It is early and I haven’t had coffee but it’s springtime and just about everything about springtime here makes me giddy: Ideal temperatures and humidity, the smells of all the acacia and citrus blossoms, the magical alignment of golden hour with bicycle rides at quitting time, and so on. This morning I am riding the number 18 South Sixth Avenue Sun Tran bus. I am staring at a young man’s socks for almost a minute before I notice there is amazing hair staring at me in the face. Red and black and stars and stripes and black and red. Two people I don’t know brought fireworks on the bus and now this bus is on fire. Now I have an inexplicable urge to download the greatest hits of the Electric Light Orchestra band. I am on my way to the border for my weekly hormone treatments.
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That spot is usually empty. But when someone springs for a party and hires a band, they put up the red and white blinds. Things get started and the children get stir crazy and run around outside while the grown-ups all dance inside. Except for the one brother who is in a funk and takes his Coke outside and drinks it right out of the bottle.
In the trailer park next door, unlucky snowbirds get the last spot available. Bree is upset with Howie because she told him to pack the wind sock, but he forgot. Now they are the only R.V. facing the ocean without a wind sock. Howie is in a bad mood too. The game is starting but he can’t hear a damn thing because of the party next door. “It’s too loud!”
We have taken the train to a seaside village where access to the ocean closes at sundown. They make certain nobody goes to the beach after dark with a system of tiled walls five stories high.
The walls were originally built with lots of windows so people could still look at the sea on nights with full moons, but long ago the town leaders lost patience with everyone sneaking onto the beach through the windows and put up a tall stone wall in front of the first. It has no windows, just gates that lock and officers that arrest anyone who tries to hide in the snake and iguana filled canals running under both walls.
The daughter of the shopkeeping family in charge of locking the gates each evening flaunts her privilege. Wearing a white blouse, and her long black hair down, she crawls off the label on a tin of paprika where she spends her days and up into one of the windows overlooking the now forbidden shore. There she waves at the tourists and townspeople as her old mother and father herd us all out through the gate while we desperately snap blurry and poorly lit photos of her, her parents, and the reptiles underfoot.
I seduce you at a restaurant by telling you the details of a sexy dream. We make love at the table until the waitress suggests we be more discreet. We attach steak knives to our slickened genitals with napkin rings and walk casually to the nearest unoccupied booth. Post-coitus, our meal is cold and the waitress offers to replace the entrees. We are thrilled when she also brings more fries.
People who say “You, Sir” when arguing in the comments.
Mexican sonograms indicate it’s going to be a girl when the outline of a fluffy bow slightly larger than the fetus’ head is detected.
Like Eskimos and snow, Sonorans have forty words for beer. And ice plays a big role in daily life.
All contemporary documentary photography of young men in North America is deficient in that it can’t depict the prominent role body spray plays in their scene.
First thing in the morning, I wake from a dream in which my boss lectures me about my prostate. I conclude I must be under a lot of unusual stress at work lately.
Or is it just all the stress on my prostate of late?
Because I do not like taking chances in either of those areas, I immediatly schedule a session with my counselor at the EAP, telephone my physician for a thorough check-up, and fire off an email to Yusef:
If you ever fuck me that hard again, I'm calling the cops.
Recently, I turned thirty. In 1995, to be precise.
Something I like about getting older is that all young adults now look like sleek bisexual pop stars to me. And what is there not to like about living in a world full of people like that? Probably a lot, but at this point in my life I am so blinded by the jerky cascade of bright white light from flashguns firing, that I will be darned if I can see it as anything but a brilliant scheme.
I just love photography. Here, take my picture.
It is not all pretty though. Something I truly dislike about getting older is the debilitating bouts of knuckle eczema. Knuckle eczema is a horrible affliction that can afflict anyone (with knuckles) and so far there is neither a cure nor a telethon for it. This is a shame, as I think a golden opportunity is being missed for a gaggle of stars, perhaps even divas, to sing a moving rendition of the “Work your fingers to the bone, whaddya get?” song. Only instead of answering, “bony fingers!” Nana Moskuri or Bono or anybody else with really cool glasses for that matter would pause and get emotional and then composing his or herself, blowing his or her now dripping nose with a facial tissue, he or she would finally once and for all end the horrible legacy of silence — both symbolically and audibly — by singing loud and proud into that microphone, “Work your fingers to the bone, whaddya get?” and then pause and whisper, “Knuckle eczema…”
Would that not be beautiful? Though obviously a cure would be even more so. Then I would not have to slather cortisone cream on my fingers every morning and look in the mirror and wonder what kind of vengeful god could single me (and all the other sufferers) out.
