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My 9-month-old daughter is making her movie debut in a film called Fuck Fight Pray or, to put it like the independent director here filming all day, F-U-C-K! Action!"
The director's name is Darren and every time he spells out that one word I wonder if I should even bother trying to calm our neighbors by noting that we're not initiating Mae into porno, and that this is an art film crafted by creative young visualists with dreams and stuff. But why bother when Chris is out back bragging to the neighbors that he has a nude scene, and they believe him.
"Full frontal!" he shouts.
The movie is a beautiful tri-part cinematic observance, and this segment in particular is about a young woman contemplating a crossroad in her life after receiving a marriage proposal. Chris and I play a bickering married couple, and in our scene all you see are the backs of our heads, but even then I bet you can tell we come across as naturally as two big fake breasts. The reason we were picked to appear in the film is because we fulfilled the very rare criteria of having a baby and because — this is important — when asked if they could come festoon our place with props and film equipment, we answered with one word: "'Kay!"
Then we heard the title. When I ask Darren why he spells it out — rather than simply saying it — while calling the scenes, he says it's because he doesn't want to use harsh language around the baby. "F-U-C-K," he recites, "action!"
I'm bemused that he has a problem with that one word, seeing as how he co-wrote the script. I personally have a bigger problem with euphemisms. There was once a liquor store in Costa Mesa, Calif., appropriately nicknamed "Horny Pete's" due to the fact that the proprietor once tried to molest a 7-year-old girl, who escaped and ran screaming all the way home clutching her mother's Salem menthols, which was the reason she was dispatched on the errand in the first place. When she got home, she handed over the cigarettes and commenced balling her eyes out. "What the hell happened to you?" her mother asked, lighting up.
"He ... he ... he," the girl blubbered, "he pulled down his pants!"
"He pulled down his pants?" the mother shrieked, and she wasn't even thinking about the owner of the liquor store; she was thinking about a neighborhood kid known for pissing in public. When she heard that a grown man had flashed her daughter, her anger was so palpable that the smoke shooting from her nostrils was not even coming from her cigarette. "We're going to the police, and we're gonna get that goddamn sick prick arrested,"   and they drove to the station.
I don't know if it's like, obvious or anything, but that girl was me, and I'll never forget the female police officer who took my statement. She had hair like Ethyl Mertz and absurdly arched, penciled-in eyebrows. My mother waited outside the room while the officer asked me to tell her exactly what happened. What happened is that, before flashing me, the liquor-store owner had tried to provide me with a little porno lesson by showing me pictures of couples in the throes of copulation, and he repeatedly used the word "fuck" along with all its conjugations. The officer, though, was uncomfortable with that word, and asked me to substitute it with the phrase "make love."
"Every time you need to say that one word," she explained patiently, "stop yourself and say 'make love' instead."
So I did. When we finished I was led back to my mother, who was assured that they would "lock his perverted ass up," as she herself put it. On the way home I told her about the word substitutions the officer had requested of me while transcribing the statement. Upon hearing this, she slammed the brakes so hard she needed to make that "mom arm save" maneuver to keep my un-seatbelted self from doing a face plant in the dashboard. Without saying a word, she drove straight back to the station, took my hand and marched us up to the officer's desk.
"Excuse me," she stated loudly. The officer looked up, and my mother continued. "He did not say 'make love.' Do you understand me? Love has nothing to do with this. I don't want my daughter associating what happened to her today with the word 'love.' Am I making myself clear? I would like the statement to be completely accurate."
"It's just one word," the officer tried to argue.
"The correct word is 'fuck,' do you understand that? Now write it down," she hovered while the officer rifled through her desk to retrieve a pen. "F-U-C-K," my mother recited loudly, and we didn't leave until she was satisfied that the statement, in all its conjugations, clearly reflected that one word.


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My 9-month-old daughter is making her movie debut in a film called ''Fuck Fight Pray'' or, to put it like the independent director here filming all day, ''F-U-C-K''! Action!"
The director's name is Darren and every time he spells out that one word I wonder if I should even bother trying to calm our neighbors by noting that we're not initiating Mae into porno, and that this is an ''art'' film crafted by creative young visualists with dreams and stuff. But why bother when Chris is out back bragging to the neighbors that he has a nude scene, and they ''believe'' him.
"Full frontal!" he shouts.
The movie is a beautiful tri-part cinematic observance, and this segment in particular is about a young woman contemplating a crossroad in her life after receiving a marriage proposal. Chris and I play a bickering married couple, and in our scene all you see are the backs of our heads, but even then I bet you can tell we come across as naturally as two big fake breasts. The reason we were picked to appear in the film is because we fulfilled the very rare criteria of having a baby and because -- this is important -- when asked if they could come festoon our place with props and film equipment, we answered with one word: "'Kay!"
Then we heard the title. When I ask Darren why he spells it out -- rather than simply saying it -- while calling the scenes, he says it's because he doesn't want to use harsh language around the baby. "''F-U-C-K''," he recites, "action!"
I'm bemused that he has a problem with that one word, seeing as how he co-wrote the script. I personally have a bigger problem with euphemisms. There was once a liquor store in Costa Mesa, Calif., appropriately nicknamed "Horny Pete's" due to the fact that the proprietor once tried to molest a 7-year-old girl, who escaped and ran screaming all the way home clutching her mother's Salem menthols, which was the reason she was dispatched on the errand in the first place. When she got home, she handed over the cigarettes and commenced balling her eyes out. "What the hell happened to you?" her mother asked, lighting up.
"He ... he ... he," the girl blubbered, "''he pulled down his pants''!"
"''He pulled down his pants''?" the mother shrieked, and she wasn't even thinking about the owner of the liquor store; she was thinking about a neighborhood kid known for pissing in public. When she heard that a grown man had flashed her daughter, her anger was so palpable that the smoke shooting from her nostrils was not even coming from her cigarette. "We're going to the police, and we're gonna get that goddamn sick prick arrested,"   and they drove to the station.
I don't know if it's like, ''obvious'' or anything, but that girl was me, and I'll never forget the female police officer who took my statement. She had hair like Ethyl Mertz and absurdly arched, penciled-in eyebrows. My mother waited outside the room while the officer asked me to tell her exactly what happened. What happened is that, before flashing me, the liquor-store owner had tried to provide me with a little porno lesson by showing me pictures of couples in the throes of copulation, and he repeatedly used the word "fuck" along with all its conjugations. The officer, though, was uncomfortable with that word, and asked me to substitute it with the phrase "make love."
"Every time you need to say that one word," she explained patiently, "stop yourself and say 'make love' instead."
So I did. When we finished I was led back to my mother, who was assured that they would "lock his perverted ass up," as she herself put it. On the way home I told her about the word substitutions the officer had requested of me while transcribing the statement. Upon hearing this, she slammed the brakes so hard she needed to make that "mom arm save" maneuver to keep my un-seatbelted self from doing a face plant in the dashboard. Without saying a word, she drove straight back to the station, took my hand and marched us up to the officer's desk.
"Excuse me," she stated loudly. The officer looked up, and my mother continued. "He did not say 'make love.' Do you understand me? ''Love'' has nothing to do with this. I don't want my daughter associating what happened to her today with the word 'love.' Am I making myself clear? I would like the statement to be completely accurate."
"It's just one word," the officer tried to argue.
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My 9-month-old daughter is making her movie debut in a film called Fuck Fight Pray or, to put it like the independent director here filming all day, F-U-C-K! Action!"
The director's name is Darren and every time he spells out that one word I wonder if I should even bother trying to calm our neighbors by noting that we're not initiating Mae into porno, and that this is an art film crafted by creative young visualists with dreams and stuff. But why bother when Chris is out back bragging to the neighbors that he has a nude scene, and they believe him.
"Full frontal!" he shouts.
The movie is a beautiful tri-part cinematic observance, and this segment in particular is about a young woman contemplating a crossroad in her life after receiving a marriage proposal. Chris and I play a bickering married couple, and in our scene all you see are the backs of our heads, but even then I bet you can tell we come across as naturally as two big fake breasts. The reason we were picked to appear in the film is because we fulfilled the very rare criteria of having a baby and because — this is important — when asked if they could come festoon our place with props and film equipment, we answered with one word: "'Kay!"
Then we heard the title. When I ask Darren why he spells it out — rather than simply saying it — while calling the scenes, he says it's because he doesn't want to use harsh language around the baby. "F-U-C-K," he recites, "action!"
I'm bemused that he has a problem with that one word, seeing as how he co-wrote the script. I personally have a bigger problem with euphemisms. There was once a liquor store in Costa Mesa, Calif., appropriately nicknamed "Horny Pete's" due to the fact that the proprietor once tried to molest a 7-year-old girl, who escaped and ran screaming all the way home clutching her mother's Salem menthols, which was the reason she was dispatched on the errand in the first place. When she got home, she handed over the cigarettes and commenced balling her eyes out. "What the hell happened to you?" her mother asked, lighting up.
"He ... he ... he," the girl blubbered, "he pulled down his pants!"
"He pulled down his pants?" the mother shrieked, and she wasn't even thinking about the owner of the liquor store; she was thinking about a neighborhood kid known for pissing in public. When she heard that a grown man had flashed her daughter, her anger was so palpable that the smoke shooting from her nostrils was not even coming from her cigarette. "We're going to the police, and we're gonna get that goddamn sick prick arrested,"   and they drove to the station.
I don't know if it's like, obvious or anything, but that girl was me, and I'll never forget the female police officer who took my statement. She had hair like Ethyl Mertz and absurdly arched, penciled-in eyebrows. My mother waited outside the room while the officer asked me to tell her exactly what happened. What happened is that, before flashing me, the liquor-store owner had tried to provide me with a little porno lesson by showing me pictures of couples in the throes of copulation, and he repeatedly used the word "fuck" along with all its conjugations. The officer, though, was uncomfortable with that word, and asked me to substitute it with the phrase "make love."
"Every time you need to say that one word," she explained patiently, "stop yourself and say 'make love' instead."
So I did. When we finished I was led back to my mother, who was assured that they would "lock his perverted ass up," as she herself put it. On the way home I told her about the word substitutions the officer had requested of me while transcribing the statement. Upon hearing this, she slammed the brakes so hard she needed to make that "mom arm save" maneuver to keep my un-seatbelted self from doing a face plant in the dashboard. Without saying a word, she drove straight back to the station, took my hand and marched us up to the officer's desk.
"Excuse me," she stated loudly. The officer looked up, and my mother continued. "He did not say 'make love.' Do you understand me? Love has nothing to do with this. I don't want my daughter associating what happened to her today with the word 'love.' Am I making myself clear? I would like the statement to be completely accurate."
"It's just one word," the officer tried to argue.
"The correct word is 'fuck,' do you understand that? Now write it down," she hovered while the officer rifled through her desk to retrieve a pen. "F-U-C-K," my mother recited loudly, and we didn't leave until she was satisfied that the statement, in all its conjugations, clearly reflected that one word.


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Moodswing

Saturday January 13, 2001 12:04 am EST
Euphemisms cloud true meaning of the word | more...
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  string(28) "Moodswing - A reason to live"
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  string(39) "Why ask why when there's so much to do?"
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  string(4605) "I was driving along that cruddy butt smear of a freeway section south of Freedom Parkway, the part where the number of lanes swell and contract like a big, constipated boa constrictor and where — almost every day — you see some poor schleppo on the shoulder standing dazed next to his dented car wondering where that truck came from, and I was thinking about life in general and how it would be nice not to die that day in particular. 
I've had days, of course, when I felt differently. Nothing major. It's just that there were times when I got out of bed completely burdened with the fact that I was still breathing, having missed a perfectly good opportunity to croak in my sleep. On those days I'd call Lary.
"I'm on the ledge," I'd bleat. "I'm gonna jump."
"Well," he'd say in a way that always saves me, "WHAT'S STOPPIN' YA?"
"I meant figuratively, you fuck!" I'd shriek, and shrieking at Lary always provides me with a reason to live. Soon I'd be chirping into the phone, "Why do you keep bags of cat litter in your dishwasher? I mean, what's the reason for that?"
But Lary's redeeming quality is his complete comfort with the lack of reason. For example, a few years ago the four of us — Daniel, Grant, Lary and I — traveled to Prague, and I thought I'd be the tour guide, considering the fact that I am, after all, an official foreign-language interpreter. I don't speak Czech specifically, but on the average, I'd traveled to Europe more in one month than these three plebeians had in their whole lifetimes, so I assumed they would all sit at my knee enthralled with my knowledge the whole time, letting me explain the reasons for things.
"Wanna know why you should keep your head at armrest level when evacuating a smoke-filled aircraft?" I'd tweet smugly during the safety demonstration. "It's because smoke rises while noxious chemical fumes sink, so the safest air is in between."
Out of the perfect pureness of friendship, Daniel and Grant were prepared to ruin their vacation and provide me with a constant audience, but once in Prague, Lary kept ditching us only to reappear later with absorbing stories of peg-legged whores and bald cab drivers with boils on their heads and stuff.
So soon, even I had to admit — after a spitting fit of jealousy in which I hit Lary with a plastic jar of Vaseline — that we'd have more fun if we just followed Lary around. After that we stuck to him like putty and, as a reward, were given a fascinating tour through the human sewage pipe of Prague. At one point we found ourselves in a sweaty underground gay bar belting shots of Ouzo. Grant, who at that time was still an acting straight man (it was a bad act, but still), noticed that the walls along the dance floor were outfitted with rows of toilet-paper dispensers.
"What's the reason for that?" he asked.
But Grant is another who feels no need to search for reason, so he simply resumed his practice of allowing the world to unfurl its surprises. The fact that he's gay isn't one of them. We all knew that before he did, or before he chose to tell us, since, of course, on some level he always knew. Since then he has lived completely unfettered by expectations. "I have no hopes, no dreams, no prospects," he likes to say. "In fact, I'm the happiest man alive."
Daniel and I wish we could be that way. In contrast we are always searching, and we don't even know for what. "Why do I do this?" Daniel says sometimes, referring to his art. Usually it's after a bad newspaper review or an unsuccessful meeting at a New York gallery. Once we both found ourselves in a slough of despond at his place, drinking wine while he colored in lips on the faces of his hand-drawn exhibit announcements. That was back when he did faces. "What's the point?" he grieved while methodically brushing each envelope with a red crayon. There were hundreds of envelopes. "I should just give up."
"Right," I slobbered. I was there seeking solace myself because the editor who'd greenlighted my article at Esquire had just been fired, pulling the chair out from under the biggest milestone of my career. So I wasn't jolly full of fun, either, but still I perked slightly when I saw that Daniel accidentally skipped an envelope. "You missed one," I said, handing him the culprit that escaped his crayon.
"Well," Daniel said, stopping to correct the error, "there's no reason for leaving the house without lips, now is there?" Then I helped him resume his task, because right then I realized there's no time for seeking reasons to live when there are stacks of envelopes to be colored.


"
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  string(4591) "I was driving along that cruddy butt smear of a freeway section south of Freedom Parkway, the part where the number of lanes swell and contract like a big, constipated boa constrictor and where -- almost every day -- you see some poor schleppo on the shoulder standing dazed next to his dented car wondering where that truck came from, and I was thinking about life in general and how it would be nice not to die that day in particular. 
I've had days, of course, when I felt differently. Nothing major. It's just that there were times when I got out of bed completely burdened with the fact that I was still breathing, having missed a perfectly good opportunity to croak in my sleep. On those days I'd call Lary.
"I'm on the ledge," I'd bleat. "I'm gonna jump."
"Well," he'd say in a way that always saves me, "WHAT'S STOPPIN' YA?"
"I meant ''figuratively'', you fuck!" I'd shriek, and shrieking at Lary always provides me with a reason to live. Soon I'd be chirping into the phone, "Why do you keep bags of cat litter in your dishwasher? I mean, what's the ''reason'' for that?"
But Lary's redeeming quality is his complete comfort with the lack of reason. For example, a few years ago the four of us -- Daniel, Grant, Lary and I -- traveled to Prague, and I thought I'd be the tour guide, considering the fact that I am, after all, an official foreign-language interpreter. I don't speak Czech specifically, but on the average, I'd traveled to Europe more in one month than these three plebeians had in their whole lifetimes, so I assumed they would all sit at my knee enthralled with my knowledge the whole time, letting me explain the reasons for things.
"Wanna know why you should keep your head at armrest level when evacuating a smoke-filled aircraft?" I'd tweet smugly during the safety demonstration. "It's because smoke rises while noxious chemical fumes sink, so the safest air is in between."
Out of the perfect pureness of friendship, Daniel and Grant were prepared to ruin their vacation and provide me with a constant audience, but once in Prague, Lary kept ditching us only to reappear later with absorbing stories of peg-legged whores and bald cab drivers with boils on their heads and stuff.
So soon, even I had to admit -- after a spitting fit of jealousy in which I hit Lary with a plastic jar of Vaseline -- that we'd have more fun if we just followed Lary around. After that we stuck to him like putty and, as a reward, were given a fascinating tour through the human sewage pipe of Prague. At one point we found ourselves in a sweaty underground gay bar belting shots of Ouzo. Grant, who at that time was still an acting straight man (it was a bad act, but still), noticed that the walls along the dance floor were outfitted with rows of toilet-paper dispensers.
"What's the ''reason'' for that?" he asked.
But Grant is another who feels no need to search for reason, so he simply resumed his practice of allowing the world to unfurl its surprises. The fact that he's gay isn't one of them. We all knew that before he did, or before he chose to tell us, since, of course, on some level he always knew. Since then he has lived completely unfettered by expectations. "I have no hopes, no dreams, no prospects," he likes to say. "In fact, I'm the happiest man alive."
Daniel and I wish we could be that way. In contrast we are always searching, and we don't even know for what. "Why do I do this?" Daniel says sometimes, referring to his art. Usually it's after a bad newspaper review or an unsuccessful meeting at a New York gallery. Once we both found ourselves in a slough of despond at his place, drinking wine while he colored in lips on the faces of his hand-drawn exhibit announcements. That was back when he did faces. "What's the point?" he grieved while methodically brushing each envelope with a red crayon. There were hundreds of envelopes. "I should just give up."
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"Well," Daniel said, stopping to correct the error, "there's no reason for leaving the house without lips, now is there?" Then I helped him resume his task, because right then I realized there's no time for seeking reasons to live when there are stacks of envelopes to be colored.


