Monday, September 3, 2018

Vrhnika 2021

As usual, Bari was the first to arrive at the clinic. He turned on the lights and Svetko’s and Klemen’s Titan 4’s, and made himself tea. He looked at his phone and saw that there was another text message from his father, who couldn’t seem to get it through his head that Bari wasn’t going to respond to him. Bari marvelled at Father imagining that he cared how uncomfortable and miserable he was at the prison in which he would spend the rest of his life, at how he seemed to imagine that Bari would believe his denial of involvement in his and Mother’s kidnapping and deportation after Mother admitted on 60 Minutes that she detested Father, and was sickened by him. 
That night, half a dozen men in dark suits and even darker scowls had broken into their apartment in the Tower and informed them that they were going to be visiting Mother’s native country, Slovenia, even though they’d just returned from visiting Aunt Ines there two weeks before. They didn’t even allow Mother to pack. The leader of the men was very rude to Mother, and when she tried to get past him into her huge wardrobe room, he grabbed her by the arm. Bari wanted to defend her, but another of the men, chewing gum with a strong smell of peppermint, had stepped in front of him wearing a face that reminded Bari of Jared R—, the worst bully at St. Andrew's Episcopal and growled, “Stay put, little man.”
After getting over the shock, Mother had actually been very happy about their forced relocation. Not three weeks after they got back, she’d met Zdravko, an architect from Ljubljana, and Bari had immediately liked him much more than he liked Father, who’d never seemed very interested in him. But Bari missed Davina, his best (that is, only) friend from St. Andrew’s, and didn’t know what to do with himself until Zdravko had the idea of asking his cousin to give him a job for the summer atthe tattoo removal clinic he owned in Vrhnika. And here Bari was, starting his fourth week as the clinic’s gofer and, in theory, intern.
Monday mornings were usually very quiet. Svetko and Klemen would brag to each other about the sexual adventures they’d had over the weekend, and about how much Brinjevec they’d drunk, and take 200-minute lunches. It seemed that this particular Monday was going to be even quieter than usual, as Klemen sent a text message saying he was too too hung over to come in at all, and Svetko one of his own saying he wouldn’t be in until early afternoon, which Bari knew to mean around three. He sighed and resigned himself to spending the next several hours on Instagram and Snapchat, though Davina, back in the USA, probably wouldn’t even wake up before Svetko came in. Bored, he read Father’s text message, which, as usual, was about how awful the food was, and how unfair the guards and other inmates were to him. As he had back at St. Andrew’s, Bari wondered how Father chose which words to capitalise. It seemed to be completely random.

At a few minutes past eleven, an actual client came in, and Bari panicked. What if the guy wanted a tat removed? Bari had watched dozens of removals, but not yet been allowed to use the lasers. Asking Bari, “How you doing?” the guy sounded American. Bari asked if he was, and the guy said, yes, from Altoona, Pennsylvania. He and his wife had been to Venice, and Llubljana, which had turned out to be a lot nicer, a lot greener, than he’d expected. He’d read about Bari's summer job, and hoped to speak to him.

He didn’t like the look on Mr. Altoona’s face as related how ICE had essentially kidnapped and made to disappears the wife of one of his best friends at work. There hadn’t been much about his earlier life Bari had liked, but he’d been grateful, in view of how many people hated Father, for the square-jawed guys in dark blue suits who went everywhere with him and Mother. 

The guy took his sweater off. He was wearing a tanktop beneath it. He certainly wasn’t in anything like the great shape Zdravko, who went to the gym five times a week, was in. His right upper arm said Fuck Trump. “Is that what you want removed?” Bari asked, knowing, even as he did so, that it was a stupid question, since it was the guy’s only visible tattoo.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

