Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dead men rooming.

"So, Chad's mother wants us to look at another apartment."

I was driving my oldest, Annie, to the supermarket, preparing for a fabulous Mexican feast. "I'm well confused," I said. "You've already picked out another apartment."

"I know."

"You've already signed the lease."

"I know."

"You've already handed over the security deposit."

"I know!" Annie sat in the passenger's seat and held her belly, as her baby squirmed around inside her. "But she says this is a bargain that we can't turn down. The place is about $950, and--"

"I'm right bamboozled," I said. "That's more than what you're paying now."

"I know."

"And it's more than some of the places where I live, which you thought were great."

"I know."

"And you said you couldn't afford those places, but this is more."

"I know!" Annie giggled. "But this one is a three bedroom."

"What does that matter? If you can't afford a lower-priced one, how can you afford--"

"It gets better." Annie paused and looked out the window, still holding her belly. "I didn't tell you why she knows the place opened up."

"Oh, God!"

"See, Chad's sister lives in the apartment above, and the guy on the floor below used to be a family friend. Notice I said 'used.' He died last week."

I shook my head. "Annie, do you really want to live in a dead man's apartment?"

"It gets better. Then Chad's mother told us exactly how he died. Said it was horrible.

Said he had this weird disease that caused all his blood to flow out of every orifice as he was dying. Apparently the stains are so bad that they still can't get some of them out."

Well, that's a keeper.

Paint me a superstitious one, but I don't like to move into places that have histories like that, especially recent histories. Josie and I, when we bought the Homestead, knew that the previous owner had passed away there. He had been rather obsese and suffered a heart attack on the second floor. They had trouble getting him downstairs, from what I hear.

However, his wife had lived there for years after he died, so it hadn't been recent. Even so, both Josie and Ashes see things on the stairwell where they would have carried him down.

In our first apartment together, Corb and I both had numerous instances involving the ghost of the old man who lived there before. He used to come to visit Corb at night. Not that Corb's adverse to old men, but this one was too little creepy. Our cat Thumbkin died in the apartment, too, and for months afterwards, Corb would feel something move to the foot of the bed at the end of the day, as we were preparing to go to bed.

Bottom line, bargain hunters: I'm a bit happy that Annie did not decide to take advantage of this fabulous offer. Sometimes what came before can have a huge influence on what comes afterwards, if you ask me. Better to let sleeping corpses rest.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Biting the hand

So, this past Saturday, Corb and I headed out on our annual pilgrimmage to Provincetown, to have some fun in the sun with our fellow gays.

Where else can I spend hours holding hands with the Corbster and walking up and down the town square, over and over again? I tell you, I kind of know how Kiera Knightley and Orlando Bloom at the end of the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

Last summer, since we were a bit strapped, we spent a credit crunch day at Provincetown, trying to be as thrifty as possible. Even so, I picked up a great book on the films of Elizabeth Taylor at the used book store.

This year, things are better, so I was REALLY looking to a return to our normal routine. And one big part of that, I have to admit, was our annual dinner at the Patio, this open air restaurant located right on the main drag (pardon the pun). The food has always been great and the place affords a great view of the characters that inhabit the town.

I have to admit, I was thinking about the meal for days in advance. I had really missed going the year before, and perhaps because of the two year gap, the enjoyment I had received from the meals there in the past had been magnified to ten times larger than that giant corn dog that Michele Bachmann tried to shove in her mouth a few weeks ago.

Well, sometimes expectations do not live up to reality, and I'm sorry to report, that was my experience this year at the Patio.

I blame the waiter. He was just kind of snotty, and set the mood for the entire dining experience.

It started from the first moment he came to our table. The minute he saw us, he took one look at us, kind of made a face, and then said, "I'm assuming you won't be looking at the wine menu?" and took the wine glasses off of our table.

Fair enough. As a matter of fact, we weren't looking for any wine.

Then he came by with our water. I took the glass from his hand to place in front of me, and before I could put it down, he practically started to have a nervous breakdown in front of me, because I made the mistake of moving to place the glass down on the table, completely naked.

"Hmmm hmmm hmmm." The waiter started coughing. I looked up, to see him staring at me, aghast. "I was REALLY hoping to place that guy on a coaster." Then he snatched the glass away from Corb, so he could personally place it down, properly.

