Saturday, July 21, 2007

Ahhhh... That's Better

Geez Oh Man, did I need the last 30 hours.

Last night, I had a date. This breathtakingly handsome man from Mondo Internet asked me to the movies. He and I have talked on the phone several times over the past few months, really easy and relaxed conversations, with a surprising degree of depth to them. I suggested that we meet up for coffee--just to get a look at each other--and so we did, when I limped up to meet him after my softball game last Saturday.

The movie in question was Hairspray. So yesterday, I made dinner for my father and hit the road, driving up to NYC. I suggested, and he was amenable, to us meeting up for a bite to eat before the movie. We ate at the Dish on 8th Avenue in Chelsea, a place where I've never had a bad meal, although I've never had a great meal. But heck, what more can you ask from a restaurant, really? That Man was waiting for me when I arrived. He's a big guy, friendly, talkative, inciteful, quick witted, and SO easy on the eyes. I really like looking at him, such an interesting face on him, big blue eyes and wide smile.

At the Dish, I ordered buffalo wings and a chicken caesar salad. My wings came out on a plate with a side of bleu cheese dressing, but no carrots and celery. I mentioned this to my waiter, and this was met with a blank stare. That Man and I explained that buffalo wings is something of a classic dish, and it's the signature chicken wings (check!), bleu cheese dressing (check!), and carrots and celery (absent). He called the owner over. We ran through our explanation of buffalo wings again.

Apparently, our waiter would have to make a trip "Downstairs" to fetch me some celery.

Uhhhhh... I wasn't expecting this. Apparently the Dish doesn't do celery. Other than, if memory serves, stalks in bloody marys with brunch. (It's the celery that's important to me, rather than the carrots; I love celery.)

Finally, our waiter returned and with something of a flourish presented me with a little dish of celery chopped so fine you could probably pound it down and make a mousse out of it.

"That's perfect!" I said, "Thank you!"

But, much mirth ensued between me and That Man.

Still with some time to kill, we strolled up and down 8th Avenue on a beautiful summer evening, stopping into a couple of stores to look. I really liked it when the hair on my arm brushed against the hair on That Man's arms.

We were meeting up with some of That Man's buddies for the movies, who turned out to be two nice guys with whom I discussed Pennsylvania, dogs, and the strategizing necessary to go to see a movie in Manhattan. That Man revealed that he had thoughtfully baked chocolate chip cookies for our outing. Woohoo! When I went to see 300 with the New York boys of Leather, there were also home-baked chocolate chip cookies provided. And twice in a row is all it takes: from now on, if I ever see a movie again without home-baked chocolate chip cookies, I'll feel cheated.

So Hairspray is pretty great. Such a fun movie. So well done. The young woman who played Tracy Turnblad--who's only other theatrical experience was being in high school musicals on Long Island, and the guy who plays Seaweed were my favorites in the cast. Along with Queen Latifah as Motormouth Maybelle. And John Travolta as Edna Turnblad totally worked for me. In this movie version, agoraphobia adds a really nice depth to the character that I don't remember from the original movie or the Broadway musical. But I will definitely say that of all the movie musicals I've seen--and I admit I'm not a huge fan of the genre--Hairspray was the best. Or at least the most fun.

And it was really great seeing it with That Guy. Such exuberance! In the seat next to me, he was bouncing around, singing along, clapping, laughing, just unabashedly having a great time.

And in case you don't know, I'll tell ya: Exuberance is Hot. Always.

Give me a man who loves life so much he has to let it show anyday.

After the movie (the chocolate chip cookies were wonderful), our little band headed down 8th Avenue. I was parked on 16th Street, and That Man and his buddy were getting on the subway to go uptown at 16th. I stopped at the Starbucks on the corner for an iced latté for the road home. I gave That Man an warm hug, pressing his strong body against mine. (No kiss, alas, as That Man is suffering from a cold sore. But I bet he's a good kisser.)

I was all kinds of dreamy and punchy on the way home. When was the last time I enjoyed a date so much?

And a realization thinking about The Job Opportunity: one of the reasons that it's stressing me out is cuz I'm such a strong candidate. I've got hella resume and experience; my interview with the Boss went on for an hour and a half, and it was nicely conversational although I think I made a good case about why I'm good for the job; the guy that works there was a friend of my sister; my references rock... You get the picture.

If'n I was a punter, a face in the crowd, then getting the news that they had picked somebody else would be a matter of "yeah whatever, onwards and upwards," but... but... C'mon, Guys! You gotta pick me!

Except, of course, they don't.

