Saturday, August 21, 2010

My Roommate, My Murderer - Part 1

This past spring, after the missus moved back to her native United Kingdom, my dread of loneliness was such that I advertised on Craigslist for a housemate, even though I’ve had a very spotty record of sharing my digs with a non-lover. The only one I really got on with was the first, Mr. John Blodgett — a folk dancing enthusiast who wore a plastic pocket protector in the breast pocket of his shirt — and that’s largely because every Friday afternoon he drove eagerly south to his ancestral home in Escondido, California, not to reappear until Monday night. When I signed on for a second year at the same dormitory, I had the bright idea of sharing a dormitory room with the late Ronnn Reinberg, but I couldn’t stand his pretentious self-described filmmaker girlfriend, and he and I wound up not speaking the last couple months of our co-habitation. In my senior year, I first shared a large studio apartment with two fellow prospective dorm escapees, one of whom wound up coming after me with a knife, and then a one-bedroom apartment on one of the dreariest streets in all West Los Angeles with the one who hadn’t wanted to kill me. We too wound up not speaking.

After a few months of tortuous solitude down in Venice, I moved up to West Hollywood, and shared the top floor of a haunted house on Selma Avenue with my friend Ward, who wound up leaving me for his girlfriend. My heart was shattered, and I had to come up with the whole monthly rent of $120 on my own!

Between then and this past April — a span of 39 years and seven months, I have lived only with lovers — all women, owing to my heterosexuality. So it was with the utmost trepidation that just a few days after my birthday in May, I rented out what had once been Claire’s office to Faroukh C—, a Web developer from al-Marawi'a, Yemen. He was soft-spoken and deferential, and claimed to be wonderfully tidy, quiet, and considerate, though not compulsively tidy. Before taking his present position, he had worked as a chef in a vegetarian restaurant, and would be delighted to cook for me if I would only pay for my share of the ingredients. His job required him to be on-site down in Westchester 10 hours a day, and it was an hour's commute each way, so I would see him mostly on weekends, but probably not very often on weekends either, as he tried to spend as much time as he could with his girlfriend in Connecticut. He obviously wasn’t going to have much effect on whatever loneliness I might suffer, but his $800 per month was certainly going to come in handy. What sealed the deal was his begging me to play him a couple of tracks from my recent album Sorry We’re Open, and being incredulous that a composer of my obvious brilliance wasn’t internationally celebrated.

For the first couple of weeks, everything went splendidly. ‘Roukh, as he gave me permission to call him, was indeed out of the house for long stretches, during which I enjoyed my privacy, and also enjoyed looking through his personal things. I took to retiring before his return from Westchester, so I’d see him only on Sunday nights, when the house would fill with the delicious smells of his cooking. He would make enough for the entire week; I’d never eaten so well. We’d chat for a few minutes, and then watch Who Will Be the Next Food Network Star. We were rooting for different contestants — I for the rotund Indian woman, he for the rumpled young line cook from Ohio who looked as though straight out of a Judd Apatow movie — but it caused no animosity. We agreed that Judd Apatow movies aren’t very funny.

[Continues next week!]

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Human Puppy - Part 4 (of 4)

[Please read the four parts sequentially.]

Oddly, it was that which had made me love her in the first place that led to our coming apart. She worked in corporate public relations. About three months after I’d moved in with here, she was headhunted for a vice presidency in a much bigger, much better-paying firm than her own. They summoned her for a second interview, and then, because she’d apparently made good impressions both times, for a third, with the company’s namesake and founder. He liked her so much that he invited her to lunch, from which she phoned to tell me she’d been offered the job.

I was thrilled for her, and decided to come downtown and surprise her. I encountered her and Mr. Namesake getting back from their very long lunch. The joyful look on my lover’s made me lose sight of where we were, and around whom. I bounded across the length of the foyer and fairly threw myself on her, licking her face exultantly.
“No!” Lynda said sharply. “Down, boy! Down!” Mr. Namesake’s mouth dropped open in horror. Lynda, realizing only now what was happening, turned an alarming shade of red, her eyes demanding, “How could you?” Mr. Namesake gaped at me incredulously. I wished I could burrow into the floor and vanish.

Lynda finally collected herself to the point of being able to introduce me, as her friend. Mr. Namesake — actually Mr. Donnelly — hadn’t had an illustrious career in PR not being able to be charming in the most trying circumstances. In a heartbeat, he was into charming PR mode, offering me his hand, winking as he asked, “Do you greet all your friends like that, young man?”

