My friend Alok invited me and a few friends of his along to see a new Indian film made by a director he knows personally. The film was called Dhobi Ghat, which is named after the place in Mumbai where all the laundry washers do their work. The film was in no way a typical product of Bollywood, as there were no big splashy musical numbers and no one ended up getting married at the end. It was a much more somber affair than that, but I really enjoyed it, as much for the Bombay atmosphere as anything. It really made me want to go back for a visit, so many of the places in the film were familiar to me. After the film Alok’s friends suggested we go to a gay bar close by, and it ended up being a place called The Townhouse. This is a place I have heard of for a long time, but never happened to go to because it is so far east (58th and 2nd) and I am never over there. The place was a laugh riot. It was like time traveling to some pre-Stonewall era bar, everyone dressed in suits or sweaters with collared shirts underneath. It easily could have been 1965 at a meeting of The Mattachine Society. I found it charming as a kind of themed costume party, and Alok and I talked about going back at some point, but I think if this were the only gay bar in town I could just as well get a cat, stay in, and watch old Bette Davis movies on an endless loop.
Maybe it was because I had had a couple of beers already, but the funniest damn thing happened to me in the bathroom of a bar Olaf and I were in this evening. After finishing my business, I went to wash my hands. As I reached for the button on the towel dispenser to spit out some paper, all I heard was a long mechanical “whrrr” sound. Clearly it was empty, but I pushed the buttton again 2 times, only to hear the dispenser start to play Dusty’s Springfield’s “Wishin’ and Hopin’“.
And no, I am not kidding!
I’ve never been to Fire Island or P-town, but at least I can check this off my list. Last night after dinner with friends in the Village, we stopped by the oldest running gay bar in New York, Julius. Although it has only been a gay bar since the mid 1960’s, it has been running apparently as a tavern/bar since 1867, and it would appear that the decor hasn’t changed much at all since then. It was the famous site of a 1966 “sip-in” by an early gay activist group known as the Mattachine Society, to protest rules preventing serving alcohol to homosexuals. It ended up resulting in a court case which overturned these rules, paving the way in part for the Stonewall riots and modern gay rights movement.
As I mentioned, the place looks like the interior hasn’t changed much since the 1800’s, with wagon wheel chandeliers and musty wood barrels and layers and years of accumulated funk. Think of a cross between a bowling alley, a barn, and a saloon and you are getting warm. It was the very soul of unpretentious and I quite liked it. I couldn’t say this would be any kind of place to meet your future husband (or one night stand either, for that matter), but it is a fine place for hanging out with old friends and reminiscing about the revolution.
Last night, I went to go meet my friend Mario (who I met in Delhi almost 2 years ago, and who now lives in NYC) and a friend of his at a gay bar that I went to once about a year ago named Suite. As we were enjoying our drinks and getting caught up, Mario informs me that right next door is a place that sells kathi rolls. What, I ask incredulously? Like Nizam’s? Slightly drunk from my second martini, I decide I must go over that very minute, and when I get inside I see that these are not kathis, these are frankies! The place is even named Roti Roll Bombay Frankie. I greedily peruse the menu and order both a chicken malai for me and a lamb boti for my friends, and head back to the bar. As I tore into my delicious frankie, I offer the lamb to my friends but they aren’t hungry, so glutton that I am I scarf down the other one as well. Maybe it was the martinis, but damn they were good. It seemed funny that these two oddly incongruous establishments should be right next to each other. In fact, there is even a small open sliding door that connects the two without even needing to go outside. And when I looked on the restaurant website, there is a link to visit the bar, apparently owned by the same people. A gay bar attached to a frankie place? Is this corner of Manhattan tailor made for me?
Last night I went to meet a friend of mine, Juan Carlos, in from Peru out at a gay bar in Palermo. We met in front of the bar at what we thought a reasonable hour 11:15pm. But then this is Argentina, and people are really just sitting down to dinner at that hour. The bar didn’t open until about 11:45, and we were the first ones there. As we had the place to ourselves for the first hour or so, it was a pretty relaxed atmosphere. We started talking about getting older, and the reasons for my trip these last couple of years. Juan Carlos is 38 and has a little anxiety about reaching 40 and what it all means. I assured him that it means nothing or anything you want it to mean, and not to worry too much about what society at large thinks. I told him that for me, it was a great opportunity to think about the experience of living and being (and not being), and how lucky I felt that these last 2 years had given me a completely new perspective. The bar started to fill up and we turned some of our attention to the collection of men in conversation around the bar. Juan Carlos had been talking to another friend of his here by phone who had told us about a dance party going on in another place, and Juan Carlos started asking around to find directions. At one point he asked some younger guy about the party, who looked at Juan Carlos, let out an audible if small gasp, and told him that yes, he knew about the party, but…it was going to be quite…young…and was Juan Carlos sure he wanted to go? Seeing Juan Carlos’ crestfallen expression, I couldn’t help but let out a giggle. Coupled with our earlier conversation, I could tell that this did not sit well with him at all. It was around 3am, which is past my usual bedtime, so I begged off while my friend, with a determined “I’ll show that little queen” look in his eye, set off to find his party.
My brother David and sister-in-law Jackie and I decided to have a young(er) adults night out on the town. With the kids in bed and our parents watching them, we consulted “The Google“, found what looked like a hopping gay nightclub in Myrtle Beach, and headed out for the 35 minute trip north. Once we got there, we realized Jackie had forgotten her ID and they weren’t about to let us in, despite our entreaties. The guy at the door told us there was another bar around the corner that probably wouldn’t card, so we headed over. It was a pretty sad little place that smelled of smoke and stale beer, decorated in early post-party frat house. I don’t remember what the place was called, but if I were to enter a naming contest, I believe I would submit the name “The Smelly Rainbow”. We had a beer and a dart game, said goodbye to the 6 people(including the bartender) in the place and headed back to Litchfield.
My friend Rahul (from Mumbai, but now studying in Ohio) came to visit for a couple of days while on break from school. I have been playing tour guide and showing him around the great city of Indianapolis. Since it is Thanksgiving weekend and the family is in town, I invited him to join in our yearly family traditions of hanging out and hitting the gay bars. A good time was had by all as my brother and cousins and various partners and friends hit the dance floor at Greg’s just a few blocks from home.
Last night my old roommate and landlady (Jose and Sally) took me out to a belated birthday dinner at a super swell restaurant called The Penthouse (on the 18th floor of the Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica). The food was fantastic, especially the Kobe beef steak and the bread pudding. As the name and location imply, the view was spectacular. The three of us shared stories of the past year, and good feelings were all around as we were leaving (the delicious bottle of Gigondas probably didn’t hurt). So we decided to extend the fun with a trip to a local gay bar called the Roosterfish. There I was chatted up by a 40 year old who looked as if he were 19. Seriously. It was either the best damn lighting in the world, he has a very expensive plastic surgeon or he is drinking someone’s blood.