Friday, December 23, 2011


I went to Miami to belatedly celebrate Peppar's birthday. When I arrived, we immediately went to an Indian reservation to buy cheap cigarettes, an outlet mall to buy my standard two blouses, and the movies. We saw "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."

Peppar and I used to have a standing date each Friday night to see a movie together, when she lived in New York. I was sort of depressed back then, and I think she was, too, so it was a great comfort to have this to look forward to throughout the week. Then, she got married, and her husband Michael stole her away to Florida. Sigh. That's why we saw the movie ... to recapture who we were years ago. Some people have nightclubs; I have a darkened theater. Still, I felt like we had shot our wad on the first day of the trip, and I then had to think of ways to fill my remaining day, which Peppar would not be present for (some family thing of hers).

After she left the following day, I went to the gym and then went for dinner to Lario's, Gloria Estefan's restaurant on Ocean Drive. I sat at the bar and told the bartender, in a slightly threatening fashion, to let me know when Gloria Estefan arrived, so that I could "be ready." He laughed nervously and then spoke in Spanish on his walkie talkie. Gloria Estefan never arrived to supervise her restaurant that evening, but I did enjoy some minced beef with egg and fried plaintain. I can't tell you in words how excited I would have been to see Gloria Estefan in the flesh; the words get in the way, as it were.

The following day, my last little day in Miami, I went to the beach. I put on the swimming trunks I had brought along and marched there, trying to hold my head up high and maintain my dignity. Along the way, a hostess in a restaurant smiled at the sight of me (as had the front desk person at my hotel, the Lords). I asked her if the trunks made me look gay, and she paused and then nodded twice, curtly. But I am gay in quotes, I thought as I marched the rest of the way, a little chastened.

Can you believe that I've never worn these swimming trunks in public, ever? I bought them, like, twelve years ago (from the Armani store)! So I wanted at least one picture in them in my lifetime, and I asked a hot, shirtless blonde if he would take my picture. "Can you believe I'm 39?" I asked him. "Yes, I can," he replied, and I was chastened again, just as the sea itself chastened me that day. (It was much too choppy to really swim in it, but I did try over and over, the sea laughing at me). I am a water sign, but I have developed in my old age a slight aversion to water. This visit to the beach was meant in part to reestablish a connection to the water, while avoiding drowning. In this, I was successful.

I feel like this trip was successful in many different ways, but I am excited to return to New York, where winter is tightening its grip, and where you may have a pair of swimming trunks you are anxious to wear, but have to opportunity to wear them, and where years may go by.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Orange jumpsuits

Ah, New York's famous tabloid newspapers. Not really known for Cindy Adams any more, but still faithfully pumping out their race-baiting reportage. Case in point, the coverage of the killing of officer Peter Figoski. Here the suspects are in their orange jumpsuits, though the white guy is in a white jump suit, and one black guy is in beige. How mysterious are jumpsuits, but I'm getting off the subject here. This killing was a true tragedy, indeed. But I don't need to see the alleged killers referred to as "thugs" and "lowlifes" in a newspaper article. Hey, I'm a smart person; I can come to those conclusions myself, if necessary!

When I was growing up in NYC, minority youths who were accused of rape in a park were a "wolf pack," and pretty easily convicted, though the convictions were later overturned. But white lacrosse players going to St. John's University, accused of the same crime, were acquitted, one juror saying that they "had their whole lives ahead of them." For an impressionable young person, and a minority, like myself, the opinion that I was outside of justice somehow could have been easily formed. But because I was middle class, and read a lot of Dickens, I came to believe that it was justice itself that had failed. That's why I was secretly delighted when O. J. was acquitted. Justice never worked for my people in the 90s. Why wouldn't I be thrilled to learn that at least one member of my race had a decent, if circus-ish, showing at trial? And he was properly acquitted, unless you forget that Mark Fuhrman plead the fifth when asked if he had planted evidence making it seem like O. J. murdered his ex-wife. That's how the legal system works.

Still, justice has been elusive ever since. Figoski's accused killers are "creeps" to the Post, but aren't they deserving of a fair trial, like everyone else? Not one of the banker masterminds of our economic collapse has ever been called a "thug" outside of, perhaps, Salon, though their crimes affected millions of lives, not just a relative few. And none of them will be convicted, either, or even indicted. Perhaps this is because the economic crisis is slightly more complex than random violence, and it is easier (and sells more papers) to prey on the fears of New Yorkers who believe we are all more at the mercy of colored people than corporate conspiracies.

I know I'm probably in the minority with my opinions, but whatever.

Self-loathing with a little wink

I was poking about the internet the other day, and I came upon some old digests from the Juliana Hatfield mailing list. They were from August, and those were the most recent I had, since my Yahoo mailbox filled up shortly thereafter, and I guess I was automatically unsubscribed from the list. Apparently, Juliana had a new record out in August ... I can't believe I missed it. I'm such a superfan that I usually get records from my heroes on, like, the first day of release, so that I can in my own way join a club, the club of defeated fans of 90s lady rockers who still hold out hope that their favorite artists will crack the Billboard 100. Why wasn't I checking that mailbox? I assume it was because I was really busy.

I downloaded the record today (this is a limited release, and physical cds are sold out already) and was sort of blown away and really moved, much to my surprise. It's beautiful and it rocks, sort of like Rolling Stones-style grooves crossed with California pop, all sung by a little girl voice that blames you, that is in crisis, that purposefully diminishes the singer's accomplishments. It's self-loathing set to music. It's kind of chillingly perfect, actually. There hasn't been a Juliana record that surprised me since "God's Foot," which was never even released. I'd long since given up hope that she could teach me anything (even though my song "I get the craziest feeling" has the same number of syllables in places as her song "Feel it." That's my usual homage style ... I just rip off the rhythm of the song and change the melody and lyrics ... and then it's a whole new song! Sort of like the Donna "sew on some sequins and make it a whole new look!" Karan school of songwriting).

I love the cover. Juliana always gets naked for her record covers, I feel. But with no airbrushing. A nude photo of someone whose weight fluctuates as wildly as hers does can be somewhat shocking to behold. See? Self-loathing with a little wink. "Macabre" is probably a good word for Juliana's schtick.

I'm recording "I get the craziest feeling" soon, with my superband of Chris on drums and Matt on bass (if he's still speaking to me), along with three other songs. And then I'm either going to record some more or put out six songs as an e.p. I will call it "Joy," though it will contain no real succor. Since I'm recording again, I'm paying a little more attention to the music world these days. But no one moves me, sigh. I'm old, that's probably why! (That's a song!) My most enduring musical emotional attachments were formed before I was 20 years old, with notable exceptions. That's why I'm always waiting for a good Sinead O'Connor record again, or a good Liz Phair record. Both of them apparently have new music coming out soon. How will I feel if they both rock again? Maybe I will feel that I rock again, that I have been vindicated. (But ultimately for naught, as neither of them will ever sell a lot of records again, and no one will ever hear of my own self-release when I put it out). Perhaps I will be transported back in time to Jones Beach in '91, seeing Sinead O'Connor (my second concert ever ... the first was the "Blonde Ambition tour by Madonna) and secretly loving the tousled-haired waifish boys who clung to that kind of genre-defying music, though feeling like I was too fat to ever really be seen by them. I still feel too fat to do most anything, but I always will, so that's okay.

Needless to say, I will be fully clothed for my record cover. But maybe it will be a closeup of my big head crying, like that Sinead O'Connor record.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Gin Mingle

I decided to attend this year's "Gin Mingle" at Housing Works with my unconsummated life partner Johnathan. I don't like gin, and my mingling strategy has lately been aggressive and borderline toxic, but something darkly comic always happens at these events, so I went. Johnathan brought me a box of "Nips." Nips and older people like me don't mix ... it pulls out our fillings and then we have to go to dentists who prey on us, who insist that we get a total mouth plate, which costs thousand of dollars that Medicare won't cover. While I sensibly didn't eat many of the nips, I did spend most of the evening walking up to hot, waifish studs of the publishing industry, asking them if they were "into nips." Most of the publishing studs indicated that they were as a matter of fact not into nips, or at least not nips that were mine to offer, but that is not important to the story. Imagine that, though - if these stories of mine, these lines, had a happy ending one day? (Don't worry, I wouldn't let that happen).

