Monday, May 29, 2006

Athletic Supporter

So off I went to NYC, spending Saturday watching the gay rugby players work out their masculinity issues ( kidding! sorta. ) by hurling themselves at one another while alternately kicking a plump oblong ball toward one end of the field and tossing it back in the direction from which it had only just come. I saw a few buddies playing for the Washington Renegades, Philadelphia Gryphons,and Gotham Knights; run, pound, scratch, and scrape themselves to filthy, sweaty blood stained victory; cheered on by friends and loyal spouses. Two of the fellers scored their very first goals, and marked the milestones with the traditional "Zulu" run ( naked save for running shoes ) around the field. I missed the one (damn it) but saw the other, who turns out to be a "show-er" and if my memory is correct, grows substantially as well. I ran into a number of friends, acquaintances and people I'd slept with but who's names I couldn't recall ( kidding! sorta.) and decided to add one of 'em to my short list based entirely ( and somewhat disturbingly )on watching him repeatedly pound other men into the ground. A good time seemed to be had by all, in spite, or perhaps because of, the broken ankles, noses and concussions. Vasco took a bunch of great pics of the revelries.

My friend Billy and I hopped "the shuttle" back to civilization, not realizing untill departure that it was actually reserved for the Atlanta Bucks only. Surrounded by buzzed burly men in the un air conditioned school bus with windows that only opened inches, we decided it was like a southern chain gang transport and heartily joined shouted choruses of rugby themed call and response songs. It was a lot of fun.

Saturday night was spent at a Renegades hosted party at a bar known for the name brand porn star/escort/body workers who set up shop there. One, featured prominently on the inside front cover of this weeks HX (or Next, I can't tell the two apart)was displaying himself at a front table, but quickly conceded the night to the room full of rapidly drunk-ifying ruggers, who, you know, just GIVE it away.

You'd be more likely to find me in a straight strip club than a gay sports bar; the floor show is a lot funnier; but none the less, that's where the posse pulled me. Once there, I continued a spirited conversation with a man remarkable for his warmth and intelligence, and also for being so much taller than me that his seated eyes were at a level with my standing ones. Solo now, I headed off to an East Village basement bar, to hear funky disco soul and continue a frequently interrupted conversation with a smart smart ass who's liquid brown eyes are at a level closer to my own, giving me a clear view of their sparkling intensity.

Sunday began with my always generous host's busy preparations for the arrival of one his old friends, who was flying in from IML/Bear Pride in Chicago to join us at the XXL party at Webster Hall. My faithful cell phone was an unfortunate casualty of the sprucing up, being caught in a sudden sink side flood plain. Though it's cleaner now than it's been since the T-Mobil clerk delivered it into my eager trembling hands two years ago, it's brief and accidental ablutions did nothing for the little electronic brain inside. I held it in my hand, watching the screen image distort as the soapy blue liquid lobotomy washed the functions away from the inside. In my head, I could hear the voice of HAL, the computer in 2001, singing a slow fading rendition of "daisy, daisy... on a bicycle built for two." as the screen image fragmented, pixelated and finally went blank. I spent the next several hours discovering that I hate every sigle cell phone currently manufactured, all of them thick and bloated with cameras mp3 players and other functions I don't need and couldn't figure out even if I did want them. Which I don't. My late phone, ovoid and tapered like a worn and soon to be discarded bar of Dove soap, with a tiny quahog stem of an antenna, slipped easily into the coin pocket of my Levi's or the back pocket of my shorts. The clerk enthused; "OH yeah, that was a GREAT little phone!" and then informed me that it's no longer manufactured. He showed me Razors and Slivers, thin and angular as subway tiles and as sharp edged as their namesakes. Damn it. Stupid cell phones.

Later, after hours of guzzling "lite" beer at The Dugout and Eagle, I returned to the Upper East Side to get myself together for the much anticipated XXL "bear" party, which was billed to be less irritating than a run of the mill circuit party. I decided to lay down for "just a second", before putting in my contacts. Unassisted by my cell phone's crippled alarm, ten thousand seconds later ( about three hours ) I awakened at two thirty AM and cabbed down to catch the last hour or so of the big burly hairy shindig. Damn it. I missed hanging out with my buddies, but for only a twenty five dollar cover, and seeing as I usually hate these kind of things, it wasn't such a big deal. Just wait "till next year.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Two Wheels Good II

When I first held my fancy new digital camera, I was awed. It was technological, electronic, and expensive. It was my first camera. I realized I would quickly destroy it. That flash of unusual self awareness led me to pay the extra hundred dollars for the repair/replace insurance. Five months later I lay the crippled instrument, wrapped in a shroud of the policy documents, before the clerk at Ritz Camera. "It'll take four to six weeks." she said. Excepting pictures taken during that machine's five month run, there are very few photographs of me after I left my parents house at nineteen years old. Once in awhile there would be a print mailed or given to me after a party or event, or a series of photo student friend portfolio essays, or my presence in a snapshot clicked by a friend who'd picked up the camera I'd borrowed for some one or two roll purpose. None of it's digital.

