Sunday, July 27, 2014

"Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before" - The Smiths

The human body - its wants, its needs - I am not sure where the line is between those two, though am certain that there probably does exist some line, as porous as it likely is to be.

Friday night, I partied hard. I went to some party at a club out in Bushwick. As soon as I got there, I saw a certain someone that I have been trying not to have a crush on any longer, my lack of success with him making me feel insecure and slightly crazy. He was flirty and cute as hell. He immediately came up to me and started talking in some intimate manner that confused me but also made me happy, made me think that this person actually did like me, that I could hook up with him, that we could have some cute romance. Really, though, the reason he was talking to me was because the party wasn't that crowded yet, that there weren't yet other people willing to give him attention. He wanted attention, and I was too willing to be that person who gave it to him, smitten yet again.

At some point our nights diverged and I went to some rooftop party with friends. I got further drunk, further high, and danced to music on some old rooftop that I imagined collapsing under the weight of so many people. I danced as the sun came up. I talked to some cute boy unsuccessfully, some boy apparently with a boyfriend. I left the party with my friends soon after daylight started to appear. They were going to take a taxi back to their apartment and try to find a bodega still selling booze. I said goodbye, wanting to walk home and enjoy the sunrise.

It was such a beautiful walk. The sky kept on getting more and more beautiful, purple into pinks into fiery reds, explosions of color on the eastern edges of the sky, glimpsed down the ends of blocks, glimpsed over high school football fields, glimpsed under overhead subway tracks.

And because my body had all those wants that night, the desire to party until daybreak, it had a lot of needs on Saturday, needs that perhaps might have been wants, again the line never too clear. I slept a lot and lied around the house for too long. I chatted with the crush on Facebook even though I shouldn't have, said it was nice to run into him at that party. He was at work and had gotten barely any sleep. He mentioned wanting to cuddle. He said he would text me later in the day and we could hang out and watch movies and cuddle. And I wasn't expecting him to necessarily text, had my doubts he would, but certainly hoped he would, and definitely was disappointed when he didn't. My body then told me it needed pizza, which might have been a want, but my body was absolutely demanding it, saying it needed it. A hungover body is in some ways what I imagine a pregnant body to be: having very particular demands that it insists it needs.

I ordered Domino's and listened to the Smiths and watched an eighties teen movie. My body wanted this other body next to me, believed it needed it. I ate pizza instead and listened to one particular Smiths song again and again, feeling slightly sorry for myself. The song title was what I wanted to tell myself, that the story was too familiar, this frustrated longing, this tease of him saying we'd hang out, not hearing from him, and for some reason still hoping for different results. That I know how the story goes and yet I keep thinking it will play out differently.

So please, go ahead, stop me, stop me. Stop me if you think you've heard this one before.

Monday, July 21, 2014


We are so insanely lucky to have Richard Linklater. He is such an amazing filmmaker and really gets at the heart of what it is to be alive, what it is to be human. There is no other director right now that even comes close. Some of Woody Allen's older films definitely got it, definitely got close to the matter of what it is to be alive. Some of Eric Rohmer movies also hit the mark.

But these days, there are no other films coming out that leave me floating after I see them, so aware of what a precious thing this is, this time here on Earth.

I am still processing Boyhood, still under its spell from this past weekend. I want to go see it again as soon as possible. I want to again experience that joy in cinema that I had in the theater watching the film, that joy that I had in encountering a work of art that was really asking the big questions, asking what it all means, asking what it means to have these crazy ups and crazy downs and to be here for the shortest amount of time, about what the point of it all is.

And the point, which he shows us through his humanist style of filmmaking (because it'd be so easy to pose these same questions and have bleak, flippant answers that didn't acknowledge the seriousness of the inquiry as some method of deflecting having to grapple with the answers to these difficult questions), the point he shows us in all of this is just that - it is to have these ups and these downs and this string of slightly miserable events that will be the memories of our life - that that is the purpose. It is to take these moments for what they are, to treasure this thing because of its briefness, because of its pointlessness, to love every single moment of it, to see the crazy beauty in it all.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Everybody rise

Elaine Stritch died yesterday. As did a lot of other people.

A plane full of people, something close to 300 people, was shot down over Ukraine. A lot of prominent AIDS researchers were among the passengers, the now dead.

With the world’s attention shifted to this, Israel sent ground troops into Gaza, and yet more Palestinians were killed.

There is so much bad news lately, so much disregard for human life - people actually protesting buses of migrant children, yelling at them; insane and unpunished police brutality; planes shot from the sky; rockets fired into Israeli and Palestinian civilian areas.

