A quiet staycation in my personal psychiatric ward



I’VE BEEN FEELING MIGHTY GUILTY about taking a little summer staycation in my hot, moist hometown of Toronto, Canada—a city of cheap condos that rain sheets of glass curtain wall onto the bed of a lake that evaporated ten thousand years ago—because, as I swelter in my kinky Mormon undergarments that I purchased second hand from Kijiji Salt Lake City and drink Fresca Shirley Temples garnished with parasols, I am neglecting to regale you with tales about my unfiled taxes, the last of the summer strawberries and the current roommate—whose confidentiality I will breach just a little by saying he is awaiting a bed at St. Michael’s Hospital for his emergency personality bypass.

Then it hit me. Hit me like a hockey puck hits the forehead of a disabled boy in a wheelchair attending his first, and last, Stanley Cup game. Hit me like Andrew Scheer hits his handmaids in the uteri with The New English Bible, Basic Vocabulary Edition: FOBBING OFF.

Fobbing off is when I appropriate something from the innerweb that moves, because I heard you like things that move. I haven’t moved since 2013, the year my ambition was shot, and, for the record, it was a conspiracy, and, for that matter, do you remember where you were?

Things That Move that I might share include an endlessly looping animated GIF of a parakeet feeding French fries to a puppy; a purloined documentary about the Illuminati’s plans for an underwater theme park on the former site of Miami Beach and for which I fail to honor the Creative Commons license; a YouTube video explaining how to earn money making concrete ashtrays or touring with your Nazi volleyball team.

These are just off the top of my head. Then I take The Media That Moves and tart it up with some sassy, possibly even relevant, commentary to distract you and make you think I’m actually doing some work, here. If I’m lucky, you may actually think I have depth.

So, fobbing right along, let’s pay homage to a member of the “27 Club,” a sweet misfit, a woman struggling with substance abuse even as she brushed her dirty fingernails against the stars; a big little girl from Texas named Janis Joplin. Watch and marvel as she gobsmacks her stunned audience at Monterey in 1967 with her raspy, miraculous caterwauling that can switch effortlessly and unexpectedly to a pure, perfectly placed phrase worthy of Schubert. Musicians of this era still knew music, all music, and you can hear operatic arias and counterpoint as much as blue grass and soul. Music still resonated with history.

Included in the footage are shots of Mama Cass in the audience, her jaw dropping as she watches, then at the end mouthing “Wow!” twice to her companion.

Janis Joplin had a pudgy, pock-marked face, she was “kooky,” because she wore jeans to her university classes and carried a guitar. She was once voted “Ugliest Man on Campus” by the ugly men on campus. She once joked about this on the Dick Cavett Show, but it was obvious that an insult that crass could get under anyone’s skin; with someone as emotionally vulnerable and isolated as Joplin, it must have been a knife blade in her brain.

I want the men who bullied her so nastily and so unnecessarily so wake up one morning and realize what they did. I want them to realize what they did every time a woman comes forward who’s been abused; every time they see a young woman with anorexia; every time they hear of addiction or suicide. I want them to look at their wives or daughters or sisters and recall a time when they were distraught, helpless or sick.

I want them to know that emotional abuse can be fatal; it’s always harmful, sometimes irreversibly. I want them to cry a thousand tears for every tear that Joplin cried and feel that agony.

In a society that treasures women’s docility it is a big deal for a woman not to be docile; in a society that judges women by a standard of beauty set by entitled men, it is a big deal for a woman to be judged publicly as ugly. When men call the shots and are the final arbiters of your worth, to be a woman and judged worthless is capital punishment.

I used to think that such an intense gift can burn itself out, especially when the gift, calibrated to limn the territories of psychic pain, creates a perpetual cycle of increasingly spectacular highs and reckless lows. Maybe with art this raw, with a flame burning this bright, you can only last twenty-seven years. Maybe artists have an innate sense of how much time they have…?

But these days it’s more my style to resist layering narrative onto the sheer sketchy randomness of our lives. An artist’s early death does not unfold according to an arcane watchmaker’s directive; it’s not the demonstration of an orderly clockwork universe—it delivers the anarchic shock of an assassination.

Mozart’s eccentricity was tamped into a classicizing container, both musical and societal. He had the consolations of religion, and, fortunately, a rock-solid sense of his own worth. This core of self-assurance helped him survive the suffocating neediness and emotional blackmail of his father, whose neurotic possessiveness threatened to cripple Mozart’s independence and creativity. Born two centuries later, he could have survived the rheumatic fever that killed him at thirty-five, using our science-based medicine that does not bleed you or force upon you curatives like “a pinch of the black powder in a glass of Sekt.

