The Long Island Watchtower

I don’t know what day it is. I mean, I know it’s Wednesday, but that automatic calculation of days has left me. Monday night is the night I want to write about. Tuesday was a write-off.

Brett, Brian, Claudio, Mindy (Adam’s lovely wife), my loves and I drove to Long Island to rescue the Legendary Adam from his family home for a few brief hours to share a meal, and remind him of life outside of his current reality.

I don’t even remember the name of the restaurant. There was a lot of seafood, and a lot of drinks. (Mom, you may not like this post, but it needs to be said, so here it is.) We decided early on that Sarah would be our DD, and so she sipped coffee in her delicate, Sarah way and witnessed the evening unfold.

Adam has a face you instantly like, and this isn’t something you can tell from pictures. In photos he seems interesting, comical, and outgoing, but there is a warmth that radiates from this guy that you can only feel in person. I’ve heard so much about his larger-than-life personality, that I was surprised to realize he wasn’t a giant. I expected him to be my brother’s size.

He was understandably quiet, and I realized this was a very rare opportunity to see a side of this guy that few people ever see. I was touched by that, and touched by his comfort with everyone. He didn’t feel like he had to perform, he was able to relax, remain engaged, and just appreciate the company.

The boys are now a bit sketched out by this blog (or perhaps by me). They’ve brought a friend named Ari, and they warn him not to say anything because it may end up on the Internet. They don’t seem to realize that this blog is typically about me, not other people.

After our feast, and just around the time I was starting to lose feeling in my face, half the posse headed back to the city, leaving the three of us, Adam, Mindy, and Brian behind. At first we thought we were heading to Adam’s high school hangout, but we ended up back at the Hersh home.

Adam asked Sarah to come inside and help him collect a couple of bottles of his father’s scotch. The rest of the evening gets fuzzy from here. Brian seemed really uncomfortable with the idea of hanging out so close to home, he’s incredibly honorable, and didn’t want to show disrespect, but I assured him that if Adam needed us close, it was all okay. I’m not sure how reassuring a stranger can be, but there you go.

We stretched ourselves out on the lawn and consumed copious amounts of drink. We talked quietly, sometimes I laughed too loud, Mindy went into bed, and their shih tzu, Jack Bower, rested between Sarah and I.

Adam couldn’t help but give me the same warning that everyone who loves my partners gives me. He was subtle, but it was clear. He loves this family, and needed me to know that. I’ve grown accustomed now to fielding such statements, questions, and remarks. I assured him he needn’t worry,  because we share a love for these people that runs very deep.

My emotions were right on the surface, which may or may not have been appropriate, but it’s actually not possible for me to witness someone else experiencing such a huge moment without feeling great empathy. I offer up this blog post, from Spring of ’09 by way of explanation, in case I was out of line. Sometimes other people’s tears are the last thing you need. I felt like we bonded, but I was fairly hammered, so it’s hard to be sure.

I realized a few huge things on Monday night. I want to share them here, because there is something about the written word that sets these revelations in stone (here’s the part where I turn the microscope back on me):

* Our friendships and family are the only really important things we have.

* There is no way to understand certain experiences of life unless you’ve lived them, and even then, your experience is totally personal.

* When I drink too much I flip the same kind of switch that my grandfather did and spiral downwards into total self-loathing. This was our experience later in the evening, after we had left. It was as ugly as I’ve ever been, and I regret it more than anything.

* Deep down inside, underneath all the bravado and outspoken tendencies, there is part of me that cannot accept that I deserve real, healthy love. If I can’t fix this, I will make this loveless idea my reality, despite anyone else trying their damnedest to love me. I wonder how many of us share this?

* I am loved. Really and truly loved, in a healthy, positive way, by two incredible people.

I don’t know how long we’re staying here. We’re having dinner with Adam tonight, and then we’re talking about leaving early tomorrow to drive back to Canada, our children who I am missing desperately, and the beaver farm. This week has been emotional, and deeply impacting, and I am staring down feelings and memories that are nearly seven years old and as vibrant as if they happened yesterday.

This life will only amaze us if we allow it to. It will test us, and challenge us, and shape us, and then it falls to us to decide what to do with our remaining days. I think I am only now beginning to understand that I have more power than I’ve ever given myself credit for when it comes to creating my experience of life.

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Pulling the Pork in Jersey

Today is my brother’s birthday. Rather than celebrate with a bbq at my parent’s house, we’re headed to Jersey to the home of Mafia Joe, his wife Mafia Monica, and their 7-month-old Baby Joey. Jersey doesn’t get much better than this.

