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…

 

 

Reading: Not Little Lives by Garth Greenwell and Paul Lisicky

In this post I talk about two books of great beauty — chase cut to, here: Buy (because you’ll want to write in them and read them over and over, refer to them, revel in them, live and love in their pages) Paul Lisicky’s THE NARROW DOOR and Garth Greenwell’s WHAT BELONGS TO YOU. Now, I can return to talking about my life, which these two books — like great literature does — made me reconsider, contemplate, review, and think about deeply, my perspective having been changed, my journey illuminated by the truths told by Mxs Lisicky and Greenwell. Seriously, stop wasting time reading me – GO GET THESE BOOKS!

P.S. NOON FEBRUARY 1, 2016 – AT TIME OF POSTING – READER ADVISORY: Listen, friends, this is OVER 3000 words, and since many of you have subtly and kindly told me already that my posts are too long, let me help you out — I have EDITED OUT huge swaths of quotes from both books – reviewing them is beside the point; they are both beautiful and demand to be read, repeatedly – so no need to go any further – JUST GO GET THESE BOOKS AND READ THEM. I’m heading to the gym to look for some fun with one of my imaginary boyfriends, whose real names I don’t know, but who I have now begun to call – alternately, M and Mitko, thanks to Mr. Lisicky and Mr. Greenwell. Goodbye, dear ones.

P.P.S. 12:30 – Here’s the thing, in one sentence, when writers create from the truth of their souls and allow that Light and Love to flow onto the page, it doesn’t matter whether the shape of their experiences or the labels they’ve been given match your own — it is their TRUTHS that move us, that connect with our own most deeply-felt and deeply-lived experiences, and make us say, “Yes, they too have lived as have I, and loved, and learned, and lost and this is a truthful telling of that story, that truth.” Okay, I’m finished. Really.

Lisicky, Paul

Paul Lisicky

Greenwell, Garth

Garth Greenwell

It was January 22 when I read Paul Lisicky’s memoir, The Narrow Door, and January 23 when I read Garth Greenwell’s debut novel, What Belongs to You. I have been trying to write about both ever since. That’s a lie. I knew I couldn’t write about them. Both of these cris de coeur opened in me memories like wounds, tearing away the scar-tissue of long years of melancholic acquiescence to a life of less-than, exposing gaping lesions, bruises and lacerations, slashes and gashes I thought I had treated and healed, bringing to light just how many and how damaging were the lies I had told to myself and others, the evasions and fictions in which I was still — far too often and too adeptly — living.

So, I apologize. I apologize for making this about me. But, blame those responsible: Paul Lisicky’s The Narrow Door and Garth Greenwell’s What Belongs to You are more than reads. By now, reviewers everywhere have rapturized about how these works of a lifetime have been beautifully composed from the raw materials of truth, hard-won loves, devastating losses and heartaches, then chiseled and polished to a lustrous brilliance. You should search for and read those adulatory reviews by practitioners far more skilled at the art of literary criticism and analysis than am I. This, on another hand (or, more likely, foot — in mouth) is a personal testimonial about the impact a book can have on a human being.

In the shape of a book review. Okay: Go.

Narrow DoorTHE NARROW DOOR: A Memoir of Friendship, Paul Lisicky, Paperback, 192 pages, January 2016, Graywolf Press  Mr. Lisicky wrote Lawnboy, a novel lush with longing and the search for identity I much loved. Now, he invites us into his heart as it grows and breaks and mends and mourns through two relationships, two loves. Mr. Lisicky explores the boundaries of romance and self and what effort is required when people are evolved enough to recognize that “Love” doesn’t necessarily fit into the confines allowed and defined by the culture in which we live; sometimes love is smaller, lower-case l, and sometimes Love is larger, capital L, than we have words and rules and understanding for, and we must —  as individuals, couples, trios, menages of many sizes, communities, evolving societies — learn to make space, make sense, make okay the shapes our loves and our lives take.

Mr. Lisicky writes with trenchant insight about love, about having a partner with greater earning power, about being an artist, toiling at one’s art and having to make a living in other ways, about making sense by finding peace in the lack of discernible pattern in life, love, energy, the cosmos. Listen:

How tempting it is to do the alchemical now. To turn darkness into light, bread into flesh, tin into gold, wine into blood. It’s what the narrative wants of us, at least this part of the narrative. It wants to comfort, not that we should necessarily link comfort to weakness. Couldn’t there be some rigor to comfort? I’d like to think the story could give it that, to give the hurting in us strength and power. So we will not leave the page without reserving a pasture for darkness, inscrutability. If we don’t acknowledge that pasture, if we don’t respect the secret creature that might be grazing there, those creatures may turn on us.”

That is poetry. That is truth, hard-won, discovered by living through the age, the youth, during which one thinks one knows it all, the innocent era of believing one will find the perfect, ever-after love, will have it all, and then the maturation process of the slogs and slips and sweats and sadnesses of insecurities, suffering the losses and the less-than-loves and enduring the experience of watching the everything you thought you had turning into all the things you know you’ve lost, growing up and old enough to recognize that those things about which you were most certain were the doorways to the worst of your mistakes, and the worst of your mistakes were the doorways to the most important of your lessons, and where you are now is only a step in where you are going. Mr. Lisicky writes from the perch of wisdom grounded in knowing that there is much knowing in the un-knowing that comes after good-byes.

It is not a spoiler to say The Narrow Door is framed around the deaths of a friend and a relationship. Mr. Lisicky shares details of the intricate, delicate, sometimes agonizingly difficult, sometimes one-brain/one-heart euphoric relationship he shared with fellow writer, Denise. Her death derails him, as deaths do, and it is shortly after this when his marriage with the husband he calls M, disintegrates.

One of the marvelous things about this memoir is Mr. Lisicky’s use of emotional resonances as organizing framework. Rather than a linear narration of “this happened then that happened in this order at this time”, The Narrow Door is palimpsest, a layering and a tessellation of memories, events, conversations, a conflation of emotional impacts and experiences, the sum of which equal more than eulogy. While elegy is always an element in the complexity of a life — because love and living, after all, both require again and again choosing one thing over another, and what one doesn’t choose is lost — it is what comes after loss, the mystery of enduring and abiding, the choice (there’s that word again) to keep going, to remain open and alive and continue wondering, that defines a life. Mr. Lisicky travels in beautiful, evocative prose through choices he has made, continues to make, and interpreting the wider world through his personal, private lens, this being the story of how he has maintained purchase in a world where reality can too often be calamitous, catastrophic, and wretched. Listen, here as he describes how he maintains foundation of self while working a soul-sucking job in order to make a living:

It helps to set the alarm for five every morning, pull out my legal pad, prop the legal pad on my bent legs, and write in bed for an hour. Sometimes I can’t even read the sloppy penmanship when I get home that night. It looks like the penmanship of someone with a personality disorder. Still, the act of writing give me permission to do that eight-hour day. It is a ritual, an act of stillness, of saying here I am to myself. No, I haven’t joined the ranks of former artists, though my coworkers might not exactly be aware of that.