Beethoven would have written twenty symphonies and invented Viennese jazz if he’d gone to rehab, tried cognitive therapy, stopped going to swingers’ parties and sleeping with his groupies’ wives, and rejected his family doctor’s advice to bathe in the damned Rhine. (You can make up your own what-if scenarios for your own treasured artists.)

That’s the tragedy. There was so much more for them to give before they slipped on banana peels and got run over by the clown car. I’m recalling a news item about a woman who purchased a can of beer, drank it straight from the can, and died: because in the warehouse where the cans were stored, a rat had urinated on this particular can, thereby depositing traces of the rat poison which it had ingested.

I don’t know if this woman was an artist, but I know that no one deserves to crack open a cold one and die from arsenic poisoning. No one deserves the bathos of quotidian, cocktail-hour death.

We should do artists better. We should create safe communities, idyllic retreats in which we could coddle them, nourish them, give them smooth passage, protect them from life’s fault lines, and from themselves. (But without a history and experience, would they have anything to sing about, paint, write?)

Instead we treat artists —the truth-tellers, visionaries, iconoclasts, the most emotionally vulnerable of our species—as though they’re just like everyone else, when they’re skirting the edges of insanity. We’re like parents who blindfold our children and send them running naked through a firing range.

Janis Joplin, as was the case with Amy Winehouse, traveled in tandem with her self-doubts and her drugs and her art. She set her locus of control to other and filtered out anything that called her good, talented or beautiful. Her self-doubts, drugs and art egged each other on and dared to walk on broken glass on the edge of the cliff until they all fell together.

I’m not brave or talented—if this performance is any baseline for bravery and talent, I’m just a broken, craven old stick—but I’m eternally grateful for the blood splattering on my awestruck face.

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How to Read my Blog:

an instructional interlude



Dear valued visitors and followers: This is the content of a new page, accessible from the main menu (above) and let’s everyone wish it a very warm welcome. I wanted regular and new readers to know it exists, to draw your attention to it (me), to be encouraged to read it, and to take the hint. — DR


MY, HOW STANDARDS HAVE FALLEN! I can hear you rolling your eyes from here to Des Moines, and I know you’ll say to yourselves, “Of course, he’s doing the old-guy thing, the back in my day speech.” You may be right. I may simply be following tradition and experiencing inevitable change as a worsening, a dumbing down, when I should be grateful for progress.

That’s the narrative, isn’t it? That humans are following this trajectory of progress, albeit so slowly at first that nothing happens for millenia. Everyone just sits and stares at each other. And trust me, after a lifetime spent examining the fossil record so you don’t have to, I can confidently tell you that these millenia of staring are sheer tedium.

Sitting and staring. That’s it, dude. You could kill for a decent conversation, but because there’s no other activity—except for finding food, eating food, getting sick from the food, dying from the food or surviving the food, at which point the survivor carves the name of the food onto the Great Big Rock of Food That Won’t Kill You, with five stars and the “best before” date, which at this point is straightforward, “best before you starve to death”—because the only rainy-, or cloudy- or unseasonally cold- or even sunny-day activity is sitting around staring at everyone else who survived the food, good luck with that having a conversation thing.

I mean, there’s only so much feigned interest you can project in a lifetime.

While the proto-men and proto-women stare at each other it’s so quiet they can hear individual leaves falling onto the savannah, which they experience like bowling balls thudding onto parquet, notwithstanding they would likely not use that exact terminology just yet. Bowling, and therefore similes involving bowling  balls, have not been invented. We’ve got a long ways to go before they invent bowling, let me tell you! So they just shriek and run for cover.

Then once in a hundred years somebody pipes up, “Hey I was just thinking that maybe—” and everyone gasps and turns around in astonishment with a big whooshing sound to look at her.

Unfortunately, this is so intimidating she immediately forgets what she was going to say.

“Oh… nothing. Never mind. No, really, it’s OK, it was just—an idea…” (This, by the way, is the birth of passive-aggressive behavior, and not a moment too soon.)

Everyone sighs, maybe a couple of grumblers go I wish she’d stop DOING that! and then—silence again for another century or two.

