One of the many things I like about my relationship with E.S. is that the sex is consistently fabulous. However, he being a first-year resident at a hospital, there are perforce occasional periods during which we don't see each other for a while; at such times, I have not infrequently performed certain endorphin-releasing activities on my own. On these occasions I have been content to use as visual aids the small stash of pornographic videos I collected in the early 1990s, when my taste in such things seems to have been formed. The haircuts are most unfortunate, but I find the body shapes on the whole more pleasing than those in videos being made today.
However, a couple weeks ago, I ordered a new video from the folks at TLA (that link is safe for work, by the way, though certain pages on the site are most certainly not). The detailed review of the movie on the web site indicated that it contained a scene involving a fairly uncommon sexual activity that I find particularly arousing. The one or two times I've actually participated in this activity, the experience has been unerotic and, in fact, somewhat distasteful, so I have no plans to try it again; nevertheless, the idea of it remains exciting.
A few days later, the TLA package arrived--on a day, it so happened, when E.S. was going to be on overnight call at the hospital, so I had ample time to enjoy my purchase. The film started off promisingly enough, with someone who could conceivably be a high school student if high school started at age 26 entering what could conceivably be the principal's office if principals' offices were badly-lit rooms empty of all appointments save a curiously bare desk. Someone who could conceivably be the principal entered and began to castigate the student for spending so much time sucking cock that his grades were suffering; the scene progressed satisfyingly if predictably from there to its inevitable conclusion. The next scene had similar credibility issues but was equally fulfilling--from a mathematical perspective, in fact, it was twice as fulfilling, as it had twice as many people in it.
The third scene was the one in which, according to the review, the activity for which I'd purchased the movie occurred. I watched as the school janitor (the first well-cast role in the piece) chanced upon some contraband material in a student's locker and took the student down to the boiler room to punish him. Strangely enough, these two were inclined to behave in the the same manner as the principal, the detainee, the athlete, his coach, and his two teammates; however, after a while they stopped doing that, and seemed to be preparing to do something else. Breathless with, um, anticipation, I awaited eagerly the extensive scene the TLA review had described--
--and got about thirty seconds of the tail end of it, after which the two actors moved on to something else.
I went nearly mad with shock and dismay. After finishing the task at hand--not nearly as pleasant an accomplishment as I'd expected it would be--I called up the web page and reread the review, thinking that perhaps my wishful memory had played me false. But no: right there in black and white--with full color photographs--was a description of events that did not take place in the movie I had bought.
Clearly this was an untenable state of affairs. But resolving it was going to be tricky. After all, the all-but-omitted sexual activity was just enough beyond the pale for me not to feel comfortable calling the company and identifying myself as an aficionado in an effort to correct the error. True, I could simply return the movie for a refund, but that would destroy any chance I had of actually obtaining the movie I'd thought I was buying, which was of course the most desirable outcome.
Eventually I hit upon the brilliant solution of sending TLA an e-mail into which I pasted the relevant paragraphs from their own review; I bolded the parts that had been left out and asked them to let me know how I could get a copy with those parts put back in. That way I didn't even have to refer to the damning sex act by name--whoever got the e-mail couldn't very well turn his nose up at his own company's language. Pleased as punch with myself (and full of endorphins, however unfulfillingly released), I went to bed.
And woke up the next morning to find an e-mail in my inbox saying, "Pardon the inconvenience, but please contact us by phone to resolve this issue."
So today, when I got home from the gym, I called them.
"Hello, this is Nick," said the guy on the other end of the phone. "How can I help you?"
"Well," said I, "I recently bought a video from you that seems to have part of a scene missing. There's a scene described on the web site that isn't all there."
"Oh?" he asked, concern filling his voice. "What was the movie?"
"It was [Name of Movie]," I answered, after which I gave him my order number.
"So you say there was part of a scene missing?"
I was silent, hoping against hope that Nick, wonderful Nick, cute, understanding Nick, would know exactly what the problem was without my having to explain it.
"What was missing?" he asked.
Hateful, ugly Nick.
I wondered desperately if Nick spoke French. My French is good enough to return a movie.
Then I realized I didn't know the name of the activity in French.
"Um," I continued in English, "well, there's a [name of activity] scene, and only part of it appears on the disc."
"Yes, I can see that there's a [name of activity] scene. But what part of it is missing?"
I attempted to develop spontaneously the ability to project my thoughts into the minds of others, so as not to have to continue this conversation, but I failed.
"Do you have e-mail?" I asked wildly. "I could just e-mail you a description of what's missing."
"If you send an e-mail it won't be dealt with properly."
I thought about becoming an ex-gay so as to have an excuse not to own this movie, but realized quickly that I like getting fucked too much to become an ex-gay. There was nothing for it but to plow ahead.
"How about if I just read you the section from your web site that describes the part that's missing?"
