Thursday, October 28, 2004

Strike up the band.

So I was working in the music department of my bookstore last night while the biggest, rowdiest, funniest book signing I've ever, ever seen is going on.

A crowd of about 125 people, most of them women-over-40 in wigs and tiaras, was in my bookstore for a signing of Jill Conner Browne's latest book, a Southern favorite, The Sweet Potato Queens' Field Guide to Men.

According to the Sweet Potato Queens' website, Sweet Potato Queens are self-crowned, red-wigged, big-haired, feather-boa-wearing beauty queens who focus on fun and look like female drag queens.

Those women were having a great time, applauding, laughing out loud, bringing in their own bottles of champagne. And their husbands - some of whom were also in pink-and-black bondagewear costumes - were also enjoying themselves.

To top it all off - and to my shock and the shock of several customers, my managers arranged for a 50-member costumed volunteer band, The Seed and Feed Marching Abominables, to perform a trumpets-and-drums fanfare as they marched down the aisles of the fiction department toward the signing at about 8:30 p.m.

I have never, ever, ever seen anything like that in my entire life. Or, at least, I've never seen it inside.

"Oh my God," I kept saying to one of the managers. "Oh my God, this is the greatest thing I've ever seen. There's a freakin' marching band in the store. It's like Mardi Gras."

It was a great party. It lasted for about four hours, with my managers passing around "sweet potato delight" refreshments, and there are still pink feathers and champagne stains in the floor of the carpet.

I've seen other signings, from the successful to the zero-attendance ones. Heck, my first day ever at Barnes & Noble Mall of Georgia, they had a book signing for WWE wrestler Diamond Dallas Page, and that had a massive line. I attended a fairly packed David Sedaris signing one year - where the author got severely pissed at the bookstore staff, and I know my store's hosted signings with an apparently fun Madeleine Albright and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But the Sweet Potato Queens, and their books of humor and recipes, have earned my eternal respect and admiration.

Because there was a damn marching band in my store.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

How am I not myself?

I'm working on something that I can't and shouldn't talk about here, something fun, important and personal. If anything comes of it that should be shared, I will let you all know.

I know, I know ... I sound like someone who tells you he has a secret but won't tell you what the secret is.

But I've got to work this through myself first.

I saw I Heart Huckabees, and it made me angry. I couldn't figure out what it was trying to say, I guess. I'm not really sure. The movie left me more confused than anything I've seen this year.

Oddly enough, seeing the movie I didn't like might actually help me deal with some stuff, but I still didn't like the movie.

Anyway, I'm being vague. Or maybe you just wouldn't understand.

I'm reading like a fortune cookie.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Movie recommendation.

RAY comes out this weekend, and I saw it a month ago and reviewed it extensively on Amazon.

If "Georgia On My Mind" ever gave you chills, you should see this movie. It's really good.

Art imitates life.

Oh God, I was wrong. Doug Martin has published a book.

My friend Pam just gave me the heads-up.

It's called Outline of My Lover.

Quite surprisingly, it's about a poetry student who comes to Athens, Ga., and ends up dating a rock superstar who lives there.

Yeah, it's fiction.

Your head is there to move you around.

Chris over at Boys' Briefs wrote today about how he met R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe over the weekend, which led me to write to him about how I apparently stalked Stipe like crazy when I went to college in Athens.

I'm reprinting what I wrote, so everyone can either consider me a psycho or consider me cool for getting Michael Stipe's phone number, sorta, from the man himself.

I met Michael Stipe about four or five times between my ages of 18 and 20 when I was going to UGA, naturally. The first time was the best one, for he was doing a reading of names at the campus display of the AIDS Quilt - which I was covering for The Red & Black.

He was looking at the panels, I was looking at the panels, and we met at an intersection and had a real, good conversation about how overwhelming the whole thing was. He was wearing glasses and has real pretty eyes, and he asked me where I was from. Then, he let me quote him for the article on the display, and it was the first time in 20 or so years that a member of R.E.M. had been interviewed by the paper.

In the process of the whole thing, I forgot to introduce myself, so, looking up from my notepad, I said, "By the way, hi, I'm Benjie."

And he said, "I'm Michael. It's nice to meet you."

And he shook my hand, which is when I proceeded to get a big crush on him that I should not have ever considered. But, umm, I was 18 and in the closet, and everybody told me that he was dating this really bad poet named Doug Martin who didn't comb his hair.

And if you look at the photo essays Stipe's done, you'll see Doug Martin and his bad hair. Luckily, none of the bad poetry was ever published mainstream.

Once I saw Doug Martin do a public reading of an erotic poem about getting his hair washed, and he got so into it he started rubbing himself against the microphone stand.

I swear to God, I thought the staff of Jittery Joe's, the coffee shop, was going to have to mop up afterward.

Other times I met Michael Stipe, I think I bugged him and made an ass out of myself.

I was covering the promotion of Jim McKay's "Girls Town," with Lili Taylor, for the paper, and I saw Stipe out at his vegetarian restaurant Guaranteed. And a friend of mine dared me to ask him out.

So I walked up to Stipe, told him I was working on a story and asked him if he was free for coffee sometime.

He told me that he was really busy and told me that I could get in touch with the director through the R.E.M. Athens office. Then Stipe, who was annoyed I'd interrupted his lunch, wrote his office number down on the tab at the end of his waiter's ticket, ripped it off and handed it to me. (I kept that number for years to impress people. "Hey, Michael Stipe gave me his phone number.")

At the "Girls Town" screening and Q&A, I asked Jim McKay a question, and Stipe, walking with Doug Martin, shouted, "GOOD QUESTION!" at me as he was walking out.

The other times I met him, I just managed to annoy him.

