Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Christmas Letter

Hello, friends and family! Wow, it's been a year, amirite? Dictators out or dead, Osama bin Laden caught, the protests all over the world, and the final shot of this season's 'Breaking Bad'!

As we all know, a year goes by fast! There's no stopping it--a year begins whether you want it to or not, and keeps shooting forward with little regard for anything. A year is like a bad joke--it doesn't care who laughs, and is usually over before anyone can say, Holy jesus, that was a bad joke.

Ha!

The first thing you'll want to know, I'm sure, is that Greg and I are still without children. You'll want to know this because it guarantees that this Christmas letter will be very short. Unlike other Christmas letters you may or may not receive, this one will be free of updates on soccer games or academic prowess. Here's all I'll say about our child: We don't have one.

We do, however, have a dog. Waffles. Waffles doesn't play soccer, and he has a very difficult time in academics. Which is a shame, because he tries so hard to master the alphabet and mathematical concepts not even I comprehend. Waf's main talent is pooping. Some day, G and I hope it will get him into a good school. Already, he's pooped at both Columbia and Princeton. We're certain he'll manage to poop at Harvard soon--he's a prodigy at pooping, and Harvard should be honored to have him.

This year started off just as badly as the previous year ended, which makes sense since the previous year was just the day before, and ended badly. Turns out the secret to beginning the year well is to not end the previous year badly. What a difference a day doesn't make. Unless you or a loved one dies on December 31st, in which case a day does make a bit of a difference (and I'm very sorry for your loss).

Things got better, for a time. Then things got worse. Then things got better again. Both Greg and I are employed, which is a good thing. Waffles remains unemployed, but he posts a lot to Craigslist and we're hoping any day work will come through for him. He went on a few interviews, and we continue to support him both emotionally and financially as he continues to search for work in this dreadful economy.

"It's not you," we assure him. "It's the job market. Right now, there's no need for a dog who's got a degree in pooping. The last 'Beethoven' movie was over a decade ago, and you're too good for a straight to video release."

Despite living on 2/3rd income, 2011 has been successful. Greg and I have managed to work out a system: We stagger our meals. I eat Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Greg eats Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. We alternate Saturdays, and both eat on Sundays. Waffles gets a full meal all seven days--we don't want to make him self-conscious over his lack of employment. The understanding is we get to share his food on Sundays. Purina isn't so bad once you wash it down with scotch.

This is certainly an improvement over 2010, when G and I would simply pop one of Waffles' vitamins on Sundays, and confine ourselves to bed, exerting ourselves as little as possible.

So here's hoping for peace on Earth (again; all the other planets have peace so surely wishing for it on Earth will work eventually), health (or at least insurance), and a new work-place need for dogs who can both poop and lick their absent balls at the same time.

Here's to a wonderful 2012. 2011 isn't ending so badly, so 2012 has a lot to live up to.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Essay written by a student who hasn't read the material

Inspired by teacher-friends who are currently bitching, via Facebook, about their students' midterm essays.


The Anti-Narrator and His/Her Place in Literature

When God wrote the Bible, He did not write it. He guided it. So it is true of The Catcher in the Rye, a book supposedly written by a guy named Holden Caulfield, but in reality written by one JD Savinger. Just like God, Savinger channels Holben's voice to create a brilliant portrait of humanity. Unlike God, Savinger existed.

Which is not to say God never existed. To wit: we would not be here if God did not exist.  Also, without God, there would be no Bible, and we all know there is a Bible,  just as there is a book called The Snatcher in the Wry. God existed, and JD Savinger existed. Sholden Caulfield did not exist. He was a creation of his Creator, just as the characters of the Bible were creations of their own Creator. Therefore, God existed. JD Saginer existed. The respective books are proof that both God and Sagnior existed.

This essay is not about who existed and who didn't, however. Therefore, it is not the intention to prove the existence of God. Who did exist.

"If you really want to hear about it," Holden says in the opening sentence of The Canker in the Dry, "you'll want to hear about how I believed in God, and all that. But my parents would have two hemorrhages each if they knew, so I've got to pretend to be a gosh-darn atheist."  Contrast this opening sentence to the one God directed some guy to write for the Bible:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Profound differences, to be sure! Halston Carfield is cautious, not quite sure 'if you really want to hear about it,' while God's writer is declarative, stating straight out that He, in the beginning, created the heavens and the earth. No one had a hemorrhage, and no one pretended to be an atheist. God is clearly the better writer, even when He is not writing. His anti-narrator is much better at crafting sentences.

Secondly-- just in case I forgot to make a first point--Sainger copies God's true writing style by stealing from Dickens. It's not important how Savinger stole from Dickens, but what is important is that God inspired Dickens to write that book all professors like--the one with the fire and the jilted ladies and the redeemed prisoners. Sainger knew that his Holden character would need redemption so he drew heavily from both the Bible and from Dickens. All good writers know how to steal from God, just as all good humans know that it is impossible to steal from God. God gives freely to one and all. He inspires writers, He inspires illiterates, He inspires professors who grade on a scale. Everyone steals from God and His creations because it is impossible to avoid stealing from the Master of All Things. When one has created The Greatest Story of All Time, one can dole out plot-points as freely as President Obama doles out tax dollars to unworthy poor people.

In closing, one must not discount how important the Bible is in scientific discovery, and how insignificant The Cooter in the Sly has been. Houston Clawfeld does not impact quantum physics. God does. God shaped the writing of numerous literate people (men!) when crafting his masterpieces: the Earth and the Bible; Savinger shaped only a handful of scribbling people (men and women!) when crafting his "masterpiece," The Clunker in the Lie.

God is a great writer, who doesn't actually write but compels writing in others.  JD Saginger is a result of God's influence, because of Dickens, and doesn't compel anyone to write anything. In closing, again, it must be said without any doubt that I preferred the Bible over any other work.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Melancholia

The opening prelude to Lars Von Triers' new film, 'Melancholia,' is kind of stunning.

The movie, I think, is about depression. I mean, with a name like 'Melancholia,' and a plot involving the end of all life in the universe, it would have to be about depression, right?

'Melancholia' takes its name from a planet that [spoiler alert!] smashes into Earth. The only person in the film remotely prepared for this unfortunate outcome is Kirsten Dunst's character, Justine--and Justine is a chronically depressed, happy-to-die type.

When the planets collide, it's Justine who helps those around her prepare for the snuffing out of all life in the universe. It is Justine who brings people to peace and acceptance. It is Justine who, at the end of it all, is at the end of it all.

So. About depression. People have depression. It's a terrible thing to have. I am certain that people suffering from depression do, in fact, wish that the world as we know it would go away. Stuck in bed, it must be terrible to know there is no reason whatsoever for one to get up and go see the Sistine Chapel, or walk down the block to buy milk, or lean slightly to the left and turn on the radio. Those who suffer from depression must think--only sometimes!--that it'd be better for the world to stop existing than for themselves to move one inch more.

I don't suffer from depression. I know a few people who do, however, and it is true: it is a terrible, horrible, debilitating illness that uses your logical mind against you. It is like being on your own planet--Melancholia, say--and smashing that planet into another planet which has all the things you know and love--we'll say Earth.

Depression is like destroying everything you know and leaving a vast emptiness of unknowable things. It is like taking planet Melancholia and using it to destroy the Sistine Chapel, milk, and radio.

There are many people in my life who are depressed. I wish they weren't depressed, but.. you know. There it is. There they are. They are depressed in ways I can't help them (and I'm thinking of 'Melancholia' again, and of Justine's sister Claire trying to convince Justine to take a bath).

Sometimes, I think the only logical thing is to be depressed. Hope is a thing with feathers, and all that. Life sucks. But! Life is kind of wonderful as well.

In 'Melancholia,' Justine says that she knows there is no other life in the universe. That the only life in all the universe is on Earth. Think of that! The only art the universe knows is what art we humans have created. The only trash TV is what we've managed to put into the air. The only people who care about Jesus or Gandhi or Buddha or Steve Jobs are us. The Mona Lisa, Sondheim, Hamlet, 'Pulp Fiction... doesn't matter.

I don't have depression. I know some who do. And it's a terrible thing to say, but the reason I don't have depression is this:

REBECCA:
I never told you about that letter Jane Crofut got from her minister when she was sick. He wrote Jane a letter and on the envelope the address was like this: It said: Jane Crofut; The Crofut Farm; Grover's Corners; Sutton County; New Hampshire; United States of America.

GEORGE:
What's funny about that?

REBECCA:
But listen, it's not finished: the United States of America; Continent of North America; Western Hemisphere; the Earth; the Solar System; the Universe; the Mind of God--that's what it said on the envelope.

GEORGE:
What do you know! 


REBECCA:
And the postman brought it just the same.



