Tuesday, December 30, 2003

George Must Go.

My friend Doug runs an anti-Bush blog, and I just added a link to it to make it more popular than it already is.

It's been up half as long as mine, and it already has twice as many hits on it.

I'll write more about Christmas later.

Also, I'll tell you about the latest plot twists in my farce of a social life.

Saturday, December 27, 2003


My review of HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG, which I've posted on Amazon and below, is a lot like Ebert's, which I didn't read until after I'd written mine.


HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG, directed by first-time filmmaker Vadim Perelman from a screenplay he helped adapt from an Andre Dubus novel, is a story of people who are only at conflict because they see their troubles and desperation as tantamount over those who oppose them. The fight in the film concerns a seaside house and what it represents to those who claim ownership over it.

To Kathy Nicolo, a recovering alcoholic mourning her father while coming to terms with her husband's desertion, the house represents security. It gives her a place where she can hide as she copes with her troubles. The house, it seems, cares for her more than she cares for it. She, who has yet to admit to anyone that her husband has left her and doesn't tell her problems to even her closest family because they've essentially stopped listening to her, also sees the house as her sole responsibility to her family. It belongs, at the beginning of the film, to her and her brother. It was left to them.

But because her home county has mistakenly levied a business tax against her and she failed to pay it (for she thought the matter had been taken care of - and she stopped opening her mail after her husband left), she is evicted in the opening scenes of the film. Homeless and desperate, she places an almost singular focus on getting back her house, and, as a result, she associates with some questionable people and feels as though she's losing control over everything. Since she didn't have a very firm grasp over her life at the beginning of the film, it's not hard to see why she makes the choices she does.

Opposing Kathy's claim over the house is Behrani, who also holds a valid, legal claim over the bungalow and has his own reasons for keeping it. Behrani, in the film's opening scenes, is delivering a speech at the elaborate, expensive wedding of his daughter. Though it appears to everyone in attendance that Behrani, an Iranian immigrant who was once a powerful colonel in the army of the Sikh, is rich and important, his double-life is quickly revealed to the audience. He's living a life he cannot afford, working two menial jobs to fund his family's appearance of a lavish life. His wife, at the beginning of the film, cares so greatly for the furniture that they have that she scrubs it daily, taking great care of their possessions. Her chief concern, it appears, is to return to the lifestyle they were accustomed to, caring for their children the best way possible.

Behrani, finding the house auction listed, purchases it for a bargain-basement price and then quits one of his jobs. Fixing up the bungalow and adding features to it, he almost immediately raises the house's value. It needs to be an investment so that he can justify leaving employment, care for his family and remain out-of-debt. Besides, the house reminds him and his family of the life they once had, the life they feel they deserve. He is not a bad man. He wants to appear strong for both his family and his community. He puts the house up for sale at the new, appraised value so that he can save his family. And when the county seeks to correct its error regarding Kathy's situation, it will only offer him the amount he paid for it - not the amount he needs.

So the movie establishes a conflict where neither side outweighs the other, and neither side is entirely wrong. Anti-American and racial sentiments fuel the conflict, and the film acknowledges that - but this isn't just a film about racism.

It's about characters whose very natures we come to understand. It, through its visuals and through the uniformly terrific ensemble of actors, also establishes a group of strong core characters, people that you empathize with so much that you cannot choose sides regarding the fight over the house.

But, because both sides are desperate and at an impasse, the entire film spirals, like a thriller, toward its tragic, nearly inevitable conclusion. (Certainly, in real life, things might not have turned out as bad as things did for these characters at the end, some might say. But the characters in HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG remain true to their natures, true to their flaws, so it ends the way that it does and feels right.)

Jennifer Connelly is terrific in this film. Ron Eldard, playing a character central to the dark turn the film takes, is impressive, making his character so despicable that you hate him, knowing the conclusions he'll jump to before he does. (The last film that generated this sort of response from me was A SIMPLE PLAN, where you could feel that the characters were going to screw up - yet you couldn't help but watch them do it.)

Ben Kingsley, who is British and yet is able to transform himself completely in every role, is absolutely amazing as Behrani. The layers of innate goodness, personal pride, potential for violence and paternal instinct necessary to make the character work are all on display here. Kingsley's work is always good, and HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG ranks among the best work he's ever done. The actors playing his wife and son in the film match Kingsley's brilliance in nearly every scene.

I'm amazed Vadim Perelman has never made a film before. This film is accomplished, sad and incredibly moving.

A previous film based on a Dubus work, IN THE BEDROOM, showed how an unexpected tragedy could turn people into singularly motivated, desperate, angry creatures, capable of anything. In HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG, the characters face similar transformations out of necessity. Yet it isn't profound tragedy that causes people to change in HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG. The characters change in this film because they need a place of security.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

The Good, The Bad and the Noisy.

Last night, Edmondson and I were settling in, watching the beginning of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY revival, when a noisy, drunk couple came in and sat behind us, five minutes into the movie. And the woman in the couple was singing the damn theme music. Then, they started talking and cheering throughout the no-dialogue opening scenes. Someone yelled for them to shut up.

They quieted only for a little while, then they started noisily cheering again and, every now and then, singing along to the Morricone score.

I wanted to take a lead pipe, walk up the aisle and slowly beat them to death. But I also didn't want to leave the movie the first time I'd ever seen it because a couple 40-something people were behaving as though it were a ROCKY HORROR interactive experience.

So they would get up and leave, and Edmondson and I would be happy. And they'd come back, having likely refreshed their alcohol supply, and make asses of themselves again.

When the movie, which was excellent, ended, I went outside and spoke to my friend Junior, a clerk there. (Junior was the one who spoke to me after ELEPHANT and let me in to see SHATTERED GLASS for free.)

He told me that couple was obnoxious when they walked in. The other clerk guy apologized for not kicking them out.

Edmondson agreed that the movie was good, aside from that bitch and her husband sitting behind us.

On Christmas night, I was thinking of going back to the Landmark to catch BIG FISH, but it depends on how my schedule works out.

The Christmas solution.

Sorry to bemoan this, people, but I came up with a solution to the stepfather gift thing that I can live with - and it will make my mother happy.

I'm going to buy movie theater gift certificates for my mother and stepfather, and I'm going to put them in an envelope for BOTH of them. That way, my mother can't say I didn't get him anything - and she'll get taken to the movies once in a while, which means that he'll be forced to think of her in his outings.

They do the same things every weekend, so this gift would give them an opportunity to change their plans.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo

Tonight, because the restored version of "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" will only be playing at the Landmark for a week, I've decided to take my dad's advice and go see my first Sergio Leone film. Edmondson, who hasn't seen one of these movies either, said he'd meet me for pizza beforehand. Maybe we should have spaghetti, considering the movie.

My first experience with Landmark Theaters wasn't a fun one. "Lost in Translation" on its opening weekend with all the other film geeks. My second experience at the Landmark took place after their restoration of the theater was complete, so it was more impressive.

This will mark my third trip there, my first with a friend, so it should be the best of the experiences.

And I'm glad I'll get to see Edmondson before Christmas.

Ebert's Top Ten

Roger Ebert has released his annual Top Ten list.

This year, he picks MONSTER, starring Charlize Theron in an apparently stunning performance as serial killer Aileen Wuornos, as the best film of the year.

It comes out in a couple weeks, and the buzz I've heard about Theron's work makes me eager to see it, more eager than I was when I thought it was just her doing some shameless Oscar turn.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

"We'll gather at the Road House with our Next of Kin."

Oh my God, my friend Jenipher's gifts arrived at my apartment, and she's completely outdone herself this year. I mean, seriously, this is better than the year she made her own wrapping paper out of photos of Jude Law!

This year, she made me a holiday-themed dub CD - featuring the ROAD HOUSE-inspired MST3K carol, "A Patrick Swayze Christmas." It's terrific. Absolutely terrific. It was, apparently, written by Crow T. Robot of MST3K. I mean, that song alone, which takes its lyrics directly from the film, would've been enough to match my gifts to her.

But there's more on the CD. The Muppets singing "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is a highlight. No Doubt's "Oy To the World" is also good. And Dido's beautiful ballad, "Christmas Day," is featured. I'm listening to it right now.

And, best of all, she also sent me a DVD!!!! The note on the wrapping for the DVD said it would be the "most embarassing gift ever," so I thought I was prepared for whatever joke it was.

