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

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

There's an old joke

So when I was kid--which, by the way,  was a great time to be a kid since it's most always a great time to be a kid unless it isn't a great time to be a kid. And let's face it: there are a lot of great times to not be a kid, but this was a great time to be a kid. Trust me. I was there. I know.

Anyway, so when I was a kid, there was this joke we'd tell to one another. We kid-lings would be standing in line waiting to enter the cafeteria for our ersatz hamburgers (made from soy, which was this strange mythical beast-meat imported from Berkley, CA, and molded into a patty-like shape then fed to us by hair-netted lunch ladies swaddled in smocks and plastic gloves), or we'd be standing in line to enter the library for storytime, or we'd be standing in line to enter the gym for Enforced Physical Activity Awareness Hour, where a Coach who had recently gone AWOL from the Army would divide us into sexes and force the boys to do grueling exercises as the girls listened to music and practiced their skills at undermining one another's emotional self-confidence, or we'd be sitting in class waiting for the bell to signal our free-and-clear sanctioned release back to the real world, and we'd tell this to one another.

Over and over.

The Joker: Hey, you know, if your hand is as big as your face, it means you're gonna get cancer.

The Jokee (invariably holding a spread-out hand to his or her face): ...Really?

The Joker (shoves Jokee's spread-out hand into his or her face): Yup.

Kids loved cancer jokes back then. It was a simpler time.

Another joke from my childhood was about Helen Keller. Helen Keller jokes were all the rage when I was a kid because I grew up near Ivy Green. I grew up where Ms. Keller grew up.

The Joker: You know how to punish Helen Keller?

The Jokee: No.

The Joker [variation one]: Leave a plunger in her toilet.

The Joker [variation two]: When she goes out, rearrange all the furniture in her bedroom.

Another joke

The Joker: Why is Helen Keller's leg yellow?

The Jokee: I dunno.

The Joker: Because her dog was blind too! Get it? Get it? Because the dog peed on her leg!

Kids also loved jokes about those less fortunate than themselves. Cancer and Helen Keller. Hi-lar-ious! Comedy gold.

Another popular joke in the kiddom, standing in all those lines awaiting whatever horrible culinary and exertion fates in store for us, was this knee-slapper:

The Joker: Why did the hairstylists' dog say, "Bowsy-wowsy"?

The Jokee: I dunno.

The Joker: Because his dog was a fag too! Get it? 

The Jokee: Yeah.

The Joker: Because all hairstylists are faggots!

Man, we'd tell that joke to one another over and over again, and laugh until either milk came out of our nose or the librarian would send us to detention or the AWOL coach would make us do laps around the court.

Good times.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Time This Guy Looked Under Martin Luther King's Hotel Bed

Here's a conversation, word for word, as I heard it.

Older gentleman: Did I ever tell you about the time I looked under Martin Luther King's bed?

Me: ...No.

OG: I didn't?

Me: No. Not that I recall. Why--

OG: I can't believe I never told you this.

Me: Why would---

OG: So I was working in a hotel down in Birmingham, Alabama? Working at a--yeah, all the famous Black people used to stay there. It was awful back then. 1958 or so. You know--

Me: I'm from Alabama. I've heard. Firehoses and--

OG: You're from Alabama? You don't have an accent. What part?

Me: I do when I'm tired. And The Shoals area. Florence.

OG: Florence! That's WC Handy. That's where he's from.

Me: Right.

OG: His aunt taught me. Went to school with his aunt, she taught me. He didn't leave a dime to her. You know that? He didn't leave a dime.

Me: I don't know that he had a dime to leave her.

OG: Is that right?

Me: I don't know.

OG: Hm?

Me: That he had a dime.

OG: Hm.

Me: I don't know.

OG: So you're from Florence.

Me: Lots of people are.

OG: But you don't have an accent.

Me: Only when I'm tired. Helen Keller was from the area too.

OG: Helen Keller. She was fucked up.

Me: I--

OG: Pardon me. But she was fucked up. A deaf--she couldn't hear, she couldn't see, she could barely talk. She--

Me: She did quite well for herself.

OG: If I ever was like that, put a bullet in me. No way I could do that. I'm from Birmingham. You know, lots of people are from Birmingham. Carl Lewis, Tallulah Bankhead, Jesse Owens. Condi Rice was down there too. You know I knew her?

Me: No.

OG: Awful. Awful woman.

Me: So you looked under Martin Luther King's bed?

