Archives for category: Queer

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The harvest festival held earlier this month at St Andrew’s Church in Monkton Wyld, Dorset was quite an occasion.  The magnificent, flint faced, neo-Gothic church is rarely used.  It has an imposing steeple and a lavish transept, it has retained all of its original features.  St Andrew’s church and the matching parsonage were designed in 1848 by Pugin’s well-respected pupil Richard Cromwell Carpenter.

There are few souls living in this tiny hamlet and fewer Christians, the church opens no more than a handful of times a year.  The traveling vicar conducted 5 harvest festival services from Charmouth to Axminster that Sunday and by the time he had gotten to us at dusk he’d refined quite a routine.  As we sat waiting for the service to begin a dormouse skipped over the altar.

After singing a few elderly harvest hymns and reciting some appropriately salubrious prayers we drank locally made apple juice and ate locally made apple cake served with thick unpasteurized jersey cream.  There was an auction of local produce and people eagerly snapped up their neighbor’s home-grown vegetables… including a giant pumpkin. Katherine from the Monkton Wyld Community brought home-made sausages and Monkton Wyld Court cheese, it sold for a good price raising money for the repair of this delightful Victorian church.

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I’ve been in Dorset these past six weeks, looking after a friend of a friend’s huge and imposing Edwardian rectory.  Monkton Wyld sits on the edge of Marshwood Vale.  This ancient countryside is still divided by hedgerow, the roads flanked by steep mossy banks decorated with ivy and bracken.  As the autumn crept over us, the leaves fell from the beech trees revealing the sea at Lyme Bay and Charmouth beyond.  Catching the sun like great mirrors, two miles away.

This red brick house was built in 1901 to replace the draughty, original parsonage built conveniently next to St Andrew’s.   The parsonage below us is a neo-Gothic masterpiece, similarly faced with perfectly knapped chert.  The house sits proudly in a garden copied by Cromwell Carpenter from a surviving medieval English manor.

The rooms at Monkton Wyld Court are large and well proportioned, there is a delightful and unexpected internal courtyard where bats fly at dusk, a kitchen garden that provides enough vegetables all year for the community of people who live in the house and their paying guests.  A short way away from the main house, down a well trodden path there is a charming oak framed milking parlor that serves four cows, and every week I’ve stayed here I’ve bought Monkton Wyld cheese or yogurt or milk that tastes unlike any milk I’ve ever tasted.

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For the past 40 years I have returned to this valley.  Once, hitch hiking from Whitstable to Charmouth to revisit Monkton.  As a child I had a magical relationship with this place and I continue to return.  When I arrive (however I get here) I walk into the valley, past the stream, up the hill, down the drive.  I am immediately transported to a better place.  The laurel, the rhododendrons, the great ornamental pines.  The rope swing hanging from the ancient Douglas Fir and has done for 80 years, giving so many children so much pleasure.

This is where I went to school, albeit briefly, sadly getting expelled for appalling behaviour.  Yet, in 1971 I experienced moments of pure joy in this perfect place.  Here I learned everything.  I learned how to ride, play the piano, bake bread… I learned how to live in a house with two staircases and how to use an Aga.  I read the Norse tales and was read the Greek myths by handsome Chris under the same Douglas fir on lazy hot July afternoons.  There I met the Minotaur, felt intoxicated by the story of the king who held him in the labyrinth.  Names I will never forget:  Daedalus, Theseus, Knossos.

It was here I experimented with my fledgling sexuality with a boy called Jasper.  It was here I lay beside Amaryllis and held her breasts.  It was here we sped these lanes in an old land rover to Lyme Bay.  It was here the older kids took acid and we drank scrumpy.  It was in this place I read the banned magazine Oz and when I took that magazine home to Whitstable my parents confiscated it, stunned… as if it were Satan’s pamphlet.

The school kids were wild and articulate and the staff equally so.  Every day we had a noisy school meeting where problems were solved and punishments dished out.  We ate home-baked bread and whatever the kitchen garden provided.  We smoked, our hair grew out, we bathed rarely…. wandering around the school like homeless people.  The older kids listened to Alice Cooper and I bought my first single in Axminster, Gaye by Clifford T Ward.

My best friend was Tom Melly.  George’s son. Tom and I burned great towers of cardboard pretending they were tower blocks and commentated upon them like BBC journalists as they fell into a burning heap.  We explored the stream at the end of the valley and leapt over ravines and fought fern monsters, their tendrils wrapped around out legs like snakes.  We invented our own labyrinth and escaped from it.  My friendship with Tom wildly impressed my parents who asked endless questions whenever I hung out with Tom and his dad.  Yet, for all of this I could not deal with a life unfettered.  I had come from a strict house and the damage had already been done.  After a shoplifting binge in Lyme Regis I was expelled… and that was that.  But my love for Monkton never dimmed.  Every time I return to Monkton Wyld I wonder when I leave if I this will be my last visit.  I savor every minute, every star above us, every sunrise.

My stay here included meeting community members, some of the Monkton Wyld Community trustees and my immediate neighbors.  One in particular grabbed my attention, a single dad who teaches survival skills all over the world.  His curly blond hair and fair complexion, his sensitive disposition coupled with his physical strength.  What a man!

I met a very posh farmer from Dorchester who gave me a haunch of venison and two excellent cuts of pork.  Melanie DB cooked the venison and I cooked the pork.  The dogs set upon the bones ravenously.  I visited my friend Graham in Weymouth and had a lovely time.   We explored country churches and had tea with the Earl and Countess of Sandwich at Mary Lou Sturridge’s Seaside Boarding House.   I ate delicious lunches on my own at Hugh’s River Cottage restaurant in Axminster and one very ugly lunch at Mark Hix’s ghastly restaurant in Lyme Regis:  three goujons of cod and a pile of rancid chips for £20.

Of course I looked at property and imagined building a place in the middle of nowhere.  I traveled to Exmore and stayed with Rachel Campbell Johnston and her dear daughter.  We had long walks along the cliffs near Illfracomb and dropped in on Laura Carew.  Laura and I hiked the perimeter of her estate which took hours.  The little dog soldiered on valiantly.  Then, when all was said and done, I drive back to Monkton and sleep soundly in my huge, comfortable bed.

Monkton Wyld School closed in 1981 and now the old parsonage houses a Centre for Sustainability Education, The Court is run and maintained by a residential community as well as a team of short-term volunteers.

Here is a short documentary about Monkton Wyld School made at the time I was there:

 

These past few days he caught my attention.  Harvey Weinstein has been unmasked.  His petulant behavior, his controlling, surly disposition, well-known in LA and often reported.  His verbal abuse of others tolerated, excused, even celebrated, used as evidence that true genius does not come easy.  Then… his life unraveled.

I am powerless over my addiction… my life has become unmanageable.  It’s a pretty astute description of any addict.  I am powerless over that which may kill me, I do not consider the consequences of my actions therefore: my life falls apart.

Any addict who confronts their addiction head on must first accept the notion of powerlessness.  This might seem a no brainer for most desperate addicts who hit rock bottom but I betcha a billion dollars Harvey Weinstein, the man whose name is synonymous with the word control, will certainly struggle to understand this baffling first step. He may never understand… but unless he humbly embraces his part in this catastrophe of his own making there will be no second chance, no triumphant return to Hollywood for Harvey Weinstein.

I met Harvey a few times these past 20 years, notably at the NYC Philomena screening with Fern Mallis.  He was gruff and rude.  I didn’t expect anything else.  Weinstein had long ago become a grotesque caricature of himself.  There are so many apocryphal stories about Harvey Weinstein from too many miserable producers and directors… their projects in tatters after Harvey intervenes, re-cuts, re-imagines, ultimately buying and bludgeoning the outcome of their project into his project.  An editor told to lose all the wide shots from a director’s cut because, according to Harvey, wide shots are meaningless if one is watching the movie on a tiny screen in an airplane.

Harvey could make or break a career in Hollywood.  There was no other narrative on offer.  Film folk strode bravely into the Weinstein inferno never knowing if they and their film would return ruined or gilded with Oscar gold.

Men like Harvey are very familiar in Hollywood.  The executives, CEOs and super lawyers I met owning up to their addiction in the rooms of AA and SAA in LA all had similar stories, sobbing when they got caught, pleading with their wives not to lose access to their children.  Every day confessing misogyny to their peers at stag meetings all over the west side.

Powerless…

Let’s get one thing straight.  Harvey did not act alone.  He had a bunch of conspirators: lawyers, assistants and relatives.  The most powerful players in Hollywood looked after him, turned a blind eye to his appalling behavior… ’cause he made them billions of dollars.  Studio and Agency bosses who, although they did not do the abusing themselves, aided and abetted his abuse. He could rely on a cabal of powerful white men to get him out of trouble by paying his victims and making them sign crippling nda.

Unless you’ve sat with men like Harvey Weinstein listening to their most troubling secrets it is impossible to explain how they get away with what Harvey got away with.  These problems go to the very heart of the Hollywood star making… and taking away machine.

Let’s remind ourselves, this outrage wasn’t generated by women. Women’s stories have been used as evidence for the prosecution but this scandal was manufactured by men to strategically bring Harvey Weinstein down.  D’you think for one moment if he hadn’t pissed somebody off really badly this story would be news?

When Harvey became too much of a liability, powerful men removed his protected status.  Why did they choose to bring him down now after years of abuse?  Why did it suit them to make an example of him?  Why?

There are many men like Harvey in positions of power in the entertainment industry… in every industry, behaving just like Harvey.  There’s little appetite for real change.  We condemn people for not speaking up sooner, for not breaking the silence.  Yet, some of the brave women who told the truth about Harvey have been savagely criticized for doing so.  Why did they accept a cash settlement from The Weinstein Company in lieu of the truth?  We all know why.  The secret of male abuse is preciously, lavishly safe guarded.

