Dear Mr. PIEFOLK,
We don't know one another but I'm also a baker. Bisexual. Cis-Male. Living in the mid-western state of Oklahoma. That's as much as I'm willing to narrow it down. But, I've been a long time reader and my friend mentioned you used to write advice letters. She's an improv teacher who used to know, and respect you in NYC.
I know you're in LA now, but what about some advice?
See, my problem is, I think my straight, white, cis-het boss is hitting on me? He's so homophobic and will make comments like, be a little less gay, or turn down that Gaga and turn up the baseball game, or sometimes he just tells me the customers like me but please be less gay.
He says it to my face. Customers like me a little gay, not a lot.
On top of that he's constantly putting his hands on my waist or grabbing my thighs with both hands when he stoops down below the baking table to get a pan, or a mixer, or a spatula.
Help me out? I like this guy, and he's fair, but I don't like being told "how gay" to be at work, or being touched like that, especially when such touching is followed up with weird jokes like "haha you're lucky it's not after five - I don't know what I'd do if I had a drink or two in me!"
How can I be the right amount of gay, and how do I keep this job, with a handsy-yet-nice boss?
If you can't answer, I understand. You're busy. But may I say? The writing has always been good, but lately, you're exceptional Mr. PIEFOLK. I only hope you're being nice to Mr. Michael.
Love for you, Brother - you can edit this if you need to!
I’m simultaneously bored and mortified for you. How boring your boss can’t keep his hands to himself. How boring he’s using his “straight privilege” against you in such an unacceptable way.
I almost didn’t use this letter, or answer it at all. I get so much email like this. But something struck me, here. Are you an out bisexual? And, are you out to your boss? If yes, you have lots of options. You can tell him to stop. You can quit. You can hire a lawyer to ask him for a settlement, if you feel he’s violating labor laws (he is).
But, what do you want from this? What’s the easiest, least stressful thing to do? I think the answer lies somewhere in-between quitting and just letting him do whatever he wants. I think you should confront him, and be firm. Talk to him face to face and tell him, no, I don’t like how you treat me and no, I don’t think it’s professional. Be sure to bring up the touching and how awkward it is to have anyone of any sexuality or gender or race – exploit the employer/employee labor contract. Say what’s not acceptable, and tell him you’ll give him a few weeks to think about it and adjust.
After a few weeks, if you think you can tolerate the new version of him, then mention how much better he’s behaving. If you think he needs improvement, you can point that out too – just always frame it as “us working together better” rather than “here’s a list of my unreasonable demands.” You get the nuance? It’s the same list, is what I’m saying.
If, however, after the period of adjustment is up, and you still feel unacceptable behavior is happening, explain you need a leave of absence to contemplate other options. If he fires you, you have a strong lawsuit claim, in most states.
Last pieces of advice? Grow a thick skin. Don’t take any shit. Keep your side of the street clean.
I hope this helps you, and that you stay happy in your situation. Believe me, it’s easier than running after a settlement that may never materialize. Don’t forget, he can liquidate his LLC and sell the equipment/lease at any moment, and not ask you permission or even tell you, until you show up to work in an empty building. What I’m saying is, ask for a reasonable settlement/renegotiation, and you might get it.
Love you, and next time send photos of pie, or noods (photos of noodles, that is).
Lord knows, over the years I’ve had ambivalence toward the New York Times.
Did they consistently employ fantastic writers who dug deep into impactful, meaningful journalism? Sure.
Was it more reliable than most media outlets in the world? Absolutely.
Did they offer me little tidbits of cellophane coated entertainment bites? Yes. Take me on lavish vacations of the imagination? You bet. Inspire me to such great heights of imagination by breaking new ground, or adjusting the scaffolding of the journalistic landscape? Nearly daily.
But, after I left New York itself – it started to seem to me the New York Times, like any gray-haired relative, started sliding out of view. I would check in with it, from time to time, especially for hard news and The Arts Section, and the gleaming jewel in the center of the Gray Lady’s artful princess tiara… The New York Times Daily Crossword Puzzle.
(Will Shortz, I wish I could quit you.)
Soon, I stopped trying to keep up with any of the news in the Times. I became an Angelino from the West Coast, who, like Joan Didion so aptly put it – slouched, steeped in my own privilege, toward Bethlehem, on a high-quality-yet-smelly communal yoga mat.
