, and even Mike picked up a new carry-on bag too.

Riding high on our purchases, we headed back to Hulas for what turned out to be a better second round. The place was more crowded on Sunday afternoon and this time there were even some hotties. The afternoon waiter was genuinely flirty, which is always welcome, though it did make leaving quickly to catch our shuttle to the airport all the more disheartening. But, we told him, we would be back on Friday. After all it was just the start of our Hawaiian vacation. 24 hours in Honolulu to kick things off, followed by five relaxing days in Kona, before returning for one last farewell day on Waikiki beach. Moments later, we were headed to the airport and ready for the next round of adventures that awaited us on the Big Island!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hawaii: Go West (Not So) Young Man

Even though I plan to blog about my Hawaiian adventure this week, the first entry will be devoted to just the trip there. After all, with our three hour layover in Denver, it was fourteen hours of the first day of my vacation. Factor in travel time to and from the airport and of course a full night of sleep and the next thing you know, it is the entire day.

For this trip, I cashed in 150,000 miles on United so Mike and I could fly First Class. I had been saving my miles for a return to Japan or perhaps even a trip to Australia. But the realities of hosting a radio show made me realize that I won't be taking any long trips half way around the world anytime soon. We could have gone to Europe, which I really wanted to do, but with the exchange rate such as it is, we could get there but then we would be homeless and begging in the streets. True, my years in Manhattan observing any number of panhandlers at close range, has given me some solid strategies for raising money, but this really isn't how I want to spend a vacation.

My Dad rented a condo for two months in Kona and said it would be empty, so it was decided that we would go to Hawaii. Mike was stationed here when he was in the army, and by the end of his tour was pretty sick of it. But that was seven years ago. Plenty of time for the old animosities to fade away and only happy memories bubble to the surface. And after six grueling months of winter, we both thought a few days in tropical splendor would be just the thing.

Kona is less-densely packed and cosmopolitan than Honolulu so we knew going in that our contact with the gay community would be at a minimum. So we planned to fly in and out of Honolulu and spend Saturday night there on our way in and Friday night there on our way out. That way, we could get a couple of nights in at the gay bars and perhaps run into some actual gay people. Then, in between, we could relax by the pool, take in the sights, and hope for at least some nice reasonably naked surfer eye candy.

The night before our 6am flight, we decided to just stay in the city all evening and sleep somewhat on the plane. We went to dinner at Arriba, Arriba first, which was a great way to start things off. Our server was the same server we have seen there for seven years and Mike observed that it might be time for him to change his status from Aspiring Actor to Career Waiter. Though his acting skills have come in handy since he still manages to be friendly and solicitous without actually flirting. Be that as it may, the food and accompanying margarita were delicious.

Unfortunately, a heavy meal of Mexican food and tequila might not have been the best plan for two people who wanted to stay awake after a long work week. We headed to Therapy where the already thin crowd headed for the doors as soon as we walked in. "What is it about us that always clears a bar?" Mike wondered. Our energy was flagging. We walked down to The Ritz, where there was a massive line (aka everyone who had escaped Therapy), and immediately turned tail and headed to Vlada. Vlada had some kind of a crowd, but the enchiladas suizas and the late hour were weighing heavily on me. We went back to our respective offices to pick up our bags and head to the airport. So far our exciting adventure was off to a sleepy and dull start.

We met up outside Mike's office and hopped in a cab to La Guardia. At 4am on a Saturday, the trip took maybe ten minutes. I think we stopped for one red light. At the airport, we got our tickets and then headed for airport security, which wasn't even open yet. We were woefully early. I went to the bathroom and there was a toilet malfunctioning, gushing torrents of water. Being so close to Earth Day, I went to the man slowly dusting the elevator door outside the bathroom and told him. He informed me I had to tell the guy who cleans the bathroom. "I just need a maintenance person to come." He shook his head. "I don't work in the bathroom." There was a helpful hotline number on the bathroom to call if there are problems. So I went to the pay phone and dialed *37 and got a recording that someone would be in the office to help at 7am on Monday. By then, a lake could be drained with the water flushing away, but I gave up caring. I did what I could and all I got in the end was a need to wash my hands a second time after touching that pay phone. No good deed goes unpunished.

