Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Obama Backs Away From His Promise To Carry a Really Gay Umbrella

As our nation approaches its 233th birthday, I sit here with heavy heart. We Americans have had over two centuries to make this nation a land where all men are created equal, but to my immense shame this still isn't true.

I speak, of course, about racial discrimination. Of a judicial system that assumes, much as we try to deny it, that white people just aren't as smart as blacks.

This is absolutely preposterous, you self-proclaimed patriots cry. It's ridiculous! How could the most powerful country in the world treat the white minority with such disrespect? Alas, facts cannot be disputed. Yet another travesty of justice occurred just the other day.

After years of helping run a major cocaine ring out of his University of Vermont fraternity house, white student Christopher Duncan was sentenced to absolutely zero time in jail. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute the drug, but his fancy-pants big-city lawyer double-crossed him and got him off just about scot-free.

How? By describing his client as too "stupid" to know what he was doing. Judge William Sessions III fell hook, line and sinker for the demeaning description, and in a decision that must have left Benjamin Franklin spinning in his grave, he agreed the white college senior was "naive" and just a "bit player" in the conspiracy.

Yes, this paragon of the legal system apparently believed that a white college student two weeks away from graduating was too dumb to realize he was selling drugs. And rather than facing the honorable sentence of jail time, the lad is hit with a patronizing decree of house arrest accompanied by the irking slur of naivete.

How those words must sting Mr. Duncan's rich white parents! Their pride and joy, "naive"! The president of his fraternity, the son of an attorney, a "bit player!" How they must have cringed when the judge said "This is not the kind of professional drug conspiracy I'm used to seeing here." If I were in their shoes, I'd probably have done something rash -- because if my children ever ran a drug ring, it'd be at least as good as anything run by the blacks.

Now picture, in astounding contrast, the black adolescent facing this same fate. He'd be laughed out of the courthouse if he tried claiming he was dumb! No judge would fall for that. He'd hand down the minimum sentence of ten years and send the boy to join all the other intelligent blacks in jail. Imagine how people would scream bloody murder if this lad was sprung from the courthouse with disparaging stereotypes in his ears!

Still, I know the world moves eternally on a path toward righteousness, as befitting God's plan. Call me a dreamer, call me a cock-eyed optimist, but this Fourth of July I'll be watching the fireworks with a hand over my heart, because I know that one day this will all be history.

One day our court system will realize that rich white college students are just as smart as poor black high-school dropouts.

One day our judicial system will know that when our paler children drive to Rhode Island to buy ten thousand dollars worth of cocaine, then break it up into baggies and sell it to their fraternity brothers, they frequently sense that they're committing some kind of crime.

One day our democratic system will put our white progeny behind bars, where they belong, instead of hiding them away in a cushy job where the scarlet letter of innuendo stains their Armani suits.

And on that day, I'll join all the proud black fathers as I too get to smuggle a shiv and some smokes to my son at Rikers Island instead of just wiring him another thousand to blow in the secret shame that is Myrtle Beach.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Karaoke Monday

Oh yea yea yea.

Now I'm a good Christian who's found his mate,
but there is this one thing that makes me irate.
It's like every time I step in a sauna
there's some naked dude who says, "Hey, you wanna?"

But don't let my irritation
disguise my real elation.
Really I'm glad.
Oh, I'm gladder than glad.
With my friends I pretend that I'm mad
I act like it's horribly bad.

Now there's some chicks I like to kiss,
but they'll never make me miss
the queers of our town
when my wife's not around.

Mm-hmm. Oh yea, baby.

Now if I appear to be straitlaced,
it's only an act so you won't hate me.
In order to shield my pride I try
to pretend that guys don't masturbate me.

But don't let my angry venom
make you think I won't drop denim
tonight at the mall.
Don't think that at all.
I'll be there, in my usual stall
with the hole that's cut right through the wall.

Oooh, oh.

There's some chicks I think are cute
but they just can't make me shoot
like the queers of our town
when my wife's not around.

Just like Liberace did,
I try to keep my urges hid.
Acting like it's girls I bone
While in the back seat I get blown
by the queers of our town
when there's no one around.

Oh yea baby.

Now if there's a frown upon my face
Don't let that harsh demeanor
Make you dodge my aching weiner.
Don't let my re-election
Distract you from my erection.

Really I'm queer
so just slide over here. . . .

Friday, June 26, 2009

I blame religious people for death. If America were a country of atheists, death would have been solved by now. We atheists know it's final. We grasp its seriousness. Tell an impressionable kid that Grandma, Grandpa, their dog Binky and their hamster Fluffo are all gone forever because we've never solved this whole death thing, and they're going to do what they can to help out.

"When I grow up," little Heather will proudly proclaim, "I'm going to solve death, so Binky and Fluffo and Grandma and Grandpa would never have to leave us."

But tell the kids that all these folks just wafted up to heaven, where they're given robes and halos and tambourines, and tell them we're all going to meet up later with Jesus for a fabulous, glittery reunion, and suddenly the kids won't take it that hard.

"Wow," little Heather says. "That's cool." Pause. "For Christmas, can I have a stripper pole?"

Frankly, then, I'm a little perturbed that we're making so much progress in so many other areas. Want aerosol scalp paint to cover up that bald spot? You got it. Want a crepemaker with built-in CB radio? Sharper Image has eight models. Want something to stop that heart attack? Oops. Would you settle for a toothbrush that plays "Don't Worry, Be Happy"?

Improving life is cool, but maybe it's time to focus on lengthening it. We've got TV channels dedicated to aging housewives, nostalgic war-mongers, tropical fruit. We've got remote-control can openers. We've got attachments that turn our vacuum cleaners into barber shops. And we're kicking off left and right.

So, adios, Farrah. It was fun, Ed. Great to know you, Michael. You're in our hearts forever. Right now, though, I gotta sign off. The mall opens at ten, and hot dogs on a stick don't exactly fry themselves.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

My sister B. A. is a Renaissance woman of crazy. Whereas some sanity-challenged people stand out in just one or two directions -- odd mood swings, inappropriate outbursts, disregard for the usual rules of personal grooming or dress -- B. A. excels at them all. She'll brag that her ratty gray hair is a sign of ageless feminity and wisdom, then complain that that she can't find a date with teeth. She'll viciously berate any waiter who dares bring her a dish containing cilantro.

And, perhaps more seriously, she's about eight seconds away from being killed in a car crash.

B. A. planned this road trip, and without realizing the extent of her condition I didn't blanch when she said she wanted to drive. Within seconds of getting into the car, though, I realized that sitting there quietly would be harder than getting my Pekinese to play miniature golf.

"I can multitask while I'm driving," B. A. proudly chirped as our van careened straight toward a stop sign. "I can do more than just one thing at once," she announced as she dabbed on mascara and swerved into the path of an oncoming school bus. "I've been driving like this for years and never hit anything," she assured me as she doublechecked our route on a road map and clipped a route marker at the side of the road.

I tried to argue to the contrary but she cut me off before I got two words out. "I was carpooling with a Chinese lady once, and she kept implying that I was a bad driver. She kept asking me: 'Don't you think you're driving too fast?' 'Don't you think you should be paying more attention?' It was ridiculous, and insulting, and one day I just couldn't take it any more. I screamed at her, 'Here's a question: why are Asian people such lousy drivers?'" And then she cackled at her own outrageousness.

While she was telling this story, though, she was so fixated on my reaction that she didn't notice the road sign announcing that our speed limit was decreasing from forty miles per hour to fifteen, and wasn't prepared for the upcoming curve. She had time for exactly one "Oh, shit!" before we sailed over the gravel shoulder and off our little one-lane road.

