Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Dammit, I shutter the blog, thinking that nothing could possibly bring me back to it, and what happens?

Robert Altman dies. The great Robert Altman. The daring, complicated, brilliant filmmaker. The director of one of my favorite movies. The director that I've mentioned countless times on this blog. The director who, even when he made horrible movies, usually kept them interesting.

This is a guy I wanted to meet. This is a guy I've wanted to meet since I first saw THE PLAYER in the theater 15 years ago.

The Academy gave him an honorary Oscar this year, probably thinking that he'd never live long enough to actually win one (even though he had been nominated several times).

With that Emilio Estevez-directed, "group of people's stories converge upon a political assassination" movie BOBBY coming up, I thought I would warm myself up to it by watching NASHVILLE again.

Now I have another reason.

Some of you wouldn't like Altman movies if you watched them. They required open-minded attention, a willingness to let characters talk over one another, less of a reliance upon plot or a story with clear payoffs.

I really loved this year's A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION, for instance, but I also saw why lots of people would hate it. Thus, I don't recommend it to everyone who comes into my bookstore wholeheartedly.

"Meryl Streep's really good in it, and it's got some great music and performances," I tell people. "But you've got to prepare yourself for an ending that will leave you confused and maybe disappointed."

Certain actors were devoted to Altman, for he let them improvise, build their characters through nuance, and he wasn't afraid of showing the characters' lives as jumbled or messy.

Robert Altman could make a damn good movie. He created a signature style. Even the English, period-costumed murder mystery was distinctly his.

I've always been a fan of framework narratives, so maybe that's why I liked Altman. I liked the idea that, in narrative works, there could be a dozen stories going on at once that related to one another, yet no one but the audience could see the connections.

It's what I kinda hoped that life was really like. We all have our own stories going on, and all the lessons we need to learn are out there, just out of reach, waiting for us to see them. The people we greet, the guy who cuts us off in traffic, the girl in the toll booth all have stories both like our own and completely unlike ours. The lesson may be there if we look at them long enough. Or maybe the lesson is that we're all flawed. Or maybe there's no lesson.

I should write.

I didn't get to meet Altman. I wanted to meet him.

Monday, November 13, 2006

It says nothing to me about my life.

My friend Kurt, who worships The Smiths, used to write vague statements on his blog when he couldn't think of anything else to say. I'm tired of staring at the same page on my blog, but I honestly don't know what I should write you all next. And I'm not sure I want to write much on this anymore. Frankly, the blog just doesn't do it for me anymore.

So I thought I would write you one of those vague statements.

I'm not dead.
I'm not sad.
I'm not in trouble.
I don't need encouragement.
I don't need comfort.
Nobody did anything to me.
I'm just not here.
Not now.

I've left the blog before.
I left when I wanted to concentrate on other writing.
I left when I wanted to focus on a boyfriend.
I left when I just didn't want to hear from someone.
Now it just feels like something I don't do anymore.
Maybe I'm just not as interesting as I used to be or as nice or as open or as happy or as funny or as extroverted or as egotistical or as apologetic or as showy or as social or as wounded or as crazy or as young.
Maybe I've just forgotten the rules of grammar.

Now, no one entry feels like it would be big enough or good enough.
I can't just say I'm reading this book or that I enjoyed this movie anymore.
It just doesn't feel like enough.
As for my writing, I want it to be more than this.

I'm fine.
I'm good.
Thanks for reading.
Thanks for three years.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Darkly dreaming.

A guy doing promotional work for Showtime e-mailed me a couple days ago, and he sent me a link to the unaired pilot for their new show DEXTER and asked me to review it for free on my blog to generate buzz for the show.

I wanted to watch the show because I read Jeff Lindsay's DARKLY DREAMING DEXTER, which was a pretty good book with a really great main character, so I didn't tell him that my blog is kaput. I figured that - what the heck - I'd watch the show and review it.

And so it goes that I watched the first episode of DEXTER, a Miami-based forensic crime drama starring SIX FEET UNDER's Michael C. Hall as Dexter, a charming, likable, sarcastic blood-splatter expert for the police. The twist of the show is that Dexter, whom the other characters notice has a keen sense for a killer's motivation, is actually an emotionless, psychologically damaged serial killer himself.

Of course, Dexter only slaughters other serial killers that the police can't seem to catch and is obsessed with cleanliness and attention-to-detail, so that makes him the sort of mass murderer you can root for. As Dexter states in the pilot, Miami only has a 20-percent arrest rate on its homicide cases, so it's pretty much an ideal place for him to work unnoticed.

The plot of the pilot focuses on a string of prostitute killings, much like the plot of the first book in the series does. The prostitute murders intrigue Dexter because the killer is precise and the crime scenes are bloodless. If the show's plot follows the first book's plot, and it looks like it will, the prostitute killer will eventually become as obsessed with Dexter's killings as Dexter is with his. If the identity of the prostitute killer remains the same, I hope the show fleshes it out more, though. I thought the book's ending and the solution to the key mystery of the first book was a bit implausible.

But the pilot for DEXTER is strong in establishing tone and character, which is the best that you can really hope for, and Hall - who wouldn't have been my first choice to play the role - is actually excellent as Dexter. His layered performance allows the audience to see how much of Dexter's life involves faked emotions, feigned sexual desire and empty warmth. The only thing that truly excites him is killing, which is how the character should be.

Also good in the pilot is former BUFFY and ANGEL star Julie Benz, who plays Dexter's "girlfriend" Rita. Rita, a survivor of a sexually-abusive marriage who appreciates how Dexter doesn't pressure her in such ways but has little understanding of why. As the show continues, Benz has an opportunity to really, really flesh out Rita in a way the first book of the series couldn't.

There's a second DEXTER book that I've not read yet, and the pilot episode made me want to pick it up. And it was good enough to blog about.

That's the strongest praise I can offer. DEXTER was worth reading, and DEXTER is worth watching.

The pilot airs on Showtime tonight at 10 and is available all this week.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


OK, I'm going to devote myself to other projects and such. I think it's time to shutter the blog, which I've not really been touching lately, anyway.

I'll still have a web presence. But, for right now, I have to find something to write besides this website.

(Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind.)

But it's been three years, and this site has accomplished a lot for me. I've met a lot of cool people because of it. It's caused me some fun, some trouble, some notoreity.

And now it's time for me to go.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Meeting me changes people's lives.

Last year, I met actor Leslie Jordan at a screening of SORDID LIVES, and I talked to him for a couple minutes about how much I enjoyed his ads with the shoplifting dog on Paramount's previously-viewed videocassettes from the early '90s.

This week, he won the Emmy for outstanding guest actor in a comedy series. It's his first Emmy, and he'll be presenting an award with Cloris Leachman on the Emmy telecast this month.

No me, no Emmy. Then, he meets me and wins one.


Quick, someone rub my belly for luck.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

True but sad.

Vic complained to me on the phone a couple weeks ago that she never really gets to meet the men I see.

"The only time you ever introduce them to me, they're already on the way out," she said. "It's usually a few days before you dump them."

"Look," I said, "I can't help it if you meet them during the second week!"

Saturday, August 19, 2006


I just ordered pizza from a restaurant I've not had in a while, and the Brazilian pizza boy who showed up at my door looked like Gael Garcia Bernal.

I'm definitely switching restaurants.

Friday, August 11, 2006

My nephew.

This is Baby Dan. Or Dan Jr. Or D.J. We really don't right now what to call him. This photo was taken when he was about an hour old. My mom had us unwrap him from his blankets so that we'd be able to see his feet. Upon seeing his feet, my mom cooed. Upon seeing the Tigger on his diaper, my mom cooed. Upon seeing his arm move, she ... , well, you get the idea.

OK, so I know I'm holding the baby wrong, and he did try to let me know with this little silent cry that thankfully didn't grow into a louder one. I didn't want to be the one person who held the baby on his first day who made him cry. I did support his head, but Baby Dan's head is really big. I mean, he was a really big baby when he was born, anyway, but his head is particularly big.

This was the baby when he was only a couple hours old. He was cute. I got to whisper "Happy Birthday" to him and kiss him on the forehead. That made me happy. (Yes, I was happy. I admit it. Someone, take note of this occasion.)

I went to the hospital tonight to maybe see him again, but he's in the NICU on an IV because his blood-sugar levels were all crazy after the first night. He couldn't keep down the formula he was drinking, which startled everyone.

Last I heard, though, he was able to keep down the soy formula they gave him this afternoon, so they might be able to wean him off the IV over the weekend.

Still, this whole IV thing has led me to distraction. I want the baby with his parents. I want the baby eating. I want to learn how to properly hold him. I want to figure out what we should nickname him.

