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Friday, July 25, 2003

Where have you Ben?

This would have to happen just after I've pitched a 16-pack of Charmin into my cart, the four-by-four stack of plastic wrapped, double-roll "bathroom tissue" towering above the top of the basket. I duck around the corner into the next aisle but, soon enough, he's there too, the cutest guy in the store and he's headed my way.

It seems like I'm the grocery nearly every day recently, Schnucks mostly (motto: "Not just the friendliest stores in town, the only damn stores in town."), since my chaotic schedule leaves me with little idea when I'll be dining at home. I used to buy a whole week's provisions at once -- ah, those halcyon days of three months ago -- but now I'm doing the Mary Richards thing daily, tossing single-serving soups and Salad-in-a-Sack into my cart before hitting the self-serve checkouts.

This everyday marketing serves some appealing parts of my personality; I always get the freshest goods, I get a frequent dose of eye candy to satisfy my harmless bagboy fantasy fetish and, in these austere times, I never feel as though I'm dropping half my salary on food and household goods when I dribble it out a few dollars at a time.

The downside, though, is that it presents opportunities for embarrassment just like this more often. I'm being half-stalked through the store by a hottie when I'm buying discommodious (pardon the pun) personal items.

Why am I mortified to be discovered purchasing toilet paper? I don't know! Maybe it's just because we're societally encouraged to keep our bodily functions private. To never acknowledge that the loo even exists. Remember what a scandal it was to hear a commode flush on All in the Family? But we're all in the same boat, after all, and it's the little dinghy of that chipper sailor boy from the 1970s Tidy-Bowl commercials. Everyone, we are reminded even by children's literature, poops.

I guess I'm just a bit squeamish being reminded of it and even moreso when faced with the prospect of cruising a desirable fellow while toting along a bulk package that practically screams, "Yes, everyone poops! Especially me! Look! I must stock up for I defecate in astonishing volume!"

Yes, this is exactly the sort of thing that goes through my mind on a regular basis. And you wonder why happy hour accounts for the second largest chunk of my wages after groceries?

I should get over it, I know. I'm sure I'm the only person in the world so neurotic about keeping up appearances in the market. I'll never forget running into my friend Mike Lockheed at Walgreens in the early 90s. It was late on a Friday afternoon and, as we chatted about beer and boys and pleasant combinations thereof, I noted that he had packed his handbasket with at least a half dozen Fleet bottles, a 36-pack of condoms and a copy of Men's Fitness or somesuch.

"I've got a big weekend ahead," Mike quipped with a wink as we parted. I stood there for a moment in the aisle, wondering if I could ever be so casual a shopper and reflecting that the "Power Bottom / Bottom Power" t-shirt I'd seen Mike wearing the previous Saturday night at Twist was probably the most truthful advertising I was likely to see all month.

Anyway, back at Schnucks, I'm frantically trying to steer my basket to a vacant aisle, hoping I can park it and then saunter back with poised nonchalance to take a pass -- and perhaps make one -- at the lovely lad who seems still to be shadowing me. I've just rushed through the dairy section and ducked into the shampoo aisle when I run into him -- literally, smacking him in the butt with the front of my cart.

In an instant, I'm apologizing so quickly that the words hardly sound like English. He turns to face me and I notice that his eyes are wide and impossibly blue and, I'm certain of it, focused on the gigantic mound of Charmin bobbing from side to side in the basket, all thoughts of squeezing anything else I might have immediately leaving his mind.

When I stop blathering and begin to move off, he says, "Hey, don't I know you from somewhere?" It sounds so much like a line that I almost laugh but, when I consider him further, I realize he's right. It's been five or six years since I last saw him and he's shed some pounds, clearly hit the gym pretty hard, but this is without a doubt the same guy I spent many late nights fruitlessly flirting with at the late-night copy shop near my house.

We spend a few minutes catching up, my awkwardness almost entirely vanishing when I glance at his cart to spy a tube of Preparation H tucked among the fresh greens and pork steak. That we're both buying ass items is a bizarre comfort, and soon we're casually chatting, then flirting, and then, we're having lattes at a nearby coffee bar.

And later we're having something else guaranteed to raise the heart rate even faster than caffeine, the "your place or mine?" question settled when Ben -- I remember his name shortly after our collision and think to myself that if only one of us had been buying Ben-Gay, this would be the perfect punny story -- suggests following me home since he "lives in a bad neighborhood."

We said goodnight around midnight, made noises about getting together again soon, and prepared to part, only to discover that Ben's car had been stolen from in front of my house. In my "good neighborhood".