How blessed are we that Mr. Lisicky never surrendered to the disappointments of the artist’s life along the way, sacrificing his writing for the world of mortgages and notes.  Perhaps I am even more moved by this memoir because, in many ways, I did surrender. Too, there are other of Mr. Lisicky’s experiences that resonate with me. We are roughly the same age and we grew up in an era where it was still the norm to hide parts of who we were even from those to whom we were closest. He was not, at first, out as a gay man to Denise, and I too, being of that generation, had some very dear friends with whom I was not open and out early on. And, like Mr. Lisicky (and, I suspect, most people who have lived five or six decades) I have loved badly and been badly loved by people I believed I could forever trust, people whose leavings and betrayals left within me empty spaces where once that believing lived. It is a constant battle not to let those spaces fill with bitterness and anger, which means, sometimes, I must allow sorrow to seep in, filling the empty, otherwise hate might rush in.

That struggle, that task, is what growing older and aging is for me. In The Narrow Door, Mr. Lisicky penetratingly addresses such questions and, rather than leaving us with formulaic, pat answers, he introduces us to better ways to ask the questions of “why” and “how did I get here” and “what might moving on look like” and he does it all with leapings through time, magnificences of prose, and intensities of truth and heart that will make you gasp, laugh, weep, recognize, and rejoice.

Simply brilliant. And he admires Jane Bowles. And is friends with Elizabeth McCracken, either of which, let alone BOTH, would have been enough for me.

Now, from memoir to debut novel, another book that touched me so deeply I don’t think I can do it any more justice than I just did Mr. Lisicky, but I have claimed I am a book blogger, so, well, I will do my best.

What Belongs To YouWHAT BELONGS TO YOU, Garth Greenwell, Hadcover, 194 pages, January 2016, Farrar, Straus and Giroux  I don’t know how to begin. I have been trying for days to come up with an opening sentence for this appreciation, struggling to find an angle, an introduction, some way to communicate some glimmer of the poetries, perplexities, and perfections of this novel. I can’t. So, let Mr. Greenwell’s opening two sentences work their mesmeric power on you, as they did on me. Listen:

That my first encounter with Mitko B. ended in a betrayal, even a minor one, should have given me greater warning at the time, which should in turn have made my desire for him less, if not done away with it completely. But warning in places like the bathrooms at the National Palace of Culture, where we met, is like some element coterminous with the air, ubiquitous and inescapable, so that it becomes part of those who inhabit it, and thus part and parcel of the desire that draws us there.

Confronted with the hypnotic repetitions and rhythms of those sentences, their complications of emotion and intricacy of language, I immediately stopped, went back and read them again. After which, I stopped, again, got myself a pencil and sticky-arrow-notes, and started scribbling in the margins, taking to Twitter to declare my euphoric, ecstatic reveling in such glorious writing.

In those two sentences Mr. Greenwell tells us so much about the narrator. While he names the object of his desire, his betrayer, Mitko B., he does not name himself, not here, nor in the remaining pages of the story. The repetition of should, warning, desire, and part, along with the rhythms of element, coterminous, ubiquitous, inescapable, tell us this is a man who listens and lives in layers. We are in his head and his heart and his groin as his inner monologue tells us: “I should have known, so I should have desired less; but that desire that should have lessened with the warning of the initial betrayal, is the desire that compels the un-named me to this place; this desire which is conflated with, inseparable from the warning, the warning being a large part of the compulsion.”

There is such connectivity in the choice of words he repeats, and in their repetition a compelling, compulsive, complexity and hastening, the experience is building for us as it happens to him in the way a musical composition repeats phrases and themes. All of which is brilliant enough for an initial two sentences, but then Mr. Greenwell adds a layer of juxtapositioning, limning encounter and betrayal, minor and greater, bathrooms and National Palace of Culture, the introduction of his laser-like application of dichotomy of language, emotion, and experience that continues throughout this novel, symphonically communicating the contrapuntal and atonal spiritual and emotional disunion in the heart of our un-named narrator.

I worried when reading the spellbinding first few sentences that this would be another of those novels that begins with such promise and ultimately disappoint. For naught. From my stunned, breathless appreciation of its opening, to my first sobbing on page 34, to my recognition of myself and my experiences over and over again in these pages, to the brilliant loss of self and initial disconnect described on page 73, to the crippling ever-after scarring of first unrequited love so eloquently painted on pages 90 and 91, to the painful final discoveries of truth on page 190-191 that left me — again — in tears of recognition and sorrow and appreciation for the effort and genius of this work, yes, from beginning to end, this was a work of magical, once-in-a-generation numbing, ensorcelling accomplishment by a virtuoso of literature. You can see, looking at my copy of What Belongs To You, it was a transforming experience throughout:

Greenwell arrows Greenwell page 34 Greenwell page 37

Now, as I warned you, this is less review and more about me. Here goes. Much has been made of late about naming — about finding — the Great Gay Novel, and despite the ever-contracting world of publishing, there seems an expansion of opportunities for writers of what is often called diversity. I’ll spare you my cosmologo-pollyanna-ish-angry-loving-hippie-esque-nirvana-utopia-dreamworld take on why all this labeling is ultimately so harmful and reductive, but, if we must choose a Great Gay Novel, let it please be this one.

When I was young, it was Edmund White’s A Boy’s Own Story and John Rechy’s City of Night  that told me stories about other gay men, some other gay men. Those books were not available to me in my local bookstore and although I was from the time I began first grade called out as sissy and queer and fag and every other derogatory term for boys who loved other boys, I was still not publicly declared and so I had to go to some trouble, take some risks to find and get and hide these books, and I read them furtively. During the years of my circumspect, secretive non-living of my truth, at thirteen and fourteen, I was falling in what felt like love to me with someone who was, I now believe, not much gay. Had the world been different — not a prison of labels and naming — we’d have been boyfriends for a while, broken up, moved on. As it was, he, B, was just the first in a line of scars I still bear which included when I was seventeen and eighteen, C, and then in my twenties and thirties, A — who ruined me forever for love, and later, a different sort of tragic and deep connection that didn’t fit anywhere in the world in which we lived, the weight of which caused implosion, confusion, and untethered fury for both of us, and, well, these men all loved me after a fashion, and I loved them, but in each case their desire for me was less than their desire that no one — including themselves, really — know they loved me, and, worse, my acquiescence to and acceptance of that condition.

It was a kind of love particular to many (certainly not all, but many) gay lives.

Which is why, I understand, we still need gay novels. Because, had I not had Mxs. White and Rechy, when growing up I would have felt even more alone and abandoned and afraid than I did. And yet it is that fear, that alone, which is the why, I hope you understand, I wish we didn’t need gay novels. I want that world, my imagined cosmologo-pollyanna-ish-angry-loving-hippie-esque-nirvana-utopia-dreamworld, where we are all first and foremost HUMANS. We are not our gender or our attractions or our ages or shapes or incomes or anything other than our SOULS. I want that world so that there never have to be young people who feel “OTHER” because of who they find themselves attracted to.

