Monday, May 31, 2004

Disco Inferno

The club was murderously hot that Sunday afternoon, packed to the rafters with hundreds of Memorial Day Weekend revelers. A sudden crack of thunder, combined with a brilliant close bolt of lightening caused hundreds of more customers to flee the outside pool and patio areas and jam inside.

In the main disco, a huge cloud of steam hovered at the ceiling, generated by the collective heat of a thousand dancing men. The steam turned into dripping water in some places, raining back down on the dancers, the cumulative sweat of untold individuals in each drop.

'This is GROSS!', Ray shouted at me. The music was so loud, I could only read his lips.

'Hey, you wanted to come here!', I shouted back.

It was our first excursion to Pensacola. There was a good buzz about Memorial Day weekend in this backwat...um, Panhandle town. Fags and dykes from all over the country, but mostly the South, converged on the town and its offshore barrier island beach, for a weekend of homosexual debauchery.

The shitty weather kept us off the beach. Cloudy, oppressively hot, and windy. REAL windy. Some far away tropical storm was sending in wind so strong, the sand on the beach was turned into billions of hot painful missles.

So here we were at this club, only 4PM and already the mostly male crowd was well on the way to shit-faced. Everyone was trying to salvage some fun from the bad weather. Outside, the skies finally opened up, sending even the last stragglers from around the pool inside, pushing pushing PUSHING their way up the stairs into the balconies over the dancefloor, the only place where another human could possibly fit.

Every pore on every body blasted sweat. The air conditioners limped along, useless. Momentary relief only came when the huge swiveling fans over the DJ booth made their sweep in your direction. The temperature rose and rose. The steam cloud descended from the ceiling and nearly enveloped the faces of dancers, more and more sweat-rain plopping down from the pipes and lights.

And yet....in this scene that in another circumstance could resemble one of the circles of Hell, in this broiling, horrible, choking maelstrom of physical discomfort...on that dance floor, in the balconies, even behind the bar, there was a palpable, real, delirious....joy. A joy constructed of a shared ridiculous experience.

The DJ was playing disco classics. The crowd reacted to each familiar song with a roar of approval, something not-very-likely in this group of (ordinarily) jaded/trendy partyboys. The downpour of sweat-rain got so bad, the DJ put on 'It's Raining Men' and the crowd went nuts when they saw that he was now wearing a yellow hooded raincoat. To the side of the dance floor, the bartenders used their soda guns on the dancers, firing arcing streams of blessedly cold water onto our heads.

Suddenly the sound system crackled, and the power went out, followed a moment later by a room-shaking crash of thunder. Over the dance floor, a handful of emergency lights cut lonely shafts of light through the steam.

My buddy Ray, a fireman, pulled me close.

'Joe, this is NOT safe, we need to try and get out of here.'

We were at least 100 feet from the nearest exit, with untold hundreds of guys between us and the door. We spent a minute considering our options, sweaty shirtless guys pressing in on us from all directions. Pushing was starting to turn into shoving, and mood was changing, fast.

Just in time, the electricity returned. Lights on. Fans on. But no music. The crowd swayed in place, uncertain what to do next. In the booth, the DJ frantically fussed with his amps and mixing board. Nothing.

A bright light suddenly tracked up from one of the bartenders, into the balcony. I could see him holding a large, police style metal flashlight.

Standing at the balcony rail was Debbie Disco, a hilarious southern queen we knew from Orlando. Debbie was the 'hostess' of this T-dance, and the heat had done a number on her drag, hair wilted, makeup streaked. She waited a minute, until the crowd quieted a bit.

'I want to thank all of you for coming to see us today. This BITCH of a storm is giving us some sound trouble, but we should have the music back on before too long.'

The crowd buzzed amongst themselves, and again began a perceptible move towards the exit.

Debbie Disco conferred with a man standing next to her, then called out to the crowd.

'And until we get the music back on, it's gonna be OPEN BAR!!'

The exiting procession paused.

Debbie threw her hands up, Evita-style.

'C'mon, girls! Let LIQUOR be your music!'

The party was saved.





Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Two Apples

Gwyneth Paltrow, Oscar winner, and her husband, whats-his-name from Coldplay, named their new baby girl 'Apple'. Which is just FINE.

I think unusual baby names are great. Only a few months ago, I was trying to convince my sister to name her new son 'Supernature.'

'Supernature? Supernature? What kind of name is that?' she questioned flatly.

She's used to me having unorthodox opinions, obviously.