My Childhood In a Nutshell

No matter how hard we try, few of us are able to become very different from the people our childhoods moulded. I suspect it would be very much more illuminating if, instead of asking each other to name our 10 favourite albums, we instead enquired about the iconic experiences of our respective childhoods.
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t clumsy and physically inept. One of my earliest memories is of being unable, at around four, to master the art of tying my own shoelaces. In a way, I was born into the wrong body — one that tends to stumble a lot, to lurch, to collide with immobile objects. As a boy, I wanted desperately to be strong and fast and agile, to be as athletic as my most admired of my classmates were. Being smart was no consolation whatever, especially because I wasn’t quite smart enough — as how many children are? — to recognise that I ought to have played to my strengths and left the sports that I adored, but played dreadfully, to others.
When I was around eight, my dad won me a new Schwinn bicycle in a supermarket-sponsored competition by being better at colouring than any of the children who’d entered. Another boy — A Real Boy — might have been elated, especially if able to accept the morality of his father’s having cheated on his behalf. (Dad was sure lots of fathers had done as he’d done.) I was the opposite of elated. What if, when the guy at Thriftimart presented my bike, he chuckled, “Well, don’t you want to take her out for a little spin?” That I couldn’t ride a two-wheeler  was one of the most shameful of a whole trunkful of secrets I lived in mortal fear of others discovering when I was a boy.  
Dad took me up to a sparsely populated, traffic-less side street in our little southern California beach town to teach me to ride, but it was hopeless. Sitting on the bike, I was probably half a foot taller than when standing, and, given my defective sense of balance, I had no doubt I’d fall off and hurt myself if I tried to ride. Not that being paralysed with fear was new to me. I’d been comparably paralysed four years earlier when Dad, who’d adored frolicking in the Atlantic in southern New Jersey during his own boyhood, tried to get me to go into the ocean with him. Mom had vividly communicated her fear of the water to me, and I wouldn’t finally learn to swim until around 14. Dad made no secret of his disappointment.
(Throughout my childhood, he’d tell me he was going to teach me to swim as he himself had learned. He’d take me to a public swimming pool and toss me in. I’d either figure out what to do or drown. Child abuse, without a finger being lifted.)
So here we are at last in the Signature Moment of My Childhood. My dad is taking a cigarette break from the frustration of trying to get his son to…man up a little bit, shaking his head in frustration and incredulity. I am sitting on the curb near my accursed bicycle, drowning in my own shame, hoping, as I have never hoped for anything else, that the world will end before he can finish his cigarette and sigh, “Let’s give it another try.”
The world doesn’t end, and I don’t find the necessary courage to mount the bike. Disgusted and defeated, Dad takes another tack. He’ll go home, and I can learn to ride the bike at my own pace. I can ride my bike home. 
After maybe half an hour of continuing to hope in vain that the world will end, I get up on the bike, push off from the curb, and almost immediately fall off, face first, knocking out my three front teeth. Some things just feel destined.
The good news. I was riding by the age of nine— just like A Real Boy! — and loving it. And 10 days ago, during the infernal heatwave, I swam back and forth across the Thames twice. (I finally learned at 14.)
The bad news. My largely excruciating childhood produced an adult that, as in my song FrenchFries for Breakfast, hated himself, but hated the world much more, and wasn’t stingy, when the world began viewing him (as though for some vicious prank) as gorgeous and bright and talented, with gratuitous cruelty, my many memories of which are nearly as painful as that of the morning on a quiet street in Playa del Rey that cost me my front teeth.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Mike Pence at the Fertility Clinic

