Monday, January 30, 2006

Texas, Part 1

If three fire engines race past your bedroom windows, speeding the wrong way up your street, it’s a pretty safe bet that something really, really bad is happening.

The first and second trucks’ red lights had spun across my ceiling before I hopped up off the mattress and stumbled over to the bay, threw up one sash and stuck my head and torso out, craning left towards the commotion of strobes and shouting men. The identical house fronts’ square bays formed a uniform row of white boxes lining the adjacent porch roofs. The compressed perspective of the narrow windowless sides facing me resembled milk cartons lined up in a grocer’s cold box. Six or eight houses down, from a window identical to the one from which I leaned naked, white and yellow flames shot straight outward, looking surreally like the flapping silk tops of those Statue of Liberty costume flashlight torches, where the sheer fabric “flames” are made to flicker by a tiny fan in the handle with the bulb and batteries.

Six or eight houses up to where my friend Mike lived, with his dog Texas.*

Ten years earlier Mike had decided he needed a dog. He visited the Morris Animal Refuge a number of times, each time being greeted by the wild “Pick Me! Pick Me!“hysteria of the four legged inmates (dogs like Mike), In spite of their enthusiasm, he selected a golden yellow brown chow looking mutt, from among the boisterous contenders, impressed by how the year old animal responded enthusiastically only to his keepers, remaining cool, and almost diffident towards the hopeful would be dog owners who’d passed the shelter’s rigorous screening process. To avoid confusion with a room mate already having the name, the dog’s handle was changed from his original Pete, to Texas (the suggestion of a girl across the alley) for no particular reason other than that the percussive syllables would make it easily distinguishable by the new wolf dog’s pointy ears.

Mike and I became buddies in our Post Graduate “between” periods, before real jobs had been secured or life courses plotted. We’d met at the North Star Bar, where we both worked waiting tables, just around the corner from his house. A bunch of us started hanging out at his place, listening to Cds, guzzling local craft beers by the case, and passing around a well worn red plexiglass Tobacco Master, before, after, and (if we snuck out the kitchen door while waiting for orders to come up, and sprinted across Poplar and down Bailey Streets) during our shifts. That’s where I first met Texas.

At first, he gave me the wolf dog evil eye, coldly evaluating me through narrow slits and making great sweeping arcs around me; as distant as the tiny cluttered rooms would allow. The next half dozen or so times Texas treated me as though I was invisible, generally ignoring me completely except to growl if I strayed too close or once, to bite me. The non-person status was more of an injury than the teeth marks; my self-esteem was eroding at the onslaught of indifference. Up ‘till now, dogs ALWAYS liked me.

One night when we staggered in, the dog rushed up, slipping and skittering on the smooth hard oak floor, legs in all directions, just like he always did when Mike came home. This time, his excitement was shared. This time he was happy to see ME! I’d survived my hazing and was now worthy of excited jumping and fierce tail wagging. I kneeled down to rub his jowls and receive his kisses, roughly scratching his haunches and confirming for him that he was indeed a good boy. For the next decade, we repeated this ritual each time we met.

Texas was alone in Mike's house, at that end of the block.

*to be continued*

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Like many Americans, I observed Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend by attending a traditional regional fetish convention. In my case, the MAL in Washington D.C.

New York Jeff captured this picture of his boyfriend D.C. Tom, modeling his own harness, and me, wearing a leather vest generously lent by my Primary Hangout Buddy. We and hundreds of furry friendly men were enjoying Rich Morel and Bob Mould's monthly Blowoff party, at the storied 9:30 club. Oh! Such fun we had; I can't tell you how much!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Hamsters, Part 1

Every school day when the bell rang at three (if I didn't have to stay after) I left my class room and waked long ramped corridors toward the school's shiny red front doors. Tower Street Elementary School was a (then) intact early 50's compound of duplex classroom pods under gable roofs with up angled eaves (like sister Bertrill's hat on the flying nun) connected to each other by glass walled corridors. The passageways' terazzo floors rose and fell with the topography of the site as they connected the various modules attatched to them, all trailing out behind the core of entry hall, administrative offices, and the lofty laminated beam barn housing the cafeteria, multi purpose gym/ auditorium and curtained stage between them. Sometimes I imagined it was a space station like in "Silent Running" or city in the future, the glass corridor tunnels suggesting the maze in "Logan's Run", both of which we'd watched on Saturday afternoons on Channel 9.

