architecture art Death Dogs Queer

Turin to Carmona


One thousand 800 miles.  Driving.  I began this adventure a little ways outside of Turin in a drowsy hamlet called Cinaglio, an ancient place clinging to the side of a steep hill. During this haphazard journey I planned to revisit old friends.  Old friends and familiar locations.

I’ve already written how I left the USA, visiting my sister in Canada. I’ve written about arriving in Paris and staying with Mary in Sevres, I touched upon my time in Chamonix and driving under Mont Blanc but I haven’t published any of that. I’m sure it answers questions some want answering.  I’ll publish when I feel comfortable.

Cinaglio, I stayed in a magnificent 17th Century farm-house set in the glorious Piedmont countryside.  The house belongs to my friend Maria.  We are all about the same age.  We have lines on our faces and odd blemishes.  I met Maria 20 years ago with her cousin Xavier.  I was on the jury of the Turin film festival.  They invited the jurors to her house and even though we spent only a few hours there, both Maria and her house stayed vibrant in my memory.  She latterly visited my home in Whitstable and ate crab.

We arrived… nothing had changed.  Not in 20 years.  It was just as I had remembered it.  The unused, dusty chapel, the tumbledown brick barn.  The views over vineyards and sweeping lawns.  It was formerly Maria’s mother’s house and really hasn’t been touched for 50 or so years.  There is no internet or little else to prove the 21st Century was 17 years in.  The Little Dog and Dude immediately set to exploring the gardens, digging under fallen trees and hunting lizards.  Maria left the house for us and stayed else where, she filled the fridge with local delicacies.  Ham and apricots, hazelnut cake and coffee.  The night we arrived Maria and her fiance very kindly treated us to dinner. We ate in the waiting room of an abandoned railway station.  There were endless courses, pasta, raw meat with truffles and braised donkey.  I looked at them enviously drinking red wine and wanted to join in… but didn’t.  Yet, I’ve never been more curious.

Did I mention I stopped going to AA meetings?  Several months ago?  The problem with AA?  AA claims all your successes and blames you for all your failings.  ‘I stopped going to meetings,’ is the number one excuse people give who start drinking after long-term sobriety.  But why did they stop going to meetings?  After 20 years I can tell you.  I was bored.  Bored with the same stories, the same faces, the 12 steps, the bumptious newcomers and… the ghastly old timers trapped between their arrogance and their low self-esteem.  Of course not all of them were like that.  But mostly they were.  And what’s more?  I hated who I was becoming.  I loathed the fights and the resentment only AA afforded me.

Leaving a cult after so many years is bloody hard.  A good cult will own your life then blame you for turning your back on it.

I stayed with Maria in Cinaglio for 4 wonderful nights.  The second night she threw a lavish dinner at the house for 12 of her friends.  They drank desert wine.  It smelled delicious.  We ate chicken and pork.

The following day we had lunch in Turin.  Turin is a magical city and scores high on the list of places I would consider for my next home.  I’m sure if the Romans who planned the city of Turin returned at any time they would still recognize it. The snowy alps in the distance, the River Po and the Beverly type hills overlooking Turin’s orderly grid would have perfectly oriented a time traveling Roman.  The apartments I saw for sale on-line are lavish and well priced.  The streets are crammed with interesting people and after lunch we were entertained with a boisterous ‘decriminalize cannabis’ march headed by a charismatic drum major who filled the street with a vibrant drum display that cracked through us like thunder.

I discovered Zara Home.  My dirty little secret.  I love this store.

The little dog is less wobbly but not as confident.  He thinks twice before jumping into the car or onto the bed.  His face is still squiffy.  He can’t close his eye, he has solutions… ingeniously wedging his face between two pillows forcing the droopy lid to cover his exposed eye.  The week before last he was a young dog and today he is an old dog.  It comes on quite suddenly… old age.  I suppose I thought he would be the same until the end.  Just himself.  But he’s not himself.  That’s a painful thing to see.  We seem just one step ahead of death.