He took it in stride, better than I probably would have and, fortunately, his groceries were still in my fridge. After all, the car was insured but they weren't. I took him home, offered him a ride to work the next day, and slipped him my phone number as he got out of the car.

And then I went to Schnucks. I'd forgotten to get milk earlier.
July 25, 2003 at 3:32 PM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Thursday, July 24, 2003

What’s Ben going on?

"You've got the Bens," Jeffrey says, after hearing a weekend's worth of stories.

"I do!" I say. "I guess I didn't come up slowly enough."

"Or you went down too fast," he counters.

Trust me: That's never a problem.

But last weekend was strange. I mean, what are the odds? I hook up with two guys, both named Ben, on two consecutive days. One encounter ends awkwardly, as Ben the First departs to discover his car has been stolen from in front of my house.

The police officer who arrives to take the report? His last name is Benjamin.

The second evening begins bizarrely, as a fun flirtation turns into a conversation with a fellow who can only be described as "couth-free", but concludes with a coincidence that introduces Ben the Second.

"You're all about the Benjamins," Jeffrey says. And so I am.

Tomorrow: Where have you Ben for the last six years?
Next up: Ben, again.
July 24, 2003 at 12:53 AM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Patterns

In the small hours of the morning, it makes sense to you. Everything is clear. Go down the path you've walked before, don't pay any mind to the signs and passersby, warning you to turn back.

The familiar road, a crooked path, and yet.

And yet.

You turn a corner and everything looks the same. There's no porch step or over-priced bottle of Coke, true, but for those, it could be 1996 and the air could be cool and the night could be quiet except for the sound of two hearts beating, two pairs of lungs whispering the same, intoxicating tattoo.

"Reach out," you hear in the wind. "Reach across that tiny distance, that small space that separates you and possibility, take hold and don't let go. There is no past, there is no future, there is only now and the infinite promise of the moment."

You are a fool. "When you know you can't have what you want, where's the profit in wishing?"

But what care you for profit when, yet again, you're falling in love with a poor man?
July 23, 2003 at 12:47 AM | Permalink
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Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Going overboard

A friend of mine, a noted Mark Twain impersonator, tells a story attributed to the author that's always been a favorite of mine when justifying one vice or another.

Twain told of being called to the bedside of a dying friend. "Tilly," he said, taking the woman's hand, "if you listen to my advice and do just what I say, I can cure you."

The woman gave a feeble cough, sat up meekly and looked into his eyes. "What must I do, Mr. Twain?" she asked.

"Well, first," Twain said, "you've got to give up smoking cigars. You've got to stop drinking liquor to excess. You must stop carrying on until all hours of the morning, and you must cease carousing with young men of questionable morals."

"But Mr. Twain, I can't give up those things," Tilly protested. "I don't smoke. I don't drink liquor. I have been in bed by nine every night of my life, and I have never carried on with young men."

"Well, there it was," Twain would say, warming to his audience. "She was doomed. If she had cultivated just one or two of those habits, they might have saved her. She was like a sinking ship with no freight to throw overboard."

I certainly don't have the frontier eloquence of Missouri's favorite son, but I've made a few observations recently as I endeavor to "toss some freight overboard" and rearrange the hold.
  1. If you tell your friends you are writing a book or remodeling your house, it becomes, for the duration of the project, the principal topic of conversation. "How is the book coming?" they'll ask every time they see you. "Finished the house yet?" After enough annoying inquiries, you'll be tempted to chuck the project altogether.

    It is a similarly bad idea to tell your friends you're planning to change your life.

  2. Like a toaster oven or a hair dryer or a computer, it is far easier and more expeditious to make a new person than it is to fix an existing one. Or so I'm told anyway, having no intention of procreation and all the messiness attendant thereto.

  3. If you get off on instant gratification, you had better get over that right now.

  4. Young men of questionable morals are, frankly, a damned good reason for charting a new course and swabbing your decks. Just don't ask any questions you're not prepared to hear the answers to. Finding out that the lad you're flirting with was two years old when you were a high school senior can lead to crying jags, and that just gets in the way of the work.


Temporarily buoyed by some air pockets in the lower decks, I go bobbing along on a sea as still as the tomb.
July 16, 2003 at 8:12 PM | Permalink
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Tuesday, July 15, 2003

The Christopher Atkins Diet

The Giant Queen: I've been meaning to ask you. You look really good lately. Have you lost weight?

Brad: A little bit. I'm on the Atkins diet.

The Giant Queen: Really?

