Now and Yesterday

Now and Yesterday

by Stephen Greco


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"An often poignant, and sometimes chilling, romance of the creative class." --Edmund White

In the three decades since Peter first moved into his Brooklyn apartment, almost every facet of his life has changed. Once a broke, ambitious poet, Peter is now a successful advertising executive. He's grateful for everything the years have given him--wealth, friends, security. But he's conscious too of what time has taken in return, and a busy stream of invitations doesn't dull the ache that remains since he lost the love of his life.

Will is a young, aspiring journalist hungry for everything New York has to offer--culture, sophistication, adventure. When he moonlights as a bartender at one of Peter's parties, the two strike up a tentative friendship that soon becomes more important than either expected. In Peter, Will sees the ease and confidence he strives for, while Peter is suddenly aware of just how lonely his life has become. But forging a connection means navigating very different sets of experience and expectations, as each decides how to make a place for himself in the world--and who to share it with.

Beautifully written, warm yet incisive, Now and Yesterday offers a fascinating exploration of two generations--and of the complex, irrefutable power of friendship--through the prism of an eternally changing city.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781617730603
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 05/27/2014
Pages: 464
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

An arts-and-entertainment journalist by trade, Stephen Greco is Director of Content for Classical TV, which streams full-length performing arts videos online and across platforms. He is also Intelligence Director of True, an advertising agency focused on global transcultural audiences, with bases in New York and London. He is a former Senior Editor of Interview magazine, the program magazine Stagebill, and the New York weekly, 7 Days.

Greco has contributed features on the arts and entertainment, style and fashion, youth culture, and new media to publications such as The Advocate, American Way, aRude, Art News, Casa Vogue, Dancemagazine, Elle, Elle Decor, Empire, France, HX, Harper's Bazaar, Latina, the London Observer, the Journal of Movement ResearchManhattan File, New York magazine, the New Yorker, the New York Times online, Opera News, and the San Francisco Chronicle. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Read an Excerpt

Now and Yesterday



Copyright © 2014 Stephen Greco
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61773-061-0


"Whaddya think?" said Peter, modeling a new gray hoodie underneath his Brooks Brothers blazer.

"You could," said Tyler, looking up from his texting. They were at the agency, in Peter's office. It was just before lunchtime. Tyler was sitting in Peter's desk chair.

Peter tried to catch a reflection of himself in the glass of a window that looked onto the agency's multistory atrium lobby.

"It's good, right?" he said.

"I dunno. Simpler might be better."

"Do you ever put up the hood?"

"Maybe at the beach, if it's cold."

"I'm talking about tonight, Tyler—this thing I'm going to."

"Oh." The boy made a face. "I wouldn't."

Only in his mid-twenties, Tyler was one of the agency's brightest comers—a terrific conceptual thinker, a gifted copywriter. And it didn't hurt that he was shockingly blond, had electric green eyes, and commanded the megawatt smile of a born entertainer.

"No?" said Peter, trying the hood up.

Tyler shook his head.

"That Mad Men thing you've got going on today is fine," said the boy. "Don't mess with it. It's a good look for a man your age."

Peter smirked. It was a joke between them, his age. So was referring to Tyler as a boy, except in front of clients. The "thing" Peter was preparing for was a housewarming hosted by his friend Jonathan, whose circle consisted mostly of decorous homosexual gentlemen of his and Peter's generation, whom Peter sometimes referred to as "best-little-boys-in-the-world-of-a-certain-age."

"Note custom-made," said Peter, demonstrating the blazer's working buttonholes.

"Swell," said Tyler.

Back in the '50s, when he was a kid in a small town upstate, people wore sweatshirts to keep warm when they actually did something to work up a sweat, Peter said. The main references in his mind to sweat clothes were early-morning drills on frost-covered playing fields and after-school games in smelly gymnasiums echoing with the scuffle of boys and the bark of gym teachers who'd seen action in Korea. Back then, he said, the hooded sweatshirt was an immutable building block of American culture—resistant, like a Brooks Brothers blazer, to shifts in quote-unquote meaning.

