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Queer

Missed Connection

 

Spring Kilt Too

We spoke after getting our numbers for showers. I was number 87 and you was 86. Later that night I got out of the truck and smoked and you asked me something and then you got out and we talked for a bit. You are one nice guy and very sexy. I wish I would have been brave and asked you. If you read this what did you ask before getting out of your town? Would like to talk more and see if anything could happen.

Oscar Wilde reminds us ‘Youth is wasted on the young’.  But… that was before the selfie, and the advent of the age of terminal narcissism.  Thousands of American children arrest their own development by killing themselves with guns and drugs.  They remain forever young on social media, perfectly pimped and pouting, biceps glistening, shirts lifted to reveal hairless abs… before the lethal opioid injection.  I didn’t bother killing myself when I was young because I genuinely thought somebody else would do it for me.  A bullet speeding through my brains.

Did you share a moment with yourself when you were young? A moment when you caught a glimpse, accidentally saw yourself in the mirror, a beautiful stranger looking back at you?  Momentarily recognising your own youth and beauty? Has that happened to you?

I am 22, I’d been swimming in the Balham community swimming pool.  I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.  My black, wet hair stuck to my forehead, beads of water on my face, a slight blush on my cheeks.  I knew I’d never be as young or as beautiful ever again.  I never forgot his face, that… hopeful young man.  I think I fell in love.  I hanker for him… a chance encounter… a missed connection with the man I would always love above all others.

Recently I felt angry about the past.  Something I couldn’t change… but it changed me.  I felt angry our generation of gay men had not been allowed to flourish in the same way this generation has.  I felt angry because I didn’t take relationships between men seriously, after all… what could a relationship with another man possibly lead to?  Then AIDS came.  Those haunted faces.  Was I just meant to ignore the possibility of a gruesome death?  The loathing I have for most entitled, white gay man had its genesis there… if I cannot love you I must hate you.  Born out of shit covered sheets and young men begging not to die.

You were in the men’s dressing room at Balham Community Swimming Pool.  Tuesday, round 2pm. July, 1982. Do you remember?  You caught a glimpse of me in the mirror and smiled. You have a beautiful smile. We exchanged the briefest moment.  I knew instantly you are the man for me.  When I turned around… you vanished.  I am from out-of-town.  I have never returned to the pool but I often look in the mirror, wondering if you will be there.  I wish I had been brave and asked you.  Will you marry me?

All through my early 20’s I was convinced I had AIDS, I refused to believe the doctors when they told me I was not infected.  I thought there was a conspiracy, doctors and nurses unwilling to tell me the truth.  I had HIV test after test even though I was not having sex with anyone.  I was so convinced I was dying of AIDS I ended up in hospital for my crazy obsession with death.  One day a therapist asked me about my mother and the trauma of being handed over for adoption. “It’s life or death.”  She said. Taken from your mother.  Will you live or will you die?  Fighting for life.  Nothing else matters… but living.  I wanted to live so badly.  Yet the fear of death gripped me, driving me, defining the man I would become.

I must be safe, I must have a roof over my head, I must eat.  Nothing else matters.

2.

There’s an english baby called Charlie Gard, he’s on a life support machine.  There are many people who don’t accept his doctor’s grim prognosis, they want him to have experimental treatment in the USA.  The experts say it’s no use.  The Charlie Gard Army they call themselves, emboldened by shoddy science and encouraged by Donald Trump they are fighting for his life in the courts. These people are much like Americans who hang around abortion clinics intimidating women having abortions.  They are frail like a baby, they are powerlessness like an unborn child, they are mortally injured by contemporary life, they are fighting the establishment the only way they know how. They are oblivious, in denial that Charlie Gard is already dead… much like themselves.

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Queer

Lari, Tuscany. July 2017

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Prologue.

The dawns early light tip toeing over the mountain tops here in Chamonix. I am contemplating David’s funeral this Thursday and pondering my journey home to say a poignant au revoir when I discovered (by Facebook messenger) from our cousin Andy Roy my careless brothers Stuart and Martin Roy had jumped the gun and buried our father yesterday… two days ahead of the planned cremation, therefore robbing his friends and family of their opportunity to say goodbye.

Wreaths will go undelivered, his name spelt in white carnations and chrysanthemum. Days taken off work will be spent elsewhere.

Stuart and Martin, this was a desperate act of self sabotage.

The following was written before the fateful message…

1.

My father David Roy, even if he merely adopted me to save my Mother’s blushes, even if he was a violent family man from whom our mother failed to rescue herself or… us.  Do we need to punish him in death?  My brothers Martin and Stuart Roy seem to think so. Who are they punishing?  They cannot hurt him.  They merely seek to injure the living.

This picture of David on the left with his brothers Jimmy and Alec taken in 1964.

As he lay dying they were emptying his home.

My father was a social man, an avid sportsman, surrounded every night by his friends… described by my unsocial Mother as his ‘cronies’.  This week, after he heard I had spoken to my father’s best friend Don, Martin Roy called Don and screamed at him, told him he could not come to the funeral, to stay ‘out of his family’.  Don said no one had ever spoken to him like that.   I remember Martin screaming at me… when I told the truth about our abusive father in my film AKA. Screaming, screaming to quiet the noise in his own head. Martin needs help… help to forgive, help letting go.

Martin Roy, I suggest you spend your meagre inheritance seeking answers before you destroy your son Oscar with your toxic nature.  You think he’s oblivious to these rank shenanigans?  You think sensitive little Oscar brought up by our mother in your home is… oblivious?  Amazingly, you think our mother is going to succeed with Oscar when she failed so miserably with us?

My father’s friend Don sobbed on the phone as he described David’s last painful hours. My father begged Don not to leave him at the hospital, he didn’t want to be on his own when he died. He was terrified of being on his own. He called Don.