I sat, on my phone, in West Hollywood, at the Crunch, as the Crossword became usurped by the younger upstart stroke of genius we call Wordle.
Even as my spine, strong in younger days, slightly slouched toward the ground. An exclamation mark, who, thanks to the magic of time-lapse photography, slowly began it’s irrevocable bend toward a more osteoporosis-influenced silhouette. A punctuated question marked my mousy-brown-framed brow.
Why did they leave me hanging?
Why did they leave me in their news room for six hours, then decide whomever was qualified to take my statement had an unexpected meeting? Why didn’t they go ahead with the huge expose everyone in the theater community was buzzing about in 2018? The one that implicated so many theater giants? What was the missing link that kept them from printing this particular story?
As it turns out, it didn’t matter, or it doesn’t. And as it turns out, the Gray Lady yet again has earned the moniker I so treasure. All the News That’s Fit to Print, is I believe – the trademarked phrase…
They printed it.
Thanks, New York Times. It’s been a long road, and, like a grey-haired, distant European relative – sometimes I’ve lost sight of you. I’m sorry for losing faith. I’m younger than you. Please, forgive me?
And please forgive this, too?
I’m scooping you.
This is today’s scoop! A PIEFOLK original. I’m scooping the Times, Daily News, Post – All the ivory tower outlets are going to scream about it, but you heard it here first.
Here’s leaked footage of notoriously ruthless Broadway legend William Ivey Long, pandering for another Tony Award later this year. He wants to be nominated again. He wants to win again. This is Diana, he says in this pathetic piece of propaganda. This is worthy of a Tony, he seems to plead. This is forty years of Tony Awards, he begs. This is 76 Broadway shows.
Disgusting. 75 too many.
The Gray Lady is finally queen again, has finally sloughed off her dusty, wine colored, ermine lined cloak. Her skin, scalded and young again, sloughed off like the fuzzy hides of boiled Georgia peaches. A dramatic shift in lighting, a sting from a far-off orchestra pit.
Her costume reveals her true form, just in time for a hot-gurl summer. Royal blue. Just under medium shade. Cornflower, I’d say, but I’m a writer not a visual artist.
She, star spangled… she is read. Black and blue, she sometimes comments on our pain. Red, she watches overseas as war musters, alliances form, two dictators try to mock democratic mandates.
White as fresh dentures, she pops in her props and costumes for a new dawn. Firing up her make-up lamp, she sharpens her nails, then files them down.
She’s shining like a new dime you found on the subway tracks.
She is warming up her voice, like Bob Dylan after a long weekend. Flexing her metaphors, like Tom Waits, like Alan Ginsburg, like me – just a Brooklyn boy from India street in Greenpoint.
Just like old Henry Miller.
Thank you, New York Times. Thank you Jesse Green. Thank you Nicole Herrington. Thank you Barbara Graustark. Thank you, Dean Baquet. Thanks to everyone up and down the line. We Americans thank you. We New Yorkers thank you. Even us spoiled West Coasters thank you, New York Times.
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.
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!
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…
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!
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.
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.
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.
Me: I’m sorry about that. Did you see August Osage County? What did you think?
Him: Seriously, are you Bisexual?
Me: I keep thinking if I hadn’t seen the Broadway play, I might have really liked the movie. I liked it quite a bit, actually, but I might have been blown away if I hadn’t watched the Broadway show twice.
Him: Don’t change the subject! Stop it.
Me: Julia Roberts really blew the doors off the hinges. It’s worth seeing just for that.
Him: I didn’t see it yet, okay?
Me: Okay. No spoilers, then.
Him: I’m asking you a question, and you’re avoiding it.
Me: I don’t see why I owe you the information. It’s just information, after all.
Him: I read your site for years. I’m extremely curious. What happened? It seems like you’ve made a 180, and I don’t know what to make of all of it. It seems…
Me: Don’t trail off. How does it seem?
Him: Hypocritical. It seems hypocritical. Sorry.
(There is a long pause. I sit on a bench at the bus stop.)
Him: You waiting for a bus now?
Me: Only if it’s an express bus to Canada.
Him: What does that mean?
