Saturday, April 30, 2016

It's Supposed to be Spectacular

Spell the Sixth

So As To Open Secret Doors

1. Abruptly I am passionate in regard to neatness -- even to the degree of caring very much how the battered pots and pans are arrayed atop a shelf across the room from where I sit.  The colander, please, needs breathing space; the handles of the skillets must be aligned.  Two salts must flank Mrs. Dash.  Is this a point at which I ought to be concerned?  On the other hand: I just moved one of the four canisters of oatmeal a little to the left and now -- Phew!  I can hear so much more clearly what it is I have to say.

2. Accidentally I tipped the cleaning lady who looks after the cafe’s toilets so extravagantly that now, when I need urgently to pee, she finds toilets where toilets did not previously exist.  She has a retinue of secret doors and I have priority boarding.  I am in real danger of becoming one of those heinous Americans prone to announce, I am so blessed!!!

3. You’ve got such good handles, says the bartender with the long black beard as he, with one hand, passes me the first proper pisco sour I’ve had in years and, with the other hand, strokes first one and then the other ear. 

4. The triple pina colada at the next table is sad because she’s never seen the green flash.  I want to tell her I’ve never seen it either, though I have sat many times looking out upon the ocean and the people beside me have seen it.  I’m not saying it’s not real.  There are green flash people and there are no flash people: no use being bitter about it.  Take a pill to cancel the pineapple, ma’am, renew your hair, and go right on -- though not necessarily with this same man you’ve got here with you now.

5. It’s getting dark, Under the Boardwalk thumps along, and I realize that every time I’ve heard this song I’ve imagined, like, an 18 inch crawl space.  Which surely is missing the point?

6. Upon ordering nachos, in falsetto, each syllable precise, and calling the teenaged moustached waiter sir 3 times, at least, it occurs to me that perhaps my zealous niceness is simply the social mask of an alcoholic and maybe I’m just waiting for a few more drinks for that to become apparent.  Not so many drinks.  Niceness -- how could anything be commendable that is so entirely saturated with fear?  Would someone please like to adopt a gimp-legged fellating dog who continuously emits short book reviews?  

7. An army, that’s what I expected.  Instead, there’s just this down-low bar for swing-shift staff.  Crank up my eye gates and: whoever shows up.  (Even before the door opens they are there, knocking on the metal gate, wanting to drink, get fucked, somebody to listen to their goddamned story.)  Sure, there are regulars.  I am not in control of them either.  I have to welcome whoever shows up.  I have to feed and drink them.

8. To himself: You ought to practice playing hard to get.  This is not something with which you have any experience.  It is not something which is natural to you.  Nonetheless.  Por exemplo: when a big stocky man with a beard compliments your alleged hotness, you should NOT immediately say, “You can do whatever you want to me.  Start making a list.” 

9. When I go at sunset to check on Dad he says, “Is it because we talked too much about your brothers, how beautiful they were?  Didn’t you ask once, Aren’t I beautiful too?  We seem to remember that.”  I’d told him I was publishing a story; he asked what it was about.  I told him, “It’s about a man who’s promiscuous because he’s obsessed with feeling ugly and physically defective.  Same as all my other stories.”  Now, bless him, Dad is trying to understand.  He’s concerned that he said something wrong.  God knows he has.  Still, I felt it hadn’t been decisive. “I remember feeling ugly and ashamed when I got my thick brown bifocals -- and wasn’t that before I turned 4?  Please don’t worry,” I assured him.  “Mom was dead before I was 8.  I promise I never heard you say anything good about my brothers after that.  No, they were very thoroughly demonized.”

10. A man asked me, “Are you drunk when you write?”  Which I am confident is not a compliment.  I told him No.  Which is not exactly true.  I don’t drink when I write -- OK, a glass of red wine at most, when bribery is most urgently required.  However, when I do drink -- which I prefer to do in public but alone -- I often scrawl notes, deep thoughts and perversities, and these often form the basis of the next day’s work.  Moreover, approximately once a month, I get totally shit-faced and sit in a corner writing detailed instructions to myself.  (I always have a great time doing this and feel glorious.  Why is that?  Perhaps it is because I spend the lion’s share of my deeply sober, feeling stone cold lost.)  You should see what the pages look like when I finally go to bed: all bullet points, pronouncements and scrawl.  I could present one of those pages to a psychiatrist and the doctor would not even need to read it -- no, he or she would give me a prescription for something fierce on the basis of the handwriting alone.  And I don’t destroy or hide these proofs of pathology, oh no, I obey them diligently, every scrawled bullet point, every ungrammatical pronouncement of the Lord.  So, OK, I wasn’t drunk when I did the writing.  (That would be wrong.)  But perhaps I was drunk when I wrote the instructions.

11. How unnerving it is to open the drawer of my father’s nightstand and find, among the bottles of pills and dead batteries, dozens of note cards upon which he has scrawled pronouncements to the world and reminders to himself.  People say to me, “What?!  You are not taking over the farm?”  No.  I have chosen to extend the family pathology in other arenas.

12. I only wish to give to others what I myself have so often wished for: a little sudden unexpected rescue, now and then.

13. Waking up in the depths of the night to see my angel turned from me, covers off, bald-headed and bare-assed.  Smooth, soft, in early middle age, as stark and inviting as a sand dune.  When he’s awake I mostly get to see the other side of him, the kindly eyes, the hairy mouth, the big, insistent cock.  I am surprised to see he also has these gentler, smoother parts.  I no longer worry about not sleeping.  I rest, safe and happy, in the vision of beauty. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Guttersnipe Bookshelf: Ferreira Guilar

Ferreira Guilar, Dirty Poem
Translated from the Portuguese by Leland Guyer
New Directions Poetry Pamphlet #18, 2015

If the good doctor, William Carlos Williams, returned to life and I was given the task of looking after him on the first day of his Second Coming, I wouldn’t panic.  I’d show up in New Jersey with this book.  Perhaps we could take turns reading to each other?  What greeting could be better than this great “Dirty Poem”?  Williams might well begin making additions to Patterson at once.  “Dirty Poem” is a triumph of the long poem.  As well as being beautiful and profound, it is actually exciting.  You may find that you need to stand up to read it, or pace quickly around the room.

Because I so much love poetry that illuminates small, quiet, ordinary things, I think I tend to forget that a poem can also be an extravaganza, a blockbuster.  Such energy and motion!  “Dirty Poem” could be a movie -- but the budget would be prohibitive.

It is overwhelming to think that Guilar, in exile from Brazil, fleeing for his life, believing he would soon be dead, somehow found within himself the force to write this epic about his personal history, his home and the nature of time.  An important figure in the literature of Brazil, this work should be important to English-speaking readers too.   In particular, anyone interested in the possibilities of the long poem has to read this small (and enormous) book.

It's Supposed to Be Spectacular

Spell the Fifth

A Single Moment of Perfect Kindness 

Or, for the beatification of bearded Mexican muscle daddies

1.  A question of proportion: because it used to be that I was 973 trillion parts horny and only 826 trillion parts scared out of my goddamned mind.  Whereas now I am just 797 trillion parts randy versus 902 trillion parts terrified.  That’s still A LOT of horny -- several trillion times more than is conducive to sensible living -- but panic now edges out spunk by a small but decisive margin.  Which is one reason I can’t quit it with the mouthwash, for example.

