The Ex of In House in Rhinebeck is an experimental guest house developed directly from the ongoing Explorations of “IN” project at Steven Holl Architects.
Jim Hodges, Gladstone Gallery NYC 2016. I Dreamed a World and Called it Love
Faris Al-Shathir is a gay Iraqi ‘professional squatter’. I’ve no idea what that means but Faris warranted a full-page in the New York Times describing his honed introduction skills. I met Faris on Fire Island a couple of years ago. He was hosting an art event, raising cash for queer artists to live and work on Fire Island. Faris is witty, charming and bright. I follow him on Facebook. This week he posted this on his feed:
I connected with someone on a dating app recently. We were chatting for a few days, until he asked me where my name was from. I told him my parents were from Iraq. The next time I logged on he had blocked me. I would love to say this is the first time this has happened, but the sad truth is that it happens all the time. I don’t talk a lot about my race, but given the current political climate, I feel more and more challenged. I’m in a unique place, I have blue eyes and I am an Arab. My ethnicity is ambiguous. I understand what white privilege feels like, what it feels like to be treated like a normal human being and be given every opportunity for life and love. But my last name is Al-Shathir and to many people that is scary or disgusting. I also know what it is like to not be given a fair chance bc of my ethnicity. I know what it feels like to be on the other side, the side that isn’t fortunate enough to live in privilege every day just because of the color of their skin.
Lately, one of my biggest frustrations has been that so many people don’t seem to understand that that privilege exists. They lack empathy. They don’t comprehend that it’s a horrible reality and completely unfair. Nobody should be treated differently bc of their ethnic origin, race, or color (or gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation, etc. for that matter). We should live in a society where we are all given equal opportunity. If you are one of the many people who feel complacent about this or feels like it’s not an issue, you are wrong. If you’ve learned to succeed even under these circumstances, that doesn’t mean the problem doesn’t exist. If you feel like it’s not going to get worse, you are wrong. The future president of our country was elected after making numerous public statements threatening, insulting and demoralizing minorities, muslims, women, people with disabilities, the list goes on and on. Over 60 million Americans voted for Trump, supporting his words and actions. He has normalized hate, empowering a scary and powerful population.
So yes, I am scared for the future. I ask all of my friends to not be complacent. We must stand for what is right.
Faris, gay men are not great examples of empathy toward each other or other groups. I met you on Fire Island in a largely affluent, young, white environment. Try being sober and gay. Try owning the body you have and being gay. Try having different opinions about Prep. If you do not fit that criteria you are treated like a pariah. The two gay men who live opposite me upstate voted for trump. Our community is increasingly right-wing. As for racism. ‘No blacks, no Asians, no fems or fats’. Perhaps a gay dating app is not the best place to be looking for empathy.
Faris didn’t ‘like’ my comment.
Do I think he was blocked for being Arab. No, I don’t. The gays will fuck anything. I’m sure who ever blocked him didn’t want a conversation. Although there’s something a little whiney and naive about the post… not getting laid opened the flood gates for Faris. He had an epiphany. A moment of clarity. He understood (what so many of us already understood) that white people control the outcome. That white gay men are no different. That Middle Eastern people and particularly muslims are currently getting the blame for all the evils in the world. I make sure men I meet on apps know I’m Middle Eastern from the outset and my experience on the hook up apps as an out Iranian is very positive. If you consider being objectified and fetishized by white guys… very positive.
If Faris believes he was blocked for being Middle Eastern try being a young black man blocked ahead of any conversation simply for having a black face. My young black friend DP just returned from his first trip to London, I asked how it was visiting a city where racism in the gay community has been largely eradicated. He said, “My Grindr blew up!” Meaning of course… white men SAW him and contacted him and didn’t ignore him because he is black.
My friend Adam arrived upstate recently, addicted to Grindr he jumped on the app and immediately started blocking… it made me feel sick. Sick that Adam might be missing out on someone somewhere simply because were not photogenic or rather… Grindrgenic. I once blocked a severely disabled man on Grindr because I couldn’t bring myself to tell him his disability was going to be difficult for me to deal with. I’ve ignored chubby men, older men and trans. I’ve lectured men about their bad pics in the age of instagram filters. Sadly, our on-line community has evolved into a series of photographs that may or may not grab the attention of the next viewer. A few words then a parade of cock shots and gaping anus.
Many gay men are waking up to a new reality. Faris is not alone. Gay men have enjoyed a great deal of privilege these past few years. After Trump’s shock election the gays are suddenly aware they might become second-class citizens once again. Faris, like many gay men, are feeling vulnerable. They are beginning to understand how older men like me lived our lives before we fought and won equality… for people like Faris. He berates the community for their lack of empathy, their ignorance of ‘privilege’. He uses the most un american of terms: unfair. It’s unfair that white men don’t understand the concept of white privilege. We can assume from this clumsy post… Faris, like many gay men, is waking up. Faris is taking baby steps toward becoming… radicalized.
Many of us already feel like second class citizens… within the gay community. Those of us who are older, who don’t fanatically go to the gym or Soul Cycle or Barry’s Boot Camp. Try being gay and sober or simply expect more from our fellow gay travellers. Long ago I began to loathe those monstrous gays who took our tenuous rights and equality for granted. Long before Trump ever threw his hat into the ring. After Trump’s win… I am beset by Schadenfreude. I had written endlessly that our rights, our very existence should not be used by left or right to prove a point. Allowing ourselves to be co-opted by the left as evidence of a better society could turn out very badly for us. It has.
During the election I warned my gay male friends not to be complacent (it’s a little late to warn about complacency Faris) and expect President Trump. They ignored my warning, they insulted my judgement and accused me of ignoring the polls. They were wedded to their skewed logic that Hillary would win because Trump was unelectable. But mostly they were wedded to the idea that gay life was a bull market and could only get better.
It’s the morning after the Golden Globe awards. I don’t have a hangover but I do have a severe headache. Ahead of my rant, the first order of the day? Congratulate Barry Jenkins who brilliantly won the best drama golden globe for his exquisite film, Moonlight. By awarding this black/queer film best drama the HFPA have thrown down a gauntlet to Hollywood. They are daring The Academy to address its crippling lack of diversity. I predict that Moonlight will go on collecting nominations and awards (will win SAG, Spirit Awards) but can it win Academy Awards? Here lies the rub. The only two bankable commodities in this little film are Jenkins and Harris who are both Hollywood gold.
The liberal, Hollywood talent elite are trilling about Meryl Streep. They forget the less liberal Hollywood majority booed Michael Moore after receiving his Bowling for Columbine Oscar and using the academy podium to remind us of President Bush’s fictitious reasons for invading Iraq in his brilliant and oft quoted ‘fictitious times’ speech. President Obama of course, perpetuated those fictions but did it by stamping out dissent and whistle blowing within the United States. Snowden, Assange, Manning. My heroes.
The real money in Hollywood is behind Trump… the power. The talent can make art out of outrage and in turn make billions of $ for the white Hollywood establishment. I can’t imagine former friend and UTA boss Jeremy Zimmer is anything other than thrilled by the prospect of a Trump presidency, salivating over the kind of big money he’s going to make these next four to eight years.
I wonder who reps Barry Jenkins? I can tell you one thing. He won’t have a black agent or manager at one of the leading agencies or management companies… because there aren’t any. Until there are black faces repping big money at the agencies, black faces producing movies or living on Carbon Beach in Malibu or heading up the teamsters union… Hollywood will be as is it always has: racist. A white industry where predominantly white men control the money. It is not a place where your dreams will come true, it is a place where old white men will decide which of their dreams will come true using your talent.
It’s simply not good enough to call Trump names at award shows. Yeah he’s a prick, yeah he’s hollow, yes he’s predictable. Are we gonna repeat ourselves every day? Expecting a different outcome? Let’s call him what he is: Donald Trump is the most powerful white supremacist in the world. Riding an international wave of fascism. Your president is a white supremacist.
As I’ve asked a million times before, are you willing to put your life on the line to fight fascism? Are you willing to demonstrate, be interned or tortured or imprisoned? Sooner or later Facebook rants and memes just won’t cut it. History proves that when things get nasty the people do as they are told. However brave they say they are before the black shirts arrive. It’s my guess that you’ll put up with it too. You’ll go on the one million woman march… then they’ll round-up the South Americans in California and what will you do? Then they’ll go after lgbt rights… and what will you do? They’ll outlaw abortion. What will you do? They’ll shoot to kill and fill the prisons with any and every black man who looks scary and what will you do? Tweet?
You’ll tweet about it.
I’m very slowly going blind. Foolishly, after many years of not looking carefully at my plate, I started wearing my glasses when I eat. Oh My God, revolting! Gelatinous sauces oozing from the edge of beef and chicken. Seeds baked into bread. Glazes and jus and creamed potato sprinkled with chives. I want to vomit, overwhelmed by the detail, the slightest movement as you press down onto the burger and my lunch becomes a suppurating sore discharging blood, guacamole and mayonnaise. I am captivated by gravy as it seeps under and drips around roast pork. Nauseated, I have to take my glasses off. On Saturday night we had pasta with sea urchin butter and caviar at Fish and Game in Hudson. Although delicious, I couldn’t fully enjoy it until it was just a blur on my plate otherwise, it was a mesmerizing… awful experience.
The dogs know it is bitterly cold this morning. Minus 13. They are under the covers. Hidden away. Unlike England which is cold, wet, dark and raw thankfully it is bright and cold here upstate making the day less of a chore. Our store, Tivoli General is open and there are AA meetings in Hudson.
I stayed in bed, too distracted by pain. The infection in my jaw getting worse.
The third Monday of January is notorious for suicide. This third Monday in January will be no different. A mass suicide event will take place in the USA and nobody will say a word.
Did you know I fell out with Stephen Fry a year or so ago? I had the audacity to mention the freedoms and privilege a celebrity enjoys. Celebrities HATE when you discuss their fame. Or in his case… his twitter feed. We then had an email fight about God and the existence of God. I asked him if he realised almost all of his sober friends have a god in their life. He reluctantly accepted that spirituality may be very loosely beneficial for some people but that’s that. There’s a connection (if you can be bothered to work it out) between his reluctance to discuss celebrity and his eagerness to dismiss a certain kind of God. “Stephen, you don’t have to believe in God,” I said. “As long as you know you’re not God.”
He said rather ominously, “Be very careful.”
Not being very careful, I asked, “So if you don’t belive in God… who do you cry out to every time you try killing yourself?”
That was it. No more Stephen Fry.
There’s darkness all around me. Both sides. Consider it. Consuming me. Your death. When I wake in the morning and retire at night. My obsession to kill, to kill you obscures the view, softens the edges like a drink, like a cold beer, like a veil. Then I’m walking in the world. I am on the street. I am not where my body is. Away from my house, trapped in the sunlight. Jacarander in full bloom. Smashed avocado on the side-walk. Why bother going out? I could be planning his death. Planning the end of his life. Scripting the final words he will hear before he’s snuffed out. I have to feed the dog. Buy probiotic. Pass the homeless black man reclining on the concrete bench.
Franklin, Selma, Cherokee.
The only fascinating thing that came out of his mouth was my cock. I have a photograph of that. I wish I had been more tenacious tending my own lusty garden, less sensitive, less caring.
When people stay over they complain I scream out in my sleep. Night terrors. They ask, who is Jake? I shudder to think what I am doing in those forgotten nightmares. Am I trapped or caught or bringing down the knife? Have I cornered him? Is he begging for his life? Have the tables been turned, the police called? Am I already handcuffed, am I sitting in the electric chair?
There are no consequence, nothing scares me when the lights are on, when dawn has broken. As I make my way, steeply up the dusty trail. Fighting one resentment after another. Slip sliding past these single people with their dog children. Calling out. One dog, two dogs, three dogs. This morning I counted 145 dogs. I’m calling your name as I sleep. Jake! Come back to me.
There is something inevitable. His death I am planning. I’ll leave it up to my dreams to work out the detail. The multiple contractions of apprehension. I accept my fate, God’s will (not mine) be done.
I worked in the county jail. I worked for the Mexican nuns. Organizing lectures for the pre-trial detainees. I met murderers there. They were so contrite. I listened politely to their stories. “I’ve taken a life.” He wept. He buried her in a storm drain, using a broom handle to push her limbs out of sight.
Culver, Washington, Sepulveda.
The heavy rains, El Niño flushed her desiccated body into the LA River, bobbing along the concrete culvert until she met the choppy Pacific Ocean. Murderers all, never thinking I would one day join them. Wearing orange scrubs and yellow underwear. I wonder if I will be as contrite when strangers ask me for my story? Contrition has never been my friend.
After many months of consideration I have everything in place. Everything I need to know: Where he lives, the route he takes to work, how I can find him.
Hyperion, 101, West Temple.
I have seen recent pictures of him on his Mother’s Facebook. The way he wears his hipster beard, trimmed in such a way I never knew. I wonder if his lover advises him to wear it like that. He is wearing a jacket I picked out for him. Do you know how much that amuses me? Every time he pulls on that jacket he has no option but to think of me.
I have not yet bought the weapon.
The cast is chosen, the die… is cast. The private detective, my unwitting accomplice. The weapon? Must buy. Top of the list. Number 1. It was easy to find the Private Detective. Google. Boasting he once worked for the LAPD. Despicable cops. Everything about my failed relationship with Jake was conceived and born on the internet. It was shaped on web cams, emails, Facebook, Manhunt, Grindr.
Determined by him.
When and whenever he wanted. I gave into him. Until I didn’t.
How and why should a charming, affluent, fifty year old think like this? Why this murderous obsession? I used to wake every morning like a boy! Enchanted by all the world has to offer. Now I see nothing. At the mercy of nothing. Darkness both sides of me. I used to wake up every morning and thank God for the new day. Now there is no God, just a black hole where God used to be, consuming everything in the universe. Sucking anything of value into the vortex. The furies are all I’m left with. On the edge of the black hole.
I have given up wondering why I am so angry at him. This is all you need to know:
Alone in my bed at night but not isolated. The house is full of people. The dog is well fed. The maid cleans. The gardeners trim and prune and sweep. There are fragrant hyacinths, white and purple, growing in pots on the dining room table. Freshly grown fruit picked and washed ready to eat.
I don’t expect to get away with this. In anticipation I have been disconnecting from my darling dog. He knows it, he paws at me insistently. He knows something grave is in the offing. He, in turn, is learning to trust the kindness of others. He doesn’t want to be left on his own. I may have murdered months ago had it not been for the extraordinary something between me and a dog. I am ready to let go of him too. He hides from me when I cry, he hides from me when I am angry. Leaves puddles of urine on the white rug.
He’ll cower when I shout at dullards on the streets or digital voices on the telephone. He is scared when I cry. Scared by the smell of whiskey on my breath. He is ready for a different master. I am ashamed to tell you, when he first arrived from the shelter I was quite cruel to him. He was scared and disoriented when I brought him home. Barking, barking. He would pee on everything and after a week of cleaning the house, scrubbing the god damned carpet, mopping the tile, the smell of dog pee on everything I owned. Every time he peed I shouted at him.
He defecated in my closet. I shouted so hard he ran away and hid in the garden.
I wished he would never come back. I begged God the coyote would eat him. The rattle snake would kill him. For a week he managed to not get eaten by the coyotes. How? Packs of coyote stalked my property. Screaming for their dinner. He walked back into the house as if nothing had happened. He never urinates on the carpet again.
When I shout on the telephone, he flinches. Most people do. People in the room move away from me if they know me well enough. I used to shout at people.
I’ve been angry. Very angry. Furious. It’s been a problem. Perhaps I am well-known for flying off the handle? There’s no question mark. I am well-known for losing my temper. At work, in situations where powerlessness grips me and I feel myself sinking. I have shouted so loudly, my blood pressure so high, I collapsed. Shifting the liquid in my inner ear. I thought I was having a stroke.
I lost my temper with Jake. I lost my temper when we thought he had been robbed. I lost my temper at Paris, Charles De Gaulle. He recoiled. Everyone does. I am a big man who looks docile for the most part. Docile, until they prod me with their stick. Docile until the blood drains out of my face, my lips turn blue and I look like an animal. I know where you are. I can hear you talking about me during the day. My ears burning. He’s doing it right now. I can hear him laughing at me. Describing my horrible temper. Sharing stories about me with his friends. Laughing at every choice I ever made. I imagine him with my old acquaintances (friends no more) who may have contacted him. Laughing at how old I am. Wondering what he ever saw in me. My erectile dysfunction. The white in my beard. My stiff knees. He is only twenty-nine years old.
I don’t expect him to celebrate his thirtieth birthday.
Chris, the Private Detective. The first time we met, we met in public. We drank coffee at a large table at my private club over looking Beverly Hills and West Hollywood.
Doheny, Hillcrest, Thrasher.
A plump, sanguine, middle-aged man who is not even middle-aged. Certainly fifteen years younger than me yet seems so much older. There is something invisible about him. He is uniquely American. He is invisible. He is everyman, dressed as everyman and therefore invisible. I would be hard pressed to pick him out of a crowd even though I have met him twice. He had no particular expression, no charisma, no beauty and no opinion.
Only when pressed did he tell me about his other clients: a woman from Pasadena whose husband she suspected was having an affair. When he followed her unemployed spouse he drove into Santa Monica and sat in the library day after day drinking english tea from a flask he filled at The Coffee Bean and reading free newspapers until it was time to go home.
I wondered if I had ever been followed, watched or my movements documented? Really, who would care enough to do that? I couldn’t think of anyone other than Joe. The thought made me smile. Not even he would bother. Even as we were in the midst of our messy ‘divorce’.
The second time I met Chris the Detective we met at my home. He had, by this time, Googled me. He was less restrained, he obviously knew who I was and who he was dealing with. He told me about a boy he was looking for, a lost boy. He thinks the boy is already dead. Suicide. “Let’s talk about money.” Chris pulled a contract out of a black plastic folder and I handed him a cheque for $1, 500. Discover where he goes, I said. With whom. Simple.
Yes, I am a homosexual. I wondered if you guessed already? Had I made it obvious? Was it evident in the way that I write? The way I see things. Does it differ from the way you see things? A homosexual, a landlord and recently (I don’t know how to write this) a television personality from a reality television show. That’s how I make my money, odd jobs. Like the downs syndrome boy who lives in my home town. Running errands. I am a high achieving cripple.
Odd jobs suit me fine.
Yet, I earn more money than I ever have. Using all of my potential. Even though the worst of me seems to get the better deal every single day and always has.
I can confide in you?
Each night I regret the passing of another day. I lay in my bed and before I fall asleep, knowing that soon my freedom will be curtailed. My sheets no longer woven from heavy linen. My houses in the mountains will fall into disrepair. Friends and family will come and take what they want and the lawyers will take the rest. My dog will never see me again. Will he too die in prison? Euthanized by strangers? Is it worth it? To lose everything because he made a fool of me? Lied to me? Can I risk everything? Should I?
I have never been so sure of anything in my whole life. In lieu of suicide, murder works just fine. I talk to him, imaginary conversations. I catch hold of his sleeve and I ask him, “Can I tell you how you broke my heart?” He looks back at me. His brown eyes and soft mouth. I say, “Because you trusted me, you encouraged me, you loved me. Then you saw something you hated and turned your back on me and I was alone and I couldn’t bear being all on my own… again.” Then I feel sorry for him. I want to help him get out of this pickle. Run away! While you still have the opportunity. I don’t want to kill anything. But the wish to kill is never killed, even when I am happy, even when the twins are bouncing around the house.
Sometimes I want to call you and give you fair warning. I want to tell you to run and hide so I can’t get you. But I don’t. I don’t because the die is cast. I have already caused him inexorable pain and chaos. I know his entire family (Mother, Father and sister) stand beside him whereas I have no one here. His tiny jewish mother, her short coarse hair, married to her tall slim husband whose ambition is to travel by push bike from Southern California to burning man and take acid. His mum and dad who only found out he was gay when I forced him to tell the truth. They were shocked their son could have made so many bad choices, led a double life. Told so many lies. He compartmentalized the life he led with his fiance and the life he had with me.
He is not uncommon. So many gay men learn how to lie, to skirt the existence others think they lead. Last week a gay acquaintance of mine found dead in his bathroom from a Oxycontin overdose. He was fine! His father told everyone that he had only just put down the phone twenty-four hours ago and his son, his only son, his darling son was fine.
