Sweet Gregory: Part Three, The 59th Street Bridge – 2001

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Gregory is perplexed, and sort of chasing me up the hill. I’m not running, but it’s a steep climb and I’m race-walking. I don’t understand my powers yet -I can’t control them. In the years to come, I will learn that if emotionally triggered, or feeling slightly manic, raising my heart rate isn’t a good idea. Bad things happen when I do that.

Sweet Gregory is trailing behind me on the 59th Street Bridge. I am race-walking us to Queens. A mean plan has sprung up in my young mind.  I’m going to make him walk me all the way home, then tell him to get back on the subway. I’m not going to sleep with him tonight, or any other night. He’s changing, and I don’t recognize him at all any more.

Which is fine. I don’t recognize myself, either.

A racing heart sits inside an awful, jealous, mean, petty version of myself. The quickening pulse thrums out my eardrums. Mania starts to rise; I’m too young to realize its power. Too young to know that if I let the mania swell too fully inside me, I can unleash a terrible force, Like Father, when he built Asteroid M. But, my powers are yet undefined. It’s 2001, and I don’t even know much about myself. All I know is that I’m different than other folks, and that I have to hide it.

An arctic, icy blast lights up behind my eyes. I pick up the pace. Gregory complains.

Hey! Why are you walking so fast? It’s the middle of the night! What’s the rush?

I’m so busy these days Sweet Gregory! I have a rehearsal tomorrow and an audition!

You said you weren’t rehearsing until Friday?

It’s another project, duh! I said I was busy! Keep up!

I don’t want Sweet Gregory to keep up. I want him to lag behind me forever, but his voice has developed two decades in the last nine months. He’s coming into his full power, and I don’t even know what my power is yet! It isn’t fair. He’s a spoiled brat from a wealthy family. That’s not who the arts should be for! The arts are for real artists who had to struggle to get where they are, not for pampered babies whose families paid for their every whim.

(No, that’s not true, another voice in my head suggests. The arts are also a place the rich place their black sheep family members. Their broken. The sociopaths that don’t have a flair for business.)

I think of the improv classes I’m taking. How I had to scrape money together at the end of the month for rent, how I kept taking classes. I think of the regional and Off-Off-Broadway musicals, sometimes for little or no money at all, just to get a chance to get some free voice practice in. Ice crystals form behind my eyes. A bluish-white whisper floats from my mouth. Sweet Gregory is confused. He notices a change in me, but he can’t place it. He’s out of breath. We keep rushing. He stumbles, but I don’t pause to help him, I race out front.

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Come on! I have to get up early tomorrow, I say.

Gregory puffs and huffs behind me. Good luck with that golden voice, I think to myself. Maybe I’ll stick around and wear you out, Sweet, Sweet Gregory?  Maybe, I’ll just keep you tired your whole life, so you can’t sing…

I sense something preternatural near me. A flash in my mind – two unctuous, undulating eels, twisting in East River silt, rutting up tree roots, sliding past rusting cans.

My third eye pops open. I’m linked now, with the two gargantuan eels. This happens sometimes when my powers take over. They link to whatever animals nearby that can use their base instincts to fuel my agenda. Most of the time it’s just birds, but sometimes it’s uglier animals, depending on now insipid I feel inside when the mania triggers. The third eye swells. My skin is gooseflesh. I pause. Blue white light.

Lead him to the top of the bridge, the eels whisper, I am two places at once. I am standing on the Queensborough Bridge with Sweet Gregory, and I’m cold, submerged in the inky water of the East River, amongst flotsam and jetsam, amongst moss and fishes, and discarded needles, river rocks, and sharper stones.  Algae, particulate, brown earthy life, and two self-satisfied, overgrown, fear-driven eels.

Gregory catches up. Thank God you came to your senses!

I didn’t. And you thank God, Gregory! I don’t believe in your Catholic God who speaks an infallible voice through a man called the Pope. I don’t believe any of it!

It’s okay! It’s just religion! We don’t have to agree! Michael, what’s the matter with you tonight? You sang really well, back there! You’re funny! You know that funny people don’t have to learn to sing all that well? Think about all the character actors who make it on Broadway, just croaking out one song a night! It’s the dream job! Full salary for one fun song, and a few lines in the second act! Are you jealous?

Am I what???

Are you jealous of me?

Poison flows through my veins. Hatred pumped so quickly by my heart, fluttering and pounding away – endless pounding in my very soul – pounding deep into my core. Fuck you, Gregory – I’m not jealous. I feel sorry for you!

Michael…

I didn’t stop so you could catch up, Gregory. I stopped so you could have a fair start. We’re racing to the top of the bridge. I feel my tongue splitting in twain as I say this. My tongue silver, my words, quick.  I shift eye contact – right, left, right, left, right, left. Like a swinging pendulum on a grandfather clock. Eye to eye, I press into his mind, a bit, gently, I enter him. It’s easy. He doesn’t even know he has a third eye.

Race me up to the top!

Gregory looks uneasy, stunned, then his eyes glaze over, fuzzy, and he smirks.

Okay, he says, all Fairfield County, all bright and cheerful, but neutral underneath. It’s the tone of voice you might hear from someone who wants to talk about your problems endlessly, but offer no real solutions – it’s a classic politician’s voice – cheerful, smarmy. I’ve used my power to briefly create this moment, in order to make him chase me. It’s working. I feel in control again.

Okay? Ready, set, go!

He’s playing along now, and so am I. For a while I let us run neck and neck, but I’m a competitive swimmer, and I have been for more than a decade. Moreover, my mania will provide an adrenaline dump that usually lets me win a sprint. I’m fast. Gregory is taller than me but I pull away toward the top of the bridge. By the time I see his silhouette approaching, I’ve already climbed over the safety barrier. I’m perched at the apex of the bridge, with a slimy smile on my face. Two eels twisting inside my third eye. Two eels whisper to one another in the riverbed murk and muck, hundreds of feet below us.

Take it. Take him. We want a sacrifice. We need blood.

