Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

The phone is dead.
I’m stranded, helpless, clueless. It baffles me. How will I manage? Thank God I switched to cable internet or I’d be completely cut off, isolated from the world. How ridiculous is it that I feel this way?
I have become completely dependent on a few basic utilities, without which, my life is not possible.I live in an apartment in a highish rise building. On those rare occasions when the power goes off I might just as well live in a cave high up a sheer cliff face – no a cave would be better, I could build a fire to warm myself. This place is useless without electricity. I can’t cook. I can’t see in many of the rooms, even in daylight. There’s not even any hot water to clean myself. I must climb an unlit staircase to get up to my floor once the emergency battery lights give out as there is no means of natural lighting there.
I have become helplessly dependent on the most fragile set of circumstances.
I am the first generation in my family to have had indoor plumbing my entire life. It’s not like I’m the oldest living confederate veteran or something. Running water and electrification have been universal in this country for a relatively short time. Huge government programs brought us light as they helped bring us out of the depression a little over sixty years ago. There were hardly any paved roads here just a hundred years ago, and no highway system at all. President Eisenhower started the program that crisscrossed the country with freeways in my lifetime.
Today, if I lose my debit card I’m unable to feed myself, the microwave is taking forever and the damned cell phone keeps dropping my calls.
I wonder what record, if any there will be of us from this period?
These little treatises I post here are never on paper at all. Some sort of electromagnetic blast from the sun would erase most if not all of the records of the last ten years of my life. It’s enough to make me wonder if we are more advanced than those cultures we consider so primitive. I don’twant to go back – hell I don’t even want to go outside if I can avoid it. But the phone or the power being off reminds me of how tenuous and fragile my civilized life has become.
Yet I am bombarded every day with the demands of those who want to take apart or at the very least stop paying for the operation that sustains the very fragile luxuries of our lives. Do you know there are places in our country that are unpaving roads because dirt is cheaper to maintain than pavement?
What would city life be like without pavement? And country life? What if farmers had to clear brush and timber to get our food to market?
As we embark on this debate over the course of our country, I do hope that some voices of reason will emerge soon to remind people that paying our taxes is about funding this way of life that we’ve spent the last hundred years or so creating. If the power grid and the highway system aren’t a great value for our dollar, what’s the alternative? Somalia? Is that really better? How’s small business doing there with no taxes or regulations or a minimum wage?
I like flipping the switch and lighting my house, watching a movie or cooking my dinner. I love that it took me only a couple of minutes to get to the drug store, the market and the gas station today.Even though it had been raining, the roads were open and pasable. Our society is a marvel of interdependence fostered by the strong central government that emerged after the civil war. It was paid for by a thriving middle class who benefited most from their investment. I’m sorry so many people don’t seem to like that. I want a first class country, not a discount knock off. We will not pass this way again, so why not?
I hear all these complaints about deficits but no one willing to pay them off. I understand. I don’twant to pay taxes. I don’t want to pay for anything, if I don’t have to. I’d skip paying rent and load up on groceries if there were no checkout stands. But I like living in a place with firemen and water and paved roads and public schools and hospitals.
Yep, that’s right. None of us want to pay taxes. Tough. None of us is willing to sacrifice anything to avoid it. We’re glad to cut other people off, but not us. I’m bored with this discussion, aren’tyou?
The state that I live in started this so-called tax revolution back in the 70’s when our school system was the envy of the world and our highways the model for a new age. Today, we’re broke. We can’t put together a budget to cover the cost of extravagances like educating the young. And yet, no one here wants to pay for anything. The upcoming elections are another tired discussion about taxes.
Every election since 1980 has been a referendum on whether or not people want to pay taxes.California’s former governor took the cause national back then when he moved into the White House and it’s pretty much been all we’ve talked about since. I’m over this conversation. I thought the 21st century would be about flying cars and transporters and intergalactic travel. Are we really still talking about whether or not there should be a union?
On the plus side, today I won’t be receiving any of the robo-calls urging me to join their cause to stamp out civilization as we know it.

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The new TV season is one of the least inspired in recent memory.  While I’m always glad to see Tom Selleck and I adore watching the new hot boy haole Five-0’s bicker like a married couple in their Hawaiian honeymoon paradise, I can honestly say the new shows could all disappear and I wouldn’t miss them.

