Grandkids! Just one look at me in my leather gladiator boots and chain mail jockstrap as Grand Vizier of Toronto Pride should tell you once and for all how likely that is!
Grand Vizier! One look at me smiling indulgently at my grandkids should…etc. etc.
I must say, I’m looking fabulous tonight, no doubt because of the vitamins my roomie gave me, marked “Seniors’ Blend! 65+”, which is mainly zinc so your prostate doesn’t prolapse out of your urethra, or something.
Gender disappears after 60, so perhaps my uterus will prolapse instead, who knows?
I read the piece from my book called “House Rules” and if you’ve ever had a roommate, you may recognize it.
Happy New Year, let’s kick the scrawny ass of 2019 all the way down the beach and cha-cha on the six-inch heels of 2020!
Once again, anyone but a woman is the secret rallying cry for the new generation of pious progressives
If there’s one GAME i love TO PLAY, it’s Pretending I’m American. Then I wake up with a little scream of relief, like you do in those dreams where you’re skydiving, your parachute refuses to open and you hit the ground, only to find you’ve just rolled over onto your pain au chocolat and scalded yourself with the café au lait. A little witch hazel, just rub it into the sore bits, you’ll be fine. No harm done.
It’s that delicious feeling of having escaped, barely, with your life and soul intact. It’s why we go on rollercoasters, it’s why we take the ski lift to the top of some saggy-assed hillock in Muskoka that your grandmother could walk to the top of in an afternoon and be back in time to bake tea biscuits by five PM. It’s why we make individual soufflés —with those egg whites that are still festering at the back of the fridge—for dinner parties of eight, including your boss and his wife.
You are hoping to get the thrills of the real-life challenges of jumping from planes, conquering Everest or owning your own bistro in Manhattan, but without the real-life disheartening and possibly fatal outcomes that would inevitably attend in those cases.
Take Bernie Sanders. Please. That’s a thrill I’m happy to keep vicarious. I’m sick to the point of projectile vomiting of seeing Bernie supporters, the pious, self-appointed spokespersons for, apparently, all progressives, foaming at the mouth at the mention of anyone but Bernie.
You know what galls me the most? While Trump is a proud, self-proclaimed misogynist, Bernie supporters are closet cases, which may make them just as dangerous as The Great Mouth Breather.
I hadn’t even finished counting to ten before I read on Twitter that Elizabeth Warren should “step down and allow the obvious contender, Bernie Sanders” to take up the banner of progressive policy—for it was Warren who was spoiling his chances. The idea that Bernie might step down to give Warren the playing field, now, that was heresy.
A condescending tweet from one young thing assured me that Warren had “plagiarized” Bernie’s platform (as if by virtue of being a white male Sanders has undisputed official ownership of social democracy’s style guide) and that this fearless woman, who in video after YouTube video is seen mercilessly cutting down the entitled men of Wall Street, is a “corporate lackey;” the most preposterous fabrication since Hillary started running that child-sex brothel from the basement of the basement-less pizza parlour.
Anything but admit what is so transparently the case: Anyone but a woman. You’d rather have querulous old Bernie Sanders, who I like to imagine in sandals and socks eating a tuna salad sandwich as he addresses the UN, than Liz Warren, who has the gravitas and the gumption to confront corporate CEO’s, those captains of finance who stammered and sweated in the glare of her gimlet eye like high school punks caught scrawling graffiti in the bathroom and sent to the principal’s office. Corporate lackey? Are you kidding me?
Warren’s detractors would rather assert that she’s a “closet Republican” because, by her own admission, she was a Republican in her youth before she delved into the topic of credit card debt and was appalled by what she found, by how the system was rigged against consumers.
Yes, she became a progressive after examining the facts. That doesn’t mean she’s a “closet Republican.” That means she’s smart. There’s no one more zealous than a convert, after all.
Welcome to the new misogyny, in which any female who dares to question St. Bernie’s right of primogeniture to carry the US into a future of Swedish social democracy and Marimekko bed linens must be stopped, pilloried and Hillary’d, whatever mud-throwing it takes.
