Saturday was the weirdest day of my life.
Things have to be put in perspective. You cannot make bold, brash, one sided statements and expect to get away with them. So when I say that Saturday was the weirdest night of my life, I don’t actually mean that Saturday was the weirdest night of my life. It is a means of putting into place, of categorizing things, of making sense of things. When Bob (aka “The Hetero Lifemate”) turned to me at the end of the night and said, “Has this been the weirdest night we’ve ever had?” and I turned to him and nodded, briefly nodded, because at that point what was the use of words, he did not really mean it. But things are immediate, and in the catalogue of memories of the weirdest nights of our lives (for the benefit of a society that loves lists and breaking things down more than anything else) it would be fair to say it belongs in the conversation. At the very least it felt like it did, and still does now, as I put things down in my little internet living room.
So now you are expecting the supernatural? Now you are expecting the spectacular? That’s not really what this is. More like a series of tiny miscues and inevitabilities that, when the day ended, when we looked back on us, made us look at each other and shrug. Guess it happens this way sometimes.
Don’t all days begin as such? Innocuous and with blue skies? That’s how it certainly seems to go. I woke up at 8:30 and snoozed for half an hour before finally rousing myself and going for a run. I hadn’t pounded the pavement in a week, and it was badly needed. Just the fact that I was up at 8:30 on a Saturday made this day different, though not by much. A few years ago, this would have been my bed time, the time the I opened the club doors after a monster Digweed or Teneglia set and wobbled my way home. Now, it generally means about 6 hours of sleep. These days 10 is oversleeping, and 11 I’m pissed that I’ve wasted the day. Stop me here, I’m nostalgicizing, a sick disease of the spirit.
I had told the Magnificent Geebs that I would meet her and the hetero lifemate and Dara, a friend of ours from college who was in town for the weekend, for brunch on the Upper West Side (or, as I like to call it, Canada) at 11. Now, the simple fact that Dara was in town should have been the first clue. She never comes to visit. Ever. But we’ll let that go for now, because I don’t visit anyone either.
We sat outside on Bloody Marys, coffee and Eggs Benedict at a place on Columbus Avenue called, of all things, Avenue. We dined well, we ate big, we finished the meal satisfied and stuffed. I told my friends that I had wanted to swing by my father’s place, he had been released from the hospital the day before, and I just wanted to see how things were going.
We headed across the park. In a bus. When we arrived my sister and her boyfriend, Zach, were sitting in the living room with my dad and step-mother, watching television and talking. We spread out on all of the couches and caught up, my dad stretching his battered knee across one couch as we occupied chairs, the other couch and the floor. I know my dad loves this stuff, eats it up. He loves being around his kids. Just a slight second is being around his kids with their friends and significant others. But this doesn’t happen all that frequently, we suddenly all lead busy lives, so that, in and of itself, was slightly weird. He asked questions, we all told stories. He made comments, we all laughed. He teased my step-mother for being chased from their bedroom by his snores the night before, and we all laughed harder.
We left and walked across Central Park with Zach and Corey. They were heading to the new Time Warner complex of mass malldom, the rest of us heading to Lincoln Center for a movie.
Bob and I saw Team America: World Police. We talked through the whole thing and laughed our balls off. (“Durka, durka, durka.”) Geebs and Dara watched Shall We Dance? I think they probably enjoyed it, though Richard Gere could offer to pay me for my ticket and I still would not watch this flick.
The entire day had really only been building up to one thing. The Citizen Cope show at Roseland Ballroom. I know his publicist through work, and she had scored me two tickets for Saturday night’s performance. Of all the CDs released this past year, this is probably my favorite. If there is one that is better, I can’t remember right now, and I listen to it more frequently than any new disk I’ve gotten from any record label.
But we had time to kill between the movie’s end and the concert’s start, so we headed to Amsterdam Billiards to shoot some pool. On our way there we grabbed a slice of pizza to tide us over, and then I stopped in front of a hat store.
I love hats. Oddball hats, quirky hats. Though I rarely buy the right one. Every now and then I will hit it right, and that hat will get worn down to a nub, but I usually end up thinking a certain hat looks cool on someone else, buying it, realizing I hate the damn thing, and it sits in my apartment unused. A piece of memorabilia, like a concert T-shirt. Still, I stopped in front of the store. “Dude, we’re totally going in there,” I said, and Bob laughed.
I paused at the door, pizza slice still in hand.
“Oh, it’s okay,” the girl behind the counter said. “You can bring your pizza in. Just don’t spill it on anything.”
