Friday, November 4, 2016

How to Pick Up Chicks

I don’t know where men get the idea that women want them to reek of designer fragrances. I’m very much one woman who doesn’t want them reeking of anything. I mean, if their hair smells recently shampooed, that’s nice, and if they smell faintly of soap, that’s nice too, but the only thing more obnoxious to me than a man reeks of the Paco Rabanne aftershave in which he’s slathered himself is a man who reeks of cigarettes. Robert Duvall’s character in Apocalypse Now might have liked the smell of napalm in the morning, but I hate the smell of impending emphysema any time of day or night.

I’ve been smelling lots of men since the last of my surgeries because, with Internet dating been such a disappointment (no one sends a photo of himself less than 15 years old!), I’ve seized the day and taken to going with one or another of the younger gals from the office to bars where single people meet. The Honduran surgeons (I was supposed to have the work done domestically on my salary?) exceeded my wildest expectations, and everybody seems to agree that I’m incredibly hot not just for 51, but for any age. One of the gals, Trycia, has said she won’t go trouser-chasing (the female equivalent of guys’ skirt-chasing, you see) with me anymore because I was the one getting all the attention the last two times. She was especially disgruntled last Friday night, when I took home not just one, but a pair of hunkboats in their early 30s — her age — while she wound up going home alone. When I suggested — very diplomatically, it seemed to me, at least — that she might want to visit Honduras herself some time, I could see she wanted to say something snide and hurtful about my age, but I guess she also wanted to remain employed, so she just blurted something about needing to get home to her dog, and left. Her stool remained vacant for around four milliseconds.

I don’t lie about my age, and won’t pretend that a couple of my, well, conquests haven’t been a bit discombobulated to discover that I’m actually much older than I’ve come to appear. Only last week this very attractive account executive I took home from Lucki’s went pale when I mused that I was old enough to be his mother. He was out of bed and half-dressed in less time than it had taken Trycia’s stool to be claimed. It was as though he’d discovered that I’m a guy, as, between you and me, I used to be, what seems a lifetime ago. I just laughed, secure in the knowledge that I’d find someone just as cute or cuter the next night. And I did, another duo.

I’m amazed by the number of guys who imagine some variation on “You’re really beautiful” to be an effective opening gambit. It isn’t. It’s a waste of time, or at least used to be. I would always smile and say, “Thank you,” or, “How kind of you,” which left us squarely still on Square 1. Lately, though, I’ve taken to saying, “Yes, darling, I know,” which turns out to be quite an effective separator of wheat from chaff. Should my prospective seducer smirk and say, for instance, “And modest too!” I’ll surmise he probably imagines it witty to repeat catchphrases from television sitcoms, and will find something interesting to look at over his shoulder until he reads the writing on the wall and shuffles off with his tail between his legs.

As a young man (in my earlier, pre-transition, life), I was greatly saddened to read that Sammy Davis Jr. had literally bathed in Aramis, presumably to minimise the danger of a white person accusing him of not smelling nice. How cruelly ironic that potbellied rednecks with sopping underarms should imagine themselves more naturally fragrant than someone as talented as Sam. It's always those lacking any trace of stylishness themselves who most loudly ridicule those in mullets or Crocs.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Rock Is a Dying Genre

Two friends of ours came to London, and invited us to dinner. I’d known Hubby in college. He, three years my senior, had been the editor of the weekly entertainment supplement of the student newspaper. After months of lacking it, I’d worked up the courage (with the help of a couple of vodka gimlets in the student cocktail lounge) to go in to try to interest him in my reviewing jazz records for him, only to discover that he regarded jazz as a dying genre. I tried to hoodwink him — to make him believe that many of the rock recording artists his section regularly creamed over were either slumming jazz musicians, or else were much more influenced by jazz than he might have realised. I asserted, for instance, that, without Illinois Jacquet, Pearl Jam wouldn’t have been possible. He said the best he could do was let me review rock stuff, and point out the derivations I was alleging. It worked for me because none of my readers had ever heard of the jazz musicians I commonly cited, and because, once having reviewed them, I was able to trade the rock records for jazz at a little record store I’d discovered in Little Israel.

