Both the New York Mets and Yankees are getting new stadiums next year. As a final nod to both the House that Ruth built and Shea Stadium, the home of the Mets since their beginning as an upstart team in 1962, the teams have agreed to play one last subway series in both stadiums--only they don't travel by subway. They travel by luxury bus with a police escort.
Today's double header started at Yankee's Stadium and lasted a blistering four hours ending at 6 PM. The second game at Shae is scheduled for 7:30 leaving only an hour and a half for the players to change, travel, change again and start the game. Their police escorted buses will shut down traffic on the Major Deegan at the height of rush hour crippling the Friday night commute home for thousands of New Yorkers. Yay, team.
However, to the delight of my family, especially my brother Peter and sister Lisa who were at this afternoon's game, the Mets won a whopping 15 to 6--more runs than any team has scored against the Yankees all year.
Well, this one caught me by surprise. Beloved comedian George Carlin died this week. I'm late in reporting it because of the whirlwind past few days I've had plus a big event at work. But more on all that later. George Carlin was a groundbreaking comedian among the counter culture voices of the '60 and has been influencing young comedians ever since. His ability to question convention and mores of the day while making it side-splittingly funny indeed helped spread the causes of his generation through the voice of humor. This is the mark of a true satyirst, on a par with Oscar Wilde or Will Rogers.
I was first introduced to George Carlin by Mr. Heumer, my 7th grade social studies teacher. More on him later, too. Mr. Heumer's curriculum included all parts of social history including music, art and even humor. He brought in a recording of George Carlin's famous Baseball/Football comparison. As was quoted in his New York Times obituary:
"Baseball is a 19th-century pastoral game,” he said. “Football is a 20th-centurytechnological struggle. Baseball is played on a diamond, in a park. The baseballpark! Football is played on a gridiron, in a stadium sometimes called SoldierField or War Memorial Stadium.”
Way back in 7th grade George Carlin spoke to me. Anyone who would dare poke fun of two of America's most beloved and most macho institutions and make them seem completely ridiculous was my kind of guy. George Carlin was 71
New Yorkers have a reputation for being unfriendly. And it's true, we don't have much patience for small talk in line at the grocery or on the train. But one thing we will go out of our way to do is insure that those who need accurate directions some where get them. We are very proud of our city and if we can help you find your way around it easier we are all too happy to do so.
This phenomenon is especially true on the subway. The system can be daunting with its different colored lines, uptown, downtown, Queens bound, Bronx bound, express, local and all manner of other terms completely foreign to tourists. I have witnessed (and even played a role in) a simple question from a tourist that will inspire a debate between three New Yorkers on which is the best route to take to said destination. We make sure they get off at the correct stop wish them well and shout the rest of the directions as they exit the train. "Remember, you want the number 1 train. Don't get on the 2 or you'll end up in Brooklyn!" On the way home today, I once again witnessed what great pains New Yorkers will go to to make sure someone has the correct information.
A freshly scrubbed young man in a dress shirt and tie asked a middle aged Latino woman on the B train as it was stopped at the 59th Street station if that train went to Times Square. Perhaps because of her limited grasp of English she gave the boy a vague smile and seemed to indicate that he should try the uptown A train across the platform. Before anyone could correct her the doors closed in the boy's face. This prompted a barrage of rapid fire Spanish from the woman's three companions that I imagine translated to something like "WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH YOU, YOU KNOW THAT TRAIN DOESN'T GO TO TIMES SQUARE, NOW THAT KID WILL END UP IN THE BRONX OR HARLEM OR WHO KNOWS WHERE AND PROBABLY NEVER SEE HIS FAMILY AGAIN, AY DIOS MIO WHAT HAVE YOU DONE, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!?!"
Following this all three women started banging on the windows of the train to try and get the young man's attention. With a combination of sign language, Spanish and English all three indicated that the boy should go upstairs and across to the downtown platform. The kid was oblivious. Unsure, he hesitated before stepping on the uptown A train which was just about to leave the station. From there he seemed to wander in search of someone else who might give him the right directions. I have no doubt he found them.
Today the Hollywood firmament lost one of the last great stars from the Golden Age of movie musicals, Cyd Charisse. She studied under Najinkska in the '30s and danced with the Ballet Rousse till the outbreak of the War. From there she came to the attention of MGM studios where she was given specialty ballet numbers until it became apparent that Charisse's star quality deserved more than an occasional number here and there. Soon she became the partner of choice of both of Hollywood's greatest dancing men, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. She is best known for her work in The Band Wagon, Singing in the Rain, Silk Stockings, It's Always Fair Weather, Brigadoon and others.