I get to meet more of the NYC crew. Brett is notorious for being as big as the heart inside him, and as sweet as he is outspoken. Claudio is who I’m most looking forward to. Sarah says I’ll love him. She says he’s my kind of good looking (she tends to prefer really pretty men, so I’m skeptical). Claudio shows up to get us, with Brett in the passenger seat. He’s driving a black Audi with tinted windows (of course).  We squish into the back, and we’re on our way. The city traffic is mad, it’s Saturday, and it takes us almost two hours to hit the Holland Tunnel, which is actually a five-minute drive away, sans bumper-to-bumper.

I think Sarah is right about Claudio, but I can’t tell because he’s wearing glasses. He’s kind of wiry, and well dressed in a way that indicates he wasn’t trying. I notice his watch right away. I don’t know what it is, but it’s beautiful. My boyfriend asks, and he says it’s a Roger Dubuis. He takes it off to show it to us, and the back is all exposed to show off the machinations on the inside. Claudio sells designer watches to pro athletes. His claim to fame to date is a watch that sold for two and a half million. No, that’s not a type-o.

Brett hates the traffic, and seems really squished in the front seat. He is kind of loud and brawny, but very friendly. Brett has done everything from mortgage brokering, to insurance sales. He currently buys and sells cell phone towers. He and Claudio live in the same apartment building in Brooklyn.

After fighting through traffic, we finally arrive at Mafia Joe’s. They have an adorable house in Jersey City with a really nice yard. Joe isn’t really in the Mafia, but he could be. He’s one of those solid Italian guys with very little neck, and a kind and earnest host. His wife, Monica answers the door. We hand her the bottle that we brought and wish her happy birthday (we’ve just learned from the boys that it’s her birthday). She tells us thanks, but she’s knocked up again. She says “Fuck me, it’s all I do!” and laughs warmly. I like her instantly.

The other guests consist of two brothers – Arthur and Alen, and Alen’s wife Stacy. Stacy and Alen work in the fashion industry. They have one year old twins. We introduce ourselves, and calmly answer the “So how do you know each other question” honestly, and they simply say “Oh, cool.” Conversation shifts to our children, and parenting, and Baby Joey makes an appearance after his nap. He’s a dumpling, and we love him. Even the men take turns holding him, and feeding him, and playing with him. This is one of the things I love most about this generation.

Brian shows up with a willowy girl with curly red hair. She’s very beautiful, in a really natural way, and I’m surprised because she’s my type, not what I imagine his would be. The women stay inside, except Sarah and I. We all feast (the food was great) and we listen to the boys tell stories.

Arthur just got his first DUI. He tried to make it home on a flat tire, and the cops were alerted because of the sparks flying everywhere. I imagine he must have smelled boozy, because he ended up blowing a breathalyzer and getting booked. He was handcuffed for five hours to a post in jail, kind of terrorized by all of the thugs in there. Later this week he has to attend a meeting to hear the stories of DUI accident victims’ families. He speaks of it like a life lesson, and a wake up call. This whole story is tied to a girl, a girl whose uncle is helping to get him off as lightly as possible. The girl keeps sending him photos of a carrot cake via text messages. At first, when he says “she’s making me a carrot cake” I think it’s some sort of sexual slang, involving redheads. This guy is young, charismatic, and good looking. I hope he has actually learned a life lesson here. I watch him after with the baby, and decide there may be hope yet.

Someone else describes a similar first booking in a Las Vegas jail and all of the boys groan because apparently Vegas is the worst place in the US to get arrested. This person told the cops they were suicidal to get a more isolated holding cell, after they grew weary of watching people’s faces mashed to a bloody pulp.

I’m listening to the timbre of Arthur’s voice, in fact the voices of all the people around me, and I decide that New York accents are the accent of everyone. It’s a blend of the many immigrants who have settled here, and it’s like some kind of beautiful music.

Ironically, conversation switches to a party at the Hard Rock (in Vegas maybe?) called Rehab. This is apparently a pool party with a $400 cover that is worth every penny. I listen to the boys describe the music, and the food and booze and women, and I decide ancient civilizations must have partied around the water in a same way. I think of our cottage parties, and chime in with a description, and decide that someone should open a resort for our generation in cottage country. Goodbye cottage country.

Claudio mostly listens, like me, but when he does pipe up, it’s with the driest, most nail-on-the head zingers. He describes Arthur as the “luckiest kid he knows”. His action in Vegas is described as “rolling a quarter out of your ear and right into the slot.” These boys enjoy their gambling. Arthur describes his luck as the kind that would inspire him to “marry a girl he met that night and then get stuck sharing his winnings with her”. They guffaw at this.