My US phone ceased functioning after my first few days in France.  Rather than call AT&T I decided not to have a phone… or rather I would wait for text messages and emails whenever I could log onto the internet.  It forced me to look at the landscape, I listened to music.  Massive Attack reminded me of Gulshan and Bournemouth Film School and the beach.  It reminded me that I hadn’t smoked weed for nearly 21 years.

The road from Turin to Monaco was empty and the tolls were expensive.  The Italian Riviera looked very interesting and certainly worth a closer inspection.

In Monaco I struggled onto a train with my luggage and two dogs.  The train to Nice was easy.   I found a delightful hotel in the old quarter where I spent the next four nights.  From Nice it was convenient to catch up with old friends and revisit the Cannes film festival.  The last train from Cannes to Nice leaves at 10.41pm so I had no option but to leave the festivities and do dog duties.  In Nice I had lunch with Tim Fountain and saw Cassian Elwes,  meeting his new girlfriend.  I hung out with a bunch or errant Brits and Irishmen.  We found a comfortable lounge and drank grapefruit cocktails and I met actor Laurie Calvert who is very sexy indeed.

The final day was a little frustrating as the credit card company decided to block my credit card.  I had failed to tell them I was going to France.  It took 8 hours to unblock.  I finally picked up my rental car a day later than expected and started my drive to Carmona.

A few miles outside of Cannes I stopped at a service station and standing outside were M and S, a pair of German engineering students hitch hiking from Munich to Barcelona for charity.  They had to perform certain stunts along the way for which they were compensated.

I’m sure we all remember the moment Aschenbach lays eyes on Tadsio in the film Death in Venice and is immediately consumed by the young man’s beauty.  Well, I have to tell you when I first saw M and they asked for a lift and I said yes… I rather hoped they might have found a better ride whilst I was in the service station buying provisions.  I knew having him sitting beside me for 4 hours was going to be excruciating.  What’s more… one of their stunts was to drive without pants in the car.  So, I had a semi naked German god sitting next to me pantless in the car.  He was very well aware of his exquisite beauty and how he was affecting his driver… me.

Then, at his behest, we started telling each other our stories.  I told mine.  Then he started his.  His father had recently committed suicide… his father was my age.  A theme was emerging.  My sister and I had discussed our enigmatic dead father.  The boy’s story… and I was on my way to see a friend whose father had recently died.   I was overwhelmed not only with his beauty but his wit, sincerity and strength.

I left the boys in Barcelona.  They had to swim and dance and take picture.  There was a moment when he was totally naked in front of me, shamelessly changing out of his swim costume.  Looking at me, his piercing green eyes.  He was gifting me a lifetime of memories.   A beautiful 24-year-old with golden hair and heart… a thousand tears he needs to cry.

That night I found a small hotel in Valencia.  I lay thinking about the boy and how fathers can deliberately and cruelly leave their loving sons.  “Nobody expected it,” he said.  I was exhausted.  I slept soundly with the dogs and woke refreshed, I ate a hearty breakfast, chiros and thick dark chocolate.  Spain lay before me.  Soon the industrial North gave way to red earth and olive trees, vineyards and moorish architecture.  I sped toward Madrid, Cordoba and Seville.

politics Queer


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I am sitting in the hot sun, drinking espresso on the terrace of a perfect beaux-arts terrace. The French alps tower around me. Specifically, Mont Blanc glistening like a fancy frosted desert, a choppy blue glacier advancing to its right, over our heads tiny humans paragliding, spin and plunge.

Sadly, there is trouble in paradise, my serenity smashed to pieces whenever I open Facebook.  I am not forced to open Facebook, my fingers with their virtual muscle memory… like billions of others, slide over the smooth face of my smart phone and hit the pale blue F.  Instantly I am plunged into transatlantic, liberal hand wringing and chest beating.

They scream, ‘Impeach Trump!’ Facebook posts from disillusioned liberals/hillarybots. ‘Impeach him now!’  Their unrealistic expectations give me daily pleasure.  These are not, on the whole, dumb folk spewing liberal dogma.  I’m concerned they genuinely believe impeachment is possible. I’m sad these highly intelligent, motivated folk can’t put their energy into the search for a credible and charismatic democratic alternative to fight Trump in 2020.

