DIARY OF A LATE BLOOMER

Learning life lessons. The hard way.

 

May 8th, 2014

I have a candy dish on my desk at work.

This was something I initiated when I first started at my job years ago. It would, I thought at the time, encourage my co-workers to feign interest in me for at least as long as it took them to plunge their sticky hands into the bowl and snatch a Snickers bar.

And indeed, it worked. People from all over the floor stopped by to pretend to ask about my day, to tell me their problems in excruciating detail, and to generally stick around just long enough to assuage their guilt at using me for chocolate. I developed relationships – albeit ones predicated on giving people free shit – that I might not have otherwise.

But then, something began to happen.

People would come in to grab “just a taste”, as they would whisper when I was on the phone, and then, when I looked away to Purell the receiver or polish an award, they’d grab three more “tastes”.

They’d announce that they had been sent by a laundry list of people who were having chocolate emergencies, and would scoop up enough candy bars to require an insulin pump.

And I would come back from lunch to find the bowl – which had just been filled up that morning – empty. Save for some weird streaks apparently left by someone attempting to lick it.

Okay, maybe I’m just being petty. After all, isn’t human interaction what we all crave? Aren’t emotional bonds and friendships what life is all about? Aren’t those gifts that more than offset the cost of some stupid Milky Ways and Butterfingers?

And really, what is a moment where a co-worker tells you about her uterine cancer worth? How can you assess a “value” to someone sharing the story of her boyfriend stealing all her stuff and leaving town? What possible “price tag” could you assign to someone who texts you the photo of the girl they just hooked up with on Tinder and then comes in to give you, pardon the pun, the blow by blow?

I’m gonna say $29.95.

So that’s $89.85. This candy costs me about $250 a year.

The rest of these greedy bastards better pay up.

March 28, 2014

March 28th, 2014

What song do you want played at your funeral?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I hope it’s not an omen. I mean, I eat right, work out, and play tennis. (Yes, I’m sporty now. Shut up.) But you never know. And I’d like to be prepared. I mean, everyone will naturally be distraught and devastated, and I don’t want them screwing this up.

So I started asking people for ideas.

My best friend suggested Highway to Hell, which I thought was a little rude. If anybody’s in the carpool lane or selling oranges on the offramp, it’s him.

One of my employees recommended Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead. I’m sure he was kidding, and for the moment he still has a job.

And then, last night, I was re-watching an episode of Smash, the TV series from last year about the making of a Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe.  And Katharine MacPhee sang the finale number from the show (after Monroe dies), called Don’t Forget Me.

THIS, people, is a funeral song. It will yank the tears right out of your unsuspecting ducts. And it has a BIG finish. This is no plaintive, molasses-slow Wind Beneath My Wings ballad. It’s an 11-o’clock number that positively screams standing ovation.

And really, don’t you want people to stand, clapping and whistling, when you’re dead?

Wait.

March 17, 2014

March 17th, 2014

At 6:25 a.m. this morning, I was on the elliptical machine in our guest room, minding my own business, when suddenly, I appeared to be riding a bike on a Tilt-a-Whirl.

This was immediately followed by the thought everyone has during an earthquake: “Am I about to die, or can I finish this?” Followed immediately by: “Thank God I’m not sitting on the toilet, because, I mean, really.”

As the morning wore on, friends from around the country began to text and send Facebook messages.

“Are you okay?”

“Oh my God, is your house still standing?”

“That must have been soooo frightening.”

“I’d be scared shitless right now.”

I sighed. It was a 4.4. Yeah, it was a shock, for about ten seconds. Then, you walk around the house, straighten a few picture frames, and go back to working your glutes.

At first, I blamed the media for whipping this minor earthquake into a media event, terrifying out-of-towners with nightmarish notions of crumpled buildings and flattened cars.

And then, I realized the truth: those friends and family in the Midwest and east weren’t traumatized. They were enjoying a well-deserved moment of revenge, a chance to rub our sun-kissed noses in our perfect California weather. It was, plain and simple, a chance to even the score.

But that’s ok. We here in LA understand your petty, small-minded behavior. And we forgive you. After all, 19 feet of snow in one winter will do that to a person.

March 11th

March 11th, 2014

I work at a big TV network, which, as you can imagine, is a nonstop orgy of glitz.

Yesterday, for example, I was walking past a friend’s office when she called me in. She and two other women were whispering urgently. Maybe they’re trying to decide who to invite to the Emmys this year, I thought. After all, isn’t that why we work in such a sophisticated, glamorous business?

