Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Brian was the one who started it. We were on the roof catching up on gossip when Charlotte's name came up. "You know what I'm surprised you haven't noticed?" he said. "Charlotte is a total homophobe."

I laughed, assuming it had to be a joke. Brian and I were both gay and she adored both of us. It seemed so ridiculous I'd never thought anything of the sort.

"Here's an example," Brian continued. "Name some of Charlotte's gay friends."

I thought for a minute. Charlotte knew a lot of people -- most rich and gorgeous New Yorkers did. To avoid confusion, then, she chose unique descriptive identifiers and permanently stuck them in front of names. If she knew two Alberts, she might refer to one as Crest White Strip Albert and the other as Republican Albert. If she knew two Matts, she might call one Cat Tattoo Matt and the other Staten Island Matt.

I didn't know why she did this, because it got her into trouble. Gay John wasn't too thrilled when Charlotte's mother referred to somebody named Handsome John and he realized it wasn't him.

"Well," I said to Brian, "there's Gay John, Gay Scott, Gay Stuart, Gay Toshi, ...."

"You don't think that's a little weird?" he interrupted. "To specifically single out everyone who's gay? Does she do it with anybody else -- Jews, blacks, Hispanics? If she really, truly accepted gay people, would she make such a big deal out of it?"

I blew it off as inexplicable but it planted the seed in my head. I had actually noticed how often she used the word "gay." As a gay man I hardly used it at all, whereas the straight woman used it constantly. In fact, that morning she'd asked me if I wanted to go with her and her "gay husband" to a gay club for some gay drinking and gay fooling around.

Charlotte had also raised a red flag with me when I was talking with Joe and David, a middle-aged couple who lived on the fourth floor. We were whispering about her upcoming birthday when she showed up out of nowhere. "Ohmigod," she gasped, eyeing us suspiciously. "If you guys are planning a three-way, I don't want to hear about it!"

We all laughed, but after she walked away we exchanged baffled glances. We agreed that her comment wasn't just clueless -- it was patently offensive. If she'd seen a guy talking to a hetero couple she wouldn't have assumed he was going to bang both of them.

I tried to forget about the whole thing during our usual Project Runway-watching night. While I was telling Emma about my trip to Berlin, though, she started acting weird again. "A lot of guys in Berlin have rings tattooed around their forearms," I said. "And I don't know if it's true or not, but somebody told me it's coded information about fistfucking."

"Ew!" Charlotte snapped, dropping a tortilla chip.

I scowled at her. "He said, 'Those rings mark how far they've gotten their arms into another guy's ass."

"That's disgusting," Charlotte sang.

I ignored her and went for the punchline. "I told him I'd have to get a ring tattooed halfway down my index finger."

Charlotte jumped up off the couch. "THAT'S IT!" she yelled, cranking up the TV. "STOP! I'm not going to hear about this!"

"About what?" I asked. "About gay guys having sex?"


"FINE!" I shouted as I stomped toward the door. "I WILL! And you can talk about whatever the fuck you want, but you won't be talking to me!"

I slammed the door behind me, and after that Charlotte and I didn't speak for eight days. Before the fight she'd invited me to her birthday party, and when the day came I decided I'd still go. There would be enough people that it wouldn't be awkward, and I could leave a gift as a peace offering. I didn't think I'd done anything wrong but I felt kind of guilty, so when I shopped for her gift I went overboard. I went to a shop down the street that specialized in all the Brooklyn clich├ęs: everything was handmade, sustainable, and organic, from the Peruvian bags woven from hand-twisted yarn to the incense made by Patagonian tribes from fossilized yak poop.

I finally settled on a bracelet made of hand-carved beads from Namibia. It was really beautiful -- as it should have been for $320 -- with chunky tourmaline and lapis beads carved with intricate tribal designs. It was totally Charlotte: it had style, it supported indigenous people, and she wouldn't have to worry about running into somebody wearing the exact same thing.

I toted the gift to the birthday party and Charlotte spotted me the second I walked through her door. Our eyes locked. Without a word our eyes exchanged everything we needed to say: that we both felt terrible, that we'd made a horrible mistake, and that we couldn't survive another minute without making amends.