2.  Should I call it a novel?  Because who is ever going to read a miscellany?  The word grimoire may be be unfamiliar, or mislead the Harry Potter crowd, or, worst of all, encourage the I’m not religious I’m spiritual fakers I abhor.  As a person with several purely decorative degrees, I am well-qualified to assure you that you can put two thick slices of avocado on whole-grain and call it a novel.

3.  Short of grievous injury and loss of life, wearing shorts at the gay beach is pretty much the scariest thing I can imagine and here I am doing it.  I’m good once I get in the water.  Not that I can swim much but, you know, image-wise.  Still, sooner or later I must climb out of the waves and then here is my withered hairy peg stick leg with its little hoof at the end.  Thus, I never know if I should flirt while I’m out in the waves.  Just now, while in over my head, a tremendous bodybuilder began making eyes at me. He was one of those men so dense he doesn’t float.  Like a cute rock.  He said he had a place right here on the beach, but once I climbed out of the water he never looked in my direction again.  In the past a few guys have acted like I’d scammed them once I took off my pants.  Big arms should mean big legs too, big everything.  But is it actually my fault if I do not have all the parts that they imagine?

4.  Went to Reception to pay for another week’s hotel.  They only smile of course -- but how could I not be a joke to them?  I am a joke to me.  Paying for the two rooms, Dad’s and mine, a week, faking my father’s signature with his consent, more money than I live on in six months.  Meanwhile: stained t-shirt, buzzcut, and torn jeans.  The built-up part of my left boot has come unglued so that it snaps like a plastic flip-flop when I walk.  Buck teeth, one mad jug ear, face like an accordion.  It’s obvious that I am a person who has not been properly maintained.  For better or for worse, I was left out in the elements.  How ridiculous I am now, residing temporarily in luxury, the personal attendant to my mad old father.  He isn’t actually rich you know, he just spends money that way, it’s one of his symptoms, like calling himself ‘we’.  And I am what’s left of his lop-sided queer son.  “Jonathan is a WRITER.”  Oh god.  Oh fuck.  Of course he is.

5.  Maybe it’s hard to understand why it’s so much easier to be bareassed naked than to wear shorts.  It’d be easy to explain if I were hung like a mule.  Sadly, that’s not the reason -- grateful as I am to the Italian who referred to me as girthy.  The shorts, I guess, seem like a frame around it, a neon arrow: here it is, the crippled leg.  Naked is easier.  Naked has its own rules.  There’s A LOT one can do to run interference, provide distractions.  The truth is it’s just much less difficult if guys see all of me at once.  Then at least there’s nothing I might warn about, nothing I have to explain.

6.  Only very rarely will someone ask.  Almost never.  They act as if it isn’t there.  Same as I do.  But the very first guy I had sex with in Mexico, after I’d been in the country about 8 minutes, was a sturdy muscle daddy, bearded, stocky, gruff-looking.  An answered prayer, in other words, and it was all I could do to not collapse in an avalanche of thanksgiving.  Abject gratitude was unavoidable -- I just didn’t want to actually cry.  He tugged off his towel, then mine, and we started in on each other and right then, in the middle of everything, he said, “What happened to your leg?”

7.  And, before I could say anything, he said, “It’s totally OK.  I just wanted to know if I should be more gentle.”

8.  He actually said that.  That is an actual honest-to-god quote.

9.  As you must know, there are whole batches of Protestants who believe that signing on the ideological line for a single moment is all that is required.  Just Jesus is my personal Lord and savior -- and you’re done.  This seems dull and bureaucratic to me but, on the other hand, if I were in charge of the universe, I think it appropriate that a soul might be redeemed by a single moment of perfect kindness.

10.  If the bearded Mexican muscle daddy never did anything else right in his life -- it shouldn’t matter.  This ought to be enough.  Not because I am important.  Because perfect kindness and attention are important.  In other words, that bearded Mexican muscle daddy deserves to be beatified.  (Note: beatification is not sainthood.  Beatification is the first step.  Sainthood requires actual miracles.  We must now pray to the bearded Mexican muscle daddy and see if he intercedes.  Let us pray.)

11.  Beatification, as any good Catholic can tell you, is “establishment in Heaven”.  Your presence in Heaven has been verified.  Direct to paradise for the muscle daddy, wings, harp, drum kit, cigar, whatever daddy wants.  All right, he does have to be naked.  His holiness is non-inclusive of underpants.  For such is the glory of the Lord.

12.  In the meantime, may he know no suffering, not even arthritis or headaches, no bounced checks or hemorrhoids, just excellent muscle tone and vigorous erections until his entirely harmless death, at ease, free of pain, and held in the arms of beloveds.  Nothing less is sufficient for the bearded Mexican muscle daddy.  This is what his perfect kindness deserves, has earned.

13.  It’s totally OK.  I just wanted to know if I should be more gentle.

Friday, April 08, 2016

It's Supposed to Be Spectacular

Spell the Fourth

So That Things May Speak and Also Cease to Speak

1.  Things I’ll not do (anymore): 
      Henceforth I will only pick up one (1) man at a time.  To pick up three (3) men at the same time and bring them all back to the hotel is ill-advised.  Moreover, it is tacky if they are left waiting outside the door for each other to finish.      

     No more tracking down long-lost relatives to see if they might want something to do with me.  They don’t.  

     No more pouncing naked on people at the door.  I have reached at the age at which supplemental means of inspiration must be found.  

     No more jostling rich white relatives in their rich white worlds.  Zombies don’t wake up.  

     No more fellating the security guard at a hotel where I am a regular guest unless I really like him and am pretty sure he’ll still be cute in 10 years.  Otherwise it just gets to be a chore.  

     No more drinking bottles of red wine and blasting tango music at 8 a.m.  OK, not unless it is an emergency.  And not more than once a month. 

2.  This sky tonight has been done with construction paper and children’s scissors.  Those who came for sunset were disappointed, no sun in sight, but now the sky is all black clouds and, in-between, this here is the Great Pumpkin.  Why assume the world minds the world ending?  As for civilization, we should at least be alert to suggestions it was over-rated.  Even those of us who found it compelling cannot claim that it was wholesome.

3.  When wandering has stumbled on for years, there is nothing one wishes for more than a reprieve for being a guest.  If not a room, a coffee house at least.  A broad clean table bolted to the floor and a mug of bitter coffee.  Security, I think and -- smash -- across the room a glass carafe explodes.  Fuck no, wails the barista, not the poltergeist again!  The bathroom door unlocks and opens.  An old man walks out wearing an enormous feathered headdress.  

4.  Evidently I have swallowed a television.  I can make it large or small but the smaller it is, the louder it gets.  Also there are odd flashes of silver in my head, as if I’d ingested handfuls of aluminum foil.  My blood pressure is presumably terrifying and I want to have sex with everyone.  Of course I always want to have sex with everyone but now I am ready to put my plans into effect.  The name for this, I am told, is hypomania.  It is not nearly as much fun as it sounds.  Even depression would be preferable.  It is far easier to make myself do things, than to keep myself from doing them.

