The Fall and Rise of Andy Dick, Part Two – The Myth

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My wife is a tiny bit jealous – just a little.

I was spending time with one of my Wizard friends, and now I’m teasing her about it. She’s fascinated with my friend Wendell, and has been ribbing me about how I’m hoarding access to him. Somehow, without being told, she can sense Wendell is training me in sorcery, and she’s envious. She wants in. But Wendell is here at Akbar with other pals – theater writers, performance artists, radical faeries et al – and I’m not about to bother him to teach us incantations, hand witchery, or request the tricky instructional task of opening dimensional portals.

It’s too much to ask at 11pm on a Monday.

The after-show is winding down; people are starting to remember to get tired. My band played a couple of songs, (at Ian MacKinnon and Travis Wood’s Planet Queer), and we’re all basking in the after-gloaming. The boys and I did well, and now’s the time we collect our accolades out front on Sunset with the smokers, travelers, fortune tellers, and ghosts. I’m pretty confident after tonight that our show on Sunday, July 29th (at 7pm! 10 bucks!) at the Satellite will be pretty tight. Everyone seems to be feeling pretty okay.

(get tickets here!)

Then, for the second time in less than five days, there he is. Andy Goddamn Dick.

(She’s there too. The lovely blackberry-lipped pixie-faced girlfriend. The woman in the sundress from the first night. The one who kept storming in and out. She’s not angry tonight. She looks different, though, almost goth. She’s put together a simple outfit. Black shorts, tight, a matching halter top. Maybe that’s what it is. But she seems calmer tonight. More fluid. Andy is feeling gregarious. He’s shaking hands and saying hello to folks. I’m glad he’s feeling better – his cataclysmic #metoo resurfaced recently, but he seems less cagey than last time. I realize, he’s dressed just like her – that’s cute!)

Hey, I say to my wife, that’s the guy I was telling you about yesterday – Andy Dick from News Radio. Wanna meet him?

Sure.

Okay.

So, I call out to Andy. I wave. I don’t think he recognizes me, then, suddenly, he does.

Andy has always been such a bright light to me. Like me, it’s clear he has issues with his energy level, and maybe his is even worse than mine, now that I’ve encountered him a couple times? Sure, I have my hypomania flare ups, but he seems to be running pretty hot, pretty consistently. Then again, what the hell do I know? I never open the newspaper anymore. I can’t even do NPR in the car. It’s just silence and daydreams, and rattling around the old memory castle any time I have a long drive ahead of me. I just added a small, secret courtyard somewhere on the grounds. Not sure exactly what I’m going to put there. Possibly, a very fey Minotaur? A two-spirit Wendigo? The Thin Woman?

There’s still time to mull it over, I think, smirking. We only have the entire rest of our lives…

Andy comes over. I beam at him. Look who it is! Andy! Hey – I wanted you to meet my wife, Ann. Andy smiles. It’s genuine, but then his eyes narrow as he starts to shake her hand. I turn to try to introduce Lammy, but Lammy is just staring at Ann and Andy, his mouth agape. Lammy takes a while to process things, sometimes.

I think to myself, oh, maybe he’s still thinking about the show. You do that sometimes. If a show is particularly good, it can feel a bit like waking up from a dream, after, if there’s flow.

Lammy is suddenly alarmed. He points. I glance over at Ann, who looks horrified for some reason. Andy is smirking, impish, a sudden ugly, triumph in his eye. I don’t like this, but now Ann is rushing off, possibly to the lady’s room? I missed something. Lammy looks shocked. His head turns toward Ann, who is disappearing inside. Should I go see what’s going on with Ann, I ask? Lammy says, yes. That would be a great idea.

I catch her in the ladies room, wiping her ear out with toilet paper. She looks annoyed. There’s a smudge on her face I noticed earlier. One of the performers kissed her on the cheek and left burnt umber on her cheek. It looked sweet out in the street lights – like a kiss – but here in the ladies’ room, she’s rubbing it and it starts to smear into a bruise. Then, it fades – gone, entirely. She throws the toilet paper into the toilet. (Women love toilet paper. Good luck, if you sire three daughters; you’ll bankrupt yourself on toilet paper.)

She takes more, and wipes out her ear again.

Moments like this, you shouldn’t envy. She looks at me, and I look at her in the ladies room.

Did Andy do something?

Yes.

What?

Ann sighs. It seems like she is considering whether to speak to this at all. One of the things I love and respect so much about her is her incredible self-control, her wisdom about situations like these. Ann never comments unless she feels like engaging, which means, sure, you can ask her a question, but she never owes you an answer. Finally, though, she speaks.

