I recently returned from my Second Annual Northern East Coast Tour, which took me from Boston to Baltimore and several points in between earlier this month.
I launched the tour last year in response to the number one question from my friends on the East Coast – not “how’s the writing going?” or “when is the world going to recognize your inherent brilliance?”, but “when are you coming to visit?”
I had barely gotten back to LA from last year’s tour when that question first arose and with increasing inquiries into my next visit, I began to put together this year’s tour.
I was raised in New Jersey, lived in Brooklyn and Southeastern Massachusetts, where I spent time in Boston and Providence. I have friends in all these places as well as a brother living in Baltimore with his wife and two sons, so going to the East Coast is no longer the one-destination to New Jersey that it once was.
The tour went as follows:
Day One (Wednesday): Flew into Boston. Frank picked me up at the airport with his man friend Sawyer and took me to Fritz Bar in the South End. Grant met me there about an hour or so later to go to dinner at Picco’s nearby. Afterwards, I met up with Mark, whose apartment I crashed at for the night.
Day Two (Thursday): Took the commuter rail into the suburbs. Melissa and her young son picked me up at the Franklin Station. We stopped off at her house for a bit to see her husband Steve before heading up to Cheng Du in Marlborough for Happy Hour with eight former co-workers and four of their children.
Day Three (Friday): I took the train back into Boston for drink at Fritz (again) with Mark, Gio, Stan, Adam, Mason and James. I stayed with James in his apartment south of Boston.
Day Four (Saturday): I took the metro back into Boston proper to meet up with Horace for lunch at the Globe on Copley. Then I took the metro to the northernmost stop on the Red Line to meet up with Mitch, who drove me back down to Franklin for dinner at Michelle’s house, where I got to meet her two sons and see her mother and her husband. Angel picked me up there to drive me down to Providence, where he dropped me off at my friend Matt’s loft. Matt and I went to the Downcity Bar for vittles and cocktails, spent about 20 minutes at the final Waterfire of the season and then stopped off at The Stable and then the Eagle/Union before calling it a night.
It was at this point in the trip that I realized I was going to lose friends trying to see all of them. I made the determination at that point to pare down next year’s tour.
Day Five (Sunday): Matt and I went to Seven Stars Bakery for a light breffis. He then dropped me off at the Columbus Day parade going down Atwell’s Avenue on Federal Hill. I met back up with Angel and we surprised my recently-married friend Ken, his husband Ken (yes, they have the same name) and Ted. We spent the afternoon watching the parade, strolling through the adjoining festival, catching up on old times and holding court at the Tammany Hall Bar & Grill. That evening, after a nap, Angel and I head to Shanghai for Shangay (a Sunday tradition that dates back to when I still lived in Massachusetts). On our way home, we stopped off at the Stable to see some of Angel’s friends. I ran into a guy there I had never met in person before but who had recently defriended me on the Facebook during a recent purge. The night continued with some light dancing at Dark Lady and ended with one of my new acquaintances introducing me to a Latina drag performer.
Day Six (Monday): I was supposed to head down to New York City but I had so much fun the night before that I decided to extend my stay in Providence another day. Angel and I went to brunch at the Brickway Café on Wickenden Street, stopped off at the Curatorium across the street (whose handsome proprietor I’ve been crushing on since 2007) and spent the afternoon doing work at the Tea in Sahara coffee shop on Governor Street (a couple blocks away from the sorely-missed Reflections Coffee Shop). We stopped off at the Columbus Day festival for sausage and peppers as it was shutting down.
Angel’s was the first place I stayed over for more than one night since the tour began.
Day Seven (Tuesday): After breffis at Seven Stars Bakery (again), I took the bus down to New York City to meet up with Gareth, Dan, Brad, TB and Darren for Happy Hour at Therapy on 52nd Street in Hell’s Kitchen. I was supposed to stay over at TB and Darren’s apartment the night before but since I extended my stay in Providence, had pre-arranged lodging that night and was heading into New Jersey the next day, I told them this would probably be the only time I’d see them this trip. TB and Darren are like the aunt and uncle want the opportunity to either feed you or house you whenever you are within spitting distance of their home, so I got some grief from them. This precipitated a bit of a meltdown about how frustrating and exhausting it is trying to see so many people in such a short amount of time. After Grant and Dan left, Brad, TB, Darren and I headed over to Vlada Lounge on the next block. After another cocktail, I caught a cab to Abram and Racine’s apartment on the Upper East Side. Abram was supposed to be away on business but his plans changed and seeing him upon my arrival was a pleasant surprise.
