My Five Days in New York (On a Budget!)
It was to be a nostalgic journey back to a city I had known and played in as a gay man for most of my adult life but had not visited since I left it thirteen years ago for Fort Lauderdale. It was all I expected, both the good and the bad, but reconnecting wasn’t always easy.
Two grand which is what I spent for a five day junket in Manhattan is about as cheap as you can get. The cattle car flight on United with its seats made for munchkins was only two hundred bucks round trip from Lauderdale, but finding a hotel with a private bath (sorry, I’m too old to share a bath with a whole floor and schedule my shits) for under two hundred a night was almost as hard, as I found out later, as pinning down a guy for sex.
I initially checked Travelocity but was stunned by the sticker shock of four hundred and more a night including the “gay” hotels. But Trivago came to the rescue, and for two bills, I landed a room on West 38th Street and Eighth in the heart of the Garment District. Curb appeal the Manhattan Broadway Hotel lacked, and I think a prisoner in Leavenworth has more square footage, but it was clean and functional, the hotel staff down in its tiny lobby the size of my dining room at home were helpful, and best of all, it was just a few blocks from Times Square and virtually every subway line you’d wanna use. Plus, always the practical faggot, I was able to walk down to the Eagle, about the only bar in town that still catered to guys like me, down on 28th and Tenth, for Code Night – leather only. And the West Side Club, the bath house I hung out in during my glory days, was on 20th and Fifth in case I was box office poison on the web. Remember, when I left in NYC in 2002, the web was still in diapers. If you didn’t pick up a guy in a bar or have sex in a bath house, you only had your hand to keep you company.
But sex was not my primary objective on this junket, not for two grand, buddy. No, I was also going to play tourist and had prepaid my tix on online for the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island that was still under renovation when I left NYC, and where my grandparents from Slovakia and Russia had gotten off the boat over a century ago; the Turner Classic Movies bus tour of sites in Manhattan where famous films had been shot; and finally the newly opened 9/11 Museum, which having been at the now defunct St. Vincent’s Hospital in the Village for a corporate meeting that fateful Tuesday morning, held a very personal meaning for me.
The biggest culture shock, besides everything being even more fucken expensive than I remember, (nine dollar drinks at the Eagle, four thousand dollars a month rent for a one bedroom) were all those people. People everywhere. Hey I now lived in Endless Summer suburban sprawl. The sidewalks were conveyor belts of people and you had to wait for your open slot to get on or risk colliding with somebody. And everybody, I mean everybody was on their phone, some chatting away frivolity, others earplugged and cutting deals as they strutted down the street. The vitality of it all soon morphed into a kind of non-stop stress for me. And, hell, I was retired and on vacation. After all, Manhattan was not just the place to make money, it was money, the quintessence of consumerism gone mad. Some of the glossiest, most creative advertising ever hustled you from every direction: on the cabs and the trucks and the buses, in the storefronts, on the buildings, and, of course, up on those constantly changing super-duper jumbo screens that surrounded you on Times Square.
I was also pleasantly surprised at the number of Millennials I saw in such an expensive town to live, (they couldn’t all be in from the burbs or making six figures) decked out in the latest apparel (skinny jeans are back) and I wondered how they managed when a trick a few days later told me it was mommy and daddy’s money that made their hip Manhattan lifestyle possible.
Walking down to the Eagle for Code after a quick bite at a Metro restaurant and a power nap, I found even crossing the streets a mini-adventure. Not only did you have to watch you didn’t collide into someone distracted on their phones, there were taxis to dodge and bikes and scooters and even skateboards to maneuver around. It was one fucken moving carnival.
Now while I would be lucky enough to get well over hundred hits on the various hook-up sites and phone apps from potential paramours during my five day stay, I was determined to visit the Eagle Thursday night for Code and had hauled my harness and boots up just for the occasion. What greeted me, though, was underwhelming. Sure there were the hotties, but many guys were just out-of-shape and tired in their leather, and despite the so-called dress code enforcement, you had guys in sneakers and even a few of the alien race – women! And everywhere the usual cliques.
It was still pleasant enough to go up to the third level roof top patio which I understand the dwellers of the high rise condos across the street were none too happy about, but by midnight most guys had congregated onto the second level where supposedly the nasty shit went on. I didn’t see how when a humpy bouncer with a flashlight played penis police.
About the only attention I got was from a fat, gray-haired pot belled guy probably younger than me who grabbed my tit as he passed by. So after checking my phone to see if anybody loved me (no one did), I finished my nine dollar rum and coke and hiked back to my hotel.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Wednesday: Playing Tourist