Yes, it is true. I did have a pack of Twizzlers in my back pocket. But I also had them for a very good reason. After I stepped out of the subway on Canal Street, I searched around desperately for one of the tiny grocery stores (known as bodegas) that are everywhere in New York City, except where and when you really need one. I had just finished doing the show for the night and my breath was terrible. Truly terrible. I am going to LA in two weeks and am desperate to lose thirty pounds of fat and gain twenty pounds of muscle without doing anything more serious than have my usual large salad at lunch knocked down to a small. So I can’t blame my healthy eating. But it was the end of a long day and I was dying for a breath mint and I couldn’t find a store for love or money.
But then again, I couldn’t find The Canal Room either. How times have changed since I first moved to Manhattan in 2001 and famously declared that I wouldn’t go South of Houston unless I was fucking a celebrity. Is Canal South of Houston? Does anyone really know after you leave the safe confines of 14th Street, where (by the way) there is a bodega overflowing with breath mints every ten feet. So when I finally found a store around the corner from The Canal Room, I grabbed a small pack of “reward” Twizzlers for later along with the Breathsavers I hoped beyond hope would save my breath. As I paid, I rationalized that if I had Twizzlers in my pocket, I wouldn’t be tempted at 1am to eat a 20 piece at McDonald’s on my way to the train, knowing full well as I pocketed the change that I, being me, would of course, eat both. And have a Dr. Pepper too. But, you know, just a small.
I am certain that Jeff does not have these kinds of problems. He is young and handsome and blond and his body is ridiculous. We met outside of the Canal Room where he was accompanying my new friend Ryan White, and all of us were waiting to get into Gumbo Pop, yet another of Ben Harvey’s wildly successful nights about town. Also waiting with us was Jeff Eason, the NEXT Magazine photographer who shot the cover of my new book, and who I just saw a few nights ago at the Blendr launch party which I enjoyed but didn’t write about.
It turns out that both Ryan W. and Jeff R. are recent émigrés to Manhattan, although they knew each other before. They had been friends in San Francisco before Ryan went to China and now both of them are living in New York and happily reacquainted. Jeff looked really familiar but it is impossible for me to know him. Perhaps he is one of the handsome men that Facebook is forever telling me that I may already know because we have twenty-three hot men in common. Ryan and Jeff are just back from Provincetown, where they spent a very pleasant Labor Day weekend. There they met Ryan M. and Dwayne and even though it took us a minute and Ryan had shaved his head, we realized that we already knew each other.
“I was in my underwear in your studio!”
“I think I follow you on Twitter now!”
Conversations in the gay community are a lot of things, but subtle is simply not one of them. But let this be a lesson for small town gays frustrated by their small town gay lives. You would think that moving to the biggest city in the world would allow you to lose yourself in a new group of people, but you are wrong. I met Ryan W. in a taxi after Reichen’s fragrance launch party. Ryan W. brought Jeff R. to Gumbo Pop tonight. Jeff R. met Dwayne and Ryan M. in Provincetown. See, you can’t even leave town to meet new people. The gay community is like Al Pacino’s line in the Godfather 3, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”
It is not surprising that I ran into Ronnie Kroell at Gumbo Pop either. Ronnie was in the latest Eating Out movie with Chris Salvatore who was performing at Gumbo Pop and was on our show promoting his music last year and who was on Ben Harvey’s podcast a few weeks ago and Ben, well, you know the rest. It is like an endless gay loop. You run as fast as you can but you just end up back in the same place you were before. But when everyone is as handsome as all of these men, what difference does it make if you can’t leave?
“Do you know David? From the Real World.” Ronnie asked me, pointing into the murky darkness of gay men by the bar. I had no idea who he was pointing to and frankly my first thought (with good reason!!!) was, “Is that the guy who was our waiter at ELMO three years ago who was so bitter?” But I think that guy was on the Road Rules Challenge or that dating show where the guys wait on a bus to have their best pick up line shot down at the curb. Whatever was happening in my head didn’t matter because not knowing that guy from the Real World just reminded me so palpably how, like a slingshot, I am being hurtled further and faster from the Clearasil generation with every passing moment, like a rocket that once struggled to leave Earth’s atmosphere and now oh so casually drifts away from the solar system, never to be seen again.
As if to prove the point, early onset deafness caused me to mishear his name as David when in fact it was Davis from the Real World. Actually, yes I do remember hearing about Davis, before, but by then the damage was done. I had already introduced Davis to Ryan W. as David (“That happens all the time,” Ronnie tried to assure me) and my profuse apologies in the moment didn’t seem to help matters. But later after I danced with his tiny and exuberant female friend from Staten Island, we discussed the finer points of what makes a star and Davis seemed to warm up to me. And I am glad. Because unlike that waiter at ELMO he once stayed with, Davis offered to get me a drink when mine was empty and in all manner was a very nice person.
But I couldn’t have another drink. I had to leave. As it was, Ryan W. and Jeff R. had already taken off for Rockit (taking I assume Ryan M. and Dwayne along for the ride). Ryan W. asked me if I wanted to go with them, but my feelings about Rockit are already well known. As I said my good-byes, I ran into Dan and Henry, which surprised me. I thought they were in Connecticut now! I was glad I did, not just because I really like seeing them, but when Dan congratulated me on my new book, I got to tell him the happy news that they are both in it. “Your New Year’s Eve party is the final chapter!” I told Dan and he couldn’t have been more pleased.
It is good for some stories to have happy endings. For all of my feelings of joyous isolation in the wilds of Westchester, it turns out that I do know quite a few people. In fact, just tonight, I ran into enough hot guys to fill a sixteen month calendar without repeats. That is a good strategic place to be in, especially in the gay community. And as I waited for the train, fretting that I didn’t have enough time to get something to eat at McDonald’s, I remembered that pack of Twizzlers in my back pocket and once again, all was right with the world.