On June 26, 2015, that historic day when the Supreme Court decided that same-sex marriage would be legal in all fifty of the United States, I sat on a bus stop bench near Macy’s on 34th Street waiting for Bob to come out of Sketchers. We had just finished meeting with the lawyer who was preparing closing documents for the sale of our apartment and Bob wanted to look at tennis shoes.
The mundane character of how we received the news was poignant. I was now granted the unfathomable freedom to marry the love of my life who was shoe shopping as I sat on a bench among the unaware Midtown tourists only a half a mile (but a world away) from the epicenter of the impromptu celebrations popping up outside the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village.
I woke completely confused, an hour before the alarm this morning. Although I’m already a week into my new job, I startled from my sleep unsure of what day my new employers were expecting me to start working.
This came after two busy days in Rhode Island helping Bob get the house closer to ready for sale, bookended by two three-and-a-half-hour train rides (which explain why we didn’t visit New York as often as we had intended when we moved to Providence), plus the added hour subways between Penn Station and Bed-Sty.
I was discombobulated much of the weekend in Providence. As I was falling asleep on Saturday night, back in my own bed with Bob and our dog Marcello by my side, I had been scrolling through Manhattan apartment listings on my phone. For a few seconds I wondered if I could make an open house or two before I met my train the next day. I had to remind myself that I was in Providence currently, and wouldn’t be back in New York until after my train.
I’ll bet that sounds downright Jetsonian to you as a 17-year-old in 1975.
So I’ll settle one big question at the outset: we do not have flying cars.
There is, come to think of it, something called a personal computer that I know you’ll appreciate for at least a couple of its features in particular: it will check your spelling for you. Hold your tears. I know you’ll love that.
And then there’s the Internet, which is also hard to describe, but it will eliminate the need for the family’s old Encyclopedia Britannica. And there’s a whole lot of, well, anything you might ever want (publicly or secretly) on the Internet, such as movies and music and travel guides. And, umm, well, let me just say, kids your age today aren’t even thinking about agonizing over how to convince the sales clerk at the 7-Eleven to sell them a copy of Playgirl.
Yeah, I know about your secret Playgirl stash.
See, I’m you, grown old. I’m you 40 years from now.
Since yesterday’s explosion on Second Avenue at Seventh Street in the East Village, I’ve been thinking about this photograph.
I took it about a month ago while sitting at a window table in San Marzano restaurant, looking up Second, during one of our February snow storms.
The building on the left, the former home of the quintessential East Village vintage clothing and novelty shop Love Saves The Day, is one of the buildings that collapsed. The woman with the white umbrella is passing in front of the restaurant that was the source of the explosion.
I’ve also been thinking about the staff at Pomme Frites, Sushi Park, Paul’s Burger, San Marzano and the other shops along this avenue. And especially about the residents who lost their homes. We’re anxious to check on acquaintances who work at the restaurants.
Eater.com has spent the past few days celebrating the life and death of Gray’s Papaya at the corner of Eighth Street and Sixth Avenue, with photos of its bright orange lettering being removed from its awning and reminiscent post from followers about drunken munchies and Gray’s goofy signage.
You know you’ve been living in NYC too long and through too many heat waves when an un-air-conditioned pool full of New Yorkers, surrounded by thousands of spectator New Yorkers, looks refreshing to you.
It’s hard to believe I met Bob in a pervious century, but when I think about our lives then and now, I realize how much the world has changed. In 1989 when we met, there was no Ellen, no Modern Family, no discussion whatsoever of marriage equality. The biggest gay rights issue in any of the big cities around the country was legislation for AIDS services and research. Despite that Bob lived in the Village and I in Chelsea (the only real gay enclaves in the City at the time), we did not feel comfortable holding hands just anywhere around our neighborhoods. Even though we often did.
I had the honor of offering reflections at the memorial service for our dear friend Ruth Van Erp a year ago today. I first read the following reflections from Bob (who to our surprise had known Ruth longer than anyone else in the room other than her family) and then followed them with a poem I’d composed over the three days since we’d received the news of Ruth’s death.
The day I first met Bob at NYU 23 years ago, he was excited for me to meet his friend Ruth. He spoke of her like they had known each other forever, a year or two already. Turned out it had only been a week. But the first day they met they had spent seven hours together talking and had became instant friends.
I had that classic shot of Manhattan from the airplane window as I flew up the Hudson on the way into LaGuardia, parallel to the City’s skyscraper grid, as if the flight pattern had been directed specially for Continental Airlines and the City of New York by Woody Allen or Nora Ephron. I swear I heard Gershwin playing, possibly on the crackly airplane headphones, but I can’t say for certain. As I watched the World Trade Towers, then the Woolworth, Con-Ed, Flatiron, Empire State, Pan Am, and Chrysler buildings rise and fold below me like a pop-up book, the words passed through my head: “I could meet someone there.”