We ran toward each other in seemingly slow motion, shoving the other party guests aside. We met in the middle of the room and hugged each other like we were never going to let go. "I'm sorry," I cried. "That's the stupidest thing I've ever done. I know you're not homophobic. I was just being stupid or I had a stroke or something, and I promise I'll never bring it up again."

"Really?" Charlotte said, wiping away tears. "You promise?"

"I promise. I'll never mention it again."

We hugged once more, and when we separated I noticed that both of our eyes were filled with tears. That's the mark of a great friend, I thought. When one of you does something unbelievably stupid, it just brings you closer together.

Naturally the party was brilliant, since Charlotte's friends were all six-foot-tall Russian models or handsome Norwegian musicians. We drank and laughed until the sun went down, and then a tipsy Charlotte took center stage to unwrap all of her gifts. She gushed over a pair of shoes, a painting, and a crystal vase before she got to my offering. She shot me an excited look and I veritably glowed with pride. She tore the paper open, pulled the lid off the box, and extracted the bracelet from the box.

With fifty people watching breathlessly, she held the beaded string at arm's length, and her expression turned from glee to disgust. "Roman," she spat like a third-grade teacher, "I never stick anything up my ass."

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Jokes In Ten Words Or Less

Roman numerals and an alligator band? Not on my watch.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Not Sure Why The Word "Woman" Appears Three Times In A Donald Trump Quote

[Hillary Clinton is] a really sarcastic woman. To sum up -- and I'll tell you the other thing: She's an incompetent woman. And I've seen it. She's an incompetent woman.
-- Donald Trump to CNN

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

I love Berlin, there's no doubt about it. It's totally unlike New York. Prices are low, people are friendly, and there are folks excited by things other than cash. It's the latter that brings me and Dieter, the German Guy Who's Taller Than Me, to Folsom Europe on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Folsom is a "fetish" festival that started in San Francisco and spread to New York and Berlin. It's a guaranteed good time because the well-cultivated scary vibe surrounding it has thus far scared off all the bachelorette parties that plague our bars like herpes sores.

BACHELORETTE #1: Ohmigod, Cynthia, look -- there's a man in a puppy mask!

BACHELORETTE #2: Ohmigod, Charlotte, look -- those aren't Snausages!

I find myself trying to figure out what about this festival is uniquely Berlin. It's not the dozens of puppies, the sad trend I first spotted in New York months ago. It's stupid: basically it's submission in a leather dog mask. You scamper around and wait for your master to either spank you or give you treats. I tell Dieter's friend Herbert I don't think it's remotely sexy. Call me crazy but I've never gotten an erection looking at a big dog's ass.

"What about the tails?" he asks. "Do you know how they stay in place?"

I don't care if Burt Reynolds is holding them on, it's not getting a rise out of me.

Herbert points out the rings some guys have tattooed around their forearms, some as high up as their elbows. "It means they're into fist-fucking, and it shows how far they've gone," he explains.

That's kind of Berlin, I decide. The trend hasn't yet hit the U.S. but I should not be the guy who starts it. At least my tattoo would be cheap, since it'd be just below the second knuckle on my index finger.

The streets are jammed with hunky men in leather and vinyl yet one area is oddly clear. We investigate and find a mostly-naked man in a wheelbarrow -- I will tell this story to Germans later and no one will have the faintest clue what a wheelbarrow is -- holding a cardboard signs that says PISSOIR.

Isn't that French? I wonder. I decide since the cardboard is only three feet across the man couldn't fit the German word, which is PENILFREEFLOWINPLATZ. The man looks lonely, dry and dejected, so the liberal crowd is feeling guilty and muttering excuses.

MAN #1: I can't! I'm pee-shy.

MAN #2: I just went two minutes ago.

MAN #3: Look at this crowd! I'm a grower, not a shower.

Finally a young butch number steps up to the plate. The crowd presses forward to watch as he unbuttons his fly and whips it out.

This is really Berlin, I think, as I await the forbidden act. Pure decadent Berlin.