Brad: Well, actually it's the Christopher Atkins diet. I can only eat food that was featured in the film The Blue Lagoon.
July 15, 2003 at 12:14 AM | Permalink
Categories:

Monday, July 14, 2003

Broken down

When I was young and stupid -- and here I'm referring to adolescence, not three or four weeks ago -- I complained loudly and often that I could not gain weight, no matter what I ate. (If you have reached the age of majority, this is a hanging offense, according to the traditions of gay frontier justice.)

But I was a skinny squirt, usually characterized as "scrawny", with knobby knees, pencil-thin arms and the cliché Coke bottle specs. I did not, in short, have the most positive body image. Unlike most teenagers, of course. Yes, I suffered thusly alone.

Each time I would grouse that I was constitutionally unable to add some bulk to my beanpole, my mother would sigh and chuckle. "Just wait until you turn 30," she'd say. "You'll wish you couldn't gain weight. Your body'll go to hell." I thought she was kidding at first but, gradually, I came to believe her.

I didn't realize she meant it would happen that day.

But, sure enough, practically on the hour of my 30th birthday, my heretofore unsullied face broke out in all sorts of interesting patterns, I noticed my first gray hairs and I seemed to have developed a paunch that, if necessary, could be used as a flotation device.

All of these I have taken in stride even if, as a glance around any beach or poolside will confirm, a convex belly on an otherwise gaunt frame is hardly the beauty ideal. That's OK. I never wanted or expected to be beautiful.

I did hope, as I moved into the prime of my life, at least to be ambulatory.

And I always suspected that'd be the case, although it seems like every day I'm waking up with a new cramp, creak or wound that wasn't there the day before. The latest is situated in my left knee, perfectly fine one moment and then OW! OW! SEARING PAIN! KILL ME NOW! KILL! ME! NOW!!

It's probably nothing.

On the other hand, I'm not alone with my aches and pains. Get a group of my 30-something friends together and we sound like a group of geezers one-upping each other over Jell-O and strained peas. Slipped discs, ulcers, early-onset arthritis, bursitis, ligaments and cartilege a-go-go. We are Generation X: The Walking Wounded.

My saving grace is my perhaps over-developed sense of schadenfreude, employed as a coping mechanism whereby I watch the lithe, practically undernourished twinks on the dance floor, at the gym, in the park, and I mumble to myself, in further affirmation that I am inexorably becoming my mother, "Just wait until you turn 30. Your body'll go to hell."

And then I cackle merrily, turn and walk aw--OW! OW! SEARING PAIN! KILL ME NOW! KILL! ME! NOW!!
July 14, 2003 at 11:18 AM | Permalink
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Sunday, July 13, 2003

Georgia on his mind

My pocket vibrates just after Erik and Elaine say their vows. As discretely as possible, I retrieve the phone and note the Caller ID. The woman seated to my right shifts uncomfortably but, when I glance at her face to apologize, I see that her fidgeting is due not to my own squirming to deal with the call but from the close warmth of the chapel. She fans herself and we share a silent look, both grateful that the ceremony is near an end.

On the way to the reception, I return Tom's message.

"You're in Iowa?" he asks. "What's it like?"

"Well, you know," I say, beginning my stock answer delivered a dozen times to friends when I'd revealed my plans for the weekend trip. "There's nothing halfway about the Iowa way to treat you. When they treat you. Which they have been, quite well, thank you."

Tom doesn't know show music, so this bit of banter is lost on him, as it has been the other dozen times too.

"How about getting away to somewhere less corny," he says. "I'm buying passes for Hotlanta. Come with me!"

I'd been expecting this, with the party just around the corner and having already declined two other circuit invitations. Since he and Jerry split up, Tom's been having a tough time of it. He's not only lost his soulmate -- for truly that's what Jerry was, whether either would admit it or not -- but, more devastating to Tom, he's lost his playmate. For a romantic hedonist from the old school, that's damned close to death.

"I'm sorry, I really am," I say, "but I've already got plans to go to Chicago that weekend. It's too bad, because Hotlanta looks like a lot of fun this year."

"What's going on in Chicago?" he asks, resigned but sounding hopeful maybe it's a trip he can invite himself on.

I've arrived at the hotel where we'll toast the happy couple and drink and dance and -- because I'm in Iowa -- hopefully drink a good bit more. There's no point trying to explain the significance of a new Stephen Sondheim musical or a Tony Kushner premiere, which are my reasons for heading north rather than south.

"Nothing heavy," I say. "It's work-related."

I instantly regret that explanation, since Tom's been on the streets and underqualified for just about everything since he got the retail boot late last year.

"I've got to go right now," I say. "Listen, let's get dinner when I'm back in town. Maybe..." I think for a minute. "Maybe I can be persuaded to do Market Days this year."