He stuck his tongue in my ear.

Gross!

Yes. It’s gross and tiresome.

(This, to me, seems like an understatement. There’s something in her body language that looks exhausted, beyond annoyed. There’s an awfulness just beyond her blue, orange flecked eyes, and it’s speaking to me. It’s saying, Michael – this is one of 10,000 instances like this. It’s saying, this is just a small part of a lady’s daily hassle. Indeed, I think to myself, gays inflict this vulgar, pathetic type of behavior on one another all the time).

Ann, I’m so sorry! I didn’t see it. I was trying to see if Lammy wanted to meet Andy too.

She shrugs and sighs. It’s getting late, she says, and gives me a crooked smile. Andy has moved into the bar, to continue his daily binge. We sidle past him quickly, trying not to raise his attention.

We get out into the fresh air. Ann is parked across the street. I walk her over to her car. We came separately tonight. We talk about Andy a little, and how it sucks that, even supposed safe spaces are sometimes inundated with predators. But mostly, Ann wants to talk about what a lovely mini-show Evil Mutants had, and what a supportive, generous community Planet Queer cultivates.

She’s being generous. I know she’s grossed out and she’s trying to make sure my evening ends on a good note.

(In other words, she’s being a good person.)

We talk about upcoming events, meals we need to plan for the week, and I tell her I’ll see her at the compound, or back on campus. We have nicknames for the estate we’re haunting these days.

I kiss her cheek; we say our goodbyes.

I wait outside on a bench with Lammy and a boy named Robin who’s flirting with him. Ann drives by and I wave, but she’s got her mind on the road. It occurs to me – She’s no Orpheus. She’s my wife, not Lot’s – this creature does not look back.

A snippet of parchment flies out of a dusty cabinet in my castle’s study anti-chamber. It’s a private study I put retired ideas, just off the King’s quarters. He needs to be near his early writing, so he can remember what Prince-hood was like.

(bridge)

Just like Orpheus, you’re heading down the Harefield Road.

Clear out the underbrush, someday you might emerge.

But like Lot’s wife, you couldn’t help but watch it grow.

Just be careful you’re not petrified….. by the suuuuuuuurrrrrge.

(breakdown and final chorus)

You looked back!

You looked back!

Your eyes were begging, (please, oh please,)

just cut the kid some slack!

You looked back!

You looked back!

With a glance you missed your chance.

I’m never coming back.

You looked back.

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On the concrete, something I haven’t seen yet in California. Something I only ever think about in Florida – a Palmetto bug. It’s long and sleek and shiny. About two inches of hairy legs and antennae. They’re glorified roaches, but, to add a horrifying, odious layer – they can fly.

But, this one is languishing on the sidewalk, twitching, half squished. It’s clearly in the throes of death. It occurs to me – the most humane thing might be to kill it now, but there is a Buddhist principle in some sects that forbids this sort of thing. I consider the dilemma, but, presently,  I have bigger cats to skin. I turn to Lammy, who seems to read my mind. What are you going to do, he asks?

Head inside, I say.

I enter the cool blackness of Akbar. Behind me I hear Lammy mumbling something which sounds like, good idea.

I’m not sure. Maybe Lammy was talking to me. Maybe he was inviting cute Robin into his memory castle. In any case, Lammy’s opinion about this isn’t relevant to me any longer. I’ve pulled the trigger.

I’m going to beat the shit out of Andy Dick.

(to be continued)

-3

Cloaked Figures and Crooked Smiles

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Lillian has a bruise on her face when she finally shows up. She catches me on the sidewalk, maybe fifteen feet away, staring at an Instagram notification. Sliding open the tall, wrought iron fence surrounding her housing complex, she makes her way toward my car. I glance up. The bruise is the first thing I notice. Secondly, she’s about 15 pounds lighter than the last time I saw her. She smiles from the side of her face. Crooked.

This is Los Angeles, so from a showbiz lense I’d say she’s starting to look viable now, thinner, maybe even fringing on looking really good, but my social work brain says wait-a-minute this probably means she’s back on meth. I hope she’s not back on meth.

Lillian has only managed small stretches of sobriety so far. A month here. Six weeks there. I hope she’s not high. She’s incoherent when she’s high. I also hope she’s not hung over. She’s likely to flare up nasty when she’s jonesing. She stops and makes eye contact just outside the car, peering in. Smiling askew, she shoves her hands into her front pockets. Her jeans are so big on her, now. She seems sheepish, standing outside the car. Lost.