But nothing could've prepared me. This was the funniest thing EVER. I unwrapped it, and it was a compilation of episodes from the Cinemax series, EMMANUELLE IN SPACE. (Jenipher and I used to call each other when it was on in the middle of the night, and we would make fun of it together, laughing out loud.)

EMMANUELLE IN SPACE, for those who haven't read my Amazon review of it, is soft-core heterosexual porn about a woman who is abducted by a group of attractive aliens and is asked to teach them about human sex. And she does so, over and over again, for 15 episodes.

It stars the absolutely amazing, hilarious soap actress Krista Allen.

The DVD features four of the show's 15 episodes. And it also features the show's theme song, easily the worst theme song ever written.

"Emmanuelle, queen of the galaxy ... Emmanuelle, come lay here with me ..."

Apparently, Jenipher walked into a store and bought me space porn - albeit heterosexual space porn - but space porn, nonetheless. Thus, Jenipher is amazing.

Thanks to Jenipher, Patrick Swayze, the Muppets, Krista Allen and others, my Christmas has started getting better.

Friday, December 19, 2003

If you were queer, I'd still be here.

I bought my friend Jenipher the AVENUE Q cast recording for Christmas after hearing only two songs from it. She just called me up, laughing, and said, "I love you. You got me a present."

Then, she started to read off the titles to the songs, laughing out loud, and she asked me where I'd heard of it.

"I can't wait to listen to this," she said. "I've never even heard of it."

It's essentially got Muppets in it, doing an adult version of SESAME STREET, but the song titles are great.

"What Do You Do With a BA in English?"
"Everybody's a Little Bit Racist"
"If You Were Gay"
"My Girlfriend, Who Lives in Canada"

Jenipher was excited.

"If the CD case is this funny," she said, "then I'll probably love this album."

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Golden Globes.

The Golden Globe nominations came out this morning, and I am a bit disappointed in them.

COLD MOUNTAIN was the top nominee, even though I found the film maudlin and a disappointment. SEABISCUIT got some key nominations, but the Supporting Actor nod for William H. Macy, whose role is essentially a cameo, is a big mistake. LOST IN TRANSLATION deserved the nods it received, and I'm glad Scarlett Johansson was nominated twice.

She's really, really good in LOST IN TRANSLATION.

Bah humbug.

I'm fairly certain that my main boss doesn't get me and doesn't like me. And I think I don't like him.

But, argh, I'm helping buy him a gift.

This year's whole holiday can just end for all I care.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Another phone call to my mother.

I asked my mother how Jerry tortures her about my lack of gift each Christmas.

"He waits until you leave," she said. "Then, he starts looking around the room, under the tree. Then he looks at me and asks, 'Did he get me anything?'"

She always says that she doesn't think so.

"He didn't hand me anything," Jerry says, continuing to look around the room.

And he pouts, apparently. He gets a look on his face.

"I don't think he got me anything," Jerry says.

I asked my mother if he was that dense.

She said no one expects an apology from anyone.

I told her that the whole thing struck me as a big, giant lie. Buying gifts for people that you don't like.

She told me to consider it as a gift to her, buying her some peace this year.

I told her I was tired of the whole "Christmas Is Ruined!" schtick. She said that, whatever I decided to do about Jerry's gift, she'd cope with the consequences, but that she'd appreciate it if I just let this minor act-of-grievance, justified though it may be, slide.

But I'm tired of doing things I don't want to do just to make Jerry shut up.

In writing my cousin for advice on the matter, I referred to all this as "Christmas negotiations."

I feel like I'm trying to map out peace in the Middle East. Like my mom and I are attempting to achieve the "Stepfather Gift Accord of 2003."

Apparently, today is her 16th wedding anniversary.

My latest poster.

I framed this poster yesterday, but I've not yet put it up in my apartment. I think It's going to go in the small hallway outside of the kitchen.

I thought the poster I bought before this one was going to be my last one, but instead I realize that I like my design choices. So I'm going to start putting framed movie posters up in my bedroom, too.

Apt description.

Describing THE CAT IN THE HAT to Jai a couple days ago, I told her that watching it was like being "raped through the eyes by a stilletto penis."

My negative, yet decidedly more appropriate, review of the film on Amazon now has 18 helpful votes.

OK, now I'm a dork.

I decided that I couldn't wait a couple days to watch RETURN OF THE KING on IMAX, so I bought tickets for a matinee at 5:10 and intend to leave work early so that I can watch it.

I called up Jenipher and asked her to put me in the mood to see it. So she sang "Frodo and the Nine Fingers," a song from the animated RETURN OF THE KING movie.

Jenipher says that she can't wait for that part in the movie and that she'll start singing the song to herself in the theater when it happens. She said it might startle Gabe but that she'll explain to him afterward that she's just a giant dork.

Mike and Kacoon told me that Trilogy Tuesday yesterday in Columbus, Ga., was catered and excellent. At the end of RETURN OF THE KING, they both cried.

Everyone's trying to make me happy, she says.

I spoke with my mother again. I was stressed out about bills, and talking to her helps me put things in perspective. Plus, she told me what she wants for Christmas.

She said everyone is willing to arrange their schedules on Christmas so that I can be happy. Jeremy and Misty say they can come later this year so that I can attend, but my mother told them that was unnecessary. My mother said she would let me know when everyone was going to be around so that I wouldn't see anyone. She says everyone's rearranging their schedules to make me happy.

She says Jerry wants a gift from me because he helps her buy my gifts, my brother gives him one and his son gives my mother one. So I'm the only one who isn't buying the stepparent a gift, and it's as though I'm walking around, reminding everyone that there was an argument.

She said it's difficult for her every year because he complains about it all year long. That's when I asked her why he wants a gift from me.

She said everyone's going to great lengths to make me happy. To do whatever I want.

I said I appreciated everyone's sacrifices and that I'd be more than happy to see her one day before or two days before Christmas. My mother said she wants to see me on Christmas.

She said it's annoying that we have to go through this, that I bring up the same issues, every year.

She said that I only see the argument of that July night from my perspective, that I see it from no one else's. I asked her if she realized it was a culmination of a lot of things. She says she knows that.

I don't know. I don't know. I don't know.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003


This is the poster I bought Mike for Christmas. He got it a couple days ago, so I'm spoiling no surprises.

Besides, he doesn't read this blog. He and Kacoon are afraid of what I might say about them.

Kacoon and Mike are big dorks. (OK, I'm jealous.)

Two of my best friends, Mike and Kacoon, are probably sitting down in the middle of a theater in Columbus, Ga., right now. The opening narration for "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" is probably beginning right now. They'll be in that theater for probably 11 or 12 hours, watching the extended editions of the first two "Lord of the Rings" films, followed by the final chapter.

And, to be honest, I envy them. I only call them dorks because I'm sorta jealous.

I envy that they can sit there for hours and get to indulge in Trilogy Tuesday. I love that they both have come to love "Lord of the Rings" that much.

I'm seeing "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" on Friday. I'm seeing it in giant screen format at the Buford IMAX theater, which is the same place I watched the other two films.

The reviews on "Return of the King," mostly, say that it's a home run.

And Kacoon and Mike get to watch it tonight. They get to see their story conclude. And they'll laugh and cry and hold hands. And they'll get caught up in the adventures of Sam and Frodo.

They're lucky, the two of them, because they love it so much.

My IN AMERICA review.

Heartwarming and basically terrific.

Jim Sheridan's IN AMERICA, though you may not realize it when you watch it, is a fable about wishes, dreams, good defeating bad, families growing stronger, love outlasting all adversity and America as the land of opportunity. It's a delightful film, touching without being too cute.

One thing you must realize throughout the film, when it takes turns toward optimism when other films would grow darker, is that the story is told through the eyes of Christie, the 10-year-old daughter of an Irish immigrant family recently relocated to New York. She narrates the story. She speeds it up and slows it down as she needs to. She talks of her sister Ariel's fears, of her mother's strength and of her father's lost smile. And, most importantly, she puts a positive spin on each of her proud family's struggles.

Another director might have taken this same story and gone in a different, darker direction with it. The elements are there, certainly. The family is poor, living in a tenement alongside beggars and drug addicts. Johnny, the girls' father, is an out-of-work actor who's uprooted his family to escape sad memories of his son Frankie, who died. Mateo, the next-door neighbor, and Sarah, the mother, are both faced with life-threatening conditions.