At one point, Vanity Fair writer Henry Alford came up to introduce himself to me. I know Henry from Facebook (he sometimes comments on my blog, although he has been mum of late. I was first introduced to his work when I interviewed for a position at Twelve Books, and wrote up a publicity plan for a book he wrote about old people. A book about old people, you are thinking ... Why didn't they ask YOU to blurb it, Gee Henry? I then watched with interest as I did not get that job and the book became a bestseller). I told Henry that I would like to feature him on my outfit blog, and he immediately turned around and exposed his pert buttocks, to "show me his pants." Always playing hard to get, eh, Henry? ;) Still, his buttocks were indeed delightful, and I leaned over to congratulate his boyfriend, Greg, on having possession of the buttocks. His boyfriend sort of looked at me funny. (Greg & Henry were talking to Greg Henry, as it happened, at the Gin Mingle!)

Henry often puts fun status updates on his Facebook page, and I always want to comment on them. But Henry's friends are all very funny and very fast, and sometimes when I notice an update, it already has reams of comments already, from the likes of comic writer Merrill Markoe and such, and it's too intimidating. Sometimes, when I think that I must be the funniest person in the world, I read one of Henry's updates and the comments that come in so swiftly afterwards, and then I know that I am only one of many, many funny people. The thought is usually so horrific to me that I have to take a Neurontin. I left the Gin Mingle in sort of a bad mood, but I was thankful, at least, that I didn't get wasted, and that I was heading home to "work on my nips," a joke you'd only fully get if you have a Manhunt account.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Shopping in Philly

Sensing a temporary lull in the crushing workload at the office, I booked myself a trip to Philadelphia. My favorite American city, Philadelphia is home to cheese steaks, much racial tension, and a Latino queen who smiled at me 13 years ago in a Philly nightclub, making me love the city and forever visit it, looking for him in vain, somewhat insanely. It is also home to BalletX, the dance troupe formed by Matthew Neenan, a choreographer I like, so I timed my trip to coincide with something they were doing.

Although I am not creatively stagnant currently (I have been reviewing books at a somewhat steady pace, and I've been doing a weekly songwriting workshop with my heroes Lori Carson and Beth Sorrentino - from my all-time favorite band, suddenly, Tammy! - and Lori's friend Matt Keating) my novel has gone neglected over these past few months. So I was hoping that a trip to Philly would rejuvenate me. Sometimes trips do that for me. Sometimes deaths in the family do, as well.

I realized as soon as I arrived in Philadelphia that my cat tee shirts would not be enough to shield me from the elements (it was really cold there), and I spent a few hours wandering about, looking for a long-sleeved shirt option. For some reason, I became very moved while shopping, which usually doesn't happen. As I passed a Macy's, in fact, I had to blink back tears. What made me so emotional? The solitude of traveling solo? The strange economic disparity that you aren't shielded from at all in Philadelphia, unlike how it is in NY? The upcoming holidays, and a sense of empathy for the down and out in America? God knows, I have been up and I have been down in my life. Right now, I'm okay, and I want to give this year. Give, give, give. I am going to buy, like, a thousand canned goods for the Harper can drive, I swear. And because I am the team captain for my floor, we will win because of it, and I will get the glory that I always seek, that I must have. I selected this shirt, a simple shell, really, from the Gap, along with another shirt from Urban Outfitters. God, remember when it was cool to shop at the Gap? I put one of the shirts on without washing it first, which is novel for me, and it kept me warm.

As I wandered around the stores and streets of Philadelphia, I was transported back in time to when I lived in San Francisco 15 years ago. I often spent whole days and nights wandering the streets (that's what my novel is about), in complete solitude, except when Nefretiti or Dagsy or Hilz or Joshie or Splendido were free for some fun. The near-total, awful, loneliness I felt during the year I lived there still makes me feel sorry for that young man who I was back then. But I became such a fan then, too. I discovered Barbara Manning, Paula Frazer, Jean Rhys, and many other huge influences on my craft while living in SF. I also discovered the simple joy of drinking bottles of whiskey when there's nothing else to do, which, too, became a huge influence.

In Philadelphia this week, I indeed was rejuvenated, and I wrote for a few hours in my novel. Now, instead of having 239 pages, I have 240 pages. Woo-hoo, I know. But really, it did give me the jumpstart I needed. I came back, rushed to Michelle's bday dinner, rushed to meet Suzanne for "Melancholia," and I've been rushing ever since, really. Philadelphia, I love you and your streets, your cheese steaks and your gayborhood, your "Fresh Air" and your peace. I will visit you again when I can, soonest.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Debbi and Vicki and Micki and Susanna

I went this morning to meet Anne for breakfast, wearing my new Bangles tee. It doesn't say "Bangles" on it, though, it just lists the members of the Bangles from their classic line-up. A couple of people I encountered seemed confused by the tee, and I remembered yet again that no one really loved the Bangles like I loved them, no one read the liner notes, begged their parents to go see them in 1989 at the height of their popularity (I was ultimately not allowed to see them), or agonized over their breakup like I did. People thought they were a pop band, but I saw something ... witchier ... beneath the surface ... like Bon Iver songwriting for Fairport Convention or something.

Heidi and I went to see the Bangles' current lineup (no Michael Steele, sad face) at some ballroom or another recently. The Peterson sisters haven't aged a day. In fact, they seem healthier than ever. Sadly, it also seemed that the Petersons have been absorbing Susanna's life force, as she seemed thinner, more wan, than she did in the 80s and 90s. But they were in lovely form, and they rocked as only they can. But I missed Michael, of course. Where is she? No solid information is on l'internet ... only rumors and innuendos, as always.

About 13 years ago, I went to see a tribute to Sandy Denny at St. Ann's Cathedral in Brooklyn. I went to see Michael and Vicki perform (separately), but I was also a little blown away by Susan Cowsill. Hootie was there too, I think. There was a hush throughout the crowd when Michael came on to sing. She was wearing a green velvet cloak with a beautiful ivy pattern embroidered on it. I had been hearing rumors that, after the Bangles disbanded, she went to live in SF to paint and worship the mighty god Heroisch, that great, still god that demands that you sweetly throw up from time to time. She was bewitching that night. I fell in love with her all over again.

Just a couple of years later, I was going through one of my depressive periods, which I go through once every six years or so. I was actually praying that the world would end. We thought it would end with Y2K, but the year 2000 came and went, and I was sorely disappointed that everyone still lived and breathed, our computers fully functional. I began looking for a sign from God. Then, I heard that the Bangles had reunited, and were touring America. That was it! The sign I had been looking for! I imagined them like a modern-day four horsemen of the Apocalypse, bringing the end of the world on their tour, city by city, town by town. I went to see them with Kristin at Irving Plaza and they were a pop band, not the band I had been hoping for. I realized that the world would not end in "Eternal Flame," it would not end "In Your Room." They put out a record that I avoided like the plague, as did most of the world. And years passed. I heard Michael had left the band again.

So when I saw them with Heidi last month, I was not expecting to be wowed, but I was. There were some tee-shirts on sale at the concert, but they were not my kind of tee-shirts. But a few days later, I went onto their website, as I do from time to time, looking for clues, news, any peek behind the veil of these mysterious, badly dressed ladies. I saw this tee, and, though I tried to resist buying it for weeks, I eventually broke down and ordered it. The tee takes me back to the days when I would walk around San Francisco wearing my Juliana Hatfield tee-shirts and my Breeders tee-shirts, and the hipster boys would snicker at me. I wanted to explain to them that it takes a certain kind of coolness to wear a tee from a gurl band, knowing that misogynistic hipsters will mock you. I certainly don't mock their Misfits tees, their own uniforms that they don to make themselves part of a scene. It's hard to explain to the cool that you're cooler than they are, because they're at worst poseurs and at best just like all of their friends, and by choice.

To all my fellow grrl band-loving compatriots, rock on. To the Bangles, whatever it takes, get Michael back. Get her a heroine drip if that's her bag. Susannah, put out another solo record. I love you gurls.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sad green Coach jacket

For the past few months, every time I've gone to the gym, I've noticed this green Coach coat hanging on the coat rack. The first few times I just thought that some nice lady had inadvertently synced up with my own workouts. Then, I changed my schedule a little bit, and started going in the evenings, instead of the mornings. Every single time, I saw that the nice lady had already beaten me to the gym, and had hung up her coat there again. I thought, "well, that's nice! I have myself a little shadow." I began looking around the gym as I worked out, wondering who the lady was. Was she that angry lady who I once had a confrontation with over a weight machine? Or was she the elderly Pilates teacher, who sometimes gives me "the eye," and whose gaze I have learned not to meet?