I was thinking of the dream I had this morning. Vivid and semi-conscious, I kept hitting snooze to stay in the dream of Big Sur. Of a vibrant community carved into the side of God’s Cliffs, clapboard houses, a thriving town square. There was a mass shooter in my dream, a cloaked figure with a gun who mowed down the crowd. White picket gazebos tainted with wide swaths of blood.

Lillian gets into the car. I compliment her. She smiles again when I ask if she’s lost weight, when I tell her she looks good. She’s glassy in the eyes, but it’s clear she’s put some effort in today. Her hair is wet. She showered. Okay, I think to myself -we can probably work with this.

I ask about her ID. We’re going to try to enter her into a coordinated database for homeless and at-risk youth. She wants to be able to provide for herself and her baby, when she gets her baby back. There are social service and private organizations that can help. No, she says, she didn’t bring her ID. Should she go get it? Yes, I say. You should always bring your ID and you should have your social memorized. She informs me that she has it memorized this time, thank you very much. She’s proud. She’s the same type of proud my other clients get sometimes when they ace a test, or get a small scholarship for school, or land a job – except in this case her source of pride is the simple fact she has memorized nine numbers. She is 18, and she has a two year old daughter who has already been taken away from her. I wouldn’t put her literacy past the 8th grade level. Go get your ID, I tell her, I’ll wait.

She goes back into her complex. The yard is piebald, barren. Generations of barefoot children have trodden down smooth dirt pathways, linking the units. A quick glance at the ground reveals which families are friendly with which other families, and who doesn’t seem to get along with anyone at all. Some of the lesser worn pathways have weeds growing up, in places. Keep up those connections, I say, admonishing no one. I mouth the words in the afternoon sun.

My phone buzzes. It’s a news update. The BBC News wants to tell me what Trump has in common with Abe Lincoln and Ferris Bueller. Fuck you, iPhone news client, I say to my phone. The dream creeps in, again, around the edges of my morning. 

I’m there in the town square, relaxing on a park bench. Three people play frisbee, laughing, semi-joyous. They are smiling. Suddenly one of them explodes like a watermelon dropped off the side of a produce truck. The other two are horrified, but it’s only seconds before, shocked, they twist and fall. Blood splashes from them in strange angles. It seems to come from nowhere. I’m sure there were gunshots in the dream, but in my memory it’s just quiet. They buckle, and drop. They writhe, broken, pitiful.

Crowds of people being mown down, in bright preppy clothing, against a backdrop of brightly colored cliffside mainstreet businesses. A little girl and her younger brother, staring in horror at blood spattered ice cream cones dripping down their wrists. People twitching, jerking out bizarre dance moves on hot asphalt, gaily dressed in bright gingham shirts. Upbeat, inane music playing reassuringly in the background. A dazzling blue sky; the sun’s eye, indifferent to the bloodbath.

Lillian returns and we set off to the address. Only five miles away, but it’s Friday afternoon in Los Angeles, so this could easily take 45 minutes. I start asking Lillian what’s been going on with her. I didn’t get my hours in with her last month, and frankly, I’m kind of worried. I tell her as much. When she’s not hungover, it’s pretty easy to be frank and open with Lillian. She hasn’t learned the same things most people her age have learned. She’s not great with math or reading. It’s frequent that I can only understand 70% of what she’s saying when she texts me. But there’s a cleverness there. She’s not dumb, just unlearnt, I suppose. In any case, I try to treat my clients as being more clever than they actually are. Sometimes it tricks them into actually being more clever, or making better decisions.

It’s a trick I also sometimes play on myself, when I can get away with it.

We chat about her mom, about her daughter, Lizzie, who Lillian badly wants custody of. They took her away when she was staying in a transitional housing facility for young, single mothers. Lillian had been getting friendly with some of the guys from the streets. She’d disappeared for long stretches of time to do meth with guys in rented hotel rooms. This was all before she turned 18. So illegal.

After they took her baby, they threw her out of St. Theresa’s, and she went back to live with her mother and her aunt. She’s been trying for more than a year to get her baby back. She keeps failing to prove she’s enrolled in school though, keeps failing to prove she can attend drug counselling classes on a regular basis (or, indeed, pass drug tests), keeps failing to show up with any proof of gainful employment.

Lillian opens up to me now. She wants to apply for transitional housing. She can raise Lizzie at her mother’s place, but she’d rather have her own space to live with her daughter. I tell her I was glad to hear from her, finally. She’s likely to have a new cell phone every month, so I’ve become used to getting texts from strange numbers. She never announces herself, either, when she texts from a new number. She’ll say something like, “Hey, are we gonna do the thing you were talking about last time?”

And I’ll say, “Is this Lillian?”  