We came to a halt almost immediately, kicking up a tornado of dirt. We sat there and watched the dust whip around the car before gradually settling and revealing our new location: in a field blossoming with some verdant summer crop, somewhere in southeast Vermont.

I looked at B. A. She looked at me. "So," I replied, "what did the Chinese lady say?"

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Repeat Wednesday: Go with the Flow

Last week I went to a cocktail party that positively sparkled with witty repartee and fascinating conversation. Too bad all I wanted was to get laid. I made my excuses, hightailed it to the Eagle, and the first reasonably attractive guy I saw I tailed home. We stripped off our clothes and he leaned in close, grinning like a 12-year-old about to swap his sister's Hershey bar with Ex-Lax.

"You know what would be really cool?" he said, eyes twinkling. "You could tie me to the bed and force me to suck your feet!"

Now, this bothered me in a couple different ways. First, I wasn't falling for his alleged spontaneity. It reminded me of those hetero guys who find themselves on dates with hot, tipsy chicks: "I heard about these things called 'body shots,' " they say, feigning innocence. "You wanna give it a try?" And second, I was supposed to force him to do me? I'm attractive; he should be happy I'm naked and there. I made my excuses and scurried off, adding entry No. 472 to my "Why I Shouldn't Sleep With Strangers" list.

A few days later, though, it happened again. Another guy with a weird request, and another naked scene. "You know what would be great?" this one said like a kid at Christmas. "My neighbor's a submissive pig into hypnotism and electricity. How about we see if he's busy?"

I put my finger to my chin, pretending to think, but mostly I tried to remember where my pants were. I made some vague excuse -- when you flee a pervert's apartment you don't quibble about the details -- and went out and found a replacement. My heart leapt up to my throat when we got naked and he too started to speak: "There's something I've always wanted to try," he said. "How do you feel about Nixon masks and cheese?"

"OK," I thought. "I give up. Everybody's doing that midlife-crisis thing. But can't you all just buy Porsches?"

Now, I've got nothing against crazy stuff: I mean, some people think what I do in bed is crazy, and that's before they hear about the chickens. It's the surprise part I don't like. You wouldn't ask people over for dinner and then surprise them with horse testicles in cat pee, and you shouldn't surprise sex partners with frilly pink corsets or Ovaltine enemas.

For the third time in a row, I put my clothes back on and made my excuses, but halfway down the hall I noticed my wallet was gone. It falls out of my pants a lot so it didn't particularly surprise me -- I just didn't like having to re-greet somebody whose apartment I'd just fled. I walked back to his door and heard him talking on the phone.

"He looked really hot," he was saying. "Nice face, stylish clothes. But then he takes his clothes off, and oh my God! He's so pink and furry I'm afraid the cat's going to run after him. He's got a roll of flab six inches wide around his waist, and it looks like he hasn't been to the gym since gravity was invented. I was like, 'Skipper, better put your shirt back on or Little Buddy's going to be sick!'" I poked my head in and he pasted on the smile I use when opening presents from Grandma. "I'll call you right back," he interjected. "Something's come up."

He hung up and I edged my way in. "I guess you were talking about somebody else," I said, trailed by an awkward chuckle.

"Oh, no," he said, with an insouciant air. "We were talking about you."

"So that stuff about the Nixon mask and the cheese -- that was just to get rid of me?"

He nodded. "It seemed easiest. You weren't quite what I expected."

I sighed. "Well, I'm not a model or a professional bodybuilder. But I work out three times a week, and I've never gotten any complaints."

"Oh, puh-leeze!" he cried like Joan Rivers spotting Cher. "Aside from your massive pinkness there's a zit on your shoulder the size of Vesuvius, and if you stood with your feet together I could still toss a ham between your legs."

I stared at him in disbelief, too stunned to argue. "I forgot my wallet," I said frostily, and I pushed past him to the bedroom where it was lying on the floor. Maybe he'd stripped me of my dignity, I thought, but I'd still have a Discover card with nearly $80 available. With my head held high, I strolled back outside, where the freezing air and his insults hit me like a smack in the face.

The sun was setting as I slowly trudged home and the city darkened around me. Although I hate Los Angeles, I found myself missing it: I mean, having sex there was mindless fun, while here it was like entering a dog show. You take your clothes off and they're inspecting every muscle, every hair, asking you to trot around the bed. "That right delt is slightly saggy," they say, looking up from their clipboard, "and there's a slight curvature to the spine. The chest hair is off-center, and the ears are out of proportion. I'm afraid you'll have to go." But I guess I should have expected it. New Yorkers are cutthroat about everything -- business, sports, even food. Why did I think sex would be different? For the first time in my life I had to confront one of life's biggest questions: Would I ever have sex in this town again?

I got my answer soon enough. On the subway home, a nice-looking guy struck up a conversation with me, then asked me to his place "for coffee," and I went. I stripped naked, he leered at me lustfully, and everything was cool. Then he took off his clothes, and damn. Freak-show time. From chest hair shaped like a bagel to thighs as flat and gray as Flipper to skinny ankles where the hair had been worn away by tight socks.

This would not do.

You know what I'd really like to try?" I said, feigning excitement. "I'd love for you to piss on me while singing 'Send in the Clowns.' "

When he led me into the bathroom and began humming the intro, I nearly freaked. If I'd still been wearing either pants or shoes, in fact, I'd be in Cincinnati right now. But then I thought, Heck, I'm not getting any younger, and to tell you the truth, I'm not in the best shape in the world. How often do opportunities like this come up?

I learned my lesson. By the time he finished, let me tell you, there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Repeat Tuesday: Sugar Frosted Flake

I met Trevor bar-hopping one night. He was a few years older than me -- heck, a few hundred years older -- so I tried to lose him, but he was incredibly persistent.

"Come home with me," he said.

"I couldn't," I replied.

"It's just a small penthouse. Ten thousand square feet in Chelsea, overlooking the Hudson."

"I'll get my coat."

Almost instantly we became an item. My usual boring life vanished as I got swept up in a whirlwind of fast cars, expensive restaurants, and rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. My mom always said it was just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor one, but I thought it was easier to fall for a wealthy guy. He was cultured. He was refined. He didn't wear underwear twice. How could anybody resist?

A determined, confident lawyer, Trevor leapt into commitment headfirst. Waking up the morning after our first date I found myself alone in a bedroom the size of a football field, walls of glass on three sides. "Had to go to work," a note on the Noguchi table read. "Make yourself at home. See you tonight. P. S. The alarm is on so you can't leave."

Naturally, I was horribly annoyed. I felt like a goldfish in a bowl, a bird in a cage, a Fabergé egg, though I'd only pleased a couple members of the Russian royal family. But as I wandered the endless hallways dotted with tasteful Italian statues, passing room after room stuffed with armoires, wet bars, and Renoirs, I felt my anger fade. By the time I counted bathroom number eight I never wanted to see real life again.

The kitchen was vast and industrial, with more chrome than a Cadillac dealership, and the fridge was stocked like Balducci's. I smeared some brie with caviar and headed to the rec room, where a flat-screen TV covered the one non-glass wall. I'd never let myself be "kept," I decided as I watched a King Kong-sized Julia Child chop garlic larger than my head. But I could be cute and appreciative until chickens colonized Mars.

That first date lasted eight days, with just a quick pause for breath before the second: Trevor whisked me away to his home in the Hamptons. When he hosted a pool party, though, so I could meet his friends, it spiraled straight down the toilet. There were 50 of us: Trevor, me, and 48 other folks who, one by one, either congratulated me on my "catch" or suggested innovative ways to suck the poor sap dry.

"You know what you should do," one attractive man suggested, "is have an early birthday. That way you'll get a present whether or not he lasts until the real thing."