As we headed for the subway, Lynda wouldn’t even look at me, much less respond to my profusion of apologies. As we approached the stairs down to the train, she finally stopped and turned to face me. She burst into tears, and pulled me to her. I reflexively licked her face again, its new saltiness be damned. She said she had room in her life for only one animal, and that the main reason Donnelly had hired her was that he himself was a human horse; he had a place up in Connecticut where he liked to carry beautiful young women around on his shoulders while neighing and snorting. It broke her heart to break mine, and she’d never liked horses as much as dogs, as you couldn’t have nearly as intimate a relationship with them because they were just too darned big to have in your home, but she didn’t feel she could decline a vice presidency at Donnelly Communications.

I couldn’t bear the thought of my heart being broken again after that, and resigned myself to the life of loneliness I’ve been living ever since. Every few months or so, I’ll go to a prostitute, Jacquie, who specializes in human pets, but she’s too expensive to see very often. Every now and again, I’ll spend an afternoon in the canine supplies section of Petco, hoping to catch the eye of a woman as lonely as I, but my coat isn’t as glossy as it once was, and I invariably wind up buying myself a bag of rawhide chews to enjoy on the long bus ride back to the lonely flat where only my rhinestoned collar remains of my happy days with Mindee and Lynda. I am 287 dog years old now, and don’t expect to be around to pee in another winter’s snow.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Human Puppy - Part 3

[Please read these sequentially.]

For my birthday, Mindee took me in for a microchip implant; she knew a sympathetic veterinarian from a previous relationship. He pointed out that chips are usually inserted below the skin at the back of the neck of most American dogs and cats, between the shoulder blades on the dorsal midline. European pets, though, often get the implant in the left side of the neck. I’m the sort who likes to do most things the old-fashioned way, but Mindee urged me to have a bit of panache, and to follow the lead of the Europets. In the end, I agreed.

By the time we got back to her apartment, I was absolutely desperate to mate, but she was unalterably opposed to bestiality, and if I pointed out that it wouldn’t really be bestiality, I’d be letting the air out of my own fantasy. It was a real dilemma. As the days became weeks, and the weeks months, I began to think the only way out of it was for us to encounter a female whose owner wanted to breed her, but human caninism is a virtually all-male phenomenon. We did occasionally encounter a few latex-encased pony girls and their masters in the park, but it seemed not even to occur to Mindee to suggest that we get together. Her aversion to inter-species mating wasn’t limited to women and their human puppies.

We were nonetheless very happy together for around 18 months. When she’d come home from her job as a buyer at one of the big midtown department stores, I’d get up on my hind legs and paw her jubilantly, and then fetch her slippers in my mouth. Often she’d give me wet food as a special treat, and we’d spend a lovely evening together watching The Dog Whisperer on the Discovery channel. Eventually, though, it came out that the funny looks we were getting from the pervs who take over the park after midnight had been troubling her very much more than she admitted, and she left me for a guy who imagined himself a cat. How I wished women could tell the truth every now and again!

I briefly thought of looking into becoming a human goldfish, but it didn’t seem feasible, as I wasn’t close to being able to afford a place big enough to accommodate the requisite fishbowl, which itself would have to be custom-made. I became depressed. Through one of the caninist Websites, I found a sympathetic psychotherapist, herself a reformed pony girl, and the medication she described to regulate my mood made me feel as though an Olympic-sized swimming pool’s worth of frigid water had been poured on my libido. I looked into Buddhism, and, considering the notion that all suffering springs from desire, did my best no longer to long for a women who’d love me for what I am.

It worked like a charm. Not 96 hours before I’d changed my Facebook status to In a Relationship (they don’t offer a No Longer Looking Because Desire Engenders Suffering), I heard from Lynda D—. who was waifish and, as best I could determine on the basis of a couple of postings on my so-called wall, even witty. Not for Lynda anything as predictable as Starbucks; for Lynda, the dog grooming supplies aisle of Petco on 2nd Avenue. When she divined, on meeting, that I was going to say mwah to each of her ears, she stepped backward and asked if I wouldn’t prefer to lick her face instead. I nearly swooned.

