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Thursday, September 20, 2001

Hurry home, hurry home…

About two weeks after he and Craig split up, The Actor took a sublet in Chicago and made what he assured us all would be a temporary move. The bulk of his commercial work, after all, was up there and it just made sense not to commute back and forth. He'd be back, but what also made sense to him at the time was time, space, distance and healing. He had loved and lost and needed to get away.

This I understood completely. I've been there. But I always ended up staying here.

The Giant Queen just called. "Have you heard from The Actor recently?" he asked. "This week, maybe?"

I hadn't and said so. A quick round of calls to The Twins, Terry, Michael, the other Michael, Matt, Gerry and Jim determined that no one else had either, most of us not at all since his self-imposed exile.

We are now beside ourselves with worry, because of a damned headstrong, heartbroken man, who we still love very much, and an answering machine, which we do not.
"Hey, this is [The Actor]. I'll be in New York for auditions this week and next, but I'll be home September 16. Leave a message and I'll call ya when I get back. OKthanksbye!"

There is a long string of shrill beeps and then the line disconnects. The tape is full of messages and we are forcing ourselves to be full of hope.
September 20, 2001 at 9:06 PM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Thursday, September 13, 2001

Three days

On the first day, I stepped off an airplane and drove home where I showered and shaved and dressed and turned on the television as an afterthought to check the traffic and weather. What I saw was a far grimmer forecast than I could have ever imagined. On the first day, I sat at my desk and tried to find all of my friends and family over the wires.

On the first night, we cancelled the show and I went out and had a drink and held my friends close and couldn't sleep at all.

On the second day, a missing friend was found and the show went on and I made a donation and I got angry because my brown friends were catching shit from idiots and I tried to work and got nothing done.

On the second night, I went out to dinner and talked of fear and frustration with a gentle man and called my mother and chatted with friends and slept fitfully for three hours.

On the third day, I had stuffy nose and a headache and I wanted to flee, to go to the place where people were hurting and hold them and bring things and feel like I was useful. But I sat at my desk and actually worked and copied and FAXed and tried to make a dent and learned that a friend had fallen from the sky.

On the third night, I watched the news and looked into the eyes of a mother who loved her son and for the first time in three days and three nights I cried. And now I can't work and now I can't sleep and now I can't stop crying.

As awful as it was, I liked the first day better.
September 13, 2001 at 9:20 PM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

I wanted to say this yesterday, but, well…

There is something to be said, I think, for sharing stories with old friends and new ones in a funky art space with a supportive audience applauding and laughing and crying and hugging.

There is something to be said for lifting a glass and dancing with abandon and meeting a boy and sharing a smile.

There is something to be said for trains that take you to see old friends you haven't met yet and learning the immortal lesson that everything is funnier if it involves pirates.

There is something to be said for a lazy breakfast and a leisurely walk through a sunlit park with someone who knows this city and loves it like no other and realizing that it is still possible to step off a path and share a joint and go back in time.

There is something to be said for all of these things, indeed. And that something is "Thank you."
September 12, 2001 at 9:21 PM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

The intersection of grief and grace

I am hurt, but hopeful. Today I have seen the magnificent potential of human compassion in the midst of violence. I am reminded that too often in these times we meet each other at the intersection of grief and grace, and that we walk away from that place, together, wounded but stronger. If we cannot find peace in the world, we must find it in ourselves.
September 11, 2001 at 9:21 PM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Thursday, September 06, 2001

On the radio

You know your life is a bit out of whack when, in order to spend time with one of your dearest chums, you have to arrange to be interviewed on his radio show. Still, it was a convival hour and certainly the longest conversation Thom and I have managed to have since his return to St. Louis. Somewhere in the midst of the laughter and quips and catching up, I still managed to actually do my job and plug the theatre season.

It's been a bit over three years since Thom and I got naked together, and thereby hangs a tale. I'd been going back and forth trying to decide which True Story I wanted to trot out to tell at Fray Day this weekend in San Francisco and recounting for tonight's listeners the circuitous path by which I came to lose my trousers in such charming company tipped the scale in its favor. Consider that fair warning, all of you on the Left Coast!

