Monday, October 13, 2008

Play Ball

I get so torn about my life in moments like this. On the one hand, I relish my anonymity and all the trappings of "real life." At the same time, I have frequent urges to be in the center of the action. These are the two pulls in my life, tearing me constantly in opposite directions at the same time. Earlier today I was enjoying my Sunday political shows (who knew McLaughlin was such a raving FDR devotee!) and then winterizing my house. It's a quiet existence where I am more concerned with what to watch on TV than who is watching me. But then later, I headed down to the city for dinner with Ben Harvey and a debaucherous turn at the Hustlaball.

It was a gorgeous fall day. Crisp, as we like to say. And the leaves were just starting to turn and drop, even as the sun shown warmly through the thinning branches. On days like this, I love the long walks the city affords and made the trek from Grand Central to Union Square on foot. Ben was waiting for me in the bar of Republic looking as handsome as ever. Has it really been so many months since I saw him last?

Republic is one of my favorite places in the city. It is communist dining at its finest: inexpensive, fast, spare and they serve thai ice tea and green tea ice cream, two of my greatest rare pleasures in life. It was all new to Ben so he stuck with the reliable pad thai while I indulged in spicy duck noodle broth. We gossiped about work, caught up on love (or lack thereof), shared chicken skewers. Aside from my total domination of the conversation, it was a perfect evening.

I regret to say that, in my usual fashion, I turned to Ben as we got our ice cream and said, "And now in our last five minutes, tell me all about you." Believe me when I say this was not the worst of my conversational crimes. I managed to weave a depressing zinger about our depressed economy as the punchline to nearly every sentence no matter the subject matter. Through it all, Ben was a terrific sport about the whole thing.

From there, I jetted down to the Hustlaball. Last year, I attended under the guise of being Chi Chi LaRue's assistant. This year, I was (thanks to Howard at FabScout) a bona fide invited guest. In many ways, I loved being mistaken for Chi Chi's minion. No one wanted anything from me save access to the terminally accessible and personable star herself. This year, still no one wanted anything from me, though ever the publicist, Howard made sure everyone knew who the hell I was. Though, the one person who had heard of OutQ mistook my show for another, accusing me of an appalling bit about selling a used condom full of cum at 9:30am! "That's our morning show," I assured him, finally with a sense of relief at not having to defend the lurid content of my own show for a change.

Barrett Long was there, looking dapper as we sat together in the VIP lounge. He was anxious to rehash our good times last year when his then roommate Rod Barry picked a drunken fight on the patio. Suddenly, sensing the moment, he stood up and started to unzip his pants. "I've seen it!" I said, but he was persistent. "Yes but you haven't sucked on it." I dodged the inevitable hand on the back of the head and stood up, firm in my conviction to not experience his mammoth eleven inch cock first hand. "I still have my tonsils, Barrett, and this is not how I want them taken out."

Ben Andrews was there early on doing his Clark Kent shtick, but I spent most of the evening with Jackson Wild and Ryan Raz. The two of them were still rattled from some unpleasantness the night before at Octoberfist, another adjunct Hustlaball event. Jackson was drinking up a storm, even charming me into a lemon drop shot I didn't want to do, while Ryan stuck dutifully to water knowing he had a scene to do in the morning with the aforementioned Barrett Long. I didn't envy his future soreness one bit, especially after Barrett told me that once it was in he wanted Ryan to spin on it.

Jackson was excited about the eminent arrival of his boyfriend Jim. After the show on Friday prepping for my last blog entry, I did some recon on the boys and read all about Jim on Jackson's MySpace page. Jackson's love for the hunky stranger seemed worthy to me and the two of us got along great. Good thing since we spent the better part of the evening together while the boys were working the red carpet and dancing on stage. In the interim, I coaxed Jim to take his shirt off and the two of us turned the VIP lounge into our own private dance party.

Events like the Hustlaball are dicey propositions, especially in the VIP room where the crowd is made up of porn stars and the men who love them. Many of the stars are reluctant participants and the admirers are too busy staring to have much fun. That leaves it up to in-betweeners like us to actually bring the party. As an invited guest, I did my best to shore up the proceedings, short of sucking Barrett Long. After all, when all is said and done, I am still just a civilian here, having fun but always with an eye on the door that leads out to the real world where I truly belong.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Prix de Beaute

Life divides people into two very subjective categories: fuckable and not fuckable. Of course who falls into which category is purely in the eye of the beholder. However, whole industries have sprung up dependent on the notion of fuckability. Tonight I experienced two of them up close: porn and underwear.

Howard Andrew of FabScout is in town for the Hustlaball. To kick things off, he dropped by the studio with three of his fuckable models. The most outgoing and flirtatious was Jackson Wild, whom I nicknamed Jackson Hole because it seems his ass is also a rugged destination. Howard barely knows me but his keen sense led him to believe (correctly) that I would be most attracted to Ryan Raz, a tan dirty blond with glacier blue eyes and jutting ears. Though the third, a quiet reserved Southern boy named Colton Steele, slight and furry, was probably the most compatible with me sexually.

