Saturday, October 31, 2009

On The Eve Of The Eve

Manhattan is a magical place. There is a reason they made a movie called “Miracle on 34th Street” and, despite the miracle mile moniker, didn’t set it on Wilshire in Los Angeles. LA is where you go to wish for a miracle and Manhattan is where you go to actually experience them. Where LA’s streets are littered with parking fines and moving violations, I found actual cash, $120, on the sidewalk in New York. After several days in glamorous broken down Hollywood, I was ready for the full treatment in Manhattan and the little island delivered.

In honor of robust sales of my new book, I decided to splurge on a new espresso machine for the house. But now having fancy coffee, we needed something to serve it in. The night before Halloween, I was coming into town anyway for Henry and Dan’s party and to have dinner with Matt Kugelman. So I got there a little early and raced to the Crate and Barrel on 60th. But no! It closed at 8pm, not 9pm like I thought. The security guard assured me that the location on 14th street was still open, but I told him I had dinner plans and couldn’t possibly make it down there in time and I did come all the way from Westchester.

“Just this once.” He said as he let me, even though the store had closed moments earlier. A Manhattan miracle! $80 and five minutes later, I raced out of there with espresso cups and latte mugs galore, my joy in the city instantly reconfirmed. After dropping my packages in my car at the garage, I wandered down to meet Matt for a little Mexican food. We had a wonderful dinner and I tried to get him to come to the party but he had other people he needed to meet at Rockit at eleven. So since it was only ten, we split the baby and I joined him for a drink at Barrage to keep him company until his thing at 11pm. We parted and I hopped onto the subway uptown.

Henry and Dan threw an amazing New Year’s Eve party two years ago and I was anxious to attend another of their parties. At the time they had been living in an incredible building with views of the Hudson River but the invite for their Halloween Housewarming alerted me to the Central Park West location of their new digs.

I got off the subway and walked two blocks looking for the address. Along the way, I passed a castle with a large courtyard out front overlooking Central Park. “That can’t be it,” I thought to myself as I kept walking. “They can’t possibly live in a castle.” But of course they do. And the second floor ballroom in the turret? Not a day room for all the residents but instead, their elegantly appointed living room.

The party was insane. Filled with room after incredible room of hot hunks in hot costumes. The 1920s styling was intact throughout and the apartment wove its away around the entire floor of the building. I ran into Chris and Cub there, who like me, were not wearing costumes and I have never been so relieved to see two people in my life. In the elevator, I had ridden up with two guys who took one look at me and asked, “This is a costume party right?”

“Costumes were optional,” I told them, “Don’t worry. I didn’t dress up either."

They gave me a funny look. “I’m Rocky Balboa,” one of them said while the other donned sunglasses and assured me he was Donnie Brasco. Well, I wasn’t looking to make any new friends in the elevator anyway.

Also at the party, I ran into Ryan, who looked ready to be defiled in an ancient way in his toga while his friend Mike ran around dressed as a tight end, no doubt looking for someone to throw long and go deep with. Henry and Dan were busy hosting and having a fun time, although Henry kept herding people out of crowded nooks into less crowded ones after some real firemen showed up to inspect the size and density of the party crowd. “Into the library!” he called to me as Cub and I tried to leave the kitchen and return to Chris in the living room. I felt like a game piece on a Clue board.

The apartment made me feel bad about myself but in a laughable, nonsense way. My friends live in a castle! That’s ridiculous. No one lives in a castle. LA makes you feel like a failure all the time because nothing there is every good enough, young enough, shiny enough or new enough. But NYC is an impossible place filled with impossible things. On the news they said that the mayor was the richest man in New York City and I just thought, “How can that be? How can anyone be the richest anything here?” It’s all too much. The heights are so high in Manhattan that they are literally impossible to scale so no one has to feel bad that they didn’t make it. So while you can live in a castle, no one expects you to. Here in New York, you are a hero just for finding a decent one bedroom apartment for under $1500 a month. And there are small miracles inside latte mugs.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Los Angeles is a cruel episode of The Twilight Zone. I spent several days out there this week for my birthday and as usual, it did not disappoint. I have a rule about visiting LA that I have to go for a minimum of three days. In the first two days, it is easy to fall back in love with the wonderful weather and the hot men around every corner. At the end of day two, you start debating in your head if you are cool enough to live in Los Feliz or such an alcoholic that only West Hollywood makes any practical sense. And then on day three, the shit hits the fan.

In my case, it was the $280 parking ticket I got around the corner from The Waffle, a fabulous 70s themed diner with a Brady Bunch staircase and brown and orange d├ęcor. “Did you park on a baby?!” was the incredulous response from a friend of mine. Oh no. Just a poorly marked bus zone in a bankrupt city in a bankrupt state desperate for cash.

On Tuesday night, I went to dinner with Mike, who was with me on the trip, Cyd and Dan recently relocated to the LA cast and Jason. We went to Vermont, a new restaurant on Vermont where my friend Brandon works, which several years too late picked up the generic restaurant name trend that haunted Manhattan in the 90s (I’m looking at you Food Bar, Cafeteria, et al). It is a companion place to Rockwell, the outdoor venue next door that my friend Jeremy tried to convince me to have an LA-based birthday party at. After our dinner, I am relieved that I was too lazy to pull something together there.

