Saturday, October 22, 2016

Jupiter and Dream Boy #97

from Three Coin Prose: Bangkok (2009), revised 2016

"Are you going with me to my hotel? I just ask you. Because otherwise I must have #97."

The man who spoke was from Lithuania, "a tiny microscopic country, you are from America, you have never heard of it, you do not even believe it exists," but now lived in Switzerland. He was a small, carefully tended man, perhaps 50. When he spoke of retirement, I said, "Oh, but for you that's a long way off!" "I use many creams!" he confided. He was delighted with me. I have had far too much practice flattering middle-aged men.

We were sitting in Soi Twilight at the cafe opposite Dream Boy. He was talking fast, drinking his Singha, ignoring the young Thai man at his side. He'd decided that I was innocent and nothing could dissuade him. He pledged to take me to the very most secret, most wicked places, which he named, one after another, and I had to tell him no, no, no, I'd been to all those places already. And I was not going to Dream Boy, definitely not, even though Dream Boy had the best show, because the last time I went I wound up on stage stripped to my underpants as part of the comedy routine.

We'd met at Balcony on Soi 4, a place for straight people who want to go to a gay bar. From there we went to Soi Twilight, where the go-go boy bars are. He wanted to give me a tour but I'd been to every seedy and wicked place he named. Finally he said, "How about Jupiter?"

I'd never been to Jupiter. He turned to the young Thai man beside him and said, "Take us to Jupiter." The young man’s name was Ook. He'd sat with us all night and been more or less ignored. "He is very passive," the man from Lithuania explained. "In bed he will do nothing but his cock is like this--" and he indicated a place on his thigh above the kneecap. "I can introduce you if you like. It is no problem. Tonight he is just my friend."

Ook led the way to Jupiter and the man from Lithuania told me that the night before he'd had the best boy ever, one of the best anyway. "I was so tired from my flight. I went to the bar at midnight. I have known the mamasan there for a thousand years. 'Give me one with some meat on him and a big cock.' '#97' she said. And #97 it was."

Jupiter was obviously a place for big money. The staff stood, floodlit, outside the door: men in pink suits, a kathoey with hair like Diana Ross. He were led to a couch beside a glass tank where two naked men covered in soap suds slid artfully over each other. Their cocks had been pumped so much that they looked entirely unreal, like gigantic latex strap-ons. The man from Lithuania didn't wait long before going out for a smoke. Ook and I looked at each other; we both had the same small nervous laugh. We were already bored. Actually Ook looked as if he'd been bored for a number of years.

I've followed many middle-aged men desperate for talk as they toured Bangkok's nightlife. About this man one thing was unique: he was paying for my drinks, which at bars like Jupiter are exorbitant. He kept me on one side and Ook on the other and I was pretty sure we were both in the same category.

The audience at Jupiter was primarily Japanese and they looked every bit as humorless as they did back home in Tokyo while enduring their morning commute. The stage had two levels. The top-floor boys were bigger and better-looking. They stood in formation and, every twenty seconds or so, shifted position slightly. It was impossible to watch without thinking of rotisserie chicken. The Japanese snapped up boys in a remarkably short time. Five minutes after the show was through most of them were already gone. Once, in Darjeeling, I'd watched a busload of Japanese buy out a tea shop in just the same way.

In twenty years, when I can no longer bluff my way into being an object of desire, will I learn to look at men the that way Johns can--to admire their bodies without encountering their eyes? How does a man purchased for forty dollars--as those men are, as I have been--recognize again his own true worth?

Ook turned to me and asked, "Do you want to get out now?" I agreed vigorously. We fled Jupiter. The three of us returned to the cafe opposite Dream Boy, where the man from Lithuania learned that I was not available for sexual services that evening. So #97 it was. He hurried across the street and made his request to the doorman. #97 was still available; the bar fee was 400 baht.

#97 came downstairs a few minutes later, a sturdy young man in blue shirt and blue shorts, like a soccer player. It seems moralistic to report how forced his smile was but it can't be avoided. He was magnificently handsome; his smile was terrible to see. Nice to meet you, he said and shook my hand. He and Ook carefully ignored each other. Ook had followed the man from Lithuania all night for nothing. All he'd gotten was free drinks, same as me.

The man from Lithuania said stay, stay, but I said I must sleep. It was almost one A.M. anyway, the bars were about to close. "Why don't you take #97?" suggested the man from Lithuania. "I can have him any night." #97 didn't understand but continued grinning. Ook sulked and slouched in his seat. I apologized and said good night and hurried past the colored lights and tired doormen out of Soi Twilight.

Guttersnipe Bookshelf, Julio Cortazar

Julio Cortazar, We Love Glenda So Much
translated by Gregory Rabassa
Knopf, 1983

We Love Glenda So Much is an advanced course of Cortazar.  In Blow-Up, his earlier book of stories, even as he performed dazzling feats, he provided footholds (mind-holds?) for the uncertain reader.  Cortazar, the magician, still checked to see that you were keeping up.  Those are dazzling stories, brilliant, accessible and you can still kinda see how he got there, leaping from Borges and Poe.  Not so with these stories.  Sit up straight, pour yourself strong coffee, and steel yourself to be discomfited and unnerved.  The stories contained in We Love Glenda So Much are dense and demanding and they often succeed in portraying the way a story arises from the bewildering whirl of consciousness -- at least in the mind of a genius.

If you loved Blow-Up and Hopscotch, by all means seek these stories out -- but don’t start here.  Or, wait -- I think I found a litmus test.  If you find the rewards and richness of the following paragraph worthwhile, then you need this book.  (I am in love with this paragraph.  It’s so beautiful and so impossible, that it’s almost downright nuts.)  The following is from “Moebius Strip”, a story about rape and murder, which is also an assault on the nature of consciousness, as well as on relative and ultimate reality:

“Different, perhaps from the very beginning, in any case not there, becoming like something diaphanous, a translucent medium in which nothing had a body and where what had been her wasn’t located through thoughts or objects, to be wind while being Janet or Janet being wind or water or space but always clear, the silence was light or the opposite or both things, time was illuminated and that was to be Janet, something without a handle, without the slightest shadow of memory to interrupt and fix that course as among crystals, a bubble inside a mass of Plexiglas, the orbit of a transparent fish in a limitless lighted aquarium.”

