The Fall and Rise of Andy Dick, Part One – The Legend

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She storms out of the restroom of Akbar. I can’t help but notice her, fuming down the runway from the powder-room to the sidewalk. She seems annoyed; over it.

I nudge my friend Lammy, who’s off processing something else. He misses her. He’s looking over at Pete Zias, a sultry comedy genius who’s doing my show on the 29th. Lamy is caught up in thought, and I’m trying to bring him back to focus on this spurned, lovely, fresh-faced ingenue vamping out of Akbar. She seems straight, I think. I bet her gay friend did something major, and she’s not having any more of tonight.

I check my phone. It’s still early.

I love watching women fuming. I like seeing them angry. I like seeing the veneer peel back. I don’t want to see everything, but watching a woman get furious is like watching a force of nature in action – a hurricane or a tornado.  When my mother was younger, she covered some spider veins with nude pantyhose. I mentioned it to her once, wondering how she got them, and she said, oh, those are from your brother. Yours are here, she then said, and pointed somewhere else on her leg. I never mentioned it again, but I felt humbled in the moment. I really love women.

When raised into ire, they show a hint, a whisper of that age old anger I identify in myself. Sure, it’s not at all the same situation as being a gay man, but it’s a very similar, equally complicated dynamic. Trying to be the prettiest version of yourself, getting punished for it. Trying to be an uncompromising, high riding bitch, getting punished for that, too. Trying to be a boring version of yourself, getting criticized. I could keep going:

I have always loved women. Nurturing and twisting, empathizing and uncompromising, thoughtful and self absorbed and generous to a fault, and sometimes just plain selfish. I love women for what they are, when they are, who they are. Even when they act ridiculously entitled, I’m apt to make excuses for them. They’re women. They understand.

We all need each other. We have to love one another, the men, the women, the gays, the straights, the colors and the whites – people somewhere in the middle of those “either, or” paradigms. And most women understand that. Sometimes you have to draw it out, but most women get it.

Trust me though, this particular chick has had it. She’s done with tonight. I can tell that on the storm-out.

Bonus footage: there’s a storm-back-in. She’s tapping on the lady’s room door! By this time Lammy and I have migrated over to say goodbye to Pete, and his lovely friend Marcel, who has the bright heart of a mime, and the sensitivity of Proust. Kind men, I think to myself, as we bid goodnight. I see the upset woman walking back out again, out of the corner of my eye. She has short hair, and a pixie’s face, and blackberry red lips. It’s something thin and gauzy draped from her. Maybe, it’s a sundress? I can’t tell.  It looks effortless and smooth but maybe she’s pissed? She leaves again. We move to leave behind her. I look back to try to catch a glimpse of Pete and Marcel laughing. I want to leave Akbar with that image in my mind, so I turn my head, expecting to see these bright, funny boys.

But, instead, right behind me, it’s Andy Dick. Andy fucking Dick.

He gives me a sigh and a look like, yes, it’s me, you’re recognizing me, it’s not a good time, let’s move things along. He even does this thing where he takes one finger, aims it sideways, and rolls it at me. That gesture people do, when they want you to wrap something up in a business meeting, or maybe even over coffee. But I don’t care. It’s Andy Fucking Dick.

“You’re Andy Dick!” I say, immediately out on the sidewalk. The fuming woman perches in a shiny red convertible with a handsome male driver. He’s tan and has a pencil mustache. Mischievous, smirking, he looks well-heeled. I turn back to Andy Dick. “I’m a huge fan of your work. News Radio is a brilliant piece of Americana.” I grasp his hand to shake it, and hold it, squeezing his opposite shoulder with my left hand. Eye contact, mutual respect, meaningful touch. “Just brilliant,” I say.

“Thank you,” he says. You’re a kind person. He says it with a sort of sadness in his eyes.

(Once I was allowed to go to a carnival. It was high school and I could drive, and I was going there with my friend Fred Woodchord. Things didn’t work out like I’d wanted them to, and my friend left early. I stayed. I was there when they were wrapping up and I saw all the artifice packed up for the night. Carnie folk, like I’d seen working at my parents’ laundromat in Brooksville, Florida. They come and do huge loads of laundry. The soap turns brown! But somewhere in my memory castle I access the night of the carnival. I stayed too long; ate too much sugar. Played too many penny arcade games. I drove home feeling mildly ashamed and kind of sad, like how Andy looked at me.)

“Hey,” I say. “You did a really good job, bud. You’re a classic.”

Andy’s smirk softens and he stares deep into my eyes.

“You’re a good person,” he says.

“You’re brilliant.”

And that’s it.

