David C Dawson's blog

David C Dawson's blog

Three Days to Go – The Ess-a-Bagel Deli

Chorus tour of the USPosted by DavidCDawson Sun, May 14, 2017 16:09:12

Three Days to Go – The Ess-a-Bagel Deli

In three days I’m flying to America with the London Gay Men’s Chorus for a twelve-day tour. We’ll be singing in New York and Chicago.

As always happens in America, I’m spoilt for choice.

During a brief lull in our hectic tour, we’re going to be eating at the legendary Ess-a-Bagel Deli on 3rd Avenue, New York. Apparently, it’s been around for over thirty-five years, which they say is 150 years in New York restaurant years.

Because there are around a hundred of us on the tour, all pitching up at this deli one lunchtime, we’ve got to order in advance.

So we’ve been sent the menu. Which is like a small book.

Apart from the bagel (standard bagel? mini-bagel or sliced bagel?) should I go for the matzo ball soup, or just a salad?

Or what about a salad sandwich? That’s a new one on me.

Or maybe a conventional spread sandwich? If so, do I want peanut butter or jelly? Or maybe apple cinnamon cream cheese, banana nut cream cheese, berry berry cream cheese, chocolate chip cream cheese, lox cream cheese, oreo, pumpkin, scallion, strawberry, sun-dried tomato, vegetable, or just plain cream cheese?

And if I want a cheese sandwich instead, do I want American, Swiss, Gouda, Jarlsberg, Pepper Jack, Fontina, Havarti, or just plain cheddar?

And should I order the potato knish to go with?

I haven’t even started on the choices for dessert…

According to this article I’m reading on the internet, the Ess-a-Bagel Deli also known as His Hole-y-ness the Doughy Lama. Oh yeah..

Next: Why protest songs?

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Four Days to Go – So Good They Named it Twice

Chorus tour of the USPosted by DavidCDawson Sat, May 13, 2017 16:15:15

Four Days to Go – So Good They Named it Twice

In four days I’m flying to America with the London Gay Men’s Chorus for a twelve-day tour. We’ll be singing in Chicago and New York.

New York.

I’m flicking through internet pages, deciding what to do during the few days rest we’ll have in New York.

I’m like a kid in a sweet shop.

There’s so much to see. So much to do. I don’t want to make a wrong choice.

I’ve been to New York many times in my life. I was first there in 1975 on a school trip. That’s when I first fell in love with this loud, brash, grimy, beautiful city.

I returned years later on my honeymoon. My wife and I saw the show 42nd Street on 42nd Street. At the end of the show, we ran to the Port Authority building to catch the last train out to New Jersey, where we were staying.

When I was with the BBC, I filmed there many times. It’s really easy to film in New York. Far easier than London. Everyone in New York likes a film crew. Everyone wants to be on camera.

The last time I was there was in 1997 with my wife and four year old son. The twin towers were still standing then, and we stayed at the magnificently retro Mayflower Hotel on Central Park.

A lot’s changed.

I’ll be staying with my host, also called David, from the New York Gay Men’s Chorus. He lives in Chelsea, just a few blocks from Greenwich Village. He’s lending me a Citibike pass so I can ride around Manhatten on a bicycle.

That will be interesting. I’d better go and check out my insurance.

Next: The Ess-a-Bagel Deli

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Five Days to Go - Choreography Panic

Chorus tour of the USPosted by DavidCDawson Fri, May 12, 2017 17:50:43

Five Days to Go - Choreography Panic

In five days I’m flying to America with the London Gay Men’s Chorus for a twelve-day tour. We’ll be singing in New York and Chicago. And dancing.

That last word terrifies me. I am the definition of dad dancing.

And yet.

Five years ago I joined a gay men’s chorus (“Europe’s largest boy band”) that not only sings – but dances.

Choral-ography they call it. Two hundred gay men in perfect synchronisation.

Well, one hundred and ninety-nine – plus me. Usually a beat behind everyone else. The Corporal Jones of the London Gay Men’s Chorus.