"Make up a sick aunt in Brooklyn," a thin young guy in Speedos advised, "so you can get out occasionally and sleep with someone attractive."

"Two words," a Leona Helmsley-type whispered. "Hot chocolate. It masks the taste of everything from Rohypnol to Beano."

I figured another intergenerational couple would understand, but once December wandered out of earshot May cut to the chase: "Getting him into bed was the easy part," he disclosed. "Now you've got to get into the will."

Eventually Trevor's sister sidled over and took my arm. "I can't believe the hateful things people are saying," she said. I felt like kissing her, but then she glanced over at Trevor, who was flipping burgers in his tiny swim trunks, and guffawed. "I mean, look at that eyesore. You'll earn every penny you get!"

I broke free of her grip and stormed into the house, Trevor toddling close behind. "I'm sick of these people," I said, tears welling in my eyes. "Every one of them thinks I'm after your money. It's like I have to be a gold digger just because I wear ugly clothes, cut my own hair, and buy my cologne from Rite Aid."

That last one froze Trevor in his tracks, so I continued to the bedroom alone. I changed into street clothes, threw my stuff in my suitcase, then cleared my toiletries out of the bathroom. I stumbled outside and got in the limo, but before I could tell the driver where to go Trevor had jumped in beside me, fully clothed.

"I hoped we could ignore the differences between us," I said, "but your friends don't seem willing to try. Why are they so suspicious? Why can't they see us as a couple, as two men in love, instead of old and rich paired with young and for sale?"

"Roman," he said, taking my hand in his, "it's nothing personal. Everybody makes assumptions, rich and poor alike. It's just the way people are."

"That's where you're wrong," I said. "It's the greedy who think we're all after money. It's the conniving who suspect us of plots. It's the backstabbers who think everyone's after them. I'll go hang out with poor, stupid, lazy people if that'll stop me from being insulted."

I don't know why this made me think of McDonald's, but it did. My stomach started growling, so I told the driver to head there, and we rode in silence until the golden arches appeared. "If you set one foot in there," Trevor warned, "it's over between us."

"I know," I said, nodding gravely, "but that's how it's got to be. This is my world. Here, I know I won't be judged."

Trevor followed me inside, resigned to my decision. "At least let me pay for you," he said, "as my farewell gift." I gave him a hug, for the last time inhaling the woodsy cologne that cost more than my education. When I let go, he stepped up to a register and bravely faced the geeky clerk. "I don't want anything, but I'd like to pay for him." The clerk looked to me for my order, punched it in, and read the total aloud, his pubescent voice cracking.

Trevor and I exchanged one final glance. I'd miss him, as strong feelings intermingled with my love of his wealth. But I knew what I was doing was right. Maybe these people weren't rich or fun or creative or smart, and maybe they had to move their fingers in the air to read the menu, but they wouldn't damn someone based on appearance. We were below pride, with our farts and flab and turquoise fannypacks. This Dorothy was back in his Kansas.

As Trevor fished the bills from his wallet the clerk looked at the two of us -- him in his tailored finery, me in my humble attire. His mouth twisted into a scabby pink smile and he scratched the top off a zit. "I love it when folks buy food for the homeless!" he said.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Repeat Monday: Tall Tale

I'm taking a road trip through some of America's Marriage Equality states: Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. So, repeats until Thursday.


I'm tall, dark, and handsome, and I think it stinks. The "dark" part is cool, and I wouldn't choose anything other than "handsome." But the "tall" thing is a freakin' pain in the ass.

Of course there are the obvious problems. When I go to the movies, whoever gets stuck behind me sits and swears for two hours. I have permanent twig marks on my forehead from low-hanging branches. And traveling by plane, well. . . . I've had my legs in the air for eight hours before, but never while wearing pants.

What I don't understand, then, is why guys get so jealous.

Whenever I go barhopping, I get a ring of tiny admirers around me, shrieking about how wonderful it is to be tall. "You can see everything around you," they squeal. And I think, "Hey, kids, this ain't Switzerland!" There are no glaciers sliding by, or fluffy little woodland creatures scampering through the shrubbery. We're surrounded by 100 half-dressed men, and while you got your face rubbing Hunky's face, or your tongue on Rugged's chest, I'm left sucking on Toothpick's bald spot.

Yeah. Woohoo. Tall power!

Being gay makes being tall even worse. Straight guys don't care if their clothes are ugly, or dated, or if they fit like burlap sacks. They go to the Big and Tall store, find a polyester shirt with palm trees on it and purple pleated Dockers, and they're like, "Cool. A new outfit."

They're lucky. They're not heading back to Homoland, where the guys wear Prada and Gucci and spit on folks who shop at Sears. People in Heteroville are accustomed to crap, so they don't chase after you with torches when they spot it. They buy shoes at PayLess, food at Wal Mart, and housewares at Target. They don't clutch their palpitating chests when they see a clothing label that reads "Made in America for Freakish Fred's House of Pituitary Problems."

Here's what straight people say when they see a badly-dressed tall guy:

1.) Gosh, he's tall.

2.) I bet his parents are tall.

3.) I wonder if he plays basketball.

Here's their gay equivalent:

1.) Sweet Lord, are those pants from Sears?

2.) That reminds me. I should mail a donation to St. Dymphna's Church for Folks Who Might As Well Just Shoot Themselves.

3.) HeLLOOOO! Halloween is 207 days aWAAAAAY!!!

Lurking just outside the tiny admirers is the Bob Vila Boyfriend, poised for rescue like a knight in shining armor. While he means well, he'll prove a little annoying. It would be cool if he wanted to repair my microwave oven or regrout my bathtub, but it's geeky old me who's the fixer-upper. He approaches me like a building contractor, with a list a mile long on his clipboard, thinly veiled slurs hidden inches below the compliments:

"If you worked out," he says, ticking off item number one, "you could be really gorgeous."

Now, this might qualify as flattering . . . if I hadn't lifted weights three hours a day for the last eight years. Unfortunately, biceps that are longer than the "Lord of the Rings" movies don't quite bulge like ones that are as short as cartoons.

I smile and explain that I've been to the gym once or twice. "You should have seen me 10 years ago," I say. "I was so skinny I could have swum to Manhattan just through the plumbing."

He crosses that off and turns to item number two. "You'd look really hot wearing cotton/khaki/instant pudding/anything other than what you have on."

Which, of course, translates to, "Hey, those are some ugly clothes!" And I think, er, I've always kind of suspected that, because -- hey -- I've GOT EYES.

Now, I like getting a little attention, so sometimes I'll go out with these guys. And then the sad ritual begins. Where a date with Bob Vila might start off at Home Depot, his gay counterpart heads to the Big and Tall Store. "They've got clothes for tall guys there," he explains, and you slap your forehead, like you'd assumed they sold monkeys or clam juice or something.

What he doesn't realize is, you've been there, oh, 500 times. Once to see what they had, and 499 times to confirm that, yes, their clothes suck as bad as you remember. And the store owners are just as happy to see you, standing out like a hot dog in a box full of donuts. "Hey, boss!" the clerk yells. " That tall guy's here again! What should I do?"

The boss sees you searching in vain for anything that'll fit, and flashes back to Godzilla versus Tokyo. "AIEEE!" he screams, scurrying for the door. "Run for your life!"

I cornered a salesclerk during one of my first few visits. "We don't actually have any tall clothes," he admitted sheepishly. "We just put that in the name so it's not as embarrassing for the fat guys."

That makes sense, though it has totally wasted my time. It would be like opening a clothing store for transvestites and Baptists: Most folks don't mind claiming to be one or the other.

And so your clueless new pal drags you back there, just knowing it'll be a sea of Prada XT or Gucci Longue. He'll roam the aisles for an hour or two, looking stunned -- wondering why the Levis top out at a 32-inch inseam, which looks like hotpants on me.

