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Undetectable: A Gay Poem 2012/2018

by Duncan Roy

Don’t let climate change ruin your gay wedding.

Nor fear of deportation or student loans.  Don’t let the government shut down beleaguer your special day.

Nor think of drones killing gay men on foreign shores. Not in my name.

Dream my dear, of the $160,000 surrogate baby you really can’t afford. White eggs and spermatozoa Amex paid for.

Grown in a poor brown woman whose name attorneys erased.  She’ll never be known to the unborn child.

Goldman bonus spent on more Botox. Calm your troubled brow with restylane.  Fill the lines they put there with relentless bullying and casual homophobia.

You weren’t looking for love.  A painted finger nail emoji on your Tinder profile, hoping for a merger and acquisition.  Perfect in the Pines.  Helping him fuck another guy. Guiding him into the gaping hole like a stallion. Prepped and raw. Bare back monkey.

Hung?

Fun?

Can Accom.

Marrying a fellow American now, you need not stress, ICE officers will not be your groomsman.  Not today.

Thank Jesus Christ Almighty,

Clinton’s Defense of Marriage Act is no more.

They can not stop you, nor turn you from the hospital as your husband lays dying from a lethal Fentanyl overdose. Undetectable. No longer woke.

Found in the sauna, wearing his combat boots, multiply penetrated, cream pied, still bound and dripping, eyes open, calling out another man’s name, swaying gently in the black polyester sling.

Enjoying your honeymoon in the leather bars of Berlin.

1.

They are deporting thousands of undocumented workers in the USA. Friends and family disappear. The cranberry bogs remain un-harvested. The schools stricken by grieving children. Police officers didn’t think it would be this way.  They couldn’t put a face to the men and women Trump wanted to deport. Simple, honest people caught up in the merciless trawl. They didn’t realise their friends were breaking the law. They didn’t understand the depth of hatred their fellow citizens harboured for brown and black people.

2.

Hackney.  East London finally puts paid to the ridiculous notion I can leave my car unlocked without being burgled.  Yes.  I am that man.  Regardless of the stolen cash, life in East London is inspiring. Like the first time you visit deep Brooklyn, you understand who millennials are and what they prioritize. Bushwick, going there with Paris McGarry and her boyfriend Tom. The streets were buzzin, the restaurants overflowing, the music bursting out of every window over the cobbled streets. Huge lofts once filed with machinery now house tech aspirants and what, I think, is the difference? Intellectual rather than mechanical industry.

Hackney has exactly the same energy.  Fit, bearded men cycling through the park discussing crypto currency on their cell phones.  They look insane, talking to themselves, eyes fixed on the road, avoiding my dogs who are inexplicably drawn to cycle paths. I feel alive here, which is odd as I am facing death head on right now.  I am optimistic even though I feel the curtain closing about me, taking my final bow.  I sit in Shorditch House all day drinking water and coffee and eating sour jelly candy.  I buy boots in APC and wonder why.  I mean, I don’t need anything.  I am rootless, I am free.

3.

Going to NA meetings all over the East End.  I am drawn to the drama I suppose.  I meet cool people and when they read about me are less eager to judge my life, my exploits whilst American addicts damn you forever.  You lose your grip once and Americans watch with glee as you fall from the side of the building.  Falling like a crazy base jumper.  You took a risk… it didn’t pay off.  Your fingers slip from the polished marble. The English addict is less determined to make you pay.

However, NA is not very productive in London.  The people may be kind but the programme stinks. Swimming around in their own shit. NA isn’t group therapy.  Nobody cares about your feelings. Addicts repeat their using tragedies again and again day after day.  They have no solution, grasping hold of their pain, reliving the insanity, indulgently spewing over anyone who will listen. They attend endless meetings 90/90 but will not work the 12 steps.  Of course, after a few months, they relapse then after another spectacular ‘rock-bottom’ claw their way back into the rooms… continuing the cycle of despair.  I keep reminding myself not to slip back into bad habits.  No catastrophic thinking, no indulgence.  No. No. No.

4.

I’m in Climpson’s the local coffee shop trying to write a treatment.  Broadway Market. I know the fishmonger and the book seller. The baristas know my name. I’m writing a gay Fatal Attraction. Crazy older lady meets younger gay guy at AA meeting, she’s a hoarder, he takes pity on her, cleans her house, helps her with her life, she lends him money and falls in love with him… then tries to destroy him when he refuses her advances.  It’s waiting to be written. This story, this slice of life upstate.  Donna, you crazy witch! I took Donna to a gay party, she wasn’t impressed when I talked to the other guys.  I took her to Abby Rockefeller’s farm.  She wasn’t impressed when I talked to other women.  I felt her eyes boring into me. We left.

5.

The dull thud returns, at the base of my sternum.  The pain wraps around my body from my stomach to the base of my back.  The acid reflux, overwhelming tiredness and irritability.  I had more tests.  There are problems that need resolved but the doctors are too damn eager to slice into me.  I already had my gall bladder and an isolated tumor on my adrenal gland removed.

The doctor is thorough and uncompromising.  I revisit all the horrors of pancreatic cancer.  I look at potential remedies, of which there are few.  The very worst scenario is called the Whipple procedure which is also known as a pancreaticoduodenectomy, a complex operation to remove the head of the pancreas, the first part of the small intestine (duodenum), the gallbladder and the bile duct.

They say to me: these symptoms are found in women. They say, it may be malignant, it may be benign, it may be somewhere in between.  The diagnosis isn’t good enough.  It’s too damn vague.  I lay on my bed after our long walk and fall into a deep sleep.  I breathe deeply, clearing my mind of everything I think I know.  I remind myself of the solution, the literature.  I say, what will be will be.  Divorcing myself from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives.

During the day I face indecision. I may not correctly determine which course of action to take. I ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought or decision.  I relax, I don’t struggle. I’m surprised by how often the right answer comes after practicing these principles in all my affairs.

There is something lost and broken about a small town.  Not on its surface.  Beneath, where the new working class flex what little muscle it has.  Withered by austerity and the banking crisis, lifting their weary faces and skinny fists toward the last of the watery sunlight.

Whitstable has always attracted freaks and frauds.  Crooks and drifters.  Before the gang of yummy mummies arrived with their plantation shutters, gumming up local stores with giant strollers… gangsters sat in Wheelers back room making deals.  Far enough from London, close enough to get home for their tea.

Life is evenly divided between Whitstable my home town and the world I created elsewhere.  You know, in the newspapers and on TV.  To come home is a mixed blessing.  My estranged brothers and frail mother have become litigants rather than family as I sue for my part in David’s will.

Even though Whitstable is a very small town one can totally miss seeing someone for decades.  Yet, with very little effort, I saw my mother on the street.  She looked animated, mid conversation with other mothers, presumably after dropping my nephew Oscar Roy at school.  Frances Roy, Frances Spark, Fran.  I don’t know what she calls herself nowadays. I walked closer, I tapped her on the shoulder… she turned to face me.  I was shocked by how badly she has aged.  The face I once adored is now smeared over her large skull, her features drawn, jowls and ear lobes drooping like melting tallow.

