In Just No Time At All . . .

elkins, anne

Anne Elkins, my Berthe from “Pippin” – one of the good ones, one of the dear ones

One of the dear ones has died.

Last night I was a roiling, boiling, bursting mess of fury and sorrow over the hate against LGBQT people being legislated and signed into law in North Carolina. I disconnected from social media, dove into a fantasy-romance sort of novel, and turned off my heart and head as much as I could. Sometimes, one must. Or, sometimes, I must.

So, this morning I decided to focus on joy. I needed healing. I headed out-of-doors and took notice of all the blooming spring happening in my own backyard. I posted on Twitter using the hashtag “HugaHomo” which I’d said last night on Twitter when departing it, suggesting people hug the homo nearest them because I, alone in my bat-cave, reading the North Carolina hate news, was in need of embrace.

spring 2016 1 spring 2016 2 spring 2016 3 spring 2016 5 spring 2016 6 spring 2016 7

I take comfort in the blooms of spring. The return of color. The promise. My dear Sissie, she loved spring too and was fond of saying in a Katharine Hepburn-esque way, “The forsythia are in bloom.” Sissie, about who you’ve much heard if you read/follow/know me. When I was a boy-child of twelve, she, the first in a treasured line of  older-women who would enrich my life with friendship, wisdom, humor, and unconditional love, took me to New York City and my first Broadway musical, Irene, because she was afraid what the family would say if she took me to the other big show playing at the time, Pippin.

Fast forward. Age eighteen. I became involved with the inception of the new theatre in my small town, The Octorian Theatre Company, a group of young upstarts intent on shaking up the long-standing community theatre and its reliance on old-warhorses of shows by doing only new, risky, sexy shows. Like Pippin. In which I did a turn as The Leading Player. Octorian’s founder, director, producer, Steve, was wise enough to recruit for the role of Berthe one of the doyennes and reigning prima donnas of that long-running community theatre. Mrs. Anne Elkins.

I’d first met Mrs. Elkins, as I called her then, when I, twelve years old and just back from the Irene – New York trip, auditioned and was cast by that hoary community group to play Floyd Allen, boy-child, in Dark of the Moon. A few years later, a hardly formed but very tall fourteen year old, I was again (mis)cast as the young husband in one or another Neil Simon comedy playing opposite a very (and justifiably) unhappy twenty-seven year old wife. Mrs. Elkins played the mother (in-law?).

As Pippin took shape, I was a very different person than I had been during the previous two shows with Mrs. Elkins during which I’d been awestruck by her talent — she was a formidable actress and singer, and regaled me with her tales of working as a big band vocalist. At eighteen, I was a horrifying mess of a human being, a terrified, nasty, vicious, desperately lonely boy in  a man’s body, trying to find a place in a world that often did not want me. And there was Mrs. Elkins, surrounded by dope-smoking, foul-mouthed, determined to be sexy and shocking young people by whom she was amused and most certainly not abashed, and she insisted that I call her Anne.

I did. But it felt wrong. Always. It was another honor and privilege I wanted to deserve but was naggingly, quietly certain I did not. I was tortured by such doubts then (and, well, now) and those doubts, along with the fear, the certainty I was not enough made me — I am sorry to say — very cruel, very often. I see now that I was arming myself, my cruelties and drug use and anger like the prickly quills on a porcupine meant to protect me from the predators I saw everywhere in the world.

Mrs. Elkins – Anne was not fooled. One day after having watched me throw myself into performing Simple Joys with a vigor of “I WANT I WANT LOVE ME LOVE ME” so desperately intense it horrifically distorted what little technique and charm I might have had, Anne took a quiet moment with me and said, “You know, I know you don’t want anyone to see that pretty heart you have beating in there somewhere under all that bluster, and I’m no expert at anyone’s life or business, but I think if you just calm down and quiet down a bit and let it shine, you’ll accomplish what you’re trying to with all the yelling and running you’re doing. And you might even have a little energy left over to be happy.”

Good advice. About which — again, I am sorry to say — in that moment I was furious, although — I am happy to say — my breeding and fondness for older women did not allow me to express. I said thank you. I thought about it. And I did Simple Joys the next time with very little movement, a snap here and there, a turn or two, and, wouldn’t you know it, my best number in the show.

This week, my dears, I’ve been doing a lot of screaming and yelling. Of late, this life, I have been attacking my reality with such vigor, living in such desperately intense fear, and feeling so horribly lonely and solitary, unseen and unheard, reaching out in all the wrong ways, to suspect people, longing to be hugged, held, heard and, at the same time, panicked I am wearing out and exhausting the few who do see me. I want. I want. Love me. Love me. All that.

Last night: North Carolina. Last night: googling someone I thought I knew a bit and finding out they were a felon. This morning: the spring. This morning: message from someone to whom I’d sort of reached out, who’d sort of reached out to me, saying, “You’re really not enough.” This morning: a message from a loved one, “Wanted you to hear it from me, Anne Elkins died on Monday.” This morning: I am going, now, to pick up my dear 88-year-old mom, who I still have, and have hair day, lunch day, look for Vienna Sausages and no-sugar-added peaches at the grocery store day.

This morning, maybe, listen to Mrs. Elkins — sorry, Anne, that’s who you are to me — and calm down and quiet down and let my pretty little heart show? Maybe a snap here or a turn there, but, holy mother of all things, maybe, please, have a little energy left to enjoy the blooms and be happy?

Yes, and bring me my fucking trapeze!

Thank you, Mrs. Elkins, and, I wish I could hear you, one more time, singing your song; No Time At All.

No Time At All lyrics

 [BERTHE]
When you are as old as I, my dear
And I hope that you never are
You will woefully wonder why, my dear
Through your cataracts and catarrh
You could squander away or sequester
A drop of a precious year
For when your best days are yester
The rest’er twice as dear….What good is a field on a fine summer night
When you sit all alone with the weeds?
Or a succulent pear if with each juicy bite
You spit out your teeth with the seeds?
Before it’s too late stop trying to wait
For fortune and fame you’re secure of
For there’s one thing to be sure of, mate:
There’s nothing to be sure of!Oh, it’s time to start livin’
Time to take a little from this world we’re given
Time to take time, cause spring will turn to fall
In just no time at all….

I’ve never wondered if I was afraid
When there was a challenge to take
I never thought about how much I weighed
When there was still one piece of cake
Maybe it’s meant the hours I’ve spent
Feeling broken and bent and unwell
But there’s still no cure more heaven-sent
As the chance to raise some hell

Everybody….

[ALL]
Oh, it’s time to start livin’
Time to take a little from this world we’re given
Time to take time, cause spring will turn to fall
In just no time at all….

Now when the drearies do attack
And a siege of the sads begins
I just throw these noble shoulders back
And lift these noble chins
Give me a man who is handsome and strong
Someone who’s stalwart and steady
Give me a night that’s romantic and long
And give me a month to get ready
Now I could waylay some aging roue
And persuade him to play in some cranny
But it’s hard to believe I’m being led astray
By a man who calls me granny

[ALL]
Oh, it’s time to start livin’
Time to take a little from this world we’re given
Time to take time, cause spring will turn to fall
In just no time at all….

