The Search for Love in Manhattan A gay odyssey of neurosis
Friday, December 31, 2004
Here is an excerpt from an IM conversation I just had with a friend in London, where it is already 2005.
MATT: Greetings from the future!
FAUSTUS: Oh, my God! You're so right! You are the future!
FAUSTUS: So how is it . . . um . . . up there?
FAUSTUS: In there?
FAUSTUS: At there?
MATT: Weird. It's all spaceships and rayguns and things. I can't describe it; you'll have to see for yourself when you get here.
FAUSTUS: Wow. I've always suspected it would be like that. I'm glad to know ahead of time that I was right.
MATT: Otherwise pretty normal, though.
FAUSTUS: Oh, you mean full of uncertainty and dread and occasional bouts of despair?
FAUSTUS: I was hoping that would be different.
MATT: Weren't we all?
Pause. MATT: So how are you, anyway?
MATT: Sorry, how were you?
About once a week, I have a little fantasy about Law & Order--well, "fantasy" isn't quite the right word; this is far less hardcore than my Chris Meloni daydreams. We'll call this a reverie.
In my reverie, I am the murder victim, and my body is discovered in the first minute of the show. Detectives Briscoe--I hope Dennis Farina can forgive me for going with Jerry Orbach in my reverie--and Green (or, if I was also raped and/or sexually mutilated, Detectives Benson and Stabler) will then spend the first half of the episode trying to find out who killed me.
So this is the question:
Who do they suspect?
There's E.S., of course. My past behavior towards him would certainly have inclined a lesser man to homicide; who's to say he didn't discover evidence of a relapse? Then there's E.S.'s ex-boyfriend, who hates my guts anyway. One of my students? One of the gay cheerleaders? Or perhaps a criminal unconnected to me who killed me because I happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time?
The police would of course discover this blog and search it--and the comments--for clues. After expressing Carson-Kressley-like horror at the mess that is my apartment, they would find my porn stash, which might or might not give them any new leads.
I guess the question underneath all these other questions is: are the secrets I keep that I think are interesting the secrets that are actually interesting?
And what about the secrets that I'm not even conscious of keeping secret? What about the small things, the little embarrassments and vast shames, to whose suppression I have become so habituated that they don't even register on my conversational topics radar?
The most entertaining finale I've come up with so far, by the way, is the discovery (almost certainly by Sam Waterston) that E.S. convinced one of his patients to kill me once (s)he was discharged from the psych ward in the hospital.
Though I've shared the reverie with him, I haven't told him about this ending.
On Christmas Eve morning, E.S. and I drove to his parents' house in New Jersey. Once there, we went grocery shopping and got the ingredients for oatmeal raisin cookies and non-stepped-on peach pie (these being the favorite desserts of E.S.'s mother and father, respectively); then we had some lunch.
Then E.S.'s father took us to the shooting range and we shot guns.
For those of you who may be hoping against hope that you read this wrong, as well as for those of you who are cowering in fear at the thought of me with a loaded firearm, let me be clear: this was not, as on a previous visit, simply a case of giving me an empty gun and explaining to me how one might shoot it safely; someone actually thought it was a good idea to put a nine-millimeter gun and ammunition in my hands and show me how to use it to kill things.
I would make a list here of all the fantasies that ran through my mind about who I would go after--it was sort of like Gilbert and Sullivan's "A More Humane Mikado" ("My object all sublime/I shall achieve in time:/To let the punishment fit the crime"), except that everybody's punishment was to have me blow their heads off--but I have to teach aerobics tomorrow morning and I don't think I'd be finished by then.
In any case, I started off with a target very roughly the size and shape of a human torso (with head), set up about twenty feet away. I was absolutely terrified to shoot the gun; in fact, I was so scared I almost cried. But then E.S. gave me an encouraging pat on the back, and I fired.
And hit the target in the heart.
My next shot took it right in the center of the chest.
I do not have to tell you that I was loving this.
After another dozen or so shots--all fatal--at the vaguely-human-torso-sized-and-shaped target, I felt I was ready for more advanced violence, so we asked the people running the range for something else to shoot at.
Here is what they gave us, after I was done with it.
I really should call the Department of Homeland Security and tell them that I can take care of their little terrorist problem for them. Though I suspect that our respective definitions of "terrorist" would be very, very different. And I would be the one holding the gun.
