Archives for posts with tag: Tennessee Williams

 

Go, then! Then go to the moon-you selfish dreamer!

I left Fire Island on Wednesday.  Driving north with my Persian friend Iliad.  The clouds were low, the air muggy and thick.  We took the ferry from Orient Point to New London, there was a British aristocrat on the ferry stitching needle point.  Beautiful raspberry and pistachio coloured yarn.

My intention is to return to Fire Island… maybe…. next month.  The last couple of days there blighted by torrential rain and chilly winds.  Friends came, David visited from NYC for the day and Lorne made an appearance but mainly to fetch his forgotten/lost bag.

May proved to be chillier than I remember.  Memorial Day and the biscotti queens came and went.  John, the owner of the house arrived and made everything broken… work.  I cooked a huge dinner and he and his friends the Scots seemed to love it.  Andrew from Dover Street Market swept in wearing incredibly chic pants.   John baked Halibut en cocotte.

During the week those of us who stayed were thrown together at the Canteen (I think they call it The Cultured Elephant) and it’s true when they say that one makes gay acquaintances in the city and gay friends on Fire Island.  I got to hang with the resort staff who are genuinely the sweetest, most handsome men… see above.   They have a grueling season ahead of them, working the bars, the clubs, the hotel and the restaurants.  Only the most robust will survive.  It’s a tough, unforgiving business serving entitled, demanding gay men.  The day before I headed North one of the newbies left the island in tears, torn apart by gay unreasonableness.

I met Joey the little person who is a particularly inspiring soul.  I was in awe of his ability to be the hugest man in his little body.  He has a captivating story.

Everyone has a Fire Island Pines story.   There are love affairs and breakups, tears on the boardwalk and fights in the elegant cedar homes.  There are couples and  thruples and orgies, there are undignified old men last gasping for their youth.  Wide eyed first timers arrive on the ferry, amazed that such a place as Fire Island Pines exists.  I remember that day, the first day Joe-Baily  brought me to Fire Island 25 years ago.  I will never forget it.

Everyone has a story.  I was told one hundred times by stick thin youths that they were too fat or not pretty enough to meet the man of their dreams.  They told me that boys talk to them in real life like they do on Grindr.  “Hung?” as an opening gambit.  “Party?”  “Looking?”  The single word pick up.  So lazy and charmless.  I did not envy them, these young boys… so far from serenity.   Of course, not all young gay boys are wracked with self-doubt.  I met young gay men who were comfortable and confident and conquering all… whilst the vulnerable fell by the wayside or let old men blow them at the dick dock.

There’s a degree of gay anarchy on the island.  Every one of the local laws are broken every day by almost everyone.

The AA meetings are vile.  The recovering alcoholics looking down their nose at those who drink and take drugs.   I met a dozen gay men who were once sober who now drink… taken out by a beautiful boy and a meth pipe.

One story particularly moved and disturbed me.  A grey eyed, erudite black boy no more than 28 years old who works for a renowned artist.   We met on the beach and he described his Fire Island experience.   He was embarrassed to tell me that he had encountered a great deal of racism during his time at The Pines.  There are few black people on Fire Island and now I know why.

I made it to Ptown.  I had dinner with Benoit the night I arrived, we ate fish and chips.  The ex-gay story he wrote for the New York Times Magazine is now a film produced by Gus Van Sant, starring James Franco and Zachary Quinto.  I am very proud of him.  Except… it’s another entirely white cast.   Why? Why? Why?

Yesterday, a local fisherman brought two pounds of freshly caught lobster knuckles that we shucked for dinner.

The dogs loved Fire Island.  They miss it!  Dude and The Little Dog bounding up the boardwalk, chasing rabbits and deer.  They are a little more restricted here even though we live directly on the beach and they are allowed to walk unleashed.   Today we walked a mile or so to the West End and visited the pier shack where Tennessee Williams wrote The Glass Menagerie on a stolen type writer.

The Shack where Tennessee Williams wrote to Glass Menagerie

My favorite and the most obviously poignant Tennessee Williams line from The Glass Menagerie:

I didn’t go to the moon, I went much further-for time is the greatest distance between two places.

Which made me think momentarily about Jake Bauman who I kinda owe my love of both Cape Cod and the Catskills.  Both of whom he introduced me.  If he hadn’t mentioned them with such fondness… I wouldn’t have explored them years later.   There are times when I wonder about those crazy few months with Jake.  They sure seem indelible.   There are brief moments when I wish I could pick up the phone and ask him how he is and what his life is like now.  Then I think better of it and let the memory, the moment… the past… slip back into the black, bombazine black water of what was but could never be.

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Therapy, collect cheque, Jennie Ketcham for breakfast.

Jennie and I walked the length of Abbott Kinney, found a new collar for the little dog and chatted about our various relationships.  She, of course, has a relationship..I do not.   She is in love and making a TV series and I am off to Paris with a friend.   A friend, nevertheless, who makes me smile.

Last night we saw some cool live music on the roof of the Standard down town..that would be Ryan, Justin and I..then we ate dinner at Bottega Louie.  I ate pork chops.  Somebody sent us a Shirley Temple with delicious cherries floating around in it.

I have to be discreet about the location but Prince and Lionel Ritchie played impromptu performance on another roof in another part of town..it seems that Prince is always up for an unexpected gig, I have seen him perform at hotels and bars and in that huge house he rented with purple carpet everywhere.

The night we saw Prince and bumping into Barbra Streisand in the Pacific Design Center are perhaps my most startling close encounters with celebrity..oh, and befriending Roseanne in Starbucks.

From out of the woodwork crawl all sorts of characters from the past and this week an old friend called after he lost his job.  It was all the more interesting because we had not had a cordial end to our friendship a year and a half ago but time heals and we said our brief apologies and got on with being friends again.

