Wednesday, June 30, 2004

I can't deal.

I left a message on Hennessy's voicemail yesterday at 6 p.m.

I am fighting all urges to check my voicemail today. Thus far, I've been successful in my fight.

I must not look at my cell phone for three days.

I remember Stephen. I remember the Great Callback Disaster of January. I won't go through that again. I swear it.

As God is my witness, I will never check my messages again! (Or, at least, I won't do it today.)

Just got back from the movies ...

SPIDER-MAN 2 is absolutely terrific. I mean, in ways I wouldn't even have thought possible.

It's a deep, great-looking movie about something resonant.

I'm gonna see it over and over.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Catches thieves just like flies.

Meanwhile, I bought tickets to the midnight showing of Spider-Man 2 at Regal Hollywood 24 this afternoon.

Tomorrow morning, I'll be paying for it with the bags under my eyes, but the reviews were too good for me to even think about waiting to see this.

I'm trouble.

This e-mail message came today from Jenipher:

Most of my friends are married or engaged, so you are my only hope for fun, interesting, possibly sordid stories.

I'm so glad to have carte-blanche to misbehave more.

Last night, after dinner with Larry, he actually said to me, "Well, I was going to tell you to stay out of trouble. But you've been doing so well at getting into good trouble lately that I only hope you find more of it."

That made me smile.

Miss Gibson, in the meantime, came up with an inspired suggestion. She told me that I should host a cable-access talk show. She thinks I'd be really, really good at it.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Some assembly required.

I walked out of the shower in Hennessy's apartment this morning and stepped into his bedroom. The clothes I wore to Burkhart's last night were folded neatly on his bed, and, on top of them, he'd written me a note. His name, phone number and e-mail address.

As I got dressed, he came in and asked me how I liked my coffee.

"Cream and sugar," I said, smiling.

He likes cream - or milk, as it was - and sugar in his coffee, too.


I was walking past the booths in Piedmont Park when I heard someone call my name.

Crocker, sporting a shorter haircut, was selling water for an AIDS Memorial Quilt fundraiser display. He was wearing a T-shirt that said "I Leave Bite Marks."

The T-shirt I was wearing said "Some Assembly Required." I got it a couple weeks ago at THE STEPFORD WIVES screening. (My shorter haircut, incidentally, is accented by blond highlights.)

"You don't leave bite marks," I said to Crocker in front of other volunteers.

"I do sometimes," Crocker said.

"Maybe I'm just unlucky," I said, walking away. And I smiled again, though I don't know if Crocker appreciated my joke.

One of the political posters carried by a woman in the parade said "Dykes for Licking Bush."

One local candidate for circuit court judge went the length of the parade route shirtless, muscled and tanned, waving at people from the sunroof of a BMW. The man knows his constituency.


Nick the Cute Waiter stopped me as I crossed Piedmont.

"What, you don't say hello anymore?" he asked me, smiling.

"Oh my God, how are you?" I asked, hugging him.

He pointed out his boyfriend in a crowd of guys, told me they'd had a fight, then asked me if I thought he could do better.

I said he could.


Mark was a representative for the Georgia Gay Rodeo Association in the parade.

Seeing him in the "starring position" on their float, I broke away from the crowd and said hello.

He told me hello, blew me a kiss and asked me to stop by the GGRA booth later.

Heading back to the table where I was technically sitting with Larry and his friends, I said, "Did you see my friend? He was the one on top of the paper-mache pony."


Ian, a friend from trivia, broke away from the crowd at Project Open Hand he was walking with and gave me a hug, wrapping me in a rainbow-colored feather boa.

As I walked away from him and back to the crowd, a cute lesbian read my shirt and said, "'Some assembly required?' That could mean any number of things."

"Well, think of it like this," I said cheesily. "To celebrate, we had to assemble. That's, essentially, what this is about."

I should've said something about getting someone to insert parts into me. But, oh well, she was a lesbian.


I was walking to see my friends Wes and Travis when the thunderstorm hit hardest.

It was a cloudburst.

The soaking rain either felt, if you look at it melodramatically, like some sort of angry sign from God. Or a baptism.

Of course, if you looked at it in the vein of Streisand, it was just rain on our parade.

Getting back to Larry's friends, who were inside The Vortex at that point, one of them asked me if I'd been in a wet T-shirt contest.

I called the bookstore and told them that the weather was going to make me late for work.

One of Larry's friends drove me through traffic back to my car at the Amsterdam Walk parking lot so that I'd make it to work in a reasonable time.

But driving my car proved difficult because my driver's side windshield wiper blade was gone.

I drove two blocks to a gas station. I went inside and told them that someone had taken my wiper, probably because of the rainstorm.

The clerk at the gas station pointed me at the wiper fluid, even though I distinctly said "stolen wiper" to her. They didn't have wiper blades. I didn't understand the clerk's grasp of reason. How and why would someone steal wiper fluid???? I mean, I kinda understood the stolen blade. I mean, someone could've needed one and taken it. Or, worse, they wanted me to vandalize my windshield.


Sitting on my second break at the bookstore and unable to replace the wiper blade myself - with the rain still pouring down, I went down the list of people in my cell phone memory.

Larry and David are still jet-lagged and unpacking. Ron was at the park. Kacoon wasn't answering. CJ wasn't available. Vic was unable to drive.

My brother Dan answered his cell phone on the third ring.

He told me he'd head to Wal-mart and bring a replacement wiper blade to my store.

Dan showed up five minutes after the store closed and called me on my cell phone.

"I don't think your blade was stolen," he said. "I think it just fell off."

"But I would've noticed that," I said. "It would've happened when the blades were moving."

"Well, your wiper blade is here on your car," he said on the phone.

"You're at my car?" I asked him.

"Yeah, and the wiper blade just looks like it fell off," he said. "Nobody stole it."

Walking outside, I saw Dan and his fiancee Samantha, whom I haven't seen since they got engaged, standing next to my messy, dingy Saturn. Samantha was cradling her small, cute puppy in a towel in her arms. The puppy, of course, growled at me.

Dan reattached the old blade, then asked me what I wanted him to do with the new one that he'd brought.

"May as well replace the old one anyway," he said. "I mean, since the old one did fall off."

I agreed, and, while he worked at snapping the various parts together, I walked with Samantha to the ATM to get cash to pay Dan back. I got my first up-close look at the engagement ring, and I talked to her about their meeting yesterday with a priest.

I thanked her for coming to help me.

She told me that's what family's for.

Before going back in the bookstore, I hugged Samantha and, more importantly, I hugged my brother.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Let's all go to the lobby.

Last night, I found out that I wasn't scheduled at the bookstore on Friday. Instead of going to the Pride commitment ceremony, I decided to make other plans.

So I bought two tickets to "Fahrenheit 9/11" at Phipps at 7:40. And I called up Edmondson to see if he wanted to go.

He did. So we're going.

If anybody else wants to meet up there, you can get advance tickets at, and let me know to keep an eye out for you.

The secret life of Bill Clinton.

Next to my register, someone placed a copy of Bill Clinton's MY LIFE on display. So I read the first sentence of it during some downtime.

Early on the morning of August 19, 1946, I was born under a clear sky after a violent summer storm to a widowed mother in the Julia Chester Hospital in Hope, a town of about six thousand in southwest Arkansas, thirty-three miles east of the Texas border at Texarkana.

And, reading it, I commented to Susan the Head Cashier that it was the worst, longest and most boring opening sentence I'd read in ages.

"It's a DAVID COPPERFIELD sentence, featuring a 'stormy night' mention," I said. "You don't start a bio like that!"

Susan said Clinton probably got his massive advance for the book and didn't care about the quality of his first sentence, which she thought was a run-on until I pointed out that it just had a lot of clauses.

I complained about that first sentence for, like, hours. Jaded Republican customers thought I was funny. (A couple asked me if I would put the book away, which led me to tell Susan we could make money off of it if we bought a copy of it for angry Republican customers to just punch away at.)

I didn't make fun of the book to any customers who were actually buying it.

Joking around with Susan, I started making up excerpts from the book and quoting them aloud. I figured the book would be more fun if it included twists and turns.

I never let anyone know that it was Gennifer driving the car that ran down that little boy. She was so distraught and drunk that I had to hold her for a full ten minutes while she cried.

It was the greatest moment of my life.

A change in policy this large was bound to affect the masses, and I loudly voiced my support for the move.

"Super size me!" I shouted to the beaming McDonald's cashier.


Truth be told, she blew worse than me playing saxophone on ARSENIO.

"Chelsea, I'm BEGGING YOU!" Monica shouted, mascara running down her plump face. "PUT DOWN THE GUN! HE'S MY FATHER, TOO!!!!"

Needless to say, I was so not in the mood to work the registers last night.

Enter the ex.

Last night, my scary poet/loan shark ex-boyfriend Ash, the one who mentioned me in his book, the one I "reunited" with for an evening in November and the one whose house burned down around Christmas, found his way into my bookstore while I was there.

Ash walked in with this guy, who was dressed like an Apple Store Clerk because I think he was an Apple Store clerk, and immediately hugged me. The Apple Store Clerk walked on, and Ash started to talk to me.

This is OK if weird, I was thinking.

Then, Ash starts talking about how this Apple Store Clerk guy he's with is his second cousin. And then, I remember, that Ash admitted that he was currently "dating" his cousin - in the same way that I "reunited" with him.

