Monday, September 27, 2010

An Actor has a Show-mance

16 Years ago I was in a play titled “Earl, Ollie, Austin and Ralph” at Theater Rhinoceros. It was one of my first plays produced at the rapidly fading Theater Rhinoceros.  I played the titular Ralph. My character was an acerbic New Yorker who had a problem. He had a wonderful boyfriend that he really wasn’t in love with. Instead of recognizing it and ending it sensibly; he turned into a wretched hate-filled queen destined to destroy his relationship with a loving, listening, and caring and hunky  man named Austin.

In the play the couple are on a  2 week vacation which becomes the lovable Austin’s inexplicable attempt to salvage the relationship. The car breaks down and they wind up conveniently at a  coast side bed and breakfast owned and run by an engaging elderly gay couple named Earl and Ollie who have been together for decades.

You’ll have to forgive me since I am doing most of this by memory, and not much could be found on the internet about this particular production. I do know that this charming,  albeit flawed comedy was a departure from Rhino’s standard “in-your-face” season.  Rhino had (has?) a tendency to provoke audiences rather than simply entertain. Adele Prandini was Artistic Director at the time and while she appeared scrappy and intimidating she was actually a big sensitive marshmallow. I respected her-and do to this day. She was one of the 4 or 5 directors in my bazillion years of doing theater that actually got me to genuinely act on stage instead of trying to make an audience laugh. (I can do both when paired with a director who knows how to handle me, but thats a rarity.)

At the auditions I had no idea what I was in for.  I had done very little acting in the city and had come dangerously close to giving it up entirely due to one very bad audition. It was for a musical so I chose the song “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables “from Les Miserables. The phrase “at the lonely barricade at dawn” changed in my head to “at the lonely balustrade at dawn”. Somehow this struck me as enormously funny. Instead of focusing on the song I kept thinking, “what the hell is a balustrade?? I couldn’t finish the song and began dissolving into giggles and excusing myself while apologizing profusely for wasting all their time. 

Apparently my charm won out my talent and while I didn’t get asked to do that particular show- it lead to three more auditions.  One of those auditions garnered from that botched musical audition was for Glenn Rawls’ play “Earl, Ollie, Austin and Ralph”. My glossy 8 by 10 got shuffled in with 3 or 4 dozen other boys and we were all up on stage giving it our all two by two. The older couple seemed a sewn up deal because I saw only three other men who looked over 50 sitting watching the rest of us kids audition.

The material was a little out of my element. I hadn’t played a romantic lead since I portrayed Albert Peterson in “Bye Bye Birdie” in High School. (Seriously how romantic can Dick Van Dyke come across to most people?)  My area of expertise became the second banana. I got a little nervous as I rehearsed the final break up scene with another hopeful.  The actor I was reading opposite of wasn’t just pleasant to look at; he was fucking BEE-YOO-TEE-Full.  He had a stunning smile, killer abs, and huge shiny dark chocolate brown eyes fringed with lush black eyelashes. Now remember that I am merely in my late 20s at this particular juncture and was desperate to have a boyfriend in the big city. I –like many other boys like me in San Francisco-fell in love every half hour. As I read the scene with this fella,  I tumbled into that sweet torturous abyss.

The director had asked us to go run the scene in the hallway a couple of times and then come back and do it for him. Oh God! His name was Jack (not really... but for the sake of this blog it will be. According to Google he’s fallen off the planet but one can never be too careful.) He was a bit younger than me and as we traveled off to a remote corner of the hallway he enthusiastically chattered about how he thought the scene should play out.

They are breaking up but the best way to do this would be to play the opposite -right? Like the audience doesn’t want them to break up because we can see in Ralph’s face that he might be making a mistake...I mean know ...if it’s okay with you”  

Normally I’d be annoyed that another actor was telling me how to interpret a script but I was blinded by his sexiness and my insistent urge to mate and nodded mutely and enthusiastically like a bobblehead.

He continued, “Like I’m thinking maybe they should touch each other  at the end of the scene-ya know? Like hug? or I dunno almost get to a kiss and think better of it.” I could feel my pulse quicken maddeningly. It got to the point that I almost forgot I was auditioning. Color was rapidly rising to my cheeks. He smiled. “ You like that idea?”

“ Yes -uh Yes - I would be different from uh what the other guys are doing.”

