Monday, July 21, 2008

All At Sea

I have a lot of very trashy loves. For instance, I am obsessed with RV living. I love the idea of a house on wheels that can go anywhere. It must be the gypsy in me. Houseboats have a similar appeal. My soul is restless and on the move, so it makes sense that I desire a home that moves with me. Last year I bought a house. And not just a house but too much house for one person. It came with a piano, perfect to match my increasingly unwieldy furniture. I think psychologically I am trying to force myself to stay put, tether myself to the earth with heavy objects so I can’t float away. Be that as it may, I had plenty of time to muse on my personal psychology as I left my piano and house and unfinished patio behind and headed to the Norwegian Dawn for a seven day sailing up the coast of New England to Canada.

Five weeks ago, Rosie O’Donnell came on the radio show to promote the True Colors Tour. While on the air she spontaneously invited us to go on the R Family Vacations cruise in July. It was all so sudden! And it conflicted with my planned trip to Southern California for San Diego Pride and to visit my family. But how do you say no to Rosie? “I’ll be standing on the dock waiting for you. You better be there!” she told us. It didn’t sound like the kind of invitation you turn down unless you like looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life. So, off we went to Canada.

First I had to get a new passport. My old passport that had taken me to Europe and Japan expired last year and since then had been sitting in my “to-do” pile. Suddenly, I had a very urgent need to get a new one. The old photo I had made me look like a terrorist, albeit a young one. So I was concerned about how much older I would look in a photo that was nearly identical except for the intervening eleven years. I promise that there is no easier way to see how you have aged that to put two passport photos side by side. Disheartening to say the least. Having just come off of weeks of pride events, the biggest non-age change was that for the next decade I will be tan.

We set sail on Sunday on the Norwegian Dawn, a beautiful ship. Fortunately, my cabin was way down on the 5th floor, seven decks below and on the opposite side of the ship from the all-you-can-eat buffet. My last cruise in 2006, my cabin was one short staircase away from the buffet and seven days later I had gained fifteen pounds. This time I followed my new friend Ross Mathews’ advice and took the stairs. The few pounds I gained by the end were gone a few days later when my eating habits returned to normal back on dry land. I think I was also helped by the fact that the soft serve ice cream machine was broken. I cursed it at first but in retrospect, I realize now it was a waistband blessing in disguise.

The ship landed in several ports of call but I skipped a few. I missed our first stop in Canada but made a point of disembarking on the second (and last) Canadian port because I had never been to Canada before. After all I went through to get that new passport I was determined to get a new stamp on it. Back stateside, I wandered aimlessly through Bar Harbor (got a blueberry soft serve cone there) and made a brief return to Provincetown that was just long enough to prove to myself that nothing much had changed there in the past seven years. The boat docked finally in Newport, but not even more stately mansions could wrest me from my stateroom where an umpteenth airing of Space Cowboys on TBS and room service happily occupied my lazy afternoon.

Finally I returned back to New York on Sunday. I was the fifth person off the boat, working every angle I could to get out of there as quickly as possible and avoid the crush of strollers and wheelchairs. I loved life on the high seas. The endless food in a floating city is a dream come true, even if it was probably not the best place to be mere days after watching Wall-E. But in a recurring theme in this blog, I need to return to reality in the end. Someday I will just sail away and never come back. But for now, I have made a rooted life for myself and it is sailing its own course, a journey into the unknown, even though the gypsy in me feels as though I am forever in the same place.

VIDEO: Ross Mathews' Blog with Derek on NBC.com, Ross on the banister on Facebook.com
PHOTOS: Click here to see pictures from my R Family Vacations cruise on Facebook.com.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Last Night On Earth

I live in two worlds. In one of them, I am an erstwhile homeowner, less handy than I think I am, toiling away at an ever growing stack of chores nestled in a quiet picture postcard version of suburbia. In the other world, I swirl in the heights of Manhattan gay social circles, hobnobbing with the sexiest and most famous members of the modern homo set. It would be an exaggeration to say that I have any real comfort in either one, but they both shares dueling sides of my personality. One assumes the quiet side will win out in the end, but in the meantime, the rowdy crowd is putting up a game fight.

