31 August 2009

The Past Is Now!

I was a little bored on the Thursday before the reunion party so I decided to stop by Tara's place to hang out, just to say hullo and then go home. Helene had scheduled the carpet cleaners for the morning so I had to be home to help move the furniture and stuff. While I'm at Tara's, laughing and gossiping about everyone, her phone rings and it's some friends on the way over. Well, the next thing I know, it's daylight of the next day and here I am, still laughing and gossiping with Tara! People stopped by now and again during the night, our friends are nocturnal, and I was sipping on tequila and time just flew by. But by now, I was in NO condition to move furniture and I was dog tired from not sleeping. There would be no way to sleep at home with the carpet cleaners there so I crashed at Tara's until later. When I got ready to leave, I had to borrow a tie from Tara since I had planned to get one out of storage to wear.

That didn't happen!

I quickly got up and dashed home to get ready, feeling woozy and still a little (okay...a whole lot) drunk. My mobile had died so I turned it off and plugged it in so it would charge fast while I took a shower and tried to look human. Luckily the outfit looked good so that helped (photos of my ensemble can be seen on my Facebook). When I turned my mobile on, it was ringing off the hook! Lance had gone into a mild panic, wondering where I was. I assured him that I was on my way and got to his house, where I hadn't been to in forever. After a quick hullo to his parents (and his mom's insistence on taking our picture, like we were going to prom or something) she gave us a ride to the Showboat. Lance kept apologizing for her...umm...we'll say "erratic"...driving technique but I loved it!

We got there in one piece and I guided him to the room where the event was being held. I travel through the casinos on my regular walks so I know them pretty well. I'll finish this tomorrow.

Prom Night (Plus Twenty)

I think I have more than proved that I am a VERY social person. Not only am I an attention whore, my years on stage and in the workplace testify to that, but I thoroughly enjoy social settings like parties, gatherings, reunions, barbecues, weddings, you name them, I'll be there. I love meeting/observing people. One source of disappointment I've had to endure was the loss of the social atmosphere that used to reign at the Studio Six. Back in the day (I find that I say that phrase way too often now-a-days), you went out to the club to meet people. Yes, there were the sexual hook-ups and the meat-market aspect that all clubs have but one of the things that people have often remarked upon, especially those people that went there years ago, is that they met the best people at the Studio. It was like a common living room, an ongoing cocktail party that friends and neighbors went to on nearly a daily basis. And everyone was invited to join in on the fun. The primary object was to meet people and have a good time. And along the way, we met some of the best friends of our lives, friendships that last to this day. It was unlike most other clubs that were primarily places for people to meet for a one night stand. Cheap and abundant and anonymous sex.
And then the culture changed. So many alphabet drugs came around and before you know it, the music got too loud and intense, the people were too fucked up to engage in anything but getting more fucked up and the rapid degeneration of that wonderful era ensued and the primary function seemed to be about isolating oneself through excess.
It's hard to be social when you no longer speak the language. In this case, Crackinese.

Lance had asked me to attend his high school reunion a while ago and I had forgotten about it. I also was working at Le Grand Fromage at the time and on the day of the reunion (a Friday) so the possibility that I could go was slim to none. Then, as it often does in life, things changed and I was free on the day of the event and I agreed to go with him. He was surprised and kept asking if I was sure I wanted to go. I told him I was looking forward to it and I couldn't wait for the day of the party.

Now, some people would not want to go to someone else's high school reunion. I mean, it's a bit awkward being the perpetual outsider at the event. You have no touchstone with these people except for the music of the time period. Other than that, they have their stories and inside jokes that you can never be a part of. And, as an added wrinkle, it was Holy Spirit High School, I went to rival Atlantic City High.

But I'm not those people. I really couldn't wait to go! The week before, I went to the M.C.B.A. mixer at the Chelsea Hotel, it's our local businessperson organization and political meet-and-greet. I know most of those people but, honestly, I have no real business being there. I'm not much more than a professional party guest. Wait. I guess that gives me (tenuous) credentials. I had a ball hobnobbing with the Atlantic City elite and keeping my skills finely honed. It's a bit like Dorothy Parker and the vicious circle when you attend these little shindigs and you have to be on your best game. Politicians aren't the nicest bunch of humans although with all the fake smiles, you'd think they were actually enjoying themselves.

I found a dark blue, two-button Ben Sherman fitted jacket at a second-hand shop the weekend before and I decided that was what I'd wear to the reunion. It fit me to a T and with a crisp white shirt and nice tie, I thought it would be sharp. The day approached and the Thursday before, a slight wrinkle was thrown into my plans.