This takeover is unprecedented. I’ve approached animals before with my eye open, but I’ve never been hijacked like this. It terrifies me when my third eye opens on its own. I have to learn to control this. Go away! I’m shouting at the eels. Get out!

You asked us in! You can’t banish us until you grant a request. We require a sacrifice.

I don’t believe them. I think they’re lying. I clench my teeth; try to force my third eye closed. It moves a bit, then snaps back open. The eels giggle and hiss. Reflexively, I tighten my jaw again, and tear of a good sized chunk of my inner cheek.

We want blood… We need blood. We can’t get back on land unless you feed us. We’re trapped down here in the river.

Who are you?

We’re a little bit like you.

You are not like me.

No, not exactly. But we have powers like you. We could share.

I want you out.

We need blood, and we ain’t leaving.

Sweet Gregory approaches. He is red-faced and out of breath. Sweating through his Oxfords. He’s grinning.

Okay, okay, you win! Come down off there…

I’m not coming down, Sweet Gregory.

What? You’re nuts, come off it.

Come up here with me, Gregory.

Michael, I’m not coming up there. You could fall. If you fall you’ll die.

Gregory, life is about taking risks. That’s what I didn’t like about your song tonight. You sang it perfectly, but there wasn’t any risk in your voice. It sounded like you were doing something for the purpose of not being criticized, but it didn’t sound like you were pulling your own heart out. That song happens right before a character in the show leaves his home country to be with a foreign woman. You sang all the notes perfectly, but you didn’t tell the story.

Michael, I’m 22 years old. That role is written for a 40 year old man.

I want you to take a risk with me. Let’s jump into the river.

What?!?! No. Get down from there right now. This bridge is 350 feet tall, Michael. You’ll die if you jump.

I just read how someone jumped off last month and swam ashore.

Michael, did you also read that 70% of people who jump from this height, even into water, will die on impact? Because that’s an important part of the story, and I read the whole thing.

Make him join you, and push him in, the eels whisper to me, or, join him! We need blood to grow stronger – the more, the better. Both of you, strong bloods. Smells so good. Smells so powerful, crossing our river…

No.

Help us. We won’t let you die, if you deliver us Sweet Gregory’s head, like the head of John the Baptist. We can reward you! We can show you how to control your powers!

No.

You’re just like us, kiddo. Don’t you think we started off as people? Let us show you how to shape your own destiny. Let us unlock your power, and sip some for ourselves, to boot!

Brúttó. Þið tveir eruð ógeðslegir. Farðu úr huganum! Get out!

You’re the one who let us in. We require a blood sacrifice to leave. It’s simple. You can’t force us out until we get blood.

Gregory is nervous.  He can tell I’m considering jumping, now, in a real way. He can tell he has caught me on an evening where I’m so full of self-loathing, I feel like I have nothing left to lose. He can tell I’m dangerous, but he still loves me, a little, and he wants me to stop threatening to jump off the 59th Street Bridge.

Michael, please come down.

Gregory, why are you going into journalism?

Michael, I have to tell you – I’m up for a job as an editor.

You’re 22.

They really liked the articles I wrote for Show Music, and so it’s looking like I could be the editor of Next Magazine soon.

You’re an actor! You’re a great musical theater actor! That’s a local gay magazine that runs interviews with drag queens and has-been Broadway folks looking to rekindle something. Why would you leave the arts? Look – you can learn how to act better, but not everyone gets a voice like that, Gregory. Don’t waste it.

My father respects me now, Michael. It’s important to me. He doesn’t respect acting, as a career choice, but journalism! His son the editor? He respects it. What’s more, I can pay my rent doing it! I’m taking the job.

Bring him to us!

Gregory, come up here.

Yes!

No. I don’t want either of us to jump off a bridge tonight.

Just come up. I promise not to jump, or try to talk you into it. Just take the risk with me. Just hang off the side of the bridge! It’s fun.

Gregory comes up past the safety rail to sit with me on an iron girder.

Push him. Push him over, and we’ll show you how to REALLY use that third eye.

I push my tongue into the gash I bit into my cheek – a thick viscous iron taste. Blood. My third eye swells. Sing for me, I say. Sing another song for me, Sweet, Sweet Gregory. From Chess? The show you sang from at the cabaret bar?

Gregory clears his throat.

Now, sing, I say.

“What’s going on around me

Is barely making sense

I need some explanations fast

I see my present partner

In the imperfect tense”

Keep him singing!

“And I don’t see how we can last

I feel I need a change of cast

Maybe I’m on nobody’s side

And when he gives me reasons

To justify each move

They’re getting harder to believe

I know this can’t continue

I’ve still a lot to prove

There must be more I could achive

But I don’t have the nerve to leave

Everybody’s playing the game

But nobody’s rules are the same”

Push him over to us! You’ll be so powerful!

“Nobody’s on nobody’s side

Better learn to go it alone

Recognize you’re out on your own

Nobody’s on nobody’s side

The one I should not think of

Keeps rolling through my mind

And I don’t want to let that go

No lover’s ever faithful

No contract truly signed

There’s nothing certain left to know

And how the cracks begin to show”

Join us. We work for powerful gods. They will reward you for unlocking us from this watery prison.

“Never make a promise or plan

Take a little love when you can

Nobody’s on nobody’s side

Never stay too long in your bed

Never lose your heart, use your head

Nobody’s on nobody’s side

Never take a stranger’s advice

Never let a friend fool you twice

Nobody’s on nobody’s side”

I place my hand on Gregory’s back. I slide it down to the small of him.

I could push him. I could end both of us.

“Everybody’s playing the game

But nobody’s rules are the same

Nobody’s on nobody’s side

Never leave a moment too soon

Never waste a hot afternoon

Nobody’s on nobody’s side

Never stay a minute too long

Don’t forget the best will go wrong

Nobody’s on nobody’s side”

I bite open my cheek. The blood runs into my mouth. I grab Gregory’s thigh. I could easily throw us both into the river. It would be so simple.