Me: I dunno. It’s about half a joke. I’ll let you know when/if there’s a punch line.
Him: Hey. I’m sorry I called you a hypocrite – just how I see it.
Me: Ha. Then you’re not really sorry! You’re frustrated about quite a few things, and I’d suspect the root of it has very, very little to do with me.
Him: You can’t just… You can’t write about the gay community for years, and talk openly about being a poly-amorous homosexual – you can’t run some sort of online ‘brotherhood of man’ pie cult for the gays, and then just get married to a woman. Just, poof, you’re married and normal again. Just like that.
Me: Can’t I? Why can’t I? Why can’t I marry whomever I want? Isn’t that the underlined point behind the Marriage Equality movement?
Him: Don’t you feel you owe people like me an explanation?
Him: Because I am one of your readers. Because I’m your audience.
(There is a long pause.)
Me: Well… thank you. I’m flattered you’re reading, that you’re still reading, and that you took the time to contact me. All of these things are incredibly flattering, and part of me agrees with you. A huge part of me thinks I owe it to you to tell you exactly how my sex life is structured, what it means to be LGBTQ in a traditional marriage structure, and send you home with a slice of pie and a warm feeling of hope for tomorrow.
Him: That’s what I’d like, yes.
Me: Then again, I’ve read quite a few books on writing, and while authors agree it is important to have an audience, they seem to also agree that catering things to your audience leads to atrophy in a major way. Bill Cosby said something like, I don’t know what the formula for success is, but I know the formula for failure is trying to please everyone.
Him: Teach me, oh wise one.
Me: I’m not getting paid to teach you, or, for that matter, to tell you how to live your life, or to tell you how I live mine.
Him: Okay, I’ll admit – it’s none of my business.
Me: Thank you.
Him: But I’m CURIOUS.
Me: Yes. You’re curious. That’s exactly right. You expect me to tell you intimate details of my personal life to you, the way I would to my therapist, because you read my site for a while and you feel somehow entitled to missing information. But you’re just an audience member. You’re just tuning in. You don’t know me and you have no real right to my inner physical, emotional, or intellectual life, beyond what I publish on my site, which by the way you read for free – so I owe you even less.
Him: People are going to want to know! You wrote about your sex life for years!
Me: No. Incorrect. I did not.
Him: Yes you DID. You’re being a hypocrite!
Me: Actually, I wrote about awkward dates, urban alienation, and my disappointment in a community full of brilliant, motivated, socially broken people. I almost never mentioned who I was having sex with.
Him: Come off it. You were sleeping with all those boys who made pie with you.
Me: Incorrect. Those were models, or friends, or people who contacted me online who wanted to help. It was very rare I slept with the people on my site.
Me: The “Awkward Dates” happen with people I don’t sleep with. That is the whole point: Here’s how NOT to sleep with me. The irony is, it’s pretty easy to sleep with me, if you’re cute and sweet, but most gay people have no interest in being kind, gentle, or generous of spirit – at least the ones who live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn don’t. They think they don’t have to, and in some sense, they’re correct. Someone will stomach their painfully underdeveloped, spoiled, sour personalities. But that someone isn’t me…
Him: Still seems hypocritical to me.
Me: You’ve now called me a hypocrite three times.
Me: So take a deep breath.
Me: I’m about to tell you what I think about you.
(Pause. He looks concerned. I take a deep breath and count to ten.)
I’m the guy from Duke University/UCB that you talked to on Friday at the Blue Boar. Since talking to you I’ve followed your advice by not fucking anybody in the comedy world and so far it’s going great. It was fun hearing gossip and an honest perspective about UCB, and I’d love to pick your brain again about how one goes about turning comedy and song writing into a career.
It was fun talking to you, too.
So, yeah, don’t fuck any comics. I’ve watched a few of my friends date themselves out of career options when relationships with other comics go bad. One friend in particular springs to mind. She’d had so many failed relationships with UCB comics that there were few teams at the NYC theater who would have her perform with them. Politics, politics… She’s still successful in her own right, but for my money I’d do it differently.
Aside from that, my only other advice is keep going. And, don’t just improvise. Write jokes. Write sketches. Write pilots and spec scripts. You never know when you’ll meet the person who can put your script in the right hands. Also, just keep writing and performing as much as possible. That sounds cliche but it’s true. Keep at it.
