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

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Finishing the Year Off with One-Liners

Let's just admit that a lot of people near-and-dear died this year. Icons die, and that's a large part of how they get to be icons--if, say, Jim Morrison had lived to a ripe old age, he would've been doing Cialis commercials. Except some who died this year icon'd before they DOA'd, like Prince.

Let's also admit that the death of celebrities is, at times, just as painful as the death of people personally known. Yes, I know, I know: celebrities are not always important, in that they are abstractions. Celebrity is a shallow pool in which we all drown.

Celebrities I have mourned over the years: Robin Williams. Kurt Vonnegut. Michael Jackson.

That's about it.

Oh, I think I might've gotten a bit teary-eyed when Judy Garland died. I wasn't alive when she died--I just saw a documentary about her last days and was sad.

Elvis. I was alive, barely, when he died. It was a comfort throughout my youth to know he wasn't actually dead--he was living on an island with a brain-dead JFK and Marilyn Monroe.

Anyway, celebrity deaths affect us. We don't like to admit it but it is true. I have no shame in being affected by the death of anyone.

So in a year that made Aleppo a question--"What is Aleppo?"--I am not afraid to say the death of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds has upset me. More than Prince. More than Bowie. More than George Michael.

George Michael, a man who gave birth (figuratively) to one of the best jokes on Arrested Development. In season four, much-maligned but unfairly, George Michael Bluth declares he no longer wants a name associated with a sex crime and says he is now George Maharis.

Google 'George Maharis.'

I'll wait.

Done? See! Brilliant joke.

Back to celebrity deaths.

Where was I? Oh! Carrie Fisher.

Carrie Fisher was someone I didn't know but, more importantly: Carrie Fisher was someone who didn't know me. We met once, of course, but it was of no consequence to her--she was performing, and Greg and I just happened to be in her presence--but it isn't like we sat down for brunch and had a conversation. Or we did, but both G and I were polite and smart enough to just listen.

We were Freudian shrinks, and Carrie was our patient.

(Except of course the more she talked and the more we listened, the more we learned about ourselves.)

Greg, my husband of four years and my life-partner of nearly 15, has a mental illness. He is, like Carrie was, bi-polar; he prefers 'bi-polar' but Carrie preferred to be called 'manic-depressive.' It's the same thing. Carrie insisted bi-polar sounded like a gay bear in the Arctic. Greg says manic-depressive sounds like going home for the holidays. I'm not bi-polar or manic-depressive, so I let those with it self-identify.

I know it is bipolar and not bi-polar. Officially there is no hyphen. But there should be. The splitting of the word is integral to the comprehension of the... I don't even want to say 'the disease.' Or the sickness. So I'll just say 'the state of mind.'

Carrie helped me understand my husband, is what I mean. First, she helped me understand myself--I always thought Leia was the best character in Star Wars, and grew up pretending to be her rather than Luke or Han--and then, when I adulted, she helped me understand Greg.

Prince, Bowie, George Michael. There are many things I could say about each of them, and about many others who died this year, celebrity or civilian. But it is Carrie Fisher who matters most to me.

This year has been a dismal year. And since I promised a one-liner, here it is:

I imagine when President-Elect Donald Trump is fisting someone, that someone invariably calls out, "IS IT IN YET?"

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Arguments, Closing

In New Hampshire, election places are now open (and possibly closing--NH seems to exist in dogs-life moments), and we're well on our national path to a new fate. As usual, we have two paths even when a few among us in need of corrective lenses see at least four paths. And no matter the amount of paths, each leads deeper into the vagueness of a snow-covered wood (only one of the paths will, of course, lead us to a denuded forest, but that's not what I'm discussing right now, you climate denying assholes).

Since those of you who are not interested in voting for Hillary Clinton are not interested in facts--or have some weird interpretation of facts--I won't bother using facts. Voting has begun, after all, and what you've heard is what you believe.

I'll just say this: Hillary Clinton is a terrible campaigner. She is not good at stumping, she is not good at debating, and she is not good at making you feel good about yourself. She is not someone you'd want to have a beer with, and she is not someone you'd trust if you went shopping with her. None of those things is her job. And when she's actually doing her job, she's quite good at it.

I bumped into an older woman today. She's regal and a Southern expat like myself, and about Hillary's age. I've known her for years, and we've had quite a few fun and animated political discussions. She said this, after I made a joke about perhaps never seeing her again after Wednesday: "I just don't know what we're going to do. Both of them [guess which both] are corrupt as all get-out, and neither of them care about it."

It saddened me that this woman felt both Clinton and Trump were equally corrupt.

"And she is a war hawk!" the woman said, placing her hands to either side of her head. "Thanks, I really need more war!"

As I nodded, shrugged, and winced, the elderly woman continued. "And Bill will be prowling the White House. Who knows what he'll be doing."

"Or not doing," I suggested.

"Imagine the future Monica Lewinskys he'll accumulate!"

"Maybe," I said, "they should sprinkle saltpeter in his food."

The elderly lady, perhaps the only person I encountered today, got the joke, and laughed. "There's an idea!" she said.

Except it wasn't an idea. It was a reflexive comment on how women use Bill Clinton's actions to justify their own distaste for Hillary Clinton.

(Which is, I should add, not my man way of discounting Bill's actions.)

One of the weirder things about this election is that women are more concerned with defending Donald Trump's recorded admissions of sexual assault than Bill Clinton's, and pretending either men have anything to do with Hillary Clinton's ability to govern.

"Honey," one can almost imagine Hillary saying. "I know it's late and I'm about to negotiate a trade deal with Hitler's younger kid, but could you put the hooker down and go to bed?"

There are four paths diverging in the wood, and which one will you take?

There's this path: "I don't know, President Stein, but I took a vaccination and guess rather than developing autism I hallucinated you being President."

There's this other path: "President Johnson, D.C. is not in the actual state of Washington."

There's this twisted, dark path: "It's not for me to say, sir. I'm just the Press Secretary. But I do have Putin on the line."

And this other path: "Madame President, Bill's in the secretary pool again. And Prime Minister Trudeau is on line three."

There are many reasons not to vote for Hillary Clinton. None, I'm afraid, involve her ability to do the job assigned to her. Most, it's true, involve reasons having nothing to do with her public service. Refusing to vote for her on principle is like refusing to breathe because someone farted.

Or like refusing to cite a certain Frost poem at a high school commencement because it's been done before.

Look: my point is, one can take the road not taken. But you ultimately know who's woods these are, and when the path diverges into a rather startling four paths, the only difference it makes is what you tell future generations which path you voted to take. And that you get your eyes checked.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Art of the Trump in the City

My relationship with Donald Trump is complicated. The most expected complication is that I have no real relationship with Donald Trump.

Yet here we are.

When I was a kid, Trump's Art of the Deal was a thing. Art of the Deal (more formally known as The Art of the Deal, but we'll skip formalities) was a best-selling book about bullshit before there was a best-selling book about bullshit, which is called On Bullshit.

On Bullshit is a much better book because it cuts through bullshit rather than making it into an art. It also has the benefit of being 100% less bullshitty as it is written by someone other than Donald J. Trump.

This was prescient, btw.
Art of the Deal was left out on coffee tables around America and other unsuspecting countries, and was possibly translated into other languages but no one speaks about that any more. It was on bedside tables. It was in the floor next to suburban toilets. No one got rich from reading it, but it was as widely-read as Peyton Place in its day. (A lot of people at least got laid from Peyton Place.)

The only people who got rich from The Art of the Deal are those who ghostwrote it, those who published it, and those who appeared on the cover of the book. None of them, ironically, read the book.

My parents bought the book. They left it laying about like casual porn for me to find. To their credit, they also let me read my Bloom County books in peace--and Bloom County truly had a different view of Donald Trump.

Seeds planted.

Some years passed--in Trump years, some wives passed--and I moved to New York City.

From a small town in Alabama, littered with Art of the Deal books, I fled to a place littered with Trump buildings. And one of my first interviews for a job was with a man who eventually said, "Have you seen Apprentice?"

Again, informal. What the man meant was The Apprentice, but when it comes to Donald Trump, the only time 'the' is required is when saying The Donald. Or, of course, The Litigant.

The interview was in a Midtown studio pretending to be a Midtown office. There was a beautiful view of buildings looking out at buildings looking out over the Hudson. And there was a table as long as a deli window, and as unappealing--rather than meat, across the table were slabs of humans, sitting in chairs like pools of olives, like cheese awaiting a grating.

