Archives for category: Gay

IMG_1095.JPG

Another morning at the hospital.  Another biopsy on another lump. I’m quite sweaty today.  My arms hurt.  The arthritis in my neck makes my arms painful, numb and tingling.  The pain increases when I cough, sneeze or strain.

After the consultant I drove to Margate where I met Jonathan Viner who has famously bought the huge Margate Print Works, partially selling to Tracey Emin and others.  We ate a light lunch at David Liddicot‘s cafe on Union Row.  Jonathan rather sweetly paid for lunch, (£20).  Of course we discussed both projects.  He is unsurprisingly proprietorial about Margate.  Viner, I suppose, rediscovered it and put his money where his mouth is.

He very kindly walked me around the last remaining part of the huge building still unsold.  The cavernous concrete space ripe for something magnificent.  We discussed Brexit, we discussed moving to Kent, we chatted briefly about Jay.  He is obviously quite competitive but not in an overwhelming, American way.  I told Jonathan I’d met the ghastly Margate based architect Sam Causer who has all the charm of untreated sewage.

We discussed terrible Margate landlords who want too much for their properties and he was eager to remind me I didn’t own anything in Margate… yet.  I replied gently that if my idea fell through it wouldn’t be the end of the world.  I learned from buying at auction… there’s always something else, next time.  It’s not healthy to obsess about things.  It can get you into trouble.  God has a plan.  I just have to listen out for it.

I’ve been going to London meetings.  NA meetings.  It baffles me how people stay clean.  But of course… they don’t.  The real addicts die.  NA, divorced from Bill’s radical idea of a spiritual solution, is utterly worthless.  I am irritated by NA in the UK, the group therapy, feelings laid bare.  I was sharing step solution in a Chelsea meeting last week and a young woman in the meeting told me I shouldn’t talk about the steps because she found it ‘triggering’.

Meanwhile Chip, my friend in NYC, who worked a solid NA programme overdoses and dies.  He was a splendid, handsome father of one.  Divorced from God there was no other destiny for him.  Jail.  Institutions.  Death.

IMG_1849.JPG

The Whitstable Biennial opened this week.  Consequently there is ‘art’ everywhere: in beech huts, coffee shops, fishmongers, gardens, St Alphage church on the high street.  The art is pretty dull but the buzz around town is great.  I found two gorgeous bronze figures tucked away in a shed by sculptor Mark Fuller who is without doubt a bloody genius.  £80.

If my arms work I may go to Canterbury Pride this evening.

Ivan Cartwright visited me last weekend.  We had lunch at Dave Brown’s then drove to Margate.  He had never been.  He was very impressed.  Lunch with M&J at well reviewed Angela’s in Margate on Wednesday.  I ate Turbot and some odd tasting greens.

IMG_1087.JPG

Met in Soho last week with a gentleman who wants to buy my art collection, then a brief but good catch up with my producer.  I bumped into Johnny and Julian outside Maison Bertaux.  We drank a little coffee and I scoffed a large Mont Blanc, you know the one… with mashed up marrons glacés, meringue and cream.

I travelled from Whitstable to London on the train.  It was exactly the same time to get up there as it was 40 years ago.  It’s perfectly fine.  The bus from Victoria to Piccadilly Circus was wonderful. Swinging past the Wellington Arch, on the upper deck, very little traffic.  The trees around Green Park and Park Lane have matured beautifully.  Apsley house now looks like it’s sitting in the countryside rather than a concrete island.  I fell in love with London all over again.  Who wouldn’t?

After lunch I took the Piccadilly line to Gloucester Place and had tea with Christophe. He looks wonderfully relaxed after his hip operation.  Pain shows in the face, you know.  Without the pain he looks marvellous.  “Everybody says the same,” he smiled.

There was a coach from Faversham to Whitstable after 11pm but so what?  A drunk man on the bus was recounting his recent arrest for knocking someone out.  I had no problem with the railway.  I had no problem with the buses and the tube.  I’ve had no problems with the NHS.  I just wish the pins and needles would stop.

2018

IMG_0694

I have found writing this blog almost impossible these past few months.  Impossible to write the first line.  I could say,  ‘Margate, I’m obsessed with you.’ Or, ‘The lilacs fill the air with a sweet and heavy scent.’  I could tell you some unrelated facts, like I reported some fool to the police for a vile hate crime.   Or, I have my own cup at the deli or… I’m so tired I can scarcely get through the day.  My body failing, spinning out of control, my voice slurring, my head aching, my memory shot to pieces.

I wrote my will.  I left everything to one person.  I’m glad it’s done.

The Little Dog shivers then ravenously eats.  He has a chewable heart pill at morning and dusk. He sleeps close to my leg.  I spend too much time looking at my phone.  Dude smells pungent… sweet and sour.  I bathed him today.  The water was cold.  It wasn’t Malibu grooming.  Even though we have hot, sunny days it hardly compares to California.  He looks forlornly up at me.  His perky ears all bent and fragile.

The Ross on Wye project is frustrating yet rewarding.  I should have ignored the neighbours and just gotten on with the project.  An exercise in Little England.  Foolishly thought I should reach out to them, reach out to the fearful white people who live on the hill.  The sort of people who believe everything they read on the internet.   The sort of people who believe Jeremy Corbyn can’t win an election.

I’m living in a country where the press has all but given up telling the truth.  Lies splashed over the broadsheets.  The BBC, once believed unquestionably, now feeds off the rotting carcass of what was its esteemed impartiality.  The stench is difficult to ignore.

Fake anti-Semitism and other cruel lies beset the leader of the Labour Party.  Right wing jews weaponizing anti-Semitism before the local elections now gone quiet.  And all the while I wonder why so many hate telling the truth about LGBT people in the concentration camps.  It’s a most cruel kind of holocaust denial.  They deny our truth.

Rudolf Brazda died in 2011.  We was the last man alive to have worn the pink triangle.  The pink triangle was the crude badge gay men were forced to wear in the concentration camps differentiating us from other inmates.  Visible from long distances the pink triangle was used as target practice by the Nazis.  LGBT inmates, considered sex criminals, were also murdered by their fellow jewish inmates.  LGBT people experienced terrible persecution from the jews in the camps.

Why?

Remember these two facts (seldom admitted by Zionists) about our LGBT history.

Firstly, when we arrived at the concentration camps, LGBT people were considered nonces, disgusting sex offenders and treated as pedophiles are treated today in jails all over the world… like useless scum.  Secondly, when the camps were liberated by the American and the British armed forces LGBT, inmates were not allowed to leave.  They were taken from the camps directly to jail.  

When I mentioned these facts last Holocaust Memorial Day my jewish friends were outraged.  They hate being reminded of these pertinent truths.  They are deeply offended when gay people remind the world of our history of persecution.

IMG_0881

Another month has passed since I last wrote.

Since then part of The Goods Shed in Canterbury burned down, my friend Susanna valiantly opening the doors and serving food the day after.  M and B have gone to France leaving me alone in their house.  I have filled the fridge with food.  My trips to the hospital are frequent but manageable.  The Margate project inches toward completion, the Ross house stalls then splutters into gear.

My routine is unshakable.  I sit with the others outside the Deli on Harbour Street but only when the bitter tradesman have gone to toil.  I walk the dogs on West Beech then feed them raw chicken and a little kibble.  I spend a lot of time with PG and her grown up children.  Last weekend we explored the magnificent gardens at Great Dixter then ate ice cream in Hastings.   Every so often I drive on my own to Ross and look at the land, the undergrowth is relentless and desperate to once again consume the old stone threshing barn even the neighbours didn’t know existed.

IMG_1009

Occasionally I dip into my old LA life and endure meetings in London with producers.  Rather surprisingly I’ve been asked to direct a movie in January.  We will see how that pans out.  My mind is open to failure and success… if they support me I might very well make a good job of it.   We sit on the roof of that club in Shoreditch and watch trim 30 something male executives dip in and out of the swimming pool.  Their bodies glistening, perfectly groomed.

After a few weeks of being home in Whitstable my relations with old friends, grown frail by distance and insecurity, have strengthened and renewed.  Yet, I was recently forced to acknowledge an uncomfortable truth.   Even though I lived and worked in the USA for well over a decade and made friends with those immediately in my orbit… I never cared for any of them. Most of them were simply there.  I didn’t care for their well-being.  Nobody really cares for their neighbour in the USA.  Not like we do for the folk I have known nearly 60 years.  I really care about Sue at The Tea Rooms and Ronnie saving me from a parking ticket.  I love walking to The Battery and drinking tea with Marilyn and John.  I am passionate about Marianne, Bob and their children.  We sat beside the cherry tree remembering their son Richard who vanished from the Dover/Calais ferry and is presumed dead.

Whoever it is, however fractious they are… whatever they may have said in the past, I feel a love for them that was absent from my life in the USA.   I am so grateful for all of them.  I am grateful for their love and their hate because that’s what LIFE is all about… a life lived fully and squarely on life’s terms.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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.

Mario Testino was a friend of ours.  He had a studio in an abandoned hospital on Soho Square.  Scott Crolla, Georgina Godley and others were frequent guests.  My boyfriend in 1981 was Mario’s long time friend and collaborator Patrick Kinmonth.

Patrick lived in a tiny apartment in Holland Park, deliberately disheveled, dusty yet filled with beautiful object.  The place was brutally cold in the winter and a furnace in the summer.  Patrick, according to the artist Craigie Aitchison dobbed me in to the police when they were looking for me to ask questions about my credit card and why I hadn’t paid the bill.  It was Patrick who lent me money to buy my Peter Doig and it was Patrick who encouraged me to make art.  He was a vicious snob, exquisitely beautiful and at that time worked for Vogue magazine.  He amused us all by mimicking Mario’s Peruvian lilt.   Patrick is a deft impersonator.  The problem with Patrick?  Nothing ever came of his own talent.  He lives with the painfully shy food photographer Tessa Traeger in the West Country.  He designs opera sets for out-of-the-way operas but never became the great anything everyone thought he might become.

The last time I saw Mario and Patrick we were in LA at The Chateau Marmont.  I was having dinner in the garden they were having a party in the lounge with a bunch of gorgeous boy/men models.  I sat beside Patrick for a moment but I didn’t stay long.  He enjoys scolding me.  I made amends for some indiscretion and left.  Mario looked at me disdainfully.  Patrick enjoys being on Mario’s winning team.  He wrote the forward to Mario’s book and he styles the most interesting shoots.  Neither of them wanted me hanging around.  You’ve seen pictures of young girls on a yacht wearing bikinis, oggled by old men?  This was Mario’s gay equivalent.  I’d already ruined things by talking to him and Patrick, bathed in Mario’s reflected glory, wanted me gone.  He looked down his aquiline nose and told me I could have made so much more of myself.  Yeah, I thought… if you hadn’t worked with the establishment to destroy me.   I probably could.

You know why old men put young girls on yachts?  You’d think… so the girls can’t escape.  No, it’s so their old men friends can’t join the party.  I returned to my dinner in the garden.  Soon I saw Mario, Peter Pan like… screaming and laughing down the stairs with his crew.  Patrick lagging behind like a heavy train on an old dress.

I’ve never written about Mario.  Now, within the context of the salacious revelations and accusations leading to his spectacular firing from the Conde Nast creative family I revisit my association with him.  Let me say immediately,  I didn’t know anything untoward was happening.  I had never heard anything.  The towel series he shot with models were obviously designed to get the model naked and to legitimize Mario’s pervy intentions but I never heard from models who worked with him they felt uncomfortable.

Many of those same models who worked with Mario were not so discreet about their working relationship with Bruce Weber.  For a decade or more I heard story after story from young men who had worked with Bruce and the discomfort they felt being ‘relaxed’ with his hands on their bodies, the ‘breathing exercise’ or asked to take off their shorts when they were alone with Bruce.  I heard again and again about the notorious ‘private archive’ for which Bruce said he wanted their naked picture.  I heard how he tantalized young men with lucrative campaigns and the promise of a life beyond their wildest dreams.  I heard how he set models against each other, how within minutes of the private naked shots… would change his mind about the campaign promise he’d made, playing with them, manipulating them.

Yet, it seems, many models were perfectly happy to have their bodies used by Bruce.  Yesterday I spoke to a male super model I know in NYC.  Last year, after a few drinks, he described in detail how Bruce molested him, removed his underwear and taken pictures of him naked.  I asked if he was willing to come forward, speak publicly.  He told me I should be ashamed of myself for suggesting he told tales on Bruce.  Thus we understand how Bruce, inspiring loyalty in others, groomed them for sexual molestation.

I’ve had my run ins with Bruce over the years.  I asked him to take the Dorian Gray portrait.  He curtly suggested that I wasn’t the sort of person he could do business with.  Oh… how the tables have turned.

Sunday.  I had a late lunch in Hackney with a young gay artist.  We talked about Mario and Bruce.  He asked the difference between flirtation and harassment.  Worried his flirtation might be misconstrued.  How would he know?  Of course, one asks ones self: why doesn’t he know?  He’s a bright lad but his white male privilege is so ingrained he cannot differentiate between the two.  He asked if the men now making complaints were somehow complicit.  Many gay men make excuses for Bruce and Mario habitually devaluing our lives by suggesting the men who agree to work or consort with us are suspect or complicit.  We remain baffled by the notion of consent.  They knew what they were getting themselves into.

“Consent, that’s for straight people?  Women?  Isn’t it?”  He looks confused.

We talk about the abuse of power between men (beyond top and bottom although that too) and how our anti social behaviour and lack of morality has been largely ignored by heterosexual society firstly before equality, because straight people found it distasteful and didn’t really care. Then, after equality straight people were too embarrassed or confused to question how we lived in case they were accused of homophobia or insensitivity.  Recent gay celebrity scandals have shocked many of our straight allies, realizing they don’t know anything much about their gay friends at all.  Like rats we live discreet and cautious lives just a few feet from theirs, scurrying from one assignation to another.

We’ve done a great job passing. For many years the only evidence we existed?  When the police arrested, tried and sent us to jail for being gay. Cottaging. Tricking. Dressing up. Without these occasional mentions in the newspapers our gay lives would remain completely invisible.  I broke the law simply by being born, alive and sexually active. Straight acting wasn’t a fetish, it was a survival strategy… saving a young man from a beating or death. Ironically, this parallel life served many of us very well.  As a young British gay man I enjoyed social mobility, sexual freedom and access to extraordinary financial opportunities my straight peers could only dream of.  Yet, I paid the price for all of those benefits by surrendering my moral imperative.

Paris Hilton is maligned in the press for saying gay men on gay hook up apps are ‘disgusting’.  Which, after being sent 50 or so asshole pics this week… one might be inclined to agree.

With equality comes responsibility.  Some fought hard to enjoy marriage equality.  We fought hard in the UK to have homophobic laws like section 28 overturned.  In the UK these laws were ratified in Parliament and are hard to revoke.  We are tentatively exploring a new moral landscape.  Morals defined by heterosexuals, most gay men are unprepared for these changes and how this shift toward ‘normalcy’ may affect our lives.  Simply, our lifestyle compared with that of the average heterosexual may not bear scrutiny post Weinstein and Mario, Bryan, Bruce and Kevin may just be the very tip of the iceberg.

Entitled, affluent gay white men are especially morally impoverished.  Many still live secret, compartmentalized and shameful lives blighted by addiction, alcoholism and mental illness.  To many straight people we may seem carefree, highly entertaining, a cause to celebrate ‘gay pride’ and drink rainbow cocktails… but, on our own with our second screens we indulge less salubrious, secret lives using hook up apps as the portal, through which many enter a dark and disgusting world of chem sex, lies, cheating and despair.

They say,  everyone lies on-line.  We live in lying times.  Acceptable lies are now morally ring fenced.  The lies most gay men tell before they come out are perfectly… acceptable.  A habit we are loathed to break.  Most gay men are addicted to lying.  Only yesterday I met a closeted 25-year-old gay man.  I asked him why he was in the closet?  He described the same feelings of shame and despair I felt nearly 40 years ago.  Some things never seem to change… however much I am told, ‘it doesn’t matter, nobody cares’.  I explained to him why he needs to come out of the closet.  He needs to stop lying.  The more he lies the less respect he will have for the truth.  As I mentioned in my previous blog gay men get into nasty habits around the truth and the sooner we embrace the truth the less damage is done to our morality and our integrity.

The last time I saw  Mario he was skipping like a teenager down the stairs at The Chateau Marmont surrounded by beautiful teens.  Like Peter Pan, a 60-year-old man unable to face the truth about his failing body and his failing ability to make good decisions.  He could not stop himself grabbing them by the pussy.  He is the same as Trump.  Made of the same stuff.  Gripped by power, fame and entitlement he understood himself to be unassailable.  Nothing would ever bring him down… his legacy would glitter in perpetuity.  The dream maker, the fantasist, the story-teller… the liar.  Conjuring a universe of beauty, Mario forsook a life of loving relationships for an abuse of power.