Meanwhile everyone’s thinking, What are those pin pricks of light in the night sky, and how did they get up there and why don’t they fall down? If someone asks, I’ll say it’s Wilbur, The Great Caribou! We could use a little light humor! And anyway, what the heck are pin pricks, or for that matter, pins?

Gradually the silences get shorter and shorter, and you hear distinct noises as civilization develops. The chattering of villagers, the whoosh of the scythes, then, at exponentially increasing speeds, the rattling of looms, the hum of conveyor belts, the blasts of jet engines, ending in the present with the whine of one-sided conversations hitting the back of your neck, announced by smartphones generating what was probably supposed to sound like music but only if you’d never heard music.

Do you see how the standards fall? Nowadays you hear the one-sided conversation.

Growing up, I was taught: Ssh, not so loud! People will hear you! Use your indoor voice! Be seen and not heard! Conversations were restricted to the participants. Likewise telephone calls. You went into a little booth and slid the door shut because you didn’t want people to overhear you. Think what this means: a telephone call was as private as going to the bathroom.

Privacy has always been mankind’s greatest luxury, and no, I don’t mean data. We didn’t use words like data in the fifties, sixties, even seventies. You didn’t get data on your Princess phone. You got your mom’s voice asking why you hadn’t called, or your boyfriend saying he had a headache when you know very well he’s screwing the football coach. Data was a word you used, maybe, if you were Robert Oppenheimer. Probably even Einstein didn’t say data.

Yeah, right. I’ll show you “headache”! That’s rich!

We worry about data now, but back then we were worried about our conversations being overheard or disturbing other people.

Remember other people?

And we’d be mortified if someone had been listening to our conversation or found out our secrets. Secrets were still in their early phase of something you didn’t tell. My great aunts, Victorian women all, never told anyone that my eldest sister got pregnant before she married the guy, nor did they tell anyone about my parents’ divorce. This was private business, and if you talked about someone’s private business who wasn’t there, that was gossip.

Gossip was tacky, except for the rare occasion when it was a ray of sunshine in an otherwise cloudy afternoon.

How many months? She didn’t! Oh, I know! And you mustn’t say you heard this from me, but—apparently he’s that way!

We kept to ourselves out of fear of making the other person uncomfortable. No one knew your financial woes, the minutiae of office politics, the state of your marriage; we did not make our friends into our psychiatrists or social workers.

Now we live in public, holy prostitutes assuming the face-down spread-eagle to receive validation from anyone who might pass by. We are nothing on our own, because we are empty, and we are empty because we know nothing but the fascinating contents of our own heads and because we haven’t left the house since MySpace.

We have no allure, because we are so easily accessible. We are brands, personas, stories we tell that might as well be true.

We have no need for privacy, for we are at once the incentive and the prize, the scoop and the investigative journalist. Our mere bodies, those archaic chunks of pre-industrial too, too solid analog flesh, may melt, like so much ground beef past its sell-by date, into compost; but our personalities, fizzing with fake pizzazz like artificially sweetened soda and echoing third-hand opinions down broken phone lines crackling with static, have been uploaded to the cloud for all-device synchronization and easy universal obfuscation.

Standards have fallen. Where there was once charisma we now have persuasion; for glamour, brand loyalty; for thought, sponsored content. We long to read web copy that doesn’t suck instead of literature that, guaranteed, did not contain the word “suck” unless someone was talking about bees.

We no longer keep to ourselves in dark studies lined with ancient texts teaching ourselves eternal truths, while disciples as yet unknown to us spent a lifetime beating a path to our door; now we are everywhere, and depressingly unavoidable.

To award yourself Andy Warhol’s fifteen minutes of fame you at least had to throw on a metal mini-dress by Paco Rabanne, gloss your lips white and learn to frug before hailing a cab to The Factory. Compared to Instagram, this is like getting your Baccalaureate in semiotics at the Sorbonne.

We document the mysterious trail of our morning glory muffin from its perfect plating at Jet Fuel to its passage through our perfectly moisturized lips; we would, given our druthers, eagerly await and document its return to the primordial light and the roiling waters at the other end had we the time, the followers and the influence that really matters.


Not wishing to be thought an old piece of dried-up ear wax, a wizened pair of donkey testes, not au courant, I take a deep breath and, both melding with and standing out from the crowd, I vow to proffer my creative process for public, that’s you, consumption. Why wait, all high-and-mighty and flaunting my good taste, until my work is polished and ready?

That’s why, like a fledgling terrorist holding in front of me a terrified kindergarten child as hostage, I thrust into the limelight my crude first drafts and confused initial thoughts.