Tom brightens instantly and begins chattering about Chicago boys and his last night at IML and how much he loves the Windy City. When I'm finally able to ring off, I know he'll be on the phone instantly checking airfares to Chicago and pricing hotel rooms. And probably trying to corral someone else into spending a steamy weekend in Atlanta.

As I make my way to the ballroom I wonder and worry a little about both Jerry and Tom. "For better or for worse," and heaven knows they tried, but it just wasn't enough. We always called them The Twins and now they've gone their separate ways.

I head straight for the bar, intent on putting my hands around a glass before I put my arms around the bride.
July 13, 2003 at 4:01 PM | Permalink
Categories:

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Venereal disease

A few years ago, I was sitting at brunch with the usual gang when, as it sometimes does after several rounds of mimosas, the table fell quiet, each of us lost in thought or gazing out the window at the boys on the boulevard.

This went on an uncharacteristically long time, for us, when finally a thought popped into my head and I snickered. More of a snort, really. We'd been imbibing since 11 and it was now well past two.

"What?" inquired The Giant Queen, shifting in my direction, desperate for the conversation to resume.

"I was just thinking," I said, "about venereal words."

James whipped his head toward me. "I'd lower my voice if I were you."

"No, no," I said, lightly slapping his face. "Not that kind of venereal. I mean terms of venery. It's an olde" — I pronounced the 'e', old-ee — "English thing, a sort of parlor game. Venery words were taken from the sport of hunting, collective nouns for groups of things."

I had just be given a delightful book, An Exaltation of Larks, which explained this in far more detail than James' increasingly glassy stare told me he would sit for.

"Like a 'gaggle' of geese or a 'pride' of lions. They're words, collective nouns," I stressed again, "that represent a group."

"And that's funny?" The Giant Queen looked dubious.

"Well, there are others," I explained. "More modern ones, and funny ones too. Like a 'magnum' of gunmen, or a 'blur' of Impressionists."

"And that's funny?" The Actor chimed in, looking confused.

"No," I said. "What's funny is I was sitting here wondering what the group of us might be called."

Jeff didn't miss a beat. "That's easy," he exclaimed. "We're a 'dish' of brunch queens."

I had to concede that wasn't bad at all, sophisticated, even, for Jeff, taking in the double meaning of "dish" to mean both gossip and plates and bowls. I gave him a little round of applause. He beamed and gave me another round of cocktails.

For the next hour, we avoided the withering glance of the waiter who would really rather we'd just cleared off so he could cash out and go home ("Ignore her," Jeff averred. "She always wants to leave early." and I had the distinct impression he was talking about more than work) and made up terms of venery for things familiar to us.

I hadn't thought of them in years but, last weekend, as a brunchtime conversation — an almost entirely new gang, alas — wound down to silence, suddenly they were there again and I found myself scraping my memory to recall them all.

They're reproduced herewith, along with some recent additions:
  • A clutch (as in pearls) of gay men.
  • A U-Haul of lesbians. (James suggested "A lick of lesbians," but we made him leave the table and think about what he'd done.)
  • A confusion of bisexuals.
  • A rage of AIDS activists.
  • A peck of shirtless boys.
  • A fancy of drag queens.
  • A swagger of tops.
  • A brace of bottoms.
  • A tease of twinks.
  • A press of muscle Marys.
  • A bulk of bears.
  • A largesse of sugar daddies.
  • A bump of circuit boys.
  • A desperation of trolls.
  • A mess of therapy junkies.
  • A raven of club kids.
  • A hide of leather men.
  • A delusion of ex-gays.
June 24, 2003 at 10:31 AM | Permalink
Categories: Half-Baked Humor

Monday, June 23, 2003

At my acme

If I'd been paying attention earlier, I would have seen it plain as day but I have been, to put it mildly, distracted lately. Fortunately, the universe decided to throw me a curve ball, and it really got me back in the game.

Actually, what the universe really did was drop an anvil on my head, and I spent an hour walking around the neighborhood, compressed Wile E. Coyote-like into an accordian fold, wheezing out the tinny tune that's going to change my life.

At the end of my walk, I hadn't figured out what I want to be when I grow up, but I had determined who I want to be. And it's going to be a lot sooner.
June 23, 2003 at 10:37 AM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Friday, June 20, 2003

Hey Sister, how’s it shakin’?



Rush Street, Chicago, Illinois
June 16, 2003
June 20, 2003 at 10:37 AM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Thursday, June 19, 2003

90 percent of life

A friend told me that his father had died this morning. It's one of those situations where, usually, we don't know what to say. I knew exactly what I wasn't going to say: "I'm so sorry."