'Well, "Supernature" was this REALLY cool disco song by this French guy named Cerrone. It came out in the late '70s and it's all spooky and scary and it was a huge hit all over the world and it's one of my favorite songs EVER!'

'Well, I never heard of it. What's the song about?'

'Oh, it's about... experimenting on animals and the animals grow up to be partially human and they rampage through the countryside taking out their revenge for being deformed on the real humans.'

'And this is a DISCO song?'

'Yes.'

'And you want me to name YOUR nephew after it?'

'It's a REALLY cool song. AND the album cover is VERY cool, totally an 'Island Of Doctor Moreau' thing going on.'

My sister considered it, for a minute.

'No, not gonna happen, sorry'.

'Oh, c'mon! Why not? Don't be BORING! How cool would it be to have 'SUPER' in your name?'

'First of all, the other kids would call him 'Stupidnature'.

And dammit, she was right. Children are horrible to each other. I can still recall my own tormenting of the unfortunate Harry Enis, back in middle school.

Gywneth isn't being all that innovative, by the way. I'd already known a girl named Apple, from way back in my college days.

OK, maybe Apple wasn't a girl, but he dressed like one.

Apple Love was one the regular cast of female impersonators that performed nightly at the Parliament House, the notorious Orlando gay nightclub complex. Apple was perhaps the most popular drag queen in the ensemble. During her performances the customers lined up ten deep down the center aisle, dollar bills in their outstretched hands, waiting in line to tip her.

Cynic that I was, I always suspected that a huge portion of Apple's popularity was from the pity factor. You see, Apple had had polio as a child, and yet even with iron braces on both legs, she'd don stiletto heels and mini-skirts, and gamely work the stage, vigorously swiveling her hips to swing her almost-useless legs around and move forward.

Sometimes, if I'd had a bit too much to drink, I'd mock Apple Love in front of my friends, pretending to have braces on my legs, and furiously strut a mock runway.

'C'mon, let's walk like Apple Love!'

'Joe, that's HORRI....oh, hee hee....you better stop!'

My friends would break up, but they'd look around to make sure no one saw them laughing.

I'd all but forgotten about Apple Love until about five years ago.

I was standing near the edge of the dance floor at Club 1015 in San Francisco. The place was mobbed. The DJ had been playing a long string of forgettable techno songs. Abruptly, he allowed a dramatic pause between records, alerting the room that whatever was coming next, he thought it was pretty special.

As the unmistakable sound of Cher's voice filled the room, the crowd erupted in recognition. Cher hadn't had a hit in the clubs in many years. The song was irresistably catchy, and by the second verse at least half of the room was singing along.

And THIS is what I heard Cher singing, that first time, and what I continue to hear to this day: 'Do you believe in life, Apple Love?'

Maybe one day, on a plane or somewhere she can't get away from me, I'll be able to tell that story to Gywneth, and then she could sing the Cher song to her Apple, using MY lyrics. I won't mention polio.

Probably.



Monday, May 24, 2004

The Deal Breaker

It took me forever to find parking on Harrison Street.

By the time I finally found a space, rummaged quarters for the meter, and walked the six blocks to the Eagle, I was hot, cranky and in desperate need of beer.

San Francisco's Eagle Tavern had those annoying rubber strips hanging in their doorway, a pointless exercise when you have no air conditioning. I batted them away from my face, stepped inside, and paused while my eyes adjusted.

The beer bust on Sunday afternoons was the only time this place was busy, and the warm weather had brought out a huge crowd. Most of the guys preferred to stand out back on the huge patio, enjoying the sun and the crush of bare skin. Didn't hurt that they could smoke out there too.

Customers on the patio were being served drinks through a large walk-up window, and the bartenders were swamped, taking orders at the bar, then whirling around to attend to the outside customers through the window.

I got in line behind two tall, thin leathermen.

They were dressed right out of the Castro Clone style guide. Knee-high Wesco boots, with their tattered and faded jeans bloused inside. Heavy chain belts. White wife-beaters under leather vests. Their vests were covered with affinity pins from various motorcycle clubs and leather events.

One of them had a flogger attached to his belt. I noticed his vest had a silver name tag that said 'Sir'. Sir's friend had red and orange hankies stuffed into his back right pocket.

They both had elaborate goatees and shaved heads. Sir had numerous tattoos covering his skinny arms. The tattoos were mostly faded and illegible.

I guessed them both to be in their mid-50s.

As I waited my turn, suddenly, Sir grabbed his companion's arm.

'Hey! You see that guy? Right there? Talking to Randy?'

He was pointing out the window into the crowd on the patio.