Unlimited access to sex with whomever you desire is the greatest prize afforded to those who make millions and achieve high status.  Men, who without question or sacrifice can ‘grab them by the pussy’ without consequence.  Can cum over an intern’s blue dress as she kneels demurely in the Oval Office.  Can grab a young boys ass and know he wouldn’t dare complain.

Nobody wants to hear the truth about powerful men.  Everyone wants to shoot the messenger.  Remember when I wrote about Bryan Singer?

Another ‘open secret’: fashion photographer Bruce Weber continues to behave like Harvey Weinstein toward young male models. Taking pictures of them naked for his ‘private collection’ molesting and assaulting and promising big campaigns if they give in to his gentle caress, taking the campaign away if they refused.

So, this is as big a secret as Harvey’s expose. How does it sound? Who wants to shoot the messenger? Every fashion editor in the world turns a blind eye, a deaf ear. When Terry Richardson was exposed they said nothing.  Terry still works…  making money the rest of us can only dream of.

I had these experiences. Accepting the invitation construed as a tacit agreement to have sex. And yes. It’s all about privilege, entitlement… my first ‘date’ with a very famous hair dresser ended with what I now understand was rape. I was 18. He had the power to change my life. My story sounds pathetic when I tell it to myself in isolation, I learned not to tell it. Together these stories change perceptions, and make us stronger. This outrage breaking over the world about Weinstein sends a clear message to those men with power and entitlement to reconsider what is acceptable behavior. I am not a victim. Telling our stories will not make us victims. I am not my story.

 

Bradford on Avon.  September.  I’m looking over her gently terraced garden, sitting at the desk of an old friend in her honey coloured Georgian house.  The sun peeking out from an angry, black cloud.  Gold finches at the bird table, brambles growing into the Kent Cobb Nut tree, blackberries ripe and ready to harvest.  Beyond this garden there are 18th century terraces built of crumbling bath stone.  There is a freshly planted parterre, the tiny box hedges won’t be ready for another two years.  Box grows so slowly.  All over the English countryside gardeners tend their neatly trimmed topiary, privet sculpted into elegant forms.  The muscles in my back and neck are still tender from the last few months of anxious reckoning.

From my home in the USA… things are grim.  That’s that.  AMERICA.  Every day the news gets worse.   Trump’s white supremacist vision for the USA.  Unpicking every half-hearted Obama achievement.  Making the point of his white presidency to undo a black man’s legacy.  Indisputable evidence…  I escaped at the right time.  I can’t understand people who stick around.  What more do they need to see or hear before they leave that god forsaken Trump hole?

The most powerful country in the world has handed over all its affairs—the prosperity of its entire economy; the security of its 300 million citizens; the purity of its water, the viability of its air, the safety of its food; the future of its vast system of education; the soundness of its national highways, airways, and railways; the apocalyptic potential of its nuclear arsenal—to a carnival barker who introduced the phrase grab ’em by the pussy into the national lexicon. It is as if the white tribe united in demonstration to say, “If a black man can be president, then any white man—no matter how fallen—can be president.”

Thankfully I’m home.  Home in England.  I left my friends in Chamonix after we enjoyed a few days vacation in Northern Italy and yet another adventure on the Tuscan coast.  I drove to Paris, left Dude with my friend Mary and the following day Little Dog and I caught the P&O ferry to Dover where I met my sister Roya.  A few miles later I was sitting on the sunny lawn of my friend’s lavish Queen Anne mansion reconfigured in 1911 by Edward Lutyens.

It was the first time I’d met my sister, we’d spent a few years skyping since she introduced herself online.  Now, here she was in all her lesbian glory with her delightful girlfriend drinking champagne on the velvet lawns of the English countryside.  I’m sure she felt anxious.  I’m sure she felt confused.  We have ten brothers and sisters.

I’ve avoided England.  Voting from afar, now I return.  I must admit…  I’m in love with you, the English, in love with you all.  I understand you, you are gentle, even the hardest amongst you.  You’ll never be as inflexible and humorless as the Americans.  On the ferry home I listened to two middle-aged couples describing their lives on the roads of Europe.  Motor homes.  I envied them.  On the road.  Free.  Unencumbered.

For the first time, however, the British have been divided.  Not along lines of class or political affiliation but whether one is a brexiteer or not.  Tentatively enquiring when one meets a friend if they voted for or against brexit.  They might be that kind of person.  Yet, as I waited at the traffic lights in Camden Town I saw a river of diversity.  So unique, colorful… so English.  Evidence just there on that grimy North London street: thousands of years of cultural amalgamation.

Our leaders seem so terribly out of step with the people they lead.

The English are very sweet.  A ready smile, a polite greeting, they have a charming disposition.  Drivers thank you for courteous driving, we stick to the correct lanes on the motorway.  The British are engaging and inquisitive.  After so many years walking streets in the USA, I gave up saying good morning or smiling at strangers.  Here is a nation of men and women who without hesitation are eager to trust, eager to forgive and desperately want to smile whenever they chance upon a stranger.

Perhaps it’s me?  Perhaps I am so happy to be back they recognise my unbridled happiness? I don’t think so. It’s them, the British, naturally optimistic, even though they are unaware of their optimism. They can’t see it.  They would disagree if I told them to their face.

I was excited to see my home town, but I was too tired to drive to Whitstable the night I arrived.  I planned to go after my sister and her girlfriend left but instead I crept into a huge bed with the Little Dog and slept soundly.  In the morning I found the wonderful Barham Community Store, read the newspaper then headed up the M2 to the north Kent coast.

I parked the car on Harbour Street and had coffee at Dave’s Deli, he was adorable.  His sister works there.  We talked about Richard Green.  He has been very sick.  Everyone I met seemed delighted to see me and hugged me or shook my hand vigorously.  People I’d known all my life.  Half a century or more.

Yet, for all the time passed since I first cycled up Harbour Street at 7 years old on my red tricycle… not much has changed.  There’s more money but there’s more money swamping the south-east, all the way to Margate.  I explored the town and lingered outside all three of my houses.  They were just as I left them.  The house on Island Wall has a very smart garden and the house next door has nice new Victorian sash windows.  Number 3 Seaway Cottages on Wavecrest (owned by Peter Cushing before me) is a little forlorn.  The owner hasn’t been there all summer and the garden has overgrown terribly.  Number 2 Seaway Cottages has been renovated several times since I left, they have built a 20 foot kitchen onto the back of the house.   Thankfully they kept the expensive door handles and light switches.

I didn’t miss the houses on Whitstable beach, not one little bit.  They were mine, I sold them for a huge profit and I moved on.  People ask if I miss the money they would be worth now and I remind them they are only worth money when you sell them. I miss them not at all, they gave me the oppertunity to move on in style.  I have never wished to be there again, no nostalgia… no regret.  Not like Malibu… I hanker after Malibu.

Of course, it hasn’t all been plain sailing.  Some uppity British people are very eager to remind you of your place in society, reminding me of my own ancient history… but I’m an American now so those archaic rules don’t apply to me.

More of that when I return to my desk tomorrow.

 

 

I’ll never recover from my love of LA.  However badly it treated me.  I will never forget our ill-fated house in Malibu.  The restaurant at the end of the pier.  The Jacaranda, the delicate pepper trees, those tall palms glistening like cellophane when the rains finally came.  Have you seen Pharrell’s video for his song Happy?  That’s how I’ll remember LA. The light, the streets, down town Los Angeles, the fat and the thin.  Looking heavenward, remembering why we moved there armed only with dreams. Pleading for security, good traffic, and a god who loves us even if the dream slips further from our grasp…

When I left LA I earned more money than I ever earned.  What foolishness made me give it up?  Fear.  The same fear I had in NY and no longer feel here in Europe.  Fear of the speeding bullet, the rogue cop, fear of mud slides, wild fires… and me.

Last week I purged almost all the white, American gay men from my Facebook friends list. When I announced I was doing so… Facebook banned me for a week.  Thank you Big Brother, no Facebook means no compulsive checking.  I didn’t recognize any of the gay white American men who claimed to know me, or I had friended because I am weak and colluded with the notion the gays gather as many other gays around them as we possibly can so we may perpetuate the myth of gay solidarity.

According to Facebook, this declaration to purge unknown faces from my FB page was hate speak.

I was an unwilling participant in an anonymous gay web.  I don’t know the 50 people we have in common.  I don’t want to know the 28 mutual friends.  The 42 people who don’t know each other more than passing their clone on Robertson, Old Compton St, Commercial Street or Ocean Walk.  Lives as the gays chose to document on FB, so utterly boring, so stultifyingly limited.  Haunting the same locations, using exactly the same language we used 50 years ago… and on… the perpetual hunt, the same miserable polemic.  One hundred thousand likes for a shirtless picture.  A million Instagram followers for the most perfectly honed of them.

Recently a young gay man, beset by righteous indignation, complained to his 5 thousand followers his profile pic had been stolen and used on a well-known dating app.  I wondered out loud (amongst the commiseration) why they had bothered stealing the image?  The picture they appropriated was so utterly boring, so drearily identical to any number of equally dull gay men.  There was nothing distinguished or vaguely fascinating about the stolen photograph.  My comment caused OUTRAGE.

Their outrage is misplaced.  The gays are so often angry but unwilling to take action. Emboldened by changing laws: each new generation of gays relive their very own glasnost, embracing ersatz activism.  Their muscle drag and occasional militancy leads nowhere.  Built like warriors, Spartans… fucking not fighting.  Marching in the gay parade, holding their radical (campy) signs high above their heads then… a few hours later it’s back to the soupy hot tub for more identically built/identically aged/undressed… perpetual strangers.  Cock first, talk later.

I seemed, during my time in the USA, to know two types of (repugnant) white gay men:

1. Semi aquatic gays who hang out in hot tubs and swimming pools.  Boasting on-line about their open relationships, their poly amorous lives, one assumes they are ok smelling the stench of other men’s cum over their husband’s perfectly sculpted bodies.