"Well, that's just not right anymore," said Tyler, impishly. "It's not even wrong."

Peter smirked. It was like Tyler, who'd studied semiotics at Brown and found his way into advertising as obliquely as Peter had, to work a quote by a famous physicist into a conversation about fashion. And it was like him to do so flirtatiously. There was a bit of a crush between the two, the youngish fifty-nine-year-old and the precocious twenty-five-year-old, though Peter had decided that nothing romantic should come of it. He had scruples about fooling around with employees and reinforced these frequently by pontificating about a worker's right to be valued for his work, not his flesh—though flirting, he maintained, sometimes catalyzed the work because "it deepened the ongoing conversation among members of a creative team, who need to address not only a client's needs but their own feelings about those needs and the creative process itself."

"We love it when you talk fancy to us," Tyler once cracked, during a staff meeting.

Still wearing the hoodie, Peter continued to paw through the items he'd picked up that morning at Barneys—a knit cap with earflaps, a pre-wrinkled plaid scarf, a woven leather bracelet-y thing that was a little bit butch, a little bit femme. So many options! Peter tried to stay engaged with fashion's fun, but sometimes longed for a time with clearer rules. The whole idea of dressing right was like a religion back in 1961, when he first visited Brooks Brothers, he told Tyler. His uncle Malcolm took him there to buy his first suit; they came down to the city in a chauffeur-driven car. And Malcolm—a kind of gay godfather, who owned, with his wife, Aunt Ida, the fanciest hair salon in the Mid-Hudson Valley—had done nothing less that day than usher a boy into the palace of wisdom.

"He showed me what to prefer in a cuff and a buttonhole," said Peter, "took me to lunch at the Brasserie—which must have only just opened, at that point—and explained to me why Mrs. Oliver Harriman's book of etiquette was superior to Mrs. Emily Post's. Dear Uncle Malcolm. Oh, and he told me that a hairdresser he knew named Kenneth, who was 'a great artist, only a few blocks away,' had pulled off 'the culture-shaking triumph of big hair over hats.' Can you imagine?"

When Tyler giggled at this last bit, Peter recommended he look into the history of modern millinery and the career of one Mr. John. The agency was scheduled to pitch a luxury fashion brand the following week and the information would come in handy.

They were always talking about small but seismic matters like this, Peter and his team, and Peter knew that many outside the industry, including the worthies of Jonathan's crowd, looked down on this type of inquiry as trivial. Yet he found it natural to puzzle over questions like "What should I wear?" and "What should I drive?" as practically philosophical matters and some of the biggest questions of the age. How do you construct a personal look that says everything you want to say about yourself—or at least enough about your taste and personality to be specifically you—while avoiding clichés determined by, for lack of a better word, class? It was a question at the root of a certain discomfort that Peter felt with Jonathan's crowd, despite his falling squarely within their class, since they seemed to embrace every cliché that grown-up, well-mannered, best-little-boys could—cultural, political, sartorial. And the question was central to Peter's career, too, since the boutique agency he founded and ran required a leader who both saw beyond old-fashioned class boundaries and appeared as though he did.

Especially now that Peter had become a star in the world of "creative," appearances mattered. He was the celebrated author of a series of video spots for a talking car that had become a national mascot, and of a campaign for a new energy drink whose tagline had gone globally viral. High-profile clients paid well to absorb wisdom in Peter's presence, which meant that in meetings and presentations, and even in videoconferences, he was expected to wield his entire persona like a Broadway star does during a performance, fusing the right lines with the right moves, in the right costume.

"Are we done, boss?" said Tyler, tucking away his phone. "I gotta run—Damiano's downstairs."

"OK, go," said Peter. "Thanks, Ty."

"You look terrific," said Tyler, bolting up from Peter's chair and scooting for the door.