The bartender turned to take their order, blocking the view through the window.

'Who? Where? I don't see Randy.'

They both moved to the side a bit, to see around the bartender. The bartender shook his head with annoyance and turned back around to serve someone else through the window.

I was pissed. These guys were holding up my beer.

'OK, look right now! See him? See him? The big guy with the Civil War cap?' Sir pointed again.

'No, I don't. Who the hell are you talking about?'

Now I could see the other guy's name tag: 'Boy.'

Sir was getting exasperated.

'Do you remember me telling about that play party I went to at Freaky's house, back when you were visiting your mom?'

'Yeah, you said it sucked and you didnt even play with anybody', said Boy.

'There! There! Standing next to Tony! See him? See him? He's scratching his neck right now!', Sir said excitedly.

Boy didn't even look out the window, instead giving Sir a reproachful look.

'Did you MEET someone at Freaky's party that you didn't TELL me about?'

The bartender again turned to face us. Sir and Boy ignored him.

Ordinarily, I'd have pushed them aside to get my damn beer, but I'd gotten caught up in this little unfolding drama.

'Oh, don't EVEN start with me! I'm just showing you the guy that I TOLD you I met, the one that was LEAVING the party when I got there. Remember? The guy from Dallas? When I got to Freaky's, he was leaving with Wally?'

Boy nodded, relieved. 'Oh, yeah right. You did tell me.'

'Anyway, I was chatting online with Wally yesterday, and I found out a little tidbit about the Dallas guy that you are going to find IN-TER-EST-ING!

Sir SANG the word 'interesting.'

Boy: 'What about him?'

Sir reached out and clenched Boy's elbow, and stepped closer.

'He's a MAJOR scat pig.'

Boy's eyebrows lept up.

'WHAT? REALLY? Which one is he again?'

Boy craned his neck towards the window.

'I thought that MIGHT get your attention, HAH! And you are in luck, because that's him, RIGHT NOW...getting a beer on the other side,' Sir said triumphantly.

A handsome and muscled middle-aged guy, wearing a Civil War cap, was being served at the window.

Boy growled.

'Woooooof. He is a hot hot Daddy!. AND he's into scat? Be still my piggy heart!'

'Yes, and Wally said he was REAL fun. Should we go outside and talk to him?'

'Oh, HELL yes. Mmmm, mmm. What a body, too! And you know how I like....', Boy stopped in mid-sentence.

'Oh, FUCK....wait a minute....forget it.', he said disappointedly.

'What? Why 'forget it'? What?', said Sir.

'He smokes.'






Friday, May 21, 2004

Eyes Wide Shut

Zachary hurled the aardvark at me derisively.

Taking advantage of Oona 2's low gravity, I pushed off the soft pink gravel surface, and sailed several yards up into the yellow, misty atmosphere.

The aardvark exploded harmlessly behind me. Zachary snorted and turned to his crew.

'Aren't you supposed to be helping me?', he snarled.

Yeardley, Xavier and Winston reluctantly got to their feet and walked over to the pressurized animal pen, where a baboon, a cheetah and a dachshund were patiently waiting to be thrown at me.

Anxiously, I checked the glowing O2 meter on my spacesuit. Damn, only 15 minutes left!

I suppose at this point I should mention that the scenario above is taken directly from one of my recurring nightmares. The animals always appear in alphabetical order and the members of the spacecrew appear in REVERSE alphabetical order. I'm not really sure WHY I'm being attacked, that part of the story has never been explained in my dream.

In my nightmare, I must name and pair the animals and crew in their correct regular and reverse alphabetical order, BEFORE my air supply runs out. Usually, my terror slowly heightens until I lose track of whether Milton should be throwing the newt, or if it should be Nelson throwing the mongoose. Somewhere around the M's and N's is when I wake up in a cold sweat.

All of this neatly ties together my fear of obsessive compulsive disorder, oxygen deprivation and exploding wildlife.

Most of my nightmares are pretty unusual.

Sure, I have the same recurring work-related nightmares like most people. Mine just don't happen to involve finding myself giving a presention in my underwear.

Instead, I continue to be plagued by a dream about my first job. I was a busboy at Red Lobster. Every night I came home from work reeking of fish, carrying a box of hush puppies.

I loved hush puppies. My sister teased me that I only took the job for the free hush puppies. One Saturday night after work, I ate so many hush puppies that I was up puking until sunrise.

That was the summer that the movie 'Alien' came out. To this day I have a nightmare in which I'm in horrible stomach pain, my belly grotesquely rolling and bulging....until a huge growling HUSH PUPPY bursts out, fangs dripping with bread crumbs.

