The Search for Love in Manhattan A gay odyssey of neurosis
Saturday, February 26, 2005
For Valentine's Day, I baked E.S. an apple pie. He said it was the best apple pie he'd ever had, including all the apple pies I'd baked him before. He said it was perfect. I was quite pleased with this praise, as he is never so effusive unless he really means it.
Two days ago, as we were bringing the now empty pie plate back to my apartment, we had the following conversation:
FAUSTUS: I need to find some smaller pie plates. The pie crust recipe I use doesn't generate enough crust to fill these comfortably. E.S.: Yeah, you're right. The crust on that pie was a little bit thin. (Pause.) FAUSTUS: I thought you said it was the best apple pie you'd ever had. E.S.: It was. FAUSTUS: So when you said it was perfect you were lying. E.S.: No, I wasn't! It was perfect! FAUSTUS: Except for the paper-thin crust, which you hated. E.S.: Look, there's going to be a flaw in any pie. FAUSTUS: Oh, so I'm incapable of making an apple pie that's even edible. E.S.: It was perfect. But I think of perfection in human terms. FAUSTUS: Why on earth would you do such a ridiculous thing? (Pause.) E.S.: Are you going to be like this forever? FAUSTUS: Yes.
Back when I was doing this job, I developed friendships with a number of my coworkers, including Y.T. Y.T. was a cheerful woman from some place in the midwest whose open face and sprightly demeanor allowed her to make viciously cruel jokes about our bosses to their faces without their realizing it. Almost all of our bosses deserved to have viciously cruel jokes about them to their faces, and she spared the ones who didn't, so that was all right.
One day, as we were talking about our respective childhoods, she said that her house had been filled with flowers while she had been growing up.
"But I thought you said you grew up dirt poor," I said, confused. "How could you afford to buy flowers all the time?"
"Oh, we didn't," she replied. "My mother would take me to local cemeteries where funerals were happening, and we'd hide behind nearby gravestones until they were over. When the mourners had all gone, we'd come out from behind the gravestones and steal the flowers and take them home." She paused. "Not all of them. Just the ones we thought were pretty."
I thought it was cool when my mother let me skip school and took me to see The Empire Strikes Back, but this woman was in another league entirely.
One of the part-time jobs I most enjoy is co-teaching a musical theater writing class at NYU. Every semester, we take another group of undergrads through the basic principles of constructing musicals and watch them blossom and grow. Every semester there are wonderful surprises as they bring in songs that delight and amaze with their freshness of voice and maturity of perspective.
We also occasionally give them listening or viewing assignments so that they can pillage techniques used by the masters of the form. This semester we told them, as we often do, to watch The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Jacques Demy's 1964 French movie musical featuring one of the greatest love songs of all time, "Je Ne Pourrai Jamais Vivre Sans Toi" (known in English as "I Will Wait For You"), and, even more importantly, starring your favorite gay icon and mine, Catherine Deneuve, in the role that first shot her to stardom. Since then, she has appeared in over 100 movies, apparently growing more beautiful by the hour, and even inspired a lesbian magazine (which has since, alas, had to change its name).
So last night in class, as we were discussing the movie and what it had to offer us as writers, one of our homosexual students, making the point that each character seemed to have his or her own music, said, "like, there was the blonde girl's 'I'm sad' song."
I like this student a great deal, but the blonde girl's 'I'm sad' song?
When my ex N.T. and I moved in together, we bought several appliances with which to furnish our new home, including but not limited to a portable dishwasher. This seemed the height of luxury to us, as we lived in a huge but ramshackle apartment in the middle of nowhere in Washington Heights. For those of you who have never operated a portable dishwasher before, this is how it works: there's a hose running out of the dishwasher that you attach to the faucet of the sink in your kitchen/bathroom; you turn on the faucet at the same time as the dishwasher, which somehow possesses the native intelligence to tell the faucet when to shut off. N.T. also bought a hideous dish-drying rack, which I kept hiding in progressively more obscure cabinets and which he kept finding and returning to a place of honor on the kitchen counter. I figured that if we had a dishwasher, however second-class, a drying rack was redundant.
When N.T. moved out, he left the dishwasher but took the drying rack with him; honestly, it was almost worth losing the one to get rid of the other. One evening I went to do the dishes unredundantly--it may have been after this dinner--and realized that I didn't have any dishwashing powder. "Well," I thought, "I can either go out to the grocery store and get more, which would take time and energy and money, or I can improvise." So I filled the dishwasher with hand soap, turned it on, and went to watch TV.
