A GAY OLD TIME

A GAY OLD TIME

The way the New Orleans trip came about is probably just as interesting as the trip itself. As I’ve mentioned before, about six months ago, I finally came out of the closet to my best friend from high school, Greg. Greg then decided to come out to his two best friends from college, Scott and Tim, and he ended up with two reciprocal coming out stories of his own. Yes, Virginia, there is an Irony Claus, and his generosity is unparalleled. Greg now thinks he has some kind of gay Midas touch, and he’s desperately stalking Carlos Moya in hopes of working his magic on him.

I guess you could see the whole setup as some freak coincidence — four guys who remain closeted or semi-closeted into their early 30’s somehow all being friends. Or you could look at it as fate, like some unseen force guided us to each other because we all secretly needed someone to relate to. But I prefer to think of it as a subconscious inevitability. Closeted guys are bound to gravitate toward each other, because we’re not comfortable enough yet to hang out with other gay guys and because straight guys talk about girls too much. If you find someone you get along with who doesn’t hound you with questions like, “Dude, isn’t she hot?” and “No, really, don’t you think she’s hot?” and “So, c’mon, did you bang her?”, you’re going to hang onto them as long as you can.

Greg had an idea that the four of us should meet up — I’d met Tim and Scott before, but didn’t know them all that well, and Greg hadn’t seen either of them in years. Since we all live in different parts of the country, Greg organized, appropriately enough, an outing, a short trip where we could ponder the meaning of all that had happened and, well, just do whatever people do in New Orleans.

With the exception of Greg, all of us are pretty shy, so there was some initial awkwardness as Greg tried to bridge the two groups. But if you’re in a group of four people, and you’re gay, it’s inevitable that your icebreaker will be to compare yourselves to the gals of “Sex & the City” and try to figure our who your respective counterparts are. And that makes everything much easier.

We all agreed that Greg was the Samantha. No longer the sheltered, insecure wallflower he was just a few short months ago, Greg has spent his post-coming out existence racking up an impressive list of conquests across the tri-state New York area. Make that four states. Greg arrived in New Orleans the night before I did, and by the time my flight landed in Louisiana, he had already found a local guy who would occupy a good deal of his time for the rest of the trip. Of course, that didn’t stop him from looking around for others everywhere we went. If not Samantha, Greg would’ve been Captain Stubbing, because he’s always cruising. Or maybe we should’ve just called him the Big Easy. Like this guy, he’s doing his best to make up for lost time.

Scott insisted that Tim was our Charlotte. Tim hadn’t seen the show, so he asked Scott to describe Charlotte for him. “She’s a prude,” was all Scott said. Tim protested this characterization, to which Scott replied, “But you are a prude.” Needless to say, Scott was our Miranda. (If that didn’t seal the deal, Scott repeatedly demanding, “I want to be Miranda!” would’ve done the job just as nicely, although if he said it one more time, we were going to make him Stanford.)

And that made me the Carrie, which made me feel like a respected leader, an above-the-line star in our show, even if it was more by default because all the other roles were taken.

Anyway, Charlotte and Miranda decided to go to a history museum, which seemed about as appropriate a vacation activity to Samantha and me as spending the afternoon taking an SAT prep course or golfing. So while they revisited the finer points of the Louisiana Purchase, Greg and I got our palms read by a psychic. We went in skeptical, but when the psychic told Greg he had been majorly confused until his mid-20’s, we became convinced she had the gift. Of course, it only took us a few minutes to realize that everyone is majorly confused until their mid-20’s. But still, it felt good when she told me I would soon come into large amounts of money and property. Money and property are two things it’s good to have large amounts of, or so I’ve heard. Street psychics in New Orleans are no longer allowed to charge for their services, but they do solicit donations. For my five-minute read, I coughed up ten dollars, and as we walked away, Greg told me he gave $25, which either made him a chump or me a cheapskate. But hey, I’m not gonna get my hands on all that money and property I’ve got coming by overpaying psychics.

We wanted to take a guided tour of the city, and since roughly half the tours we saw advertised were “ghost tours”, we settled on one of those. One brochure proudly advertised that their tour had “no fake vampires”, “no cheesy costumes” and “no phony scares”. So we knew to steer clear of that one. I wasn’t involved in the final selection process, but I do believe that the person in charge of picking (*cough* Charlotte *cough*) somehow managed to pick the worst ghost tour in all of Louisiana. We ended up being the only four people who showed up, and we were led around the French Quarter for the longest two hours of my life by a guy named Mitch, who would say things like, “This is one of the most haunted houses in the city. There was a guy who used to live here… I’m blanking on his name…” and “I don’t believe in vampires” and “This has nothing to do with ghosts, but…”

I spent most of the tour figuring out ways I could get far enough out of Mitch’s earshot to crack jokes about him to Greg, or texting Scott with a message that said “This blows”. Mitch seemed very jealous of the other, much, much larger tour groups we kept passing on the sidewalks. Many of them were led by gothic looking guides in creepy black robes and pasty makeup, and Mitch would tell us under his breath that he knew the guide and “He’s from Cincinnati”. (At one point, Greg made the “Rrrwwweeeeerr!” cat screech sound.) It didn’t help that about 90% of the ghost stories seemed to be about abused slaves who were slaughtered by their mass murdering “masters” and whose only revenge seemed to be decades of showing up in people’s mirrors for a split-second in the afterlife. Geez, that kind of spoils the silly, escapist fun of the endeavor, doesn’t it?

On our last day in town, we took an airboat tour of the swamp. If you go to New Orleans, make sure you take an airboat tour, rather than the other kind of boat tour. Airboats go fast and do neat Miami Vice kinds of turns and stuff. Our guide looked just like Chunk from the Goonies, only with more tattoos. We saw four different gators, or possibly the same gator four times.

Scott and Tim turned out to be great guys, and, as Greg predicted, we bonded by making fun of him. And except for some surprise and/or bemusement at how much of a Samantha Greg had become, the gay thing didn’t seem to be that much of an issue for anyone. It was great that it hadn’t affected anyone’s friendship, but after the century or so of cumulative closet time between us, it seemed a bit anticlimactic to say the least.

New Orleans struck me as the kind of place that’s best visited the day you turn 21, because it becomes progressively less fun every day of your life after that. Sure, there were some middle-aged people stumbling around Bourbon Street at 3 a.m. in a drunken haze with half empty margaritas in their clutch, but trust me: you don’t want to be like them. In fact, I think the time for me taking a trip to New Orleans to be cool will officially pass me by at exactly… er… NOW. I’m really glad we went when we did.

Still, it would’ve been even better to have gone there ten years ago.

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