But the atmosphere that Sheridan provides us in this film is comforting and light. The city is enchanting. The tenement is both scary and magical, depending upon the story that Christie is telling the audience. No adult problem goes unsolved for long, even ones that seem particularly bleak. Throughout these positive twists, the importance of the narrator is key. Happy endings are important to a little girl, particularly one who feels so responsible for her own family. At one point in the story, for instance, she saves the family from their latest crisis and relates to her father that she's been the family's savior for a year.

Though it focuses on her entire family, it's Christie's story. And, while she's telling it, it's really moving and uplifting.

The acting here is uniformly terrific. Paddy Considine, playing Johnny the father, is a revelation. He's attractive, strong, a little crazy and yet weighed down by grief. Samantha Morton delivers another compelling performance, yet she comes off here as sweeter and more sympathetic than she did in the disappointing MORVERN CALLAR. Djimon Honsou, best known for his work in AMISTAD, is absolutely spectacular as Mateo, the girls' doomed neighbor. And Sarah and Emma Bolger, real-life sisters playing the girls in the film, manage the difficult task of playing adorable, likable, distinct children without coming off as entirely too precious and cute.

The script is terrific, and the direction is quite good.

IN AMERICA is just lovely.


My greatest fear, the one that scares me so much that it occurs to me even in dreams, is that I'm the one at fault when it comes to hurting my family.

I'm the one who's the villain in all this. It's all my fault, and I'm the one who hurt people. And I'm the one who is rejecting my family, their form of forgiveness and a better life. My greatest fear is that I'm the one who made the most mistakes, caused the most harm. Everyone is behaving as though nothing happened. Everyone has family around them. They have faith, religion and each other. I have my holidays alone. I don't let go of the grudges and memories that my mother tells me, in weaker moments that I say lack sensitivity toward my situation and my feelings, that I just need to get over it.

Yeah, so I say my stepbrother messed with me, showed me things that he shouldn't have showed me. That's past. Get over it. Come and have Thanksgiving. Come and hug his baby. Everyone else is able to do so, including my mother. I'm the only one who came out of all of it as gay. I'm the only one of them all who's in therapy. I'm the only one who still doesn't come by on holidays. Surely I am the only one who's holding on to things that are best gotten over. So it's my fault. I ruined Christmas. I ruined Thanksgiving. I am the family outcast by my own choosing, and it'd be easier for everyone, including my mother, if I just bought gifts for the people who I say hurt me and smile at them. Because it's less difficult for everyone if I'm not the one acting like anything's wrong.

Yeah, my stepfather was a jerk. But he's married to my mother. And I want to make her happy. So I should just smile and gloss over stuff that he did. My mom is the first to remind me that the end-all, be-all fight was years ago.

"You both went places you shouldn't have gone that night," she said to me. "It was actually both of your faults. And you're still carrying one heckuva grudge. And it makes everyone uncomfortable."

I remember that night how she chose to break up the argument between my stepfather and me, which he was threatening to turn violent. When I told him to go ahead and hit me if he wanted to, my mother covered my mouth, pushed me into another room and told me to "shut up before he kills you." So he kicked me out of the house that night, and she drove me to my apartment.

And I reminded her of what my childhood and adolescence had been. The name-calling, the unreasonable arguments, my stepfather's tantrums and, eventually, my sexual relationship with my stepbrother, brought about because he could manipulate my need to belong among people who were my family but didn't like me.

She cried the night of my fight with my stepfather, telling me that she hated being put in the middle of it all. Two days earlier, she and I had been complaining together about how Jerry was selfish, lacked compassion and understanding. She told me then that it was difficult for her to sit silently while he praised Jeremy over me and my brother, for she's known for years what Jeremy did to me. What she'd said to me that day gave me the courage to stand up to Jerry, but she wasn't there for me when I did it. She said, instead, that I'd put her in the middle of the tension. That was when I realized no one was on my side in any of this. And if I chose to stand my ground against being abused or insulted, even in my 20s, it was my fault for daring to bring it up.

Two weeks after Jerry threatened to hit me, called me a faggot and told me that he never wanted to see me in the house again, my mother called me on the phone and asked me why I hadn't stopped by. Seriously.

"So do you never intend to come by the house ever again?" she asked me.

"No, I don't," I said to her.

That was when she told me that the fight was as much my fault as Jerry's, that people had said things they didn't mean and that I should still come by the house and try to make things better.

I haven't. So it's my fault that things are awkward. It's my fault because I felt like standing up for myself. My mother told me I was being stubborn.

Running into my mother and stepfather at the mall that year and since, I don't usually acknowledge him or say hello to him. My mom told me once, in a phone conversation, that my actions were cruel and mean and obvious. She said Jerry felt slighted when I did it, so I should make an effort to be nicer to him, to say hello, to introduce him to my friends.

"He comments on it," she said. "If you don't say hello to him but say hello to me, then he comments on it."

"But you know why I don't say hello to him," I said.

"Why haven't you gotten over that yet?" she asked me.

When I was in the fifth grade, I would correct my stepfather's grammar. It irked him, but I had been taught that grammar was important by my mother, who valued reading and is rather intelligent. So I was confused.

Jerry said that I should be called "Pee Wee" every time I corrected his grammar or made him feel bad about himself. And he told my brother and stepbrother that they could feel free to call me "Pee Wee," too, to teach me a lesson about being a smart aleck who always had to get in the last word.

This went on for a while. My brothers let people know that was the name to call me. My stepfather knew it bugged me, that I hated it. So he told them to keep doing it. He liked to see me squirm. That was what I got for being smart.

You see, I had this disability, but I was smart. So I thought I was special. And my stepfather wanted to teach me that I wasn't.

I'd complain about the name-calling to my mom, and she'd tell me that there wasn't anything about it that she could do. It was easier just to get past it, develop a tougher skin.

"They only pick on you because you react to it," she said. "Stop reacting to it, and they'll stop. Just don't let it bother you."

The house was easier to live in if I didn't upset Jerry. If the phone rang while he was napping, he'd get mad at whomever it was for -- as though they could control the whims of the people calling them. If you were on the phone while Jerry was watching TV, then it was your fault for talking so loud.

Once I got a cordless phone for Christmas, and we hooked it up to the phone jack. And Jerry said the reception wasn't as good, so he got mad at me for hooking up my cordless phone.

When I was in the ninth grade, recovering from a surgery that severed my Achilles' tendon, stretched my heel cord muscle and left me in a cast, I was doing some rather painful physical therapy to improve how I walked. My mother was helping me through some stretches. Jerry said that my howls of pain were too loud, and he didn't understand why I had to scream so much. So my mother stopped doing so much physical therapy with me, lest my horrible pain got on Jerry's nerves.

Because I complained about the fact that we only ever went on vacation to Panama City Beach, I was seen as a vacation-spoiling pest. So, when I didn't go on the last one my junior year of high school and opted to spend Easter by myself at the house, I was seen as the family rebel. It made my mother unhappy, but Jerry said it was better than having me complain that all we ever did was go to Panama City Beach.

A couple times, Jerry would wax nostalgic to me, my brother and my stepbrother about "all the freedom" he gave up by having children around him. He and my mother went to the lake by themselves a lot, once my siblings and I became old enough to stay at home alone. During their trips out, Jeremy and I began what I later chose to call "our experimentation gone awry." It went on for four or so years. My parents never suspected that it could happen in their family. It didn't go on right under their noses, though. It happened while they were out. There was a time when it happened, I think, more than once a week. But Jerry's perpetual, leathery suntan was really great that year.

When I was living there after my firing from CNN.com, a package once arrived for me in the middle of the day. The UPS man knocked on the door, waking up Jerry, and he screamed at me and then stormed off in a huff. And my mother looked at me like it was my fault that the delivery arrived while Jerry was sleeping.

My mother wears a hearing aid. She has only 20 percent hearing in her left ear now. Sometimes she wouldn't be able to hear the television, but Jerry would claim she had it up too loud. So she'd turn it down. Whenever they'd have conversations sometimes and she'd ask him to repeat things, he'd claim she had "selective hearing loss" - pretending to hear only the things she wanted to hear.