One recent offering that I’m still hoping will turn around is about a family who suddenly discovers they have super powers.  I know, judge me if you want, but I’m a fiction guy.  That means I believe in the power of fantasy to reveal truth through heightened reality.

But none of that is my point.

I think the idea of suddenly discovering you can fly or read minds or whatever is the sort of conceit that is so well realized on the small screen.  But not for the people on this show.  For these folks having super powers is a problem.  That’s right, once again we’re asked to believe people don’t want to be special.  American’s who are so desperate for attention and to set ourselves apart from the pack we post humiliating videos of ourselves on YouTube so millions of strangers will make fun of us.  But time and again, we are told we really only want to be “normal” and “fit in.”

Dear TV People: We do not want that.  We don’t even think that’s a good idea.  And it doesn’t have to be super powers.  People watch American Idol by the zillion and buy hundreds of millions of dollars worth of lottery tickets for the same reason.  Both promise that we might be lifted out of our “normal” lives and transported into the realms of our fantasy.   Just the fact that other people win gives us hope that it could happen.

We all want to be special.

There was a show on a couple of years back called Heroes.  In it, ordinary people suddenly discovered that they have special powers.  The characters, we were told at excruciating length, all just wanted things to go back to way they were before even though they didn’t really like their lives before.  The show was not about them being special, it was about how being special was a problem.  The show is no longer on the air.  And it didn’t go out in a blaze of glory.

We not only want to be special, we believe we already are.

The reality shows seem to me to be about confirming that the audience is as special as we believe we are.  When we tune in to the manufactured reality of these dubious and fictionalized dramas we are told that because we are overweight or pregnant or broke or housewives or just jerks that live at the Jersey shore, we are special.  Or, better still; we in the audience get to feel superior to the tubby shore dwelling housewives of someplace not as nice as where we live.

If we really feel bad about ourselves, there is even a show about people who live in their own filth.  That’ll up your special quotient on the worst day.

Love stories tell us that we will find someone who thinks we and we alone are so special that we can’t be lived without.  Horror movies tell us that there is something special in us that will allow us to overcome and defeat evil itself even though the high school cheerleader and that hot quarterback guy that everyone thought was so special got eaten.  Harry Potter and the whole fantasy genre tell us that when the prophecy is revealed, we will be the chosen one.  And the coarse comedies from Laurel and Hardy to Judd Apatow to Jack Ass all give us the opportunity to feel superior and, by extension, special.

The truth is, we are all special.  We’re right.  There are something approaching 8 billion people on our little blue bubble and each one of us is having a unique experience.  Twins who live their entire lives from birth to death in each other’s company doing exactly the same things at the same time will have two different experiences.

That is divine, as are we all.

We long to celebrate our specialness, our unique, individual, peerlessness.

So, if you’re looking to make a movie or a TV show that tanks, make one that tells us that we’re not special and we don’t want to be.  Oh wait, you already have.  I guess my question is, why make another one?


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My favorite part of writing is editing.

I love the writing part.  Once I’m into a story, the words just pour out.  Writing offers me an escape from reality into a world of my own making; a world where I am in control.  It is an escape that no naturally occurring or man-made substance can enable – just take my word for it.

But editing is to writing what sculpting is to marble.

Writing is essential.  I cannot begin the work until the words and the story are on the page.  But it is editing that reveals the work.

My first book, Say Uncle, was just a little over three hundred pages when it was first published.  When it first arrived at the my publishers it weighed in at well over five hundred.  There was a part of the book that wasn’t working for me, somehow, but I couldn’t say why.  My wonderful editor Peter saw the problem at once.

The book is about the relationship between two members of a two member family.  In the part of the book that wasn’t working for me one of those two people was missing.  When Peter pointed it out, it was like a door being thrown open in a dark room.  Two hundred and fifty pages vanished.  They were fun and well written, they just didn’t belong in that book.  Under my editor’s watchful eye, I retold those excised aspects of the story.  I wrote a couple of the book’s best chapters and completely changed the ending.

Say Uncle was better and stronger than before.  Like Michelangelo, I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.

That’s editing.

I mourn the increasing loss of this relationship.  I feel the absence in the hollow and incomplete works that are published more and more.  Most novels are all marble and no angel.

Publishing is floundering.  There are a lot of theories.  Most blame technology.  I think it’s because little or no value has been placed on writers by publishers.  Magazines, newspapers and books may or may not survive this technological tipping point that is upon us.  But the creators of content will be the same as always.  The writers, the storytellers, will endure as they did even before the written word, certainly before the printed one.  It seems to me that those trying to preserve publishing in its present form may have missed that.

