Saturday, February 28, 2004


Tonight, while hanging out with Mitchell the 19-year-old cute guy (whom I ran into), Ronald (who kept leaving me alone with Mitchell or walking ahead so that I was alone with Mitchell ... and also kept asking Mitchell if he had a girlfriend) and Mitchell's two teen friends (who were both gay but couldn't tell me if Mitchell was ... though they think he might be ...), I had a lot of fun doing the passive-aggressive flirting thing. I have Mitchell's phone number now, even though he never clarified whether he was gay. But I don't think, even if Mitchell liked me (and he laughed at my jokes, even the gay ones), that anything's going to happen there.

Because Mitchell found out just how old I am.

It happened like this.

The youngest kid there was named Andy. And he was gay and insecure, and occasionally he said bizarre, random things. But I, being an idiot, asked Andy to say aloud what year he was born.

"1988," Andy said. He's 15. (Those of you who know I felt are sitting at your computers now, saying, "Damn ...")

So Ronald and the girl who was with us were both 3 when Andy was born. And Mitchell was 4. And I was 12.

Upon hearing it, Mitchell said, "Geeeeeeeezzzzzzzzzz ..." And I went from "cool, cute guy" to "a creepy old man who hangs out with the teenage Ronald at the mall."

Later, Ronald was talking about the "modest proposal" of cannibalism as a means to help the homeless. I mentioned "Soylent Green." Not one of them knew what that was, and trying to explain "Soylent Green" to people just makes you sound random and crazy.

And I felt OLD. Ancient OLD. Like, what-the-hell-am-I-doing-in-the-mall-on-a-Friday-night-when-I'm-30 OLD.

The teens, aside from Ronald, probably felt like they'd spent the evening with the Rosetta Stone (if they knew what that was).

The situation did not improve when I accompanied everyone outside while they smoked. (Mitchell smoked something called Twists, which somehow have an orange flair mixed in the tobacco. I said to him, "Ooh, citrus-flavored death." The whole thing reminded me of my ex Jerry the Arsonist's favorite clove cigarettes.)

Soon it hit 9:05 outside the food court, and the security guards amassed where all the teens were smoking. And the guards told us to get to our movies - if we were going there - or to get the hell home.

"The mall's closed, so you guys need to go," a guard said to all of us.

I was sitting on a bench, not doing anything.

And I said hello and tried to shake the guard's hand when he walked up. He was my age, yet he just stared at my hand.

I've worked at that mall for about four years (Good God), and I'm generally nice to security guards.

Surrounded by teens, the guard looked at me like I was some kind of idiot.

"I work at the store right there," I said to him. "It's still open."

"I don't care," he said.

"But I'm 27 years old," I said to him.

And I - Dear God, why ... - pulled out my driver's license.

"IT DOESN'T MATTER," he yelled - YELLED - at me, looking at me like I was some kind of punk.

And, at first, I thought the guy was some kind of flagrant dickhead, though I also realized he couldn't give me special treatment. And that I was a tool for expecting it.

But, come on ...

Don't kick me out of the mall for sitting there, talking to kids. I'm almost 30 years old. And I'm there watching movies than that late every weekend. But I was standing with kids, so that made me "trouble."

Meanwhile, my attempt to argue reason with the security guards didn't really win any points with Mitchell and his friend. They were used to the treatment. But I'm OLD. So I was OFFENDED.

I went to the cinema, and I lost track of Mitchell, though I did try to call him to find him after a few minutes. I figured the group, which was a bunch of kids and me (like I'm their chaperone ... because I'm the one who tried to argue reason with the security guard).

But I never reconnected with Mitchell. And I was no longer in a good mood - because the security guard tried to kick me out of the mall for "loitering."

So after checking the movie times, I started out of the mall, but that same security guard was standing by the escalator.

I looked at him. He looked at me.

And I said, "Look, I'm sorry for what I did."

He said, "It's OK. You shouldn't take it so personally."

I told him that I was just taken aback by the whole thing, that I'd called security before to get rid of kids ... but I'd never been on the receiving end of it.

"It's not serious," he said. "I just have my job to do."

"I'm Benjie," I said. "I've worked at Barnes & Noble for four years, and this is the first time I've been reprimanded for loitering. It startled me."

His name was Matthew. And we talked out our differences like adults. But I still think he's a dickhead for yelling at me.

I think I really need to hang out with people my own age. Away from malls.

Because, all through the evening, I seriously couldn't figure out what I was doing there. I'm not supposed to have anything in common with them. I shouldn't even hit on Mitchell, cool though he is.

I can't be hanging out with 15-year-olds.

I'm their peer, for Chrissakes'. I'm the grown-up they should rebel against.

What the hell am I doing? Aren't there people my own age? Can't I relate to them even a little bit?

I feel ridiculous.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Oscar contest.

If you want to predict the Oscars in my annual contest, you can go here and sign up - then get yourself added to my group page. You need a sign-on to get into it, but you can get one there. (Yahoo didn't hold a contest this year. Damn them.)

Go into the Groups directory.
My group's name is "Friends of Benjamin."
The password to join is: destino

A moment complete in its happiness.

Last night, I told the greatest love story of my life.

I was working as a features intern for the Athens Daily News in the summer of 1997, and I was the paper's primary reporter on AthFest, the first-ever Athens Music Festival. In the middle of the day, before I went to see this band called #1 Family Mover because they had a cute lead singer, I stepped into this now-closed restaurant called the Athens Brewing Co. for a Sprite. It was July, and I was outside wearing a tie because I was on duty for the newspaper.

The main portion of the Athens Brewing Co. was on their upstairs floor. (The Wild Wing Cafe, which uses the facility now, uses the same floor plan.) So I ran up the stairs and was about to head to the bar, but this cute, young blond guy makes eye contact as soon as I reach the top step.

"Hi," he said to me, never breaking the stare.

"Hi," I said. I was paused, not able to break eye contact with him. "How are you?"

"Fine," he says. He was with a group of guys, but he broke away from them to talk to me.

"Um ...," I said to him. "Are you here for the festival?"

"We were just grabbing food," he said.

"I'm covering it for the paper," I said. "I'm Benjie."

"I know," he said. Then, I looked down at my nametag, thinking that's what he meant.

I forget his name. It may have been Chris, I guess. But I don't remember it. He was very good-looking. My height. Blond. Good eyes.

I remember what he said more than what he did. I don't know if he shook my hand when he said this or not. I just remember what he said.

"I want you to know that I love you," he said in complete seriousness. He just kept his eyes on me, and there was heat that wasn't generated by the July weather.

"Why?" I replied, taken aback.

He didn't hesitate or get offended or anything. He fidgeted.

"I've just seen you around," he said, "and I love you."

Now I can tell when someone's trying to talk up religion to me or save my soul. This guy wasn't doing that. This guy, for whatever reason, genuinely smiled like he was proud of himself for saying it. He looked at me, unflinchingly. And he said he loved me in a way that made me believe him. This complete stranger had feelings for me, emotions he'd gathered just from seeing me around, seeing how I acted around people. I liked the way he looked at me. It caught me completely off-guard and made me into the pursued, rather than the pursuer.

I don't know who he was. I have a feeling that I'd probably talked with him online, for I remember having chatroom conversations with kids on campus who were afraid to come out of the closet. One of the chatroom people would tell me that he'd seen me on Tate Plaza but that he was scared to say hello. I'd give the chatroom kid advice, and I'd talk to him like I genuinely wanted him not to be ashamed of who he was, of being gay. The chatroom kid used to think that I was just pretending to be nice to him. One day, though, he realized that I was being nice, selflessly nice. I remember that the chatroom kid was pleasantly surprised that I didn't want something from him. After that conversation, I never saw him in the chatroom again.

When the guy in Athens Brewing Co. told me that he loved me the second time, I thanked him.

"Now, I'm going to get a Sprite," I said to him. "I'll be right back."

And I walked toward the bar, got my beverage and turned around.

And the guy was gone. His friends were gone. I went down the stairs, looked at the crowds on the street and couldn't find him anywhere.

The moment was over. It was never supposed to last. It was only supposed to matter, and it does matter to me. It was a two-minute conversation, but it taught me that people are looking at you, even when you think they're not. People see you, even when you wonder why no one "gets" you. My day, my outlook, my confidence and my belief in good things and love turned on a dime that day.

Trying to explain it to people at the newspaper, they showed me a candid shot of Versace killer Andrew Cunanan from that day's newspaper - asking me if that was the guy who said he "loved" me. Even that joke didn't keep me from having a brighter day.

Yesterday, telling this story, I told someone that I didn't think that people who looked at me saw the whole picture of who I was or, more specifically, who I see myself as.