I'll try on some random monstrosity, just to make him feel better, but while I'm in the dressing room he'll scurry off in shame. Me, I've been objectified, insulted, and treated like Formica in a world full of marble. I head to the nearest gay bar, where the Tiny Admirers surround me like a stretched Rue McClanahan. It's as if they're motion-activated: I scratch my head and it fires one up. “How tall are you?” he chirps excitedly. “Six foot seven,” I reply. I look toward the ceiling and another kicks in. “How tall are you?” he asks. “Six foot seven.”

I push my way toward the bar, hoping massive doses of alcohol will make them vanish. The bartender takes my order, then maneuvers his mouth near my ear. "How tall are you?" he asks.

"Six foot seven.”

He looks me up and down. With my height, it takes a while. "I see the six feet,” he finally declares. “Now how about the seven inches?"

It's an old line, but I go home with him anyway.

I love seeing that look of surprise.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Repeat Friday: Stripping Grammar Naked

Once in a while, somebody will ask me where I learned to write. Sometimes I tell them about the year I spent under John Rechy at Princeton. Sometimes I tell them about the short-story classes I took with Edmund White, or the sabbatical at that writer's colony off the woodsy coast of Nantucket.

And sometimes I tell them the truth. That I learned everything I know from sitting naked in front of my computer and reading lots and lots of godawful porn.

Experts know the best way to learn what's good is to study what's bad. For instance, I learned how not to cook Mexican food from Taco Bell, what not to wear from Wal-Mart, and how not to have sex with ex-husbands 1, 2 and 4. Desperate to find the very worst in writing, I cruised the sleaziest internet porn sites, searched Google for every four-letter word, and scrutinized every fan-fiction site where Spock and Sulu ever touched.

To save you time, though, and from discovering your belongings heaped on the doorstep by an intolerant boyfriend who knows about Internet Explorer's "History" file, I've compiled the most miserable writing I've found in many hard years of study. If we take a moment to examine these examples and see what mistakes were made, we can use that knowledge to write up some rules that we can use to improve our own work.

(1) "He had nice thick chest hair that covered his entire body."

The first thing we learn is, never eat breakfast while surfing porn sites. Because while chest hair can be reasonably fetching on, say, a chest, when it creeps over to the forehead or the elbows it can make Jim Belushi spew up his Sugar Pops. It doesn't take an expert to realize chest hair is best confined to the upper torso, in much the same manner that toenails should remain in the vicinity of the feet.

(2) "Jim grabbed his ass through his tight shorts and said, ‘I want you bad.'"

From this awkward construction we learn that if there are two or more males in your story, avoid using the word "his." Your dramatic scene will turn farcical if the reader thinks your hero is grabbing his own body parts and expressing his feelings of desire. Similar examples include the following:

-- The stranger wrapped his hungry mouth around his mushroom head.
-- Standing at the side of the bed, Gustavo grabbed his ankles and lifted them high into the air.
-- Slowly Maury worked his lips down to his stomach.

(3) All night long Carl slept, sprawled naked across the bed, and Max approached with anticipation.

What we learn here is, modifiers in the first half of your sentence also apply to the second. We’ve got a scene that’s probably eight hours long, which means Max moves about as slowly as gay rights.

(4) "Brad's endowment was throbbing so hard Joshua thought it'd explode."

The problem here is painfully obvious: Don't frighten your reader with images from Japanese horror movies. You've spent hours conjuring up the perfect picture, then you go and spoil the mood:

-- Chuck's erection grew so hard it could have knocked over Hitler.
-- I'd never seen an ass pounded so relentlessly, and I watch Bill O'Reilly.
-- His equipment, trapped in those thin white shorts, looked like my grandma in her bra.

(5) Max took out Walter's penis and played with it.

Watch out for the words “took out.” While you may assume it’s equivalent to “bared" or "uncovered,” the reader may opt for another meaning, like “to remove from a box.”

(6) I really wanted to have sex with him. After I finished my coffee, I slid over next to him and brought it up.

Here we've got a confusing pronoun -- in this case, the word "it." The writer is hoping he can refer all the way back to his previous sentence, but instead the reader stops at the closest noun, which just happens to be "coffee."

Other regrettable examples are:

-- My wife and I made love on the deck of our pristine white yacht, then I tied her to the pier and went home.
-- Cooper and I took the dog for a walk. I couldn't resist the way his ass swayed back and forth, so I dragged him behind a bush and took him from behind.

(7) "He grabbed hold of his meat and pulled out a condom."

This sentence shows that sometimes there's a weird synergy between different parts of your sentence. Either half of this line is fine by itself, but put the two together and it sounds like a magic trick.

Similar missteps include:

-- I squeezed the bartender's nipple and he refilled my empty glass.
-- Wayne rubbed Raoul's butt until Barbara Eden appeared.

(8) "On my knees, Stephen grabbed my head and guided it toward his groin."

This is what's called a "dangling modifier," because the writer has misplaced a clause. Rather than being turned on, the reader pictures a Cirque du Soleil-style attraction. Re-read your articles searching for sentences like:

-- Covered with mayonnaise, Roger took a bite of his sandwich.
-- Engrossed in the newspaper, his penis lay there quietly.
-- Nearly at orgasm, Puddles the dog trotted in.

Well, we've just barely scratched the surface, but today's lesson has to come to an end. Remember, there are serious side effects to reading too much porn. You start to feel inadequate by constantly comparing yourself to these perfect, unreal images, and your self esteem can suffer as a result.

Honestly, though, I swear to you: usually I can go on for hours.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Now, I don't mean to alarm you, but there's something not quite kosher about our new Commander in Chief. I'm not talking about that whole birth certificate controversy. Greater minds than mine are untangling that puzzle, including folks on Fox News and other people who wear foil headgear. No, there's yet another inexplicable phenomena that once again the White House hoped nobody would notice . . . but they got tripped up by the watchful eye of the unerring Matt Drudge.

On March 20, Michelle Obama gathered the world's press in her garden, and with much fanfare she planted seeds into the ground beside the White House. Several hundred people witnessed this and took pictures as she dug tiny holes in the soil, deposited the seeds, then covered the area with dirt and sprinkled water atop. "I'm just a normal, everyday housewife," was the message she wanted to convey, "doing what I can for my family and the environment."

Fast-forward three months into the future. Just yesterday, June 16, this same First Lady led a bunch of schoolchildren to this exact same place, and what did they find?


Yes, you heard me right. These people found vegetables, lying on top of and even under the ground. Matt Drudge breathlessly calls this harvest MICHELLE'S MIRACLE GROW, because what other explanation can there be? He's got the dates there in unflinching black and white:


Like me I know you're sitting there shaking your head in disbelief. But, my friend, numbers don't lie. Which means we find ourselves facing what's surely the most bizarre question that anyone has ever asked a First Lady:

Who can put seeds in the ground and come back three months later to find food?

Now, perhaps there's a rational explanation. Maybe a vegetable vendor's cart broke down just uphill from there. Maybe the Secret Service went into the garden the previous night and peppered the area with vegetables as some sort of joke.

But my lucky monkey's paw points to a far more sinister scenario. I hate to cast aspersions, but I find no other alternative. Because what other rational explanation is there for a woman who plants beans in the ground and just three months later uncovers food?

I regret to say, then, that this notice must serve as public announcement: I hereby join Mr. Drudge and his followers in demanding an explanation. We Americans deserve the truth, however unbelievable or unsavory it may be.

Now, I know all you bleeding-heart liberals are going to jump in and condemn me, so let me make clear that nobody's rushing to judgement here. We just want an explanation. We want to hear her side. We're not saying this necessarily has to be bad.