Oh, it’s time to start livin’
Time to take a little from this world we’re given
Time to take time, cause spring will turn to fall
In just no time at all….

Sages tweet that age is sweet
Good deeds and good work earns you laurels
But what could make you feel more obsolete
Than being noted for your morals?

Here is a secret I never have told
Maybe you’ll understand why
I believe if I refuse to grow old
I can stay young till I die
Now, I’ve known the fears of sixty-six years
I’ve had troubles and tears by the score
But the only thing I’d trade them for
Is sixty-seven more….

Oh, it’s time to keep livin’
Time to keep takin’ from this world we’re given
You are my time, so I’ll throw off my shawl
And watching your flings be flung all over
Makes me feel young all over

[BETHE AND BOYS]
In just no time at all…

 

 

Being Here (Who I am, going)

Charles Walter Smith, blogging diarist.

This is a post about my over-sharing. Sort of. I am happy when people remark upon my honesty, my willingness to expose my vulnerabilities and the ups and downs of my journey. I also feel like a fraud.

Charles Walter Smith, liar.

Last night I was watching the news. Lie. I was doing the dishes and cleaning up after having made a delicious gluten-sugar-additive-free dinner during which process I was half-listening to the news being watched by my sister and niece in the next room. The GOP front-runner was spouting more of his outrageously specious blather, pontificating unchallenged by the newsperson, bloviating bogus “facts” he was clearly making up as he went along. I said to my sister and niece, “Holy crap, that’s what I do — make things up as I go along, and, just like that lunatic, I actually believe what I’m saying — I mean, I really think what I’m saying is true. Or, should be.” My niece looked at me and said, “Well, yeah, but you’re more convincing. And we’re here to tell you you’re full of shit.”

Charles Walter Smith, respected uncle, full of shit.

Charles Walter Smith.

It wasn’t the first label given me, nor the last. I was, originally, I imagine, “Oh no, not again.” My Mom already had four children, ages fourteen to seven, since the last of which she’d suffered three miscarriages. My father hated himself, was Roman Catholic, an alcoholic, and abused my Mom emotionally and physically. Neither of them really wanted more children, but it was what they were supposed to do; they were brainwashed and bullied by religion, cultural convention, and their mutual though never discussed fear that they were failures in the world — he because of an emotional nature and “sensitivity” his older brothers and father had always mocked and hated plus his perceived freakishness from the rolling eye caused by a childhood accident in which it was pierced by a tent-stake, she because she had been orphaned early, was terrified of everything, and enjoyed physical contact in a way unbecoming to women.

So, despite a doctor who told her getting pregnant again was dangerous for her, that her womb was likely unable to carry a pregnancy full term, the Roman Catholic church and her drunk husband wouldn’t stop forcing themselves and their wills on her.

I was not her fourth miscarriage in a row thanks to newly developed drugs. Experimental drugs, sure, but, what was a child unlikely to survive to birth other than an opportunity to experiment? I survived.

Survivor, medical experiment, youngest child, Charles Walter Smith.

It wasn’t long before there was another pregnancy, a different drug to help her carry that child, and in the seventh month of her (at least) ninth pregnancy, her husband, my father, the drunk, drove into the tree that finished him.

Fatherless child, older brother, Charles Walter Smith.

We six children, my Mom, and relatives of my father, built a cult around his absence. I didn’t begin to understand this nor learn the less attractive facts about my father until I was much, much older and had been named and labeled many things. I didn’t understand the damage dancing around dead men and worshipping the imagined and invisible could do until I realized in my late thirties how I’d somehow modeled in my mind an ideal man whose primary quality was absence.

Single man, Charles Walter Smith.

About over-sharing. Being a fraud. A survivor. And full of shit. Born of two parents who felt ill at ease in the world. Member of a cult of liars who danced around a ghost, loving an invisible and largely invented, imagined man whose absence we invested with magical powers.

For many years I searched for, reached for, longed for that man. I looked for him in the abuse and absences of straight men who kept me a secret, who kept me at a distance. I said yes to everything and everyone in the hopes that they would not — as my father had — disappear. If only I could be good enough, smart enough, quiet enough, pretty enough, talented enough, I would not be left.

Charles Walter Smith, lunatic. Left. Liar — to himself and to you.

I’m not who you think I am. Not even close. Like Oscar Wilde before me, I say everything and anything because the truth is the greatest mask of all. Blind people with enough blather and they won’t look beneath the ghost-dance one is doing around the invisible person inside.

Charles Walter Smith, invisible man.

I’m still addicted to that man who drove himself into a pole and left us, on purpose, I think. I, too, like he did and my Mom did, fell prey to cultural brainwashing about aspirationalism, thinking I ought and I must and I should and if only I tried harder, well,  then I  could and would be better at being.

Charles Walter Smith, failure.

Being here, in this world, who I am, where we all are going right now: terrifying. The intensity with which I ask myself “WHY” every day about so many things, from the moment I get up to the things I see and hear on the news, in person, this dance we are all doing around the invisible people we pretend to be and never — not really — are.

Exhausted and exhausting, Charles Walter Smith. About to have another birthday. Determined to detox. I quit smoking. I quit drinking. I quit listening to someone who told me every day in subtle ways I was not and would never be enough. I quit (half-way) measuring myself by the yardstick of a culture and zeitgeist gamed against me. I quit a lot of rat-race-y, meaningless, harmful things.

Charles Walter Smith, quitter.

Yet, who I am, going, is someone still yearning to be approved of and accepted by someones who are largely imaginary, ghosts, until I, myself, me, Charles Walter Smith, have become an illusion too. I didn’t drive into a pole, I limped into a batcave from which I send out these signals, these stories.

Charles Walter Smith, fiction.

 

 

Tonight at Eight . . .Random Charlie

It’s eight o’clock on a Friday night … I’ve changed my sheets! WEEKEND!

Okay, well, I’m not just changing sheets; I’m also listening to the original Broadway cast recording of Hamilton: An American Musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda. I am listening to it because there is no possible way I will get to see it when I am in New York City for my birthday in LESS THAN A MONTH! Hamilton is sold out until — well, a long, long time.

WHO LIVES, WHO DIES, WHO TELLS YOUR STORY?

It’s okay I won’t see Hamilton. I’ll be there in New York from the 13th to 19th. On the 14th I am seeing Frank Langella in The Father. On my actual birthday, the 15th, I am seeing American Psycho and getting a backstage tour. On the 16th I am seeing Miss Barbara Cook and may even get to meet her — so, yes, the 16th will very likely be the day of my death. Thus, I think when I get off the train on the 13th, after checking in at the hotel, I will head to TKTS and try for seat to She Loves Me because I love the music and I think Laura Benanti is grand and I have never seen Jane Krakowski live, so, yes —

I had forgotten how much I loved the entire score from SHE LOVES ME, especially Tonight at Eight, and so, yes, I should try to see it on the 13th because, though I’ve nothing booked for 17th-19th, like I said, I’ll probably die on the 16th meeting Miss Cook.

