Americans tend to judge the nation’s fiscal well-being by the rise and fall of the Dow Jones Index, even though Wall Street’s accumulation of wealth has destroyed the spending power of the middle-class. The January bonuses for the hedge fund managers will not save a single consumer buried under debt, after which the corporations will trim benefits and wages to the bone to maximize profit.
Few employees protested the low pay in fear of losing their jobs with good reason.
The nation's economy is in the shitter and I asked myself what jobs are available for a 64 year-old man.
Very few was the answer.
Years before I had been lucky that Manny reserved a place for me on West 47th Street, but this year has been the exception. Times were that tough in the Diamond District.
Early in December I flogged a gay writer's family heirlooms to a gold dealer in another exchange.
Later that evening at his East Village apartment I paid Bruce $4000 minus my commission.
"Now I can pay my health insurance," the heavyweight writer sighed with gratitude and invited me an Asian fusion restaurant on Avenue B. Every seat was crammed with young people enjoying the approach of the holidays.
“I never see anyone my age on the subway.” These go-getters were my competition for a subway seat in the morning. Thankfully none of them were ruthless enough to throw me under the train.
“Most men our age are retired.” Bruce's finger darted over the menu. His thinning hair was bleached blonde, so he resembled an aging beach bum. The waiter paid attention to his every word like he was a seeing-eye dog. Bruce was generous with young men.
“You're not dying anytime soon."
"I'm too healthy for that." My health care plan was never get sick.
"Do you have a retirement plan?” Bruce was a world-known novelist. Critics had recognized his genius. Sales for his last book totaled a little over 2000, but he owned his apartment and in another year he would be old enough to receive Social Security.
“When I hit 70, I'm flying to Norway." I ordered oysters with seaweed noodles, plus a glass of wine. The thin waiter had to be 35 years younger than me. He wouldn't think of a 60 year-old man as middle-aged, but neo-senior.
"Yes, I'm going to rob a bank with a gun, then they'll sentence me to 20 to life for armed robbery. I've seen photos of Norway's prison for violent offenders. The rooms have computers and are furnished by IKEA.
“Ten years from now the Norwegian prison officials will have instituted euthanasia for the elderly, so robbing a bank in Oslo is not really an option."
"You have any other suggestions?" Supporting my family in Thailand had wiped out my savings.
"Ever think about taking steel pole lessons from your stripper friends?"
"If you lost ten pounds, you could work as a go-go boy at a queer retirement home.” Bruce’s biting wit was best suited to attack rather than self-deprecation.
“Honey, those old wrinklies aren’t so particular about the weight. They like the young flesh.”
“A scary thought.” Just yesterday my Thai wife reminded me over the phone that I wasn’t 17 anymore. Mam was 28 and my son was four years-old. I couldn’t quit working until I was 78.
"Those old fags want someone young.” Bruce had written a book on the rough trade in Times Square. His tricks had called him Papi. None of them had been under 20 and he never sunk under 250 pounds.
“Those old queens in the nursing homes haven't seen anyone young as you in decades. You could charge the homes $100 a visit, which has to be more beneficial for the old geezers than any other medicine. And you could do lap dances.”
“Thanks for the idea, but I'd rather rob a cradle than a grave."
"Times change and people like you and me have to change with them, plus graves are richer pickings than a cradle. Hell, you could franchise the go-go scheme in Florida. How many retirement homes you think are in the Sunshine State? Thousands? There has to be a demand for middle-aged men from the elderly queers.”
“Supply and demand.”
“And who knows? You might be able to sex them up for a little more money on the side.” Bruce caressed the waiter’s behind. He was a regular here and the waiter smiled with the anticipation of good tip. Bruce liked to pay for sex even if it was merely a grope.
“No way. I barely wanted to have sex with myself let alone with someone else.”
“Why, because you think you're too good to have sex with someone older than you like me.” He frowned at this unintended insult. “What about the woman you had sex with in Palm Beach?"
"Helen?" The Palm Beach heiress had been unnaturally blonde and fashionably thin. We had been introduced by my longtime mistress at the Breakers four summers ago.
"That's the one. You said she was over 70.”
“Closing on 75.” Helen published several magazines extolling the good life on the Gold Coast. She had invited me to her house on Lake Worth. The fragrance of her garden had overwhelmed by the reefer she smoked in a diamond encrusted hand.
We spoke about sex. Helen knew the world; past, present, and future.
"She had your number." Bruce was fascinated by my sordid encounter.
"As I remember it, she said that she hadn’t had cock in her mouth in ten years. She had begged for it and you gave it to her like you were remaking SUNSET BOULEVARD.”
“It was a mercy mission.” I did look a little like William Holden in the shadows of her bedroom.
With the lights off, the curtains billowing with the evening breeze, and Helen wearing sheer lingerie and satin high heels, I imagined that she was Paris Hilton in the year 2040. On her knees the mirage had performed fellatio like she was entering the Porno Hall of Fame. Thankfully she had never said, “Ready for my scene, Mr. DeMille.”
Maybe the first time, but what about the second time?” Bruce sat back, as the waiter delivered our appetizers; fried calamari for him and raw bluepoints for me. “Gore Vidal said about orgies that once is experimentation, but twice is perversity.”
“The second time was because I was drunk.” Two bottles of wine and a joint had loosened by inhibitions and she had had her way with me. “There was no third time.”
"Only because you saw her with another man at the Chesterfield.”
“She was in the Leopard Lounge.” The other man had been in his late 60s. He had once been an Elvis impersonator. I felt cheap.
“And you heard her use that ‘haven’t tasted cock' line on him, so don’t tell me you can’t go-go boy anymore. We all have a price.”
“I’d rather rob a bank in Norway.” I sucked down an oyster tasting of the Atlantic.
“And end up a stick boy in a Viking prison.” Bruce was enjoying himself. "You don't look like you'd like being a bottom."
"Never." I never would be a bottom, except with my wife Mam. She got off better that way.
“You do what you have to do to survive. Believe me. I know.” He had taught creative writing at a Wyoming dude ranch college two years ago. He was lucky to have escaped the high plains without being charged for perversion.
“I know you do.” Bruce was forever broke same as everyone in America, but maybe Bruce was right and the only one way of finding out was by a repeat performance in Palm Beach.
We clinked glasses.
“To go-go boys.”
“And Florida.” I felt lucky as would anyone with high season only a month away from December.