I'm on medical leave.
After giving it quite a bit of thought, it's become clear that the only way I'm going to ever get "me back" -- after the brain surgery, after all that's happened over the past few weeks -- is to take a little time off. My job, although no more soul-crushing really than that of the average person, involves obscenely difficult hours -- hours which all ten of my doctors have informed me are borderline life-threatening given my condition.
So, for the next two weeks, I'll be sleeping well, eating right, running daily, taking my necessary medication and just generally attempting to take a few baby steps back from the precipice of oblivion.
I'm absolutely ready to start attending to this little experiment of mine again, so look for new posts soon.
That is all -- and don't ask about the picture.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Thursday, September 20, 2007
I realize that I'm really spoiling the mood -- and likely validating any argument that could be made against me in reference to my recent personal crisis -- but a good inappropriate comment is a good inappropriate comment.
Today, thousands of protesters descended on the small 19th century town of Jena, Louisiana to march against what they preceive to be the unfair treatment of six black high school students accused in the assault of a white classmate. (Incidentally, you know the 60's-era civil rights movement has run its course when the best it can muster is rushing to the defense of a bunch of little thugs who beat another kid -- even a dumb redneck -- nearly to death; I don't give a damn how racially persecuted they may have felt.) The rally was lead by -- and stop me if you've heard this one before -- professional victims and self-proclaimed men-of-God Jesse Sharpton and Al Jackson.
Here's the thing though: Since most of the protesters live nowhere near Jena, Louisiana, they had to be brought in via a fleet of buses.
So do you think anyone complained about having to sit at the back of the bus?
Friday, September 14, 2007
I know that her favorite movie is Billy Elliot ... I know she loves Irish Breakfasts but usually only takes one or two bites of the blood pudding ... I know she has endometriosis, and is usually in pain because of it ... I know she likes the pictures I take of her ... I know she loves Firefly, but only got into it recently ... I know she's always wanted to play the lead in Gypsy, but not as much as she'd like to play Sally Bowles ... I know that she absolutely kills when she does Liza's version of Cabaret at karaoke, and that I can't wipe the smile off my face when I see and hear it ... I know that there was once a black man in her bed (inside joke) ... I know that she'll drink Dewars and water but prefers single malt ... I know that she would die for any member of her family ... I know that her favorite perfume is Chanel #5 and she usually quotes Marilyn Monroe when asked about it ... I know that she'll often go to sleep in a tank top and underwear or pajama pants but wake up naked ... I know she hates Miami ... I know that she always, always smells good ... I know she watches House religiously, even the repeats ... I know she's had a lot of pain in her past, but handles it with an astonishing amount of grace ... I know she didn't used to be a dog person but now loves them and misses Brian in particular ... I know she wants to name her first child Julian if it's a boy and likes Amelie if it's a girl ... I know that she desperately wanted more people at her wedding and wished that my tux had fit just a little better (I agree on both counts) ... I know that she wants nothing more on her birthday than to have all her friends together ... I know she finds a metaphor in bamboo and loves New York deli-bought flowers ... I know that when she talks and listens to you, she makes you feel like you're the only person in the world ... I know that she wants Natalie Portman to play her in the movie ... I know that she is singular ... I know that she hasn't always had such a great handle on how to eat edamame ... I know she'll try any kind of food at least once ... I know she worships at the altar of Eddie Izzard and never gets tired of watching Dress to Kill (she can make the "Fuckin' French" face like it's a career) ... I know she loves Zero 7 and Blue Six's Close to Home ... I know she does a mean impression of Sia ... I know she hyperventilates in the presence of Jeffrey Steingarten and is practically on a first name basis with Wylie Dufresne ... I know she sometimes exclaims "Hi baby!" when she first sees me, in a pretend Southern drawl ... I know she's as comfortable eating Bar-BQ with her fingers and drinking Budweisers in Brooklyn as she is elegantly dining at Gordon Ramsay in London ... I know she looks adorable in her undies that say "Cheese" on the front with a picture of a mouse, and "Quackers" on the back with a picture of two ducks, but not as adorable as she looks in her leopard-print ones ... I know she smiles when she's nervous ... I know she drinks water from the opposite side of a cup when she gets the hiccups, and swears that it works ... I know that there is no greater home entertainer and party host among all the discovered worlds ... I know that she knows that penguins love tamales ... I know she appreciates Wal-Mart ... I know there's a Nicole Miller dress she's dying to get ... I know that Greece changed her ... I know the summer when she was 19 did as well ... I know she's family ... I know she likes it when I sing Green Day ... I know that she and I have the same tattoo ... I know she's a New York girl at heart ... I know that losing her grandmother devastated her, and having gotten to know the woman myself, I understand why ... I know she's my lobster ... I know she wants a Vespa ... I know she sat through all four Alien movies as a favor to me and liked three and four best ... I know she loves both the film and book version of The Motorcycle Diaries ... I know that she considers herself a "musical theater geek" ... I know she does a pretty damn good impression of the "Meatwad Dance" ... I know she likes Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir (excellent and inexpensive!) ... I know she actually cried during the third Lord of the Rings movie ... I know that she loves to remind me how old she was when I was a senior in high school (eight) and that the day of her birth, unbeknownst to me at the time, was a very special day in my life ... I know she understands that to know about the giggle loop is to become part of the giggle loop ... I know she also understands the significance of a stuffed sea lion named "Toast" ... I know that there's an almost unbelievable coincidence between her wedding ring and mine ... I know that the aforementioned Brian once probably gave her a concussion ... I know she appreciates Garden State in a way that I might not be able to ... I know she likes to have a hand placed gently on the small of her back when you're walking side-by-side with her ... I know that she's wanted to go back to school for quite awhile ... I know she cusses like a truck driver ... I know we once wound up getting food poisoning together (nothing brings you closer) ... I know she's secretly not an athiest ... I know she's not a bitch -- she's bitchin', but she's not a bitch ... I know she's reveled in being the cool and concerned stepmother ... I know she was once the cutest waitress/countergirl in Fenwick Island, Delaware and that because of those days, she now avoids blackberry brandy ... I know that her eyes are hazel to green (depending) and have one large fleck of dark color -- like the eye of Jupiter -- in each ... I know she loves being a muse ... I know that she smiles, though her heart is aching ... I know she likes sea urchin and octopus salad ... I know she can't eat walnuts, scallops or shrimp ... I know that her allergy to the last of those three won't stop her from putting a shrimp head on each finger and making them dance ... I know she gets most, but not all of my jokes, and that she's better for her lack of absolute comprehension in this matter ... I know that no one -- no one -- looks better getting out of bed and walking across the room to the bathroom in the morning ... I know that she understands what the loss of my best friend did and continues to do to me ... I know that very few people give her the haircut she asks for ... I know she has a thing against pigeons ... I know at least 20 things about her that I would never mention publicly ... I know that there are two pictures of our feet together: one taken on a chair-lift in the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, the other on a hammock on a tiny island in the Caribbean ... I know that her showers last longer than most baseball games ... I know that I melt everytime I think of her singing "You are My Sunshine" to me ... I know that whenever she liked something, she used to say "It makes me happy" in a little girl voice, but that she doesn't say it much anymore -- and maybe I should've noticed that ... I know that Cruel Intentions is her favorite bad movie ... I know that she loves Jeff Buckley ... I know that she gets a kick out of going back to the Bowl Grill in Reading, PA whenever she's home, just to show off a little ... I know that she's more supportive than she needs to be ... I know that she loves the smell of cocoa butter ... I know that she enjoys the fact that one of her brothers is a brilliant pyromaniac and the other is a musical genius who loves chocolate milk ... I know she falls asleep in the middle of the bed when she's drunk, then mumbles to herself ... I know she'll watch While You Were Sleeping and You've Got Mail whenever either is on, and that it cheers her up when she's crying and I say, "Don't cry, Shopgirl" ... I know that she knows as much about me as I know about her ... I know that somewhere out there, there's an asshole who got a pretty good amount of money for her first engagement ring ... I know that, if I actually owned