So ick, I was thinking. I was alone at the registers, looking around to see if other staff were watching me.

"Oh, this is your cousin," I said, indicating that I both remembered and disapproved of Ash's familial relations when told of them back in November.

And Ash clarified to me that this Apple Store Clerk wasn't the second cousin he was sleeping with. That cousin is actually the Apple Store Clerk's gay identical twin brother.

"Yeah, we just left him at dinner to come here," Ash said, rather loudly. "And he was pissed about that. He, like, shouted out in the restaurant that he'd give me a rim job if I'd stay with him."

I walked away, back toward my register. Seriously. I just turned and walked away. I'd been talking to Ash for less than a minute at the place WHERE I WORK, and he'd somehow included the words 'rim job' in the conversation in record time.

He walked away to go hang out with his incest partner's identical twin brother. Then, later, he walked up to me, introduced me to his non-incest cousin; and they left.

Yeah, I'm so glad I broke up with him ... back in 1995.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Birthday redux.

Incidentally, my actual birthday featured several highlights.

Yesterday afternoon, Dad and I went to lunch for our usual Benjie's birthday/Father's Day combined celebration.

During lunch, Dad talked about meeting my future sister-in-law's parents last week during a dinner with his wife, my brother, his fiancee, her parents, my mother and my stepfather.

Getting my parents and their spouses together always amuses me because they all do well at getting along socially. The drama queen in me always wants there to be some kind of catfight or for my parents to show an uncomfortable closeness with one another that irks someone. But, dammit, they usually get along.

My mother told me that the dinner went well, even though the restaurant was noisy. (She's 80 percent deaf, suffers from Minear's Disease and wears a hearing aid.)

At one point, because my father gets my birthday confused with other significant dates, Mom and Dad ended up accidentally and awkwardly discussing their wedding anniversary in front of their new spouses. (That, apparently, was as melodramatic as it got. And everyone laughed about it.)

Dad told me that my stepfather also mentioned how much my stepbrother makes for a living ... and how much my apparently-horribly-obese stepbrother - whom I avoid and haven't seen in a year - now weighs. My father laughed about this.

"Your stepbrother better be careful," Dad said. "That wife of his was too pretty for him even when he was thin."

For my birthday, Dad, in an awesome and completely unpredictable move, brought me a slow cooker.

Apparently, my stepmother remembered me mentioning wanting one, which is cool because - ahem - I did want one, even though I never cook for anyone other than myself outside of Thanksgiving. The slow cooker will help me fulfill a dream.

I have a dream. Someday, some grand day off in the future, I will entertain people. I will use my slow cooker, my library of cookbooks, my decently-stocked kitchen and my hidden culinary talents to concoct epicurian delights for a variety of dinner guests, who will all be sitting in my CLEAN apartment and marveling both at how well I've decorated and how cute my long-term boyfriend is.

"Gosh, Benjie, you've really got it all together now," a smiling friend will whisper to me. "And this pot roast you made is EXCELLENT."

Yes, I have a dream. And now I have a crock pot, which pushes me one more step toward its realization.

At lunch with me, my father also started to reminisce endlessly about Fuzzy, a dog he got during his first years of marriage to my mother.

Fuzzy, whom I remember because she died when I was about 7, apparently rivals Lassie in my father's memory as the greatest dog who ever lived.

So at lunch, even when we started talking about something else, my father would break away from that conversation and say randomly, "God, she was the best dog ... You didn't have to even walk her. You could just let her out. She wouldn't go across the street. And then, she would just come back when she was done. And Fuzzy was black, black as midnight, so that in the dark she was able to scare off anyone who approached the house. God, she was the best dog ..."

It's weird. I used to not speak to my father at all. Now, I freakin' love lunches with my dad.

That afternoon, Mark and I met at Ansley Mall, and he gave me a fun card. We were in The Toy Shop there, so Mark and I decided to annoy the clerks by setting off every noise-making child's toy in the store.

After that, we headed to the Starbucks, grabbed coffee and then sat outside the L.A. Fitness. For 45 minutes, we entertained ourselves by praising and criticizing the physical attributes of everyone who walked by.

"I shouldn't judge people," I told him, not quite admitting that it was wrong.

"Oh, I judge EVERYBODY," Mark said.

I went home after that and finished watching my completely amazing NIP/TUCK DVDs. (The premiere is tonight on FX, but I have to work. Luckily, they're replaying it this week. Also, finishing the DVDs of NIP/TUCK will now allow me to move along and start watching the GILMORE GIRLS DVDs that Lupo sent me for my birthday.)

Then, I unpacked my crock pot, made the first step toward cleaning my kitchen and realizing the dream and went to bed.

The one where Black finds out what I did this weekend.

Black wrote me this morning to wish me a happy belated birthday and told me that he'd call tonight.

He asked me if I did anything cool for my birthday.

Here's our e-mail exchange that followed.


Me: So you know about Birmingham?
Black: Maybe- what do you mean?
Me: Uhhh. I was in Birmingham on Saturday morning and called you up to see if you were free for brunch.
Black: AGghhh! I had no idea.

Apparently, he's stopped reading the blog on a regular basis.

Monday, June 21, 2004


We were closing up shop at the bookstore last night. I was straightening up the business section, and Poli Sci Guy, who'd stood next to me at the registers all day talking about all the restaurants he'd seen in Atlanta and different things he'd done there, walked past me.

"I was thinking of getting some dessert," I said. "You know, birthday cake. You wanna go?"

"Dessert?" he asked. "Maybe I could go."

"I was gonna go to that diner on Piedmont and Roswell," I said. "If it's someplace you haven't been, then you could kill two birds with one stone. They've got good cakes there. And their banana creme pie is famous."

"Well, it is your birthday," he said. So he changed his plans, and we headed to the Landmark Diner.

And I thought to myself that I was pretty cool, asking that way. But, as with most social outings, this, I knew, wasn't a date.

Poli Sci Guy talked a lot about his book, which is this cool, political thing. Apparently, he's been involved in politics since he was 16, and he's got a couple really great insider anecdotes.

Also, I found out that he once won a contest and appeared as an extra on the last episode of "Baywatch."

But, in terms of our ability to vibe with one another, it wasn't there. He's friendly and all, but he's not, I guess, particularly interested in much I have to say.

He's a cool guy, though, and it was nice of him to join me for birthday cake.

And he says he's not gay.

I did ask Poli Sci Guy that. And his answer was unnecessarily complicated.

He said he considered himself "straight but not narrow." I asked him to clarify, saying that "straight but not narrow" usually referred to gay-friendliness and open-mindedness.

Poli Sci Guy said that sorta was it, but that he didn't feel comfortable calling himself straight. Then, he told me it was a difficult question.

I was all, "Why is that a difficult question?"

I'm still not entirely sure why it was a difficult question. I mean, it's a yes-or-no question, essentially.

After a bit of discussion, the subject got changed.

I think I started talking about my impromptu, possibly stupid trip to Alabama, telling Poli Sci Guy that - even though nothing happened - I just did it so that I could be the sort of person who didn't just talk about taking risks.

Black hasn't called me in regard to my trip to Alabama. With any luck, he's not checked his messages all weekend and consider in flattered bemusement at some point later in the week that I happened to be in his town.

Somehow, I don't know. I don't think that's how it's going to happen.

He told me a long time ago that I couldn't do anything to scare or alienate him. He knows I'm sorta crazy. And he must see the inherent "dare to risk" motivation behind it. And, in our past conversations, he's respected that mindset.

Anyway. I'm overthinking Alabama.

But everybody has their boundaries, I've found, and I manage, either purposely or not, to test them.

Still, the trip to Alabama is funny enough that it doesn't leave me completely regretting it. I mean, I think it gives me something to write about. And it jazzes up my birthday, which is today.

I just wish I knew how Black felt about it.

Next time I feel like doing something crazy, maybe I should try housework.

So anyway, it's my birthday, and I have no set plans. I'm doing lunch with Dad. I may do coffee with Mark before he hits the rodeo. But, after 5 p.m., I have nowhere to be, and I've already seen all the movies I'm even mildly curious about. I have only finished the rough draft of my resume, which Marley has volunteered to help me post online.

Thanks to Lupo, though, and to the lovely people at Best Buy, I've got DVDs to watch so that I can ignore anything else ... like housework.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Something close to nothing.

So I drove to Birmingham last night. Actually, I drove to this suburb of it called Irondale. And I rented a hotel room. And I typed the blog entry saying that I drove to Birmingham. And I went to sleep. And I woke up once when my cell phone rang. And it was Old Navy calling to ask me to do a check-by-phone, so I verified that. And no one else called me. So I took a shower. And I checked out of the room. And I called Doug, who answered his phone, and I told him that I was in Birmingham until noon. But Doug had to go to a voter registration drive. And Black didn't call, which is probably completely understandable. Either he didn't get my messages. Or he didn't know how to deal. I didn't make up some bullshit reason for going to Birmingham in any of my messages, and that, for some reason, struck me as the right thing to do.

I was in Irondale, Ala., when I woke up this morning. That, in and of itself, seems like something of an adventure, even if I didn't come anywhere near close to actually seeing Black or having much time to put any effort into it.