That's a passage from 'Our Town,' the 'Melancholia' of its time. It's always cheered me, that passage, because it reminds me that in an infinite universe, my small place in it has little effect or meaning--so might as well enjoy it.



Monday, October 31, 2011

Before 'Allegiance'

Today, between vital votes on wars and the economy (ha!), the US House of Representatives took time out to vote on the reaffirmation of our country's slogan, which, surprisingly, is not 'You deserve a break today.'

Also surprisingly, it is not 'E pluribus unum'.

Wanna know what the official motto of the United States of America--a country founded on religious freedom--is? It's this: "In God We Trust." Apparently, in 1956, we set aside the idea of being a pluribus unum, and went for all of us trusting in God.

God certainly has proven himself trustworthy over the years. Sure, he allowed his only son to be nailed to a cross, but we've all been there, right? It's called tough love. Jesus did most everything his dad asked him to do, but God, being a typical father, still wasn't completely satisfied with Jesus, and so did the only thing any father would do: sit quietly on a throne in the clouds and watch his son bleed to death.

The less said about Job's trust in God, the better. Same for Lot's wife.

In God we trust. Absolutely. Trust God will kill you, one way or another.

E pluribus unum was the unofficial motto of this country for, I dunno, over a century or so. The sainted (euphemistically sainted--I don't think any of them were so much as granted beautification) Founding Fathers plucked the motto out of the ether and worked it into our moral fiber; "Out of many, one," right, and that was the United States. Or the idea of the United States.

Terrible things happened in our history, but we were usually working to form one perfect union, a union perfect in its imperfection. In 1956, just as the Civil Rights movement was kicking into full gear and the Korean War was foreshadowing the Vietnam War, Congress decided we were not gonna get a one out of the many. They decided to throw a hail mary pass, and leave it all up to God.

God became the One.

Yep.

In 1956, Congress changed the United States' unofficial motto--'E pluribus unum'--to 'In God We Trust,' and they liked that motto better, and they put a ring on it to make it the official motto of the United States. Never mind a good portion of its citizens were skeptical of God, or didn't pray to God, or refused God's existence outright. Congress, in 1956, decided we Pluribus Unums were not gonna get any one nation out of many. We were gonna just trust in God, and hope for the best.

And, you know, fuck the First Amendment.

Since that day in 1956, Americans have continued to get new and varied ideas, and they've never stopped trying to shape one single nation out of many voices, even when our leaders--the people we vote for to perform the mundane tasks keeping the nation going--encourage us to simply trust in a homicidal maniac in the clouds.

So, failing to pass a jobs bill, failing to pass any meaningful health care or tax reform bills, and faced with a near-revolt of the peasants, the House took time out of its (one would hope) busy schedule today to vote to reaffirm--reaffirm!--the official motto of the United States. Not 'E pluribus unum.' Not 'Out of the many, one.'

In God We Trust.

And I suppose we can trust in God all we want. It's worked out so well for others. Since we're supposedly a Christian nation, we might as well invest in some nails and wooden planks, and hope there are enough godless heathens to nail the population to a cross, because that's about as much as trust in God will get you. That is the absolute limit of God-trusting. Trust your paternal psychotic father, and he'll manage to kill you with a message of love, then bring you back to life, promise you eternal glory, and wait for two thousand years and more to maybe/possibly get around to doing that thing he promised he'd do when he initially killed you. Or not. You know. Whatever.

Just trust.

Shit. All the investment in God-trusting and nail-purchasing and wood-buying might stimulate the economy. When those trusting in God are properly rewarded with a typical God-trusting death, maybe we non-believers will have a sufficiently robust economy to rebuild our lives and continue working to make one nation out of many.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A large, vibrating egg

Here's a quote from Diane Keaton about her relationship with Woody Allen: "Most people assumed Annie Hall was the story of our relationship... What matters is Woody’s body of work. Annie Hall was his first love story ...However bittersweet, the message was clear: Love fades. Woody took a risk; he let the audience feel the sadness of goodbye in a funny movie."

 'Love fades' is a line from Annie Hall said to Allen's character, Alvy Singer, just as he's realizing his relationship with Keaton's Annie Hall character is ending. Frenzied, Alvy asks an elderly woman, "Is it something I did?"

The elderly woman, marching along the sidewalk as she hugs her groceries tightly, barks out a reply: "It's never something you do. That's how people are. Love fades."



And it does.

Love fades.


Unless, of course, you follow the advice of the next elderly person Alvy encounters, and use a large, vibrating egg.


+++

You know, I was gonna end the post there--with the concept of a vibrating egg. I think the old man has a point, in that vibrating eggs are sometimes useful if you want to prevent yourself from becoming an old woman clinging to her groceries and barking out things like, "Love fades."

But that is a terrible ending. Sometimes, in order to keep love from fading, you need help--you need a large, vibrating egg.

Love does fade. There are many things that fade, though. Soldiers, for one.

General MacArthur, in a fit of delusion not seen since the beginning of religion, famously said, "Old soldiers never die--they slowly fade away." An absurd thing to say. There are no old soldiers. There are dead soldiers, or there are promoted former soldiers. Old soldiers never die, you see, because they don't age--they slowly rise up the ranks.

+++

Christ.

Jesus Christ is sometimes noted as both a soldier for the Lord and as the embodiment of Love.

The most recognizable representation of Jesus Christ is from da Vinci's The Last Supper. Which started to fade the instant da Vinci painted it onto the wall of the monastery in Milan.

True story! Leonardo da Vinci, being who he was, decided to try something new by painting one of the world's most famous paintings onto dry plaster, using egg-based paint. Fifty years later, The Last Supper had deteriorated so badly that it was unrecognizable. The faces of Christ and the apostles had peeled away from the wall. The colors of the robes had faded. The bread and the wine drooped down as if da Vinci painted the whole thing in a cave.

The first restoration of The Last Supper began barely a half-century after da Vinci painted it. The restorations continue today. One of da Vinci's worst inventions: egg-tempera paint.

+++

Large, vibrating eggs.

You know, the last line of Annie Hall is this: "I, I thought of that old joke, y'know, the, this... this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, "Doc, uh, my brother's crazy; he thinks he's a chicken." And, uh, the doctor says, "Well, why don't you turn him in?" The guy says, "I would, but I need the eggs." Well, I guess that's pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y'know, they're totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and... but, uh, I guess we keep goin' through it because, uh, most of us... need the eggs."


If only Alvy had listened to that old man with his vibrating egg...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Life during #occupation

Zuccotti Park, where the actual occupation of Wall Street is going on, was once known as Liberty Plaza. Liberty Plaza was very near to the former World Trade Center Towers which collapsed on 9/11/2001.

Maybe you've heard of those towers?

Like everything in America following 9/11, Liberty Plaza lost some liberty. Brookfield Properties bought the land shortly after the collapse of the Twin Towers, rebuilt the plaza then renamed it Zuccotti Park after company board chairman John Zuccotti.

Some still call it Liberty Plaza. Some still call sauerkraut 'liberty cabbage.' We always insist on clinging to old notions.

+++


Speaking of liberty, a Jewish woman from the 1800s once wrote this: "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!"

Those words are etched into a tablet on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Those words are followed by this: "Give me your tired, your poor/ your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,/ the wretched refuse of your teeming shore./ Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost, to me..."

Lady Liberty currently lifts her skirts and shrieks whenever one of these huddled masses pass her. She, though still going by the last name of Liberty, acts as if she's seen a mouse whenever someone seeking liberty approaches her.

She's either unsettled by the huddled masses, or upset that her land now prefers the storied pomp of other countries over those countries' teeming shores of homeless.

+++

Liberty lifts her skirts up so much that she's shutting down--again--to regain her composure.

After 9/11, Ms. Liberty had a complete mental collapse, and all access to her head was denied. It's barely been two years since we were finally allowed back into the poor woman's head, and she's now shutting down again.  Two years with our madness- our guns and our pepper-spray and our angry tourists yearning to breathe stale Hudson air. She needs another break.

Probably for the best. Liberty must be preserved, not assaulted.

+++

Having been to a few #OWS events, I can say this: they are nothing like the Tea Party rallies I attended in 2009. Most of the signs lack the requisite amount of misspellings (those misspellings are a necessity at Tea Party rallies--how else could a Teabagger demonstrate the proper amount of homeschooling?).

Also, there's a sense of cooperation at #OWS rallies that was missing from Tea Party rallies. Example: At one of the Tea Party rallies I went to, an invited speaker--through a city-approved amplification system--spoke of the great things New Yorkers managed to do when they worked together. An inspiring speech, really. And rather than cheer, the members of the audience shouted back, "Screw Roosevelt!" or "Impeach Schumer!" or "Obama is a Communist!"