Punishment for a youthful indiscretion, perhaps? If so, I swear I did not know it was wrong at the time. Not even that explanation makes sense to me, however because I know, as now you do, that when I was young I was a Boy Scout. And like all Boy Scouts, I was good. A genuine and upright member in a community of fine young men. Oh, I am not going to gloss things over – there were shenanigans. No penetration though, so it hardly feels fair that I should suffer this fate now.
Are you listening, God? I hope so. And of course: Please, oh please, God won't you make these knuckles whole again?
Dear Dale Van Dale,
Today, on my day off, I am here in the bungalow soaking in a tub full of hot water and I am drowsy from all the Benadryl taken for the allergies that only last week I was gloating I never suffer from this time of year. How proud I was when I shared that trivia about myself with the other houseboys and guests of a Cubalse themed key party. How quickly things change! Kerchew.
Please note that I have scalded my alveolar ridge and uvula with the hot, hot, very hot alphabet soup I prepared for myself and am now stubbornly gulping down in spite of the pain. That is how hungry I am right now, Dale.
In the yard the sun is shining and the Masters' beast, Gershwin, is still reeling from an indignity suffered at the veterinarian earlier this morning. He takes it out on the peacocks, of course. Poor birds. Before today they could strut about the grounds blissfully ignorant of the knowledge that every dog has two anal glands. Nevermore.
In from the bedroom drift the faint sounds of the National Public Radio jazz affiliate, which I am often too lazy to turn off in the mornings. And this morning was no different. Whatsmore, perhaps because I am suffering from low-blood sugar at the moment, the melange of standards, current events and commentary only makes everything feel all the more insane.
If I am to understand correctly what I just heard, Diane Rehm is on a slow boat to China with Ella Fitzergerald and threatening to blow everyone up if the authorities try to interfere. What a confusing place this world is.
I digress. Where was I? Right. Drip, drip, drip.
Dale, I do not expect you to recognize me in the above photograph, but I do hope you will be understanding when I tell you the reason for that is because it has been a quarter-of-a-century since we saw each other last. Also, I am of course naked and neither my eyes nor pageant winning nose is visible. Sorry about that. I know how used to seeing my eyes you are, Dale. I know how you love them.
Dale, I am also trying to tell you that I am writing this letter to you not only naked from the bath, but also from some place very far away from your parents' cinder block home near Kennedy Park over on the Eastside. Yes, that is correct — that very same house where you were trying to teach me all your favorite numbers from The Wiz and Tommy — two films which to this day I still have not seen. In no small part because I am convinced that after enjoying your many reenactments of them, I think seeing the original productions would ruin it all for me.
Does that make sense? I hope so.
Also, I should add that to this day the only thing I really know about Ann-Margret other than she is an actress, is that since Tommy is something that happens at your house, you always get to be her. It is okay, Dale. No hard feelings. That is fine by me.
Okay Dale, I suppose what I am really trying to say here is that I am writing this letter to you from the future. Yes the future, where I have been meaning to tell you something for a long time.
I wanted to let you know that the reason I have not been over to your house after school lately is because my mom says she does not want me there when your parents are not home. At first I thought it was because of the afternoon when she came to pick me up and you and I acted out the crash scene from Mahogony for her. I think that bothered her. All the way home in the car she had an upset look on her face and we did not stop for Tastee-Freez. When I asked her what was the matter she said she thinks it is very odd an eleven-year-old boy memorizes every word to every scene and song in that movie. I know, I do not understand either, but when I asked her what was so bad about that, she did not answer.
I was wrong though. That is not the reason after all. My sister told me today that the real reason is my brother thinks you tried to drown him at your pool party. Is that the truth? Blood being thicker than water aside —Haha!— I refuse to believe it until you tell me otherwise. You have to admit though that you did react rather psychotically when Garrett picked him instead of you as his Chicken partner.
