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the Supper Club

empty-stage-and-micThe walls are purple, and I think what an interesting choice.

I can picture Liberace on the stage years ago, Freddie Mercury and Mae West and Judy Garland and Cher and the Solid Gold Dancers and Joan Rivers, perhaps Merv Griffin and Paul Lynde. I can picture the crowds of men in Palm Springs, gay men who are out and proud, laughing with the wine and beer flowing. Drag shows and thick curtains, late nights and cocaine, alcohol and dancing.

I imagine what Palm Springs must have been like back then, the freedom, the glamour of it all, out and gay, colorful and sexy and exhausting, all those men tired of hiding and now there and free to be themselves.

I’m in a “supper club” in early January, 2016, in Palm Springs, California, and a smile comes to my face as I picture what this place used to be, and then I look at what it is now. Times have changed. Gay people are out everywhere, and with new phone apps they no longer have to go to clubs and bars and health spas to meet each other. But this place has that feel to it, still here, still entertainment-focused, but with such a different feel.

I look over the crowd. Mostly older, and an even mix of gay and straight couples, most of them likely tourists here on the close of their vacations. A couple in their 70s with Irish accents sits at the table next to me, both small and thin, and they have finished a bottle of wine between them. At the table just behind me, an older gay man is loudly telling his friends about meeting a younger man “on the Internet”, something he apparently vowed he would never do, and he boasts at how the sex was amazing. An older couple sits behind me, a man and a woman, who are talking to their gorgeous adult daughter, lauding her for her success as an interior designer.

The waiter makes his way from table to table, clearing plates and refilling drinks. I order something yummy and sweet and cleverly named, and my date gets a glass of wine, and it’s clear the show is about to start. I haven’t been to a stand-up comedy performance in years. My date and I have been seated right next to the stage. I take a sip of my drink and lean over, whispering, “you know the comedian is totally going to make fun of us, right?”

A few minutes later, a woman in her early 50s comes on stage and delivers her routine, something you can tell she has done for years before. She cracks jokes about her difficult past, her daughter being on the straight and narrow, and her judgmental mother who now has selective Alzheimer’s, and closes with a long joke about her grandmother giving her sex advice. It’s corny and fun, and I find myself laughing good-naturedly.

A heavyset man in his late forties comes out next, with his opening line “Hello, gays and gals, I’m only gay on the weekends.” He tells jokes about growing up Jewish and gay and spends plenty of time looking around the crowd, interacting with them and making fun of them. Most of the crowd is buzzed on alcohol now and they are laughing hysterically at the jokes made at their own expense. The elderly Irish couple keep speaking loudly, interrupting his routine, and the comedian takes it in stride, teasing them but being sweet and kind.

“Well, now, who do we have here?” The comedian takes a look at my date and I at our table. “They put you two right up front for me, how nice.” Throughout the evening, he keeps referencing us, talking about us in between his jokes. “I can’t decide which one I want to take home and tie to a chair. Either of you want to volunteer?” Another time, he winks at me, and says “See you after the show.”

Toward the end of his routine, the comedian performs a hilarious version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, as if an overly excited auditioner on a reality television show were singing it. He steps off the stage and promptly sits in my laugh, wooing me a bit to the delight of the audience.

And then soon the show is over. The supper club with the purple walls begins to clear out as people gather their coats, empty their drinks, and head to the door, laughing. I take a moment to sit there, surveying the room, wondering about the history of the place again, getting lost in time for a moment. I once had a psychic tell me that when I enter a building, I bear with me the entire history of the place and the people who dwelt there, and a smile crosses my face as I realize that I’m doing it again, whatever it is.

On my way out, I stop to shake the comedian’s hand, expecting him to flirt again, but he is suddenly very  mild-mannered. He shakes my hand, gives a grin, and says, “I hope you enjoyed the show”, and I realize that he is very different off-stage than he was on.

I take one last look at the purple walls, feeling all of the joy that has been had here, and I wonder what the room is like when it is quiet, when the business closes and all that is left is the history of the night before and the coming of the next show. I carry that history with me as I step into the chilly air outside.

the woman on the plane

The older woman in the plane seat next to me let out a small, gentle, relaxed snore. She had slept through the drink and snack service and the collection of trash by the flight attendant. She was likely around 60, hair colored blonde and carefully styled, parted in the middle. She had on a stylish black sweater, white pants, and leather boots, with a gold necklace and brown belt. She was thin and fit with light makeup on. A true beauty.

Except perhaps for her open mouth, head tilted back, both sets of teeth showing as she breathed deeply, letting out another small snore.

I had to use the restroom and had been waiting patiently for over an hour for her to wake up, as she was in the aisle seat and I was in the window. We were on the front row of the small plane, and the restroom was all the way in the back. I estimated we had 30 minutes of flying time left and I wondered if I could somehow step over the sleeping woman.

I undid my seat belt, stood, and prepared to lift my right leg over the woman’s lap and step into the aisle. Just as I was reaching my leg over her, the woman woke up, laughed, patted my raised thigh with her hand, and said, “Now hold on, I can stand up.”

I returned from the restroom a few minutes later to find her smiling. “Boy, I really slept.” She had a lovely smile.

I buckled my seat belt once again. “Well, it’s just a few days after New Years. I don’t blame you for being tired.”

The woman rolled her eyes. “I was in bed by ten on New Year’s Eve, that’s hardly it. Just anticipating a few busy days of work.”

I extended a hand. “Hi, I’m Chad.”

She shook it gently. “Glory.”

I looked out the window at the snowy mountains below and knew we were getting nearer to air-polluted Salt Lake City (a terrible winter condition), leaving the chilly deserts of Palm Springs, California behind. “Do you live here in Utah?”

“Both places, actually. My husband and I own homes here and there and divide our time. We would probably leave Utah, but our daughter and grandson are here.”

“I live here as well. Been here about five years. I was in Palm Springs for the first time on vacation there.”

Glory nodded. “I grew up in Salt Lake. I like it well enough, but we adore Palm Springs. About 75 per cent of our neighbors there are older gay male couples. It’s such a nice change.”

I was surprised. I knew Palm Springs had a huge gay population, but was shocked to hear a Utah-based grandmother site this as a fact she liked to a stranger on the plane. We talked for the next several minutes, sharing stories. I told her that I was a gay father, co-raising my sons with their mother. We talked about her work in administration, and mine as a self-employed social worker. The pilot announced that we were beginning our descent into Salt Lake City as Glory showed me a photo of her adorable grandson, and I showed her a picture of my sons.

“So, Chad, tell me, what is it like being gay in Salt Lake City? I mean, really? I know there is a large gay population here, but it just seems so strange.”

I laughed out loud. “Strange is a good word for it. It’s unique here. The religion. The lack of diversity. And being a gay father compounds things. But I love it here.”

A few minutes later, the plane was landed and Glory gave me a small hug as we were still seated. “You’re on a good path, Chad. A good career, two beautiful kids that you clearly love. I have a feeling this year will hold good things for you.”

As I walked down the ramp, backpack on my shoulder, I waved at Glory one last time, and she smiled back. I remembered her last words, and found myself agreeing with her. ShittyCity

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