Each of them, from olive to cheese, had a greasy copy of my resume in hand, and each read it in their own way, some as a dramatic interp and some as a class assignment.  The olives pitted it. The deli cheese sliced it. 

Some weeks before, I'd spoken to my little brother. I was living in a terrible apartment in Morningside, and he'd just seen Donald Trump approach lower Manhattan in a helicopter, so he wanted to know if I, too, had seen Trump's helicopter.

"He flew in over Lady Liberty," my brother said in a voice that implied a swooshing hand gesture.

"Ah... yeah, I saw that." I hadn't--I was too far uptown and too buried in buildings to see much of anything. But it seemed important to him, so I pretended. Twelve years living in NYC, I understand: you see the city so often when you're not in the city, you sometimes just need a reference point. I was the reference point.

"Did you see him waving?"

"No. But I have terrible eyesight. I'll ask Greg if he saw the wave."

"Cool."

Two days later, sitting across from a phalanx of slick hair and pitted olives, I was in an interview going so badly that I was advised to take lessons from Apprentice episodes.

The position, so far as I could tell, was for a medical concern. It was my understanding that I would be tasked with forcing hospitals in Manhattan to purchase useless software, and then making sure they properly used the software to more inadequately serve their patients. As the man, sitting at the end of the deli window table like a butcher explained to me--while his collection of olives and cheeses and human meats nodded--they were a Company, and the Company required a person to go out into the world and make sure Things Got Done.

I nodded along with the deli selection.

"We need you... Marcus. May I call you Marc?"

"Up to you."

"Marc. We need you to make sure," and here the man templed his fingers over my resume, "each client agrees to use our product in a way beneficial to the Company."

"Perhaps," I replied, "I'm wholly unqualified for this."

"Let's see. Let's role-play."

Jobless, living in what I think Dickens would call penury, obligated to help my future husband make ends meet, and I said, "No."

"It's just a formality." One thing about the man at the end of the deli window table: he had a hairline almost down to his eyebrows because his constantly-furrowed brow drove it there. Looking at his collection of olives and cheeses, I knew instantly why the man kept his brow furrowed: it gave the impression of deep thought when, in reality, there was no thought more deep to him than an PowerPoint slide.

"I'm not gonna role-play."

The man un-templed his fingers and sighed. He nudged my resume a bit as if testing it for life. "You know, this." He flicked the resume. "This is a work of art." Then he looked at a young woman sitting off to the side--she'd been taking notes, and when the man looked at her, she stopped noting much of anything other than the man's gaze. "It's not your fault," the man said, and I then understood it had been she who had asked me to the interview. "This resume would fool Donald Trump."

Not making that up. The man actually said my resume would fool a man known as a fool.

Then the man turned his gaze back to me. "Have you seen Apprentice?"

"No."

"Watch it. You could learn from it."

And that is how my younger brother gave me a point of reference.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

On One Half of All Men

On behalf of all men, I would like to apologize for Donald Trump.

Not because I represent all men, and not because I am an enlightened individual open to ideas foreign to my gender, but because I am a human being, and someone should really apologize for a man who cannot apologize for himself.

Donald Trump has an undiagnosed disorder that prevents apologies. It happens. I once knew a woman incapable of saying the word 'juxtaposition' without gesturing wildly and then spitting on a knuckle--any knuckle, not just her own. I once knew a guy who could not say 'Jesse Jackson' without following it up with a racial epithet.

Speech impediments are real, and are not always limited to speech. Gestures matter.

And Donald Trump, I'm sad to say, lacks the ability to understand both basic speech and token gestures.

When I was a kid, I had a lisp. It's true. I lisped, and I followed up my lisping with limp-wristed gestures. Fortunately, there was a special class at my elementary school where I was sent, twice a week for one hour, to learn how to avoid my lisp and--by extension--lose the limp-wrists. After two years, third and fourth grades, I became a man qualified to apologize for Donald Trump and all the other men who cannot bring themselves to say the words "I am sorry" without following those three simple words up with a "but".

But.

It is true, in my non-lisping, firm-wristed post-fourth-grade life, I have said a lot of things about what I'd like to do to various men, and I've said those things well beyond a locker-room setting. I've said, for instance, and in a movie theater, that I would like to fuck Cillian Murphy.

I've said I would like to give head to the guy downstairs who is a dancer and yet who smokes like a chimney and probably shouldn't be both a dancer and a smoker--seriously, eventually one must pick one or the other, or else you'll Fosse yourself into a coma--and I said that in my own home. To my husband!

I have said, perhaps more than once and in many places non-adjacent to locker-rooms, that I would like to get butt-fucked by the entire cast of Hamilton and would provide the strap-ons to the Schuyler sisters if needed and accepted.

When I was getting rid of my lisp and limp wrists two hours a week for two years, I learned the difference between 'I would like to...' and 'I just do.' For Donald Trump, and those who suffer from his debilitating speech impediment, it is a challenge to separate the gesture from the action.

It is a shame Donald Trump never had the chance to go through Apology Conversion Therapy--if he had, he may have learned how to be a human being and apologize. As with my speech therapy, Apology Conversion Therapy teaches one how to pretend to be someone you are not. It teaches you to avoid your natural self, to pass, to get along. ACT reminds one that the gesture is more important than the words.

Yet here we are. Donald Trump, a presidential candidate of a major party in the United States' political bicameral system (let us stop pretending tricameral is a thing this election), cannot even ACT his way into a genuine apology, and that is a sad thing. He cannot apologize for something he said 10 years ago, as a 60 year old man, instead assuring us that--as a 70 year old man--he's changed his ways. If only Donald Trump had gone through a similar two hour class in elementary school as I, perhaps he would understand, Dude, you don't need to actually change; you just need to fake it til you make it.

In my case, I learned to fake it til I got cock. In Trump's case, he just needed to fake it til November 8th.

So. On behalf of all men, I apologize for Donald Trump--and not because, as I said, I am a man. But because humanity itself has failed to give Donald Trump the tools needed to say 'I am sorry' and shut the fuck up. Instead, Trump suffers from a common ailment: Inability to Apologize.

If only we could've ACT'd sooner.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Dead II

Waf is fast asleep.

His head slips ever-so-slightly from his house-within-an-apartment, a tiny cloth and foam home sitting on the floor just before me as I sit on our kitchen floor. He's dreaming.

Not in house
What, I sometimes ask myself, does Waf dream? In his tiny little home, inside of a larger home, surrounded as he is by cushions and squeak toys. Surrounded, as he is, by a larger world of which he has no knowledge, except on occasions where he ventures out into it, strapped to a human, harnessed in a vest, taking one step after one quick step, indulged in sniffs and squats, until returned again to the bigger house that encloses the smaller house and the cushions and the toys.

What does Waf dream?

His legs shake the cushioned house. He emits a tight, vague 'Marf." Then a stuccato follow-up as the tiny cushioned house shakes.

Perhaps he is remembering his previous owner. A young woman, sad. A young woman with kindness in her eyes and a story of icy silence when asked, Why are you giving us this dog? Perhaps he is remembering his youth as Tobey, his first name before his final name. Tobey. I say it, and he still stirs in his sleep.

You're talking about me. Goddammt.
Waf is asleep. Greg, my husband, is asleep. We are all in a spacious room on a giant planet in an expansive, if not depleting, universe, but Waf is in his house inside the limitless space of everything.

Outside that house, there are complications and squirrels and chemical reactions. And there's Tobey, Waffles' first name, inspired by I do not understand because who the hell names a dog Tobey?

And there's Greg and myself, who have a dog named Waffles. In a world more large and terrifying than Waf can dream. And the dreams fall faintly on Waf, and fall, like descent of their last end, upon all the Tobeys and the Wafs.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

So You Made the Top of Gawkerati. What Next?

On Gawker.com's final day, I was surprised to be name-checked twice in one of the last posts: my handle, GregSamsa, was listed amongst the top commenters of the site, and one of my comments was noted as being one of the top ten comments of its 13 year history.

My last hurrah. See me there, just under the wonderful GREGORYABUTLER10031? GregSamsa. I beat!
None of these accomplishments are, in fact, accomplishments. They are hollow victories. They are 'ThatChampionship Season' which was a play written by the young priest from The Exorcist. They are pats on the head. They are the result of distraction winning out over ambition.

And that's as one Gawker writer would say, 'Okay.'

There's a lot of virtual ink-spillage over the end of Gawker.com (which is to say there is not much being written about Gawker Media, the site's parent company, being absorbed by Univision; Gawker.com is dead; its sister sites--Gizmodo.com, Deadspin.com, Jezebel.com and others—live on. But the hub site, the main site, the namesake site of Gawker Media, is now over for a variety of reasons I—twist--won't comment upon. Gawker.com is dead.