Arthur describes losing $1,500 at The Rio in a hotel room safe he forgot to lock, and a separate incident when someone stole his player’s card while he was winning. Don’t worry Arthur, if I read your palms, I could tell you that you are poised to have your luck turn.

The boys want to know what I do for a living. I have them all convinced (seriously) that my family are beaver farmers, and we raise them and slaughter them for their pelts. When they ask me how to murder a beaver, I tell them that each beaver is different, and thus each death must be handled differently. I’ve made this a euphemism, but nobody catches on. “The beaver will show you how it wants to die.” I say, sagely.

Then I tell them about the Coquettes, and whip out the iPhone to show pictures. Claudio has a particular eyebrow arch for Billie Black, and as the night goes on, I decide how well suited they could be. I even drunkenly text her in the wee hours of the morning to tell her as much.

There is more honesty among these men than I’m prepared for, and I don’t know what to do with it at first. For some, there is a filter missing, and in hindsight, I wish I could have just realized it for the opportunity it afforded, to hear such tales accounted with minimal censoring. It’s burned into my brain though, so I won’t ever forget how it feels to be a fly on the wall.

Brett tells us an equal parts hilarious and disturbing story about how his 15 year old brother lost his virginity to a 24 year old, in the midst of a house party. He knew his way around her anatomy, and managed to hold out for half an hour before climaxing, then running upstairs to gloat to his super hot, 40-something mom about his achievement. This woman is Brett’s stepmother. He’s clearly also conflicted about the whole thing, and the story is nothing short of hilarious. Our boy Brett is a magical story teller. He refers to the three of us as “His Canadians” and takes care to make sure Sarah and I want for nothing while we’re in their company. I’ve promised Brett that the Coquettes will meet him at the airport when he comes to visit in Toronto.

Somehow, amidst all of these stories and all of this camaraderie, one thing becomes clear. The legendary Adam is the kingpin. The mood shifts a little, as the boys reflect on how they are missing him and thinking about him. They will hands-down tell me that he’s the craziest and best of them all. They speak of him with real love and reverence, and more than a little awe. They’ve known him and his family for years, and it’s obvious that they are all devoted to the guy. I’m touched by male friendships that run so deep. They are in some ways, more simple and pure than female relationships.

The sexy Jersey parents move on to another party in town, and graciously invite us to hook up later with their other friends. We have been warmly welcomed. We stay a little longer, and Mr. Nice arrives with his French lady, who is more talkative tonight. After chatting with them a bit, we pile back into Claudio’s car and head to Brooklyn.

As we pull into Claudio’s garage, the attendant in uniform is holding someone’s toddler, a sleepy little girl, while her parents are unloading their stuff. I love that picture, and the warm smile he gives us all. Claudio leaves the man his keys, and we head up to his apartment to wait for Brett who needs to change. Claudio has been traveling for work, and he apologizes for the mess, but his apartment is actually really beautiful. There’s a real, rich sense of the person who lives there – family photos, tasteful furniture, interesting pieces of an eclectic, global nature, and my favourite – a framed, autographed Gretzky jersey from when he played with the Kings. Claudio points this out after I discover his hockey sticks.

Our evening concludes at Brooklyn Bowl. It’s a huge warehouse converted into a bar, live music venue, and bowling alley. The live music is so good that I don’t notice it is being played live until Sarah points it out to me. They are having a hip hop karaoke night, but if you’re not good enough they stop you mid stream. Our hosts are very gracious, and we really have a great time. My girlfriend proposed to me for the second time in front of the bar. Claudio fashioned us a ring out of a twist tie, which I sadly lost on the bowling alley. Sarah bowls for the three of us, because I’m no athlete, and can’t really dazzle in platform shoes. Not like that, anyway.

I think I love these boys a little. They are real, and raw, and they’ve got big hearts. Tonight we’re forming a posse to head to Long Island and show the legendary Adam, over dinner, how much he is loved. I think I’m a little bit nervous to meet the man, but I’m thrilled that it will happen this trip. Love is an important tool in times like these.

Ushering in a Pantsless Soho Nightcap

Emporio

All the babies I’ve encountered in the city are fussy today. The morning started out hot – a clear dry heat that made me think of Austin, Texas. I threw on an ankle-length gray jersey sun dress and some silvery flats with a turquoise scarf to go downstairs and get coffee with my loves. I hadn’t washed the makeup off from last night, and the effect was a smoky, sleepy, tousled “We just had a great time” kind of thing. Which was true.

