Saturday, June 23, 2012

Guy Society

There is never anything I want to do more on a Friday night after the show than go home. But my world has been shattered since the death of James last week and it has created a certain fever pitch of impetuosity on my part. I thought about the last time I saw him, sweating like a whore in church at XL a few months ago. And maybe it was the magical thinking that if I just went out to every bar in town, eventually I would see his hulking frame lumbering through the space like an elephant moving slowly through the jungle, a catastrophe of casual destruction in his wake.  Like the months after 9/11 when I would gaze down Seventh Avenue at Times Square hoping to catch a glimpse of the twin towers, I think I will forever be looking over my shoulder with a sense of maybe.

In my grief, I sent a flurry of messages to my local friends that I had been remiss in seeing these past few weeks. I guess the arrival of spring had made me anxious to wring every second of delight out of my house that I can and my friendships, long on nightlife support, finally faded away. Ryan White and I planned to get together this week and then never did, but MattKugelman and I shared a delightful late meal at Vinyl on Monday. My friend Erik and I made plans to venture down to The Park on Thursday but fearing the zit on my nose would get worse, I pawned him off to a Friday party in SoHo.

Through my job, I get invited to functions all the time. Unfortunately, most of them take place during the actual hours of our show so I never get to go. There was an OUT Magazine party for pride earlier this week that I contemplated attending, but by the time I decided for sure, the party list was full. Curses. But I was invited to another party tonight and even though I didn't know who invited me or why or what it was for, I said yes because it sounded fancy and they promised a pass around dinner. I didn't really know what a pass around dinner was but turning down free food has never been my strong suit. And since I have been eating what  can only be described as monastic cat food for six months to lose 25 pounds (20 of which is now a dim memory), the idea of not eating fancy food around fancy people was almost too much to bear.

Erik and I headed down to SoHo after the show to what turned out to be a gorgeous penthouse inside an old industrial building that looked suspiciously of the ilk of the place The First Wives Club ended up calling home. As we stepped out of the private elevator, I spotted Wilson Cruz waiting in line to leave. “Hello and good bye,” I said to him so fast he didn’t even have a chance to register who I was. As we moved into the party, I realized he would probably be the last person (aside from Erik) that I even tangentially was related to. Happily I was grossly mistaken.

Almost immediately, I spotted Ryan standing next to Toby and stationed very near to the bar. It feels like exactly where I left him. He was overjoyed at the happenstance of running into each other, but not nearly as excited as Jeffrey was when he spontaneously appeared in a trim blue striped shirt just a little too open to be anything but a fierce demand of attention. He had stiff competition in the cadre of waifish waiters who moved through the crowd with a level of fragile confidence rarely seen outside the walk fresh inductees take as they enter a prison corridor filled with rattling cages. Jeffrey needn't have worried. His plea for attention was answered by a lonely soul who leaned over his shoulder and whispered, “If your pants were any tighter, I’d come.”

I mean, hopefully not directly on the pants. They were very nice.

Most of my evening was spent trying to solve two mysteries. The first was a handsome guy in a tank top who I saw when we first walked in and am certain I have seen before. In that same tank top. And not like when I was joking at The Ritz with Toby about his tank top and scarf, though I am fairly certain I didn’t imagine that notion completely out of thin air. But then maybe he just looked familiar because every gay man looks familiar eventually because being gay is genetic and people who are the same genetically look the same. Logically, all gay people should all look vaguely familiar, like distant relatives. And in the case of gay men, very distant, to the point of rudely ignoring you in a crowded place.

I figured out that the handsome owner of the tank top was named Ben and since he worked at Ralph Lauren, I have no doubt I met him out and about one time at band camp with Matty. He knew Matty but still regarded me as a mad stranger yelling of a coming apocalypse. His response was mostly to shift around awkwardly, make a high yet guttural sound and then drift away. In that same tank top.

The second mystery proved much tougher in the form of David, who was hanging around with Toby (not in a tank top) and Ryan (in a white button down that fit him so perfectly it looked like he put it on and then ironed it in place). David’s career in brand management sounded very familiar but since he had good connections to radio, it was clear that if we did talk before, it was brief and only about him. That makes it the least likely scenario of all. But Ryan also thought he looked familiar. So where could we both have seen him? At first I thought it was through and our mutual friend Bradford "I'm in The Times again this week" Shellhammer. But he mostly knows him by reputation only so I drifted further into Facebook about it on my phone.

While trying to research our connection on my iPhone out on the terrace, one of the skittish bunny waiters hopped over to us with some delicious sliders, first duck and then pulled pork. This was quickly followed by teeny tiny strawberry shortcakes (I had three) and some kind of miniature uncaramelized creme brulee in a wee cup with a raspberry and sample spoon. It might as well have had a note attached to it that said drink me because by this point in the party and my personal self-inflicted food desert, I was ready for the rabbit hole and all it had to offer.
Skinny waiters scurry to bring me more delicious treats
I never figured out the connection to David at the party (although now I suspect Ryan and I both saw him at a past Gumbo NYC event, maybe even my sparsely attended book party). I did my best in the moment, but they started to usher us down the stairs before the waiting wheel on my iPhone stopped spinning. Fortunately, I was careening down the stairs at that point with strapping lad Zachary Barnett and his erstwhile sidekick of fabulous Brody Brown. It had been our annual tradition to spend the Friday night of pride together in the studio during the show, most memorably last year when marriage equality passed in New York before our welcoming and grateful eyes. 

It made me sad when I thought about not continuing our tradition this year and the meals I have skipped for pure vanity and general time and effort wasted. But mostly I thought of the opportunities lost forever with James and my dad, Michael and so many others. The sad list grows daily. Life really is a party and when you are having a good time, it always ends too soon.


Read more of Derek's adventures in When Nightlife Falls and Colonnade: A Life In Columns. Both are available now on, and in digital form for The KindleThe Nook, and in the iBookstore. 

1 comment:

Daniel Donner said...

Hi Derek!
Also down and out because of James' death. How can I enter his blogspot? Is it down? You said deep inside he was a writer. This is his legacy. Bradbury once wrote: "Everyone must leave something behind. Something your soul has to dwell in when you die"