Saturday, March 10, 2007

Dinner at Eight

My father kept his Chris-Craft in the little seaside town of Saugatuck, Michigan, along the Michiana Dunes. It was a quaint seaside tourist village that was full of antique and craft shops, outdoor cafes, and art galleries. In other words, it was Homo Heaven. Just two hours north of Chicago, and a straight shot from Detroit, it had over the decades gained the reputation of being the Fire Island of the Midwest. Dad was unaware of this when seeking stevedore service for the Chris, but as I was living in Chicago at the time, it became my vacation home. I spent many enjoyable long weekends in the dunes.

One weekend, I was on the boat with my friends Cliff and Brian. My Dad and stepmother, Wanda, were staying at their nearby Condo. They called to suggest that we should all do dinner. Father and I were both adhering to the Mutual Nonaggression Pact of 1986, and they always liked my friends, so I had no concern that we would all have an enjoyable evening.

We made reservations at the Cafe Sir Douglas. It was the nicest restaurant in the little town, and was part of the oldest gay resort. I had many happy memories of the resort and its many facilities, including the sparkling blue pool and the notoriously anonymous "Dunes Rooms" accommodations for the friendly traveller. I decided not to give the folks a full tour. I rounded up my friends and headed over to get my folks. We chatted during the short drive to the cafe.

As the three pointed star led us into the parking lot, the headlight beams illuminated a whole row of Jeeps and Blazers. Trucks were everywhere, and I wondered to myself as I parked between two Broncos, whether it might possibly be "Womyn's Weekend".

We walked in to the cafe, myself first, Cliff and Brian, and then my folks. The host recognized us and said, as our table wasn't quite ready, perhaps we would like to go downstairs and wait in the bar. I wondered if he had noticed that my parents were with us.

I descended the circular stairway into the Island of Sappho, accompanied by my snickering friends and my bewildered parents. The bar was crowded, and absolutely female. An attractive woman offered her seat to Wanda and then asked if she would like a drink. She declined graciously. Dad looked around and commented, "I wonder where all of these girls come from." "I think most of them are from Detroit" was my reply.

Dad went off to the men's room. On this particular evening I knew that he would require no accompaniment. I turned to Wanda and asked, "Does father understand that he's in a room surrounded by three hundred Diesel Dykes?" "Well, Dear" she said. "Your father doesn't think in those terms."

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

With the Moon at It's Brightest

I hadn't heard from G. in a while. My "straight boyfriend" as he referred to himself, definitely vacillated between the first and second parts of that phrase. We'd had a very intense time together, followed by a difficult breakup. Over a year had passed, and we would talk from time to time and occasionally get together, usually in the company of some nondescript female whose presence seemed designed to reassure us both of his heterosexuality.

He called on a Monday afternoon to say that he was down the street, and asked if I would like to meet him for a Martini. I hesitated only a moment and then agreed, and we decided to head out to La Loggia, a little spot in Studio City where they make what my friend Ken refers to as a Vodka Slurpee. I'll just let that phrase speak for itself.

He picked me up at work. Within minutes, something intangible seemed to have clicked, because we were back in our old "groove". It was as if the breakup and the ensuing year had never happened. Finishing each others thoughts and sentences, grinning stupidly at each other, the whole spiel. One Martini became two, then an appetizer, a bite of pasta, and we even stayed for dessert. During the course of the evening, we had attempted to call Ken and John, close friends that lived nearby and introduced us to the restaurant in the first place, but we reached only the answering machine.

We lingered over coffee and dessert, and finally it was time to go. As we left the restaurant, I remarked what a beautiful summer night it was, and looked up a bright and full moon. We jumped in G's black GTI and headed back toward my office. "Did you see that?", he asked. "There's a green Bentley in front of the Wine Bistro." He looked at me with his brown puppy dog eyes and asked - "should we stop?" The presence of John and Ken's car in front of their usual hangout explained why we couldn't reach them. "Of course", I replied. "But just for a minute. We'll just run up and say "Boo" or something, and then leave."

Plan agreed to. We stashed the VW in the alley behind the Bistro and walked up to the entrance. The 1961 Bentley Flying Spur glistened at the curb. We turned the corner and approached the front door, where we found John and Ken seated at an outdoor table. Both broke into big smiles. "Sit down and have a drink", Ken insisted. John looked a bit more tentative, and said they were having a discussion. G assured them that we were well fed and watered, and that we just wanted to say hi. They both gave us big hugs. I told John I'd call him later in the week. We ran back to the car, agreeing that we had done exactly the right thing and to stay two minutes longer would have been obtrusive. We pulled the VW out of the alley and sped past the restaurant. They were talking casually. The moon reflected on the black hood of the GTI as we drove.