By virtue of being what is colloquially known as a stud, I have considerable experience of fertility clinics. I put myself through college and then law school by donating sperm at a variety of such facilities in my semi-native southern California, and the last time I checked, in 2014, was the father of no fewer than 9 children, by 11 different mothers. I receive more Father Day cards than almost anyone I know. 
One must be tumescent – that is, “have wood” – to ejaculate, so those clinics unable to afford an in-house hottie who used to model for Victoria’s Secret catalogues, and was allowed keep some of the lingerie, commonly have on hand a selection of pornographic material. There will be copies of Hustler, with many pages stuck together, for the Trump voters, and higher-end publications for men of greater refinement. There will be videos, some presumably either starring or directed by Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Miriam Horowitz. 
Stud that I am, I never needed that sort of simulation. To prepapre myself to…donate, I had only to think of Sophia Loren stripping for Marcelo Mastroianni in Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow or, in more recent years, of Chrissy Amphlette of Divinyls. 
Be all of which as it may, I have now learned, through sources I have been asked not to identify, that Vice President Mike Pence is one of a group of  evangelical Christians dedicated to producing as many rosy-cheeked Christian children as possible before our country is overrun by Muslims and MS-13 thugs. Apparently Mr. Pence has the blessing of his beautiful wife Judy, whom he addresses in the hearing of horrified third parties as Mother, and whose real name is Karen. My understanding is that, when first offered a selection of sticky 1993 editions of Hustler and Stormy Daniels videos, he emphatically rejected them for being ungodly, and instead asked to be shown episodes of the much-praised Hulu television series A Handmaid’s Tale, which depicts a fascist theocratic future version of the USA in which women do what they’re told and are forever murmuring little pieties like ‘blessed day” and “praised be”.  
As you might imagine, the pages of the ancient Hustlers get stuck together by the sperm many gentlemen ejaculate into them. One is of course asked to ejaculate into a sterile receptacle, and forfeits his payment by, well, cumming into anything else, but many of those who find the crack addict sluts of Hustler exciting, and who regard Donald J. Trump as a viable political leader, can’t bear being told what they can and cannot do. Don't tread on me!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Mr. White Male Privilege in the Hillarian Echo Chamber!

Karen Rodham Schlosberg those of you who stayed home and/or didn’t think the Supreme Court was an important enough reason to go out and vote for Hillary, fuck you.

Meryl Feldman Laguna yes, you blind idiots. F U.

Julie McCormick Agreed - I'm so so angry right now although that's been my constant state of being since Nov 2016.

John Mendelssohn Cut it out. How many of those people who stayed home would have done so if they'd an inkling that the calamity that occurred COULD occur? Do I think Hillary would have been preferable to Trump? God, yes. Would I, absent a viable chance of a Trump victory, have been excited about the idea of a Hillary presidency? Absolutely not. For the record, I thought there was enough of a chance of his winning that I would indeed have voted "for" her had those responsible managed to provide the absentee ballot I requested no fewer than three times.
John Mendelssohn It's remarkable to me how, even at this late date, you refuse to acknowledge that many of us on the left were deeply uncomfortable with the idea of a Hillary presidency.

Karen Rodham Schlosberg I don’t fucking care how uncomfortable they would’ve been. The fact is that this is a disaster that might’ve been prevented if some people hadn’t been such whiny snowflakes looking for some false idea of perfection. Fuck them. I would’ve been massively uncomfortable voting for Bernie but I would’ve done it rather than vote for Trump. There’s no excuse. None. Fuck them.

Ben Donahue Stop policing her rage.

John Mendelssohn Or what, Ben? You'll think less of me? I do appreciate that this isn't really an exchange of views, but one of those echo-chamber things one keeps reading about. KRS suggests, rather rabidly, that it wasn't possible to have legitimate reservations aplenty about Hillary.  I'm living proof to the contrary. So what I'll do is let you and the others enjoy your frenzy of self-righteousness (and condemnation of those who couldn't bear Hillary, BUT WOULD HAVE VOTED FOR HER IF THE ABSENTEE BALLOT HAD ARRIVED, and who agree wholeheartedly that Donald Trump is unspeakable).

Karen Rodham Schlosberg John Mendelssohn i’m not suggesting that it wasn’t possible to have legitimate reservations about Hillary. I’m suggesting that it was stupid to keep those reservations from going out and voting for her in the face of Trump. Stupid, selfish, and inconsiderate. Almost evil.

Laura Amick Dozois Why would ANYONE not have relished the opportunity to vote against a well-known and self-admitted raping, pussy-grabbing, bigoted, misogynistic, name-calling, adulterous, what supremacist, horrible, bankrupt moronic businessman, pathological lying, mean spirited dumbass? Why would ANYONE need to be prodded to the polls to vote against such a despicable, horrific candidate?