I used to tell him that. I warned him. Toxic shame kept him lying to everyone who loved him and would end up killing him if he didn’t tell the truth.
My name is Charles Maguire. I am fifty years old. I live with my small dog in a large, mid-century modern house designed in part by Rudolf Schindler on three acres of verdant, semi tropical gardens overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The gardens are planted with Agave, cactus and other drought loving succulents. Below the house there is a small grove of olive trees. Last summer I grew cherimoya, oranges, grapes, lemons, plums, peaches and many vegetables. The excess fruit and vegatables I left at the top of the drive for my neighbours, they took the produce and ignored the honesty box.
Malibu is a tranquil place many miles away from Hollywood. I can see the stars at night and listen to birds all day long. Hawks wheeling in the sky. There is a carp pond and a plunge pool. My neighbours are European. Americans tend to fear the idea of living on the mountain. When they arrive at the house they say, “Are you scared of….mudslides, fires, earthquakes etc?” And I reply, “No… not much scares me up here. Then they tour the garden and tell me this is a ‘magical’ place. It is when you stop being scared.
Latico Canyon, Las Flores, Topanga.
Last month young twins moved into the guest house but mostly they hang out with me. My Mormon twins, tall, perfectly sculpted bodies, so polite and thoughtful. As much as I love them, they shall not distract me from my great task. Perhaps all I want is attention? Craving attention. Negative or otherwise? The trial, I arrive looking svelte and dapper. I will stand in the witness-box and sob when forced to tell my abusive back story.
I think about him again. I think about how he may or may not be with someone he loves who is not me. I think of him having sex with someone he loves who is not me. Then I think murderous thoughts that many of us have when ditched. I console myself in the shadow of that word: I think about the wounds on his body that I am going to inflict and how they will open in his flesh like cactus flowers.
I don’t think anyone will be surprised when they hear that I am arrested. Most people I know understand that I am the sort of man who would or could be capable of murder. Just like my father. He was the same way.
The route he takes to work everyday. Hyperion, 101, Culver.
The twins are in their room making love. I can hear them. One of them says softly, “Don’t!” They giggle. They look at my AA sober coins and say, “These are really cool trinkets.” They are going to the gym and getting ready to audition. They don’t know my thoughts. They can’t possibly know what is going on upstairs in the head department. They are simple Mormon boys who make love in the morning and talk about girls all day long. I can hear them kissing. I can hear them cooing like doves. I can hear one of them gasp.
Since he left me I have put on weight. My jowls are sagging. The skin around my eyes drooping over my eye lids. My belly looks permanently full and my skin is dull and grey. I used to be attractive but that doesn’t matter any more. Who cares what I look like?
I have not had an erection for months. Hey, gay boy. Can you imagine that? Fucking gay boys! Not to have an erection? Not to wake up with morning wood because all you can think about twenty-four seven is how you are going to speed a bullet through his brains?
Murderous thoughts destroy ones libido. Although, most murderers say they get an erection after a murder, that ones penis becomes doubly engorged.
I don’t look at pornography, I don’t show myself on any match-making web site. I don’t drink alcohol or take drugs. I drink coffee and smoke strong cigarettes. I barely ever brush my teeth unless I have to share a car with someone… and then, only when that person matters. I stand naked in front of the mirror so the image of who I am burns into my brain. I am ugly and useless and un-lovable. I am old.
Some days I kneel at the edge of my bed and pray that I can be delivered from this obsession but God long ago fled the scene of this crime. I have nothing to lose. My life is worthless.
I can hear the twins in another part of the house film scenes for a film that has no beginning, middle or end. The dog is with them, he’s barking and running around joyfully. I know, if I join them they will sit quietly. Their joy deferring to my misery.
Did you know that I used to have two dogs? The other one was killed in the road. I miss her so much. Somehow her death, her cruel and senseless death introduced me to the idea of death. Life’s fragility. I am crying now. Thinking about her.
Anyway, that’s that. The detective has been appointed. Cal from Manhattan Beach has the gun. It is presently sitting in a box wrapped in a dishcloth. He texted me a picture of the gun. Applying some Polaroid app to the image which made it look very old-fashioned. Very old. Everything is in place. What could possibly stop me. Other than his pleading face? His begging cries? His convincing argument that he might live?
Why don’t I just kill my old self and spare his young life?
I say goodbye to the dog and the twins. I walk for one last time around the estate. The paths that cut into the hill-side. The view over the ocean. I say goodbye to it all. “The next time you see me will be on the television.” The twins look a little confused but are too polite to pry. The Little Dog thought he was coming too and looked quite panicked when I did not invite him into the car. I didn’t look back. I could hear him barking. I didn’t look back.
405, Vista Del Mar, Highland Ave
Cal, shows me the gun. He is very excited. A plan to kill. I am discovering that murder excites some people, like the soldiers in Afghanistan who without consideration shot and killed innocent men and women without regard. It was their thrill and now I feel it too.
A thrill comes over me, more intense than anything I have ever felt before. Do men feel the same before they kill themselves? Have I thought about suicide? I think about it everyday. Every single day. If I am brave enough go kill myself I might as well take someone with me. The man who broke my heart. The man who caused everything to stop except time. Stuck in this morass.
It’s been some time since I turned my back on this blog. I rather ostentatiously announced that I would never blog again. But it’s been a tumultuous year inter personally and internationally. Not a great year to ignore. The most important reason for not blogging?
Last year I met someone I have grown to respect tremendously, even though in the peripheral vision of the public eye he is perhaps one of the most private people I’ve ever called a friend. He has become one of those closest to me. In its former incarnation my blog had become a risky means to communicate my triumphs, failures and frustrations. Those around me felt uncomfortable, aware they could end up in this personal blog at the mercy of my public point of view.
The closer I became to my friend, the more I grew to love his gentle disposition, his trust and generosity. I did not want to endanger our friendship nor cause him or his family anxiety. I stopped writing. This week I mentioned to him why I had stopped writing my blog and how I might start writing again. He was very supportive.
I am an oaf. The older I get the more clumsy I become. Some people become physically inept. I’ve become mentally less agile. Tripping over myself when I get excited. Wading through molasses when I get tired. Writing this blog every day kept me alert.
There’s a red squirrel living in the barn, aggressively defending the ancient black walnut tree. He’s not at all like a British red squirrel. He’s more like a stoat. He spent the autumn collecting walnuts, filling a cavity at the base of the tree with his foraging. He sits peeling walnuts, industriously creating a midden beneath him. When I don’t see him I worry the barn cat ate him. I hadn’t seen him for a week after the heavy snow but today he was back on his branch. His fluffy tail and chattering warning off the grey squirrels who, even though they are thrice his size, run from him when he spies them stealing his stash.
The Little Dog is getting old. He sleeps more. His soft jowl is grey. He has fatty lumps forming on his chest. He loves a long walk and streaks ahead of me and Dude. He must be 12-year-old. Maybe. I’ve no idea how old he was when we found him at the rescue.
I don’t have a TV. It keeps me from the worst of the news cycle. Twitter and Facebook keep me up to date. The second screen. Bloody hell. I’m addicted to that thing. I’ve tried hard to not look. Tried an app that tells me how many hours a day I spend engaging with it. Shocking. My head down like a pious monk looking at the little screen.
Last Easter Dennis and Elizabeth Kucinich stayed here with me in Tivoli. They’ve bought a very scruffy farm in Poughkeepsie. They are vegans. They eat tapioca for breakfast. I’ve never known two people to bicker as often as they do. We went for long walks. Dennis says, “You realise Trump is going to be our next president? He’s going to win.” At lunch he repeated his assertion. My nice white, affluent friends smile knowingly. Crazy Dennis Kucinich. They didn’t believe him, I didn’t want to believe him. A few weeks later the two gay men who live opposite this house put up a Trump/Pence sign on their lawn and… I knew Dennis was right. President Trump was inevitable.
There were many dinners and lunches prepared on North Road this year. It seemed to irritate my nice friends whenever I cautioned a Trump presidency. “Only angry white men will vote for him.” they said. They assured me there weren’t enough angry white men to defeat the women and the people of color Trump had offended.
They think I am an angry white man.
Trump won the primary. The establishment attempted to shame him with crude tape recordings, unseen tax bills, the stories of unpaid artisans.
I felt isolated every time I repeated my assertion. How could I be so sure? “Do you have a degree in political science?” I was asked by an affluent gay man peering at me suspiciously. “No, I listen.” I said. “I listen to people far away from the shrill, gay echo chamber. I sit with AA people. Local working people, the kind of people who plough your drive or file documents in the local hospital or work in the probation department… the kind of people sophisticated city folk never engage. They love Trump.”
The AA folk I met all over the state confirmed my suspicion that things were not as the pollsters claimed. The double-digit Clinton lead. The hyperbole. In hind sight the polls now seem like establishment propaganda.
On the TV despondent hacks wondered why every time Trump made a gaffe or said something untoward his ratings soared. Upstate, men and women of all ages had already decided Trump was their guy. They did not care about pussy grabbing. Ruth said, “He can grab my pussy.” They did not care about Trump’s debate performance or his racism. The language Trump used… they could understand. I heard their roar of approval echo over the mountains and into the valley every time Trump shat all over the politically correct.
My nice liberal friends were too busy believing in Clinton’s invincibility. They refused to listen to anything other than hollow reassurance from other liberals that a Trump presidency was totally impossible.
Some polls, discredited by the establishment, indicated Bernie Sanders was the only Democrat in the race who could comfortably beat Donald Trump. My nice white friends scoffed. “We don’t want a Bernie revolution.” Amy said.
“When Trump’s elected you’ll wish it was Bernie’s revolution rather than Trump’s.” I replied.
Consternation at the dinner table. “Trump isn’t going to win,” they said. “He can’t win.” What seemed evident to me became increasingly absurd to others. The choice was obvious: It was either Sander’s revolution or Trump’s. Revolution was what the people craved.
Hillary Clinton won the Democratic presidential nomination. They kicked Bernie to the curb, unwilling to work with him. Clinton’s affable, dull running mate (whose name I’ve forgotten) made no impression on the nation and Pence effortlessly destroyed him during the vice presidential debate.
The affluent white people I know in New York City have become complacent, deaf to the pleas and need of the rest of the nation. Whilst my city friends were slightly inconvenienced by the banking crisis, the working poor suffered real consequences: they lost their homes, their jobs and their dreams. They foolishly believed affable President Obama would help them, but Obama ignored the opiate epidemic claiming the lives of desperate Americans, he ignored the many suicides of hopeless young men. Whilst we were applauding Obama’s inclusive rhetoric, cheering his trans toilet initiative. A black president honoring the trans community… I heard a different story from my local white friends of all ages, smoking cigarettes after the AA meeting. They recoiled from the trans toilet debate… unable to register their disdain for fear of PC retribution.
Meanwhile Robby Mook, Clinton’s gay campaign manager, deliberately chose to spurn the votes of the working poor and went after the soft Republican vote believing them more educated and therefore outraged by Trump’s racism and misogyny. It was a catastrophic decision. Mook’s strategy was informed by the ringing lies he heard in the pink echo chamber. The same hall of whispers I am privy to. They said, Clinton will win because Trump is a clown. I was getting blocked on Facebook for pleading with people to get ready for President Trump. Empirical evidence rather than scientific opinion. I was listening to my AA friends. I was looking at the Trump/Pence signs sprouting up all over New York state.
The gays alienated themselves from anyone who didn’t think like them or look like them or agree with their blind devotion to Clinton. The merest questioning of her integrity was perceived as heresy. The more they blocked me the more I realised just how hopeless those people would be the morning after the election.
I was invited to an upstate ‘Pink Belt’ gay pool party. The hosts and guests were short, buff and white. In spite of my fear of mediocrity I had a very pleasant time. The short white host saw me out. I mentioned my fear of gay pool parties as I thanked him for inviting me. “Don’t worry,” he smiled “I’m out of shape too.” I paused and looked into his big blue eyes.
The gays sneer at the working poor who vote against their own interests… forgetting the working poor have no interests. They have no Obama Care, they have no home to call their own. They limp from one bill to another, doing their best, never daring to dream. Trapped by debt, obesity, addiction and religion. The working poor do not have ‘interests’ to vote against nor common cause. They were angry, raw and unrepresented whilst Obama touted gender neutral bathrooms.
Where was the change they could believe in? Where was the change we could all believe in?
In the early hours of the morning November 9th 2016 I was on a late train from Grand Central Station to Poughkeepsie NY. There was a middle-aged woman wearing an ‘I’m With Her’ baseball cap. She had been at the Javitz Convention Center waiting for Hillary’s victory speech. She sat on the train weeping. Her face wet with tears. The conductor asked if she was ok. She railed against Trump. The conductor said, “Oh dear, things are going to work out just fine.” Young people started laughing, jeering at her. Trump supporters. She sobbed inconsolably. The mob sneered at Obama even though many had voted for him. They were excited, they were excited for a new American dawn.
Hillary Clinton beat Robby Mook on his chest with both her fists when she realised she had lost the race.
In the UK the Brexit referendum happened earlier in 2016. My Mother and Brother voted to leave the EU. Leave won the popular vote. Hate crimes became a daily occurrence. I felt sad and shocked. England shrank before my eyes. The sickening thud of jack boots on the streets, austerity leading inevitably to the solutions of the anti-establishment right-wing. I lamented our decision. Others came to their senses too late, wishing their protest vote hadn’t had such an impact.
All over the world people are shaking the tree, expecting it to afford them cover.
Ori posted a picture on Instagram. A dinner with friends the night after the 2016 presidential election. 10 white, identical looking gay men in their thirties… commiserating. ‘This is why we lost the election’ I wrote beneath the picture. ’10 white gay men believed Clinton would win because they repeated wishes as if they were facts.’ He blocked me. Nobody wants to believe that they are part of the problem.
In the aftermath of the presidential election Hillary Clinton vanished into the woods of Chappaqua. The rich got richer. Those friends who scorned my prediction were gracious enough to acknowledge I was right. But what of it? Clinton supporters are still unable to grasp what is happening, they blame the Russians, they blame Wikileaks, they blame the electoral college, they blame the polls, Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders… they blame everyone but Clinton. Their fury is palpable. Their distress acute.
We wait for January 20th.
Should I dedicate this blog to affluent, gay, white male: ‘The King‘ Chris Cortazzo?
Chris Cortazzo, Coldwell Banker’s top-selling Malibu realtor. Remember? He accused me of extortion when I threatened to blog about him? Chris and his legal team predicted a felony in my future… an automatic deportation.
Chris wanted to fine me, humiliate me, take away my home and most importantly he wanted to silence me… yet, after months of bargaining with expensive help from his Super Lawyer Bryan Freedman… Chris Cortazzo accomplished no fines, no deportation, no felony.
When all was said and done Chris achieved a wobbly misdemeanor and a recently expired, three-year gag order… as part of a convoluted plea deal. The ubiquitous plea deal routinely offered to people like me in the USA who couldn’t afford a fair trial.
No. Chris Cortazzo is undeserving of any dedication. He is a very, very bad gay.
Instead, I dedicate this blog to every man woman and child presently held illegally in jails and prisons all over ‘the land of the free’. There are presently 2,500,000 people in US jails.
Two and a half million people.
Private and public US jails and prisons are crammed with brown men, women and children who could not afford a fair trial and under hopeless duress accepted a plea deal. Worse, there are corroborated stories of pre trial detainees tortured into signing false confessions or incriminated by the police and corrupt, racist prosecutors.
Thanks to organizations like the Innocence Project hundreds of men and women have had their convictions overturned and on occasions released from decades of solitary confinement for crimes they did not commit.
Cowed by PTSD many will not survive their freedom. Suicide and terminal illness rates are high. It is hard for them to live normal lives. They return to unrecognisable neighbourhoods, children estranged, families and friends scattered. In some states they are barred from voting. For the decades of torture they endured many sue and win handsome payouts but after huge ‘civil rights’ attorneys bills, taxes and years waiting for payment they receive only a little remuneration.
Fearful, white tax payers unquestioningly pay whatever it costs for more prisons, death row, jails, the police and the military. They believe mass incarceration makes them safer. They rarely enquire: Who profits from mass incarceration? They are unaware that the same people profiting from corrupt and illegal wars in Iraq and Libya also own the jails and the prisons ignoring the untold suffering within.
Whilst the 1% get richer on the backs of the poor, hiding their ill-gotten gains elsewhere, avoiding taxation… disenfranchised people of color are radicalized by brutal treatment whilst incarcerated. The poor know they are easy prey. Inside the big house they are gouged further by deputies who own and operate vending machines. A 50 cent pack of noodles sold to those who can least afford it… for $3. Loved ones forced to pay 1000 times more than you and I to receive phone calls from the incarcerated.
In America… if you are poor, vulnerable or sick… expect to be enslaved by the state.
Black communities are bullied by a police force trained to raise revenue by issuing hundreds of bogus tickets. In Ferguson MO 80% of the residents had been ticketed for minor infractions, raising millions of dollars for a failing local government. Private prisons are kept profitably full by agreement between local politicians and prison owners. Remember Judge Ciavarella, jailed for receiving payment from a prison owner for imprisoning innocent children? Some of those innocent kids killed themselves.
Two million children are arrested every year in the US, 95% for non-violent crimes. 66% of children incarcerated never return to school. The US incarcerates nearly 5 times more children than any other nation in the world.
Ferguson and Mark Ciaverella are just the tip of the iceberg. As in any tin pot dictatorship, powerful Americans use jail to silence whistleblowers and truth tellers.
This is my story: the story of rich, entitled white folk taking down and silencing enemies using the public court system as their personal weapon.
The blog referred to during this post is the blog I allegedly ‘threatened’ to publish if Chris Cortazzo didn’t right his wrongs. The original blog exists publicly in its entirety as court records, evidence submitted by the prosecution during my pre-trial.
Why now? Why write this 4 years after the event? I might have left my story in the past but this story became unexpectedly relevant. I was recently contacted by lawyers who revealed I wasn’t the only Malibu property owner who had fallen foul of realtor Christopher Cortazzo.
Powerful friends, they say, make powerful enemies. Chris and his friends proved they could do anything they wanted to me and others. There were times when I suspected my very own lawyer had been bought by the other side.
This is a Hollywood story. As with any epic Hollywood story it requires a suspension of disbelief. This narrative snakes in and out of reality tv, multi-million dollar homes, secretive Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and into the many canyons of Malibu, Bel Air and Beverly Hills. It stars ‘A’ listed talent and their representatives, a cast of corrupt policemen, prosecutors and the judiciary. It is the story of shameful… affluent, white gay men and their friends.
It is fortune lost and found.
Let’s get one thing clear before we go any further. I don’t want anything from you. Nothing. I don’t want your money, I don’t want your time, I don’t want your body. I want nothing from you… never… ever.
This is the blog you didn’t want me to write, the blog you spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to kill. This is the blog I sat in the Los Angeles Men’s County Jail contemplating. This is it. This is the blog you wanted me to regret.
Chris. Are you ready?
Before I start, I have two words to say to you: Hiroshi Horiike.
This name probably means nothing to your starry friends and clients, your 1% billionaire neighbours or the older Malibu home owners you nurture until they are ready to sell their ocean side properties. The celebrities with whom you carouse all over the world may not be aware of Hiroshi Horiike. I doubt if you make mention of his name in the many mansions, yachts and fast cars you inhabit.
Let me educate my readers.
Millionaire Hiroshi Horiike spent two years searching California for a dream home, one grander than any he could find in his native China.
After visiting more than 80 properties in the Los Angeles area with an agent from Coldwell Banker, Horiike paid $12.25 million in cash for a four-bedroom, six-bath Tuscan-style mansion with a swimming pool, spa and guest house on 5.1 acres (2.1 hectares) overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
There was just one catch. After settling in, Horiike found the Malibu home had less living space than he’d been told — a third less. It had 9,434 square feet (876 square meters) instead of the 15,000 square feet shown in marketing brochures from the seller’s agent, who also worked with Coldwell Banker.
You were the realtor repping both Hiroshi and the seller. You were the realtor. Chris, you were the realtor referred to in this quote and subsequent court documents. Sounds dodgy doesn’t it? No wonder you wanted to shut my big mouth.