Okay, so maybe he was a stickler for those sorts of things. Amused, I picked up my blackberry and started to type, "I think our waiter is a control freak."

"Hmmm hmmm hmmm."

I looked up from the Blackberry. There was the waiter, right behind me. Had he read what I wrote? I looked around, nervously, and smiled innocently up at him.

"Ready to order?" In a flash, he took the rolls in his hand and casually tossed them across the table, so that they landed, practically on Corb's lap.

"Um, sure..." We started to order from the menu, even though I had just heard him recite a list of the specials to the people who were seated next to us. People who had ordered wine, by the way. I guess he figured we weren't the kind of people who like specials, either.

Fifteen minutes later, we had our food order, but there was only one thing. The drinks that we had ordered, when the waiter had assumed we didn't want wine? Still not at our table. Who ever heard of someone receiving their dinner before receiving their alchoholic beverages? It boggles the mind. I mean, from a restaurant standpoint, doesn't it make sense to start the guests drinking so they're ready for seconds by the time the food order comes in? More profit that way, I'd say.

So, we had to beg the boy who delivered our food to find out what had happened to our drinks. About five minutes later, our surly waiter arrived with them, along with water refills, which were long overdue.

But wait! It gets better. After dinner was through (I ordered the mac and cheese with lobster, something I have loved in the past, but kind of regretted this time), the waiter came back. "Are you all set for your check?" he asked, somehow forgetting to ask us if we wanted dessert.

I mean, come on. No drinks? No dessert? What waiter in their right mind leaves those things out?

Apparently, a waiter who didn't like his customers much. Rather than ask for a dessert menu (and I did love their desserts), I accepted the bill and paid it.

This is the point where you can always get back at a waiter, however. I left the man a ten percent tip, and deliberately wrote, under my signature, "Service was poor."

Service may have been poor, but I wasn't at the time, and if the waiter had been a bit smarter about things, we would have ordered much more and given him a bigger tip. There's a lesson for you, sinners: no matter how much your customer irritates you, it's probably best just to suck it up, smile for the camera, and pretend as if we had all the manners of Fred Astaire.

The rest of our time in Provincetown was just great, and we had a much nicer waiter at the place we visited for lunch, a waiter we met again at the hilarious drag show we attended, with Dina Martina. He was cute and had a personality, so we both ordered two rounds of drinks, both times. Happy gays are tipsy gays, after all.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Some catch.

I move over to Corb, laden with foodage. We're at our traditional booth at Panera's. It's a Sunday.

"Shhh, don't say another word," Corb says to me, the minute I sat down. "This is way too interesting."


"Shhhh! The two behind us. They're on a first date, and I don't think the boy's scoring any points."

I glance over.

"Stop it!" whispers Corb urgently. "They'll realize we're looking at them."

"Well, I didn't see much," I whisper back.

"I'll look for you. So, here's the deal. They're both probably freshman in college, tops. He's cute enough."

"Which kind of cute?"

"Yours. But he has terrible clothes sense."

"Does he have hairy legs?"

"Hairy enough."

I grin. "That'll do."

"Yeah, but you'd hate how he's dressed. He's wearing...get this...a buttoned-up Oxford with those nylon whooshy gym shorts. And, he's weaing a pair of black sandals along with black socks, pulled up all the way. You know how much you hate the socks and sandals combination."

"Black socks especially." I sigh. "Why can't straight guys figure out what a horrible, horrible look that is?"

"You should see her body language," says Corb. "You can tell so much from that. She has her arms crossed, and she's turned away from him, as far as she can get. Oh, and if I were her, I'd be bored out of my mind,"


"The boy is dull beyond belief! He just spent the past fifteen minutes telling her about his summer at camp as a CTA and this one counselor who made an autistic kid cry. Then he tried to make himself sound all sweet and sensitive, and told her that he would have been more compassionate, if he had been the counselor. Oh, shhhh! Wait...he's just about to erupt again..."

Suddenly, the boy's voice booms through our area of the restaurant. It's masculine and husky, with all the makings of a used car salesman. "You know, you really are a beauty in the old fashioned way," he says, for all to hear. "Kind of like Marilyn Monroe. No, really! You totally are. Except, not like her. But that style. You know, you're a classic beauty."