As time went by, I began to grow increasingly concerned for the lady. I mean, I go to the gym every day, and have been known to go more than once a day on weekends. Why was this lady subjecting herself to the same punishing routine that I do? I've known for many years that whatever I do won't be good enough, either at work or at the gym, but the fun for me is the trying. I've tried so hard, in fact, that I became an exercise bulimic, and now must walk uphill on the treadmill rather than run, as my knee is in pretty bad shape. Was this what was going on with the nice lady? Was she stomping through endless workouts, miserly balancing her post-workout meals in a 33-33-34 fat-carbs-protein ratio, doing countless kicks backward, into infinity? I felt such empathy for her that I wanted to find her in some corner of the gym, probably in total muscle failure, sobbing, and tell her all the lessons I've learned in my life, so as to save her some time and heartache. I would tell her, "It's okay, you'll never be as thin as you want. And no one will ever love you. Guys may say they like us, but they will always like the next person even more. Take the energy you're expending on the elliptical, and turn it inwards, and fully experience your own heart, your own soul. The blood, the meat, the guts of it. If you survive, I will be with you, and together, we can visit the ice cream bar and eat a kind of joy that will turn us cold inside. There is no other kind of joy."

In the spirit of wanting to share this dark, comforting wisdom, I approached a manager at the gym and asked him if he knew whose jacket this was. He looked at me, like, you dolt. "This coat, sir," he said, "has been here for many months. Someone left it there." Embarrassed, I walked off and lifted a dumbbell over my head.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Where are your Jil Sander pieces?

What a weekend I had. In my recent obsession with "decluttering" my apartment, I went through my closets and threw away or donated at least ten years' worth of old clothing. It was really a moving experience, and some pieces were very hard to part with ... some had, over the years, become signature pieces of mine. Notably, the jacket I am wearing in this picture, my houndstooth coat by Jil Sander. I remember working at Harcourt in 2005, wearing this coat, or maybe some other Jil Sander piece. My crazy boss at the time came out and said, "What are YOU wearing?!" I replied, rather coldly, "It's Jil Sander. Where are YOUR Jil Sander pieces, Ms. Gilmore?" (I believe she was wearing something from the Gap).

Over the years, though, the coat got worn, and was pilled in places. Plus, the sleeves were too short for my long, muscular arms. And I seemed to have to have the lining replaced, like, once a season! I had to say goodbye to it, with regret.

I don't know why I was making this face in this picture, which I found in a little box of pictures of myself as a younger person. Perhaps I was making my "model face," which in retrospect, doesn't really make me look like a model. Perhaps this is my imitation of "Ape-X," a simian character from Marvel Comics' Squadron Supreme (which, I must be honest, was just a rip-off of the Justice League). Ape-X seemed to be around primarily to make this face, which she did quite often, heart-breakingly, usually after one of her teammates was slain. She had sort of a great effect on me ... I used to puzzle, reading comics, "Why do people wish that animals could talk?" Poor Ape-X, I don't think her "psychotic break" was ever resolved, a cruelty by her illustrators that mirrors humans' cruelty towards animals of all kinds. She just exists in a kind of limbo now, forever going insane. Ah, well. We've all been there, Ape-X ...

I guess what I was doing by cleaning out my closets was "culling." Once, when I was working at a toxic literary agency (but aren't all literary agencies toxic?), the singer Suzanne Vega wrote me a letter saying that she was "culling" her journals for material for a book. I looked off into the distance and wondered at that word. I knew what it meant, but I had never heard it used before. I remember that I imagined Suzanne with a giant scythe instead of an arm. Cull ...

As I was culling my closet, I was able to acknowledge various stages in my fashion history ... my Burberry phase ... my cardigan phase ... my vest phase ... certainly my Jil Sander phase ... and move on, with hope. My fashion history continues to spool out; I am currently in a kitty cat t-shirt phase. And a plaid sport shirt phase. The phases will continue, as life continues, like a wave of molten lava. And at the end, everything will solidify, and I will breathe my last.

I suspect that after you have read this post, you will cull it.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Alternative Earth in Los Angeles

I recently took the first week-long vacation of my career, to my beloved Los Angeles, to hang out with Alia. Alia and I have known each other since high school, so by now I realize that if we spend more than a few days together, we'll have a nasty fight. This picture was taken a day or two before we had another nasty fight.

In this picture, we are at a Paula Frazer show ... in one of the few serendipitous moments of my life, I realized Paula was playing in LA after I got there and was looking through an LA Weekly. Although I would probably fly anywhere in the world to see a Paula Frazer gig, this was the first time I've ever arrived somewhere and then realized she was playing. I was so happy, and she was so wonderful - in fine voice, wearing a beautiful green dress, singing all new songs. The last time I saw her was at the Knitting Factory, where I requested a then-new song of hers, "We met by the love-lies-bleeding," and she called out into the audience to ask who I was. "Oh, I'm Gregory," I called back. "I used to live in San Francisco." Afterwards, we chatted, and I told her that I was starting to write some songs of my own. She told me I should go upstairs to see her guitarist play a show with his new band. "Oh," I replied, too quickly, too bluntly, "the guy with the big head?" Her face darkened. "Yes," she replied. "The guy with the big head."

In Los Angeles, I realized that the t-shirts I had packed would not do for the surprisingly chilly evenings LA was experiencing. So I dragged Alia to an Urban Outfitters, where I purchased a pink sweatshirt from Alternative Earth. Alia's sister Amy became obsessed with the fact that I had purchased an Alternative Earth garment, and kept bringing it up and talking about the fact that Alternative Earth donates a garment for every garment it sells. I kept trying to change the subject, as this policy of Alternative Earth's does not interest me in the slightest. (Amy also recently told me that all of my friends on my blog resemble Amy Goodman from "Democracy Now.") Amy, are you reading this now? I'm sorry I called you old. I myself am older than all of my friends put together; at least, it sometimes feels that way.

Los Angeles, smog of my lungs, fire of my heart, city of surprising overreactions to rainstorms, how I love you. I probably won't visit you again until Paula Frazer plays there again, or Lisa Germano, or somesuch, but we will always have this week, this moment, together.


I went to dinner with a set of twins, one of whom I have a little bit of a crush on, just because he is awash in sorrow sometimes, and I like to imagine swooping in and nursing him back to happiness. I walked with the twins through the fancy part of the West Village (the twins, too, are fancy ... one does something or the other with some famous fancy brand; the other is a creative director for some fancy clothing shop). Thinking, the whole time, "let me save you! Let me save you!" I asked the twins, slyly, if they ever fooled around a little bit when they were growing up. I mean, I couldn't waste the opportunity to hit on two gay twins! "All the time, Gregory," one of them said. "But you have to pay to sign up for our website to see it." Then I realized that probably every gay asks them that. "Well," I snapped, "just because it has already been said, doesn't mean it's not still funny."

We ended up at a diner, where I discussed my latest "icebreaker" of emailing guys a jpeg of my penis. They seemed very puzzled by this, and inquired whether or not that has ever worked for me. I never know how to answer that question. I mean, it hasn't worked in one sense: no one has ever responded positively, nor let me show them my penis later on, in the flesh. But it has worked in the sense that I am always highly amused by myself when I do it. Of course I then asked the twin I have a little bit of a crush on if he would like to see my jpeg. He replied that he would, and I sent it to him. Then I waited weeks and weeks to see if he would respond positively, but he has not. Nor has he requested anymore succor for his sorrow. Clearly, the jury is still out on the effectiveness of my jpeg. But meanwhile, my amusement level is at an all-time high.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Breeders tee and Zon

I was rounding my corner, wearing my Breeders tee, about to launch into some adventure for the evening when I noticed a woman on a bicycle, riding in what seemed to be a hurry to reach some all-important, life-altering destination. I looked to see what she was riding towards, realized it was the Popeye's, and then looked closer at the woman. It was Zon! My old friend! I said hello, and she was immediately mortified that I had noticed her in her panicky rush for delicious fried chicken. So I let her know (almost immediately) that I, too, am an almost-nightly visitor to Popeye's.

My reasoning is this: although I go to the gym and all that, there's nothing wrong with eating one leg and one thigh of Popeye's spicy recipe as my last meal of the day. (Obviously, I discard the biscuit). After all, there can't be that many carbs in fried chicken, right? I have made the mistake in the past of purchasing a bucket of fried chicken because it is cheaper to buy a bucket, but then usually I sit down in my apartment and eat the whole bucket, weeping.

Back to Zon. One of the most charming things about Zon is that, when she learns that you are a fan of the same thing she is, she immediately gets excited and begins speaking about hidden aspects, subtle undertones of the item, pulling you headlong into a serious discussion of something you might not have ordinarily formed serious opinions of. When we bonded over a mutual love of the television series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," for example, she somehow talked me into flying to Toronto with her to attend a convention at which Amber Benson would be in attendance. When "Buffy" went off the air, she pushed me to read various comic books and "fan fictions" about the show's characters, who apparently have fates so varied and fans so rabid that they have all had solo adventures without Buffy. "But I don't want to get that into Buffy," I demurred.