I was momentarily pleased to see her.  I felt protective once again.  I wanted to reassure her things were going to work out.  I thought the violent abuse we received from David would somehow bond us forever. Sadly, she has never been anything other than utterly selfish. She may have once but now she no longer wants the best for me. I am a stranger to her.

Unplanned pregnancy, shame and derision have shaped who she is today.  She learned nothing from her own story.  She never made amends.  She was never proud or encouraging of any of her children.  The older we got the less interest she showed. She had no ambition, no desire, no love.

I used to make excuses for her.  I’d tell therapists, “The nuns at the mother and baby home made her life miserable.”  I explained to psychologists, “Her father was cruel, her mother insensitive.”  “It was a different time.”  “When she looks at me I reminded her of him.”  I said.  And all the while, unbeknownst to her, the world was changing.  She told the doctor at the hospital, when I later read the notes, she was ashamed of me being so obviously gay… a gay child.  The sight of me flouncing around upset David.

They tried to shut me down.  The harder they tried the harder I fought back.  They tried to cure me with anti psychotic drugs.  They gave an 11-year-old gay child, badly abused at home… anti psychotic drugs.

I protected her from what others might say.  I melted when she cried.  She used her tears to avoid the truth.  Any difficult subject… she would cry.  One day I told her the crying wasn’t working.  I wasn’t going to cry with her anymore.  She stopped crying.  She didn’t do it again.  My mother does not deserve my protection. Sooner or later we are all owed the truth.

I was 22, I had a show in the West End.  She didn’t take the train, she didn’t see the play.  She couldn’t be anything other than embarrassed, four gay men talking about our gay lives.  She didn’t see me at the Edinburgh Festival, she didn’t see me.  She had excuses.

The next show, The Host performed in the Oyster Company great hall, my mother came with her sister Margaret and giggled in the back row ruining it for other people.  She didn’t come to the ICA or Sadler’s Wells, she didn’t come to The Hen and Chickens.  I don’t think she said a word when I won my place at a prestigious film school.  To this day and to the best of my knowledge she has never seen any of my films.

I’ve never written about her in this blog, explored who she is or was. I never once described her casual homophobia.  I wanted to believe she was a better person than she actually is.  A better person than me.  But she wasn’t… she accused my boyfriends of being gold diggers, made gay slurs about AIDS and ‘disgusting gay diseases’.  She failed to ask about my relationships, my work and my life.  When Joe and I bought a Porsche I was excited to show her.

She looked at it and said, “You ponce.”

That is the sort of woman she is.  Yet, when she was homeless I let her have one of our homes… even though she was the one who walked out on David… taking nothing.  Like so many women, she left it behind.  She walked out on my inheritance.

I have loyally hidden her true nature.  In the film AKA I did not reveal she colluded with my abusive father.  I continually let her off the hook.

When she called to tell me my brothers had been sent to prison, she blamed the police, she blamed everyone but them. My brother Martin Roy sends an abusive note to my lawyer.  I do not read it.  He storms into the solicitor’s office and demands to see him.

Whitstable High Street.  She’s nicely dressed.  I tap her on the shoulder and say hello.  She looks shocked.  She looked beaten.  She holds onto her friend, she links arms… as if I am going to be rip her away from them.  I ask if we can have coffee.  She shakes her head and looks like she might cry.  “I don’t want to talk to him.” The other mothers try encouraging her to have coffee with me.  They advise her to talk it through but my Mother dare not do that because she has been lying so long… she knows if she accepts a coffee it is time to tell the truth.

Her friends say, “She speaks so highly of you.”

“Really?” I reply.  “She scarcely speaks to me at all.”

I ask them if my mother Frances Roy mentioned to them she did not tell me my father was dying of cancer, she did not tell me he had died and then concealed his funeral from us all.  She grips hold of the other woman frantic, terrified.  Her brain racing for a solution.  Fear.  I return to the car.  She runs up the street as fast as her 73-year-old legs can carry her.

2.

New Years Eve we sat in a small group in his sitting room.  Whitstable people.  An MBE, an artist, the celebrity gardener, the Michelin star chef, the academy award nominee and a couple of imported diplomats… friends of our host.  He is wearing a djellaba.  Black linen, a rust colored silk shawl and Saudi slippers.  At midnight we toast the new year and hug.  I check insta and snap chat.  They are toasting in an ice palace in Reykjavik and the Sydney opera house.  Sam Taylor Johnston posts random snaps of black men preparing her dinner and black men entertaining them with dancing.

The following day, New Years Day… we reconvene at Windy Corner Stores.  At another table I see a man whose name I no longer remember, he has piercing blue eyes, he’s in a local band.  I stare at him.  He knows who I am.  Like looking into the eyes of ones captor.  Throughout my childhood this blue-eyed man mercilessly bullied me using gay slurs.  I thought to myself, should I say something?  He knows me.  He knows what he did. I say nothing.  I just stare.

A few days later I post this on the Overheard in Whitstable… Anything Goes, Facebook page.

Returning to Whitstable has been a positive experience. However, I’ve seen a few people around town who were openly and violently homophobic to me as I was growing up. I have never been ashamed of being gay and those who resorted to homophobia were the kind who resented ‘openly gay’ men, us who refused to be cowed by their hate. These people may now explain away their homophobia as a cultural phenomena but as with historical child abuse, historical homophobia must be answered to. Attitudes may have changed but the effects of homophobia should be acknowledged. If I see anyone in the town who was homophobic in my past I will remind them of their past cruelty. Most gay men in their 50’s either forsook marriage or children or waited until late in life. We lived through an aids epidemic. Whilst that was happening graffiti was written on the side of my house in island wall, it said: aids available here. LGBT people do not have to hide who we are and who we love. The privileged white men I have confronted so far claim they are the victim because I had the audacity to remind them of their hate. The homophobe, the racist, the misogynist is not the victim. Those who peddle hate must own it and make amends.

Of course, this note punctured Whitstable’s fragile, dark heart. I am harangued and homophobicly abused.  Along side the homophobic abuse, energetic white people assure me nobody cares anymore if you are black, gay, fat… etc.   As long as you keep quiet about it.  If you complain… these illogicals demand you pipe down.  It is still typical for white heterosexual people to shut down gay people who have the audacity to share their negative experience and challenge homophobia.

Of course, being a public figure I am used to the abuse.  I have never been compliant.

I was most interested to hear from one commentator, Kris Howell. The rest: feckless female trolls, thin-lipped and spray tanned, their dyed hair in lank bangs.  When I returned fire with equally vile invective they became outraged, like prodding a termites nest.  The little termites ran around screaming.

For my amusement I suggested to one morbidly obese woman she may be in receipt of benefits.  An excellent way to upset an oik.  I found a picture of her wedding, her huge pink body wrapped up in acres of synthetic fabric. Her husband, pallid and inert.  She told me she owned three cars.  ‘You think I’d be on benefits with £70,000 worth of cars in front of my house.”  It brought into sharp contrast just how different their world is from mine.  I looked at my watch and smiled.