Anna Wintour, who I confronted publicly about her reticence to stand up to Weber, made this statement last week.

Today, allegations have been made against Bruce Weber and Mario Testino, stories that have been hard to hear and heartbreaking to confront. Both are personal friends of mine who have made extraordinary contributions to Vogue and many other titles at Condé Nast over the years, and both have issued objections or denials to what has emerged. I believe strongly in the value of remorse and forgiveness, but I take the allegations very seriously, and we at Condé Nast have decided to put our working relationship with both photographers on hold for the foreseeable future.

Of course Anna Wintour is torn, it is hard to align what she hears and what she knows of her friends Mario and Bruce.  She is rightfully appalled, but thankfully she doesn’t know the half of it… she merely glimpsed, very briefly into the dark heart of every gay man I know.

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

 

1.

lyme regis

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.

 

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.

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.

IMG_9057

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.

IMG_9063

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.

 

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.

img_9130

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.

img_9118

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.

img_9145

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.

img_0745

Milo Yiannopoulos is a loathsome proto fascist.  A disruptor, a camp agitator.  To the gays, he is our familiar. We all know men like Milo.  When gay men are together… in private, competing for attention, without the prying female gaze, without the heterosexual male laughing like a hyena at things he can only guess are funny, men like Milo reveal themselves.

Milo is the club bitch, the bar cunt, the gym queen… who, without introduction or provocation will dismember you with a single word. He will not hesitate to identify and mercilessly herald to anyone who will listen your most tender vulnerability what ever it may be.  He is the gay guy who unrelentingly critiques your clothes, your teeth, your abs… and worst of all?  He is every gay man I know.  He is inexorably cruel.  Straight people think caustic homosexuals, diluted for mass consumption, are funny and unique.

Successful gay male entertainers like Dan Savage, Graham Norton and Alan Carr delight heterosexuals with their cutting jibes, a crippling aside masked with a cheeky grin… and the genesis of their humor?  Self-defense. Ironically, these skills are honed to protect ourselves from each other, from other gays, the queens, from men like Milo.  From you and me.

Do you remember the first queen you ever met? How exotic and frightening they were? Sitting at the bar.  How they crossed their legs, sipped their cocktail, do you remember how they looked at you?  

Milo, Hamish Bowles and I are all from the same cathedral city (and there about) of Canterbury in Kent, England.  Until Milo pitched his tent in the USA I never expected a gay man like him to get any traction.  I mean, have you heard him?  How could anyone take him seriously?  He’s a fool… but his campy insurrection and anti politically correct message were enthusiastically embraced by the Alt Right. Now, like some swishy Pines faggot bowling down Fire Island Boulevard high on meth, talking loudly to himself… he has leapt from the gay swamp into our consciousness.

Yesterday, however, an old radio interview surfaced in which Milo was accused, by his liberal detractors, of condoning child rape.  Listening to the interview it became obvious to me that he was describing, albeit in his usual flamboyant, incendiary way, a very common experience for many gay teens.  Overwhelmed with hormones and hornyness, unable to have sexual contact with our peers… he confessed as a boy he had consensual sex with men.

Milo perfectly described my experience as a gay teen and I’m sure we share this formative experience with many thousands of other gay men.  I was sexually voracious, just like most teen boys but without any kind of outlet.  Comforting myself with a cocktail of shame and confusion.  Remember, when I was born… homosexuality was illegal.  Like millions of others I was… born a criminal.  I came out at 13.  Making criminal sex choices as a young boy seemed perfectly understandable.  What choice did I have?  Only recently have people like me been pardoned by our government for being gay, and those who suffered in prison their records expunged.

Since Milo’s implosion the gay liberal media have kept extraordinarily quiet. It was easy to condemn Milo for hating on the trans, not so easy to shame him for his first time. What will happen if they tell their story of the older man who showed them the way? They might end up like Milo.

On Facebook, defending my own experience as a gay teen fucking men in their 30’s I was attacked by a straight women radio commentator and several straight men who refused to acknowledge that my sexperience is vastly difference from theirs.  They insisted I had been preyed upon by pedophiles.  They felt ‘sad’ that I didn’t understand I was a ‘victim’. They implied that unless I condemned the men I had sex with I colluded with all pedophiles.  They were looking for an angle to bring me down. One of them called me a ‘narcissistic fag’.  “If you are not a victim then you are a perpetrator,” they said.  When I defended myself they told me how angry I was and how I should get help.  Yeah, I thought… I’ve been seeking help for years to get over the trauma of being mercilessly bullied by straight people and their stringent anti gay laws. Who wouldn’t be angry if every time they held their lover’s hand in the street they risked a fatal blow?

I fought with ‘film maker’ Alexandra Billington and some dick called Ed Jones.  I said:

You would like to conflate the experience of heterosexuals with homosexuals but you are wrong and the moment you understand you are dead wrong you can get off your high horse and apologize to the thousands of gay people you’ve just insulted.

As I said, me seeking out and fucking a 30-year-old when I was 13 because I was sexually isolated is not the same as a 30-year-old man grooming and fucking a 13-year-old girl. As much as you want it to be.

I’ll tell you the help I need. I need men like you to stop telling me what my experience of being gay is like. If I need help with my anger then it’s because people like you have tortured me all my life with your heteronormativity.

Alexandra Billington I suppose only characters in movies are rageful?  Don’t you understand… you’re surrounded by people who are full of rage which is why we have Brexit and Trump. I don’t understand why you are not full of rage?  You should be on the streets fighting austerity but you’re at home criticizing other people’s sexual history on Facebook. I can’t imagine how dull your films must be.

Hasan Piker from The Young Turks seemed overjoyed that Milo had lost his book contract, his speaking engagements and his credibility.  Yet Milo lost everything for the least incendiary of any of his bitchy comments.   Of all the dumb things Milo has said, of all the cruel and meaningless attacks on trans, women and people of color… he loses his book deal describing an experience he possibly shares with millions of other gay men.

IMG_0801

1.

Acting as an English aristocrat during my formative years I would meet men and women of the British upper class who openly sympathised with Hitler and fascism. So it was I met the original alt right British leader Oswald Mosley and his wife Diana the year before he died in 1980. His mind riven by dementia.

We were invited for lunch, Charlotte Mosley (their daughter in law) and me. In the car to Orsay, Charlotte warned Oswald might mention his belief the British people were still eagerly awaiting his inevitable return to power and I should ignore his delusion if he shared it with us.

When we arrived, Diana Mosley (a dedicated Nazi) was overwhelmed… lunch was canceled because Oswald had taken a shit in the dining room.

2.

“Since I am an immature and wicked man, war and unrest appeal to me more than the good bourgeois order.”

Ernst Röhm, the openly gay founder of the Nazi party.

A young gay fascist, UK born Milo Yiannopoulos has stolen America’s alt right heart. Milo reminds me of another gay man, Ernst Rohm who ‘discovered’ and groomed Adolf Hitler. Röhm ran the thuggish SA, the precursor to the highly effective SS.  Hitler initially protected Röhm from other elements of the Nazi Party who held his homosexuality in violation of the party’s anti-homosexual policy.  However, Hitler later changed his mind fearing Röhm a potential threat to his power. Ernst Röhm was executed by his formerly close friend Adolf Hitler during the Night of the Long Knives.

Like the SA before, the Waffen-SS offered sanctuary to a large number of closeted and not so closeted gay men… (think gay priests hiding out in the catholic church), gay men in the SS were protected from the more rigorous Gestapo. Consequently the SS gays arrested the dykes, the pansies and the trans and put them into concentration camps where they were experimented on: castrated, filled with water like balloons until they exploded.

Kissing, mutual masturbation and love-letters between men served as a legitimate reason for the police to make an arrest.

Gay men suffered unusually cruel treatment in the concentration camps. They faced persecution not only from German soldiers but Jewish men and women would beat them too, many gay men were beaten to death by other inmates. The SS were known to use gay men for target practice, aiming at the pink triangles their victims were forced to wear.

Are Milo Yiannopoulos’s views abhorrent to me? No. I think he’s a clown, Trump’s gay jester who The Donald uses as evidence of non discrimination.  Does he deserve to be silenced?  No. At present, Milo lives on the super fuel liberal censorship affords him. As Trump’s power increases Milo’s influence will become a nuisance to the alt right.  Milo’s campery will prove too much for macho fascists. As Trump’s alt right message becomes purer and more distilled Milo will be dispensed with. Like Ernst Röhm, he will become a liability.  

At that time… the civil war will be well underway. Milo will vanish, added to the vast pile of bodies I see before me.

Milo referred to Donald Trump as ‘daddy’. It is maybe the first time I’ve heard my own particular bent described so efficiently, so eloquently and with so much erotic charge.

3.

For thirty years gay men have been at the heart of every major fascist movement. With the exception of Jean-Marie Le Pen, all the most high-profile fascists in Europe have been gay. Fascism isn’t a nasty heterosexual habit, it is a gay thing… and it’s time for non-fascist gay people to wake up and stop smelling the amyl nitrate.

Germany’s leading neo-Nazi during the 1980’s, Michael Kuhnen died of AIDS a few years after coming out. Martin Lee, author of A Study of European Fascism, explains, “For Kuhnen, there was something super-macho about being a Nazi, as well as being gay, both of which enforced his sense of belonging to an elite. He told a West German journalist homosexuals were ‘especially well-suited for our task, because they do not want ties to wife, children and family.’”

Whenever I mention gay nazis to liberal gay men they become outraged. It is beyond their comprehension. They call me a liar and a fraud.

Now all I have to say is: Milo Yiannopoulos and they shut the fuck up.

4.

My Trump prognosis?  I predict a short, violent civil war with a million or so casualties.  I can hear my friends scoffing, but they scoffed when I said Trump would be elected. I’ll say again: civil war is inevitable.  Rather than ignore this inevitability… we must accept a terrible truth: it is perfectly normal, when ideas become entrenched, for opposing humans in the same tribe to start afresh elsewhere or fight each other to the death.  Nowadays, there’s nowhere to emigrate, we are stuck with our enemies.  

At first, those who disagree with Trump will be silenced… then they will disappear. After a year or so of vengeful President Trump, random acts of violence shamelessly executed in broad day light will be ignored by those who formerly thought themselves brave. Recording these bloody incidents will result in immediate arrest and indefinite detention.  As the numbers of dissidents swell, camps to house them will be built. Our ‘liberal’ society will quickly absorb fascism. Fearful of losing their jobs, their bank accounts, their social media… the people will swiftly acquiesce. They will feel safe once more, hemmed in by new laws written to restrict discredited ‘freedom’.  The police will be fair but feared. We will once again enjoy apartheid and those who rock the boat will vanish.

5.

Finally, don’t be fooled by the black faces at the Oscars this year. One diverse year will not make up for the past 40. Where are the women directors? Where are the black producers/studio execs/agents/managers?  Follow the real money in Hollywood, the fancy mansions, yachts, private airplanes and it leads to one place… white men. Every agency, studio head, management companies and most production companies are owned and run by mostly white jewish men. They have excluded black faces and women from the money, the power and prestige.

image

I fell down the stairs.  My teeth are falling out.  I want a glass of red wine.

Ask me why I’m here in Tivoli.  Everyone asks.  They never asked how I made Malibu my home.  It never occurs to ask why they are here… or there.  People wash up where they wash up.  They stick where they get stuck.  I’ll tell you again, when I drove over the little bridge, I saw the Bard students on their stoops playing guitars and smoking.  When we sat in the sun on the terrace at The Hotel Tivoli that first afternoon eating almond cookies and cappuccino, I thought… I could live here.  It’s a long way from Malibu.

My neighbours invite me into their homes.  I’m not shy, I know all of my neighbours on North Road.  Some of them are difficult, most of them are not.  There’s the cantankerous woman with the Indian husband who said she would never allow me to build my house.  She lives in an elegant, converted church with a pretty campanile and an obelisk dedicated to those who lost their lives during the slave holders rebellion.  Her gang of Mexican gardeners work all year maintaining the blue stone paths, an avenue of oak trees and perfect lawns.  Number 14, to my right, the considerate garden designer and her good husband, they were first… inviting me to crawl into their Japanese tea house for a formal Japanese tea ceremony.  She whisks the hot green tea.  We admire the satsuma ware.

An older gay couple live opposite my ramshackle house.  They collect classic cars.  Last summer one of them told me quietly and sadly about his lover of many years who died in his arms just here on the drive.  We looked silently into the inky black tar as he remembered his dearly beloved.  The neighbours don’t know the gay men who live opposite my house or what tragedy happened there.  They were very discreet… until the Trump/Pence yard sign appeared.

Lydia and the ex-mayor Tom, shortly after I moved to the village, invited me to walk the coppice, to a brook at the end of the property.  Tom must be 80 years old but climbs all over his painted lady like a monkey.  They spend the winter in Florida.  Their dog Charlie escapes every night to ransack my trash.  Tom and Lydia share Charlie with Marion, a friendly Tivolian who lives immediately to my right.  She smokes as much as I want to and calls me Pumpkin, she tends 20 house cats and an elderly relative.

Bob the artist, whose work I’ve never seen, cycles two blocks into the village to buy beer.  His slim wife looks overwhelmed, fragile.  One house North.  Occasionally I hear her delicate laugh drifting over the lawn.  The cook, the thief his wife and their lover, the grumpy deaf man who valiantly scoops his disabled girlfriend in and out of their car.

Then, in the last of the Victorian houses on our side of the street, there’s Phyllis and Lee.  She paints huge canvases of naked men and women.  We went to Rhinecliff library on Saturday night and she told us the story of her life. She’s not scared of desire or her sexuality.  She celebrates love and lust.

The current mayor, Joel wonders what I’m doing in Phyllis’s house eating noodles.  He wonders why I’m here in Tivoli.  I bake Phyllis and Lee a banana loaf.  Joel looks at me suspiciously, we have no reason to be friends.  I see him often at the pub, he hugged me there the night Trump was elected.  He sat with us briefly at the Tivoli summer party and ate the free hot dogs.  He and the Deputy Mayor Emily have a plan for Tivoli that won’t include Bard students or noisy pubs or late night buses.  Even though Joel was a Bard student… once.

There are sober people in the village.  I mean… AA people.  The disgraced doctor, the chef and the celebrity bar man.  There’s the obese sex pest who I see at AA meetings but never admits he drinks every day.  He poked me in the chest outside The Lost Sock laundromat and told me I was the devil.

There are people in Tivoli who should be sober:  the newly married couple with rosy cheeks and big breasts who excel at the pub quiz.  They aren’t dangerous.  The woman who knocked over the fire hydrant is very dangerous, the same woman… the same night, she took the wing off another car before driving into the side of the pub… escaping without charge and boasting about it the following day.

There are a couple of women in the village who might do well to forgo alcohol.   Swollen faces, bruised and bloodied.  Small town drunks.

I’ve devoted 20 years of my life to AA.  I am writing about the quasi-religious cult I’ve devoted my life to, again.  The people I’ve met there are, on the whole, totally insane.  I’m very attracted in an Almodovar kind of way to the crazy house wives, the heroin addicted aristocrats, the failed pop stars and grateful accountants who kneel every morning and thank God for another day.   I love their stories, listening to the moment when they were born again.

Tonight as I sit nursing my damaged ankle I thought I might write about how much I would like a large glass of red wine.  Montepulciano.  I wonder what it would do to me or who I would become.  I wonder if I could forget sobriety for just one goddamned moment, take a day off.   Will everything I learned in AA just vanish the moment I drink?  Will God forsake me?  Of course not.  Why do I have to be an expert in abstinence?  What’s that all about?  Why is my success, my only real success measured in days sober?

A woman I know just drowned herself in a bottle of wine.  She’d been lying to everyone about not drinking and I thought to myself… so what.  Have a drink.  Have a fucking drink.  And then I listened to Sade and she was singing ‘Sweetest Taboo’ and I remember laying on Whitstable beach with Matt and we were in love and drinking white wine.  I felt nostalgic for something I had given up and replaced in equal measure with a bunch of crazy… sad people and their sad and crazy stories all because I thought I was going to die.

I have things to tell you, but those stories can wait.  Tales of obsession and ordinary madness.  Tales of greed and random cruelty.  I could tell you about the interior decorator who visited last weekend and his dull, rich white friend I endured lunch with.  I could tell you more about the woman who fell in love with me and couldn’t and wouldn’t take no for an answer.  I could tell you about rotting jaws, falling down the stairs and handcuffs.