I tend to look at myself as though there's something wrong with me, something that needs fixed. I'm not good with confidence. I'm good with sarcasm. I'm jaded, and a lot of my friends have come to expect that. I've been burned by dating, lost love and tons and tons of disappointment, and a lot of people don't like to be around me, thinking me weird or needy. I've had people tell me that I'm nice but try too hard. I've had people who tell me that my cynicism is a self-fulfilling prophecy. People tell me that I have low self-esteem, that I apologize too much, that I don't promote my own writing enough. Some friends tell me that I'd be a lot better off if I just counted to 10 before I said something, that I tend to think before speaking. One person once said to me, "I thought you were TRYING to be strange."

Exes have told me that I'm too critical of myself. I need other people too much. I'm weird. I'm the sort of cute that people won't notice until I'm old and not cute anymore. One ex said that, by the time I turn 35, everyone will adore my bitchy sarcasm but that I'll hate everyone. One ex told me that I thought too much with my heart and not at all with my head.

I remind myself of the moment in Athens Brewing Co. because I need to know that someone can and will look at me like that. They have, and they might again. People can still see me, beyond the walls and the bad anecdotes, and they think I'm a beautiful person full of loyalty, worthy of affection and capable of loving someone.

The boy in Athens Brewing Co. wasn't the only person to look at me and love what I love about myself, but his story is the most poignant. The one time he chose to talk to me, he said what he wanted me to know. And it helped me.

When I went out with Lonnie on our one date last year, before he broke his promises to me and didn't call me for two months for whatever reasons, he told me that I had an untapped affectionate side that people should see. He told me that I needed love, and, for a moment, he offered it to me.

Then, he hurt me. And I closed the shutters, and I put the walls back up and reinforced them.

But I want to be seen. I want to be seen that way.

I'm getting older. Days are humdrum. And I was hoping to know more of love and about love than I do. I want to stop with the apologies, the bad dates, the uncertainty and the silliness, at least to a degree.

I want love. I want to believe in it. I don't want to get stepped on, passed over, glared at or belittled.

My favorite poem is Edgar Lee Masters' "George Gray," about a man longing for life and yet afraid of opening himself up and taking chances.

I don't want to be that man. I'm cautious and caustic, but there are reasons for that. I'm jaded, but there are reasons for that. This attitude is not my fault. This attitude is my best defense. And few people understand that.

I don't want to be misunderstood. I don't want my desires misinterpreted. So I'll be as confident as I can be, as smart as I know I am. And I'll tell you all the truth about me.

When I tell my best love story, I don't want it to be a tale of something fleeting yet satisfying. I want more from life.

I am loyal and good. I am a friend. I am a man. I am strong. And I know myself well enough to be both cautious and wild. And I'm ready for optimism, love, happiness, change and hope - whenever it's ready for me.

This is not some Hallmark card. This, if you've been truly listening to me for years, isn't even a change of pace. I'm the same good man I've always been, despite the bad things that happen to me.

People who think they know me wouldn't think that I felt that way. People who think they "get" me probably don't pay the proper amount of attention.

But, I've found, some people who think they know me don't actually know me at all.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Before an audience.

On Saturday, I'm supposed to meet Black at the Phi Kappa Literary Society anniversary meeting, which I try to attend every year.

Black should be there ... if his Headhunter Lady doesn't try to kidnap him over the weekend and force him into sex slavery ... or if COLD MOUNTAIN Leslie, his latest couplehood prospect, doesn't make him watch really bad movies instead of heading down to Athens.

Black was in the Society before me, but I never met him. When I joined, he was already studying corporate law at Harvard, working to become a Tool of the Man. Some years he couldn't make it because he was in New York. Other years, he couldn't make it because he was in London. This year, though, he lives in Nashville, and he promised me that he is coming. (Of course, that was before COLD MOUNTAIN Leslie.)

I'm supposed to read "Patty Melts and Redemption" at the meeting on Saturday, which I picked because it generates good response from people and it's got a theatrical quality to it -- so I perform it more than read it when I'm in front of a crowd. Plus, my friend T. Kyle, a fan of Southern Lit, says it's his favorite of all my essays, and he's going to be there.

Though I read the piece in front of one of my friend Larry's parties and have read more harrowing things in front of people, I'm nervous. I called around a couple weeks ago to see if there were local Barnes & Noble stores that still did Open Mike Nights so that I could practice, but the store I called said they weren't aware of any in the area.

I want to be on stage again. I want to do readings. I want to try, seeing what response I get.

It should be a fine reading this weekend. If Black's there, it's sure to be fun, anyway.

"But J.Lo's only in it for 15 minutes!!!"

Mike, Kacoon, Marley and I are supposed to attend a screening of Kevin Smith's new film "Jersey Girl" tomorrow. Marley and I got tickets through the Peachtree Film Society.

There's a Q&A with someone after the movie, which I didn't know about until Marley pointed it out to me, but Marley told me that I'm supposed to be on my best behavior, lest I say something out loud and upset a Kevin Smith fan.

Marley says I'm occasionally too loud. I respectfully disagree. The arguments that I've gotten into with other people in random ticket lines - about the atrocious "Cold Mountain" and the disappointing "Big Fish" - were not my fault. But Marley says I'm too loud.

I told both Marley and Kacoon that I can't believe we're going to see a Bennifer movie. I mean, if we'd seen "Gigli," I'm sure we would've hated it, but we didn't see it. Have we learned nothing?

I love J.Lo when J.Lo's in a movie where she is more interested in acting than in looking pretty. Hence "Out of Sight" is amazing, and "Maid in Manhattan" is crap. Hence "The Cell" is interesting, and "Enough" is enough.

Kacoon told me that J.Lo is supposed to die in the first 15 minutes of "Jersey Girl," which I'd read about, so she said it wasn't a real Bennifer movie.

I was, like, "Um, if they're in it together, it's a Bennifer movie ..."

But, I guess, since Bennifer is over, we can all see their movies again without tremendous fear, but I'm scared of "Jersey Girl."

If it's a "Look at how sugary-sweet and cute this kid is ..." movie, I think I may vomit in the aisles. If it's about a cute kid, that's worse than it being a Bennifer movie, I think.

Marley'd probably consider me rude for saying that, though.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

My last phone call to Steven.

Last night, I was in such a mood upon leaving my office - after 8 p.m. - that I, in frustration, answered a call from Steven. Steven's been calling me for about two weeks, apologizing for that phone tag-maybe date fiasco.

Since he was staying in for the evening to do necessary homework, I suggested, in spite of my better senses, that I come over and watch a movie. He told me that was fine, and he suggested that I bring a toothbrush with me, in case I needed to "crash." Then, he asked me if I wouldn't mind picking up a pack of Doral Ultra Lights for him on my way over. (Granted, he'd already heard about my money woes. He still asked me to buy him cigarettes. I don't even smoke. What sense would it make for me, low on money, to buy cigarettes?)

While talking to him, I became so distracted that I ended up venturing the wrong direction down I-85. So I told him that I'd see him in a few minutes.

Then, getting off the phone and turning around at Jimmy Carter Boulevard, I thought about whether I really wanted to go over to Steven's.

It was late. I was unshaven, unfed, broke, tired and depressed. He only has VHS, and he told me that I could bring over any movie from my own collection that I wanted to watch. When I met him, he smoked cigarettes instead of kissing me.

As I got back on the interstate, I considered both the feasibility of seeing Steven and my actual desire for Steven.

Then, noting the irony, I called him back and cancelled the date that I'd just set up three minutes before. I apologized. I told him I wasn't trying to be funny or rehash the reason that I was initially upset with him.

I just told him that I wasn't in the mood.

And I wasn't.

The Passion of the Christ.

Last night, after watching a report on it during INSIDE EDITION, I had a dream that I went to see Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ." And it started out all pretty, and I kept waiting for it to get gory - like the reviewers said it would.

But, in my dream, I fell asleep during the movie. (In my dream, I fell asleep. Is that weird?) It was like I blinked, and everyone else in the theater watched the crucifixion ... and I'm just there, going, "Huh, is that it?" I hope that I don't exit the actual movie feeling that way.

Marley, who's not religious, wants to see it. And I am curious about it, more in a car wreck kind of way than anything else, so we may go eventually. I'll have to ask her. At first, I didn't want to see it because I generally hate Mel Gibson. But I like Jim Caviezel, who plays Jesus. And I think Monica Bellucci is a beautiful woman, though I'm not sure how she'll do as Mary Magdelene. (I heard her say she was an agnostic on "Good Morning America" yesterday. I thought that took guts, considering she was there to promote a Christ movie.)

The movie should be pretty harrowing, if what the reviews say is true.

"Arms ... Arms ..."

Looking over my friend Kurt's blog, I found a photo of him in a tanktop and was reminded of something stupid that I do when I'm out with Kacoon. Seeing any guy with decently or moderately defined arms, I immediately become rapt, cooing, "Arms ... arms ..." until Kacoon is forced to either confirm or deny the presence of decent arms.

