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

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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Kevin Allison, Adam Gardiner, Dale Cooper Episode 2

 

 

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Me: Did you ever go through a Vally of the Shadow of Death with RISK?

Kevin: I was terribly paranoid during the first few months. But then when I stopped [relying on the safe distance of my childhood stories] and started talking about my kinky stories.

Me: “When I was a kid I shit on a Frisbee!!!”

Kevin: Yeah, yeah.  But the first time I sort of sat down in front of the mic and told a story about something I was wrecked about right then, right now and when I pressed send I was terrified. I was like, what is the comedy community going to think of me? What might my parents eventually think of me?  What might anyone in the entertainment industry think of me?

(pause)

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Kevin: My show… is kind of a philosophical “Fuck You,” to that way of thinking.

Me: Absolutely. I felt that way about PIEFOLK. I had been doing comedy for more than 10 years. East Village Boys asked me to pose apron only. I thought, all these straight, white hetero-normative comics  are never going to let me live this down. Also, my Mom – she’s going to see this and go – I guess he’s not really a comedy person. I guess he’s just a porn star. Overcoming that shame. Overcoming the idea of ‘what will people think?’

(pause)

I always have to brush up that creeping voice inside me that says ‘No one will do your site and no one will take your seriously.’

Kevin: Oh, God, yeah…

Me: But then what I found is… Well, first of all prostitution, porn, all that stuff [that we talk about or traffic in, or tell stories about in our professions] – that’s in the Bible!

(laughter)

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Kevin: Old testament!

Me: People have been bored of that for thousands of years!!

(laughter)

Them: Right right.

Dale: Sorry to interrupt. Speaking of RISK. That’s any internet exposure.  People now with Facebook, Twitter, etc. – you’re in a constant state of managing risk. What photos [will I allow] to get out there? You have to constantly police your online identity because it has repercussions.

Kevin: That’s a great point. I feel like we’re on the avant guard – the people who are saying – you’re being so self conscious about what you’re choosing to put out there into the world, and you know what? We’re choosing to put it ALL out there.

Me: Not all of it.  There are certain things.

Kevin: Yeah yeah yeah.

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Me: I never show penis or sack on my site. I never want my grandmother  – my mom and dad regularly read my site and I don’t want them to see my nut sack.

Dale: They’ve seen it before.

Me: They have. But it’s been 30-someodd years since they’ve seen it. And they don’t want to see it again.

Dale: That’s understandable.

Dale: (to Kevin) I was going to ask you because you brought up kink and whatnot. Does kink play – dom and sub – come into play in your everyday life as a performer? Does doing kink make your more true to yourself? Is it also just playacting?

Kevin: I have not been in enough serious ‘scenes’ with super serious kinksters where I have felt like I’ve taken the role play seriously enough to feel like I went into subspace, or to feel like there was a part of my psychology that I went into – It happened, once where I had an out of body experience where I sort of found myself being submissive in a way that I never thought I would enjoy. I was basically bowing at someone’s feet and worshiping him like an emperor.  Smelling his shoes. Getting whipped. All that sort of stuff… [It put me] in touch with a part of my psychology that I didn’t know was there.

(pause)

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Kevin:  It was very early on into my getting into kink. I shared it immediately on the podcast.

Me: That was a touching story. The way that you tell it now is sort of matter of fact, but when I listened to it on the RISK podcast I was running in McCarren park and I literally had to stop so I could cry.

Dale: Wow.

Kevin: Yeah. It took me back to being a little boy, basically. It was very emotional.

(pause)

Kevin: Since then I’ve been asking when can I meet a kinkster who takes things seriously enough, and is into the psychological side of things enough that I can go back into that mysterious realm? It’s difficult to say. You can’t really force that type of thing. It’s kind of an adventure.

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-3

Letters

(baking photos by Jack Slomovits)

Dear Michael,

 

After discovering your blog in Vice magazine, I just wanted to add my big, enthusiastic appreciation to the piles of accolades.  It’s become one of my favourite internet places for things that make me chuckle, pull the heartstrings, and are neat to look at.  I love how you’re funny and sincere while simultaneously being sarcastic, erudite and politically and socially conscious; for a person to be really funny really means that they’re an optimist to the core in life.  In particular, I wanted to thank you for your candour in talking about obfuscated racial hierarchies and diversity in the gay world. I didn’t think that Asian animus and stereotypes within the community would bother me as much as they do sometimes, and it really means a lot that someone like you calls it out in a frank, yet un-confrontational way.  It really gets me thinking about what solidarity and communion mean in the “po-mo” era, and what Larry Kramer said when he accepted the Tony this year: “Let them know we are a special people, an exceptional people, and that our day will come.”

 

Anyway, I’m coming down from the woods, lakes and ganja haze of Canada to New York (city of my boyhood dreams) on the weekend, and as always before I come I’ve made a wish list, with the following at the top:

 

(1)    See the McQueen Savage Beauty exhibit at the Met

(2)    Win rush-lottery tickets to see The Book of Mormon

(3)    Randomly make eye contact with you while meandering around Brooklyn (staying with a friend), strike up a conversation, laugh so hard we feel like we’re gonna barf, and learn how to make a pastry that contains chocolate.