So I drove into Birmingham, looked at it - just to say I saw it - without getting out of my car once, figured I could get home early and started the drive back on I-20.

The drive back was actually fast and kinda fun.

I ate at a Wendy's in Bremen when I crossed the Georgia border, for instance, and, maybe because I was actually in a good mood, it felt like a quaint version of tacky.

I enjoyed the time to myself, even though I did call some friends on the phone to tell them about my silly, little adventure - where I did something that was actually fun and spontaneous with a block of time that I could've used to lay on my couch and watch DVDs.

That said, I watched a DVD and laid on my couch when I got home around 3 p.m. I got to my shift at the bookstore early, and I had a tired, mostly uneventful day.

If Black hasn't checked his messages in a day, he might be scared out of his mind to find out that I was in Birmingham, though I don't want to scare him.

He wasn't the reason for the trip. I was. Instead of just thinking about it, I got outta town.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Road to nowhere.

Written at 2 a.m. Central Time on Yahoo Messenger between me and Crocker:

rileymccarthy: If I promise you that I've not gone insane, can I talk to you about something? I know it's late.
rileymccarthy: I'm in Alabama right now. I drove to Birmingham on a whim.
rileymccarthy: I'm in some cheap, ugly motel room.
rileymccarthy: And this could be, possibly, the dumbest whim I've ever had.
Crocker: Why the hell are you in Alabama?
rileymccarthy: I thought my friend Eric might want to have brunch.
rileymccarthy: And, thinking about it at the time, it didn't seem like that much of an undertaking.
Crocker: Uh-huh
rileymccarthy: My birthday's on Monday, and I was tired of waiting around for something to happen in my life.
rileymccarthy: So I decided to act on a whim and try and finally meet Eric, a friend of mine who I sorta know through my college debate society whom I talk to once a week but haven't met.
Crocker: OK - I can accept that. But, Birmingham? You want something to happen in your life, you go to NYC, Paris, Prague or something.
rileymccarthy: I need to be back by 4 p.m. Prague was out.
Crocker: Yeah, that's all well and good, you just need to go somewhere where you don't know anyone for several months.
rileymccarthy: Huh?
rileymccarthy: My birthday's on Monday. And I had a tough week. And I got sick of waiting for something good to happen. So I decided to try and meet my friend, instead of waiting for it to happen.
rileymccarthy: Unfortunately, that led me to drive to Alabama.
rileymccarthy: He's just a friend.
Crocker: You want to find out who you are - you need to leave everything behind just for a little while. Two months seemes to work. Well, at least you're trying.
Crocker: Alabama is better than, well, Conyers.
rileymccarthy: I know who I am.
Crocker: You sure?
Crocker: I know you know, but . . .
Crocker: I'm just being a bitter person.
rileymccarthy: That's a question that takes anyone, not just me, a lifetime to answer. And they don't even know then.
Crocker: I'm sleepy, so I'm probably not making much sense. If you want to find or know who you truly are - go someplace where no one knows and where you don't even have any expectations.
rileymccarthy: You weren't bitter the last time I saw you. You were focusing on examples of love you saw in your family.
Crocker: Paris is good for that. Oh, I love my family - going away helped to to appreciate how special - and limiting - they are.
Crocker: In any case, Patches is prancing so I need to take her out.
rileymccarthy: I saw a movie tonight. And there was this couple walking around Phipps, holding hands and kissing, who were my age. And they kept walking together to all the places I was walking alone.
rileymccarthy: I kept running into them.
rileymccarthy: I'm fine alone.
Crocker: Take care - sorry if I've been a little too talkative. Don't worry about other couples - use them as examples of what to be or not to be.
Crocker: I"m not deliberately quoting Shakespeare.
Crocker: Good night pookie.
rileymccarthy: OK.
(6/19/2004 2:56 AM)


I'd just gotten out of a screening of "The Terminal" at Phipps Plaza, and it was pretty good, even though Steven Spielberg's still having difficulty with his movie endings. The movie, taken outside of its plot, is about how one man deals with his entire life being placed on hold. He's stuck in limbo, waiting and waiting. The movie's funny, with touches of Jacques Tati lunacy, but its key dramatic strength comes from what the hero finds himself able to do when nothing comes in to influence his life at all.

That message sorta touched me.

Taking the escalator down to the parking deck, I saw that couple I saw when I came in, the one that couldn't keep their hands off each other, even though they were wearing matching wedding bands already. They were the ones on the escalator ahead of me out of the parking deck, next to me in line for the movie tickets and the ones in line for a table at American Cafe after me.

Their plans for the evening were the same as mine. Wait. That's not right. I had no plans for the evening, and seeing "The Terminal" and eating at American Cafe is what I ended up doing. They'd made "plans." I found myself with time to fill.

Walking out of the movie and looking at that couple, I found myself wondering what I really wanted for my birthday. What, exactly, could I give myself.

And I realized that I wanted to see Black. Just to say hello to him. Maybe thank him. Maybe hug him. I don't know.

He's been a good friend to me ever since he and Miss Gibson went for drinks together in Nashville last summer. Miss Gibson suggested that we talk, so I called him on the phone while I was watching a DVD of Akira Kurosawa's "Ran." And he called me back, saying he was in the middle of watching a highbrow art film. And we started to chat about stuff, all sorts of stuff.

And we've continued those conversations for a couple hours once a week. We talk about stuff that I don't talk about with anyone. It's not a love affair, exactly, for Black's not gay. But, I don't know, we "get" each other.

When he needs to talk to someone about why he can't find a damn date, he calls me. When I'm feeling freakish and can't call anyone else, I can call him. When I've been in major binds, he's helped me.

But I've never met him, and that strikes me as weird.

We talk a lot about meeting. When it should happen, how it should happen. We talk. But I've never had reason to go to Birmingham, and, when he's in Atlanta, he's in town for only a couple hours, doing a job interview or attending a family wedding.

So we've not met.

Sometimes I feel like we're avoiding it because we know that it will "alter" the dynamic we're allowed to have in our phone calls.

When I got home from the movie, there was a message on my voicemail from Black. He joked that he felt "neglected" because we've not been able to talk so much lately. I called back and missed him. He was out for the night with his sister at a music fest.

He said he'd try me tomorrow.

Different factors from my week and from my conversations with friends started connecting in my head, and, through that, I made a whim decision.

He said he'd try me tomorrow.

Doug lives in Birmingham and drives to Atlanta once a month or so to get a haircut.

It's about a three-hour drive.

It was 10:30 p.m. My next shift at the bookstore starts tomorrow at 4 p.m. EST.

I have time. And there's a paycheck waiting for me at the bookstore.

Miss Gibson and I were talking via e-mail this morning about our lack of confidence, and she mentioned that she was going to the Tate Modern on Saturday. When we were at the Tate Modern in London, Miss Gibson spoke to me about how sometimes the best things to do were to take risks. Even to take a chance that an outcome would be bad.

Take a risk.

I told Miss Gibson that I was going to start writing "What if?" stories on the blog, detailing how my life might be now if I'd made different choices. In one, I imagine myself unhappily "coupled" with an angry waiter I used to have a crush on. In another, I saw myself married to Miss Gibson. I've become someone with fantasy lives. I've become Walter Mitty.

What if ...?

Lupo wrote me an e-mail saying he and his fiance Kenn had taken a day trip to Atlanta the day before and done some shopping.

People take day trips.

Lupo sent me a kickass DVD box set of "Gilmore Girls" for my birthday, and I need to bow to him and worship at his feet for getting me such an excellent gift. Or, barring worship, I need to send him a card.

It's my birthday, and this is the only time I'm going to have to do this.

And, three hours later, I'm in Birmingham.

I called Black before I headed out, leaving a message that explained I'd be in Birmingham in the morning, and I'd like to be able to say hello to him.

I said, "Even though you don't know me, you know me. We talk about how we don't ever take action, but we talk about it and think about it and agonize over it. Call me when you get this. Maybe we can do brunch tomorrow."

I also called Doug and asked him for a favor. But he didn't call back yet.

I don't know Black's address, and I'm not going to show up on his damn doorstep. I'm not stalking him. I may not see him tomorrow, even though I'd like to.

But that, dare I admit it, isn't really the point. The point is that I did something. I did something. Something that looks like a daring, stupid, drastic mistake. Or a nice, spontaneous - even romantic, in a sense - gesture.

I keep asking myself how Black might feel about this, and I remember that another Phi Kappan called me up a couple days ago and asked me if I was free for an emergency trip to South Carolina. I said yes to her, even though the trip proved unnecessary.

Maybe Black will meet me. Maybe he wants to meet me.

But this isn't just about him.

On the road, I felt a spark in me like when I was in London. And even though Birmingham, I'm sorry, is NOTHING like London, I'm very much me right now.

Calling Vic from the road, she sounded extremely disapproving, saying I'd probably scare the hell out of Black by doing this and that it was COMPLETELY ridiculous to drive to Alabama in the middle of the night.

I might scare him. Maybe it's best if I don't see him. I could still act like that phone message was a joke, and he wouldn't find out my reasoning behind this move until he read the blog.

I explained it. It makes sense.

And I think it makes for a really fun story, actually. (And, as you can see, I brought my laptop with me. No luggage. Just an outfit for work and the laptop.)