I remember once that my mother used Romaine lettuce in a salad, just to try something different. She worked on the salad from a recipe and was excited to try something different. Jerry tried it, told her it was garbage and that she should throw it out. When she looked hurt, I went up to him and glared at him angrily, for I had known how long she'd been planning it and how much something as minor as a salad had come to mean that we were trying something new. Jerry could tell I was really angry, and he asked me what exactly I thought I was going to do to him. My mother held me back then, too. She told me to go to my room. I think they had an argument after that, actually. But the arguments usually ended when Jerry got tired of not getting his way, so he'd drive out to the lake and walk around until he felt like returning home.

The day my mother bought me a used car, my red Dodge Daytona that I had through college, she was very excited about it. I mean, she was doing something for me that she thought was wonderful, something that was within her means to do, so she got dressed up in a new green blouse and a matching jacket and took Jerry and me to the car lot. I looked over the Daytona, decided that I liked it, and she bought it for me. Midway through signing the contracts, Jerry pulled her aside and told her that her new blouse had too low of a neckline. He asked her then if she enjoyed showing off her body to the strangers at the car lot. So we drove home in my new car, and she went up to her bedroom and shut the door. She came down a few minutes later, wiping tears from her eyes. She'd hiked up the neckline of her blouse by using hairpins to pull up the fabric in the shoulders. The fabric was bunched up around her shoulders, so she put the jacket back on over it to hide the pins. Jerry told her that it looked better now that she was more covered. She said to me later that Jerry had ruined her good mood.

There are other stories. I don't like Jerry. I'd rather not say hello to him. I don't want to buy him a gift. I don't want to spend holidays pretending to like him.

I fear that I hurt Jeremy, in our exchanges, as much as he hurt me. I fear that, because he embraced the church and has a wife and two children now, that the only reason our situation happened is because I was the instigator. There were times when I enjoyed it, wanted it. So it's my fault. I was never the recipient when sexual things got truly out-of-control, so surely I was the one responsible for it. I did it. It was me. I'm the gay one, so blame me for it. I'm the one who still talks about it. I'm the one who cracked about the secret when I was talking to my mother and my high school counselor, so I'm the one who couldn't just forget whatever happened. I was the only one who ever attempted to assign blame, so, for those reasons, maybe what happened when I was a kid was my fault. I'm the one who plays the victim. If I wasn't seeing this situation from my own perspective, if I were just an outsider, what would I think of what I'm saying?

I should be nice to them, for the sake of keeping things peaceful.

The night Jeremy lost his virginity to a girl in my class named Heather, he came home from that date and had sex with me. Full-on sex. That was the night he begged me unsuccessfully to submit to him. (As a result of my dealings with him, I've still submitted to no one.) He told me after we'd had sex that he'd done it with her. He told me AFTER, not BEFORE. I can't figure out why we did it that night. Was he testing himself? Was he testing me? Or was it about something else, about power or about being stronger than me, stronger than Heather and capable of making both of us do as he wanted?

Now they wonder why I haven't wanted to see his babies.

My mom, who after she found out about what had happened to me, told me that she thought sometimes about destroying Jeremy's life by harming his children the way he'd harmed hers.

When she told me that Jeremy's wife was pregnant, my first comment to my own mother was, "Don't hurt the baby." She pretended not to know what I was talking about.

Now it's her beloved grandchild.

I don't want to see it, I tell my mother, because I don't want to feel responsible if abuse happens to it. I don't want anyone to look to me after-the-fact and say that I should've said something.

Mom says people wonder why I haven't seen the baby. I told her that they should ask Jeremy, for he probably doesn't say anything when they ask. If he doesn't realize why, then he's dense.

At the holidays I used to attend, where Jeremy and I would be in the room in front of each other and not speak, Jerry would wonder what was going on, but he would never say anything about the tension out loud. He would ask my mother about it later, who in turn would tell me that Jerry was asking questions.

I don't really know what's going on in the psychology of the rest of my family. I don't understand the layers of denial.

They're uncomfortable, but they'd rather be uncomfortable than ask too many questions and find out about stuff they don't know. They blame me. I'm the anti-social one. I'm the rebel. I'm the one who chooses not to get along with everyone.

I'm the one who's hurting my mother's holiday by not letting go of grudges and memories. That's what she tells me.

She chose them. She didn't choose me. It was easier for her to pretend like nothing was wrong. It always has been. It's easier just to keep Jerry happy than to admit.

It's easier for her to cover my mouth than to try and stop him from getting angry. That was her choice on the night of the fight. It's that way for the rest of my life.

But if I'm the only one who's speaking the truth, who's not living a lie, who's choosing to see things as they are, then why am I the one most plagued by these things? Because I'm the guy who doesn't choose to get along?

They're in denial, but they have their fallacy of family. I speak the truth, get my mother's guilt and grief and complaints, and I find other places to spend my holidays.

So maybe I'm the one at fault. Maybe this is all my fault.

It's my fault for being gay. It's my fault for being angry. It's my fault for letting the abuse happen, for not shutting up and letting Jerry be.

They only pick on you because you react to it, my mother said to me.

It's my fault for just not getting over it. And I ruin my mother's holidays because of it.

My therapist today asked me what sort of closure I can get on this situation. I told him that a reconciliation with my stepfather wasn't possible. I said I wouldn't want it because my final fight against him was one of the proudest moments of my life.

But where do I go to find happiness over this? How do I not deny what happened and yet not get so bothered by it?

One of my other therapists, one I saw a long time ago, told me that I needed to remind myself constantly that none of these things that happened to me were my fault. I told the older therapist that I believed that to be true.

But the nightmares I have with Jeremy in them, and I've had them for years, are frightening because he offers himself to me. And, despite myself and knowing how I feel, I betray myself and accept what he offers me.

So maybe I'm the one who's wrong.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Christmas shopping trouble.

My mom just called me to tell me that she hadn't spoken to me in a while. I told her that I'd been busy. I think I last spoke to her shortly after Thanksgiving.

I told her that I'd been doing Christmas shopping. We went down the list of what I've bought for which person, and she asked me what I bought my stepfather. I don't buy my stepfather gifts, and I told her that.

She said, "Yeah, and every year he mentions that."

"Um, I don't like the man," I said. "Why should I buy him a gift?"

"Because it's awkward every year," she said. "You don't even have to buy him something big. Just buy him something."

But I don't want to buy him something. I want him to know that I'm not buying him something.

"You've got to get over this grudge," my mother said to me.

No, I don't.

"My reasons are sound," I said. "You understand them."

"Yes," she said. "But can't you just get him a $20 gift certificate to Home Depot or something?"

If I got him a gift certificate to anyplace, it would be to a family therapy clinic.

I haven't bought my stepfather a gift since the year my broken-down car almost ran me down, and he called me a loser and a faggot and kicked me out of my mother's house, telling me never to come back. I really haven't been back since, so why should I buy the man a gift? Only recently have I gotten around to saying hello to him if he's standing in front of me.

My mother told me that she'd pay for the gift if I'd just go ahead and buy it. I asked her if she'd thought about buying a gift for him and just putting my name on it, and she told me that wasn't the point.

What is the point of these holidays? Does my mother have any idea?

Is the point of a holiday to grit your teeth and bear your way through an occasion with loads of people that you can't stand? Is it for buying a fake gift to show fake affection toward someone who knows you don't like them and knows you have good reason for not liking them?

Really, what is the point of these holidays? I prefer my Thanksgiving with friends to my Thanksgiving with family. I love my mother and my brother, but I hate my stepbrother and my stepfather. So I shouldn't have to sit with people I don't like who don't like me because I've made my feelings pretty damn clear to everyone. So why should I fake my way through things because it makes everyone more comfortable if I do? What is mature and adult about that?

I go to Christmas only when the majority of people aren't there because I don't want to see them. I've not seen my stepbrother's child ever. I don't ever want to see it. He's got a new one coming, and I don't frankly care, other than I hope he doesn't hurt them.

I am not buying a gift for anyone I don't like. And I don't HAVE to do anything.

If you can't win, cheat.

Everybody, do me a favor. Go to Amazon, and search for the movies "Cold Mountain," "Elephant" and "The Last Samurai."

Then, vote that my reviews on those films were useful.


My boss Ethan just told me that I wasn't funny. He said that my "humor" was for me and that it, more often than not, wasn't funny.

But I am funny. Sometimes.

The Q&A.

