A piece for peace

 

Your workload at an agency, like the water on Santa Monica’s beach, ebbs and flows, but this day was a tsunami. Where two days before I sat idle, searching for billable (billable – a term creative agencies use to measure the ratio of incurred hours you clock to account work that’s generating revenue against the salary the agency pays you) searching for billable work, on this day, a groundswell of billable hours funneled in my direction.

So take a seat, dim the lights – but put the spotlight on me, boo – and listen to my story.

A ten year old girl’s voice whispers near you: Setting.

 

Hot coffee pours into a paper cup, steam dances to and fro as it wafts over the fill line. Coffeemate (1 hazlenut, 1 vanilla) Splenda, (4 or 5 packets) and one big scoop of ice.

I take a sip. Finally I’m awake and just in the nick of time, it’s 8:59 and I’m supposed to be on a client call in a minute.

While listening in, I’m multi-tasking. Bing! I receive a frenetic email from Samuel.

Samuel is a creative genius and high-level member of the agency. Samuel’s virtue and vice in life is his creative brilliance. He’s a master at communicating ideas and sees, really sees, the world before you’ve even began to notice. But he’s a lackluster project manager. Schedules, due dates, preparation, and buttoned-up weren’t really words in his extremely loquacious dictionary.

We need additional possibilities! The client is in-market and we need new locations today.

(Whisper) Flashback.

 

The Thursday before, I receive a call from Samuel at 5 p.m.

Hey Jake, maybe you can help me out. You know, it’s just been so nuts lately and quite frankly this just fell through the cracks – but our client will be hosting a small PR event in LA and we need to find venues that would fit our needs. It needs to have an open kitchen to demonstrate cooking – it needs to be like a test kitchen, do you know what that is? Where they film food being prepared for tasting? But it needs to be posh and chic, I mean we are having some very high profile VIPs there. The space should be large enough to accommodate the event. But we don’t want it to be too big, it needs to look intimate. Can you find something like that for me?

 

I scroll through images trying to understand what I need to find. I reply, “Sure. When would you like this by?”

Well I mean as soon as possible. We need to send recommendations to the client tomorrow.

Okay… was not expecting this at 5 p.m. but I mean, what was I to do? Waste time arguing like some malingering pettifogger? Uh uh, honey boo! I get shit done.

The next morning I scour google for possible test kitchens. I reach out to photographer friends, asking if they’d shot in a location like what was eloquently described to me. I also enlist the help of my boyfriend – a fashion agent – to ask if he knows any creative producers. Finally, I reach out to my boss’s producer contact who happened to research locations for an identical event a week prior.

My findings: LA doesn’t have much to offer.

But I do deliver possible 3 possible options for the client. I shoot them to Samuel by noon and apparently Samuel is content, as he doesn’t respond.

(Whisper) Back to present.

Now, almost a week later, I receive this terse email from Samuel.

Okay – why the hell didn’t he tell me the client would be in LA to see the locations? Samuel sends me the female client’s itinerary (which was scattered with meetings all over LA) and asks I find locations the client can visit in-between meetings.

I’m jutted into some surreal reality show challenge. I mean come on, finding suitable locations, while accounting for LA traffic, scheduling the site visits, AND accounting for multiple appointments the client can’t be late for – all with an hour to do so – while working on other client work? I need that time travelling necklace Hermione Granger used in the third Harry Potter book to make this happen.

 

This is why people pop pills and drink. With just a little planning we’d all live a less stressed existence in this wacky town.

But call me a juggler, I enter problem solving mode.

Mind you, I’m still on my 9:00 a.m. client call, listening for their reactions to a list of opportunities we spent weeks seeding for them. (Seeding – an agency term meaning you reach out to all your producer contacts and ask them to send you the prices it would cost for your brand (client) to be featured in their TV show or movie. It can also be used for events and other opportunities. It can also mean sleeping your way around town to get what you want.)

I study the itinerary Samuel provides me. I decide instead of a test kitchen, impossible to find, I’ll send her to chic restaurants with open kitchen concepts which will give me more options spread throughout LA.

Of course after my 9 a.m. call, I need to jump on another client call – one I’m the leader on.

I’m against a wall. How am I going to make this happen?

A light bulb appears above my head. I message fashion agent hubby. He has fabulous friends. Of course they will know of any chic, trendy restaurant with an open kitchen concept.

I jump on the next call and as I’m leading, I witness my inbox flood with recommendations from hubby.

Betty sent this list.

Aaron sent this list.

Oh, Benji sent these, how could I forget?

(whisper) Tense change.

The recommendations hubby seeded were perfect. The client couldn’t have been happier, she had more options than she could handle. In fact, all of the clients were happy that day. For me, it was another day living this Hollywood adventure.

You can’t do it alone. I mean, you can. But magic is the juncture where two individuals leverage demarcated strengths and succeed. I wouldn’t have been able to achieve the task laid before me had hubby not stepped in. Hubby didn’t know what an open concept kitchen was. Luckily his friends did. I needed every player in this co-dependent ecosystem.

No matter whether it’s a business or a relationship, success is guaranteed when humans mechanically and harmoniously work in unison, complimenting each other.

So, ask me to lend a helping hand. I’m happy to do so. And I know you’ll be happy to return the favor someday and we’ll all slowly move one step forward in this game of life.

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Penetrating Jordan – My Journey Across the Red Sea

When I accepted the call to travel, I unchained life’s anchors I presumed were weighing me down. I stripped off layers of fear like old wallpaper, applying a new coat of experience. By giving up sedentary comforts and perceived “needs”, I gained a wealth that banks cannot measure.

At its core, travelling is a curious concept. Not – vacationing – do not confuse the two.
Travelers spend exorbitant amounts of money trading their comfortable, private beds for decidedly shittier arrangements, ranging from sleeping bags in tents, single mattresses on rooftops, or bunk beds in hostels. (I’ve done all the above.)
Travelers succumb to humility when displaced in a foreign culture, making fools of themselves as they navigate new mores. But like a drop of dye in liquid, where at first the traveler is conspicuous and alien – eventually, and only by direct contact, are they fully integrated as one in the glass of culture.
I was a drop of dye before I visited Jordan.

Normally, I scoff at the idea of travelling with tour groups. Why pay to hang out with, on a six hour bus ride, the lonely cat lady from Canada who’s sobbing because she misses Fluffy? I find it a waste when you embark on daily adventures – perhaps a tour of ruins, perhaps a museum – and are held up because Fluffy’s owner happens to suffer from a gimp leg and the black lung.

But Jordan required far too much research in planning a solo trip. Being American AND a millennial, I was far too lazy to execute the required cultural homework. Additionally, when travelling normally, I relied on the gay locals to share the culture (and hopefully their free beds) with me. I didn’t foresee that happening in Jordan.

Stoned one evening, while surfing the internet for cat videos and Bukkake orgies, I found a travel company specializing in remote adventures for intrepid and independent travelers.