That wrinkle's name is Tara!

Next: Hurricane Tara and the Homecoming Queen

26 August 2009

Wedding Bells

We had a wedding to do recently that was booked rather quickly, giving us very little time before the actual day. We found out why during the weeks that passed as we prepared for the event.

We met with the groom at The Chelsea Hotel (see: Cafe Companion). At first, I thought he was the wedding planner, since he had a clipboard with reams of paperwork and was being followed around by the hotel staff (and my gaydar went off a little bit). Lo and behold, he's the groom and he was planning the wedding, an oddity in this business. We usually have to deal with brides who want flowers way out of season or ones that don't actually exist in nature. But that wasn't the case and here he was and off we went with him on a tour of the property and he began describing what he wanted us to accomplish. It seemed to be pretty straightforward, decorate the stairwell with tulle and bows, set up simple arrangements in the ballroom where the ceremony would take place and then the usual standing bouquets in the cocktail area. Nothing too extraordinary.

Then we got to the deck where the pool is. Here he began to explain what he wanted and things got a bit out of control. Floating arrangements, reorganizing the cabanas for the dinner, covering lighting, adding lighting, hanging a hundred paper lanterns, balloon bouquets with lights inside, bringing the items from the ballroom and distributing them around the pool, adding more flowers. It began to dawn on me that this was going to be a HUGE job. We discussed some of the details and talked with the Chelsea staff and we went back to the shop to confer amongst ourselves.

So far so good. We waited to hear from the groom and we'd write up the proposal and everything would be copacetic!


From that moment until the wedding day, we suffered through countless emails, changes, radical rethinks, colour schemes, different flowers, you name it, we heard it. Then there was the problem of glass. It seems it's a law (city, state, hotel, whoever) that you can't have glass around the pool. Our groom was insistent that we have glass containers for the arrangements. It was a battle between him, the hotel and us because we had to buy the items and it would have been cost prohibitive to keep them in our
inventory and not use them. Then there were the arrangements themselves. The floral staff wasn't thrilled about the design. It's a common problem, the brides want something that's not exactly...how do I explain it...it's not what you would do as a floral designer. Mixing the wrong shapes like square bottoms with a round ball of flowers on top. You do things that repeat a theme in floral design, not mix and match.

It's just not done.

But, since they were paying, we did what they wanted. Then there was the issue of the chuppah. A chuppah is a traditional arch used in Jewish ceremonies. We have one that's quite big but comes apart rather easily. The bride and groom weren't Jewish but they saw a picture in a Martha Stewart magazine that had an arch with flowing fabrics and candles floating in glass tubes lining the aisle. That's what they wanted.

People, florists HATE Martha Stewart. HATE HER! She is the anathema of floral designers everywhere. She needs to be stopped.

So, here we were with this picture from Martha's rag and we had to come up with some sort of way of copying it.

The weekend of the wedding came (we also had two other smaller weddings that week, of course) and we went into battle mode.

First wrinkle: The weather.

Everyday that week the weather was nice but the day of their wedding, the forecast called for late afternoon showers. Not to mention the fact that it was raining cats and dogs all morning long (when I say morning, I mean between seven to nine, we do things very early in the shop). We were told they would make the decision at noon, the one deciding if we were setting up the pool deck or totally re-doing the ballroom for the reception dinner. We got the vans/trucks/cars packed and began bringing everything over to the hotel. We get the chuppah into the ballroom and notice a stage. There was to be no stage because our chuppah is so big that it wouldn't fit. Luckily, Jack had preplanned for this occasion and had a way to shorten the arch to fit. But, that required power tools. We hurriedly got the room ready, setting up the glass jars, adding water to them (a long and tedious process, each one required nearly four gallons of water) and getting the stairwell draped and the hundreds of other things we needed to do. We set up the cocktail area and began preparing the pool deck since we didn't get the word yet if they were canceling the outdoor area because of the weather.
I had run back to the shop for round two (three...four...I don't remember) of hauling centerpieces and bouquets and everything else. While I was there, the word came down from on high: The deck reception was canceled. This meant that the dinner would be held in the ballroom.

Where the wedding was taking place.

This also meant that we now had NO time to spare. Before, we would have been setting up the pool all during the day with plenty of time to get it finished before the reception. Now, we would have an hour to totally transform one room from the sparse yet beautiful wedding chamber with a chuppah (that we jury-rigged) into a paper lantern dripping dining room with a totally different look and scheme.