On the plane, we settled into our First Class seats and I have to say, though not in a Naomi Campbell cell phone/spitting rage sort of way, that I was disappointed. Air travel has fallen into such disrepair that now First or Business is just passable travel accommodation. It is a reasonably roomy seat with some leg room and a decent recline, plus a meal and a strong chance (not a guarantee) for a pillow and blanket. And that is it. Frankly, this is what air travel should already be. That shouldn't be the definition of luxury. Luxury is a sleeping compartment, manicures, gourmet meals, an in-flight entertainment system with movies and music on demand. In irritation and sheer exhaustion, I just went to sleep.

The second leg from Denver to Honolulu was an improvement in service (tons of food and attentive care by the middle aged straight male cabin crew) and there were even power outlets at the seats for our laptops. But still, First wasn't what I remembered it to be. And it just served to remind me of how miserable air travel is today. I wonder if another industry went so far out of its way to make its customers this unhappy if they would be able to stay in business too. For me it is like your own tree house being taken over by the school bully. Where are we supposed to go now?

Finally, we landed in Honolulu. We grabbed our bags, dashed onto the shuttle and away we went to our hotel in Waikiki. The hotel was a typical tourist mill, but my room was on the ocean edge and had the best view of the ocean available. But in the end, it didn't matter. What was important was that we were in Hawaii. And the great thing about Hawaii is that it looks just like Hawaii here! After months of never really feeling warm, it was just great to feel the sun on my skin and even at night, not notice a chill in the air. Maybe this vacation thing won't be so bad after all.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Inside Outsider

As I mentioned in my last post, I am having a lot of trouble distinguishing reality from fantasy these days. It isn't so much that I don't know the difference between the two. It is just that lately the lines between the two have gotten increasingly blurry, the colors melting into one another, with the lines that had been around them obscured. (See also: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). This weekend in South Florida took an already troubling situation and threw it right down the rabbit hole, and me along with it.

Friday officially kicked off my season of pride events. Each year, I spend my sunny weekends on the road, emceeing pride events, to help promote my radio show. Since these trips tend to include all of my least favorite activities (leaving the house, dealing with airport security, meeting strangers, public speaking, etc.) it is honestly hard for me to have a genuinely good time. As it is true in life in general, happiness is not a sustained state of being, it is merely flashing moments, highlighting the otherwise dull and painful patches. So I can't say I didn't have any fun, the strobe flickered many times, but in the end, I am glad to be back home. At least in my house, I can manage the dull patches a little more effectively.

The organizers of Pride South Florida (in particular Mike Cruz) are lovely people, who fly me down, put me up at a nice place, and send cars to cart me around. It is one of the few events we do each year where I feel like a genuine celebrity. Most of the time, it is me and Romaine piling into a rental car and navigating our way to whatever cheap dump I booked us into, with a stop at the Waffle House along the way. This year, Mike sent a stand-up limo van for me, that was bigger inside than my own bedroom, and nicer too. The limo took me to my hotel for the weekend, a gay resort called The Grand. And Grand it was.

I am not much for B&Bs because I like my anonymity. Give me a big impersonal chain hotel with at least 300 rooms and I am all set. I don't even like maid service if I am staying for only one or two days. I can use a towel twice and I don't need my bed made every day. It feels like such a waste. A gay guesthouse is a decent middle point. I can still have a little anonymity (no surprise wake-up visits by the owner with a cup of coffee in hand) while also not feeling like I am sleeping in a lifeless mattress ad. The Grand lived up to its name and I did enjoy my quiet room way in the back.

Of course, my room was just past the "nature walk" (aka late night cruising zone) and the clothing optional jacuzzi. Each time I walked past the hot tub area, day and night, I was cat called and wolf whistled, which I guess is flattering, but on Friday night, rushing through with a warm plate of Greek food on my way in to watch the latest episode of Battlestar Galactica, I was in no mood for it. Even though I left the "Do Not Disturb" sign on my room all day Saturday, the sneaky maid managed to come in and organize everything anyway, including hiding my iPod in a decorative candy dish which while pretty when I found it, did cause my heart to panic for a moment when I thought it might have been stolen.

The pride event itself was quiet on Saturday. A decent but not spectacular turnout, with a shy spot of rain in the early afternoon which made the heat moist and the ground too wet to sit on, though otherwise did nothing to dampen the event. I left early to attend the GLAAD Awards, which happened to be going on at the Hard Rock the same evening. Earlier last month when Neil Guiliano, the President of GLAAD was on the radio show, I mentioned that I was going to be down there at the same time, and to my surprise a few days later, I got an email from a GLAAD staffer saying that Neil requested that I be his guest at the South Florida event.