Earlier girlfriends had complained about the lack of variety in our coitus; I always wanted to enter them from behind. Lynda had no such misgivings. When I pre-emptively tried to coax her one evening onto her back, just for a change, she got angrier than I’d ever seen her, and said she had no interest whatever in what she termed unnatural sex. And I thought I’d been in love before! After vigorous lovemaking, during which she orgasmed multiply after discovering the microchip in my neck, she spoke one night of us maybe having a litter one day, and I licked her face with such enthusiasm that it was a wonder it didn’t go all wrinkly, like fingertips in bathwater.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Human Puppy - Part 2

[Read these sequentially, please.]

We sought out others with similar tastes. Behold the power and beauty of social networking! Within 10 days of going on Facebook together as Puppyboi and Mistress, we had over 60 “friends,” seven of them near enough for us to think in terms of a party. The good news was that we hardly had to spend anything on refreshments — a couple of packs of chews at the local dollar store — because they were all to bring their own leashes and bowls. The bad news was that they were all males (though no fewer than four had represented themselves as being halves of couples), so on the evening of the party, poor Angela hardly got a moment’s peace. If they weren’t curling up beside her on the sofa, they were offering her their leashes in their mouths, hoping to be walked around the room.

One of them, Sparky, who imagined himself an alpha, made a frightful pest of himself by trying to hump her every time she rose. At first I thought his doing so was hilarious, but I came soon to appreciate how obnoxious Angela must have found it. There was no disagreement whatever between us when, later in the evening, he lifted his leg and peed on the coffee table; both of us found it inexcusable. I walloped him a couple of times with a rolled up newspaper, and he whimpered, but it was Angela and I who had to blot it all up with paper towels.

Months later, in the midst of our most heated argument to date, she brought up the incident, which neither of us had mentioned since it took place. She said she found my weird friends unpleasant to be around, as though the guy hadn’t been less a stranger to me than to her, and hadn’t paid $15 to attend the party like the others!

Not long thereafter, we split up. I was afraid I might spend months trying to find another woman who would indulge my obsession, but within nine days of putting a new profile on Facebook, using a Labrador puppy as my avatar, I had dates for coffee with three different young women, all of whose own profile photos made them appear very presentable indeed.

The first of them had apparently posed for hers before several months of serious binge-eating. Am I the first to notice that BBWs (big, beautiful women, you see) are usually only two of the three, or only the first to express it so trenchantly? Instead of the coffee I’d planned on, I had one too many glasses of wine, and was horrified to hear myself telling her — jokingly, of course! — that, while I enjoyed chasing and barking at the occasional car, I was no chubby chaser. I can be so cruel when drunk and disappointed. She said she accepted my apology, and we agreed to meet again some time, but of course never did.

The second of my Facebook dates appeared genuinely irate to discover that I was human, rather than a Lab puppy. When I pointed out, with the utmost gentleness, that her having expected me to be an actual canine had probably been unreasonable, she looked for a moment as though she might throw her coffee in my face, but settled for telling me that she’d heard Facebook was full of creeps and phonis, but that I was the first she’d had the great displeasure of actually meeting. It was her view, in fact, that I wasn’t worth the salt in her tears.

The third time was the charm. Mindee was neither a compulsive over-eater, from the look of it, nor stark raving mad, and I, at least, felt that we were on the same wavelength from the moment she expressed delight at my licking her hand in greeting rather than saying, “Mwah,” to each of her ears. When she asked without a trace of a smirk if I’d been neutered, and if I’d ever had a problem with fleas, my heart skipped a beat, and when she complimented me on my glossy coat (actually a leather jacket), I longed to mate with her right there in Starbucks. Within two weeks, I’d moved into her studio apartment on East 93rd Street, and she was walking me on the edge of Central Park at two every morning, when the gawkers and haters were asleep.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Human Puppy - Part 1

I can’t be entirely sure, and am well aware that the courts lately have taken a very dim view of recovered memories, but I’ve come to suspect that my wanting to be a human puppy stems from an incident in my childhood. Mother and Pop had gone together on one of their endless romantic getaways, and left me in the care of my Aunt Doreen, whom Mother hated because she’d managed the career in modeling and acting that Mother hadn’t been able to have because of the war — not, of course, that Doreen had ever been in any film for more than a couple of lines, however casting couches she might have been chased around.