"Mr. John!" said Peter.

"I'm on it!" sang Tyler.

OK, so maybe I do do just the blazer tonight, with no funny business, thought Peter, trying to find his reflection again in the window. It would be sort of ironic to go decked out strictly in Brooks, if I'm not just to fit in with a bunch of old men, but to explore the idea of my fitting in.

He smirked.

Anyway, drag is fun, whether it's Brooks or Patricia Field.

That evening, when Peter turned onto Twenty-fourth Street and saw the elegant green canopy, he immediately knew which building must be Jonathan's.

Oh, that place, he thought. Once, long before Jonathan moved in, Peter had endured a tedious dinner party there, seated next to a thin-lipped know-it-all whom he realized, midway through the broiled trout, had been specially invited for him. For three hours, the guy stifled conversation with opinions delivered like proclamations. The host seemed disappointed when Peter left early and alone.

Great apartment, though.

The building was a well-cared-for, prewar pile of brick and limestone with a restrained Moderne feel, designed by an architect Jonathan called "the Candela of downtown." On either side of the revolving door was a neat boxwood in a tapered, cast-stone planter. Jonathan, in fact, had referred to his new home only by the address number, the way people sometimes did with iconic buildings on Park and Fifth Avenues—740, 820, 960, 1040—and though the number didn't automatically summon an image in Peter's brain, it reminded him that West Chelsea had its iconic addresses, too. And it made sense that one of these would be where his fancy friend would relocate after years of renting a small but spectacular East Tenth Street penthouse, now an overpriced co-op.

It was a mild October evening. A motley paseo of dog walkers occupied the sidewalk—mostly gay men and straight women in after-work mode, chatting amiably with one another and/or their pets, while a stream of sharply dressed, decidedly on-duty types strode through on their way to dinner on Tenth Avenue or a gallery opening beyond. The fall was still gentle enough for people to go without coats and everyone was talking about that—New Yorkers being often more focused on protection and shelter than on the elements themselves.

It was 7:30 on the dot. Peter always timed his arrivals carefully. For fashionably late events, like the fashion week after-parties and cool-cause benefits he attended regularly as a New York fast-tracker, he still had to remind himself to translate the time stated on an invitation into a real hour at which an arrival could be made. Sometimes nine o'clock meant midnight. For this party, though, 7:30 meant 7:30. Jonathan and his crowd were not late-nighters. They were media execs and entertainment lawyers, mostly, whom Jonathan knew through his work as a documentary filmmaker, mixed with survivors of that original circle of artsy rebels in which Peter and Jonathan first met, in mid-'70s New York. The two had arrived in the city back then like so many other newly out young gay men, after a spin through college and grad school, ready to pursue serious agendas suddenly made possible by adulthood and revolution. For most, it was the start of a comfortable rut in law, or academia, or arts administration. And for some it was a historical moment that ushered in destiny.

For Peter, it was destiny. Having come to New York to be a poet, after the publication of some overheated verses about life upstate, he quickly moved on to fashion journalism and eventually to advertising. Immersion in these fields had rendered him more fashion-forward than anyone else in Jonathan's crowd—which is why, as he approached Jonathan's building in his sober blue blazer, gray slacks, and white shirt, he felt an odd kind of pleasure in knowing that for once he'd be dressed absolutely right for a party. That pleasure was rare for Peter, since the hip that was required of him was anything but effortless. Some evenings, before going out, he had to think long and hard about just how young-and-trendy to go with his look. For a man of his age and position, the clothes should be neither too disheveled nor too put together, the accessories neither too fun-junky nor too fuck-you expensive— though, no, a perfectly formulated mix of Prada, J. Lindeberg, Y3, and Hello Kitty, donned in response to a constantly fluxing set of cultural meanings, never made him feel totally, absolutely, unflappably right when he stepped out of a taxi at the door of a happening nightspot. That line between right and pathetic was blurry, even for Peter, which is why he relied on Tyler for help.