Kris Howell, better known as Les (ironically he also changed his name) caught my interest because once reeled in said exactly what I expected to hear.  He wanted me to know he had bullied me not because I am gay… but because I am me.

He refused to differentiate between the two.  As if the two could be separated.

Compliant homosexuals put up with being picked on, bullied, imprisoned and generally kicked around.  They learn how to be invisible.  Those of us who refuse to go quietly are branded difficult, hated for not keeping quiet.  Other gay men who play the game as prescribed by straight white people are just as offended when a fellow gay rocks the boat.  As the trolls railed and raged over my post the local gay hairdresser pinned his colors to their mast not realizing he had been co-opted into a seething pit of homophobes.

Les Howell refused, despite reasoned argument, to grasp that being gay had defined me, and I have good reason to be angry and better reason to fight back.  How did a ten-year old me deal with being repeatedly called pooftah and bleached nigger at school?  I was keenly aware of both racism and homophobia.  We were taught by the vicar of St Alphage that the black boy sitting naked before Christ was a savage and would not know how to use a toilet.  My uncle Norman confirmed this by pointing at black children, reminding me they were filthy savages.

Remember, even though homosexuality had been decriminalized by Woolfenden in 1965 gay men were still being arrested for consensual sex well into the 1980’s.  I was born a criminal and I had every reason to be angry but that anger, as the years passed, turned me into something I would have preferred not to have been.

Yet, as Les Howell spewed his vitriol, so full of hate… like most enraged fools, he lost his grasp on reason.  It was perfectly ok to remind the world of a man’s indiscretions he said, but not his triumphs.  He told me he was law-abiding but balked when I reminded him both his friends Stuart and Martin Roy had been in prison for worse crimes than spending money on a credit card.

Like most fascists his argument have nothing to do with logic and what he may or may not think of me… and everything to do with who he is and the resentments he carries.  Hate, like water, will find its level.  It will seep into everything and rot where ever it remains.

He wanted me to know I was a liar.  He said, “You were a liar before you went to prison and you’ve never learned your lesson.”  I wondered what the lesson should be? And I thought, you know, lying is a particularly gay thing.  I called Stephen Fry and we talked about gays and lying.  The genesis of our fantastical lives.  He had also gone to prison.  He had stolen credit cards from other people, I had merely run up a huge bill on my own credit card.  The difference?  He would still have gone to prison in 2018, I would not.

Why do gay men lie?  We lie to save ourselves.  We lie until we come out of the closet.  The longer we are in the closet the more we lie, the easier it becomes, there is no longer a taboo.  The truth is negotiable.

The following day the trolls were chattering on-line like agitated chimps.  Upset ’cause I had removed the thread.  “Has he tagged you?”  The wannabe silver back asks the girl with thin lips.  He is holding up his metaphorical pool cue reminding everyone he won the argument.  He won the fight.  They talked cryptically about rinsing and reeling people in and unicorns.  The woman in the synthetic wedding dress said she was sick of being maligned (my word not hers).  A couple of them private messaged me in the hope I would re-engage.

Anything Goes’ on this Facebook site simply means: trolls and their dumb friends get to spew hate at anyone they feel they can bully and misinterpret, using xenophobia, misogyny, racism and homophobia as their weapons of choice. Their lives do not bear scrutiny.  They are neither patriots nor evolved. They hide behind fake accounts because their truth is unbearable. They lie yet cannot bear anything but the truth in others, they insult but cannot stand being insulted.

They are kids in the school toilet.  Writing notes and passing them around, scrawling over pictures, insulting who they believe are more vulnerable.

Dealing with the mass market can be very revealing. The British general public, like the woman in the white synthetic dress, are presently emboldened by Brexit.

3.

The following day I had tea with Barry Green at his hotel, The Continental.  His son Richard was my best friend in the 80’s.  We talked about Brexit.  He told me he was a keen leaver and I asked him why.  I’ve always respected Barry.  I want somebody I respect to convince me Brexit is good for the country.  I want to be wrong about Brexit.  Barry Green was the second successful business owner, Susanna Atkins at The Goods Shed in Canterbury was the first, who came out to me as a stalwart brexiteer.

Actually George Wilson, our local Scottish millionaire, was the third but we didn’t get past talking planning permission.

I am fascinated by their Brexit.  How it works for them? Susanna’s family (sons and cousins) had to bring in the harvest last year because they couldn’t get anyone to work on their farm.  Susanna thought it was great, she suggested we all bring in the harvest.  As it was, long ago.  I could not imagine the sickly woman in the synthetic wedding dress on her knees in the fields.  She might have a word or two to say about that when the local aristo land owner requisitions her, dragging her screaming from her smart phone, from Celebrity Big Brother on her giant flat screen… to pick asparagus for the 1%.

Barry told me he voted Brexit… he assured me not because of immigration (he is married to an Eastern European) but because of the common agricultural and fisheries policy.  Ok, I said, so who is going to write the new agricultural and fisheries policy for the UK?  Barry didn’t know what sort of policy or quota we would have after Brexit because he thought we might not have one at all.

“Do you think a free-for-all out at sea will work fine for our fisherman and fish stocks?”  I inquired.

Both Susanna and Barry think the country will be best served by an army of artisans, baking bread, catching fish and selling our surplus to who ever wants to buy it.  They believe their small-scale business model can be translated into something the whole country will adopt, setting the country free from the rest of the world.  They crave autonomy, they crave sovereignty.  They resent the rules, they want to catch what ever they want when they want it and bugger the cod stocks.  They know what is best for the people if only we can return to simpler, less complicated ways.  Bringing in the harvest with a new peasant class and take what we want from the sea as we need it.

Profit now, conservation later.  They believe in the Dunkirk spirit.  They believe the English will overcome adversity.  An adversity we created for ourselves…  we now delight in overcoming.  Meanwhile the EU are preparing a no deal Brexit while our government prepare for nothing.  Hurtling toward an arbitrary date when we fall gently off the cliff.

Barry Green sat on the brown leather Chesterfield whilst we chewed over the past.  I congratulated him his success.  He told me I was the kind of person who could have done anything.  I remind him, I’ve done more than most.

“Those houses you sold are worth £3 million pounds now.”

“But I wouldn’t have had any adventure, Barry.”

He remembered the play we performed in the Oyster Company, the summer of 1985.  “The red knickers.” He chuckled. “Tatiana’s red knickers.”

“Do you remember the vase of blue Corn Flowers?”

“Yes,” he marveled.

I’m not going to explain.  You had to be there.

4.

The dogs curled up on the sofa.  They ate cheese.  They are still sleeping.  It’s midday.  They don’t have to worry about the pig and the dog we shared our time with these past few weeks in Barnes.  We are going to walk in the rain.  We are going to meet him, feel his soft skin under his coat.  Just like the old days.  Kissing in the street.