I myself have terrible arms. Because of cerebral palsy, the left one doesn't straighten completely and will never grow at the same rate as the right one. It's not completely atrophied, but there is a noticeable difference. I have the smallest left wrist you'll ever see on a guy.

I was out with Marley a couple weeks ago. We were browsing in a bookstore after a screening of "Hidalgo," and I looked over at a guy in shortsleeves putting away books.

"Arms ...," I said to Marley. "Arms ..."

Marley looked in the direction I was looking, thinking I'd seen a book on the shelf. After a moment, she realized what I was actually looking at. And she refuted my claim. The guy had unimpressive arms, she said. She was probably right. I define good arms as "arms that are better than mine," which means that everyone qualifies, except when I'm on a workout kick - which does happen.

When I was dating Welsh Guy back in 1996, he told me that he and his "blokes back at Uni" would walk around and check out guys together. Seeing one they liked, one would look at the guy and nonchalantly say, "Actually ...," just out of nowhere.

My statement of "Arms ... Arms ..." makes Kacoon laugh. She says I notice it about the most random people.

I think that eventually someone will notice what I'm doing and punch me with their well-defined arms, but I hope that doesn't happen. (I always assume that I've had my last fistfight already.)

Perhaps I should go back to saying "Actually ...," which I did do for a while after Welsh Guy left, but my phrase alerts my friends at what I'm looking at. I'm not looking at a guy's face. Just his arms.

Monday, February 23, 2004


For the record:


REAL NAME: Benjamin
AGE: 27
BIRTHDATE: 6/21/1976
ZODIAC: Gemini-Cancer Cusp.
GREW UP IN: Buford, GA
HAIR COLOR: Light brown.
DISABILITY: Cerebral palsy.


COLLEGE: University of Georgia
DEGREE: ABJ, Newspapers. Class of '98. Minor in Drama.
EXTRACURRICULARS, AWARDS, HONORS: Member, Phi Kappa Literary Society; Alumnus, The Red & Black; Alumnus, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Student Union; Winner of 1995 Student Employee Award, Athens Commission for People with Disabilities; Member, Phi Kappa Summer Trivia Team in 2001.


FULL-TIME: Reporter, McGraw-Hill Companies.
PART-TIME: Music and Book Salesperson, Barnes & Noble.
FREELANCE: Essayist, features writer, movie critic and fiction author.


PSEUDONYM: Riley McCarthy
ORIGIN OF PSEUDONYM: Asked by a friend to come up with something pretentious - a stage name that I would use if I were ever in an adult film, I chose this name using the titles of two of my favorite songs, The Lightning Seeds' "Life of Riley" and R.E.M.'s "Exhuming McCarthy."

AOL: rileymccarthy
Y!: rileymccarthy
PHOTO: Here.

And then it all falls apart again.

Giving myself a breather for a moment about the money situation, I decided to splurge and get a bottle of Diet Coke from the downstairs vending machine.

And I looked in my wallet to see if I had a dollar for the machine.

I did have a dollar, which was cool. I didn't have the $20 I intended to use for gas money this week, though. The $20 my mom gave me. The $20 that was in my pocket when I went to lunch with my mother this afternoon. The $20 that was going to keep me from tapping into my bank account. The $20 that I needed, certainly, but it still felt like a luxury.

So I freaked out. Because, if I'm already having money troubles, why is it that I then - on top of everything - have to lose money AGAIN? I mean, seriously. I was looking all around, cursing my own stupidity.

I called my mother and asked her to check her car seat for the bill. I told her that, if she found it, she should keep it because I apparently am irresponsible and can't keep up with funds.

The loss of the twenty bucks, though this is going to sound silly, became who I am. And I started to lose my mind over it.

The problem with the bill was solved, but I still managed to find a way to be dumb about money.

I went downstairs, had the Diet Pepsi anyway and tried to put it back into perspective.

Dumb stuff, of course, is going to happen in life when you least want or need it to - because it can. It doesn't mean anything. Life doesn't make any sense.

Someone else probably found my twenty bucks, lying in a parking lot or on the floor of the bathroom or some place. They probably needed cheering up.

I am not going to die over this. I am going to get through this and get past it.

A missing $20 bill doesn't reflect who I am. It merely reflects that I need to put money in my wallet, not my pocket.

Fixed, if only for the moment.

My money problems have been fixed ... again. Don't ask how. I'm ashamed to say. It's not illegal. And, to everyone's great relief, I didn't get a job as a stripper for "chub chasers," as my friend Wes used to call them, or men with disability fetishes.

I'll just tell you that I had lunch today with my mother. It was fun. We went to Maggiano's. I had lasagna, and she had chicken. Good, hearty food.

Her birthday's tomorrow. She told me not to worry about getting her a gift.

Just when I think I'm out ...

A bill on automatic deduct went through my bank account over the weekend. So, ahem, I'm screwed even worse than I was screwed before. It just keeps getting worse and worse.

My financial situation is starting to look like my dating situation in that regard.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

My life as a couple women.

Today, doing a read-through of Marley's screenplay, I got to play a straight guy. And four or five of his disastrous speed dates, ranging from a painfully shy, clueless girl to a boorish, aggressive girl whose spewed obscenities.

I think Marley was impressed. She kept laughing ... and taking notes of touches I added to her screenplay.

It was lots and lots of fun, actually. I hadn't acted in a while, not since I read for one of Larry's plays.

Marley's been really great to me, by the way. Today, we had brunch and watched TiVo before working on the script. We're doing another read-through this week to finish the draft.

So, hopefully, I'll be able to cross my legs and get to play a couple more females before the week's done.

If something goes wrong, I'm the first to admit it ... but the last one to know.

If you don't read this one, I don't mind. I'm posting it for myself.

I have no money. None. Well, almost none. I don't have enough this week, due both to fewer working hours at the store and pending bills, to cover a payment on the electric bill I forgot and still survive the week with gas money, funds for food and any bills that may come due in the meantime. It's going to be a lean week, perhaps the leanest week I've ever had in my history of "When times were bad ..." finances.

I've been proud and stupid. (For example, I wouldn't have gone on that non-date if I'd been more aware of my true finances at the time. But I was keeping myself intentionally in the dark, instead choosing to focus on the positives of having a good time with a new friend. But I shouldn't have done it.) The circumstances that led me to this situation were entirely my fault, and I'm very, very mad at myself about this. At the same time, I'm worried, ashamed and ... strangely hopeful that some new solution will eventually come to me.

Mostly, I'm just scared. I'm trying to keep myself busy so that I don't think about it. I'm trying to keep myself quiet, so I don't talk about it too much. (Marley's heard about it. Last night, I talked to Katt at the bookstore about it, and I asked Bonnie the Math Teacher about it over e-mail, not going into specifics beyond, "OK, I messed up with money." I talked to my mom about it, and she sounded justifiably annoyed at me. I've only gone into specifics with my mother.)

People see their way through these situations and get past them. I will. I'm not going to die over this. It's just money.

I can't talk to my therapist about it because I can't afford to pay for a session, which feels like it'd be a catch-22 if it wasn't actually all my fault and didn't feel funny.

I don't want help. I want a solution. I want to come up with my own solution.

And I want to learn from this. I want this not to happen again. Or, if it does, I want to foresee it, so that I can stall it or lessen the impact.

I need to be better organized about it. The Internet has helped me to be more aware of it, but I'm still making mistakes.

I don't want a spouse who can help me solve it. I don't want an inheritance. I don't want my mother's money. I don't want to borrow money from friends, with the friends telling me to pay them back "when I've sold one of my essays - which I need to publish."

I want faith in myself.

I'm going to London next month. This is going to be amusing. I keep thinking that maybe I shouldn't go, that I don't deserve it because I was irresponsible with money. If I have to be bailed out of this, I'm going to cry again. I already cried once. I don't want to talk about this.

I can sell some DVDs. That'll help me solve it. That'll get me over the hump. For the time being. I've volunteered for all available bookstore hours. I have peanut butter and jelly, so I'll be fine. (Actually, I got depressed when I realized that PB&J makes me gain weight, not lose it. I thought of putting days of water-based fasting into my schedule, but then I realized I was just being melodramatic.)

You don't want to read about this. You want to read about boys. You want to hear about movies. Or you want to read about the really good time I had at Marley's today - having brunch, watching TV and working on her screenplay - which I'll write more about later.

Whether I keep it to myself or say it aloud, something is wrong, though. And I need to face it.

I figured admitting it here to myself - even if it didn't make for an entertaining read for everybody has financial woes and I know nobody likes to hear about someone else's - was a way of reminding myself that the problem isn't bigger than me, but it needs to be solved. By me.