"Oh my God," groans the girl. "You are such a player!"

"No, I'm not, really! A playa! No, I am not a playa, I swear."

"Are those sweat stains?" the girl says, suddenly mortified.

Okay, at the point, I can't help it, I have to take a look.

I see the boy, looking down at his shirt, which does have huge sweat stains under the pits. Instead of looking embarrassed, he just sits there with a stupid grin on his face. "Oh. Okay, okay, I can explain that. See, I was working out at the gym before I got here. Yeah, yeah, I know, not the best decision, I can accept that. But it's not like I didn't shower. Because I did, before I left the gym. So it's not like I stink or anything."

The girl rises from the table, shaking her non-Marilyn Monroe like blond hair. "I gotta go."

"Want a ride home?" the boy volunteers.

The girl smiles politely and walks out of the restaurant.

"No way!" I whisper. "She's ditching him."

We watch the rest of the act play out, in pantomime. The boy rises from the table, moves to her, standing on the sidewalk, motions to his car, parked nearby. She shakes her head again, takes out her cell phone. Starts dialing. The boy motions to his car one more time, practically pleading with her.

She won't even look at him by this point. Rejected, he starts to walk away. She stands outside the restaurant, playing with her cell phone. Doesn't even glance in his direction as he drives away.

I can't blame her. I think if I was on a blind date and the boy next to me had huge wet sweat stains under his pits, I wouldn't be that inclined to continue with the date, either. Let that be a lesson to you, guys: save the exercise for in the bedroom!

Ah, the heartbreak of young love. I'm happy we've reached the status of old married couple. Much less drama, that way.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sunday Comics Sultry.

When I was a kid, my sister Laurie (at least, I think it was my sister Laurie) would on occasion set aside the Sunday comics pages from the Providence Journal, which my father would always bring home every Sunday morning to faithfully read (the news, that is...he hated the comics).

Every two or three months, she'd take the pages she had collected and cut them into individual strips--Mary Worth, Blondie, PEANUTS, Steve Roper and Mike Nomad (my favorite), Then, she gather them in no particular order and staple them together, so you had a little book of comic pages.

I was always fascinated by them, and remember spending summers in our garage, spread out on a lawnchair, poring through those little self-made books. A stack of comics, all randomized. Serials strewn throughout the collection, in no coherent order, often with weeks missing at a time.

To me, there was no better way to waste a summer day. Just looking at the pictures. Getting the pages grimy with my fingers.

Occasionally, I still get the feeling I had (because there was a very specific feeling) when I was laying in Dad's garage. It kind of comes over me, like a cool spring breeze.

Woke up this morning, and that feeling kind of came over me. I embraced it. Really, there's no better sensation in the world.

I always let it linger for as long as I can. It's like an aerosol can filled with summer youth.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

On the death of bookstores and the future of things.

There you go. The end of an era: the demise of the super-bookstore.

Sunday afternoon, Ashes and I stopped by our local Borders to see what was there to be had. She snagged a ton of YA, I stuck with feeding my passion for Twain and picked up copies of Life on the Mississippi and Huck Finn. God, I love that man.

In my heart of hearts, I have this strange hope that the demise of the huge bookstores will bring things full circle, and usher in a return to small local bookstores. Certainly, my quasi-city could use one: with Borders closed, I can't think of a bookstore in the vicinity. A small local bookstore would be nice, I think. Maybe keep a little online business going on the side. Hey, maybe it can't make BIG HUGE PROFITS...but guess what? Evidently, neither could Borders.

However, I know, in my mind of minds, that such a thing is not going to happen. As much as I would like the demise of big business to signal the resurgance of small business, I know that what it really signals is the inevitable ascendancy of virtual business. The local bookstore housed within your computer, on your Kindle. No need to go out, interact with people, drive your car. You can take care of everything from your bedroom, with your slippers on (never mind that because everything is virtual, and there's less need for, oh, American employees, those slippers are pretty ratty, because you can't afford to buy new ones).