“Never be the first to believe

Never be the last to deceive

Nobody’s on nobody’s side

Never make a promise or plan

Take a little love when you can

Nobody’s on nobody’s side”

I widen my third eye. I spit the blood down into the abyss. It falls 350 feet to the surface of the river.

NO! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?? YOU FOOL!

Trance-like and slack bodied, I open a portal to Ragisland. I suck up the last notes of Gregory’s song into my Eye, immediately placing his voice inside a small, impish cherub statue a few miles south of my memory castle. I shoved the golden voice into the cracks in the little angel’s marble. The statue rests behind a waterfall, it makes a steady, constant sound vibration.

I’ve locked Gregory’s voice here, at the same moment as my blood sacrifice to those eels. Its mine now. I can always visit his voice. He won’t need it anymore, anyway.

I leave the waterfall, the statue, behind. In the cold spring, now, I thrust my fists into the water. I clench myself. My eyes turn opaque, translucent white icy blue. My jaw, slack, bluish white light from my mouth. The eels in my hands, squirming. I seize them. I’m ousting them from my memory castle. I take them to the portal, and fling them out of my mind, back into the East river to meet their oily bodies, rutting and churning up scrum.

The astral plane is closed, this portal sealed. The eels hiss and scream, and fight one another for the meager blood sacrifice I’ve offered. They wanted a five course meal, and I barely gave them a bite – but they got their blood.

This isn’t over, Michael Martin. We’re not going anywhere. We know who and what you are now. We have tasted you. We’ll never let this go.

Shut up, I hear myself say. You guys are real dicks. They slink off down the coast a bit

We climb down off the pylons. We’re back on the bridge. I tell Gregory to head back to Manhattan, but he insists on walking me to Queensborough Plaza to catch the 7 back to Manhattan. I feel affectionate toward Sweet Gregory again. I want to hold him and be naked with him again, but I can’t. Part of me doesn’t want to ruin the relationship I have right now (though it seems to be ruining itself). Part of me doesn’t want to corrupt him with my frantic, crazy, manic whatever-the-fuck is going on with me. My inner cheek is bleeding. I can’t control my third eye. I’m toxic right now. 

Gregory hugs me at the station before heading up the stairs.

I’m proud of you, I say, and I’m surprised that I mean it.

I’m more proud of you, Michael. I know you’ll eventually make a living doing theater, or at least being funny! You’re perfect for that. I just need to do this. I like the idea of making a living now, and having my Dad’s approval.

You’re a better person than I am, Sweet Gregory.

No, I’m not! I have flaws! You’re a great person!

No, I’m not, I say, and I kiss him on the cheek.

He hurries up the stairs, but then over his shoulder – Yes, Michael. You are a great person! You’re exceptional!

You are, I say! I’m not a great person! I’m barely even decent!

Gregory doesn’t hear me. He disappears into turnstiles, fluorescent lights, ancient carved up wooden benches. His silhouette is distinguishable, for a brief moment, behind the opaque, tagged-up, art-deco glass panel that NYC’s yesteryear forgot to update. Behind the glass, his shadow merges with a sea of others. I can no longer sense his strong blood.

I walk the short distance back to my place in Long Island City. I stop worrying about the eels. I grind my tongue into my cheek and taste the blood already coagulating, already knitting itself together, patching my wound. The mania subsides.

I spend the wee hours of the morning in Ragisland, admiring a statue behind a waterfall. I’m listening to the vibratory hum of Tiny Gregory the Cherub mix with the sound of water showering down all around me, creating a shimmering barrier to hide us. 

I’m practicing turning my skin to diamond.

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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

I’m a Survivor

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I’m sitting with colleagues at a business lunch. I don’t often get to lunch with coworkers, as most of my work happens out in the field with foster-care clients. But, once a month we might all meet up for a sensitivity training to learn about transgender needs, or how to be racially sensitive, or how to let women do their jobs without bothering or condescending to them all day long. I don’t usually look forward to these type of meet ups. I’d rather be in the field, working with my clients. Some smug part of myself, too, always walks into these trainings thinking I know everything already, but some other more rational part of me knows it won’t kill me to keep my ears open – and I do. I try to do that. I listen. I have to remind myself, but I make the effort to listen.

Today’s an okay day. I like the people at this lunch table. I’ve known them for a year and a half now, but because we only meet once a month, we’re in that nascent-acquaintance honeymoon phase. Everyone should savor those first few weeks of a new friendship, I think to myself. Before the person, group, or lover trusts you enough to do something truly revelatory. That first moment they say something a tiny bit hurtful, and you’re reminded – oh, right – humans are a stain on the planet that deserve their small, petty lives of self-doubt, mired in indecision. I smile at this thought. Even when I’m overblowing my criticism of humanity, it’s really just a silly, exaggerated criticism of who I am, myself.

Also, it’s an exaggeration to say humans are a stain. Stains, you can get rid of.

They’re talking about global warming, the other social workers, and I’m waiting for a chance to chime in some type of clever joke about how I’m hoping for a pandemic to solve things for us. A pandemic would take care of a lot of things. Imagine, say, 9 million people survive, total. The population of NYC, roughly, but spread across the globe. Well, that’s got global-warming solved, isn’t it? Overpopulation? Solved. Systemic poverty? Solved, my friend! No more competing for resources. Don’t like the rules of some little hamlet that springs up? There’s arable land, buddy! Go build your empire. Leave us the technology, but let’s have fewer people competing for resources. Sure, I’m saying in my head, as the three dudes talk about rising tide measurements and carbon removal – it would suck that you would have to see catastrophic suffering, and watch society grind to a halt. I imagine large swaths of the world would be left to be reclaimed by the wilderness. Suddenly a thought flashes, briefly. Footage from a documentary I saw years ago. How quickly Chernobyl was swallowed by vines, and trees, weeds sprouting up through cracks in the concrete, bound to cause eventual rifts in buildings. Radioactive bunnies hopping around.