If, for instance, she traded New Hampshire to some conjurer for those magic beans, everything would be okay.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

As always, your intrepid reporter scours the city for the stupidest that our civilization has to offer, and yesterday that took me to the Fire David Letterman protest at the CBS studios. See, apparently Republicans don't get the rules of social interaction. If you cause a small offense, you apologize, and everything is smoothed over. Larger offense, maybe apologize twice.

Mr. Letterman did nothing intentionally wrong. He made a joke about Sarah Palin's daughter being loose without realizing Ms. Palin had two daughters, one of whom is fourteen. Mr. Letterman apologized for causing confusion. Rumor had it that CBS head Les Moonves didn't like that apology, so Dave apologized again.

Three thousand miles away, Ms. Palin accepted this apology in a monologue that tied together baseball, women's rights, and our brave troops fighting for freedom in Iraq.

And then the Republicans started calling for Dave to resign.

See, here's how it goes in Republican circles: Apologize. You apologize! No, really -- you've got to apologize! (Pause.) Okay, now resign.

When I read about the protest, I couldn't believe it. I was already pissed that Dave had been railroaded into the second apology, and this was just too much. The offense was a product of Republican imagination, and somehow they got it barrelling out of control. They scored a few victories and wanted more. Hellmann's pulled their advertising from Dave's show. Olive Garden pulled their advertising. Embassy Suites pulled their advertising.

Fire Dave? It seemed like they actually had a chance.

So, I decided to counter-protest with my own little sign:

Sarah needs a life
Bristol needs a spouse
I see idiots
from my house

Needless to say, the protesters weren't exactly thrilled to see me. "I see idiots in your house," one guy told me, and twenty others detailed more of my personality flaws. It didn't bother me. I wasn't there to convert their side: I was there to entertain ours.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, I was our side. Apparently Letterman fans have lives.

The police led me out of that pen -- holding maybe thirty protesters and fifty members of the media -- and built another pen for me special. A counter-protesting pen.

Try to get that kind of service from your cops, Cincinnati.

I waved my sign and chanted and immediately got swarmed by fans. Once again I was reminded how fun protests are. First, a lot of cool people come up to you and act friendly, which doesn't often happen in New York. And second, millions of people will take pictures of you. I felt like Will Ferrell at a movie premiere. I rarely get that kind of attention, and sometimes I mix plaids.

One of the first reporters to approach me was a young dude with gay Miami hair -- short, thick, and wavy with brassy highlights -- asking me to explain my sign. "When the Republicans lost power," I said, "they just -- I assumed they would shut up and go away. Now they're just making problems, creating things where nothing exists, and they're going after an innocent man."

"But how does Bristol needing a spouse -- are you suggesting that because she had a baby and she's not married that, uh, she should be attacked? Is that what you're suggesting by the sign?"

Is that a great quote? The Republicans dragged poor pregnant Bristol and her sad-sack boyfriend Levi onstage during some presidential speech and all but screamed "DON'T WORRY! THEY'RE GETTING MARRIED!" But I'm the sexist fool who thinks single moms need men.

I glanced at his press credentials and it hit me. "Sorry," I replied, "I didn't realize you were Fox News."

Note to this guy: people with black hair need to leave the peroxide in longer or their highlights look brassy and cheap. Hope this helps!

At times it seemed like Fox News was really running the show. They had at least a dozen employees on hand, including two camera crews, and a truck parked on site with antennae on top. All the other media had one or two representatives at best: MTV, ABC, NBC, Air America, the New York Daily News, Slate, Maxim, Sirius, Salon. And all this for a measly thirty-something people averaging sixty-something in age. John Ziegler -- some right-wing radio host -- organized the protest, and spread word on his show. Supposedly Sean Hannity promoted the protest on his TV show.

And they got three dozen people to show up. Yeah, this movement has really touched the hearts of America.

As time went by, a few other counter-protesters wandered in and out, including a really funny faux-Republican from something called the Ron and Fez show. He kept starting silly chants: first "Stop free speech!" and then, two minutes later, "Start free speech!" Late Show staffers began turning up after the day's taping had ended. I recognized two stage hands from comedy bits on the show. Five or six of them thanked me for counterprotesting, and said Dave appreciated it.

Then I noticed Tony Mendez, Dave's cue card holder, and like a tweener spotting Robert Pattinson I ran over and started screaming about how much I loved him. He's handsome, he's funny, he might possibly be gay. If he'd been driving, I'd be in the back seat of his car and shirtless right now.

"Shh!" he whispered, pointing to the protesters. "If they see me, they'll lynch me!"

We chatted for a while about the protest, and he too thanked me for coming. He said, "I'll even give you a souvenir," and he pulled a couple double-erasered pencils out of his bag and gave them to me. "Dave uses those on the show," he said.

Then he hugged me and said goodbye.

And that's when the clouds parted and Jesus smiled at me and I thought, you know, I really like protesting. In fact, I wish more idiots would do more horrible things. I got thanks, and presents, and a hug goodbye. Buddy, that beats relationships in my book.

Ridiculously, this little charade is all over the internet today. I made the news on quite a few channels. Fox News has our exchange online. Entertainment Weekly stupidly quotes just the first line of my sign. The Daily Beast says the Ron & Fez show plant was "huge." Yeah, he had to be five foot eight, a hundred forty pounds. But maybe people look fatter when they're flailing on the ground.

As an extra added plus, I'm learning a lot about myself from all this protesting. For instance, with just a little effort I can make sure nobody photographs me with bad posture, or crumbs in my beard, or wayward hair in my face.

(Photo courtesy of the Village Voice.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

To get to this point, you've hit a button that says "CANCEL MY RESERVATION." Now, if you really want to cancel, hit OK. If you don't want to cancel, hit CANCEL.

La Quinta Motor Inns: Just take the damn room, buddy, and don't try fucking with us.
"Looks like this is our lucky day!" Sarah says to Todd as he steers the dusty Dodge Durango into the mall parking lot. "First we get David Letterman to apologize again, and then we find a store that sounds like it's custom made for us!"

(Meanwhile, tell CBS what you think about Ms. Palin's triumph here.)

Monday, June 15, 2009

A worker at a British nuclear power plant was doing his laundry when he noticed water on the floor, realized something was wrong, and rang the alarm. If he hadn't seen the water, the plant would have caught fire and turned the whole coastline radioactive.

When he heard about the miraculous rescue, the chief of Britain's Nuclear Regulatory Commission declared excitedly, "Take that, Homer Simpson!"

It's a sunny Sunday afternoon in Park Slope, a yuppie suburb of Brooklyn. A thirtyish man wearing a t-shirt and oversized cargo shorts is walking his Doberman when they spot a woman approaching with a Cockapoo. Instantly the Doberman leaps to the end of its leash and barks ferociously, baring forty or fifty sharp white teeth.

"Silas," the Doberman's owner says, "I don't know what you think you're doing, but it's not cool."

Dog owners who believe their pets have a "guilty look" are imagining things, according to a new study. Researchers told dog owners that their pets had eaten a forbidden treat, then asked the owners to describe the dogs' facial expressions. Almost every one said the dogs looked guilty.

In the end the researchers learned two things: one, dogs don't really show emotion on their faces, and two, they will absolutely piss on a fink.

Meanwhile, did you know there's a part of your face called the nasal labia? Yeah. Isn't that crazy? Whoever named it really must have had something wrong with them. I'm seeing a doctor today about having mine removed, because it keeps getting whacked by my nasal scrotum.

Friday, June 12, 2009

I'm a fan of the PBS Mystery! series, but the latest episode is a strange piece of work. It should tip you off to the weirdness to learn that the British Kenneth Branagh plays Wallander, a Swedish detective. Smartly, he dodges both accents, refusing to say either "Cheerio!" or "Ya?"