And she’ll say, yes, and act like it was obvious it was her. It’s infuriating.

I broach the subject of custody. I’m happy to hear she’s getting her child back, I tell her. She’s been texting about that, recently, as if it’s a done deal. I wonder – is it possible a judge has adjudicated custody to her? I ask about the details. They’re going to give her back, she says matter of factly. Because, they’re molesting her – and I already told them and made a report, but the social worker lady doesn’t believe me, but it doesn’t matter because I reported it, and they can’t keep my daughter if they’re molesting her.

No, I say. The people who are keeping your daughter can’t keep her if they’re molesting her, and in fact, they’ll go to jail if it can be proven. What made you think they’re molesting her, I ask?

I notice now, at a stoplight, she’s hungover. Or, maybe still high? Her eyes are red and watery, and she’s not quite making coherent sense. She also didn’t react, earlier in the conversation when I tried to corner her and ask her about missing our appointments last month. About going incommunicado. And this new, slim, model figure, the black eye. The rushed, emotional way she’s describing things, without putting context or chronological order into any of the details. Yeah, she’s not entirely sober, if at all. She sees me noticing, and doesn’t like it. I ask again. What made you think they’re molesting your daughter?

There was all this shit in the back of her diaper. Baby shit, she clarifies, when I ask. Poop. I make a face as if to say, come on now, you said molestation – but now you’re describing evidence of neglect.

Plus, she says, they grabbed her by the neck when she was leaving with her baby. Who, you or the baby? Me. Well, that’s what happens when you try to take a baby from protective custody on a supervised visit. Who’s side are you on, she asks? Plus a mother has her intuition, and that’s just as good as any evidence.

I finally piece a story together. She’s asked the two year old if people have been touching her inappropriately, the two year old has nodded yes, and even said yes, once. But only after repeated questioning and coaching. She hasn’t supplied specific details that add up to molestation, though. She will only answer yes when asked if they touched here in certain places. When the social worker came to ask Lillian and Lizzie about the supposed molestation, Lillian was trying to get the baby to tell her, over and over. Finally the baby recited what her mother had been telling her to say. I nod. I fail to mention my doubts about this. She doesn’t have any real evidence beyond a seemingly coached accusation, a dirty diaper and intuition.

But even further than this, even if she had hard evidence the child was being interfered with – that doesn’t mean Lillian is about to get her back. One thing is not relative to another. A foster parent acting abusive or neglectful doesn’t erase the judge’s knowledge that she once disappeared from St. Theresa’s for five full days on a meth binge, leaving the staff of the facility to care for Lizzie. Or that she hasn’t been able to produce three months worth of consecutive negative drug tests.

(Or that she shows up to appointments with social service and county workers fifteen pounds lighter, with a black eye).

I don’t say any of these things, but I want to. I want to point out – the best case scenario is that she knows her child hasn’t been molested, and she’s trying to make some story up that gives her emotional leverage in this narrative. She may not be academic, but she’s good at emotional manipulation. The other, grosser possibility is that she is paranoid, but clinging to the idea that her child actually has been molested, for the idea of some moral high ground. She either knows she’s making it up, or wants something horrible to be true, for the sake of her narrative.

Lillian, I want to say to her. Being right doesn’t produce clean drug tests. But I don’t say anything. We drive in silence. Lillian puts something on the radio.

We pull into the parking lot of the Covenant House about five minutes later. Lillian starts to get agitated. I told you, she says, I don’t want to go into a homeless shelter. I want transitional housing where me and Lizzie could live together. I know that, I say, but this facility does more than just homeless sheltering. It’s also an entry portal. They have a database which records your name and age and set of circumstances, so that public and private organizations can share information. It will go out to shelters, but also transitional living organizations, and women’s homes.

She’s going into one of her spirals now. She doesn’t like entering databases. Her (paranoid, abusive) boyfriend told her it’s the illuminati controlling everything. He thinks they track poor people. Those illuminati people, they control the things like homeless shelters. They keep people sick. Doped up. Stupid, she says.  I beg her, please, let’s just go up to the front counter and ask for basic information. I figure I can get a seasoned social worker to help me persuade Lillian to just sit down and fill out a profile on the database. She finally agrees, we can go inside and ask the receptionist questions.

We head in. The receptionist explains the program. Lillian would do best to enter the database, alerting all of the relevant organizations in the vicinity to her need. Lillian seems cowed, for a while. She agrees, finally, yes, maybe the database is a good idea, and the social services system isn’t run by the illuminati. I make eye contact with the receptionist and joke that DCFS couldn’t possibly be run by the illuminati – they’d function so much more efficiently! We laugh, and the receptionist affirms my sentiment. Just one thing though, she says, the Youth Entry Portal is in a building across the street, and they’re closed for lunch from 12pm to 1pm. We’ll have to kill a half an hour waiting for them to get back from lunch.