My sister, a smartass (imagine that, in my family?) suggested I record myself and what I want to say to Miss Cook since in all likelihood I will be weeping with such vigor should I manage to make it into her presence that I will be unable to speak, thus, I could just hold my phone up to her and press play. Hmph.

I AM SEEING BARBARA COOK THE DAY AFTER MY BIRTHDAY! So ridiculously happy about this. I have been listening to all of her recordings again, over and over, too.

Listen to her voicings of the words “close” at 1:13-1:15 and “wrong” at 1:21-1:22, and “want” at 3:01-3:02, every single time she sings “losing” (god, so so so much pain into two syllables, again and again, how can you not weep?), because each of those words has so much story in them — she gives you hours of subtext; you can SEE the life the singer of the song has lived IN THOSE WORDS. And, holy mother,  the “sleepless nights” at 4:16-4:18 actually has a sob in it without distorting the notes, the visible and audible defeat in “mind” from 4:36-4:42 when the note ends but she CONTINUES the emotion in her AMAZING silence until she comes back in at 4:50 with “I want you so” in such a way it seems she is fighting speaking, the way one fights the confession to someone you know no longer wants you but you simply cannot help yourself, so obsessed are you, so in need of them, and she builds and builds the breakdown (totally in control vocally, though) until the “kind” from 5:42-5:46 which morphs into the closed eyes/turning away from the horror of the final self-admission, the facing, the oh god please kill me I’m losing my mind of realizing, “You don’t love me” and WORSE, “I cannot stop loving you – I am losing my mind.” That end, that final note, that reaching vocally and physically for that love she will never have. NEVER has this song EVER been better sung and it never will be. She is without peer. She makes every single song a journey like this, an emotional tale of truth, beautifully delivered with such intelligence and honesty, nothing false. She is a genius. Brilliant.

Confession: When I sang, it was Miss Cook I strove to please. I wanted never to breathe in idiotic places or sing songs to which I could not bring my soul, always trying to deliver the goods in a way that would meet with her approval.

SUCH A BIG DEAL. Miss Cook and listening to music.

Why is it a big deal that I am listening to music? After a long life of listening to music daily, singing along, knowing the lyrics to nearly every musical written, keeping up with new ones, when I had to leave my last world in which music and theatre played such a huge role, one of the many things that slipped away from me was music. So, playing music in my room as I change sheets, write this, it has a huge-ness. Weird. Feels so weird. Listening again. Will I ever sing again?

I doubt it. But, some days, I miss it. (Confession: I sing alone in the car all the time.)

Weird — this need tonight to confess — confession.

Fitting. This has been a week of weirdness, darlings. I let my feelings be hurt a few times — a couple of times on Twitter. A couple of times by my family. A couple of times by men who think I am English or 40-ish or both.

Then, today, I got my car insurance renewal thank you letter. First of all, I don’t remember being asked if I wanted to renew. Secondly, bright side, since I’ve been with them for more than fifteen years with no tickets or claims I now qualify for no future surcharges no matter how many accidents I have. What? Okay. So, discount for good driving. Hoorah. THEN, I am informed I qualify for the “Over 55 Discount” — WHAAAAT?!?! This was my first “senior” discount and I burst into tears.

Smartass sister again: “You are so eager to die, you’re going to have to get older to do it.” Well, not if the notice of a senior discount or meeting Miss Cook gives me a coronary event. So, HA!

And, might I add (of course I might, I write too much, I’ve been told. And talk too much. So many too much-es about which I’ve been told in my life. I cry too much. I tell too much. I act too much like a girl. I have sex too much. I say no too much. I say yes too much. I want too much. I don’t take care of myself enough (somehow there’s a too much in there) and — well, anyway, TOO MUCH.) that even WITH all the good driver and old man discounts, my insurance still went up. Albeit, only a dollar – BUT STILL!

Oh darlings, I’m tired. It’s been a long week. Gluten-free, sugar-free, corn-free, diabetic friendly, chemical-free(mostly), healthy, clean cooking is so complicated. Everything requires multiple kinds of flour, experimenting with ingredients and temperature and such. I’ve been cooking a couple of hours a day. Which I love to do for my dear ones. I do. Still, my Mom is wonderful, but being with her, watching out for her balance, trying to make sure she is happy, earning enough through random copy editing and ghost blogging and dog/house sitting to pay for her lunches and groceries and such so she doesn’t have to panic about running out of her “monthly funds” — sometimes it is exhausting.

And someone told me this week my blog here would benefit from vigorous cutting. Yes, I know this. But friends, this is a diary, not a short-story. Let’s face it, I’m not a writer, never will be. This is me venting and letting loose and getting out (sort of) the things I need to say — even if it’s just sent into the ether.

So, I have changed my sheets, I have said no to the twenty-year old, I have been listening to Hamilton, I have stomach issues again, I am tired, I say yes too much, I did not say no enough (those are two VERY DIFFERENT things), and Carol is now available on-demand, so maybe I will watch that or read one of my twelve library books (I’ve done it again) or say yes to one of the people who think I’m English and 40-ish — and some said I couldn’t act!  HA! I will have you know, when I played Sweeney, my accent was SO ENGLISH they asked me to pull back by half because no one outside of London would understand me. I don’t know why I’m throwing that in there. I will add that the Baltimore papers reviewed me and said I was terrifying and brilliant and had “crystalline” diction. So, there too.

Uhm … maybe I am losing MY mind.

Love you dears.

Goodnight.

Schrafft’s and Taft and Happy Birthday, Andrea

It is my dear Andrea’s birthday and I was musing about her last night, to myself, and wrote this:

Sissie and Schrafft’s and the Taft Hotel and Andrea

Andrea and Charlie SMILING at Joe AllensIt’s Andrea’s birthday. My dear, dear friend, Andrea. I want to say something about what she means to me, and to do so, I need to go back in time.

1973. I was twelve. Just. The turning of which for all those much-blessed to have Frances Elizabeth as self-proclaimed “ole-made-ant” occasioned a trip to New York, or, what I would later realize was only one part of New York: Manhattan, our version of which fell within the borders of those magical blocks called The Theatre District; Sissie – as we called her – took us to Broadway.

sissieSissie and I bonded early. My father died when I was seventeen months old, at which time my mother was seven months pregnant with child number six, so she moved into the house of my paternal grandparents and their caretaker, Ole-Made-Ant Sissie, who took over as my temporary-mother. She fed me, bathed me, I slept in her room, I became, for that period we all lived in Libertytown, her child.