After the show, they headed for The Eagle for the Hustlaball kick off party and I ventured down to Splash to watch Ronnie emcee an underwear model search for Instinct Magazine. Having pulled this kind of duty before, my sympathies were with Ronnie during the slapdash prolonged proceedings as they dragged on into the night. The event was poorly executed, with the models fully dressed for the overwhelming majority of the show. Even Ronnie was demurely attired much to the chagrin of the salivating crowd. Dan and his friend Patrick who was visiting from out of town joined me against their will at the bar, but we were all in agreement about the show. The bar was half empty and most of the bartenders looked more like underwear models than the contestants, but in every case, they were all quite fuckable.

After the judges declared the audience's least favorite the winner, the show was quickly over. I waited forever to say good bye to Ronnie who still had a bunch of signings and poses for pictures to do. He hugged me and after earlier admiring my new short hair whispered in his calm, even Midwest tone, "You look so beautiful." I might dine emotionally on that for as long as Bob Morris calling me "good looking" in the New York Times.

I decamped from Splash and headed to The Eagle, a purposefully dank playpen now around the corner from the priciest and most ludicrous straight clubs in the city. I found Howard and the boys upstairs. Brian had called my haircut a "Saturday night at The Eagle game changer" at Eric's party last month. Though perhaps because it was Friday the game hadn't seemed to change for me.

Jackson greeted me with the same wild "Let's do it RIGHT NOW!!!!" look that seems to be permanently in his eyes. Ryan was sweet and longing to be nuzzled in a rough and ready roundhouse ready for something else. Finally, appropriate to the venue and occasion, Colton appeared in nothing but a jockstrap. Apparently the alcohol had set in. Howard naturally took it all in with his usual sense of bemusement.

I admire how people I know in porn like Howard take it all in stride. They are plugged in to how fleeting it all is. You have to stay in the moment or the whole thing will consume you. The shelf life of a model is short, but it's even shorter for a porn star. So even though I will never be as fuckable as these porn pups or contestants in an underwear contest, I hope whatever beauty I do have is enough to carry me long term through all the many adventures yet to come.

Friday, October 10, 2008

My Vynl Offer

I am so tired of having the same conversation over and over with my friends. Tonight after the show, I soldiered down to local eatery Vynl to swill a few cocktails with Hottie Zach and flirt pointlessly with sexy bartender Aaron. It had all the makings of a perfect evening, combining three of my favorite activities. But as it always does lately, talked turned to the infamous J.

Zach is not just cream cheese pretty on the outside, his soft gooey center is equally hot and delicious. I would just have much preferred discussing his impending trip to Morocco (a long held fantasy of mine) or the carelessly hunky demeanor of Aaron (a decidedly briefer though no less intense fantasy) than the dead ended runaway mine car ride that was my association with J. But like all of my well-meaning NY friends, he is anxious for me to move, not just on, but up. It is a desire I do not share.

Perhaps I am just totally and completely out of my mind. This is a distinct possibility. But after twenty years of dating, and meeting quite literally tens of thousands of gay men on numerous continents, finally last November, I found someone that I felt such an intense connection with that I was willing to cast aside all preconceived notions, emotional insecurities and boundaries. For almost a year, I have unpeeled like an onion, growing more nakedly raw and smaller by the day, until now there is nothing left but the involuntary tears such a task is bound to draw. And to what end? The umpteenth conversation about how important it is to move on?

I am not a very good driver, dresser or investor, but my instincts about people are uncanny. And in my life, I have done very well letting the natural flow of things guide me to my next destination. With only minor hiccups here and there, I have alighted from an obscure trailer in rural Virginia to a national radio show in New York City with as thin a resume as Sarah Palin and a mere fraction of her ambition. Never have I been so wrong about a person as I have been with J. Never. And in my heart, I still refuse to believe I was wrong. And yet there is no denying the sorry state of affairs now.

Flirting with Aaron felt good. I can see now why people with no self esteem sleep around a lot, and always desperate to bed the hottest person they can. I have never been that guy and I haven't turned into him now. True I was always quite anxious in my twenties to have a boyfriend and live the settled down dream but more recently I realized what a hollow ambition that was. Then I met J and the echo flushed out, and I filled instead with the rush of promise. It feels like love, truly for the first time, but maybe it's just a midlife crisis. I never really felt a powerful love before but then again I've never had a midlife crisis before either. Maybe I just don't know the difference.

As I walked up the hill tonight to my house, the sky was a sea of stars. It was so magnificent and each time when I look up past my roof and the trees to the twinkling night, I am filled with awe that I own a small piece of this magic. I scanned the sky anxious to find my Friendly Star, but such things don't exist. I see the magic all around me but I feel now like a fool. Someone who believed in the reality of a paper moon sailing over a cardboard sea, only to have the harsh fluorescents of life clicked on suddenly revealing the sad flimsy truth. What is there to move on and up to, now that I have seen the magician's secrets revealed? What does it matter now that the lights are all on and everyone has gone home?