They’re talking about Trumpy now. For some reason they’re lingering on moral stuff, which I think is unfair. If Bill gets his blowjob, and JFK gets all those mistresses, we can allow a leader to cheat on his wife without making it a scandal. It’s part of what I don’t like about our landscape. There’s enough to criticize – stick to the job performance and watch where the money goes, I’d like to say, but I’m distracted by another thought.

What if I don’t survive the pandemic?

This thought is easy to dismiss. I take a moment to process it and think, that’s okay, I’ll just die.

I don’t want to die, right now, at this point in my life. I have, during some brief dark spots in my life,wanted to die, but I’ve always been way too much of a coward to commit suicide. Post apocalypse, though – that’s a game changer. I think to myself, okay, I’ll fight as hard as I can to survive this bleak new world, but not to the point of pity. If things get extremely grim, I know what to do. Maybe, I find a garage with a car, lower the door. Leaf through X-men comics while waiting for the end to find me, but only after it’s clear I’m going to die of the pandemic, or of some wound sustained by fighting with someone for the last charged iPad.

Reduce carbon emissions, I say to the social workers, absent, but still participating, hovering in-between worlds right now.

It’s okay if the pandemic takes me. Not ideal, but okay.  I can fantasize about Iceman one last time while the fumes take me. I can make this sacrifice, even in my own dystopia fantasy. It will be difficult, but I’ll bravely face the end, for the sake of my surviving family. It’s fine, I’ll say to my family. I’ve had every slice of pie, sang every song, kissed every boy. This way you can move on to the rumored utopia of New Atlantis, which is a cool way that everyone is now saying “Atlanta.” 

On the outskirts of New Atlantis, I’d face my fate with a grin, imagining myself slowly dying, serving up movie set realness while bravely suffering the ravages of the primeval disease unearthed in the Arctic permafrost, which fuses cartilage into bone, slowly calcifying the blood. Petrifying people into living, dying statues, it’s soon called the Redwood Flu. Frozen bodies litter the landscape, grim reminders of our late stage capitalism excess.  

Maybe they heal me, after someone bursts in with some super antibiotics they boosted from an abandoned research lab, and the next day our group is back on the eerie, abandoned highway, amidst drivers frozen solid in their cars. Tattered Chanel clinging in scraps to hairless, stony corpses. 

Leave the Chanel, a loved one might say, as they catch me trying to undress one of the Remnants, but take the Louis Vuitton purse. Just because the world has gone insane doesn’t mean we have to lose our minds.

I’m hauled back into the real world. The social worker’s luncheon. It’s kind of worth it, I think, I look at Korean Ben and think immediately about his nickname, which emphasizes his otherness. Korean is a distinguishing factor, indelible, and there’s another Ben at the table. He’s Mexican, but I don’t know why he’s just Ben and not Mexican Ben. The answer is probably “something something something white privilege,” I think, but that’s just a punchline to a joke I made up that everyone repeats around the office as a catch-all. I briefly wonder if he sometimes resents the nickname because it puts his otherness front and center but I quickly dismiss that thought as none of my business. They called him Korean Ben before I got hired.

And anyway, you can say the name of a country, snowflake.

Cory is there too, who is half-white, but will only ever describe himself as half-black. He explained this to me early on in my tenure here, over happy hour drinks one afternoon. I’m half-black, he said. Not half-white. Why pretend the world sees anything besides the blackness, Cory said, and smiled, like he’d been really clever, and we both laughed, but I could feel that – underneath that – there was a naked, unapologetic bitterness that Cory had every right to. I get it, I almost said to him, trying to draw a connection between a straight person of color, and a white homo. But, I didn’t mention any of that. I didn’t  want the conversation to devolve into equivocation. Cory likes gin collins, of all things, which kinda vouches for the white half, I joked. He laughed. It seemed honest, and not pained. I was drinking club soda, because drinking aggravates my chronic-but-not-acute hypomania, so I’m not allowed to anymore. Also, I don’t want to anymore. I did dumb, ugly things when I was drinking. I mean, it started out as cute and clumsy, but there was a rapid shift at some point, after a few back to back to back traumas.

And anyway, I just described a daydream of a pandemic flu. I’m probably crazy enough, sober.

Suddenly, Ben, Ben, and Cory have switched subjects. They’re talking Beyonce, now. The Coachella performance. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Stewing. I finally join the conversation. Blurting out:

“I’m so annoyed about her right now. Keep in mind, I’m not angry at her. I’m angry about her. Specifically, her relationship to the gay community. Specifically, how the gays deify her categorically, when they ought to be off somewhere discussing the finer points of Rufus Wainwright, or that gay K-pop star who killed himself. I like Beyonce. I can see why she’s a star. I think she’s a one of a kind talent and should get all the acclaim and success she has. She deserves to win the pop game. I respect her quite a bit.”

(It’s tumbling out of my mouth now, and I’m inadvertently doubling down on the awkwardness I’ve caused.)

“But, I guess that’s part of the point. She’s nobody’s fool. She’s not an idiot. She isn’t naive or girlish. She isn’t obsessed with cultivating her own cred, the way other pop stars can be. She just is cred. She is aware of the pretty things floating on the surface of American culture, sure, but her staying power comes from exposing some of the uglier things churning just underneath. She’s brilliant.”

(Oh shit, maybe a joke will help?)

“Also, marching bands don’t just magically make something transformative. I mean, maybe in the absolute literal sense, but the real transformative thing is her ability to see the gay community after marriage equality was passed in 2015, but somehow, not the decades preceding that.”

(Nope, they still hate me right now.)

“Which makes it suck so much more when she collaborates with a someone like Philip Anschutz, who donates to the Republican party, and to religious right anti-LGBT organizations. When she hands him the money he turns around and hands to the party of Donald Trump. The party of marriage inequality, the party of misogyny. The party that has worked so hard to normalize their (selling points) flaws that they can now get away with operating a completely corrupt kleptocracy.”