one, I would in fact allow her to wear my fraternity shirt right-side out, in spite of the rule against such things ... I know that, for all I know, she might have let me win in Trivial Pursuit ... I know she would've voted for Billy Mack's "Christmas is All Around Us" if given the chance ... I know about Bree ... I know that Denny Crane makes her laugh hysterically ... I know that she likes the Tommy Gnosis version of Wicked Little Town just a little more than the Hedwig version (I agree) ... I know that there isn't much in this world sexier than her singing Joydrop's American Dreamgirl while riding in the car ... I know that she wants to finally get her driver's license ... I know that she loves the Geico caveman commercials ... I know that she'd like to be either Holly Golightly or Inara Serra, just without all the prostitution ... I know she gets a kick out of it when I call her Starbuck ... I know she could watch YouTube videos of the Tini 500 all day ... I know she loves my family, and not simply out of obligation ... I know that she remembers exactly where we were when I told her I loved her, and what it felt like -- and that I remember when she whispered it back to me ... I know she enjoys telling people how 9/11 brought us together ... I know she loves sundresses and silly hats ... I know she speaks French better when she gets a little tipsy ... I know she still remembers dining at Cafe Marly, by the light of the Pei pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre, and that we weren't supposed to be eating there in the first place ... I know that she's always been something more than what people expected ... I know that she's all I know ... I know that she's never teased me for being obsessed with Strictly Ballroom ... I know she can decypher the tattoos on my forearms, and loves not just what they say but how they look ... I know her father's nickname for her ... I know the secret recipe ... I know of her affinity for Dagny Taggart ... I know that the best meal she ever ate involved Wagyu beef, oysters, great wine, a truly wonderful server, myself and Drew Curtis ... I know that she knows what happened to me the day after that particular dinner, and likes telling people all about it ... I know about her cowlick, and what a pain she thinks it is ... I know about the difficulties she had as a young girl, taking care of her mom-mom ... I know she knows what kind of BEAR is BEST, and that she, like me, is personally invested in Jim & Pam's relationship ... I know that I have her name tattooed on my left shoulder ... I know she once did a play with a guy in a gorilla suit ... I know she once did another play where one of her lines was "How's your tallywhacker hangin'?" ... I know that she'll probably never forgive me for divulging that ... I know that she sometimes shakes her butt like Cameron Diaz in Charlie's Angels when she's feeling especially goofy ... I know she'll probably never forgive me for divulging that either ... I know that she thinks she's the uncoolest person on the planet, which in fact makes her exactly the opposite ... I know she doesn't much care for white chocolate ... I know she loves Phish Food ... I know that she was kind enough to clean up after her idiot husband when he threw up all over the corner of the bathroom at her cousin's house ... I know that the same idiot husband has held her on the floor of their own bathroom several times as she's thrown up ... I know that he's watched her doubled-over in pain on that same bathroom floor because of her endo, and cried because he felt powerless to stop her from hurting ... I know that he once refused to leave a doctor's office until that doctor promised to help stop her pain ... I know that she won the karaoke competition onboard the Norwegian Sun during our cruise, and that she instantly became a shipwide celebrity ... I know how beautiful she looks when she's sleeping ... I know that she's Defying Gravity ... I know that if it hadn't been for her, I probably wouldn't be writing this right now, and I certainly wouldn't have my own website on which to put it ... I know she has crushes on Jon Stewart and Captain Malcolm Reynolds ... I know she thinks it's her sister who got the booty ... I know she believes that I've taught her a tremendous amount, when in reality it's the other way around ... I know she's always been my happily ever after ... I know that there are a thousand things I'm leaving out ... I know that in spite of everything I know, she remains a mystery to me ... I know that I've hurt her, and that she's hurt me -- but that I don't care about the latter anywhere near as much as I do the former ... I know that I'm sorry ... I know that I love her more than words could ever express ... I know that in the end, none of this matters much ...
I know that I have to let her go.
Barring a sudden jolt of inspiration, I'm going to be taking some time off -- how long, I'm not quite sure yet.
As some of the more perceptive of you have already figured out, I'm going through a bit of a personal crisis right now. I won't go into detail, but to those who've already asked -- yes, it's bad, and no, I don't think that any amount of my usual "getting it out there" will provide me comfort.
The above column is something I put together late last night just for the hell of it. It's meant to be neither maudlin nor melancholy, but it'll probably be my last post for at least a little while. I'll be fine and I'll certainly be back -- just can't really think clearly right now.
Comments for both this post and the one above have been disabled.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
True Item: While at Cornell Medical Center today, picking up copies of my medical records, I happened to notice the name of the hospital's chief urologist on the directory -- urology of course being the study of the male reproductive system and the male and female urinary tracts.
That name: Dix Poppas, M.D.
Monday, September 10, 2007
For the record, I don't really have an opinion about the immigration issue currently setting Capitol Hill aflame and making Lou Dobbs's oversized head explode nightly on CNN. On the one hand, I understand and agree that if you break the law in this country -- immigration laws included -- you deserve to be punished; I also understand that certain concessions to reality, however unfortunate, have to be made: If you kicked every illegal immigrant out of, say, where I live in New York City, the whole damn place would grind to a halt.
That said, I can't abide dishonesty from those who seek our trust -- no matter the subject.
Last night, during a first-of-its-kind live debate on Spanish-language network Univision, the Democratic candidates for president proved that bullshit knows no language-barrier.
When asked the absurdly petulant trick question "Why is it okay to vote in favor of erecting a wall along the U.S./Mexico border but not the U.S./Canada border?" the entire panel seemed to erupt in flustered confusion -- the "gotcha" moment the moderator no doubt intended.
Hillary Clinton and Barack
Oprah Obama in particular engaged in wholly insincere verbal gymnastics, each evading the main thrust of the question by brandishing a mind-blowing arsenal of inefficacies, platitudes and half-measures -- all politically correct and guaranteed to offend no one; all devoid of anything even resembling substance.
Needless to say,no one was willing to respond to the question with the only honest and legitimate answer possible.
Why build a wall along the Mexican border but not the Canadian?
Because there aren't a half-million illegals sneaking across the border from Canada every year.
Answer this way and I'll vote for you simply on principle.
Last March, I posted a column which dealt with not only the questionable tactics employed by NBC Dateline's ongoing and thoroughly ridiculous dog-and-pony show To Catch a Predator, but also with the equally questionable reasons for its existence in the first place.
In particular, I mentioned the dischord that the show and its producers sowed during a visit to the small town of Murphy, Texas -- one of the many places nationwide where Chris Hansen and his Turtleneck-of-Justice have brought their irresponsible roving sting operation.
What I wasn't aware of at the time, is that during the show's taping in Murphy, a former district attorney who became a target of Predator killed himself after being chased back to his own home by an overly zealous camera crew and the local police who were, in reality, acting as nothing more than starstruck puppets for Hansen and Company.
Dateline claims that Bill Conradt's suicide was the result of the guilt he felt over being a child molester. Whether or not this is true -- which it may not be -- is completely beside the point.
To Catch a Predator is unethical, hack journalism at its absolute worst.
I bring this subject up again, because as it turns out I was slightly ahead of the curve on this one.
This month's Esquire magazine features an excellent investigative report on just what went wrong in Murphy -- and how far NBC went in an attempt to bury it.
Also, in a rare attack by one television news department on another, ABC's Brian Ross did his own investigation into Predator's misdeeds (although ABC is equally guilty of employing the same sort of ratings-baiting scare tactics when it comes to the subject of children and sexual predators; a simple Google search of "ABC + Predator" confirms this splendidly). Among the controversies he notes: Not only is the show the subject of several lawsuits, but the group it partners with when targeting supposed predators, "Perverted Justice," turns out to be little more than a bunch of self-serving, publicity-obsessed vigilantes; I imagine their offices to be filled with a dozen or so clones of the John Walsh model: all camera-ready grimaces, black leather jackets and a propensity for using words like "scumbag" every few seconds -- great vengeance and furious anger signifying absolutely nothing.