We made an appointment to meet for dinner next week, Thom and I, and I really hope this one comes through. I canceled the last, pleading fatigue, and he tonight, citing a work obligation. Still, how weird is it that the the only chance I get to connect with an old friend is while thousands of folks are eavesdropping in the ether?
September 6, 2001 at 9:22 PM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Tuesday, September 04, 2001

Life fakes you out…

Last Wednesday evening felt almost entirely fictional.

Lucas (not his real name), Jeff (not his actual hair color), the Giant Queen (not really giant at all) and I got together for coffee (not our usual beverage).

We talked about Jeff's new job, the Giant Queen's new romantic interest — on which subject we were able to reach a rare consensus approval among us — and my new laptop computer. And then, just as casually as if he were ordering a second slice of cheesecake, Lucas said, "So, there's this thing..."

This "thing" was spotted by his doctor during a regular physical the day before, a growth where things aren't generally supposed to grow. GQ, Jeff and I sat nonplussed while Lucas sipped his latte and remained stoically and damned annoyingly plussed.

I lay awake that night until nearly 4 a.m., thinking about Lucas and the way he finally allowed his composure to slip as we clasped his hands and lingered over the second slices of cheesecake we all had eventually ordered. "I told the doctor that the only thing worse than having to face this," he said, "would be having to face it alone. He asked me if I had family in town and I told him I had something better. I had you all."

Lucas had gone out of town for the holiday — delighting, I presume, in the denial afforded by the fortuitously-timed Southern Decadence — but finally called tonight, ending the almost daily round of voicemail tag Jeff and the Giant Queen and I played for a week: "Have you heard anything? Call me. No. Have you?"

The "thing" was harmless, Lucas said, and I realized I'd been holding my breath since spotting his number on the Caller ID. I exhaled sharply, made a date for lunch next week, hung up and trembled for the next 20 minutes.

There are time when life feels fictional, true. These are often the times when life actually can't get any more real.
September 4, 2001 at 9:23 PM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Thursday, August 30, 2001

I want to know

I've never had a sweet tooth, and I don't particularly like mint-flavored things.

This is the 21st century. There are human beings living in space, we can create powerful computing machines the size of a dime, we have mapped our genetic pattern and begun paving the way toward curing disease and eradicating hunger.

So why can't someone make a mouthwash that fights tooth decay, freshens your breath and tastes like tomato soup?
August 30, 2001 at 8:51 PM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Tuesday, August 28, 2001

In which I let a “Dark Lady” brighten my day…

Feeling a little blue, a victim of a vague, ineffable late summer funk? I can recommend no better tonic than to down a beer or six in the company of many, many buoyant homosexuals and then to dance with abandon and without regard for the stares of others to Cher's "Dark Lady"...

Dark Lady laughed and danced and lit the candles one by one.

(Clap, clap!)

Danced to her gypsy music till her brew was done.

(Shimmy, shimmy.)

Dark Lady played back magic 'til the clock struck on the twelve.

(Clap, clap!)

She told me more about me than I knew myself.

...and so on. It's cheaper than therapy, and slightly aerobic into the bargain.
August 28, 2001 at 8:53 PM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Tuesday, August 21, 2001

What a Difference a Couple of Decades Makes

Gym Class 1981 vs. Gay Bar 2001

  • Inability to climb more than halfway up the rope / Inability to climb more than halfway up the social ladder.

  • Strict division into "shirts" and "skins" / strict division into Abercrombie & Fitch shirts, Dolce & Gabana shirts, Tommy Hilfiger shirts, Mossimo shirts, Brooks Brothers shirts, and skins.

  • Furtive glances in the locker room / furtive glances by the cigarette machine.

  • Freshmen intimidated by seniors / Seniors intimidated by fresh men.

  • Getting picked last for the team / Not getting picked at all.
August 21, 2001 at 8:54 PM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Monday, August 20, 2001

(It’s also the title of an Elton John song)

The latest fashion among the circuit set seems to be extremely tight shirts and jeans festooned with sequins, spangles and studs to make patterns, and spell out suggestive or inscrutable words and phrases. This can only mean one of two things: either the folks at International Male are having a good laugh at our considerable expense or — and this is by far the more frightening prospect — there's a madman on the loose with a Bedazzler.
August 20, 2001 at 8:55 PM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Friday, August 17, 2001

I’m not sure either was surprise…

Based on our hour-long discussion about our respective experiences raising puppies, Ann and I reached two common conclusions:
  1. Neither of us should ever, ever procreate. Carry for needful, living things is not our long suit.