These are never totally crude and unworthy of your attention, though. I mean, this is me, dudes. I consider a pressed shirt and a bow-tie from Harry Rosen to be casual wear. Or at least, I considered that way during the three years I actually got paid by an employer and could afford to be abused by the Harry Rosen sales staff, and how, I ask you, how will they keep me down on the farm, once I have seen Harr-ee?

Exactly.

Oh my god will he ever get to the point, and meanwhile could someone drive right through that red light while I dart onto the crosswalk without looking? comes your exasperated cry.

I interpret this as a metaphor for wanting me to get to the point, the promised point being: how to read my blog. Very well, then.

Read each piece more than once. Again for emphasis: Read each piece more than once.

(Including this one.)

That’s it! Really. That’s how to read my posts. As a series of drafts that I polish into their final form, for I have turned the light and breezy blog post about making waffles or how to monetize your hate group into a soul-searching, overly-literate polysyllabic Proustian nightmare clocking in at anywhere from two to three thousand words.

Yep, that was me.

Thus, to get the full effect, and only if you’re interested in these things, read my unpolished initial thoughts, but return, once, twice or even three or more times, after a few days, weeks, or months, for my posts are not mere words on a screen, but living entities that materialize, mature and mutate at hectic, time-lapsing speeds.

And you’ll never know what living entity to expect. Sometimes you’ll see a peony fluttering its petals like runway model’s Oscar de la Renta ballgown; sometimes a gecko opening its lipless lizard maw to gulp down a—whatever it is geckos gulp down. I’m no one to judge.

This means that you can follow the progress of each piece as though I were on live cam, but without the cam.

Why no live cam? Because I write naked.

That’s correct. Tits to the breeze and always wary of my hot cup of coffee. And now that I’m certain you’ll never, ever be able to get that image out of your mind—

My work here is done.

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Synchroni-City

a trip to the mall yields a gift from the gods of chance


North York,” Illustration by David Roddis.
Photo credits: ethan johnson/roman mager/victor xok/antoine dautry via unsplash

SATURDAY: AN EX-ROOMMATE DROPS BY with a friend who’s in town to see the Raptors play. (I’m not sure, but I think the Raptors are some kind of sports team.) Anyway, my ex-roommate brings this handsome Raptor fan and a doggie-bagged hamburger, flits about, wreaks delightful sketchy havoc, scrummages through another friend’s personal effects (some of which he appropriates—he’s a bit of a kleptomaniac), tidies the kitchen, messes up the bathroom, and gives me news of someone, let’s call him “Ben,” whom I haven’t seen in nearly two years.

Ben and I are estranged because of my big mouth and my snippy tactlessness and my sour, flippant remarks about his abusive passive-aggressive female partner, whom he endlessly complained about but couldn’t seem to break free of. Ben took offense at my unasked-for advice, which admittedly was a little brusque, and stormed off in a straight-guy huff.

This is because straight guys pretend they’re manly and strong, but in fact, compared to gay men, they are as fruit flies to our turkey vultures, so spindly and ephemeral is their sense of self-worth. Straight men are used to being coddled and kow-towed to, and receiving the world’s deference and the security blanket scented with Febreze, so they are soft and frail.

Gay men, by contrast, eat rock-hard shit for breakfast and halt juggernauting freight trains with our bare hands, all while dancing backwards in Louboutin cocktail booties, lashes mascara’d so thickly our eyelids glue shut, and wearing a print dress from the Sally Ann that someone’s grandmother died in, so we’re ready to take whatever you care to throw at us.

Like, “Hey, faggot!” for example.

Then we shove a butt-plug up our ass and head to the office.

You know. Tough.

Straight men are all about the masculinity and the deference, but their masculinity is butterfly-fragile, so that if you so much as brush its powdery wing they are irrevocably maimed. And trust me when I tell you that they will exhibit their wound with a stoic, martyred acceptance that is worse than any accusation, like those portrayals of saints holding out their lopped-off body parts on a tray or having their entrails slowly wound up on a wheel.

They will pull on the sweat-stained track suit of their straight-guy pride, they will draw themselves up to their full height and they will take their elevated chin, their grim have a nice life, dude, expression and their affronted, bruised ego out the door, pulling their ruined masculinity behind them like a stuffed toy rabbit on a string.