“How may I provide excellent service?” I asked.

“As the token  ‘mo,” my friend said to me, referring to the fact that I am, weirdly, the only gay guy in the department, “it is incumbent upon you to do something about the straight guys around here. They dress like they’re attending a monster truck rally.”

I sighed. It was true. The men in this department tended to dress as if they were fleeing a burning hotel at 3 a.m.

“What do you want me to do about it?” I replied. “I try to serve as a model of good taste. I can’t exactly ram it down their throats.” (I expected one of them to thank me for teeing up that line, but nothing.)

“You need to hold a seminar.”

Here, then, is my four point tutorial on DRESSING FOR SUCCESSING.

1)  Dockers should only be the province of men for whom said waterfront pier provides employment.

2)  Shower sandals are considered footwear only by those attired in bath sheets.

3)  When a shirt is marked down 80%, all those people who didn’t buy it are trying to tell you something.

4)  If you believe that your work apparel should express itself with clever phrases and puns, remember that you’re barely interesting enough yourself; pretty much no one wants to hear from your clothes.

March 7, 2014

March 7th, 2014

Whoever the producer is for Idina Menzel’s new show on Broadway, I would like to marry him. Or her. I’ll swing either way.

March 7th, 2014

March 7th, 2014

So we’re at brunch the other day with our friends Nicole and Joe. A nice brunch. A hotel brunch. With Blueberry/maple sausage. Lobster pot pie. Semi non-swill champagne in the bottomless mimosas.

And Nicole says to the waiter: “My compliments to the chef on the Fruit Loops.”

March 6, 2014

March 7th, 2014

Contrary to reports, I am not dead. Although there is the occasional day when I wish I was. Good times.

But I’m back, and I’m gonna begin posting some shorter entries so at I can keep the new content flowing on a much more regular basis. So you’ll have no reason not to visit multiple times a week.

Think of it as Facebook, without the pictures of food and invitations to play Farmville.

True Love Pees on Your Rose Bushes

October 8th, 2013

A friend of mine, who we’ll call Storm (because who doesn‘t enjoy a good 80’s soap opera name) just posted on Facebook that he had received a nasty note from a friend of his. Among other things, this friend insulted the fact that Storm was single and had no significant other – only pets.

Storm replied to this “friend” that it was World Animal Day and he was very happy with his pets, thank you very much, because they give unconditional love – unlike humans.

Okay, let’s break this down.

1)      Airing dirty laundry on social media is roughly akin to hair pulling, and should generally not be attempted if you are past an age that requires the liberal application of Clearasil.

2)      Reading about a fortysomething man’s Mean Girls Moment is nearly as appealing as a testicular cancer slideshow.

3)      No one should be named Storm.  

Oh, I forgot, I made that part up.

It is unclear to me why people choose to reveal these sorts of things for the world to see. How does one even get a note like this at our age? And why would you want people to know that you had friends who would do such a thing?

Personally, I can’t remember the last time someone wrote me a truly nasty missive, but I think it involved swingset hogging and I think it was written in crayon.

But, dirty laundry aspect aside…I must admit that I totally agree with Storm.

Pets are clearly superior to humans. Pets love you without reservation. Pets think you’re dreamy, and a size 2, and intellectually superior to everyone you work with. Pets don’t judge you for eating the whole tub of Cherry Garcia, or for sleeping with that guy on the second date like a whore. Pets are, it seems, far more evolved than people.

I don’t know about you, but I would like to appear that evolved. Evidently, I’m not, since I spent the first half of this blog post judging someone. So it seems clear that I’m gonna need a little help in order to appear more enlightened.

Maybe I should start wearing a bedazzled flea collar with my name spelled out in rhinestones. (This would make me extra popular at the Folsom Street Fair.)

And eating out of a bowl that says Never Trust a Smiling Cat.

Maybe I should forget that you just went to take the trash out and greet you like you’ve been gone for months.

And pee on the brand new rug to emphasize my displeasure with being left alone for the evening.

Maybe then, people will begin commenting on my incredibly enlightened state.

“I wasn’t sure how evolved you were until you started drooling on the sofa and farting in front of strangers,” they’ll say. “Then I knew. You are so loving and accepting.”

Yeah, that feels about right. Throw in a name change to something like “Buster” or “Sparky” and I’ll be good to go.

Perhaps you’d like to join me in the quest for spiritual mastery. Care for a Snausage?