Wendy L. Temple Your "discomfort" is nothing but WHITE MALE PRIVILEGE. Says EVERYONE ELSE whose basic civil rights were on the line - women, POC, LGBT, immigrants, the disabled, children, etc., etc., etc. NO rationalization or apologia is going to do it for me, especially when the Democratic candidate had the most liberal platform in HISTORY, yet is still painted by people as a centrist, which is just what Putin wanted.
Laura Amick Dozois John Mendelssohn admitting publicly that you were as manipulated by Russia and a hesitant, tentative, "don't want to look too biased" media, isn't really something I would recommend doing. The fact that you so willingly believed the lies about Hillary Clinton (and apparently still do...well done, Putin) says more about you than anything else.

John Mendelssohn Wendy L. Temple And the winner of tonight's WMP (white male privilege) loving cup is...Wendy L. Temple. Someone was bound to say it, and stalwart Wendy came to the fore when the chips were down! Actually, my discomfort is with those who, at the beginning of this zesty exchange, rabidly denounced those who couldn't see their way clear to vote for HRC. (I, by the way, was not one of those, as noted above.) I think those who voted for Mr. Trump deserve rather more of our condemnation. As Ms. Dozois notes above, it's almost inconceivable what anyone could do so.
John Mendelssohn Oh, Laura. And here I thought we were getting on so wonderfully! Just as one example, was HRC's eager embrace of the war criminal Henry Kissinger orchestrated by Putin? Was her acceptance of the marriage rights of the LGBT needing to…evolve?

Laura Amick Dozois Do people really STILL not know that Hillary Clinton got more votes than any white man EVER in the history of this country? Do people really STILL not know that Hillary Clinton got more votes than Barack Obama got in 2012? Does anyone notice that it's almost always white men who want to remind the rest of us that "Hillary wasn't a very popular candidate" DESPITE WHAT THE MATH SHOWS?

John Mendelssohn Laura Amick Dozois One could make the argument that, with Donald fucking Trump as the opposition, you'd have imagined she might have received even more votes than she did, DfT having been the worst candidate in modern American political history.

Laura Amick Dozois John Mendelssohn oh, we are indeed SO lucky to have you! I forgot...everyone born in the 1940s has been enlightened about same-sex marriage since the day of their fucking birth! How could I forget that? Shame on me. And the Henry Kissinger thing is so damn tired. Now I know that you're a BernieBro. No further conversation needed.

Wendy L. Temple Holy crap, John, you are the poster boy for WMP by starting out this conversation by telling a woman she should shut up, on her own page!How many times a day does this happen, my fellow women? Too many to count.

Charles Taylor Were you uncomfortable with Hillary, you fucking baby? Tell it to the kids in camps and the parents who don’t know where they are. Yes, many on the left were uncomfortable with Hillary. Which makes them fucking idiots who think politics is about purity. Because every time the left gets uncomfortable with a Democratic candidate—as theydid with Humphrey and Gore and Hillary—people of color die.

Madeleine Fisher Kern John Mendelssohn is showing the ugly side of what is ugly throughout and that is arrogance, narcissism, white privilege and that ugly male dominating show of bravado in his BS posts. Pull your skinny assed chest in, John, you've been read and re-read for what you are and it is quite distasteful. Now, in your "mortally wounded" state, we all invite you to limp off onto a thread that finds you might actually have some thing relevant to say.
Stacey Sharp John Mendelssohn Don't even try to convince us you didn't vote because it was going to be a landslide for Hillary anyway. The polls closed tight in the last week. didn't get the absentee ballot you requested? Well, by the time the polls showed it would NOT be a landslide, you could have gotten off your butt on election day and voted in person. Or pushed harder for a ballot. People DIED so you can vote and you're whining you didnt get instant ballot service so you didn't bother voting? Don't. Just Don't. Because no one believes you.
Stacey Sharp John Mendelssohn criticize HRC's same sex marriage stance evolving? Then defend Bernie saying that same sex marriage should be a state's rights issue left to places like Alabama even AFTER states starting making it legal. (And no, don't question the fact..I have the VT news video of him saying it).