Such is the way our world is headed. Someday soon, most necessities will be purchased without leaving our home, which is okay, because our job will be in our home, too. Already, I suspect that a good percentage of us who have jobs could possibly conduct most of our work out of our homes, if we needed to. The only real jobs for most of the population outside of the home will be in fast food, medical, warehouse storage, and delivery. To save money, the government will establish virtual classrooms to teach our children. Our entertainment will be fed to us through our large screen televisions. The only reason any of us will need any sort of outside business is to buy fast food and to pump gas to visit non-virtual friends. And, for those who can afford it, expensive vacation resorts, like Disney. Oh, and attorneys will survive, too.

And also, what will happen to all of these empty monster stores? I thought they were stupid and useless when they were first being erected everywhere, but now I wonder, what's going to happen to all of them, eventually?

Maybe they can be torn down, to make way for large family homes or rental units. In a virtual world, jobs will be increasingly hard to find, as only the truly technically savvy will have jobs that pay anything worth a damn. To make due, the size of the nuclear family structure will have to increase, as only two or three will have jobs that pay much, and the community that used to be our work community will revert back to the family structures we used to see hundreds of years ago (only perhaps larger and older, since we are living longer, now). Also, it won't be two parents, ten kids, but a broader, more diverse assemblage--two or three kids, one parent, an aunt or brother, grandparents.

Okay, well that's just plain depressing. Can you see why a return to the small local bookstore is what my heart is hoping for? The other possibility doesn't seem like a very pleasant existance at all. I'll take a return to normalcy, thank you.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


"Oh, ouch. Ouch ouch ouch!"

I stood there, staring into the fogged-up vanity mirror. A razor in one hand, holding up a bath towel with the other, trying to peer through the fog and assess the extent of the damage.

It was impossible, though. Irritably, I threw down the razor and snatched off a piece of toilet paper from the roll. Folded it in half. Applied it to the head. Wait for the the fog to clear.

It was evident in a matter of seconds: a bloody red stain forming in the center of the white tissue, quickly growing in size.

Dammit! "Corb, come here!"

A call from the other room: "What?" In my mind, I could see him, sitting in his favorite chair in the living room, talking to his friends on his favorite online chat site.

"Get over here this instant!" And then, putting on my best Camille. "I'm dying..."

"What, again?" Deep sigh. A groan from the chair as he rises from him it. Then Corb, at the bathroom door. "How are you dying this time?"

"Look." I point to the top of my head, covered in shaving cream, toilet paper, and blood. "I cut myself because I couldn't see a thing in the mirror. Cut myself pretty badly, too. Can you check it out for me?"

Corb sighed. "Bend down." I moved toward him, my head bowed. "Ohhhh...I think I see brain..."

"Corbett!" I snatch my head away from him, back away. "Don't joke like that. How about if my beautiful head is permanently disfigured?"

"I don't know..." Suddenly, a thought. A smile lights up his face. "We'll get you a pretty pink ski cap!"

I frown. "Just get me a band-aid, would you? Ohhhh, this is going to be bleeding for a while...and I have that lunch with Sweet Loretta today at am I going to go there, horribly disfigured like this?"

"Well, we could bandage you up like the Invisible Man..." Corb opened up the medicine cabinet and took out a box of bandaids. "But I don't think we'll need to do that...let me just squeeze some antibiotic onto the gaping wound..."

"I don't need that!"

"Relax, it'll help prevent rabies. Now, one band-aid here...and another band-aid here...and now one more band-aid..."

"Three band-aids?" I frowned and stared at myself in the mirror. "I really am going to look like the invisible man."

"Relax," said Corb, admiring his handiwork in the mirror. "You can take it off in a few hours, and no one will even know anything happened."


It wasn't until about five minutes before my visit that I remembered the band-aids. "Oh no," I said, turning to Ashes, who sat next to me in the Stang, secretly fuming about why she wasn't being allowed to drive. "I forgot all about my band-aid!" I glanced into the rea-view mirror. "Is it really noticeable?"

Ashes looked at the band-aid and wrinkled her nose. "Well..."

"Corb said I could take it off in a few hours..." Cautiously, I lift up the edge of the band-aid and start to pull. I take my eyes away from the road to glance into the rear-view mirror again. "Oh, ick."

It was only a glance, but I looked hideous! All I could see were pieces of skin resting underneath the band-aid. "Ashes, do you see..."

Ashes made a face. "Keep the band-aid on, Dad."

