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I used to regularly attend the Episcopal Church (Catholicism with softer edges), and in fact sang in the choir for many years. But the ritual marching and kneeling and droning of meaningless dogma finally became too much for me and I departed with a sigh of relief. I especially found the Apostles Creed offensive in its exclusionary verbiage, and realized that all organized religions practice shunning, whether they admit to it or not. That is why I have regarded the recent scandals in the Catholic Church as Divine Intervention, a bitch-slap from On High.
We sleep on an old, tattered mattress that we should have replaced long ago; but it is so comfortable, so inviting and familiar, we are loathe to do so. Its peaks and curves mimic our bodies; its soapy, musky scent belongs to us.
Its head abuts our bedroom window, which is open most of the year. Somehow in the course of that time a microscopic seedling or two filtered through the screen and wedged its tiny self into a small tear on the side of the mattress.
Hence, we have delicate, fearless blossoms sprouting from the sides of our bed.
It isn’t fair.
I’m a gay man with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), also known as Multiple Personality Disorder. I have two alters of whom I’m aware, and I can actually visualize them, grafted onto my hips like we’re fucking conjoined triplets. They are a couple of whores named Tits Ahoy (a lanky black woman with hairy arms) and Sweet Twat (a porcine redhead with an odiferous vagina). Why couldn’t my alters look like Russell Crowe and Brad Pitt? Why do they have to be women? They get all the action, too, including occasionally getting slapped around.
It just isn’t fair.
His eyes are cobalt blue. His jawline is structured and strong. His lashes are prolific and signifying. His mind is tempered, nimble, exotic, and muscular.
All words belong to him. He owns them, manipulates them, spanks them, makes love to them. His words elucidate, accommodate, and eradicate. They hide, disguise, lurk dangerously, and breathe wantonly.
His dreams flare up and startle, divine fortunes and save lives; they are angular and forbidden. They soar and swoop and climb and dive. They tease and test.
He fluently sings his artful, alluring songs with a sweetly tremulous pride.
His eyes are cobalt blue.
REMINISCES OF A GAY HUSTLER.
My first client was an enormous man who introduced himself as “Waddle.” I abbreviated the appellation to “Wad” and made inquiries regarding his desires. In response, he handed me a diaphanous, “I Dream of Jeannie” outfit and demanded that I put it on. Then, to the tinny strains of “Stranger in Paradise” emitting from a portable phonograph Wad had brought along, he instructed me to dance. I gyrated and swished and leered seductively.
When he reckoned himself satisfied, he ordered me to take off the costume, called me a faggot, paid me $150, and left.
REMINISCES OF A GAY HUSTLER.
My second client was a handsome, square jawed jarhead named Brad. When I made inquiries regarding his desires, he leaned towards me and whispered into my ear.
“Sing ‘The Marine’s Hymn,’” Brad hissed, as if he had asked me to perform something incredibly salacious. I began warbling with patriotic fervor, “From the Halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli…”
All the while Brad worked himself into a tumescent, lustful frenzy. During my seventh rendition, Brad unexpectedly screamed like a woman and shot an impressive spray that actually hit the ceiling with an audible SPLAT.
REMINISCES OF A (FORMER) GAY HUSTLER.
My final client looked nebbish and intellectual, like Casper Milquetoast. However, when I made inquiries regarding his desires, I was presented with the following:
He wanted to skewer my chest and suspend me in the air,
Richard Harris in “A Man Called Horse,” so that he could predict his future by the blood patterns on the floor.
He wanted to test the strength of my testicles with an electric cattle prod.
He wanted to staple my eyelids onto a stereo turntable and turn up the speed to 78 rpm.
Exit, Stage Left.
I contemplate The Sea -- now twisting, now swirling, always laboring, forever competing for the same form and moment. Beneath the apparent disorder, fish swim contentedly through their world of currents and tides, seemingly oblivious to that which flows around them and through them, their life-giving, aquatic Mother. Viewed from the air, this tumultuous array of randomness is a unified entity of immense, profound beauty. The Sea knows the songs of the fish, and understands the symphony of life It supports; but how many of the fish know the harmony of The Sea? How many comprehended Its symmetry, Its unanimity?