5.  iPhone + PReP + Grindr + Deca + Botox + Uber + Scruff + Cialis = a strange, strange place.  Shouldn’t I be running alongside, offering commentary?  Isn’t that my job?  When it seems vastly preferable to me to drop out entirely.  When did anachronism become a term of high praise?  Oh, to live as one lived when one was still alive!  Also, I am thinking that when the robots take over, officially, it won’t be much of a shift.

6.  Is it wrong to be obliterated?  Or, rather, is it always wrong?  I am one of those persons who believes that sitting down to work every morning at a quarter to eight renders one worthy.  This I will do 9 days in a row, then head to the baths and not be seen for days.  I lose so much time.  But then, the hyper-disciplined days seem wasted too, just differently.  (Can anyone determine what it is I am doing, or whether it is an improvement upon doing nothing?)  Yesterday I traveled to the abode of Cosmos in speedos, the gay beach.  I kept my jeans and my boots on.  In the back corner I sat with two clipboards -- the one for pages and the one for cards.  Venturing near the water would have meant being a lop-sided peg-legged man.  It is so terribly obvious that I am mostly only ever good because I am afraid.

7.  Perfection is nowadays significantly more perfect; the lads at the gay gym are wearing white tights to prove it.  They look like triple X ballet gay action figures.  Which is not meant in any way as criticism.  There are at least 3 doing a circuit now and each is everything you could ever ask for.  Uncut with a generous overhang -- you can see that much.  Between sets each one stares into his phone.  That’s the routine: machine, phone, machine, phone, machine, phone.

8.  About Cialis: when was the last time I saw cock half-hard?  2009, approximately?  Now every 50-something’s hard as a teenage boy.  Photo ready.  Suitable for use as a tuning fork.

9.  In public spaces, ear plugs are remarkably useful.  Not just the plugs themselves -- yellow or orange foam, translucent putty -- but also the process of fishing them from one’s bag, removing them from the box, rolling them between the fingers, inserting them into the ears, and checking to make sure they are functional and secure.  Without even a glance at cacophonous persons in the vicinity.  With zero dirty looks.  Very often persons will notice, “that man has resorted to ear plugs so as to survive my presence” and spontaneously and with hardly a thought those persons will compose and diminish themselves.  A miracle which could not ordinarily be accomplished even by punching them in the head -- which is another of those treacherous stray desires that is as unhelpful as it is deeply felt.

10.  And the waves, one after another, after another, boom onto the shore.  To me it seems the waves are the cause of tight knot in my chest, the terrible intensity of the smallest news, even a chair pulled out from the table across the room.  To me it the waves are the cause but I assume I’m wrong because -- I assume I’m wrong.  And just the same it seems to me that the waves are breaking, breaking on the shore but in me they’re adding, adding up.

11.  At the bar behind the gay beach the wrinkle-free old men are discussing the price of Xanax all over the world.  Then Retin-A.  Then AndroGel.  Then Ambien.  South India, I could tell them.  And the MEN!  But dammit they do not deserve it.  My hunky Tamils aren’t for sharing.

12.  This is a question for Spanish speakers.  After a very long and boozy Sunday brunch, the young and gleaming muscle man at whom I’d stared all morning stood up to leave.  He and his buddy, nearly as perfect, had had 3 cocktails a piece at least, as well as a double tequila to polish off brunch.  Both young men were impossibly handsome, upholstered, super-deluxe, with the air of young porn stars so in demand they are now being offered serious roles.

I’d had no cocktails, only coffee.  Several cups.  The most beautiful young man was directly in my line of sight, straight ahead, so that, whenever I looked at the sea, I couldn’t help but look at him.  I have a problem with staring.  A serious problem.  Intrusive and voracious staring is one of my most evident and appalling qualities.  I could not satisfy myself that it was actually skin they were wearing, beyond the edges of their taut t-shirts -- so smooth it was, a darkness full of light and gold.

Do not be taken in by lazy, fancy words.  My staring is disgusting.  It is intrusive, aggressive and rude.  He was right there, so that I was always looking at him, even when I was looking at the sea.  Some men are so beautiful that I do not understand how it is possible, so that I look and look and look, always thinking that, the next time I look, I will understand.  But I don’t understand.  Not ever.  I just stare.  It’s rude.    

At last they paid their bill -- exorbitant, I saw -- downed the last drops of tequila and stood up.  The one most god-like, a young man whose elegant breakfast had doubtless been impinged by my obsessive leering, was wearing thin gray sweats over hugely muscled legs, like the undergear of a jack-off fantasy lumberjack.  If he’d adjusted himself just then I would have died of an aneurysm.  Instead my reprehensible yearning life was spared. 

So greedy was I of my last chance to view him that I did not even pretend to look away.  (Generally I act clueless at the critical moment, as if I hadn’t seen or looked or noticed anything all along.  It is the only reason I still possess something like a nose.)  As he stepped around the table to depart he looked right at me and said, huarache.

I bowed my head and he departed.  I assumed huarache is Spanish for nasty old gringo queer who stares all through breakfast -- equal parts cockroach, loser, faggot.  I was ashamed.  I am ashamed.  Of all my faults, leering is perhaps the most egregious and never have I made any progress with it.  No doubt it has gotten worse.  In a boy staring might be excused.  Not so for a slouching pot-bellied man with a gray and scraggly beard.  

I paid my bill and scuttled back to my hotel.  Back in my room, with the aid of my computer, I pored over a list of Mexican insults.  I was quite sure it wasn’t a ‘ch’ sound.  As the meaning could not be the standard one, I searched vocabulary, alternate spellings.  Huarache.  Is this another way of calling a person a “heel”, as we do in English?  Or is it actually possible that, after all those cocktails, that last tequila, he was actually just struggling with his sandals?

None of this, of course, serves to excuse my appalling behavior.  Upon which I must someday urgently get a real and proper grip.

13.  I chose the paragraph because it was the home I could afford.  It still is.  I chose the paragraph because the other vehicles required gasoline or coordination, because I could hardly look at them without imagining a gristly, ghastly accident.  Straight up into the air, up from the wreckage, the paragraph rises, until the curve of the Earth is visible.  The danger, it’s true, is real, but at least we make do without the din of helicopters.

Monday, April 04, 2016

It's Supposed to Be Spectacular

Spell the Third

So As to Escape Liberation

1.  There is real disagreement over whether the toilet at the Blue Chairs Resort is private or en masse, i.e. sometimes guys yelp when the doors are opened and other times there are 8 guys in there at once -- 1 at the pisser, 1 in the john, 1 pissing in the sink or washing his hands, one changing into or out of his swim trunks, and 4 others either blowing or getting blown.  It seems silly to call the toilet private when 2/3rds of the time it’s only locked because guys are having a three-way or not wanting to share their drugs.  Heck, it even seems misleading to call it a toilet -- why not say event space?

2.  Surely it’s not a good sign, the way that nowadays I can fall over without reason or occasion or even liquor.  One side, you see, is not as long as the other.  I was always warned that this would give me trouble.  And here is trouble now, stepping out of its long dark car, and I am not even old yet or, rather -- I am only old at gay bars.