You think the Sanders supporters who can attempt to eliminate Elizabeth Warren with absurd ad hominem attacks actually give a shit about women’s rights? They’re misogynists. They claim to base their attacks on social justice, on economics, but they’re lying to themselves and to you. They’re like the white people who think Trump was elected because of the falling fortunes of the working- and middle-class, and can’t see that racism, rage at your having had a black president, was the actual impetus for installing a blathering buffoon in the world’s most important office, because he’s a white buffoon.
I get it, kids. It’s hard to think of your own country as racist, and it’s equally hard to think of yourself as misogynist, but when you can look at Warren, then look at Sanders, and think Sanders is the electable choice, you have a problem, brothers and sisters.
Trump, naturally, has been his usual moronically uninhibited self when it comes to trash-talking Warren. “She had to open her fresh mouth,” he says, in a blatant attempt to reduce her to a mouthy girl-child, like a taller, more wrinkly version of Greta Thunberg. It’s a knee-jerk reaction of threatened males from Albania to Zanzibar, but “fresh mouth” ?
I hadn’t heard that phrase since about 1965, when the last of my great-aunts, Victorian women all, passed away. If it weren’t Trump voicing the opinion there might even be a certain retro charm to this; but Trump it is, god help us, and dreams of banana republics dance in our heads, including a smiling Mike Pence, newly-appointed Minister of Love, assuring us that the rounding up of dissidents is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you.
From “Shut the bitch up,” the quintessential meme of Sanders supporters, to “She had to open her fresh mouth,” it’s obvious that women still pay the price for daring to be seen and heard.
What is it about Bernie and his indisputably earnest but lack-lustre resume that excites such scarily uncritical loyalty? Is it the stirring into consciousness of Jungian archetypes? Is he just Universal Grandad, all rosy apple-cheeked sweetness with just the right touch of cranky querulousness, that you help up from the pavement after he’s slipped on the ice?
Is it reparation for some kind of millennial collective guilt from snipping “OK, Boomer!” once too often at the Thanksgiving dinner table, or from not saying “thank you” when you’d made the dutiful visit to the Sunset Lodge and he’d stuff a quarter into your hand, “don’t let your mother see!” And, shame on shame, you rolled your eyes, didn’t you?
Well, Murgatroyd McGraw, now you must pay. Universal Grandad for President! It’s so much better than a pair of socks or wrap-around sunglasses or a new hemorrhoid cushion. He’s gonna love it!
Some Americans still see Trump as a dumb doofus, a bumbling anomaly. Yeah. That’s what you thought in 2016. Wake up, snowflakes; wipe those smiles off your faces, Pollyannas! Now that Trump has officially made the US into a nation of men, not laws, and has explicitly put himself above your Constitution, maybe it’s time to take him deadly seriously.
Trump has ignored subpoenas. If you or I did that, we’d be picked up faster than a dropped corn chip under the five-second rule. A subpoena from Congress or from a court of law is equivalent to an order from a sovereign. That’s what we get in Canada: “Her Majesty commands you to appear…” That’s the rule of law, and once you have the guy in charge ignoring the rule of law, literally anything could happen.
The Marines could come in and shut down Congress. He could arrest liberals, or anyone who’s seen his tax return, or The Whistleblower. Don’t you get this?
Thank god for Elizabeth, also Hillary, also Nancy, may their fresh female mouths be ever opened. May they be as “shrill” and “strident” as a pack of bloodhounds on the scent. You have a constitutional crisis, if you hadn’t noticed, because your president has put himself above the law, explicitly.