“Are you at the football club?” he asked.

“No, Dave.  It’s 6am.”

Don seemed shocked by my father’s vulnerability, he did not recognise the man laying before him.  I think Dave’s confusion… scared him.  David did not call on his sons to help him face death.  He knew he had ravaged us.  He knew he would have to face the truth when he looked into our eyes.  David did not want the truth.  He called upon his friends who sat beside him as he took his last breath.

David Roy knew what kind of funeral he wanted.  David wanted the funeral procession to pass by Cain’s, and linger a few minutes outside the arcade where he worked on Herne Bay seafront.  He specified songs and hymns he wanted playing.  He wanted, as the mourners left the chapel for a recording of Take That’s A Million Love Songs to remind them he was with them, he would always be with them.

All week I’ve been trying to have David’s last wishes honoured but I was thwarted by my brothers.  The lady at the funeral home was very sympathetic.  The young man at the crematorium told me my brothers had bought the cheapest funeral on offer.  I told the family to ignore my brother’s threats.  I encouraged them to go to the funeral and say their last goodbye.  I hope the family and friends who loved David attend the funeral in Barham tomorrow.  I hope they ignore the protestations of David’s two mortally wounded sons.

How much money could one pay a child to endure a miserable childhood?  How much does it cost to beat a boy so badly he loses his way?  How much money could one pay an adolescent for an absent father?  How much money is it worth to a grown man to have his children ignored by his own father?  What inheritance should a man receive for a life he knows his indifferent father thinks worthless?

Did David visit either of his sons in Prison?  Martin and Stuart both had stints in prison for drugs and guns.  Usual white trash bull shit.  Nothing serious.

I’ve been thinking a great deal of my brothers this week.  The price they paid for a destroyed family, the tragedy they endured.  I thought of my brother Stuart and how much he suffered at his father’s hands and what little he will be paid for that suffering.  I know for sure Stuart has never spoken to a therapist.  Recently, on his way home from a convivial evening with friends, he was beaten in the street.  Two boys took him down and a girl hammered a stiletto into his head, his wife Lucy screaming… pulling them off his frail body.  Apparently he has not recovered from the attack.  The beating he received as an adult must have reminded him of the beatings he received as a child. And what of crazy Martin? After years of hard-drinking, raving and hallucinogenics his wife falls down dead, his son left crawling over the corpse.  What is that worth?

David Roy was not my blood father but he took the time to adopt me, saving my Mother the shame of having to explain her teenage indiscretion.  When I found out David was not my father I was relieved… however, whatever happened between us I ended up feeling warmly toward him.  Like a stranger in the street.  I held no malice.  This last thirty years I had written plays and films… I had spoken to therapists and counsellors and psychiatrists.  Eventually I understood all I had… was my story and I knew in my heart: I am not my story, I am NOT my story.  My forgiveness is real.

I hope Stuart and Martin find peace of mind… I doubt they ever will.

2.

I spent my birthday weekend with friends who live near Lari, Tuscany.

My friend Rachel lives with her husband Rick and their two daughters in a spacious converted barn. They have very territorial cats who immediately attacked poor Dude sinking their claws into his back.  The screams were horrible to hear.  Poor Dude.

Rachel’s delightful, wiry husband is such a BOY!  Rick works as an engineer and loves paragliding, planes, boats and motorbikes all of which litter the huge plot of land they share with goats and their donkey Pablo.  Rick was friendly, sympathetic and an incredibly attentive host.  He took me to the local communist bar in Lari where we enjoyed wonderful views over vineyards where we smoked rolled cigarettes and drank espresso.

Lari is famous for the pasta company Martelli.  And thank God it has this family owned company manufacturing pasta right in the middle of Lari.  So many little towns in Tuscany have been affected by the economic disaster of 2007.  So many crumbling mansions.  So little to look forward to.  This hillside fort has everything going for it including a theatre festival which began this week.

Rachel is the kind of Mother I wish I had.  Kind, attentive, protective.  I watched her parent her children, patiently guiding them… and I felt insulted, aggrieved.  Insulted by the lack of love in my own childhood.  Aggrieved the love I had for men was, until recently, maligned and devalued.  I was not taught to love and the love I had for others dare not speak its name.

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We had supper with her friend Steven, an elderly heterosexual english man with a partner 40 years his junior.  He took us to a pork sandwich, hole in the wall restaurant… very Tuscan, perfect.  We discussed Wilde, he was fascinated and fascinating.

I explored Pisa with their handsome nephew Davide and enjoyed Rick’s beautiful beach home in Castiglioncello on the Tuscan coast, once the home of Marcello Mastroianni.  We ate squid ink pasta at a perfect beach side restaurant near the Villa Godilonda.  On the way home I enjoyed the Umbrella Pines planted by the Medici.  I love Umbrella Pines.

It was a perfect escape.  A few hours drive from Chamonix.  Thank God for the Mont Blanc tunnel.

 

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Ana Corbero

New York, July 2017.

colin and anna

A few delightful days in Paris and Barcelona restored my serenity.  No more searing heat, the weather more temperate, heavy clouds bursting over us.  The rain washing away the last of the red, Andalusian dust.  Well dressed men, once again, to look at on the streets. Mary’s spare room, decorated with Honiton lace and embroidered white linen.  We walk the length of Parc St Cloud with our dogs wearing gun boots and waxed jackets.  The Little Dog is almost fully restored, his eye closes once again, his sagging jowl looks perfectly normal to those who do not know.  One evening we helped friends of Mary move house.  TV Producer Etienne Alban, recently separated from his wife and kids, moving in with his super cute… yoga instructor girlfriend.  Alban and I carried a huge sofa six flights to their huge new attic apartment.   After the exercise we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at The Hotel Edgar.  Their boudin noir… superb.