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Last Person Not Enlighted

Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, India, 2013

Here in the holy town of Tiruvannamalai, I sometimes I go to a party where I’m the only person who’s not enlightened.  It’s so embarrassing!  Bhajan singing at The Dreaming Tree, for example.  It’s the most upscale place in town: roof-top dining, vegan only, fresh focaccia .  And everyone there has been enlightened, seems like.  When people find out that I’ve been coming to India for more than twenty years, and I’m still so manifestly delusional, they look terribly sorry for me, because obviously I am so very, very slow.

Busy nights at the Dreaming Tree, everyone shares tables.  And it turns out that everyone at this table – everyone but me -- has already had at least the initial awakening – the big one, which cuts the cord of karma and rebirth.  Now they are simply integrating the egolessness state.  Integrating, consolidating, refining – these are the words they use.  Figuring out what to do with all the bliss, basically.  Apparently it’s like winning the lottery.  Smart people take it slow the first year.

Everyone tries to explain it to me.  They want me to catch on.  Perhaps they feel  embarrassed for me:  “It’s so easy!  It really is!  It’s easy!  It’s just a little – erp.  Just – erp.  A tiny adjustment.  Erp.  That’s it!”

I feel the same way I did on the playground when everyone explained to me how easy it was to hit the plastic ball with the wiffle bat – and then everyone watched as I flailed at the air.

How I wish I could just hurry off to the toilet.  Be alone for a moment, take a leak, achieve enlightenment, shake, zip up, and return to the table feeling cascades of bliss.  Just piss, erp, AH.

Tommy, for example.  Tommy with his red hair poking out of his head scarf, his blue eyes, and perpetual good cheer.  Tommy is not just enlightened.  His enlightenment is stabilized.  Which is not to say that Tommy is stable.  His enlightenment is stable.  Tommy sees the whole universe at it is, an expression of the one radiant I AM, and studded all over with shiny pretty girls.

Tommy likes to enlighten pretty girls.  Pretty girls like to be enlightened by Tommy.  Tommy made a half-hearted attempt to enlighten me.  But then I had to admit that I sometimes used mantras.

Tommy made a face.  “Sure.  That’s great.  You can calm your mind that way.  You can acquire merit.  Maybe get powers.  But that’s not how you get enlightened.”

If it was possible for Tommy to be irritated then I would say he was irritated, but, Tommy is enlightened, so it’s not possible for him to be irritated.  Though it is possible, evidently, for Tommy to look irritated.

Just then a pretty girl arrives.  My enlightenment, never promising, is summarily abandoned.  Tommy begins at once to advise her.  Turns out she uses a mantra too, but it doesn’t seem to be as much as a roadblock for her.  She’s further along, she’s more developed.  She’s exceedingly well-developed.

I experience jealousy.  Because I am not enlightened.  Because I am not established, not developed.  I eye my expensive sandwich resentfully.  I decide that I have never liked focaccia.  Oh, why can’t I be enlightened at the hands of a red-headed boy?

Then I wonder: has anyone ever been enlightened while sucking cock?

I’m certain that someone has.  And that’s OK with me.  I am happy to be one of a series.

What is holding up my enlightenment?  Why is my enlightenment lagging behind?  Everyone else, it appears, has already been served.

Tommy and the pretty girl are deep in conversation.  Many Sanskrit words are in use; very soon they’ll be in bed together.  The crowd at The Dreaming Tree is singing bhajans and clapping their hands.  Someone’s got a tambourine, someone’s got cymbals. They’re in bliss.

They’re in bliss, as usual.  And I feel a little sorry for myself, because I am not enlightened and not a pretty girl and not receiving any attention.

Life gets pretty ridiculous when you’re not enlightened.

Tommy speaks only to the pretty girl, but now and then he reaches over and pats me on the head, as though I were a Labrador Retriever.  This is just another sign of Tommy’s enlightenment, of his great understanding and penetrating insight. As I sit here with the dry ends of my fancy sandwich, waiting impatiently to make that tiny adjustment, wake up, bliss out, catch on.  

Donald Barthelme
Flying to America: 45 More Stories
Counterpoint, 2008

This collection contains stories not included in Barthelme’s landmark collections 60 Stories and 40 Stories, as well as uncollected stories, unpublished stories, and stories later incorporated into his late novel, Paradise.  In other words, this isn’t the Don B. book you read first (that’s 60 Stories), second (that’s 40 Stories) or even fourth (don’t miss The Dead Father or Snow White).  This book is for committed, die-hard enthusiasts, those who want to read every last dang thing.  That said, there are stories in this volume that are as weird, grand, and fun as their more celebrated canonized brethren.

I read Barthelme for his sentences, for zany unpredictable more-is-more brilliance, and not one of these stories is bereft of the Master’s touch, even when the overall effect may not be as successful as the stories previously collected.  For those of us fascinated by Barthelme, it’s interesting to see what DIDN’T quite work, especially in runaway stories like “Hiding Man” that are as excruciating as they are brilliant.  Over and over (and over and over), Don B. cruises past one elegant ending after the next, like a car that misses its exit, then 5 exits more, until you begin to panic, until you want to shout, “Help!  I’ve been kidnapped by Donald Barthelme!  Somebody get me the hell out of this story!”  Several of the long stories collected here are like that -- like watching your most brilliant friend descend (ascend?) into mania.

Recognizing that life is short and uncertain and doesn’t include nearly enough time for reading, here’s a list of the 12 stories in this volume that I found most interesting, entertaining, or necessary: Perpetua; The Piano Player; Henrietta and Alexandra; Three; Hiding Man; You Are Cordially Invited; Belief; Heather; The Sea of Hesitation; To London and Rome; The Apology; Florence Green is 81.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Guttersnipe Bookshelf: Renata Adler, SPEEDBOAT

Renata Adler, Speedboat
originally published 1976
republished by New York Review Books, 2013

By the time Speedboat was, at last, republished, at least a dozen people had ordered me to read it, including some of the very smartest people I know.  The book is a legend among writers of fiction, especially among those of us who aspire to fiction that is more open, more directly responsive to life and the present moment, and less tied to plot.  (I apologize for not being able to say it any better than that.)

I worry that I started imitating this book before I ever got the chance to read it.  Reading it and rereading it, I feel vindicated, helped and championed: yes, this is a thing which is possible, which I hoped would be possible, but didn’t quite know how, or didn’t have the nerve.  What a pleasure it is to experience Adler’s victory, a book which succeeds because it never lets up with brilliance, wit, and truth-telling till it stops on a dime.