Sissie was the first of the special relationships in my life, those connections of pure Love and Light, through which two people know one another at a soul level, see always the purest intention and truth of one another, understand the core and source of each other, outside of time, outside of day-to-day real life, vibrating at a level beyond the boundaries of words or linear time, a place of such beauty and comfort and acceptance, all other relationships are measured against it.

Taft 1One of our places of joining was our love – nay, worship – of all things New York City and Broadway (especially musicals) and literary as embodied by the Algonquin Round Table and the legendary New York Publishing industry. Sissie’s hotel of choice had long been the Taft, since first she started visiting New York in the 1940s. By the time of my “welcome to puberty” trip, the Taft had gone tatty. I remember (or, think I do) filthy, green shag carpeting, a darkish, institutional green-moldy sort of wall covering and a dampish, darkness in the room. But, the lobby was still gold-gilded, though one of the balusters on the balcony was beginning to crumble, had chunks missing. Still, the glamour of that lobby was, for me, then, a first and the sort of aging, deteriorating present of a past I’d just missed but could hear echoing that would always be New York City for me.

Hotel Taft, Seventh Avenue At 50th Street New York

Hotel Taft, Seventh Avenue At 50th Street New York

Too, the connection Sissie and I shared was the same sort of thing: where others might see something a bit worn, a bit not quite shiny, Sissie and I lived in the glory of the structure of who we were, always, no matter how she aged and lost parts of herself, no matter how I became sadder and caught up in the whirlwind of a life of many bad choices, we were always the Taft at its shiniest, newest, best, most brilliant. We lived always in the glory of the best of who we were, together.

That first trip, she took me to see Debbie Reynolds in Irene at the Minskoff Theatre, where, decades later, I would take myself to see Betty Buckley in Sunset Boulevard. But, in 1973, my first Broadway show, my first New York trip, my only stay at the Taft, and our meals almost exclusively at Schrafft’s.

schrafft's 2Sissie loved Schrafft’s. So, I loved Schrafft’s. Again, my memory may be tricking me but I recall acres of blonde wood and chrome, that smell of deliciously just-cooked food made on huge griddles somewhere in the back, flipped and tossed and chopped and perfected onto plates by people in spotless chef whites and cloques never seen in poor, backwoods Frederick, and, too, a wall of windows, taller and more expansive than any I’d ever seen – save for those in the lobby near the mountainous, mystical escalator at the Minskoff – suffusing the dining area with so much light, so much light.

schrafft's 1That first day at Schrafft’s we sat. I always ordered club sandwiches. Somehow, this backwoods twelve year old had gotten the notion that club sandwiches were what sophisticated New Yorkers ate. As I was bubbling and bursting and brimming with all the energy New York gave me, a kind of excitement and feeling I only ever have there, about to explode with it all, I noticed in a nearby booth a woman eating lunch alone. Reading a book.

At twelve, I had already been being called all sorts of names, harassed, abused for my mien which was stereotypically far more feminine than masculine, and I had a terror of going anywhere by myself, a fear that would continue well into my twenties. Going into a public place – a store, a school, anywhere – alone was something I almost could not do, and seeing someone eating alone in a restaurant started in me a feeling of panic, tight-chested breathlessness, and tear-inducing sorrow.

I pointed the woman out to Sissie. In addition to my fear of being alone and unprotected, in Frederick, we rarely went out to restaurants, and Frederick was not the kind of place in 1973 where people sat alone in restaurants reading books. This solo Schrafft’s patron might well have been a Yeti, so unheard of was such a sighting in my previous experience. I suggested we should help the woman. I suggested Sissie had to go ask her to come eat with us. I started crying.

Sissie, who knew my heart and soul, who, I now believe, knew somehow the trajectory my life would take, told me something like this, the gist of which – if not the actual words – I have never forgotten:

“Sweetheart, [she called me Sweetheart most of the time, though sometimes she called me her “perfect Charlie”] some people – some very special people – are chosen to be what looks like they are alone in the world; we don’t get married, we don’t have children, we don’t do all those things everyone thinks everyone should do; we hear special music, a beautiful music that just some people can hear, it’s almost magic; and through our lives other people – all the ones busy doing all those things everyone thinks they should do – will come to us because they need someone to give them that music, that magic for a bit, to help them along. It’s a gift, really, to be alone and have that music, but, sometimes, we need the quiet to refresh and renew it, we need to be able to sit alone in a restaurant with a book and renew ourselves. Being alone is not alone when you have that magic music of yourself in your head, your heart, and you have it. You have that music and that magic. Always remember that. You are never alone.”

It was a beautiful thing she said –however she said it – and like the color of the carpet at the Taft or the street-long window at Schrafft’s – no doubt my memory of it is incorrect in the detail, but it is the complete truth in the impact the words had and impression they made on me.

We shared that music, that magic, that connection, did Sissie and I. When I lost her in physical reality (which happened, in truth, a few years before she died as she faded into other worlds, leaving a shell of physical body here) I felt a sorrow unlike anything I had ever experienced. A part of my heart went with her, the part of me only she heard was left unattended. A part of me had nowhere to go, like Schrafft’s and the Taft, Sissie was gone, a memory of something magical and musical and beautiful.

Then, through the kindness of another dear friend, my Alison, I was introduced and brought together with Andrea. Though I have never told her this, the first time she hugged me, I felt an electric jolt of knowing, a connection of such force and warmth, I knew Sissie had sent her.

I was right. Andrea shares my music, my magic. Though we have had – and have – very different lives, there is a likeness of soul between us that vibrates in that space beyond words. We see. We know. We don’t need to speak it, we don’t need to define it, we don’t need to name it because we know we share a connection, a love and a light, that doesn’t fit inside “in-real-life” boundaries.

Others, looking at us from the outside, might wonder at it – might see the crumbling-plaster baluster, the gold-gilt flaking off of me, this fifty-something man searching for purchase in a world where he doesn’t quite belong anymore, nearly off the grid, often hopeless, depending for most of his touch and affection upon the feral-ferocious-anonymous-kindness of strangers. Yes, after Sissie died, I started a long march toward life-ending sorrows, until, metaphorically I was always, every day, weeping in a soon-to-be-demolished Schrafft’s, alone in a booth, terrified and defeated: and then she sent Andrea to say, “Hey, remember the music, Sweetheart. Remember the Magic you have, because I need to hear it.”

My dear, dear Andrea is buoyed by my music. My dear, dear Andrea gave me soul-breath and kiss-of-life by allowing me to share my magic with her. And she, so freely, gave her music and magic to me.

My dear, dear Andrea, like Sissie before her, is giving me New York City. There is no Taft, there is no Schrafft’s, there is no Sissie; but there is the Algonquin and its lobby, where I hang, and the diner next door, where I often eat, and in those places, now I love to sit, alone, with a book or my own notebook, in which I scribble and marvel and magic and music at the beautiful moments in my life.

And the beautiful gifts of love I have had. And have.

Like Andrea.

Happy birthday, my dear, dear Sweetheart. My perfect Andrea.

