On Friday, we speed away from The Wretched Little City determined to beat the traffic that kinks up around the other failed little cities like knots in a cheap phone cord between here and New York. We win, and are able to park and dress and present ourselves not too late at The Chelsea Brewing Company to join Doug, Olivier and their friends in celebration of Doug’s birthday. We are at a long table under a spectacular evening sky by the Hudson River.
Four couples and three singles. All guys. We had met one of the couples on Thanksgiving three years ago when they had just moved in together. Now they wear matching rings. Each ring is composed of two interlocking gold sections, in different colors. The sections easily slide and bind (or, as they explained, separate whenever they argue.) I state that I can never get C to tolerate the wearing of even a single piece of jewelry. For some reason, I hear myself say this in a Georgian accent, as if I were Ruby Turpin in Flannery O'Connor's story "Revelation".
One half of this couple is an event manager with experience on the gay wedding circuit. We discuss the recent New York Times article flatly stating that “civil unions” are not enough, and encouraging Connecticut to go all the way to gay marriage. I tell him that C and I will probably get married when it is legalized in New York where we would be pleased to hold a party for all our friends. I wonder aloud about the ceremony. We are both indifferent to the practice of organized religion, and what of the business of vows. Our unspoken devotions are Loch Ness deep. Won’t the sweet speakery of them trivialize and shrink them a bit? Still, such a party we will have, and, afterall, there was that beautiful Boston wedding in which we participated.
To lift the table, I ditched the subject of marriage and placed the business of Paris Hilton’s dramatic ride to court squarely on the center of the table where everyone gleefully forked it to death. This was followed by the news that the house in Fort Lauderdale that Doug and Olivier had coveted but lost to another buyer had magically reappeared. Purely by chance, they met someone who just happened to know the owners. They have since met those owners and spent time in the house. The owners want to sell it, but do not want to recognize the fact that the market now belongs to the buyer and that the house has slipped in value. D and O know that sooner or later those owners will cave, and they will get to move into the house they were meant to have. I decide to remain quiet about my vague feeling that the house is haunted and may strangle them.
One of the guys at table whispers to me a frightening account of his experience of crystal meth. He knows he is lucky to have survived it. I mention the way guys talk about how it can rewire your brain permanently. He says that in his case, with the help of a good doctor and having made the decision to kick it, he was able to undo that rewiring. This is not the expected end to a story in which he recalls week-long sex marathons in which he would look down at his dick that had turned blue from relentlessly priapistic ramming and still he could not bring himself to stop. I am glad when we both wordlessly know that this evening is not the time for such a story and we catch up with the table where an account of a Costa Rican vacation full of dizzying jungle cable rides and impossibly handsome tour guides is holding sway. Over our heads and just beyond the next pier, fireworks make the sky pop and glow like a reflected campfire, and the eleven of us seem to fall silent for a moment as we look into each others faces and trade back and forth the satisfied smiles that we see there.
Much later in the evening, I feel compelled to visit The East Side Club before my membership expires. Therein, I make the acquaintance of a black man with one of the three largest dicks on the planet today, of a social worker originally from Trinidad (He did not mention Tobago.), and of a muscular Puerto Rican who seemed inordinately interested in what I did for work. I told him I was an exterminator.
On Saturday evening, we go to TheEagle after a long day of paint stripping, phone shopping, salad eating, coffee drinking and park sitting. At the top of the stairs on the second floor, we bump into Rey and Darryl. There was very little floor space to be had, and the mob pushed us to one side where unintentionally, the four of us surrounded – and talked through – a very patient fellow whose ability to cruise the traffic had been entirely disabled by our sequestering.
For reasons unrecallable, I launched into a monologue about anal bleaching. I wondered if perhaps dentists seeking to build their practices could not offer this service with the same equipment used to whiten teeth. Perhaps on alternate days, or, better yet, with some slight modification of the chair, simultaneously. (Darryl confessed to never having actually seen that part of himself. We suggested he apply the scientific principles of incidence and reflection to a hand-held mirror.) We imagined the photos in the ads for such a business, showing a model flashing a brilliant smile starred with a lens flare while pushing out her tush and lowering her jeans to reveal a bit of dazzling butt crack also starred with a lens flare. Yes, of course the equipment would have to be sanitized between clients. “Show me that autoclave, Doctor!”