Nearly everyone said that to me when my own father died several years ago, and my black humor response — springing from a coping mechanism and slightly screwy worldview I've been honing methodically since grammar school — never went over as well as I hoped it would.

"Don't be sorry," I'd say. "After all, you didn't kill him."

Pretending not to see the somewhat stricken look that invariably followed, I'd pause for a beat or two, then lean in and inquire with an air of dark conspiracy, "Did you?"

All you need to know about my admittedly odd response to what was no doubt well-intentioned and genuine concern is that, for a variety of complicated reasons, my mother and I spent a good portion of dad's funeral laughing, to ourselves and with each other. It's sort of the ultimate "you to be there" — or, rather, you had to be us — joke. Long story. Remind me to tell you over drinks sometime.

But I know better than to try to presume the depth and intensity of another's grief, especially when my own is ultimately unfathomable. I stopped crying at funerals a long time before I laughed at dad's. Crossing out eight names from your address book in three months will do that to you, not harden you, necessarily, but certainly make tears seem particularly pointless.

Anyway, fathers and sons have such complicated relationships. But they're relationships that never end, even with distance or death. The things we got or didn't get from them — or, to be perfectly fair, that we did or didn't allow them to get from us — hang around for quite a while.

If we're very, very lucky.

Who am I to say, then, that I share sorrow or laughter or rage or envy or anything with the ones who survive? I don't and I can't.

What I can say, and did, is this: I'm here if you need anything, and I'm thinking warmly of you and your loved ones. I'm happy to provide a shoulder to lean upon, an ear to bend, or any other body part you think might be helpful.

That's all I, or anyone else, can really do. Be present. If, as Woody Allen quipped, ninety percent of life is just showing up, it must be true that the larger part of friendship, love and support is too.
June 19, 2003 at 10:39 AM | Permalink
Categories: The Daily Brad

Monday, June 09, 2003

Then again, who nose?

Frankly, I'm a little worried about my friends. It was a solid 48 hours after the man's considerable, famous proboscis collided with that wall before I heard the first Barry Manilow joke.

Clearly, I need cronies with a better developed sense of schadenfreude. If nothing else, I thought we had that covered.
June 9, 2003 at 10:41 AM | Permalink
Categories: Half-Baked Humor

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Too far for me

There were about 45 seconds left in the commercial break, while viewers in Des Moines and Denver and San Diego were seeing a tasteful commercial for a feminine hygiene product, and I was dreading what was coming next. A handsome young production assistant chatted amiably with the host, and both his and her perfectly coiffed images were reflected on a monitor just outside of the range of the cameras.

I had already done my part, 14 minutes, more or less, of statistics, impact statements and practiced soundbites honed over the past two weeks, as the woman seated next to me on the set and I had made the rounds of radio talk shows from coast to coast. In the next segment, the focus would be on her. I just had to nod occasionally, perhaps amplify a point or two, smile for the camera. That didn't concern me a bit. I knew exactly what she would say.

What I didn't know is how she would say it, but I had a pretty good idea. Despite having the benefit of an Ivy League education, despite serving as the head of a major, national advocacy organization, despite being a respected and sought-after speaker, Elaine was a terrible interview subject.

Give her a prepared text, a stack of paper or a TelePrompTer, and she was golden; she could make you laugh, cry, open your wallet, phone your congressman. But ask her to extemporize and within five minutes, your ears were bleeding.

Elaine had an unfortunate speech pattern, one I was pretty sure no one had ever pointed out to her. Even on a subject she knew backwards and forwards, her answer to a question would be interrupted, every three or four words, by "you know?". Every three or four words.

A verbal tic, like nearly everyone has in one form or another. They're usually barely noticeable in casual conversation, becoming part of the rhythm, the background noise of chat. But in an interview situation, they are deadly. Something about the focus provided by a microphone or a camera just draws them right out to the forefront. You can't notice anything but "you know?", "you know?", "you know?".

I'd cringed, winced, grimaced and rolled my eyes dozens of times over the past two weeks but, since we were sequestered on nearly opposite sides of the country in different studios, Elaine and I had never been face to face until that day. After the first few radio gigs, I'd called the communications director of Elaine's organization, an old friend.

"You've got to coach her," I implored, "get her some interview training, something. Or you've got to replace her on this campaign." Joe waffled. It's a hard thing to do, hard but necessary. One of the most difficult tasks for any publicist is to select and groom a spokesperson for your organization. It's harder still when the best person for the job isn't your executive director. And you have to be the one to tell her.