I LOVE SHE LOVES ME

Holy holy crap holy all that is holy — I have GOT to see this show, the “She Loves Me”  revival:

She Loves Me

watch this:

http://www.broadwayworld.com/videoembed.php?colid=1272427

Luckily, I will be in NYC starting April 13 – and I happen to have a few free nights and afternoons and I am going to see this show even if I have to sell myself on the street for tickets — well, never mind that — but I’ll get a ticket, just watch me! So many resonances for me, not the least of which is I am seeing the original Amalia, Miss Barbara Cook, on April 16th! And when did I FIRST come to love Miss Cook? I’ll tell you. I was a callow youth who had run away to California and auditioned for a production of “She Loves Me” where I was severely castigated by the board of gay-mafia audition panel for not knowing who Miss Cook was. Well, dears, I adapted the tale for my novel: here it is:

excerpt from the unpublished novel, LIBERTYTOWN

I ran away from my hometown to California at the behest of Annie, another of the many adrift friends I’d accumulated while part of Vincent’s theatricales, who, herself, was escaping from a disastrous marriage to a man who’d signed over all their funds to Scientology, after which he’d left her for a years younger woman. Annie, twenty-nine to my eighteen, was eager to trade coasts, and had accepted a transfer through the nuclear power plant designing firm for which she worked, hoping her luck would change. We headed across the country in her little green Datsun, meaning to see the landscape along the way, but spending rather more time drinking and smoking dope in Motel 6’s than we did sightseeing. We arrived in San Jose, where her new grown-up job was waiting and I arranged the furniture and unpacked the boxes full of stuff her company had paid to ship, a haul into which we had snuck a few cartons of my things as well, feeling like we’d pulled one over on her employers, and we settled into the one bedroom apartment they’d found her, creating a semblance of home.

We made an odd couple. I stayed on the couch, never really looking for a job, subsisting off the money Sissie sent me in her frequent letters from home, at least twice weekly missives filled with gossipy typed news of family and characters from Libertytown, as well as clippings from the Baltimore Sun that she thought I’d find interesting – always including Liz Smith’s gossip column, for which we both shared a slavish devotion, other theatre items, and too, clippings from the local paper about people I knew and the shows they were doing, which I think she meant to draw me back home, and slipped in amongst these without mention, tens or twenties, sometimes as much as fifty. I managed to do little with this cash but keep myself in cigarettes, and too, to overdose myself on Vitamin A in an effort to clear up my acne. I got off the couch long enough to get hired for my voice then fired for my lack of dance ability from a mediocre production of FINIAN’S RAINBOW in which Annie had gotten the ingénue lead role, Sharon. She fit right in to the company, started dating the man who played her father, he of the rainbow, and made friends at her new job, adapting to her new life while I floundered.

In a last ditch effort to make a go, I’d gone into San Francisco to audition for a show. I knew nothing about the city except that it was the Gay Capital of the world and so I expected to be welcomed, heralded even, as if some cosmic memo would have been sent announcing my arrival, the result of which would be that all the already relocated homos would find me a place, snuggle me in there, and show me the shape my life should be with the perfect occupation and lover thrown in for kicks.

The show was SHE LOVES ME, and knowledgeable as I’d considered myself to be in the unsophisticated arena of my tiny home town, I was woefully unschooled in the culture and patois of big city theatre, particularly one dominated by worshippers at the altar of Barbara Cook, who, at the time of my audition I had never heard, an ignorance for which I was held in that special sort of ignominious opprobrium ritualized by theatre queens.

“Well, what role are you auditioning for?” Asked one of the clones, all of whom were dressed in uniform of flannel shirt and too tight jeans, all of whom seemed equally eager to be rid of me, but not without first humiliating me for wasting their time.

“Isn’t there a young guy?”

“Arpad Laszlo, for whom, my dear, you are completely, utterly, and entirely wrong. He’s a teenage boy.”

“I’m eighteen.”

“With long blonde hair and a very … uhm…-” at which point flannelled disapprover number one looked at flannelled disapprovers two through five as if the search for the appropriate word to communicate my wrongness might just be beyond him. Alas, it was not. “-modern carriage.”

In other words, in the capital of the gay world, I was not only not receiving a parade, I was being told by these royal pre-eminences that I was too light.

“Yes,” too tight jeans two chimed in, “your hair, your bearing, your posture -”

And now, number three joined the chorus, which was not, I suspected, the first time he’d been in that group, a suspicion confirmed by his inability to insult me with an original adjectival code phrase for “too faggy.“ “Your persona is just a little too modern for the role.”

I’d spent enough of my life being disapproved of and snickered at by those who were not my people. Where I’d come from, the kingdom of home where I’d been a prince, one’s own kind – the other societal misfits, didn’t attack this way. It was one thing to be called a big fag, pudding, pussy, cocksucker, etc. by the redneck peons and common folk, but it was almost more than I could take to have one’s own class, the rulers of the aristocracy to which I thought I belonged call me a big, flaming sissy.

I was six years old. I’d led a remarkably sheltered life. We lived on a back road in the country, and other than my family, I knew no one. These were before the days of play groups and day care. My mother didn’t yet work, and my only playmate was Rebecca, with whom I was extraordinarily close. We lived in our own world, with our own language, the two of us having been raised as a couple, separate from the four other sisters and brother, being seven years younger than the next older sibling, and we were content there.

My other friend was Sissie, with whom I spent Sundays and holidays, and in this constricted little world I was the most loved, adored, and cherished of people. I could do no wrong.

When Rebecca and I would spend Sundays with Sissie at Libertytown, we would spend much of the day disappeared into private worlds we’d construct of the debris and rubble of pieces of our ancestors lives which had been left behind in the unused rooms of the manse. From the furniture, fragments and remains which echoed with histories forgotten by generations of Parkers, in rooms no longer used for anything but storage, we would create elaborate universes of make-believe to rule. We were living across the hall from one another in luxury New York apartments, glamorously doing whatever it was that we – at ages four and five – imagined that to be.

We were stars, of course. Most of the time. Less often we were teachers. But whether stars or teachers, we invented Grand Loves with whom we spent the few spare moments we were not busy with each other. Of course, we had no idea what constituted a Grand Love having seen no examples, but we knew from television and movies that having one was a requirement.

They were always men.

It was another something about which the family didn’t talk. They pretended not to notice Rebecca and I both attaching towels to our heads, pretending them to be long, luxurious blonde hair which we would toss with what I would now call a Veronica Lake insouciance, but which I have no idea at the time what I imagined it to be or what compelled me to portray it with such ease. When, ever so rarely, Rebecca would say, “Don’t you want to be a boy?” within our scenarios, I can remember the twisting, knotting within my stomach and the discomfort the notion caused me.

“No. I don’t like boys. They’re stupid.”

“But, you are a boy.”

“I know, but I’m not that kind of boy. I’m this kind.”

