Friday, November 27, 2015


One year I lived in San Francisco. For the summer, with a couple, girls, on the steep hillside above the Castro. At first, in the morning, I worked for Chevron, then had my afternoons free to play tennis and go the gym. That is all I did, by daylight. I spent four to six hours getting exercise, and no one thought that was unusual. Sometimes I went to the gym twice, often played tennis twice, and no one thought that was unusual.

To this day, I can tell you where lies every public tennis court in the Castro and Noe Valley and Buena Vista and Cole Valley and Hayes Valley and the Mission. If I go as a tourist I care less about anything anybody else cares about and more about re-locating hidden tennis courts on Twin Peaks.

It was uncharacteristically beautiful that year; the fog burned off by noon or one, when I escaped BIG OIL and Metroed back up Market Street. I was so in shape that people stopped me on Castro to comment on my calves. You'd be surprised how quickly you brush that off at 32.

We listened to this album incessantly. And then Alanis Morrisette. Sometimes in the late afternoon I would go to the bars in the Castro; for some reason, almost never at night. I was so early to bed and early to rise. I didn't meet a lot of guys to care about, but when I did they were all listening to the same music. Oh, and Radiohead. But if you spent the night in another guy's bed, he would play Sarah Mclachlen for you at one or two a.m., again with coffee in bed the next day, unselfconsciously.

One guy, a very handsome guy, asked me to dinner. He MADE me dinner. He was courting me. But he started talking to me about his forays into the "leather lifestyle" and I left before the pasta was cooked. He couldn't understand my lack of understanding, and I guess I can't understand it now myself.

But it did save us some time, my cutting losses.

That year I was doing something else; I was writing screenplays. Not like you and I are always writing screenplays, but writing them with a professional promise, the best agent in LA, so everything I was doing was temporary. I was glancing out the window at the abrupt vertical hillside while you made dinner anyway.

Friday, November 20, 2015

That Makes a Thief

Lost & Found

Let me love you
in an empty townhouse
on Fairfax Street

Let me laugh at you
sweating twilights
in Glover Park

Across splintery floors
and blankets of yard

Gin and Tonics
dry Martinis
hair slicked back

I lived by the canal
and got my hair cut there
was followed everywhere

Except to school

In the brightest light of summer
the steps to campus
in Mississippi shadows

When I got dinner
the bright-eyed fellow
couldn’t do the math

I had barely six dollars for
ham and cheese, turned out
he had much less than that

I only needed a sandwich and
wouldn’t have minded losing
50 cents

Some grumbling from the back
got him trembling, made him forget
or not realize

That 90 minus 63
will not matter, ever
beyond Georgetown

Meanwhile, back at the Papermill
there were accusatory messages:
to whomever stole my Tab…

Well, I stole your Tab!

I was poor and I was thirsty
and had less than perfect respect

That makes a thief

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

It's the chocolate, it is the chocolate on the tooth

One time I dated this guy who lived in Brooklyn, beyond most pales ca. 1989. His best friend had a neat party trick: He could imitate Cocteau Twins. Elizabeth Fraser's mesmerizing nonsense baby talk, which is still currency in these parts.

I first heard Cocteau Twins at Life Cafe of the terrible Mexican and undeniable cool in 1986. It was late for me to come to them, but I immediately bought cassettes at Tower Records and caught up on Avenue B. Treasure. The Pink Opaque. Pearly Dew Drops. Pandora.

And she is innocent! She is the Spangle Maker!



The extra-innings pitcher
has just the look of
traintrack houses
in Knoxville

Of early-evening Asheville parties
on a porch slung over the river
as heavy slanting sunshine
combusts into night

Mouth dipping at both ends
hair dripping from his cap
words spit like fastballs between
pulls of smoke and slugs of beer

Nine scattered round
the old Amana, the oilcan table
the game on the radio
from Pittsburgh or Atlanta

Five of us rolling up
with fresh lines of sunburn
tracing yesterday’s crew cuts
beer cans glancing off our shins

Rollie Fingers all wound up
glaring down at Lonnie, swearing
get your ass up to the store, still
hours away from the serious threats

Tilting back the crackled street
tall trees waving to the left
hedges swaying to the right
gas station dead ahead

Just supplies, Lon says squarely
as the screen door jangles
into filthy fans and flypaper
red Coke cooler, candy rack

Hughie winks at Len as
Sam bags Schlitz and Salems
pork rinds and Red Hots, relays
to Ken who doesn’t talk barely

Riverside the white clouds
scud across the sky as
smoke rushes down throats
and beer foams from the can

Clouds swirling
smoke curling
fenders knocking
mouths dripping at both ends

And then with a shout branching
bumping roots slapping
branches brushing gnats
pumping bends panting

Finally breaking through
to scour hands at the spigot
sliding only slightly late into home
beside the corner cupboard

Nannie bows her head and says
Dear Lord, thank you for bringing
all of us together here, and what
on earth has happened to your ear?

