Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Glitter And Be Gray

It never occurred to me that this post would end up being about Gray. After all, I hardly know him. And in most of my blog entries, he is a secondary figure, mostly lurking in the shadows. I have made fleeting references here and there but he has never been the subject. Not even a featured player really. If anything, a dress extra. We aren’t even Facebook friends! But suddenly the episode has turned out all about him, even in his own fleeting way.

Last night started out as usual. My annual Spring ritual of returning to Bowery Bar on the first decent Tuesday evening of the year. I try to make it downtown at least twice a year. Once in the Spring and finally on what appears to be the last good Indian Summer night of the Fall. The latter is much harder to time. As I have written before, Beige, like the gay men who attend, is a fair weather friend. You don’t want to rely on it for anything important. It is just there to be fun and pretty and forgotten quickly when things turn dark.

I wanted to spend the evening with Matt Kugelman since Bowery Bar is where we met last year. I was out with Clayton and we rescued poor innocent Matt from standing on one of those sidewalk gratings out front. This began a quick but frankly awesome friendship. And he was there, already drunk when I arrived, with his friend Chip. But they didn’t last long. Moments later, I turned around and they were gone. Later I got some text messages from Matt about a raunchy burp and tequila. Enough said!

Fortunately, I ran into Chris and Cub, who were standing with that hot bartender Aaron who loves my show. One of the few gay men in NYC that has heard it and he is hot too! What a bonus. I first met Chris and Cub at Ben Harvey’s alliterative birthday brunch and spoke more with Chris than with Cub. This time around, Cub and I got into deep far-reaching conversations about the role of academia in the ongoing collapse of the American Empire. He thought they should change from majors to interests to better match the world at large while I wondered if they could even change fast enough with our rapidly evolving times. And I wondered if Americans were adept enough to adapt to a world changing so quickly around them now that they have no skills. Kind of deep for a bar that serves up nearly as many cocktails on a Tuesday night as it does new cases of syphilis.

Well all of that didn’t last long because they had to run out of there, dodging some crazy drunk mess like a creditor. That left me standing alone in the bar once again. Earlier I had spotted Gray and walking in right behind him, Matty. I knew they were still in the bar somewhere. But where? I sent Matty some text messages. No response. A few laps and I was about to throw in the towel. Finally, I found them, hiding in the SE corner of the bar, down where I never go because that outside bar doesn’t stock peach schnapps so I can never get a sex on the beach there.

Matty and Gray were huddled in a deep conversation of their own, too deep for me to want to wade into. So I hung back with trim marathon runner Andrew. His eyes looked especially blue but he also seemed a little weary of the whole bar thing. Beige can do that to you. He was standing with a guy I have met before but didn’t remember the name of. The guy said I was cute but then got annoyed that I lived upstate, basically implying that I was cruelly waving goods in front of people like they were available only to snatch them out of grasp seconds later. It turns out that he was quite drunk, like all the men that flirt with me are, and as soon as Matty and Gray finished their huddle, they dispatched him quickly to the nearest exit, and one assumes rehab facility.

We all wandered a bit and ended up hanging out with Jared who does the Sexy Back Thursdays @ The Park party with Matty. I had never met him before, but Matty took a snazzy photo of him in front of the Bowery Bar sign. I talked a bit with Andrew and give him my theory about why I thought Bowery Bar was still a success after all these years. “It’s the tables,” I told him. “They leave them out and it makes it impossible to get around. But that also makes everyone easy to see but hard to attain. A challenge. So the place always feels packed and the guys are always just a little out of your reach.” He liked my theory and I have to say, it was pretty good. Better than my academic musings with Cub where I, as a lowly college dropout, was way out of my league. My major in college? Sleeping in and skipping my morning classes.

Andrew wasn’t drinking and was feeling a lot of pressure to be drunk like everyone else. Bowery Bar is a peer pressure kind of place, as Cub pointed out earlier referencing his own flip flops in a sea of trendy Converse shoes. I always seem to be swimming against the tide on points like this, even if Babst has accused me in the past about caring more about fitting in than I like to let on. As for sobriety however, I have to admit, I was on Andrew’s side on this one. Being around drunk gays is no fun if you are sober. They are so annoying and messy and obvious. Which oddly enough brings me back to Gray.

I love the movie “Defending Your Life” and in it Buck Henry has a short scene as Albert Brooks’ fill-in attorney: Dick Stanley. “He’s a good man. Quiet but effective.” That’s Gray. He plays it all very close to the vest. He is like the polar opposite of me. My emotions are like weather patterns moving across a Doppler radar map. If severe thunderstorms are on the horizon, you know it! But Gray gives you nothing. He is probably an excellent poker player. When he wants to give you blank, that’s what you get. He is the master of the expressionless expression. And what a contrast to Matty and his whirling dervish of vitality. Gray fascinates me because he is like a neatly wrapped present that you can’t quite pull the bow off of. You want to know what is inside but you can’t get past the beautifully constructed exterior.

And then he was gone. A lovely soft kiss good bye and then a blur into the hazy crowd of gay chattering. Matty was dragging Andrew out of there too, though he was more than willing to make a run for it on his own. I piled into a cab and headed uptown to my waiting car in the parking garage around the corner from my office. My long drives back to the suburbs always give me time to reflect. It made me wish for a moment that I was an international man of mystery like Gray. But then I realized, in my twice yearly appearances at Bowery Bar in my wrong shoes and nine dollar shirts, I already am. So maybe in one small way, Gray and I have something in common. And I don’t mind that at all.


Erick E said...

Gray = Ted Koppel

Anonymous said...

Great writing! I wish you could follow up to this topic???