"Okay, so see where there's the paragraph that ends, um, 'A willing Chad takes stream after stream of Matt's impressive load in the face without flinching'?"
I considered traveling back in time and prevent human beings from developing the power of speech.
"Yeah, I see that."
"Okay, well, the next paragraph, the one that starts, ah, 'Next up is the adorable Billy, who [performs the activity in question on] Eric like there's no tomorrow,' nothing described in that paragraph is on the disc I got. And then the first sentence of the next paragraph, the one that says, 'Then we're treated to the delightful sight of Eric [performing the activity in another way,]' that's not there either. I only have the scene starting from the next sentence, 'To finish things off before going in for the kill, Billy [performs the activity in yet a third way.]'"
By this point I was strangling with mortification.
"Hmm," said Nick. "Okay, let me go check with my manager, who's in charge of ordering these."
During the two minutes during which I was on hold, I started to check out airfares to Siberia, where I could drown myself in Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater lake in the world. Unfortunately, Nick returned before I'd been able to finalize my purchase.
"My manager says we must somehow have sent you the retail version. He says the [activity] scene is really quite extensive in the director's cut. Let me give you a return authorization number so you can send the disc back. As soon as we get it, we'll ship you out the correct version."
"Oh, great," I said tearfully, grateful that I would soon be able to hang up and instantly repress all memory of this conversation.
"I'm so sorry for the trouble. Is there anything else I can do for you today?"
"No, thank you."
And it was over. Slowly--oh, so slowly--but surely, the excess blood began to drain from my face and redistribute itself throughout the rest of my body. My breathing started to return to normal, and I thought, Well, at least I know I'll never be that embarrassed ever again in my entire life.
Then I realized that my door was open and my brother's houseguest had been sitting on the couch in the next room the whole time.
Of course there was the fact that I was so worried I'd forget some part of my hastily-cobbled-together routine that I wrote it all on my hand with a Sharpie so as to be able to refer to it in an hour of need. About twenty minutes into class, having drawn a complete blank after we'd finished lateral raises, I glanced down at the list, only to find that it had, in fact, melted into illegibility.
Luckily, I remembered just in time what came next.
The hallmark of true professionalism in a group fitness instructor: smeared writing on your body.
I wish I could tell some hapless story about how the cardio sculpt class was an emotional train wreck and I was terrified the whole time and worried that everybody hated me and I caused somebody to injure herself (the class was all women), but the truth is that it was great. I flubbed a bit here and there, but nothing went too spectacularly wrong. After class, when I revealed that this had been my first time instructing a fitness class, several of the students told me I'd done a great job and actually seemed to mean it; one of them said she was going to go write a comment card saying how great she thought I was. Apparently this slot is open, so I called the group fitness manager and left him a message saying I very much wanted to take it on an ongoing basis. I have yet to hear back from him, so there's still an opportunity for disaster to strike, but unfortunately it seems slim.
Which brings me to my bigger worry, which is that, as I become emotionally and psychically healthier and less neurotic, this blog will become more and more boring, until it reaches a point of tedium so banal that even I can't stand it. I suppose I could write as if I were still as filled with anxiety and dread as I was in the early days of this blog, but, honestly, I'm a terrible liar and it would ring false. Don't get me wrong--I'm still filled with anxiety and dread--it's just that now there are, here and there, moments of something like calm mixed in. I could also go off medication, but then I'd be likely to fall back into a pit of despair so deep that I can't bring myself to write anything at all, which would pretty much defeat the point of the whole exercise.
Tomorrow morning, I am teaching my first ever group fitness class at a gym. Wish me luck (ex post facto, if you're reading this after ten in the morning, Eastern Standard Time).
When the gym's group fitness manager called me to ask if I wanted to sub for a cardio sculpt class, I was thrilled, because of course what else could students in a "cardio sculpt" class do except perform autothoracotomies, reach into their open chests, pull out their still-beating hearts, and shape them into little animals and flowers and mugs to take home to their families?
Alas, when I attended another instructor's cardio sculpt class in preparation for my own, I found that, in fact, the answer to the above question is "fifteen minutes of uncomplicated aerobics followed by thirty-five minutes of straightforward weight lifting and five minutes of vaguely dance-like relaxation movement."
At first I thought the crushing disillusionment I felt at finding out we weren't going to sculpt our own hearts would be the death of me, spiritually if not physically, but I seem somehow to have endured, bloody but unbowed. And for the last two hours I have been aerobicizing and lifting around my apartment, shrieking things like "Grapevine right! And pivot! Grapeveine left! Single hamstrings! Double!" at the top of my lungs, practicing for the moment less than twelve hours from now in which the people standing in front of me (well, technically, behind me, but I'll see them in the mirror in front of me) will believe that I have the power to make them hotter.
Maybe instead of the vaguely dance-like relaxation movement I'll quickly and efficiently instruct students to mold their hearts into ash trays.