Like when I said hello outside the Paul Westerberg concert.

Or when I walked up to Doug Martin, whom I'd actually talked to a couple times, and said hello to Doug with friends of mine, just because Stipe was standing next to him.

So I said hello to Stipe, then walked my friends away from them.

As I did this, I said, "That's him," to them, trying to be cool.

But Stipe heard me, and he made a face of disapproval at me.

Then my friends, upon finding out who it was, RAN back to Michael Stipe and BEGGED him for an autograph.

Seriously, he was browsing in a store, and she ran up to him and asked him to autograph her hardcover copy of GONE WITH THE WIND.

That whole thing embarrassed me thoroughly, and I thankfully never saw or talked to him again.

Monday, October 25, 2004

British invasion.

Miss Gibson writes today to inform me that she got the Robbie Williams Greatest Hits CD for me this weekend.

I hope she'll be able to make it into the country, though I don't think that should be a problem.

On a possibly unrelated note, "Please, God, get rid of George W. Bush."

The man upstairs.

I met my new neighbor Chad from upstairs, and I'm fairly certain that he is in our 'inverted fraternity' since we met after I heard his very effeminate-sounding male "cousin" call him "Debbie Downer."

He probably thinks I'm a bit odd since I spoke to him for a moment, coming in from my car, and then I asked him where he was headed in from.

I suppose I should've asked him about OUT Magazine, since that seems to be the "Are you gay?" tongue-in-cheek question of the month.

My reporter friend Donnelly, in college, called gay people an 'inverted fraternity' when he would speak to me. I had the biggest crush on him, but everyone told me that he was straight.

Yet no one was surprised when he graduated, dumped his girlfriend and ran off to Mexico with some guy.

Or so the legend goes.

Friday, October 22, 2004

My "Grudge" against the Japanese.

OK, so the entire movie THE GRUDGE is annoyingly repetitive, unnerving and, by the end, actually quite scary.

My friend Ron and I were ready to leave it. I offered to go, but, by then, Ron and I were both kinda into the movie. But we were sitting in the center of the aisle because we didn't plan to be so rattled by it.

I recommend it, even though there were moments when I was shaking my hands at the screen in complete frustration.

Someone asked me what kind of scary it was, and I told them it was "Don't go upstairs. No, girl, don't go upstairs! Don't go up the damn stairs, girl!!!" scary.

Oh, and it kinda made me hate Japanese people and run from anyone Asian in the parking lot of the theater.

Kacoon, whom I called from my car completely freaked out, laughed and told Mike, who's half-Japanese, that "The Grudge" had turned me into a racist.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Domestic and imported.

Last night, I finally carried the "refreshments" left over from the high school reunion from my car to my refrigerator. I didn't know, at the point where I volunteered my car as a carrier, that I would actually end up the possessor of such goods, but I wrote my friend Dena to ask what she wanted me to do with the fortysomething bottles of Budweiser that we had left over.

"What do you want me to do with all this beer?" I asked her.

"Can't you drink it?" she asked me.

So I now have beer in my house. Lots and lots of beer.

I'm tempted to sing a song about all those bottles of beer, but I don't want to hurt the wallpaper in my kitchen.

Guests, if I ever have any, are going to think I'm a Bud man. This is likely a problem, as I usually only drink Bass Ale and Woodpecker Cider.

I tried the Budweiser last night, and, though it wasn't bad, it wasn't really my taste.

I'm thinking that I could use the bottles of beer to lure curious frat boys into my apartment for the next two years, but that seems uncharacteristically predatory of me. Maybe someone has a beer exchange program somewhere, or I could donate it to homeless alcoholics.

Meanwhile, I was browsing Amazon UK today to see the variety of different merchandise that we can't get in this country, and I saw that Britpop idol Robbie Williams, formerly of my ex Welsh Guy's favorite boy band Take That, has a new greatest hits album coming out in Britain. And I want it.

I thought about having it shipped, but it seems silly to pay shipping on something that I should probably be a little bit embarrassed to be buying, maybe.

But I love Robbie Williams, the earlier crossover stuff and the great swing album moreso than his last one.

Lupo once impressed me by telling me that he'd been to a Robbie Williams concert that included a moment when Robbie walked onstage wearing only a towel.

Then an idea hit me.

So I e-mailed Miss Gibson and asked her if she would mind too terribly picking it up for me and bringing it here when she sees me next month.

I figured that she and I should start some kind of low-key smuggling operation for when we make trips across the Atlantic, like when I stocked up on Girl Scout Cookies for her before my flight to see her in April.

Hopefully she won't mind getting me my Robbie fix.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Seth is my co-pilot.

This comes out on DVD next week, and I know my friend Jenipher CANNOT wait for it. She worships this show only slightly less than she worshipped 90210 when we were teens.

I'll probably get it, for I didn't watch all the episodes, though it is a good show and I'm just like that.

Besides, I love Seth. And I love how Seth is, like, completely in love with Ryan, but everybody acts like they're just friends and that they're not gay and that they're in love with Summer and Marissa. Yeah right. Seth was so hung up on Ryan that, when Ryan left the house in the season finale, he left the state on a boat without even giving Summer a second glance. When Seth cried, it was because he missed Ryan beating people up while wearing that wifebeater.

Seth loves Ryan. Ryan loves Seth. Marissa and Summer are just their beards.

I went to the store today and bought ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT's first season. I'm looking forward to it.

Macaroni and Che.

Lupo asked me yesterday, upon hearing that I saw Hennessy (just a friend who may read the site now ... hrm), "What, was Crocker unavailable?"

Lupo, evoking a name from the list of 'Guys Who Aren't Right For Me,' earned a "ME-OWWW."