But, yes, things are getting better. Heartening that both Mr. Greenwell and Mr. Lisicky discuss Walt Whitman’s poetry in their books. There have always been gay writers, but it is only now in an age where freedom to love who we love burgeons that the reclamation has begun, and reclamation and clarification of the past, a revisionist inclusion-ism as it were, is an important step on the way to my utopian “we are all equal souls” world.  So, important to know now, Whitman belongs to the pantheon of writers whose experience was informed by their attractions to people of the same gender; as we declare our presence in the present, we also claim our past. Evolution of culture and society is about re-examining, re-defining, finding new ways to interpret old truths that shed old skins, undo old lies. Greenwell’s narrator says of Whitman:

I understood his desire to be naked before the world, his madness, as he says, to be in contact with it. I even felt something of that desire myself, though it was nothing like madness for me, in my life lived almost always beneath the pitch of poetry, a life of inhibition and missed chances, perhaps, but also a bearable life, a life that to some extent I had chosen and continued to choose.

What sentences! What thoughts! What truths for so many (I suspect, for when something resonates with me — such is my ego — I assume there is a world of people for whom it also resonates)! However, Mr. Greenwell frequently works at the pitch of poetry. This, when the narrator is told by a sad, withdrawn Mitko:

…I want to live a normal life. I was silent for a moment, torn between a terrible sadness and my desire for escape. And then, watching his [Mitko’s] face, I don’t want to be one of your clients, I said. He turned to me in surprise, saying But you aren’t a client, you’re a friend, but I waved this objection away. I like you too much, I said, clumsily but with candor, it isn’t good for me to like you so much.

I have said those words. Who hasn’t said those words? Who hasn’t loved more than was good for them? That isn’t a gay novel or a queer novel or a diverse novel, that is a human story, a poem told about a soul with whom we can all identify. This is a love story and a Bildungsroman and a weighing of where the culture is now in contrast to where it was when the narrator’s father disowned him and an embrace of the blatantly, celebratory erotic urge. It is, in short, a life. Not little. Despite its less than two-hundred pages this is a very large life, and a great novel – gay novel, yes, but human novel, certainly.

Oh, my friends, you few who have made it all the way here, past three-thousand words (I’m so sorry) there is so much more I could say about both these books. I have already edited from this post huge swaths of quotes, because, truly, just please read them, these elegant explorations of sensitive, perceptive souls wandering and wondering through precipitous emotional landscapes, blessed and tormented and transformed by the vicissitudes of relationships and mutations of love.

Note to Mr. Lisicky and Mr. Greenwell: I am sorry I couldn’t better communicate how much I loved these books and how deeply touched I was by the universality of the emotions within each of them, the ways in which they echoed my own personal experience. I felt, sometimes, as though you’d both read my journals. Much thanks, gratitude, and love for your work, your sharing of your own Lights and Love. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

 

 

Reading: October; That’s A Wrap

I began reading the Fall-Big-Book-$2 million-advance-juggernaut and much to my surprise and chagrin, I am enjoying it. I’ll get to that. First things first, or, last things last. October was a crazy month during which I was quite ill, my Mom was in and out of the hospital twice, I had to cancel my long-looked-forward-to trip to NYC/Algonquin, I generated some much needed income with house/pet-sitting gigs (people, I STILL have Thanksgiving open – are you telling me NONE of you or people you know need me?), and I started doing the hand-written/drawn/full of clippings and pictures correspondence thing (if you’d like to be added to the rotation, send me your address in a private message and I’ll send you some Charlie-fun too — wow, that sounds a little – well, WHATEVER, it’s CHARLIE FUN!) — I am in love with this return to the snail-mail-hand-wrought missive trend — and, with all of that, managed to blog quite a bit, catching up and keeping up with the titular reason for this thing: Book Blogging. Thus, my latest reads.

this is your life harriet chanceThis Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! , by Jonathan Evison, Algonquin Books, 296pp My first sampling of Mr. Evison’s work was prompted by coming across it on New Release shelves in the library, Ms. Jami Attenberg’s blurb calling Mr. Evison a “ridiculously gifted storyteller”, and its subject matter of a woman nearing life’s finale, accepting her “diminishing capacities” while taking stock and discovering the truth of what has gone before. With a Ralph Edwards-ian, omniscient-ish narrator hurtling us through a guided tour of the milestones (and millstones), we revisit from birth the people and places who made her what she is — and is not. While the tone is light-hearted and suffused with humor, the elegiac subject-matter and theme to do with choices, lack of choices, bad choices, and chance, is ultimately quite grim. The discoveries and revelations are less than uplifting, often involving betrayal and deceit, a life-story full of hiding, shame, and purposeful ignorance of the obvious as survival technique. It is a fast read, it is well-written, but ultimately, its message seems without hope: Here was a sad life, any possible redemption happens only in death. It left me a bit blue – which may have been the aim, the point, its purpose, but, it’s not the romp its blurbs led me to believe it would be.

simon vs the homoSimon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli, Balzer & Bray/Harper Collins, 303pp My foray into Young Adult lit for the month was longlisted for the National Book Award. About a 16 year old, closeted gay boy who is blackmailed out of the closet and, in the process, anonymous pen-pals his way to true-love, learning life-lessons and being imperfect in that cutesy-irresistible-happily-ever-after fantasy, cultural-romance trope manner all too prevalent in gay-YA-fiction. Look, far be it from me to say we ought not have fantasy-worlds in which closeted jocks come out in a blaze of geek-loving glory, but, uhm, this is the sort of story that results in Grindr & CraigsList internalized homophobic postings of “Masculine Only” and “looking for men who act like men” sort of thing. Yes, the world is changing but I’d really like to read some coming out/Young Adult/ Adult-Adult fiction involving gay characters in which the happy ending has less to do with someone stereotypically straight embracing someone semi-stereotypically-gay than it does with the hard-slog of realizing life is about discarding those culturally-entrenched stereotypes and re-shaping the world if one ever expects to find union, happiness, love and or light of one’s own.

Interesting (to me) that Harriet Chance — the journey of a senior woman — was penned by a youngish man, and Simon — the journey of a young gay boy — was penned by a straight, 30-something(guessing) woman. I am not of the school that believes authors ought only write about their own cohort, but I think the reason these both failed for me was a lack of authenticity; the experiences of Harriet and Simon ultimately seemed observed rather than lived, looked at from a distance rather than experienced.

city on fireSo, there I was – gone, the tenth and eleventh of my October reads, and here I am, going, starting on my November reads with the buzziest of buzzes, City on Fire, the 900-plus page, $2 million-advanced (I know, how many times am I going to harp on that $2 million advance? until I finally shut-up? Your guess is better than mine – I’m bitter, but, old, so will forget about it eventually – although, I am QUITE gifted at grudge-holding) novel being talked about everywhere. I am on page 300 and while I promised myself I would get to at least page 100 before throwing it across the room (although I would NEVER actually throw it – since it’s a library borrow), I find that I (shhh- whispering now) actually am enjoying this book and finding it well written — it’s keeping me interested and involved and dammit to hell, I think I’m going to have to –if not jump on its bandwagon, at least not throw brickbats as it passes.

razzle dazzleWhile reading City, I’ve also delved into Michael Riedel’s Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway because I love Broadway and I had to cancel my New York City/Algonquin trip because of my Mom’s and my own illnesses and because, there it was on the New Releases shelf at the library and I have absolutely NO WILLPOWER WHATSOEVER.