I was so depressed about it today that I had to get dressed up in good clothes to put myself in a better mood, which always works. It's difficult to feel bad when you look good. (A piece of advice I once gave my friend Vic was, "If you're bummed but can't change your life, try changing your hair.")

Today I was well-dressed, and part of me was glad I'd done that. Another part of me felt like I was hiding from my problems, so I'm writing this here for myself.

I have problems. I don't want to hide from them.

This is not bigger than me. I will fix this.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Non-date redux.

My nondate was fun. Nick the Cute Waiter liked the browsing at Phipps. He liked the trivia night at the pro-gay restaurant. He liked meeting Debi, this friend of mine who happened to be there. He liked Outwrite Bookstore, and, other than the fact that I was stiff and awkward, continually apologizing and not sure how to act, it was good.

We may do trivia again or go to a movie.

Hopefully, as I get to know him, I'll relax more. And we can be friends. I need to know more gay people, anyway.

I'm supposed to call him next week.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Non-date update.

My non-date's starting to feel like a date.

I called Nick and asked him how he wanted to get into the area, whether he needed me to come pick him up or if he could meet me somewhere in town.

He called back and said all he needed to know was when to "be ready." Um, ready? We're doing trivia and possibly browsing at Phipps.

I started to give him directions, but he only knew I-85 ... and apparently he didn't know that all that well.

So I'm going to get him. I told him to "be ready" around 6.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004



Tomorrow, I am supposed to hang out with Nick the Cute Waiter at someplace other than the Mall of Georgia. Now, the jury's still out on whether this is an actual date or not. I think it's not.

Nick the Cute Waiter just turned 21. I'm 27. I've known him since he was in high school. He used to not like to talk to me, when he was an irksome customer in my store, but he says I'm nice to him now.

Regarding the non-date, I asked him, but I said I wasn't hitting on him. He said, "Oh, one thing you'll have to notice is that I'm flirtatious with everyone. It doesn't mean anything." We stayed on the phone for about two hours, watching LEGALLY BLONDE in our respective homes and making comments. We've been talking on the phone since Christmas, though he and I have done the number exchange since last summer. He does not have a boyfriend, for he just broke up with the person he was seeing. So this is not a date. He's way cuter than me. I'm a troll. Not a date.

The only criteria regarding this meeting with Nick is that it must occur somewhere other than the Mall of Georgia. We both work there. We both shop there. He lives near there. Once, when I was asking him to hang out, I said that I just wanted to see him someplace other than that same block where we met, which is the only place I've ever seen him.

I, myself, am against seeing a movie with him, though he suggested that as a potential thing.

I told him that I would come up with something interesting. Honestly, I just want to be able to talk with him and do something quirky yet entertaining. I don't want him to be horribly bored. Brainstorming the possibilities, I've realized that I'm not good at spontaneity.

The options for my non-date are:

* Window-shopping at Phipps Plaza and dinner there. Nick likes designer clothes. He's pro-Gucci. He's also, he let it leak, pro-Phipps Plaza. I like designer clothes. I'm pro-Armani. (Not the evil Armani Exchange. Actual Armani.) It doesn't matter if you can't afford anything if the store is so pricey that you're basically just there to look anyway, and I have fun browsing at Phipps, where I will not be able to actually purchase anything until I've sold my second bestseller. Nick said he was keen on this idea, to be honest, but ... come on, window shopping??? I had fun doing it with my friend Michael, but I don't know if this is so much a non-date of a non-date that I'm not being tested by Nick the Cute Waiter in some way. I don't want to come off bad, even if I'm not (and shouldn't be) interested in him.

* Over coffee, I prove to Nick the Cute Waiter that I can write. Imagine the scene. At a Starbucks, perhaps the pro-gay Ansley Mall Starbucks that used to intimidate me, we sit and chat, and I bring some of my essays and attempt, in an animated way, to be myself and be charming. Hopefully, he will laugh. If not, then he'll just call me a jaded, old queen and maybe throw hot tea in my face. Either way, it's a memorable outing.

* Trivia, the Atlanta gay community and eating at Joe's. This has actually worked for me, with friends, before. Usually, though, I know the person better. Jai and I did trivia at Joe's on Juniper one Wednesday a couple months ago. And it's right in the heart of gay Atlanta, so Nick the cute waiter will be able to indulge in the requisite "Oh my God, it's the oft-rumored gay community I've only dreamed of!" cultural awakening that little gay boys his age are prone to do, if he hasn't seen the rainbow flags of Outwrite Bookstore already. (Of course, I think this would be amusing, though slightly boring since I don't go to Outwrite Bookstore and it is still a bookstore -- so it'd be like going to Mall of Georgia, except gayer.) But what if he's bad at trivia? Or what if he thinks me old and boring? Oh wait, this isn't a date.

* Other suggestions. If you feel the need to fill in the blank, remember that I can't afford skydiving, that not everyone's into bondage or art cinema ... and remember that my outing with Nick the Cute Waiter is NOT A DATE. Of course, I don't think he's going to cancel, but I'm not sure what might happen. I don't know if I have to pick him up ... or if he's going to meet me somewhere. It's all up in the air.

To participate in this contest, please e-mail me your choice or suggestion regarding the non-date, set to take place Thursday night in the metro Atlanta area. If you know of some event that I'm missing and could afford, let me know. If I end up doing what you suggested, then you win the contest. If you end up picking one of my suggestions, which is also fine, then I will choose a winner at random from the selectors of the winning option.

The winner of the contest will win a dinner with me, set to take place some other time during which I'll host the second "RILEY MCCARTHY NON-DATE -- YOU MAKE THE CALL!" contest.

So, you see, it's cyclical.

Now let's play.

I can't find my book.

I got to page 87 of ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE, and now I don't know where my book is. I don't know if I left it in my apartment somewhere, though I searched there for it. I can't find it in my car, and my car is clean - so you'd think I'd be able to find it if it was there. I don't know if I carried it into the bookstore and left it in my locker. Or I don't know if I, for the third time or so since I bought it, left it at Larry's house. I'm into it now. I don't want to lose it. I don't want to put it down. It's not here in my cube.

OK, this is the most pointless blog entry ever.

But if you've seen my personal copy of ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE, then e-mail me at, for I want my book back.

It has a postcard in it of the Eiffel Tower being struck by lightning.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Valentine's weekend redux.

* My first customer at the bookstore, on the day before Valentine's Day, was this 18-year-old anorexic-looking girl who asked me where the Kama Sutra books were. She wanted to surprise her boyfriend. I hate Valentine's Day. Another customer, who asked me if I was bothered by something, told me that I was too young to be so bitter about Valentine's Day. "No, I'm not," I said to her. I can be bitter if I want.

* I didn't get over my Valentine's funk until I spoke with Lupo and my friend Kate on Valentine's morning. I thanked them for helping me.

* Checking on my checking account this morning, I realized that I'd forgotten to pay my power bill. I had to make a phone call. I hate this.

* Speaking of bills, I can't figure out how to pay Dell over the Internet, rather than by check. I think the Dell payment on the Dell website ought to be easier to figure out since they're a computer company.

* Black's dating a girl who likes COLD MOUNTAIN. Apparently he told her my thoughts on the film, then backtracked on his statements when he realized that she liked the film and was getting upset about it. She says that she felt the corny, overdone romantic dialogue was suitable for characters of the time, and it was a period piece. I said to Black, "Yes, but the film is made for modern audiences who are more aware of cliches." I told Black that, though this girl may otherwise be terrific, her COLD MOUNTAIN defenses were weak. Marley told me that she liked COLD MOUNTAIN and that, if I were a girl, I would like it better, too. Kacoon, a girl, hated COLD MOUNTAIN and thought the romantic dialogue and cheesy storyline were bullshit. So I'm willing to bet that I'm right.

* Marley and I broke our bad movie streak on Sunday by going to see the surprisingly entertaining 50 FIRST DATES, which was quite good. Someone brought a screaming two-year-old into the theater, and Marley and I complained after the movie. We got readmission passes to another show. On Valentine's Day, Marley and I attempted to cook chicken and pasta, which was a success (though Marley did not share my penchant for orange bell peppers). After dinner, Marley and I watched this Woody Allen movie, ANYTHING ELSE, which was an absolute piece of garbage. Then, to try and recover, we watched this Disney-produced film called THE OTHER SIDE OF HEAVEN with Anne Hathaway. Marley, who rented it, didn't realize it was a religious film until I told her that it was about Mormon missionaries. When one of the missionaries healed a dead child through prayer, Marley turned off the movie in frustration.

* I had Presidents Day off at my office, so I used the free day to get a shift at the bookstore. I don't think I'm a workaholic.