It was funny that I was wearing the Breeders tee, because I bought that tee at a Breeders show that I went to with her - along with Leviathen. During the show, Leviathen turned to me and asked, "Isn't there supposed to be one blond one and one brunette?" Then, he answered his own question: "No, that's Heart." I was immediately very impressed with his comedic stylings on that one, and have for years been looking for an occasion to use that joke myself. None has arisen.

On my corner, Zon began to launch into a discussion of some of the more obscure items on Popeye's's menu, some items that perhaps even Popeye's employees might be mystified to learn were options, and my eyes began to glaze over. "I will see you soon!" I cried. "At the Wild Flags show!!!" I love you, Zon.

Friday, September 9, 2011

My mother and 9/11

My mother had terrible timing in fashion - this picture, taken in the 90s, shows her wearing an ensemble from the 70s, a decade whose fabrics and bold textures seemed to appeal to her, for some reason. Perhaps it was the era's crop of strong, famous women, and progress in social justice? I don't know. She had terrible timing in other matters, too, which was punctuated by her untimely death on September 10, 2001. The ten-year anniversary of her death, a moment I'd been waiting for for most of my adult life, for many reasons both good and bad, is tomorrow. I'll forgive you for observing other anniversaries.

When our loved ones die, I think most of us have the reasonable expectation that it is, to some degree, our moment. We get to grieve, have privacy, arrange a funeral or memorial service, have relatives and friends fly in to comfort us, and eventually get over it. When my mother died the day before September 11th, we had less than a day to proceed as though it were our moment and try, in our grief, to make our plans. Then the next day arrived, which of course, became everyone's moment, and made privacy, funeral arrangements, and certainly loved ones flying in to comfort us, impossible.

My mother was a very strong woman, though an unusual parent. She adopted me and my brother Jonathan after our real parents (my real father was her brother; it's a long story) were both killed by our gardener (an even longer story) in Antigua in the mid-70s. She and her husband made sure that every need of ours was filled, and they raised us as their own. Strangely, they regaled us with stories about how, before we arrived, they'd dined out most nights, but now were forced to eat meaner fare at home, stuck there with two small, traumatized boys. And they were already so tired, from raising their own two children.

My brother and I were very good at finding ways to "act out" that must have perplexed these older, tired people from a different era. Over the next ten years or so, I learned to overeat, shoplift, talk back, get in trouble at school, and lie. When I was still just a tween - though we didn't have that word back then - I began showing an interest in "dirty" magazines. Bad timing on my part - I was a little too young for that to possibly sit well with anyone. My brother, over that same ten-year period, became sickly, slow in school, was frequently hospitalized, and later on, counter-intuitively, began hanging out with a rough crowd.

Willful though we may have been, we were no match for my mother, who was frequently a terrifying presence in the house. After my father's first heart attack, she threatened to send me and my brother to an orphanage if he died. I don't know about my brother, but I believed her, and was frightened to sleeplessness at the thought. She and her husband weren't stingy with the beatings, either. Once she sent me to school with a note for my guidance counselor. I read it over the counselor's shoulder: "Thank you for letting me know that our son misbehaved in school yesterday. He was soundly whipped last night." Soundly whipped! What an old-fashioned phrase, but, again, they were from a different era. When my mother found a Playgirl in my room once, she told me that if she ever found out I was gay, it would be worse to her than when her brother (my real father) was killed.

Many times during my childhood and teen years I prayed for my adoptive parents' death, which is common enough behavior as to have entered the territory of the unfortunate cliche. But eventually, I developed a very macabre sense of humor, and then found them quite hilarious. But I started fighting them, too.

Years later, when I was in my very early 20s and living in Manhattan, I got into my head that I wanted to move to California. My mother was stunned. Her two real children, after all, both lawyers, had lived under her roof until their mid-30s. They both still visited her almost daily, although she had been, by all accounts, even meaner to them than to me and my brother. None of her children had ever been as difficult as I had been as a child. And now, in the ultimate form of rebellion, I was moving away to the other end of the country, beyond her reach. She told me I would fail there, of course. On the day I went out to Queens to say goodbye to her, she shook her head at me and announced with great grimness, "I don't know who you are anymore." "Mom," I said, expasperated, "that's what mothers say in movies, not in real life." Then she gave me $500 and a hug.

I didn't have such a great time of it in San Francisco, as it turned out. I was pretty broke all the time, underemployed, and San Francisco's delis are allowed to sell liquor, which helped me to, ahem, develop quite the taste for the sauce. Feeling like I was flaming out in SF, I began looking for a reason to retreat back to NYC, without it seeming like my mother had been right. Her timing was great for once: she got sick and was hospitalized for an extended period of time. Seizing the opportunity, I announced to my family that I would return to be closer to her in her time of need.

Years passed. By now, I was in my late 20s, and I had learned to balance my terrible memories of my childhood with my gratitude for her willingness to take me and my brother in. She started getting weirdly sweet around the time she turned 80. She would call me up and tell me not to go down to the West Village, "because they're killing gay men down there." I had never come out to her, only to my siblings, because of what she had said to me that time with the Playgirl, so that was a somewhat awkward phone call. My sister, who still visited her every day, told me that she was "slipping," forgetting things. Entering the first stages of some sort of dementia. Which explained her being nice, too. That's how it works sometimes. (But at first I didn't believe my sister. My mother had always developed "illnesses" that to my mind were direct comments on the lives of her children. My sister and brother were overweight, so she developed arthritis. They smoked, so she became short of breath and claimed to have emphysema. When we heard her emphysema self-diagnosis, we were horrified, and asked if she had seen a doctor. "Why do I need a doctor to tell me what I know I have?" she replied. She even started carrying around an inhaler. That was my mom!)

During the last conversation I ever had with my mother, I was telling her about my best friend's baby, who had said or done something particularly adorable that week. My mother laughed and said, "Well, you could settle down with a nice young lady, you know, and have a baby of your own!" This was her fondest wish, for a grandchild. My sister had lost a baby once, and could no longer conceive. The same thing had happened to my eldest brother's wife. My real brother, Jonathan, was long dead by then (that rough crowd). I laughed at my mother and replied as emphatically as I could, "Mom...I don't think you have to worry about a baby with me." She laughed, knowing exactly what I was saying - that I was finally coming out to her, in a way - and we said goodbye. Although I obviously couldn't know this was happening, my sister told me later that my mother put down the phone and immediately started telling everyone that she was ready to die. Three days later, on September 10th, she was dead. And then it was the next day.

Sometimes when we are hit with a tragedy, it makes us more aware of, or perhaps more sensitive to, how others deal with the tragedies of their own lives. Over the next few years, I watched with morbid amusement and some jealousy how the relatives and loved ones of the 9/11 deceased dealt with the tragedy, with the rest of the world expected to mourn with them. This isn't a blog post about them, however; many blog posts have already been written about these people, and deservedly so.

Every fall I almost forget that the anniversary of my mother's death is coming, but then with the news coverage, I am reminded again. Because this year is the all-important 10th anniversary, maybe each subsequent anniversary will be heralded less and less, as everyone moves on with their lives? When I accidently tune in to a 9/11 anniversary "special" on television, it can still take me back to those terrifying days ten years ago, when my mother stopped breathing and died, and we had to wait for the ban on airline flights to be lifted so her son Michael could return home from vacation and attend her funeral.

A few years ago, my father let me know what my mother's last word was: my name. Not her real children's names, but mine. I was deeply touched by that. Today, in my late 30s - too late to let her know, but still early enough to make a difference - I've finally grown to love even the bad memories of her. They're useful, after all: there's usually a crazy mother character in the fiction I write, for example. And the macabre sense of humor my childhood gave me now enables me to laugh at the emotionally unavailable men who make up the dating pool in New York. And laugh, too, at the indignities that are heaped upon me (and everyone else who works in an office) throughout the average working day. Do I think my mother experienced a similar evolution in her feelings for me? I theorize that my mother eventually learned to love and respect me because she realized I was a worthy opponent. And that's exactly how I like to remember her.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Advocate party

I went to a party last night hosted by Matthew Breen from the Advocate. I secretly went because I have a little bit of a crush on Matthew, who is dreamy. Once, years ago, I had lunch with him, and when he was saying goodbye, he suddenly leaned in and dramatically kissed me on the cheek, lingering ever so slightly so that I had time to inhale his musk and fall in love. Maybe it was more than love, though. Maybe, because I am an outcast, and because he was editing OUT at the time, I felt like Matthew, with that kiss, was accepting me at long last into the gay community itself.