In the show we’re taking on tour we’re going to be dancing to…

…but I can’t tell you. It’s got to be a surprise.

So I’ll tell you about just over two years ago. On the stage of the Queen Elizabeth Hall on London’s South Bank.

We were performing a very action packed version of Jai-Ho – the fabulous song performed at the end of Danny Boyle’s seminal film Slumdog Millionaire.

Week after week in rehearsals I failed miserably to get the movements in the right sequence.

The rest of the chorus would be raising their arms to the left.

I raised right.

Then one day, I got it. I was in perfect synchronisation with everyone else.

I was ecstatic. But there was one problem.

We were performing the song jointly with our visitors. The New York Gay Men’s Chorus. Fabulous, friendly, fit, masters of the dance.

And there were a lot of them. Our chorus was nearly one hundred and seventy. There seemed to be hundreds of the hunky New York guys.

And we were all squeezed onto the modest stage of the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

So when it came to the combined choral-ography, all my confident, expressive, expansive, and above all, accurate dance moves were totally invisible.

I’m relying on that happening this time too…

Next: So Good They Named it Twice

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Six days to go – My Kind of Town

Chorus tour of the USPosted by DavidCDawson Thu, May 11, 2017 16:17:17

Six days to go – My Kind of Town

In six days I’m flying to America with the London Gay Men’s Chorus for a twelve-day tour. We’ll be singing in New York and Chicago.

I’ve spoken to four people from Chicago in the last few days. Now I can’t wait to get there. They all seem so – friendly.

There’s my work colleague Jim, who lives in San Francisco but is from Chicago. As soon as he found out I was going to his hometown, he sent me a list of recommended restaurants and details about the best art deco sights to see in the city.

Then there’s the lovely Scott. He sings Tenor in the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus. He took time to write a detailed email about how to apply for a Ventra card. It’s like London’s Oyster card, but works on the Chicago Transit system.

Scott not only emailed all the details, but also arranged with the New York Gay Men’s Chorus for us to be able to have the cards sent to their offices. Then we could pick them up when we arrive next week.

Simple. Except…

The Ventra website is very fussy about addresses. It didn’t like my very British postcode, which it needed to confirm my credit card details. It demanded a zip code.

In the end I typed in the zip code for the New York Chorus and hoped for the best.

First I got an email saying all was well. Two days later, I got an email from someone called Toye in the Ventra Customer Contact Center. I had to ring them. I could see the money I was planning to save with the card being eaten up by my transatlantic phone bill.

But it was worth a try…

It was an automated phone system. “Listen to the following menu. Press one for…” You know the sort of thing.

Twice it sent me round in a full circle. On the third attempt, I got through to a really helpful man called Dustin. I thought there was only ever one man called Dustin in the world…

He fixed it for me. And wished me a great stay in Chicago. I emailed Toye to say it was all fixed, and to thank her/his colleague for being so helpful. S/he emailed back to wish me a great stay in Chicago.

So thank you Jim and Scott and Toye and Dustin, for being from Chicago and being so friendly. It definitely sounds like my kind of town.

Next: Choreography panic

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7 days to go: What to Pack?

Chorus tour of the USPosted by DavidCDawson Wed, May 10, 2017 16:41:54

Seven Days to Go - What to Pack?
In seven days I’m flying to New York with the London Gay Men’s Chorus for a twelve-day tour. We’ll be singing in New York and Chicago. The highlight for me will be singing in Central Park, early on Sunday morning. OK. The “early on Sunday morning” bit doesn’t fill me with enthusiasm. Perhaps we simply won’t go to bed the night before…

This is the earliest I’ve ever started planning for an overseas trip. I’m usually very last minute. But with one hundred gay men as my travel companions, I’m getting plenty of advice. They’ve all got opinions. Strong opinions.

For some of my fellow travellers, it seems the generous luggage allowance of forty-six kilos plus multiple cabin bags is not enough.

I’ve only got one suitcase and a rucksack. I’m feeling inadequate.

We’ve been given two special t-shirts for the tour, plus we’ll wear our Silver Jubilee t-shirts from last year. I don’t need much more do I? A pair of trousers, a pair of trainers, a couple of changes of socks and underwear. That’s enough isn’t it?