The crisp, dead-pan voice of the narrator is made for satire.  Yet, when the book succeeds in this way, sending up life in the university or the newsroom, is also when the book risks ordinariness.  You’re at a cocktail party with a brilliant friend and she’s telling the deadly and hilarious truth -- it’s a thrill, but it’s a known thrill.  I like Speedboat better when it’s most fragmented (the last chapter) and best of all when it’s most strange.  For me, the best moment in the book, the point from which it commands my utter allegiance, is the chapter which begins:

“The camel, I had noticed, was passing, with great difficulty, through the eye of the needle.  The Apollo flight, the four-minute mile, Venus in Scorpio, human records on land and at sea -- these had been events of enormous importance.  But the camel, practicing in near obscurity for almost two thousand years, was passing through.  First the velvety nose, then the rest.  Not many were aware.  But if the lead camel and then perhaps the entire caravan could make it, the thread, the living thread of camels, would exist, could not be lost.  No one could lose the thread.”

Annex #2: Additions to ARTIFACT PANEL

Here is the second of two sets of additions to the novella Artifact Panel.  If you’d like to see the original 10,000 word excerpt, click here.  The other set of additions is here.  You're also welcome to contact me directly.  Again, these additions are NOT in any way a sequel or linear continuation of Artifact Panel.  These are all pieces that would be arranged among those existing in an order as yet to be determined.  The hope is that the finished, final version of Artifact Panel would be a small odd book or chapbook, full of white space.

Annex #2


Until I joined the ritual during the day, I had no idea that the abuelas, aglow, are always carried in using antlers. 

The gringos grieve.  Someone’s beloved sister, not yet old, had just received a lung transplant, but as soon as she got home she fell and broke her hip.  Back in the hospital, she up and died, off-handedly, it seemed.  An accidental death: she didn’t mean it.  She suffered, struggled, died, but now all anybody says is, She had just gotten entirely new furniture.  Everything.  The very best!  Entirely new.

I apologize for not being a better devotee, a real one.  For drinking red wine at noon even on the day of the ritual.  I promise not to erase, not to knock out.  It’s just -- if I have any chance of making it through this day -- the volume has got to go way, way down, at least for a few hours.

The Red Onion has bumped its price for a cooler of beers (that’s 6) from 100 pesos to 120.  Now the Canadians must do research.  I am a slow person.  A person who only figures things out much later.  Therefore it is only now dawning on me that -- the Canadians are not actually so relaxed.  Don’t the Canadians seem relaxed?  I thought so.  But this is just the time allotted for relaxation.  And these are the allotted beers.

Certain gringos have adopted me as a sort of mascot.  Me and my adorable earnestness.  A limp, lopsidedness, and just 3 sets of clothes.  They buy me beers and shots.  I am their queer performing dog.  See how the dog speaks correctly.  The dog speaks so correctly it’s funny!  Today my patrons buy me lunch because they are thinking of going to India.  (Because they drink Bombay Sapphire?)  At the mention of Bodh Gaya, Varanasi, Dharamasala they do not even perk up.  And so I ask them, How good are you at being cheerfully uncomfortable?  And right there, that’s the end of India.

No, that’s too bitter.  It’s only fair if I admit how very much better I am at being a dog than at being a man.  Not only am I more successful as a dog, I’m also more comfortable.  Almost all my qualities are better suited to a dog than a man.  I am a good dog.  Doggishness suits me.

I am what is called a white person.  These people also are called white people.  Therefore, it is expected I will naturally belong to them, understand them, and not find them bizarre.  Something has seriously broken down.  What is the problem with white people?  Over the centuries, many answers have been suggested.  I refuse to believe there’s something inherent.  I just wish to hell they could find something to talk about besides their ongoing struggles with the cable company.

Most of these poor blanched gringos, living from one Tangueray to the next, think that any topic the least bit interesting is highly controversial.  Thus I’m careful always to refer often to drugs, orgies, moneyboys, the sauna.  Not that I’ve done any of that lately, but, you know, it means SO much to them!  It is my karma yoga, my sacred duty, to be a bad homosexual.  Yes, it gets exhausting sometimes but -- CONSIDER THE ALTERNATIVE.  

I remember a friend, also a husband, describing the depression he fell into when, after 7 months of intensive Japanese study, he could understand, at last, what Tokyoites were actually saying.  In the same way, perhaps it is unfair that I esteem more highly my Mexican friends, whom I seldom understand in full.  For all I know they’re congratulating themselves on having made canny real estate decisions, same as the fucking gringos.  I don’t think so though.  I can say with certainty that I have not heard the word chardonnay.

Sunday night at Anonimo, the lawyer and the ink brush bear are there, drinking up 10 peso beers for the umpteenth.  In the absence of the angel, some scraping is necessary to come up with the semblance of liking me.  They make an effort to be pleasant.  Is that not commendable?  “I pretty much like you,” says the ink brush bear.  (“Twinkie bear” is what the miniature drunk Irishman at the bar calls him.)  The lawyer thinks I’m a dumbass and he’s probably right, but his world-weary shtick, too, is well-worn.  They do have some specific tortures they practice: about every 8 minutes they take a group selfie, angled in such a way that I am cut out of it.

Protagonist, summary: Despite being so sensitive it might qualify as an actual disability, he reliably seems too dumb to notice anything.  

When I am, at last, awarded my own personal psychiatric nurse, that strapping professional -- a compassionate soul possessed of encyclopedic knowledge, tight white pants, enormous biceps, as well as a few stubborn, stiff, dark hairs which jut from the collar of his tight white uniform -- is going to know that I am no more allowed unlimited coffee than I am allowed unlimited cocaine.  My wise nurse will require me to wear dark sunglasses.  And just the same will bark: no leering!  Please keep in mind: just because I am depraved does not mean I am a bad person.  It’s just that I need a lot of strictness.  An awful of strictness.

My brain makes its own drugs -- how convenient is that!  After trying a few of the manufactured kind, my brain appears to make its own more nimbly, more potently.  What I mean is that I have absolutely no problem putting myself out of my own mind.  It only takes time.  And often no time is needed. 