What I will comment upon is, first: it's okay to end a sentence with a preposition. Language is what we do, not what others rule we should do. In this piece I will actively try to split infinitives and dangle participles, and will most definitely attempt to end sentences in either prepositions or in the actual word 'preposition'. Which, oddly, is not a preposition.

Secondly: I will explain how I became a name-checked commenter of Gawker. This explanation will seem boring because it is, and it will seem awkward because it is. Life is boring and awkward. Life isn't what happens when you're making other plans, as John Lennon once said; life is what happens when you have no plans and still expect to wake up the next morning. Life is habit, and I habitually commented on Gawker.

I was born in the salt-mines one dreary day in Nixon's America.

No, that's not true. Preposition.

Supposition: it is true I was born in Nixon's America. It is also true I grew up with a reverence for journalism preposition preposition. I liked honest people, and never trusted anyone mostly because I knew I could lie quite well, and didn't like being a liar. Lying is a talent only an honest person has. If you, too, are a liar, you know full well how much honesty you need to pull off a lie, and you know when to use your lying superpower, when to lie after speaking the truth. Preposition.

Being a skilled liar does not, oddly, make one an actual liar. It makes one a dealer in truths, and one can store up truth like a camel stores up water. It's true! Lying is not something one should do often, but in a selective and artful way... the way one learns how to use language, and knows when it is okay to end a sentence in a preposition. Lying is the absence of skill, you see. A straight-up liar will be so obvious everyone assumes a tall tale is coming. Nothing is to be trusted.

As a child of Nixon, I know better. You take Emily Dickson to heart and tell the truth, but when you want to lie, tell it slant.

I understood Gawker (Dot Com!).

I was a kid who grew up with certain lies, and knew those lies had truths within them. I loved comedians who hit on political themes—Robin Williams, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Paul Mooney Elaine Boosler, Paula Poundstone—and understood they were lying while telling a truth.

Which is what Gawker.com did. Once upon a time.

So my comments—and they were a small contribution—where an attempt to bring liar's poker to a lion's den. And to remind everyone that language is not a shameful thing: If you need to communicate, do it. And do it in a grand way. If someone corrects your grammar, remind them that the President of the United States once inspired this column.

Gawker. [clutch to breast] I will miss you. When I moved to NYC, you were one of the only places to get my wit, my honesty, and my obsession. So many stories made sense, and so many stories kept me up at night. Preposition.

It is easy to lie and say you deserved your end. But there's a truth we all know: You did good work.


I'm honored to be included in the top commenter bullshit, even though there were many more worthy. And I'm glad to know one of my comments was in the final 10 of all comments here. But I know it was a lie. That kid never had a visionquest. She was just being true to herself.

Friday, August 12, 2016

How to Vote Your Conscience

NATHAN J. ROBINSON:  Well see, this is the thing, is I think this has a very strange and sort of romantic conception of what voting is, where voting is the way that we express our innermost identities and we declare who we are and what we stand for. I don’t think of voting that way. I think of voting as something that you do five minutes one day of the year and that most political action and most expression of your moral convictions should occur elsewhere, in other realms. Voting is just about the consequences.  --On the Media


Vote your conscience” is a phrase used off and on for those ambivalent about voting for Donald Trump, and it's a versatile phrase, used with both bravery and desperation. At the Republican National Convention, defeated contender Senator Ted Cruz delivered a prime-time speech in which he failed to endorse Trump, instead inviting the delegates in attendance—and, of course, the viewers at home—to vote their conscience.

#NeverTrump started the push for conscience-voting just a week or so before Cruz took the stage, and not long after Cruz's speech, #NeverTrump dropped into the distant zeitgeist, a present but hardly dominant force to make sure Trump would never sit in the Oval Office.

There are those on the Right still hopeful that someone will wake them from the Nostradamus fever dream that is November 8th.

“Vote your conscience.”

Fun fact about the word 'conscience': the way I learned how to spell the word was to spell 'con' and then 'science.'

Voting one's conscience is a standard call every election cycle. And it is a con of science, really, if you think voting is about conscience. If one votes their conscience, they're giving up fundamental ideas about collective wholes. They are ignoring certain obvious truths in deference to Randian absolutes. To vote one's conscience is to vote one's desires, and the voting booth is no place for wish fulfillment. It is a place where one looks practicality in the face, and makes the best choice.

And there's a fun thing about this election: if Republicans reluctant to vote for Trump are encouraging a vote of confidence this year , #NeverTrump2016!, then Democrats are certainly arguing about the #PracticalVote.

Hillary Clinton is not a popular choice on the Left. She's a practical choice, certainly, but not a conscience-affirming vote. She comes with baggage both real and imagined. And she came out of a primary where a socialist came close to beating her. Eugene V. Debs would be proud of Bernie Sanders.

No mind about that. What matters is that on the right you have Voting Conscience, and on the left you have Practicality.

You have Trump or #NeverTrump, and you have Clinton or... Trump.

If you like Trump, you support overturning Obergefell v. Hodges. Which is definitely a vote of conning science.

If you like Trump, you're ignorant of actual science.

If you like, support, or in any way think Trump is right, you are ignoring economists, sociologists, geologists, and other -ists. So by all means, con science.

There are so many practical reasons—hashtag Practical—not to vote for Trump, I am amazed people still consider him a viable candidate.

True story: Six or so years ago, my husband Greg lamented his vote. “President Obama is not doing anything,” he said. “I voted for him and he hasn't done anything.”

“Did you read the article about how Mitch McConnell held a meeting the night of the inauguration?”

“Yes, but so what? Obama should fight.”

“This isn't politics anymore. This is a long game.”

Clinton has learned from the best, is what I'm saying. Over eight years, despite rabid obstruction, President Obama has gotten a good bit of his agenda done. And he even beat the Clintons in 2008. And he did it without conning science. He did it by being practical.



Wednesday, August 10, 2016

This Election, Lemme Tell You...

This election. Am I right?

Hey. I recall a time when people were okay being awful to one another. Now? You mention Trump's name and everyone screams 'racist'. I was playing poker the other day and got called a racist 12 times. I finally had to cut my losses. Leave my chips.

I don't even play poker. I just know to yell 'Trump' at cards is a useful skill.

My boss the other day. I asked her, so how's your husband? And she said, I can't talk to him anymore. He's DVRing MSNBC when he's at work, he's watching CNN when he's at home, and he's yelling all the time. I don't even have a joke for this. He's actually doing this. I asked about FOX and she said "Stop reminding me of ALL CAPS."

No, seriously, it's a thing causing stress in a marriage.

But seriously, they're in love.

BUT STOP WITH THE CAPS. CNN. FOX. CSNBC. MSNBC. DVR.

They just don't talk no longer because Rachael Maddow and Anderson Cooper can't agree on sexual positions.

No respect.

Also: I'm done with Trump supporters. Hey! I am. I'm thinking people who justify Trump are misguided humans who also think 'The Big Bang Theory' is a sitcom. Hey. Whoa. 'The Big Bang Theory' is not a sitcom. It's an excuse for commercial advertisers to pretend they understand science and cosmology.  "Is it just me, or is it getting Swiffer in here." Hey!

Trump just suggested a Second Amendment solution to Hillary Clinton. Only Trump would try to be Aaron Burr. Next he'll pull a Goldwater and do whatever Goldwater did to not be elected.

Seriously.

But you know what's serious? There are people who are trying to justify Trump. And they're serious to the point that they are willing to excuse a lot of things: they're excusing hate, logic, family, federal law, and good jokes.

Here's a good joke: I hope my opponent falls in cat-poop.

Here's a bad joke: Please just shoot all of the people who oppose me. I get no respect. I'm an old man. Give me some mercy. Just shoot me.

No. Really. Just shoot me.

Shoot me. Or send me to one of those anti-gay places. No respect.

Earn this: click on it


https://youtu.be/DODvxqkUlac


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Review of 'Julius Caesar' written by Donald Trump, age 13

I really liked that part where Calpurnia swallowed coals. They were burning coals, hot coals, the best coals she could swallow. She made me proud. We need more coal to swallow.

Outside of that, it was understandable and totally right, completely right they did what they did to Cinna. I wanted to call him Cinnamon, because he was such a loser bit of spice. No one uses cinnamon anymore. No one. No one. No one asks for cinnamon on their food. You know what they ask for? They ask for salt. They ask for pepper. They ask for salt and pepper and no one gives a damn about Cinna, man. They just don't care.