Horiike, who also goes by his native Chinese name Peng Hong Ling after adopting a Japanese name as an adult, claimed he was cheated and sued the agent and the brokerage. He won a state appeals court ruling that sellers’ agents have a fiduciary duty to protect buyers’ interests, not just those of their clients, when there’s only one brokerage involved in a deal.
Of course you and Coldwell Banker have been defending yourselves vigorously in the courts… there’s a great deal at stake for Californian real estate agents.
If left standing, the decision could compel disclosure of confidential client information or force brokerages to drop out of transactions where they represent both buyers and sellers, threatening commissions on tens of thousands of deals.
Have you fucked it up for your Californian realtor colleagues? Have you derailed their gravy train?
Horiike and I have a great deal in common when it comes to you, Chris.
Horiike and I were both US property virgins. We foolishly thought we could trust our realtors. We were naive, we were excited, we were unaware… in the unlikely event we were duped by unscrupulous realtors when we purchased our homes… we only had two years for discrepancies to reveal themselves before a remarkably short statute of limitation kicks in. I discovered my geological discrepancy after two years… some people must have rubbed their hands in glee.
Hiroshi, he’s the Mensch! Hiroshi is the man who won’t let go of the bone, Chris. And you… you are Horiiki’s bone. He’s taking his case all the way to the Supreme Court because, like me, he had his dream shattered by realtors.
But let’s concentrate on us for a moment Chris. Just us. Before this blew up you already had a very low opinion of me. An opinion you share with many white, affluent, gay men. Chris you described me, after our couple of dates, in court documents as ‘dark and creepy’.
Let’s cast our minds back to happier times. Chris, let’s remember when I arrived with society photographer Todd Eborle at the annual Barry Diller pre-Oscar garden party a few years back (I sat between you and Helen Mirren) we had a nice enough time. We ate from the buffet. We marveled at Rupert Murdoch and David Geffen chatting animatedly at the edge of the garden.
As I mentioned earlier, we’d had a date or two in West Hollywood but it didn’t work out. You claim we didn’t have oral sex. If you can’t remember sucking my cock, I’m perfectly happy to forget it too. The next time I saw you? At the house on Hume Road, Malibu. I loved that house like Horiiki loved his, and a little like Horiiki I’d seen a ton of houses before I found my dream house on Hume Road.
Corey Nelson my dumb, good-looking realtor was sick of showing me property. He had shown me hundreds of homes. Sometimes… I wouldn’t go inside. Rude!
The purchase of Hume Road happened before the crash when realtors didn’t have to work very hard to sell a house. We had given up looking. Corey Nelson and I hadn’t spoken for months. So, when I found my little slice of paradise I called Corey because I knew he would appreciate making a sale. I could have called anyone but I felt loyal to Corey. I had no clue his inexperience and ambition would severely compromise me.
I was renting an apartment in Hollywood that had once belonged to Joni Mitchell. Every day I would drive from El Cerritos Place to the Malibu property and sit in the garden, sit on the terrace and gaze at the view. I was desperate to buy the house on Hume Road. Indeed, my enthusiasm predicated just how much of a liberty you two groovy hucksters might take with me.
I met the owner of the Hume Road House, Kelly Mormon. He asked if I wanted to move in before I bought the house. I moved in. I explored the neighborhood. I saw a family of bob cats and eagles wheeling through the canyon. Humming birds fed from the passion fruit flowers that grew on my terrace. Walking Las Flores Canyon one warm evening I met a grumpy man from Cal Trans who told me buying a house on Hume Road was a really bad idea. He told me the city should buy the houses in the canyon and demolish them. I’d heard rumors the land was unstable. The neighbours denied it of course. They assured me everything was just fine.
I wrote to Corey explaining my fears. When we subpoenaed his emails it was revealed soon after I wrote that email… Corey Nelson wrote you Chris asking what he should do about my cold feet. Your reply was chilling. “Call me,” you said. I can’t imagine the plan you hatched during the call.
Corey abandoned his fiduciary duty when he made that call to you, Chris.
Let’s talk? You and me? Can I confide in you?
Do you remember the film? I’d made a film people loved and I’d been nominated for a British Academy Award. They warn the foolhardy: never move to LA unless invited. Industry people (my agent and manager) told me my interests would be best served if I moved to Hollywood. In 2007, after 35 years, I sold my beautiful sea-side house in Whitstable Kent. I started house hunting in Los Angeles.
I met Corey Nelson from Sotheby’s a well-known realty company. He was one of those cute ex Bruce Weber models who would do almost anything to make a sale. I met him with an older gay realtor who claimed he was fucking him. We met at Joan’s on Third in West Hollywood. I love Joan. She’s a romantic! Have you heard her story?
Corey and I spent a long time house hunting. I looked at hundreds of houses, none I liked. Corey was cute and fun. We spent time together socially, we climbed Runyon Canyon. I trusted him. I believed realtors in the USA behaved like estate agents in the UK: with honesty and accountability.
Months into our search I had still not found a house.
My recently deceased friend Jean Perramon lived in The Santa Monica Mountains. His house had views stretching from Santa Monica to Point Dume. Walking his neighborhood one evening I peeked past a large For Sale sign through the gates of an abandoned estate. To Jean’s consternation I opened the gates and wandered down the steep drive into two acres of lush, semi tropical gardens. Huge cactus trees, ancient palms. Bananas, citrus, plums. Stone paths weaving through the landscape. At the end of the path an empty, unlocked 1970’s post and beam family home divided into two apartments.
I told Corey about the house and he introduced me to Chris Cortazzo, Kelly’s agent.
Well, we scarcely needed introducing.
Listen, let’s face it…Chris has done very well for himself. He comes from a humble Malibu family, his mother is often seen eating lunch in the garden at Cross Creek. His fireman father is dead. He sells more real estate than any other broker in the USA. For a man who is scarcely literate… he has done very well for himself. Perhaps it is gay mythology but your story includes a romantic liaison with billionaire Barry Diller who, it is alleged, set you up as a realtor and let you sell his property. Is that true?
He writes this about himself on his own website:
Yes, Chris Cortazzo’s name is everywhere in Malibu, because that’s what happens when you’re “The King.” It was actually the Bravo TV program Million Dollar Listing, in which CC was profiled among several other L.A.-area top-producing agents, that coined the term “The King of Malibu”. Perhaps it was his incredible production that earned him the title. Perhaps it owes to the type of clientele he often serves, namely some of the biggest names in entertainment and business.
After renting the Malibu house on Hume Road for a couple of weeks I asked Corey to write an offer. The house had been on the market for a year or more hand had a price reduction. I live in a country where houses languish on the market for years, it did not occur to me that if a house had been on the market for a few months it may be problematic. Nor did it occur to me that I may be working with a couple of realtors who were determined, at any cost, to sell me a doozy.
My soppy, inexperienced realtor wanted his commission and was sick of showing me endless properties. We had written offers before but they had not been accepted. I had never ordered an inspection.
The problem with the beautiful house? During the past ten years there had been landslides on either side of the property. There was illegal construction in the garden including un-permitted retaining walls and water tanks degrading the land, making it more liable to slide.
They knew if I had this critical information I would not buy the house and more importantly… it would be worth far less than the 1.4 million dollars I paid for it.
Neither the seller nor Chris disclosed this information. Information, by law, they were required to reveal. Corey told me a thorough geological report would cost me $10,000. So, using the excuse I would save money I needn’t spend, they presented me with an expensive and thorough looking geological report conducted in 2004. Corey persuaded me this report was adequate for my purposes, advising me I should have a verbal report from another geologist to confirm nothing seismic had happened after the 2004 report.
The difference between 2004 and the year I bought the house? The house no longer sat on an HISTORIC slide as the report stated. A historic slide means that during the past decade no noticeable seismic activity had taken place within a thousand feet of the property and the land was stable. In 2004 the house sat comfortably on the ridge line, foundations built on bedrock.
However, shortly after that 2004 report was written large parts of Las Flores Canyon including Hume Road began sliding into the sea. My house now sat on an ACTIVE slide. This important information was deliberately kept from me. Moreover, Corey told me that he could not find a local geologist who would come to the house so we hired a geologist recommended by… Chris Cortazzo. I was assured by Corey that the ‘verbal’ geological report from a geologist was perfectly normal. Again, abandoning his fiduciary duties.
The young, good-looking geologist sat uncomfortably with us in the garden, Corey at his side. He held the 2004 geological report. I asked if there was anything I needed to know that may influence my purchase of the property. I asked many, many questions. I needed to know everything before I invested my hard-earned $1, 500,000. Without looking into my eyes the ‘geologist’ told me the house had a “reasonable half an inch of ‘creep'” but failed to mention either of the recent slides or the illegality of the un-permitted terracing.
I bought the house. After we signed contracts at the close of escrow, Chris shook my hand and said, with half a grin, “You’re going to own that house for a very long time.”
Only when I tried selling the house… did I learn what he meant.
The next time I saw Chris Cortazzo he was sitting in a sex addict meeting where he claims he was ‘helping a friend’. After seeing him at the meeting I wrote a sweet email welcoming him to SAA. It’s hard to admit a problem like sex addiction. I wanted him to feel safe when he returned. That’s what we are taught to do in AA SAA etc… we look out for each other. We reach out. Almost immediately the troubled transphobic sex therapist Sean McFarlane who lead the meeting told me not to contact Chris again… under any circumstances.
Sean McFarlane chaired the Brentwood Sex Addict meeting (ironically held in a middle school until the school realized a famous pedophile attended the meeting) for over a decade, a serious break from the 12 traditions and frowned upon within the Anonymous community. McFarlane didn’t seem to care much for the AA rules unless others broke them. His personal recovery, doubted by many, seemed ‘unsponsored’. He tells a melodramatic, highly questionable personal story and is well-known (to those within the addict community) to prey upon vulnerable celebrities eager to keep their failing marriages.
Consequently, he has a gang of loyal Hollywood/sports celebrities with whom he consorts in and out of therapy. He would boast how he taught Mike Tyson’s daughter to swim. The daughter who tragically… drowned. Our ‘trusted servant’ McFarlane rarely accounted for the huge 7th Tradition purse he collected every week and handed over to his ‘treasurer’, John Artz.
It is rumored Sean McFarlane would take sex addicts through the 12 Steps… if they paid him. Again, discouraged within the anonymous cult who pride themselves on sharing their sobriety with newcomers… for ‘fun and for free’.
Sean ‘no shame in my game’ McFarlane is a transphobe. I never once heard anyone in that Sex Addict meeting challenge his transphobia. He considered all trans people ‘evil’. Whenever he had the opportunity he told graphic tales of his own heroism in the face of evil transsexuals. How he saved one or other of his many trans chaser clients from the grips of an evil ‘tranny hooker’.
The group would cheer Sean’s transphobia. Lawyers, agents, actors… casting directors. Collectively witch hunting the trans people Sean considered evil. Lately, as the Hollywood conversation turns toward inclusivity, color blind casting, gender neutrality… one wonders how Sean and his creepy white guy transphobic friends in the entertainment industry will survive?
The last time I heard from the ‘geologist’, he had turned to Jesus. I was in my bed… at home in Malibu. It was dark. He called from a blocked phone. He was distressed. He apologized for calling late at night. He stumbled over his words. He told me Corey instructed him not to mention anything that would influence me away from buying the house. The ‘geologist’ felt guilty. He omitted to tell me the status of the slide had changed from historic.. to active.
He told me the lie plagued his conscience.
People ask: What did you do when he told you? What could I do? I tell them. “I listened.”
When we subpoenaed the geologist during my pre-trial… a completely different man (50 years old and morbidly obese) arrived at the court-house. He didn’t want to be there, he was sweating bullets. It was all the proof I needed but the pre-trial judge refused to listen to our evidence. It was one of your triumphs, Chris. The truth couldn’t help us. The statute of limitations had long run out.
When I spoke to Corey he said, “I knew this would come back to haunt me.” You’re right Corey, if you have any conscience, it’s going to haunt you… the rest of your life.
After the geologist’s late night call I emailed Chris letting him know I’d give him time to ‘do the right thing’ and find a solution including a ‘fair and equitable’ settlement… or I would start a campaign against him… including paid advertisements in local newspapers, national news articles and a revelatory blog.
Soon after writing this email I was arrested and held without recourse to bail in LA Men’s County Jail.
TP… the bug-eyed, ex head of a major film studio and his son were Malibu neighbours and regular faces at my sex addict meeting in Brentwood. TP’s son described sex therapist Sean McFarlane’s reaction when he heard I’d been arrested,
“Sean leapt out of his seat and punched the air screaming… ‘he’s going down’.”
Bryan Freedman, John Adler (my SAA sponsor), TP and others smiled broadly at the news. The men in that sex addict meeting coalesced around you Chris, you became one of their walking wounded.
Bryan Freedman, another self identified sex addict/alcoholic I saw almost every morning at either the 7am Palisades AA stag meeting or the Sex Addict meeting in Brentwood.
Chris, how did you meet Bryan Freedman? Did you meet him at the sex addict meeting? Did transphobic sex therapist Sean MacFarlane introduce you? Bryan is a great fan of transphobic sex therapist Sean McFarlane.
Bryan Freedman’s firm Freedman + Taitelman would represent your interests against me.
Bryan J. Freedman was selected as one of the most influential entertainment litigators in the country by The Hollywood Reporter in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 and in all eight years has been named in the Top 100 Power Lawyers list. Additionally, Bryan was recognized as a Southern California “Super Lawyer” in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, a peer-based award reserved only for the top 5% of all lawyers in Southern California. Also, Bryan has the unique distinction of being 1 of only 22 selected Honorees to Variety’s 2015 Legal Impact Report.
I know a very different Bryan Freedman. This is the man who wept in AA meetings because he couldn’t bully his son into being the first jewish NBA basket ball player. This is the married man who confided in a public SAA meeting he couldn’t stop intriguing with women… looking at small ads whilst his wife slept beside him. This is the man who would high-five the equally despicable UTA Talent Agency boss Jeremy Zimmer at the AA meeting ‘above the bank’ in the Palisades where we sat together for more than a decade.
How involved was Bryan Freedman? How much money did you pay him to have me vanish into the jail system? I’m guessing he was involved with the plan? He’s a Super Lawyer. His plan might include a cast of corruptible characters. How much did they have to do with my illegal incarceration in the Los Angeles Men’s County Jail?
You and your advisors believed I might bend to your will if you held me in jail long enough.
Remember, we have to suspend our disbelief:
Just about every branch of Ferguson government (police, municipal court, city hall) participated in “unlawful” targeting of African-American residents for tickets and fines, the Justice Department concluded this week.
At first, the plan unfolded splendidly! We understand how utterly corrupt American prosecutors are. Existing in a semi secretive world of grand juries and trumped-up charges designed to protect the rights of the 1%. County prosecutor Anne-Marie Wise is no different, she played out your rich boy charade very admirably. Anne-Marie, persuaded there was a case to answer by your impressive lawyer, sent her ZZ Top cops to arrest me. They kept their cop badges under their waist length beards.
I agreed to meet Chris on the Pacific Coast Highway outside the Country Kitchen in Malibu (opposite the home of Tom Pollock) where he had offered to make his amends for ripping me off. Instead, as I ate my breakfast burritos the cops arrived. As I sat handcuffed in the blazing sun a black Rolls Royce with blackened windows cruised past, it lingered. Was that you Chris? I knew the Rolls had something to do with you, Chris… so did the cops.
Did you enjoy watching me handcuffed Chris? Did you take photographs on your cell phone?
ZZ Top and I headed up Las Flores Canyon to Hume Road. The crazy bearded cops ran around my property with guns. Why? Because this is the melodrama of over paid, over weight, underutilized… LA cops. Once in the house they meaninglessly tossed furniture and emptied my draws. They seized my lap top and took me to the Calabasas police station where they interviewed and charged me with a felony extortion. Extortion (for those who remain confused) is either threatening to reveal a secret or a crime unless money is paid. It usually accompanies threats of violence.
Even though I had a valid US visa I was informed I could not post bail because of an Immigration Hold. If an alien in the USA is charged with a felony they can be held for up to 48 hours by ICE to determine if they are a threat to the nation.
Your plan was working.
A day later I was taken to The LA Men’s County Jail. Processed. Screamed at. They gave me a chest X-ray. They fed me a baloney sandwich. They asked if I was either suicidal or gay. I told them I’m gay because I’d heard from Robert Downey Jr this was the only way to survive the jail and anyway I’d been out of the closet for a long time and I wasn’t about to crawl back in. Not on your account Chris Cortazzo.
48 hours passed. I was not released.
Whoever flicked the switch… whoever threw away the key did so at this moment.
To achieve this plan they needed a dependable federal government insider: someone prepared to override ICE protocol and keep me detained for longer than the mandatory 48 hour Immigration Hold. This part of the plan required someone important in Federal Government to break the rules. At the final reckoning I was held longer in Men’s County Jail on an ICE hold than any other pre trial detainee… ever.
Keeping a pre-trial detainee in jail until they bend to the will of the prosecutor is a common ploy. It happens all over the USA. It is happening right now as you are reading this blog. People agree to anything to get out of jail and they assumed I’d plead guilty to felony EXTORTION and an automatic deportation.
As you can imagine, the jail is a dangerous place. I had to get a grip. Surprisingly I was very well equipped to deal with the jail. AA/SAA had taught me a few simple tricks:
1. Wherever I am… I am in the right place.
2. It’s all part of God’s plan.
3. Acceptance. Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.
So many of the lessons I learned sitting with Sean MacFarlane, Jeremy Zimmer, Bryan Freedman and you Chris in the rooms of SAA and AA… listening to the 12 Steps kicked in and saved my ass.
And so… I sat in the jail. For 86 days I sat in the jail. I’ve already written about that, Chris. I’m sure you’ve read it.
Almost immediately, the plan began to gently fray. The first part of the plan depended on my finding the situation in jail… terrifying and intolerable.
You thought I was like you and Bryan and Jeremy and so many entitled, affluent white dudes? You were certain I’d agree to anything to get out… including your terms. You thought I’d crumble. You thought I’d lay down and die. But the only thing crumbling… was your plan.
Chris, as you subsequently learned, I’m a stubborn son of a bitch and I wasn’t agreeing to anything. So, for a few weeks I went back and forth to court. The first two judges were ghastly and totally on your side. They refused to listen to evidence, they were rude and surly to my attorney.
Do you remember? I sat in front of you at the pre-trial. I was shackled. You sneered at me Chris. This is where I learned how much you hated me after our date. This is where it became apparent to me the rich can do anything they want in an American court. They can buy the court just like they buy everything else. Protected by your tame prosecutor, Chris… you looked so very smug.
After keeping me illegally in the jail for 86 days without a whiff of surrender, without capitulating, without giving an inch…. the ACLU started sniffing around my case and someone got scared. Someone was likely going to be held responsible if something happened to me. If I died in the jail of cancer… or a gall stone blockage… or fell victim to the violent deputy culture in the jail, which might very well have happened.
I realized two months into my incarceration: Wow, this situation is illegal and someone… someone is going to have to pay for this! I’m going to get paid for this. I relaxed, thinking to myself: another tough day at the office. I played cards, I ate pork rinds, I had visitors, I kept myself out of trouble and I waited.
I told my friends on the phone I suspected my incarceration was illegal… knowing I was being listened to. Then, one evening with a little warning from the Mexican nuns working in the jail for the Esperanza Project, I was called from my dorm, sat in a holding cell for a few hours, handed my clothes and ushered out of a small, unassuming door at the back of the jail.
The puckered asshole of the jail. Shat out onto the balmy LA streets.
At the final reckoning I was paid for every day I was illegally held as a pre-trial detainee without recourse to bail.
Fuck Chris, the day they released me from the jail you were on the phone for hours to your lawyers and the prosecutor and the prosecutor to your lawyers. My release terrified you and a simple order of protection wouldn’t mollify you. As I was getting out of the jail and headed home to Malibu and my dog… you were hiring 24 hour body guards. You were frightened I would come after you. And why wouldn’t you be scared? After all, you and your friends had kept me locked up illegally for three months.
I must admit, when I first read this flurry of activity in your restitution claim (you expected me to pay your lawyers fees) and the hiring of body guards as documented in your restitution claim I laughed out loud. I have no other weapon than this blog. The only weapon I have is so American: freedom of speech.
