Happy: August 2002 Archives

[This is not going to be the biggest issue any of us have to deal with today, but, what the heck, we can't do important stuff all the time.]

I did not know until this morning that this was the reason I normally have no interest in tennis, but does the story surprise me? Uhuh.

Tommy Haas simply took the dare to bare. If Anna Kournikova could expose her tan hipbones in a low-ride skirt, if Serena Williams could pack her dangerous curves into a Lycra cat suit, Haas saw no reason he could not follow the skin-is-in trend at the United States Open by showing a little . . . biceps.

His sleeveless shirt was breathable and built for range of motion but completely illegal in the discriminating eye of Brian Earley, the tournament referee. In Earley's opinion, Haas's attempt yesterday to inject a little zing into the moribund ATP Tour, to employ the same sex-appeal strategy the women have used so well, was out of step with Earley's interpretation of the rules for customary attire.

Yikes! Are these guys real? I don't know where to begin to address this stupidity, but let's just say that not all of us out there thinks this is equivalent to this. And why would anyone want to see these gentlemen work in more comfortable attire, even if it meant we had to be exposed to a little more of their physical beauty?

Ah, much better.

He was arrested at 81 for soliciting sex from a professional (actually a police officer in professional disguise), and not for the first time, and he's neither ashamed nor hesitant about talking about it. He answers the reporter's question, no, he doesn't need viagra. He's Italian. He says he doesn't see why he has to sneak around for satisfaction.

"I just felt like, you know, having a feeling — being close to someone," [Dominick] Salerno told the Daily News when asked about his second arrest for being a john in less than eight months. "It happens."

Salerno's rap sheet shows he has been looking for love in all the wrong places since he was 71, when he was first charged with soliciting a prostitute.

"As long as the girls are clean and checked medically, [prostitution] should be legal," he contended.

The spry senior from Ridge, L.I., said he was cruising for a quickie Monday night when a young streetwalker in tight black pants and a white blouse caught his eye.

"I made the proposition, $20 for oral sex," Salerno said candidly. "But I felt something was wrong and drove away."

But faster than he could say early bird special, "two cop cars pulled me over."

The unenlightened Daily News website displays this new story in its "Crime File" drawer. I could think of any number of more suitable labels, even though their beknighted subscribers are not yet offered "Activism" as a story category. PONY (Prostitutes of New York) should grab him fast--no, I mean as a poster boy!

It's a chink in my atheistic armor, but I'll admit I have a soft spot for both the people and the institutions of the world's most human and progressive religious communities.

The folks connected to St. Paul's Chapel in downtown Manhattan, along with their ancient stones, wood and plaster, answered to that description long before September 11 last year. They're good and gentle, often gay (although regretably too often male). They minister to the homeless (the eighteenth-century baroque balconies were furnished with good beds), the place is very beautiful and very old, and besides, their often adventurous noon-time concerts with their eclectic audiences were the regular highlight of my workday at the World Trade Center. What's not to like?

For most of the last year the Chapel has served the City in a very different way, but one not out of its character. Tomorrow finally marks its return to a more conventional ministry, after a thorough cleaning and restoration, but Mike Borrero, the property manager for Trinity, the episcopal parish of which St. Paul's is a part, says, "It feels like there's something missing. It feels empty."

What is missing are firefighters and police officers and construction workers stretched out on the pews, desperate for a few hours' respite from ground zero; chiropractors, massage therapists and podiatrists stationed along the north aisle (the podiatrists working out of the presidential box in which Washington worshiped); volunteers dishing out hundreds of meals at tables under the organ gallery or handing out supplies — socks, gloves, sweatshirts, ponchos, boots, shovels, aspirin, lip balm, toothpaste — along the south aisle. What is missing are the banners, photos, greeting cards and children's drawings that hung from every surface but the altar.

Pointedly, however, the scratches and scuffing remain from the boots and belts and equipment of the emergency workers who camped out in the pews. "Our decision was to leave it as a monument," said the Rev. Samuel Johnson Howard, vicar of Trinity parish. "These are real marks of their ministry, sacramental marks."