Sometimes my nightmare is the one in which I'm the only who knows that global thermonuclear war is going to break out at any moment. I race from my office to my home and furiously stuff canned food into pillowcases, while calling my family and begging them to meet me at the Port Canaveral cruise ship port.

I'm not really sure WHY being on a cruise ship would be safe for us, but it definitely is, in the dream. Maybe all those Kathie Lee Gifford ads for Carnival Cruise Lines comforted me on some subconscious level.

At a recent dinner party I attended, conversation turned to recurring dreams. I mentioned a frequent dream I have, in which my father is chasing me down our driveway, with a big carving knife in his upraised fist.

Our host chuckled gleefully: 'Oh, Joe....hehehe...dreaming about your FATHER chasing you with a KNIFE! I wonder what a Freudian would say about THAT!"

I said: 'He probably wouldn't say too much, once I explained to him that when I was ten years old, MY FATHER CHASED ME WITH KNIFE!'

An uncomfortable silence ensued.



Monday, May 17, 2004

Body Count

Nick didn't use drugs. Never had. That seemed pretty amazing for a popular circuit party disc jockey.

Here's this revered, demi-god DJ, slavishly followed around the country by legions of affluent, sophisticated 'A-gays'...fans who obsessively planned their elaborate drug schedule around Nick's sets, carrying felony-quantity amounts of drugs in and out of Nick's booth all night.

For these guys, merely for Nick to accept the occasional gift of a pill or a bump from them would have been considered his personal blessing, a bright and shiny symbol of how "connected" they were.

Nick would smile and graciously wave away their offer, turning back to his turntables, his cigarettes and his ever-present can of Red Bull. I saw it happen dozens of times.

Three months ago I got a call from Chicago.

Nick had gone to work on Saturday night and played a spectacular set, even for him. The holiday weekend crowd had packed the dance floor until the very last note of Nick's set, shouting and cheering and calling his name, until he played one more record...flashing the crowd his brilliant smile and giving them a sheepish wave. Nick always seemed embarrassed when the boys went on like that.

After packing up his records, Nick went home and swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills.

His husband woke up Sunday morning, looking forward to their traditional late lunch of omelets and mimosas on their sunny deck of their Castro Victorian, cats running in and out of the house.

Nick was dead on the living room sofa.

Nick had been secretly abusing crystal meth for months, going on days-long manic binges of shopping and cleaning and cruising on the internet, then spiraling down into even longer periods of darkness and lethargy.

With Nick's passing, the number of friends whose death I directly attribute to crystal use now stands at four, starting with Bob.

It's hard to believe, ME...gay circuit party glad-hander that I fancied myself to be (but never even came close to actually BEING), had never even HEARD of crystal until I moved to San Francisco in 1995.

At my first Thanksgiving dinner in my new home with Mark, Bob arrived about 2 hours late, apologized profusely, and dove into the bathroom for 20 minutes.

When he emerged, beads of sweat dotting his face, Bob saw that Mark had set a place for him at the now deserted table... with a tiny plastic baggie of turkey placed in the dead center of his plate. I can still remember how Bob's donkey laugh echoed to me and Ted (dead, crystal, 1999) out on our balcony overlooking Market Street.

Bob never did have anything to eat, he told me he thought he was getting the flu.

Ever the workaholic, Bob went to his office over that weekend, maybe even directly from Thanksgiving dinner at our house. Sitting at his desk, in his sleek, high-tech, South Of Market office, Bob did crystal and wrote code.

Monday morning, the cleaning crew found him dead on the floor behind his desk.

Apparently his 'flu' had progressed into full pnuemonia, only Bob was too high to realize how sick he had become. His lungs filled with mucus and he choked to death, alone.

Bob's death was my introduction to the world of crystal meth.

I had never tried any drugs myself, not once in my many years on the scene in Miami.

Really.

And this was someone who was a relentless, multiple-nights-a-week clubgoer, during the halcyon days of South Beach, when cocaine was free with chewing gum, and the bartenders dispensed ecstasy as openly as a bottle of beer.

I was a one queen 'Just Say No' campaign.

Of course, by 'Just Say No,' I *really* meant: 'I'll have a dozen (or more)$7 Budweisers'. Then I'd drive 30 miles home to Fort Lauderdale on I-95 so blind stinking drunk that I would miss all 14 exits for Broward County, and have to reverse direction and drive back south towards Fort Lauderdale, with God's Angry Flashlight melting my eyesockets, like the grave robbing Nazis at the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

I still marvel that I'm not currently incarcerated in Starke Prison, considered the many, many times I *know* I drove home VERY, spectacularly, 'America's Dumbest Drunk Drivers', drunk.