Three months later, I boarded a conversion van packed with a potpourri of Anglo adventurers: Brits, Canadians, Aussies, and Americans – had the full line of BCAA’s. We carved through the Sinai Peninsula until we penetrated the Red Sea, our gateway to Jordan.

A vivacious Australian woman named Lana, tapped on my shoulder, “Love, may I ask your name?”

“Jake. Or Jakey.” I replied, holding onto a regressive cute-ness I wanted to project.

Lana smiled, “Lana here. Jake, my love, did you buy your bright pink underwear at the bazaar in Cairo?”

Blood shuttled to my face. How the hell did she know I’m wearing bright pink, boy panties?

Lana read the confusion, “You’re fly is open, darling. Don’t fret though. I’ve seen worse. I once pulled the same faux pas while travelling through Lima. Over 20 years ago. I was hot! But I didn’t shave… or wear underwear….”

Lana was about twenty-five years older than I, but I saw in her what I wanted to produce within myself. I, like her, wanted to become a quirky vagabond with a story for every city in the world. Our bond forged instantly.
The conversion van unloaded the tour group to an Egyptian port where the unforgiving desert sun ricocheted off the ground and hung in the air. The sandy breeze whipped against our bodies, chock-full of Middle Eastern heat.

The clock read 11:00 a.m.; our ferry was scheduled for noon. Unfortunately, the ferry adhered to Egyptian people time – similar to black people time or drag queen time or whatever politically incorrect “time” joke you can think of. Point is, in Egypt, if a train departs at 12 p.m., this may mean it will leave at 1 p.m., or 3 p.m. or 8 p.m.

Our tour grouped entered a warehouse lined with benches. Egyptian and Jordanian families sweated through their garments, captivated by the assembly of BCAA’s parading through the warehouse. Stray, feral cats licked the sticky floors and lounged in the shade underneath the seats. Air conditioning vents fought a losing battle against visceral heat waves.

Lana sat at a bench and pulled out a book, some sort of feminist travel lore, “Well, nothing to do but wait.”

“Uh-greed.” I said, pulling out a copy of Why Men Love Bitches.

We baked patiently for an hour before a police officer appeared in the warehouse – like a desert mirage. The Middle Eastern families peaked their heads and observed the officer as he opened a Cyclopean sliding door. Like a magical “open sesame” moment, the ferry was revealed. Immediately, the Middle Eastern families arose and approached (stampeded like fat housewives on Black Friday) the dock to embark.

Monkey see, monkey do. After witnessing the barrage of activity, my tour group approached the ticket attendant for entry. Approached used correctly here.

The attendant studied my ticket for a moment and explained:

“This is slow ferry. You have a ticket for fast. Wait. It comes.”

I replied, “Wait, is this the ferry to Aqaba?”

Attendant replied, “Yes.”

I continue, “Can we just board it now?”

The attendant stared dryly at me with a stoic intensity and repeated, “Your ticket is for fast ferry. You wait. It comes.”
I deflated like a popped balloon, settling back down onto the wooden benches to … wait.

And wait.

And wait.

An hour bled into three.

“I’m starving. I hope this food, I mean, ferry, arrives soon.“ Lana said.

I agreed, “But for real, though! I bet the slow ferry already arrived in Aqaba.”

As she fanned herself, Lana whined, “Of course I put on make-up today. I must look like a sad clown. “

I smirked, “Well, not a sad one.”

Lana smiled proudly, “Oh, my baby. You’re learning how to be a bitch. Keep on reading and soon you’ll learn the art of manipulative seduction.”

I then smiled proudly, “I think I’m already there. I’ve traveled for six months straight and only had to pay for lodging in three of them.”

Lana pulled out a handkerchief with an array of flag patches ironed on. “This is Binky. It’s my sexual history in a convenient sweat rag. Every flag represents a different country I’ve sexed in.”

I placed my hand to my chest, “Aww, Binky! There are a LOT of countries on this.”

Lana winked, “I have three more in my suitcase. I’m all about spreading the love – just need to be careful about what else you spread. My trip from Lithuania to Poland taught me that one. Let’s just say my man had a quick trip to Fire Island after staying with me that night. I don’t wish that burning sensation on my worst enemy!”

At this point the police officer passed by us.

“Excuse me, when exactly is this ferry arriving?” Lana asked the Egyptian.

He responded, “Yes, lady, 30 mins, it’s ready in 30 mins.”

I whispered, “I don’t think he knows what thirty minutes means.”

We waited thirty minutes, before Lana approached the man again.

“It’s been bloody thirty minutes, when is this ferry coming? Please, we’re tired. We smell. We were supposed to leave four hours ago.” pleaded Larissa.

“Lady, I tell you, thirty minutes, it comes in thirty.” The man reiterated.

We waited yet another thirty minutes. Lana, now boiling asked him again, only to receive the same answer.

“This is fucking torture! Torture, I tell you! I swear he has no clue if this ferry even is coming.” She said.

At 5 p.m. the fast ferry arrived. Now, I’ve never been a prisoner of war. I cannot even begin to imagine what that would be like. But I imagine the elation and peace I felt at the arrival of the ferry would resemble the moment of their rescue.

We boarded the ferry.

At which point we sat in the ferry for a good hour before it FINALLY embarked.
So let’s review: tired, starving, and stuck in Egyptian purgatory for 8 hours, we finally crossed the Red Sea and entered Jordan – god… entered Jordan…. Why does a country have to have a pubescent girl’s (or boy’s) name I feel like I’m writing a smutty porno with that line… anyway… It was indeed a fast ferry. The trip only lasted an hour, placing us in Aqaba at 7:00p.m.

With great excitement we exited the boat, practically dancing off the ramp. We stood on a Jordanian port while waiting for our suitcases to be unloaded, when the next pile of bricks fell on us.

Apparently there was a leak on the boat, and the compartment holding our baggage flooded. This meant all our luggage received a free wash, but not a free dry.

I wanted to be angry, but we were in a country without customer service. It would have been no use to complain to a manager who’d just stare at me while breaking down and thinking, “Shit! Glad it’s you and not me!” We hardly even received a simple, I’m sorry, from the ferry company. No, their mantra was far more realistic, a simple, C’est la vie.

At this point, immunity to feeling set in. I felt no despair, pain, or frustration; I couldn’t commit enough energy to register these feelings. Only one thing raced through my mind: food.

Lana, livid that her clothes were soaked, laundered her luggage that evening. But I’d unevolved into a cave man. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak, and I couldn’t breathe unless it was in the search for sustenance. Alone, I searched the city of Aqaba for a supermarket, restaurant, or fruit tree; anything that could feed me.

I dragged myself around lifeless residential streets for over an hour until I found my Godsend. Out of nowhere, I stumble upon a huge glowing building with a familiar logo: Popeye’s Chicken and Biscuits. Thank you, Capitalism!!!

