Main | Friday, May 30, 2008

Guest Post: Father Tony

Father Tony here, guest blogging for Joe from Fort Lauderdale.

Dear Joe,

No, of course you didn’t call too early this morning. In fact, C and I have been up for hours and have been at the Euro Café on East Sunrise Boulevard, hard by the drawbridge on the Galleria mall side of the Intracoastal. Here, the French proprietress who repeats your order in her tongue squeezes real oranges for the juice which, when first presented, looks weak to my jaded and Winn-Dixied eye. It is so unsaturated by FDC reds and yellows. But, Holy Cleavage of Anita Bryant, the taste of it! We take it outside with flakey croissants to the little aluminum bistro tables, and I pass a TV screen that tells of yet another crane collapse on the Upper East Side. This one twenty blocks north of you, just as the other one had been twenty blocks south of you. Honey, you’re living on the San Andreas Faulty Crane Fault. You know those old phone books that no one in Manhattan recycles? Pile them up in your doorways to cushion the blow of the inevitable.

On the phone, you sounded even more Olympically stressed than you were last week. Come down here. To Florida. Now. This is not a state. It’s a good-for-you spa. It’s a giant avocado green vinyl barca-lounger from which to tri-focally view the concerns of others, with its gears rusted by salt air into the feet-up position. We are daily showered and in the car by 5PM, arriving for dinner at Tropics in Wilton Manors for the two-for-one entrée special, where through the ceiling speakers, Bette Midler sings the State song, From A Distance. Even C, so normally adamant and cynical about politics and the need for social reformation and revolution by and for the middle class, has been able to kick back a bit. He skates to the point of blisters. He throws himself into the waves. He sleeps by the pool. The sun has scoured the corn flower blue of his eyes so that in the space of just three days, those strange nervous men who have surrendered their passports to sane old age by taking root here, seem sweetly quirky to him rather than frightening. You know the ones. They have streaked and ragged yellow hair under a Marlins cap, and their tank tops hang like heavy drapery over skinny shoulders. They get hotel jobs and quit them bitterly. They chain smoke in front of Java Boys, holding the leashes to poodles and eyeing the too young guys who shuttle between Bill’s and Alibi hoping the doormen won’t recognize them.

Still, if not for C, I would not know the day’s news. That in France, gas now costs $8.20 a gallon, and that it is taxed there astronomically, so as to curb its use. C and I argue about whether or not raising the price of gas in the US would eventually drive its citizens away from oil gluttony and into demanding more and better and cleaner mass transit. Can we love a Hillary or a McCain who want a tax holiday? Isn’t that feeding more of the drug to an already addled public?

He also tells me that members of the Board of the MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority for New York) each get several lifetime EZ passes that exempt them and their chosen ones from paying highway tolls. C has developed intolerance for those who take, for careless big business, for government that is dishonest, for the fat-with-sin who would dictate our behavior. I fear he is on the edge of becoming some sort of radical activist, and it takes all my energy just to keep him distracted with savory food and casual sex.

Sitting outside with our orange juice and croissants, the cigarette smoke from a gaggle of style-riddled European women sifts through my hair. The strength of the Euro has brought them into town in droves. They are buying real estate, just as the South Americans bought it in recent years, snatching up bargains that they could not quite afford until now. Their quilted silver leather handbags are not knock-offs. Yesterday we drove through the quiet streets of Coral Ridge where the for-sale signs at the ends of so many driveways are like tombstones for plague victims. The market continues to plummet. I wonder who is to blame. The fools who acquire a level of debt that exceeds their paying ability and the value of their homes, or the banks that so willingly made those mortgages knowing full well that their giddy and greedy actions would eventually result in this situation? Should I feel guilty about walking through a bank-owned two-bedroom/two bathroom that can be had for the price of a sedan?

I am distracted by a passel of cyclists who wiz by on their way to the beach. “Look at the heterosexuals”, I say to C, pointing at them.

“What do you mean?” he says.

“It’s just the way they buy all that matching shimmery gear. The tight fitting red, white or blue spandex with all the logos and the matching goggles and helmets and shoes and gloves. Gay men don’t do that.”

“Oh really? What about the harnesses and nipple rings and clamps and boots and t shirts?”

We are off to the races on a discussion about the differences between straight and gay. I disingenuously prop up the argument that we are different from straight people. But really, it’s just in the details. Gay marriage will finally deflate my already weak stance. In our drive to be “equal and the same” we will become just that, forfeiting our fabulousness, our theatrically constructed lives, our special and vivid colors, our way of saying those special little things we say that women bring home from the office and repeat to their disgruntled husbands. Our defiance. That is what will slip away between the cracks of equality. That may not be the future I want to fight for. Do you?

Last night at Alibi, I scanned the room, feeling like Walt Whitman, at one with every molecule of every gay man alive today, from the pear-shaped old lettuce bag in the white Lacoste over pleated Land’s End shorts on the stool at the bar receiving an order of fries from (and pinching the gyroscopic butt of) an impatient waiter-twink, to the “It’s my birthday!” Catholic thirty-six year old from Iowa who came out late in life and is two years into a relationship with the beautiful Cuban Carlos who has had a few Long Island Ice Teas ($3 each on Thursday only!) and is flirting with each of us and placing his straw cowboy hat on our heads before kissing the faces beneath it, to the slender and cute British boy named Rory from Kensington whose t shirt said “Fuck me like you hate me” and promised to return to us “to get better acquainted” once he had dropped off the drinks he was carrying to his group of friends.

The screens overhead gave forth music videos from twenty years ago! Janet Jackson takes a swan dive off the Manhattan Bridge. Alison Moyet opens her mouth to reveal a set of vampire fangs. C explains what has happened to the music business. I credit Shawn Fanning with a singular David vs. Goliath slingshot that brought the industry to its knees. We are back to producing songs at home, playing the spoons on our knees and snickering while we rhyme our way onto Youtube. This is good.

If only everything would shrink to cottage size again. If only the milk we drank came from the cow in our barn, and the juice we drink from oranges plucked from branches that graze our back porch, and there is that boy next door. Wouldn’t he be enough even if you never again ended the night at Slammer as did we, pushed up against the muscular shoulders of five feverishly naked guys all with our dicks pointing to the center of the group like divining rods announcing a sudden geyser about to buckle the floor boards, and as we may do again tonight? Isn’t a little information about what’s happening down the lane where someone has grown a particularly large pumpkin or a particularly spectacular violet iris better than knowing about how many bodies were pulled from the rubble of the crane collapse or how many millions a hedge fund manager made last year, or how a candidate is promising to be everything he or she has no real intention of being?

I close the shutters against those things and their foul odors, Joey. They do not exist for me. I listen to the music you sent us yesterday. Tangerine. The disco version of Baby Face. Danny Tenaglia’s remixed Miss Kittin. That song by Jean Carne. Here, in this place, have I orchestrated the salvation of my Salsoul, and it is working so that I do not. If I could subvert you, and C and all of you who work and worry, I would, and blamelessly. Relax. Feel better. Drop everything. Come visit. Bring Shelly. Or, we’ll see you in the Park in a few weeks.

Your devoted Father T.

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