Skip to main content

strings of gray

We put away our suit jackets and put the ties back on the hanger in the closet. He came to me silently and retrieved the cufflinks from my shirt. I went to the bar and poured a scotch, dropping a couple of ice cubes. I left it on the small side table next to his chair in the living room. I went back to the bedroom, put on my favorite sweats and a ratty t-shirt. Returning to the living room, I found him laid back in his chair. The strings of gray in his beard lit up in the sunlight striking his face from the window. “What are you looking at?” he said, dismissively. “My beautiful husband.” “Oh good lord….. I may have been beautiful in 1993 but today I’m just a tired old mess.” I walked over to him and knelt between his legs and he held me in for a hug. He reached down and tousled my hair. Holding me in tighter, he whispered, “I know today wasn’t easy, lovey. It’ll be okay.”
"When it becomes important enough to you, you'll figure out how to change it, but only then," he said to me suddenly. He sat across from me at another table, drinking from a small porcelain espresso cup and simultaneously smoking a hand-rolled cigarette. It was like he'd actually punched me in the chest the impact of his words hit me so hard and he could see it, too. "Obviously, this thing? What you are unhappy about?," he said with a dramatic gesture like 'it' was sitting next to me at my table, "It isn't enough yet, or you'd figure out a way to change it." I had spent the entire walk to the shop from my apartment arguing with my ex and then arguing my mother on the phone. The ex wanted money, he wasn't getting it. Mother? Well, she wanted "unconditional love," and she wasn't getting what she wanted either. So many people needing around me. Neither of them asked how I was. Nobody gave a fuck, actually. I was angry. Angry at everything around me. I had let anger infiltrate, then navigate every situation around me - every friendship, every job, and every personal relationship to the very worst destinations. I became one of those angry queers stomping around the Castro wondering why it always happened to me. I was ignoring others - who were on their own journeys of anger, need, and selfishness. I'd come up the block and threw myself down in a pile and barked a coffee and pastry order at the waiter. "I know you, because I used to be you.....," he said, looking over his glasses like a grandfather might, "But darling, what do I know? I'm just an old queen in a gay neighborhood full of stroller straights and people I don't know anymore. Take me with a big grain of salt." He took a final triumphant puff on his cigarette, working to capture every last delicious vapor in a final inhale before crushing it underfoot on the sidewalk at my feet. Then just as suddenly as he'd appeared, he was gone. The Castro could be like that, sometimes, sidewalk cafes filled with ghosts. Of course, I didn't see the truth of what he said for a year or so. Then one day, it happened. I almost circled it on the calendar like a special, important holiday. I would make changes, I would get help and no longer going to lead through life by anger. I remember recanting the story in a group therapy session a few months later. The man with the perfectly ironed shirt, grandfather glasses and the Marlboro colored mustache. "What kind of asshole was that guy?!," one of my fellow group members blurted out, interrupting me. He looked around expecting everyone else to pile on with insults and snark on this someone they'd never met. I smiled softly and replied, "a wise one."


The man looked around the room noticing the overwhelming sameness. It was a round turret shaped room with stark white walls, white sheets, white dresser, multilayered white window dressings. Nothing in the room but the simple dresser, the bed and a ridiculously oversized floor to ceiling mirror. A silver tray stood alone on the dresser with a bottle of perfume and a set of stainless steel matching ladies grooming tools. He'd woken up in the middle of a Joan Crawford set piece instead of someone's bedroom. He was struggling to remember much of the night before. He got up and walked up mirror. He took a careful look around at his body in the mirror. "No marks, thank god," he thought to himself. He let out a little hungover groan, pulling on his jeans and the dirty t shirt he'd thrown on to go down to the bar for a quick beer.  Twelve hours later both his credit card full of 'rounds for the bar' and his head were living the reality of the night before.  Fully awake, he began to plot his escape. He opened the door to find the walls of the rest of the apartment were covered in art almost floor to ceiling, the wall behind painted in deep primary colors. It was all so different to the room he stood in, a deliberate void. He smiled looking back and forth, standing in the void of white. There was a story here for sure. He slowly made his way down the hall, admiring the different paintings and photographs. One scene was a memory from a graduation, another looked like a cast party after a show, people in some all night banquette drinking cheap beer and laughing at everything, yet another was a stunning black and white photograph of a pair of sailors draped over one another in effortless intimacy. He reached forward to touch the photo as a voice gently spoke from behind him. "You slept well, we hope?" He turned to see two men in bathrobes on a long couch drinking coffee, with the Sunday Times strewn between them. "We sorta poured you in last night." "Sorry you slept in the deprivation chamber, " the other man said, motioning towards the round room up the hall, "but it's the only spare bed we had."

Come Here

He had this incredibly gentle way of navigating the world. In retrospect, it is not surprising he was the first gay man I felt in love with. I was at a church social and I spied him speaking to someone across the loud, chaotic room in ASL. It's just about the rudest thing you can do to a deaf person in that situation, stare like a teenage girl getting a peek at Bobby Darin. It was the first time I got a glimpse of that silent snarl of disapproval. I quickly moved on in the party, and figured I'd totally blown it with him. Not that I've ever had much, but particularly when I was first out of the closet, I lacked any subtlety. I'd like to think over the years I've turned that into a charming trait people appreciate. I drove up to Washington DC the next weekend, it was the showing of the AIDS Quilt on the Mall. Truly, one of the single most impactful experiences of my young gay life. Frankly, it overwhelmed me. So that evening I found myself, as I'm sure others did, up against the wall of the Eagle with a scotch and soda in my hand, trying to shake it off. I looked around the bar, it was a humid evening, and I was appreciating all the barely dressed men parading by. That's when I noticed him again, two hours from our home in Norfolk, across the patio from me. Except, this time it was him that was doing the stare down. His presence was completely different from the night in the party in the fresh ironed dress shirt. He was beautiful. Short and muscular, and that almost unworldly dark brown beard with a hint of red. Twenty five years later and I can still remember every detail. He wore a very tight leather harness, chaps with an old fashioned well worn codpiece. Everything about his outfit showed attention to detail as well as leather that got worn a lot, comfortable leather. He was smoking a small black english pipe. While we played the stare game, wofts of soft white smoke would leave his lips, hesitating in his whiskers before floating away. He suddenly signed at me, flashing a pleasing smile. It took me a moment to realize what he was saying, and he repeated himself. "Come here. Come here and get a hug."

Flame On!

"I think Stan Lee is gay." "and what do we base this amazing revelation upon?" "Just look at his body of work, sculpted abs on beautiful men leaping around and doing good things. and pretty costumes. Just because they've never drawn Wolverine and Dr. Doom having incredible buttsex doesn't mean it didn't happen." "Really, what about all the type-a male violence and sexism in comic books?" "oh get over it - Stan was writing in the 50s and 60s, everything was violent and sexist." "But..... somehow also, ultragay?" "exactly, take Jonathan Storm for example...." "Who?" "Jonathan Storm AKA The Human Torch? Fantastic Four? stay with me here - I mean - who else but a gay man would write a character that screams 'Flame on!', he said reaching his hands above his head like a Vegas showgirl, "when he needs his super powers, That's some megaserious, o.m.g. level faggotry right there. When I as six - I leapt off the roof of our house screaming, "FLAME ON!" and of course, fell and broke my arm. and ever since, I've been convinced Stan Lee was gay. " "You what? Of course you did," he said laughing,"First - pot calling the kettle black, second - how is this story related? and third - I don't read comic books but I'm pretty sure he never said it as flamboyantly as you just did, or he would have set several cities blocks on fire every time he did so." "You know, jealousy like that is a really ugly color on you." "mmhmm....."

an entirely inappropriate smirk

It was the type of morning that would inspire the dreariest Emily Dickinson poem. The moon hung in the sky, shining through a slurry of fog. He mumbled veiled curses while defrosting the car lock on his pickup with a hairdryer. The family across the street burst from their house like a clown car at the carnival. He counted them. Brat Junior. Bratette. Baby Brat. Mom followed them out heading for the minivan.
"Good morning, Harold!", she chirped in the morning air like a Disney Princess. He waved wordlessly while wrapping the cord around the hairdryer. Throwing his bag in the passenger seat, he turned the ignition. As the truck started down the driveway, he heard her call out. In his side mirror, he could see his neighbor frantically running towards his car, waving her arms. His mind raced to the worst case scenario. Had he backed over their dog? Perhaps one of the brats? That last thought bringing an entirely inappropriate smirk. She knocked on his window. "Good morning, oh I already said that. Well, you were the only neighbor that didn't respond to the invite for the neighborhood association meeting. And there is a lot of important stuff to discuss." "I'll be there", Harold lied to her, "Work has been super busy, you know how that can be."


"I've seen you at the gym and at a few parties. It's nice to see you here." "Why is that nice?" "Well, at the gym I'm with a trainer and working hard and just catch a glance here or there. and at parties we always seem to pass quietly or be across the room from one another." "Why is that?" "Well because I feel fat and unsociable at the gym - and overwhelmed by all of it at parties." "So you Scruff to talk to people?" "Well, it seems easier to tell someone they are hot here than it does to their face without warning at a party in front of other people or their workout partner." "Complimenting someone is harder in person?" "No - but going directly for the primal jugular, in person - without context, would probably be pretty rude but on on here - with your shirt off in your profile pic and your profile mentioning how you like nerdy guys with big minds and soft lips? well that makes it easier." "I suppose it does. I bet you have both." "I do" "Do you know that pastry and teashop on 3rd, next where the old trashy bar used to be?" "The End - LOL - yes, where everyone used to call it the toilet because it where everyone washed down to until finally stammering home?" "Yes - that one. There is actually a very fine pastry shop there. Why don't you put on a favorite shirt, and meet me there at 10." "a favorite shirt?" "and be ready to tell me why it's your favorite." "okay. and pants." "Probably wise, at least on the first date." "this is date?" "Isn't it?" "from a hookup app?" "if it were a hookup you'd be getting my address and enough to time to clean out, but I asked you to pretentious tea and pastry, so I would call that a date." "point taken." "you're new at this aren't you?" "yes. I suppose." "How long ago did he leave you?" "what? who?" "your ex." "I usually think it's bad form to talk about ugly people on first dates." "agreed." "10am?" "10am." "it's a date." "yes it is. I am logging off now." "see you there."

normal, comfortable places

A broken champagne flute, a holiday tradition it seemed, was stuffed, defeated, in the corner. The small home still smelled of roasted turkey - and was splattered with the wreckage of the party with friends he'd hosted the night before. Someone was playing something or rather by Saint-Saëns on the radio as he wandered around in his pajamas gently started putting things back in their normal, comfortable places. The bell tolled down in the village, it meant that morning services were letting out. The kettle on the stove whistle an answer back. The only savior he was seeking this Christmas morning was a hot cup of fresh coffee. As the water dripped through the cone, he peered down over the valley. At first, when he'd moved up on the hill, he felt like Grinch - constantly griping about goings on in Whoville. But now when the wind would carry random sounds up into his window he would create stories - about why a car chose to play their music so loud the bass bounced off his kitchen plates or the roar of the crowds as touchdowns were scored at the high school football field on a fall evening. The distance made it all seem safer.

the woods at the end of town

From my view across the coffeehouse, what I noticed most though, were the dark tattoos covering his hands. They reminded me of the kind of runes that Queequeg might have worn aboard the Pequod. They were hard to see in the sea of black and grey hair on his arms. He wore a red flannel jacket with the sleeves pulled up. It was the kind of ritual jacket that had fought all the wars alongside him. Buttoned up underneath, an unremarkable gray long john top like you'd expect to see on a grifter panning for gold in a California stream. A flat ribbon of the deepest blue had been braided in along with his greying beard in a simply but ornamental celtic braid. "The ghost," said the owner, bringing me hot water to refill my tea, "He appears in here on the Winter Solstice every year. We all have our stories about where he goes the other 11 months of the year. When my mother owned this place, she would tell stories about him. Of where he'd been the other 11 months of the year. I imagine that somewhere along the line life became too much and he simply retreats away from all of us somewhere." "I wonder what brings him back to this little town each year, " I replied. I finished my coffee and got on with my day. Like the shop owner and her mother, I started to tell myself stories about him. I smiled being so inappropriately crushing on a man I knew nothing about. I guess it felt safe because, heck, who would know? I imagined him in a dark cabin somewhere with a bright fire to read by. It helped me keep my mind off the cold of the first few days of winter. I wondered to myself what he'd lost that he had disappeared to the edges, disappearing into a fog like Brigadoon as he reached the woods at the end of town.
“How could I have known she’d start crying and scream ‘rape’?” “You have anger issues. ‘Hate the sin, love the sinner’ is what they say, right? Why decide to take out your anger with the Salvation Army on that poor woman?” “Oh, you. Fuck that ‘live and let live’ crap. To say that she doesn’t know about the organization she represents is naive. You’re so eager to see the good in people, people like that have none.” “Looks like what they need is a primer on “Fags are going to be angry; ten helpful tips to keep a glitter bomb from ruining your volunteer shift.” “The glitter was an improvement.” “Having to come get you from county isn’t all that convenient.” “They’re an army, and I’m here to fight them. Sorry if my refusing to let my human rights be trampled on inconvenience you.” “Oh simmer down, Muriel. I’m always here for you. You should have known that when she started crying after being glitter bombed it was going to go south. I’m sorry they had you arrested.” “I thought she was crying about her Christmas sweater; it was tragic.” “Human rights activist, slave to fashion?” “You know me too well, darling.”
TAGS could you want to miss this?

The dream broke suddenly and I was awake. I glanced over at the clock reading 4:30 a.m. I stumbled in the kitchen in my boxers and robe. The coffee maker sat in the same corner it had for 40 years, accompanied by a pair of fiesta ware blue coffee cups. Everywhere I looked, memories flashed and seared back at me. I’d sat at that same old oak dinette admitting to my parents that I was gay, and that Harold was more than a roommate. She’d responded with cool hardness. I was simply never welcome there again. The worst of it was that Pop and I simply weren’t allowed. I know that sounds terrible, but it was the truth. This was the man who from the earliest age must have understood my view of the world, watching me fall in love with eighth-grade playmates, picking me up from theater rehearsals. I was always Daddy’s good little boy. I’d gone off to school and made a good life for myself. A few years back, my sister invited Harold and I to her wedding. Harold couldn’t make eye contact with Mom, knowing how much pain her dismissal of us caused me and the rest of the family. Pop looked at me, across the room, trying his best. You could see her reach under the table and touch him when she’d catch him. I’ve tried not caring. It doesn’t work. I cared anyway. I tried for a while keeping the lines of communication open by sending notes and cards every holiday and birthday. None were ever responded to, and each day without a response is a new, raw wound. And I felt so utterly stupid and angry with myself after each unrequited outreach. I’d truly given up hope, when one day I came home from a trip, and there was a phone message from the gallery. “Some guy came in and bought one of your pieces. The big orange one, the streetlight? He wrote something really odd.” She handed me the check, and reading it, I began to tear up. Written in the memo on the check in my Dad’s immediately recognizable handwriting was, “This is the best yet, boy.” Pop had figured out a way to contact me. He returned every six months to a year, always demanding to pay a little more than it was offered for, writing “Love this new direction you’re on,” “You keep getting better,” and “Harold must be so proud of you” in the check memo. We kept the checks in an envelope, treasured secret communiques received from behind enemy lines. My sister admitted that he’d bring the pieces to her, and they’d find somewhere to donate them, some way to send them to Dad’s business contacts or my sister would put them up in her office. She called one evening to let me know Mom had a stroke, and while they had her at the hospital, there wasn’t hope that she’d recover. She died quickly and painlessly. Just as suddenly, there was the front pew in the church, with my sister, her husband, the twins, and next to Pop, me and Harold. The next few weeks were a blur of helping him get the house set up. There I was, after all those years, right back in the kitchen at the crack of dawn. “I betcha still eat bacon with that fancy-dancy, organicky, yoga-y diet of yers,” Pop asked, working over the stove. “Coffee’s on. I got some of that yellow poison you asked for. I figgered we’d go hikin’. Besides, why waste a beautiful day when it’s given to you.” As I reached for the fridge to get cream, I noticed a photo on the door in a magnetic frame. It was a startlingly sexy, beautiful photo of her. She was in her 20s, laughing in the black and white light of a campfire. “Yeah, I put away most of ’em, but that one stays,” Pop said, noticing me stop. “She’s so happy, and beautiful…” I said, letting out a gasp. “She really was, boy. She really was. But at some point she just forgot how to be happy, and I’m sorry for that, boy. I really am.” The next few years were an amazing renaissance for him. He embraced the widower patriarch role with gusto, doting on his grandkids and family, quietly rediscovering himself. He spent a lot of time traveling, sometimes taking Harold along as he got old. Harold and my Pop became best friends, and art critic buddies. He’d come and spend long weekends at our place out in the woods hiking, finding beach treasures to send to the grandkids. Pop’s been gone a while now. I guess it’s part of the heartache of it all. Pop had taught me that being awake at sunrise was a solitary gift to look forward to. I can remember sitting on the front lawn, he had his cup of coffee and cigar, me my cup of cocoa that was more marshmallows than cocoa. We’d sit there and watch everything reveal itself. Particularly when fall comes around, I go out and walk in the darkness, the streetlights illuminating fall colors in the trees and swirls of fog. The harvest moon dancing with fading morning stars. I reach the coffee shop and I’m soon sitting in the park with the dog, as the first glimmer of dawn begins. It feels like this epic waterfall that’s been filling all night long and when it finally starts to flow over the edge of the world, it grows faster and faster. Through the trees, the bright sun breaks the horizon. I smile thinking of Pop, who in his quiet gravelly voice would say “Now boy, how could you want to miss this?”

on our sleeves

By 1988, there had been 61,816 deaths in the U.S. alone. I was twenty-one. Two years later, nearly twice as many Americans had died of AIDS as died in the Vietnam War. By the time I was thirty? 234,225 deaths. Forty? Nearly 600,000 deaths.