There are no photos of any of my two wheeled conveyances save three taken at once, and too embarrassing to scan and post here. All are of me on the white Honda Elite 70.

Yup. Dad came through. I presented a lucid, well researched argument for him, laying out all the numbers, in letter form. The written rather than telephoned communication avoided the likelihood of me mimicking the pedantic monotone Dad used whenever explaining anything, or me bitchily injecting that he'd LEAPT to pay the membership dues to my brother's stupid frat, even though Henry still spent half his time living at their house in the room which stood exactly as he'd left it (and would remain so, labeled as "Henry's Room" in almost shrine like preservation for a decade, years into his marriage) when he'd gone off to college. No. Theatrics and recriminations would not further my cause. My room mate edited the letter, and checked the spelling. I stuffed it into an envelope and licked the flap with the tongue that in conversation, I would surely have had to bite. I waited. To my surprise, Dad wrote back that he'd do it. The next time I visited, we would go to Dixon Square, at the bottom of the hill I'd climbed up and raced down on the Puch moped, to the Venerable Bank where his family had been making transactions since it's founding in 1800. He would sign the papers.

I stayed in the room I'd vacated many months, which had been immediately transformed into "The Sewing Room". Mom had measured for her new curtains while I was loading my things into the van in the driveway below. On the day dad and I were to go to the bank, I rose early from my bed, a folding lawn chaise set up for me in a narrow open space in Mom's new workroom. A second rearangement of the sewing room had opened up enough space to stick me in there - a considerably more comfortable berth than the exercise mat under the dining room table, where I'd slept the last time I'd visited. When my brother was off at school and I was home, I slept in his bed. When we were there at the same time, I made do. Downstairs In the kitchen, Dad was sitting in his hard backed maple chair, the one closest to the wood stove which had been stoked against the early spring chill. He nodded to me. To his right, Henry's chair was empty - Henry was still asleep in Henry's Room. My mother busied herself at her sink, next to the cupboard where the dishes were kept. I reached back behind the first few rows and shuffled the dozens of mismatched mugs and cups, a ceramic record of their twenty five year marriage (nothing was ever discarded in that house) searching for the mug I'd used almost as long as I'd drunk coffee. My other, oldest brother had bought it in the 70's from a hippie artist commune on a farm out by the Naval air station. The curve of the mug's body fit my cupped hands as though I'd thrown it myself, the flare of the thin lip slipped perfectly between my own two and I loved the feel of the ridges impressed by the potter's fingers and the tiny bumps of coarse texture through the mottled gray and blotchy mud colored glaze. I'd fill it with hot water from the kettle which always sat on the wood stove, to heat it's thick stoneware walls. Emptied and refilled with dark brown liquid, it'd keep the brew at a perfect temperature.

"Where's my mug?" I asked her.
She didn't look up from the dishes; "What mug?"
"The grey and brown mug that I always use. Eric's old mug. My mug."
She was puzzled, then; "Oh that ugly thing? It was cracked. I threw it away."

I selected another, this one a dull white cylinder transfer glazed with a company logo and it's telephone number and address in the town where I no longer lived. I reached for the coffepot on the counter between us.

"Leave some for your brother" she said.

I did.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Two Wheels Good


During the energy crisis in the mid 70's, my father bought a shiny new burgundy wine colored moped, with soft black vinyl panniers on either side of the broad saddle seat the back of which read P U C H in white block letters. .

He used it briefly to shuttle himself the seven-eights of a mile between home and the columned Indiana limestone main Post Office in Dixon Square. To my child's mind this purchase was the greatest thing EVER. I was obsessed then with cars and trucks and motorcycles, and expected that this "pook" would open up the adventure and excitement of the wide open highway as I'd witnessed it in edited versions of "The Wild One" or "Easy Rider" shown on Sunday afternoon T.V. presentations of The Million Dollar Movie. My father had never before bought anything that was even remotely cool or interesting. His purchases were made only after lengthy consultations with Consumers' Reports, the better business bureau, his mechanic and/or journeymen acquaintances in the most closely related trades. Whatever the carefully considered item; snowtires, a wood stove or the indestructible stainless steel storm door on the side entrance, it had been selected for desirable properties of reliability, long wear and ease of maintainance. Inherently thrifty, pragmatic and practical, Dad would not stand at the mercy of some capricious foreign oil cartel. But This though, THIS was going to be FUN.