For those of you curious about how much I laughed during the question-and-answer session with Lucas Black, I thought I would let you know that I didn't attend it. After COLD MOUNTAIN concluded its seemingly endless "journey home," I ran to the bathroom. Then, Kacoon and Jai met me outside to talk about the film. We never made it back inside to Lucas Black.

Since he dies 15 minutes into the movie and he only has five lines because he's essentially a cameo, though, the Q&A seemed sorta pointless to me.

What were we supposed to ask?

"Hey Lucas, what was it like on set for those two days?"

Before the film started, the Miramax lady asked the audience to please stay until the Q&A ended because Lucas Black took time out of his "busy schedule" to come chat with us.

"Busy schedule??? He's, like, 14 years old," I said to that comment. Luckily, only the people near me seemed to hear it.

Kacoon, Jai and Jai's fiance Dave all sorta laughed when I said that.


Tom Cruise goes all superhero samurai.
Reviewer: rileymccarthy from Atlanta, GA USA

My favorite moments in THE LAST SAMURAI happened after Tom Cruise's integration into the samurai society. Faced with a fight, he closes his eyes and plays what he feels is going to happen in his head. Then, his Spidey-samurai senses in flux, he proceeds to slice and dice his enemies. The whole thing struck me as, to be honest, sorta amusing.

I mean, Tom Cruise's character, Nathan Allgren, is abducted by the ancient warriors early in the film, then he spends three to six months with them, first as their enemy and then as their friend. He's living in the house of a man he killed, tended to by that man's widow. The man's children, all rather understanding about their father's death being part of "samurai duty," start playing with the American, thinking him a pretty cool guy. And, while all this is happening, Nathan Allgren becomes a FEARSOME SAMURAI WARRIOR. And, eventually, he's able to battle alongside the samurai general against a band of the emperor's invading ninjas. All this in less than six months!

That said, THE LAST SAMURAI is an entertaining, beautiful-looking film. Tom Cruise's character, who alternates between being a rude, drunken Civil War soldier and the sort of man who writes that he's "beset by the irony of his life" in his journals, is hard to pin down. But the supporting actors, particularly Ken Watanabe as the samurai general Katsumoto, are uniformly terrific in it, and they make Cruise look better and less wooden in each progressing scene.

The film even, for the most part, escapes being a cliche about the white hero coming in and saving "savage, foreign" warriors from themselves.

The ending is a letdown, sadly. This film would clearly work best as a tragedy, yet the filmmakers, for some reason, tack on a happy-ish ending to the film. By not daring to bring the story to its more obvious yet ultimately dark conclusion, the filmmakers instead give us a film that is less than great.

But it's fun, for the most part. It's not going to win an Oscar, except maybe for Watanabe's supporting work, but it's a fun film.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

All Sami, all the time!

Damn it. Now I really, really want SOAPNET!


LIKE SANDS THROUGH THE HOURGLASS...: In an unprecedented deal, ABC-owned SoapNet has acquired rerun rights to NBC's Days of Our Lives. Beginning March 15, same-day Days repeats will air weeknights at 7 pm/ET, leading into SoapNet's block of ABC dramas. Maybe this will finally pave the way for the network to acquire Santa Barbara, the best daytime drama in suds history!


Reviewer: rileymccarthy from Atlanta, GA USA

A friend of mine and I saw a sneak preview of this last night, and I hate to report that it was, dare I say it, incredibly disappointing. There wasn't a plot twist you couldn't see coming a mile away. There wasn't a bit of romantic dialogue that wasn't contrived. (Renee Zellweger's character, the best thing in the film, makes fun of Nicole Kidman and Jude Law's romantic patter at one point, when he mentions that each moment with her is a "tiny diamond I carried with me.") And every Southern accent, save Zellweger's, was absolutely horrid.

The film, adapted and directed by the occasionally great Anthony Minghella, is a misfire. A maudlin, melodramatic misfire.

At the point where movie stars turn up in what are essentially cameo appearances, I felt like the film was sorta cheating to try and keep us interested. Jude Law's character Inman encounters them on his travels, and, I swear to God, it felt like Dorothy encountering a new character on the Yellow Brick Road in THE WIZARD OF OZ. Someone new shows up, shows off and disappears. Look, there's Natalie Portman as a war widow! Look, there's Jena Malone as the ferry girl! Look, there's Philip Seymour Hoffman as a minister!

Thus, half of Jude Law's performance is spent being the savior or straight man to a bunch of guest stars. The movie treats him like he's the only story element needed to introduce us to a series of unrelated vignettes.

Though my friend had a real problem with Nicole Kidman's accent attempt in the movie, I must say that Kidman as Ada, when she wasn't spouting romantic cliches in voiceover or trapped in a truly ridiculous ending and epilogue, kept my interest. Her relationship with Ruby Tewes, Zellweger's character, is the most interesting in the movie. The film's at its strongest when the two are working together to keep her family farm alive.

Unfortunately, they're also coping with town villains who show up on occasion to remind us that they're inhuman evil and completely corrupt. (The most evil one is, natch, an albino with blue eyes and long hair so that we'll know he's unique enough for us to blindly hate him.) They kill blindly without reason, whenever a scene requires them to do something hateful. Wouldn't it have been more interesting if they had been layered, human villains? The movie gives the villains basic motivations and then lets them run amok, showing up only when they're required to do acts of evil.

The film shows signs of ambition. The actors are too talented to phone in their performances, yet their characters exhibit surprisingly little depth.

And the romantic dialogue, all the yearning and hand-wringing, is straight out of a Harlequin novel. When you hear one of Nicole Kidman's voiceovers begin (and they start up the first one during the opening credits), prepare to count the cliches and eye-rolling statements.

COLD MOUNTAIN is a historical romance in the vein of TITANIC, overwrought and badly written yet sure to be involving to those who like "old-fashioned romance," no matter how badly done it is. This ain't DR. ZHIVAGO, sadly.

It's not original. It's not different. It's not inspired. It's not even particularly involving.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

No, he's not my dad.

Earlier this week, Bridget Fonda married Danny Elfman. Today, Diana Krall, a jazz singer and a fairly attractive woman, married Elvis Costello.

I wonder if, years from now, we'll discover some sort of mental illness that ran rampant in Hollywood.

Should we call it Lyle Lovett Syndrome or Billy Bob Thornton Syndrome?


I just attended a horrifying, long sexual harassment seminar. I mentioned during it problems that I've had regarding sexual harassment at other companies. The supervisor told me that my input was really valuable.

Five times, I think. I've been accused of or been the victim of sexual harassment five times in a workplace environment.

It's terrible.

I mentioned the time I received a neck rub from someone and how a third party complained, and there was much discussion of that.

Tonight's Q&A

Tonight, after "Cold Mountain," there will apparently be a question-and-answer session with one of the actors, Lucas Black, about making the film.

Just so I'd know who it was, I looked up Lucas Black, whose name sounded vaguely familiar, on IMDB.com. Since Jack White of The White Stripes is apparently also in "Cold Mountain," I didn't want to get the two confused.

Figuring out who Lucas Black is, I sorta groaned. It's that kid with the annoying Southern accent from "Sling Blade."

"I like the way you TAWK," Billy Bob Thornton once said to him.

I think Lucas Black really does talk like that. If he does, I may just snicker through the Q&A. I'll also snicker through the Q&A if someone mentions his role opposite Melanie Griffith in the Antonio Banderas-directed film, "Crazy in Alabama."

I'm thinking of asking Lucas Black myself if it's better to work under Anthony Minghella, Billy Bob Thornton or Antonio Banderas.

My friend Michael's agreed to go with me. And Jai will be there. So I'm hoping they'll keep me better behaved at the Q&A.

For some reason, a reality show winner wrote me an e-mail.

Wes Culwell from Bravo's summer reality series, "Boy Meets Boy," replied to an e-mail I wrote him about two weeks ago, asking him what he thought of TV GUIDE calling one of his dates "Mr. Right Now."

Haha, hey Ben,
Press is press - there isn't such thing as bad press. ;) It's part of the deal when you agree to do one of these reality tv shows or any kind of public eye sort of thing. And as far as, "Mr. Right Now," I'm not married yet so I guess it can be considered as somewhat accurate. ;)

All the best!

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

One hour into "The Singing Detective."

