Americans judge the nation’s fiscal well-being by the rise and fall of the Dow Jones Index, even though Wall Street’s accumulation of wealthy has reaped a mostly negative effect on the vast majority of workers. Next month's bonuses will not add a penny to the buying power of consumers buried under debt and corporations will trim benefits and wages to the bone in order to maximize profit. Other than Occupy Wall Street few employees protest working condition for fear of losing their job.
The economy is still in the shitter and I ask myself what jobs are available for a 60 year-old man.
Very few is the answer.
Years before I had been lucky that Manny always reserved a place for me on West 47th Street, but this year has been the exception. Times are that tough in the Diamond District.
Last month I sold some rings for a gay writer. I flogged his family heirlooms to a black gold dealer in another exchange for the best price possible. Going through Manny would have cut into the final number and the writer needed every dollar to pay his health care bill.
My friend showed his gratitude with a dinner at an Asian fusion restaurant in the East Village. Every seat was crammed with young people enjoying the fast life in the city. These go-getters were my competition in the morning for a subway seat. Luckily these happy-go-lucky youths were not ruthless enough to throw me under the train.
“I never see anyone my age on the subway.”
“Most men our age are retired.” Bruce was a world-known novelist. The heavyweight Syracuse native had won awards in Europe. Critics had recognized his genius. Sales for his last book totaled a little over 2000. “Do you have a retirement plan?”
He ordered with his finger darting over the menu. The waiter paid attention to his every word like he was a seeing-eye dog. Bruce had a way with young men.
“When I hit 70, I'm taking a plane to Norway to rob a bank. I'm going to shoot someone in the leg too so it's armed robbery, then they'll sentence me to 20 to life. I've seen photos of the prison for armed 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?" I had been doing a little non-union extra work for TV shows. The pay was $8 an hour with a meal. Twelve hours added up to almost $85 with overtime.
"Ever think about taking steel pole lessons from strippers? You could always lose ten pounds and work as a go-go boy at the queer retirement home.” Bruce’s biting wit was best suited to attack rather than self-deprecation.
“More like twenty pounds.” December hadn’t been so cold, although a steady diet of stress had melted the fat from my bones.
“Honey, those old wrinklies aren’t so particular about the weight. They like the young flesh.” Bruce had written a book on the rough trade in Times Square. His tricks had called him Papi. None of them were under 20 and he never sunk under 250 pounds.
“A scary thought.” I felt my age and my young Thai wife kept reminding 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 was a year from Social Security. “None of those old queens in the nursing homes have seen anyone young as you in decades. You could charge the homes $100 a visit, which has to be better for the old geezers than any other medicine.”
“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 it 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.”
“Supply and demand.” I ordered oysters with seaweed noodles, plus a glass of wine. The waiter was thin and handsome. He had to be 35 years younger than me. He wouldn't think of me as middle-aged. I was almost 60.
“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. The waiter walked away content to know that he would be receiving a 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’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?" She had been unnaturally blonde and thin.
."That's the one. You said she was over 70.”
“That was different.” The heiress had been the publisher of a Florida magazine. We had smoked reefer in her apartment overlooking Lake Worth. The address had been in West Palm Beach. "She wasn't really rich."
"But she had your number." Bruce was fascinated by the sordid.
“How?" The blonde septuagenarian spent part of a good part of her fortune on soaking her body in Botox like it was fondue cheese.
"As I remember it, she said 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 shooting a remake of SUNSET BOULEVARD.”
“It was a mercy mission.”
With the lights off, the curtains billowing with the 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 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 dude ranch college two years ago. He was lucky to have escaped the range without any charge for perversion.
“I know you do.” Bruce was in his 60s. His novels were in every bookstore in the East Village. His tales of hustlers and go-go boys were cult classic within the gay community. His name in in Wikipedia.
All that meant almost nothing. Bruce was forever broke. Same as everyone in America, for the very rich have no use for old go-go boys.
And I know, because wealth has a funny way of making an old man young, but I had a few good years in me yet and one of them would be in Florida.
Maybe Bruce was right and there was only one way of finding out and high season was only a summer away.