But that'll be okay.

I got home, walked Faithful Companion, and went to bed, dreamt, no doubt, about That Man and sunny, integrated Baltimore, got up, and drove up to NYC for softball.

Me and I-78... We got a thing goin on.

This week, our games were played on Field 6 in Prospect Park in the Borough of Brooklyn.

Ah, Brooklyn.

Damn, I love Brooklyn. Saturday shopping on Court Street and Atlantic Avenue, my two rockin' backyard gardens, the laundry carts that make life in the Brownstone Borough possible, the Botanic Gardens, movies at BAM, seeing the Cyclone's play ball after riding the Cyclone out at Coney Island... Sweet livin' in Kings County.

Rather than driving all the way out there, even though that would mean the exhilarating drive across the Brooklyn Bridge, I decided to take the Subway. The F Train! From West 4th Street to 7th Avenue.

Not living here anymore, riding the subway has taken on all the wonder of a trip on the Orient Express for me. All the times and under all the circumstances I've stood on That platform, rode That line... I sat there smiling the whole trip.

And of course, the F Train ride through Brooklyn takes you above ground, spanning the Glorious Gowanus Canal. I used to ride my bike, exploring the Gowanus. Long before I ever set foot in Brooklyn, the Gowanus loomed large in my imagination. When I was in college in Reading, Pennsylvania, the Village Voice humorously suggested that a scary way to spend Hallowe'en would be to visit the Gowanus at midnight, listening for the ghosts of all the mobsters whose bodies had been disposed of therein. And when I moved to Boerum Hill, I smelled the Gowanus before I saw the Gowanus. Efforts were then just starting to clean it up and stop dumping raw sewage in it. Or maybe it was the off-gassing of all of those decomposing mobster bodies.

But if you've ever taken the ride, the view, looking out over the whole borough with Manhattan off in the distance, is pretty nice.

Then the 7th Avenue stop, up the steps, up 9th Street, and into Prospect Park.

Frederick Law Olmstead, best known for his design of Central Park, considered Prospect Park to be his better effort. A "prospect" was a feature of 17th and 18th Century English landscape painting. Surveying a prospect, one sees running water, still water, meadows, and woodlands, all in one panoramic view. And if you've ever walked through Prospect Park knowing this--as I did many years ago when Flatbush Gardener first moved to Brooklyn and invited a posse of Manhattanites out there to explore his new borough of residence--you come through the trees, and there's one of 'em spread out before you: Ah! A prospect!

And sure enough, I entered the park, made my way through the trees around the edge, and there it was: a prospect! (Although this one didn't have any water, but it did have ballfields. And there, off in the distance, the Ball Breakers.

We had two games today, the first one against the Fusion, and the second against the Dragons. These teams vye for the title of my Second Favorite Team in the League. Love'em both! Such good people! Like the Ball Breakers, they both seem committed to having a good time playing softball. The Fusion, you might remember, features the man who should be datin' me instead of hatin' me, since in my catching debut I managed to snatch his tip and get him out. (Sorry!) And the Dragons feature Anna, the pitcher I love love love. She has great spirit, and for no good reason, I can read her pitches so well, as if someone was standing behind her with a big sign reading Ball or Strike yay before they even left her hand. And, to be sure, the Dragons are not without a heapin' helpin' o' the eye candy either.

Alas, because of my torn hamstring (Ow.), I would be playing in neither, just rooting on the bench.

And the Fusion beat us. Bad. My fearless and flawless rooting not withstanding. Soundly and roundly. They straight up played better ball than we did.

Good game, Fusion!

An interesting attribute of Field 6 was revealed: Field 6 is sort of the softball equivalent of the Kite Eating Tree from Peanuts. There are these treacherous divots all over the field, including one just off third base on the way to home. Ever'body was wiping out.

With the briefest of wee little breaks, the Dragons took the field, with the Fabulous Anna on the mound. I was sorely tempted to see about getting into the game, but next Saturday is our final day of play during the season and after that come the playoffs, and I don't want to miss those.

Everything we didn't do in our game against the Fusion we managed to do in our game against the Dragons, and the Ball Breakers were victorious, winning the game with some great hitting and nice fielding. But I think a significant part of why we won was that there was live music in the nearby bandshell (no doubt courtesy of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who's big into bringing live music to Brooklyn, who has been in my home and ate my food back when he was my State Senator, and whom I adore). At one point, the band was playing a cover of "Viva Las Vegas," which lent itself well to singing "Viva Ball Breakers," and so we did. So it must have seemed to the Dragons the the very Borough of Brooklyn itself, from Marty Markowitz on down, was rooting for the Ball Breakers. And how unnerving would that be?

