Warning: May not be safe for readers living in freezing cold conditions The story contains graphic details about warm and lovely weather. Please refrain from praying for a big earthquake to hit smug California. It’s bound to happen sooner or later anyway and if you wish for it you will probably feel guilty when it occurs.
While California’s record setting drought of 2013 continued into the New Year my personal drought of the horny and romantic kind ended in Los Angeles on January 5.
It was t-shirt weather and I was stoned and feeling sexy in my favorite white Hanes. Resisting the urge to take care of things myself with a game of pocket pool I headed to the Sunday beer bust at the Faultline. I first met his friends and when he joined our little group he laughed at my jokes, kissed like he was hungry and had hands as strong as mine. Bingo.
Twelve hours later magic struck again. “I just have to let you know I’ve been staring at your sexy smile.” The clumsy seducer was gone and I was as sexy and charismatic as James Bond. It reminded me of the feeling I got when I was eight and realized I could steal change from my father’s dresser without getting into trouble. Vincente was as strong as he was sweet. It had been too long since I was wearing that kind of smile.
Who’s That Guy With The Vacant Stare and Tousled Hair?
I wasn’t planning on going to Los Angeles for New Year’s. I’d hoped to continue my recent tradition of taking a trip to celebrate. The kind of trip that doesn’t require any travel. A ritual to clear the mind, acknowledge the joys and to resolve the regrets of the year that had past.
But in 2013 I had planned to work instead, ringing in the New Year shuttling drunken revelers around while driving a pedicab I'd gotten my license in the middle of December. It pays better than catering in the busy season and unlike vehicular taxicabs you can refuse rides. “No sir, I cannot drive you up Nob Hill and down Lombard Street.”
Thirty years earlier, in December of 1983 I’d gotten my license to drive a taxi in New York. Déjà vu? To some it might seem like I’m the same man with without a plan I was after graduating college in 1983. Take a look at the picture on the two licenses and you might agree. My stare, not too mention my hair, are uncannily similar, although I like to think the older me has a certain sexy broodiness that the younger photo lacks.
With a few minor differences – the locale, pedals instead of gas, three decades instead of one day – and this could be a frighteningly fucked up remake of Groundhog Day. Yet then I was a brainy and creative college graduate who didn’t know what he wanted to do. While my instincts remain the same, the difference in my motivation is not. The grace of age and blessing of twenty-five years living with HIV means that this time driving a cab is a calculated risk not the lackadaisical passiveness of youth.
I’m trying to stay out of the box as long as I can. While I’m worried about what I'm going to do when I'm too old to work not too mention the problems of getting pimples on my ass, but until something else comes along or my body resigns in protest, I’ll make good money, be in great shape and have a nice all year long tan.
Well turns out I didn’t drive on New Years. The veterans had first dibs on this lucrative night. All the pedicabs were booked. So I decided to visit my friend Judy instead.
New Year’s Tripping Alternative: Let’s Visit Judy in LA
When I landed in LA the weather was even more gorgeous than in San Francisco. Despite the fact she’d been in Los Angeles for just two months Judy’s apartment felt like she’d been there for years. I met her in the 1984. I was helping my roommate Jill sell ceramics on the sidewalks of New York Judy was selling t-shirts.
That’s when Jill introduced Judy to Jake, our friend and college classmate. Judy and Jake had a long courtship, fell in love, got married, had three great kids, built a home and a terrific life in Portland, Oregon until 2007 when Jake died windsurfing, a sport he had mastered and loved.
Ever powerful, seemingly more since Jake’s death, Judy took care of the kids, made jokes about being a widow and last fall moved to Los Angeles to reboot her career, live in a place with better weather and meet more single men. We had lots to talk about.
Shortly after arriving at her apartment I walked to Whole Foods on Santa Monica Boulevard to buy food for dinner, a meal that would make a vegetarian cry, my unofficial tradition when I visit. I like to think I’m channeling Jake, who taught me how to roast a leg of lamb and how to cook a thick steak on a grill without grinding your teeth.
The girls drank wine, I smoked weed and drank tequila, while we talked about Jake, the randomness of life, how the guy who had it all was gone and me, the one with HIV for nearly half his life, was still kicking around complaining about how to get laid and pay the rent like it was still 1986. We talked about men and college and Lulu excitedly brought down her laptop as we watched a slide show, pictures of her ever-handsome Dad.
Friday was equally gorgeous. I toured Watts Towers with my cousin Lynda, both inspired and frightened by the obsessive genius who spent thirty years building this brilliant masterpiece and when he got too old and moved to live with his daughter in Northern California handed the keys to a neighbor and told him to take care of it.
Saturday shopping with Lulu and Judy, time by myself, and then dinner with an old friend who tried to persuade me to add structure to my life, worried that I should be more concerned about the future. I tried to explain my choices but I was talking to the wind.
I’m Working on Refining my Undefined Life Outside the Box
The next day, was the best of all. That morning, before my night of seduction, Judy took me to Santa Monica for yoga on the beach. We brought layers but it wasn’t cold, but sunny and warm. Porpoises danced with surfers in the water. Pelicans floated in formation and seagulls fought, squawking in the air over a mussel one bird held tightly in its beak.
The yoga class was as lovely as the weather. Towards the end, during shivasana, the final meditation, I was too alive to be still. Lying on my back, eyes closed I felt like I was tripping. Not from drugs, but from the sun and its heat, the sea and the surf and the sound of what I thought was a happy dog panting as it ran along the shore.
Lifting my head I opened my eyes wanting to watch. I laughed too loudly when I saw that the panting animal was not a dog, but an old man running slowly, getting smaller as he headed south.
I closed my eyes again and suddenly, starkly had a moment of breathtaking peace realizing that simple beauty of what every yoga teacher says in nearly every class. That yoga is like life and that losing my balance, sometimes time and time again, is part of the process of my path outside the box. If a pose of life is hard, notice, don’t judge, get curious, explore variations, adapt and most of all don’t forget to breathe.
At the airport heading home, waiting to board my flight I notice a very handsome guy sitting across from me, possibly checking me out. I was too timid to maintain eye contact long enough or think of something to say. If only I was on Scruff, GPS could substitute for my lack of nerve. Hoping we might be near each other on the plane I decided reading The New Yorker would keep me entertained and maybe add to my allure as well.
Acting nonchalant, I opened my carry-on to grab the magazine when my Ziploc bag of lotions and potions spilled on the floor. Bond, James Bond? Not yet, perhaps but who cares if he saw my face cream and cock ring. I’m working on refining my inner Bond as well.