Our night started with a trip to Brian’s. Brian is a fund manager, owns a sweet little bachelor pad with a skinny stainless steel fridge that only contains a Brita jug and an entire door full of joint repair protein beverages. I had asked him whether the beverage company was sponsoring him. He’s compact, in perfect shape, bright blue eyes, handsome, and was dismayed that his new cut (sort of a Jarhead meets 80’s fade) had gone awry. He wanted a faux hawk. I don’t think it will matter. I think this guy will get whatever he wants, regardless.

Brian is a nice host. He’s confident, but a little quiet. We have a little “visit” at his place, and then we hop into a cab to meet up with a dude they call Mr. Nice. Nice is a band manager who is touring with his current project. He has a knack for finding bands just poised to launch to stardom. In the squishy little cab a song comes on. I never listen to the radio, so of course I don’t know it, but Brian tells us it was absolutely everywhere in Miami. It has a driving dance beat, and lots of electro sound effects. I cringe as the lyrics begin. I hate this music. It makes me think of the guys I used to secretly lust after in high school, who would never give me the time of day. Music like this is part of my baby brother’s universe, not mine. Then I’m listening to the lyrics more closely, and the beat feels like it’s sinking into my skin. It’s an anthem. An anthem for a generation born into a world where they can have anything – and they do. They eat life in great big fistfuls of beautiful women, sexy cars, and artisan mini-burgers they call “sliders”. They are full, sensory creatures but they are afraid of emotion. They want to taste, and smell, and see, and hear, but they aren’t sure how to feel. They seem fragile to me, and beautiful. The lyrics to this anthem speak to them because they are raw, and real.

We arrive at a bar in the Lower East Side where Mr. Nice is seated on a patio with a girl from Paris. She greets me and pulls me in gently. I give her one air-cheek kiss, not two. I’ll see your charming custom, and raise you my Canadian brassiness. I’ll bet most of the people she meets her have no idea what she’s attempting with that kissy greeting, and I bet they resist her. She’s wearing what I initially thought were Crocs, so I decide she’s not THAT French.

The bar has projected surf scenes on the back wall. It’s tiny inside and packed. The left wall is papered with a giant map of an Australian beach, and the other with paintings of old beach shack signs. There are balloon clusters arranged at the front, which you can view from the street because of the garage-door-style patio opening. There are three clusters; one that says “Good Luck” with some primary colored balloons. One with a giant foil Dora The Explorer (Brian of course has no idea who that is). The other is just sparkly and colourful. They could be any occasion, for any celebration. I decide it’s a ploy to encourage people to bring their parties to the bar.

Our hostess is a pale Aussie brunette. Our waiter is the most exquisite looking Aussie aboriginal I have ever seen. He’s beautiful from every angle with a bold faux-hawk meets pompadour hairstyle streaked with a bleach blond stripe. His teeth are perfect, and he’s definitely a homo. I love him, and his accent.

Every square inch of the bar, and the entire experience is designed to feel like this famous Australian beach, and it’s perfect.

We have a drink there and decide to move on. It’s impossible to get Nice to leave. I’ve realized the man is in a beautiful bubble, and so to lure him with us, we kidnap his Parisienne and stroll down the street to another place that looks like a Paris bistro. It’s so pretty, and I don’t want to leave, but we’re starving and there’s a huge wait for seating. We head diagonally across the street to another bar that totally makes me think of the nicer pubs I’ve seen on college campuses. The kids inside all look like they could be from Burlington (Ontario, of course). It’s the first place we’ve been where I’m not delighted and amazing with the seemingly effortless way that New Yorkers throw their outfits together. The older I get, the more I really, really love fashion.

My boyfriend tells me to read Brian’s palms. I have no idea how to do this, but Brian doesn’t know, so I go through the motions that I witnessed when my boyfriend’s father read mine, and I fake it, filtering out the noise around me to just say the first things that pop into my head. I decide quickly that the way you move your hands is significant, and that each finger is tied to a different aspect of your life. The degree of resistance when I touch the fingers is indicative of your emotional relationship to those aspects. I squeeze the pads of his hands to see how firm they are. I don’t even focus on the lines and meridians, because I have no idea what’s what. I won’t tell you what I said, because I know I mostly nailed it, but I think Brian was impressed. So were my peeps.

Brian and my fella decide to order one of everything on the menu. To my absolute delight, I realize that everything is inspired by comfort food, but bigged up to meet the demands of this city’s exquisite palette. I wish my buddy Josh were here. Or my brother. Or both. I’m also slightly regretting the chocolate porter I’ve ordered. Hello carbs!