After college, I’d gone on to burning bridges and refusing to suffer fools, with the result that I lived hand to mouth. He, meanwhile, got himself an accreditation in the use of laser tattoo removal, and made a fortune when rebellious kids ran out of room on their epidermises and went back to piercing themselves all over and wearing rings through their ears, nostrils, nipples, and, in some cases, even eyelids. It was embarrassing that he picked up the tab whenever the four of us got together, so I suggested that he and his wife come to our home and let us cook for them, but they had to be at Heathrow barbarically early the following morning for their flight back to Beverly Hills, and that was that.

Their hotel had been built in 2014 on the site of what had traditionally been a car park popular with employees of the nearby American embassy, which has been ringed by heavily armed soldiers since the day after 9/11. My wife was of course delighted that his was apparently in the mood to get a little tipsy, as it gave her licence to get a little tipsy herself. I ordered my traditional sparkling water, and we spoke of my tribulations, and of their two children and Donald J. Trump’s odiousness. Because I am old and weary and a visual blight, I commonly have to (and feel it morally incumbent on me to) excuse myself to use the restroom, as I did when the conversational flame began to flicker a bit.

It turned out to be attended — that is, to have present a guy in a bowtie and gleaming jelled hair whose job it was to hand you an actual fabric towel after you’d finished…eliminating, and, if you assented, to spray you with pleasant-smelling unguents. I grew up believing, at Mom’s urging, that elimination is deeply shameful, and much prefer to do it in solitude, but no such luck. Patting my right front pocket as I headed for the sink, I was horrified to realise I’d left my collection of British coins on my desk when I’d changed from my comfy dad jeans into my chic skinny ones. I wasn’t about to give him a fiver (the smallest-denomination British bill), and was pretty sure he’d sneer at me if, before drying my hands, I asked him to hang on while I dashed out to Reception for some change. Surely many fellows said they were going for change and then never returned. I thought to decline the towel he offered, but there was neither a paper towel dispenser nor one of those hot air blowers that even the most environmentally conscious among us hate. But I had an idea as I accepted a towel. “Listen, mate,” I said, even though I always feel a twat addressing Brits with their own word, “I don’t have any change. But if you can tell me whom you regard as the greatest of the bebop saxophonists, and why, I’ll give you five quid.”

Nowadays, of course, it’s rock that’s the dying genre.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


In middle school, Kevin wished in vain for invisibility, and died a little bit each afternoon in PE. No young man on the planet was less athletic, and he had what his classmates enjoyed calling boy-boobs. They, in many cases, were getting lovely defined pectoral muscles without having pumped so much as a gram of iron. He had significant complexion problems, no dress sense, dandruff, comically undersized teeth, and a pronounced stammer, of which such wits as Lee, the  cruel classmate who could play every sport brilliantly, and whom the girls pretty much unanimously ajudged the cutest boy in school, did an hilarious imitation.

In high school, while Lee was leading not just the football, but also the basketball and baseball teams, to glory of a sort they hadn’t achieved in years. Kevin was in his cramped bedroom, which reeked equally of his industrial-strength acne medication and excessive masturbation, teaching himself to play the guitar like Ritchie Blackmore. It turned out that he'd been born to play the guitar, and after his performance at the big spring student talent show in his and Lee’s senior year, his status went through the roof. Taniqua Joyner, who was widely thought to have spurned Lee, actually invited him to the senior prom. It was as though his acne and dandruff had disappeared overnight.  

He didn’t wear his new status well, but gloatingly. When he sneered vengefully once too often in the corridor of the History building, Lee loudly wondered how he’d like having his jeans and boxers yanked down around his ankles in full view of all. Taniqua, on her way to Calculus, saved the day, advising Lee, “You so much as touch my hubbin, motherfucker, and they’ll need your dental records to identify your ass.” It was fashionable for female students of color to refer to their boyfriends as hubbins, a mispronunciation of husbands.