So there we were, having arrived in Atlanta just a few hours before, sitting in comfortable chairs in a too-warm studio. I briefly considered saying something in the few seconds remaining before the red light came back on but immediately dismissed the idea. There was no point making her more nervous than she might already be. That would only make things worse, you know? (Damn! Now I was doing it, if only in my mind.)

As I feared, the show resumed and the very first question to Elaine, a softball, elicited a two-minute monologue punctuated with her unique style. The second question yielded the same. By the third and final query of the segment, I was thinnly smiling with gritted teeth, barely able to restrain myself from leaping up and strangling her, shouting "No! They don't know, Elaine! They don't know! That's why you're here! To tell them!"

But I didn't. I nodded, amplified, smiled and barely broke a sweat. The show ended, the host thanked us both for making the trip and passed us off to the dashing PA, promising a tour of the broadcast facility. And I breathed deeply, satisfied that the message we'd come to deliver had reached an international audience, albeit in a slightly mangled form.

Elaine and I went our separate ways after that. My contract was up and I returned to St. Louis and a regular routine of writing union agit-prop and dry technical manuals. Elaine did one more national TV gig after that, a similiarly befuddling five minutes on Nightline. Ted Koppel never flinched, but I could sense he wanted to throttle her too.

I hadn't thought of that in quite a while. Today, though, I heard Elaine on the radio, chatting with a talk show host casually and with an elan I would never have suspected from her. Her every thought seemed clear, her points were crisp, her answers to questions concise. She said "you know?" exactly once, that I noticed, and it made perfect sense in its context. It was not a tic, it was a challenge.

It took me a few minutes to unearth Joe's number in my Rolodex but I found it and called to find out how he'd finally managed to stand up to Elaine, finally convinced her to take media training or, at least, to practice some dry runs before going on the air.

"What did it take?" I asked.

"I married her," Joe said.

Just so. That may explain why, only occasionally, I'm frustrated in my job, in my ability to completely and professionally project a positive public face for my company. There are just some tactics I'm not willing to employ.
June 4, 2003 at 10:41 AM | Permalink
Categories: Work It

Thursday, May 29, 2003

A Conversation From the Bar Scene

Chris (on phone): So should I come over and meet you?

Brad: Apparently there's a big line to get in.

Chris: A line? At this hour?

Brad: Yeah, it's packed in here. There was a "Bear Pride" barbeque right before happy hour.

Chris: So?

Brad: Well, you know, any time there's a big Bear event at a club, you can count on the capacity being diminished by at least a 1/4. These guys give "belly up to the bar" a whole different meaning.
May 29, 2003 at 10:26 AM | Permalink
Categories: Conversations

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Match.com: Your resource for organizing massive outdoor orgies



Corner of Belmont & Halsted
Chicago, Illinois
May 28, 2003 at 10:28 AM | Permalink
Categories: Half-Baked Humor

Monday, May 26, 2003

A glitch

He was already about half a block ahead of me when I hit the street and turned right, hurrying down Belmont toward Halsted. I wanted a better look, because I couldn't believe my eyes when I'd first spotted him on the platform, his impossibly blond head with a severe angle-cut soaring at least a foot and a half over the rest of the crowd.

Dressed completely in black with a flowing overcoat that whipped behind him in the wind coming up the street from the lakeside, he wore a pair of fuck-you sunglasses and drew on a European cigarette as he continued to make better time down the street than I would have figured anyone to be able, given he was also standing on five-inch platform heeled black boots.

He looked like the lead in an all-gay sequel to The Matrix, surging forward against the light without even looking left or right but managing to avoid cross traffic. Here, in the half-gritty, half-campy gateway to Boystown, was the quintessential Neo-fag, no doubt on his way to somewhere more fabulous than you. It was the first and likely last time I'll ever see someone actually sashay in bullet time.
May 26, 2003 at 10:29 AM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Friday, May 23, 2003

A Conversation From the Bar Scene

Jeff: Who was the cute guy you were talking to over there?

Brad: His name is Tim. He's in town with the tour of The Music Man.

Jeff: Ooo! A chorus boy?

Brad: More or less.

Jeff: I should go talk to him. I'm a big fan of the musical theatre.

The Giant Queen: Of course you are. Your whacking off every night to the DVD of Newsies is what's keeping Broadway alive.

Jeff: Shut up. I went to see that musical at The Rep with you.

Brad: I didn't know you brought him to the theatre.

The Giant Queen: Yes, to Gypsy. But he only came because I told him it was about strippers.

Jeff: He didn't tell me they were women.
May 23, 2003 at 10:30 AM | Permalink
Categories: Conversations

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

A pause

L'il Gromit, my faithful iBook companion, is spending some time at the Laptop Spa having his LCD rejuvenated. Hopefully updates will resume hereabouts in a couple of days.