Anyway, after we were done at the shooting range, we went back to E.S.'s parents' house, where I baked a peach pie and oatmeal raisin cookies and also cooked some cranberry sauce for the next day's Christmas dinner; while the pie was baking, I worked on my knitting. Then, after the cookies were out of the oven, I practiced the new combination for my step class and went roller blading on the pair of roller blades E.S. had given me for Christmas, secure in the knowledge that, just hours before, I had been an implacable killing machine.
So you better not try anything.
Because I may be a big fag, but I am now a big fag who can fuck you up.
My boyfriend E.S. is, as you may recall, a doctor doing his first year of residency in the psychiatry ward of a local hospital. This means he spends all his time taking care of manic depressives and sociopaths. ("And then he goes to work," yes, I know, I know.)
Anyway, early this morning, I woke up at his apartment only to find the place filled with the divine odor of freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies. "Oh, sweetheart," I said, thrilled and delighted, "what a nice surprise. You didn't have to make cookies just for me."
"I didn't," he said. "While we were in Beverly Hills, the hospital staff had a sign-up for the Christmas party today. Somebody signed me up to bring cookies, so I have to make cookies."
"Oh, are the patients coming to the party?" I joked.
"No, of course not," he said. "Their party is tomorrow."
At first I thought he was kidding. But then it finally sank in: The crazy people were going to have a Christmas party.
I begged him to take me to observe, but he refused; I persisted, and he gave me some cockamamie story about "doctor-patient privilege." I pleaded with him at least to describe what it would be like. How would the crazy people get there--would there be an announcement on the loudspeaker? Would they make small talk with each other? Would there be snacks?
There would indeed be an announcement on the loudspeaker, he told me, and there would be snacks, but none of the patients were high-functioning enough to make small talk or, in fact, to have a coherent conversation at all.
I pestered him so much that he finally said, "Look. It's not going to be nearly as interesting as you think it is. This is what it'll look like."
And then he did a generous, compassionate imitation of a crazy person at the crazy people's Christmas party.
I am going to go to that thing if I have to fake first break paranoid schizophrenia and check myself in to the hospital to do it.
I returned home from Beverly Hills late last Monday to find that the Kitchen-Aid stand mixer I'd ordered had arrived. I've managed somehow to survive all these with my mother's old Kitchen-Aid stand mixer, which may very well have been manufactured before I was, but it has finally begun to die. It is not going gently into that good night; in fact, its raging against the dying of the light has assumed far noisier a tone than one suspects Dylan Thomas's father ever did. So I was delighted, though not surprised, to see that its replacement had arrived on schedule.
What surprised me was another box, addressed to me by hand with a postmark from Florence, Kentucky. I have never been to Florence, Kentucky--in fact, I have never been to Kentucky--nor am I aware of knowing anybody who lives there. Further investigation turned up evidence even more mystifying: the return address was that of an apartment I lived in three years ago. "What is this about?" I thought. "Could I possibly have invented a way to send packages forward in time and then forgotten all about it? Am I a character in a Philip K. Dick story? Am I about to turn into a paranoid schizophrenic? What on earth is happening? What could this possibly be?"
What it was, in the event, was a beautiful plastic pie protector.
This is what I surmise happened.
Someone who reads my blog and lives in or near Florence, Kentucky
2. looked through the archives to find identifying information and, through judicious googling, figured out my name;
3. used dogpile or some such white pages web site to find my address, but was initially stymied to see two addresses listed under my name;
4. assumed, correctly, that since there were probably not two people with my (rather distinctive) name in New York City, these were my current address and my former address, and hit upon the brilliant plan of sending to one address and using the other address as the return; and
5. sent me an incredibly kind and thoughtful gift--one that I intend to use on Christmas Day to transport the peach pie I'm planning to make for E.S.'s father.
If this is indeed what happened, I would very much appreciate the culprit's e-mailing me so that I can send him or her a proper thank you.
And if this isn't what happened, can anybody come up with an alternative explanation?
This brief pause in blogging brought to you by my being fiendishly busy (but in boring ways) until next week.
In the meantime, if you find yourself in need of holiday cheer, go here. You have to have the sound on. It's safe for work, unless screaming with horrified gleeful laughter is cause for dismissal at your place of employment.
Yesterday, E.S. and I spent the afternoon in Venice, a neighborhood of Los Angeles much like Coney Island in its funky trashiness. We walked along the beach, passing vendor after vendor, each one with a larger collection of bongs for sale than the last. I very nearly prevailed upon E.S. to rent us roller skates so that we could skate down the beach together, but he nixed that idea as being too faggy.