By contrast, the #OWS crowd, denied an amplified sound system, shout this: "Mic check!"

+++

There are few guns at #OWS. And the few guns in attendance are wielded by law enforcement agents. Contrast that with the Tea Party rallies.

Also, contrast this: #OWS protest the government's lapse in responsibility to its citizens. The Tea Party protest the citizens' lapse in responsibility to its corporations.

At the Tea Party rallies, I have never before seen such anger at an individual's right to demand affordable health care. At a #OWS rally, I have never seen such anger at a corporation's resistance to provide an affordable service.

+++

There is still liberty in America. And cabbage.

And while first we won our own freedom with a gun, most of our best domestic battles have since been fought through persistence, insistence, and peaceful resistance. Meaning, never take a gun to a health care fight.

And never take a Lincoln to the theatre. Especially if it's a Chekhov play--that gun mentioned in Act One will come down by Act Three and you'll have to spend the rest of your night in the ER lobby. And people in the South will be reenacting that ER visit for the next century and a half.

+++

Also, you can keep Americans out of the head of Liberty,  but you can't keep liberty out of the head of Americans.

Yes, I really just wrote that last line. I am just as surprised as you--it's so 10th grade social studies essay-ish that I must actually mean it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Perfectly awful, awfully perfect

"Follies" is a musical by Stephen Sondheim and some other people. It had a run on Broadway before I was born. It is currently having another go at the boards. A revival.

When it hit Broadway in 1971, reviews were as mixed as pancake batter--clumpy and uneven. The critics who hated the show admitted it had moments of brilliance, and the critics who loved the show allowed that it had flaws.

It was, I suppose, a very human production, that 1971 production of "Follies." Depending on the critic you read, it was either awful but perfect, or perfect but awful. Mistakes were made, but it wasn't clear if the mistakes enhanced the show's character, or undermined it.

The show was flat, well-rounded, a bit dull, a bit brilliant. Like humans. Like pancakes.

+++

The title of the show--"Follies"--is a play on words.

Or a play on a single word, really: "Follies."

Follies can mean "a theatrical revue"--vaudeville, Moulin Rouge, Ziegfeld, you know. Shows with little plot and lots of leg.

And follies can also mean "lack of personal quality or sense." All the characters were in the follies, in "Follies." All the characters suffer a folly.

Follies all around.

+++

Got it? Good.

+++

So this 1971 pun of a show is now enjoying a second life on Broadway, and I saw it. I didn't want to see it, but there it was, and there I was. I was tired, it was game, and we found ourselves together in one space on Broadway, watching one another warily, wearily.

Next to me was someone I'd recently had sex with, who was not Greg. Next to not-Greg was his husband.

And in front of me was a revival of a show from 1971. A follies revival of "Follies."

Audiences don't know what 'follies' are anymore.

+++

The person to my left, during "Follies," had recently seen me naked. True! And I'd seen him naked as well. With permission from both our partners--it's not like we'd caught a glimpse of one another in the shower at the gym or anything. With consent, both not-Greg and I had recently been naked--active, even--in a room together. And now we were at "Follies" together.

+++

The person to my right was a stranger. She reeked of her boozy beef meal. She belched. She elbow-wrestled me for access to the armrest. Not a quarter through the first act, the woman slipped out her iPhone--I'm not sure which fold of fat she retrieved the phone from, but to her credit the woman had obeyed the rules of theatre-house etiquette and turned the thing off.

Now she turned her phone on. She pressed the glowing screen to her ample bosom as if hoping to dull the glow.

Her breasts glowed as the iPhone revved up. Darkened theatre, glowing breasts. Dilated pupils focused on the stage now blinded by glowing breasts.

The iPhone vibrated.

The woman peeled the phone from her breasts, and murmured to her companion, "Tina's got to go to Dave's," and both the woman and her companion tut-tutted amongst themselves while the actors on stage hit high notes and low notes.

+++

Earlier, the large-breasted woman did this when Bernadette made her first entrance: CLAPCLAPCLAP.

The entire audience did the same thing, like starving seals in a Sea-World show.

CLAPCLAPCLAP.

Bernadette didn't do anything--she simply walked onto a stage. Bernadette often walks onto a stage. It's what she does.

Make Bernadette earn it, I thought of the applause.

Each time I go to a show with a 'name' star, I think this as the 'name' enters for the first time and the audience break into applause: It' s not fucking 'Happy Days.' Stop applauding each person's entrance.

Kramer didn't slide through Jerry's door, right, so hold the applause.

+++


If you're gonna critique a show like 'Follies,' then you should not forget to critique the audience. Sitting there in the dark, it's easy to let those poor bastards in the audience off the hook. They paid money to see the show, they got dressed up, they had dinner, they stood in line.

Those poor bastards in the audience had lives before they came to the show, and they'll have lives after they leave, and it does a disservice to 'Follies' to forget the show is as much about itself as it is about the audience paying to see it.

+++

Hope you got that.

Good.

+++

So the woman to my right pretended to love each song on stage, but was really into her iPhone. And the man to my left didn't touch me the way he had a few days earlier, and I didn't touch him. And on stage, the couples sang their 'Follies' show.

+++

Here's the thing: it was all good. The show was nice, and the audience had its flaws. When the lights came up, the audience was just as it was when the lights had gone down 2 hours earlier. We were an audience of follies when the lights were dimmed, and we were still an audience of follies when the lights came up.

And we exited the theatre aware of how awful follies could be, despite the raves assuring us the show about those follies wasn't so bad. In fact, "Follies" was very good.

"Follies" is a tough show. I hope the audience appreciates it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Second Draft

9/11/2011

People who never saw the Towers love them. Two striped oblong boxes, with foundations bending and sweeping like cathedral windows, at the end of Manhattan.

Manhattan's underbite. Manhattan's fangs.

The buildings were ugly in the sunlight. Silver and glass and not much to look at. At night, though, those fangs were stunning. Those two oblong buildings lit up the water at the end of the island in yellow checkerboard, could be seen for miles both from land and air. The first time I flew into New York, I had Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue' playing thru my headphones and the WTC buildings filling my window. 'Rhapsody in Blue,' and all I could see were the golden windows of those buildings.

"If you're on the right side of the cabin," the pilot told us over the loudspeakers, "you'll see Lady Liberty." And everyone craned their neck to take a gander at the chick with the torch.

The pilot didn't tell those on the left side of the plane what they'd see, which was the WTC. Which is what I saw. Gershwin in my ears and those golden windows in my eyes and everyone else on the plane trying look up Lady Liberty's dress.

+++


The day it happened, I was awake before Greg. Preparing for class. Had just gotten back from yet another trip to NYC. I was so recently arrived back in AL from NY that I was pulling clothes out of a suitcase in order to dress for the day.

After pulling on a t-shirt and skimming the news on the Drudge Report, I went into our dark bedroom. I sat down on the bed beside Greg, who was sleeping. I hesitated, then put my hand on his shoulder, which was rising and falling with his breath. I shook the shoulder gently until I heard this: "Muuuh. Whaaa"

"Sweetie," I said to Greg. "Wake up. We're under attack."

+++

Here's what Greg thought when I said that we were under attack: Nuclear War.

+++

Here's what I thought when I said that we were under attack: Oh christ oh god oh I love you so much please see this with me to make me not crazy because I need someone else to see this.

+++

Today was the 10th anniversary of the time I shook Greg's shoulder and informed him of just how drastically the world had changed. Not that the world should have changed so drastically. What happened 10 years ago was awful. What happened 10 years ago was... fill in the blanks. But what happened 10 years ago... doesn't fill in the blanks. Americans took the attack so personally that they came to think of themselves as one person and were quite happy to go along, go along, go along.

Americans slapped magnetic flags onto the backs of their SUVs, renamed French fries 'freedom' fries, and attacked other Americans for having opinions not in line with the President.

Go along, go along, go along.

+++

Greg, shirtless, stumbled into our livingroom that day, and turned on the television (I hadn't bothered to turn on the tv; the internet was proof enough for me). Live, we watched the south tower of the WTC, where I had been a few days before, collapse. We watched lower Manhattan become dark, enclosed in smooth, caustic smoke.

Greg, shirtless, put a hand to his mouth and sank to his knees.

I suspect there were a lot of Americans assuming the same position as Greg. A hand covering a gape, both knees on the carpet.

I stood behind him and did the only thing I knew to do. I rubbed his naked shoulders.

"There are people there today," I said.

"I know."

And there was still a tower left. There was a tower remaining. It was leaking smoke into the air over Manhattan like a severed arm leaking blood into water. Greg had already fallen to his knees--how much lower could he fall?

+++

Today, Greg woke me up. He put his hand on my naked shoulder and gently shook until I said, "Muuuh. Whaaaa."