Next month, The BradLands begins its ninth year on the web. No wonder I'm so tired.
May 6, 2003 at 10:31 AM | Permalink
Categories: Daily News

Thursday, April 24, 2003

I’m a sick man

Three days of medicine head later and I've just about kicked the head cold — number eight this fiscal year, for those keeping score at home — that's been kicking my ass for the past few days. There's something about my constitution that has permitted me over the years to soldier on through an assortment of gruesome maladies — several strains of flu, torn ligaments, a particularly persistent allergic rash — but still to be felled, flat on my back, congested and cranky as hell with a common cold.

What can I say? I'm special.

Anyway, it's over, or very nearly. A good thing, too, because one day out of the office — the larger part of it spent in bed — and even I'm getting tired of me. Climbing the walls and clearing the TiVo: cabin fever for the 21st century.

There's nothing on this earth more tiresome and annoying than a sick man. Really. Forget the bunker busters. If they'd only managed to drop-ship eight or nine guys with sore throats, body ache and the sniffles into Saddam's concrete hideout, he'd have flung up his hands and surrendered inside of a day. Anything to get away from the whining, complaining and puppy-dog-eyed pleas for a sandwich, maybe, and some juice? Please?
April 24, 2003 at 10:04 AM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Thursday, April 17, 2003

But only sometimes

Sometimes, I need more than I say I want and, certainly, want more than I say I need.

And no, that doesn't mean what you think it does. It certainly doesn't mean what I thought it did. Life can still surprise us, after all.
April 17, 2003 at 10:04 AM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Top Ten Things Actually Overheard in a Bathhouse, 1989-present

  1. "Frankly, he looks better in a dress."
  2. "Could you scoot over a little bit? You're blocking my good side."
  3. "God, I used to watch your show every afternoon when I was a kid!"
  4. "I'm not sure, but I think I just saw Gorbachev in the wet area."
  5. "These towels are nicer than Martha Stewart's!"
  6. "OK, one more lap. But then I've got to go downstairs and call my grandmother."
  7. "That was scary. I'm pretty sure he's renting that room, that boy and that toupee by the hour."
  8. "Fleet Week is over. This is apparently Fat Week."
  9. "I'm not just saying he's into S & M. I'm saying the only kind of whip he doesn't have in that duffel bag is Cool Whip — and I'm not too sure about that!"
  10. "I think that guy's on E." / "He doesn't look fucked up to me." / "Not the drug, the cable channel."
April 16, 2003 at 10:05 AM | Permalink
Categories: Conversations

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Spring

My pants have been a little tighter these past few days, and not just because my waist size continues its tradition of keeping pace with my age. No, spring is most definitely here, and this young man's fancy has turned to thoughts of — well, not love, but certainly some of my baser masculine instincts and desires.

In short, I'm gripped with a feral appetite to hump just about everything in sight.

Okay, okay, more of an appetite even than usual.

But of course I have an advantage over the lower orders — dogs, musk oxen, Republicans — granted to me by millions of years of evolution. I can manage my impulses. I have self-control. My brain can triumph in a titanic struggle with my cock and keep me from rampaging through the streets in a feast of utter carnality.

Except.

Except last week after a routine physical, my doctor announced I had a minor chemical imbalance and prescribed, to correct it, a drug that has, shall we say, a catalytic effect on the libido among its side-effects.

Catalytic, my ass! (Please!) The coming of spring notwithstanding, this little tube of gel is like concupiscence cream. Rub-on rapaciousness. It does not salve an itch, it creates one. And, I'll be honest here, I've been scratching that itch like crazy.

All of the foregoing is by way of explanation. If, over the next few weeks, you attempt to engage me in conversation and I seem distracted, inconscient, unheeding, unobservant, unglued or unzipped, I apologize. There's probably a curly-headed, auburn-locked boy in shorts I've spotted nearby. Or a UPS delivery guy. Or a loser I tricked with ten years ago and hoped never to see again but, dear me, has he been to the gym I mean just look at that ass maybe I'll just go over there and tear off that D&G monstrosity and gi—

What? Oh. I'm terribly sorry.

Anyway, if that happens, feel free to shake me, smack me, tie me up and—

Sorry. Sorry!