Dear Stephen,

It’s been months since we last spoke.  My harried exit from the USA only made our separation more dramatic.  Those last fraught days before Abby drove me over the border.  I had no time to explain, no time to say goodbye.  Of course, I saw your brother in Seville but he provided scant consolation.  I think about you often… and why not?   We saw each other frequently.  In lieu of our conversations I imagined your first experience of burning man.  I wonder with a wry, affectionate grin your house filling with even more bits and pieces. 

Toward the end of my time in the USA I think you knew just how miserable, trapped and disappointed I had become.  Increasingly overwhelmed by my hatred for almost everyone except you.  I wanted you to know just how relaxed I am here.  It’s not Nirvana but I can travel, I can speak English to those who understand and most of all?  The problems I encounter here I can deal with more than adequately.  I would rather the English disappoint me than strangers from another shore. 

The gays here do not confuse me with some character they’ve seen on TV.  And even tho I might say I don’t want to fall in love… it’s maybe because I don’t dare love possible.

I’ve no idea if we will ever meet again.  If we have anything more to say to each other but I wanted you to know how grateful I was.  We had a blast. I wanted you to know that I love you very much.

DPR

lyme regis

1.

My journey across Europe has been deliciously eventful.  However, these past few weeks in Dorset were perhaps the most scintillating… and British.

My time on the West Dorset/East Devon border was tied up in British convention.  Rules of social engagement forged over hundreds of years by our ruling class… manners maketh man.  Rules, before my stint in the USA, I adhered to (mostly) and challenged unsuccessfully.  In the USA I learned a different social practice and without my daily dose of British self loathing I learned a very useful trick most Brits seem oblivious:  Self Esteem.  Consequently, revisiting the rules governing so much of our British social life has been a little disorienting because… I am Johnny Foreigner and the brits at play (and in the house of commons) sound more like inchoate chattering chimps than adroit conversationalists.

The British, upon meeting a stranger, like any un-evolved primate seek to assert themselves and on rare occasions and only when appropriate… defer.  A British person, full ape… will never give in to money, power or prestige.  They only give up their seat on the bus to those born to sit in it.

Socially, the Brits engage a very specific modus operandi.

Firstly, they establish the worth of the other.  They quickly seek to discover reasons for any shame he/she should feel for merely being alive:  At Monkton Wyld Court, Simon Fairlie’s obnoxious wife Gill Baron the imperious editor of The Land Magazine, rearing up on her hind legs, reminded me I had been expelled from Monkton Wyld School even though Gill conveniently forgets both she and her clochard husband were also expelled.  Bette Bright, whilst grooming another female in the pack, wanted me to remember I had once pretended to be a Lord.  Another creepy petit bourgeois reptile told me I didn’t deserve my accent.  All of which would have once caused me to shy, no flinch when I lived in the UK.  After so long in the USA this British social venom fails to work as I carry more than enough antidote.

As it turns out, the critical gaze of a posh, British person is surprisingly easy to ignore.  The shaming swipe effortlessly parried.  The knowing laugh means nothing at all and hangs in the air like a fart.  Their sly grin makes the posh Brit look like they have learning difficulties.  I was surprised by how often these rather crude techniques are used and how unsophisticated the most sophisticated Brit appears once you lift up his skirt and smell his unwashed cunt.

Bette Bright, married to singer and TV entertainer Suggs from the band Madness was the first Brit who wanted to remind me of my place.  The very notion of one’s place is so uniquely British.  As I was leaving a not so amusing Sunday  lunch party in Whitstable with my friend Simon Martin, director of The Pallant Gallery, Bette sat bloated and over dressed, her fat cheeks once sweetly girlish now pock-marked and scribbled with red, broken veins.  She wore green, over sized bakelite jewelry, a large bottom impedes her journey.

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I had once been very friendly with her sister Alana who died of pancreatic cancer.  Attempting to make me uncomfortable she announced across the table, “Lord Anthony Rensdlesham, wasn’t it?”  I was momentarily stunned as I had no cause to be reminded of that particular adventure, not for twenty years or more.  Remember… I am not my story.  Perhaps the best and most enduring gift AA afforded me.  As Anthony Rendlesham had once been my name I was thrown into a different world.  A centuries old world of sophistication, Fortuny and… Falconetti.

I asked her why she wanted to remind me of something I had lived 40 years ago.  What was her aim?  If her aim was to shame me… she had failed.  I wondered out loud why a straight, white, affluent woman was trying to shame a gay person of color.

“How rude! ” She said.

“White fragility, white heterosexual fragility.”  I replied.

She looked perplexed by my comment.  “I have lots of gay friends.”

“And you learned nothing from them? Bette Bright, gay men know a great deal about reinvention… so odd you’ve not had that conversation.  Didn’t you reinvent yourself Bette?”

I continued with vigor.

“Yes.  Of course you did.  You were born plain Anne Martin.  Dull Anne.  Well, dear, what’s good for the gander… is good for this goose.  You may call me Lord Anthony Rendlesham.”

I swept out of the party.  Leaving her spluttering into her summer pudding.

A theme emerged forcibly throughout the rest of my journey.  I asked my friend the Weymouth born artist Graham Snow if he too experienced homophobia amongst the affluent, the ruling class, the petit bourgeois.  He blurted out a list of ghastly things he puts up with.  He is quite the most lonely person I have ever met, made more lonely by his so-called ‘friends’ who do not want the best for him.  Like Lucy Ferry making disparaging remarks about Lee McQueen’s rough east end boyfriends.  Those woman kept that boy lonely.  They used him, like Graham is used by unscrupulous heterosexuals.  Graham, born in the 40’s, was shielded from the true horror of the most virulent hatred of the gays by his friendship with extraordinary men… like David Hockney and John Schlesinger.  He has thick, thick skin after enduring years of glancing blows from the casual homophobe.

Homophobia is real and crippling and we dare not talk about it just in case it makes us vulnerable.  A British aristocrat loves to mine another’s vulnerability.  Reminding you he is whiter, more well-bred, more heterosexual and closer to the crown than YOU.

Perhaps I’m looking for trouble. Perhaps I’m too sensitive.  Perhaps the blonde, female fitness instructor who has coffee at Dave’s Deli in Whitstable is not a homophobe but just doesn’t like me.  There seems nothing worse to a recent Whitstable resident than these words:  I was born here.

I am not an easy gay, I am not the kind of gay man who ignores a casual homophobic aside.  If ‘Woodsy’ the window cleaner wonders why I am in Whitstable and doesn’t like it… maybe he’s scared I know a little too much about his past.

After a rather grueling tour via Swanage of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast with Graham Snow, he took me to the home of some very English sub aristocrats for dinner.  Writer Jason Goodwin, son of Jocasta Innes and his very Nigella Lawson type wife.  Their house was a typical English country affectation.  A  Christopher Gibbs pastiche thrown together with no money.  Piles of rotting books, sagging sofas and a smokey fireplace.  Their dogs were aggressive and needy, they want to sit on your lap then bite your hand.  The food was overcooked, the conversation tepid… I sat opposite our host and a charming Italian woman Anna Orsini from the British Fashion Council and an Oxford don who loathed Jeremy Corbyn and still believed in slavery.