I’ve just received an email from a member of the New York Gay Men’s Chorus. They’ll be hosting us. “Social evening at the Eagle NYC on Thursday night. The theme is sports gear. Bring a wrestling singlet, or a pair of speedos!”

I’m beginning to feel my small wardrobe is very inadequate.

Next: My Kind of Town?

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Some thingsPosted by DavidCDawson Fri, January 20, 2017 08:48:16


Elsie Simpkins had defrauded the voting slips in the constituency of South Shindle for the last eighteen years. This was to be the fifth general election result she had fixed. From the very start, it had been so easy. As an unmarried school-teacher, chair of the W.I. and more recently, the first woman lay-preacher at St James the Less, she was beyond reproach.

Elsie volunteered to be a polling clerk shortly after her fortieth birthday. Her application to replace the retiring head of the small Church of England school, where she had taught for nineteen years, was rejected by the governors. They chose to appoint a dynamic, younger man called Eric Buttles. As Elsie’s only route to a headship would have been to move to another school in another town, she continued to teach in the infants’ class. She busied herself with minor roles of responsibility in the community. Her application to be a polling clerk was successful, and it was not long before she became the Presiding Officer, in charge of counting the ballot papers for the constituency of South Shindle. The small fees she got for both council and general elections, paid for her annual holiday to Felixstowe.

That was where she met John Markham. He was a young man with brilliant blue eyes, and a missionary zeal to change the world. They had collided trays in the Cosy Teapot one wet afternoon, and he gallantly offered to reserve a seat for her, while she went to the ladies’ to soak the tea stain on her coat. As the rain poured down outside, he talked about his life and his ambitions. He had grown up in Norfolk. When he was eight, his parents told him he was adopted. That his biological mother had abandoned him as a baby. He spoke warmly about his adoptive parents. Liberal thinkers who had been environmentalists long before it was fashionable. He went to study at Downing College Cambridge, where he became politically active in the Labour Party. Now, at the age of twenty-six, he was to be the party’s youngest candidate in the forthcoming General Election, standing for the constituency of South Shindle.

Elsie and John talked long after the rain had stopped. When they came to say goodbye, Elsie wished him well, and John asked to see her again.

Four weeks’ later, his resounding victory was a surprise for the pollsters, South Shindle was a Conservative stronghold. They were no less surprised when he won the following three elections with similar, substantial majorities.

Elsie sat regarding herself in the mirror, thinking about what dress to wear for her fifth General Election. She opened the middle drawer of the dressing table, and pulled out a rosary box. It was the only surviving remnant of her hated Catholic upbringing. At fourteen, she had been raped by a boy from the Jesuit school. She was forbidden an abortion, and when she gave birth to a healthy boy, he was immediately taken into care. She opened the rosary box and took out a hospital nametag. A kindly nurse had kept it for her. The letters were faded, but the name John Simpkins was still clearly visible.

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Some thingsPosted by DavidCDawson Wed, January 18, 2017 15:52:57


I know it’s an addiction. But it’s not like a real drug. I could give it up, anytime. Easy. But why should I? It’s a buzz, it’s a high. Sets me up for the week.

It’s my escape. From this shitty life. I need it, I deserve it. I work hard. I pay the bills, working that crap job every day. Then all the shit at home. Especially after the boy was born.

I sometimes think, what’s wrong with it anyway? If it makes me feel good, if it’s not hurting anyone. Then I remember what they say, what they’ve always said. The way they look at the rest of them. What they say about them. Papa would kill me. Mama would be heartbroken.

The barman always stops me after a while. Usual six or seven. He knows. He’s watching. I always have this rum cocktail. It’s called a Mojito, fresh mint, lots of ice.

I remember the first time I had one. It was the first time I came here. I was shitting myself. I felt so, out of it. So, dirty. I ordered a beer, and the barman looks at me as if I’d grown two heads. Then I realised, they weren’t drinking beers. They all looked so cool, drinking these cocktails. Faggot drinks.