Since I've been in Alabama, I've seen a Mack truck on fire and a couple misspelled road signs. I listened to Talking Heads' greatest hits CD all the way here, repeating "Road to Nowhere" 15 times. It's been kinda fun.

I wanted to do something, and I did it.

Anyway, I'm here for a couple hours. The shitty hotel room is covered for the night, and my wake-up call's at 9:30.

Please, God, don't let this be a mistake.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Revisiting romance.

In preparation for the upcoming sequel, I rewatched "Before Sunrise" last night, reminding myself of why I love that movie so much.

There's no plot. It just follows two kids, played by Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, in a very natural scenario in which they, being strangers, get off a train together and have a conversation that lasts one long night. It's a rambling, cerebral conversation, but, as it occurs, they find themselves sorta falling in love.

On Valentine's Day, I said "Before Sunrise" is one of my favorite movie romances.

I had a relationship like theirs once, and "Before Sunrise" always reminds me of it. It gives me this warm, chatty feeling.

The sequel, which was made because the filmmakers and actors wanted to return to the story (not because the first film - a cult fave - made money), takes place nine years later and deals with an hour-and-a-half conversation between the same characters, examining whether they still have the same spark they did during that one night.

It's like a big "What if?" answer. Like, "What if you got another chance with the one who got away?" But, like the first film, "Before Sunset" isn't supposed to be as sappy as the concept sounds.

It opens in a couple weeks.

Wow, that was quick.

The Madstone, which closed June 1, will reopen under LeFont Cinemas management sometime next month, according to the AJC.

For the record, this is fantastic, and I think my letter to Alan Smithee in last week's AJC had something to do with it.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Jenipher's "pwecious, wittle, sweeeeet baby"

This is the white ball of fuzz that Jenipher adopted a couple days ago. Gabe and she named it "Archie," and she can't talk about it without lapsing into bizarre amounts of baby talk.

Apparently, Jenipher got upset and almost cried the first time they had to leave it alone to go to work, and it smothered her with "sweet puppy kisses" that probably were filled with love ... and germs.

Oh gosh, he's so cute. I think I may just have to gouge out my damn eyes.

Mr. Bailey's Bibles and me.

Last night at the bookstore, Mr. Bailey, the hat-wearing, somewhat crazy, possibly homeless regular who has twice before asked me if I was "crippled" and browses the large-print Bibles all the time, shouted at me for about five minutes at the register.

It started simply enough. He put a large-print Bible down. I told him how much it cost. He said it was too expensive. And he stood there for a couple minutes, not doing anything.

John the manager, walking around the registers, saw that Mr. Bailey was making a fuss again - which he did a couple weeks ago - and walked away from the registers.

Mr. Bailey couldn't make a decision. So I put the Bible on a shelf behind me.

And he stared at me for a few minutes and then walked out of the store very slowly, while I waited on other customers.

I figured that was it and that I was done.

But Mr. Bailey came back a half an hour later.

He walked up to my registers, had me get the Bible again, told me how great the Bible in general was and how expensive the one in particular seemed to be.

So he put it down, and I gave him the price. And he told me that it's too much. And then he just stood there, holding up my line.

So I called John the manager, and John started helping the next customer, while listening to what Mr. Bailey is saying to me.

Then, Mr. Bailey yells at me that I'm a rich, white man and I'm trying to cheat him.

And I thought to myself, "Um, if I were rich, would I be working at Barnes & Noble?"

I just repeated the price to him. Over and over. When he would seem confused, I just said, as firmly and calmly as possible, "That'll be $26.99, sir."

Other customers were watching us.

I was shaking, and other customers saw this.

And he started prodding me, "What? Are you gonna cry? Are YOU gonna cry?"

So I put the Bible on the shelf behind me. And John, who is an African American and wasn't thus being called a "rich, white man," voided the transaction.

And Mr. Bailey just stood there. And then Mr. Bailey pulled out his money from the pouch in the overalls he wears everyday.

And I sold him the Bible and handed him the bag.

He didn't walk away.

He asked me for the two Bibles he'd thought he'd purchased, and I had only sold him one. So I showed him the receipt, proving this, and I asked Mr. Bailey, who kept saying "I went up a creek somewhere ... I went up a creek somewhere ...," if he wanted me to get a manager.

John was already standing there, looked at the receipt and told Mr. Bailey that I didn't cheat him.

So Mr. Bailey, who other workers had warned me about when I started working there, started shouting that I'd done him wrong. And that he was never coming into the store again.

But he didn't leave, at first, and he wouldn't take the Bible that he'd paid for.

So I started helping customers from the other side of my register, and they'd just walk around Mr. Bailey as he mumbled and shouted.

Eventually, Mr. Bailey, mumbling still about how we cheated him, walked outside the store - leaving the Bible he'd paid for - and continued to shout from the sidewalk about us and about me, the rich, white man who cheated him.

John was watching him in seeming amazement. I didn't turn around. Eventually, John alerted the security guys, but, by then, Mr. Bailey had walked away.

Chuck, the other manager there last night, told us that he'd seen Mr. Bailey in Publix, where he had been yelling about someone taking his food.

I wanted a break from the registers afterward, but I was the only cashier. Eventually, though, things calmed down.

Mr. Bailey's not usually that volatile with me. Usually, he just asks me for the large-print Bibles. When I walk him to the section, he sees how I'm walking and asks me if I'm crippled. I tell him I have cerebral palsy, and I lead him to the section. He looks at the Bibles for a long time, talks occasionally to himself and to others about how great the Bible is, then tries to put them on hold. Then, he slowly, while talking to himself, makes his way to the door.

It's not one of the more welcome aspects of my job, but I do it.

Management does what they can, I guess, but, on the whole, I thought we're just supposed to ignore him. Mr. Bailey, after all, doesn't appear to know what's going on and seems to get confused.

But I complained after last night.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Update ... already.

Vic just called me from the hospital to let me know that she's on Page 40 of "The Bonfire of the Vanities."

"I thought you were going to read 'Vanity Fair' first," I said. "Did the fact that Reese Witherspoon's in the new movie version dissuade you from trying it?"

"I don't know," she said, sounding less groggy than the earlier call. "I just picked up this one. It's slow, though."

"Yeah, I stopped reading it after they talked about the size of that one guy's apartment for a chapter," I said.

"I just got through that," she said.

She'll be finished with it in two days.

High-maintenance man.

By the way ...

* I'm still adjusting to my new prescription of anti-depressants, which have left me only mildly impotent. (Luckily, there's no one other than myself to entertain in that regard. Feel free to laugh. Hearing about it last week, Kacoon told me that I'd save money on baby oil. I replied, "Yeah, but have you ever tried watching those movies for the dialogue?")

* My job's still in limbo, though my production numbers are good for the month. I have yet to admit to anyone that I don't know how to upload my resume to Hotjobs or Monster, even though I've tried over and over. The whole Internet job search thing baffles me, which is probably why I've stayed at the same company for four years.

* I didn't sleep at all on Sunday night (see above mention of anti-depressant impotence), and I spent all day Monday in a dreary haze, alternating in mood between completely spaced-out, overly sensitive and startled-reactionary freaking-out. That day, I believe, I alienated 14 people. More than one person told me to get over myself. (Technically, I think writing, or whining, about this on this blog verifies that I do, in fact, need to get over myself. But I like the blog.)

* Calling in sick to the bookstore because I was exhausted, I slept at my mother's house for the first time in, I think, three years on Monday night. She helped me out by feeding me, running my laundry and seeing that I got a proper night's sleep. I barely spoke to my stepfather the entire time I was there, though I did sit with him until he realized that "CSI: Miami" was a rerun.

* My mother informed me that my younger brother has a church and reception location for his April wedding to the cool girl he bought a giant, beautiful engagement ring. My even-younger cousin Holly and her husband have bought her first house. Meanwhile, I'm kinda impotent, I've never had a boyfriend for longer than six months, and I now own every available episode of "Sex and the City" on DVD.

* I turn 28 on Monday, which is the summer solstice and features the longest "day" of sunlight for the year. I am a Gemini-Cancer cusp. I think that means I'm supposed to be duplicitous and foul, but I'm no astrologer.

And, in other lives:

* It turns out that I almost met my penpal Lucas last week at that screening for "The Stepford Wives." We were in the cinema bathroom, standing at the sink next to each other. And I looked at him in the mirror, thinking he looked familiar. And he looked at me in the mirror, thinking I looked familiar. And then, because we didn't want to sound like freaks using the "Hey, don't I know you?" line on a stranger in the men's room, we walked out without speaking. We didn't verify that we'd actually seen each other until an e-mail the next day.

* Miss Gibson met CK's parents this weekend, and that apparently went well.

* Black still loves his new job in Alabama. And, in the past few weeks, he's been to New Orleans, San Francisco and New York. And his new cell phone's reception is weird.

* Jenipher, having recently married and changed her name to reflect her Latina status, tried watching "North Shore" this week. But it upset her, for it was apparently nowhere near as good as "The O.C." last year. Oh yeah, and Jenipher forced Gabe to get her a puppy dog last week. It's white. It looks like a giant ball of fuzz. They've named the fuzzball Archie, and, when I talk to Jenipher about him, I mock her for cooing. Jenipher, as a result, loves her "pwecious, wittle puppywuppy ... awwwww, he's SO-O-O SWEET ... He covers me in wittle, puppy kisses because he LO-O-OVES me ... " and tells me I'm evil for mocking her degree of puppy cult-worship. I'm not evil. I owned a dog once. I found, through owning a dog, that I shouldn't own a dog. And now I don't own a dog.