He passed through the revolving door, nodded at the doorman, and approached the desk.

"Hi, there," he said.

"Good evening," said the receptionist.

Peter stated Jonathan's name but before he could say his own, the receptionist nodded.

"Penthouse 2-A. Elevator to your right."

The elevator was fitted elegantly with an upholstered bench. Peter's late boyfriend, Harold, used to make it a point of lighting gracefully upon such benches, when available, even for short trips. When Peter, with a silent glance, would remark on his need to sit, Harold always responded with a face that made him look both content and quizzical, his lips pursed like Tony Curtis's as Josephine in Some Like It Hot. It was the kind of subtle exchange, below the radar of elevator operators and most other people, that Peter missed keenly now, even twenty-three years after Harold's death. In fact, this was exactly the kind of party that they would have gone to together—and going together would have been the right way to do it, since many of the guests would undoubtedly be long-term couples.

Peter was single now—"famously single," according to Jonathan—but he'd always thought of himself as the marrying kind. He and Harold were together for seventeen years. In another era, black-tie evenings together at the ballet or opera, and dressed-up dinner partying and entertaining at home, in couples, were de rigueur; then AIDS fund-raisers and memorial services were; and then that whole way of life passed into eclipse. Harold and Jonathan's partner, Roberto, died the same year, as did fifty-three other men whom Peter knew well—men who might have become tennis partners, or housemates at the beach, or fellow members of a benefit committee. An entire foreground of assuring, if only penciled-in, history-to-come was erased in an instant, leaving everyone in that generation of gay men not only to mourn individuals but to scramble for entirely different, assuring histories-to-come. Peter scrambled all right, right into a new profession that allowed him—well, required him—therapeutically to reinvent himself.

For a long time he kept track of the dead by carrying around a list of their names, meant to honor them, but also to help him remember who was alive, including himself. In fact, Peter now sometimes thought of jacket-and-tie gatherings like this one, perhaps ungenerously, as reflective of a list not written down, of the men who'd survived not necessarily because they were lucky, but because they were indifferent to the pleasures and heresies of their own social revolution. They squeaked by and went on to become model gay boomers, and they paid their taxes and voted for the right candidates and were now really getting married; and that was all perfectly lovely. Yet their very respectability sometimes struck Peter as tinged with a certain smugness resulting from their choice of a new, safe, penciled-in history over things like pleasure and heresy—a choice that Peter inoculated himself against defiantly with fashion, as well as with continued, if modified, erotic adventure.

Famously single. The thought made him chuckle. He was secretly proud of being known for showing up at parties with men half his age. His hair was still dark; his face and body looked much younger than his age. (Thank you, Uncle Malcolm's side of the family!) But he was also sad to be exiled from the kind of respectable-and-adventurous life he had carefully designed with Harold and expected to have forever. He had tried to recapture that life subsequently but to no avail, for two decades, with a string of guys he dated during his Merry Widower phase, which started a year after Harold's death; then with Nick, a nice man he partnered with for nine years, who developed problems with alcohol and drugs; and now with a whole new crew of sweeties, who tended to be younger, because, well, that's who was out there and available.

And that included Tyler, who went out with Peter sometimes "for fun" when his current boyfriend, Damiano, a fitness model, was out of town—though Peter well knew that a gig like Jonathan's would hardly be fun for anyone of Tyler's generation, which is why he'd decided to go alone. Jonathan's crowd registered genuine boyfriends and boyfriends-designate, and authenticated exes, and just-plain-friends of an appropriate age. Younger persons were seen as boy toys, or fashion accessories, or hustlers—generally not as peers, at least not until demonstrably on the path to a suitable career and/or a solid relationship with one of the clan.

When the elevator doors opened Peter found himself standing in a little hall where Jonathan was greeting arrivals.


Excerpted from Now and Yesterday by STEPHEN GRECO. Copyright © 2014 Stephen Greco. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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