Cool Dude. I soo like your style”I kid you not, he chucked me under the chin.

I think I simpered. Thankfully he wasn’t disgusted by it and continued to stage our scene. We read it and somehow the rational actor in me could see that this wasn’t really going to serve the writing. I didn’t care. All I cared about was somehow making Jack fall in love with me. NOW !!!!!  I believe my character was supposed to appear indifferent while his character was falling apart. Instead we re-interpreted to appear that HIS character was making one last attempt at seducing my character and almost -just barely-came very very close succeeding.

He came up and stood very close to me glancing at the script and saying the line. He traced his finger across my cheek. I tried like hell to keep my knees from buckling. He eventually moved behind me with his large very strong looking hand on my shoulders and moving down to my chest. Firecrackers were going off behind my eyes and I thought I may lose consciousness as he pressed his very worked out body closely behind me. I could feel my hardening  Mr. Happy  trying like hell to unfurl in my bikini underwear and then the stage manager came through the double doors to the hallway and called out, “ P.A. and Jack?”

“ Yes Yes!! We are here!” I blurted suddenly and a little too loudly.  Oh that sounded nice...P.A. and Jack. Oh let’s invite P.A. and Jack! P.A. and Jack are so in love. P.A. and Jack have such the perfect life -why can’t we be more like them??? They are so glamourous and successful!  I swear you could see the hearts and doves circling my head as I entered the theater.

We got up on stage and played that scene for every tender moment we could wring out of it. Most of those tender moments were completely unnecessary. I looked longingly at him and he was beseechingly reaching out to me with every syllable. I could feel the electrical bolts flying between us and felt the back of my neck prickle. Wait.... was it great acting??? Um ....don’t think so. No. ...dammit ...not really. It was however magic of a sort and the director was moved. Before I knew it we were the last couple standing and it was announced that we were indeed in the cast.

He looked at me and grinned with those enormous and stunning white teeth and sparkly big brown eyes.

We walked out and he hugged me and gave me a kiss on the cheek. I was absolutely delirious and felt the heat of his lips on my cheek.  How the hell would I stay cool during the rehearsal period???  To fulfill my fantasies he offered to give me a ride home on his MOTORCYCLE. Shit - might as well have been a white horse on the curb!  He even had an extra helmet for me! I hopped on and wrapped my arms around him. I felt a little ticked off that I lived so close to the theater. He said, “ You can hold me tighter if you want.” Well of course.

Within minutes he brought me to the front  my flat on Guerrero and I handed him back the helmet. “Well...... see you next week” I said, all agog and wondering if I should kiss him right now. He grinned, “ See you next week P.A. This is gonna be great. We’ll have to get together and work on some backstory stuff. “

“Oh definitely!!” said the bobblehead. “Anytime Jack!! My schedule is WIDE open!!”
I can’t wait to get home and tell my girlfriend I am doing a Gay Play. She is going to freak!!!!” and with that he motored off.

I think I stood there for a while and then said, “ Wait...what? “ to no one in particular.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rich and Famous

