Monday, July 25, 2011

Paris

Again on a train, second one of the day – this time riding between London and Bath. We left Paris early this morning on Eurostar and arrived in London a short while ago. When we came out of the Chunnel into the English countryside I was so happy, so relieved to again be back in England’s arms. The sun is even shining today.

What best typifies Paris is perhaps our arrival into the city. We arrived in the afternoon to gray skies into Gare Nord. We were excited to get on the subway and head to our hotel. We waited in the insanely long queue at the subway ticket machine, for whatever reason there being only two of them at this huge arrival point for foreign travelers, all of them trying to understand this ticket machine and so the line taking even longer than it might otherwise have. While waiting, young Roma girls kept coming up to us asking us to sign some piece of paper for some reason, it clear that it was a scam of some sorts, a distraction to either pickpocket you or hit you up for money. Long into our wait, tired and aggravated with heavy backpacks on our backs, we see a police officer rip up one of these girl’s stack of papers and then from every corner of the station these young vagabond children took off running, a policeman chasing them through the station.

Finally, we make it the front of the line and of course it would turn out that the machine cannot read either of our credit cards. So off we go to find an ATM. And, as we soon would learn is typical of anything that might be convenient, there was no ATM machine anywhere in the entire station. So we left the station, into a sketchy area with more Roma girls with sheets of paper asking you to sign them, men selling random knick-knacks aggressively, and wandered for several blocks in circles before coming across an ATM. We take out cash and go back to wait in another line to buy subway tickets now. Finally once we reach the front of the line, we choose to pay by cash and attempt to insert our bills only to see that there is no place to insert them. The machines only take coins. Of course they do. So we wait in another line to see an actual subway attendant. Finally we have subway tickets and hours after arriving in Paris, arrive at our hotel, which is actually insanely cute and located on the Ile de Citie on one of the oldest streets in Paris, Place Dauphine.

We drop off our stuff and wander around the city. It starts to rain. This was my experience of Paris in a nutshell. The rain lasted on and off, mainly on, until our last day in Paris. It was chilly, in the sixties, and usually cloudy. I have a list of complaints that I could name about the city, and there are many, but rather than do that, I will try to instead talk about the nice things that occurred in this city.

That same first night, we saw the interior of Notre Dame, which is stunning, saw the Eiffel Tower (found out that tickets were already sold out to go the top of it though), and went to some fun gay bars. We went to Le Souffler in the Marais and soon met a cute boy, a Marc-David, and he took us with him to an underground dance den, the Cud, where we danced and drank and made out, the three of us. We left with him, went back to his massive apartment in a beautiful old building and had sex. Once we left his apartment, we were in the completely dark hallway of his building, unable to see the staircases, the wall, anything. We broke out a lighter to guide the way, a torch through the darkness. We walked home in the rain at five in the morning, continually getting lost, consulting our map, fighting with each other, hungry, wet, sleepy. It was a lovely evening.

And there were nice moments. There were moments when I was overwhelmed by the history and the beauty that existed within this city. There were also moments, many of them, where I was incredibly frustrated the huge crowds of tourists everywhere we went, had a bit of shame about being one of these foreigners on holiday collecting these cultural tokens, wanting to be able to either see or to say that I have seen these things – Notre Dame, Versailles, the Louvre, the Mona Lisa within it, Pere Lachaise, the Eiffel Tower, Centre Pompidou, etc. I felt like for a large number of these shutter-happy tourists everywhere we went, it seemed forced, more so to say one had seen it, notches on a belt, rather than to actually see it, experience it, and be moved by the contemplation of the history and beauty present in these objects. And so of course, I began to question my own participation in this, what it was for, and what, if anything, differentiated me from this chorus of foreign voices at all of the attractions in this city.