Still, Ben was handsome and slim-muscular, refined and smart and soft-spoken, with a hint of Barbadian accent, and he let down the straight-guy façade every so often and we’d mud-wrestle, winner take all, quite effectively. So I feel wistful about Ben, wishing we could be friends once more, although I’m not so wistful as to think my remark was inaccurate. Just badly timed, and with a little too much emphasis, perhaps, on the words “co-dependent” and “dysfunctional”.

You know, and can I just say, seriously. I mean, someone’s gotta cut me a great, big bleeding side of slack, and it might as well be me.

And, in case you’re wondering: When we mud-wrestled? I always made sure I lost.


MONDAY: I ARRANGE A HOOK-UP with a guy in North York. For an elite downtowner, as our bloated odious demagogue premier, Dug-Up Ford, would call me, this might as well be the moons of Jupiter. As I rarely travel north of Bloor Street, and start bleeding from the ears somewhere around St. Clair, I pack with a vengeance, remembering that it is food and its availability that determines the outer boundaries of possible interplanetary travel.

Book for the subway ride ( Resident Alien: The New York Diaries, by Quentin Crisp, who I am trying to become), shoulder bag with cigarettes poached from the Mohawk nation, lighter, butane. An apple, culled from my roommate’s sock drawer and slightly mummified, in case I get peckish, a sweater in case it’s cold up there, sunglasses for viewing any displays of the aurora borealis.

Hey, Cortana: What’s his particular corner of North York called?

Willowdale?

You can’t be serious, girl.

Phone charger. I will definitely need the phone charger cause my phone’s at twenty-eight percent, but I figure I’ll plug it in at the hook-up’s place before plugging the hook-up into me. Yowza!

And I have five dollars and some change. A subway ride is three dollars twenty-five cents, but because I’m providing a little government-sanctioned legal cannabis sativa, I figure I’ll touch him for a subway token to get me home, if I’m still able to walk to the subway, that is.

I am placing a heavy burden and high hopes on this hook-up. And I haven’t even met his boyfriend yet!


I’VE BEEN ON THE NORTHBOUND TRAIN for twenty minutes. As the subway leaves York Mills station, my hook-up texts me: “When you arrive at Sheppard, go upstairs to the mall, find the Shopper’s Drug Mart and wait for me there.”

At Sheppard Station, I head up the escalator and look for any random exit because it is all the same to me, and it is not immediately apparent what the mall means, because that is what North York is.

One big mall.

I have no idea where I am in relation to the mall, the exits were designed by Max Escher and a sign says “take this stairway down to the first level” while displaying an arrow that points to the ceiling. The sign is in front of another escalator.

I take this escalator back down to where I started and follow a TTC worker, who leads me into a cul-de-sac where she disappears through a door marked “Employees Only.” I backtrack. I take another escalator up and this time I exit to the street, where the people, who are all teenagers, look different and full of cares and have diametrically opposed interests to me, and I look across Yonge Street and I see the words “Harcross Centre” on the front of what looks like a mall.

It looks like a mall because everything looks like a mall. This particular mall does not have a Shopper’s Drug Mart, but it has a fine-looking Rexall.

I’m glad I brought the sweater because it is freezing cold on the street corner. I text the hook-up: “Hi! I’ve arrived and taken the wrong exit, is it OK if we meet in front of the Rexall Drug Store instead of Shopper’s?! LOL!”

I’m unsure which way is north and which way is south. Perhaps this does not matter in North York, where you can just say the mall to indicate directions. I cross the street to the Harcross Centre, sit outside on a granite bench and vape.

I wait and vape, vape and wait. I wonder if the teenagers in North York are property speculating and driving up housing prices, and how they manage generally without adult supervision. I’m convinced the teenagers are looking at me with stern disapproval, the way the people looked at me in Flatbush, New York, when I was running around looking for a pay phone wearing a semi-transparent Indian hippy shirt, tight, white hot pants from Joe Fresh and sandals, which would not be a positive thing. Or perhaps they haven’t seen an adult in a while. The vape produces impressive clouds of pipe-tobacco-y sweet smoke, but it makes me cough like I’m going to hack up a lung.

I text, “Hi, I’m wearing blue shorts, sandals, a jean jacket and I’m reading!”

I text, “Hi, I’m still waiting for you in front of the Harcross Centre! Sure hope you’re getting these!”

I text, “I’d feel a lot better if you were responding!”

I text, “I’m waiting fifteen more minutes! LOL!”