In my nascent celebrity, this is something of a big deal. It was an opportunity to attend an A-gay event, walk the red carpet to get my picture taken and hang out in the VIP area with the other celebrities, board members and big donors. I felt like Cinderella but in a grey Barneys suit that I picked up for a song last year at the Warehouse Sale. So off I went to the red carpet and for a moment, it was magical. The photographers all wanted my photo and I posed and posed and posed in my marked down suit with the four year old tie, nine year old shoes, borrowed socks, and a dress shirt from the early 90s that if I took off my jacket gave me the distinct air of a gay pirate. All of the film crews, save the folks from Bravo, were Spanish speaking and had zero interest in me. I got asked one question by Bravo, which I answered very badly, and was sent on my merry way. Flickering moments of happiness, long stretches of sad reality.

Once inside the door, I realized that I was there completely alone. My original invite had mentioned a personal talent escort which I assumed would be with me all night so I would at least have a GLAAD volunteer to talk to all night. But at the event I discovered that there were two kinds of celebrities: white folder and black folder. I had a white folder which meant, I was on my own, while the black folder celebrities who were winning or presenting, had a cute young person dressed all in black with a headset who waited on them hand and food. I turned slowly around in a circle not knowing what to do next and then mercifully ran into my best frenemy Dan Renzi. He saved my life.

Dan and I have a long, complicated, non-sexual history which mercifully he remembers little of. However, over the last year or so we have been reasonably chummy and in 2007 he even appeared, quite deliciously, in my video podcast The So Real Life. I couldn't ask for a better person to shove me over a pile of garbage than Dan. It was kismet, as was our meeting at the GLAAD Awards. We palled around, we made jokes, we compared white folders, and when we left the VIP reception to go down for the dinner, even though we were at separate tables, we sat in chairs next to each other so we could dish all night long.

Unfortunately, the only dish I was able to do was the one my food was on because instead of being placed at some out of the way non-table like I thought, I was at THE table. I was seated between Neil Guiliano and his hilarious brother John. Apparently it was a very personal invitation to the awards I had accepted. Also at the table, the night's big honoree Wilson Cruz and his parents, and Denise Williams, the mother of Simmie Williams, a young gay man murdered in Florida earlier this year. Oh yes and me! What the hell was I doing there? I started sweating I was so nervous but knew I couldn't take off my jacket for fear of a parrot settling on my shoulder.

Being South Florida, the show and presenters were very Latin focused and much of the proceedings were in Spanish. I missed a lot flipping through my phrasebook but the gay storyline clips from the telenovelas were the highlight of the evening for me until I saw 500 gay men sing along to Deborah Cox's sensational closing performance. In moments like that I thought, "I wish Jonathan was here. He would love this." but thoughts like that only served to pull me out of the moment and remind me how alone I tend to feel in a room filled with hundreds of people. But then the alternate reality I was living in would lure me back with another amazing flash. For instance, the big drama of the evening happened at our table, when Wilson Cruz (allergic to shellfish) bit into the chicken only to discover it was stuffed with shrimp. He was fine but I leaned into John and cracked, "Maybe next time your brother should consider not poisoning the guest of honor right before he goes on stage."

The whole thing was so surreal to me. On the one hand, I was treated like a celebrity, but inside I just felt like me, in an ugly shirt and painful shoes. It felt so fraudulent. Wilson is from TV and then there he was sitting at the table with me. On my way into dinner I ran into my friend Brandon's ex-boyfriend Cliff who I know from Arizona and who was recently embroiled in a gay public scandal of sorts, adding another dimension to the otherworldliness of it all. It all happened so fast, I never really had a moment to take it all in. Back at the dinner, I looked up and there was Neil, who just moments earlier had been making small talk with me at the table, now up on stage, projected onto the big screen TVs all over the auditorium, talking about Denise, who was sitting next to me, while photographers and cameramen rushed around me to capture the moment. As we stood for Denise's ovation, I instinctively felt the cameras at my back and leaded over ever so slightly to my left so they could get a better shot of her. I was participant and observer, and neither of them felt real to me.