Now that the true scope and grandeur of Dateline's predator-catching mechanism is coming to light, it serves as a painful reminder of just how low modern television journalism will stoop in pursuit of a story.
And just what happens when the very law we trust to protect our rights is allowed to be servile to its whims.
Esquire Magazine: Tonight on Dateline, This Man Will Die
ABC News: "To Catch a Predator Sting Gone Bad"
Deus Ex Malcontent: Idiot vs. Predator/3.1.07
Saturday, September 08, 2007
I realized earlier this week that I've lost touch with "the streets."
Although this could very well be the single most ridiculous thing I've ever said, it in no way diminishes the sentiment I'm trying to express. I just don't get out enough anymore. My days usually consist of work, followed by a lot of time at my computer, followed by dinner with my wife, followed by sleep. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. This is unfortunate, because for me -- and I'd imagine a whole lot of others -- New York City is basically one giant playground. When I first moved here, I never spent more than a few hours indoors at any one time; the city outside was always calling. It wasn't until I moved into a high-rise in Chelsea with a view of the Empire State Building that I even started to think of staying at home for any length of time.
So, today, I decided to change that. I threw on my Mighty-Mouse t-shirt, a baseball cap, cargo shorts and flip-flops, grabbed my backpack and hopped the subway downtown. I'm glad I did; I was reminded in so many ways why I love this city, even when I fucking hate it.
While standing with a crowd of people at a crosswalk at 13th and Broadway, I turned my head and noticed a guy heading toward us on a bike -- riding slowly, parallel to the traffic we were all trying to cross. As he pulled in front of the teeming mass gathered on the side of the street waiting for the light to change, he began complaining that everyone needed to step back. "Get back, get back," he said with an air of arrogance that was utterly surreal coming from a kid who was wearing an oversized Puerto Rican flag t-shirt and a hip-hop-style flat-billed baseball cap. The fact that he was riding one of those tricked-out low-riding bikes made the whole scene all the more strange. The heads of those at the front of the crowd followed him as he passed -- confused looks on their faces. "Get back, get back," he kept saying as he got closer and closer to where I was standing. Finally, he pulled slowly in front of me, barking the same instruction to me that he had to everyone else -- "Get back." I was following him with my eyes, when, without saying so much as one word, the guy standing next to me simply reached his arm out and pushed the kid over. As he and his bike spilled into the street, the entire crowd, myself included, busted up laughing.
At 9th and 2nd Ave lies one of this city's best culinary secrets -- Otafuku. It's a place the size of a shoebox -- no seating, no counter, nothing -- that serves Takoyaki, which is basically Japanese street food; the kind of stuff you generally find kids in Osaka wolfing down after a night of heavy drinking. It's deep-fried, it's slathered in mayonaise, and it's fucking spectacular. For six bucks you get fritters made with octopus, and a giant helping of wok stir-fried noodles.
I got a take-out box, a pair of chopsticks and some napkins and headed to find a park bench.
Tompkins Square Park
As it turned out, today was "Art in the Park" day, as opposed to the usual daily event: "Junkie Whores in the Park." I sat down with my octopus balls (well, what would you call them), turned on my iPod and settled in to enjoy the show. It wasn't long before a woman who could've been a dead-ringer for Nancy Spungen -- had Nancy been morbidly obese and insistent on doing her makeup so that she looked like a Romulan -- stumbled over and collapsed onto the bench directly in front of me, waking the old black guy wearing the Rhythm Nation-style baseball cap who happened to already be sleeping there. The intrusion produced a shouting match that would've been incomprehensible even to a UN translator.
This scene was immediately followed up -- almost as a sort of resolution to the punchline -- by a guy who walked right in front of my carrying a sign that read: "Bad Advice $1."
Three pints of Boddingtons. A great crowd. A World Cup rematch -- Italy vs. France.
There's no better place to get your geek on than at the country's biggest comic book store. Forbidden Planet has every silly, stupid, completely unnecessary goddamned thing a kid who grew up mainlining sci-fi into his veins could ever want. From new issues of 30 Days of Night and the brilliant Y: The Last Man, to a ball cap which features a picture of General Zod and the word "Kneel!" on it, to a button that says "Han Shot First," to a mini 3D movie poster of the original Alien (guess what'll soon be adorning my work space), to a vintage-looking t-shirt with the Colonial Viper Squadron logo on the front of it (tragically, they didn't have it in my size, but promise to get it soon).
I could die in that place.
Eventually, every single person in New York City -- visitor or resident -- will face one seemingly insurmountable dilemma, and it sounds like this: "Do I take the chance and buy 3:10 to Yuma on DVD from the little guy selling it out of a plastic bag, knowing full well that it may be dubbed into Chinese, look like it was downloaded on a VIC-20, or simply not work at all." What about Superbad -- or The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford? I've been screwed too many times to consider blowing even a measly five bucks on steet bootlegs anymore -- although the original Spider-Man was worth it just for the pleasant surprise of subtitles in Engrish. ("You, you think, Mr. Spider. Also did the foil defeat the person? You at all did not win!") Bottom line: I passed.
I try to avoid the trains like prison rape on the weekends; they run one every six or seven hours and they're usually packed solid with a cross-section of grotesque vermin the likes of which seem beyond rational comprehension. Still, they're cheap, and that obviously counts for something. My train ride home involved being pinned against the doors by an old woman in a wheelchair. Under normal circumstances, the predicament of the elderly and handicapped would likely inspire pity or at the very least concern for the well-being of the person in question; when that person smells God-awful and is taking up a very large amount of desperately needed subway car space -- well, fuck that. She stared blankly ahead, a cup of water in her hand, resting on her lap. After waiting for a half-hour in a steaming subway station (and believe me, there hasn't been a word created yet to properly describe the hell of an underground train platform in the summertime), it's safe to say that most of the riders were less than thrilled about the insinuation of this giant metal contraption and its drooling occupant into the center of the car. It came to a head though when I glanced down to see the woman, for no apparent reason, let go of her cup and spill the water all over herself -- then proceed to reach her own hand into her pants in what I assume was an attempt to clean up the mess. There was a family of tourists next to me at the time; the look on the faces of the kids was better than priceless.
Welcome to New York, folks.
? ? ?
Tonight, I'm going out. If you think this place is batshit in the daylight, you have no idea what it's like when the sun goes down.
Wish me luck.
Friday, September 07, 2007
This will be the most personally important thing I've ever written.
I should immediately apologize for the sense of melodramatic foreboding that such a statement no doubt casts over what I feel I need to say. The truth is that, despite the apparent heavy-handedness, I haven't rehearsed my words, I haven't studied and perfected my lines, and I really have no idea how to approach the way I'm feeling right now, wrestle it to the ground and put it on the page. Long story short, this will be stream of consciousness. A bumpy ride.
Over the past couple of weeks, I've gone into great detail about a past of which -- as much as I've needed to own up to it -- I've never been particularly fond. I've done things in my life that in no way make me proud. I hurt people who cared about me and did so for purely selfish and rotten reasons. I once lived my life in ways that would shame any decent and sane person, and when it was all over I was left broken, devastated, helpless.
It was at that point -- with my heart and my soul beaten to hell -- that I wanted only one thing: A second chance.
I got it.
I found Jayne, or maybe she found me.
I've written about her plenty on these pages; I've held nothing back when it comes to the strength of my feelings for my wife, and yet I have absolutely no doubt that even with a semi-decent way with words, I have yet to do her or my love for her justice in any real sense. I don't know how to express what I feel -- the depth of my emotion. They haven't invented a language yet that fits.
