Saturday, December 14, 2013


After visiting a friend one evening in the East Village, I stopped by a restaurant and sat at the bar to order a solo meal and read my book. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed an attractive young lad looking at me intently. Eventually, I glanced in his direction and he came over to talk. Immediately, I noticed his very strong London accent, and I thought what I thought about that.

"Are you enjoying the music?" he asked, smiling.

"I guess," I replied. "Mostly just trying to read."

"How," he asked, "can you read while the Beatles are playing?"

"Oh, I'm not a tremendous fan of the Beatles, although I do like 'Paperback Writer.'"

"What?!" He seemed incredulous. "Well, can you at least admit that British music is the best? British everything is the best. I mean, the Beatles! The Rolling Stones!"

"Well," I replied sensibly, "there would have been no Rollings Stones without Muddy Waters, and there would have been no Beatles without Chuck Berry. I can appreciate that the Rolling Stones mixed elements of American blues music with elements of American rock 'n' roll and got some interesting songs out of it, but I'd say that their music was a synthesis of what other people had already created."

The cute London man glared at me with great pathos.

"Why," he asked, "are you so anti-British?"

"I'm from Antigua," I replied.

"Oh!" He brightened. "Do you know who the greatest Antiguan ever was?"

"J. Rowan Henry," I said.


I began to describe some of my late father's activism as head of the Labour movement in Antigua, activism that eventually led to Antigua's independence from Britain and would have meant he would have been overwhelmingly elected as its first President. Until, of course, his untimely demise ...

"Oh, no," he said, dismissively. "The greatest Antiguan is Viv Richards," and then he walked back over to chat with his friend.

I sort of smiled at this exchange, but I gamely googled Viv Richards and saw that he was a cricket player. Immediately realizing that the London fellow was insane, I literally picked up my plate and walked to the other end of the bar, completely out of sight of the young man. But about five minutes later, he found me.

"Did you google Viv Richards?"

"Yes. That's why I moved over here."

"Oh, why, because he was an athlete?"

"I suppose."

He snorted with disgust and left me again. I hurriedly paid for my dinner and left the restaurant. Unfortunately, he was outside smoking with his friend.

"You," he said. "What do you have against the British?"

"Um, because they're usually people like you. People who have never even visited Antigua, but who try to tell me who the greatest Antiguan was. I was born there. My family lives there. I've read dozens of books about the island. And I'm certainly..." (here's where I jumped the shark!) "...not going to stand here and listen to some youth of a country that oppressed my ancestors..."

"You know what?" he said. "Fuck you! Just ... just fuck you!"

I was going to say, Ah, some of that legendary British wit! But I wisely kept my own counsel, especially since his friend had at that point had to restrain him from physically attacking me. I walked home, burning with the shame of letting some drunkard get me angry.

In my adulthood, I've had to do serious work around my prejudice against British people, along with people of other ... groups. A sane person shouldn't be prejudiced against anyone - or, at least, they should not reveal their own stupidity by discussing it in public. Two of my own authors, the amazing Caitlin Moran and Simon Van Booy, have taught me that British people can be cool, and kind, and down-to-earth, and incredibly smart. (Smarter - shocker! - than even me). It's a wonder it took me so long to learn such an obvious, elementary lesson: all people from a country do not act the same. Why did I spew such vitriol against this dolt?

In my adulthood, my anger towards the British led me to eschew certain fashion labels. I turned up my nose at Penguin, at Paul Smith, at Burton. I made an exception for Burberry in the 90s because I was highly amused by how American rappers had appropriated the brand as a symbol of excess. They lampooned it, even though the joke quickly became real and now, I think, that joke is on the young people of today, who listen to this materialistic music and grow angry that they do not have Louboutins and Cristal. I love the semiotics of clothing choices.

Long story short: I saw these briefs on a model on L'Internet. They're from Lonsdale, a British sporting goods company. So I ordered them and they arrived looking, ahem, a little skimpier than they were depicted on the site. No matter! I made my 30 euro purchase, and now that night, that unfortunate blip on my evolution towards enlightenment, has been absolved. Observe! The power of fashion. 

Toggle coat

I went to 192 Books to hear a reading by Hilton Als, one of my new favorite writers. I had interviewed him over the phone a few weeks before for, and I had asked him some pretty semi-intense questions and was satisfied with the outcome. His collection White Girls is a book of essays - supposedly non-fiction - but it was clear to me that he bent the truth a little bit in some of them, quite purposefully. I was fascinated to read these essays, and they made me wonder why my own non-fiction is so rigidly literal. The questions I asked him in the interview were meant to explore the idea of fiction/non-fiction - and they were also meant to provoke Hilton a little bit, just as his essays are meant to provoke the reader. I think I succeeded.

I used to bend the truth quite a bit, as a child. My lying to my family got so bad that they eventually learned to assume everything I said was a lie. There was, I found, a certain joyless freedom in that. And then there was my experiment with telling only the truth, somewhere between my senior year in high school and my first year of college. Needless to say, neither phase won me many admirers. Even today, certain people see me as being a little too blunt at times, mostly people at work. Ah, but, certain people, I am merely a harmless eccentric ...

