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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Heavy Psychedelia

Once upon a time, in spite of intrigues and niggling calamities along the way, our species seemed to be heading inexorably in the direction of some kind of blissful nirvana. This was called the 1990s. The end of the millennium appeared to herald the absolute, crushing triumph of the species, with only the spectre of solar radiation (a 'hole in the ozone layer'? How cute is that!) threatening to ruin the party. And what a party it was!
I can't say how the following years, 2001 to now will be judged, but I get the feeling the learned among us will view this millennium (for those that celebrate the Gregorian calendar, while those that don't are surely regarding this as no more than the continual slide into the murk) as an Absolute. Fucking. Disaster.
How do you feel about that? A hole? We are the hole. I feel glued to the spot, tied to the train tracks, no matter how much moving around I do. I feel suspended over an abyss, feet dangling, even if I'm on solid ground. I feel stupid, even if I'm smart and have the gadgets to prove it.
If anything, my joy feels keen and technicolor. My heart is beating a little louder. At least there's that.
The 1976 poster above, is by Tadanori Yookoo, a Japanese graphic artist, for the cosmic soul band Earth, Wind and Fire. Check out his work. Welcome to the new psychedelia, fellow earthlings. Welcome to 2014. It's heavy.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Wild Christmas

In 2013 my family got smaller. In 2013 my heart got bigger. In 2013 my art got popular. In 2013 my popularity got knottier. In 2013 my knots got righter. In 2013 my writing got lovelier. In 2013 my love had to travel long distances, but is not afraid.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013


In this little pod is a history of water and grain, of expansion, of poverty, of slave trades, of civil rights and wrongs, of genetic capitalism, of famine and of food mountains. Rice is corrupt. Rice is evil. Rice is indispensable.

You buy rice in a supermarket, ignorant of the pain in its process. It is a packet of survival. It is like a person you meet for the first time. Every day a new person looms before us and we decide whether we wish to pursue this person. We analyse their glossy exterior, and decide if it appeals to us. Much like choosing a packet of rice in the supermarket. There are rows and rows of the same product. We select only one, that speaks to us, and take it home. Our new friend we shall consume.

We place it on the counter. It comes tightly-packed. That vacuum is satisfying somehow. It holds promise. You gingerly take the seam in your hands and try to prise it open. It has been packaged, after all, to open this way. The seam parts between your fingers till it reaches a mysterious place where the plastic folds in on itself and seals reality inside. We tug. It does not budge. We become nervous. We have been through this before, after all. We curse, and wish things were different somehow. Surely it is easy for them to make it easy on us? We wonder if the manufacturers of this little wondergrain are smirking somewhere. When so many have suffered, over generations, to bring this innocuous pod to their table, why shouldn't we have a little fun at their expense? That's life, after all. We begin to lose our patience. The water is boiling and we don't have time for this. We tug harder and the packet resists. The seam slips and slides in our grasp. That's it - we've had enough.

Maybe we attack it with scissors but in this case, say, we pull violently at the packet and the seam rips savagely open. The plastic unbends and lacerates, tearing a gaping wound in its perfect circumference. That's it, that's all the moment needed; a little nudge of chaos into our perfect lives, and our kitchens. Rice pours out. It is hard, brittle, inedible. It flies, it has kinetic energy of its own. We have no control over this. Rice clatters onto the countertop and scatters in every direction. It is on the floor. It inserts itself into the dirty grey gaps between our sink and our stove, where moisture and microbes make their homes. Each grain of rice has become our responsibility. They are all a nuisance, every one. They resist your fingernails in their little hidey-holes. They do not cooperate with the dustpan and brush.

The package is now useless to us, gashed and weak. We pull a jar from a cupboard and try to pour the rest inside. The rice tumbles out over the counter, over everything again. We cup our hands and try to scoop the individual grains into a pile, before directing them into the jar held over the edge of the counter. More rice tumbles onto the floor. We get there in the end, but there's waste, so much waste. A drop of sweat far away, once trickled down gaunt cheekbones for this little innocuous grain. We clean up, and drop the lid on the garbage pale with a clatter.

Tomorrow we have to pick new people off the shelf and try and tug them open. We need their nutrients to survive.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Boys and girls come out to play.