My Little Brony

September 1st, 2013

Sometimes, a TV show is so well-executed, and so relevant to contemporary life, that it strikes an almost universal chord within the culture.

Take My Little Pony.

Once a 1980’s cartoon that served as medication for 7-year-old girls, the show has been rebooted in the 21st century,
and found a new audience – 30-year-old dudes.

Called “Bronies”, these men spend their time creating fan fiction, video mashups and pony art – tributes to this show that speaks to the triumphs and tragedies of modern life. In a candy-colored fantasy world.

One twentysomething – who writes a Pony blog that could be mistaken for a fifth grade girl’s locker door – admits that it might seem a bit odd that grown, and shockingly, single men would develop a passion for purple and yellow ponies with names like Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash. “I can’t believe I’m walking down the pink aisle at Toys R Us,” he commented.

I can understand his surprise, given that legally, he’s probably not allowed within 2000 feet of a schoolyard or toy store.

Yet, at the same time, isn’t it kind of great that these guys have found a creative outlet for emotions that might otherwise be expressed in ways that result in stints at Attica? Many of us have frustrations, repressed feelings and insecurities that we deal with in ways far less benign than proclaiming our love for Fluttershy, the female Pegasus.

As such, I’ve decided to embrace the Brony way of life. Of course, since I’m gay, the creative outlets will naturally take a slightly different course. I plan to begin creating Broadway fan fiction (superhero Stephen Sondheim swooping in to stop Andrew Lloyd Webber from doing another Phantom prequel), gay video mashups (Lady Gaga singing Nearer My God to Thee to the holy trinity, Judy/Barbra/Liza) and Prada art.

Wow, I’m already feeling more centered and whole. Thanks, my little bronies.

Lose Weight the Lady Pee Way

August 5th, 2013

How do you tell someone that drinking pee might not be the best diet plan?

A friend of mine takes what he refers to as “lady pee” to lose weight. He’s not actually drinking jars of urine stolen from a gynecologist’s office, but rather a secret and highly proprietary combination of female hormones that he just calls “lady pee”.

You’ll note that I said “he”. Yes, it’s a guy taking these hormones.

Now, a man taking female hormones to drop a few pounds is, as you might suspect, not a weight loss plan endorsed by all physicians. Or even some. I’m not sure where he gets this stuff, but I think it involves a Philippino website that sells fresh kidneys and blood pressure pills that cause you to wake up three days later in a Tijuana whorehouse.

But I have to say, it works. He’ll drop 17 pounds in 10 days. I’m not kidding.

The problem, of course, is that he has to stay on it or the weight comes right back. And staying on a diet of female hormones presents its own unique set of problems.

He recently began developing an impressive set of bazongas, for example. And frankly, this wasn’t helped by his tendency to favor snug-fitting polo shirts. I was unsure whether to refer him to the Spanx catalogue, or simply yell “Nice rack!” when he bounced by.

And then there’s the issue of his newly developed need to talk everything out. He used to be closed off and completely out of touch with his feelings. You know, a typical man. But suddenly, we’re on the phone for hours as he dissects what someone at work meant when they yelled, “Nice rack!”

And I could be wrong, but I think I saw a string hanging out the zipper of his jeans the other day, and a blue box labeled “Stayfree” on the floor of his car.

On the plus side, he’s way better groomed than he used to be. I mean, his hair has never looked better, and he smells like a meadow.

He also no longer asks me to “pull his finger”. And he’s way less argumentative than he used to be.

Basically, thanks to some estrogen and progesterone, he’s just a better version of himself now.

I wonder where I can get my hands on some lady pee.

The Tweet Heard ‘Round the Netherworld

July 28th, 2013

The Vatican just announced that the Pope will grant you time off in Purgatory if you follow him on Twitter.

No, I’m not kidding.

Apparently, he’s neck and neck with Kim Kardashian and determined to one-up her. So, if you follow him during the week of July 23-28 (World Youth DAY – don’t get me started on that oxymoron), reading his tweets will earn you “indulgences” – an afterlife prize usually granted only for arduous and time-consuming good works, like attending spiritual retreats, feeding the poor and helping the homeless.

But thanks to a suggestion by some intern in the Vatican’s social media department, lazy people like me can now lie on the couch, read the Pope’s tweets, and cut short our stay in the highly unpleasant netherworld. It’s like an insanely good Groupon offer for the hereafter.

But only for a limited time.

