My friend Regular Tim just sent me an image of an inspirational poster depicting what we suspect to be a large Mormon family. The caption of the photo makes it unsafe for work, however, so I am not posting it.
Instead, I thought you might like this Mormon Jesus. "Why is it a Mormon Jesus?" you may ask. Well, boys and girls, let me explain: the Mormons don't have normal Jesuses. They have Cosmic Jesuses.
There's something in their theology that says after you die you get to go live on other planets or some bullshit like that. Therefore, the Jesus statues in their visitors' centers are usually surrounded by all sorts of outer space stuff. I suppose it's part of their appeal. "If you thought Star Trek was cool, just wait to see what we have in store for you!"
Jin recently wrote about one of her nightmares. It got me to thinking about the first nightmare I remember (other than the one that I lived for 17 years before I moved away from home, but that's another story.)
The first nightmare I remember featured Fred Flintstone. He was standing on a stone pillar that turned slowly in circles. His eyes were closed and he was dead.
I was honored to be tagged by Old Lady to answer the following questions about books that have been important to me.
I have read a lot of books in my life. Some of those books, especially ones from my younger years, I loved so much that I read them again and again. But now that I am faced with the task of summarizing how some of these books have moved me, I feel almost frozen. I used to keep a written list of every book I had ever read, but it got destroyed when our apartment was flooded with heating oil. So now I have only my memory.
I also have a new policy of not owning books. I have moved many times as an adult, and have discovered just how costly it is to move even one box of books. Plus, I am a huge believer in the public library, and go there several times a month to check things out. Most modern libraries have web-based reserve and renewal capabilities which, when coupled with my daily access to a computer with auto calendar programs such as Outlook, make it easy not to miss due dates.
Once George and I settle down into a house that we plan to call “ours” for the duration, perhaps I will begin to rebuild a personal library. I look forward to that.
On with the questions: I reserve the right to make edits, additions and deletions in future blog entries. These current answers reflect only the mood of a CP on a lazy Saturday morning of cat-sitting at Oddrun’s.
A book that has changed your life This was probably the most difficult question of the bunch. I have had many emotional experiences while reading – being moved to tears, anger, extreme empathy and understanding, or unparalleled laughter. I can’t even remember half the books that did any of these things to me, so instead I decided to tell you about my reading during a period of my life when I decided to read one thing and one thing only: gay fiction.
I went through an extreme identity crisis when I graduated from college in 1988. I had decided during my last two years of college that I wanted to date men exclusively for a while, but after I graduated I found that I hardly knew any gay people and that I had no idea how to define myself as a gay person. All my friends were straight, and I didn’t really get along with any of the gay guys I was meeting. Meanwhile, AIDS was busy killing off the older part of the gay community in the late 1980s, which did not exactly create a warm and friendly environment in which to be welcomed. Everyone was scared shitless.
The only gay people close to being my “friends” were a poisonous, odious ex-boyfriend who continued to try to get into my pants and who would alternately swear at me and pout when I wouldn’t put out; and an extremely queeny waiter I worked with who wore eyeliner and cried when I turned down his offer to go on a date with him.
In short, I just didn’t know what to do or how to fit in. So I sunk into a deep depression, and when I wasn’t waiting tables at night, I would sit home all day, smoking cigarettes and reading all the gay fiction I could find at the Minneapolis Public Library. I decided to read fiction because all the non-fiction I could find on the topic was either stupid or tragic. I figured that by reading fiction, I might get into the hearts and minds of some of the people who were supposed to be like me.
Although I would not be able to describe for you what I learned specifically from each book, these authors made me feel like I was not alone. I got some of the inside scoop on what these gay boys and men were up to, the kinds of thoughts they had, what their social and romantic lives were like, the kinds of things they did with their friends, the language they used, how they dealt with social oppression, and more.
Some of my favorite authors and books from this era were Edmund White(A Boy’s Own Story, The Beautiful Room is Empty), David Leavitt(Equal Affections, Family Dancing), Ethan Mordden(I’ve a Feeling We’re Not in Kansas Anymore, Buddies, Everybody Loves You), John Fox(The Boys on the Rock), Alan Hollinghurst(The Swimming Pool Libraries), Stephen McCauley (The Object of My Affection), and the Men on Men anthologies edited by David Bergman and George Stambolian.