I entered, and to keep the workers from trying to ask too many questions, acted like I didn’t speak English very well – pretending to be German. I Taylor Swiftly ordered my 4 pieces of chicken, Coke Zero, and fries to go. I took this delicious bag of unhealthy crap to my hotel room and feasted alone. Napkins made translucent from copious oil seeping out of the chicken’s muscle fibers covered me like a cozy blanket. I watched international news and prepared for a terrible, Popeye’s-induced stomachache.

And that was how I penetrated Jordan – a demarcated black bead of dye, ready to be mixed with the magical culture I dropped in on.

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Dispensary Girl

Sunlight beams through a dingy Hollywood casita. Two twenty-something gentlemen are passed out. A white male in a Fubu shirt is lying on a cream carpet.

His name is Robby.

A potpourri of debris cheapens the expensive carpet: stale pita chips, pizza sauce, ants, and tiny nuggets of marijuana. Robby coughs, shields his eyes from the sunlight peering in through the open door and brushes a potato chip from his blonde surfer hair.

The apartment’s luxury design is smothered by lazy cleaning habits and bedraggled clutter.

Robby’s friend, James, is passed out on the fully made bed, obviously in his clothes from the night before. His two lengthy legs hang off the side like leather fringe. His position indicates he fell back on the bed and instantly slept. Spittle leaks from his thick lips.

Peaceful slumber is interrupted when Robby’s mother, Marge, storms into the room with a picturesque tray. This morning she serves two eggs, wheat toast, tangerine juice (no pulp), and her famous southwestern hash browns. Marge serves Robby breakfast every weekend. Sure he’s twenty five, but he has privacy in his backyard apartment and lives rent-free. Plus Marge’s cooking is phenomenal.

Marge doesn’t see Robby as a free-loading adult-kid, she sees him as her only son, her pride, the light of her eyes, her Dudley Dursley.

She taps Robby’s bum with her slipper, “Good afternoon boys! I’ve made you some breakfast!”

Robby is annoyed to be woken up so suddenly, but he appreciates the food. He groans, stretches, and responds blandly, “Thanks, ma. Would you leave it on my desk?”

Marge cutely responds, “Honey, your desk is already the home to a three-foot pizza box.”

James is now awake, “That’s okay Mrs. P, I’ll take that for you. Why don’t you go and enjoy yourself with a bath and the latest Home & Garden up at HQ?”

HQ is the gargantuan Hancock Park home where Marge resides. Marge sighs. “Oh that does sound nice. But no, I couldn’t.”

Robby, now standing, places his hand on the small of her back. “Marge, you are amazing. We are so thankful for this meal. You should win the mother of the year award. We can get dad’s PR guys on that. But for now, you deserve to indulge. We insist.”

Marge stubbornly fights against the notion, but the idea is too alluring and she eventually caves. Robby locks the door behind her.

“She’s gone! Let’s indulge!” Robby shouts.

James pulls a backpack from under Robby’s bed as well as a sheet of wood. He places his pipe, marijuana, and lighter on it.
20 minutes later, the breakfast is demolished. The tray is shunted to a remote corner of the room and any toast crumbs on Robby’s bed are wiped to the floor. Both young men are giggly and stoned.

Robby smiles stupidly, “So, I’ve been working with my dad’s producing team in the studio on my own mix tape.”

James’s eyes widen, “No way, man!”

Robby is glad James is impressed. “There’s nothing else I want to do in life. Like father like son. I want to dedicate my life to music.”

James nods in agreement, “Your dad is a pretty sick guitarist. I remember I used to wear his band’s T-shirts when I was in high school. Then I realized I was too black to wear band t-shirts. I didn’t know you could sing though.”

Robby quickly answers, “Oh I can’t. I want to be a rapper.”

James laughs, “You’re a fool. A rapper?”

Robby punches James’s shoulder lightly. “Yea, stupid! A rapper. And I’m a damn good one too. Wanna hear a song I recorded?”

James seems surprised that Robby already has content to share. “Well shit. Yea let me hear it. I grew up on Tupac and WuTang, I know good rappers.”

Robby opens his computer and plays the following song:

Sunday morning, headache throbbing
That’s my weed that you’re robbing
Imma be blunt, hands off my blunt
Or Imma fuck you up like a runt, blunt, cunt

Just keeding, it’s really rather easy
Head across the street to my green speakeasy
We all got cards in Californ-eee-ya
And smoke our hangovers con legal ganja.

At the counter who do I see?
A hot chick workin’ the dispensary
Sassy, classy, stoner diva
Indica, hybrid, or sativa

Trade my green for her green
Now got no dinero, but I got my weed!
Sellin me a grinder, but I want to grind her
Searched for the g-spot, was too high to find her

No need for a lighter, she’s my fire
Exit with a bag, but really want to buy her
Can’t speak, cotton mouth like a dryer
No one’s like her, no one gets me higher
Now I’m back home with a fresh supply
Funnily enough, I don’t want to get high
You can take my hit, hell, take all my weed
The only hit I want is on that girl’s p**sy.

James sits silent for a second. The producing team certainly shaped a sick background beat but at the end of a day, this is an exercise in musical masturbation. Robby is a rich, white kid who watches too much BET.
“Do you like it?” Robby asks James.

James studied political science for a semester and at least knew how to frame responses to leading questions, “The beat is sick and there are definitely some clever lines.”

“Yea, it’s pretty good. Dad is going to add a guitar solo to it as well. He got me the original meeting at UMG to produce it. They want us to perform on that Bettheny Frankel show before it gets canceled. As long as she gets the exclusive I get to be a guest. This could be huge, bro!”

 
The string of events leading to this was much more complicated, composed of an interlocking web of relationships.

Robby’s father, a guitar legend, invested in a recording studio to produce his own music and rent out. At one point, he rented to a blonde singer who happened to be managed by LL Cool J. LL Cool J would ghost on her demo to add credibility and star power. During the time at the studio, LL Cool J grew inspired and asked Robby’s father to play the background on a separate hip hop track.

The song was a hit.

When Robby decided he wanted to be a rapper, Robby’s dad reached out and LL Cool J sent him to UMG because there was no way he would let this white punk join his private label.

UMG took the meeting as a favor, but the executive happened to be a huge fan of Robby’s dad. The one degree of separation would mean Robby could be somewhat marketable. Additionally, the UMG exec married a talent booker at The Bethenny Frankel Show’s production company. This talent booker continually complained no one wanted to be on the show – bad PR, so they were desperate for guests. It was the perfect package of buffoons.

 

 

A month passes before Robby appears on The Bethenny Frankel Show. No one watched the show anyway, so this is not a particularly huge PR moment for the song, Dispensary Girl.
Until a high Miley Cyrus hears it one Thursday afternoon sitting in an overgrown t-shirt with a bong in between her legs. Known for her bad PR and love of transgressive content meant to piss off Nebraskan moms, Miley adores Dispensary Girl.