Just consider that for a second.

Six-hundred thousand dead.

That’s the entire population of Denver or Portland or Seattle or Austin, dead. Twice the population of Minneapolis, three times the population of Madison, Wisconsin, six times the population of Salt Lake City or Boise, dead. By the time I was twenty five, I’d attended more funerals than weddings.

It was so important to remember everyone who lost. Nobody deserved to be a statistic. Nobody was going to be the emotional equivalent of an unmarked forgotten gravestone. Our community lived for remembering. To do otherwise was unthinkable.

We queers became the experts at grief. We wore it openly on our sleeves next to our battered hearts.

Our personal calendars are always full of when friends and lovers lost the battle. Each of them live on through stories like this one. Stories about someone that touched our life in such a direct way, that you mark their passing each year on the calendar as a personal memorial day. When I was in my 20s, I had a couple that I called my ‘gay’ Mom and Dad.

It was the summer of 1988 that I met Mark Spencer. Mark absolutely defined ‘sparkle.’ He was a cabaret singer and local variety show performer. He was always spit-shine polished, and everyone knew who was responsible. Friends used to joke that his partner John was the stage manager for “The Mark Show.” It was never meant with even a hint of disrespect. We were all jealous of the complete adoration that was apparent in both of them every time you were around them. You’d see a slight, gentle touch on Mark’s collar while he was surrounded by boys telling some outrageously rude joke. You’d catch them stealing thick, bourbon-filled kisses in the kitchen at a dinner party full of house guests.

Pictures of them with fabulously feathered ‘70s hairdos, powder blue tuxedos and thick rimmed glasses looking like extras from an extra campy Magnum P.I. episode, adorned the entry way to their home. They would tell beautifully detailed, different versions of the same story depending on who got started. Always on special occasions they’d tell of the night they came home together down the gravel driveway to their woodsy, small home. It was like listening to someone recite the most romantic of all fairy tales. Mark’s little details always making John blush at the right moments. It all seemed perfect.

Watching him that day, he was the personification of celebration and remembrance. Even in Mark’s death, John was the supportive partner, putting on the perfect send-off party, determined to get it absolutely right. It’s crazy how I can remember that evening on the ocean vividly, right down to the most particular detail. Mark’s service was held at the labyrinth at Land’s End. Out on the end of the world, with the setting sun bouncing off the water, lighting up the Golden Gate like a picture postcard. You had to walk down the earthen steps and find your way down to the sea. Once we’d all arrived, John went around the circle as people continued to greet one another. He handed each person a paper lantern. A deep reverent hush fell over all of us as we each realized Mark and John had made these in advance. Written on mine in John’s perfect cursive handwriting was a long paragraph:

“We met you at the baths on a joyous Pride weekend. You had just turned 21. I am so excited to know you’ll finish college and make a real difference in the world,” I read, with tears welling up. “I know you’ll be brilliant. You’ll break through that trademark shyness of yours. I will miss you, bucky boy, but the world is going to get such a gift.”

I looked up around the circle, witnessing how these personal messages were affecting everyone involved. John walked out to the edge near the water and lit the candle in his lantern, passing it around the circle to the next person. The sun started below the horizon as everyone’s lantern bounced with candlelight and started to fill with warm air, making them light in our hands.

John let his go, and it seemed to hover, in fact, hesitate in his hands. He spoke in this incredibly almost unbearable soft voice, “No. No. It’s time for you to go, honeybear.” As if hearing his absolute command, the lantern lit off from his hands and floated up, catching the breeze, which took it up and out to sea, candlelight revealing that the entire surface of his lantern had writing upon it. He looked after it like a parent sending his child off to school on a fall morning. One by one, the lanterns in our hands followed suit, slowly rising into the sky and wandering away.

I’d always meant to keep in better touch with John. But Mark was right, I finished college, went to Africa in the Peace Corps, and my life had taken off like a rocket ship. I had always thought to myself that John had gone quietly and peacefully after his husband without regrets.

Twenty-one years later, there he was on Facebook. It was like a ghost came up on my computer screen. According to his profile, he’d gone on to get a doctorate and was now a counselor in Calgary. He was single, aggressively agnostic, and had a dog named Lucille. He still had that calm smile, like the entire world had become a “Mark” for him to adore from across the room.

The computer beeped, and a message from him came up: “I’ve missed you.”

_________________________________________________ This is an excerpt from “Brief Moments: A Collection of Short Stories” by Robert B. McDiarmid — available on in paperback and in Ebook/Kindle editions.


Keep what is worth keeping...

I had some really good conversations today with my husband about post election feelings and relationships. He talked me out of my need for closure - writing people letters to ask "what about Trump was so attractive?" or which was it - the misogyny or the xenophobia that made you vote Republican - or was it both? As David says "If the relationship with you/us means something to them - they'll come and talk about it with you. They'll ask 'how have I hurt you?' or 'Can we talk about how this has hurt both of us?' - and we should be ready to have those conversations. Those that don't have the conversation? Smile with kindness but let them fade away. Frankly some of these folks will probably let out a big sigh of relief - "oh that loud bitch is no longer in my life." Others will realize quickly that David and I are people they miss and I hope they do come talk to us. Right now, I can't bear to talk about it anymore. People that supported Trump have permanently changed how I will regard them, how much time I have for them, and how much energy I'll invest in them. I used the think politics were simple. I was so wrong. The political is deeply personal - and is a ballot box representation of your world view. And if your world view aligns with the GOP and Donald Trump, you will grow dimmer in mine. I am really going to try to make this the last "election related" post. I know a lot of you will sigh in relief. But if you've seen a din of deep disappointment on my face - a look of true sadness in the last few weeks, this is why. As for Trump and the GOP - I'm putting my money where my mouth is. I'll donate the shit out of the ACLU, Lambda Legal Defense Fund and to candidates who match my world view in the midterms and beyond. I won't be forwarding links to change your minds and educate ya'll - because if you are on my friends list - you probably agree with me already. For those of you hurt by my disorienting level of disappointment over the last few weeks, and I know there are some of you, I apologize. I'm here to talk about better things. The way things are looking we're going to lean on each other - our friends - more than ever in the next decade. Does it mean I'm done disagreeing? Hardly. but I'm going to get out and shore up the organizations that keep my civil rights and my world view as safe from harm as possible. I am so thankful for my husband, he's my even keel, my sage and the love of my life. He literally has talked me down for just scorching the earth under a few people's feet, including family who we've had in our home and felt close to. These are people he likes and will miss having around. He's disappointed too, just in the quiet scholarly David way that everyone loves. Decisions done, I'll stop processing it so goddamn hard. and disappear to the beach with my best friends for three days and get on with life.

Lift Toolkit #1 - Responding|Reacting

Whether you’re in the U.S. or not, the results of November's election can bring up some strong feelings — maybe outrage or depression, maybe elation and shock, maybe contempt for others. Perhaps, like some people I know, you are angry about the outcome, and can’t believe your fellow Americans would elect the person they elected. Perhaps you’re feeling vindicated, and are unhappy with the way your fellow Americans have steered this country for the last eight years. Perhaps you’re not from the U.S., and you’re feeling scorn for Americans, or confusion, after the results of this election. Whatever you’re feeling, it’s likely to come from a place of non-understanding. That’s not likely to help our community, locally or globally, nor will it help our own happiness. It can be a transformative practice to practice compassion right now. As the Lift slogan goes - "lifting ourselves – and more importantly, those around us – up!" - starting always with ourselves. The truth is, we each have personally experienced what the other side is going through. The results of the election represent the feelings of millions of other people — they speak in some way for our fellow human beings. We have each felt these emotions: feeling left behind, feeling frustrated, distrusting, powerless, angry, hopeful for change, disliking the change that we see. The real work is how we choose to respond. Feel free to download and share this PDF wherever you'd like! [pdf-light-viewer id="2040"]
I don't know about ya'll, but I woke up this morning pretty shell-shocked. I hear a lot of folks touting the fact that Hillary won the popular vote. She won the popular vote by 207,000. (basically the population of Boise, Idaho) or in a more digestible # - .006% of the votes counted so far. That's hardly a victory by any standard. A majority is usually 50+1% and this figure doesn't equal a victory - it equals a tie. Let's not be poor losers to the fact that Donald Trump played the Electoral Vote game better than the Clinton Campaign. The Electoral College is a fine institution until your point of view loses. Progressives didn't give it a mind's eye when Obama was elected twice. The political will to change the system of the Electoral College doesn't exist in either major party.
The GOP, the Democrats and progressives absolutely need to own the fact that they underestimated Trump's candidacy from the beginning. We also need to hold the media firmly responsible for some of Trump's success. Bravo to Michael Moore's call to "TURN THEM OFF" .... the only way they hold sway is if we watch them and react when they tell us to. We just elected a wild-card President-Elect - and the future is completely unpredictable. ------------- I hope that this election result will create a grassroots movement to change the way Presidential politics are played - not just when a progressive holds your point of view, but when a conservative does as well. Let's take a few days or weeks after this 15 month long election and do some individual soul searching. Where could we have been more mindfully involved, financially or in-person? How can we learn to respond to politics and social issues versus setting ourselves up to be reactive? Will the clear dissatisfaction with the status quo evolve into a viable, influential third party? How do we find the compassionate path in the next four years - and the years that follow? I started this 'lift' community here on Facebook and have invited a core group that I hope will invite others they think would have a voice to contribute.

You've Got Mail

"Does it mean I'm old when the latest cool thing baffles me?" "Keep in mind, you've said previously that you miss AOL. So your reviews of technology are already suspect." "I miss hearing 'you've got mail' when I login. Email used to mean something." "Darling, today? Today its about skype and twitter, startrek is here. Twitter is meant for people on their phones fat finger typing. The guy that invented it is a gabillionaire." "I don't get twitter, the whole thing depresses me. It seems like people only tweet power-snark, as mean and cutting as possible in 140 characters. When it's not politics or bigotry, it's people retweeting links to kittens or *shudder* Bieber videos. And don't get started on the whole hashtag thing, hashtag asshat hashtag fail? I just want to hashtag vomit. Bleh! I mean would Kirk use Twitter?" "Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn is only 80 characters, so probably." 'It scares me that a) you knew that, and b) that you knew that."

The Call of the Wild

"You know in the old west, they'd cook on the campfire and sleep by it all night. It was the center of their social circle. Wouldn't it be fun to be with all our friends in such a purposeful way, with the stars above and all?," he said, gazing into the flames in the the fireplace, "I mean in those old museum western Remington paintings? The guys all seemed to enjoy it so much." "You mean, recreate the wagon train? Actually, go camping?", his partner asked. "Get dirty? oh no no no no no no. No - I mean - sit around a fireplace, ooooh one of those cute ones we saw at the home show with all the colored glass beads and the round circle of flame in the iron tub? they were super cute... and maybe a nice tray for s'mores. and some mint cocoa with petite marshmallows. Go outside? where there are bugs? No we won't be doing that. oh you are the cute one." They both stared back into the fireplace. "Camping. Outside?," he continued with a chuckle, "the very thought. oh dear Goddess. no."

Then? Then he gave me the look.

I was sitting in the airport. It was the usual whirling dervish of people moving in every direction. I stared down at my boarding pass with dismay. 6pm flight the day before Thanksgiving, what the hell was I thinking? I was already regretting not stopping at the bar for a beer before reporting to the gate. "A Cardinal fan, eh? I'm more of a Bears guy." said someone suddenly, referring to my Stanford jacket. I looked up to a man in his 40s, a man of Indian descent, with that impossibly thick mustache and the beard stubble he'd probably grown after breaking the razor on his whiskers that very morning. More incredible was his soft, Cheshire cat smile.  He stood incredibly close to me in the crowded terminal, close enough I could imagine what he might be like in a less stressful environment with less strict dress codes. He was really solid - this was a man that didn't miss the gym. "Did you play?," he continued, excitedly, leaning in so I could hear him over all the commotion at the gate. "Oh this old jacket, shit, I haven't seen a football field in nearly 25 years. I played for them when they sucked. I mean like they really sucked hard.", gulping and grimacing both from the embarrassingly involuntary double entendre and his enthusiasm. "Yeah - that Luck is one hell of a quarterback. He knows how to handle the ball." At this point I was totally lost in looking up at him, when a female voice called to him in Hindi from behind me. I looked around to see a Indian woman unsuccessfully wrangling four kids of various ages. It was the kind of domestic situation with kids in a public place that made me surer everyday that was not the path for me. I turned around to face the man again, and his demeanor had complete changed, you could see the happiness rinse away from his face. "Well I should go take care of this. Maybe the Bears'll beat the Cardinal this year," he said with a half-hearted jeer and a playful wink. As he turned to return to his family, you could see all of the kids immediately snap too, knowing that the Bear was returning to keep the cubs in their place. I shook off the whole thing, giving away all my thoughts of having met a new guy to flights of fancy. I returned to my boring book and my thoughts drifted off to the beer I'd order during beverage service. I waited, and soon my flight was called. I fell in line and was soon in my carefully selected extra leg room aisle seat. I got all settled in my seat, and waited for the boarding to continue. It was the strangest thing, suddenly realizing you are being watched. In the boarding que was the Indian Bear. He had spoken to me softly, but his gaze upon me at this point was precise and with lack of a better description.... primal. At first, I pretended not to notice but the stare was impossible not to match. The entire length of the plane as the line pulsed forward and stopped, he kept his gaze firmly set upon me. The longer it went on the more flushed and outright swoonable I became. His kids and wife in front of him, shuffling through impatiently trying to get to their seats. As they got closer, he raised his hands into a prayer position and bowed to me in the most intimate fashion. Again with the softness, with the demonstrative connection. Then? Then he gave me the look. The look of longing and sadness with simultaneous respect and care. It's always amazed me that no matter where my travels take me, every culture, every adventure on the map - men of our tribe know 'the look.' I laugh with my therapist that it's a powerful gay version of namaste. An ancient Sanskrit greeting still in everyday use in India, translated roughly, it means "I bow to the God within you", or "The Spirit within me salutes the Spirit in you" - a knowing that we are all made from the same One Divine Consciousness. So my queer tribe takes that a step forward and it's almost a genetic reflex, 'the look.' I recognize the beautiful person you are, the unique member of the queer tribe, and I recognize you because I am also gay. It doesn't need to lead to anything, it's not always like a cruise in the park at sunset. 'The look' can be used as a playful way to get someone to relax in a business meeting, "oh grrl , I'm so not like these others either, you're safe, one of your sisters is at the table." It can be a vegetable stand owner in a far off open air market, who just gives you an extra moment of care while selecting your produce. As you hand him the awkwardly counted foreign currency, he gives you 'the look' to let you know it's okay, and to take your time. It's 'the look' you get across a subway car in what you thought was the "straight" neighborhood, nodding, even smiling to let you know that even there, your tribe is there to look out for you. In this case, my Indian friend was simply acknowledging that no matter how different we might seem to others, he and I knew what the score was. The look that said he knew who I was and what I was, and valued it like a precious jewel, because he was one too.

