The New York Birthday Chronicles: 24 Beautiful Hours, 2 Beautiful Shows, 5 Beautiful Friends

Alas, my birthday month is just about ended. Huzzah, it is ending with a huge, fantastic bang. I am still recovering from my whirlwind trip to NYC with my near and dear ones which began with a Friday night slumber party and ended with me sleeping most of the day Sunday. But here is a brief tour of the tour, although I will be reviewing the two Broadway shows we saw at greater length in another entry (coming soon).

Friday, April 25

I arrived at Sue and Pat’s house at about 9:30p.m. Good neighbor friends visiting, drinking ensued. Cody arrived around 11:15. Drinking continued for a bit but mostly we were all in bed by midnight after having agreed to rise at 5:30 and who would take their allotted five-minute shower in what order.

Saturday, April 26

5:30a.m. We rose. We coffee-d. We showered. By 6:35 a.m. we were headed for White Marsh and the MegaBus. We stood in line next to a Mother and Daughter from Walkersville on their first trip to the city.  They were not seeing shows, which is fine since their idea of good shows had to do with some of my least favorite musicals which, sadly, seem to have huge appeal to the undiscriminating and unwashed masses. At around 8:15 we en-bus and my favorite seats at top of stairs on second level with extra leg-room are open, into which Cody and I lunge, and across the aisle are two more, conveniently, for Sue and Pat.

Charlie and Pat

Pat and I at falafel stand

Noon-ish. We arrived at 28th and 6th. Cody, Sue, Pat and I hot-footed it uptown to a falafel stand near the Algonquin where we scarfed down some scrumptious street-food and then headed into Algonquin for cocktails. I complained bitterly the entire time about what Marriott has done to the Algonquin. Pat suggested I should perhaps shut up or find another place to drink; I suggested he did not know me as well as I thought he did if he thought I would surrender a century of tradition to the Marriott Corporation and suffer the wrath of the ghosts of the Round Table habituees. I sipped my $23 dollar cocktail and Pat let slip that he and Sue had recently patronized ChickFilA. I was appalled. Cody suggested I was sometimes overly dramatic. I suggested he should choke on HIS $23 cocktail and that they all might remember this was MY BIRTHDAY TRIP.

Group theatre

From L to R, Me, Pat, Sue, Cody, Andrea (The fabulous Alison is photographer) outside BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY

Cody and Charlie theatre

Me and Cody, who has just lost the toss and has to sit next to me, well-known sobber, during the show.

1:45-ish. We meet up with Alison and Andrea outside the Schoenfeld Theatre and prepare to see Jason Robert Brown’s latest musical, The Bridges of Madison County. We are seated, 2 and 2 and 2 in third, fourth, and fifth rows in ridiculously glorious seats gotten by Andrea. Because it is my birthday trip, I am in second row. Because he is defenseless and the sweetest, Cody is stuck sitting with me, the well-known sobber. We open the program to see that the male lead is out and stand-by is in. We worry.

3:00ish. Intermission. The well-known sobber has not disappointed. Nor has the stand-by, Kevin Kern. Nor has Kelli O’Hara, the female lead. well-known sobber suggests another libation. Cody and I each have a $14 glass of wine. The $14 is no doubt due to its being served in a sippy-cup, which I find both fascinating and appalling on many levels but thanks to the residual buzz of the earlier Algonquin cocktail and the re-buzz brought on by shot-gunning the sippy-cup of cheap cabernet, I do not go on at my sometimes over-dramatic length about the issue to Cody.

Cody and Charlie at Bridges

Cody trying to make me laugh as much as possible BEFORE show starts so I will cry less during the show. Silly boy.

4:15-4:30ish. The show ends. I am a sobbing, wet-faced, emotionally exhausted wreck of a man. The group is presented with dinner options. While I am a well-known sobber, and at least three of the six of us are well-known control-freaks, all six of us are nearly pathologically incapable of making decisions. I break the mold and say I would really like to eat at Joe Allen’s. We walk the few blocks there and, despite my complete and utter lack of belief in the existence of anything divine, some Divine Intervention occurs and we not only do not have to wait, but the ONE table they have left is a six top.