Andy breaks the spell, moves toward the red car, with the smirking, handsome, 40 something driver. The young woman is almost girlish now. She’s back to neutral, dreamy – checking her cuticles.  I move to try to introduce Lammy, but the moment has passed.

Andy hops into the convertible, I move with Lammy, northwest, to my car. Oh my god that was Andy Dick. I know. Did you ever see News Radio? What’s that? It’s a sitcom from the 90’s – brilliant cast, Steven Root is in it! It was Phil Hartman’s last major project. Maura Tierney.  Dave Foley. I could go on.

He’s an American treasure, I tell Lammy. We get into the car to flyer more at Gold Coast, and possibly Trunks. Maybe Motherload while we’re at it.

Did you know Andy Dick was an inspiration to me, I ask Lammy. Lammy shrugs. Oh yes! He probably has something similar to chronic hypomania! Certainly, he’s an addict – he’s very open about that when he interviews. Not sure if he’s in recovery now, or not. I’m so proud I met him! He was clearly gay and making it as an actor when I was young, I say. Lammy loves to say little, and chime in to disagree about semantics. He reminds me that Andy Dick is bisexual. I don’t care, I say. In my head, when I was a kid, watching Andy Dick star in (hands down, no arguing) the best sitcom of its era. In my head it was a gay man succeeding in comedy, and not toning it down. Not even trying. For the 90’s, that was as badass as you could be.

Lammy smirks and shrugs and I drive us west. He’s much younger than me. I’m blathering about mania, and how it can trigger brilliance, and how I’m so blessed at this time in my life, and how the world, life, the Holy Spirit, the Great Spirit, whatever it is – is lining up synchronic vibrations for me this year – is being so kind this time around. It’s not nasty like five years ago. It’s good this time.

I’m so proud of me, and of Lammy, who did some pretty awesome communications today, as a friend, at his business. I’m so proud of bisexual Andy Dick, and how even a cruel, ugly world sometimes can’t keep those special people who hold a small light inside apart. Not for long. Not forever. It lines itself up for us, just as it does for the meanies, the bullies, the awful, grabbing, fear-mongers. Sometimes, it synchs for us, too.

We turn left on Fairfax. Lamy puts his hand on my knee. He’s worried about a man crossing the street. I joke about how, he wouldn’t be walking so slowly if I wasn’t trying to turn left. Lammy misses the joke.

He’s off somewhere for a split second. He’s in his memory castle. He’s processing something else.

-4

Maybe We Can Stay This Way

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I can see him underwater the next lane over. He appears sharper through goggles than a person might in the real world. More vivid, bobbing, floating next to me. Ethereal and handsome -he is young, no older than 30, and lithe.

He has been swimming short, nearly frantic sprints – whereas I’ve been plodding along, more even paced, for the better part of a mile. I’m taken with him, the way you can only truly be taken with someone beautiful, who has yet to open their mouth.

And, he is beautiful. He’s a perfect, carved-from-renaissance-marble, Grade A thirst trap. His punk rock British flag speedo clings desperately, ephemerally to his human perfection, but he comports himself across the pool in semi-awkward fits and starts. Even this spastic swimming style has a way of wearing well on his frame. Strong, and broad of shoulder, his body is glossy – cut from sinew.

He seems almost unconscious of his phenomenal good looks, but that particular air has to be cultivated. You can’t pass through life that gorgeous and not have some sort of self awareness, can you?

I decide not to approach him. Having gamed it out, I’ve concluded – it can only end in disappointment. Either he’s arrogant, or an idiot, or not gay, or gay, but not into dudes in their 40s.

Or, even more likely, he’ll sniff out my own arrogant idiocy a mile away. I’ve run the numbers; it’s grim.

If it can’t end well, a professor of mine used to say, it’s better not to start at all.

I come to this decision about ten minutes after he gets into the pool, which, in a way, frees me up to fully enjoy his presence. Once I realize I’m not going to approach him, I stop being preoccupied with HOW I might do it – stop trying to rest at the wall conveniently next to him, stop trying to show off speed, or endurance, or form. Letting go of the possibility of meeting him frees me up to simply enjoy the model-of-human-perfection sharing these deserted three lanes with me.

And I do enjoy it. It’s a small joy to swim next to him – even though he thrashes a bit too much on his freestyle sprints. The whole thing seems a bit surreal, like a Dali painting maybe, or like we’re floating in space. He has faded, teal-yellow hair which might have lived a vibrant former life as a true indigo.

We continue like this for another fifteen minutes. Like astronauts but more graceful. Like dancers, but less. Being so close, almost naked with him is having an effect on me. I feel safer, smarter, more graceful, even better looking. I start to wonder if maybe I will approach him after all. Maybe, I think to myself, he only speaks some Eastern European language. Maybe we can stay this way forever, only ever communicating the most basic things to one another. Are you hungry, my beautiful darling? Are you cold? Thirsty? Would you like to have frantic, rowdy sex on this sectional sofa?