Just as the first splash nears its target, though, a man bursts out of the crowd and throws himself between the yellow flow and Wheelbarrow Guy. The crowd gasps: it's like a really gay version of Saving Private Ryan. The urine flies at the newcomer's face and hits it. It's close range so water ricochets everywhere and the receiver's face distorts both from the impetus of his sudden movement and the pressure of the golden stream. Still, the giant smile he's wearing tells us everything we need to know.

The man in the wheelbarrow isn't smiling quite as much.

I walk away and reconsider my judgment. No, that was all New York, I decide as a wayward puppy licks at my boots. It looks like you're finally going to get what you want and somebody shows out of nowhere to grab it.

Friday, September 16, 2016

I'm too empathetic, that's a fact. Sad stories that other people find mildly depressing completely disable me. I'm overly sensitive, and I feel too deeply. I recognize the hardships and struggles that others face and often find that they paralyze me. I know I could applaud someone's strength in facing deprivation, but instead I find myself overwhelmed with pity and the sense that no matter how hard these brave folks struggle these are unending battles that they will eventually lose.

The first time I walked into Dieter's apartment I took one glance around and felt tears sting in my eyes. The sadness hit me like a ton of bricks. Was that a ... fake flower arrangement on the sideboard? A hanging rattan lamp? And there on the Bombay Company coffee table, was that a Tom Bianchi photo book?

My head spun so fast I expected kids to ask me for rides. I ran into the kitchen. "I ... I need a drink!" I sputtered to a mystified Dieter. I threw open a cabinet and froze in horror at its contents. Ferrer Roche candy, peach-flavored green tea bags, and a kitchen timer shaped like a goose. My body tried to register its shock but the guttural cry froze in my throat. What kind of person could live like this? I wondered. What godforsaken melange of horrific taste and disposable income could drive them to buy these things?

I concentrated on my happy place. This isn't so bad, I thought, and then my eyes settled on a painting of a naked male torso with highlights lavishly brushed in gold.

I ran for the foyer as a clueless Dieter followed. "So, how do you like the place?" he asked.

The immediate response in my head was, "Ohmigod, you poor, poor thing!" but aloud I said "It's terrific! It is really, really great!" And it was, I recognized. Not his apartment: folks from Ethiopia would have said, "You know what? We'll just live in this pile of mud, thanks." But his courage. His bravery. His strength in the face of such a paralyzing disability. I was privileged to live in a world with Vermeers and Manets and didn't realize that to some gay men it's not really art unless there's a penis in it.

I pulled his body close to mine, throwing my arms tight around him. We hugged as I mentally applauded him for his bravery. We kissed, then kissed some more. The affection turned to desire as shirts were slipped off and pants unbuttoned. Seconds away from abandoning all thoughts to pleasure I noticed one side of his underwear was green, one side was blue, and the middle was orange.

"Oh HELL no," I said aloud as I grabbed my shirt and stormed out. I blindly staggered down the darkened street repeating: No. No. No. NO! I mean sure, I had vast reservoirs of empathy and compassion, but at some point even Doctors Without Borders are going to say, "Oh, I have just fucking had enough."

Thursday, September 1, 2016

I am in Berlin for a month to spend some time with The Guy Who Is Taller Than Me. A security scare at Frankfurt cancelled my connection to Berlin, so I had to take a five-hour train ride to arrive here late last night. My luggage, however, is at some airport.

I go to the supermarket to replace toiletries. Toothbrush, check. Toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo. No contact lens solution? I ask a clerk.

No, she says. For that you must go to the apotheke.

I find an apotheke, which is a sort of curated drug store, and find contact lens solution. By my calculations I'm about a third of the way to getting presentable. No combs? I ask another clerk.

No, she says. Her English is not as good as the last. I must go to a very specialized store, she says, but she doesn't know the word in English and there are none around here anyway. She looks me straight in the eye, eager to convey the idea. You know, she says, it's that odd kind of establishment that sells soap.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

I am such an asshole I purposely use words wrong so I can feel smarter when no one corrects me. Hopefully no one ever will.