I didn’t have words for it. I didn’t have the vaguest notion that I was a category, that there were others like me, but then, in that world, in those rooms, in my tiny little reality, it made no difference. I knew that sometimes when my brother or sister would say something teasing to me about “you walk like a girl” or “don’t you want to play with trucks” my mother would, if she heard it, snap, “Leave him alone.” and the tickle of “not right” I felt about myself would be gone and I could return home to the galaxy Rebecca and I had made.

No matter what the tall, worried grown-ups around us thought I ought to be, Rebecca and I were content and happy in the secret world we inhabited. And as long as we kept one another amused and demanded nothing of the grown-ups around us, they left us to create our own realities, all with the tacit agreement that this was another something about which we did not speak in the real world, this was another something that only the Parker-cabal could understand, this was another something that made the real world a dangerous place in which to share what one knew and was, a place from which we needed to hide, this was another something that made us safe only when we were surrounded by and secreted in one another.

It was easy for us to hold on to the secret treasure of the world we made: we were right and perfect and knew everything. All the tall grown-ups around us had secrets of their own, that much Rebecca and I could tell, but those secrets were the kind that caused whispering and crying and sorrow and disappearing; those were the kinds of secrets that had something to do with the disappearance of that thing everyone else called “Daddy” or, sometimes, “Joe.” Daddy Joe was the absence around which all the sorrowful secrets of the tall people revolved, and Rebecca did not remember him at all, and I was without details, having instead some dreams and shadows and echoes of there having been something, a huge something both wonderful and terrible, all at once, an unfathomably enormous something taken away one night while I was asleep, and the next day, the crying began, a crying which continued for many, many decades until almost none of them were left … and too, that night’s disappearance had stopped a particular kind of music from playing; a music for which I would search and reach for many years until I found a substitute, found it inside my own heart and let it out, a sound I’d make to stop my own crying – at least for a while – but that is many, many stories in between and away from this now, this six year old Parker, and part of the dark secrets about which there cannot yet be discussion. Then, there was just Rebecca, and the combination of secrets kept and told, and as long as we guarded and lived in those, we could be happy.

Then, I went to school.

Those first weeks of first grade, I was the only Catholic who rode along with the forty public school kids, and was segregated to the seat directly behind the driver at the front of the bus which dropped me off on the corner in Libertytown at which was located the bank where Sissie worked, from which Sissie would emerge, take my hand and walk me the two remaining blocks down the side street to Saint Peter’s Grade School.

I did not make friends easily. My first foray into the world outside was not filled with the embrace I had always felt in my isolated existence. It did not help that thanks to Sundays with Sissie and the newspapers and Babar and Roald Dahl books she’d shared with me, I could already read thus setting me even further apart from the other children who made me feel as if I had come from another country, and not one that any of them would like to visit.

I spoke in strange and long sentences of a vocabulary and syntax foreign to the other children, composed of the patterns I’d learned from movie musicals and the books Sissie and I had read together, a borrowed erudition with tellingly sibilant accents and a delivery bordering on British. Somehow, in the process of inventing myself, I’d happened upon an unfortunate combination of Truman Capote and Katharine Hepburn.

It did not take my peers long to mark me in ways and words I did not know existed. The horror of it began on what was to be the last morning I was ever walked to school by Sissie, who I still believed magical, who reflected the beauty I wanted to believe was inside me, my hand in hers, her by my side, the place I had, until them, always felt safest.

From across the street a group of older kids walking alone called out, “Sissy!” and at first I wondered how they knew her. I was not that surprised. She worked in the bank and was the center of my very small world, it just made sense that everyone would know her, love her, crave her attention as did I. But, the screaming continued, and laughing, and soon enough I could tell from the way Sissie stood a little straighter, eyes determinedly ahead looking at neither the child terrorists nor me, ignoring the sound as if it were not there, the smile on her face which I recognized as that look she wore when someone’s behavior or a piece of news did not fit in with her idea of what the world should be, that look she affected when I would ask a question for which the answer was something she thought I ought not consider, often followed by the phrase, “Honey, don’t let’s worry about that sort of thing,“ combined with the sneering tone of the continuing taunt comprised of what had once been a magical word for me, “SISSY! SISSY! SISSSSSSY!!!!” that my safe world no longer existed.

Frozen moment.

It would be another few years before the verbal attacks became physical and the throwing against lockers and head in toilets and destruction of whatever of my soul or property they could get their hands on would begin. That day though, was the day I learned, that being a “sissy” was not the good thing that being “Sissie” had always meant to me.

And now, here it was again. Another place I was meant to be safe, an audition for musical theatre, and I was being taunted by the older kids.

But, just then, the mustachioed , receding hair lined number four member of the royal flannelled and jeans enclave, this one located at the piano, interceded on my behalf.

“Well, what will you be singing?”

“Mean To Me.” Had I not been so flummoxed and intimidated by the tangible disdain to which I’d been subjected, I’d have delivered the title with irony. As it was, I began to shake. There seemed no point in singing, but I hadn’t the spine to simply walk away. It had always been my m.o. to deplete every ounce of dignity and self-respect I might have, never willing to surrender when only partially eviscerated.

“As in AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’? Nell Carter?”

“Yes. Thank you.” I handed him my music and, God bless him, he smiled and patted my hand.

I had not, in my estimation, been given many gifts by God. My skin was bad. My teeth were crooked and after a misadventure with my older brother, my mother had determined that braces were a waste of time. My dick wasn’t huge. My face wasn’t particularly pretty. My body was neither muscled nor well proportioned, just long and there. I was smart enough, but not in a way that had ever been more help than hindrance, operating as it did as a sort of internal intellectual torture team judging me twice as harshly as I’d ever consider judging anyone else. I didn’t have much.

But I had a voice.

Perhaps it was the hours I’d spent listening to Mahalia with my father. Perhaps it was the years of terror and loneliness in which I’d lived. Perhaps it was God’s way of playing another trick on me, but somehow, inside that thin, paler than a vampire too modern carriaged eighteen year old boy, there lived a fat, black woman. And she could wail.

I started and the flannel queens’ smirking was interrupted by their shock. They were, however, quick to recover, transforming what had been their certainty I would not be able to sing into a haughty dismissal of the freakish disjunction between the singer and the song.

It was left to the as yet unheard from replicant number five to speak. “Well, that’s very … uhh … interesting …though probably not the best song for your type … and, well, I have to be honest … you’re just not what we’re looking for.”

I stood there, uncertain what to do. Paralyzed by embarrassment, terrified. At home, whenever I’d auditioned, I had always known ahead of time that I would be starring in something. Auditioning had been a formality, an opportunity for me to excel. Even at the auditions for the FINIAN’S in which Annie was starring, this same song had been greeted with wild applause from the auditioning committee. If I didn’t have my voice, if that didn’t work, who was I? My devastation and confusion was evident enough to engender sympathy in number three, who said, “Don’t worry, look at Miss Barbara Cook! When she starred in SHE LOVES ME she was a delicate little ingénue and now she’s big as a house and a bigger star than ever – she’s in town next week!”