I'm over at Larry's with my DVD of "The Singing Detective," watching the first episode of it while I'm doing laundry. The show, which first aired in 1986, is completely looped. Michael Gambon's spending most of the scenes in the first episode covered with makeup. It makes it look like he has a sort of bleeding psoriasis head-to-toe. His skin is decaying, though his body is still alive. He's unable to move without incredible pain, so he's having these delusions about a song-and-dance detective story. At least, that's what I can tell from watching the first hour or so.

Robert Downey Jr. was in a movie remake of it this year, and that got a lukewarm reception. (I didn't see it, even though it was at the Madstone, because it was only playing one time a day during its first and only week there. I took that as a sign of its quality.)

The BBC miniseries, which I'm watching now, is supposed to be one of the greatest moments in all of television.

I thought Larry and David might want to watch it with me while I was over here doing laundry, but they went to the New Order, which is this older-leaning gay bar behind the Publix at Ansley Mall. Occasionally during the week, I think a woman comes in and plays jazz standards, encouraging people to come up and sing with her. I always, you know, wanted to do that. But everytime I've been in there, they look at me like I should be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

So I'm doing my second load of laundry, watching a BBC miniseries that my father told me yesterday that he liked. He said it was too weird to be boring, even if it made as much sense as "Twin Peaks." I'm seeing for myself that he's pretty much right about that.


The following is an e-mail exchange between me and Jenipher, which took place today. I'm serious.

From: rileymccarthy
To: Jenipher

I heard they might continue BATTLESTAR GALACTICA as a TV series after BATTLESTAR GALACTICA ends. So there might be more BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. I'm upset, though, that there will be no more TAKEN, as TAKEN was the greatest thing to ever air on the Sci Fi Channel. I want that DVD so bad, but it's, like, $100. And even I have my limits.

From: Jenipher
To: rileymccarthy

"Taken" was good, but it was TOOOOOOO LOONNNNGGGGGGGGG.

From: rileymccarthy
To: Jenipher

If your great-grandmother had sex with an alien and your father's descendants had all been perennial abductees of an alien race and YOU were chosen to be the next development in evolution, don't you think it would take two weeks to tell your story, particularly if the evil people in another family were constantly hunting after you?

From: Jenipher
To: rileymccarthy

Yes, I realize it takes a long time. I'm not saying I didn't like it...I was simply pointing out the obvious. It was long.

From: rileymccarthy
To: Jenipher

Because you point out the obvious, the aliens would never select you or any member of your family to be at the beginning of a superior race. So there.

From: Jenipher
To: rileymccarthy

Are you saying my family isn't good enough to be abducted by aliens?

From: rileymccarthy
To: Jenipher

I'm saying that, if your family was ever abducted by aliens, they'd only be probed a couple times and then thrown back. If me or one of the other members of the Jeffery family were abducted by aliens, we'd be recognized immediately as superior stock. We'd be used in experiment after experiment. Your family, because you're all German-ish, Wisconsinite dorks, would be rejected by more discerning aliens because, to be honest, y'all are tacky, and aliens wouldn't want to swim in your gene pool.

From: Jenipher
To: rileymccarthy

Your white trash, inbred, hick folk wouldn't last a second when the aliens come. They would immediately destroy you and your Buford Dam-livin' kin.

I mean, come on, there's a reason the Germans called themselves the master race. Combine that with the lovable confusion of the Polish and the endearing Dutch with their little wooden shoes and I am the perfect mix of nationalities.

From: rileymccarthy
To: Jenipher

Those people at Buford Dam are not my family. My mother just made some bad choices, that's all. I'm sure the aliens would be willing to overlook it. I mean, it's not like the aliens haven't made mistakes. (Besides, the aliens frequently abduct the more entertaining people of the human race from trailer parks, so I'm sure my mother's dalliances with rednecks would be seen as quaint by a visiting flying saucer.)

The aliens wouldn't want you. You and your associates would want to borrow the flying saucer so that you could do extra shopping at IKEA, filling up all the available storage pods on board with pastel-heavy, pseudo-European, collapsible furniture.

I can just see you now, squealing, "Oh wow, look at all the closet space they've given me in exchange for making me the queen of all the Human Test Subjects! Hey, Zaktoz, can you park this hovering baby by the Gurney Mills Target one more time?!!!"

Even those aliens from EMMANUELLE IN SPACE wouldn't pick you!

From: Jenipher
To: rileymccarthy

Now you've gone too far. The EMMANUELLE IN SPACE aliens would so want me. I'm irresistible. But they couldn't have me...that would give me power over all of them and then I would rule the alien world and the human world once it's conquered. And, yes, they would fly me to Target if I demanded it.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Kacoon.

OK, so I've decided to tell you all how to pronounce my friend's nickname. Kacoon is pronounced with an emphasis on the first syllable, so, phonetically, it would be spelled "KAH-coon".

Now that all that is done,
Let's go and have some Christmas fun.
Just add her name to your favorite carols,
And you'll forget all your perils!

"We wish you a merry Kacoon.
We wish you a merry Kacoon.
We wish you a merry Kacoon.
And a happy new year!"

"Deck the halls with boughs of Kacoon.
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Tis the season she's a drunk.
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Benjie's wearing gay apparel.
Fa la la, fa la la, la la la.
And he's being such a punk.
Fa la la la la, la la la la."

"O come all ye Kacoon.
Joyful and triumphant.
O come ye, o come ye to Kacoon's house.
Come and behold her,
She can't hold her liquor.
O come let us adore her.
O come let us adore her.
O come let us adore her,
Or no one else will."

"Twas the night before Kacoon,
And all through the house,
Not a Midget was stirring,
Not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung
By the chimney with care.
In the hope that gay Benjamin
Soon would be there!"

"Kacoon got run over by a reindeer.
Stumbling home from Benjie's house Christmas Eve.
You can say there's no such thing as Santa.
But, as for me and Kacoon, we believe."

OK, I'm smiling now.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Inman and Ada.

I'm seeing a sneak of "Cold Mountain" on Wednesday. Doo-dah. Doo-dah. I'm a member of the Peachtree Film Society. La la la. Jude Law is in it, even though the previews make him look like he needs a bath and a haircut. Hee hee hee. Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger are both attempting Southern accents, and I bet Kidman's is the better one, even though Renee Zellweger is from Texas. Ya ya. Ya ya. I can't figure out if Jai is going with me or was able to get her own tickets, so I don't know if I can invite someone new out or not. Argh. This was a book that my father loved, and my mom hated it. Fun fun fun.

Changing looks.

I changed my hair again. Or, um, I changed it back. Basically, I put back in the highlights that I had in it earlier this year, when I decided I was at my personal cutest, and I kept it longer so that it looks perpetually disheveled. Laura, my hairdresser, looked at it for a while, told me that she'd fallen in love with it and said it seemed Billy Idol-ish. That made me laugh.

It was Saturday. I'd opened the bookstore at 7 in the morning. I hadn't shaved in four days, and I looked terrible. My clothes were all wrinkled. But I'd decided, instead of going home and taking a nap, that I would get my hair color done. I was going to Larry's annual Christmas party that night, and I wanted to look good.

While I was sitting in the salon, there was another guy there dying his hair and goatee strawberry blonde. He and I kept exchanging glances, and I would make a face each time I looked down at something frightening in the DETAILS magazine I was reading. And he would look at me. After a bit, it was sorta obvious.

When my hair was done, Laura and the receptionist girl told me that I looked really good. The receptionist girl predicted that the hair and the attitude that the hair contained would get me four dates. At least four, she said.

I told her I'd test her theory. I wrote my phone number down on a piece of paper, and I approached Mr. Strawberry Blonde, whose face and hair was still coated in chemicals.

Holding the piece of paper in my hand, I said, "I'm going, but I'm curious how your hair is going to turn out. Would you like to meet me for coffee at Starbucks when you get done?"

"Sure," Mr. Strawberry Blonde said. "The one inside the mall?"

"It's outside the mall, across the street," I said. I put my phone number back in my pocket. I didn't even have the guy's name. He didn't have mine. But he met me for coffee about 45 minutes later.

Mr. Strawberry Blonde's name is Matt. And his color looked great. We sat for maybe another 45 minutes, just chatting. He's a biologist. He lives in Buford, near the lake. He's 25-ish. He's a bit heavyset, and he's sarcastic.

I'm supposed to call him this week. Or he'll call me. I don't know.