"Sweetie," Greg said, "you're under Waf attack." Then our dog, Waffles, jumped on me. Waf licked my face. He nuzzled my chin. He snuffled, he wagged, he shook.

I giggled. Greg giggled. Then G and I  discussed 10 years earlier, and how I'd awakened Greg with a gentile shake and news of an attack.

"You said that they'd hit the Pentagon and New York," Greg reminded me. "All I could think was that there'd been a nuclear bomb."

"No," I said. "No bombs."

"True. We'd use the bombs. They had the planes."

"Imagine Herve Villechaize yelling that," I said.

"Imagine him yelling this," Greg said, and picked Waffles up. Lifted Waf high above me. Waffles shook his legs at me. Waf's ears flew out from his head like the wings of a plane. Greg dropped Waffles, gently, onto my chest. "The Waf," Greg said. "The Waf."

+++

On 9/8/2001, I was in the air like Waffles 10 years later, sailing at the mercy of a pilot and leaving NYC. When approaching the city I'd listened to Gershwin. When leaving it, I listened to Sondheim. I arrived at night, left by day, and the last time I saw those ugly buildings this lyric was playing: "Stop worrying where you're going/move on."

Friday, September 2, 2011

First Draft

9/7/2001

People who never saw the Towers love them. Two striped oblong boxes at the end of Manhattan. Two majestic pillars lifting the city skyline.

Thing is, though, those two buildings were ugly.

It's true!

They were Manhattan's underbite. Aside from their height, nothing about the Towers was notable. "It would have been terrible if those Al-Qaeda guys had knocked down either the Chrysler Building or the Rockefeller Center," Robert Hughes said in 2006. The WTC, he added, "only became iconic when it was knocked over by a bunch of Arabs."

To be fair, the WTC would have become iconic if Swedes had knocked it over.

If Pygmies on stilts had knocked the WTC over, the ugly Towers would be iconic.

You know what also would be iconic, no matter what?

This:




+++

I'd seen those damned towers several times, without actually seeing them. They'd been in movies, on television, in photographs. I never liked them. Recognized them, certainly. Appreciated them, of course.

They were tall. That's about it.

Four days before they fell, before they stopped being tall and started being a hole in the ground, I visited those two towers.

I'd like to say this: The air was still. The sun was bright, and it hit the side of one tower, bounced off the other, and the two towers played ping-pong with the sun as it zig-zagged between them then smashed into the plaza where I stood.

I'd like to say I looked up.

What I will say is this: I barely looked up. The best look I got of the WTC was a few days later, back at home in Alabama.

"I was there four days ago," I told Greg.

"I know."

"There are people there today."

"I know."

To this day, I wonder which direction those people looked: up to the majesty or down to the plaza.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Bubbles

I watched Waffles--our Dachshund--snapping at bubbles floating around him like they were fairies. Like they were dandelions.

Waffles bared his teeth. He jerked forward, planted his forepaws onto the hardwood floor, and snapped down so hard the click of his teeth could be heard a room away. Then he jerked his body up, stretched out his neck, stretched open his mouth, and snapped down again.

Greg, operating the bubble-blow gun, giggled. "He's so determined to catch one," he said.

"What we're watching," I replied, "is a dog having the canine version of an existential crisis."

As if to confirm this, Waf snapped out at the cloud of bubbles--the fairies, the dandelions--coming at him, and realized all he'd gotten was air. His teeth clicked together. His forepaws bounced up and down on the floor. He whined, as one would weep for something lost.

"No matter how hard he tries, all he's doing is fighting the invisible, the empty," I added.

"Well, he is getting some flavor. I mean, liquid soap has a taste."

"Right, yes, but it tastes awful. The joy he is getting from attacking those bubbles isn't because of taste. It's because he feels he's having some influence on his surroundings. And he is realizing that influence isn't very much."

Greg pressed the trigger to the bubble-gun, aiming it just above Waf's head. Waf went into a fresh frenzy of bubble attacks. "Jesus, Marc, it's just funny. Dog with bubbles. It's not a Swedish film."

+++

Bubbles, it turns out, are very pretty. I'd forgotten how nice they look--fragile orbs floating on the weakest of air currents, hovering, dancing, refracting and ultimately blinking out of existence, leaving nothing more than a razor-thin puddle. Since Greg bought the bubble-gun a few days ago, I've rediscovered my appreciation for bubbles.



The bubble-gun, by the way, is this: It's a cartoon head, a squirrel with it's cartoonish mouth wide open. The bubbles shoot out of its mouth when a trigger is pressed. A mechanical motor presses air out of the mouth while simultaneously sucking up soapy liquid from a reservoir. Out come the bubbles. Out, also, comes a bright blue light--the trigger triggers both the bubbles and the light.

The bubble-gun makes this noise when the trigger is pressed: RRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrr.

It also encourages this noise from Waffles: Click. Click. Ca-lick. Clatterclatterclatter.

+++

Just after Hurricane Irene, Greg and I took Waf to the nearest park, which is just across the street and up a lot of stairs. We went with a friend and neighbor named [Name]. [Name] is a great deal older and a good deal wiser than either G or I (or Waf, but that's not a fair comparison). The stairs leading up to the park were covered with the debris from the previous storm.

There was persistent wind. A lot of it. A lot of invisible, rushing pressure streaming across the park like water and moving nature as it saw fit. Rearranging things. Dislocating tree branches. Mussing hair like a drunk uncle. Stealing hats from heads and sending those hats across walkways, over benches, into the street.

Above us was the sky, which was the color of sterling silver mixed with a bit of mud. [Name] said he'd seen the color of the sky before, and told us a story about a French pirate, and the pirate's treasure recovered from the Seine. The French pirate had been exceptionally dim-witted, and the treasure--mostly silver forks and spoons-- had been exceptionally dull, and the sky above us on the day after Hurricane Irene had the same mixture of silver and mud as the French pirate's treasure.

Which is to say that the sky was grey, and seemed like contraband.

+++

Here's the thing about [Name]: He has a great history. He is now contraband. Before he came into our possession--which is the wrong word, since contraband cannot be possessed--he had another life. He is our unpolished silver.

+++

The wind, that invisible force, rearranged tree branches in the park, placed leaves down in places more suitable to its taste, and tried to rip my hair from my head. It pressed my shirt into my chest. It pulled at my pants like a tailor.

It made this sound: Fiiiiiiiiiiiiii.

FiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiFu.

And here's what Greg said about the wind: "We should strap a kite to Waffles and let him fly."

And here's what [Name] said: "Just make sure he's leashed."

Because with that wind and a kite, poor Waffles could end up in Connecticut in no time. Surprising for him, surprising for us, surprising for the person in Connecticut who discovered him.

+++

So I'd brought the bubble-gun to the park. I'd hidden it away in my bag, which I take everywhere as if it's my own treasure-chest. And I reached into my treasure-chest of a bag (which had doggie-toys and doggie treats, a Kindle and an umbrella) and pulled out the bubble-gun.

RRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Click. Ca-lick.

+++

"It's like watching humanity attempt to find God," I told Greg, later, in the apartment away from the wind.

Waffles jumped into the air, mouth wide. He sank his snapping teeth into dead air enclosed in soapy spheres. He was rewarded with the dull taste of soap-suds.

"We're ruining the floor," I told Greg. "Those bubbles can't be good for the finish."

Clatterclatterclatter.

Ca-click.

+++

[Name] sat down on a rock in the park. True: the rock is often used by a neighborhood witch to make incantations, and those incantations are meant to keep the neighborhood safe. No one bothers her about witchery. We all secretly hope she's as successful as the wind in rearranging the neighborhood to her taste.

[Name] sat on the rock because of a medical condition, which he's had for two decades. He sat because standing is a burden. He watched Greg and I chase Waf around the park, and then he watched us do this: RRRRRrrrrrrr. Click. Clickclickclick. Ca-lick.

Bubbles.

I pulled the trigger of the bubble-gun, and a stream of bubbles flew from the cartoon mouth of the plastic squirrel, and the light came on, and iridescent, hollow orbs of soapy liquid flew into the disagreeable wind and danced about in the dull post-hurricane world, and the wind tried to discover the best place for them to be. They danced along the grass. They danced into trees. They met suddenly-treeless leaves and performed gavottes in mid-air.

Click. Clickclickclick. Ca-lick.

Waffles snapped at the bubbles. He attacked them. He tore into them.

And the bubbles snapped apart, and his teeth slammed together, and all that remained was a taste of soap, and the air. And neither Waffles nor the wind could decide if the bubbles should be in one place or the other.

While Waffles and the wind negotiated the bubbles' proper location location, each bubble snuffed itself out.

+++

In the apartment, later, Greg said this as Waf jumped around trying to catch more bubbles in his mouth: "It's so cute!"