I’ll tell you next time.

img_0459

It’s the morning after the Golden Globe awards.  I don’t have a hangover but I do have a severe headache.  Ahead of my rant, the first order of the day?  Congratulate Barry Jenkins who brilliantly won the best drama golden globe for his exquisite film, Moonlight.  By awarding this black/queer film best drama the HFPA have thrown down a gauntlet to Hollywood.  They are daring The Academy to address its crippling lack of diversity.  I predict that Moonlight will go on collecting nominations and awards (will win SAG, Spirit Awards) but can it win Academy Awards?  Here lies the rub.  The only two bankable commodities in this little film are Jenkins and Harris who are both Hollywood gold.

The liberal, Hollywood talent elite are trilling about Meryl Streep.  They forget the less liberal Hollywood majority booed Michael Moore after receiving his Bowling for Columbine Oscar and using the academy podium to remind us of President Bush’s fictitious reasons for invading Iraq in his brilliant and oft quoted ‘fictitious times’ speech.  President Obama of course, perpetuated those fictions but did it by stamping out dissent and whistle blowing within the United States.  Snowden, Assange, Manning.  My heroes.

The real money in Hollywood is behind Trump… the power.  The talent can make art out of outrage and in turn make billions of $ for the white Hollywood establishment.   I can’t imagine former friend and UTA boss Jeremy Zimmer is anything other than thrilled by the prospect of a Trump presidency, salivating over the kind of big money he’s going to make these next four to eight years.

I wonder who reps Barry Jenkins?  I can tell you one thing.  He won’t have a black agent or manager at one of the leading agencies or management companies… because there aren’t any.  Until there are black faces repping big money at the agencies, black faces producing movies or living on Carbon Beach in Malibu or heading up the teamsters union…  Hollywood will be as is it always has: racist.  A white industry where predominantly white men control the money.  It is not a place where your dreams will come true, it is a place where old white men will decide which of their dreams will come true using your talent.

It’s simply not good enough to call Trump names at award shows. Yeah he’s a prick, yeah he’s hollow, yes he’s predictable. Are we gonna repeat ourselves every day? Expecting a different outcome? Let’s call him what he is: Donald Trump is the most powerful white supremacist in the world. Riding an international wave of fascism. Your president is a white supremacist.

As I’ve asked a million times before, are you willing to put your life on the line to fight fascism? Are you willing to demonstrate, be interned or tortured or imprisoned? Sooner or later Facebook rants and memes just won’t cut it. History proves that when things get nasty the people do as they are told. However brave they say they are before the black shirts arrive. It’s my guess that you’ll put up with it too. You’ll go on the one million woman march… then they’ll round-up the South Americans in California and what will you do?  Then they’ll go after lgbt rights… and what will you do? They’ll outlaw abortion. What will you do? They’ll shoot to kill and fill the prisons with any and every black man who looks scary and what will you do? Tweet?

You’ll tweet about it.

2.

I’m very slowly going blind.  Foolishly, after many years of  not looking carefully at my plate, I started wearing my glasses when I eat.  Oh My God, revolting!  Gelatinous sauces oozing from the edge of beef and chicken.  Seeds baked into bread.  Glazes and jus and creamed potato sprinkled with chives.  I want to vomit, overwhelmed by the detail, the slightest movement as you press down onto the burger and my lunch becomes a suppurating sore discharging blood, guacamole and mayonnaise.  I am captivated by gravy as it seeps under and drips around roast pork.   Nauseated, I have to take my glasses off.  On Saturday night we had pasta with sea urchin butter and caviar at Fish and Game in Hudson.  Although delicious, I couldn’t fully enjoy it until it was just a blur on my plate otherwise, it was a mesmerizing… awful experience.

3.

The dogs know it is bitterly cold this morning.  Minus 13.  They are under the covers.  Hidden away.  Unlike England which is cold, wet, dark and raw thankfully it is bright and cold here upstate making the day less of a chore.  Our store, Tivoli General is open and there are AA meetings in Hudson.

I stayed in bed, too distracted by pain.  The infection in my jaw getting worse.

The third Monday of January is notorious for suicide.  This third Monday in January will be no different.  A mass suicide event will take place in the USA and nobody will say a word.

Did you know I fell out with Stephen Fry a year or so ago?   I had the audacity to mention the freedoms and privilege a celebrity enjoys.  Celebrities HATE when you discuss their fame.  Or in his case… his twitter feed.  We then had an email fight about God and the existence of God.   I asked him if he realised almost all of his sober friends have a god in their life.  He reluctantly accepted that spirituality may be very loosely beneficial for some people but that’s that.  There’s a connection (if you can be bothered to work it out) between his reluctance to discuss celebrity and his eagerness to dismiss a certain kind of God.   “Stephen, you don’t have to believe in God,”  I said.  “As long as you know you’re not God.”

He said rather ominously, “Be very careful.”

Not being very careful, I asked, “So if you don’t belive in God… who do you cry out to every time you try killing yourself?”

That was it.  No more Stephen Fry.

 

img_0485

1.

The New York State Sheep and Wool Festival held at the Dutchess County Fair Ground,  Rhinebeck NY is one of the last remaining countryside traditions in New York State.  Unlike the bawdy Duchess County Fair (started in 1842) the Sheep and Wool Festival (started in 1980) is very genteel.  Affluent white people, mostly women (with compliant bearded husbands) and gay 30 something men pet Vicuna and jostle for home spun, naturally dyed, two ply.

In England we regularly honor the land and our relationship with it.  Many of our country festivals have pagan origins.  The Harvest Moon, St Michael’s Mass, Lammas Day, country fairs and garden festivals.  When we celebrate May Day in my home town of Whitstable at the very edge of ‘The Garden of England’ on the North East Kent coast bordering the shallow, oyster clogged Swale, we revive a 16th century English tradition. Local people garland spring flowers and weave twigs of new leaves.  Pussy willow, catkins and briar. With these we entirely cover a grown man.  With his head dressed in topiary he often stands over nine feet tall.  This walking bush became known as Jack ‘o the Green.  The Jack is central to the Whitstable May Day celebration and leads a parade of Morris Dancers and mythical characters to the town square.

We celebrate our medieval past without too much shame.  The colonial atrocities we care to admit, were committed elsewhere.  We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land… and thank God for reminding us how lucky we are not to have seen the Boer War or Partition with our own eyes.  In the USA, however, the recent past is not so easily side-stepped.  The terrible ghosts white folk see:  the ghosts of slaughtered First Nation people whose land they stole and the million or more slaves who made this land what it is today.  In the North East embarrassed white people do not necessarily want to be reminded of their slave-owning ancestors or those who killed the thriving Algonquian people of the Hudson Valley.

7-14 million people lived in North America before the white man arrived.  Today, little evidence survives of the people who lived here.  Anyway, who visits North America (unlike Greece or Mexico) and thinks to see the First Nation pyramids of Louisiana or the ancient Pueblo cliff dwellings in Colorado?  The Greek government loves to invest in the Parthenon and Greeks love to visit it.  But First Nation sites are more likely to remind Americans of the Trail of Tears and treaty violations than appeal to their nationalism. 

Dr. Adrienne Keene, a First Nation scholar and activist. “We are taught nothing was here, so Native people deserved to have their land taken away: that’s how white supremacy and colonialism work.”

What of the thousands of slaves brought to the Hudson Valley?  Walk into the country side, look at the derelict shack, the rickety chicken coop.  People once lived in those… shivering as the bitter wind and snow tore over the fields, daring not to faint as the scorching summer sun beat down on thousands of enslaved men, women and their children who cleared and farmed these lands.  Driving from Red Hook to Tivoli the bucolic landscape of The Hudson Valley looks less benign.

Josiah Henson wrote, “Wooden floors were an unknown luxury. In a single room we huddled, like cattle, ten or a dozen persons, men, women, and children. We had neither bedsteads, nor furniture of any description. Our beds were collections of straw and old rags, thrown down in the corners and boxed in with boards; a single blanket the only covering.”

2.

On North Road, Tivoli NY opposite my Victorian home stands an elegant, marble obelisk erected in 1866 commemorating lives lost fighting the ‘Slave Holders Rebellion’.  When I first read the crumbling text I was taken aback.  What was the Slave Holders Rebellion? What did this inscription mean?  Was it some local event?  Nobody seemed to know.  White people didn’t know. Black people didn’t know.

The Slave Holders Rebellion is how the Civil War was contemporaneously described.   The meaning of the Civil War, the point of it…

Slavery is New York’s dirty little secret.  Many people are shocked to learn that slavery existed in the North East. Yet, as on the cotton fields of the southern states, people as property were considered essential to further settlements and do profitable business. By reducing labor costs to the care and maintenance of their human chattel, settlers turned a huge profit on a relatively small investment.

In New York State, owning 10 slaves at the turn of the 18th century was considered a large holding.  Michael Groth, in his article, “The African-American Struggle against Slavery in the Mid-Hudson Valley 1785-1827,” estimated that one in 10 households included slaves. All persons of consequence were expected to be in possession of slaves, but not every slave owner was wealthy.  People of modest means owned slaves. The purchase of a slave was a worthwhile investment for a farmer with moderate income.

“Those that could afford it kept slaves, and each owner put a mark upon his black servants, and registered the same with the town clerk, in order that runaways might be more easily traced. For instance the mark of Mathew Wygant was ‘a square notch of ha’penny on the upper sie of the left ear’.”

For 200 years, from 1624 to 1824, the first Dutch territories were sparsely settled with white people. Enslaved Africans were a major portion of those first wave of immigrants, estimated in some areas at between one-fifth and one-third.  In Ulster County, in 1746, slaves numbered 1,100 with the white population at about 4,100.  It is unknown how many First Nation people they lived along side.  The Dutch West Indies Company brought the first slaves to New York territories in 1626 to work on farms, roads and forts.  The Dutch were frustrated at their inability to profit from lumber, fur and agriculture.

In 1644 the Dutch West Indies Company brought in 6,900 men, women and children from the African coast.

It was company-owned slave labor that laid the foundations of modern New York, built its fortifications and made agriculture flourish in the colony so that later white immigrants had an incentive to turn from fur trapping to farming.

Between 1600 and 1860, the transatlantic slave trade brought 9 to 11 million enslaved Africans to the USA.  In 1820, about 10 percent of the population of the Town of Kingston NY consisted of black slaves.  By the end of the 18th century, New York held the dubious distinction of being the state with the largest slave population in the North.  Ironically, the streets of Kingston and Rhinebeck NY were more diverse than they are today.

Slaves were sold in Kingston and New Paltz at public auction.  Terms were made easy so people of modest means could afford them. A commodity bought and sold, used to settle debts and bequeathed to heirs.  Slave sale notices were common in daily newspapers, next to advertisements for land and farm equipment. They described these men, women and children as “healthy” and “stout”,  the same language used to sell livestock. It is clear from the advertisements that infants or children could be sold at the “purchaser’s option,” separating a mother and child with the stroke of a pen.

The cost of a slave today would be around $30,000.

Not everyone acquiesced.  Reported slave rebellions and insurrections took place all over North America. More than 250 uprisings or attempted uprisings involving ten or more slaves.  I’m sure many more went unreported.  Tiny acts of attrition.

18th century slave owners bragged how well treated and content their slaves were, but life for the enslaved African living in the North was cruel and un-rewarding.  New York State’s slave laws were harsh and even small transgressions punished by public flogging.  The hope of freedom inspired hundreds to risk absconding.  If caught, a fugitive slave could expect punishments including amputation of limbs or death.

Runaway slave notices published in newspapers recount in detail the outer wear worn by slaves. The clothing described in these notices reflect the deprived existences they led. Style, color and material, hairstyle and type of headwear are recounted in great detail by slave masters. Most fugitive slaves ran away with only one set of clothes.  “Young mulatto girl, wearing red calico, with blue petticoat.”  Scars, missing ears, skills, behavior – insolent, plausible, bright… were all listed.

Most slaves ran away to be with their families. Some just fled, others planned carefully.  A young man from Rochester NY took off with two sheep and a beehive.  Many fugitive slaves found refuge in the woods of upstate New York. The woods not only provided cover and protection but a chance to seek Native Americans inhabiting the region. Many found shelter and safety with Native Americans and were welcomed into their tribes. Large rewards and treaty offerings for the return of runaways did not dissuade Native nations from harboring slaves.

3.

In July 1799 the NY State Legislature enacted a partial emancipation. The law freed all children born to slave women after July 4, 1799, but only after at least two decades of forced indenture. Boys became free at age 28 and females at age 25. Until then, they were tied to the service of the mother’s master.  Children remained enslaved because slave owners were confident that parents would remain with their children. Unrestricted freedom did not come to New York’s slaves until a new emancipation law took effect 28 years later, on July 4, 1827.

The freeing, in 1827, of adult slaves led to economic havoc in the North East. The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 compounded the issue and destroyed the economy of the Hudson Valley.  Meanwhile, freed slaves were left to fend for themselves.  Those with good skills were undercut by white, cheap immigrant labor beginning to flood the Hudson Valley from New York City.  The white immigrants were paid for their time and did not need to be fed, clothed and sheltered.   Some freed slaves remained as tenant farmers. Up and down the Hudson River you’ll still find names like Africa Street where freed slaves formed their own small communities.

New York City was a reluctant supporter of the Slave Holders Rebellion.  Its trading economy was heavily invested in the slave-based production of cotton.  After the Slave Holders Rebellion, New York and New Jersey were alone among northern states in not abolishing slavery.  Governor Morris and John Jay attempted to insert a clause into the founding state constitution suggesting the eventual elimination of slavery, but were rebuffed.  As New York moved to abolish slavery, amongst the counties most vociferous in their opposition and who voted, “nay” were Dutchess County.

There is white marble obelisk in Tivoli, Dutchess County at the edge of North Road. It commemorates the lives lost of local people fighting the Slave Holders Rebellion.  There is something heroic and magnificent about the title: Slave Holders Rebellion.  It perfectly articulates the ambition of that war.  And how it latterly became… the Civil War is testament to how black and brown people have had their history reframed by generations of white revisionists.  Like the First Nation people before them the domestic history of enslaved men, women, children and their brutal slave owners has been wiped away by white folk, cruel, embarrassed and afraid in equal measure.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Star Spangled Banner by Slave Owner Francis Scott Key

Slavery remains the dirty little secret of New York State.  Shared by almost every other northern state.  In the south, for good or ill, white people upholding their racism and white supremacy, proud of their slave-owning past have inadvertently kept black history alive.  The ancestors of northern slave owners do not celebrate the traditions of the land… for few white people ever worked it.  Whilst english people were ploughing and scattering black slaves were violently forced to do the same.  The history of this bucolic place, this upstate paradise, white folk keep silent… vanishing into the corn.

img_1684

It’s been some time since I turned my back on this blog.  I rather ostentatiously announced that I would never blog again.   But it’s been a tumultuous year inter personally and internationally.   Not a great year to ignore.   The most important reason for not blogging?

Last year I met someone I have grown to respect tremendously, even though in the peripheral vision of the public eye he is perhaps one of the most private people I’ve ever called a friend.  He has become one of those closest to me.  In its former incarnation my blog had become a risky means to communicate my triumphs, failures and frustrations.  Those around me felt uncomfortable, aware they could end up in this personal blog at the mercy of my public point of view.

The closer I became to my friend, the more I grew to love his gentle disposition, his trust and generosity.  I did not want to endanger our friendship nor cause him or his family anxiety.   I stopped writing.  This week I mentioned to him why I had stopped writing my blog and how I might start writing again.  He was very supportive.

2.

I am an oaf.  The older I get the more clumsy I become.  Some people become physically inept.  I’ve become mentally less agile.  Tripping over myself when I get excited.  Wading through molasses when I get tired.   Writing this blog every day kept me alert.

There’s a red squirrel living in the barn, aggressively defending the ancient black walnut tree.  He’s not at all like a British red squirrel.  He’s more like a stoat.  He spent the autumn collecting walnuts, filling a cavity at the base of the tree with his foraging.   He sits peeling walnuts, industriously creating a midden beneath him.   When I don’t see him I worry the barn cat ate him. I hadn’t seen him for a week after the heavy snow but today he was back on his branch.  His fluffy tail and chattering warning off the grey squirrels who, even though they are thrice his size, run from him when he spies them stealing his stash.

The Little Dog is getting old.  He sleeps more.  His soft jowl is grey.  He has fatty lumps forming on his chest.  He loves a long walk and streaks ahead of me and Dude.  He must be 12-year-old.  Maybe.  I’ve no idea how old he was when we found him at the rescue.

I don’t have a TV.  It keeps me from the worst of the news cycle.  Twitter and Facebook keep me up to date.  The second screen.  Bloody hell.  I’m addicted to that thing.  I’ve tried hard to not look.  Tried an app that tells me how many hours a day I spend engaging with it.  Shocking.  My head down like a pious monk looking at the little screen.