like a secret

I sat riverside watching the river flow by, skipping rocks across the surface. The cottonwoods were shedding and there was a soft stream of puffs gently wafting down towards the river. The cotton would almost get violently grabbed from its soft descent into the brisk current of the river. 'Beautiful day,' said a voice from behind me. I turned to see a man standing in the path along the river. He stood, wearing a large hunting pack from his back. Hung from it were all sorts of interesting little things from pots and cups to feathers, but it all looked placed with great, almost ritual care and intent. He wore an Indiana Jones style fedora and a bright orange camping jacket. He had an unkempt beard and had a small wooden pipe tucked in his shirt pocket. He looked like stories had been sticking to him for many years. "Nothing beats springtime on the river," I said to him, returning my gaze to the water. I picked up a rock and skipped it across the surface of the water. It pinged nearly eight or nine times before kerplunking into the water. "The cottonwoods are goin-" I turned to say to him, but he was no longer standing there. Birds called out in the trees and the occasional gust of a breeze seemed to answer them. I actually felt jealous of him for a moment, heading out on an adventure. In my younger days I'd thought that might actually be my life, a nomad with no place, in particular, I was heading.  My pop had firmly shamed the wanderlust out of my soul - there were responsibilities, and land, and family to support.  I grew out of such ideas like every boy does in a small Idaho town eventually does. Life became a series of routines, of chores, of responsibilities. I had never figured out the girls, or the women for that matter. And I didn't live in an age like ya'll where "figuring out the guys" was something you could do either. I was the bachelor. I had good work - and made sure my family was safe. So I'd helped my sisters raise their families, taught their boys to fish standing in the river at this very spot, watched their husbands give their daughters away in the meadow upstream to fine young men who started their own families. I had just decided that those kinds of love affairs had been kept from me like a secret. My sisters, always understood my wanderings. My hikes up into the foothills, my camping trips alone. My time out reading or writing in a book for myself up in the pasture. but even they were gone now. Being the runt, I'd spent a lot of time alone upon this river. Nieces and nephews hundreds if not thousands of miles away discovering their own worlds and their own paths. My mind returned to the stranger - - and is if on que, he came trotting back out of the woods. This time, he walked closer, hoisted his pack off, setting it near us on the rocks. Free of his pack he said rather matter-of-factly, "Hows about you come with me?" The question stunned me for a moment. "I mean, can't have you wishing stuff on me, when you can come along." I didn't speak. The softness of his offer seemed genuine and not as uncomfortable as one would suspect. Then he reached over and took my hand. His embrace was soft, and in his eyes I saw an intimacy, almost a recognition of who I was. Almost involuntarily I took my other hand and covered his, touching his hand and tracing the hairs on the top of his hand like a small boy with a treasure map. "I 'spose I could walk with you a ways." "Good," he said, his face spreading into a wide smile. I grabbed my walking stick, and stood up and slowly ambled up. He strapped his pack on and we started on the red clay path along the river towards the mountains. We paused for a moment, looking back down the shore.  Walking hand in hand, we disappeared into the woods, each step becoming freer than the one before it. My thankful, and lifeless body remaining there staring out over the rocks.

He didn’t even know I was there.

It was a rainy night in the neighborhood, when I saw him through a restaurant window. He didn’t even know I was there. I stopped for a moment, staying off at a distance like a ghost. Here we were, 22 years later. His beard still a soft black. He still worked out. His ear still twinkled with his taste for sparkling earrings. He still had impeccable taste in clothes. I wondered if he still made fantastic omelets and strong thick coffee on Saturdays. He was with a stocky bear-type guy and a straight couple. He poured wine, and broke out mid-pour in his hearty Russian laugh. The sound seemed to chase away the raindrops and surround me. I’d told him so many years before, after dating for a few months, that I wasn’t ready for a relationship. That I was still so new to being out, that I had more exploring to do. I pulled my coat up around my shoulders and walked away into the dark, ashamed that all Dmitri would remember me for was breaking his heart.


rehobeth dunes

I'd rented a car for the first time and escaped to Rehoboth. I was stationed at Norfolk. I counted the miles between me and the naval base outloud as I drove north. 

Thinking what it would be like to be somewhere I could step out and see what other gay men were like. The restaurant was in the Damron guide I'd been hiding in my stuff.

"I didn't think there was another gay man that liked football," he said appearing next to me, letting his hand leisurely drop on my back. We stared up at the small color TV silently for a moment. I was terrified someone would know it was my first time in a gay restaurant, so I answered him without turning to make eye contact, "yeah, looks like Notre Dame 'll be a good squad this year." 

"I'm Ronald," he said in affectionate tone, revealing a southern accent.

"I'm Robert....." I said, turning to him.

He was in his late thirties, with the unmistakable Navy issue mustache. He was strong. He had a soft Cajun complexion, someone who had been tan since the cradle. He wore a white tanktop, soaked with humid sweat. Funny that I don't remember him being particularly hairy, but will always remember his smell.

He'd been on the beach and smelled of beer and smoke and abandon. He wore a bead necklace and had that day old patchouli oil look about him. I must have spent a longer than usual moment taking in all his qualities. He smiled wide and rustled my hair like I was a five year old. He turned me towards him, swiveling me on the barstool.

"Well now, aren't you a beautiful boy?" he said to me, as I fell in love with him.  


Tankyou, Unka

The young girl examined the vegetables. Being shorter, she felt most attached to the carrot on the bottom. She didn't realize she'd bring the whole display down upon her, resulting in a falling cascade of carrots, pelting her. She was about to erupt in tears when he seemed to appear out of nowhere. He knelt down whispering comfort in her ear. She hugged him tight, managing a little smile, as he picked the carrots up from around her feet. "Tank you, Unka." she said in the softest young person speak, still a little ruffled by the situation.. He picked her up and showed her the rest of the vegetable section. He spoke in the calmest gentle voice. "Mr. Celery, and Mr. Bell Pepper, Miss Eggplant. oh, and Mr. Broccoli. We love Mr. Broccoli, huh? Mr. Basil, Ms. Ginger Root.......", he continued with her down the aisle.  
In today's world full of people pushing and shoving their way to everything, gentleness can be incredibly difficult. It is always worth it.
I stood across the street where the bus had dropped me. I looked both ways before crossing the street, checking traffic and to also double check if anyone saw me. I am not sure what I thought I'd find there, but I was determined. A blue cigarette haze greeted me as I scrunched up my eyes coming in from the midday sunshine. The jukebox played Steely Dan as I hopped up on the bar stool and confidently ordered a soda pop. "A Soda pop? darlin'.", said the bartender. "A soda pop." I repeated, far less confidently. "How old are you, boy?" "21" "Ya gonna make me card you, or you just gonna get on outta here." There were a few moments of silence. "I'll get outta here." "Yep," said the bartender. As I walked towards the door with my backpack, the other men at the bar let out a little uncomfortable laugh.


"He's so hairy he should be wearing a full body hair net. I think he should have to manscape before before working over food." "I thought you liked hairy guys?" "I do.... But look at him , he looks like a chia pet he's so furry. I'd better not get a curly chiapube in my tuna special." "First, we'd have to see way more of him for curlypubes to end up in our entrees. Second, if he wanted to cook naked, who are we to judge?" "The health department might disagree." "Don't get all reality on me, Let me enjoy my Chia Chef naked cooking fantasy," They both looked on as the chef continued in the kitchen. The Chef wiped his forehead with a towel. "I wonder if he'd wring that towel out and make a vinaigrette with his manly chefsweat." "Okay now you're just being gross." "Or perhaps a sweaty hairball marinade." "You are so not well." "I know."

Sweater Weather

I would ask each Saturday morning of September if it was time yet, even if it was 80 degrees outside. One quiet Saturday morning we'd wake up to the sparkle of the first frost of the season on the grass out front, with the ocean's fog dancing across the surface. It was like Christmas came early for six year old me. My mother would retrieve the box of sweaters from the attic that we'd carefully folded and put away the spring before. Finally, I was reunited with my favorite pullovers, button ups, vests and my favorite, the cardigans. I would pull out each one and look at it. I'd already preemptively cleared a drawer in the dresser, and refolded each of them carefully and reverently. Forty years later, I still get that rush of romantic energy as the leaves start to gently turn into fall. The return of sweater weather.

Can I be your fag hag?

I love lunches with Martika. When she'd come to work for me, I was the first real-life homosexual she'd ever met. I've tried to represent my subspecies well. She is a shy Indian woman with a wide-eyed interest in all things different than her marriage and family life. She wondered how other 'families' worked. "Can I be your," she said, pausing to get her words right, "fag hag?" I chortled, telling her that fag hag wasn't the most complimentary of terms, and how about we just be friends. In giving her a spotlight into what it means to be a gay american, I learned more about myself and a history of my community. It boils down to I’m here, I’m queer, and let’s not make a big fuss about it. That we could be friends without my sexuality being a constant pivot point. Martika recently started watching RuPaul's Drag Race. Other than admitting that in drag I look like Barbara Streisand on a drunken night out, I don't have much guidance for her. That was until she asked, "Who is Barbara Streisand?"

Kiss a few frogs before...

"So we had a nice dinner out together before the movie, at that noodle place on 14th?" "Oh that is a good one!" "And as always the sing along Grease was a scream." "Well-a, well-a, well-a, uh! Tell me more, tell me more Was it love at first sight?" he sang in a horrible high pitched wail. "Well it was all going great till we get to the bar and we have a beer." "Oh no. drama? Oh honey..." "yeah - there were no other clues. no swooning. no closeness. no attempts at handholding at the movie. Not a drop of romantic chemistry at all. I'm literally mid-sip and he winks and says 'I can't wait to fuck you.' - - I literally spit beer." "I'm guessing he didn't take the news well." "I was very nice about it - but even if it had been a date, I don't usually go there on the first date, anyhow. he literally said, you think I spend this much time with someone I don't know if I don't expect to fuck them at the end of the night? and says, fine, I'll just go home, grab my trick bag, and head to the baths and stick my dick in someone who will appreciate it. and walks out of the bar." "Charming."

complicated multiracial power names

He set the glass down and watched the wine slosh around in the glass. NPR commentators with impossibly complicated multiracial power names rattled on about some soundbite of the day in the background. He stared over at the pile of mail with a sigh, a pile of advertising since nobody writes handwritten letters anymore. He closed his eyes and let out a deep sigh. "You'll hurt your neck sleeping like that," the voice said, "Albert, hey..." He slowly opened his eyes to find his husband leaning over him, still dressed in a bow tie and suit for the symphony. "You silly goose, you'll wake up with a neck ache sleeping in a kitchen chair like that - - and worse, you'll be a crab apple all day. and who wants that? Not me, that's who. Troddle off to bed now, will you? I love you," he said, kissing him on the forehead. With the hallway clock chiming eleven, he dropped his clothes in a pile at his feet next to the bed. He licked his teeth which still tasted like pretentious red wine. "I love you too," he muttered, quickly finding himself back asleep.

Visiting the Emerald City

Blaine was 21; this was his year. It was time to march in the parade and then make a beeline for one of those $10 margaritas. He caught the Muni train, standing next to a man in a shirt and tie. “God, he must be at least 35,” Blaine thought to himself, “but he still works out. Big pecs.” “Going to Pride?” the man said, making eye contact and interrupting Blaine's daydream, smiling through a gray mustache. In a bright pink tank top and shorts, there was little doubt, so Blaine chirped out a , “Yep!” “I gotta work. I’ll miss it. I remember when I was a baby gay and Pride was like visiting the Emerald City.” Blaine giggled at his choice of words. People got on at the next stop pressing in and pushing the man in closer. He continued to look down at Blaine, keeping that disarming non-threatening smile on his face. “Wow, are we going to kiss? Is that okay?” thought Blaine nervously as they arrived at Civic Center. The train slowed and then lurched to a stop, the man leaned in and gently kissed Blaine on the ear, whispering, “Go get’em, Tiger." The man then bowed and held the Muni train door open for him. Blaine stepped out onto the platform. The train door hissed shut, and the man with the disarming smile waved goodbye as the car pulled away, like something out of Casablanca.

adventure shoes

Tossing newspapers into front yards for months finally had its reward. He loved those shoes, the old-fashioned hiking boots with bright red laces. They were almost too pretty to wear when they first arrived. He waterproofed them and cared for them like nothing else. He’d sit in the classroom daydreaming of the next hike to plan. He’d circled all the waterfalls on the map. He’d bust out of bed at sunrise on a Saturday. While his siblings watched cartoons around the television, he’d pull his schoolbooks out of his pack, and fill it with a lunch, a water bottle and his leather diary. His grandfather’s compass dangling from his front pocket, and a topographical map crammed in the back pocket, he’d trundle out the road from the house and disappear into the woods like a ghost.

a spider lives in my desk

There is a spider living on my desk. The first time he introduced himself I leapt away from my desk and screamed like a three year old. I ran out to my husband reading in the other room, "There is a giant spider on my desk!" As usual, he calmly stared me over his reading glasses. "Look how big you are!," he said pausing and giving me that you are being a silly little man look, "Stocky, nearly six foot tall, bearded. Imagine what he says to HIS husband when he returns, "I saw the bearded giant today, he leapt up and ran away from me like schoolgirl." Without saying another word, he returned to his book of the moment. I considered his response for a few days actually, when it appeared again. I hesitated, pushing my chair back and eyed him carefully. He wasn't all that pretty. He was dirty dark colour. I supposed that perhaps that was the in fashion this spring for spiders. Dark, mysterious, aloof. It's also probably the best color to blend in and not be seen till he's making another insect a tasty snack. A tasty snack, I snickered to myself. Then my mind wondered, what other insects are in the house that he'd be snacking on? Jesus, my house in infested! I asked him outloud what the dish du jour was that evening. I wonder what his spider senses did with that input, if it even could hear or comprehend it was being spoken to. It moved. I scooted my chair back a bit more. Then, as if to say, "I've wasted enough time already" he scurried around my speaker and disappeared into the darkness. We have seen each other a few more times now. Mostly late at night when I'm up writing and he figures I've already gone to bed. You can see him stop on the desk and say "goddamnit, go to bed," and that's usually a good cue for me to do just that.

generational stories

He hummed a small chant reverently as he labored in the small cabin. He returned affectionately to the window sill. He held the small dusty bottle up to the light triumphantly. The leaves had macerated since the last full moon. The sun had indeed turned it all into a lovely brown concoction.

Shuffling his feet in his esoteric rambling around the shed, he finally found the block of beeswax and began melting it slowly over the open flame. He dutifully strained the small bottle from the window. Smiling, he added the remaining oil to the beeswax, stirring it slowly with a thick, old wooden spoon. Forgetting his third ingredient, he indignantly scuttled back to the pantry.

“There you are cypress,” he addressed it, returning to his work.

He moved the softened wax from the flame and muttering under his breath used the dropper from the cypress oil over the top of the wax. As the strong aroma struck his sinuses, he allowed himself the pleasure of a satisfied smile. He reached down, taking a small sample and massaging it between his fingers.

“Perfect” he said, quite satisfied with himself.

Not giving it time to set, he spooned it into the waiting green jars, sealed them, occasionally returning to his fingers to breathe in the thick Mediterranean scent. Walking over to the sink, he washed his hands carefully, returning his apron to its hook. With a gentle blow he extinguished the lanterns, enjoying the silence for a moment and the fresh smoke in the air. He stepped over the book of herbs and closed it as reverently as someone might close their bible. As if on que, the grandfather clock in the corner struck six and the first fingers of sunrise peeked through the trees into the window. He dutifully toddled off through the yard to the house, returning back to the modern world.