Am I alone when I ask:  Is Trump good for the USA?

He behaves like a deranged, megalomaniac… a south american despot you say.  Yet, Americans might remind themselves that there are those of us who live outside the USA in countries the USA has royally fucked over or whose elections and way of life America has meddled.  To those who have endured the chaos of American intervention Trump is the last of a long line of equally despicable Americans presidents… including the holy cow, ‘No Drama Obama’.  Unlike the others, Trump is merely treating the USA as the USA has treated the rest of the world.  He is crude and greedy, he intends to take what ever he wants and will share the spoils with those prepared to cut him in on the deal.

Trump is good for America if Americans are willing to take a good hard look at their behaviors these past few decades.  Their collective racism, their xenophobia, their greed.

To impeach a president takes a huge amount of effort and determination, it requires consensus in both houses.   My British friends fail to understand if Trump were to be impeached/removed/assassinated… there will be no snap election, no variation on Theresa May’s rig the vote.  The four years the American people voted for must be played out and there is an order of succession if anything were to happen to Trump.

The succession: Trump, Pence the vice President and then Paul Ryan, leader of the house.  Each more terrible than the last.

Most of my ‘friends’ on social media are fully engaged with the trump drama, the trump conflict, and desire nothing more that the easy resolution of a mini series.  They are looking for a perfect denouement, a canny plot twist that will somehow give them the President they desire, the happy ending proving they were right all along.

Crazy liberals cannot bring themselves to admit what is happening all over the world:  the people are tired of the status quo.  They are bored with democracy, they are addicted to intensity.  They are focused on their smart phone, the television and the endless news cycle that feeds them divorce, terrorism, murder and larceny.

Let me say that again:  the people are addicted en mass to intensity… however it can be served by whomever can deliver the strongest dose and Trump delivers, day after day.

All Americans treat vulnerability as a opportunity.  If you are sick or find yourself on the wrong side of the law… Americans will fully exploit you.  Trump’s Attorney General is filling his own private jails with black and brown men guilty of possessing small amounts of weed, their sentences are non negotiable.  Trump is sacrificing the land, the resources therein, from sea to shining sea… he will let you foul the water and the air.  By slashing and burning he is making everyone fight for what they believe knowing most will not fight but simply retreat.   He is the Goth, the Visigoth, the Vandal.  He is well-known in history… he is the black cloud hanging over the advent of the dark age.

Trump is the most American of Americans.  He lingers within the psyche of the nation.  He is born out of Manifest Destiny, slavery and mass incarceration.  Until Trump was president only the few challenged America’s despicable countenance.  Liberals, democrats and progressive were cautious critics of the very same USA Trump now fairly represents.

Those who say they hate Trump refuse to challenge the systems and institutions that put him into power and keep him in power.  They blindly accept the dominance of their military industrial complex, they accept the word of law.  They rarely challenge their own ingrained prejudices interpersonally they criticize internationally.

Trump’s supporters will not turn on him.  They blame the establishment for interrupting him, they blame the FBI.  They think little of the police and the rule of law.  They watch Trump battle dark forces and his fight (absurd to the rest of us) confirms their worst fears about the USA.  A president who can’t speak freely without every newspaper misreporting, who can’t hire and fire without scrutiny, a leader they wanted to lead them away from modernity, back to mythical greatness.

If anything happens to Donald Trump… and it will eventually.  His people will take up arms and start gunning for those they see as hindering their dream.  Some dream of wax fruit and paper leaves, their garden of Eden.  Their Eden will not include uppity black people demanding apologies, trans toilets or gay marriage.  Women will earn less than men and keep their mouths shut when their husbands need to beat or rape them.

It is, of course, the lie of simplicity they crave, the unprompted simplicity the people of this tiny French village understand.   Uncoupled from their second screen, planting black currents, walking their dogs down verdant mountain paths.  I don’t know how Americans will ever find their way back, back home.  To a place where they can live without fear.  Fear of sickness or another taking what they have.   How will they get back to something honest and kind.  I don’t know.  How will they ever live without their crippling addiction to intensity, shame and resentment.