When I returned to the kitchen an hour later, imagine my surprise when I found the floor covered in what seemed like three feet of foam but was actually two feet of foam and a foot of water. "Well," I thought, "I can either clean this up or just leave it where it is and deal with it in the morning." So I went to bed.
When I woke up the next morning and went into the kitchen, the floor was both completely dry and cleaner than it had been since the day I'd moved in two years earlier.
What I learned from this experience is that if I ignore my problems, they will go away.
The group fitness manager at one of the gyms where I teach forwarded an email several weeks ago asking for volunteers to tape a workout video for a study being done at a local school of social work. Since I will do anything to avoid the work I'm actually supposed to be doing, I emailed back and said I was interested; the next week, I went in so the people running the study could meet me and I could find out what the study was about.
It turned out that the video was going to be part of a wellness and safer-sex program aimed at HIV+ people recovering from cocaine and heroin addiction.
You can imagine that, once I found this out, I would have clawed the eyes out of anybody who tried to stop me from doing it.
So I put together a routine and some music and went to rehearse it with the people who'd be following me in the video (all of whom worked in the school office). After I ran through it once to show it to them, the head of the program complimented the routine and said she thought the study participants would enjoy it. "I'm not sure, though," she said, "if the best music to use for an exercise program for recovering drug addicts is 'Love Potion #9.'"
So I reworked the music and made some adjustments to the routine; we're filming on Friday.
Okay, let me start by saying that I have always kind of had a little bit of a thing for Mormon guys. It's not on the scale of my thing for Australians or for Chris Meloni, but there's something about those fresh-faced, clean-cut boys that I respond to.
If you live in or near New York City, you should hasten to buy a ticket to next Tuesday evening's WYSIWYG event:
I will be singing a song I'm writing (here, you should understand "writing" to mean "vaguely considering thinking about beginning to try to have an idea or two for"), and many other fine bloggers will be reading.
The name comes from the fact that this is the one-year anniversary of the WYSIWYG talent show. It's been run thrillingly every month by the sexy triumvirate of Chris Hampton, Andy Horwitz, and Dan Rhatigan. The show has deservedly developed quite a following by presenting readings of consistently high quality.
And, hey, if I can figure out what the hell I'm going to write, it's entirely possible I won't ruin their track record.
The summer after my junior year of college, I spent a couple months in Berlin learning German at an intensive language-immersion program. When I arrived, I got myself into the intermediate class by faking my way through the placement test. Unfortunately, since I had done so by relying on the German I knew from Bach and Schumann songs, whenever I opened my mouth I sounded like a raving lunatic.
"Kind sir," I'd ask the teacher, "hast thou a pencil? For, woe betide me, I have left mine own in the apartment of my landlord."
"Faustus," he would say, looking at me as if I might at any moment sprout a third arm, "it's 'in my landlord's apartment,' not 'in the apartment of my landlord.'"
"But why should it not be as I spoke it?" I would insist. "One says rightfully 'in the kingdom of my Father,' does one not?"
The teacher would sigh. "Faustus, when are you going to start speaking normal German?"
I honestly wasn't trying to sound like I'd just stepped out of Werther; this was simply the only vocabulary I knew. In the end, my prediction turned out not to be completely accurate, as eventually I began to understand that patterns of twentieth century speech and of eighteenth century religious poetry were different. I also learned how to say things like like "cock" and "fuck," and by the time I left my German actually wasn't half bad.
Then I took a terrific German class fall semester of senior year, with a professor who gave us handouts like this.
Then I took another German class spring semester, with a professor who hated my guts. Unfortunately, I didn't find this out until I got my first paper back with his scathing comments on it. That night I had dinner with my friend A.N., who told me that this man had been in the Hitler Youth as a child. She also told me that he had been on former President Bush's committee to determine what to do when the flying saucers came.
Unfortunately, by this time it was too late to drop the class.
By the way, when I created a link in this post to what I called a "fabulous evite," I wasn't just linking to evite's home page. I really was linking to an evite I'd spent hours crafting. Since no one commented on it, I'm going to assume no one followed the link because everybody thought I was posting to some lame evite page (because of course the other option is that no one commented on it because everybody followed the link and was so appalled that silence seemed like the best option, and that is a thought too horrible to contemplate).
In any case, please take a moment and look at the evite I created for the event that never happened.
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.