My goal that night, tacky and short-sighted as it may be, was to find my own way to misbehave with my own crowd after watching all my grade-school counterparts get to do it, and it was my other goal to look hot in the suit. I did both.

I only hope that the photos reflect me at my hottest, which for others would probably only be lukewarm, but that's been difficult lately. I'm not doing portraiture well, and the people taking the photos never seem to realize it's a good idea for me to be looking directly at the camera. My friend Bonnie took one this weekend in which I was looking to the side, so it looks like my left eye has this creepy cataract in it, like I'm the Witch in a Tim Burton movie.

Went for a walk with Charlie yesterday after he worked late and wasn't in the mood for coffee. Boy does not look good in a dirty tanktop and camouflage shorts. Oh, and he's younger than me. And he just got out of a two-year relationship with a shady guy who he went through a commitment ceremony with, and he tells me that being in his apartment gives him painful, painful memories of their time together. And he smokes and talks about retail. His friends, apparently, want him in a relationship already. But I advised him to take his time before finding someone. I told him this partly because I believe it's true and partly because it annoys me when people younger than me bemoan a lost soulmate and then tell me about the soulmate's criminal record and lack of a job.

"I never met him," I told Charlie, "But I think it's safe to say you can do much better."

He told someone on the phone that I was his neighbor, when they asked him who he was talking to. Which is cool. Because I need a neighbor. And I'm still gonna clean my apartment. Maybe I'll have Charlie over for a screening of DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, and we can make DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES-inspired cuisine. Like I'll make "Susan's Burned-And-Undercooked Macaroni-and-Cheese," and he can make "Gabrielle's Paella" or something.

Oh, and Charlie told me that I looked great in my suit Saturday night.

And Travis helped me get my car last night, for Travis is a really good friend. And I'm remembering lately how good it is to have lots of those.

Last night, I saw THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES, and, though Gael Garcia Bernal sure is dreamy and looks like he's in better shape now than he was in Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN, I don't get Che Guevara hero-worship.

I mean, I understand appreciating Che's idealism and his desire for continental unity. But communism still doesn't work in practice, and is the Cuban Revolution a good thing if it involved insurgent guerrilla warfare and brought us Castro?

I called Vic up last night to discuss it, but she told me to shut up about communism and go to bed.

Monday, October 18, 2004


My ten-year reunion went very well, I think.

We had a decent turnout at the homecoming game, where I was able to recognize all but one classmate, the girl who "went with" me for one day during sixth grade. She's jarringly gained quite a bit of weight since high school, but she was still very sweet to me. It was good to see her.

The main event on Saturday was a lot of fun, for the decorations were nice, the festivities weren't out-of-control AND I was dressed so well that several people complimented me. (When I told a handful of them that I'd gotten my navy blue, pinstriped Jos. A. Bank suit secondhand from a church rummage sale in Ohio for four dollars, they were shocked. Seriously, I wore a four-dollar suit to my reunion.)

Lori-Never-Left-Her-Mother's-House, a girl who had a massive crush on me in high school, told me four times that I looked "hot." Another girl, the fundamentalist preacher's daughter-turned-wild child, kept grabbing me by my tie and pulling me toward her, putting my face into her neck, when she wasn't chasing around every camera in the room to show how hot she's become.

Vic, who showed at the reunion after I essentially badgered her with phone calls, even told me that I looked good.

Hopefully, I remembered to smile in photos, rather than awkwardly half-smiling.

The afterparty took place at a bar in Buford called 37 Main, and it was a cool bar. It was also, to my surprise, the bar that my mom and stepfather had chosen to go to on Saturday night.

So they were sitting at a table by the front door while all my classmates, the majority of whom went from mildly buzzed to sick-as-hell-drunk by the end of the night, frolicked and made fools of themselves.

So I'd mingle a bit, then I would go to my mother, and she'd give me all the good gossipy stuff that she'd seen.

"Your friend CJ is high on something, I think. And he's not allowed to smoke in here. And he stole my seat to talk to your stepfather and put his cigarette out in my iced tea."

"Melissa just got sick all over the street, and now she's laying down on the sidewalk. Isn't her husband a police officer?"

"Who was that girl who grabbed you by the tie and pulled you into her neck? Dana? Did she kiss you? Her boobs are practically hanging out."

"That girl Crystal just pulled a guy into the ladies room."

"Brooke looks like she can barely walk. She should know to take off those shoes if she's gonna drink that much."

Since I, of course, couldn't get too drunk or hit on anyone in Buford or in front of my mother, I left the reunion around midnight, called up Hennessy and met him out at a bar called Felix's - which is where I saw Charlie with glitter on his face.

And that four-dollar suit really worked well for me this weekend. It helped me look good, misbehave, have my reunion and not embarrass the hell out of myself in front of my mother.

Thank you, Church Rummage Sale!

The boy next door.

Charles from the grocery store next to my bookstore - who now wishes to be known as "Charlie" - called me on Friday night, and we're supposed to go to coffee tonight or perhaps sometime this week. He hasn't called me back since Friday.

But I saw Charlie late Saturday-early Sunday when I was out with Hennessy post-reunion.

When he called me Friday, I found out that Charlie lives in my apartment complex in the building next to mine. And he knows some of my friends and neighbors.

So I'm going to have to clean my apartment. (Charlie says he's going to have to clean his, too.)

And I'm going to have to decide if it's worth seeing him as anything other than as friends because, you know, I don't want to have to move.

While you wait.

The body shop still has my car. Come tomorrow, it will have been in the shop two weeks. The original time estimate was four days.

The insurance company tried to drive me insane on Friday. But I'm still here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004


My ten-year high school reunion is this weekend, and I'm going because I'm a volunteer worker and because I've been both helping organize it and help mock it for over a year now.