The game over, we headed back to Manhattan, strolling across the verdant fields of Prospect Park under a beautiful blue summer sky. All in all a good day for softball.

Much fun as usual hangin' with the Ball Breakers at Ty's. After pizza and fun, I excused myself. There was a little something I wanted to do before I headed for home.

When we played last week on Pier 40, I noticed that way up there on the third level was the new home of the New York Trapeze School. And I wanted a closer look. I crossed West Street at the bottom of Christopher and headed up Hudson River Park to Pier 40, and found my way to the third level. There, against that blue sky, kids were swingin' out there, swingin' their legs over the bar and letting their arms free, and a few of them even doing a sort of sommersault to dismount. It looked like so much fun I was immediately thinking about how I could arrange to have a Trapeze School New York party.

Too, I couldn't help but notice the smokin' hot man who was giving the folks a push off the platform. I sure wouldn't mind the feel of his hands around my waist, holding me from behind. And it's a small world. You never know.

Inspired, I took out my camera. As usual, I was taking pictures of things like grass growing up through cracks in the macadam of the parking lot, but even an oddball photographer like myself couldn't help but get some shots of the light from the setting sun playing off the Hudson and such. It really was a beautiful day.

A stop at the Starbucks at 10th and Hudson, picking up a copy of the Sunday Times, and I was on my way home.

And it wasn't over. At about 8:30, I was crossing the Thomas Kosciusko Bridge on that extension thingy to the Jersey Turnpike. You climb up out of Bayonne, the NYC skyline in your rearview mirror, up and up and up over Newark Harbor. The sun had set, and the clouds were red on the bottoms and indigo on the top, hanging in a sky of that amazing, indescribable color: yellow, no blue, no yellow, no blue... It just about brought tears to my eyes.

Okay. I'll fess up. Right then, Neil Young singing "Sweet Caroline" came up on rotation on my iPod playlist, and that put me right over the edge and there were indeed tears in my eyes.

I used to feel like I lived a charmed life. Not much bothered me, because I just had this deep down faith that everything worked out fine for me in the end. Against all odds, I found the apartment I could afford, the hot guy called me back, I got that job I wanted, I managed to scrape the money together, I got elected Dorm Council President without even running for the position... Going from Happy Situation to Happy Situation.

But my luck ran out.

Which happens in many a life. Suddenly, you get old. You're not that Bright Young Thing anymore, no longer the Golden Boy. The lights stop turning green, and all the doors don't seem to fly open as you approach. There are, in fact, no guarantees of happiness and success in life. Some people won't like you. And of course, standing behind you, is some Golden Boy, brimming with enthusiasm and glowing with promise.

Ummm... Would you mind standing aside so the nice folks can get a better look at that Golden Boy, to just sort of drink him in for a minute?

Yeah. Whatever.

I want that job so bad. And I'd be good at it. And I'd enjoy it. And it sure would solve all of my financial problems.

But I might not get it. The decision might already have been made to give it to some Golden Boy who walked in the door behind me.

But age offers its little compensation.

Golden Boys sail through life, always thinking of the next party, their minds caught up in what the next Big Adventure might be. A younger me--and, truth be told, not a much younger me--would not have savored the sweetness of this weekend. A great date with a handsome man whose company I enjoyed and who set my imagination ablaze. A return visit to Brooklyn, one of the places I love most on the planet. A summer day of softball, cheering on men I love and who love me. An hour spent wandering alone in the middle of a great city, noticing, noticing... the way the light hits that cinderblock wall, the ghosts of piers, nothing but ancient wooden pilings, where men--so many of them ghosts themselves now--once met for love and sex like the world has never known, how lovely the river looks. And sunset over the oil refineries of New Jersey.

God's Grace. Nothing less than that.

"Yeah, Boss," said the Author of Creation, "Things are tough. And they might get tougher. Let me just throw a little something your way. Here's a weekend filled with sweetness. Enjoy it."

And I sure did.

Thanks, God.

Thank you for the gift of my life.

3 comments:

'bastian said...

:) Just :)


And "I really liked it when the hair on my arm brushed against the hair on That Man's arms." is one of life's truest pleasures. Almost better than head rubbing.

Be well!

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Mike said...

Really enjoyed reading your New York story. I never knew that there was something called a "prospect." I wonder how "Trapeze school" looks on a resume. Hope you get to have another date with That Man.

Oh, and Neil Diamond sang "Sweet Caroline" not Neil Young.