Andrea and Charlie SMILING at Joe Allens

Me, SMILING, yes, SMILING, and my dear Andrea, at Joe Allen’s.

Alison and Stalked Man at Joe Allens

My dear, DEAR, Alison at Joe Allen’s – we really wanted this photo because I was SURE the man behind her was someone I should know – not that I don’t LOVE AND ADORE ALISON! But, who is that man?

smith's

Smith’s, where we stopped for a drink after the dinner drinks and before the pre-show drinks. I love New York.

6:30ish. Dinner has ended. It was delicious. I had three and a half glasses of wine. NOT in sippy-cups. Everyone made me laugh at least once. Everyone made me feel loved over and over again. We headed toward the next theatre. We stopped at a bar. The bar was called Smith’s Bar. Yes, yes it was. Cody bought us a round. I had a large Brooklyn lager.

7:30ish. We got to the Golden Theatre. We took our seats, all of us in a row in the second row for Mothers and Sons. mothers and sons marqueeWe knew it was a cry-fest. It was decided without rancor but not without some snark that the seating arrangement would involve Cody being on one side of me and Andrea on the other, thus insulating Sue, Alison, and Pat from my sobbing. Cody and I decided to go the bathroom before the show. Sue met us in the theatre basement where a souvenir stand was conveniently located next to a bar. She was buying a t-shirt. While we waited, Cody and I, never ones to waste an opportunity, bought our own souvenirs that looked and tasted suspiciously like tequila shots. (Note to Golden Theatre Bar: Please stock SILVER PATRON, Jose Cuervo is NOT the preferred Tequila of true drinkers- by whom I mean, me and Cody.) We got Sue a wine in a sippy cup because we wanted her to have the experience. Unlike us, she did not shoot it, but, rather, savored it and kept the cup.

9:30ish. The show was over. So was I. Such a moving script. Some really moving performances. And my first time seeing Tyne Daly, live and in person on stage. Alison had sent a note backstage to Bobby Steggert, rising Broadway star and originally from Frederick, worked with and friends with everyone I know although, somehow, he and I never worked together, and other than me being in the audience of a few of his shows in Frederick in those olden days and now, in New York, I don’t think we were ever even in the same room – although we did share a voice teacher and, as I said, tons of friends. In any event, after the show, we stayed long enough for Alison to talk to Mr. Steggert, who I have now met, and who, in addition to being ridiculously talented, is quite erudite, well-bred, and lovely to people hanging at the stage door after shows. Lovely guy at the end of a lovely show nearing the end of a lovely day with my lovely friends.

Alison and Bobby

The lovely and talented Alison back-alley at MOTHERS AND SONS with the lovely and talented Bobby Steggert.

We went our separate ways, Alison and Andrea heading for the train station since Alison had a sixteen hour work day coming on Sunday, while Sue, Pat, Cody and I headed back to the Algonquin so I could complain some more and have one last $23 cocktail. Which I did. And some rosemary steak fries. Cody had cake.

Cody and Charlie Algonquin 4Cody and Charlie Algonquin 3Cody and Charlie Algonquin 2Cody and Charlie Algonquin 1

11:15ish. Cab. To MegaBus stop. Nearly die on way. Alas, there is no bar-cart on street by bus waiting area. Bus arrives. We en-bus at 12:30ish. My favorite seats on second level at top of stairs are available again. Cody and I sit. Sue and Pat choose to ride on level one this time to avoid car-sickness that Pat experienced on ride up from being on wavy-weavy-second level of bus. So, on ride home they experience bumpy, bathroom-smelly ride of first level. Thank goodness there are only two levels as opposed to all of Dante’s circles, right?

Sunday, 5:30am. After the three and a half hour bus ride to White Marsh, and the one hour and change ride from there to Sue and Pat’s, and the twenty-minute drive from Sue and Pat’s to my house, which come at the end of 24 hours of being awake and eight hours or so in vehicles, four hours or so of being in a Broadway theatre, approximately nine alcoholic libations, priceless hours with the best and dearest and most loving, wonderful, perfect collection of friends with whom any one undeserving man has EVER been blessed, I am SMILING – yes, me, the well-known sobber, SMILING about having just had the best birthday ever.