I first became aware of Cyd Charisse when I developed an unnatural affinity for Fred Astaire movies as a child. Even late in her career Charisse graced Broadway with an appearance in Grand Hotel in the '90s to the delight of her die-hard fans. The show quite famously capitalized on her popularity with one of those man-on-the-street commercials where an elderly lady hilariously proclaimed in a thick New York accent "I LOVE huh! I LOVE huh!" And so did I. Cyd Charisse was 86.
Just in case you need a reminder of her brilliance as a dancer, check out the clip from the Broadway Melody sequence from Singing in the Rain with Gene Kelly.
The popular West Village eatery Cowgirl Hall of Fame has been a fixture in the West Village at least as long as I have lived in New York. The food is good old fashioned white trash fare from the delicious chicken fried chicken to Frito pie. The place is full of kitschy western memorabilia, vintage photos of actual cowgirls plus a few of fake ones, as well as western themed paint by numbers paintings. Capitalizing on both Gay Pride month and Tony Award season, the Cowgirl Hall of Fame has decked its windows out for June in old style Playbill covers of classic Broadway Musicals with a gay twist. Below are Tranny Get Your Gun, Oklahomo, Peter Pansy and Gays and Dolls.
Despite it being perhaps one of the gayest restaurants in the village with a decidedly in-your-face gay attitude, Cowgirl attracts tons of families with kids. Scott and I stopped in to have dinner here tonight and there were no less than a dozen children under 10 with their families. (I counted.) Their website includes a section for children's parties and among Cowgirl's most prized possessions is a thank you note to the staff from then First Lady Hillary Clinton for hosting one of Chelsea's birthday parties.
Every year Kelly Stern of Rambling Along in Life with a Stern Pointof View poses his annual Pride Challenge during the month of June. He posts an image of Gay Pride and challenges as many other bloggers as possible to post it on their blogs. The viral spreading of the image across the internet is a symbol of solidarity among gay bloggers (and some straight ones, too.) This year's image was taken by Kelly himself of the Pride flag he and his partner display outside their Virginia home. Pretty cool, isn't it?
This year Kelly has asked bloggers to include their coming out story with the picture. I don't have any earth shattering coming out story though. Majoring in theatre in college made it easy to be gay right from the onset of my adult life. I finally came out to my parents after graduation when I moved back home though. I had a wonderful relationship with my parents and I hated lying about who I was to them. To me coming out meant not lying to people I love. And I knew my parents being who they are would never stop loving me for it. I know I am truly blessed for this. There are way too many gay men and women who cannot say the same thing.
Visit Kelly's blogfor a list of other bloggers participating in the Pride challenge and, as always, lots of hunky pictures of Kelly frolicking shirtless in his hot tub. Happy Pride, everyone!
While running some office errands today I experienced one of those priceless New York moments where the absurdly chic meets blue-collar reality. I was at the corner 56 and 5th Avenue waiting for a light to change when I found myself in front of the Abercrombie & Fitch flagship store. A tall, gangly 20 year old boy with jeans slung low around his hips stood shirtless in the doorway feeling very good about himself while dance music spilled out the doors of the store into the middle of the 5th Avenue workday afternoon. Our scrawny hero flirted with a female employee whose job apparently it was to writhe to the beat of the dance music occasionally rubbing her body against the shirtless boy. Two other boys (with shirts) stood guard at either side of the doorway completing the posse while one of them groped another female employee as she passed by.
I couldn't help wondering how much these kids were getting paid for this gig. The whole thing just smacked of desperate corporate promotion of an ideal that only exists in the pages of a catalog. It felt contrived and ridiculous. As ridiculous as Abercrombie's youth-obsessed current branding founder, Michael S. Jeffries, a 60 year old man who dyes his hair beach boy blond and wears shorts or torn jeans with flip flops to work no matter what the weather. In Ohio.
As I stood there trying to figure out who's buying this non-sense anymore, an MTA bus pulled up at the light in front of me. The swarthy driver looked toward the Abercrombie doorway with disgust and honked the horn a couple times. He opened the door of the bus and said to me "Tell that dude he's got no guns!" With that the driver pulled back the short sleeve of his uniform shirt, flexed a thick beefy bicep and flashed me a smile. Somewhat taken aback by the brawny display I failed to relay the message to the shirtless boy that "Hey, the bus driver is hotter than you!" though I wish I had. Given the choice, I definitely would have gone with the bus driver. Take that, Aberscrawny.
The question remains whether anyone will actually call it the RFK Bridge, however. The West Side Highway was renamed in honor of Joe DiMaggio after his death a few years ago, but I have never, ever heard anyone call it that. There is but one sign that I can think of that actually bears the new name. If you ask me, it's the people who do the traffic reports who hold the power here. If they start calling it by the new name, so will everyone else.