We were ignorant of the significance of the moment. It was the last time the Universe would seem normal to us. We were mercifully unaware that John would die suddenly less than twenty-four hours later. We had no idea how many lives, including our own, would be tumbled wildly as if we were all inside a snow globe. We didn't know that we would be thrust back together, galvanized by the experience and inseparable for the next six months, until once again the desire for "straight" exceeded that for "boyfriend". The Universe decided to give us, unknowingly, a moment to say goodbye to someone we loved dearly before he departed on his journey.

I'm enormously grateful.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Bulldog Dominatrix Intimidator

This morning in traffic, I was cut off my a massive black SUV. The nameplates on the back announced it as a Bulldog Dominatrix Intimidator SE. The SE is significant, as this denotes the upscale model whose interior is upholstered in baby seals and the wood trim on the dash comes from the rainforest.

Of course, traffic was stopped so the behemoth had no where to go. I maneuvered along side to see a blonde woman in a suit with what appeared to be a cell phone in each hand. Or perhaps she was sending a fax. Possibly to herself. She gave me a sheepish grin of apology, which is more than one usually gets in LA.

My mind flashed back to a novelty song I wrote in 1997 as a joke. It's interesting to me that I haven't changed a word since. My apologies to Eliza Doolittle fans worldwide:

All I want is an S-U-V
Great big tall thing so I can see
And get 5 m-p-g
Oh, wouldn't it be practical?

Bolt a brush guard upon the grille,
Add a roll cage in case we spill
While climbing Beverly Hills
Oh, wouldn't it- be practical.

Oh, so practical with the luxury
of all-wheel-drive
It might come in handy when
I'm stuck on the 405

Call it brilliant or just dumb luck
Getting rich dames to drive a truck
See Grandma run amok
Believing that

It's practical.
Practical, practical
Anything - but practical

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Queens on the Mary

This week I received a mailer promoting the RSVP transcontinental gay cruise on the Queen Mary 2 and my mind immediately flashed back to my first RSVP travel experience.

A couple of Christmases back, my friends John and KJ (hereto known as the Ubercouple) created a very memorable Holiday- they invited six of their friends to accompany them on an RSVP Cruise of the Mexican Riviera.
We were all tremendously touched and excited, and eagerly planned what would be a most memorable voyage. As it would be my first cruise aboard this particular line, I had lunch with a friend who had more cruise experience. "It's a great trip, you'll love it", Blair reassured me over sushi. "Too bad it's so hard to get a drink on that ship." I just about fell into my miso soup.

Okay, talk about a deal breaker. I immediately telephoned John and told him of my dire warning. Given how we collectively viewed Vodka as a food group, this would require a plan.
"I'll talk to KJ and call you back", he said, trying not to show too much concern. I imagined a Vodka ambulance meeting us at the docks. KJ thinks of everything. The next day, John called back very calm. "It'll be fine", he reassured." We'll just all bring two liters of Ketel in our luggage. That way, we can have a relaxing drink before dinner". Or before breakfast, if needed.

Soon we were on board and sailing away with a Bon Voyage party. We immediately noticed that others had probably made the same observation as Blair, because the cruise line had apparently stopped off in Singapore and filled the ship with Asian love slaves, young girls positioned every thirty feet or so who were taught to say "drinky, drinky". While this was very reassuring, it soon occurred to us that we were awash in booze. That night over dinner, we hatched a plan. We decided to have a massive private cocktail party the last night at sea and use it all up. That would give us a week to see how many people we could meet and invite.

I was all in favor of the party, but I reasoned, that if we were going to have a private cocktail party with smuggled booze aboard an Ocean Liner, the only civilized way to serve drinks was in stemware stolen from the ship itself. So that evening, after our round of Martinis, John had us fill the stems with water so they would not be cleared away. We stepped smartly out of the dining room with our Martini stems in our hands, and this began to amass glassware. My cabin was deemed the official stemware repository, because I had the least luggage, and my roommate, a drag queen from San Francisco, spent the entire week stoned on hashish brownies and so was unlikely to notice.

Our plan worked smartly although it did probably increase our vodka consumption somewhat. "Have another Martini", KJ would say. "We need the glassware". By midweek, my cabin clinked when people walked by in the hall. The nightclub chanteuse in the show lounge complained that all the big Martini stems had vanished. We looked sheepish in the front row and laughed about it later. We absolved our guilt by inviting her to the party.

The last night at sea, all was in readiness. I had spent the entire afternoon washing stemware, which was the price one pays for glamour. The party had grown way too large for John and KJ's suite, so KJ booked one of the lounges. For a private party. On board a gay cruise. And found a passenger whom he hired to play piano. Throw in a few trays of appetizers, a topless girl from Scotland, and a hundred newfound friends, and our little use-up-the-booze party probably ended up costing about the same as a base Hyundai. But we couldn't think of anyone off hand who would be seen in one anyway.

We abandoned the stems at the party, along with the remaining vodka. All that was missing was returned. When people asked about the cruise, we told that what a wonderful time we all had. "And the private parties were just the best- the Martinis were free!"