On Friday night, I'm going to the homecoming game for the first time since I graduated, for that's the first event where the class plans to gather.

I remember high school. I remember being the football team waterboy for two years. (I became a letterman as a football manager. So I got the letter, complete with a football on it, only it said MGR on my letterman jacket. Later, I lettered in academics and headed the Academic Quiz Bowl team, but nobody cared much about academics at my school.)

I remember the football team locker room and the sight of Nick Overby with his shirt off.

I remember Ms. Davis, my algebra teacher who is still my friend.

The gigantic bookbag I used to carry around. That time freshman year when I had to spend six weeks in a walker. Never having a date to the homecoming dance or anywhere else for that matter. I remember Honors English.

Vic and I were best friends then, and we were about as anti-social and sarcastic as the girls in GHOST WORLD.

I mean, I had friends, and some of my friends then are still very, very dear to me now. The ones I've wanted to keep in touch with, I've stayed in touch with.

But high school, ugh. I didn't know who I was. I was nearly psychotic toward people I wanted as friends. I hated my home life. I didn't like my town.

So this weekend, I'm going to revisit my town, my past and my old acquaintances.

The Redcoats are coming.

Miss Gibson just e-mailed me to let me know that she and CK are venturing across the pond and will be in Atlanta on November 20.

So Christmas is coming early for me this year.

I wonder how much time would be needed to arrange a ticker-tape parade. Or maybe I'll just get someone to walk up to me outside of the restaurant and offer us street art.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Oh yeah, this happened.

Oh, I asked out a guy yesterday.

His name is Charles, and he works as a department manager at Publix. Once, a couple weeks ago on my lunch break at the store, I went there to buy a yogurt and chocolate milk or whatever.

Since I only have two items, I go to the customer service desk to avoid the line. Usually, it's a good plan.

But the day I met Charles, he was waiting on a guy who wanted, like, 14 separate Cash 3 tickets. And Charles went over it with him. And over it. And over it.

And I'm waiting there, watching him mask his frustration. And I look up on the wall and see his photo - for all the manager's photos are posted.

So when he gets to me, I said, "Hey, your hair is much better now than it is in the photo. That photo really doesn't do you justice."

He smiled.

And he tells me that the photo is years old, and I say it looks about three years old.

He said that's it exactly, and I told him that I'd guessed, which I had.

So I told him I worked at Barnes & Noble and that I'm in there regularly to buy yogurt.

And as I'm walking away, he asks me his "I'm going to make sure he's gay" gateway question.

"Why don't you guys sell OUT Magazine?" Charles asks me.

"We do," I said.

"I've looked for it," he said.

"It's over in the business section, though, for some reason. If you come in the store, look for me, and I'll tell you where it is."

So last night he walked in. And I offered to show him where the mag was. But he said he'd already come in and found it, although he said I wasn't there the night he came in to look.

"You weren't working today," I said, for I'd noticed how he was dressed - and also because I'd been in his store earlier, and he wasn't there.

So I asked him what he was doing at my store. And he said he was just killing time before going home because he'd been out at a friend's birthday party.

(Uh huh. He was SO looking for me.)

So I talk to him until I get a customer. So he walks away from me toward the shelves.

And I'm starting to think, "OK, no. Maybe I shouldn't approach him."

But I wrote down my phone number anyway, carried it in my hand and approached him at the shelves.

"Sorry," I said. "I had to take that."

"I'm a store manager," he said. "I know you're working. I just didn't want to block the register. So I came over here to look at what your own staff recommendation was."

(Yeah, he was so looking for me.)

So we talked about books. And we went over to the shelves. And we talked about books and culture and DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES and other stuff.

And, seeing my own manager eye me while pushing carts by himself, I asked Charles directly if he wanted to have coffee sometime.

Charles said yes.

So I handed him my phone number.

And he said that I probably didn't have much free time because of my two jobs.

"I'll be free," I told him plainly.

Then, I said goodbye, told him to browse in music if he liked and got back to work.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Lookin' for a soul to steal.

At lunch with my father today, he and I ended up in an in-depth analysis of a song that came over the speakers at our restaurant.

"I never understood why the Devil's fiddle solo had so little actual fiddle playing in it," I said. "I mean, it's like he's not even TRYING to beat Johnny and steal his soul."

"Yeah, I never understood that either," my father said, surprising me by actually having an opinion on the matter. "I mean, I would figure that the Devil's part would be WAY more complicated than Johnny's. The Devil just sounds like he can barely play. And Johnny's sounds like it'd be easy to play - of course I don't know anything about playing the fiddle."

And we analyzed it like that for several minutes.

Like why the Devil's fiddle playing actually sounds like an electric guitar and drums, too. And why Johnny's solo actually sounds like an elaboration on the chorus of the song.

"The Devil's part can't come off as more complicated," I told my father. "I don't think the Devil would be allowed to win."

"Why not?" my dad asked me. "Why doesn't the Devil 'git Johnny's so-o-oul'?"

Good question.

"I couldn't ever figure that out," my dad said. "I mean, why can't he play fiddle better since he's the Devil? To me, the song doesn't make any sense. But then, I always thought that it was because it was a song and not supposed to make any sense."

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Me and Julio.

By the way, I've not gone into great detail about my last sexual experience lately because, well, I'm embarrassed about it.

I mean, the guy's a great friend, and nothing painful or emotionally scarring happened.

But I feel as though I was upstaged by a gigantic, Latino-tinted dildo at a point during the sex when it already felt sorta embarrassing, weird and awkward.

I've felt withdrawn ever since the whole thing happened.