I remember years ago, in Chicago, strolling through a market with one of my artist friends.  (ALL my friends were artists, naturally, but he was one of the real ones, one of those who, you know, actually got down to it.)  I pointed at a massive display of gingko biloba and asked, Does that stuff really work?  My friend shuddered and said, I couldn’t stand to be any smarter than I already am.  I swear to you, he wasn’t arrogant, wasn’t an ass, he really meant it.  In myself I note the false assumption (is it definitely false?) that if I thought and felt less I would be more able to live.  Therefore: liquor, pills, poppers, coke, meth, meat, insomnia.  The downright pursuit of damage.  A muy, muy bad idea, for sure -- but very understandable, innit?  

Ideally of course there would some means of calming down that did not skirt death.  But this is a work in progress.

Not to excuse myself.  No way.  Simply to recognize that virtually every single fucked-up, obsessive, addicted thing I do is actually nothing other than an attempt to calm the fuck down.  Fucked up!  No excuse.  Just the same, I’d like to take this opportunity to extend my sympathy to the rest of human civilization, presumably struggling likewise.

3 acts.  The final act begins on a broken street.  A big man jumps: a glacier of pavement tips up, so massive I fear I’ll be crushed.  I shout, Why am I never told what to do?  But when I try to step back, I fall forward instead, the glacier falls and I am sealed, as though within a grave.  The grave, however, has a false bottom so that I fall through, into a world which is subterranean and benevolent, antipodean and hushed.  A trickster is there, in his violet vest and little beard, along with a sign explaining that we will be having tea for exactly 7 minutes.  “Your day and night are switched?”  He nods.  A rice porridge is prepared with vegetables and egg.  Eating it will restore me.  Also I am given pens, refillable pens, which reveal to me that death is not in any way a problem.

The other two acts are less clear.  In the first I am murdered by a flinty-eyed gunman and lie dead in the street thinking, that’s it, the dream is over now.  The plot to kill me had involved deceptions complicated and immense, exhausting to unravel, also boring. I was dead and no one minded, including myself.  I lay there feeling kind of disappointed. Honestly, I thought be more to death.  I might as well go on.  The second act is entirely lost -- though, who knows, it may yet turn up.  I know it included that tender, hushed, antipodal world, so that when I returned there in the third act it was both familiar and welcome.

That which is called Imagination -- if only for reasons of safety.  Jolting awake in the candlelight to hear the shaman sing and to note, That’s funny.  There are more invisible people here than visible ones.  I don’t have a problem with that -- it’s that kind of party.  I can’t actually see them, which is disappointing.  Don’t you, too, tire of making do with inklings?  I want to see with open eyes, straight on.  Sometimes that is necessary.  Otherwise you may wind up marooned in “reality”, the official and authorized version, which is all the time flashing its badge and acting like boss.

The very most lightening thing, the most cheerful, the essence of subversion, of escape: to abruptly find oneself able to perceive the screen, the space, the light and hum, and not just this mismatched picaresque, so nonsensical and so doomed!  It would just be too unbearable sad (too unbearably stupid!) if it were possible to take reality (“reality”) as seriously as reality (REALITY!) demands to be taken, like the stomped foot, in a shiny and responsible shoe, of a determined 6th grader giving a speech to seek re-election to the Student Council.

Temazcal at dawn to complete the ritual.  This handsome rat-faced man mimics the way the stupid gringo sobbed during the peyote ceremony.  Count the scars on his lean chest beneath his nipples: 4 times he has been a Sundancer.  Only in the morning, when it was all over, did somebody tell me, Peyote’s only really bad if you’re stuck in your own mind.  It’s perfectly fine this warrior makes fun of me.  Weakness is the husk of my strength, the first layer.  That rat-faced man is dancing for the whole world.

One thing I saw: the pretty young girl who knelt beside me after I’d been sobbing for a long time.  She showed me a bottle.  I’m not gonna lie to you, I was hoping it was something to drink, something no less than 100 proof.  But, no, it was for anointing.  She poured some of the oil into her palm, touched it to my forehead and at once turned into blazing light -- this slip of a girl!  She was brighter than the fire.  She was so bright I could no longer see her.  And, far gone as I was, I was with it enough to consider both sides of the non-sided thing: here she was, a goddess, arriving to remove in a flash all my pain, and, at the same time, a teenage blonde, with something she bought at the hippie shop, doing what she imagined might help.

 *  *  *

Redheaded widow in mourning, sunset on storm clouds, I look up from swimming to see the angel already standing on the beach, though he usually stayed in till full dark.  He seems uneasy when I join him on the sand.  Tres veces.  How dyou say?  Three times.  Bump.  OK.  Bump bump.  Follow!  Just a big fish.  Medusa maybe.  Maybe a sirena.  Man sirena.  The angel mimes being pulled out to sea.  A siren!  I say and (predictable, sorry) I mime a merman with tackle so immense he needs two fists for it.  The angel shakes his head.  Siren for you, no for me.  I’m top!  Siren no ass.

By accident, I swear, I bought Corona Mega instead of Corona Familiar, so that the angel and I were drunk in the waves, the beach nearly deserted, and the angel snuck off his shorts in the water, handed them to me and went off happily swimming, his smooth ass bobbing up now and then, then swam back and demanded that I do the same.  (Evidently this is the Mexican version of caution: one man naked at a time.)  The angel returned to shore, then carried his phone back into the waves to take pictures of me -- he almost dropped it -- is it conceivable that this is a mutual love we are having?

How sweet it is to swim on Sunday morning among families on holiday and hide from the sun beneath the pier.  I can swim a little now, at last.  No doubt it looks like flailing but -- I move from place to place.  Now, as the angel climbs onto one of the barnacle-encrusted pilings to dive, he stumbles, his goggles fall from his hand and, before we can reach them, they sink.  Listo!  says the angel 
listo. . .

Saturday, October 01, 2016

New & Forthcoming

New Publications, Available Manuscripts and News.

My story, "The Right Way to be Crippled & Naked" is forthcoming in The Right Way to be Crippled & Naked: The Fiction of Disability: An Anthology which is due to be released on December 13th from Cinco Puntos Press.

“Autoportrait: Upon Returning to India” was published in Quarter After Eight #22, Ohio University.

“Why Are These Bears Having Oral Sex?” was published in Crooked Fagazine #6.

Lambda Literary.

In July I was one of Fiction fellows at the Lambda Literary Foundation’s Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ writers.  I had the chance to work with Andrew Holleran (so gracious! so generous! so lithe and bright-spirited!) and a cohort of writers who stunned me with their talent, intensity and aplomb.  (I loved it.  And I was scared shitless the entire time.)

In preparation for the Lambda Retreat, I spent a few months preparing a number of manuscripts, in case anyone wanted to see them.  Then I went to the Retreat and told nobody about them, not a soul.    