 

But that’s one of the great things about New York; you inevitably can’t get to everything on your wish list; that’s why you keep coming back!

Keep up all the delicious work, we’re ravenous for more in Canada!

 

Love,

Garwa

 

PS – Have you heard of the Canadian band The Hidden Cameras?  If not, I think you’d dig them, they fuse lots of string instruments, religious iconography and homosexual sensibility to pleasing, pleasing effect.

 

 
Garwa,

Thanks for writing in.  Um,  you’re wearing a Japanese Joy Division shirt = instant boner.  Or maybe it’s your general adorableness giving me the instaboner.  In any case, I’ll have to take a break for a moment and listen to my (newly made) Hidden Cameras Pandora Station.

(pause)

Okay, I’m back. Thanks for all the praise.  I don’t deserve most of it, but I’ll take it.  You’re really eloquent and sharp.  I hope to meet you when you visit.

It pains me to hear that you’re a victim of Asian stereotyping, especially if that hurt is being inflicted by your fellow Gays.  But I’m glad you feel as if you have a right to that pain/anger/sadness and can communicate it.

We’re working on it.  Some of us are working on it.  Thanks for joining us.

Thanks for the Larry Kramer quote – that’s exactly how I feel.  I wish the Gays knew how exceptional they were.  I wish they could see past their own low level of bitterness to see what great potential is inside all of them.

Coming on the weekend?  My band is playing a show at The Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater on Saturday at midnight.  I dare you to come, and grab a drink with us afterward.

Do it, Joy Division.  Didn’t I just dare you??

There won’t be time to show you how to make Mexican Hot Chocolate Pie, but as you say, that’s what returning is for.

You said some kind things which made me feel very good, and seriously – don’t hesitate to contact me.

Thanks, Brother.

Michael

Hi Michael

My name is Drew Blackman and I am a gay man living in Boston.  I stumbled upon you blog a few months ago and have been reading it every day.

I want to start off by saying that i think your blog is very well done.  From inane sillyness, to delicious looking pies, to disastrous dates, it all works together very well.  Being an aspiring home baker/cook, I’ve found mixing your social commentary and poignant humor amongst photos and stories of the simple act of baking with good friends refreshing and relatable. 

I have to admit that i was particularity inspired to write to you after reading your most recent MonDate post.  Though i started reading your blog because of the pies(and, lets face it, the cute boys you bake with), it didn’t take long to realize you have a very strong and though out sense of queer liberation.  Most of my adult life, i have focused on identifying and confronting both white privilege and male privilege in both me and the people around me. I feel like I have reached a point where i am comfortable recognizing and challenging myself and others around taking up “space” and the blissful ignorance that privalege brings(ala Peggy McIntoch’s “White Privilege:Unpacking the Invisable Knapsack”).


Having said that, I generally feel at a loss when I step out of the “person with privilege” role and am confronted with heterosexism and homophobia.  Now i realize that statement sounds a little backwards, but as you point out much of the oppression that queer people and particularly gay men face on a daily basis, comes from other gay men.  I appricieate the way you have highlighted the fact that by gays being catty, sarcastic, or dismissive which each other, they are perpetuating the idea that queer folks don’t deserve to be treated with respect.   How can we expect or receive respect if we can’t even get it from each other. 

Anyway, I just wanted to say that I appreciate what you have done with your blog.  I feel that i have gleamed a better framework for confronting heterosixism both from within the gay community and from the outside.  Thanks again, and keep up the good work.

Drew

Drew,

Thanks for writing in.  I’m genuinely touched.

Wow.  Again – much more praise than I probably deserve.  I’m grateful.  For you to say that I’ve given you a framework to deal with heterosexism is huge for me.  You’re so well spoken and ordered in your thoughts.  I’m a fan of you too.  So take that, mister.

I do think it’s important for Gays to realize they have a right to their anger/sadness/bitterness about heterosexism.  Most of the time when I ask another Gay about their oppression they express exhaustion.  They tend to have very little use for the conversation, because they’re fatigued by the battle.

I think it’s time for us to start displaying our anger, when heterosexism occurs. It may be time to frighten them, with our repressed rage.

I suspect that the catty bitterness we’ve both witnessed between Gays is nothing more than them projecting anger at one another that should be directed at an opressive, bigoted outside world.

If not that, then certainly we must calmly point out when we’re being targeted by blatant or subtle forms of homophobia.  It’s my impression that social change comes one person at a time.  Each of us must be that one person who is willing to change the world by firmly asserting our own right to dignity and respect.

 

It’s easy to ignore homophobia, but that takes a cumulative emotional toll after a while.  Speaking up for yourself is scary, but extremely powerful.  I’m glad you’ve decided to start.

My advice is to start by focusing on eliminating any and all shame you experience for being Gay.  It’s the most powerful tool they have against us.  It is inundated into us by our teachers, families, churches, friends, and even ourselves.  Don’t let straight people make you feel shame.  Ever.

I wish you all the best, Brother.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you visit New York.

Yours,

Michael