Tales From My Days of Unemployment…
Monday morning, I called Danny to see if he was ready for me. “Yeah, come on over. Oh, and I’m having drinks with K.S. tonight, so I’m gonna bring you. He likes it when I bring tots, so look pretty.”
Later that day, while we were having a late lunch at The White Horse Tavern, Danny started filling me in on K.S. (who I keep wanting to call Perry Smith, but that’s wrong wrong wrong).
“Well, he’s the world’s leading expert on ancient Egypt, but don’t dare ask him anything about it. You aren’t worthy to discuss it with the master. There are probably only 12 people in the world who are allowed to talk about Egypt with him. He’s about 78, and he’ll probably tell you as soon as you walk through the door that he had prostate cancer and can’t fuck anymore; he can only get fucked. He married a Rockefeller, so he has piles of money. And he lives at 1 Beekman Place.”
“Beekman Place? Where Auntie Mame lived?!?”
“Yep. View of the East River, art everywhere… We lived together on Fire Island, and he begged—begged for his roommates to put a leash around his neck, make him get on all fours, and walk him into town naked. They refused to, so he kicked them out. And Bob, his poor boyfriend, has to hang him from the ceiling and shoot foam darts at his penis.”
In the cab on the way, Danny warned me that, “If K.S. passes out, we’re just going to leave. He’ll stand, totter, and fall, and we’re gone.”
K.S. was taking his diabetes test when we got there, so Bob let us in and served us drinks in the enormous living room. Twenty-foot ceilings, a terrace on the East River… And if K.S. was Vera, passed out in the Marie Antoinette room, and Danny was Auntie Mame with me as his Patrick, that leaves Bob as Ito. I mean, he answered the door in a brown sweater that tied with a big leather belt at the waist.
K.S. finally came down, as I was halfway through my drink. He teetered over to me, and I stood up and shook his hand, and then he sat in the chair beside me.
Danny took over the conversation.
“Mark just graduated from Sarah Lawrence College.”
K.S. looked at me from eyes that lacked eyelashes, from under eyebrows with only a few wisps left. Poor Bob, I thought. I hope it’s worth it. Finally, K.S. was ready to speak. In a faltering, British-tinged voice, he gravely informed me:
“I once shook the hand of FDR.”
“K.S., what does that have to do with Mark or his college?”
“I met Wen-dell Wil-kie once.”
And that’s pretty much how the conversation went. Well, actually when we finally made our excruciatingly slow way to the Thai restaurant around the corner, K.S.’s faltering attempts at conversation were accompanied by his drooling.
As Danny and K.S. snipped and snapped like an old married couple (and it’s a testament to how out-of-it K.S. was that Danny seemed like a paragon of sobriety), Bob and I exchanged looks, like, “Well. They’re old, but they’re fabulously connected, with money.” Which would have been more appropriate if Danny had money.
The check came at last—though I do wish I’d been able to go back to that fabulous apartment one last time—and Kelly sloooooowly pulled out his credit card to pay. “Don’t forget the tip,” I reminded him as he left the line blank. I think his hand might have been on my knee again, which would explain why he insisted I sit next to him.
“Oh, I do that sep-ar-ate-ly.” He proceeded to rifle through his wallet, past twenties and tens until he found a five dollar bill that he tossed down on the table as he groaningly pulled himself to an upright position.
As soon as his back was to us, I threw down the only bill I had in my pocket—another five. And Bob tossed down $25. When Danny realized what was going on, he ran up to K.S.
“You cheap old man! That poor boy had to put his whole welfare check down to cover your tip!”
I called Ian about it, and I’ve never made him laugh so much. “Isn’t it amazing that K.S. is still alive?” he asked.
“Is he? Because I’m really not sure.”
It was an absurd, uncomfortable night, but I had a good time. If nothing else, I went to Beekman Place for cocktails, and I’ve learned a valuable lesson: Don’t be a kept man past your twenties. Because then the ones keeping you are terrifying.