John Mendelssohn Stacey Sharp I could have gotten off my butt and voted in person, madam? Well, I tried. But damned if I could find even one polling place in southwest London, where I live.

Stacey Sharp John Mendelssohn Awwww...and you surely worked so hard to get a ballot. You've told us how upset you are about Kissinger...but would you care to tell us why you did NOT bring up that Sanders had anti-war protestors upset with his pro-war stance ARRESTED rather than speaking with them on the phone (he wasn't even there). Or why he didn't vote against the 9/14/2001 Authorization - Cong Barbara Lee did, Bernie did not.
John Mendelssohn Fuck off, Stacy. I requested an absentee ballot three times, and had no reason to believe one wouldn't be supplied. May I know how I've come to be perceived as a Bernie Sanders zealot? Some people seem to have two settings, as here. If I found many things about Hillary distasteful, it can only be because I worshipped the ground on which Bernie walked, huh? Well, no such thing was the case. But let's just consider your point. Tens of thousands died because of Kissinger's complicity in the extension of the war in Viet Nam and bombing of Cambodia. On the other hand, Sanders had some protestors arrested. And these two things are equivalent in your view? Hit me with your best shot, Stacey. "White male privilege" always goes over well in a room like this one. Never mind that it doesn't have Thing 1 to do with my objecting to Karen's thread-starting rabidity.
Stacey Sharp John Mendelssohn See, your words, your descriptions, say "Berner". And you consider the killings and displacement in Kosovo to be 'nothing'? 13,517 people were killed or went missing during the conflict. The Yugoslav and Serb forces caused the displacement of between 1.2 million to 1.45 million Kosovo Albanians. Yeah, they don't matter. Nor, apparently, does Freedom of Speech mean a lot to you.

John Mendelssohn Stacey Sharp You're making my head spin, Stacey, and I've concluded that I'd have as much chance of trying to make sense of a Trumpist's ravings as I do of being able to understand your leaping around. I wish you a very pleasant afternoon and evening.

Stacey Sharp Shrugs, I guess someone who considers support for the killings in Kosovo not important would duck out.

You are likely enjoy the Christians and Others for Decency and American video series at

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Guitar Lesson

The choice grew ever starker. On the one hand, Brendan could stop performing his own songs, except in pedestrian malls, for voluntary donations, and instead play songs modern diners and drinkers wanted to hear, or he could go back to selling luxury bathroom fixtures, usually to the supercilious rich. He decided on the former, and set about learning the several Ed fucking Sheeran songs for which he received so many requests. He set up shop right across from the big Bentall Centre in Kingston on Saturday afternoon and discovered — to one part delight and four parts dismay — that a great many more people paused to listen than when he sang his own stuff. As he’d hoped would happen, the proprietor from a local pub invited him to pop over for a chat one evening, and the next thing he knew, Brendan was playing three nights a week at the Goose and Syringe, for a fifth what IT would have paid, but enough to keep the fridge full and the heating on.

Mostly he sang for himself. Occasionally, he’d start one of Ed’s songs, and a few drinkers or diners might click the pause button on their conversations to savour the first verse and chorus. When he sneaked a couple of his own songs back into the repertoire, no one seemed to mind. And during the second set of the evening, a pair of white van types with thick tattooed necks, nothing like as genteel as the rest of the place’s clientele, seemed actually to enjoy one of his own songs. He’d have preferred the pair of young women who favoured Keira Knightley and an adult-sized Kylie Minogue, but one takes what he can get.

The two geezers, Nige and Roy, insisted on buying him a pint during his second break. He was afraid they might ask if the original song that had got them grinning was a Sheeran. It turned out they hadn’t really noticed the song, but Bren’s guitar-playing. Their employer wanted to learn to play. Did Bren offer tuition? Bren had never either received nor bestowed a guitar lesson and said, “I’m flattered, but I’m not the right person for the job.”