I mean, at no point in my childhood, adolescence or early adulthood did I ever imagine that my sex and romantic life would become something done without emotion or deep connection - and done with giant rubber toys.

The way I now behave is completely separate from how I feel I should behave.


I was just telling Vic about how I ended up at her house tonight. My only real task for Saturday was to pick up my paycheck at my bookstore, which I did early. And the rest of the day, unfortunately, I just sorta wandered.

From my bookstore, I went to deposit my check. I made some phone calls.

I ended up at Kacoon's bookstore, trying to find her, but she wasn't there and wasn't answering her phone. I also left a message for my friend CJ, whom I haven't spoken to in months, and I tried to call Black.

So I went to the Gwinnett Barnes & Noble to see if my friend Michael O'Kelley was working there, but he was off today. There, I called Kurt on the phone, but I only spoke to him for a couple minutes.

Then, since I was heading in this direction anyway - and because the rental car drives really well, I ended up at my old bookstore, the Barnes & Noble at Mall of Georgia, where I chatted with some of my old co-workers and discovered that a new batch of my old friends have left the place.

I had lunch with Darren, my old manager, and we caught up like we always do - giving the list of people we know in common and updating it accordingly. I don't really know Darren that well. We don't have much in common, except for the bookstore.

I walked to the movie theater around 6 p.m. and bought a ticket for a sneak preview of TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE, which caused me to laugh out loud while sitting by myself in a section near the front of the theater, apart from the crowd. It's a very funny movie.

And I ended up at Vic's for another Black & White Night. (This time, we rented IN COLD BLOOD with Robert Blake and made s'mores.)

Anyway, that's what I did.

How I feel about what I did is what's bugging me. I don't feel particularly close to anyone these days. I mean, I still have my great friends and all, but they're leading lives now that don't really involve me. I don't really belong anymore.

I've not seen my father in weeks. I've separated myself from my mother and stepfather because I don't feel like that's a particularly safe place for me to be. I don't feel like I can call either of the guys I've spent nights with over the past couple months, for I fear it would be awkward - or worse that I would be bothering them or attempting to forge something emotional with them that I know isn't really there. Many of my friends I'm separated from by geography, others by circumstance. I remember, before I moved from Buford, that I used to speak to Kacoon and CJ almost every day. I don't even feel like I'm part of the trivia team anymore. Or my other blogger friends, even. Even Jonathan.

Things are different now. With my closer friends, we've progressed and managed, in the process, to separate from one another - which was bound to happen sometime.

But I don't feel rooted in the places that I've moved on to. And I don't yet feel like I belong anywhere now. It's like I'm in a transition, but I have no idea where I'm going or if there's somewhere new I need to be.

Bookstore-hopping should maybe be a warning sign to me in the future. I went to four stores, and I didn't buy one thing.

Oh, and if I have your phone number in my cell phone's memory, check your messages. I probably called you today.

Friday, October 08, 2004

What's SHE doing in THAT?

Vic just called me on the phone to ask, in an exasperated tone before she even said hello, "What is PARKER POSEY doing in a USA Network cop-movie version of FRANKENSTEIN???"

"I don't know, but it's probably interesting," I said. "Anything with Parker Posey in it becomes interesting because Parker Posey's in it. I mean, she's the best thing about SCREAM 3."

"Yeah, but she's SO brilliant," Vic said. "Please tell me that this isn't the only work she can find."

"Well, she's also in the new BLADE movie, if you can believe that," I said. "She's in BLADE: TRINITY as a Vampire Queen or something."

"Oh God," Vic said.

Vic mentioned that someone like Parker Posey, who's capable of doing movies like THE HOUSE OF YES, WAITING FOR GUFFMAN and the great PERSONAL VELOCITY, deserves better than schlock horror parts. And I agree.

Posey, who can turn an otherwise fluffy film like PARTY GIRL - about a clubbing, druggy, perpetually hip socialite who is forced to work in the public library - into something great and hilarious that you MUST see if you haven't already, deserves to be a major, major star.

Seriously. Rent PERSONAL VELOCITY, HOUSE OF YES and PARTY GIRL, and then come back and tell me she doesn't deserve stardom. (Heck, she's actually better than the movie in HOUSE OF YES.)

And if brains held the same clout as looks in Hollywood, then she would be. (The thing that gets me about this is that actresses like Parker Posey, Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths are actually quite good-looking in distinctive ways, but, unfortunately, that only works on occasion in Hollywood.)

But here's the thing you've got to accept about Hollywood. Parker Posey keeps turning in great lead performances in small movies and better-than-they'd-otherwise-be supporting performances in big movies that give her a bigger paycheck. So she does the big ones so that she can continue doing the small ones.

Which also explains why someone as good as Queen Latifah is capable of doing something as bad as TAXI, though she has yet to take a lead part in a really small, independent film - which I agree with Ebert that she should do.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Conversations with my mother.

On Sunday, I was at my mother's house - the most uncomfortable place on Earth - doing laundry and then sneaking into a private room by myself to watch "Desperate Housewives."

My stepfather wanted absolute silence - other than, of course, when he spoke about how he's afraid his aching back means he has meningitis or how pissed he was that "60 Minutes" pre-empted "Cold Case" and ruined his whole night, so I retreated.

Of course, when my stepfather went to bed, I went back downstairs, where my mother helped me finish my laundry.

And, for some reason, I started to vent to her about how I didn't like my job, how I didn't like the direction my life was going, how unhappy I was and how I never date.

She told me the usual, like "You need to change medication. That therapist has you on the wrong pills."

Or the classic "Only you can change your situation for you. I've told you and told you that you should go into sales. But you don't listen to me."

I'm not saying she's not right. I'm just saying that she's my mother, so I take that detail into consideration whenever I listen to her.