(Seriously, Korean Ben can’t even believe himself right now. As the other gay person in this four top, he’s shocked I’m betraying The Queen)

“They don’t even try to cover it up anymore. The rich have always oppressed the poor. Men have always oppressed women. The white majority has always twisted the roots of humanity to its will in the Western hemisphere. Straight people have always oppressed, demoralized, erased, lied about, scapegoated, killed, poisoned, threatened, condescended to queer people. Put us in concentration camps. Driven us to suicide. Ostracized us from our own families. Took away our livelihoods and tried to bring us low by ignoring a very real pandemic – a silent holocaust that will never be properly recorded because our minds were too feeble to fully remember, our mouths split with sores, our fingers too brittle to even hold the pen.”

(They are visibly uncomfortable. That’s LA. Be a walking nightmare, sure, but wear clean clothing and don’t ruin lunch. An inconvenient overshare with coworkers might fly in Brooklyn, or somewhere “authentic” but in this town it’s a sin, and it’s a cardinal sin.)

“That was the legacy of Ronald Reagan. That is the legacy of the party of Donald Trump. That is the legacy the owner of Coachella regularly donates money to. And now, I can not separate that legacy from Beyonce Knowles. At least, not while everyone is worshiping the golden calf.”

(Korean Ben is trying to change the subject. I can see that look in his eye. The understanding. The disappointment. It’s like I’m telling a secret he doesn’t want known about himself, even though I’m pretty sure he doesn’t agree with me. He’s trying to save lunch, whereas I have made the mistake of trying to be right.)

“Beyonce is a human being. She is not a deity. She, though her marketing tries to suggest otherwise, is not a walking embodiment of a goddess on earth. She is a person like you or I, and when she has dirty hands she needs to wash them. And make no mistake – when you give money to the people would would make us less than human, who would quibble about how much equality we can have before equality becomes ‘special rights,’ when you give money to someone who will then turn around and use that money to limit our rights, to maximize human death and suffering for monetary profit – when you do that, even indirectly –  you have sullied your hands. You have made yourself nakedly complicit in the ongoing task of the ‘haves’ breaking the spirit and the bodies of the ‘have nots.’”

(At this point everything has ground to a halt. There’s no plodding through any salads anymore. Nobody is eating.)

“Anyway,” I say, “The guy who runs Coachella is a homicidal maniac who donates to the right wing, and I’m not going to watch the video.”

There is an ugly pause. Everyone is gobsmacked. Myself most of all. Ben stammers out something like, hey, maybe she doesn’t know how he spends his money? I tell him he can Google “Coachella bigot” and see for himself. I remind him that Beyonce has a smartphone like everyone else, and implying she is unaware of the controversy swirling around this festival, and her helping to sell it out so quickly, might let everyone off the hook, but it insults everyone’s intelligence at the same time.

Korean Ben looks nervous. He just wants everyone to get along. He starts telling a story about how he was sad this weekend and how he watched the whole Coachella video and then binged all the online Beyonce videos he could find. He adjusts his posture. He plays victim. He was sad for a few hours, and only Beyonce could keep him from heading into the garage, and starting the car with the door down, and now I’ve taken that away from him! But, behind that victimhood is a quick calculation of social hierarchy. His eyes are already growing sharper. Colder. They start talking about the Coachella valley, and how hot it is. They start talking about Destiny’s Child. They don’t, won’t, everything-but-can’t look at me, because he’s done it. He’s thrown me to the wolves. Maybe I’m right and maybe I’m wrong, but Coachella is fun and this is the opposite.

We all say polite goodbyes, but I hang back at the table. I can see them filing out of the cafeteria style restaurant. Right before they leave my sightline, Korean Ben says, loudly, some quip about how people take homophobia so seriously these days, and how it’s not really even a big deal anymore, compared to how it used to be. He is giving them permission to treat me like one of the crazy, broken, militant ones. Which is fine, I’m not broken, but crazy, militant? Sure.

But wait, that’s not true, either. I’m not “crazy.” I have a mental illness. I’m treating it. Take your gaslighting and shove it up your ass, Korean Ben. I’m steaming pretty hard.

Gay people do it to each other so often, it’s not surprising anymore. The undermining. The minimizing. The gas lighting on social media, so that those good straight folks can enjoy their lunch, their Beyonce, their bigoted, violent belief systems – in peace. You can’t fault his intentions, either. He just wants to go along to get along.

Still I’m disgusted, a little bit. With myself, with Ben, with people in general. It was clear they didn’t care. That they saw this as a moment of gay drama. Yeah, sure. Gay drama caused by the indignity of a life unobserved, a life destined to be constantly erased by the indifference of a straight, mediocre world.

In the car I flash to another memory of Korean Ben, of him laughing out of sheer joy in the office at a joke we were sharing. The look he gave me when I made him laugh. The gratitude. Something behind the gratitude. A glimmer. Something in there. Hope, or love. It isn’t long before I’ve forgiven him for selling me out in that small, huge moment. It was just part of our day. Later on I send him a short email, saying “Beyonce texted me, and she says she’s sorry about the dirty money, but it’s totally okay if you binge watch her videos.”  He texts back that he’s having a hard day, too. We both get back to our clients in the field.

Back to tending to these foster children. Of doing small, procedural things their (presumably straight) parents couldn’t or wouldn’t do. I’m not even annoyed at Ben anymore. It happens so often, that I have learned to let small betrayals fly off into the wind. They can condescend, but they can’t truly minimize my pain, my truth, my joy, my struggle. By the evening, it’s almost like it didn’t even happen.

If you expect nothing of people, you get everything you ever wanted. What do I expect of people. What good can come of high expectations? Wouldn’t I just take the money, too?

All this, I smirk to myself, just so Beyonce could have more money. An extra helicopter.

As I’m driving home, I am transported.  In my mind, Korean Ben and I are in the pandemic world, me helicoptering him over the Coachella valley. His eyes twinkle the way they did in the office that one time, when I could still make him laugh. Beneath us, petrified bodies, desert floor, tattered banners. Horse blankets and prospector’s hats. I reach out to touch Ben on the arm, but I lose my nerve and wind up awkwardly fiddling with the radio, which is stupid, because the radio stations in this world have stopped transmitting years ago. Yet, there it is, as clear as day, Destiny’s Child, on the radio. I’m a survivor. We share a moment of shock, of surprise. Pure joy in the sudden appearance of music that disappeared years ago.