I'm thinking D.J., but it's still up in the air.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Uncle Ben.

My brother Dan and his wife Samantha had a baby boy, which they've named Dan Jr., at 10:04 p.m. on August 9, 2006.

He weighed 9 pounds, 6 ounces, and is 21 inches long.

Samantha's doing well. The baby is ridiculously cute. (Expect photos soon. My mom took dozens.)

We passed the baby around the room when we got to see him. I had to sit down to hold him, for I was too scared to do it while standing.

My dad says holding a new baby, no matter how often you do it, always scares him.

"I know they're not really fragile, but they just seem like they should be," he said.

As we left the hospital, my dad called me "Uncle Benjie" as he stepped into his car. The name led me to think about long grain wild rice.

"Good night, Grandpa," I said to him as he closed the car door.

In the driver's seat, Dad thought about that for a second, rolled down the window, then looked at me and said, "Well, that just sounds weird."

"I know," I said.

"I suppose it's technically true now," Dad said. "But that just sounds weird."

"Well, he doesn't have to call you that," I said. "You can pick whatever you want him to call you."

"Yeah, I guess," Dad said, though the name wasn't what unsettled him. It was the distinction.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Life is a four-letter word.

On Sunday night, either because random trouble just has to interrupt
fun plans sometimes or because fate really didn't want me to see JOHN
TUCKER MUST DIE, my beloved disaster of a '96 Saturn refused to start.
I turned the key. The engine revved and revved with intention, but it
never turned over. The trouble didn't appear to be the battery. The
lights worked, and the radio was fine. The caution lights were up and
bright. And, most importantly, the ignition chugged and chugged when I
turned the key. It didn't just cough once when the key was turned and
then, drained, abandon all effort.

I kept at it for about 15 minutes, trying to inspire my impotent sedan
to start its engine so that I could indulge in a really bad movie, but
the Saturn was having none of that. It'd already done its job for the
day, getting me to and from work at the bookstore, and it wanted to

So I left it, and I went back inside to my apartment. The choices I'd
have to make about the car were already echoing in my head, even
though I wanted to avoid them if possible. But, because the trouble
had already hit and my only real option was to respond to it, I called
the supervisor at my office and told her voicemail that whatever car
trouble I was having was going to be addressed first thing in the
morning. I thought about repair costs and if I'd be able to get the
money. I thought about whether the car would start in the morning or
if I was going to need AAA to tow me. I thought about whether AAA
would tow my car to my favorite mechanic, who is 45 minutes away, or
if I should get it done somewhere in the city, where they'd charge me
double. I thought about whether my office boss would be upset over my
audacity. I mean, how dare I have car trouble a mere five months after
my last car trouble?

Then, faced with wasting a weekend evening on stresses I could do
nothing about, I decided to withdraw. I did nothing that had anything
to do with my car and enjoyed the time that I had. I read Scott
Smith's THE RUINS until I fell asleep, knowing instinctively that I
would sleep soundly until the worry about the car - and not any alarm
- woke me up.

This, of course, happened at 6 a.m. on Monday. But, when I woke up, I
decided I still didn't want to deal with the car that might or might
not start. I went back to sleep and woke up again around 8. I still
didn't want to deal with the car thing, so I picked up my book and
read it. At that point, I only had 50 pages left, and I've not really
had time to devote any uninterrupted attention to it in a week. So I
read it until I was done.

I didn't want to have to deal with paying too much to get the car I
don't like and don't really want fixed so that I can go to the job I
don't enjoy and don't really want. It was petulant, childish and
irresponsible of me to lay there and read my book, but that is what I
wanted to do. I was in no real hurry to "stress out," "face the facts"
or whatever cliche suggests that I embrace my usually mature, mundane

At 9:23 a.m., I finished the book, and I was eight minutes late for
work. And I enjoyed that. Those eight minutes of "wasted time" made my
whole day, suggested that I somehow still had control of who I am or
where I'm supposed to be. (I realize, consciously, that I could break
away from the confines of my mundane existence at any point so long as
I'm willing to really risk losing my apartment or my financial
well-being. I'm not yet brave enough to live out of bounds.)

So I took a shower, then called my mom and told her, for no real
reason, what was going on with my car. I don't need her input or her
OK before proceeding, and I understand that. Still, it feels more
responsible if I fill her in. She has a genius way of guilt-tripping
me into better behavior. She usually comes up with some ridiculous
doozy that suggests, if I don't act immediately to fix the problem I
don't want to face, either I'll cause something disastrous or miss
something major.

She didn't disappoint.

"Benjie, you need to get your car fixed," she said. "If you don't,
you'll miss the birth of your brother's baby. It's coming in the next
couple weeks, and you need to be able to drive to the hospital."

"You don't think somebody will pick me up for that?" I asked her.

"You need to see if your car will start," she said, ignoring me.
"You're just wasting time for no reason."

"But I don't want to deal with the damn thing now."

"Well, too bad," she said. "That's life."

Later, after my car started and I'd dropped it at the shop, my mom
told me that I had to get a rental car, even though the rental car
agency is filled with rude employees and takes $250 away from your
bank account while you have their car.

"I could just not go to work today," I offered.

"What?" she asked. "You're just going to stay stranded at the strip
mall until I can come get you? Don't waste my time."

It turned out that I'm not allowed to rent a car because my debit card
was damaged last week and I had only a temporary replacement.

The rental car agent, upon telling me it was impossible while still
giving me a ride to his office, tried to cheer me up, though. He even
told me that I had to realize God only gave me bad times with my life
so that I'd become a stronger survivor and witness to His glory.

"Really?" I asked the guy. "The only thing I know about car trouble is
that it never really ends as long as you have a car. The only thing
certain about a car is that, no matter how often you take it to the
shop, it will eventually break again. And, when it finally breaks
forever, then you get another car that will also eventually break."

The rental car agent just glared at me.

"I don't trust anyone who tells me God's just trying to make me
stronger," I said. "I have cerebral palsy. If you tell me that I'm
afflicted because it'll help me get to Heaven or help me guide someone
else, I'm afraid to tell you that I'd rather God just spare me the
affliction and let me go to Hell. Can't be much worse than this,

I'm glass-half-empty.

The car agent dropped me at the curb. I told him that I'd see him in
his office if I was able to work things out about my debit card.

I called my dad and asked him if he had a credit card with $250 worth
of space on it so that I could get a rental car.

Dad did me one better. He offered to come pick me up and drive me to work.

I waited for him in a Dollar Tree at the strip mall. They were playing
Christian music on the overhead speakers, and I tried not to spend my
time seeking out irony in the lyrics.

I picked up a book there called IN SEARCH OF DEEP THROAT. The
nonfiction piece, exploring one of the "greatest mysteries of our
time," was written three years ago, so I looked first in its index for
any mentions of "Felt, W. Mark." There were six. The first mention of
Felt talked about Carl Bernstein's son giving away the secret to a kid
at summer camp when he was 6. At the time, Bernstein dismissed the
revelation as hogwash, something his son had made up. The author of
the book I was reading concluded that Felt could not, in any way, be
Deep Throat on the third page of the story. I smiled and put down the

Outside the store, where I stood to wait for my dad, the lady who
managed the Dollar Tree was outside puffing nervously on her Virginia
Slim. I told her about the Deep Throat book. She apologized to me
about their lack of quality stock. I told her that it didn't matter to
me, but she thought I was defaming the character of Dollar Tree. She
finished her cigarette in a hurry, then told me to come back inside if
I wanted to enjoy the air conditioning.

My dad arrived a couple minutes later, and he drove me to my office.
On the way, he talked to me about the little annoyances that fill our
days. He talked to me about the nine air-conditioning repairmen he's
had at his house in the last year and how they can never manage to get
their brand new system to work to my stepmother's exacting

"I have lost so many days, and I've wasted so much time just having to
deal with this bullshit," he said. "She has me call the repairman,
then the repairman comes and makes a suggestion about how to fix it.
Then, she decides, upon hearing the repairman's suggestion, that he's
an idiot who doesn't know what he's talking about. So she has me call
another repairman. And I have to miss work again. So I told her today
that I no longer give a shit and that, if she wants the damn air
conditioning fixed, she can sit around and wait for the repairmen

My dad uses foul language. My mother doesn't. I think it makes my
father seem more genuine than my mother, even though that might not be
exactly the case.

I told him about how I finished a book before dealing with my car. I
told him that, when I had to stop at a gas station, I was amused by
the fact that General Public's "Tenderness" - which is my favorite
'80s New Wave song - was playing on the speakers. It felt silly when
it happened, but I was actually so much happier being in the gas
station and hearing a verse of that song than I would've been if I'd
been at work in my cube, looking at a fax or counting the minutes
until lunch.