Anyway, on the occasion I dimly remember, Mother and Pop dropped me off at the studio of a photographer who was shooting images for advertisements for a manufacturer of hosiery. Doreen was wearing a raincoat when she came downstairs to welcome me, but underneath it she was wearing only a brassiere, panties, a garter belt, and black seamed stockings. The three other models involved in the shoot were all similarly attired. I was too young to be sexually au fait, but I couldn’t help but detect a sort of charge in the air. There was something about the way the photographer kept dabbing his forehead with a handkerchief and licking his lips that I found a little bit odd.

When the “girls,” as he addressed them, paused for a cigarette break (cigarettes were still good for you at the time), I got it into my head for some reason that it would be fun to pretend to be a little puppy. I yipped at Aunt Doreen, and she caught on immediately, looking at the other models in turn (probably winking, though I don’t specifically remember her doing so) and asking, “Did anybody just hear a little dog?” A couple of them giggled, and all played along, scratching me under my chin, petting my head, and tearing off for me bits of the beef jerky on which they’d been snacking.

I just loved it, and was crestfallen, though I wouldn’t have used that word at the time, when the photographer — who, from the smell of him, had fortified himself with a stiff drink during the break — called them back to work.

I forgot all about this for years, until one night when, as a 16-year-old, I was over at my first girlfriend’s parents’ ranch house, and she seemed more interested in playing with her Yorkshire terrier puppy Sparkle than in talking to me. I found myself so wishing I could trade places with him! Unbeknownst to Mother, Pop, and Sis, I bought myself a small box of doggie treats at the local convenience store, and a discounted collar and leash set at Downtown Pet Supply on Main Street on a Tuesday afternoon when I should have been at football practice. I figured Tuesday afternoon was when I was least likely to be observed by a friend of my parents or, worse, a classmate.

I've been teaching myself a new vocabulary word every morning since October 1975, but can’t begin to imagine the words that could even begin to convey how much pleasure those items gave me as a teenager. At neighborhood garage sales, where my male classmates might have foraged for collections of Penthouse or Playboy or Babes in Boots, I was ever on the lookout for used dog supplies. When I moved out of Mother’s and Pop’s into my own two-bedroom apartment, my collection soon came to occupy the whole guest bedroom. The sight of it made some of the dog-loving girls I brought home more willing to heavily pet or even fornicate with me — but there was always something lacking in our lovemaking — at least until I met Angela, the first woman I trusted enough to ask to lead me around on all fours. I can tell you with complete candor that I felt, as we made love afterward, as though I’d never really made love before; when she scratched me behind my ears and whispered, “Come on, boy!” as I began to ejaculate, I felt certain I’d died and gone to heaven.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I Put My Dockers On One Leg At a Time

A lot of readers of the present series (about my being too good-looking for my own good) have written to ask if my extraordinary power over women has ever gotten me threatened or even beaten to a pulp by a jealous husband and boyfriend, as that time at a deafening Cuban restaurant on Lombard Street in San Francisco when a honeymooning young bride, transfixed by my handsomeness, told her new husband that she had to “powder [her] nose,” but instead came over to where my girlfriend and daughter and I were trying to make ourselves heard over the braying of our fellow diners, gave my daughter her wedding ring, and said she’d known from the first moment she’d laid eyes on me that her marriage had been a disastrous mistake. My girlfriend was obviously accustomed to this sort of thing, and only smirked indulgently, but you should have seen the look on the face of the might-have-been cuckold as he stormed over to find out what was going on. Though he was obviously disappointed by his bride’s perfidy, he found it understandable in view of my pulchritude, and we might have become friends if the two of them hadn’t been due to fly back to Grand Rapids the following afternoon, he to resume work as a quality assurance specialist at an outdoor furniture manufacturing firm, she to work as a substitute teacher while pursuing a master’s in education.

That no jealous husband or boyfriend ever so much as took a swing at me I can attribute only to the fact that I apparently exude a sort of confident masculinity that makes men want to be my friend as much as it makes their wives and girlfriends want to be my lover. And now, if you will, on with our narrative.

Between the ages of 25 and 60 very briefly. Women never stopped hurling themselves at me, and I got a lot of jobs, and then promotions, I almost certainly wouldn’t have gotten if I’d looked like the actor John C. Reilly, say. I was married and divorced four times, and managed to remain on very good terms with all my exes, each of whom I continued to cherish, even though we’d discovered that we were two different people. Almost effortlessly, I kept ascending the corporate ladder, earning ever more money, making it possible for me to take early retirement on my 60th birthday so I could devote myself to rock-climbing, windsurfing, philanthropy, and my half-dozen gorgeous grandchildren, one of whom has special needs — as who, if we’re being honest, does not?