Ken was particular. If and when he got sick, he was going to Lenox Hill hospital or nowhere. Having had many bouts of AIDS related hospitalizations, he was done with the likes of St. Vincent's, the crazy cast of characters that populated the emergency room and the burn-out of an over-burdened AIDS ward. Located in the heart of the ritzy Upper East Side at 77th and Park, Lenox Hill was a world apart and a different experience all together. Not that any of this mattered. In 1999 Ken was the picture of health. A former Fosse dancer, at 49 he was still turning heads at the bars. Never mind that he couldn't tolerate any of the new meds that had begun saving lives by the dozens back then. He was strong as an ox and he looked great.
But the day after his 50th birthday Ken went into Lenox Hill with a persistent pain in his right side. Tests had been run but his doctor couldn't figure out anything. "It's probably gall bladder," I said. "It's often hard to diagnose." Sure enough, his gall bladder was inflamed and surgery was scheduled. I had mine out a couple of years before and knew there was nothing to it. "Julie Andrews just had hers out and she was back in Victor/Victoria in 5 days." I assured Ken, "this is nothing.". He had a beautiful corner room to himself overlooking the tulip beds that grace the islands in the center of Park Avenue, a yearly sign to winter-weary New Yorkers that indeed Spring has finally arrived. They were yellow. I pointed all of this out with perky optimism on my first visit to see him at Lenox Hill but I could tell Ken had started to give up.
What was supposed to be routine surgery revealed lesions covering his liver and gall bladder. Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Ken started to drift away a little bit every day after that. He was on heavy pain medication and his moments of lucidity were fewer and fewer. I would pipe in with whatever conversation I could during those precious moments hoping somehow it would will him back to life. But then his eyes would go blank again, his mind confused with pain and disease. My eyes would drift out to the tulips which seemed to grow brighter and stronger as Ken became weaker and weaker. It was a matter of days before he was in that precarious situation of which would kill him faster, the disease or the treatment. With my encouragement, he opted for treatment which landed him in ICU. He died there as I held his hand. It was almost 1 AM on a Saturday night. I left the hospital and just walked and walked for blocks counting the beds of tulips along the way. I hit 13 before I hailed a cab and went home.
I was reminded of all this because I had to go by Lenox Hill for a back x-ray today. I stopped to look up at that second floor corner room for a few minutes and wondered who was in there now. The earth on the island in front of that window is freshly tilled ready for a new planting, the tulips being finished for the season. My mother or someone more religious than I would surely find symbolic meaning for Ken’s death in the new life of a tulip born of a dormant bulb. But to me, the tulips on Park Avenue just make me sad.
Well, I'm back. Which is kind of a play on words because the source of most of my misery this week has been my back. My achin' back to be more precise. Is there anything worse? And don't say childbirth. Tooth pain is pretty bad, too. Dry sockets following four wisdom tooth extractions--not pretty. Been there. Thank you all to those who left such lovely get-well wishes. Anywho...because there's so much to catch up on I guess I this is going to be one of those random thoughts posts. Let's see, where to begin?
Friday brought another crane collapse here in Manhattan. Perhaps this will mean a much needed slowdown to the building boom that is seemingly out of control in this city. It has me and many other New Yorkers walking alternate routes just to avoid construction sites these days. On top of that the grave atmosphere has put a damper on things at work since I work in the construction industry. You didn't know that, did you? Yup, it's true. Pretty butch, right? Impressed? Well--don't be. It's not actual construction work. Just to dash any butch images you might have of me, I was among the first of my friends to see the Sex and the City movie! I just popped some pain killers and propped myself up at the Chelsea Clearview Cinemas to enjoy the show. Yes--if you can, you must see it in the gayest movie theatre in town. I enjoyed it and was never a regular viewer of the show.
Random non sequitur: Do you remember the name of the construction worker in the Village People? I do. David Hodo. He was my favorite. (Pictured left)
I would be remiss not to mention the passing of two show business greats: Harvey Korman and Sydney Pollack. Korman is best known for his brilliant comedic work on the Carol Burnett Show. Not only did he create hilarious characters like Max to Burnett's Nora Desmond, Ed, opposite Burnett's iconic Eunice in the Family skits and perhaps my favorite, Mother Marcus, a drag character based on Korman's real-life Yiddish grandmother.
Sydney Pollack was of course a much accomplished actor and an Academy Award winning director. Gay audiences will always remember him as Will Truman's philandering, but understanding, totally-cool-with-his-son's-homosexuality father on Will and Grace--the super PC Dad so many gay men probably wished they had.