* Steven called me last night, but I was on the phone with Nick the cute waiter and didn't talk to Steven for very long. Steven told me that he wanted to get together this week. I was iffy about that suggestion, for I'm mad at Steven still. When I called Nick back, he told me not to go on a date with Steven but to instead tell him that I had another date planned - with Nick. I asked Nick, as friends, to hang out this week, and we're doing something on Thursday. It's not a date - but, if Steven asks, oh, it's so a date. Nick and I, in our respective apartments, watched our "Legally Blonde" DVDs simultaneously last night and stayed on the phone all during the film. I've not done that in a while. It was fun.

* At the mall on Sunday, these three cute guys were walking together, looking around at people. One of them looked at me, smiled and said, "Hello." So I said hi back to him. Then, he paused and asked me if I could answer a few questions, and he pulled one of those religious flyers out of a hidden handful that he had. He was going to ask me if I knew Christ. I said, "OH NOOOO ...," and I walked away from him. As I escaped, he told me to have a "God blessed day." I went to the security kiosk and turned the guys in for soliciting on private property. That was fun.

Friday, February 13, 2004


My supervisor Ethan, who had me do twice my workload today because everyone else in my job position was out sick or on vacation, just asked me if I'd finished the task.

"I have four more reports," I said to him.

"Sure you do ... PSYCHE!" he yelled at me, putting five more reports for me to do down on my desk.

Well, I would've been annoyed about this, except that he said "psyche." That was funny.

"What is this, middle school?" I asked him. He's three years older than me.

"Haven't you said 'psyche' before?" he asked.

"Yeah," I said, "in middle school."

My heart doth go pitter-pat.

Marley and I, spending Valentine's Day together but not "together" tomorrow, made each other a list of our favorite romantic movies.

Here's mine, which was written to include ones she might've missed:

BEFORE SUNRISE. (They meet on a train. They spend an evening together in Vienna. And they have the best chat ever. And the sequel comes out this summer. If you have never seen it, you NEED to watch it.)
THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. (This Katharine Hepburn movie may very well be my favorite movie ever.)
SID & NANCY. (Yeah, they're freaks, but they get each other.)
PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE. (Yeah, he's a freak, but she loves him anyway.)
SECRETARY. (Granted, this is a completely messed-up relationship, but it works for them.)
THE GRADUATE. (Again, messed-up romance.)
HAROLD AND MAUDE. (If I'm listing messed-up romances, I have to mention the creme de la creme of messed-up romance movies. It's just bizarre.)

Miss Gibson called me a 'quirkyalone.'

Apparently, there's a new movement "sweeping the world," according to this article in The Guardian.

I went to Amazon to find the "Quirkyalone" book by Sasha Cagen, and this was sampled from the book.

quirkyalone (kwur.kee.uh.lohn) n. adj.

A person who enjoys being single (but is not opposed to being in a relationship) and generally prefers to be alone rather than date for the sake of being in a couple. With unique traits and an optimistic spirit; a sensibility that transcends relationship status. Also adj. Of, relating to, or embodying quirkyalones.

See also: romantic, idealist, independent.

The return of an old acquaintance.

I signed on to Yahoo tonight, and Crocker was online.

We chatted for a couple moments.

It was polite. I sent him an essay.

I also made mention of the fact that I was mad at him and haven't spoken to him in months because I was mad at him. He was too busy to spend time with me and was sorta inconsiderate, a situation that apparently is incredibly common among gay friends and acquaintances of mine.

I'm doing something wrong. There's something about developing new friendships and relationships that I'm taking too seriously. Or I'm picking the wrong people. Or I'm getting too angry too soon or too late. Or I'm wasting my time altogether.

I don't know what I'm doing wrong.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

"Barbie's a Bitch," cries Ken.

Just in time for Valentine's Day, the shocking news now comes out that Ken and Barbie, dating since they met at a TV commercial shoot in 1961, have broken up, according to Mattel.

Rumors have been circulating, of course, since word of this massive celebrity breakup was leaked by their "business manager" in New York.

Luckily, we here at my blog have obtained an exclusive interview with Ken regarding the news.

RILEY: Ken, how are you coping now that you and Barbie have decided to part company as friends?

KEN: I now feel like a stronger man. For some reason, during the years I gave myself over to that bitch, I felt somehow incomplete, as though I were not a full man. Barbie's a tough doll to be with, at times I honestly felt as though she were in control of our relationship. I felt ill-equipped to deal with her, to be honest. Like I was just one of her millions of accessories.

RILEY: So then you called an end to the relationship?

KEN: Yes. It was difficult yet necessary. I stopped by her Dream House over the weekend, lucky to catch her because she has all those jobs - at the hospital, as a fashion model and working part-time at McDonald's - and I told her that I wanted out. After that, she tossed her hair and threw a damn fit. Drama queen. The castrating bitch tried to control me again, throwing some of the shoes from her last collection at me, but I stormed out of there. I have had enough diva behavior to last me several lifetimes, let me tell you ...

RILEY: Oh, we can imagine.

KEN: That fake plastic bitch nearly put me into debt every Valentine's Day. All the ballgowns. All the necklaces. All the summer outfits. The dream homes. The convertibles. The VW Beetle painted pink to her goddamn specifications. This year, I couldn't take it. I swear, do you know how much effort it takes to find something new for her every year, something she doesn't already own? People keep comparing us to Ben and J.Lo, but ... let me tell you, that Affleck was lucky. At least, he escaped with his balls intact.

RILEY: This year, it's been said that Barbie's been out a couple times with a new fellow named Blaine, a doll-faced Australian surfer. Now, he's featured in her new advertising campaign. Is there any truth to these rumors? Did this have anything to do with your breakup?

KEN: Heh. I wouldn't believe those rumors. Barbie's actually spending most of her time now with her sister Kelly and old friends of hers, people from her rock star days.

RILEY: So then, the Blaine rumor is untrue?

KEN: Truth is, Blaine and I hang out a lot, and he was my chief confidante when things with Barbzilla turned sour. He's been there for me in ways that I never even expected, and I care for him a great deal. He and I actually plan on hanging out a lot more together now that Barbie's out of the picture, if you catch my drift.

RILEY: I think so. Are you saying that you and he will be "catching some waves" together?

KEN: (Laughing.) Let's just say that, even though Barbie's gone, my dance card is still full. Barbie's fans may be disappointed. But, in the long run, I couldn't be around such a spoiled girl - particularly one who either looks like an angel or a whore. If I wanted that, I would go after Christina Aguilera or one of the Bratz dolls. Believe me ...

RILEY: Yes, but you've been with Barbie for such a long time.

KEN: Trust me, it's not romance that kept her looking so young. The bitch has had work done.

Previously on "Life of Riley McCarthy" ...

Kacoon just wrote me to ask how my date with Steven last night went. Then, when I told her that it was a bust, she asked me who Steven was.

I never told her. I've not spoken to her extensively for two weeks. The last time she spoke to me before yesterday, we went to dinner with Marley, and I told her that my biggest woe was that a straight friend said he was attracted to me.

I feel like my life's a television show, and Kacoon missed a couple episodes.

So, in the spirit of the my-life-as-television-show nature of this blog, I will give you another update about plot and characters - as they relate to me, without spilling their secrets or elaborating on events that they could better explain.

* Me. Since Christmas, I have faced and essentially solved some problems that I was having at my office. I also began writing another season of my hit "series" about a high school reunion reality show for friends of mine. I also had brake trouble fixed, and the repairs left me in financial trouble, and I am slowly recovering from that. I got my passport and leave for London in a month-and-a-half to visit Miss Gibson. On the romantic front, I mildly kissed a guy named Van one night when he needed a ride home. A week or so later, I freaked out when a heterosexual male friend of mine told me that my personality was "attractive," thinking that maybe he meant something deeper than that. That clarified after a couple chats with the heterosexual, who's a great guy, and I met Steven at a bar when I was out with my friends Larry and David. I went home with him that night. Since then, Steven and I played phone tag for two weeks while he kept delaying possible meetings and dates with me. Then, yesterday, I got upset with him when he delayed another date with me. I do not intend to go out on a date with him now.

* Marley. Meeting this kickass, amazing new girl at a screening of "Monster," I have since seen her about once a week. She's an aspiring screenwriter, who began her own blog after reading mine, and she went to Park City for the Sundance Film Festival at the end of January. She and Kacoon met when they both joined me for dinner. We've attended multiple screenings together since I joined the Peachtree Film Society, and she's given me a byline credit on her latest short-film screenplay. Though we once discussed a drive-in trip, she and I now intend to spend Valentine's Day together watching DVDs and having dinner at her apartment.

* Kacoon. I've missed communicating with her for a couple weeks, but, as of our last conversation, she'd begun her new job with Chapter 11 Bookstore, and it was going well. She's full-time there, which helps her family out more. She loves her apartment, which she shares with her husband Mike, son Midget and mother Kathy. And everything is cool, apparently, as she has started her own blog.