For years, she's been trying to get me to read Norman Vincent Peale's "How to Win Friends and Influence People" for instance.

"Benjie, people pay $3,000 to attend one of those conferences, and your dad went to one of them, his company paid for it," she said.

"Mom, have you met Dad???" I asked incredulously. "Is he someone who I should model myself after socially?"

My mom laughed.

My mom's favorite thing for me to say is "Maybe you should try women." I don't know whether she thinks she's being funny or not, but it's getting goddamn annoying. I just wish that she was consistently supportive, rather than being generally supportive but holding out that last gleam of heterosexual hope.

Something about it offends me. It seems disrespectful for her to say that.

I told her Sunday night that women weren't an option and that men were frequently frustrating.

"Well, will you end up with anyone, then?" my mom asked me.

"I'll become a confirmed bachelor with calloused hands," I said.

"Why would you have callou --" my mother started to ask me.

Then she started to laugh. Out loud.

"There are things you just shouldn't tell me," my mother said. "Even if they're true."

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Why gay men don't drive minivans.

For those of you who don't remember, I got into a car accident in late August that wasn't my fault. The Buckhead mom in her SUV was backing up in my store's parking lot to give an exiting car more room, and she didn't see me. So my Saturn's hood is all dented. And my lights are misaligned. And one of them doesn't work (which may be due to the burned-out bulb in it more than the accident itself).

So I've been looking for body shops all this time, moreso because it's a hassle than anything else. And Ron gave me the phone number for one - in Duluth - he's used before that has a rental car office nearby, so I made an appointment to bring in my banged-up, basically worthless Saturn for repair.

The Buckhead mom's insurance is paying for everything, of course. Even the rental car. (Of course, getting them to give the OK on that one took all day yesterday, but they did give their OK.)

So I dropped my car off at the body shop on my lunch break, going later than usual because my supervisors weren't in the office today. And the body shop called Enterprise Rent-A-Car to come pick me up.

I filled out the paperwork before they told me that they had a pickup truck or a minivan that I could select as my replacement car for, hopefully, the next four days of driving.

"Don't you have any sedans?" I asked the clerk. "I'm used to driving a smaller car."

"Nope," he said, "this is what's here right now. You can go look at them if you would like. I'll show you some of their features."

So he walks me to the pickup truck, telling me that it was a bit wider than the car I was used to driving.

"Of course, living in Buckhead, you'll be able to load up all your friends into the back of this baby's bed here if you want," he said. "Then you guys can really hit the town."

I pictured myself for a moment in the pickup truck.

And I thought, "Wait, I'm not butch or a lesbian."

And the rental guy tossed the keys to the minivan into my limp-wristed hands.

Reminding myself of Buckhead Mom's SUV - and of the reason I'm in this situation, the first thing I did in the van was adjust my mirrors and seat to assure that I can see behind me.

Damn, I hated that minivan. Just in that moment.

It reminded me of the U-Haul truck I tried to drive a year ago and how, because it was so big, I was afraid of crushing other cars like bugs beneath me.

"Usually, we don't rent out cars on 'Empty,'" the rental guy said, smiling. "But unfortunately, you've got 26 miles on this before you're out of gas. Luckily, there's a QT just down the street, less than a mile, so you should make it."

I smirked.

But I did make it there. And I left the QT and got to the intersection of Pleasant Hill and Satellite (less than a mile from the rental agency).

I was stopped at the intersection, wondering if I was going to be able to drive this damn minivan.

Suddenly, a sports car attempted to brake behind me but didn't, bumping the back of the new rental car.

"I can't believe this ... I can't believe this," I said to myself. Then, pulling into a parking lot with the other driver, I repeated the same sentiment.

So, checking to see that everything was basically all right except for a small impression on the van's bumper, I called Enterprise.

"Hello, I'm Benjamin, and I just left there 10 minutes ago ... Somebody just hit me in the van."

After asking me if I was kidding, the rental agent told me that I'd need to file a police report, which I knew, and a claim with my insurance company.

So I called 911, and a patrol car was dispatched to my location. And the officer told me that there was really negligible damage, and he told me that a cleaning solution would fix the damage to the van's bumper.

But I got him to write a report, and I called my insurance company. And I got the girl's insurance information.

And I headed back to the rental agency, where I was alternating between incredible frustration and tremendous amusement.

I called my office and tried to explain why my lunch break was taking three hours.

And then I went back to Enterprise and tried to explain the mild fender bender while my mood alternated madly between intense frustration and incredible amusement.

"I can't believe this ... I can't believe this," I kept saying to myself, holding my head in my hands while calling every number in my cell phone memory that I thought might find it funny.

The new rental agent kept staring at me while I did this, waiting for them to bring me a Grand Am that was turned in after I left them. (So now I'm in a sedan.)

"Are you all right?" she asked me.

"Yeah, I'm just a drama queen," I said. "And this is, like, the dumbest situation I've ever been in ... EVER."

The furrowed brow.

I found a photo of my favorite journalism prof, so now you can see what the fuss is all about.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Black & White Night.

I'm over at Vic's house now. We're doing something (or we were doing something until I started typing) that we used to do in high school.

We nicknamed it Black & White Night, but really it was just what we used to do when we went to the video store to pick out some random, old movie and load up on junk food at her house.

When I got here, "Witness for the Prosecution," which I got Vic for her birthday because we both fell in love with the ending and with Marlene Dietrich when we were teens, was already playing on TV.

Vic's grandmother and nephew watched that one with us, and neither one of them really guessed the ending.

That ending, if you haven't seen it, is one of the best ever.