New Yorkers, both queer and straight. This revelation will surely change how we look upon our little neighbors in the future.

Oh, you didn't know that half of pigeons live in single-sex marriages? Neither did they, actually. But according to Linda Olle, a science editor, lecturer and amateur ornithologist, that is, indeed, the poop.

"Some birds, like male and female ducks, look very different," says this New Yorker, who has written a book about her six-year relationship with a pigeon (more on that later). "But pigeons, maybe out of their strong survival instinct, became indistinguishable." Pete the Pigeon looks just like Penny.

And he acts like her, too.

"When they meet, they cannot distinguish whether it's a male or female with them, so they both act in the same sort of feminine way, very unaggressive," continues Olle.

While few have been observed actually shopping for antiques, they do like to groom each other and work out (well, fly, anyway). They also enjoy preparing meals together - although generally this involves chewing food and regurgitating it into each others' beaks.

When things really heat up, they go dancing. That's when one or the other puffs up and struts around. Then, if both birdies feel that special spark, they don't give a hoot whether it's Butch or Bessy they're heading home with. Unable to marry legally, they will nonetheless make a commitment and stick it out the rest of their lives.

If there's not a lesson here for us all, I'm not a columnist. Okay. Maybe I'm not quite sure what the lesson is. I guess it's, "Be like pigeons (except for the regurgitating part)." Or perhaps, "Straight or gay, make a commitment today!"

--and studly as well!

Jonathan Rosen actually does the kind of activism that the rest of us must do no less than support fully, if we can't expect to equal his own dedication and energy.

"We live among so much poverty in this city, and everyone should be uncomfortable," he says, smacking a jean-clad leg (he does this a lot) as he perches on a bright purple swivel chair in the [New York Unemployment Project's] scruffy office near Canal Street. "It's economic apartheid and politicians should be uncomfortable, and so should regular people. Any policymaker of any party who doesn't support the unemployed we are going to target."
The organization is his own creation. He's 23 now. Astoundingly, he already has ten years of social justice crusading behind him.

It's a great story, and I'm sure it's only beginning.

--anti the new Chelsea.

Our block of 23rd Street still has some of the most interesting shops and venues to be found in the City, although the latest developments here are almost surely harbingers of what is to come in this neighborhood.

On the south side, going from east to west, after the subway stairs there is a branch clinic of a large hospital; a (largely European-oriented, small-budget) modest-sized hotel with a new, small, alarmingly-conventional-in-appearance restaurant on the ground floor; a new, relativly upscale Thai restaurant, with an improbable massage/nails/waxing clinic above; the entrance to a large apartment building; a lively middle-eastern deli; a groovy hair salon; a humble arts supply store; a shoe repair and shoeshine shop operated by Central Americans; an on again/off again (now TWIRL) club; an acupuncture healing center; and a fishing tackle store (with occasional fly-casting demonstrations in the street).

Next there is an important guitar store; the Chelsea Hotel and, below it, Serena's bar; a tiny Greek tailor shop; a landmark Spanish restaurant; a serious comic book store; a tattoo parlor; a synagogue; a bank; the entrance to a loft apartment building; a 99-cent store (the new Woolworths?); a wonderful healthfood store and counter; the entrance to more loft apartments; another bank; a restaurant with bar below (sometime venue for Hedda Lettuce); a multiplex cinema; a very good Mexican take-in and -out next to a small stationery store, with apartments above both; a pizza and calzone shop; and, finally the shell of the store until recently occupied by a classic coffee and donut counter, with a bike messenger office above, just before the 8th Avenue subway stairs at the corner.

On the north side, beginning in the east again with the 7th Avenue subway stairs, there is a RadioShack and above it, a "multicultural unisex" beauty salon; a classic Andrew Carnegie library; the original YMCA (its future in question or cancelled); a Chinese laundry; a 1-hr. Photo shop where you can get your image printed on porcelain or fabric; a definitely-not-casual mens clothing shop (fifteen years ago a real, genteel ladies dress shop); a great mid-eastern take-out food shop with four or so chairs; the entrance to an apartment building; a tailor shop; a tax services office; a candy shop which sells cigarettes and sundries; a hair stylist; a great sewing supplies center; the American Communist Party headquarters, with bookstore (books now moving upstairs for lack of interest, or of walk-in business); various foot, teeth and eye doctors combined; a fine pet supply center (no pets); a vacant store; a tiny news and LOTTO store, missing only a pot-bellied stove for atmosphere.