2. Then there are gays like John Derian, the fay New York based purveyor of knickknacks.  Publishing pictures of their grand houses, their grand friends, their holidays in equally magnificent surroundings.  They need me to know what they eat, how they dress their surrogate children, how they arrange flowers and prepare the canape.  These gays have open relationships built on mergers and acquisitions.  Choosing men as they choose tuba roses at the farmers market.  As far from love and monogamy as one can get.

The purge is complete.  The result of this time-consuming exercise?  My feed as dictated by Big Brother’s algorithms is now more representative of who I am. People I know in the world posting pictures of things I want to look at, asking questions I can answer, engaging meaningfully with me.

Good God!  I knew so many white, American gays, fledgling proto fascists.  Echoing fake news, convincing one after another what they want to us all to believe… amplifying easily digestible myths then greedily consuming them like protein bars.  Post by post confirming their collective denial of what the gay community has become and where the community is headed.

During the election the noise of the myth makers in the pink echo chamber became deafening.  Everyone, of course, claimed to know Robby Mook, Clinton’s gay campaign manager.  Armed with their exclusive Robby Mook whispers they convinced themselves and others Hillary Clinton was unassailable.  They believed everyone was thinking just like them.  The violence I suffered at their hands when I told them bluntly they were wrong… was worse than any abuse I had ever suffered from any heterosexual homophobe.  As it turned out, my take on the gay community was right… they were indeed wrong.  Trump won.

I heard, via my own sources, Clinton beat Mook on the chest, crying and wailing…

Now the gays are right behind the liberal ‘reds in the bed’ narrative. Unquestioningly wedded to the dream of impeachment.  Telling each other it’s only a matter of time before Trump is gone for good.  They shyly, foolishly ask their friends on Facebook if another election will take place? After all, they bleat, we won the popular vote… even if the Russians lost Clinton the election.  Their muddled polemic evolved amongst their good-looking selves on social media. Like in needle point class they stitch the narrative of their dreams as if it were true.  Trump will be impeached they chant, Trump… is not my President!

My most violent confrontations on social media seems to erupt when I challenge American gay white men to explain how, as they claim, if they were hypothetically living in Nazi Germany would they take on Nazis? Contrary to their stringency most of the white gays I know would have willingly signed up to become Nazis… like most Germans did, to save their scrawny asses and of course wear the fabulous black and gold Gestapo uniforms.

My friend Bettina’s father, he lived in Germany during the war, told me he only heard about the concentration camps from annoying conspiracy theorists.  The sort of people one didn’t want to believe.  He was genuinely shocked, at the end of the war, to see the truth.

Few people are brave enough to challenge the regime under which they live. Most American white gays are incredibly comfortable.  What would motivate any them to up sticks… unless forced to?  Until the knock on the door.  The stench of unwashed policemen in the kitchen demanding ‘papers’.  Looking for evidence of homosexuality. The gays would hang on ’til the last-minute… until the authorities came looking for them.

The dumbest gays think in 1930 they would still enjoy the connectivity they enjoy today… their mobile phones and the internet. They think they would have access to a large group of similarly minded people, their mutual friends on Facebook. They do not understand the isolation of the activist.  Activists in 1930 constantly wondered if they were the only human alive who thought the system… the regime was wrong.  They were scared to articulate thoughts and ideas with others for fear of being arrested.  Even gay or lesbian friends could not be trusted… lgbt friends regularly turned acquaintances over to the party for punishment.

Activists are often annoying, their message difficult to hear.

The pink triangle worn by gay men in the German concentration camps was the worst of all the badges… because it so often lead to violent and unexpected death from both guards and other inmates, the Jews in the camps would kill a gay wearing a pink triangle as easily as the Nazi. The Pink Triangle became something to aim at by bored soldiers looking for something to kill.  Alan Davies the well-known and well-loved British comedian, lived in Whitstable whilst at Kent and Canterbury University.  We knew each other but we were not particularly friendly.  He wore a pink triangle badge into The Neptune pub in solidarity with the gays… yet continually indulged in casual and not so casual homophobia.  He enjoyed his white heterosexual entitlement and when I challenged him to take off the badge he angrily determined it was his right to wear the triangle regardless of a gay man telling him he had not earned the privilege.

In the Neptune Pub I was told with sneering contempt marriage equality would never happen in my life time.  Sadly, I believed them.  However hard I fight, I thought, I’ll never live in a fair and equitable world.

When I made a fuss others insisted it didn’t matter.  Making a fuss = activism.

Physically and verbally attacked for articulating (complaining) the iniquity and injustice gays endured every day.  Made my friends feel uncomfortable.

Complaining = Activism

I wore pale blue overalls in LA County to determine I am gay.  For all the world to see. There can be no mistaking what you are.  They like to know exactly what they are dealing with… the authorities.  Making me wear a pale blue uniform taught me a huge lesson.  It flagged to the others:  I am what you see me to be.  I no longer enjoy invisibility.  You will never let me forget my vulnerability.  I am at your mercy.  I learned what it was to be black in the USA wearing those overalls. My human rights lawyers assigned by the ACLU… Barry Litt and Lindsay Battles, perhaps the most ghastly people I ever met, never really understood how egregious the uniform was.  They didn’t understand much other than their own egos.  I hated them.  I hated being around them.

I left the USA because I could no longer excuse how many innocent black men were murdered by the police paid by my tax dollars… and I asked myself: what would it take for me to think enough is enough and the first plane away?  How could I justify living in a country that exploits vulnerability in all?  All Americans I know, republican, democrat or progressive, buy into this version of capitalism:  VULNERABILITY equals OPPORTUNITY.  It is their DNA, add this to their inability to own up to uncomfortable historical facts about race and the people they displaced to live in the USA… and you have Donald Trump’s America, no different from how it always was but now the mask has gone.

Trump is going to be here for a long time.  Get used to it.  Nobody cares about the Russians, nobody cares if Trump is a fucking idiot. Everybody is now fully committed to the drama, the intensity of his high-octane reality TV style presidency.  And get this, after his second term you’ll be voting for Ivanka who I assure you will be the first female american president.

Of course, not all gay white men believe we live in an unfair society.  Since the wobbly supreme court equal marriage determination (so easily overturned) some white gay men think they are equal… the fight has been won.  Even with Trump as president they convince themselves they are no longer vulnerable to exploitation.  They are wrong.  I am the annoying activist you don’t want to hear… to remind white American gays the battle is never won, the freedom you think you have is being eroded at this very moment in some back room at the Whitehouse in a deal between rabid Christians and some crazy Trumpista. We must always stay vigilant.  Our battles fought honestly, not forged in the Supreme Court but in Congress and the Senate for all the world to see.

 

 

Spring Kilt Too

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.

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

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Prologue.

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

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

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

The following was written before the fateful message…

1.

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

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

As he lay dying they were emptying his home.

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

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

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

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

“No, Dave.  It’s 6am.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

New York, July 2017.

colin and anna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did not have an easy answer.

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

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

“Stay as long as you like.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I refused to kiss Ana’s staff.

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

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

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

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

Jose smiles and listens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Time for drinkypoos?”  She says.

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

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

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

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

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

“I want to grow old with you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


1.

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

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

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

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

2.

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

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

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

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

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

Get to it Jeremy Corbyn.

Families have been riven over Brexit.  Ours included.

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

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

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

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

Now, of course, they embrace Brexit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This blog is out of sequence.

1.
I want to write about The Little Dog.  Perhaps that’s all I’ll write about today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.

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

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

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

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

father and Natalie

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


1.

Dear gay app user, unless Bruce Weber or Robert Mapplethorpe took your dick or ass pic… please don’t send unsolicited x rated pics to me.

It’s annoying enough having to lie about my age or endure a world of gays judge my acceptability based on the one pic I have that conceals my identity, gives me a masculine edge, attracts the right kind of guy and presents a youthful visage.

I live mostly upstate, I’ve met lovely people here using apps.  I spent three delicious days last week luxuriating in the arms of some traveling gay man.  The time limitation only adding to the sexual delight. We packed a ten year relationship into three days. Perfect.

I am constantly reminded that any app where gay men meet should only be considered for sex. Fuck. I’m exhausted by the sexual unmanageability of others.  Another flaccid, blurry, cut or uncut pic of yet another penis. The skanky ass pic… misguidedly sent with the intention to allure.

2.

Last year I wrote:

Reading how my informed, affluent friends get the average Trump supporter so wrong. Fascist? Maybe. Hitler didn’t steal Germany on the promise of killing Jews, he promised a fairer society. He inspired the downtrodden. He wanted to make Germany great again, he wanted to improve the self esteem of the German people. It’s easy to make these bland comparisons. Trump and Hitler. But I ask you, what’s YOUR part in this? We are all responsible for creating the kind of voter who supports trump. Were you ever interested in equal pay, for the end of illegal wars or the demise of the American Dream? As long as you could indulge in the worst excesses of capitalism. Your idea of equality is not shared by those millions of people left behind after the banking crisis. You didn’t give a damn about those whose homes Obama could have saved but didn’t. You couldn’t care less about a living wage for the most hard working among us. Your desire for Clinton’s more of the same… has a shelf life. It is coming to an end. Chaos is nigh.

Like many people I think a lot about Trump, how right I was about his rise to power and how I foresee a bloody rebellion in our future.  At present his followers seem quite demure but given the opportunity, the motivation or goaded by Fox News this can change in a second.

However much I may loathe Trump I am continually reminded and want to remind you: Donald Trump is uniquely American.   He comes as no surprise to the rest of the world.  For many he merely confirms what the rest of the world already knows about the USA: that profit, ignorance and selfishness… the essence of zombie capitalism are valued beyond humanity.

When Americans complain about their elections being rigged they forget just how often they stayed silent as they rigged the elections of other sovereign nations or simply overthrew hostile governments.  When Americans complain about trump they forget that most of the world has been treated as trump treats the USA.  We got used to it, so will you.