3.

Last Easter Dennis and Elizabeth Kucinich stayed here with me in Tivoli. They’ve bought a very scruffy farm in Poughkeepsie.  They are vegans. They eat tapioca for breakfast. I’ve never known two people to bicker as often as they do.  We went for long walks.  Dennis says, “You realise Trump is going to be our next president?  He’s going to win.” At lunch he repeated his assertion.  My nice white, affluent friends smile knowingly.  Crazy Dennis Kucinich.  They didn’t believe him, I didn’t want to believe him.  A few weeks later the two gay men who live opposite this house put up a Trump/Pence sign on their lawn and… I knew Dennis was right.  President Trump was inevitable.

There were many dinners and lunches prepared on North Road this year.  It seemed to irritate my nice friends whenever I cautioned a Trump presidency.  “Only angry white men will vote for him.” they said.  They assured me there weren’t enough angry white men to defeat the women and the people of color Trump had offended.

They think I am an angry white man.

Trump won the primary.  The establishment attempted to shame him with crude tape recordings, unseen tax bills, the stories of unpaid artisans.

I felt isolated every time I repeated my assertion.  How could I be so sure?  “Do you have a degree in political science?”   I was asked by an affluent gay man peering at me suspiciously.  “No, I listen.”  I said. “I listen to people far away from the shrill, gay echo chamber.  I sit with AA people.  Local working people, the kind of people who plough your drive or file documents in the local hospital or work in the probation department… the kind of people sophisticated city folk never engage.  They love Trump.”

The AA folk I met all over the state confirmed my suspicion that things were not as the pollsters claimed.  The double-digit Clinton lead.  The hyperbole.  In hind sight the polls now seem like establishment propaganda.

On the TV despondent hacks wondered why every time Trump made a gaffe or said something untoward his ratings soared.  Upstate, men and women of all ages had already decided Trump was their guy.  They did not care about pussy grabbing.  Ruth said, “He can grab my pussy.”  They did not care about Trump’s debate performance or his racism.  The language Trump used… they could understand.  I heard their roar of approval echo over the mountains and into the valley every time Trump shat all over the politically correct.

My nice liberal friends were too busy believing in Clinton’s invincibility.  They refused to listen to anything other than hollow reassurance from other liberals that a Trump presidency was totally impossible.

Some polls, discredited by the establishment, indicated Bernie Sanders was the only Democrat in the race who could comfortably beat Donald Trump.  My nice white friends scoffed.  “We don’t want a Bernie revolution.” Amy said.

“When Trump’s elected you’ll wish it was Bernie’s revolution rather than Trump’s.”  I replied.

Consternation at the dinner table.  “Trump isn’t going to win,” they said.  “He can’t win.” What seemed evident to me became increasingly absurd to others.  The choice was obvious:  It was either Sander’s revolution or Trump’s.  Revolution was what the people craved.

Hillary Clinton won the Democratic presidential nomination.  They kicked Bernie to the curb, unwilling to work with him.  Clinton’s affable, dull running mate (whose name I’ve forgotten) made no impression on the nation and Pence effortlessly destroyed him during the vice presidential debate.

The affluent white people I know in New York City have become complacent, deaf to the pleas and need of the rest of the nation.  Whilst my city friends were slightly inconvenienced by the banking crisis, the working poor suffered real consequences: they lost their homes, their jobs and their dreams.  They foolishly believed affable President Obama would help them, but Obama ignored the opiate epidemic claiming the lives of desperate Americans, he ignored the many suicides of hopeless young men.  Whilst we were applauding Obama’s inclusive rhetoric, cheering his trans toilet initiative.  A black president honoring the trans community…  I heard a different story from my local white friends of all ages, smoking cigarettes after the AA meeting.   They recoiled from the trans toilet debate… unable to register their disdain for fear of PC retribution.

Meanwhile Robby Mook, Clinton’s gay campaign manager, deliberately chose to spurn the votes of the working poor and went after the soft Republican vote believing them more educated and therefore outraged by Trump’s racism and misogyny.  It was a catastrophic decision.  Mook’s strategy was informed by the ringing lies he heard in the pink echo chamber.  The same hall of whispers I am privy to.  They said, Clinton will win because Trump is a clown.  I was getting blocked on Facebook for pleading with people to get ready for President Trump.  Empirical evidence rather than scientific opinion.  I was listening to my AA friends.  I was looking at the Trump/Pence signs sprouting up all over New York state.

The gays alienated themselves from anyone who didn’t think like them or look like them or agree with their blind devotion to Clinton.  The merest questioning of her integrity was perceived as heresy.  The more they blocked me the more I realised just how hopeless those people would be the morning after the election.

I was invited to an upstate ‘Pink Belt’  gay pool party.  The hosts and guests were short, buff and white.   In spite of my fear of mediocrity I had a very pleasant time.  The short white host saw me out.  I mentioned my fear of gay pool parties as I thanked him for inviting me.  “Don’t worry,” he smiled “I’m out of shape too.”   I paused and looked into his big blue eyes.  

The gays sneer at the working poor who vote against their own interests… forgetting the working poor have no interests.  They have no Obama Care, they have no home to call their own.  They limp from one bill to another, doing their best, never daring to dream.  Trapped by debt, obesity, addiction and religion.  The working poor do not have ‘interests’ to vote against nor common cause.  They were angry, raw and unrepresented whilst Obama touted gender neutral bathrooms.

Where was the change they could believe in?  Where was the change we could all believe in?

In the early hours of the morning November 9th 2016 I was on a late train from Grand Central Station to Poughkeepsie NY.  There was a middle-aged woman wearing an ‘I’m With Her’ baseball cap.  She had been at the Javitz Convention Center waiting for Hillary’s victory speech. She sat on the train weeping.  Her face wet with tears.  The conductor asked if she was ok.  She railed against Trump.  The conductor said, “Oh dear, things are going to work out just fine.” Young people started laughing, jeering at her.  Trump supporters.  She sobbed inconsolably.  The mob sneered at Obama even though many had voted for him.  They were excited, they were excited for a new American dawn.

Hillary Clinton beat Robby Mook on his chest with both her fists when she realised she had lost the race.

In the UK the Brexit referendum happened earlier in 2016.  My Mother and Brother voted to leave the EU.  Leave won the popular vote.  Hate crimes became a daily occurrence.  I felt sad and shocked.  England shrank before my eyes.  The sickening thud of jack boots on the streets, austerity leading inevitably to the solutions of the anti-establishment right-wing. I lamented our decision.  Others came to their senses too late, wishing their protest vote hadn’t had such an impact.

All over the world people are shaking the tree, expecting it to afford them cover.

Ori posted a picture on Instagram.   A dinner with friends the night after the 2016 presidential election.  10 white, identical looking gay men in their thirties… commiserating.  ‘This is why we lost the election’ I wrote beneath the picture. ’10 white gay men believed Clinton would win because they repeated wishes as if they were facts.’  He blocked me.  Nobody wants to believe that they are part of the problem. 

In the aftermath of the presidential election Hillary Clinton vanished into the woods of Chappaqua.  The rich got richer. Those friends who scorned my prediction were gracious enough to acknowledge I was right.  But what of it?   Clinton supporters are still unable to grasp what is happening, they blame the Russians, they blame Wikileaks,  they blame the electoral college, they blame the polls, Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders… they blame everyone but Clinton.   Their fury is palpable.  Their distress acute.

We wait for January 20th.

 

Malibu California

Prologue.

Should I dedicate this blog to affluent, gay, white male: ‘The King‘ Chris Cortazzo?

Chris Cortazzo, Coldwell Banker’s top-selling Malibu realtor.  Remember?  He accused me of extortion when I threatened to blog about him?  Chris and his legal team predicted a felony in my future… an automatic deportation.

Chris wanted to fine me, humiliate me, take away my home and most importantly he wanted to silence me… yet, after months of bargaining with expensive help from his Super Lawyer Bryan Freedman… Chris Cortazzo accomplished no fines, no deportation, no felony.

When all was said and done Chris achieved a wobbly misdemeanor and a recently expired, three-year gag order… as part of a convoluted plea deal.  The ubiquitous plea deal routinely offered to people like me in the USA who couldn’t afford a fair trial.

No.  Chris Cortazzo is undeserving of any dedication.  He is a very, very bad gay.

Instead, I dedicate this blog to every man woman and child presently held illegally in jails and prisons all over ‘the land of the free’.  There are presently 2,500,000 people in US jails.

Two and a half million people.

Private and public US jails and prisons are crammed with brown men, women and children who could not afford a fair trial and under hopeless duress accepted a plea deal.  Worse, there are corroborated stories of pre trial detainees tortured into signing false confessions or incriminated by the police and corrupt, racist prosecutors.

Thanks to organizations like the Innocence Project hundreds of men and women have had their convictions overturned and on occasions released from decades of solitary confinement for crimes they did not commit.

Cowed by PTSD many will not survive their freedom.  Suicide and terminal illness rates are high.  It is hard for them to live normal lives.  They return to unrecognisable neighbourhoods, children estranged, families and friends scattered. In some states they are barred from voting.  For the decades of torture they endured many sue and win handsome payouts but after huge ‘civil rights’ attorneys bills, taxes and years waiting for payment they receive only a little remuneration.

Fearful, white tax payers unquestioningly pay whatever it costs for more prisons, death row, jails, the police and the military.  They believe mass incarceration makes them safer.  They rarely enquire: Who profits from mass incarceration?  They are unaware that the same people profiting from corrupt and illegal wars in Iraq and Libya also own the jails and the prisons ignoring the untold suffering within.

Whilst the 1% get richer on the backs of the poor, hiding their ill-gotten gains elsewhere, avoiding taxation… disenfranchised people of color are radicalized by brutal treatment whilst incarcerated.  The poor know they are easy prey.  Inside the big house they are gouged further by deputies who own and operate vending machines.  A 50 cent pack of noodles sold to those who can least afford it… for $3.  Loved ones forced to pay 1000 times more than you and I to receive phone calls from the incarcerated.

In America… if you are poor, vulnerable or sick… expect to be enslaved by the state.

Black communities are bullied by a police force trained to raise revenue by issuing hundreds of bogus tickets.  In Ferguson MO 80% of the residents had been ticketed for minor infractions, raising millions of dollars for a failing local government.  Private prisons are kept profitably full by agreement between local politicians and prison owners.  Remember Judge Ciavarella, jailed for receiving payment from a prison owner for imprisoning innocent children?   Some of those innocent kids killed themselves.

Two million children are arrested every year in the US, 95% for non-violent crimes.  66% of children incarcerated never return to school.  The US incarcerates nearly 5 times more children than any other nation in the world.

Ferguson and Mark Ciaverella are just the tip of the iceberg.  As in any tin pot dictatorship, powerful Americans use jail to silence whistleblowers and truth tellers.

This is my story: the story of rich, entitled white folk taking down and silencing enemies using the public court system as their personal weapon.

The blog referred to during this post is the blog I allegedly ‘threatened’ to publish if Chris Cortazzo didn’t right his wrongs.  The original blog exists publicly in its entirety as court records, evidence submitted by the prosecution during my pre-trial.

Why now?  Why write this 4 years after the event?  I might have left my story in the past but this story became unexpectedly relevant.  I was recently contacted by lawyers who revealed I wasn’t the only Malibu property owner who had fallen foul of realtor Christopher Cortazzo.

1.

Powerful friends, they say, make powerful enemies.  Chris and his friends proved they could do anything they wanted to me and others. There were times when I suspected my very own lawyer had been bought by the other side.

This is a Hollywood story.   As with any epic Hollywood story it requires a suspension of disbelief.  This narrative snakes in and out of reality tv, multi-million dollar homes, secretive Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and into the many canyons of Malibu, Bel Air and Beverly Hills.  It stars ‘A’ listed talent and their representatives, a cast of corrupt policemen, prosecutors and the judiciary.  It is the story of shameful… affluent, white gay men and their friends.

It is fortune lost and found.

2.

Dear Chris,

Let’s get one thing clear before we go any further.  I don’t want anything from you. Nothing.  I don’t want your money, I don’t want your time, I don’t want your body.  I want nothing from you… never… ever.

This is the blog you didn’t want me to write, the blog you spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to kill.  This is the blog I sat in the Los Angeles Men’s County Jail contemplating.  This is it.  This is the blog you wanted me to regret.

Chris.  Are you ready?

Before I start,  I have two words to say to you:  Hiroshi Horiike.



Hiroshi Horiike on the steps of his Malibu Mansion.

This name probably means nothing to your starry friends and clients, your 1% billionaire neighbours or the older Malibu home owners you nurture until they are ready to sell their ocean side properties.  The celebrities with whom you carouse all over the world may not be aware of Hiroshi Horiike.  I doubt if you make mention of his name in the many mansions, yachts and fast cars you inhabit.

Let me educate my readers.

Millionaire Hiroshi Horiike spent two years searching California for a dream home, one grander than any he could find in his native China.

After visiting more than 80 properties in the Los Angeles area with an agent from Coldwell Banker, Horiike paid $12.25 million in cash for a four-bedroom, six-bath Tuscan-style mansion with a swimming pool, spa and guest house on 5.1 acres (2.1 hectares) overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

There was just one catch. After settling in, Horiike found the Malibu home had less living space than he’d been told — a third less. It had 9,434 square feet (876 square meters) instead of the 15,000 square feet shown in marketing brochures from the seller’s agent, who also worked with Coldwell Banker.

You were the realtor repping both Hiroshi and the seller.  You were the realtor.   Chris, you were the realtor referred to in this quote and subsequent court documents.  Sounds dodgy doesn’t it?  No wonder you wanted to shut my big mouth.

Horiike, who also goes by his native Chinese name Peng Hong Ling after adopting a Japanese name as an adult, claimed he was cheated and sued the agent and the brokerage. He won a state appeals court ruling that sellers’ agents have a fiduciary duty to protect buyers’ interests, not just those of their clients, when there’s only one brokerage involved in a deal.

Of course you and Coldwell Banker have been defending yourselves vigorously in the courts… there’s a great deal at stake for Californian real estate agents.

If left standing, the decision could compel disclosure of confidential client information or force brokerages to drop out of transactions where they represent both buyers and sellers, threatening commissions on tens of thousands of deals.

Have you fucked it up for your Californian realtor colleagues?  Have you derailed their gravy train?

Horiike and I have a great deal in common when it comes to you, Chris.

Horiike and I were both US property virgins. We foolishly thought we could trust our realtors. We were naive, we were excited, we were unaware… in the unlikely event we were duped by unscrupulous realtors when we purchased our homes… we only had two years for discrepancies to reveal themselves before a remarkably short statute of limitation kicks in.  I discovered my geological discrepancy after two years… some people must have rubbed their hands in glee.

Hiroshi, he’s the Mensch!  Hiroshi is the man who won’t let go of the bone, Chris.  And you… you are Horiiki’s bone.  He’s taking his case all the way to the Supreme Court because, like me, he had his dream shattered by realtors.

But let’s concentrate on us for a moment Chris.  Just us.  Before this blew up you already had a very low opinion of me.  An opinion you share with many white, affluent, gay men. Chris you described me, after our couple of dates, in court documents as ‘dark and creepy’.

Let’s cast our minds back to happier times.  Chris, let’s remember when I arrived with society photographer Todd Eborle at the annual Barry Diller pre-Oscar garden party a few years back (I sat between you and Helen Mirren) we had a nice enough time.  We ate from the buffet.  We marveled at Rupert Murdoch and David Geffen chatting animatedly at the edge of the garden.

As I mentioned earlier, we’d had a date or two in West Hollywood but it didn’t work out. You claim we didn’t have oral sex.  If you can’t remember sucking my cock, I’m perfectly happy to forget it too.  The next time I saw you?  At the house on Hume Road, Malibu. I loved that house like Horiiki loved his, and a little like Horiiki I’d seen a ton of houses before I found my dream house on Hume Road.

Corey Nelson my dumb, good-looking realtor was sick of showing me property. He had shown me hundreds of homes.  Sometimes… I wouldn’t go inside.   Rude!

10551071_684226164966130_3046334187919159840_n

Corey Nelson

The purchase of Hume Road happened before the crash when realtors didn’t have to work very hard to sell a house.  We had given up looking.  Corey Nelson and I hadn’t spoken for months.  So, when I found my little slice of paradise I called Corey because I knew he would appreciate making a sale.  I could have called anyone but I felt loyal to Corey.  I had no clue his inexperience and ambition would severely compromise me.