But the purpose of 'Julius Caesar' is not Cinna or Calpurnia. It's about Julius, and how he'd built all of Rome, and how men in the government conspired together to undo all that he had built. You have Antony, and you have Brutus. Brutus ends up killing himself, right, he kills himself while Antony gets his own new Shakespeare play. There is no 'Brutus and Cleopatra'. There is 'Antony and Cleopatra,' and it's about building a wall so high Liz Taylor's hair couldn't get over it.

There are some that say, and I get why they say this. Really, I understand. I understand. I get why they must say that Cleopatra was African. She was black. They say this. Truly. And they say the same about Jesus, and a lot of other people we admire. Political correctness! It is politically correct to say such things as "A woman on the African continent in 69 BC was not a white European woman from 1963."

But I'm not supposed to talk about that. I'm supposed to talk here about 'Julius Caesar'.  Which Shakespeare wrote against his will. It's true. He wrote this play against his will, and most of his plays against his will. If he'd known I would be forced to read this play, and many other plays by him, he would never have agreed to finish them. This one. Them. These plays. 'People will be forced, in government-funded schools, to read my work?' he'd say.

One should not be forced to read, or think, or use Cinnamon.

Coal, however, is a very good thing. It keeps us burning all the right people.

In conclusion, I am too rich to read this play. You will give me an A for this essay. The best A. My A is so big no other student in this class will be allowed to bring knives to school and keep me from this A.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Mental Health and You

There are things we aren't to talk about, and I don't know why.

First, a meet-cute story about how Greg and I got together: In 1999, I was in college after a few years of not being in college. The previous attempts at college had not been very successful--I'd wasted a lot of money and time on several universities without realizing not everyone needs a degree; some people, despite conventional wisdom, are not at their best in academia. I'd spent my time at the University of Memphis avoiding classes, reading both comic and actual books, going to events, and seeing films not readily available in my small town back in Alabama. Rather than admit I'd spent a great deal of time and money not attending classes, I declared I was miserable in Memphis, and wanted to attend the University of Alabama (I was not miserable in Memphis--I loved the city; I just wasn't mature enough at the time to realize all I needed to do was get a job, move out of the dorm, and go about my business).

Living in Tuscaloosa was like living in an alternate dimension. I did go to my classes, but I hated each class. I read, but I did not read the assigned material. I did not socialize. I ate Krispy Kreme donuts for dinner. My dorm-mate was a Japanese exchange student named Yu who did not speak English and so was not able to warn me that he suffered from epilepsy.

Yu was a sweet guy, but sad. One day, I came into the dorm-room to find him sobbing into his girlfriend's chest. The girlfriend, whose name I can't recall but whose face I still remember--she was pretty, without make-up--translated Yu's words to me. The girlfriend, speaking for Yu, said, "I had a seizure at the mall. In front of everyone. Everyone saw me have the attack. I am humiliated."

A few weeks before, when Yu and I moved into the dorm together, he saw Mishima's Confessions of a Mask on my bed, a book I'd been rereading periodically since graduating high school. He pointed to the book and then did the international sign for 'crazy' at one temple. And I thought about that moment during this new moment, where Yu tried to explain to me his troubles through his girlfriend.

"I am humiliated," the girlfriend had meant. What she said was, "Yu is humiliated."

And I was.

Not to draw a direct, serious line between epilepsy and being gay, but it is very difficult to be gay in public, at least for me. Yu saw his seizures as a weakness of self, and for a long time, I saw my own urges the same way.

Funny story: I latched on to Lao Tzu and the Tao te Ching as a way to bleed emotion from myself. Lao was a Chinese man who would not know what to do with Yukio Mishima, a Japanese man, and during my time at the University of Alabama, I spent a great deal of time bouncing between Lao and Mishima; when presented with Yu's humiliation, though, I failed to make the connection. It is possible to both be comfortable with yourself in public, and be at one with the public. And so rather than give Yu a comforting hug to let him know it was okay, I simply nodded at his girlfriend, left the room, and went to my RA, demanding to know why I hadn't been told my roommate was prone to seizures.

So, to the meet-cute story, which I promised a few paragraphs up.

Some years passed, and I left college, then returned. There was some death in those years, and divorces, and I had a relationship or two. Remained guarded about my condition, remained determined to bleed out all emotion just to get through each day.

I wasn't at all good at being emotionless, by the way. It took a decade or two before I'd understand I wasn't meant for the Tao anymore than I was meant for college.

But at my third college, I ended up writing for the school paper. I had a column that was, if I'm honest, a pretty good column. In fact, it was the reason I continued showing up to classes, and lasting a few semesters--I wasn't in school for the degree; I was in school to learn how to help Yu not be afraid to have a seizure in a mall in Tuscaloosa. I was in school to learn how to not be humiliated by being you. And one evening, I decided to write about being gay.

When I turned in the column, the publications adviser urged me not to let it run. "It is beyond the pale," she said. She was a wonderful woman with a dog named Disney, and both she and the dog are dead now. It happens.

She meant well. She was hoping to protect me.

What she didn't know is that I'd decided to come out because I'd met a guy.

Greg was not my first boyfriend; I'd had two others: one in high school and one in that between-time when I wasn't in college. There was also a girlfriend, who remains a friend. But I met Greg while covering the first meeting of the University of North Alabama's Gay-Straight Alliance. It was the first time I'd allowed myself to want someone, and acknowledged to myself that I wanted him, and pursued, and won.

The set-up: the editor of the paper mentioned there was to be a meeting of the GSA, and it might be interesting to cover it if anyone wanted to visit the meeting and write about it. I volunteered. Back then, I wore a floppy fisherman's hat. I had the hat on when I went to the meeting--terrified, I might add, that I'd give myself away as anything more than a writer. I wasn't there as just a writer; I was there as both Lao Tzu and as Yukio Mishima.

Greg was in charge of the meeting. He was the first president of the University of North Alabama's Gay-Straight Alliance. He sat in the crook of a half-moon-shaped arrangement of chairs, some filled, some empty, and held off on the meeting. "I was told the paper would have someone here so we're just waiting on the reporter," he said eventually.

Someone to Greg's left said, "The reporter is right there." And pointed at me. And Greg looked at me.

And that was that. A few days later, Greg and I went on a date.

And then I wrote my column, and came out to my parents.

And not long after that, Greg told me he was on meds for his disorder. And I knew I had a choice: I could leave the room and demand why the RA hadn't told me about Greg's condition, or I could stay and try to make sure things work out as well as possible.

I'm still awful at having public displays of conditions, but I chose to stay, and I eventually left Alabama to enjoy a life in the city, and realized New York is Lao Tzu and Alabama is Yukio Mishima, and I love both.

So, going back to the first line of this, having said all this, there are things we can't talk about, and I don't know why. There are other people in my life who are hurting, and I cannot ask, on their behalf, for help. It is a nice thing to put out your vulnerability because the world isn't as awful as it seems. Sometimes, most times, the world understands and throws back support.

Or maybe Yu and I are just lucky.

Sarah Pa.... Can't Finish

It's late. The air conditioner a floor above us is dripping water in steady clicks, and I assume our AC is doing the same onto the AC below us.

Clickclick.

Greg's hand is currently on my left foot. We were watching a movie, then he went to sleep in a mass of pillows and sheets and comforters. Waf, our dog, is in the mix too: he is crumbled into the mess and it is quiet.

Except HBO's movie, Game Change, is on the television. Julianne Moore is pretending to be Sarah Palin. And while it's a wonderful performance, it wasn't my intention to be the only human awake and watching the film.

It's difficult to admit how truly sorry I feel for Sarah Palin because she's done a lot of work dismissing humanity.  But I pity Sarah Palin. Her random hatreds--of Muslims, of Lame-Stream media, of human decency--are from a place no one can explain. She knows what she knows, but she can't understand her knowledge is not absolute.

Same with Donald Trump.

Clickclick.

Greg's moved his hand from my foot, but our dog is still nuzzled into my armpit, and Game Change is playing on.... and here's were we are: Sarah Palin somehow convinced an entire voting group that they were right to feel racism is okay. Sarah Palin enabled already-awful assholes to feel right in their assholishness.

Game Change, which is a film made during the 'Birther' shit Donald Trump wallowed around in, tries to explain Sarah Palin. Game Change makes you feel, for a moment, Sarah Palin's humanity.

Game Change was made four years ago, and could not anticipate Donald Fucking Trump, nor could it inform the political reality we're currently living.