When he pulled into the driveway Mom stood behind me with arms crossed over my rapidly beating heart, preventing me from flinging myself at it in wild eyed near hysteria. It idled with the put put put put put of a small outboard engine. Dad pressed the horn button twice in quick succession, and it chirped a MEEP MEEP very much like that of the Road Runner in the Warner Brothers cartoon. I swooned. My excitement was quickly tempered, quashed by the same dry pessimism which evaporated the fun out of life's felicities like the juices drained from an over done cut of finely marbled steak. Dad removed the chipped and scarred white yard sale sourced helmet and thick black leather work gloves which he would never fail to wear while riding. "I-wanna-ride-I-wanna-ride-I-wanna-ride!!!" I trilled salivating, flailing my skinny arms like a nest bound fledgling and hopping from one foot to another in a sort of pee dance of expectation. My fathers eyes were filled with the sorrowful burden of probity unknown to his overly eager and impulsive youngest son. He sighed. He wanted to make it clear to me that this moped had been purchased in the interests of ECONOMY, for necessary transportation in a time of national crisis. It was NOT a toy. He further explained that scooters and motorcycles were dangerous-the seemingly innocent burgundy machine too-so there would be no rides. Furthermore, as long as I lived in his house, I should entertain no thoughts of EVER owning or riding any such two wheeled deathtrap. The dread and fear so completely internalized by my father was projected onto the cheerfully oblivious little bike, and mercifully lost to me as well in my youth and all consuming abject disappointment. Slack jawed stunned I realized that yet again, This was going to be no fun at all.

Dad filled the tiny tank every couple of weeks from the Puch's own tiny red plastic gas can, into which he had mixed the precise amount of two-stroke oil as directed by the contorted grammar in the English/French/German owner's manual. After breakfast each weekday he would gird himself for the run to work, his uniform pants lashed tight to his ankle with the omnipresent large rubber bands of his trade. The lawn mower sized engine propelled him down the steep hill of Granite Street at a sprightly clip in the early mornings and then back up again in the evenings at a much more labored rate. For added safety in the early darkening days of winter, he kept a battery operated red flashing light lashed to the rear rack with additional rubber bands, aft of the tightly rolled rubber band secured gray vinyl slicker kept in case of showers. On one cold cloudy day riding shotgun in Mom's energy crisis worsening fuel guzzling station wagon, we chanced upon him on his ascent. We sighted the red beacon through wiper swipes sweeping icy drizzle from the windshield. The wet gray slicker reflected the red blinking and our head lights as we overtook him-scowling behind rain spattered glasses-as he climbed the hill at a walking pace. Dad was right again; it didn't look like fun at all.

When gas prices stabilized, the moped was set off to one side in the garage where it languished, gradually disappearing behind sediments of moving pads, and painting rags, and further screened by a palisade of garden implements. But still it dashed through the streets of my elaborate and highly detailed inner world, a world which I expected time and patience to ultimately make real. When I got my drivers license at seventeen, I excavated the Carter era artifact and returned it to regular service. Here was a chance to re-hydrate a long decicated good time. In the intervening years, the paranoia of mortality attached to the moped had faded, and the strictures forbidding two wheeled transportation had dropped away. Perhaps I was again benefiting from "The Baby Dividend" my brothers insisted I collected as the youngest, or maybe Dad had simply been so worn down after lengthy arduous adolescent embattlements with the first two that he lacked the energy to protest. He didn't even make me wear the beat up helmet.

I was king of the road. Even though I had access to the parents' cars- Mom's current station wagon (green with wood grain contact paper sides and a gleaming chrome roof rack which easily and securely accommodated two high school students clutching the front rail with feet hooked over the back one) and the current of Dad's series of disposable cars (a 1965 dodge coronet with a HUGE engine powerful enough to tow a small house and a two tone green '75 AMC Pacer with giant curved bubble rear corner windows, a doors open wingspan of approximately twenty five feet, and a steady transmission leak which necessitated almost daily topping-off from a case of Jack and Harry's fluid behind the drivers seat) - I vastly preferred my moped. With it I was free. In thrift store paisley shirts, Thomas Dolby inspired tiny round sunglasses from Trash and Vaudeville and sockless black penny loafers, I flew down the hill, my long on top buzzed up the back haircut swept into a wind tunnel ducks ass by reckless forward motion. Even through the Winter months I would ride, armored against the elements in vintage mountain climber's goggles, a heavy black canvas tent of a fire mans' coat over swaddling layers of sweaters and flannel topping black Levis 501s with black lace up wrestling boots sticking out underneath. Half way down the valley I'd have to stop for a while to defrost my eyeballs.