The further I get from the USA the more I am inclined to believe civil war is inevitable.


Tivoli to Mont Blanc 2017

This blog is out of sequence.

I want to write about The Little Dog.  Perhaps that’s all I’ll write about today.

Anyone who met me this past decade… will have met The Little Dog.  A slim, muscular, tan and white Jack Russell/chihuahua mix formerly known as Ziggy.  You’ll remember how he is: inquisitive and grumpy in equal measure.  You’ll remember the heart-shaped patch above his tail.

I found him on an unseasonably hot Californian Sunday morning at the Palisades farmer’s market after my 7.30am AA stag meeting.  He was forlornly caged with a collection of yappy dogs and puppies, all up for adoption.  He wanted to bite me the moment I met him and I could tell by the look in his eye that he trusted no one.  He was my kind of dog.   I was warned not to take him, he had been adopted twice before and ended up being returned to the shelter.  I took him anyway and we battled each other for the next two weeks until he realized he had run out of options.  He put up quite a fight.  He ran away and hid under the house for three days, he pooed on the carpet, he peed over everything.  He stared at me growling for hours then without warning, when he felt like it he would jump up beside me, his whole body pressed against mine, quivering with anticipation… but he still wouldn’t let me touch him.

The Little Dog is 12 years old.  Perhaps he isn’t Jack Russell old (they can live until they are 19) but he’s maybe older than I was told when I got him.   He has travelled all over the world.  Travelled to London with Jake on that ill feted trip, driven the French Riviera.  He has run off leash in Battersea Park, Central Park and the Jardins des Tuileries.  I was not the best or most responsible owner, I let him off whenever I could, wherever I could.   He has wandered in awe around the redwoods in Northern California, he has swum in the sea in Provincetown and the Mattole River.  He rolled around snowy Whitstable beaches.  He chased coyote with The Big Dog in Malibu, he dug holes in the sand on their private Malibu beaches and slumped into them… he enjoyed the love, lifestyle and freedom most dogs could only dream about.

There were times he paid for his independence: he was bitten by a clever coyote late one night as he was peeing in Malibu.  That night I broke my ankle trying to defend him and Robby had to call the vet and the hospital and generally do what he did best.   There was the time I left him with Jennifer and he went exploring.  The Little Dog limped home with a paw as big as my fist because a rattle snake bit him.  I rushed back to the Malibu vet from Long Beach in my F150 and there he was in his cage looking very sorry for himself.  But after everything… he survived another day.

As I sat in the LA county jail this Little Dog’s safety was the only thing I really worried or cared about.  Jason looked after him as I languished down town and given the opportunity I whistled down the phone so The Little Dog might hear I was not dead or gone or had deliberately abandoned him.  When I returned after 3 months he looked at me askance.  I could see him thinking, ‘I moved on from you.  I thought you were dead’.

Last week The Little Dog began to show all the signs of facial nerve paresis.  FNP is a dysfunction of the seventh cranial nerve, the facial nerve. This condition is evidenced by paralysis or weakness of the muscles of the ears, eyelids, lips, and nostrils.  The cause of this disease is impairment of the facial nerve, or of the place where the nerves come together, and it affects the electrical impulses of the nerves involved. Sometimes the ophthalmic system is affected as well, interfering with the function of the tear glands.   Most often these symptoms are evidence of brain cancer.

His droopy face, like he had a stroke, his wobbling gait.  It was very distressing.  I spoke to every American vet I knew had treated him and they prepared me for the worst.  The long weekend in France meant I couldn’t get to a vet until last Tuesday which turned into Wednesday.  Each day his symptoms got worse.  He sneezed  and fell over.  He cocked his leg and fell over.  He drools and his left eye looks dead.  He was lethargic and miserable.