“Nice! Thanks!” I should have said something else. I should have said, “Listen, lady, you don’t know what you are offering here. I mean, if spilling were an art form, I’d be Picasso. I spill everything. I mean fucking everything. I hardly ever replace clothes because I’ve worn them down. I replace them because the big, globby stain just doesn’t make it presentable anymore.”
That’s what I should have said. Instead, I sauntered on into the store, pizza slice still in hand. I walked the isles, I pulled hats off the rack with my right hand (my left was holding the pizza, after all) and I tried them on. Each one I put back, not satisfied with the coolness factor they relayed in the mirror. This went on for about 10 or 15 minutes. I picked up a toque from the rack, and when it didn’t fit I began nudging it back and forth back onto its holder. As I screwed it back into place, my hand hit the brim of this cowboy hat just above. The hat tipped forward, turned over and fell, hitting the tip of my pizza on the way down, then falling top down and landing on the floor. My pizza fell square into it, splatting down. Only 2 pieces of sausage and one pepperoni actually hit the floor, so if you think of the hat as a receptacle of sorts, then it did its job.
The owner, however, did not see as a receptacle.
“That’s suede!” he said, over the counter, as I stood there rocking back and forth with my hands in my pockets thinking, damn, a few years ago I would have just bolted, why am I still standing here?”
“Well,” I said, “how do we fix this?” All the other hats in the store had been in the $20 - $40 range, so I was thinking I’d just pay the bill and be on my way. I had clearly ruined the hat. “What do I need to pay for it?”
“See, the thing is,” the owner said, leaning over the counter as he said this, “you didn’t dump your pizza in one of my wool winter caps. You’re bad luck is that you dropped it in the most expensive hat in the store. This is $200.”
“WHAT!” I stood there, staring at the man. “There is no way that that is a $200 hat.”
“It’s suede!” Somewhere in the background Bob was holding in a laugh. I stared at the man, telepathically telling him what we both knew was true. There was no WAY I was paying $200 for a Stetson cowboy hat with marinara sauce lining the brim. Absolutely no way.
“Look,” he said, “I’m not going charge you the full price, but I need to recoup my costs for the hat because there’s no way I can sell it. So I’ll knock half the price off.” Disgusted, I threw my credit card across the counter.
Outside Bob said, “You know what’s funny about that. A few years ago I would have been following you out the door. We would have bolted, man. What’s happened to us?”
“I don’t know. But you wanna know what bothers me even more?”
“I don’t even live in Chelsea.”
“Yeah, that’s a great coming out of the closet hat. When are you telling your parents?”
“Right? When am I ever going to wear this damn thing?”
“You could be a cowboy for Halloween. Or save it for the Pride Parade.”
We played pool for 30 minutes, then caught a cab down to Roseland for the Citizen Cope show, me wearing my hat on and off the whole time. I had to get some use out of it.
As we pulled up half a block from the venue we hit traffic.
“We’ll just get out here,” I told the driver. We were in the middle land of a 3 lane street. Bob opened the left hand door.
“You shouldn’t do that,” I said.
“Why?” He turned around as he said that, just as a huge black limo pulled up on our left, hitting the cab door with a sickening grind of metal, peeling the door back like a banana peel so it closed in on the driver, tearing holes in the limo as it grind to a halt.
The limo driver jumped out of his car.
“What the fuck is wrong with you, man! Are you fucking stupid! You don’t open the door when you are in the middle lane!” Meanwhile, the door was still pinned to the limo. Bob was outside, trying to calm the limo guy down, who stood over him, 6’2” and damn big.
“Hey,” I said to the cab driver, who had done nothing to this point. “You’re going to have to pull forward. Your door is pinned into the limo.” He did, the door returned near where it was supposed to be, off kilter and busted up. The side of the limo was totaled.
“Are you fucking crazy! You don’t open a limo door from the middle lane!”
“Look,” Bob said, trying to remain calm, but clearly his brain was running a mile a minute, trying to figure a way out of this mess, “he stopped in the middle of the street.”
As we all talked a cop walked up. It had been all of 90 seconds between the accident and his approach. He came face to face with both Bob and me. “Look, I saw the whole thing from across the street. This is bad driving on the cabbies part and bad driving on the limo guy. You should get the hell out of here, because this is about to get ugly.”
We didn’t need to be asked twice. Bob bolted into Roseland, I stared at the two cars and miles of traffic behind them for a second before following him through the door.
“Can you fucking believe that!” I said.
“I need a beer.”
“Yes, yes you do. You need two.”
Citizen Cope was on the stage, playing one of our favorite songs. It was 8:05, so we must have just missed his first song. The publicist told me he was going on at 8PM. Bob grabbed 2 beers and we made our way up to within 20 feet of the mic stand, bobbing our heads as we went along. As the song ended, he jumped into “Bullet and a Target” the song that introduced us to Cope, made us fans in the first place.