I loaded my faithful friend in to Peter's big blue van for the several hundred mile trip to Art School in the Far Away City.
Once in Philadelphia, I moved into cheap lodgings on the far fringes of the city. I quickly discovered that the tiny engine was not up to jousting with the more aggressive drivers of the Delaware Valley and grudgingly resorted to public transportation to get myself in and out of Center City for classes and my full time job (Dad had decided that my weak high school performance had made me a poor risk for academic investment. He co-signed my student loans, but gave me no further assistance, aside from an occasional twenty dollar bill guiltily secreted in my knapsack on my visits home. This was in marked contrast to my brothers. Some Baby Dividend ). Juggling the schedules of work , school, and The South Eastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority left me with hours spent waiting and waiting for buses which might or might not arrive, and the stress of being either a little late or much to early for everything. The lines shut down shortly after midnight, which hampered my attempts to create a social life in my new town. It was expensive to boot. On T.V. at that time, the members of Devo were among a group of "edgy" avantgarde performers then shilling for Honda's new "Elite" line of scooters in heavily rotated T.V. adds. Devo was cool. I wanted to be cool, and I wanted to come and go as I pleased. I'd priced the machines and determined that I could buy one on payments, and even adding in America's second or third highest insurance rates, the whole project would cost less a month than what I was paying SEPTA. At the end of the process I'd actually OWN something as well. I resolved to present the case to my father on the slim chance that he might cosign for this as well.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Bid Now

You know, you can get ANYTHING on eBay. Absoloutely anything.

My recent purchases have included a 1950's Antonio Sciarrotti biomorphic centerpiece bowl, a power window motor for my old convertible, Scandinavian cased glass and teak pendant light fixtures, a stack of 1970's wrestling magazines, and this vintage 1980's new old stock item(no, I'm not the model); just in time to wear to the Bears on Liberty events this weekend!

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Hmmm...mmm. I got my teeth cleaned today. It's been five or six years, so I was a little bit concerned. For a long time I had no dental insurance, and couldn't bear going in for a once over and learning that a mouthful of unaffordable caps filling and bridges were indicated. So I crossed my fingers and thought about other things. About two years ago, the boss signed us up for a dental plan. Apparently her on-the-books-but-performs-no-labors live in BF needed some work. About a year after that she got around to mentioning the fact of the coverage to ME. It took another 10 months before I got around to finding a dentist. Right on schedule.

Back when my parents paid for everything, I was a patient of Dr. Mateo DDS; "The most expensive dentist in town!" as my Dad lamented when he opened the clear windowed envelopes at the dining room table where he attempted to make sense of my Mother's runic check book balance inscriptions and pay our bills with whatever was left over. Dr. Mateo moved to new offices housed in a story and a half carpenter gothic house with a tall pointed arched window in a narrow cross gable above a wide veranda facing the street, like the house in the "American Gothic" painting. Before he purchased the long vacant property, the house was board and batten sided with discrete jigsawn brackets and subtle lines of mouldings tracing the eaves and doors and tall windows which reached down almost to the porch decking. I'd long thought that the house was kinda cool, or interesting, or whatever elementary school aged future designers think of the things which first stir their interest in the forms the world takes. The Dr. used the profits generated by his high fees to shave the house of decorations, wrap it in pale yellow vinyl siding, and replace the slender, elegant colonettes supporting the veranda roof with paired black anodized aluminum extrusions connected by bent flat stock curlicues. I watched the work progress each day as I walked by on my paper route. The dumpster out front filled with plaster and lath, mantle pieces, gas lightfixtures and molded paneled doors painted and combed to look like figured wood. A deeply turned mahogany newel post and thick moulded railing which followed the stairs up and curved around the corners of the second floor landing in a continuous unbroken line were the only remnants of the old house in the similarly denuded drywall interior. At twelve years old, laying back in the chair staring up at the drop ceiling and waiting for the Doctor to stick his hairy knuckled sausage fingers in my mouth, I felt it was a misuse of funds.

My new dentist works out of a corner brick row house she shares with her General Practitioner husband-they split the staff. They renovated their workspace in an early 80's exposed brick, polyurethaned oak and track lighting aesthetic, complete with spider plants. Her treatment room was rendered in the pale mauve-y pink that held sway for most of that decade. The counter tops, cabinet fronts, dentist's chair upholstery, walls-even the bib, her surgical mask, the peppermint paste with which she polished away signs of tarter and the Dixie cup I used to rinse and spit it all out-were this same queasy shade. I decided to interpret all this as a sign of thoroughness and attention to detail, desirable traits in a hygienist. Madame dentist said that things look really good; no signs of cavities or unusual gum recession or even the excessive plaque build up expected after so many years between cleanings. I have an appointment in two weeks to fill a tiny lost chunk of one of Dr. Mateo's fillings. She remarked that even so, they were holding up remarkably well after a quarter century. I thought to myself that they ought to, for what they my Dad had paid for them and the cost of a beautiful little house.
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