A forlorn, bald man sat beside the don, Matthew Rice whose wife Emma Bridgewater had recently and very abruptly left him. She had not mentioned him, he wailed, on Desert Island Disks.  Apparently it is sexist to ask if she is menopausal. Now she has gone (she is not coming back) perhaps Mr Rice should bite the gay bullet.  I mean… he can’t possibly be straight.  Can he?  Years of stenciling fowl onto earthenware might betray something of the fey in a man.

During the second course (roast lamb) shop keeper and Poundbury apologist Ben Pentreath arrived. A very British gay handful.  His simpering, tongue tied husband in tow… brutally eclipsed by Ben’s scintillating, room filling persona.  Ben excused himself… they had been to another party.  The dull husband threw Katie a huge bunch of vulgar dahlias. Ben had stories to tell and took charge of the table as best he could.  He mocked his boss Prince Charles with an uninspired impersonation.  Our host and hostess gasped and giggled like naughty Victorian children enthralled by a Zoetrope, tittering at everything the clown queen regaled.

Ben and his pretty husband live in a parsonage not far from Jason and Katie.  The house has been ‘published’.  They show me pictures in a magazine of Ben’s equally annoying interior.  Stuck in a grim place where a potager is still essential and an escritoire ‘sublime’.  More stuff.  Acres of stuff.  Rooms full of stuff.  Stuff Poundbury bought.  Stuff set against emerald walls, set against raspberry blancmange, more and more, lustre ware, vulgar dahlias… bunches and bunches of them.

After dinner I sank uncomfortably into the sofa, consumed by horse hair and damp feathers.  Ben wanted to introduce me to the ‘most perfect’ man.

“I have the most perfect man for you!”

Announcing to the room I needed a boyfriend.  I told him to google me.  I couldn’t imagine he would want to introduce me to anyone after he had read everything there is to read about me…

“I don’t want a boyfriend,” I said.

Jason sat beside me. Looking intently.  He asked why I didn’t want a boyfriend.  I told him a little of my story.  Unpacking the bags.  I mentioned coming out at 13, he asked dismissively why it was so important to ‘come out’.

“Ask your best friend Ben,” I said.  Ben balked.

Ben ditched the resting bitch face and looked quite real, momentarily.  He told Jason he was 27 when he came out, when he told his brother he was gay his brother reacted very negatively.  Jason was shocked.  I realized these two men who claim to be best friends don’t know each other… at all.

Jason Goodwin, enjoying his casual homophobia, sneered at my sadness for all the men I knew who died of AIDS, questioning my PTSD.  Jason sneered harder when I told him how the lgbt community must still fight for equality and wondered why I let cruel Section 28 affect me.  Jason, like so many men of his class, thought us impudent for wanting more.  Now he sits in the front row of his gay best friend’s wedding.  As for Ben Pentreith, what fight did he put up?  He let the rest of us do the heavy lifting.  At his wedding he scarcely gave a thought to the men who sacrificed so much for his happy day.

As a deliciously uncomfortable postscript I made Ben describe how gay hook up apps like Grindr and Scruff  work to the assembled crew of stodgy heterosexuals.  It was gleefully entertaining. “Scruff?” They repeated disdainfully.  They wrinkled their noses, fanning away the imagined smell of the word.

2.

I met a man I had brief crush upon,  He was blond and sensitive and sturdy.  I didn’t make a move.  I think I would have fallen in love.  I bought him a bottle of gin.

Monkton Wyld.  I was staying in the house of a retired Dr and his Christian wife.  They were touring Australia and New Zealand.  The Monkton Wyld rectory was filled with opaque plastic boxes containing a life of habitual collecting.  Bits and pieces.  Scraps of fabric, knitting needles, tapestry.   Every room has a sofa, even the dining room.  The Christian wife does not want to live anywhere other than the huge house in the country where she keeps her charming husband hostage.  He wants to live in Australia near his adored kids.  They’ve brought a little slice of Surrey to the vail of Monkton Wyld.  Tennis courts, over planted herbaceous borders, a rockery and sweeping lawns.  Their staircase and landing is painted a delightful jade color but she doesn’t like it. She wants to paint it, he doesn’t want to spend £3000.  She is unhappy.  They are unhappy.

They left the house.  Went away for 6 weeks.  When they returned she had read all about me on the internet.  I could see from her pinched lips, her sallow… indirect look.  Too much of a coward to look me in the face and tell me what she really thought.  Her Christianity didn’t allow her to approve of gay men.  Even though she has a bisexual daughter.  So she dressed up her disapproval with a shocking number of complaints about my stay at their house.  The water pump had stopped working and would cost them £1,800 to put right.  Some of the plants in the greenhouse had died.  There was dog shit in the herbaceous borders.  I had bought the wrong cat food.

There is a field at the bottom of their garden the local disliked farmer wants to sell.  I hope someone buys the field and builds a big beautiful house in that field souring their perfect view.  Perhaps I will.

Whilst in Dorset I took a little road trip 50 miles North to see Rachel Campbell-Johnston who was once the lover and friend of Sebastian Horsley.  She is the art critic for the London Times.  The final weeks of my drug use was spent with her and Sebastian.  I specifically remember her vomiting out of a black cab on Kensington High St after doing reams of cocaine in 1997.  The taxi driver looked so disappointed.

“What’s a pretty girl like you behaving like this.” he said.

Well, Rachel made millions from property investments (selling an old shed in Kensal Rise to Bella Freud) and bought an austere house near South Molton on Exmoor.  She lives there with her daughter Katya, her mother, lurchers and two funny goats.  Her marriage to my friend Jayne’s husband Willy spectacularly failed.  Their friends forced to take sides.

“Don’t talk about it!”  She demanded.

I had totally forgotten she married Willy Nickerson, now she wants me to forget all over again. We reminisced about Whitstable.  The Peter Cushing House.  She attempted to shame me by wondering if I owned the house in Whitstable, or did it belong to someone else?

“No, it was mine.” I smiled, her icy stare not altering the temperature one jot.

“I didn’t own the house in Adam and Eve Mews.”  I added, “That was my boyfriend’s.”

“Your dogs are so fucking ugly.” She said.

As if on cue one of her lurchers grabbed a huge leg of pork from the kitchen table and ran off with it.  Rachel sprinted after the dog and returned with the mangled joint.  She put it in the oven.  “That’s what country folk do.”  She said.

She remembered visiting me in Whitstable with Sebastian, Tricia and Paul Simonon from The Clash.  She pointed at the bottle of wine on the kitchen table.

“We own these vineyards.”

I looked at her. Carefully.  Wondering if she would ever grow up and make sense of what it might mean to be a wife and mother. She had failed so spectacularly at both.

The following day we sat with Laura and Peter Carew who I found myself liking a great deal.  I reminded them I had been nominated for an academy award and gone to Sundance and opened many film festivals all over the world, which is far more than most of the wannabees we hung out with who told you they would… but never did.