The following day I drove from Paris to Chamonix listening to an audio recording of the novel 1984.  It is a compellingly joyless book.  Because I am a ditz I arrived a day early. So I booked the Hotel Isabelle and slept fitfully thinking about my time in Carmona. More specifically I dreamt about my Carmona host and friend Ana Corbero, the chatelaine of an 11 acre estate called The Pajarita nestled outside the old city walls of Carmona beneath the The Hotel Parador and the Cordoba Gate.  I dreamt a huge storm roared as I looked north from Ana’s terrace toward the great plain which was once the sea.  I was pointing at something.  “Land ahoy!”  In the dream the waves returned after a thousand years and swept over the fields of sunflowers.  Sea monsters curled out of the petulant waves then crashed into the salty foam.

My time in Carmona with Ana had been stormy, her demeanor quite different from the beautiful girl I chanced upon 35 years ago.

I met Ana Corbero in 1985 or thereabouts introduced by gallerist and curator Celia Lyttleton.  Ana was showing a collection of unremarkable paintings at the Albemarle Gallery.  Celia introduced her as the daughter of a well-known Spanish sculptor, the girlfriend of a Lord.  She was tiny… gamine, scarcely a women.  Her queer and marvelous features delicately carved and flocked, her fierce and sparkling black eyes challenging those of us who dared contradict her.  She demanded respect.  Her flamenco gestures, her delicate collar bones.  She was beautiful.

I don’t remember a great deal about the beginning of our friendship other than the first night at the gallery.

Ana had been enjoying a fractious relationship with the absurdly handsome Colin Campbell, 7th Earl Cawdor.  I do not remember them visiting me in Whitstable but apparently they did.  I do not remember going to Wheelers Oyster Bar and eating crab but apparently we did.  I do remember Ana’s invitation to Brooklyn the following summer where I stayed in Colin’s huge apartment, the top floor of an abandoned school he and another had recently bought.  It was located just over the Williamsburg Bridge.  Brooklyn was very different then. Crack addicts sat on the stoop. The Puerto Rican community had not been replaced by Hasidic Jews and dumb looking hipsters.  The sky at night was regularly lit by flaming, abandoned buildings.  Some called these arson attacks: Jewish lightning.

The walk into Manhattan over the Williamsburg Bridge felt unnecessary.  We stayed close to the apartment.  Colin and I had a fairly raucous time.  Even then I felt contempt for toffs but they had all the best toys so one tended to accept the invitations whenever they came.  It was an eventful trip.  I had a brief affair with the artist Paul Benney.  I threw a bbq from the roof of Gerard Malanga’s apartment*.  We were the only white people at an African-American block party and ended up in a black police captain’s humble house.  He looked very uncomfortable.  Years later, I understand why.  White, english people badly educated about slavery or the history of black people in the USA.  We must have seemed very disrespectful.

Ana and Colin’s relationship was passionate and destructive. I blamed Colin for his insensitivity toward Ana.  I excused Ana her eccentricities.  The last image I have of her at that time:  Ana is resting serenely in a nest of pillows, she has written in pen on her forehead one word… SILENCE.

Years passed.  Many years.  I remembered the word scrawled on her face.  Social media reintroduced us.  She married Nabil Gholam an arab architect and 18 years ago they had a baby girl. Sadly, their child is badly disabled with a rare genetic disease.  Against the odds, the child survives.  Ana fought to make her daughter hear and see.  She refused to accept the doctor’s bleak prognosis. Ana lived in Beirut during the Israeli bombardment.  Breastfeeding on her balcony as the bombs fell.  She adopted two more children.  A boy and a girl, both Lebanese.  The architect became successful.  They bought apartments in London, Paris and Seville. When her grandparents who raised her died she bought the Pajarita with a small inheritance.  The Pajarita, a modest finca surrounded by acres of scorched, brown earth and rock where the locals dumped their trash.   Ana set to transforming this barren place with many gardeners into the paradise she and her family enjoy today.

During the years I suggested to traveling friends I knew to be in Spain… meet Ana.  I sent the lazy, derivative Australian furniture designer Charles Wilson who I believed might benefit creatively from a stint in Andalusia. But Charles, another terrible drunk, ended up being thrown out of Xavier Corbero’s house in Barcelona because Ana’s step mother hated him.  Charles refused to leave so Ana’s husband threatened him with gypsies (a common, vaguely racist, threat from Nabil) who would break Charles’s legs if he didn’t pack his bag and leave immediately.

I sent Jenna and Stephen Mack’s brother John Jr., son of billionaire Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack.  Even though I did not know John Jr. I trusted they would be a great fit.  That introduction worked out very well.  Now it was my turn to meet Ana.  We communicated solely by text message.  After the long drive from Nice I called her and, for the first time in 35 years, I heard her voice. The deep and rasping voice of  somebody who smokes too many cigarettes or talks too much… or both.

“Why do you want to see me?” She asks over the phone.

I did not have an easy answer.

There was unfinished business between Ana and me.  It was not tangible, it was esoteric. I had no expectations of Ana.  I simply wanted to see her face.  Without the word SILENCE scrawled on it. We might have met that afternoon, had a coffee and left it at that.  I would have driven north.  I had no idea what to expect but I was compelled to see her, meet her again.  We arranged to meet at the small apartment she rented for guests in Carmona.

“How do you like your new digs?” She said as she got out of her huge silver Mercedes.

“Stay as long as you like.”

I gave her a long hug.  Her father, Xavier Corbero, had recently died.  I sniffed and she thought I was crying.  “I’m not crying,” I said, “I’m sniffing.”  Ana was back in my life. Her face was not the same as I remembered when I last saw her.  She has hidden herself on social media because, I now understood, she could not bear what age had done to her. Almost immediately she complained how old she was, how raddled.  She was embarrassed by her face.