Once out of the jail my lawyers and I relaxed into a long wait for you and your lawyers to alter your expectations. You hadn’t really worked out what would happen if I didn’t capitulate. You hadn’t worked on finding a corrupt trial judge. You thought I’d be long gone.
Were you assured by ‘Super Attorney’ Bryan Freedman and his unfortunately large featured lackey Brian Turnauer they would find you a sympathetic trial judge?
The catastrophic and totally unexpected final blow to your plan came soon after my release: Ms Wise seemed poleaxed by the judge assigned to our case: enter the unassailable Judge Jessic. The Judge who couldn’t be bought. The judge most likely to have integrity. You should have seen Anne-Marie’s face Chris, when she realized our Judge wasn’t going to play the game. My favorite line of Judge Jessic’s to Ms Wise?
“I must admit I’m finding it difficult wrapping my head around this charge. What’s the difference between threatening to blog and threatening to write a Yelp review?”
The prosecutor hung her head and said quietly… ‘nothing’. You should have been there Chris is was GREAT. Just like the time… and I’m repeating myself but it’s worth repeating… when Judge Jessic wondered out loud why I was sitting in the dock and not you. We all know the reason for that Chris? Because justice in the USA is reserved for the few who can afford it.
How quickly a felony dissolves into a convoluted misdemeanor when you can’t buy the judge. At the suggestion of the ACLU I refused to plead guilty to anything and opted for the Californian ‘No Contest’ plea. The huge restitution claim was whittled to almost nothing. No fines or costs to pay. All you were likely to get out of your ‘plan’ was a gag order. A three-year gag order.
I had to sit quietly on probation for 18 months. A grimy realtor from AA, the appalling self-promoting/self-obsessed/self-publishing Robert Radcliffe (Sotheby’s Palisades), called the police and told them I had been rude about you Chris Cortazzo. I read the police interview, Rob. The lies you told! The police jumped all over the claim spending hours of their time filing reports. Jessic threw it out. He knew what was happening.
Tell me Chris, even though it’s election year and this may be dangerous conjecture.. I’m guessing Hillary Clinton did your federal bidding… just a guess? To hold me indefinitely in jail… breaking the rules. Did your billionaire mentor Barry Diller do the leg work? Did Barry call the Mayor or the state department? I can’t imagine Hillary would take your call, Chris.
I returned to the Palisades AA stag meeting. The discomfort on the faces of Jeremy Zimmer, Bryan Freedman, John Artz (Malibu based DUI attorney with plenty personal experience of DUI) and the Dutch creep who burglarized my house whilst I was in jail. I wasn’t disappointed. They were outraged! Jeremy complained bitterly I had broken AA laws by blogging about him. Fuck you Jeremy Zimmer. Fuck you. There are no AA laws. There are no leaders.
Chris, this is the blog I must have written a thousand times since I left the jail, I wrote it… then deleted it. I wrote it… then deleted it. I must have torn up a million words. Sometimes, I would frame the blog as an apology, sometimes a roiling river of resentment. I had months to write it, months to rewrite it. Waiting for the gag to be removed.
And now? How did you affect the rest of my life? As I outlined in my damages claim, I have PTSD. I deal with it. The experience inspired a general disgust for affluent, white gay men and specifically a loathing for realtors, lawyers and Hollywood agents.
The extortion law was originally written to protect people who had committed crimes or had secrets from being violently blackmailed. Of course it’s hard luck when, in life, one gets fucked over. In America the potential for being fucked over is a daily hazard, most often than not those who manage to successfully do the fucking over are hailed as the winners. Just look at the Wall Street ‘winners’ rewarded for fucking over the entire nation.
Unlike most people who get fucked over, who cannot fight back…I have this modest blog. It has proved to be one of the most effective fog horns in the world.
Try as he might, Chris Cortazzo couldn’t keep out of trouble. Chris faces more legal challenges. As well as the lawsuit with Hiroki the Chinese Billionaire another grubby lawsuit has emerged… from a desperate Persian family whose property Cortazzo represented. They are claiming Chris cruelly ripped them off. The truths Chris feared most have revealed themselves. A theme emerges: those of us who have publicly aired our grievances with Chris Cortazzo share a common bond. We are all foreigners in the USA.
As for the legion of Million Dollar Listing fans who couldn’t believe Chris was anything other than a saint? I ignored the lies written about me all over the internet; I don’t have to prove myself to anyone. There’s no shame in my game. With the help of the ACLU I sued LA County and a substantial financial settlement arrived from the City of Los Angeles a year later. I sold my beautiful Malibu house. I moved to New York and set about reinventing my life.
Bryan Freedman. (I’m slowly shaking my head.) There was a time I held you in such high regard I asked you to become my AA sponsor It’s hard to forgive you Bryan. You, Sean MacFarlane, John Artz and Jeremy Zimmer are the worst kind of ‘sober’ people. Daily celebrating the AA message of humility, espousing the 12 Steps, quoting The Big Book… declaring forgiveness and ownership of ones defects of character. Your ‘sobriety’ is a sham. You may as well be drinking/drugging /cheating on your wives. You remain the same Trump like arrogant hypocrites, behaving contrary to the AA message, as you always were. The very same men who arrived in our rooms broken and defeated (I remember your stories) begging for help with their alcoholism and sex addiction. You have learned nothing… whilst affording me the greatest gift: LA County Jail.
The Brentwood celebrity Sex Addict meeting moved locations. An undercover journalist sat amongst the sex addict group from a sleazy British newspaper. He called me, wanted me to help him out. The SAA attendees scattered. Members of the meeting asked why there was little financial accounting within the group. Every week the 100 or so the very rich men in that school room would drop five or ten dollars in the ‘7th Tradition’ basket. No one could account for it. Where had the money gone? Sean was removed by democratic vote as the group leader. His wife left him. The meeting disintegrated.
The cult of snake oil salesman Sean MacFarlane is not new to the anonymous programs. AA/NA is particularly prone to charismatic leaders guiding the incomprehensibly demoralized addict and alcoholic out of the shadows and into the light. Rehabs, sober living accommodation, half way houses and addiction counsellors… facilities mostly run by addicts and alcoholics, the lunatics are indeed running the asylum. No doubt there will be many other Sean MacFarlanes ‘helping’ other desperate addicts achieve sobriety… of course, for huge sums of money and little consequence.
As my interest in blogging dissolved and published less frequently this past year I often wondered how I would say goodbye (once and for all) to this blog.
Before I blogged I kept a journal. Laboriously hand written every day for twenty years. Secret. The blog became a paradox. A public diary… yet intensely private. If anyone mentioned the blog to my face I became indignant… as if they had snuck into the library and read my private journal. When asked, I refused to talk about it. The blog, I explained, was my public life. If you want to talk about it do so through the blog. “You are my private life.”
These past months I returned to keeping a hand written diary. Life is too exciting not to.
Since Jenny Ketcham introduced me to WordPress in 2008 so much has happened. Some good, some bad. I’d dabbled with blogging when I first lived in Hollywood but it was only after I met Jenny during Dr Drew’s Sex Rehab that I embraced it. I embraced the freedom and notoriety blogging afforded me. Shortly after I began writing daily, as if to confirm my good fortune, Roger Ebert tweeted how brilliant it was.
The show, when it aired, was not well received among gay white men. My blog too, seemed distasteful to the gays. In fact, gay white men seem terrified of my blog. It caused a visceral hatred. Gay white men have so many secrets. By exposing my own frailties and perversions the blog threatened to incriminate them all.
Yet, even though one might think many people read my blog, I rarely had large number of visitors, tiny numbers compared with successful blogs. Occasionally the numbers would go crazy. The largest number of visitors for one post? The Bryan Singer blog. 20,000 people in one day.
During my most active period, writing daily, I built up a loyal following. I was approached in the street, I was given unsolicited advice about my mental health, I was sent gifts for the dogs.
I always wrote for myself. I didn’t feel the need to be ashamed of anything. I wrote about anger, intrigue, sex, sexuality, religion, politics and much to the horror of AA people… I wrote about my relationship with AA as I fell in and out of love with it. Attendees at the ghastly Palisades Men’s 7.30am AA Stag meeting were particularly angry about this blog.
Fleeting love affairs rather than the cult of abstinence inevitably enriched my writing. The relationship with Jake B existed more in the blog than it did in real life. It flourished on these pages and withered on the streets of NYC.
Our love affair inspired me and the blog soared. As the relationship failed… so did my writing. When Jake and I split I sank into an obsessive, self destructive depression. I posted every intimate detail of our life together. The blog became less creative and more vindictive. My loyal readers fell away. Fury enveloping everything around me. A thick cloud of resentment that took years to clear. Years in the shadows with only my obsession to give me succor. I worked it all out here. Page after page after page. The carcass of our love affair lay there for years, like road kill. If anyone googled his name my blog would jump up at and slap them in the face. Page after page after page. Finally, after much soul searching, I removed the most scurrilous descriptions of him. Why? He wrote a long email that put an end to the nagging questions. All I wanted was closure.
I was never very far away from the blog. The blog came to define my years in the USA.
Of course! The blog, famously, became the instrument for which I was arrested. It was sited in court documents, extravagantly quoted by the police and prosecutors.. but more of that in my final blog.
As I’ve grown happier, at peace… the blog becomes less interesting to write. Long before it became a liability… I enjoyed the daily commitment. I had a wonderful writing routine. Waking at dawn, a long walk with the dogs into the dewey Santa Monica mountains. I spent far too much time overlooking the Pacific Ocean, but when I was perfectly calm I’d sit at my desk and unpack the previous day.
It is not any more necessary for you to know me. No longer appropriate for you to know every detail of my life. It is none of my business what you think of me. That is for the book and the candle. So, I bid you… my dear reader, adieu.
Last night, another fraught, upstate church basement, sandwiched between two miserable men at the damp and draughty AA meeting, sitting opposite the un-insightful chef, listening to the uninspired leader tell his wretched, cliched story… I was having a revelation.
Remember St Alphege? Our local Protestant church? Whitstable? Remember that? I must have been 8 years old when I decided to flee our secular household and join the choir.
The choir mistress dressed me in a black, woolen floor length cassock, a white starched surplus and a dramatic ruff. I remember slipping on my costume, the voluminous sleeves, the swishing of the fabric around my legs. I though, this is what an evening dress must feel like. I feel fabulous.
It felt sooo fabulous I would break the church rules and wear my cassock and surplus home and hang out in my room, draped over my bed like a movie star.
I knew a great deal about movie stars. I’d watch afternoon TV when ever I could. Black and white American movies from the 30’s and 40’s played most afternoons on one or other of the three channels available at the time.
My mother thought I wanted to be a priest. Nope, I wanted to be a glamorous movie star draped over a chaise lounge.
One sunday the Choir mistress told me I couldn’t wear my cassock home anymore.
Pissed, I began volunteering at the bi weekly church jumble sales. This gave me access to a huge number of free dresses. I hauled them back to my room. I don’t ever remember being ashamed. My mother seemed amused. My favorite was a black taffeta gown encrusted with jet beads. I would hang out at home wearing that.
Thankfully, a prepubescent boy in a black taffeta ball gown didn’t seem to attract too much attention. Even when I decided to wear it in the garden. My neighbors asked where I got it. “I designed and made it,” I told them.
My mother borrowed an elegant navy blue crepe cocktail dress. Loaned to her by my aunt. She wore it to a party and the photograph of her from that dinner and dance makes her look so sophisticated.
One night, my parents were out, I crept past the baby sitter watching TV in the sitting room and into my mother’s bedroom. I pulled the dress out of her wardrobe and over my head. The silk satin lining, lingering scent in the luxurious fabric. I am a woman.
It felt wonderful… but it didn’t fit. It was too long. It bagged under my skinny arms. I looked in the mirror and the dress swamped me. It was so unflattering. I wanted it to look as marvelous as it had on my mother. I found a pair of scissors and began altering the dress. The more I cut into it the less it fit… until it was a tattered rag.
I lay in bed terrified I would be beaten.
She must have found it but she never said a word.
My grandmother bought a remnant of purple, silk velvet. It was beautiful. She lined a cigar box with it. With what was left I wrapped up a small doll I owned. I would rub the velvet on my cheek. When I took the doll to school… I was ridiculed, by everyone including my form master.
I woke up to a horrible reality.
Other boys did not have dolls, they were not wearing evening gowns at home and they did not have mad crushes on other boys. The ridicule turned to homophobia. Hmmm, I thought. So, you’re going to hate me for something I can’t change? I’ll give you good reason to hate me. You don’t want my fledgling sexuality shoved down your throat?
Well! Suck this… bitches.
And so, I left the church. I was sent to a boarding school in Shropshire. To escape chores on a Sunday morning I’d join my head master John Lampen at a Quaker meeting in Shrewsbury.
I sat in silence for an hour then hang with my friend Susan at her parents house. I didn’t listen to the Quakers whenever moved to speak in the meeting, but one Sunday somebody said something that caught my attention. She said what all Quakers believe:
‘There is that of God in every man.’
I heard something I knew to be irrefutably true. I understood instinctively there was indeed that of God in every man… we are all born with our own god, a relationship with a god of our understanding, as I was born with skin and teeth and hair… I was born with a soul.
God was an inherent functioning part of me.
Notionally I believed in an external ‘god’ from the brimstone vicar of St Alphege. But he was obviously very disapproving of the kind of boy I am. This Christian God channelled through the pompous vicar hoseing down his congregation every Sunday with his sanctimonious Christian flavored God. The God of sanctioned wars and disease who hated gays and abortion.
Their God was not my god.
I had a very special, unique god inside of me… he would not judge, he would understand. A gay god. Of course my god is gay! Everything about me is gay, from my nose to my liver… to my god.
The God in this gay man, in me… was going to be my friend. A friend who understood my doll and my jet encrusted ballgown.
We started chatting. I trusted him. He would instinctively know answers to the most baffling problems if I listened carefully to my new friend. When I stole something he would chide me. When I strayed from the path he would gently guide me home.
I would never again face anything on my own.
Like many teens I had a miserable adolescence and sought to change the way I felt. How ever I could. I listened less to the God inside of me.
A friendship cannot prosper if one or the other is ignored. So it was, as the years past, I made difficult decisions… without consulting him.
Without him I made bad choices, choices I was ashamed of. I turned my back on my helpful friend. I chose ambition and drugs and alcohol… none of which interested him.
I ignored his protestation.
The more I ignored him… the weaker he became… his voice grew inaudible.
I found myself, stunted, thirty something, staring into the bathroom mirror of our home in Kensington that balmy September… staring into my hollow eyes, my nose dripping, the house over run with lower companions. My heart was beating like mad. I called out to my old friend: God help me!
He was not there. Instead of his reassuring voice… I faced a black hole, an abyss where once I found comfort and solace.
My diseased soul.
As I stood at the mirror I heard, quite clearly, another voice. Another, less friendly voice. And that harsh voice made clear the choices I had: to live or die.
So, that windy night, I chose to live. The house emptied, I scrubbed the floors. I ate dinner and slept at a decent time. The following day I went to my first AA meeting and written on the wall was the word God. A God of my understanding… and I knew I had come home.
A few years later I had lunch with my mother. The evening dress I had butchered in her bedroom as a child weighed heavily on my conscience. I told her what had happened and apologized. She looked at me quizzically. “No,” she said. “I remember that dress very well. I returned it to my sister. It was perfectly okay.”
“It wasn’t cut to ribbons?”
“It must have been a dream.”
A dream I had carried around most of my adult life. The fear and the shame I had carried around for all those years. I loved the dress? I hated the dress? I don’t know.
Did you think I was oblivious? When I toured the fancy talent agencies? Meeting the managers in their art filled, airy offices on the west side? Shaking hands with eager entertainment lawyers. Do you think I didn’t notice the teamsters and the grips and the sales agents… the casting directors, the art directors and the camera department… do you think I ever said out loud… why are none of you black? Why are so few of you latino or asian?
When I arrived in Hollywood, at the talent agencies, they introduced me to gay agents… because I’m gay. They thought I might feel more comfortable. They talked gay with me. They told me about their husbands, they hoped I might party with them in Palm Spings. What do they do with their black clients? All those white agents perfecting their patois, their chicken and waffles… their white shame… their apology.
On their own… feeling safe, they tell you what they really think. On the golf course, in the AA meeting. Listening to the talent agency owner whilst he disparages woman (‘nobody wants a woman director’) and people of color (‘they just don’t have our work ethic’). At the white AA meeting we attended in The Palisades I watch in awe as the sober, white entertainment lawyers… hoping to do business with the fat, short, racist… laugh in agreement. It doesn’t go unnoticed that most of the powerful white men I meet pandering to low grade racism… are Jewish.
I was told by one mega producer who famously makes very, very white super hero films that he wished every muslim would either convert or die… and when I wrote to him the following day explaining members of my family were muslim he replied it wasn’t his problem I was related to ‘rag heads’.
I was called a rag head and sand nigger by a well known gay white writer when we fought about money.
The white, gay caterer told me last week he didn’t employ black people. “It makes my clients uncomfortable.” He smiles, he hopes his winning smile will somehow deflect my critical glare. He hopes, because he has come out as a racist, I might extend some sort of sympathy, some understanding. When he came out as gay… he was a hero. Would his honesty about race garner the same result?
Sales agents told me, when casting my film Dorian Gray, “Don’t even think about a black lead, we won’t be able to sell to the Middle East.” They were unembarrassed by their racism, actively excluding black people from lead roles, from leading, from leading a better life.
I asked talent agents to suggest people of color to play Dorian Gray. They couldn’t.
Charlotte Rampling and Michael Caine are not the problem. The teamsters and the agency boss are the problem. Of course Charlotte and Michael see black faces on set, in the make up trailer and at Craft Services.
They say the Oscars don’t matter. Of course they fucking matter. White people with an Oscar nomination can expect a wage increase of a gazillion %. Awards are factored into contracts, an award contractually guarantees the writer/director/lead cast more money. That’s how contracts are structured.
Pretend, as Robert Redford did yesterday, it was the work rather than the award that mattered… betraying his disingenuousness. His elitism. If awards don’t matter… get rid of the Sundance awards.
White men (gay and straight) keep women and people of color away from the big money, excluded from the validation, the opportunity, from the prizes.
Prizes that suddenly don’t matter to Robert Redford… because it’s not about the glory, it’s about the work.
Tina Gharavi is an Iranian Film Director. Her statement on Facebook today should bring tears to your eyes.
I am constantly told, oh it doesn’t matter, doesn’t exist, it’s not worth getting upset over…. or that it will change with time, that it’s all in my head… or make a film that they cannot ignore… or if you were any good, it will happen anyway…. At the end of the day, my whole career has been needing to prove myself twice more over than those on my left and right and it is exhausting. More than just the work itself, it’s the fact that people deny the prejudice even exists. When I first met my partner, he was skeptical that there were systems at play that did not give me the same chances as other filmmakers. After 5 years of watching, he has seen the many times that opportunities were given to others less qualified… of the invitations that never arrive… Now he is more livid than me…. He sees the fact that the panels will invite the white male director (except when it is a panel where they need to discuss diversity or need a female to turn up). Truth is many black filmmakers watch their white peers rise up with projects which are less interesting and challenging… well, one can imagine the effect that has on the soul. Films are a commercial as well as an artistic expression. I have said this before, sometimes I wish I had never left painting. You can paint without much money but filmmaking… that means a lot of people have to have incredible belief and support for your vision. Most of the time, however, it is a failure of imagination… and that is were we are all poorer. We need to confront this and Charlotte would do better than making choices and decisions based on her own experiences. I don’t know many black or ethnic filmmakers who would agree with her. I challenge her to work on my next film, not as an actress but as an Exec and watch exactly how many opportunities I am given which impoverish my fellow white filmmakers. I call her out… if she wants to really see what the truth of it is. If she was following my story so far she wouldn’t have said what she did. I don’t want a leg up just because there aren’t enough black filmmakers…. I want an equal opportunity because I have important stories to tell.
Many beyond the film industry feel this mostly second rate film should have earned a place in the best film and best director categories at this years academy awards.
The vociferous fans feel the film has been ‘snubbed’.
There are blogs and op eds and blazing Facebook posts about this apparent injuctice. The fans blame homophobia, misandry, misogyny and fear of women’s sexuality.