A book that you have read more than once I have a bunch of these. Of course, I read all my childhood favorites dozens of times: Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh; all of Madeleine L’Engle’s books (although Ms. L’Engle denies that any of her books were purposely designed to be for “children” or “adults”); all of Keith Robertson’s books about a geeky kid named Henry Reed; all of Beverly Cleary’s stuff; and all of John D. Fitzgerald’s works, which marked the beginning of my Mormon fascination.
As an adult I have enjoyed multiple readings of The Secret History by Donna Tartt. The suspense part of this book was fun, but being a foreign language junkie, I also could not help but be drawn into the students’ obsession with ancient Greek.
The Object of My Affection by Stephen McCauley. This book is absolutely nothing like the movie. It is a wonderful story of a friendship between a gay guy and a straight girl. I felt the movie trivialized and cheapened the story by making Jennifer Aniston fall hopelessly and pathetically in love with the protagonist, which, while there is slight hint of that in the book, is far from the focal point of the story. This book is hilarious, wonderfully written, and full of great characters and dialogue. It will make you laugh heartily and weep gently. Props to Lulu for introducing this into my repertoire.
The Rebel Angels by Robertson Davies is one I have read three times and plan to fit it in at least twice more before I die. Thanks to Lulu, I am an absolute Davies fanatic. I have read everything he’s written and actually cried when I heard about his death, which meant the end of his literary career. The Rebel Angels is, in my opinion, the bawdiest, funniest and sickest book he wrote. Rabelais was clearly one of Davies’ heroes, and it certainly shows in this novel.
A book that makes you laugh The Rebel Angels by Robertson Davies – see above.
Also A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. Mindy June turned me on to this one. I laughed so hard while reading this on a plane that I actually threw the book three feet in front of me. Luckily, I was seated in bulkhead. A flight attendant stopped over to make sure I was OK. In my adult years I have become a devotee of the protagonist’s unique office filing system, which consists of letting papers pile up on top of your filing cabinet for several months, at which point you throw them in the trash.
A book that made you cry The Crosswicks Journals by Madeleine L’Engle. I read this series of four books during one of my depressed periods. She is such an honorable and good person that I feel hope for humanity reading anything she writes. I cyberstalked her and have her address and phone number in Manhattan. I keep meaning to write her a fan letter to tell her how much she has meant to me over the years.
A book you wish you had written The Rules by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider. I think this book would have been even more of a smash hit if I had written it. I know just as well as these gals how to be a passive-aggressive bitch. Sure, you can lure men into your lair with your little tricks until you finally get them to pop the question. And then it’s the big unveiling! What’s not to like about that?
A book you wish had never been written What Kristians like to refer to as “The Holy Bible.” The whole idea of this “book” just pisses me off. For one, it’s not a “book.” It’s a series of ancient writings, written by people who either themselves claimed to be transcribing the “word of God” directly onto parchment, or who were said later by others to have done so. Furthermore, it is well documented that there were hundreds of other contemporaneous writings that were at one point considered worthy of inclusion in this “sacred text” but, for various social and political reasons, were not included. Furthermore, I find repugnant the idea that millions of people slavishly devote themselves to following, to the exclusion of all other evidence and good sense, every idea expressed in a group of ancient writings whose translations, motivations and very authorship are dubious, at best.
A book you are currently reading Lulu and many of her commenters, including me, cannot commit to reading one book at a time. In keeping with this policy, I am currently reading the following five books, although there may be one or two that I have forgotten about.
The Clumsiest People in Europe, edited by Todd Pruzan. This book is a collection of “travel” writings by a Mrs. Favel Lee Mortimer, who lived in England during the mid-nineteenth century. She wrote “travel” guides about foreign countries, even though she herself left England only twice, and never visited the majority of the countries she wrote about. The best part is that she had virtually nothing nice to say about any of them. For example, she says of the people of Ireland: “The religion they teach is called the Roman Catholic religion. It is a kind of Christian religion, but it is a very bad kind.” And of Turkey: “The Turks are so grave that they look wise. But how can lazy people really be wise?”
Coach Yourself to Success by Talane Miedaner. I’m convinced this book will change my life. Be prepared.
The Brethren by Bob Woodward. A behind the scenes look at the Supreme Court during the Burger years. Fascinating. I don’t know why I don’t just plow through it and finish it, because I’m really enjoying it. I love how childish these old men are, and all the little playground games they engage in. People never grow up, a fact I love. Props to Sparky for “lending” it to me. (I actually took it without permission and then asked forgiveness. Not a bad way to go about life.)