I predict that my next few non-fiction pieces will stretch the truth a bit. Okay, my next two pieces. Here I am with Hilton, wearing some sort of toggle coat from Cole Haan and a button up shirt from Shirts by AG. What a glassy, somewhat sinister look my eyes have in this photo. I am going to assume that's because of the flash. Hilton is looking askance in the picture, as if to imply a sense of wariness with me standing a little behind him. You have nothing to fear from me, Hilton Als! I am merely a harmless eccentric ...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

One glove

Every winter, one of my gloves goes missing. It happened again this week. I just checked in my pocket and found this sole glove, without its mate. I don’t know how it happened or where I lost it. Like my ex-boyfriend Kevin, the flight attendant, it could be anywhere now. 
In the past, I used to buy expensive gloves from places like Barney’s and such. But because one always gets lost, my tastes have gotten by necessity much simpler. I believe this pair was from JC Penney’s. The only requirement I have for a good glove is that there be three vents on the back of it. No more, no less. 
I believe it was Kohut who said that human beings have an innate need for a “twin,” or “Other” being. Without it, we feel irritable, distracted, and isolated. Many people find it through marriage, an institution intended to codify this unspoken and unspeakable need. I guess if you were to put a gun to my head and threaten to pull the trigger, I would admit that much of my life has been characterized by a search for the “Other.” Some of you might think that that search was started when I lost my brother Jonathan. Before he died, we had rarely been seen without each other. But I suspect that the search began when I was separated from my maternal grandmother, whom I have no memories of 
I resisted wearing gloves all through my childhood. Today, I resist using umbrellas. I guess there is a certain egotism to that. Why do I need to be protected from the world? I am beyond the world somehow, not of it. Sigh. But New York City is a cold place, and now I am often gloved in the winter. Gloved, scarfed, be-hatted. 
I suppose a visit to JC Penney’s is in order. But for once, I wish that the missing glove would just reappear somewhere, maybe underneath the clutter in my messy office. But I think that about everything I’ve lost. That beautiful grey backpack. The mirrors on the bottom of my mother’s ash tray. Blue. Look at this glove, so lonely and forlorn-looking. I wonder if it comforts it to know that we’ve all been there. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Elijah Wood in plaid

I happened to walk past the IFC Center on Friday, and I saw a poster for the new Elijah Wood movie "Maniac," with a little sign on it saying that he would be at the 9:20 p.m. shows that day and the next. I immediately posted to Facebook asking if anyone wanted to accompany me to the Friday night showing. Mary said she would, if only to prevent a restraining order against me. She knows me too well.

I remember working at Lehman Brothers in San Francisco in 1997, in those heady days when I first discovered the Internet. I don't recall liking Elijah Wood at that point, but I do remember for some reason ending up on a ... ahem ... "fan site" for him run by apparent pedophiles, with the tag line "Would Elijah?"Reading those words, something awoke in me that I have been trying desperately to put to sleep ever since.

"Maniac" almost did it. Many people in the literary world whom I respect deeply otherwise have been scaring me of late with their Facebook posts advocating the censorship of supposed "violent" speech against women ... speech that merely appears jerky to me. The Vice magazine fashion of suicide spread, for example, or the human turd crowd-sourcing his overly fratboy-ish pick-up manual on Kickstarter. But as I watched the women in "Maniac" get stabbed, scalped, and drowned, I found myself thinking: Was Elissa Schappell right all along? Was Ed Champion?

But then Elijah Wood came out for the q&a and my own feminist beliefs flew out the window. I joined the mob afterwards for a picture with Elijah. He took many, many of these pictures. And eventually, patiently, I found myself at the front of the line, standing right next to him. I had lost the power of speech. Was my crush on Elijah Wood not really "ironic?" Was it for reals? How did I appear, a middle-aged gay man waiting for a picture with some little closeted boy from Hollywood? Why was I always alone in these situations, when I could have used a friend to tap Elijah on the shoulder and ask him to turn around and acknowledge me? (Mary had failed to materialize). Why did I find his sarcasm during the q&a so off-putting? Is there a difference between his sarcasm and my irony, the veil through which I view the world? Why did he choose to wear plaid, with a little white sling-like attachment, suggesting a recent injury? Should I offer to soothe his wound? All these questions and more plagued me as I stood next to him. Finally, there was just me in the lobby, with maybe two other photo-seekers. At that point, Elijah Wood just turned around, walked away and got into a black SUV.

In my prime, when I used to stalk celebrities for pleasure, I might have run after the SUV, even if it went over the Brooklyn Bridge. But my exercise obsession has literally hobbled me, and I had to limp away from the IFC, trying to keep my head held high. Such dark thoughts filled my head that evening, but I will spare you.

The next morning, I decided to purchase a ticket for that night's q&a, to get a second shot at a picture with Elijah. But when I arrived at the IFC, as the movie was just about to end, I was informed that Elijah Wood had chosen that evening to introduce the film, rather than do a q&a afterwards. He thwarted me somehow! He was long gone ... as was my dignity.