There is always this stuff, but the convergence of so much of it yesterday proved particularly dispiriting. I am not sure what can be done, where to even direct my outrage to, that there are so many things to be outraged about, so many things not even mentioned here, that it leaves one feeling quite powerless against the seemingly unstoppable forces of stupidity and hate in our world.

And so I did what could be done last night. I went out for drinks with a friend last night at Marie’s Crisis. Elaine Stritch had died, this firecracker of a woman, and I wanted to hear people with joy singing some of the songs she made famous.

I don’t know what the solution is other than to approach life with as much joy and playfulness as Elaine Stritch did. There is a lot beyond my control. I can go out though and have fun and celebrate life and be surrounded by a crowd of musical theater folks all singing along to “Ladies Who Lunch,” raising their glasses again and again at the line “I’ll drink to that” throughout the song.

And I can take the song’s ending lines as an incantation, a call to arms, Elaine from the grave telling us something: “Everybody rise! Everybody rise! Everybody rise!”

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Belle and Sebastian - "Tigermilk"

A couple nights ago, I cuddled with this person I was attracted to. We spent the night spooning each other and rubbing boners against each other. It didn't mean much because it was in a room with other people asleep in it and he had a boyfriend. And yet, it made so happy. I slept so good despite not getting much sleep. My body had forgotten that feeling, forgotten how happy the act of cuddling with someone made it. It's been a really long time since I have spent the night with anyone - the last time was probably in January. I think it was in a snowstorm while I was staying in the hotel I worked at. I invited this boy over who I soon became disinterested in later because that evening I realized really how young in some sense other than his actual age he was, how different we were, how there were things I could not bridge, did not want to. Anyways, we cuddled in a fancy hotel bed with nice sheets while a snowstorm raged outside. It was a beautiful moment. That was seven months ago. I think that was the last time I spent the night asleep next to someone until a couple nights ago.

My body felt this joy again, felt what a great feeling it was to cuddle with someone, to sleep against someone's body that you are attracted to. My body had simply forgotten, or done its best to. That warm press of another body in the night brought it all back though.

And so it was probably not surprising that I found myself messaging Jose as soon as I got back on Sunday from Fire Island. I wanted to experience certain feelings, certain pleasures, joys. I asked him if he wanted to see Boyhood with me this week. He said he did. And then when I suggested Tuesday, he didn't respond. And then today, Tuesday, when I messaged him again, he didn't respond again.

I already had the feeling that he wasn't into me, however today still made me sad to realize that what I thought might be the case was definitely the case, that this cute guy I liked wasn't interested. I mean, I just want to cuddle with someone and to talk to them as we drift off to sleep. And so then, despite me being in my thirties now, what one might consider an adult, someone that should be above such lines of thinking, I thought to myself (because I am human) "Why doesn't he like me?" I would say this in my head in a comical Valley Girl voice to mock the question, to mock my asking it. Still, though, I was asking it.

I am not sure what the answer is, but I thought about it a lot. And it really has nothing to do with him because he's just some guy I barely even knew, just some really cute guy that I had a big crush on. Which surely is one of the main problems, if not the only one here, the cause of any others - that I liked him too much, that I was thirsty. It shows. I am too hungry, too desperate - too thirsty for love. It's been a long time and I want things too badly now. I walked in the rain tonight because the streets were more empty than they otherwise would have been and everyone was hurrying to escape the rain. The air was impossibly thick. It was warm and the rain just slightly less so. I walked slowly to take in this physical sensation of the air and the rain, to indulge in it. When it rains hard and I am sheltered by my umbrella from other people, I like to sing out loud. And so I did so to the Prince songs I was listening to on my headphones. Buildings, the tall ones further downtown, were blurred out slightly by the rain, their lights though still giving some hint of not only their own shape, but also that of the rain and the air it passed through.

"I Contain Multitudes"

Sun, sand, booze, drugs, flesh. It was a full moon also. This past weekend, Fire Island swirled together into some hazy vision of what fun looks like.

I wandered from party to party, from Cherry Grove to the Pines, and back again, crossing through the Meat Rack seemingly countless times, that gorgeous walk, made all the more beautiful by the light being cast by the moon on the dunes.

A party was happening in the middle of the Meat Rack. Someone had hauled out speakers and DJ equipment there. Some pagan rite I seemingly stumbled upon. Inebriated naked men under a full moon dancing and having sex with one another all over the place. A fundamentalist's nightmare; my vision of what heaven might look like. Everyone was insanely beautiful and sexy. Needless to say, I stayed at this party until the sun rose, enjoying the festivities, enjoying these men.