I am sorry for taking so long to write and send this to you, but the future is a frighteningly distracting place. Witness the one hundred channels on the television, which is sitting dangerously close to the tub. The station I am watching features a program with a heavyset hostess who grew up a poor, abused Christian girl but rose above it all to become a millionaire Christian woman who now draws on her wealth and life-experiences to better abuse others. I think we can both relate to that, no? Feeling as we do about the choking and eye-poke hazards of press-on nails.
Right now, in fact, this woman is interviewing a congressman about his recent travels in Central America, where he was supposedly doing fact-finding about regional Bezier curve techniques for some proposed vector based missile-guidance system to be built in his newly created Creative Class district. Although I do not know the slightest thing about politics, my understanding is that he returned from the trip with nothing to show for the time and money except for some elegantly rendered cocobolo carvings. Of phalluses. They are showing them on the TV now. Is that gross, or what?
Anyhow, knowing all of this about the future and why I have been out of touch these past twenty-six years or so, perhaps you will be able to forgive me the delay in writing and may even want to come visit sometime.
Two Fridays ago I am stepping off the bus after a trip to my dentist and I am greeted by the West Eastern Blenman Elm Dental Benefits coordinator, Geoffrey Cragmont. Yes, Cragmont that cheap bastard! I figure I am in big trouble, because it is rare he requires paperwork so soon after a routine cleaning. He launches right into interrogation mode, wanting to know what took me so long. I explain, “I missed the Tepotzlan-Mexico City Express, so it took me forty-six hours to make it home instead of the usual thirty-six.”
“Okay. Be more careful next time. Grab your things. We were supposed to meet Nebraska hours ago.”
“Nebraska, what is it!?”
“Horowitz won’t be going to California after all. Are you afraid of flying?”
Then I do what any grown man who has been on a Mexican bus drinking Fanta orange soda for two days straight only to find out he is a candidate for immediate transport to Houseboy Cheer Camp without even so much as the opportunity to go home first would do – I wet my pants.
Nebraska is, of course, the moniker of the man responsible for clearing domestic employees of the WEBEHOS and its affiliates for travel to award ceremonies, professional seminars, war zones, and summer camps. While he usually comes to Tucson (from where I do not know) a scant few times a year to meet with candidates and determine eligibility before replying via the courier pidgeons he so foxily nabs from Ferdy Tang’s coop, at my interview the only question he asks is, “Do you like Gary Numan?” When I answer, “Do I ever!” he tells me to get into his car and he drives me to the Pima Air & Space Museum. There, lit from behind with green laser beams and standing in front of a P-40 World War II fighter plane, Gary Numan (in leather) greets me with his signature phrase, “Where to, Tiger?”
Nebraska tells him where to go and three hours later I am under the rainbow-patterned spandex canopy in the makeshift Houseboy Cheer Camp reception area at the Mark Leno Volcano Visitors Center. I take a sip from the complimentary Kong Thong Tiki brand coconut flavored soy drink that comes with so many others in my welcome satchel and I feel, well, for lack of a better word friends, electric.
I also realize that in what seems like virtually no time at all, I have successfully achieved the mindset of the local houseboys, many of whom have been charged with greeting us out-of-towners. Which is to say, I can think of nothing save for who I will soon be bunking with.
to be continued…
Like most children, I was born in Phoenix, Arizona. Confused about what had just happened, I rationalized the experience as the sloppiest shampoo and cut I had ever received. The logical progression, of course, was that at an age many would consider innappropriate for such a thing (or simply outside of the realm of credulity), I requested to see what everything was like from behind. Then, while examining myself in a hand mirror, I decided I had blotchy skin and immediately demanded sunscreen and zorries. As I left the delivery room, I tipped the doctor. But only ten percent. You know, I still have that hand mirror. I collect the things. For some strange reason. Because we were a “showbiz” family, I think it will come as no surprise to you to find out that my first cosmetic surgery was performed not long after my first circumcision. However, because I am an ostentatiously discreet person, I have elected to use this space to announce my intention not to discuss which of my many plastic surgeries that was. In spite of my eventual uncanny linguistic ability (please see dossier entries: United Nations, Cuneiform, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors), I could sing from early on. If I wasn’t napping or nursing, I was singing. It is true. Tra, la, la? Yes, that was me. Perhaps it is for this reason that each week on the Andy Williams Show I was coated with mineral oil and placed in a radio-controlled, sequined walker and motored about conspicuously in front of the Osmond Brothers as a tiny shiny example of infantile gumption in the hopes that they too could better develop some of their own. Which, in fact if I understand correctly, they eventually did.