Battle mode turned into total panic!

But we adapted and got to business, barely getting on each other's frayed nerves and focusing on the task at hand. We had to be out of the way right before the ceremony started so we finished up and took a much needed break. A break that included martinis! We ate at
Teplitzky's (Jack and I think the name sounds like a concentration camp in Poland) and watched up through the windows at the wedding party. They looked GORGEOUS! Usually you see some pretty fugly bridesmaids but everyone was stunning! We watched them enter the ballroom and finished up our dinner and cock...tails, knowing that we had to get our asses up there to scramble that room into shape.

The wedding party exited and went to the cocktail reception and we got to work. Insanity reigned during that hour, with the hotel staff and us madly whipping that room into shape. We even had valet boys hanging the paper lanterns over the dancefloor, which was being installed right underneath our ladders. It was controlled chaos and by the time we finished, the room looked AMAZING! You'd never know that they even got married in the same space. It was totally different. We got out of there just in time, taking some pictures before leaving. Downstairs, we waited for the van to come collect us and off we went back to the shop and then home.

Luckily, the venue change meant that we got everything out of there earlier and didn't have to go back at midnight to pack up. It could wait until morning.

The next morning I got to the shop early and Jack and I went to the hotel to gather our stuff. It was pretty painless and the hotel staff made it easier by putting everything together.

We did get the greatest compliments from the bride and groom, they were eminently pleased with everything. That was nice.

Considering he's the son of a senator, it's VERY NICE!

Next up: High School Reunion

15 August 2009

Major League Mortimer!

My long-time friend and I have recently been communicating on a fairly regular basis. Which is a good thing. It often happens that when someone becomes romantically involved with someone else, you tend to focus on the object of your desire and the rest of us fall to the wayside. It happens. That's not said as an insinuation of any wrong-doing, it's merely said as a statement of fact.

It happens.

But through mediums such as MySpace or Facebook, you can reunite with long lost friends and loved ones and my friend Stephen and I did just that!

We have been talking about this and that over the past few months and catching up here and there, looking at pictures and reliving the past (it seems the past is all I have anymore). And over that time, he began formulating a plan, unbeknownst to me. One day he asked if I was busy on a certain date, I happened to be free (cue Mr. Humphries: "I'm FREE!") and he never mentioned a thing for quite a while after that. Then, as the date got closer, he began to mention it again, making sure I was off and hinting that he wanted to get together for...something.

The date got closer and closer and he began dropping hints although I didn't know it. They were careful hints asking his Facebook friends who their favourite Phillies player was (so he could find out who mine was) and stuff along those lines. Finally, the day before, I was at the Art of Flowers (where you should get all your floral needs) and I happened to notice that the next day's Phillies game was in the afternoon. Hmm...the puzzle pieces began to fit and I suspected that this is what the surprise was.

I got up early, as usual, and the day was very overcast. I got dressed and ready, forgoing the sunblock three thousand since there was a threat of rain for the entire day. Stephen pulled up and lo and behold, he was wearing red. That confirmed my suspicions! I knew then and there that we were going to the game! I was SO DAMNED EXCITED!

Off we went up the Atlantic City Expressway, me chatting excitedly the entire way. I was a bit concerned about the weather but the forecast said that the area along the Delaware River (where the stadium is) would be rain free but overcast. Most of the rain would hug the coastline of New Jersey, where we just left. Before I knew it, we were going over the Walt Whitman Bridge and were traveling through South Philadelphia and the next thing I knew, we were pulling into the parking lot directly in front of the stadium! I love star parking! We got out and got changed. Stephen had thought ahead and bought me a Jayson Werth Phillies shirt and I put that on over my shirt and off we went into Citizens Bank Park.

Amazement! That's what I felt! Wow, I was amazed at the spectacle. First, we stopped by the front entrance and met up with Stephen's family. I had to make a pit-stop, as usual, and mark my territory. I was impressed with the bathroom facilities. Very big, fairly clean and easy to find. They were everywhere. We walked over to the edge of the outfield and I saw the entire field. I voiced my wonder out loud and one of the workers overheard me and divined that this was my first game. She informed me to go to the Customer Service desk to get a special certificate that says it's my first Major League Game. Off we went!

