When I first moved to NYC from South Florida almost 2 decades ago, it was definitely an exciting time. For the first time in my life I truly felt that there was always something to do but never enough time to do it. In the past, I felt done. Done with the same old places we went to in Miami that people from all over the world came to see. Done with Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors which in itself was the mecca of gaydom. The people all seemed the same. The places all seemed the same. Life seemed the same. What was the point of it all when it would all be the same again tomorrow.
Here, things were different. The lights. The people. The never ending restaurants. The clubs. The music. The cliché, yet truth of it all which was constantly at your fingertips and tantalizing your senses. I felt on, always in tune with life. Always ready for the next this, the next that, the next search.
One weekend, a few months after arriving, I did a dance workshop. I used to dance back in Florida and I was lucky to get into this 4 hour workshop with an amazing choreographer. I remember leaving the studio sweaty, exhausted, and starving yet feeling so amazing. Since I was in Chelsea, I walked over to 8thAve and popped into a restaurant as they were winding down brunch. I sat at the bar, ordered my meal, and waited for it while sipping a mimosa, watching the people pass by outside. It was a beautiful parade of all colors, races, ethnicities, shapes and sizes, each doing their own thing, living their lives unconcerned about anything else around them. As I watched, the bartender came over and gave me another glass, pointing in the direction the of person in the restaurant who bought it for me. I looked over, he nodded, I smiled, and he walked over, taking a seat beside me.
The moment was electric and God was he beautiful. Even writing this now years later my stomach jumps thinking of that time. Tall, a few years older, athletic, Italian, funny, we talked and drank getting to know each other better with the hum of the restaurant as our backdrop. One night a few weeks later as we were hanging out, he turned to me and said “Whatever happens between us, always remember it is important to have your gay friends.” So, that was random. He could tell that I did not know what to think so he said “They will always understand.” At that time I found that statement to be insulting. For me, a friend was a friend and since pretty much all my friends at that time were straight and super accepting, I didn’t see the correlation. I remember laughing a little, saying something that I can’t recall now, and dismissing the moment.
Well, we didn’t work out. It became the typical NY thing and the connection was lost, broken by other shiny objects, sense attracting deterrents. Yet his words stuck with me and looking back all these years later, it was some of the best advice I have been given. So much has changed in the word, in the US alone, since then. We have made great strides in so many ways of which we should be proud. Equal marriage. The option to adopt. Men and women dominating their careers and areas of interest without a thought of their sexual orientation. Yet through all of this, it is the connection of likeminded and like experienced people that creates the foundation for the matrix that others can now build upon.
I look around at my group of friends now and they are truly mixed. Every color and creed, sexual orientation and financial fluidity. I still hold true to my initial statement to that guy years ago that a friend is a friend, but someone who lives an experience has the potential to offer more support than one who does not. I can honestly say I don’t get it when my friends and coworkers with small kids tell me about their lives. Talk about always being on! I don’t know how they do it. It is like having 2 full time jobs, one with a pay check that may never come. When I am not working, I’m done or at least have the choice to be. I can sleep in when I want, go out when I want, and not have to worry about making sure that another life is cared for, nurtured, and giving all the opportunities that the world has to offer. Does that make me a bad friend? No, not at all. Just a friend living a different experience who will support you but may not fully be able to understand.
The lights in the city are still bright, but they always are. The people are still colorful and doing their own thing, which will never change. Restaurants have opened and closed, the mega club scene is pretty much nonexistent, and music continues to propel us in the direction of our dreams, regardless if we get there or not. After being in the northeast so long, in many ways I have done it and the patches of work, recreation, and sleep now form the fabric of life. Yet through it all, it is the connections and relationships that have been built and sustained which form the thread weaving this garment together.
Life is busy. Life is full. Yet when you look around and there is no one there to share a laugh with a simple look, give a shoulder when you are tired, or a hug when you have had enough, the shiny objects fade and life is less electric. So through it all, as we find ways to be present and conscious, look around you. Support those who need it by giving a little bit of yourself because it is never wasted. Reach out to those in your life who have been there but you might not have talked to in a while just to keep that flow alive. It is always worth it because we are always worth it.
Till we next connect,