Monday, March 26, 2007

Drugs 1, David Zuch 0

"A middle-aged man was found dead of an apparent drug overdose in his Chelsea apartment, authorities said yesterday. The body of David Zuch, 43, was found in bed in his West 24th Street apartment near Seventh Avenue at about 8:51 p.m. Saturday, cops said."
--NYPD Blotter, New York Post, March 26, 2007.

I was in Chelsea for lunch today when I ran into C*. He's one of the men in my men's group. I love seeing these guys in the "real world." It reminds me of when I was ten and would see a school friend at the grocery store or McDonald's -- the irrepressible goofy-ass grin riding the tails of a huge adrenaline rush. These men have been mirrors and sounding boards. They know me better than lovers I've had, and often better than I know myself. I've loved and hated each of them deeply.

We are all men, and gay, but other than that it's a mixed bag -- rich/poor, HIV+/HIV-, single/coupled, addicted to drugs, sex, drama and not. The "hot" ratio is exceedingly high and there's an abundance of biceps and bulges to keep the eyes involved when the ego's in denial. Honestly, though, I've gained more insight and practical self-knowledge participating in this group for 18 months than I learned in the ten prior years of individual psychotherapy and psychiatry.

C immeditately asked if I had heard about David, a long-time member who had left the group within the last year. In a way, he never really left the group. There just came a time when it became obvious he wasn't coming back. I had mixed feelings about his leaving; I was as annoyed by David's version of human interaction as I was amused by it. I did, however, recognize much of his baggage, which simultaneously matched and clashed my own. I now understand that it's these "hot button pushers" who are usually in positions to teach me something about myself.

C told me that David had been discovered dead in his apartment after friends who had planned to meet him for dinner were stood up and they couldn't reach him. They had convinced security in his Chelsea apartment building to let them into his apartment. When they arrived, the door was ajar and David was dead in his bed. There are salient facts surrounding the manner in which David was found that I'm purposely omitting because I wasn't there and no purpose is served by divulging them. Suffice to say that the police reported that the death was an apparent "drug overdose," the door was left open by someone(s) and it was a few hours before The Black Party. Those are the delightful dots, connect them if you wish.

David (he hated being called "Dave") was the owner of a custom drapery business, Mark David Interiors, which is located in the garment district. He had achieved the modern-day equivalent of the turn-of-the-century immigrant's dream, building a prosperous business doing something he loved. He was a natural salesman -- gregarious, stubborn, street-smart, charming, and loud. David actually had a twinkle in his eyes, the became brighter when he laughed, which was often.

He loved to talk about gay sex, regaling with past exploits and plotting as-yet-unrealized debaucheries. He had lost all twink qualities that he swore he once possessed and slid rather too easily into the younger version of the "leather Daddy" clone -- cropped graying hair, goatee, big belly, 501's, black leather boots and wrist band and a starched button-down. His belly was bigger than what I typically like to maneuver around, but with targeted marketing and the right sales pitch, his appeal was there. He was also someone who I'd discussed drugs with outside the group and he had his own version of negotiated sobriety -- abstinence from one things offset by permission to dabble in most others.

If you live in the City long enough, you start collecting these stories; particularly if you're in certain communities. And the older one gets, the quicker they come. To be honest, the most shocking thing about seeing David's story in the New York Post 'NYPD Blotter' section wasn't the fact that drugs had done him it, it was that the article referred to him as a "middle-aged" man. I distinctly remember gasping. He was only two years older than me, and (after a quick calculation), I realized that if I thought I was going to make it to 80 then, I in fact, was already middle-aged. Damn. [The irony here is that to describe David as middle-aged when reporting his death at 43 makes absolutely no sense; apparently he was middle-aged when he was somewhere between 21 and 22. I digress.]

In discussing David's death with friends, it became obvious to me that many were doing what I myself had done -- mentally placing myself dead in my bed, in that position, with my door open.

Oddly enough, David is, in a way, lying "on" my bed each night. Let me explain. A few months after I joined the group, my Ex and I had our first big break-up, moving into separate apartments. As part of creating a new-space-all-my-own, David agreed to fashion a "bachelor" duvet cover out of a old custom-made, late-1960's bedspread that I had bought on Ebay (it's crushed velvet -- grape purple, chartreuse, chocolate brown and teal striped Alexander Girard fabric that allegedly belonged to some queen who lived at The Dakota -- it's, uhm, stunning). It wasn't cheap and David didn't cut me a deal at all, but it's one of my favorite things in this world.

See, that's how it always happens. I start to examine what it means to die, to die sadly, to die alone and end up talking about creature comforts, beauty, the price of things. I suppose that's why I still go to group, because there's still work to do. I also go because I can. I wish David could. I hope he's finally found the peace, acceptance, real joy, whatever it was he was chasing. Big love to you Dave. Thanks for your contributions to me, my life . . . and my bed. [I can hear his dirty laugh right now.]

* Names negotiated to protect the not-so-innocent, but more importantly to honor the safety of the group. David is not afforded this courtesy, as he is dead. Dead men can't be libeled or slandered; it's one of the bitches about dying, I suppose.


Sactoswine said...

I realize that this is very late coming, but I just heard about David's death. I had sent him one of my typical tacky Christmas cards - one with a naked guy and a raging erection on the front. His brother tracked my down via the return address and called me out here in California to let me know that David had passed away. (He felt David would have wanted him to make the effort, so I wouldn't think he was ignoring me.) A total shock. Maybe it shouldn't have been; I always got the impression that, while he had accomplished a hell of a lot in his short life, he was always looking for more than what was in reach. Maybe we all do. But, as a 52 year old gay man, I should be more used to hearing about the death of friends. I'm not. It never becomes expected or accepted.
He has other friends here in California, and they hadn't heard, either, until I told them. We're all hit hard by it.

he gay said...

Thanks for commenting. I loved hearing that his brother reached out to you; it made me feel good. Healing for all those in his circle of friends, and our community, continues. Big love and all best.

Alex Mira said...

Hi...I just read about David's death and I feel like writing this comment.
I met him 13 years ago in NYC. Probably he would have struggled to remember me but he left an incredible lasting impression on me. Yesterday I found his business card while searching for another address and suddenly I had this rush to contact him again.
I have not heard from him since then, november 1995, but the image of his smiling face looking at me was still fresh and neat in my mind.
I called him at the number he gave me, but there wasn't an answer, and then, today I tried to find something else about him on the Internet. Quickly I realized that he was actually death.
It's so sad!
Thanks for writing about him, hegay, and somehow for letting me know David has passed away.
Just one more thing...believe me, he had the most amazing twink qualities. That's the way I will always think of him. Hope he knows.