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I put the shelves on the wrong wall.  It’s going to bother me until I move them.  My friend, who had them made for his house upstate, practically gave them to me.  I have two sets, made of gun-metal.  One is loaded with an absurd number of dishes/bowls/glasses the other, I’ve filled with books.  I haven’t had the books out of boxes since they were brought from Malibu.  They look very fine.

Instead of moving the shelves, I re-balanced the room.   It looks huge.

I’m sitting in Murray’s, our local coffee shop… there are a couple of buff gays sitting beside me, they are wearing tight t-shirts, their eye brows plucked, their lips plumped.   They are describing a straight friend of theirs who is getting married.  They are coming to terms with his fiancée.  They don’t approve of her.  Without a hint of irony one of them damns her,

“She’s a little too attached to her appearance.”

As his friend nods in agreement, I nearly choke on my ‘Eggs Your Way’.

MEANWHILE. The trump clown car is circling the reservation.  He’s tooting his horn, his over sized, yellow daisy flopping around in the cold night air.  His make up is perfect, his grin supreme, his flintstone legs going ten to the dozen.  Like Victorian ladies the Dems are outraged by everything he does, they are addicted to indignation.  Every so often they get a case of the vapours and faint quite away.  Critique, however refined, of any democrat cheerleader’s outrage condemns the critic to accusations of treason.  To disagree means that you too… are a stupid trump supporter.  Celebrities, unsurprisingly, are particularly egregious anti trump twitterers.  Depending, of course, on the blind devotion of their fans.  Occasionally I waste an hour or so battling Democratic celebrities, Don Cheadle is perhaps the worst at assuming anyone who disagrees with him is a Trump supporter and marshalls his fans accordingly.

Yesterday Don is all up in his grill about Donald and the Russians.  His fans are equally furious, echoing back Don’s inchoate decrees.  The Russians.

Hey!  Don!  Get this: nobody cares about Russia more than you do. Whipping yourself into a frenzy. This is what you did during the election. Got yourself into a tizzy and then you thought Trump wouldn’t get elected and then he did, and now you think he’s going to be impeached because you are ‘fighting every day’. Well… I’ve got some very bad news for you.  Donald Trump is not going to be impeached… because nobody gives a shit about Russia and everybody’s trained to hate Isis now.  I don’t even get the Russian thing. So? Maybe somebody from the Trump team were talking to the ambassador.  Isn’t that what politicians are meant to do?

Then Obama gets involved.  Fuck off Barrack.  Obama should butt out of this. He should just vanish before we remember how ineffective he was… unless he was on Jimmy Kimmel making everybody laugh whilst he was secretly bombing Yemen with drones killing innocent children.  Let’s remember… AGAIN, Obama opted not to help the working poor after the financial crash by letting the banks throw defaulters out of their homes.  He sided with the banks against the people.  But hey ho… he’s so funny and he stayed married to Michelle.  Blah blah blah.

Surprise surprise: today’s polls show Dems’ hyper-focus on Russia has corresponded with a decline in their favorability ratings.  Tra la la la la… fetch the smelling salts.

Finally, a few weeks ago I started chatting with some guy on Grindr.  Why?  Are you asking me why?  I ask myself that too. The guy was handsome, a bit short… and I quickly identified him as one of the suburban ‘pink belt’ gays I’ve tried very hard to tolerate.  Listen, you may not believe me but I tried very hard tolerating them.  God help me I tried.  Sitting with these man/children at dinner, drinking too much, eager to climb into their leather drag (unconvincingly) then out of it again and into which ever hot tub or pool they can locate within the locale.  On the whole (other than one other tall Brit) these upstate gay men are very short, very white and very put together.  They discuss their schedules, they discuss their summer plans or next autumn or where they will all ski next winter.  They travel in packs.  They echo whatever anti trump chat will get them the most likes in a continual game of ‘like me’.

So… I chat with this guy who sends me pictures (as we do) of his cock and ass… butt naked.  He must be desperate because I ain’t no catch.  Of course, it was short-lived… like every transitory gay experience.  Packing a whole life into a couple of hours and a few text messages.  Unless happily ‘married’ or ‘partnered’ these men are desperate to get hitched.  He’s single for a reason, he lies about his height.  Not that being married MEANS anything in a traditional sence to these gay men… other than a merger and acquisition. We meet, he scarcely reaches my hip.  I thought he was sitting down. He’s a snooty suburban, Hillary loving gay.  When the inevitable falling out happens he starts threatening me with my friendship with a mutual friend.  He threatens to show my friend our text exchange.  He tells me he is out to make sure we never see each other again.  He tells me his pink belt friends disapprove of our friendship.  He knows our friend is special to me, and he suggests membership to THAT club is worth a lot of pink gold. Let’s face it, he and his friends want continued access to the big house, the 1% lifestyle and the fabulous toys.  They want a spare bed when they airbnb their homes… they want fancy vacations.  He assumes I want the same and he’s in no mood to share what’s his.

We block each other.  We move on,  My friend doesn’t mention it but I know the dwarf has done the dirty.  So, what happened to the dwarf?  He’s doing what they all do… chasing his gay tail.  He’s probably squealing right now about the Russians… at some drunken brunch.

Finally, had a long and helpful chat with a DP genius who helped me tremendously sort out the big idea behind my new film and how we shoot it.  Being a film maker is exhausting.  Homemaking… not so much.

Jeremy Zimmer reprises his role as Beverly Hills community activist.  Yesterday afternoon Zimmer hosted a demonstration, an invite only demonstration (demonstrators were required to RSVP) in Beverly Hills.  Recruiting a host of Hollywood stars, their star makers and heavy hitting Californian politicians to speak for ‘our creative community’.  For his detractors,  Jeremy flexed his Hollywood muscle.  At the demonstration Jeremy Zimmer ostentatiously spoke out against President Trump and his immigration crack down.

This isn’t the first time Jeremy has thrown himself into the socially active stew.  Jeremy and UTA have a highly publicised yearly event where his staff are required to donate a day or so to help others in… the ‘community’.  Of course, a less fortunate community than the arts community to which Jeremy often refers.  Jeremy Zimmer has his photograph taken with black faces in the other… ‘community’.  Photographs that consequently appear in Variety and the Hollywood Reporter.

Jeremy held yesterdays demonstration in lieu of the UTA annual Oscar party.  Was scrapping the UTA Oscar party a HUGE sacrifice for Zimmer?  Um… no.

United Talent Agency is scrapping its annual Oscar party in favor of hosting a rally at its L.A. office and donating to the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been on the frontlines of fighting the President’s executive order targeting travel from Muslim-majority countries.

They made a donation of $250,000 to the ACLU, Peter Eliasberg must be THRILLED.  Think about this.  Zimmer would usually think nothing of spending $250,000 on an Oscar party for his billion dollar clients.  That’s just the tip of the UTA hospitality expenditure iceberg.  Next time you see Jeremy’s grinning face in the Hollywood Reporter holding a basket ball next to a photo-op black boy ask yourself who is really benefiting from this public donation.

“This is a moment that demands our generosity, awareness and restlessness,” wrote UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer to staff. “Our world is a better place for the free exchange of artists, ideas and creative expression. If our nation ceases to be the place where artists the world over can come to express themselves freely, then we cease, in my opinion, to be America.”

As I’ve written before I sat most mornings with Jeremy for the best part of a decade at AA meetings all over Los Angeles.  At those AA meetings I saw the true face of Jeremy Zimmer.  The last time I sat with him at AA… the Palisades Bank 7am meeting, he told me never to come back to AA.  I wasn’t the only one.  I saw him bully many men of whom he didn’t approve… out of AA meetings.  He treats AA like his own personal cult. Understand how terrible that is… those men he made to feel unwelcome (less resilient than me) had no chances left to them.  At AA I heard Jeremy share misogynistic epithets and when things soured between us he was openly homophobic, casually racist.  When non famous black men came to our meeting out of rehab… from west end meetings, Jeremy did not sound like the man we saw yesterday embracing the rhetoric of inclusivity.  He would talk damningly about his wife and fat shame his daughter, his colleagues, his fellow agents.  When Lisa Hallerman left UTA he described her as a cancer… then wished she would die of cancer.

Zimmer joined agents, execs, assistants and other staffers from the Beverly Hills office to spend three hours at Heart of Los Angeles, an organization that provides programs in academics, arts and athletics to underserved youth. UTA has partnered with them in the past for holiday campaigns, employee volunteering and other charitable initiatives.

For all of Jeremy’s community out reach… how many black agents are there at UTA?  How many black execs are there at UTA?  How diverse is UTA?  Do his agents get diversity training or is sending them into the ‘community’ enough?

“As the Oscars draw the world’s attention to our country and our community, we must raise our voices loud and clear: The politics of fear and division do not reflect who we are as a nation, and united we can do better,” said Jeremy Zimmer, CEO of United Talent Agency.

A friend of mine, crewing a new feature asked UTA’s below the line for an inclusive (woman and poc) list for hiring consideration.  The assistant sneered, “Good luck with that.”

It’s ironic to those who know him that he has taken against Trump so badly.  For those who know both of them… they are almost identical.  Jeremy is thin-skinned and vindictive, a spiteful bully riven by alcoholic resentment.  Trump is a dry drunk. Jeremy is like Trump and vice versa.  As for Jeremy’s nascent activism?  As thrilled as the ACLU must be, why didn’t Zimmer step up to the plate sooner?  Why wasn’t he demonstrating and making dramatic flourishes whist Obama was busily deporting millions?  Why didn’t he confront Obama about his silencing of truth tellers? Why didn’t he say anything about for profit prisons or the lamentable ACA?

At his heart Jeremy can’t stand that somebody like Trump has gotten to be president, someone so incredibly similar to Jeremy Zimmer.

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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.

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1.