The following manuscripts are available:

An untitled manuscript of fictions old & new: approximately 180 pages.
Recently, At Orgies: A chapbook version of this manuscript: 60 pages.

77 Irish Love Stories.  A complete, revised version of the love stories.
39 Irish Love Stories.  A chapbook version of the love stories.

Artifact Panel (excerpt).  A 10,000 word excerpt of the assemblage/novella.

The following manuscripts will soon be available:

Artifact Panel.  An assemblage/novella of approximately 17,000 words.  (But which would require more pages than standard because of the acres of white space required.)

Please Lose & Forget.  A book-length novella of 108 short pieces.

The following manuscripts could be available, if anyone sought them:

A collection of non-fiction essays, metafictions and travel writing.  100 to 200 pages.

A new collection of stories or a new novella.  (Because these things just show up if I am fed, watered, patted on the head, and left in silence in the morning.)

A deep bow and warm thank you to all the people in the past, present and future 
who make the continuance of this nonsensical grizzled waif possible.  
Bless you and thank you.  
May all temporal and ultimate happiness be yours.

(All of the preceding is an example of the verb "to whisk".  
For full explanation, please see below, Annex #1, Additions to ARTIFACT PANEL.)

Guttersnipe Bookshelf: Padgett on Joe Brainard

Ron Padgett, JOE: A Memoir of Joe Brainard
Coffee House Press, 2004

A year or two ago, I sat with my teacher, Bobbie Louise Hawkins, as she spoke of her friend, Joe Brainard.  So much love and tenderness came into her face and her voice as she spoke.  “You two would have loved each other,” she said generously, and with real frustration, as though he’d just stepped out of the room.  She spoke of his kindness, humor, generosity and directness -- all qualities found abundantly in this book.

Hooray for Ron Padgett, for recognizing he had to write this book.  This is a book that had to happen -- and did.  How perfectly appropriate that the book is direct, soft-spoken, a little curmudgeonly, even occasionally awkward -- it’s the real thing, a life of Joe Brainard from the perspective of his straight best friend.  Brainard is well on his way to being canonized -- thanks in great part to the Library of America's Collected Writings of Joe Brainard -- also masterminded by Padgett.  If you love the work of Joe Brainard, get this book, and save it for a day when you are running low on hope for love and hope and art.

One more thing: as your bookish pal from the wrong side of the tracks, a word of explanation might be useful about Brainard’s “diet pills”.  Desoxyn.  Whoa.  Not only is not the usual diet pill, even the word “speed” feels a little too innocent.  Desoxyn is something hard to fathom: it’s meth by prescription.  Having seen this stuff in action, I can well imagine how it might rocketize creative life -- and bring it to a halt.  That Brainard was able to use Desoxyn long-term, have a multi-faceted creative life, and preserve his good and loving heart -- is more evidence of his truly extraordinary nature.  Do NOT try this at home.    

Annex #1: Additions to ARTIFACT PANEL

Here is the first of two sets of additions to the novella Artifact Panel.  If you’d like to see the original 10,000 word excerpt, click here or contact me directly.

It is important to note that these additions are NOT in any way a sequel or linear continuation of Artifact Panel.  These are all pieces that would be arranged among those existing in an order as yet to be determined.  The hope is that the finished, final version of Artifact Panel would be a small odd book or chapbook, full of white space.

Annex #1


3 martinis in, dirty, gin, combing my beard with a pretzel, trying to figure out just when it was that giving up became the cheerfulest thing in all the world.  Since turning 40 surely.  Before that I was striving, making brave, albeit always with a certain upbeat hopelessness which, like cilantro, is a condiment not universally adored.  An acquired taste.  Plenty of people in the well-to-do white world will tell you, Oh, that’s ETHNIC food.

Others make poor choices in love.  Me, I move from success to still greater success.  1st time: I chose someone I loved.  2nd time: I chose someone I loved who actually wanted to have sex with me.  3rd time: I chose someone I loved, who wanted to have sex with me, and who actually thought I was a good person, a good enough person, even this tremendously mixed-up, lopsided, besmudged person I actually currently am.  Is this not a stunning track record?!  I am going to teach seminars on my method.  Those who sign up now will receive a very significant discount. 

The angel is a dentist.  Despite Jalisco traffic he is very strictly punctual and always I receive notice -- a day in advance, 4 hours at least.  This morning, Saturday, for the very first time he asks, I come right now?  I agree and hurry to clean up.  He lives 20 minutes away.   20 minutes later he arrives.  When I open the door onto Madero he stands there looking sheepish, as though he has done something wrong.  Then I look at him again, abashed and unshaven in an old t-shirt and baggy pants, and see that he has so boner so large and so rigid that he has totally no place to stow it.  Hurriedly, I let him in. 

About the angel, and totally aside from fucking like a porn star: the fact that he does not seem all the time to be saying, with words and with deeds, “Frankly I can do MUCH better than you but you will do -- sigh -- for just now” the way most gay men do, like hotel guests who have been told they will get a free upgrade if they complain.  The angel is present, not just making do, just paying attention, attention which is like fresh water, which ought to be common and was once, or at least was rumored to be.

The angel is respectful, bless him.  He totally assumes I’ve got something going on in my life and just have not seen fit to tell him.  I enjoy this mistake, just as I do when people assume I must be very spiritual.  What a gentle and generous heart he has: he thinks I’ve got someplace to be.

When last I hazarded a visit to family (should the word be in quotes?) one elder brother intoned, “Bro, you need a plan.”  Part of being an adult, I am reminded, is financial planning, especially for a person such as myself, in life’s middle.  (But really it’s late, is it not?)  I must have a plan, like my esteemed siblings have, for which they use something called Spreadsheet, and will on occasion print out and display on the refrigerator.  As a responsible adult, I should do the same.  Therefore, here below, for public perusal, is my financial plan.  Let no one say that I am not responsible, in my own way. 

Continue as now until bank balance is reduced to $1500.  Then, purchase flight ticket to Cambodia.  Careful planning is needed because a ticket to PNH or REP can easily be 1000 bucks -- unless I happen to be next door in BKK and can just take the bus.  I will find a cheap room -- it must have a window -- and I will be a teacher of English conversation.  Cambodia is best because in Cambodia one is permitted to be simple and odd.  Even better, damage is understood, expected.  Unlike America, where everyone has to be somebody, all the goddamned time. Here are my qualifications, here are the ways I’ve been harmed, here are the sacred hyphens of my permanent and all-important identity, this is why I’m the best victim for the job!  This assumes that to matriculate in the visible world is still advisable, still tenable.  If not, the best answer’s still Cambodia, where barbiturates are cheap and widely available.