I won't spare you my thoughts this time. I thought: why has God cursed me so, to fill me with such desires my whole life long, but appease none of them? Once, when I was complaining to my sponsor in AA that no sober people ever called me back, he replied, "Maybe you're not the type of person that people call back." Is that why my life is filled with such frustration? Am I expected to feel all this desire but have no release other than through song, through the written word, through my outfit choices, through my crazy thoughts? If that's true, I would hope that my output would be better-received. Lauded, almost.

Get on it, life!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Montreal comfort

Carolyn and I went to Montreal. I asked her many years ago if she, like me, feared getting older. "Not at all," she replied emphatically. I believed her. And I was curious to see what she would be wearing when she picked me up at the airport. Carolyn has always tended towards outfits that resemble something a hippie professor's wife in New England would wear. She did not disappoint, in this orange one-piece with floral leggings, and a comfy green scarf. She is letting her hair turn gray, of course. More than any of my friends (other than Cherita), I believe that Carolyn will make the smoothest transition into old lady-hood.

Since neither of us is quite an old lady yet, we set out to do some walking in Montreal, me in sneakers and she in clogs. Everyone was speaking French! Every time we passed by a store selling comfy-looking women's casuals, I said, "Uh oh," because I knew that Carolyn would insist that we go in. We looked at so many frocks and muumuus that day! So many beads, so many moccasins and shawls. I eventually re-asserted my masculinity and dragged us to Top Man, where I purchased that sweatshirt I admired a couple of months ago at the Top Man in Los Angeles.

As we were returning to our residence, we saw a dog running wildly across a busy street. I went to go restrain the dog before he could get hurt, but I made the error of calling to the dog before I crossed the street to him. The dog ran towards me and was immediately struck by a car. The impact was so loud that I assumed the dog had been killed, but then Carolyn saw him running down the street again, thankfully toward his owner this time. I think its leg was broken, but otherwise he seemed fine. I am so glad that my error didn't result in the dog dying. We were both very shaken, and Carolyn retired for the evening, and I went to a strip club.

Over the course of the evening, I became a legend at Stock Bar and Campus, the two wholesomest-looking strip clubs on Rue de St. Catherine. It seemed as though I couldn't sit down on my own without paying a stripper to give me a lap dance. At my age, a lap dance can still be slightly ironic while also being stimulating, but one does have to be careful that an overzealous dancer doesn't break your hip while he's grinding into it. I made some new "friends" ... Ian ... Jason ... Gabe ... some of them told me their "real names." One of them made out with me. (Against the rules!) A couple took even more liberties. I thought to myself, What better way to overcome the shame of almost killing a dog than by blowing my vacation budget with frottage?

Call me when you're in New York next week, Ian!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Me and Maxine went over to Dad's house to go through his things. We were quite the pair ... Maxine is a pack-rat who doted on Dad so much that she saw him almost every day of her life. I am a cold-blooded Manhattan bastard whose apartment is so small that possessions are not my friends. And lately, I've gotten even worse. I remember one year Enya was nominated for an Oscar for the song "Only Time," and the camera cut to her face as she didn't win. I swear, she looked so angry I thought she was going to transform herself into a wintry wind to cut through the light blouses of the audience members. That's the way I've blown through my own life from time to time. Just last year alone I did two major de-clutterings of my apartment. I threw away clothes, old records, my VCRs, even books, precious books, some that I had never read but always thought I would some day. So, looking through the boxes and boxes of stuff that Dad had accumulated through his nine-plus decades of life, I didn't know what I could save.

But, still, I wanted something of his, you know?

We'll go back again soon and go through more boxes. But for now, I kept this hat. It was technically his. I gave it to him one year for Christmas or Father's Day or his birthday. I always wanted him to display a little color, rather than the blues and greys that formed most of his uniform. This hat is green ... a splash of color, Dad! I held it in my hand and saw that the tags were still on it. That's the way he was. You couldn't really shop for him any more, because he had no desires left. I bought him books that he never read, games that he refused to play. Maxine and I bought him an expensive motorized wheelchair one year, and he rode it once and then said that he was afraid he was going to accidentally ride down the stairs on it. It sits in the garage now. I bought him some ties one year and he asked me to move some furniture around so that I could see the dozens of ties he already had hanging there. He had enough ties! I guess. It turned into a game with me. I spent less and less time shopping for him because I knew that whatever I bought would stay in its box forever. On his birthday this past December, four days before he died, I literally walked across the street from my office and bought him a cardigan at Uniqlo. That was my personal best, time-wise.

I get afraid sometimes that I'll lose my mobility and then just sit in my wheelchair and watch television like he did. I know on some level that I'll never do that. I'll always be working on some doomed writing project that will never see the light of day. I'll always do my little yoga tapes to salvage the little flexibility I have left. Maybe in years to come I'll pick up some time-consuming hobby, like sewing or painting. Maybe I'll accidentally stab myself with the needles, causing a fatal blood infection, or accidentally cause myself brain damage by forgetting to close the paints and inhaling the fumes all night. Things like that happen to old people, you know. Old people have the worst luck.