Richie Rich
When I was very young I wanted to be very rich and very famous. I used to pour through my Richie Rich Comic Books and fantasize about everyday items made of gold: combs, toothbrushes, and entire bathrooms. I loved the glitzy Liberace quality to Richie’s life. I also wanted to have blonde hair like him and have a butler who would make my life so much easier. I preferred my beagle, Murray  to Richie’s dog , Dollar- who was a Dalmatian with dollar signs instead of spots.
  In the 70s, I had an addiction to television and would rush home after school to watch seven hours of re-runs of kooky late sixties sitcoms. In order to fully enjoy the shows I always had a large stack of Saltines and a jar of crunchy peanut butter with a very large glass of Nestlé’s Quik to wash it down. (Don’t worry. It never spoiled my dinner.)  I would relentlessly stir the powder into the milk, experimenting with degrees of chocolatey goodness while getting annoyed with why Mary Ann didn’t dress more like Ginger, and when would Granny hire a chef and a maid at the Clampett Estate. 
Eva Gabor
One sitcom character who I related to particularly well was Lisa –Eva Gabor from Green Acres.  While I didn’t exactly have allergies to Hay, nor had I ever really seen a Penthouse view, I did indeed want to escape the beautiful green mountains of Vermont for the excitement of New York City.  It was quite a shock when I was 18years old, on a school trip to find that the glamorous Big Apple was a little rotten looking. Back in the 80s NYC weren’t too clean and it smelled just as bad as it looked.
You have to put into context that I was raised on very clean and very pure Vermont air-and anytime we went to a fairly well  sized  North Eastern metropolis my nasal passages would take a beating. Boston, Portland, New Haven-and Montreal  all of em were big ole stinky cities. Obviously I needed a high rise and a Chanel pocket spritzer.
I wanted to be a city boy in the worst way and I looked down my little nose at simple clean country living. I’d glare resentfully at my parents when they didn’t seem to understand that I obviously deserved the finer things in life….whatever they were. My father would just look at mother and would deny his paternity with, " You wanted to raise the last one." My Mother would stare into space and wondered what she did to deserve me. Why did I want so much? I figured out that I was just going to have to do it myself. I would become a world famous movie star and have a pretty kidney shaped aqua swimming pool and a gold toilet that I had earned from my zillion dollar contracts with 20th Century Fox and then later MGM.
Here I am 30 something years later. I live in an illegal mildewed in-law in the foggiest part of San Francisco.  I don’t own a car and I shop at Cost Co and  Ross….sometimes Marshalls.  In short I am monetarily challenged. I am only famous in the U-list sense of the word. I got a long climb to be a D-list celeb. Maybe if you are Gay and watch a lot of San Francisco local theater would you even have an idea the size of my “fame”.
Dene - 20 years ago KIDDING
Well I scotched all chances of fame and riches when I met Francis Ford Coppola. Maybe “met” isn’t the right word? I was in my 20s and was quite sure I knew everything that there was to know about …everything. I was conquering the West Coast by storm with my acerbic East Coast nature and sense of punctuality.  I had landed a job at a Gourmet Food store in the Castro known for being able to procure anything form an Ostrich egg to a rack of Yak. I had just moved out of my apartment between 17th and 18th on Guerrero leaving my passive aggressive anarchist fifty something female roommate and moved into my new apartment between 19th and 20th on Guerrero with my hip, cool, seriously, funny 20 something Gay male roommate. Together we were a young Gay male Laverne and Shirley and we were gonna do it our way- yes our way –makin our dreams come true.  The world was my oyster and I was ready to slurp it’s salty slipperiness right up! The new roommate’s name was (and is) Dene-pronounced Dean.
Dene  is  fun fun fun  and he knew all the right people. He had scored us tickets to a radio show performance of Bram Stoker’s Dracula-as conceived by Francis Ford Coppola. ( The same script to be later made into a movie with an anemic Wynona Ryder and a particularly unsexy Gary Oldman)  This was all held at the world famous Hungry I Club on Broadway…. 
My error that night –as it was most nights back then-was having a warm up cocktail, or two. I can’t recall if we dashed into a bar there in North Beach or we tipped a few back in the Castro.  Regardless, we arrived to the Radio show  quite toasted, particularly yours truly. It seems FFC was offering tastings of his new wine from his new vineyard. How fortuitous and simultaneously tragic that I had just completed a course in Wine Tasting!!  A skittish little blonde let us in the Club and a sumptuous obscenely food laden table with a huge center piece of FFC wine lay directly ahead of us. I dashed toward it and filled my glass.  I glanced over at Dene who was piling a plate with shrimp and tomatoes topped with Mozzarella di bufala. 
Bigger Yuck
“ OH!” I choked and grimaced as I took a sip. “Dreadful! It has so many tannins in it that it is virtually UNPOTABLE !!! “  My volume increased and the skittish little blonde hovered shaking like a chihuahua nearby. “What was Coppola  THINKING? Quick where’s a white cloth napkin?” Somewhere in the back of my brain I felt someone was directly behind me as I snatched one from a nearby stack. Others were beginning to stare.  “ Here! Look at this. LOOK AT THIS!! There are NO gradations in color! “ I bellowed as I held the napkin to the wine glass. “ This indicates a complete lack of sophistication in it’s readiness” Whatever babble I had learned in wine class was getting put through the PA verbal meat grinder and getting ground into complete nonsense.
 Everyone around us seemed a little tense. Dene and I snickered at my silliness and then he decided to go find us a place to sit and watch the Radio show. I wondered if the great man Coppola was about somewhere. I gobbled another phyllo triangle and turned on my heel to walk right into the belly of this wall of a Bear standing far too close behind me. He was tall and wide with a salt and pepper beard and glasses. He stared down at me clearly annoyed. It infuriated me that HE was annoyed .  “LOOK WHERE YOU ARE GOING! You lummox!!” I barked. I spat out a few more choice expletives as I brushed phyllo pastry off my brand new shirt I had bought from HEADLINES. (It was a must for affordable fashion in the early 90s .)
I found Dene and  we sat down to watch these overzealous, excruciatingly earnest young actors perform the story of Dracula –for radio. It was too much for Dene and I to handle.  We giggled and pointed and eventually looked at each other and communicated in stage whispers that this was the worst thing we had ever been to and we had to leave. We assumed that they were all simply forsaking a decent job of acting just to get Coppola’s attention. “He’s probably not even here!” I slurred. Dene looked at me confused for a second.