Thanks for reading along with me. Now, have to dash and check out the LONG LIST of Book Bloggers I follow and see what they are up to and what else I ought to add to my list. What are you reading this month?

Love and Light, friends. Love and Light.

Horror Stories … existential variety …

gif jessica langeI’m not quite as caught in the undertow as I was  in yesterday’s post “Homes, Housepets, Husbands, and Heartaches Not My Own; A How Not To Manual” [click it] but, warning, still not as perky as I might be. Trying. Really, I am.

First world existential issues: my internet connection here where I am house/pet sitting is iffy and odd and disconnects me frequently. Being frequently disconnected feels oddly, terrifyingly symbolic. I’ve been disconnecting myself – as it were – anyway, and other than yesterday’s blog, pretty much hiding out in my own weirdness. Too, one of the doggies here has wakened today – and did I mention they make me get up at 4:30-5:00 a.m. here? – with stomach issues. Gwennie didn’t eat her breakfast, has chewed a lot of grass, shat on the rug, and has stomach-growling going on the volume of which challenges mine from a few weeks ago. I sympathize, Gwennie. She is on my lap, passing gas and gastro-gurgling as I type.

Life is hard right now. There is a lot of Continue reading

My Year in Reading, Sort of: 2014 Highlights

reading falneur

(HOLY HOLY HOLY — UPON PUSHING THE “PUBLISH” BUTTON, I WAS INFORMED THIS IS MY 700TH POST ON THIS BLOG?!?! SOMETHING ABOUT THAT STRIKES ME AS … STRUCK. LOL)

Reading is my passion.

I’ve found great comfort and solace in reading. Reading took me to worlds I longed to visit but could not otherwise reach. Reading educated me. Reading saved me by making me aware of  possibilities and lives and loves I could never have imagined on my own. Reading gave me New York, the Algonquin Round Table, the Bridesheads, Jane and Paul Bowles, Helene Hanff, gay men, Fran Lebowitz, Andy Warhol and Studio 54, the Beats, the Bloomsbury Group, the Violet Quill bunch, and, holy of holy, as is Stephen Sondheim to my musical theatre jones, so is Joan Didion to my reading addiction. I actually think that without Joan Didion — and all the others — I would have killed myself long ago. Truly, I think it is reading that has kept me alive.

I’m not sure how much a favor to me that has been but that is another blog.

BooksReading has been my escape. Reading has been my constant lover and friend, my companion through my entire life. My memory may be going but I can still tell you where I was, approximately how old I was, and what was going on in my life when first I read HARRIET, THE SPY and JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH and DIARY OF A MAD HOUSEWIFE and Proust — okay, I’ve never actually finished Proust — but I can tell you all the times I bought new translations, new versions, why I did so, and what they looked like. I have in storage not one, but TWO CARTONS of versions of Proust and books about Proust. And I can tell you that I first read Joan Didion in Saturday Evening Post magazines I stacked and date ordered in one of the rooms in the abandoned wing of Libertytown, that room with the blackboard still on the wall left over from when the house had been an academy for wayward boys, that room I — the most wayward and lonely of boys — had Continue reading

Part 3: Existential Cozies, Comforts, and Joys

Well my little hall-deckers, if Christmas it must be, then the Yuletide ought always to be like last night! Maybe there is, after all, something to this keeping an account of my cozies, comforts, and joys. So, Part 3.

MEGAN HILTY

andrea and charlie

Me and my Andrea between shows. Big drinkers; me with a coffee, Andrea with a Coke. Yep. Whoo-freaking-hoo!

Big fan. First saw Ms. Hilty as Galinda in Wicked. Next saw Ms. Hilty as Doralee in 9 to 5: The Musical. Next, became rabid fan of Smash, founding member of Team Ivy. Then, my dear Andrea birthday-surprised me earlier this year with tickets to see Ms. Hilty in concert at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theatre. And then AGAIN, a few weeks ago, Andrea surprised me with tickets to see Ms. Hilty’s Christmas Concert at the Kennedy Center for last night’s 7:30 show. It was only yesterday afternoon that Andrea told me she had gotten tickets NOT ONLY to the 7:30, but, also, the 9:30. And so, the two of us, front row, aisle, house right — for the first show, somehow, despite it being sold out, we were the only people in the front row, and for the second show, the only OTHER person in the front row was a yawning, unkempt looking fellow in aisle seat, house left. I don’t know HOW Andrea gets these amazing seats, but, uhm, she always does.

About Ms. Hilty. Wow, the last time I saw her, my birthday concert (yes, MY BIRTHDAY concert), she was quite preggers. She delivered the girl-child, Viola, three months ago, and is back, better than ever. She can belt with the best of them but she is also able to quietly croon you to tears. She invests each song with its beginning, middle, end, telling the story with an expressiveness of voice and emotional depth I think is rarely equalled among current singers and Broadway performers. She really is a treasure. Listen to this — which she did last night in an arrangement of mostly guitar (as played by her husband, Brian Gallagher, more below).

And, MOST OF ALL, the relationship between Megan and her husband, Brian Gallagher, who plays guitar and sings with her during these concert appearances, is so freaking beautiful. I want to be one of them. The love they share just radiates from the stage, envelops you in its warmth and fairy-tale goodness. Ms. Hilty sang the song A Place Called Home from the Broadway musical version of A Christmas Carol, and she started weeping just introducing it and speaking of having found “the love of her life” and having a child. Not only was she crying, but as she sang it, so did Mr. Gallagher weep. Both shows. It wasn’t performance, it was life, and love, and so much Light on stage. Great show. If you’ve a chance to share some time with these people, you really ought to. And for me, being there last night (BOTH SHOWS!) with them and Andrea, so much comfort and joy.