For those unfamiliar with how the Catholic religion works, Purgatory is essentially a connecting airport on the flight to Heaven, where your earthly transgressions are burned away with super unpleasant fire, and you are thus “cleansed” and good to go once you hit the Pearly Gates. “Indulgences” (a sort of time off for good behavior) shorten your sentence in Purgatory, which thus means a lot less screaming and gnashing of teeth. I’m not sure why you couldn’t be cleansed of your transgressions with a bubble bath, but hey, I don’t make the rules.

Apparently, however, the Pope does. I mean, he clearly has an “in” with God. After all, this whole “follow my tweets and get a reduced sentence” business is a major revision of the policies for indulgences and Purgatory, so he must have a very cozy relationship with the Almighty, who, one presumes, would have to sign off on such a dramatic rewrite of the rules. Because who’s gonna wanna bother with performing good works if you can read a few tweets on your smartphone and save yourself a whole mess of flesh burning?

I am not Catholic, myself. But I have to admit, I was already a bit intrigued with this religion. After all, these guys know how to throw a costume party. And seeing how buddy-buddy the Pope is with the Lord makes me think that I really should consider converting, since the Catholics obviously have the inside track.

Prior to this, Catholicism had always seemed like a lot of work: all that kneeling, confession every week, the Hail Mary’s. But now, it’s as simple as powering up your phone.

Speaking of which, I think the Pope’s voice should replace Siri on the iPhone. Because clearly, the Pope is somebody who really understands the concept of saving time.

Better Living Through Chemistry

July 25th, 2013

A good friend of mine just put her cat on Prozac.

And frankly, it’s about time.

Vanity has been on an emotional rollercoaster ever since she discovered that Prince, her live-in boyfriend of five years, has been stepping out with a Persian three doors down. Who knows when we would have even found out, had it not been for the telltale kitty litter stuck to his hind paws one afternoon when he returned from his “workout” (chasing pigeons in the backyard).

There are no clay surfaces in the back yard.

I keep trying to tell Vanity that it’s not like Prince can DO anything with this slut. I mean, he lost his scrotum in a savage attack by a crazed, knife-wielding veterinarian (who, tragically, was acquitted on a technicality). So there’s not a lot of “there” there, if you know what I mean.

But Vanity maintains that this kind of cheating – emotional cheating – is far worse than physical. Now, at night, instead of enjoying a few Humans Playing With String videos on MeowTube and maybe a little scratching post yoga, Prince sits at the window and stares at the neighbor’s house. Where that whore lives.

As far as I’m concerned, he’s always been a problem. He was arrested in 2011 for rodent bashing, after a drunken assault on an unsuspecting rat at the Third Street dumpster. Why would you wanna be with someone like that, I ask her? If he’d do that to some poor mouse, what makes you think you’re not next?

“But I love him,” she yowls.

I’m hoping that the Prozac levels her out and makes her see the folly of staying with someone who so blithely cats around. Sure, she’ll probably gain a few pounds from the anti-depressant, but she’ll finally stop playing that Adele album over and over and sobbing into her Friskies.

That gets old real fast.

2/5 of a Person

June 28th, 2013

During the dark days of slavery (or, as it is now more commonly referred to, the Paula Deen Good Times Hour), black people were often considered 3/5 of a human being. (This notion was later scientifically disproven by dividing the number of zeroes in Oprah Winfrey’s bank account by the number in the Klu Klux Klan’s.) Once America finally realized that Black people were a full 5/5 of a human being, it was, perhaps, only a matter of time before they came to the same conclusion about gay folk.

I just didn’t think it would be this soon.

Wednesday, the Supreme Court voted in favor of gay marriage rights, which essentially granted us gay folk that extra 2/5. And I don’t know about you, but I was simply not prepared to deal with having an extra 40% of myself.

I’m a handful as it is – anal, workaholic, a tad materialistic, pushy in a politely passive-aggressive way – you know, kinda crazy around the edges. So another 2/5 just seems like overkill.

Yet, much like when you have a genie wish granted, or Jesus owes you a favor, I feel somehow obligated to make the most of this extra piece of personhood.

I just have no idea where to start.

For guidance, I looked to see what Black people did with theirs. Generally speaking, they seem to have gone to college, redefined basketball, invented hip-hop, popularized junk in the trunk, and taken over running the free world.

That’s fairly impressive. Of course, that took 150 years or so. So maybe I don’t need to wow everyone with my 2/5 right off the bat. Maybe I can just start small.