I asked him, "It's always going to be like this, isn't it? There's
always going to be something wrong. The eight minutes you take here
and there, that's all the joy you really get."

"Basically," my dad said, then he continued to espouse more
common-sense wisdom to me than I'd heard from anyone else all day.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The unkempt one next to the hot bestselling author.

This week, I went to the Margaret Mitchell House event for Emily Giffin, even though I headed there with no time to shower or shave after leaving my office. That's why I look haggard in these photos.

This first one is Emily with her cute, nice publicist Stephen, her cute friend Mike and me.

This next one, taken by Emily, is me with her cute, nice publicist Stephen at Loco Luna. Stephen is very, very nice and fun to talk to.

For the record, I knew I looked like fresh hell. They wanted me in the photos anyway.

And I had a really good time with them.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Buckeye statement.

I went with my mother to Ohio this weekend.

Ohio's not that interesting, and, when I'm there, neither am I.

I beat my grandpa at checkers, which was impossible to do before he had a series of strokes. He's not so much himself anymore, which bums me out because he's always been a stubborn, mean, condescending, take-no-prisoners prankster. The way he'd teach you how to play a game was simple. He'd beat the hell out of you every game and badmouth you to your face until, years later, you caught on and didn't take every defeat so damn personally. (Of course, should you beat him at a game, he'd take it hard, which was fun in its own way. But he rarely lost.)

My mom used her "They may die before we're here again!" tactic for getting family members to visit elderly friends in her hometown, but I was largely immune to most of her guilt trips this time. I mean, any time you see someone, it could be the last time you see them, so you shouldn't plan your trips around potential mortality. And how rude would it be if my mom's friends knew that was why she came calling?

"Hi Doris, it's so nice to see you ... ALIVE," my mom should say.

On the first night of the visit to my mom's hometown of Paulding, which she says is the site of "a famous crop circle," I retreated with my cousin Holly and her husband to this trashy dive bar we've discovered in town. We stayed there until 1:30 a.m. playing bad songs on the jukebox ("Look, it's Nelson!") and talking about how good our relatives have become at fake-smiling and pretending to be happy.

I spent much time reading my book while aunts and uncles circled around me, talking nonsense. I had a really good conversation with a favorite uncle about playing Sudoku.

I barely had a moment alone with my mother, which upset me a bit, for this was the first year in a long time where we travelled someplace alone. (My brother's wife is giving birth in two weeks, so they couldn't come with us. And they couldn't do their usual schtick of smuggling their small dog on the plane.)

On the flight home, my mom ended up in a conversation with the woman sitting next to us on the plane. She talked to that woman more than she talked to me the entire trip. I listened some, getting jealous, for it was that stranger who got to hear how my mother really felt about watching her father's health get worse. It was that stranger who got to hear how genuinely excited she was about the new baby coming. It was that stranger who got to hear about how I was, in my mother's words, "an eccentric" who writes funny essays about Waffle House and read them at pop culture conferences.

The strange lady was equally as confessional to my mom. They talked the whole flight about how her 18-year-old daughter's car was hit by a drunk driver. The stranger was also in Ohio visiting her sick father. Her 15-year-old son, apparently, has been experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

I became involved in the conversation only after the woman asked my mom if she'd ever tried marijuana. Mom said no. She said she'd been around some people using it at parties a couple times, but she had never indulged.

So, because I enjoyed being included in their conversation after hearing it for an hour while trying to read, I told this strange woman and my mother the truth about my experience with the demon weed.

"I have several friends who do it, but I never have," I said. "One of my friends said that it would probably go badly for me, for I'm already a complete paranoid, so he told me never to do it outside of an extremely controlled environment."

My mom laughed. The stranger first wanted to know why I was a paranoid eccentric, and I wasn't able to answer her.

Then, she asked me, "Do I see a wedding ring?"

"No, I'm gay," I said quickly. (I already knew that this woman had gay friends and worked at Starbucks, based on what she'd told my mother.)

I don't think my mom even flinched, though that's the first time I've just told some stranger in front of her. For once, I wasn't trying to push my mom's buttons. I was just answering the woman's question. "Gay" speaks more volumes than "eccentric," I thought.

"Do you have a partner or boyfriend?" the woman asked.

"Nope," I said, "I've not had any luck there."

At this, my mom piped up and said, like she was bragging, "Benjie went to his best friend's wedding a couple weeks ago in Massachusetts. His name's Lupo, and he's a film professor. He's really nice. And his partner - or husband - got a master's degree in furniture design from SCAD."

This tickled me. My mom uses people as status symbols. Marriages, salaries and grandchildren are her conversational currency, and I've provided her with none of these so far. The fact that I'm single, poor and childless doesn't make her look good in conversations with strangers. If I don't have a girlfriend for her to brag about, my mom will apparently brag about any boyfriend I might have. And if I don't have a boyfriend or husband for her to brag about, she'll apparently brag about the fact that I'm close to people who do have boyfriends or husbands, as if the accomplishment were somehow also mine by proximity.

I called up Lupo after the flight and told him that he was my mom's favorite.

The more I think about the flight home, I'm less jealous about the time that stranger spent befriending my mother. After all, my mother broke the magic of their mutual confessions almost immediately after we left the plane.

"I think that lady was drunk!" my mom whispered to me.

I replied, "Well, if everything she said about her family was true, I don't blame her."

The moment couldn't last, I guess. At least my mother was open to someone about her real feelings on the trip. About her family. About me. And I got to feel close to her, by proximity.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


I found these letters among my old files. I wrote this after visiting this place called the Parliament House in Augusta. They're long and sorta explicit, but I thought you guys might find them amusing.


August 3,1999

To David, whom I will likely never see again,

I wanted to thank you for considering me atypical.

When you told me Saturday that I wasn't the sort to come to the motel, it
was exactly the sort of thing I was hoping to hear. My entire lousy week was
made better by your kisses, which were sorely needed. The oddity that
surrounded us had bothered me until I spoke to you.

You helped me understand the motel, not the sort of place I was expecting to
find ten minutes from home, and you helped me understand myself a little
better that night. You were perfect, David. If not completely beautiful in
body, your mind was one that I would've enjoyed coming across outside of the
realm of anonymous sex.

Wait, maybe not "coming across." Wrong words. Flashbacks. Not entirely bad
ones, but I'm still having a little difficulty being completely comfortable
with what I did.

You were right when you said in your suite that I assign guilt to things,
give myself huge guilt trips. I think I explained why. Guilt's not a
religious thing for me, though. I just couldn't really allow myself to
relax. Until you helped me. You and that guy whose face I couldn't see.

You seemed to think that I put my heart into things, even in places like

I didn't know that no one else would really be into talking. They should
post that rule somewhere, for I bet that I'm not the only one who didn't
understand "unwritten" policy. I mean, if it weren't for talking, I would've
gotten lost the first time I went through that maze. (Yes, I'm not stupid. I
now realize that's half the damn point. Hey, you know that I feigned more
innocence than I actually had, but it takes me a little bit to come to grips
with it.)

I'm trying to be funny. I'm nervous. I should stop trying.

When I walked in the door, I wasn't breathing right. Ted, the guy on the
phone, told me that the "House" was a social environment, but there was no
dancing and no bar. He said he was surprised that I hadn't been partying out
there before, but I told him I live like a hermit here in Augusta. I tried
that bar here a couple times, and it just didn't work out. I mean, one guy
shit on me, and another guy stopped calling out of the blue. And the music
was bad. And I couldn't drink.

When Ted told me there was no bar, that made me feel good, for I can't drink
much anyway when I'm alone. When he said there was no dancing or loud
music, I told my telethon joke and said I was relieved. He told me it was a
"very social atmosphere" and that I should try it.

The only gay people I really know in town, who I don't try to completely
avoid, are my florist and my ex-boyfriend Greg, also a hermit. My florist Charles
told me that the motel was a good place to meet people and hang out, that
he'd been there a couple times. (He's the sweetest guy. He told me I would
like it if I went, but that was months ago. In retrospect, I probably
should've paid more mind to his leather fetish.)

That's why I called the place, for Charles told me it was nice but left out
what there was to do there. On the phone, Ted told me that it was "social."
It was geared toward meeting people, and it was relatively crowded on the

He made it sound good, really good to me. I hadn't left my apartment in two
days after a really, really bad week, so I was determined to go out and do
something in this damn soulless community. I thought I would go there, have
a drink and maybe talk with some people, see what the place was about. He
told me the place starting picking up around 10 p.m.

