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Archive for January, 2005

Dad Is A Fairy

“You are the tooth fairy! I have proof.”

Collie stood in the kitchen, arms folded, very satisfied with himself. Lillie stood behind, arms folded, grinning like a cat with a canary in its mouth.

Uh oh, busted.

I was making dinner. I resorted to the first response on being accused of a crime one has committed: deny it and ascertain the prosecution’s evidence.

“Me, the tooth fairy? Ha!” I laughed. “Why would you say that?”

Collie produced a piece of paper. It was a note I had helped him write last year:

To the Tooth Faire,

My first tooth lost.

Love, Collie.

He had written the words and drawn the hearts. I had drawn a tooth that he outlined in colored pencil.

“How nice,” I vamped. “The tooth fairy left this note for us as a souvenir.”

“Nice try, Dad,” Collie gloated.

“Yeah, nice try!” Lillie echoed.

They went back to their game of “spy.” I returned the note to its hiding place in my closet, but on a higher shelf.

I looked down at my secret stash of porn videos and DVDs. Time for a better hiding place, I thought.

A nightmare scenario: Collie presenting me with a plain black video tape of “Campus Orgy Nine,” and asking “Nine sequels? It’s that good?

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Privacy

“Dad? Daaaad?”

Lillie was shouting for me over the noise of “Fairly Odd Parents.”

The kids know not to shout for me. Unless they are vomiting or bleeding, they should walk to where I am.

At that particular moment, I was sitting on the toilet. “I’m in the bathroom,” I replied.

“Daaaad?” Lillie’s voice grew louder as she walked around the apartment, moving further from the bathroom. “Daaaaad?”

I leaned forward to lock the door, anticipating the next moment.

“Dad?” Lillie jiggled the bathroom doorknob.

“I’ll be out in a moment and I would like some privacy, please.”

“Dad, I’m hungry.”

“I’ll make breakfast in just a moment.”

“But I’m hungry now.”

“I can’t help you right this second, but I will make breakfast in a moment.”

Pause. “What are you going to make?”

“Lillie, can I have some privacy, please?”

“Okay . . .” She sat on the floor, tapping the door with her finger.

I remember crossing a threshold as a parent a few years back: sitting on the toilet, holding a sleeping infant in a Snuggly while conversing with the toddler standing in the doorway.

Parents learn a lot about shit when their kids are in diapers.

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Respect

Does Dad get enough respect?

This question seems to be much on the mind of my son Jason.

His mother tells me that Jason, at age eleven, can be an unresponsive, eye-rolling, “I’m not LIS-sen-NNINGG” tween.

I don’t get much of that. With me, he is a very sweet and chatty boy. He talks about his friends. He talks about school. He talks about GameCube. He sits in my lap to watch Peter Jennings and “The NewsHour.” We talk about the Iraqi elections, favorite bands, sports . . .

The boy is chewing my ear off.

This week, he has taken to chiding his siblings for being disrespectful. I’m more laissez faire than their mom, and so certain family strictures are less rigidly enforced at this home than at their other home.

At the same time, I was raised to be a good Southern boy. My manners are irreversibly impeccable. I open every door. I smile “howdy” at everyone, respectfully. All of my “betters and elders” will always and forever be addressed by me as “sir” and “ma’am.”

Jason picks up on that, and mimics it. Every meal ends with him asking if I am finished eating. Then he clears his plate, commenting that dinner was very good. Thanks, Dad.

By contrast, his feral siblings bicker at the table, eat little, ask about candy and then vanish, leaving behind a plate of uneaten food. As I wash the dishes, they return, begging for junky snacks.

Tonight, Jason proposed we have a family meeting on manners. I concurred. The two youngest know better than to behave so.

It is Friday, and so I let the children stay up late. They fed their new and curious addiction to “Full House” on Nickelodeon.

I never watched this program when it was originally broadcast—dude, I was too busy banging my head to punk bands!—so I do not relate.

I sat to watch part of an episode with them. It involves a teddy bear that was inadvertently thrown out, and a magic trick gone awry.

I surmise that “Full House” was a saccharine sitcom about a single dad with young daughters, doing his best to be wise with the help of male roommates who are apparently not his lovers.

I get the idea. Single dads and kids. Okay, so they identify with that.

The kids don’t seem to realize that the show is at least fifteen years old. Lillie likes that it is funny and all the kids are girls. Jason likes that it is a morality play. Collie gets bored and prefers GameCube.

Bed time arrives. The sitcom is over. Jason and Collie bicker about the game. Their voices are brittle and much too loud.

“Shh, shh, shh!,” I admonish. “Neighbors are sleeping!’ Collie continues his rant as though I am not speaking.

“Collie. Collie!! Collie!!” I say, never raising my voice. He doesn’t respond. I turn off his game. “You are being inappropriate. The game is over—it’s done for tonight. You can not make this kind of noise at this hour.”

We heard the wail of my neighbor’s infant son.