I stumbled back to the hotel room I was crashing in with five other people and cuddled against the guy next to me. A few hours later, I was on the beach again, under the hot sun, diving under waves, and taking in all of these men around me, flirting with a few of them. There was such a current of sexuality pulsing through Fire Island - I felt electrified by it - this intense desire circulating around, felt in each passing person's glance.

I fell asleep in a station wagon on the way home. I remember stopping at a gas station somewhere on Long Island, somewhere that looked like anywhere, and I got a thing of Combos, the Pepperoni Pizza flavor. I then remember waking up at the White Castle by my house. I was let out of the car and stumbled to the burrito place by my house.

Yesterday though was when the memories of all of that fun became tempered with reality, with what it is to be a sexually active gay man in 2014, that it may be fun, insanely fun, to engage freely in some orgy rave party happening under a full moon in the middle of the woods, but that I can't do so, not to the extent I did, that even though what I did was on the lower risk end of the spectrum of unsafe sex it was still unsafe and still possibly risky. I have been meaning to go on PrEP for the past couple months but wanted to wait until I settled into a new job and got my insurance situation settled - I didn't want to start it and a month or two later figure out how I was going to pay for it. Anyways, the point is that time old tale: would have, should have, could have.

So I found myself early yesterday morning at Callen-Lorde trying to get PEP treatment. After waiting for about an hour there, they then made an appointment for me two hours later and said I might actually get seen even later. I told them that I really couldn't spend all day there since I was supposed to be at work and they directed me instead to CityMD since I had insurance.

It's really unfortunate how difficult it is to get PEP. Yes, I made a mistake, but it seems crazy to me how annoying these barriers to receiving this drug are that can prevent HIV, that for a lot of people, that commitment of time required at Callen-Lorde is probably a prohibitive barrier. Anyways, CityMD was quick but frighteningly clueless - I don't think the doctor knew anything about this treatment and she tried to dissuade me from it since I didn't have any symptoms (um, not how it works Doctor). I finally got the prescription but then had a whole other series of annoyances to deal with - namely that of my insurance company as well as my COBRA administrator. Even though I wrote a massive check to continue paying for my health insurance from my last job through COBRA, Aetna did not have me enrolled anymore, and so it was literally hours and hours while at work that I spent on the phone with various parties trying to get this fixed, which was hours and hours that I couldn't pick up this prescription for since I don't have several thousand dollars to pay the out of pocket price that pharmaceutical companies gauge the healthcare system for for HIV medication, which meant hours and hours of a delay in starting a time-sensitive treatment where each passing hour makes it less effective. 

I finally got the drug though, Atripla, and felt nauseous and slightly dizzy for most of the evening once I took it. Hopefully that side effect will wear off, won't occur when I take it again today.

There is the balancing and the rebalancing of what memories mean. These erotic memories, fun moments in the sand with a guy, are reconsidered, become something else, when you are on the phone with various people trying to get your insurance situation figured out so you can start taking a pill that makes you feel nauseous. Fun too often comes at a price. That hangover. That sense of shame. That waiting in a doctor's office. But for a moment, before all of that sets in, before those after moments occur, you are as alive, as present, and as happy as it might be possible to be on this planet when you are fucking that dude in the dunes under the light of the moon. But that means little to nothing when you are sitting on a toilet with diarrhea wondering why you can't exercise more self-control.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Beyonce - "Schoolin' Life"

I waded into the water slowly, my body shocked at first by the cold. Baby steps. I kept moving forward because despite it feeling freezing, it also felt so good. I was vaguely hungover, had gotten little sleep the night before. It felt therapeutic to bathe in the ocean, to let this cold water slap my system into a state of being awake, of being alive. Once I dove in, I felt the joy. It was cold, yes, but the pleasures were greater than the pain. Pain subsides. Keep swimming, keep moving, and you will forget about it. I played in the ocean forever, solitary swimmer, riding waves, diving under them, floating on my back, enjoying what it is to have a human body and to feel its fluid movements in a body of water.

I came out shivering and lay down next to Nik who was passed out, getting some of the sleep we didn't get the night before. I can never sleep at Fire Island, can never get much of it. I always want to be up late, chasing those parties, admiring the men, dancing to music, feeling alive, free. There were so many beautiful men everywhere you turned. There were so many beautiful moments, so many beautiful scenes, so many beautiful sounds. The sound of waves crashing just out of sight as you stumble through the Meat Rack between the Pines and Cherry Grove, dusk slowing occurring over dunes, everything insanely beautiful. Shimmering blue pools of water. Green eyes. Exposed skin. Passing smiles.

I left the party with this guy who was staying at the house I knew people at. We got into the hot tub together, everyone asleep at the house. Soon after, we were kissing, stroking each other's dicks. We moved into the shower and I was a little drunk and overwhelmed with all the beauty of that island, all the beauty with me in that shower. He had an amazing body. I kept running my hands over it through the water. I was so happy to be there, to be touching his body, to be under that stream of water.