I was renting an apartment in Hollywood that had once belonged to Joni Mitchell.   Every day I would drive from El Cerritos Place to the Malibu property and sit in the garden, sit on the terrace and gaze at the view.  I was desperate to buy the house on Hume Road.  Indeed, my enthusiasm predicated just how much of a liberty you two groovy hucksters might take with me.

I met the owner of the Hume Road House, Kelly Mormon.  He asked if I wanted to move in before I bought the house.  I moved in.  I explored the neighborhood.  I saw a family of bob cats and eagles wheeling through the canyon.  Humming birds fed from the passion fruit flowers that grew on my terrace.  Walking Las Flores Canyon one warm evening I met a grumpy man from Cal Trans who told me buying a house on Hume Road was a really bad idea. He told me the city should buy the houses in the canyon and demolish them.  I’d heard rumors the land was unstable.  The neighbours denied it of course.  They assured me everything was just fine.

I wrote to Corey explaining my fears. When we subpoenaed his emails it was revealed soon after I wrote that email… Corey Nelson wrote you Chris asking what he should do about my cold feet. Your reply was chilling. “Call me,” you said.  I can’t imagine the plan you hatched during the call.

Corey abandoned his fiduciary duty when he made that call to you, Chris.

PRE-HISTORY

Let’s talk?  You and me?  Can I confide in you?

Do you remember the film?  I’d made a film people loved and I’d been nominated for a British Academy Award.  They warn the foolhardy: never move to LA unless invited.  Industry people (my agent and manager) told me my interests would be best served if I moved to Hollywood.  In 2007, after 35 years, I sold my beautiful sea-side house in Whitstable Kent.  I started house hunting in Los Angeles.

I met Corey Nelson from Sotheby’s a well-known realty company.  He was one of those cute ex Bruce Weber models who would do almost anything to make a sale.  I met him with an older gay realtor who claimed he was fucking him.  We met at Joan’s on Third in West Hollywood.  I love Joan.  She’s a romantic!  Have you heard her story?

Corey and I spent a long time house hunting.  I looked at hundreds of houses, none I liked. Corey was cute and fun.  We spent time together socially, we climbed Runyon Canyon.  I trusted him.  I believed realtors in the USA behaved like estate agents in the UK: with honesty and accountability.

Months into our search I had still not found a house.

3.

My recently deceased friend Jean Perramon lived in The Santa Monica Mountains.  His house had views stretching from Santa Monica to Point Dume.   Walking his neighborhood one evening I peeked past a large For Sale sign through the gates of an abandoned estate. To Jean’s consternation I opened the gates and wandered down the steep drive into two acres of lush, semi tropical gardens.  Huge cactus trees, ancient palms.  Bananas, citrus, plums.  Stone paths weaving through the landscape.  At the end of the path an empty, unlocked 1970’s post and beam family home divided into two apartments.

I told Corey about the house and he introduced me to Chris Cortazzo, Kelly’s agent.

Well, we scarcely needed introducing.

Listen, let’s face it…Chris has done very well for himself.  He comes from a humble Malibu family, his mother is often seen eating lunch in the garden at Cross Creek.  His fireman father is dead.  He sells more real estate than any other broker in the USA.  For a man who is scarcely literate… he has done very well for himself.   Perhaps it is gay mythology but your story includes a romantic liaison with billionaire Barry Diller who, it is alleged, set you up as a realtor and let you sell his property.  Is that true?

He writes this about himself on his own website:

Yes, Chris Cortazzo’s name is everywhere in Malibu, because that’s what happens when you’re “The King.”  It was actually the Bravo TV program Million Dollar Listing, in which CC was profiled among several other L.A.-area top-producing agents, that coined the term “The King of Malibu”. Perhaps it was his incredible production that earned him the title. Perhaps it owes to the type of clientele he often serves, namely some of the biggest names in entertainment and business.

After renting the Malibu house on Hume Road for a couple of weeks I asked Corey to write an offer.  The house had been on the market for a year or more hand had a price reduction. I live in a country where houses languish on the market for years, it did not occur to me that if a house had been on the market for a few months it may be problematic.  Nor did it occur to me that I may be working with a couple of realtors who were determined, at any cost, to sell me a doozy.

My soppy, inexperienced realtor wanted his commission and was sick of showing me endless properties.  We had written offers before but they had not been accepted.  I had never ordered an inspection.

The problem with the beautiful house?  During the past ten years there had been landslides on either side of the property.  There was illegal construction in the garden including un-permitted retaining walls and water tanks degrading the land, making it more liable to slide.

They knew if I had this critical information I would not buy the house and more importantly… it would be worth far less than the 1.4 million dollars I paid for it.

Neither the seller nor Chris disclosed this information.  Information, by law, they were required to reveal.  Corey told me a thorough geological report would cost me $10,000.  So, using the excuse I would save money I needn’t spend, they presented me with an expensive and thorough looking geological report conducted in 2004.   Corey persuaded me this report was adequate for my purposes, advising me I should have a verbal report from another geologist to confirm nothing seismic had happened after the 2004 report.

The difference between 2004 and the year I bought the house?  The house no longer sat on an HISTORIC slide as the report stated.  A historic slide means that during the past decade no noticeable seismic activity had taken place within a thousand feet of the property and the land was stable.   In 2004 the house sat comfortably on the ridge line,  foundations built on bedrock.

However, shortly after that 2004 report was written large parts of Las Flores Canyon including Hume Road began sliding into the sea.  My house now sat on an ACTIVE slide.  This important information was deliberately kept from me.  Moreover, Corey told me that he could not find a local geologist who would come to the house so we hired a geologist recommended by… Chris Cortazzo.  I was assured by Corey that the ‘verbal’ geological report from a geologist was perfectly normal.  Again, abandoning his fiduciary duties.

The young, good-looking geologist sat uncomfortably with us in the garden, Corey at his side.  He held the 2004 geological report.  I asked if there was anything I needed to know that may influence my purchase of the property.  I asked many, many questions.  I needed to know everything before I invested my hard-earned $1, 500,000.  Without looking into my eyes the ‘geologist’ told me the house had a “reasonable half an inch of ‘creep'”  but failed to mention either of the recent slides or the illegality of the un-permitted terracing.

I bought the house.  After we signed contracts at the close of escrow, Chris shook my hand and said, with half a grin, “You’re going to own that house for a very long time.”

Only when I tried selling the house… did I learn what he meant.

The next time I saw Chris Cortazzo he was sitting in a sex addict meeting where he claims he was ‘helping a friend’.  After seeing him at the meeting I wrote a sweet email welcoming him to SAA.  It’s hard to admit a problem like sex addiction.  I wanted him to feel safe when he returned.  That’s what we are taught to do in AA SAA etc… we look out for each other.  We reach out.  Almost immediately the troubled transphobic sex therapist Sean McFarlane who lead the meeting told me not to contact Chris again… under any circumstances.

Why?

Sean McFarlane chaired the Brentwood Sex Addict meeting (ironically held in a middle school until the school realized a famous pedophile attended the meeting) for over a decade, a serious break from the 12 traditions and frowned upon within the Anonymous community.  McFarlane didn’t seem to care much for the AA rules unless others broke them.  His personal recovery, doubted by many, seemed ‘unsponsored’.  He tells a melodramatic, highly questionable personal story and is well-known (to those within the addict community) to prey upon vulnerable celebrities eager to keep their failing marriages.

Consequently, he has a gang of loyal Hollywood/sports celebrities with whom he consorts in and out of therapy.  He would boast how he taught Mike Tyson’s daughter to swim.  The daughter who tragically… drowned.  Our ‘trusted servant’ McFarlane rarely accounted for the huge 7th Tradition purse he collected every week and handed over to his ‘treasurer’, John Artz.

It is rumored Sean McFarlane would take sex addicts through the 12 Steps… if they paid him.  Again, discouraged within the anonymous cult who pride themselves on sharing their sobriety with newcomers… for ‘fun and for free’.

Sean ‘no shame in my game’ McFarlane is a transphobe.  I never once heard anyone in that Sex Addict meeting challenge his transphobia.  He considered all trans people ‘evil’.  Whenever he had the opportunity he told graphic tales of his own heroism in the face of evil transsexuals.  How he saved one or other of his many trans chaser clients from the grips of an evil ‘tranny hooker’.

The group would cheer Sean’s transphobia.  Lawyers, agents, actors… casting directors.    Collectively witch hunting the trans people Sean considered evil.  Lately, as the Hollywood conversation turns toward inclusivity, color blind casting, gender neutrality… one wonders how Sean and his creepy white guy transphobic friends in the entertainment industry will survive?

THE REVEAL

The last time I heard from the ‘geologist’, he had turned to Jesus.  I was in my bed… at home in Malibu.  It was dark.  He called from a blocked phone.  He was distressed.  He apologized for calling late at night.  He stumbled over his words.  He told me Corey instructed him not to mention anything that would influence me away from buying the house.  The ‘geologist’ felt guilty.  He omitted to tell me the status of the slide had changed from historic.. to active.

He told me the lie plagued his conscience.

People ask: What did you do when he told you?  What could I do?  I tell them. “I listened.”

When we subpoenaed the geologist during my pre-trial… a completely different man (50 years old and morbidly obese) arrived at the court-house.  He didn’t want to be there, he was sweating bullets.  It was all the proof I needed but the pre-trial judge refused to listen to our evidence.  It was one of your triumphs, Chris.  The truth couldn’t help us.  The statute of limitations had long run out.

When I spoke to Corey he said,  “I knew this would come back to haunt me.”  You’re right Corey, if you have any conscience, it’s going to haunt you… the rest of your life.

After the geologist’s late night call I emailed Chris letting him know I’d give him time to ‘do the right thing’ and find a solution including a ‘fair and equitable’ settlement… or I would start a campaign against him… including paid advertisements in local newspapers, national news articles and a revelatory blog.

Soon after writing this email I was arrested and held without recourse to bail in LA Men’s County Jail.

2.

TP… the bug-eyed, ex head of a major film studio and his son were Malibu neighbours and regular faces at my sex addict meeting in Brentwood.  TP’s son described sex therapist Sean McFarlane’s reaction when he heard I’d been arrested,

“Sean leapt out of his seat and punched the air screaming… ‘he’s going down’.”

Bryan Freedman, John Adler (my SAA sponsor), TP and others smiled broadly at the news.  The men in that sex addict meeting coalesced around you Chris, you became one of their walking wounded.

Bryan Freedman, another self identified sex addict/alcoholic I  saw almost every morning at either the 7am Palisades AA stag meeting or the Sex Addict meeting in Brentwood.

Chris, how did you meet Bryan Freedman?  Did you meet him at the sex addict meeting?  Did transphobic sex therapist Sean MacFarlane introduce you?  Bryan is a great fan of transphobic sex therapist Sean McFarlane.

Bryan Freedman’s firm Freedman + Taitelman would represent your interests against me.

Bryan J. Freedman was selected as one of the most influential entertainment litigators in the country by The Hollywood Reporter in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 and in all eight years has been named in the Top 100 Power Lawyers list. Additionally, Bryan was recognized as a Southern California “Super Lawyer” in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, a peer-based award reserved only for the top 5% of all lawyers in Southern California. Also, Bryan has the unique distinction of being 1 of only 22 selected Honorees to Variety’s 2015 Legal Impact Report.

I know a very different Bryan Freedman.  This is the man who wept in AA meetings because he couldn’t bully his son into being the first jewish NBA basket ball player.  This is the married man who confided in a public SAA meeting he couldn’t stop intriguing with women… looking at small ads whilst his wife slept beside him.  This is the man who would high-five the equally despicable UTA Talent Agency boss Jeremy Zimmer at the AA meeting ‘above the bank’ in the Palisades where we sat together for more than a decade.

How involved was Bryan Freedman?  How much money did you pay him to have me vanish into the jail system?  I’m guessing he was involved with the plan?  He’s a Super Lawyer. His plan might include a cast of corruptible characters.  How much did they have to do with my illegal incarceration in the Los Angeles Men’s County Jail?

You and your advisors believed I might bend to your will if you held me in jail long enough.

Remember, we have to suspend our disbelief:

Just about every branch of Ferguson government (police, municipal court, city hall) participated in “unlawful” targeting of African-American residents for tickets and fines, the Justice Department concluded this week.

At first, the plan unfolded splendidly!  We understand  how utterly corrupt American prosecutors are.  Existing in a semi secretive world of grand juries and trumped-up charges designed to protect the rights of the 1%.  County prosecutor Anne-Marie Wise is no different, she played out your rich boy charade very admirably.  Anne-Marie, persuaded there was a case to answer by your impressive lawyer, sent her ZZ Top cops to arrest me.  They kept their cop badges under their waist length beards.

I agreed to meet Chris on the Pacific Coast Highway outside the Country Kitchen in Malibu (opposite the home of Tom Pollock) where he had offered to make his amends for ripping me off.  Instead, as I ate my breakfast burritos the cops arrived.  As I sat handcuffed in the blazing sun a black Rolls Royce with blackened windows cruised past,  it lingered.  Was that you Chris?  I knew the Rolls had something to do with you, Chris… so did the cops.

Did you enjoy watching me handcuffed Chris?  Did you take photographs on your cell phone?

ZZ Top and I headed up Las Flores Canyon to Hume Road.  The crazy bearded cops ran around my property with guns.  Why?  Because this is the melodrama of over paid, over weight, underutilized… LA cops.  Once in the house they meaninglessly tossed furniture and emptied my draws.  They seized my lap top and took me to the Calabasas police station where they interviewed and charged me with a felony extortion.  Extortion (for those who remain confused) is either threatening to reveal a secret or a crime unless money is paid.  It usually accompanies threats of violence.

Even though I had a valid US visa I was informed I could not post bail because of an Immigration Hold.  If an alien in the USA is charged with a felony they can be held for up to 48 hours by ICE to determine if they are a threat to the nation.

Your plan was working.

A day later I was taken to The LA Men’s County Jail.  Processed.  Screamed at.  They gave me a chest X-ray.  They fed me a baloney sandwich.  They asked if I was either suicidal or gay.  I told them I’m gay because I’d heard from Robert Downey Jr this was the only way to survive the jail and anyway I’d been out of the closet for a long time and I wasn’t about to crawl back in.  Not on your account Chris Cortazzo.

48 hours passed.  I was not released.

Whoever flicked the switch… whoever threw away the key did so at this moment.

To achieve this plan they needed a dependable federal government insider: someone prepared to override ICE protocol and keep me detained for longer than the mandatory 48 hour Immigration Hold.  This part of the plan required someone important in Federal Government to break the rules.  At the final reckoning I was held longer in Men’s County Jail on an ICE hold than any other pre trial detainee… ever.

Keeping a pre-trial detainee in jail until they bend to the will of the prosecutor is a common ploy.   It happens all over the USA.  It is happening right now as you are reading this blog.  People agree to anything to get out of jail and they assumed I’d plead guilty to felony EXTORTION and an automatic deportation.

As you can imagine, the jail is a dangerous place.  I had to get a grip.  Surprisingly I was very well equipped to deal with the jail.  AA/SAA had taught me a few simple tricks:

1.  Wherever I am… I am in the right place.

2.  It’s all part of God’s plan.

3.  Acceptance.  Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.

So many of the lessons I learned sitting with Sean MacFarlane, Jeremy Zimmer, Bryan Freedman and you Chris in the rooms of SAA and AA… listening to the 12 Steps kicked in and saved my ass.

And so… I sat in the jail.  For 86 days I sat in the jail.  I’ve already written about that, Chris.  I’m sure you’ve read it.

Almost immediately, the plan began to gently fray.  The first part of the plan depended on my finding the situation in jail… terrifying and intolerable.

You thought I was like you and Bryan and Jeremy and so many entitled, affluent white dudes?  You were certain I’d agree to anything to get out… including your terms. You thought I’d crumble.  You thought I’d lay down and die.  But the only thing crumbling… was your plan.

Chris, as you subsequently learned, I’m a stubborn son of a bitch and I wasn’t agreeing to anything.  So, for a few weeks I went back and forth to court.  The first two judges were ghastly and totally on your side.  They refused to listen to evidence, they were rude and surly to my attorney.

Do you remember?  I sat in front of you at the pre-trial.  I was shackled.  You sneered at me Chris.  This is where I learned how much you hated me after our date.  This is where it became apparent to me the rich can do anything they want in an American court.  They can buy the court just like they buy everything else.  Protected by your tame prosecutor, Chris… you looked so very smug.

After keeping me illegally in the jail for 86 days without a whiff of surrender, without capitulating, without giving an inch…. the ACLU started sniffing around my case and someone got scared.  Someone was likely going to be held responsible if something happened to me.  If I died in the jail of cancer… or a gall stone blockage… or fell victim to the violent deputy culture in the jail, which might very well have happened.