Then Ted told me about the $15 cover charge.

"Fifteen dollars?" I asked. "What do you have there to merit that?"

"Well, we're a resort," Ted said. "The $15 is a day pass. It allows for full use of the facilities."

"Oh OK," I said. A resort.

My ex Larry also told me months ago that I should see what the motel was
about. He'd seen an ad in Etc. Magazine, which talked about the 8-foot fence
separating the hotel from the street. I remember telling him that I didn't
want to go because I didn't have a date to get a room with. In typical Larry
fashion, he told me to go there and find one. (David, dear, I didn't have
this in mind when I talked to you.)

Anyway, when I got off the phone with Ted, who probably thought I was talky
and awkward, my curiosity was peaked. I changed clothes, like, three or four
times because I didn't know what to wear to the place. I tried on a T-shirt
and shorts, pants and a button-up shirt. I even considered sunglasses, even
though it was about 9:30 p.m.

But it was 105 degrees, and I only knew from the ad I saw that there was a
pool. I figured the shorts and T-shirt were a safe bet. (I thought about a
swimsuit for a second, but then I didn't want to take up some valuable pool
space from an actual hotel guest.)

And, after knocking on the door of my friends down the hall to see if they
wanted to go and calling around to other friends to see if a $15 cover was a
blessing or curse, I went to get gas and cash and headed over.

I've driven by the place a million times. The giant wooden fence is a little
off-putting because it looks dark and makes it seem like there's no one
there. The fact that it has a run-down Alamo motif going and no windows
doesn't discourage that.

But I drove in, not knowing where to park exactly but finding my way. And
then I went into curious but cautious mode.

The guy at the front desk, the older one with the beard and the
owl-and-marijuana tattoo, probably thought I was still in the closet. I was
acting so frantic. Every now and then, people kept coming in from the resort
area through that door with the crescent moon on it. It made me think of old
outhouses, and it didn't really add to my ease.

The thing that startled me most, though, was that sign on the desk.

"There will be a voluntary Leather demonstration at 2 a.m. in the Tower. All
interested may attend."

I think my first question to the front desk was, "You have a tower?"

Then, I think I said something like this.

"Hi, I ... uhhh... I called here and spoke to you. I was interested in
getting a day pass. I heard that it was $15. Um, leather demonstration, that
sounds interesting. Hi."

The bearded guy told me to hold on for a second, then went to get Ted, who
was very cute and had that eye twitch that made me think he kept winking,
like he was interested in my reaction or, more likely, like he had a big

I kept stammering over my words, so much so that, when I told Ted I wasn't a
closet case, he said, "Yeah right." I was serious. I was just a little
stunned over what I imagined was going on at the other side of that door. I
mean, I didn't really have all that much of an idea about what I was walking
into, even though I figured the "facilities" were probably something
clandestine. Stupid me, looking for some frame of reference, kept picturing
that masked orgy scene in "Eyes Wide Shut." I asked questions, paid the $15
day pass, the $10 membership fee. Ted was happy that I had Discover. I was,
too, but only because I did this in spite of being broke. I was too curious.

Apparently, it was out of sorts to refuse the towel, lube and locker, but I
figured I could save money by following a simple rule: Keep my shorts on.

And Ted winked. And he showed me the map. And Ted winked as he pointed out
where the pool was, where the rooms were, the place marked TV room, Laundry
Room. And he showed me a square on the map labeled "Maze." It was between
the TV room, the laundry room and the game room, which I thought were the
place's typical hotel staples.

"There's a maze here?" I asked.

"Have you not been in a maze before?" Ted asked.

"I've never done anything like this before."

"You'll have fun in there," he said. "It's difficult in the dark, though. Try not to get lost, and you should be able to find your way out."

At that point, I became more naive than I had been all evening, and I'd been
pretty naive all evening.

I remember thinking, "Well, at least there's something for people to do if
they're not interested in having sex or taking off their clothes."

You came into the lobby while I was talking to Ted. I thought you worked
there, David. You seemed relaxed, in your extra-extra-large fireman's
T-shirt and that Carolina Panthers hat. I thought you were my age. Truth be
told, which is good because I never intend for you to see this, I didn't
really look you over much. You're not what I would like to consider my type
as being. (Clearly, you must be a little bit my type, considering. But, as I
told you, sometimes my standards lower if someone is just nice enough to pay
attention to me.)

That doctor guy who came in later, the one that everyone stared at, is what
I'd like to consider my type. But then, I think most everyone liked him,
particularly when he went parading around the pool in boxer briefs. I'm
still a little embarassed over what I said to him, even now because of how
he reacted.

At least that got me talking to you, though.

And I shouldn't worry so much about what he thought of me, if what I think
happened actually occurred.

Ted told me when I left the lobby the first time, smiling at you and talking
too much, that I should be able to find whatever it is I was looking for at
the resort.

"I don't know what I'm looking for or if I'm looking for anything, but I
think you're right," I said. "I think I might find it here."

As I walked out the door down that silly little path through the weeds, I
hope I added, "What in the hell am I doing here?"

I'll be more specific later, I guess. Now, I should go to sleep. I have to
be at work early.



Friday, July 21, 2006

Things to do with the summer's hot reads.

- This week, I read an article that said there's not yet been a breakout hit, top-of-the-bestseller-lists summer beach read yet. Supposedly, booksellers like me are nervous because there's been no next big thing, like last year's HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE or THE HISTORIAN, to whet our appetites for the written word. (Granted, a friend of mine wrote a New York Times bestseller that's outselling John Updike's latest, so I personally think it's been a great summer for books.) Anyway, THE MEMORY KEEPER'S DAUGHTER - which I've not read - is selling consistently, in spite of a plot that sounded to me like an old soap opera. Some people think it might eventually be as big as Sue Monk Kidd's THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES, which I sell all the time to the book club yentas. Of course, my pick for this year's big summer book is Scott Smith's Mexican vacation nightmare novel, THE RUINS, which already has gotten great reviews from Stephen King and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Of course, a rave from the latter usually doesn't signify much ...) I picked it up earlier this week, and I can't wait to jump into it. I hear THE RUINS is the sort of book that grips you and must in one eight-hour sitting. My store keeps selling out of it. Expect big things.

- Now, I didn't like M. Night Shyamalan's last movie, THE VILLAGE. In fact, I fucking hated the damn thing. The only good things to come out of THE VILLAGE were Bryce Dallas Howard and the yearlong argument I had with Chris Brandon over just how much that movie sucked. Hell, I'm still angry about THE VILLAGE's bullshit ending. Today, Shyamalan's follow-up movie, LADY IN THE WATER, hits theaters, and it's apparently based upon a bedtime story he told his daughters. From what I hear, it thankfully doesn't have a twist ending. But I also hear that it sucks. Ba-a-a-ad. Sucks worse than THE VILLAGE. I mean, the fairy tale movie apparently sucks like it's the illegitimate demonspawn of GIGLI and ISHTAR. Over on Ebert's site, the guest critic calls it "a poorly written, stiffly directed, audience-insulting story-without-a-cause." Hell, even the AJC's Eleanor Ringel Gillespie gave it an F. Maybe now Night'll just go away.

- I didn't like Kevin Smith's last movie, either. But I imagine that CLERKS II, which allowed Smith to return to his roots, is a hell of a lot better than JERSEY GIRL.

- MONSTER HOUSE looks entertaining. The preview made me laugh, at least.
- I still haven't seen AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH. Every time I could've seen it, I talked my friends into watching THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, which I've now seen three times. Somebody let me know if I'm missing something by skipping the mastery of Al Gore's PowerPoint presentation altogether.
- I feel fat. I need to exercise.
- My friend (or friend-of-a-friend) Erik helped design some of the special effects for MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND. Last month at a wedding, I kept asking him how they managed to throw the live shark through a window in the trailer.

- Lots of people keep asking me to STRANGERS WITH CANDY, but I never watched the show. Would I like it, not knowing much about the show?
- About a half-hour after I arrived in Savannah last week, while Lupo and I were walking his nervous dog Mr. Jones, I tripped over a stick and banged my arm on the sidewalk. I was mostly fine, except for one bleeding scrape on my arm, but Lupo immediately jumped into "nursing mode," led me back to his house, found three bottles of Neosporin and some giant bandages and did his best to patch me up with care. After dressing my wound, Lupo said that reading the MAISIE DOBBS books had helped prepare him for my injuries. I've been walking around all week with this wicked cool bruise on my right arm. The bruise reminds me of when I was a kid, for I was always ridiculously banged up, bruised, covered in poison ivy, bitten, stung, sunburned or otherwise hurt. Thus, by the time I was 7, I avoided going outside at all. Instead of playing in the yard, I sat inside on the couch and memorized the babysitter's TV GUIDE. I wouldn't meet any kids in my neighborhood until my little brother brought them into the house for cookies and Kool-Aid. Sometimes, they'd stare at me from the kitchen while I sat in the dark, watching TV, and ask my brother who I was. Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, my bruise. Anyway, Lupo's excellent at applying bandages. THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: Did you have a good childhood or a bad one? What do you miss most about being a kid? What do you regret doing (or regret not doing) when you were younger? Would you relive your childhood if you could?