I’m thinking one fifth should go to self-esteem. I did, after all, spend the better part of a decade trying to pray the gay away. Then another decade trying to drink it away. (Of the two, I’d recommend the latter.) Having the kind of self-esteem that comes from being allowed to participate in the same rituals as straight Americans will definitely be a good use of this 20%. It could even result in some future accomplishments, like a gay hip-hop album (Straight Outta Castro) or a new version of basketball where gay guys drink cocktails and describe the outfits they would wear to play it.

The final fifth could go to forgiveness – of the people who, at this moment, are mourning the loss of traditional marriage and fearing the devastation of the family unit. I may be forced to continue forgiving them for a while, since the evidence of social change doesn’t appear overnight. But what the heck, this is bonus personhood. I can afford it.

And eventually, they’ll see that, like the Suffrage movement, and the Civil Rights movement, when everyone thinks the sky is falling, it’s really just this amazing American land – filled with a rainbow of humanity that glistens with diversity – rising up to meet it.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think those are 2/5 very well spent.

A Piece of Work

June 6th, 2013

My partner, Sandy, who works from home, was out of town when I texted him with a helpful suggestion.

Just got a postcard from the DWP saying that they’re shutting off the power for God knows what reason. Probably to remind us what having no power is like before they raise our rates. You should consider staying overnight at the condo in Palm Springs and working there on Wednesday. Then you can drive home once the power’s back on.

He was, of course, quite grateful, and I silently checked myself for stigmata as I embraced my Christ-like qualities of compassion and thoughtfulness. Who needs to do an AIDS Ride or volunteer in the Peace Corps, I thought. I just notified my partner that the power was gonna be out.

As Wednesday commenced, I paused periodically to revel in the Smell Me nature of my sensitivity to others’ needs. Until I got a text from Sandy.

YOU ARE A PIECE OF WORK.

A piece of God’s greatest handiwork, I assumed he meant. Tall, and smart, and filled with virtuous qualities like selflessness and humility. I dialed his cell.

“Did you read the card from the DWP?” he said when he answered.

“Of course,” I replied defensively, almost mystically intuiting a shift in tone away from gratitude. “It said 8:00-3:30 on Wednesday. In bold type.”

“That’s right,” he replied. “8:00-3:30 on Wednesday. IN PALM SPRINGS. Where I AM.”

We own a little condo in Palm Springs that we rent out, mostly to delightful Canadian retirees who flee British Columbia in the winter to escape the Santa’s Workshop-like conditions up there. The DWP postcard, which came to our LA address, was for that condo. I had sent him TO the power outage instead of away from it.

“You’re always reminding me,” he barked, “what an amazing combination of creativity and organizational ability you have.”

“That is not true!” I yelled, inadvertently overlooking the advertising awards, book reviews and valuable suggestions on how to live his life more efficiently that I occasionally leave on the kitchen counter.

“You might wanna rethink the organizational part.”

He reminded me of the time that I got lost on the Paris metro and had to wait for him to come find me because I couldn’t decipher the maps. He reminded me of the time that he asked me to pick him up from the airport and I did, dutifully driving to Burbank airport at the appointed time. Except he was at LAX.

“Clearly,” I sniffed, “the scale is just tipping a little more towards creativity these days. I am, after all, a writer.”

“Uh-huh,” he replied. “Well, unless there’s a National Book Award or Emmy statuette on the counter when I get home tomorrow, I’m thinking the scale is tipping a little more towards 72-hour-hold.”

Come visit me. I’ll be the one enjoying three luxurious days off with catered meals and free drugs.

When Good Vacations Go Bad – Part 3

May 20th, 2013

As we sat waiting to board the plane, the most magical thing happened. I began to feel less like someone being chased by torch-wielding villagers. My fever subsided, and the risk of blowing chunks all over any number of Chinese businessmen began to vanish.

Whew, I thought. It must have just been food poisoning. (Mental note: reexamine the value of shopping in the “expiring today” section of Fresh & Easy.) Thank God, I prayed silently, that I’m not exposing scores of unsuspecting passengers to bird flu or malaria or whatever it was I thought I had.

But by the time we arrived in Kuala Lumpur 20 hours later, I was miserable again. Thus began a three day quest for public bathrooms that did not require me to squat over a hole in the floor in order to do my bidness.

By the time we arrived in Singapore, I was finally feeling a little more human.

“I can hardly wait,” I said breathlessly, “to get on the cruise!” I had snagged, for an insanely cheap price, rooms on the back corners of the ship with 250 square foot balconies, and I couldn’t wait to get out there and pose, a drink fairly blowing out of my hand, as others looked on from their inferior balconies with envy and despair.

