Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Extravaganza/What a Day... (Excerpt 4 of 5 from "Opening the Naked Window" book II of the memoir series)

These passages are from book/season two, chapters/episodes 18: "The Extravaganza" and 19: "What a Day..."


I was bounced right back to reality soon enough after The Extravaganza. At our post-production meeting, we were already planning a second and bigger show months later and discussed the future schedule for Lonely, but my father's surgery was upon us and he got through it like a champ. The recovery process was another story. Then my mother, who was trying to be strong, was slowly falling apart - just a little.

She told me that she felt God doesn't put too much on us to handle, but she was just kind of wondering. She said she had a bad feeling about Dad and that losing her brother, Uncle Dennis, just a few months prior was a bigger blow to her than she let on. Now her mother was sick. I told her we would get through it, and then I laughed to myself. It’s like who's needing whose shoulder here. I hadn't realized Dennis being such a loss to her and it may sound cold and selfish to you, but that was because he wasn't that big of a loss to me.

You see he and my mother didn't get along until about a year before he passed. He was a reformed alcoholic and a wife beater and I remember having candid conversations with Ann, his wife. She was more Googles’ age than that of Dennis or my mother. I had very little or no respect for him, and as my mother cried to me to tell me he died, I felt nothing. Sorry. So, I had to learn quickly that this revelation my mother made to me was something I couldn't squawk at or make fun of. She was seriously grieving him, so I just held her hand and we waited to hear how my father was to recover.

I told my mother I was going to get some coffee. Little did I know she and I were actually heading to the same place, outdoors for a much-needed smoke. I had no cigarettes on me, because it wasn't a habit yet. I figured I'd bum or buy one off of somebody else because sure enough I was stressed and just knew somebody else would be. I actually had choices, as there were about a dozen or so smokers outside taking a break from their respective loved ones.

As I sipped on my vending machine coffee, I wondered why I felt so bad about the way I felt about Uncle Dennis. I wondered if my dad would pull through his lengthy surgery. It was just a time for wondering the unknown. I lit up my bummed cigarette and inhaled. I no more than exhaled, when my dear mother was tapping me on my shoulder.

Usually, I would have expected her to be sarcastic or perhaps slap me, or say a prayer on the spot, but much to my surprise she only asked how long and how often did I smoke. She told me to not act like I had to do it behind her back anymore either.

"Because, my sonny, when the smoke clears...ah ha... the truth always comes out," she admonished.

We laughed, if only for a minute.


I got home from a hard days work and a meeting, only to find my dear mother pacing the floor. She stopped me in the kitchen and told me that she bought my beeper for me for a reason and just knew I was more responsible than the way I was acting. I apologized all over the place because my dad had fallen out of bed again and this time, in his medicated state, there was absolutely no way I would be able to get him back in bed, without causing him much harm. Mom and I tried to pick him up, but she was too challenged herself in the health and strength department.

I called Frankie, Anya's dad, over. He was always a great neighbor to us and was quite the handy man. If it hadn't been for him, I don't know what we would have done. We couldn't get over how weak my dad was. He had since started radiation treatments and the pain he was in was unbearable to him - this from a man who rarely complained. That was it, though. That's what really got my mother and me. Who knows how long that all had been brewing in his body?
We figured for several months to over a year, he was always with his back to the wall - looking like he was scratching or something. Then he started going to specialists, then chiropractors. They just told him it was his degenerative arthritis doing a number on him, at a rapid and steady pace. We just held on to hope, knowing he could be worse off - dead or crippled by what was eating him from the inside.

Frankie was great. He was always joking around, so much so that he could be downright annoying at times, but that day his humor was right on time. He even made my father laugh, which was a miracle in and of it self. My father was a lot like him, always joking around and telling stories from when he was a boy; and from his Army days. He was very proud of me. Why? I never knew, but he would always tell his friends all the things I was doing. That's why it was so difficult to see him that way, on the floor - defeated.

Frankie no more than left, then it was up to Googles flat where I, once again, discovered her sprawled out on the living room floor. This time she had been up there all day long like that, longer than before and she couldn't get up. I sat there on the chair in her living room and we talked. I called on the phone down to my mother. Now, mind you, my mother was unable to go up and down stairs. She had a history of blood clots in her legs. She would from time to time, but at that time with her being on blood thinners, having fought diabetes all her life, kidney problems, weight problems... My poor mother was a walking medical encyclopedia. So, I found it wise to call her to see what the next step was.

"Mom, I hate to tell ya, but Googles fell again." She was uncharacteristically silent.