I somehow know that my dear aunt, Sissie, ten years gone now and Queen of all things New York, birthday, and Algonquin, has somehow arranged all this – from the perfect group of friends, to the perfect shows, to the perfect last table at Joe Allen’s, to my favorite seats on the bus (twice) to every other perfect detail-HA! SHE’S THE DIVINE INTERVENTION ABOUT WHICH I WAS TALKING! And I smile one more time, throw off my clothes and drop into bed.

This was, indeed, as one of my friends who shall not be named said to me more than once, a HAPPY FUCKING BIRTHDAY! And all I have to say, to New York, to Broadway, to my dear aunt who taught me all of this, to my dear friends who indulged my birthday wish, and most especially to my dear Andrea who coordinated most everything and channeled Sissie, THREE WORDS.

 

 

 

… it was 26 years ago today … marching on d.c. …

April 2013 5Twenty-six years ago today I marched with some dear friends in Washington, D.C. along with an indeterminate number of people in support of equal rights for everyone regardless of who they loved. It was a beautiful day, a beautiful event, and in the quarter century since, there have been many, many beautiful changes and forward strides toward equality and embrace of all people which have made the world a better, safer, more loving place.

Are we finished? Never. Being alive is about evolution. There will always be ways we can improve – ourselves and the world. But, having fought and pushed and argued and striven for equality and recognition and understanding in ways that were sometimes angry, strident and reactionary to wounds I felt I (and others) had suffered, the very most important thing I have learned is that freedom begins in my individual soul, heart, and mind.

I am more and more careful with my words, with my reactions, and am much more easily shocked by the things people say to and about one another. I have learned now to remain silent – sometimes – at least until my heart stops pounding, until I am breathing normally again and can acknowledge the humanity of all the sides, all the points of view, until I can remind myself that everything – every word, every action, every atom of reality – no matter how heinous, hateful, and incomprehensible I may find it – begins at Love. It may become distorted, twisted, poisoned – but my goal as a human soul, is to always REMEMBER that somewhere – somehow – the initial intent, at the beginning, somewhere in EVERYTHING – there is a seed of Love.

I try NOT to respond until I have ACTIVELY thought that thought. And then, I try to respond FROM that thought.

I fail, every day. But, I’m learning. And still, quite surprised. As in today when I received an anonymous attack which began: “You talk waayyyyyyyyyy to [SIC] much. Why don’t you shut the fuck up.” And went on in that vein. I knew that I should NOT engage, but NOT engaging is difficult for me. So, I did, in a questioning way, saying, “I’m sorry my words caused this response in you but I’m not sure why you think it is incumbent upon you to share that with me. And, it should be ‘too’ not ‘to’.”

You can imagine the vitriol that ensued, including “The world is full of pussy faggots like you” and “Lucky me to get a spelling lesson from a pissed on old queen.”

First of all, no one ever has nor ever will piss on me. Secondly, many a Queen would be insulted to have me added to the ranks. And, old? We know how I feel about old.

It’s 26 years after the march. So, I had to wonder to myself where was the love in this attack? All I saw was sorrow that someone could be so full of hate and anger they had to strike out in such a way, and anonymously? And too, what had I done to encourage such a thing? c blog 3

That’s my sticking point: in those things – the behaviors and words of others with which I have difficulty finding the seed of love – how have I shaped my life to make space for them? How have I allowed them in? And how can I let them (and the people who bring them) go? Is it hubris to think that I can help to heal such disconnect? Certainly I have been burned in the past by my ego telling me I could or should save someone. Who am I to decide someone needs saving? Maybe I should shut the fuck up. (Happy now?)

It’s about evolution. It’s about asking the questions and looking for the Love inside even the hardest, most hurtful situations, and moving on, growing on, becoming on.

Happy Weekend, Friends. And happy loving whomever you love.

 

… coming to an end … here we (are) go(ing) again … but where?