We smash through the food and it’s all delicious, but what killed me was their mac and cheese. Mac and cheese should be taken seriously, and they totally and completely understand this. It was easily the best I’ve ever had, with a hint of dried basil included in the creamy sauce. I miss pasta, so I didn’t hold back.

Once we’re full to the point where my painted-on jeans just can’t take it anymore, we decide to head. We’re not sure where we’re going next, but we hop in a cab and head back to Soho where we’re staying. Brian is working the next day, so he decides to leave us, and the three of us step into Emporio, the beautiful restaurant across the street for a dessert to share (god help me) and a bottle of sparkling Italian dessert wine.

I order the tiramisu and my love orders the pannacotta. We share it three ways and though it’s incredible, all I can think of is how tight my pants are. My girl gets sleepy, so she excuses herself to head back to the apartment to crash, and we continue on. Beautiful, emotional conversation is had, and the bottle is empty. I’m uncomfortable, and I say as much.

“Take off your pants” says my love. “I dare you to.”

I laugh. I’m wearing a killer pair of black platforms and a strapless top that could be pressed into service as an obscenely short dress. I consider this.

“C’mon” he says. “I’ve paid the bill. Go to the bathroom, take off your pants, and meet me at the door.”

“I bet nobody will notice” I say. The restaurant is half full.

I’m still skeptical. I’m not drunk enough to really engage in such antics. Then comes the straw breaks the camel’s back.

“It will make Adam’s week.” says my love.

Adam, my friend who I’ve never met, who has given us this beautiful night of good company and good food by letting us crash in his empty apartment. Adam who is managing things that no child should have to manage, far away from all of these open, entertaining people who are his boys. Adam, who I’m sure you can feel smiling all the way from Long Island.

I get up and head to the can. I pull off my jeans, take one final piss, and then fluff up my hair, put back my shoulders and open the door. Our waiter sees me first, and looks directly at the pants folded over my arm. My full tummy is free, my ivory legs are unleashed for the world to see, and my shoes are the only reason this ridiculous outfit could work. I stride through the restaurant, head held high, breeze tickling my white ass, hand my pants to my love, walk out the door and pronounce “This one’s for you, Adam.”

The Lady Comes Knocking

The Amazing Dashiell

This week has been wrapped in the familiar haze of a place I’d hoped to avoid for a few more years. A dear friend of my love’s is losing his father to cancer (I always, always want to capitalize that word) in New York, and tonight we embark on a midnight road trip, Thelma and Louise style to lend our love, keep his apartment warm, and probably stock his freezer.

These painful stories are not my own, but they are so much the same in their telling. Someone strong and vital, a real force in this world, much loved and admired, taken down slowly by wasting illness while his loved ones stand by feeling entirely helpless and exquisitely mortal.

His daughter was married in his hospital room before he was moved home to hospice care. They weren’t sure he would make it, and wanted to act quickly so he could share the moment. Martha Stewart writes about this here. I can’t imagine anything in the world more bittersweet – such important moments happening simultaneously. My heart is aching for people I don’t even know.

Because I do know. I know what the gentle fingers of death feel like when She is near. Not disease. Disease is cruel, and angry, and unfair. Death is the gentle release at the end of it all, and when She is close, I can now feel Her and remember Her, like an ancient Mother, folding us gently into Her darkness. The hardest part is witnessing our loved ones, and ourselves opening our arms to this visitor that we’ve been taught to fear since childhood – whispering her name to the winds to speed her imminent arrival along.

I’m packing for tonight’s long drive to the Big Apple. I’m making lists, and crossing things off, all while sitting my best friend’s nine-month-old boy Dashiell. He’s incredibly sweet in his disposition, like he knows my heart needs to be reminded of the overwhelming beauty of life. He is hope, and possibility and happiness in a solid man-baby chunk of dazzling smiles and delighted chortles. He naps eats and entertains like clockwork, and he is the most precious reminder of why we must all use every day like a precious gift before the Lady comes knocking. My own girls are far away,warming the heart and soul of their visiting grandmother and I am aching for them right now.  I take comfort in the knowledge that they are probably inspiring the same feelings of gratitude in her huge heart right now.

The road trip flies by, the hours seem like minutes with my beautiful company and the comforting warmth of deep, fueling love at the other end. We are all for each other in this world we have carved out, and if one of us hurts, we all hurt.

New York City is the dazzling, outrageous boyfriend I left behind so long ago, and it fills me with joy to see him again. I stroll through the streets, delighted by everything I see, open and drinking it all in. I’m savoring every moment for those who no longer taste this feast