Jayne has always encouraged me to write honestly, fearlessly. She knows my past -- every dark secret -- and although it's hurt her tremendously and left her more often than not wondering what she got herself into, she's always pushed me to use it to a good end, by writing it down. The level of confidence that she's displayed in that regard is nothing short of astonishing; I don't know if I could've done it, or if I would have. Unfortunately, by constantly writing about it, both in the memoir I've completed and have been shopping to publishers, and here on this site (two of the last three extended posts have been excerpts from my manuscript) I've proven what W. Somerset Maugham once beautifully insinuated -- that there is no past, only an "Everlasting Present."
By writing about the past, I've kept it alive -- maybe even glorified it. I never intended to do either.
I've said on more than one occasion that if I had one wish, it would be that I were "normal." I'd like to wake up one morning to find that the thing I'm decent at doesn't involve sitting alone at a computer for hours on end, vomiting my anger, cynicism, sadness, passion, weirdness and general neuroses all over the place. I know that a person who does this -- who feels this -- isn't always easy to be around. I've admitted before that my wife has put up with a lot, and has never complained. But by the same token, I've tried not to abuse the privilege she's given me and not take her love and respect for what I do for granted.
Have I though?
I'm not sure -- she won't say and may not ever.
Regardless however, I've come to a conclusion. In the immortal words of Randal Graves, it's time to let the past be the past. My life, my love, is so much better now than it ever was -- and to even speak of my difficult history is to lend it more credence, to give it more unfortunate authority, than it deserves.
So, I'm shelving the memoir.
It's been circulated to a few publishers, although admittedly it hasn't been pushed as hard as it could have -- the reason was never a lack of faith in my abilities or in its quality, I just always secretly worried about the damage it might cause in my own life and the lives of those mentioned in it. Those who've read it have responded very favorably, the editors at Gotham/Penguin in particular sent me several glowing e-mails recently, and I honestly have no doubt that it was headed for publication.
You know what though, it's not going anywhere. I wrote a book. It'll always be around should, at some later date, I decide that it's a story worth telling -- when there's even more space than there is now between the life I'm living and the past that seems like nothing but a bad dream.
I will however tell you how the book ends.
It ends with me meeting Jayne.
Because that was the close of a very bad period of my life, and the beginning of a wonderful new one.
End of story.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
So, let's make this a trilogy and be done with it. (Part 1: Into the Maelstrom/8.24.07) (Part 2: Imperfect Strangers/8.30.07) It's fitting that the third and final chapter of what's unintentionally turned into "The Ex Files" deals, itself, with a relationship triangle. Last week, I mentioned that before meeting for dinner in New York City in the weeks following 9/11, the last time Abby and I had seen each other was at a party almost a year earlier. By now, it probably won't surprise anyone to learn that it was a little more complicated than that. The following took place in the early days of 2001. I was living in L.A. at the time, with my wife Kara. I was already deep into a very serious heroin addiction -- a secret cycle of catastrophic self-destruction made worse by the fact that after slightly more than a year, my marriage was already coming apart and arguably had been from the very beginning. I tried several times to stop doing heroin while I was in Los Angeles. I failed every time.
"One day you're gonna have to face the deep dark truthful mirror."
-- Elvis Costello
January is chilly, even in L.A.
The day after a storm-front blew through town, the skies are perfect. The usual sickening haze, the unfortunate product of several million cars, has been washed away. You can see downtown all the way from the Hollywood Hills. It’s a perfect day. Better than perfect actually. Flawless.
It’s a Saturday morning and I’m sitting in the rear parking lot of the Hollywood Video store on Miracle Mile. Biggie Smalls was killed about four blocks from here. The lot is huge, and parked against the high back wall—perpendicular to it—are two large semi trailers. In between them is just enough space to fit a car. My car. I’m effectively shielded from sight on all sides but the rear. It’s almost impossible to see me without specifically knowing where to look.
Kara thinks I’m at the grocery store.
The radio is on and I’m listening to the weekend version of Morning Becomes Eclectic on KLSX. Nic Harcourt is playing a song from David Gray—My Oh My.
My oh my, indeed.
I’m high. Wonderfully high. High like I haven’t been in months. High like the first time.
The time bomb went off.
I allow myself a second to marvel at the simple twist of fate that led me here this morning. The event that tripped the wire and set off the explosion.
It wasn’t a bad day at work.
It wasn’t a fight with Kara.
It wasn’t depression or wrath or sloth or envy or lust or wrath or—what are the other ones?
It was pure chance. Pure accident—or possibly pure predestination.
You’d think that someone who's become a serious addict wouldn’t forget where he’s hidden his drugs. That’s something that—no matter how fucked up you get—you always seem to keep track of. It’s sort of a matter of survival.
Not me though.
I’d lose my head if it weren’t screwed on—which it isn’t right now.
All it took was a quick look through the glove compartment for my Hollywood Video card, which had somehow mysteriously disappeared from my wallet.
I’d lose my fucking head if it weren’t screwed on.
I pulled everything out of there, and lo and behold what did I find wedged all the way in the back but a small white envelope. Inside that envelope was a pen-pipe, two squares of aluminum foil, a lighter and two tiny balloons. My mobile kit. I have no idea how I forgot that it was there—although now, in my endless attempt to rationalize all of my bad behavior, I can’t help but feel like it’s a good thing I found it and got rid of it. Had I been pulled over and not realized it was there, I could’ve been screwed. I realize that I should’ve gotten rid of it by throwing it away as quickly as I could, but I’m not Superman for God’s sake. Or maybe I am, and this is simply my Kryptonite. The balloons were green after all.
I was being so good. I was really trying to get things together. Then the gods handed me this. It’s obvious what their intentions are for me. Who am I to argue with providence? I didn’t find my video card, but what I did find immediately led me to the very back of this parking lot where I found the perfect place to smoke. Nicely hidden. Once again, a gift from the gods—further proof of their divine will.
Within a half hour, the two balloons are empty. The foil is scorched black. I’m fucking high. I’ve never felt better. All I need to do now is go to the grocery store like I told Kara I was going to. I’ve got supplies to buy. Food. Drink. Stuff.
We’re having a party tonight.
Because I haven’t touched heroin in weeks, the high lasts surprisingly long, which is a good thing, because I’m going to need it.
I hang up the phone in our kitchen.
“Who was that?” Kara asks from the living room.
“That was Isa.”
“So what’s up? What time is she gonna be here?”
My wife is busying herself about the apartment—putting the finishing touches on the place before tonight’s big event. Candles in polished brass holders surrounded by fireproof faux-foliage still have to be placed along the mantle over the fireplace. The mixture of crème fraiche, chives, tarragon and lemon zest still needs to be taken out of the refrigerator and ladled into the bowl made from the hollowed-out loaf of spiced-herb olive bread. The fig compote needs to be—fig compoted. Something somewhere needs to be somethinged. Like mother, like daughter. The brushed-silver torch of artificial perfection has been passed.
I may be high, but I’m not completely oblivious. That’s unfortunate, because I’m now going to have to figure out a way to tell my wife not only what time our friend is arriving—the guest of honor whose birthday we’re celebrating—but also just who she’s bringing with her.
I walk out into the living room. Kara is adjusting the sheer white curtains which she hung over the horizontal blinds because together they provide both form and function. I’m wincing at the mere thought of the conversation to come. I can’t even imagine what this would be like if I weren’t on drugs.
“Uh, honey?” I say hesitantly.
That’s it. Start the conversation like you’re the goofy husband in a bad sitcom. That’s sure to get the best out of a woman like your wife. Oh, and get ready to duck.
Kara looks over her shoulder at me. At least she's smiling.
“Well, what did she say?”
I take a few tip-toe steps across the room toward her.
“Well, she’ll probably be here around nine, but there’s something else I think you should probably be made aware of.”
Now Kara turns, giving me her full attention.
Something to hide behind close by? Check!
“She’s bringing Abby with her.”
Kara lets out a bitter chuckle—running her tongue along the inside of her bottom lip and putting one hand on her hip.
“Great,” she says—the word dropping to the floor like an anvil.