I wrote a book for a famous person in the last few years.  She didn’t write a single word of it, beyond those of hers that I quoted.  That was the deal.  She was the selling point, but there was no book before there was me.  Still, I wasn’t kidding myself.  The crowds that were lining the streets days in advance of our signings were coming to see her.

Our first signing though was a private one, at the publisher.  I fully expected to be ignored at most of our signings, but this one I thought would be a little different.  These were publishers.  These people knew I had written the book.  This skyscraper had been built by writers.  I still didn’t expect to be the center of attention, but I was surprised that only one person present asked me to sign his book or expressed any interest in meeting me.

I’m still writing.  My “co-author”? Not so much.  Probably most of the people in attendance that day have been laid off since.

Publishing as we know it will not survive if it does not provide a place to nurture writers and to allow their work to flourish.  The environment has never been more hostile to writers than it is today.  Editing and the relationship between editors and writers seems lost.

But it is not my job to save publishing.  They’ve had a great run.  It’s been 570 years since the technological revolution brought about by the printing press.

Perhaps it’s time for the immediacy of the digital world to come to writing.  I celebrate that this new medium may at last empower writers.  I worry though about the loss of editing.  In our rush to get the work into the hands of consumers and our hands into their wallets, what is lost?

What of all those angels, trapped in the marble, never to be set free.


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My heart is broken.

Last month, six young men decided that death was preferable to being gay.  Two were only 13.  The oldest a mere 19.

I’m hearing a lot of talk about bullying and intolerance.  The focus is on their classmates and the institutions to which we entrust our children.

I’m glad.  But that is not the whole problem.

The real bullies are not on the playground.  They are not yelling the F word, but they have found a thousand other ways to make us hear it by word and deed.

I heard that awful word most every day of my life from sixth grade through college.  Prior to sixth grade I was called queer and sissy, but with puberty came that odious word.  I was beaten daily at the bus stop and on the bus.  I was harassed and tormented in school.  I was sexually assaulted by a group of boys in gym class in the eighth grade.

Such was my childhood.

As a grown man, I was once struck in the head in the first class compartment of a Delta Airlines flight into Columbia, South Carolina by a man who aiming that word at me.  Last Christmas guests leaving a neighbor’s party shouted that word at me and pelted me with eggs.  The F word is a big part of my life.

I’ve survived.  I’m old enough that I can embrace the word without serious injury.  I wave at people who yell it out their car window when passing through my oh-so-gay neighborhood.  The scar tissue has grown strong on that wound, opened so often, so very long ago.

I’m one of the lucky ones.  I lived through it.  I matured enough that I can endure the pain of US Senators, local politicians and the President himself, speaking of me as though I was some sort of subspecies.

I am thankful for the debate.  But, rising with the tide of change are the number of cruel and hateful things being said in the press by people who only know to hate me because I am gay.  Every hurtful thing they say about gay people, they say about me.  That’s how it feels.

When Prop H8 passed in my home state, it was hard for me to go out of the house.  Which of the people at the grocery store hated me so much that they thought this of me? More than half of the people at the movie theatre thought that I was not entitled to the same rights they would grant a convicted murderer. I will never feel safe in a Christian Church.

I have learned to live with never feeling safe or free.  I have endured never being young and in love.  I have come to accept that, as bad as this is, it is better than it was just a few years before I was old enough to understand who I was.

I have learned to find joy and take pride in this half-life that is all I am offered.

Six young men didn’t make it, last month.  Six children were exposed to the constant, casual bigotry of folks like Senator McCain and the tacit prejudice implicit in the Obama administration’s practiced inaction.  Six lives were ended before they’d begun when those boys were unable to see hope for a life worth living.  There is no difference between bullying and the hateful rhetoric that has risen in direct proportion to the tiny advances in civil rights for gay people.  Those media-amplified taunts are crushing to children.  They’re young but they know the code.  It’s all the F word.

Every time the President takes cover behind political expediency, I hear the F word being screamed.  There is no difference between overt and subtle bigotry.  Either you are for equal rights for all Americans, or you’re not.  We’re not just whining, we can tell the difference.  So can the children.