After the awards Matt from Fab Scout picked me up and took me out of the surreal frying pan and into the fire: Boardwalk. The notorious South Florida stripper bar has turned into ground zero for me when I am in town, thanks to my friendship with Howard of Fab Scout, and it is where I spent Friday night as well. Howard wasn't there, but Jason Crew from Big Rig and Barrett Long were there, along with two new porn pups, annoyingly in love with each other and themselves, and Cort Donovan who charmed me in a way porn stars aren't normally charming to me. Jason remembered me from Big Rig and other run-ins and I reminded Barrett of our last meeting, at the HustlaBall in New York were I pawned Rod Barry off on him after Rod got too violently drunk for me to handle. Our Friday night adventure had ended with Jason telling me that I was "so squeezable" and then drunkenly asking me on the ride home if he and Barrett could gang bang me later in their hotel room. As tempting as 24 inches of cock may be for some people, I politely passed, ran past the nude men in the jacuzzi with their siren song and locked myself alone in my room.

Back at Boardwalk on Saturday making a second run at it and this time in a suit, I stood out like a sore, but wealthy thumb. The solicitous strippers were even more solicitous than usual. While waiting for the porn boys to do their show, so I could poke gentle fun at them later, into the bar walked the most perfect physical manifestation of my "type" that I have ever seen. As if things couldn't get any worse/better. He was blond, with Cory's hunk o' granite forehead, a cute button nose and bee stung Angelina Jolie lips that he kept in a pugnacious snarl at all times. If he had been four inches taller (say 6'2"), I would have kidnapped him and kept him in a dungeon somewhere. His name is "Brock" (may not actually be his real name) and he is apparently a "notorious bottom" and an escort. I was also told he was a complete mess, and when I met him, he was already if not blind drunk, then at least visually impaired intoxicated. He admired my light wool suit, then leaned in to make out with me, and when I tried to have small talk with him, asked me, "Are you going to take me home now?" Ugh! I am only human here.

His friend, who earlier had been nice to me, and bragged about his long friendship with Barrett Long, suddenly grabbed Brock and pulled him close. I heard him hiss in Brock's ear, "You aren't leaving this bar. He only wants to take advantage of you!" I was so offended. I didn't even have a car to take him home in, even if I really really really wanted to. And while I did want to take advantage of him, I certainly didn't mean it in a bad way! People can be so judgmental. He is an escort after all. So I am a bad person for wanting a free throw? I thought I was a celebrity. Didn't my VIP tickets include an open bar, a gift bag and a blow job? I guess he wasn't what GLAAD meant when they mentioned a talent escort for the evening.

Me in a suit, making out with a hot stranger. It just isn't me. Walking red carpets and mingling with people I heretofore have only known in the abstract. Just plain strange. I was still completely beside myself on Sunday when a pair of Broadway actors who listen to the show and happened to be in South Florida at the same time, dropped by pride to meet me. I was still queasy and tired from the night before, and my emcee gig had definitely taken a desperate shticky turn for the worst as they arrived. I couldn't have been at a lower ebb for what I had been looking forward to as the highlight of my weekend.

Kevin plays Scrabulous with me endlessly on Facebook and emails with me regularly, but we had never met before, so our encounter had the happy, excited feel of meeting a junior high school pen pal. But that comparison may be apt only because my tongue was nuclear green from the lollipop I consumed earlier to mask the Munchos aftertaste in my mouth. His boyfriend Chris I knew a little more about because I had read about him and saw him on TV a few times, but virtually all of my interaction up to this point had been with Kevin who I knew less about but somehow knew better, so meeting Chris was weirder for me.

This is difficult to explain in words. I meet people all the time from TV shows or movies or what have you because of my job, but rarely do I meet someone from that world who also listens to the show. Usually, we interview someone who doesn't know anything about us, but we know all about them, in much the same way that listeners meet us at events and know all about our lives but we don't know anything about theirs. So here we were two people who knew each other's resumes basically, and a little more perhaps, but meeting for the first time. It was like a real life version of the old Spy Magazine section Logrolling In Our Time. It was all too much for me.

I know you. You know me. We don't know each other. Maybe it was the heat and humidity after a long cold winter. Maybe it was the 48 surreal hours that had gone before. Real names hidden under porn names. White folder celebrity versus black folder celebrity. Untoward sexual advances from hot strangers. By the time Kevin and Chris arrived, I was mentally throwing in the towel. All I wanted to do was flee to the airport. Being in a strange city, meeting new people, I felt like an astronaut in space who becomes untethered from the ship, and then ever so slowly but quite desperately floats away.