“There’s not really much I can do about it. Abby flew in for Isa’s birthday. Isa’s coming to a birthday party we’re throwing for her. A plus B equals C.”
Isa and I go back about as far as any two friends can. She’s like a sister to me, and is one of the few people who’ve been kind enough not to make too many judgments about some of the asinine things I’ve done throughout the years. Unfortunately, I’m well aware that for the first time in my life, I have to keep a secret from her. It’s the same one I’m keeping from almost everyone else. She works in the music industry and has subsequently seen too many of her friends go down the road that I’m going down now. They’ve usually ended up dead. She can’t know about this.
As for Kara’s relationship with Abby—it’s non-existent.
This will be the first time my past and present lives have collided like this, and to say that I’m not looking forward to it is like saying that Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe weren’t looking forward to that final stop on the train ride. My ex and my wife are literally at opposite ends of the spectrum of humanity. Millennia from now, when aliens land and dig up our ancient civilization from under the ground, they’ll find the fossils of these two women and probably won’t classify them as being from the same species.
Kara is perfectly structured. Abby is gloriously haphazard.
Kara is clinical. Abby is spiritual.
Kara trusts her head. Abby goes with her heart.
Kara puts what she feels is an important value on vanity. Abby could fucking care less, yet still usually manages to look good.
Kara will send you a "thank you" card for a gift, but not really mean it. Abby will forget to send you a gift in the first place, but will still love you.
Kara is tough, and looks like she’s faking it when she tries to be tender. Abby is tender, and looks like she’s faking it when she tries to be tough.
Both however—as much as they are polar opposites—are extraordinary women.
The fact that Kara hasn’t actually met Abby face to face doesn’t, unfortunately, mean that she isn’t intimately familiar with her. My relationship with Abby has always been the subject of much admonition and condescension from my wife. Kara’s never been thrilled with the idea that—in keeping with her track record of everything always being just so—she wasn’t able to marry a man who hadn’t already played house with someone. As far as she’s concerned, the fact that I once loved a woman like Abby is living, breathing proof of just how immature and impetuous I was until she came along and set me straight. She considers Abby a child, and me, childish for having loved her. Still, any resentment of this magnitude, especially from a woman who's usually as confident and unflappable as Kara, has to be rooted in some form of insecurity. In this case, I’m well aware of just how true that statement is. Kara isn’t just intimately familiar with Abby—she’s a little too intimately familiar.
About three months after we’d begun dating, Kara caught more than a fleeting glimpse of something that no new girlfriend should ever have to see. It came about thanks to the time-honored tradition of a man becoming so completely distracted by the concept of sex that the rest of his brain shuts down. It’s technically the same inclination that Kara herself has benefited from more times than I can count. She knows that all she has to do to shut me up is take off her top. There’s only a limited amount of blood in a man’s body. Once it all starts flowing to the penis, there just isn’t enough left to sufficiently power the brain.
What led to Kara’s moment of Clytemnestran omniscience was actually the harmless act of housecleaning—not hers, but mine. I had a couple of free hours one morning before I had to go in to work and decided to spend it sifting through a box of old cassette and video tapes. It was an entertaining little trip down memory lane. I listened to old tapes of my radio show and ancient music from the heyday of MTV—recorded through my stereo—and I watched concert footage of my band playing various gigs around Miami, as well as a couple of old episodes of Beavis and Butthead. It was about an hour or so into my nostalgic reverie that I reached into the seemingly bottomless box and pulled out a videotape with a hand-written label on it that read simply "Hot Shots." I remember immediately thinking that I appreciated the thespian brilliance of Charlie Sheen as much as the next child of the eighties, but not enough to waste an hour and a half of valuable blank tape space on any movie of his that wasn’t about a Soviet takeover of the United States. It took all of about ten seconds for it to hit me what really was on the tape that I held in my hand. In hindsight, Charlie Sheen probably would’ve been proud.
Once again, when sex is involved, all better judgment goes out the window. In this case, it didn’t just go—it took a graceful swan dive.
I put in the tape.
I left the fucking thing in the VCR.
This last less-than-inconsequential fact didn’t dawn on me until about 7pm, which coincidentally was about fifteen minutes after Kara left our office in Downtown Miami to head to my apartment and wait for me to get home. The next few seconds and minutes—the ones that immediately followed this startling revelation—played out like the worst episode of the stupidest sitcom written by the most talentless hack in Hollywood.
I covered my mouth.
I gasped for air.
I shouted “Oh shit!” about seven or eight times in rapid succession.
I suddenly looked like I was doing a Don Knotts impression.
I tried calling her cell phone to divert her somehow, but got no answer.
I grabbed my coat and my car keys and bolted for the door like someone had just told me they were giving away free beer in the parking lot.
I screamed out “Personal emergency!” as I streaked across the newsroom.
I tore through the streets of Miami like Sonny Crockett.
During the twenty minute drive home—which was punctuated with the requisitely farcical amount of swearing and horn-blowing—every kind of thought imaginable was whirling through my apparently worthless brain. The foremost being: what if all of this is for nothing? There was a better-than-average chance that she’d get to my place and completely overlook the VCR and just watch TV. My second thought was that even if I did get there before she saw the tape, how the hell do I slyly get it out of the machine and thus, myself out of harm’s way? These questions were immediately followed by visions of possible damage control. The best-case-scenario had me wondering how I was going to calmly explain what I was doing watching a sex tape of me and another woman. The worst-case-scenario had me debating the best possible story to make up for the insurance company should it question the suspicious nature of the apartment fire.
Throughout all of it, I did what any sane atheist would do when his current girlfriend was about to be confronted with an hour’s worth of visual proof that he still firmly believed his ex to be a spectacular lay: I prayed like a son-of-a-bitch. I promised God I’d change. Promised I’d go to church. Promised I’d become a true fucking believer and shout his holy name from the rooftops like John the Baptist on crank.
So what did I find when I arrived at my apartment?
Well, I’m still an atheist.
Technically it could’ve been worse; Kara could’ve been sitting on the couch actually watching Abby ride me into the ground. As it was though, the scene she purposely left me with was enough to convey the sheer enormity of her fury at what she’d discovered—at what I’d obviously been watching. When I walked through the door of my apartment, the tape was playing in vivid, fleshy color on my thirty-two inch television screen. I actually figured out that I was too late before I even opened the door. That’s because Kara had turned on the home theater speakers and cranked them to 11. I’m not sure how long my neighbors were subjected to my sexual exploits in surround-sound, but I know that I got strange looks from them for months after that.
Missing from this surreal little sexual horror show, was Kara herself. She had set the scene, then left. Like a serial killer positioning his victims to inflict the maximum emotional gut-punch—just as a little gift for the cops. I actually had to marvel at the sadistic beauty of the whole thing, which I did—just before turning down the sound, stopping Abby mid-act, and contemplating the most efficient way to kill myself.
I immediately drove to Kara’s apartment on the beach. When I walked in I found her sitting on the couch crying. I didn’t have much in the way of excuses. I did something dumb. I admitted it. I apologized. I threw out the tape. I spent the obligatory amount of time sleeping alone.
End of story.
Except that it wasn’t.
She’s now about to meet the girl on the tape.
She can laugh haughtily and criticize all she wants, but Kara saw for herself one of Abby’s most attractive and powerful qualities: her sheer, unbridled, raw goddamned passion. When our relationship first began, Kara and I had no problem mimicking that kind of ferocity—in bed and out—but as time went by things chilled considerably. I guarantee that the image of the palpable connection between me and Abby stayed with Kara, possibly even until now. Until this very night.
“Fine—can’t wait to finally meet her,” Kara sneers, then turns and goes back to adjusting the curtains.
It’s going to be an interesting evening.
I’m really glad I’m on drugs.