My phone has just shut itself off with a little Bronx cheer, like, “I’m on strike for better working conditions, loser. You might at least charge me.” I turn it on again. The screen is on power-saver mode, like, “I’m working to rule, buddy. And you call me dim!”

I call the hook-up. A voice says, “The wireless customer you are trying to reach is not available at this time.” I have two dollars and fifty cents, in dimes, and I’m realizing that the hook-up has come out without his phone, or the hook-up doesn’t have a phone plan but is using an app—or the hook-up is a wanker who has pulled one over on me.


I AM ON THE SOUTHBOUND SHEPPARD-YONGE subway train. I’m heading home, meaning that in my imagination I’m heading as far away as possible from the hook-up who’s pulled one over on me, for which “home” will do. I am so demoralized that I am alternately crashing asleep like a stone dropped down a well and waking up with a little yelp one stop later.

Almost convinced that I’d been the victim of a perverse practical joke, but wanting to avoid a two-hour walk home, I had wandered with anxious determination along the byways and alleys of North York, in the process walking directly into a plate glass window that is not the exit to the Yonge-Sheppard Centre, which is the mall (because for some reason I stopped wearing my glasses about a year ago); locating, now that it was too late, the Shopper’s Drug Mart, where I waited for the historical thrill of knowing my hook-up had waited there, hopefully feeling guilty as a Christian, and for the practical matter of charging my phone via a socket located on a nearby pillar—which was a decorative gew-gaw socket installed merely for its visual flair and architectural irony and which did not charge my phone.

I had no sense of how long I’d been wandering around, but it was no longer twilight, and I had that rising panic you feel in dreams where you suddenly realize there will be a terrible calamity if you don’t make it to an appointment you’ve just remembered.

Crazily, because I didn’t know his address, only the street and that it was “directly across from the station,” I started to try and find his apartment building. This involved approaching a young dad and his son, the only pedestrians available, with such a shyly apologetic demeanor that they jumped in the air when I spoke. They were, however, able to point me to Yonge Street, which would be like wandering along Forty-Second Street and enquiring whether Times Square was anywhere nearby.

Then it hit me: I only knew my hook-up by his screen name, and I did not envision myself, in the movie of the week that will be my lasting contribution to Canadian culture, asking random residents of the building, as they exited or entered, “Excuse me, do you happen to know in which apartment Big-Hung-Bubble-Butt-4U might be found?”

I did not see myself doing that with anything like nonchalance.


But I still need to get back to civilization, or, in a pinch, anywhere that’s not North York. I don’t have enough to make the subway fare, which is not usually a problem at this hour, when the TTC ticket booth guys abandon the booth to go for haircuts or play Parcheesi behind the doors marked “Employees Only.”

However, this is North York, and in this wacky topsy-turvy land of furrow-browed teenagers the ticket booth man is clearly visible, looking work-ethical and fierce, bristling with multiculturalism and wiry, fiery red hair.

I consider just dumping the inadequate handful of dimes into the fare box and striding away, but that’s like fare-dodging and I could be arrested, though this rarely happens.

I am the adult in the room and I am nothing if not compliant. My fare-dodging strategy will be to age myself to “golden oldie” status, a little white lie which requires the addition of three years.

This is a concession which I would not, before today, have considered psychologically safe, but I have been beaten on the anvil of desire and tempered in the purifying crucible of rejection and I no longer care. I will pretend I am disoriented and in the throes of early-onset senile dementia, which I now view less as a tragedy and more like a coping mechanism.

I approach the booth.

“Excuse me, do you have a seniors’ fare?” I make my voice querulous and raspy, as though I have just torn out my feeding tube and fled the Sunset Lodge. I only wish I had a kerchief and shawl.

“Ten — Seniors’ teeckets? Vhat? Vhat?”

“I think I’m — a little — short…”

Ticket Booth Guy looks at me like he just recently spotted something similar crawling out from under a rock.

“Jus’ go troo!”

Life, they tell me, can reasonably often gift us with random moments of bliss that sneak up unexpectedly and just as quickly pass, leaving gratitude and nostalgia in their wake.

I’m not convinced about the bliss thing, but I can confidently say that humiliation this made-to-order is rarely experienced without participation in a spelling bee, awakening in a urine-soaked bed or attaching pornographic selfies to the email of recommendation you are sending to your friend’s probation officer. My tender dialogue with Mister Go-Troo is humiliation perfection.