Asher Brown, from Texas, shot himself, he was only 13 years old.  Seth Walsh from California, also 13, hanged himself.  Billy Lucas a 15 year old High School Student from Indiana, also hanged himself.  Justin Aaberg, a 15 year old from Minnesota thought that hanging himself was his only solution.  Raymond Chase, a college student in Providence, Rhode Island hanged himself at 19.  And the hideous case of Tyler Clemente 18, a promising student at Rutgers tormented to death by those given permission by the overt hatred of lunatics like Tony Perkins of American Family Research and those hiding their evil behind Christianity and political self-righteousness.  And that’s just September.  And it’s probably not everybody.

The children are listening.

All of them.  Not just the straight ones.  The gay ones can hear us, too.  Our gay children are being plunged into despair in this growing, anti-gay atmosphere.  But we are also educating a new generation of bigots.  Nobody is born hating people for the color of their skin, or their faith or the politics they practice, or who they love.  You have to learn to be a bigot.

Being a gay kid is especially hard when you are young.  You don’t go home to a gay family or a gay neighborhood or a gay church.  You are more likely to go home to an anti-gay environment than a gay one.  It feels as though you are the only one.  The information all around is that who you are, down deep where no one can see, is the worst thing you can be.  You believe that you must keep it secret at all costs.  If you can get beaten just for being suspected of this “awful thing” how fearful would it be to tell the truth about yourself?  What if you really are the F word?

I would beg if I thought it would make any difference.  I would give up the fight if I thought it would help.

All I can do is what saved me.  I can live a life that offers hope to those children being beaten at the bus stop.  I can use the talents and abilities that I have to try to get word to those who I’ve never met that there is hope.  I can try to be the change I hope to see in the world.  I can appeal to those on both side who would use the issue of rights for gay American as a political ploy to activate the bigot vote — consider the cost to the only truly precious and irreplaceable resource that this country produces – our children.

We’re six short.

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As I wander down the path of life, the urge to gauge my progress is a part of the journey.

How far along am I? How’s the trip going? Are my supplies holding out? Is this the right path?

Success is a more mercurial measure.  Advancing to the next level is part of the simplest game.  I tend to judge my life the same way.  Maybe it’s just me, but the rites of passage serve as milestones along the way.

Where I’m concerned, I’m not usually a very fair judge.

The temptation is always to look at those around me; at how others are doing on what I think is their path.  It’s like going to the gym and comparing myself to the bodybuilder who, frankly really doesn’t do anything else.  If I compare my progress to Mr. Twelve-Pack I seem to be a failure.  If I look around at some of the other men my own age, well, I’m Mr. Universe.   On the other hand, some of my peers could kick sand in my face on Middle Age Beach.  (I’m middle aged only if I live to be 102, we’ll see.)

I tend to judge my progress along the same lines.  I look around at friends from high school or who toed some other imaginary starting line with me.  I see their spouses, their families, their homes or their children and I seem to be falling behind.  I rarely consider their mortgage, college fund or couples counseling in these self-flagellatory spot checks.

Two things are usually missing from my self-pity orgies.

First off, I tend to omit the degree of difficulty.  Choosing the path of least resistance is a perfectly reasonable life choice, but judging my own progress against those who are just drifting isn’t very accurate.  For a long time I mapped my success using the coordinates of my parent’s journey.  Mostly, that just got me lost.  I’m an artist and my parents are civil servants working in state jobs.  I’m proud of them and grateful for the support they were able to give me.  Still, it drove me crazy when I didn’t have job security, a pension fund or major medical.  What I didn’t include was that my parents haven’t written any best sellers, or lived the kind of life that I’ve gotten to live.  I wouldn’t just them that way, so why do it to me?

That bring us to the second thing I usually leave out when I’m determined to feel bad about my life, the path itself.  I don’t actually know what Halo is, but I’m betting it’s harder than Candy Land.  It wouldn’t really be fair to compare the scores from the two to take the measure of the player.  Mr. Twelve pack from the gym may be in Hollywood to become a movie star or to become a competitive body builder.  Either way, just having the twelve pack isn’t very far on either of those paths.  He’s a triumph if he plans to be the trainer in the best shape at my gym.

The same goes for me, though I hate to admit it.

If my plan was to marry and settle down in the suburbs of my parents’ hometown, I’m a flop.   I tried that, but I wasn’t really qualified.  It seemed like the easy choice.  For me, it wasn’t.  I’m actually doing better at the thing that seemed like the harder choice at the time.