* Jenipher. Currently registering for wedding gifts and making other final preparations, she's still doing well at work in Illinois and preparing for her April cruise-based nuptials with Gabe. She keeps sending me plot updates for "The O.C.," so I'm assuming everything is cool.

* Lupo. Toiling in Savannah with his husband Kenn and dog Jonesy, he's narrowing topics for his doctoral dissertation. Feedback from his December exams has been exceedingly positive, and he's pleased about that. He and I are trying to stop from being in too much contact, and we're faring well with that, I believe. (We ran the risk of having the same conversation more than once a week, which was dangerous and entirely my fault.)

* Black. Still stuck at his Nashville firm, my phone-based friend Black's contacted headhunters and may be relocating soon, perhaps to Atlanta. One of the headhunters he contacted a couple weeks ago kissed him after a dinner meeting, which caused me to make fun of him for a really long time. I told him not to sleep with her unless he was sure he could be really good at it, for she may judge what positions he can fill based upon ... what positions he can fill. Thankfully, he's a good sport and still speaks to me. (At least, until he reads this ...) We're finally going to meet face-to-face, if all goes as planned, at the anniversary meeting for the Phi Kappa Literary Society, which we're both attending in Athens on February 28.

* Vic. Taking a break from dating, she's currently immersing herself in work. And she cheered me up considerably when I was feeling surprisingly lonely on Super Bowl Sunday. She remains my primary REUNION reader, giving me hints about plot and telling me which directions I should take the characters.

Tune in to this continuing blog for more drama, more heartache and more ridiculously silly and pointless narratives ...

My imaginary life of crime.

This is a true story.

I once went to dinner with a group of Polish male immigrants at a TGI Friday's in Augusta because Wojciech Piech, a friend of mine on an exchange program, insisted on being among people from his hometown of Nowy Sacz. It was 1999.

Sensitive to their hard-drinking, hard-loving, hard-living ways, Wojciech asked me not to come out to them, or he seemed uncomfortable about that. So I didn't. I was sitting at dinner silently with them, not having a really good time.

But they were these boorish, ridiculous, drunken lunkheads, wolf-whistling at women and what-not.

Other tables in the Friday's were doing this, too. It was apparently Sexual Harrassment Night at the restaurant.

At one point, I stopped the woman who the Poles thought was the hottest woman in there. I swear to God, it was the most ridiculous thing I had ever seen - she walked by, and men at our table and other tables would gawk at her and howl. Howl. It was preposterous. One table was so rowdy, the restaurant called the cops.

So I stop the woman as she passes our table, and I say, "Pardon me, but ... for every man who's ever objectified you, who's treated you like a piece of meat, who hasn't paid attention to what you had to say or recognized that you had a brain and character that were as worthy of praise, I must apologize and ask you, 'What do you do for a living?'"

She actually smiled and laughed at me, telling me that she was a bartender. Then, she patted me on the back and went on her way.

The Poles thought that, because I actually spoke to her, I was AMAZING.

They told me to talk to other women, but I told them that other women weren't being harrassed by people. So the Poles offered to harrass more women so that I could try my "line" again. I declined.

I wasn't drinking, and they thought that was odd. They asked me if I had some problem with drinking.

I said to them that alcohol did me no good since I had to get over my crack habit.

They, if you can buy this, BELIEVED me. So they started asking me about prison.

I told them that I'd only gone to prison once and that I'd been forced into withdrawal thanks to my time there.

"Since then, I can't get a buzz off anything light like alcohol," I said. "I need the harder shit."

They bought it. Wojciech looked at me, impressed. He asked me later if I really made it all up.

When they asked me why I went to prison, I told them I had been arrested for statuatory rape.

I remember saying, "Damn, the bitch looked 18 ...," using a straight face that I learned in college drama classes.

And the Poles were rapt. I swear to God, they believed me. They told the waitress that I was a crackhead.

After that, the Poles didn't treat me like I was some space alien at their table. They thought I was a kickass guy.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004


Kacoon, having read a portion of my blog and disagreeing perhaps with the way she's been represented, has decided to start setting the record straight, establishing her own blog, which I've linked to mine. I consider myself responsible for it, whether it ends up good or bad.

For some reason, though, her first post promises that her blog can, in six weeks, give you better perspective on the meaning of life. I've never promised that.

Better late than never.

Seeing an absolutely great 2003 film last night in the theaters, I realized that I can still publish this list and have it be useful for some people. As the days go, I will try and update this list with commentary, which is what makes the list so worthwhile every year.

TOP 10 FILMS OF 2003


Tuesday, February 10, 2004


This morning, awake and lucid earlier than usual, I was thinking about my bed being empty. This is not something I usually think about, so I allowed my mind to go there. I mean, I noticed that, when the bed is made, I sleep on one side of the bed. And the left side of the bed looked fairly untouched, while the right side of the bed was all rumpled.

I thought about my insomnia, which kept me from working yesterday. And thinking about insomnia, for some reason, leads me to think about Dax, who suffered from perpetual insomnia as a side-effect of his lupus, I think.

So then, it's the middle of the morning, my bedroom is dark, and I'm thinking about Dax, who wanders into my thoughts to my annoyance on occasion. This morning, I visualized Dax in my bedroom. I imagined him sleeping there.

Dax was the one who walked off the weight, became a vegan and also became completely buff. He was the one who got upset in 2001 because I criticized an essay he wrote - so he ended our already fragile friendship. Apparently, I was smothering him, destroying him and doing all sorts of terrible things to him, but the straw that broke the camel's back was that I took him off a pedestal and criticized him once. That's when he ended the friendship, not when I flattered him but when I decided not to. He was the touchy vegan who accused me of hedonism because I told him I liked junk food. He was the one with the birds, the one who lost his job and was surprised when it wasn't easy to find another one. He's the one who went to grad school in anthropology, even though he wanted to study mythology to better improve the comic books he was writing. He was the one who cared about me genuinely - until he didn't.

Ours was never a romantic relationship, though I wanted one with him. But this morning, he was as I remembered him - except he was in my bedroom.

When I think about Dax, I have to retrace everything about why we stopped speaking, which is painful but it gets him out of my head or out of my bedroom or out of the bookstore or wherever I'm picturing him. He just stands there in my mind until I remind myself that it's not solely my fault that he's no longer my friend. In fact, I always remind myself that I am the stronger one of the two of us. Or at least, some parts of me are stronger. Our friendship didn't work. It's simply that.

But now he's a ghost in my head. He mostly appears in the bookstore, on the aisle where I saw him last or in the cafe by the windows. He's never been in my bedroom before.

If I picture Welsh Guy in my head, he's usually sitting and eating dinner with me in Rocky's Pizzeria in Athens, smiling and eager to get me home. If I picture PG, I'm yelling at him over coffee at the Espresso Royale on Broad Street, and he's smirking at me. When I see Jerry, he's in his dorm room, crying about the fires, and I'm crying with him, telling him that he shouldn't blame himself for what's happened - that he should blame the person who set the fires. I usually see Robbie and Matt together when I see them in my head, and we're walking back to the dormitories along Lumpkin Street. Robbie's wearing his glasses and a brown leather jacket. Matt's just lagging around, asking me how he can get Robbie's attention.

Robbie's dead now. Matt thinks me crazy and exists at Berkeley. PG and I last had an uneventful, unentertaining dinner in 1999, and I called Lupo immediately after it and told him that I didn't know what I was doing there. Jerry, if he's alive, is here in Atlanta somewhere. I see mutual friends of ours, but I don't really ask about him. Welsh Guy, I believe, thinks me crazy, too, and he's in Manchester, where he probably wastes no time thinking about me.

Dax is around. I see his friend Addie, and she's nice to me. I intentionally don't ask about him when I see her, and she offers me no information. She just gets happy for me when I have news about a move or a raise - my own progress in my life, progress that she's surprised that I've made because I'm still at the same bookstore. The last time I saw Dax, I wasn't as brave or unemotional as I would've liked. I was upset, vulnerable, clingy. He wasn't unkind, but he wasn't comfortable.

Half of me wanted him. Half of me wanted to never see him again. Time had passed. Our friendship had failed, and we were better for it. There was no going back.

But I loved him once. And he loved me, he did. And he stays in my head as that guy from that summer, that friend who was supposed to last for longer than a couple months, but he didn't.

Now that I think about it, I actually met Dax on a Valentine's Day in 1998 - at the same play where I met Larry. I met him again on a Valentine's Day in 2001, when he was browsing in my store when a customer pulled a knife "to show me." That day, Dax walked me around so that I wouldn't be by myself.

I thought about writing him, just to see if he's OK. But I don't really want to do that.

It's difficult having him and the others in my head, but it's better if they just stay there.

Monday, February 09, 2004

The candle metaphor ... and an unfortunate incident with a punching bag.