- "Why are they staring at us like that?"
- "Because they think you're a fat ugly little girl."
- "Don't say that."
- "Look. Jemima's starting to cry."
- "Stupid, she can't cry. We can't cry. Our faces just melt. Look at Benjamin."
- "Shut up. I wasn't crying."
- "Ugly Benny! Ugly Benny!"
- "They left me out too long in the sun. It's not my fault..."
- "Stop picking on Benny. He's my friend...."
- "You two are one pretty picture. You make me sick, Poppy. You always take sides. You make me want to tear off my clothes and break the glass."
- "You think I don't hate this too? I've been standing here gathering dust for years. They've never changed my clothes not once. It's like death. There's no air and it's hot."
- "I want my mommy."
- "Oh Jesus, there goes Jemima again."
- "Jesus won't save you, stupid. We're not even alive. We just think we are. Mommy won't save you either."
- "Just stop her whining. It sounds like a drill in my head."
- "You never had a mommy Jemima. Or a daddy."
- "Shut up Katy! Don't scare her. The shopkeeper is your daddy, Jemima sweetie."
- "He is? Really? He's strange. I don't understand. He pulls down my knickers and he touches me."
- "He touches me too."
- "Ha ha! Ugly Benny has an admirer! Benny and Jemima!"
- "We know, you idiots. We see everything."
- "If he's our daddy, why does he touch me and Benny?"
- "Oh don't listen to her. Katy's just mad. Since you came along, little fat Jemima, daddy doesn't notice her any more."
- "Ugh. Why are you so horrible to me, Polly? What did I do to you?"
- "Because you are dead inside. Look at your reflection in the glass."
- "I want to be like you Katy when I grow up."
- "No you don't Jemima."
- "But where did I come from? Please. Help me."
- "From a dark, dark place little girl..."
- "Stop it everyone, someone's coming to look! Daddy will hurt us if we don't sell something. Look happy. Look pretty, Jemima. Just don't look them in the eyes. Then you'll see. Don't look them in the eyes..."

Monday, June 3, 2013


Life, that thing constantly getting in the way of our rampant egos, has just dealt me one of its severest blows. I wonder if it's really worth going on. It's that bad.

What on earth could it be that has made me sink to such a low ebb, you may ask. I mean, we gay men have always had a somewhat delusional relationship with our relevance to society - that's what makes us so cranky by cocktail hour. How could things look so fabulous, but yet get any worse? We've just found out large swathes of France hate us, for God's sake. That's right. France.  Without us, what does France have, apart from a reputation for unclean foreskin and racial hatred? Rien de rien, bébé.

Well here it is. I've got bad news, people, and it's all about me, because frankly I'm the center of the universe and you scour for crumbs in my shadow. As I contemplated my contours in the mirror this morning, I realised I'm going to hit my physical peak when I'm about 62.

It's so unfair.

When I was twenty, I was a skinny bitch. I recently found photos of my ungainly youth (luckily for some, the computer has replaced the Polaroid - to spare most of us from stumbling across images of our spotty foreheads thirty years later and thus awakening us to the entire, ugly sadness of our lives and hairstyles). I was burned to a Costa del Sol cinder - eyes glowing like canned lychees in their sockets - and I carried myself as would a praying mantis. I'm amazed I ever got laid - I did, with girls and then, somehow, boys - but clearly these people were even more self-hating than moi.  I gave off an air of having taken a spa in Dachau.

You see, when I lumbered into my twenties, men started going to the gym in ever-increasing numbers. It's difficult to say why this happened, other than it's clearly the gays' fault. In my neck of the woods, bodybuilding was the preserve of the criminal underworld and of actors who wore monkey suits in bad sci-fi movies. And Roger Daltrey of The Who. (I for a brief while went to his Brighton gym, until I was sucked down the extractor fan of the hot tub and it took the local fire brigade three days to get me out).

Nowadays, I see these youngsters pumping iron, cheerfully gulping down protein shakes and adding workout routines to their limited range of conversation (soccer, and now, workout routines). In their hairless magnificence, they are perfect. Their puppy fat taut, their tushes breathtaking and juicy as ripe melons in a farmers market. It's so cute, because the young rarely look ahead. It's all about the moment. It's about staring in rapture at your reflection in the mirror, whether you're gay or straight. Channing Tatums everywhere, pouring onto the streets. And then behind them, struggling to catch up and slightly out of breath, follow their elders, that once looked like Channing Tatum. Except they've hit thirty, and look like John Travolta at forty.

I'm forty-five and luckily I've filled out a bit. I feel I've got the body I could have done with when I was thirty-five, about the time I got to New York. Then maybe I could have slept with a few gym gods, just to say I'd done it, except they only wanted to sleep with other gym gods. It was amazing how identical these dudes were. The same facial hair, the same nipples. Yes, somehow it became possible, among certain privileged sectors of gay society, to physically will your nipples into another size and shape. I don't know if you know this, but it became hot in some circles to have women's nipples. I don't know also if women will be pleased to hear that, because it probably means straight men will want this in ten years' time.

Now at forty-five, some of these men who wouldn't look down at me at thirty-five, have started to look up at me. I'm flattered, but unfortunately, they are no longer gym gods. Their ass fat has migrated to their stomachs (it's always the first to go) and now, if I was pushed for an aphorism, I'd say they look rather like Norway, very ragged at the edges, on spindly legs and aching joints from all those hours, all those years, spent in the gym.

Incredibly, I'm still growing. Body fat is a new world of possibility for me. As I say, at 62, I quite possibly will be a silver fox; a collossus striding the planet in my cowboy boots like Ted Turner. Heads will turn, nether regions will moisten. It would be nice if I were also rich and famous, but I'm hoping my silver fox looks will get me by if all else fails. You will wish you were dangling on my arm, and running fingers over my taut abdominals. Oh, the unfairness and cruelty of life! The loneliness! I'd despair, if I cared to remember the misery of that twenty-year old in the photograph, rejected and unloved by all but the rejected and unloved. But like all those who are sixty-two years young, I'll just live in the moment. And frankly my dear, next to me you'll look like shit.