And to my continuing humiliation and abashment, with no excuse except that my heart was breaking and my brain on pause, I replied, “Who is Barbara Cook?” From the looks on their faces I knew – if it had not been certain before, it now was – that I would never have a parade in this town.

On the way back to San Jose, after that audition, I bought the LIVE AT CARNEGIE HALL LP by Miss Barbara Cook and took to memorizing it note for note, inflection by inflection, breath by breath, lyric soprano trill by trill, until I could and would – with very little prompting – imitate her entire oeuvre, but most especially the trio of iconic SHE LOVES ME selections, DEAR FRIEND, WILL HE LIKE ME, and my particular specialty, ICE CREAM during the end of which I would explode into the final three exceedingly stratospheric notes, flitting with breath-taking ease to the F sharp and then defying gravity by flying even further to the high B which I would hold until it seemed I might faint from the effort at which point – without taking a breath – I would portamento smoothly down to the electric final E, all with a most assured and ear-splitting tenacity, a buoyant, dare I say gay élan the likes of which has gotten boys like me dunked in toilets and thrown against lockers since musical theatre began.

It was during one such display of I-IIIIICE-CREAM brio that I began to shake uncontrollably, as did Annie across the room. It was not the result of my vivacious and bravura performance, but rather, my first earthquake. It was barely a quake, more a tremor, but the walls and floor were moving, and nothing I did could stop them as I ran from wall to wall, pressing against them, looking for something solid.

“Stand in a doorframe! Come stand in the doorframe!” Annie shouted, from her perch at the front door, looking out over the second floor balcony walkway to the parking lot below. “Come look! Parker, look at this! All the cars are dancing!“ She was fascinated by the vibrating vehicles, and entranced by the power of it, while I was horrified. I wanted things to hold still. I needed it to stop, and I could feel my guts twisting, my heart beating ever faster as the reality of my complete lack of control and escape penetrated my consciousness.

Even so, as was ever the case, it was my role to be amusing and comforting, and so I joined her on the balcony, screaming, “When I prayed for the earth to move, God, this wasn’t what the fuck I meant.”

And almost as soon as we were done laughing at my witty bon mot, the upheaval had heaved its last. We re-entered the apartment to assess the damage and discovered the only casualty seemed to have been the framed photo of the two of us as Margo Channing and her gay, best friend Duane in APPLAUSE, the musical version of ALL ABOUT EVE, Vincent’s production of which had been the beginning of our best-friendship, which had migrated off the bookshelf and shattered, glass and frame, into shards, on the ground. I cleaned up the pieces, discarded the broken glass and frame, and saved the photo, tucking it away into the sleeve of Barbara’s LIVE AT CARNEGIE HALL, the album of which I later discovered to my horror had been scratched by the stereo needle skipping across it during the quake, forever after causing Miss Cook to repeat ad infinitum the high B I’d tried to claim as my own. “He came to offer me,” she’d begin with promise, “vani-illl-la-ah I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I…,” and so on, never getting to the “-iiiiiiice cream.”

Vanilla I.

It should have struck me funny then. But it didn’t.

For years I would tell people it had been that quake, that fear of loss of control that had sent me back to Maryland. But it was not just – or even, especially that, but rather, the seed of doubt about my ability to gain purchase in those more urban spheres of shows and homos which had been firmly planted by my FINIAN and SHE LOVES ME experiences. I needed someplace safe, some place where I knew the walls would stand and the ground, though not always welcoming, was solid. So, home I went, taking my ICE CREAM with me, the tessitura of which resulted in neither the dogs of San Jose nor Annie regretting my decision in February of 1980 to jet back East.

My Heart, My Heart: I’m coming Elizabeth!

Yesterday marked twelve years since my aunt, Sissie, died. I cried a lot. Not about her death, or, even, how much I miss her. She was more than ready to go and I respected that. No, my crying was a continuation of the fits of weeping I’ve been having which have been triggered by the state of the world and exacerbated by this horrid election season. When I head toward these dysthymic lows, in concert and contrast with the despair, my mind generates morbid humor, dark, often twisted contortions of plot and circumstance to do with how I’d like to end, the harbinger of which is the narrator in my head saying, “And then he died.” ‘Twas yesterday the narrator started with that again, while I was on the elliptical at the gym, and I thought, “Oh yes, just keep elliptical-ing until I collapse, which will be hilarious, a former nicotine-addicted, carb-mainlining, out-of-shape, pudgy sloth like me dying on gym-equipment in a quest to be clean and healthy, yes, I’ll keep on this thing until my heart gives out and then I won’t have to vote in the primary and deal with Secretary Clinton’s willful AIDS-Reagan-ignorance, problem solved, or worry about where I’m going to end up living and how I can’t afford a place and I’ll do the whole, ‘I’m coming, Elizabeth! I’m coming’ thing!”

Which macabre brooding of a think started another think-thing which sent me spiraling further downward.

The second man my mother married — a bigot and bully of some accomplishment and skill — was a fan of terrible television, especially those programs that affirmed his limited world view in which white men were right and everyone else was wrong, servile, or stupid. So, he loved Sanford and Son, in which Redd Foxx played a character who was himself a bigoted, bullying fool, week after week irascibly getting into mischief and mishap, all knee-slappingly resolved in the half-hour episode, all done in a way that never challenged my mother’s second husband’s vision of the “right kind of” black people being versions of Stepin Fetchit.

Now, I am aware that Norman Lear did not mean for Fred Sanford to reinforce those stereotypes, in the same way Mr. Lear didn’t mean for All In The Family to make a racist, misogynist, homophobic bigot seem huggable and harmless. But to people like the second man my mother married, that was exactly the result. Characters like Archie Bunker and Fred Sanford gave legitimacy to haters and haranguers who were not – ever, in any area of their lives – interested in divining the meaning or message from anything – rather, they came to every situation in life with their narrow-minded little reality’s fanatical ism’s and hateful convictions on full throttle and applied those to whatever they saw.

Archie Bunker affirmed rather than embarrassed them. They didn’t think he was a provincial, uneducated, nasty enabler of violence and discrimination, they thought he was right. They thought he was them. They thought he should be president. They liked that Fred Sanford didn’t want anything to do with white-folk. That, for them, was how it should be, people should stick to their own kind, preferably in ghetto areas, inside the fence of proverbial junkyards.

The second man my mother married especially enjoyed when Fred Sanford — confronted with a situation he didn’t want to or had not the capacity to deal with — would clutch his chest, roll his eyes to the heavens and exclaim to his deceased wife, “My heart! My heart! I’m coming, Elizabeth.”

Sissie’s name was Frances Elizabeth. So, when I thought that elliptical-death-thought on the anniversary of the day of her death, it seemed, well, a sign? But, I don’t really believe in signs. I think we see signs where we want to, projecting our own stuff onto the random in order to wrest meaning from a meaningless existence, to impose some sort of order on this chaos of being so that we might make it more bearable — or, at all bearable.

