The other night I stopped by my local Hell’s Kitchen watering hole for a nightcap, as is my wont. While outside for a smoke, I noticed a couple, maybe early forties, perusing the local bar rag. We struck up a conversation. They wanted to know where they could go dancing–and maybe see a go-go boy or two. As a resident of some seven years, and schooled in the art of debauchery(though decidedly out of practice at this point) I attempted to explain, to little avail, the city’s draconian cabaret laws. Their best bet, I offered, was to go downtown. The East Village. Aren’t we already downtown, they wondered? No, you are in fact, in midtown. Oh, this is the only area we come to when in town, one of them says. Typical.
Turns out, one of the duo, the one dressed in a polka dot shirt and blazer, is from my hometown of Orlando, or thereabouts. Lake Mary to be exact. Keeping the conversation going, I asked about some of the old hometown haunts, the Parliment House, Southern Nights, The Club at Firestone. Polka Dot demurred. He didn’t go to those places. There was a hitch. He was married. He flashed his expensive looking wedding band at me to emphasize the point. And he had two kids, both in private school at Bishop Moore. The next question was obvious and the answer was that his wife doesn’t know. Clueless. The other, heftier one, is from the D.C. area. His mother thinks the only reason that the guys are sharing a hotel room is that the cost is prohibitive. They’re bunking, by the way, at the St. Regis. Blake the bouncer, who’s been in and out of the conversation, rolls his eyes at me.
I was still trying to piece their whole sordid little rendezvous together. It’s 2007, not 1957. Hello. I felt like I was in a scene from Todd Haynes’ Far From Heaven.
I was incensed. How dare you come to our Gomorrah on the Hudson, with your provincial little arrangement, your secretive tryst, thinking everyone would accept your backwoods ways with a pat on the back and a welcome, brother. Feh. In case you’ve forgotten, or missed the history lesson, New York happens to be the home of the Stonewall riots, the flashpoint of the gay rights movement. Where there are couples, real couples, who are fighting for equality while you two are living this double life, this sham. It’s insulting. But intriguing.
The backstory: they’d only been dating eight months. Had met while working together. They’re both moneyed, or at least Polka Dot, who is what we like to call filthy rich. I was ready to dismiss them both, when they hit on a topic no New Yorker can avoid discussing: real estate. They wanted to buy a place here. Someplace, they offered, on Park Avenue or Fifth Avenue. Gawd. They both were vaguely affiliated with the real estate business. I said try Corcoran, or Douglas Elliman. Polka Dot said he only went with Sotheby’s. The provincial queen was also a snob.
The plan, Polka Dot explained, was to buy a place he can rent out for the time being, then retire here in, say, twenty years. I guess meaning he’d be a dutiful heterosexual husband until his kids grow up, then he’ll be all, whoops, I’m a big old homo and I’m off to New York. Send the therapy bills.
Still under the powerful sway of the idea of house hunting, even vicariously, I asked what they were looking for, and please don’t say one of those godawful steel and glass towers that’ve sprung up here lately. No, Polka Dot wanted a brownstone. Of course, I was all, you want a brownstone? Look in the West Village. My helpful nature still tempered with a vague disgust. After thanking me for my input, both on clubs and property-scouting, they went inside to find a friend and I just shook my head, trying to absorb what had transpired.
The sick thing is, as a New Yorker, I’m not sure what disturbed me more, their closeted relationship or the fact that they were flaunting their ability to shell out up to three million for a place here. Sigh.
*I don’t know if I’m the first to coin the term carpetfagger, derived from (and sort of the reverse of) carpetbagger, but feel free to use it as you see fit.