3.  The white space, the space in-between -- which may legitimately and accurately be seen as the most attractive part of the proceedings -- is intended as invitation, as courtesy, so that it’s not like you’re being talked at all the time, trapped in a TV show, or instructional video, or classic RV makeover.  Go right ahead: have a snack and your own thoughts.  (It’s true this will work far better if you’re not checking your phone.)  I understand that most persons are not as hung up as I am on noise and overwhelm but, just in case those folks are in the audience, I promise to take the very best care of you that I can.  (For example, wouldn’t now be an excellent time for a tall glass of room-temperature water?) 

4.  The muscled hustler in his orange shorts lounges in the the video room, takes out now his flaccid cock, now his glass pipe.  Want to enjoy together?  He purrs to me from out his crooked smile.  I flee.  He catches me again when I’m bare-assed on the rooftop, toweling off, says, You want a massage American?  I lean down to hear but, when my hand gets too near him, he kicks it away with his knee.  Yep, that’s meth: blinking fun and nightmare on and off, always with eyes jagged, festive, bright.  Welcome!  It’s Evil Christmas!

5.  No, the nonsense is not optional.  The nonsense is required.  Or, for the academics: it’s a prerequisite.  You will not be admitted without it.  How otherwise could it be a spell?  How might a spell be cast?  Anyway it’s not any nonsense, it’s the correct nonsense, and another word for the right nonsense is mantra.  These filthy playground rhymes are sacred syllables in flasher trenchcoats.  At this moment, your chakras are being powerwashed and reset for maximum perversity.  Why should I be the only one whimpering in awe at luxuriant armpits?

6.  Beside the breakfast buffet, two small brothers were playing, I spy with my little eye.  Their father was with them and he, too, was an adorable boy.  “Something that starts with the letter P,” said one little boy and his brother, with immense joy, bellowed, “PENIS!”  (I did turn and look, I admit.  Sadly, no such luck.)  The adorable father was embarrassed, stern, “This is your final warning.  Do you want to spend all day in your room?”

7.  People make stuff like they can think all the time.  Like it’s all one unbroken line.  This seems to me wildly misleading.  As if there were somewhere something that could be relied upon.  As if a dream, in a single sheet, could be hung from a line like laundry.

8.  “I wish I could write anecdotes or vignettes,” she said.  “Slices of life.”  But you could tell, from the way she said, that she was destined for real literature, the kind that actually mattered

9.  Everywhere I go, I hear people say, It’s supposed to be spectacular.  And even before I know what they’re talking about, even as I brace myself for disappointment, I cannot help but hope along with them.

10.  My new rule, in regard to gay places and events: if I don’t get to see anyone’s cock I’m not interested.  As far as being gay, it’s the sex with men part that I like: the fucking, sucking, loving part.  As for white sofa, perfect haircut, Sunday brunch, tina, high-class status, bulldog, Cosmo, Truvada, trimmed armpits -- all that you may keep, along with marriage and the Army.  What most people call liberation is just a shoddy shopping trip.  I am not fooled.

11.  To himself.  The irritable one has necessary truths and information.  As does the one who is ravenous.  Allow them to present their news.  Do not all the time insist on being like a limpid pool.

12.  Among my favorite things, here in Mexico, are the green signs with white arrows pointing at a white orb and words Punto de Reunion.  To me these are like Aldous Huxley’s parrots, all the time announcing, here and now, here and now.  All by myself, I reunite, as per instructions.

13.  Also available: a full line of horsehung Samaritan stories, in which I accidentally rescue some bedraggled urchin on the roadside who turns out to be some mysterio-magical fey creature prone to carnality and granting wishes.  Not just official wishes (world peace, climate stability, a full remission for Aunt Brenda) but also what you actually, seriously, god-help-you want.  As I sponge his bruised body in the clawfoot tub the rescued victim is miraculously restored -- in fact, the urchin, rinsed, turns out to be quite a hunk.  As an ordinary mortal I really oughtn’t have swallowed such a quantity of his semen but, having done so, every drop, I am now condemned to be entirely spectacular for the benefit of all sentient beings.  Mine is the supra-magnetic charisma and then some.  Departing in the morning he slips me a wallet which can never be emptied or lost and instructs me to rely on my intuition.  To tell the truth, when I woke up the next morning to find my cock 7 sizes larger I was at first concerned.  Luckily I had the magic wallet and was able to set off at once to shop for more commodious shorts, which led to a rendezvous with an over-awed changing room attendant, the district manager, the sub manager, two security guards, and a custodian wearing one of those union suits that zips right on down.  Inevitably then we were out in the woods, a company of huntsmen, fishermen and lumberjacks, the very greatest in the world, certainly the best equipped, by whom no fish or deer are ever harmed, and, even after an all-night orgy beside a raging campfire, in the morning it is found that not a single fern has been trampled.  Even if, now and then, a broad old tree must be cut down (to throw somebody over it) the tree is always put right back up again, when we’re done with it, without so much as torn leaf.      

Saturday, April 02, 2016

News, New Work & Thanks

To my joy and astonishment, I’ve been selected as one of the 2016 Lambda Literary Fellows.  I’ll be in the Fiction cohort with Andrew Holleran.  The retreat is in Los Angeles in late July.

My story “The Right Way to Be Crippled and Naked” is the title story of an anthology of fiction about disability forthcoming from Cinco Puntos Press.  The list of writers included is humbling and includes Dagoberto Gilb, Anne Finger, Stephen Kuusisto, Thom Jones, Lisa Gill, Floyd Skloot, and Raymond Luczak.  It’s available for pre-order now.

My emulation of Edouard Levé’s Autoportrait, “Autoportrait: Upon Returning to India” is forthcoming in the next edition of Quarter After Eight, which is Ohio University's journal of experimental literature.

I am currently hiding out in Mexico working on a manuscript of stories.  My hope is that I might finally succeed in my superannuated dream of creating a small book.  (Or two small books?  Could there be two? To me, the older stories and the newer ones don't seem to go together.)  If you have ideas or suggestions, I would be very grateful to hear them.

Most important.  During these recent, odd, uncertain, wandering years, I have survived simply because people have been kind to me.  With all my heart, I bow deeply to everyone who has helped me and my small stories to survive.  Thank you.  As Shantideva says, May all temporal and ultimate happiness be yours.    

It's Supposed to be Spectacular

“The spell is a myriad-minded poetic story-form that has been practiced sporadically during the 20th and 21st centuries by an underclass of radicals, outcasts, mystics, prisoners, and the neurologically non-normative.  Originating in dada terma, the spell contains elements of both poetry and prose and traditionally consists of 13 parts.  These parts, which are purposely presented as fragmentary and heterogeneous, contain disparate elements which may include: pronouncement, myth, vision, intention, rant, preachment, dream, memory, overheard speech, self-help, nonsense and irruptions from the present moment. (The exact admixture is a matter of obsessive secrecy among practitioners of the spell.)  Each element is required and must be present, though it may also be present in its absence, just as a long-dead parent or lover is present.  Frank O’Hara’s “Meditations in an Emergency” is arguably the best known 20th century American example of the spell.  Outwardly humble in its apparent embrace of mish-mash and gibberish, the spell in fact aims at nothing less than the transformation of the world.”

-- Jerome Rothenberg 

You can hold your breath until you turn blue, 
but they’ll still go on doing it. 

-- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations (8:4)

Spell the First

For the Removal of Obstacles

1.  Did you receive word that civilization was to end today?  Was this Armageddon scheduled?  Is this yet another ‘Was Supposed to Happen’?  Did you find it in your briefing?  Mine neither.

2.  Oh!  How much simpler life would be if one did not wake up, every day, as a different person!  Yesterday I was confident, I’m sure of it, I had my plans and reasons.  This morning of that person -- there’s no sign.  Don’t think I’m insisting on remaining positive -- no, I would be depressed, if I could stay depressed, if I could have just a little goddamned consistency.  I ask: what’s the good of finding myself when I just go on evaporating?  I would gladly take psychiatric drugs -- joyfully! -- if only I could find someone to give them to who was even halfway reliable.

3.  Once we knew for certain what the surgeons had removed, we hurried to learn whether one could survive without it.

4.  I prefer to only go to bars that allow swapping blowjobs in the back.  I only pretend to understand the point of other sorts of bars.  Some guys even get fucked in the toilets, bent over, and gripping the cool tank.  Once I was pissing at the far side of the trough when an orgy flared up.  As much as I can, I just try to cooperate with whatever’s going on.  The truth is that I am tremendously fond of parts.  This is what I’ve decided to do with my life.  Instead of becoming important.  Occasionally I am envious of successful people.  Mostly I feel pretty good about it.

5.  Q: Why are you so totally opposed to appearing respectable, even momentarily?  A: Because throughout my life the people who have hurt me most were always those most beloved at the supermarket.  The Captains of Appearances, of how do you do’s.  The Unofficial Mayors.  Down through not even the bread aisle could they pass without praise.  Racist asses excuse themselves by saying a black man mugged them.  Well -- I was mugged by nice people.  

6.  This morning I put my boots on early so that I would be ready.  Then I stepped on my glasses and I broke them.  Tangled in the bedsheets, they’d fallen to the floor when I made the bed.  Here was the fruit of my earnestness.  The prescription glasses, exorbitant, had been, of course, a gift.  I picked up what what left of them and cradled it in my hands.  With any luck I’d eventually end up in a country where I could afford to fix them.  I note that the sadness I felt as I held the glasses -- in three pieces now -- that sadness had already been there before I broke them.  In sadness I had broken the glasses.  The knot of anguish had been there, just waiting to be assigned, and now, with my boot, I had given it a job.

7.  A brother teased me once that my first word as a baby was, “Excuse me could you please pass the butter?”  Except I wasn’t a baby -- I was closing in on 4.  And still had not spoken.  My parents were concerned I might be slow.  Sadly, this turned out to be true.  I did eventually learn to speak.  Unfortunately I never managed to become what one might call natural.

8.  OK, all right, so I am not an emperor.  But just the same these are my notes on horseback.

9.  “You know those hangovers like Near Death Experiences where you see all at once what you’ve been doing wrong all along?  I have those like quarter-annually.  Even hungover I still made it to work today.  Now I can’t wait to get home so I can fix my whole entire life.”

 10.  More and more I say, “I accept, I accept, I accept”.  Perhaps I am becoming spiritual?  No, I suspect that I am only trying, slyly, to get back at life, to get a rise out of it, to do what it would least expect.

 11.  I ought to ask myself one question at the start of every day -- how oh how to make less trouble in dull and repetitive ways?

 12.  And this now is where?  And where is next?  Tell me please that it is visa on arrival?  Will this card work for the ticket?  Will the cardholder mind?  Or is there some reasonable country I can get to by bus?  Can I at least get my haircut first?  Does anyone know me there, at wherever’s next?  Can I stay with them for awhile or would that be too much?  Should I offer money or just try to get by with sex?  Is crossing the street just totally impossible, as in Hong Kong or Kolkata?  The gym is where?  The gods are who?  Potable water, pickpockets, chance of getting laid?  My time here is done, I must move on.  The only thing that’s totally certain is that I’ll show up wearing this same shabby shirt.

13.  A serious, bespectacled man, approx. 50 explains, “I was a Peep.  To be a Peep was my aim.  I covered myself in an industrial sized tub of marshmallow fluff.  Then I covered myself with sugar dyed yellow.  And I was a Peep.  I was edible.”  The pretty barista seeks to be polite and asks, “Did people eat off of you?”  The gentleman shakes his head.  “I failed to take into account body heat.  I had like -- stalactites.  My costume was not a success.”

It's Supposed to Be Spectacular

Spell the Second

To Speak With the Gods of Weather

1.  If you don’t dance, no prize.  You have to dance.  Sorry.  It’s my rule, it’s my show.  No dance?  Fine, OK, I keep it to me  Dance?

2.  Keith, king of the weeknight bartenders, stands and waits.  He does not mind this surly man, who has evidently misplaced the guidelines for this particular planet.  The man waves, the man grunts, Keith waits and shakes his head and finally says, very gently, as if giving a hint, “Remember -- you have to use words to tell me what you want.”

3.  I still hear the sounds.  I just no longer know where they are coming from.  Is that a problem?  I wish I could apologize to the lady with the phone, at whom I glared.  Because it wasn’t a ringtone, not her fault at all.  Apparently the cafe at this moment has chosen to abruptly blast Cher.


5.  Goals: climate crisis solved, unpopular and non-cute species also saved, dentistry, student loans, Nobel Prizes (Peace, Literature) for my own glory + betterment of humanity.  Also I would one day like to be a long-dead dog, so that my family might finally love me.

6.  The way some people are afraid of airplanes or elevators, dogs or the dark, I am afraid of gay men in their forties or fifties who have washboard abs, giant biceps, immaculate haircuts and are absolutely breathtakingly fucking mean.  Do you also meet these men?  There appear to be many of them.  Clearly this is something that happens.  It is by no means uncommon.  These men are brutally healthy, they are accurate and correct.  It is doubtless due to my weakness of character and penchant for inferiority that I much prefer the middle-aged queers who let themselves drink beer, get chubby and jack off a lot.  They even seem like better people.  This is the kind of slob I am: I prefer surrender to war.  Any time online you see abs and not an age, you may assume that you have stumbled upon Mean Gay.  Electronically, Mean Gays may easily be avoided because they tend to write online profiles consisting exclusively of what they will not tolerate.  No time wasters!  Face pics in first message!  I am into OTTERS not BEARS!  Sorry guys just a preference!  If you’re not SERIOUS about being FIT we are NOT a match!  Masculine only!  Have a job, have a place!  You be vers, clean and ready!  My TIME is VALUABLE!  Gotta make this happen in 5 messages or less!

7.  No contesting it: I am neither stoic nor Stoic.  But Marcus Aurelius wasn’t always either.  But is it possible to earn partial credit, since I am seeking, also, to make use of everything?

8.  I thought it was a nightmare when it came to my rescue.  A dream of panic on the night of the school play.  The show was TONIGHT and I did not know my lines.  Not a single one.  Even worse, I was supposed to be a sort of narrator.  I had to provide not just occasional remarks but entire blocks of text.  I couldn’t learn my lines.  I could not even understand them.  I wanted to scream but couldn’t; I couldn’t even breathe.  Full of shame, I went to the director, a pious downtrodden lady.  I told her I had failed: I could not be in the play.  She looked at me with disgust.  It didn’t matter that I was a child.  “You tell me this NOW?”  Even though it was the last thing I wanted, I ended up in the audience of the show.  What I saw on stage astonished me.  A crowd of actors were milling back and forth.  Some of them were reading from a book.  Others had their lines on cards.  But -- I could have done that!  It had never occurred to me that it might be all right.