As we made our way to the back, the skittish blond was near the coat room. We presented our tickets. She stood there appearing bewildered. I felt it was necessary for the wall to hold me up due to the tannin laden wine I had ingested. ( It was free- hello?)  She stood and blinked at us. “We’d like to go.” Dene repeated to her. “Go? “  What the hell? “ YES! GO! “  Her eyes grew wide as she shrank back from us  and dashed off to get the coats. She  muttered something about not counting on the fact that someone would actually LEAVE before the end of the show. Soon we were weaving down Broadway toward Kearney. Dene collapsed in laughter –uproarious un contained all consuming laughter. “What’s sho funny?” I asked as I tried to focus in on his shaking form.  He gasped out, “ I can’t believe you did that!”
“Did wha?” I asked and swayed
“ Called Francis Ford Coppola a Lummox after insulting his wine!!”  he giggled
….and that’s why I am not Rich or Famous…really.... that’s the reason.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Death Writes a Play

Summer has gone and Orlando and I are left with this feeling that we should’ve done something grand like gone away for a few days  to an exciting locale together- before the air temperature changed too drastically- or the sun moved too far from our patch of the planet called Northern California.
Eminent change is abundant these days.  We spend our days focusing on him to get a job here in the Bay Area. He has a decent paying job up North where he lives, but we both fully agree that his moving down here without something set up is a plan for disaster. I may have mentioned in other blogs, that he would prefer to live in San Francisco and I, on the other hand, would like to make a change. 
I don’t hate my Bagdad by the Bay, but lately it feels like a well used wash cloth to me that I have wrung dry.  My life ten years ago feels so far away and twenty years ago seems like ancient history. Being the Bay Area Cub has breathed new life into it, but there are memories all around me that I no longer want.
I want a new life with new exciting experiences. I want to begin my life somewhere ELSE as Mr. Cooley-De Jesus… (Or is it Mr. De Jesus-Cooley?) Not too long ago, I had set out to redefine my artistic interests. First artistic endeavors were spent in my childhood and high school years as an artist (watercolors)  and  later budding actor. I spent the first half of my adulthood as a semi pro actor, (with the odd legitimate professional experience), and now I needed a new creative expression. What began as a blog detailing my experiences as a The Bay Area Cub 2010 over a year ago has become an obsession.  I look back at previous blogs with chagrin  on my big plans of my Bearlesque troupe. – So much for that big dream

Disheartened with the enormous difficulty involved in producing Bearlesque, I have scaled down-considerably. Not only am I writing a daily diary for you all to read, I am also attempting to write the clichéd actor approaches-his-mid-life-so-he-needs-to-write-and-perform-a-one-man-show SHOW!  Barbra is right –Art aint easy.
What the fuck could I possibly talk about that would keep people in their chairs for 45 minutes to an hour? … Preferably not sleeping and listening with a rapt expression? Hell if I know.. Yet slowly the ideas are starting to trickle in. I think a lot about sex and death these days. Particularly Death. Currently I live in a house where a 79 year old man who lives above me is “completing his journey” as we say in the biz. It’s odd to not have his piss and vinegar personality stamping around upstairs. Instead I hear the soft tread of little Mexican and Filipino nurses. It’s a shame but you can never say a person DIED. I understand why but I never liked it.
During the daytime I work in an Eldercare facility and well…talking about death is part of my work. As you may have previously read in an earlier blog, my brother passed away when I was ten. That was my first acquaintance with losing someone I was close to but my thoughts about what death means and how affects all of us happened much later. I began thinking earnestly about the end of life a couple of years ago, when I lost someone who I cared about to cancer. He wasn’t too keen on dying. I am sure that most people aren’t either, but when there is no cure and you have been dealing with this ever-present feeling of helplessness about your fate …you go a little nuts with despair. He was getting fairly frantic and I wanted to alleviate his fears. To prevent my friend from sailing off the deep end, I felt he needed to have control over his life. I said he could die whenever he felt like it. He didn’t need to follow cancer’s time line. I had hoped that would mitigate his growing despair. You’re thinking, “Oh My GOD PA!!!”  well yes,  good reader,  many..Innocent people thought the same thing.  However- I knew my friend wasn’t ever going to kill himself. He didn’t have that kind of fearlessness. I just suggested it, so he could feel in control and grab back a little sanity. No one was going to kill anyone- but the cancer would surely have its day. The doctors were clear. 

