Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Night at the Park
My wife, who I’ll call Mom or Dr. Mom because she prefers to remain anonymous, told me I should not mention the name of the city in which we live. She says this is a convention of the mommy bloggers she reads. I’m not sure why our city needs to remain anonymous, but I know what happens when I ignore my wife’s advice. I end up getting a concussion or getting ripped off or losing all the data off of my computer or getting food poisoning or talking to Jehovah’s Witnesses for a really long time. So, suffice it to say that we live in a pretty good-sized city somewhere near one of your major oceans and not too far from a country where everyone speaks Mexican most of the time. Let’s call it Sunnyburg.
Sunnyburg is made up of many small neighborhoods, each of which has a distinct character and reputation. Our neighborhood, let’s call it Hipster Heights, is known as the city’s bohemian enclave, although many of the locals don’t seem to realize that. Even though the preferred attire here includes skinny jeans, tattoos, old-timey hats, and a kryptonite lock tucked into your belt that you can use to hitch your fixie to the rail outside of the coffee shop and brandish at drivers who honk at you during Critical Mass, there are also people obliviously walking around in broad daylight wearing Dockers and polo shirts. It makes you wonder what the hell they are thinking. I’m pretty sure I have even seen a few un-ironic mustaches. We also get some spillover ambiance from the abutting neighborhoods, Keepinitrealville to the East, and Fiercetown to the West. A typical block on the main drag of the business district in Hipster Heights boasts a coffee shop, a head shop, an adult bookstore, an art gallery, a dive bar, a tacqueria, another head shop, an extravagant dessert shop, a hipster bar, a really good restaurant, a bar for big hairy guys who like other big hairy guys, and a Supercuts. So it’s eclectic I guess.
Another thing about Hipster Heights is that it’s pretty expensive to buy a house here, even with the real estate bubble busted like a piñata full of lead-tainted lollipops. We bought our house about a year before the market peaked, and we paid more for it than my in-laws did for a brand new 4,000 square foot McMansion in the Houston suburbs. But our house was a shack when it was built in 1910, and had only been slightly improved upon by the time we bought it. 900 square feet, no foundation, single-wall construction (no studs), no insulation, no a.c. or heat, one 5’x5’ bathroom, one 8’x8’ kitchen, all the cast iron plumbing stacks exposed on the outside of the house. But we didn’t even care. “This place is a gold mine!” I gushed when we first walked in. And for the first year that we lived here—a year my mind’s eye sees as a reflection of my wife and me in a mirrored ball, clinking champagne glasses and throwing our heads back in laughter (except my wife is a white lady with a Dorothy Hamill hairdo…I think this might be an image from a documentary I once saw about Studio 54)—we did “make money.” By making some mostly cosmetic improvements in our house and faithfully checking Zillow.com, we “earned” enough “equity” to invest in a rental property! Oh, halcyon days! But that’s a different story. This is a story about tranny hookers.
One of the reasons Hipster Heights is so desirable is its proximity to the coolest park you have ever heard of. Let’s call it The Park. The Park, which someone told me is built on an old landfill, has nature trails, interpretive gardens, tennis courts, a dog park, a pool, a disc golf course, an archery range, soccer fields, baseball diamonds, bocce courts, volleyball courts, playgrounds, and a velodrome! A fucking velodrome! Do you have one of those at your neighborhood park? I thought not.
The Park is home, or playground, or hunting ground to all manner of man and beast: raccoons, rabbits, coyotes, hobos, professional recyclists, hawks, squirrels, skunks athletes, etc. I have visited the park almost daily since we moved to Sunnyburg, except for the brief time between the death of my last dog and the adoption of Fancy Dog Stella. While the atmosphere at the park can be like an international carnival on weekend days, it’s the sights and sounds of the night that really fascinate me: the hoary owl eyeballing Stella and me from atop the backstop, the hair-raising chorus of coyotes, the punk rock band throwing a guerrilla gig behind a storage trailer, and of course the tranny hookers.
