Every year, some of us get older and swear we will never run it again, but we do. New youngsters whose parentage and familial relations are clarified for us seem to appear mysteriously each year to add to the crowded starting line. Seems like each one of them was born just yesterday.
C’s mother holds the stopwatch. The organizing brother comes in first. C is a close second. A nephew (cousin? Boyfriend of a cousin?) is third, and I am robbed of fourth place by C’s sister who tracks me throughout the course, and in a final burst of speed, passes me. I finish fifth with a respectable time of twenty-four minutes and twenty-eight seconds. Of course, I could have pushed myself, but being retired has made me less driven and more apt to gaze at the poetic post-war shabby-chic cottage carpentry that surrounds this lake.
Why can’t C’s family celebrate their reunions as does mine, with booze, cigarettes and hurtful arguments that are rehashed for decades?
We drive into the city too weary to attend any of the Thursday night pre-Pride events.
On Friday, the chemistry of the city has obviously changed. Responding to some systemic histamine-reactive cue, its coloration and behavior brightens, and we correctly diagnose the “everybody is now openly gay” syndrome that annually overtakes Manhattan. Queer boys appear in festive couplings and stylish packs even in our own relentlessly hetero Upper West Side neighborhood.
On the subway that evening, we watch the crowd’s lack of reaction to a handsome and very young couple of twinks who were not just seated next to each other but whose intertwined limbs made a public display of their fresh romantic attachment in a bold way that C and I would never have dared twenty-three years ago. The occupants of that subway car cut across every racial, economic, geographic, cultural and age demographic you would imagine, with not one giving them a disparaging glance. Am I wrong to suspect that in the true heart of this country there is no real denial for gay marriage or military service, and that our politicians ought to stop riding those outmoded and sputtering vehicles to re-election?
On Saturday, we accompany the indomitable Joe on a subway jaunt out to Coney Island to view the 25th annual Mermaid Parade. This colorful and sexy spectacle had a nervous undercurrent fueled by media reports of a developer, THOR Equities, controlling a good portion of the amusement park on the boardwalk and wishing its demolition and replacement with luxury housing and modern entertainments. Here we see a staging of the conflict in front of the nostalgic and original Nathan’s Delicatessan.
Later that evening, we accompany Joe to a party at the West Village home of the organizers of last week’s “Folsom Street East”. They have the sort of private terrace, surrounded by the tall brick walls of adjacent buildings, that one dreams about. In addition to the usual garden furniture, a large antique black leather and iron pummel horse was given prominent placement. Leaning against its supple grain and fluid with two of the bartender’s excellent frozen margaritas, I felt ready for the gymnastics that were reportedly being held in one sheltered corner behind some military camouflage netting. Instead, I remained pleasantly locked in conversation with C and the very same two young men we had watched on the subway the night before! Although they (like us) are not Folsomish, it turns out that they are Ian and Judah who live next door and had received a neighborly invitation from our hosts. They claim also to have recognized us from that subway ride (“two old leering coots?” I ask, to which they protest convincingly and keep me from sinking into my Maurice Chevalier persona.)
While on the subject of age, I suggest you read this man and this man. One speaks with wisdom and insight, having successfully ridden his wave to the shore. The other complains obsessively from that torturous place of longing for readmittance to a club that now belongs to others and under the velvet rope of which he tries to sneak. (Truth to tell, I think he is wiser about the issue than he likes to pretend.)
Also at this party is a well-known Provincetown photo-realist painter whose historic home at the shady bend of Commercial Street you would know if only for its ghostly bust of Shakespeare placed in an upper window and wistfully witnessing the round-the-clock street life. While we lived there, I received several different apocryphal accounts of how that handsome and amiable young artist came to be the owner of that prestigious property, never bothering to ask him for a photo-realist account of his fortunate past.
Later that night, we attend a recurrent event called “Double Headed Disco”, at Nowhere Bar, on 14th Street, intending to spend a while with bj and the bf, but they had gone home at a more sensible hour, as did relatively we.