9.  My gentle mother was mortally ill by then, lying in bed beneath her green velveteen comforter.  I told her the teacher counted to ten and, if we didn’t have our snow things on by then, if we weren’t already out the door, we couldn’t go out for recess.  My brother says that at 7 no one knows their mother, not even at 17.  Still, I remember her face when I told her, how it lit up the way a newspaper catches fire as she reached for the phone. 

10.  I remember a night at the baths in Tokyo, a small man who tugged off his blue towel to show his enormous cock.  “It’s my mutant gift,” he said and smirked.  Everyone’s got a gift.  Mine is becoming fond. I grow swiftly deeply durably fond.  Fond of all sorts of people, in middle of the road places, as well as out of the way, and in dark corners most of all.  Very often I become fond of people who have no use for me at all.  I am even fond of people who actively dislike me, who see me as a fool or a slut, a loser or a punk.  (There is good evidence for some of these opinions.)  Every now and again one of these persons will relent and grow fond of me -- against their better judgment.  More often they go right on not thinking much of me at all, even as I grow more fond, as well as impressed by their good sense.   

11.  A secret location: A door that locks is the best talent.  If you are wise, you’ll assist them in thinking you’re a loser, failure, madman, drunk.  Stumble out your door at noon, as if you’d just now gotten up.  Meanwhile, behind the door, your mix: poetry, dharma, mourning your dead and the demolition of the world.  Read endlessly your chosen tribe of maniacs, make yr own prayers, yr holy stuttering notes.  Do push-ups and drink soda water.  Resist, dive deep, play dumb.

12.  To himself.  The lion’s share of suffering is simply allegiance to the Gruesome School.  Gruesome School = addictions + resentments + to do list.  Attraction of sake = after one carafe, the realization, I can drive right around this crap!  Subsequent carafes, however, only reinforce allegiance to the Gruesome School.  Take heed.

13.  Wisdom of Keith, bartender, delivered with gin, soda, two limes.  “Remember when we used to have actual seasons?  Now the weather is all done with a calendar and darts.  This is the end of sequence and progression.  Once maybe we had actual gods.  Now they just play games.” 

Friday, April 01, 2016

Guttersnipe Bookshelp: Wayne Koestenbaum

Wayne Koestenbaum, 
Moira Orfei in Aigues-Mortes Soft Skull Press, Brooklyn, NY, 2004

I found this book in New Orleans, in the dollar box of a used book shop: it was one of the best dollars I’ve ever spent.  As I read it I thought, “I’ve wanted to read this book for years, but I had no idea it actually existed.”  Let me explain.

Many years ago, in graduate school, the other kids and I were so excited when the department said we could have a class in Queer Lit.  A dozen of us ploughed through a tall pile of books but -- please don’t shoot me for saying so -- we were kinda disappointed.  The only books that most of us entirely loved were by Genet and Jane Bowles.  (OK, so we were snobs.  But we were not wrong.)

I think we would have been really excited by this book.  Anyway, it’s what I was looking for: real swagger, daring, vice, zest, energy, innovation.  It’s a truly great queer novel.  Or, to put it another way, it’s a great novel about fame, the history of piano music, the circus, rent boys and having anal sex with one’s aunt.

The book -- which consists of 25 “notebooks”, 25 series of jottings -- is about a hypersexual pianist obsessed with the Italian circus legend Moira Orfei.  His mother is a legend, his sister a victim, his aunt a lover, and he is falling apart -- brilliantly, with amid hustlers and music history.  My god, it’s so smart, so depraved, so much fun.  

A word to the wise: I am guessing that this book is very nearly out of print.  Soft Skull publishes great stuff but when it’s gone, it’s really gone.  (That’s why I never got to read Antler’s Selected Poems. . .)  Get your copy now, before we have to pass around photocopied bootlegs -- because somewhere this book has GOT to have a cult following. (Dear cult of Koestenbaum: Sign me up.)


Guttersnipe Bookshelf: New York School of Poets

David Lehman, 
The Last Avant-Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets
Anchor Books, 1999

For poets and artists, a shot of sheer courage.

I feel about the New York School of Poets the way my grampa felt about the Red Sox: they’re my team.  Therefore I sat down to this book quite certain that I would be disappointed, if not downright offended.  I’ve avoided reading it in the past -- I didn’t think it could possibly be worthy of its subject.

What a terrific book!  Any one of the four sections devoted to Ashbery, O’Hara, Koch, Schuyler is worth the price of admission.  Each is masterful and full of satisfactions.  Perhaps most critically, Lehman questions several key assumptions in Brad Gooch’s life of Frank O’Hara in a way that I found entirely convincing.  (So much for the suicide theory.)

Above all, each of the biographical sections is a gorgeous introduction to the pleasures of the poet discussed.  Of the New York School poets, James Schuyler is the one about whom I knew the least.  Lehman’s enthusiasm is so infectious that by the time I’d read half of the chapter devoted to Schuyler I would have had to have been physically restrained to keep from ordering everything in print.  (I am now deep in reading James Schuyler.  My quality of life has soared.)

As much as I enjoyed all of this, it’s likely that the most valuable thing about the book is that it attempts to answer the question, “What the hell does avant-garde mean, anyway?”  Twenty years ago, I was a student in the writing department of the Naropa Institute.  The poets there always described themselves as avant garde, as if it were as easy to be avant garde as to subscribe to National Geographic.  I roared when I came upon the quote from Janet Malcolm: “The avant-garde is supposed to be the conscience of the culture, not its id.”  Now you tell me!  Naropa would be shocked.

How about this utterly essential quote, courtesy of Harold Rosenberg.  “Almost to the degree that art expresses its contempt of all that is established and official, it is sought and paid for -- which is to say: taken into camp and deprived of its antagonistic force.  The readiness of capitalist society to accept the art that avows its antagonism to capitalist society is therefore anything but the evidence of art’s power; it is exactly the means by which art is made impotent.  The expectation that art will supply the principle by which society can be redeemed is little more than a self-congratulatory fantasy.  No redemption has occurred: all that has happened is that the highest achievement of the free subversive spirit has been co-opted to lend the color of spirituality to the capitalist enterprise.”  

It’s funny that a book which concludes that it’s just about impossible to be avant-garde any more would turn out to be so downright inspirational.  Night after night I emerged from my evening reading feeling as though I’d taken a shot of sheer courage.  Anyone interested in the New York School will want to read this, especially if they are a poet or an artist wondering how to persist, despite everything, in a manner which is true, brave and joyful.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Guttersnipe Bookshelf: Stanley Elkin

Stanley Elkin, 
Van Gogh’s Room at Arles
Dalkey Archive Press, 2002

Contains 3 novellas:
Her Sense of Timing
Town Crier Exclusive, “Confessions of a Princess Manque: How Royals Found Me ‘Unsuitable’ to Marry Their Larry”
Van Gogh’s Room at Arles

First things first: regardless of how this book is listed on Amazon, it is neither out of print nor unavailable.  Contact Dalkey Archive -- they’d be delighted to sell you a copy.