Yes Man by Danny Wallace. Min left this at my house. It’s about some idiot in England who meets some Swami on a bus who tells him to say “yes” more. So he institutes a new policy where he can only answer “yes” to yes/no questions. Hilarity ensues, or so I hope because I’m not very far into it yet. But it sounds like the kind of thing I would do, so I hope everything turns out OK.
Beverly Hills 90210 (in Norwegian) by Mel Tilden. Brandon Walsh fortalte sin søster Brenda at han hadde aldri i sitt liv sett så mange Porscher, BMW’er, Mercedeser og Corvetter samlet på et sted!
A book you have been meaning to read How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theater by Marc Acito. Once again, props to Lu.
I'm home with my trick back today, but am trying to get some work done anyway. I thought I might enjoy a nice cup of coffee while I sit at the computer.
I set some beans to grind. Then I filled the coffee pot with fresh, cold water and poured it into the coffee maker's water chamber while the beans were busy grinding. I also removed the filter basket from the coffee maker and rinsed it out just to make sure it was ready for use. I put the filter back into the coffee maker.
The beans were finished grinding. Yum, what a nice aroma that is.
I opened the top of the bean grinder, and dumped in the coffee grounds.
Gentle Readers, It is now 5:19 am. I've been up since 3:45. I don't freak out about the occasional bout of insomnia, and try to do something productive like catch up on my blog reading and commenting.
Today's random picture is in honor of our friend Lulu, who loves bacon. Blogger wouldn't let me post pictures the other day, so I wanted to see if it started working again. Looks like it did.
Melinda June posted a video of me tap dancing on a pier on Staten Island. I am available to entertain at children's birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, weddings, funerals and Festivus celebrations. Contact Mindy directly on her blog to book me.
And to those of you who continue to request it, I no longer do any nude modeling or wrestling photos.
Poor George and I are safely back in New York, decompressing from the family "vacation."
Last I reported, we had gotten through most of the week without any major emotional dilemmas. My brother did have a significant meltdown at one point mid-week, but he did it only in front of my parents and me. Rich's tantrum was momentarily upsetting for my mom, but fortunately I was able to take him aside and talk him down in private. It only took about ninety minutes, and put me in quite a mood for the rest of the day. But at least my parents' 50th anniversary trip was still intact.
For a while it looked as though we were going to finish off the week without any further catastrophes. Wishful thinking.
Although Rich continued to be randomly drunk and belligerent at times, we made it right up to the final moments of our familial celebration before it all fell apart.
Each of us had been responsible for preparing the evening meal on a given night, and the plan was that my parents were going to take us all out to a buffet dinner on Saturday for the final celebration. We had a lovely champagne cocktail hour at the cabin before the nine of us headed off to dinner in two separate cars.
We were all seated with our salads and were having a fine time, when out of nowhere my dad blurted out to my mom: "I don't know why Donna (Rich's wife) just ran off from us when we walked in here. I didn't know where she went. I didn't like that."
Ok, so it was a random, somewhat snarky comment. My dad seems to do more and more of that as he ages. He's 75 after all. I thought old people were entitled to their random snarkiness. Plus, if he would have said that about me, I would have a) apologized for upsetting him, or b) told him the reason I had walked away from him. Then I would laugh to myself and think "what an old coot."
Well according to Rich, my dad's comment was too much to bear, even if Dad hadn't intended for anyone but my mom to hear it. Rich glared at my sister and me and said "was Dad talking shit about us?" Luckily, or so I thought, my parents had already left the table to refill their salad plates.
Marg and I both immediately replied that we didn't know what Dad was talking about, and tried to change the subject. George was busy stuffing a french fry up his nose or something like that, so we tried to use him to distract Rich.
But then Rich turned to Donna and said "did you go off and abandon my parents when you walked in with them?" Donna replied "Well, yes, but just so that I could go up to the host desk to make sure they still had our reservation. There was a big group that came in right at the same time and I didn't want us to be stuck there behind them."
Rich's cheerful rejoinder: "Well, I don't know why this entire family has to talk shit about you! Everyone here hates us both, it's obvious! I'm about sick of everyone being against us!"
Marg: "Rich, we're not against you! We're really glad you're here."
Rich: "No, you guys hate us. I'm sick of it. I told everybody, the first shit I hear from anyone, I am out of here! Do you understand me?"