Turns out the bad service at Vermont was genetic since the place is owned by the same people who brought you my personal LA hell restaurant Mark’s on La Cienega. The last time I ate there I waited an hour and a half to be seated inside a dumpster because my biceps weren’t big enough and I wasn’t sufficiently famous. We sat inside at Vermont but under a strangely placed tree, which combining the horrible waiter with my nasty cold, made me long for a noose. I don’t understand how LA, a city populated entirely by waiters, past and present, can have a single restaurant with a middle aged server who can’t get a single aspect of your order right. By Wednesday morning, I couldn’t get on the plane back to New York fast enough.

It is disheartening to think that the city I lived in for fifteen years can now cause a near allergic reaction. Part of me really wants to move back, to take up with my old friends. To spend more time with my family. To get off work at 7pm and have a real life like a real human being. Plus, the new Pavilions in West Hollywood is amazing. If I moved back, I would want to have my mail forwarded to the produce section. But as I collapsed with some relief in my window seat on the flight home, I knew that as much as LA has to offer, it just doesn’t offer enough. It’s a bad ex-boyfriend you still love who is really sorry for everything but you know in your heart will never change. And I am better off without him.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Big Chill

It’s cold. And I know that no one moves to New York for the weather. But still. It is worth mentioning that it is cold. Yesterday, it snowed. In the middle of October. My carefully drawn cotton cobwebs decorating my Douglas Sirk-inspired Cape Cod were laced with real live snowflakes, two weeks before Halloween. It’s most frustrating because we didn’t even have a summer this year. It was just one long rainy spring with five warm days in August, and now this.

In the elevator tonight after the show, Father Dave gently chided me that my fabulous grey wool fall coat wasn’t equal to the weather. It is one of my few possessions that I would actually put into the fashion category. Normally, that coat, with its family von Trapp precision cut, lasts me well into December when I replace it with a bulky snow parka, shades of Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club. I don’t even know where my leather gloves are. Father Dave is right. I have been caught unawares by the weather.

Not that I have any great love for Bowery Bar and the Stepford gays that swirl around inside it like lost guppies, but I do have an annual tradition of visiting on the last bearable Tuesday evening of autumn. Now I fear I have already missed my window. Where will the gays go, now that Fire Island was a soggy, damp huddle around a firepit and their only viral infection this summer was Miley Cyrus’ “Party In The U.S.A.?” Frost has already descended on the Central Park ramble and they will soon, I have no doubt, open the Highline for ice skating.

Monday night I ran down to The Ritz to see Bianca’s show and hang out with Matt Kugelman, the only good thing that has ever happened to me at Bowery Bar aside from that accidental blow job I got a couple of years ago. I don’t know what happened. Matt and I had a good rhythm going of partying down, pulling it together and then partying down a few days later. I blame the self-imposed end of my blog. The unexamined nightlife is not worth living, I guess.

I told Bianca to put Bobby in the show and he was definitely a crowd pleaser. I wish I had taken some pictures. It was fun, but even The Ritz, usually a reliable screeching twink explosion was down to a dull roar. Then again, it was a Monday night, so I suppose they can be forgiven for lacking their usual Saturday night specialness. After all, how can I complain about a slow evening as the nightcap to a weekend where I hung out with more hung porn stars than you can shake a dick at and slept with one of them?

But as I turn around in bar after restaurant after bar in this town, I am starting to think I am not the only one whose party persona is as worn and threadbare as the fashionably unemployed men that populate the grainy/fabulous black and white images of 1930s Manhattan, fedoras pulled low over unshaven grim faces, suit collars turned up against a chilly economy. Perhaps I have been underestimating the financial deathblow our country has been blown. Or maybe I am not the only one craving a solid night of rest in the city that never sleeps.

Friday, October 2, 2009

About Derek's New Book

Okay. Finally after all of these years, I wrote a book. It is called Colonnade: A Life In Columns and it is coming out on my birthday: October 28th! If you want to order a signed copy, you can click here.

Want to know what the book is about? It's about 380 pages and it has a lot of very unfortunate sexual adventures on my part (with mostly comic results), drunken stories out on the town with my friends in 2001 and 2002 and the best part... I come off as self-centered, desperate and sad (no big surprise). But most of it is really funny. Here is the back cover blurb:

Colonnade: A Life In Columns is a wild journey through gay Manhattan at the beginning of the 21st Century. Columnist Derek Hartley recounts his first two years in the city and his attempts to turn himself into a local celebrity with a little help from his friends. Along the way he experiences love and heartache, tragedy as a first-hand witness to the events of 9/11, personal and professional failures and his eventual rise as a radio talk show host in this unflinching look at a life lived in the big city.

Through it all, his weekly columns include tons of insight into the world of online dating, sex and romance. They are combined here for the first time with the unvarnished truth of the story behind the story, giving a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a writer. Colonnade: A Life In Columns also includes some of Hartley’s most popular columns including:

*Ten Essentials In Your Search For Love

*The Seven Deadly Gay Sins

*The Seven Heavenly Gay Virtues

Plus, Hartley explains how to survive a gay cruise, inconsiderate orgasm guy, the dynamics of a successful three-way and tips for winning the games men play. With nearly 100 original columns included along with sordid tales of sex and celebrities, Colonnade: A Life In Columns has a little something for everyone looking for adventure in the big apple.

(If I tagged you in this note on Facebook, it is because you are in the book.)