Even though Carol has in fact been nominated in 6 categories including the prestigious written adaptation category this is not enough for many disgruntled Carol fans.
There’s plenty to complain about this award season. People of colour are vanished from the awards. Female directors? None. The roles women are asked to play:
Best Actor jobs: Screenwriter, astronaut, trapper, inventor, artist.
Best Actress jobs: Mommy, lady, inventor, girl, wife.
I’m wondering if, after this so called scandal, members of the academy will bother voting for this slight film at all.
Wether they are directed by white men or not (Carol was directed by a white man, a man… why?) most of the other nominated films are simply more engaging and well directed.
Personally, I’m rooting for The Big Short. There, I said it.
Tivoli is under siege this afternoon, gangs of identically dressed gay men. Fur trimmed Parkers and skinny jeans.
Identical white gay boys. Vile.
They stare at me dressed in my tweeds and hunters like I’m a fucking circus freak.
Imagining, like millions of others this weekend, how one might spend a billion dollars… I learned something helpful about myself and my life goals.
Recently I met a psychic. She told me my mother would win the lottery. I told my mother to play… she won $50. She was thrilled. I was thrilled for her.
Gripped by Powerball fever, everybody wants a chance at the big money. Everybody wants the Powerball mega bucks payout. I took notice of the rolling stock market jackpot indicator. $700,000,000. I baulked at the tax one would have to pay. You wouldn’t see any more than $300,000,000 if you opted for the one time pay out. Sad face.
Frankly, a crisp $20 would have done the trick.
Everybody wants the jackpot. Rich people were doing it, poor people do it every week. With so much at stake, everyone everywhere in the USA contributed to the largest purse in lottery history.
I surreptitiously bought five tickets at Hannaford supermarket in Kingston. I told the woman who sold them I’d never bought a lottery ticket before. A ghost of disbelief flickered across her white face.
“A psychic told me to buy it.” I lied.
She said, “I’ve sold so many tickets to ‘first timers’ this week.”
“Thank you, thank you for that.” I replied.
I felt better about buying a lottery ticket. I felt relieved. Affluent people don’t buy lottery tickets. Poor, uneducated people buy lottery tickets. It was essential she understood I would never usually gamble in the ghetto.
As I lay in bed that night, my ticket folded neatly in my wallet, I imagined a life with $500, 000, 000 in the bank. What would I do?
We are all limited by our imaginations.
I’ve seen some of my friends earn extraordinary amounts of money. The last time I saw JJ he told me since becoming very rich, very successful… rather than having a huge life his life had… shrunk. The same faces, the same path around the world. Holding onto his position at the top of the pile. Fame and fortune can hamper the inquisitive.
My current best friend is very rich. Very, very rich. He lives well but has worked the same job the past twenty years. His money and his job are unconnected. He has a nice life. I found myself wanting to ape him. A lovely apartment in the city, a house in the country, a dependable car. He gives money to charity, he is generous with his friends.
But… with his kind of cash, where would I want to live? To my surprise, I knew immediately that I didn’t want to live in the USA. I started my search for a dream home in Paris. I found a sweet apartment in the 7th for 1.5 million euros. I looked for a country house in the french countryside and quickly settled for something that cost 500,000 euros.
After I’d made myself and my family comfortable… which charity might I patronize? I decided to set up a foundation for poor British kids who can’t get into drama school. I gave money to a bat charity and another that supports country skills and farming practices. I gave money to beautify Whitstable, my home town. I concluded that with the bulk of the money I wanted to help the motivated, stuck in poverty or prejudice, achieve their goals… to break through their own glass ceiling and… fly.
As I lay there I realized I didn’t need $1.5 billion to achieve my rather humble aims. Everything I wanted to achieve was within reach. I could already buy a place in Paris. I could determine to raise money for all of the charities I wanted to help. Maybe winning the lottery, for some one like me would be a curse? Untold millions would merely inflame the disease of more that seems to blight me… blight us all?
Today I walked home with half a baguette in my pocket. This simple action gave me so much pleasure.
The first week yielded no winner. I wanted to see this through. The Powerball lottery and I have a relationship now. I could have gone elsewhere to have a second go. Instead, I went back to the reassuring woman in the supermarket.
“Didn’t win?” She smiled.
I bought ten more.
I didn’t win that week either but three people did. The jackpot divided into three paltry $300,000,000 increments. I found myself wondering, what would THAT buy you in the modern world?
Hudson, NY 2015 winter. I moved into the Princess Beatrix House, owned by Tanja Grunert and Klemens Gasser. The ice so thick on their un-ploughed drive it’s almost impossible for the tiny Mexican movers from sunny California to negotiate the heavier items from the pantechnicon to the house. They wear my Knole sofa like a huge hat. It is bitterly cold yet these foolhardy boys brave the day dressed only in thin, grubby tee shirts and flimsy, cheap sneakers, skidding up and down the icy drive. They are totally unprepared for the winter delivery.
Before I arrived in Hudson, NY I had never heard of Eric Galloway, Eleanor Ambos, Tim Dunleavy, Warren Street, Modern Farmer, Anne Marie Gardner, the Bonfiglio bakery… or the slew of slippery realtors wheeling and dealing all over town.
I didn’t know the Basilica or Helsinki or Etsy. I didn’t know the darker side of hipster culture, the craving of desperate, lonely females and the clawing misery of gay men trapped upstate in search of a better, freer life.
The only person I knew ahead of my 9 months in Hudson was Marina Abramovic. And it was she who piqued my interest the very first time my friend Tom Taylor showed me the building Marina had acquired, the building Rem Koolhas had been charged with transforming into a ‘laboratory devoted to performance art’ funded by 12 million crowd sourced dollars.
The Old Tennis Court on the corner of North 7th Street and Columbia Street in Hudson, NY owned by Marina Abramovic, stands forlorn, peeling and abandoned. The windows boarded, trash blown under the grand portico. It waits, warehoused like so many building in Hudson, for it’s owner to come renovate, repair or make good the myth of Marina Abramovic transforming this imposing building into her performance art institute.
Tom Taylor, stopped his beaten truck outside the building. After several weeks of heavy snow and bitterly cold nights a wall of ice stood between us and the building. He was excited to show me, telling a story I would hear many, many times from equally excited local people.
Upstate New York . Cheap, fertile land… derelict 18th and 19th century houses desperate for attention. Abandoned red brick factories. The promise of space and sanctuary.
My first visit to Woodstock, with cabaret star Lady Rizo three Christmases ago, my first real taste of life beyond NYC. The thick white, blindingly white snow, the mountains, rivers and forests a welcome respite from 12 years of endless summer in Southern California.
I returned the following winter to the same charming stone house and started looking for a home to buy. Property prices were very low. As usual I was tempted by obscure, isolated locations but did not give in to that melancholic fantasy.
It was an invitation from Tom Taylor to Eleanor Ambos’s huge Victorian pile in Philmont that finally ignited my passion. I’d met him on some dating app in the city when I spent that mad winter in the Captains House in Brooklyn. After months of asking me to visit I finally bundled me and the dogs into the rental car and headed north.
Tom is the right hand man and beneficiary of Eleanor Ambos’s valuable real estate portfolio. Her notable possessions: the Pocket Book factory in Hudson and The Metropolitan Building on Long Island.
“It is as if she doesn’t hear the same music that everyone else is hearing,” says director Andrew Michael Ellis of 89-year-old Eleanor Ambos. In his documentary short Ellis follows the eccentric aesthete as she loses her eyesight to macular degeneration.
Eleanor bought the dilapidated Metropolitan Building on Long Island in 1980 as a cheap alternative to the area’s warehouses to store her vast and growing collection of salvaged antiques. The octogenarian owner caught Ellis’ eye while he was shooting there. “She had no intention of being a subject in a film at first, but eventually I became her friend, therapist, practically her lover. It was impossible to be a fly on the wall.”
The month I met her she had bought a 72,000 square foot mid century modern school in Claverack. The day I arrived to see it she was laying a delicate floral carpet in the hallway. “I like playing house.” she purred. And that, my dear friends, is what attracts people to her and repels people from her. I introduce her to the thin lipped owners of the Gilded Owl in Hudson, a most pretentious ‘gallery’ curated by interior fluffer Andy Goldsworthy and down and dirty art trader Elizabeth Moore.
THE GILDED OWL is an online journal exploring craftsmanship in modern and contemporary design, fine art, fashion, and music. Inspired by authenticity, ingenuity, and above all, quality, Andy and Elizabeth Moore continually investigate subjects of fascination and enlighten their readers as to what makes the beautiful beautiful.
And if that description isn’t enough to make you puke… Elizabeth, Andy and I visited an Ambos property (they were both eager to see) namely the magical Summit Mill in Philmont with Eleanor and Tom. After the visit Andy and Elizabeth couldn’t wait to kick the snow off their moon boots and rip into Eleanor’s aesthetic, her hoarding and wonder how other people could find her so fascinating.
Hudson has rich history of despair. The ghosts of a thousand hookers, gamblers and dismembered whales join those native Americans murdered here for their land. Something very bad happened in Hudson, something catastrophic… something that has scarred its psyche, blighted the land and poisoned the air. Those who spend a weekend in Hudson seldom notice it, those who live there become irradiated… toxic.
Resentment and vitriol. The Hudson cancer… is much reserved for one successful Hudson businessman: Eric Galloway.
I visit Hudson only occasionally. I walk Warren Street, much of it owned, to the chagrin of those impoverished white people who live there, by the stately Eric Galloway and his billionaire boyfriend Henry Van Ameringen.
At the very heart of the contempt for these acquisitive gentleman is racism. Eric Galloway is an angular, elegant black man and the despair white people have (who are not benefitting from his patronage) often descends into barely concealed racism.
‘Educated’ white folk who think they know better about architecture, who keep tabs on each purchase Galloway and Van Ameringen make all over the world. Tanja Grunert and others could barely contain themselves when Galloway bought much loved and recently deceased (owner of the fanciful store Rural Residence) Tim Dunlevey’s iconic Union Street home.
“That disgusting man bought Tim’s house.” She said.
Yet, who was Tim’s ex boyfriend meant to sell? The poor white people who couldn’t afford it? Or, the contentious black man who could?
This past year Hudson’s ‘revival’ (one of so many) has continued with renewed vigor. The expensive, beautifully designed River Town Lodge opened at the top of Warren Street. Farmer’s restaurant on Front Street spared no expense on its warm and elegant interior, bravely situated in a less salubrious part of Hudson and lastly the airy bar Or on 3rd and Union Street enjoys enormous success in a beautifully renovated 1930’s garage. All quality establishments, some owned by Eric and Henry.
These small businesses are the future of Hudson. Other larger businesses are sniffing around. Soho House are discussing the possibility of opening in Eleanor Ambos’s Pocketbook Factory. A whirl of invesment and optimism… yet, The Old Tennis Courts on the corner of North 7th Street and Columbia Street in Hudson, NY owned by Marina Abramovic remains forlorn and empty.
As painful as it is, it’s time for everyone in Hudson, NY to accept the truth: Marina Abramovic isn’t coming.
I am a carnivore! I am a carnivore. The decisions I make around meat… the purchase and consumption are based upon the farm where the animal was raised.
Yesterday we ate a pig for dinner. It was really delicious. It came from a friends farm. It fed 10 people. However, the picture of me carrying the pig home seemed to upset some people. Some of them stopped being my social network friends. Some of them… fellow carnivores.
I was accused of ‘lacking empathy’ for posting the pic above.
Many meat eaters pretend the meat they’re eating doesn’t come from a living animal. They are divorced from what they are eating. This, my friends, is the tragedy of our age.
If you eat meat but cannot bear where it comes from… perhaps you shouldn’t be eating meat? Most animals, most people eat are farmed in terrible conditions. Most carnivores blind themselves to this fact.
For those of you who eat meat but hate the idea that it was once a living thing. Perhaps you should tour an abattoir? Perhaps you should pet a pig or cow or a sheep? Look into its eyes?
Maybe I am a cold hearted man for posting a picture of my dinner before it was cooked? Frankly, I think it’s far more honest to do that… than sanitized, pretty pictures posted on Instagram after the fact.
Tamer Rice, 12 years old. A child, playing with a toy gun (in an open carry state) with his sister in a public park was shot dead by two discredited Cleveland cops seconds after they answered an emergency 911 call. They have since been absolved of their crimes by a corrupt prosecutor after a secretive and wholly inappropriate Grand Jury ‘trial’.
We know all about corrupt prosecutors.
Few of the ‘friends’ who were so animated by my photograph of me and the baby pig were moved at all to comment on the death of an innocent young black boy.
Late one night, feeling under the weather after a bout of this particularly pernicious cold, I wrote a note to that ex. Yep, I’m that guy. Fuck. FUCK.
It was another misguided attempt to put the past behind me.
What is it about feeling sick that weakens ones resolve as well as ones body? Keep me away from my lap top when a nasty cold makes me vulnerable to nostalgia. Please.
I’d read somewhere that he has a fantastic new job and I wanted to congratulate him. Why would I think my congratulations would be wanted? It’s absurd isn’t it? Congratulations.
Last week a very young gay friend attended the Trevor Project’s Trevor Live 2015 event. My friend is a proud member of their youth advisory council. The Trevor Project remains one of the most ambitious and honorable LGBT organizations currently available to at risk LGBT young people, providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth.
The Trevor Project was founded in 1998 in West Hollywood, California, by James Lecesne, Peggy Rajski, and Randy Stone. Creators of the 1994 Academy Award-winning short film Trevor, a dramedy about Trevor, a gay thirteen-year-old boy who, when rejected by friends because of his sexuality, makes an attempt to take his life.
Before this brave film aired on HBO the filmmakers, realizing that some of the program’s young viewers might face the same kind of crisis as Trevor, searched for a support line to be broadcast during the airing. They discovered that no such helpline existed and decided to dedicate themselves to forming an organization to promote acceptance of LGBTQ youth.
My young friend flew from the east coast to attend the event and by all accounts had a very enjoyable time… until he was sexually assaulted by an older gay man in front of his friends who thought it appropriate to cat call and high five each other when they saw my young friend being inappropriately groped.
It was not the only time that night he was sexually harassed/assaulted.
“I don’t understand why people think it’s ok to grab my ass and say crude, sexually charged comments.” He said.
When I urged him to write to the Trevor Project and let them know what happened he was worried that they wouldn’t take the complaint seriously because the rich white men who had assaulted him were big donors to the Trevor Project.
I could write endlessly about gay white men, their pink privilege, their resistance to the notion of sexual consent and a widely held gay belief that men can’t assault, harass or rape other men.
My friend has (as of today) not written to The Trevor Project to report these incidents at their Trevor Live event. It’s very hard for a young man, recently out, to articulate his disgust for this kind of behavior.
The assault did not take place in a bar or club where these assaults occur all the time… more often than not overlooked by victim and perpetrator. It happened at a fund raising event for at risk youth.
I woke at 5am. It’s still dark. The wind roars through the maple trees. The last of the leaves scoot up chilly North Road. The dogs lay under the covers, they know the drill: every morning I get up at 5am, I take a bath, I drive to Rhinebeck in the beaten up Mercedes the crazy artist gave me.
I sit with the same kindly, sober men and women in the cozy church basement. I toast raisin bread and drink mugs of black coffee. I sit at the back, close to the piano. I am knitting another fragment.
I like morning AA meetings.
Remember the Palisades? That 7am meeting over the bank? The fat agent? The lawyer who couldn’t stop looking at porn whilst this wife lay sleeping. Remember the good doctor, the beneficent politician who by the ‘grace of god and this program’ stays sober today?
Recently I woke up and had a radical, disturbing thought. I had a crazy AA cult thought: that if I dared be late for the meeting, dared miss the AA meeting in Rhinebeck something catastrophic would happen. That I might die. That I might not be able to depend on God to keep me safe. Even though I have committed to the path he has chosen.
They say in the rooms of AA: if you desire anything more than AA you will never achieve your desires. That putting things ahead of AA means putting them in jeopardy.
I waited for a moment. I thought more about the crazy catastrophic thought. It made me angry. What was I thinking? I wondered how I’d ever achieve anything ever again? How could I escape this ‘sober’ thinking?
The sober life they promised when I walked through the doors of AA was a ‘bridge to normal living’. But my normal living has become enslaved by Alcoholics Anonymous.
I understood momentarily that living a fearless, hand it over to God life… has become inert. The furrow God has ploughed for me, the one I dare not leave. They say in the rooms that he’ll never put anything in my path I cannot handle. As long as I hand my will and my life to him. My will and my life.
Sometimes I’m willful. Occasionally I want to take my will and get something achieved in my time.. not God’s time. But I fear those thoughts. Immediately I run back to the safety of a prayer, God Grant me the Serenity. I am once again taken care of by the benevolent force.
Sobriety is no longer about not taking drink or a drug. I am committed to a way of life. So I might not make the same mistakes, create chaos, or harm those around me I commit daily to a strict routine of making lists, taking inventories, I pray and meditate, I reach out to the newly sober, I practice the principals of Alcoholics Anonymous in all my affairs.
Where’s this leading me? I’m on my own, and rather than invest in a robust social life with similarly healthy souls… sobriety causes me to think twice about any and all interactions. I no longer desire the normal friction that casually brushing up against another human being causes.
I think twice about driving to the city. I think twice about having my hair cut. I think twice about leaving the house. I think twice because I don’t want to think at all.
I say to myself, “Sit silently in the coffee shop. Do not live in fear.” I crave the promise that I might effortlessly know how to deal with problems that used to baffle me. I take the route that most likely avoids any and all people. My fantasy is: with God’s help I am a slender ghost who haunts my own life.
The following morning I went to the meeting and told them my doubts. I explained the crazy thought. They were very kind. They have the same thoughts. They reach the same conclusions. They keep coming back.
I get home at 9am. I let the dogs out. They chase squirrels and deer. The day unfolds before me. Sober. A ghost.
The rain, interminable. Cats and dogs. Great lakes puddle over the marshy back land. Ominous clouds scud over the Hudson Valley. Tom the gardener ploughs trenches down hill, unplugging the dams. Thirty years of fallen oak leaves dredged from soggy trench and damned culvert. Branches thrown over the fence into the once vacant lot by lazy neighbours, removed. A scribble of dead bramble, removed. Now, on the northern perimeter, a pile of rotting vegetation – we might have burned on November 5th if we lived somewhere sensible.
“There’ll be no bonfires in the village.” She said. The woman at the Mayor’s office. So. No wood smoke drifting over sparkling, frosty fields, no Guy Fawkes. No baked potatoes wrapped in scalding tin foil found amongst the dying embers.
I call friends in Los Angeles, they ask smugly if I’m prepared for the winter. They have no idea. Windows, insulation, boiler… thick curtains thankfully saved from other draughty, Victorian mansions. The winter months do not scare me. Come winter, come freeze the air, let the first snow fall.
How many pairs of gloves will I lose this year?
I am happy in Tivoli, so are the dogs. They chase squirrels, rabbits and deer.
The Little Dog has been skunked twice. Good God! The second time I took him to the vet, where they washed him with some magical solution. Better than being savaged by coyote or bitten by a rattlesnake… I suppose, cheaper to remedy. He’s such a brave, curious, foolhardy Little Dog.
Dude hasn’t been skunked once, he hangs back from anything mildly threatening. He learned to climb the steep stair in the new house, laboring one step at a time he finds us in bed then dances on two legs until I fetch him up.
I drive my old Mercedes into Hudson once a week. It’s a lovely town to visit but I hated living there. I hated it. Frighteningly, I can’t remember the name of the road where I lived. Let me remember. Bellview, Fairview… PROSPECT! Prospect Avenue, Hudson, NY.
So many irrelevant details scrubbed from the hard drive. I will never forget that house. That vile, ‘English Tudor’ house on the optimistically named Prospect Avenue. Overlooking the hospital; and a busy, dirty road. The worst place (by far) I ever lived. Badly designed, badly renovated, so badly insulated: incapable of keeping heat in the winter or cool in the summer.
The house was haunted, not by angry ghosts moving things around or waiting in the corner… but melancholy, lonely women, dragging themselves up and down the stairs. Most evident, the ghost of an elderly school teacher who spent twenty years peering from the sitting room window, equally scaring and delighting passing school children like a Halloween ghoul.