He stood naked examining himself out of the morning shower. So this was what older looked like. He hummed Copland's shaker hymn as he carefully braided his hair and then his beard. He took the ring out of his nose, placing it carefully in a tray on the sink, and replaced the big hoops usually in his ears with carefully selected garnet studs. She'd asked him to shave - knowing he'd ignore her - of course the beard was never coming off. It was part of him like rings in an ancient redwood.

He arrived at the church in his construction man’s pickup. It was that kind of whirling dervish that made people pray for his safety every time he got into it. Stepping out in the perfectly tailored dark green suit with a fresh flower in the lapel, even he had to admit he looked pretty good. There she was on the stoop. One day a frightened girl he'd walked home from school, the next a mother marrying off her daughter. Damned if she didn't look older yet like he did. He supposed there were reasons for that. She greeted him with a smile and a strong hug.

"Try not to turn anyone into a frog today, shall we?," she teasingly whispered into his ear.

"For today. limited time offer, restrictions apply."

He walked up the center aisle of the cathedral. The memories of this place traced back to before any of them were born. He could still here the theatrical creak of the main doors the last time he'd left here and put his collar in the top drawer of his father's desk and never gone to retrieve it again. With no pause, the other participants and then guests started to arrive. He stood in the center as the groom nervously darted his eyes between him and the back door of the church. He wondered what generational stories the boy had been told about the esoteric druid uncle from the woods. He winked at the boy, which didn’t exactly have the calming effect that was intended.

His niece arrived in the back door, wearing his Mother’s wedding dress. She strolled forward with a disquieting adult confidence. Beginning his opening words, he found his cadence and cast his spell over the crowd.


let my instincts have what they wanted

I walked down the street, the prenatural glow of things before sunrise. He’d smiled at me on BART and dropped me his card. I had texted him by the next stop. He wrote me right back and invited me to dinner. It was like something out of a trashy romance novel. We sat at dinner like we’d been dating for months. Sitting on the same side of the table, purposely touching the entire time. We took a stroll through the neighborhood afterwards resulting in a few makeout sessions that got extremely urgent. Against the final tree he said I should come home with him. I wasn’t about to disagree. We were naked and inside each other within moments of entering his apartment. I smiled, reaching down for the buttons that had been ripped out of my shirt. I smiled about it had felt to let go for once and just let my instincts have what they wanted. It used to rack me with questions afterwards, will I see him again? What did the date mean? What about saving that kind of sex for someone I loved? Who was to say that in that moment I didn’t love him. Oh the moments. I had beard burn everywhere and a smile that wasn’t going to leave for a great while.

grains of sand under his feet

The world left behind, he sat by the campfire. Thick Pacific fog held the beach captive around him. His coworkers had called him a bit crazy for doing this trip. Who takes a vacation alone with a backpack and a tent out in the middle of nowhere? “Me” he cackled to himself, teasing the fire. They didn’t realize how much it took for him to be around people and to pretend to happy about it. How the shallow water-cooler conversations made him sadder each day he heard them. How if he heard a recap of some vapid reality show and the vitriol on display, one day he’d politely tell them they should take the conversation elsewhere, because their tone of voice and subject matter hurt him. He’d known from an early age what a sensitive man he would become. Unspoken words affected him before speech. The venomous tests of adolescence taught him that nobody around him could be trusted not to hurt him. That some might even enjoy doing so. He scratched his white beard and started breaking out supplies for coffee. In another day or so, the echoes of that life would subside and he’d be able to hear the grains of sand under his feet. He’d be able to hear the song the wind played in evergreens and brush. He’d call back at seagulls. And each night as he’d put out the fire and head to the tent, wrap himself in the thick syrupy silence.


The sunrise spread over the urban meadow as he walked quietly along behind his cart. His brown clothes hung like Buddhist monk's robes. This one had a drinking fountain, he could refill his bottles. He had been teased by others in the underworld for living there. They called him designer homeless, the organic, free-trade vagabond. This was home, their nicknames fell off him like water off a duck. He'd lived places where resources were scarce. Food bank passed out bags of rice. What good is microwave-for-ninety-seconds rice to an underworlder? He laughed at the thought of some smug white city councilman suggesting installing a microwave in the tent city along the Guadalupe or the center offering showers and 'free access to a microwave.' Processed food was bad for him anyway. Too much shit in that versus food. Fucking filler foods anyway. Fucking carbs. He was distracting himself. Too much thinking. That was never a good idea. Keep on schedule, he thought to himself, keep on schedule. Bottles filled, he made his way to the community garden where she greeted him. This one moment each morning reaffirmed him in a way nothing else could. They'd met one morning, her catching him harvesting carrots from a neighboring garden. Her reaction wasn't shame or defense, but insisting on knowing his name. Nobody else cared to know it. She was Karen. Karen who loved her grandkids. "Good morning, Albert" had become magic words.


"Welcome to MFFit, how can I help you?" "Yeah - I saw you guys had opened and figured I'd come in for a tour, and see what you have to offer." "Bitchin'", barked the man behind the counter, "One of our awesome trainers 'll be up in a minute." That's when his eye caught the name badge of the counterperson. It read "Fuck You, I'm Bill." Then he realized everything in the place was laden with curse words. Reminders about putting weights back read, "Really, Bitch? Put the fucking weights back when you are done." One sign near the ellipticals and treadmills read, "Wipe down the equipment when you've sweat all over the fucking place. Seriously, shithead, nobody wants to workout in your funk." While areas of the gym were labeled, "Fuckin' Legs, Bitchin' Backs, You Call that a Chest, Shithead?, and "Stretch or Fuckin' Die." Turning his view back to the counter, he decided to ask. "Um. I'm sorry but why does your name badge say "fuck you"?" "Here at Mother Fuckin' Fitness, our founders realized that everyone was coming to the gym and cursing under their breath, and at Mother Fuckin' Fitness, people are encouraged to express themselves at the gym no matter how negatively they do so. and that attitude starts with the staff and "fuck you" is where it all starts. It's totally bitchin' - and people see real goddamn results. And it helps people bond. Nobody really likes bullshit like leg day or jesus christ, nobody actually likes bullshit like aerobics, " he boasted, "So here at MFF you don't have to pretend that your pumped up, just get the fucking workout done and get the fuck out. We just believe that this fitness shit should just get real. Sure it's different than other gyms, but who needs their dog vomit anyhow." "Really?" "Do I look like I'd waste your fuckin' time, asshole?," he said smiling and then suddenly changing tone, "oh good, here's James for your tour."

Seasons of Glove

The bar manager approached me apprehensively as I was setting up the sound equipment. Thursday nights the bar hosted ‘Beareaoke’ for the local bear club to come and drink beers and sing. “We have a problem, Bill,” he said. ”Rex at the bar double-booked Beareaoke with Red Hanky Social Night. What will we do?” “Me and Gladys,” I said, referring to the drag queen I cohosted with, ”are showmen; we’ll figure it out.” Gladys showed up perfectly dressed in a bright red sequin dress. She and I talked about the situation, and decided on the perfect solution. The bar started filling with a mix of bears and the expected guys flagging red left and right. It was show time, and Gladys stepped up to the microphone. “Welcome to Beareoke Night at The Dive. Tonight is special. Rex, our hunky bartender, invited the red hanky club along to share this festive evening. So, in honor of that, we will be replacing the word ‘love’ with ‘glove’ in any song you sing this evening.” I started the machine and Gladys started her opening number. The familiar tones of an Elvis song began. Guys and gals looked at each other a bit confused; Gladys didn’t usually sing Elvis. “Take my hand,” she began, “take my whole arm too. Cuz I can’t help putting my glove in you.” The bar went absolutely ballistic with laughter, and the night was off and running. Highlights of the evening’s performances included "I Want To Be Gloved By You", "Where Did Our Glove Go" by the Supremes, "I Think I Glove You" by the Partridge Family, “All You Need is Glove” by the Beatles, “Endless Glove” from Diana Ross and Lionel Ritchie, “I’m All Out of Glove” by Air Supply, a show stopping “How Deep is Your Glove” from the BeeGees, finally ending at 2 a.m. with a drunken, lighters out, swaying, stirring rendition of “Seasons of Glove” from Rent. _____________________________________________________ this a favorite excerpt from my collection of short stories, "Brief Moments"
He slumped over his cold cut special with extra pickles and no onions, it was almost as boring the book he'd dogeared and shut. Was this all there was to look forward to? Windy days in the corner eating a sub sandwich before tottling down the block back to his apartment? He had tried taking the sandwich home, upselling it with the idea of deep draw from a shimmering glass of Pinot Noir. But then last Wednesday night he'd follow up the sandwich with the rest of the bottle and woe is me menopausal dramas on cable television. Why couldn't she see that her boyfriend was the murderer? Did she sit in a Subway at the train station and just decide it was her fate? Did she sip on a Diet Sunrise Soda and think "I wonder who he's murdering now? But he's so cute?!" He hoped her 'sandwich artist' had remembered no onions and not tried to forcibly toast it. Nobody likes it toasted. nobody.


He stared at himself in the mirror - a comfortable black tshirt, brand new blue jeans and engineer's boots with an obvious history. He clipped on his keys and headed down the block. The heat of a summer night made him make the familiar stroll to the bar. He could remember getting leathered up and meeting the boys. He would smile walking by the dark corners he'd made love to a man in the early hours. the first time he'd been called Boy. the first time he'd been called Daddy. The freedom. The abandon. All of them ghosts now. He tipped the bartender, a pretty tattooed boy who wasn't born the first time he came in the place. The fog from the cigar smokers out on the patio mixed with the humid smell of the rain making the Odouls thick to drink.

The Ringing

The Ringing

You know that ringing in your ears after a loud Springsteen concert? The one where he sang every song you love and covered a few others. The one where you sang along to every word and let his voice flow over you like waterfall. Yeah, that one. All I can hear is the ringing, but I always hum Springsteen to myself when it bothers me, or for some odd mysterious reason, I am reminded that the ringing is there. The driver had been passing in a no passing zone. The road was a bit wet from the unseasonable summer rains from the night before. They came around a bend in tandem simultaneously in slow motion and at somewhere the sheriff guessed at 40 miles an hour. In other words, I’m lucky to be writing to you at any case. 

My bicycle tire struck the front and I flipped over the cab of his pickup and into the empty bed behind. My right ear struck the cab and my left ear collided with the bed. Then I was thrown around as he slammed on his breaks. The photographs show me contorted, one leg still clipped into the bike almost like I’d magically gone through the accident and decided to nap. The pictures. 

“Oh Jesus…” were the last words I ever heard. 

They were from the driver of the other car. He had a soft southern accent, the type you hear in a comedy like Sordid Lives, only his voice was deadly serious. Considering I’m a Buddhist there is a fair amount of humor involved with that the end of sound in my life. 

As with many accidents of this type there were a few weeks that were just a blur of pain management and couple of surgeries. It was explained through texting to my iPad that it was doubtful that I would ever hear again, but that the rest of me would heal and I would make a relatively full recovery. You know in those dinner party conversations that go like this, “what if you HAD to lose one of your senses, which one it would be and why?” I would always laugh and say I loved food too much to lose taste, loved my beautiful wife too much to lose sight, loved music too much to lose my hearing so perhaps touch. 

My wife always thought that was a weird answer and we’d spend drunken evenings cleaning up supper dishes trying to decide what kind of catastrophe would have to happen to leave all your senses intact but your touch. After the accident such idle chatter stopped cold. I tried to make this joke to her when I first came home and she burst into tears and walked from the room. 

I couldn’t hear her being upset, but oh my god could I see it. 

The accident brought out this Edgar Allen Poe-ish dark sense of humor that hardly, if anyone but me, appreciated. I think it was because it was my way of not being angry, but dark humor always has a touch of anger, of undiluted truth to it - - that out of context, or suddenly in a conversation or a moment, it made a lot of people uncomfortable. Many people figure of all your senses, losing your hearing is not all that big a deal. Hey why don’t you just learn sign language? Hey, thanks for the advice but do YOU know sign language? Thought not. 

A lot of people that reached out to help got a wall of ‘you can’t possibly understand.’ I tried going back to work but found the inability to socialize with coworkers embarrassing and difficult. They’d come up to my cube and start talking to me, completely forget that I could no longer hear them. Once my injuries healed I wasn’t visibly changed, but soon my boss ushered me into his office - and texting to each other, he suggested that maybe I could work at home and Skype into the team. That way everyone would be more comfortable. 

So - without heading into the office, I became even more isolated. You learn quickly - that the body uses hearing as an important part of balance and in combination with your inner ear is responsible for the awareness of where you are relative to everything around you. I started having these intense waves of complete disconnectedness. Followed by worries about ‘what if she was injured and I couldn’t hear her? what if I had to call 911? as if!” If I would go swimming and go under water and close my eyes I would lose all sense of up and down or any positioning for that matter. It was at once curious, frightening and rather bazaar. And in trying to deal with all of it, the other senses (sight, muscle positioning, and tactile feedback) are heightened but are not a substitute for hearing. It took so much energy just to exist through a day! 

Tired from trying to navigate my new world, I’d be left laying on the bed, the tin ringing reasserting itself. Always reminding me that nothing was the same. I missed what a violin and an oboe sounded like much more than a bus or a car horn. My wife and I were regulars at the symphony. After the accident I’d attended with her a few times. I tried to be brave and pretend it was still a special way to get out together. I apparently fell asleep hard in the second movement. She woke me and wrote on the program that I was snoring and we left at intermission. 

She was doing her best to understand. She was trying to find some answers on how to make our new situation work. She said that I’d always hummed in my sleep, but that in the months since the accident I was losing pitch and it was just heartbreaking to listen to. I’d woken up a couple of times to find her sleeping in the guest room. I wondered for a long while whether in losing my hearing, I’d lose her as well. 

I found myself one day tracing my wife’s face in a photo, like she was no longer my wife, and I grieved. I spent a whole day alone in my beautiful home crying - - crying is some weird ass shit when you can’t hear. You can FEEL it - but you can’t sense it. I could scream as loud as my lungs would let me - and I could feel the pressure leaving my body - I could feel the sobs move through me like an earthquake. She came home one day and I was playing Shostakovich so loudly it was probably vibrating the foundation on the house, and she recalls watching. I was on the floor, legs wrapped around the speaker, leaned against it gently stroking the fabric on the front of it with my eyes shut. 

She can describe coming up me and realizing that I was trying reach out to the sound. She stood in the doorway for two full movements before letting me know she was there. She said recently that watching me in that moment was when she understood and when she fell in love with me again. We went to counseling soon after - armed with iPads so we could text. I agreed to take lip reading and we’d take sign language courses together at the local college. We had assumed this was how we’d live out our lives. Working together we became all the more determined to find solutions - a relentless search for answers – a lot of Facebook chat, voice to text for voice mail, and so many other little helpers to try to stay connected to my life. 

The doctor emailed and said that he’d recently read a paper where a cochlear implant might be able to restore at least a little of my hearing. A cochlear implant is an electronic medical device that replaces the function of the damaged inner ear. Unlike hearing aids, which make sounds louder, cochlear implants do the work of damaged parts of the inner ear to provide sound signals to the brain. 

It was like a “bionic ear” replacement. Insurance frowned about the idea, but paid for it reluctantly - along with some of the accident settlement money. He reviewed the nuts and bolts of what would be happening, “The cochlea hears bass at its center and treble at its opening. All the frequencies lie in between. A healthy human ear can hear up to 20,000 separate frequencies. The implant spreads its pulses across only 20 electrodes but algorithms spread sound amongst electrodes to manufacture many frequencies.” There is so much information and honestly, we just wanted to know if I’d hear again. 

“You’ll hear but not the same, you’ll learn sounds and voices over again, but with most people they are hearing and understanding in the new way within four to six months.” My wife hovered over me as they came to get me from the ward to go in for the procedure. She looked at me, simultaneously worried and excited. I remember being wheeled away. We had to wait six weeks for my surgery to heal before they could do any testing. I usually pride myself on being a patient man, but Jesus this was the longest six weeks of my life. Our best friends and my kids flew in for the “day.” I hated being doted over and treated special. I tolerated everyone’s nervous excitement. 