But, suddenly, he is gone. I see his smooth body slip up and out – breaking through the undulating ceiling of our small, shared universe – nullifying it. Canceling out the whole experience. A moment ago he existed, luminous, flailing, pulsing next to me in the water. Now, he doesn’t exist at all. Now, he’s just a symbol of a few brief, quiet, joyous moments. Something for me to write about later. A memory.

Good, I think to myself.

I can finally take a piss.

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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

Letters

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Dear Michael,

Okay, so you married a woman. I want to hiss at you, you rotten so-and-so… You community betrayer. You no good fucking breeder…

Just kidding. I imagine the reactions were something similar to that though – with sprinklings of misogyny (“vaginas are yucky,” that sort of thing).  Men! Am I right?

Funny story – a co-worker was into astrology and all that jazz. When she did a reading of the stars I was born under she said the spiritual side was so strong I would pretty much become gay Jesus. As an unabashed hedonist, I was rather disappointed.
Luckily she noted that the same house that determined religiosity also determined addictions – or something to that effect – so it could be that I’m just going to become the world’s greatest alcoholic. Let us pray… May my liver put the fattiest of fois-gras to shame. Martyrdom is for fucking chumps – no disagreement here.
People always regurgitate the same shit like “it gets better” –  as if they are magical incantations that put broken things right again. When I was 16 and broke under the stress of being different in a small, religious, backwater agricultural town, I wound up deeply suicidal and stuck in a psychiatric ward for a few months.
No friends or relatives came to visit. Nobody asked me how I was doing. A month in I remember my dad yelling at the head psychiatrist “fucking fix him – how long until he’s fixed?” Once I was released back into the wild, good friends were wary and distant. Adults looked at me with reserved suspicion. Word had clearly gotten out about my failed attempt to hang myself from the gym rafters.
I’m young and stupid, but I also feel old and pessimistic. The old man inside knows that people don’t want to emphasize with unpleasantness, and they don’t give a flying fuck about the problem. They just want it fixed, and removed from sight.
So I would love to give you a pep talk about how everything is going to fix itself, but I’m not sure how to do that without feeling like a no-good shyster. For a while I was focused on becoming an activist. I couldn’t change what happened to me, but I could help stop it from being inflicted on others. Ha!
Even as I type this I’m laughing at myself.
I moved to the city, baby-faced and free of my bonds, and got to work – majoring in social work and volunteering with various LGBT advocacy groups. They gay community was wonderful. After drinking too much at a party, three gay men raped me and I remember drunkenly slurring out pleas for help but nobody answered them. People in our incredibly accepting and noble little “community” called me a liar and a slut, and shut me out much the same as the straight one back home.
Make of it what you will.
I don’t think the community turned its back on you, so much as the “gay community” never existed in the first place. It’s just a variety mix of superficial bonds and assholes, and uncaring people inconvenienced by the suffering of others. I think you should stop giving a damn about things that make you unhappy, get a bunch of baby parrots like we agreed, and sail into the sunset with your fiancé.
Congratulations on your marriage,
GP
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GP,
I totally agree…
There was a powerful politician that tried to harm me once, and a sweet couple – they offered me food and delivered brutality.
Nobody remembers that. It isn’t fun, but it’s true.
Don’t stop telling your story. Don’t ever quit.
And don’t forget you’re one of the good ones.
If you quit telling your story, the evil people win. They’ll keep talking. You keep on too.
It all balances out.
Always remember: You don’t have to be a great man. Just do your part.
Always,
Michael
P.S. Jen says ‘hi’ and wants you to know we’ll cook dinner for you in Pasadena.
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Letters

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Hi.  I searched.  I read.

It was funny, offbeat, intriguing.  A lot of it.  But I’m wondering if it’s okay to say there was something troubling in there as well? 

I was reading the letter to you from Kevin bemoaning the racist attitudes he encounters among gay men.  You were – justifiably – sensitive to his concerns and gave a mostly reasoned response.  That disturbed me in his letter were the ageist comments, especially given that he was complaining about people stereotyping Asians.  I felt sad that he needed to stereotype older men.  What was more troubling was your compounding of those stereotypes in your response to him (“weirdos who are decades older”). 

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It’s a destructive image that plays itself out in sites like Grindr, where some men make assumptions merely based on age, with no other facts to back up those assumptions.