“I’ve turned into a middle-aged Swedish woman.”  she said.  “I hope you’re not disappointed.”

It was true.  Middle aged and middle class.  Her face, bloated and pale, almost anemic. Her dry hair, she insisted she wanted to dye gray,  streaked with sun bleached golden locks.  Her eyes were just as fiery but no longer black.  There was something stone dried about her, something suspicious. I slowly recognised who she had become.  The reason I felt compelled to see her?  The reason why so many years ago she left something indelible in me?  It was something I recognized in myself.  Within a few hours my suspicions were confirmed.  Ana Corbero is an alcoholic of the most desperate kind.

We walked up the small cobbled hill from the apartment to the Casa Curro Montoya… her favorite restaurant.  She flamboyantly kisses the owners and lavishes us all with praise. We sat in the hot sun and drank white wine and ate greasy jamon.  Immediately, without prompting, she started telling me how her marriage was over.  Her husband was a liar, she said, and she didn’t know if she could stay married to him.

“He lies about his father and their relationship.  I am married to a stranger.”

I was baffled why this should be reason for divorce but Ana, it turns out, is obsessed with her version of the truth.  Under the parasol that dreamy afternoon I found her deeply personal over sharing electrifying.  I was being inducted into a tortured world of intrigue and family drama… it felt intoxicating.  She contemptuously described her adopted children, how her lazy teen son lied and failed at school.  Her pre teen daughter stole and refused to respect her Mother’s authority.  I ask about their eldest daughter.  “Oh, her.” she mused distantly.   A slight smile flickered over her face.  “She’s an angel.”

I do not remember driving to the Pajarita that afternoon.  I drove to her home so many times the next few weeks.  It is a dusty, pot holed road to Ana’s home.  Red dust gets into everything, into the car, my mouth, my heart.  During my stay the sharp red rocks rip into my tyres… twice.  Yet, once behind the sliding metal gates of the Pajarita… decorated with dragons and comic strip birds there is… the illusion of calm.  Beyond the painted blue iron gate a forest of pepper trees, oleander and citrus.  Terracotta pots filled with herbs and lilies. Vines, dripping with grapes grow over pergolas affording shade, respite from the searing heat. Down an exquisitely cobbled path the simple house reveals itself. There are huge windows covered with traditional Spanish blinds made of esparto… woven reeds.  Inside, rooms of various sizes at different levels filled with stuff.  Ana’s art covers the walls. Piles of art books and catalogues from Christie’s and Sotheby’s.  Broken china knickknacks. Buckets of architectural salvage.  Most of it inherited from her grand parents.  So much stuff.

Many staff run Ana’s estate and life. Annie the housekeeper and general fixer.  Three nurses look after the disabled daughter.  There are gardeners and flamenco guitarists, a governess for the adopted daughter and a masseur who comes daily.  On occasions Ana would marshal the staff and demand they sing songs of her own composition.  They did as they were told.

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Annie, a simple local woman and (it became apparent) loathed by the son… was Ana’s most trusted servant. As well as dusting, ironing and making beds Annie, Ana told me, was being groomed to write Ana’s autobiography and mix her paints whenever she started painting again. Annie would also run the restaurant whenever Ana got around to opening it.  Annie, forced to kiss us all as per the ‘Andalusian way’.

I refused to kiss Ana’s staff.

“I can’t bear lies or exaggeration.” Ana says.  “I am never impatient, I am never angry.”

During the first few days of my stay we find a happy routine.  I have practical considerations.  I apply for my Spanish residency, open a bank account and get a phone. I take the dogs to the vet in Seville.  The vet is quite the most handsome man I ever met.  I decide to buy a house in Carmona.  They are cheap and plentiful.  Ana is incredibly helpful.  She introduces me to a lawyer, a realtor and makes every effort to ease me into Spanish life. We find a perfectly preserved 16th Century house near the Cordoba Gate.  I need an assistant.  She introduces me to Jose, her own assistant for five years but curiously tells me he is not welcome at her home.

“He needs to pull his head out of his ass.”

Why she makes the introduction to Jose is a mystery.  And why is he unwelcome at the Pajarita? Jose is a good man. Friendly and helpful.  I confide in Jose.  I am shocked by the way Ana treats her children, the contempt she has for her husband.  I rant at Jose about Ana.  She believes she’s always right, she’s never wrong, the interminable interruptions at dinner so conversations between adults become utterly fruitless and frustrating. Ana interrupts with shrill, ill-informed dissent. Blighted with a remarkable lack of insight and self-awareness Ana’s inability to see her part in any dispute caused me much incredulity.

Jose smiles and listens.

“I don’t have a problem, YOU have a problem.”  Ana insists.

Three days into my visit Nabil arrives with their son.  They are very pleasant but I have already had my mind poisoned against them.  Expecting the worse I’m surprised to find her husband kind and considerate, compensating for his wife’s excesses.  He is a gentle man and every day works hard to keep his marriage alive. Nabil shows me his watch collection, explaining how he transports his wealth around the world at times of war.  In the evening, when she is at her worse, Nabil makes excuses for her rapidly disintegrating behaviour.

Their son is a perfectly ordinary teenage boy.  He has a girlfriend, he has thick black hair, he is interested in sport and fashion and making money trading sneakers… we went to the fashion outlet in Seville but it was closed.  He was funny and charming.  House hunting one morning I paid him to translate for me.  He has a keen understanding of people.  He could read between the lines.  He enjoys his life at boarding school.