There is probably more to gain from knowing me than not knowing me.

Time is the greatest distance between two people. Tennessee Williams wrote that.  It is time that will end up miraculously mending all the smashed Ming vases that I am surrounded with.  Remember what I said about love being like a Ming vase?

Joan brought me a rather splendid Japanese tea-pot for my birthday that arrived in a huge box from Memphis.  I felt like a five-year old again.  Opening my birthday presents.

This day last year the darling big dog was killed.  Ripped apart in front of me under that truck..she kept on trying to live, trying to stay alive for me as we lay together in the back of my truck..in the flat-bed.  Jennie drove us to the animal hospital on Ventura Blvd and the nurse put her down with a lethal injection as I sobbed my little heart out.

The next day we collected her from the freezer and I cried all the way to Malibu, apologizing to her, reminding her of all the great time we had, crying and laughing until we buried her in a coyote proof hole in the garden she loved.

Sarah sang a beautiful song.  The little dog said his goodbye.

This year has been all about death.  The death of friends, the death of my dog and of course the death of love.   Tomorrow I want it to be different but I cannot be sure.  All I know is that I am trying to be the best man I can be, let go of the past..even the recent past, and forge ahead.

My Mother

Breakfast with John this morning at Cecconi’s.  We ate oatmeal, which is American for porridge.  Actually just milled oats with hot milk rather than the creamy, steaming, slow cooked porridge of my youth.   Served this morning-like a desert-with strawberry jam!  Yuk.

I was telling him about the long relationships that I have had with women.  I have always identified as gay but recently, after rehab and therapy I am coming to other conclusions.  Gayish maybe.  I don’t know.  ‘It’s complicated’ as they say on Facebook.

My relationships with women, as with Jennie on the show, have always been incredible romances.

I have loved women more than I ever loved me.

That was a Freudian slip.  I meant to write men.  But it’s true; I have always loved women more than men or me.

The woman that I have loved the most have been highly intelligent, powerfully articulate, always incredibly beautiful and sexually submissive.   The most recent being the editor of a highly regarded magazine.  I refer to all my past female lovers as my ex wives.

To understand these relationships I’d best explain the relationship I had with my mother.

My relationship with my mother was intensely emotional.  Remember, she too was held hostage in our ‘family’ by my violent step-father.  Consequently, I became her escape, her confidant, her secret affair.  On the bus to Canterbury I said, “I’m not your boyfriend!”  For the remainder of the journey we both sat in silence, shocked that I had articulated what had, until that moment, been our terrible secret. I was 12 years old!  In lieu of a loving husband or a loving father we loved each other absolutely, unswervingly.  She would confide in me, when we were on our own, that there was only us, no one else existed.  Just her and me.  That if she could she would run away with me.  This emotional incest laid the groundwork for the intensity I seek out with women.

Sexual violence I seek from men. I always find it.

Even though I have had long relationships with men, I devalue these relationships when I compare them to the relationships that I have had with women.

The truth is my mother and I never escaped.  She stayed married to my step father and endured his constant punishment.  I escaped into madness and addiction.

I still find it very difficult to forgive her.  She is a sweet and simple woman who really did her best to make a terrible life better for all of us.  However, knowing what I know now would it have been so terribly hard for her to put my brothers and I onto the bus and somehow get away?

I don’t believe that all gay men are born gay.

I know that this thinking sets me at odds with the majority of the gay community and many, many straight men.  Saying that, I don’t believe that there is a cure for homosexuality – as once the dye is cast our sexuality seems inevitable.

There is no evidence that gay to straight rewiring or reorientation actually works.

However, gay men who live with and marry women are of course far more prevalent than we like to admit.  But should these relationships be discounted?  Both Oscar Wilde and Vita Sackville-West had incredibly loving relationships with both their spouse and a member of the same sex.  Indeed, Oscar’s love letters to his wife are as beautiful and compelling, if not more so, than his letters to his male lover.  Vita’s profound love for her husband provided a springboard from which she would leap into a previously unimagined same sex world.

Again, in my experience of having relationships with women, women were far more accepting of my behavior than one would like to believe and tended to stick by me even after multiple same sex indiscretions.   When I have had relationships with women, women who knew that I had preferences for men, they tended to overlook the past and focus on a future that we might share together.

Most gay men who identify as gay are born gay.  However, a few men (and I count myself among them) are sexualized at an early age.   I am plagued with this question:  If I had not been so badly abused as an infant would I have become gay?

There are many varieties of gay.

Men who own to same sex desires later on in life endure accusations that they were merely in denial: minimizing their life’s journey.

Mother in Malibu garden

The group of men who seem to cause the most distress to both straight and gay men are those who genuinely seem to have sexual choice and act accordingly.    Same sex experimentation amongst straight men, despite rowdy protestations, occurs more frequently that any of us like to acknowledge.

As I have written before we, as a society, are incredibly prescriptive about the sexual identification of others.    Supposedly, once a man has crossed the sexual Rubicon he is damned.   Bullshit.  If only these sexual prescribers applied the same rational to female sexuality.   But how can they?  When straight men persuade women to act out lesbian fantasies have these women now become forever lesbians at the behest of heterosexual men?

All of my work as an artist has sought to understand, rework and revisit my initial trauma.  This now feels, after therapy, like a terrible indulgence.  Yet, to let it go..what am I left with?  The future seems very bleak without this grotesque narrative.

PS  My mother visited me after my grandmother died. It was uncomfortable for both of us but we got though it.  When the big dog was killed I called her crying but I felt like I was crying to a woman I no longer knew.

In the words of Tennessee Williams: Time is the greatest distance between two people.

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