I speak very quietly. “It’s a privilege to stay up late. But you have to remember that there are other people around us. Your bickering has woken the baby next door. That is not acceptable behavior.

Brush your teeth and get ready for bed.”

I tuck them in, kissing them each good night. “I love you,” I say to each. I tell Collie I am sorry we had an argument at bedtime, but we do have to be considerate and respect others.

They drift to sleep as the baby next door cries.

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After dropping the kids at school, I passed a cameraman trying to interview passers-by for “Regis and Kelly.” Apparently they wanted New Yorkers to talk about how cold it is.

It’s too cold for that. I hurried past, huddled in my coat and hat.

Yesterday, the kids and I passed Howard Stern on the street.

Celebrity spotting is a favorite pastime in this city. They are all over the place.

Kind of makes you wonder: would it be possible for me to cultivate a famous lover?

My ex Lucy is ahead of me on this. Among her new beaus is an up-and-coming singer-songwriter familiar to those who listen to college radio. One of our last dates was a concert of his. They apparently hooked up at his next show in town.

May sometimes gets together with another performer who is really famous. You would think he might be gay, as he’s handsome and stylish, but in fact, he’s had very few encounters with men. He actually has very little sex—while he is a heartthrob, he’s also something of a hermit.

He liked calling May to have her describe sex with me. We made some videos to show him how we went at it.

There was much talk of a threesome. When Marcus caught wind of this, he wanted in. He’s a big fan, so he felt he was more deserving of this threesome. Fine, I said. If the opportunity comes along, take the first plunge.

One night, he and May got together with the pop star. It was a bit of a disaster. Afterward, they drove three hours to New York to fuck me and get it out of their system.

If I were to have a celebrity lover, who would it be?

For now, I can only cling to a lost opportunity.

I gave a talk at a symposium a few years ago. Next up on stage was Rufus Wainwright.

At a reception afterwards, he came up to tell me how much he enjoyed my talk. I told him I was a fan of his. We fell into a fine conversation.

Soon we had someone at our elbows—a former Prime Minister of Canada. She’s a big Gershwin fan, and the three of us were soon on that topic.

Two young women came up, pulling at Rufus to come on, let’s go, let’s go!

“Nice talking with you,” he said, looking in my eyes. “I’m off to get high.”

I was left to chat with the Prime Minister. I couldn’t just ditch her to get stoned with Rufus Wainwright.

Anyway, I was married then. Last thing I needed was a cute famous boyfriend.

I recently read an interview in which Rufus revealed that he hates doing dishes but loves to do laundry. You know what? I am exactly the opposite.

Perhaps we are fated for one another?

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Whattya Working On?

“Whattya working on?”

This is the way we greet each other in my biz. The correct response is to have a few smart sentences ready so you can turn the tables and ask, “So that’s me, how about you—whattya working on?”

I was at a swank soiree the other night, at a millionaire’s penthouse apartment.

This doesn’t happen often, but in my line of work, it happens now and then. Rich people like to have bookish folk around as conversation pieces. We poor church mice will go anywhere there is free food.

The rich and their in-house intellectuals—it’s a time-honored system of interdependence.

This was a catered affair, with a nice dinner preceded by cocktails and appetizers served by ultra-gorgeous caterer waiters.

I was chatting with a legendary historian—a brilliant old queen—when across the room, I noticed that one of the waiters was the most gorgeous black man I have ever seen in my life.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I need to kiss that handsome man—and now.”

Which I did. I gave him a wet kiss that would put curls in your hair.

My conversation partner was impressed by my verve. The waiter was impressed with my kiss.

Of course, I’ve been kissing him hello for years. We used to work together. What the hell was he doing here?

He was surprised to see me in this context. He was fine, and very happy. As we talked, he said his new gigs at parties had freed his schedule to focus on his real work as an actor.

It’s New York. We do what we have to do. So I asked: “Whattya working on?”

He is all over the place, doing regional theater, local stuff, modeling. Someone plucked a salmon cake from his tray. I let him work the room.

I had an editor at my elbow. When was I going to write for her again? Whattya working on?

I considered the answer I can’t give. I have a super secret blog. I am trying to come up with literate ways to describe a girlfriend’s skin. I came to this party after blogging about sex with her.

If we were to talk about the writer’s craft, I would say: struggle as I might, I can’t come up with better words that “hard” and “wet” in describing sex. Gutter words make you forget about language and think about getting laid.

I can’t talk about that in this context. Instead, I effused about an artist I want to write about. She nodded, drinking white wine. I asked, “So, whattya working on?”

I ended the evening in the kitchen with my friend and the caterer. They sent me home toasted on the host’s booze and loaded with doggie bags for my kids.

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Window

Last weekend was supposed to be my weekend with the kids, but Lucy took them when I was unexpectedly hospitalized. That meant our weekends were now swapped, and the kids were to be with me this weekend.