The latest installation, though, went from odd to offensive. In it, Wallander's policeman partner is killed. Wallander investigates and discovers that his partner was gay and having an affair with a cute young transvestite who turns out to be the killer.

Naturally I'm annoyed that the transvestite did it, because in my experience they're more likely to emcee bingo at the local piano bar than shiv some dude with a pointy lipstick. Still, I recognize that this is television, and heterosexual housewives can't kill everyone.

The part that really pissed me off, though, was the end. After the transvestite is thrown in jail, somebody tells Wallander something else he didn't know:

His partner was madly in love with him.

Now, if you think about this for a second, you'll realize it's ridiculous. Kenneth Branagh is nearing sixty. He's saggy and craggy and -- in this portrayal, at least -- butch as Jason Statham's left testicle. Which means his dead gay partner liked (1) lithe young men who wear pert blonde bobs, and (2) butch old cops about twelve minutes from retirement.

Which, you know, is pretty close to saying that gay dudes go for just about anything with a dick.

In my mind, that's offensive, and it's easy to see it if we draw a parallel in the heterosexual world. On Two and a Half Men, Charlie Sheen isn't going to date a Brazilian supermodel one night and then a German shotputter the next. On Moonlighting Bruce Willis didn't sweet-talk Cybill Shepherd all afternoon and date Wanda Sykes at night. On Three's Company, Jack never tried to catch a glimpse of Janet in the shower, then tossed a bucket of water on Mrs. Roper so he could see her boobs.

No, heteros have types they find attractive. News flash to PBS: gay people have types too. We like either butch or femme. We like either smart or stupid. We like either tall or short. We can cut prospective partners a little slack, but not go crazy. If, for example, a gay dude likes transvestites, he's probably not going to get a hard-on when Wilfrid Brimley walks by.

According to the folks at Wallander, though, all that really matters to us is dick.

Speaking for myself and probably a few transvestites, they can shove it anywhere it fits.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Everybody realized Republicans were flat-out stupid when they put a house plant in the White House. But you'd think they'd have learned from their mistake. They'd have watched their man start a war and decimate the economy, then thought to themselves, "Hey, maybe I should stay out of politics for a while."

Because, you know, if you convinced all your friends to send their money to Bernie Madoff, maybe you shouldn't call them and say Peruvian pig futures are where it's at today.

But no: the right wing is at it again. They're all screaming en masse that Obama is a thoughtless, egotistical communist who must be stopped before he totally destroys our nation. Their evidence? For the first time in five months, he went on a date with his wife.

"How on earth can a man thoughtlessly spent $40,000 in taxpayer money when half of Detroit is unemployed?" they cry. "It's worse than doing nothing! He's fiddling while America burns!"

Of course, after our previous dealings with these idiots, we know their hysteria has nothing to do with reality. See, Obama's date didn't cost $40,000: his security did. And Obama didn't exactly drag these dudes along because they look hunky in pin-striped suits.

No, Republicans are demanding the man turn Amish because Americans are poor these days, demanding Obama do things they wouldn't do themselves. Say he's driving through D. C. when he suddenly realizes he has to go to the bathroom. This means the whole presidential motorcade has to circle the neighborhood until somebody spots a Starbucks. The Secret Service has to run in and get all the customers out, then safely shuttle Obama from the limo to the bathroom. I'm thinking this'll take twenty or thirty minutes easily, and would probably cost a couple thousand bucks. Call me crazy, but I'll happily pay my $.0000000001 share so the dude doesn't have to ride home with his legs crossed. Yet somehow I know there are Republicans out there who'd read about it in the newspaper and explode like an overheated teapot. "TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS?" they'll shriek. "To go to the BATHROOM? Why doesn't that commie carry a bucket in the car?"

Besides, there's a bigger picture that these critics are missing. That $40,000 date resulted in $93,000 worth of increased Broadway ticket sales just in the next week alone. More people went to Broadway shows because Obama went to one. More people went to restaurants because Obama went to one. That $40,000 he spent probably brought quadruple that amount into New York. If Bush had been smart enough to do that, what's left of the Republican party wouldn't be holed up in a D. C. Howard Johnson's right now, getting Ann Coulter hammered on dollar PBRs.

Plus, you know, times have changed since these guys had dates. You can't just take a girl to the malt shop. You can't just hold hands in the gazebo at the park. Here in New York we've got $100 hamburgers and $1,000 cocktails. $40,000 isn't completely unreasonable for a date.

Especially if you know it's going to get you laid.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Permanent TV Guide

Chuck (NBC, Mondays at 8 p.m.): A sultry brunette who may or may not be an enemy agent wants to eat Tuscan chicken sandwiches with Chuck.

Dr. Mac Powell, former professor of psychology and now Dean of the National University Golf Academy, is pleased to announce the release of his new book, The Ball is the Enemy. Proceeds from the book go to fund an integrative health endowment and will support efforts related to education and the dissemination of information related to health and wellness and peak performance.

As opposed to the proceeds from his last book, which benefited, like, animals and shit.

And the Puerto Rican guy who rides around your neighborhood on a gold-plated Schwinn with a steering wheel instead of handlebars says, Wow, that's an ugly shirt.

In their defense, the Sleep Number people said it came with a demonstration DVD and a free pillow.

They're willing to put down a 10% deposit or shoot somebody in a gold blazer.

The American Nursing Association is organizing a protest against Nurse Jackie, the Showtime program starring Edie Falco as a pill-popping, ethically-questionable nurse.

So, starting next week, Nurse Jackie will just lead people to little rooms, take their blood pressure, and show them pictures of her cockapoo wearing a tank top.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The gayest place in New York? The new High Line park. It opened unexpectedly yesterday, and word immediately hit the gay grapevine. So, while the straights in the city were waiting for the official opening this morning, every gay in the city has already been there, done that.

The park is on an old elevated railroad line that runs from the Meatpacking district up to 28th Street, right through the heart of Chelsea. Even just twenty or thirty feet up, the views are pretty good. You can look right into the second floor windows at the Phillips De Pury auction house and the Equinox gym. I should have known yoga would be a fun spectator sport: with profusive sweat and somebody shouting commands, it's got two of the three things I like about sex.

The park is minimalist and modern, but it was obviously designed by heterosexuals. What, no water feature, guys? There's an odd amphitheater centered around a giant window where you can watch the cars stream by. And the architects left some of the old railroad track just for nostalgia's sake.

Lots of wildflowers, lots of colorful plants.

This being Chelsea, the park has to butt up against some skanky billboards.

The new High Line park is definitely a city highlight -- fresh air, foliage, no bicycle messengers. Everybody friendly and upbeat, excited to see a positive change to the city. And of course the gays have already adopted it: a towelless tanner has left his outline in baby oil on a bench, and I saw a couple rather thick bears getting affectionate in some rather thin woods.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Repeat Monday: Two Mistakes

Every time Richard opens his mouth he makes two mistakes. "I absolutely love Picasso's works from his purple period," he declares at the art museum, staring in admiration at a tiny, colorful work.

These pronouncements always stop me in my tracks, because I never know which mistake to address first. In this case I say, "Actually, Picasso never had a purple period. And that picture in particular is a Mondrian."

"Oh," he says. He nods his head like he's suddenly semi-educated, when in reality he's just moving on to his next mistakes. He doesn't seem to realize how hard it is to talk to him. When somebody makes one mistake, the human brain can easily decipher it. One mistake is glaringly obvious: Ellen Degeneres is married to Portia de Rossi, not Tia Carrera. Narcissus aren't orange, they're white. One can't actually dodge taxes by diverting some of their income to a 10K. The brain decides whether or not the err is worth correcting, and that's the extent of that.