I wanted my boring life back. I just wanted the security that comes with sleeping in my own bed in my house built to withstand a nuclear war with the furniture too heavy to move. When I landed at La Guardia and walked into the parking structure, I was never so happy to see my little beat up old red convertible. And parked right next to it, another little red convertible with a tiny SIRIUS antenna stuck on the trunk, just like mine. It made me happy in that instant because for the first time in three days, I felt like I belonged. Not as someone who talks on the radio, but as just another person in this city that listens. And then I drove home and climbed into bed. And for perhaps a little longer than usual, I was happy.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Claymation

As I write this, it is Clay’s birthday. It was at my suggestion that he came to New York this weekend. I hope he is enjoying himself. At least I know he is making money. I am an extremely lucky person, and the people who are around me tend to have even better luck when they keep me close. What can I say? I make things happen just by being. Some people get scared by this kind of personal magic, but men like Clay relish in it. Every time Clay flies off to see me, he makes money. Unlike Broadway, where I am the kiss of death, elsewhere I am just what it takes to close the deal. So even though Clay’s flight was horribly delayed coming in last night, he did have the satisfaction of knowing that once again, a visit with Derek means a property sold.

I guess there are worse ways to spend your birthday than making money. I spent today covering my dining room and kitchen with primer, in day one of a three day painting process that will soon spin shimmery gold into Sandstone and Windsor Gaze. The bulk of the day was spent putting masking tape in places that hadn’t even been cleaned in the seventeen years preceding when I bought the place. When I say we found a 1968 Swedish quarter under the fridge when we moved it, you should express the same lack of surprise Roommate and I did when it appeared in the dustpan.

I gave myself a Silkwood shower before I left the house but my hands were still doused in white flecks as if I had been soaking it in at the cruel behest of Madge the manicurist. I hate painting for this reason. It is virtually impossible for me to get paint off my hands and it always makes me look unclean in public. I may not wear more than twenty bucks worth of clothing at a time, but I do like to be clean, at the very least. This is especially true when heading off to gay places because our community can be very mean spirited. It is bad enough that I don’t live on the island of Manhattan. One or two other “problems” and one might be banned permanently!

I dropped my hideous free Gay.com backpack at the office and headed off to meet the original Jonathan at Vlada. I had thought about not even bringing a backpack to the city since it is usually such a drag to drag around, but my train ride home is always the best time to blog the night’s adventures. Without my laptop, a perfectly sensational evening could be lost forever. So in compromise, I just ditched the bag at my office. At Vlada, the doorman asked for my ID which caused me to laugh a fake hearty laugh, but secretly I was desperately flattered, especially as I saw him later wave other, younger people in without checking.

Initially, I was alone at the bar which I can’t stand. I feel so self-conscious standing in a lounge like Vlada without anyone with me. As I always do in these situations, I immediately panicked and started running through the bar like Liza Minnelli finishing a box of Girl Scout cookies, desperately picking through the crowd hoping to find a familiar face. Of course my friend Corey Craig was there DJing, as he had been last night at the Chelsea Hotel. We had a nice conversation and then I left him to see if Jonathan or perhaps Clay had arrived yet.

Jonathan finally arrived with his very drunk but still cute friend Will. Will was as buttoned-down and Type A as the last time I saw him at Therapy. In our previous encounter he dodged me because he thought I might be looking for representation, but this time he was too drunk to run. His focus was much dedicated to a cute guy in a red polo shirt standing in the eye of a cluster of equally preppy friends. Will thought he looked familiar but it might have been the five dollar Stoli cocktails that were jogging his memory.

As usual, I was far more courageous in the service of a stranger than I ever am in myself. I walked over to the stranger and told him that my friend Will and I thought he looked familiar but couldn’t quite place him. As soon as I went over to talk to the handsome stranger, Will turned his back and struck up as intense a discussion with Jonathan as anyone has ever seen.

It turns out the stranger was named Kevin, he works at the United Nations and even though it isn’t a requirement of his job, he speaks French. And, since he mentioned it six times, he also lives in New Jersey. Apparently he is quite sensitive about the cruel rejection he gets from picky Manhattan gays. “Well I am sorry I don’t remember you from before,” he told me, “but tell your friend my name is Kevin and I say hi.” A very clear good bye to me and hello to Will, which I promptly delivered to him. Even after that opening he was reluctant to talk to him, but after I had abandoned my cocktail to make small talk with this guy I told Will I was going to kick him in the leg that instant if he didn’t walk over and talk to him. They talked.