Only one problem: when this was originally scheduled as my weekend without the kids, I had made plans for a work-related dinner on Saturday that I could not get out of. Lucy agreed to take the kids overnight.

That saved the day: I could attend the dinner. It also opened a window of opportunity for a sleepover date after the dinner.

I called Anna. She’s been glum that we haven’t been together in a little while. She was glad this opportunity had presented itself, and she would meet me at my place once my dinner was over.

That afternoon, the kids and I played basketball and soccer. We had the park to ourselves, as it was pretty cold. Once they were off with their mom, I went to my dinner engagement.

It started well. I was seated opposite a woman who was opening a business with her husband. She was full of infectious enthusiasm and energy about it.

To my right was a blowhard lawyer who came to dominate the conversation. As he talked, I realized that he was stoned off his gourd. Being so stoned in this context is very déclassé . This was an art party, and at these, you sometimes encounter people with money who assume that being among artsy folk means they can be “bohemian”—to the detriment of good manners.

His spouse was shunted to a far corner, apparently unwilling to talk much.

He chose me as his foil, and so throughout dinner, he offered tedious and facile opinions about art, my area of expertise. I didn’t care to get engaged. He said MoMA’s new architecture was awful. It’s disappointing, I concurred. Too few very good artists are recognized, he pontificated. It’s a hard field, I agreed.

The conversation shifted to politics, and really, in polite society, it just shouldn’t have. But what can you do? The Bush inauguration is days away, and people are thinking about it.

My elbow mate posited the opinion that Ralph Nader had been on the payroll of the conservatives in a conspiracy to steal the election from the Democrats. Oh no, I corrected. While it is true that some conservative groups feigned support of Nader in the hope that his candidacy would divide the opposition, it was preposterous to believe that Nader was in on some conspiracy to steal the election for Bush.

Oh, he was quite sure of this. Nader was in cahoots with Bush.

I saw that he was positioning me. For the sake of impressing the table, in his mind, we would have a debate. He would stake the position of agile thinking: all ideas should be considered plausible unless proven untenable. Thus, unless it could be proven otherwise, Nader’s presumed complicity with the Bush administration was at least possible.

I would be painted as an unrepentant lefty, stubbornly defending Nader against any suggestion of his selfish interest. I was supposed to maintain that Nader was pure good, Bush was pure evil, and ne’er the twain shall meet.

How could I be sure, he argued, that Nader was not in the pocket of the conservative right? Didn’t his candidacy work against that of Kerry, and thus in support of Bush? Wasn’t the theory worth consideration?

I checked my watch. Jesus, nearly eleven.

Some theories don’t need to be debated, I said. They can be dismissed out of hand, being based on profoundly stupid assumptions. No one else cared to take up his theory, so that topic was mercifully cut short.

I was mentally checked out and I made it clear: if this is the level of dinner conversation, I have other places to be.

The check came. I paid my respects to the host, got my coat and walked briskly to Houston Street to grab a cab. I phoned Anna; I’ll be at my place soon.

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Free Lunch

I was released from the hospital late on Monday afternoon, armed with prescriptions for oral medications. My neck looked almost normal. I still had a sore tight knot.

What I had was a necrotic lymph node, which I understood to be an infection of my lymph glands. Ten days of antibiotics should bring that under control, I was told; a follow up visit would determine if minor surgery would be needed.

“Necrotic” was going to be my word of the week. It sounded like there was something dead and nasty in me.

I walked home to dive head first into email and work. A good night’s sleep, and I was back into it on Tuesday. I had a lot to do before Wednesday, when I would once again have the kids. Parenting would then take over my life through the long weekend.

I despaired about sex. It had been a week since I had sex, and I had spent several days of that time in the hospital. With so much time lost for work, and with the kids to be with me all weekend, I was looking at a long dry spell.

Two weeks. Would there be time for sex in the interim?

As I worked, I got an instant message from Marla. She’s been busy most nights with a new boy in her neighborhood. He’s good, she tells me, but lacking in oral skills and not really one for restraining her as she likes. Could I fit her in for lunch?

Just what the doctor ordered.

A few moments later, she emailed: could she bring a surprise?

I do not look a gift horse in the mouth.

She shows up at my door—with Jake. And about a half hour for sex before she has to be back at her office.

There’s only one rub. Jake is in my neighborhood fresh from a doctor’s appointment. He’s been tested for STIs and allergies, and this has left him feeling that he wants a good dose of abstinence. He had self-prescribed a twenty-four hour sexual detox, never realizing he would wind up on my doorstep with Marla.

Jake is true to his resolutions. He sits by as I undress Marla, drop my clothes, and get to work. She orgasmed quickly, but still, the clock had been running.

“I’m going to owe you, because I have to run,” she said. Go, go, I said: don’t be late. We don’t want to ruin our quickies. She pulled on her clothes, checked her make up, kissed us both and trotted off.

“So,” Jake said, when she was gone. “Can I take you to lunch?”

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