Three hours later, the party is getting into full swing. Everything is perfect to a fault—the only way my wife would have it. Candles create a gorgeous lounge-like atmosphere in our living room. The dining room—also glowing with soft candlelight—has been made into a serving area. Hors d’oeuvres—elegantly and artistically placed along polished silver serving trays—take up almost the entire dining room tabletop. The music coming from the stereo is sufficiently cool and mood-enhancing. Right now it’s Strangelove Addiction, from The Supreme Beings of Leisure. The martinis are being shaken in the kitchen. The friends and neighbors are mingling in the living room. The wife is basking in the glory. The husband is still too high to be anything but happy. All’s right with the world.
The guest of honor, and her guest, have yet to arrive.
About five minutes later, the doorbell rings.
I make my way through the crowd, across our living room and to the door. To say that my heart is suddenly racing is a gross understatement. With the bustling and cool sounds of the party at my back, I take a deep breath—hold it—open the door.
Standing in front of me is Brando.
“I thought you were Abby.”
“Which Abby -- your ex?”
“How many Abbys do I know?”
“She’s gonna be here tonight?”
“Oh yes,” I say.
He smiles wide.
“Oh shit man, Abby and your wife in the same room together. I’m suddenly glad I came.”
“Why the hell am I friends with you again?”
I invite Brando in and get him a cocktail. Like me, he favors gin and tonics. When I return to the living room, he and Kara are laughing together. Once again, a matter of propriety and etiquette: Kara would never publicly be rude to a friend of mine, especially not at a party she’s hosting. It also doesn’t hurt that Brando’s almost impossible to dislike, even if you know that your husband’s got a bad habit of doing heroin in his presence. Kara doesn’t currently blame my friends for my drug use, which is actually wise on her part. Still, it doesn’t take much to gather that the favor shown to them can and will fade quickly if I continue down this path.
Speaking of which—
I pull Brando off to the side, which conveniently allows Kara to continue her power-mingling. I hand him his drink and lower my voice, trying not to seem too shady.
“I’ve already had three of those,” I say, touching the side of his drink. “I’m ready for something stronger.”
“Shit, with Abby and Kara here together. I don’t blame you kid.”
I make the slightest motion with my head. It says it all. Let’s go.
“To the Batcave,” he says.
I make one call to Isa to get her E.T.A. It’s not for at least another half-hour to forty-five minutes. Perfect. I may be willing to take a minor risk to replenish my high, but I’m not fucking stupid enough to leave Kara and Abby unattended. Propriety or not, the results could be disastrous. Kara stands a good chance of keeping it together. Abby however is a different story. The passion that makes her incredible in bed, also makes her as volatile and dangerously unpredictable as a suicide bomber.
Less than a minute after I get off the phone with Isa, Brando and I are out the door and trotting back to the garage, which is just behind my apartment. The door goes up. We get in. My car, which I had backed into the garage, is pulled straight out. Despite the chill in the night air, the windows go down and the sunroof opens as the gleaming vehicle slides down the driveway along the side of my apartment building. It emerges, headlights flaring bright white, from the small space between the building and a large hedge which separates our property from the one next door. It really does look like we just pulled out of the Batcave. Arriving partygoers, walking along the sidewalk directly in front of our apartment, jump out of the way as I gun the engine, turn the wheel and speed off into the Los Angeles night—tires screaming.
“What did you tell Kara?” Brando shouts over the wind and the sound of the stereo, which is blasting Girls Against Boys’ Park Avenue.
“We were going to get more beer.”
“Think she bought it?”
Brando smiles, which makes me smile.
“You’re fuckin’ dialed-in brother—you’re dialed-in I tell you,” he says, spouting L.A. lingo I’m almost sure he invented himself.
He sticks his head out of the sunroof and shouts.
“COME ON BE MY BABY TONIGHT! I SEEN THE WAY YOU TREAT THOSE OTHER THUGS YOU BEEN WITH!”
I shift—press the accelerator almost all the way to the floor. Wilshire Boulevard goes by in a blur.
The buy is simple. Even simpler than usual. Get to the Westlake District. Make the deal. Head back home. Stop quickly to actually do what I said I was going to do—pick up beer. The entire trip takes a total of twenty-five minutes.
We pull the car into the garage and spend about ten minutes sitting in privacy, smoking the fruits of our labor. Thirty-five minutes total. Right on time.
Abby’s about to arrive and I’m high as the sky.
This whole situation tonight is completely fucked-up. Now, thankfully, so am I.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Reality is so much better when you’re not facing it sober.
Once again, the will of the gods.
This has all been preordained and everything is proceeding as they have foreseen—according to their divine providence.
Five minutes after Brando and I walk in the door and put the beer in the refrigerator, the doorbell rings. This time there’s no heart-racing. There are no nervous deep breaths. There’s just me and the glorious, satisfied calm I’ve inhaled into my system. I give Kara a tiny, required smile of solidarity, push through the crowd—which has grown quite a bit in the last half-hour—make my way to the door and open wide.
Isa’s there smiling.
I wish her a happy thirtieth birthday and give her a hug, inviting her to come inside and enjoy the cool fucking party in her honor. As she steps aside, there is only the sight I had been anticipating and dreading in equal parts all night—that is, until I carpet-bombed my apprehensions into complete submission.
Abby gives me a tight little smile and silently nods her head in what looks like a strange sort of acceptance of the discomfort of the situation. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Kara watching me—waiting to see what I’ll do and how I’ll do it. I smile, careful not to make it seem either too inviting or too bittersweet. I lean in and give her a hug.
She’s wearing a black coat over a red button-down blouse, and a pair of jeans with black high-heels. Her hair is slightly shorter than I remember. Tonight’s little excursion to the other side of the tracks has all but guaranteed that my stomach won’t be tied in nervous knots at the sight of her, but the overwhelming desire I feel whenever Abby is in my immediate presence—that’s something even the drugs can’t calm.
I invite her in—into the lion’s den—and take her coat. For what it’s worth, I understand fully that this entire confluence is a hell of a lot harder on her than it is on either Kara or me. We have the home field advantage. She’s the outsider. I’m almost sorry she’s not on drugs. I watch her quietly and coolly look around our apartment as she enters. She’s sizing things up, like a stray cat that’s wandered in and proceeds farther into unknown territory with caution and restraint. Still, if she’s trying to project an air of confidence, she’s not failing. In this room full of people, she seems to silently draw attention to herself. I’m not sure whether it’s an innate magnetism or the fact that Kara has probably seen to it that a whole lot of people at this party know exactly who she is. If the latter is true—and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is—then I’m going to find myself walking an even finer line than I thought tonight. I won’t let Kara ally her forces against Abby. At the same time, my overall loyalty has to lie with my wife. I can’t allow either of these women—or both of them—to create a tense spectacle.
My diplomatic solution: act like absolutely nothing is wrong.
I close the door and make my way through the crowd over to Abby.
“Come on. Meet Kara,” I say, gently putting my hand on the back of her arm. I’m fully aware that my thumb makes a tiny and involuntary circular motion against her bare skin as I do this.
I hear her take a deep breath. “Can’t wait,” she says.
“That’s the exact same thing she said about you—and it sounded like bullshit coming from her too,” I say, walking her through the crowd and keeping my eyes forward at all times. Out of the corner of my eye I watch Abby continue to look around inquisitively. The flickering candlelight casts deep and long shadows. Poe’s Amazed drones beautifully from the stereo.
The partygoers part for us like the Red Sea. They watch us as we move past them. They seem to be waiting for the moment when the Irresistible Force meets the Immovable Object. It becomes perfectly clear: Kara has told everyone here what’s going on. As much as I love her, the realization makes me shake my head and grimace slightly.
The last of the crowd parts and there, in the clearing, is Kara. She’s standing with Isa, talking and smiling. She’s wearing skin-tight black leather pants and a thin white tank top with nothing underneath. She looks—for lack of a more euphemistically appropriate term—really fucking hot. I give a brief glance in Abby’s direction and happen to catch a glimpse of her eyes.
Oh, holy shit.