Marg: "Rich, please don't be upset! We're having fun! We all love you and want you to stay here with us!"
Rich, with a look in his eyes that was growing downright scary: "I am out of here. You can all go fuck off! You all hate me, and I don't want to bring you down!"
Marg, being more sensitive than I, broke out into tears. Rich was clearly spinning out of control, and besides, she figured my mom would try to find a way to blame this all on her.
I, on the other hand, felt I had done my duty by talking him down through his first tantrum, and decided to return to the buffet for my entree.
When I came back, Rich had departed. My parents were still at the buffet.
Those of us still at the table, including Donna, who hadn't left with Rich, agreed that we would shield the news of Rich's departure from Mom & Dad so as not to ruin their party. If they asked where Rich was, we had a number of excuses in store: "He's in the bathroom" or "He went outside to smoke" or "He wasn't feeling well - I think he may still be in the bathroom." That kind of thing.
Well, let's just say that Donna is not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer. After about ten minutes my dad noticed that Rich had not returned to the table. He walked over to Donna. "Where is Rich?"
"Oh, uh, I guess he left."
"Well, uh, he heard you say something mean about me and he got mad."
Bridget was sitting across from me, and the look on her face was priceless. Can anyone spell S-T-O-O-P-I-D?
So of course, Dad marched right back over to Mom to announce that Rich had taken off, leaving eight of us stranded with only one car.
Mom started to cry.
We all soberly finished up our plates, and made plans for me to drive half the party back to the cabin, and then return to the restaurant to pick up the others.
I dropped Marg, David and Bridget off first. Then I returned to pick up the others. By this time, Rich had returned to the restaurant, but just sat in the bar and refused to speak to anyone but Donna.
Mom, Dad and George got in the car with me. Mom said, at least while she wasn't sobbing, "Don't take us back to the cabin. I refuse to go in and watch his tantrum. I'm sure he's packing up to leave early, so let's just let him do it."
I took them to a pub across the street from the cabin, where we waited until we saw Rich & Donna speed out of the parking lot.
We returned to the cabin to see that Rich had neglected to pack much of what he brought, including all sorts of kitchen instruments as well as my mom's motorized scooter. It was going to be quite a game fitting everything into the rest of the cars to get it all home. My mom spent the rest of the evening in tears.
We haven't heard from my brother yet, now that we've all returned to our homes. My mom and dad are despondent, when they were supposed to be celebrating this happy occasion. And at no small expense, either - a four bedroom, four bathroom cabin rental for a week wasn't exactly small change.
I don't even know what to say any more about it, except that I told you it would be a disaster.
1. We spent the morning at a flea market. There was a $5 admission charge, for the privilege of walking around to look at a bunch of crap.
2. I bought $67 worth of Tupperware at the flea market. There was a real live and in person Tupperware lady there peddling her goods. I've thought about getting a Tupperware lady to host a party at our house, but that just seems too gay. So I jumped at the chance to get some of the real stuff.
3. My mom and I discussed planning an intervention for my brother, but decided we're too lazy. We'll revisit at a later date.
4. My dad snapped at my mom twice during dinner - once for not passing the fish sticks quickly enough, and once for not giving him a piece of bread.
5. The aforementioned fish sticks were made by George from a live bass he caught in the river.
6. I paid my sister-in-law for the pedicures she gave to George and me yesterday, but not until we returned from the flea market. I didn't trust her & my brother not to spend all her earnings there.
7. My brother stormed off to bed in a bad mood as soon as we were done eating, resulting in a peaceful evening for the rest of us.
Day three consisted of karaoke, poolside margaritas, sunburns, barbeque ribs, alcohol induced belligerence, two shouting matches, an attempt to leave early, tearful confessions, and multiple suicide threats.
And that was just my brother.
Today my sister-in-law is giving us all pedicures. Sharp objects will be involved. Please continue to pray.
Hi all, Thanks all for your comments in my previous posts. I promise to digest them fully and compose pithy responses as soon as I'm not exhausted, emotionally and physically.
So far everyone is still alive. On Day One I did have to read my mother the riot act and nip some of her bad behavior in the bud before the "vacation" really got off the ground. She cried, which in my mind was a success since it meant she heard me and knew I meant business. It's like the motivational speaker Sigourney Weaver played in Jeffrey: "Now I'VE got the bat!"