“Look at his dogs,” Rachel spewed,”They are so fucking ugly.”

Although the Carew’s house is jammed with stuff like the houses of all these country people it is welcoming and warm.  Lunch, a couple of chops and some salad.  It suits Laura very much to have staff and land.  Sheep and cattle.  She’s only a decade from living on Exmoor full-time.  Giving in to the lure of headscarves, tweed skirts, lambing, and driving a Landrover full tilt over the sodden moor.

I didn’t drive home the night I left Exmoor.  I hanker for the sea.  For Lyme Regis.

I was happy to see it. Lyme will always remind me of my first great love: Gerard Falconetti, grand son of Renee Jeanne. He played Meryl Streep’s real-time lover in the film The French Lieutenant’s Woman.  He was my lover and friend, he was also the first man I knew during those heady times to die of AIDS.  When the doctors told him he would die of that cruel and terrible disease he threw himself from the roof of the Tour Montparnasse.

 

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.

 

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.

Callicoon NY

I’ve been fretting.  Fretting about Gaza, Israel, Ferguson, bad white cops, arming black people, traveling, Alcoholics Anonymous.  I’ve been fretting about one beautiful man.

The Alcoholics Anonymous shit is the usual shit.  The same characters, the same stories, the same mental illness.   I sit in those rooms wondering why I’m there, if I belong to a cult?  Yet,  I never think about drinking.  I mean, I’m not looking for an excuse to drink.   That’s the very last thing I want to do.

Palm Trees Los Angeles

You see, it was one of those weeks when I heard that someone in AA killed themselves.  Someone I heard speak, someone I had spoken to.  Someone I had lunch with, someone I had hope for.  Then he blew his brains out.  No obituary, no news report.  Just another recovering alcoholic who couldn’t take it any more.  I thought about how we collectively accept the plaudits for keeping each other sober yet when a man kills himself it was his problem.  His solution.  Never our responsibility.   He had a six-year-old son.  He dressed very well.  Now he’s dead.

Since getting sober 18 years ago I have known many, many men and not so many women to kill themselves in the rooms of AA/NA.   It is never easy.   Yet, I have become desensitized from these terrible deaths and I hate myself for it.  I’m sorry.  I really am.

This week, I ate a great deal at Gjelina in Venice and these men graciously served me.

Benoit being Read to by Armistead Maupin

Last week I drove to San Francisco to see my friend Benoit Denizet Lewis read excerpts from his book Travels With Casey. After the reading we had dinner with Armistead Maupin and his charming boyfriend.  I told Armistead that I hadn’t read his famous book Tales of the City until I got to The Men’s County Jail.  I found a dog eared copy there. It was a first edition.

That night we stayed in an odd 50’s hotel/ex-motel off of trendy Chestnut Street.  The following day we drove to Napa and had lunch with Gene.  After lunch we wandered the giant redwoods in Muir Woods.  On the way back to San Francisco we watched people flying kites on Stinson Beach.

On my way home to Los Angeles I met up with my Whitstable friend Ben Clayton in Berkeley, we ate brunch then  sauntered all over the UC Berkeley campus.  We talked a great deal about home.  We talked about our mothers.

 

Back in Malibu I picked a huge bunch of bananas from the banana trees at the end of the garden, I harvested (and continue to) an abundance of figs and lemons.   I sold the bananas to my friend Nicolle the pie lady at Gjelina who bruleed them.

 

Yesterday, I went to the Norco Rodeo with Stuart Sandford.  Norco is an hour from Los Angeles.  It was the whitest event I have ever been to.  White people everywhere eating nachos and swilling beer.   The men wore cowboy hats.  The women screamed when the obedient bulls tossed their riders into the sand.

 

We wondered if there were other gays there.  The nearest gay on-line was 3 miles away.  I took pictures of cowboys.  I ate tri-tip sandwiches.  I was looking for bucking bronco Cody Gaines who I met the day before on Malibu beach.   Cody lives in Texas.  Cody loves Jesus.

Cody Gaines

Mostly I have been amusing myself in the garden.  I have been sweeping paths and mending lights and restoring order.  The dogs have been lazing all over the house during the day, finding patches of sunlight to flop into.  At night they spend too much time protecting me from deer and raccoons.  Go to sleep!

 

Michael came to visit from NYC.  He was sweet and charming.  I met the guy with a beard… and here’s a better picture of Stuart.  Stuart Sandford is a very fine artist.  He lives and works at the Tom of Finland House in Echo Park.  My friend Martin arrived from Provincetown.  He’s staying for a few days.

 

All in all it hasn’t been a bad month.  It’s just these past few hours.  I needed to sit down and write a gratitude list… and this is it.  You see, I woke up today and I’m not a hounded black teen on the streets of any city USA.  I’m not a hounded Palestinian in the ever shrinking patch of land they call home.  I’m not a fatherless 6 year old… and lastly, I didn’t blow my brains out this week because I couldn’t take it any more… and for that I must be grateful.

Latex Bondage Wear waiting to be washed at The Tom of Finland House

Latex bondage wear ready to be washed from the dungeon at The Tom of Finland House, Echo Park.

Peter

Happy Sunday

 

Wendell Castle

Lady Rizo

Des Moines

1.

Monday morning.  Brooklyn.  The end of this particularly hard winter is nowhere in sight.  In LA the sun shines over the glittering sea, in London my friends post pictures of balmy evenings in St James Park. I run from our place to sit in crowded coffee shops.  I’m writing under a pseudonym nowadays for publications that love paying him/her but would never pay me.  Funny.  Doing what writers have always done: assuming different names for different opinions, different styles, different genres.  Consequently, I don’t get to write my blog very often… as I traverse the continent once a month.  From sea to shining sea.  No one understands why I love driving 2,800 miles twice over once a month… but I do.  The last trip was short and sweet.  I stayed in LA a few days then drove back over the Rockies and into a 50 car wreck on the i80 a hundred miles east of Chicago on the Ohio Turnpike.  Trapped on the side of the road for ten hours with two patient dogs and so many bad christian radio stations.  Badly educated, right-wing bigots on the radio.  Wondering out loud how they will roll back the rights of women and gays and undocumented workers, how they will keep hold of their white America.  The America their ancestors battled to tame.  I think about those early Americans very often as I drive over the Rockies,  the hardship they suffered, the dreams they had… the cruelty they inflicted on those who lived on the land they took and the slaves they owned.

I tried sleeping in the car.  Minus 6 degrees.  Occasionally fellow travelers would stop by to see if we were okay.  They offered cookies and consolation.

2.