In regard to style: the thing is I like cranky, mixed, and uneven.  Crude and earnest are both welcome daily visitors.  Which is not to say that I fling open my doors to automatic or sloppy.  But the gun on the mantelpiece -- may do as it likes.  Mine is not the American pragmatism: so many advances, so many resources, so beautifully made, paid a lot for it, therefore someone must die, just so we know we got our money’s worth.

It is far more prestigious to be published in the literary journal of Bowling Green State University than it is to suck off a stranger in the shower at the baths.  However, at the baths you have a far better chance of being seen.

Friday at La Cueva with the angel and friends.  I am very careful with the friends of the angel.  Adjacent, they share in his radiance.  These are true and important friends, the angel spends less time with them because of me, and I am a non-rich, unhandsome gringo with very peculiar manners.  The chance of them actually liking me, methinks, is somewhere in the single digits.

The friend who is kindest to me is a sleek young bear, his hair and beard the blackest black, his eyes so large and dark he could serve as a comic book pirate.  To draw him you’d need a brush full of ink.  Like the angel, he invites the thought, I would like to be severely punished!  This appearance is a problem for him because, as he frequently announces, he’s totally a bottom.  Therefore he take care to wear shirts with sparklies, to sashay just enough, and to bat the abundant lashes of his adorable eyes.

The bear in ink explains, “In Mexico we don’t really have dating.  I keep explaining to Angie, Johnny is from the States.  In the States, you might go out with someone every Thursday for 3 years, even though you don’t really like him.  In Mexico, if you like someone, that’s who you’re with till it’s done.  But in the States you have dating.  Understand?”  “I do,” I say.  “I guess I should explain better.  I’m sorry.  This is so embarrassing.  You see, I have totally fallen in love.”  

I will now stand here in the stall for five minutes pretending to piss while the friends of the angel -- yes, they call him Angie -- explain to him that he has acquired a lovesick gringo.

Time is a disease I have.  Like any disease it gets worse the more that I think of it.  Actually time is really weird disease.  It’s not real, but it kills you.  And I am all the time counting, subtracting, dividing it: time is fake money.  Especially now I am that dizzy and precarious thing, whisper it: happy.

I slip back to the table.  A fresh cold Corona is waiting, with its cheery tilted lime.  The eyes of the angel are very bright.  Awwww, he says.  Mi amor.

Now in love, officially, and also shit-faced drunk, the angel’s about to shove in.  Condom!  The poppers are empty, the lubricant vanished, it plain fucking hurts.  And, no, as a matter of fact, we still have not had that conversation.  How could a man so good at fucking while drunk still be negative?  If he’s on meds, then fine -- the big fear is that he expects to be cured with temazcal and salt water.

A book which contains so many references to alcohol -- as well as to other intoxicants and to behaviors which lend themselves to elevated levels of excitement and the alteration of consciousness, which should, like pants, be sized to fit, as well as to show off everything to its best advantage -- ought to contain at least one original cocktail recipe.  Therefore, voila, the Hickey Bliss.
6 to 8 ounces agua de jamaica, lightly sweetened
1.5 shots* pisco
ice (rocks)
lime (optional)
Stir and serve. Garnish with lime, mostly because deep purple and bright green look divine together.  Enjoy!  (*A shot is a variable/indeterminate unit of measurement, which may range anywhere from a tablespoon to a tea cup.  But, however you measure it, you may not have one shot, no, you must have one and then you must have some more.)

The Paris Review asks, Why note cards?
A: Because the napkins you get in Mexican gay bars just disintegrate.  Ever write something down in a dream?  Very nearly as bad.  Of course I still try.  But it’s like making literature out of lint.

WHISK.  I need this verb to do a little more and so I do hereby declare it.  To whisk is to make negligible accomplishments appear substantial, if only to oneself, to take the spittle of the very thinnest triumph and give it body, make it froth.  What other option is there for ne’er-do-wells to secure their own self-regard?  How else to matter, if only to oneself?  Once I survived for a month on a single friendly nod from a Puerto Rican muscle daddy at the gym -- we shared bicep strategies!  Someone said I was promising once: I got maybe 15 years out of that, before it turned to poison.  The admiration of septuagenarians, the love of indiscriminate dogs, or publication in the very most obscure literary magazines, in which nuclear codes could be published, without anyone ever discovering them, or coming to harm.  Because it’s arduous to always be nobody, particularly on Sundays.  Occasionally one feels the need to count, add up, matter, and therefore you must concoct, confabulate, whisk.  In order that you might continue and persist, so that you might seem like someone, if only to yourself.  Therefore, whisk!  The key, as to successful resentment and grudge-bearing, is repetition

The abode of the angel is one long room, divided by curtains.  I go beer, says the angel and hands me the remote control.  When he comes back I’m still just sitting there, in a straight-backed chair beneath one dull bulb, no TV and no music.  MeditaciĆ³n? asks the angel and I try to explain, in mixed and broken language, how the upside of being pathologically hypersensitive, muy muy nervioso, is that I can sit and enjoy -- this an orange wall.  As well as the contrast of the grade-school blue wall beside it.  Was it done with sponges?  Also: the agreeable din of the old a/c unit, the breeze from the fan, the gleam of the pans in the sink, the lamp in the shape of a star.  If the angel had been gone another 20 minutes, I might have gotten as far as admiring the goldfish -- as it was I didn’t have time.  Such are the wonders that open to me, on those rare occasions when I do not feel afraid.

For your reference, a 20 count box of Valium, generic, 10mg., set me back 350 pesos, which I’m almost sure was a rip-off.  I also awarded myself ibuprofen, though I suspect it’s why my brothers have almost no innards.  Jaw hurt, guts hurt, nuts hurt.  For connective tissue I had Edgar Allan Poe.  Ever notice: it never matters that you didn’t for so long.  Only that you finally did.  Give in.  What a shame.  Both pills together with a tall glass of water.  30 minutes later I had become a human being.  The world, too, had acquired central air.  The streets -- such innovation! -- were engineered so that even I could walk around in them.