Lee went onto college, and then law school, and got hired, largely on the basis of his athlete’s charisma and male model good looks, by a huge downtown law firm mostly in the business of defending corporate miscreants. Kevin, meanwhile, happened to be in Guitar Center, shaming all the other shredders, one Saturday afternoon when the road manager from a very popular arena-rock band heard him and encouraged him to contact the band’s management, the band’s existing guitarist’s alcoholism having become unignorably problematic. The band hired him, and for three and a half years Kevin had all the starstruck nymphets he could copulate with, and constant requests from guitar magazines to reveal what kinds of strings and plectrums and pickups he favoured.

The problem was that none of his success made him stop feeling a spotty, boy-boobed misfit sure to have his jeans and boxer shorts pulled down around his ankles in full view of all when everyone realised who he really was. He began using cocaine, and found that it provided even greater solace than his ability to play Ritchie Blackmore licks faster and cleaner than Ritchie Blackmore himself had. Within a few months, the arena-rock band was wondering if there was something about them that seemed to turn every guitarist to a substance abuse. Lee, meanwhile, became a partner at his big evil law firm, and, after sleeping with every attractive secretary or other support staff member on the premises, married one of his fellow partners. The happy couple bought a 6000-square-foot McMansion in the suburbs, didn’t care in the slightest that anyone regarded it as a McMansion, and had two gorgeous kids, a boy and a girl, neither of whom was autistic or physically imperfect.

Kevin, meanwhile, married a fellow alcoholic he met at one of his meetings. They did nothing but fight, though, and, at what he thought must be the worst moment of his life, he pawned his 1962 Gibson SG Standard, which Eric Clapton was said to have owned, to buy toot. But it turned out that far worse moments were to follow.

Monday, October 31, 2016

The First Vato They Come Looking For

Before the dementia got her in its clutches, Carol had been one of those who literally wouldn’t harm a fly. Terri and Raphael remembered their mom’s having interrupted countless family meals to get a drinking glass in which to capture a fly everyone else in the family would have been quite happy to swat, and then to take it to the back door and free it while her dinner got cold. They remembered Carol agonizing about slapping her own shoulders reflexively when they went camping, as, in doing so, she might have killed a mosquito. As her Alzheimer’s got progressively worse, though, the fervently gentle mom Terri and Raph had known became ever more bellicose, ever more inclined to taking a punch at one of the staff of the convalescent hospital in which they’d seen to recoure but to place her. Given that she was heading for 88, Carol’s punches weren’t exactly Joe Frazier’s in his prime, but Raph reckoned it was much more the indignity to which the carers objected.

At least that was the case until Carol, thinking she was being poisoned, managed to poke Esperanza right in the eye two Monday nights ago while Esparanza was putting Carol’s dinner down. The tiny Salvadorean was ordinarily so softspoken that Lisa, the supervising RN, had warned her about making the patients having to keep asking her to repeat herself, but the poke, which made Esperanza's eye an alarming bright red, inspired her to screech in pain loudly enough to be heard across 14th Street. 

Raph and Terri were mortified, and took Carol aside to implore her to try to keep in mind that Esperanza and the others had her welfare in mind, but Carol had no recollection of her belligerence, and was hurt to the point of tears that her own kids would accuse her of such a thing. “I like these people,” she said. “I’ve always liked them. When others were accusing them of being lazy and dishonest, and calling them greasy, I would never hear of it.” The siblings thought Carol must mean Mexicans. They doubted that their mother had even heard of San Salvador.

Or was it El Salvador? Which was the city, and which the country?

Two afternoons later, when Raph was leaving work, he came out to the employee parking lot to find two indigenous-looking Latinos admiring his Prius. “How you doing, ese?” the shorter , the spiky-haired one, asked cordially, displaying a mouthful of teeth whiter than anyone of European descent could ever hope for, and offering the Raph his fist to warily tap his own against in greeting.

“Beautiful car you got, ese,” his companion, whose eyes didn’t twinkle, and who had a little teardrop tattooed beneath the outside corner of the left one, said, shaking his head. “Environmentally responsible and shit. Me and Refugio would hate to see anything happen to it.”