Stephen first took me for a tour of the stadium. And what a tour it was. The smells of the food were driving me mad with hunger, the vendors were all working their booths with trained efficiency, the calls of "cold beer" and "programs" and "souvenirs" with other hawkers adding to the controlled chaos. My eyes darted everywhere at once, trying to take in the entire scene before me, my nose caught every odor, my skin tingled with the excitement of the upcoming game. We made our way over to where we were to sit, right by third base and then wandered through the crowds of people to the main food area known as "Ashburn Alley". Suddenly, Stephen stopped short right by Bull's BBQ and reaches into his bag and pulls out two MLB baseballs. He then directs me to a little corner area past the kids playing games to a little booth where a gentleman was sitting, signing balls and other memorabilia. It was none other than baseball great
Greg "The Bull" Luzinski! We got in line and quickly made our way to the front where Mr. Luzinski was gracious enough to take a picture with me. His World Series ring was incredible, by the way. We looked over the memorial wall and the bullpen where the pitchers warm up. Off we went back around and then stood in line for a sausage sandwich (he a soda, me a beer) and then got to our seats, which were ABSO-FUCKING-LUTLEY AMAZING! We were seven rows from the field, right next to the visitor's dugout and looking directly at third base. I was in awe and the pictures show it! I ran and got peanuts, because you GOTTA have peanuts at a baseball game, and we stood for the National Anthem. The singer was good, if a bit young, and she hit the notes at the end. A rousing applause and then it was PLAY BALL!

Our vantage point was great and very different from the view from the cameras on television. From where we sat, I could see the pitcher's throw which looks WAY faster than what you see on TV as well as the batter's stance, which is far different than the front view. The Phillie Phanatic did his shenanigans everywhere you looked and I was just astounded at how much fun everyone was having.

I was also a little jealous.

Yes, jealous. Everywhere I looked, there were kids and they had all obviously been there before and it took me twenty-nine years to see my first Major League game. Okay, in my parent's defense: I was the LAST kid you would ever think to take to a baseball game. The art museum, the theatre, a fashion show, something like that maybe but a sporting event...NEVER! I had no sports skills and was certainly not interested in watching them. Back then, I found them boring but now, I get to enjoy them on so many levels. One being the art of the game itself, the other being the HOT BASEBALL PLAYERS! And hell, with being gay, the names of the positions in sports have double entendre written all over them!

I found myself totally wrapped up into the game, though, and barely noticed the hot guys sitting all around me (especially the one in the red shirt right in front of us, right Stephen?). I definitely needed the seventh inning stretch. They had everyone up and standing, twisting this way and that, getting the blood circulating out of our butts. I also didn't notice that the sun, although hidden through many layers of clouds, was slowly burning my vampire skin. At one point, it drizzled so I thought I'd be safe. Later, I'd find that I got a hellacious sunburn. I bought a few (way)overpriced beers from the vendors that walked up and down the stands and cheered when "Light's Out" Lidge came out in the ninth and won the game for the Phils! I loved the camaraderie of the fans, all patting each other on the backs and smiling as they funneled out of the stadium. We had a munchkin with us, although he sat in another section, and they were doing a special promotion for the day. The kids got to "run the bases" and whilst our little guy got in line, I ran up to the concession stand to get a souvenir hat. I wanted a T-shirt but they didn't have them in anything other than super huge and I like to wear them out and about, not sleep in them. Back down near our seats, we moved up to the visitor's dugout and sat on that, waiting for the little kiddle's base run and took pictures.

Once all that was done, we packed up and off we went, back out to the car and the drive home, which I barely remember since I was on cloud nine...ten...eleven the entire time!

In the parking lot, Stephen gave me the Werth jersey and a T-shirt to boot! I also got a free pic of Raul Ibanez when I first walked in, the First Game certificate, the signed baseball and so many happy memories.

Stephen, thank you SO MUCH for giving me this amazing day! I owe you big time.

Next: Groomzilla!


Many recent events have come and gone and I have been remiss in not cataloguing them here. It's a shame. Over and over again, I hear the same lament concerning J-Land. The loss of our not-so-little community was (and still is) deeply felt throughout the larger blogger world. Time and again, I get comments and emails full of sadness and pain, wishing for those halycon days of not-so-long-ago when we regularly shared our lives with each other and felt genuine friendship with, essentially, total strangers. The J-Land Summit will forever be seared into my memory, that fleetingly special chance to meet so many of our little group and to act and interact like old friends. I still can't believe it's all gone. Well, not compleately gone, there are still a few of us holding on but that special moment in time is forever lost and I will forever wince whenever I hear the letters A, O and L spoken in my presence.
I know that I am still leery of posting these missives, fearing to lose them all once again, as the AOL Overlords so blithely did when they shut down the Journals. I have tried to save my newest entries on various sites (since my computer is currently in storage) in the vain hope that if (gods forbid) Blogger should shut down, I'll have them on MySpace or another site where I keep information. Our beloved J-Land may have been destroyed but the memories of everyone I met, got to know...and love...will never be forgotten.