I’ve been with my boy for 8 months.  We cook at home and watch bad make over TV.  Every day our situation gets stronger as we over come our own and the prejudices of others.  I realized that most of my male gay friends are single, even the ones with the best pedigrees.  The ones who are good-looking and sweet and a ‘good catch’.  I, of course, am none of those things.  I am the bullet you need to dodge.  That’s what they say.  But the gays are eager to diss all of their friends burgeoning relationships.  They are disparaging about anyone who may not be ‘ideal’.  This ideal that keeps them single and lonely.  They look at me sadly when they find out how old L is as if I am deluding myself that my relationship could ever work.  Did I think it would work?  Well, not in some fairy tale way, not the way gay writers write the perfect arrangement… the ideal.  We muddle through, we miss each other when we are apart, we fight occasionally but not as much as we did when we first met.  All in all, I’m happy and feel love from him and let my love flow… to him.  That’s occasionally a very confusing and baffling thing for me.  To let myself be loved.

3.

In Des Moines, I met Kookie Kardashian… the morbidly obese (500lb), hirsute… older sister of Kim Kardashian and Kourtney Kardashian.  She is the least known of the KKK Klan.  Drinking alone in a dump of a hotel bar, reruns of KUWTK playing on the flickering TV above the tequila selection, staring absently into a soupy pina colada.  Text messages remained unanswered as she pulls at her thin mustache. I introduce myself, she says she appreciates the company.  Apparently, when the cameras are in her Calabasas house Kris makes her leave with the undocumented servants.  Kris pokes her with a stick.  Kookie said that Ryan Seacrest called her a ‘fat cunt’, that if she wanted to be on the show she should ‘get a fucking lap band’.  Kookie, blinded by grief, drinks herself regularly into a blackout.  She commandeered Kanye’s jet and took it to Iowa. Her brushed denim and patent leather Fendi bag stuffed with cash. If she loses the weight… Kris promised her that she and Rob can have their own show.

She told me she misses her dad.

4.

Has anyone been watching the OWN Lindsay Lohan ‘documentary’? That girl is OUT OF HER MIND. A world without consequence will do that to you. A world where nobody has the guts to confront an addict and her worst defects. A world where she believes she is still important or relevant, a world where no one will tell her that death is imminent… like Heath, Phil, River… living in a room stuffed with clothes, jewelry… evidence of active addiction.

Despicably, this tragedy is being manipulated by entertainment industry matriarch Oprah Winfrey… the disingenuous bad mum who knew all along that her little girl would let her down. Oprah’s fake outrage is utterly disgusting.

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Hannah

I felt both overwhelmed and liberated in 2013.  Simultaneously.

I spent the past few hours un-subscribing from 100 mailing lists from whom I receive emails begging for money.  All perfectly decent causes, gun control, black theatre, saving the ocean, climate control, Unicef, the world wildlife fund, democratic causes, mercy for animals, slow money…

I un-subscribed from cook shops, travel companies, furniture stores and fashion lines.  I spent a few moments each day erasing my name from the lists I added myself in the hope of being better informed, no more Gawker or Huffington Post or the Daily Beast.

It was an odd year.  It was unusually diverse.  I continued writing my film tho I stopped talking about it.  I met thieving producers and film industry liars.  I spent time with weed smoking Susan Sarandon in the back of her ping-pong club.  

Away from the film I travelled to Martha’s Vineyard, to Des Moines and over the Rocky Mountains.   I travelled by car all over America.  Los Angeles to New York and back again… three times.  I was constantly surprised by American kindness whenever I found it.  

I fell in and out of love with AA.  In and out of love with the gays tho… mostly out of love.

We are presently finalizing our divorce.

During the past months I began a strange adventure with a young man who I tentatively call my boy friend.  I began to dream again… of better things… even though I am still cautious and burned.  Erring toward single at all times.

I wrote a great deal but never published a word of it.

I wrote indignant things like this…

I am queer.  They are gay.  They are white and affluent.  They want to get married and join the army.  They want to assimilate.  That’s what they say.

When you question them… when you ask them what assimilation looks like… they still want to keep gay pride, gay bars, gay apps, gay film festivals, gay morality.

They want the gay section in the bookshop, the ‘gay voice’ section in The Huffington Post.  They don’t really understand what assimilation looks like because most of them are too comfy not assimilating.

He said, “This is all about your internalized homophobia.” I smiled.  “It’s not internalized, it’s externalized.”

One can devote ones life to betrayal.  Betrayed by parents, family members, institutions, schools, by loved ones even the country of ones origin.  I have felt a smidgen from all of the above.  Yet, I forgave my family, my school, the class system, my beloved country.

Because I wanted to be free.

I huffed and puffed about the NSA, I applauded Glen Greenwald and Chelsea Manning and Ed Snowdon.  I stopped worrying about who could read whatever I was writing privately or which ever websites I was wacking to because there is nothing private.  Not any more.

I met literary heroes on Fire Island like Andy Tobias and had breakfast with John Walters, I spent sultry nights on Cape Cod.  I started Anger Management classes and enjoy them tremendously.

My counsellor asks things like, “Where in your body to you feel the anger first?”

I began to identify the genesis of my anger and feelings of uncomfortability.  It usually starts with a demand for money from a worthy cause.  A picture or video of a screaming rabbit as it is having it’s fur pulled off or a pile of euthanized dogs waiting to be incinerated.

It was the hopelessness that infuriated me, the cruelty, the stupidity, the hypocrisy.

I came to conclusions in 2013.  That I do not, have never had, am not interested in… A CAREER!   Careers, I realized, are… for other people.  For those who may be interested in a legacy.  I stopped calling myself a film maker and started telling people, if they asked, that I do… nothing.

I understood that wherever I found myself both good or bad I was meant to be.  It was all for a reason.  A reason that would one day be revealed to me.  That my life was a series of choreographed moments. The life of a narcissist.  That the cameras I learned to love whilst in the reality show had always been there and had never gone away.

In 2013 I never gave up.  I waited patiently.  I didn’t worry about the future nor was I enslaved to the past.  For this I was grateful.

Occasionally I hankered to go home but knew that after a few days in Whitstable I would find my life shrinking and darkening.  I did not go home.  Though, I spoke more to my Mother this year and was curious about my nieces and nephews.

Finally the JB entanglement came to an end one nondescript day in November.  I wanted to write to him and make amends for the mess I had caused.

But I wrote this instead… it was never sent.

An apology is owed.

I was wrong to lie to you.  I was wrong to lose my temper.  I was wrong to fight you.  I was wrong to have asked for money to be paid when you owed me nothing.  I was wrong to have blamed you for any part of our unhealthy association.  The blame must fall squarely at my feet for everything that went wrong.   The moment you came out I should have politely walked way… I did not.   I was advised by everyone I knew and cared about… to walk away from you but chose to ignore their good suggestion.   I should have thanked you and walked away.  I regret very much that I did not.  I am extremely remorseful.  Due to my weakness of character I initiated a drama that harmed you and caused distress to your family.  I should have walked away.  The moment you told me you were gay.   I know that you are happy now.   I know that your happiness will continue.

It took two years to own up.

2013.  Un-subscribing to websites, making amends, keeping my side of the street clean, owning up, anger management.

Let’s see what 2014 will bring.

As the years pass by, unrelenting, amazing, fulfilling, desperate, happy, sad.

Even though I have filled my homes with art and furniture and friends and the lingering smells of delicious feasts… even though I have made films and plays and paintings…. all I have ever wanted, really craved… was peace of mind.