So, how am I doing?

It depends on the yardstick I feel like using to measure.

If I’m measuring with the money and fame yardstick, I’m a failure.  Times are tough right now.  I don’t have a publishing deal or a book out.  My agent isn’t calling.  I’m not even sure how many people are reading this.

On those rare occasions when I’m willing to use the quality of life yardstick, well I’ve got dust clouds billowing in my wake.  I’m in perfect health and great shape.  I’ve got a host of friends and a life filled with possibility.  There’s still talent to spare even though I’d a be a geezer in most other fields.  If I was a dancer or an athlete my career would be over by now.  Most of all I’m pretty happy most all the time.  I’m that annoying guy who walks around smiling like he’s got a secret.

My secret? I’m still on the path.  The purpose of life is the journey, I think.  Getting there is nice but it really only begs the question: what’s next?

Winning the Academy award takes about thirty seconds.  If I do wind up with an Oscar but that’s the only fun I’ve had getting there? Well, that sounds like failure to me.

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Twice last week, we could have ended Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  Twice, defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory.

Thanks to the very folks who say they want to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, we still have federally institutionalized bigotry in this country.

First, they had the chance to repeal DADT legislatively.  To appear to support repeal and give cover to those who think they need the bigot vote back home, they tied the repeal to defense spending and immigration reform.  It seems clear now that the plan was never to get either repeal or reform, but only a chance to make the opposition look bad for not supporting the military in time of war.  So, the folks who say they want to help me to have equal rights are once again using my civil rights as a wedge issue just like the last administration did.  Not much change there.

The second chance to end DADT then presented itself.  A Federal Court Judge ruled Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was unconstitutional.  All the President — who says he’s got my back on this — had to do was decline to appeal the ruling.  It would have been over.  What happened? The people who say they are in favor of equal rights for all Americans, even the gay ones, are now fighting in court to keep Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in place.  That doesn’t feel like a change to me.

I’ve kind of had it.  I’m not talking about the opposition.  They and their hateful, hurtful rhetoric I kind of expect.  It’s my side I’ve had it with.

Maybe they just want to keep the wedge issue? Whatever their reason, it’s clear they don’t care about my rights as much as they do their jobs.

I’m sick and tired of being taken for granted by the folks who keep asking for my support.  The other side openly hates me but at least they do me the courtesy of not asking for my vote or my money.  I’m reaching the end of my patience with supporting a side that says they support me but acts pretty much just like the folks who hate me.  What’s the difference? At least the Foxpublicans hate me for free.

The President was elected on the promise of change.  He is the self-declared “Fierce Advocate” of gay civil rights.  He’s also the guy who says he’s morally opposed to Gay Marriage.  To be fair, Hilary said she favored civil unions, the separate but equal of marriage equality.  They kind of all say the same thing one way or another.  It’s a game they play.

What it boils down to is craven, political expediency.  Almost no one who says they want to help me to have equal rights has the courage to spend the political capital it would take to actually do anything to help.  They don’t have a bill that offers a straight up or down vote on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  That would risk them losing the bigot vote.  Or my vote by showing their true bigot colors.

Instead, they bundle my rights up in legislative packages that allow them to say to the bigots, “I had to vote to fund the military.  I’m a patriot” while pretending to me that they care if I have equal right or not.  They tell me that someday, down the road, after they’ve gotten everything else done, if there’s any capital left and there’s time, then they might help with my little equal right thing.

How stupid do they think I am?

I’m sorry, I thought they all swore to uphold the constitution.  Not second or later or if there’s time or if it won’t cost them the bigot vote, but first and foremost.  In fact, isn’t that the only thing they swear to do?

Is it just me, or isn’t the equal rights of all Americans in the constitution?

So what do I do here? Find another party? I’m honestly looking.

The Libertarians actually call what I’m going through “battered gay voter syndrome.”  They say:  “Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government’s treatment of individuals, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws. Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships.”

Sounds great right? But they also think the Boys Scout’s ban of gay people is their right as a private organization.  Ron Paul’s declaration that he had problems with the Civil Rights Act was another troubling Libertarian notion.

Having the courage of one’s convictions is one thing.  But it would be nice if those convictions didn’t include hatred, discrimination and the continued dismantling of the Union.