The upstairs AC drips down onto my AC, and my AC drips onto the one below. Trickle-down is an honest and innocent thing, but it is not economical.

Sarah Palin was a mistake, but she was not an honest or innocent mistake. She was a drip that landed on an AC, and created Donald Trump below.

Waf isn't concerned with the clickclik.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Say My Name

So this is where I am: I cannot speak to actual humans supporting Donald Trump. This is not a boilerplate statement, and not a bumper-sticker quote I'd paste to my non-existent car. It's a simple fact: I am incapable of speaking with, conversing with, interacting with, or otherwise engaging with any human enabling Donald Trump.

It's true—eight years ago I was not on board, or in the pantsuit pocket, of Hillary Clinton. It's also true—I have not always been a fan of President Obama. It's also true I gave up on The Walking Dead after season 2... but I was an early adopter of Breaking Bad so I know I can be right more often than wrong.

Breaking Bad was one of the best shows in the history of televised entertainment. If Shakespeare had been alive during its run, he would've put his pen down occasionally and said, 'Wow, I wish I had thought of that line.'

The one who knocks... Wait. Not my point here.

Some years back, I wrote a very long screed for a website that no longer exists (I wrote the screed as Samuel L. Jackson, and was apparently so good at writing Samuel L. Jackson blogs that the site was sued by Jackson's lawyers) that America did not need another Clinton or a Bush. I, as Sam-Jack, was referencing the fact that since 1980, there had been either a Clinton or a Bush in one of the top two positions in United States government.

We needed a breather. And we got one. We got Obama.

Obama did some things, and then he did some other things, and then he announced he was for marriage equality. And the White House did this:

A year ago, I went back home for a funeral. I was still amazed, excited, energized from that moment, seeing the White House bathed in rainbow colors and celebrating not just marriage equality but my own marriage. My own union.

Keep in mind: most of my family like Greg—my husband—more than they like me. Which I get. He's more pleasant than I am.

Also keep in mind: My family is in Alabama.

Alabama is not as backwoods as you'd think. Alabamians are fine with the gays, the lesbians, the trans, the poly, the differently-colored, and the differently-religious. Even the non-religious.

The hard truth I've come to—and realized during my last visit home—is that they are not fine with people pointing out faults.

The funeral was for my step-grandfather, and there's nothing I can say about it. But the funeral coincided with Donald Trump's rally in Birmingham. Perhaps you recall this rally. It's what made him the nominee. 

What I learned during the meditation on death and the visits with family is that there is no true acceptance. There is always some suspicion. If no one voted on my marriage, as they never voted for desegregation and they never voted for the very idea of voting—if the Supreme Court forced the point rather than waiting on a referendum—my marriage was, and remains, null.

Donald Trump does not give a shit, even a poople, about this. In his interviews over the many, many years, Trump has supported gay rights, LGBTQ rights, abortion, and, I'm sure, a new season of Breaking Bad (But he thinks it is called 'Breaking Nad').

Donald Trump is a bit like my family. They are fine with me. They support me. But they will be not be told how to make being me a legal and safe reality, and they will by holy hell never assume that that such protections cover anyone who is not Greg's husband.

So I cannot have sensible conversations with Trump supporters, or those who play games with the voting options. It's very true that we need a third party. Any other election I'd agree, but now is not the time to make the point and veer into Perotvia. If you're feelin' the Bern, I get it, but the Bern himself has asked you to vote for fucking Hillary Clinton.

If you're liking Jill Stein: I get it. I mean, you should probably put down the Stein and vote for Hillary Clinton, but I get it (not really). But well-intentioned.


Just remember this, you upside-down voting Bernie-bro Stein lifters: there are people who support my gay marriage but are still resistant to the idea that I can be married.  

Sunday, July 10, 2016

USonian Arc

If you are a normal, white American, the truth is you don’t understand being black in America and you instinctively underestimate the level of discrimination and the level of additional risk. --Newt Gingrich (July, 2016)


Token, I get it now. I don't get it. I've been trying to say that I understand how you feel, but, I'll never understand. I'll never really get how it feels for a black person to have somebody use the N word. I don't get it. --South Park (March, 2007)

The most profound thing a person can do is admit there is a problem. This week, USonians admitted they have a problem. It was an obvious problem. And, as problems go, it had many symptoms, and many couch-doctors offering up well meaning diagnoses.

"Too many guns," some said.

"Not enough guns," others said.

"Racism," more said.

"Blue lives matter."

Orlando, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Columbine. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. Mathew Shepard. James Byrd.

More guns, less guns, love, empathy, rule of law, Second Amendment... everyone had a general diagnosis for this week, but it reminded me of the story of the blind men and the elephant--you know, the one where some blind men feel up an elephant and conclude that the molested beast is anything other than what it is.

We have a race problem. True. Very true. So very true that even racists step back occasionally and say, "If you are a normal, white American, you don't understand..."

We have a white privilege problem. Also true. I know I've done things that would've gotten me put away for a long time if I'd been a different color. Or a different sex. Or a sex different from the one with which I identify. (I'm white.)

Which, by the way: We have a gender problem. If you don't know what CIS means, please look it up. And if you don't understand why nodding 'yes' at every Caitlyn Jenner interview is a failure on your part, take a moment to consider that Caitlyn Jenner supports a political party that endorses, in an Old Testament sense, her eradication.

Also, we have a gun problem.

Which is an interesting problem to have. It is quite literally the Founding Fathers anticipation of Anton Chekhov--they hung the Second Amendment up over the mantle, and we're now in the third act (which is funny because there are no second acts in American lives--we've already beat conventional wisdom!).

There are no good guys with guns. There are humans with guns, of course. But there are humans with spades as well. There are humans with knives. There are humans with screwdrivers. There are humans with fingers. There are humans with many kinds of tools, and a gun is a tool. Fingers, knives, screwdrivers, hammers, remote controls--all tools. All tools are, if used with enough determination, lethal. I get it.

But the Second Amendment only protects the right to wield one of those tools. The Second Amendment does not cover--in fact, no where in the Constitution is it stated that we have the right to--fingers. Hammers are not mentioned. Knives are not included. We did have the right to own people the same color as Tamir Rice, but we didn't have the right to own our own fingers, which with enough determination can be as deadly as a gun.

You can take my fingers from my cold, dead hands.

What's interesting about this week is that people did not vilify #BlackLivesMatter. An angry Black man shot a lot people, and for the most part we...

took a moment. We, no matter our politics and no matter our Cis/race/age/finger-count, took that...

moment. It gives me hope. It gives a lot of people hope, which validates my own hope and so I feel okay in acknowledging it: Hope.

Some have tried to dull the overall arc of the moral universe, which is okay. That's why the arc isn't truly an arc. It bends, but it also doesn't form a beautiful rainbow (Because I'm gay, I think in rainbows).

Dr. King said this: The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.

There are a lot of people who would like to make that arc a scythe.

There are a lot of people who have made the arc a dull and jagged thorn.

But it is amazing to me that everyone I know has decided two things:

1) Understand that the 5 cops in Dallas were killed by an insane person. Guns are not fingers. Guns are not humans.

2) Understand that love is a nice thing, with frilly bits and occasional hugs. We can disagree a lot, but we all should disagree with a bend toward justice. And justice bends.

Just, you know, be kind to one another. And do not assume you know it all. Black lives matter and...

I shouldn't have to tell you this.

Jesus, I'm a gay man who has a pretty secure gay-to-white ratio. I'm not likely to be shot, but there is a spectrum--if I kiss my husband in the wrong restaurant, or on the wrong streetcorner in the wrong state... All it takes is one insane person having a very bad day. But while I worry about assholes, I am not black. I know the bending arc. I know justice. It bent very sharply for people like me.

For black men? It doesn't bend. It dawdles, meanders, and bullets travel much more quickly than justice.

So.

Be kind. Be kind. Be kind.

Life is awful for every one of us.

Be kind.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Pride, a brief

I've been to the Pride Parade--the one in NYC, the one that started it all--and I hated it.

I went with a group of people, and we spent most of our time trying to keep together, searching for one another, signaling to one another where we were, sending up flares.

I went with my to-be husband. We got bored, grabbed dinner at a route-adjacent restaurant, and went home.

I went with friends and the to-be husband, had a panic attack, and vowed I'd never go again.

I made that vow, which was half-assed, five years ago. But whatever. I'll be going alone this Pride.

Alone, because my now-husband will be working. Alone, because it really cuts down on my social anxiety--I don't feel the need to keep track of anyone, and I don't panic when I get lost in the crowd.