COMFORTS, JOYS … quickies

  • And gas is really cheap right now, which is great, as I will soon be returning to Aftermath — where I love to be, which bucolic setting is twenty minutes from the gym. So, cheap gas is good.
  • And, thanks to a niece, found Starbucks Christmas Blend Keurig Cups for 8-something a box. This is a VERY good thing. I know it’s ridiculous, but I don’t think I could function without a Keurig.
  • And I have discovered (thank you TwitterLiterati) the Agatha Raisin mysteries by M.C. Beaton. Delightful fun. Happiness.
ford penis necklace

Tom Ford $800 Penis Necklace

  • And Tom Ford is selling what appears to be a gold phallic symbol. [See New York magazine article here.]  How cool is an $800 dick necklace? I’ll tell you how cool — Bill Donohue of the Catholic League [click here for the fucking moron] is upset about it. And, an idiot. I mean, who even THOUGHT this was supposed to look like a cross? I mean, now, every time I see a nicely arranged set of male genitalia, I’m going to connect it even more vigorously to my memories of my catholic youth — those years when my knees were hardened and trained to the tasks and sacraments for which the catholic church so lovingly prepared me. Thank you to the catholics for making me so good at so many things involving being on my knees … speaking of which ….
  • And, at the gym yesterday, a really good-looking guy came on to me in the showers. I have no idea why someone as good-looking as he was would come on to someone like me, I didn’t see any mistletoe hanging on the shower head — but — without going into details — this was not another one of my hallucinations. He actually, really and truly, did come on to me. I did not reciprocate nor respond except to politely indicate the gym-showers were not a location where I intended to frolic. Truth, I am still snotty and unwell — this cold thing — and it would have been not just dangerously undignified (and, possibly, illegal?) to fool around there but, too, I’d have been spreading cold germs. But, you know, HOPE —

SPEAKING OF HOT MEN … Russell Tovey is cheating on me …

russell tovey nude looking

Russell Tovey on top of the home-wrecker and fantasy-killer, Jonathan Groff

Andrea broke it to me last night that she’d seen a preview for Season 2 of HBO’s Looking and it seems as if Russell Tovey — who I claimed as my own YEARS ago when he was in The History Boys on Broadway — is continuing — in the plotline — to have sex with Jonathan Groff’s character. I am not happy about this. And, clearly, the universe and all the demons of hell sent after me because of my lapsed catholicism and ever-increasing atheism (wait, that doesn’t make sense, well, so what) have conspired to torture me because this morning, Russell is everywhere. He posted this one of himself:

Tovey, Russell Dec 2014

Tovey by Turner

CLICK HERE FOR the website Cocktails and Cocktalk, and a whole series of new hot Tovey photos.

And, as if that wasn’t enough to get me all … well, whatever it is a man my age (who, I hasten to add, was COME ON TO in the showers yesterday — WHILE NAKED) gets, then, I was assaulted by this photo to the left in my Twitter TL. An entire new set of Tovey photos. Dear god (in whom I do not believe) STOP!

SPEAKING OF GOD … final comfort and joy of the day …

Andrea. My dear, dear Andrea, she who allows me stays at Aftermath with her dear, dear Judah, yes, Andrea is a Pastor. Pastor Andrea. A person of the cloth.

I know, right? I can hear many of you exclaiming — as did my family and some other friends when I spoke of Andrea and they inquired as to details — “How is a Pastor friends with you?”

Well, here’s how. In a life you meet/have a very few people — if you are lucky, and I am INCREDIBLY lucky in this way — who “get” you. These people see you, who you are, at the soul, at the source, at the center of your Love and Light. They don’t judge you, they don’t try to change you, they don’t forgive or accept, they don’t have to — they KNOW you. They never see anything but the Love and the Light. If I believed in God — and when I did believe in God — it was that sort of seeing I thought defined God. My complicated cosmology didn’t have room for sin or hell or right or wrong — but, rather, had space only for the aim of seeing only the Love and Light at the source, at the core. Not saying there aren’t people who behave in heinous ways, saying, instead, the job of a God — the job, I think, of everyone, all life — is to believe PAST all of the heinous, to believe that — ultimately — the Love and the Light, no matter how distorted they may become, are all that are. All That Is, the truth of the Love and the Light. Everything else is illusion, temporary, words, labels, not important.

How does Andrea stay my friend? Because for Andrea, that is all there is. Andrea is what anyone who wants to do God’s work should be, a person who works always to live in and see in others that core of Love and Light, and believes in it — no matter how those others parse it or fuck it up or hurt themselves and others or fail at life — Andrea sees and encourages and cultivates and BELIEVES in the Love and the Light.

That’s faith. Faith. That’s God. And I am incredibly blessed and comforted and cozied and joyed and un-deserving of having found this late in life (although I hasten to add I was come on to when naked in the shower yesterday by a very attractive much younger man — ARE YOU LISTENING RUSSELL TOVEY?) a friend, a dear one, a treasure, like Andrea. Andrea, a Pastor who doesn’t measure me by whether or not I profess to believe in God; Andrea, who doesn’t measure me at all except by the glow of my Love and Light, and finds me to be friend-worthy. I love her. So much.

Here’s wishing all of you have an Andrea and such blessings as do I to count, and, my dears, at least one who sees your Love and Light like Andrea sees mine.

Love and Light kids.

 

 

 

ZeitBites Friday: Can’t Write Now, I’m Writing!

I’d love to write more but I’m trying to write more. Point being, my usual blogging rumination, meditation, consideration, speculation, contemplation, theorization, and excogitation – all done in the service of my pathological procrastination – must be put on hold today that I can complete what I have come to call my two Halloween projects, neither of which is, I can assure you, a costume. So, links and tiny, little thinks today.

  • MY CONTRIBUTION TO EBOLA PANIC . . .

Ebola Nurse MovedYesterday, my favorite bank teller said in response to my, “How are you?”, the following; “Well, could be worse. At least I don’t have Ebola yet.” I suggested Ebola was nowhere near us, and her chances of getting Ebola were quite slim, and it seemed silly to worry about that with so much else going on in the world and, too, since we lived in Frederick, Maryland, home to Fort Detrick, rumored birthplace of the AIDS virus and storage location of all sorts of things so powerfully toxic and germ-warfare-deadly as to make Ebola seem like a head cold. I was feeling all clever about that when last night on the fictional  Scandal it was revealed that the President’s son had been murdered with a strain of deadly virus stolen from Fort Detrick, right here in Frederick, Maryland. I felt a little less clever when during the fictional How To Get Away With Murder, a Breaking News run appeared across the bottom of the screen announcing that Nurse Pham, Ebola patient from Dallas, had just landed at the Municipal Airport in Frederick, Maryland – less than five miles from my house and across the street (and a rather large-ish field or two) from my Mother’s Senior Living Complex – for ambulance transfer to N.I.H. in Bethesda. And after I’d promised my favorite bank teller everything would be fine. I still believe that. I am flabbergasted by the combined over-reaction and under-reaction to this. We couldn’t be bothered to do virtually anything about it before it happened here, and now, BAM, mass panic and ridiculous amounts of finger-pointing and “WHAT ABOUT ME?”-ism.

Let me say THIS; Every minute, EVERY MINUTE, four children die of hunger. We have the resources and the ability to SOLVE world hunger, and we don’t. We buy new I-Phones and try to stop people from marrying and PANIC and ACCUSE about, “OOOH, what if Ebola happens to us?” Come on people, aren’t we better than this? But, I guess not, just a brief look at and listen to yesterday’s idiots on the congressional panel questioning the response to Ebola prove how selfish, stupid, and self-involved we all are. Sucks to be us.

Now, if I HAD to panic and be all quarantined and such, could it possibly be with two male strippers – slash – models – slash – authors? From the New York Daily News, HERE. LOL.

  • HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER …

Last night’s How To Get Away With Murder did it again. WOW. Gay sex scenes on this show are just wonderfully hot. Really. There was some Twitter-patter-mini-uproar about the villain of the piece being gay and his self-defenestration, but, you know what? Internalized homophobia is a thing, and having villains of all stripes is what happens in the real world. This show manages to represent a slice of real world BETTER THAN most other shows and I was not at all offended. I was, however, uhm … watch:

The Pax character later said – prior, of course, to tossing himself out the window: “He did this thing to my ass that made my eyes water.” I am telling you, this is QUALITY TELEVISION. This actor, Niko Pepaj, obviously going places.

Pepaj Niko

  • LOSING, LOSS, meditations on letting go . . .

My blog entry yesterday: Fallterations: Edit, Expand. Lose, Learn. [CLICK HERE] , was my first in nearly a week. Long week. Hard week. I was sick for a few days and I quit drinking. And the Baltimore Orioles were swept to defeat in the American League Championship [CLICK HERE], thus dashing my Mom’s hopes that after a three-decades-plus wait, she would see her beloved Orioles win another World Series. Looks like she’ll have to live at least another year.

  • AMERICAN HORROR STORY: FREAK SHOW

Dear Ryan Murphy, I love you. This season is killing it. Literally and figuratively. LOVE. Sarah Paulson. Amazing. So many lines this week were amazing. WATCH IT.

And Finn Wittrock as Dandy along with Frances Conroy as his Mother. Holy sideshow. Amazing.

  • OFF AGAIN …

I leave for a house/pet gig tomorrow for a few days. Lap top. Writing. Reading. I have way too many books in my stack of musts, and more were added yesterday. Three from my friends at The Curious Iguana [CLICK HERE], and one through the mail, discarded from a library.

October books

Add them to the list. Argh. Guess, like my Mom, I’ll have to live another year too. So, I’ll start with this weekend … and my books … alas, I will be reading alone.

reading oct 17 7 Reading Oct 17 2 reading oct 17 6 Reading Oct 17 3 Reading Oct 17 4 reading oct 17 8

Later, friends.

 

 

Don’t Call Me Lunatic. Fag. Slut. Old. Depressed. Or … ANYTHING. Wait.

Me. Seven p.m. last evening: Unable to draw a deep breath.

In my panic and solitude, I reached out to a few people, all of whom were having their own issues. So, I un-reached and tried to distract myself in the Twitterverse where National Geographic writ digital-small pictures clued me in that it was the occasion of the Harvest/Supermoon. That explained it.

Years ago during my long-haired, wandering, table-waiting, drug-taking phase (well, the first) a friend who had re-named herself for the Angel Gabriel and collected the lost and the lonely and the looking, diagnosed me as a Lunatic. She meant it in the Latin sense, as a compliment, that I was sensitive to the phases of the moon and like a werewolf, when the celestial orb was full-on-reflecting the light of the hidden night sun, it was my nature to become a wild thing, not of the furred and clawed and bestial variety, but rather, someone whose emotions must bubble and burst passionately, raging through the thin layer of socialization and culturally-approved, controlled behavior I’d managed to cultivate exposing an impetuosity, an unrestrained urgency of need and lust and anger and desire, all demanding to be expressed, released, for, if not, the force of them would devour me from within.

Yes. Often. And not just during certain phases of the moon. I am impassioned. Perhaps perfervid. Maybe, sometimes, melodramatic. Too fiery and fiercely engaged for my own good. But, yesterday? Look at the world.

The debacle of the NFL’s ridiculously inadequate, near-non-response to Ray Rice’s assault until a video of the actual punch emerges. The NCAA reinstating Penn State’s post-season privileges and scholarships while the child-rape victims of Sandusky/Paterno/the entire athletic department of Penn State continue to suffer. Mike Brown was murdered in Ferguson a month ago and still no justice. War and killing and hatred exploding all over the globe. It’s a wonder anyone can breathe. Lunatic or not.

But some have suggested I am crazy. Some have suggested I take medication to dull my reactions to the world around me. I am not a lunatic. I am a Lunatic. And that’s mine to use, not yours to label and cage and dismiss me. I am not that simple to define.

Which brings me to the Washington Post’s article about Grindr and its locator glitch and its corporate disdain – or, as the WaPo called it; “lack of empathy” for its users. [Read the article here.] Listen, I’ve no doubt that Grindr – gay owned or not – is like nearly every other corporation in the world and completely unconcerned with actual human beings: We are nothing more than clicks and bytes in financial metrics, expendable and disposable except to the degree we improve the profit margin.

That said, Grindr’s dismissal of concern for its users is as NOTHING compared to its users lack of compassion for, communion with, and recognition of the humanity of one another.

Ridiculous as it sounds, I got on Grindr as research for a mystery-cozy novel I was trying to write during that period when I was sure I could do something other than literary fiction and snarky blogging. I was appalled. I remain appalled. The prevalence of discriminatory and hateful “isms” proudly pronounced by the app users is extremely confusing to me.

  • “whites only – not racist just a preference”
  • “no creepy old guys”
  • “masculine only”

And that’s just the beginning. Here’s the thing; I have a type too. I’m not going to go into it because even the most casual reader of this blog would know by now that my disastrously bad taste in romantic partners – well, in MOST cases – in people in general – has resulted in what some have termed my “depression” (more about that later) but, I like to think of myself as the sort of person who is attracted to the SOUL of another, the shine of their Light, the depth of their Love, and that I don’t discriminate.

But, I do. I mean, let’s start with the fact that no matter how beautiful a soul, bright a light, and deep a love, I am not physically attracted to women. So, does that make me heterophobic? Also, as a general rule, I prefer younger men. Does that make me ageist? I am also, usually, attracted to men who are not terribly bright. Does that make me – Calvin Klein? Don’t know, but, it definitely ends up making me sad most often – neither here nor there – but, you know what I am saying. Don’t you?

Because I am confused. I was talking to another fellow who, unlike me, was very experienced with Grindr (and not a few other hook-up methods) and I remarked about how rude, cruel, judgmental and harsh were many of the users and he said, “That’s Frederick fags for you, and most of them are just that. Fags.”

Now, mind you, this was not a fellow anyone would mistake for John Wayne. Rather, this was a John of another stripe, as in, perhaps, Elton? To hear him label with such vehemence and vitriol a subset to which he – in the eyes of many (including, I suspect, himself) – no doubt did and had long belonged, was horrifying to me. I told him so. Nicely. “I don’t use that word, it’s way too loaded with self-hate and heteronormative judgment.”

He hasn’t spoken to me since. My truth was not his. Or, was not the one at which he wanted to look. He had previously judged me because I was too terrified to hook-up through Grindr and other on-line methods. He thought that was self-hate and fear. Maybe it was. By the same token, my social-sexual life he deemed inadequate to the point of asceticism would be – and has been – labelled by others I know as wanton and profligate, making me a Slut.I try not to think about that. Dichotomy. Truth. Someone’s truth. The truth of my various, multiple realities and communities.

The truth about those communities -to one degree or another I am judged as having failed, as being not quite enough or too much, in all of them. Truth?