After Vic's grandmother went to sleep, Vic put "Carrie" into the DVD player - even though we both acknowledged beforehand that it was neither black-and-white or that old of a movie.

It's funny that, even though I'd never seen it and only read half the book, I've heard enough about that movie to not be surprised at all by it. (OK, maybe I jumped a little during that final shot, even though I knew what was coming.)

We enjoyed it.

Now I'm typing while Vic watches some Cantonese horror film called "Inner Senses." Every time I look over my shoulder, something absolutely grotesque and shocking occurs onscreen.

I turn my head, and it's women with slashed wrists in swimming pools. I turn again, and it's bloodied, dead children - with what appear to be the worst cataracts ever - screaming obscenities in Cantonese.

Vic, sitting on the couch, is downing Diet Coke and grinning, even though she's obviously freaked out.

Oh God, she just asked me what I'm looking at her for.

I should stop typing.

Making the most of Game Day.

Without really intending to, I spent the day in Athens during the Bulldogs-LSU football game. I didn't actually go to the football game. (I didn't even intend to go to the game since I wasn't wearing home team colors when I left my apartment.) I was all around campus when the home team was completely kicking LSU's ass.

My main intention for being there was to meet Black, my friend that I've been speaking to about once a week but had never met before today.

I was nervous. I was nervous on the way there. I was nervous when I reached campus while tailgating was in full swing. I was nervous when I had to park in the lot of some condos and walk for about a mile-and-a-half to reach Phi Kappa Hall, thinking that I was going to narrowly miss actually seeing Black.

So when I got there and several people I knew were standing in front of the brick building, I just looked around and tried to see Black, which was funny since I only had a vague idea of what he looked like from photos taken at an angle.

I was standing with my friend Pam, who reads the blog and knew who I was waiting for, thinking that I'd missed him when she called out to a guy on the sidewalk.

"There he is!" she shouted. "Bro. Black!!!"

And then he walked up. And he said hello to Pam. And I stood there, with Black in front of me, and I blushed. I can't believe it. I think he saw it. But I blushed. Because he was there, standing in front of me, and I had never met him before even though I'd heard about him and wanted to meet him for over a year now.

He was cute. Bigger than I expected. (Of course, I never imagine the proportions of people I speak to on the phone.) His eyes are what I thought they'd be. And he seemed kinda happy to see me.

But I didn't know what to talk about, so I didn't end up talking about much. He shook my hand. I wanted to hug him. But he shook my hand, and that was probably more appropriate anyway, and I didn't even think about saying, "Hey, mind if I hug you?," because that would probably sound silly.

I introduced Black, with Pam's help, to all the other people in front of the Hall.

But I wanted to get him alone. And talk to him. Really talk.

On the phone, we talk about philosophy. About the direction we want in life. We talk about love. And sex. About women and how maddening they can be. We talk about work, about where we expected to be by now.

But he was with a friend Cheree, and we only had a half hour before the game. So I walked with he and his friend to the game.

Cheree's a doctor, and, given my impression, she's great. And it turned out that I'd met her before. Because she was either my orientation leader when I was a freshman 10 years ago. Or she was one of the orientation leaders I met when I was a freshman.

I probably spoke more to Cheree than to Black. Because, I don't know, there wasn't time, and she was someone new. And I was nervous about him. But not about her. There weren't stakes with her.

Thinking back on it, how little time I had with him, I probably should've spoken to him more. I feared that I was going to sound like I was trying too hard to be clever, whatever sense that makes.

So the three of us walked down campus, and we commented on what we saw. We saw LSU fans dressed like pimps and heard them complain about how much it hurt to walk in heels.

We saw an LSU fan lying on the ground, the wind knocked out of him, and Cheree made a point of going toward the Dawgs fan standing over him to make sure that his bloody knuckles didn't require immediate medical attention.

We saw my friend Doug, who was walking across campus with an entourage from my days at The Red & Black. Doug was with Kristen, who hugged me.

We were walking past the J-School when I saw my favorite professor exiting it, wearing a red shirt while on his way to the game.

"FINK!!!" I yelled at the prof with heavy, furry white eyebrows, and that startled Black and Sheree, who probably thought I was about to pick a fight.

But Prof. Fink looked at me and smiled.

"Oh my God, it's been a long time since I've seen you," Fink said to me.

I last saw him in 1998 when, during my graduation, Fink announced my full name and then said "OTHERWISE KNOWN AS BENJIE!!!!" to the crowd before handing me my $30,000 J-School keychain (for the diploma arrived later).

Fink asked me what I was doing.

I told him that I was still working for McGraw-Hill in Atlanta. And I told him that I felt like a sellout, which I realized immediately was not the thing to say.

So I rebounded and told him about my column in the Guardian, which pleased him more. Then I mentioned Miss Gibson, who graduated with me, because she's also a favorite of his AND she has a better overall resume than I do.

I told him that she became a British citizen this week.

And we spoke a bit more before he headed to the game, which struck me as funny because I never pictured the legendary Fink - with his slicked-back hair and trademark smartass smirk - to be a football fan.

"That guy had some freaky eyebrows," Black said to me.

"That's Fink," I said.

"Yeah, I think you or Carrie have mentioned him before," Black said.

And Black and Cheree parted company with me just after the J-School. Cheree gave me a Coke because they didn't allow outside drinks in the stadium. And Black told me that we should hang out properly some weekend.

Leaving him, I went to the UGA tent sale at Tate Plaza and bought myself a UGA T-shirt so that I could walk around campus without getting lynched for wearing the wrong colors.

Sitting in the top floor of Tate Student Center for about a half hour, I realized that I'd probably set foot in that exact same place in the exact same building 10 years ago to the day. And that struck me as kinda cool and kinda sad because there's no way to experience that feeling without feeling old.