I hope this helps, and please invite me to your shows?
You may not remember, but about two and a half years ago, I wrote you about being in the closet at the Naval Academy. I just wanted to say thank you so much for the advice you gave me to stick it out. Soon after you posted your response, I started to come out and the response was mixed but mostly good. My last two years at school were much better since I wasn’t worried about people finding out about my sexuality and I actually found a great group of friends who were either out or in the process of coming out. This past May, my boyfriend and I graduated from Annapolis and started our careers as officers. I am so glad that I decided to stay and just wanted to again say thanks for helping me make that decision.
It isn’t very frequent I get a follow up from one of my advice letters, and it’s nice to know I didn’t steer you in a disastrous direction. You and your boyfriend sound totally adorable and everyone in the world must be jealous when you two arrive at a military function in dress uniforms, holding hands. In fact, I’m picturing that right now, and I’m wondering if you two would like to come photograph for the blog in uniform?
Thanks for coming out of the closet. It’s important we stay visible, since the world needs positive gay role models. You boys are an inspiration.
Me: You too. I haven’t seen much of you since Thin Skin Jonny went on hiatus.
Him: I’ve been around. I’m in school, too.
Me: How’s Bobby?
Him: Back with James Blackheart. He moved out.
Me: Again? That’s a shame. How was living with him?
Him: I loved living with Bobby Finn. I used to say we ran a bed and breakfast. Bobby provided the bed and I provided breakfast. I got to meet so many new people.
Me: I know the feeling. It was a circus here, for the two months he stayed…
Him: Yes, well… That’s Bobby for you.
Me: Why did he turn his back on me, do you think?
Him: (sighs) I don’t know. I couldn’t or wouldn’t say, even if I did know.
Me: Well, I find it extremely unfair. He freeloaded off me for months and now won’t answer my txts, phone calls, or emails. He’s blocked me on Facebook.
Him: Did you say anything nasty to him?
Me: NO! He’s been out of town for about 4 months doing that theater gig in Kansas. I asked him to have lunch with me and go shopping. I wanted to say goodbye before I left for the West Coast.
Him: Maybe he doesn’t want to see you?
Me: That’s clear, but don’t you think it’s a little rude? I give the guy a place to stay, because he’s being “abused,” and then he gets to turn his back on me?
Him: Bobby just doesn’t understand your decisions lately.
Me: So what? Neither does my Mother, or most of my so-called friends, colleagues, acquaintances or whatnot. Doesn’t matter. When someone announces a wedding you pretend you’re excited, at least. You don’t head for the hills, because you are gay and reserve the right to hate all women, categorically, except your mother.
Him: Quite a few gay men operate like that.
Me: I know that, but don’t I get to expect more of Bobby? I took him in. I put him on the most well-respected comedy stage in NYC. I held him when he cried, and bought him lunch sometimes, if it was clear he was hungry. Why does he have any sort of moral high ground, here?
Him: You’d have to ask him.
Me: That’s the problem. Rather than take me for a walk in the park and ask how I’m doing, inquire about my assault and the PTSD that triggered – rather than congratulate me on my marriage, or say goodbye to an old friend who’s moving 3000 miles away – rather than any of that, he just ignores me. No explanation.
Him: Perhaps he feels that sort of goodbye is preferable to an argument?
Me: There’s nothing to argue about. I don’t have to ask his permission to get married, man or woman. I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to have a nervous break-down. When women do it, it’s called a ‘rough’ period. When I do it, I need an analyst. I like my analyst, by the way.
Him: That’s good.
Me: Here’s what isn’t good.
Me: I ran into Clive, a few months after Bobby left and moved in with you.
Him: I always thought he was cute.
Me: Me too. Not my usual type, but super cute. Anyway, Clive told me that Bobby wasn’t abused at all – at least not physically like he claimed. Clive told me Bobby smashed the wine glass on his own face. He knew the cops were coming and he wanted to look like a victim. He wanted to force James to let him stay in the fancy apartment.
Him: What’s the difference? Does that make him an awful person?
Me: Are you kidding me? He lied to me about being abused, paid nothing to live here, and started undermining me in the band as soon as he moved in with you. He took my kindness and showed me contempt.