Back in the parking lot Lillian is getting agitated again. No more crooked smiles. I can tell she’s really jonesing. She’s getting sweaty, and it’s chilly out today. She scuffs the toes of her shoes on the parking lot, and says, I don’t want to be here.

I don’t want to be here either, I say, trying to empathize. But I talked to quite a few social workers and explained your situation, and since you’re over 18, with a closed DCFS case, this is the best protocol to follow for getting into a transitional housing program. Neither of us want to be here, I say, but let’s just wait the twenty minutes and enter that database.

No, she says, but this time she’s more forceful. I don’t want to do this. I don’t feel comfortable here. Take me home. She knows I can’t force her to do anything, and she’s setting in her heels. I try a few more angles of reason with her, about waiting just a few minutes and trying, for the sake of her kid, to get into this database for transitional housing. They have housing for single parents under 22, I say. But she doesn’t care, she’s made up her mind.

And I don’t care, either.

I mean. I do – it’s not the productive outcome I’d hoped for when I picked her up today, but I got billable hours, so I won’t walk away not having done my job. I’m defeated, and this sucks – today won’t end up any closer to a happy ending for Lillian, but maybe the timing is wrong for this anyhow? If she gets into one of these housing programs, they’ll require her to stay sober, to keep a job, to be in school. Let’s be honest, I say to myself, she’d bounce out of a transitional housing program just as fast as she could fill out the papers.

There is a quick flash, a memory from this morning’s dream. The picturesque cliffside community, the stores and flowerbeds, the people. The bloodbath.

Okay, get in the car, I say. I’ll drive you home then. Inside, we are icy quiet. Try again next time, I say softly-but-audibly, as we pull out of the parking lot. We have another 45 minute drive back to her place.

After about ten minutes of silence I start talking.

I hate seeing you show up with a black eye, Lillian. I hate seeing you this thin. I mean, don’t get me wrong, my God, you look fantastic right now, but I know you and this is a really rapid weight loss in a short amount of time and I have to worry that it’s meth. And meth, combined with a black eye means you’ve been seeing Victor. I’m worried about you.

You’re right, she says. I saw Victor again. I’m sorry. I know I promised I would stay away from him, but he had my stuff, and I only saw him because I wanted my stuff back and then he hit me in the face and took my EBT card.

I sigh. The last time I saw her we waited in the General Relief office for four hours for the first replacement EBT card, which was only missing in the first place because Victor stole it. Please, just stop seeing that guy? I don’t like this. You have a black eye. I’m a mandated reporter. I have to report this.

No, you don’t, Lillian says. I already called the cops this time when he hit me.

Good, I say, that’s actually the best news I’ve heard all day, hearing that you finally filed a police report. Suddenly, shaking, nearly trembling in my passenger seat, Lillian is willing to throw me another crooked smile. I laugh, and I tell her I’ve known a few people named Victor in my time. They always have to win. She thinks this is funny. Pfft, she says, fuck them!

Yes, I agree. Fuck them.

There’s something in her eyes. A twinkle of conspiracy, perhaps. It makes me feel protective. She has natural, innocent curiosity. But, not unspoiled innocence. She has a few secrets, and can probably keep a few, too. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make her cravings go away, or, more useful – I wish I could fill that empty void in her heart she thinks meth and booze is going to fix.

But, the longer I do this job, the less I wish things, and the more I focus on meeting the client where they are emotionally, that day – preferably in a neighborhood adjacent to reality, if we can make it there.

By the time we get back to her place a tender truce springs up between us. It’s not hard to forgive each other. Even if we’re not firing on all cylinders, we still almost always try to show up for one another.

We talk about her getting a job. Maybe at some place like Walmart, or Target. I think it’s a great idea. She seems buoyed by even this minor level of approval. I tell her again she looks great, and that I hope she’s eating, and that next time we’ll work on finding employment, if that’s what she’d like to focus on.

Lillian signs paperwork for our visit and goes inside her apartment complex. I pull into traffic. It isn’t quite late afternoon yet, but Los Angeles has already jammed itself up nicely on Western Avenue, down in South Central, all the way up through KTown into Hollywood, and further into the Valley. All jammed up and honking. Stuck like cold, thick molasses.  

I stop at a red light and stare into the bulb. I think how powerless Lillian must feel, to be desperate enough to make up a story so horrible. Or, what an awful thing it must be to hope for – that someone is interfering with your child? I think of the dream this morning, of the people in that town square. How different that town was from Los Angeles.