(Today’s entry; in which I contemplate the end of summer and just where I will be going now that I have nowhere else booked to belong. Which takes me places I hadn’t expected to go … and I go there … of course.)

Labor Day weekend – the official unofficial end of summer – has passed.

Even though the students here in Frederick County, Maryland, returned scandalously early to school in August, and I’ve another five days left until my twelve consecutive weeks of nomad-wandering, living out of a bag, summer house/pet sitting come to an end; Labor Day is STILL the official mark of “Oh no, here we go again.”

It’s funny, that. By which I mean, where I am going with this – which is not at all where I meant to go. But, the preceding paragraph and its shape was affected by someone I know but have neither seen nor talked to in – I think – thirty years. On first construction, in the sentence about nomad wandering, I used the word “gypsy” – but, once upon a time when I was young, a friend and I decided in the space of a few, short,  specifically the stuff of early twenties, tortured days of suffering dramatically the aching, eleven-o-clock musical ballad tragedy of being in unrequited love – not with one another – to pack our essential belongings into a rental truck and take off for New Haven; no plan, no place to live, nothing but the certainty that Frederick, Maryland could never appreciate us: Our Wit. Our Erudition. Our affections for those of sexualities not inclined to return our affections.

She was a lovely woman and a dear friend and our “crazy” worked well together in that moment. She was of Romanian heritage and using the word “gypsy” around her – other than to refer to the classic musical or a Broadway musical dancer – was to risk her fury. Too often its use was derogatory, meaning someone shiftless and itinerant, sneaky, criminal, and – well – she really, really, REALLY did not like anyone to use the word and in doing so conjure its cultural prejudices and superstitions. At the same time, and sort of hilariously, she absolutely believed that her Mother was clairvoyant and could – and would and did – at any time employ what was called “the evil eye” – which, once cast upon you, could ruin your life in many different colors.

I stopped using the word. Ever since, I have been sensitive to its use, knowing that to some people it is as delicate as the use of “queer” can be for me. So, although I have not seen nor spoken to this woman in decades, she still influences my life. She influences my writing. She is for me – as I assume I am for her – a story told. And while we both (I guess?) still exist in “real time” – for one another, we are shapes and sizes and details that are decades old. I don’t know that we would even recognize one another now, and I cannot imagine what she would think of me recalling about her the “gypsy” story and, I can imagine even less what story it is about me she would tell. How am I defined in her memory?

Our “real time” story ended, as has the summer of 2013. I survived its storms, its strange wanderings and wonderings, and begin – only now – to contemplate the symbolism and metaphor of having spent a season during which I was always in someone else’s home, in someone else’s bed, never in a place I could call my own. In fact, this itinerancy has brought bubbling up the realization that “a place I could call my own” is not something I have had in a very, very long time.

It seems I have never stopped loading vans full of my essentials – of which there became more and more until, recently, there have been less and less – I am down to two bags.

And so this wandering is, perhaps, is as it should be? When you look up “gypsy” in the thesaurus it begins by giving you the definition of “wanderer” and then a first synonym of “bohemian” which is defined as “nonconformist” and then gives the synonym of “artist” and “writer”. Other stops along its etymological trail include nomad and iconoclast and roving and vagabond and shifting and journeyer and departer; but, perhaps that one which strikes me most and feels completely right to me today: Unsettled.

The summer season has ended. I am about to go “home” – which is full of loving people, people I adore, but it is not a place I can really call “my own”. And while I do have a new plot – at last I think – for my second “literary” novel (as opposed to the “fun fast read” novels – much harder to write by the way – on which I have been working) which gives me a foundation – a place where I am – I don’t feel as if – emotionally, spiritually – I have ever really, finally unpacked that rented van and settled into a place that is – completely, fully, finally – my home.

“No One Has Ever Loved Me – So Much Happiness”

From Sondheim‘s “PASSION“. I am Fosca. Only, I didn’t get that brief happy ending she enjoyed. No one who I loved deeply and unreasonably ever actually returned the love, or, at least, never out loud. I am so filled with sadness, I think, I wonder, has anyone ever died of sorrow?

 

. . . moving . . . on . . . or . . . not moving . . .