Monday, July 17, 2006

How to live.

I read an essay in the New York Times book review this week by Benjamin Kunkel, and it indirectly suggested to me that there's something really wrong with the way I write about my life, the way I think about myself and how I live my life. Of course, according to Kunkel, I am in really good company by writing about myself as the survivor of dysfunction and tragedy - which is, sadly, how I view myself or talk about myself in stories. Augusten Burroughs writes like that and manages to keep things funny and lively, and he sells books. James Frey lies like that, and his jackass self sells books, even now that his memoirs have been proven as largely false.

Kunkel says that the current influx of memoirs is about overcoming some sort of addiction, dysfunction and such. Nowadays, he says, popular memoirs only show how to survive. They don't begin to examine or give examples of how to live a fulfilled, complete life. Religious devotionals do that. Self-help books try that.

Henry David Thoreau, of course, is invoked in the essay, speaking of WALDEN as a memoir of an examined, contemplative existence. Kunkel seems to wonder why no one writes WALDEN anymore.

My friend Vic will tell you that I hate Thoreau, even though I've never read him. She once laid into me, during my journalism days, about how exposure to newspapers, media and the world outside of my own day-to-day existence was just a way of complicating my life. It gave me things to worry about, from the frivolous concerns of my neighbors to how a war between two small nations on the other side of the world might affect the price of Corn Flakes here.

"Thoreau believed in abandoning the newspaper," Vic would speak of him like he were a deity. "The outside world didn't concern him while he was in his cabin at Walden Pond. Sometimes I wonder why we don't live like that."

"Didn't he go home everyday and eat lunch with his mother?" I asked. "I thought I heard that somewhere. How detached from the world and free from worry can you be if you go hang out with your parents everyday?"

"He tried to limit himself to a contemplative, examined life," she argued.

"He sounds fucking crazy," I said. "Just some guy without a job living in a cabin who has to depend upon other people for food. Of course, because he writes about it, that makes him a noble man - instead of some unwashed vagrant. Or the Unabomber."

Vic rolled her eyes.

"Thoreau merely thought the key to living life was to 'simplify, simplify,'" she quoted.

"Um, if he was so interested in keeping things simple, why didn't he just say 'simplify' once?" I asked her. "He was either being ironic or stupid."

Anyway, so the Kunkel essay led me to wonder if I should try to figure out "how to live." But I've realized that's what me and all the other dysfunction survivors have been trying to do, anyway. The best that we've been able to manage, thus far, is survival.

Part of the current memoir trend is market-based. Survival memoirs have been selling well lately, so that's what the publishing industry snatches up and sells. The publishing industry has changed vastly since Thoreau's days, and, if Thoreau were around nowadays, he would likely be regarded with ire and ridicule. I mean, Thoreau would be against the Internet. Thoreau's contemplative solitude at Walden, if it were to occur now, would probably end with some standoff involving ATF agents.

People used to have the time and freedom necessary to discover how to live. The world nowadays requires you to merely survive. Songs are written about how people work all day to buy enough gas to get to work everyday. If you met a modern philosopher or prophet on the street, you'd run from them or suggest that they get medicated. However, tell a story of drug addiction and inspiring recovery, and you'll end up friends with Oprah.

Take me. I exist in an atmosphere of perpetual drama and anxiety. I'm happy sometimes. I've been labeled a worrywart, fatalist and stressball. I am most certainly not the spokesman for my generation, though I don't think there likely could be anyone to completely fit the bill. The most relief I get from my day-to-day existence is a good movie, an episode of GILMORE GIRLS, some funny clip from YouTube. There's always something for me to worry about, except when I'm on vacation, and even then I have to worry about getting home.

Big philosophical questions are now the luxury of undergraduates playing card games in dorm lobbies. They read Ayn Rand. They read Thoreau.

I used to seek God, too. Now I'm just trying to make the rent.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Things to do with an AK-47.

- So my friend Kenn is finishing up his master's in furniture design at Savannah College of Art and Design, and his thesis show closes this weekend. So I'm venturing down to the coast to see it - and see Kenn and Lupo before they flee Savannah, which they hate, forever. One of the central pieces that Kenn's been working on since October, at least, is this love seat that I've been calling "the bullet couch." If I remember correctly, Kenn designed the couch, then bought an AK-47, shot at the couch, then sealed up the bullet holes. The number of bullet holes in the love seat reflects the exact number of gun deaths in America within one day, I think. (I'm not sure if I have the base time correct. Nonetheless, the whole thing is anti-gun and infuses a political statement into practical design. It sounds daring and over-the-top, and Kenn's ridiculously talented.) Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of the bullet couch to share. This is an earlier project he did through the program. I'm probably not doing Kenn's work justice. Perhaps a follow-up blog will be necessary after my trip this weekend.

- YOU, ME AND DUPREE looks stupid, and Owen Wilson is ugly. He should just write movies, not appear in them. His brother Luke is super cute. And just because Kate Hudson looks like her mother, does that mean we have to watch her in movies? I mean, she's made ONE good movie, and that's it. I wish she'd go away. Thinking about this movie puts me in a bad mood.
- A lot of customers in the bookstore highly recommend Ken Follett's THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH to me, but I don't think I'd like it because it sounds really, really religious.

- Lupo and I have discussed going to a revival house on Saturday to see SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, which is a great, great movie if you haven't seen it. Gene Kelly is amazing. Jean Hagen is hilarious. And Debbie Reynolds is charming. The American Film Institute, ranking the best American films of all time, named SINGIN' IN THE RAIN the 10th greatest, which surprised me until I watched it again.
- Another AFI movie list suggested that Billy Wilder's genius film SOME LIKE IT HOT, starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, was the funniest film ever made. Again, if you've never seen it, you're missing out. THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: What's the funniest movie you've ever seen?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Things to do in bed with George Clooney.

- I'm writing this just after midnight. I would've written it sooner, but the whole holiday weekend thing has thrown me off. I mean, I forgot what day it is. So, a few minutes ago, I was on my couch watching one of my favorite movies, thinking that I should blog about the film the next time I do a "Things to Do ..." list. Then, I realize the next list should go up immediately. So the lead item on the list should be the movie that reminded me to write the list, I guess. And that movie is OUT OF SIGHT, Steven Soderbergh's 1998 crime-caper-romance-comedy masterpiece starring a suave, fast-talking, sexy-as-all-hell George Clooney and a beautiful, talented, interesting, intelligent, top-of-her-game Jennifer Lopez. (Trust me, it's good, and she's amazing in it.) The movie also stars Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Steve Zahn, Catherine Keener and Albert Brooks, and, because it's based on an Elmore Leonard novel, it has this wicked cool Tarantino feel to it. It's maybe Clooney's best performance, if only because he's charming in the movie, and Lopez, whose shotgun-toting federal marshal character was given a spinoff television series called KAREN SISCO, hasn't been as good in any movie since. As often as I watch OUT OF SIGHT, which is available again on DVD after a couple years, I'm always surprised by just how clever it is. The opening bank robbery's great. The trunk scene alone is worth the price of a rental. And the central caper is twisted and clever. So, because it cheered me up again, I highly recommend you watch OUT OF SIGHT if you've not seen it. And, if you've already seen it, watch it again.

- OK, so the reviews I've read for PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST are about what I was expecting. I'm still going to see it. I didn't mean to suggest I wasn't enthusiastic, for Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow is a fantastic character. And Keira Knightley's great lately. I'm just nervous that the movie won't have a plot as focused as the last one's. Plus, I'm scared that they might try and have Orlando Bloom emote. (I didn't see KINGDOM OF HEAVEN or ELIZABETHTOWN, guys. Did I miss anything? My friend Jenipher says that, unless he's Legolas, Orlando Bloom sucks.)

- When is A SCANNER DARKLY coming to Atlanta? After watching Richard Linklater's DAZED AND CONFUSED last week, I'm more excited about this animated Keanu Reeves futuristic thriller than ever. If successful, the Philip K. Dick adaptation might be scary good.