In the real world, the government actually has to stick up for the little guy.  That’s kind of why we have government in the first place, isn’t it? I mean if it’s just the will of the strongest, richest and most powerful, well, that’s kind of the law of the jungle or the dark ages.  Given the decline of education and the rise of extremist religious superstition in government, we may already be living in or on the brink of a new dark age.  The crusades are already underway.

Here’s what I’m looking for.  I’d like the chance to vote for someone who actually believes in and is willing to stand up for the stuff they swear to do in their oath of office.  Period.  I don’t even really care if they win.  I’ve voted for plenty of candidate I didn’t really like over the years because they were less horrible than the alternative.  Wouldn’t it be nice, win or lose, to stand up for what we say we believe in? Now that would be a change.

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I watched Bridget Jones’s Diary with friends this past weekend.  I love that movie.  It’s a wonderful story, wonderfully well told.  The “bad” guy is Hugh Grant – sigh – and the hero is the still more dreamy Colin Firth as my archetypally perfect Mr. Darcy.  The film is well done and, better still, based on the work of the sublime Jane Austen.

It was a grand evening, but it left me with a hyperawareness of just how profoundly single I am.   It’s fall, the weather is perfect, it all conspires to put me in mind of romance.

I would hardly put myself out there as an expert on the topic.  I’ve been single all my life, so far.  Still, as an interested third party, I think my lack of involvement makes me a more impartial observer in this area.  Miss Austen herself was a Miss till the end and her observations still hold us in thrall.  We tell and retell Emma, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and endless permutations thereof.   We all have our own Darcy in mind.

It seems to me though that, owing to Jane’s influence and those who follow after, we have lost our way a bit.  In romance we are like those who ache for the perfect family Thanksgiving celebration only to find our loved ones the same tatty disappointments sharing the same sad turkey each year.  We have created a Technicolor, Cinemascopic version of romance.  This shared fantasy is, I think, the source of our troubled love lives rather than our romances or lack thereof.

I too am plagued by a number of these fantastic notions.

I long to believe in this imagined truth.  Still, on closer inspection, I can see how the movie model for relationship building, might have a few glitches.

In movie and TV romance, we are told that the way to attract the attention of our incredibly hot and for no apparent reason still available Darcy is to be a complete mess, insecure wretch or total bitch.  Our Darcy will either be instantly repelled and combative – always the first step to a healthy relationship – or touched by our pathetic incompetence, immaturity, bad hair, out of shape or flabby body or other obvious flaws.  What movie romance teaches us is that to attract romance the last thing you should be is available, competent or compatible.  There is often even an example of just such a person present in relationship to his or her Darcyness just to show us how bad a partner the good choice would be.

Okay, so now you’ve met.  Mr. or Miss Darcy feels sorry for or hates you.  Naturally, the romance is on and sexual tension begins at once.  Next, the universe throws you together in some way.  You needn’t bother to work at this, the universe will make it happen.  It is your job, once it does, to act like a complete lunatic.  You should make unreasonable demands, be blisteringly critical or such a shattering coward that the other person is compelled to get even, prove you wrong or fix you.

In short, it’s on.

Now that our movie romance is underway, we should do everything we can to discourage our Darcy who, for reasons defying all logic, is now totally unshakable in his or her determination to be with us.  The worse we behave, the more committed they will become.  This includes, but is not limited to, irrational fights about some imagined slight, class difference or unacceptable behavior, inexplicable insistence that this will never work, we need space or it’s going too fast or slow, or complete overreaction to the revelation of some past mistake or defect that has nothing to do with us.  By using this as a reason to make some ridiculous, self-important pronouncement or simply to go missing for weeks, months or even years at a time, our Darcy will be inexorably drawn to us.

The only possible and acceptable response is for Darcy to follow us to the airport, give up some amazing personal opportunity or make some other over the top gesture that proves that they really do love us and will sacrifice their every dream and joy to insure our happiness.  Then, in the grandest leap of all, we believe them.

And the divorce rate is surpassing 50% for those for whom everything, including the tax code has been crafted to support and encourage.  For those of us who are still regularly beaten for holding hands, it can be even more challenging.

To be fair though, how could we do better? We are bombarded by this scenario as the model for romance, over and over again in everything from cartoons to advertisements to grand opera.

Perhaps it would be helpful to note that there is a reason they call it romantic comedy.   These people are idiots.  The humor comes from their bad behavior, incompatibility and the absurdity that anyone could or would love them let alone that they’d love each other.  And honestly, dramatic or tragic love stories differ only in that they are told from the perspective of the pretty one and have a different soundtrack.