High on drugs, doing things I would never ever do -- like volunteer to watch fireworks.  “Let’s go see the fireworks,” I actually said.  What next!  Instead of the scheduled trembling, I went with the angel to watch the display and, for once, I enjoyed the fireworks, instead of pretending to enjoy them while having to remind myself every minute, like some skittish pet, you are not under attack.  Later I will no doubt suffer, but, in the meantime, I would like to note here that it was lovely to feel, for once, like a human whose dials have been set correctly, and also to understand, at last, why people go to see fireworks.  The way it feels as though you are walking across the sky at night, through a garden of enormous flowers.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

As some of my kind allies are aware, I am attempting to create a manuscript of stories.  Deep in the archive now, I found a few odd small comic stories that I thought were worth dusting off, revising, and considering for inclusion.  If any readers have suggestions about these stories -- or about the manuscript as a whole -- I am grateful for your suggestions and advice.  My peculiar solitude and senseless labor are most thankful for the solace of your company.

Mr. Gerber Is Living the Life He Always Dreamed About

(2016 revised version)

We never learned how Mr. Gerber maintained himself. He helped out here at the building certainly, he kept an eye on things, but that hardly could have been enough to live on.

Mr. Gerber was peculiar certainly. I do not doubt that he was somewhat mad. He may have been a pervert. A skim milk-looking middle-aged man, thinning hair, the kind of man you can hardly tell if he is 38 or 61. The sun seems to never shine directly on such a person.

In a crowd of people Mr. Gerber was useful as an end table. You gave him your drink to hold when you went to the toilet. Fifteen minutes later he hadn't moved. The ice hadn’t melted. I suppose you could have thrown your coat over him.

Mr. Gerber was part of the complex. He lived in a corner basement apartment. A made-over utility closet, I suspect, though of course I never saw it. In this building we're all good friends -- it is required. When we had parties we invited everyone. Inviting everyone meant inviting Mr. Gerber, too.

If you forced him to speak, Mr. Gerber would straighten up, tuck his chin down toward his chest, and say that he was grateful, grateful to be at a party like this one, among people such as these. Mr. Gerber was so strenuously grateful one wondered if he was grateful at all.

I should clarify some things about myself. I am a person who tells the truth.  I believe in Absolute Honesty. Thus people do not like me very much. I am not a sentimentalist. I am not a sympathetic sort of person. I am a pragmatist. I am an M T V person. Do you know what that means? That means: My Time is Valuable. All right.  Let's continue.

Mr. Gerber was extremely unobtrusive, but he was always around. If you came home early feeling under the weather, there was Mr. Gerber. Or late on Sunday afternoon when distractions were running low. At 3am when you couldn't sleep, there was Mr. Gerber, clearing away the junk mail, sweeping out the entryway.

If you caught him alone Mr. Gerber was chatty, in a style both humdrum and bizarre. He'd chat about the light that was out, about trash collection, about the weather -- and then he'd sigh and say, "For so long I dreamed of this and now I'm living it!" And an enormous smile would sweep over his face.

I am not impressed by poetic-type people. If you take a moment to investigate their self-conscious behavior, you will nearly always find an attempt to camouflage failure. Like women who gain lots of weight and become spiritual.

For all his false modesty, Mr. Gerber was extremely grandiose. His life appeared to be 10% of one's own life, which frankly was shoddy in some departments, and yet he talked like he was rags to riches, like his whole wish list had been delivered.

Mr. Gerber was delusional obviously.  He was probably actually severely depressed.  I'd seen a case or two of this before.

I suppose he was giving me some clue the afternoon we discussed Christmas shopping, while leaning up against the mailboxes. He said he was pleased to be finished with his shopping. (I have no idea who he could have been shopping for. I myself never received anything from him.)

Mr. Gerber said, "I like things -- but most of all I like the space around things."

Well. It sounds a bit spiritual written down, doesn't it? Trust me, it wasn't spiritual at the time. He had one hand buried to the elbow in a crinkly bag of BBQ ripple chips, He had little orange specks around his lips.

Conspiratorially he leaned near me, breathing on me with ersatz barbecue breath. "Have you ever been in the train station at rush hour, shoving and elbowing along with everyone else, when, without warning, a gap appears? You've got 144,000 people in front of you. 144,000 in back. But nobody is quite exactly where you are. You're in a little gap. I love that."

I bet, if we looked into it, that we'd find out that Mr. Gerber really was a pervert.  Surely someone’s underwear was disappearing.  He fits the bill.  Perverts, it is well known, resemble skim milk and are careful always to be the nobody next door.

As for myself, I don't shirk responsibility. I believe in doing things. I celebrate achievement. That is why I live on the top floor, whereas Mr. Gerber lived in the basement. Both of us, it's true, live alone. But a top floor penthouse is obviously very different from a corner in the basement!

All religions of the world agree on one point: every little thing you do matters. All of us are born with a 'to do' list. We must work, procreate, ornament, etc. Like it or not this is the situation. When we die we go to Heaven, to the auditors, and all our exotic destinations, university publications, and tall youngish redheads are tallied.

You can pretend otherwise but that just means you are Afraid Of Life. At very least you must avoid blowing your nose on cloth napkins and eating potato chips on the train!

One night -- I admit I was having some troubles. I don't have nearly as many troubles as most people, but I do still have some. For some reason I was walking around in my t-shirt. And my underpants. I promise that this is not as inappropriate, or as abandoned, as it may seem. I am very fastidious about underwear, about its cleanliness.  All my underwear is very modest; it is more modest than what many people wear on the outside.

Anyway, it was the middle of the night. In one of my hands could be found a fifth of whiskey. I turned the corner and saw that someone was there. I began to apologize -- but there was no need. It was only Mr. Gerber.


Mr. Gerber looked at the bottle. "It isn't really space," he announced. "Actually it obliterates space. But it feels like space." I thought this meant I could continue enjoying my liquor privately, but, no, he took the bottle from me, and he had a good long slug of it.

I remember he didn't shiver.  His eyes didn't widen any.  So maybe that was Mr. Gerber's story.

"Isn't this the very best time of night?" said Mr. Gerber. "I adore it. I like stumbling on these odd times when one can really live."

Well, this was nonsense, and certainly I would have said so, had I not been overwhelmingly intoxicated. And so instead I said, "Gosh, Mr. Gerber. You really like some unusual things."