My friend went back home that night and cogitated on this for a bit and re-translated it in his brain that somehow I was weary of him and thought that I had offered to hasten cancer’s task. So…my whole plan of helping him feel better went completely awry and my relationship with him blew up fantastically –taking down several relationships of our mutual friends with it. It turns out that a lot of other people got the heebie-jeebies from dealing with my friend’s mortality and they needed a witch to burn. Lucky Me!!! My brash-tell- it-like-it-is-nature earned me my own stake within our group with my poor friend waving the flames desperately. It wasn’t a pretty time for anyone-especially since he died without us resolving any of it.  Two grief counselors and some good psychotropics later, I got my shit together.  It took a while for me to realize that way before his diagnosis, he and I operated very differently.  I had mistakenly thought we had so much in common and our friendship was founded in love and respect for each other. It slowly revealed itself to be something I NEVER thought it was and well…it’s too late now and the only thing I can do now is take a deep breath and let it go…easier said than done…I assure you-but I take that breath often…Like once a day to be truthful. It’s been years. I think he would’ve turned 48 a few days ago had he lived.
After losing my brother to cancer over 33 years ago-AND on a recent visit home finding my family still grieving over the loss of him..I should’ve known that moving on past my friend’s death wasn’t going to be easy. A few months..Or was it a year ?...Drew (My best pal) and I had met with a woman at a bar who had become my friend’s Durable Power of Attorney during the course of his illness and wanted to give Drew and I our “inheritance”. We knew her well and we were so happy to see her. I was amazed to look down and see bag full of his treasured books. The bag had my name on it. It held some of Truman Capote’s works.  He was a huge fan of Truman and kind of fancied himself a modern day version.
She represented all these joyful times that we all spent together. I was remembering on the day of the funeral when she had clasped Drew to her and asked us back her house where we had all had such great times together. Tears that Drew had been holding back sprang to his eyes. She had that effect on people, of releasing the pain. I wasn’t entirely welcome at that service and Drew didn’t want to leave me alone-knowing I couldn’t go. Now he was battling his own demons when it came to his own grief for our friend. He rose bravely to my defense when a ringleader had formed to assist my friend in banishing me from his life.  I remember I was amazed at Drew's elegance and strength. Don’t trifle with this Diva! Drew had to be so strong for me that he neglected to tend to himself emotionally. When I made my way back to reality, he was allowing himself to experience the loss of our friend.  It was hard for him. The three of us spoke of him in soft reflection. I had many questions for her about what specifically caused his death and she gave a rundown of the coroner’s report. The report implied that his body had been too weak to go on. The last few days of it had been spent in alcohol fueled drama, so I naturally thought –suicide, but it was nowhere in the report.  He was found peacefully curled up in his bed like he was sleeping. She offered up the coroner’s report if I was interested. –There was a silent moment. Drew and I were focused on what she would say next yet not really looking at her. She said that she regretted he had died in despair. I took that in; the very thing I didn’t want him to feel.  How little control we have over everything. Despite my ease with the ugly and uncomfortable aspects of death, I squirmed in my seat. I didn’t get it right with him and there was nothing I could do now. I wanted him to be his irreverent self and laugh at death. I asked too much of him and listened too little. I tried in vain to remember all the wonderful times I had shared with him. I was so sure they were countless-but now they were tainted and felt falsely manufactured and not truly lived. It was if he was a dream and our friendship wasn’t real and now I have woken up. Rudely and Abruptly. That feeling has never left me.
When it gets bad I reach over to the Lando Bear and squeeze him … a little too hard…garnering a little laughing, “ouch!” but he knows why I am doing it because the expression on my face is always the same when I think about my friend. I wonder if leaving San Francisco will help. …I know better. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Some people manage quite well in this crazy world and others need a little help. Quite recently a cousin of mine needed a little help and didn’t really know how to ask for it –or couldn’t accept it? I guess we will never know. I was told by my mother that he had killed himself. I am surprised at this news. He was one of those people that appeared to handle most difficult situations easily. He sometimes was charming, definitely witty and interesting. He had a dynamite family and pretty much everything a guy could ask for. At least –that’s what I thought. I asked my mother not to tell me what method he chose to do away with himself.