I spent Saturday lifting sixty pound bags of gravel and sand, Ethel Merman blaring the opening lines of “Hostess with the Mostest” permanently looping through my head. I am building a patio in my backyard after watching a two minute video on About.com that made it look surprisingly easy. It isn’t hard, per se, but laying 108 tiles evenly and accurately is a duty I don’t have the constitutional aptitude for. I had hoped that roommate would help me out, but he threw his shoulder out and that is only half of his excuse. I think he is tired of my endless folly of half-finished home projects and it amuses him to see me struggle in a perpetual episode of I Love Lucy during the season they lived in Connecticut. If only Tallulah Bankhead was my neighbor! She wouldn’t be any help either, but at least she would be hilarious.

In the late afternoon, I ditched the soil and toil and hopped on a train down to Manhattan. I agreed to arrange a meeting between Ronnie, late of Make Me A Supermodel, and my friend Matthew Kelleher, arguably the most connected gay man in New York City, which frankly means the most connected gay man in the world. For some reason, Matty was in a sensitive mood on Saturday and when I would say compliments like that, he took it to mean I was implying he was a slut. It’s not OurChart.com, Matt! Matty was waiting for me outside the David Barton Gym where Ronnie was working out before our dinner. Matt and I debated the pros and cons of exercising at the most notorious gym in a most notorious neighborhood; while a parade of just stunning men stumbled in and out of the building.

While waiting, Erik Rhodes and former boyfriend Danny Dias walked down the street toward us. I had earlier sent Erik a text message inviting him to dinner, but he was already eating when he got it. They had just been working out themselves beforehand and joined our discussion about the perils of David Barton. They waited around wanting to meet Ronnie, but he was taking his sweet time and they ended up moving on to whatever else they were doing before Danny headed down to the Village to bartend. Finally Ronnie emerged and the three of us took off down the street looking for a dinner place. While we walked, Matt explained this day was the only day each year where the sunset could be seen directly down Manhattan cross streets and it was a perfect sunset for it too, casting a magical mood over the city as the light of the day dimmed across 23rd Street.

After walking down 8th Avenue through a sea of Matty devotees and Ronnie watchers, we settled into a cozy dinner at a French place that opened onto the street. Dinner was charming and Ronnie and Matty got along great. Ronnie actually seemed to enjoy us telling all the dusty old stories about how we know each other and the outrageous antics we got into in the intervening years. After dinner and looking for a place to cocktail, we eventually ended up on the patio of the Maritime Hotel. It was a warm night and the patio, upbeat with happy straight patrons and dotted with Chinese lanterns, ended up being the perfect nightcap to our low-key evening.

Ben Harvey joined us, along with the ever elusive Ryan, and then later, Hottie Zach dropped by. I tried to get Roommate to come since he was in the city too, but he begged off and headed home. It was too bad because it was finally an evening he would have enjoyed. Our tiny café table with six chairs jammed around it was a beehive of cheerful gay laughter and witty banter. It was just heaven for me. Shiny, happy people. Matty was wrecked about not having an iPhone, having accidentally dropped his into the sink at his gym the day before the new ones went on sale and crushing lines wound around the block day and night. Saturday was day two of the melee and day three without a phone with no hope of getting one in the foreseeable future. He was jonesing like Courtney Love and Amy Winehouse going cold turkey together on a dare. But otherwise he was having a good time.

The Maritime was magic but nothing is forever. We headed out with Ben Harvey and Ryan opting to head to the East Village to the bar that Danny Dias was working. “Tell Danny you know us!” we urged them with the hope of scoring a free drink by proxy. Ronnie pulled me, Matty and Zach off to someone’s apartment. The apartment was in the heart of Chelsea, across from ELMO, and no doubt an outrageous fortune despite its postage stamp qualities. The party quickly moved to the roof, which was spectacular. The four of us threw ourselves on the mercy of a giant outdoor canopy bed, like Stevie Nicks in an old Fleetwood Mac video. More drunken laughter ensued until once again, I made my hasty departure back to my other world.

