Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The story of our meat and other stuff.

We just took a walk past Food Bar on 8th Ave.  (Actually, we didn't just take that walk; I started writing this earlier and then we fell aleep on the couch like 2 puppies in a pet store window.)  Oops, did I say "Food Bar"?  I meant to say "Chipotle."  Another neighborhood gay establishment gone, replaced with a chain restaurant.  And a few doors down, what used to be the other gay mainstay, Eighteenth & Eighth, situated in the storefront of a late 19th Century brick apartment building, is now a Valley National Bank in one of those glass & steel condo buildings that are taking over Manhattan, because what NYC needs are less independent small businesses and more fast food chains & ATM's, right?  Blech.

We didn't even eat at Food Bar very often, but it was nice to know it was there, you know?  Just like it was nice to know most of the people on the street or in the grocery store.  Just like they sang on Sesame Street.  And it was nice to know the guys who would drop their pants and have sleazy sex right on our street after an evening at the old leather bars, which are also gone (I think they became art galleries or maybe ATM's and Chipotles; why go down there to check and get depressed?).

We've lived in Chelsea for about 15 years and keep wondering where everyone and everyplace have gone while we're still here.  I keep hearing this sad, haunting Barbra Streisand song in my head lately because I wonder if it's true about the Ape and me.  Have we stayed too long at the fair?  Are we supposed to move to Palm Springs now?  

We also walked past Joe Jr's today (at 12th St. and 6th Ave.) and were saddened to see it was gone...another victim of the new New York.  It was a simple little family-owned traditional diner, at that location since the mid-1960's.  We were especially saddened to see Joe Jr's gone, not because we'd eaten there often, but because the one and only time we did eat there (around 1998) still holds great sentimental significance for us.  As a matter of fact, if you prefer the way the Ape and I look now, well, Joe Jr's had a hand in it.

Here's a photo I just got from Google Maps of Joe Jr's, probably from a year or two ago:

And here's the photo the Ape took with his cell phone today:

So, (btw, I need to clarify from yesterday's post: I only dislike sentences that begin with "So" if it's at the beginning of a post or essay or message...coming in the middle is OK...as opposed to cumming in the end, which is best of all) how was Joe Jr's responsible for our bodies changing from skinny twinks to muscle daddies?  Well, no, the service wasn't so slow that we aged 10 years by the end of the meal.  But Joe Jr's was the place where we ended about 7 years of veganism.

Tired of being skinny and always wanting to change our appearance, we were working out hard all the time at the old Better Bodies gym on 19th St.  Duane was religiously studying his weightlifting bible: Joe Weider's Ultimate Bodybuilding.  He learned all the right ways to lift and all the best routines.  He
 learned that we needed to do heavier weights with less reps in order to bulk up.

"Proper form!" was his
mantra, and I eagerly obeyed (I was much more submissive back then and he wasn't yet a Dumb Ape for me to mock).  We also studied the "Big Boys" at the gym to see what they did and how they did it.  But through it all, we stayed skinny stick figures.  If we were doing everything so right, why did all that time spent at the gym seem like such a waste? (Except, of course, for the time the Big Venezuelan Trainer forced us to our knees in the locker room to test our gag reflexes...now, that wasn't such a waste and we didn't waste a thing.)

But still, we wanted to grow.  Finally, we asked one of the Big Boys.  Danny was so thickly muscled that you could barely see his neck -- and his arms were perpetually out at 45° angles because of his monstrous lats.  "Ummm (clearing our throats and our voices cracking like Peter Brady), excuse me, Sir?  Can you please tell us the secret of getting big?" we begged, almost in unison.  The answer, after we told him we were strict vegans (no meat, no poultry, no fish, no dairy), was something that the Ape himself might say to some emaciated kids, were they to ask him the same quesiton today:  "Ya gotta eat steak!"

And then, almost as if in a haze, the three of us left the gym together and headed over to Joe Jr's.  We didn't really know where he was taking us...we just blindly followed, our hearts pounding in anticipation of doing something naughty.  We sat at the counter and he ordered 3 Roumanian steaks.  We'd never heard of that before, but we were putting ourselves in Danny's (and Joe Jr's) hands.

We each took a steak knife and fork in our hands, a little unsure of how to use them after years of meals consisting of tofu, steamed kale and carrot juice.  Also, would we get sick?  Would our bodies reject the meat, forcing us to remain skinny forever?  We'd originally become vegetarian for moral and health reasons, but vanity can be a much more powerful force.  We were determined to do this, if this is what it took to pack on the muscle.
We sliced into the steaks, each taking a piece on our forks, looking at each other hesitantly, taking a deep breath...until Danny pounded his fist on the table and blurted out, "Just fuckin' eat it already!"  So we put the forks in our mouths, started to chew, and...