Which, frankly, of late, it is less and less. I begin to think “bearable” equals delusional.

That bigoted, ignorant man my mother married after the death of my father, was around through my pre-teen and teen years, a hateful presence in my own home who echoed all the people from whom I had to run and hide outside my home. And now, those same sort of awful, proudly ignorant bumpkin-boors are inching closer and closer to taking over the world, furiously, happily, openly engaging in hate-speech, nazimitating electioneering. This weekend, as the next step in their ascendency, they followed their demonic leader’s suggestion to start beating the shit out of people.

All my triggers, tripped. Buttons pushed. It is as if this country has turned into one huge high school from my teen years again and everyone is a potential hater and locker-pusher and toilet-dunker and proudly idiotic bully beast.

I am terrified.

And exhausted. It was about a week ago I posted my dismay with the homophobia of the Downton Abbey finale. No one said a word of agreement, but plenty of people told me (some with their silence, some actually wrote) that I was over-reacting and seeing bigotry where it didn’t exist or I was expecting too much.

Right.

Ageism and sexism don’t exist either. For example, the writing about Sally Field’s latest film, Hello, My Name is Doris, doesn’t in any way illuminate the biases in this country. I mean, forget the fact that men the same age as Ms. Field are routinely coupled in films with women decades younger and nothing is said or thought of it, but for Ms. Field to have a decades younger co-star she needs to be playing some sort of quirky, near-nut-job. No, nothing to do with a culture of sexism and ageism. It’s okay as long as she’s wearing two pair of glasses and is dressed in kicky-I’m-eccentric-wear, because, you know  . . .

Right.

And there’s no ageism or need for health care in this country when the population is aging like mad and suffering chronic, widespread hearing loss which affects cognitive function and quality of life but its treatment is not covered by Medicare and priced out of the range of most people. See here in the New York Times [click here] – but there’s NO PROBLEM HERE. I’m just whining?

Right.

I can’t tell you the number of people who have told me to get over my anger about what was done to me in high school, how I was chased out of high school, how I couldn’t turn to my family or the school for help, how the shame of my catholic upbringing and the ignorance and evil of the second-husband-of-my-mother-bigot who ran my household filled me with my own self-doubts and internalized homophobia, doubts and self-hate that held me prisoner and scarred me for life. Get over it.

Right.

My own family member once told me I couldn’t work for them unless I could hide my homosexuality, I had to act “normal” so as not to scare away clients. I should get over that.

Right.

I should get over the opportunities and joys I was denied for being myself, and understand the complicity of “loved ones” and “basically decent people” who “don’t know any better” in the moral crimes committed against me.

Right.

I should get over Secretary Clinton “misspeaking” about the evil, hateful Reagans’ murderous record on AIDS.

Right.

I should Stepin Fetchit myself and accept how much better it is and shut up so the trumpers don’t kill me – because they are coming back, coming on strong, no longer even bothering to hide. And I should be okay when my own family comes to the defense of people like that – say, for example, the second man my mother married, or, Mitt Romney.

Right.

Wrong.

But I’m too fucking tired to fight. Yeah, I thought it was getting better, and in some ways, yes, it has. But not nearly enough. It already wasn’t great and then, this trump thing. And Secretary Clinton and that quote. And every personal diss I’ve lately suffered into which I will not go. Tired.

So, I’m off to the gym, onto the elliptical, where I intend to back and forth and back and forth and back and forth until, please, Sissie, help this sissy, if there is an after, help me out one more time, give me the opportunity to clutch chest and say it:

“I’m coming, Elizabeth! I’m coming!”

But if there is an after and that awful second man my mother married is there — keep him the fuck away from me. I’m tired of being the one to understand and get over. I want someone else to cry. Selfish as it is, I’ve had it.

Right.

March 12

My heart and mind are daily filled with the wonderfulness of you, and today is one of the dates of the year when I am especially cognizant of all the gifts of knowing and being and acceptance and believing you gave me.

Sissie stone

It’s hard to believe it’s been twelve years. You would not believe the things that have happened – that are happening – and while I’m glad you’ve been spared many of the horrors in these dozen years, I mourn for me, because I would so like to have you here to talk about these things. Or, just sit with you and know I’m fully, one hundred per cent, completely loved.

sissie 2

I wish I could believe – as you did – there was a heaven. I wish I could believe – as we discussed – that said heaven would involve you and me, living in a celestial Algonquin, hanging with Mrs. Parker and Miss St. Vincent Millay, an eternity of legendary-Broadway opening nights – always being seen for the first time. I wish I could believe I deserved to be loved the way you loved me, again.

sissie

I wish you were here. I miss you. I love you. And though I know you can’t hear this, I still feel the need to say it, every year, every day really, all the time – Thank You for the best parts of me, those parts you made. Love you, miss you, always yours, your Perfect Charlie.

Sissie 3

Multitudes of Charlies. Re-design issues – or, not?

Pontormo joseph-with-jacob-in-egypt-pontormo-1518UPDATE: 3 hours later. I’ve chosen new layout(ish) & design. Hope you like it.

Since my blog re-design, the entirety of which was changing the theme, my hits have plummeted. Look, they’ve never been high anyway except for the one time people mistakenly thought I had naked pics of the Carver twins, so, you might ask, “Why worry?”

Good question.

“Why anything?” is a question I have been asking a lot of late. I’m up in all sorts of air about all sorts of things. Politics – this election is awful. And too, my soon-to-be-supposed-to-be trip to NYC about which I’ve done little to no planning, including bus or train tickets or —

And people keep suffering tragedies and fading or disappearing or behaving in ways I find confusing, confounding infuriating.

And anger keeps coming up in me.

And more WHY than I’ve had since my teen/twenties years – which were tortures of WHY-times.

My insides, my spirit, my thoughts, my all-that-is of me, is a maze of ups and downs and ins and outs and all the mes fighting for their views, their priorities, their way of being, and I am having trouble making my selves coalesce, the multiples of me will not merge, the multitudes of Charlies will not integrate and cooperate.

I am unsure of anything. I try to be okay with that. But recognition of the state of not-knowing requires a great deal of courage and energy. I don’t know that I have that much energy any more.

I don’t know. Much.

But, I do know that as the days go by my life continues to shrink, with which I am mostly fine. Although, as I said at the top, since the re-design, so many fewer hits. I find it odd. All I did was change the color and font, really.

No one said anything. They just stopped showing up. On the other hand, they were showing up without saying anything, too. So, there’s that.

So, my point is – well, I’m not sure I have a point, but I think I need another re-design. And I don’t honestly know what that means.

Help?

(I am waiting for the one who gets the Sondheim seeping into my words. I’ve a feeling as I age — if I continue to age — I will more and more quote musical theatre lyrics until, at last, my only response to anything will be to sing a line from a showtune.)