How to answer the teen-child’s question, “What do you DO?” and why I thought it better NOT to. Answer. Or, do.

Tomorrow I will leave this house/pet sitting gig and spend three nights at my mailing address, in my own bed. From the beginning of the “summer” season in June through mid-September, I will have spent less than two weeks in that bed.

Which is okay.

I really like it here. I’m quite comfortable in this home, where a family of my best friends live, and this neighborhood, where I have a few other house-sitting gigs and have been to parties and such. It’s quiet. I can hear the insects and animals at night. It is wonderfully welcoming. And this house vibrates with love. The art, the decor, the history, the warmth all speak to the couple who live here and have made this place, built this place, sustained and maintained this place, survived marriage and child-rearing and in-lawing and crazy friend-ing; this is a HOME, not a house, and it is suffused with the energy and aura of the beautiful people who live here. They have made a “family” and they have welcomed me into it.

Good people. There are so few. And by “good” I don’t mean saints or platitude-spouting hypocrites; I mean that these dear friends of mine are Continue reading

“THE WIZARD OF AHHHHS” by Todrick Hall

Song of the day. This gave me a huge smile this morning and does more in six minutes than that whole mess of Disney-tripe released last year. It’s especially relevant for me as I spend increasing amounts of my life house and pet sitting and find there are lots of “little dog too”s I’d like to send to the nether-Oz.

. . . I love a microfiber mop and a Dyson vacuum . . . my simple house-sitting life…

I don’t know when I de-activated my Facebook page – maybe two or three weeks ago – which was shortly after I had deleted my Tumblr, which was shortly after I saw a picture of someone I love somewhere that seemed to me to be a place where they ought not to have been if all their talk of love and family really was true rather than pose.

In any case – that’s another story for a NEVER time – and not the point. The point is, here I am in yet another house with yet another trio of animals for yet another house-sitting gig and with the exception of this blog – which is barely interactive – I am off social media.

And, pssst, it’s really nice. Except for this fucking beagle.

What is it with me and beagles? This one is a puppy and I am trying to like him, really I am, but, he doesn’t listen. He won’t sit or come. In the time I have been here he has managed to climb up onto tables and knock over TWO glasses of ice water and WORSE – while I was in the shower – he chewed up one of my books – not the way to my heart –

Not the real culprit. I don't want to "mark" Bear for life as a criminal, so I'm keeping his face private - FOR NOW.

Not the real culprit. I don’t want to “mark” Bear for life as a criminal, so I’m keeping his face private – FOR NOW.

and he is relentless in his nagging of the dog here who is my fave, my Lucky. Lucky is high strung and likes his routine, likes his own way (hmmm….no wonder I love him so) and has been here forever, as has Zoe, who mostly ignores everything and sleeps all the time (hmmm….no wonder I love Zoe so-ey) whilst this new interloper beagle puppy, Bear (as in UN-bear-able) is – well – a PUPPY!

We are trying. However, whilst I was playing with Bear yesterday to try to wear him out, Lucky peed on the carpet. I get it, Lucky, really I do, but, what’s a fellow to do?

Good times. Love this house though. I sit in the library and read most of day and night when I am not writing. And there was an open bottle of a lovely Bordeaux with a note “drink me” – I did (well, I started, still some left – come over tonight?) and – call me crazy (doesn’t matter, I’m not on Facebook and – shit – I need to delete my Twitter too – forgot I had one) but my FAVORITE thing about this house –

The Swiffer-y floor mop thingy with the Scotch-brite microfiber pad which I use to do the hardwood floors

Ahhh....the Scotchbrite microfiber floor mop!

Ahhh….the Scotchbrite microfiber floor mop!

AND BE STILL MY HEART, a top of the line Dyson vacuum – oh but I love vacuums and there is NOTHING in this world like a Dyson.

A Dyson vac. I could spend all day with this delight!

A Dyson vac. I could spend all day with this delight!

I spent an hour last night watering all the glorious plants outside and an hour this morning swiffering and vacuuming – although – no one warned me that both Lucky and Bear attack the vac.