The most remarkable thing to me has been how little age seems to have reduced my allure. Only this afternoon, when I went into the Dollar Tree three doors down from the gym, for raisins, smoked oysters, padded envelopes, an extremely presentable redhead of perhaps 35 asked me, while I examined the hardover books on offer, if I’d read anything good lately, in a tone that made clear that my tastes in literature were of secondary or even tertiary interest to her. I nonetheless pointed out that I’ve been delighted with four books I’ve bought there in the past couple of months — Chang-rae Lee’s Aloft, Anne Lamott’s Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, J.D. Wetherell’s Morning (which made me want to stay on the exercycle a lot longer than my usual 30 minutes today), and Ron McLarty’s Traveler — she suggested we get together one evening soon to talk about these and other books, and gave me her phone number. This in spite of my being old enough to be her father! Then, when I got back to my car, I found a pair of panties under the driver-side windshield wiper, with a business card safety-pinned to them.

Sometimes, in the face of this sort of thing, it’s difficult to try to keep a realistic sense of one’s self. When I find myself believing my own PR, I remind myself that I put on my Dockers one leg at a time, just like any other early retiree, and that there are at least as many things I’m not good at — handyman stuff, racquetball, cunnilingus, math — as things at which I’m frankly incomparable.

Honestly, if you ever see me in Dockers, you have my permission to shoot me on sight. Or a sweater.

Napalm Days

After I graduated from high school and went on to one of the bigger University of California campuses, my stunning good looks got me into trouble only infrequently, as the ethos of the age dictated that the very good-looking be scorned rather than celebrated; having been blessed genetically was seen as hardly less part of The Man’s plan to keep down the oppressed than having inherited a lot of money from a rich industrialist uncle who was proud of having been a house guest of the Josef Goebbels during his visit to Germany in 1937. Wanting to ball someone on the basis of his or her good looks was viewed as counter-revolutionary.

The corporate recruiters who came to campus generally eschewed (bless you!) these views. Around five weeks into the final quarter of my senior year, I decided to interview for a marketing position with Dow Chemical, which a lot of my fellow students scorned because they were the American war machine’s principal supplier of napalm. There was a very long line to see the recruiter, but I apparently looked so terrific in my suit and tie that I was whisked immediately to its head, and then, before I knew it (at least metaphorically), talking to a young woman who, as I seated myself, unbuttoned the button of her blouse just south of the last one unbuttoned, put her shoulders back and her chest out, and murmured, “I’d love to…I mean, we’d love to have you.”

When I admitted to moral qualms about the use of her company’s products in the defoliation of Viet Nam, she pouted rather in the manner of Brigitte Bardot, not yet a malodorous madwoman at that point, and pointed out that if her company weren’t manufacturing napalm, another surely would. I was also to bear in mind that the vast majority of Dow’s products were designed for unimpeachably moral applications, unless one considered immoral the extermination of the microscopic creatures that could make one’s toilet bowl smell unpleasant. She winked at me, and I accepted a job as a copywriter. My salary was twice my Pop’s.

The Ferrari I bought myself as a graduation gift served to make me only more attractive to women. It wasn’t uncommon, when I was in the middle lane of the Ventura Freeway, for instance, for female motorists to pull even with me on either side, one gesturing for me to get off with her at the next exit, the other to stop long enough in the emergency center lane to allow her to give me her phone number. On one occasion, my having transfixed fellow motorists in this way led to a 14-car pileup, which the California Highway Patrol characterized as the worst in the history of that stretch of the freeway informally adopted by David Geffen.

The state offered to opaque the Ferrari’s side windows opaque to prevent future such mishaps. The morning after I declined the offer, fearing that the car’s resale value might be reduced, I came downstairs to find that the car had been lavishly keyed (that is, scratched with keys), and it antenna snapped off. I was able to fashion a temporary antenna out of a coat hanger, but the scratched exterior was a problem far less easily resolved. On a whim, I swapped the Ferrari for a small fleet of Porsches, only to remember too late that my carport could accommodate only two at the most. I parked the other on De Longpre Avenue, right in front of our building, and it was either stolen or towed away within 48 hours.

There’s no end to the torment the extraordinarily good-looking have no recourse but to endure.