"Don't just blurt it out like that, baby," said Googles. She apparently failed to see the seriousness of her own situation.

"Can you help her into her bed?" My mother and I were both hoping.

"No. She's hurt her arm. Last time she was able to balance herself by wrapping her arms around my neck. This time she can't. I think it may be broken."

"We might have to call an ambulance. She won't like that." My mother knew this was going to be a hard sell, but I would have to be the one to sell it.

"Oh, we will!" I told Mom, “We have to.”

I hung the phone up.

First of all, ever since Googles had her stroke some year’s prior, aside from very important doctor's appointments, she hardly left the house. The closest she got to the outdoors was when she cracked the door to her porch open. On a good day she’d throw a few slices of bread to the birds. My friends often mused on whether we had someone living up there at all. Maria would joke that it was like Mrs. Bates from Psycho. She would ask if my grandmother was really alive, because she would never hear her walking around or anything. That was true. Googles was very quiet in her own powerful way. She loved her movies and books and that was about it. That and sitting in her chair thinking.

Thinking about her life, her children - both with their own problems, but lived their lives the best way they knew how. I often wondered what Googles thought of her damaged children and of my mother's damaged children. Where did it start in our line? Did it start from her? And if it did: Why? Why was she so bitter? Sure, her husband left her, but I always thought she was stronger because of it. She seemed to brood a lot, but would laugh it off.

She wasn't laughing now.

How often did she think of her strained relationship with them? And even though her and my Uncle Dennis made amends in the eleventh hour, how did she feel about his going before her? I am sure it weighed on her mind and her very soul heavily. A woman, who once thrived and had so many in her life, now had just a handful as her very backbone. She was devastated over my father. He was like another son to her.

My father, despite losing his patience with her time and again, in turn loved Googles as if she were a second mother. My dad loved my mother tremendously and treated her mother like the Queen Mother herself. She was very special to him and, in time, the feeling was mutual. She ached at the thought of his suffering and she took time out, as she lay on her living room floor, panting, to tell me how sad she suddenly had become. She commented on the fact that my father was still a young man. I believed her when she said that she would willingly trade places with him.

Be careful what you wish for, for you may only be joining one in their misery.

I helped her to a sitting position and she asked me about my dad. She hadn't known yet, and I hated to, but I told her we just picked him up off the floor. She found it peculiar that they both had fallen on the same day, twice. She was not alone in her wonderment of the coincidence.

When I began to tell her we might have to call an ambulance because I thought she broke her arm and was definitely dehydrated, she wanted nothing of it. She said after all she's done for me and given me, I had to promise her that I wouldn't let my mother put her in a nursing home.
I explained to Googles that some things we had no control over. I understood her fears. She had them driven into her own mind that being put into a nursing home, no matter how well-established it was, would surely be the end of her days.

She refused to see how burdensome the situation was becoming. I won’t lie. It was definitely becoming a burden. So many people run around lying to themselves, or worse lying to others, saying their ill loved ones aren't "a burden at all." Bullshit! They can be downright pains in the ass. I am not ashamed to say it, but that's because I knew full well putting Googles into a nursing home was what was best for not only her, but all involved and we certainly were not the type of people who would just leave her there to rot.

I told her that we just needed to get her to a doctor, but she wouldn't have anything of me calling 911. She no more than said it again and I got up, went to the phone in her bedroom and called a private ambulance. That way we would be able to send her where we wanted. When I came back to her in the living room, I can barely put words to the expression on her face. She looked devastated, like she could not believe I had betrayed her in such a way. It didn't faze me in the least. I felt like I was taking control over a situation I once had very little control over.


My mother shocked both of us. She had made her way upstairs to Googles flat and her timing was that of a good comedian. She sat and had a cigarette with Googles, as I went to keep one eye on Dad and the other on lookout for the ambulance. My mother came back down a little while later, just as the ambulance pulled up. She instructed me to follow the ambulance in the car, to keep Googles company in the hospital. I thought to myself how much I would hate to wait in another hospital waiting room, but that old guilt crept in quickly and I knew I would do what I was told.

Watching my dear Googles be handled by the emergency medical technicians was painful. She seemed like a little girl. I think she knew in her hardest of hearts that it would be the last time she'd see her home. That she would never return. She had tears in her eyes. She was fit to be tied.