  2. If that damned waitress, after overhearing a good portion of our conversation and commenting — uninvited — twice on her own experience rearing a Yorkie, referred to our dogs as "practice children" one more time, the laws of universe entitled us to beat her with a shovel.
August 17, 2001 at 8:55 PM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Thursday, August 16, 2001

In which the pot has news for the kettle…

Ann and I got together at King Louie's tonight, having discovered that our traditional Bi-monthly Bitchery Brunch worked better as a happy hour. After a few glasses of pricey chardonnay and delicious cosmopolitans, we thought it might be a good idea to order some dinner.

I opted for the mixed grill with lamb while Ann had a taste for pasta. She pointed to a selection on the menu, a fine noodle dish with a light sauce. "It says it's prepared with something called 'heirloom tomatoes'," she said. "What on earth are heirloom tomatoes?"

"I don't know," I said, "but I have this picture in my mind of an elderly woman in the kitchen wearing an enormous antique locket. She gently opens it, removes a juicy tomato and presents it to the chef.

"'This tomato has been in my family for generations,' she says, 'and I want you to have it for tonight's pasta.' And, with that, the chef takes it from her. She closes the locket and leaves by the back door, weeping softly."

Ann stared at me silently for a full minute. "I think you drink too much," she said finally.
August 16, 2001 at 8:56 PM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Tuesday, August 14, 2001


As is commonly believed, a television camera does add approximately ten pounds to your apparent weight. It does not, however, automatically add volume to your hair or wit to your remarks. Just FYI.
August 14, 2001 at 8:57 PM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Thursday, August 02, 2001

With apologies (and thanks) to Rupert Holmes…

I finally got to meet Nathan tonight, our first face-to-face encounter after nearly three years of e-mail correspondence begun when he read a magazine article I'd written and tracked me down on the web. His wife Nina, a neurosciences specialist, has taken a job in St. Louis and Nathan was visiting a few weeks early to scout out potential new homes. We agreed to get together for dinner.

I'm always glad to have the opportunity to show off my town, and our plan to meet in the Central West End afforded the chance to demonstrate such amenities as browsing at Left Bank Books, a delicious meal at a sidewalk table at Duff's and, finally, cool blender drinks on the patio at Wildflower.

As we began the long walk back to where I had parked on Maryland Plaza, a low rumble of thunder was followed almost immediately by rain, a few drops at first and then a downpour. We sprinted the final few blocks, laughing like perfect idiots, diving at last into the steamy, relative dryness of my car.

"Man, I really love a summer thunderstorm," said Nathan, trying in vain to dry his glasses on his thoroughly soaked shirt. "Sometimes I just like to stand outside and let the rain pelt my face."

"We've always gotten on great," I said, "but now I know we're going to be fabulous friends for life."

"Why is that?" he asked.

"Well, you like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain..."

Nathan's laughter came so quickly and so hard, I worried he was going to bump his head against the windshield.

"...and I'm not really into yoga, and I like to think I have at least half a brain," I finished, while Nathan held his side.

"I've never met anyone who could so easily quote cheesy 70s songs in casual conversation," he said, "but I'm a happily married man. There's no way you and I are making love, midnight or any other time. And I don't think St. Louis has dunes or a cape."

We laughed and sang and laughed some more while I drove him back to his hotel, as lightning danced crookedly across the sky, illuminating the Arch and showing off the city some more.

Welcome to St. Louis, Nathan. Nina, when you get here, we'll all find a bar called O'Malley's and toast to your new job and new home. After all, I'm not into health food, but I'm into champagne.
August 2, 2001 at 8:58 PM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Friday, July 27, 2001

It’s not our house…yet

A little girl rides her bike up my street, streamers flapping from the handlebars, a cheerful basket fastened up front. As I get out of my car and start up the steps of the house, she waves and calls out "Hi, Mr. Cooley!" I pause on the steps and wave back as she continues down the block. She'll make two or three more circles of the wide, grassy parkway that seperates the north and south sides of our street and then, I imagine, go home for supper.