The house attracts lonely women.
Tanja Grunert, the current owner, is the last of a long line.
So, I dedicate this blog post to her. To lonely Tanja whose life is more treacherous than a Hudson pavement in mid January.
The night I met Tanja she was wearing a huge black and white fur coat. Like a skunk.
A short, stocky woman, she wears baggy jeans and tailored jackets. Her cropped, gray/mauve hair… cut hard around her masculine, pudgy face. A smear of red lipstick, the only evidence she might be a heterosexual woman.
The night we met (by accident over steaming bowls of Asian broth) I should have run away.
Sadly, I have never had the resolve to run from a catastrophe. As the towers came down I ran toward them. There is something immediately alluring about Tanja, something fascinating. From the moment we met I was hooked. Some people are. I’ll not be the first and I won’t be the last. She crafted a first class art world career from a scintillating first impression.
That night Tanja focused her all on me, seducing and melting… gasping and fluttering, roaring her huge laugh. After dinner she invited us to the house… that house.
Much later I understood the only time she threw back her head, roaring that infectious laugh, was used as part of a sinister, well rehearsed routine. A carefully constructed formula.
We discovered we had many people in common, Jay Jopling, Samia Saouma and Benedict Taschen.
She told me how beautiful I was. Told me I was her ‘type’. I was clear about my sexuality, “I am a gay man.” I said, as she coquettishly batted her eyelashes, grabbed hold of my hand, inviting us back to her cold, empty house. “Oh I’m so sorry.” She bows deeply into every apology. She is a committed apologist. “English is my second language.” During our cohabitation I must have heard her say a million times, “Excuse me if I don’t understand.”
It was a lie. I knew from the beginning she understood everything very well. Yet, I chose to ignore her lies. I chose to ignore, that cold winter, her lies, her homophobia, her racism, her alcoholism and her delusion.
Tanja is an alcoholic. She is the kind of binging alcoholic who convinces herself that because she doesn’t drink in the morning she doesn’t have a drinking problem…. but she drinks in the morning. She is the kind of alcoholic who convinces herself that because she doesn’t drink alone she isn’t an alcoholic… yet, she drinks alone. She is the kind of alcoholic who convinces herself that she isn’t an alcoholic because she doesn’t black out and wet the bed…
She drank wine by the bottle, chain-smoked cigarettes; listened to opera so loudly on her record player that good conversation became impossible. Drowning in Wagner, drowning not waving, into misery.
That night, my first visit to her house, she lit a fire in the huge, totally empty sitting room. Her husband was gone. He had taken flight that summer. Taking with him the money (his fathers) and the possibility. She told him: “You cannot come to the house in Hudson.” He said, “You can’t have money to furnish it.”
I said: “You have an empty house and I have furniture.” She said “Yes!” immediately.
Listen for a moment. Stand back. Re-read my offer and tell me what could possibly go wrong?
Obviously it was terrible mistake. Half measures avail us nothing. I had no right making a deal with this devil. She started texting and calling all day and all night. She would introduce me to her friends as her boyfriend or her husband. She’d tell everyone who would listen that she loved me. I was living in the East Village. We had dinner in the city. Tanja tried making me pay for her expensive wine habit… I refused.
Instead, I moved in.
So began a slow, interminably slow, head on collision. Two cold, stubborn alcoholics buckling, catastrophically into one another. I spent nearly a year at the house, firstly because I was entranced… then the doors began to slam behind me. The furniture arrived and she took what she wanted from my things. “Each thing more beautiful than the last.” She cooed.
My Gary Hume disappeared.
Because she is an unapologetic racist she made me hide my African art because black people do not interest her. They make her ‘think of slavery’. They ‘make me sad’. “I would never sleep with a black man.”
She buys five tickets for the Bjork concert but can’t find anyone to come with us. Finally she invites people who barely know her. They say, “I don’t know her at all.” At the will call she’s told very clearly that her tickets are being exchanged for better tickets. Tanja starts screaming. Screaming at everyone. Kicking the theatre. I stand back and watch her disgusting spectacle. I take the tickets, tell her to shut the fuck up, lead her into the theatre. We take our excellent seats at the front of the theatre.
Shocked by her behavior we walk in silence back to the car after the event, unable to discuss Bjork like normal people. Like the normal people around us, happy and grateful to have seen Bjork. Her tantrums, her temper, her screaming, her crying fits of righteous outrage and indignation became so regular I learned to ignore them.
The winter was long and hard and cold. Minus 23 degrees. Unheard of upstate New York. I found myself held hostage by the masculine German woman in the unfriendly house.
She refused to fill the oil tanks. The house froze. The pipes burst. The tiles fall from the bathroom walls. I fill the oil tanks myself, ferrying 10 gallon cans from a filling station five miles away.
The chaos, her unmanagability became easier when the sun began to shine.
Spring came suddenly this year. The original deal she reneged. She wanted money. Always desperate for cash. Another good idea blown into a million pieces. I handed it over.
Her grasping, fat fingers. Her solid, bruised, Teutonic arms quaffing wine, passing out, laying naked on her bed until she leaks yellow stinking piss all over herself. Naked on her bed, not sleeping but unconscious. Laying like the dead waiting for the autopsy, naked on her back. Acres of white flesh. “We are always naked.” “We always talk to ourselves.” “We only eat from Fish and Game.”
She tells everyone that an important publisher has commissioned an auto-biography. She says that the money will come.
“We only write in the kitchen.”
“We hate mood lighting.”
She spends hours under the harsh light at the kitchen table tapping on her keyboard, claiming to write a book some grand publisher might (or might not) have commissioned. She says she’s researching but she’s on the internet trying to fill the consuming void her younger husband left when he scarpered last June. Filling the gaping, suppurating wound with Internet dates on match.com, okcupid and other… less salubrious sites. She shows me a thousand pictures of penis she has been sent.
Her less sexually ambitious female friends think she is a pioneer. This old queen knows she is a lonely, sleazy woman on the cusp of suicide. In and out of Belleview. Unable to accept the truth. Popping pills. She is poor, illegal and single.
Gay men seldom share the cache of penis we’ve been sent on line. Maybe the largest or the smallest. Maybe the most beautiful. She indiscriminately shows me every one. She wants me to know she is still relevant, that her menopause hadn’t knocked her through a hoop. (Like Samia before her.) But her boast falls on deaf ears. I look at her poker faced, disguising the pity I have for her.
There’s a young art dealer in town with a cool gallery, I buy art, he delivers the art to the house. He knows who she is. Curious to see where Tanja lives, he is surprised that the house is so clean. He expects to see a mountain of empty bottles. He tells me that she owes everyone money, him included.
“There’s a joke art dealers tell each other. They laugh about how long they’ve been in the art business. They say, I’ve been selling art so long… I remember when Tanja Grunert was hot.”
I reserved the most sympathy for her children who instinctively knew how selfish, self-obsessed and self pitying she and her ex husband are. Both so eager to flee from her, like the men she meets on-line. A French man meets with her and tells me “Within a few minutes of phone conversation she offers to lick my ass.” to be his toilet. When he meets with her he says he could not fuck her because fucking her would be like “Fucking grandma.”
After meeting him she text messages twenty times an hour. She sobs, howls… when it becomes apparent that he is not interested in her. She wrings her hands and bangs her head into the wall, she blames everyone for her distress.
She meets another man and calls at 1am to ask where they can find a woman for some three way. I terminate the call.
Her teenage daughter watches as every man her mother meets on the internet lets her down. Steals what little she has left. She has learned to keep quiet. She is biding her time, waiting for the day she can turn her back on them all.
Tanja boasts that during her second pregnancy with the girl she was high on cocaine, drunk on alcohol every day for the first trimester.
Her insufferable, precocious, entitled, blue-eyed son lives with us for the summer. He leaves chaos and mountains of trash infested, after a few hot days, with maggots. He said, “You are the room mate, you must clean up after me.” I refuse.
I video the mess and send it to his mother. He is now at an expensive college in SF exploring his homosexuality, thankfully a long way from his gentle, yielding girlfriend who was often heard plaintively asking the teenager why he needed to hurt her to express his love.
The boy barely conceals his contempt for the girl. Like his mother, like his father, like his grandmother. Generational dysfunction. Violence. Violent to others, violent to herself, Tanja told me her husband would beat her in the bedroom. Not because he loved her… because he hated her. The provenance of the son’s fledgling misogyny evident for all to see.
The son drinks until he passes out. Naked on his bed. His father drinks himself into a black out… she wets the bed. I could smell the piss before I saw it.
Her son wants to stay with me at the hotel. I cling to the edge of the bed. As far as I can from his yearning adolescence. Tanja wants to know why he is so interested in me.
For all of her gay friends, she is an unapologetic homophobe. She makes sneering jokes about ‘Your side’ and ‘Your people’ she tells me that I am ‘No use’ to her. They are not jokes, they are evidence of her deep-seated homophobic resentment. For all the extraordinary gay men she surrounds herself, delighting them with her drama… she hates gay men. We are good for loans and art purchases. We loyally turn up at the hospital every time she half-heartedly overdoses.
When I brought that beautiful boy Spencer home, she asked if he was my boyfriend, then slandered me in German. My school boy German catches every word.
Gay men know this: we all know that those determined to kill themselves rarely fail. The rest, like Tanja, merely crave the attention: cosseted in hospital beds, prescribed medicine, given the benefit of the doubt.
The gays around her provide the Greek entertainment. The chorus. Picking up the pieces.
At dawn, when she finally let me sleep. Before she falls into her bed, Tanja became sexually abusive. When we are on our own, if I’m the only person in the house she focuses her sexual violence on me. Keeping me awake until dawn, drinking and smoking. Trying to touch me.
When, at the end, I mention that she is sexually harassing me and I could sue her… she smiles a smile only a torturer could have smiled and I saw very clearly into her rotten, stinking soul. She looked like the devil. I saw the devil smile. I will never forget that smile, for it was quite unlike anything I had seen before.
In the morning, by way of apology, she reminds me again that her mother had abused her. That she had hidden from the Nazis by living in a box under a mill, like a fairy-tale troll. After the war her mother had children and beat them. This was the excuse she gave for abusing me.
The same excuse. Again and again.
Excuses: excuses not to pay her artists, why the house would freeze and the pipes would burst. Excused for not having insurance when Sandy hit Manhattan and filled her Chelsea gallery with raw sewage. Excuses for not paying her taxes, for not bothering to renew her visa. Excuses why she never made a better job of killing herself. Excuses and apologies. One after another. A crocodile of dead infants snaking their way to hell.
After my painful pancreas operation, drowsy on meds she made me drive to the bank, fetch her $3000 and then punches me when I burst into tears. She apologizes immediately; she tells me that she was abused by her mother. It’s too late. The summer is coming to an end. I hate her with such vigor. I hate being near her, I hate her voice, her smell, her proximity.
We drive back to the gallery where an angry artist is waiting for cash. Arms crossed.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t understand.” She pleads with the angry artist.
At the end of August I empty the house of my possessions and I am free. 8 months of hell finally comes to an end. I move to Tivoli.
Even after I am gone she demands money. I have learned not to respond or engage. A good lesson in restraint of pen and tongue.
There are many wonderful things to recommend a visit to The Hotel Tivoli or The Corner Restaurant in Tivoli, Duchess County. The exquisite decor, the art, the many celebrities who visit this tasteful oasis created by the sensationally successful artist Brice Marden and his imposingly chic wife Helen. Adding The Hotel Tivoli to a burgeoning chain… they also own The Golden Rock Inn on the Caribbean island of Nevis.
Together with landscape architect Raymond Jungles, Brice and Helen have turned Golden Rock into something extraordinary: a jungly hideaway, with the artfully overgrown botanical gardens of a fantastical world. It’s impossible to tell where the gardens end and rainforest begins. Curious plants grow on a grand scale: giant palms, like fans of the gods; elephant’s ears so vast you can use them as parasols. On this island-in-the-sun you can almost hear them growing.
Without doubt the Mardens’ have exquisite taste and an eye for sensitive restoration.
The Hotel Tivoli, once the Hotel Madeleine is an imposing Victorian building on the corner of North Street and Broadway in the heart of charming Tivoli. Apparently, when they bought it, it had seen better days. The Mardens’ transformed the building from dull… to glamorous. The startling restoration of this fine building has attracted many new faces to what was becoming a Bard dormitory town. Indeed, the younger staff at the Hotel are all Bard attendees.
These optimistic, wealthy students who flush through the town every year, year after year lend the place a Southern Californian hippy vibe. Youngsters hang out on stoops, out of windows, laughing and singing.
The whole operation would be perfect were it not for the chef at The Corner, Billy Gilroy’s errant son Devon Gilroy. Covered in Tattoos, clipped hair… I met him through one of his many, many ex girlfriends who he dumped unceremoniously… but continued fucking.
This good looking, bearish, slightly over weight young man is single handedly the fly in the luxurious ointment at The Corner Restaurant. Despised by his wait staff and many of the women in the hotel, he bullies anyone and everyone in his kitchen. Perhaps he thinks he needs to behave like Gordon Ramsey to be a great chef? In fact, this screaming, shouting and abusive behavior has more to do with his insecurity than some mad, uncontrollable genius.
Only today one of his ex staff bemoaned how he treated her disrespectfully, reducing her to tears… then, after a couple of days, Devon makes a simpering passive/aggressive faux amends.
Devon Gilroy is a very lucky boy. Helen and Brice Marden sent him to Morocco to learn the ways of North African cuisine. He came back with a lame Tagine and a recipe for ‘Moroccan street bread’… what ever that is.
During the Spring, after the harshest upstate winter, I made a great effort and spent a lot of money supporting The Corner Restaurant, well before the summer rush.
There were occasion when my friends were the only party in the restaurant.
I introduced fancy architects, I took my celebrity dot com friends. I took artists and art collectors and gallery owners. As the restaurant grew busier the food shrank in portion, the plating messier and the quality dwindled. I took my very best English friends and a clumsy waitress spilled a bottle of beer on his head and over his white shirt. No apology. Nothing removed from the bill.
My early Yelp review raved about the place. I wished it every success. I have stayed in the Hotel twice. The rooms are wonderful (I really wanted to write wonderful in Caps) and The Hotel remains without any serious competition for 100 miles. I urge you to break the bank and stay in the Hotel Tivoli, eat the amazing breakfast (divine almond cakes and home made jam) but please don’t bother with dinner at The Corner, unless… you’re drinking at the spectacular marble bar.
(Hungry? Drive six miles to Gaskin’s in Germantown for dinner. A class act.)
Oddly, my later… less complimentary Yelp review was removed at the The Corner’s demand.
Pity they forgot my blog. I didn’t.
Brice and Helen Marden run a money no object operation at the Hotel Tivoli. It is a beautiful gift to the people of Tivoli. Stuffed with iconic, contemporary furniture and millions of dollars of art. A true gem. There is a huge portrait of Helen at the top of the stairs by Francesco Clemente. It is without doubt one of the finest hotels in the state of old New York.
I’m sure that with well trained servers and a new, less tyrannical chef, (working along side Nancy the excellent GM and Jeannette the elegant maitre d’) this star restaurant will rightfully sparkle in the local firmament.
There is something all at once despicable and wonderful about small town living. Small town people are small town people for a reason. They are exactly the same the whole world over… unless they’re living a double life (NYC and Upstate) after a few years… their brains begin to atrophy. They are left behind, destined for a life of small minded, tight-lipped misery.
Hudson is just like Whitstable. I’m used to the small town narrative.
Like Whitstable, every weekend Hudson fills with the fabulous and the not so fabulous. They arrive on packed trains from the city and in expensive SUVs. Yet, it is those stuck upstate season after season toiling year after year in Hudson or in outlying communities that are most damaged. As hard as I try steering myself clear from these half baked personalities and the inevitable drama, one is drawn to both like a moth to a flame.
They, the hapless year-rounders, want to know you as much as they don’t want to know you. When they meet you they quickly establish if you are a threat to their superiority. They want to feel superior. They gobble up half-truths on google. They regurgitate everything they think they know to whom ever will listen.
As I’ve written previously it is with neurotic, heterosexual, single, childless women that I have most trouble.
This week I had a run in with a woman who was in the habit of dumping dog shit over her fence and onto my land, then there’s a female fag-hag realtor related to the Woolworth family and recently fired from her realty business… after meeting me she called her ex relatives in Hollywood to spread misinformation… and then… most tragically an ex editor who limps from crowd to crowd soliciting sympathy for her bad choices wherever and whenever she can.
The realtor, Pamela Murphy is the poor cousin of producer Cassian Elwes rich ex-wife. She used to work for the very posh Hudson realtor Mary Mullane. The first time I met Pamela she spent an hour degrading Mary (who fired her) in a way I knew she would eventually degrade me. When it happened (as I knew it would) I called and reminded her that her shrill, unsophisticated demeanor had caused her to be a terminally single fag hag. That and her obvious alcohol abuse problem.
Hudson heterosexual males aren’t so bad. I’ve met a good-looking dog whisperer and an ex LA gay for pay property developer.
Mind you, the weekenders are not immune from pettiness. The ‘blond’ art dealer and her gay business partner have a couple of drinks and abuse her hapless husband. The slim, gay interior decorator with floppy hair confides that his business partner’s husband is lazy, that he doesn’t have a job, that the art dealer supports him… that she should never have married him.
That’s the problem with gay men… they want their best women pals married to them.
Listen, I am in opposition to most things. A legacy from fighting for my gay life since I was 13 years old. You don’t like gays? Fuck you. You don’t want gay people to shove their lifestyle down your throat? Let me shove this gay shit down your fucking throat.
I meet everyone who passes through Hudson. Bumping into legendary Micky Wolfson and iconic Joseph Holtzman the creator of Nest magazine, or the terrible Rob Roth (momentarily without Deborah Harry’s balls in his mouth) but escorting the totally insane Parker Posey. Sticking out her hand. “Hello, my name is Parker Posey.”
So, when I bumped into Bruce Cohen and Gabe his charming, much younger husband and their adorable daughter on Warren Street last weekend I was not entirely surprised. Bruce is looking haggard. He still has shoulder length, curly blond thinning hair, he looks like a straight stoner who can’t bring himself to get another look. As if his long curly blond hair defines who he is.
He’s a great producer but seemingly no longer with producing partner Dan Jinks. Remember it was they who asked me to direct Liberace starring Michael Keaton. Anyway, I wondered what he was up to and he said he was developing a gay history series with Dustin ‘Lance’ Black and Cleve Jones. I nearly threw up my breakfast. I couldn’t think of anything worse than a Lance Black gay history series created to ‘educate’ straight people. A Lance Black whitewashing of our history from the arbitrary starting point of Stonewall. I went on… why are you working with that idiot? Why not George Chauncey, Neil Bartlett, Stephen Fry… anyone but fucking Lance Black and Cleve Jones. Thankfully Bruce’s husband agreed.
And what about gay people of color I asked? Queer culture? Oh, Bruce reassured me, “We have a black man,” adding weakly, “We’re telling his story.” But let’s face it. Bruce and Lance aren’t interested telling the black gay story… because this show is for white straight people. What about lesbians I demanded? He buckled. Realizing that his white gay male documentary was going to be a big pile of exclusionary SHIT.
It galls me that people like Lance and Bruce get to tell our history… where were they when I was being visible at 13? Where were they when others were taking direct action for Outrage or Act Up? I’ll tell you what they were doing… they were hiding under the covers. Cowed by religiosity and gay fear.
I register their distaste. These gays. These cowardly white gays. Those white gays who rode on the coat tails of those of us who confronted the status quo. Whilst I was reminding straight people in the 1980’s how lucky they were to enjoy our clubs and bars, whilst I let them know that I did not enjoy the same privileges they took for granted… and risked their violent ire. Bruce and Lance were thinking only of themselves, propping up the white patriarchy.
Whilst i was making queer films and queer plays for queer people without deferring to straight people… men like Bruce and Lance and every gay male agent I met at all the big Hollywood talent agencies were telling me to stop telling queer stories because there was no future in it. Future = Money.
The day is bright and humid. The endless hum of lawn mowers, all summer long. The grass grows lush and green. The trees heavy with monstrous leaves and creeping vines. Gold and purple wild flowers a meter high at the side of the road: Golden Rod, Deptford Pink and Bouncing Bet.