All that info is offered in the 'I ain't no angel' vibe.

But.

Now... my stories of witnessing crystal meth induced psychotic behavior and self-destruction almost rival my two-decades in the making AIDS gore-a-thon.

I've seen and heard things here in NYC that make San Francisco look like the place for gentle loving people, i used to THINK it was.

We *were* a gentle loving people.... (the 2004 Mix).

Take Kirby, for example. Kirby was a handsome, muscular, successful executive. He was hilarious and smart and always on our short list when planning some fun.

Kirby began to hallucinate that local Fox newscaster Terilyn Jo was watching him from the television set, and that he was being secretly recorded through the tv by his employer (The Gap)...so he did the only logical thing...which was to disassemble his roommate's Sony big-screen in the bathtub, and then douse the scattered parts with a jug of Raid (to kill the 'bugs' you see...there IS a interesting logic flow there).

Later, he was arrested in in South San Francisco, after pulling a spectacular u-turn from the northbound 101, across six lanes, across the median and onto the southbound freeway. He did this in order to evade the pursuing black vehicle, with mirrored windows, which was being driven by assasins from Macromedia (and how CAN you make this shit up?).

Kirby's roommate had the city issue a Baker Act warrant for Kirby's arrest. The Baker Act provides for the arrest and evaluation of a potentially psychotic person. However, misguided friends allowed Kirby to couch-surf around town for a few weeks, and finally the warrant expired or the cops just gave up. We figured the cops must have enough on their hands handling rape and murder, they don't need to waste time chasing some faggot crackhead around town.

Kirby lost his job with The Gap, despite their repeated and impressive attempts to put him into rehab.

Kirby began dealing crystal.

Down on 3rd Street, making a delivery, he was arrested. The courts were lenient. He was educated, he had no previous drug record, he was white. He got eight months in a half-way house in Colma.

His first night there, he violated house rules and hitchhiked to San Francisco. He bought crystal and went to the Powerhouse, walking utterly nonchalantly up to Darren and myself at the bar.

'Hey boys!'

'Well, hey Kirby. Um....how ARE you?'

'Oh, pretty good. I'm in a halfway house down in Colma.'

We acted like we didn't know that.

'Ah...well, you must be doing pretty good if they are letting you go out to clubs!'

'Oh, I'm violating all kinds of ways, I'm supposed to be there right now, but here I am. And I'm high as a kite!'

Darren and I exchanged a look.

'So, you boys need a pick me up? I've have some extra I need to sell.'

'No...we're good, thanks'.

'OK, if you hear of anybody that needs something....' his voice trailed off.

A few minutes later, Kirby ran into another old friend. Darren and I snuck out of the Powerhouse the moment he turned his back. I've always felt guilty about that.

A few hours later, Kirby was stabbed to death under the freeway. The cops speculated that it was drug-related, but they didn't really know. Kirby's pockets were empty. They couldn't even identify his body for a couple of days.

I have a picture of Darren, myself, Kirby and a few other friends. At the Pride parade. We're all squinting into the sun, arms draped around each other's bare shoulders. Kirby looks amazing. Everyone who sees that picture wants to know who he is.



Sunday, May 16, 2004

What Is An Asshole?

I'm a teaser. It's an appalling personality trait.

I find out something that is a sore point with someone and I'll ride it into the ground, far far past the point of being funny to anyone. Anyone but ME, of course.

Still pissed off about who lost the World Series?

I'll find a way to work it into a conversation about hay fever.

Does it bug the hell out of you when people slurp noisily from a soda straw?

Don't sit next to me at the movies.

One of my more *interesting* roommmates in San Francisco was an obsessive fan of the game show Jeopardy. It was the focal point of his evening. He'd race home from work and spin around the apartment getting his dinner ready in time for Jeopardy.

When I first moved in, sometimes we'd watch Jeopardy together. I've always enjoyed the show, and I get a small, juvenile jolt of pleasure everytime I answer the question correctly...as though an approving schoolteacher was smiling and nodding at me with pride.

At first, I think Tim enjoyed having me watch the show with him. We were just getting to know each other, and it seemed like a nice, safe way for us to bond.

But.

Tim, you see, was a stickler for 'The Rules'. In particular, he was adamant about the rule that stipulates that 'all answers MUST be in the form of a question.'