They ended up admitting her into the hospital. She could not care for herself at home. I was told to relay to my mother that Googles would need to be placed in a nursing home. I find it ironic to this day, but something else was quelling beneath the surface of Googles very being. Within a few days, after all her bitching and whining, tests and more tests, visits with Mom and Uncle Ralph - my beloved, dear Googles was diagnosed with the same exact small cell carcinoma lung cancer that my father had.

Unlike Dad, Googles would end up opting out of the cruel radiation treatments.

She would be strong.

She was determined.

She seemed even willing to face God, a being she had given up on many years before.

She'd face him long enough to shake her finger in His very face.

Maybe she'd even give Him a good whack at His foul sense of humor.

She was going to ride that pony out for as long as she could.

Then she would leave this earth - laughing.

...but she would ride it bitter and cold, devastated and misunderstanding the many wonders of the body, mind and soul... of life....


Opening the Naked Window is available for purchase at >>>>AMAZON<<<< and other fine online retailers. Thanks!

Photos (l-r): My beloved Googles as a little girl...with my Uncle Ralph and Gramma Lou & Googles circa 1992 during one of our many awesome conversations about movies, music & current events, which I touch on throughout the series.

Memoir Journal: I had a lot of challenges writing my life story. I was very careful, as I touch on a variety of topics that affected me and the people involved whose presence, whether constant or a fleeting moment...the details lay in the randomness and the continual coming and going of many different characters. The almost vagrant approach to developing these characters based on real people from my life is intentional. People come and go in all of our lives, but I have seen so many pass through my line of sight due to life events and/or choices that I was very specific in giving that almost voyeuristic view on my own life. People like Googles, they are the constants that I plan to really touch on in the final book of the series that I am slowy working on this and next year.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Father's Day (excerpt 3 of 5 from "Opening the Naked Window" book II of the memoir)

Here are passages from book/season two of the memoir series, chapter/episode 17: Father's Day...


What my lives in the theatre, work and school provided was a huge relief from the reality we were facing with my father's steadily, deteriorating health. Oh, but wait - there's grandmother, my dear understanding and giving Googles was seemingly going through the same exact ailments as my father. My mother and I also had to look after my great uncle Ralph, Googles religiously fanatical brother - a World War II vet.

So, I got very little sleep and my mother kept me busy, as I was sole runner for all involved, yet I somehow maintained enough of a business sense to get The Ecstasy complete, rehearse for both The Extravaganza and Lonely, while squeezing in a few much needed dates in between. That was a time when those so-called 'booty calls' meant so much to me, because it provided a great escape from the realities that were haunting me - even if I hadn't realized their pressing reality at the time. Blue and Ken were both great sounding boards for me during our late night, pre-dawn trysts at your local motel.

You see, as I came up, people like Dad and Googles, and even Uncle Ralph seemed indestructible. Sure, I am not stupid, I know people die, but I don't know ...I always thought I would have many years with my loved ones. You know, be blessed like some of my friends, who don't seem to know what they'll be missing when they talk negatively about their parents or grand parents. I shrug my shoulders and shake my head in disbelief when I hear such nonsense because in the scheme of things; we are so pressed for precious time and life is indeed short. Short in a sense that I was brought up to find good in everything and everybody, to pay attention to the details and to accept people for who they are.

A lot of my adult life, I would look at these people who are blessed to be well into their forties and fifties, yet pained by caring for an ill parent or better yet by having their parent's still in their lives. They don't know where I have been and while a friend of mine told me that was a sick way to think, to be jealous of such, I beg to differ. Yet that is the way of the world. What is a burden to one may not be a burden to others and so on. I just wish people could see what I went through. How I felt such a great sense of loss and sunk into a deep depression, - not once or twice, - but three times in my adult life. I am finally finding some sense of joy, but again - IT is a process.

The philosophies were instilled in me at a very young age by my parents, who for the most part, gave all of us kids our share of rough love. Looking back I don't think I would be the person I am today if it weren't for the foundation they laid for me. My father would get on my last nerve, always making me apologize to my mother when we'd argue. Hell, I only argued with her because she raised me to speak my mind. I did so with a sense of jurisprudence and with much conviction. She'd tell me if I thought something was wrong or someone was wrong, I should expose it. And I exposed my parents more often than not to their many oversights. However, my father explained to me one day that my mother also needed to be respected and she in turn would learn to respect me in time. He predicted that she and I would become "Judy's" or the best of friends.

Like he was gonna die or something... get outta here.


