Category Archives: NYC

#MyFirstGayBar Part II… I discover gay bars don’t necessarily have to suck at The Phoenix, NYC

I felt that yesterday’s post about my first time in a gay bar was a bit of a downer, so here’s some words about finally finding a gay bar where I felt accepted.

I didn’t come out until 2000 when I was a whopping 33 years old. This isn’t going to be a tale about me tiptoeing into my first bar (for proper reasons; see above). I had sold pants at Dillards in Austin for a few years during grad school, so I was constantly being dragged to places like Oil Can Harry’s in the name of workplace colleague bonding.

No, this is about finally finding a place I liked. When I came out in Austin, I tried going out to the bars there. My entire circle of gay peers consisted of the sad sacks in my coming out support group, and they hated me because I admitted that drag queens kind of frightened me. I needed friends, and I figured I could meet maybe one or two at any one of Austin’s several gay establishments.

It didn’t work out that way. I hardly talked to anyone basically because I felt so uncomfortable in the Austin bars. They were not for me. My only pleasant memory of Oil Can Harry’s was that night I closed the place and found a nice GAP shirt on the empty dance floor in my size. The Chain Drive, the leather/bear bar in town, had fluorescent lighting.

Fluorescent lighting.

phoenixOne winter break, early 2002, I decided to spend a week in NYC. I found a cheap guesthouse on Second Avenue and 13th Street in the East Village and set out, armed with my Damron guide. I didn’t have to go far –The Phoenix was only two long blocks away. First thing I noticed was the music. I had no idea that gay folk who listened to the same type of music as me existed. To this day, I think The Phoenix had the best-curated jukebox I’ve ever encountered. Continue reading #MyFirstGayBar Part II… I discover gay bars don’t necessarily have to suck at The Phoenix, NYC

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Flammkuchen, or I storm out of a German restaurant.

“Hey man, great shirt!” said the guy at the bar.

Didn’t he know I was storming out of the restaurant? I thought I made it very clear to everyone involved that I was storming out. I had thrown down my napkin purposefully. I had been walking in a straight line, avoiding eye contact with all the shocked (They were shocked, right?) patrons. I felt I had done everything short of a curt “I said GOOD DAY!”

Yet here was this guy looking right at me and smiling like a goon.

IMG_3953“Thank you,” I mustered because, let’s face it, the t-shirt was great –all pleasingly ill-fitting in all the right places, with three-quarter length sleeves and a design that cleverly mimicked the logo for the punk band Black Flag, replicating their logo with cats and changing the name of the band to “Cat Flag.”

Also I felt it was important to acknowledge the compliment because doing so would snap me back to earth, to get me back on my mission, which was to enjoy visiting my friends back in Brooklyn. My mission was not storming out of restaurants. There are plenty of restaurants out of which I can storm in Columbus.

Of course, no one walks into a restaurant planning to storm out. Yet… Black Forest Brooklyn, a very brownstone-y take on the traditional German Biergarten in Fort Greene, had messed with me before. My friend Greg, who I was with this night along with two others, and I had each had escalating bad service experiences here. I mean, the food is good and the room is pleasingly airy, but good luck getting your check. Continue reading Flammkuchen, or I storm out of a German restaurant.

Bits and Bobs of Ft. Greene, Brooklyn

This day in September: Five memories of my dad and the Twin Towers

Just trying to add something positive to balance a negative day. September 11th doesn’t need any more maudlin.

I need to reclaim my memories of those buildings.

1…

I had just woken up and was engaged in my morning ritual of removing my stuffed animals from the grocery bags where they spent the night. This was serious business; the animals needed to bagged every night because if there was a fire, they could be evacuated with less fuss.

My dad stuck his head in my room. My eight-year-old self was slightly startled; he normally was on his way to the train by now. Was I in trouble for bagging my animals again? It was normally my mom who took issue with this completely normal and in no way morbid ritual.

His eyes were wide. “Hey Chris-popples, you need to see this!”

The use of the “-popples” suffix always meant fun was afoot.

We hurried down the stairs to the master bedroom. Our house on Long Island was a split-level. He pointed to the dresser. “Look at that!” The black and white Bradford television, the one that took an eternity to warm up, the one I got to watch when I was sick, the one with the necessary vertical hold knob, was tuned to the Today show.

Some dude was walking a tightrope between the Twin Towers!

I sat on the edge of the bed while watching the spectacle unfold in glorious black and white, breathing in the in smell of the English Leather that my dad slapped all over his face after he shaved.

The Twin Towers will always be monochrome and reek of that cologne you brought your dad for Father’s Day every year.

2…

My dad got to go to some sort of business-guy function in an upper floor of one of the Towers. He told me that the building was so tall, the rain was “falling” upwards. I didn’t know whether to believe him or not. After all, this was the same man who spent the better part of my life trying to convince me that Suzanne Pleshette had a wooden leg. Continue reading This day in September: Five memories of my dad and the Twin Towers

March

IMG_0308

…in which the author attempts to figure out where he fits on the spectrum, er, rainbow.

New York City

I insist that I had an awful Pride Parade that year. Sure, we were all supposed to be happy about the Supreme Court striking down DOMA. But the ruling came down in the middle of the week. That Wednesday afternoon, I had a Stoli Oranj and soda at Stonewall on Christopher Street and then a burger and another Stoli at Julius, a gay bar even older than Stonewall. Got my gay history on. But by the time the Parade rolled around on Sunday, it seemed all the DOMA decision meant was that “couples” –the kind that always have to remind you that they’re a “couple” –could make out with a leaning impunity, slurring things like “Our love is legal.” Because before Wednesday, the feelings you felt for this person were subject to a $50 fine and a summons. I, in turn, made plans to die alone in a bizarre DVR mishap.