At first, if I blurted out, say... 'kreplach!', he'd say (without looking at me) 'What IS kreplach.'

And I'd say something like: 'Some kind of Jewish meat.'

He'd look at me very deliberately.

'Yes, I KNOW what kreplach IS, thank you. But you have to answer with a question.'

'OK, sorry.'

Me, a moment later: 'Photosynthesis!'

'What IS photosynthesis'.

'It's when plants...'

'Dammit, Joe! If you can't fucking play by the rules, why don't you watch it in your bedroom!.

So, we stopped watching Jeopardy together.

That didn't stop me from torturing him, of course.

I'd be walking back to my room from the kitchen, with a sandwich, and I'd slow down going past the living room to stick my head in.

'The Louisiana Purchase!'.

Or I'd be leaving for the gym, bag slung over my shoulder...pausing as I got my keys off the hook by the door.

'See you later, Tim.'

'Bye.'

'The Hounds Of Baskerville!'

And I'd laugh all the way to the gym.

I even got my friends in on it.

'Tim, you remember my friend Darren?'

'Hi Darren.'

Darren: 'Camille Claudel!'

One evening I was standing on out our balcony, talking on the phone. The sliding glass door was shut, but I could still hear Alex Trebek very clearly.

I can't remember who I was talking to, or what about. Probably because I was looking through the glass at Tim, seated faced me.

I put my hand over the phone mouthpiece.

'Mesopotamia'.

And that was IT. Tim totally snapped. He lept to his feet and flew to the glass.

'WHAT.....IS......MESOPOTOMIA!!!' he screamed.

I could see tiny drops of his spittle fleck the glass between us.

Then he looked me dead in the eyes, and reached over to flip the latch, locking the door. The drapes swooshed closed.

The rest of the story isn't very flattering to me. There's a bit where I banged on the glass to be let in. Then something about me climbing the fire escape up to the roof, only to find the door only opened OUT.

Tim, if you're reading this.... I'm sorry.

And 'COPERNICUS!'

Ha.


Thursday, May 13, 2004

The Goy From Oz

Friday night I saw Van Helsing . Normally, I wouldn't see this sort of movie. I have a pretty strict set of rules that I've developed to guide my movie viewing, but my roommate really wanted to go.

Him: 'Please?'

Me: 'Ugh!'

Him: 'C'mon!!!'

Me: 'You must be on crack.'

Him: 'I'll pay and I'll get us snacks!'

Me: 'Hmmm......'

Not accustomed to going to wildly popular movies, in Manhattan, on their opening nights, I learned a few things.

First of all, almost all tickets are now apparently purchased online. The moment I acquiesced, my roommate lept to the computer and brought up Fangando.com.

The movie was apparently playing on 27 of the 40 (or however many) screens at the Union Square Regal Cinemas, and started about every 9 minutes. It was 9pm on Thursday, and already every showtime for the next day's Van Helsing was sold out, up until 11pm.

I had sincere doubts that I would be able to stay awake thru any movie that started that late, even one that I was certain contained lots of screaming and bloodshed and explosions.

When we got to the theatre the next night, the box office was deserted, just a few bored looking ticket sellers talking amongst themselves . I was very pleased, thinking for a moment that maybe all those sold-out performances had been a computer glitch. But not so fast! Around the lobby corner was a long bank of self-serve ticket machines, all with a mob of teenagers in front of them. That's where you picked up your online purchases. Made me wonder how the heck any enforcement of movie ratings can take place, when any kid with an ATM card can waltz up and order up tickets to whatever NC-17 porn fest he likes.

Once the machine issued our flimsy, thermal ticket slips, we were ordered by theatre staff into a series of lines. Line one: for waiting to have your tickets taken. Then another line to wait for huge exiting crowds on the esclators. The escalators were then reversed and we proceeded up FOUR levels to be put in another holding line, this one to enter the upper lobby, where we could see the entrances to various theatres. The electronic marquees over each entrance read: 'Van Helsing F', Van Helsing B', etc'. We were 'Van Helsing C'.

Once we were admitted into the upper lobby, we were held in yet another line, outside of our showing of Van Helsing. Man, this was a lot of work.

We finally took our seats, in the last row, in the BALCONY - no less. The movie DID contain lots of screaming, lots of bloodshed, and was about 70% explosions, by my guess.

My favorite bit of dialogue:

-'NO! Wait! Don't kill him! He's my BROTHER!'

-'But, he's a WEREWOLF!!'

-'(sobbing)...'Don't you believe in....FORGIVENESS?'