Rey then confessed to a fetish for forehead wrinkles. He is especially drawn to the exuberant wrinkling of the forehead of Mel Gibson that he feels trumps the man’s repulsive personality. I ask him how he felt about Russell Crowe’s forehead. He had a well formulated response at the ready, explaining that over Russell’s eyes, the wrinkles go left to right, but in the center of his brow, the wrinkles go north to south. This does not excite him. He prefers his wrinkles lined up like the furrowed rows of a Methodist farmer.
Darryl confessed that he had once had his entire beard lasered off but that within six months it had grown back.
Rey, Darryl and I each told the story of seeing our first uncut dick. (I was in junior high. His name was Ralph.) C told the story of seeing his first cut dick. We all discussed the demerits of circumcision, and three of us wistfully wondered in what sorrowful landfill our little cutlets ended up.
It would have been obvious to anyone listening that the four of us felt no need for sequitur, that perhaps we were experiencing some form of dementia. Perhaps we had been chewing the beer bottles we held, and were light-headed with internal bleeding. I looked at the guy pinned in the center of us and decided it was time to apologize for cramping his style. He replied that there was no need to. He was fascinated by our talk. We launched into him.
He is an actor named Stephen (Darryl secured the correct spelling). Originally from Providence, Rhode Island.
Darryl screamed, “How about that Paris Hilton?” and the evening spun out of control.
On Sunday, we encountered a street promo for the grand reopening of the Kiehl’s cosmetic shop next to our coffee shop. A snappy do-wap group called GroundStone sang and bounced. A pale man wearing a hairnet whipped up blue cotton candy out of a battered metal vat and took swigs from a bottle wrapped in black plastic when the children were not watching. A red-capped broom-handler swept up spilled popcorn to appease the nosey co-op boards. A fresh-faced girl made obscene swellings out of tubular balloons and twisted them into fantastic hats for the kids. Very Penny Lane. I went into the shop and asked for free samples of some products. I do this every three months. The staff turnover means that I am never recognized, and my gym bag is always replenished for free.
At four o’clock we walk down Ninth Avenue to attend a party at Kashkaval, which is a sort of wine bar serving cheese, sausage and all sorts of good mushy stuff with which to plaster your bread. Our friend, Ken, has assembled us all to celebrate his completion of nursing school, and his becoming a full time New Yorker – with a job. (He is also part of a singing group called Mystery Date. They are often featured at The Duplex in Greenwich Village.) At our table is a lady he has known since grade school when he kissed her without warning. She is thoroughly over living in Northampton and is about to relocate to Ireland. She is quite spirited, and already looking very Irish Springy, is certain to be well received.
At our table are guys from all about the city: the Upper West Side, Hells’ Kitchen, Greenwich Village, Riverdale, Astoria and Clinton Hill (Brooklyn). One of the guys, originally from Wisconsin, is now back from several years in Amsterdam where he became a chef. The only work he can find in New York is table waiting which he says pays better than being a chef. He says that in Amsterdam only the tourists order the hash in the coffee shops. Isn’t this proof that legalization is not an automatically slippery slope to perdition? I am rather certain that I have had sex with the black guy seated next to him who is wearing the ACT UP t-shirt.
To my right is a man from Connecticut who is highly placed among the Democrats of that state. Seated across from him is his Ex, and to his right is his current partner. He tells me their story which consists of two overlapping thruples. He and his Ex took in a third. The third remained even after the Ex was phased out. The new partner was phased into the household and was introduced to the perduring “third” who eventually wandered away and was never heard from again. They all seemed wistfully satisfied with the telling of this history. When they ask me my affiliation, I don’t quite know how to respond. “How about that Paris Hilton!” is well received.
We are back in the Wretched Little City in time to see Fantasia at the Tony Awards deliver a stunning performance of a mediocre song from The Color Purple but we are fast asleep before the show is over.