Still, I'm a little awkward around most gays. At the party, I went immediately into the smoking section outside, where I saw "a little awkward around everything" Michael Musto come in and lurk about uncomfortably, probably fabricating some internal dialogue about how fabulous everything was, and how everyone was talking to him and saying provocative things, which no one was. I have met Michael many times, but he never remembers, so a long time ago I just stopped trying. Some nice gay boys came prancing in, and I remembered the lessons my one gay friend recently taught me, and I cried, "Work!" But then they started telling me about some Beyonce show they had just come from. A secret show, entrance to which seemed to involve some desultory coercion of some sort. I weakly told them that I loved her "Single Ladies." They stared at me open-mouthed and said, "That's it?!" Sorry, gays. I don't know from Beyonce. I stopped buying her music when she left Destiny's Child.

Inside, I milled around, waiting for Matthew to arrive at his own party, and saw a collection of Indian and black gays sitting around making fun of people theatrically. Deciding to try to make friends with this crew, I walked over and announced, "Is this the colored section?" Surprisingly, rather than freezing me solid with their gaze, they invited me in and seemed to take a (mild) interest in me having fun at the party. I danced a little bit, but my side-to-side "Belinda Carlisle" dance, which has aged suspiciously well, much like Ms. Carlisle herself.

Then Matthew came in! I walked over and screamed his name and hugged him, then asked him if he remembered me. He did! OMG, I totally crushed out. I told him I would messenger him a package to his hotel that week, but now I'm wondering if I should do what I was planning and just messenger him a galley I think he might like, or if I should try to uphold my own reputation and send him something dirty-ish but non-threatening, as well. I'll have to think about that.

Anyway, the invite for the party said "dress posh," so that's why I dug up this ratty old Sleater-Kinney tee. Hee, hee! And by the way, I know that Matthew probably kisses every publicist dramatically. But hey, what gay doesn't want to feel special? I know I do.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Gay Pride

I decided to meet Annie and her friend at the Gay Pride Parade (okay, obviously I'm a little late in posting this one). I decided to wear my "Have you seen my weiner?" t-shirt, which I have worn correctly only once before. I've worn it inside-out many times, but I'm afraid of offending the ladies and gentlemen in my neighborhood with it. But, I figured, who am I going to offend at the Gay Pride Parade? Everyone will ignore me, gawking instead at the shirtless ladies and men in pink spandex.

When I arrived at the parade, however, I noticed that everyone seemed to have toned it down a notch since the parades I used to attend in the 1990s. A lot of people seemed to have kids, too. I felt a little ashamed, actually, at my t-shirt, but that was okay. I enjoy feeling shame. (The shirt itself is my way to shame myself about my promiscuous period - again in the 90s - where I would "take it out" in a variety of settings). My friend Tim and I used to joke about our "Gay Shame Parade," which consisted of just the two of us, plus whichever loners and outcasts were currently in our circle. Then Tim moved away to Berlin. Sigh. Now it's just me, a parade of one.

Everyone is so ra-ra about everything these days. People cheered for the Bank of America float, for God's sake. They even cheered for the NYPD's brass band. I dutifully booed and hissed any float that featured a bank's logo, and I definitely booed the NYPD, but I was the only one booing. I don't get Lady Gaga, either.

Alice Walker wrote once that "resistance is the secret of joy." And Sheryl Crow lamented that "it's hard to make a stand." Parade volunteers pranced by, handing out stickers for the crowd to wear, but I politely declined all of them, except for the one I'm wearing in this pic. The sticker for SAGE, the elderly gays. I could rock this town, friends, but first I have to take a Boniva.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Grey Lady

Me and Chadi went to see the New York Times documentary "Page One." Chadi is another one of my unlimited supply of cousins - although, technically, I suppose, he is my second cousin. His mother Pauline is my cousin. Perhaps he is my nephew? I don't know. :(

I adore the New York Times, and, in homage to that paper, I wore an all-grey outfit - a grey tee, grey Levi's, and blue-grey loafers - so that I could say that I was "The Grey Lady." Ha ha, am I the only one old enough to get that joke? Perhaps...

The documentary was great, but I'm already on the New York Times' side, so maybe I'm not impartial here. I have the "Weekender" subscription. (Don't you hate those "Weekender" commercials? Whenever that guy says, "I go straight for the sports section," I can't help but think, "I go straight for his cock." But that's me. Dirty and bitter and perverted, I am truly the target audience for the NYT, though the stories reflecting my private thoughts and personal journeys are usually banished to "Styles.")

Most weekends, I read the NYT while walking on the treadmill at the gym, where I walk on an 8% incline and go 3 m.p.h. I'm old! Once, when I was buying an NYT at Starbucks, the cashier asked me, "Don't you have an iPhone?" When I replied that yes I did have one, although what business is that of yours? he said, "But you know all this is online, right?" But I get sweaty, Starbucks friend!

As part of my job, I find myself emailing people from the NYT almost on a daily basis. Sometimes this has mixed results. I'll never forget my anger when JM, a reporter from the NYT, stole my author's book's premise for an article with neither attribution nor interview. And I recently got a bizarre phone call from another reporter, JH, who apparently wished to spend a half-hour on the phone with me making fun of my knowledge of fairies (!!), insulting a couple of our authors, and making a bizarre allegation about my manliness. But for some reason I can't quit you, NYT. I wouldn't even know there was a country called Burkina Faso without having read its name in the dateline of one of your articles. Gail Collins, one of your columnists, routinely makes me laugh out loud on the treadmill at the gym. And sweet, saintly Charles M. Blow makes me remember sometimes what it means to be a liberal, to have compassion, to feel.

After the movie, Chadi and I met up with Mary (who took this picture) for some tapas.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The wrong bulge

Why is it that whenever a politician is busted for sending R-rated photos of himself, it always seems to be the wrong politician? Case in point, Anthony Weiner. I can honestly say that I never looked at him and imagined wanting to see his bulge, nor did I ever wish to see the somewhat scorched-looking torso of Rep. Chris Lee.

Why did these politicians think that sending lewd images of themselves would get some woman hot? Anthony Weiner's political career did impress me - he has a great point of view and great panache, although like many politicians, his debut in politics seemed a little shady. But he clearly has bad judgment if he thought his bulge was going to entice, rather than repel, any female onlooker.

You would think it would be the so-called hot ones who have pictures of themselves scantily clad at the ready. I am not attracted either to Men's Health coverboy Rep. Aaron Schock nor Sen. Scott Brown, two oft-mentioned "hunks" o' government. But if anyone was going to flash a bulge, you would think it would be these two.

Currently, the only politician I am attracted to (now that Tony Blair and Idi Amin are out of office) is Rep. Paul Ryan, or, as I like to call him, "the Dark Lord." Truly, so cute! But so evil, as well. Can't you just imagine his blue eyes boring into you as you (bound and gagged, of course) struggle to moan for help? Just to look at his beautiful, manicured hands is to imagine those hands cutting off your oxygen, just as he is trying to do with America's budget. Where is his bulge? Where is his blue dress? Nowhere, that's where. Phooey.

If anyone has a picture of Paul Ryan naked, and doesn't mind me building a blog post around it (and forwarding it to a small group of like-minded political enthusiasts), please send me a jpeg?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Tracy Morgan

What kind of a world do we live in where even the gays have lost their sense of irony? Okay, that's a loaded question, but in reality I'm really surprised that people don't get that Tracy Morgan's whole persona is an act, a character. To me, he's a performance artist, a genius on the level of an Andy Kaufman or a Stephen Colbert. But even some of the gays whose opinions I respect (William, Johnathan, the staff of OUT) seem to be upset by his homophobic standup act. Does anyone really think that mopey, gay Midwestern teens would feel a real threat from a man who so often dresses in drag? Give gay teens some credit! And give the bullies who harass them some credit, too - I'm sure that if bullies start stabbing teens now, they probably weren't too far away from doing so to begin with. You may not believe in me, bullies, but I believe in you. I'm sure Tracy will check himself into rehab now, or set up an awkward visit with some teens who've been bullied. Oh, well. Joan Rivers and "Family Guy" might as well take a few months off, until the dust settles. And Alec Baldwin better pray that Youtube crashes. And you, Tina Fey, re-watch "30 Rock"'s loathsome and very funny "feminism episode," please. And if anyone feels the urge to stab me to retaliate for this post, by all means, stab away. I'm a big fan of irony!