Not everything was bad. I did get to boo at that mayoral candidate I disliked as she rode by looking like Cleopatra on her way to open a PathMark in Luxor. And I got to boo at that other mayoral candidate for his inability to take a decent junk shot. But after a while, it just felt like I was being pandered to by politicians and corporate outreach programs.

And the centerpiece of the Chipotle float was a skinny twink in a cowboy outfit riding a bucking foil-wrapped burrito. That appealed to many of my baser instincts involving jack cheese and bucking. But on every other float, the standard issue twink was provided with a whistle with which he could toot along to the Katy Perry vibrating out of rental loudspeakers.

And, it’s always nice hanging with friends at the Parade. My friends and I have a great place that’s not jammed up against a building, goes into the shade early, and is only a block from Julius where it only costs you the price of drink to use the bathroom. But one of the things about hanging with people is punctuality. People all need to be at the same place at the same time in order to hang. Texting does not count. Two friends, a “couple” crashing their way quickly from casual acquaintances towards being blocked on Facebook were over two hours late because of “train problems.” We all have “train problems,” but when I have “train problems,” I don’t answer a “getting close?” text with “stoped 2 get a beer.” No, you better show up winded and apologizing profusely for ruining the gay.

When a drunk Lesbian-of-a-Certain-Age tried to choke me with my Pride beads, I decided it was time to go.

Budapest

But at least I got to actually watch the parade, which is a far cry from what was afforded me when I showed up in Budapest in September 2009 on their equivalent of Pride. In NYC, we like say our parade is a “march,” with all the attendant meaning that goes with that word, but twink riding burrito. In Budapest, it’s so much a “march” that they don’t call it a “march” –it’s the 14th Gay Dignity Procession! Two years earlier, in 2007, far-right unfortunates attacked the 12th Gay Dignity Procession. Police then tried to cancel the 13th Gay Dignity Parade in 2008, citing “traffic.” The gays sued. They marched. Far-right unfortunates attacked the 13th Gay Dignity Procession. So for the 14th Gay Dignity Procession, the police came up with the perfect plan….

Berlin

Now you need to understand at this point that I prefer to travel alone. Continue reading March

Your contempt for me rings a bell

[Two years ago, I devoted a Tumblr called $1.98 Advent Calendar from the C-Town to the cause of taking the Baby Jesus on adventures thru the City… plus what was going on back at the mangerplus what candy I got that day… You should check it out.  In addition to these regular features, which will remain there, I am moving a few longer essays over to this site for safe-keeping. This essay was updated and polished somewhat in the process.]

Stop doing that sin thing you're doing! It's icky!
Stop doing that sin thing you’re doing! It’s icky!

For the most part, I love living across from a fine grocery store like Steve’s C-Town.  I can get inexpensive Diet Coke seventeen hours a day, and the cat loves watching the delivery trucks every morning.  But, during Christmas season, the C-Town becomes a focus of holiday tsuris.  If I turn off my music, and there’s no B61 laboring to get up the hill on 9th Street, I can hear it —the faint sound of the Salvation Army bell ringer.

Now this sound doesn’t rate as a noise.  It’s not waking me up, unlike the Lesbians in the Ceiling clomping around in their kitchen, which for some reason is over my bed. These women, upon returning home, must unscrew their normal legs and screwing on peglegs.  It’s also not subjecting me to intimate details of its life, unlike the receptionist from the dental clinic next door who sits on the stoop under my living room window, smoking and gabbing.  No, this sound doesn’t make me mad.

It makes me unbelievably sad.

It didn’t always used to be this way.  The Salvation Army bell ringer was always one of the first harbingers of Christmas back in the days when Christmas began when it should, not as part of a back-to-school sale.  Dropping my change in that bucket always filled me with pride, like I was part of something bigger.

Then a few years ago I was entering Grand Central Station to catch a train to Katonah, and I put a dollar in the kettle.  I halted; I was filled with something other than holiday spirit, something bigger that I wanted to be a part of. I doubled back —this bell ringer was HOT! Imagine a beefier Ben Affleck with an “Argo” beard and in a ridiculously retro, perfectly tailored uniform.  The Salvation Army got another $10.  I chuckled to myself at my shallowness and felt that this would be a cute little anecdote to share on the Facebook. Continue reading Your contempt for me rings a bell

PHOTO ESSAY: Folks at The Cloisters

One of my favorite NYC outings is to take the A Train all the way up to 190th Street and walk thru Fort Tryon Park to The Cloisters.  The Met’s outpost for medieval religious (mostly) art sits atop a hill in the most un-Manhattan part of Manhattan.  It’s still rocky and hilly up here, and a view across the Hudson presents one with the vista of The Palisades, which is a much nicer view than Weehawken.  There are trees, actual virgin forest.

But it’s not the view or the trees that draw me up here.  It’s not even the “suggested” admission price (though that helps). I go because it’s like visiting old friends. Yes, I can get lost contemplating palimpsest of a Pollock or drown in the cool blue ocean of an Yves Klein. But The Cloisters is full of characters.

And they won’t shut up. It’s like being at a wonderful cocktail party where everyone keeps dropping the same name: Jesus’.

They’re always happy to see you…

"Did you make it alright? I hope the A Train wasn't too much of a hassle."
“Did you make it alright? I hope the A Train wasn’t too much of a hassle.”

Continue reading PHOTO ESSAY: Folks at The Cloisters