I do know that when I went to Pere Lachaise, my heart beat insanely fast when I was in front of Proust’s grave, that I had trouble breathing, that the entire cemetery had me on the verge of tears constantly, thinking about the lives of these artists, thinking about my own life, and thinking about the nature of life in broader terms, mortality standing tall above these trees with leaves that weren’t even green, the leaves getting an early start on fall, yellow and brown. The ground perhaps not giving these trees what they want, the freshly dead, instead these men and women dead for too long, entombed in boxes anyways. Moss covered many of the graves, leaves were strewn about, and there were parts of the cemetery (away from Jim Morrison’s grave of course) that were quiet and empty and one could get really lost in thought. I waited until no else was around, kissed Proust’s grave and had a moment that was absolutely magical.

And so there were moments like this. And then there were moments when I went to Versailles and my ticket didn’t work at the train station that dropped you off nearby, that I was unaware that you had to purchase a separate ticket to get there, and the lady at the ticket window that I tried to ask for help literally jumped out of her seat and shouted at me through the glass, pointing at it, ripping down a sign in French and pressing it against the glass like that should help me understand. Were it not for the glass separating us, I believe she would have beaten me up.

We went to more gay bars, one of them with a sex club in the basement, Le Depot, which was one of the most fun bars I have ever been to. Upstairs was a full throttle dance party to R&B and hip-hop with vogueing queens on the stage, while downstairs was a labyrinth of hallways and sex booths and dark rooms. I got my dick sucked downstairs in some room, hands all around me groping me. It was the next morning when I woke up to see how much money I had spent the night before that I realized someone had emptied my wallets of all its cash, about 95 Euros, while I was getting off in the dark.

At least they didn’t take my wallet, ID, or credit cards, I thought – just my cash, which Paris was doing a good job of already. I had always been told London was so expensive, but I actually found London to be fairly affordable, whereas prices in Paris were so much more expensive. London is also filled with corner stores everywhere in which one can purchase a mixed drink in a can or a beer, which one can legally drink of the street as they are walking to go out somewhere, making going out so much more cheaper. Paris has so few little small corner stores and none in the areas where we were staying or in the neighborhoods we went out in. There are not places to get late-night post-bar drunken snacks – no pizza or doners or even shops to buy chips. So much about the city frustrated me.

Even the sex club frustrated me. We went to Sun City, which is the nicest sex club I have ever been to, the interior decorated like a harem with a mishmash of any Eastern item they could cram in there. There are statues of Krishna all about, the lockers are all painted with Hindu religious icons, and then there are also Buddha statues thrown about. It is over the top and tacky but also so amazing – the d├ęcor made me so happy. There is a huge pool to swim in, a big gym, a huge steamroom, and lots of cruising areas and sex rooms. I saw the most beautiful men I have ever seen at a sex club here. These perfect little French gym bunnies, but they just walked laps past everyone, never making eye contact, just getting off on how desired they were. I don’t know – but the place was a bit frustrating as well with regards to the lack of sex happening at a sex club.

I finally gave up on the sex aspect, having done too many cruising laps throughout the sex area, passing the same pretty boys over and over again, everyone walking around, trying to look pretty, and no one getting it on. It was a mid-20th century French play being enacted, an existential take on the loneliness of man and his absurd folly in failing to recognize that loneliness. It was a play I wanted no part of; I went down into the steam room and started to jerk off while watching a blowjob happen in the corner. This started a bit of action and soon Jacob and I were both getting sucked off and people were jerking off all around and finally sex was happening.

After orgasming, we went into the pool, swam around, did headstands, dove underneath like seals, and had a lovely time.

And so again, it’s this jumble of narratives – really nice moments occurring as well as terribly frustrating ones. I wish the balance could have been more skewed to the nice moments, but it is what it is and Paris is what it is.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

london

It's my last night in London. Tomorrow Jacob and I leave for Paris. David is in the kitchen right now making a salad and the sky is preparing for sunset over London. I have a lovely view of it from his ninth floor apartment. Not much time to type right now, but to be brief:

-getting muddy at Lovebox, drinking vodka all day long, Beth Ditto being amazing, Kelis also being amazing, and Robyn really being insanely amazing. There was light drizzle during her performance, I was a couple people away from the stage, bodies pressed against each other, everyone wanted to be close, singing along, dancing. During "Indestructible," I looked around to see all the people there singing along to the lyrics, so sad and thinking of their loved ones or past ones or future ones, every person mouthing along so full of meaning: "I let the bad ones in and the good ones go, but I'm going to love you like I've never been hurt before. I'm going to love you like I'm indestructible." It was so beautiful and really made me emotional.