I find him in his room trying to write.  Ana has asked him to imagine a fifty year life plan.  He looks helpless.  An absurd request the teenager knows he must fulfill.  When, after several weeks, the 50 year plan arrives Ana is outraged.  Why does the plan does not include Spain and by inference… her?  Why should it?  Ask a boy to map out the next fifty years is abuse enough.  But this was just one of many abuses, her plan to punish him for not appreciating how lucky he was that she had taken the time and money to adopt him. He could never be grateful enough.  She confided that she planned to take him out of the boarding school he loved and punish him for his lack of sensitivity by sending him to his paternal grandfather… who Ana hated.  Nabil, when we are on our own, desperately whispers an appeal to me,

“Please help me, can you make her see sense?”

It was no use, Ana is always hell-bent on revenge, riven by some resentment for some poor sap. Ana reminded both her children how lucky they were to have her as their adopted mother. These scenes pulled straight out of the movie Mommy Dearest. But Joan Crawford, bless her tortured soul, was a saint in comparison.

We drive to Seville for lunch with John Mack Jr. who mocks Ana’s constant, inebriated interruptions.  John Mack Jr has his own demons but I wanted to hear everything he had to say. I had been very close with his brother Stephen and worked with his sister Jenna. Both relationships had come to nothing.  Of course John claims he knows nothing of his sister’s appalling arrogance… he is his father’s son.  He knew everything.  He had his own brush with addiction, a failed marriage and traumas only the son of a billionaire would understand.  Stephen Mack told me once their father would say of his enemies, “I’ll make them hurt.” His father wasn’t called ‘Mack the Knife’ for no reason. Jenna was very eager for me to meet her parents but I knew it would turn out badly, getting dragged along to events I had no reason to be at.   I met Mack senior, who one couldn’t help respecting, several times.  I had dinner with Jenna and her father at The Mercer Hotel and again at a High Line charity event.  Jenna, Stephen and John’s parents are a great team,  they donate millions to charity, they delight in taking pictures of couples in the street who don’t have selfie sticks.

I knew my father was the same as John Mack.  Cruel and kind in equal measure.

When I said goodbye to John Mack Jr. after lunch (he cycled off into the hot, congested Seville streets) I knew I would never meet him or any member of his family ever again.

As I grow closer to my assistant Jose it becomes apparent that he doesn’t merely dislike Ana, he hates her.  He hates her with a shocking vengeance.  It is painful for him to carry such hate in his heart.  He warns me to think carefully about staying in Carmona, he cautions if I buy a house in Carmona I will end up hating Ana.  He warns me people very close to Ana hate her.  The owners of the restaurant hate her, he warns she has fallen out with everyone who lives in Carmona, accusing them of crimes and disappointments, their relationships blighted with unrealistic expectations.

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Jose describes Ana’s tantrums, how she would regularly reduce him to tears with her demands and mendacity.  His impersonation of her clawing at her own face demanding she wanted what she wanted… NOW!   Nothing would placate her.  He tried helping her but failed.  He still finds it hard to forgive himself for walking away.  Walking away from the children he loved and cared for.

I took the adopted girl to meet Jose.  They hadn’t seen each other for years.  They cried and hugged.  We wandered the streets of Carmona until midnight.  Jose kept thanking me for bringing her to see him.  We ate ice cream and sat in the forum.  When we returned to the Pajarita Ana looks quizzically at me. Taking the child to meet Jose could be construed as an act of betrayal.  I apologize for bringing her home so late.

The following day Ana is screaming at her children, “Why don’t you bring your friends to the Pajarita?” It is obvious why… to those of us who are the children of abusive parents. There’s shame and fear around alcoholism and the unpredictability of an alcoholic parent.  Neither child want their friends to meet Ana. Neither want to explain her behaviour.  I saw the fear in their eyes when Ana looked as if she was going to lose her temper.  The night she couldn’t make the ancient iPod work and began blaming her daughter.  The panicking child wrestled with the iPod, willing it to work. Finally she managed to make it play and disaster was averted.  I’m sure the little girl didn’t want to be reminded once more why she should be grateful Ana adopted her and how easily she could be sent back to the children’s home.

The daughter dances, she entertains Ana’s guests with gymnastics, endless cartwheels and overtly sexual dance moves she learns from TV shows like Glee.  Playing the same track over and over.  I was asked to judge endless dance routines.  She was desperate to impress.  Yet, however hard the child tries to please… it is never good enough.

“Hold your hands like this” Ana demands.  “No!  Not like that… like this.”  Ana lunges beside her daughter and demonstrates what she wants to see.  Ana demands we all dance.  I dance for a moment then I sit down and watch the scene unfold.  The dance with her daughter becomes violent, twirling the child around until finally it is no longer a dance but a fight… Ana body slams the girl onto the floor.  The child is crying and Ana falls badly into the television.  She mocks the child for crying, mocks her use of a hearing aid.  She swears at the child and accuses her of making sexual advances to Nabil.  Once, in the pool, Ana tore off the child’s bathing costume, tossing it out of the pool.  Ana is laughing like a maniac, the child is pleading. I throw the costume back into the pool. Then I walk away, saving the kid the embarrassment of being seen naked.  Jose, when I tell him… is not surprised.  There were times when he wanted to report her to the police for child abuse.  The following day Ana wonders why her back hurts so badly.  I remind her but she doesn’t remember the fight.  She has no recollection.  How much of the time is she blacked out?

“Time for drinkypoos?”  She says.

Like an infirmed english aristocrat the pronouncement comes when Nabil is at home… otherwise she’s opening bottles all day.  She’s already stoned long before she starts drinking.  I learned not to go near the house until she is drunk or stoned enough not to be a total bitch.  Waiting for an invitation to join her.  If I stayed at the Pajarita I would slip away before she woke up.  When her interest in me cooled her morning emails and text messages were filled with vile insults and personal attacks.  By then I was employing every technique Alanon afforded me.  Let go with love, they say.  Every day I let her go… with love.  Soon I would have to let go of her forever.