I have to admit, that I did sorta enjoy Van Helsing. Not a lot, but way more than I thought I would. I'm just a little intriuged by Hugh Jackman. One more blind item in Page Six in the Post, and he'll be officially outed.





Wednesday, May 12, 2004

No, I Don't.

After about a hundred consecutive Saturday nights spent holding court at The Powerhouse, Darren was starting to bug me about doing something else.

'We could go out in the Castro...'

'Yeah...NOT.'

'We could go to Universe earlier.'

'There won't be anyone there until 3am and you know it.'

Darren and I had been partners in crime on the San Francisco scene for a couple years. We did EVERYTHING together. We worked out together, took trips together, ate out, shopped. We were more than fuckbuddies, less than lovers. Everyone thought we were boyfriends, an opinion we were happy to let ride.

We certainly had plenty of sex together, although we had a lot more sex with others...albeit usually in each other's presence.

'How about we check out The Sling?'

'Is that still going?'

The Sling was a twice-monthly fisting party, held in a South of Market warehouse, run by a local chiropractor. He had cancelled the previously long-running watersports party in that same location, telling the regulars that his landlord had been complaining about damage to the walls and baseboards....but telling ME that he was just too repulsed by the clientele to even want to attend his own event. So, out went the troughs and tubs, and in went a dozen slings.

Personally, I don't have much interest in fisting. Certainly, none at all in BEING fisted, and not much more in doing it. I've always found that the guys who want to be fisted the MOST, are the guys with whom I enjoy it the least.

No challenge. GLOP. Like stepping thru the Stargate, but with less resistance. Reminds me of the tiny old psychic lady from Poltergeist, throwing the rope into the void: 'STEVEN, NOT YET!!'

Darren explained that he'd run into Dr. Drake (his first name), on the street, and that he'd 'specifically invited us' to stop by The Sling.

'Oh, well. With a social obligation like THAT, how can we risk our standing in the community by NOT attending his fisting sex club?'

The next Saturday found us shivering in the vestibule of a dimly lit warehouse off of Dore Alley. Only a small flyer, taped to the door, had alerted us to the entrance. No street number, no name. Just a cartoon of a hairy fist and forearm, with sweat and lube droplets flying off. Classy.

After paying $20 each, and signing a frightenly long waiver of liability, we were ushered into a small seating area. The dress code appeared to be: boots. We complied, and Darren led the way back into the dark.

The place had a simple set up: one main long hallway, five or six small rooms on each side. Prowling the hallway and rooms were a couple of dozen men, mostly out of shape, mostly much older than us, all of them unappealing. They were all naked (except for boots, duh) and each carried a small tub of Elbow Grease.

Inside each room: two slings, two stools, two waist-high tables.

Also inside each room: two insanely unattractive old men, swaying slightly in their slings, as they craned their necks to evaluate us, when we peered in.

Darren and I took two complete tours of the premises, then returned to the dressing area where we could speak and compare notes.

Me: 'Well, THAT was worth $40!'

Darren: 'Maybe we caught it on a bad night, I don't think Drake would have invited us, if he didn't think there'd be something here for us.'

'Maybe, he certainly should know our taste by now.'

Darren pointed out a large red sign over the hallway entrance that we hadn't noticed when we first came in:

Do NOT enter a sling without YOUR top present!
Slings are meant for PLAYING, not PRAYING!
We will NOT tolerate sling lizards!


Clearly, a house rule that was not being enforced.

Just then, I became aware of being stared at from across the room.

He was about my age, short military haircut, handsome and extremely muscular. I guessed him to be German, judging from his cruel, tiny, angular eyewear.

The moment I met his gaze, he strode purposefully up to me, pierced cock tapping the top of his boots.

'I zee you look at me and I zee you like the bodies', he boomed.

Um, what?

'You like the bodies and you like the better bodies, yezzz?'

Darren and I decided on the spot that we would find the poor English of this horse-hung, handsome bodybuilder utterly charming.

Darren: 'We like your body, sure'.

Me: 'Do you like this place?'

See, I'm already angling for us to snatch this prize right out of the joint, out of the Elbow Grease'd claws of the patrons, who were now hungrily gathering, and a little too closely at that.

The German directly his attention strictly on me: 'You like me, yezz? I zink maybe for me you have the hot shit?'

Do I think this living Tom of Finland sketch is hot shit?

Me: 'Oh, yeah man...you look amazing!'

Him (clearly frustrated and shouting, a bit): 'VELL? DO YOU???'

Me: 'Do I what?'

Him: 'DO YOU HAVE SOME HOT SHIT FOR ME??'