She samples it and shoots a video with Robby, which goes viral among the college stoner crowd: all kids in college.

Buzzfeed pulls it apart: 45 reasons why Dispensary Girl is the defining song of this generation. The Rolling Stone cites Robby as the greatest musical genius of our time.

The New Yorker writes an ironic piece edifying why Dispensary Girl is actually one of the smartest songs in the music industry.

The critic industry comprises of sheep who cause the sequential adoration to snow ball – and it exceeds his talent.
After the viral hit, the public and the media both begin to wonder: when is Robby’s next genius single being released?
To Robby, rapping was a high hobby/dream for a spoiled child who wished to live his life among the rich unemployed. Without a real world paradigm or voice, Robby has no idea what to rap about next.

His second single, Cocaine Cunt, is met with far less veneration.

The Advocate, “Where Dispensary Girl was relatable and chock full of political and social allegory, Cocaine Cunt is dryer than my 80 year old grandmother’s pussy.”

The Rolling Stone, “for a song about cocaine, these lyrics are a real snooze.”

High Times, “Cocaine Cunt is a real downer.”
Robby gives up rapping shortly thereafter to pursue acting. He’s so bad, there’s no way he’d make it there.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long before he’s booked as the lead in a CW show. Robby slowly learns the sad fact that you don’t’ have to be good to work in Hollywood, just rich, connected, or both.

 

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Jake’s rules for the grand reveal of the penis.

Let’s discuss the rules, the statutes, the precedence for a grand unveiling of the penis, the member, the phallus, the cock.

 

Now let me begin with edifying a bit on the differences your member means to you as opposed to what your member means to everyone around you. This is similar to a colleague of mine who always brings his daughter into work and parades her around like damn Honey Boo Boo.

He completes a full tour of the office, stopping at every cubicle to allow all female co-workers the chance to ogle and swoon over his toddler. Oh my gosh, she is so precious!

Maybe I’m at a different point in my life, but for me I feel the need to just give the appropriate compliments (based on what those around me are saying) while really thinking: You kid just wiped her hand on her nose and is now grabbing my desk. Move along now while I clean up this mess – ain’t nobody got time for that.

I mean, I love kids. But I just can’t get excited or impressed by a two year old the way her father would. Show me a 2 year old who can enumerate her favorite existential philosophers and then maybe I’d be inspired.

 

This is similar to your penis. Sure. You have one. And you’re proud of it! But you can’t expect to take your penis on tour and expect groupies to chase it. At the end of the day, unless your penis can write winsome, romantic poetry, you’re not showing us anything new.

So don’t pull it out unless it’s warranted!

My girlfriend, Liz, is a fag hag – she appropriates gay culture and adopts it, integrating herself into it and then being welcomed by a hoard of twinky bottoms. While in the car with one of her gays, the subject of sex pops up, as it tends to do in these relationships and Liz’s friend grows randy, libidinous, horny. It’s not only his mood that grows, however.

The next thing you know, the gay boy whips out his Dwane the Rock-hard Johnson.

When Liz recounted the tale, I must admit, I found it hard to believe her. I inquired deeper into his character – he was not a partier, he didn’t take any major drugs that would alter his mental state, and he wasn’t an uber slut. Any motivation for this grand unveiling perplexed me.

He’s gay. She’s a girl.

He knew he wouldn’t receive fellatio and nor would he want any from a *gasp* woman. What could he possibly get from whipping out his phallus? Was he fishing for compliments? Did he want Liz to comment on it like a statue or work of art?

Liz thought the same and quickly evaded the action. After swimming through an awkward moment, stasis returned.

But this is wrong! Why did you pull out your penis, young gay man? A penis should only be seen in the right context. Riding in the car with your bestie? Not exactly the time or place.

 

Context and proximity is everything when it comes to penile attraction. But, don’t overextend this advice:

I was at the new Here Lounge a couple weeks ago for Sunday Funday (a weekly ritual where starving gay boys intake surfeit amounts of alcohol and reveal their inability to fully clothe themselves), and after drinking the minimum four drinks, broke my seal.

The bar was packed and the bathroom was as well.

The urinal at Here Lounge is a giant metal trough. Water streams down from the stainless steel backdrop, washing piss into the singular drain. Normally I’d avoid this place like the plague (nervous pee-er… can’t even pee when my boyfriend is watching me without REALLY concentrating) but the line for the stalls were so long and my seal was about to burst open.

 

I made my way to the trough and found the one opening – in the very middle of the trough with about four men on either side of me. Luckily 4-drinks Jake loses any over-analytical nervous pee-er syndrome.

While answering the call of nature, a nugget to my right starts admiring me. He stares with a hint of recognition and analysis, as if he were scrolling through a mental rolodex trying to place my face with a name.

He asks – mid-pee btw – “Do I know you?”

 

I look at him. I don’t know him. But I did notice him noticing me while I KILLED it on the dance floor an hour earlier.

I replied, “No, I’m afraid not.”

He fumbles, shifting his balance a bit, “Oh. Well you’re really handsome. I’m Nick.”

We are still peeing. Really? You’re hitting on me at a crowded urinal? I can imagine the dinner convo, So how’d you two meet???”

I reply with a thank you.

“I have really big balls.” Nick says unapologetically. He grabs his sack and penis and turns towards me.

Uncouth. No mystery. But not particularly surprising in this particular ghetto of America.

As Nick turns, he slips in what I imagine to be urine, and he immediately falls forward.

The right side of his face smacks the stainless steel backdrop and slowly slides down. Into. The. Trough.

I enter bullet time. What the fuck just happened. He fell in the urinal. These mean queens are laughing at him. Should I help him up? Or would that embarrass him further? Should I laugh? Oh god, what the hell? I’m not trained for these kinds of social situations…

Nick rises and immediately leaves the vicinity.

He was right, he did have big balls.

Yes, we were at a gay bar and a urinal. But proximity and context didn’t align here.

 

 

So here’s what I leave you with. Your penis is nothing new. Penises have been around since the dawn of man. Sure you are proud of your lil member, but you are alone in that feeling. In reality, if you’ve seen one penis, you’ve seen em all. Unless you’ve never seen an uncut one. But in any case, the grand unveil should be in a bedroom with a romantic mate. There’s nothing more humiliating than the feeling of rejection while exposing your hard penis.

 

And stop sending dick pics – we know you’re editing those photos anyway.

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Hollywood Gayla

We arrive to valet, parallel to the red carpet. We’re on time, so we’re early. The red carpet’s barren.

We walk up fancy stairs and come upon a boulevard of folding tables covered in black tablecloths and staffed by PR assistants.

The staffers, all my age, stare at me (at least I perceive in my egotistical mind), judging that I’m a guest at the amFAR Inspiration Gala honoring Goldie Hawn.