The night Nabil left for London and Beirut I was sitting by the pool with Ana enjoying a rare, balmy evening.  We spent a lot of time talking about her future, her work, galleries and retrospectives.  I was convinced she was capable of making the huge changes in her life necessary for her to be recognised as an important artist.  We talked about male artists who were commanding huge sums in galleries and at auction.  We discussed how women artists have been impoverished by men.  After meeting her disabled daughter my understanding of her work swelled.  The cute sculptures of girls looking heavenward meant something.  Ana has spent years working out her feelings toward her disabled daughter using her art, especially her sculpture.  Her work, like so many women… unlike the work of so many men, has never been contextualized.  The story is never told. “Your work is beyond the vagina.”  I said.  She laughed.  Ana is not easily complimented.  So, we concentrate on her potential.  I liked mulling over future possibilities with her.

Without warning she rolled toward me and laid her head on my chest.

She said, “I find you overwhelmingly attractive. I want to grow old with you.”

At that very moment I knew our friendship was over.  I shifted in my seat.  If I rebuffed Ana I risked her unconscionable wrath.   She repeated the words.

“I want to grow old with you.”

Finally, I affected my most affable self and said,”Oh, silly… what would Nabil say?”

She lifted her head.  She was not going to be fobbed off with that.

“I don’t put my head on anyone’s chest.” She began, her voice becoming defensive.  She continued speaking but I could not hear her… I was in a blind panic.  I knew it was over, at that moment I knew my time around Ana had come to an end.

The following days she called me names by text (fat and old) and generally took time to insult and belittle me.  She denounced me as a traitor to the Pajarita.  I found myself drifting to the house knowing full well what reception I would receive.  She warned me, I was no longer ‘drama free’ I was accused of bringing stress and ‘baggage’ into her life.   Thankfully, her friend Alfonso and his daughter arrived.  Perhaps he would grow old with her?  I slipped out of the pre arranged parties to which I was tacitly expected to attend.  I had no interest in being around her.  It was over.  Soon I was packing up the car and headed north.  My time in Carmona but not Spain… had come to an end.

Ana Corbero signs all her emails or text messages with ‘Luv and Light A xxx’.  It is ironic because she has a dark soul.  A monster for whom no cage will ever be built… unless of course she embraces sobriety and thereby solves her chronic addiction to resentment.

*Recently I bumped into Gerard Malanga, frail and limping, in a small French cafe on Warren Street in Hudson, New York and apologised for my drunken indiscretion all those years ago.  Although furious at the time he sweetly claimed not to remember the incident.

Categories
Queer

Champagne Socialist

 

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1.

Both the toffs and the chavs loathe ‘champagne socialists’.  But what in hells name is a champagne socialist?  Are socialists required to drink beer and roll their own fags?  Do we need to shop at Lidl or visit food banks?  Can’t enjoy or appreciate art or design? Can’t arrange flowers or enjoy our rich British history?  Can’t travel?  Can’t trade or enjoy making money without voting Tory?

Are we implying only the poor and uneducated, bereft of appreciation can vote socialist?  The scavenging undedog who wants nothing more than Britain’s Got Talent and frozen pizza?  Why should ‘people like that’ vote Socialist anyway?  When and how were these ‘champagne socialist’ rules written and spun to shame those of us who are simultaneously well read, appreciate Pawson or Vivienne Westwood AND committed to defend the right to and provision of good health care and education for all UK citizens?

Do those who call me a ‘champagne socialist’ assume only extreme poverty, ignorance and duress will force the people to vote socialist?  Yes they do.

The British, from all classes, require this understanding:  are you one of us?   How can another Brit expect to divine who has socialist sympathies if they are drinking champagne?  It’s very confusing for a toff or a chav with limited ideas beyond fascism and racism to work out who might not think like him.  Annoyingly, of course, one can not tell another’s politics by the way they hold their knife and fork.

2.

I am in Paris after a short but rather wonderful day or so in Barcelona.  I met some rich young Americans who secretly loved Trump.  I met a young english man who told me my instagram was terrible.  Barcelona is a vibrant, teeming, international city.  It is so different from genteel Seville.  Seville needs a dose of Barcelona.  I love the proportion of Seville, I love the people of Andalusia but the weather these past few weeks has been oppressively hot and only broke the day we drove out-of-town.

I left Barcelona at 2ish yesterday and immediately drove into three savage storms.  Now, thankfully, it is raining hard here in Paris.  The rain is such a wonderful relief.  The car is thickly dusted inside with Andalusian red earth and outside splattered with swallow shit.  There must be a hundred million swallows in Carmona.  The dogs are happy to be in Paris.  Little Dog does not like the searing heat.  He looked beaten… cowed on the hot pavement.  Dude is on a diet, Dude is losing weight.  He is looks better for losing his big bum.  He’s skipping around.  I admit!  I became one of those parents who couldn’t say no to an obease child.

Categories
Queer

Corpus Christi

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Up at 7am.  Corpus Christi.  The Little Dog is delighted.  The streets of Carmona are strewn with rosemary.  There are black and white nuns taking selfies in front of the lavish shrines, there are choir boys with billowing red cassocks and freshly bleached surplice and starched ruffs running to the cathedral.  Young men and women carry a ton of Jesus or Mary on raised platforms through the fragrant streets.  They crush the herb beneath them.  The men wrap long black bandages around their waist to support their backs. Parents and grandparents are dressed in their Sunday finery.  The men wear religious medals, dark silk suits, brightly coloured ties and shirts.   Incense billows from the thurible.  Outside each church magnificent shrines are decorated with candles, brocade and lilies.  I acknowledge the tears of the virgin… glass beads on her painted cheeks.  I catch myself luxuriating in the ritual, the procession,  I am moved by the costumes, the smell of myrrh, the belief.  I love religiosity.

