One of the things you have to love about the age of Facebook is how many people know it is your birthday and so send you birthday wishes. Some people might find it superficial, but I will take any and all wishes as lovely signs of kindness and affection. Being that this is gay pride weekend, there are all manner of events going on, but last night Olaf and I eschewed the ridiculously expensive (like 100 dollars) parties in favor of a more low key beer or two at the local leather bar, The Eagle. Except that it wasn’t low key at all, it was jammed packed and people were really friendly and birthday drinks and shots were nicely offered from all corners. Some other friends of mine showed up as well, and I ended up meeting and chatting up a really sexy guy from Queens. And just before getting to the bar, at exactly midnight, I got a call from friends in LA and San Francisco wanting to be the first with birthday greetings. All in all, it was a nice beginning to my 44th year of life. Thanks everyone!
I had this strange dream last night that I was with some boyfriend and he lived on some high floor of a building that we had just come out of. There was some sort of big street party happening and we were chatting next to a line of parked cars with my first boyfriend from Paris (Marc) about something when he looked at me in a funny way and said I had some smudge or mark on my forehead. Then I realized that I had left something inside the apartment, so I went back to the building to get it. For some reason I had to take the stairs instead of the elevator, and yet it wasn’t like stairs, it was more like I had to climb up on various countertops and surfaces to keep going up. The street party seemed to also be happening in the building, and there was lots of music and drunk people around everywhere. At each landing I would go into the bathroom and look in the mirror for the smudge on my forehead that Marc had mentioned, but every time I tried to look at it, I couldn’t make out my own face in the mirror clearly enough to see it. I kept asking people around me if they could see it, and some said yes and some said no, so I was confused about whether it was really there or not.
My friend Olaf is in town for a little bit of work and to visit me. We are having fun running around, in between the copious amounts of work I have to do. It seems a lot of my clients suddenly have deadlines that need to be met very soon. When it rains it pours, as they say. This weekend there is so very much happening. It is gay pride in New York (and other places), and it is also my birthday. Every few years my birthday falls exactly on gay pride Sunday, as is the case this year. What that means is that like those poor souls born near xmas, my own celebration gets lost in the shuffle. Or, looking at it in a more positive light, I could say that the entire city seems to be celebrating my birthday with me (at least all the gays and their admirers). In any event, my cousin Josh was asking me the other day what I wanted for my birthday and I told him “just not to have to plan it myself”. Like the doll he is, he has gathered a group of friends for some drinks tonight, and I didn’t have to do a thing. To me, that is a great birthday present.
Sometimes things really take you by surprise.
My friend Mike and I have known each other for almost 10 years, from when I first moved to LA. He is one of those people that I count among the closest. He was one of the few that came half-way around the world to celebrate 40 with me in Thailand. Our long friendship has taken us through good times and bad. It has taken us through spending lots of time together and spending little. We have danced and partied together, we have eaten and drunk together, walked and driven together. And we have shared many confidences and given each other advice and support. I can’t ever remember a time of anger or major disagreement between us, although we have discussed just about every topic imaginable. Through all of this, I have never doubted our friendship. And yet somehow, I was taken by surprise at what I just read a few minutes ago. Mike is a wonderful writer, and his second book “The Girls from the Revolutionary Cantina” was just published and I received my copy in the mail today from Amazon. As I opened it and starting giving it a quick once over, I paused on the acknowledgments page and started to get choked up. There was my name. Mike was giving me special thanks for helping him through some rough spots. Me, really. I felt so deeply moved and slightly unworthy at the same time. It is one of the nicest gifts I have ever received.
I had a strange dream last night where some sort of large, air-conditioner sized device was stolen from my place of work. It was a TV or computer or something I wasn’t sure, but it was a vital piece of equipment and I was outraged that it had been stolen. Fortunately the repair guy who was there told me that someone had just dropped that exact item off in his shop that very morning. We went to his shop to lie in wait for the thief and confront him when he came to pick it up, but events kept preventing us from completing the arrest or apprehension of the guy. At one point he came in and the repair guy motioned to me that this was him, but just then some blonde woman with sunglasses and a fur coat came in and pushed her way to the front of the line to see the repair guy, and so the thief said he would be back later. Then we saw him coming out of his new apartment (where he had clearly wanted to place my equipment) carrying moving boxes to the trash with a helper. Things kept getting in the way of confronting him, but I kept expecting to at any moment. I tried to imagine what his excuse would be, caught dead to rights in his scam. But we had to wait, and so I retired to a huge maze-like apartment that I was sharing with friends to wait for the right moment. And then I woke up.