   I am afraid to remember David because …. I may have felt like him once upon a time. When I remember David, first off …I am quite sure I recall finding him attractive. It wasn’t an easy attraction either. I may have been only ten or eleven at the time and completely naïve about my developing sexuality, but I think my feelings toward my cousin were of my first legit signs that I was hopelessly homosexual. At 17yrs old, David vaguely resembled Shaun Cassidy. Yes Shaun Cassidy-huge teen idol. Da do ron ron. 
Shaun Cassidy -Not My cousin

   He was long and lean with this lanky sandy blonde hair that moved a lot. He was extremely confidant with his body. I, on the other hand, was not even close. (That came much later in my life dear pic collectors.) My body was changing too fast and I was growing –everywhere. I was scared to take off my shirt because of the weight gain around my middle and the strange fur sprouting about my nipples. My skin on my face and shoulders seemed to be erupting angry little pustules everywhere.

   David was a flawless willowy tan and wore a genital hugging, deep green speedo swim suit . At the time, I’d never seen an actual Speedo quite so close-just bodybuilders on TV or French Canadians who summered in Vermont. I wore proper penis-concealing baggy nylon trunks. Like I said…that was a long time ago. In the summer David’s family would come from Illinois to summer with our Grandfather. It wasn’t too far from Lake Champagne, not to be confused with the legitimate Lake Champlain. Lake Champagne was not really a lake, but more of a fairly good sized man-made pond at a Trailer Campground.

  My Aunt and David and, I would head there every afternoon that the sun was out when it was warm-and some days when it wasn’t warm. We’d spread a soft large blanket on the grass. There wasn't a beach but there was a small mud flat for toddlers to play in. His mother, My Aunt Marian, a Lawyer and whip -smart by the way, would be deftly fixing us a little snack. David’s parents-My Aunt and Uncle, fascinated me for a many reasons. Aunt Marion was gracious and stylish and- like her son –died entirely too early in life. I remember she could make almost any baby smile and played the piano beautifully despite missing a digit or two since birth. Quite often I was transfixed. I would rudely stare at her hands and the way she quickly manipulated just about everything: smoking, knitting, driving, or making me a peanut butter sandwich -without showing the slightest bit of difficulty.

My Uncle was blind and a judge. (No jokes please) When I was very young,  I would lean on the arm of his big green naugahyde recliner while he tolerated me waving my little hands in his face asking for the umpteenth time if he saw them. He was in a chemical accident that kind of glued his lids shut and but there was a tiny space where the lids were open and I was childishly insistent that he could see a little bit. He was very patient in trying to get me to understand his blindness. He even showed me how he read in Braille. I asked him to translate the books all the time. If he was particularly generous with his time, then I would be allowed to stroke the fur of his gorgeous German shepherd guide dog. Her name was Sheila and she was so beautiful to me I couldn’t stop touching her. My parents and other family members were constantly reminding me that Sheila was often at work and couldn’t be interrupted. The more I remember about my Aunt and Uncle the more I realized that I genuinely loved them. I am not sure if they did this but I think they hung a little silly fake clock in my Grandfather’s kitchen that I find endearing to this day. It said Cocktails start promptly at 5:00 and the rest of the numbers on the clock face were all fives. It was there for decades.