Waffles planted his feet on the hardwood floor, listened to the RRRrrrr of the gun, and waited to attack, again, the hollow orbs issuing from the mouth of a plastic cartoonish squirrel.

"It's the human condition," I said.

"Stop being so..." Greg shrugged. Pressed the trigger.

Click clickclickclick. Clatterclatterclatter.

"So what?"

"It's just bubbles. They're really barely there. No need to make a metaphor about them."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Vonnegut.4

Harmonium.


I have not one profound thing to say about Kurt Vonnegut.

True. I adore him, and I am as unashamed of my love for Vonnegut as Eva Braun was of her love for Adolf Hitler, as Vili Fualaau is for his love of Mary Kay Letourneau. There's no need for profundity. There's no need for justification.

+++

Two weeks ago, Greg and I did a quick turn around town for our anniversary. Ten years. A decade spent with Greg, a decade Greg has spent with me. We saw a movie, then went to a restaurant. The restaurant was as wide as a library aisle, and as long. There was a bar in the front, and doors to the kitchen at the back.

In the middle, there was space for six tables in a row.

The restaurant was a combination of Das Boot and 'Picnic'. Very inviting, kind of sexy, but impossible to move through without bumping into others and begging pardons.

Greg said this after we'd hustled our way past the bar and negotiated our way to a table: "Is Vonnegut always so depressing?" He'd just finished Cat's Cradle.

+++

More about the restaurant: It's a great space, if space is the right word, since space is the one thing the restaurant lacked.

Imagine this: Stretch yourself out on the nearest couch. Really stretch yourself out--let your feet hang over the arm if you need to, and by all means push your arms above your head so that they go out and over the end table (avoid the lamp and any framed pictures or candy dishes you may have resting on the table). Really get a feel for the couch, and get a feel for your own length.

Got that feel?

That was how the restaurant felt. It was both as comfortable as the couch, and about as narrow. Again: Das Boot. 'Picnic'.

+++

Is Vonnegut always so depressing, Greg asked.

"Not if you're depressed already," I replied, buttering a roll. "If you're depressed, he's delighted to share in the misery."

"I've read two of his books. Both have been about the end of the world, and both are about how wonderful it is that the world ended." Greg.

The couple beside us--a young man and woman--grinned at one another with teeth so white one could ski across them.

"Vonnegut isn't a nihilist." Me.

"Don't you remember how Cat's Cradle ended?" Greg.

I thought about the question. I spread butter on bread.

"No." Me.

+++

I ate the roll, butter and all.

+++

"The harmoniums in the caves of Mercury were crazy about good music, too. They had been feeding on one sustained note in the song of Mercury for centuries. When Boaz gave them their first taste of music, which happened to be Le Sacre du Printemps, some of the creatures actually died in ecstasy." Vonnegut.

+++


+++

Greg told me--reminded me--of how Cat's Cradle ended. In a nutshell, it ends with the narrator killing himself while flipping off the Creator of the Universe. In a nutshell, Cat's Cradle ended with a big 'fuck you' to God, and a big 'up yours' to humanity.

Maybe.

It's been a while since I read the book. All I remember is that the characters press the soles of their feet together to remind one another of love, and that a cat's cradle is neither a cat nor a cradle.

+++

Our server at the narrow restaurant was an enthusiastic young woman with scrubbed cheeks and a whirlwind pony-tail. Her voice was iceberg-sharp with the soft edges of melted ice. "The specials tonight..."

And everything was special. It was my tenth anniversary living with someone who could stand being with me, after all. Even the buttered bread was special.

+++

"Why bother to live?" Greg.

No answer. Me.

"All I'm getting from these books is that we're better off dead. Or might as well be dead." Greg.

"But that's not. I mean. No." Me.

"Lemon poached halibut?" Server.

Greg leaned back from the table to indicate the dish was for him, and the dish was set before him.

"He hates humanity." Greg.

"Szzzzzzz." Halibut.

Our server deduced that the second dish was mine--duck breast--and set it before me.

"Uuuuu." Duck breast.

"He doesn't hate humanity." Me.

+++

Here's the thing: It's very hard to explain Vonnegut to those who do not 'get' Vonnegut. Canadians must feel the same way when they try to explain hockey to Americans. Either you get it or you don't. Either you're a harmonium or you're not.

+++

The couple with teeth as white as freshly-skied snow exchanged forks-full of mismatched food. She wiped the dribbled salmon-juice from his chin. He wiped the dribbled chicken-juice from her chin. They giggled. They flashed smiles. They asked for a dessert menu. And some time later, a dessert appeared before them--a slice of dense cheesecake equipped with two spoons.

The great thing is this: The white-teethed couple only used one spoon. They set the extra spoon aside, and that extra spoon, ignored, reflected the candlelight up at the couple, reflected candlelight into their eyes, into their obnoxiously white teeth.The extra spoon made the couple glow with happiness.

+++

Greg. "I didn't say he hates humanity. But he's so bleak, and he's got a point. He's got a point--life is awful."

Me. "He's a writer. Do you think he'd take the time to write about how awful life was if he didn't hope to make a difference?"

Greg. "What?"

Me. "I don't know, I was just trying to be positive."

Both Greg and Me: "You suck at being positive."

Hi-ho.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Vonnegut.3

I'm not gonna ape Vonnegut's style for this entry. Really I haven't tried to ape Vonnegut's style for the previous two entries--it's just a sad fact that I write like this now.

I write as if I'm trying to ape Vonnegut's style.

Even worse, I talk like this. I don't just write this way. I don't just write as if I'm trying to be Vonnegut--I speak in very terse, sometimes long and winding, sometimes descriptive and sometimes blank sentences, and there's nothing I can really do about it. This is how I write. This is how I speak.

It could be worse. I could communicate using INTERCO.

+++

Interesting thing about INTERCO: Juliet (for the letter J) means that a ship is on fire, and the ship has dangerous cargo aboard. Think, I guess, the Lusitania. And Romeo (for the letter R) means, simply, that the way is off my ship. Which I guess means one need only to list starboard or leeward to get home.

Interesting because, as usual, poor Juliet needs to shove volatile material into herself in order to make herself relevant. All Romeo has to do is declare himself a beacon, and point to the left or the right.

+++

So I talk like this. It causes a lot of problems with Greg, who thinks--rightly!--that I'm too flat.

Sometimes I wish I communicated with colorful flags indicating an approaching storm, or calm seas.

Greg and I have had two fights in one week. Both fights, arguments really, were mostly because I buried the lede rather than communicated, clearly, that my vessel had stopped or that I was altering my way to port.

I'd be a terrible seaman.

No jokes please.

+++

Greg isn't the only person I recently had a fight with. I recently fought the Allies and the Axis of WWII.

True.

Coming off of two fights with Greg, I got to fight every soldier of every nation of WWII. Here's how my battle began: Well, technically, we Americans didn't. We just happened to be in Dresden when the Brits bombed the hell out of Dresden.

Here's how it ended:
David. You're right. Students should read all views. But what you seem to be advocating is a strict balance of those views--you seem, and I may be wrong, to be saying that you're willing to tolerate, say, the things I personally like. But you don't agree with those things. And if so: fine, homeschool your kids, live on a compound, and declare everything post-FDR illegitimate.

What happened in between was mostly bullshit.

The impetus for the David argument was Vonnegut, and the usual banning of his book Slaughterhouse 5 from a high school library, this time in Missouri (the book has been banned in most other states, which is hilarious to me since most of Vonnegut's other books are far more offensive. The reason Slaughterhouse 5 gets all the banning honors is because it is about war, and how awful war is, and how war should be banned. Most of the other books he wrote are about how society should be banned--so who cares about that?).

+++

I am tired of typing +++ when I feel I've made a good point.

!!!

So Slaughterhouse 5 was yet again banned, and a friend on Facebook posted about the banning, and I commented, and a flame-war happened.

If I spoke INTERCO, I'd've raised a B (Bravo), meaning, "I am taking in, or carrying, or discharging dangerous goods."

!!!

I'd've told David that I'd already had a fight, had already been told a bit about how much I identify with Vonnegut, and would've warned David I was in no mood to take slams against Vonnegut's work or justifications for Vonnegut's banishment from America's high school libraries.

David, by the way, was the person playing Devil's advocate on a friend's facebook posting about the Vonnegut ban. David was an innocent bystander.

David was also, it must be said, wrong.

Everyone is wrong on the internet. It is what keeps the internet flowing.

!!!

"!!!" doesn't quite work, does it. It seems too angry. I should use letters. 'KKK' doesn't work. 'OOO'? No. 'XXX'? Fuck it. Back to triple-plus.