I rev the engine. I go back to the dream. The cloaked figure, loading hundreds of bullets into an automatic rifle. Everyone clean and happy. Nobody shows up itchy, with a black eye, in the cliffside paradise. I see him. I can see what he’s about to do. I open my mouth. He puts the rifle on his shoulder. I adjust the rearview mirror. The people are walking dogs, returning library books. It’s a bluebird day.  He flips the safety open. The light turns green. I open my mouth, but I’m unable to speak. Unable to warn these people, I ease gas into the throttle.

He opens up into the unsuspecting crowd.

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The Heroin Addict’s Wife

I’m sorry I didn’t text you back. A walk sounded nice, and if I’m being honest the weather was absolutely perfect for it. Right after sunset. Right between the day’s heat and the night’s chill. I couldn’t really find the energy for it, somehow. At the time I was driving past a thick, imperious column of smoke on the 105 – a textile factory caught ablaze in Lynwood.

I spent the morning glued to Facebook – so many women coming forward with testimonials about assault, abuse, rampant misogyny in show business, and also a friend posted about National Coming Out Day in a poignant, cogent way. He used to capitulate to homophobic banter in an effort to hurry it along, to move past it with blushing self-consciousness, to bury it. The eye contact he would make with women afterward. Conspiratorial acknowledgement of a darker, unsaid truth between them. Mutual ill feelings creeping up spines – forcing laughter together at homophobic jokes or hyper-masculine energy that, unchallenged, goes way too far. A shameful, empty feeling as one contributes to one’s own subtle oppression. Awfulness.

I’ve been incommunicado and that’s nearly unforgivable. I was billing hours at Renata’s house. She, a budding, bubbling teenage girl, just coming into her own special, savage power. A bright light, affable, funny, outgoing. A charmer.

I would have answered your FaceTime request, but there was apocalyptic traffic today. Google maps showed a red line all the way past the downtown area, and I was suddenly overtaken with a taxing, almost leaden exhaustion. Nearly falling asleep at the wheel, I pulled off near Rosecrans into a 7/11 parking lot, parking in a sliver of shade beneath a billboard advertizing the Hustler Casino. Liz Flynt encouraging people to “Play Harder.”

I got the Snapchat ping – you sent me a short video, but I didn’t get a chance to look at it before it went away. 

The 7/11, the angry plume of smoke rising like a bomb blast, blotting out the distant horizon. Barely able to keep my eyes open, I eased the seat back. For a while I thought sleep would overtake me. Strange, absurd visions – fantasies played out before my darkened eyelids. I couldn’t let go of sweet Renata, of the sour smell she lives in. The rankness. Inky, dark, tar-like paths cut through her apartment’s wall-to-wall carpeting. Years of oily, dirty feet tracking filth – grinding it down. Let’s be honest, if you steam cleaned that carpet you’d regret it for a week – the smell would send folks running for the hills.

I got your follow-up text. I’ll read and respond, I promise.

Renata in my mind, bringing consciousness back. Padlocks on the doors, the colony of ants, unchecked, unfettered in the bathroom, the mini fridges in each of their rooms  guarding the spoils of their monthly CalFresh benefits. Her father, moaning and shouting in the next room, (Is he drunk; it’s the middle of the afternoon?!) unintelligible even to Renata herself. She doesn’t mind. She’s glowing.

She loves when I visit, she says; I remind her of The Great Gatsby.

I saw your shout out on Twitter and I blushed at the compliment, thank you. I owe you a few likes and maybe even a re-tweet –  it’s just at that particular moment I was reclining in the 7/11 parking lot and trying to nap during an early rush hour, and it all came over me at once. The reality of Renata’s situation. Her low probability of succeeding her way out. The generational poverty morass she was born into – a life lived next to the steaming churn of a factory down by the harbor. The lowness. The squalor.

Hot, salt tears splashed suddenly, my body wracked with spasms. A gasp. A stone sewn into my heart, my gut shook to pieces. The slow tick of the Toyota engine in the heat of the cracked asphalt parking lot.

Your WeChat message came through, darling, but I was baking in the desert sun, prosessing, purging. There was a time I prided myself on having “integrity of communication.” I responded to every email. Answered every single text. I’m sorry, but I’m just not that person anymore. That isn’t me. 

This afternoon, as Renata and I were trying to cobble together an outfit to wear to her job interview, there was a rapping at the window. A wizened, crone-like woman, seemingly carved out of driftwood, tapped away at the thin, sliding windowpane. Oh, Renata said, smiling with a shrug, that’s the heroin addict’s wife. She pays my dad 100 bucks a month to park her van in the back yard. She lives back there with her husband. Renata slid the window open. The heroin addict’s wife wanted to charge her iPad. 