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  string(4844) "    Why ask why when there's so much to do?   2001-01-06T05:04:00+00:00 Moodswing - A reason to live   Hollis Gillespie 1223585 2001-01-06T05:04:00+00:00  I was driving along that cruddy butt smear of a freeway section south of Freedom Parkway, the part where the number of lanes swell and contract like a big, constipated boa constrictor and where — almost every day — you see some poor schleppo on the shoulder standing dazed next to his dented car wondering where that truck came from, and I was thinking about life in general and how it would be nice not to die that day in particular. 
I've had days, of course, when I felt differently. Nothing major. It's just that there were times when I got out of bed completely burdened with the fact that I was still breathing, having missed a perfectly good opportunity to croak in my sleep. On those days I'd call Lary.
"I'm on the ledge," I'd bleat. "I'm gonna jump."
"Well," he'd say in a way that always saves me, "WHAT'S STOPPIN' YA?"
"I meant figuratively, you fuck!" I'd shriek, and shrieking at Lary always provides me with a reason to live. Soon I'd be chirping into the phone, "Why do you keep bags of cat litter in your dishwasher? I mean, what's the reason for that?"
But Lary's redeeming quality is his complete comfort with the lack of reason. For example, a few years ago the four of us — Daniel, Grant, Lary and I — traveled to Prague, and I thought I'd be the tour guide, considering the fact that I am, after all, an official foreign-language interpreter. I don't speak Czech specifically, but on the average, I'd traveled to Europe more in one month than these three plebeians had in their whole lifetimes, so I assumed they would all sit at my knee enthralled with my knowledge the whole time, letting me explain the reasons for things.
"Wanna know why you should keep your head at armrest level when evacuating a smoke-filled aircraft?" I'd tweet smugly during the safety demonstration. "It's because smoke rises while noxious chemical fumes sink, so the safest air is in between."
Out of the perfect pureness of friendship, Daniel and Grant were prepared to ruin their vacation and provide me with a constant audience, but once in Prague, Lary kept ditching us only to reappear later with absorbing stories of peg-legged whores and bald cab drivers with boils on their heads and stuff.
So soon, even I had to admit — after a spitting fit of jealousy in which I hit Lary with a plastic jar of Vaseline — that we'd have more fun if we just followed Lary around. After that we stuck to him like putty and, as a reward, were given a fascinating tour through the human sewage pipe of Prague. At one point we found ourselves in a sweaty underground gay bar belting shots of Ouzo. Grant, who at that time was still an acting straight man (it was a bad act, but still), noticed that the walls along the dance floor were outfitted with rows of toilet-paper dispensers.
"What's the reason for that?" he asked.
But Grant is another who feels no need to search for reason, so he simply resumed his practice of allowing the world to unfurl its surprises. The fact that he's gay isn't one of them. We all knew that before he did, or before he chose to tell us, since, of course, on some level he always knew. Since then he has lived completely unfettered by expectations. "I have no hopes, no dreams, no prospects," he likes to say. "In fact, I'm the happiest man alive."
Daniel and I wish we could be that way. In contrast we are always searching, and we don't even know for what. "Why do I do this?" Daniel says sometimes, referring to his art. Usually it's after a bad newspaper review or an unsuccessful meeting at a New York gallery. Once we both found ourselves in a slough of despond at his place, drinking wine while he colored in lips on the faces of his hand-drawn exhibit announcements. That was back when he did faces. "What's the point?" he grieved while methodically brushing each envelope with a red crayon. There were hundreds of envelopes. "I should just give up."
"Right," I slobbered. I was there seeking solace myself because the editor who'd greenlighted my article at Esquire had just been fired, pulling the chair out from under the biggest milestone of my career. So I wasn't jolly full of fun, either, but still I perked slightly when I saw that Daniel accidentally skipped an envelope. "You missed one," I said, handing him the culprit that escaped his crayon.
"Well," Daniel said, stopping to correct the error, "there's no reason for leaving the house without lips, now is there?" Then I helped him resume his task, because right then I realized there's no time for seeking reasons to live when there are stacks of envelopes to be colored.


             13002743 1228700                          Moodswing - A reason to live "
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Moodswing

Saturday January 6, 2001 12:04 am EST
Why ask why when there's so much to do? | more...
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  string(4887) "There's something really wrong with the world when you can't get a buzz off your codeine cough medicine. Christ, if that doesn't just suck all the fun out of being sick. I've been chugging this stuff like shooters at a Hooters bar, and I'm still so lucid I could pilot a plane, plus I keep coughing like a late-stage lung-cancer victim. I've a good mind to go back to my pharmacist and accuse him of switching my prescription with pancake syrup, hoarding the good stuff for himself, because it's not every day I get to do drugs. What rotten luck to have gotten my clutches on a legal narcotic and it doesn't work! Now I have to find another way to fix myself.
I could call Lary. Not for drugs ... though he has drugs in his house he doesn't even know about. Like he finally found the acid tabs he accused me of stealing more than two years ago. They were in his freezer, stuck to the underside of a pot pie or something. Thank God he found them, because I got tired of hearing him say in a condescending way, "Really, Hollis, if you took them it's OK," and me having to scream back, "Look, you big worthless stain on the butt end of the Earth, even back when I did drugs I didn't do acid!"
"Goddammit, you walking
pocket of pus," I croaked
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"Hi, whore," he answered
gamely. "I'm in Colorado."
"Huh?"
"Been here all week. You're supposed to feed my cat, remember? How's my cat?"
"Love ya, 'bye!"
So Lary can't cure me, but he can fix my broken furnace, which is why I have this bionic flu bug to begin with. I noticed it the other morning while I was poking myself in bed, wondering why I felt harder than usual — since hardness is not a quality I would attribute to myself lately — when suddenly the reason for my condition occurred to me: I was frozen. Frozen because our furnace had done a death rattle in the middle of the night, and in the ensuing hours I basically got crusted over with ice, exactly like a bleachy-haired, flannel-clad, phlegmy Snow White after she bit the bad apple and lay there preserved for eternity with woodland creatures coming from miles around to weep at her feet.
OK, not exactly like that, but I was cold. So to stay alive, Chris and I set about calling people to come and fix our broken furnace. For my part I called Lary, because when something is broken my first step is always to charm him into fixing it.
"Goddammit, you walking pocket of pus," I croaked into his cell phone, "get your meager ass over here and fix my furnace."
"Hi, whore," he answered gamely. "I'm in Colorado."
"Huh?"
"Been here all week. You're supposed to feed my cat, remember? How's my cat?"
"Love ya, 'bye!"
So with Lary inconsiderately unavailable, my options fell to Daniel and Grant. Daniel was vetoed immediately because he couldn't fix a broken furnace any more than he can perform eye surgery on himself. He's an artist. He creates, he doesn't mend. His own garbage disposal has been broken for over a year and he has yet to begin the highly technical process of dialing the building manager's phone number so she can dispatch the superintendent to fix it.
So I called Grant. Grant can fix almost anything ... not with his actual own hands, mind you, but he knows guys. There's his hardwood-floor guy, his electricity guy, his HVAC guy. What he can't fix he leaves broken and figures it's better for it. Like the time he found an ancient wooden pie chest on the side of the road, and I asked him if he planned to replace the rusty torn screen, and he looked at me like I just asked him to eat beetles. "Its broken-ness is what makes it so fabulous," he gasped.
But Grant sounded sad when he answered the phone. I'd been gone and hadn't heard the news: That day he was on his way to a funeral with his daughter to grieve the deaths of her three friends, who died together tragically over the weekend. Two of them were children. "She used to babysit those kids, Hollis," Grant said, his voice thin. "She can't stop crying."
Grant's daughter just turned 18, and it looks like adulthood didn't waste time introducing her to the hardness of the life. "She keeps sobbing, she keeps saying, 'But Daddy ... '," Grant grieved. "God, why does it break my heart so horribly to hear her say that?"
I think I know why. It's because the child in her is barely veiled by her new womanhood, and Grant heard his child appealing to him to make it all better, to wave a wand and make the world the way it was a few days ago, and he felt his utter powerlessness to provide her that. "God, Hollis," Grant lamented, "I couldn't do anything but let her cry. I couldn't fix it." Instead he realized a tiny piece of her will have to remain broken, and she won't be better off for it, just wiser and stronger as we all eventually become through the course of life, and a little less dependent  on her father.


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I could call Lary. Not for drugs ... though he has drugs in his house he doesn't even know about. Like he finally found the acid tabs he accused me of stealing more than two years ago. They were in his freezer, stuck to the underside of a pot pie or something. Thank God he found them, because I got tired of hearing him say in a condescending way, "Really, Hollis, if you took them it's OK," and me having to scream back, "Look, you big worthless stain on the butt end of the Earth, even back when I ''did'' drugs I didn't do acid!"
"Goddammit, you walking
pocket of pus," I croaked
into his cell phone, "get
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"Hi, whore," he answered
gamely. "I'm in Colorado."
"Huh?"
"Been here all week. You're supposed to feed my cat, remember? How's my cat?"
"Love ya, 'bye!"
So Lary can't cure me, but he can fix my broken furnace, which is why I have this bionic flu bug to begin with. I noticed it the other morning while I was poking myself in bed, wondering why I felt harder than usual -- since hardness is not a quality I would attribute to myself lately -- when suddenly the reason for my condition occurred to me: I was frozen. Frozen because our furnace had done a death rattle in the middle of the night, and in the ensuing hours I basically got crusted over with ice, exactly like a bleachy-haired, flannel-clad, phlegmy Snow White after she bit the bad apple and lay there preserved for eternity with woodland creatures coming from miles around to weep at her feet.
OK, not ''exactly'' like that, but I was cold. So to stay alive, Chris and I set about calling people to come and fix our broken furnace. For my part I called Lary, because when something is broken my first step is always to charm him into fixing it.
"Goddammit, you walking pocket of pus," I croaked into his cell phone, "get your meager ass over here and fix my furnace."
"Hi, whore," he answered gamely. "I'm in Colorado."
"Huh?"
"Been here all week. You're supposed to feed my cat, remember? How's my cat?"
"Love ya, 'bye!"
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Grant's daughter just turned 18, and it looks like adulthood didn't waste time introducing her to the hardness of the life. "She keeps sobbing, she keeps saying, 'But Daddy ... '," Grant grieved. "God, why does it break my heart so horribly to hear her say that?"
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"Goddammit, you walking
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"Been here all week. You're supposed to feed my cat, remember? How's my cat?"
"Love ya, 'bye!"
So Lary can't cure me, but he can fix my broken furnace, which is why I have this bionic flu bug to begin with. I noticed it the other morning while I was poking myself in bed, wondering why I felt harder than usual — since hardness is not a quality I would attribute to myself lately — when suddenly the reason for my condition occurred to me: I was frozen. Frozen because our furnace had done a death rattle in the middle of the night, and in the ensuing hours I basically got crusted over with ice, exactly like a bleachy-haired, flannel-clad, phlegmy Snow White after she bit the bad apple and lay there preserved for eternity with woodland creatures coming from miles around to weep at her feet.
OK, not exactly like that, but I was cold. So to stay alive, Chris and I set about calling people to come and fix our broken furnace. For my part I called Lary, because when something is broken my first step is always to charm him into fixing it.
"Goddammit, you walking pocket of pus," I croaked into his cell phone, "get your meager ass over here and fix my furnace."
"Hi, whore," he answered gamely. "I'm in Colorado."
"Huh?"
"Been here all week. You're supposed to feed my cat, remember? How's my cat?"
"Love ya, 'bye!"
So with Lary inconsiderately unavailable, my options fell to Daniel and Grant. Daniel was vetoed immediately because he couldn't fix a broken furnace any more than he can perform eye surgery on himself. He's an artist. He creates, he doesn't mend. His own garbage disposal has been broken for over a year and he has yet to begin the highly technical process of dialing the building manager's phone number so she can dispatch the superintendent to fix it.
So I called Grant. Grant can fix almost anything ... not with his actual own hands, mind you, but he knows guys. There's his hardwood-floor guy, his electricity guy, his HVAC guy. What he can't fix he leaves broken and figures it's better for it. Like the time he found an ancient wooden pie chest on the side of the road, and I asked him if he planned to replace the rusty torn screen, and he looked at me like I just asked him to eat beetles. "Its broken-ness is what makes it so fabulous," he gasped.
But Grant sounded sad when he answered the phone. I'd been gone and hadn't heard the news: That day he was on his way to a funeral with his daughter to grieve the deaths of her three friends, who died together tragically over the weekend. Two of them were children. "She used to babysit those kids, Hollis," Grant said, his voice thin. "She can't stop crying."
Grant's daughter just turned 18, and it looks like adulthood didn't waste time introducing her to the hardness of the life. "She keeps sobbing, she keeps saying, 'But Daddy ... '," Grant grieved. "God, why does it break my heart so horribly to hear her say that?"
I think I know why. It's because the child in her is barely veiled by her new womanhood, and Grant heard his child appealing to him to make it all better, to wave a wand and make the world the way it was a few days ago, and he felt his utter powerlessness to provide her that. "God, Hollis," Grant lamented, "I couldn't do anything but let her cry. I couldn't fix it." Instead he realized a tiny piece of her will have to remain broken, and she won't be better off for it, just wiser and stronger as we all eventually become through the course of life, and a little less dependent  on her father.


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Moodswing

Saturday December 30, 2000 12:04 am EST
Busted furnace is no comparison to a busted heart | more...

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  string(4568) "I woke up last Saturday fairly comfortable in my own mediocrity, not at all knowing what was in store for me at my friend Jim's Christmas party.
For starters, Jim should know not to invite me anywhere. It wasn't that long ago when I showed up drunk and in my underwear (practically) at a party thrown by the Democratic Leadership Convention in New Orleans during Jazz Fest. There because he invited me, I danced until my hair unfurled in a lacquer-matted cascade, threw myself at a few men — including, I think, the governor of Indiana — then left clutching a tropical cocktail and a fist full of those little quiches some poor server was offering from a platter. I remember little else of that night except that Jim didn't seem embarrassed by me. To back that up, he keeps inviting me places. What is wrong with that man?
Like why didn't he warn me that Peter Gabriel was coming to his party? How could he let me walk right into his house not even knowing I was about to shake hands with a dapper-looking man whose face I didn't immediately place and whose name I didn't immediately hear but to whom I nodded my greeting anyway only to discover, mid-handshake, that this was PETER GABRIEL!!!! PETER GABRIEL, Jesus God!, standing right there at the end of my outstretched hand, smiling at me like he has any business at all being flesh and bone.
"Peter Gabriel?" I said.
"Yes," he said.
"Salsbury Hill?"
"Yes."
Let me just give you some background. When I was a kid I wasn't a music junkie. On the contrary, there was just the one song, and I didn't hole myself up with my headphones and rebel against my parents and lament over the big tub of turd the world was turning out to be. Instead I was confused and timid, and I pretty much had the personality of a cornered rat. My father was a charming and largely jobless alcoholic with big dreams and even bigger fears, and my mother was a missile scientist who took night classes in cosmetology because her own dreams were conversely simple, and she really would have preferred perming people's hair to building bombs.
To me, while growing up, our household seemed like a sad dungeon for their faltered hopes and you couldn't sit there very long without hearing these broken aspirations flap around the room like trapped bats. It was unbearable to a budding romantic like myself, so to escape I'd go sit in my sister's rusty Celica and play Gabriel's "Salsbury Hill" over and over on her car stereo, running down her battery and getting the crap beat out of me because of it. But it was worth the reprieve, because when you're young like that, and sad, you have your hand outstretched, metaphorically speaking, and you're searching for a string to pull you through. And for reasons more corny than the importance I'm placing on it now, my hand found that song. Does that make sense?
Then later, after my parents' inevitable divorce, I moved to Zurich with my mother, and it was there that I realized the true frailty of her health. During the day she seemed like a perfectly normal weapons specialist with a hankering for beef jerky and Benson & Hedges, but at night she was crippled by coughing fits, barely able to keep from drowning in the pools of fluid forming in her own lungs. Unable to sleep, I spent the nights watching obscure music videos, like the one with Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel clutching each other and singing "Don't Give Up."
"Don't give up," I'd mentally implore as I sat outside my mother's bedroom door and waited for her suffering to subside. But the day came when I realized that, in this case, the not giving up wasn't up to me, and it was there in Europe that I was hit with the certainty of two things about my mother: One, that she would be dead soon unless she quit smoking, and two, she would never quit smoking.
A year later, after she died in my arms, it was one of those times I could have given up but didn't. I was rescued, I guess, by the safety net I'd woven over time with the threads I'd collected from when I had my hand outstretched, metaphorically speaking, searching for a down payment on the possibility that life might not be such a basket of crap after all. So the least Jim could have done is let me prepare. I mean, Peter Gabriel, Jesus God! There was Peter Gabriel, at Jim's party, on the end of my hand — my outstretched hand. "You, you, you ... " I blathered to him, but then the woman who brought him extricated him from my grasp and led him away. I continued to sputter even though he was gone.
"You helped pull me through," I finally finished.