Clay had arrived by this point and was having a good time at Vlada. Still hoping to resurrect the planned triumvirate from the previous night that had gone bust, I sent a txt message to Matt to get him to join us at Vlada. He was at G for a split second with Brian, but then headed over to Andy Towle’s apartment, when he was currently trying to get us to go. This intrigued me. I think Andy is awesome and I read his blog every single weekday without fail. He is my primary gay news source. Plus, I saw him the night before in line at the Chelsea Hotel. If I managed to see him twice in one weekend, it would be double the number of times I saw him in 2007. And I was still anxious to at least make out with Brian after being thwarted the night before.

I dragged Clay out of the promising and vibrant scene of Vlada and piled him into a cab to Andy’s apartment. Once we arrived there, it became clear that Matt had created an impromptu party. There I discovered a pair of tall, built, generically attractive gays headed out as we walked in. They had the gentle, easy gaze and gait of giraffes. I only heard one name, promptly forgotten, and off they went like something delicately animalistic from a National Geographic Special, undoubtedly headed two by two to gay Noah’s ark or some happy gay hunting grounds in the Serengeti. Clay also didn’t stay long, wanting to return quickly to Vlada in hopes of recapturing the earlier magic of the evening.

Matt was all kinds of sweet and apologetic which I assumed was based on what he had read in my blog from the previous night. When I presented him with the news that he (and Brian, and Andy for that matter) were already committed to the internet, he exploded into a manic panic. “We’ve already been blogged!” he yelled, tugging on Brian’s sleeve. An ocean of calm, Andy offered me a drink and we settled into a polite conversation in the living room, while Matt and Brian searched the web.

Andy asked me about my blog, which he hadn’t read before, and we talked about moderating comments and what happens to gay men when they turn forty. It was a lovely chat and I wanted to tell Andy that I had recommended him to go on Bill O’Reilly when FOX called our office looking for a guest to discuss Jay Leno and Ryan Phillippe’s gayest look. But that conversation was not to be as Brian settled down next to me, iPhone in hand, to read aloud from my previous blog entry.

I can honestly say that no one is more bored by my writing than I am, and having it read aloud is a special kind of hell. About ten minutes in, Andy pulled out his own iPhone to skip down to the part he was mentioned in. “It’s an epic!” he declared but not in the happy way that a film reviewer might gush about an Oscar contender. Matt was tickled by the whole recounting of events, though Brian was quick to agree with Matt that “no one who doesn’t know us will care about any of this.” Oh contraire!

Everyone seemed to approve of how they were represented in the blog, which didn’t surprise me, though Matt was anxious for a more favorable mention tonight. I like to think that I fairly accurately depict people and events, especially since I usually write it within minutes of it actually happening. Brian was mildly irritated by the word “promise” being associated with him, but I really meant the promise of something between us, forever interrupted by late trains home to the suburbs, not some kind of sunny upbeat demeanor I have yet to see him display. He asked me if I really thought he looked like he might eat someone. Yes! Funny, he didn’t question my description of his former paramour Dallas as “statistically handsome.” I guess that didn’t bother him as much as the prospect of being perceived as a cannibal. Don’t worry, Brian, no one reads this anyway.

I wanted to stick around all night at Andy’s place. I loved the low key vibe and as an ardent fan of his blog, nothing would thrill me more than talking about his work. I wish he would come on my show. I ask him all the time, but there is no reason for him to come. His blog is immensely popular and he hardly needs the publicity. Still, when I like something, I do like to shamelessly promote it on my show. After all, what is the point of having a radio show if you can’t boost your friends a little? I guess I will just have to settle for a semi-annual visit in person instead.

On my way out, the topic turned to my long train ride home. Andy was familiar with the trip, having made it many times, much further up than where I live. He did not have fond memories but I enjoy the ride along the river, especially since it gives me a chance to collect my thoughts from the evening and commit them to the permanent record of my epic (sorry! I am a terrible editor!) blog.

After the door closed to Andy’s apartment, I heard Brian’s booming voice chanting the names of some of my stops along the way. But it didn’t bother me as I raced down the stairs and out into the street in search of a cab. After all, I love my little life in the suburbs. Kevin may be sensitive about living in New Jersey but I adored my day today eating slices of pizza in the Adirondack chairs and watching deer grazing in my backyard. I don’t live my life for anyone else. Even though peer pressure may work on some people with no self-esteem who like to iron things, it doesn’t work on me. And as always, I get the last word. So while Brian may do his best to define me in the moment inside Andy’s apartment, I get to define him for all time right here.

I wonder what it will be like when he finally does eat me. It might be pretty good. You know how people around me tend to get lucky.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Show People

An occupational hazard of my job: I know a lot of people from reality TV.