I went home. I bathed. I shaved. I changed clothes. I went to the party, arriving late.

The last time I'd seen Larry's crowd all together was at the Halloween Wine and Cheese party, and the whole group's started looking, I don't know, differently at me this year. I think it's because I've done two readings for them. But I'm not sure.

One of the Davids said hello at the party. He actually talks to me now, even though I've known him for years. Though he's still older than me, He's the dorky cute, youngest one of the Davids (of which there are 17), and I've noticed him before. Usually, all attempts to chat with him come off awkward and forced. Since the readings, that one of the Davids, I don't know, regards me. I mean, he's not attracted to me. It's something else. It's like Larry's always had me around at parties and such, and that one of the Davids finally realized why I was around, that I was nice enough, smart enough and talented enough to be more than a kid. That one of the Davids is being nicer to me now. I'm attracted to him, but I'm trying - however unsuccessfully - to never, ever, ever act on it.

(That one of the Davids had carpal tunnel at the party. I tried massaging his wrist, since I'm good at massages in general. All I can say, it wasn't as odd as it could have been, but it was odd enough to come across as sorta obvious flirtation. At one point, he told me that, if I wanted to get sick to avoid work the next day, I should go for something "harder than wine." I asked him what hard thing I should try. He missed the joke. And I, unable to escape it, had to explain it. He said, "Oh." But it didn't really matter, I guess, because I was still had highlights, and I was wearing a cute sweater and my geek-rock eyeglasses. So we talked some more. He made no note of my obvious, embarassing attempts at flirtation. I walked him out to his car later and told him to have a good holiday. I saw him tonight at the "Angels in America" screening. He was nice again. When I went out to the patio alone, though, I think I made eye contact with him as I was shutting the glass door. He thinks I like him. He thinks I'm up to something, and I'm guessing he can picture what it is he thinks I want. And he'd really rather not, and I know that even without asking him. So I've got to stop that. Soon. I want a friend. I don't want a problem.)

Ever since my second reading for Larry's group, when I did "Circle," I have to admit that it's been easier to talk with those people. Once you open up the darker aspects of your past to strangers, showing that you have layers and that there are reasons behind why you act the weird way you do, people suddenly become more willing to look at you as something more than "Larry's juvenile trophy-ish ex-boyfriend who thinks he's being funny." (Larry never treated me like that. That's why we're still friends. Yes, at 21, I was cute and young, but I understood and quoted John Donne, which made me worth talking to.)

Also at the Saturday Christmas party, another person who'd heard me read, this guy who's married to another one of the Davids, talked to me for a long time, howling at my jokes.

I'd actually said hello to him when I walked into the party, but, when he approached me during the party, he clarified who he was. He said that I probably thought he was just "some random guy hitting on you when you walked in the door." I replied, "Why would I think anyone was hitting on me?" He laughed. Then he told me that he'd referenced something I said at the last party in a conversation he'd had just that week. (I'd said at the last party, in response to someone saying they'd seen a good parody of performance art, "Considering performance art, how can you tell if you're watching a parody?") Then we talked about other stuff.

The David Spouse and I were talking for such a long time, in fact, about embarrassing moments, our mutual former careers in arts journalism and other stuff, that the spousal David left us talking there for a bit. The David Spouse was interesting. He'd interviewed Quincy Jones and Kenny G when he worked for a jazz magazine. He spent some time teaching in Colombia.

They were both at "Angels in America" tonight, as well, and the guy married to the David smiled big when he saw me.

Before the reading, when we sat across from each other, they used to see me at parties all the time. (I think I once saw a stripper gyrate across them at one of the Pride functions.) We'd never talked much before. At all. And, even then, it was polite.

I look different to these people now. All of them. I feel different, to myself, since I moved to the city. Since I started the blog. Since I finished the High School Reunion book. Since I did readings at two of Larry's parties.

But I have work tomorrow, and I need to go to sleep. And I still found myself attracted to a 17-year-old boy in spite of myself this morning. So, as you can tell with that and with that one David, I'm still capable of huge, dumb moves when it comes to flirting. (I like the ones who browse in the foreign film section and then touch me on my shoulder to say, "Thank you," before leaving the store.) And I'm sleeping alone tonight, and that's fine. And I have credit card debt and bills to pay, and that's pretty much fine. And these gay people aren't the end all-be all, and I don't really need their approval to get on with my life.

But it's a neat feeling And it's different. (That will be my last comment on it before my head swells and I become unbearable.)

They look at me, and they notice that I'm there.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Alas, Mr. Darcy.

Tonight at the bookstore, a customer buying A&E's miniseries "Pride and Prejudice" on DVD was stunned that I'd watched it, even though I told her it was good.

"You're lying," she said, looking at her husband. "You haven't watched it."

"No, really," I said. "I own it. I own the DVD set that came out before this new one did, in fact."

"Really?" she asked me.

"Yes, really," I told her.

Then, I talked to her about my favorite parts, then talked to her about Colin Firth in "Love Actually."

"Do you have a girlfriend?" she asked me.

"No, I don't," I said to her. My boss was standing next to me.

"Because I know lots of women who'd love a man who owns 'Pride and Prejudice,'" she said, glancing again at her husband. "Wait, all the ones we know are married ..."

My manager's face was turning red.

"Seriously," the woman continued. "I know women who'd be all over someone sensitive who was willing to watch 'Pride and Prejudice' with them."

"Really?" I asked her kindly, smiling. She was being nice.

"Why, they'd practically rip your clothes off!," she said, and I chuckled.

She said watching it with her husband, while they were dating, was what assured her that she'd picked the right man. She even said they'd named their children after the characters.

I never let on about it, and, when they left, I told my manager that they were nice. He said that I'd handled that situation well by staying completely straight-faced -- so to speak.

Friday, December 05, 2003

God and the Liquid Terminator.

At the urging of my new friend Jai, I joined the Peachtree Film Society, which I've actually considered joining before. Dues are cheap, and they hold advance screenings. Plus, I'm hoping it will give me an opportunity to discuss film and meet others who are into film.

Last night, Jai and I attended a screening of "Calendar Girls," which was actually rather funny.

Then we went to dinner, where we confessed our most embarassing sex-fantasy objects. Hers was the cute guy who plays God in some episodes of "Joan of Arcadia." She says that, after her fantasy, she was overcome with Catholic-style guilt because, even though she's an atheist, she, you know, doesn't want to go around regularly shacking up with God in her head.

My most embarassing sex fantasy object was the liquid T-1000 from "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," as played by Robert Patrick. I just liked that, you know, he could reshape the metal so that certain sizes were adjustable. (I can't believe I just wrote that.) Plus, Robert Patrick was really cute.

Job woes.

My performance at my publishing job in November was dismal. I had a meeting with my supervisors yesterday to determine what disciplinary action will be taken against me. And I vowed to show immediate improval, and I have. One supervisor told me to take it one day at a time, digging myself out of a hole, and I intend to do so.

There's a conference call for my entire region going on right now. I'm on it, listening to my boss talk. I feel like doing more work while this is going on, but I couldn't find more work to enter in the meantime.

I'm not really worried about this, though I am concerned about it. I can make this better.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

More with Nick the cute waiter.

Last night, I had dinner at Nick the cute waiter's restaurant rather than going home and watching THE O.C. Nick the cute waiter apparently lost my number ... again, so he prepped his phone to save it ... again. And I told him I wasn't sure if he really wanted it since he never called me and didn't save the number at all. But, ahem, I gave it to him again.

Nick the cute waiter, by the way, was a bit queeny in our latest convo. He's not usually, you know, head-back-and-forth, catty-talking-ish, unsolicited suggestions about his sex life. It was funny.

At one point, I told him that he could call me if he ever wanted to do anything outside of the block where we always run into each other. (His restaurant is right below my bookstore.)

"Usually, I eat alone," he said. "And I don't have much free time."

"Yeah, that's why I used the word 'if' when I suggested it," I said. "I just thought I'd try to see you someplace other than in this complex."

"That would be nice, actually," he said. "I'd like that."

Nick the cute waiter, age 20, says he knows I'm not hitting on him. I told him I was too old for him, which I am, and that he could do better, which he could. Besides, I think he was a senior in high school when I met him, and he's younger than Ryan the Teen. And I swore I would never go there again.

He asked me how old I was, and he winced when I said 27. I mean, his face made this look.