I am waking up this morning and like so many of late, Jude Law is here. He is splashing me from the deep end of the pool and saying, “You are complex. You are an enigma. I simply can't seem to get my head around you. It excites me, dammit!” Splash, splash.
His passions make him irrational and I sense responsibility now falls on my shoulders. If these delusions continue to float him and his inflatable Cecil my direction, I must be sure to have a towel ready.
Wow, it sure is hot in here. I am thinking I wish I had left the cooler on last night. It must be a hundred degrees already.
Now I am in the kitchen. I am making coffee and from the other room Steve Strange is going on about a train ride. Oh, Steven. I wonder if he ever did any songs about a supermarket pony ride. Fodder for tomorrow's snooze bar hop, perhaps.
I am looking at the blender in the sink. Van Dale was over for a rousing game of shuttlecock evening last and afterward he made one of his notoriously interesting ginger-berry protein frappes: One can ginger ale, one cup frozen berries. One cup nonfat yogurt. Eight ounces water-packed albacore tuna. Combine ingredients in blender, whip, add honey to taste.
I worry about him, you know? Specifically, I am pondering the implications of recent surveillance photos delivered via teletype indicating Van Dale and an unidentified accomplice (Modotti?) are not only mobile, but have been trespassing at housing development swimming pools and skinny dipping naked these summer nights. When I voice my concerns from the ham radio in the tool shed at the Mayor's office (don't ask), Van Dale replies in his piss poor morse code either not to worry because they are using sunscreen or not to worry because they have sworn off beans. I am not certain which. Both are good ideas that do not make any sense.
Now the coffee is ready and I am pouring the coffee and I desperately want to see my primary hair care provider— it is an emergency — and the triage nurse on the phone says, “Come on in.” But now it is something like two-hundred degrees out. Probably more. It is so hot out, in fact, that one of our mountains has burst into flames! This explains why the air outside is thick with what I can only imagine is burning cabins, and the news is saying to postpone any unnecessary breathing until the five O'Clock broadcast.
I am cutting open the plastic that holds the tofu and its liquid spills across the cutting board and I am remembering a scene from a Mexican cooking film that was very high in sodium and I am thinking oh my. The water has broken on a brand new day.
As before, Barresi promises a hard spanking to any guest arriving even one minute outside of fashion. When I get to his place late in the afternoon, the Finley twins are already monopolizing the spent-uranium casing ping pong paddles, and my host is once again unable to make good on this promise. I join the other delinquent stragglers at the chips-and-dips table. We sip light beer and stare dejectedly at each other's toenails while pretending not to notice the cook, rusty spatula in hand, cursing the slow-to-thaw frozen beef patties he imports from Belgium every year because, “If anyone deserves it, it's you guys.”
Soon I am sitting at the edge of the jacuzzi, rubbing sunscreen anyplace I can reach while hungry dogs lick at my nipples and no one pretends not to notice. Jealous mouths agape.
Mark my words, come Fourth of July, all the gang will be using mutton scented tanning butter.
I for one am sick and tired of Anton acting so superior for never having seen Evita.
“What was that last one?”
— “You Must Love Me, from the Evita soundtrack.”
— “Never saw Evita.”
— “I know. You remind me every chance you get.”
— “Don’t do showtunes. Hey, turn this one up. This stuff from Who’s That Girl? is enjoying something of a, well, a renaissance. People didn’t pay much attention when it first came out. Now it’s like a new face of Madonna a lot of people have never really seen.”
— “Except on Easter Island?”
— “Easter Island?”
— “It’s the Mardi Gras after-party. You know, like Fire Island, but on the bayou.”
On payday, Anton and I take our lunches and eat them at the downtown headquarters of the West Eastern Blenman Elm Houseboys Organized Services, which is where the paychecks are cut and all the big cheeses also are. Though it is out of the way, it has become something of a pilgrimage since we both got a DVD and the handsome doctor we met at Best Buy recommended we rent that movie with Sally Field as Martha Raye. That was a blessing in disguise really because since then we have been just about the most noisy and vociferous of any of the domestics in all the WEBEHOS when it comes to oral health and labor.