I realized two months into my incarceration:  Wow, this situation is illegal and someone… someone is going to have to pay for this!   I’m going to get paid for this.  I relaxed, thinking to myself:  another tough day at the office.   I played cards, I ate pork rinds, I had visitors, I kept myself out of trouble and I waited.

I told my friends on the phone I suspected my incarceration was illegal… knowing I was being listened to.   Then, one evening with a little warning from the Mexican nuns working in the jail for the Esperanza Project, I was called from my dorm, sat in a holding cell for a few hours, handed my clothes and ushered out of a small, unassuming door at the back of the jail.

The puckered asshole of the jail. Shat out onto the balmy LA streets.

At the final reckoning I was paid for every day I was illegally held as a pre-trial detainee without recourse to bail.

Fuck Chris, the day they released me from the jail you were on the phone for hours to your lawyers and the prosecutor and the prosecutor to your lawyers.  My release terrified you and a simple order of protection wouldn’t mollify you.  As I was getting out of the jail and headed home to Malibu and my dog… you were hiring 24 hour body guards.  You were frightened I would come after you.  And why wouldn’t you be scared?  After all, you and your friends had kept me locked up illegally for three months.

I must admit, when I first read this flurry of activity in your restitution claim (you expected me to pay your lawyers fees) and the hiring of body guards as documented in your restitution claim I laughed out loud.  I have no other weapon than this blog. The only weapon I have is so American:  freedom of speech.

Once out of the jail my lawyers and I relaxed into a long wait for you and your lawyers to alter your expectations.  You hadn’t really worked out what would happen if I didn’t capitulate.  You hadn’t worked on finding a corrupt trial judge.  You thought I’d be long gone.

Brian_Turnauer-Profile_Headshot-post_by-Rodezno_Studios-web

BRIAN TURNAUER

Were you assured by ‘Super Attorney’ Bryan Freedman and his unfortunately large featured lackey Brian Turnauer they would find you a sympathetic trial judge?

The catastrophic and totally unexpected final blow to your plan came soon after my release: Ms Wise seemed poleaxed by the judge assigned to our case: enter the unassailable Judge Jessic.  The Judge who couldn’t be bought.  The judge most likely to have integrity.  You should have seen Anne-Marie’s face Chris,  when she realized our Judge wasn’t going to play the game.  My favorite line of Judge Jessic’s to Ms Wise?

“I must admit I’m finding it difficult wrapping my head around this charge.  What’s the difference between threatening to blog and threatening to write a Yelp review?”

The prosecutor hung her head and said quietly… ‘nothing’.  You should have been there Chris is was GREAT.  Just like the time… and I’m repeating myself but it’s worth repeating… when Judge Jessic wondered out loud why I was sitting in the dock and not you.   We all know the reason for that Chris?   Because justice in the USA is reserved for the few who can afford it.

How quickly a felony dissolves into a convoluted misdemeanor when you can’t buy the judge.  At the suggestion of the ACLU I refused to plead guilty to anything and opted for the Californian ‘No Contest’ plea.  The huge restitution claim was whittled to almost nothing.  No fines or costs to pay.  All you were likely to get out of your ‘plan’ was a gag order.  A three-year gag order.

I had to sit quietly on probation for 18 months.  A grimy realtor from AA, the appalling self-promoting/self-obsessed/self-publishing Robert Radcliffe (Sotheby’s Palisades), called the police and told them I had been rude about you Chris Cortazzo.  I read the police interview, Rob.  The lies you told!  The police jumped all over the claim spending hours of their time filing reports.  Jessic threw it out.  He knew what was happening.

Tell me Chris, even though it’s election year and this may be dangerous conjecture.. I’m guessing Hillary Clinton did your federal bidding… just a guess?  To hold me indefinitely in jail… breaking the rules.  Did your billionaire mentor Barry Diller do the leg work?  Did Barry call the Mayor or the state department?   I can’t imagine Hillary would take your call, Chris.

I returned to the Palisades AA stag meeting.  The discomfort on the faces of Jeremy Zimmer, Bryan Freedman, John Artz (Malibu based DUI attorney with plenty personal experience of DUI) and the Dutch creep who burglarized my house whilst I was in jail.  I wasn’t disappointed.  They were outraged!  Jeremy complained bitterly I had broken AA laws by blogging about him.  Fuck you Jeremy Zimmer.  Fuck you.  There are no AA laws. There are no leaders.

Chris, this is the blog I must have written a thousand times since I left the jail, I wrote it… then deleted it.  I wrote it… then deleted it.  I must have torn up a million words.  Sometimes, I would frame the blog as an apology, sometimes a roiling river of resentment.   I had months to write it, months to rewrite it.  Waiting for the gag to be removed.

And now?  How did you affect the rest of my life?  As I outlined in my damages claim, I have PTSD.  I deal with it.  The experience inspired a general disgust for affluent, white gay men and specifically a loathing for realtors, lawyers and Hollywood agents.

The extortion law was originally written to protect people who had committed crimes or had secrets from being violently blackmailed.  Of course it’s hard luck when, in life, one gets fucked over.  In America the potential for being fucked over is a daily hazard, most often than not those who manage to successfully do the fucking over are hailed as the winners.  Just look at the Wall Street ‘winners’ rewarded for fucking over the entire nation.

Unlike most people who get fucked over, who cannot fight back…I have this modest blog.  It has proved to be one of the most effective fog horns in the world.

EPILOGUE 

Try as he might, Chris Cortazzo couldn’t keep out of trouble.  Chris faces more legal challenges.  As well as the lawsuit with Hiroki the Chinese Billionaire another grubby lawsuit has emerged… from a desperate Persian family whose property Cortazzo represented.  They are claiming Chris cruelly ripped them off.  The truths Chris feared most have revealed themselves.  A theme emerges: those of us who have publicly aired our grievances with Chris Cortazzo share a common bond.  We are all foreigners in the USA.

As for the legion of Million Dollar Listing fans who couldn’t believe Chris was anything other than a saint?  I ignored the lies written about me all over the internet; I don’t have to prove myself to anyone.  There’s no shame in my game.  With the help of the ACLU I sued LA County and a substantial financial settlement arrived from the City of Los Angeles a year later.  I sold my beautiful Malibu house.  I moved to New York and set about reinventing my life.

Bryan Freedman.  (I’m slowly shaking my head.)  There was a time I held you in such high regard I asked you to become my AA sponsor   It’s hard to forgive you Bryan.  You, Sean MacFarlane, John Artz and Jeremy Zimmer are the worst kind of ‘sober’ people.   Daily celebrating the AA message of humility, espousing the 12 Steps, quoting The Big Book… declaring forgiveness and ownership of ones defects of character.   Your ‘sobriety’ is a sham.  You may as well be drinking/drugging /cheating on your wives.  You remain the same Trump like arrogant hypocrites, behaving contrary to the AA message, as you always were.  The very same men who arrived in our rooms broken and defeated (I remember your stories)  begging for help with their alcoholism and sex addiction.  You have learned nothing… whilst affording me the greatest gift: LA County Jail.

The Brentwood celebrity Sex Addict meeting moved locations.  An undercover journalist sat amongst the sex addict group from a sleazy British newspaper.  He called me, wanted me to help him out.  The SAA attendees scattered. Members of the meeting asked why there was little financial accounting within the group.  Every week the 100 or so the very rich men in that school room would drop five or ten dollars in the ‘7th Tradition’ basket.  No one could account for it.  Where had the money gone?  Sean was removed by democratic vote as the group leader.  His wife left him.  The meeting disintegrated.

The cult of snake oil salesman Sean MacFarlane is not new to the anonymous programs.  AA/NA is particularly prone to charismatic leaders guiding the incomprehensibly demoralized addict and alcoholic out of the shadows and into the light.  Rehabs, sober living accommodation, half way houses and addiction counsellors… facilities mostly run by addicts and alcoholics, the lunatics are indeed running the asylum.  No doubt there will be many other Sean MacFarlanes ‘helping’ other desperate addicts achieve sobriety… of course,  for huge sums of money and little consequence.


Carol, the well written, well designed, well shot, well acted but ultimately turgid new movie by avant garde industry darling Todd Haynes has a fan base… an angry, indignant fan base.

Many beyond the film industry feel this mostly second rate film should have earned a place in the best film and best director categories at this years academy awards.

The vociferous fans feel the film has been ‘snubbed’.

There are blogs and op eds and blazing Facebook posts about this apparent injuctice. The fans blame homophobia, misandry, misogyny and fear of women’s sexuality.

Even though Carol has in fact been nominated in 6 categories including the prestigious written adaptation category this is not enough for many disgruntled Carol fans.

There’s plenty to complain about this award season.  People of colour are vanished from the awards. Female directors?  None.  The roles women are asked to play:

Best Actor jobs: Screenwriter, astronaut, trapper, inventor, artist.

Best Actress jobs: Mommy, lady, inventor, girl, wife.

I’m wondering if, after this so called scandal, members of the academy will bother voting for this slight film at all.

Wether they are directed by white men or not (Carol was directed by a white man, a man… why?) most of the other nominated films are simply more engaging and well directed.

Personally, I’m rooting for The Big Short. There, I said it.

2.

Tivoli is under siege this afternoon,  gangs of identically dressed gay men.  Fur trimmed Parkers and skinny jeans.

Identical white gay boys.  Vile.

They stare at me dressed in my tweeds and hunters like I’m a fucking circus freak.

Fuck off.

Last week a very young gay friend attended the Trevor Project’s Trevor Live 2015 event.  My friend is a proud member of their youth advisory council.  The Trevor Project remains one of the most ambitious and honorable LGBT organizations currently available to at risk LGBT young people, providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth.

The Trevor Project was founded in 1998 in West Hollywood, California, by James Lecesne, Peggy Rajski, and Randy Stone. Creators of the 1994 Academy Award-winning short film Trevor, a dramedy about Trevor, a gay thirteen-year-old boy who, when rejected by friends because of his sexuality, makes an attempt to take his life.

Before this brave film aired on HBO the filmmakers, realizing that some of the program’s young viewers might face the same kind of crisis as Trevor, searched for a support line to be broadcast during the airing. They discovered that no such helpline existed and decided to dedicate themselves to forming an organization to promote acceptance of LGBTQ youth.

My young friend flew from the east coast to attend the event and by all accounts had a very enjoyable time… until he was sexually assaulted by an older gay man in front of his friends who thought it appropriate to cat call and high five each other when they saw my young friend being inappropriately groped.

It was not the only time that night he was sexually harassed/assaulted.

“I don’t understand why people think it’s ok to grab my ass and say crude, sexually charged comments.”  He said.

When I urged him to write to the Trevor Project and let them know what happened he was worried that they wouldn’t take the complaint seriously because the rich white men who had assaulted him were big donors to the Trevor Project.

I could write endlessly about gay white men, their pink privilege, their resistance to the notion of sexual consent and a widely held gay belief that men can’t assault, harass or rape other men.

My friend has (as of today) not written to The Trevor Project to report these incidents at their Trevor Live event.  It’s very hard for a young man, recently out, to articulate his disgust for this kind of behavior.

The assault did not take place in a bar or club where these assaults occur  all the time… more often than not overlooked by victim and perpetrator.  It happened at a fund raising event for at risk youth.

 

charles-james-gowns-by-cecil-beaton-vogue-june-1948

In the jail I was enveloped by the trans community.  They showed me the way.  Black trans women.  They were not entitled white girls, passing themselves off on the street like women born women. They were black trans women subject to everything a black women suffers (and more) on the streets of racist USA.  These women are considered worthless, trash, undignified.  I related to these people.  They taught me more than I had learned for decades.

This winter I will be wearing couture suits.  A jacket and skirt. Based on a Charles James classic.  I found a brilliant couturier to make them, one in dark green tweed and another in aubergine silk velvet.  They are interchangeable.  Deliberately,  I get four outfits for the cost of two.  A lady has to look after her pennies.

My hope?  To look like a lesbian geography teacher from an exclusive private girls school. I rather think I’m going to look like the chef from Two Fat Ladies, Clarissa Dickson-Wright.  I have no desire to look feminine.  Butch lesbians are far more attractive to me than pretty girls.  If I ever had a sex change I am sure to be a lesbian.

Without the power of the penis I am a free man.

I have, these past couple of years since I left the jail, submerged myself in trans culture.  My silly film about Jake became an audacious film about a trans woman and the men who chase her.  My desire to reprimand my ex became a beautiful treatise on my own trans curiosity.  One thing is certain.  If I am true to this path I will never leave the big city.  I will never live in Whitstable.

There is something about rotting pears on the pavement, wasps feeding on the smashed fruit that transports me to my hometown of Whitstable.  There is something about the occasional warm day in October when I hanker for my home.

Last week I had a serious meeting about a play.  I have not written a play or thought about the theatre for years.  This is an exciting  possibility once again.  I have no desire to direct.  NONE.  Write… yes.  Direct… no.

I met a young trans person yesterday.

There is a chasm between gay men and trans people.  My friend Our Lady J disputes this but my other less glamorous, non performing blue-collar trans buddies tell horrible stories of gay people and their rudeness and transphobia.  Bluntly, why should a gay man be interested in a trans woman?  Gay men sleep with men… not women.  However, out of their trans costumes some young working class non theatrical trans m to f are berated and insulted when they tell gay men what they are into.

If you are a young trans person where do you go to meet empathetic straight men?  Many young, transitioning straight men misguidedly think they can meet men through gay dating apps like Grindr.  They make their trans position clear.

He said, “I tell them I want to dress as a woman when I meet them, that it’s only going to work if I am dressed as a girl.  They tell me it’s not ok.  They let me wear panties but won’t tolerate anything else.”

I am taking him on a date this week.  He’s excited to wear a dress and paint his nails.  He says, “There are two of me, straight me wants to meet trans me and fall in love.”  That was very beautiful.

I met another white gay man in NYC, an undergrad at NYU, who condescendingly lectured me about trans culture.  He vehemently posited that any man who wears a skirt is transgender, that make up on a man is transgender, that drag is indisputably transgender.  That the word transvestite was like saying nigger or faggot.   He told me he wants to help his trans brothers and sisters at his university.  What help will he be?   I couldn’t be bothered to fight.  We had sex and I threw him out of my room.

Since I embraced this new path I have come to love my body.  No longer interested in what metropolitan gay men think I should look like to enjoy a full life.   I have been watching endless documentaries.   Paris is Burning versus Candy Darling.  The concerns of the former oblivious to the latter.

I am looking forward to wearing my new suit in the big city.  I’m excited.

Today transvestite (self described) artist, honored by Queen Elizabeth and the British Government, Grayson Perry writes brilliantly in the New Statesman about default man.  Read it here.

Bill Wilson VT

I am responsible. When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there. And for that: I am responsible.

Today is my sober birthday.  My 18th year.

The non-sober people who warmly congratulate me on my sober birthday are unaware that within the benign cult of Alcoholics Anonymous abstinence, is not good enough.  The first question many non alcoholics reasonably ask, “Why, after so many years, do you still go to meetings?”  The truth is, sobriety as defined by William Griffith Wilson has become an absolute way of life: a total immersion, a divine calling, a cross onto which we nail ourselves and each other,  a commitment to a God of our own invention that leads unquestioningly to a daily reprieve from the disease of alcoholism.

Last week, I traveled north to East Dorset, Vermont to the birth place and grave of Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.  I was shown a plank, casually nailed to the wall, behind which Bill Wilson was born.  The gentleman sitting beside me pointed at it, lowering his eyes, telling the story of Bill’s birth with the same reverential gravity christians afford the Nativity.  The following day I sat at my lap top and wondered out loud to fellow gay alcoholics (on a gay sober Facebook page) how things have changed since Bill W and Dr Bob Silkworth framed the beginnings of what would become a world-wide phenomenon.

Much has changed in the rooms of AA since I got sober 18 years ago.   AA has evolved.  When I walked into my first meeting the message was clear.  AA was a ‘bridge to normal living’,  it was the nearest a person like me would get to being ‘born again’.  It was suggested that I look for the similarities and not the difference when people qualified.  It was suggested that I find a sponsor.   A sponsor is a man or woman willing to take an AA new comer through the ubiquitous 12 steps.

Men sponsoring men and women sponsoring women to avoid romantic complications.

Sponsorship used to be a humble service, a helping hand, unraveling the mysteries of AA.  A familiar face to show a newby around the rooms… as well as to go through the 12 steps.  That first year I did whatever I was told to do.  I made tea, cleaned up cigarette butts, I diligently read the Big Book.  I was advised to find a sponsor who had what I wanted… all  I wanted was peace of mind.  I met Vince who took me swiftly through the steps.  I remained willing and teachable.  Vince was the perfect introduction to AA and to him I will always be grateful.  It is because of the solid foundation Vince helped me build in early sobriety that I remain sober today.