So tonight Vic and I talked about our respective weekends. And I told her about my mom's visit and my resulting clean apartment, Steven, about the lovely dinner I had at Larry's and about watching the horrid BUTTERFLY EFFECT with Marley.

Vic talked to me about reading, hanging out with her ex-husband and doing her taxes.

Then, I told Vic about what I did yesterday.

Spending time with Ronald at the mall, I ran into this other boy, a 19-year-old sales clerk named Mitchell who reads Chuck Pahlaniuk and is really cute with brown hair. I was walking through the Discovery Channel Store with Ronald when Mitchell looked me in the eye and stopped me, asking if I was "the guy from the bookstore." I told him I was. And we started talking, while Ronald wandered somewhere looking at something or other.

Mitchell showed me some caller ID globe they had at his store. I asked him if he had one. He said he used his cell as his primary phone. I told him I did the same thing. Then, he got me some 3D glasses. Then, he showed me some books. Then, he showed me the DVDs. I told him that I didn't want to keep him from his actual work, and Mitchell told me that it was no bother. (When we spoke in my bookstore a couple months ago, we spoke like old friends for several minutes. I don't know why. He looks geeky cute and friendly.)

He was being a really attentive salesperson, telling me that he's 19, he's not going to school right now and that he's not read Palahniuk's DIARY yet. He said he hasn't been in my store in a while because, after work, he says he just wants to leave the mall. I, for some reason, checked out Mitchell's butt, then I told him that he should start reading again. I don't know if he's gay. He could just be friendly. He laughed at my jokes, which means I'm funny or he's attracted to me. His co-worker kept watching him talk to me.

Another customer came up to the counter at the Discovery store with a thing called the "Executive Punching Bag." Encouraged by Mitchell and his co-worker, that customer started to pummel the bag a little. I saw the customer do this, decided that my yellow belt in Choi Kwang Do would help me impress Mitchell and asked if I could "have a go" at the punching bag. This is when Ronald walked up to me again, eager to see what I would do.

So I hit the punching bag, barely catching it with my fist. Mitchell and Ronald just watched me. I said that I could do better, so I tried again. I took my stance, and I slammed my fist into the punching bag with a side swipe I learned in my martial arts classes. The punching bag echoed the impact, and two other displays fell off the counter and crashed to the floor.

Remind me never again to use my martial arts skills to impress a boy.

I apologized and then, laughing, put my head on the counter.

Ronald said Mitchell was laughing too. But my head was on the counter, so I didn't see it.

"Actually, that happens a lot," Mitchell said to me.

"Really?" I asked. "You're kidding ..."

"No, it happens a lot," Mitchell said.

Sometime around this incident, I said, "I like talking to you."

"I like talking to you, too," Mitchell said.

"Maybe sometime after you finish with work, we could chat someplace other than your store or my store," I said to Mitchell. "Maybe we could get something to eat."

"Yeah," Mitchell said to me.

Then, without giving Mitchell my number or a way to contact me (because I don't know if he's gay - though I felt safe enough about that to ask him to dinner), I told him that Ronald and I needed to go to Hallmark. So we left. (I turned around as we were leaving to see what Mitchell was doing - to see if he was looking at me - but he and his co-worker were laughing.)

Ronald and I were talking about it as soon as we left the store.

"Did I just do that?" I asked him.

"What? Ask that guy out?" Ronald said.

"Cool," I said. "So then it was clearly me asking him out?"

"That's how it seemed to me," Ronald said. "Do you think he's gay?"

"I'm not sure," I said to Ronald. "It doesn't matter. What am I doing asking out a 19-year-old boy, anyway?"

"What's wrong with that?" he asked. "He seemed to like you."

"I'm 27 going on 28," I said, wondering if I should apply for a NAMBLA membership.

Ronald, who's 18, still didn't think there was anything wrong with it.

I was asking Mitchell on a date, whether I should or not. I wonder if Mitchell knows I was asking him on a date.

Ronald told me he laughed at my jokes.

I didn't even mean to walk into the Discovery Channel store. It was just faster to walk through it than around it.

In the midst of telling Vic about this and about Steven and about the phone tag and about the lack of enthusiasm that followed up that initial meeting, I was lighting the candles in my apartment, and I was having great difficulty in doing so.

The candles are old, and it's gotten harder to burn them. You have to dig out the string to light, or you have to actually stick the match in the wax if you want it to light. You can't get the flame started as easily. You wonder whether it's worth the effort.

Vic, telling me that my metaphor was painfully obvious, said that if you try to light the candle too much or too often or through faulty effort, you just end up getting burned.

Vic told me not to mess with the 19-year-old because I couldn't have a lasting relationship with him. She said I was too warm-hearted to be able to just sleep with him - and that, if I did just have sex with him, I would set a bad example for gay men. She told me that what to do, as a proper mentor, would be to leave him alone. (I replied to her that I didn't say anything about being a mentor.)

This is all very silly, pointless and amusing. I like worrying about this in the middle of the night, debating the ethics about this with friends.

Mitchell seemed nice, and he had a really cute butt. And he smiled when I talked to him. And he looked me in the eyes.

Oh, lustful infatuation is so fun sometimes. Until you start realizing that you're getting closer in age to the creepy old man in the bar ... and further from the age of the cute, young thing you once were.

Tonight, though, I was able to light both of my old candles - and keep them burning.

Sunday, February 08, 2004


Actually spoke to Steven today after I missed his call yesterday.

We now have a tentative date scheduled for Wednesday, though we had discussed potentially meeting tonight. (He got caught up in guests and homework, so he didn't call immediately. But it looks like he's still interested in a date.)

More importantly, I have his e-mail address now - so there will be no more phone tag. Now, he'll just not write me back, and I'll get upset over that.

Or everything will be fine.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Once again, a "Things to Do" List.

This worked before a couple months ago, so a friend of mine told me to make another "to do" list if I felt my life was lacking direction or in a rut.


1. Take care of yourself. Sleep properly more often than not. Take your pills and the multi-vitamins every night. Weigh yourself every night. Try to exercise more or walk more every night. Cook for yourself more, for you do enjoy that. Make something daring. Have over friends. Write something with the intention of publishing it. (Slept well last night.)

You'll feel better once you do this.

2. Take care of your home. Clean and organize your apartment, planning moments that you will actually spend time there, feeling and being at home. (This does not count time on your laptop, which is essentially time where you're 'in' your apartment but your mind is elsewhere.)

You'll feel better once you do this.

3. Take care of your finances. Make a list of your debts and figure out a way, perhaps by working more at the bookstore, to pay them off.

You'll feel better once you do this.

4. Take care of your friends. Again, have people over and spend time with them, as much for them as for you. If someone's in trouble, do what you can. If someone wants to see you or talk to you, do what you can. If you want to get a guy on the phone, keep trying until you get him on the phone. If you want to meet more people, go out and meet more people.

You'll feel better once you do this.

5. Take more risks. First and foremost, do a reading. For the love of God, you have all sorts of great material to read from, and you know that it's good. And everyone tells you that it's good enough to be presented to others. So present it to others. Because you have to put it out there sometime. You have to start believing in yourself sometime. You tell other people that they need to spice things up and take more risks, so spice things up and take more risks yourself. You joined the cinema club, and that got you friends who enjoy doing what you do. Try more new things.

You'll feel better once you do this.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Oh dear.

Reading through my entries this week, I come across sounding like a hyperactive teenage girl whose primary worries are losing weight and waiting for a boy to call.

Something spicier needs to happen this week. Something fun, different and entertaining.

Otherwise, people might start to get the wrong idea about me. Or, maybe, they have the right idea, and I'm just in denial about being a hyperactive teenage girl.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004


I've not really been in the habit of reading strangers' blogs, but I found out that this guy with a popular one - CyberKenny - lives in Atlanta. And, this week, he thought that he'd met someone special - only to discover that the guy was a lying, cheating, evil bastard.

What CyberKenny wrote in response to this discovery is filled with a wariness and sorrow, and I highly recommend that you read it - particularly if you're gay and single.

I posted a response to it, and my response was this, which I've reprinted here because it's more about me than it is about CyberKenny:

Thank you for saying what you did about relationships. Though this may not matter to you, it helped me.

I have this whole "reluctance" thing going on with this person who keeps calling me, and it's because I've been burned. Over and over and over and over again.

It's not you. You're not the one to blame. It's admirable that you opened yourself up to the possibility of "something." It's brave and sweet that you wanted to believe that the best was possible.

You'll face this obstacle and many others. It isn't easy. Love is shit. There's maybe not a happy ending. You may not be a relationship person.

I keep thinking that, with my "dating" attempts, I've just gotten in the habit of collecting amusing "bad boyfriend" anecdotes - rather than continuing because I hope to find someone.