Here is an excerpt from another work of Mr. Nishigaki's:
I had hated several big vinyl houses in front of my house for about 20 years because the vegetables in these houses have the same feeling of melancholic...A week ago when I walked beside these vinyl houses, I talked to the vegetables in these vinyl houses. By using my third attention, I said to these vegetables 'Please, excuse human beings who will eat you soon. Don't get perverse as long as you live on the earth.'...When such a message could reach the vegetables in the vinyl house by me, beautiful transparent flash suddenly lightened in the vinyl house by me and the vegetables turned to be lively. Then I could feel relieved and joyful.
I am so very, very excited.
My secret hope is that along with the book I'll get my own female inorganic ally.
Oh, by the way, did I mention that my doctor boyfriend is also a painter?
For my birthday in January, he gave me a coupon redeemable for one painting. I asked him to paint a portrait of my dog, and this is what he came up with. You don't quite get the full effect seeing it online, as the actual portrait is two and a half feet by three and a half feet--her nose is bigger than my fist--but this gives at least a sense of the thing. (You can click on the picture to see a larger, slightly nicer version.)
Those of you who have had the good fortune to meet my dog A. will undoubtedly testify that she is the friendliest creature on the planet. Anytime she comes within yards of a human being, she goes nearly mad with joy, leaping about, tail wagging, hoping against hope to be petted or talked to or played with, and, even if that hope is left unfulfilled, generally so glad to be alive she can melt even the coldest of hearts. Furthermore, she is utterly indiscriminate in the bestowal of her affection; I suspect that even a reprobate on the order of Injustice Antonin Scalia would receive the same treatment as wonderful people like you and me.
The other night, A. and I were at E.S.'s place. I was surfing the web, E.S. was studying in the next room for some sort of test the hospital was giving him the next day, and A. was lounging on the couch with him, when there came a knock on the door. Now, E.S.'s building is very small; the only other people who live there are the owners, E.S.'s sister, and his ex-boyfriend E.W., who hates my guts. Neither E.S.'s sister nor the owners ever stop by, so this had to be E.W. In the past, when E.W. has knocked on the door, I have tended to hide either behind the refrigerator or in the bathroom. But this time, E.S. was in the other room and didn't hear the knock, and so, despite E.W.'s terrible, terrible temper, I thought, "Oh, fuck it. I'm sick of hiding from this man either behind the refrigerator or in the bathroom and I'm sick of his refusing to speak to me or even look at me when I do have the misfortune to encounter him. I'm going to answer the door and he can just fucking deal with it."
So I did. And we had a remarkably civil and pleasant conversation in the brief time it took E.S. to make his way to the door from the other room, followed by A. E.W. looked at her, bent down and beckoned, and said in a dog-friendly voice, "This must be A.!"
And she didn't move a muscle.
My dog, who would dance happily around Tomás de Torquemada if he happened to walk through the door, stood stock still.
He tried again. "Come on, A.! That's a good girl! Come on, A.!"
At which point she went and hid under the table.
"Sometimes she gets shy around strangers," I lied gleefully.
The three of us finished our conversation and E.W. left. A. emerged from under the table to fulsome praise from Yours Truly.
It's one thing to have a cute and cuddly and furry and friendly animal that gets so excited every time you come home, you feel for a brief moment that you're not totally alone in the world.
But an animal that hates your enemies is a gift with a price above rubies.
Last Sunday, I planned to meet E.S. for lunch during the gay pride march. Uncharacteristically, I was on time; even more uncharacteristically, he was late. "I'm sorry I'm late," he said, "but I was watching the parade and the gay policemen and firemen came by, so I couldn't leave."
I've known for some time that E.S. is a sucker for a man in uniform, but I didn't know that the effect was so strong as to overcome his almost pathological compulsion to be on time.
This started me thinking. "I know E.S. is really into me and thinks I'm really sexy," I thought. "But if I become a fireman, then he'll think I'm even sexier than he already does." I started fantasizing about life as a fireman, going out and saving lives and then coming home all dirty and sweaty and having E.S. massage my sore muscles and strip off my fireman's uniform and--well, you get the idea. Plus, becoming a fireman would allow me to do something with my life that helped people in a very real and concrete way--I mean, writing pretty music is all well and good, but sometimes the benefits to humanity are a little hard to make out.
In any case, the more I thought about it, the more excited I got. Finally, yesterday, I went to the New York Fire Department web site and started investigating.
And was stopped cold by the realization that I am too old to become a fireman. To be eligible to take the open-competitive Firefighters Examination, you have to be under 29 years old; the next exam is in October of 2006, at which point I will be 33.
Devastated, I called E.S. and told him all about the destruction of my dream. He consoled me with the information that, if I'm too old to become a fireman, it also means I'm too old to develop schizophrenia.