This week I took communion for the first time in years.

The corpse is resting.  David Roy, my adopted father, died on Friday after months long battle with cancer.  I received a short text message from my mother.  I called but she was her usual rancorous self.   Brexit loving, unhelpful and full of misguided disdain.  She said, the last time we spoke, she wanted Brexit to take back her power.  Repeating like an autistic child what she reads in The Sun and The Daily Mail rather than THINKING for herself.  What power?  She never had any power.  She has been cheated of power.  Now she wants to hand the few (who are still squabbling over the ashes of the dead at Grenfell Tower) more of everything.  Including our power.

Get to it Jeremy Corbyn.

Families have been riven over Brexit.  Ours included.

David Roy.  What of you?  All through my childhood I wished you dead.

I am 8 years old. There is a poster on the wall of my Stanley Road bedroom and on the back of the poster I wrote:  I wish you were dead.  Now he is.  For all the abuse, cruelty and misery of our childhood… he suffered a few short weeks of excruciating pain.

My mother was sad because at the end he was so weak and demented.  She remembered him strong and active.  She said she was, ‘sad’.  She chooses not to remember him as the violent, vicious abuser he was.  She chooses to forget how he tried to run her down when she attempted to leave their vile marriage.  Her boyfriend remembers, surely the beating David Roy delivered leaving him broken and bloody?  My friend Ana said, good riddance.

The end of such a potent chapter in my life.  I am unusually confused about his death.  I am elated and strangely moved.  I owe him something… I have waited for this moment my entire life.  I remember how he refused to let Billy Childish stay at our house one winters night after he and Rachel missed the last train home to Rochester.  I remember, he hated the miners and loved Margaret Thatcher.  I wore my Solidarity With The Miners badge.  He was furious.  He voted Tory.  The most vicious, self-serving kind.  He took me to watch football every weekend.  He took me to the garage where he worked and I snorted petrol fumes to get by.  My childhood, in that house… was excruciatingly dull and filled with fear.  That family, those people, those limited, strangled ideas.

Now, of course, they embrace Brexit.

My brother Stuart had children his own father was loathed to see.  My brother Stuart was also beaten.  He said to me once, “He would have gone to prison for doing what he did to us… if he had done that today.”  Bloody right he would.  And then I remember just how much effort it took to forgive him.  And when I went to see him and told him that he had been cruel but I forgave him and he tried to hug me but I stood as stiff as a board.  He was working in the arcade on Herne Bay promenade.  He was wearing latex surgical gloves.  He worked hard to ignore his crimes against us and we in turn colluded with him by not calling the police… like so many families held hostage by men like that.

I told my mother I forgave him, she said, “Why did you do that?  You let him off the hook.”

“No”, I replied, “I let ME off the hook.”

I have never forgiven my mother.  I have never attempted to forgive her.  I have only tried to make things better for her by persuading her to take what was hers.  She refused my advice.  She left with nothing.  I’m sure this blog is just the tip of the iceberg.  I will write more tomorrow.  Good bye David William Roy.  I have your name and the scars you left on me, both physical and emotional.  It looks like I am stuck with both.

Categories
Queer

Invisible

I stayed at the compound last night.  The sheets are edged with delicate lace.  I left the dogs at home so I could sleep without disturbance.   I slept solidly and woke at 6am.  A light mist covered the immediate landscape.  The gardeners were hosing the paths, the foal was feeding.  A large flock of geese keep a watchful eye over me.    I drove home to two ecstatic dogs.  We walked beyond the Cordoba gate.  A rough, dusty path.

They went to the vet yesterday.  The little dog needed his anal glands expressed and Dude has an ear infection.  Total for visit and medication: $40.

After walking them both, The Little Dog and I (punctuated by a brief and violent encounter with a mini pincer) walked to the forum and drank the most bitter espresso. Early mornings in Carmona are cool and busy.  Spanish friends and neighbours chatter, the din echoes from the marble floor up to the roman arches.  Hundreds of equally noisy swallows dive in and out of the Ficus.

I don’t understand a word.  I order my coffee and sit quietly enjoying the breeze.   I am invisible.  On the way home I speak to no one.  I nod if they speak to me.  I am invisible.  I linger outside the house I like on Dolores Quintanilla.  My phone only works with wifi.  I am invisible.

The gardener harvested huge baskets of figs, tomatoes and aubergine.   The kitchen staff washed the red earth away from the purple and cream vegetables and delighted over the bounty.   The larder is full.  


Last night we took Lily for one of our late night promenade around the city.  We talk to old ladies about houses: empty, abandoned, for sale.  We find a cobbled lane and see an ancient house with weeds growing on the roof.  The windows are un-renovated, the bars have been fashioned by a blacksmith and not a machine.  The door has large mental studs hammered all over it.   Opposite there is an elderly widow sitting outside her house in a deck chair.  We ask her what’s for sale, is the house we like for sale?  She stows the chair, fetches her crutch and takes us to meet her neighbours.   She raps on their windows and whispers secrets about them to us.

“You can buy my house,” her friend laughs, “But it comes with my husband, I’ll pack my bags now.”

90% of the ancient alley is for sale.  A man from Madrid bought three of them, bricked up the windows and doors and they never saw him again.  Behind every door in the ancient part of the city there are endless surprises.   Courtyards, roman tiles, arches of marble or hand-made brick.  The best properties have been lived in but left untouched for 100 years… and there are plenty like that.