Towards the end of the commercial area, we passed a psychic with a sign advertising "psychic entertainment and healing." We had walked by other psychics along the way who promised "secrets revealed through palms" and "tarot cards tell your soul," but these had come across somehow as both sensationalistic and tawdry. But this lady, who was in her early fifties, seemed fairly unassuming, and the promise of combined entertainment and healing was both intriguing enough and modest enough for us to sit down at her table.
She had only one chair, so we each perched precariously on a side. After eliciting from each of us a name and an astrological sign, she closed her eyes clairvoyantly and started talking. I generally don't expect much from storefront psychics, and in this case my expectations weren't disappointed. She did say I was very creative and got my profession right (entertainment industry), but come on, I'm a cute guy in Los Angeles with a schedule that allows me go to the beach in the middle of the day on Friday--what other industry am I going to be in? She also suggested that a major career opportunity was going to arise soon for me and that I might have to cut myself loose from a fiery woman in the professional sphere. She told E.S. that he was prone to help others to his own detriment, which is true, and that he had been burned in love recently, which, depending on your interpretation, is true as well. She also predicted a major career change in his near future, which is highly unlikely, since a psychiatric residency lasts four years, and suggested that I need to pay more attention to my physical body to balance the mental energy I expend; given that I already teach four group fitness classes a week and recently took up another form of exercise I will discuss at a later date, this seemed, if not inaccurate, at the very least impracticable. It also wasn't clear to either one of us that she could tell we were a couple.
Then she asked if we had any questions. She hadn't given us a particularly insightful reading, so we said we didn't. She seemed disappointed but tried to hide it. "Not even one itty bitty question?" she asked. Since she was obviously looking for some sort of connection beyond the transaction in which we'd just engaged, I asked her if she lived there in Venice. "Oh, I wish!" she replied. Then she started explaining how she lived in one part of Los Angeles but her boyfriend lived in another part that was far away, and he was an entertainer and brought his own drama to the relationship but at least he was forcing her to face her own issues, and she'd moved out here from Colorado a year ago and had been something of a gypsy since then, partially for financial reasons, because Los Angeles was expensive, though she'd gone back to Denver to do a party in October and had made $700, which she'd been living on, and she would be getting a settlement soon from a car accident she'd been in and that would help, and she was just really trying to figure out what path the universe wanted her to take. We talked for a little while longer, and then E.S. and I stood up to go. "Thanks so much!" she said. "You've made my day!" It was clear that we were the only clients she'd had since setting up her booth hours before.
The whole thing made me so sad I almost couldn't bear it. It's one thing to be an older person and be financially struggling and unsure of your future and lonely, but somehow the idea of a psychic being lost in that way tears my heart to shreds. I mean, you've chosen a career that depends on your seeing things more clearly than the rest of us do--what happens when you look and, surprise!, there isn't anything there?
The day I moved to New York to learn how to write musicals, a little over seven years ago, I ate lunch with some friends at a Malaysian restaurant; halfway through the meal, Bernadette Peters walked in and sat down at the table next to us.
Two nights ago, in Beverly Hills (where I am on vacation), I ate dinner with E.S. and some friends at an Italian restaurant; halfway through the meal, Liza Minnelli walked in and sat down at the table next to us. And this time I had the sense to get an autograph.
E.S. and I had the following conversation the other day after I came back from the gym.
E.S.: I like your hair like that.
Faustus (disgusted): You mean all gross and messed up and with no product in it because I realized after I got out of the shower that I'd forgotten to bring my gel with me?
E.S.: Yes. It's so much better like this than all fake and gooped up with stuff. In fact, I want you to throw all your hair product away. You look great natural, just like you are.
(Pause.) Faustus: You're not gay. I've suspected it all along, but this confirms it.
E.S.: What about the fact that I have a hard-on for you right now?
Faustus: No, that's less important than caring about hair product. I'm reporting you to the High Council.
A few days before Thanksgiving, E.S. mentioned in passing something about having gone on a hunting trip as a child.
"You've shot a gun?" I asked, incredulous.
"Honey, I'm from Iowa," he replied. "I'm actually a pretty good shot."
After we had consummated the ecstasies into which the idea of E.S. butchly shooting a gun had sent me, we continued the conversation. "Wait a minute," I said. "Your dad is a member of the National Rifle Association, right?"