Now, I have to admit that I’m pretty sure I only ever saw one tranny hooker, but she was popping up all over the place for a while. And by tranny, I just mean she was trans-something. At least transvestite, maybe transgender, maybe transsexual, who knows. That ain’t none of my beeswax. I just remember the first time I saw her, walking down my street toward The Park at about 11:00 pm, wearing a leather miniskirt and knee high boots, her teased blonde wig shimmering in the moonlight. I was all, “He-ey…there’s a tall drinka…oh…a tall drinka tranny.” And, to be fair, I don’t know that she’s a hooker. I would see her lurch bowlegged across the soccer pitch in the moonlight, her heels sinking into the sod, with some guy half her size. Or she would pop out from behind an electrical transformer, scaring the bejeezus out of both Stella and me. “Hush, Stella,” I’d growl from beneath my hoodie. “Atta girl, c’mon girl [whistles], yep—just out walkin’ the dog. Good girl, Stella.” So I don’t really know what kind of business transactions, if any, the tranny hooker was involved in; but I’m pretty sure she wasn’t just bird-watching, and I don’t think she was collecting aluminum cans in her swap-meet Louis Vuitton clutch.
I had heard rumors about the cruising scene at The Park, and I had always noticed men (neither fierce nor hip for the most part) roaming around after dark without dogs or athletic footwear. My instinct was to avoid making eye contact with these fellows, and to make it clear that I was with a dog, and later, with one or more babies (in the days before they had strict bedtimes of course). This arrangement, although it made me feel rude, was fine and seemed to be acceptable to the cruisers too. Except for one time when Stella was a puppy and I had to evade a guy who followed me in his car as I walked home, no one ever approached me. Incidentally, I’m not one of those straight guys who thinks that gay dudes will be unable to resist molesting them: after 7 years of going to the gym in Fiercetown, I haven’t received so much as a salacious look. This indifference both comforts and stings.
I don’t think attraction is a huge factor in the cruising scene at The Park. As I learned from a dear friend who knows about such things, it’s all about loneliness, horniness, and expedience. In an email that included more technical detail than I need to repeat here, my friend explained that most of the guys who cruise parks are closeted, married, or for other reasons unable to participate in the thriving open market in our area (I think he mentioned the word “ugly”). As to the etiquette of these encounters, my friend says they start with a stare and, if the stare is returned, move on to a grope, and finally culminate in a clumsy coupling in the bushes and a hasty parting of ways. Phone numbers are rarely exchanged and dinner dates are almost never in the offing. Or so my friend hears.
One night when the kids were about two months old, I had taken Butterbean (who we were calling “Midnight Demon” in those days) for a walk to quiet her screaming. Stella came along, of course. As we rounded the bend toward the fountain Stella always drinks from, there was a rustling in the shadows by the scoreboard. I put on my stern face and muttered something to Stella. The tranny hooker came tottering into the streetlight on her clacking heels. When I saw that it was her, I relaxed a bit and said “Oh—hey.” She didn’t respond, and we just kept walking.
It occurred to me as we headed home, Butterbean snoozing away in her Ergo, that as a parent, perhaps I should be concerned about the unsavory characters and goings-on in our neighborhood. I tried to summon up some outrage, but none arose. For some reason, even though The Park is only patrolled by a lone grandpa in a Wackenhut truck, you hardly ever hear about bad things happening there (there was a fatal shooting there a few months ago, but that was between friends). I wouldn’t go there alone at night without a big dog, and I don’t think Dr. Mom will let the girls hang out there after dark anytime soon. But The Park is like the ocean or forest: a self-sustaining ecosystem, with every coyote and rabbit and vagrant and cruiser and bocce baller and trash-picker and yuppie parent contributing and extracting resources in just the right amounts; and as long as we respect the system and don’t demand too much of it, we shouldn’t have to fear it.