Day Two: my niece-in-law Bridget and I spent the day at Noah's Ark, America's largest water park. AWESOME. This water park has everything a reasonable person needs: water rafts free for the taking, sun, good weather, water slides, deep-fat-fried Twinkies, and beer. I'm exhausted from this all day outing, but at least we were away from the crazies, and had some time to chat one on one.
When we got back, I got to listen to my sister-in-law sob about what a jerk my brother Rich is to live with. I was like, DUH! Try being his little brother during your developmental years, and then we'll talk about emotional scars, honey!
I'll try to provide additional stories as the week develops. There are sure to be more tears, further damage to already strained relationships, and possibly a few broken bones.
George swears I start to change each time an encounter with my family approaches. He claims I get moody and anxious.
For years I have denied this, because I really didn't think it was true. But now I'm starting to think he may be right. What else would have prompted me last week to post that arguably mean spirited entry about our family vacation from hell? Could it be because we have another one coming up?
In two days, Poor George and I will head to the Wisconsin Dells for a one-week vacation in a house my mom rented for the entire family. All of us. It's almost tragic how this came about, because the whole conversation I had with my mom about six months ago had started out so innocently.
"So Mom, your 50th wedding anniversary is coming up! What would you like to do to celebrate?" I was thinking she'd choose to have a banquet like my godparents Audrey & Louie had, with about 300 attendees.
"Hmmm, I'll have to think about that. We can do anything I want?"
"Sure, Mom! Just name it!"
"Well, what I'd really like is to have all of us together for a vacation for a week. Maybe in the Wisconsin Dells? I'll ask Marg to see if she can find us a house to rent. Oh, this will be so exciting!"
Yeah, exciting is the word all right. I think I immediately broke out into hives.
"Well Mom, that sounds kind of . . . expensive. I'm not sure everyone has the money for something that grandiose."
"Oh that's no problem, your dad and I will pay for everything! This will be so much fun! I just hope your brother doesn't decide to act up."
I politely reminded her that we have a better chance at winning the lottery than we do at avoiding one of Rich's violent outbursts within a seven day window. Beyond that, I didn't know what to say. I was still trying to recover from the shock at the mere mention of a family vacation.
I really need to learn to start lying to save my ass. I am a God damned lawyer after all - shouldn't I be able to conjure up a work emergency?
"Well, ok, if you're sure that's what you want." Lame.
So there you have it. We're off to Wisconsin on Saturday. I heard the house has wi-fi, so I'll probably be bringing my laptop so that I can give you updates from the road.
If you are religious, please start praying now. And if you're an atheist, you can still pray to Chrissie Hynde.
Gentle Readers, I apologize for my lack of posts this week. As shocking as it may seem to those of you who know me personally, my job does sometimes take priority.
I did not post this weekend because I was busy having a nice, mellow weekend with our beloved Mindy June, before putting her on a plane this morning, in all her fortiness, back to England, far across the sea.
Sending Mindy back today made me sad. When you live far apart from your loved ones, you end up seeing them only during frantic, harried, celebretory visits where you try to cram in as much as possible in the small amount of time you have. This weekend was the first in a long time that Mindy & I didn't have to do that. We got to chill, just the two of us, and do exactly as we pleased. That kind of lifestyle suits us.
Our theme this weekend was "Brooklyn." With the exception of a lovely Norwegian dinner prepared for us by Oddrun on Friday night, Min and I spent the entire weekend in Brooklyn doing Brooklyn things. We had a great outing to the Brooklyn Museum, which is just outstanding, even while being eclipsed by the Met, MOMA and the Guggenheim.
On Saturday night I decided to take her to dinner in my neighborhood so she could see just how, um, Italian my neighborhood is and what a fish out of water I am living here. Although we had a blast at dinner gawking at the people around us and trying not to burst into laughter, I think she finally started to understand how utterly bizarre it is to live here. As we were walking home, she even said something to the effect of "you have one fucked up life."
I'll drink to that! And I'll drink to Mindy June, as I dedicate this song from Rent to her. We don't like living without you, Min.
I am Coaster Punchman and you have just entered my world. I rule it with an iron fist, so if you're looking for First Amendment protection, you will not find it here. I have a now deceased crazy Chinese mother-in-law, and sometimes I wear Crocs around the house. I don't like flip-flops or Mormons. I'm also a cyberstalker by trade -- so I could look up all sorts of random shit about you if I wanted, but I probably won't because I'm pretty lazy.