* Marley reports that she's settling in to life in L.A. well. Her job is going well, and I know she likes the weather there.

* Ron's headed to Boston this weekend to grab his husband and prep for their move down.

* My friend Larry, while on vacation, sent me an e-mail this morning. It said, "In Roma -- more traffic and marble than I have ever seen -- back the middle of next week."

So that's cool.

You say goodbye, and I say hello.

Vic's been in the hospital after surgery for a couple days, and I visited her room last night - bringing about five books and a potted flower - for only a couple minutes.

She'd told me that I didn't have to come, of course, but she'd given me the room number. She tells me not to come, and, weighing the situation, I sometimes show up anyway. The last time I defied a direct order that I "didn't have to visit" was the day her father died.

Vic doesn't like to feel indebted, after all, even in times of crisis or weakness.

The books I brought her - when she told me that I didn't need to bring her anything - turned out to all be things that she hadn't read. I considered myself lucky for that because the girl devours books. Even if you've gotten her something that she wouldn't have picked for herself, she'll still read it - and read it quickly - because she can't not finish something she's started.

I've been reading "Empire Falls" by Richard Russo for three weeks, for instance, and Vic will likely finish all or half of the books I got her last night before I finish mine.

For the record, I bought Vic five books from decidedly different genres, and she's going to end up reading all of them. (As a bookstore clerk, buying her gifts gives me a vicarious thrill. She reads some smart stuff, and I get to feed her habit. Shopping for her makes me feel like a drug pusher.)

I'll list them to give you a basic idea of what she's able to read. The girl's a savant or something. She's supposed to be laid up for two weeks because of this surgery, and she'll finish all of these by then, I bet you.

* L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy
* Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
* House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
* The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
* Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Sometimes I wonder, about my friends, if they, like me, don't communicate the way other people do. I wonder if that's why I pick them, to the degree that they're "picked."

If all the communication skills I've acquired come from flawed communication, it's my duty to fix it, I guess. But how? Where's the basis of "normal" social communication?

Last night, Beth's sister Kate called me up from the Daytona Beach airport. Her flight into Atlanta was going to be delayed, and she was afraid she might miss her connecting flight to Greenville-Spartanburg.

She wondered on the phone to me if she could get my assistance in case of a crisis. She wondered if she could stay with me at my apartment, which is currently unsuitable for visitors, or if I could drive her halfway to her parents' house in South Carolina.

I told her that I'd drive her. Then, getting off the phone with her, I secretly prayed that she'd not miss her connecting flight.

She didn't miss it. The flight got delayed.

There was no need for me to act, other than to talk to her on the phone for the duration of her wait, which I did.

It turns out that Kate, it seems, is as voracious a reader as Vic, which doesn't surprise me since Kate's a veterinarian and a mega-genius.

She told me that she once read every book in her elementary school's media center one summer as a project. Her mother, a schoolteacher, was able to get her inside it, and she worked her way through it one shelf at a time.

She got off the phone with me last night after the crisis at the airport averted, and she turned her attention to Tad Williams' "Otherland," which is a massive, four-volume book that she's halfway through.

I don't read that much or read things that deeply. And I work at a bookstore.

I have readers' envy of my friends.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Other arms reach out to me.

My friend Kacoon, not knowing that Ray Charles had died, heard him mentioned last week out-of-context. To the person who said it, Kacoon said, "Hey, you know he was a heroin addict. I'm wondering how he found a vein. Do you think he had to hire someone else?"

At the park this weekend, they played "Georgia on My Mind" over the loudspeaker, and I tried to coax Ron into dancing with me to it.

He wouldn't, of course, so I did a boxstep on the grass by myself.

Some children were playing in a sprinkler, and Ron said that it looked like it felt good.

So I boxstepped my way into the sprinkler for a moment. And it did feel good.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Chapter read and lesson learned.

I ended my Saturday night/Sunday morning adventures in Crocker's car, listening to him talk about true love as the rain fell. I wanted to kiss him. He knew that, I think. But that's not how he feels about me. So he let me walk to my car, reminded of why I used to really like him.

He'd been to a family funeral, and he was reminded through it of how his family is filled with examples of lasting matrimony.

I saw him out at the bar. He was driving me back to my car when he started talking about it.

In the parking lot, he called himself the marrying kind. He said that, when he's in his 30s, he hopes to meet a guy who, despite his age, has a childlike enthusiasm. Crocker wants a repoire with someone, the ability to talk to them naturally. Like he does with his best friend.

I like Crocker, and I like running into him at the bar. And tonight he introduced me to his best friend, someone he's told me about before.

"We've met," I said when I looked at his friend, Accent Guy. "He pinned me up against a wall once."

Accent Guy confirmed this. A couple months ago, Accent Guy had me against a rail for a couple minutes, feeling me to see if I had an erection. It was amusing, but I didn't let it go anywhere.

So the guy I once had a crush on kept praising endlessly someone he felt a real connection with, a guy who'd pinned me against a wall once who I wiggled myself away from.

There was something sorta frustrating about that.

Equally frustrating was sitting in that car with Crocker, wondering how much good and bad behavior I could actually get away with. The "friend" part of our relationship made me want to stay in the car, listening to him as he talked his way out of the funeral state-of-mind and on to happier aspects of life. The fact that he was being eloquent about love appealed to the "writer" part of me, making me want to hear how he defined true love and what the examples of it in his life were.

And there was part of me that wondered if it was cool to be irresponsible and try to fuck him in the car. Or, at least, persuade him to take me home with him.

And, realizing that was uncool of me to think about, I started to bemoan the fact that I appear attracted to the most conscientious of homosexuals. The talkers, the thinkers, the whiners and the ones who, thanks to therapy, don't make the mistakes they used to make.

I wanted him to kiss me. Just because I wanted to be kissed. And he was there. And I was there. And it was raining. And he's cute, and I'm cute. Dammit. Why can't we do first and think about it later?

There are still people who do that, right? They just don't do it with me, right?

The last part of me knew that I should just get out of the goddamn car because it's fruitless to listen to Crocker talk about love ... because I used to want Crocker to love me. I'm a glutton for punishment and a schmuck, though, so I didn't get out of the car ... or I'm a hopeful romantic open to the possibility of a changed heart and a changed mind so I didn't get out of the car.

I should've gotten out of the car.


I once went home with a guy from a Christmas party a couple years ago. He took me back to his place. We were hot and heavy, making out, taking off each other's clothes. And then he said it.

"I don't want to have sex," he said. "Can you just hold me until I go to sleep?"



Actually, there was something weird about this whole day.

I told Ron, when we went out that afternoon for drinks at Cafe Tu Tu Tango, that I was looking for a guy worth cleaning my apartment for, and I was sad to say that he wasn't the guy.

Of course, I didn't mean it like that. I mean, Ron's happily married, thank you very much, and I'm not that kind of girl.

But I was trying to explain why Ron has yet to see the inside of my apartment.

I have no time to clean it because I'm always working at one of the two jobs. And, on the rarest of occasions when I have a day off - as I did on Saturday, I don't feel like cleaning my apartment.

I feel like seeing my friends, like watching a DVD of "Sex and the City" that I purchased. I feel like vegging out, essentially.

But, in the meantime, I'm thinking that I don't take very good care of myself, my stuff or my "hobbies" like writing and reading.

I tend to write at 2 in the morning. I tend to read only when I'm about to go to sleep. I tend to think that I thrive in the middle of chaos, only because I don't choose to live any way that isn't chaotic.

It's my own damn fault, but my argument's reasonable.

I told Ron that I'm the guy who's worth cleaning my apartment for.

And that's an awfully good sentiment and would make for a perfectly happy ending on a schmaltzy piece of writing. But I don't buy it because ... I'm not cleaning. I'm not taking care of myself. I'm not leaving the job I hate. I'm not writing in the daytime. I'm not stretching. I'm not moving. I'm thinking and not doing.

And I don't stop it.


Why don't I just write a damn book? I say I want to. I know it won't completely suck if I do it.

Because it's easier, at this point, to be unfulfilled potential.

And I'm scared. And my mom would get mad at me. And I'd fail. Maybe over and over. And I might not like it. And I might.

The whole thing's scary. Failure's scary. Success is scary.

But what am I doing by waiting? It's still painful and annoying sometimes.

Would it be better pain or less annoying annoyance to actually fail at doing what I say I want to do?


Ron and I left Cafe Tu Tu Tango and walked around Piedmont Park for a couple hours, enjoying the site during its 100th anniversary celebration.

I like the park. I like creating "Woody Allen movie" moments there, where you have the overly brainy, analytical talks amongst scenic landmarks.

I told Ron about the latest happenings with Poli Sci Guy at work.

I was about to actually ask Poli Sci Guy - hands down - if he was gay, politics be damned. Poli Sci Guy, sensing the direction of my question, made up an excuse and - get this - RAN AWAY from me before I asked him.

Which means he's not gay. Or he is and he's not ready to deal with it. Or he's just not mature.

