StreetLegalPlay by Kyle Thomas Smith

My, My! Aren’t They Friendly at Friendly’s!

Posted in Uncategorized by streetlegalplay on August 4, 2008

Let me start by going back to March 2007. Julius had 12 gay guys over to our house for brunch. Most of them were quite well-traveled and many had spent lots of time in countries where homosexuality is still illegal. When I asked how they got by in those places, one of our guests, Chris, piped up, “Honey, there are loopholes to every law.”

Chris then went on to describe his experience in Bombay, which still has sodomy laws on the books. Evidently, in Bombay and other cities in India, you can order several masseuses at a time up to your hotel room. “They’ll rub your body down with oil till you’re ready to scream,” Chris told us, “And, then, for a few extra pennies, they’ll give you a Happy Ending.” When I asked what a Happy Ending was, Chris opened his mouth and performed a simulation on a buttery leek that was on his plate.

One year after our brunch, Eliot Spitzer’s administration came to an abrupt and not-so-happy ending for similar experiences that Spitzer had procured with a call girl in various American hotels. A few days later, former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey’s former driver, Theodore Pederson, came forward with the claim that McGreevey and his ex-wife Dina Matos McGreevey engaged in frequent three-ways with him. (Matos later denied this allegation, which would otherwise have obviated her own questionable assertion that she’d never had reason to suspect that her husband was gay.)

This past Friday, Julius and I drove upstate with our friends Ed and Tom. We were going to the Glimmerglass Opera Festival in Cooperstown, New York, which is six hours north of New York City by car. After three hours on I-88, we were all facing blood-sugar crises and had to find a place to eat. Off the highway, there was a billboard for Friendly’s Restaurant. Ed suggested we go there.

The four of us took a side-booth at that Friendly’s off I-88. It was located in some unincorporated township of some unincorporated town. The place was full of bucolic teenagers, housewives and old folks, who looked like they’d been sitting there for years. Our waitress was a hearty middle-aged woman named Joan, who radiated a cheer that alone could make Friendly’s live up to its name. It seemed like everybody in the joint knew Joan. No matter how hangdog their faces were when they walked in, Joan knew how to bring them all back up to bright smiles.

Our faces were no exceptions. Joan told us that she just got back from tasting the New England Clam Chowder in the kitchen and it was par excellence. Well, within thirty seconds, she had me ordering a cup of it myself, along with a basket of chicken tenders, waffle fries, and a Diet Coke. Joan had Ed sold on the Clam Chowder too. He ordered a whole bowl of it and a turkey club sandwich. Tom ordered a Chicken Caesar salad and a malted vanilla shake, whose top Joan agreed to smother with whip cream and cherries. Julius ordered a Colossal Burger with Bacon, no fries, and a Coke.

Upstate isn’t like New York City. The cooks took their time, no matter how much Joan tried to hustle them. That was okay. Ed, Tom, Julius and I all had lots to talk about. We were going to be seeing operas by Handel and Bellini. We wondered how those would go. We speculated on whom Obama’s V.P. choice would be. That topic alone took up a good twenty minutes of conversation.

Then our food came. Between bites, we expressed our disappointment over how the Democrat-led Congress has performed after having proffered so much hope.

“It’s the worst time for Democrats to fuck up,” Tom said.

“Hey,” I said, raising my finger for everyone to wait for me to finish cooling off the steaming chicken tender in my mouth before I continued speaking, “What’s Eliot Spitzer doing these days?”

Ed said, “I don’t know. Keeping to himself.”

“Will he be facing criminal charges?” I asked.

Ed, a lawyer, replied, “He could. It wasn’t just a matter of prostitution. There was money-laundering involved too. I don’t know how his case is coming along. Everyone on both sides is keeping any likely proceedings quiet.”

Julius was polishing off his Colossal Burger with a passion equal to Spitzer in those hotel rooms.

Tom carried on, “We have a friend who worked for Spitzer. After the scandal broke, we went to see her. She was crying her eyes out. She said that Spitzer was one of the few honorable men in office. You know, those guys who work in those government offices, right? All those former frat boys and those old, frustrated fat cats. At meetings, their jaws would go all slack-and-slavering whenever a woman’d walk into the room. But not Spitzer. She says he always kept his eyes on the table and his mind on the matter at hand. She says he was the last one she’d suspect would do something like this.”

“What’s going on with his wife?” I asked.

Ed shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t know. I think they’re separated.”

Julius wiped his mouth off with a napkin. He’d finished his burger, so he pushed his plate to the side. “It’s amazing,” Julius said, “how indiscretions come back to haunt people.”

Just then, Joan walked up, looked down at Julius’ plate, and said, “Wow! You sure made short work of that Colossal Burger. I’m so proud of you. Would you like a Happy Ending?”

Our eyes shifted to her and back to each other. Joan must have spent a night in a Bombay hotel because she suddenly flushed crimson and said, “No, no, no. That’s not what I meant. The Happy Ending is the dessert special. You get a hot fudge sundae with your choice of ice cream!”

Tom said, “Good. I was about to say. ‘My, my! Aren’t they friendly at Friendly’s!'”

Taking away our plates, Joan said, “I guess I set myself up for that one.”

No need for Joan to be embarrassed, though. She endeared us to upstate for the whole rest of the weekend. We can’t wait to go back next year.

After all, where else can you get a Happy Ending just for finishing your burger?