And then I reached for my wallet.

Now, I have always considered myself a positive person. Someone who does not allow life’s little challenges to upset my emotional apple cart.

This is, unfortunately, a self-image apparently manufactured out of thin air, for on this day, I stood in the Changi airport, behaving markedly like a 12-year-old girl forced to miss the premiere of Twilight.

“I wish I was dead!”

“Really?” Sandy replied. “That’s how you’re gonna play this?”

“I’m sick, I have no wallet, this trip is ruined! Ruined, I tell you!”

Yes, I actually said it like that.

When we arrived at the cruise ship, I phoned the Hilton in Kuala Lumpur. They had found the wallet. But getting it back to me would be something else altogether. DHL clearly thought I was a member of Al Qaeda and informed the Hilton in no uncertain terms that there are rules about overnighting a wallet stuffed with ID, credit cards and cash from one second world country to another.

“This is awful!” I shrieked.

“Why?” Sandy replied. “You’re getting your wallet back.”

“Yeah, after we get home. How am I supposed to pay for stuff on this trip?”

“We’re on a cruise ship. It all gets charged to your onboard account. When we’re touring, I have credit cards. What’s the big deal?”

“The big deal is that I am not in control!”

You may not be surprised to learn that these were not words I meant to say aloud. There was a long and painful (for some of us) silence. But in that moment, as Sandy stood gazing at me with an irritatingly ironic smile, I realized how much of my self-esteem in our relationship is predicated on my being what I perceive as the Big Man. The one who takes charge, the one who makes things happen.

“So maybe,” he said calmly, “you can let go for a few days.”

And I was forced, over the next two weeks, to let him be the one in control. To let him take care of me. Which he did, of course, with aplomb.

And I realized that it’s kind of nice to be taken care of. Sure, I have to be a little more flexible. Sure, when I’m not calling every shot I can’t always get everything my way. But I get to feel loved.

I guess even the best life lessons, the most valuable moments, come at a price.

Of course, that price is much easier to pay when you have your wallet.

 

When Good Vacations Go Bad – Part 2

May 20th, 2013

(Apologies for the six week silence! The cops kept catching up with me.)

 

It was 2 a.m. and I awoke with a start. Not the “wow, I shouldn’t have had that gallon of Diet Coke and a Midol before bed” kind of start. More like “Hey, two exits, no waiting, free Funyons on your way out!”

It was the night before we were to leave on an 18-day international vacation, and I was coming down with something. And I’d been looking forward to this trip for a year. Having never been to Asia, I was anticipating lots of profound cultural experiences: shortie kimonos, lots of Panda Express restaurants and poignant photos of me with poor people.

What I was getting, instead, was a violent case of the stomach flu.

“Pull it together!” my supportive and concerned partner Sandy yelled at me when I told him I didn’t feel well.

This was not a surprising response. He’s not actually quite as horrible and soulless as that sounds; he just has this ridiculous and totally unwarranted idea that I can be a bit of a hypochondriac.

Sure, I might take a Xanax before getting my teeth cleaned. Sure, one patch of dry skin and I’m at the Mayo Clinic website searching for rare skin cancers. But I was sick. And there was irrefutable evidence – the kind that makes you go, “Wow, I don’t remember eating corn.”

A couple of weeks earlier, Sandy had laughed at me when I said that I was gonna get a prophylactic course of Tamiflu from my doctor.

“Listen,” I told him, “it’s the height of the flu season and we’re gonna be in Asia for 18 days. If one of us gets sick, where will we find a good physician? Do you want some witch doctor waving a flaming wad of sage over you and chanting in a voice straight out of The Omen?”

He never catches anything, so naturally this seemed like insane reasoning to him.

“We’ll be on a cruise ship and staying in American hotels. We’re not gonna be floating on a raft down the Mekong Delta.”

“Better safe than sorry,” I had replied. And now, in this moment of illness, I smugly waved the box of Tamiflu in his face. “Who’s laughing now?”

I had no idea if Tamiflu worked on whatever I had, but I immediately began popping tablets like they were Sweet-tarts because I had to go to work. We weren’t leaving until midnight, and nothing says “fake sick day” like calling in sick on your last work day before a vacation.

Promptly around noon, after spending roughly ten hours on or near the toilet, I finally managed to drag my ass in to the office.

“Oh, my God, what happened to you?”