What would you say if I bought an orange kitchen?  Tangerine or blood orange?  I’m very excited.  The house is full of light reflected from the snowy lawns.  There are huge icicles hanging from the gutters.  Everything is melting.  Everything is dripping.  The stoop, partially renovated, is covered with a blue plastic tarpaulin. I make porridge and coffee every day after I make my bed.  I use raw milk from Churchtown Dairy, Abby Rockefeller’s Linlithgow farm designed by Rick Anderson.  Sometimes I find myself wearing both pairs of reading glasses and a woolen hat and scarf inside.  Dude hates the snow, The Little Dog loves it.

Most days I eat lunch at Murray’s on Broadway.  The women who writes the menu is very creative. Yesterday I ate mofongo, a Puerto Rican dish usually made with plantain but cook improvised, replacing the plantain with sweet potato.   A big ball of crushed sweet potato, bacon and garlic sitting in a bowl of chicken soup.  Fragrant.

There are a few dishes I cook all the time.  I don’t mind cooking for myself.  I like one particular dish, I cooked it last night.  Chicken thighs with white beans.  I threw it together years ago.  Perfect for a chilly night spent at home.

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Using a heavy bottomed casserole with a well-fitting lid melt butter into hot olive oil over a medium flame.  Add well seasoned chicken thighs to the casserole and fry until golden on both sides.  Remove thighs from pan and reserve.  Add bacon to the oil and butter, fry for 3 minutes then add one finely chopped leek, one chopped onion, two stalks of chopped celery and 3 crushed cloves of garlic.  Saute vegetables until translucent.  Add salt and pepper, bay leaf, the reserved chicken and one tin of white beans or beans you have soaked over night, I use Barlotti beans but any bean will do. Barely submerge ingredients with equal measures of good, home-made chicken stock and white wine.  Bring to the boil, cover, then bake in the oven for 70 minutes.  Serve with sautéed spinach or cauliflower cheese.

2.

At Trump’s behest, immigration raids sweep further and deeper into our rural and urban immigrant communities. Friends remind me these raids happened discreetly the past 8 years.  Obama deported millions. To Obama’s shame he deported more undocumented workers than any president before him. He scored no points by doing so with the republicans whose approval he so desperately sought.  Unlike Obama, who encouraged ICE agents to focus on less sympathetic groups, Trump’s ICE directive has no such qualms. Agents are knocking on multiple doors in immigrant communities demanding papers. There are checkpoints on busy roads. They take anyone who cannot prove they have a right to be in the USA.

People vanish into the system.  People vanished in Chile or Argentina, after the coup. Bodies appearing years later in unmarked, mass graves.  Meanwhile, the elderly dictator lives elsewhere in luxurious accommodation… claiming he is innocent of crimes against humanity.  This is how it begins.

Nobody really seems prepared. Everyone thinks the ACLU are going to save the USA.  The courts put an end to the ‘Muslim Ban’ but border officials ignore the court.  People.  This is what a right-wing revolution looks like. The dictator and his trusted generals. This fledgling third world junta.

For the time being you may not notice any real difference. Resistance may mean… adding to the chorus of outraged voices on social media about this trump abomination and that executive order but mostly your circumstances will not change.  

Today is just like any other day… last month, last year, the year before that.  There’s food in the store, the train runs on time, the sewers are functioning.  The big difference for most of us are the stories currently captivating us. The daily drama, each report more outrageous than the next.  The cast of new characters.  The crazy president who you, yes you… you think he’s going to be impeached. You hanker for his removal, you pray his corruption, his lies, his business deals, his baddest badness will get him removed from office… but he’s not going anywhere.  He’s staying put.  The impeach Trump story line is just another red herring designed to engage and disillusion those who hate/love Trump.

My friends are panicked, but I say: don’t worry affluent white friends. You’ll be the last ones to suffer.  Trump is creating this alt right paradise just for you! A brand new Eden made of paper trees and wax fruit for compliant white folk… and believe me, you will comply. This is what it must have been like in Germany… when they started raiding Jewish neighborhoods. But nobody believed it. Nobody really cared… because they were just rounding up illegals, Mexicans. Oh… I mean Jews. Then one day you faint because the gardener cuts his thumb the next you are crawling over a mountain of corpses.

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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.

At night the demons come play. Disguised as good ideas, pretending to help. The dawn is such a relief. Thank god I don’t have the bottle or a gun. Just this slow suicide: the interminable news feed. The comments, my comments. Their comments.

Dead sinners out of the sky, from the west these malicious spirits fly like birds. A great flock surround the house. They shake at the doors and windows, they want to rob me of my soul. Only the thin winter dawn, mother of pearl, glistening snow-covered lawns can save me every day, restoring rational thinking and hope.

In Irish and Scottish folklore, the Sluagh (Irish pronunciation: [sɫuə], Scottish Gaelic: [slˠ̪uaɣ], modern Irish spelling Slua, English: “horde, crowd”) are the spirits of the restless dead. Evil people who are welcome in neither heaven, hell nor the Otherworld, spurned by the Celtic deities and earth itself.  Troublesome and destructive, they fly in groups, coming from the west, known to enter the house of a dying person ready to carry their soul away. West-facing windows should be kept closed to keep them out.  The Sluagh carry souls they’ve kidnapped, holding them for all time.

2.

On the train, on the subway, at breakfast, lunch and dinner… on-line, off-line, across the world everyone has an opinion about Donald Trump.  Conjecture, suspicion and ‘facts’ muddle our minds.  Everyday he outrages some and delights others.  He is shaking the tree as the people demanded.  He is shaking the tree so hard.  When the big rain comes it will afford us no cover.  He roars into the man-made monsoon,  tied to the mast.  His people love it.

I know folk who hate him but what’s to do?  There’s no self-examination, no Democratic autopsy.  They are still convinced the Russians lost them the election.  The genteel Democrats play gin rummy as if the parlor wasn’t burning down around them.

Oh, I’ve found myself loathing Obama this week.  I can’t bear his smiling face.  Appeasing the Republicans, remembering his first year pathetically chasing bi-partisan approval, wasting all that precious time.  Never bloodying the nose of his opponent.   Delighting the gays by making marriage equality easier and dancing with Ellen whilst he bombed the same seven countries whose refugees Trump has now signed executive orders to ignore.

There are simpering blog posts hankering after Obama.  This isn’t one of them.

Last week our very own unelected default Prime Minister Theresa May made a dash ahead of all other world leaders to Philadelphia where she gushed ecstatically over xenophobic republicans at their winter retreat then to Washington where she met Donald Trump.

Very bloody pleased with herself… conceited and smug, the gym mistress thinks her team is winning the match. When will she realize no one else is playing?  Most other Presidents, Prime Ministers, Kings and Queens are either biding their time or have cancelled their visit.

Trump holds Theresa’s hand as they negotiate a marble stair case, she wags her finger at him from across the podium smiling her snaggle toothed, coquettish smile… gently chiding her new fascist friend for his unpopular NATO plans.

Ignoring what the rest of us find impossible to ignore… Theresa May, in search of a mythical post Brexit trade deal (that may or may not include poisoned beef), offers up our very own Queen Elizabeth to Trump, including a full-on State visit.  Mall, flags, banquets.

I have no sympathy for the Royal Family, our Queen Elizabeth is well-known for shaking the hand of any murderous dictator her government insist she meet.  I mean, why wouldn’t she?  It’s an amazing deal!  Shake a few undesirable hands for a life time of state sponsored, guaranteed luxury for you and your extended family in perpetuity.  The British are utterly corrupt.  See us for who we truly are when we see the world through the prism of Donald Trump.

Like the Democrats here in the USA, the British must find and define a credible opposition. Something to interrupt this love affair the people are having with these simplistic right-wing leaders and their discredited ideology… and I don’t mean some wooly, middle ground centrist opposition… a charge against fascism needs to be convincing. If we fail to find somebody charismatic… May will win the next election and so will Trump.  Both of them will sell whatever we have that is left of a good life to the super rich.  Their base don’t care.

Trump and Brexit voters are hungry for chaos/intensity.  They may not know what they want is inevitably chaotic. They have no clue they are jonesing for intensity. Yet, it’s not for nothing we have a reality TV star as President of the United States.  He drives the narrative with cliff hangers, ticking clocks, drama and intrigue.  Every day he delivers a perfect hit directly into the veins of the masses.  If our opposition are unable to deliver an equally potent drug… they will not win.

The Democrats are not currently looking for anyone to lead a battle against Trump. For the time being corporate Democrats will keep their mouths shut.  Paid to lose and acquiesce to the Republican establishment.  We watched Obama defer to the same establishment for eight years and we didn’t complain.  He was a nice guy, he could tell a killer joke and made funny and heartwarming videos in the oval office.  We were content with marriage equality and Beyoncé.

This game of Monopoly is nearly at an end.  One of us owns all the green houses and the red hotels.  We throw the dice, we dread landing on anything that will make us even poorer but we know we are losing the game.  The same player owns the utilities and the railroads… soon they will own me and all the other players. Owning everything means the game is at an end.  Yet, there is no civillised end for this game of monopoly.  The electorate is demanding radical change, as humans tend to do.  It will lead inevitably to mass murder: whether it’s by imperial invaders or tribal slaughter or mechanised death camps, mass human death is an essential part of our human experience.

We will only benefit from the near extinction of humans.

After the great plague of 1666 humans in Europe enjoyed a better standard of living.  The plague killed up to 80% of the population,   those who survived organised themselves using established structures: they found and cultivated land, for the first time workers demanded good wages from employers and for nearly one hundred years the working class enjoyed a fair and equitable existence.

We are at a turning point.  Some people are very angry.  A world war or civil war may be in the offing.  It’s what we do.  It is cyclical, it is essential for the human race that millions must die.

 

 

 

 

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After the misery of the first day and the badly attended inauguration our lives in Trumptopia cheered up somewhat.  Saturday’s Women’s March was far bigger than the inauguration, bigger by several million people… causing Trump’s press secretary to spring out of his lair, into a press conference frantically denying the facts of the inauguration and present other facts, alternative facts hastily conjured up to satisfy his gilded boss.  There were NOT 250,000 people at the event, he squealed… there were 2 million people.

Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?

Groucho Marx, Duck Soup 1933

The weather was glorious in Tivoli today.  Full on climate change.  55 degrees.  Mid January.  The lilac is already budding.  The poor plants are so confused.  If this warm weather continues we won’t have stone fruit in the region again this year.  My friend, farmer Mr. Migerelli lost $850,000 worth of peaches last year.  The trees blossomed in January then a deep frost burned the blossoms on February 14th.  He called it the St Valentine’s Day massacre.

Because of the wonderful weather everyone seemed extra jolly.  The village is full of returning Bard students.  The coffee shop has reopened after the winter break.  I spent too much time in bed perusing social media and not enough time walking the dog.  Director Amy Berg posted a virulent anti Trump post on twitter and I thought… you know it’s not good enough to sit on your butt in some swanky Venice coffee shop stating the obvious.  Take some action, Amy.  Earlier in the day I advised my weekender friends how they might do a little more than post caustic Facebook notes and start thinking about strategy.   For a start, they could transfer their safe city vote upstate.

My friend Natalie who owns the Tivoli General store was crying the day of the inauguration but after yesterdays Women’s March she seemed a lot happier.  I think the march affected everyone.  Sending a really positive message after the horror of President Trump sank in.

In LA 750,000 people turned out and there were no arrests.

I started wondering, if life gets too bad in the USA, maybe society breaks down, where would I like to live?   All over the world ordinary healthy people are falling for a debilitating bout of nationalism.  This terrible and often fatal disease is currently sweeping one continent after another. Even though the disease of nationalism can be arrested with common sense… some victims never recover.  Symptoms include: intolerance, flag waving and micro-aggression.  Australia, France and the UK (where this stinking thinking originated) have all been badly affected. Also known as Zombie Fascism; this progressive disease leads to dogma, intransigence and intolerance.  It is extremely contagious.  I’m trying my hardest to avoid it by ignoring news channels, web sites and twitter. I’m praying I won’t be touched, moved or fascinated by the ease with which fascism falsely promises to solve all my problems. I’m hoping fascism won’t get me, or those I love. My family in England… they are already afflicted.  How quickly I’ve seen my people fall, developing very ugly symptoms then… boom: full-blown fascism.

Theresa May, caught Zombie Fascism a very long time ago.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Americans don’t recognize her name. Theresa May is the UK’s St Trinian’s style gym mistress (Prime Minister) who scored a ‘diplomatic coup’ as the first world leader to meet President Trump.  She is so very proud of herself.

Words fail me. They may fail her when she meets Donald and realizes he’s full of shit and any ‘deal’ she hopes to make with him will heavily favor the USA. Like many other leaders across the world she should have waited and kept her dignity.  Let’s remember, she’s only the prime minister because nobody else wanted the job of leaving the EU. At that very crucial moment after the Brexit vote… the men were nowhere to be found.

Seriously, part of me cruelly believes Americans deserve President Trump. All their bleating and moaning must sound like sweet music to the ears of those who have been fucked over this past 200 years by the USA.  South Americans, Iranians, Iraqis, Cubans, across the world Americans have interfered in the lives and democratic process of millions of people.

Trump is uniquely American. He is their goddamned president whether they like it or not. Most… don’t like it.  Yet, for decades Americans have been crippled by inertia and complacency. They don’t vote, they feel powerless or encouraged to feel their vote is worthless.  The Trump clown car did not arrive by accident. However distasteful he may be, he is here for good reason. To energize, radicalize and motivate the people back into the democratic process.  Evidence of which we saw yesterday.

Governments loathe the people marching on the streets, they hate the sound of breaking windows.  Governments are afraid of the people.  When the people rise up government is forced to admit its vulnerability, frailty and uselessness.

Today we must all fight, where ever we live, with the impulse to accept things as they are now.  There is a new order… but it has nothing to do with Trump.  It is about you and me finally standing up and not taking it anymore.

This is a crucial moment for all the people of the world. One we would be foolish to ignore.

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It might be a good time to remember that many, many people who voted for Donald Trump also voted for Barack Obama… twice.   We must reconcile this paradox.  It’s going to be a tough 8 years if we can’t.  

Frankly, I’m not spending every day for the next eight years incensed and indignant.  The stress will kill me.  It will kill you.  There will be many occasions when outrage or hopelessness will overwhelm us.  If we are determined to resist this presidency we must pick our battles judiciously.  Yet, one of the first battles I’m having is with myself, how do I empathise with those who voted for President Trump?  It’s a tough call.  Last year I had to set aside my resentment and accept the decision made by the British people and members of my family who voted for Brexit.

A desperate need for change is not peculiar to the USA.  All over the world people are expressing anti-establishment sentiments, electing anti-establishment leaders and pushing for anti-establishment solutions like Brexit and Trump.  I’m less upset than curious, less sad… than prepared for a scrap.

President Trump’s inaugural speech astonishingly laid bare his distrust of a corrupt and self serving American government and by extension our distrust of a corrupt and self serving government.  He audaciously described his contempt for the very people he shared the bipartisan stage.  A truculent POTUS at odds with both democrats and republicans, the Intelligence Community and The Deep State might (I’m clutching at straws) turn out to be what we all need.

Part of me is still pissed that Bernie Sander’s fight for the presidency was scuppered by Clinton fanatics at the DNC as revealed by Wikileaks.  Both Sanders and Trump energised the nations voters with the promise of revolution.  They both understood what Clinton failed to grasp: voters were demanding radical change… at any cost.

Hillary Clinton and more of the same was never going to fly in 2016.

There’s no one group of voters to blame for the ascendency of narcissistic President Trump, so we must stop blaming the working poor for this distressing state of affairs.  We must stop blocking them and de-friending them and berating them on social media.  Fact: white working class men were joined by white women and brown people and LGBT folk to elect Trump.

Clinton supporters who didn’t want radical change lazily blame white male ignorance.  My friends assure me poor white people have been hoodwinked by Trump.  They smugly remind me the white working class were voting against their ‘own interests’.

Were they? Were poor white men hoodwinked by President Trump?   No.  They knew exactly what they wanted. 

Voting against ones own interests is an elitist construct. It assumes the poor have interests and the lives lived by the poor are interesting enough for the poor to protect. Due to the banking crisis the poor have been left with nothing. They have no hope, no happiness, no health care and diminishing prospects.   Nobody spoke better to the nihilistic poor than Trump who said: I’m going to punish those who ignore you, who look down at you… those who confused you with trans rest rooms; the affluent gays… no longer second class perverts. The angry blacks and First Nation people who remind you of your cruel heart. The women who emasculate you with feminism and equal wages.

When was America great? America was great when white men were allowed unfettered dreams of greatness as others suffered some indignity at their hands. This election had nothing to do with Obama-care, nothing to do with food stamps or undocumented workers… this election had everything to do with self-esteem and unrealistic expectations. White male self-esteem and expectations. 

My friends balked when Trump promised to stop manufacturing from leaving the USA, how could anyone believe such nonsence?  Nobody.  It’s perfectly obvious to the white working class the jobs aren’t coming back and even if by some Trump miracle they did?  The working poor know they wouldn’t get those jobs. They know jobs have been mechanised.  They know a high school education excludes them from those jobs.  What’s more they have no doubt the rich will get richer and lower corporation tax will further enrich the few… but at least they won’t have to question their own white supremacy.  White men, voting Trump, are throwing themselves off the cliff into the abyss because they ran out of choices. Voting for Trump is poor white suicide, an honorable death, a samurai falling on his sword.

Poor white men have nothing and will certainly lose what little they have but Trump restores their white dignity before they die. If we fail to empathize with those who elected President Trump the pendulum will swing further to the right and our sticks and stones will not save us from full-blown fascism.

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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.

The Ex of In House in Rhinebeck is an experimental guest house developed directly from the ongoing Explorations of “IN” project at Steven Holl Architects.

 

Jim Hodges, Gladstone Gallery NYC 2016.  I Dreamed a World and Called it Love

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Faris Al-Shathir is a gay Iraqi ‘professional squatter’.  I’ve no idea what that means but Faris warranted a full-page in the New York Times describing his honed introduction skills.   I met Faris on Fire Island a couple of years ago.  He was hosting an art event, raising cash for queer artists to live and work on Fire Island.  Faris is witty, charming and bright.  I follow him on Facebook.   This week he posted this on his feed:

I connected with someone on a dating app recently. We were chatting for a few days, until he asked me where my name was from. I told him my parents were from Iraq. The next time I logged on he had blocked me. I would love to say this is the first time this has happened, but the sad truth is that it happens all the time. I don’t talk a lot about my race, but given the current political climate, I feel more and more challenged. I’m in a unique place, I have blue eyes and I am an Arab. My ethnicity is ambiguous. I understand what white privilege feels like, what it feels like to be treated like a normal human being and be given every opportunity for life and love. But my last name is Al-Shathir and to many people that is scary or disgusting. I also know what it is like to not be given a fair chance bc of my ethnicity. I know what it feels like to be on the other side, the side that isn’t fortunate enough to live in privilege every day just because of the color of their skin.
Lately, one of my biggest frustrations has been that so many people don’t seem to understand that that privilege exists. They lack empathy. They don’t comprehend that it’s a horrible reality and completely unfair. Nobody should be treated differently bc of their ethnic origin, race, or color (or gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation, etc. for that matter). We should live in a society where we are all given equal opportunity. If you are one of the many people who feel complacent about this or feels like it’s not an issue, you are wrong. If you’ve learned to succeed even under these circumstances, that doesn’t mean the problem doesn’t exist. If you feel like it’s not going to get worse, you are wrong. The future president of our country was elected after making numerous public statements threatening, insulting and demoralizing minorities, muslims, women, people with disabilities, the list goes on and on. Over 60 million Americans voted for Trump, supporting his words and actions. He has normalized hate, empowering a scary and powerful population.
So yes, I am scared for the future. I ask all of my friends to not be complacent. We must stand for what is right.

