In college, I dated a really nice fellow named Chuck. He came from New York City. I liked visiting. His mom and stepdad lived in an apartment about the size of the house I grew up in, but it was a penthouse on East 70th Street with a 360-degree view of Manhattan: Central Park to the West and North, the towers of the Plaza and Pierre Hotels and the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings to the South and to the East, the Pepsi-Cola Sign in Long Island City. When there, we obeyed house protocol (it was the 70s) and I slept in his sister’s room (she lived mostly with her dad, who lived in the nearby Stanhope Hotel across from the Met and ate most of his meals in its elegant dining room). Chuck slept in the maid’s room (it had its own bathroom) located on the far side of the kitchen. Lying in Sister’s bed at night, I gazed directly at the red neon RCA sign that used to top 30 Rockefeller Plaza, symmetrically framed by the picture window. Nestled in my high thread-count sheets and fluffy Eiderdown pillow, I imagined a luxurious childhood.
Chuck graduated from McBurney, as did Robert De Niro and Henry Winkler a few years earlier, a school made famous, Chuck claimed, by the ‘gay anthem’ “YMCA.” He wrestled in high school and remembered creepy gay men who resided at the YMCA next door on West 63rd Street lingering around the locker room to watch naked teenage boys shower. In retrospect, that poor adults living in a Single Room Occupancy hotel whose residents were disproportionately gay would have been permitted to share bathing facilities with a neighboring boys’ school—at least simultaneously—didn’t faze me at the time. And, like most sports team members, he owned a varsity jacket.
Chuck wrested in a league that included a school named Holy Family. At one meet or match or whatever those competitions are called (I know I can google it but will not), Chuck traded his McBurney jacket for a Holy Family jacket. When we met, it instantly became my favorite clothing item to borrow (I also liked his shirts and professorly Harris Tweed sports coats). Eventually, the varsity jacket became mine. I wore it (almost) everywhere and enjoyed the smiles and attention it attracted. Anyone unfamiliar with varsity jackets or the names of Roman Catholic schools had a lot of questions, which I patiently answered.
One Christmas, I was hanging out with my best guy high school friend, Dave (he died of AIDS in 1990), and he began wearing it immediately and wondered if he might borrow it for a bit. Until Spring Break.
‘Sure’, I said.
Dave took it back to Toronto, where he enjoyed the smiles and attention it attracted. One Spring evening, however, he left it in a bar. He called it several times in hopes of recovering it and even left his phone number and address, but the jacket was never returned. He knew I wouldn’t be happy. When we next met, and pretty much every subsequent time, the jacket topic came up, but it eventually faded in interest compared to the entertaining stories my now Insurance Investigator friend could tell about his clients (he became particularly attached to a curtain-burner he visited occasionally) and about the back rooms of the leather bars he frequented when in New York.
Sometimes, I wonder how long the thief kept the roving Holy Family jacket? Does his son (or grandson) wear it? Did he leave it in a bar, or donate it when wearing a letter jacket no longer suited his self-presentation? When e-bay appeared, I looked for it occasionally, but it never turned up. Toronto friends, keep your eyes peeled! And, Holy Family jacket, wherever you may be, thanks for the memories!