"I like all the things that are likeable. And I like also those things which cannot help but be loved. Dust, for instance." Now he started counting things off on his thick stubby fingers. "I like train stations when the train is gone. I like gardens in winter. Nothing charms like the absence of charm! I like cafeterias. I am addicted to laundromats. I dislike traveling, but I enjoy being in transit. There's no place a man can really live, don't you agree, besides in a city, in a basement apartment, in a building where no one actually likes anyone!"

Obviously this was not Mr. Gerber's first whiskey of the evening. As you are no doubt aware, some people actually enjoy being eccentric and contrary. And they expect other people to find it just as delightful.

Personally, I dislike monologists. Don't you, too, dislike monologists? It's the back and forth of dialogue that enriches one, connects one to the species, even has health benefits. Mr. Gerber did not agree with us. He did not seek the back and forth, the to and fro. No, Mr. Gerber had his speech prepared. He was no doubt a deeply lonely man, and monologues, as everyone knows, are a hazard of that species.

"One of the joys of modern life," said Mr. Gerber, "Is the perfectly anonymous coffee shop -- not the most popular chain, but its cheaper, though still over-priced, imitators. Each shop is just like another and even the street corners on which they appear are so similar, so dull and gray, that you could never agree to meet anyone there, because you could never think of anything that might distinguish it from any other shop, its street from any other street, its city from any other city, until finally you cannot even distinguish yourself from anyone else: in such a place you can actually finally just live.

My fine diction doubtless makes Mr. Gerber's gobbledygook appear more distinguished than it was. I firmly decided to confront him about his evasions and to remind him that work and restraint are necessary, that the age of consent is 18. Unfortunately that drunken evening was the last I saw of him. For, shortly after this discussion, Mr. Gerber disappeared.

I don't mean that there was anything untoward about it. I don't think he ran out on the rent. He just isn't with us anymore.

The odd thing is, now that Mr. Gerber is gone, he has become a very common topic of conversation among residents here in the building. They want to know where he went. They want to understand him. This is a sentimental and foolish interest which Mr. Gerber does not in any way merit.

It disturbs me to discover that I, too, am unable to stop thinking about Mr. Gerber. Mr. Gerber is absolutely stuck in my mind. He appears to have become part of the structure, like train stations and street corners. Like dust.

I very much want to see Mr. Gerber again.  Even though I am a pragmatist, even though my time is valuable, I promise that I would greet him courteously. I would listen to whatever he wished to share. And at last I would be sure to tell him, "Mr. Gerber, we simply cannot forget you.  You are always on our minds.  No one we have ever met was as completely unique and special as you, my dear Mr. Gerber."

That is what I want to say to say to Mr. Gerber.  I am certain the look of disappointment on his dull skim milk face would be most satisfactory.

Strawberry Jam

(2016 revised version)

I am thinking of Miro, who once began a painting with a blackberry stain on a canvas, and from there his imagination extended -- but he needed that stain, that irregularity, to begin.

I thought of that when I got your note that you’d spent the night jacking off to porn on the Internet, that there was nothing to eat except strawberry jam and no money coming through until tomorrow. You wrote you’d had a big fight with your roommates over bills – indeed, that seems inevitable when the sum of one’s assets is a nearly full jar of strawberry jam and a train pass.

Please don’t bother apologizing for your English mistakes anymore. You won’t see me apologizing for mine.

And I am sorry – you obviously have not been informed of my rules for friendship. By now I should have prepared some document, which acquaintances graduating to friendship could sign and have notarized.

The requirement is this: although I am perfectly willing to have poor friends, I am not willing to have friends who do not eat. You are free to broadcast or disguise your poverty in any way you choose. However, actual non-eating is not permissible and is, in fact, grounds for dismissal.

Since you were not aware of the rules, your offense will be overlooked, just this once.

Strawberry jam does not qualify as food. Even with bread and peanut butter it barely qualifies. I prefer my friends to combine lean meats with dark leafy greens and whole grains. It is very important for my friends to eat well. Especially considering the mass of self-destructive habits nearly all of us are carting around.

This requirement for friendship is strict and will be enforced and there is no room whatsoever for negotiation. Happily, a delivery service is available. Within the local area and also internationally to the best of my ability. Call me in other words. You dumbass. I will show up with food.

If the thought of receiving charity is humiliating, please, don’t think of it that way. Think of it as prostitution. You need only say, when I arrive, “Sorry, buddy, I’m going to need to charge you 5000 yen to suck my cock today.”

Isn’t that reasonable? Considering that there are masses of people who would seek and enjoy this privilege and there are, presumably, only several dozen people actually currently enjoying it. Therefore it is natural to request a modest fee for admission.

Is this reasonable? Of course it is perfectly reasonable.

I hope I’m not embarrassing you. Am I embarrassing you? I embarrass some people. There are some people, specifically some spiritual homosexuals, whose entire spiritual practice, so far as I can tell, consists of avoiding me.

Evidently they feel that I interfere with their disembodied lifestyle. And I would never want to interfere with anyone’s lifestyle, however disembodied, unless they were a friend of mine, and not eating.

If you perceive in yourself any discomfiture, it is because you cannot conceive of your own worth, and that may be because you are incapable of seeing the line of your back as it extends down across your furry ass. I could take a photograph, I suppose, but still -- you wouldn’t see it, not the way I do.


After saying all this, did I invite you to dinner?

No. You invited me.

"I have only one plate," you said. "I'm pretty sure I have two forks." I would have shared a plate with you, of course.

We stopped by the 100 yen shop. You bought a plate and bowl. The plates and bowls all had smiling tomatoes on them. Which is not a bad thing. Personally, I am extremely, even strenuously, grateful to receive encouragement from any quarter. Especially here in Tokyo -- even a tomato that smiles is most welcome.

In your tiny kitchen you made pasta with eggplants. You had to bend over so far to chop the eggplants on the counter. Aren't these counters low even for Japanese? Everyone is getting taller now and the counters cower still down by the floor, afraid of big people with knives.

I've never known what to do with an eggplant. Of course not. I am American. Actually, I  honestly thought I was supposed to blacken them.

Your eggplant became translucent cubes of gold. You added Parmesan cheese you'd smuggled in your suitcase.

Just four things: pasta, oil, eggplant, cheese. And yet it was extraordinarily delicious. I praised you and your eggplant skills.

"Don't overdo it," you said.

Indeed I would never want to overdo it. And I will do my best to not overdo it henceforth. Whether it is praise or eggplant.

After all, it is also true that lovemaking proceeds this way, with what appear to be simple and earthy ingredients.