+++

David said this about Slaughterhouse 5, and about the firebombing of Dresden:
So you'd rather be speaking German, incinerating Jews & other 'undesirables' today? Sometimes to stop a madman's regime you have to take drastic action.

A reply--not mine--was this:
Yeah, that's clearly the direction the war was headed at that point. Only the massive firebombing of Dresden prevented an Allied collapse on all fronts.

Sarcasm! America was in very little danger during WWII of collapsing, and in fact used WWII to rebuild from the Great Depression.

Which is depressing.

But true, at least from some points of view. Others might have this point of view, shared by David: I was commenting on the mindset in our liberal NEA & university system that skews & rewrites history to make us the evil tyrant of the globe. A mindset that disdains the allied forces for trying to keep a mass-murdering maniac from conquering Europe, yet pities the Germans who initiated the world war.

So yes, I suppose one could argue that encouraging both a workforce and a university system to be better than the messy facts of war is a bad thing. One could argue that liberals do, indeed, want to bring down the very forces that made them a viable power and also, hey!, brought food to the table of millions. But the odd thing is, that wasn't what we were arguing about.

We were arguing about Vonnegut. We were arguing about how banning Slaughterhouse 5 was a bad (or good!) thing.

+++

Greg said this, earlier in the evening: "You should say the last thing you want to say first. Because when you start out with what ends up being the end, you sound like an asshole."

He meant I bury the lede.

+++/!!!

Here's David again:
Forgive my impertinence. I forgot I was an unenlightened rube who can't begin comprehend the anti American, anti God brilliance of your favorite Sci fi authors.

And my lede:
You needn't worry about your impertinence. I think you should be impertinent more often, and in more public places--like libraries, which I'm sure would welcome your impertinence.

Here's really what I should've said: David, I'm sorry you feel that way but I've had a bad night, and I've been really into Vonnegut for a while, and... you know. !!!.

Also: Jesus christ, David. You're proving the libs right by saying things like 'I HATE banning books. They should be age appropriate. We don't need the Kinsey Report in K-8th grade school libraries I'd say. But if Vonnegut is cool, so should the Ku'Ran, the Bible & books from all points of view.'

Kinsey? That's more dated than the Bible.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Vonnegut.2

Listen: Marc Mitchell has come unstuck in time.

He once had lunch with someone--this was years ago--who wrote reviews and articles and assorted miscellanea for The New Yorker. The someone, a man twice Marc's age, said this to him: You're a good writer. If you ever want to go to Bread Loaf, I'll write your rec.

Bread Loaf is a writer's colony. Bread Loaf works like this, according to their website: "For the past 86 years, the workshops, lectures, and classes, held in the shadow of the Green Mountains, have introduced generations of participants to rigorous practical and theoretical approaches to the craft of writing, and given America itself proven models of literary instruction. Bread Loaf is not a retreat—not a place to work in solitude. Instead it provides a stimulating community of diverse voices in which we test our own assumptions regarding literature and seek advice about our progress as writers."

Sounds great, right?

The someone who offered to write a rec for Marc to go to Bread Loaf had a lot of stories about other writers he'd met, and a lot of stories about himself, and a lot of stories about his time at Bread Loaf. And about his life in Connecticut, about his life with his partner of fifteen years, etc. We all have a lot of stories. We should share them as freely as this someone did.

Marc met this someone by accident. He'd been fooling around online, which is what one does online: fool around. He was fooling around in a gay chat room, and mentioned an article he'd just read.

Quite unexpectedly, the person he mentioned the article to identified himself as the author of the article. Small world.

More chats followed. A meeting at an Upper East Side restaurant. A discussion about writing. A light chiding from the someone that Marc's online age did not match his real-world age. Other things.

Someone revealed that he worked for the Bush administration.

Marc swallowed a thick shot of whiskey. "But." Marc weighed his words then tossed out the scale. "How can you work for the Bush administration when you're gay and an academic? That's like working for Genghis Khan while being a humanitarian vegetarian celibate."

"I was hired by the administration," someone said, "to assess the damage done to the library in Baghdad."

"So you're a librarian, or are you a Republican?"

"Republican," someone said. "I voted for him, and I'll be watching the inauguration parade from a corner office in D.C."

Second inauguration, by the way. Someone and I had our lunch together just before the second inauguration of GWB. I'd spent all summer and fall campaigning against GWB. Someone had spent all summer campaigning for him. Both someone and I spent the same period coming home to men we loved, and having copious amounts of unsanctioned gay sex.

Turns out both conservatives and liberals can have copious amounts of unsanctioned gay sex.

Surprise!

+++

Someone sent me an email not long after our lunch. Late at night. Mostly the email was about his dog and his partner and his house in Connecticut. There was, though, one little tidbit at the end.

GWB had just been sworn in. I was bitter. I was still confused about how a gay man with a life I'd love to have--nice house, cute dog, reliable life-partner, great career--could work for a man, a president, I found reprehensible.

"Looking forward," someone said, via email, "to getting to work assessing the library in Baghdad."

"Your work wouldn't be necessary," I shot back, "if your boss hadn't invaded the country for no reason. Be careful," I continued, ripping a line off from Vonnegut, "what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be."

And that was the last I ever heard from the somebody who wrote for The New Yorker, worked for GWB, and offered to write me a rec should I ever decide to go to Bread Loaf.

Alas.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Vonnegut.1

Here's the thing: Greg, the love of my life, the fire of my loins, etc., is reading a Vonnegut book. I didn't ask him to read Vonnegut. There are a lot of things I've asked him to do over the years, but I've never done that.

I asked him to watch a Woody Allen movie. He did.

I asked him to open up our relationship. He did. We both got crabs from a guy from Mobile.

I asked him to move to New York. He did. And then he cried the first night we arrived. "I want to go home," he wept, over and over. We didn't go home. We made a new home.

Vonnegut.

Here's the thing: Asking someone to read Vonnegut, for me, is like asking someone to breathe. "And so it goes" is, to me, like an inhale, and "hi ho" is an exhale, and it seems rude to tell someone--Greg, for instance--to take a breath. Certainly, I don't mind dragging a person several states away from where they were born, or helping someone gather pubic lice, or foisting Woody Allen upon them. But telling someone to breathe?

Presumptuous.
+++

The first Vonnegut book Greg decided--on his own!--to read was Slapstick.

"It's not his best," I told Greg.

"Then I'll try something else," Greg replied.

"The intro changed my life."

"But you said it wasn't his best book. You just said it."

"The introduction changed my life. I don't remember much about the rest of the book."

"Should I," Greg asked, "read it or not?"

"Here's the thing. That book is considered the worst book Vonnegut wrote. People shit on it."

"So.....?"

"It changed my life. I'm just saying. I am not the person to ask. There's a part where he talks about having a dog, and how that dog gives him unconditional love, and then he adopts his sister's children because both she and her husband got killed."

"So you're saying I should read it."

"I'm saying it changed my life. Unconditional love. It's hard to come by. So many conditions."
+++

Vonnegut.

Listen. I get that he's not everyone's favorite author. I get that everyone, really, has an author of some kind, and that author hits a nerve, and the nerve reverberates, and when the reader comes to die, that author is still there, twanging away on the nerves.

Good. There are worse things to twang away on the nerves. Guilt, for instance. Rather than thinking "And so it goes," or "Frankly I don't give a damn" or "Call me Ishmael" or "The rest is silence," a person's nerves could twang this at the dying brain: "I should've said I love you to that one person," or, "I should've been more understanding."

When I die, I hope I'll think this: "The worst thing that could possibly happen to anybody would be not to be used for anything by anybody. Thank you for using me, even though I didn't want to be used by anybody."

I also hope I'll think this: "Fuck I'm not ready yet."
+++

Greg, after he finished Vonnegut's most awful novel with his most greatest intro, said this to me: Hi ho.

He also said this to me: I think I finally understand you.

Here's the thing: Telling someone you've lived with for 10 years that you 'finally understand him' is both a good and bad thing. It's like telling a molecule on your big toe that you finally understand it. It's been there quite a while, this molecule, and it's clearly there no matter your understanding.

Not gonna fuck off, this molecular big toe-manship. Understanding or not, that molecule is firmly planted into the big toe Greg looks at each morning when he second-guesses his need to get out of bed. That molecule is happy to be with Greg's big toe even when the toe is plunged into black socks, shoved into a leather shoe, and forced to bounce toward a train station.

I think I finally understand you, Greg said.

Busy busy busy. Understanding one another is what we all do. Realizing we understand: there's the thing.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fuck the mermaids

It lasted about a month. The relationship.

Our last date was tonight. He took me to a poetry slam, and I should have known it was our last date because he participated in the poetry slam. Meaning, of course, that he spent most of his time on stage, or backstage, or anywhere other than at the table where I sat alone, nursing random drinks while not smoking (smoking is forbidden in New York in places where one most needs a cigarette). The date, you see, was designed for distance; me alone at a table in the audience, he backstage for a while, then onstage for a while, then backstage again until the end of the show for a curtain call.