After many rigorous tests, trips to specialists, chiropractors and many painful, painful days there was a light at the end of my dad's tunnel. That year on Father's Day morning, bright and early at 6:30 am I drove my dad to the hospital for an MRI. I tell you, that was something that probably should have happened month's before, but I digress. What a way to spend Father's Day, which was a day he and I shared many fond memories over the years. That year, we had planned to go to breakfast, the Tiger's baseball game then meet up with Mom for dinner. We went on with our plans and I am glad we did - now.

My father labored through his soon-to-be revelation of a test.

Then we shared a nice breakfast and went to old Tiger Stadium. It was at the ball game that I witnessed my father found some comfort, at least for a little while. For some reason, unbeknownst to me at the time, I really paid attention to his every move that day; his singing the National Anthem and Take Me Out To The Ball Game, his enjoying a hot dog and beer, his telling me the differences in pitches, as he did so many times before, but this time it seemed to be worthy of a listen, his banging the empty seat next to him to cheer the home team on. He recalled how he and I celebrated the Tiger's winning the World Series in 1984 and how he was so happy he got to share that with me in his lifetime. He got to escape for a change and it was a wonderful memory.


On the flip side of a good memory...

Two days later, my mother received an urgent call from my dad's doctor. They were to go into his office bright and early the next day. My mother, at her most dramatic I am sure, mustered enough information from Dr. Jeffries to get him to agree to see them that evening. My mother had already grown tired of waiting until "tomorrow" for what she could find out today and spare another night of lost sleep due to worry. Her husband was in pain, whimpering like a damn child and she was downright angry about it. She wanted to know what the hell it could be that a simple blood test or x-ray couldn't pick up. What exactly was it that was making her 'bear' act more like a cub every day?


It was official.

My father had lung cancer; more tests would reveal that it was small cell carcinoma. The reason he was in so much pain, more so than usual for his condition, was that he had huge massive tumors, which had collapsed two of his vertebrae in his spine. Surgery was needed to prevent paralysis. This was very bad news. My mother and I thought my father had passed his highest threshold for pain already, but we would soon find out he hadn't even reached the halfway point.



I was for not really being there as much as I could have been for my parents. The more I heard about my father, the more I saw him suffer, the closer his surgery got, the more I dove head first into rehearsals. I drank myself stupid many nights trying to cope with my biggest fear, which was not so much my father dying as that seemed to be the inevitable. I saw the situation as hopeless and yet I failed to really let the reality of all the implications his impending death would have on my mother and I sink in.


One night, I came home and Dad had fallen out of bed. My mother couldn't do anything, but pace the floor and wait for me to get home. My beeper had been blown up on the drive home... The Extravaganza with Miranda's big debut was in three days and I was exhausted from all the energy I was forced to pump out on cue at a moment's notice from any taker at hand. So there I was, lifting my dad off the floor. The bulky weight of him, fighting gravity it took all the strength and patience I could muster to get him back in bed. It was exhausting. My father was crying because he felt ashamed for being so damned helpless. It was heartbreaking.

Then, I no more than caught my breath and my mother told me she hadn't been able to get Googles on the phone. She wanted me to go up to her flat and check on her. I took a chunk of chocolate cake up to her - not realizing what grim reality I was about to face. Upon getting up to her flat, I soon realized that Googles had also fallen. This was becoming more and more of the case and normally she would be able to crawl to the phone or pull herself up onto her bed. That time, on that day of all days, she had fallen down – hard - and couldn't get up. Now, I remind you she was a stickler for her pride and she had soiled herself. She was more worried about that disparaging fact than anything else. I mustered up enough strength to dig in, pick her up and carry her to her bed.

After all, I thought about what I had done to her credit card accounts; this was the least I could do. Guilt is a (expletive deleted for this post)! It will make or break you and will give you the strength to do the unthinkable. You see, I was always trying to do things for her to atone, but this was way beyond anything I had in mind. I will never forget how she clung to me and cried at her rescue. She seemed to have so much to work on with her very soul, at such an old age.

Things were happening way too fast for all of us, and as I changed her soiled nightgown and looked away in respect of her pride, I thought, "What the f--- am I going to do?"

Not "why me?" Never "why me?" That's not good enough for where I come from, from what I am made of, but "what the f--- am I going to do, Lord?"


It was the night before The Extravaganza and my dad's tumultuous surgery would follow two days later. I was in quite the foul mood. Gary was kind enough to serve me drink after drink and with each passing cocktail the bitter bitch inside me showed her blistering cold face. I was outdone. I felt a bit betrayed that Diva Kingsley wouldn't be doing my makeup. There I was going through all of this shit with my family and she was no where to be found. I was on the brink of becoming what she was - a female impersonator - and didn't have a clue all of what it took. I still viewed the whole idea as an asinine joke. I still looked down on the likes of them unfavorably, due to Tiger's rejection of me.