Raph gulped and asked what the guy meant. “What we mean,” the guy said, while Refugio delicately picked a fallen leaf off the car’s hood, “is that we don’t like to hear about our own being treated bad. And we have it on…what’s that expression?...good authority that your mamacita almost blinded the sister of a friend of ours the other night at her old folks’ home.”

“They call them convalescent hospitals, ese,” Refugio corrected him.

“Whatever,” the serious one said. “If you don’t want to have to replace the windshield of your environmentally friendly car, ese, you’ll have a talk with Mamacita.”

“As if we didn’t, me and my sister!” Raph protested.

“Then have another one, ese,” Refugio said.

“And vote for Senora Clinton, ese,” the serious one said, “and make sure everybody you know does too. That cabrĂ³n Trump gets in, ese, you’re the first vato we come looking for.” At this, Refugio giggled.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Nearer to Tepid Than Hot

Jody figured he knew what the problem was. He’d grown up feeling clumsy and ugly (or, at best, not at all attractive) and unlovable, and hating it. In adulthood, he couldn’t get enough reassurance that he had ceased to be any of those things. In the spirit of going-out-of-business retailers who will reject no reasonable offer, Jody couldn’t turn down any reasonably attractive woman. Sometimes, slinking guiltily out of such a woman’s apartment (or, in a couple of notable cases) office, he would reflect on the film star Paul Newman’s having famously wondered, “When I’ve got steak [his wife, Joanne Woodward] waiting at home, why would I settle for hamburger [that is, someone less desirable than Woodward]?” Jody regarded Karen as very much prettier than Joanne Woodward — who, yes, yes, no doubt had lots of wonderful attributes beside her looks — and settled for a great deal of hamburger.

He was pretty sure that if Karen ever found out about his ongoing…thing with Susan, one of his fellow production artists, she’d give him an especially hard time about Susan’s being far nearer to tepid than to hot, and having rather a lot to sit on. But she turned out to do nothing of the sort the night she discovered on Jody’s iPhone the selfie of Susan in a filmy black negligee that made her look sillier than sexy. She came into the garage, where Jody was changing the Civic’s oil, and addressed him in the least censorious, calmest tone in the world. When, in response to her holding up his phone to show him the photo, he turned the Forester’s color and started blurting nonsense, she just smiled indulgently and said, “It’s all right, Jode. I’ve been seeing someone myself.”

Said someone turned out to be an intern at the magazine where she was deputy features editor, and Jody went from frightened and defensive to righteously indignant at warp speed. “Maybe you’d like to tell me about…him,” he seethed, which made Karen giggle. She revealed that the fellow was 22 — 19 years’ Jody’s junior! — and “well lush”, said assessment  delivered in the tone and accent of one of those girls in three pairs of false eyelashes and shoes she couldn’t actually walk one commonly observed throwing up on each other in town centres of a Saturday night. Jody felt mocked, and made his I’m-pouting face.

“I’ve actually been thinking for ages that our seeing other people would strengthen or own bond,” Karen said, without sniggering.

“So there’s been others?” Jody demanded, ungrammatically.

“Loads,” Karen affirmed. “I mean, not nymphomania-level loads by any means, but several, as I’d guess you’ve had yourself. In any event, I think it’ll be very much healthier if, a couple of nights a week, each of us is free to pursue other interests, if you will, with no questions asked. I’m seeing Jez Thursday night, so you might want to make plans with Ms. Thickthighs.” Jody surmised miserably that Jez was the lush young intern, and Susan Ms. Thickthighs.

As we’ve discussed, Jody wasn’t exactly infatuated with Susan, but didn’t feel confident about being able to pull anyone prettier before Thursday, so the next morning he invited himself into her cubicle and asked if she anticipated feeling thirsty on Thursday evening. If so, he would take her out for a drink. Susan advised him that she’d found insulting his slinking guiltily from her flat not 10 minutes after they’d…finished the one time she’d had him round, and that she would buy her own bloody drink. It occurred to Jody to threaten to circulate the photo of her in the unflattering black negligee in the office if she wouldn’t play ball, so to speak, but he had a shred or two of decency left, even after his many indiscretions, and spent Thursday evening with a mate, moaning about how treacherous women were.