The Hudson River meanders gently toward the city, decorated at its marshy edge with great swathes of invasive water chestnut. Feeding the lazy Hudson River, fast moving creeks course down the mountain, over shallow rocky beds and over the curvaceous, verdant landscape, dramatic water falls, giddy tributaries. Vast, flat abandoned reservoirs formerly providing local industry with renewable energy. Magnificent 19th Century, red brick factories stand empty, patiently waiting for a thousand weavers to march through the mahogany doors and start weaving again.
The land like the water resources here in upstate New York remains mostly uncultivated. That California with no water still provides America with the majority of its fruit and vegetables while this verdant place remains fallow.
No lawn mowers in the Santa Monica Mountains. Just the wheeling of the hawks, the booming crash of the waves at night rolling up the canyon with the morning mist. They ask me if I miss Malibu. They wonder why I would trade Malibu for this. I had 12 good years in LA before I had my last rather complicated… year and a bit. Do I miss it? No, not really. I miss my house, I miss slopping around that huge room. Looking at the ocean. The dogs finding patches of sunlight. I don’t miss the rattlesnakes or the coyote. I don’t miss the brush clearance. I don’t miss the winding road to the PCH. I miss the prestige of having the house. I do.
The magnificent pines at the back of the house, the Brazilian Orchid Tree, the figs, lemons and cherimoya. I wonder who takes care of the carp? I wonder if the gophers invaded the garden this year? I wonder if they fixed everything I never got around to?
As one grows older it is harder to make sense of change. Rapid, inexplicable change. This is the great secret of the third age. We are less adaptable. We seek comfort and safely. It is hard to imagine what will come next.
1. No, not me. I’m still sober. Sobriety date: October 1, 1996.
It’s true, I’ve not stayed sober in the romance and finance programs. Very difficult. Very, very difficult. No masturbation. No porn. Writing money inventories… bloody nora. It’s the objectification and the intriguing that’s so bloody hard. No gawping or flirting.
So, we drove back from Provincetown. After witnessing our friend (poor soul) experience a catastrophic breakdown. A monumentally ugly relapse. Part prescription drugs, part menopause, part work pressure.
She thinks she’s a washed up actress, she thinks there’s no future. She never really got humble about her limited talent. She left LA with her tail between her legs. Some people say she was an LA hooker…. when things got tough. I don’t know about that. I don’t have an opinion about that. It’s okay by me.
Watching a friend fall apart. Blaming and resenting the world. Unable to look at her part in anything. Her responsibility. It’s everyone’s fault but hers. The sailor owes her money, the owner of the theatre will not speak to her, she’s lying to her parents so she can pay for a lifestyle beyond her means. Her neighbors are assholes. Her brother has no humanity, the woman who made a show with her last year is a ‘bitch’, the band she played with all last summer are insensitive assholes… they don’t know how to treat a real artist.
So much of what we learn in the rooms of AA, owning our part in any or all situations, keeping our side of the street clean, a quick apology when one is wrong. None works for her.
When she doesn’t get her own way she starts screaming. Now, she’s screaming at me. She’s screaming at my friend. Her rasping voice, her old lady petulance. She starts on me. Bad idea. She screams what people scream when they are full of hate, she’s raking up my past and remaking it to her own recipe.
Screaming. Screaming usually upsets me. If someone hits me… I want to hit them back but I’ve learned to do something recently, something that has profoundly altered my behaviour. I’ve learned to record everything. Any potentially difficult situation… I press record. I’m like Andy Warhol.
I find it so hard to keep my temper when my security is threatened… but I manage very well when I know I’m being watched. Even if it’s my own phone watching me. The tapes of her screaming are very sad. I couldn’t watch them for long. She’s screaming but she looks so fragile, washed up, isolated.
I stay out of her way.
Finally, she’s cruel to the dog, she didn’t know I was watching… I could see everything. I saw her sweep his legs from under him when he was suffering with Lyme disease lameness. He yelped as he slumped to the ground.
I say, “That’s not very sober… you have different choices here… you can do this differently... ” But she’s so consumed by righteousness indignation and I’m recording every word.
The aftermath of the great marriage equality win.
Gay pride started as a demonstration. A few brave people marching in the rain. My friend Rose Collis marched in the violent 1980 London Pride. The police arrested the drag queens and beat them up. Then they harassed those who tried to help. There were more police than demonstrators. That’s how dangerous we were to the establishment.
Some of us have been in opposition to the establishment for many years. Now we are not. We say, “We are just like you.” Some say, “We let go of being the other.” Some say, “We want what what you have but we are still unique.” If gay people truly want equality then invisibility is a byproduct of being just like everyone else.
If we don’t have the issue of equality around which to coalesce, what’s next?
Now we are equal do we need gay culture? Gay film festivals? Gay and lesbian bookshelves? Gay pride? Gay resorts? Gay AA? All of these conceits which used to be safe places for gay people to get together… surely we need none of them? Our aim, obviously, is invisibility. But for the affirming Pride Parade. No longer a demonstration. Always a celebration.
Only people in opposition to the status quo need demonstrate, need to ‘be seen’ as evidence that they exist, that they are no longer frightened or cowed by the establishment. We are the establishment, some would say we are the new elite.
Personally, I find the Irish Parade in New York very annoying. Why does it happen? Okay, so there are Irish people… and they drink a lot… and they wear green. Is that it for us? Is this what Pride becomes? We are gay people and we drink a lot and we wear rainbows… if we wear anything at all? Is that it? Just a rainbow side-show? For the entertainment of all. A flimsy excuse to get drunk, take drugs and get laid?
The bars and clubs fill with straight people because there are many more of them than us. The resorts are sold to rich straight people because there are many more of them than us. Soon everything we created to be safe, enjoy own special gay lives… will be gone. Is this equality? Is this integration?
The parade is just a parade of clowning gay men showing off their various pick up app related labels. The twink float, the daddy float, the bear float, the leather float. Maybe soon we will be represented by huge gay themed balloons… dancing merrily up 6th Avenue. Balloons that cannot upset the children or insult one or another young person whose ‘safety’ is threatened by the wrong word, the wrong intonation, the wrong idea of the past.
I found myself standing on the outside of the marriage equality celebrations yesterday. Feeling very British. Feeling like we achieved this years ago… even if it was called Civil Union. Feeling like it doesn’t matter anyway. None of this is going to affect me. Not now. Even so, the SCOTUS announcement seemed to make many people very, very happy.
Rainbows decorated everything, The Whitehouse, important monuments, even this WordPress admin page. I am gay, I am the rainbow. This celebration is all for me and people like me. Why then… did I not want to weep, why didn’t I want to cover my profile picture with a rainbow gauze?
300 white gays and lesbians marched up Commercial Street in Provincetown. Chanting and singing and weeping, behaving like they had been emancipated, that they were finally free. I peeled off the main drag and sat with straight people watching a tribute band as part of the Portuguese Festival. I wandered the Clam and Lobster Bake tent. 700 lobsters getting boiled alive. Gallons of clam chowder, a ton of roast potatoes. The two worlds only meters apart… one oblivious to the other. No less relevant.
Apparently, many people had been waiting for this moment for a very long time. They had been waiting for marriage for all. They hash tagged everything with #lovewins. People expressed themselves emotionally on social media. They had never dared think that marriage for them would happen in their lifetime. Some had felt ‘shame’ all their lives because marriage was not an option. They felt like ‘crying’ because they could now get married. White folk told me they no longer felt like ‘second class citizens’. Some people are leaving town, driving five hours, so they can enjoy NYC Pride. They want to enjoy the full experience of what it means to be ‘equal’.
The sham of equality.
As I sat with the poor working class Portuguese, watching their faux rock band, their children dancing, their elders tapping their feet. I wondered what marriage had brought these people. This patriarchal conceit. The women are still paid less than the men, the opportunity to work several jobs still cannot yield them a decent wage. A block away people who can afford multi million dollar homes, overlooking the water were celebrating their ‘freedom’. White people who would never know what it feels like to be observed suspiciously, to be threatened daily by the state, people who I heard sneering at the poor.
My brush with the closeted gay Nazi last week had unsettled me. I confided in Michael C my worst fears for our community, that we may be witnessing a schism. Powerful white gay men and their right-wing agenda… and everyone else. Let’s be clear, those white men who are now white trans women are just as likely to adopt the rhetoric of the new, gay right.
Michael assured me that the boy was anomaly. I want to believe him.
The two white gay men who hosted the fund-raising event for gay baiting Ted Cruz in NYC an anomaly? The anomalous gay men who tell me they are socially liberal and fiscally conservative? The HRC with their Chevron sponsorship is an anomaly? The corporate appropriation of gay pride… an anomaly. In the UK, openly far right UKIP supporting gay men and women march in the Pride Parade. And astoundingly, the white gay movement thinks nothing of stealing from the black and PoC movement.
These are not isolated incidents. This is a trend. This is the future. Over the rainbow there is a pot of gold.
When I was a child I felt no shame for being gay, as I have said many times before: coming out was an act of social terrorism. At 13 I thought to myself, “These people hate me for something I cannot change. Therefore I will devote my life to punishing them. To shoving this down their throat.”
I did not look at my mother’s wedding ring and hanker after a white, lace dress. I looked at her ring for what it was: a shackle, the key to her own jail cell. I was thrilled that I would never aspire to wear one. I refused to attend weddings. Being gay meant that I could write my own rules, that I could love whomever I wanted. If marriage wasn’t an option then we would rise above these social tyrannies.
Never did I think to myself: my life would be so much better if I was married. I never felt excluded from life. I did not sit on the side lines cheering… whilst others fought on my behalf.
I was happy that being gay afforded me opportunities that my heterosexual peers could not… or would not enjoy. The opportunity to be free of social convention. Of course, those like me… used the inequality argument, that we were forced by the state to be different, to our advantage. When I made the decision to tell everyone I loved men, confirming what they already suspected, I knew immediately that I was not alone. Men made themselves known to me. But, even then, many gay men disappointed me. Scared, bitchy, bullied, parochial, lacking curiosity.
I wanted to make people aware of our difference, our struggle, I wanted to hold my lovers hand in the street without it becoming an act of rebellion.
In 1984 a group of artists made a performance called Pornography: a Spectacle for the publicly funded ICA in central London… we talked openly about the men we loved and the sex we were having, it was incredibly successful, filling the theatre with like minded gay men.
Think about this. In 1984, we were performing a publicly funded play about gay sex less than a mile from the homes of Margaret Thatcher and the Queen.
We were revolutionaries.
Now we are not.
I am forced to consider the unthinkable. Was my gay life worthless because marriage was not an option? Would I have made different choices if marriage had been available to me? Would I have met a man and settled down, applauded by my heterosexual peers? Would there have been more men interested in the same scenario? The heteronormative dream of marriage and children?
And what now? Will the quality of gay lives change? Will homophobia become a distant memory? Will religious organizations embrace us? Can queer people of color expect to be treated differently by white gays? Will women get the support they need from gay men to achieve equal pay and opportunity?
Yesterday, I felt happy that the war was won. But, I did not feel like the victor. It was not my war. It is not my war. The gay party has moved on. They are on the inside now. I am still on the outside. For the time being I am going to sit here quietly with the dispossessed. Those who others hate for no reason but for the color of their skin, their gender identity, their poverty, their uterus, their immigration status.
These are my people now.
This morning the Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality is the law of the land.
Now that the marriage equality battle has been won, let’s see if gay white men can talk about the needs of other people… like women and people of color. Let’s see if they can confront their own racism and misogyny?
Shame on those gay men who sneered at the brave trans woman Jennicet Gutiérrez who confronted President Obama at his cozy lgbtq brunch! Jennicet was violently berated by gay white men for shouting at the president. As it turns out there is no polite way to be heard over the chorus of gay white men sucking on President Obama’s ass.
As I found out when I was housed in the LA County Jail trans women are regularly abused by the deputies charged with their protection. As I have written before I saw women made to lap dance for deputies, their breasts fondled… and on two occasions I saw trans women beaten for no reason.
I had a long walk through Provincetown with Queer Director of Paris is Burning, Jennie Livingston. We had a lovely time. I talked at length about my own gender issues, the therapy I was having and my ultimate conclusion about the trans community.
For me, I do not believe (after two years of therapy) that I can accurately claim that there is another me trapped in the wrong body. I do not have a women’s brain, I do not have the experience of being a woman or a girl. I do have the experience of being an effeminate homosexual. I have the experience of attraction to hyper masculine men or straight men. I know gay men who had breast implants and hormone therapy to act on those desires, to recreate themselves so that they might be more attractive to straight men. I did not.
I can tell you absolutely that there is a soul I wish to make free that seeks to escape my body but it is not the soul of a woman. I can tell you that as I grow older I can finally admit that I have no relationship with my penis. I can tell you that if I were to have had gender reassignment therapy as a young man I would have identified as bisexual because I seek the comfort and strength of a straight man and the love and affection of a woman. Neither would expect me, in my ideal world, to have a penis.
Why isn’t it ok to say this: Rather than adopt the definitive gender of a man or woman as per the current trans agenda (as I understand it) I prefer to wear the clothes of my choice, to have plastic surgery that remakes my face and body as I see fit (as do millions of men and women world-wide) and change pronouns as befits my understanding of the way I want to be perceived… that I am a creation of my own delight. I am NOT a biological woman trapped in an unyielding male shell but an all together more exotic creature who loves to express myself as I shall determine. I was never a little girl, I do NOT have a woman’s brain. I am my own special creation.
I do not need your validation to be who I am. But I do need you to treat me and people like me with care, consideration and respect.
On occasions when I have dressed and worn make up two things happened: I was told that I was ‘too masculine’ to be anything other than a man. And on one occasion a so-called enlightened cabaret performer saw fit to remove my make up at the dinner table. I did not have the luxury of Bruce Jenner’s effortless apotheosis.
Here is a spring album to cheer you up.
The plane is landing. I can feel something in my belly. It begins as a dull thud, worsening… as if a hand is gripping onto something inside me. The pain radiates into my back, sharpening as it reaches my flank. I breath deeply because the seat belts have to be fastened. As we hit the land I feel nauseous and sweaty. My heart is racing. Then I am asleep. We have landed, they are already waiting with their hand luggage. The woman besides me lets me know that it’s time to leave the aircraft. I walk to the carousel to pick up my luggage. I lean in to fetch my second bag and I faint. As my head hits the woman beside me, breaking my fall, I wake up. An asian woman fetches me a small bottle of water. I get a taxi into town and wonder what I should do. I call the hospital and the insurance company. For the next few hours I wait in the emergency room. They check everything and finally refer me to a pancreatic specialist. A few days later I meet him. He is personable, he wants to do very specific tests to my pancreas. A week later I am laying in the hospital. Before I am taken on the gurney into the room where the complicated tests will take place the kindly doctor says, “I’ll only perform a biopsy if we find something nasty.” I lay calmly. The anesthetist asks how I’m feeling. I wasn’t really feeling anything. I feel the first flush of anesthetic. “Oh, am I going under?” I giggle like I’m drunk. She said, laughing, “It’s just like two glasses of wine, that’s what I’ve given you… two glasses of wine.” And that’s what it felt like. Two glasses of wine. When I wake up he has performed a biopsy. So, I endure ten days of waiting before I find out everything is ok. Everything is fine.
For months… I’ve not written my blog. But urgent commentary needs listened to sooner… rather than later.
I didn’t care about the implication of the biopsy. Because I’m a pathetic alcoholic the first thing I say to my friend who is there to escort me home? “They gave me two glasses of wine!”
This observation masked my real concern. I am thinking about other, more important, more… pressing issues. Issues that have plagued me for years. When I think I am in love… nothing really matters.
I wanted to know the result but I was not wedded to it. I wasn’t in a relationship with the result. Until it’s delivered. I stay out of the result. It’s none of my business… until it is.
I still think about it.
This is a picture of a barn I am buying.
I’m early at the club for breakfast. It’s empty save for the worlds most beautiful boy lounging on an oversized velvet sofa. I catch the eye of the beautiful boy. There are always beautiful boys. But some of them send out something unexplained that I can catch hold of and make mine. If only for a few moments.
We hover around the breakfast spread, he’s pretending to choose juice.
I want to tell him how handsome he is but I ask him instead about his grapefruit juice.
We sit on the sofa and gaze at each other and he tells me everything without saying a single word. He says, “Nobody knows about me. Nobody can ever know. Will you do to me what men can do? Together?” Instead of saying no, instead of telling him that this isn’t going to work… instead of saying fuck off beautiful boy because you are going to break my heart… again.
Instead of saying no. After the hospital, after the first round of scans and shit. We’re on a train to Hudson. His huge feet and hands and thighs… brushing up against me. We are on a train and I am overwhelmed with expectation. He says, we are just going to cuddle but we end up in a hotel room in Tivoli doing everything I had longed to do when I first looked into his big green eyes and I think to myself. Let me love you. Let me fall in love with you just as long as you are here.
“Duncan, are you insane? Can’t you hear the melancholy, wailing sirens warning ’bout the rocks in the ocean.”
“Don’t blind me, guide me through the foggy night.” I implore.
Roy told investigators that he saw waves breaking on the reef and turned abruptly, swinging the side of the hull into the reef.
“I have to take responsibility for the fact that I made a judgment error… I ordered the turn too late.”
The night became the morning and the dawn rose over two tangled bodies. He is a perfect man. His hairy chest and wrists. His red lips, his thighs wrapped around my neck. His huge white alabaster cock so far down my throat, I could hear him gasp with pleasure. He is a professional athlete, he speaks six languages, he is vain and arrogant and lies about money… and other silly things but none of it matters when you look into his big green eyes and you fall… fall in love.
He adds yeast to every story he tells. He says, “I’m adding yeast to this story. It’s not big enough. It needs to be BIGGER.”
He stays with me for four blissful days. Of course there are complications. He mimics my accent because he speaks six languages and he wants to speak mine. He pretends to be English at dinner with my friends. He’s behaving like a dick. Why? Of course there are complications. We talk about his gay father, I teach him to have compassion and forgiveness. I teach him how to forgive his father. There are complications because he is managing his honesty like some people manage their money. He is out to his parents but not out to everyone else. He wants the best job but knows he can’t have it… if he’s gay.
We talk about a defining celebrity incident (him and some girl) written all over the internet. It’s funny, the lies written about him are funny and endearing.
We dress him up in my clothes. We buy him gallons of green juice. We introduce him to friends and acquaintances. We attend an AA meeting. We fight about money. He recalls his one year relationship with a boy he met on-line with a drink and drug problem. He describes the terrible fights. His inability to leave. Did he love the boy? Has he ever loved a man?
I tell him that I love him. We make love. He cums a great deal. I don’t spill a drop.
The following day he tells me that a certain shirt I have picked out to wear is ‘too gay’. I can’t be seen with him wearing that. I suppress my annoyance. I want to hold on to this gift as long as I can. But all at the same time I’m boiling over because this is the same sort of gay man who defends a trans person’s right to be themselves… but not mine. This is the contradiction of being a modern, white gay man.
At a candle lit dinner in the Palladian mansion of a local baron, his mother texts him. She has the dirt… on me. All those ghastly queens leaving anonymous lies all over the internet, she’s picking through them like a beggar over land fill. It’s not her fault. She has to save him. And eventually… she does.
I am forced to ditch the bonhomie and explain myself, explain why there’s so much out there. That I didn’t care. I say, “You shouldn’t care!” But he does. That’s my public life. You, for the time being, are my private life. There’s a silent drive home. There’s nothing I can do to placate him.
I meet two kinds of gay people… those who care about what they read… and those who don’t. Those who care are worried that others might judge them for knowing me. They are scared. Scared that the perfect gay veneer of their lives will be shattered irrevocably by me. Especially the gays. Radical straight people think I’m a fucking hero… but the gays are seldom radical. Increasingly right-wing, closed-minded, striving for perfection.
He balked. I reminded him there were lies written about him too… but soon realized that on those lies he had built his brand. It suited his closet to be lined with clippings from a moment in time when others had lied about him and he refused to disabuse them. The truth is… his mother would rather he date a meth addict than me.
Bruce Jenner becomes Caitlin Jenner and makes a perfect argument for reinvention. Aren’t we all trapped in the wrong body? Why shouldn’t we all build our authentic selves? Live our own truths?