Since then, sponsorship has become a monstrous beast riven with ego, co-dependence and self-aggrandizement.  Sponsors congratulate themselves for the number of sponsees they have.  Sponsors throw extravagant anniversary parties, positing their bloated and wholly personal ideas about sobriety, none of which has anything to do with Bill and Bob’s original intentions.  Sponsors have become demi-gods, using and abusing their sponsees at will.

They say: Call me every day, don’t have sex for a year, we’ll do this my way… or the highway.

Originally the newcomer completed the first 8 steps in a day with someone who had already completed all 12 steps.  Step 8 to step 12 would be worked a few weeks later.  Today sponsors can take years to go through the steps, they might not have completed the 12 steps themselves.   Too many sponsors make step work as hard a task as becoming a brain surgeon.

These sponsors use the book of AA against the newcomer, a hopeful… enthusiastic day counter (a day counter is someone who publicly announces how many days sober they are until 90 days have elapsed) may become disillusioned with the huge amount of written work he or she is required to do.  These ghastly sponsors tell the newcomer that they have to be thorough, scrupulously honest, that half measures avail them nothing.

Step 1: the simple act of owning up and surrender is now a protracted treatise on powerlessness and unmanageability.  Step 2: accepting God into my life as a power greater than myself requiring me to bow to anything other than my own will… has become a religious conversion.  Step 3:  the elegant proposal that ones life has been so poorly managed that it is best handed over to a higher power or… God.  Step 4: (a moral inventory) designed originally to swiftly clear away the wreckage of ones past so one might better embrace God and sobriety has become a monster of self-examination, scrutiny and fear.   A monster so fearful most will not get beyond step 4 to step 5.

This is not all.  There are endless stories of Sponsors taking advantage of their sponsees sexually, taking their money, abusing their trust.  In gay AA, because men are sponsoring men, romantic and sexual entanglements are rife.

The problem is:  many gay men I meet in AA or NA are not alcoholics or addicts.  They are lonely, friendless and stuck in a miserable half-life that the gays offer in lieu of community.  They are drinking and taking drugs and hooking up.  The gay dream.  When they realize this is all there is… they turn to AA where they find friends, fellowship and community.  A frat house of sober gays who never had a drinking problem in the first place.

When real alcoholics, desperate drug addicts wander into this clean white environment the gays simply don’t know what to do.  They look askance at the homeless, the beggar and scarcely offer their manicured hands.

The gays have created a ghetto at the edge of AA where they get away with murder.  Literally.  Only last week I heard of another man who killed himself because he couldn’t connect or feel included by gay AA.  If this gay sober cabal were working to keep the majority sober (happy joyous and free) then I would have no argument with gay AA but the facts are: many, many gay men leave AA after 5 years.  This is evident from the ‘countdown’ where we celebrate anniversaries. After seven years there is a chasm, a ten-year gap… between those who stayed and those who left AA.

The enthusiasm (pink cloud) a new comer experiences during the first five years tails off into abject misery as they realize AA isn’t about making friends, fucking cute sober boys and going to sober circuit parties.  It is about being present for ever.  For ever and ever.

As with any small, incestuous group of men and women desperately holding onto cultish beliefs… anyone who challenges what and how they believe is destined to be ostracized. It happens in Gay AA, LA AA, Men’s Stag AA.   Christ,  I sat in a men’s stag AA meeting above a Palisades bank at 7am for nearly a decade.  I witnessed and experienced bullying, homophobia, misogyny, ageism, racism… every day.  Yet, somehow within the rooms of AA, this is perfectly acceptable.  I returned recently to that room above the bank after having written about the ogres who live there.  Those I had written in my blog looked disgusted… then conveniently reimagined AA in their own image.

A sniveling, grey haired, Dickensian lawyer called John told the group how ‘unsafe’ he felt that I was sitting in ‘his’ home group.  Choosing to ignore the AA ‘suggestions’ and ‘traditions’  he personally attacks me.  His greasy hair limp on his pink, mottled forehead, his uneven yellow teeth, his waxy hands trembling with fury.

Another pompous member of that same group, perhaps the vilest of them all, surrounded by the vapid newcomers he sponsors… momentarily forgets his ‘singleness of purpose’ and tangles himself in a crippling scribble of resentment and self pity.   To the amusement and horror of the other alcoholics in the room he lambasts a recent widower who had foolishly delivered a favorable pitch about forgiving and forgetting.  Warning (me obviously) that he holds onto resentments… then magnificently back tracks… realizing how pathetic he sounds to those recent converts to Alcoholics Anonymous he hopes to inspire.

Too many men have left that dank room above the bank and killed themselves.

Online, the gays reacted very badly to my mild critique, my gentle questioning.  They told me I wasn’t sober… that I was ‘dry’, (dry is a pejorative term in AA meaning sober without working the 12 steps of AA) they tell me to go have a drink.  They tell me to leave AA.  More evidence of the sickness that exists not only in gay AA but also within our larger gay community.

I am not leaving AA any time soon.  If I drink (as they suggest)  I will return to AA a hero.  If I don’t drink I will return to AA a hero.  There’s very little they, my detractors, can do.  When they tell me to drink they are really telling me to kill myself… and many will attest that is exactly what the weak-willed have done.  Excluded by the cult of gay AA they have taken their own lives.

Each Alcoholics Anonymous group ought to be a spiritual entity having but one primary purpose — that of carrying its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.

Bill Wilson Grave VT

 

Benji 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

Birthday Cake 2014

 

They had the complexion of wealth, that white complexion that is heightened by the pallor of porcelain, the sheen of satin, the luster of fine furniture, and is kept in perfect condition by a moderate diet of exquisite foods.  Those who were beginning to age seemed youthful, while those who were young had a certain look of maturity. Their faces wore that placid expression which comes from the daily gratification of the passions; and beneath their polished manners one could sense the special brutality that comes from half-easy triumphs which test one’s strength and flatter one’s vanity.

Madam Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

It’s a hot and humid morning in NYC. Tompkins Square Park is dripping.  The dog walkers are melting.

We drove from Provincetown yesterday, leaving the pretty streets, the clapboard houses and verdant gardens to Bear Week. Thousands of large, hairy shouldered men smiling and engaging not scowling or isolating like the circuit boys who infested the town two weeks previously during the 4th July celebration.

The past six weeks in Provincetown were, on the whole, a great deal of fun. I met a huge assortment of extraordinary and not so extraordinary people. I saw people I knew from LA and NYC. I met men and women from DC, Nashville and Florida. Mostly enjoying their week off, some of them… not so much.   Americans get so few vacations.

The A gays who live in Provincetown were kind and considerate.  They have beautiful homes and make them readily available to those they trust.

The extraordinary designer Ken Fulk has restored a perfect gem of a house in The East End where I was privileged to spend the 4th July and then see photographed by famed society doyenne Douglas Friedman for Elle Decor.  Editor Robert Ruffino scampering around arranging flowers wearing his Florentine winkle pickers.

The walls are the color of raspberry mousse, the windows frames and architrave painted chocolate-brown.

 

My birthday dinner:  an anonymous donor very kindly paid for.

I really didn’t know anyone very well at my party, except Michael Goff and Michael Cunningham.  So when it came to making my speech, after the candle was snuffed, I said: “I don’t know any of you at all… but this delightful group of strangers came together to celebrate the birthday of another stranger… and with such magnanimity it brings tears to my eyes.”

The following day I told someone from the party that I had no intention of making friends with him beyond Provincetown because our friendship could only flourish on the Cape.  He looked a little perplexed but one has to be realistic.  When we return to the city a tsunami of gay gossip will drown the truth and ones expectations will be dashed.

Michael Cunningham

The utterly adorable Michael Cunningham (who I had known previously through Amelia Rizo) made a necklace for my birthday.  We sat in his exquisitely decorated water front home, surrounded by magnificent art, picking out trinkets for a silver chain.  I had a moment of unrestrained excitement as I realized that a Pulitzer Prize winning author, writer of The Hours, was making me a birthday present with his bare hands.  He continued, throughout my stay, to delight and engage.  We discussed Emma Bovary.   We… of a certain age, share the same literary starting blocks… but he won the race.

We talked about Neil Bartlett‘s beautiful book Who Was That Man.  Required reading for any young gay.

There were many occasions these past weeks when I noticed how relaxed I was, at peace, living in my own body, inhabiting the life I have rather than the life I thought I wanted.   There were, of course, other occasions when a face from the past popped into view and caused momentary consternation.  The vile, blond publicist/image consultant, owner of Black Frame Brian Phillips who, wether he likes it or not, is in my social orbit but never bothers to be cordial.  Or the ex boyfriend Chris Shipman who cycled around town with his thin calves and sad eyes.  I ignored the ex and engaged with fey Brian Phillips who sat in his chair as I forcefully reminded him what an evil cunt he can be and how he seems unable to keep and love another man due to his crippling narcissism.

I met Jim Lande, producer of the hit burlesque/freak show Audition and talked about his flawed film: Love is Strange directed by Ira Sachs.  Shown at The Provincetown Film Festival this beautifully shot and directed film promises so much but fails to deliver… relying on coincidence and melodrama.  The film lacks any real emotion.  Two old gay married men separated by circumstance and bad choices.  Could have been brilliant but… wasn’t.

I kept away from the drag shows and the theatrical events but I saw Ryan Landry‘s inventive and surreal Pantomime: Snow White and The Seven Bottoms which reminded me of Charles Ludlam.  Go see this if you can.

Jim Lande

I spent a great deal of time chatting with the adorable Andrew Sullivan and his husband Aaron Tone. The gays, on the whole, are openly hostile to Andrew, they accuse him of being a ‘traitor to the gays’ because he aggressively posits an alternative view. Our politics couldn’t be more different yet we agreed about so much, mainly our loathing of powerful lobby groups like AIPAC, GLAAD and the HRC.  I found him to be gracious and engaging.

 

Andrew told fascinating stories about his private dinners with President Obama, his short-lived stay in NYC, the history of his three-legged dog. We sat outside The Wired Puppy coffee shop on Commercial Street where I witnessed at first hand the disdain the gays show him and the delight straight people have… in equal measure.

The white gays may never understand his POV because by now they think they rule the world.

Andy Towle

I spent time with Michael Goff and Andy Towle in town to promote their site towleroad.com, we greeted the first of the bears at the dock with 20 drag Goldilocks who boasted that they had eaten all the porridge.  We sat in their charming house and ate whatever they had in their fridge.  We took my friend Caroline Reid to a Bear-B-Q, Caroline is cult performer PamAnn.  We took her to more bear events where she was the only woman.   Her fans adore her.

Andy Towle, Caroline Reid and Michael Goff

And that was that.  There were other amusing people to play with who I haven’t mentioned.  There were less amusing people who I hope I never see again.

Thanks Provincetown and… adieu.

 

 

Meat Doll, John Derian

Provincetown, for those who have never been, is basically one long Victorian street… Commercial Street.   Primarily an LGBT resort most everyone seems welcome here.  At all times of night and day Commercial Street teems with pedestrians, bicycles and many dogs.  Cars edge cautiously amongst the chaos.   During the season (June-September) there are themed entertainment weeks (Saturday to Saturday) for gays, lesbians and trans visitors.

Near the Town Hall at town’s center there are bars, candy stores and tourist favorites like The Lobster Pot serving lobster rolls and oysters.  Provincetown has become an unlikely hen night/bachelorette party destination.  Rowdy, drunk girls dressed in cheap veils patrol the streets screaming raucous songs and hitting men on the head with large dildos… true story.  Drag queens, by the way, love dildos and hate Bachelorettes.

My Two Mums

Commercial Street is divided into East and West Ends.  It’s probably best to work out which end is which within minutes of arriving here.  So, facing from the bay where the ferry disgorged… the west will be to your left, the east to your right.  I start my day, every day at 7am, after my beach walk with the dogs… unleashed, on the patio at:

1. Joe‘s

170 Commercial St, Provincetown, MA 02657  Phone: 508 487-6656

Hours: 7:00 am – 7:00 pm

West End.

Delicious, fragrant coffee served by an attentive bunch who remember both your name and what you want.  Joe’s is a  staple breakfast haunt for most of the cool ‘townies’ (locals).  It’s common to see straight-backed, imperious Andrew Sullivan arrive with his husband on their ancient dutch bikes or watch John Waters sail elegantly by dressed in Issy Miyake.   Ryan Murphy and his adorable family chowing down on their morning baked goods.

Try the delicious, freshly baked almond croissant… but get there early to avoid disappointment.

A perfect place to eavesdrop!  Who fucks who?  Learn all the local gossip:  “They bring their terrible taste from the suburbs…”  A great way to start the day with everyone who works or lives in Provincetown… and a few tourists.

Meet this man drinking coffee and eating his breakfast:

20140624-084018-31218099.jpg

2. Loveland

West End.

120 Commercial Street  Provincetown, Massachusetts 02657  Phone: 508 413-9500

Run by Josh Patner ex Rome based fashion journalist and stylist, this charming haunt is brimming with local and international art.  Possibly the chicest most eclectic store in town.  Beware!  By August almost everything has been sold.  Look out for beautiful and reasonably priced ceramics by:  Gail S. Browne.

I bought a beautiful vase by Gail Browne and a gorgeous 18th Century throw.

Gail Browne

3. Room 68

East End

377 Commercial Street, Provincetown, MA 02657  Phone: 617-942-7425

Room 68 is Eric Portnoy’s 21st century gift shop.  Originally out of Boston’s Jamaica Plain – 68 South Street, originating the store’s name.  Look for Debra Folz  ingenious extending ash table and more of her award-winning work.  For those drowning in bad art glass and cat portraits… Room 68 is a welcome high style lifeboat on the choppy sea of capey mediocrity – quite unlike any other found on Commercial Street… or on Cape Cod.

4. Canteen

Town Center

225 Commercial Street, Provincetown, MA 02657  Phone: 508  487-3800

Opened in 2013 Canteen continues its stunning success.  This charming restaurant is perfectly situated at the heart of Provincetown, offering a simple, unpretentious menu that capitalizes on local favorites like the ubiquitous Lobster Roll but served in a wholly original way.  Like the interior of this nautical themed dining room the food is fresh, clean and authentic.  The deep-fried smelt with tartar sauce are not everyone’s cup of tea… but I love them.  Order everything with re-fried Brussels sprouts doused in an aromatic balsamic reduction and remember to sit in the newly opened garden overlooking the dunes and the spectacular sunset.

5. Red Inn

West End

15 Commercial St, Provincetown, MA 02657  Phone: 508 487-7334

Away from the madding Provincetown crowd, either a 30 minute walk or a ten minute rickshaw ride is the legendary Red Inn.  Consistency, taste and prompt service make this elegant venue an essential but expensive must see.  Last night we ate perfectly prepared filet mignon, served by delightfully charming staff at the bar over looking the spectacular bay.  Older bearded gay men with their well behaved hounds sit on the terrace and drink cocktails.  One eats reasonably priced oysters during happy hour (4pm-5pm) or lounge in the very British country garden: lavender, roses and sweet-william perfume the early evening breeze.

Provincetown Garden

6. Mimere’s Homemade

Town Center

281 Commercial Street #4, Provincetown, MA 02657 Phone: 917 670-7561

Opened by ex-banker Andrew Hood just this year to sell his vast array of delicious home-made, seasonal jams and jellies using old-fashioned techniques.  I bought 6 different flavors including hefeweizen (wheat beer and orange) and red onion preserve.  The chunky peach jam is particularly delicious, slathered on crusty toast from the Pain D’Avignon French Bakery found at Provincetown Farmer’s market held every Saturday by the Town Hall.

 

7. Provincetown Film Festival

Town Center

Provincetown Town Hall, 260 Commercial Street, Provincetown, MA 02657  Phone: 508 487-7000

This years Provincetown Film Festival, hailed a huge success, attracting viewers from all over the world.  I met women from Europe and a couple from Australia who coincided their holiday with the film festival.   A well-organized and international feeling festival The Provincetown Film Festival grows in reputation every year.  This year I saw Andrew Sullivan rip a new ass hole in the makers of the ghastly Chad Griffin propaganda film: The Case Against 8, at a festival breakfast.   I couldn’t think of a better way to spend $25.

As I left the breakfast feeling exhilarated, I bumped into a huge and handsome man, I said, “Did you see that! Andrew Sullivan is my hero!”

He replied, “Me too, that’s why I married him.”

Andrew Sullivan at Ptown Film Breakfast

8. Fag Bash at The Governor Bradford

Town Center

312 Commercial St  Provincetown, MA 02657

I’ve already written at length about this wonderful, subversive spectacle.  A delightful Wednesday night basement party.  Arrive at 11pm, leave at 1am.  Wear your finest drag.  I expect the ghost of Leigh Bowery to make an appearance at any moment.  Remember, most everything closes at 1am in Ptown.