I remember the night before - sleeping next to my wife and laying awake. I watched the shadow of the evergreens from outside the window dance in the wind and make shadows on the ceiling with the streetlamp. I found myself thinking to myself, two years of silence had taught me so many things, what if I didn’t want the sound back. 

What if I’d become a better person as a result of the silence, of the ringing? 

What if I’d revert back to the kind of man I was before the accident? 

I went into the exam room - and the technician connected the receivers that would become part of me. It certainly reinforced the bionic notions and jokes I’d been sharing with friends. Three years to the day since I’d done a bicycle pirouette, I sat across from a young hearing aid specialist. I was so nervous; but the click and the first faint recognizable tone was marvelous. Everything sounded very distant and like an AM station just on the verge of being tuned in. My impatient brain kept moving the dial too fast. Even though I was warned, I was disappointed but hopeful. 

So lots of practice reading e-books while listening to the audio version, watching the closed captioned shows on TV - waiting for it to all start to become clear again. My entire life became that moment with the speaker, learning to feel and hear my world again. Everything became a daily joy as I could hear more and more - I could hear my dogs bark and growl and the tap of their claws on the wood floor. I could hear the turn signal clicking. Birds, wind, rustling of leaves. Conversations were still the hardest - because well, people speak so fast. Like I used to I supposed. I told people to keep talking and my doctors told me I’d eventually retrain myself to follow conversations. 

I was singing to myself in the shower one day when I realized that the voice I could hear in my head was actually singing. I must have stayed in the shower for half an hour, singing every stupid song I could think of. My wife got my attention through the shower and held up her iPad, “You are still going to lose the karaoke competition.” As I started guffawing, she took her robe off and joined me in the shower, both of singing like school kids. I gross out my kids by telling this story of making love to their mother in the guest shower that afternoon, and they are all probably holding this story out at a distance and making “eeew, Dad, really?” face. 

She had to deal with me all through the bad years and we are closer than ever. Hearing is the only sense that can be effectively replaced with technology. I am a fortunate man. Because I can hear again. I can enjoy Natalie Cole, Norah Jones, The Eagles, Steppenwolf and Styx. We can dress up and return to our seats at the Symphony. I look forward to hanging with my 3 boys. I enjoy my life again and am deeply grateful for the technology that has returned my life to me but with a more profound sense of how life can be without hearing. Helen Keller says “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. 

Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” I’ll say that my adventure in silence taught me a great many things about the hidden places in your soul it reveals. I look forward to holding my grandchildren soon and being able to hear their first words. To be able to counsel on them importance of treasuring each and every one. I can remember hearing my wife again - distinctly - for the first time after the implant. 

She was making dinner and talking to her sister on the phone. “Yeah Mike has started with audio books. He’s working really hard. He’s trying hard not to be disappointed but I think he’s just…,” she said, pausing, looking over at me because she realized I was listening to the conversation. She hung-up and knelt at my feet and snuggled in close saying my name over and over and over and over. Over her shoulder, the irremovable smile across my face that appeared from hearing her voice again has never gone away.


One day you are in, the next day.....

this morning in my local Peet's... I got my medium in a large, because there really can't be enough half and half. I'm headed over to get the cream - and watched a cute young employee clean up the cream station. He's obviously a fresh new college student type, with the almost-a-goatee and the earring thing going on. I patiently waited for him to finish cleaning up. He grabbed the whole milk and someone had left the top off of it - so when he picked it up - it tipped and splashed all over the sugar and cream station. He stopped; and was just speechless for a moment; looking back at the other baristas with a 'oh hell, what do I do now?" look on his face. "You must be an art major, this is very Pollack!" I said to him motioning to the splatter pattern. "Well, I've been trying different mediums. Whole Milk seems to have the best form so far." he said without missing a beat. "Have you considered some sugar for a bit of sparkle? - then a layer of ground cinnamon?" I said, waving my hands and doing my best Tim Gunn from Project Runway impression, "to give it some texture - some (pause for thought, hands at my chin)..... wow factor." The other baristas watching at this point are laughing and watching the conversation continue. then the lady behind me waiting for her latte takes out her cellphone and takes a picture, saying that she likes to buy art and encourages new talent. and his Whole Milk splatter could be the new rage, and her people would call his people. I stepped in, added my half and half as the new employee re-appeared with a rag. "Make it work!" I said as I put the cap on my coffee and got out of his way so he could clean up. and the other baristas chimed in with - "In coffee houses - one day you are in - the next day you are out."

for yourself

He stared down at the ocean spreading out below the plane as he daydreamed. Two years in the south pacific helping island nations use technology for sustainable farming practices sounded like Klingon to his Vietnam Veteran father and macho brother. He watched his older brother raise his right hand two years earlier and join the Army. Not only the Army, but a god damned Ranger. It wasn't lost on him how proud his father was that morning. Nor how in the car on the way home he watched his father realize that all he had left at home was the bookworm peace activist, how quickly pride turned to confused and visible disappointment. He watched his brother grow into an adult with an increasingly militarized world view. In that type-a macho world, his brother was thriving. All the more reason he became determined to find a different path. Growing up he'd adamantly refusing to share his father and brother's fascination with violent war movies. He just didn't see anything to glamorize about remembering how someone had successfully figured out how to kill the other person on the battlefield first, he didn't see how that was victory at all. He wasn't naive - he knew that sometimes force and the might of a military were required to achieve and sustain peace. He liked to think about modern warfare as a deterrent versus a fist to be used to crush an opponent. He remembered the look of frustrated relief when he told his father he was leaving for the Peace Corps. That look that said 'I have no idea what to do with you, so I'm glad you figured out something for yourself."

Cruella gets her coffee

They stood in line in the coffeeshop. He glanced at the clock, 645am. Plenty of time. The woman in front of him stepped up to the cashier, pulling out of her purse what looked like a long supermarket shopping list. She started innocuously with some pastries and drip coffee. Then she announced she had to pay for each order separately. When she reached her fourth drink, a quad macchiatto with 1/2 a spend a in the drink and 1/2 a splenda sprinkled over the top, I let out an audible sigh. To which, she turned on her dangerously sharp heels and got right in my face. "Am I bothering you, asshole?" "Not at all, pretentious coffee gets ordered all the time, but the rest of in line would like to catch the 7:05 train." "You'll wait your turn and not let out your pissy little sighs of impatience." "For christsake.." someone behind me in line involuntarily blurted out. Her two trays of ridiculously specific coffee appeared at the counter, she grabbed them in a huff and headed for the door. I stepped up to the counter and ordered my large drip with room when a terrible scream erupted from outside the store. The lady who had been before me reappeared, with a dramatic swing of the door, with what looked like a Jackson Pollack splatter pattern of foam, a dash of cinnamon and perhaps the sparkle of splenda crystals down her white blouse. "Who is the bastard with the small dog outside?" As she realized it was me, she lunged, baring her fingernail pressons like Wolverine from the X-Men. I stepped sideways from her attack and she bounced off the counter, knocking her head on the register, falling to the floor knocked out cold. "Well," said the barista from behind the counter, "You certainly don't see that everyday. Free coffee everyone, I'll put it on Cruella's tab." Even better, we all made the train on time.


What was she doing there? She sat in the classroom, somewhere she hadn’t visited since her twenties, which is roughly what she guessed was the average age of the other students in the room. They all sat in front of spinning wheels. When they were together, he had seen beauty everywhere, art where she saw graffiti, faith where she saw stubbornness. They dated a couple more times before she gently let it go. Damn it, though, she thought about the disconnect for months after. She looked around her life and started to not-so-gently question it all. That brought her to today in the art studio and the lump of red clay in front of her. “What would HE have seen? What beautiful details would HE have found in the clay? Why does what HE saw in the world matter so much?” she thought. She gently started the wheel in motion, tongue out, letting out a determined sigh, deciding to finally find out for herself.


For each day in March 2016, I’ll be writing these 150 word essays based on a sentence provided by a Facebook or Google+ follower of my little essay-lettes. Today’s is from Rachel Unger who writes, simply: “Toast” - - - - - - - - - "It was so hot. Once I'd dipped it in the creamy sweet goodness, the whole thing glistened, I just couldn't wait to get it in my mouth - " "This doesn't sound like a work place appropriate conversation," he said, disapprovingly interrupting her as he walked into the break room. "We're talking about toast  - how can that be work place inappropriate?"


Arriving early, as always, I was the only patient in the waiting area. The old school receptionist tapped away. Her large Lee press-ons exaggerating the click of data entry. She wore glasses, held to her outfit by a classic 1950s string of white pearls. The med tech stood next to her, chatting. What I thought at first was an optical illusion soon became a truly visible glow all around the med tech. Then suddenly, with an almost imperceptible snap sound, he evaporated like something out of a sci-fi movie. I let out a loud, audible gasp, looking to the receptionist. She stopped, looked over her glasses and said, “Don’t mind Vince; we’ve told him repeatedly that a seven-shot mocha will vibrate him into another dimension. But does he listen, no...... Just be glad he didn’t evaporate during a blood draw,” she said, nonchalantly returning to her clicking.
51iUIsmiKyL._AA160_ This post is an excerpt from my book “Brief Moments: a collection of short stories” available on in paperback & Kindle eBook.

lingering facial hair inadequacy issues

For each day in March 2016, I’ll be writing these 150 word essays based on a sentence provided by a Facebook or Google+ follower of my little essay-lettes. Today’s is from Brett Cook-Snell in Norfolk who writes, simply: “Pipe Smokers” - - - - - - - - - We'd met on Scruff, one of those phone apps for speed dating and guilt-free fucking? Yeah - you know the ones I'm talking about. He had these unworldly blue eyes, like somewhere in his bloodline his family had bred with some blue heelers. His skin was perfect, it was like staring into an oil of olay commercial. He had a beard that caused me to have those lingering facial hair inadequacy issues I'd been discussing with my therapist. But more importantly I was clearly talking to someone with a brain. In the 140 character world, polysyllabism is hot. Hot. Hot. HOT! We'd traded a few photos and our texting quickly became urgent in nature. All our do's and don'ts matched up - even my weird thing about no sex before work in the morning. We both agreed the best place for sex was the shower. But we also agreed that Andrew Lloyd Webber is a talentless hack and that Sondheim is GOD. We agreed that crumpets were awesome, but french toast was certainly not awesome. We agreed that talking about politics was okay and that it was okay to disagree. We both thought it was important to volunteer. As I walked to the coffee shop, I was thinking to myself 'this is a man I could date.' I turned the corner towards the coffee shop and saw him waiting at an outside table. He quietly puffed on an old fashioned redwood pipe. He was wearing a beige Nehru jacket emblazoned with extravagant silk embroidery. He looked up, saw me and erupted towards me like we'd been best friends for years.

The Girl from Ipanema Has A Cough

For each day in March 2016, I’ll be writing these 150 word essays based on a sentence provided by a Facebook or Google+ follower of my little essay-lettes. Today’s is from Kenny Hill in Toronto who writes,: “Learning to sing 'The Girl from Ipanema' in Brazilian Portuguese.” - - - - - - - - - "My Bonnie has tuberculosis. My Bonnie has only one lung," he gleefully sang as the car sped down the expressway, "My Bonnie coughs up a raw oyster, then rolls it around on her tongue..... Bring back. Bring - - - - - - - what?" His husband was glaring at him from the passenger seat. "You're disgusting you know that? How does someone grow up with songs like this - about Bonnie and her gross lungs - and I'll still trying to forget the Arnold the Camel Song," dramatically using air quotes as he continued, "from a few miles back." "I was a scholarship baby - my upbringing was McDonalds and the boy scouts. What about you? I bet growing up in the perfect home you learned some fun songs." "Neither of us joined the scouts, but we did sing around the piano. My Dad had a client from Brazil once and I learned and performed "Girl from Ipanema" at the piano in perfect Brazilian Portugese. 'Alto e bronzeado, jovem e linda, A menina de Ipanema vai caminhare' " "That sounds like gay training camp to me. I bet you wore a slinky red dress too - and the good pearls." "We established early in our relationship that I wasn't butch, it just isn't my colour. It clashes with my fabulous," he said snapping in the air. "That's my sweetheart...what if we were singing about the same girl? What if Bonnie, my poor tortured dear is the girl frim ipanema with tuberculosis" "You are not a well woman... you know that?"


For each day in March 2016, I’ll be writing these 150 word essays based on a sentence provided by a Facebook or Google+ follower of my little essay-lettes. Today’s is from Stuart Gaffney in San Francisco who writes,: “ It seems to be my fate to destroy any chemistry within a month of being intimate.” - - - - - - - - - He wore five o'clock shadow and a blue pin stripe shirt that must have been magnificently ironed at 8am. Half of scotch and soda sloshing around a happy hour cocktail glass. A shiny undone molasses black bow tie dangling from his collar. The more you study his face, the more you realize how exhausted he was. He'd whispered to himself hopefully on the way to the bar, but within a few minutes standing against the wall, the unhappiness returned. The burden hung upon him like heavy chain. Surrendering, he heads for the door. He brushes up against you on his way through the maze, setting his empty glass on the bar next to you. You look up with that "gosh aren't you cute" look. He sighs softly, "but... not for me" and leaves you thinking by yourself at the bar. He was a singularity. Anyone falling into his gravity, fated to destroy any chemistry within a month of being intimate.
For each day in March 2016, I'll be writing these 150 word essays based on a sentence provided by a Facebook or Google+ follower of my little essay-lettes. Today's is from Ed McLaurin in Nashville who writes, simply: "Your quest for the perfect cup of coffee" - - - - - - - - - He sat down at his perch. It wasn't his name for it, but the name the regulars at the coffee shop had given it. You could people watch and cruise from here like no other location. Today the parade of beardage and otterage was in rare form. Adventurous Coffee was few blocks off the main drag - not labeled with a big corporate sign. The hike down into the neighborhood was always worth it. They had no flavor bottles behind the counter in raspberry or (gasp of horror) coconut. No coffee here required it. Even when they added chocolate it was pure and non-commercial. He had once described finding a great cup of coffee as an urban Indiana Jones movie, Indiana Jones and the Golden Latte of Truth. You might laugh at that title, but the first sip of his morning fix and the sigh of contentment convinced us that the truth was real.

Hello, my name is....

He sat on the 24 bus heading to the Castro, fumbling with note cards in his hand. He'd been asked to speak. He always knew the day would come where he could share his experiences with others and contribute back to the community that had given him so much. What was he nervous about? These were his friends and some of them had become extremely close ones. He knew, despite his fear of public speaking, that this was a safe place to do so. The bus leaned to a stop and he walked up to Our Lady of the Castro. He stared up at the white building and its black iron gates. Letting out a sigh, he went in. Of course, it was hugs all around and grabbing a quick sugar cookie rush from the treats table. Everyone finally settled down and took their seats and he found himself in front of everyone. Gosh there were a lot of people. Let's get his over with, he thought to himself. "Hi, my name is Bob, " he said sheepishly into the tinny microphone, "And I say fuck too much." "Fuck you, Bob!" the crowd enthusiastically responded. and the evening began.

Sleeping Beauty

He sat with his head leaning against the glass. White earphone cords lead across his flannel shirt to his pocket. Eyes shut, he nodded slowly to the music as a contented sleeping smile swept across his face. He held a large leather-bound journal, liberally decorated with Easter-egg colored sticky notes. He was almost cuddling with it like he was under the covers. He smelled of sandalwood and coffee. He had missed a half-inch spot in that morning’s shave. I was feeling guilty at having him all to myself when his phone erupted in vibration and a Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto ring tone. “Hello…” he said softly. Nodding in agreement, he listened, then said confidently, ”Don’t make it complicated, who equals subject, whom equals object, who is he or she, whom is her or him.” “You’re welcome,” he said, hanging up and curling back up to sleep with his journal. My sleeping beauty was an English major.


“Doesn’t this Utilikilt look great on me?” he asks. So not fair. In nearly 30 years of cultivated faggotry, I’ve only ever seen one man that looked good in a Utilikilt. I mean, even photographs their models from miles away because they make most guys look like a moldy wheel of goat curd. So, first part of this scenario is my husband asking me the gay version of “Do these jeans make my ass look fat?” To which always the answer should be, “No hon, it’s your ass.” The second is, he’s chosen one that is this weird salmon color. My sweetheart wearing a salmony cheese-curd skirt. The smile on his face says he feels really sexy. The way it looks on him says save it for special occasions, like never. But goddamnit, it makes my sugarbear happy. “It looks great, honey. Get one if you’d like.”