The summer I was 12 years old, it seemed bizarre to me that such two nice people could create David. Was he spoiled? Possibly. David seemed to have no fear of his lovely parents and behaved as one would expect. He was very good at reducing me to tears. Of course I was an easy target, so there wasn’t much sport involved, but he did a decent job of crushing my fragile pre teen ego. Every time I would attempt to engage him in conversation on those sunny afternoons on the blanket, he shot me down with withering contempt that only a pretty Gay teen could, about my pale belly hanging over my trunks. I would hug my sweatshirt a little more tightly around my body concealing its ugliness from him. He’d say, “That’s better, I was beginning to get sick” The insult could be about anything really. He would snarl openly about my “disgusting acne problem” saying how my face resembled a badly made pepperoni pizza. My Aunt would admonish him sharply but it had no effect. She would sometimes ask me about some project I was doing. Making clothing for my trolls was my most favorite project. I loved those little plastic dolls with the aboriginal faces and wild neon hair that went everywhere. I made little robes for them with yarn belts. It was a subject I could chatter animatedly about for hours and my Aunt was always a willing listener. David would pepper it with groans and snorts of derision audible only to me, which eventually shut me up. If I admired something that he or his family owned, he’d snap at me not to touch it. He pointed out many times how poorly I was surviving my pre-teen years. My appearance was always a sensitive subject.

I guess he didn’t think I was that unappealing because he propositioned me. I believe I was 13 and at that point my sexual development was akin to an eight year old. I knew the mechanics of how babies were made but the all consuming voracious hunger to rub my naked body next to another male was not quite an idea in my head yet. Sexual desire for a male or a female or anything sexual was simply something I could NOT wrap my mind around. David called me into his bedroom. His tone was soft and different. He told me that he wanted to show me something. He proceeded to pull out magazines of black and white photos on newsprint. The pictures were of men and women having sex. The pages he pointed out to me were women giving blowjobs to men. He watched as my face opened up in astonishment. I asked him what was wrong with the men’s penises. Why were they so swollen and sticking out? Most of all what….. on earth was the woman doing? Why would they want to have a man pee in their mouths? This was all so horrifying to me, that I began to wipe my hands after touching the magazine. He tried to explain that’s what happens when a man is happy and feels good. Well THAT didn’t make any sense! He went on to explain that’s what happens when someone licks your penis and sucks it. He asked me if I would like to see how it works and would he like me to put his penis in my mouth? I froze in horror. “You’re kidding” I said. I didn’t want him to pee in my mouth!!!! I started to leave but he grabbed at me. No WAY was I going to let him pee in my mouth! I slipped through his grasp and ran to my room and barricaded my door with my dresser. He stood outside asking me in a somewhat shaky voice to forget about it and to please not tell anyone. –

  Hey I told you I was a late bloomer…Poor David. If he had just gotten to me a little bit later…things might have been very different. Years later, David’s long forgotten sexual advances came back to my memory when I was walking home from work. I was surprisingly angry about it too. I was angry at him and I was angry at myself for not defending myself better. I had wished I had inflicted some sort of permanent bodily harm on him. By this time, 29 years old, I was well acquainted with sexual desire and perhaps you are wondering why I didn’t give him a call, and ask him if he would like to resume the tutorial he was about to inflict on me at age 13. Most of it had to do with me figuring out he was taking advantage of a naïve boy he had tormented emotionally. I had seen too many very young people have dalliances with older people and come out of it emotionally crippled. Perhaps I was a little mad at David for all of them too.

There was another thing that was beginning to nettle me. David and my mother had struck up a sort of friendship. His Auntie Lois was quite taken with him and nattered away happily to me on a long distance call about their visit. She thought her nephew was the greatest thing since sliced bread. …….I couldn’t have that. It didn’t seem remotely fair to me that she got to experience the newly good, kind, sweet, David after what he had put me through. I actually showed some restraint and let my inner bile brew a few more phone calls but Mom was just too effusive one particular call about David’s charms. I chose to clue her in on what David had offered to do to her baby boy many years ago. She was silent and in proper New England fashion chose to ignore I had said it. That’s okay because I brought it up every subsequent time she mentioned David. It wasn’t too long before she figured it wasn’t conducive to a pleasant  chat with me about my cousin. If there is one thing my mother values most it’s a pleasant conversation with her sons. Except one day she had to. She prefaced it with, “Now don’t get upset!” I thought, “oh this is going to be good. “ It turned out that cousin David wanted to come out to San Francisco and have dinner with my brother and I. I was starring in a play at the time and “wouldn’t it be lovely if David got to see you on stage?”