Well, see there? It seem I have lots of inconvenient and unattractive truths at which I would rather not gaze this late in life.

But, damn it all, like my emotions on the occasion of the full moon, these un-examined truths are now roiling and rising to my wrinkled “creepy old guy” not terribly “masculine only” surface and demanding I confront them or drown in my own lunacy – small “l” this time.

And here’s where I am with that, or, rather, this. Today. I am unable to determine when an attraction driven by pheromones – the Greek derivation of which is “impetus” – crosses the line into bigotry or discrimination. Is this a cultural determination? A function of evolution? Will we, one day, evolve to the point where there is only union/attraction between souls? No physical element?

Wait – that’s the Twitterverse. There I am already in love with and involved with many people I will never meet in person. The messy questions of whether or not we would enjoy one another in flagrante delicto is beside the point. There, I am not what I am (or have been called) here – Lunatic. Fag. Slut. Old Depressed. Repressed. Cruel. Crazy. Liar. Sucker. It goes on. And it includes the people who will read this and attribute it to what they call my depression – which I call a reasonable reaction to a fucked up world. But, like I said, the names keep coming. They do go on.

And on. But don’t. Don’t call me anything. Or, as is so often the case in my dating and authorial life, just don’t call me.

Damn that Harvest/SuperMoon. I shall be ever so happy when tonight has come. And gone.

Happy Tuesday, Lovies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zeitbites: Clap Hard to Keep the Fairy Alive!

THE MEAN REDS RETURN

july 31 breakfast at tiffany'sIt’s back – my fear. That thing causing a twisting in my chest, that sucking-breath, hands-a-tremble certainty that another avalanche of awful is about to happen, something dreadful is ready to drop, disaster about to descend on me, what Truman Capote’s character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly, called “the mean reds.” Listen:

Holly Golightly: You know those days when you get the mean reds?

Paul Varjak: The mean reds, you mean like the blues?

Holly Golightly: No. The blues are because you’re getting fat and maybe it’s been raining too long, you’re just sad that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?

Paul Varjak: Sure.

Holly Golightly: Well, when I get it the only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany’s. Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there. If I could find a real-life place that’d make me feel like Tiffany’s, then – then I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name!

That’s what hit me yesterday. I had to take action.

ESSENCE OF PASSION FLOWER

Keeping me going is a full-time job and not one the accomplishment of which often seems worth the effort required. I slog, slug, sloth, and slither through life, making do, confused and confounded as to the purpose of all this. It is enough to have a day (or two) wherein I do not hear the narrative voice in my head (which is usually, by the way, Lily Tomlin or Jessica Lange) intoning the final lines of my unpublished novel:

I have no answers

This was The Last of all my stories

So, no, happiness is not something I expect. Making – let alone keeping – me happy would require the lygarde de mayne of an alchemist like Merlin, and since that necromantic enchanter was long ago trapped in the Crystal Caves, in order to avoid one more time disappointing the friends and loved ones I have remaining, I work hard to keep going by arranging my life around moments of joy and methods of distraction. (And when that doesn’t work, I fake it.)

I get joy from reading and writing about books. So, yesterday after my gymming –

NAKED MAN ASIDE

gym guys 5 edit(which falls into the Distracting rather than Joy category– unless, by chance, there is an attractive naked man waggling around the locker room – at which point gymming becomes a Joyful Distraction – until I realize that naked man would NEVER want to see me naked, at which point the Joyful Distraction morphs into a Hateful Reminder of why I ought to just surrender to the Tomlin/Lange narration)

BACK TO THE BOOK(store)

– I visited my friends at The Curious Iguana (CLICK HERE), my favorite independent bookstore. These visits give me great joy. I love books, I love people who love books, and Iguana is owned and patronized by just that sort of people. Win. Win. So, I was making my way to Iguana, strolling up the sidewalk on Market Street, when I was forced into the street by a four-wide battalion of stroller moms, goose-stepping their Vera Bradley accessorized way toward me. The quartet took up the entire span of the sidewalk and rudely steamrolled blithely along forcing pedestrians travelling –

SPELLING CURMUDGEON ASIDE

(Spell Check is telling me that travelling should be traveling. NO IT SHOULD NOT. I am sick and tired of this current purging of required double consonants when appending suffixes to words in order that characters are saved to make it easier for Tweeting and Texting. I did not spend my formative years being abused by the School Sisters of Notre Dame JUST to have everything they taught me eradicated in my dotage. traveLLing. And while we are at it: canceLLed – just so all airports are clear on that.)

BACK TO BOOK(store) & PASSION FLOWER ESSENCE

– in the opposite direction into traffic. Thus, I entered the bookstore saying, “What the hell is wrong with you people?” Marlene, owner and heart and soul of Iguana, knows me well enough to know I was not speaking to her. I launched into my curmudgeonly ranting and we were soon joined by Marlene’s husband, Tom, and I was off on one of my long-winded raving raging wildly furious fits, this one about my recent adventures in the medical profession.

July 31 passion flowerAfter listening patiently, (Marlene and Tom are absolute darlings about letting me rail, as if they’ve nothing better to do than listen to the crazy old man) Tom suggested I hie my way to the local patchouli scented – tofu loving – green market and procure some tincture of Passion Flower, drops of which, he assured me, would calm my anxiety.

ASIDE ASIDE 

I know you thousand or so people who check me daily are saying, “Where is a book review? We are not interested in your existential whining.” Well, true confession: I only started writing book reviews to lure you in so you’d be FORCED to click on my existential whining. So there.

Now keep clicking or I’ll never share my opinion on books again. (I know, I’m hubristic and delusional to think you give a damn. Perhaps, but at least I own it) But, this morning, I’ve a long, full day of writing and gymming and reading and cookie baking in front of me, so, just a fast (for me) and brief (again, for me) few things … I promise.

Peter Pan LIVE!

When NBC presented The Sound of Music, I wrote about it nicely. I was hoping that it would be the first of many live musical theatre presentations and they had sense enough to fill the supporting cast with genius actors Audra McDonald, Laura Benanti, Christian Borle, so, one made allowances for other casting misfires.

And I don’t like The Sound of Music. But, now, this has gone too far. They have announced that — yet again — they have eschewed casting an actual Broadway musical actress in the iconic role of Peter Pan (CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT IT – I’m not typing the name. I don’t want to trash anybody – not really – it’s not her fault.). Mary Martin — even dead — can only be expected to take so much and when the second of her iconic roles is repugnantly miscast with someone who has NO BUSINESS BEING ENTRUSTED WITH THE LEAD IN A MUSICAL, it reeks of such disregard and disrespect for the art of the musical that surely, something MUST be done.

marymartin_peterpanOh, wait, I wonder if THIS miscasting tragedy was the disaster I was intuiting yesterday? Ugh(a-wug) indeed. Of course, that number will be cut. And, this isn’t like Carrie Underwood with her huge country fan base meant to boost the ratings; this actress has a mostly hipster/gay man following and the hipster contingent is never going to watch the show — they don’t do television — and the gay man population was ALREADY going to be on board so, uhm W.T.F.? All I have to say (well, left to say) is that Tink is hardly going to be the only fairy pissed off and poisoned by this piece of shit disastrous-ness.