Day Eight (Wednesday): I walked to the Cosmic Diner on 8th Avenue back in Hell’s Kitchen for brunch. The 22-block walk wasn’t planned but I didn’t know where any other diner was. I then took the Subway down to a Starbucks on 24th and 6th for Kawfee Tawlk with Ronald. I stayed there for the remainder of the afternoon until heading back up to Therapy for another Happy Hour with Jim, Marcie and Karla. To make up for Monday night, I decided to stay in the City another night and took the subway up to TB and Darren’s apartment in the Upper Upper West Side.
By this point in the tour, I was ready to hitchhike back to LA. This was by no means a reflection on TB and Darren’s always-excellent hospitality, but just a realization that this tour was already too long.
Day Nine (Thursday): I took a bus from Port Authority to a Friday’s in Parsippany for lunch with Aileen. She dropped me off at Mara’s Café in Denville, where I was meeting up with Jasper and Christine. Every time I go to Denville, I wonder why I am there. On paper, I have no reason to be. My parents haven’t lived there in almost a decade.
After a couple of hours, we parted ways only to meet up again for dinner with Mark (a different one) at Longhorn’s Steakhouse on Route 46.
With four days left on the tour, I finally booked my flight back to LA – via Charlotte.
Day Ten (Friday): I had morning coffee with Jasper’s mother. It was then that I realized why I keep going back to Denville. Jasper’s parents have known me for more than half my life and are a second set for me. They stood in the gap during some tough times and always welcome me with open arms. I could show up at random and they’d have a room ready for me. They could come home, find me at their dining room table and simply ask if I was hungry. Theirs is one of the last remaining visages of what was once home that I have. Though I now call Los Angeles my home, it’s nice to have that feeling of what once was every now and then. Earl picked me up at noon for lunch at the Tabor Road Tavern. Later that night, we went over to dinner at the home of a third set of parents, teachers from high school who also ran the theatre program. Janette, Tricia, Calyn, Calyn’s husband, Donnie, Karen and three young childrens were also there. A few short hours later it was time to go and I got grief from Janette’s mother for only having a few hours to spend with them. I stole a few extra minutes of talk time with Janette’s father, who is one of my favorite people in the history of the world.
Day Eleven (Saturday): I caught up with Jasper’s father briefly before Jasper drove me into the City to catch the Megabus down to Baltimore. My brother and I were surprising our mother who was in town for her birthday. She didn’t know I was coming. In fact, I hadn’t even told her I was travelling at all. Since my presence was so unexpected, it took her a minute to recognize me when my brother pulled into the bus depot with her, my sister-in-law and my two young nephews in tow. She did a double take and I waved. Then she screamed, ran out the car toward me and gave me a hug. I wish I had a video of it. I saw my four-year-old nephew looking at me from inside the van and motioned for him to come out and give me a hug. After some light shopping during which time I bonded with the nephews, my brother and I took mother out to dinner at PF Chang’s.
Day Twelve (Sunday): Family picture day followed by dinner at Red Robin.
And there you have it. 12 days. 53 friends. 13 childrens. 9 new acquaintances. And 5 family members.
Throughout the trip, people asked me if I was having a good time. I couldn’t say I was, but I couldn’t say I wasn’t. All I could say was that I tried to see too many people in too many places in too little time.
I discovered that I get this from my mother. I was born in a small town in Illinois where my father had spent his entire life. We left there when I was a toddler, but a lot of family and family friends remained. Whenever we’d visit our grandmother, my mother felt compelled to take us to see the other relatives, my brother’s godparents, my godparents and all those family friends who wanted to see my brother and me.
I feel similarly compelled whenever I step foot anywhere near the East Coast. It’s ridiculous to cram 80 people into a 12-day trip from across the country. But then I see my nephews. I witness my mother spending her birthday with her two sons and her two grandsons that she rarely gets to see. I ‘brace with people whose faces I only get to see on the Facebook, whose voices I sometimes get to hear over the phone and whose love for me (or some semblance of like) doesn’t come fully across in text messages.
So none of this is a complaint.
However, I’m paring down next year’s tour because I look ridiculous dragging my luggage through five cities – and the worn out wheels on that luggage are starting to make too much noise as I drag it behind me.