(Apologies to my long-suffering handsome and ageless husband for the lies perpetrated in this article).

Saturday, April 20, 2013

ASKING FOR A LIGHT (Apology for the cigarette)

It unfolded in the bright sunshine and the bluest of skies, and it still felt like loss. The guy had been sitting there, scruffy beard and snubbish intensity. Slight form lost under his baggy clothes. I turned back, I'd seen enough, and screwed up my eyes in the chilly glare of the morning sun. From the end of the road, another kid was swaggering towards us, little tight shoulders in silhouette. His rolling gait was coiled like a muscly dog. This neighborhood was busy changing, but for now it was still emphatically working class, and the teenage mutts here were all spleen and provocative stares, virile center of gravity, take that how you wish. I looked back over my shoulder and the bearded guy had got to his feet and was leaning against the bus stop, pulling on a cigarette. There it was again; he too seemed balanced nonchalantly on the energy between his hips. Blowing smoke rings. He looked different now, interesting. The pit bull boy rolled by me oblivious and I followed his back as it brushed against the smoke rings. Then he came to a halt. He pulled a cigarette pack from his jacket and extracted one carefully, with a delicate swish. He turned to the guy smoking and asked for a light. As he leaned in, in the blustery wind, two pairs of hands came up pressing in on the naked flame. They may have touched. They were still, together, for an exquisite moment, till the cigarette fired up and they separated again. The pitbull boy gave a gruff "thank you" and continued on his way, intimacy instantly forgotten.

I remember one of the most vivid, indelible images I'd seen of this cat-and-mouse life which seemed to categorise the gay experience, was a stark black and white photograph of a top-hatted Victorian gentleman, sinister and alluring under the yellow shadows of a street lamp, as a beautiful younger man leaned in. "Got a light?" To my eyes, learning fast, the image shimmered with dirty, intoxicating promise. Ten minutes ago, before writing this, I tried to google the image, being normally quite good at this, but I couldn't find it anywhere. In fact, I could hardly find anything at all. Interestingly, a whole smoking history is apparently being wiped from the net. I normally wouldn't worry - like I care? But in that moment of intimacy witnessed in bright sunlight, I saw myself, and I saw a history of impossible interactions and desires, and I thought, this too one day will be gone, and down we will scroll our tiny screens, ignoring requests to talk and look someone in the eye. And streets will become deserted and the promise of adventure will have been mapped out in binary.

The blue rings vanished in the air, tingling on the smoker's throat. I felt a twinge of jealousy.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


I remember when I first saw 'Longtime Companion' at the movies. I hated it. I was in my very early twenties, idealistic and opinionated. I was living in Lisbon, in Europe, and I and my arty friends had tongues making nests in our cheeks. My friend hated the movie even more. I had never been to New York City, and this was not how I wanted to see it - this gilded ghetto cage of fading white moneyed faces, (so telling, the Fire Island scenes of the Pines house floating above the foliage, the real world blotted out and invisible below). This ain't no hip hop. This ain't no No Wave or even new wave. It was operatic dinner parties and hi energy fizzling out. Blacks and hispanics and rice queens were not invited to the last days of disco, even if they soundtracked it. "The Saint Disease" it was first called, and that is a history I came to understand through work and personal experience.

The fact it was about people dying, a tide of accumulating rot, swelling and gaining strength, rolling over the darkening sky on the beach was the most distasteful part. I failed to have a heart for this peculiar, more monied-than-thou ghetto, even as they died faster and more painfully than the rest of us outside of it.

The ghetto never died in New York. It did become more inclusive, these days all can rest there and go to high tea. The Pines, if anything, is more monied than ever. Aids never went away either - it took on different shapes, it became the perfect cross-dresser. I watched 'Longtime Companion' again last night and I forgave it, because there was nothing to forgive. These people did die, and it had to have been horrible. This is New York, and all the movie wanted to do was show them and honour them. They deserved to flicker across the silver screen, because now they are gone, all gone.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


the table
was set for murder.
the conversation arched
its back and 
blew cigarette smoke
in the face
seated opposite.

He winced, wreathed in its blue. Stood up and opened a window and then got on with his food silently. The smoker curled his finger and placed tip on the cigarette's spine, watching.
Before the remaining guests had arrived, we deliberated what were the questions that should be verboten at a dinner party as gay as this one.
- That's easy. First, 'what do you do?'.
We vigorously agreed how crass that was. Then he laughed.
- And of course, 'are you a top or a bottom'?
The others arrived and we were all introduced. Our host had warned us to tone it down, as the others weren't so comfortable with such fooling around. Of course a cigarette was lit up over the main course and blown in their faces. Tongues locked into cheek.
Around the fireplace, one of the newcomers asked how long we had been together, Lennie and I.
- Almost nine years, I replied.
He frowned as if it were an impossibility. Then he asked, - so you're in an open relationship?
There, that's question number three, and it's one you should never, never ask a gay couple.
His friend, a sexy Italian astronomer poured into tight jeans that had been engineered to focus your gaze unswervingly on his butt, devoured me with his eyes.