“Casting couch, no doubt.”

I’m His plus one. Still, I’m honored to be at the event.

It’s a windy December evening in a Hollywood studio space. Models hold iPads and trays of champagne. Event producers, attached to headphones, scurry past, charging through the room on a mission. The best works by Beverly Hills plastic surgeons enter in ball gowns and designer suits.

My hubby, fourteen years older than me, a social butterfly, and a generally more established gay throws me into a pool of strangers. I hold my own by holding and directing conversation. No really, my conversation skills are killing! They are on point. I’m ‘winning’ at talking.

Mid-sentence I sway my head backwards, simultaneously glancing to my left periphery where I instantly see, register, and recognize Tamara approaching. I immediately shift my body in her direction, dropping my conversation with the gays, to hug a pair of fake, giant tits.

And their owner.

Tamara is an acquaintance through work that moved on to bigger and better things, like a job at Google and a new set of double ds.

I squeal in gay voice before growing conscious of pitch, where I then reel to a feigned baritone, “Oh my god! How are you?”

Posh Tamara ignores my invitation to smile, but smirks and replies, “I’m wonderful. So, what are you doing here?”

Her question strikes me as patronizing, belittling, a blunted insult. But it is painted in naivety, as if this woman finds no use in filtering communication.

“My boyfriend is an agent and supplied the models.” I point to the boyfriend and then to the models standing on pedestals in Giorgio Armani suits. Without thinking I respond, “What are YOU doing here? I mean, did Youtube, I mean, Google money bring you here?”

In this case I am naïve of my rudeness.

 

Tamara leers while placing her right hand on the chest of a masculine and attractive salt & pepper daddy.

“He brought me.” The daddy glances to my boyfriend and I. “Everyone, this is John.”

This conversation transpires adjacent to the stranger gays I spoke with moments earlier. Tamara now engages this group as well. One gay boy steals her attention and she steps to a side conversation.

John stands awkwardly with my boyfriend and two other gays before saying, “Actually, my name is Josh.”

Tamara probably drunkenly met this man at a bar, gave him her number, and forgot who he was. But who was she to turn down a seat to the amFAR gala?

Hubby leads me through the party, stopping for short salutations with various acquaintances.

We pass the DJ, whom I’ve met 2 separate, other occasions, who once again introduces himself as if we’ve never formally met. Either the DJ’s brain is useless when it comes to facial recognition or he willfully refuses to remember our meetings. (Makes sense – DJ – wants to come off as successful, needs to make newcomers believe he meets fans constantly and. Can’t. Remember. One. More. Person.)

We then pass a mean gay stylist. I’ve never formally met this one because he refuses to ever acknowledge my existence. He hangs with the other mean gays who rely on their looks and leech-like asses to take advantage of others. When I was introduced the first time, the gesture was ignored. The stylist is known for his coke use and bitchy attitude, so I know to expect nothing less from him in further social settings. He’s a contender for a strung out life on the corner of prostitute and homeless anyhow. It’s a tale as old as time: associate with the fab life, over indulge, burn down in flames.

The coked out stylist is attached at the hip with a fellow mean gay stylist (this time for hair) who’s sporting an edgy perm cut. He’s now a walking pube head. He must have walked into the barber shop, pulled up a photo from the recent American Apparel mannequins sporting full pubic bush and asked his barber:  I want that muff- but I want it glued to my head with a bald fade to the top. An edgy pube cut, please!

 

 

Finally, after escaping trickles of West Hollywood politics, I happen upon two representatives from a management company owned by a major hip-hop artist. Five hours prior to this moment I sat in a private conference room discussing synergy with the same two representatives. It was a moment of validation hinting that maybe I could hold my own and deserve to be at the gala without being “plus one”.

 

 

The banquet table is garnished with a posy of fragrant flowers and scattered with redundant silverware. Hubby and I are shoved to the farthest corner table.

We only have two table mates at a set-up for ten.  A 22-year-old Frankenstein holds the leg of his beautiful Spanish girlfriend. He truly looks like Gargamel where she radiates beauty. But they are in love. They kiss, touch, fondle, play, flirt, bite, and hug. I’m surprised he doesn’t want to share intercourse in between her legs in between each course.

Of course, the beautiful girlfriend is the spokesperson for the wine and begs us to drink mas, mas, mas.

 

We head to the bathroom for relief from the wine and hubby says, “Oh hi, Goldie!”

Goldie Hawn passes us in a flowing teal dress, wearing so much makeup, it appears she dunked her face in a barrel of powder.

“Hi, darling!” Goldie responds regally, smiling and continuing on her way.

“That was just Goldie Hawn!” Hubby says in disbelief.

 

The event is teeming with A-gay, like two Australian pop stars. One, also a renowned drag queen, I emailed 2 days prior to book a possible web series shoot with – after establishing a relationship on the set of the upcoming season of RuPaul’s Drag Race – which I integrated my very first client into – and then had her perform in a storytelling show I produce. The finagled relationship proves that Hollywood is a backwards, inbred, and infinitesimal industry.

Both characters accompany my favorite pop star’s costume designer, who happens to be the wittiest Aussie gay of them all.

The Australian posse was invited to the event by Ms. Grace Jones herself. Yes, they met the 65 year old pop star out late at Chateau Marmont the night before. Again, infinitesimal.

 

 

 

 

We marvel over a dashing vixen at a table three over from us.

She’s draped in jewelry. Her skin is dyed orange and brown. Her breasts are pushed up. Her elderly face boasts a stubborn woman utilizing every doctor to fight the aging process.

“It can’t – is it? I think that’s Sophia Loren.” I say and direct attention to her.

It could be Sophia Loren – if she had a few face lifts. I mean, Sharon Stone is in the building – why not Sophia?

I whisper to Hubby, “I did a project on Sophia Loren in sixth grade.” It was true.

Hubby responded, “You’re going to meet her then.”

We approach her vicinity and he shunts my body in her direction. The moment I catch her attention, I instantly realize she is not Sophia Loren, rather, Mary from Pomona. By this point it is too late.

“We just thought you were so gorgeous, we had to ask for a picture.” I tell her. She is flattered.

The night continues. Chelsea Handler MC’s – it seems she calls the job in, but Chelsea is never not likable. Sharon Stone kisses a patron to coax him into donating just $250K more. A very bad orator accepts Giogio Armani’s award. Goldie Hawn elicits tears. Grace Jones closes the show with a few numbers that proves age ain’t nothing but a numbah. She leeks sexuality.

 

The night ends when Hubby takes us to Fubar – the same bar where they built a makeshift sex room out of plywood. We are dressed in our rented tuxedos, drunk, and entertained as Bobby Trendy flirts with us. (We were not particularly flattered, this is a flirtation invitation given to all members of West Hollywood.)