I left home at six-fifteen. It is ten-thirty as we approach Wellesley station. Normally I get off at College, one stop further, but I am suddenly overpowered by whimsy, and I think: “Let’s get off here for a change, and take the alternative route.”

The streets are fairly quiet on a Monday night, but it’s still the gay village, or what’s left of it that drugs, rising rents and quasi-equality haven’t ravaged, so there are still flickers of that tawdry, hot-dog stand, drunken, drag queen circus I sometimes guiltily, secretly miss.

Nothing disappoints quite as much as getting what you want, and now that the larger-than-life, extravagant outlaws have been homogenized, suburbanized, deflated and dispersed, mediocrity and misery have filled the void. Out, fantasy and Fellini; in, Family Guy and fentanyl.

I cross Jarvis, and now I am walking past the Petro-Canada gas station with its convenience store and twenty-four hour A&W Burger.

And a voice calls out, “David? David!”

I look at the car stopped at the lights one west-bound lane away from the curb, the car in which the driver is leaning over and calling to me.

“It’s Ben!” says Ben.

He drives around the corner, turns into the gas station lot, pulls up next to me. I hop into the car. He’s still so handsome it brings tears to my eyes just to sit next to him. Everything’s all right. It’s old stuff, what happened, and we’ve moved on. We’re cool.


A random stranger who I still haven’t met sets in motion the arrangements whose failure leads to my spontaneous decision to take a route walking home that I never take. I’m led down a path, gently nudged here and there, teased and disappointed and red herring’d; told, somehow, “this way, now this way…”

Why?

So that I can bump into someone I’ve missed, someone I never meant to hurt, at the one, exquisitely-timed moment when he’s at the red light and I’m right beside him on the sidewalk, and be friends with him again.

This is why synchronicity is the atheist’s substitute for god, God for the godless.

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We have PAPERBACK! + REVIEW offer

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My cover design for the paperback version

Sorry to SHOUT BUT I’M REALLY EXCITED!  Oh, fuck I started SHOUTING AGAIN BUT I CAN’T HELP IT!

Really, really sorry about my lack of control.  But it’s not every day that you PUBLISH A PAPERBACK !!!.  Oh, god.  This is really embarrassing.  Just try to bear with me as I tell you a little bit more about MY PAPERBACK WHICH IS NOW ON SALE!!!!.

<awkward>

This is what my friend Shaun Proulx, life-transforming guru extraordinaire and architect of the #ThoughtRevolution, tells me is a “soft launch”.  Well, I’m going to take his word for it, as what he doesn’t know about gorgeously shameless self-promotion and roll-off-a-log success wouldn’t fit on the smallest, fiddley-ist hors d’oeuvre Martha Stewart could stamp out with her heirloom cookie cutter.

In fact, he’s been cheekily dubbed “The Gay #Oprah”; word has it that Ms O’s acolytes occasionally forget themselves and refer to their bossatrix as “The Big, Black, Obscenely Rich and Heterosexual Shaun Proulx, Except Shaun Doesn’t ‘Balloon'”, which earns them a great, big, corrective “love tap” from the CEO.  I can picture her now as she hauls back and, with a follow-through like a Wimbledon champ, cracks the back of that jewel-encrusted hand across each penitent face while screaming, “This is gonna hurt you more than it hurts me!  KIDDING!!”

The book is for sale on Lulu.com, who are the gentle and helpful publishing midwives to this elderly primo gravido.  Once I’ve approved the physical copy, it will be sent for possible distribution on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other so KEEP YOUR FINGERS CROSSED!  I AM SO EXCITED!!!

Sheesh.

May only, get 20% off. Click on the cover image above to go to my product page on Lulu.com and to purchase.

REVIEW OFFER

If you’ll go onto Lulu.com and write a review, I’ll send you a PDF of the paperback final version, free of charge.  Shoot me an email at david@davidroddis.com with subject line:  Paperback review offer and I’ll get it off to you within a day or two.

~

In Defence of Deviance

Toronto’s PRIDE 2017 celebrated diversity and inclusion. Yet some people—even some gay men—still think that’s a shame.

Men, men, men!  Not a flicker of humor in a back room full of us!  Forever shooting our wads, then rolling away from the damp spot and falling asleep; forever forgetting that ejaculation is for Christmas, but a snuggle is for life.