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"Yes," he said.
"''Salsbury Hill''?"
"Yes."
Let me just give you some background. When I was a kid I wasn't a music junkie. On the contrary, there was just the one song, and I didn't hole myself up with my headphones and rebel against my parents and lament over the big tub of turd the world was turning out to be. Instead I was confused and timid, and I pretty much had the personality of a cornered rat. My father was a charming and largely jobless alcoholic with big dreams and even bigger fears, and my mother was a missile scientist who took night classes in cosmetology because her own dreams were conversely simple, and she really would have preferred perming people's hair to building bombs.
To me, while growing up, our household seemed like a sad dungeon for their faltered hopes and you couldn't sit there very long without hearing these broken aspirations flap around the room like trapped bats. It was unbearable to a budding romantic like myself, so to escape I'd go sit in my sister's rusty Celica and play Gabriel's "Salsbury Hill" over and over on her car stereo, running down her battery and getting the crap beat out of me because of it. But it was worth the reprieve, because when you're young like that, and sad, you have your hand outstretched, metaphorically speaking, and you're searching for a string to pull you through. And for reasons more corny than the importance I'm placing on it now, my hand found that song. Does that make sense?
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"You helped pull me through," I finally finished.


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  string(4842) "    A lifetime of clutching at threads weaves a much-needed safety net   2000-12-23T05:04:00+00:00 Moodswing - My outstretched hand   Hollis Gillespie 1223585 2000-12-23T05:04:00+00:00  I woke up last Saturday fairly comfortable in my own mediocrity, not at all knowing what was in store for me at my friend Jim's Christmas party.
For starters, Jim should know not to invite me anywhere. It wasn't that long ago when I showed up drunk and in my underwear (practically) at a party thrown by the Democratic Leadership Convention in New Orleans during Jazz Fest. There because he invited me, I danced until my hair unfurled in a lacquer-matted cascade, threw myself at a few men — including, I think, the governor of Indiana — then left clutching a tropical cocktail and a fist full of those little quiches some poor server was offering from a platter. I remember little else of that night except that Jim didn't seem embarrassed by me. To back that up, he keeps inviting me places. What is wrong with that man?
Like why didn't he warn me that Peter Gabriel was coming to his party? How could he let me walk right into his house not even knowing I was about to shake hands with a dapper-looking man whose face I didn't immediately place and whose name I didn't immediately hear but to whom I nodded my greeting anyway only to discover, mid-handshake, that this was PETER GABRIEL!!!! PETER GABRIEL, Jesus God!, standing right there at the end of my outstretched hand, smiling at me like he has any business at all being flesh and bone.
"Peter Gabriel?" I said.
"Yes," he said.
"Salsbury Hill?"
"Yes."
Let me just give you some background. When I was a kid I wasn't a music junkie. On the contrary, there was just the one song, and I didn't hole myself up with my headphones and rebel against my parents and lament over the big tub of turd the world was turning out to be. Instead I was confused and timid, and I pretty much had the personality of a cornered rat. My father was a charming and largely jobless alcoholic with big dreams and even bigger fears, and my mother was a missile scientist who took night classes in cosmetology because her own dreams were conversely simple, and she really would have preferred perming people's hair to building bombs.
To me, while growing up, our household seemed like a sad dungeon for their faltered hopes and you couldn't sit there very long without hearing these broken aspirations flap around the room like trapped bats. It was unbearable to a budding romantic like myself, so to escape I'd go sit in my sister's rusty Celica and play Gabriel's "Salsbury Hill" over and over on her car stereo, running down her battery and getting the crap beat out of me because of it. But it was worth the reprieve, because when you're young like that, and sad, you have your hand outstretched, metaphorically speaking, and you're searching for a string to pull you through. And for reasons more corny than the importance I'm placing on it now, my hand found that song. Does that make sense?
Then later, after my parents' inevitable divorce, I moved to Zurich with my mother, and it was there that I realized the true frailty of her health. During the day she seemed like a perfectly normal weapons specialist with a hankering for beef jerky and Benson & Hedges, but at night she was crippled by coughing fits, barely able to keep from drowning in the pools of fluid forming in her own lungs. Unable to sleep, I spent the nights watching obscure music videos, like the one with Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel clutching each other and singing "Don't Give Up."
"Don't give up," I'd mentally implore as I sat outside my mother's bedroom door and waited for her suffering to subside. But the day came when I realized that, in this case, the not giving up wasn't up to me, and it was there in Europe that I was hit with the certainty of two things about my mother: One, that she would be dead soon unless she quit smoking, and two, she would never quit smoking.
A year later, after she died in my arms, it was one of those times I could have given up but didn't. I was rescued, I guess, by the safety net I'd woven over time with the threads I'd collected from when I had my hand outstretched, metaphorically speaking, searching for a down payment on the possibility that life might not be such a basket of crap after all. So the least Jim could have done is let me prepare. I mean, Peter Gabriel, Jesus God! There was Peter Gabriel, at Jim's party, on the end of my hand — my outstretched hand. "You, you, you ... " I blathered to him, but then the woman who brought him extricated him from my grasp and led him away. I continued to sputter even though he was gone.
"You helped pull me through," I finally finished.


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Moodswing

Saturday December 23, 2000 12:04 am EST
A lifetime of clutching at threads weaves a much-needed safety net | more...
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  string(4420) "I'm not happy that Grant wants to hang my child. His inspiration comes from his new loft apartment, which is empty — like a clean slate — and sometimes he says he wants to keep it that way. But other times he says he wants to host occasional art installations, and that's where the ideas come in. "We should take a bunch of babies Mae's age," he says excitedly, indicating my 8-month-old daughter, who is sitting quietly on his spotless and otherwise unoccupied kitchen counter, "and just hang them on hooks. It would be fabulous!" 
He sweeps through the vast living room, his face alight with enthusiasm, his sandals shuffling on the polished concrete floor. "There could just be babies all over the walls!" his voice rises and echoes off the cement. "Babies hanging like hams! I love it!" Then he approaches Mae, who, for reasons as mysterious as my own, is madly in love with him, and yanks her up by the straps on the back of her overalls. "We could hang her like this, with a sign underneath that says, 'Mae Beth by Hollis Gillespie.' Are you not loving this idea?"
Yes, I am not loving this idea. I am, instead, diving across the room to rescue Mae from his clutches. "If you ever, ever hang my baby from a hook I will personally rip your brain right out the back of your skull." But Grant is unfazed and continues to soak in inspiration from his empty loft. Thank God he is off the hanging-baby brainstorm and is back to entertaining minimalism. "Nothing!" he spouts breathlessly. "Can't you just see it? Bare walls, nominal possessions. A clean slate! I'm loving this idea."
Who wouldn't? A clean slate is the ultimate possession. My own slate is more like Lary's place. Lary lives in a different warehouse than Grant altogether, with tools and torches strewn about. When I was pregnant he used to joke that my baby would be banned, as if his home were some kind of clubhouse where only emotional infants were allowed. "Like I would ever bring a baby here!" I'd yell back. "You can't walk five feet in this place without having your head impaled on a big rusty nail." But since then I've found that, ironically, I enjoy it there more than ever. I hang out while he's out of town, feed his cat and eat his pistachios. It's almost peaceful, sitting there amid another man's junk. Mae hangs out as well, but safely strapped in her carrier, of course, with mosquito netting draped over it. No way am I gonna let her crawl playfully through Lary's House of Sharp Edges and Open Flame. I mean I have to protect her, right? From his junk as well as  my own.
And that's the real hazard; my own junk. I've been trying to avoid it lately, pushing it into places like the carriage house garage, and not even stacking it neatly. There's my broken treadmill, two plastic trees, old area rugs, a large plywood sign Grant, Daniel and I pilfered from the roadside that blares "Get Right With God" in letters as big as beer mugs, a wind-up plastic penis with clown feet that hops. These are just a few items in a galaxy of crap, a precariously teetering danger zone that basically mirrors my own brain, which is painfully cluttered with memories of my past perceived atrocities.
Atrocities like the time I allowed my classmates to taunt my little sister, who was fat. That memory murders me. I should have protected her. I should have been a better person. Instead I am who I am, a sorrowful refugee on hiatus from my own ignorance, wondering what I did to deserve my daughter. Sometimes I anguish over the groundless notion that there's some kind of karmic roll-over policy, and that Mae will be made to suffer for my past apathies. "I'm sorry," I say into the  emptiness.
And sometimes, just to rescue myself, I'll rewrite the memories. Because if there's ever a moment I wish with every atom of my being to take back, it is the moment my little sister looked at me to save her and saw that I wouldn't. How her eyes rounded with the realization that she was utterly alone, and how she held back her tears by pretending to pluck pills off her second-hand sweater. So in my mind I go to my little sister, who is trying not to nervously pick at her sweater, trying instead to fold her hands with heartbreaking dignity atop the cafeteria table, and I take one of her hands and bring it to my cheek. In my mind I see her eyes smile with relief, and I think for a second that maybe a clean slate is possible after all.


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He sweeps through the vast living room, his face alight with enthusiasm, his sandals shuffling on the polished concrete floor. "There could just be babies all over the walls!" his voice rises and echoes off the cement. "Babies hanging like hams! I love it!" Then he approaches Mae, who, for reasons as mysterious as my own, is madly in love with him, and yanks her up by the straps on the back of her overalls. "We could hang her like this, with a sign underneath that says, 'Mae Beth by Hollis Gillespie.' Are you not loving this idea?"
Yes, I am not loving this idea. I am, instead, diving across the room to rescue Mae from his clutches. "If you ever, ever hang my baby from a hook I will personally rip your brain right out the back of your skull." But Grant is unfazed and continues to soak in inspiration from his empty loft. Thank God he is off the hanging-baby brainstorm and is back to entertaining minimalism. "Nothing!" he spouts breathlessly. "Can't you just see it? Bare walls, nominal possessions. A clean slate! I'm loving this idea."
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And that's the real hazard; my own junk. I've been trying to avoid it lately, pushing it into places like the carriage house garage, and not even stacking it neatly. There's my broken treadmill, two plastic trees, old area rugs, a large plywood sign Grant, Daniel and I pilfered from the roadside that blares "Get Right With God" in letters as big as beer mugs, a wind-up plastic penis with clown feet that hops. These are just a few items in a galaxy of crap, a precariously teetering danger zone that basically mirrors my own brain, which is painfully cluttered with memories of my past perceived atrocities.
Atrocities like the time I allowed my classmates to taunt my little sister, who was fat. That memory murders me. I should have protected her. I should have been a better person. Instead I am who I am, a sorrowful refugee on hiatus from my own ignorance, wondering what I did to deserve my daughter. Sometimes I anguish over the groundless notion that there's some kind of karmic roll-over policy, and that Mae will be made to suffer for my past apathies. "I'm sorry," I say into the  emptiness.
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Moodswing

Saturday December 16, 2000 12:04 am EST
Sorting through clutter, both real and imagined | more...
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  string(4318) "I love big lesbians. I'd be one myself if it weren't for the fact that I'm not gay, not that I don't try to fake it occasionally, like when I French kissed my incredibly hot friend Mary at a raucous bachelorette party almost two years ago. "Look at me, I'm gay!" I gleefully told Grant.
"You are not gay," said Grant, who was also drunk. To illustrate his point he grabbed Mary and planted a passionate kiss on her himself, his big slippery lips flopping over her face like two wet tentacles. "There, I just tongued her whole head, that doesn't make me straight."
"Get your hands off my girlfriend," I slurred, but Mary, who is straight, had already wandered off and was making out with Kevin, himself a hunky morsel whom Grant and I both agreed would make a nice human chew toy. Watching them I had a wistful thought. "If I were a real lesbian," I said yearningly, "just think of all the guys I could turn on!"
And right there is why fake lesbians like me probably piss the hell out of real ones, because surely the last thing on a real lesbian's list of priorities is to get a guy off. But pretending there's some possible chick-on-chick action in the wings has always been a straight girl's reliable stand-by to get a guy's attention ... and if that doesn't work, he's probably gay.
Like how I thought Lary was gay when I first met him. I mean his face was a little too chiseled, his hair a little too blond and his waist a little too thin not to spell flamer. Then I visited his home, which at the time was basically a renovated alleyway boasting little more than a bed and art supplies surrounding a bog of live mosquito larvae, and I determined that a gay man would rather rip out his own eyes with a rusty fondue fork than spend one night in that place. I myself stayed there once while Lary was on vacation, and his mattress felt like it was stuffed with bags of open switchblades. It almost renewed my suspicions that he might be gay, since his furnishings were obviously a ploy to ensure women wouldn't overstay their welcome, but since then he's upgraded the place to the point where it's almost comfortable, and I hear the spiders have all been corralled into one corner.
Now Grant, even though he was an acting straight man when I met him, wasn't fooling anybody. I saw a video of the wedding reception following his second marriage, shot only a short time before we became friends, and I had to lie down I was laughing so hard. In the video he had impeccable curly haircut in an asymmetrical flip and two-toned shoes, and he breezed through the crowd with his hips swinging like saloon doors, offering appetizers from a plate. "What a fucking fairy!" I squealed, pointing at the screen. "I don't know how this is possible, but you were more gay when you were straight!"
Also in the video was his daughter. She twirled in the foyer of the reception area, watching the hem of her velvet dress bellow outward at her knees. She looked like a perfect little buttercup, and she had Grant's smile; such a big smile for a little girl. But she's not little anymore. She's the reason Grant returned from Mexico, where he was living on an island off the coast of Cancun. He had waited until the day after his daughter graduated from high school before he made his early retirement on that island, where he spent the afternoons sleeping on a hammock overlooking the bright blue ocean, which was more like a big turquoise pond, really, with tiny warm waves lapping at his toes like a litter of liquid puppies. It was perfect, that ocean and his life, with his succession of caramel-colored young Latin lovers. No man on Earth could have brought him back here, so ironically the job fell to a young woman.
"I was so naive to think I could leave after she turned 18," Grant says now. So he's back in Atlanta, where his daughter needs him now more than ever. He's fresh off the plane, his tan has hardly faded, and his sun-bleached hair is still coiled on his head like hay. He's even wearing shorts, testimony to the fact that he was torn prematurely from his Caribbean paradise. I am beaming with selfish bliss that he's back, and occasionally I can't help myself from taunting him; "Grant loves a woman. Grant loves a woman," I singsong. To shut me up he gets me in a head-lock, and rubs his lips all over my face.