PASSION FLOWER (again … I keep forgetting)

So, I did get some Passion Flower essence and I have been swirling the muddy swill into two ounces of water and downing it like crazy and, I don’t know, maybe I am better? I’m having such strange, horrifying dreams of late and really not sleeping well, terrorized by that fever-like, half-awake, delusional thing that goes on. Which has NOT been helped by reading Edan Lepucki’s debut novel, California (CLICK HERE), about which I will soon be blogging.

After I go to the gym (I hope there are pretty naked men) and hurry back here — I’m housesitting out in the country — and make cookies. Because, like I said, I went to the health food place and I got some pure natural butter because it was the only ingredient (I thought) missing here for my world famous chocolate chip cookies, and, like I said, I need to do things to make me feel better and/or distract me and making cookies does that. And I feel like shit and can barely breathe — something bad (besides Peter Pan casting) is DEFINITELY HAPPENING. So, I’m going to bake.

THE DOG IS ANXIOUS TOO … could it be 20-something hottie?

I would, normally, drive my Mom around on Thursday, but, I can’t be away from my Judah for that long. Judah has anxiety too. I’m usually MUCH calmer when I’m out here in the middle of nowhere but for the past few days I have been sharing the house. The tenant who lives in the in-law-ish apartment was here. And not only was she here, but both nights she brought in her 20-something boyfriend who was RIDICULOUSLY good-looking and seeing the two of them together — even for those few brief seconds when she walked him by me in his really worn, tight white t-shirt and cropped, dark, black hair and unbelievable ass — undid my vow to myself to feel okay about being un-partnered, un-dated, un-anythinged. I felt all un-wanted and un-all-over again and it sucked. Thank goodness she has now left for the weekend.

BRING ON THE BAKING AND THE BOOK BUYING AND READING! But first, I have to get to the gym and back.

NOTE:  I understand that this generalized anxiety and dread is very likely due to all the horrifyingly hateful energy roiling in the world at the moment; I cannot discuss — rationally — all the wars and the bombings and the borders and the children and the hate crimes and the disregard for life and dignity going on, let alone the suing of our President while ALL THE SHIT GOING ON IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON, and all our Congress can do is bicker? If the end is nigh, good, because if this is the middle, I have had enough.

 

A Word to the Why(s): Privilege and Denial and Hypocrisy, Oh My!

UPDATE 10:45a.m. I had no idea when posting  the below blog entry early this morning that the news would supply me with even more examples of the damage done by religion, read this: Palestinian Teen Abducted and Killed in Revenge Attack [Click Here] 

Why am I a hypocrite?

ACTup-leveledI live a privileged life. There is no question about this. I benefit from the cultural construct of white male privilege. Absolutely. I am part of this culture, many aspects of which I enjoy and embrace, and have not eschewed those privileges, gone anarchist nor off-grid rogue to blow-up the system; so what? That doesn’t disqualify me from pointing out that said privilege is a problem, exists, does do harm.

I am, of late, quite disturbed by the complacency — nay, even the aiding and abetting being offered — of young people and others who are cogs in the wheels of the machine of old boy white male conservative christian privilege. When I was younger, I, too, wanted to blame the generations that came before me and accuse them of complacency and complicity as excuse for my doing nothing, as if being young and not having been alive when the problem began made it — now — not my problem. Well, I call bullshit. That stand is nothing but a diversionary tactic and another insulting, reductive “ism” — called age-ism.

There is much to be done and we are all — to one degree or another — hypocrites to deny that.

Others say it better than I can. For example;

Interestingly, if you look at the LGBT article, though written by a person of color, its photos depict mostly white folks. Just saying.

birth-control-gumball-hobby-lobby-scotus-638x424The influence and prevalence of cultural bias is so perniciously present, one becomes exhausted in simply the effort to stay aware of it. We are inundated, drowning in white male privilege bias and the assumption of its superiority; it has so long been embedded as the ideal, we are so brainwashed from birth, we fail to notice. And too, now that we are noticing with the beginning of real vigor, now that we have begun to object to our place on this plantation, the masters are striking back; and, even more alarmingly and dangerously, the masters have so much power they have terrified and indoctrinated and catechized many of their victim-minions into fighting the masters fight. Witness the recent ruling by SCOTUS denying women basic health care under the guise of “religious freedom” — the new code word for White Heterosexual Male Power & Bigotry:

That we even have to discuss this in 2014 is an illustration of how far we have yet to go as a culture. That a belief in christian mythology should trump anything as basic as health care is freaking unbelievable, but, even more astonishing and implausible — really, honestly, the sort of thing if I wrote in a novel an editor would note “too outlandish” — is that women — albeit religionist women — were celebrating the ruling of the five male conservative christian religionist (in)justices. But, religion — now as throughout time — has ALWAYS been used as a tool to brainwash and control the masses. I quote Christopher Hitchens from God is Not Great; How Religion Poisons Everything [Click Here]:

“One must state it plainly. Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody—not even the mighty Democritus who concluded that all matter was made from atoms—had the smallest idea what was going on. It comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge (as well as for comfort, reassurance and other infantile needs). Today the least educated of my children knows much more about the natural order than any of the founders of religion, and one would like to think—though the connection is not a fully demonstrable one—that this is why they seem so uninterested in sending fellow humans to hell.” [Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great; How Religion Poisons Everything]

And from the same book:

“Violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children: organized religion ought to have a great deal on its conscience.”

Yes. It ought to. Yes. We all ought to. I have been thinking about this a great deal the past few days as I house/pet sit by a lake in a beautiful place I could never afford, in a place I — in some ways — covet, a place I am able to stay because of the benefits of the very culture of privilege to which I object.

read my lipsSo, I am a hypocrite. Which I freely admit. To one or another degree, everyone I know is a hypocrite. Even those of us who have been called fag or kike or cunt or nigger or been degraded and denied and abused and beaten up and down because we are who and what we are, even those of us more subtly abjured and shunned by glass ceilings and quieter, delicate, sneakier biases that offer seductive boons if one just plays along with the status quo — those old boy groups are tricky and sly, when they pretend that you’re going to get to share in the wealth, smoke the expensive cigars, sip the finest vintages, live on the lake, and have as many shelves of books as you want —

— long as you still call them master and don’t demand rights too equal — don’t get too uppity.

Well, I am uppity. And I still want to sit by the lake. And I know I am a hypocrite. And I am still allowed to talk about this and question it. As must we all … it is in the fear of facing our own hypocrisy that we hand over even more power to those who control the privilege and the world; it’s part of their perfidious agenda — to keep all of us in our little enclaves fighting against one another for the tiniest toehold — so that they, that 1 per cent at the top who already have most of the wealth and power — can keep accruing more and more as we busy ourselves killing and slandering one another for the crumbs and morsels that trickle down.

I am hungry. I am uppity. And I won’t shut up, and I will own my hypocrisy.

So, there.