When someone makes two mistakes, though, additional parts of the brain are required, because the conversation receptor is thrown into overload. A dialog starts ping-ponging inside the head. It's like the NYPD caught a naked man holding up a liquor store and then couldn't decide whether the case should go to Violent Crimes or Vice. "Have you seen that movie with Roma Downey Jr.?" Richard asks. "Hawaiian Tropics?"

I have to mentally list all the possible permutations and then rank them by the likeliest. Does he really mean Roma Downey? Probably not. Nobody's meant Roma Downey in quite some time. No, odds are it's Robert Downey Jr. But he never made a movie about tanning lotion, right?

Meanwhile, Richard is standing there blissfully, not a thought in his head.

Now, I kind of like Richard. He's attractive and fun and professional, three qualities I've rarely found before, let alone in the same man. But I can't help but wonder. Making one mistake at a time marks you as an ordinary, fallible human. What does two at a time say?

Still, he's my man for most of December. I bite my lip when he tells me he has a crush on David Beckham, the rugby player who's married to Scary Spice. I sigh sadly when he announces that Oreo cookies are made by leprechauns. I watch in silence as he pours champagne into a martini glass that has colored salt around the rim.

And still, somehow, we make it into bed. The usual way, pretty much: we go out to dinner, drink a bottle of wine, go back to his place and start making out. "I bet you've got a big dick and you know how to use it," he whispers into my ear.

I say, "Oh, just shut up and lie down.""

Friday, June 5, 2009

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) -- A 23-year-old rancher who recently had his mobile home repossessed has claimed a $232.1 million Powerball jackpot. After taxes, Neal Wanless will take home $88.5 million dollars.

First thing he's going to do with the money? Tar and feather a revenooer.

BANGKOK (AP) -- The body of American actor David Carradine, best known for the 1970s TV series ''Kung Fu,'' was found in a hotel room closet with a rope tied around his neck and his genitals.

Faithful readers, rest assured that's never going to happen to me.

If my mind wanders for like a tenth of a second, even thread slides off.
Okay, so their version is better, but they don't write in their underwear.

(Thanks to Anonymous for the tip.)
I'm a big fan of Lisa Nichols. In case you live in a cave, she's an inspirational writer who has appeared on Oprah and was featured in The Secret.

Lisa now offers a course called "No Matter What!" that's a breakthrough in personal motivation. For just $327, this affirmational coaching service includes flash cards and CDs that will inspire and encourage you to go out and create your greatness!

Needless to say, Lisa has gone way beyond role model to me. In fact, I'm so excited about her work that I plan to follow in her footsteps. I'm going to write my own motivational program that may one day inspire other people to write their own motivational programs, and maybe one day those motivational programs will inspire still more people to write motivational programs.

I call it the Circle of Motivational Life, but don't even think about quoting me for free.

Cat diarrhea in my container garden today. It's official: there's absolutely nothing that will keep stray cats away. Not whirlagigs, not tulle, not mothballs, not cayenne pepper. I'm going to start leaving bran muffins out, so at least it'll be easier to clean up after them.

How You Know You're Old

You leave home in the morning carrying the same shopping bags you come home with at night.

Sometimes when you're dancing you realize you've accidentally started doing your aerobics.

On a bus, at the movies, at a funeral: you think any time is a fine time for a banana.

Queen Sofia of Spain has given Britain's Royals a lesson in austerity by flying to London on Ryanair for just £13.

Unfortunately she checked three bags and ordered a sandwich on board, so the total bill came to £217,000.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

When I moved from L. A. to New York, I didn't realize I was moving to a small town. I found the apartment through an ad in the New York Times, and I didn't know about my new neighborhood. It wasn't a gay ghetto like Chelsea. It wasn't a punk fun zone like the East Village. It was Williamsburg, with three salami stores on every corner and thirty nosy old Italian widows on every block.

Now, I've always loved Italians. I had an Italian mother-in-law once, and I couldn't believe how hard she worked. She'd get up at six in the morning and clean the house from top to bottom, then make pasta for lunch by hand, all to keep her son happy. I come from a German/French family and my mother wouldn't have tossed her beer on me if I were on fire.

Before she agrees to rent me the apartment, Luigia quizzes me on the phone. "Are you married?" she asks. "Do you have a girlfriend? Do you do a lot of dating?"

I say no to all of the above, trying to sound more like Joe Jonas than Liberace, but I can tell she's suspicious. I don't have the most masculine voice, and with the notable lack of women in my life I think she senses that something is up.

Still, eventually she declares the apartment is mine. When my taxi pulls up in front of the building, though, and I find her waiting there in a lawn chair, I realize I'm not just moving into her building. I'm moving into her life.

"You finally got here!" she says, beaming at me and pulling the wrinkles out of her housedress. "How was your flight?"

"Long," I complain. "I had an aisle seat next to a woman with a baby. She was up every five minutes. My butt has never been so busy."

Just as I realize there's a touch of innuendo in that sentence I see the look of horror on Luigia's face. Without another word she flings my keys at me and then runs up to her apartment on the second floor.

As I unpack my boxes it hits me. Luigia knows I'm gay and she's cool with it -- as long as I don't bring it up. It's like we've got our own "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Obviously it's not the ideal situation, but with a big, cheap apartment involved I'm willing to play along. Besides, I expect a little homophobia from an eighty-year-old woman. She's got Catholic baggage to deal with. I didn't expect her to be hanging off the balcony, waving a rainbow flag and yelling, "I LOVE MY NEW GAY TENANT!"

So, I resolve to watch what I say. Everything will be fine as long as I watch what I say.

Unfortunately, Luigia is no longer speaking to me, so I don't get another chance. I see her wandering around, and while everybody else in the neighborhood gets an animated hello, I get an annoyed grunt. I do what I can to get back on her good side. I water the plants in front of the building. I clean the graffiti off. I take the trash cans to the curb for the garbage men. And after a couple of weeks, there's a knock at my door.

It's Luigia. "I just wanted to make sure you're eating right," she says, almost apologetically, handing me a big foil pan full of food. There's pasta and meatballs and sausages all covered in spaghetti sauce.

I thank her profusely -- homophobia goes down fine with me as long as it's catered -- and the next day she drops by to ask how everything was. I wrack my brain: I can't say I love sausage, because then we'll be talking about stuffing long tubes of meat into my mouth. And I can't say a word about those tasty crimson balls the size of my fist. The noodles were certainly . . . long, thin and coated in sauce. I throw up a thousand compliments in my head but shoot down every one. Italian food is all about gay innuendo.

When I look down at her she's staring at me and wondering if an answer is coming. "It was absolutely delicious," I finally say.

And so, over the months a bond forms. She asks me a question and I find a non-sexual answer, though I have to think for so long she becomes convinced there's something wrong with me.

One day she calls and says, "Roman, I'm going to call an exterminator -- a man who kills bugs -- for tomorrow. Will you be home?"

She's like the thoughtful grandma I never had, I think. I'm really going to like New York.

And I start to say I'll be in and out all day but finally just swerve it into a yes.
Two weeks after native son Kris Allen won American Idol, Arkansas residents are shooting rifles into the air, drinking too much beer, and hugging and kissing their relatives.

Yes, life has gone back to normal in the Show Me State.

Yeah, because they're not the ones who got knocked up.

Hey, it makes sense. I've seen quite a few that were more entertaining than Bolt.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I'm not a total idiot. I won't buy just any crap I see on TV. Regardless how good it looks, they've got to pay some people to say the product works to get me to buy in.

The Ab Circle Pro sounded too perfect. Just three minutes a day to achieve the abs of your dreams! Websites promised it. TV commercials promised it. The Home Shopping Network promised it, for a very short time offering the Ab Circle Pro for the exact same price as everybody else.

