Meaning and Nothingness

This can’t be right.

Recently one morning I looked for something on Netflix to have with my coffee. I settled on a series about the most amazing hotels in the world.

The first episode was on the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore. It’s an architectural engineering marvel completed in 2010. It would be wonderful to visit and admire in person. If you could empty out everyone and everything that goes on inside of it.

From the frat-boy, getting something-for-nothing competitiveness of the casino; to the slave labor of the 5000 hotel employees who make the place run; to the Instagram losers mugging in the skyline infinity pool, this place exudes toxicity.

The hotel has 2500 guest rooms and is almost always full. There are 60 restaurants on site and 53 kitchens with 400 chefs who support the hotel’s food service. The 150,00 pieces of employee uniforms are accessed using 18 industrial size dry cleaning conveyors.

The death-defying cement pond on the roof is two football fields long. A thousand tons of water make it so heavy a computerized system of 500 hydraulic jacks constantly recalibrates balance and support for the building. Think of the energy used just so vacationers can memorialize the one second of their day when they appear to be having fun.

The Gav Bucket

The hotel’s main draw is gambling. And the leisure travel class who wager are not the most eco-friendly. What happens to the garbage of a million guests per year? The shopping bags, racing forms, dry cleaning plastic? Not to mention the Mountain Dew empties and Carl’s Jr. wrappers discarded during a jackpot high?

The show pays lip service to the issue by highlighting the innovative laundry operation that cuts water consumption by 70%. But when guests are allowed to take three to five pool towels at a time, it’s kind of a wash.

The affable hosts would rather talk about the 500 pounds of flour used to bake 10,000 bread rolls each day. My guess is a half to two-thirds are completely eaten, where do the leftovers and unused go? The subject is never mentioned.

So I decided to ask my friend the internet how the Marina Bay Sands disposes of garbage. The first few pages of search results were news and videos produced by MBS marketing their commitment to the environment. This was followed by industry articles and awards echoing the same commitment.

The unifying theme was the importance of protecting the environment. You could tell that because the word “important” was used six times per sentence (with an occasional  “sustainable” thrown in for good measure).

MBS is determined to convince you of their sincerity. They even produce a Sustainability Report detailing the impact of a guest’s stay at checkout. It probably summarizes how ecologically important their visit was to the universe.

Missing in everything is the “how” or “what” to support these assertions. Except for the 60% of rolls that are digested, I still have no idea how the waste is treated.

Miss Daniels, If Your Nasty working the corner of Laguna and Waller.

I’ve always been reluctant to compost because of the gnats. Every kitchen I’ve been in that has a Gavin Newsom contraption also has bugs hovering around.

But in my new building we have a compost chute next door to my apartment. Every evening I take a degradable corn starch bag and heave my compostables down. This one small step has reduced my carbon footprint from a 7 1/2 B to a 6 AAA. The Ferragamos fit again!

I’ve also been thinking about how my new sewer parenting responsibilities affect the environment. Are there unintended consequences from the Montana Hologram Spray Paint mixing with rain water? Specifically, does glitter run-off contribute to the choking epidemic rampant in the Bodega Bay Sand Dab population?

To ease my mind I commissioned a report from EIR’s ‘r Us. If not the most thorough investigators on the planet, certainly the most cost-effective. They concluded that, although Dab asphyxiation is an important consideration, it’s not that important.

On this Earth Day we should all resolve to do our part. It’s important to me and it should be important to you. Most importantly, because it’s important. Sustainably speaking.

 

Fish puking

Mama Was a Rollin’ Stone, Part Two

207 E. Second Street. My first apartment was in this duplex in the Fall of 1970. The following Spring I decided to throw a party here.

The few gay parties I’d attended seem to be divided by sect. The older, draggier queens threw the biggest parties and played nothing but the Supremes. With a dash of Freda Payne’s Band of Gold every now and then.

The younger, druggier gay parties were smaller with less drinking and more counter-culture. The older queens were not necessarily made to feel welcome at these affairs and didn’t attend.

In the middle were the bourgeois gays who were too closeted to ever throw their own parties. But they were are at every other party they could get into.

Mine would be open to everyone and only have dance music. I especially wanted the more radical element there and knew if I could get Dale to come the rest would follow.

I first saw him at a Gay Liberation meeting in April. It was a procedural bore until he spoke. Out of the blue he talked about the necessity of educating ourselves on feminist issues and how the same sexual stereotypes and prejudices that oppressed women also oppressed gays. Our objectives might be different but his point was any gay political movement should have a feminist perspective as well.

Most faces at the meeting had a rather glazed look on them, wondering what time to head to the bar. But Dale had my rapt attention. The authors he mentioned I’d read and his conclusions were ones I had arrived at on my own. I felt validated. I was not alone. I was determined to make this person my friend and, 46 years later, I’m still working on it.

Dale had been out longer than me and was more seasoned. He took me aside at one party and explained what dingleberries were. He was always calling me tart (which I took to mean sharp-tongued) but in an admiring way. As we fantasized about our drag myths he advised me never to admit I worked for Paramount, MGM was the only game in town.

He’d lived in Manhattan in a run down apartment where a rat once popped through the floor boards. There were also Lou Reed sightings when he came to see his boyfriend who lived in the same building.

Dale was at the Stonewall riots in 1969. He said the only violence or looting was when the drag queens broke the window of a wig shop and stole all the Eva Gabors.  Alice put an end to that (Alice was Manhattan camp for the cops.)

Dale showed up for my event with his entourage. The rest is history.

The Stones’ new single, Brown Sugar, was released the day before. I had the only copy in town. It was played repeatedly. The drunken choruses of “yeah, yeah, yeah, whew!” echoed into the night as the hardwood floor sprung like a trampoline. When the police came and told us to turn it down, I planted my 118 pound frame squarely in the front yard and went mano a mano. I assured them everything was under control.

My name was made that night. In the wee hours as he left, Dale stopped to thank me and gave me his blessing: “It’s the sign of a good party if Alice comes.”

330 South Dunn. My first drag was here in the summer of 1971. Mr. Sarah pin curled my hair then teased it out into a huge blonde afro. The silk voile 1930s dress I wore was almost transparent. Underneath were nude panties that concealed nothing. I wasn’t trying to fool anyone. I was trying to look good.

In my maiden excitement I was ready hours before the party started. With nothing to do I volunteered to go with others on a beer run. As we walked into the liquor store I wondered what kind of act or affectation to assume. Since I couldn’t really see myself and since nothing had changed inside me, I decided it was an issue for others not for me. I acted the way I normally would. It was just this androgynous thing with a basso profundo voice buying a couple cases of quarts.

On the ride back it felt like just another trip to the store. Except there was an additional sense of relief that I hadn’t been beaten to a pulp.

Islands in the stream, uhn-huh. In front of the Dunn Street house was the split between Dunn and Atwater Streets. It was a major thoroughfare, especially busy at rush hour. Larry Borders and I would drop acid then sit in the point watching the cars whiz by. They had to veer one way or the other. One hoped.

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