This from my friend Raquel, who typically suffers from some sort of ocular disorder that makes her think I’m handsome.

“Do I look bad?” I said, sweat running down my unshaven face, my clothes unkempt.

“You look like shit.” Raquel is Chilean, so she used a Spanish word, but I’m pretty sure that’s what she was going for.

“I have the flu,” I replied breathlessly, “or SARS.”

I managed to make it a couple of hours, until my boss asked me, for the sake of everyone else present, to get the hell out of the building.

When I arrived home, my in-laws were there, along with our friend Julie who was going to house-sit for us. Everyone was in a festive mood, which only made matters worse.

“Come have a glass of Merlot,” Mary, my mother-in-law said. She and I share a common interest in red wine for its health benefits, although rumor has it those benefits dull somewhat around glass number four.

“I’m just gonna take a little nap,” I said, stumbling down the hall to the bedroom.

“He thinks he’s sick,” Sandy explained.

“Dying is more like it!” I hollered, wondering if I should call for a priest. And convert to Catholicism.

I lay in bed, worrying about getting on a plane. I was clearly disease-ridden. Was it fair to expose my germs to the unknowing masses? But Sandy and his parents were so excited. I couldn’t let them down. I would have to man up.

Somehow, I managed to shower and endure the car ride to the airport, suffering in silence save for an occasional cry of discomfort to make sure everyone noticed my bravery. But as we shuffled through the security line, another, more terrifying thought occurred to me: we’re changing planes in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has those guys with temperature scanners. If you have a fever, they’ll quarantine you. I could be spending the next 3 days on a cot in the Hong Kong airport, being beaten by a Chinese guard.

Well, if that happens, I thought, I’ll film the whole thing on my cellphone and put it on YouTube. I’ll become a cause celebre. The state department will demand my release and when officials refuse, we’ll go to war with China.

That would at least make this whole barfy thing worthwhile.

TO BE CONTINUED…

When Good Vacations Go Bad

March 26th, 2013

My partner and I just returned from a trip to Asia that was, essentially, The Amazing Race without the shirtless Chippendales and prize money.

The idea for this trip started a year ago with my dad-in-law, who wanted to return to Vietnam where he’d served during the Vietnam war. Now, that sounds, in theory, like a very personal, almost mystical journey, one likely to bring a deep and profound sense of closure to a difficult chapter of his life.

But the rest of us – my partner, my mother-in-law and I – didn’t have much interest in reliving the Tet Offensive if there weren’t four-course meals and sparkly dancers involved. So instead of him taking a solo pilgrimage to Nah Trang, the four of us settled on a two-week cruise that began in Singapore, wound through Thailand and Vietnam, and ended up in Hong Kong.  And we added on a side trip to Kuala Lumpur, mostly because no one knows where it is and it sounds terribly exotic, as if we were visiting indigenous tribes that have never seen a Mr. Microphone or toilet paper.

We chose a cruise because, much like a Vegas hooker, we really like waking up someplace new every day. And we chose this particular cruise because we would be in each city on the itinerary for two days, instead of the usual 8-hour port stop you get on a ship that stops in New Orleans for Fat Tuesday. In as much was feasible in 48 hours, we wanted to soak up the culture, the local customs, and to begin to understand what it’s like to be Malaysian.  Or Singaporean. Or Thai. Or Vietnamese. Or Chinese.

None of this fazed us, of course. Seven cities across five countries in 18 days? Psssh. A no-brainer. We’ve done this kind of mad dash across Europe, Central America, Australia.

It’s all in a day’s vacation.

Unless you get the stomach flu. And lose your wallet.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Apocalypse 2.0

January 11th, 2013

We’re now a week and a half into 2013 and no one’s been able to provide a definitive new date for the end of the world. And if you’re

anything like me, you must be a nervous wreck.

I mean, there’s something comforting about knowing exactly when the planet will be destroyed. Sure, there’s that fiery cataclysm part, but
at least you can plan. And I’m a planner. I mean, I know what I’m doing every weekend from now through February. I know where I’m going on vacation in 2014. (If there is a 2014.) I know where there’s a stash of Windex bottles if the Apocalypse turns out to be a filthy mess.

Naturally, I thought the End Times were coming when I was little, and women started leaving the home and having careers. God is clearly
enraged, I thought. I was certain it was here when black people started legally marrying white people. Because if that doesn’t spell spiritual calamity, I don’t know what does. Then I was convinced the moment was upon us when gays were allowed to protect our country. Surely, I thought, God will now blow the whole business up. After all, that’s what our religious leaders who have TV shows assured us would happen.