I replied:

Faris, gay men are not great examples of empathy toward each other or other groups. I met you on Fire Island in a largely affluent, young, white environment. Try being sober and gay. Try owning the natural body you have and being gay. Try having different opinions about Prep. If you do not fit in you are treated like a pariah. There’s no room for individuality unless prescribed by Ru Paul.  The two gay men who live opposite me upstate voted for Trump. Our community is increasingly right-wing. As for racism. ‘No blacks, no Asians, no fems or fats’. Perhaps a gay dating app is not the best place to look for empathy.

Faris didn’t ‘like’ my comment.

Do I think he was blocked for being Arab.  No, I don’t.  The gays will fuck anything.  I’m sure who ever blocked him didn’t want a conversation.  Although there’s something a little whiney and naive about the post… not getting laid opened the flood gates for Faris.  He had an epiphany.  A moment of clarity.  He understood (what so many of us already understood) that white people control the outcome.  That white gay men are no different.  That Middle Eastern people and particularly muslims are currently getting the blame for all the evils in the world.  I make sure men I meet on apps know I’m Middle Eastern from the outset and my experience on the hook up apps as an out Iranian is very positive.  If you consider being objectified and fetishized by white guys… very positive.

If Faris believes he was blocked for being Middle Eastern try being a young black man blocked ahead of any conversation simply for having a black face.  My young black friend DP just returned from his first trip to London, I asked how it was visiting a city where racism in the gay community has been largely eradicated. He said, “My Grindr blew up!”  Meaning of course…  white men SAW him and contacted him and didn’t ignore him because he is black.

My friend Adam arrived upstate recently, addicted to Grindr he jumped on the app and immediately started blocking… it made me feel sick.  Sick that Adam might be missing out on someone somewhere simply because were not photogenic or rather… Grindrgenic.  I once blocked a severely disabled man on Grindr because I couldn’t bring myself to tell him his disability was going to be difficult for me to deal with.   I’ve ignored chubby men, older men and trans.  I’ve lectured men about their bad pics in the age of instagram filters.  Sadly, our on-line community has evolved into a series of photographs that may or may not grab the attention of the next viewer.   A few words then a parade of cock shots and gaping anus.

Many gay men are waking up to a new reality.  Faris is not alone.  Gay men have enjoyed a great deal of privilege these past few years. After Trump’s shock election the gays are suddenly aware they might become second-class citizens once again.   Faris, like many gay men, are feeling vulnerable.  They are beginning to understand how older men like me lived our lives before we fought and won equality… for people like Faris.   He berates the community for their lack of empathy, their ignorance of ‘privilege’.  He uses the most un american of terms: unfair.  It’s unfair that white men don’t understand the concept of white privilege.  We can assume from this clumsy post… Faris, like many gay men, is waking up.  Faris is taking baby steps toward becoming… radicalized.

Many of us already feel like second class citizens… within the gay community.   Those of us who are older, who don’t fanatically go to the gym or Soul Cycle or Barry’s Boot Camp.  Try being gay and sober or simply expect more from our fellow gay travellers.   Long ago I began to loathe those monstrous gays who took our tenuous rights and equality for granted.  Long before Trump ever threw his hat into the ring.  After Trump’s win… I am beset by Schadenfreude.   I had written endlessly that our rights, our very existence should not be used by left or right to prove a point.  Allowing ourselves to be co-opted by the left as evidence of a better society could turn out very badly for us.  It has.

During the election I warned my gay male friends not to be complacent (it’s a little late to warn about complacency Faris) and expect President Trump.  They ignored my warning, they insulted my judgement and accused me of ignoring the polls.  They were wedded to their skewed logic that Hillary would win because Trump was unelectable.   But mostly they were wedded to the idea that gay life was a bull market and could only get better.

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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.

 


A Fragment

There’s darkness all around me.  Both sides.  Consider it.  Consuming me.  Your death.  When I wake in the morning and retire at night.  My obsession to kill, to kill you obscures the view, softens the edges like a drink, like a cold beer, like a veil.  Then I’m walking in the world.  I am on the street.  I am not where my body is.  Away from my house,  trapped in the sunlight.  Jacarander in full bloom.  Smashed avocado on the side-walk.  Why bother going out?  I could be planning his death.  Planning the end of his life.  Scripting the final words he will hear before he’s snuffed out.  I have to feed the dog.  Buy probiotic.  Pass the homeless black man reclining on the concrete bench.

Franklin, Selma, Cherokee.

The only fascinating thing that came out of his mouth was my cock.  I have a photograph of that.   I wish I had been more tenacious tending my own lusty garden, less sensitive, less caring.

When people stay over they complain I scream out in my sleep.  Night terrors.  They ask, who is Jake?  I shudder to think what I am doing in those forgotten nightmares.  Am I trapped or caught or bringing down the knife?  Have I cornered him?  Is he begging for his life?  Have the tables been turned, the police called?  Am I already handcuffed, am I sitting in the electric chair?

There are no consequence, nothing scares me when the lights are on, when dawn has broken.  As I make my way, steeply up the dusty trail.  Fighting one resentment after another.  Slip sliding past these single people with their dog children.  Calling out.  One dog, two dogs, three dogs.  This morning I counted 145 dogs.  I’m calling your name as I sleep.  Jake!  Come back to me.

There is something inevitable. Keep your voice down.  I am planning.  I’ll leave it up to my dreams to work out the detail.   The multiple contractions of apprehension.  Accept my fate, God’s will (not mine) be done.

I worked in the county jail for the Mexican nuns.  Organizing lectures for the pre-trial detainees.  I met murderers there.  They were so contrite. I listened politely to their stories.  “I’ve taken a life.”  He wept.  He buried her in a storm drain, using a broom handle to push her limbs out of sight.

Culver, Washington, Sepulveda.

The heavy rains, El Niño flushed her desiccated body into the LA River,  bobbing along the concrete culvert until she met the choppy Pacific Ocean.  Murderers all, never thinking I would one day join them.  Wearing orange scrubs and yellow underwear.  I wonder if I will be as contrite when strangers ask me for my story?  Contrition has never been my friend.

After many months of consideration everything is in place.  Everything I need to know:  Where he lives, the route he takes to work, how I can find him.

Hyperion, 101, West Temple.

I have seen recent pictures of him on his Mother’s Facebook.  The way he wears his hipster beard, trimmed in such a way I never knew.  I wonder if his lover advises him to wear it like that? He is wearing a jacket I picked out for him.  Do you know how much that amuses me?  Every time he pulls on that jacket he has no option but to think of me.

I have not yet bought the weapon.

The cast is chosen, the die… is cast.  The private detective, my unwitting accomplice.  The weapon?  Must buy.  Top of the list.  Number 1.  It was easy to find the Private Detective.  Google.  Boasting he once worked for the LAPD.  Despicable cops.  Everything about my failed relationship with Jake was conceived and born on the internet.  It was shaped on web cams,  emails, Facebook, Manhunt, Grindr.

Determined by him.

When and whenever he wanted.  I gave into him.  Until I didn’t.

How and why should a charming, affluent, fifty year old think like this?  Why this murderous obsession?  I used to wake every morning full of hope, like a young boy!  Enchanted by all the world has to offer.  Now I see nothing.  At the mercy of nothing.  Darkness both sides of me.  I used to wake up every morning and thank God for the new day.  Now there is no God, just a black hole where God used to be, consuming everything in the universe.  Sucking anything of value into the vortex.  The furies are all I’m left with.  On the edge of the black hole.

I have given up wondering why I am so angry at him.   This is all you need to know:

Alone in my bed at night but not isolated. The house is full of people.  The dog is well fed.  The maid cleans.  The gardeners trim and prune and sweep.  There are fragrant hyacinths, white and purple, growing in pots on the dining room table.  Freshly grown fruit picked and washed ready to eat.

I don’t expect to get away with this.  In anticipation I have been disconnecting from my darling dog.  He knows it, he paws at me insistently.  He knows something grave is in the offing.  He, in turn, is learning to trust the kindness of others.  He doesn’t want to be left on his own.  I may have murdered months ago had it not been for the extraordinary something between me and a dog.  I am ready to let go of him too.  He hides from me when I cry, he hides from me when I am angry.  Leaves puddles of urine on the white rug. He cowers when I shout at dullards on the streets or digital voices on the telephone.  He is scared by the smell of whiskey on my breath.  He is ready for a different master.  

I am ashamed to tell you, when he first arrived from the shelter I was quite cruel to him.  He was scared and disoriented when I brought him home.  Barking, barking.  He would pee on everything and after a week of cleaning the house, scrubbing the god damned carpet, mopping the tile, the smell of dog pee on everything I owned.  Every time he peed I shouted at him.

He defecated in my closet.   I shouted so hard he ran away and hid in the garden.

I wished he would never come back.  I begged God the coyote would eat him.  The rattle snake would kill him.  For a week he managed to not get eaten by the coyotes.  How?  Packs of coyote stalk my property.  Screaming for their dinner.  He walked back into the house as if nothing had happened.  He never urinates on the carpet again.

He’s not the only one who escapes the anger when it comes.  People in the room move away from me as if they know me.  I used to shout at people in the street.  I’ve been angry.  Very angry.  Furious.  It’s a problem.  Perhaps I am well-known for flying off the handle?  There’s no question mark.  I am well-known for losing my temper.  At work, in situations where powerlessness grips me, I feel myself sinking.  I shouted so loudly, my blood pressure so high, I collapsed.  Shifting the liquid in my inner ear.  The doctor thought I was having a stroke.