Well, most days you were happy
at the Oak Ridge Country Club
in the nicest house in Bluefield
atop the sledding hill

But what a relief
to follow strangers into woods
to stand in shadows listening
to everything alive

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Pretty Pretty

Pretty is such a loaded word when you are a boy. But I'd go back there in a second.

In the '70s, I did get mistaken for a girl, though my mom has always said my friend Charlie was prettier than me. Pat was "cute." It was an era of androgyny without our really knowing it. Center-parted hair and beads around the neck, and no one's face was fully formed. We all had very shiny long brown hair.

I rather lurched into viability.

There weren't graded paths to it.

This is a candid shot of two hungover people in a dive bar in New Haven some time in the eighties.

Folks commented on my looks, my perceived Midwestern skin. (Whatever it is, it ain't from Ohio. I will cop to Kentucky.) I got told to model so many times that it actually became irritating (because I was too short, so couldn't make a dime), I got asked who cut my hair on Wisconsin Avenue, I got voted best looking in an unofficial poll of the class of 1984, I got photographed by a famous photographer on 57th Street (I threw away my copy because I looked too damn pretty), I got talked to at telephone booths, harassed on the subway, I got cruised by JFK Jr. at the Citibank on Christopher Street, I got followed like a girl.

I got interviewed for a documentary on what it was like to be good looking. They asked me if it had presented advantages.

And I said, "Not enough."

Monday, November 2, 2015

If They Don't, Use a Match


Robert's Apartment:16 Jane Street between Greenwich Avenue and West 4th Street/Eighth Avenue, Buzzer #19 outside, Buzzer #3D inside; Apartment 3D, fourth floor from lobby on right side of building

Linens: Bed linens and towels are in the front closet, closest to bathroom.There is space for your clothes in this closet, also a little hanging space in the main room closet. The laundry bag is in the main room closet.  There are more sheets and pillow cases in the bag if you need them. Take laundry around the corner on Eighth Avenue between Jane and Horatio Streets (right side). Drop it off and they do the laundry. 

Gas and Electric: The oven burners light automatically (if they don't, you can use a match). If you vacuum, you must turn off the air conditioner or you risk blowing a fuse.

Phone: The phone number, as you know, is 212-255-2268. To check voicemail at home, dial 366-5055, enter the password 57868, follow instructions. To check voicemail from outside, dial 366-5055, enter #212-255-2268, enter the password 57868, follow instructions.

Internet: To access the internet, turn on the computer. After it has completely booted up, double-click on the “Shortcut to” icon. Click on the “connect” button. It will dial up automatically. Then double-click on the “Internet Explorer” icon. You will have an online screen.

Stereo and TV: For the stereo, such as it is, hit the JVC amplifier button on the upper left side. Put a CD in the portable CD player and hit the play button. The volume control is on the upper right side. For the TV, use the “Electronics” remote the one that isn’t the Sony or Panasonic remote.  This changes the channel.  To adjust the volume, use the Sony remote. To use the VCR, use the Panasonic remote.

Bicycle: The tires need air.  You can fill them at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 15th Street bicycle shop.  There is no lock I just use it for recreation (hah).

Friday, October 16, 2015

Stronger Than Pride

I won't pretend that I intend to stop living.

You look back at what you were playing on your boom box and some of it seems more decent than the rest. I was pretty keen on Sade, despite my cool intentions, on Avenue B and then on 10th Street at Seventh Avenue.  That apartment with the skylights and the smell of saltwater, that peculiar place at the center of not-desirable New York City.  There was a crackhouse in the garage across the street (before it became a Gourmet Garage).  There was a homeless lady who lived in an INDENTATION.  There was an old-school gay guy charging too much as a barber downstairs, cowboy boots and dyed blonde hair. There was a lampshade shop that I just cannot explain.

Julius was on the corner, Three Lives across the street, acclaimed authors and porn stars winking at me with abandon as they raced by.

Everyone on deadline.

I'd go up to the roof with Cammie, Lisa, Dirk and tricks. For Sade, tar-beach sunbathing and Pimm's. This was a big song that summer, me running hard downtown to the WTC and riding a steamy subway uptown to Cafe Luxembourg. Somewhere along the way I developed a crush on this guy, Mark, who was enamored of my Bohemian (cough cough) way of life.  He would drop by the bar and, as you do, enroll at Columbia.

I still really really love you
love is stronger than pride