I suddenly stop, take her by the arm and hold her back firmly. She turns and looks at me with a slightly-too-innocent smile.
“What?” she says.
I just look into her eyes.
Dear fucking Christ.
“Nothing,” I say. “Nothing at all.”
I’m not doing this here and now. Not this close to Kara.
I turn and lead Abby one more step forward. Here goes nothing. Almost everyone at this party is pretending like they’re not watching—but almost everyone is.
Who to introduce to whom? What the hell does Miss Manners say about a situation like this? Simple, don’t get yourself into one.
“Abby, I’d like you to meet Kara.”
Abby extends her hand and Kara smiles and takes it. Abby gives another tight-lipped smile. Kara smiles back. I hold my breath and wait for time to stop and the universe to collapse in on itself.
“It’s really good to finally meet you. We’re so glad you could come tonight,” Kara says, giving Abby’s hand one quick shake. To her credit, she really doesn’t sound insincere at all. Still—she's from the South. Who the hell can ever tell?
“Thank you for inviting me.”
Such innocuous conversation and such fucking hysterical subtext.
Kara asks Abby how her flight was. Abby says fine—tells Kara that we have a beautiful home. Kara says thank you—offers Abby a drink. Abby says no thank you.
And that’s when I know beyond a shadow of a doubt.
I look across the room at Brando, who takes a second out from chatting up a great looking brunette I don’t recognize to give me a confused look as if to ask me what’s wrong. All I can do is shake my head. Just then, Kara—in what appears at least to be a somewhat genuine effort to be congenial—offers to show Abby around the apartment. In the short time she’s been in our living room, I’ve already caught a whiff of potential disapproval coming from my ex. Left unchecked, it could boil over into a quiet, yet angry and jealousy-fueled, rant at some point during the night. For now though, I choose to leave well enough alone and see if the Greasers and the Socs really can play nice. Abby follows directly behind Kara as she leads her through the crowd into the dining area. Everyone stares as they pass. Everyone probably marvels at Kara’s graciousness and calm in dealing with this sadly uncomfortable situation—just like Kara hoped they would.
I’m left alone with Isa—which is exactly what I wanted.
I take her by the arm.
“Can I borrow you for a minute?” I say through a forced smile of clenched teeth, pulling her into the dark of the downstairs hallway directly off the living room.
I stop and turn to face her.
“Are you fucking crazy?” I say.
“What’s she on?”
“Don’t who me. You know exactly what I’m talking about. What is Abby on? Her pupils are the size of saucers and she’s not drinking. There’s no way Abby would walk into a situation like this sober. The only reason she wouldn’t be drinking is if she doesn’t have to.”
So much for feeling sorry for her because she isn’t on drugs. And the hypocrite of the year award goes to—
Isa just shakes her head and sighs, resigned.
“What the hell is it with you two? Why are you both such pains in my ass?”
“It’s ecstasy isn’t it,” I say.
There’s an interminable pause.
“Mushrooms,” Isa finally says.
I close my eyes and exhale through my mouth loudly. I’m not high enough apparently.
“You let her come here tripping?”
“Hey, don’t look at me. I’m not responsible for your ex.”
“She’s staying with you for God’s sake. Is she so wily that you couldn’t keep an eye on her for a couple of hours?”
“She got them from John. I think he was kind of hoping to sleep with her if she got fucked up enough.”
“Who the fuck is John?” I say, trying to stop my voice from turning into a high-pitched squeal.
“Nobody. Some guy.”
I’m shocked that I immediately feel a twinge of jealousy shoot through me like electricity. As far as I’m concerned this gives me a second reason to kick the living shit out of this John guy if I ever meet him.
“Isa, I’m the idiot. I’m the one who does irresponsible, stupid shit. You’re supposed to be the smart one. I don’t like you stepping on my toes. Now, we’ve got to get her the hell out of here.”
“She’ll be fine. She’s very subdued.”
“Yeah, so are most spree killers, until something sets them off.”
“Just leave her alone. She’s gonna walk around quietly and no one will be the wiser, make a scene and who knows what’ll happen. Did I mention how tired I am of you two by the way?”
“Leave her alone? Honey—she’s hallucinating. She already thinks Kara’s a dragon lady. Chances are right now she’s actually seeing it.”
As if on cue, I glance over and see my wife—who’s buzzed on three martinis, and my ex—who’s tripping on mushrooms—come around the corner and back into the living room.
This is just all kinds of fucking perfect.
I fall back on the drug-induced haze in my own brain to help me bring a perfectly insouciant smile to my face as they spot me. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Isa look at them, then back at me, then shake her head and walk away—no doubt to the bar. I just keep right on smiling. Kara is willing to play the polite and pleasant host to Abby, but only up to a point. Her canteen of good will is only so big and there’s no telling how long she’s going to have to wander through this uncomfortable desert tonight, so she’d better pace herself. This is likely why she’s now leading my ex-wife in my direction—to pawn her off on me. The look on Kara’s face as she approaches—with Abby safely behind her—I have to admit, is a hilarious mask of faked cheer. She’s giving me a big toothy grin and an overall look that seems to say exactly what I was just thinking a moment ago:
This is just all kinds of fucking perfect.
Of course Kara doesn’t know the half of it, unless Abby began playing with the knives in the kitchen like a baby playing with a rattle for the first time—with a noticeable combination of excitement, confusion and wonder.
“It looks like we’re starting to run low on hors d’oeuvres,” Kara says through her exaggerated grin. “I’m going to go get some out of the refrigerator, ‘kay? Here, why don’t you show Abby around a little bit more.”
And with that she steps out of the way and the woman I have more of a history with than just about anyone is once again standing in front of me, her face looking suddenly to me like one of those paintings of the puppies with the big eyes. I’m sure that right now to her, my face looks something like that too, if not worse.
I shake my head and sigh as Kara steps away.
All I can think to do at this point is scream “Serenity Now!” like Frank Costanza on Seinfeld. That’s really all that’s missing from this entire experience. Abby continues to glance around as she takes the final step to fill the space between us.
“Nice place you have here Chester,” she says looking around, then turning her head to look directly at me with a big smile. “And she’s just lovely.”
My expression is blank. I need more drugs. No sane person would deny me that right now.
“Glad you think so Ab.”
“No I’m serious. It really is a beautiful home you’ve made here,” she says, nodding and smiling and nodding and smiling.
I already know what’s coming. I know where Abby’s going with this and, high as a fucking kite or not, I don’t want to be around when she gets there. Still, I can’t leave her alone. So I just stare at her and wait for the inevitable.
It’s on its way.
“Yeah,” she continues, looking around again and nodding and smiling and nodding and smiling. “A really beautiful home. A beautiful wife. A perfect life.”
I stare down at her.
Here it comes.
“Everything’s just perfect,” she says, nodding and smiling and nodding and smiling.
She once again looks directly into my eyes. Her pupils are monstrous. They’ve practically swallowed all of the hazel surrounding them like two black holes. Mine meanwhile are the size of pinpoints. Together we just about even out to one normal, sober person.
There’s suddenly silence between us.
Come on, spit it out.
“Of course, I did happen to notice the shelving units from our apartment in your perfect little kitchen,” she declares with a satisfied smile.
I close my eyes, take a deep breath and try not to choke on the air in the room. I’m about to do something incredibly dumb—which is pretty laughable at this point considering that I can’t imagine anything dumber than being on heroin while your former love, who’s on mushrooms, is wandering around a party with your wife: I’m actually going to debate this with her.
“You agreed to let me have those when we broke-up, remember?” I say calmly.
“No, I don't remember that actually.”
“You’re really gonna do this here—right now?”
Suddenly her brow furrows. She blinks rapidly and heavily. She glances around at the floor. I don’t know whether this is some effect of the drugs—her drugs that is—or if she really is how she appears to be: hurt.
She suddenly looks very hurt.
I reach out and take her arm and walk her through the crowd, pushing her gently in front of me. As we head for the front door, for a brief second I allow myself the thought of simply turning her, marching her up the stairs and into the bedroom and having sex with her.