This happens at least once a week, and has gone on for much of the summer.

My name, incidentally, is not Cooley, but she thinks it is. Ours is a neighborhood where most of the houses are at least a century old and are referred to by the names of their original owners or the most recent residents of long standing. The Parks House. The Chouteau House, across the street. We have lived here only eight years, so ours is still The Cooley House. We won't get naming rights for another decade, at the outside.

The little girl has probably heard her parents or grandparents describe my home as The Cooley House, pointing it out on walks on sultry summer evenings before the sun slips leisurely behind the Arch and the city air begins to cool. With perfect logic, she assumes that because I live in The Cooley House, I must be Mr. Cooley.

I do not know her name, but tonight, as the little girl excitedly pedals away, I wave and call to her back, "Hi, Sarah! Be careful now!"

She will be Sarah because the girl on the bike in my neighborhood when I was growing up was Sarah. She won't get to be Britney or Courteney or Tiffany for another decade, at the outside.
July 27, 2001 at 8:31 PM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Thursday, July 26, 2001

Eye See

"Better, one or two?"


"Better, one or two?"


"Better, one or two?"


So went my appointment with the ophthalmologist where I was soon informed that my vision in the right eye is significantly worse than that in my left. This has not always been the case and it turns out there are blood vessals growing in my cornea where they ought not be.

The treatment for this is a series of medications, antibiotics and steroids (I know what steroids of this sort actually do, but I can't hear the word without thinking of a Teutonic trainer vowing to "pump up my puny cornea") which, while I'm using them will severely curtail the amount of time I'm permitted to wear my contact lenses.

So, for the near term anyway, it's back to eyeglasses for me. I've not worn glasses for almost ten years, except for an old pair I keep around to get me from the bathroom to the bedroom each night without killing myself with a tumble down the stairs and to prevent accidentally kicking the dog. I am, as my doctor put it, in "the big leagues of myopia" which means that without contacts or glasses, vague shapes and shadows are all I can make out, except at the closest proximity.

The lenses in my chunky old pair are a bit thicker than a quarter-inch, the classic "Coke bottle" sort of specs that made me a grammar school pariah. When the helpful Jamaican fellow at Lenscrafters ("A lighter wallet...in about an hour.") asks what sort of glasses I'm looking for, I have one word: "thin".

I know they've learned to grind lenses much thinner in the decade or so since I've needed a pair, and since I'll be wearing them almost all the time for at least a couple of months, I want my spectacles to be as svelte as possible.

After giving up one hour of my time, $400 and more than a little peripheral vision, I have a new fashion accessory that, as an added benefit, also prevents me from inadvertently committing vehicular manslaughter.

They don't look half bad, I'm assured by friends, and I must admit to being pleased with how light they are and how quickly I've reacclimated to life before I could shove little bits of etafilcon into my eyes.

And yet, every time I walk by a mirror — for a moment and no more — I become an awkward second-grader again, with a huge windshield across my face, resting on what can be charitably described as "a prominent nose".

Awkward pre-adolescent or slightly less awkward adult? Better, one or two?

Of course, back then, the only thing I had to fear was dodge ball.
July 26, 2001 at 8:32 PM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Wednesday, July 25, 2001


I generally try to avoid shopping in malls; living for much of the early 90s with St. Louis' largest shopping center literally in my backyard made me lazy, and I had become comfortably accustomed to being able to walk to The Gap, Lord & Taylor and — most dangerously — the Garden Cafe, where a latte and a hour or two of people-watching consumed too much of my day.

I made a personal pact a couple of years ago to do all of my holiday buying in the city, eschewing the chains and department stores of the county for the funky boutiques and shops of the Central West End, South Grand and University City. This prohibition on the mainstream mercantile was so successful, I now seldom set foot in The Galleria or Crestwood Plaza or any of the other dozen or so essentially identical commercial monstrosities within a few minutes drive of my house.

Still, occasionally a time crunch or craving for cinnamon buns necessitates breaking my vow. Tonight was one such occasion, when I finally owned up to the need for new pants to accomodate my expanding waistline and had to make an emergency trip to Eddie Bauer.