This weekend Jeff and Bond are coming up from Boston. More harmless flirting. And Sunday, Howard is taking me and his cadre of hot porn boys to the Hustlaball. Certainly one of them will be sexually satisfying, though more likely I will flirt around a while like I did with Aaron tonight and then lose interest in the pointlessness of it all. It is all so empty, like the vast hunger you feel hours after you finish a huge meal. So much greater and more painful a hunger than if you had never gorged at all.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Seeing Is Belying

Whenever I head out to the West Coast there are always too many people for me to see. I used to live there for 15 years and over time, I have accumulated a massive number of friends and family. Now gone almost a decade, the friends and family have only grown, making short visits back even more taxing. I want to see everyone and it is just physically impossible.

Some years ago, I sent an email to all of my friends with carved out time slots and asked them to pick a time that worked for them. This annoyed them to all end. I was just trying to be efficient but it struck them all as typical self-centered Derek behavior. The blow back was so intense that I hardly bother telling anyone I am coming to town anymore. If it is someone I really want to see, I make a big effort to make a connection happen. If not, and they run into me accidentally on a sidewalk in West Hollywood, oh well.

Aside from my family, there were only two old friends I really, really wanted to see. Ben Patrick, who I don't think I have seen in person since we were at the Gay Games together in Chicago in 2006 and David, who I have been trying to convince for months to get out of his townhouse and move to New York City. On the newer friend front, I did want to see Jason, as well as Jeremy and Ross. Jeremy and Ross both planned to be guests on the radio show when we did our live remote from the House of Blues during Gay Days, but work interfered and we pushed it off to Sunday.

As it happens, Jason and Jeremy ended up being sluggish homebodies and suddenly lacked the power to leave their couches and one assumes open bottles of wine. Ben Patrick was sick and wanted to meet up on Monday when he was feeling better but I was already back in New York by then. But Ross agreed to join me out for an early drink, so even though my batting average was terrible, I did make at least a couple of hits.

I dropped my tiny backpack off at David's picture-perfect townhouse. He marvelled at my ability to travel light and immediately suggested we backpack across Europe together. Maybe after my new hip. We walked down the hill to Eleven which used to be a Bell Telephone switching station and is now the kind of fancy gay bar with bottle service, velvet banquettes and the shelf life of fresh milk. It seemed to be packed entirely with men entering a fictional big arm contest, all of them knew David, whose own arms were definitely in contention.

Ross joined us midway through our first drink and I have to tell you: that boy is famous! He couldn't move through that bar without someone saying what a fan they were. Such an opportunity for him to be a whore and sleep his way through the steroidal mountains of the west side, but instead he was just polite and smiley and quickly moved on.

I noticed adult star Blake Riley dancing on one of the bars. As he scanned the bar with a come hither look designed to elicit tips, his demeanor changed suddenly to shy embarrassment when he realized he was coming on to me. I ran over and gave him a quick hug and carried on the kind of conversation one has when one runs into a friend who is dressed only in dollar stuffed briefs. Just like the stripper stereotype, he is working his way through school and I have to say I was genuinely impressed with his planned post-porn career path.

Even though later I saw Jerell from this current season of Project Runway quite literally twirling through Here Bar, the highlight sighting of the night was when I spotted Thomas Roberts across the bar at Eleven. I have had a major crush on him since his earliest days on CNN. I love his shy snaggletooth smile and gently hunky way. Now off TV, I was dying to have him back on the radio show, if not my lap, so I ran over to give him my card. He was quite drunk, celebrating his birthday, but he politely remembered our interview almost three years ago. He even held my hand while talking, which was the kind of personal touch that sent me over the edge, even as he used his other hand to point out his insanely hot boyfriend across the way in between tequila shots.

Later Ross headed back home and David and I went to dinner at my old haunt Tango Grill. The owner Gene was there and hardly recognized me with my short shorn hair and one assumes the intervening years. Darin and my old LA roommate Eric surprised us at dinner and then coaxed us to drive up the hill to their fabulous new penthouse high above Fountain. David and I zipped up in my rented convertible to check it out. The view was spectacular and the apartment massive, but it seemed as though they were living with an entire cast of reality show characters, as if the original Real World LA camera crew left in 1992 and the participants just stayed behind waiting to grow into the VH-1 generation. They both seemed really happy there and I hate to begrudge their decision, but it was a Penthouse of Horrors for me. The last place I want to be as I am dragged screaming into the ever-widening abyss of middle age is in a rented apartment with five roommates. That is the stuff of recent college grads and gold digging hussies in classic Hollywood gems like How To Marry A Millionaire.

All too soon, I was headed off to the airport in the pre-dawn hours to fly back to New York. I would love to convince David to abandon his rut and move to the glamour and excitement of Manhattan, but with winter around the corner and the economy in free fall, now hardly seems the time for a bold gesture. I know my suburban life works for me, but maybe it isn't right for him. Seeing Darin and Eric's place, I know they have moved in other directions. I suppose there is no right way to do anything. All you can do is your best. And choosing where to live and being able to see the people you want to see is always more about timing and luck than it is about desire. Maybe someday I will live in perpetual summer again, if the timing is right, but for now, it's a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there.