“Sorry Looking For Now LOL”

My new book dares to ask those totally unnecessary but entertaining questions.

Venere d’inverno / Winter Venus (after Botticelli)

Imagine this heartwarming Christmas scene: Like Keir Dullea in “2001”, but the Dollarama version, I sit in my wicker bath chair, Hudson’s Bay blanket across my knees, my swollen feet and ankles enhanced by those Jesus sandals from PayLess that used to last for a few months if you got carried everywhere by firemen.

My grandchildren—also totally imaginary, gay as Liberace’s goose, here—come scampering up to me to ask (as no doubt your grandkids have already asked you):

“What did you do in the pandemic, Gramps? Hey Gramps, why do you only have two black teeth? What did you do with the other ones, Gramps? Hey Gramps, why don’t you have a nose? Hey Gramps, can you just forget the presents this year and give us the money instead?”

Which is my cue to take a take a deep breath, then swat the annoying little ingrates across the room with the back of my hand. That’ll teach them to be insolent scalliwags. Right?

Man, that felt good! I really recommend keeping your offspring living like abandoned refugees who’ve been taken home by a serial killer: in a constant state of hypervigilance.

But there’s more. An ongoing program of physical assault for as long as you can get away with it—or “discipline” as parents refer to it—is just one of the many traditional ways you can interact with those kids you own.

You can mess with their minds, too! Start early by telling them fairy tales about beautiful, conniving women who’re as evil as men, and ugly, vindictive trolls who destroy lives with trickery.

That way your kids will be ready for a Twitter account by the time they’re thirteen, and maybe a political career as a conservative when they become adults, though as far as I can tell, the “adult” requirement is optional.

Remember the Brothers Grimm, sending off those hunters at the command of the wicked queen to murder Snow White then cut out her heart? Just the story to regale your little girl with at bedtime (for extra laughs, casually play with your Swiss Army knife while hinting she’s next if she doesn’t go to sleep right away)!

But the hunters, typical liberals, take pity on Snow White. They kill a bear instead and take its heart back to her infernal majesty, telling her that it’s Snow White’s heart—because you wouldn’t want to lose her friendship over some random kid, right?

And she believes them, which, seeing as a bear’s heart is probably the size of a prize-winning cauliflower at the Royal Agricultural Fair, possibly tells us that hatred has distorted her judgment maybe just a tad.

When I was little, I inherited a copy of Grimm with gory, nightmare-inducing illustrations, and at this point in the Snow White story, I read:

“And the wicked queen ate the heart with relish.” 

Which made me think she had a jar of Bick’s Sweet Pickle Relish, like you’d put on a hot dog.

Moving along like a piece of dislodged plaque in a sclerotic artery, you’re real enough. Aren’t you? When you ask a question, dear reader, for example, about my new book, I’ll stand well back so I can craft my answer convincingly, and without triggering you. Let’s start with the cover I designed (and please don’t go all “control freak” at me. John Updike used to design his own covers, so I’m in illustrious company):


Oh, it is not. Oh, stop it.

Really? You think so?

Now let’s take an in-depth moment to read my cover design, divine the Northrup Frye-ish unity which it surely must present.

The cover shows, in the background, one of Sandro Botticelli’s illustrations to Dante’s “Inferno”. I believe this is the seventh circle of Hell, reserved for sodomites, liars, and the guy who first put pineapple and ham on a pizza. That’s one out of the three, at least, that Sandro, as an Italian, would have had no affinity with, even just considering pineapples hadn’t been invented yet (though, of course, ham is eternal).

(Hey, wait, I think I have a joke: “I thought sodomite was a sedimentary rock formation until I discovered Smirnoff!” OK, maybe not.)

Botticelli, a gay man in fifteenth-century Florence, had an anxious life. I know this, as one gay man knows another, down to his sweaty palms and curled toes, even across five centuries. Sure, there were lots of Florentine gay men and they were quite visibly and openly so—they say Leonardo was quite the dandy—but the winds could shift…

At any moment, out of great calm, the trees could groan, heave up their branches, and a Borgia or a Medici could decide that you were an abomination, with consequences ranging from aggravating to indescribable.

So here is Botticelli, painter of the iconic “Birth of Venus” and “Primavera”, a man of exquisite sensibility and genius, filled with ambivalence as he draws what he probably believes are the torments awaiting him, his own hideous eternal punishment.

All of a sudden, like a pair of randy bovines barging into William Ashley Fine China, onto our disco floor strut the very pushy-forward-type gay men of our 21st century, camping it up in their own private Busby Berkeley routine, with no idea who Botticelli might be or why they’d want to know; who, if you told them about the seventh circle of Hell, would think,

“Seriously? Wow. What a bummer. It sounds like it’s gonna be a drag, blowing all those demon dicks for eternity. I guess. Well, what can you do and in the meantime—PARTEEEE!!!

This is by way of admitting that gay men—and of course I speak freely and with permission on behalf of every last one of them—ruin everything we stand beside, and if you tell us this one late afternoon out of anger or frustration we will look chastened for a moment, then wounded.