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"You are not gay," said Grant, who was also drunk. To illustrate his point he grabbed Mary and planted a passionate kiss on her himself, his big slippery lips flopping over her face like two wet tentacles. "There, I just tongued her whole head, that doesn't make me straight."
"Get your hands off my girlfriend," I slurred, but Mary, who is straight, had already wandered off and was making out with Kevin, himself a hunky morsel whom Grant and I both agreed would make a nice human chew toy. Watching them I had a wistful thought. "If I were a real lesbian," I said yearningly, "just think of all the ''guys'' I could turn on!"
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Like how I thought Lary was gay when I first met him. I mean his face was a little too chiseled, his hair a little too blond and his waist a little too thin not to spell flamer. Then I visited his home, which at the time was basically a renovated alleyway boasting little more than a bed and art supplies surrounding a bog of live mosquito larvae, and I determined that a gay man would rather rip out his own eyes with a rusty fondue fork than spend one night in that place. I myself stayed there once while Lary was on vacation, and his mattress felt like it was stuffed with bags of open switchblades. It almost renewed my suspicions that he might be gay, since his furnishings were obviously a ploy to ensure women wouldn't overstay their welcome, but since then he's upgraded the place to the point where it's almost comfortable, and I hear the spiders have all been corralled into one corner.
Now Grant, even though he was an acting straight man when I met him, wasn't fooling anybody. I saw a video of the wedding reception following his second marriage, shot only a short time before we became friends, and I had to lie down I was laughing so hard. In the video he had impeccable curly haircut in an asymmetrical flip and two-toned shoes, and he breezed through the crowd with his hips swinging like saloon doors, offering appetizers from a plate. "What a fucking ''fairy''!" I squealed, pointing at the screen. "I don't know how this is possible, but you were more gay when you were ''straight''!"
Also in the video was his daughter. She twirled in the foyer of the reception area, watching the hem of her velvet dress bellow outward at her knees. She looked like a perfect little buttercup, and she had Grant's smile; such a big smile for a little girl. But she's not little anymore. She's the reason Grant returned from Mexico, where he was living on an island off the coast of Cancun. He had waited until the day after his daughter graduated from high school before he made his early retirement on that island, where he spent the afternoons sleeping on a hammock overlooking the bright blue ocean, which was more like a big turquoise pond, really, with tiny warm waves lapping at his toes like a litter of liquid puppies. It was perfect, that ocean and his life, with his succession of caramel-colored young Latin lovers. No man on Earth could have brought him back here, so ironically the job fell to a young woman.
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"You are not gay," said Grant, who was also drunk. To illustrate his point he grabbed Mary and planted a passionate kiss on her himself, his big slippery lips flopping over her face like two wet tentacles. "There, I just tongued her whole head, that doesn't make me straight."
"Get your hands off my girlfriend," I slurred, but Mary, who is straight, had already wandered off and was making out with Kevin, himself a hunky morsel whom Grant and I both agreed would make a nice human chew toy. Watching them I had a wistful thought. "If I were a real lesbian," I said yearningly, "just think of all the guys I could turn on!"
And right there is why fake lesbians like me probably piss the hell out of real ones, because surely the last thing on a real lesbian's list of priorities is to get a guy off. But pretending there's some possible chick-on-chick action in the wings has always been a straight girl's reliable stand-by to get a guy's attention ... and if that doesn't work, he's probably gay.
Like how I thought Lary was gay when I first met him. I mean his face was a little too chiseled, his hair a little too blond and his waist a little too thin not to spell flamer. Then I visited his home, which at the time was basically a renovated alleyway boasting little more than a bed and art supplies surrounding a bog of live mosquito larvae, and I determined that a gay man would rather rip out his own eyes with a rusty fondue fork than spend one night in that place. I myself stayed there once while Lary was on vacation, and his mattress felt like it was stuffed with bags of open switchblades. It almost renewed my suspicions that he might be gay, since his furnishings were obviously a ploy to ensure women wouldn't overstay their welcome, but since then he's upgraded the place to the point where it's almost comfortable, and I hear the spiders have all been corralled into one corner.
Now Grant, even though he was an acting straight man when I met him, wasn't fooling anybody. I saw a video of the wedding reception following his second marriage, shot only a short time before we became friends, and I had to lie down I was laughing so hard. In the video he had impeccable curly haircut in an asymmetrical flip and two-toned shoes, and he breezed through the crowd with his hips swinging like saloon doors, offering appetizers from a plate. "What a fucking fairy!" I squealed, pointing at the screen. "I don't know how this is possible, but you were more gay when you were straight!"
Also in the video was his daughter. She twirled in the foyer of the reception area, watching the hem of her velvet dress bellow outward at her knees. She looked like a perfect little buttercup, and she had Grant's smile; such a big smile for a little girl. But she's not little anymore. She's the reason Grant returned from Mexico, where he was living on an island off the coast of Cancun. He had waited until the day after his daughter graduated from high school before he made his early retirement on that island, where he spent the afternoons sleeping on a hammock overlooking the bright blue ocean, which was more like a big turquoise pond, really, with tiny warm waves lapping at his toes like a litter of liquid puppies. It was perfect, that ocean and his life, with his succession of caramel-colored young Latin lovers. No man on Earth could have brought him back here, so ironically the job fell to a young woman.
"I was so naive to think I could leave after she turned 18," Grant says now. So he's back in Atlanta, where his daughter needs him now more than ever. He's fresh off the plane, his tan has hardly faded, and his sun-bleached hair is still coiled on his head like hay. He's even wearing shorts, testimony to the fact that he was torn prematurely from his Caribbean paradise. I am beaming with selfish bliss that he's back, and occasionally I can't help myself from taunting him; "Grant loves a woman. Grant loves a woman," I singsong. To shut me up he gets me in a head-lock, and rubs his lips all over my face.


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Saturday December 9, 2000 12:04 am EST
Love conquers all — even gender | more...
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  string(3819) "I'd just like to state for the record that I didn't deliberately try to     poison my mother when I was 6. I know sometimes I sound like I was Lucifer's little minion growing up, what with the fact that I had a pack-a-day smoking habit by the time I was 12 and that once, when I was very young, like 5, I killed a puppy with a tennis racket, but you have to let me explain this stuff.
For example, the cigarette addiction was just a natural extension of my heritage, since both my parents puffed like living chimneys and by the time I was a year old, I already had lungs that looked like two used tea bags. I remember once my brother accidentally ate a cigarette ash and spent the rest of the afternoon rubbing his tongue on the carpet under the coffee table to get the taste out of his mouth. That's just how our house was; so steeped in smoke you could send signals. I didn't even have to buy my own cigarettes; I just filched them from the cartons my parents kept strewn about the house. That my parents didn't notice is just testimony to the hugeness of their own habits (I quit at 13). That they died young should not have been a shock ... it was anyway, of course, but shouldn't have been. For the record, I didn't have anything to do with it.
And the puppy. It's not like I hacked it to death. Jesus God, get that out of your mind. The puppy was from a litter our dog Echo birthed under the big wooden desk in my brother's bedroom. One day I thought it would be fun to place one of them on the end of a tennis racket and flip it like a little furry pancake, but I stopped as soon as my brother demonstrated to me how the puppy wasn't enjoying it by beating me over the head with a can of artificial snow. "When puppies whine that means they're crying," he said, "like how you cry when I do this." Thwack. Weeks later the guy who adopted the puppy came back and demanded another one because the first one was faulty on account of how it died days after he brought it home. I always blamed myself, thinking it never fully recovered from the flipping, though for all we knew the man was taking the puppies straight from  our house to a cosmetics testing facility. So it's possible I had nothing to do with that death either.
With such enlightenment you could almost talk yourself into believing that I was an ideal child if not for the time when I was 6 and I gave my mother, as a present, poisoned fish wrapped in toilet paper. That my intentions were good is only slightly less incredible than the fact that my mother understood them to be so and therefore didn't mete out her harshest punishment, which was to shove my whole head into a kitchen sink full of soapy dishwater until I coughed for air.
I had collected the fish, dead and floating, from a polluted tributary behind the park after I overheard my parents arguing about money. My father had quit his job again, and my mother was between contracts, and there was no money to put food on the table, she said. Later I presented the fish, wrapped in paper from the public toilet, to my mother. "Food for the table," I said proudly.
My mother was never one to cry much — except once when I returned home after she had officially reported me missing due to the fact that I had stopped at the cinema on my way home to watch My Fair Lady, a movie about five days in duration — and she didn't this time, though I was worried she would when I saw her face as I handed her the dead fish. Instead, she gently took the fish straight from my hands to the trash pail and thanked me graciously as she washed my palms. Absent any alcohol to kill the germs, she opted to rinse my hands with warm water and lighter fluid. I swelled with self-importance at the officious undertaking, as I noticed that she took extreme care to first extinguish her cigarette.


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  string(3821) "I'd just like to state for the record that I didn't deliberately try to     poison my mother when I was 6. I know sometimes I sound like I was Lucifer's little minion growing up, what with the fact that I had a pack-a-day smoking habit by the time I was 12 and that once, when I was very young, like ''5'', I killed a puppy with a tennis racket, but you have to let me explain this stuff.
For example, the cigarette addiction was just a natural extension of my heritage, since both my parents puffed like living chimneys and by the time I was a year old, I already had lungs that looked like two used tea bags. I remember once my brother accidentally ate a cigarette ash and spent the rest of the afternoon rubbing his tongue on the carpet under the coffee table to get the taste out of his mouth. That's just how our house was; so steeped in smoke you could send signals. I didn't even have to buy my own cigarettes; I just filched them from the cartons my parents kept strewn about the house. That my parents didn't notice is just testimony to the hugeness of their own habits (I quit at 13). That they died young should not have been a shock ... it was anyway, of course, but shouldn't have been. For the record, I didn't have anything to do with it.
And the puppy. It's not like I hacked it to death. Jesus God, get that out of your mind. The puppy was from a litter our dog Echo birthed under the big wooden desk in my brother's bedroom. One day I thought it would be fun to place one of them on the end of a tennis racket and flip it like a little furry pancake, but I stopped as soon as my brother demonstrated to me how the puppy wasn't enjoying it by beating me over the head with a can of artificial snow. "When puppies whine that means they're crying," he said, "like how you cry when I do this." ''Thwack.'' Weeks later the guy who adopted the puppy came back and demanded another one because the first one was faulty on account of how it died days after he brought it home. I always blamed myself, thinking it never fully recovered from the flipping, though for all we knew the man was taking the puppies straight from  our house to a cosmetics testing facility. So it's possible I had nothing to do with that death either.
With such enlightenment you could almost talk yourself into believing that I was an ideal child if not for the time when I was 6 and I gave my mother, as a present, poisoned fish wrapped in toilet paper. That my intentions were good is only slightly less incredible than the fact that my mother understood them to be so and therefore didn't mete out her harshest punishment, which was to shove my whole head into a kitchen sink full of soapy dishwater until I coughed for air.
I had collected the fish, dead and floating, from a polluted tributary behind the park after I overheard my parents arguing about money. My father had quit his job again, and my mother was between contracts, and there was no money to put food on the table, she said. Later I presented the fish, wrapped in paper from the public toilet, to my mother. "Food for the table," I said proudly.
My mother was never one to cry much -- except once when I returned home after she had officially reported me missing due to the fact that I had stopped at the cinema on my way home to watch ''My Fair Lady,'' a movie about five days in duration -- and she didn't this time, though I was worried she would when I saw her face as I handed her the dead fish. Instead, she gently took the fish straight from my hands to the trash pail and thanked me graciously as she washed my palms. Absent any alcohol to kill the germs, she opted to rinse my hands with warm water and lighter fluid. I swelled with self-importance at the officious undertaking, as I noticed that she took extreme care to first extinguish her cigarette.


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  string(4062) "    Good intentions pave way to tainted love offering   2000-12-02T05:04:00+00:00 Moodswing - Poisoned fish   Hollis Gillespie 1223585 2000-12-02T05:04:00+00:00  I'd just like to state for the record that I didn't deliberately try to     poison my mother when I was 6. I know sometimes I sound like I was Lucifer's little minion growing up, what with the fact that I had a pack-a-day smoking habit by the time I was 12 and that once, when I was very young, like 5, I killed a puppy with a tennis racket, but you have to let me explain this stuff.
For example, the cigarette addiction was just a natural extension of my heritage, since both my parents puffed like living chimneys and by the time I was a year old, I already had lungs that looked like two used tea bags. I remember once my brother accidentally ate a cigarette ash and spent the rest of the afternoon rubbing his tongue on the carpet under the coffee table to get the taste out of his mouth. That's just how our house was; so steeped in smoke you could send signals. I didn't even have to buy my own cigarettes; I just filched them from the cartons my parents kept strewn about the house. That my parents didn't notice is just testimony to the hugeness of their own habits (I quit at 13). That they died young should not have been a shock ... it was anyway, of course, but shouldn't have been. For the record, I didn't have anything to do with it.
And the puppy. It's not like I hacked it to death. Jesus God, get that out of your mind. The puppy was from a litter our dog Echo birthed under the big wooden desk in my brother's bedroom. One day I thought it would be fun to place one of them on the end of a tennis racket and flip it like a little furry pancake, but I stopped as soon as my brother demonstrated to me how the puppy wasn't enjoying it by beating me over the head with a can of artificial snow. "When puppies whine that means they're crying," he said, "like how you cry when I do this." Thwack. Weeks later the guy who adopted the puppy came back and demanded another one because the first one was faulty on account of how it died days after he brought it home. I always blamed myself, thinking it never fully recovered from the flipping, though for all we knew the man was taking the puppies straight from  our house to a cosmetics testing facility. So it's possible I had nothing to do with that death either.
With such enlightenment you could almost talk yourself into believing that I was an ideal child if not for the time when I was 6 and I gave my mother, as a present, poisoned fish wrapped in toilet paper. That my intentions were good is only slightly less incredible than the fact that my mother understood them to be so and therefore didn't mete out her harshest punishment, which was to shove my whole head into a kitchen sink full of soapy dishwater until I coughed for air.
I had collected the fish, dead and floating, from a polluted tributary behind the park after I overheard my parents arguing about money. My father had quit his job again, and my mother was between contracts, and there was no money to put food on the table, she said. Later I presented the fish, wrapped in paper from the public toilet, to my mother. "Food for the table," I said proudly.
My mother was never one to cry much — except once when I returned home after she had officially reported me missing due to the fact that I had stopped at the cinema on my way home to watch My Fair Lady, a movie about five days in duration — and she didn't this time, though I was worried she would when I saw her face as I handed her the dead fish. Instead, she gently took the fish straight from my hands to the trash pail and thanked me graciously as she washed my palms. Absent any alcohol to kill the germs, she opted to rinse my hands with warm water and lighter fluid. I swelled with self-importance at the officious undertaking, as I noticed that she took extreme care to first extinguish her cigarette.


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Moodswing

Saturday December 2, 2000 12:04 am EST
Good intentions pave way to tainted love offering | more...
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  string(4112) "Among the things I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving is my heightened appreciation for crappy food. Growing up, I remember our kitchen cupboards stocked only with foods containing enough chemicals to kill a cage of laboratory rats. A family favorite was dried Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, which sold four boxes to the buck at Pic 'n' Save, a local surplus store that offered old dry goods on the same shelf as motor oil. The directions called for butter as well as milk, but you could do without the butter in a pinch. The finished product was a bowl of noodles so bright orange you could use it to flag down passing aircraft. That was pretty much the extent of our family's culinary leanings, and I'm thankful for that.
And I'm thankful I survived our holiday meals as well. Take our traditional Fourth of July family barbecue, for instance, where my father used everything from paint thinner to hair spray to fuel a grill fire so huge it could cause traffic 'copters to fall smoldering from the sky. There's still a patch on my brother's scalp where the hair won't grow back, thanks to my father's homemade "honey glaze" sauce, which contained melted pure-cane sugar. It might as well have been a big bowl of boiling magma. It melted my father's favorite rubber spatula, but not before a drop flicked onto my brother's head. Screaming and clawing at his skull, my brother traversed the entire backyard in a zigzag pattern before my mother was able to tackle him and pour beer on his head to keep my father's lava from boring into his brain. I'm thankful for that memory.
And I'm thankful that my father actually tried to barbecue the turkey one Thanksgiving, a process that took so long we didn't have dinner until after midnight, and that was only because my mother finally took the bird off the spit with her bare hands and threw it into the oven. The resulting turkey, with blackened skin and pink interior, probably could have rendered our whole house a bio hazard. There were guests at this occasion, too, mostly my father's drinking buddies combined with a few of my mother's co-workers. The longer the turkey took to cook, the more alcohol they drank. Among the guests was Rosie, my father's skinny-legged alcoholic friend who was known to ball any man who happened to still be standing after the bars closed. She had a teased beehive and tobacco-shredded laugh, and she kept cupping all the men's crotches that night. This was less appreciated than you might expect. In the end, though, they all dissolved into the  customary blubberings of drunk people. "I'm thankful for you, you know that?"
And I'm thankful that Rosie, swatted away by all the other guests, took to petting my adolescent head instead. Sitting there with this tearful woman was the first time I recall soaking up a sense of true desperation born from being lonely. "You're beautiful, and you're smart, too. I can tell," she'd blobber, stroking my hair. "Beautiful and smart, don't let anyone tell you different." As people had been telling me different all my life, I endured her attention. She passed out on our Herculon couch with a lit cigarette in her hand, a fire hazard if ever there was one since Herculon fabric of the '70s, as far as I could tell, was nothing more than woven dynamite wicks.
Rather than finish the smoke for her (I'm thankful I'd given up my pack-a-day habit the year before at the age of 13), I plucked the cigarette from her fingers and flicked it into our backyard. Inside, the guests were recounting the things they were thankful for, even though technically it was the day after Thanksgiving. "I'm thankful I'm not Rosie," laughed one. At the sound of her name, Rosie awakened, which prompted more laughter from her friends. "Rosie, what are you thankful for?" asked my father. But Rosie simply sat there, looking into the distance with welled eyes. "Rosie?" My father implored. She stared vacantly for a few more moments, then finally shook her head. "I'll tell you what I'd be thankful for," she said with her booze beleaguered voice, "I'd be thankful for my goddamn cigarette, where the hell is it?"


