I was headed to Starbucks.
Coming into Doylestown from the South, I always hang a right onto Ashland, then take Pine up to State Street. That way, I don't have to wait forEVER to make a left turn at State and Main Streets. On Pine, I passed my church, and as I came up the hill to State Street, I saw them.
Crossing Oakland were these two men. Brushcuts, bushy facial hair, built bodies, wearing flannel shirts, Carhartts, boots (Wesco's even?), and chain wallets.
I was on the verge of letting out a Woof! when a Jack Russel Terrier beat me to it, letting out a chorus of yaps, as Jack Russel Terriers are often wont to do. (See "Breeds Of Dogs I Will Not Own Ever"). The two men crossed the street and headed west on State Street, so for a bit, we were in tandem, them walking on the sidewalk, me driving in the street.
A bit of eye hockey ensued.
I had to move with traffic, and caught the light, found a parking space, headed to Starbucks, and soon enough I was ensconced in my seat enjoying a cigar.
And feeling vaguely unsettled.
Something beyond the surprise of seeing two hot musclebears in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, an event akin to some god spending time among mortals in a homeric epic.
Then it kind of hit me.
In the not too distant past, that was me. There I was, back in March, at the Barracks in Palm Springs. Big, bald, built, leathered up, swimming through a pool of flirtacious attention.
I used to be that guy.
Used to be.
The disconnection I've been feeling lately has grown and grown. When was the last time I wore my leather? Or had cause to do so? Will I ever again? This is the Year I Didn't Go To Inferno. No money obviously, so I contacted them and got my deposit back. Strangely, I'm not mopey at all about that. I just don't feel up to it.
Nowadays, I lead a quiet life. I rarely visit the internet haunts that used to consume hours of my day. I get up early, enjoying the stillness of dawn, head off to either Ho(t)me(n) Depot or some day labor gig with Hard Labor Ready. Hit Starbucks on the way home, make dinner for my dad, watch a little television, and I'm in bed by eleven most nights. Lather, rinse, repeat.
But not only did I used to be that, I used to simultaneously aspire to be that.
In the world that I once called home, role models abounded. I want a relationship like Walt and Robert have! Tony is about my build, if I worked at it at the gym, I could have a body like that. I wonder if I'll ever be a whipsman with the skill and renown of Andrew or Joel? I'd love to have a pair of thigh-high Wesco's like that; I wonder how much they cost? Fred has such an awesome playroom... I wonder if I could build something like that.
It's all a game, but one that I used to play well, and was always trying like hell to play better.
So this vaguely unsettling feeling stayed with me, and yesterday, when I got into church and dropped to my knees before the service started, I was keenly aware of it.
"Who am I? Any answers?"
Yahweh was silent on the issue.
Not quite a game, I realized. More of a role. The role of a lifetime, but a role nonetheless. For years and years, I would see other men playing that role, and when the time came, I took my place among them, having studied the part carefully, albeit unwittingly. Once you know the arc of the scene, the business involved the various everybody-on-stage-for-the-Grande Finale parts (MAL, Inferno, Folsom Street East), it all comes pretty easy. And at times, I felt myself to be a Star; my intentions fused with those of the audience and my fellow players: we were all one. And it was glorious.
Now, I'm doing improv.
"Okay. Here's the deal. You have four dollars to your name. You were sent by Hard Labor Ready down to the Franklin Mills Mall to clean up a construction site where they're winding down after remodeling a new store. You're partnered in this with a kid about nineteen years old who's pretty sullen and brand new to the world of day labor. He keeps disappearing on you, leaving you to take out the trash and push the broom on your own. You're hoping that even though you got there at 10 a.m., the foreman will sign on your paperwork that you've been there eight hours because you really need that money. Hell, you've got less than a quarter of a tank of gas in your jeep. Annnnnd... Action!
It is improv. Making it up as I go along. Doing my best to bring all of my training to bear on each brand spanking new experience. No costumes; just the jeans and tshirt I happened to be wearing.
And of course, the cardinal rule of doing improv--the only rule, in fact--is Stay In The Moment.
And I'm doing a pretty good job with that.
Ah, The Moment.
I always argued with that kernal of buddhist wisdom. Really? Don't the future and the past count for anything? They're really just illusion? Some aspects of my past and future were sweet as the peach I just ate. (The peaches are amazing this year.)
And, don't get to thinking that I'm denigrating leatherfolk by all this talk about it being a role or just so much theater. As M. Jean-Paul Sartre reminds us, ultimately, everything is reducible to absurdity. Just because it's a role doesn't mean that we can't catch glimpses of eternity from the proscenium. Quite the reverse. The love is real.
And one day, one day, this hiatus of mine, this season of summer stock way out here in East Bumfugger, will draw to a close. And I'll be back in the footlights. I think that I've got a good Lear and a decent Richard III in me still.
Those two hot musclebears on State Street in Doylestown, Pennsylvania... Sent by God. Heavenly messengers. Emissaries from that Golden Kingdom I used to call home. A City On A Hill, waiting to welcome me back again.