Except--as you know if you’ve ever been to one of these poetry things--there is no ‘backstage.’ Most of the participants of poetry slams sit at tables with their dates and wait to be called up from the audience. Poets, it turns out, center themselves by staring at candle-flickering votives and drinking bad wine while sitting in bent-wood chairs across from their dates. Poets do not center themselves by hiding out backstage in hypothetical greenrooms, waiting for their names to be announced as if they’re about to hold court with Johnny Carson.

And there is no curtain-call for poets.

Our first date, though, was different. He was there with me at the table, and rubbing his foot against my calf, and touching my hands, and looking into my candle-flickering eyes, and saying things like, “No one, not even the rain, has such small molecules,” which made me melt even though I didn’t know what he meant. Everyone has small molecules, right? So did he mean mine were even smaller? More compact? Were my molecules superior by virtue of efficiency?

And, god, okay, his eyes, candle-stained. His eyes were blue, and the candlelight during that first date made his eyes appear to melt. Like, you know that scene from the first Indiana Jones film? Where the tiny evil guy with the glove has his face melted off by the vengeful Old Testament God? And his eyes slip out of his head? Pour out? Yeah, imagine a face that is beautiful and stays whole and yet the eyes slide from the lids over and over--that’s what his eyes looked like the first date. Melting. And blue. And frozen, but liquid.

And it was the Nazi, not the tiny evil guy with the glove, wasn’t it, who had his face melted off, wasn’t it? Or did both the Nazi and the tiny evil guy with the glove have their faces melted off? Did they meet the same vengeful-God fate?

So. First date. Dinner. Table, with a candle and melted blue eyes and calf-caresses and hand-brushes and oh-my-god-I-love-him-alreadys, and I tried. Maintain, I kept thinking to myself. Maintain, and be normal. Be appealing, and charming. Be as charming as he. Him. Charm him, take in his charm and mirror it back at him like Archimedes’ mirror.

Melt his eyes for real. Burn his flesh with your charm which is really his charm reflected back.

On our first date, I only knew a few things about him: He wasn’t Jewish, he was circumcised, he was younger than I, and he’d once lived in Vermont. We’d met online--I won’t say where online, but that’s how we met. We liked the same books. He liked poets I’d heard of. I liked movies he wanted to see one day.

He liked free bread at Olive Garden. I liked free bread at Olive Garden. A match made in heaven.

The second date? Home. His home. We watched movies, cooked a souffle--seriously!--and watched more movies. We overlapped one another on his futon, our legs weaving in and out as we balanced plates on the cushions of the futon and stared down Peter Lorre.

After the second date there were the texts. Or sexts. Some texts--perfunctory “How was your day? LOL”--and some sexts--”HRNY now 4 u.” Pictures were emailed. Dirty talk was exchanged. And we had sex once.

I’d rather not discuss the sex. It came after a notable sexting event, and ended with a sexed attack. There were no survivors. My neighbors told the evening news the next day that I seemed like such a quiet man, kept to myself. The sex was that good.

LOL.

He told me he loved me, except he didn’t tell me. He bought me flowers, which is the same thing as saying ‘I love you.’ He bought me flowers in exchange, I suppose, for saying those three words, and then he wrote me a poem, which is like saying ‘I love you’ without flowers, and more cheaply. It costs money to buy flowers, but it costs nothing to jot some random words down on a napkin at Caliente Cab in the Village.

He did both. Flowers one night, then a napkin-poem the next. Here’s the napkin-poem:

I love your toes
I love your nose
That’s about all
God knows.

He wrote the poem during a lull in our conversation. During that lull, the waiter--Caliente personified--asked us if we wanted more chips, or more dip, or anything at all, and I told him we were fine. “Relative,” the waiter said. Smiled. Moved on.

Our last date, as I said, was at a poetry slam. He--my boyfriend, not the waiter--was there. He’d asked me to go. He said I’d love it. A poetry slam, one of many around the city he participated in, since the slams happened all the time, erupted up out of the idea of what New York used to be like thoughts popping up from the subconscious mind. Oh, these things seemed to say, remember when New York meant something? Well, here I am, meaning something even though I’m on a stage in a bar no one goes to and telling you things that are obvious while using word-combinations no one understands.

Ponies fucking Gore Vidal.

I hate poetry now. A good poem lasts about a month. A great poem lasts as long as english class.

I sat at the table, alone, with a candle-votive as my only company. There were others at tables around me, and each table had a votive, candle-laced, candle-sparkled, and each table was warm and glowing and dressed with a white tablecloth and a few flickering drinks and a few flickering humans. I was the only table of one.

And then they called him up to the stage. He came from behind, as usual, which surprised the emcee--the emcee was holding down his raised eyebrows with the palm of one hand as he shielded his eyes from the stage lights. The emcee was peering out into the audience for my love.

Here’s the poem my (former) love slammed:

“Had I but world enough and time fuck that. Had I a road diverging into one (again, you slut--how many roads have diverged into you?) I’d in your doo a stately pleasure-dome decree. And in that dome I’d declare immortality. What? Immortality. That’s right, come live with me and be my love, and we’ll scuttle about the silent sea-bottoms and have some bottoms while ignoring the mermaids singing. Fuck those mermaids. And fuck you.“

I downed my drink as everyone else applauded. I scuttled out of the bar.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Yossarian Naked in a Tree


Not gonna give the background for this post because it's a dull background.

Do your own googling. Draw your own conclusions. Do the research, figure out the allusions, read the book, gripe, whatever.

There's a scene from Joseph Heller's book, Catch-22 (and btw, Heller originally intended to write about Catch-17, but was afraid people would associate it with 'Stalag 17,' and then toyed with the idea of writing about Catch-5, but anticipated the publication, half a decade later, of Slaughterhouse-5. He also thought of writing about Catch-39 but, as a Hitchcock fan, couldn't bring himself to do so; Heller eventually settled on the number 22 because, when he was 22, he had a very good year. True story!)...

(Not really.)

Where was I? Ah. Yossarian naked in a tree. Seriously. There's a passage in Catch-22 (not Catch-5 or -17 or 39) where the protagonist, Yossarian, takes off all his clothes, climbs a tree, and considers his nakedness proper funeral attire. The people at the funeral are surprised. Wouldn't you be surprised?

You're there, at the funeral for this poor guy who got his insides outted during combat, and you're trying to be solemn and respectful, and you're doing all the things required of one attending a funeral. And there's a naked guy in a tree. And he's heckling the funeral.

That's how I feel about Bradley Manning. I'm standing in the funeral procession of some guy who died for stupid reasons, and there's a naked guy in a tree, and the naked guy knows more about why I'm attending the funeral than I do.

Here's the thing: Bradley Manning is not an American Hero. He's also not an American Traitor. He's Yossarian--he's a naked guy in a tree.

Here's another thing: War sucks. It's a mad thing which encourages mad things.

I've had a few arguments about Bradley Manning, and his treason, and his incarceration, and his trial that never happens, and all I can say is: Dear Mrs., Mr., Miss, or Mr. and Mrs. Daneeka: Words cannot express the deep personal grief I experienced when your husband, son, father, or brother was killed, wounded, or reported missing in action.

War sucks. But we let it happen. Could be worse. We could tell the truth about how strong war sucks. And how terrified we are of gay soldiers.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

No villans

Last night--I'm sure you've heard by now, but just in case--the great state of New York decided they liked it, and they put a ring on it. They legalized same-sex marriage.

It's been a long walk down the aisle here in NY. The Assembly and the Senate have voted on the issue quite a few times, but like a skittish bride or a reluctant groom, never made it to the vows. Last night, there were vows. There was an 'I do,' and then a kiss in the form of a governor's signature on the bill allowing marriage equality.

A few quick facts: Governor Cuomo lobbied hard to get the bill passed, which to me is an incredibly brave thing for him to have done; New York has tried in the past, when the Senate was controlled by dirty commie librul Democrats, to pass the same-sex marriage bill, and failed; New York is the largest state in the Union to pass said bill, now doubling the amount of gay American citizens allowed to get hitched; the bill passed with bipartisan approval in a Senate controlled by Republicans who were not required to bring the bill to a vote at all.

For a while, in fact, it didn't seem there would be a vote. Republicans conferenced the hell out of this thing, discussing behind closed doors the possibility of bringing an up-or-down vote to the...

Whatever. There are the facts, and then there's the fact: My love for Greg is now recognized by the state of NY as a legitimate, uncontested, unpreventable love. What I now feel in every cell, every atom, each centimeter of flesh, each fiber of organ, each vein and artery, what I've always known is now accepted as truth by my fellow New Yorkers as being right and normal. (The picture up there of G and I kissing is from a decade ago, btw. It was taken a few weeks after we met.)