"Hey, did you hear my story about the arsonist I used to date?" "Hey, did you hear the one about the guy who told me he didn't call because he got beaten up and had a nervous breakdown?" "Hey, did you hear the one about the poet who wrote about me in a published book after we broke up?" "Did you hear about the one who dumped me via e-mail the night after we first had sex and then fled to Seattle for a weeklong modeling job?"

It's asinine, and it never ends with anything lasting or decent or good.

I know now enough to know that I "want" a relationship, rather than "need" one. I know I'm fine without one - though I'm maybe a little too sarcastic and bitter as a result of it. (At least, I try to be amusingly bitter.)

But what is the alternative to hoping for the best? Resignation? Isolation? Fear? Loneliness?

Some of these things I can handle, like loneliness. I'm adept at being by myself.

But some of them I refuse to admit, like resignation to my fate as a person who'll never get to learn from a relationship. Not be in one - learn from one.

There are things I still want to know about life. Things I can't find out without taking another risk, meeting another guy, standing steady in the face of potential disaster and smiling.

I may be wary, but I'm not giving up. Life hasn't beaten the hope completely out of me yet.

And you shouldn't give up either.

My love affair with Steven's answering machine.

Responding to the message he left on my voicemail yesterday afternoon, I called up Steven's answering machine and asked him out to coffee.

Because he called me without prompting yesterday, it seems like the obstacle surrounding my more vulnerable message on Steven's answering machine on Sunday, which he replied to.

I did leave that message on Friday on his answering machine, replying to his earlier voicemail.

I've spoken to him on the phone three times for about three minutes apiece.

At this rate, I may end up going to Massachusetts with Steven's answering machine, marrying it instead of him.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Janet Jackson's Breast Destroys the World.

Is it just me, or is this getting to be really, really ridiculous?

It's a breast. Yeah, it was tacky to show it during the Super Bowl. Yeah, it was a planned stunt. Yeah, the FCC should look into it to see if fines are in order.

But it's just a breast. There are presidential primaries today. Some psychopath sent a deadly poison to the senate offices. George W. Bush's military experience is being offered up as a topic of ridicule.

It's not like her breast, you know, is important or anything.

And Hit #4,000 was ...

OK, so now we're sufficiently past our 4,000 count. And though I've received notes from both Marley and Jenipher saying that they tried and failed to be Hit #4,000, one person claims the honor of being that special blogfan.

**** LUPO ****

Here is his e-mailed acceptance speech:

IT WAS ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Since I am a serial web procrastinator, I feel I am responsible for at least 1,000 of these (including the last dozen refreshes to reach this goal). I want a prize. Something shiny and emerald-y.

Lupo, your prize will be determined at a later date when I have enough money to buy you some kind of inappropriate, lewd gift that your husband/boyfriend/life partner will enjoy.

Or maybe the Diane Keaton poster that you asked me for, the one that's still in my apartment waiting for you, will double as your Christmas and Hit #4,000 gift.

Thanks to all who participated.

Now I feel like some kind of blogger yutz.

I realized that I e-mailed everyone, telling them to go to the blog to boost the counter, but I didn't give them what I usually give - which is decent, entertaining content.

So I guess I should tell you about what I did last night.

I bought peanut butter and jelly to make sandwiches that I will occasionally eat for lunch now - instead of going out everyday and spending $5 or more on lunch. Though I dislike this step, but I have been in the mood for PB&J, it's a quick way to not spend so much money. Instead of a Diet Pepsi or Diet Coke, I will drink water. Thus, I will lose weight through my own financial belt-tightening. (If I start to look, in a couple weeks, like one of those kids in the Sally Struthers' ads, then tell me it's time to go out to eat again.)

Then, last night, I spoke to Black until my phone died on me. We were talking about sex, romance and other aspects of insanity.

I told him the story of Lonnie Douchebag from last year. Lonnie was the guy who told me to open up to him one night, to trust him. He told me that it was all right to feel vulnerable and that he wouldn't abandon me suddenly. Then, once I did, Lonnie Douchebag didn't call me or see me for two long, horrible months.

I hate even thinking there's a possibility of a relationship with someone. Opening yourself up just means that people will hurt you easier.

I have a $5 gift certificate to Blockbuster. If I had more money, then I would get "Lost in Translation" on DVD today.


The counter on this site is dangerously close to hitting 4,000 today, and I don't want to be the one to personally make it turn.

If someone reading this turns out to be the 4,000th person to access this blog, e-mail me and let me know.

Monday, February 02, 2004

In the midst of all this stuff ...

Yeah, I'm still poor. Yeah, I'm still nutty.

But I can leave the country now.

In the midst of my funk, I forgot to tell everyone that my passport arrived this weekend. Yay. Yay. Yay.

I have no money, but, yay, I have my passport two months ahead of my planned excursion to London to see Miss Gibson.

Is now a good time to get excited about this? I suppose I can just spend the next couple months saving up available funds, eating peanut butter sandwiches and planning to see London.

If I throw myself into my trip, I might just be able to get through everything else.

Nekkid by the end of this song.

Janet Jackson's pasty-covered breast-baring stunt during the Super Bowl Halftime Show, which was SOOOO planned, has Jenipher and I in a discussion.

I used the word "boobie" in an e-mail to her, and she told me to stop using that word because I sent it to her work account.

What, is her boss like a Puritan or something? "Boobie" isn't a bad word unless you're, like, four years old.

Am I right?

The part where it doesn't pay to be an anxious, medicated obsessive.

I don't like the "dating" area that Steven and I have apparently entered: the one where we determine whether he wants to go out on a date with me. I've gotten the follow-up phone calls, which I think I managed this time better than usual. I tried not to call him too much, though I called him today sounding sorta stressed when I found out my stepbrother's wife gave birth this weekend. (My reasoning behind this phone call was the fact that I was there for him this week when he was crying over his parents - though I know that you want your dates to not have as many issues as you, however unrealistic that is. I thought, maybe, he could be there for me the same way. Because my stepbrother's wife was in the hospital, my mom was unavailable. And I'd already used up my phone call of the weekend to Lupo. And Eric, Kacoon and Vic were unavailable. And I assumed Marley was busy.)

He called back "because I sounded distressed," spoke with me for a couple minutes to assure I was fine and then told me he'd call in "a couple days."

I don't think I'm ever going to see him again. We've had two or three phone calls, and I'm not getting a promising vibe anymore. Of course, that could change with the next phone call.

That's why I hate this part. It hinges on a phone call.

I'm nuts. This is doomed.

If Steven were someone I just wanted to be friends with - which might be a welcome change or something that I could better handle, then I don't think that I would govern my behavior so steadily or think and think and think about it. I would just call. I would invite. I would discuss.

I haven't even had a real conversation with Steven beyond our first night's meeting. I'd like to get to know the guy.

I'm stressed out unnecessarily, and it's been a damn week. I can't do this. I'm not good at it.

I jumped the gun again, getting excited over a guy before getting to know the guy. That's why, I think, I would prefer to fall for someone I already know.

Black and I talked earlier this weekend, and we talked about that. It's easier to find yourself attracted to certain aspects of friendships - safer places to feel attracted - than to put yourself out there into the fucking black hole of second-guesses, disappointments and bullshit that is dating new people.

Vic told me tonight that I just deserved credit for putting myself out there. She told me that I didn't know that many functional couples because good relationships are difficult, hard work.

I was asking her how on earth people were able to manage through this sort of thing. I mean, if I cannot get through the minutae of how to reconnect with someone after one date or one hookup without stressing or going through anxiety, then how do I pull through something that lasts?

Maybe this is an unnecessary post. Maybe he and I will go on a date. Maybe we'll go on two.

But I'm not getting that vibe from the minute-long phone call. Because Steven said he only called me because I sounded upset, like Crocker used to do. I don't want a person who only calls me when something's wrong. I don't trust that.

Oh, and if he knew that I was thinking this much about it, he wouldn't want to talk to me, anyway.

This is too fucking difficult. And nothing's really happened.

I need to relax. I need perspective.

Anyway, the night ended on an up note. Getting a call from her, I went to Vic's house tonight and watched a really great Super Bowl. And I stopped thinking about myself and had fun. Also, I got to page 40 on ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE.

I'm glad I got out of my apartment.

But I suck at dating.

Sunday, February 01, 2004


Oh dear God, I have GOT to leave my apartment. It's been five hours since I started getting dressed, and I just now put on a shirt. I've checked my e-mail and my messages over and over and over.

I need some fresh air.

I watched "May" on DVD. It was creepy and really, really good. Identifying with the lead character a little too much creeped me out. I watched two episodes of "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

Now, I've just got to get outside. Eat something besides the box of Dots. I need to clean my apartment, but I just can't stand being inside much longer.

Get me out. I'm going to go cross-eyed soon.