- So, since there's a heavy dose of criminal movies on my list this week, I think I should go ahead and recommend KISS KISS, BANG BANG, a very funny caper movie starring Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan that I watched this week. It was made last year by Shane Black, the guy who wrote LETHAL WEAPON, but it only saw a limited release, probably because it's ridiculously hard to categorize. It's based upon a pulp fiction detective novel. It's sorta gay-themed but not schmaltzy. It has ridiculously good, quotable dialogue. The girl in it is hot and funny. It's satire of Hollywood. It's self-aware. And it's violent. And the three leads are really good in it. I was surprised.
- Before my bank account went haywire this week, I managed to buy the new Panic! at the Disco album called A FEVER YOU CAN'T SWEAT OUT. Some songs on it are really catchy, but it has yet to completely grab me. Still, I like the one song I bought the thing for. It's more panic than disco, and I was disappointed.
- Someone told me that the last HARRY POTTER book may come out exactly one year from today, and the date seems like a marketing dream. Get it? The seventh book on 07-07-07. Anyway, that's just a rumor I heard.
- I saw that Fiona Apple's coming to Chastain in August, and I want to see her. Her last album is a regular in my car stereo.
- Some friends of mine went with me to THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA over the Fourth weekend. The movie was really good, and I had a lot of fun with my friends. Still, a situation from the outing has stayed in my mind, and I hope that my friends don't mind me taking a question from it. My friend's boyfriend was invited to come to the movies with us. A week before the movie, the two of them broke up. Still, my friend said he wanted to remain friendly despite the end of the romance, so the ex tagged along to the movie with us. Everything went smoothly, for my friend was way cooler about the situation than *I* would've been. Still, there were moments during the outing when I kept my eye on the ex to see that he didn't pull something shady or mess with my friend. THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: What's the oddest or most awkward run-in you've had with an ex? Are there exes you're still mad about or mad at even years later? Any particularly dramatic bad breakup stories? Do you find it difficult or easy to maintain friendships with your exes?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Went to Scott's for a Fourth of July barbecue. He bought sparklers.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Notes on an unwritten nothing.

Step One: Decide that you're going to write.

OK, done.

Step Two: Decide what you're going to write.

A soap opera. A mystery. A dysfunctional family story. A story of a guy struggling with adulthood, trying to make it. A sexual comedy. Something with a makeover in it. Something with good dialogue. Somebody should get shot/burned/hit with a car. Stuff about religion. Maybe a musical. Should be something I know about but should be fictionalized. Characters first, then plot just happens to them. Modern but key and resonant. Something original, something fun. Pick a small issue to address. Don't try for a magnum opus.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


OK, yeah, you guys were right. Great movie.

Matthew McConaughey. Parker Posey. Anthony Rapp. Rory Cochrane. Joey Lauren Adams. Jason London. Wiley Wiggins. Adam Goldberg. Nicky Katt. And Ben Affleck behaving like a jackass megatool. I loved it.

Once again, Richard Linklater is my hero.

I may have to try drugs now.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Reefer madness.

After work and armed with some birthday funding, I headed to Best Buy (which has prices I love but a staff that I despise) to try and find the Criterion Collection edition of DAZED AND CONFUSED to immediately rectify the apparently giant mistake I made by not watching it over a decade ago.

So I go to the new releases, then the comedy shelf, then find a salesman shelving a giant cart full of DVDs. (I'm amazed he didn't run from me, lest I actually require assistance.)

I asked him if the Criterion edition was available. He walked to the shelf, showed me only the fullscreen edition of the original version and told me that they were out of it.

"It would be right here if we had it, so I guess we're out," he said.

"Um, can you check?" I asked, forgetting where I was. He returned to his GIANT CART FULL OF DVDS, though he didn't think to check the computer or look on the GIANT CART FULL OF DVDS for it.

No, he ignored me.

I found a $10 widescreen edition, not the Criterion, and figured it'd suffice if I just wanted to watch the movie.

Having saved money, I then looked on the salesman's GIANT CART FULL OF DVDS. (I'm practically a customer-service nuisance at my store. I ask EVERYBODY if they need help, and I actually try to help them and get them out the door.)

I didn't find the Criterion edition on the cart. I did find the first season of WEEDS on the cheap, and I'd been curious about that show. I love Mary Louise Parker, even if a hairdresser I met told me that she was a pain.

So I considered it and picked it up.

When I got to the cashier's desk, the blue-shirted worker looked at the two DVDs I'd brought up, then looked at the bags under my red eyes, my three-days-unshaven face and my untucked shirt. (I've not been sleeping well lately.) Then she looked again at the DVDs and smiled big at me, saying, "You have a really good night, sir!"

It wasn't until I called Lupo that I realized why she found me so funny.

"You bought DAZED AND CONFUSED and WEEDS together?" Lupo asked. "Having a theme night?"

I hate Best Buy.

NOTE: Oh my God, the workers at Best Buy are so STUPID! I just checked, and the street date for WEEDS isn't until JULY 11! I swiped it off that fool's cart and got it early!

Things to do while revisiting Brideshead.

- All this week, I've been watching the 1981 BBC miniseries for BRIDESHEAD REVISITED, and I swear to you up and down that it's one of the best DVDs (if not the best) that I've ever seen in my life. I started into it because it came recommended to me by friends. I watched the first episode a couple times, shocked at how gay the whole damn thing seemed to be. I mean, it was on PBS, and people LOVED it. No one who recommended it to me told me that it was completely homosexual. But in the first episodes, Charles Flyte, an Oxford student played by a young, pretty Jeremy Irons, speaks of falling completely and utterly in love with this rich, brilliantly dressed, beautiful, foppish kid named Sebastian, played by Anthony Andrews. Andrews looks like a sullen, blond Jude Law. The whole thing is set in the 1920s, and Sebastian's supposed to be from this really religious family - except the family doesn't seem to care that he's a 19-year-old boy who wears a pink suit and carries a teddy bear, sunbathes and cuddles naked on the mansion roof with Charles, professes his love for Charles constantly and even takes Charles to Venice so that they can cuddle in gondolas together. Apparently, in the '20s Britain, I could've just made out with guys constantly or paraded around naked with them, and people would've thought that we were just good chums carrying on. (Now, when I do that, people call me a slut and tell me to put my clothes back on.) BRIDESHEAD fucking rules. Great acting, great clothes, great story. It's based on a classic Evelyn Waugh novel. It even has Sir Laurence Olivier in it. Drama, drama, drama! It's way better than QUEER AS FOLK, for QAF wasn't all about being gay - while pretending that nobody was gay. I keep queening out and yelling things at Jeremy Irons onscreen, like "GIRL, don't break up with him, even if he is a lying drunk! HIS CATHOLIC MOTHER IS A STONE COLD BITCH!" and "NO, DON'T FUCK YOUR BOYFRIEND'S SISTER, even if he is a lying drunk! YOU LOVE HIM, NOT HER!!!" The show is 11 hours long, and I am hooked.
- I bought my mom the latest Stephanie Plum mystery today, even though it's been out over a week. Janet Evanovich's latest is called 12 SHARP.
- I bought Dashiell Hammett's THE GLASS KEY on a bargain table tonight. I've not read any Hammett before, and that's a situation I should rectify.
- PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST seems to me like the sort of movie that I should be going apeshit over, but the mood hasn't quite hit me yet. That first movie was so good, and Johnny Depp was so good in it. I just don't want them to spoil it.

- A new Guster album, GANGING UP ON THE SUN, came out two weeks ago, and they're one of Lupo's favorite bands. My favorite song of theirs is called "Two Points for Honesty," but it's off one of their earlier albums, LOST AND GONE FOREVER. Very good band.

- Lupo sent me a couple birthday presents this week, along with a lovely card. One of the gifts was the Criterion Collection edition of SHORT CUTS, as directed by Robert Altman. Lupo asked me today what I thought of the movie, and I admitted to him that, when I saw it in high school, it left me with this "Huh?" feeling. I'm eager to try it again.