The Twilight girl and everyone Jennifer Anniston and Matthew McConauwho have ever played are an example of what NOT to do in romance unless you want other people to laugh at or weep for you.  Bad boys are just that – BAD.  Stay away from them unless you are a bad boy or girl, too.  A certain amount of yin and yang makes for good partnerships, one taking up where the other leaves off.  But opposites means, necessarily, those in opposition.  Your opposite is only a good choice if you’re looking for trouble.  Also, on a more practical note, your opposite isn’t probably going to be attracted to you in the first place – see also the meaning of opposite.  And, unless you’re trying to get them to leave you, do NOT talk to your boyfriend or wife or whatever the way anyone does on television including and especially on the reality shows.  Even the hosts.

Though a wonderful source of entertainment, movie romances should serve as an example of what not to do.  They should – Sigh — But they don’t.  Maybe the reason I like them so much is that they reaffirm my belief that it’s my special brand of crazy that will make my Darcy fall in love with me.

Damn you Jane Austen!

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The worst thing that ever happened to me was the author of all the best things in my life.
I was coming up on ten years at the ad agency. I had come back to Columbia, South Carolina from New York when I discovered that the pea under the mattress there was more or less permanent. I’d worked at that agency since my return. Despite doing really great work for the shop, my salary constituted theft, I had been passed over for any sort of substantive promotion and I was being actively discriminated against. The jerk I was supposed to “report to” was a failed, hack playwright who asked me to help steal the agency’s best client and start a new firm with he and this out of town sales rep.
She was an unfaithful cokehead and he only ever spoke to me when he wanted something. It didn’t seem a good fit. Plus, how they were treating their employer was also not a good sign.
The only reason they wanted me at all was because this particular client loved me. The client would fly me in for meetings on projects I wasn’t even working on. I loved them too, so I was glad to go. But steal their business and move to Houston? I don’t know, maybe I should have.
When I turned the jerk down, my troubles began. Jerk began telling people that I had made a pass at him. I hadn’t. Even so, I’m not sure why that would have been such a big deal in itself, but it was the early nineties a time when Don’t Ask Don’t Tell still seemed like a good idea. Anyway, it was his proof that I was “unstable.” I lost all my accounts. My requests to report to anyone else were met with a stony denial and the reminder that I was unstable. Even the information that the jerk was trying to steal our biggest client and go into competition was met with the same “unstable” rebuke.
Bigotry is a powerful weapon. It excuses fact and reason from all argument.
Mysteriously, we lost our biggest client – the ones who loved me and were suddenly told I had been taken off their account for no apparent reason.
As often happens in agency life, layoffs accompany the loss of a big account.
Naturally, since I had been with the firm for nearly ten years, they kept my assistant and gave me the choice of being fired or working as an entry level copywriter at a remote backwater office in – gasp – Orlando. Now if you love Florida and are crazy for Orlando, seek professional help. I just don’t. Flat, hot, service economy, bleah. Not for me. Did I mention hot? And the humidity?
At the time, despite the fact that I had a regular TV gig at the local NBC affiliate and a popular column in The Free Times, a local entertainment tabloid, my salary mostly came from the agency.
It was one of those opportunities in life where maybe I missed my moment. I don’t know. I was so stunned that I was being shown the door. I simply could not believe the betrayal. I don’t actually know what happened. I suppose that the jerk was given a certain amount of budget to cut and I was his choice. I’ll never know for sure.
In the end I was offered, on a Thursday afternoon, to keep my salary if I could report for work in Orlando the following Monday.
I had 72 hours to completely shut down my life and be in a hotel in a city I hated or I was fired.
Perhaps it was a mistake, but I picked my salary. I’ve always wondered what would have happened if I’d told them to go to hell. Instead, I put everything I had in storage, rented my apartment and gave notice at my other two jobs.
I was the primary creative source for the agency at the time so they kept bringing me back for meetings on big new clients and pitches. But I had to live in Orlando. It was the worst period of my life. I cried uncontrollably for no reason at unpredictable times. I could not sleep. I either got so drunk that I passed out or I was just up all night. My friends had a birthday party for me that year in the infield at the Aiken Trials. All the pictures are of me in a white dinner jacket and dark glasses, crying.
I don’t know what a nervous breakdown is, but I might have had one. Whatever, it was the worst.
I lasted three months.
Then one day, I woke up and thought, “I quit.” Nothing is worth this. I pick bankruptcy over this. I resigned. My stuff was already in storage. I packed the convertible and drove to Los Angeles, a city where I knew no one, had no prospects, no place to stay, no job and had never been before. It just seemed like the right thing to do, even though it was the wrong thing in so many ways.
And that, as Mr. Frost would say, has made all the difference.
My life is transformed. I never wanted to be in advertising. That was just what happened to me. That job was miserable and I was miserable doing it. I loved the TV thing and miss it. This blog thing has reminded me of how much I enjoyed the column. But the rest? Yuck. Maybe I’d have loved advertising if I hadn’t worked at such an awful place.
I was published within two years of arriving. I had my first movie deal in two and a half. I found myself in a place where there was nothing wrong with being me. My life has blossomed in ways that were not even possible there. All of the best things that have ever happened to me happened as a direct result of that terrible, awful day.
I am reminded of that day a lot lately.
Times are hard right now. For me and for a lot of people. I’m not sure what’s next. Some days it’s easy to be overtaken by my fear. But, my tears have been few and I’m sleeping soundly. I think it’s because my worst day taught me that I can’t always recognize my blessings when they come.