Finally, I took him to the veterinary hospital near Annecy and a wonderful vet called Dr. Gay.  She scanned his brian and found no cancer.   No infection.  Nothing.  They suggested a head trauma he sustained in Toronto at the nail clippers might be the reason for his condition.  Or… a violent pull on the leash.  They told me it would take three months or so for him to get better, or maybe he would never look like he used to.  They told me to massage his face, irrigate his eye, and clean food remnants from his gums.

My friend Donna very kindly took care of the vet bills.  It’s amazing just how kind people can be when there is a sick animal who needs immediate assistance.

The Little Dog no longer jumps up onto the bed and waits to be lifted, he is uncharacteristically fearful, he defers to Dude acknowledging his frailty.  The change in his personality is most disturbing.  I didn’t mind his change of physical circumstance but I really miss his exuberance, his tenacity… I miss my little dog.  Even though he lays peacefully beside me.


Homeland Security visiting my house in Tivoli was the final straw.  They demanded my papers.  They didn’t have a warrant so I didn’t let them in.  I knew when they returned they would have what they needed to take me away.  It was time to leave the USA.  I had months ago transferred my property into a LLC, I signed a power of attorney.  I packed a bag, I organized the dogs with their appropriate travelling papers and I called my sister in Toronto.  Many rallied, they knew it was a dire situation.  I had lived on the outside of American society for a long time and the pressure was getting to me.

We heard they were picking up illegals on the subway.  They were racially profiling.  They were demanding papers.  I didn’t know if it was fake news or not.  I didn’t want to find out.  I took an Uber.

The Trump presidency unleashed a wave of domestic fear and terror.  Those who feel it most keenly: Americans who voted Clinton, black Americans and specifically aliens living in the USA illegally.  However, it needs stating: Americans, both Democrats and Republicans, are used to unleashing terror on others all over the globe, naively unaware they were just as vulnerable at home.  How many military coups has the U.S. directly aided… in direct contravention to U.S. law, if not orchestrated?   Under freedom-loving Obama, there were at least three — in Honduras, Egypt and The Maldives, all against elected governments.

The media screams impeach, the Democrats run from pillar to post like a plague of mice looking for safety.  One day FBI Comey is their enemy and the very next day… their best friend.   The most absurd argument, the most convoluted Democratic explanation for Hillary’s spectacular loss?  Hillary won the popular vote but the Russians lost her the election.  At no time do the these self-righteous Democrats ever take time to understand their part in this devastating turn of events.  Trump is the most american of americans, he is greedy, vindictive and narcissistic, he is the very essence of almost every american… perfectly distilled, taking his rightful place as their president.  And why will there be no impeachment?  Because that would require congress be interested in the rule of law.

As President Trump becomes more isolated and embattled, so he will become more extreme.  His friends will be the worst of them, those already isolated by public opinion and the liberal elite.  No one wants to work with this president, his staff and sphere of influence shrinks daily.  He is often described as a south american despot.  Yet, if he were deposed, impeached or crudely removed from office there will be unimaginable violence unleashed upon the USA, a civil war one hundred years in the brewing.   The liberal elite think if this happens their safety will be assured, but those to whome they entrust their safety are the very men and women who put Trump in power and watch with continuing glee as he strangles the establishment.

From the foothills of the French alps I look back at my time in the USA asking myself: why did I stay so long?  Holding onto a dream that things could be different… if only I held on a little tighter.

I knew if I left the USA I would be banned for a decade.  The U visa I had been promised when I sued LA County had not materialized.  Dark forces needed to be addressed.  I know how Americans exploit the weak.  An ‘opportunity’ in the USA is merely code for a vulnerability.  As millions became vulnerable after the 2008 crash so the rich luxuriated in taking whatever they wanted at bargain basement prices.

Unwilling to be subject to removal proceedings and the prospect of rotting in a private jail reserved for illegals I began my retreat.  I stayed for a week on a beautiful farm overlooking the Catskills.  Well equipped, comfortable but excruciatingly lonely.  I visited my Tivoli house a few times but only to pack a bag and oversee a renovation I knew I would never enjoy.

People said, your opinions on that blog will get you into trouble.

