TNYA Spotlight: Joe Harney
Team announcer Lisa Gilson recently sat down with Joe Harney to interview him for a TNYA Spotlight edition. They met at Jingle Bell on the Rocks, where it’s Christmas every day. Lisa found Joe in a dark corner drinking eggnog.
LG: Joe, I’ve known you for a long time, but other TNYAs might not be so lucky. How long have you been swimming?
JH: I started swimming back in the oldity times with the original John Jay — he wouldn’t believe me when I told him one day a run-down pool would be associated with him. Actually, I’ve been swimming for about 20 years, taking up swimming after the 1994 Gay Games.
LG: Were you a TNYA back then? Because I think you might owe some back dues. [LG sends JH for more eggnog and surreptitiously texts the team administrator.]
JH: [Returns with frothy mugs.] I was running the marathon in that miserable June mugginess and told myself if I finished the race I didn’t have to run ever again. I took up swimming, and did run again, but kept swimming and found my way to TNYA.
LG: Got it. [Cancels the text and slurps the proffered beverage.] So, your Grindr profile says you are responsible for ensuring the very highest levels of satisfaction with customers.
JH: Actually, that’s my professional profile on Columbia University’s website. I manage the strategic procurement cycle at the University for both the Morningside and Medical Center campuses.
LG: I’m sure you ensure the very highest levels of satisfaction in your personal life as well. What do you do when you’re not in the pool?
JH: Well, I live on the Upper West Side with my partner, Tony, and we spend weekends upstate in the Hudson Valley. I’m an obsessive collector of off-the-beaten-path Christmas music, and convene friends into a group called The Queen Family Singers for an annual Christmas/Show tune mashup.
LG: That does explain the eggnog.
JH: In case that’s not gay enough, a group of friends and I also created the Paul Lynde Theatre Society, basically a reason to take in gay theatre — the good, the bad and the sublime.
LG: The first thing was gay enough. So, you refer to yourself as the Lane 5 Den Mother. What do you mean by that?
JH: Oh, you know. [Sings] Kids! I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today!
LG: [Does a quick Google search and learns that Joe has made an obscure Paul Lynde reference from “Bye Bye Birdie.” Decides reference wins prize for “gay enough.”]
JH: Actually, I appreciate the way TNYA is accessible to people who are not star swimmers, often coming late to swimming.
LG: As a gatekeeper I am duty-bound to clarify that he means late in life, not late for practice.
JH: I know how anxious it can be for people starting out, so I do my best to welcome, to translate, and to reassure.
LG: It sounds like you ensure the very highest levels of satisfaction in the pool as well, and it is greatly appreciated. TNYA is lucky to have you.
[The two clink glasses and depart, leaving behind the faint sound of jingle bells.]