February 28, 2007

I'm Sure You're A Great Guy, But I'm Just Here For The Cookies A friend and I reluctantly decided recently that, in lieu of having boyfriends, it was necessary to "put ourselves out there." So, after a fancy dinner at Chicken Sandwich (that's Ranch 1 under new management for all you "foodies"), we headed to a mixer to which I was invited as part of the unveiling of a new gay social networking site. When I was told the party was being held at The Ritz, I found myself intrigued yet suspicious. Naturally, The Ritz we stumbled upon was not, in fact, the Ritz-Carlton, but instead an inconspicuous dive located along a row of after-theater restaurants populated by people whom I can only imagine converse more about Patti LuPone in one evening than I will in my entire life. As someone terrified at the prospect of making small talk with strangers (if you couldn't already have concluded from my rants written behind the comfortable glow of my laptop), my first instinct was to turn around. But, alas, we stayed. Although no one was drooling, we were undoubtedly the youngest guys there. The guests - all in their thirties and forties, with a couple of stragglers tipping the scale at 5-0 - looked "professional" in that they wore the type of generic buttoned-down, Happy Hour-friendly striped shirts I would never be able to distinguish as coming from Barney's or Filene's Basement. I did snag a free tee shirt (to add to my rich collection of gym clothes earned for free), which was nice, and there were some awesome snacks available. In other words, we did what we came to do: eat and steal. Although we only loitered for about 45 minutes, we spent enough time to be approached by a short, large man in a fire engine red shirt who looked like Harvey Fierstein with less hair. He chatted us up and seemed nice enough until we found ourselves, fifteen minutes later, barely trudging through conversation as he casually leaned his arm on the back of my chair, surveying the room as if the three of us were now a trio on the lookout. When we'd thought we had finally gotten rid of the guy, he only returned to ask us a question he'd "thought up" while in the bathroom: "Which contestant did you want to sleep with on Top Chef?" Yeah, that's not really the type of "sassy" gay language either of us tend to employ, but one must be polite in a room filled with free veggies and dip. At some point, a familiar smell seemed to seep through the bar. It wasn't an aroma that typically tickles the senses in such a setting, like beer or cigarettes or bad cologne. Rather, the odor of cat urine and wet corn chips seemed to follow us down the stairs even after we hung up our coats. It didn't take long to realize that what was likely the closest I'd ever get to sniffing a hobo's taint was being emit by what appeared to be an actual hobo. To his credit, he may have also been a former college professor who'd lost is mind or the basis for Tom Hanks in Cast Away. In any other situation, I couldn't possibly have been deterred from trying to decipher why or how a homeless dude would infiltrate a party for media guys. However, one particular guest made a late entry and managed to attract my attention entirely. At about five foot seven, the man, who was maybe 40, encapsulated for me a dying breed: the late-eighties/early-nineties homo, sporting a shiny earring (in the right ear, naturally) with a full head of puffy, dark blond "Hall & Oates hair," as my friend so appropriately described. Even as a kid (when not necessarily realizing that my unhealthy obsession with my first grade teacher's vast collection of high heels could mean something) the sight of such a man triggered a specific emotion in me that resulted in feeling majorly creeped out. Those vibes were always present when, for example, I would accompany my grandma to receive her daily blow out at the salon from Sal, a man whose strangely thick, jet black pony tail and mustache garnered him a striking similarity to Joel Siegel (if Joel Siegel were a drag queen with a day job). I also realized, from gawking at this otherwise-ordinary individual, that buried in my subconscious for far too long was this gentleman's virtual twin, Jim J. Bullock [sorry, that's the best I could find], an actor whose very face struck fear in my heart as a kid, despite the fact that I can't recall having watched a single episode of Too Close For Comfort. It was when the music began to go down and someone got on the microphone to start the raffle process that we finally fled the scene. On the way out, as said emcee asked the crowd whose phone number ended in "69" that I breathed a sigh of relief and reassured myself that I will likely never again attend any event in which the term "mixer" appears in the title. ...Unless there's a hobo on the guest list. In that case, count me in.
Washington Square Water Park? What with this past Saturday's preview of warm weather to come, I was reminded of one of my favorite experiences of summer in the city. Personally, I find summer in New York to be nothing less than unbearable. The constant sweating, the overflow of tourists, and the amplified smell of feces are enough to send me running for the dunes (which I do virtually every weekend between June and August). But in 2003, before my junior year at NYU, my friends and I gathered in Washington Square Park before hitting up a few local haunts. Little did we know we were about to witness one of the most colossal acts of Crazy I could ever hope to witness (because, hey, I can never get enough crazy hobo). The subject of our attention was a robustly built woman, about 40, dressed in an XL tye-dyed tee shirt and high-riding bicycle shorts. Also sporting sunglasses, the woman - whom for the sake of this story I'll call "Big Crazy Roberta" - would not necessarily collect attention if she were merely walking down the street. As we sat along the exterior of the fountain to watch BCR on the opposite end, we enjoyed being sprayed with mist shooting from the center spout (a rare occurrence for Washington Square Park, even in summer). In fact, the fountain itself was filled with a pool of water by the time we arrived, and there were scattered kids appropriately splashing around this muggy July evening. Out of nowhere, however, emerged BCR who took only a short time to be noticed. Along for the show, as well, was her brigade of children who, one by one, seemed to appear from thin air. (Also in tow was her awesome tiny dog Pee Wee, desperately in need of adoption.) Part Roseanne Barr, part Rosie O'Donnell, BCR was undeniably the closest a human being might come to being an actual monster. Her throaty voice screamed painfully embarrassing threats at her children - all of whom may have emerged from the womb in Jnco jeans and tee-shirts that read, "You're just jealous because the voices are talking to me!" - as we sat and stared in horror, alongside the neighboring guests who had paused from reading or tanning to ingest the train wreck of child abuse occurring in front of their very own eyes. Not having known that, years later, I'd have traded my LiveJournal for a moderately popular blog to which readers would flock in droves to scrutinize video footage from old sex ed. videos, I whipped my camcorder out just in time to capture a little bit of history in the making. And now, you and the rest of the Internet may bear witness to an event that single-handedly made me question if broken air conditioning on the subway does, in fact, make summer in the city not quite as dreadful as I'd originally concluded.

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