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And I'm thankful that Rosie, swatted away by all the other guests, took to petting my adolescent head instead. Sitting there with this tearful woman was the first time I recall soaking up a sense of true desperation born from being lonely. "You're beautiful, and you're smart, too. I can tell," she'd blobber, stroking my hair. "Beautiful and smart, don't let anyone tell you different." As people had been telling me different all my life, I endured her attention. She passed out on our Herculon couch with a lit cigarette in her hand, a fire hazard if ever there was one since Herculon fabric of the '70s, as far as I could tell, was nothing more than woven dynamite wicks.
Rather than finish the smoke for her (I'm thankful I'd given up my pack-a-day habit the year before at the age of 13), I plucked the cigarette from her fingers and flicked it into our backyard. Inside, the guests were recounting the things they were thankful for, even though technically it was the day after Thanksgiving. "I'm thankful I'm not Rosie," laughed one. At the sound of her name, Rosie awakened, which prompted more laughter from her friends. "Rosie, what are you thankful for?" asked my father. But Rosie simply sat there, looking into the distance with welled eyes. "Rosie?" My father implored. She stared vacantly for a few more moments, then finally shook her head. "I'll tell you what I'd ''be'' thankful for," she said with her booze beleaguered voice, "I'd be thankful for my goddamn cigarette, where the hell is it?"


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And I'm thankful that Rosie, swatted away by all the other guests, took to petting my adolescent head instead. Sitting there with this tearful woman was the first time I recall soaking up a sense of true desperation born from being lonely. "You're beautiful, and you're smart, too. I can tell," she'd blobber, stroking my hair. "Beautiful and smart, don't let anyone tell you different." As people had been telling me different all my life, I endured her attention. She passed out on our Herculon couch with a lit cigarette in her hand, a fire hazard if ever there was one since Herculon fabric of the '70s, as far as I could tell, was nothing more than woven dynamite wicks.
Rather than finish the smoke for her (I'm thankful I'd given up my pack-a-day habit the year before at the age of 13), I plucked the cigarette from her fingers and flicked it into our backyard. Inside, the guests were recounting the things they were thankful for, even though technically it was the day after Thanksgiving. "I'm thankful I'm not Rosie," laughed one. At the sound of her name, Rosie awakened, which prompted more laughter from her friends. "Rosie, what are you thankful for?" asked my father. But Rosie simply sat there, looking into the distance with welled eyes. "Rosie?" My father implored. She stared vacantly for a few more moments, then finally shook her head. "I'll tell you what I'd be thankful for," she said with her booze beleaguered voice, "I'd be thankful for my goddamn cigarette, where the hell is it?"


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Moodswing

Saturday November 25, 2000 12:04 am EST
It's the little things that count | more...
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  string(3751) "The other day I was passing pile-ups on one of the car-encrusted shit smears Atlanta calls a freeway onramp when a refreshing realization came to me: A big benefit I enjoy having been the daughter of an alcoholic traveling trailer salesman is the heightened sense of driver awareness I acquired in my role as my drunk father's front- seat lookout while he lurched us home in the family Fairlane every day.
"Dad, STOP!" I'd yell at red lights.
"Watch OUT, you're swerving!"
"Police car, Dad, POLICE CAR!" I'd scream. On these occasions my father would rifle around for one of the emergency packets of peanuts he kept strewn about the front seat, because peanuts, he'd whisper to me conspiratorially, mask booze breath better than breath mints. So you can't say my father never taught me anything, because that there is knowledge. It must have fooled the police every time, because my father drove like an over-medicated mental patient but never got arrested. In fact, the worst thing I recall happening is the time he drove over a lady's foot. She was trying to save the last parking spot at a popular picnic area until her husband returned with the car. My father must have fooled her into thinking he wouldn't run her ass down, because she sure took her time getting out of the way.
"That's my quarter in the meter," she whimpered as she limped away.
"And I thank you for that," he called after her cheerily. By my father's demeanor, you'd be fooled into thinking they were friends.
And fooling people, after all, was my father's forte. His buddies at the bar thought he was independently wealthy, that's why he could afford to hang out all day. The bartender, Kitty, knew differently, and her pet name for him was "Worthless Sack of Crap." Regardless, there was genuine affection between the two, probably because my father tipped her heartily with my mother's money. He always laughed when she called him a worthless sack of crap, which fooled me into thinking I could address him the same way. But when I did, he surprised me by beating the crap out of me.
And my father fooled me in other ways, as well. He had me thinking that he wrote all the words to "Puff the Magic Dragon," that he could speak fluent German, that he was brilliant and tall as a tree. I'd run across the yard and meet his car when he came home bleary-eyed and smiling. He'd carry me back into the house under his arm, talking about all the trailers he sold that day when really he hadn't worked in months. I hugged his neck and looked up at him with gleamy young eyes of admiration.
Then one day the school nurse discovered I had strep throat and needed one of my parents to drive me to the doctor. If she was surprised that I gave her the number of my father's favorite bar she   didn't show it, but when he arrived I guess he'd forgotten his peanut remedy because his breath was like a blowtorch and she refused to release me to him. Unable to charm her, my father unsuccessfully tried intimidation instead. It fell upon our big biology teacher, who had once fed a bunny to a boa constrictor, to command my father off the property. He was about to argue, but then he saw my face, and right then he knew he couldn't fool me anymore.
Looking back at the sad man he became after that and at how, instead of coming home smiling, he came home searching because I had taken to hiding when I heard his car pull into the driveway and at how he died so young in a one-room apartment soon after his family left him, looking back I realize how desperately he needed his child's gleamy eyes of admiration to fool the most important person of all: himself. Looking back I wish I had known to let him keep his illusions, but I was young and had yet to learn the art of fooling people.


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"Dad, STOP!" I'd yell at red lights.
"Watch OUT, you're swerving!"
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"That's my quarter in the meter," she whimpered as she limped away.
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And fooling people, after all, was my father's forte. His buddies at the bar thought he was independently wealthy, that's why he could afford to hang out all day. The bartender, Kitty, knew differently, and her pet name for him was "Worthless Sack of Crap." Regardless, there was genuine affection between the two, probably because my father tipped her heartily with my mother's money. He always laughed when she called him a worthless sack of crap, which fooled me into thinking I could address him the same way. But when I did, he surprised me by beating the crap out of ''me.''
And my father fooled me in other ways, as well. He had me thinking that he wrote all the words to "Puff the Magic Dragon," that he could speak fluent German, that he was brilliant and tall as a tree. I'd run across the yard and meet his car when he came home bleary-eyed and smiling. He'd carry me back into the house under his arm, talking about all the trailers he sold that day when really he hadn't worked in months. I hugged his neck and looked up at him with gleamy young eyes of admiration.
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"Dad, STOP!" I'd yell at red lights.
"Watch OUT, you're swerving!"
"Police car, Dad, POLICE CAR!" I'd scream. On these occasions my father would rifle around for one of the emergency packets of peanuts he kept strewn about the front seat, because peanuts, he'd whisper to me conspiratorially, mask booze breath better than breath mints. So you can't say my father never taught me anything, because that there is knowledge. It must have fooled the police every time, because my father drove like an over-medicated mental patient but never got arrested. In fact, the worst thing I recall happening is the time he drove over a lady's foot. She was trying to save the last parking spot at a popular picnic area until her husband returned with the car. My father must have fooled her into thinking he wouldn't run her ass down, because she sure took her time getting out of the way.
"That's my quarter in the meter," she whimpered as she limped away.
"And I thank you for that," he called after her cheerily. By my father's demeanor, you'd be fooled into thinking they were friends.
And fooling people, after all, was my father's forte. His buddies at the bar thought he was independently wealthy, that's why he could afford to hang out all day. The bartender, Kitty, knew differently, and her pet name for him was "Worthless Sack of Crap." Regardless, there was genuine affection between the two, probably because my father tipped her heartily with my mother's money. He always laughed when she called him a worthless sack of crap, which fooled me into thinking I could address him the same way. But when I did, he surprised me by beating the crap out of me.
And my father fooled me in other ways, as well. He had me thinking that he wrote all the words to "Puff the Magic Dragon," that he could speak fluent German, that he was brilliant and tall as a tree. I'd run across the yard and meet his car when he came home bleary-eyed and smiling. He'd carry me back into the house under his arm, talking about all the trailers he sold that day when really he hadn't worked in months. I hugged his neck and looked up at him with gleamy young eyes of admiration.
Then one day the school nurse discovered I had strep throat and needed one of my parents to drive me to the doctor. If she was surprised that I gave her the number of my father's favorite bar she   didn't show it, but when he arrived I guess he'd forgotten his peanut remedy because his breath was like a blowtorch and she refused to release me to him. Unable to charm her, my father unsuccessfully tried intimidation instead. It fell upon our big biology teacher, who had once fed a bunny to a boa constrictor, to command my father off the property. He was about to argue, but then he saw my face, and right then he knew he couldn't fool me anymore.
Looking back at the sad man he became after that and at how, instead of coming home smiling, he came home searching because I had taken to hiding when I heard his car pull into the driveway and at how he died so young in a one-room apartment soon after his family left him, looking back I realize how desperately he needed his child's gleamy eyes of admiration to fool the most important person of all: himself. Looking back I wish I had known to let him keep his illusions, but I was young and had yet to learn the art of fooling people.


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Moodswing

Saturday November 18, 2000 12:04 am EST
A father's lessons are learned later in life | more...
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  string(3849) "Grant has found God, which is funny because I always thought he was God. But Grant's version is a 19-year-old Mexican sailor boy named Jesus, and to pronounce his name correctly you have to bark out the first syllable like you're trying to stop a purse snatcher: "Hey!" And then directly following that you say "Zeus," which is a different God altogether. But Hey Zeus is how you say Jesus in Spanish. "I have seen the coming of the Lord," Grant laughs, knowing that I know that, for Grant, the Lord came and went a long time ago.
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"Where the fuck are you? Jesus!" I screamed into the phone. "It's pronounced Hey Zeus," he laughed. "Name your baby Hey Zeus."
That was months ago. I've seen pictures of him since. Like those taken the time he and Daniel sailed toward Cuba on a catamaran, an adventure that was supposed to include me. They never made it. Instead they were sidelined by a storm, and I have to laugh now that I know they survived. I can just see their sissy asses clinging to the yardarm or whatever, completely useless in case the captain had the ludicrous hope these two could help keep the boat afloat. If that was the case — if Daniel and Grant were expected to help pilot the boat like on one of those "barefoot" cruises — I would have simply flown straight to Miami and waited for them to waft ashore on a piece of flotsam like two big gay Elians. But thank God the crew was competent and all Grant suffered was a badly chapped chest, or at least it looked that way in the picture. "In the future," I e-mailed him, "please try not to die." He said he couldn't make any promises.
"Come with me," I implored Daniel. "The three of us need to be together again." But for Daniel, now is not the time. Next spring is better, when the three of us plan to go to Peru to climb a mountain. I have never climbed a mountain before. People say you can find God at the top, and if Grant makes it there, they'll be right. For now, though, they'll have to go to a tiny island off the coast of Cancun to find him. He'll be as brown as an over-roasted peanut, with a new tattoo on his arm and hibiscus behind his ear. He'll throw his big head back and laugh. "Welcome to heaven," he'll say.


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But Grant stays put in paradise. And to think I thought Grant would only last a few months in Mexico, figuring he'd miss his group gropes at the Heretic too much to stay gone for good. So I didn't worry all that much. He'd been saying he was going since I met him, not to Mexico exactly, he simply said one day he was gonna take off his shoes and "just walk." Daniel and I knew that meant Grant was leaving. We should have known it would be the day after his daughter graduated from high school. That day Grant boarded a plane with nothing but a backpack containing little more than eight pairs of prescription sunglasses and a small fortune accessible by an international ATM card. The next time I heard his voice I was in labor.
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That was months ago. I've seen pictures of him since. Like those taken the time he and Daniel sailed toward Cuba on a catamaran, an adventure that was supposed to include me. They never made it. Instead they were sidelined by a storm, and I have to laugh now that I know they survived. I can just see their sissy asses clinging to the yardarm or whatever, completely useless in case the captain had the ludicrous hope these two could help keep the boat afloat. If that was the case -- if Daniel and Grant were expected to help pilot the boat like on one of those "barefoot" cruises -- I would have simply flown straight to Miami and waited for them to waft ashore on a piece of flotsam like two big gay Elians. But thank God the crew was competent and all Grant suffered was a badly chapped chest, or at least it looked that way in the picture. "In the future," I e-mailed him, "please try not to die." He said he couldn't make any promises.
"Come with me," I implored Daniel. "The three of us need to be together again." But for Daniel, now is not the time. Next spring is better, when the three of us plan to go to Peru to climb a mountain. I have never climbed a mountain before. People say you can find God at the top, and if Grant makes it there, they'll be right. For now, though, they'll have to go to a tiny island off the coast of Cancun to find him. He'll be as brown as an over-roasted peanut, with a new tattoo on his arm and hibiscus behind his ear. He'll throw his big head back and laugh. "Welcome to heaven," he'll say.


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"Where the fuck are you? Jesus!" I screamed into the phone. "It's pronounced Hey Zeus," he laughed. "Name your baby Hey Zeus."
That was months ago. I've seen pictures of him since. Like those taken the time he and Daniel sailed toward Cuba on a catamaran, an adventure that was supposed to include me. They never made it. Instead they were sidelined by a storm, and I have to laugh now that I know they survived. I can just see their sissy asses clinging to the yardarm or whatever, completely useless in case the captain had the ludicrous hope these two could help keep the boat afloat. If that was the case — if Daniel and Grant were expected to help pilot the boat like on one of those "barefoot" cruises — I would have simply flown straight to Miami and waited for them to waft ashore on a piece of flotsam like two big gay Elians. But thank God the crew was competent and all Grant suffered was a badly chapped chest, or at least it looked that way in the picture. "In the future," I e-mailed him, "please try not to die." He said he couldn't make any promises.
"Come with me," I implored Daniel. "The three of us need to be together again." But for Daniel, now is not the time. Next spring is better, when the three of us plan to go to Peru to climb a mountain. I have never climbed a mountain before. People say you can find God at the top, and if Grant makes it there, they'll be right. For now, though, they'll have to go to a tiny island off the coast of Cancun to find him. He'll be as brown as an over-roasted peanut, with a new tattoo on his arm and hibiscus behind his ear. He'll throw his big head back and laugh. "Welcome to heaven," he'll say.


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Moodswing

Saturday November 11, 2000 12:04 am EST
In search of Hey Zeus on a Mexican isle | more...
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  string(3761) "Knockers are new to me. I bought my first bra when I was 28 years old, and even then it was just an accessory. When I backpacked across the Greek islands six years earlier, I went topless as often as a toddler and was hardly more endowed. After returning to school that same year, I wore T-shirts with the sleeve holes ripped down to the waist, causing the head of the Bible Club to complain.
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All was not well. My breasts were hard as hunks of Formica, and from the waist up I looked like a cheap stripper who had gotten her boob job done by some guy in a van. All I could do was call Chris from the plane and beg him to meet me at the gate with a hungry baby. When I disembarked he was standing there holding Mae like a bouquet. And you could see from his face the kind of sight I was; his wife, the mother of his child, limping toward him with snarly hair, fevered brow, broken buttons and Kotex on her tits.
The next day I decided it was time to properly start closing down these lactating lunch buckets, and Mae took to the bottle for good. I had been her personal feedbag for six months, so I thought I'd relish this moment. But instead, watching her eat without me, I felt a sudden pain in my chest. It was an ache, really, an ache to the beat of words spoken to me by a kindly old doorman at Waffle House a month earlier. He stood smiling over Mae`s carrier, her tiny hand grasping his wizened finger, and suddenly his eyes rounded knowingly.  "One day you'll blink," he said, "and she'll be grown."