I thought back to all the men I did oral favors for, but here I was practically in tears, sweaty and full of stage funk wondering where my favor was. When would I shine? When would a man love me? Just love me. Not want me to f--- and suck, just hold me and love me. I thought about how I had treated so many men so kindly, either with a kind word or gift or deed and how they mistreated me in return or just didn't take notice, or hell even dismissed me by making me feel invisible.

Yet, I wasn't invisible when I was deep throating their manhood.

I certainly wasn't the man my father raised. Or was I? I had so much to say to him, but I couldn't bring it out. As expressive as I can be, again when it was for something or someone important. I was practically speechless and now that night before the opening I was drunk by rehearsal's end. I was drooling, sweaty and enebreated. Allen would be working the door the next night, yeah my third ex. He has been very supportive of me. He had the nerve to look down at me and tell me how disappointed he was. We went to the bathroom and in my drunken state, I pretty much told him to go to hell. I told him that he didn't have a clue what I was going through.

I mean, people go through shit, but I had so much thrown on me at once and all he could do was scold me and make me feel bad. F--- him! I couldn't believe he did that. He always had a way to make people feel common next to him and he wasn't going to make me feel stupid, not that time. I told him he was kicking a dog who was down and to leave me the f--- alone, save it for Marshall (- his new lover of over a year). Then, it turned into an argument that wasn't about what it initially started about. Has that ever happened to you? It's very powerful, if you can manipulate it and I did. It was wonderful.

Instead of hugging me and being a friend to me in a down moment, he thought he would just let me have it.

Well, I wasn't having any part of it and people in the cast and crew were both shocked and appalled at our fierce argument.

None of them could believe I had gotten that drunk on the set.

To hell with them all, I thought.

It was MY show, with MY money and MY ideas and it was MY father who was dying and MY grand mother who was sick and MY mother who was increasingly needier and needier and I needed some f---ing attention!!!!

And I got it, oh boy did I the time I left them all I had pissed most of them off and had showed my definitive ego.

As I cried in my car, I was afraid I was too drunk to drive home.

I actually questioned myself on whether they would show up and do the show the next night...

and you know what...

{in a whisper} I didn't give a damn...


Opening the Naked Window is available for purchase at Amazon >>>>CLICK HERE<<<< and other fine online retailers.

Photo: a restoration I did of my father's high school graduation picture.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Journey from Within/Foreshadowing (Excerpt 2 of 5 from 'Opening the Naked Window' book 2 of the memoir series)

These passages are from book/season two, chapter/episode 7: Journey from Within & 14: Foreshadowing...


I have found, especially in my dealings with men, that my expectations have usually been too high. I tended to live in a fantasy world for a long time, until I woke up one day and found out that when push comes to shove: It doesn’t really matter. In the scheme of things, I really could care less. I know what I have to offer to a man or a friend or a family member. Finally, I know who I am and NOW I don't give a fat rat's ass whether you like me or not. How can one NOT like someone who is so damned agreeable all the time?


A co-worker's husband recently stumbled across one of these episodes and was angered at the fact that I originally titled my work Chronicles, as such a title should tell a story of Biblical proportions, of a religious nature. Honey, I am here to tell you that it has been judgmental people like him, he who is far from being a saint himself, I am certain, - who have TRIED to hold me back and keep me from keeping my eye on the prize. I am here to testify that my life has been a journey of Biblical proportions - nothing short of a religious experience.

I have danced with the devil, been through loads of shit, only to come out shiny and clean in the end. I have suffered greatly due to unwise decisions, but I don't regret any of it. I feel blessed by all the lessons I’ve learned from a very young age. I have survived time and time again. Now, you tell me, God doesn’t touch somebody blessed like myself - having overcome all the obstacles I have overcome? Please. People have called me a whore. My response – YES! And a blessed one at that. I have been called a FAG, fagot, (expletive deleted for this post), bitch, slut, dinge queen - to my face mind you. I prefer writer/ poet/actor/director/producer/female impersonator/humanitarian, but I digress. I have been laughed at, mocked, poked at, joked about, but mostly ENVIED. Why? Because unlike a lot of people I have crossed paths with - I know full well who I am and that I have a purpose and a place.