The ghost of Nathaniel Hawthorne came to my room last night.
He was easily recognizable by his large, profound head, his luminous eyes, and his exquisitely handsome features. He sat on the edge of my bed, emitting light, and chatted amiably about himself. He told me about his life in Salem, Concord, and London. About his friends Thoreau, Melville, and Emerson. About his sexuality. About his children. About all but his writing.
He departed and, incredibly, I slept.
In my dreams I sailed through an atmospheric sea of blue stars; of white, hallowed light; through the Milky Way and onward.
David is the one, true, all-encompassing Love of My Life.
I’ve had other loves, of course. One does in this type of situation. But David will always be the yardstick by which I measure my other paramours.
We met during a production of “West Side Story”; I was playing Tony, he was Riff. “Womb to Tomb, Sperm to Worm” was our motto, our creed. We had fifteen incredible years together, busily filled with love. And then David developed brain cancer, and the rest, as they say, is history.
To this day, “West Side Story” is an exquisite agony for me.
A couple of months ago I had an odd dream.
I dreamt I went to a white sale. At J.C. Pennys. With Ethel Merman.
I love white sales, but having Ms. Merman along for the ride was a bit disconcerting. I half expected, while scrutinizing thread counts, for her to break into song, at the top of her formidable lungs: “HONEY, EVERYTHING’S COMING UP ROSES!”
So I’ve been practicing lucid dreaming. “Take Control!” became my watchcry. And it is working.
Last night I dreamt I went to a white sale. At J.C. Pennys. With Angela Lansbury.
I love white sales.
Without warning, I caught the reflection of my face in the mirror, and I was astonished at the visage peering dimly back at me. The eyes were yellowed and hollow, filled with lost want; the cheekbones threatened to poke through the skin. What hair was left clung tenaciously to my scalp, slick and still. My bedsores were fluently oozing a viscous, bloody seepage that was poisonous to the rest of the human race.
And then she came, and gently took my hand. She smiled into my bleared eyes, led me to my bed, and softly sang until I fell asleep.
Bette David sure had balls. I once read where a journalist had asked if her hair was real. She tartly replied, “Yes, this is my real hair, and these are my real teeth, and these are my real tits.”
A few years ago, during a bout with the flu in which my fever peaked at 104, I hallucinated that Bette was standing over my bed, berating me for being such a pantywaist. I cited my temperature, but she dismissed it derisively. “You are ill because you BELIEVE in your fever, that’s all!”
It sure sounded like something she’d have said.
When I was about six years old I had a nightmare that I have never forgotten.
I was riding in the backseat of a car; in front was a man and a woman, complete strangers. They were supposedly giving me a lift home, a service for which I was appreciative, but I felt uneasy. They were unusually quiet and still.
They stopped at a house over a mile from my own and told me this was where I lived. When I tried to correct them, they pulled off their heads to reveal smoking, terrifying engines, their oily pistons cranking relentlessly.
Fisher cats are screaming their unearthly shout from outside my window. It is a sound not unlike the high-pitched screech of monkeys, angry and scolding. Their lament is banshee-like, filled with sorrow and unjustified torment. I am afraid they sense my cats lay within the walls of the house and that they are vociferously demanding their meal. It is a sweltering, mercilessly warm evening, but my windows are shut tight and securely locked. I sweat naked on the bed, starved for oxygen, and listen as the fisher cats keen and wail and curse the barricades that separates them from dinner.
How am I? Well…
I’m tired, hungry, lonely, and sad.
I’m irritable, dizzy, achy, and bloated.
My eardrums are itchy, my nostrils are impacted, my eyeballs are burning, and my gums are hemorrhaging.
My kneecap is shattered, my heel bone has spurs, my vertebrae are disintegrating, and my ribs have caved in.