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So, you know, I never understood the appeal of big boobs, and then I acquired them, and now it's ''really'' a mystery to me. Three days after I spawned, I awoke in the hospital and found that two fleshy foreign objects had landed on my chest. They were so big I couldn't lay on my side because they'd bang together like boulders, which caused precisely enough pain to make my skeleton rip from my flesh and cling to the ceiling until an orderly came by with a broom and swatted it down. Occasionally, a nurse would stop in and latch my baby onto me like a little vampire, and then I'd think, "Oh my God, I'm a damn dairy cow!"
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All was not well. My breasts were hard as hunks of Formica, and from the waist up I looked like a cheap stripper who had gotten her boob job done by some guy in a van. All I could do was call Chris from the plane and beg him to meet me at the gate with a hungry baby. When I disembarked he was standing there holding Mae like a bouquet. And you could see from his face the kind of sight I was; his wife, the mother of his child, limping toward him with snarly hair, fevered brow, broken buttons and Kotex on her tits.
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"I can see your breasts," he hissed to me in class one day.
"You must be looking really hard," I laughed, "because my tits are tiny."
So I was never burdened with the desire for boobs. I once saw a girl on the patio at Neighbor's Pub who had fake breasts big enough to be seen with the naked eye from outer space, yet she wore a T-shirt with "STOP STARING AT THESE" written across her chest. If I were king, I would make her wear a sign that says, "I Paid Good Money to Become a Physical Freak, Ogle All you Want." I think it would also be fitting to force her to cap her nipples with little rotating plastic propellers that beep warnings like an approaching fork lift, because a rack like hers is a hazard. I wonder how many of her ex-boyfriends are wearing eye patches.
So, you know, I never understood the appeal of big boobs, and then I acquired them, and now it's really a mystery to me. Three days after I spawned, I awoke in the hospital and found that two fleshy foreign objects had landed on my chest. They were so big I couldn't lay on my side because they'd bang together like boulders, which caused precisely enough pain to make my skeleton rip from my flesh and cling to the ceiling until an orderly came by with a broom and swatted it down. Occasionally, a nurse would stop in and latch my baby onto me like a little vampire, and then I'd think, "Oh my God, I'm a damn dairy cow!"
So I figured these breasts would just go away some day, overnight maybe, like the way they came. But to this day they are, literally, hanging around. Not too long ago, I made the mistake of taking a three-day business trip figuring if they got engorged, I could just hang them over the side of the bed or something so they could drain. What a mistake that was. At optimum production cycle and no baby to trip the release valve, my breasts exploded like loaded cigars. Or at least that's what it felt like, because they grew big enough to be anchored by Boy Scouts in the Thanksgiving Day Parade. I thought I had some kind of flesh-eating breast cancer. On the plane home, I pilfered all the free sanitary napkins from the lavatory, shoved them into my bra and squeezed. I guess I was thinking if I could just juice my boobs like oranges, all would be well.
All was not well. My breasts were hard as hunks of Formica, and from the waist up I looked like a cheap stripper who had gotten her boob job done by some guy in a van. All I could do was call Chris from the plane and beg him to meet me at the gate with a hungry baby. When I disembarked he was standing there holding Mae like a bouquet. And you could see from his face the kind of sight I was; his wife, the mother of his child, limping toward him with snarly hair, fevered brow, broken buttons and Kotex on her tits.
The next day I decided it was time to properly start closing down these lactating lunch buckets, and Mae took to the bottle for good. I had been her personal feedbag for six months, so I thought I'd relish this moment. But instead, watching her eat without me, I felt a sudden pain in my chest. It was an ache, really, an ache to the beat of words spoken to me by a kindly old doorman at Waffle House a month earlier. He stood smiling over Mae`s carrier, her tiny hand grasping his wizened finger, and suddenly his eyes rounded knowingly.  "One day you'll blink," he said, "and she'll be grown."


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Moodswing

Saturday November 4, 2000 12:04 am EST
Big boobs not all they're stacked up to be | more...
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Chris is uncomfortable when I talk about the lesbian ghost living with us, not because he doesn't believe in ghosts, but because he thinks she might be offended if I'm wrong about her sexual propensity.
I don't think I'm wrong, because according to Miss Taylor, who is 87 years old but whose brain is so sharp you could practically get a paper cut holding a conversation with her, "two spinster women who slept in the same bed" occupied this house in the early '70s, and one of them was shot and killed by a 14-year-old boy in her own — now our own — backyard.
"It was so sad," recalls Miss Taylor, "because you couldn't find a nicer couple of women."
But even when Miss Taylor told me our backyard was once the scene of a murder, it didn't dawn on me that our house was haunted, despite the fact our ghost had been so active. It finally occurred to me the day our candlestick tipped over for the 20th time. I don't know why our ghost likes that particular candlestick so much, because there's plenty of other things she could tip over on the bookshelf — rickety, kitschy things — but it was that same solid, wrought-iron candlestick every time. I think she picked it for the noise it makes. When it falls on the hardwood floor it clatters like heavy chains hitting dungeon bars.
At first I thought our cat was the culprit. You'd be amazed at what you can blame on your cat when you have a ghost in your house. Like in our case, when we'd be in bed in the dark and suddenly, silently, the light in the next room switches on. Not off, but on, which is eerie, because turning on a light in the pitch dark so effectively announces someone's arrival. Each time, though, I figured our cat had brushed against the light switch on the wall or something. I ignored the fact that the switch is at chest level and our cat would have to be as tall as an ostrich to reach it.
And thinking back, there's no way our 11-year-old cat Lucy, who's as fat as a manatee and even less coordinated, could have climbed to the top of the bookcase without pitching the rest of the knick knacks across the room like an angry housewife. But still, every time I heard the clamor of the candlestick falling to the floor, I'd simply pick it up and put it back without another thought. And there were other signs, too, like the cloud of mystery moisture that occasionally steams up Chris' office (it seals all the envelopes in his stationary), and how our baby, Mae, is regularly delighted by something we can't see. "What is she looking at?" we ask each other as we watch Mae's face brighten with welcome at an empty spot in the room.
Then one day that candlestick hurled itself right in front of me! It didn't just fall, it practically flew off the shelf. After seeing that, I stood there frozen with realization. "Oh, duh," I finally said aloud. "We have a ghost."
We call her Myrtle. Lately I've been keeping an eye on the candlestick, and when I see that it has inched forward on the shelf, I push it back. In response, Myrtle recently pitched a CD off the same bookshelf, but the effect wasn't the same. It's OK, living with the spirit of this woman who suffered because of her trust in mankind. She had stepped outside to tell a boy to stop shooting squirrels, so the boy shot her instead. Back then I guess people were new to how callous a kid with a gun could be.. So she approached him unarmed and unsuspicious and died because of it. Unable to make her goodbyes, she makes noises in our house instead. So recently I let her knock the candlestick over again because I know she likes the sound it creates. It's the least I could do, seeing as how she walked out her back door one day not knowing she'd be leaving everything she loved behind forever.


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Chris is uncomfortable when I talk about the lesbian ghost living with us, not because he doesn't believe in ghosts, but because he thinks she might be offended if I'm wrong about her sexual propensity.
I don't think I'm wrong, because according to Miss Taylor, who is 87 years old but whose brain is so sharp you could practically get a paper cut holding a conversation with her, "two spinster women who slept in the same bed" occupied this house in the early '70s, and one of them was shot and killed by a 14-year-old boy in her own -- now our own -- backyard.
"It was so sad," recalls Miss Taylor, "because you couldn't find a nicer couple of women."
But even when Miss Taylor told me our backyard was once the scene of a murder, it didn't dawn on me that our house was haunted, despite the fact our ghost had been so active. It finally occurred to me the day our candlestick tipped over for the 20th time. I don't know why our ghost likes that particular candlestick so much, because there's plenty of other things she could tip over on the bookshelf -- rickety, kitschy things -- but it was that same solid, wrought-iron candlestick every time. I think she picked it for the noise it makes. When it falls on the hardwood floor it clatters like heavy chains hitting dungeon bars.
At first I thought our cat was the culprit. You'd be amazed at what you can blame on your cat when you have a ghost in your house. Like in our case, when we'd be in bed in the dark and suddenly, silently, the light in the next room switches on. Not off, but ''on,'' which is eerie, because turning on a light in the pitch dark so effectively announces someone's arrival. Each time, though, I figured our cat had brushed against the light switch on the wall or something. I ignored the fact that the switch is at chest level and our cat would have to be as tall as an ostrich to reach it.
And thinking back, there's no way our 11-year-old cat Lucy, who's as fat as a manatee and even less coordinated, could have climbed to the top of the bookcase without pitching the rest of the knick knacks across the room like an angry housewife. But still, every time I heard the clamor of the candlestick falling to the floor, I'd simply pick it up and put it back without another thought. And there were other signs, too, like the cloud of mystery moisture that occasionally steams up Chris' office (it seals all the envelopes in his stationary), and how our baby, Mae, is regularly delighted by something we can't see. "What is she ''looking'' at?" we ask each other as we watch Mae's face brighten with welcome at an empty spot in the room.
Then one day that candlestick hurled itself ''right in front of me!'' It didn't just fall, it practically ''flew'' off the shelf. After seeing that, I stood there frozen with realization. "Oh, ''duh''," I finally said aloud. "We have a ghost."
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Chris is uncomfortable when I talk about the lesbian ghost living with us, not because he doesn't believe in ghosts, but because he thinks she might be offended if I'm wrong about her sexual propensity.
I don't think I'm wrong, because according to Miss Taylor, who is 87 years old but whose brain is so sharp you could practically get a paper cut holding a conversation with her, "two spinster women who slept in the same bed" occupied this house in the early '70s, and one of them was shot and killed by a 14-year-old boy in her own — now our own — backyard.
"It was so sad," recalls Miss Taylor, "because you couldn't find a nicer couple of women."
But even when Miss Taylor told me our backyard was once the scene of a murder, it didn't dawn on me that our house was haunted, despite the fact our ghost had been so active. It finally occurred to me the day our candlestick tipped over for the 20th time. I don't know why our ghost likes that particular candlestick so much, because there's plenty of other things she could tip over on the bookshelf — rickety, kitschy things — but it was that same solid, wrought-iron candlestick every time. I think she picked it for the noise it makes. When it falls on the hardwood floor it clatters like heavy chains hitting dungeon bars.
At first I thought our cat was the culprit. You'd be amazed at what you can blame on your cat when you have a ghost in your house. Like in our case, when we'd be in bed in the dark and suddenly, silently, the light in the next room switches on. Not off, but on, which is eerie, because turning on a light in the pitch dark so effectively announces someone's arrival. Each time, though, I figured our cat had brushed against the light switch on the wall or something. I ignored the fact that the switch is at chest level and our cat would have to be as tall as an ostrich to reach it.
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Then one day that candlestick hurled itself right in front of me! It didn't just fall, it practically flew off the shelf. After seeing that, I stood there frozen with realization. "Oh, duh," I finally said aloud. "We have a ghost."
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Moodswing

Saturday October 28, 2000 12:04 am EDT
Sharing an abode with Myrtle the lesbian ghost | more...

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"How do you know the cancer has spread to your liver?"
"You just know."
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And I was petrified. ''Me''? A ''mother''? My own mother provided a gleefully pitiful point of reference for motherhood. Her idea of a holiday dinner was to serve Slim Jims with the wrappers off, and for breakfast she would sometimes leave us a big bowl of Halloween candy before heading to work. With my childhood diet, I'm surprised I didn't grow a tumor the size of a Siamese twin. My mother died 10 years (almost to the day) before my daughter was born, and her last words were used to request a cigarette. I remember when I was 7 I told her I had a crush on Satan because I'd seen his picture in the ''Children's Bible'' and I thought he looked hot with his hair like Lyle Wagner. She looked at me through the smoke of her Salem Menthol and said, "Kid, he's not the man for you."
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"How do you know the cancer has spread to your liver?"
"You just know."
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  string(3984) "    Words of wisdom ease the mind of poser mom   2000-10-14T04:04:00+00:00 Moodswing - You just know   Hollis Gillespie 1223585 2000-10-14T04:04:00+00:00  Yesterday two mothers mistook me for one of them. We were at San Francisco Coffee Roasters admiring each others' babies when they asked me, "Why don't you join us?" Caught off guard, I sputtered something about an impending deadline and scurried away with my baby in tow. I was afraid these two capable women would learn the sordid secret I've kept for the past six months. "Those girls are moms," I thought as I shuffled off. "I'm not a mom, I just play one in real life."In short, I'm totally unprepared for this role. From the beginning, this kid came like a comet out of nowhere. Chris and I still don't know how — other than all that acrobatic sex — she happened, considering all the barriers in place to prevent it. My theory is that my uterus had an out-of-body experience one night, I mean it literally crawled out of my body while we were sleeping and latched itself onto my boyfriend like a big fertile squid. After that there was no going back.
And I was petrified. Me? A mother? My own mother provided a gleefully pitiful point of reference for motherhood. Her idea of a holiday dinner was to serve Slim Jims with the wrappers off, and for breakfast she would sometimes leave us a big bowl of Halloween candy before heading to work. With my childhood diet, I'm surprised I didn't grow a tumor the size of a Siamese twin. My mother died 10 years (almost to the day) before my daughter was born, and her last words were used to request a cigarette. I remember when I was 7 I told her I had a crush on Satan because I'd seen his picture in the Children's Bible and I thought he looked hot with his hair like Lyle Wagner. She looked at me through the smoke of her Salem Menthol and said, "Kid, he's not the man for you."
"How do you know?"
"You just know."
Every day I'm afraid I'll accidentally somehow set my child on fire or something, and an afternoon doesn't go by without me wondering how mankind hasn't completely perished, considering cribs were unregulated in the caveman days. My own family drove across the country, twice, in an old Ford Fairlane with no seatbelts. The worst that happened is that my father ran over a lady's foot. But he said she deserved it.
So looking back I'm surprised I survived. My mother was one of the first women in the country to achieve top security clearance by the government to work on weapons projects involving missiles. She rarely talked about her job because it was, quite literally, secret. So I grew up never knowing how it set me apart, to be the only one among my friends whose mother made bombs. I consider this wholly to her tribute, but it also put her in the habit of limiting her explanations to the barest denominator. When she got sick she was characteristically resolute about her illness:
"How do you know the cancer has spread to your liver?"
"You just know."
Anyway, awash like I am in this litany of worries about my daughter, I wish I could ask my mother if she felt the same way about me. Did she ache to shield me from the big ball of shit that life can be? Did she know she'd have to leave me to be hurt and hardened and, at times, unloved by people I sought love from? That through all this my soul would shut down only to grow again, painfully, like blood returning to a limb on the wrong end of a tourniquet? Did she know that the day would come in which I would be OK? That I'd look around and realize how happiness kind of crept up on me, and now maybe I can let my breath out only I can't because I have my own daughter now and I need to make sure she's going to be OK, too. How do I do that? How do I know my daughter will be all right? Please tell me how.
I can almost smell my mother's cigarette as her words come back to me. "You just know," she says.             13001513 1226918                          Moodswing - You just know "
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Moodswing

