Saturday, April 25, 2015


The best thing about getting ready to move is the feeling of relief knowing I'll soon be leaving behind all the small things that get on my nerves about the place where I live -- the janky oven that can't maintain a temperature and burns everything on the bottom before it's done on the top, the electrical outlets with too-big holes so that plugs fall out of them, the lack of trash bins so that we have to keep all our stinky garbage in the apartment until collection day, the bathroom mirror that doesn't line up with the sink but is about a foot to the left of it -- and all the things that will irritate me at the new place are as yet unknown and unable to touch me.

This is the biggest move I've ever made -- maybe not in terms of geographical distance or impact on my life because I've had several moves that were huge by those measures, but in terms of the logistics, the number of steps, the planning, the actual amount of stuff that's coming with me, the number of people involved (actual hired movers!), not to mention the months-long process of buying an apartment and the multi-layered approval process that is, we hope, almost over.

This is the first time I've moved and taken the furniture, other than maybe a couple lamps and a futon. Most of the time when I've moved I've just gone to the liquor store and asked for a few boxes, packed up my clothes and books, and splurged on a cab. It's the first time I've had furniture that was nice enough to take.

I'm exaggerating -- there are exceptions: When J and I left New York for Nashville, rented a U-Haul, and filled it with the contents of our 10th Street studio (which was roughly the same size as that U-Haul). Or the move out of Nashville when J and I sold everything for nothing on the lawn so we could fit in a 20-foot camper. Some of that stuff I regret losing (an old wood dresser that my parents gave us comes to mind, as well as my copies of Word Is Out and the ReSearch journal issue on body modifications, and other loved and irreplaceable books). Or when I left B in 1989. We had great furniture in our Ft. Greene apartment. All street-found or thrift store-bought, but B had an eye. I was the one who left, and I didn't take anything.

But those moves were more like fleeing than moving.

I don't mean to downplay the life-change aspect of this move. One -- C and I are becoming homeowners (!), which is big and would have been unimaginable 10 years ago when it was also unimaginable that I would get married, let alone to someone with a much more normal life and stable income. Ten years ago I had no home at all, except in the hearts and spare rooms of dear friends and family members. And two, I am moving back to the part of New York that was my home through most of the 80s and 90s, not including that 4-year stint in Brooklyn in the mid-80s. I feel like I've been working my way back for a long time now.

I know, it's a stretch to say that Grand Street on the East River is the old neighborhood. It's not the East Village and it's not the part of the Lower East Side above Delancey that we all know and love or hate. I think that's one of the things I love about our new place. Co-op Village is definitely the LES, culturally and historically a part of that larger LES that includes the East Village and the super-trendy area between Houston and Delancey, but it's not one of those parts of the neighborhood where I feel like I would have to excavate to find anything I remember. The area around East Broadway and Grand Street going toward the East River has not changed much since the 1950s, when the slums were cleared to make room for the buildings we're moving into. Not that it's done all the changing it will ever do.

While I was writing this, C went downstairs to check the mail and came back with a letter notifying us that we've been approved by the co-op board. I guess this is really happening.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Chorus Line Premiered in 1975, Which Is a Long Time Ago.

The first Broadway musical I saw on Broadway was Sweeney Todd in 1979, but the first Broadway musical I saw was A Chorus Line, the touring production, at Clowes Hall in Indianapolis, on a school trip.

I want to say I was a sophomore in high school, so like 1976 or '77, but my memory is bad. It could have been the following year. Either way, it was during those couple years when I was figuring out why, when I saw Brad Christie standing in line at the water fountain, I was compelled to stand in line behind him and hope that my hand accidentally grazed his butt when he bent over for a drink.

And by figuring out, I mean freaking out.

A friend and fellow writer, a straight man, asked me once a few years ago at a musical theater cabaret event, after 2 or 3 boys in a row had sung songs about coming out, "Why does every song lately have to be about being gay?" As I was pondering the question, the lights went down for the second act and our conversation was cut short, but I've thought about it a lot since then and I think the simple answer is that it hurts less and less to tell these stories.

Despite the fact that the musical theater industry was and is so packed with homosexuals, the larger world was still rabidly homophobic, so we could only very tentatively tell our sad tales and then basically only for emotional shock value. Not that Paul's monologue isn't authentic and beautifully told, but it's there to inform you that being gay is super sad. We have more colors to work with now. (Times have changed. Fun Home is funny, moving, thought-provoking, and masterful, and tells a story with a butch lesbian at its center with layers and layers of complexity that would have been unimaginable in a hit Broadway musical in the late 70s when there was only one layer of gay.)

I had done my research. (There must have been a theater queen or two at the DePauw University library where I worked after school, because the library subscribed to After Dark magazine, the gayest periodical ever to never use the word gay.) So I knew how A Chorus Line was created, that the stories the dancers were telling were true -- Hm. It just occurred to me that A Chorus Line is a devised musical. Maybe the first? -- and from then on, though I was still too afraid to tell my own story to anyone but myself, I knew that if I could make a life in the theater in New York I would be fine.

So I did.

Happy anniversary, A Chorus Line!