OG: Yes. Looked under his bed. I was at this hotel, see, and I was young. Pretty young. I was in charge of bringing up all this stuff to guests, food and whatever else they needed, and that was my job, right. And all the famous Black people stayed at my hotel because it was Birmingham in the--must've been 1957, 58, somewhere around in there, and I worked at the place for Black people to stay. It was different back then. You're young. You don't remember how it was. Why should you?

Me: I've heard the--

OG: And so I was sent up to deliver Martin Luther King his dinner. He'd just been stabbed. He answered the door himself. He'd just been stabbed. In the heart. Some woman had just stabbed him in the heart, and here he is. No bodyguards, no secret service, nothing. He's in that room alone, and he answers the door. I could've had anything in my hand. I could've--you know what--I could've been a member of the KKK. Just got a tray in my hand. Could've had a gun for all he knew.

Me: And you--of course, the KKK, and all you did was--

OG: And I was sent up there with a purpose, keep that in mind. Everyone downstairs was saying, He's up there, he's got a woman with him. Martin was married, keep in mind. He was married at the time, and it wasn't his wife up there with him, so I was sent up there to find out if he had a woman up there. So I was gonna look under his bed. There wasn't a soul in his hotel room that I could see. Except for him, and he handed me--I remember--he handed me 50 cents for the meal and the tip and I, you know what I did, I did this, I dropped one of the quarters.

[Two things: This man has the subtlety of a sledge-hammer, and I can't believe 50 cents used to pay for room service]

OG: Dropped that quarter, and then went down on my knees. I don't mean I went down on my knees that way. Went down just to look under the bed. People today, you know, think going down on my knees might mean something else.

Me: Didn't occur to me that you went down on--

OG: Went down on my knees to look under the bed. No one under there. The only thing I saw was my quarter. So Martin Luther King was standing over me--and I'm just down there to see if there's some lady hiding under the bed--Martin is above me and he's thanking me.

Me: That is kinda cool. You met Martin Luther King and--

OG: And so I go back downstairs--

Me: --and he tipped well.

OG: --and everyone asks if I found the woman. Right. And it occurs to me, sure, I looked under the bed, but I didn't check the bathroom or the closet.

Me: Good places to hide.

OG: She could be in other places, you see.

Me: Like the quarter under the bed or in your pocket.

OG: He liked women. [pause] This other time, I went up to a room, and there was a man there in sunglasses. A woman too. She was in panties. She excused herself and went to the bathroom. I'm standing there asking, Why is there a woman in panties? And I ask the man, man it is night. Why are you wearing sunglasses. What are you, you blind or something. And the man says he's blind. 'Yes, I'm blind,' he says. It's Ray Charles.

Me: Ray Charles?

OG: Ray Charles. The--I didn't know who he was at the time. And I kept thinking, "Why is that woman in her panties in there? How can he find his way down--does he go on smell?"

Me: Maybe--

OG: So that's how I learned about Ray Charles. He's not from Birmingham.

Me: Maybe he's from.... I think he's from Georgia.

OG: See, I don't see why that woman was in there. Panties. She was running around in panties, and he didn't see it. Had some sunglasses on, and blind, and I still don't understand why she was there. Why do you think she was there?

Me: Maybe she--

OG: I was there for a good period. All the famous Blacks stayed there at one time or another. I still wish I'd looked in Martin Luther King's bathroom. Bet he had a woman standing just right there, next to the sink. Maybe another one in the closet.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The exotic food challenge

Going to a friend's apartment for dinner Saturday:

Ethan: Hey. Do you eat calves brain? brains

me: I cannot imagine why you would even ask me that.

Ethan: huh?

me: I'm sorry... I didn't realize you were serious. No, I don't. The idea of anything-brains is gross.

Ethan: oh. That's strange.

me: I don't think so. I don't know many people who have brains, let alone eat them.

Ethan: I grew up eating it.

me: Is this an AHS thing?

Ethan: no. It's a jewsih thing.

 me: Hm. I'm cowed by the very idea.

Ethan: bahhh...bad pun.

me: It was moo-tivated by disgust.

me: I'm utterly grossed out by the idea.

Ethan: that's strange.

me: *Udderly, I should say. I appreciate you dugs it, I suppose.

Ethan: ...

 me: Well, diet is a grey matter. There's no acownting for taste. I'm moogling recipes tho, to see if there's something too it.

Ethan: ...

me: I cortex you the best recipes, if you like.