This is a complicated situation for me because I already have a lot of trouble distinguishing the difference between reality and fantasy as it is. Just today, a listener sent me the Derek doll, lead vocalist from the short-lived Barbie and the Rockers (circa 1985), and even some people at work had trouble believing it wasn't an elaborate trick. We look so much alike, and even share the same name. It begs the question: Am I, with my unchanging hairstyle and sparkling blue eyes, the living promise fulfilled of a hunk of Mattel plastic or am I in actual fact the basis for it?

In much the same way, Reality TV is the ultimate blurring of life imitating art imitating life, and sometimes I wonder if the people who appear on television even know what to do with the resulting by product. In some ways I assume it is like when someone tells you about a dream they had where you played a prominent role. Obviously they recognized you quite vividly in it, though you may feel the portrayal is entirely subjective and personally unfamiliar.

Tonight on the show, our guest host was Shaun McCarron from the Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency, a guilty pleasure of late-middle age histrionics blended smoothly with ample supple human flesh. I shamelessly admit that I am a fan, mostly for the flesh parts. Shaun and his equally well-constructed boyfriend Paul are underwear-clad favorites and two of the few openly gay models on the show. I met them both some months ago when they joined the show as guests and since then have struck up a friendly rapport. They have SIRIUS so I often get random text messages from Shaun about the content of the show while he drives to and from the gym. What I like about Shaun is that he is a smart guy (Master’s Degree!) with a relaxed, comfortable Southern demeanor who understands completely the time and place he exists in and uses it as fully to his advantage as possible. Also he looks amazing in his underwear.

Knowing that he would be in town and would want to go out, when another reality TV veteran (Clay from The Apprentice) wondered aloud how to spend his birthday weekend, I happily suggested New York City. Even though I will be busy painting my kitchen and dining room this weekend, I figured I was still hearty enough to juggle both social obligations with visiting hotties and reconstructing suburban domestic bliss at the same time. To help, I enlisted the ultimate Manhattan party figure: Matt. Our previous Friday and Saturday adventures had been successful enough, even though Gary lost his camera and I was sick for four days. Clay and Matt were already friends so I knew he would be on board for another exciting set of adventures.

The evening started earlier for Matt, who joined Charlie at his apartment for pre-cocktails before heading to Chris’ birthday party at Kelley and Peng down in the Bowery, while Shaun and I were still in Rockefeller Center wrapping up the last few minutes of the radio show. Shaun had just found out before we went on the air that fellow Modeling Agency alum J.P. Calderon was in town as well, headlining an Instinct Magazine party at SPLASH. I met J.P. at Gay Days in October and he might have been on the show once, but for the life of me I can’t remember a single word that has ever come out of his mouth. But since that party didn’t start until after 11pm, we endeavored to head to the Bowery first and then see how things went.

Chris’ birthday party had a nice mix of cute, laidback guys and adorable preppy guys, prompting me to send an enthusiastic text message to my roommate to encourage him to join us. Matt was already there with Charlie and Brian. Brian’s friend Warren, a tightly built South African who is an arched eyebrow taller than Matt, was also there, along with Matt’s friend Will who I have met several times before, yet always greets me with the same spreadable cream cheese expression of blissful and totally willful ignorance. We all had a drink and settled into polite cocktail chatter.

Matt was in a particularly sparky mood, greeting me with open arms and legs, and constantly poking me with excited jabs. He also displayed again his enthusiastic applause mixed with excited laughter, a signature move for him which Brian referred to as his persistent clap (then added, “and I don’t mean that recurring case of Chlamydia either”). After Matt playfully punched him a little too hard in the sternum, Brian’s own enjoyment levels plunged woefully and desperately out of kilter with his own. I reconnected a bit with Charlie who I hadn't seen since his last appearance in my blog in November. When I brought up my blog, which previously had so tickled him to be mentioned in, he waved it off with the haute faux maturity of a fourteen year old girl who insists quite calmly and matter-of-factly that she is now a woman, then asked where Ben Harvey (the reigning king of blog mentions) was. For the record, he is out of town.

Already a fairly low key guy, especially when compared to his vibrant peacock boyfriend Paul, Shaun had settled into a glum trance of text messages and cocktails off to the side of my friend hopping. I don’t think he was having a very good time, but it was hard for me to check in on him and chat up roommate and grasp bits of conversation with Brian and Matt just so I would have something to blog about later. I was jumping around from person to person as if they were all plates that needed to be kept spinning in mid-air at all times. Perhaps I was over my head trying to have it all.