- Lupo also expressed outright shock when he discovered this week that I've never, ever seen Richard Linklater's DAZED AND CONFUSED, which Lupo said was one of the best films of the 1990s. I told him that I never saw it because all the frat boys and stoner kids worshipped that film every week at Georgia Theatre when I was at UGA. My first day as a freshman on campus, I went sober to see PINK FLOYD'S THE WALL with a group of drugged-out friends on my first day at UGA, and I spent the entire night confused while the drugged-out kids had a great time. After that, I figured that stoner kids couldn't actually like something coherent and good, so I avoided DAZED AND CONFUSED. (Besides, it had Milla Jovovich and one of the London twins in it, so I thought I wasn't missing much.) Since I now love Richard Linklater and since Lupo says I should, I will try this again.
- Earlier this week, among friend, I compared an affair that I was considering to Charlotte Rampling's Nazi fetish sex in THE NIGHT PORTER. I'm not saying that, in my actual love life, I wanted to dress up like a Nazi stormtrooper and engage in some Holocaust-inspired fornication with a new friend, but the comparison seemed apt at the time. (Don't ask, really.) Anyway, though, I imagine that some of us, at least, have had romances that reminded us of movie romances or moments in life that felt like a moment from a movie. Maybe you were hanging out with a friend of the opposite sex and were suddenly, like, "This is so WHEN HARRY MET SALLY." Or maybe you were chasing your wife with an axe, then stopped and said, "Oh my God, this is so Jack Nicholson in THE SHINING." Catch what I mean? THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: When did your life feel most like a movie? Ever behave the way a movie character did? Ever say something, then realize you'd heard the dialogue on the big screen before? What's your best "This is just like that movie ..." moment?


The site was down. The site's back up.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Things you'd be proud to do.

- It's Pride in Atlanta again, and I'm working at the bookstore during the parade and throughout the weekend again. So I'm missing it, even though I've only ever been a marginal attendee at the Park. (Last time I was there for it was, ummm ..., two years ago.) But my friend Steven is new to being out, so the event is important to him. Steven's blogged about Pride for a week now (like I have about my birthday, which was terrific). Even my usual Pride companions Larry and Brad have skipped out on Pride this year to go to Europe, not that I blame them. Actually, if there's one thing I'm really going to miss about Pride this year, it's that I'm not going to get to see my friend Matt perform with the Atlanta Gay Men's Chorus. If you see them perform at all this weekend, cheer for Matt. He's the cute one in the glasses. Oh, and the Names Project's AIDS Memorial Quilt display is scheduled for Saturday afternoon, which I actually could attend. I've not seen quilt panels (the whole thing is too big to display anywhere) in a decade, so that'd be good to see. The Quilt is a beautiful, moving, sad thing to see.

- Is it wrong that I actually think the gimmick of Adam Sandler's CLICK may be worth the price of admission? I'm trying to remember the last time I actually enjoyed seeing Kate Beckinsale in a movie. (Her high-camp performances in PEARL HARBOR and VAN HELSING do not count. They were not intentional. And, don't even mention it, Kacoon, I thought that UNDERWORLD sucked.) It may well have been a decade ago. Beckinsale's like Rachel Weisz without the talent.

- This week I watched MY LEFT FOOT, THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA and AUDITION. Seeking a common theme, I discovered that they all featured - to a degree - people with severe mental problems and/or disabilities finding love. Of course, MY LEFT FOOT and THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA were sweet tearjerkers. AUDITION, meanwhile, is a sick, sick Japanese horror movie featuring this crazy-ass deranged psycho bitch who giddily lops off men's limbs with piano wire, keeps them alive yet deformed in her apartment and feeds them her own vomit. The last 15 minutes had me screaming at the television set. The course of true love never did run smooth.

- Hey, you know Brandon Routh, the guy who's about to play Superman. Yeah, I used to watch him on MTV's UNDRESSED and ONE LIFE TO LIVE. So, for those of you who develop a crush on him in the next few weeks, I saw him first. I have dibs.
- My friend Steven and I have arranged for a group outing to see THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA in the next couple weeks, and I am in the middle of the Lauren Weisberger novel right now. The trailer for the movie seems to play like a single scene of the film, so you can watch it without feeling as though the movie's being spoiled or that all the best jokes are being given away. And Meryl Streep looks fantastic. So I'm devoting this week's question entirely to her. THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: What's your favorite Meryl Streep performance? Love her or hate her?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Not Born on the Fourth of July, 1976.

Fittingly, moments after turning 30, Benjamin thought back over the story of his own birth.

(Well, um, Benjamin actually thought over his mother's version of the story, told to him several times throughout his childhood. His father respectfully disagreed with this version, which is one of the many reasons why his parents are now divorced.)

"You were due on July 4, my perfect Bicentennial baby," his mother would narrate. "But, at the end of May or beginning of June, I had these contractions and told your dad that I was in labor. So he freaked out, put me in the Firebird and sped me to the hospital, and we got there and waited and waited and waited. For hours. But you never came, and the contractions never got any worse. And eventually, the doctor came to see us, and he told me that it was too early for me to be in labor."

"Way too early," Benjamin's father would interrupt if he were there to hear her tell this story. But she would ignore him and continue her version.

"Anyway, the doctor said that false labor was common, particularly with first-time mothers, and we shouldn't just head to the hospital every time I felt a little pain," she said sweetly to her boy. "He called it 'a little pain.' That's a typical male chauvinist response, son. When you get older, you should never say anything like that to your wife."

After the dramatic pause for his father's scoffing ended, Benjamin's mother told the story of his actual labor.

"So about three weeks after the first trip to the hospital, I start feeling these contractions again, and they keep coming and coming," his mother said. "So, of course, I told your father that I thought we needed to go to the hospital."

At this point in the story, she would glare at Benjamin's father.

"And you know what your father did, Benjie?" his mom asked.

No matter how often he heard this story, Benjamin never dared answer this question, for it was the best part of the whole story.

"Unlike most men willing to listen to their wives and eager to see their firstborn son for the first time, your father told me that I was just having another false labor, that it was still too soon!" she said dramatically. "Then you know what he did, Benjie??? You know what he did while I was in horrible, horrible pain???"

Benjamin often knew the answer to this one but didn't dare interrupt his mother as she mustered indignance.


At this, Benjamin's father would usually mutter under his breath, "Well, the baby didn't come for eight hours. I had time."

"When I FINALLY got your father to come back into the house and convinced him that I was serious, we went to the hospital in Marietta," Benjamin's mother continued. "And, as soon as we got there, your father started to fill out the paperwork, while I had to go to the bathroom. So, ever the genius, he told me to go ahead and kept filling out forms."

At this, Benjamin's father would start telling the story.

"So I'm filling out forms when the orderly and nurse come rushing up to me with this wheelchair, asking me in this frenzy where my wife was," his dad said. "So I told them she went to the bathroom. AND THEIR EYES GOT HUGE!"

And his mother resumed telling the story from there.

"And this shocked nurse comes running into the bathroom to get me, telling me that I'm not allowed to go. I end up in this wheelchair while people are yelling these questions at me about my water breaking," his mother said.

* * * * * * *

The baby wasn't born perfect.

The remainder of this story, surrounded in some family legend at this point, is unusual. Benjamin, two weeks' premature and underweight at 4 pounds and 11 ounces, was taken from his mother before she got to look at him. He was immediately placed in an incubator. He wasn't expected to live. The soft spot on his head was severe, for touching the baby on the head for just a moment would result in a handprint lingering for a moment on his. The baby bumped his head on his mom's thigh bone on the way out of the birth canal, which caused a birthmark on his forehead. (Originally, his mother told him that the birthmark was caused by Benjamin's giant brain, but his father eventually told her to stop saying that to the child.) Photos suggest that Baby Benjamin's left arm was shorter than an adult index finger.

Over the next couple days, Benjamin's mother was told that it would be a miracle if her newborn son survived at all. She was told that, if the baby lived, he would suffer from severe disabilities and mental retardation, his quality-of-life non-existent. They gave her little hope.

She thought her son was special. She took Benjamin home when they let her, cuddled and sang to him. She took him to the Methodist Church and had him baptized. Members of the congregation liked to hold him, for he smiled a lot.

And, on a random day some months after he was born, while his mother was singing "Old McDonald Had a Farm" to him, Benjamin sang "Ee-I-Ee-I-O" back to her.

If you ask her, Benjamin's mother will tell you that her baby sang it perfectly. (Of course, before having the baby in 1976, she was a music teacher, so this was a point of pride for her.) She sang him a verse, and he sang the vowels back in perfect pitch. She did it again, and he did it again.

And if she had to pinpoint it, that was the moment she most believed in miracles.

30 going on ...

For the record, at the moment of midnight on his 30th birthday, our hero Benjamin was sitting in a movie theater, watching Lindsay Lohan and Meryl Streep sing over the end credits of his favorite filmmaker Robert Altman's A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION. Benjamin liked the movie. Benjamin usually likes movies where Meryl Streep sings, though he didn't like that conjoined twins movie where she did the BONNIE AND CLYDE-inspired duet with Greg Kinnear. Benjamin usually likes movies where Lindsay Lohan sings, too, though he is less inclined to admit that to anyone.

