On Forty Years in Broken Lampposts
In which The Gay Recluse turns forty.
Today we received the following note from Harry, a reader in Washington Heights:
Mess: It is none my business to know, but! My curiosity is tweaked. Who are you? Have you posted something somewhere to give a more detailed bio? or do I have to continue to read between the lines for any crumbs of information?
FYI i am an 80 year old autistic gay man who enjoys reading your piece every day. And yes, life is still fun?
Thanks, Harry — let’s just say that it is our pleasure to hear from a representative of what we have to believe is an underserved demographic, particularly on the internet. (!) Somewhat more seriously, we recently marked our fortieth year with a walk through the ruins of Washington Heights (and Inwood), which as usual was both exhilarating and depressing; or in short: fun? We present this to you below in annotated fashion, with the hope that it may give you some insight into what you are seeking to know. (Or it may bore you to tears, in which case we apologize in advance!).
Year 1. Our parents were noble and flawed.
Year 2. Of course we looked just like them.
Year 3. Most of our earliest memories have been replaced by photographs.
Year 4. Except for the hours we spent in the dark, hidden in the back of our parents’ closets. The smell of the clothes — the rows of dresses and pants — was intoxicating!
Year 5. The first day of school.
Year 6. We were
annoyingly painfully shy. An invitation to Howard Feldman’s birthday party was the scariest thing in the world! We begged our mother not to make us go, and she made a deal: as long as we were willing to deliver the present to the front door, we wouldn’t have to go inside. We can still remember the terror of pressing the doorbell and looking in side at Howard’s house, teeming with kids. We handed Mrs. Feldman the present and left.
Year 7. In second grade we called a girl we hated a “faggot.” Our friend Danny Wexler was there to correct us: “A girl can’t be a faggot!” “Why not?” we asked but he didn’t offer an explanation: “Call her a bitch!” he said and somehow we knew he wasn’t kidding.
Year 8. Our third grade teacher was a man who couldn’t spell “recipe.” He wore cologne until they discovered it was making Annabelle Mayson throw up.
Year 9. Every morning in fourth grade we listened to that song by Queen: “We Will Rock You.” Our friend Howard played air guitar during the solo at the end and instead of listening to the embarrassingly schmaltzy second half (“We Are The Champions”), we just would start it over again from the beginning.
Year 10. In fifth grade we became depressed for no reason anyone could figure out. We received perfect marks at school, had lots of friends and played on the travel hockey team. Secretly we were sleeping with knives and sipping cleaning supplies.
Year 11. A lot of kids were “going out” but we remained aloof and terrified, especially when we learned that Molly Lerch liked us.
Year 12. Seventh grade was kind of scary, especially when the eighth graders threw Randy Williams off the balcony and broke his collarbone because he wore white socks on “8-A Day.”
Year 13. We read The Iliad in eighth grade, but nobody mentioned anything about what was really going on with Achilles and Patroclus.
Year 14. In ninth grade we spent a lot of time staring at the crotch of our social studies teacher. He had a pot belly and would sort of slide his hands under his belt as he sat in the front of the room talking about the Steelers.
Year 15. In tenth grade we went to Cranbrook, a boarding school that — in terms of certain things — was nothing like the English version. (Or if it was, we were too busy playing hockey to notice.)
Year 16. This was the year our hockey “career” began to fall apart. Even though our team won “the states,” we spent most of the season on the fourth line, an effective demotion from the year before. Our coach insisted we had talent but lacked a killer instinct. Obviously he was not wrong.
Year 17. Calling our father after we decided to quit playing hockey was actually harder than “coming out” would be twelve years later.
Year 18. We next went to Cornell, which
like us at the time was rather soulless.
Year 19. We majored in government and slowly dreamed of ingratiating ourselves to the arty kids who hung out in the Dragon. Hilariously, we thought they were subversive.
Year 20. This was the year that could be summed up by The Minutemen classic: “Maybe Partying Will Help.”
Year 21. In retrospect, Cornell really was a waste of time (and $$$$ — sorry Dad!)
Year 22. Like millions of others, we moved to Washington, DC and worked for environmental groups (Center for Marine Conservation, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, etc.) run by scary egomaniacs who for some reason are good at raising $$$$.
Year 23. We hatched a plan to move to New York City. (Law school — ugh.)
Year 24. Law school was filled with very smart people who actually cared about studying and getting high-paying jobs!
Year 25. For a while we pretended that we wanted to be a “public-interest” lawyer, until we realized that they also worked insanely hard and for almost no money! Yuck! We started a band that was effectively a Galaxie 500 knock-off.
Year 26. Graduation from law school. Our classmates start at ___, __ & ___, while we take a job at a Soho record store — Rocks in Your Head — and go on sporadic tours playing for nobody in places like Buffalo and Panama City. We witness a bloodbath in Milwaukee after a fight breaks out in the room where everyone is hanging out (i.e., not the one where we were playing.) Apparently a black guy walked into the bar and a white guy didn’t like that he was black. Who knew that Milwaukee was like the Balkans of race relations? Our mind is racing as the sirens wail out front: was this ever covered on Laverne & Shirley?
Year 27. We are living in Brooklyn during this phase of our life.
Year 28. There are secret trysts via the personals.
Year 29. We begin attending our friends’ weddings with increasing frequency and corresponding alarm.
Year 30. We write embarrassingly earnest paragraphs in our journal about wanting to jump off the Verrazano Bridge in the middle of traffic. (As a long-time indie rocker, we are not familiar with the term “drama queen”!)
Year 31. We finally come out. Phew.
Year 32. Oddly, the world doesn’t really care!
Year 33. We take our first “real” job in _______, an industry filled with women and gays who work for nothing. (Ok, it’s publishing.)
Year 34. By this point we are living in Washington Heights.
Year 35. A business deal we made with a Cornell friend goes sour. There is a lawsuit.
Year 36. There is family turmoil.
Year 37. There is therapy!!!
Year 38. There is resolution on all fronts.
Year 39. We don’t believe in life, but we don’t not believe in it, either.
Filed under: Architecture, Decay, Dissonance, Gay, Landscape, New York City, Resignation, Ruins, The Gay Recluse, Washington Heights | 1 Comment
Tags: Aries, Autism, Birthdays, Fort Tryon Park, Forty, Galaxie 500, Inwood Hill Park, Lampposts, The Minutemen, Upper Manhattan