“What you’ve done here,” we sang along, not really noticing how appropriate the next lyric was, “is put yourself between a bullet and a target.”
After that song he launched into “Penitentiary,” another great one from his second album, The Clarence Greenwood Recordings.
“You know what I really want to hear?” Bob asked. “’Pablo Picasso.’”
“Niiiiiice. Yeah, he better play that. But I want to hear ‘D’Artagnan’s Theme.’ But I really want to hear ‘Son’s Gonna Rise.’”
“Oh, hell yeah. ‘Son’s Gonna Rise for sure.’” And we toasted our plastic cups, and we drank big, because if anything, more than anything that connects us as friends (and there is a laundry list) the one thing we know how to do is enjoy the moment. Even our worse times are not just livable, but memorable. It’s been that since we met, and it will probably remain that way.
As “Penitentiary” came to an end we erupted with claps and whistles.
“You guys have been brilliant!” Cope said, Bob put his fingers in his lips and gave a dog’s whistle. “I’ll see you next time I’ve around. Good night!”
And we just stood there. Standing. “What time is it?” Bob asked.
I pulled my mobile from my pocket. “Um… 8:15.”
“And how many times did he just play?”
“And apparently he’s done?”
“Yeah, and given tonight,” I began, the band walking off the stage, “that’s just about fitting, wouldn’t you say?”
We stood there for a beat.
“Is he really done? Did he go on early?”
“I have no idea. The publicist told me 8. I think she meant to say 7.”
As we neared the entrance to the venue I peered my head around the corner.
“The cop, the cab, the limo and now a tow truck are all out there.” I said, describing the scene down the street.
“Yep. Let’s make a run for it.”
We sprinted down the block, making the end and turning left on Broadway. We called the Magnificent Geebs. I was picking up our families car to go skydiving on Sunday, so we offered to pick up her and Dara so we could return Dara to Grand Central Station. We picked up the girls and told them the whole story, the whole sordid night.
“Why does this stuff only happen when you two are together?” Geebs said.
“When was the last time your husband ruined a cab and limo?” I countered.
“Do neither of you remember Sydney? Do you not remember that night?”
And we were silent. Yeah, we remembered that night. We damn well remembered that night. A hair’s breadth away.
“That stuff always happens around you two,” she said.
“Hey, hey,” I said, “Why am I getting the brunt of this. I’m not married to you. Have you met your husband? And you’ve been there for a time or 12, if I’m not mistaken.”
I looked in the rearview mirror and the Magnificent Geebs smiled, a thousand little memories of a thousand great times, indelibly printed on her person, ran across her mind.
We parked half a block from Grand Central and walked Dara in. We all hugged. We all said our good-byes. We all said we should see each other soon, and promised we would, even though we knew would wouldn’t. We would keep in touch, but as much as you want to see your best friends all the time, it just doesn’t happen that way.
We walked back to the car and climbed in. We were laughing about the whole thing, cracking each other up. This type of shit always happens, without the destruction of physical property part, but we always seem to be resting on a cloud, something that shelters us, that miraculous turns stupidity into happenstance. It’s always been that way around me and Bob. Every now and then we will catch ourselves and say, “Here’s to our charmed lives.”
As I turned onto 8th Avenue, making my way to the Upper West Side Bob spoke up. “There was a mirror over here when I got in, wasn’t there?”
I looked over at the passenger side door. The side mirror was gone. Missing.
“Do you guys remember those two homeless women by the car when we talked up?” Geebs asked. “What do you want to bet one of them has a brand new mirror?”
I just drove on. Up 8th Avenue and merging onto Central Park West.
“Perfect end to the perfect night,” I said as I pulled up to their apartment.
“Weirdest night of my life,” Bob said as he hopped out, turning around to pound fists before walking away. “Let’s do it again some time, shall we?”
And he didn’t really mean it. It wasn’t the weirdest night of either of our lives. But maybe if makes its way onto the list. And at least it did feel that way.
And it wouldn’t have been complete if I didn’t call Mel at the end of it. I hadn’t spoken to her in 6 weeks, and the past month and a half has been liberating. There is a craziness and pain that settled into our relationship towards the end that I do not miss at all, that I am glad to be rid of. Still, there is a crazy, a tiny off-beat, feeling of being around her that was one of the best feelings of my life. And I miss it. So I called, just to hear how she was doing, to know that she was okay. And we spoke for 15 minutes. And as I hung up I said, “I just wanted to know how you were. I don’t want to start talking again, it was just one of those nights. I miss you.” And we said goodbye.