I rejected all your calls and powered my phone down. I sobbed and squeezed out all of today’s terror into a compact Japanese car in a 7/11 parking lot.

Forgive me, I  whispered into my black, sleeping iPhone.

Forgive me, I haven’t been myself lately.

-3

MonDATE: Bisexuals and the Right to Privacy, Part Two

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Him: You’re being extremely unfair!

Me: I’m sorry about that. Did you see August Osage County? What did you think?

Him: Seriously, are you Bisexual?

Me: I keep thinking if I hadn’t seen the Broadway play, I might have really liked the movie. I liked it quite a bit, actually, but I might have been blown away if I hadn’t watched the Broadway show twice.

Him: Don’t change the subject! Stop it.

Me: Julia Roberts really blew the doors off the hinges. It’s worth seeing just for that.

Him: I didn’t see it yet, okay?

Me: Okay. No spoilers, then.

Him: I’m asking you a question, and you’re avoiding it.

Me: I don’t see why I owe you the information. It’s just information, after all.

Him: I read your site for years. I’m extremely curious. What happened? It seems like you’ve made a 180, and I don’t know what to make of all of it. It seems…

Me: Don’t trail off. How does it seem?

Him: Hypocritical. It seems hypocritical. Sorry.

(There is a long pause. I sit on a bench at the bus stop.)

Him: You waiting for a bus now?

Me: Only if it’s an express bus to Canada.

Him: What does that mean?

Me: I dunno. It’s about half a joke. I’ll let you know when/if there’s a punch line.

Him: Hey. I’m sorry I called you a hypocrite – just how I see it.

Me: Ha. Then you’re not really sorry! You’re frustrated about quite a few things, and I’d suspect the root of it has very, very little to do with me.

Him: You can’t just… You can’t write about the gay community for years, and talk openly about being a poly-amorous homosexual – you can’t run some sort of online ‘brotherhood of man’ pie cult for the gays, and then just get married to a woman. Just, poof, you’re married and normal again. Just like that.

Me: Can’t I? Why can’t I? Why can’t I marry whomever I want? Isn’t that the underlined point behind the Marriage Equality movement?

Him: Don’t you feel you owe people like me an explanation?

Me: Why?

Him: Because I am one of your readers. Because I’m your audience.

(There is a long pause.)

Me: Well… thank you. I’m flattered you’re reading, that you’re still reading, and that you took the time to contact me. All of these things are incredibly flattering, and part of me agrees with you. A huge part of me thinks I owe it to you to tell you exactly how my sex life is structured, what it means to be LGBTQ in a traditional marriage structure, and send you home with a slice of pie and a warm feeling of hope for tomorrow.

Him: That’s what I’d like, yes.

Me: Then again, I’ve read quite a few books on writing, and while authors agree it is important to have an audience, they seem to also agree that catering things to your audience leads to atrophy in a major way. Bill Cosby said something like, I don’t know what the formula for success is, but I know the formula for failure is trying to please everyone.

Him: Teach me, oh wise one.

Me: I’m not getting paid to teach you, or, for that matter, to tell you how to live your life, or to tell you how I live mine.

Him: Okay, I’ll admit – it’s none of my business.

Me: Thank you.

Him: But I’m CURIOUS.

Me: Yes. You’re curious. That’s exactly right. You expect me to tell you intimate details of my personal life to you, the way I would to my therapist, because you read my site for a while and you feel somehow entitled to missing information. But you’re just an audience member. You’re just tuning in. You don’t know me and you have no real right to my inner physical, emotional, or intellectual life, beyond what I publish on my site, which by the way you read for free – so I owe you even less.

Him: People are going to want to know! You wrote about your sex life for years!

Me: No. Incorrect. I did not.

Him: Yes you DID. You’re being a hypocrite!

Me: Actually, I wrote about awkward dates, urban alienation, and my disappointment in a community full of brilliant, motivated, socially broken people. I almost never mentioned who I was having sex with.

Him: Come off it. You were sleeping with all those boys who made pie with you.

Me: Incorrect. Those were models, or friends, or people who contacted me online who wanted to help. It was very rare I slept with the people on my site.

Him: What?

Me: The “Awkward Dates” happen with people I don’t sleep with. That is the whole point: Here’s how NOT to sleep with me. The irony is, it’s pretty easy to sleep with me, if you’re cute and sweet, but most gay people have no interest in being kind, gentle, or generous of spirit – at least the ones who live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn don’t. They think they don’t have to, and in some sense, they’re correct. Someone will stomach their painfully underdeveloped, spoiled, sour personalities. But that someone isn’t me…

Him: Still seems hypocritical to me.