I check our altitude, clear my throat. We start to sing, at the very top of our lungs. Beyonce is telling us she is a survivor. She’s gonna make it.

That’s more than obvious, I think to myself, singing along, setting the coordinates for New Atlantis.

But, what about us?

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Kansas, and My Own Water Fountain

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The way I see it, Kansas owes me several water fountains. In fact, consider this essay a public request for a separate LGBTQ water fountains outside every single government building in Kansas. Are you listening, governor Sam Brownback? You owe me a water fountain, at the very least.

I don’t feel qualified to comment on politics most of the time. I tell stories for a living and I’m mostly ignorant of real-life human events. I traffic in emotions, imagination, and plot twists. Punch lines, tag lines, and silhouettes interest me far more than local, regional or global events. I don’t watch the news, or own a television. I work on my stories. I take walks, cook meals, and try to ignore things that don’t lift me up. In my opinion, with the exception of satirists, artists don’t have the luxury of being political. I mean, if you write for South Park or late night television, sure, but otherwise, no.

I am intentionally uninformed. My mother had to call a few weeks ago, to warn me about a small black bear loose, terrorizing my area of Los Angeles. She knows I’m not paying attention. This is the man I’ve evolved into. I’m not saying it’s good or bad. It’s just what I’ve become.

In the past I have been a human rights activist with organizations such as Amnesty International. I’ve campaigned for candidates I believed in. I’ve protested unjust legislation or organizations. I’ve served as a community leader, sometimes, in different capacities. I believed in equality. I believed in brotherhood. I believed in the idea of a baseline human right to exist, untampered with.

However, the bill introduced this past Wednesday by the Kansas State Senate has me re-thinking some of my core beliefs. Please forgive my rudimentary, layman’s interpretation of this piece of legislation – it’s written in legalese. I don’t have the proper technical qualifications to interpret it the way a judge could, but here’s what I’ve gathered:

Anyone who owns a private business or works for the government can refuse goods and services to same sex couples for religious reasons. Do you own an ice cream store in Kansas? Creeped out by the gay folk who just moved in down the street? Don’t sell them an ice cream cake for their anniversary! You don’t legally have to, and this new law will make you immune to a civil suit for refusing them service. Hotels, gyms, nail salons, restaurants can all ask homosexual couples to leave, and not worry about getting sued.

In fact, they don’t even have to prove you’re homosexual. They can refuse service to people based on suspected homosexual activity. Let’s say your name is Steve, and you’re in a band with your friend Ben. Let’s say your band is 3 years old next Tuesday and your Aunt Ruth wants to print a banner that says “Happy Third Anniversary, Steve and Ben!” The owner of the print shop can deny service to your Aunt Ruth based on a suspicion that he might be aiding and abetting a same-sex couple. What’s more, he’s on the right side of the law, and there’s no legal recourse for your Aunt Ruth.

It’s not just about denying access to main street businesses, however. The law specifically extends its language to include state run services as well. This means any publicly funded service can be denied by the employee in charge, like an ambulance, a state run hospital, or something as fundamental as the postal service.

The governor of Kansas defended this bill, saying “Americans have constitutional rights, among them the right to exercise their religious beliefs and the right for every human life to be treated with respect and dignity.” Thank goodness the state senate had the good sense to strike the bill down.

Here’s what I have to say about it:

At least you’re being honest, Kansas. At least you’re willing to put it down on paper – you think what I am is so revolting, to such an extent that you think your Creator gives you the right to oppress my people.  What’s more, the majority of a legislative body agrees with you, is willing to write a piece of legislation which attempts to codify and legalize your xenophobia, your hatred.

I picture myself at 22 reading about this bill, naive and upset. A younger, more politically active version of myself would have tried to use my blog, my Facebook account, my Twitter feed – to mobilize some sort of action. Tweet at the governor, or anyone in the state senate! Write letters! Make a flash mob happen in Kansas to protest the bigotry with some grandiose, large scale demonstration of love! Even now, thinking of those types of things – a smile spreads itself across my face. I love thinking of things in those simple, artistic terms. How cute. We really showed them, didn’t we?

But in reality, we didn’t. We didn’t show them anything. They win. And they win everywhere. They win in Russia, and they win in Asia, or India, where they pressure us to stay in the closet. They win in Wyoming, when they crucify us on fences, and they win in Jamaica and Nigeria where they lynch us, where they kill us with no fear of punitive measures. Even where we huddle, cloistered in our coastal bastions, they win. You don’t have to go to the mid-west, or Nigeria, or Moscow to get spit on, beaten, or denied services because of your sexuality. That happens in NYC and Los Angeles, too, on a regular basis. The discrimination is more subtle in those places, but only in the daytime, and only in the strictest legal sense.

So, Kansas, you win. You have the majority, and that majority hates me for existing, and you win. Make your laws and enforce them. I will, or won’t, go to Kansas – depending on whether or not my business takes me there.

However, do give me my own LGBTQ water fountain? I’m afraid I must insist.

I want my own water fountain, Kansas. Not because I think people should be separated, segregated, devalued, beaten down, or systematically discriminated against. I want my own water fountain for a simple and plain reason:

I’m better than you.

Time will show. I have the moral high ground here, and I’m better than you. If you’re going to institute a Neo-Jim Crow, do it right, and give us separate water fountains. Not because you’re better than us; because we are better than you. We asked for basic human rights, and you rushed to your senate floor to protect your privilege. You had the option of letting society inch forward a tiny amount, and you attempted to block it. We are better than that. I am better than that.

I insist on my own water fountain.

I will not drink from the same spigot that waters your dirty mouths, nor the mouths of your bigoted children. Nor will I listen to the vile, contaminated filth which consistently turns forth, bubbling up from your ilk, belching its way forward – ruddy, unwashed, rude –  into the American consciousness. I’m a performer and a writer, and over the years I’ve discovered I don’t have much shame, but my pride will not allow me to share the same water you drink, nor the same bread that you break.