To me, a novella is the perfect length for the jazzy dense madcap diatribes of Stanley Elkin.  Not for nothing does Francine Prose rate this Elkin’s best book.  If a prince ever falls in love with you and you’re struggling about how to behave among royals and paparazzi -- you’ll find the second novella indispensable.  Community college lecturers and any of us prone to feeling catastrophically lackluster in company will want to seek out the third.

But for me, the first novella, “Her Sense of Timing”, is the one that’s essential.  This is one of the most acute (and hilarious) accounts of disability and humiliation I’ve ever come across.  As a person with a disability, I cheered this edgy and all-out account of what it really feels like to live in a messy human body.  Hooray for Stanley Elkin, who isn’t shy to tell the truth about the human condition and who can make literature out of ongoing struggles with an overfull pee bottle.    

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Guttersnipe Bookshelf: Barthelme, Snow White

Donald Barthelme, Snow White
Atheneum, 1967

In 1967 the New Yorker devoted nearly an entire issue to publishing Barthelme’s novel Snow White.  It is inconceivable that they would do something so peculiar and interesting now. (Just today I saw that the New Yorker plans to offer novellas electronically.  Which they clearly wish us to believe is terribly innovative and daring -- or, perhaps 10% as daring as they were 50 years ago.)

When I started reading Barthelme a few years ago, the general opinion seemed to be that the stories were what mattered, what held up.  I read 60 Stories, then 40 Stories, then read them both again.  Hungry to read something fresh, I decided to risk this novel and was a little surprised to find it an absolute lark.

Enamoured as I am of Barthelme’s non-stop high stakes language play, I guess I had worried that a novel might be just too much, too exhausting.  I wish I’d understood that this novel is actually even more broken up, more fragmentary and poem-like, than most of his stories.  You could think of it as a collection of 100 rants, or 100 flash fictions if flash fictions were any good, or a even a book of 100 prose poems, if prose poems got off their high horse, fled brunch, and got smashed.

Don B’s brilliant language wizardry is melded to events that are fun and hilarious and somehow just right.  What a joy to throw 6-packs of Miller High Life through the windscreen of a man named Fondue!  (I assert that the courtroom drama that ensues is my favorite court scene in literature -- though I will admit it is somewhat irregular.)

Best of all: let’s poison the prince for once!  Yes, please!  I shouted.  Give Snow White a break!  (Or, as she puts it herself, “I myself am so buffeted by recent events and non-events, that if events give me even one more buffet, I will simply explode.”)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Guttersnipe Bookshelf: Duras, Emily L.

Marguerite Duras, Emily L. translated by Barbara Bray Random House, 1989
Emily L. is for confirmed fans of Duras. This is the advanced course, suitable only for the devoted -- among whom I am numbered. Reading Emily L., I sometimes shook my head, laughed or argued. “Over the top, Madame Duras! Random!” Yet -- I’m glad this book exists and I’m delighted (in a despairing, wine-soaked Duras sort of way) to have read it. Does it make sense to say: “It is not a great novel, but it is wonderful to read”? That is how I felt, on the lucky night I consumed it, along with a bottle of cheap red wine. (Could this book be read while entirely sober? Possible, presumably, but not ideal.) If you can, read a few pages before purchasing the book. If you’re not on the wavelength, you might find it senseless. If you are on the wavelength -- enjoy. And don’t forget to also drink plenty of water. From pg. 29: “One sensed they must have lived together through some adversity, and through it have come to know one another so well that they arrived at a common being, in good and ill, crime and innocence. Until the ultimate end in a common death, which so far they’d always avoided, for some reason that didn’t matter.”

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Discussion of Difficulties in the Narration of Sexual Success Stories

A Discussion of Difficulties 
in the Narration of 
Sexual Success Stories.

Experiments in total uncertainty continue.

Here in Bangkok, in a budget room bare as a hospital corridor, a mewling wish can nearly always be found: the wish to be told I am doing it right, proceeding correctly, or at very least not wholly wasting my time, the swiftly dwindling remainder of this, my only life. Console me, comfort me, hold my hand, pleads that part.  Show me something that is not all wrong.

Anxiety is nearly always present, squalling in the corner, wearing the same sweat-stained shirt, the one that reads:  Isn’t there something I am supposed to be doing?

As you have presumably already noticed, the universe is wholly uninterested in doling out assurances.

Nonetheless, some events do occur that are both spectacular and preposterous.  It is not known if these events can be said to constitute guidance.

A vital and contiguous issue is whether “common sense” may be considered a reliable navigational device, based as it is on what is likely to happen, as determined by logical inference, whereas it appears that, in this particular zone, which I call home, the likely almost never occurs.  Almost impossible is the rule and it is confounding to proceed in this fashion, all the time asking oneself, “What is almost impossible today?”

No doubt it’s obvious where this is headed.

The following is what is commonly referred to as a sexual success story.  Indeed, it belongs to the highest category of such.  It is a story of spectacular sexual success.

An odd attribute of these stories is that, while we may greatly cherish our own sexual success stories, it is almost always highly unpleasant to entertain the sexual success stories of others.  It is even worse than hearing about their dreams the night before.  It is as bad or worse than listening to the details of the deaths of their pets.

Part of the reason for this is no doubt envy.  Which is why I have chosen to make available, upon request, the gentleman’s contact information.  If I had a chance, then so do you.  Not that much help is needed, at least in locating the gentleman in question.  He is one of the most visible and well-known personages in Bangkok’s gay community.  His photos and videos are widely available and anyone who likes (I presume) may make an appointment with him for a rate which (I hear rumored) can now be bargained down to somewhat less than a thousand dollars a night.

Here a few words of clarification are required.  The gentleman in question maintains, at the PlanetRomeo site, two profiles.  One personal, one professional.  In other words, one for his escort business, another for his personal use.  On an evening I’d assumed would be as ordinary as any other, quiet and just a little sad, I received a message from him.  He asked if I wanted to have sex.  I read the message five times, took a swig of gin, paced my cheap room and answered.  He had contacted me using his personal profile.  At no point did I admit my knowledge of his other profile, nor of his professional life.    

I believe that the primary reason why sexual success stories are commonly regarded as detestable is that they are generally seen as an attempt by the narrator to boast of his or her prowess or attributes.  This despite that fact that the most ardent distributors of sexual success stories are commonly persons whom one would rather not touch.  Not even on the shoulder.  Not even while wearing gloves.

Sexual success is widely believed to have some connection to the charms of the narrator, an assumption which reduces these stories to a particularly sticky and discomfiting form of boasting.  When in fact sexual success may have little or nothing to do with one’s own attributes.  This is particularly true in the highest category, the aforementioned story of spectacular sexual success.

To put it another way: some people go to school, gain experience, become employed in first-rate positions and earn an excellent salary.  In the same way, some people are loved because they merit being loved.  I reckon that somewhere out there must be people who get what they deserve, although I cannot say I know any personally.

