450 6th Avenue

One sunny morning last week I left my apartment not knowing where I was headed. I only had an address. When I got there I knew exactly where I was. It was the building where Brian died in 1991.

This heartless pile of prefab concrete has been printing money for the “non-profit” Kaiser Permanente Group for 40 years. Back then it was a hospital/hospice. Today it’s doctors’ offices.

The memories of Brian’s time there are random and sometimes silly. When his elderly parents visited I rented a car for the week to chauffeur them around. They looked overwhelmed when I met them at the airport’s baggage claim. Second generation Polish immigrants, they’d rarely been out of their Chicago suburb.

What I did for them was no big deal. I picked them up and drove them to 6th Avenue every morning. Then retrieved them in the evening, stopped for groceries and took them back to Brian’s.

They were so grateful. They acted as if I’d moved mountains. Actually, it was only a small foothill of Brian’s porn stash that I hid before they arrived. For the rest of her life, Olympia sent me a religious card every Christmas containing her blessings.

One evening I ran into David at the hospice. We waited for Brian to fall asleep then he drove me home. On the way he said he couldn’t believe I got Brian to take the ice chips. Every time he offered him something or tried to feed him he refused. Apparently, I just started spoon feeding him without asking or saying anything. And he enjoyed them. Being pushy has its moments.

Brian had such an explosive and inventive wit. He was like Robin Williams just not as obnoxious.

On another visit I found him having a fitful time. Tossing and turning, feverish, he couldn’t get comfortable. All they gave him was sponge baths. He longed to take a proper shower again. At one point he told me, “I must smell like a Safeway chicken.”

My trip to 450 6th this month was for a biopsy on my prostate. Earlier this summer my PSA tested slightly elevated from a year ago and out of the acceptable range. They had me wait a month to repeat the test. It went down some but was still too high so the urologist scheduled the procedure.

Today I found out that of the 14 biopsies taken, four showed signs of cancer. When I asked the doctor about stages he said it’s still early. He said it hadn’t even reached Stage 1 yet. It’s in something akin to pre-kindergarten. Because of that he thinks it will be easily treatable. We’ll see.

The past two angst-filled months I’ve thought of being just another cipher, more grist for the cancer industry’s mill. But mostly I’ve worried the disease will end my sex life. That would be untenable.

No one likes to talk about elder sex. It’s the new love that dares not speak its name. Or maybe the name’s spoken but not heard because people are not turning up their hearing aids. It’s unexploited territory, sure to be the next great genre of pornography.

I was heartened recently to find a clip of Joan Rivers on Graham Norton when she was 77. She professed to still have an active sex life but it was not without its issues. “My vagina is so dry, camels follow me home.”

Gay men are obsessed with youth. They pressure each other in every stage of life to be younger than they are. They do, however, draw the line at someone my age supposedly not acting it by still whoring around.

I’m not trying to be anything. I want to continue what I enjoy. Sex is the most effective form of non-verbal expression ever created. Which brings us to a teaching moment.

Seated in an airplane exit row, I silently fume when the attendant asks if I’ll perform the required duties. They insist on a verbal response. I’m inclined to take a pen and write “yes” on something. Or answer with sign language.

What the attendants want is an audible response. They confuse verbal with oral which are not interchangeable. One pertains to the use of words. The other the use of the mouth. And during sex, one is completely optional while the other is almost always mandatory. Discuss among yourselves.

In Valley of the Dolls, Sharon Tate laments her mastectomy with “My breasts! My breasts!” It’s so corny and so poorly acted. Yet, so memorable.

After the biopsy I waited in front of 450 6th Avenue for Lyft. A bit groggy, an inner voice kept repeating, “My dick! My dick!”

Tete a tete with Brian at Chez Panisse Cafe, early 1980s.

Diggin Iggy




Iggy both ways

I walked to North Beach to check the address where Vince Young asked us to mail our rent checks. One neighbor thought it might just be a mailbox and he was right, it was a UPS store. Seemed a little fishy.

After doing my detective work, I walked up Columbus and stumbled across Bimbo’s. I was somewhat surprised it was still there given  most neighborhood icons of its era were gone. I remembered Harry Fireside’s birthday party there, Brian Fedorow’s fashion show, and the book signing for Ming Vase’s Warhol book. And the music through the years: Wanda Jackson, James Brown, and my favorite, Iggy Pop.

In 1974 Iggy was touring to promote his Raw Power album. It had met with almost universal disdain and he was completely underappreciated at the time. The spiritual status he would attain with the punks was still a few years away. He was operating on the periphery of pop but I loved the album and the stories of his performances.

The tale that burned deepest was of him at Max’s, belly sliding across a stage that was covered with shards of glass. He then jumped up and did the whole set with blood streaming down his torso. To me it was ultimate show business, suffering for your audience. He spit it up and chewed it out and did it his way.

The night I saw him we were loaded on qualudes. Plus whatever the trendy cocktail of the month was. The opening act was the Tubes whose simulated outrageousness included fake blood that got all over everything. Including my thin white duke, double pleated, cream-colored linen pants. After their staged theatrics, the real outrage took the stage. 60 minutes of non-stop three chord pounding.

Iggy was mercurial and provocatively dressed in army boots and tiny gold lame briefs. Tiny. Amply filled lame briefs. At one point he came to the side of the stage I was clinging to and started his pelvic thrusts right in front of me. I thought, “this is Iggy Pop, anything goes” so I reached up to grab his briefs and pull them down. In an instant I felt a fist in my cheek. Iggy bent down and yelled in my face, “DON’T DO THAT!”

I was a little disappointed that I’d discovered he had limits but medicated enough that I didn’t really suffer. Afterwards someone told me that he was probably afraid of the whole Jim Morrison indecent exposure thing. The cops would love nothing more than to bust him on some trumped-up charge.  So I let it go, it didn’t really matter. He hit me and it felt like a kiss.

A year or so later we were at the Haven on Polk and California where everyone went for breakfast after the bars. We found a place close to the back and as we were seated I noticed the table behind us. It was this business student preppy guy with mousey brown hair and a very straight looking couple (as in bourgeois, not sexuality. But probably that too.)

The guy looked so familiar, I kept mulling it over until I realized it was Iggy. Obsessed, I wouldn’t shut up about it at our table. He was a far cry from his bleached blonde, naked street fighter stage persona but I was positive it was him in disguise. Finally my friend asked me, “what’s his real name?”

He got up, walked over and asked “Excuse me, are you James Osterberg? “ Iggy smiled and said yes. They motioned for me to come over and I told him the Bimbo’s story. He was immediately apologetic and very gracious. He pulled out a napkin from the dispenser to write on. Instead of an autograph he did a drawing. It was a heart/face with the words “I love you,”  and at the bottom  “don’t ever forget me.”

As if.

Chairman of the Bored