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Toronto Pride Parade, June 25, 2017.  [From MSN.com]

I’ve come fresh from Pink News online, the British gay rag that’s the equivalent of Canada’s Xtra (but with better fashion and that string of pearls that you didn’t buy at Winners, but inherited from Great-Aunt Prunella) where the headline read—and you may want to sit down for this bit, lest you collapse onto your vitrine filled with Lalique crystal—

Men tell homophobic jokes because of their own fragile masculinity, study finds.

Well, slice me to ribbons under the Queen streetcar!  That gem ranks as news right up there with “Sun Rises in East” and “Dog Bites Intruder, Then Pees on Carpet”.

Personally, I’m gobsmacked.

So imagine our surprise when a whole Ford F-150-full of fragile masculine egos came out to defend themselves against the “feminists” who designed and conducted the study.

madonna quote(Feminist in this context fulfills the same function as Nazi does elsewhere, describing as it does not an actual specimen of the genre but a scarecrow, only dressed up in dungarees and a tool belt instead of black leather and jackboots;  and instead of translating as “someone I disapprove of on principle”, it reads, “women I’m extra scared of”.)
Take a gander, or maybe a gender, at this response:

The folks who are most threatened and defensive are the writers and editors at PN who relentlessly push effeminacy and gender deviance whilst denigrating traditional masculinity and manhood. It’s almost as if they know that they are failures as men and want to use sexual orientation as an excuse. But decades of studies have shown that effeminacy manifests only in a minority of gay and bi men. So sexual orientation is no excuse for their personal failure to function as men.

And here’s my response to that :


“Gender deviance”? Holy Krafft-Ebing,

where’s my laudanum? I may have an attack of the vapours!

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Pride 2014 / Photo by David Roddis.

I did live in Britain for 16 years and I read Pink News all the time. But that was pre-Internet, so perhaps their relentless pushing of effeminacy was less effective; I’m pretty sure I have at least half a testicle lying around somewhere.

A man is a man is a man, to rewrite Gertrude Stein; if you got the right bits and feel comfortable with them, that’s all it takes. If you don’t feel comfortable with them, that’s called “gender dysphoria” according to the bible of psychiatric diagnosis, the DSM-5, and the word dysphoria in the new edition refers to the anxiety caused by SOCIETAL pressures and the prejudice coming from those who do not accept “deviance” – and what an extraordinarily, umm, nostalgic word choice, by the way.

Nostalgic, or bathetic to the point of laughter, conjuring up as it does the kind of sleazy soft porn novels my dad would have read in the ’50s: “They’re wild! They’re dangerous! They’re: DEVIANT DAUGHTERS!”

But back to your ridiculousness: Men learn how to be men; it’s not innate and it’s not written somewhere in a manual. We learn from fathers, mentors, leaders, heroes (and sometimes the wrong heroes: the most superficially impressive instead of the wisest).

The problem is evident: We men more often than not learn from walking, talking, blustering, posturing models of manhood who have mastered nothing but bravado. We think they’re the reference, but in fact they’ve had a few of the most important pages ripped out.

It’s as though we’re seated at a formal dinner and, at a loss, look to the distinguished older guy on our right; then, following his brave example, we mix our petits pois with the mashed potatoes, then shovel them in with the grapefruit spoon.

Not pretty.

To call a man a failure because he does not fulfill your checklist of “real manhood” tells us perhaps a bit more than you would have us know. That checklist is nothing other than plain old garden-variety homophobia — dressed up in its “Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells” best, maybe, but homophobia all the same.

Normal is the average of deviance — Rita Mae Brown

In fact, what you have angrily and perversely crossed off your list is exactly what a man needs: everything you label “effeminate”. But a tablespoon, or more, of “effeminacy” does a man good. Women, you might have noticed, have a refining effect on men; or perhaps their presence helps men lower their guard and discover their own sensitivity, intuition, esthetic sense, all those things we’re taught to push aside by other men who are afraid and unsure of themselves.

So, put a little more mascara on, sweetie.  Slip into your silk peignoir and take a night off. I hereby relieve you of what must be a thankless, lonely burden: of being the self-appointed arbiter of what’s butch.  Us real men will decide that for ourselves.

Real men are works in progress, and we haven’t explored even the first ten percent of what we might become.

HAPPY PRIDE ~

Dedicated to every drag queen in
plexiglass pumps who ever threw shade;

every Quentin Crisp who “didn’t know how to
be any other way”; and

to the little boy who chose the Kewpie Doll
as his prize at the fair—me.

Never change.

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Pride 2014 / Photos by David Roddis

» Link to the Pink News article  (opens in a new window)