His truth was up to him… my truth, as it turned out, was up to his mother and google.
After a few days he leaves with my heart and my Rolex. He texts occasionally. He tells me not to introduce him to anyone, that we can only meet on our own. He lists things we cannot mention if we are with other people.
“I’m scared you’re going to write my name in your blog and post pictures of me.”
I am inspired to write my blog, I haven’t written it for months. I’m trying to wean myself away from you my darling blog. A few days after… he intimates that I’m just a meaningless interlude, an elderly uncle he wouldn’t mind having breakfast with if it suits his schedule. It is dawning on me (I’m a fool) that he wanted someone richer, more powerful, less controversial, a larger apartment in Manhattan. He already dated a billionaire, he has the numbers of famous actors in his phone. Yes. Like so many young white gay men… he’s looking for a merger and an acquisition. Later that week we bump into each other at the club. I’m with my German friend, he scoffs (in German) at how many women I’ve slept with. He assumes I don’t understand.
He speaks six languages but doesn’t expect me to understand any of them.
So, I hit the rocks and capsize. I had a fair warning.
We crammed a five-year, gay love affair into four days. It’s all I can expect. It’s all I know. The beautiful man is gone and I am left with beautiful pictures… and another story to write.
Hudson, where I have been spending the majority of my time, is a small town crammed with big personalities. The older gay men are sour and drunk. The ancient art dealer is ‘scary’, the realtor is a ‘bitch’ the antiques sales man has nowhere else to run… run out of New York City. I am familiar with men like this and on the whole sympathetic. These men are too old and too single to find someone to marry or buy into the modern gay aspiration of family, children and heteronormativity. It is particularly sad because they fought hard for others to enjoy freedom and equality but now stand on the outside of gay life.
Equality came to late for many of these men. I understand their bitterness.
Someone asked me at dinner what I thought of Hudson. Well, I looked at him for a second. “It’s not what you think.” I explained my problem. There are a large number of successful women in their late forties and fifties on the hunt for appropriate men. I have never felt so assailed by straight women as I do in Hudson.
It is an almost daily occurrence: coming out to some disappointed women who wants to fuck me. One woman, when she found out I was queer… was utterly infuriated. “You should wear a sign on your head.” She spat. For those of you who don’t know… queer men have to come out a lot, some times everyday, throughout their lives. Coming out is NOT a one shot deal unless you’re famous.
Carolyn Roumeguere is tall and French. She has a broad face, flowing hair and wears cowboy boots and mini skirts… even in mid winter. Raised in Africa, Carolyn is a local Amazonian socialite. Ostensibly a jewelry designer she lives in a converted barn crammed with bad African art.
I met Carolyn at the local bakery. She was making a huge racket about something or other, inviting comment. She looked coquettishly at me and asked if I were English when she heard me ordering coffee. Within three minutes she was sobbing on my shoulder about the death of her husband and how incredibly, indescribably difficult her life was since his death. She bemoaned how hard she worked to raise their three children, to build her home and guest house. Her life as a widow seemed intolerable. I fully conceded that her life must be horrible and held her in my arms.
She took my number, invited me to her house that very afternoon and went on her way. I didn’t go to her house. I resisted her invitations for a week or so. After a week, I thought, she would have googled me and found out everything she needed to know to make a decision about whether she wanted to get more involved.
Finally, I accepted her invitation. The night of the dinner my car died. I had a friend drop me off at Carolyn’s house.
From the moment I entered the house I knew I was in the wrong place. The party was ghastly, the food unpalatable, the ten guests a bunch of humorless wax works. I sat between an ex magazine editor recently jettisoned (publicly and cruelly) by her misogynistic publisher and a Russian oligarch’s wife.
The Russian was scouting for a liberal art school for her daughter. She was imperious as only the Russians can be. As it turned out (a little Internet sleuthing) she is very close to President Putin. She told us that Putin ‘laughs at America’ and ‘sneers at black Obama’.
Opposite, sat a thin, elderly woman whose pinched, wrinkled face peered at me curiously as she sucked on the over cooked salmon. She claimed to be a film financier, she told elaborate independent film stories. She sat with her ruddy, land owning boyfriend. When she couldn’t remember one of her dull stories she would prod her farmer consort to furnish details that slipped her mind.
Beside the elderly film financier sat a slack-jawed, floppy haired English public school boy called James Holland (well into his fifties) who claimed loudly that he was in love with Diandra Douglas. James told stories about Diandra and how funny it was that they took drugs before visiting Diandra’s addict son in prison. I have no idea if his claims were true. He’s the sort of Englishman abroad who paints a more colorful picture than the sepia life he actually lives. He grilled me about my schooling. I told him that I went to an unknown hippy school in Dorset. “Bryanston?” He barked. The salmon swam back up my throat on a river of piquant Hollandaise.
The louche forty-five year old woman to the left of the editor draped over the back of her chair. Her un-washed… matted hair, her velveteen pant suit smelling of sweat and vodka. She shared unsolicited details of her upcoming wedding to a wild Italian called Giancarlo. The plans included tequila shots, narcotics, Ayahuasca and an orgy. Giancarlo is the film making partner of Tao Ruspoli the Italian aristocrat formerly married to Olivia Wilde. Miss Louche couldn’t understand why I would want to give up drinking… or drugs. Perhaps, I thought, because I don’t want to look like you.
There were other less memorable men around the table… one being Carolyn’s current beau. Then, incongruously… a young, boy/man with huge arms, thighs and a brooding disposition. The boy sat protectively by Carolyn. I wondered if this hunk was her son? It turns out that this boy is just one of Carolyn’s many sexual conquests. The 20-year-old son of her best friend who predatory Carolyn had seduced whilst he was a sculpture major at Bard College.
I applauded Carolyn’s sexual tenacity, yet, for the first time, after hearing about the seduction of the boy, I felt rather sorry for her. Years of going to sex addict meetings I concluded that she and I have many… similarities. A string of sexual encounters with inappropriate local men have led her nowhere. She is Powerless over her addiction and her life is Unmanageable.
Carolyn’s precocious son sat in another room. A deeply unhappy looking child. This sullen, perilously over weight pre-teen, demanded our adult attention by hitting things with a measuring tape. He told us loudly some scientific fact he had researched on the Internet and how he knew more than his teachers. I quietly asked the ex-editor if the son has Asperger syndrome. She looked sadly at the child, “She won’t take him to a therapist.” she confided. A bad mother never wants to take her child to a therapist knowing that is it she and not the child that will have to do the hard work it takes to make a child well again.
I wanted to call a cab but the ex-editor very kindly offered to drive me home.
On our way to Hudson I told her how I’d met Carolyn and how ghastly I thought both she, her friends and the party. I told her Carolyn had cried on my shoulder in the bakery. She laughed, she told me that Carolyn and her husband had been separated for years… they weren’t even married… that he was married to someone else with whom he had a child.
“So, she uses her husband’s death as a lure? For sympathy?” I asked. She smiled and refused to answer.
Meanwhile, in Hudson, a straight rich South American man says my films would be ‘so much better’ if they were about straight people. Lordy, I hadn’t heard that sort of crap for a long time. I gently chided him, how insulting he was being. What a prick! I asked him if he thought white people playing Latin roles might make films better too? He shuts the fuck up.
This is a picture of a beautiful art party at the Basilica.
Finally, it is impossible not to mention the continuing race atrocity here in the USA after the shooting deaths of 8 black people in a Charleston church during an evening prayer meeting. A young, blond white boy with racist and apartheid sympathies takes his gun and kills innocent black people. There is an outpouring of grief from my white friends on Facebook. Yet, few of them address their own racism. They say, the kid who pulled the trigger looks like the devil. The problem is, this kid did not look like he came from hell, on the contrary… he just looks like any ordinary white boy. It is his ordinariness that is shocking. It is his stated racist intention that is shocking. But what is more shocking are all the white folk who cannot bring themselves to address his racism or their own. They say. There are no words. Yes, there are words. Words used by the right include: accident, mistake, loner. Words like, they deserved what they got because they wouldn’t have guns in their church. He is just another entitled white boy who hates black people because he can. Look at the haunted expressions of prescription drug addicted teens who commit these atrocities. A parade of white American faces on the TV who refuse to address their own racism. Whilst the black victims family say words like, forgive, reconciliation and prayer. It isn’t good enough to tell everyone else that they are racist without owning up to the racism that affects my own psyche. Pervasive and insidious racism that gets worse every year I live in the USA. To my gay friends I say this: Ask yourself… How many black friends do I have? How many gay men say… I don’t sleep with black men because I’m just not into them, they don’t turn me on. That, I’m afraid, is racist. We refuse to value black lives. Until we address our own racism these problems will not go away. Ask gay black people or gay people of color if they encounter racism in gay bars and clubs and they will tell you horrible stories. If you care about the lives of black people before they are murdered make yourself heard. Reach out. #blacklivesmatter
While few of us would think to ridicule Jews for still harboring less than warm feelings for Germans some 70 years after the liberation of the concentration camps—we would understand the lack of trust, the wariness, even the anger—we apparently find it hard to understand the same historically embedded logic of black trepidation and contempt for law enforcement in the USA.
Revealed, these past weeks, for the world to see: America’s racist underbelly. News stories narrated by dumb white folk, binging unashamedly on their justified racism. The condescending white news anchor asks a black man to explain his fear of the police… then scoffs at his reply. Others crudely condemn the dead black men “He was no angel.” “His parents were known to the police.” “He was resisting arrest.” The same ‘news’ shows use the millions of crowd sourced dollars raised for the white murderer as proof, as if any were needed, that Darren Wilson and men like him are: “Innocent until proven guilty.” “The grand jury proved there was no case to answer.” “Let him get on with his life.”
The KKK leave cruel and hateful messages wherever they can all over social media, proudly letting the world know: ‘a good nigger is a dead nigger’. Black men doubly assassinated, in life and death… white supremacists proudly spew vitriol over the bodies of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner.
They demand, “This isn’t about race.” “Why do you bring race into this?”
White folk have no incentive to let go of their white power, their white privilege, their sense of superiority… their entitlement. White people remind you with their slippery smiles that slavery was abolished in 1865. “It’s up to the blacks to help themselves.” “If we weren’t killing them, they’d be killing each other.” “They have the same opportunities as everyone else.”
Every Mexican, working illegally in California, is a slave. White people loathe manual labor. White people love slaves. Everybody needs a slave in SoCal. The fruit growers would have nobody to harvest fruit without Mexican slaves. Slaves stand outside Home Depot offering themselves for hard labor. Mexican slaves mow my lawn, scrub my hot tub. Slaves clear brush in the Santa Monica Mountains under the midday sun.
Serried ranks of plump Mexican women smelling of disinfectant and carbolic soap clean house, serve slim, white wives their afternoon mint tea. There are thousands of them! Thousands of enslaved, undocumented maids.
Have you ever seen a white person use a mop, hand wash dishes or polish a crystal glass? Have you ever watched a white person try removing a stain from a carpet? Have you noticed how inept white people are? They don’t know how to look after their own stuff.
“Do you know how to remove a stain from a carpet? When your dog pees on your rug?”
He shrugs, “Mexican people know how to do that. I don’t need to know.”
Those Mexican slave women used to be black slave women.
Last week President Obama liberated 5 million slaves by giving them the opportunity to ‘come out of the shadows’. Watch the white elected officials in Congress and the Senate balk. Their fat, pink cheeks huffing and puffing indignantly at the partial liberation of more slaves.
Without slaves the USA ceases to function. The USA is addicted to slavery. The USA was built on hard work… the hard work of unpaid black slaves. Conveniently written out of white history. California’s false economy is carried on the backs of Mexican slaves.
When the black slaves were freed the white folk wanted them to go back to Africa. “The slaves are free… free to go home.”
Those black folk who thought they were equal to white folk were outlawed, harassed. If they had entrepreneurial ambitions they were made to think again. When they opened stores on main street, their stores were looted by white folk whilst the police watched… and did nothing.
There was no opportunity given to black people which could not be taken away.
A black face reminds America’s of its not so distant violent racist past (black neighborhoods were being bombed and burned in Boston and Chicago by white police as recently as 1970). To liberal white people a black face remains a shameful embarrassment: liberals never did enough for black people. Liberals turned from the thorny problem of race to an easy fix: marriage equality.
White people who claim to hate racism are privately racist. Amy Pascal and Scott Rudin at Sony Pictures are revealed to be private racists… when this is discovered from hacked emails they call Jesses Jackson so assuage their guilt. They publicly call prominent black people to apologize for being private racists… but they merely confirm what we already know: white liberals say one thing then do another when they think they can’t be seen or heard.
For the dogged racists a black face reminds them of an unfinished problem… a problem they tackle every 18 hours when another black man is murdered by the police. Shortly after the shots are fired, the body transported to the morgue… the excuses begin, the character of the dead black man maligned, the Grand Jury is called and the murder justified… forgotten.
Did it seem this time… after Eric Garner’s Grand Jury refused to indict… fewer people agreed with the decision… or made excuses for the police? Was it my imagination that after the whole world watched the video of Eric Garner’s murder a million times on TV and the internet that people who might have before… did not want to forget. In fact they cared a great deal for murdered Eric, his dignified widow and their forgiving daughters.
When the people watch the unnecessary take down and murder of Eric Garner for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes on the streets on New York they are forced to acknowledge 350 years of racism: state sanctioned torture, murder, rape, abuse, theft…
The people (all ethnicities) began to drag themselves out of apathy and onto the same streets. The people saw a black man bullied to death and none of the usual excuses from the police or the mayor or the kkk were very convincing. The people saw Eric Garner bullied and murdered by the police in a country where the police are meant to protect the people from bullies and murderers!
Fear underpins the systematic oppression of America’s black minority.
This week people understood that the criminal justice system isn’t broken, that police brutality, secret and corrupt grand juries, the deliberate disenfranchising of black men and the unreported/undocumented incidence of murder by police force… is not evidence of a broken system but the system functioning exactly the way it was designed.
Did you know that once convicted, in many states (11 southern states) a felon is never allowed to vote again… ever. Why don’t you know that? Most people don’t. When a black man is convicted of a felony in 11 southern states he is never allowed to vote again. He is excluded from the democratic process. How many black felons did you tell me presently reside in jail and prison? How many of them are working for free (cotton picking, uniform stitching) in American jails and prisons?
America’s untreated racist wound stinks like Michael Brown’s uncovered, bloated corpse on a humid Ferguson street… and no amount of Fox News deodorant will take away the stench.
Did you know, that until modest changes were made to the selection process, people of color were excluded from the Grand Jury? Those modest and unenforceable protocol changes were made within the last few years.
They say, the secretive Grand Jury was originally conceived to weed out malicious prosecutions. That’s just a big fat lie. The Grand Jury is now as it always was… a secret court used by the police and police friendly prosecutors to help crooked cops out of difficult situations so they can continue waging war against the black minority.
The cop’s unwritten law of the street: all black faces are fair game.
The Grand Jury is unknown anywhere else in the world. It works so effectively because there’s no one in the room defending the victim. In the case of Darren Wilson he was presented as the victim by the prosecutor rather than Michael Brown and this wholly spurious narrative persists.
Criticize racists and the police at your peril.
The police say they have been ‘thrown under a bus’ by Bill de Blasio, Mayor of NYC because Mayor de Blasio told the world he advised his black son Dante: should he ever have occasion to be stopped by the police, Dante should be very polite, not reach for his cell phone or make any other sudden movement. Dante should assume, like all black young men stopped by the police, that at any moment the police may kill him.
The following day white, bull necked cops feign indignation. They know they’ve been rumbled, their credibility smashed to pieces. They’ll have to do what bullies hate having to do: next time they’ll have to think twice.
Bill de Blasio has been warned by the police union not to attend Police funerals killed in the line of duty. The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association posted a link on its website telling members not to let de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito “insult their sacrifice” should they be killed. The union posted a “Don’t Insult My Sacrifice” waiver officers can sign requesting the two politicians not attend their funerals due to their “consistent refusal to show police officers the support and respect they deserve.”
Good cop? Bad cop?
Are there any good cops? There’s no incentive to be a good cop. The good guys are weeded out. It’s a tough time to be a good cop. Crime figures diminishing, the police have to justify their huge organization, their overtime. They say policing is a dangerous job. How dangerous? Policemen are not all killed by criminals, 30% are killed in road traffic accidents… the police are too arrogant to wear seat belts.
Whilst men like Eric are being harassed and murdered on the streets of New York for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes by police thugs, a couple of miles away in another part of the same city the most audacious crimes this century go unpunished. Wall Street steals a world of wealth and gets away with it. They say white-collar crime is too sophisticated for most regular cops to grasp.
The cops protect the rich, protect the 1%… as it turns out they’re protecting them from us… from you and me.
Cops are used to raise revenue for local government, make politically motivated arrests, used by the rich to silence and poleax their enemies. Cops illegally hold undocumented workers without opportunity to post bail then deport them after lengthy stays in private jails. I’ve met undocumented workers who were introduced to their mule (a mule illegally smuggles an undocumented worker back into the USA) by the same border patrol guy who originally arrested and deported them.
The cops take their cut, trafficking slaves.
The conspiracy theorists I scoffed at 10 years ago… well, they got it right.
The jails are kept artificially full to justify more cops. The artificial wars on drugs and terror are in fact… a war on us.
There is a profound connection between criminality abroad and criminality at home. The so-called “war on terror” and military aggression abroad are linked to repression within the United States. The drive by the American ruling class to build up the infrastructure of a police state is in preparation for the inevitable confrontation with the working class. This is what lies behind the unprecedented levels of domestic spying, the assault on basic democratic rights, the CIA’s trampling on legality and the Constitution, the militarization of law enforcement and the ongoing police rampage against working class youth.
The Hollywood street performer shot in the head by the police, the Down’s syndrome kid choked to death by the police, the homeless woman repeatedly punched in the head by the police, the deaf guy trying to sign tasered by the police, the countless murders committed by the police remain uncounted.
A pattern emerges, you better be a healthy, able-bodied white male to survive the streets of now USA. You better not be black or disabled or deaf or performing or homeless. You better blend in, become invisible, forget any aspirations you might have to be extraordinary.
White Americans may protest that our racial problems are not like South Africa’s. No, but the United States incarcerated a higher proportion of blacks than apartheid South Africa did. In America, the black-white wealth gap today is greater than it was in South Africa in 1970 at the peak of apartheid.
America: it is still a nation of slaves and slave owners. The system that perpetuates this must be deconstructed and if you are white that deconstruction starts with you… asking yourself this question: am I willing to give up my slaves? My white power? My white privilege? My unfair advantages? Am I willing to acknowledge that implicitly and explicitly I colluded with the historical suppression, bullying, false imprisonment and murder of a minority?
My gay friends believe that winning human rights for black people will be as polite as winning human rights for gay people. They think it’s THE SAME.
There must have been a moment in 1945 after the American’s liberated the concentration camps, when the German people were forced by the allied forces to watch news reels of what was found there… there must have been a moment when the German people collectively owned up. A moment when they realized what they had done. I’m waiting for white people in the USA to own their part, their collusion with a system that murders, brutalized and demeans a minority… then blames them when they complain.
It never really occurred to me until yesterday that the mass murder and incarceration of black men in the USA is deliberate, systemic, entrenched and unlikely to change until white men learn to share their power.
I bought my first house when I was 20 years old. Remember that cottage? 13 Island Wall, Whitstable. 15 years later I sold it and bought Peter Cushing’s house and the house beside it. 2 and 3 Seaway Cottages, Wavecrest. That was a pretty address. I sold them both and moved to California. 2828 Hume Road, Malibu. Now, it’s time to head east. It’s Time.
I sold my house. Goodbye Malibu. I hope the new owners are happy here. It has been quite a ride up (and down) this mountain… literally and figuratively. This is where I buried my dog and this is where I will leave her. This is where the twins lived, this is the location of many spectacular parties, lovers and probably the worst decision I made in my life… to reply to Jake. But there you go, it’s sold now. The furniture has been packed, the art wrapped and stowed in boxes. I am relieved.
I am only a few months away from having the gagging order lifted so I get to tell my side of the story… how another rich man used the police and the prosecutor to hide the truth.