Yes simply lovely

So it was arranged that my brother Peter and Cousin David would attend the matinee performance of “The Last Hairdresser” by Doug Holsclaw. In the play, the main character was a very angry unhappy little queen who took his anger out on others. His therapist taught him to control his outbursts of viciousness by saying to himself, “Naptime Bitch” I portrayed someone who didn’t do so great at controlling his outbursts of viciousness . Little did I know that I would stay in character throughout the dinner. I was not looking forward to any of this.

After a show,  Performers frequently come into the lobby to greet their friends and family after each show. My brother Peter and I had made arrangements with David to meet him after my matinee and grab a bite before I went on to do my evening. We chose a nearby  nearly empty Italian restaurant. As we sauntered over to the restaurant my own internal pot was beginning to simmer. David didn’t look the same –not as lithe, definitely older,  hair a little thinner. I knew I didn't look the same either and I was roughly 20lbs heavier than I should be. I fought any feelings of ugliness that tried to steal over me. We didn’t hug and rarely looked directly at each other- and most of all…he neglected to say a word about my performance.
Note to the theater going crowd: When you know one of the performers of a play you just saw, SAY SOMETHING about their work. Even if you thought the show was awful you can say how great they looked or my favorite, “Wow! What amazing energy! I was blown away. “Another one I like to say is “I saw you up there and ….(dramatic intake of breath)” I just couldn’t believe it!!” Feel free to use either. The actor or actress in question will be so jacked up on adrenaline that they won’t figure it out.

We sat quietly eating linguine and David said how he had been trying to reconnect with the family.

Lake Champagne

Lake Champagne
He had some nice memories of summers in the Center with family. I regarded him with an austere look and asked in a cold mechanical way, “So you had nice memories of hanging out with your cousins? What nice memories of us can you recall David?” He said mostly hanging out by the lake and going on explorations around the house. I remembered dim visions of hunting for frogs and traveling around an old creek and walking delicately through cow pastures to avoid the slippery green magma-like manure pies. Often times David would hide on me until I had become significantly frightened and then re-emerge from his hiding spot. I twirled my linguine on my plate continuing to stare at David. My brother Peter had good instincts and he began to try to steer the conversation to pleasant topics of wooded areas surrounding my Grandfather’s house.

I let my fork fall on to the edge of my plate with a small clatter. The restaurant was largely empty so I didn’t need to raise my voice. I said I didn’t have any nice memories of David. I have plenty of memories but they weren’t good. I remembered being insulted and made fun of and being belittled. Oddly - I omitted the part about his oral copulation proposition. I was met with silence from David and a small sigh from my brother.

David cleared his throat and ate his linguine. In an attempt to offer some levity and to change the subject he made some joke about being a “second string party B-Gay”. He didn’t sound amused, he sounded embittered. Something inside me told me to back down. (And I was wondering what kind of lettered Gay I was.) Some inner voice told me that it was time to say, “Nap Time bitch.” I had gathered from his monotone narrative that he had undergone a lot of trials and tribulations of late. He hinted at an issue of substance abuse and that lead to other … complications. I didn’t say anything. I just looked at him. I wasn’t hungry any longer but there was a great deal of food on my plate.

"Be careful what you say”, I thought. “Because whatever you are going through he has it worse.” The past few months I spent fretting about being a chunky Miss Lonely Hearts club member for the rest of my life. I was in a hopeless case of unrequited love with a sexy swarthy muscle-bound Australian in our cast whose own life was a bit of a mess. I had made the mistake of agreeing to let him hang out at my house one rainy night because he didn’t have anywhere to go. Stuff happened. Those complications seemed like such a Comedy compared to David’s full blown Drama.

No one spoke for a while and then my brother Peter gave a big stupidly goofy grin and said too brightly, “Well THAT was Fun!” Later we  said an awkward good bye and Peter drove off and left us alone for a minute. My animosity had reformulated to something else. Unfortunately it wasn’t exactly compassion, but something closer to pity. I couldn’t help him and I wondered what it would take to …help him. He didn’t stare at me hatefully. He seemed to accept my opinion of him and he exuded a calm but defeated attitude. I think he may have felt he couldn’t help me either. I asked it anyway, “You are going to be all right?” He said, “Sure” and sauntered down Folsom street in the direction of his hotel. I am still sensitive and still too concerned with what others think of me. Yet I am stronger than I was than that tween boy hugging his sweatshirt over his knees and belly over 33 years ago. Thanks David