On my first visit to the mall in many months, I made the following observations:
  • There are 18 different places here at which it is possible to purchase a cellular phone or pager. I counted.
  • In the corridor near the movie theatre (12 screens), there are three hair salons, two stores which sell nothing but earrings, two optometrists and an upscale makeup store. The mall directory does not refer to this as the "head care section", but it should.
  • Two kiosks offer for sale something called "Space Age Ice Cream". Nowhere can I find a shop offering "Information Age Ice Cream".
  • The local PBS station operated a store here called "Store of Knowledge" that sold educational videotapes, toys, books and trinkets. The Store of Knowledge has gone out of business, but Waldenbooks offers three entire racks of books "...for Dummies".
  • Every game available in the video arcade requires the use of some kind of gun, except for Ms. Pac-Man who, in this day and age, should probably at least be carrying Mace.
July 25, 2001 at 8:33 PM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Monday, July 23, 2001

Don’t try this at home

Liz taught me a clever way to amuse oneself on the subway, and we played together all the way from Wrigley Field to the Loop. It's very simple: during the clattering cacophony raised by the train while it is running, talk quietly to one another and, as the train slows to enter a station, one person raises his voice and says the most improbable thing they can think of.

You should follow your outburst with a chagrined look, as if you did not expect your conversation to be heard over the noise. The object, inasmuch as it can be called so, is to see who can draw the most entertaining looks from the other passengers.

As the train pulled into, North & Clyborn, the first underground station past Boystown, Liz opened with "...and so I told him I wouldn't sleep with him any longer unless he divorced that shrew Jennifer Aniston!"

This barely warranted a glance from the midday commuters.

My initial contribution, after a particularly noisy prelude to the Chicago station was "...found myself standing naked outside the Planetarium with only 35 cents clutched in my hand!"

A few heads popped up, and a 30-something, Brooks Brother-clad businessman nervously looked away as I caught his eye while he disembarked.

"You're good," Liz said.

At Grand, she came back with "...I'm sorry your Holiness, I'll do the thing with the raspberries, but the whip is a no-go!"

Two elderly women clutched their purses a bit tighter and changed seats.

At Washington, just before we hopped off the train, I delivered my best performance. I whispered urgently to Liz, gesticulating wildly with my hands and, as the rumble of the cars subsided, practically screamed into her face "...but I told the mayor we just can't have that much anthrax vaccine by Friday!!" As we passed through the doors, I glanced back at the remaining passengers with a look I hoped conveyed gravitas and panic.

Liz and I stood on the platform and watched the train roll away, giggling at the stricken looks on the faces staring beseechingly after us.
July 23, 2001 at 8:37 PM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Friday, July 20, 2001

Seven years later…

Seven years later, his number is still on my speed-dial. Then we couldn't go seven hours without speaking to each other, catching up, cooing, kvetching, comiserating, conspiring. And now, seven years since we've spoken at all, and I remain one button from that seven-digit lifeline. I brushed it accidentally yesterday, and discovered that on one day during the preceding 2,000 or so, the phone had been disconnected, long enough or for some reason such that there was no forwarding number relayed by the voice of the electronic lady on the other end of the line.

From this, we can gather many lessons:
  • My cheap, discount department store phone has lasted a remarkable seven-plus years, a miracle in this age of disposable appliances.

  • I am a marathon procrastinator, refusing to expend even the minimal effort of pressing the three keys necessary to consign a disused number to oblivion.

  • Denial is a powerful thing, capable of maintaining the sole, tenuous digital thread to a relationship long dissolved longer in fact than most accountants advise retaining check stubs.

Directory assistance was no help but, then, there is no 411 for matters of the heart. "Heart" is not a concept with which the phone company is acquainted.
July 20, 2001 at 8:40 PM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Tuesday, July 17, 2001

Rated Gee

While helping my mother clean out some closets and cupboards this weekend, I ran across a box of old reel-to-reel tapes and a few loops of 8mm film. I hadn't seen them in probably 15 or 20 years.

For about two weeks, when I was three or four years old, my parents had the use of a home movie camera, borrowed from a friend or relative, I can't exactly recall. And for those two weeks, my father became an auteur, directing me in miniature epics, his voice heard on the film's scratching soundtrack exhorting me to "dance for the camera" or "wave to mommy" or "do a flip."