Give me my water fountain, Kansas, and have done with it. I’m certainly done with you.

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Starbucks, Part 2

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Him: Ew. I can’t believe you took me to Starbucks.

Me: You’re welcome.

Him: Did it sound like I was thanking you?

Me: Oh, no – not by any means. But I did pay for your Chai tea.

Him: Wow. I guess you want a hand job now or something?

Me: Uh. No. That’s fine.

Him: I give good hand jobs.

Me: That’s great.

Him: Oh, sorry – maybe you want to go have procreative sex with a woman instead.

Me: I can assure you that I don’t want to do that. Well… Maybe…

Him: EWAREYOUSERIOUS?

Me: I mean, I don’t necessarily want to have sex with a woman. I’ve just been feeling a tug toward raising a kid lately. It’s not even a real thing. I don’t have the money I would need to raise a kiddo.

Him: Let me guess, you work with straight people too.

Me: I work with a mix of people, but yes, they’re mostly straight.

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Him: Ew.

Me: Ew?

Him: Ew, I find that distasteful. Everyone I work with is gay, on purpose.

Me: What?

Him: We only hire gay people. Plus, one black lady we thought was a lesbian but just had a short haircut.

Me: You only hire gay people to work in your graphic design department?

Him: That’s right.

Me: That’s illegal.

(long pause)

Him: I suppose you work alongside straight people.

Me: I do.

Him: Shudder. Did you like that? I’m announcing my shudder.

Me: I…

Him: How can you do that? How can you work with them?

Me: I have to? I do comedy. I don’t know of many comedy venues that are solely LGBT.

Him: You could be a drag queen.

Me: With these shoulders? Hardly.

Him: Hahahahaha! You said something funny! I’m surprised.

(long pause)

Me: Thanks.

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Him: I can’t do it. I can’t work alongside them. No. No, thanks. They’re so privileged  and they don’t even know it. They’re awful.

Me: They’re wonderful.

Him: Don’t they say condescending things?

Me: No. They’re usually supportive.

Him: What about when you mention gay rights?

Me: I don’t think very many of them are connected to the issue.

Him: Right. And I suppose you don’t remind them of the reality? That most teen suicides are gay teen suicides? That, in most states, the family will take an inherited estate away from a long term gay partner? That there’s still no such thing as federal immigration equality when dealing with international gay marriage? That they still beat, intimidate, and lynch us all across the country?

Me: That’s not water cooler talk.

(pause)

Me: It’s worse in some countries.

Him: Yeah, it is. In Jamaica they’ll straight up kill you, and not go to jail, but is that something I should be thankful for? Should I thank the straight police officer for not lynching me on my way to work? And what about adoption rights? Statistically, it’s more difficult for gay men to adopt children than any other minority group – and that’s a world wide statistic. Never mind the countries where if you’re admittedly gay, adoption is simply out of the question.

Me: Isn’t it a little easier if you’re interested in adopting a non-white baby? Can’t you foster to adopt?

Him: Yes. You can take an AIDS baby from Africa, or a kleptomaniac ten year old from Appalachia if you want. You can have anything the straight people don’t want. You can cut their hair. You can cut their lawn. You can decorate their house. But then you have to get out.

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Me: I…

Him: You have to get the fuck out! They don’t want you. They think you’re disgusting. Because your love isn’t good enough. Your love isn’t worth as much – or anything! You don’t get to have the same basic rights and protections they do because they think they’re better than you. No. No thanks. I won’t do it. I won’t work alongside them. Bad enough I have to look at them on the subway.

Me: Hey. I get it. I have anger too.

Him: Anger? Anger. Fuck your anger. That doesn’t even begin to cover my outrage. I’m livid. I’m crawling out of my skin I’m so disgusted with them.

Me: They don’t all believe those things you said.

Him: Most of them do.

Me: How do you know?

Him: LOOK AT THE LAWS THEY MAKE AGAINST US. Are you an idiot?

Me: Only professionally.

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Him: Well, I don’t know what I can do to help you.  If you can’t see what’s right in front of your face then ‘professional idiot’ might be the best move for you.

Me: Hey –

Him: No. Go hang out with your masters. Go lick the boot pressed firmly against your neck.

Me: That sounds pretty dramatic.

Him: What do you want from me?

Me: I just want to talk.

Him: Well are you happy? We talked. Thanks for the shitty Chai. I’m leaving now.

(pause)

Him: Jerk.

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Kevin Allison, Adam Gardiner, Dale Cooper – Episode 3

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Dale Cooper: I don’t have a smart phone. I can’t {tweet back at my fans}.

Me: How do you run Grindr? I met you on Grindr.

Dale Cooper: I have an iPod touch. I don’t know my way around New York, but if I can find WiFi – I can route my way around. If I need to get fucked I can jump on Grindr. But I don’t have that constant…  internet pressure…  notification this and txt here and whatnot.

Kevin: Yeah. It changes your life.

Dale: It does and I’ve seen that. Going back to porn – I’ve been at a table full of performers and producers and we’ll be at a long table and there will be nine of us and everyone is on their smart phones…

Kevin: Yeah…

Dale: And they’re not txting each other they’re communicating with other people. I don’t know if they’re ‘checking in’ at the location or what…

Me: I had to start doing that with my improv students. I had to start saying, there’s no iPhone use. I’ll pick up my iPhone but just to check what time it is so we can go on break. I had to be very stern with a certain class I’m teaching right now because there’s a couple of ADHD students – they’re very talented, I like them a lot, but if I don’t  – I have to be like an old school teacher with them. “No grooming yourself! Stop combing your hair! Don’t talk when I’m talking! Now these are my notes…”

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Dale: Ruler smacking… That teacher-student kink thing?

(laughter)

Dale: Put on the dunce cap!

(laughter)

Me:  “Now clean the classroom! NO ONE’S BLOWING ME!!!”

(laughter)

Kevin: “I couldn’t help but notice no one’s BLOWING ME!!”