I ended up in the University Bookstore, where I browsed through Graham Greene. (Even though I work in a bookstore, I always end up loitering in bookstores on my days off. You'd think that much exposure would curb my love for the places, but it doesn't.)

I walked through the Founder's Garden, where I remembered being attacked by mosquitos 10 years ago after my first boyfriend Tom practically stripped me naked while we aggressively made out on the grass. The Founder's Garden is meant to be so pretty and peaceful that I almost hate that my clearest memory of it involves being half-naked with an ex-soldier on the sod.

Strolling through downtown, I discovered how many more of my favorite restaurants and stores have shut their doors. I was most upset this time by the apparent disappearance of Rocky's Pizzeria, which was my favorite place to eat with Welsh Guy - because he liked the amount of ice they put in the Cokes.

I didn't even look at the former R&B offices, which now house a Pita Pit restaurant.

After the game, Pam had told us that some Phi Kappa alums were meeting in front of the Hall again and getting something to eat. Black said he'd be there but wasn't. So I ended up hanging out with other characters from my past, talking the election and having Buffalo chicken tenders.

The night ended when Pam drove me back to my car, which was five minutes outside of bumfuck nowhere. We talked about Kurosawa and how cool she is because Pam, to be honest, knows what's new and cool at least five minutes before everybody else does.

I actually had made plans to do a lot of things on Saturday, not just see Black in Athens.

But that was satisfying. That was great. That was enough.

Friday, October 01, 2004

This may just become my favorite show ever.

In case you didn't hear me when I started talking about this show months and months ago, the nighttime soap "Desperate Housewives" premieres on ABC Sunday at 9 p.m. EST.

It's got Teri Hatcher from "Lois & Clark," Nicollette Sheridan from "Knots Landing," my favorite Marcia Cross from "Melrose Place," Eva Longoria from "The Young & The Restless," Brenda Strong from "Everwood" and the brilliant Felicity Huffman from "Sports Night" in it.

And it's got my beloved Jesse Metcalfe, who was Miguel on "Passions," in it as a teenage gardener who's frequently shirtless and sweating.

All indications tell me that this is going to be really, really good. In a bad kind of way.

Jenipher's imaginary debate party.

Jenipher and I spoke on the phone yesterday, and she asked me if I was going to watch the first presidential debate because her father insisted that we all catch "the most important political event of our time, one that will shape the future."

Jenipher said that she'd only wished she had time to arrange a dinner party for the whole thing. But I see that not having any actual guests or an actual party didn't stop her imagination.

She wrote this:

Did you watch the debates? My Debate Party was awesome! I took my cue from the foreign policy agenda and all our guests dressed up as their favorite world leader. I served a great Taliban Potato Salad with WMD BLTs and had this drink that when you added ice, it had a kind of fog/mist effect to represent the chemical gassing inflicted by Saddam Hussein on his people. It was really festive.

As for the debate, I did watch it, and I thought it was great TV. Both candidates were occasionally vicious toward one another, and they were, I thought, clearly divided on the issues regarding Iraq and the "war on terror" that the kids are so keen on these days.

I know it was a foreign policy debate and all, but Bush mentioned Iraq's election so much that I thought he might actually be running for president of that nation instead of ours.

The integrity gap thing.

I've lost my voice. Not literally. But I've lost my ability to speak for myself in my writing. I don't know what my direction is or where my ambition went or how to get it back.

But I will get it back. It's not gone for good.

I reread some of my blog posts from London, and I recognize my voice in those entries, which are fun and focused. I've had friends call me "charming," "engaging" and even "amazing" this week.

I don't get why I slept with my friend last week when I only sorta half wanted to do so. I don't know if that sort of action is going to lead me anywhere near where I want to be with my relationships or in my life.

But I'm trying not to "think about it" too much since that's, according to lots of people, my very problem.

I tried to update my resume last weekend only to discover that I'd already done so about a month ago. But the resume, as it stands, is really, really boring. It uses, and I don't know why this bothers me, a template that makes me seem tired, same-old.

I need to inject my life with energy, fun stories, fun happenings.

Ron and I went to a sneak preview of "Ray" this week, and that was really good. And he and I, when we stand in the line at Phipps Plaza to get into the screenings, now entertain ourselves in the meantime by getting milkshakes from Johnny Rocket's. I get a chocolate malt because I'm old-fashioned when it comes to dessert. Ron gets a chocolate-peanut butter milkshake, which he says is divine.

Edmondson is still trying to find out a way to break ties with his ex-girlfriend, but she ends up calling him again everytime he stops things with her. I told him that he may just like the drama of it. It gives him something to talk about. Because they broke up four months ago, and there's still a new story from them every week.

Miss Gibson - who is now a naturalized British citizen and I've already proposed to her, thank you very much - writes from London she enjoyed her weekend in Paris, that her mum's visit has gone well - mostly - but that they both have bad colds now and that she and CK have reached "I love you" stage in their relationship. This is good. (Although I did have to pick on her for use of the word 'mum' because Miss Gibson and her mother Mrs. Gibson have Ohio roots.)

Black is due in town tomorrow to attend the Georgia game. He and I are going to coordinate our first meeting, finally, after many tries - including the time that I up and took a 2 a.m. road trip to Birmingham only to sleep in a fleabag motel and drive immediately back.

Lately, I've tried reading "A Fan's Notes" by Frederick Exley, but it makes me doubt my abilities as a reader of complicated prose. I don't know if I can do it.

My high school reunion is October 15-16. So I've been taking Metabolife, even though it's bad for me.


See what I mean? I've lost my voice. I fear this reads like a laundry list.

I'll get it back. I'll get it back.