Tranny Fun at Fag Bash

 

9. John Derian

East End

396 Commercial Street Provincetown, MA 02657 Phone: 508 487-1362

The queen of decoupage Derian runs a tiny showroom a world away from his NYC empire.  It is packed with essential nick nacks at the back of his Greek revival Ptown home.  Black, $500 paper hollyhocks are not immediately alluring or justified… but… with time… anything is possible.  I love the meat dolls by Nathalie Lete and the papier-mache hippo head.  At night, as you pass by, envy his candle lit parties for Martha Stuart… and other gorgeous celebrities.

This boy will serve you.  His name is Kevin and he is DIVINE.

20140624-084240-31360813.jpg

10. Monument Barbershop

West End

145 Commercial Street, Provincetown MA Phone: 508 487-5151

Once a week I drop into see the charming, flirtatious Joey to have my hair and beard trimmed.  It’s essential whenever you are anywhere for longer than a week to locate a great barber and Joey is he.  Very reasonably priced, very funny and he’s… totally gorgeous.  In fact, I’m off there, right now to get my neck shaved.

Quebec Boy

 

 

Penny Arcade

Gay men in Los Angeles told researchers that they believed a culture that focuses on one-night stands and partying, that emphasizes perfect bodies and good looks, that prizes material possessions, that sees gay men tearing each other down as they compete for attention and that pressures gay men to fit in or conform is bound to create unhappiness, stress and unhealthy behaviors.

The word on the street in gay resort/haven Provincetown?  The straights are coming, they are coming thick and fast, young affluent heterosexuals buying property, renting holiday apartments and day tripping.  I was reassured by a cool, 31-year-old, straight person yesterday that this was the heterosexual ‘tipping point’.  Of course (if true) the reasons are obvious.  The older more affluent crowd of gay men and lesbians who bought affordable homes here twenty years ago are simply not that interesting to a less ghettoized younger gay crowd who go to Fire Island or Mykonos where a good gay thumping time is assured, where they can find an affordable share for the summer… anyway, the drag is so much better the closer you get to NYC.

Provincetown Garden

Young straight men and women who used to actively avoid hanging in gay ghettos… or felt uncomfortable no longer have any reservation.  This, my dears is one of the more unexpected changes that comes with ‘integration’.  Our gay communities, gay clubs and gay bars will dilute as we become more heteronormative.

How do the gays feel about straight people buying into the gay and lesbian ghetto dream?  I hear grumblings from some, but what can they say?  We can’t restrict straight people from joining the party?  Before the great shift, the Obama ‘evolution’, the Blair/Mandleson equality bill I would regularly challenge straight people who came to our clubs and bars, wondering why they were there… if they understood why gays and lesbians created safe spaces for themselves… now apparently we all live in a safe space… together.

If the war is won do we abandon the notion of a safe space, a gay bar, an LGBTQ community? Is that what we were fighting for?  As it turns out, gay men are still living shameful and secretive lives… safely hidden from prying eyes.  No longer behind the blacked out windows of the gay bar but on the internet where we can fully reinvent ourselves as muscle-bound avatars, 10 years younger than we really are.

The gay bar, meanwhile… becomes a themed experience for enlightened neo-liberal heterosexuals.  After all, gay men don’t need to meet one another in real life when we can meet on-line, reducing our interaction before a sexual encounter to the barest possible exchange of relevant facts.  Hung? Looking? Party?

The same heterosexual land grab is happening in the Fire Island Pines gay community.  Straight people are buying and renting homes at a faster rate than gay people. Of course… the truth is, we never really owned the lions share of Fire Island Pines… it was always owned by straight people.  Three heterosexual families who control The Pines real estate market.

In San Francisco‘s iconic gay area The Castro we are facing extinction in our natural habitat, bought out/selling out to silicone valley billions.  What are we left with?  Our sad LGBT ‘pride’ parade: a blinded corporate-sponsored dinosaur serving only the breweries and distilleries, no longer a political defiance… no longer worth a pilgrimage by those newly out yearning to see gays en masse… the gay parade and all it seeks to celebrate merely adds to our woes, confirming the worst about who we have become.

Little Dog

How long will it take for Provincetown to lose its unique identity and become just another Cape Cod town? The Pines,  just another beach community on Fire Island?  How long will it take for our history to be lost, forgotten or ignored by apathetic gay white men who have no interest in those who came before?  The heroes who fought decades of violent oppression, the ‘gay plague’, who demanded equality… how long will it be until their names are erased?

Do you know who they are?  Harvey Milk… and…

The politics of invisibility.

As the quality of our lives collectively ‘improves’, as we ‘integrate’ due to the passing of progressive equality laws why are we still facing a crisis?  Why do gay men continue to struggle with life-threatening health problems at alarmingly high rates compared to straight men — alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, suicide, and sexually transmitted diseases.

Gay and bisexual men are still most impacted by HIV/AIDS and syphilis, they suffer higher rates of substance abuse, they are more likely to drink heavily later into life, and they are more likely to commit suicide and suffer major depression and anxiety and bipolar disorders.

Gay men with mental health problems are more likely to use illegal drugs and commit suicide. Or regularly using drugs and alcohol can lead to risky sexual behavior, which increases the likelihood of getting infected by an STD.

Our health problems, in other words, are feeding into each other, we’re literally killing ourselves through suicide, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS at higher rates than straight men.  Let’s say that again: We are killing ourselves at higher rates than straight men through suicide, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS.

Some gays are quick to point to the stresses of living as a gay man in an overwhelmingly straight world — one that passes anti-gay laws and constantly spews homophobic rhetoric — as a reason for mental health and substance abuse problems. With that argument, they are coming very close to saying that we are powerless victims who have little control over our own lives and choices, that homophobes have more power over us.

That’s a ridiculous notion — lethal and self-defeating.

Since homophobia still exists and is not going away any time soon, the victim theory, if embraced, dooms us to a life of external, homophobic stressors that forces us to drink too much, commit suicide too frequently and get depressed too often.

The quote is from the LA Weekly.  You can read it HERE.

 

Go, then! Then go to the moon-you selfish dreamer!

I left Fire Island on Wednesday.  Driving north with my Persian friend Iliad.  The clouds were low, the air muggy and thick.  We took the ferry from Orient Point to New London, there was a British aristocrat on the ferry stitching needle point.  Beautiful raspberry and pistachio coloured yarn.

My intention is to return to Fire Island… maybe…. next month.  The last couple of days there blighted by torrential rain and chilly winds.  Friends came, David visited from NYC for the day and Lorne made an appearance but mainly to fetch his forgotten/lost bag.

May proved to be chillier than I remember.  Memorial Day and the biscotti queens came and went.  John, the owner of the house arrived and made everything broken… work.  I cooked a huge dinner and he and his friends the Scots seemed to love it.  Andrew from Dover Street Market swept in wearing incredibly chic pants.   John baked Halibut en cocotte.

During the week those of us who stayed were thrown together at the Canteen (I think they call it The Cultured Elephant) and it’s true when they say that one makes gay acquaintances in the city and gay friends on Fire Island.  I got to hang with the resort staff who are genuinely the sweetest, most handsome men… see above.   They have a grueling season ahead of them, working the bars, the clubs, the hotel and the restaurants.  Only the most robust will survive.  It’s a tough, unforgiving business serving entitled, demanding gay men.  The day before I headed North one of the newbies left the island in tears, torn apart by gay unreasonableness.

I met Joey the little person who is a particularly inspiring soul.  I was in awe of his ability to be the hugest man in his little body.  He has a captivating story.

Everyone has a Fire Island Pines story.   There are love affairs and breakups, tears on the boardwalk and fights in the elegant cedar homes.  There are couples and  thruples and orgies, there are undignified old men last gasping for their youth.  Wide eyed first timers arrive on the ferry, amazed that such a place as Fire Island Pines exists.  I remember that day, the first day Joe-Baily  brought me to Fire Island 25 years ago.  I will never forget it.

Everyone has a story.  I was told one hundred times by stick thin youths that they were too fat or not pretty enough to meet the man of their dreams.  They told me that boys talk to them in real life like they do on Grindr.  “Hung?” as an opening gambit.  “Party?”  “Looking?”  The single word pick up.  So lazy and charmless.  I did not envy them, these young boys… so far from serenity.   Of course, not all young gay boys are wracked with self-doubt.  I met young gay men who were comfortable and confident and conquering all… whilst the vulnerable fell by the wayside or let old men blow them at the dick dock.

There’s a degree of gay anarchy on the island.  Every one of the local laws are broken every day by almost everyone.

The AA meetings are vile.  The recovering alcoholics looking down their nose at those who drink and take drugs.   I met a dozen gay men who were once sober who now drink… taken out by a beautiful boy and a meth pipe.

One story particularly moved and disturbed me.  A grey eyed, erudite black boy no more than 28 years old who works for a renowned artist.   We met on the beach and he described his Fire Island experience.   He was embarrassed to tell me that he had encountered a great deal of racism during his time at The Pines.  There are few black people on Fire Island and now I know why.

I made it to Ptown.  I had dinner with Benoit the night I arrived, we ate fish and chips.  The ex-gay story he wrote for the New York Times Magazine is now a film produced by Gus Van Sant, starring James Franco and Zachary Quinto.  I am very proud of him.  Except… it’s another entirely white cast.   Why? Why? Why?

Yesterday, a local fisherman brought two pounds of freshly caught lobster knuckles that we shucked for dinner.

The dogs loved Fire Island.  They miss it!  Dude and The Little Dog bounding up the boardwalk, chasing rabbits and deer.  They are a little more restricted here even though we live directly on the beach and they are allowed to walk unleashed.   Today we walked a mile or so to the West End and visited the pier shack where Tennessee Williams wrote The Glass Menagerie on a stolen type writer.

The Shack where Tennessee Williams wrote to Glass Menagerie

My favorite and the most obviously poignant Tennessee Williams line from The Glass Menagerie:

I didn’t go to the moon, I went much further-for time is the greatest distance between two places.

Which made me think momentarily about Jake B who I kinda owe my love of both Cape Cod and the Catskills.  Both of whom he introduced me.  If he hadn’t mentioned them with such fondness… I wouldn’t have explored them years later.   There are times when I wonder about those crazy few months with Jake.  They sure seem indelible.   There are brief moments when I wish I could pick up the phone and ask him how he is and what his life is like now.  Then I think better of it and let the memory, the moment… the past… slip back into the black, bombazine black water of what was but could never be.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Cherry Blossom

I wonder if Michael Alig hated the movie Party Monster as much as I did?

I wonder if someone at Fenton Baily’s World of Wonder who filmed Alig’s ‘reactions’ whilst he watched the docudrama about himself… paid him?  I can’t imagine that he won’t be on Fenton’s payroll before the year is out, just like his friend and the gay douche James St. James… who I was once bored to meet in LA with Ian Drew.

Meanwhile, the soggy Michael Musto pretends Alig is a very bad man yet seems secretly in awe, unable to stop writing about him.   There are articles about Alig everywhere in the gay press.  Of course, The Gay Voices section in The Huffington Post want his ‘opinion’ about EVERYTHING.

The gay frenzy around Alig’s release from prison is beyond macabre.  What does Michael Alig think about the progression of gay rights?  What does Alig think about the overturn of DOMA?  Does he have an opinion about the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell?

Am I crazy?  This murderer gets out of jail. A murderer who dismembers another gay man and we ask his opinion about DOMA?

For those of you who don’t know Michael Alig… and there are many… Michael Alig (born South Bend, Indiana, April 29, 1966) is the co-founding member of the Club Kids, a group of young club goers led by Alig and his long-time best friend James St. James in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1996, Alig pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Andre “Angel” Melendez  in a confrontation over a drug debt.

If Michael were a straight, white guy getting out of jail for killing and dismembering another man… would other straight people be fascinated by what he had to say about… the Affordable Care Act?  Mind you, if he was a black man… we wouldn’t ever hear his opinion about anything… because he would still be in jail, convicted of first degree murder rather than the white man’s sop… manslaughter.

It’s so exciting to have him home in New York City!  Let’s read more about Michael Alig in Vanity Fair!  Imagine what it must be like to be free after 17 years!  Everything’s so incredibly different!  Here… play with this.  It’s called a smart phone.  These are ‘apps’.

Michael Alig tweet his fans.  Michael looks at Manhattan as he crosses an unnamed bridge into the city and has a moment of trepidation .   Did he remember dumping Angel’s body into the East River?  Alig drinks Starbucks and eats Arctic Char.  He scarcely seems like a man who would murder and dismember another gay man as he eloquently discusses fish seasoning.

Later, Michael forgets to take a shower because no one is telling him to wash.  It’s ‘amusing’ to see Michael use Grindr for the first time and wonder if and when he hooks up… will he tell his on-line fancy… the truth?  Will he conceal his true identity?  The truth about his murdering and dismembering past… huh?  Are you kidding?  Nobody tells the truth on Grindr.  A world of wonder… indeed.

“Michael you’re my hero.”  The young gays squeal on social media.  ‘We still love you!’  ‘You helped me become the man I am today.’  The elder ones tweet:  ‘You made me true to myself.’

Michael Alig has become our best, brightest and newest gay celebrity.  Hankering for a second chance in a country that loathes giving second chances to anyone.   He will become a living legend, his gay apotheosis assured by Fenton Baily and Michael Musto who may make fortunes from Alig’s gruesome celebrity.   Nor must we forget Ramon Fernandez, director of the upcoming documentary Glory Daze: The Life and Times of Michael Alig, he too expects to win big riding on Alig’s murder and mayhem.

No doubt Alig will be invited to GLAAD events, his crimes diminished by celebrity and pithy comments about hetero normative gay life… he will champion individuality,  he will sit at The World of Wonder table with Ru Paul.  He will work tirelessly for the HRC.

Michael Alig will be loathed and loved in equal measure when in fact… he should be totally ignored.

2.

Meanwhile, a truly talented filmmaker kills himself.  Malik Bendjelloul, director of Oscar winning film Searching for Sugar Man.  When I heard it, your personal story moved me.  It’s tough to be a star.  I know what you went through.  I was there for a moment too.  Same age.  It’s very disconcerting, all that attention after years of solitude.  Making art in a vacuum… then Hollywood comes calling with their lies and false promises.

Two different tales, different intentions.  Two very different filmmakers.

Fenton Baily and Ramon Fernandez add a miserable, self indulgent post script to a stark and soulless documentary making themselves more money from the death and dismemberment of a brown man… no doubt delighting other soulless white people… whist you dear Malik made an inspiring documentary that touched the hearts of many and was so deserving of the international acclaim it received.

Sometimes it seems like a shit, shit world.  A world where people like a gay drug addict and murderer Michael Alig get all the attention on exactly the same day a brilliant man like Malik Bendjelloul ends his own life.

Rest in Peace.

Fire Island Kitchen

 

Arrived on Fire Island.  I’m here for the next few weeks… until I decamp (via Martha’s Vineyard) to Provincetown for a month or so… then it’s LA for the rest of the summer.   Nobody wants to be on the East Coast for August.  Not when one has Malibu… everyone agrees that Southern California is gorgeous in August.

I finally found an affordable and rather beautiful house near Whitstable to buy.  Just far enough to be close to those I love… yet out of harms way.   There’s so much on the market.  Everything in my old home town seems for sale.  Everything.

I’m staying, as usual, in The Pines… a guest in the most gorgeous house.  I stayed here last year.  So many pretty things to look at, art to admire and crisp white linen to drown in at night.  A fancy cooks kitchen, every utensil one could possibly wish for.

As I was winding down last night I noticed that the house is loaded with alcohol, bottles and bottles… and I am all alone.  It’s odd isn’t it?  What keeps me, and those who want it badly enough, away from the booze.  Sober.  Nobody would ever know if I took a huge gulp of something before I went to bed.  Only me.

What’s stopping me from taking a drink from the well stocked bar?  Even if it’s just me?  I suppose… I would know and God would know.  The power of ones conscience.  I’d lose the only thing I’ve ever worked really hard to keep.

I realize that many people don’t get sobriety.  The disease, the god part, the endless AA meetings.  During the past 17 years it’s been a struggle to remain interested or focused.  There’s so much to put you off.  Sober people can be a big pain in the butt.  The endless revolving door of people you meet who commit to sobriety then drink again, the deaths, the drama, the fucking rules…  but I tell you, if this is a cult (and many say it is) I’m a happy member.

I’m cooking a very old-fashioned coq au vin.  A hearty treat for a chilly May evening on Fire island.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Happy Sunday

 

Wendell Castle