-drinking beers at the George and the Dragon, running into New York people.

-dancing like a maniac to cheesy pop songs at G-A-Y

-parks, beers on the street, art in museums, museums as art, beautiful buildings, life.

David has said, "Dinner is ready, boys."

Friday, July 15, 2011

Manchester

On the train right now riding from Manchester to London, a whir of green English countryside passing me by, rolling hills, sheep, cows, and trees. The Bjork concert that brought us there, the original impetus for this trip to Europe was really beautiful. It was held in Campfield Market Hall, this old Victorian warehouse structure. It was quite hot inside and everyone stood in the round listening to Bjork perform, to crazy instruments, and to a twenty person Icelandic choir. It was absolutely amazing. She played all of her new Biophilia songs, only one of which I knew. And those were nice to hear, but with Bjork, it usually takes me a few listens to warm to one of her songs and so those did not have nearly the same effect on me as when she played songs from earlier albums. I kind of lost my mind when she played "Isobel," which used to be my favorite song of hers when I was in high school. She also played a gorgeous stripped down version of "One Day" that totally had me swooning.

From that concert, we went to Canal Street to meet up with Toby who had come into town to hang out with us for a bit. A blur of gay bars from there, Manchester a really fun gay city to go out in. All the gay bars are in a long strip along a pretty canal. Drinks are cheap and everyone rages. We stayed out very late, dancing, drinking, and talking to various boys. The three of us met this cute Irish boy and the four of us all went home together. Slept in the next day, ate a full English breakfast (black pudding!), and wondered around town for a bit. We then rested a little more and went to Salford to take my picture in front of the Salford Lads club (Smiths pilgrimage!) and then went to the Lowry to see the Marina Abromovic opera. Unfortunately, I had taken some Benadryl beforehand because my allergies were so bad that I could barely breathe. This caused me to nod off throughout the opera, which was really gorgeous, but also incredibly boring. Antony sang a few songs, which were really love to hear, but I was in no state to be sitting through any opera, let alone a contemporary one about Marina Abromovic. We then went out again to some gay bars in town. Lots of drag queens in the town of Manchester, roving in packs. Cute boys in ugly clothes. Cheap drinks.

This is how it feels to party in Manchester:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

New York - London - Manchester

Yesterday morning, I arrived in London, delirious and tired, and none of it really sinking in yet. Blame an overnight flight with little sleep and the still present effects of Benadryl I had taken to try to sleep on the flight. Jacob and I met up with David at his apartment and walked around Southbank, stopping in to look at the shows at the Tate Modern. Of particular note was Taryn Simon's show, "A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters." From there, we walked over the Thames and headed into Soho to hit up some gay bars. It was here that I really started to wake up, to become more aware of the pulse of London, to feel it, to get excited about this trip, the fog from my flight having worn off.

We went to happy hour at G-A-Y. We had pints at Admiral Duncan. We bought mixed drinks from the corner store and drank them in a park. And then we went to Village, a very cheesy gay bar, overpriced, but this was the site where a beautiful moment happened last evening. They played Pulp's "Disco 2000." I sang along and got so insanely excited to be in London and singing along to this Pulp song and recalled when I first heard this song and fell in love with it, sometime in high school, a free promo CD of the single passed out at a concert to me, my only knowledge of Pulp at the time, and I played this one song over and over again, very much in love with this song. All of that enthusiasm came roaring across the decades last night in this gay bar. It was a very, very beautiful moment that I know I am failing to accurately convey.

Oh well. I am in Manchester now and there are other things to worry about, things to do that do not include sitting behind a computer and diarying every feeling that crossed my mind during the hearing of this particular song. We took a train here this morning and are in town for the next two nights for the Manchester International Festival. Tonight, we are seeing Bjork perform Biophilia, and I will probably be a sobbing, emotional mess because this woman moves me like no one else and I encountered her during those vulnerable teen years and she got her hooks in me then and hasn't ever let loose. I am so fucking excited for tonight. And then tomorrow, we are going to see The Death and Life of Marina Abromovic, a new opera being performed by Antony, Marina Abromovic, and Willem Defoe. Also so insanely excited for that.