Ethan: I spinal cord you to stop being lame :-P

me: I'm not being lame. I'm being amoosing.

me: Googling seems to discount the idea that this is a common food. At least among the goy. Interesting. Oh god, people eat the tongue a lot.

Ethan: Of course. You don't eat tongue?

me: Jesus, I've got to just go vegetarian.

Ethan: You seriously didn't know that people eat tongue?

me: I'd actually forgotten. And was happy to have forgotten.

Ethan: why? it's delicious.

me: I like my meat depersonalized (deanimalphied?) and inscrutable. If it resembles a body part, or has the words brains, testicles, hoof, or snout in it, I don't want it.

Ethan: Tongue doesn't look like tongue.

me: I can't even eat pork butt.

Ethan: I don't eat pork.

me: Of course not. Tho it is, I understand, possible to eat kosher pork.

Ethan: only if its not from pig.

me: I thought it was all in the way it's prepared.

Ethan: the way it's prepared in the sense that it's prepared from pig

me: Oh, I thought it had to be blessed or something. It's odd you can eat the brain of an animal, but god forbid you touch shellfish or swine.

Ethan: not really. Brain is only strange for you becuase you never ate it.

me: No. As I said, I googled. It's strange in general.

Ethan: No it isn't.

me: Well. I suppose cooking up Waf and serving him with some haggis wouldn't be unusual somewhere.

Ethan: Ooh, Haggis is delic.

me: I know actual Scots who find it repellant. Still, I always want to try it each Burns Day. (Which, as far as I can tell, is the Scottish attempt to have a Bloomsday)

Ethan: When i was in scotland with some friends, i had haggis, and one of my companions had vegetarian haggis it was sooo lame. if you're going to havfe haggis, you go all the fucken way.

me: Yes. Of course.

me: Tho I'm now reconsidering dinner with you guys. If you're gonna serve calf brains, then serve a lot of aperitifs first.

Ethan: Actually, i think we're serving lamb brains. The recipe calls fro one calf brain or two lamb brains

 me: Brain't saying I wouldn't try it, but pretty sure I'd gag a bit just at the idea. It's all in the head, I realize.

Ethan: ... aight, i'm sleepy bed time now. ttyl.

 me: Sheep well. So, should we bring anything for dinner Saturday? Ipecac? A stomach pump? Iocaine powder?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Three Smiles of Whitney Houston


I'm in the back seat of a car heading from New Orleans to Florence, Alabama. I'm twelve years old. I have a Walkman and headphones, and I'm listening to Whitney Houston's first album, on cassette tape.

I stare at the cassette cover. Listening to the music--her voice--I flip the cassette case in my fingers, opening and closing it as the car sails along the highway. Whitney's face, her white dress, her shoulders, the pearls. The flowers. I flip the case open, then closed. Open. Closed. Whitney, then no Whitney.

And I'm not really paying attention to much else--I'm not even sitting upright in the back seat of the car--I'm spread out on my side, my head at one end, my feet pressed against the other side of the car. I'm tap-dancing against the armrest of the door.

The headphones come loose. Mom has reached back, plucked them from my head. "Your dad asked what you were listening to." Mom smiles at me.

"This," I reply, and wave the flapping case of the cassette tape in her face.

"Whitney Houston," Mom tells Dad.

"Oh, she's pretty," Dad tells Mom. "She's really beautiful."

This is the first time I've ever heard my dad say a woman of color is beautiful.

Mom asks for the cassette, and inserts it into the car's player. Riding down the highway, all three of us sing along to "How Will I Know." As I sing, I can't help but think about Dad's attraction to Whitney Houston, and how perhaps he and I aren't so different.


"I Will Always Love You," the video, played constantly on Mtv when I was in high school. The best moment of the video came when Whitney looked at the camera--she was sitting in a chair on a stage, and there was some smoke rolling in, and you could see the bare boards and the bricks and the curtain, and she'd look dead at the camera, which zoomed in--and there'd be a pause in the music.


"I wi-ish you lo-oOve,"Whitney would sing.

Then pause. Pinter pause. Long and unusual. The camera zoomed in, her eyes would close, the smoke would roll in around her, and then BOOM her eyes would open, the camera would pull back and no more stage. No more curtains. No more smoke. Boom, and Whitney, still in her chair, was in the middle of a winter wonderland.

And she would hit that note.

"I----I will always love you."

That note. That 'I.' Not many people can do it. It's a note out of a dead sleep, this 'I,' it's a note from nowhere. In the film 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch,' the two cynical characters even manage to acknowledge they wish they could hit that note.

