Election night, 2020

I’ve just been in my room all day, well since 5 a.m. when I went to bed, and oatmeal cooking and coconut water drinking to recover from the night.

Last night was so good. Yeah, we got the election results and car speakers were blasting “Fuck Donald Trump” but Crown Heights nights have been especially good to me these past few months. It’s like Cheers on steroids. You see people you know. And if you know the right ones (restaurant industry ones), you get to hang out at bars after they close and then you retire to stoop hangs.

With the weather so good yesterday, I took an Uber to meet up with Maddie on Eastern Parkway. We waved to Mikey at Barbs, had painkillers at Super Power, and then returned to Franklin Ave. Instead of going straight to a bar, we waved to Mikey again, got beers and waited for Maddie’s phone to charge on one of those city stations you can plug into to power up.

Our moods weren’t in full party mode. Maddie had an all night roof hang on Friday and I had visited the Studio 54 exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum with Emily and had pizza at Barbs (always, always, always sopressata with arugula and Mike’s hot honey).

But we rallied and took our private party of two to the benches outside of Bagel Pub. There Josh joined us, and Mikey and Nikolaj on smoke breaks as well. Joshed was sloshed on a day’s worth of champagne and exceptionally up for fun. We riffed. He did his best Chris Farley “In a van down by the river…” and then ran home to get food.

There were drinks at Crown Inn, and when that closed (the new upstairs neighbor complains about the noise constantly now…but he moved in above a bar on Franklin…what was he expecting?), we went to Josh’s stoop for Montepulciano, cigarettes and cuddling to stay warm. Maddie, me, Mikey, Josh and Mariam, the upstairs neighbor. And back and forth texting with Tyler who was doing his own thing, but knows the cast of characters for as long as I have or longer.

I’m loved here. Maddie showed me around, I made a good impression, and now it’s home. Here I am red-lipped and witty. A little standoffish but incredibly comfortable. I see everything that’s going on. Even before anyone’s told me, I know who’s sleeping with whom, who’s stopped sleeping with whom and all the politics that take place between childless adults living through the first pandemic in a century coupled with massive unemployment.

I can play with the boys and run with the girls. I’m not of the neighborhood and hardly invested in anyone beyond the scope of close friends, so I haven’t any skin in the game. You wouldn’t know how hard times have been lately in the rest of the country because times are always hard for people in NYC. The weather isn’t always choice. You sometimes have enough money to buy a round, and sometimes you walk home because you can’t afford the Uber. But we take care of each other on that street. We’re excited for each other’s projects.

And nights of drinking end with professions of mutual love. Not the drunken hollow love that comes cheaply from loosened tongues. The true love that comes from finding good, solid people whom you can rely on, who you give space to when they need it, and whom you hold up when they need it. That’s just how it works. I wasn’t the person I needed to be to get this kind of life two years ago. I have people to thank for that. But I did a lot of work to get here. And now, more often than not, I am grateful at the end of the day for at least one thing, and sometimes a whole embarrassment of riches. So many hugs. So many kisses. So many laughs.

I might stay with Maddie in L.A. for a couple weeks in December, laying low, getting away from all this partying. I’ll come back appreciating things with new focus.

I’m telling a story in December with Odyssey back in Tucson. The theme is “Snowflake” and I’ve got a ten minute story about my trip to Paris last November showing me how much I’ve changed since living here in Brooklyn.

Earlier tonight, just down Marcus Garvey, a saxophonist was playing along to “One More Night” by Phil Collins. My window is open because it’s that good of weather, so I got to feel like I was some character in an 80’s NYC movie like Arthur or Baby Boom. I swooned.

Something is happening to me but it hasn’t surfaced yet. I’m not boy crazy anymore. I think that phase (36-40) has subsided. I learned so much from all those experiences. I’m grateful for all of them and having come out of them relatively unscathed. I’m grateful to the boys who showed me all sorts of things and help me build the confidence to know I could always ask for more without the fear that I didn’t deserve it.

I’m not interested in cheap, quick connections with pretty boys right now that I can brag about. I can take things slowly. And I’m not some unproven writer-ish bullshitter trying to cobble together something approximating an identity. I’m road-tested. I’ve had professional and personal success. I’m not scared of not having talent. Here, where I see the people with the most talent I could possibly expose myself to, I talk talk and walk walk. And, even if no one in my family ever understands what it is I’m doing or they’re embarrassed by whatever it is they think I’m doing, I know who I am. I don’t know what I’m becoming. But if it builds on what I’ve already shown, it’s going to have merit. It brings me comfort. And then I, in turn, can project that comfort to others and be a place of safety for them. That has value. It’s what makes me special in this city of so many special people.

Yes, the city has changed me. But it hasn’t made me hard. It’s given me a strong foundation to feel soft. I don’t think anyone was expecting that. And I’ve got surprises in me yet.

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