This afternoon, we had a really bland burrito and went to see the 11 Rooms exhibition at the Manchester Art Gallery. I am listening to Bjork now, am about to take a shower, and soon will meet up with Toby for some food before going to see motherfucking Bjork perform!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

a backpack waiting to be filled in the other room

The week has been a blur, little sleep, working early 7 am shifts, daydreaming about Europe, and recalling recent sexual experiences, a fit of horniness taking hold. On the 4th of July, Jacob and I went to Riis Beach. There was an incredibly sexy man there who was sunbathing naked near us. He was covered in tattoos and had a ripped stomach. Jacob and I could not quit staring at him, fantasizing about him. We swam and soaked up sun and drank vodka and then in late afternoon decided to head back home. We wanted to make contact with this man first though. We wrote him a note. Or Jacob did under my urging. We gave him the note as we left and introduced ourselves. He, Chad we learned, was incredibly nice and charming and said he wished we had talked earlier in the day, that he had noticed us.

A couple nights later, he came over to hang out. The three of us sat in our kitchen, drinking vodka cocktails for a couple hours and chatting about our lives. It was known that we were going to have sex and I could not wait. He mentioned he had a Prince Albert. I asked to see it. He pulled it out. Soon his dick was in my mouth. Soon it was in Jacob's mouth. It was fucking beautiful and I was so filled with desire, having longed over this boy on the beach a few days ago, admiring how sexy he was for hours. I had been recalling that body imprinted on my mind in anticipation of our planned get-together, so excited that I would get to touch this man, be naked with him. The three of us all got naked in our kitchen and made out and sucked and touched penises, it very sweet and dirty and hungry and sexy.

We moved to our bedroom eventually and fucked in various combinations, again and again. Someone or two people would come and someone or two people would not have and the sex would continue and as it continued those people who already came would get hard again and be ready for more and this kept cycling through these steps all night, all morning long. I haven't had such hungry sex like this in so long, domesticity making things less ravenous, the person there every night, you not trying to get your fill of this thing you desired in one night, unsure if it will happen again.

At some point, we went to sleep. I woke up soon after to be at work at seven and Chad heard me getting ready for work and woke up. We made out and I didn't care about the work I soon had to go to. I put his gorgeous dick in my mouth, licked this man's body, so grateful that I was able to be so close to this human body, to be able to interact with it in this way, that this beautiful man existed and that he was here, there, my couch. I sucked him off until I came and then rushed to get ready for work and ran out the door toward the subway.

That entire day, this entire week, I have been recalling the memories of that evening, replaying scenes from it in my head as I jerk off. I hadn't seen Jacob since that night, the two of us on totally opposite work schedules since, but last night we were both awake and home together at the same time and he started it off with, "Whoa, can we talk about how sexy Chad is?" Something like that. And we did. Both of us talked about how insanely hot that night was, how much we desire this guy, and how we need to see him as soon as we get back.

And I am supposed to be packing for Europe since I leave for there tomorrow and I am going to the beach shortly, but jerking off and recalling these memories, replaying them, inhabiting them yet again, is far more compelling that choosing outfits to bring with me overseas.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

taxation without representation

I stepped off the bus this morning in DC, nostalgic for a place I used to live. It had been an overly air-conditioned four hour bus ride along I-95, this road full of memories for me, and I was too eager to embrace the heat I could feel as soon I stepped off the bus. I thought I missed it, this very particular heat, Southern and heavy, that DC possesses. Or at least I told myself this when I stepped off the bus, taking such pleasure and comfort in those first moments off the bus in the embrace by this heat. Not twenty minutes later, after circling unnecessarily around the Capitol due to the security theater apparatus in full effect around federal buildings, getting faint from the heat, my shirt already wet with sweat, and seeing an old Midwestern-looking couple, one with a cane and one with a walker, get body scanned with metal detectors just to walk on the grounds of the Capitol, not even inside of it, I was over it. The nostalgic longing for the place seen as just that, nostalgia, the reality of the place again hitting me. The actual city outside of the Mall did little to rekindle love for this city. Near the Chinatown Metro station, I saw some black male teens loudly hassle an interracial couple, black female and white male, shouting that she needed a black man to give her what she needed. My shirt got more and more soaked as I tried to kill time wandering around town until 5 in the afternoon, the time of my appointment with the man who likes to get strangled.