Saturday October 14, 2000 12:04 am EDT
Words of wisdom ease the mind of poser mom | more...
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  string(3903) "I should introduce myself because I've been writing this column for a month and haven't done so yet. But in my defense I'd like to say that I've actually been writing this column for six years. I'm a remnant of the now-defunct and much-missed Poets, Artists and Madmen, which turned into the Atlanta Press, then folded earlier this year. After that, my column floated into these pages like flotsam salvaged from a fabulous wreck. So after all these years it feels damn dumb to say, "For those of you who are just joining us ... " because that would mean it should matter, this catching up. "Just jump in," I say, "and all the crap that happened in the past to put me here will surface sooner or later." But this is the South, and even though I don't belong here because I'm Californian, I should honor its customs, and custom calls for an introduction.
For starters, my mother was a missile scientist and my father was an alcoholic traveling trailer salesman. I am what you would expect as an amalgam of the two. I have a blue-collar job I refuse to leave even though I speak three languages and the writing gig pays OK. But in my mind, being a tri-lingual humor writer only means I might one day have an edge on a job waiting tables, and even then it's iffy. Hands-on work is all I trust, really — a mindset that keeps me in constant panic because I'm irredeemably lazy.
That said, I never rest on laurels, having found that a person's failings often provide much better material. For example, my parents died rather young, before I could develop a sense of sentiment, and to this day I find it somewhat agonizing to recall that my mother the missile scientist possessed broken dreams of becoming a beautician. Why didn't I take every chance to sit at her knee and soak up what life was like for this woman who could build missile-tracking strategies but couldn't curl her own bangs?  I let her live right there in front of me without asking her to self-reflect hardly at all. She died kind of quietly, too, her biggest regret being that she wrote the word "bicycle" on her Christmas list as a little girl, knowing her parents grievously couldn't afford to give her one.
So I write about her a lot, as well as my three best friends; two queers and a crusty malcontent whose names are, respectively, Daniel, Grant and Lary. We used to all hang out together at the Clermont Lounge on Ponce de Leon, where we would drink, tip the strippers and sit completely certain we were safe from ever meeting anyone right for us.
Since then Daniel has become a famous artist, Grant struck it rich and moved to an island off the coast of Mexico and I married a bartender. Lary is still Lary. Sometimes you can see him driving around town with three life-sized, plastic wise men from a light-up lawn nativity scene sitting in his back seat like cab passengers. My husband is bemused by my attachment to these men, but knows not to question it.
I remember Grant recalling that, when he was a child, his family hired a live-in maid named Flossie, who slept in his room on the bunk beneath him and peed in a pot she kept under the bed because she was afraid of the dark, and the hallway to the bathroom was always dark.
I say this because that hallway is a little like my life; I'm afraid to go down it but do anyway. I see things that aren't pleasant, like the fact that my father died alone when I was supposed to be there, and later I lost his Bible when it fell off the back of an El Camino while driving down the San Diego freeway.  I tried to salvage some pages but in the end left them where they lay. Looking back I wish I'd kept a few, because it didn't occur to me that these past apathies would haunt me years later, when the chastity belt around my chest finally cracked. Those pages didn't belong on the side of the road, just like I don't belong here, but it seemed right at the time to leave them be."
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  string(3906) "I should introduce myself because I've been writing this column for a month and haven't done so yet. But in my defense I'd like to say that I've actually been writing this column for six years. I'm a remnant of the now-defunct and much-missed ''Poets, Artists and Madmen,'' which turned into the ''Atlanta Press,'' then folded earlier this year. After that, my column floated into these pages like flotsam salvaged from a fabulous wreck. So after all these years it feels damn dumb to say, "For those of you who are just joining us ... " because that would mean it should matter, this catching up. "Just jump in," I say, "and all the crap that happened in the past to put me here will surface sooner or later." But this is the South, and even though I don't belong here because I'm Californian, I should honor its customs, and custom calls for an introduction.
For starters, my mother was a missile scientist and my father was an alcoholic traveling trailer salesman. I am what you would expect as an amalgam of the two. I have a blue-collar job I refuse to leave even though I speak three languages and the writing gig pays OK. But in my mind, being a tri-lingual humor writer only means I might one day have an edge on a job waiting tables, and even then it's iffy. Hands-on work is all I trust, really -- a mindset that keeps me in constant panic because I'm irredeemably lazy.
That said, I never rest on laurels, having found that a person's failings often provide much better material. For example, my parents died rather young, before I could develop a sense of sentiment, and to this day I find it somewhat agonizing to recall that my mother the missile scientist possessed broken dreams of becoming a beautician. Why didn't I take every chance to sit at her knee and soak up what life was like for this woman who could build missile-tracking strategies but couldn't curl her own bangs?  I let her live right there in front of me without asking her to self-reflect hardly at all. She died kind of quietly, too, her biggest regret being that she wrote the word "bicycle" on her Christmas list as a little girl, knowing her parents grievously couldn't afford to give her one.
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  string(4139) "    My name is Hollis, and I'm a columnist   2000-10-07T04:04:00+00:00 Moodswing - History happens   Hollis Gillespie 1223585 2000-10-07T04:04:00+00:00  I should introduce myself because I've been writing this column for a month and haven't done so yet. But in my defense I'd like to say that I've actually been writing this column for six years. I'm a remnant of the now-defunct and much-missed Poets, Artists and Madmen, which turned into the Atlanta Press, then folded earlier this year. After that, my column floated into these pages like flotsam salvaged from a fabulous wreck. So after all these years it feels damn dumb to say, "For those of you who are just joining us ... " because that would mean it should matter, this catching up. "Just jump in," I say, "and all the crap that happened in the past to put me here will surface sooner or later." But this is the South, and even though I don't belong here because I'm Californian, I should honor its customs, and custom calls for an introduction.
For starters, my mother was a missile scientist and my father was an alcoholic traveling trailer salesman. I am what you would expect as an amalgam of the two. I have a blue-collar job I refuse to leave even though I speak three languages and the writing gig pays OK. But in my mind, being a tri-lingual humor writer only means I might one day have an edge on a job waiting tables, and even then it's iffy. Hands-on work is all I trust, really — a mindset that keeps me in constant panic because I'm irredeemably lazy.
That said, I never rest on laurels, having found that a person's failings often provide much better material. For example, my parents died rather young, before I could develop a sense of sentiment, and to this day I find it somewhat agonizing to recall that my mother the missile scientist possessed broken dreams of becoming a beautician. Why didn't I take every chance to sit at her knee and soak up what life was like for this woman who could build missile-tracking strategies but couldn't curl her own bangs?  I let her live right there in front of me without asking her to self-reflect hardly at all. She died kind of quietly, too, her biggest regret being that she wrote the word "bicycle" on her Christmas list as a little girl, knowing her parents grievously couldn't afford to give her one.
So I write about her a lot, as well as my three best friends; two queers and a crusty malcontent whose names are, respectively, Daniel, Grant and Lary. We used to all hang out together at the Clermont Lounge on Ponce de Leon, where we would drink, tip the strippers and sit completely certain we were safe from ever meeting anyone right for us.
Since then Daniel has become a famous artist, Grant struck it rich and moved to an island off the coast of Mexico and I married a bartender. Lary is still Lary. Sometimes you can see him driving around town with three life-sized, plastic wise men from a light-up lawn nativity scene sitting in his back seat like cab passengers. My husband is bemused by my attachment to these men, but knows not to question it.
I remember Grant recalling that, when he was a child, his family hired a live-in maid named Flossie, who slept in his room on the bunk beneath him and peed in a pot she kept under the bed because she was afraid of the dark, and the hallway to the bathroom was always dark.
I say this because that hallway is a little like my life; I'm afraid to go down it but do anyway. I see things that aren't pleasant, like the fact that my father died alone when I was supposed to be there, and later I lost his Bible when it fell off the back of an El Camino while driving down the San Diego freeway.  I tried to salvage some pages but in the end left them where they lay. Looking back I wish I'd kept a few, because it didn't occur to me that these past apathies would haunt me years later, when the chastity belt around my chest finally cracked. Those pages didn't belong on the side of the road, just like I don't belong here, but it seemed right at the time to leave them be.             13001426 1226775                          Moodswing - History happens "
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Moodswing

Saturday October 7, 2000 12:04 am EDT
My name is Hollis, and I'm a columnist | more...
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  string(3914) "Thank God Lary's cat didn't die. This is the second day in a row I forgot to feed her, so I realized I better get off my ass and pass her some kibble because Lary prides himself on his absolute lack of attachment to anything on Earth except that cat. If he came home to a carcass he'd have to track me down and rip out my kidneys with a rusty crowbar. So I raced over to Lary's place all worried his cat would be scratching at the door jamb in little kitty death throes, sputtering and stuff, and who wants to walk in on that? And then there's the maggot factor. When I was a totally unsupervised 7-year-old walking home from the liquor store with two packets of Salem menthols for my mother way back when, I came across a dead cat in the gutter and, being 7 and propelled by insanity, decided to flip it over.
Jesus God. It was all furry and fine on top, but underneath it was boiling with maggots like that piece of meat in Poltergeist. I'll never forget it. Before I flipped it I was thinking maybe I could take it home and present it to my mother as the perfect pet on account of it being dead and not needing expensive vaccinations or anything.
In the past she had reacted favorably to such offerings, like when I presented her with a poisoned fish wrapped in toilet paper I found floating in a polluted tributary behind the park a few years earlier. I remember her thanking me profusely as she took it straight to the trash pail, and then later washing my hands with lighter fluid. That type of attention was a rarity in my household, and I was hoping to score some more. But those maggots sucked all the fun out of everything. For days afterward I'd spontaneously break into shivers like a little alcoholic in detox. In fact I still do. I'm doing it now.
So dead cats and maggots go together like Porches and pricks in my book. I can't handle that. I also hate ticks. I mean I have a total tick phobia. I hear their heads break off and travel up your blood stream where they get trapped in a ventricle or something, leaving you no choice but to clutch at your chest and die horribly. Once, as a passenger on an airplane, I was seated at the window and noticed that oh my God, there was a tick crawling toward me on the wall! Barely able to keep myself from evacuating the entire aircraft, I tried to squash the tick with a tissue but missed and then ... oh my God, I couldn't see where it went! So I noticed the lady next to me was having trouble sleeping on an aisle seat, so I turned to her and graciously suggested we swap seats and, and ... OH MY GOD, I FED HER TO THE TICK! I can't believe I did that. I hope her ventricles are OK.
So I was finally able to get Lary's door open, and I say "finally" because he lives in a former candy factory with a complicated iron gate for a front door. Thank God I got in, because Lary loves that cat. If anything bad happened to her he would be boneless, I mean just a big boneless, jibbery mess of flesh. And I know how he feels. I've known Lary since back when we both thought there was nothing that could keep us tethered to the world. We were free and unfettered, with a big ball in our court called "nothing to lose."
Then he got himself that cat and I had myself a baby, and if anything bad happened to a single hair on my baby's head I would be boneless, too. Just a quivering, useless bag of boneless larvae. Sometimes I just bury my face in the folds of my baby's neck and breathe. It's true what Carlos Santana says, that babies smell like vanilla. And it's utterly stupefying as well, to think for your entire life that you're a strong and independent person only to suddenly realize one day that you can be broken in half by a baby's hair. Jesus God, that is scarier than an entire pit of ticks.
Finally I found Lary's cat, alive but a little shrunken on account of her fast and all. She puffed up fine after I forced three cans of food down her throat."
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''Jesus God''. It was all furry and fine on top, but underneath it was boiling with maggots like that piece of meat in ''Poltergeist.'' I'll never forget it. Before I flipped it I was thinking maybe I could take it home and present it to my mother as the perfect pet on account of it being dead and not needing expensive vaccinations or anything.
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So dead cats and maggots go together like Porches and pricks in my book. I can't handle that. I also hate ticks. I mean I have a total tick phobia. I hear their heads break off and travel up your blood stream where they get trapped in a ventricle or something, leaving you no choice but to clutch at your chest and die horribly. Once, as a passenger on an airplane, I was seated at the window and noticed that ''oh my God, there was a ''tick crawling toward me on the wall! Barely able to keep myself from evacuating the entire aircraft, I tried to squash the tick with a tissue but missed and then ... ''oh my God, I couldn't see where it went!'' So I noticed the lady next to me was having trouble sleeping on an aisle seat, so I turned to her and graciously suggested we swap seats and, and ... ''OH MY GOD, I FED HER TO THE TICK!'' I can't believe I did that. I hope her ventricles are OK.
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Jesus God. It was all furry and fine on top, but underneath it was boiling with maggots like that piece of meat in Poltergeist. I'll never forget it. Before I flipped it I was thinking maybe I could take it home and present it to my mother as the perfect pet on account of it being dead and not needing expensive vaccinations or anything.
In the past she had reacted favorably to such offerings, like when I presented her with a poisoned fish wrapped in toilet paper I found floating in a polluted tributary behind the park a few years earlier. I remember her thanking me profusely as she took it straight to the trash pail, and then later washing my hands with lighter fluid. That type of attention was a rarity in my household, and I was hoping to score some more. But those maggots sucked all the fun out of everything. For days afterward I'd spontaneously break into shivers like a little alcoholic in detox. In fact I still do. I'm doing it now.
So dead cats and maggots go together like Porches and pricks in my book. I can't handle that. I also hate ticks. I mean I have a total tick phobia. I hear their heads break off and travel up your blood stream where they get trapped in a ventricle or something, leaving you no choice but to clutch at your chest and die horribly. Once, as a passenger on an airplane, I was seated at the window and noticed that oh my God, there was a tick crawling toward me on the wall! Barely able to keep myself from evacuating the entire aircraft, I tried to squash the tick with a tissue but missed and then ... oh my God, I couldn't see where it went! So I noticed the lady next to me was having trouble sleeping on an aisle seat, so I turned to her and graciously suggested we swap seats and, and ... OH MY GOD, I FED HER TO THE TICK! I can't believe I did that. I hope her ventricles are OK.
So I was finally able to get Lary's door open, and I say "finally" because he lives in a former candy factory with a complicated iron gate for a front door. Thank God I got in, because Lary loves that cat. If anything bad happened to her he would be boneless, I mean just a big boneless, jibbery mess of flesh. And I know how he feels. I've known Lary since back when we both thought there was nothing that could keep us tethered to the world. We were free and unfettered, with a big ball in our court called "nothing to lose."
Then he got himself that cat and I had myself a baby, and if anything bad happened to a single hair on my baby's head I would be boneless, too. Just a quivering, useless bag of boneless larvae. Sometimes I just bury my face in the folds of my baby's neck and breathe. It's true what Carlos Santana says, that babies smell like vanilla. And it's utterly stupefying as well, to think for your entire life that you're a strong and independent person only to suddenly realize one day that you can be broken in half by a baby's hair. Jesus God, that is scarier than an entire pit of ticks.
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Moodswing

Saturday September 30, 2000 12:04 am EDT
Keeping the maggots away | more...
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  string(3942) "My friends and I have lusted after this hot bicycle cop in Virginia-Highland for years. You've probably seen him, with his tanned arms like carved marble in his short-sleeved uniform.  Upon first sight of him, Grant practically soared from his seat and stuck himself to the window of the coffeehouse like a wet piece of putty. And he wasn't even gay yet — well, of course, he was always gay — but at that time, he was still stuffed in the back of the closet behind an ex-wife, a present wife, a daughter and a dog named Ellie May. Looking back, it wasn't just a closet for Grant; it was a cocoon, and when that cop walked by, Grant didn't just come out, he flew out and flapped around the room on opal-colored wings. He was free!
After that, the only time his feet touched the ground was to get his toenails painted by that poor Korean girl on Ponce de Leon Avenue. (I say "poor" because you should see Grant's feet — they're hooves.) So I knew Grant before his bona-fide fag status reared its beautiful face like the feathered headdress that it is, but not by much. His hetero-ness only overlapped our friendship by about a couple of months or so, and during that time our relationship was as chaste as kindergarten paste. It wasn't until later, when Grant had finally gotten in touch with his fabulous inner evil, that I'd occasionally have to call him and ask, "Was that your tongue in my mouth last night?" But even then it was always forgivable (except maybe that time when he came back from Barcelona and, in front of almost all our friends, handed me a bunch of bestiality porn he bought at a Spanish yard sale and bellowed,  "When I saw this I thought, Hollis!").
But regardless, Grant was always sort of quasi-safe, whatever danger there was not being the sexual kind. Not really; not to me, anyway. He has carried me home blotto drunk a couple of times, and with the free reign that gave him the worst thing he ever did was raid my kitchen and eat all the leftover packs of airplane peanuts I'd planned to hand out at Halloween that year.
So imagine my surprise when he  e-mailed me a few days ago to say he was furious at me for forgetting that we once slept together.
"Oh, c'mon!" I have to scream. "We never slept together!"
Grant and I have been communicating via mutual friends'  e-mail ever since he moved to a tiny island off the coast of Cancun. Grant's e-mails reach me fine, but for some reason I can't get through to him from my address, so I have to write him from other people's computers, and sometimes he replies along the same route. So our communication is basically a big party line between all our friends, my husband among them.
So I was at a loss when the above said husband walked up to me the other day and casually, like this would be no big deal if it were true, asked if Grant and I ever slept together.
"HELL no! Where the hell did that come from? Hell no! What in hell are you asking me that for? Me and Grant? Hell no!"
It turns out Grant made some comment, between heralding "manly Mexican marine meat" and the tastiness of dead scorpions soaked in tequila, that could have been construed, if maybe you had eaten a basket of those marinated scorpions or something, to mean that maybe Grant and I have a history that's more than platonic.
And maybe we do. I miss him so much that sometimes I sit around and just wail like a sick sea cow. I can't tell you how many times during our friendship Grant and I laughed so hard it felt like we could cough up our own shoes. We cried together, too, and we faced the terror of the truth together, but we never slept together. He's been on that island too long, he's getting his memories mixed up.
Either that or he's taking his inner evil out for a little exercise again. "You mean that wasn't you? I could have sworn it was you," Grant tells my husband to tell me. So I tell my husband to tell Grant to come here and tell me that to my face.


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  string(4183) "    Tears, tongue hockey? Maybe - but that's it   2000-09-23T04:04:00+00:00 Moodswing - We never did it   Hollis Gillespie 1223585 2000-09-23T04:04:00+00:00  My friends and I have lusted after this hot bicycle cop in Virginia-Highland for years. You've probably seen him, with his tanned arms like carved marble in his short-sleeved uniform.  Upon first sight of him, Grant practically soared from his seat and stuck himself to the window of the coffeehouse like a wet piece of putty. And he wasn't even gay yet — well, of course, he was always gay — but at that time, he was still stuffed in the back of the closet behind an ex-wife, a present wife, a daughter and a dog named Ellie May. Looking back, it wasn't just a closet for Grant; it was a cocoon, and when that cop walked by, Grant didn't just come out, he flew out and flapped around the room on opal-colored wings. He was free!
After that, the only time his feet touched the ground was to get his toenails painted by that poor Korean girl on Ponce de Leon Avenue. (I say "poor" because you should see Grant's feet — they're hooves.) So I knew Grant before his bona-fide fag status reared its beautiful face like the feathered headdress that it is, but not by much. His hetero-ness only overlapped our friendship by about a couple of months or so, and during that time our relationship was as chaste as kindergarten paste. It wasn't until later, when Grant had finally gotten in touch with his fabulous inner evil, that I'd occasionally have to call him and ask, "Was that your tongue in my mouth last night?" But even then it was always forgivable (except maybe that time when he came back from Barcelona and, in front of almost all our friends, handed me a bunch of bestiality porn he bought at a Spanish yard sale and bellowed,  "When I saw this I thought, Hollis!").
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So imagine my surprise when he  e-mailed me a few days ago to say he was furious at me for forgetting that we once slept together.
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Grant and I have been communicating via mutual friends'  e-mail ever since he moved to a tiny island off the coast of Cancun. Grant's e-mails reach me fine, but for some reason I can't get through to him from my address, so I have to write him from other people's computers, and sometimes he replies along the same route. So our communication is basically a big party line between all our friends, my husband among them.
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"HELL no! Where the hell did that come from? Hell no! What in hell are you asking me that for? Me and Grant? Hell no!"
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Either that or he's taking his inner evil out for a little exercise again. "You mean that wasn't you? I could have sworn it was you," Grant tells my husband to tell me. So I tell my husband to tell Grant to come here and tell me that to my face.