I love fabulous rooftop parties in Manhattan, and pretty reality show contestants, and cocktails on hotel patios, but for me, it is like going to an amusement park. The rides and food are fun, but I couldn’t do it every day. I need quiet and simplicity. I need to feel the earth in my hands and the sun on my face, and the sense of accomplishment that can only come from building something solid. Connecting Matty to Ronnie and Ronnie to Zach is easy for me. It’s a great skill I have, and there is satisfaction there. But it is as satisfying as a funnel cake and a rollercoaster. A thrill, but if I did it every day, it would lose its appeal, the wonderment of it. So back I go to laying tiles. To gravel and sand. To reality, my other home.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

(2nd to the) Last Night On Earth

These posts are often about going out. I suppose I could write about other things, but I am lazy. Since I don’t leave the house very often, it is the perfect compromise. I don’t have to write much, since I don’t go out much. I went out on the town on Friday night and Saturday night, and it was ill-advised since I had a million things to do before I embarked on the R Family Cruise up the coast of New England to Canada on Sunday morning. But Ronnie was in town, and I promised to hang out with him, so duty to friendship won out over bland puttering around the old Cape Cod.

As it turns out, Ronnie was working on a movie and couldn’t get out early enough on Friday night to do the show or hang out with us. I had promised some time before to hang out with Ryan and Ben Harvey on Friday when Ryan was in town, and promptly forgot until Ben Harvey and I were talking about our Friday night plans. So I trekked down after the show to Chelsea to meet Ben Harvey and his cousin Christian at the bar “G.” In the mid-90s as a NYC tourist, I was mad about “G” and its bold oval bar shape and hunky fun patrons. Now, I regard the nearly round walkway as a misery akin to attending the Tailhook Convention in a mini-skirt. But “G” after waning in the early years of the Bush Presidency is, like the Democratic Party in general, making something of a comeback, though I am similarly ambivalent that neither has changed much in the intervening years to deserve it.

I arrived first, my humongous Amazing Race style backpack making me as unwelcome in the slim environs as an elephant in a narrow corridor. But the best thing about being in your 30s is you don’t care who you piss off as long as you get where you are going. So even though two short muscle boys thought they would get my deference as they tried to pass in bar, I instead effortlessly swiveled around and slammed by backpack into their faces as I walked by. That made me feel good for the remaining two minutes until Ben Harvey arrived with Christian and Christian’s new friend, Aaron, a closeted construction worker from upstate.

We decamped almost immediately from “G” to try to find Ryan at ELMO where he had been having dinner with another radio professional. Once at ELMO, however, he had already moved on to someone’s apartment for a party or something, I stopped listening when we arrived at the second location and found our quarry missing. This is very bad form. Trying to connect clusters of gays already in motion is my least favorite activity in the world, especially in bar settings, because no one has any sense of time passing when they are in a club and after two drinks, any gay can be convinced to go anywhere with anyone. Jeffrey Dahmer made a career of that.

In searching for Ryan at ELMO, we wandered into the downstairs bar, which some years ago had been the site of Perez Hilton’s birthday party. On Friday, it was a shocking display of heterosexuality. This is always annoying. I like straight people as much as the next, but straight people who cluster in otherwise gay areas to party are nothing but trouble. The freedom and sassiness that gays display liberates them to dangerous levels and gets transferred into otherwise inappropriate straight behavior and the next thing you know someone is getting stabbed. Sweet, young closeted Aaron didn’t believe me that it was a straight party.
“Maybe there are just a lot of girls.” He suggested.

I assured him it was a straight party because there were only men dancing with women, and no men dancing with other men. Going around to Ben Harvey and Christian, they in quick succession agreed it was straight because the men all had tucked in, button down shirts and by the way, did you see those shoes? The lack of fashion sense was not enough to convince Aaron, who retorted, “Derek is badly dressed and he is obviously not straight.” But a lack of fashion is my thing. It is what separates me from the rest of the maddening crowd. Though at this point, Aaron was the only maddening one.

I liked him a lot and Christian assured me he had an amazing body underneath his ill-fitting shirt, but his youth and inexperience at all things gay was apparent. For instance, he insisted that being out at work wasn’t important and he never planned to be openly gay in the workplace. True he works in construction, so that does make things dicey, but the idea that he works in a sexuality-free environment is to take for granted the background noise of girlfriends and wives that is miraculously excluded from any notion of sexual behavior. I am certain that in a few years he will feel differently.

