The Gray Lady

New York Times, June, 2022

I’d like to thank the New York Times.

Lord knows, over the years I’ve had ambivalence toward the New York Times.

Did they consistently employ fantastic writers who dug deep into impactful, meaningful journalism? Sure.

Was it more reliable than most media outlets in the world? Absolutely.

Did they offer me little tidbits of cellophane coated entertainment bites? Yes. Take me on lavish vacations of the imagination? You bet. Inspire me to such great heights of imagination by breaking new ground, or adjusting the scaffolding of the journalistic landscape? Nearly daily.

NYT JUNE 2022

But, after I left New York itself – it started to seem to me the New York Times, like any gray-haired relative, started sliding out of view. I would check in with it, from time to time, especially for hard news and The Arts Section, and the gleaming jewel in the center of the Gray Lady’s artful princess tiara… The New York Times Daily Crossword Puzzle.

(Will Shortz, I wish I could quit you.)

Soon, I stopped trying to keep up with any of the news in the Times. I became an Angelino from the West Coast, who, like Joan Didion so aptly put it – slouched, steeped in my own privilege, toward Bethlehem, on a high-quality-yet-smelly communal yoga mat.

I sat, on my phone, in West Hollywood, at the Crunch, as the Crossword became usurped by the younger upstart stroke of genius we call Wordle.

Placid smoker and sometimes literary giant, Joan Didion

Even as my spine, strong in younger days, slightly slouched toward the ground. An exclamation mark, who, thanks to the magic of time-lapse photography, slowly began it’s irrevocable bend toward a more osteoporosis-influenced silhouette. A punctuated question marked my mousy-brown-framed brow.

Why did they leave me hanging?

Why did they leave me in their news room for six hours, then decide whomever was qualified to take my statement had an unexpected meeting? Why didn’t they go ahead with the huge expose everyone in the theater community was buzzing about in 2018? The one that implicated so many theater giants? What was the missing link that kept them from printing this particular story?

As it turns out, it didn’t matter, or it doesn’t. And as it turns out, the Gray Lady yet again has earned the moniker I so treasure. All the News That’s Fit to Print, is I believe – the trademarked phrase…

Well?

They printed it.

Thanks, New York Times. It’s been a long road, and, like a grey-haired, distant European relative – sometimes I’ve lost sight of you. I’m sorry for losing faith. I’m younger than you. Please, forgive me?

And please forgive this, too?

Ah… Career Suicide.
It’s not just for Chris Gethard anymore!!

I’m scooping you.

This is today’s scoop! A PIEFOLK original. I’m scooping the Times, Daily News, Post – All the ivory tower outlets are going to scream about it, but you heard it here first.

Here’s leaked footage of notoriously ruthless Broadway legend William Ivey Long, pandering for another Tony Award later this year. He wants to be nominated again. He wants to win again. This is Diana, he says in this pathetic piece of propaganda. This is worthy of a Tony, he seems to plead. This is forty years of Tony Awards, he begs. This is 76 Broadway shows.

Disgusting. 75 too many.

The Gray Lady is finally queen again, has finally sloughed off her dusty, wine colored, ermine lined cloak. Her skin, scalded and young again, sloughed off like the fuzzy hides of boiled Georgia peaches. A dramatic shift in lighting, a sting from a far-off orchestra pit.

Her costume reveals her true form, just in time for a hot-gurl summer. Royal blue. Just under medium shade. Cornflower, I’d say, but I’m a writer not a visual artist.

She, star spangled… she is read. Black and blue, she sometimes comments on our pain. Red, she watches overseas as war musters, alliances form, two dictators try to mock democratic mandates.

Lynda Carter, then and now

White as fresh dentures, she pops in her props and costumes for a new dawn. Firing up her make-up lamp, she sharpens her nails, then files them down.

She’s shining like a new dime you found on the subway tracks.

She is warming up her voice, like Bob Dylan after a long weekend. Flexing her metaphors, like Tom Waits, like Alan Ginsburg, like me – just a Brooklyn boy from India street in Greenpoint.

Just like old Henry Miller.

American classic, revered writer, philosopher, painter, and all around ne’er-do-well, Henry Miller – never once told a lie.

Thank you, New York Times. Thank you Jesse Green. Thank you Nicole Herrington. Thank you Barbara Graustark. Thank you, Dean Baquet. Thanks to everyone up and down the line. We Americans thank you. We New Yorkers thank you. Even us spoiled West Coasters thank you, New York Times.

Today is the day.

This is huge. Believe me. Believe me. Believe me.

@romegrantphotos instagram

Sunset Plaza, 2018: Eddie Thomas and Chris Jericho

Eddie Thomas’ eyes flash blue and green in the sunlight, as piercing as ever. He’s sitting at a cafe table, regarding me with a cool, almost reptilian quality, all fine-featured and full of smirks. His primary mutation is a mild form of telepathy, and he’s in his element today. His power manifests in a sway over emotions. He is preternaturally persuasive, when he wants to be. Although, generally, he only uses his power to generate empathy  from others. I don’t blame him for a second, for this. It’s an ugly world out there, and straight people are barbaric. We take the advantages we are given. This is known across cultures and eras. This is allowed.

Anyway, he’s a charmer.