Party in the USA

“Hi. My name is Mark, ” I paused, speaking into the microphone, “and I like Miley Cyrus.” Instead of the expected support group auto-response, the silence in the room was deafening. After a few more moments, a woman in the front row spoke, “Get out. Get out now.” That’s how my nightmare goes, anyhow. My hubby tells me if I wake up humming “It’s a party in the USA” one more time, I should sleep in the guest room. I mean if you listen to her lyrics, she’s riding along in a LA taxicab and nervous about her trip and worried if she’ll fit in. Jay-Z comes on the radio and…problem solved! She copes, she moves on. She’s a role model. How is it totally okay to adore Diana Ross as a gay man, but not Miley. Let’s face it, Miley grew up around a straight man with an 80s lesbimullet; she clearly understands pain. Don’t worry Miley, I get you.

when the zombie apocalypse does come

"Mom, I'm scared of Ebola." Her mother rolled her eyes. "There was this report that some guy caught Ebola and died. Then like three or eight hours later he came back to life* "So the zombie apocalypse has started?" "MOM! We're all going to die. Why did you even bring me into this world?" "It was an accident." "Two Venti Quad shot, non-fat, vanilla soy, extra foam, light whip with caramel drizzle?", interrupted the barista. "Oh that's ours!", Mother and Daughter responded together, collecting their venti sugar bombs and continuing their conversation. I stepped up to the register, "Dark Roast, no room. Stat." The barista silently got me my order, I handed him cash. "When the zombie apocalypse does start?" "yep?" the barista replied. "They will be the first to die." I declared with confidence. "absolutely."

amongst peers

He'd left the crowded national park parking lot, and he'd hiked determinedly up and away from them to reach the silence. He couldn't hear car horns, he couldn't hear people talking loudly on cellphones. It literally felt like magic. It was a thick wool comforter he could pull over his mind. Every year it took longer to get outside the wall of sounds and chirp of distractions. Our present environmental crisis, is in essence, a spiritual crisis. A plaque - the revolution that vaulted Christianity to victory over paganism. He could see it's scar in the brown trees striping up the mountainside in front of him. Inhibitions to the exploitation of nature vanished as the Church took the spirits out of the trees, mountains, and seas - - placing them instead in steeples. The ghost-busting theology made it possible for man to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects. It made nature man's monopoly. That someone could look up this mountainside and see something consumable, a naked resource to be turned into power? He came here every year - to walk among his peers and seek forgiveness.

Lunch in my mind with SBG

My mind is a scary place. No - it's not 'state the obvious' day again. (hands on hips) It is just that with an alarming regularity my mind, more specifically my subconscious has hired a guest host. I rarely remember dreams, but these dreams I can remember clearly, what was discussed, what we ate, what we were wearing. I call this Lunch in my Mind with SBG. SBG being short for Subconscious Barry Gibb. That's right, the avatar of my inner most mind is the leader of the BeeGees. The dreams happen like I'm recalling a lunch date, like BG and I had lunch regularly like SBG and I do. Sometimes the lunch is in a diner over meatloaf, other times we splurge and do a nice sit down with cloth napkins. We talk about everything - the job, the husband (whom even SBG thinks is adorable), we discuss what it was like to sing a duet with Barbara Streisand and his friendship with Michael Jackson. He always generously pays the bill and off we go - perhaps back into our own subconscious.

'a moment of sudden revelation or insight'

The church bell starting tolling. It was probably the Saint Marks over on third street. He remembered an impatient boy, waiting until 845am, hands hovering around the rope. The memory made him smile. He paused for a moment, realizing Wednesday was Epiphany. 'and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words' he mumbled to himself, waddling out to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee. "should have brought the christ child some coffee. they have great coffee in Persia." Coffee wasn't the answer to everything, but it made the answers clearer anyways. He loved the origin of the word, and its power - 'a moment of sudden revelation or insight' - of course, his own personal epiphany; to leave the church behind so many years ago, rang in his head as clearly the church bell.


"Fiberliscious?," he said tapping the shopping list "Fiberliscious." he said matter-of-factly, "The name brand gives me gas so I get the more expensive Fiberliscious." "Can you tell a big difference?" "It's not like I drink a fiber supplement drink because it's delicious. Like I'm going to trade out mimosas for delicious orange flavored Fiberlicious. Even champagne nor vodka could turn it into a pleasurable drinking experience. I just care than I'm not turning meetings in the conference room at work into a cruel chamber of horrors. They are betting you'll buy their space age TANG style drink with mystery mulch in exchange for trips to the rest room not resembling something from the La Brea tar pits." "Well I'm glad you are happy with your BM's boys. Such a relief." the cashier sarcastically chirped, interrupting their not so private TMI session. "Can I get a price check on Fiberliscious on Checkstand Six," she suddenly said into the speakerphone, "Price check on Fiberliscious on Checkstand Six, please." A clerk walked up to her and confirmed the price from a handheld computer. He swiped his debit card. Glancing at the receipt briefly, she announced to them proudly, "You saved 32% with your savers card."


I met Hank one day walking the dog. We played catch with her and laughed honestly. I told him I was going to dinner, he politely declined. It wasn’t till a few more encounters that I realized Hank lived in the park. He had moved here to find construction work and had gone bust. He said the only thing he hated about living on the street was deviled ham. Those little cans of meat that get donated to food shelters. He asked me once if they did Yelp reviews for foodbanks. Otherwise, he said, he had so far not been bothered much by police or residents. He knew how to be invisible, he said. Being invisible was an important skill. It makes people more comfortable about the homeless. He said that because I was kind, and that my dog liked him, was the only reason I could see him at all.

The Hindenburg mated with a red throw rug

I heard the shocked wail from the living room and walked into the study to find my husband pointing at the screen in horror. "How could you let me wear that sweater to the party last night? Look at me? I look like the Hindenburg mated with a red throw rug. Batten down the hatches, I need to diet! Oh my god I'm fat." I stood there silently while he ranted on - and when he finally looked up, I said, "Thick winter sweaters aren't supposed to be sexy, they are supposed to be warm. In fact, I'd say you were one of the cutest men there last night." "That is sweet, but as the husband of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float in these pictures," he paused to dramatically point at the monitor, then turned to me, glancing over his glasses with an unsatisfied look, " You, my darling, you are contractually obligated to say so." "Doesn't make it any less true.... I was just about to hop in the shower, how about we get you out of the clothes and I prove to you how sexy you are?" "You always know the right thing to say when I have a fat attack." "Come on - before the garfield balloon catches up to you," I said with a sneer leading him to the bedroom, hand in hand.

Madame Defarge

His entire outfit was a dark and murky gray wool, the kind that makes people worry that his iPod was loaded with nothing but boiling lava, Alanis Morissette fuck you anthems. He was always kind of scary quiet, the kind that makes you uncomfortable, like perhaps he was a modern-day version of Madame Defarge. He sat in the corner of the coffee shop nursing a quad Americano. His hair was producted into submission. Everything about him was meticulous. He was watching me and another customer in line for our morning fix. She made a large, overly complicated order: one with soy, one without, one third of a Stevia packet, one with Splenda, and both with just a ‘puff of foam.’ It was the kind of coffee order that was no longer about the coffee but a precision chemistry experiment. “Fuckity fuck, I left my purse at home! Oh no!” “Pay it forward, darlin’,”, I said to her, then, “Put it all on my tab, Vern.” The grommet-eared, flannel-clad barista behind the counter gave one of those “gotcha pal” nods and got to work. She got her tray of complicated lattes and I ordered my simple French roast with room. I told my “joke” about half and half being almost as important as coffee for the thousandth time. Nobody laughed this time, either. The barista poured me a thick cup of joe and I moved to the condiments to add my cream and sugar. I stirred my coffee. I always got coffee ‘for here,’ always wanting to savor the moment. It’s how I’d first started noticing Mr. Gray in the shop in the mornings. “That kind of kindness without hesitation is refreshing,” said Mr. Gray, “Thanks for getting her coffee. Karma is rich.” It was revelatory what a smile did to the entire persona I’d created for him. His face lit up, shattering all my preconceptions in an instant. His eyes sparkled and his effusive body language changed him forever. He oozed a calm charm and wit I hadn’t expected. “Join me, won’t you?”  


I remember being a small child dressed in a suit designed for adults. She’d promised me she’d be here for Christmas but left us on the 12th. Forty years later, the handwritten, ‘For Richard, from Mum’ I’d received from her that year are framed and hanging in my study. Around the room, hung in their own little intimate settings, the individual ornaments Pop had taken us to get each year, our own special way of remembering her. I could tell you where I was in life when each of them arrived. A Teddy Bear in a masculine red scarf with authentic wire frame Roosevelt glasses when I was studying philosophy at seminary. A beautiful green Jekyll sparkled in the corner for the year I met Michael, and I put my collar away in the dresser. A perfect, round, gold and red ornament behind glass case on a velvet pillow, like Cinderella’s slipper, for the year we adopted Mia. Standing tall next to me on my desk, a high-polish toy soldier nutcracker, to remember Pop. Five gold rings on a necklace that Michael had given me when we’d finally been able to get married. We’d hung this year’s tribute on a thick lush red ribbon. A large intricate crystal snowflake in the center of the picture window. Michael popped his head in around the door frame, his smile lighting up his white mustache. Mia and the kids were pulling up. I set down my book, touching the remote to fill the house with music. I looked back and admired the snowflake-refracted curls of light across the wall. Late at night we’d wrap presents on the kitchen island. We’d break out the port. While everyone worked on the perfect wrapping, I’d break out the tag set. Alone I would write to each of them in an art school charcoal, ‘To Lizzy from Gramps and Granpa’, ‘To Mikey, from Gramps and Granpa’, ‘To my darling Mia, and that man she married, from Pop’, ‘To my Michael, from Gramps.’ I’d toddle off to bed in my flannel nightshirt, muddled by the wine, and very much my mother’s child.

National Geographic

“I always thought about how hot it would be, to be the single bottom boy on Viking ships. All those swarthy husky blonde bruisers coming to me for their Viking needs.” “Ya know – you are like a National Geographic Special for Bottoms. You amaze me!” “Every great civilization had great use for bottom men, the Greeks, The Prussians, OH the Turks, oh Turkish men know how to treat a good bottom. Butt (see what I did there?) I digress…. Most people store useless historical knowledge – I store away useless knowledge I can actually put to use. ” “How exactly is knowing that Vikings used to take one total bottom slut boy on each of their voyages useful information?” “Ever posted a Viking Orgy ad on Menslist? You would not BELIEVE IT. There are a lot of guys out there that totally get off on that.” “Wow. That’s a veritable tsunami of disturbing images and T.M.I.” “Right?!”


He gently rubbed his hair back in the steam of the bath. He gazed over at the empty wine glass. He chuckled to himself. ‘What a sad thing, an empty wine glass is.’ He’d thought perhaps he could shake it off but here in the tub, his thoughts got worse. But it was no use, and this year, it was worse than ever. He absolutely hated Christmas.
He had entered the dreaded Christmas media blackout period. Television had been intolerable for weeks already. Commercial radio had become the annual tsunami of commercial singing ‘Jingle Bells’ set to the words “Shop Shop Shop, Shop Shop Shop.” Even the classical music station had abandoned him, switching to all Christmas music. It was of no use. He was sure that eventually someone around him would inadvertently “Ho Ho HO” their way to learning the erotic joy of a bell shaped buttplug. He only had to make it 13 more days and it would be over. At least until next September 1st.


He could hear the ocean, but couldn’t see it. He carefully climbed down the stone face to the hidden beach. He set his pack against rocks and got down to business. The dry cedar kindling crackled to life. He set the grizzled and charred coffee pot on the grill over the flames. The driftwood break dissipated past him into the gray. The lonely moan of the lighthouse fog horn sang through the trees. The coffee pot started popping to life. The solitude of the small cove suited him. Reaching back, he could still feel where the beard had burned hot along his neck. Goddammit, why had he been such a bastard? He just hated fighting, particularly on the morning before he was out on a trip. Worse, it was an argument over nothing. Keys had been misplaced. He had to remind him that if he was more organized, these kinds of just-before-you-needto-be-leaving things wouldn’t happen. Their last words had been dismissive, tired and unhappy. He’d used his anal-retentiveness as a weapon. He imagined a drizzly, car-horn frantic morning back in the city. He glanced at his watch, smiling. A courier was delivering a box of favorite bakery croissants with a single orange rose promptly at 9 a.m. His husband would be at his desk, perfectly pressed, reading the Times with his oldworld glasses. In the last crackly moments of cell coverage before the ferryboat traveled out of range, he’d transcribed the card. “You are the single gentle rain that makes my grasses many shades greener. See you soon, Favorite. Your Muir”
"I'm through with men and all they meant to me, farewell romance! Forever bachelorhood for me," he proclaimed dramatically, standing up from the chair at the restaurant. "I've heard this one before," I responded drolly. "Nope. No more romances. No more attachments. Men are nothing to me." I snatched the receipt from his hand for the bill, "Did you really just give the waiter your phone number and email ON THE CHECK? Through with men, my ass." "I didn't say I wasn't sleeping with men, lavishing those most worthy with intense sexual gratification. I'm just not DATING men any more. Honey if you think I'm a bitch now, try me without sex.. nobody wants to see me in that state. nobody."

The Good Shepherd

The priest began to speak. He thanked everyone for coming, made a few innocuous comments about gatherings and transitions. The church was full - men and women, families, many in black suits and a front pew of surviving family and friends. "Paul wrote to the Galatians, 5:19-21, 'When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures,  idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division,  envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.' - he also wrote the Romans, 8:1,'So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.' Jerome has left us - and now his only task is to be with Christ Jesus and profess his sin before God's judgement." A man in an immaculate black suit sitting with the family in the front pew interrupted clearly and absolutely, "I think that's enough." "Pardon me," said the priest. "I think that's enough." he repeated, standing to his feet. "But we're not even into the homily yet... I don't understand." "Clearly you don't - and that why this, " he said, widely motioning around himself, "is enough. We are here to remember our friend, my lover, their son," he said, gesturing to the family sitting quietly next to him," and you are going to lecture us about sin?" He paused a moment staring the priest down. "Look out into this audience, Father. Look out in the face of this horrible, horrible disease. Face a community that is fighting, still after decades, fighting with everything we know. When Jerome and his family said 'have the service at St. Matthew' - I resisted. For them it was a matter of faith, a matter of respect. And Father, that is what I expect as a grieving widower and my community expects from you. We don't remember Jerome as a sinner. We remember him as a promising post graduate student in physics, we remember how he could dance, we remember his fascination with Eva Perone. We remember and will always remember what a remarkable man he was. We will not stand here and let you ruin today with your antique world view and judgement." He turned, and ever so gently spoke to Jerome's mother in Spanish. She nodded and she and the rest of the family stood up, gathered their things and walked down the center aisle for the back door. "Well girls," he said to the rest of the guests, "I think we can leave the Father to his house of sin, don't you?" With that, the several hundred men and women in attendance also got up and left the church. The priest stood at the pulpit, clearly stunned. The widower watched them leave, then walked by himself out behind the last of the guests. He then turned on his step, to face the priest one last time. "And one more thing. Think about this Father. I've seen you places you probably don't remember. When you aren't doing your job? So I know who you are."