The street of my regular route home had been widened sometime in the fifties or sixties. In several places houses behind reduced front yards were faced with high fieldstone bluffs and concrete steps leading through narrow fijords up to now elevated front yards which had once sloped down to the granite curbstones. The small boulders were the same rocks stacked into dry walls delineating the narrow lots of outlying houses like ours, and forming irregular grids tracing the boundaries of long disused farmers fields, now thickly returned to woods. Against the mortared stones at the foot of one of the staircases was a note written on lined note book paper in a woman's palmer method hand:

HAMSTER with HABITRAIL CAGE , food and extra cedar chips! *FREE*.

Habitrail was a then heavily advertised German made component system, of which hamster environments could be constructed, The jingle's vocal rose and fell through a musical mantra repeating the product's name and featured images of delighted pale skinned children in perfectly coordinated outfits and unisex hairdos marveling estatically as excited hamsters scurried adorably through tubes and mazes and pods in the never ending daily adventure of their translucent multi colored environment; as exotic as a futuristic rodent world discovered by the Moonbase Alpha crew as they hurtled through the galaxy on Space 1999. The voice over stressed the fun AND educational benefits of hamster husbandry. I sang the jingle to myself as I took the stairs two at a time,

"Habitrail, Habitrail, Habitrail, Habitrail, Haa-uh-uh-bitrai-ail!"


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

blog buddies

Monday, January 09, 2006


Gradually over the past few years, I've managed to extricate myself from the ho ho holidays' major buzz kill elements; my deranged family and the potlatch/consumer consumption orgy of proscribed gift giving This deliverance has freed me to better focus on warmth and merriment.

This past holiday season was an especially pleasant one for me. I loaded up the sleek black leopard (which guzzles costly premium fuel, but sails effortlessly down the highway in exchange) and wandered the northeast corridor, spending only two days in Philadelphia between December23rd and January 3rd.

My Christmas destination found me amongst convivial company, treated to heartfelt hospitality and well watered and grazed by the most generous of hosts. I hardly broke anything. Reflections on the year past and anticipations of an even better one ahead were shared, and friendships strengthened. Good gifts.

Part two of my week (or so) off was just as much fun, though in a completely different way. A dear friend went to Florida, leaving me the keys to his upper east side apartment. I met my primary hangout buddy at Nowhere in the east village for Wednesday's Runt Nite, talking him in the last few blocks by cell phone "now look for a short man under a black awning, waving to you." Good beer and good music and a room full of vaguely alt, Brooklyn-y queers, mostly boys but girls too. We looked out onto a sea of FACES , rather than the necks and shoulder blades to which we're accustomed. I could touch the ceiling.

Jackson heights is all of 13 minutes and 44 seconds from Midtown, and has the energy and vitality of a 1950's film version of the Lower East Side, by way of Bollywood. I spent Friday there, hanging out in the vibrant colorful diverse neighborhood with a couple recently relocated to their own pre war 2br co-op with a Manhattan view.

The two crowded clamorous blocks from the station were lined with produce markets overflowing with vivid fruits and mysterious vegetables,
a rainbow of sari merchants, and jewelers showing insanely elaborate gold filigree and gem ornaments under dazzling white halogen lights.

Missed one out of town buddy, but collided with three others at The Dugout later that evening. I introduced them to The Phoenix, then we headed back west for a few beers at The Eagle. A hard bargain was hammered for street meat (the kind from a steel cart, silly) before cab rides home.

Saturday brought wandering, the fruitless quest for an off the rack sport coat which will fit both my chest and shoulders(one size is always too small, the next too big, and I'm particular anyway). Met T and C on the upper west side, and cabbed to meet friends of theirs for a dinner of spirited conversation and unremarkable Greek cuisine.

Then to Nowhere again to witness the calendar change with T and C. and the previous night's companions. Fun was had and Re acquaintances were made to a score of disco classics; champagne for everyone! A nightcap at Phoenix, and off to bed.
The evening of January 1st. started at The Dugout with T and C, Super Daddy and a roomful of furry friendly men, and ended at The Eagle, with me being flattered and charmed by Mark and Tim's attention.
Monday was spent wandering, and Tuesday I packed up the car and headed back to Philly.

All and all one of the best holidays I can recall, capping one of the better years I can remember. Thanks to all the friends, new and old, who made it so special.
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