Let’s settle this like adults. Let’s settle this the way we always have.
We push our way to the front door, open it, and step outside. I’m not even going to bother concerning myself with what anyone at the party thinks about me being outside and alone with Abby; I could just about care less at this point. Once we clear the windows, I turn her around and look her right in her huge, childlike eyes.
“Alright, come on—let’s get this over with,” I say.
“Get what over with?”
“Just say what you want to say, so that we can try and put it behind us and have an uneventful rest of the evening.”
As these words come out of my mouth, I immediately regret them. Abby takes full advantage of the opening I’ve given her.
“Put it behind us?” She hisses. “It looks like you’ve had no trouble doing that.”
“What do you want from me Abby?”
“I want you to take some goddamned responsibility.”
“For what?” I say, trying not to sound too shrill. It isn’t easy at this point.
“For what you did to me. For what you did to us.”
“And you’ve decided that you want this mea culpa right now?”
“I think the poetic justice is kind of fitting.”
“What do you want? Do you want me to march right back in there, shut off the CD player and tell everyone, ‘Scuse me folks, can I have everybody’s attention. I am an asshole. See that beautiful woman right over there? I cheated on her and took her for granted, and in doing so robbed her of her heart, soul and innocence and crushed every dream she ever had, and I don’t deserve any of the glorious trappings of this wonderful life that you see around you here tonight. Now if anyone needs me, I’ll be hanging in the shower.’ Is that what you want?” I say, then before she can even respond the way I know she will—“Don’t fucking answer that.”
“This could’ve been our life Chez,” she says, her face becoming a mask of hurt again.
I turn and look over my shoulder at my apartment—my gorgeous two story apartment in West Hollywood. It is indeed perfect.
“No it couldn’t have,” I say, almost a little wistfully. “I mean look at me Abby. You know me better than anybody—even better than Kara. Do you really think all that domestic flawlessness in there is me? This whole place is Kara. This whole life. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful and I like it, but make no mistake—I had nothing to do with creating it. All I do is help pay for it. Jesus, Kara was pissed that my paycheck wasn’t good enough to get a bigger and nicer place. That’s me—the guy with the average credit and the sordid past and the ton of emotional baggage. This?” I say, pointing to my perfect apartment and the perfectly cool party currently going on within. “This is all just a floor show.”
“We could’ve done it together.”
I give a tragic little exasperated chuckle.
She just looks at me.
“I know. I always was.”
The overwhelming sadness of that simple statement hurts like hell. There aren’t enough drugs in the world to bury my sorrow under.
“I’m sorry Abby. I really am.”
“I know you are Chez. You’re always sorry.”
It’s not an attack or indictment; it’s simply the truth. I used to half-joke that my personal mantra was "Apologize Often, Change Never." It was funny for awhile, until you find your selfish and immature ass looking down at the face of someone who reaped the cruel reward of loving someone who lives his life by that pathetic standard.
There’s a sullen quiet between us. A moment of silence for the death of youth, innocence, love, dreams, passion—everything we once had and were. The moment feels like it goes on forever. I just look at her.
“You look great,” I say quietly, breaking the stillness.
“Thank you. So do you. You’re too thin though.”
“Thanks mom. I really wouldn’t trust my eyes right now if I were you.”
Despite her best efforts to remain angry, a sweetly mischievous smile slowly slides across her face.
“Uh-huh,” I say, nodding. “I can’t believe you came here tripping. Tonight just wasn’t challenging enough for you already?”
Her smile suddenly turns sad. God only knows what I look like to her right now.
“Believe it or not, I’m worried about you,” she says.
“What’s to worry about? Haven’t you seen my apartment and my wife? Everything’s just marvy. You said it yourself.”
I want to tell her. I want to tell her that I’m high, and I’m scared. Instead, as usual, I say nothing. I’m terrified of doing drugs. I’m even more terrified of not doing drugs.
“We should get inside, it’s chilly out here,” I finally say.
“Please, I’m a New York girl.”
“Yeah, I know. I’ll have to come visit you sometime.”
We turn to walk back inside.
“Don’t even think about it. I moved there so I wouldn't have to see you. Stay away from my city,” she says.
In 2001, Kenna took an award-winning animated short film called More -- about a broken factory worker's tragic attempt at recapturing and mass producing the wonder and innocence of his youth -- and used it as a video backdrop for the first single from his debut album New Sacred Cow.
The result was one of the most stunning, powerful music videos ever made.
Here's Hell Bent.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
I'll make this quick.
I'm a huge fan of the Rat Pack, and that entire era in show business. One of my biggest regrets is the fact that I'll never be able to see Frank, Dean, Sammy, Peter -- hell, even Joey Bishop -- perform live. They represent a time when comedy and camaraderie went hand in hand, both onstage and off; when a martini and a cigarette within view of cameras wouldn't earn you an automatic censure and accusations of irresponsibility from six or seven advocacy groups with cleverly acronymed names; when the attitude was, "If the person I'm ribbing isn't offended, for Christ's sake you shouldn't be -- now shut the fuck up before I belt you."
Jerry Lewis comes from this era (although admittedly I can't see him ever belting anyone).
Over the weekend, during his annual tribute to cut-rate entertainment and giant glowing wheelchairs known as the Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, Lewis was going off on one of the comedic rants that were once par for the course among his ilk when he rattled off a gay slur.
While talking to one of his cameramen, Lewis said that the guy's family had shown up and wanted to see him. "Yeah, Bart your older one -- and Jesse, the illiterate faggot, you know him right?"
As soon as it popped out of his mouth, he realized what he'd said -- and what decade it was -- and immediately tried to take it back.
Now look, I'm not saying that indiscriminately spouting the word "faggot" on national television is a good idea. On the other hand, it took all of ten seconds before the usual suspects, in particular Neil Giuliano of GLAAD, to begin offering themselves up to any television show on the dial that might be interested in hearing their self-righteous indignation directed toward an 81-year-old comedic fossil who, like him or not, has done more genuine good for humanity than they'd do if they lived to be twice that age.
I'm constantly suspicious of guys like Giuliano, who are always more than willing to throw sanity, reason and anyone they feel slighted by under the bus just to make a point which furthers their particular agenda. What makes me so wary is the nagging understanding that if tomorrow morning, Giuliano woke up to a world where gays and lesbians lived without persecution, he'd be out of a job -- ergo he needs the battle to continue unabated if he wants to see himself on television (and if you argue that he doesn't and his intentions are entirely altruistic, you're either naive or incredibly stupid).
Besides, you wanna know what's really offensive and intolerable -- a professional victim.
Jerry Lewis knows what he said was wrong; he's already apologized for it. Now leave him the hell alone already.
Jesus, I can only imagine the trouble Frank and Dino would've gotten in these days for the kind of things they used to say to Sammy.
Monday, September 03, 2007
With precious few exceptions, white girls and hip-hop go together like Anderson Cooper and cunnilingus.
If you need an example, consider Gwen Stefani -- who went from being the gorgeous frontwoman for a really great band to being a silly quasi-rapping animé character.
If you need another example, consider the Black Eyed Peas.
Much of the listening public probably won't remember this, but before the unfortunate insinuation of mongrel retard Fergie into the line-up (a decision that Will.I.Am has all but admitted was made at the behest of the record company), the Peas were actually a damn good rap act. When they needed a female voice, such as on the ultra-catchy 2000 single Weekends, they enlisted someone with actual presence, like Esthero.*
For the briefest of moments on their last album, Monkey Business, history was recaptured and the world was reminded of the true greatness of the Black Eyed Peas.
This track features Q-Tip, Cee-lo, John Legend and Talib Kweli -- which basically means that there was no way it could've been bad. On the contrary, this is one of those songs I never get tired of hearing.
It's Like That.
(*If you don't own Esthero's entire album catalogue already, what the hell is wrong with you?)