Life. Off to write. Until the gym. And then, tonight, the new season of PROJECT RUNWAY. Oh, life is good. If it can only stay this peaceful and serene until my birthday.

A CASE OF YOU

It’s that kind of day. I was hanging at Starbucks, using up and using up and using up the gift card my dear Andrea gave me, and on came a version of Joni Mitchell‘s “A Case of You” I had never heard before.
I fell in love to this song. Once. He always tied different-colored bandannas all over himself, and he would visit me late at night when no one knew or saw, after he had left his girlfriend(s) and we would be together and no one could ever know and I loved him and he was ashamed of me.
And this song brings it all back. This is a gorgeous version by French singer, Ana Moura.
By the way, he wasn’t a bad man, we were both terribly young; 18. I already had my own place. Long story. He was afraid. I thought it was what I deserved: being kept a secret, being asked not to be what and who I was, and being loved only in secret and conditionally – and you know what, turns out I never learned any better.

He wasn’t the first or last who asked me to hide. My fault. I never learned to say no when asked to compromise myself.
Song of the day. Song of my life. I miss those bandannas too.

. . . merrily we roll along . . .

I worship Stephen Sondheim. No secret. And while “favorite” is not a word I like to use in reference to his shows, since they all offer so much, are so different, I have to say that if forced to CHOOSE, I would choose MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG. I love every number. I love the story. I love that it moves backwards in time and how, in doing so, the heartbreak of the final scene – when they are so fresh, so hopeful, so in love with possibility, and we already know just how sad, sorrowful, betraying and awful they will all become – such brilliance. I directed the show. I was quite proud of it – everything (mostly) but particularly the visual vocabulary via set and costumes and lights with which we told the story – it was pretty much – I say with hubris – GENIUS – because we did it with $0 – and yet, we made it rip roar sing move and FLY. It soared. I cried every night. I love MERRILY and now it’s hitting the West End for the first time. If there was a god or any justice, I’d get to see it there. But, I have never been to London, and never will go there. I will probably never see MERRILY again.Or direct again. Or love again. So, I’ll just get by on YouTube clips. Love this show.

So much truth. And – here at the end of life – god – I wish I could go back and tell Charlie – many different Charlies – what he shouldn’t believe, who he shouldn’t believe, and – oh my god – crying again – why love doesn’t ever work, and trust is a trick.

. . . here i am . . . going . . .

Later today I will be departing this location, after this, my eighth day with the three canine pals; Sophie (the Queen), Judah (her Consort), and Rudy (he defies categorization).

I will have three days before my next sitting gig begins.

I will be spending the remainder of this day – once I leave here and get “home” – making a cheesecake for a birthday party taking place tomorrow for my nephew, a party for which I have already gotten the ingredients for all the other foods he requested, a birthday party taking place Sunday.

Monday, I will be going to another birthday gathering for one of my dearest friends.

Tuesday morning I have an 8a.m. meeting for an arts sort of construction sort of planning sort of advisory sort of something group – although I suspect that if the group continues to grow at its current pace, becoming inhabited by more and more of the people whose version of “my story” is one so thwarted, distorted and contorted that it challenges reality, I will likely fade away from this group too.

You see, it has people on it. Committees are like that. Full of people. And people do those things people do, and are happy to do, and think they are meant to do. People judge and spin and tell tales in their heads; people divide into bad and good and black and white and young and old and true and false and right and wrong and on and on and on and on, so very busy filling the world up with the CACOPHONOUS DIN of the noise of their dividing and labeling that NOTHING ever just IS.

With my dogs, in my silence, no matter how many times they might want to throw up or – as my aunt always said – “do their business” in the house – STILL – they ALWAYS come at you with hope, wagging tail, and the certainty that you love them without walls or grudges in much the way they love and accept you.

Dogs have been good to me consistently and in ways people have not, in ways – I fear – people cannot. And that’s okay. I’m a person too, and just as prone to disappointing behavior. Which is why, despite any of the issues I might have had with Rudy, I will still miss these dogs. (And don’t tell Rudy, but very soon, I will be back with Sophie and Judah, and no Rudy. We are planning absolute bacchanals of delight!)