Alone, because there is no way I'd miss this particular parade. It's only been a year since Obergfell v. Hodges, and it's only been three years since US v. Windsor. And less than two weeks since the Pulse slaughter.

I know the parade will be loud and crowded. It will also be a nice time for me--alone--to take a moment for myself. Odd, I know, in that it should be a time to be among friends, and one with a community, but this year? This year it just seems right to be there alone, and consider everything it means to be gay in the US, and appreciate the LBQT, and remember less than a decade ago my now-husband and I were worthless in the eyes of the law.



Maybe I'll take the dog.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

He's Outside Again

We were sitting down for dinner. As always, one of our kids--this time Lewis--was having a kid issue easily solved over the mashed potatoes and the meatloaf.

"It wasn't my fault," Lewis said. "Mooo-ooom. This meatloaf is dry."

"Not my fault," my wife, Iz, replied. "I just cook here."

Mysterious applause from the neighbors.

As Iz heaped a pile of dry meatloaf onto May's plate--dear May, with her pigtails tightly secured with yarn and her bright smile held up by childish innocence--I proposed a solution to Lewis. "Lewis," I said. "How is it not your fault?"

Lewis picked at his food for a moment.

"Lewis...?"

"Dad. Really. It wasn't my fault because Jamie was letting me read off his test." There were chuckles from outside our dining room, probably the neighbors watching a sitcom. "I didn't want to do it, Dad, but his answers were right there, dangling off his desk."

"Like when my scab dangled off my knee a few days after I had that rollerskate accident!" May offered.

Again, weird laughing from next door.

"Son," I said, putting down both my knife and my fork as a way to signal a very important moment of advice. "Just because--"

"He's outside again." Iz, who hadn't yet picked up her own knife and fork, nodded to the front door of our living room, which was connected to the dining room. In fact, the dining room and the living room were the same room--with some creative furniture placement, we'd always made it seem like the one room was, in fact, two separate set spaces.

I followed Iz's gaze to the door. There were bright lights suddenly pouring in through the curtains of our front door window. And we heard a voice: "Yeah, this is where I used to live. Right here. It's where I grew up, and where I learned the importance of survival."

Lewis looked at me. "Dad, can he just--"

"Hush, son. Eat your... what is this?"

"Dried meatloaf," Iz replied. "You were eating it just a few minutes ago without questioning it." Again, the neighbors laughed and hooted a bit.

"Dried meatloaf. I mean, good meatloaf. Son, just eat what's on your plate and ignore--"

"When I lived here," we heard the asshole on our porch say as the lights shifted, "we were so poor I'd never think I'd be so rich now."

"Goddammit." Yes, I cursed. And I apologized. "Sorry, kids."

May gasped. Iz shot a look at me that should've been from a grassy knoll. Lewis assumed he was now off the hook and muttered, "Goddamn is right" under his breath. The neighbors laughed even harder than before, and there was a smattering of applause.

"Go on," Iz said, her eyes stuck to me. "Finish that sentence."

"Alright. Goddammit, I will. Goddammit, every time we sit down to eat, this asshole has another news crew following him up to our porch, where he talks about how poor he was when he lived here, and how he overcame his poverty, and do they honestly, every time, need to get footage of him standing on our goddamn porch talking about how awful it was for him to live in what is now our goddamn house?"

The neighbors--annoyingly--reacted to whatever was on their TV set with a loud 'Oooooooo' sound.

"I mean, every goddamn time there's a documentary about assholes, there's one scene where they go back to 'where it all began.' And it is always our goddamn home. Here we are, trying to have a nice life of dried meatloaf and working-class situations, and then this asshole is showing up on our porch to tell a film crew just how awful and hard-scrabble it was to live here."

Iz shifted her eyes. When she shifts her eyes, I always get it. It's a signal, always, and her shifting struck me in a way no outside light or laughs ever could.

"You can see how the neighborhood is now, but imagine how much worse it was when I was here," the asshole on our porch said. His voice, like the kleigs, and the neighbors' laughter, cut into our dinner. "It is my hope to inform people of just how awful it is to be in these homes."

I met Iz's eyes. Nodded, which is my own signal. "It's not dry meatloaf, son. And it doesn't matter what's dangling off what. You don't cheat."

The neighbors burst into applause. I assumed some resolution had been made on the show they were watching, but the asshole on the porch continued talking, as always, for another 30 minutes.

"We're a two-parter!" May shouted, clapping.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Euthanize Yourself First

"We didn't name him Satchel." Mia corrects me in my first question. "He did. I didn't know who Satchel Paige was, really. I mean I sort of got it, and thought, 'Okay. Your wish, whatever.' It's a shame Ronan doesn't like the name, but I understand."

I'm in Farrow's undisclosed apartment somewhere in the northeast United States. These days, we'd all like to think she is in the Dakota, hanging out with her fictional counterpart Rosemary Woodhouse, and her implied counterpart Yoko Ono. Like Rosemary, the character she played so ably in the 1968 film "Rosemary's Baby," Farrow seems to have given up one of her children to the Hollywood gods to secure a husband's career. And like Yoko Ono, Farrow has seen the hatred of fans blaming her for the tarnished and neglected reputation of a Hollywood institution.

Unlike Rosemary and Yoko, Farrow has never lived at the Dakota. Also like Rosemary and Yoko, Farrow never married Woody Allen. She did, however, marry Andre Previn and Frank Sinatra.

Not bad!

"I live a life. It's not like I think much about the show-business stuff anymore." Farrow sits across from me, barefoot and bright-faced, a cup of hot tea steaming beneath her unadorned nose left untouched by surgery. "I had my moments of fame. But I'm comfortable in my infamy."

One can't help but notice the photos in Mia's home. Or at least in her living room, as she does not let people wander about her home. In her living room, one can spy the pictures of her life: a framed photo of an empty frame; a cropped picture of a frame with Dean Martin; Roman Polanski giving her direction, with a hot tub in the background.

"My life has been rich," she replies when I ask about these pictures.

"What was it like to be served with divorce papers by Sinatra while on set?"

"Well. When I finished off that movie screaming 'What have you done with his eyes' I wasn't actually asking about the damned baby. Sinatra was--"

"Known for his eyes." I nodded. Noted.

Asked the question I'd wanted to ask: "So you defend Roman Polanski. You gave a deposition defending a child-molester, right?"

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Euthanize Your Idols (Complete)

 Two things about this: It's depressing to write, and it was inspired by this article. Oh, and a third thing: abuse of any kind is awful, and we are all horrible in our toleration of it. And we all tolerate it in ways we don't understand--in our shopping, our entertainment, our scholarship, our conversations. We should not be too easy on ourselves. We should not settle for--and not serve up--small portions of humanity.

1.

The thirty thousand square foot Parisian home sits atop a hill and peers down, like Vanna White's ex-husband's ghost, upon a landscape of chaos and failure. Its new inhabitant has added some personal touches, but the house is silent, organized, and exactly three stories with the promise of a cupola when necessary.

I meet Woody Allen on the second floor, having been given a tour of the first by a funny personal assistant who kept making Dostoevsky jokes.

"We're currently in France," I said after a particularly tart Notes from the Underground riff.

"I am within the Allies," was the response. Fair enough.

On the second floor, Allen approaches me. He is a small man, bent to be smaller, and wearing a simple ensemble: sport coat, fisherman's cap, plaid shirt, a tie, large-cord corduroys, argyle socks, a standard breathing facilitator, four vein tenders (his one luxury), and blue Keds. For a man of 236, he looks healthy, if a bit tired.

For a moment we just stand. I'm told that one must let Allen speak first. When conducting interviews, it is customary to be polite to the subject and make sure the subject is comfortable. So I wait. The personal assistant smiles at me, bows to a corner of the room where no one is standing, and exits the room.

Allen and I are alone. Staring. Waiting.

The room is elaborately austere. Parisian sun spills in at a deceptive angle, resulting in a pool of sunlight that glances off the wood floor and bounces off the skylight, which lingers above us like a cat with narcolepsy. There are rubber plants denied a chance to bounce, and real plants so confused by the room that they have turned their leaves toward the bright white walls. A television hovers above a peach couch with a Fatty Arbuckle film playing less-than-silently.

"I, you know, didn't expect you. Didn't expect you so early. I was." Allen gestures to his breathing facilitator. "I was snorkeling earlier."

It is his first joke. The rubber plants shake a bit, and I know this will be an easy interview.