Just then, Dave Rubin came sweeping in and happily changed the dynamic entirely. With Ben Harvey still texting Ryan trying to find a meet spot, my eye was on the clock and the door. After another round of drinks, everyone bolted for the Chelsea Hotel. I made my good-byes on the corner. Even though I was assured Ryan would be at the Chelsea (at least eventually), my role in L’Aventura had come to an end. With any luck, I could get home early enough to get a good night’s sleep, get some packing done for my trip and still have time to work on the house. Life after all is a balancing act. One of these days, Ryan will see that maintaining that balance means learning to end something when the time is right and move on to the next thing. And perhaps Aaron will learn that there is a time and a place for everything, and sometimes the more you hold back, the less you have.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Carpet Bomb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Layer Cake

Some places have so many memories in them; it practically chokes you to be near them. Manhattan is getting like this for me. I’ve been in the city for seven and a half years now and the island is awash in memories and flashes from the past. Tonight I headed downtown after the show to Comix to see Michelle Collins on her birthday, and the journey ended up being more like a trip back through time.

I first met Michelle after she blew the doors off PS122, a performance space downtown where Michelle did stand up in something called the WYSIWYG Talent Show, where bloggers get up and read from their blogs. I ended up doing the Talent Show twice myself, once doing a set of truly libelous celebrity stories in front of three people that killed and then later true tales of extreme drunkenness which ended up as the “live” season finale of my video podcast “The So Real Life” as well as the unofficial end of the WYSIWYG Talent Show. But Michelle endures, adding hilarity to our radio show, trips to the Olive Garden and most recently July 4th on Kevin and Christopher’s island.

I love Michelle so it was a given that I would abandon my usual early train home for a not-so quiet drink with her in Chelsea. I took the subway down and now that I live upstate and no longer take the subway, the experience was a revelation for me. I had forgotten the evil efficiency of the subway platform to retain all the cold of winter and all the heat of summer. The train deposited me on 13th Street at 7th Avenue and I walked across 13th toward the comedy club. Along the way I passed the Gay Center, where I ran into Cory out front when I was there to cheer Chip Arndt on when the AIDS Ride returned last fall. Cory, so full of Iowa goodness, who unwittingly helped me through my darkest hour two summers ago with a simple greeting at Therapy. Then it was on past the triangle shaped park that Dan and I walked around endlessly one sunny afternoon while very politely breaking up during the Pride Garden Party, June 2001.

Happily, I had never been to Comix so the ghosts of hot gay men past could not follow me in. True, Hell’s heavy gate was just around the corner, but not close enough to get me this time. Michelle looked beautiful, made up for the stage and wound up like a top. A whirling dervish, she spun fluidly from social friends to college friends to work friends, stopping only long enough to get a genuinely tasty margarita at the bar. As one of her friends pointed out, “The best five dollar drink in town.” I hate margaritas generally but on this one I am forced to agree.

While Michelle bounced back and forth, introducing me with unrealistically lavish praise, from friend “Red Eye” to comic “hilarious” to spouse “MoveOn.org,” my eye kept wandering over to the devastated pile of cake sitting in the middle of the center table. It looked like one of those houses that recently floated down the Mississippi out of Iowa and got stuck up against a metal train bridge. Every time Michelle left me alone for a split second, my fingers dove into the cake for another tiny wedge. “That was my last piece” I kept telling myself while simultaneously reaching in for just one more. I think I might be an addict. But the cake was very good. As usual, the frosting was just too sweet and much for me, but the cake was the real deal.

I couldn’t stay long. I wanted to take the midnight train home and I knew there would be a pile of other memories waiting for me along the way. The pizza place on 14th street where I tried to get a slice for Chi Chi La Rue and failed. Up near Times Square, my old Starbucks near my office at 1440 Broadway, where Tim and I finally made our peace, such as it is. The Mr. Softee truck by Bryant Park where I had to stop for a cone, like I always do. And finally the steps of the New York Public Library, where Dan and I first met, that warm spring day. I was just new to New York and in those glorious months before 9/11 the city was filled with all of the promise of a Sex And The City episode. And there under the watchful eye of the Chrysler Building, leaned up against the stone lion, my first Manhattan crush.

My cone finished, and my journey nearly ended, I wandered into Grand Central Station, as I have a 1000 times before. I used to walk through Grand Central on my way to work, thrilling to the sounds of that woman with the haunting voice who used to sing “Summertime” echoing through the hall. I still get a chill thinking about it. But there is also sadness for me there too. I can’t go down the West corridor without thinking of the horrible dark night Jonathan broke his cell phone. So many memories, rushing around me there, like the magical moment of dancing in The Fisher King.