His two new friends smirked at each other. Nige said, “Well, we think you are, sunshine, so your two choices are teaching the boss to play, or having me and Roy stomp on your fucking hands until they look like fucking crepes, and if I was you, I’d teach the boss to play.” Bren had to admit that seemed by far the more attractive option, told the Syringe’s governor that he was poorly, and unable to do a third set that night, and allowed his two new friends to drive him — in a gleaming BMW 5 Series that smelled two weeks out of the showroom — up to Richmond Hill, where The Boss lived in a 5th-storey penthouse with a view of the river.

He had a troubling scar on his left cheek and a gorgeous replica of The Fool, the psychedelic Gibson SG Eric Clapton had played with Cream, except The Boss, who sounded Welsh, said it wasn’t a replica, but the actual instrument. Trying to bond with him, Brendan mused that it must have cost a fortune. The Boss snickered. “Let’s just say that its previous owner insisted have it.” Nige plugged him into a Marshall 2525C Mini Silver Jubilee Combo. He played a little blues lick, clumsily. Roy marvelled, “Fabulous!” under his breath, and Nige looked very impressed too.


Brendan thought he’d teach The Boss E7, A7, and B7 chords. “Learn these three,” he said, trying for chirpiness, even though The Boss’s unmistakable lack of aptitude made him worry for his hands, “and you’ll be able to play literally thousands of blues and rock and roll songs.” The Boss grunted sceptically, and then, over the next 10 minutes, made no progress whatever and growled, “Fucking hell!” in frustration 750,000 times. He reverted to playing his one little blues lick, glaring at Brendan as he did so, as though to demonstrate to Brendan that their lack of progress was entirely to do with Brendan’s deficiencies as a teacher.


“Not much bloody use then, are you, sunshine?” Nige growled at Brendan, who was pretty sure he wasn’t going to be playing the guitar very well himself anymore. But instead of stomping on his hands, Nige and Roy dropped him off The Boss’s balcony. His neck was broken, and his left leg, and several ribs, but his hands were undamaged.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

48 Years Later, This Zeppelin Fan Hadn't Yet Forgiven Me, Not That I Want to Be Forgiven

I wanted to share with you some comments I just saw on my Soundcloud page, which I rarely visit. Their author is one Cameron Burns, who, 48 years after the fact, remained very displeased with me for having written disparagingly in Rolling Stone of Led Zeppelin’s second album and seems to enjoy my own music rather less than I would hope. He refers to my own group, Christopher Milk. His remarks are unedited.

Thanks for being in touch, Cam! With someone like you on their side, Zeppelin need never worry that their legacy has ceased to be etched in eternity. 

·       on I'll Lay My Dusty Placard Down

give up... your horrible. nobody listens to this shit anyways... old Japanese saying SAVE FACE you moron
Posted 1 year ago1 year
·       on The Hero
hero to nobody. hey hows christpopher and the dick milkers doing??? selling lots of records? didnt think so. Get on Zeppelins level you twat
Posted 1 year ago1 year
·       on Boytoy
You had some strong words to say about pages playing.... and yet you can barely play a fuckin guitar yourself. get some chops you joke
Posted 1 year ago1 year
·       on Departure Day
Wake me up when this shit is over and never play it again
Posted 1 year ago1 year
you suck. this music all sounds the same. get out of the box your trapped in... ITS SHIT
Posted 1 year ago1 year
·       on Cipramil
your voice sounds like old people fucking - a bitter excuse at that
Posted 1 year ago1 year
·       on The Nightmare of Xmas
This isn't even music its just an old fuck with a tape recorder and an internet connection
Posted 1 year ago1 year
this is horrible, unimaginative, lacks creativity and musical premise. Maybe take a page out of that best blues guitarist between 5'4 and 5'8.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

He Doesn't Deserve Her

He doesn’t deserve her. Benign is about the best thing I can think of to call Tim. He gets maybe a third of my jokes, those delivered with a wink to make clear they’re jokes. He drinks Bud Lite. He roots for the home team, and is rarely seen outside the house without his ball cap bearing its logo, though in fairness the first time we met he wore a white shirt and tie and no cap, presumably to convey respect. He’s an assistant produce manager at the big Stop-n-Save over on Highway 23, but Suz tells me it’s harder getting him than their two-year-old, the grandson I finally met five weeks ago, to eat anything green.