This was not an easy interview. When it was first assigned to me, I attempted to get out of it. After all, I remember what the 1990s were like. Sexual crimes were popular then. There were only two sexes. "I'm nearly 300 years old," I explained to my editor, who reminded me he was pushing 500 and that his prostate was now a corsage on his shoulder.

"Marc. I know this is tough. But it's an interview, it's rare, and it's on. You're going. You've always wanted to go to France, right?"

"But he... did things I don't want to discuss. With him. And if I'm asking him questions, I'll have to ask. And I don't want to ask."

"So talk about his house. I just need three columns and a picture."


So I'm talking about his house. It is three levels. It is in Paris. I have not yet seen Soon Yi, or their children, or their famous 32 tiny horses that roam the premises. There are a few Oscars on a mantle, several thousand film posters on the walls, and a very disconnected elderly man pointing at rubber plants.

"So. Mr. Allen." I smile. "Can we sit down? Is it okay if I sit down?"

Mr. Allen, as you would expect--as you've seen him do since his 2123 blockbuster 'Bullets Over My Attic Couch'--gestures to the one open window. "Have a, you know. Tsch. Have a seat."

Confidently, I move to the open ledge of the window, and the air pushes into my back like a hundred hands, holding me aloft, scented with the scent of a thousand Frenchmen. I sit on the narrow threshold of window/not-window, and ask my first question.

"It's been nearly 200 years since the Dylan allegations. How do you think it has affected your work?"

Allen moves to the couch, bumping his head on the television floating above it. His contact with the TV immediately shuts off the Arbuckle film. The television floats above him like a blank abyss.

"It's. Tsch. You know, I haven't thought about those things in centuries." One of the four vein tenders digs deep, turns bright red, and is expelled. He replaces it with a flourish worthy of Alvy Singer. "To this day, I'm not sure what to think. It's like death, and my, you know, my fear of death. Who knew you could not die? That was a century and a half ago."

Allen goes silent. His assistant, sensing a lull, enters the room, gives us water, and leaves.

"The water is good." I say this honestly. I say this gratefully.

"It's a luxury. I know." Allen seems almost embarrassed. "We ship it in off-planet. Don't worry. It is filtered. We filter it first."

"So you once did a movie where your love interest was 17 years old. I believe you were 40 at the time."

"Yes. And she was in such small portions."

"I'll just ask. It's been 200 years."

"Small portions... I meant my vein tender. Tsch. Give me a second."

As he changes his tender, I take a moment to review my notes, which are mostly blank. My butt hurts--a window frame is less comfortable than it appears.  Also a lot more narrow. Small portions.

"Changed." Allen  leans towards me. "So you were asking."

"Yes. You're a child molester, right?"

2.

A century ago, I heard a story on the long-running radio program (remember radio?), "This American Life." It was a simple story of a man undergoing a two-week fast--not because of political reasons, but to shift himself into a higher consciousness. Or something. It has been well over 100 years since I heard the story and despite the memory upgrade, the details of the story are lost on me.

"Fasting," then--in the early years of the new millennium--meant a removal of food from oneself. It was believed that to fast was to become pure either in ideology or in body, and is not unlike vein tenders, but without the technology and scientific approval. Anyway, the man doing the fasting was named David Rakoff, and at one point--this I vividly recall--he is sitting at a desk, contemplating a banana, and discussing the presence of the banana with the host of 'This American Life,' who happens to be Ira Glass, current narrator of so many of our lives. Then, Glass was a simple radio host; now, he speaks to all of us, letting us know what our minds are thinking and what our eyes are seeing.

These were the days when an interior monologue was boring. Now, thanks to Ira Glass, all of us have self-contained, fully-produced interior monologues, and our lives have certainly been made all the richer.

Rakoff contemplates the banana, compares it to Chekhov's famed gun on the mantle. "If there is a banana on your desk in the first act," he says, "you must eat it by the third act." Then he mentions a little-remembered Woody Allen movie from the late 20th century called "Manhattan."

"All this fasting reminds me of the woman in that movie who says, 'I've finally had an orgasm but my analyst tells me it was the wrong kind.' I just feel like how come all the other kids are getting enlightened and I'm not."

Sitting in the window of Allen's Parisian home with the wafting breeze pressing against my back, this is how I feel. I have asked the question I came here to ask, of course, but there's a history behind that question stretching back to my proto-youth, when I was having my first 20th birthday and hearing about the scandal. Allen's last film with Mia Farrow was to be released soon, and tabloids--newspapers filled with exclamation points, if you recall--were stuffed with stories about Woody Allen. It was the most people had paid attention to him, and they were not discussing his films but his sex life and his relationships. And all I could think, then, was that someone in charge of marketing the film had a terrible lapse in judgement in how to promote the film.

My question lingers a bit, like the floating television with the former Fatty Arbuckle silent film suddenly removed from its screen. Allen, sitting neatly on the peach couch with his hands on either side, touching but not gripping the couch cushions, and his breathing facilitator slightly slumped out of his nose, stares me down. Gently. It is a gentle stare.

"The, you know, the interesting thing is that I've, tsch, I've been answering that question for decades and no answer. Like, it's. No answer I give is what, tsch, is what keeps the question from coming up again." Allen leans forward and takes a glass of off-planet filtered water from the table before him. Sips. As he drinks, his assistant comes in and speaks.

"You have a five o'clock meeting at four o'clock, Mr. Konigsberg," he says.

Allen raises a hand. "It's okay. We can--we can reschedule to three o'clock."

I can't help but think this is code for something--some mysterious communication between a loyal employee and employer. It is currently 12:20. The assistant disappears again, leaving me alone with my thought of Allen.

"But the question is there because you haven't done much to satisfy the answer."

"Wh-what is the answer?"

Good question.

Some time ago, there was a man named Bill Cosby. Obscure, yes, but you may recall his hectic sweaters and desperate expressions. Once he stood atop the world like Ozymandias or Donald Trump the Fifth, a man of infinite benevolence pointing the world toward a kinder, smarter place. His death in 2025, however, went unnoticed except by the most quiet of news journals. His death was a footnote rather than a period at the end of a sentence.

"The answer, Mr. Allen, is that I don't know what to think. But I keep thinking of Fatty Arbuckle and I keep thinking of Bill Cosby. And then there is you."

Wind again. It occurs to me that if someone opens up another window, the wind will shift direction and push against my chest, and I may let the wind carry me out of the window.

"I've said all I, you-you know. It's. I have said everything."

"You've said your work is not autobiographical."

"True. Yes. No. It isn't autobiographical."

"But you once cast your lovers in your films. Louise Lasser. Diane Keaton. Mia Farrow. And a lot of your films have bits of echoes from your life. 'Stardust Memories' is quite literally about how you transitioned from light funny comedies to more serious films."

"I'm not --tsch, not an intellectual. I'm not, tsch, you know, I-I-I just make movies. If you see connections it, tsch, it's like in Dickens when Scrooge sees Marley's ghost. He says--and I'm paraphrasing by delivering the direct quote, 'You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato.  There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are'. Whoever I am, I'm not the person on the screen."

"Did you just echo, literally, my 'bit' comment? You're suggesting your experiences and your views of life don't inform who you are as an artist."

"Craft. It's a craft, not an art."

Another vein tender falls from his flesh. He plucks it from his neck and inserts another one.

3.

When first given this assignment, this interview, I had been on a long fast. Like David Rakoff, I'd starved myself for years of Woody Allen's works, hoping to reach a fictional Nirvana of acceptance and peace. Also like Rakoff, I'd said to myself, "How come all the other kids are enlightened and I'm not."

I'm nearly 100 years into my second life cycle. Every few months, I go in for vein calibration and artery maintenance; my skin has been rejuvenated many times, and my memory has been upgraded enough to recall the smallest detail. Except I don't recall anymore what I saw in Woody Allen. I no longer remember why he was important to me.

True, I once had a dog named after a dog in one of his films. And I lived, for a time, in a city he romanticized. (Not that one. And no, not that one either. The other one, which sank in 2089.) But why I once loved his films and short stories and stand-up routines, I can't remember.

"I need three columns," my editor told me upon assigning me the interview. So these are those three columns. This is the last one.

There's an old joke. Two elderly women are at a Catskills mountain resort, and one of them says, "Boy, I wish I could remember why I liked reading Nancy Drew." And the other one says, "It is a mystery."

Allen and I talk for a while. The hour grows late, and the light grows dim. The sirens outside signal the end of Safe Egress, so I know it is time to leave. He stands, as do I.