And without the fierce pulling-together of uppity women, you may be approaching the time when a comment like “fresh mouth” is followed by a 3AM knock on your door.
a trip to the mall yields a gift from the gods of chance
Here begins another in an unofficial series in which I re-post some of my absolute favorite pieces from the recent past. Yes, this another way of fobbing you off, just involving as little work as I can manage without actually going so far as to not wake up. It’s a fine line and the future doesn’t always mimic the past, so instead of complaining, how about some appreciation? That’s more like it! This post from May, 2019, relates a true story, and one that still freaks me out on account of its ridiculously specific outcome and its sheer mind-blowing perfect randomness. Yes, I’m gullible and credulous, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the mysterious patterns of life. Look, even the apple slices in that pie have arranged themselves in a Fibonacci sequence! Well, well, well! — DR
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.) My ex-roommate installs the handsome Raptors fan in my armchair, offers me a doggie-bagged hamburger, then flits about, wreaking delightful sketchy havoc.
He 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 juggernauts of bigotry 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 laugh our silvery, ironic laugh, shove a butt-plug up our hole 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 stigmata 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 comments were unjustified. 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?
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 wander along the byways and alleys of North York, in the process walking directly into a plate glass window in a wistful attempt to re-enter the Yonge-Sheppard Centre, the mall that is the wrong mall (because for reasons of late-blooming vanity I stopped wearing my glasses about a year ago. This helps me look better except when walking into plate glass windows, when I look as dumb as I did when wearing glasses).
In the mall that is the wrong mall I effortlessly find, now that there is no reason to find, the Shopper’s Drug Mart, where I wait 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 turns out to be just a decorative gew-gaw socket installed merely for its visual flair and architectural irony and which does not charge my phone.
I take my uncharged phone and myself up the escalator with the sign that points down to the street. Twilight has faded into night in North York, probably because of the higher latitude, and I have that rising panic I feel in dreams where I suddenly realize there will be a terrible gut-wrenching eternal calamity if I don’t get on the train that will take me to that clandestine meeting in Wembley Arena with Justin and Chrystia Freeland and my high school Phys Ed teacher, and I must persist despite the annoying inconveniences that I’m wearing only my underpants and pushing a Steinway concert grand in front of me on a luggage trolley.
That kind of rising panic.
Crazily, because I don’t know his address, only the street and that it is “directly across from the station,” I decide to try and find the hook-up’s apartment building. I wander along the back alley behind another mall onto a residential street. Here I spot a young Asian dad and his son, the only pedestrians I’ve seen so far who are not teenagers, and I slink up behind them silently like a ghost cat approaching its prey, so that they shriek and jump in the air when I say excuse me. After they’ve calmed down, they point me to Yonge Street, which means I’ve asked, for example, someone in Times Square if they could point me to 42nd Street.
Then it hits me: I only know 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.
I decide to give up and head back to civilization, or, in a pinch, just absolutely 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. The normal laws of physics do not apply. When I reach Sheppard Station I find that in this wacky topsy-turvy mall desert of furrow-browed teenagers the ticket booth guy 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 AM ON THE SOUTHBOUND SHEPPARD-YONGE subway train. I am so freezing cold and so demoralized that I am alternately crashing asleep like a marionette with its strings cut, then waking up with an audible high-pitched yelp as the train pulls out of each station.
I left home at six-fifteen. It is ten-thirty as the subway train approaches Wellesley station. Normally I get off at College, one stop further, but I am suddenly blindsided by whimsy, and I decide to get off here and walk the rest of the way.
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-dogs-for-dinner, dirty-bingo, drag-queen, drunken-sex circus I sometimes guiltily, secretly miss.
Nothing disappoints quite as much as getting exactly what you asked for, and now that the larger-than-life, extravagant outlaws have been homogenized, suburbanized, deflated and dispersed, mediocrity and misery have filled the void. Goodbye, desperados and Doc Martens; hello, homelessness and heroin.
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 to this day 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 through the maze, gently nudged here and there, teased and disappointed and red herring’d, so that I can encounter someone whose warm touch I’ve missed, a soul I never meant to hurt, at the one, exquisitely-timed moment when he’s stopped at the red light with me right there on the sidewalk, and be friends with him again.
This is why synchronicity is my atheist substitute for faith, God for the godless.