Era’s End

The first piece I remember buying with my Grandmother was this clover design porcelain covered dish. She taught me to look for the red maker’s mark because it might be Prussian, which she considered the best. I always assumed this one was until 50 years later I looked again and saw, to my horror, it was only Limoges.

Grandmother was a serious antique collector. From the age of 10 until I moved to San Francisco I would attend auctions with her. She’d pack our lunch, take her knitting and stay for the day.

She always sat towards the front and a little to the right of the podium so she could be seen. The auctioneers knew her well. When an item she was interested in came up they would glance at her as they yodeled incomprehensible garble. I’m not sure exactly what Grandmother’s mysterious consent gesture was but the auctioneer knew. She was one of the few bidders who were named in the call. “I have Mrs. Kimmer at 55!”

Unlike her grandson, she was a penny-pincher and knew her limits. Her assent motion may have been imperceptible but when the bids went too high she’d shake her head dramatically while mouthing the word “No!” She seemed offended by the price, as if it was the most disgusting thing she’d ever heard.

Wheelchair access in Aisle 5 also allowed for additional performance space. Thank you ADA!

I sometimes bemoan the fact that in the second coming of my San Francisco life I don’t have the connections I had the first time around. There used to be parties, dinners, and openings every day of the week. And in the years I hung out with David Gillette we could be stacked 3 or 4 deep over JFK with nightly invites.

So it was a great thrill two weeks ago to be asked at the last minute to the Nob Hill Theatre closing day barbecue. My friend got us in for free and we had a leisurely stroll through the premises. I particularly enjoyed the go-go boys in their stretch terry hot pants.

Fucking wall of fame.

Behind the stage was a door I’d never seen before. Outside it were circular steps leading down to a deck and the entrance to the owners residence. The apartment, which supposedly had been featured in Architectural Digest, could only be accessed through the theater. Very La Cage aux Folles. Having Mom over for dinner while they screened Seven in a Barn must have been an interesting evening.

The back of the property abutted the former Williams-Sonoma Mail Order patio where we once found the California Bay Laurel doused in dog piss. And, yes, abutment is the proper term for discussing the physical attributes of a gay porn theater.

In addition to the closing day festivities, my connection (who was empowered with price negotiation status) took me on a private tour of their Touch Our Junk sale yesterday.  All the glory hole panels had been sold by the time I got there but there were still stripper poles, autographed porn star 8×10’s and half priced lube to be had.

Skilled performers on stage expertly worked both the lip and the tongue.

In 1996 I took Mother on a Jackie O Getaway to Manhattan. We saw Zoe Caldwell in Master Class, took a long walk through Central Park by the 1040 Fifth Avenue condo, ate oysters at Grand Central, marched through Bergdorfs  and attended the preview of The Jackie Estate Sale at Sotheby’s. I left only one bid, an excessive $1100 for the monogrammed cocktail shaker. The eventual winner paid about $6500.

I did not get shut out at the Nob Hill sale yesterday though. I scored an original Justin Simpson painting “Spring” from the 2008 Men of Wine Collection. Done in a sickening Lawrence Welk teal, it has the unsettling thematic quality of a Keane painting (minus the eyes) with just a soupcon of Linda Blair’s Excorist menace thrown in.

One can almost see Grandmother doing her phantom “No!”


I Feel Good

Like I knew that I would.

So relevant. The same tile dude who did the Oyster Bar did the Admissions Hall on Ellis Island.
So relevant. The same tile dude who did the Oyster Bar did the Admissions Hall on Ellis Island.

Tuesday was strenuous mainly because I left the apartment at 5:00 am. I’m always afraid I’m going to oversleep on these early morning flights so sleep comes in fitful, 20 minute spurts. I might have got an hour in.

I was exhausted all day but started to snap out of it as we made our approach into La Guardia. We were close to touching down when the poor guy in front of me accidentally hit the call button.

I’ve seen this before and I think at this point in the flight only the lead attendant can get up to answer it. Usually it comes with a school marm scowl or some other kind of pissed off passive aggressiveness.

He was signalling her that it was a mistake and was apologizing profusely. She came anyway and was understanding about it. With a flourish that reminded us we were only a couple of miles from Broadway she exclaimed, “thank gaawd everyone is okay.”

The urban energy hit me the minute I was off the jet bridge. That chip on their shoulder, make you wrong effort New Yorkers do to engage you. At first it seems rude but then you realize there’s not much behind it. It’s just a nervous form of high anxiety communication that comes with population density. I think it’s been proven in lab rats.

On the bus into Grand Central there was another reminder why I love New York. A boy sprawled out on the seats in front of me listening to his iPod. He looked Russian (the island is crawling with Russkies), so languid and luscious. In any other city he would be a standout, in Manhattan he’s kind of the norm.

The Chrysler Building. I always wonder if the blue panels are original, they look like a 1960's remodel.
The Chrysler Building. I always wonder if the blue panels are original, they look like a 1960’s remodel.

Walking down 42nd Street to the hotel there were more appealing boys. Arabs, Europeans, Jews, Blacks, Puerto Ricans, Asians–they all had this wonderful give that ethnicity wasn’t the most important thing about them. When I think of all the cultural and political strife around the world the solution just seems so obvious to me: homosexuality. Or at least the way I practice it.

My hotel was a Westin I’d stayed in a couple of years ago after they’d just taken it over from Leona. It was kind of a dump back then but it now had the full brand treatment: heavenly bed, heavenly shower, and hellish room service prices. With my last ounce of energy I decided to go out to eat.

My new friends, the Pemaquids of Maine.
My new friends, the Pemaquids of Maine.

I walked over to the Oyster Bar for dinner and a cocktail. I enjoyed my Manhattan so much I had a second one. After overtipping I walked back feeling toasty and nice. Sugar and spice.

Sleeping was not a problem but forcing myself out of bed Wednesday morning took some work. I had coffee, checked my bag and walked 20 blocks to Barneys. The temperature was a “feels like” 17 and even with gloves my hands froze.

I took my time perusing the merchandise, and the warmth, on all eight floors. I was drawn to things like a gray wooly mammoth Givenchy sweater vest with fluorescent orange trim but realized it was probably not age appropriate.

The real prize at Barneys was the clerk on the first floor. 6’3″, sexy in his skin-tight black sweater and pants. His head was shaved and his skin had a natural gleam, no makeup. But I would swear on a pair of Marilyn Miglin Super Sweepers he was wearing false eyelashes. They were so long and so black it was like he wanted them to look fake. And they did, a stark contrast to his handsome face. Kind of an updated version of Louise Nevelson.

The find. At $560 I'll wait and take my chances at the season ending clearance sale.
The find. At $560 I’ll wait and take my chances at the season ending clearance sale.

Over at Bergdorf’s I spent an hour in home furnishings then I crossed the street to the Men’s Store. I loved a Matisse-like cutout beach shirt that was too expensive. There was also a pair of Tom Ford red velvet high tops that were stunning. Even at half price, too much.

I did end up buying a couple of shirts at 75% off. On the walk down Fifth Avenue I also picked up a Warhol dance step t-shirt for $10. In essence my mission was accomplished, I had something tangible to bring back with me. The real treasure, however, was just the thrill of being in Manhattan.

Cobwebs vanquished, I’m ready to get on the good foot.

What's not to love? Bergdorf's window.
What’s not to love? Bergdorf’s window.

Previous: Clearing the Cobwebs
The complete saga, From the Beginning