"One more question." I say this as I take one more glance around the room, which has shifted into a night sanctuary for Mr. Allen. The rubber plants have gone away. The real plants have turned away from the walls to peer inward, toward the couch. The couch, oddly, has become a bed.

"Okay." Allen pauses mid-gesture, his hand extended for a final handshake. His hand remains in mid-air, extended but not touching.

"So. Your films were--and are--all about relationships and connection, and you did--and still do--write for women in a way that's rare for men. You have empathy in your work. So why, then, do you seem so indifferent in your life? When your daughter wrote about her experience, why were you so dismissive? If it had been a plot-line in one of your films--"

"It wasn't a film. Movies are where you get to be god. I write and direct because I don't believe in God. If I were God in my life, I'd be a better person."

"But, don't you see? You're letting yourself off the hook." The assistant appears again, holding a hat and coat I hadn't given him. "You can't be moral in your work if you're not moral in your life. I mean, you can be moral in your work, but you have to at least admit your immorality in your life. You rationalize everything. You write about how awful it is for a man to cheat on his wife, or beat his wife, then you have an affair with your long-time girlfriend's adoptive daughter."

"The heart wants what it wants." He adjusts his glasses. The breathing facilitator falls from his nose.

"The heart may, but the brain is in charge."

"I'm not God."

This is why it's best to have dead idols. They can't continue justifying themselves.


Euthanize Your Idols Part III

When first given this assignment, this interview, I had been on a long fast. Like David Rakoff, I'd starved myself for years of Woody Allen's works, hoping to reach a fictional Nirvana of acceptance and peace. Also like Rakoff, I'd said to myself, "How come all the other kids are enlightened and I'm not."

I'm nearly 100 years into my second life cycle. Every few months, I go in for vein calibration and artery maintenance; my skin has been rejuvenated many times, and my memory has been upgraded enough to recall the smallest detail. Except I don't recall anymore what I saw in Woody Allen. I no longer remember why he was important to me.

True, I once had a dog named after a dog in one of his films. And I lived, for a time, in a city he romanticized. (Not that one. And no, not that one either. The other one, which sank in 2089.) But why I once loved his films and short stories and stand-up routines, I can't remember.

"I need three columns," my editor told me upon assigning me the interview. So these are those three columns. This is the last one.

There's an old joke. Two elderly women are at a Catskills mountain resort, and one of them says, "Boy, I wish I could remember why I liked reading Nancy Drew." And the other one says, "It is a mystery."

Allen and I talk for a while. The hour grows late, and the light grows dim. The sirens outside signal the end of Safe Egress, so I know it is time to leave. He stands, as do I.

"One more question." I say this as I take one more glance around the room, which has shifted into a night sanctuary for Mr. Allen. The rubber plants have gone away. The real plants have turned away from the walls to peer inward, toward the couch. The couch, oddly, has become a bed.

"Okay." Allen pauses mid-gesture, his hand extended for a final handshake. His hand remains in mid-air, extended but not touching.

"So. Your films were--and are--all about relationships and connection, and you did--and still do--write for women in a way that's rare for men. You have empathy in your work. So why, then, do you seem so indifferent in your life? When your daughter wrote about her experience, why were you so dismissive? If it had been a plot-line in one of your films--"

"It wasn't a film. Movies are where you get to be god. I write and direct because I don't believe in God. If I were God in my life, I'd be a better person."

"But, don't you see? You're letting yourself off the hook." The assistant appears again, holding a hat and coat I hadn't given him. "You can't be moral in your work if you're not moral in your life. I mean, you can be moral in your work, but you have to at least admit your immorality in your life. You rationalize everything. You write about how awful it is for a man to cheat on his wife, or beat his wife, then you have an affair with your long-time girlfriend's adoptive daughter."

"The heart wants what it wants." He adjusts his glasses. The breathing facilitator falls from his nose.

"The heart may, but the brain is in charge."

"I'm not God."

This is why it's best to have dead idols. They can't continue justifying themselves.


Euthanize Your Idols Part II

A century ago, I heard a story on the long-running radio program (remember radio?), "This American Life." It was a simple story of a man undergoing a two-week fast--not because of political reasons, but to shift himself into a higher consciousness. Or something. It has been well over 100 years since I heard the story and despite the memory upgrade, the details of the story are lost on me.

"Fasting," then--in the early years of the new millennium--meant a removal of food from oneself. It was believed that to fast was to become pure either in ideology or in body, and is not unlike vein tenders, but without the technology and scientific approval. Anyway, the man doing the fasting was named David Rakoff, and at one point--this I vividly recall--he is sitting at a desk, contemplating a banana, and discussing the presence of the banana with the host of 'This American Life,' who happens to be Ira Glass, current narrator of so many of our lives. Then, Glass was a simple radio host; now, he speaks to all of us, letting us know what our minds are thinking and what our eyes are seeing.

These were the days when an interior monologue was boring. Now, thanks to Ira Glass, all of us have self-contained, fully-produced interior monologues, and our lives have certainly been made all the richer.

Rakoff contemplates the banana, compares it to Chekhov's famed gun on the mantle. "If there is a banana on your desk in the first act," he says, "you must eat it by the third act." Then he mentions a little-remembered Woody Allen movie from the late 20th century called "Manhattan."

"All this fasting reminds me of the woman in that movie who says, 'I've finally had an orgasm but my analyst tells me it was the wrong kind.' I just feel like how come all the other kids are getting enlightened and I'm not."

Sitting in the window of Allen's Parisian home with the wafting breeze pressing against my back, this is how I feel. I have asked the question I came here to ask, of course, but there's a history behind that question stretching back to my proto-youth, when I was having my first 20th birthday and hearing about the scandal. Allen's last film with Mia Farrow was to be released soon, and tabloids--newspapers filled with exclamation points, if you recall--were stuffed with stories about Woody Allen. It was the most people had paid attention to him, and they were not discussing his films but his sex life and his relationships. And all I could think, then, was that someone in charge of marketing the film had a terrible lapse in judgement in how to promote the film.

My question lingers a bit, like the floating television with the former Fatty Arbuckle silent film suddenly removed from its screen. Allen, sitting neatly on the tan couch with his hands on either side, touching but not gripping the couch cushions, and his breathing facilitator slightly slumped out of his nose, stares me down. Gently. It is a gentle stare.

"The, you know, the interesting thing is that I've, tsch, I've been answering that question for decades and no answer. Like, it's. No answer I give is what, tsch, is what keeps the question from coming up again." Allen leans forward and takes a glass of off-planet filtered water from the table before him. Sips. As he drinks, his assistant comes in and speaks.

"You have a five o'clock meeting at four o'clock, Mr. Konigsberg," he says.

Allen raises a hand. "It's okay. We can--we can reschedule to three o'clock."

I can't help but think this is code for something--some mysterious communication between a loyal employee and employer. It is currently 12:20. The assistant disappears again, leaving me alone with my thought of Allen.

"But the question is there because you haven't done much to satisfy the answer."

"Wh-what is the answer?"

Good question.

Some time ago, there was a man named Bill Cosby. Obscure, yes, but you may recall his hectic sweaters and desperate expressions. Once he stood atop the world like Ozymandias or Donald Trump the Fifth, a man of infinite benevolence pointing the world toward a kinder, smarter place. His death in 2025, however, went unnoticed except by the most quiet of news journals. His death was a footnote rather than a period at the end of a sentence.

"The answer, Mr. Allen, is that I don't know what to think. But I keep thinking of Fatty Arbuckle and I keep thinking of Bill Cosby. And then there is you."

Wind again. It occurs to me that if someone opens up another window, the wind will shift direction and push against my chest, and I may let the wind carry me out of the window.

"I've said all I, you-you know. It's. I have said everything."

"You've said your work is not autobiographical."

"True. Yes. No. It isn't autobiographical."

"But you once cast your lovers in your films. Louise Lasser. Diane Keaton. Mia Farrow. And a lot of your films have bits of echoes from your life. 'Stardust Memories' is quite literally about how you transitioned from light funny comedies to more serious films."

"I'm not --tsch, not an intellectual. I'm not, tsch, you know, I-I-I just make movies. If you see connections it, tsch, it's like in Dickens when Scrooge sees Marley's ghost. He says--and I'm paraphrasing by delivering the direct quote, 'You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato.  There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are'. Whoever I am, I'm not the person on the screen."

"Did you just echo, literally, my 'bit' comment? You're suggesting your experiences and your views of life don't inform who you are as an artist."

"Craft. It's a craft, not an art."

Another vein tender falls from his flesh. He plucks it from his neck and inserts another one.

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