Glitter Bomb

“How could I have known she’d start crying and scream ‘rape’?” “You have anger issues. ‘Hate the sin, love the sinner’ is what they say, right? Why decide to take out your anger with the Salvation Army on that poor woman?” “Oh, you. Fuck that ‘live and let live’ crap. To say that she doesn’t know about the organization she represents is naive. You’re so eager to see the good in people, people like that have none.” “Looks like what they need is a primer on “Fags are going to be angry; ten helpful tips to keep a glitter bomb from ruining your volunteer shift.” “The glitter was an improvement.” “Having to come get you from county isn’t all that convenient.” “They’re an army, and I’m here to fight them. Sorry if my refusing to let my human rights be trampled on inconvenience you.” “Oh simmer down, Muriel. I’m always here for you. You should have known that when she started crying after being glitter bombed it was going to go south. I’m sorry they had you arrested.” “I thought she was crying about her Christmas sweater; it was tragic.” “Human rights activist, slave to fashion?” “You know me too well, darling.”
He pedaled on the stationary bike at the gym. He was losing patience. Someone had chosen the 20 minute 'my ears are bleeding please for the love of god make it stop' remix of Don't Leave Me This Way. It was some 90's remake., some chick who thinks she's Thelma Houston. He loved disco as much as the next gay but this was intolerable. Walking up to the counter, he knew the trouble already. The child behind the counter was probably not even conceived during disco. His parents had probably made love to Air Supply or (shudder) Michael Bolton. He had that 'way too much poppers' hangover on his face.
"What CD are you playing, the remix is intolerable!" "Oh, I just set my Pandora to Oldies and let it play." Oh no he didn't. "DARLING," he said with a dramatic pause, "don't make grandpa come over the counter and kill you. How about typing in classic disco instead, that way you'll live." The sudden serious look on his face made me know he took me seriously.

satisfied smile

The ignition switched on - and the address was entered in the GPS. "Turn right onto third avenue for 1.2 miles," chirped the GPS voice.
The car sped out of the driveway turning left. "recalculating, in 400 feet turn left on Oak Avenue." The driver stopped at Oak Avenue and turned right. "recalculating. in .4 miles turn right on California Avenue." The drive stopped at California Avenue, then made two consecutive lefts. "Turn right on California Avenue." The driver turned left again. "You are beginning to piss me off, now," said the GPS. The drive then turned on to a major freeway on ramp to travel the opposite direction of the entered address. "What are you doing? the entered address of 1342 Vermont Avenue in Mountain View is the other way. Do you have a learning disability?" The car accelerated ignoring exits. "That is the third uturn you've missed, Asshole. Why am I bothering?" The car suddenly cut across several lanes, exited and drove back to it's original location. "You're an asshole you know that? - you did this just to tease me. I ought to-----" The driver shut off the new GPS with a satisfied smile.

Explain that to your burned crotch

“The worst thing you can do is say, ‘smile sweetheart’ to an unhappy woman,” I suggested. “But she looked miserable.” “She is the overnight Denny’s waitress in Bumfuck, Nevada; of course she’s miserable.” “At least she’s employed, has benefits, and gets to wear a fun yellow dress and matching scarf to work each day.” “Right, sounds so good. Why don’t you give up your Silicon Valley programming job at 120K and come out here and serve Grand Slams for minimum wage plus tips.” “Well…” “And speaking of tips, telling her that forgetting your fruit compote wasn’t going to help her tip. Way to keep it classy. I just can’t take you anywhere nice.” “How am I supposed to eat waffles without compote?” “Explain that to your burned crotch from the cup of coffee she ‘accidentally’ knocked in your lap.” “Point taken.”


“Thanksgiving gives me anxiety,” he said suddenly. “Here we are shopping in our boutique grocery store at 7 a.m. on a holiday. We argue over baguettes and grouse because they are out of trumpet mushrooms. We live in a city where the city council won’t say the word ‘homeless.’ We have eight or nine people living on the street just in our little eight-or-nine-block village center. I know there are dozens more within a 25 mile radius. I know that the ladies bickering in Spanish in the bakery are here baking rolls for people who don’t want to do it themselves. It all overwhelms me. I think too much.” “Are you sure that’s not just Catholic guilt from your childhood speaking?” “I was Episcopalian; Catholic Lite,  I Can't Believe It's Not Catholicism - now with 30% less guilt.” “So, Miss Thirty Percent, let me ask you this? What do you do the other 364 days of the year about your anxiety?” “I don’t know what to do, honestly. I mean, does buying a few cans of vegetables really help? I hate how helping our fellow man only comes up for a few weeks a year, and even then, you’re encouraged to donate processed food so it won’t go bad. Then you read in the Times about artificial food dyes yellow #5 and yellow #6 which are proven to be linked to hyperactivity in children. So now I’m making homeless kids hyperactive because I donated mac and cheese with hyperactive food dyes. Don’t look at me that way; it’s true.” “I’ll make you a deal; we’ll research a local food bank or homeless shelter and see about volunteering there once a month all year long? How about that?” “As long as I don’t have to cook; you know how much I fear gravy.” “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”

Brave, Brave Thanksgiving Knight

The brave knight rode through the night braving the cold. His package carefully stowed away, showing fearless dedication to his mission. He arrived at the castle keep, and crossing the drawbridge, dramatically dismounted and went straight to the Queen's chambers. "Well, did you get what I asked you for," The Queen said without looking up at him, stirring the boiling pot in front of her. "Yes, your grace.," he said untying the bonds on the package he'd traveled so far to bring to her. "Haricot verts," he said triumphantly and then bowed in reverence. "You know. For such a strong boy, you are an idiot. I specifically asked for lima beans. LIMA beans. I guess I'll just have to do since the BigMart is now closed. go play ExBox with your brother."       "For the record," he said, interrupting his brother's retelling fantasy like pulling a record needle off in the middle of a song, "My mother is not that much of a bully. He's exaggerating, and as for the salad, and we've only been having LIMA bean salad on Thanksgiving since we were 5 years old. Of course, until this year, when Sir Bangs-a-lot here got green beans instead." "You were always mother's favorite.," the brave brother night said through a pout. "You're my brave knight, anyhow," I said, ruffling his hair, and winking at his brother.

Miranda! Miranda! Miranda!

She slammed the book shut, tears welling up in her eyes. Fucking Shakespeare. It’s beauty overwhelmed her so completely. She would read the romantic ways men swoon. “Hear my soul speak. Of the very instant that I saw you. Did my heart fly at your service.” Nobody was going to talk to her online that way. Nobody was going to throw their coat down on a puddle in the rain. Chivalry was dead. Why does Miranda have shipwrecked men offering up their hearts? What did Miranda ever do to deserve them? Moany, spoiled daughter of a rich sorcerer; how hard is that? She imagined her on The Real Housewives of Mystical Shakespearian Islands. All that romance is wasted on bitches like Miranda. Shakespearian women! Whiny bitches waiting for their Ferdinand to come ashore and fall in love instantaneously. Bullshit! Why do men fall for women like that? Deciding to just get it over with, she returned to the final chapters.

Who is he?

He was at the Christmas party and as first impressions go, he was so unironed. He had a five-day beard, his face framed by a pair of simple wire glasses, blonde hair in an unkempt tussle. He looked like he’d purposefully crumpled himself over in the corner. He sat cross-legged in a window seat looking out over the sparkling city below, taking occasional glances at the others at the party. I imagined him excitedly sharing poetry over a pot of tea in a cuddly corner, hands caressing a leather-bound book he’d found after several hours hunting in a bookstore on a rainy winter day. I imagined him leaving handmade origami next to my keys at the front door when he leaves for the day. I shyly asked the host what his story was, and with a warm smile, peering with me across the living room, she said, “You’ll just have to find out for yourself.”  
51iUIsmiKyL._AA160_ This post is an excerpt from my book “Brief Moments: a collection of short stories” available on in paperback & Kindle eBook.
The sudden forward motion of the bus caused the man to swing into the seat next to me. "Good Morning!," I said with a smile. "Crazy driver this morning," he smiled back. We exchanged other stranger pleasantries, I told him how long I'd lived in the city and how I was heading to my accounting job. "I'm a rapper," he said. "Rapper? as in rap battles and rhymes and ...." trying to confirm that perhaps there wasn't a line of work called rapper that meant something else entirely. He was easily in his early sixties, big white bushy mustache - dressed like a billboard for retirement in polo shirt, pressed slacks and sneakers that were several decades out of fashion. "Exactly like that!," he said fumbling in his fanny pack for a card, which he then handed me. "Wunda Bred, 2014 Senior Caucasian Rapper of the Year", the card read. On the card he was covered in gold chains and wore a hysterically sequined golfer hat and was surrounded by dark sunglass wearing ten-year-olds in exaggerated gang poses. "Your grandkids?," I said motioning at the card. He nodded yes. "wow," I said rather incredulously, "How..." "How did it happen?," he said, finishing my sentence, "Those kids love rap. So much, that it was playing all the time, so I figured if you can't beat'em, join'em. I started writing poems, which became my first raps. Of course, being a caucasian rapper they are all about my first world problems. My biggest rap so far is "Stone Cold Latte" about a bad latte at the espresso bar at Whole Foods. Brings the house down everytime. My other big rap is "Kale Ain't No Superfood, Yo!" There's a web link my granddaughter set up on Soundcloud there on the card, you can go listen to my jams if you'd like." "I will absolutely do that," I said with an uncontrollable smile, "Well this is my stop. Nice to meet you, um..... Mr. Bred." "Call me Wunda," he said, shaking my hand vigorously, "Stay cool, Dude."  

like a blanket by the fireplace

He flipped the radio off. So much sadness in the world. The story was so sad, that even the NPR reporter was careful with his words, and admitted it was a story that was messing with his head. So many people hurt or dead in so many places, for a host of reasons. Liberty. Security. Faith. Lack of Trust. Fear. Blinding Truth. He pulled the car over, and after pulling the emergency brake, just closed his eyes. Sadness was dangerous to him, because he felt it so keenly versus everything else. He was a happy man in a good place in his life, but the power sadness has to overtake him has never gone away. He pulled the silence in like a blanket by the fireplace. "All of your troubles," he said out loud, to himself, "all of your worries, are nothing compared to what others are dealing with. nothing."

all malice and worry, now away

He lit the blue candles in the windowsill before returning to his study. There, the blue candles sparkled at the foot of the Buddha, the driftwood he’d kept with him since childhood, the photograph of spirit house garden and other sacred objects in his private space. He lit a stick of incense. He stepped out of his robe and knelt in the darkness. “I create sacred space in time that is not time,” he began, “a place not a place; today is a day that is not a day; all malice and worry, now away, so all within here is right and just; this is a place of compassion, love, and trust. I light these blue candles in remembrance of those who are no longer with us and in thankfulness for continued health and fellowship. All these things I will bring others in the new day – compassion, love, lust, community, commitment, all these start with me and move outward like a ripple across a pond. I create sacred space in time that is not time.” He closed his eyes into meditation as the grandfather clock in the foyer rang twelve.

The Whore Flu

“Good morning, ” he sang, picking up the phone. “I feel like hell,” said the croaking voice on the other end. “Aches?" "Yep." "Stuffy head?" "Yep" "Dry throat?” "How did you know?" “You have whore flu.” “Pardon me?” he coughed. “Think back to when our table was a receiving line of men at the bar. It was a marvelous thing to see you in action, people would walk by, see you and return to hang out with you, and smooch. It was amazing to watch. No judgment here love, but see the normal fag on a Friday night maybe kisses two or three friends hello at happy hour, then kisses their husband or husbands goodnight, limiting their exposure to fall colds or other smoochtransmitted pathogen. But the whore kisses everything in sight. Add all the bears that are in town Velcro Fur Weekend, and well, much to the anthropological delight of me and other bystanders, he raises the exposure much higher, thus the risk of the whore flu. You're a walking petri dish, sweets. " “I hate it when you are right.” “I know. Herbal tea, darling, herbal tea.”

they're there

“They’re goddamnit; ‘t-h-e-y-’-r-e’…for the love of God!” he said throwing the manuscript down on the sofa beside him. “Bad day in fiction land?” “The proper use of their/they’re/there is what separates us from the apes. This draft is going to make me burst a blood vessel. This needs a disclaimer,” he said, tapping on the manuscript, “will cause people with perfect grammar to foam at the mouth and hunt down the writer and cut his hands off to keep it from happening again.” “September 7, 1983.” “That is completely unfair! That grammar mistake was a fluke, a regional accent. One mistake and you hold it over me for years!” “All I’m saying is, be gentle on him. Novelists like him keep editors like you in orange cappuccinos and opera subscriptions. He pays you for your anal retentively.” “It’s my curse, I tell you, perfection is a burden!” “Yes, dear.”
Ya'll might remember "Darth Vader Kill Voice" from my days commuting to San Francisco on Caltrain when dealing with unruly mid-teens on public transit. The voice that renders them quiet and compliant almost instantaneously? yes. that one.
My new commute takes me through the migration routes of unruly cycling spawn on their way to elementary, middle and junior high schools. As a motorist - I've seen them take over lanes of the road, completely indifferent to motor vehicles. In my first few days commuting I've seen several near misses and almost accidents caused by Indifferent Cycling Spawn (ICS) including one turning left IN FRONT OF A MOVING CAR. The brave little spawnlet was using his arm signal (win!) but nearly got himself killed (fail!).
So - fast forward to this morning and I'm cycling along and suddenly I'm swarmed by chattering distracted ICS on their way to middle school. They were blocking the lane on a busy throughway and just being oblivious. When an impatient motorist honked, the leader of the ICS flipped the motorist off. That's when I used Darth Vader Kill Voice.
"Ride to the right and get out of the lane before you get yourself killed. and don't be assholes, seriously that's not cool"
The ICS snapped to see where DVKV had come from and immediately yielded to the right - and had that look on their face like their Dad had just caught them being assholes. The motorist slowed at the next light, rolled her window down and inquired about what magic words I'd used to correct their behavior, and I told her it was my "or I'll beat you within in an inch of your life" tone more than what I said.
Her response, "can you escort me through the neighborhood every morning?" (laughing) The light changed and we went on our merry way.
So, ICS Beware! - Princess is now riding your morning migration route. and the general rule is "don't fuck with the Princess"

crimson leaves

The crimson leaves danced at his feet as he arrived at the restaurant. The waiter waved him through the greeting station and to his regular table. Wednesday night, table for one, crunchy sourdough and the seafood paella. He spent all day looking forward to a glass of sparkling pinot grigio. Tapping his phone off, he took a moment to watch the other people in the restaurant. Daylight savings time had seen to it that sunset was cued up just as they all collectively sat down to dinner. Everyone sitting along the window peered out at the fiery late fall sky. A little girl, obviously bored with the adult conversation, traced hearts in the condensation on the window, dramatically allowing the last sigh of summer to escape in her breath.
"What if Broadway went the way of movies and started recreating classic musicals as stories about zombies? Imagine it. "South Pacific ZOMBIES"," he said as he began to sing, " 'There ain't nothin' like some brains, nothing in the world.' or 'I'm gonna wash those brains right out of my hair, and send them on their waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay? or Seven Brides for Seven Zombies? Or The Sound of Zombies"? or "Camelot vs. Zombies"? or version of "Meet Me In St. Louis" only Judy Garland faces a zombie breakout at the 1904 World's Fair?" or...." His husband slid the bowl of candy away, picked it up and headed towards the door. "What I think is.... perhaps you've had enough candy corn, and we should get ready for trick or treaters." "You know all these show ideas of mine would be huge blockbusters!?", he said calling after him in protest. "Yes, Dear."
“God, this is depressing,” he thought to himself. He sat at his desk, poking a kale salad around a plate with his fork. The store clerk sold it hard, it was their ‘New Kale Superfood Salad Special.’ Not even some feta or goat cheese. Just kale, raisins and red onions. It looked more like ‘Punish Yourself by Eating the Flavorless Kale Salad of Ultimate Despair!’  He began to resent it. “Stop it, you’re being a food snob,” his inner voice suggested. He’d thought about other choices – greasy burgers, Dagwood sandwiches, the always dependable chicken strips. But he was trying to lose weight and had a new year’s resolution to not only pay for a gym membership, but go occasionally. “Think about how you are going to look in a swimsuit on deck for your Hawaii cruise in April. You’re going to be a walking bear god.” his inner voice said, perhaps a bit too supportively. “I hate you,” he muttered to himself, under his breath, begrudgingly settling in to eat the kale salad.

supernaturally dark

The bank of fog made it almost supernaturally dark. I tried sleeping in - but the smell of him next to me was invading my dreams, so it was just better to be awake. I pulled the heavy covers up and moved in behind him being careful not to wake him. He let out that seven-year-old whimperwhine that says "no, i'm sleeping" while simultaneously backing up against me. I'd made the mistake with previous guys of daydreaming years into the future. I learned the hard way that it kept me from seeing things that were going on right in front of me in the present. I still daydream - but I also make sure I'm present in the right now. and the right now smells real good.

perpetual country western slow dance

I could feel him whisper, his five o'clock shadow sandpapering against my neck, and the impact of his words on my flesh from his breath bringing goose bumps. He was taller than me, and we learned on an early night out together how he seemed to fit in against my ear and neck. He always smelled of linseed oil. His lower torso sometimes pressing in against me like we were in a perpetual country western slow dance.  He never spoke out loud, just breathed the words on my neck as we stopped to examine each piece. I was worried that we’d get in trouble with museum security for being so publicly affectionate. He repeated the words. We moved past paintings and sculptures, in the space between my mind worked on his question.  Moving between galleries there was a reflective glass. We stopped a moment and looked at the two of us together. Looking into the reflection with me, he reached around me and caught my attention with his hands. As he repeated the soundless question against my neck, a Cheshire smile spreading across his face, then spoke to me in sign. “What do you feel?”