Which means that my crush, regardless of Poli Sci Guy's sexuality, is over. Because I don't have means or time to deal with any of those possibilities.

Hearing this, Ron told me that you don't find love when you're looking for it.

"I'm not looking for it," I told him. "I ... just ... want ... a ... date. I feel like I haven't been on a really good date in ages."

The last date I went on actually spoke to me about skinning people alive and the upsides of genocide. What is it about me and date-chat that leads people to speak of human skinning?

(As an aside, I actually think the last good date I went on was with Crocker in goddamn 2000. We went to Zocalo, and he shared my soup. But that didn't turn into anything. I didn't make this realization, of course, before seeing Crocker at random in the bar that night. Which was probably part of the reason why I didn't get out of the car when Crocker was talking.)

Ron and I walked into the park until our buzzes were gone and we'd seen all the cute shirtless boys.

It was a hot, kinda magnificent day for me.

But it's getting harder to hear dating advice.


I saw "Saved!" by myself on Saturday night before heading out to the bar.

It was funny and occasionally smart, and it had a gay vibe to it.

When I left it, wandering through the crowd filled with cute guys, I had this weird urge. I wanted to kiss someone. Not someone specific.

I just wanted one of those Hollywood kiss moments, the moment where I'm the protagonist and, for some reason, other friends of mine and spectators are invested momentarily in whether I get kissed, whether I make good, whether I fall in love.

I want to be the one with the boyfriend people actually know about and don't mock me over. I want to be one-half of a "Look at how happy they are ..." moment.

I want to feel what that's like. To be in love and to share it, not just with one person - but with all of your friends in a way that's congratulatory.

It's self-indulgent. But it's true.

Look at him. Look at them. Look at how happy he is. He deserves it. He's worked for it. Really.

Because I feared it might be wrong to feel that way, actually, I ended up at the bar. Not to meet a guy.

I wanted a talking-to from Michael the Bartender about how it's all right to be alone.


Michael the Bartender was there, of course, but he was too busy to give me a decent talking-to.

"I need you to lecture me," I said.

"Why?" he asked me.

"Because I was feeling lonely," I explained.

"Huh?" he said. "Why were you feeling lonely?"

Then, I said it, understanding what was bugging me was a phase, "Eh. You know, it just happens sometimes."

Even people in relationships get lonely, after all. You cope. No big deal.

So Michael the Bartender didn't give me a talking-to.

And I was sitting there at the bar, finishing my bottled water.

And Accent Guy walked past my barstool, and I stopped him.

"Hey," I said to Accent Guy. "Do you have an accent?"

"Yes," he said, stopping and smiling at me.

"I thought that was you," I said. "You pinned me against a wall a couple weeks ago."

"Really?" he asked. "I don't remember that. But your face looks familiar."

"I'd have been offended if it didn't," I said to him. "Or are you not usually facing the men you pin against a wall?"

He laughed and touched me on the knee. And I did my bitchy flirt thing.

He called me cute and thanked me for stopping him before walking back to his friends.

I looked over at them now and then for a couple minutes, and then I recognized the back of Crocker's head.

I went over, said hello to Crocker and got reintroduced to Accent Guy, who it turns out is the guy Crocker used to mention to me all the time.

"We've met," I said when introduced.

Accent Guy smiled.


Depending upon who had to go get more drinks or who had to go to the bathroom, I learned more than I wanted to know about the dynamics of my crush Crocker's relationship with Accent Guy.

When Accent Guy went to the bathroom, Crocker actually asked me if I, as a casual observer, had ever seen him behave so naturally around anyone else in my life.

"I mean, you saw me," Crocker said to me. "I never converse like that with anyone. Usually, I have to think about everything I say."

"Well, um ...," I said, going someplace I shouldn't have gone. "I ... always thought you were able to talk to me."

"Well, no," Crocker said, opening a wound I thought had healed long ago and probably should have. "It's different with you."

When Accent Guy came back, I excused myself for a moment and went back to Michael the Bartender.

Accent Guy and Crocker, after a bit, told me to join them upstairs when I finished my chat with Michael, who was also talking to his former co-worker Danny and another bloke at the bar.

Danny, who's cute, a little queeny and also used to bartend there, told me I looked familiar. He mentioned that we'd met at the bar before. And he started to mention names of people that I've supposedly met but didn't remember.

When Accent Guy and Crocker were safely away, I shook off all my hang-ups about them, pounded my fists on the bar a couple times and proceeded to audibly bitch for about a minute about how weird the whole damn thing was.

My old crush, as I've said, is keen on someone I, for the most part, rejected when he had me against a wall. And my old crush is confiding in me about it.

Seeing my fit, Michael laughed. Danny told me that he felt where I was coming from and high-fived me.

Then I vented some more to Danny, Michael and the other guy.

And Danny looked at me in just a certain way. And his look sent a pang of memory from the back of my brain.

"I've kissed you ... ," I said to Danny, remembering.

"Yeah," Danny said.

"It was a couple years ago at the bar," I said. "I was here with friends of mine, and you talked to me. And I kissed you."

"I remembered you when you walked up," Danny said to me.

"You didn't have the goatee then," I said to him.

"Yeah, and I probably had blond hair," he said.

I smiled, remembering the night that I felt the bartender only kissed me to make me feel better.

"My friends told me that night, after I considered waiting on you, that you probably did that a lot," I said.

I was asking myself internally, Was it them that said it or me being glass-is-half-empty?, while Danny looked at me offended.

"You tell your FRIENDS, the next time you see them, that I did NOT do that with everyone," Danny said to me. "I'm NOT like that."

"Yeah, I can tell," I said. "You remembered me, after all."

"Of course I remembered you," Danny said to me.

Before Danny had gone home for the night, he'd hugged me again, advised me again, made me feel better about myself again ... and, yes, he kissed me again. In a friend way.

And he told me he'd be at the bar on Wednesday, when I think I'm working.

Looking back on it, I think I ended up in the wrong guy's car.


Crocker was upstairs hitting on a guy in atrocious shoes and a bad hat when I got upstairs, and Accent Guy was trying to use French to talk him out of it.

"Ne jolie pas," I attempted to add in. "Un mauvais chien."

Accent Guy, thankfully, knows better French than that. So does Crocker.

Breaking Crocker away from the guy in bad shoes, Accent Guy pulled him and me into a huddle. Then, he proceeded to badmouth the guy.

And I, for some reason, used the huddle - which had pushed me up against a wall, mind you - to grind subtly into Accent Guy. Which he noticed. And Crocker didn't.

For some reason, it felt like a bitchy, Aaron Spelling-type advantage I had. It was completely shallow, of course. And I wanted to keep it.

Eventually, I left them, heading back downstairs to Michael, and let them have a deep conversation.

But, at last call, I walked out with Crocker and Accent Guy.

It was raining hard.

After Accent Guy jumped into his car, saying goodnight to us, I walked with Crocker.

"I parked over the bridge," I let him know.

"Would you like a ride to your car?," he asked me.

"Yeah, thanks," I said.

And he proceeded to talk to me about the funeral he'd attended. And what it taught him about true love.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion.

I wrote a Madstone-related question to the "Ask Alan Smithee" column in the AJC's Movies & More section, and it appeared in the paper today.

Since Smithee is a pseudonym and the answer to the question correctly called me "Benji" instead of "Ben," I'm wondering ...

Do I know Alan Smithee's true identity?

Smithee does get points from me, though. He manages, in his answer, to reference "Donnie Darko" about four times, which is kinda cool.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Another pleasant evening.

I really like hanging out with Ron. It's just so damn comfortable being around him. He knows all my old hang-ups and all my old jokes. And he knows how I'm likely to behave in a situation.

Tonight, when we went to see a sneak preview of the pleasantly surprising "Stepford Wives," though, Ron wasn't present to witness my behavior with one particular person.

Ron had gone to get refreshments, and I was holding his seat. Other people, of course, were coming into the preview, and it was a full crowd. Now, I don't like holding seats for people and don't know anyone who does enjoy it, but I do it because, hey, you should be able to go get popcorn if you want without fear that you'll lose your quality theater real estate.

Anyway, this attitude-throwing woman in a floral print skirt with her three friends came up the steps to my row, where I had my hand on Ron's empty seat, and she proceeds to look for available seats.

Seeing none, she said aloud to her friends - in front of me, mind you, "I'm guessing there are no available seats ... SINCE PEOPLE HAVE THEIR HANDS ON THEM LIKE WE'RE IN THE THIRD GRADE."

Like she wouldn't do the same thing in our shoes, I thought. Like any regular moviegoer hasn't been a seatholder.

It's not my fault she didn't get there first.

So I looked right at her and gave her the reply she didn't really want.

"Yes, you're exactly right," I said, nodding.

She smirked at me, then turned to head back down the steps.

"The 'third grade' option is the only one thus available to us," I continued as she scoffed one last time.

So then, she turns back around, gives me this big, annoyed grin and then gestures with two thumbs up. Like I was the only asshole.

As she made her way down the steps, Ron passed by her and almost nudged her with his tray.

I told him, when he got back to the seat, that he should've improved his aim and knocked her down the steps.

But perhaps that would've carried it a bit far.

I know I didn't have to say anything to her, but, jeez, she was only pissed because she had to go for her second-choice seats. Because she arrived later than others. To a free movie.

She brought attitude, and I gave it back.