Darren sprang to his feet: 'Ooooooooo Kaaaaaaay.'

'Joe, are you ready to head back over to Powerhouse?'

'Yes, Darren...we REALLY should get OUT of here!'

Darren zipped over to the coat check with our claim tickets.

The German never said another word. He just stood there watching us struggle to get our boots off, pants on, boots back on.

It seemed to take forever.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Turnstyle Tirade

Subway Shit I Hate:

1. Those IDIOTS that RUN between the S Train and 1/2/3/9 lines in the Times Square Station. Yes, I know you are trying to get to your commuter train in Penn Station or Grand Central. No, I don't give a fuck that the last train to Mamaroneck or Massapequa leaves at 6:15. MY train comes every 2 minutes, HAH! I've considered carrying an uncapped magic marker in each hand, THAT'LL learn 'em to push me aside.

2. Being tortured by that traveling 'family' of 'singers' on the S Train shuttle. They ride back forth under 42nd Street all afternoon. 'Dad' pitches their tragic, homeless, hungry plight to a car full of executrons desperately trying to pretend they can't hear or see. Then the 3 'kids' launch into a tambourine-assisted version of 'Help!' by The Beatles. (Back closer to 9/11 they would perform various patriotic numbers, 'This Land Is Your Land' being a frequent victim.)

3. Those 3 black Jehovah's Witness women who thrust their copies of Watchtower at me, EVERY freekin time I come down the stairs under my office building. The first 200 times, I probably muttered 'No, thank you', or something vaguely polite but dismissive. Now, if I can't evade being within arm's length in the passing crowd, I just say 'Saaaatan!' in an evil, low voice.

4. People who are so desperate to get to where they are going, they walk forward thru the moving train, exiting and entering the cars and forcing the passengers to move for them as they gain a tiny bit of distance. How much fucking difference can it make? My new plan: stand my ground.

5. Fare thieves who offer to swipe their unlimited use card for you for only a dollar, while you are buying a card at the fare machine. (Regular fare is $2). After saying 'NO!' and 'NOT INTERESTED!' a few dozen times, now I just say 'Call the police! This guy wants me to steal from the city!'. I wonder if this is going to get me stabbed one day.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

The Name Game

We were discussing a condundrum of fag nomenclature at the Eagle last week. It so happens that we have (had) two Todds in our loose circle of friends. One is white, one is black. Logically, they became White Todd and Black Todd. Luckily, Black Todd is not only unoffended, he thinks it's hilarious to call and leave messages from "BLACK TODD".

This sort of verbal shorthand as visual ID is not uncommon in my circle. We have Spanish Robert, New York John, Not Right Richard, Stinky Ed, Tall Jim and others.

A few weeks ago our friend Steve appeared at beer bust with the guy he'd been dating from New Jersey, another 'Todd'...and ALSO black. The new Black Todd is a personal trainer to high-powered execs/CEO's who chopper him in to Manhattan for in-office sessions (really).

As you might guess, trainer Black Todd has the type of body that looks like it came from the Circuit Party World Headquarters, (from the 'Compared To This - You Look Like A Mean Joke From God' division). And his ass! Freekin hell! His ass! His ass arrived at beer bust about 3 minutes after HE did, in a separate cab.

Naturally (we feel), the new Todd was named Black Ass Todd. To review: White Todd (never do we drop the White), Black Todd, and Black Ass Todd now crowd our All Todd world.

Well.

Sunday afternoon, Black Ass Todd was drinking beer with us. At one point, over the music, he heard my buddy Ray say:'Here..hand this beer to Black Ass Todd'. And BAT immediatelygot a bit agitated. 'What did you call me?'... 'I KNOW i just didn't hear you say that!'.

Joe to the rescue. I patiently reviewed with BAT the chain of events that lead to the naming of White Todd and Black Todd. And how he could see our problem when we very improbably gained ANOTHER Black Todd.

He said: 'So I gotta be Black Ass Todd because I'm darker skinned than Black Todd??? You think that's funny? If I hear that shit again, I will slap that racist name right outta your head!'

Everyone immediately began apologizing and stammering and nervously laughing.

I said, 'C'mon Todd!!!'. We're not saying 'Black Ass' the same way people say 'big ass truck' or 'ugly ass bitch'. Ass is NOT an adjective in Black Ass Todd. It's a noun.

'We call you Black Ass Todd...well, because ya got that damn big fine ASS, Todd!'.

Silence.

Then: 'Do you think AOL would let me have 'BlackAssTodd' as a screen name?'.