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Moodswing

Saturday September 23, 2000 12:04 am EDT
Tears, tongue hockey? Maybe - but that's it | more...
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  string(3954) "It's time I stop stalking my ex-boyfriend — I know my husband, for one, would probably appreciate it — but old habits die hard. "Quit pretending you have a life without me and pick up the phone, you worthless stain on the butt end of the earth!" I shout into Lary's answering machine, and Lary is not even my ex-boyfriend.

I was calling him so he'd go with me to the bookstore to pick up my ex-boyfriend's latest best-seller. It's his 10th or so; I've lost count, which means I suck as a stalker.

But still, 10 best-sellers? I knew him when he was nothin'! He was living in his car, for chrissakes! "Pick up the phone, you crusty pocket of pus! Pickituppickituppickitup!!!!!"

Finally my heavy flirting paid off and Lary picked up the phone. "Hi, whore," he laughed. "Come over, what's keeping you?" What was keeping me was that time three years ago when I showed up at his house unannounced and he shot at me.

"I didn't shoot at you," Lary likes to clarify. "If I shot at you I would have hit you and you'd be dead right now."

Whatever the case, the incident is not one I'd like to relive. Other than that I consider Lary somewhat safe. He's never threatened to kill me, although he's offered to kill me a few times as a favor, to put me out of my misery like a lame horse, but I declined and he seems to respect that.

But he doesn't respect my stalking technique. He considers himself an expert on stalkers, having been the victim of one himself for the past several months. I sort of feel responsible for that, having driven him to — and then ditched him at — the party where he met the girl who became his ex-girlfriend and then his stalker. The whole time she was engaged to marry someone else, but — since she also had multiple personalities — she was apparently able to multitask her relationships, too.

"I wouldn't even have minded the multiple personalities if one of them wasn't Satan," Lary said. She's moved away, but sometimes returns to Atlanta and sleeps in her car outside Lary's back door. On those days Lary stays with another ex-girlfriend until the coast is clear.

"So I know a stalker when I see one," Lary said to me, "and you're no stalker." I'd have to do more than buy someone's books to be a stalker, he said. I buy all of Larry McMurtry's books, he pointed out, and I'm not stalking him, now am I? But I didn't used to know Larry McMurtry when he was living in a van on the campus parking lot, or wait tables with him in a really bad theme restaurant by the  San Diego airport, or shoot  pool with him regularly in a beachside dive bar.

So what I'm saying is that this ex-boyfriend is kind of camping out in my head, which I occasionally pound against the wall. "How can this be?" I wail inwardly. How can he catch a cosmic break like this while I'm still flailing around in the evil world like a little crab without its exoskeleton? Jesus God, I'm jealous.

The last time I saw him was when I'd returned to San Diego to care for my dying mother, who was living in a beach cottage not far from where my ex-boyfriend probably still lives. I recognized him one morning as we walked toward each other on the strand.

I didn't know that he'd become hugely successful since I saw him last, so to me he was simply my old friend. But right then I couldn't bear to be asked how I'd been doing lately — not on the verge of becoming an orphan as I was — so I ducked my head and we passed each other without a word.

"Remember Andy?" I asked my mother later that day. She was in a coma, but nurses had told me to talk to her anyway. "I just saw him but couldn't say hi." Then I stopped talking because talking felt awkward. She died a few hours later, in my arms as it just so happens, and I've always regretted that my last words to her were chosen so carelessly.

"You walked right by him, right by him, and said nothing," Lary shakes his head. "See? You make a lousy stalker."


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I was calling him so he'd go with me to the bookstore to pick up my ex-boyfriend's latest best-seller. It's his 10th or so; I've lost count, which means I suck as a stalker.

But still, 10 best-sellers? I knew him when he was ''nothin'''! He was living in his car, for chrissakes! "Pick up the phone, you crusty pocket of pus! Pickituppickituppickitup!!!!!"

Finally my heavy flirting paid off and Lary picked up the phone. "Hi, whore," he laughed. "Come over, what's keeping you?" What was keeping me was that time three years ago when I showed up at his house unannounced and he shot at me.

"I didn't shoot ''at'' you," Lary likes to clarify. "If I shot ''at'' you I would have hit you and you'd be dead right now."

Whatever the case, the incident is not one I'd like to relive. Other than that I consider Lary somewhat safe. He's never threatened to kill me, although he's ''offered'' to kill me a few times as a favor, to put me out of my misery like a lame horse, but I declined and he seems to respect that.

But he doesn't respect my stalking technique. He considers himself an expert on stalkers, having been the victim of one himself for the past several months. I sort of feel responsible for that, having driven him to -- and then ditched him at -- the party where he met the girl who became his ex-girlfriend and then his stalker. The whole time she was engaged to marry someone else, but -- since she also had multiple personalities -- she was apparently able to multitask her relationships, too.

"I wouldn't even have minded the multiple personalities if one of them wasn't Satan," Lary said. She's moved away, but sometimes returns to Atlanta and sleeps in her car outside Lary's back door. On those days Lary stays with another ex-girlfriend until the coast is clear.

"So I know a stalker when I see one," Lary said to me, "and you're no stalker." I'd have to do more than buy someone's books to be a stalker, he said. I buy all of Larry McMurtry's books, he pointed out, and I'm not stalking ''him'', now am I? But I didn't used to know Larry McMurtry when he was living in a van on the campus parking lot, or wait tables with him in a really bad theme restaurant by the  San Diego airport, or shoot  pool with him regularly in a beachside dive bar.

So what I'm saying is that this ex-boyfriend is kind of camping out in my head, which I occasionally pound against the wall. ''"How can this be?"'' I wail inwardly. How can he catch a cosmic break like this while I'm still flailing around in the evil world like a little crab without its exoskeleton? Jesus God, I'm jealous.

The last time I saw him was when I'd returned to San Diego to care for my dying mother, who was living in a beach cottage not far from where my ex-boyfriend probably still lives. I recognized him one morning as we walked toward each other on the strand.

I didn't know that he'd become hugely successful since I saw him last, so to me he was simply my old friend. But right then I couldn't bear to be asked how I'd been doing lately -- not on the verge of becoming an orphan as I was -- so I ducked my head and we passed each other without a word.

"Remember Andy?" I asked my mother later that day. She was in a coma, but nurses had told me to talk to her anyway. "I just saw him but couldn't say hi." Then I stopped talking because talking felt awkward. She died a few hours later, in my arms as it just so happens, and I've always regretted that my last words to her were chosen so carelessly.

"You walked right by him, right by him, and said nothing," Lary shakes his head. "See? You make a lousy stalker."


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I was calling him so he'd go with me to the bookstore to pick up my ex-boyfriend's latest best-seller. It's his 10th or so; I've lost count, which means I suck as a stalker.

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Finally my heavy flirting paid off and Lary picked up the phone. "Hi, whore," he laughed. "Come over, what's keeping you?" What was keeping me was that time three years ago when I showed up at his house unannounced and he shot at me.

"I didn't shoot at you," Lary likes to clarify. "If I shot at you I would have hit you and you'd be dead right now."

Whatever the case, the incident is not one I'd like to relive. Other than that I consider Lary somewhat safe. He's never threatened to kill me, although he's offered to kill me a few times as a favor, to put me out of my misery like a lame horse, but I declined and he seems to respect that.

But he doesn't respect my stalking technique. He considers himself an expert on stalkers, having been the victim of one himself for the past several months. I sort of feel responsible for that, having driven him to — and then ditched him at — the party where he met the girl who became his ex-girlfriend and then his stalker. The whole time she was engaged to marry someone else, but — since she also had multiple personalities — she was apparently able to multitask her relationships, too.

"I wouldn't even have minded the multiple personalities if one of them wasn't Satan," Lary said. She's moved away, but sometimes returns to Atlanta and sleeps in her car outside Lary's back door. On those days Lary stays with another ex-girlfriend until the coast is clear.

"So I know a stalker when I see one," Lary said to me, "and you're no stalker." I'd have to do more than buy someone's books to be a stalker, he said. I buy all of Larry McMurtry's books, he pointed out, and I'm not stalking him, now am I? But I didn't used to know Larry McMurtry when he was living in a van on the campus parking lot, or wait tables with him in a really bad theme restaurant by the  San Diego airport, or shoot  pool with him regularly in a beachside dive bar.

So what I'm saying is that this ex-boyfriend is kind of camping out in my head, which I occasionally pound against the wall. "How can this be?" I wail inwardly. How can he catch a cosmic break like this while I'm still flailing around in the evil world like a little crab without its exoskeleton? Jesus God, I'm jealous.

The last time I saw him was when I'd returned to San Diego to care for my dying mother, who was living in a beach cottage not far from where my ex-boyfriend probably still lives. I recognized him one morning as we walked toward each other on the strand.

I didn't know that he'd become hugely successful since I saw him last, so to me he was simply my old friend. But right then I couldn't bear to be asked how I'd been doing lately — not on the verge of becoming an orphan as I was — so I ducked my head and we passed each other without a word.

"Remember Andy?" I asked my mother later that day. She was in a coma, but nurses had told me to talk to her anyway. "I just saw him but couldn't say hi." Then I stopped talking because talking felt awkward. She died a few hours later, in my arms as it just so happens, and I've always regretted that my last words to her were chosen so carelessly.

"You walked right by him, right by him, and said nothing," Lary shakes his head. "See? You make a lousy stalker."


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Moodswing

Saturday September 16, 2000 12:04 am EDT
Long, long-distance surviellance | more...
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  string(3916) "I'm not proud that I know all the names of the final contestants on that mental enema of a TV show called "Making the Band," but my excuse it that I've recently spawned and I'm adhering to a strict recovery regime that entails lying on the couch like a sack of medicated sausage for six weeks. So when "Making the Band" appeared on TV, I was drawn to it like a helpless bacterium toward a sucking sore. I could have changed the channel, but pressing the remote technically qualifies as physical activity and — unlike my 86-year-old neighbor, Miss Taylor, who lives across the street and works in her garden with a heavy pickax every day — my goal is to avoid all activity. The other morning I saw Miss Taylor walking barefoot in the rain. Kicking her feet up and everything. I was spying on her through my window blinds. Compared to her I am a plankton-eating ocean slug. But that's my goal, what with my needing to heal and all.

Anyway, my husband has very strong convictions about bad TV. In fact, he only leaves the TV on when the house is empty so burglars will be psyched into thinking someone is home. If he ever discovered I watched "Making the Band," he would have donated our TV to Goodwill the very next day, which would have prompted me to scream at him until his sinuses cracked.

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As engineered, this reduced the boys to a bitchy pool of adolescent piranha, and they pecked each other to emotional shreds. So as you can see it was easy to convince myself I was auditing a behavioral study rather than face the truth, which is that my brain was being drained like a bag of melted bacon fat.

So during this moment of TV reprieve while waiting for Chris to leave, all of a sudden it occurred to me that maybe it's not all that normal for an 86-year-old lady to be walking barefoot down the road in the pouring rain. Maybe I should have gone out there and asked Miss Taylor if she was all right. Maybe her family was looking for her or something, I don't know. Jesus God, what kind of neighbor am I?

So I looked out the window to make sure she wasn't at it again when I noticed that the curb was packed with parked cars, which is weird because parking isn't allowed on our street. So I went outside to discover that a wake was being held in honor of my other neighbor, who had died the week before.

Needless to say I felt like a complete basket of crap. Just think, while I was sitting like a sea elephant in front of the TV my neighbor next door died and I knew nothing about it.

And what's worse is I vaguely remembered hearing an ambulance's siren blaring to a stop right near my house some nights earlier, but I was so busy being a TV turd it didn't occur to me something might be wrong. You'd think I'd care enough to venture outside my cable-connected cocoon to check. There was an ambulance, for chrissakes.

I offered them my condolences and shuffled back home. Chris had left for work so the TV was bellowing. "Win Ben Stein's Money" was in its final elimination round and Stein was about to defend his $5,000 by becoming a common contestant. "Stay tuned, you'll learn plenty," he beckoned from the box, but my regime of avoiding all activity was over, so I turned it off.


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Anyway, my husband has very strong convictions about bad TV. In fact, he only leaves the TV on when the house is empty so burglars will be psyched into thinking someone is home. If he ever discovered I watched "Making the Band," he would have donated our TV to Goodwill the very next day, which would have prompted me to scream at him until his sinuses cracked.

Since I was trying to keep such exchanges at a minimum for the baby's sake, my practice was to wait until Chris left for his late-night bartending shift before I clicked on the tube to see what Lou Pearlman -- that creepy entertainment promoter with a body like a pail of paste who chooses who's in the band and who gets tossed like a used tissue -- has in store for the boys as he dicks with their brains week after week like a drunk kitten with a basket of yarn balls. One time he tricked the kids into being late for choreography practice or whatever, so by the time they finally showed up their instructor had left and their publicist just stared at them with a face like a puckered poohole.

As engineered, this reduced the boys to a bitchy pool of adolescent piranha, and they pecked each other to emotional shreds. So as you can see it was easy to convince myself I was auditing a ''behavioral study'' rather than face the truth, which is that my brain was being drained like a bag of melted bacon fat.

So during this moment of TV reprieve while waiting for Chris to leave, all of a sudden it occurred to me that maybe it's not all that ''normal'' for an 86-year-old lady to be walking barefoot down the road in the pouring rain. Maybe I should have gone out there and asked Miss Taylor if she was all right. Maybe her family was looking for her or something, I don't know. Jesus God, what kind of neighbor am I?

So I looked out the window to make sure she wasn't at it again when I noticed that the curb was packed with parked cars, which is weird because parking isn't allowed on our street. So I went outside to discover that a wake was being held in honor of my other neighbor, who had died the week before.

Needless to say I felt like a complete basket of crap. Just think, while I was sitting like a sea elephant in front of the TV my neighbor next door died and I knew nothing about it.

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Anyway, my husband has very strong convictions about bad TV. In fact, he only leaves the TV on when the house is empty so burglars will be psyched into thinking someone is home. If he ever discovered I watched "Making the Band," he would have donated our TV to Goodwill the very next day, which would have prompted me to scream at him until his sinuses cracked.

Since I was trying to keep such exchanges at a minimum for the baby's sake, my practice was to wait until Chris left for his late-night bartending shift before I clicked on the tube to see what Lou Pearlman — that creepy entertainment promoter with a body like a pail of paste who chooses who's in the band and who gets tossed like a used tissue — has in store for the boys as he dicks with their brains week after week like a drunk kitten with a basket of yarn balls. One time he tricked the kids into being late for choreography practice or whatever, so by the time they finally showed up their instructor had left and their publicist just stared at them with a face like a puckered poohole.

As engineered, this reduced the boys to a bitchy pool of adolescent piranha, and they pecked each other to emotional shreds. So as you can see it was easy to convince myself I was auditing a behavioral study rather than face the truth, which is that my brain was being drained like a bag of melted bacon fat.

So during this moment of TV reprieve while waiting for Chris to leave, all of a sudden it occurred to me that maybe it's not all that normal for an 86-year-old lady to be walking barefoot down the road in the pouring rain. Maybe I should have gone out there and asked Miss Taylor if she was all right. Maybe her family was looking for her or something, I don't know. Jesus God, what kind of neighbor am I?

So I looked out the window to make sure she wasn't at it again when I noticed that the curb was packed with parked cars, which is weird because parking isn't allowed on our street. So I went outside to discover that a wake was being held in honor of my other neighbor, who had died the week before.

Needless to say I felt like a complete basket of crap. Just think, while I was sitting like a sea elephant in front of the TV my neighbor next door died and I knew nothing about it.

And what's worse is I vaguely remembered hearing an ambulance's siren blaring to a stop right near my house some nights earlier, but I was so busy being a TV turd it didn't occur to me something might be wrong. You'd think I'd care enough to venture outside my cable-connected cocoon to check. There was an ambulance, for chrissakes.

I offered them my condolences and shuffled back home. Chris had left for work so the TV was bellowing. "Win Ben Stein's Money" was in its final elimination round and Stein was about to defend his $5,000 by becoming a common contestant. "Stay tuned, you'll learn plenty," he beckoned from the box, but my regime of avoiding all activity was over, so I turned it off.


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Moodswing

Saturday September 9, 2000 12:04 am EDT
Sofa slug? Hey, it's doctor's orders | more...