I’m getting there.  Slowly.  A Happy and Prosperous New Year everyone.

Catie Lazarus, Lady Rizo, Our Lady J

Diana Lee

The Little Dog is, as usual, very chill.  He becomes more trusting as he gets older.

One bright Sunday last month we visited the Brooklyn flea market and looked over the river to Manhattan.

I spent two days in the hospital having a stent removed from my gall bladder.  Yes, I did.

I had dinner with Fern Mallis… who, as you know, invented fashion week.

Duncan Roy Fern Mallis

After dinner we decided to attend the Giorgio Armani One Night Only event.

When we arrived we were whisked off to meet Armani who refuses to speak english but spoke english to Fern… because Fern is a legend.

On Sunday we went to the doggy Halloween parade in Tompkins Square Park but we couldn’t be bothered to wait in line.

In Woodstock we met a man wearing a lovely sweater.

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I met a friend of Wendy Asher’s.

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Lady Rizo and I went to a party in a penthouse on Gramercy Park.

The hedge fund billionaire who owned the apartment also owned a perfect Nakashima coffee table.

Lady Rizo Duncan Roy

The following week we sat with Courtney Love in the Baby Grand, a new lounge at the back of the TriBeCa Grand with Paul Sevigny for a Roger Vivier event.

The lounge is perfectly beautiful and looks like the Beverly Hills Hotel interior on Acid.

For Halloween proper we hung with Cynthia Rowley who looked like this and loved my Asprey tie.

This is my Halloween costume:

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It is a paper napkin with two slits torn into it.

The following day I went back to Woodstock to look at a lake house I want to buy.

This is me and The Little Dog in the view taken by Angelo:

Woodstock

Today we watched the NYC marathon. This morning at 7am we ate breakfast bagels in Crown Heights.  We ate two further brunches later on in Williamsburg.  After my haircut.

Utah 2

America is the most beautiful country.  Utah is my favorite state.

Utah 1

@cosmosgrouper

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The Wild Cat

Humboldt County.  Lost Coast.  The Wild Cat.

I let the dogs out into the beautiful garden.  The Little Dog caught and killed a large rat in the orchard.  Dude tore it out of his mouth and shook it until its guts were all over his red fur.  They looked very pleased with their murderous selves.

Daisy and I huffed and puffed up the steep hill to The Tower.  Her father collaborated with local craftsman to build this beautiful space.  Originally built to disguise two ten thousand gallon tanks fed by spring water this tower can now be rented (click here) on Airbnb.

Alexander died less than a year ago.  It is a strange and wonderful experience living in his comfortable home.

We have been exploring.  All weekend we dropped in at community events: private and public parties.  The Mattole River Restoration cookout and dance, a wonderful wedding anniversary party where they made their own Grappa in a copper still.  A young cook from Oakland roasted pig and served it by an open fire under white canvas awnings.

The following day they called us to taste the gin they had just made in the same still.  Last night a local intellectual cooked us home-grown free range chicken and home-made pink grapefruit sorbet.  On Sunday morning we bought basil mayonnaise, catnip and tomato starts from the Petrolia Farmers Market.

Mattole Restoration Project Party

Young Chef

Anniversary Party

Petrolia Farmers Market Painted Map

Most of the Lost Coast is designated wilderness within the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park and the King Range National Conservation Area.  Remote beaches backed up by steep cliffs and mountains.  King’s Peak reaches an elevation of 4,088 feet only three miles from the Pacific Ocean.

The King Range has risen 66 feet in the last 6,000 years due to the meeting of three tectonic plates: North American, Pacific, and Juan de Fuca, just off the white cap coast.  The land on the North American plate is being piled rapidly upward.  Its grey crumbly sandstone creating beaches of pristine, black sand.

On the beach we meet a few passers-by.  We meet hikers who, by law, keep their food in locked plastic containers.  Bear proof.  The containers looked like the barrels atomic waste is stored in.

We needed cleaning supplies.  We drive an hour to get them.  The road from Petrolia to the Victorian town of Ferndale is perhaps one of the most beautiful roads I have ever traveled.  Hogweed, ancient ferns and Douglas Fir.

Ferndale was founded by Danish settlers.  The 19th century houses are really well-preserved.  The history of the town inextricably linked to tinned salmon and logging, both of which have gone forever.  The trees cut down, the salmon extinct.  We saw two huge trucks loaded with old growth tree trunks but apparently they come from small ‘sustainable’ forests.

Daisy’s father said:

Start with the word “sustainable.” These days fund-raisers and grant-writers string it round each sentence like an adjectival fanny pack, bulging with self-congratulation. Mostly, the term is meaningless or a vague expression of hope. In the case of timber, it’s a haphazard and often highly debatable designation that amounts to little more than a vague pledge that the timber is not virgin old growth.

We stop in at the lumber yard to buy laminated boards for Daisy to paint.  We are served by a fresh-faced youth.  I ask him if he’ll ever leave Ferndale.  He says, he’s a small town boy.  He doesn’t want to leave.  I understand why.

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Mountain

Curious

Hannah

I haven’t written anything for so long.

Perhaps I just ran out of things to say.

Roger Ebert died.  He wrote to me recently urging me to write more.  I have no idea why.

The house in Malibu is filled with my things again and the garden, this beautiful spring, overwhelms me.

Moving back in gave me the opportunity to start editing once again.    I threw out three huge boxes of old clothes.  Cashmere, labels, everything loved for a moment back then.  Helmut, Yves, Issy, Comme des Garcons… boxy shirts from another era, trousers that I can (after my op) still get into but have lost interest in.

I kept all the Helmut Lang couture.  It’s just too special.

I feel myself floating over the surface of my life.

The road trip across the USA was spectacular.  Chicago, Denver, The Rockies, Utah and Vegas.   Just me and the dogs and a car full of art and luggage.  I met lovely people and saw cities I had only ever heard of.

I never went over the speed limit.

The operation to have my gall bladder removed was painful but since having the surgery I feel wonderful.

I didn’t realize how much pain I was living with.  How the pain made me grumpy, listless and intolerant.

Now, without that girdle of pain, without the imminent GB attacks… I feel perfectly happy.  Peaceful.

I can concentrate.  perhaps that’s why I need to write?

During the past few months so much has happened.  Things I can tell you and things I can’t.

Yet, after the moment passes, I can’t be bothered to write it down.

Editing the huge amount of stuff I own to a few essential pieces.  Taking my old stuff  to vintage stores, consignment stores and auction houses has been cathartic and profitable.   Who knew things were so valuable?

But more than that.  It feels like I am winding down.  Not is a morbid way.

With less stuff and less girth (since the op I lost a great deal of weight) I feel not only lighter but more agile, more energy to do important things (for me) more time to devote to others, causes, delights.

As you know, those who know me, I like my decisions to be made for me.  I LIKED my decisions to be made for me.

Recently I have taken control of the reigns.  Less at the mercy of Duncan Roy.  Do you know what I’m talking about?