He’s using his power on me, and I’m briefly allowing him to. He’s good at making people like him, though he keeps the world at arm’s length. His hair, streaked red with sunlight, is usually a chestnut brown. His eyes, nearly incandescent, search to permeate me. He probes near my Third Eye. I open it a sliver, for him. He can’t gain the same access to my Third Eye as I can to his. I’m older, and my powers have been active longer, and, truth be told, I probably care more about this situation than he does, which gives him an advantage, but I’ve also been a telepathic longer than him, and I’m nothing if not self-aware. I sense his power. He has been honing himself. Good.

He’s here ceremoniously, it’s likely to seem. We sit across from each other. I’m flicking my focus from his right eye to his left. It’s one of the ways I can open someone’s portal. Sometimes, without their knowledge, these days. Now, I’m the one smirking. I can’t tell if Thomas knows I’m already inside his Eye. I press myself inside a spot in the middle of his forehead as we make small-talk.

He wants to smooth things over. He’s here to talk, and make sure “everyone wants the same things.” He’s here to defend a fellow comic who spent a couple years bullying and sexually harassing me online and over text messages. He’s here to talk about Chris Jericho.

(I’m standing on fluffy white clouds, just outside his Memory Castle. I smirk. Of course Thomas has made a castle in the clouds. This is about as far as his creative imagination usually needs to go, a well-trod trope supported by Sistine Chapels, Enlightenment mythos and other heavenly iconography. A good Catholic boy! His castle, massive, spartan in design. Smooth, thick, bleached white limestone. Few windows, mostly small, except in the very center, overlooking a courtyard, larger windows. Peaking spires disappear into another, higher level of cloud cover. At least he saw fit to make himself a modest banquet hall, I think to myself. I look down at the cloud cover. Opaque, they billow up to the ankle, which, sure, okay – respectable. But, then I realize, he doesn’t want me knowing if this is a high-capped mountain covered in clouds, or if his castle actually floats in the heavens. Christian hubris, I whisper to myself, opening a smooth, shining gilded gate. Oddly, it makes a lonely, creaking sound. I suppose that makes sense. Everything here is solid, neat and tidy, but it’s unattended. There are no frills in this heaven-for-someone-from-Amish-country.)

We smile at one another, playing catch-up, almost flirting, even. We are manufacturing that sort of boring sensitivity people project at one another, when they haven’t connected significantly in quite a while. We are reconnecting – trading fun stories from the summer; reminding one another of progresses we’ve made. Acknowledging failures as learning opportunities. Admitting no real fault. Showcasing display-model humility. Being spoiled, privileged, coastal elites meeting for coffee in a very monied neighborhood. It’s placid, in its blameless wickedness. It’s very LA.

Eventually he brings up comedy, and congratulates me for launching Evil Mutants and Friends at The Satellite. He runs a different queer variety show out of a smaller, dowdier venue, based on a donation model. I pay him a compliment, encouraging him to eventually move toward charging audience. I’m flattered, he says, that you think we’re worth the price of admission.

I clear my throat. I bring up our mutual colleague, Chris Jericho

(Beautiful, tightly manicured French municipal-style gardens line the front drive. Concentric hedges with little islands of manicured, neatly-arranged tulips, in pink, and white, alternating groups. They form other geometric patterns among the hedges. I’m impressed with this detail. The simple, nearly austere Eddie Thomas has put some thought and planning into his Memory Castle and its structural systems. A courtyard, a fountain, immaculate white marble floors, stoic sanded limestone walls. Bright, almost dazzling light rushing in – ambient, as the clouds above and below, cover all.)

I knew Eddie Thomas when I lived in New York. He came to see an improvised musical I was in, one night, and was impressed with some of my tricks. He started following me and we became friends. He’s sweet, mostly, but also self-serving in his sweetness. He’s an Evil Mutant, what else would I expect? He’s lovely today – having just come from a swim at the West Hollywood Public Pool – his skin looks perfect. Creamy, I think to myself. Delicate, yet masculine, alabaster, auburn, chestnut, rosy and white and so very ABC Family. Nonthreatening.

I open up his Eye a little more and I’m shocked.

His secondary mutation will make him formidable, when he’s older. Once he casts off his rudimentary world view and embraces his true self, he will skyrocket. Instinctively I sip my coffee, holding my left fist over my heart – clutching at non-existent pearls. I am thrown, momentarily. He senses me, there, inside his castle. I can tell. A red glowing now, behind those hazel eyes.

“Let’s get to it, and talk about Chris,” he says, pouring on the charm. I’m surprised at how good he has become at using his powers, even as I easily deflect them. By now, I can turn my skin almost-completely-diamond, but what’s more, just starting the process a bit can deflect a low-level telepathic assault. He’s trying to glamour me like a vampire, and it’s almost working.

(A series of circular stone-hewn stairwells – levels. Functional quarters, storage rooms, vast practice and sparring spaces, anti-chambers. Ambient warm white-lit rooms, tidy and efficient. The castle is beautiful, immaculate, and empty. Not a speck of dust anywhere, which, at first, suggests an obsessive self-care, but as I’m climbing and climbing these marble circle steps, it occurs to me – there’s nobody here! He hasn’t created familiars, or magical beasts. He hasn’t given himself totems or a unique mythology to his land. It’s empty. Still, I sense him here. He, is here, somewhere, at least. I can sense it.)