Just remind me that St. Louis spring is a capricious season. It'll be 40 degrees by the weekend and anyway, there's a long summer to slog through and plenty of time for frolicking ahead. You may also ask me, firmly but politely, to get off your leg.
April 15, 2003 at 10:17 AM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Monday, April 14, 2003

A scary place

"Do you mind if I turn that off?" I ask, and he shakes his head gently. Why we've been watching the nightly episode of Shock 'n' Awe I'm not entirely sure, but it's been punctuating our casual conversation with "live updates" and "exclusive video" since we finished our last cocktails almost 45 minutes ago.

"Jesus, the world is a scary place right now," he says.

"Right now?"

"OK, scarier."

The TV off, the low hum of the ceiling fan is the only sound in the room except our breathing. The streetlights are out, again, and there's only three candles alight on the table at the foot of the bed so it's dim now too. If I felt like getting up to put The Kick Inside in the CD player, it'd almost be like I was back in college. Hell, back then, I even thought I was dating the man with the child in his eyes.

Hell, back then, I believed in dating.

Ben's head is resting on my chest and it's a nice sensation, a good pose, a pleasant picture. I like this moment, this one best of all. The before. Or the after, it doesn't much matter. The middle is just mechanics, sense memory with a little improvisation. This part — the before, in this case — is just sweet, but like most sweet things, I wouldn't want a steady diet of it.

"I like the way you smell when you wear this," he says.

Uh-oh.

It's just an old gray sweatshirt, the team logo faded about a thousand washes ago, the cuffs ragged, the collar stretched. It's the most comfortable piece of clothing I own, lived-in, the thing I pull on at night when I come home from the office and toss in the laundry maybe once a week.

And he...well, he's a former "independent contractor" who's become a friend with privileges and, over the past few months, started to get almost as comfortable. Almost. I still manage to keep a professional distance, tenuous but necessary. But from where he's sitting, he can hear my heart beating and I'm given up. He's got to know talk like that makes me nervous, fight-or-flight systems powered up and on standby.

A long silence then, while I stroke his arm and wait it out. The surest way to dodge a bullet is to make sure it doesn't leave the chamber. Finally, he glances up to meet my eyes. "What are you thinking about?"

"Direct Deposit."

He rolls his eyes and laughs. Another non sequitur. From me, of all people!

"No, seriously. I had to take my paycheck to the bank today, and that's no fun any longer since they transferred the cute teller. But anyway, I was thinking about Direct Deposit because I've got the opportunity to sign up for it again and I'm not sure I want to. Right now, I've got a few hours when I hold my wages in my hands, when I can feel them, sort of, when I can touch the real evidence that my work has tangible value."

"You don't want to give up control."

"No, that's not it. I don't have any control anyway. I use this computer program, called Quicken? God, that's an apt name for it. It automatically pays all my bills. The power, the phone, the house note. Quick, quick, quick, 24 hours after payday.

"It knows how much is supposed to come in and there's a little calendar in it, telling it how much to send out. How much to save. How much to send to Visa. That check I carry to the bank just feeds the machine. Balances the account. But if I get Direct Deposit, I lose that moment, that connection."

More quiet. "So you only wash this shirt once a week to, what? Save money?"

Oh what the hell. "No," I say. "I do that because you like the way I smell when I wear it."

Jesus, the world is a scary place right now.
April 14, 2003 at 10:19 AM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

Monday, April 07, 2003

Overheard at the St. Louis Bread Company

Brad: When they kept talking about capturing Saddam International Airport, all I could think of was "Reagan National Airport"?

Mark: They don't call it "Saddam" anymore.

Brad: What do they call it?

Mark: Baghdad International.

Brad: I'm surprised they haven't tried to rename it after Reagan too.

Mark: Or maybe George W. Bush Airport.

Brad: Or Rum's Field.
April 7, 2003 at 10:21 AM | Permalink
Categories: Conversations

Friday, April 04, 2003

Dichotomies

Juxtaposition reveals truth. Driving in a rented car, I punch the programmed button on the radio to discover that 93.7 FM is now "The Bull". A post-commercial bumper announces, with a musical flourish, "Here comes The Bull!", followed immediately by a calm voice disclaiming "I'm Lauren Smith with ClearChannel International News. Here's the latest update on the war in Iraq."

Words mean different things to different people. A gigantic SUV ahead of me on Elm bears a bumper sticker reading "Respect America. Protect America." with the words flanked by icons of an eagle and a fighter jet. A block before we get to Plymouth, the driver's side window rolls down and a Burger King bag packed with empty hamburger boxes and soft drink cups flies out, bounces off my windshield and lands in the roadside grass

Even I can find a way to support our troops. Actual personal ad spotted today: "Ex-USMC top seeks insatiable bottom to be embedded with my unit."
April 4, 2003 at 10:22 AM | Permalink
Categories: My So-Called Lifestyle

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