On Sunday, following the stone-inscribed plan of the intrepid Joe, and wearing a t shirt he had graciously made for me with a newly devised “Farmboyz” logo, we present ourselves at the southeast corner of Gay and Christopher Streets in the full sun light of an intersection that Joe had remembered as benevolently shaded. Not to worry, for we are in wonderful company. David, with his ipod, convinces me that I may have been wrong about the music of “Spring Awakening”. The engaging Gavin, from upstate and here to meet some of the folks he regularly reads and chats with, whose brilliance of silver hair and periwinkle eyes justify the sun. The delightful Philadelphian Thruple who are in tow with Himself wearing his own “Joe.My.God." t shirt. And, a couple about whom Joe and I had spoken just the other night, deciding that if there was anyone we needed to meet immediately it would have to be Crixi Van Cheek and his partner Dick Zinya. (Soon after meeting them, I accidently fell into an opportunity to use a phrase I have been savoring of late: "I shit you not" said with a southern accent as if you were just released from a South Carolina prison and telling a story at a counter of the Piggly Wiggly. The handsome Crixi and Dick's eyebrows shot up at the sound of it, and I did not get a chance to enquadrate its usage. Anyway, painful it was to be in such delightful company but distracted by the spectacle. I can only hope that Gavin, Crixi, his Dick and the Thruple ( a Motown group?) will be back soon on some less hectic weekend. Guys, it’s not that long a trip for any of you.
Separated from them by the pressing mob, we can only wave to Chris, Stash, and Neil/Brice, while from several floors overhead,
As always, this parade is an appropriately sloppy affair like a tippling old aunt that one loves even with its logistic limp and growing dust upon its sequined emotions. We will always visit her, and hope she will never be placed in a home. Here she is:
(Don't miss the fierce baton twirler in this video. I know more about baton twirling than I've ever disclosed herein. In competition, this twirler would lose points for stopping the baton before and after the throw, but would get full points for not having to move a foot in order to make the catch, and also for the height of the throw. The hand gestures and head toss? Priceless.)
After the briefest of disco naps, we make our way down to Pier 54 and jump into a shirtless sea of gorgeous manly male gorgeousness. Just when you think that this annual event could never grow any larger or more boisterous, you are reminded that we are all living longer these days, and that the factory producing new gay men has not, unlike those of some industry sectors, gone offshore or slowed down.
There is something distinctly American about the sheer pushy Carl Sandburgian muscularity of the “Pier Dance” that sets it apart from all the other cattle-called circuit parties. Go to it without care about what will soon be unworn from the waist up, and expect to drink much cheap beer from blue aluminum. From the moment you set foot upon this pier, you are made a sequential friend of the thousands of men who slide against you in the crowd, sharing startlingly intimate contact that is of a second’s endurance garnished with a snippet of word before you are swept away.
(Note: in 2007, vintage rosary beads are the jewelry of choice, and every third person is named Christopher.)
Here, in one of the dozens of lines for the phalanxes of portable toilets, we join some extremely young and happy guys in an impromptu delivery of Styx’s song “Babe”, a hit many years before these boys were born, and yet, they knew every word. I should not be surprised. When I was their age, I knew all of Cole Porter by heart, and not because I was told to learn it. I simply went to the public library where that Brendan Gill bio with the complete lyrics found me. True story. I shit you not.
The sun set. There were fireworks to “All You Need is Love” which we sang with Joe, at peace in the revelry of which I insist will now be an unbreakable tradition, even through our advanced years. Let the aluminum of our future walkers match the beer cans that roll and crunch underfoot.
On our way out, I use the flash to record an unusual tattoo.
A friend of its owner says, “Dave! Show him the rest of it.” And he does.
We repair to TheEagle where we are wrung dry of any last drop of hydration, and we take off the rest of Monday to recover.