When we went out together for a man-to-man bonding session, he chose Round Robin, home of the million-calorie chilli cheeseburger, referred to on the menu as The Mighty CCB. When I took Suz to our local one when she was around 11, she called it their instant obesity special, and I shrieked with laughter, embarrassing her nearly as much as pleasing her. I always tried to instil in her a dry sense of humour based on irony and hyperbole, but it wouldn’t have worked if she hadn’t had the gene for it, which I like to think she got from me. When Tim and I went, and I said, “So, having the instant obesity special?” he didn’t get it. “Oh,” he said, “you mean the CCB.” He doesn’t have the gene. I’d guess there’s a 20-point chasm between his and Suz’s IQs.

I couldn’t get him to talk about himself very much. He kept shrugging, and looking around. “They’ve sure got some cool signs in here,” he marvelled. Round Robins’ decoration style is faux nostalgia, heavy on reproductions of metal soft drink, motor oil, and other signs. I stopped asking him questions after a while to see what effect it would have. Crickets. We wound up talking about — you can guess! — sports.

He asked if I minded his having a Bud Lite with his CCB. He’d driven us over. I was more worried about his having exactly the same taste in beer (or, more accurately, beer-flavoured soda pop) that his ball cap would have suggested. I couldn’t keep from telling him, “Hey, knock yourself out.” I needn’t have worried. He took it at face value. And my little girl’s going to marry him.

He and Suz had been an item during my and Suz’s estrangement, but had broken up because of his apparently prodigious consumption of cannabis. He credited Jesus with having helped him beat it. I asked whose fault his “addiction” had been. He said his own. I wondered aloud why he blamed himself for the problem, but gave Jesus full credit for his having solved it. His face said he wanted to change the subject, fast.

You might have thought he’d ask me something about myself at that point. No such luck. If intellectual curiosity were water, Tim wouldn’t have enough to wash a grape in his little corner of the Shop-n-Save. I felt that my initial impression of him as a hopeless dullard was fully confirmed. But after six years of our not speaking, I don’t dare say so to S. Who was going to marry him.

No dad and his little girl could been closer than Suz and I were the first 13 years of her life. Then she hit adolescence and began comfort-eating herself into obesity at exactly the moment a kid most wants to be seen as hot by the opposite sex. (She wasn’t a lesbian, though I’d always told her I’d love her just the same if she were). I could barely stand to witness the pain she was causing herself, and invited her to start coming with me to the gym. What she heard, apparently, was, “You’re fat and disgusting, and I don’t love you.” She didn’t speak to me for 73 months, one week, and four days. It tore my heart out. And now she’s going to become a Bud Lite-drinking dullard’s wife. This time I’ve got to keep my mouth shut.

The white shirt he wore when we first met was short-sleeved, short-sleeved shirts being to supermarket chain assistant produce managers what corduroy sports coats with fake leather elbow patches are to academics, and hideous tattoos to National Basketball Association stars. He didn’t wear a real tie, but one of those clip-on jobs. He’d put mousse (he’d probably have called it styling gel) in his hair to make it spiky. Every stop, pulled out!

He’s waiting for us at the altar, fidgeting to beat the band. There’s gel in his hair again. I walk my beautiful, hilarious, smart, stylish daughter toward him, and feel myself about to burst into tears. Tim’s very dull parents, off whose block he’s a definite chip, and with whom I have found it nearly impossible to converse, beam at us as we pass, as too does a large contingent of Tim’s…buds, who probably feel naked without their own ball caps. My ex-wife, Suzs mom, is staring a death-ray at me. Do not fuck this up for her, you! I must pretend to be pleased by what’s about to happen.

I must somehow contain my tears.