Him: You’re just describing human nature.
Me: All of those things I could forgive. He’s younger than me (but getting older – red heads should stay out of the sun) and I could have forgiven those annoying things, but this… How dare he turn his back on me. How dare he join the ranks of former friends who won’t return my calls, simply because I married a woman.
Him: Quite a few people don’t understand that, Michael. You were so vocal about gay rights for so long…
Me: So what? One doesn’t have to be gay to believe in human rights. One also doesn’t have to be straight to marry a woman. It’s reason to ruin a friendship? He should have hung around and made up with me. Stupid, trusting Michael would have probably made him dinner and opened some wine.
Him: Maybe it’s just not the right timing for you two right now.
Me: Exactly. It’s not the right timing because I finally have nothing left to give that selfish little…
Him: Say it. You’ll feel better if you say it.
Me: Human being. Bobby Finn is a real prime example of a human being.
(Marco Bright laughs. I start crying. Marco puts on a pot of hot water.)
(Soon enough we are laughing and writing songs again.)
Me: He left a few hours ago. He had to get to work.
Him: Work… I know I’ve heard that word before. Work….
Me: I know, I’ve read about it, too. Who can say for sure, what this ‘work’ is? I understand everyone is always looking for it, and they dislike it when they have it?
Him: No, I think you’re thinking of ‘love.’
Me: I stand corrected.
Me: So, I need to say this: My feelings were hurt last night.
Him: What? Why? Oh…
Me: Right. Karl and I were on our second date.
Him: I didn’t know that!
Me: I think I mentioned it, yesterday. I was excited about this one.
Him: How did it go?
Me: Well, I dunno. It was going well. I guess I shouldn’t have…
Him: You know, I really like him!
Me: Yes. You two really seem to like one another.
Him: Let’s just have this out. What are you upset about?
Me: Well, I kind of thought that Karl and I were on a date. I wanted you to meet us at Sugarland, because you’re living with me, and I consider you a good friend, by now.
Him: I am your friend.
Me: Right, and I feel like saying this, then – I don’t think it was very kind, or considerate of you to sleep with him in my bed, on our second date.
Him: I don’t think he thinks you two were on a date.
Me: At this point, no, neither do I. I don’t date people that fuck my friends during the first phase of the relationship. You have to wait a year or two, before you start fucking my roommate.
Him: It could have been the three of us…
Me: Yes. I know that. I felt that energy, but it’s hard for me to participate in that energy when I’m managing extreme hurt feelings.
Him: I’m sorry. I didn’t know.
Me: Right, well, I mentioned it was a date.
Him: I didn’t hear you.
Him: You talk a lot.
Me: I also cook and clean a lot.
Him: I have to leave. I’ve got things to do today.
Me: I want you to know one more thing.
Him: Jesus, what now, grandpa?
Me: Just that I forgive you.
Me: I forgive you both, and I am letting the anger for this go. My friendship with you is more important than a second date, and Karl is handsome, but not really my type.
Me: I think so. I processed it, here, in the kitchen last night while you guys were soiling my sheets.
Him: I felt guilty when I saw you asleep on the couch.
Me: Well, you should check my blog. I blogged about it, last night, while you two were having sex.
Me: Sorry. I had to get it out. I had to let it go. That’s part of what PIEFOLK is – it’s a place for me to put things I find awkward, sad, frustrating, or when people I care about do things I don’t quite understand.
Him: Michael, I’m sorry. Just tell me next time, or don’t invite me. You know what I’m like –
Me: When you’re drinking. Yes. And it’s hard to ask an actor, much less a drunk actor, to be anything less than the marvelous attention hound he was born to be. However, I’m a comic and a writer, and I want you to know – fair’s fair – this IS becoming material.
Him: Thanks for asking me. Looks like it already has become material.
Me: Uh, if you want to get on a high horse start paying rent.
Me: My god, of course, Bobby. Of course. What the hell happened? Do you want some tea, or… I have some braised pork in the fridge? I’m going to make some food.
Him: I know it’s way before five, but do you have anything stronger than tea?
Me: Yes. Yes I do. I guess bourbon is okay?
Him: That’s fine. Have one with me?
Me: No. I have to teach later, but you can have my shot. I’ll pour a double.