Upon hearing me relate this tale, Ron said he wished he could've seen it and that he would've been proud of me. And the woman sitting on the other side of me at the theater, who'd also been holding a seat for someone, applauded what I had to say.

Later, at dinner, Ron and I were eating outside on a bench at a restaurant. And we were having this great, involved conversaton.

And this guy walked up next to our table, stood there and made eye contact with us. Then, he pulled out his cell phone - standing right next to us - and proceeded to start speaking in loud Spanish on the phone.

I just turned away from the guy. But Ron, who's now my freakin' hero, looked right at him.

"Excuse me," he said, waving at the guy. "But I REALLY don't want to hear your cell phone conversation."

The guy just kept talking on the phone.

"HEY," Ron continued. "We were HAVING a conversation. I DON'T want you standing here, talking on the PHONE. Move DOWN the sidewalk."

The guy just looked at Ron blankly, then said, "NO ... SPEAK ... ENGLISH."

And he kept talking on the phone.

So a visibly annoyed Ron, in a display that will echo throughout my better memories forever, attempted sign language. Damn, it was beautiful.

I mean, he made his own hand into a tiny "phone" shape. Ron held his "phone" to his ear. Then, in the next motion, he pointed again and again to a destination down the sidewalk. And, while he did this, he narrated it in slo-o-ow English for the guy.

And the guy, with his "USA" muscle-shirt on, moved inside the restaurant.

Ron's a take-charge kind of guy. He asserted himself and freed our table from invaders.

Monday, June 07, 2004

The know.

President Reagan died on a day when I didn't watch the news or check my e-mail. And I feel bad that he died and I dared to find out about it later than the rest of the world. Because I was a journalist once, I kinda like to be up on things, and it bugs me that a president can go and die ... and I've escaped journalism enough that a whole day can pass without me finding out. It seems disrespectful of me. I mean, I shouldn't be out-of-the-know.

I was putting a copy of the New York Times back on the shelf when I read the headline. The newspaper, as I tried to both read it and put it back, fell apart on the shelf, and the New York Times Magazine in it fell to the floor.

I'd been at work about a half-hour. I didn't notice the small display of Reagan books, let alone question why they were there.

I walked back to the information desk, trying not to make eye contact with Poli Sci Guy, who was standing at the registers. My crush is over, I thought to myself in my head, My crush is over.

Another co-worker whom we'll call Mr. Glasses was standing at the info desk.

"President Reagan died on Saturday," I said to Mr. Glasses, an fiftysomething, jolly, withered, swishy-yet-inexplicably-married clerk. "That's so weird. He died on Saturday, and I didn't even know."

"Yes," Mr. Glasses said, sounding genteel, smooth yet understanding, as though he should be sipping iced tea on someone's veranda. "He died from complications of pneumonia, I believe, but, as you know, his mind had been going for years."

Everything Mr. Glasses says, actually, sounds like that, like he's a society gossip out of Tennessee Williams. I keep expecting him to call me "dear" and put a hand on my shoulder.

But instead of wearing a sundress or flowers or being a woman, Mr. Glasses wears Izod shirts untucked with unbuttoned collars. And he wears glasses. And his red hair always looks just a little big and a little messed up.

I was more than a little surprised to meet his wife. But I wasn't surprised to hear that they have a well-decorated house. I think he's sorta neat.

"He died ...," Mr. Glasses continued, pleasantly to me, about President Reagan. "And you went a whole day without knowing it ... and it didn't matter to your life at all ..."

"I know, but it's weird to me," I said.

I tried to name all of the living ex-presidents now. You know, the ones who'll likely line up at the Reagan funeral for what someone will use as a photo opportunity.

When I named both Bushes, thinking more about the photo than the designation of "ex-," Mr. Glasses corrected me.

"That one's not an ex-president yet," Mr. Glasses said. "But we can hope ..."

I didn't say anything, and I think he took me to be a Republican.

It wasn't that, of course. It's just that I want to know a lot about Mr. Glasses' story, and the store isn't the best place to hear that.

And I don't know how to ask him all that stuff yet. I figure it'll start one day when we're talking about politics or, maybe, I'll just ask him, "So have you read any Truman Capote?," or something else it may be better not to ask.

I almost didn't make it to the bookstore today at all. In fact, I called them and told them that I wasn't feeling well.

I was prescribed new pills on Thursday by the psychiatrist. And I called my managers before I was supposed to go in this afternoon, and I told them I wasn't sure about the effect the pills were having on me. For some reason, which probably has more to do with me staying up until 3 a.m. the night before than anything else, I kept falling asleep and waking up from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.

I didn't want to go into the bookstore today because I wanted to concentrate on my life being a mess and feeling bad about it. I wanted to hang my movie posters on the wall and make sure they didn't fall down, even though I really should pick up the piles of clothes from the floor. I wanted to just mope for hours and hours. And maybe see a movie.

But I knew calling in sick was wrong and irresponsible. But I wanted to do it.

So I sorta halfway did it.

I called the manager at the bookstore, I said in one breath, "Um, I don't know how I'm feeling. I'm on this new prescription, and it's had a weird effect on me. I keep collapsing. But I'm awake now. But I don't know what to do. And I don't want to call in sick, of course, and I know it's probably too short notice. So I thought I would just let you know."

"O-o-okay," the could-care-less manager said on the phone back to me. "Why don't you call me back in an hour and tell me how you feel?"

When I called back within the hour, showered, clearer and fresher, I only said to him, "Hi. I'll see you in a half hour."

"O-o-okay," he said, hanging up the phone.

He thinks I'm a freak, and I don't really attempt to appear otherwise because I am, to a degree, one.

At my cubicle job on Friday, I almost cried in front of my supervisors. I was reading a "scorecard report" in front of them, and I got frustrated. My voice wavered, and I got choked up.

It was weird and emotional and, though it only lasted a moment, was noticed.

I blamed that, too, on the prescription. My cool supervisor suggested that I go outside and get some fresh air.

It's time to leave my job. Not because I'm doing it badly, though there is that. And it's not because I don't care about it most of the time, though there is that.

It's because once you've almost cried over a job, it's likely ceased being worth the stress.

Change is occurring. I'm going along with it. But, and this has become a troubling mantra, I don't really know what to do.

Before going in to the store, I put on my best new outfit with my striped shirt. And I shaved, gelled my hair and wore my cosmetic glasses that make me feel cool. (I rushed getting ready, though, so I looked sweaty and unkempt when I got to work. But I got compliments on my outfit.)

The bookstore was a strange yet likely beneficial environment for me to be in today, particularly because Poli Sci Guy - I don't have a crush, I don't have a crush - kept using moments when we were alone at the registers to ask me questions about weight loss.

He wanted my weight-loss pointers because he heard me tell some customer that I lost 20 pounds through the South Beach Diet.

And I have. Sorta. I was at 185 last August or so. Now I'm around 167. Part of it was me using the South Beach Diet, and part of it was me cutting out French fries, eating salads and going to Blimpie every weekday for lunch.

I don't talk about it much. I try not to. My weight loss, though it did happen and I did work for it to happen through changing what I eat and how I eat, is something I don't want to get caught talking about. I don't want to become one of those weight-loss people among people that I actually know, though I don't mind being seen as one by people buying diet books from me.

But Poli Sci Guy wanted to know. And he was asking me questions. And he would wait for the exact moment when I was done with a transaction so that he could continue our conversation.

Such attention - I don't have a crush - is hard to ignore.

So I was talking about my weight loss. My weight loss that I treat as incidental.

When he found out that I didn't know all about the South Beach Diet, he sounded a little annoyed, like it meant that my lack-of-knowledge meant that he'd have to break down and buy the book.

"You look fine," I said. "You don't really need to lose weight."

Poli Sci Guy's been running at Piedmont Park. Poli Sci Guy's already done what I did to lose weight, and it's not working for him.

When I discussed trying to feel better about myself, he sorta smirked.

"What did you do?" he asked me. "Did you used to feel bad ... but now you feel like traipsing downhill through a field of daisies?"

I thought of an essay I once wrote and laughed at him.

"No," I said, "I'm a medicated depressive. I'm not all happy."

Which is why I thought it weird that he, a relative stranger, was looking to me for advice on anything.

I so didn't want to talk to him about weight loss. But I wanted to talk to him.

I previously stated that I don't think Poli Sci Guy is gay. I think he's just friendly. Poli Sci Guy is tall. And he has brown hair. And brown eyes. And he talks with a little bit of a lisp. And he uses his hands to talk. And he's goofy. And he reminds me of one of the nicest people I've ever known, a boy I ignored in college named Christopher. And Poli Sci Guy has his own idea for a book.

But everytime I tried talking to Poli Sci Guy today - or when he actually tried talking to me, some damn customer would walk up to our registers. Like we didn't have anything better to do. It was like getting to the really good part of a TV show, only to have them cut to commercial.

Poli Sci Guy noticed my glasses at one point when we were behind the registers. He told me that I was trying a different look today. He didn't actually say I looked good, though.

"Look at you, you're rockin' the glasses today," he said in a tone that could be considered playful mocking. "I couldn't stand mine. I had to get Lasik."

I offered the glasses up to show him they were cosmetic. (I am no longer ashamed.)

