“Choke a Horse” is a vignette which appears in Prose & Lore, Issue 3, published in January 2014. Available here.
This essay was prompted by the editor, Arielle Greenberg, who asked writers to reflect on “how looking at the world through the lens of an alternative sexual orientation influences the modes and strategies with which we approach our creative work.” It was a pain to write about writing, but a pleasure to publish something so seriously dirty. Super thanks to Jodi Sh Doff for being my reader.
ImageOut Write is the literary companion journal to the annual ImageOut Film Festival of Rochester, NY. “Color Me Your Color Baby” appears on p. 20. of Volume 3: Personal Pronouns, edited by Brad Craddock. It’s an appreciation of Blondie.
I don’t realize this at the time, because as a dissociative teen boy, I realize very little of consequence. I experienced a major shift in consciousness, brought on by this pop song–a very good pop song, but still. I’ll circle back to this moment, that ecstasy in the back seat of that spacious and smooth-rolling vehicle, over and again, for decades. The longing this song instilled in me has bent the trajectory of my existence. It was the song and its connection to the movie, but not the movie itself, remember: I only took the time to watch Paul Schrader’s conflicted, uneven film very recently, on Netflix. At sixteen, I had to supply my own paramount pictures. I never did summon the courage to buy the record, or embrace the band as a fan. Instead I internalized it; “Call Me” became not so much an anthem but a tic, an obsession, like grinding your teeth, or twitching. That driving beat was my adrenaline response; those crashing guitars pulsed at my temples as I stared down at my changing body in the shower, as I dodged the enforcers, as I wandered through suburban nights.
The Roundup is a digital zine edited by Edmund Jessup. This story appeared in The Pride Issue, June 2014, p. 36. For years, I sent out Tramporium Reports to a select group of friends. They were sexual travelogues written as reports to a government agency overseeing the homosexual ecosystem by a field agent.
Who knows, there may be one more subject out there before I fly back across the desert and the plains and the mountain ranges and the rivers, hurtling towards the East, hastening the winter dark. There’s still some charge in my batteries, still some arrows in my sheath, still some nexus of instinct and analysis and intuition to tease out through the darkness. It’s live and I am here, less than thirty feet away, and we are the star array over the desert night, and these are our time-lapse star trails.”
This central family icon, the 25¢ photo booth picture, marks a confluence of currents in mid-century American life: the rise of automation; the golden age of the Hollywood studio system; and the advent of a postwar middle class, availing of leisure and distraction at a theme park. To my impressionable mind, it was central to the accumulated mythos of my maternal clan. Their operatic melodrama, Grandma Helen’s sequined gowns, her dimpled beauty queen past, her late-life shift to nightclub hostess, the Sicilian passion, the call of the sea — all presided over by the spectral smile of the tragic platinum starlet.
This piece is cited in the upcoming (2016) documentary What Ever Happened to Norma Jeane? directed by Ian Ayres.
Dominick Reading for Filth is an illustrated chapbook with transcripts from live readings, published September 2013. Available in the US, UK and Europe from CreateSpace at the link.
From: “R U Available?” p. 59:
I’m willing to put it all out there, to own it, to be my whole self. I’m able to love this person with this story, today. In fact, I’m ready to love all the people who figure into this story: earnest President Obama, the feckless Bush administration, the angry teabagger mob, my dead sugar daddy, Dean Johnson, the Republican Undertaker, Arpad Miklos, the obese fisting bottom, the Caribbean cock gobbler, diligent, focused HedMaster, that hot mess from New Jersey, Gabriel, his Brazilian dentist, slutty Christian, Emo Boy, and the inscrutable Nurse Freddy. May you be honest, may your teeth be straight and may you love, care for and comfort everyone in your lives.
So to the question: “R U available?” The answer is: a little more each day.
I can’t remember what combination of factors made me desperate enough to tie G to one of his throne-like Gothic Revival chairs, with peacock blue flocked velvet upholstery. I used his colorful neckties, from Turnbull and Asser, the venerable bespoke tailor in Germyn Street, London, to bind his wrists to the hand-carved wooden arms, and his ankles to the gilt legs. The arms had upholstered sections too, one now stained with blood. Something about seeing my aristocratic British colonizer tied to his throne with his own silk soothed my emotional disorder.
After his addiction and heartbreak in the face of my cruelty put the decorator in a bronze urn, I embarked on my thirties with a nice fat inheritance. My alcoholic Sugar Daddy was dead, and I was free to live on my own terms. But it turns out that I’d been getting high for so long, just to put up with the drunken old man, that I’d cultivated addictions of my own. I graduated from cocktail companion to roached-out stoner to dope sniffer within a year. I sensed my timeline winding down, and would occasionally check my palms for stigmata.
When I turned thirty-four, I found that I wasn’t dead, just really impaired and more susceptible than ever to fractured religious destruction myths. I could no longer count on myself or the decorator or his dwindling money for answers – or questions, for that matter. I fashioned my own nails out of pure white powder, the purest you could find in New York, procured by a South American boyfriend. I drove them into my head instead of my hands.
At one point as I’m walking along the seafront in Barceloneta, a young boy points at me and says “Mira Papi, un pirata!” and his father calmly responds “Si, es un pirata.” On the eve of my birthday, I go to a nightclub, dance all night with cute Catalan boys, and then go home with one, a skinny kid with a Mohawk named Ferran. We have a hushed romp in his room- he has two roommates, one on either side of him, and they both have to get up early for work. I awake to the three of them having breakfast at the small kitchen table. Ferran’s roommates are identical twins. One works for the phone company and the other works for the sanitation department, and they are both dressed in their respective uniforms. It’s the morning of my fortieth birthday, I’m a Gemini, and I’m having coffee with impossibly sexy blue-collar Catalan identical twin brothers.
“I never heard from Cherry again, nor did I ever seek him out. All these years later, I like to picture Cherry having really raucous and funny sex, with boys who deserve him, with a wide smile replacing that tight grimace. I’d like Cherry to know that under other circumstances, I’d have paid him for a taste of his sweet heaven. So here’s to Cherry, my star pupil and my favorite sweet pulpy tangy juicy little drupe.”
“…offers exactly what the title advertises.” – Captain Scorpio