We decided to decamp from the party, with Matt leading the march toward the basement of the Chelsea Hotel, the site of my last public humiliation some weeks ago. On our way out, I charged over to a familiar looking blond man with a scruffy face and no visible ass in his baggy slung jeans. “Haven’t we met sixteen times before?” I asked, to which he replied with hand outstretched, “Yes sixteen.”

Turns out his name is Henry and we met through Cyd Zeigler and the gay football league. Suddenly I remembered where I first saw him (though not where I last saw him): doing his best (worst?) chocolate covered Kimmie impression at a karaoke bar in Harlem. Quite possibly the worst singer I have ever seen belt it in public and yet the bar was filled with adoring admirers by the time he had brutalized his last note. He was there tonight with his friend Patrick, who looked like a younger, slighter version of Jeff in Boston, and another guy whose name I don’t recall because I maxed out the number of names I could remember for the evening. Just then, Will swept into the conversation and when Henry started to introduce us, the continued blankness of his stare made me think he had already, in just thirty minutes, forgotten again that we had already met. It was time to leave.

I grabbed my bag and searched for Shaun who had since disappeared while Matt and Brian went downstairs. Moments later, Mike and I went downstairs only to find Shaun was there, but Matt and Brian were nowhere to be found. Shaun told me that they had already left for the Chelsea so the three of us hopped into a cab. I spotted Charlie on our way out, so I assume he decided to stay at the birthday party, which in retrospect turned out to be the right choice. After the world’s slowest cab ride, we arrived at the Chelsea Hotel to find Matt already inside and a hefty line outside. Matt’s cell phone having died at Chris’ birthday party, there was no way to contact him.

Since it was already Midnight, Mike refused to stand in the line at the bar and opted instead to just make an early trip to the 1am train we had planned to take home anyway. Shaun and I braved the line for fifteen minutes as a series of people he knew wandered up to us in line. It turns out he knows more people in New York City than I do. With time running short and the line just getting longer, Shaun left with his friends to go to G, also in retrospect an excellent idea, while I stood alone in line at the Chelsea Hotel.

While waiting, Corey Johnson arrived with Andy Towle and for a moment, I thought I had been rescued from the line. Unfortunately, moments later, they were in line behind me. I don't know what was more surprising to me: that they couldn't get in either or that Corey had somehow coaxed the reclusive Andy out of his apartment. “Aren’t you someone?” I asked the former high school football captain.

“Not anymore.” He assured me.

“What about him?” I asked, gesturing to blogger Andy Towle, who reaches more gay men in America than Out or the Advocate. Corey just shook his head, then offered politely. “You’re someone.” But clearly that was a reality that only exists inside my own fantasy world.

After waiting forty-five minutes, I was finally ushered in. This left me only enough time to tell Matt that I had to leave to go home. I was furious. Of course I found him and Brian, dancing in place in front of my friend Corey Craig, the DJ for the evening. I immediately swatted Matt in the back of the head. I recapped my horrible experience in line and put all the blame on him for blithely leaving us at the other party. More importantly, after his phone died, he put me in charge of keeping tabs on Clay’s arrival (his plane was much delayed from Texas) then made no effort to stay close to me. At that point, Clay was on his way over but I was out of time to wait for him to pass him off to Matt.

“He is on his way now! Go upstairs and get him!” I yelled at Matt and then as payback for Brian’s sore sternum and my own irritation, punched him in the stomach. Matt looked hurt, but not from the sock in the gut. Matt and Brian both entreated me to stay, and then stay over for the night in the city. But that was an impossibility. I was trying to have it all, and in the process, was watching all of it unravel before my eyes in a fit of bad timing. If I left, I was a quitter in the party scene of fun, leaving three handsome men and who knows what else behind. If I stayed, I would just be proving myself and my roommate right that I can't stay focused to and finish anything that I say is really important to me. So I left, Matt and his hurt feelings, Clay who hadn't even arrived yet, sexy Brian and all his promise, and walked up the stairs to the sidewalk.

"That was the best minute and a half I ever spent in a bar." I yelled sarcastically to the appreciative door staff as I crossed the sidewalk to hail a cab. It was a short ride to Grand Central but it didn't take me long to realize I had made the right decision. In the choice between fantasy and reality, as tough as it is for me to face sometimes, I really do need to choose reality more often. It is just that time.