Uniqlo tee

I went out to Queens last night, and walked in to find my father and sister looking through my father's ADT papers. His ADT alarm was malfunctioning, so every few minutes, it was emitting a tooth-grinding shriek. But the only person who knew the security code to turn off the alarm was Miss Webster, his former home health aide, who recently moved back to St. Kitts! They forced me to get on the phone with ADT, and ADT walked me through the steps of disabling the alarm - I felt like Macgyver with a screwdriver in my hand, disabling an alarm - it felt like I was disabling a bomb. Why doesn't my father - an accomplished man with a strange fear that bands of roving maladroits are rampant in Queens, lurking about and waiting for the opportunity to kidnap 90-year-old men with incontinence issues - know the code to his house's security system?

Afterwards, my nerves still on edge from the shrieking of the alarm, my father sat me down and told me that my real father's estate may have finally been settled, and that there may be "some money there waiting for me." Ha! That estate has been in a mysterious limbo for 30-plus years, and I don't believe it will ever truly be settled. But that's between you and me. My father told me to call my cousin Ann in Antigua, who is the lawyer for the estate. What an awkward conversation that will be - especially since Ann's daughter Joy herself was kidnapped a couple of weeks ago (it turned out okay) and I haven't called Ann yet to see how she's doing. My slowness in showing my concern for my relatives has cost me dearly in the past, and that trend continues, it seems.

After that weird talk with my father, I went into the kitchen and saw a roach! Gaaaa! Maxine wanted to spray it, but I refused to use the spray, instead choosing to kill it with my bare hands. People are far too squeamish about using their hands to kill roaches, I feel - it's the most environmentally friendly method, and you get to kill a living being with your bare hands! (If you sometimes feel powerless, killing is one way to take your power back. Over the years - especially my childhood years - I have clapped mosquitoes between my palms, squeezed beetles, de-winged moths - and now, in my adulthood, I feel a strange sense of power, which sometimes manifests itself as a paralyzing anxiety). After I killed the roach, my sister smiled weakly and said "eEeEeEeE." I cracked up. Then I went downstairs into my childhood bathroom and took this picture. I'm wearing a recent purchase, a dark grey tee from Uniqlo. There were many options of colors in this particular tee shirt model, but I chose this color and a purple one, too - because those reminded me of tee shirts of mine from the past. To someone who is powerful, though, ahem, "between inheritances," with a seemingly never-ending gig providing technical support to a surprisingly helpless father and sister, wearing a familiar tee is perhaps the only self-comfort available at times. That, and Paxil.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Clip a loaf

A bird shat on me today. Are you one of those people who think that's good luck? I'm not.

I can remember with great clarity the occasions in my life where I bird has hit me with an ass apple. The first time, I was working as a temporary Census worker. God, it must have been 1990. I was crestfallen when it happened; I thought life was a bit of a charnal pit already - I was a fat kid with a part-time job, living at home again with my sadistic parents, on summer break from college. And then to top it all off, I had to make my rounds to the homes of strangers in Queens, covered in excreta.

The second time it happened, I was wandering in Midtown during a patch of, ahem, under-employment. I think I had just seen David Dinkins walking in the street, and, while that did thrill me, it probably offered me no succor, as he was unemployed himself at the time. What could a sighting of David Dinkins do for me?! I remember feeling overwhelmed and forming this thought: What has God wrought? Literally. I was thinking in complete sentences back then, as if I was writing my thoughts down in a little book. And then a bird hit me with its sphincter spear.

Today, I was walking from CVS with a bag full of pills when I felt what I at first thought was a blast from a bb gun. I put my hand to my head and drew it back filled with stool. But what did it mean? I know that birds are God's emissaries on Earth, so what was God trying to tell me? I'm actually in a good place in my life right now. My meds are working. I get a great deal of personal satisfaction from my job. I just purchased a li'l Netbook, and now will be tap-tap-tapping away at my unpublishable novel. I'm not seeing anyone, and so have a little extra money in my pocket.

This is a picture of me in the bathroom at work after I had washed my head off. I'm wearing some Barney's shirt, which I recently shortened the sleeves of. A little speck of the bird's toilet orphan is on my shoulder, but you'd never see it unless you looked for it.

I remember a scene from Orwell's Animal Farm in which a flock of birds "mutes" on some farmers. My English teacher at the time told us that "mute" in this context meant to "clip a loaf," as it were. I can say in all sincerity that I have had a very Orwellian day today.

Pizza party!

It was Annie's bday, so I took her to that Max Brenner restaurant in Union Square, where we had a delicious supper. Annie never warns people when her birthday is approaching ... she only tells you months later, so you can feel terrible about forgetting it, and she can be a martyr of a sort. But now I will have the last laugh! I've saved Annie's bday in an internet program, so I get a reminder about it every year. Now, every year I tell her she's an old hag like me, and then I take her out to dinner so we can have some food for our Boniva to dissolve in.

I laughed out loud when I saw the t-shirt she was wearing! It's an inside joke that not too many people know - Annie and our friend Kristin have a fake band named Pizza Party, that exists only for them to take funny "album cover" photos and post them on their Facebook pages. I remember looking at these posts once and feeling both impressed by their wit and a little jealous that I wasn't in the band. I wish I had the link. I just googled "kristin anne pizza party" to try to find the link again, and instead I found a link to a segment on New Jersey's News 13 where Kristin embarks on a unicycle ride across the state, in the hope of inspiring "locals to live their dreams." I quickly closed my browser window ... sometimes we find that we don't know our friends as well as we thought. And perhaps that's for the best.

Here's the unicycle segment link:


White people

I hesitate to post about this, because it might offend some people, but for all my life, I have tried to avoid buying articles of clothing with pictures of white people on them. I have nothing against you, white people! But there are so many of you - in my neighborhood, my career, my social life - I don't need to see you depicted on my clothing. Plus, as a minority, I feel that I should be going above and beyond to find positive portrayals of black people to wear. Trust me when I tell you, it's hard to find positive portrayals of black people on clothing. Sigh.

As I've mentioned on my blog before, an old boss once tried to give me a pair of cufflinks with white babies depicted on them! "Oh, no!" I practically screamed at him. "I'm not going to walk around this place with a pair of white babies on my wrist!" It helps the story if you imagine that the place of work was Sotheby's, where I was the only black man employed, aside from the art handlers.

Imagine this, then ... after a weeks-long search for the perfect pair of khaki pants, after I had ventured bravely into what is consistently my fashion Waterloo, Urban Outfitters, found a pair of khakis that I loved (slim fit, a slightly olive tint), laundered this pair of pants (thus rendering them unreturnable), and then hung them up ... Imagine my shock at looking closer at the pocket after something had caught my eye ... closer, still closer ... and then realizing, with a sinking feeling, that a bunch of white children - practically microscopic but still there! - were cavorting around inside the button.

I have many racial hangups, it's true. This story illustrates just one of them.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Kiss & Fly

Susan somehow convinced me to drag my ass out to Kiss & Fly to see a bizarre live taping of the "Judith Regan Show." I went not only to prove that I can still lurk around at hip clubs at my age, but also because I wanted to meet the legendary Judith Regan, who used to work for the publishing company I work for. One of my colleagues has saved a voicemail from Judith in which she starts off all nicey-nice, but then begins screaming at him so loudly that, years later, the sheer terror she must have inspired is still palpable. Because I had a crazy mother, I find crazy ladies really fascinating, and I go out of my way to befriend and mollify them. But I was unable to get close to Judith at Kiss & Fly, however - that dirty old Dennis Hof from HBO's "Cathouse" was in my way. :(

Susan and I were watching Vicki when Susan muttered to me, "Look at Vicki. What is she going for here - winter, spring, summer, or fall?" I cracked up, because I love catty fashion commentary! Then Susan told me that my evil college journalism nemesis Tom McGinty is up for two Pulitzers this year! I swear, if Tom McGinty wins a Pulitzer, I will plotz. Back at Utica College, he won every single award ever created, and tried to discredit me as a less-than-serious journalist! I will never forgive him for referring to me as the "part-time Arts & Entertainment Editor of the Tangerine." As my life has taught me, people hate the arts ...

Right after this picture was taken, some creeping fellow asked if I would come say hello to his friend, who was giving me the eye, and who apparently owns some gas stations. Even though I was not attracted to his friend, a gas station owner is a step up from my usual love interests, who are generally unemployed and sort of psychotic and detached. I went and said hello, but I guess I didn't make the cut, because I was dismissed after that. "We like to meet a lot of people," the creeper said. Apparently, the creeping friend and the gas station owner flew home that night in the gas station owner's personal helicopter. Ah, well. I guess I should count myself lucky. With my luck, I probably would have been thrown from the helicopter mid-flight.