When he discovered it, Poli Sci Guy asked me why I chose to wear glasses that I got for ten bucks at Hot Topic.

I may have blushed when I admitted, "They make me feel good. I think I look good in them, and I wanted to feel better today."

"You should get a lot of attention today from people who like glasses," he said to me.

Forgetting for a second that I didn't have a crush and that I know I'm thinking about this way too much, I sorta sighed to myself.

And we changed the discussion to how weird it is that Hot Topic is a popular mainstream chain of mall stores selling suburban families somewhat-sanitized, counter-culture punk-death-metal-fetish attire.

Because we kept getting interrupted at the registers, I asked him if he'd be willing to talk to me elsewhere. He replied that I'd let him know all he wanted to know about weight loss.

Later, though, when we started chatting about other stuff, he said we could talk sometime.

But then I seemed to myself to be a little too obvious, particularly when we were cleaning the store at the night's end and I ended up asking him questions about his stories and offered to read them. He was shelving and didn't really look up from that.

So I stopped talking to Poli Sci Guy. I talked to another clerk, a quirky, hip Asian guy named Henry, about diabetes and blogging.

After work, I went to a movie, using the time to summarize how I felt about my weekend in general.

I called Vic after the movie. I walked around in my apartment complex parking lot with my cell phone, telling her how I felt about everything short of Ronald Reagan.

On weight loss, Vic reminded me of how often I mentioned her waistline when she went through a dramatic change a couple years ago.

Regarding Poli Sci Guy, Vic said at times that he sounded uninterested in me. But then, I'd give her new context, and she'd change her mind about his lack of interest.

"It's weird," I said. "If he likes me, then I don't know what to do. But if he doesn't like me, then I know exactly what to do."

So I don't have a crush.

In all my situations both amusing to deal with and not, I'm jumping to conclusions that I'm comfortable dealing with. Disappointment is familiar.

But this is all happening too much inside my head, not enough outside of it. It's distracting me.

I'm so busy doing something other than what I want to do. I'm so busy thinking about thinking, talking about risking, analyzing without doing, just spinning and spinning.

A president could die, and I wouldn't even notice.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Sad news for Atlanta cinema.

Oh my God, the Madstone has closed. I mean, it's gone. Gone.

The Madstone was, for a time, my favorite movie theater in the entire city. When I lived outside of the Perimeter, it was the place that I would go for a surge of culture and intelligent art.

It was the place where I saw an Almodovar film, a Terrence Malick classic and "X2 - X-Men United" all in one week.

I tried to hold my birthday party there last year when they were screening "Donnie Darko."

I even met Marley there.

I attended two Q&As there, both of them excellent. One was with Kevin Smith, and the other was with Richard Kelly, the director of "Donnie Darko."

Because I'd not been going as much since my move - and because my disaster date with Christopher the concierge there made me change my moviegoing habits, I didn't renew my membership last week.

The last movies I saw there were "Jersey Girl" and "The Dreamers."

The "Jersey Girl" experience, aside from the Kevin Smith Q&A, was just a nightmare.

And now, the whole theater's just GONE.

And that just sucks.

Goodbye, Madstone. I loved you when.

Comings and goings.

First of all, my crush is, by all appearances, not gay. Ho hum.

Wasn't the first time and won't be the last time. So anyway.

Matt, this cute, 24-year-old gay tourist from North Carolina, came into my store tonight looking for a guide to gay Atlanta because he'd apparently gotten lost on his way to find the gay community.

"All I saw today was Lenox Square," said the lanky, clueless blond kid with wide eyes and a stomach so flat it was apparently concave. "And then I ended up on Peachtree Industrial. And I just started driving on it."

Apparently, he ended up in Gwinnett County before he realized that he was going the wrong way.

"Didn't you notice you were outside of the city?" I asked him, looking on the bottom shelf while on my knees before him - a detail that made him giggle.

"I have a map," he said. "But Atlanta's a big place."

Apparently, he was looking for gay clubs, bars and Swinging Richard's.

"My friends told me I HAD to see the strip club," Matt said to me, smiling.

"Yeah, it's hilarious," I said.

The boy needed help. Not help he could find in a guidebook. He needed a gay friend to tell him where to go.

I grabbed a piece of scrap paper. I wrote down the words "Blake's," "Outwrite Bookstore" and "10th and Piedmont." If you're a newbie looking for Atlanta's gay community, start at 10th and Piedmont.

Matt sounded encouraged.

"That's where the parade is during the festival," I said.

"Ooh, I really want to be there for that," Matt said. He's in Atlanta for about a month, and that boy's probably going to find himself involved in a whole load of messy fun before his vacation ends.

He knew what he was looking for. It was my duty, as someone who's been there, to give him proper directions.

"If you see yourself moving away from tall buildings, you're going the wrong way," I said to Matt.

(Other people, more than likely, would suggest other places. But I was the only one there.)

As he was leaving, that's when he told me his name was Matt.

"Maybe I'll see you around," he said to me.

He was funny.

And, yes, I told him how to get to Swinging Richard's.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Another member of my dad's fan club.

Also reacting to what my father said yesterday, my friend Mark wrote this:

First of all your dad is funny. I was going to tell you that later today anyway. I read that post earlier this morning. In fact your dad sounds like someone I would like to date.

Not to be juvenile at all, but ewwwwwww.

How this all came about.

My friend Lucas, reading about yesterday's exchange with my father, wrote me back some actually useful advice when it came to the crush thing at my store. This, of course, led me to elaborate to him about how the whole thing.


This is our correspondence, with Lucas's comments appearing in italics:

well, i don't know if you're asking for advice or not...buttttttt ;-) here are my two cents.

first, innocent flirting is not harassment and it's a great gauge of someone's romantic interest. So, try flirting with him and see if you can discern whether he's remotely interested. if you're bad at flirting, there are several great books on the subject. I would steer clear of any comments that could be potentially alienating or mentioned a propensity for this in past blog posts. I say kind eyes and a smile go a long way over a witty comment.

What do you like about him?



Um, well, I'm an obvious flirt, which is something I'm trying to curtail, and the kind eyes and smile I've been using have been effective enough. (At one point, I looked at him while I was waiting on a customer, and he turned and - I think - caught me doing it. He smiled and seemed to sorta blush. Maybe this was a trick of the light.)

My first days there, he was the only one who was nice to me and asked me how I was doing when I appeared overwhelmed or stressed. That probably started it.

Then, a couple weeks ago, he got this great haircut. Like, a haircut that made me have to look twice to see if that was really him. I wasn't working that day, for I was just there getting my paycheck.

I walked by him and said, "You look terrific." Because he did.

"I got a haircut," he said.

"I know," I replied.

At one point a couple days ago, I asked him how old he was, and he said that he didn't say. Then, he said he was 72.

And I looked at him and said, "Damn ..."

And he said, "Yeah, I've had work done."

Sometime later, I asked him what magazines the AARP sent to his house and if he subscribed or if they just started sending them, like they did with my mom.

And he laughed at that.

So I think I just need to stop talking to him altogether.

ohmigod, it sounds like you should do the opposite of stop talking to him...keep talking to him and being a flirtaholic!

so many people don't seem to know how to flirt. little did i know you were an expert!


That's where the correspondence, so far, has gotten.

And though it's encouraging and nice to hear someone like Lucas say all that, I think it might be best if I honestly just leave it all be.

Contrary to how I make myself sound, I have not traditionally been good or successful at this. Usually, I'm downright awful and obvious about it.

(I remember my creepy daily stare-offs in college with this guy I liked named Jeff. Eventually, he asked me to turn around and stop looking at him.)

It's a new job, and things are shaky enough.

I've just gotten an impression from this guy, which isn't enough to actually base any "next move" or whatever upon.

I shouldn't do anything.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

My father's thoughts on work romance.

I have a crush on a guy at my store. I don't really know the guy, but he seems nice enough. I'm entertaining the notion.

My father, reluctantly giving me advice about it at lunch today, first told me to consider that I could be terminated for sexual harassment. He said it was never a good idea to mix work and romance, even though he met my stepmother at his old job.

"The world is a different place now, Benjie," he said to me.

He also mentioned a story he once read about a guy in Atlanta who skinned his boyfriend alive and was subject to a weeklong police manhunt.

I was, like, "Dad, I just need to know how to ask someone out."

He told me to avoid him and wait for him to approach me. That way, my dad said I could turn the guy in for harassment.

Alles klar?

One of my greatest fears is that I'm going to get into a major auto accident while I'm singing along with my car stereo. Like, you know, during a really complicated moment in the choreography, I accidentally swerve into the next lane at 55 miles per hour.

Oh please, like I'm the only one who does it.

This fear came back to me tonight when, in my apartment parking lot, I was singing and dancing to "Der Kommisar." (The version by After the Fire. Not Falco. Who the hell do you think I am?)

I thought that, if a neighbor had happened past my car, they might've thought I was having a seizure or something and called 911.

I'm usually quite proud of my car solos. I mean, if I see someone in another car looking at me, I just keep mouthing the words and wait for the light to change. Then, as I'm pulling away, I wave at the onlookers. I figure that means I'm permitting their joke.

That's right. I wave.

You think you're laughing at me? Oh yeah, well, I'm in on it, asshole. And I'm laughing back. And, hell yeah, I'm dancin'!

What else are you going to do in traffic?