Incidentally, I was born the year the American Psychiatric Association decided homosexuality was not a disease in need of treatment. And I'm not that old.

It seems odd to me to thank others for recognizing my humanity, recognizing my inability to resist having the capacity for love. But I do thank others. I thank the 29 democrats and three republicans who voted for the bill. I thank all the straight people who couldn't care less about my homosexuality, and couldn't care more about my equality. I thank my family. I thank my friends.

I even thank my dog, Waffles.

I thank the trees, and streets, and the bricks, and the pages of my favorite books, and the individual frames of my favorite movies. I thank the gods I don't believe in and the fictitious hell I'll never see. I thank all the tiny little incidents of my life that led up to the moment I met Greg, and I thank all the tiny little incidents that led him to me.

Last night was historic. It will be challenged in the courts by people seeking to delegitimize facts. And those courts may see fit to overturn last night's facts. But the truth will out, as they say, and in my experience it's very hard to go back in once you've come out.

The great work begins, as always.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cocksucker

There's an ersatz campaign to convince the Pulitzer people to award The Onion a prize. And ok yes The Onion deserves a Pulitzer. Lesser things have won one. Greater things have not.

Ira Glass--the host of This American Life--posted a video online supporting The Onion's Colbertesque campaign to win a Pulitzer, as has Tom Hanks, Arianna Huffington, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, Paul Reiser and the guy two flights down from me, who is also named Paul Reiser, but isn't the Paul Reiser, and smells like stale cottage cheese. He also looks more like Helen Hunt than Paul Reiser, but that's ok since his wife looks more like Paul Reiser than Helen Hunt, and their kids look like Jerry Seinfeld. Sort of. I mean, their kids look like a shaved Jerry Seinfeld.

I have terrible eyesight, by the way. Just got new glasses but still.

Anyway.

Ira Glass, in his posted video supporting the Pulitzerfication of The Onion, says this: "Hey! Hey, cocksuckers! How about taking your heads out of your collective asses... and giving The Onion a Pulitzer already."

Ira's use of the word 'cocksucker' has raised some eyebrows. Apparently, most of Ira's This American Life audience believe him to be the unassuming, neutered hipster he portrays each week rather than the Ian McShane acolyte he truly is. NPR listeners are so naive. Those great shows we hear on NPR don't magically make it to air. Those shows require hard-nosed, hard-biting determination, cutting down the competition. To get a show on NPR, one must be a Joe Pesci of broadcast journalism.

There's a reason it's a prize for Carl Kasell to leave a message on your home answering machine: You don't want Carl Kasell to come to your actual fucking house. No you most definitely do not because he'll break your fucking balls.

Right. So. Cocksucker. Cocksucker cocksucker cocksucker. It's a fun word to say. Ira Glass says it. Ian McShane says it. I say it. I even do it.

But Dan Clark--some guy on the internet--doesn't like the word. Dan says [and this is all sic, btw], "Seriously? I know that it's a joke, but I would not have expected to head [heh, Freudian slip much?] Ira Glass using hate-speech. I'm not sure how I feel about that. Again, I get that it's a joke, but if I wanted to hear that kind of garbage, I'd listen to Tracy Morgan. "

After a gratuitous Tracy Morgan slam, Dan adds: "
I gave $100 to the program just a couple of months ago. I'm certainly never doing that again."

That's right. Dan is withdrawing his $100 support to This American Life because Ira Glass said 'cocksucker.'



Here's the thing: I'm a cocksucker, and I don't care if someone calls me one. I suck cock. When someone calls me a cocksucker, I don't feel as if I'm experiencing hate; I just assume they're paying me a compliment. If they'd called me a cock-gobbler, I'd be offended. My technique is nuanced and exact. I suck cock. I do not gobble.

Knob-polisher. That's another one. That's undercutting what I do. Certainly, there's a bit of polishing in my technique but you're selling me short if you think all I do is polish--I also do a bit of gobbling and sucking. Mostly sucking. The sucking is the important part. The polishing and gobbling of the cock is secondary, which is why I take offense when called a knob-polisher or a cock-gobbler. If all I did was gobble or polish a cock, I'd be either a pet attending to a dish of food or a maid cleaning the house.

I am neither a family pet nor Hazel. I suck.

Cocksuckers are a gift from the universe. And the word? The word is magical. It isn't hate-speech to call someone a 'cocksucker'. Frankly, so long as you treat me with respect and know you also have a denigrating nickname to describe your own lifestyle, I don't care what you call me.

Some choice quotes from the ongoing 'cocksucker' debate:

From Elisabeth Goebel (heh):
Yeah, Dan Clark, you'd better not support one of the best programs on the radio because the host has a sense of humor. Nevermind that this wasn't even on the show. God, people like you are frustrating.

From Cynthia Cox (!!!):
And I'm pretty sure that most people who know me would not think that I have no sense of humor. I totally appreciate a good dirty joke. My reaction when I heard him say "cocksucker" was not utter dismay, but more like "really? He had to use that word?" I get that it's a joke, but there are better ways to get a laugh than use a word that has the potential to insult traditionally marginalized and oppressed groups.

From Brian Kiser:
political correctness is gay.

I'm a cocksucker. I take pride in not being a knob-polisher.



Thursday, June 2, 2011

8 Inches of Certitude

This is not a post about Representative Weiner. Of that I am certain.

Well, I mean, I might mention Weiner at some point--I do live in NYC, and he is a pretty big topic right now.

You know that painting by Magritte? The one with a pipe and the caption, "This is not a pipe"? Only it is written in French, so the caption actually says, "Ceci n'est pas une pipe". You know the painting, right? Hell, it's right over there, so even if you didn't know it before, you know it now.

The thing is, the caption is literally correct. That pipe there, that's not a pipe. It's a representation of a pipe, made up of brush strokes and paint. Except, it figuratively is a pipe. So the caption is literally correct but figuratively incorrect, which is an important distinction.

(And yes, I realize the picture over there is not literally a figurative representation of a pipe made up of brush strokes and paint, but a digital recreation of the figurative representation of a pipe literally consisting of brush strokes and paint. Stop figuratively splitting hairs.)

Keep that in mind.

Weiner. This is not a post about Weiner, I promise.

So there's an old joke. I mean, there are a lot of old jokes, right, in that most jokes are old. Did you know--just saying--that 'why did the chicken cross the road' jokes date back to Roman Empire days? It's true, if not literally true, then at least figuratively, in that I am sure some Roman person, just after Appian Way popped up, noticed a chicken crossing it and made a comment to one of his or her buddies. So that's an old joke at least figuratively, in that it maybe wasn't literally the 'why did the chicken cross the road' joke, but it was certainly figuratively a 'chicken cross the road' joke.

Digress. Sorry. So there's an old joke, one of many, which goes like this: "There's an old joke. Two elderly women are having dinner in the Catskills. " (I'm not certain why these two elderly women always are having dinner in the Catskills. Makes no sense, really--the food there is terrible, and in such small portions, so they should probably try a new region, like maybe downtown Manhattan or... wait, I just gave away the punchline. I always do that. Overthink the joke, analyze it too much, deconstruct it.)

So there's an old joke. About old ladies eating at blah blah Catskills blah. And one of them says, "You know, the food here is terrible." And the other one says, "I know. And in such small portions."

See, it's funny because even though the food is terrible, the second elderly lady is indignant that the terrible food is served in small portions. Ha, right? Ha-ha.

That reminds me of another joke, or at least the sense of the joke if not the joke itself. I don't recall the set-up, but the punchline is, 'No, said the monsignor. That's my anus.'

Which is a lie. I mean it's a lie I don't remember the set-up to that punchline, not that the monsignor was lying about the possession of his own anus--I'm sure the monsignor was telling the truth. I was lying. There was never a set-up. It's just something someone I knew in high school used to say during awkward pauses. I don't remember why he used to say that during awkward pauses, and that is the truth. I'm as honest about not remembering why he said that as the monsignor was about his possession of his own anus.

To review: the picture of Anthony Weiner's penis is not, literally, his penis. Americans like their scandals served in large portions even when the scandals are terribly pointless, and despite all the other things the media and the American people could be saying to one another, the Weiner scandal is essentially the monsignor's anus, figuratively, filling the awkward silence.

Which is why Andrew Breitbart's nickname is 'Breitfart.'

That's all I have to say, other than the title of this post is an awful pun on 'One Hundred Years of Solitude,' for no reason. 'The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Blogger' didn't quite work, and 'A Weiner Grows in Brooklyn' seemed gross.

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
New York, NY, United States

Search Blogness