At 12:05 on his birthday, Benjamin was standing in the lobby of the Phipps Plaza AMC movie theater, staring at the clock on the wall and pushing buttons on his cell phone. At 12:06, he left a message for Vickye, one of his best friends, for she'd told him it was OK to call around midnight. Of course, she didn't immediately answer the phone when he called. At 12:07, he called his drowsy-sounding friend Scott, a man that Benjamin used to call "Snapshot" when he was interested in nicknaming people, and announced to Scott that he'd reached 30 and it didn't feel so bad.

"I made it!" Benjamin shouted over the phone, only half kidding. "I survived my 20s!!! And they really sucked!!!"

Then Vickye called him back, and he clicked over to make essentially the same announcement to her.

They talked for about an hour, during which she said that she was coming to terms with her own approaching 30th birthday - which occurs exactly two months from today.

"Vic," Benjamin asked her later in the conversation. "What was the best part of your 20s?"

"That's a question that requires some thought," she replied. "It sounds like one of your blog entries, one that ends with a survey question."

"I should be able to write an answer," Benjamin said. "I've been contemplating 30 for months."

Trying to answer his own question, Benjamin thought back on the last decade of his life. He thought about how he spent his 20th birthday, which involved his mom forgetting to call him to wish him a happy birthday. It also involved him forcing his friends Amy and PG to spend time with him, for he didn't want to be alone. Amusingly, at one point on his 20th birthday, Benjamin ended up as a guest on his friend Travis's college radio call-in show, where our hero bitched about getting older until all four of the show's listeners called in and told him to shut the hell up.

This, sadly, was a theme of Benjamin's 20s, one he didn't hope to carry with him as much into the decade before him.

Benjamin, just now, concluded that he couldn't evaluate his last decade of life in that way, even if it would provide an answer to a really good blog question.

Life is life, Benjamin thought. Given good and bad, you cope, learn and hope to grow.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The gambit.

The week that Benjamin, our hero, turned 30, he purchased his first chessboard. He thought it was pretty. It was polished cherry, and it folded so that he could carry it around in the brown leather briefcase that he'd always intended to use more often. The chessboard reminded him of one that his grandfather owned. (Of course, his grandpa only used it for checkers.)

The chessboard seemed to Benjamin like the sort of prop that a distinguished man should own, the device of a man who knew where he was going. The briefcase struck him with the same notion. Benjamin, upon turning 30, had no idea where he was going, and that frightened him. He never expected to be this aimless. Somehow, the chessboard and briefcase provided him with comfort. His reasoning was funny. It seemed to him more likely that he could become the man that he wanted to be if he had the right props, even if he didn't know how to use them.

Thus, the chessboard was a birthday present he gave himself, along with a beginner's book on the game. More importantly, on this very page, he wrote down to himself what the board was for. He thought that writing it down might keep the board from being another whim purchase, that writing it down might stop him from continuing to be the same aimless guy he already was.

Lots of things happened the week Benjamin turned 30. The chessboard wasn't even the first. He just bought it for himself so that he could have a tangible reminder of his plans. He intended to accept himself more. He intended to change. Benjamin wanted a life of embraced possibility.

So what if he wasn't very good at chess?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Things to do the week I turn 30.

- Yep, come this year's first day of summer, my Gemini-Cancer cusp ass escapes the tumultuous twenties. And I've decided to do a number of things about it, during it, for it and about it. This is good. This is really good.
- After a most excellent trip out-of-town toward people I felt connections with and a job search that is bearing more fruit than any other search I've attempted in six years and a slow dance with a cute guy have shown me that I still have lots of untapped potential happiness within me, I have decided - brace yourself - to like myself and enjoy the funny little things that I do.
- My scarce writings of the last month have reminded me of the "mental regression" chapters in FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON. This shall not continue.
- Went with my friend Dena to the launch party for Emily Giffin's really good new book BABY PROOF, a chick lit novel that dares to have its heroine not want to have kids with Mr. Right. The party and its crab puffs and Amaretto Sours ruled, though it was very Buckhead Betty. We walked in, amidst about 100-150 fans, and Emily saw me and took the time to give me a personal hello, which impressed the heck out of Dena. And then Emily's dad told me to call him by his first name. And then her husband and I debated how damn good the new book is. And then her cute, well-dressed St. Martin's publicist named (cough) Stephen (cough) said to me, "Oh, you're Benjamin! She talks about you a lot. It's nice to finally meet you." Anyway, Dena went home after the party, where she read the first two chapters of BABY PROOF, and ordered all Emily's paperbacks to read.
- Five of my close friends are in Europe now, so there will be no cool, butter-creme-frosted cakes this year. I wish I could say that they took me with them so that I could finally see Paris, but there's always next year. Actually, I have the rest of my life.

- THE LAKE HOUSE actually sounds really interesting, and I (ahem) like Sandra Bullock in romantic movies. It has a better premise than Keanu's SWEET NOVEMBER, and it's based upon a supposedly sad Japanese movie. And it's my birthday week. So yay. (One time, my friend Vic and I saw Sandra Bullock stumbling around drunk atop a float at Mardi Gras in New Orleans.)
- I've been coughing at work everyday. I think I'm allergic to my job. Either that, or I've followed the Emily Dickinson stereotype and become a writer with tuberculosis.
- I can't decide if I should read RABBIT, RUN or some other book from the New York Times' list of the greatest books of the last 25 years. It's either RABBIT, RUN or the new Nick Hornby novel about suicide. I keep waffling, but I think I should read something deep.
- An ink pen just exploded all over me. I am naked and speckled blue.
- I don't want to see THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT. I've actually never seen a F&F movie ever, even though I think Paul Walker is hot. Frankly, I feel old just knowing that funny-voiced kid from SLING BLADE and Lil' Bow Wow are both driving age.

- Saw THE OMEN with my friend Kacoon, then lied and told her that Damien reminded me of her little boy. About THE OMEN, though, Mia Farrow RULES.

- I will leave my job. I will leave my job. I've gotten in the habit of humming "I'm Checkin' Out" from POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE to myself. I like that song. Speaking of Meryl Streep songs, has anybody here seen my hero Robert Altman's A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION yet? I really want to see it, and I know nothing about Garrison Keillor. And it's not just because Lindsay Lohan plays Meryl's daughter in it.
- I didn't get to tape THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA off of PBS this week. Did anybody tape it? I really want to see it, and I'm afraid Tony Award-winning lead actress Victoria Clark won't come with the touring company to Atlanta, even though she's not exactly famous.

- Oh, did you see LaChanze won a Tony for THE COLOR PURPLE? I met her when she was doing the show at the Alliance in Atlanta. She came into my bookstore to buy an Alice Walker book that she'd ordered, but her order didn't come in. Stalling for time while trying to track the book, I asked her if she'd seen THE COLOR PURPLE at the Alliance. She said that she was in it. "Who do you play?" I asked. "Celie," she said. I freaked the hell out, asked her about the show, told her that I'd heard really good things about it from friends. She showed me a piece of purple jewelry that Alice Walker had personally given her. Now, she's got a Tony. I haven't written the Great American Novel yet. Heck, I've not written a good American sentence in a while. Anyway, good for her, for she was nice. And my moment will come.
- On my actual birthday, my friend Vic and I are enjoying a rare evening alone with one another. She got me tickets to see CHICAGO at the Fox. I think it's got Peterman from SEINFELD, the guy who lost DANCING WITH THE STARS to Kelly Monaco, in it. The show and the time with my friend is gonna be great, and I'm really excited about it. She and I haven't been to the Fox alone together since we saw THE NUTCRACKER there in 1998, I think. We love the Fox.
- I miss my blog. I miss you guys. I want to reconnect with people I enjoy. I want to be happy. It is my goal.
- Of the summer movies I've seen so far, I found X-MEN: THE LAST STAND to be the most satisfying, M-I:3 to be the most mindless, THE DA VINCI CODE to be the most boring and talky, CARS to be the most disappointing and POSEIDON to be the most stupid fun (even though the gay Richard Dreyfuss character totally should've hit on every hot, drenched guy in that upside-down boat ... and it really, really needed Shelley Winters in it). I've not seen THE BREAK-UP, though I was told to avoid it. I want to see AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH. I'm excited about SUPERMAN RETURNS on IMAX, that movie MONSTER HOUSE and, of course, SNAKES ON A PLANE. THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: What do you think of this summer's entertainment thus far? Any good movies? Any good TV? Any good European nations you've visited on your honeymoon? What are you looking forward to?