Yesterday Shaan and I got back on the bikes and rode down to the same area as yesterday, but this time we got on the ferry and crossed over to the island just across from Toronto proper. It was an absolutely beautiful day, and we hung out on a clothing optional beach (where we opted to keep our shorts on) for several hours before biking around the island a bit and finally heading back into the city and home to Barry’s place. We picnicked on the beach with beer and sandwiches we had brought with us, and the sun and air was perfect. Maybe a little too perfect, as it was so pleasant we stayed an hour too long and got somewhat sunburned. We talked a lot about Andrew and what he had meant to us, we talked a lot about life in general, things we had done and might do. On the ferry back I felt so grateful for this trip and told Shaan that I had no more questions for now, that at least in that moment I was feeling ok, and I thanked him for spending all this time with me the last few days.
I will head to the airport in a couple of hours and take my plane back to New York. And though the fact and circumstances of Andrew’s death will never sit well with me, I feel more connected to the people he loved and to him for it. I am not a fan of the word “closure”, so I will just say that I am leaving feeling more at peace with what has happened and a greater sense of connected and open.
Yesterday was an on again, off again rain day, but we made the best of it. Shaan, Barry and I had a lazy lunch at a not very good Mexican place with a very cute waiter, while we waited out the rain a bit. After it cleared Shaan and I took a long bike ride along the waterfront in Toronto, stopping at various points for a drink or chat. The sun was mostly shining, except when it wasn’t, and it felt really good to have the breeze as we were biking along. When we got back in the evening, Barry had prepared an amazing dinner of blueberry soup and poached trout and asparagus, and I contributed a modest salad to the affair. A couple of others joined us for dinner, Andrew (another one, a good friend of Shaan’s) and Nick, one of my friend Andrew’s oldest and closest friends. We talked politics and silly conspiracy theories, shared a couple stories about Andrew, recounted various India tales and generally got to know each other better. By the end of the evening, everyone was fairly pickled but in good humor. Today Shaan and I will again bike down to the water and then cross over to the island, which is supposedly quite beautiful.
Last night there was a screening at a small local theater of some of Andrew’s films (you can see a few here). The films were presented in chronological order from a student film he made as an architect in 1989 up to some more recent work. It was a great way to view the work, as it showed a definite progression in style and craft. It was also helpful to put the themes of Andrew’s life into perspective via his work. So many of the elements were so familiar to me from what I knew about Andrew. It was especially interesting to see Andrew’s alter egos and avatars on film, recreating and reinterpreting the events of his life and the environments that shaped him.
After the screening, a group of us gathered at the bar next door and proceeded to drink and talk about Andrew. I met so many of his friends here, and it was great to connect with their part in Andrew’s life and hear their stories. It was notable how so many of them were from different eras: growing up, architecture school, toronto film life, etc. I was the sole representative from the early European years it appeared, and I dutifully recounted stories of our time together. I have to admit to falling a little into sadness again after the screening, as it was made evident again that he really was gone and I wouldn’t ever see him again.
I arrived in Toronto a few hours ago, and spent the afternoon with Shaan, Andrew’s partner. He was nice enough to pick me up from the airport and we spent the past few hours getting to know each other a bit and sharing a few stories about Andrew. I am really glad I came. Tonight is a screening of Andrew’s films, some of which I have seen, but many which I have not and am looking forward to. I am also looking forward to meeting some of Andrew’s friends and forming a more complete image of what he meant to other people. This trip is all about collecting those pieces and holding them close for a few moments, to better come to terms with his passing and in some way to honor the positive impact he had on people’s lives. I wish he had known that while he was alive, but sadly I know that he underestimated it.
My parents are here visiting, and they brought me a box of old photos and letters that I had left at their house before I left on my world tour in 2006. I was hoping to find some photos of my friend Andrew to take up to Toronto next week when I go, so I had asked them for it. I wasn’t at all prepared for the wave of nostalgia that would confront me when going through all of this. I found, in addition to hundreds of photos covering roughly 1988 to 2005, a ton of old letters of all sorts: Letters from family members, old boyfriends (and girlfriends), postcards, thank you notes, old administrative copies. Some of these things made me queasy with sensations both familiar and foreign all at the same time. I came across things that made me marvel at how young we all were. I saw things that I hadn’t any recollection of at all. I came across many items connected to people I am no longer in touch with and don’t know why. I saw photos that were lovely and some that made me cringe.
I decided to sort them into piles roughly by place: Paris here, San Francisco there, LA, New York, road trips of all sorts. And in and among these, I started to come across a few of Andrew. I stared at them each for a few moments longer than the rest. As I finally made my way through the entire pile, I wondered why I didn’t have any of Andrew and I together in the same photo. Some of them I had taken, some our friend Karin had sent me. But it made me a little sad that there weren’t any of us in the same frame. As if to put a point on our long distance friendship and the fact that now we never would take one together. I also found some photos of the apartment we shared on Rue Damrémont and I will take those and the others along to Toronto to share with Shaan and Andrew’s friends. I am left with a ghostly melancholy from all of this, and a sense of the rapid passage of time, things slipping away, never to be captured anew.