My heart is fibrillating, my lungs are collapsed, my liver is atrophied, and my bladder exploded.
My nipples engorged and fell off, my pancreas slipped out through my bunghole, and my navel is unraveling.
Last night my testicles suddenly disappeared without even saying goodbye.
Hey … you asked.
Today, for the first time in years, I had a craving for fried bologna. As it assiduously sizzled in the pan I was struck with an inspired thought. I minced an onion and a slice of garlic, and tossed both into the mix; I then threw in a couple of eggs, a smidgen of milk, some coarse sea salt and grated pepper, and scrambled up the entire merry mess. I placed the assemblage on a warm plate and savored my meal, feet up, in front of a “Murder She Wrote” rerun, luxuriating with unrepentant fervor my place in Plebe Heaven.
I am seven years old. My grandparents are babysitting my twin brother and I. My grandfather is angry with me. He says, “I’m going to fix you good and proper.” He carries me under one arm out into the woods, to the bees’ nest we children have been warned to stay away from. He tosses me directly into the middle of the nest and walks quickly away. I am stung over fifty times and almost die. When I recover, my father wants to punish me for being disobedient, but my mother says I have been punished enough. Grampa nods approvingly.
I am eight years old. It is autumn, and I am taking a walk on a forest trail with my grandfather. In the woods we encounter a homeless man who is drunk. My grandfather engages the man in conversation, which quickly escalates into a fight. Suddenly my grandfather pulls out a knife and slashes the homeless man’s throat, killing him. My grandfather quietly informs me that if I tell anyone about this incident, he will do the same thing to my mother, and then to me. Terrified, I tell no one and convince myself that it is a bad dream.
I am eleven years old. There is a fierce thunderstorm raging, and I am afraid. My grandfather tells me he will teach the “little sissy” not be fearful of storms. He locks me outside the house on the steps. A bolt of lightning strikes the telephone lines up the street and follows them down past our house. Even though I am on the opposite side of the house, the force of the voltage knocks me off the steps and onto my back, unconscious. When I awake, my father scolds me for going outside during the storm. Grampa agrees, eyes twinkling.
I am seventeen years old. I am reading to my grandfather, who is bedridden and has bouts of dementia. This is a task I have performed on many occasions. During a lucid, guilty moment he asks me, “Why are you so good to me?” I want to tell him that it’s because it doesn’t bother me the way it does the rest of the family to see him in this condition. I look at him and feel nothing. But instead I respond, “Because you are my grandfather and I love you.” His eyes fill with tears, and I nod, smiling.
Even though I am well over thirty years old, my face still frequently hosts what I call “Zit Festivals.” Since I will never be rid of them, I decided instead to befriend my blemishes and affectionately named them. My favorite pimple is called Stephanie. She’s festering and angry, a veritable Vesuvius, threatening to erupt and disgorge her contents at any given moment. She is located just to the left of my imaginary chin cleft. She weeps salty red tears when I shave each morning. In my dreams, Stephanie develops a mouth, replete with teeth, and sings beautiful arias by Puccini.
“SAINTED: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY” by Sir Mack Travers.
List of Chapters.
1. I Am Birthed: My Tale Begins.
2. Coping: My Parents Deal with Their Little Deity.
3. Syllabus: I Teach My Teachers.
4. Flatulence: The Awkward Years.
5. The Storm: Thousands Killed but Not Me.
6. BMOC: A God in the Making.
7. Mission Unbelievable: My Ascent in Hollywood.
8. The Awards: Oscars, Emmys, Tonys, Pulitzers, Nobels.
9. An Unlikely Alliance: Bringing Together President Bush and Saddam Hussein.
10. “Ma”: Mother Teresa and Me.
11. Solutions: I Find Cures for Cancer and AIDS.
12. Remaining Humble: The Beat Goes On.
It was time once again for the annual Gay and Lesbian Charity Cotillion. As my date Tom Cruise and I mounted the steps, I murmured, “I hope Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman aren’t here again this year! If I have to watch Nicole spitshine Julia’s teeth just ONCE more…”
My thought was interrupted by the earnest click clacking of Jesse Helms in his red pumps and matching pillbox hat. “THERE you are! I was beginning to think you two weren’t coming!”