As I left the USA I felt a huge weight lift off of me.  Anyone who escaped tyranny and oppression will relate to this.  Americans don’t care who leaves the country, they only care who comes in.  The Niagara Falls border has a concrete conduit along which one leaves.  As we exited that fascist gutter I began to quake.  I could feel freedom opening up before me.  An unexplained joy… a joy I hadn’t felt even as I left the LA County Jail.

I came to understand the day I left LA County I merely exchanged one jail… for another.

I’ll write more these coming days about my flight, the day the police raided my house and the long-term implications.


3 weeks ago Mary and I walked the dogs through the ancient royal hunting grounds that wraps around Paris, near Sevres.   The view over the city: just as I wanted it to be.   The Little Dog was curious and nimble, Dude’s back legs gave him problems but he keeps up valiantly.  Mary knows every house in Sevres, the history and occupant of each.  At the end of her street there is a huge verdigris statue of Leon Gambetta.   He died here.  He had one eye, like my father.

My father.  My father was the focus of so much last week and the week before that.

I arrived in Paris early Sunday morning from Toronto where I had been staying with my sister, Natalie.  We met for the first time last week.  How many different feelings one has when one meets ones long-lost siblings.  I stayed at her house for 10 days.  She was kind and helpful.  I met her daughters and fell in love with my niece Kathleen, Natalie’s eldest who has a marvelous boyfriend with a superb art collection.

When we were on our own in my sister’s car we talked a lot about my father.  Her relationship with him.  How disappointing, violent and cruel he was.  Like his other wives, Natalie’s mother ran away from her abusive husband.  She secretly had passports made, she found money for flights to Canada and when she landed changed her identity and the identity of her children.  She abandoned a relationship with her own parents to save her kids from being abused by my father.   As teenagers she finally told them the truth about our dad.  Despite protests and dire warnings both Natalie and her brother Mickey wanted to meet him.

father and Natalie

They didn’t have to wait long, our cousin Keyvan always searching for family members chanced upon Mickey who had reverted to his birth name of Khazaei.

When Natalie and Mickey contacted my father he was overjoyed, Natalie had always been his favorite he said. Natalie and Mickey travelled to Europe to meet him.  Our father pretty much ignored Mickey and overwhelmed Natalie with gifts.  When they were on their own he asked Natalie to choose between her mother and him.  He offered her a luxurious life, endless travel and shopping… on the condition she never saw her mother again.

Natalie’s mother had bravely escaped the prison my father called a marriage.  Of course, Natalie said no… she wouldn’t make any such choice.  This infuriated my father.  They were staying in a hotel in the South of France.  He became violently rageful and smashed every piece of furniture in his hotel room.  He had the mother of all tantrums because his daughter said no.  Natalie told him she was leaving and never saw him again.  She confirmed what I had heard from others but it was still very difficult to hear.  Why is it so difficult?  Because I feel as if he is in me.  The dark soul.  The complication.  The anger.

As my father lay dying he wanted to punish his children for not dying.  Thankfully he was too weak to beat them.  Days from his death of pancreatic cancer my sister Rebecca refused to do his bidding, as she left the hospital room he tried to throw something at her but was too weak, she looked into his pathetic face and smiled.  He could no longer punish her when she dissented.

Enough.  It was hard to look at my sister eye to eye because of him.  I felt embarrassed by him.  Like I was him.  She is a strong and beautiful woman.  She had a wide smile and long black hair.  When we talked about him (our father) it was easy to ask a million questions but I often didn’t want to hear or acknowledge the answers.

My father’s story is part myth and part psychological horror.  Kuros Khazaei existed in a netherworld of violent gangsters and naive girls.  He opened clubs, coffee bars and shopping malls.  He sold fake antiques to Saudi princes… he wore beautiful clothes and drove expensive cars.  If he hadn’t been so utterly vile his story would be worth repeating.  If he hadn’t been Persian he would be as famous as the Kray twins.   At the end he could not lift his gold lighter to throw at his youngest daughter in a final act of violence against the children he claimed to love.