And then the train home. I wish it was an escape, a way to wash clean those old memories in the calm waters of the Hudson River and start anew in the morning. But the memories, while triggered by places, don’t reside there. Good and bad, you can’t escape them, because they live inside you. And every day in the city is filled with the promise of new memories just waiting to be made. The memories layer, like Michelle’s collapsing birthday cake, mushing into each other, flavors you like on top of ones you don’t. Together a complete taste and experience, and sometimes, just a little too much.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The 4th Dimension

Things are rarely better the second time around, but Tamarack Island is the exception to the rule. I was last there over Memorial Day, invited by Kevin and Christopher, even though Kevin was busy lifting swings over his head. This is a Broadway-related happenstance apparently, the kind of occupational hazard that comes with touring in Spamalot. A few weeks ago, all the swings were on stage for a single performance leading to a concern that soon they would need to draft ushers and concession attendants or worse, me, to join the cast. But all those problems were left behind on the shore and a short row boat ride later, we all succumbed to the quiet paradise of Tamarack.

Roommate and I made the long journey out to New Jersey on July 4th with a firm set of goals, to be completed even before we reached the party. We hadn't even left town before we failed at the first one. Mike wanted some coffee but as fate would have it, our local coffee house closed early for the holiday, quite literally in his face. We would get coffee along the way, I promised, along with gas for the car (usually as much as fifty cents cheaper than it is at home) and much to my delight, the new Girl Scout Thin Mint Blizzard at Dairy Queen! I saw an ad for it flash across the screen during the show one night last week as the silent TV in the background was tuned to CNN. After I jumped out of my chair, seizing my chest and throwing myself against the glass wall of the studio, for a moment Romaine thought the world had blown up.

We finally happened upon a Dunkin Donuts in New Jersey, much to the chagrin of the evil calorie counting GPS system that implored us to turn around immediately. I ignored his bland tones and had a Bavarian Cream Fill and a nice French Cruller. Then, as we were leaving, casually drove the long way out so we could get a better look at the hot guy helping his mother with her groceries on the other side of the parking lot. Such a nice boy! Moments later, covered in powdered sugar, I pulled into the Dairy Queen parking lot like I was driving an ambulance to the scene of a horrible accident. Inside they offered up all the old tyme ice cream favorites and even a few new delights I was dying to try, but I stuck to my guns and got what I came for. Fat.

Within minutes, most of my Blizzard was gone along with all of my dignity as we pulled up to the dock. I was a little nervous because along with Mike, I had invited some other friends along to the party. Kevin and Christopher insisted it would be fine, but I brought another bottle of vodka just in case. The friends I had invited joined other friends of the hosts in a bus they chartered to take them from the city. Mark, a handsome massage therapist and regular David Coleman party veteran, spoke with a few people on the bus but mostly read his book. I asked the original Jonathan who was also coming to be on the lookout for Michelle Collins since she said she might be five minutes late so he waited near the front for her arrival. Apparently, it was love at first sight and the two landed at Tamarack an hour later as inseparable best friends forever, like kids on their way to summer camp.

Christopher dispatched Logan to come row us over from the mainland. Logan, the fifteen year old heart breaker from the last party was mercifully less desirable in a polo shirt and sans sunglasses. Although, as his youthful vigor powered us across the lake as effortlessly as one might pull a Kleenex from the box, I had to keep muttering the words "fifteen... fifteen" over and over in my head. Once on the island, I reunited with Kevin and Christopher and all my invited guests and settled in for a good time. The previous party had been centered at the main house but this one was in full swing as we arrived at the guest house. The booze was flowing like everyone already had their next liver lined up. The earlier rain had dissipated and even though it wasn't sunny per se, it was still a perfect day.