Reality, however, may also proceed in a far different fashion.  For example, some people receive a lottery ticket which their schizophrenic aunt has inserted in a re-used birthday card.  The mad aunt has remembered the birthday incorrectly.  Her handwriting is entirely heterogeneous, as is commonly observed in the handwriting of schizophrenics.  The ticket enclosed turns out to be worth 27.5 million dollars.

Some things make sense.  Others things that just go ahead and happen.

If a red-headed girl on the edge of your town is diagnosed with a form of cancer so rare that only fourteen cases of it have been documented since 1968 and you say about that adorable girl, as her hair is shorn, “Obviously she did something to deserve it” then every person in your town and county will decide that you are an asshole.  And indeed, those persons will be entirely correct.

Just as people have been known to die due to the untimely arrival of a meteorite, or because of internal bleeding caused by a puncture wound resulting from the accidental ingestion of a toothbrush, so, too, may episodes of spectacular sexual success occur.

Thus, all of my correspondence with the Porn Star Sex God, the man generally considered the most sexually magnetic in Thailand -- that is, if you like them tall, muscular, tattooed, and brutish in an almost menacing fashion transformable into adorable total boyishness by the advent of a smile -- is remarkably akin to the correspondence which would ensue if I learned I had been awarded a MacArthur genius grant for my achievements in the field of Chemistry.

To the Estimable Board of the Directors of the MacArthur Foundation:  Although I thank you warmly, from the depths of my heart, for your praise and generosity, I must state, up front, that I have studied only a single trimester of chemistry, in which my performance, though certainly well-intentioned, was entirely average.  As for Math, I gave up after Pre-Calculus, and my surrender, I sincerely believe, was not the cause for a single person’s disappointment, but only a source of relief to all concerned.  Thus, although I would very much like for this prize to be genuine, it seems to me overwhelmingly likely that you have in fact made a postal error.  Respectfully Yours.

Just the same, the Porn Star Sex God wrote back that he intended to come and see me at once.  In imitation of the prophets of the Old Testament, I wrote back revealing my poverty under Heaven, as well as the meagerness and paucity of my everything.

In the interest of honesty, humility and fairness, I probably should have gone on refusing forever.  I know some people who are strenuously honorable in that way.  If you try to give them a hundred bucks they will turn you down forever, no matter how much they may need it, no matter how much you have it to spare: they have their honor and they will refuse that cash forever.

I admit that I am not one of those honorable and inflexible persons.  You offer me money and I’ll refuse it.  You repeat the offer and I’ll refuse it again.  You offer a third time and, goddamn, I’m gonna take that money.  After all, I have acquiesced, in the course of my life, to a vast amount of bad news.  I don’t mean to complain -- I know you have, too.  When bad news arrives I make space for it with all the other bad news.  And do you imagine it’s easy to have this face, this gait, this voice, this lamentable excuse for a personality?  HA!  Just the same, some good things do insist on happening, stubborn as a plane falling out of the sky, and then, I figure, you have to let them.

The fifth time the Porn Star Sex God wrote to say he wished to come over, that he was already nearby, I said, “OK, give me ten minutes to shower” and I guarantee that I cleaned as thoroughly in those ten minutes as ever a person hath showered.

After I showered, I got dressed.  Even if he was going to see the paucity of my everything, there was no need to display it all at once upon his arrival.  Then I sat in the hotel’s cheap but sturdy leatherette armchair and I prayed to all the buddhas and bodhisattvas, gods and goddesses, faeries, angels and budget hotel spirits I could think of, begging them to please lend to me fortitude sufficient for enduring the terrors of my present situation.

Here’s something I reckon isn’t mentioned nearly often enough:  the fact that the onset of good fortune is very often entirely terrifying.  Especially when it’s something you suspect you don’t deserve.  How many people, upon learning that their dreams have come true, must swiftly excuse themselves and hurry to the bathroom to sob or to puke?

Please understand, I don’t mean to complain.  It’s just that the vast majority of my training. . .  has not been in the field of good news.  I felt I had been caught unprepared.  Pardon me, I wanted to say, Could you please come back after I’ve had a year of personal training and cosmetic dentistry? 

But that is not how fortune works.  And good fortune, it turns out, is every bit as inexorable as bad.

I couldn’t sit.  I had to stand.  I had to pretend I was doing something that had to be done.  I brushed my teeth for the sixth time.  I drank the last of the mouthwash.  I hid my shoes, because aren’t my shoes embarrassing?  I fixed the pillows again.  I considered looking in the mirror again but decided against it: the doctors and I had done all that we could.

The doorbell rang like the ceiling exploding.  I opened the door.  I’m sure my smile was the smile of nice people at gunpoint.  I did my best, i.e. I neither screamed nor vomited nor fainted dead away.

You will not believe, nor can I express, how very much more beautiful, more sensual and dazzling, the Porn Star Sex God is in real life than he appears in his photos or videos.  Prolonged howling seems to me the only natural response to such an overload of voluptuousness.  Yet howling seemed at that moment inadvisable.

The Porn Star Sex God was carrying a plastic bottle of lemonade, from which he paused now to take a sip.  (The bottle has been kept, of course, and is now preserved in perpetuity in my personal Museum of Sacred Objects.)  His face flickered between porn star stern and luminous puppyhood.

In the presence of such a personage only two urges were possible.  One was to have mad crazed bestial sex.  The second, somewhat stronger, was to evaporate by apologetic force, in sheer power of shame.

The way I figure it is this: there are men I admire in porn because to be in their actual presence would be entirely too terrifying.  When I gape at porn I crave not only the nakedness of another man, but also my own disappearance.

What would the Porn Star Sex God do now?  Would he shake his head and, with a slight, sad, smile, step courteously backwards out of the room?  Or, would he explain that he was running a special low-season special and that for just 250 dollars I could receive 40 minutes of his time?  Because surely I had not imagined I would get this for free!

I would say, No, I did not imagine.  Of course not.  I seriously did not imagine.  Yes, this had to be what was about to occur.  As so often happens, money would now resolve the mystery.  Money was about to explain everything.  He had simply wished to offer, in person, the opportunity for a discount.  He was, after all, a high-class escort, perhaps the best known in Bangkok.

I understood intuitively that the Porn Star Sex God had chosen sex work not because he was some kind of bad or low-class person, certainly not, nor because he had no other options, but simply because, everywhere he went, nearly all ambulatory mammals clamored and pleaded for sex with him, until he had finally chosen to acquiesce and adopt a professional response.

But that was not what happened next.  He did not mention money and, though I waited for it through all that followed, he never did.  Instead he grinned at me and said, “So, where’re you from?”  Then he noticed the small altar parked on the mini-fridge and asked if I was a Buddhist.  (He did not say whether the Buddha had sent him.)  He ran his thick finger across my stubbled cheek.  I must have looked as though I was about to cry.

He put his arms around me and held me tight against him.  He was so much taller, so much bigger than I was, and I felt as though a giant were holding me as we stood in that bare, cheap, too-bright room and I began to settle down.  I really would have liked to brush my teeth a seventh time.  I let it go.

As for the rest, it happened by itself and I consented to it, if consent is the word, the same way you might consent if the airplane in which you sit begins without warning to fall out of the sky, to dive straight down, like a meteor plunging, faster and faster, and all you can do is try
to not be too afraid and try
to pay careful
to what has,
for some