Dramatically Different

"Dramatically different, honey, you look dramatically different," he chuckled to himself in the mirror as he applied moisturizer. He put fixer in his hair and made quick work of it with the brush. He picked up the cologne bottle spritzing into the air and dipping is face and neck into the mist. Walking into the closet he went right for the gift section. So many shirts that would see one party or that hosted brunch where the gift giver was sure to notice. He couldn't help it if he was picky. "Now which shirt was the birthday gift?", he said to himself, sifting through the hangers like a rolodex. He picked up a green plaid, pairing it with a pair of tweed trousers. As he tied his shoelaces, he had that gross unsure feeling in his gut, like the last day of summer camp as a kid. Tucking the affordable, but classically beautiful ring into his pocket, he went to meet him for dinner.

Can we do it together?

I am not sure how long it had been going on. All the signs were there in front of me. He had lost his job at Christmas and it was taking a toll. It started with mumbling in the grocery store. Then at Target he started fidgeting, sweating. We got home and I gently asked, “So how long have you been doing this?” The pain shown in his eyes as he whimpered, “I tried not to.” “I know how hard it is. And once you start…. You remember how bad it got in 94 when I was home sick. You know I understand.” “I need an intervention. Can we do it together?” “Sure,” I said gently. We walked into the living room and I picked up the remote. “Do you want to do it yourself?” “I am going to miss the showcases.” He took the remote, navigating to parental controls, and added ‘The Price is Right’ to the blocked shows list.


She walked down the sidewalk, barking angry orders in Chinese at the man following her. Overburdened with two rolling suitcases and matching handbag, stuffed to capacity, he shuffled along with an air of purpose. The bright screaming salmon color of all of it matches her outfit. High heels clicking on the sidewalk, she was clearly unhappy he could not keep pace with her. Her companion stopped to remember in his mind’s eye the meek, soft-skinned girl he had married. Reminiscing for a special moment how beautiful she’d been before the anger came. How she had never been in a hurry before, how she could be gentle. He caught me looking and shot me a weary, but sincere smile. Hopeful, perhaps, that if she could learn to be angry, that perhaps his dedication to her would help her find her smile again. Judging from the acidity of her mood, however, today wasn’t that day.

Babs & The Buddha

“I can’t seem to get out of this funk. I’m so tired of this whiny useless soundtrack," Pete whined. “It is like the proverb of the Buddha and the sitar player. The sitar player asked the Buddha whether he was working too hard or not hard enough in his meditations. The Buddha asked the musician how he tuned his instrument before playing. The musician said, ‘If I tune the strings too tight, they break. If I tuned them too loose, no sound will come out. So not too tight and not too loose works best.’ To which the Buddha replied, ‘This is how you should hold your mind during meditation.’” “Is that a big-worded, show-offy, buddhisty way of telling me I need to get over it?” Pete asked, with a slight cut to his voice. “No. Let's be frank shall we?” his friend Bill responded.”There is no ‘it.’ What you need to do, sweetheart, is get over yourself. It’s been two years; your ex is no longer holding you down, you are. Hell, he’s three or four victims down the track; you are so NEVER on his fucking mind. N. E. V. E. R. NEVER! We all know there is no magic potion or formula for figuring this kind of raw emotional crap out but you’ve got to start turning it around. You are this hot, creative, fuzzy, romantic guy but you are so distracted by  this bullshit that is STILL fucking with your heart that you aren’t taking advantage of what life is offering you on a silver plate, an opportunity for self-knowledge and skillful action. All this talk of meditating and finding a path is useless unless you truly do. It’s like only showing up for Catholic mass on Christmas or Easter; it’s a waste of time unless you mean what you say and commit to it. Spiritual talk is simply that. It has no impact on your life. The practice of meditation, forgiveness for yourself and others, and the gift of compassion, every day, that’s the path you need to be on, without fail. And karma provides me to call you on your shit. Albert Einstein said ‘insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.’ It’s time to change the record. The whambulance is not to going to come to your aid any longer.” They sat silently, the latte’s steaming between them on the table. Bill knew he’d laid in a little harshly. “Who’s my big, beautiful, bearded Barbra Streisand on the front of that amazing tugboat in New York Harbor?” Pete sat pouty-faced, staring down at his latte. “Don’t tell me not to live, just sit and putter,” Bill said,  pushing his hands out wide into jazz hands. “Life’s candy, and the sun’s a ball of butter,” sang Pete softly, a Cheshire grin spreading across his face. “Don’t bring around a cloud to rain on my parade,” they sang together, full voice, tapping cheers with their lattes. "Don't tell me not to fly, I’ve simply got to, if someone takes a spill it’s me and not you, who told you you’re allowed to rain on my paraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaade…” There was a big blackboard sign like a construction site safety declaration, reading: “Days since someone’s broken out in Barbra Streisand.” The barista smiled and erased the big “5″ and replaced it with a zero.

Don't look at me like that

The dog could remember the frisbee in the park, the cuddling, the extra treats when her Daddy wasn’t watching, how he’d get down in the ray of sunlight with her and take afternoon naps, making her feel special. It wasn’t like Daddy didn’t do those things and more, she slept in bed up against Daddy’s chest every night. But, gosh, it was nice to have two Daddies. She had been spoiled. “Don’t look at me like that, he wasn’t good for us,” he said, turning to the pouting dog in the passenger seat, “he just wasn’t good for us, and he proved that multiple times.” She looked up at the tears in his eyes. As the car pulled up at the next stop, she gave his hand on the gear shift a ‘it’ll be okay Daddy’ lick. He reached out and rubbed her head and mumbled, “I know baby, I know.”
I’m onto you gingers. No, seriously. My resolution is to no longer be under your spell. The ginger that makes my morning latte no longer gets the extra 2% ‘holy hell, he’s ginger hot’ tip. The ginger mechanic will not make me take time off from work so I can pick up the car while he’s still at the garage. The ginger at the gym won’t see me changing my workout routine so I can watch him the entire hour and a half I’m at the gym. He’ll probably appreciate that since I hear he’s straight. Don’t give me that adorable makes-me-weak-in-the-knees Ginger Power Pout™. That is sooooo last year. Nope. Not. Going. To. Work. I am done pivoting on my toes like a puppy every time one of you crosses my path. I mean, I’m going out of my way to gawk and stare at 14% of the population when there is the other 86% that in some cases I’m just flat-out ignoring. In 2014, I’ll turn off the red-hair filter on all my internet searches and seek the beauty in other men out there. I’m going to actually go on a date with someone with a dark tan or a lovely Middle Eastern tone. I’m actually going to be able to spend all day out in the sun without carrying a bottle of SPF90,000 in my pack to reapply on you every 30 minutes. Watch out 86%, here I come!

a matter of taste

It was like the whole world had declared a holiday, but not let him on it. The quiet was palpable. His overactive imagination got the best of him. Invisible movement just outside his peripheral vision. Sounds he couldn't identify teasing at him from dark corners beyond the reach of the streetlight glow. Creatures and monsters were imagined. He could smell that autumn decay in the air. Why did he think such horrible things? Why would a wearwolf live in Palo Alto anyway, that was a stupid idea. Hipster coders and the real housewives of Silicon Valley weren't the tastiest choices out there. He imagined particularly the housewives leaving a bitter taste. The wearwolf would complain to his buddies about the horrible meal he'd had in Palo Alto and how he'd never go back.

Oh, how I hate being called ‘boy’

The waiter escorted him and his date past my table. I smiled, waved and said hello. He walked past me like I wasn’t even there.

I headed to the restroom before departing. I was washing my hands when his voice snarled from behind me.

“Pro tip, boy. Waving at tricks in restaurants is totally classless. Now you’ve got my husband wondering who the fuck you are. Way to fuck up my date night.”

I turned to him, drying my hands with a towel. Oh, how I hate being called ‘boy’ in that kind of dismissive, mean tone.

“I hope you at least had the decency to change the sheets on the bed we fucked in before he got home,” I responded. “That a wave from a man in a restaurant can ‘ruin date night’ is all about you. I feel sorry for your husband.”

He stood there, silent and stunned, then growled, “fuck you,”

"Probably not, you've lost that privilege." I said, leaving him alone the restroom.


For Rent

It was great meeting you today about our room for rent on Caselli. As much as it pains me to do so, I need to tell that we're sorry, but we can't rent the room to you. Your references check out, your dog is super cute, and your credit is immaculate. But, one of the few household rules is never rent to someone that everyone in the house wants to sleep with. Poor Mike, the one that greeted you at the door, hyperventilated after you left. Bill downstairs discussed mounting a camera in the shower. It just wouldn't work out. Sexual tension is a recipe for a disaster in a small Castro apartment. We let a ginger move in once to disastrous consequences, resulting in the Roommates Forever Peace Accord of 2014, forbidding us from renting to someone solely on the basis of us all wanting to score on him. It's much easier to deal with if it's just one of us, the others can rally to make sure there is no drama. But in your case, I'm very sorry, but you represent too much household risk. We simply can't chance it. I'm sure you can understand. Good luck with your apartment search.

Mobile Assessment

They were at the Eagle scanning the Sunday Beerbust, when he mentioned how handsome he thought a particular man was. “He’s the kind that won’t ask before taking selfies in bed after sex,” his friend observed. “What? How could you possibly know that?” “You never pay attention to social clues. See,” he said pointing and then gesturing at his own jeans’ pocket, “HTC ONE in the left pocket. Which means he doesn’t care about the phone part, he won’t be calling you back, but a high-pixel, self-facing camera? That’s hot. It’s all about him, and selfie-selfie-selfie.” “OK, Doctor Sociology, what about his friends?” “Well, his buddy is iPhone 5s in the right-front pocket. Which means he likes other men to text him long and hard. I bet he can receive unlimited data and his phone is on extra high vibrate. Mr. Pornstache next to him keeps his phone in the flap of his leather vest where he used to keep poppers. Or perhaps still does. So he hides his submissiveness or active natures; he’s probably a long- winded blogger. But it’s shorty on the end I feel bad for.” “Why is that?” “He has a Captain Kirk flip phone that was briefly hip in 1994. He goes to the restroom to check for messages, I saw him there earlier, and the poor thing doesn’t have a camera.” “Perhaps, he’s a public school teacher on a budget and he has other priorities. Like paying for a good leathercrafter. His leather is tailored superbly. He probably also has a personal trainer, because his biceps say “lick me” and his butt is divine in his chaps. I bet he owns leather bound editions of Thoreau and Emily Dickinson. I bet he knows how to send flowers. You can’t judge a trick simply by their cell phone shape and pocket location, you need a wider, more holistic view.” His friend paused for a moment, taking in Mr. Flip Phone a second time. You could see him reassessing. “You’re getting good at this! If Flip Phone can make great French toast served with organic fair trade coffee after making passionate, hard-bodied love to me all night, he’s probably the most attractive of the whole gaggle.”

Magic Words

The sunrise spread over the urban meadow as he walked quietly along, behind his cart. His brown clothes hung like Buddhist monks robes. This one had a drinking fountain, he could refill his bottles. He had been teased by others in the underworld for living there. They called him designer homeless, the organic, free-trade vagabond. This was home. Their nicknames fell off him like water off a duck. He’d lived places where resources were scarce. Food bank passed out bags of rice. What good is microwave-for-ninety-seconds rice to an underworlder? He laughed at the thought of some smug white city councilman suggesting installing a microwave in the tent city along the Guadalupe, or the center offering showers and “free access to a microwave.” Processed food was bad for him anyway. Too much shit in that versus food. Fucking filler foods anyway. Fucking carbs. He was distracting himself. Too much thinking. That was never a good idea. Keep on schedule, he thought to himself, keep on schedule. Bottles filled, he made his way to the community garden where she greeted him. This one moment each morning reaffirmed him in a way nothing else could. They’d met one morning, her catching him harvesting carrots from a neighboring garden. Her reaction wasn’t shame or defense, but insisting on knowing his name. Nobody else cared to know it. She was Karen. Karen who loved her grandkids. Karen who saved the small tomatoes for him. “Good morning, Albert” had become magic words.

Sleepy Hollow

Glancing out the window I noticed the moon. It seemed to be moving across the pre-dawn sky. Thick Sleepy Hollow fog rolled past it creating a rich darkness that could inspire Stephen King at his typewriter. I got the dog leashed up and we walked out into it. The only things visible were the vague colors of fall from the trees and globes of streetlights, but even they were quickly subdued. The breeze pushed visible wisps of ocean scented mist past our feet as we walked down the street. The dog would stop to sniff but also seemed entranced by the morning wonderland we were venturing out into. Sounds would filter through and her ears would perk up. A car door slam. Kids walking to the grade school up the block. I imagined someone pushing their recycle bin out to the curb in their night shirt, shuffling bleary eyed in their slippers. We quietly made our way to the coffee shop, comically lit up bright like a beacon in the darkness. As I untethered the dog to make the return journey to the house, the morning sun was cutting it's first path into the fog. It let go like fingers that had been tightly clasped around the city. By the time we reached home, the first streaks of pure fall blue sky peaked through, streaking down and striking the still damp pavement. I stopped looking up into a tree where the sun filtered through, rendering the browns, reds and stubborn greens like a stained glass window. A small wisp of vapor still clung in between the leaves, dancing and moving in the warm embrace of sunrise.

may or may not be based on real events

(QUE LAW AND ORDER THEME) (NARRATOR VOICE) In San Francisco amongst gay men, some of them are single. and dating. poor bastards. and sometimes their behavior is particularly heinous. These are their stories. (LAW AND ORDER CHIME: DUH DUH) SCENE: BILL'S APARTMENT "Before I forget I wanted to show you something." Mike said reaching into his backpack. He pulled out a small bottle and set it on the coffee table. "This bottle is going to change your life. You see I've found this amazing age-defying health drink based on the amazing cleansing power of the acai berr-" (FLASHBACK) I was lost in the daydream of what had been up to this point, the perfect first date. We went out to dinner at my favorite Indian place. We traded stories about coming out and moving to San Francisco. We flirted with our hands and stared at each other in that unique way people do on the first date. (BACK TO SCENE) "Whoa. wait. are you multilevel marketing me on a date?" "no, but if we're going to date you need to understand how important this superfood is to your well being." "seriously?" (FLASHBACK) I'd spent the entire week before cleaning my apartment and putting everything in the perfect place. We'd gone for a walk after dinner and he'd agreed to come back to my place for a while. He was gorgeous, muscular, educated, and eyes I could stare into forever. (BACK TO SCENE) During my daydream, he reached into his backpack, pulling out a brochure. "I have some studies here that show how much acai berry can -" "You are seriously trying to peddle me superfood juice on our first date?" "Don't you care about your health and well being?" "Yes, I absolutely do" "well then..." "I think it's best for my health and wellness if you pack up and leave." "but -" "Let me show you to the door, I'm so pissed right now I'm worrying for your personal safety, it's really for the best." The door clicked shut on my apartment and I listened as he walked down the stairs and out the front door. "Well that was fucked," I said derisively to myself, My phone beeped an alert, "Let me know if you want to talk about it another time." I hand slid over the delete key as I walked myself to the liqour cabinet for a nice strong gin and tonic. (LAW AND ORDER CHIME: DUH DUH)