But no Four Horsemen.

No raging hellfires.

All of these events that were hailed as the downfall of western civilization have had no negative effect at all.

And I have to tell you, I’m getting a little aggravated. Because if I don’t know the ground rules for Armageddon, I cannot properly plan
for it.

So, what, I’m now left wondering, would be cause for God to incite the end of humanity?

Maybe it’s not some event that made one group of people feel empowered and had no impact on the rest. Maybe it’s an event where all of us
are actually, truly, wronged, in a way that virtually cannot be disputed. Where the question is not one of religiously defined immorality, but of simple inhumanity.

Like the NRA refusing to ban assault weapons so that it would be harder to kill 26 people at a grade school.

Or Congress having their heads so far up their asses that they can’t manage to appropriate money for the victims of a hurricane.

Or even an insurance company that was bailed out by the American people suing the government because the “terms were too stringent”.

Yeah, that feels more Apocalyptic to me. And I’m really glad I came to this conclusion. Because I bought a new skinny suit for the Apocalypse,
and it’s gonna take some time to get into that thing.

Memories…light the corners of my cell.

December 6th, 2012

When my first book came out, my partner presented me with a really
special gift: a scrapbook, filled with press clippings, reviews, photos from
the book launch events, etc. It was, and is, a prized memento of a time in my
life of which I’m proud. I wrote a memoir that the editor of The Help edited, Penguin published, a
few complete strangers actually bought, and Sony optioned as a TV series. And
I’m close to finishing a second book.

I feel like I’ve accomplished something small but worthwhile
with my life. And really, isn’t that all any of us wants? A scrapbook to wave
over our heads to prove that we did something that contributed to the world, or
at least that made others feel like total losers?

The problem, for most people, though, is that
accomplishments like this take time. And people with children don’t have time. Dozens of my co-workers have,
at one time or another, marched up to me and demanded, “How did you find the
time to write a book?” (Our work days are long and sometimes bitch-slappingly
stressful.)

And I always reply, “You know all that time you spend taking
Sophie/Bryce/Rainbow to Little League/Drug Counseling/Toddlers and Tiaras auditions? That’s
when I write.”

This makes them feel a little less lazy and slothful. And really,
they shouldn’t feel lazy and slothful. Their
accomplishments are those beautiful children – our world’s future leaders –
that they have nurtured, taught, and guided. Their scrapbook needn’t be
mementos of a book release, or album launch, or movie premiere. It can be
memories of the special moments in their children’s lives.

Take my best friend’s sister-in-law. She has raised three
children and, in her lovely double-wide in West Virginia, has a beer barrel coffee
table piled high with scrapbooks. And what are those scrapbooks filled with? Memories
of the kids’ arrests and incarcerations – press clippings, mug shots, prisoner
number tags from uniforms.

Memories that say, “Job well done, Shirlene. JOB WELL DONE.”

Dope In a Pope. Mobile.

November 29th, 2012

I am proud to say that I have never personally mooned anyone from the altar of the Sistine Chapel. Nor have I ever hurled onto a crucifix. I have never felt moved to get drunk and mack out in the back pew of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Or encouraged a stripper to “work that pole” in the Vatican.

I have always striven to show the world’s religious monuments and icons (even the heretical ones) a measure of respect and reverence. Which is, apparently, less than I can say for the Dublin Wax Works in Ireland, which has inherited possession of the original 1970’s Popemobile and is about to begin renting it out for proms, stag parties and bachelorette binges.

Okay, granted, as a non-Catholic, there is something fun about the thought of sitting on a throne in a giant glass bubble, wearing a big hat and gold dress and throwing condom wrappers (with no condoms inside) at the throngs as someone drives me down a parade route.  After all, there’s probably a three hour minimum and you gotta get your money’s worth.

But that is where I draw the line. I mean, it’s the Popemobile. Anything more than that is just bad taste.

Flashing your t**s at passing cars? Unseemly. Screaming the Louisiana fight song out the hermetically sealed windows? Vulgar. Losing your virginity in the back seat? Ironic, and a little hilarious…but indelicate.

No, I would treat the Popemobile with the esteem and veneration such a hallowed object deserves. I would use it to drive my Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic and Jewish friends to the site of the New Inquisition (sponsored by Red Bull), where they would be tortured for believing something other than the Catholic faith.

Just like Pope Innocent IV did.

Good times.