Catapult is a platform founded in 2015 by Elizabeth Koch, with the mission of publishing “stories that celebrate life…Stories that reveal all the layers—the sinews and hairy knuckles, the iron and meat of history and influence…stories that land us squarely, concretely, in someone else’s shoes.”
My first essay for the platform was a chance to unpack my distinctly non-linear career path, to contextualize sex work as labor, and to outline how my stint as a traveling salesman has fueled my creativity.
Having serpentined through many art/finance divides, I find that this unlikely gig sustains my writing practice in ways large and small. I love traveling through my territory, and the places and spaces it affords for writing: Amtrak and commuter rail cars, airplanes, small-town coffeehouses, anonymous motels. I feel something akin to Maya Angelou, who said of writing in hotels, “I go into the room and I feel as if all my beliefs are suspended. I value the perspective on my environment I’ve gained from getting to know the 400-mile radius around me.”
“You’ve Got Male” is a reflection on my earliest interactions with the internet (dating back to 1996), and chronicles the rise and demise of our online sexual freedom, from the wild frontier of the Naughts to the passage of SESTA/FOSTA, legislation that encodes a moral panic about trafficking innocents (innocence?). It appears in the visual compendium/collection of critical essays Matt Keegan: 1996 from Inventory Press.
We were pioneers in the vast unknown: we embarked to the wheezy chimes of the blippy modem, and were greeted on arrival by the upbeat intonations of an anonymous vocal actor, so full of promise: “Welcome! You’ve Got Mail!” AOL’s software suite gave newbies like me access to the world’s largest “walled garden” browsing environment—a controlled, user-friendly platform offering email, file storage, content (games, news, and gossip), and interactive features such as instant messaging and chat rooms. AOL rapidly became the largest internet service provider in the country, with more subscribers than the next largest fifteen ISPs combined. At its peak, AOL had over thirty million members.
Many thanks to Matt Keegan for including me in this momentous work, and to Claire Lehmann for the thoughtful edit. The book release is in October 2020 and is now available to pre-order here.
“Raunch Daddy,” is story #2 from Worker Names, and I read it in its entirety for ASMQ. It’s epistolary in sections, with diary entries and chat room exchanges. Nick’s been kicked out by his lover for being ’emotionally unavailable’ and has lost his job in the recession. He sublets a studio around the corner from his now ex. Facing uncertainty and loneliness, he cruises AOL chat rooms on a pirated WIFI signal. He soon finds that there are men in the chat rooms eager to pay for his company, and embarks on a career as an escort. His friend Dean has also entered into sex work—after getting kicked out of nightlife by the Giuliani administration—and acts as his mentor. Earnest Nick is transformed by his encounters with the titular character, a Mexican novelist with a nose for pleasure & tragedy.
Thanks to Leah at Mischief Media for the production expertise. ***Hello adult content***
I answered a call for “essays about the moments you saw yourself in pop culture” from Toronto’s Daily Xtra and my essay was accepted. It’s a tribute to Debbie Harry, and a diss on the film it served as theme. it chronicles the effects of hearing Blondie’s genre-crashing track “Call Me” on me at 16. #RepesentationMatters
I’d taken the lyrics as a sort of instruction manual in the absence of any other. Its beat, repetition, sultry coaxing, and charged inferences accompanied me as I navigated longing.
Thanks to Natalie Wee for the prompt, and to Natalie and Rachel Giese, Director of Editorial, for the thoughtful and thought-provoking edit.
Today’s the release of Volume 2 of the Anthology Hashtag Queer. My short story“Raunch Daddy” appears . Purchase print and kindle editions at the link. Loosely based on sex work experiences, the character “Dean” is based on the late Dean Johnson.
“I think I’m in love with Benito,” Nick confessed over a beer.
“Who’s Benito?” asked Dean.
“You set me up with him. The Mexican writer in the West Village?”
“Oh, raunch daddy,” Dean said with laughter. “You can’t go falling in love with your johns. You’ll go out of business!”
NewTown Writers hosted this reading at the Center on Addison. Bringing New York in the 80’s flavor to Chicago:
He’d been crossing through the Ramble by night for years, as Smart lived on the East Side and he lived on the West. He navigated its paths by moonlight, nodding to a few familiar huddles of men. Sometimes ambling through its shabby splendor was the only way to shake off Smart’s fixated gaze.
I’ve been attending NewTown Writers workshops in Chicago. NewTown has been actively workshopping and publishing since 1982. “Choke a Horse,” a short story based on an earlier short memoir piece of the same title appears in this year’s anthology, Off the Rocks #21 :
“What’s the charge?” Nick demanded as the cop handcuffed him.
“Indecent exposure,” the cop replied.
“Nothing was exposed until you came along with your flashlights.”
Thanks to Bruce Kamsler for facilitating workshops and Robert Klein Engler for the diligent edit and fine cover art.
The creators of Velvet Collar, a comic book series which examines the lives of male sex workers and the impact of the rentboy raid, are sex worker Bryan Knight and queer comic artist Dave Davenport. I interviewed Bryan in person and Dave by email for Tits and Sass.
Bryan’s describes his concept:
“..all five characters are based on workers or porn performers, active or formerly active. I wanted the characters to be inspired by real people and stories. Several are personal friends; they’ve signed waivers, legally allowing me to use their likenesses and names, although I stick with their performer names.”
Thanks to Caty and Josephine at T&S for the thoughtful edit.