 

This is a Tuesday night in Los Angeles. Here, the wind whistles adventurous stories.

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Kotex in Kotor – a backpacker’s tale

I awoke on the flaccid bottom mattress of a hostel bunk bed. Clothes, open suitcases, and a tattered Persian rug lay scattered on the floor. I wiped remnants of the Sandman’s visit from my eyes and the spittle from the side of my lips.

 

Time to get up.

 

The moment my feet touched what little floor was left, a stinging pain shot through my body, beginning with my big right toe.

 

I whelped like a ninny.

 

The Norwegian single-white-female on the bunk across the room raised her head, snarled, and turned over. The Spaniard to my right scratched his hairy buttocks, farted, and hardly awoke. The rest of the room remained still in slumber.

 

What the?

 

I inspected my foot and found not only was my toe unusually bulbous, but also coated in dried blood and scab tissue- along with other funky gunk. Did my immune system produce the greens and whites I saw or was this foreign debris I picked up somewhere in the hostel? I didn’t want to know. What I did know was my toe appeared it’d been shoved in a blender and then injected with silicone.

 

A slight hangover also lingered in my pre-frontal cortex.

 

What happened?

 

Images from the night before shuffled in my mind like cards from a deck.

 

I found myself in Kotor, a picturesque beach town positioned between two fjords of ineffable beauty and clear beaches painted with subtle variations of blue. During my stay, a crude shipman explained that Kotor is the beautiful virgin pussy hidden between two of Montenegro’s fjord legs. I’m not so sure I see that analogy, mostly because as a gay man I’ve forgotten what vaginas look like, but I penetrated Kotor like a dominant stud.

 

Montenegro is a dramatic, scraggy country just south of Croatia on the Adriatic coast. Kotor is an infinitesimal dot in this infinitesimal country. But it truly is a gem.

 

I first arrived at the hostel 2 days prior to my toe drama, travelling directly from Podgorica – a waste of a visit, I might add. Podgorica is like the Sacramento of Montenegro. My advice: revolving-door that bitch and head to the coast.

 

 

 

 

I entered a dirty front hall that led to an open living room, where I found myself in the hostel’s “lobby.” Purple, velvet couches inhaled the visible cigarette fumes wafting in the air. Three young hostel workers hung out lethargically – ignoring any chores or duties. The place was in desperate need of cleaning, but a potent aroma of marijuana explained the staff’s fatigue.

 

Ahead of me in the lobby’s ‘line’ stood two female tourists. The first, a Finnish girl with a Precious Moments complexion and cherry blossom cheeks, stood behind a makeshift desk. The attendant slouched on a window pane behind it, puffing out cigarette smoke to the salty Mediterranean air.

 

“Name?” he asked as he inhaled deeply.

 

“Asta Riikonen.” The name and accent gave away her ethnicity. Finnish.

 

“Yes. One bed in a 27-bed dorm. You are number 12. Top bunk.” He handed her a key and she handed him thirteen euros.

 

As I observed her, I found myself drawn to Asta. On the surface she wasn’t obviously stunning.  Her clavicle bones didn’t protrude from her chest like your typical “skinny bitch” and her bone structure was hidden behind a very round and cushiony face. But Asta held a confidence that made her sexy. She draped herself in mystery.

 

I imagined she was the kind of girl who you’d take out for a beer and end the night with passionate, coital relations atop a local fair’s Ferris wheel. For whatever reason, I felt that this woman loved fun, sex, culture, travel, art, and food. I saw this in the woman and recognized the same traits in myself. Asta was Jake Webb as a straight woman!

 

 

The blonde tourist behind Asta was American. She introduced herself as Tootie, which I imagine was a self-dubbed nick-name. (Eye roll…)

 

Tootie didn’t pre-book a bed and entered the hostel with blind hope that there’d be one available. (Eye roll…) July 12 is the apex of the tourist season. This hostel was so over-booked that it offered discounted rates for tourists willing to sleep on the floor.

 

The hostel workers knew better than to ask a Finnish girl, but Mediterranean men have a dog’s nose when it comes to sniffing out sexuality.  It’s much safer to position a request for sex to naïve, dumb, or slutty American tourists than classy Europeans. Tootie was given the option to stay at a decidedly nicer and private location: the apartment of the hostel worker.

 

To my surprise she accepted. Tootie, I’m disappointed in your decisions, but let’s grab wine sometime and trade stories, boo.

 

 

 

I walked into my 27-bed dorm room, interrupting Asta as she situated her bag. She eyed me as I found my bed, smirking when I avoided eye contact.

 

“Do you want to go to the beach?” She asked after we’d ignored each other’s presence long enough to warrant an awkward silence.

 

An instantaneous friendship formed. For two days we lounged on a dazzling beachfront while reading Cosmopolitan in languages we couldn’t understand. When the sun would set, we’d rush to the local market to buy fresh vegetables and wine. In Montenegro the finest wine can be found for two Euros, begging the question: how many more bottles can we drink tonight?

 

Days and drinks blurred together, but our last night together remains unforgettable:

 

 

 

 

 

 

We sauntered to the beach with four bottles of wine in our hand – two each. No cups, just bottles.

 

Asta led me to a paved plaza composed of bleached limestone. Its edges dropped off directly to the ocean water.  Vagabonds and beach bums sat in a circle around a central musical figure: The Bard, all of them swaying in unison to his wistful music. I had to pinch myself. Am I on the set of Wanderlust or is this my life?

 

The Bard wore a yellow bandana with purple paisley print on his bald head. He grew a goatee and a thin, black moustache. His faded shorts were frayed at the edges and he must have grown tired before buttoning his shirt because he exposed his hairy chest and stomach for the crowd. (I quite appreciated the gesture myself.)

 

Overall though, he looked like a pirate, begging this question: what ARG you thinking?

 

 

We surveyed the scene from a safe distance and I asked, “What do you think this is about?”

 

Asta nodded. “It looks like fun. Let’s go join.” Before the sentence fully fell from her lips she charged towards the circle. I quickly followed.

 

The bard was mid-song – Wonderwall has more resonance when sung with an accent and by a man who has no idea what the lyrics mean. He nodded to us as we sat down, appreciative of a larger audience.

 

As the Bard sang, the crowd of trance-induced hippies passed around bottles of wine. We all chugged, experiencing the transitory evening as a group; as one. On this night we strangers were family and allowed each other the space to be vulnerable, sucking directly out of wine bottles like they were our momma’s titties.

 

The Bard continued to serenade the group, but his eyes remained transfixed on Asta. Musical artists often find themselves attracted to energies and he sniffed out Asta’s quickly. Throughout the night they inched closer until there were no inches between them and only saliva.

 

The other group members danced, joked, and conversed. I did all the above and then, when I’d drunk myself into enough vulnerability (stupidity), I released my intoxicated elation by skipping along the beach with a fellow vagabond.