On to better things...

My mother came to visit me recently! We had a wonderful day together. First, there was the coordination issues, which should have been fairly easy but with the two of us involved, problems always arise. The first wrinkle happened with the actual day of her arrival. She was supposed to come on a Wednesday and I made all the plans, getting everyone on board when I got the notice that she forgot an appointment and needed to push our day back one.



I text messaged Miss Patti about the changes and made some adjustments to my plans and everything was set. Thursday came and I hardly slept, I was excited to see my mom (and I won't apologize for it!), and I got up and got ready, running first to the Art of Flowers to kibitz and have some coffee. Of course, I get the phone calls from mom about the changes and I'm getting the impression she's never been to Atlantic City in her life, by the way she's going on and on about it! She has been here before, many times, and she has a GPS system as well but come on...it's not like every highway and road in the tri-state area doesn't have signs pointing you to Atlantic City!
I had intended for her to meet Miss Patti and I at the Irish Pub because she reads about it in the Cafe and I wanted her to experience one of my favourite haunts. I kept texting and ringing Miss Patti over and over trying to get a hold of her to no avail. Finally, her boyfriend answered and told me that she had worked late the night before and was sleeping in. I was livid! My mom hadn't seen her since before the surgery and really wanted to see her in the flesh, before she finally shrinks away to nothing! I grumbled and tantrum-ed for a bit, pulled my self together and got a ride from Lee uptown. I wandered down to the Pub and sat out on the boardwalk awaiting my mom's arrival. I didn't wait long, surprisingly, because she drove up five minutes later and parked and we went in to eat.

After some Bloody Marys and cheeseburger platters, we were stuffed and feeling good. I had had her drive to the Pub with the intention of giving Miss Patti a lift to the Borgata because she was on the earlier shift on Thursdays but, since Patti blew us off, we drove to Caesars where I had her park. I have Joe's Diamond Club Card so we wouldn't have to pay the five dollar fee. I took her through The Pier and then all around The Walk, window shopping and talking about everything. I took her to The Chelsea and showed her the area where we were doing the Gormley wedding (and the hotel itself, it's very nice). We then took a Jitney bus back to Caesars and went to The Continental to see Lance (whom she had never met but heard a lot about). A few martinis and some delicious food later, we decided that she just HAD to see Miss Patti and we got our acts together and took the Jitney over to the Borgata.
Once there, and after a brief tour of the casino, I found out where Patti was working and they finally got to see each other! I was happy. Patti had to go back to work and I took mom over to The Water Club to see the new hotel and we took pictures (which can be seen on my Facebook under Photos/Visitation). After that, we were back at Caesars and night was falling and it was time for her to get on the road. Sadly, we bid our farewells and off she went, following the sun, due west.

I went home and slept. Soundly. It was a very good day.

Next up: My first Phillies game!
After that: The Gormley wedding.

04 August 2009

Where The Hell Have I Been?

It's funny, I started posting like a madman on the Cafe and then...nothing, for quite some time. There's a reason.

There's always a reason!

My reunion with my Ex has cooled to the point of ice-age. There are a lot of reasons for that but I am not comfortable listing them here, even with my now limited audience. Fancy that! I used to bare my soul, evil and all for the entire world to see back in the J-Land days but now, after a few lessons learned over the years, I have been schooled in the art of discretion. Oh, I'm sure a few items will slip out here and there but for the moment, where Joe is concerned, the less said, the better.

On the work front, I have been at odds with my manager concerning my Friday nights. He's been unhappy with the turn-out (as have I) and he wants to sit down with me to see if there's anything we can do to salvage the event. Now, while all this has been going on and I haven't been behind the bar, Friday's have gotten better and better, as I had thought they would. It has taken time to build a crowd but they are coming. Of course, now I am on the outs with my boss so who knows what's going to happen.

I do! (But it's another thing I am not at liberty to say. Don't worry, you'll all be the first to know!)

My mother came for a day trip to the island of love and it was WONDERFUL! I'm going to write about the trip later today, I just wanted to post something to remind myself that I'm alive.

Off to the flower shop.