Well, it wasn't my first choice, but given what lay beneath, there was no way I was going to expose my pate to Sweet Loretta and the Lady Writers. How anyone could eat Thai food and stare across the table at my gaping wound was beyond me.

All of a sudden, a pretty pink ski cap seemed like a damn good option.


"Corb," I said, as soon I returned home, approaching him at his favorite chair, where he was still busy, typing away on his friends. "It's worse than we thought."

Corb looked up and wiggled his toes. His big feet were resting up against the coffee table. "What do you mean?"

"My cut," I said, barely able to hide my anguish. "I lifted up the band-aid before we went into the Thai restaurant, and it looks awful. It's all surrounded by this flaky white skin...I think I'm going to have to keep the band-aid on for a while. And I have a feeling it's going to scar."

"Really?" Corb frowned. "That's weird. Take off the band-aid for moment."

Dramatically, I heaved a sigh and lifted my arm up to pull back the band-aid and reveal my horrible disfigurement. I lowered my head, so that Corb could take a look at the extent of my injury and closed my eyes.

Suddenly, I heard a familiar snort of laughter. I opened my eyes, looked at Corb in surprise. "Why are you laughing?"

"When did you look at your injury?" he asked, still laughing.

"In the car, as I was driving...from the rear-view mirror. Why?"

"That's not scraped-off skin, you moron. It's just the antiobiotic. You needed to wipe it off! Your head is fine."

It was? Quickly, I ran into the bathroom and stared into the mirror. Grabbed a napkin and wiped away. Sure enough, my beautiful baldness was back.

Corb's laugher echoed through the apartment. "What did you think? You really were seeing brain?"

Oh, dammit. Ouch, ouch, ouch. That's the pain ouching from my wounded pride, in case you didn't recognize it.

For the record, the razor burn still kind of hurts, even now...

The price one pays for beauty.

Monday, August 1, 2011

In the company of writers.

“Boston Globe on deadline. Please call. XOXO”

Well, that’s strange.

Well, maybe not the message itself. I mean, with my job, it’s not really an out-of-the-ordinary thing. Except for the “XOXOs” tacked on to the end of it. I don’t know many reporters who do that.

Oh, and the fact that it’s ten o’clock on a Saturday night. There aren't many reporters with deadlines like that.

Still, who is it? Is it friend or crackpot? Or, both? After all, I have a few of those, too.

Better to play it safe, was my conclusion. So I text back: “What?”

Five minutes later, a response: “I said please call or you’re fired!”

Wow, this reporter has some pull. Amused, I shoot off a return response: “This is a joke, right?”

You could almost hear the deep sigh in the message that followed. “Oh, Teddy, this is Loretta. Please call me.”

Turns out that Sweet Loretta was in the town of Eldredge, a New York pal of mine from way back (she played a role in my story “The reporter who came to dinner” back in February 2010, for those keeping track). She’s also the guardian angel who hooked me up with author Aine Greaney, who was kind enough to profile me in her book for Writer’s Digest called “Writer with a Day Job,” which came out in May. (I’m sure you can still pick up a copy somewhere, for as long as bookstores still exist. Otherwise, you can pick up a copy online.)

Loretta was here for a wake (oddly enough, for a relative of a lady who performed in a show I wrote and directed many years ago...but that’s a whole other story), and wanted to know whether I had any time on Sunday afternoon to catch up with her and Aine.

And that’s how, sixteen hours later, I ended up at the Bangkok CafĂ© for some decent Thai food and some first-rate conversation.

You never know what you’re going to talk about when you put a group of writers together, of course, which is why I invited Ashes along for the ride. Sure enough, the conversation ranged from how to give a cat an enema to the reporter who came to dinner to reptilian poets who show up at writers conferences looking to scoop up a lady scribe or two. Needless to say, Ashes found it an enlightening experience.

Oh, what’s that? Kitty enemas? From what I understand, it doesn’t have much to do with tubes and water, although personally, I think that would be a hysterical thing to try and do. Instead, it has more to do with constipated cats and tiny little needles. Which doesn’t sound much fun, either. I’d rather take my chances with a tube, frankly.

Kitty enemas may not be much fun, but the day was. It’s always a pleasure to sit down amidst the company of writers. One thing you can always count on with a group like that is the love of a good story.