(long pause, sets cutlery, boils water, makes food and drink)
Him: I guess you’re wondering what happened?
Me: James Blackheart happened?
Me: Who hit you? You look like you got into a fight with an elephant.
Me: Do you need a hug?
(they embrace for a long tme, Bobby shakes, trembling)
Me: Okay, let’s sit back down. I don’t like this side of you. You’re too good looking to walk around with cuts and bruises on your face.
Him: He stopped taking his meds.
Me: And then what?
Him: He came home late at night and started throwing my things into the hallway. He was with another boy, and started screaming about how I didn’t live there anymore.
Me: Wait, what? He came home with another guy? Did you two break up?
Him: We were talking about it, but he’s constantly talking about that sort of thing. He’s not stable when he doesn’t take his meds.
Me: Or even when he does…
Him: He works very hard and makes a lot of money.
Me: So did Kim Jong Il.
Him: He’s a good provider, Michael. You don’t see that side of him, or when he’s sweet for days or weeks on end. He’s a good man.
Me: Good men don’t beat their boyfriends.
Him: It was complicated. We were shouting at each other, he was destroying things – throwing my things out of the apartment. He screamed about how he’d always paid the rent and he was evicting me. He asked the boy to stay and he did for a while, but then it got so ugly – the boy left. The neighbors came over, threatening to call the police. We argued with them. They called the cops.
Me: How did you get those cuts and bruises?
Him: James hit me. That had happened before.
Me: Wait, how often does he hit you?
Him: It had happened before. Not often, but often enough to make me afraid of setting him off. He’s got chemical imbalances.
Me: Bullshit. He’s a dick. He’s an evil man. That’s not a chemical imbalance – that’s a character flaw.
Him: People go through phases, Michael. People aren’t always kind.
Me: But kindness is always an option. There are folk who won’t treat you like that. There are nice, rich guys that would pamper you and spoil you, and not keep you on high terror lockdown.
Him: But I love James.
Me: Did your father hit you?
Him: We were terrified of him, growing up. He wasn’t a nice man.
Me: Okay, so you’re now in a cycle of the same pattern with your boyfriend. Your ex-boyfriend.
Him: Can I stay here for a while?
Me: Obviously. You’re moving in today.
Him: Thank you. I knew you’d help me.
Me: We don’t know each other that well, but I can’t have you walking around like an abused housewife. You’re talented. Have you been singing?
Him: Not really.
Me: You’re joining the band, for a while. You need to get back to what brings you joy.
Him: I can sleep in your bed with you, and we can –
Me: I think that phase of our relationship is over. You can take the couch, or if you have a date that goes particularly well, I’ll take the couch. We’ll split the chores, and for the first few weeks I’ll buy all the food. If you need to stay more than a month, we can talk about rent, etc. – is that okay?
Him: That’s more than… Thank you!
Me: How did you get that gash?
Him: He smashed a wine glass on my head, right before the police showed up.
Me: This relationship is over.
Him: We both stayed the night in jail. Different holding cells.
Me: Good lord.
Him: He’d wanted me to get a job, and the funny thing is I’d gotten a retail job, but it wasn’t good enough, or the money wasn’t coming fast enough. I’d only been working there for 10 days. It’s not enough time to develop a clientele, or anything. Plus he was jealous I was ‘flirting with old men in Chelsea’ for a living.
Me: Flirting with old men is your favorite pass time!
Him: Preach. Anyway, I think it’s over. I hope he hasn’t destroyed my things.
Me: We’ll get you new things, or if need be, we can go over there with a bunch of people so he can’t hurt you. Here’s an extra set of keys.
Him: Thanks mister. Do you have an enema? I need to get ready to go out tonight.
Me: Oh Jesus, this is gonna be trouble.
Him: I can behave, too.
Me: No. Just no hard drugs in the apartment, please, and don’t bring over anyone who looks like a junkie or a thief? And no singing after 1am. I have a coke-head neighbor who’s pushy and demanding about his quiet time. Every time I go over there he’s watching porn on multiple screens and cracked out of his skull.
Him: Is he cute?
Me: He’s like… if you smashed Chris Farley together with Golem. Is that your thing?
Him: No, but I like porn.
Me: Look. Here’s the enema. Please don’t leave it out.