Friday, June 8, 2018

In Such Ways Are My Days Brightened

My zookeeper girlfriend, the one with whom I lived nine years in the bleakest part of San Francisco, said I was prone to perseveration, “a particular response (such as a word, phrase, or gesture) regardless of the absence or cessation of stimuli.” Maybe I am, and maybe I ain’t. What I definitely am, and always have been, with every life partner I’ve been privileged to love and reside with, is fond of little mini-scenarios that get re-enacted many times per week. When a package is delivered to our tiny home sort of near the Thames, and Dame Zelda answers the door, we have a little ritual. She calls upstairs, “A package! I wonder who it could be for.” When she announces that it’s for me, I pretend to become frenzied with excitement, and hurl myself down the stairs, gasping with excitement. She, in turn, holds the package out of my reach until I’ve Asked For It Nicely. I’ll say, “Please [pronounced pweez, for maximum adorableness], may I have my money?” two or three times, and she’ll say, “But it isn’t money, is it?” I’ll typically get it wrong two or three more times before I finally manage, “Please, may I have my package?”
Yes, it’s a little sickening, but that’s one of the things that makes it hilarious for me.
I find that not only in this, but in most of my and Dame Zelda’s little scenarios, I revert to around three and a half, the age at which it all began going wrong for me. Commonly when she’s hard at work at her little desk in our microscopic dining room, I’ll descend the stairs with my trousers around my ankles (spoiler alert: I wear briefs beneath ‘em). When she sees me, she’ll feign exasperation and say, “Pull them up! You’re very immature!” Whereupon, the 40-month-old version of myself will stagger over to our big front window and begin dancing defiantly while she points out, “Someone’s going to see you!” Her doing so, of course, inevitably inspires me to dance all the more lasciviously.
In such ways are my days brightened!
I’ve made up little song fragments and catchphrases, little theme songs, about all my life partners, and driven them crazy reprising ‘em implacably. (Often the relentless repetition of something that isn’t funny on its own terms strikes me as very funny.) I think Dame Zelda is reasonably fond of hers, a sort of Chubby Checker affair called “Claire and the Bear”. Everybody’s doing the Claire and the Bear. They’re doing it over here and they’re doing it over there.
Here I am at 40 months old,
give or take around 35.
That she has always gotten my jokes — however dry, however born of a pre-childish (that is, unashamedly infantile) sense of humour — almost instantly is one of my favourite things about Dame Zelda. About a month after moving to her country, I mused that maybe I should try to make friends (or, in the locals' colourful patois, become mates) with the Rayners Lane bank teller who’d helped me open my first UK account. I mused it might be fun to present him with a bouquet and chocolates when we met. Dame Zelda, not missing a beat, suggested I say something like, “I love you in that shirt. Is it new?” I must have rolled around on the living room floor shrieking with laughter for 10 minutes.
The same sort of thing happened the first time I went into 40-month-old mode and started stomping around the living room chanting, “We have a parade! We have a big parade! We have a big Thursday afternoon parade!” Many women would have been on the phone to the nearest mental health hotline, but Dame Zelda, again not missing a beat, joined right in. “We have a parade! We have a big parade! We have a big Thursday afternoon parade!”
She doesn’t always get it, of course. Given that I have (and am very proud to have!) the most off-the-wall sense of humour of any of her boyfriends, that’s probably inevitable. (I’m the sort who will laugh himself into near-hyperventilation at something by which no one else in the cinema is even faintly amused.) For the past several months, while watching a television programme about Pompeii, for instance, I’ll might turn to her and ask, “Do you like magma [a mixture of molten or semi-molten rock, volatiles and solids found beneath the surface of the Earth]?” Whatever her answer, my own response will be just to repeat it, as though filing it away in my own brain, and turn back to the TV.  I’ve also asked if she likes renewable energy and Keynesian economics. I don’t think she’s realised that, even with my trousers securely belted round my waist, I’m asking the questions a precocious 40-month-old might ask if he or she could pronounce big grownup words but not formulate more sophisticated enquiries.
No spoiler alert required. She doesn’t read my blog.