And the barman makes some kind of joke about my beer, which I didn’t get. Thought he was messing with me. But he told me to chill. Offers me a Mojito - on the house. Can’t refuse that. And hey, it’s pretty good. So I throw it back real quick, and get another.

The barman’s real friendly, wants to talk. But I don’t want to talk. I just want to watch. See what they do.

A lot of them are real disgusting. Like, they’ve got no shame. I just sit there. And watch. And get another drink. They’re kissing, many of them are stripped to the waist, and dancing, and their bodies are everywhere, folding into each other. Some of them are so young, real young guys. They look so - in ecstasy - and it’s disgusting.

And I want it so bad. I get hard, and I wish I didn’t. I know I should just go, get out of here. Papa’s face comes into my head. I feel guilty, and I try to shake him out. Then I look around me again. And it’s just - good. I drink it all in. And I keep it in my head, so when Sitora wants me to fuck her, I close my eyes, and remember this. Then I can stay hard, even though I hate it.

Shit, why am I like this? What did I do that was so bad? God is punishing me for something. He must hate me so much, to make me feel this way. I want to give it up, I really do, but I can’t.

I tell the barman to get me another drink, and he says, maybe it’s time to call it a night. Fuck him.

I think he knows I’ve got a wife and kid back home. Or at least he suspects, even if I’ve taken the ring off. He says he’ll get me a cab.

It’s not like I’m one of them. I’ll go home, leave them, but I’ll come back.

Written after the murders at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida on 12th June 2016

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Some thingsPosted by DavidCDawson Sat, January 14, 2017 11:27:38


He’s battered and frayed, he’s lost an eye and some of his stuffing is beginning to leak out.

I’ve put him on the shelf by the TV, where I can always see him when I sit here. His one button eye, squinting at me.

John said he was the first toy he ever had when he was a baby, but I can’t believe that. I mean, who would give a teddy bear with button eyes that are wired in, to a baby? It’s not safe.

It doesn’t matter. John gave him to me, that first Christmas when we moved in here, five years ago. “A bear for a bear,” he said. His most treasured possession, and he gave him to me. John said his sister had called him Archibald Bear, so that’s always been his name.

Marion, John’s sister, is the only one from his family who’s ever kept in touch. She came to visit us soon after we moved to LA. John’s mum and dad never did. They didn’t want to meet me. He used to go visit them once a year, alone, usually just before Thanksgiving. They live up in Oregon.

Marion was here, the night John was shot. There was a knock at the door. I was in the bathroom and John was out, so Marion answered it.

I heard men’s voices. Then I heard her kind of moan, like an almost animal cry. When I came into the living room, there were two cops there. They’d just told her about the shooting. Marion was all hunched up on the couch, just hugging herself and rocking.

When we got to the hospital, the medics said they were doing everything they could. But he died. John died at 8:23pm on Thursday the 10th June.

The hospital said it wasn’t possible for me to see his body, as I wasn’t related. I said I’d been his boyfriend for nearly six years. But they said that didn’t count. They needed the permission of his parents.

His mom and dad arrived the next day. Marion went to meet them at LA X, and they took a cab straight to the hospital. They didn’t let me see his body.

Marion rang me to say his mom was coming to the apartment to collect all John’s things and take them back home. I said we shared everything; we were practically married for chrissake.

John’s mom didn’t fight about it. She said she just wanted some pictures, a few of his clothes and John’s old baseball stuff, from college days. I hid Archibald, so I got to keep him.

They wouldn’t let me go to the funeral. Jeez, they wouldn’t even tell me when it was. Marion called to say it was happening, but she said it was probably best I didn’t go. John’s dad was looking to cut up real rough and was talking about getting a court order to exclude me. John used to tell me his dad is devout Presbyterian and uses words like abomination and crap like that.

Marion had a big row with them about the funeral. She’s moved out to Seattle now and won’t talk to any of her family. When you think about it, she’s not only lost her kid brother, but the whole lot of them. She’s coming down to stay in a few weeks. I think I’ll give her Archibald.

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