Me: You’ve now called me a hypocrite three times.

Him: So?

Me: So take a deep breath.

Him: Why?

Me: I’m about to tell you what I think about you.

(Pause. He looks concerned. I take a deep breath and count to ten.)

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

Broken Bird: Part Two

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Me: I made eggs, are you hungry?

Him: Okay, I guess. Wait, no. I’m fine. I’m getting fat.

Me: You’re never going to be fat.

Him: Where’s Karl?

Me: He left a few hours ago. He had to get to work.

Him: Work…  I know I’ve heard that word before. Work….

Me: I know, I’ve read about it, too. Who can say for sure, what this ‘work’ is? I understand everyone is always looking for it, and they dislike it when they have it?

Him: No, I think you’re thinking of ‘love.’

Me: I stand corrected.

(pause)

Me: So, I need to say this: My feelings were hurt last night.

Him: What? Why? Oh…

Me: Right. Karl and I were on our second date.

Him: I didn’t know that!

Me: I think I mentioned it, yesterday. I was excited about this one.

(pause)

Him: How did it go?

Me: Well, I dunno. It was going well. I guess I shouldn’t have…

Him: You know, I really like him!

Me: Yes. You two really seem to like one another.

(pause)

Him: Let’s just have this out. What are you upset about?

Me: Well, I kind of thought that Karl and I were on a date. I wanted you to meet us at Sugarland, because you’re living with me, and I consider you a good friend, by now.

Him: I am your friend.

Me: Right, and I feel like saying this, then – I don’t think it was very kind, or considerate of you to sleep with him in my bed, on our second date.

Him: I don’t think he thinks you two were on a date.

Me: At this point, no, neither do I. I don’t date people that fuck my friends during the first phase of the relationship. You have to wait a year or two, before you start fucking my roommate.

Him: It could have been the three of us…

Me: Yes. I know that. I felt that energy, but it’s hard for me to participate in that energy when I’m managing extreme hurt feelings.

Him: I’m sorry. I didn’t know.

Me: Right, well, I mentioned it was a date.

Him: I didn’t hear you.

(pause)

Him: You talk a lot.

(pause)

Me: I also cook and clean a lot.

(pause)

Him: I have to leave. I’ve got things to do today.

Me: I want you to know one more thing.

Him: Jesus, what now, grandpa?

Me: Just that I forgive you.

(pause)

Me: I forgive you both, and I am letting the anger for this go. My friendship with you is more important than a second date, and Karl is handsome, but not really my type.

Him: Seriously?

Me: I think so. I processed it, here, in the kitchen last night while you guys were soiling my sheets.

Him: I felt guilty when I saw you asleep on the couch.

Me: Well, you should check my blog. I blogged about it, last night, while you two were having sex.

Him: WHAT?

Me: Sorry. I had to get it out. I had to let it go. That’s part of what PIEFOLK is – it’s a place for me to put things I find awkward, sad, frustrating, or when people I care about do things I don’t quite understand.

Him: Michael, I’m sorry. Just tell me next time, or don’t invite me. You know what I’m like –

Me: When you’re drinking. Yes. And it’s hard to ask an actor, much less a drunk actor, to be anything less than the marvelous attention hound he was born to be. However, I’m a comic and a writer, and I want you to know – fair’s fair – this IS becoming material.

Him: Thanks for asking me. Looks like it already has become material.

Me: Uh, if you want to get on a high horse start paying rent.

(pause)

Him: I love you, big brother.

Me: Then give me a hug. I forgive you. I’m sorry.

Him: Me too.

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Tuesdays With Woody, Episode 2

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Hey folks. Here’s another episode of Tuesdays With Woody. In this episode, Shaun ‘raw dogs’ a stripper from Detroit. Woody and Michael tease mercilessly. Have a look!

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MYQ Kaplan’s HANG OUT WITH ME

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Honorary gay and incourigible straight lothario MYQ Kaplan had me and Ben Lerman over to the Hang Out With Me Playpen to talk about our sex lives, what it means to be ‘monogamish’ and how to solve racism in a room full of white people. It was a blast and you can laugh about it here:

http://www.keithandthegirl.com/Show-Detail/2782/Gays-Upon-My-Works.aspx

Thanks for the funzos boys. It was a hoot.

Oh, and MYQ, wear underwear next time? You kept flopping out of your silk smoking robe.

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IMG_3182 as Smart Object-1

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