I rode the Metro to Dupont Circle, hoping for this thing to still revive itself. It didn't on the train either. It didn't in Dupont Circle. I ate some food at Chipotle to kill some more time and then walked over to this guy's house in Adams Morgan, taking my time to try to get there not too early.

I strangled him and smothered him. I let myself go more this time, put more of my rage into it. I felt the force of my tightened biceps as I pushed harder and harder against his throat, my hands wholly encircling it. I watched him turn darker and darker, my dick getting harder and harder. I would ease up a little, let him take in some air, and then go in again and watch his eyes shrivel up under folds of tensed skin. We did this for a while. I had vague worries about his throat, but only vague ones. Eventually, I covered his mouth with one hand, him unable to breathe, and jerked him off with my other hand until he came.

I took a cab back to the Megabus station. The taxi driver pulled over and took the time to put out his cigarette before starting our journey. I couldn't figure out if the driver was just a terrible driver or if he was somehow trying to trick the meter and push up the fare, but he kept pumping the gas pedal, making for a very jerky ride. He wouldn't just leave his foot on it ever, but instead continually pumped the pedal. I remember driving like that when I first got behind the wheel, nervous that I would over-accelerate, my dad giving me very good advice which I can't remember, but it was advice that you can apply to anything - sex, life, whathaveyou. Whatever it was he told me, it basically showed me that you have to relax and trust yourself and trust that you know what the limits are, to just do it, but do it with a steady rhythm. This man had not been taught to drive by my dad clearly. It might also have been the jerky music he was listening to. He also had no clue where he was going. I continually looked at the map on my phone to redirect him since it was very apparent he was heading off in the wrong direction. There was something very charming about this man and the fact that he was somehow a taxi driver.

I was in love with the music that he was blasting. I couldn't identify anything about it. It was a music I had never heard in a language I could not peg at all. The structure of the beats was insane and jarring. I tried to use Shazam on my phone to figure out who it was but it couldn't identify the song. It was a CD he was playing. I asked him who it was he we was listening to. He asked me if I liked it. I said I did. He said it was the music of his country. He was very difficult to understand. This all took some very real struggles with hearing to even catch this much. I asked him what country he was from. He said a sound I could not make out, a country I had never heard of somehow. I felt bad about asking him to repeat himself, but I really wanted to know more about this music. He again said the country and again I could not for the life of me understand what he was saying. He did add though that it was right above Ethiopia. I have since learned since coming home and consulting a map that this country is probably Eritrea. It could also potentially be Djibouti, though I think the noise he made was closer to Eritrea. Listening to songs I have found on YouTube, I have found nothing like this magical music I heard on this taxi ride to the bus station.

On the way home, I took a picture of this ballfield and concrete factory that really move me for some reason outside Baltimore. I took pictures of other roadside things that struck my eye, not however these three towers of some sort (radio?) that I find absolutely beautiful and that are right outside of Weehawken in the middle of a cornfield next to a marsh. I read a very large portion of A Visit From the Goon Squad. I read from a Paris travel guide, noting places I want to visit while there. I thought about this man I had sex with today. I thought about the guy I had sex with yesterday from Grindr, how fun it was, how sexy he is. I thought about Jacob. I thought about my job, about my future, about my past, about Philip Roth and New Jersey and Bruce Springsteen and America. I saw two sets of fireworks from the comfort of the upper deck of this bus driving back to New York in the dark. One was over water at a town's edge. The other was on a farm far back from the road, but you could see the red explosions shooting up into the air over a dark field and their sparks flying out in all directions, red trails sinking downward.