"Yeah, I've never done that before," he said, like I was freakin' 90 years old. (I didn't mention my ex-boyfriend "Grampa Larry," as my friend Jenny calls him.)

Nick told me to stay around his restaurant while he closed down, having a cup of coffee. I stayed for 15 minutes or so, then left.

A friendship, I think, might be possible. He's a good kid.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

This guy is a complete tool.

Apparently, RCA dropped Justin Guarini from its roster of artists after his CD, hee hee, bombed. Really bombed.


My review of "Elephant."

In ELEPHANT, director Gus Van Sant provides us with a day in the life of a high school, seen literally from the perspective of several students. Life in high school is presented realistically as boring. Some people have good times; others don't. Even the awkward girl isn't given many scenes to generate sympathy for her character. As a viewer, you don't really get to know much about any of the characters. You see that some of them are talented. Some of them are troubled. Some of them are just going through the motions.

Going into the film, you should be aware that a shooting will happen on this day. But, while watching it, you don't know when it's going to happen, who's going to do it, who's going to live or who's going to die. But the sense of dread you get builds as the film goes along.

Once the film identifies the shooters, we get a brief glimpse of their home life. We see how they got the guns. We get only an idea of the sort of video games they play, the films they watch, the drawings they've created. (The only real elephant seen in the film is a drawing that one of the killers has done and placed on his wall. He doesn't talk about it. We just see it.) We see one of them is a really good piano player. We see that he gets occasionally picked on by bullies, but we don't get the sense that he's overcome with a need for vengeance. We see the killers speak of the last day of their lives, and they kiss. We don't know if it's the first time they have done this. We don't know if they're gay or straight. I got the sense that this is the only time that they'll get a chance to kiss anyone, so they kiss each other. (Van Sant himself is gay, which I think is key. He's not suggesting that gay people are killers. But he's not saying that the killers in his film weren't repressed homosexuals, either. In the scene, he's saying that homosexuality alone cannot be seen as a reason for the violence.) No real motive is provided by the film itself, but you get hints of what actions other people will blame after the fact.

The film, in this extended scene outside of the school moreso than any other, shows the point that the filmmaker intends - that there is no way to determine the causes of this sort of violence and that there are no messages or clearly defined "heroes" and "villains" within such violence. Van Sant supplies the audience with a glimpse of several things that will be examined and dissected by others in the community within the film in the aftermath of the violence.

But, in taking us inside the school during the shooting, he shows us that it is random, brutal, unmotivated and cold violence. It has no reasons or explanations, because nothing this tragic can be blamed on any one thing. The killers even deserve some consideration because they're children, just like the other victims.

The film is excellent and thought-provoking, though it's bleak and sad.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Hurry up and wait.

Apparently, every store in the Atlanta area that expected to get the complete second season of ALIAS on DVD today didn't receive their shipments of it. I checked five places at lunch, and no one received it. This is driving me crazy, and I don't know why.

I think it's because I wanted to see Lena Olin after hearing so much about how good she is as Sydney's mother. Also, I wanted to see the big twists that occurred throughout the year, for the show apparently changed its entire course about four times while it was on.

The box set will arrive later this week, and I can always entertain myself by watching the current episodes of ALIAS that I've taped but not yet watched.

But I wanted to start watching it today. And now that it's not here, I feel like whining incessantly until someone brings me a copy. (OK, it's not really as dire as all that.)

Monday, December 01, 2003

A Very Kacoon Thanksgiving Redux.

Wednesday night, I arrived at Kacoon's house. She had ordered pizza, and, after her mother arrived to watch Benjie, she and I were going to head to the grocery store. Unfortunately, Kacoon forgot to tell me that we were taking my car. So Kacoon spent 10 minutes filling two garbage bags with the stuff that was in my front seat so that two people could ride in my car. (If she'd told me that we needed my car beforehand, that could've saved us the time, but, if my car had already been clean and was cleaned regularly, then I guess that would've saved time, too.) Then, we headed to her husband Mike's bookstore to pick up a copy of my favorite Thanksgiving movie, "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," and then we went to Kroger for supplies. That night, Mike, Kacoon and I watched the movie while Kacoon baked biscuits and iron-skillet cornbread for her stuffing.

The weirdest thing, I guess, about all of that is that Mike had never seen "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" before ... EVER. His parents, swear to God, despise movies with foul language in them and are so conservative that they once enrolled their family in some wacky Christian cult. (He calls it that, not me. I loved the time that he said his "special Christian duty" for the cult was putting about 500 folding chairs out for each service.) Mike said the main reason he probably couldn't see "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" - even since he grew older than 17 - is because it was rated R.

I told him that I think my parents took me to see it in theaters once or twice, even though I was only 10 years old when it came out.

Watching it, Mike laughed more than Kacoon and I did, of course, because Kacoon and I were too busy reciting all the catchphrases from it to concentrate.

Also, during the film and sometime afterward, Mike and I were able to finish off a six-pack of my favorite alcoholic beverage to get at the grocery store, Woodpecker Cider. This was the first alcohol we consumed as part of the celebration, which was - dare I say it - pretty much soaked with alcohol once it was done.

We got to bed about midnight, and I slept on Kacoon's floor (because there was no way I would otherwise be on time to help cooking in the morning - and I had to cook the turkey because Kacoon refuses to "touch the uncooked flesh of an animal carcass, let alone eat any of it once it's done").

Thanksgiving came the next morning, of course, with Midget, Kacoon's four-year-old son who has refused to grow for a year now, running into the living room and asking me if I wanted breakfast. (Midget wasn't wearing a shirt because he and his grandmother had spent a few moments watching "Superman" on the Sci Fi Channel. He saw the seen where a toddler Kal-El lifted up the car for the Kents and decided he wanted to be "Superboy.")

Once everyone was awake, Kacoon, her mother and I occupied the kitchen, and I rubbed down the raw, 16-pound turkey with salt and lots of olive oil, then stuffed it with bread stuffing. Then, we put it in the oven to roast for about four hours. I tossed some carrots, celery and some white wine into the roasting pan after a few hours.

Once we opened the white wine for the basting, though, the great winefest began. I had about six glasses that day, I guess. Kacoon, I think, had 35 glasses of some sort of wine throughout the day. (She was so hung over the next day she called in sick to her Black Friday shift at her bookstore, which I find very brave of her to do.)

Because of that, our bickering in the kitchen really entertained all the arriving guests. Kacoon's Sister says the two of us fight like an old married couple.

"I love how they bitch at each other," Kacoon's sister said. "But, if you say anything bitchy to either of them, then they both gang up on you."

At one point, Kacoon told me that I was oiling up the insides of the turkey like it was one of my dates. She said that in front of HER MOTHER.

We had nine people at the dinner and more than enough food and dessert for everyone. Me, who was avoiding my mother's house. Kacoon. Mike. Midget. Kacoon's Mom. Kacoon's Sister. Kacoon's Sister's Hot-as-Hell-yet-Republican Boyfriend. Mike's friend David. His kickass fiancee Jamie, who was there because she wanted to avoid her sister's house.

My toast before the dinner, because we didn't have a prayer, summed up the point of the event, which I started last year.

"For friends, for family and for having a place on the holidays that we actually want to go to, we give thanks," I said, and everyone raised their glasses.

After dinner, while the hot-as-hell-yet-Republican boyfriend guy surfed the channels for football after realizing he was the only one there who would watch it, everyone else pretty much collapsed in Kacoon's living room because of the amount we'd all eaten.

"Wow, this looks like Jonestown - The Day After," David said, looking at all of us lying next to our glasses.

I was there until midnight, when the last guest other than me left, and I think I got on everyone's nerves throughout the day because I became Mr. Obsessive Thanksgiving Cook.

"So do you like the sweet potatoes? Are you sure you liked the sweet potatoes? You're not just saying that, are you? How was the rest of the food? Did anyone besides me try the bread stuffing? How do you like all of it?"

I was even doing that the next day, when I called Kacoon to assure myself that everything had been successful.

"Jesus, Benjamin, everything was GREAT!" she shouted at me. "LET IT GO, ALREADY!!! EVERYONE HAD A GOOD TIME!"

Whether something will be done for Christmas is up-in-the-air because Kacoon said she needs time to reflect upon the victory that was the second year of, and thus "first-annual," Very Kacoon Thanksgiving.