 

The beaches in Kotor are absolutely stunning. Instead of typical sand, they are covered with tiny white pebbles, and every now and then, a big ass boulder.

 

In my drunken stupor I did not see one such boulder. I’d already discarded my shoes to try and fit in with the group and after charging my toe directly into the rock, I found myself in a very humiliating predicament.

 

The blood gushing from my toe rivaled Old Faithful. It was dark, so my hippy friends couldn’t see the blood, at least until I limped back to the white plaza, where red pools stained the immaculate ground.

 

The Bard ceased playing and directed all unwanted attention to my toe. I couldn’t really move – each step felt like I dipped my foot in the pits of hell.

 

So I did what any other eighteen year old would do: continue to drink-except remain much more sedentary – until I could amble back to the hostel and pass out.

 

I did exactly that.

 

 

When I awoke the next morning, each step reminded of the prior night’s overindulgence. Through a stroke of bad luck, I also was due to leave for Croatia that day.

 

The trek to the bus station filled my tattered Adidas with blood and sweat.

 

But I didn’t care. Each burning, painful step reminded that in travelling the world with only my back pack and thirst for adventure, I was turning my dreams into realities. I mean, if I stubbed my toe in Florida, would you really give a damn?

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The man in Manhattan

Frank arrived debonair, dressed in a powder-blue suit hemmed impeccably and tapered from knee to foot. His blonde locks of curls were manicured precisely, resting upon his head like the immaculate lawns of New York’s brownstone manors – the same lawns he walked along with Levi on his arm.

 

Levi Merrill stood a Cyclopean six feet with a subtle handsomeness about him, though his nose was obviously snubbed. His viscous pomade gooped in a puddle atop his head, holding in place his unkempt hair-do. Levi’s shiftless appearance reflected his attitude toward the brownstone affair. His sullen attempt to dress up indicated a man of imposed attendance.

 

Both men stood before the mansion’s gargantuan entry doors. Frank, a high-society, opera-gay juxtaposed his companion, Levi, a Third Avenue cruiser.

 

Frank knocked confidently.

 

 

 

In the forties, homosexuality remained an oriental curiosity – a full six degrees of separation from daylight’s exposure. Brownstones lined the Third Avenue thoroughfare, providing ample opportunities for seedy trysts within the darker alcoves. In this concentrated, damp environment, homosexuality bred like yeast.

 

Manhattan epitomized the environment Conservative propaganda preached as banal, horrific, and seedy. For the same reason, Manhattan also epitomized a mythical escape for ‘the Others,’ those outsiders from remote, hetero-normal upbringings, like Levi and Frank.

 

The two former classmates lived in a quaint apartment on East 59th St., sandwiched between The Jazz Parlor and a Turkish rug shop.

 

“Fifty-two goddam dollars? That’s gouging! Anita-the rotund woman from down the hall-I heard her say she pays four less than that.” Levi whined.

 

“Stop complaining, Levi. We have a view of the Park. It’s worth every penny. We live in a city of dreams now.” Frank proposed optimistically. He then left their cozy kitchen to stand on their three feet of balcony and admire the vertical city.

 

“Yes.” Levi agreed, rushing his hands through his hair and then wincing after his hand scooped a globby hair ball. “At least, for some.”

 

 

 

 

 

Shortly upon being knocked, the manor’s colossal marble doors thrust open and standing there was a supple man who the handsome Frank knew to be Nicky Romero.

 

Nicky Romero quickly commandeered the situation by speaking before the birth of an awkward pause.

 

“Come in, come in! You two are the last to arrive. Better late than messy, of course.” Nicky boomed while glaring reproachfully at Levi. The judgment then quickly wiped from his face and he smiled warmly. “Now enter! The chefs are fast preparing a gorgeous meal and we’ve got important matters to tend to, like wine!”

 

Nicky laughed as he turned and walked into the immaculate foyer.

 

Frank and Levi followed behind.

 

Levi’s change of heart surprised him. He intended to receive Nicky with much more disdain. For months Nicky remained this enigmatic name that continually popped up in his daily conversation, due to Frank’s association. Levi imagined what this shrewd, bombastic businessman could be like, none of his fantasies shed Nicky in a positive light.

 

Levi’s eyes circumscribed the environment, which was ornamented in ornate bric-a-brac, proudly boasting of Nicky’s caroming journey around the globe. Coupled with the exclamation point this man turned out to be in person, Levi found an innate, spontaneous, and entirely involuntary affinity for the whole situation.

 

 

 

 

Both Levi and Frank’s journeys in New York City progressed disparately upon moving in together. Bestowed with an exceptionally handsome appearance, quick wit, and the exceptional recall of first names, Frank’s fame within elite circles of Manhattan quickly elevated. Rich, lonely patrons bestowed extravagant gifts to the young gentleman, whom they felt was worthy of investment. A competitive business man wants the finest of everything, including life partners. No one was a more competitive trophy than Frank.

 

Levi’s strengths were more subtle, namely his writing. Fascinated by the complexity of the English language, Levi descended into the pages of solitude, resurfacing solely when he needed a muse to write about, where he’d then cruise Third Avenue for a paramour. Not long after, of course, he’d recede back into the paper, bleeding into the pages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Come downstairs.” Frank said excitedly upon entering the cozy, spic-and-span living room where Levi sat with papers scattered before him.

 

Frank’s eyes gravitated towards the papers with curiosity. “What are you doing?”

 

Gloomy, Levi glanced up, “I’ve got to tell you something.”

 

Frank then said, “Oh no, I know that look. This storm cloud can wait. I’ve got sunny news for you. Come downstairs.”

 

“Sheesh,” Levi faked a laugh, “you leave for two weeks, taken off on some exotic vacation with a millionaire and that’s how you greet your best friend? Ordering him around?”

 

Frank flirted, smiling sheepishly. “Come downstairs.”

 

“What are you going to do when I move out? Will your next roommate be handsome enough, – I mean strong enough, – eeeh, I mean nice enough to carry your luggage up all those stairs?” Levi asked.

 

Frank hardly heard him as he’d begun to excitedly descend the stairwell.

 

“She’s beautiful.” Frank said, standing proudly before a black Ford Roadster. “I bought it myself, my first investment. I’m so happy!”

 

Levi craned his neck, inspecting the automobile’s interior. “Yourself, huh? How much?”

 

“95 dollars.” Frank said.

 

“Where the hell did you get $95?” Levi demanded.

 

“Nicky gave me money to spend while he took us on vacation. There was a lot leftover.” Frank responded.

 

Levi could not contain his disappointment. “Well, congratulations. Hate to tell you though, a car is not an investment.”

 

“Are you okay? I thought you’d be,” Frank then paused, “happier.”

 

Levi stared at the concrete below his tattered shoes. “I’m fine. I’m really happy for you, Frank.”