Then there is a classic Italian barber shop; a dentist to the right and just inside the entrance of a large coop apartment house (ours), through which a fabulous garden can be seen; a beautiful woman selling incense on the sidewalk daily; a very bouncy quite-gay clubkids clothing shop (we thought it was tiny clothing for real kids at first); a traditional, very-non-chain copy shop; a record shop for collectible rock only (albums in window all faded to blue); a KrispyKreme (yuck) with wigstore above; a vacant store; a "coming-soon" tanning salon above an extraordinary and very attractive gourmet hot dog restaurant; a pseudo-trampy marguerita restaurant (nice picket fence around the sidewalk tree, but it's gonna choke the Ginko!); a totally boring representative of the chain, Boston Market; the block's very friendly (and more important than we think) sidewalk vegetable and fruit cart under an umbrella; the neighborhood GAP store, with a large more-or-less-straight-acting gym above; and, finally, the classic sidewalk newstand (with emergency umbrellas for sale if rain is forecast), just before the other 8th Avenue subway stairs.

Not a mall in the country can even think about competing with that!

Ok, I guess it's not so extraordinary a mix. You could probably make an equivalent list for any number of New York neighborhoods--except for the sacred Chelsea Hotel, of course. Ah, wonderful town.

Instead of boasting about what's on 23rd Street, I should be lamenting what has left 23rd Street, just in the fifteen years I have been here.

Until the late eighties, what is now the Gap was the site of Woolworth's, where they still sold goldfish, but turtles were already declared contraband. Yes, it included a full lunch counter with hot entries, oyster stew on fridays, club sandwiches, malts and what all (its demise darn near turned some of my older neighbors' lives upside down). That Thai restaurant with the not-so-modest prices was the site of ZIG ZAG, which attracted an attractive mix to its attractive premises. Great bar and great hamburgers (even Ethan Hawke seemed to feel comfortable there). KrispyKreme, the pseudo restaurant and the hotdog venue are on the site of several old brownstones filled with rent-controlled apartments.

My inadequate memory saves us all from a longer list, but it would definitely have some highlights. At least we still have the subway, to get us to Loisaida, Brooklyn or whatever.

[This post of a letter in today's NYTimes is for Otto, wherever you are.]

To the Editor:

In "Forget Ideas, Mr. Author. What Kind of Pen Do You Use?" (Writers on Writing, July 29), Stephen Fry said he did not know of any writers who used dictation. Barbara Cartland once told me that she dictated all of her books into a machine while lying on a couch. And then a "nice young man" came over and straightened out the English.
New York, July 30, 2002

Even I don't have these problems with "country!" I mean, I have done some camping in my time, and I would never think I could "get away" from New York "an hour north of the city." Obviously that was the writer's first mistake. She should have known that you have to go at least two hours away before you begin to leave the pull and culture of New York, and then it's still only a rather conditional remove.

We knew that the air rising from dirt and pine needles outside the five boroughs just had to be cooler, and we wanted our daughter to get used to seeing whole constellations from beneath tall trees. And I'll admit that, in the back of my mind, I may have calculated that skipping town on weekends meant we were living in a terrorist target only five days a week, instead of seven.

[Here follows her account of her somewhat harrowing overnight camping experience.]

Soon after, we were glad to give back the car and relax in the safety of the city, where there were hot showers, local police, and people who could, if necessary, hear us scream. And, for better or worse, lots of eyes watching our backs, and watching the people who were watching us.


The picture of the shadblow in the roof garden, taken yesterday, is already dated, since today I planted the entire "field" within the whiskey barrel, filling it with two kinds of ferns, epimedium, spearmint and bleeding heart. A cool woodland scene, visible from our breakfast room and kitchen, Barry's office, the north bedroom and both baths.

This page is an archive of entries in the Happy category from August 2002.

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