I remember sitting mortified as an awkward adolescent when these cinematic pearls were unspooled from visiting family members or friends. No one enjoys being a captive audience for a tour through their baby album; it's even less fun when the album is a herky-jerky motion picture reminder you have gained no grace or elan despite having graduated to long pants.

Having sorted through the items headed for the recycling pile, a late summer tag sale or the charity thrift store, we set upon the task of restocking the closet with keepers. Before I returned the box of movie memories to the very top shelf, Mom reminded me to label it for posterity.

Future biographers and historians, please note: There is, on the upper shelf of the large storage closet adjacent to my mother's favorite sitting room in my ancestral home in New London, Missouri, a small cardboard box bearing the legend "Bradsploitation Films, circa 1971".
July 17, 2001 at 8:45 PM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Monday, July 16, 2001

Embarrassing Photographs of Brad on Official Documents


Of all the photo credentials I've dragged out for this feature, this is the newest and by far my favorite. This may very well be the best photo ever taken of me for an ID card, even if that's not a particularly grand accomplishment. On the other hand, this little card just saved me $200. I love this little card.

I picked it up last Friday, my official faculty ID card. Before leaving my office, I'd quipped to a co-worker that I was going to get it and fully expected never to be asked to produce it again. It's not as if campus security is prowling the streets, demanding transit papers from everyone. In the four years I carried a Webster student ID, I can't recall using it even once.

Times have changed. After snapping my picture with a digital camera far nicer than my own, the clerk at the University Center fed a blank piece of mag-stripe enhanced plastic into a card printer which, after much grinding and snarling, produced my new ID. Passing it acrosss the counter to me, the clerk began reciting its uses.

"Don't lose this," she said. "They cost $10 to replace. This'll be your library card, it works in the dining halls and snack bar, the computer center and drop-in lab and the fitness center. Have a nice day."

Fitness center? Did she say "fitness center"?

She did. It turns out that faculty members are granted free use of the school's very nice gym, workout center and pool, a privilege for which I was just minutes away from going downstairs and forking over the $200 alumni membership.

I get to work out for free for a whole year! Which is a good thing, considering the price of a campus parking permit went from $60 to $200 this year.
July 16, 2001 at 8:45 PM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Thursday, July 12, 2001

Though he was wrong for him, I wasn’t wrong

The things that are closest to us are often the most difficult to reach. Again and again, I listen to the story, the same litany of self-denial and emotional sacrifice for a dubious, faraway reward of affection, hear it echo off the walls of my own history.

"Touch it," I say to him. "Reach across the chaste bed and speak beyond the polite conversation and test the line and cross your personal Rubicon." I give the counsel that I once gave myself and fervently hope for a new result, a favorable outcome, a happy ending.

I repeat it, and I want to believe that will be true, for him, this time. A thousand answers of "no" to questions asked must still be better than a single "yes" to one left unspoken, mustn't they?
July 12, 2001 at 8:48 PM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Wednesday, July 11, 2001

That does it

It is not that I'm reluctant to go to the doctor. In fact, I usually enjoy the feeling of relief and sense of being well informed that attends a visit to the doctor, dentist or other healthcare practitioner. It's simply that my innate tendency to procrastinate, to put off even the most important matters, often keeps me getting regular checkups as often as I should.

I have always had exceptionally poor vision; I am myopic to the point where, without my eyeglasses or contact lenses, I can make out only very vague shapes and blurs of motion.

But when my most recent eye doctor closed his practice, I put off the chore of finding a new one and since I had a significant inventory of disposable contact lenses, it has been more than two years since I had a decent eye exam.

Nonetheless, to avoid one more task on my list, I have been willing to tolerate certain indignities and inconveniences. It does not faze me to hold the menu a bit closer to my face when dining in a dimly-lit restaurant. I am not bothered by the fact that road signs are increasingly difficult to read, since I am confident of my ability to make out large and menacing objects such as SUVs and adult animals.

Last weekend, however, I found myself at a nightclub, flirting across the dance floor with a hot, promising shirtless number. I downed the remainder of my beer and began to make my way across the room.

I was dangerously close to taking a spot next to him, introducing myself and suggesting a more intimate venue to acquaint ourselves when I realized with a shock he belonged to a class of men which The Giant Queen calls "Bette Midler boys."