Today finds us squeezing limes (ouch!) over freshly made ceviche tostadas and sipping cold jicama bisque outside Dental Benefits Coordinator Geoffery Cragmont’s office. Yes, Cragmont, that cheap bastard. He would require us to turn our teeth in with our knee pads each night if he thought he could get away with it.
Actually, some of the gardeners do, in fact, do just that. Though, I think it is more because they so identify with, copy and otherwise immolate their, excuse my language, their oppressors, and fool themselves into believing that by removing their teeth each night, they can somehow win favor with The Man.
Anyhow, we are protesting the new plan-approved dentists and as soon as we finish our lunch, we quietly slip the unsigned letter we have written under Cragmont’s door. Yes, Cragmont, that cheap bastard! All of the approved providers are located in Tepotzlan, a town south of Tucson. Tepoztlan is famous mostly for an Aztec pyramid, but also for its ratio of dentists to townspeople, which is about one-to-five. So you see, in addition to its religious and cultural significance, Tepotzlan is a benefits coordinator’s dream come true. My only objection is it is a thousand miles from here and none of our employers will let us have the car for that long.
Not even if we promise to bring back special beads.
Anton tells me his boss, Tommy Ache, is gone for the rest of the day helping the mayor pick out a comfortable pair of sneakers, so if I want I can come over and help him “finish off the old man’s weed.”
Anton, as usual is only thinking of himself. He knows marijuana makes me simultaneously so very anti-social, paranoid, hungry and sexually horny that the only time I can stand the stuff is when I am alone in bed with a chef I love and trust.
Selfish Anton. Selfish, selfish, selfish!
I offer to meet up with him after he has finished his chore.
“—Let’s see the new Star Wars.”
—No can do. There’s a game on later and the milkman invited me over to his place to slam some.
I have seen this milkman, and frankly that sounds like it would hurt.
At least at first.
When Valentino and I have finished our day-for-night gymnastic routine, I remove the welding helmet, the one I always wear for this particular scene because it blinds me to all save for the red-hot glow of the branding poker my jolly Muscle Rancher flaunts with his right hand while his left hand does the actual dirty work.
We mop up the beer and walk hand-in-hand across the soggy particle board deck, which on this warm morning seems to be practically spritzing us with its innermoist secrets. Squish and squirt! Squish and squirt! As if our dank shenanigans had not been hydrating enough, a fresh rainstorm has passed in the night, leaving the now buckled boards underfoot with all the texture, charm and Consumer Reports' rating of microwave oatmeal left in for a minute too long.
Clearly, there are many thoughts rushing through my head at the moment: Will we fall nineteen stories and splatter on the gravel below where the sidewalk should be? Is this why the building required no last month's rent but such an exorbitant cleaning deposit? Am I still named as Valentino's beneficiary?
Obvious stuff. But since you are here, I will tell you what stands out most is the observation you make each year when accompanying me on the trip to the cabin. What is it you always say, that few things are more honest than the smell of wet pressed wood? Well, I think I finally understand what you mean. Sort of.
Valentino takes a deep breath and notes in that vivified and wide-awake tone of his, “Would you look at that — the sun is coming up again.”
He is hard to read, but I think what he means is either the deck will dry and, just like at Easter, things will be better after a few days' sleep, or that it is time for him to go.
Either way, his flight leaves in a couple hours, and he looks sad. He is weeping. I know goodbyes are hard for him.
In part to snap him out of it, but mostly to disguise my amusement, I begin to sing a song:
All men, all men are liars
Their words ain't worth no more than worn-out tires.
Hey girls, bring rusty pliers
To pull this tooth
All men are liars and that's the truth.
It works. He likes it! He sniffles and smiles and I tell him I will get his things together while he finishes collecting his thoughts.
Just then, a flock of doves or sparrows— I cannot be certain which, as my eye doctor has once again botched my lasik and I cannot find my eyeglasses— scatters overhead as the sound of gunfire echoes first off of the headstones over at the cemetery and then from the new townhouses across the freeway. We embrace, once again experiencing the tingly sensation we have always shared whenever hunting season begins.