 

 

 

 

Nicky’s dining room indicated an ostentatious attempt at flaunting wealth. A champagne fountain was erected in the corner, speckled with fresh strawberries and draining over a satin tablecloth. Nicky’s hearty laugh echoed deep within the cavernous ballroom after each crude sex joke. His obscene nature paralleled his elegant home adding to the endearing enigma of Nicky Romero.

 

Levi slouched in a corner seat, observing, like a Martian, the strange customs in a brave new world. His mouth dropped open, slack-jawed at the intelligent conservations convoluting art, politics, and philosophy.

 

Frank reached his hand under the dining table to rub Levi’s knee for comfort.

 

Levi, over stimulated already, didn’t notice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“You’ve never looked so beautiful.” Levi told Frank on the balcony of a Beekman Place terrace one evening a month earlier.

 

This was one of the first times Frank invited Levi to one of his upscale parties. Frank never left Levi’s side the whole night. He felt comfort with a true friend in his midst, instead of the rich or beautiful strangers he often hung out with.

 

Intoxicated and confused, Frank stared into Levi’s eyes. “Manhattan’s a wonderful place, but would you know, after such high hopes, I’ve found the greatest, most spectacular thing in this world was found back at school?”

 

By this time, Frank’s hand raised to tease Levi’s waste. This sent immediate shivers through Levi’s body. Frank’s now tumid veins pumped wildly with a foreign excitement.

 

“Oh yea, what was that then?” Levi asked, brimming.

 

“You, you dummy!” Frank’s perfect teeth flashed brightly.

 

“You know, I’ve thought about how I’d feel, if I ever heard those words from you.” Levi began. “I never imagined though, that the feeling would be so wonderful.”

 

Proximity, luck, and liquid courage acted as the perfect ingredients in this ragout, sprouting a buried intimacy between the two men.

 

“I am sick of it all. Manhattan society is all smoke and mirrors. But not you. And you know me better than anyone. I love you.” Frank said, now completely open to drunk love.

 

Levi hesitated before speaking. “Frank, stop. I’ve got to tell you something.”

 

“What, handsome? Tell me everything.” Frank said, speaking a tone that Levi’d never heard until now.

 

“I joined the navy.” Frank stated. “I wanted to tell you before, but there was never a right moment.”

 

As fast as his new love built up, it crashed down just as quickly, collapsing into rubble. “What? When did you do this?”

 

“When you were away, sailing with Nicky. I was sad and lonely and unhappy with how life was turning out. There’s nothing I can do, I’ve got to head to basic training and thereafter, I’ll most likely be assigned.”

 

A moment of bullet time passed, while Frank struggled with an epic turmoil before responding.

 

 

“I don’t care.” Frank adjudicated with conviction and clarity. “I will wait for you. Funny, we had so much time together, wasted by our own ignorance. I’m sorry for that, Levi.”

 

 

 

Nicky Romero’s dinner party was Nicky’s last attempt to convince Frank that he, and not the bland, impoverished Levi, was the right man to be with. Nicky, being a competitive business man, found it incomprehensible that he could take a beautiful boy to an exotic island, pay for the entire trip, and then have the same boy break up with him for a fellow orphan. (To Nicky, anyone not living in a brownstone manor was an orphan.)

 

Nicky’s plan went amiss when Frank accidently spilled wine on his suit while recanting a joke with a caviar punch line. Frank was, and this is rare for him, unable to think of a clever retort when an insecure patron called the entire party’s attention to the faux pas.

 

Now red in the face, Frank excused himself, waving over to, and surprised that he even needed to, Levi, motioning him to follow. Levi slowly arose from his chair, approached the party’s host, grasped Nicky’s protruding trapezius muscles and whispered, then scuffled towards Frank.

 

“What’d you say?” Frank asked.

 

“Just goodbye. Had to be polite and all. Let’s just go, we’ve only got a few more days to be with each other before I head to training.” Levi said.

 

“Yes, let’s get out of here. I’m sick of this scene, two years of pointless parties with sycophants and bullies. Guess what?” Frank said.

 

“What?” Levi asked.

 

“I’ve decided to invest in the time you’re away.” Frank said. “I’m going to attend school upstate. I want to go to school, something my father always wanted for me, and learn business. I want to control my fate, not have it handed to me. I will do this to build a life … for us.”

 

“That will be good for you, exactly what you need.” Levi said.

 

 

 

 

Six weeks and a few days later, Frank was living in his new college dormitory. A letter addressed to him arrived at the school. After six weeks of no contact, Levi had written his first letter to Frank:

 

Dear Frank,

 

My world has become an exhausting exercise of tedium now that I’ve become a military man. Without you, I see through a black and white lens. Food taste rotten; stale. Music is out of tune. I yearn for you, for the comfortable silence and copious laughs we’d share. I am unnerved at the thought of another man finding the opportunity to steal you, causing you to forget our perfect passion. Please remember our commitment. You are now my sole purpose, my reason to return from war. I’ve been assigned. I’m going to Europe to fight. I’m scared to death, but mostly at the thought of never seeing you again. But your memory will keep me alive. I love you.

 

Yours truly,

Levi

 

P.S. I will send you my address when I arrive overseas.

 

Frank read the letter over and over again, dissecting it down to the very ink type. The letter became a holy relic, a shrine. Frank bought, from a specialty gift shop, an ornate memory book filled with plastic sleeve that protected letters and photos. Frank prepared to build his collection, anxiously awaiting the next letter.

 

But the letter never came. A month, two, then four passed without anything like a whisper. Without military contacts, Frank had nowhere to turn for help. His family, hadn’t heard from him, nor wanted to after learning of his homosexuality shortly before moving to Manhattan. Frank tried to dig up answers from the military, but bureaucratic answers crawl slower than a snail.

 

His heart chipped away with each passing day without answers.

 

After 6 months without word, Frank organized a vigil in memory of his one, true love.

By now he assumed the worst, the final existential nail on his romantic coffin had been set.

 

 

 

 

 

“Would you like to dance?” A photographer asked Frank.

 

The night was New Year’s Eve, 1942. For holiday, Frank returned to Manhattan, a sprawling cathedral of worship for those on the frayed edges of society’s graces.

 

“I’ve only known sorrow. The only man, Levi Merrill, the greatest man I’ve ever loved, is dead. I’ve no use for dancing.” Frank replied to the photographer’s question.

 

Silence wafted over the photographer for a brief moment before he replied.

 

“Shit. A real poet, aren’t ya? Listen, poet, it looks like you spend a great deal of energy pining for this Levi Merrill. This wouldn’t be the same Levi who’s been living at that Nicky Romero mansion for the past six months, would it? He was kicked out of the military after exposing his lust for men. Ever since then he’s been Nicky’s kept boy. That wouldn’t be him would it?”

 

 

It turns out, that’s exactly who it was.

 

 

The city can be so cruel.

 

 

 

Oh and I made a mashup for you guys:

 

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