(laughter)

Dale: It’s gotten to the point with smart phones where I want to get a watch, just so I can check the time without giving the appearance that I’m on my phone. That’s kind of silly. Who gives a fuck? I mean, we’re all social creatures, so I guess we all give a fuck in some way or another.

Me: I suppose so! Kevin, I want to talk about storytelling. You kind of self-actualized a couple of years ago and you took yourself from a point of…  you were almost ready to give up comedy altogether.

Kevin: I actually DID. I did give up comedy – after The State broke up I had always been the black sheep, you know the middle child that was off in his own universe?

You know they say that when Mel Brooks was writing on Your Show of Shows with Woody Alan, and  Neil Simon and Sid Ceasar – they would always laugh like hell at his sketches in the writer’s room and say, alright, well, we can’t use that! I was that guy in The State. Everyone loved my stuff – we could never put it on TV.

Me: Larry David had the same problem on SNL.

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Kevin: Oh. Yeah! So when the group broke up, I was like, what do I do with myself now? There’s a part of me that’s super polite and submissive and Midwestern and – a Catholic boy from Ohio.  And a part of me that’s raunchy and kinky and a madman and likes experimenting with drugs and all that… So finally after 12 years of starving trying to do [character based] comedy, I did give up. I went into publishing.

(pause)

Then I slowly realized, no. I have got to express myself somehow.

(pause)

There’s a part of me that needs to express myself not solely in terms of comedy… under no restrictions. I don’t have to be making people laugh every 8 seconds.

Me: No!

Kevin: So when I first got up onstage and told a true story Michael Black said, you’ve got to drop the act and start speaking from the heart as yourself. I said, it’s too risky. And he said, exactly. Risk is where the good stuff comes from.

Me: Right.

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Kevin: So I tried a story onstage the next week, and it was all about how I tried to prostitute myself (when I was 20), and it didn’t go very well. But the story went GREAT!!

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Colby Keller Interview: Part One

photos by adam gardiner

Me: Do you see yourself as a role model?

Him: A role model? I don’t see myself as a role model, no.

Me: Really? Why not? You came out when you were 15. You have the guts to have sex with boys for a living while everyone watches… I think that does a lot more for gay rights than some sort of Victorian…

Him: I’m not going to pretend like it was something that it wasn’t. I came out because my parents discovered a big stash of porn that I had. I may have wanted them to find it but I wasn’t about to be mister responsible at 15 and say ‘Mom and Dad…’

Me: Right, but that’s the thing about life – it’s not about what happens, or circumstances, it’s how we deal with it. And you dealt with it in a very interesting way. I’ve done some research and I’ve seen the way you present yourself in the media, and I think you could consider yourself a role model. The idea of a porn star even-handedly guiding someone through a threesome is an important thing, because to ignore –

Him: Right. I think everyone has that responsibility to do that. To teach other people to make ourselves better human beings. People have that responsibility.

Me: No. We don’t. A lot of us don’t try. A lot of us are so selfish – you see that, right?

Him: A lot of us fail at that – I don’t think it should be considered special. It should be considered the norm.

Me: I like that. There’s a Victorian tenseness in the gay community about painting ourselves just like straight people. Can you speak to that? I think we’re different and better than straight people.

Him: It’s been a good strategy to make us more palatable to society at large. I don’t think we’re better [than straight people] because I think we should be more radical and we’re not. I don’t think [that gay marriage] is what our political struggle should be about. I think it’s about re-framing it in terms of queerness. I think it’s a ‘queer’ identity which anyone can have. You can be straight and be queer. The idea of conformity – the gays that say ‘I won’t be happy until I’m treated like every other straight person, and that includes marriage…’ not that that’s not something that doesn’t have value, or isn’t a good thing…

Me: It’s a civil rights issue.

Him: Right. But I don’t think that’s what our political struggle should be about. It’s about re-framing it in terms of queerness rather than something specific to our sexuality. Because there are a lot of really horrible gay men – let’s face it.

Me: Why are there so many horrible gay men, do you think?

Him: People want to be accepted. They struggle to give value to their lives. They’re afraid of being different and what that means, so they desperately struggle for conformity. That process (which isn’t unique to gay people by any means) – but I think that it’s something that’s very common. Because first of all, you are different. You’re not having sex like most people on the planet have sex – and instead of embracing that, and seeing where there’s value in that in a radical kind of way, they think of ways to make themselves normal again.

Me: And then they project that onto each other.

His boyfriend: That’s the big thing. The reinforcement and also control over everyone around you. You take your shame and you project it onto people who don’t want it.

Me: They don’t want your fucking shame! You don’t want your shame. Your shame was given to you by your family, and your church, and…

His boyfriend: Keep your shame. Keep it to yourself. Don’t force the rest of us to deal with it…

Me: Or find a good outlet? Like S&M. That’s a good outlet – because then we’ll all have an orgasm in then we’ll all go home and get our work done. I bar tended for a long time in the gay community and I can’t tell you how many times I heard phrases like ‘Ew, you went home with him? You know he’s a drag queen?!’ That’s so much shame… Self hatred.

Him: I think we’re taught to hate ourselves, but we’re also taught to like a certain thing. That’s what the market wants us to do. We need to be attracted to a certain type of body, you know?

His Boyfriend: Look at Ryan Murphy and all the mega-media shit that he’s putting out there right now. Where all gay men are supposed to live in Los Angeles, live in Mc Mansions, and be adopting Asian babies.

Me: Wait a minute. I want an Asian baby.

His Boyfriend: Okay, you can have an Asian baby, but where’s our media that’s cross class, like Roseanne?

Him: I think the thing that’s interesting to me is polygamy – most cultures in the world – that is the ideal relationship.

His Boyfriend: Look at Bill Clinton. When he had that affair, the world laughed at us. We almost shut our government down because he had sex with a younger woman. All the other cultures in the world were like, he should be fucking everything that moves.

Me: Because he needs to do that in order to maintain the ego it takes to run a fucking country!

His Boyfriend: Exactly!

To Be Continued – full audio podcast available soon!

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