But after five seconds or so—having made the heroic effort to sustain an emotion that long—we’ll break into a wicked smile, tell you a whimsical joke, or kiss you on the earlobe; you’ll catch a whiff of our shaving cream or feel intoxicated by our Eau Sauvage and start to melt a little, thinking—

Who needs some aerated princess on a seashell anyway, and my gawd that hair! It just screams ‘plays soprano recorder in the early music consort’! Venus may be many things, but vegan that girl is NOT—!

You see? I’ve proven my thesis by ruining something, and I wasn’t even trying.

So what is my book “about”?

You may be wondering about the title. Allow me to pull back the Oz-curtain to reveal the startling truth, the highly-strung backend, and I just wish that didn’t sound the way it sounds, of the gay scene.

It’s a Friday night, and you’re preparing to lie face down on the living room floor, ready for your “date”—all that remains to do is to set that up.

You will gather from this carefree, last-minute attitude that gay dating is a very contingent, Will-I, won’t-I, is it raining? Can’t go out, I’ll melt like candy! kind of affair.

If I’m online and some hapless newbie messages me to ask if we can meet in two days’ time, I splutter with laughter that was, trust me, never intended to be kind, because, seriously—how do I know I’ll be horny in two days’ time? Maybe I’ll be in a Buddhist monastery. Or at my Pulitzer Prize ceremony. I don’t even know if I’ll fit into any of my clothes or like any of my friends in two days’ time!

Instead, once I’ve located a real player, someone who’s been around the block, but kept their lifetime of experience perfectly self-contained and unexamined, lest it sprout even the first frail tendril of wisdom, the text conversation invariably goes (edited for brevity):

  • Hey wanna hook up?
    • Sure, address?
  • 123 My Street, that’s in Riverdale.
    • OK, I’ll just hop in the shower, get dressed, get a cab, and be with you in say 30 minutes?
  • THIRTY MINUTES???!!!! Sorry, dude, looking for now.

In other words, any time lapse between your last text message and arriving at their place is unacceptable. You have to be instantly there.

They are looking for NOW, baby, do you not capisce this? Understanden Sie nicht the urgentesse?

The only solution that I’ve been able to work out which would satisfy their surreal demand for, basically, teleportation, would be to kill myself, then get reincarnated as the infant son of some girl roommate of his, at which point I grow up in the same house for 18 years until I’m legal. Which would be almost the perfect strategy for a person with patience, staying power, and focus, except I am not that person.

And even if I were that person, what the other guy is saying with this is, effectively, anyone will do who is immediately available. Your hours in the gym were wasted, girl. He doesn’t care about your giant biceps or your thighs like thunder. You are not his fantasy.

His fantasy is of someone who can form out of the gloopy ectoplasm the instant he’s horny and wants to get off. Then, having materialized in his bed, this undifferentiated ecto-lover does something nasty to him involving double-A batteries and a black rubber sheet, then vanishes, leaving a breath mint on the bedside table.

And believe me, you’ll need one, because in a ballroom filled with one thousand gay men, nine hundred and ninety-nine of them’s fantasy will be, “get gangbanged by bikers, and you have to do all the text messaging.”

The other cockroach in the KY is my insistence on clinging to my worthless but still undeniably fabulous life. Like, I would never kill myself. I’m too much of a Nosy Parker about what might happen tomorrow and wondering if it could possibly be as bad as today.

In case you were wondering but are too shy to ask: Of course it couldn’t! That’s why I’m a considered a cock-eyed optimist.

OK? I’ll just let you put all that in a Tupperware container for safekeeping. Don’t try to figure it out, though. I didn’t say gay men made sense. I said gay men were fabulous. It takes a whole lot of energy to be fabulous and we figured “making sense” was pretty much discredited as an MO anyway.

Apart from the sour disapproval and swoosh!-over-the-head irony shoehorned into the title, this collection, like my previous one, paints an oblique, anamorphic-pointillist portrait of me, with its short essays on:

  • how one spent the pandemic;
  • the rubble that is democracy in the US;
  • the sleeping soulless experiment in affability, diffidence and exceptionalism-despite-itself that is Canada (the superhero who’s always Clark Kent);
  • sex with gay men;
  • sex with straight men;
  • if you have sex with me, I’ll pay you (that’s not one of the essays, just putting it out there);
  • the skipping rhymes of Generation Z (you’ll love these);
  • searing analyses of Justin Trudeau’s faux pas, bons pas and Papa;
  • vicious teasing of his feisty little sidekick who you just wanna pat on the head, until you learn she’s fluent in five languages, BFF Chrystia Freeland; and
  • the occasional reappearance of an alter-ego or two from my first collection.

{Actual real 100% true fact: Deputy Prime Minister Freeland, who spent 1988 to 1989 as an exchange student in Kyiv, and engaged while there in some investigative journalism about Stalinist atrocities committed against Ukrainians, ended up immortalized in a KGB case study, created to demonstrate just how much damage one person could do to the Soviet Union if they were determined enough. For some reason this delights me.}

There may very well also be some of my coolest poetry—an endeavour for which I do my best to summon up Dorothy Parker, not W.H. Auden—including, hands-down, the filthiest piece of faux-literary, NSFW, egregiously-offensive obscenity I’ve ever typed out while not on Craigslist; and this decade’s running gag—Monday Man Crush.

A hodge-podge that podges more than it hodges, in fact. Which might be a really cool Amazon review if anyone can take a hint.

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