Sunday, June 17, 2007

Folsom Street East

My day started off with brunch at the Dish in Chelsea with UnFortunate. My first suggestion was breakfast sandwiches at Starbucks, but UnFortunate cares a lot about coffee, and is not a fan of Starbucks. (At the Dish, he had an iced tea.) It was great, as always, spending time with him. But during our Starbucks conversation, I had a revelation…

Just why is it that I love Starbucks so much?

After all, I’m not a coffee drinker. I’m a tea drinker. Much to my regret, it’s a coffee drinkers world, I just get to live in it. So what draws me to Starbucks?

Sitting there with UnFortunate, it dawned on me. So much so that I all but pounded my fist on the table and shouted “Eureka!” Starbucks, you see, is the New Gay.

Let me explain.

Remember what it used to be like to be gay? Remember when people used to talk about “the Gay Community” and you had a sense that the term meant something? There was the big Coming Out thing. And you went to a gay bar for the first time and all of a sudden you didn’t feel alone any more; there was this whole crowd of people just like you. And then you went to your first gay pride parade, and there was the whole thrill of being part of all those people from all walks of life and they were all Gay Gay Gay like you! And if you thought about it, you were everywhere all over the world.

But now, Gay is the new Left Handed.

No. Big. Deal.

We’re here, we’re queer, and everybody is used to it. “Gay” just doesn’t provide any additional information any more. Does that mean you like Barbra Streisand? Is Ultimate Fighting gay? (I know a lot more gays who like Ultimate Fighting than I do gays who like Barbra Streisand.) Yeah yeah yeah. There’s still plenty of ‘phobes out there in the world, but I think that screechyness in their voices indicates that even they know they’re on the losing side.

But heck! I miss that Gay stuff!

But now, I have Starbucks. Because Starbucks is the New Gay.

Think about it!

Once I was a member of Queer Nation, and now I am a citizen of the Starbucks Nation. I can’t run around wearing a pink triangle pin anymore, but I can walk into any Starbucks in the world and order my iced quad venti two pumps vanilla light ice latté and they’ll recognize me as being one of The Tribe.

And Starbucks has become the pole star in the firmament just like Gay once was. Everybody has an opinion on Starbucks. Once someone tells you where they stand on the Starbucks issue, you know who you’re dealing with. Just like it used to be with Gay. You had the gays that went all overboard with Gay. You had the gays who were all about “just because I like guys doesn’t mean I have to be all gay.” You had gays that insisted on being gay in their own alternative way (just like that guy you know who insists on only going to the little independent coffee house place and never to Starbucks).

So now it all makes sense.

After brunch, UnFortunate and I headed over to West 28th Street to get in on the festivities. But Yikes! It was closing in on four o’clock. That’s when I was due to start my shift selling water with the New York boys of Leather. I headed to the table and checked in with Christophe, who I was sharing my shift with. The boys were out in force, so there was no immediate need for me. I got permission to wander about a bit and take in the whole awesome spectacle of Folsom Street East.

I have been away a long time. Going on four years now. Before, events like this felt like a homecoming, a reconnection. Now, this time around, it was all just disconcerting, as though I kept getting mistaken for someone. Who was that guy? What was he like?

Damned if I know.

I’ve talked before about feeling disconnected from my leather self. Now, that leather self seems all but unrecognizable to me.

Now, I still like to whip men. I still harbor notions about masculinity, and the intimacy that only two warriors are cabable of. I still wear boots just about everywhere except the beach.

I don’t feel this whole thing as a loss. So maybe not disoriented, but reoriented. It’s not the essence that feels foreign, just the trappings. The clubs and the bars and the Old Guard and the New Jack and the dungeons and the rules and the codes and the whole “brotherhood” thing. ¡Basta!

So it all got to feel a bit overwhelming. I was ready to go sell water with the New York boys of Leather. It would feel good to have a table between me and the hoi polloi.

O that boy energy!

The boys looked great. I was warmly greeted, proud associate member that I am.

It was a beautiful day. Hot and clear and humid but not sticky. And every once in a while, a sweet breeze came off the river. And it was a good day for selling water. At two dollars a pop, it was flying.

Years ago, in that other life I lead, I sold water at Folsom Street East. I had a vivid recollection of the aching misery of having to plunge my arms into a garbage can filled with ice water to get out the bottles.

Thus, I came prepared!

The boys had set up a tent kinda thing behind their table. (Brilliant!) I stepped inside, and changed into my Water Selling Outfit, consisting of my Keane’s, a one piece body suit (sleeveless, just covering the thighs), and, the elbow length gloves that I have, made for ice fishing or something. They’re waterproof, and good for temperatures below freezing. Not only did I look pretty fetching, but fishing the bottles out of the ice water was no problem whatsoever.

So that became my job. Perfect. I could hang with the boys, and just lose myself in the work at hand. And there, across the table, was the panoply of New York City leather scene. Safely across the table.

And guess who was there: Cranberry Juice Guy! A couple of years ago at MAL, he emerged from the crowd in the lobby of the Washington Plaza Hotel and introduced himself as a faithful reader of SingleTails. To show his gratitude, he gave me drink tickets for cranberry juice. (Being a faithful reader, he knew that this was my preference.) Running into Cranberry Guy was like getting a Pulitzer. In the cosmos of the blogosphere, SingleTails is a small, dim star way off on the edge. But when Cranberry Juice Guy casts his proverbial eyes heavenwards, there’s just one star he’s looking for.

The time flew. Before too long, we had sold our last case of water. I changed back into my Goin’ To Folsom Street East clothes. I fired up a cigar and watched the men.

Six o’clock rolled around pretty quickly. It was time for me to say goodbye. I had to get back to Bucks County and get a Father’s Day Dinner on the table.

Cigar in hand, I made for the exit, walked east to Eighth Avenue, then south, down to the West Village where I parked.

A beautiful day in New York City.

I may not be sure just who I am, but I know where my home is. Today, it was on West 28th Street.


Lolita said...

I saw you twice, but it was so crowded I did not get a chance to sat hi. You looked really good.

Cranberry Juice Guy said...

Oh, my, gawd. That's me. Right here on Singletails! Yes, I continue to be a faithful reader of your excellent prose, observations, and personal revelations. I like what you have to say and how you say it. And I relate to a lot of it. Thanks man. Keep up the good work..and Lolita is right, you looked great!