In our local restaurant, a few steps from the house, a young and handsome Spaniard practices passing a muleta they keep for decoration behind the bar.  A muleta is the stiff, pink taffeta cape used by the bullfighter to conceal the sword.  There are many styles of pass, each with its own name. The verónica is a pass in which the matador slowly swings the cape away from the charging bull while keeping his feet in the same position.  The faena is the final series of passes before the kill, in which the matador uses the muleta to manoeuvre the bull into a position to stab it between the shoulders, cutting the aorta. If this fails he must then cut the bull’s spinal cord with a second sword, killing it instantly. The task of killing the bull is given to the matador alone; his title means “killer”.

The young man in the restaurant had such grace.  He was impossibly beautiful.  His friend wraps an arm around him as they leave.  There are bull fights on the TV in the bar.  It’s hard to watch but god… it’s honest.  Killing the bull.  Eating beef.  Sport, entertainment… luxury… death.

Back in the USA I am preparing for my own fight.  I am preparing.  I am holding the cape. I am concealing the sword.

Categories
architecture art Death Dogs Gay Immigration Queer Travel

The Heat

 

The heat is overwhelming.  A blanket of scorching air thrown over the city.  The dogs wilt, I pretend it’s just like Malibu but… it’s not.  Southern Spain.  I’m driving to Nice this week, then on to Paris and Chamonix to pick up my stuff.   I managed to leave things all over the place.  Ditching supurflous stuff along the way.  Lightening the load.  Occasionally I look at Dude and wonder if I should ditch him… poor crippled Dude.  His back legs giving in, he wants to catch up but he just can’t.   I can’t.  I can’t leave him behind.

At 5am, I took my coffee cup and the Little Dog.  We sat quietly looking out at the wide open plain, great fields of sunflowers, traffic snaking here and there.  Sitting outside the Cordoba Gate.  What dramas happened here?  Who was allowed in and who was kept out?  The two large fortified towers flanking a Roman arch were built around the 1st century A.D., with Renaissance and Neoclassical renovations.  It was designed to protect and reflect the great wealth Carmona enjoyed for hundreds of years.

A man arrives with his chestnut gelding.  As the horse drinks from the stone trough he drenches the beast with a plastic bucket.  How welcome that trough must have been to those who arrived (for hundreds of years) on horseback over this arid plain.  Waiting for the great doors to swing open, waiting outside the Cordoba gate, waiting to be let in or not.

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I am going to stay the weekend in Italy with Rachel.  Near Pisa.  She has a donkey and two beloved cats.   At night Carmona is over run with scavenging cats.  Hundreds of them, like rats in New York.  They are too confident to be scared by me or the Little Dog even though he makes an occasional and pathetic attempt at charging them.  Their backs arch, they hiss and show their claws.  He stops a couple of feet away and makes his strange whimper.

Last night my friend Jose and I explored the ancient part of the city.  At 10.30 it was still very hot.  Then suddenly the wind comes from Cadiz, from the ocean… 60 miles away.  You can taste the salt.  We turn a corner and the welcome breeze fills our shirts and closes our eyes.

We were chronicling abandoned houses, with or with out se vende signs written on them.   Taking note of the location of each.  “Everything is for sale in Spain.”  The realtor says.  There are palaces and broken shacks, old towers and ancient islamic, crenelated walls formerly part of the old city fortification that crash into very ordinary houses and quite by accident these medieval battlements, parapets and mouldings are consumed and preserved.

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Everything in Spain is for sale.  They see me coming: the friend of the rich celebrity.  The price of everything jumps $40k.  They show me the same houses they showed other friends two years ago.  Unlocking ancient doors, we wander through huge homes once occupied by many families.  There are slim balconies, stone steps leading to terraces looking down on secret courtyards.  There is pigeon shit and kittens mewing in every room in every house we saw.  Abandoned lives: a simple chair, a faience pot, a richly embroidered matador’s jacket hanging on the wall.  Left behind, like my luggage in Paris and Chamonix.

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Jose asks me why I want to live in Carmona.  They asked me about Tivoli and Malibu before.  Why does anyone want to live anywhere?  I don’t know.  I could live anywhere and nowhere.  I am transient.  I am free of possession or need for possessions.  I go where I am safe.  It is safe here.  I lived in so much fear in the USA.  Fear of being caught without my papers.  Fear of the state.  I was not rich or powerful enough not to live in fear.

We wake at 4.30am.  We siesta after lunch.  The streets fill, the shops and bars open after 9pm. During the day Dude will not leave my friend, he hides under their garden furniture.  I keep the dogs out of the heat as much as I can. The Little Dog is gradually (slowly) recovering from his facial paralysis. He’s still very droopy but he’s coping.  He’s doing the best he can.  I’m doing the best I can.  I am covered with sweat and dust.  My nose is crusty, my eyes exhausted.  I am recovering my optimism.

Since leaving the USA I am not plagued with ideas of death, with dark thoughts, with hopelessness.  I am not hurting myself by investing in old traumas. Not here. I don’t want to die.  Not where there has been so much life for hundreds of thousands of years.  I am a smear soon to be forgotten.  My unpopular views on social media but dust.  It’s incumbent on me to stay alive.  To rejoice.  America makes a man vulnerable.  It destroys ones trust in humanity. I came to loathe so many people in the USA but I hated gay white men more than any other.  They are vile and crude.  They espouse ideas of love and acceptance but practiced hate and exclusivity.

Today we are having lunch in Seville with Spanish gays.  I am excited.  The gay men I meet here are so generous.  They touch my shoulder, they embrace me warmly.  At first I shrank from their kindness.  I learned not to trust white gay men.  But, I’ve warmed to them here.  They understand.  They understand what horrors I endured in the USA.

Categories
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.

Categories
politics Queer

Impeachment

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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.

Categories
Queer

Tivoli to Mont Blanc 2017

This blog is out of sequence.

1.
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.

2.

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.

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.