Susan became drunkenly obsessed with getting a picture taken with Dennis Hof, and I took the opportunity to slip out and head home to bed with the Colonel. A typical night for the Gregster. No Pulitzer in hand, no digits from the gas station millionaire - but all the overweight cat I can snuggle.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cleaning day

I took Friday off to clean my apartment, which is something I do from time to time, though I do find my efforts futile in a way. I spent the whole day taking recycling downstairs, doing laundry, putting away clean clothes, and throwing things out. I also did two hours of cardio - an hour on my stationary bike, and one hour on the treadmill at the gym. While exercising, I sped-read my way through four months-worth of old New York Times's that I had stacked on my computer, and which had become an oppressive mountain of late. When newspapers stack up like that, I am consumed with terrible guilt - as a book publicist, I know that there might be some tidbit in one of the papers that I could parlay into a booking for one of my authors. So I can't bring myself to throw them out! That's why, when I finally got to the bottom of the pile, I was reading a New York Times from October 30, 2010. Once, a long time ago, I threw away an even bigger stack of papers and magazines that I had been saving in a plastic tub - at Vicki's suggestion - and I cried myself to sleep that night, and have been haunted ever since by what I might have found, what I might have been made to believe.

After a hard day like that, what better way to unwind than with a terrifying movie in which a hard-working book publicist is stabbed to death and then dumped off a building? That's why I went to see "Scream 4" with Chris and Kirk. Here I am, wearing a Helmut Lang t-shirt I'd found that day on the bottom of a drawer, along with my "punk-rock" pants from John Varvatos. If I ever get stabbed to death and dumped off a building, I hope I'm wearing Helmut Lang. What a fabulous way to die.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Richard was in town with his boyfriend Patrick, and we went to Westville for brunch. I commented on Richard's militaristic coat, and then I photographed him, as the military look is hot, hot, hot right now. I know Richard from Lehman Brothers, and, during my time there, the other assistants and I were always curious as to how Richard remained employed. Richard said during brunch that it was his perfectionism that made the higher-ups hate him, but I seem to recall that it was his penchant for taking off every single religious holiday on the calendar (and there are many). But who am I to grouse about someone's work ethic at Lehman Brothers? When I was there, I was cultivating a serious drug habit, and took a great many days off myself (once without any notification at all, which was shocking - SHOCKING - to Human Resources). I was also cultivating a serious inclination toward bluntly sexual office banter - once I told Ali Behbahani that my PIBs (public information books) were as "sweet as honey," while winking lewdly at him. That was really gross. And when Ted Kalem touched a fax machine near me once and said "That's hot!" I replied, sweetly, "Thank you." He gave me a dirty look. At our group head Gary's clam bake at his Westchester pool house, sitting across from Ali, wearing swim trunks, I literally exposed myself to him, and he turned pale. But what could they do? My boss was their supervisor, and he was a scary person. Once, I called him to give my two weeks' notice, and he intimidated me into staying! He literally refused to let me quit. These days, of course, I am old and tired, and being a sassy secretary doesn't hold the same thrill for me. I'm not even an assistant any more - although I was one for years after I left Lehman Brothers. Looking back, I really am sorry that I refused to do your expense report that time, Nik Puri! I'm sorry that I was so loud in the office, Marilyn and Armita. I hope you are still in touch with "Mr. Frank." Wherever he is, I am sure he is closing in on the bottom line as surely as if he contained a homing device within him. And I'm really sorry to you, Ali, for "taking it out." Richard, I'm glad we stay in touch, even though there isn't even a Lehman Brothers anymore. Most of all, for reasons that may be obvious to everyone, I'm sorry I never met Dick Fuld.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Show's over, Synergy

For some reason, I've been obsessed with 80s cartoon "Jem" lately. I know, I know, I'm old. And gay. I spent a weekend recently googling Jem, and discovered many unexpected things. Did you know that the woman who provided Jem's singing voice is now the bassist for the band Luna? Or that Christy Marx, the show's creator, may be thinking of reviving the show and doll line? I didn't, but I do now.

Jem's signature line, "Showtime, Synergy!", of course, was the signal for her computer, Synergy, to project a hologram of the Jem character, usually with pink hair and a sassy pink outfit (often with a sash) over Jerrica Benton's body. And then she would sing and dance with her band, and engage in a surprisingly lethal feud with a rival band, the Misfits. Sometimes I wonder if that's what drew me to Jem - the fact that she was just an illusion. Or was it because it was the first time I saw anyone wear a sash? Who knows?

Whatever the appeal, Jem really did it for me. I was thirteen when the show debuted, and I would rush home from high school and set up my little tape recorder next to the t.v. so I could tape Jem's songs. I still remember some of them by heart. The theme song. "Music is Magic." "Let the Music Play." Now that I think about it, I was perhaps a little too old even then to get that into a cartoon. And certainly, I had to keep my obsession a secret from my parents, who enjoyed punishing me by withholding access to my favorite things. (Plus, my mother had already chastised me for wanting to see "Dreamgirls," saying, "I don't know what kind of young man wants to see three woman on stage, singing." My mother was truly outrageous!)

Recently, in a meeting in our department at work, the topic of Jem came up. I grasped my imaginary star earring and said: "Showtime, Synergy!" I expected everyone's eyes to light up, remembering that immortal battle cry. Instead, I was greeted with embarrassed silence from the other members of the publicity department. Clearly, no one remembered Jem's lines, and, in fact, everyone wondered why I did. I was going to say Jem's other immortal line, "Show's over, Synergy!" but I figured the message behind that line could be inferred already, from the silence.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Me and Sue and Heather

Heather was in town, and I went to meet her and Susan for lunch at Burger Heaven. I'm wearing a coat from Tumi Sport, a hat from Mandarina and Duck and my new Levi's 505s. Heather and Susan had attended a performance by Lucinda Williams the night before, and were on their way to the MoMA. I feel like they're always going to see Lucinda Williams. I myself saw her twice, and then I felt like that was enough. She's not going to sing "Passionate Kisses" anymore. She's not going to sing "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road."

Once a year I like to purchase a coat and a scarf, which I incorporate into my rotating wardrobe. The coat I am wearing in this picture is this year's purchase. Perhaps my ultimate goal is to do a music video in which I am wearing lots of different coats and scarves. I have never seen a Lucinda Williams video, but if there is one, I'm sure she is only wearing one coat.

I used to make a lot of macabre jokes about my dead friends and family, and now Susan is doing it, too - about hers. When I told Susan and Heather about the panicky feeling I've been having for a couple of weeks now, and that I was now on Seroquel during the day, not just the night, Susan drily told me that someone she knew used to take Seroquel, and now he's dead. I replied, perhaps unnecessarily, that that wasn't the best commercial for Seroquel.

Do you, like me, ever feel like you've taught your friends well? Perhaps too well?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Replacement wallet

*Sigh*. I loved my little green canvas wallet with the birds on it. I got it two years ago at an Urban Outfitters, and I knew it wouldn't last. Now here it is with a huge hole in it.

A salesman had warned me when I bought it: "these wallets are kind of childish." I was mortified, knowing that in the parlance of the young and hip, that means "you are too old." But I was used to it by then. There aren't too many 38-year-old men who idly browse through Urban Outfitters, waiting for some shiny item to thrill them, to call to them. I am one such man.

Luckily, I have a replacement wallet, and it has a funny backstory. A long time ago, my friend Jimmy was in Japan, and he went to someone's house. At the house, he complimented a lantern, and he was given the lantern, just like that, simply because it was the custom to do so in Japan! But Jimmy knew beforehand that that was the custom, so he had complimented the lantern in order to get it. He really wanted that lantern!

Years and years later, not knowing this story, I complimented Jimmy on his wallet. Not too long after that, he gave me an identical wallet as a gift. I thought, what a nice guy! But then I overheard him telling the Japan story to someone, and I realized what he had done. He is trying to live a good life, and because he can't track down his Japan hosts, he had paid it forward, to me. I want to live a life like that, and just my wanting it actually makes it happen sometimes, on certain days.

Now, though it pains me to retire the bird wallet, I have a new wallet to use, for no other reason than that a friend was trying to be a good person. Random acts of kindness ...

Monday, February 28, 2011

You wear THOSE, shoes, I decide

Seniors like me rarely get "tuned in" to the sounds of the young, since we go to bed too early and fear the radiation that seeps from computers. But from time to time over the past decade or so, some new bands have come to my attention. I adore the Noisettes, for example, and the Silversun Pickups, and Jean on Jean, and Joan as Police Woman, although I do think her second album sounded a little rushed. (Ah, well. Again, we've all been there, album). Perhaps the most unlikely band to incur my approval, though, is the local rock combo Interpol, whom I went to see last week at Radio City Music Hall.