You seem like a thoughtful person.  I doubt you really believe that all older men are ‘weirdos’ or ‘creepy’ or that all weirdos are actually older men.  So, I’d just ask you to be as thoughtful in how you address ageism as your are in addressing racism.

Thanks for listening.

A.Y.

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Hey A.Y.,

Thanks for reading, and thanks for writing in.

You’ve brought up a very valid point, and given me quite a bit to think about.

I’d like to clarify that I never said that all older men are creepy or weird.  I said that I had been hit on by creepy weirdos who were decades older than me.  I’ve also been hit on my creepy weirdos my own age, and jerks who are much younger than me.  Also, I’m sure that at some point, to someone, I’ve been the creepy weirdo.

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I’m not going to be dismissive of your point – that Kevin’s letter had some ageist sentiments, or that by sympathizing with him on certain points I appear to condone ageism.  That certainly wasn’t my intent, even if it came off that way.  I don’t condone ageism.

I think that we, as a gay community, could certainly stand to exhibit more tolerance, sensitivity, and kindness toward each other.   I’m sorry if Kevin’s letter (or my response) offended or hurt your feelings in any way.  That wasn’t my goal.  I can’t speak for Kevin, but I’ve corresponded with him a bit, and he’s a bright, kind fellow – I don’t think he was trying to hurt people when he penned his letter.

ImageThis does, however, lead me to my secondary point.  Intent.

Kevin expressed to me, in an email, that he’s tired of ‘creepy guys… that are older’ hitting on him all the time.  I agree with you, that it might come off as an insensitive, ageist statement – but I don’t think his intent was to be hurtful. He was just expressing frustration in an email to me.  If anything, I’m to blame, for making it public on my site, and seeming to sympathize in my response.

I think there’s a difference between that, and making ‘ching chong’ jokes in public, to someone’s face, because you’re mortified that an Asian tried to talk to you.  The difference being intent.  When you do that, you’re purposefully trying to be hurtful – and I think that’s kind of evil.

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This dialogue is very helpful, A.Y..  You’ve certainly given me pause. We could stand to examine ageism in the gay community, and I do think we could better police the offhanded remarks we make, especially in public and on the internet. I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings.

If I were to substitute race for age, I’d be uncomfortable making a similar statement. “I get hit on my a bunch of creepy weird Asians,” probably wouldn’t fly.

Even so – this last bit of observation begs an entirely more frivolous question:

Where are the creepy weird Asians when you need them?

(Seriously – get at me.  Jerks.)

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ThursDATE: Aphasia

Place:  The L Train.

Time:  Afternoon

(What appears to be a Homeless Man is talking very animatedly to a creeped-out stranger.  He is speaking gibberish.  He looks terrified.)

Homeless Man:  Otamad Krik.  Ayulac!  Niwre! Enialb Sonaj!

(This goes on for a long time, the whole train ignores it.  Then suddenly:)

Him:  Yes brother!  Let it out!  Let her hear the pain!

(A couple of people titter)

Him:  He’s telling the WORLD!!!

(pause, nobody laughs)

Me:  I think we’re witnessing aphasia.

Him:  What??

Me:  When someone has a stroke they sometimes can’t speak right.  I just thought you should know what you’re ridiculing.

Him:  Oh are you a doctor?  Can you go and help him?

Me:  No.  I’m not a doctor, smart ass.

Her:  Don’t talk to him.  You don’t have to talk to him.

Me:  You should know what you’re making fun of, at least, right?  I think it’s aphasia.

Him:  I was just being positive!

Me:  You were ridiculing him.

Him:  Yeah.  Well.  Yeah.  I…

Her:  You don’t have to be such an asshole.  You don’t have to turn the whole train against my boyfriend.  The guy is (whispers) homeless.

Me:  And therefore less than human: I get it.   Sure.  He’s had a stroke or brain damage, but let’s consider your boyfriend’s feelings here! You’re right.  I’m an asshole.  In this whole situation, I’m the asshole.

Him:   Hey, if you’re such an altruist why don’t you go help him?  You have a chance to prove how good you are!!

Me:  Oh no.  You’ve got it wrong.  I’m not an altruist.  I just couldn’t process my shock and anger at your behavior without pointing out that the man is clearly brain damaged.  I’m just processing it.

Her:  Are you taking photographs?  DON’T TALK TO HIM.  (then, to me:) He was just having fun.  You made everyone on the train uncomfortable. 

Me:  Did I? Did I do that?  Was it me?

(The train stops.)

Me:  I believe this is your stop.

Conductor:  Bedford Avenue.

(They leave the train.)

(I try to gather the courage to photograph the Homeless Man, but I feel icky about that, so I don’t.)

(I get off two stops later and tell the station agent there’s a sick passenger on the train.)