Nothing happened.  It felt normal.  It felt like it had felt when we'd had steak all our lives before giving it up.  It took us back to our childhoods.  And dammit, it tasted good!  (That deserved an exclamation point; sorry, F. Scott.)

So, if you look at our photos and think, "Those guys are hot," please take a moment to remember Joe Jr's and the part that that great old neighborhood diner played in making us what we are today.  And mourn the fact that all of those great old neighborhood places are rapidly disappearing each day, as NYC real estate skyrockets and forces them out of business.  I doubt that Chipotle is changing anybody's life the way Joe, Jr's changed ours.

Thanks, Joe Jr's and Danny (wherever you are) (are you reading this, Danny?) (if so, hi, Danny...what's up?  What have you been up to since 1998?).


  1. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said you were sad that it had gone, not that you had eaten there often.
    We all like the idea of these friendly little places with character but so often we don't patronise them. I have exactly the same issues with shopping here and when I lived in the UK 15 years ago. There the High Streets all looked the same, same corporate store fronts, same merchandise. Here every new mall contains exactly the same fricken stores. And yet people say "Let's go shopping at Albany Mall instead of Botany Downs - THEY HAVE THE SAME BLOODY STORES PEOPLE!
    And they choose to get a coffee at Starbucks and takeaways at McDonalds and think their town has 'made it' when it gets one. I won't go to a Starbucks (except in the USA, it's ok there, you guys invented it). Here, I'll always choose the small cafe on the corner so hopefully, I'll still have choice in twenty years time, rather than be forced to go to a Starbucks.

  2. Oh, and thanks Joe Jr's and thanks Danny!

  3. Unfortunately it's not just in New York. It's everywhere. A lot of the places I went to as a child have disappeared. My grandmother is a connoisseur of hometown family restaurants. She has tried every last one in Louisville and can tell you where the best of the best is located. She has taken me to the various family owned placed through out my life and I can't tell you how many have closed over the years because times have gotten so tough for the smaller places. Just going out to have a great meal isn't what does it for people anymore. It's either got to be fast or with some flash. I'd rather have a good meal then be blasted out of the room by the current football game on, or worry if happy hour will cause the spill of another cheap drink poured down on me. Thankfully, I live in a small town on the outskirts of the city and we have a couple nice little restaurants here in down including Shack-in-the-Back BBQ and Fat Daddy's Pizza and Pub. Not exactly grandeur or exciting, but I know when I go in I'll know someone there and I'll know the service is always with a smile and good wholesome small town chitchat.
    Hopefully the small restaurants will come back into fashion and we won't have to worry about the massive chains taking all of them.

  4. Very nice! I enjoyed reading that.

  5. Thanks to Danny and Joe Jr's, you are CHELSEA BOYS. Yay for us!

  6. Don, we did patronize the local establishments in our neighborhood...that one was a bit out of the way, that's all.

    Thanks, curlyblonde, but we're not Chelsea Boys! They don't exist anymore. That's what I was trying to say. :)

  7. Well I'm glad you had better luck asking someone how to gain muscle mass.I had the opposite reaction when I asked back when I was a gym rat.You are aware who I asked right? "Oatmeal" LOL

  8. Dudes, just found this blog and love it! That post office story is hilarious! And having lived in Chelsea and the West Village for many years I know what you mean about those great establishments disappearing. Heck, I still miss Uncle Charlie's! -Dan

  9. Evn though I often make fun of them, even when I dont always feel like going there, I always try to patronize montly gay events and gay owned business because, if I don't, they may not be there anymore.

  10. Loving this blog with every entry that you write! Alas, the Decline of Queer Civilization has been going on for some time now, in every city I lived in, experienced some milestone of my life in. Atlanta, Tampa, DC. All the gay ghettos, hamlets, grottos, cul-de-sacs...You name it, they've gone the way of the dodo. Or soon will. I don't know if you've had the pleasure of strolling Dupont Circle here in the District, (our very own "Fruit Loop"), but if you could've seen it back in the '90's, you wouldn't even recognize it now. Our last bastion of true GLBT-ness, the Lambda Rising Bookstore on Connecticut Ave., NW, will close its doors for the very last time at the end of this month. A sad, sad day indeed. Especially after being there over two decades.

    As for all of the places I remember with the fondness you still have for "Joe Jr.'s", we had too many of those kinds of places here to list that are now gone. There are still some watering holes and feed bags that are holding on for dear life, trying to keep their individuality intact while hopefully staying in business. But the insidious takeover of Starbuck's, Chipotle and Smoothie King will not be deterred.

    On a lighter note, I feel like sending "thank you" cards to Joe Jr. and Danny myself...


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