Friday, November 6, 2009

GUMBO Lone

I love Ben Harvey. I am just going to say it. He is so attractive and blond and trim and talented. Basically, he is everything I am not and wish I could be. What isn’t there to love about him? And lately, he has been throwing his hat into the club promotion ring. I recall my own disastrous foray into that business back in the fall of 2001, mostly because I wrote about it in my new book. (“Hey. Manhattan just suffered through the worst domestic attack ever a few days ago. How about launching a new club night across the street from the longest-running, most successful night in gay social history?!”). So I wanted to be supportive of his no-doubt more successful effort. Unfortunately, I was out of town for the first two, so I swore a blood oath I would be at the next one. And I was.

GUMBO is the name and it is a cute squish-up of Gay and DUMBO, an area of Brooklyn unknown to me because I think going South of fourteenth street in Manhattan is equivalent to swimming the English Channel. So an outerborough is completely out of the question. After all, I am the man who declared when he first moved to Manhattan that he would never take the subway and would only travel below Houston if he was fucking a celebrity. But it was for Ben Harvey! So I willingly and happily went.

Before I arrived in DUMBO, I had steeled myself for the kind of gritty urban streetscapes one might expect on a repeat viewing of “Escape From New York.” I was in for a shock. DUMBO isn’t just gentrified, whatever that means beyond “we priced anyone darker than a paper bag out of this real estate market.” It looks like they added a New York land to EPCOT. I was more concerned about getting mugged when I visited the New York backlot at FOX studios in the 90s because it was dirtier and scarier at midday than DUMBO at night. Filled with cozy upscale markets, quaint shops and downright precious cobblestones, I finally understood the outrage New Yorkers felt when Disney moved into Times Square and scrubbed away the porn and hookers.

The party was held in the Galapagos Art Space and it was very ultramodern: multimedia on the wall, quiet conversation nooks floating on water, Christian. Attending GUMBO, I had three goals: attend GUMBO to make good on my promise to Ben, regift a book about lifeguards to Matty Kelleher and also give Matty a copy of my book in which he is featured prominently. The first was easy, but the second two depended on finding Matt and then capturing his attention long enough to make the exchange. This is no easy task.

Along the way, I gave a warm hug of congratulations to Ben. I cornered Dave Rubin in a sexually aggressive way, like a cougar from Cougartown, blocking his escape from inside a floating banquette. It was either go through me or swim for it. I tried to talk to some new people, but they were all so young and mildly scruffy with their clingy cardigans and skinny pants over their skinny legs. This is the year of trying new things for me, but I think Brooklyn was enough new for one day. I don’t want to go overboard.

Finally, I found Matty and as I expected he would, he clapped his hands in delight, jumped up and down, and made a grabby fingers motion toward me to pull us together in a fun embrace. I had been warning him for weeks that the book was coming out and he was extremely excited to finally get his hands on it. Although when I gave him the second book, a regift from my friend Jennifer, I think there were some lifeguards in there he wanted to get his hands on too.



After talking to everyone twice, I started to head for the coat check. I had always planned on a quick visit, and knowing the planes, trains and automobiles it would take to get me home, Ben understood. As I grabbed my stuff, Chris and Cub were headed out in the same moment. Chris reiterated that they want to visit my house soon and Cub told a story about his coat that he bought as it was going out of style, watched it come back in style and was now still wearing it even though it was out of style again because he loved it. And that is why they are my new favorite couple of 2009. I thought they might be on the subway with me back to Manhattan but they suddenly splurged on a cab and I watched them pile into the car and pull away into the night. It all looked like a scene from a movie, the set was arranged and lit just right, with Manhattan shimmering in the background like a pearl.

By the time I reached the subway entrance, the gay din of the party had stopped ringing in my ears and the pristine cutesiness of DUMBO faded away to a more authentic, silent seediness under the bridge to Manhattan. I feel more at home in the grimy part of New York. Maybe it is because it is how I remember the city from my visits filled with wonder as a kid. Of course, now I live a world apart, far outside the city in my Douglas Sirk dreamscape, the cares and concerns of Manhattan now merely a set of small print columns in the copy of the New York Times I read on weekend mornings out on the patio. DUMBO too was like a fantasy bubble, like the one Glinda touched down in OZ in, and as pretty as it was, I think I like my fantasy life better.