By which he means, of course, that they look okay but only "from a distance."

First thing Monday I resolved to make an appointment with a new ophthalmologist. Life is too short to cruise ugly men.
July 11, 2001 at 8:48 PM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Tuesday, July 10, 2001

My place

It may seem a peculiar and frivolous thing to wax elegiac about a bar, particular a plywood-and-posers dive like The Loading Zone. Indulge me. After nearly 15 years, it seems the time has come to bury the place and to praise it, just a little.

The place is closed now, for almost two weeks and probably for good, if the rumors of mountainous debts and back-tax liabilities left when its owner Fred died last month are to be believed. There have been rumblings of its departure from the local nightlife scene for five years or more, fortified when Fred opened another, slightly more dignified south city bar in 1999, and with rising rents and the gradual migration of the city's gay population from its Central West End cradle to more scattered neighborhoods — but somehow, however improbably, The Loading Zone remained open and continued to draw a decent crowd. Until now.

I will miss it, not because of what it was, but for what it wasn't. It wasn't pretentious, despite trying awfully hard through several attempts to up the decor and attract the hip. It wasn't even clean, although it wasn't exactly dirty either, just unkempt in a decadently charming way. And it wasn't particularly structurally sound; the barroom had been carved up and expanded so many times I jokingly referred to it as the "Jenga bar," quipping that if one more load-bearing wall was moved, the entire place would come tumbling down.

Sometimes I swore the place was being held up by the small group of regular patrons leaning in predictable places against its walls. In a way, that's true. It was the people who, however tenuously, held the place together to the end.

For all its faults, the Zone was as near to "my place" as any club in St. Louis. We all have one, those of us who are unashamedly "into the bar scene." Those places where we feel comfortable, where we know the names and faces and stories, where we get the inside jokes and feel at home, where the bartenders know what we drink and where, on occasion, magic is made.

It was at the Zone where we commandeered the bar one night well past closing time, toasting bon voyage again and again to my best friend Michael, drinking ourselves silly and dancing in our underpants on the counter, lying to each other but earnestly wanting to believe that we would stay in touch after he moved to the coast.

It was here that I first met The Twins and found myself swirled into their circuit universe, here that saw dozens of post-work happy hours with the Giant Queen, here where Paul introduced me to Eric the Gay Republican, beginning a friendship that transcends ideology and extends into genuine love and respect.

At the Zone one prematurely chilly November night, the best damn bartender in three states — since deceased and much missed — surprised me with a birthday cake he'd baked to celebrate my 22nd for no other reason than he'd overheard me casually mention its approach a week before.

It was here that I partied with the Party boys, here that for four years show tunes were a Tuesday tradition not to be missed, here where Jeff, Tony and I played darts until the wee hours week after week, and here that I realized, at last and with certainty, that the only man I ever truly loved wasn't going to love me back, in spite of his claims and my fervent hopes. The Giant Queen sat with me through a week of highballs and tears on that one; "Chivas shiva" he called it, as I mourned the passing of my white-picket-fence dreams and gratefully accepted his assurances they would rise again. He was right. He usually is.

It was never about the drinking. We did our share, but the friendships and fantasies the place fostered were the more intoxicating reason to show up.

For now, I wonder which of the city's remaining nightclubs will become the focal point of my increasingly rare forays into the social scene of the City by the Bog. The Upside, Twist, Mick's and now The Loading Zone — once essential elements in the volatile compound that was my five or six nights a week party lifestyle — have all had their last last call.

It was just a bar, after all, and I can't adequately explain to you why I'll miss it so. Unless you have a place like that in your own life, you probably wouldn't understand anyway.
July 10, 2001 at 8:49 PM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Monday, July 09, 2001

Well I’ll be darned…

Preparing to teach again has been an eye-opening experience. For the first time, I'll be responsible for a course at the university level, a somewhat advanced topic at that, and the process of preparing the class syllabus and instruction program has taught me more in the past two or three weeks than I probably picked up during my own college years.

The fact that a good portion of those years was spent playing ping-pong and sleeping my way through the available theatre majors may have something to do with that.
July 9, 2001 at 8:50 PM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

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