"Does that mean he has a gun in his house?"
"Actually, he has three. If you want, when we're there for Thanksgiving we can go to the shooting range and you can shoot them."
My former ecstasies were as nothing compared to the delirium into which this idea sent me. Though I wasn't quite sure how E.S.'s parents' spirit guide would feel about his charge's being a member of the National Rifle Association, I figured maybe E.S.'s father just hadn't mentioned it in their conversations.
Alas, it turned out that the shooting range was closed on Thanksgiving, so I'm going to have to wait til Christmas Eve to shoot a gun. However, I did get gun safety lessons, and all my enemies had better keep this picture of me in mind for future reference.
David here again, moving the discussion from blow jobs to something that really sucks. As you may be able to tell from the following screed, I went off my medication a few days ago. As a result of that, I’ve been feeling sort of dizzy and distracted. I posted the following on my own web log today, and I simply don’t think I can focus enough to write something new, so I’m reposting it here. I also think it’s important that the sentiment gets as wide a readership as possible. I hope Faustus forgives me for not being very entertaining during this stint of guest blogging, but at least he’ll look better by comparison. I think he’s back tomorrow.
And here we go:
I think it’s past time for every reasonable person remaining in our expanding fascist regime to ask himself or herself, “What can I do?” Republicans* have complete control over the federal government and an increasing swath of the media. Now that they can pretend that their diabolical and hypocritical plans are backed by some sort of overwhelming popular mandate, we will see over the next four years their attempts to consolidate power for the next several generations, rather as the New Deal did for the Democrats in the middle of the last century.
In the past several months, I donated thousands of dollars to progressive causes, signed every Internet petition there was, read national and international news and political blogs religiously, and pretended I was doing everything I could to stem the tides of the fundamentalist nationalism that’s literally destroying our land. In actuality, I spent a maximum of five minutes per week actually doing something. Tragically, except for one heroic friend, I was the most politically active person I know.
In the nineteen twenties and thirties, those difficult years after World War One, reasonable citizens of Germany went to amazing lengths to convince themselves, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that Nazism and other right-wing ideologies were either not a problem or someone else’s problem. Any efforts to counter their ascendancy were obviously ineffective: the National Socialist Party made advances in every election until they were the clear majority, then suspended civil liberties and personal freedoms and began eradicating groups who questioned their policies.
Today, as we watch the Republicans follow the template perfected by Hitler—of mindless propaganda, of scapegoating, of exploiting the fears of ignorant people and manipulating the religious affiliations of the well-meaning, of rationalizing expanding and never-ending war, of putting the profits of corporations above the well-being of the masses—it’s tempting to succumb to what seems inevitable. “There’s nothing I can do,” we tell ourselves.
“Little old me? I’m swamped with work, and my kids are sick, and I’m too tired at the end of the day.”
Well, yes, of course you are. For forty years, Republicans have ensured that very result by supporting the rights of corporations to keep wages low and benefits and vacation time scarce. For all of the Republican harping about how all children need a mother and a father, they’re perfectly happy to have both parents working three jobs apiece just to make ends meet, and for all of their whining about Hollywood morals, the entertainment industry has become the right wing’s best friend by providing the mental anesthesia of prime-time programming to the overworked masses. Now that we’re all so overwhelmed with the pace of life their policies have created and distracted by who’s going to be the next American Idol, the Republicans in power are free to do whatever they want. As long as they can look sternly at the cameras and lie about the moral crusades they’re on, they’re home free.
You know all of this already. Of course you do. Anyone with half a brain can read a book about how Hitler came to power and see the eerie parallels with the Bush regime. It’s only the Fox News pundits and those in their hypnotic sway who pooh-pooh the very idea. So what can you do about it? What will you do about it? Are you ready to fight? To flee?**
I don’t have any answers, but things are bad, and they’re getting worse.
In the meantime, starting tomorrow at Upside-down Hippopotamus, I’ll be beginning a series about Frankenstein and the holiday season. Don’t miss it!
* It has come to the point that “reasonable person” and “Republican” are mutually exclusive terms. If you voted for a Republican since the year two thousand, especially if you did so last month, you are at the very least extraordinarily ignorant or extraordinarily suggestible—and it’s more likely you’re an obstinate fool, monumentally selfish, or just plain evil.
** I have calculated a nearly seventy percent chance that I will have to save my own life by becoming a political refugee within the next twenty years if current trends continue to escalate.
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.