I gushed, “Jesse, you look positively fetching!”
“You lying little faggot,” he replied, and we giggled like featherheaded schoolgirls.
“Have we missed anything?” I queried Jesse.
“Nothing much, really,” Jesse replied, his bejeweled neck twinkling merrily. “Conan O'Brien was giving George Clooney a blow job behind the buffet table, but everyone politely looked the other way.”
“And look at THOSE two!” I exclaimed, nodding across the room where John Corbett was nuzzling up to Christopher Noth. Jesse and I began humming the theme to “Sex and The City.”
Tom pointed a stern finger at me. “Remember, you behave yourself or there will be NO spanking later!” I was a veritable Shirley Temple the rest of the evening.
Tom leaned over to me and whispered, “Take a look around this room. Who do you think is really going to go the distance?”
I thoughtfully looked over the myriad of lovers in the banquet hall: Jesse Helms and Puff Daddy; Charlton Heston and Dan Rather; Reese Witherspoon and LaToya Jackson; Bono and Cal Ripkin Jr.; Beatrice Arthur and Marlo Thomas; John Grisham and Mel Gibson; Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner; Jim Caviezel and William H. Macy, just to name a few.
I shrugged. “Us, I guess,” I answered. “Tom Cruise and Mack Travers. We’re going the distance.”
Memorial Day (observed). It stirs two memories within me, both which took place at our small village’s three minute parade in the historic town square. I remember the drum corps marching past, beating a percussive rhythm that I experienced viscerally, deep within the guarded secrets of my soul. And I also remember, following the gunfire in honor of those dead, a nearby bugler blowing out “Taps”; when it ended, from far away, from somewhere deep inside the cemetery, unbelievably, astonishingly, another bugler echoed “Taps”, with soft, shimmering clarity, an apparitional reply. I’d break out into gooseflesh and solemnly, silently remember.
The cruise got off to a bad start when Aunt Velma fell overboard, right into the drink. No one could enjoy the champagne and caviar “Send Off Reception!” after that. And Uncle Irwin’s jokes about Velma making a dandy fishing bobber and having more room in the bed for himself that night didn’t help matters. Then Myrtle swallowed that toothpick and had to be airlifted off the boat. And what about that hunky steward who beat me up, just because I fondled his ass? I blame Romance Travel for this entire fiasco. They PROMISED we would have a good time.
The door opened into a stale, murky room, neglected and forgotten. Venetian blinds hung askew at the room’s only window, which allowed little light through its dingy promise. One cobwebbed corner contained the skeletal remnants of a chair and a small desk; on the desktop sat an opened wirebound notebook, defiantly unmarred, yielding no secrets. Though the empty air carried no threat of menace or of sadness, implicit in the vacuum was sorrow unimaginable, the unmitigated misery of
. Near the desk, on the floor, the remains of a cricket lay squashed, its vital juices now an unsightly blemish.
Today really should have been different from yesterday, but it wasn’t. Granted, I didn’t have the same lunch as yesterday and I didn’t speak exactly the same words as yesterday, but in its essence, it was a carbon copy of the day before. Like a Seurat painting replicated in print form, over and over again. It is not, I know, a failure with Life and Realms and Subjects at Issue – it is, I concede, a failure within, a dimming of the solar plexus. Dullness has descended upon me like a sheet, and I roam abroad, a ghost impersonating a ghost.
For me, the truth of his love was always an epistemological grace, a noble shrug, an act of faith. He saw me for the complex, complicated person that I am, and longed to take a quick run around inside my head. Nothing changed upon his death. My own personal story continues to arc, a lovely, sometimes frightening, sometimes breathtaking ride towards, according to Walt Whitman, the “word more delicious than any.” I can only bring to the table what I know; what I know, however, always astonishes me. And my summing up can only be completely articulated when I die.
The Tip Jar