I woke up at the crack of dawn, having crashed on the floor of their living room with massive glass windows that did nothing to hide the day's announcement of itself. I went out to meet it.

On the train ride home yesterday, exhausted, I could feel sunburn setting in. I listened to Beyonce's "Four" the whole way over and over again. I snacked on almonds and looked at the towns of Long Island we passed through. I texted some boys to see if they wanted to meet up, wanting so badly to continue having nice moments, for it never to end.

Thursday, July 3, 2014


This guy came to my party a few weeks ago. I had never met him before. He came with a friend of mine. I talked to him on and off through the night. We both had bleached hair at the time. That was something we talked about. The rest I don't remember. I just remember immediately thinking he was so fucking sexy and that I wanted him.

He was at Spectrum later that same night and we danced on each other for a moment, it clear that we wanted to have sex with each other.

Last night, weeks later, I finally got to hang out with him.

It was my first "date" in I'm not sure even how long. It's so weird to meet up with someone you have never hung out with, to go to a bar and meet up with a person you don't know but who you want to know. It shouldn't be weird. It should be something I am used to at this point in my life, thirtysomething years old. But most of my romantic and sexual experiences have all been borne from some hookup, from a drunk night in a bar and going home with someone or going over to some guy's house from Scruff , and then having nice or awkward sex, either way though it soon becoming awkward because it's usually with someone I barely know, but the problem becomes that more than I wanted sex, I really wanted to know someone, and I realize, in those post-orgasmic moments, rare as they actually are in my life lately, that I confused the things, linked them so that they appeared to be the same, but I put on my clothes and head out the door because I realize I'm supposed to leave and we say let's hang out again and I am never sure if they are saying it because that's what people say or because they really want to, and I realize that I say that because I am not sure if I am supposed to say that or if I actually feel that - I go through the motions is what I am saying, and I walk back towards my house. So because of this, because most of my experiences tend toward these of-the-moment things brought forth by sexual hunger and which end the moment that hunger is sated, it's always weird to go and have a conversation with someone in a not-too-crowded bar and look at their eyes and get to know them, to try to actually connect with another human being, the thing sought unsuccessfully in all those hookups.

I was really nervous before going to this bar. But I went and he was insanely cute and I rambled about I don't know what. We sat in the corner booth at Legion against the glass windows, his back to them. A very intense thunderstorm had just ended, one of those angry summer storms, the sky unable to take all the humidity, all the heat, it just exploding, huge wallops of thunder, bright lightening streaking across the sky, fucking beautiful stuff that reminds me of so many Florida storms, those daily things I would sit through for their short duration, admiring their ability to just let things out. There were still massive flashes of lightening shooting across the sky as we sat there after the heavy rain part of the storm had passed, intense flashes, lines traced by a drunk hand at warp speed. The bar was playing nothing but Garbage for the first half hour we were there. So there all these things: this guy with his cute fucking face and adorable smile sitting across from me, every thirty seconds or so a huge flash of lightening which illuminates the sky behind him, and these songs of angst, rage, and loneliness that I used to listen to all the time in high school. There is all this stuff, this beautiful fucking stuff, and my heart is swelling with all kinds of things because I hadn't talked to a boy I liked in so long. I have chatted with them briefly at clubs shouting in each other's ears over pulsing sound, or have exchanged the briefest bits of text possible with various guys on Scruff, but there hasn't been this - this leisurely thing, to just sit and hang out and talk and see if you and another human being actually like each other.

After many more beers and many cigarettes, he came home with me. We smoked weed and I played T. Rex. We made out and didn't have sex because he didn't want to, or said he shouldn't. I just said okay and didn't question it, everyone having their reasons for things they have to do. We made out and dry humped with our shorts on. He left to go pack or something.

I have been scared to like a person. I recently realized this when I was talking to my friend Darnell on Gay Pride Day. I told him about how I literally ran away from a club a couple nights before from a guy who I liked and who had agreed to come home with me. Literally ran away from the club, back home. His reaction wasn't "You're weird" or "Why the hell would you do that?," but instead was comforting because he realized what the problem was right away: "Aw, Charlie, you're scared." And then he proceeded to tell me that I don't need to be scared to like somebody, that I am amazing and that I shouldn't be scared.

I am trying to be open, to like someone, to allow myself to feel certain things, to let down safeguards I have erected.

He is really fucking cute. It feels so good to like someone and for it to be this new thing, for it to be this awkward dance cause you're pretty sure the other person likes you as well and both of you are dancing around each other trying to see what's up, what's there.