But their testimonials backed up the promises. On the Natural Super Foods Blog "Taylor" declares that a friend of his brother-in-law "used this machine and lost over 60 pounds in 8 weeks. . . . He said he just did it for 3 mins. a day."

Coincidentally, a woman on the Ab Circle Pro TV commercial gave the exact same quote: sixty pounds, eight weeks, three minutes a day. It sounds unbelievable, so let's stop and do the math:

Losing one pound means burning 3,500 calories, so losing sixty pounds means burning 210,000 calories. Over eight weeks, that means 3,750 calories a day. Three minutes a day means the Ab Circle Pro burns 1,250 calories a minute.

Now, that's pretty impressive. I mean, according to Good Housekeeping, step aerobics only burns 20 calories. Playing tennis, roller-skating, and swimming only burns 8 calories.

Lifting weights while you're playing racquetball doesn't come close. Chopping wood while you're jumping rope only burns 40 calories. Which, you know, comes up slightly short of 1,250.

Looking back at "Taylor"'s testimonial, I see his brother-in-law's friend was also "watching his food intake as well." Assuming three minutes on the Ab Circle Pro burns five times more calories than parasailing with a microwave oven strapped to each arm, that's still only 200 calories a day. This means he must have reduced his diet by 3,550 calories a day.

Which is more than most people eat.

Fuzzy math also characterizes Jennifer Nicole Lee's testimony, though maybe massive weight loss makes your brain go weird. According to the Ab Circle Pro website and the Home Shopping Network, she lost over 80 pounds! Well, or over 70 pounds, according to another website and her biography, but maybe it's hard to remember stuff when you don't eat. She talks about her weight loss on the Ab Circle Pro website, and in TV commercials. She sold it on HSN. Her before-and-after pictures are everywhere!

Jennifer totally turned her life around, and that's exactly what I'm going to do. Why, since losing that weight, she's become one of America's favorite fitness experts, even appearing on Oprah and on the covers of over 26 magazines!

I saved her story for last because it's most inspiring. See, her weight loss occurred before 2005, when she was named Miss Bikini America, and the Ab Circle Pro wasn't even trademarked until this year.

Jennifer lost her weight before she started using the Ab Circle Pro! Now that's the kind of results I need.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Researchers studying satellite images of Antartica discovered a huge deposit of reddish-brown penguin poo that was visible from space.

And an exhausted male penguin toddling away, holding a magazine.

How to Write Good, by the New York Times

From a Restaurant review:

[I]n one corner of the room is a stack of vases and bowls and artworks under a sign that reads "all for sale."

Oh. Okay. I'll take a vase and a couple bowls.

The Small Print: 70 Police Injured During Scuffle With Protesters

Today the L. A. Times has a big article on harem pants, with the headline "How to make them say 'sexy,' not M. C. Hammer."

Here's one of their pictures.

What make harem pants sexy? A flirty scarf. Chunky gold jewelry. Sparkly stilettos. Also, leave the ass flap cracked open an inch.

Is Your Blog Just a Useless Shill for NBC, Providing Occasional Chuckles for Underachievers at Work?

Do you have a link to anything from Conan last night?

Octomom jokes. Sports jokes. Jokes about his hair.

The bad news: Yeah, that's Conan. The good news: After 17 years, Letterman gets to know what #1 feels like.

Monday, June 1, 2009

When I moved to New York, I thought it'd be fun. I thought I'd be an oversized Mary Tyler Moore moving to another big city. I'd gaze up at the skyscrapers from a crosswalk and, way too suffused with big-city coolness to exhibit any visible signs of delight, at least mentally fling my beret in the air.

Instead, it was something like Godzilla moving to Tokyo. Are all big creatures that clueless? I wondered the first time a startled woman screamed as I lumbered past her in the dark. When Godzilla packed his bags to move to Tokyo, did he think, "Gosh, think of all the great museums I'll get to see!"?

See, nobody cares if you're short and serious. Short and serious is easily ignored. Salman Rushdie is short and serious. Maya Angelou is short and serious. When you're short and serious, nobody gives a damn. Because what are you going to do, hold a poetry reading without a permit?

When you're tall and serious, though, it's another matter entirely. Whether you're sniffing roses at a botanical garden or sipping tea at the Plaza, you're seconds away from the SWAT team being called. The maitre d' quavers slightly as he leads you to a table, then for the duration of your meal he stands ten feet away with a baseball bat behind his back.

After I'd settled into my new apartment I figured the time had come to find a dude to cheer me up. I threw on a jacket and headed to Christopher Street, but when I walked into the Piston everybody froze. It was like a scene in a movie where everyone's laughing and joking and then Mildred Pierce appears. Every eye zipped straight to me and watched in horror as I headed for the bar.

I hadn't gotten five feet when the manager scurried up. "You know this is an establishment for GAY MEN?" he asked.

"Yeah," I said. "I know."

"So if you have a problem with GAY MEN," he continued, "you should leave IMMEDIATELY."

"I don't have a problem with GAY MEN. In fact, I was hoping to bring one HOME."

He shuddered, and I realized he was probably picturing me clonking my chosen partner over the head and dragging his lifeless body away. I pushed past him and got a beer but he stayed in my shadow, glaring at me like a Tiffany security guard watching Winona Ryder shop.

I did my best to ignore him but he finally wore me down. I gulped my beer and left. At the next bar, though, the scene was even worse. I wasn't three feet inside when the manager appeared. "PLEASE!" he shrieked, beads of sweat forming on his forehead. "WE DON'T WANT ANY TROUBLE HERE!"

I backed out immediately and walked the cold street in disbelief. Is this even possible? I wondered. This is the city where everyone's seen everything, yet somehow they come unglued spotting the opposite of Truman Capote? It's incredible. It's unbelievable. And I'm guessing it'd be even worse if they could see the scar I got opening that can of paté.

I spent most of the ride home staring at myself in the rear-view mirror. Yes, I'm a little intimidating. Okay, maybe scary. With deep-set eyes, angular face, and pointy black beard, I could have been the model for the guy who tried to kill Mulan. The serial-killer glare, though, pushed it way over the top.

I'll admit it: I'm not a smiler. I think smiles looks dopey. They're the default facial expression for people who think, "Isn't the Lord just grand?" Besides, I've always found masculinity attractive, and a big dopey grin doesn't exactly scream Sean Connery to me.

I'd never taken into account my size, though. I'm sufficiently large that I cast a shadow on people ten minutes before I'm close enough to talk. They see the darkness, feel the cold settle in, then spin around to see me, and that's when they take on the look of Melty Nazi in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Maybe I could crack a hint of a smile, I thought. I mean, my size is manly enough. I'm like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, sufficiently strange that a familiar facial expression is required to convey the idea that I had parents too. In fact, if the Hunchback had smiled a bit more I bet he'd be a dental hygienist right now.

I wasn't ready to go home but didn't think my ego could take another blow. Then it hit me: The Ramble in Central Park was supposed to be a sexy little fun zone for gay men after dark. I'd never been there before, never being that desperate, but now I craved it. After all that humiliation I needed the furtiveness, the shadowy thrill, the release. I needed to lose myself in weeds and dirt and sheer, unadulterated animal lust.

I wandered the twists and turns for twenty minutes without spotting another soul, then saw the red end of a cigarette glowing in the dark. I followed it to a handsome, broad-shouldered man leaning against a tree.

Yeah, I thought, this could work.

I fired up my new mantra in my head -- I'm not scary! I'm sociable! People like to be with me! -- and forced myself to smile as I approached. "Hi," I said. "My name's Roman."

He shot me a look of disgust as he shook his head. "Ain't nobody doin' no gay shit over here, officer."