Interpol first showed up on my radar when I was watching the video show "NewNowNext" on LOGO. The video for "The Heinrich Manuever" came on, and I was watching it in a theatrically neutral kind of way. I thought the visuals were sort of frightfully dull - a waiter is running, a lady gets hit by a bus (but the bus seems to only be going five miles an hour, so where's the harm in that?). But then the singer, a pinched-sounding young man who sings in a kind of over-earnest way, said to the lady he was singing the song to: "you wear those shoes, I decide."

I must say, I fell a little bit in love with Interpol with that line. Imagine - a straight man who tells his lady what shoes she must wear! How silly and vaguely threatening, simultaneously. Guiltily, I began collecting their music, although because I suspected that they actually were not really "cool," I got most of their records from the library. I sort of feel weird about supporting acts that are openly derivative of other bands (like Interpol and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) even when I enjoy their music. That's the hypocrite in me, I suppose. Anyway, I laughed my head off at Interpol's cds - the cocaine imagery, the veiled threats of violence, their little suits and stuff. But I rocked out a little bit to them, too. And I decided that I would go, in all my ruined glory, to see them live.

Sadly, I quickly learned that when an old person hears of a band, it's likely that the young people have heard of that band years ago, and when Interpol played that year, it was at Madison Square Garden. I refuse to go to such a large arena! I remember some fellow I used to chum around with when I worked at MultiPlan named Justin Cherno telling me that he liked Tracy Chapman, but that he wouldn't go see her live until her popularity inevitably waned, and she was reduced to playing at the Academy. (Of course, Tracy Chapman threw a monkey-wrench into that plan with that unstoppable blues jam she dropped a few years ago. And there isn't even an Academy anymore, alack).

Long story short, years passed, and Interpol finally toured again, and I snapped up one ticket to see them. This is a picture of them, but I took it with my crappy Blackberry, so it's inscrutable. I was afraid that I would be wading through hipsters at Radio City Music Hall, but it appears that the hipsters have moved on from Interpol. When a band is kewl, but their fans are no longer kewl, it seems to indicate that a break up is coming, so I am glad that I attended the Interpol show, as it may very well turn out to be their last. And whom have the hipsters moved on to? I'll let you know in approx. five years.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sunday brunch

A bunch of us cousins went up to Paula and Luther's for brunch on Sunday. We discussed Precious, Nadia's ice cream cone idea, Esperanza Spalding, and book promotion, amongst other topics. I brought flowers and a wheat loaf. For a long time, I have refused to eat white bread - it's kind of like a mental prison I've been locked into from reading too many issues of Men's Health. (If Men's Health were looking for a new name for itself, I would definitely nominate "Worries.") One of these days, I'm going to bring my own crust to a pizza store. Or bring my own host to church. I'm wearing Fred Perry in this picture, and some ratty old cap. I'm not sure what everyone else is wearing.

Paula knows that when I meet up with people, I prefer to go to the movies, so that I don't have to talk to anyone, and can drift off into my own thoughts and the thoughts of the filmmaker, and eat tubs of popcorn, "worries" or no. But every now and then, I do like to gather in a group with people. After the brunch, Alyse, Nadia, Xavi and I walked down Edgecombe Avenue and I broke into the song "Harlem Blues," from Spike Lee's Mo' Better Blues. "Twenty years later and I still know that song by heart.

I'm not sure where this post is going, so I'll stop.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Farrah hood

I wanted to mourn the putting away of my winter clothes, so I went with Mary to dinner at Acme, wearing my hooded coat from Diesel. I asked Mary to take my picture, and when I looked at the result, I noticed that the hood made me look like I had Farrah Fawcett hair.

What are your thoughts on Farrah Fawcett? When she died last year, I read an article on Salon that called her the "pretty girl reaching for depth." I was moved by that epitaph, as I've always sort of seen myself as a "deep girl reaching for prettiness." Salon wasn't the only one who offered a remembrance of Farrah, of course. In fact, the publishing company where I work put out a book about her last year, and it ... ahem ... underperformed. (Ah, well. We've all been there, book.) I think that people resist the effort to embrace a re-contextualization of a life that was basically blameless, a life lived in a seeming pursuit of joy and happiness. Perhaps that's to our credit as humans. Personally, when I am on line at the supermarket and glance at a tabloid headline that reads "Such-and-such-actor's sad final days" before the actor is even dead, it gives me a chill. Whose final days aren't sad, I wonder? Sometimes even my not-so-final days have a tinge of sorrow.

Mary and I went out to dinner on Valentine's Day. Like most years, I was happy to say goodbye to Valentine's Day even before it arrived. Goodbye, Valentine's! Goodbye, winter! Until next year, hooded coat! And goodbye, Farrah Fawcett.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Soft-soled shoes

Today was my annual trip to the podiatrist to have my hoof sanded down. I have sustained many lingering injuries over the course of my life - a mysterious fractured foot, repetitive-stress wear and tear to my knees from obsessive running - and, during the year, these injuries lead to the buildup of callouses on my feet. At the injuries' worst, I feel like Black Beauty or Seabiscuit, two horses whose own foot problems led to high-stepping drama on the racing circuit. Unlike Black Beauty, however, I don't have to be destroyed; instead, once or twice a year, I go to a podiatrist to have the callouses shaved off. I like my current podiatrist, but on occasion I have felt that other podiatrists were getting more satisfaction from handling my feet than could possibly have been intended. I suppose that, were I a "foot man," I would become a podiatrist, as well. No one speaks of "foot men" anymore these days - have you noticed that? Perhaps they have gone and retained themselves a good publicist.

Today, my podiatrist idly inquired whether I had watched the Grammy's, and, rather than replying, I went on a strange tear about internet rumors about Justin Bieber. That he is really a 50-year-old man with a degenerative disease. That Usher is his lover. Etc., etc. Actually, I have not actually seen the rumors personally, but they are related to me by the young people in my department at work. Sometimes I think they make things up to tell me to get a reaction out of me, because they think I am insane. But I am merely a harmless eccentric ...

I left the podiatrists' office with a spring in my step, and a bottle of fungicide in my pocket. (I have a mysterious discoloration on my right big toe, and it has persisted, surprisingly, for years. This spring, I vow to wear sandals without socks for the first time in recent memory, whether it makes me even more of a pariah amongst the gays than I currently am). I looked down at my soft-soled shoes - the cross to bear of anyone with recurrent callouses - and mused to myself that this is often how I picture myself, when I think of myself: as a pair of shoes, walking down the street. Of course, this is because I can't literally look at myself, unless I am looking in a mirror. I can only look down at my legs and feet, and venture a hopeless guess as to the rest.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Wearing black Levi's and some old short-sleeve Paul Smith shirt with what appears to be sea anemones on it, I went to Bookcourt in Brooklyn. Two of my authors, including the lovely Simon Van Booy, were on a three-person panel on romance and philosophy. My author Andrew Shaffer (GREAT PHILOSOPHERS WHO FAILED AT LOVE) brought a prize wheel with him (!) from Iowa and they did a little philosophical game show. My ticket was called, and I sat in the hot seat and answered some question about philosophy. I don't remember what the question was, but I won a chocolate. I know that John Reed from the Brooklyn Rail, whose voice I sometimes hear in my head like a moral compass, would say that it was corrupt of me to win at a game that I had helped set up. But what is the book business if not corrupt? (I love the word "corrupt" - my father called me that once when I was a child, and I still hear it as though pronounced with his voice's rich, majestic timbre.)

The room was full of hot straight guys, which always puts me in a bad mood. The other panelist, Todd Colby, was the only guy there whom I thought could be "funny," but a quick Google search the next morning revealed that he has a wife. And also that he has terrible luck and has barely survived fires and such, so probably not the best match for me, anyways. I like to be the unlucky one in any relationship, and I usually am.

Remember when a guy's ambiguous sexuality could become fodder for a years-long, ultimately unrequited crush? (I still think of you now, Steve from Zido's.) Now, thanks to Google, my hopes are dashed within hours, not years. I'm sure that's for the best. Now, after meeting him, I am sure that my email address will be added to Todd's mailing list, and I will get emails soon inviting me to a reading he's doing in Brooklyn somewhere. Thanks to Google, I will file these emails away in a folder called "To be wistfully ignored," a folder that, strangely, is full to overflowing. (Anyway, don't people realize that people who live in Manhattan, like me, pay extra every month so that we don't have to go to Brooklyn?)

Several of my most existential questions that evening received an answer, or, rather, a temporary salve, in the form of the reading, the ersatz game show, and a nice dinner afterwards with Mary, who accompanied me. But my most pressing question, in the end, was not answered to my satisfaction. Why does Andrew Shaffer have a prize wheel?