The usual Broadway crowd was there, many of them holdovers from Memorial Day. Some of them were so comfortably drunk when we arrived that I wondered if they had ever left. I kept assuring Michelle throughout the party that at any moment it was certain to burst into song. She couldn't wait. I insisted that if she walked into the house, turned off the stereo and hit the middle C on the piano, the crowd would take care of the rest. It never came to that. Rachel, who had been so helpful in naming "Hole-y Board" "glory hole" last time, kept us all in stitches with her rendition of a tone deaf Broadway hopeful nervously auditioning and breaking down in mid-song. Many cocktails later, Christopher dueted with Michelle and for a moment I thought she might just collapse into a hopeless puddle in the middle of the living room.

Mark wanted to take a swim and I decided to join him. I had been dreading being seen in a bathing suit at a gay party all month (Hell, my whole life) but it was such a nice welcoming crowd I figured they wouldn't notice and if they did they would probably be too drunk to remember. It didn't help that insanely adorable little Joel with his perfect 90 pounds of zero body fat toned yumminess was already down there splashing around with the kids. Mark and I changed into our suits and headed down to the water. The lake was wonderful, just the right temperature. And I remembered as I came up for air after my first dive and looked over at the kids playing on the platform in the middle of the lake that I hadn't been swimming in a lake in 20 years. Not since Nanny and Poppy took me out to the lake they used to summer on when my mother was a kid. Suddenly I was eighteen, feeling the warm silt squish between my toes like it was the first time all over again.

Meanwhile on shore, Mike and Jonathan and Michelle got into a heated game of Holey Board (renamed this time as "cock rings and glory holes") with Logan, for whom Michelle more appropriately shared our inappropriate desire. And to be fair, at the party he was the perfect man: simultaneously handsome and feverishly anxious to make sure you never ran out of drinks. Turns out Jonathan is as sore a winner as I am, and things got a little heated but soon hot dogs from the grill and more cocktails from Logan made it all better again.

As the sun went down, a rumor of fireworks on the lake circulated through the party. The hours of food, merriment and mostly drink had started to take its toll. Mark, now drunk and swirling away in the hammock, decided that he wanted to watch the fireworks from on the lake. So, we borrowed the orange paddle boat and the two of us paddled out to the middle of the lake. It was so still and lovely on the lake, truly a perfect night. And there, mere feet away from us, the rockets fired off and exploded over our heads. It was magical. It was amazing. It was perfect. Behind us, the drunken party goers cheered and inside the boat the warmth of the night, the delight of the show, enveloped us.

And isn't that just the problem with life. It seems like just at the moment that you get used to how perfect something can be, the moment is over and it is time for the next thing. Minutes after we returned to the island from our paddling adventure, the daunting task of pouring the drunks out of the party into little row boats and then into the bus back to the city began in earnest. Christopher herded Mark, Michelle, Jonathan and the others out with the kind of ambition that wins elections, no doubt born of the past experience of waking up to find a heretofore unknown party guest passed out in the bushes and in need of a way back to civilization.

After most of the guests were safely on their way back to that other, less interesting island Manhattan, we settled into a more subdued but no less delightful party coda with Kevin and Christopher. Their work done, the teens decided it was time to swim, so off they went. Moments later, they returned dripping wet and nearly naked. I suppose I should applaud the kind of progress we have made that allows hot straight teen boys to feel comfortable enough in a room full of gay men to parade around in a wet bathing suit so low slung that it leaves nothing to the imagination, but at the risk of once again betraying my gay brethren, I wish they hadn't. Especially that scruffy blond one with the hot, sweet girlfriend. Him especially. All I could hear in my head when he walked back in from the lake was "There's sweet tea on the counter. I just have to put this laundry in the washer and I'll be right out."

Soon enough it was way past time for us to leave. Logan was off somewhere being half naked and handsome so Kevin offered to row us back to shore. It was probably for the best. I think if Logan had taken us back shirtless he would have only asked why I was crying the whole time and I just don't feel emotionally centered enough to tell him why. The ride home was an eventful adventure through every imaginable weather hazard including blinding rain and fog, sometimes at the same time. That seemed particularly fitting. Visiting the island is magical but it is a distinct place and time, far removed from the real world and I suppose not unlike Fantasy Island, with a lesson or two to be learned along the way. It isn't just tropical drinks and welcomes by the dock. It is also an opportunity for a little personal growth and adventure, and yes, even errands. Today Mike noticed how clean the car was after the torrential downpour on the way home from New Jersey. "Now we don't need to get the car washed." Another problem solved, another desire fulfilled, all in a day at Tamarack.