Studio editing? No--Whitney hit that note in live performance. Nailed it to the wall.

As I said, the song played constantly on Mtv when I was in high school. Also playing constantly: my desire for a certain male friend. He was straight and he knew it, and I was gay and I knew it, and we bonded over Whitney's incredible 'I' note.

Straight guy: "She hits it. She just hits it everytime."

Gay me: "From a dead-stop, she goes to 60mph."

Straight guy: "And she's pretty."

Gay me, silently: So are you.


I didn't keep up with Whitney Houston, or any pop musicians. I didn't know Whitney had become a joke until well into the 'Being Bobby Brown' reality show, when Whitney's antics began to hit the blogs.

Fun fact: when Whitney's antics hit the blogs, I was matching her antic for antic.

For about a year, I snorted or smoked anything. I was so bad off that I ended up at a party with Jimmy Fallon. Even worse: Jimmy Fallon left because of me.

Greg had no clue about all of this. Then he did have a clue.

When Greg found out, he said this: "I will always love you."

He also said this: "Get help, or I'll leave you."

So I got help. I went to a meeting to help me, and it was awful. Greg went with me. Both of us sat in metal chairs and listened how drugs destroyed the lives of others. We listened to one guy exclaim, "I have heard all of you tell me why I shouldn't want to smoke meth. I haven't heard any of you tell me why I do want to smoke it."

A few years later, I said this to Greg: " Whitney Houston is coming back."

Greg said this: "Her voice is wrecked."

Me: "But she's trying."

Greg: "If she can still hit that note, all will be forgiven."

Me: "Even if she can't hit that note, I'll forgive her."

Here's the thing: Part of my recovery was because of Whitney Houston. Part of my bonding with my parents was because of her. Part of my coming out was because of her. I really wanted her to be clean, and to hit that note again, but she failed.

She failed, even though she had every chance.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Stranger in a Strange Book

I'm not a fan of sci-fi books.

Not true. I am not a fan of sci-fi books asterisk.


Asterisk: Most sci-fi books are terrible.


For my birthday a few months back, a friend gave me a copy of Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land.

Here's what the book has to say about itself, on the cover: Here is Heinlein's masterpiece--the brilliant spectacular and incredibly popular novel that grew from a cult favorite to a bestseller to a classic in a few short years. It is the story of Valentine Michael Smith, the man from Mars who taught humankind grokking and water-sharing. And love.

That's the quote on the cover. A blurb. A synopsis.

A quote from the book: "Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it's partly her fault."

The first thing I want to know, when picking up a sci-fi book, is why women deserve to be raped.

Good job.

Here's another quote from the cover of the book: The Most Famous Science Fiction Novel Ever Written. The designer of the cover showed restraint by eschewing exclamation points.

Another quote from the book: "She had explained homosexuality... and had given him rules for avoiding passes; she knew that Mike, pretty as he was, would attract such."

Seriously, that's a quote from this book, this Most Famous Science Fiction Novel Ever.

I'd offer a summary of the book, but it'd be a dull summary. The most complicated thing about the book is the initial set-up: Some years previous, humanity sent a carefully-selected crew to Mars, and that carefully-selected crew fucked around and produced a baby and then all of the crew died. The baby lived. Like Mowgli, the baby was raised by another species--Martians, who were already on Mars and doing quite well before the Earth-sent spaceship landed on their planet.

The Mowglian character of Stranger in a Strange Land, Martian-raised, is eventually brought to Earth. He does not grok the ways of Earth or Earthlings. Like Mowgli, Valentine Michael Smith spends most of his time in one place explaining how wonderful his time in another place was. Raised by Martians, Valentine Michael Smith on Earth says this: I do not grok you people here on Earth. Mars makes more sense to me.

Raised by the animals of the jungle, Mowgli says this: I do not understand you people here in the village. The jungle makes more sense to me.

And, again, Heinlein says this: Nine out of ten raped women had it coming, and it's always best to avoid homosexuals.

I do not like the book. I'm happy to have read it, but it is an awful book. I hate it so much that I wish it were a human being so I could do it harm.

The word 'grok' is a terrible word, and is used over and over again in Stranger in a Strange Land. Valentine Michael Smith "groks" everything. He groks water, he groks grass, he groks rape. He doesn't grok fucking dudes, though.
Grokking. It's like 'smurfing,' but with less nuance.

'Grok' means this:  to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science—and it means as little to us (because of our Earthling assumptions) as color means to a blind man.



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