I lost my temper with Jake.  I lost my temper when we thought he had been robbed.  I lost my temper at the airport in Paris, Charles De Gaulle.   He recoiled.  Everyone does.  I am a big man who looks docile for the most part.  Docile, until they prod me with their stick.  Docile until the blood drains out of my face, my lips turn blue and I look like an animal.  I know where you are.  I can hear you talking about me during the day.  My ears burning.  He’s doing it right now.  I can hear him laughing at me.  Describing my horrible temper.  Sharing stories about me with his friends.  Laughing at every choice I ever made.  I imagine him with my old acquaintances (friends no more) who may have contacted him.  Laughing at how old I am.  Wondering what he ever saw in me.  My erectile dysfunction.  The white in my beard.  My stiff knees.  

He is only twenty-nine years old.  I don’t expect him to celebrate his thirtieth birthday.

Chris, the Private Detective.  The first time we met, we met in public.  We drank coffee at a large table at my private club over looking Beverly Hills and West Hollywood.

Doheny, Hillcrest, Thrasher.

A plump, sanguine, middle-aged man who is not even middle-aged. Certainly fifteen years younger than me yet seems so much older.  There is something invisible about him.  He is uniquely American.  He is invisible.  He is everyman, dressed as everyman therefore invisible.  I would be hard pressed to pick him out of a crowd even though I have met him twice.  He had no particular expression, no charisma, no beauty and no opinion.

Only when pressed did he tell me about his other clients:  a woman from Pasadena whose husband she suspected was having an affair.  He followed the unemployed spouse into Santa Monica who sat in the library day after day drinking english tea from a flask he filled at The Coffee Bean and reading free newspapers until it was time to go home.

I wondered if I had ever been followed, watched or my movements documented?   Really, who would care enough to do that?  I couldn’t think of anyone other than Joe.  The thought made me smile.  Not even he would bother.  Even as we were in the midst of our messy ‘divorce’.

The second time I met Chris the Detective we met at my home.  He had, by this time, reseached me.  He was less restrained, he knew who I was and who he was dealing with.  He told me about a boy he was looking for, a lost boy.  He thinks the boy is already dead.  Suicide.  “Let’s talk about money.”  Chris pulled a contract out of a black plastic folder and I handed him a cheque for $1, 500.  Discover where he goes, I said.  With whom.  Simple.

Yes, I am a homosexual.  I wondered if you guessed already?  Had I made it obvious? Was it evident in the way that I write?  The way I see things.  Does it differ from the way you see things?  A homosexual, a landlord and recently  (I don’t know how to write this) a television personality from a reality television show.  That’s how I make my money, odd jobs.  Like the downs syndrome boy who lives in my home town.  Running errands.  I am a high achieving cripple.

Odd jobs suit me fine.

Yet, I earn more money than I ever have.  Using all of my potential.   Even though the worst of me seems to get the better deal every single day and always has.

I can confide in you?

Each night I regret the passing of another day.  I lay in my bed and before I fall asleep, knowing that soon my freedom will be curtailed.  My sheets no longer woven from heavy linen.  My houses in the mountains will fall into disrepair.  Friends and family will come and take what they want and the lawyers will take the rest.  My dog will never see me again.  Will he too die in prison?  Euthanized by strangers?  Is it worth it?  To lose everything because he made a fool of me?  Lied to me?  Can I risk everything?  Should I?

I have never been so sure of anything in my whole life.  In lieu of suicide, murder works just fine.  I talk to him, imaginary conversations.  I catch hold of his sleeve and I ask him, “Can I tell you how you broke my heart?”  He looks back at me.  His brown eyes and soft mouth.  I say, “Because you trusted me, you encouraged me, you loved me.  Then you saw something you hated and turned your back on me and I was alone and I couldn’t bear being all on my own… again.” Then I feel sorry for him.  I want to help him get out of this pickle.  Run away!  While you still have the opportunity. I don’t want to kill anything.  But the wish to kill is never killed, even when I am happy, even when the twins are bouncing around the house.

Sometimes I want to call you and give you fair warning.  I want to tell you to run and hide so I can’t get you.  But I don’t.  I don’t because the die is cast.  I have already caused him inexorable pain and chaos.  I know his entire family (Mother, Father and sister) stand beside him whereas I have no one here.  His tiny jewish mother, her short coarse hair, married to her tall slim husband whose ambition is to travel by push bike from Southern California to burning man and take acid. His mum and dad who only found out he was gay when I forced him to tell the truth.  They were shocked their son could have made so many bad choices, led a double life.  Told so many lies.  He compartmentalized the life he led with his fiance and the life he had with me.

He is not uncommon.  So many gay men learn how to lie, to skirt the existence others think they lead.  Last week a gay acquaintance of mine found dead in his bathroom from a Oxycontin overdose.  He was fine!  His father told everyone that he had only just put down the phone twenty-four hours ago and his son, his only son, his darling son was fine.

I used to tell him that.  I warned him.  Toxic shame kept him lying to everyone who loved him and would end up killing him if he didn’t tell the truth.

2.

My name is Charles Maguire.  I am fifty years old.  I live with my small dog  in a large, mid-century modern house designed in part by Rudolf Schindler on three acres of verdant, semi tropical gardens overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  The gardens are planted with Agave, cactus and other drought loving succulents.  Below the house there is a small grove of olive trees.  Last summer I grew cherimoya, oranges, grapes, lemons, plums, peaches and many vegetables.  The excess fruit and vegatables I left at the top of the drive for my neighbours, they took the produce and ignored the honesty box.

Malibu is a tranquil place many miles away from Hollywood.  I can see the stars at night and listen to birds all day long.  Hawks wheeling in the sky.  There is a carp pond and a plunge pool.  My neighbours are European.  Americans tend to fear the idea of living on the mountain.  When they arrive at the house they say, “Are you scared of….mudslides, fires, earthquakes etc?”  And I reply, “No… not much scares me up here.  Then they tour the garden and tell me this is a ‘magical’ place.  It is when you stop being scared.

Latico Canyon, Las Flores, Topanga.

Last month young twins moved into the guest house but mostly they hang out with me.  My Mormon twins, tall, perfectly sculpted bodies, so polite and thoughtful.  As much as I love them, they shall not distract me from my great task.  Perhaps all I want is attention?  Craving attention.  Negative or otherwise?  The trial,  I arrive looking svelte and dapper.  I will stand in the witness-box and sob when forced to tell my abusive back story.

I think about him again.  I think about how he may or may not be with someone he loves who is not me.  I think of him having sex with someone he loves who is not me.  Then I think murderous thoughts that many of us have when ditched.   I console myself in the shadow of that word:  I think about the wounds on his body that I am going to inflict and how they will open in his flesh like cactus flowers.

I don’t think anyone will be surprised when they hear that I am arrested.  Most people I know understand that I am the sort of man who would or could be capable of murder.  Just like my father.   He was the same way.

The route he takes to work everyday.  Hyperion, 101, Culver.

The twins are in their room making love.  I can hear them.  One of them says softly, “Don’t!” They giggle.   They look at my AA sober coins and say, “These are really cool trinkets.”  They are going to the gym and getting ready to audition. They don’t know my thoughts.  They can’t possibly know what is going on upstairs in the head department.  They are simple Mormon boys who make love in the morning and talk about girls all day long. I can hear them kissing.  I can hear them cooing like doves.  I can hear one of them gasp.

Since he left me I have put on weight.  My jowls are sagging.  The skin around my eyes drooping over my eye lids.  My belly looks permanently full and my skin is dull and grey.  I used to be attractive but that doesn’t matter any more.  Who cares what I look like?

I don’t.

I have not had an erection for months.   Hey, gay boy.  Can you imagine that?  Fucking gay boys!  Not to have an erection?  Not to wake up with morning wood because all you can think about twenty-four seven is how you are going to speed a bullet through his brains?

Murderous thoughts destroy ones libido.  Although, most murderers say they get an erection after a murder, that ones penis becomes doubly engorged.

I don’t look at pornography, I don’t show myself on any match-making web site.  I don’t drink alcohol or take drugs.  I drink coffee and smoke strong cigarettes.  I barely ever brush my teeth unless I have to share a car with someone… and then, only when that person matters.  I stand naked in front of the mirror so the image of who I am burns into my brain.  I am ugly and useless and un-lovable.  I am old.

Some days I kneel at the edge of my bed and pray that I can be delivered from this obsession but God long ago fled the scene of this crime.  I have nothing to lose.  My life is worthless.

I can hear the twins in another part of the house film scenes for a film that has no beginning, middle or end.  The dog is with them, he’s barking and running around joyfully.  I know, if I join them they will sit quietly.  Their joy deferring to my misery.

Did you know that I used to have two dogs?  The other one was killed in the road.  I miss her so much.  Somehow her death, her cruel and senseless death introduced me to the idea of death.  Life’s fragility.  I am crying now.  Thinking about her.

Anyway, that’s that.  The detective has been appointed.  Cal from Manhattan Beach has the gun. It is presently sitting in a box wrapped in a dishcloth.  He texted me a picture of the gun.  Applying some Polaroid app to the image which made it look very old-fashioned.  Very old.  Everything is in place.  What could possibly stop me.  Other than his pleading face?  His begging cries?  His convincing argument that he might live?

Why don’t I just kill my old self and spare his young life?

I say goodbye to the dog and the twins.  I walk for one last time around the estate.  The paths that cut into the hill-side.  The view over the ocean.  I say goodbye to it all.  “The next time you see me will be on the television.”  The twins look a little confused but are too polite to pry.  The Little Dog thought he was coming too and looked quite panicked when I did not invite him into the car.  I didn’t look back.  I could hear him barking.  I didn’t look back.

405, Vista Del Mar, Highland Ave

3.

Cal, shows me the gun.  He is very excited.   A plan to kill.   I am discovering that murder excites some people, like the soldiers in Afghanistan who without consideration shot and killed innocent men and women without regard.  It was their thrill and now I feel it too.

A thrill comes over me, more intense than anything I have ever felt before.  Do men feel the same before they kill themselves?   Have I thought about suicide?  I think about it everyday.  Every single day.  If I am brave enough go kill myself I might as well take someone with me.  The man who broke my heart.  The man who caused everything to stop except time.  Stuck in this morass.

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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.

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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.