Monday evening I had some friends over to do something so shameful that I hesitate to blog about it. One might suspect that the orgies, sex clubs, and pornographic movies that have comprised my not-so-distant past would place me safely beyond the reach of shame.
One would be wrong, however, because what we did was play Dungeons & Dragons.
For those of you who were normal, well-adjusted teenagers, Dungeons & Dragons is a role-playing game invented by a crazy person named Gary Gygax in the mid- to late 1970s and popular since then with high school nerds and social misfits of all ages. Players create characters of various races (elf, human, gnome, etc.) and classes (mage, paladin, druid, etc.) and band together to go on adventures, fight monsters, win treasure, and forget momentarily the fact that they are acne-ridden losers who will go to their graves without ever having sex.
Though I certainly played my share of Dungeons & Dragons as a youth, I seem somehow to have overcome both the acne and the lack of sex. However, in recent conversations with various friends, I discovered that they, too, played Dungeons & Dragons as youths. Perhaps there's something about a hidden shameful past that draws people who share it together, sort of like how the closeted gay kids in high school all seemed to become friends without saying a word about their secret. I'll skip over the details of how the members of our cabal found each other; suffice it to say that at 6:00 Monday, seven hardy souls, whose names I will never reveal, not even under torture of the worst kind, gathered together to play D&D.
At first we were utterly overwhelmed by the sheer complexity of the rules. I am amazed that I ever even comprehended them, much less knew them intimately enough to play with confidence. There were charts for how fast you could move depending on what you were carrying, charts for how vulnerable you were to attacks by petrification, charts for how likely you were to be able to memorize a spell you found. Terms like THAC0 and Armor Class and Hit Dice jumbled themselves confusingly together to befuddle us all.
In the end, we decided more or less to wing it.
The first thing you have to do when playing Dungeons & Dragons is create a character. My character was a human mage named Zoltan the Vengeful; Zoltan was an exact physical replica of me except ten pounds lighter. He was accompanied on his adventure by Friar Thomas of Middling Tolerance, a human priest; Treegrass Rootleafstamen, an elven ranger and secret environmental terrorist; Sunshine Joyslayer, a half-elven bard; Pennyroyal, a dwarven fighter/thief [N.B.: pennyroyal is an herb that was used in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to induce abortion]; and Spotsylvania Jones, M.A., a thief who was either a gnome or a half-elf (the player started out as a gnome but for some reason my memory is telling me he changed his mind and became a half-elf). My backstory was that Zoltan the Vengeful was a closeted homosexual and was in love with Sunshine Joyslayer; I confided this information only to the Dungeon Master (the player running the whole thing) and to Spotsylvania Jones, M.A.
For the next four hours, we all sat appalled as sentences like "I speak Orcish--I listen through the door and try to understand what they're saying" and "I have a 30% chance to detect hidden portals" flowed ever more easily from our mouths. At one point, we turned a corner in the ruined castle and a "jelly-like substance of a disgusting ochre color" fell on Treegrass Rootleafstamen and Pennyroyal. "Zoltan leaps out of the way," I said, "to make sure his robes aren't stained."
I'd intended to give Zoltan a gradual and tortured coming-out process over the course of the game. At first this went well, despite Spotsylvania Jones, M.A.'s thinly veiled threats to expose Zoltan unless he agreed to go left at the fork rather than right. Soon enough, though, I was so addled from trying to keep track of the rules and so horrified to be saying things like "I cast a Burning Hands spell at the wraith" that complex character development was beyond me. Eventually I gave up and said, "While we're recovering from the gargoyle attack, Zoltan puts the moves on Sunshine Joyslayer." To my delight, Sunshine Joyslayer felt desperate enough in his girlfriend's absence to succumb to Zoltan's advances. Unfortunately, however, the honeymoon didn't last long.
"Through the mist in the tunnel," said the Dungeon Master, "you see a giant centipede curled up."
"Zoltan holds hands with Sunshine Joyslayer," I said.
"You can't hold hands with me," said Sunshine Joyslayer's player. "I'm trying to play a morale-boosting song on my harp."
Men have said that to me before and I've always taken it at face value, but somehow this time I found it hard to buy.
By the time the clock struck midnight, we were all exhausted and, though we were only halfway through the dungeon, we decided to call it quits. The Dungeon Master revealed the secret of the ruined castle, we all gasped, and everybody went home. The only mystery left is what exactly Spotsylvania Jones's M.A. was in.
Perhaps, if we don't all die of shame, we'll play again someday and find out.
When I was six, I picketed my house, hoping to be allowed to eat breakfast before getting dressed rather than after.
I marched back and forth in front of our front door, carrying a sign that said "BREKFAST FIRST DRESSED LATER."
My parents, being civil rights workers, didn't cross picket lines, and that was the only way into or out of our house,
so they were trapped there until they acceded to my demand.