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The 11th

That awful anniversary is this Saturday.
I think the part that shook us the most was the realization that we were hated so very much. The act itself was so unspeakably cruel. But the dancing in the streets froze our blood, stopped our breath.
We are a good-natured people, for the most part. The whole “live and let live” thing underlies all that we believe. Though we periodically lose sight of it, as we have these nine years since, our true north is an unshakable belief in the best in each other, that our best is always yet to be.
Our spirit of optimism has been under attack for a while. Advertising took over politics in the early 80’s and, as any good ad man will tell you, the easiest thing to sell is fear. We have been fed a constant diet of fear by politicians too lazy or maybe just not bright enough to come up with any original ideas.
Be afraid of the poor, the foreign, gay people, straight people, black people, Hispanic people, country people, city people, immigrants, conservatives, liberals, your neighbors, your government. Be afraid. We’re told over and over, cause that’s how advertising works. “They are the problem. I am the solution. Vote for me.” Dirt can’t hide from new improved Tide. It’s all the same.
Be afraid.
The relentless message eroded our best sense of ourselves and our essential goodness. Our growing fear took away our belief that we were loved like spoiled children, adored in spite of our faults. So, when the planes hit the towers and the images of people delighting in our pain filled our televisions and our front pages, we were convinced.
For a moment, when it first happened, the world was filled with a shared sadness for our loss. Love poured in over our borders. But as we slammed our borders shut to protect ourselves, we also began to wall out the love and support of those who did not hate us. Aided by the craven, the greedy and the self-interested, we have been urged to believe that “they” are our enemies and that we must band together to protect our American dream. Even against each other.
I’m sure we have enemies. We use ¾ of everything in the whole world. That’s gotta produce some hard feelings.
But honestly, we are the world’s great experiment. We are a little bit of every country in the world. We are everyone. We are attempting to live everyone’s dreams. Maybe not the crassness or the hyper-consumption, but the ideas of freedom and tolerance and compassion, the notion that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights. Everyone, even the people who really do hate us, hope that’s true and in so doing, hope that we succeed. If it’s possible here, then maybe they too can live free.
The only way we can fail is to give up on those ideals. If we make Saturday a celebration of hatred, fear and intolerance, we have lost. Probably not the war, but certainly the battle.
I know how tough it is to believe in yourself when people keep telling you that you’re over, worthless, an abomination. I have lived through the fear that everyone hates me.
I’ve been gay in school in small towns in the south. I’ve been an artist in a world full of accountants. I’ve been over 50 in West Hollywood. I’ve been told by word, deed and law that “they” were my problem.
But my problem is me. If I go out into the world wearing my shit stole, I’m going to get a markedly different reaction than if I’ve got vanilla extract behind my ears. If I want to be loved, I have to be first in line. If I want to stop fearing people, I have to start treating them better.
If we want to stop being afraid of the world, we have to stop being afraid of each other. If we want to be loved, we have to behave like people we can love.
The good news is, this is an area where we already have a lot of experience.

The Prince’s Psalm and other books I’ve written are now available in all formats and platforms here: http://thedinnerpartyshow.com/albums/the-princes-psalm/

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