Friday, February 27, 2009

Hat People

At the R/W subway station near the Flatiron Building on 23rd street, the walls are decorated with tiles representing famous hats of famous people. There’s P.T. Barnum and far below his hat, the hat of General Tom Thumb. There are colorful tile hats for philosophers and actors, artists and dancers. Isadora Duncan’s hat is there, even though she is probably now more famous for her scarf. I love the walls of tile hats inside the subway station and I wonder if it is too soon for Aretha Franklin’s now famous Inauguration bow hat to join the ranks. We all wear different hats at different times and it was never more evident to me than it was this week as I saw two notable friends wearing decidedly different hats.

On Tuesday night after the show I headed downtown to Paris Commune, where I had such a nice time a few months back. It was back to the Rouge Room in the basement where my beautiful friend Ronnie Kroell was having a release party of sorts for his latest venture. Ronnie is well known from his constantly nearly naked turn on Make Me A Supermodel last year and since then we have become good friends. Now in the receding shadow of fashion week he is launching a new (and I suppose simultaneous) career as a singer. Ronnie is a sweet and wonderful guy and I am sure he can do anything he puts his mind and talents to. Singing may not have been the next logical step for him, especially after all of his political stumping this fall, but in this economy, in the immortal words of Kang and Kodis contemplating a series of Old Navy ads, “work is work.”

When I arrived, I immediately recognized Perry from the show, even though I had never met him. He had a ski cap on his head and a rumpled plaid shirt and he was so thin, TV thin. Just the way I would have imagined him. The Rouge Room is not large but it was crowded, so it took me a moment to find Ronnie in the melee. He was standing with Supermodel judge Tyson Beckford, whom I have seen on TV and in print many, many times. I have always thought he was extremely attractive but in person he has an otherworldly beauty that is nothing short of insane. Who looks like that? No one. Tyson. That’s it. Looking at him, it is impossible to imagine another career for him. He was designed by the hand of God to model. If he had been born 500 years ago, Michelangelo would have chiseled him in stone and then wept at his own inability to fully capture his essence for the ages. Fortunately for us, in our time we have Ralph Lauren ad slicks to commit him to eternity.

Ronnie has such a warmth about him that hugging him always feels like greeting finally a long lost and much loved relative. His firm low brow, stony chin and pouty lips remind me (when pulled down in gravity) of the face of the Statue of Liberty. I have not heard his music, but it doesn’t matter. I am his biggest champion. I hate how busy he has been that we haven’t had any real time to catch up and hang out. As we embraced in the Rouge Room, he reminded me of the last time we saw each other, too long ago. He asked when he was coming back up to my house. “Anytime!” I assured him as I squeezed his arm and rested my head on his shoulder, my home and heart wide open to him always.

Two nights later, the same drill, with me dashing out after the show and heading downtown on the R train, this time to Aspen, a bar in the grey shadow of the Flatiron Building. There is a Thursday party there called Jack which one of the weary patrons explained to me while I was waiting in a booth in back. “The theme was lumberjacks. Big guys in plaid shirts. But it’s less bear now than it used to be. I don’t know why.” Usually I get a “don’t like” vibe from slick gay men in bars but this guy went straight to “don’t care” and after briefly engaging after my question, returned to ignoring and imagining better people sitting near him. While not the bear stop it used to be, the bar was still packed, jammed with eager twenty-somethings buzzing around inside the latest hive.

I dropped by to check in on Erik Rhodes who has been like a magician’s rabbit of late. His blog postings have been sporadic at best and my phone calls and emails had gone for weeks unreturned. He passed a birthday completely in silence and I suspected that his rollercoaster dating life was as much to blame for his absence as the additional candle on his cake. Then last week he finally made a new post on his blog prompting me to send him a txt message: “Done pouting yet?” Two hours later, two simple words from his road back to reality: “I guess.”

Erik is now bartending at Jack @ Aspen, so even though I knew we wouldn’t have a lot of time to talk, at least I would see him. But he was the first to see me. While texting him to find out where he was, he suddenly appeared in the crowd and rushed over to hug me. It was great to see him again, looking good and all in one piece. “I was so worried about you. I almost went to your apartment to check up on you.” I told him when we finally connected in the back of the bar. He looked the part but I could see that he was struggling. I don’t know that bartending is the future for him, but he sure is giving it the old college try. The problem though, as I explained to Ken Hunt who was also hanging out at Aspen tonight, is that Erik bartending is a little bit like getting stuck behind the old lady at the supermarket. The customer wants their moment. In the case of the old lady, it may be her only meaningful human interaction all day (“The grandkids never call. My son doesn’t visit.”). For the gays, they want a photo or to bask in the glow of Erik’s massive arms and rippling torso. And all he wants to do is just pour them a fucking drink and make a life for himself while he still can. But the gays each want to wrench as much as they can out of their vodka cranberry experience with him and seconds later the line is a mile long and no one has a drink in their hands. It’s not Erik’s fault either. He is a God among men. It just impedes his ability to function among the mortals, especially when they won’t get out of the way.

I have had a lot of jobs in my life and some of them I loved and some I hated. Some I was really good at but most of them were all wrong for me. I like where I am now, writing and talking on the radio. These are good occupations for me. I get to express myself creatively but I don’t have to labor too hard. Perfect for a lazy narcissist like me. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right place for yourself. It took me 15 years of trial and error to get it right. That’s a long time. Maybe Ronnie will be a big music star, dancing around on stage with his shirt open to thousands of screaming and adoring fans. And maybe Erik will develop the acumen for being one hell of a bottle jockey. Perhaps these are the hats that will someday adorn the walls of the 23rd street subway station. Or perhaps they will be as temporary as a paper crown at Burger King.

Personally I have never been much of a hat person myself.

1 comment:

Viewtiful_Justin said...

I love the extended analogy here. I'm always surprised when I find great blog writing, although I shouldn't be surprised to find it here. Witty and thoughtful as ever.