I learned a lot of this after my break up with Tiger. He taught me many valuable lessons. You see, years later I realized that Tiger was not the problem with my failed relationship with him - or any other man for that matter. In fact, he and I remain friends - close friends to this day. Talk about steadfastness... After all we went through and all that was said – (we'll come back to that, bear with me as I am on a roll) - I learned just from that fact alone, by looking at my self, my own infidelities and lack of self-esteem. I haven't been in a relationship since then, and the sad day I realized I had never actually been in one was tough, but I finally realize that most men in my lifestyle - or at least in my town - can't keep up with me. The one's I attract usually are there to hold me back in some sort of way.

You see this has been a lifelong experience of constant soul-searching and seeking out the right path. I am so sick of these evangelicals worrying about my soul, as if they're any better than I am. Right. If I am going to burn in hell, it certainly won't be because I am gay or have had relations with men. They are quick to quote the Bible, but slow to realize their own shortcomings - or as I like to call them shortfalls. Basically, people are full of shit - generally and rarely are there those like myself who really, truly give a damn about matters of the heart and soul. Because when push comes to shove people are out or in for themselves.

When I tell you that I have backslid, nobody has done so like me, but I have always found the God in it somewhere. It's kind of creepy the relationship I have with my inner Jesus. He really has a bigger sense of humor than most people give Him credit for. You see He lives in me. I wouldn't have survived all of what I have if He didn't. So, when people's husbands come across my words on a page and pass judgment I take it very personally - it's like you almost want to strike up a debate and educate them about a few things. Why? If I had a dollar for every time I have wasted my breath with the likes of him, this book would be a made movie by now. Besides, I know for sure I will be looking for those precious breaths on my deathbed one day (hopefully not any time soon), to tell somebody how beautiful God is and how grateful I was to live the life I was blessed and put on this earth to live.


There was a good friend of mine named Kenneth Dickerson. He and I did shows together in the late '80s. He was an immensely talented actor and musician. He even got a recurring role on a TV sitcom. He was also a very sexual individual. His music, acting and sex were his quests in life. While we never got involved sexually, I was naive and scared to death of him at the time when we were close friends.

We lost touch after those shows. I was working various jobs, doing shows with Why Not Productions and trying to get my schooling together. He moved to California to work and live with the band Mazarati, did TV and film, then joined the Navy -- more men. At first, I missed Ken tremendously, but in time he became a good memory always in my heart.

From time to time, I'd fantasize about he and I being lovers and vowed that if we ever met again, we'd throw caution and everything else to the wind and get naked, wild and wet together.

Well, as it turns out, we all live in a small world. There I was working an office job at the college I went to when I came across his name, address and phone number. We were going to the same school. Excitement filled my heart and suddenly Kenneth became the forefront of most of my thoughts and emotions. First, I pulled up his computer file. He wasn't in any classes that particular semester, but excelled tremendously the prior semester in computer science. Then I pulled his hard file to see his photo. He looked so different, so handsome, and so manly -- that's when I learned he was in the Navy. Hmmm.

For days, I held onto his address and number. Finally, I called him; oh...the number was changed to a non-published one.


Well, I decided to write a letter. It was brief. I just told him what I was doing and what I'd like to do. I sealed it, mailed it and prayed. After a few days, I tried to put him out of my mind. I figured it had been so long. He probably thought I was nuts.

Then...a week later, the phone rang. It was a cool, cloudy, lazy Saturday afternoon and I was home -- alone. I answered the phone. It was a voice...deep and sensual, almost alluring. The voice asked for me and I responded. He proceeded to ask me about Kenneth. "A jealous lover?" I thought. Oh, how cute! But much to my dismay, a lover Ted was not. He was Kenneth's caregiver. Huh?


I found out Kenneth was a dying man.

Sweetest Jesus, not Kenneth. Not Kenny. I had plans.

Well, Ted offered to take me to see Kenneth. He said all of his friends and even his own mother had deserted him. Only his younger brother came to see him, but couldn't stand the sight of him.

I took his offer.

On the way to the hospital, he kept telling me to be warned of what I'll see.

I couldn't imagine. I'm like: What's the big issue?

To my misfortune, I soon found out.

I could not believe my eyes.

I could not bear what had happened.

AIDS had ravaged him beyond recognition.

He looked like the covers were enveloping him.

His eyes were big, larger than him it seemed. His face sunken in, he looked sullen.

He looked old.

He looked a dead man breathing.

Sick, sick ...sick. He was the epitome of sick.

I sat there. Ted left me alone with him, in the room. At first, I said nothing. I watched him, watching TV.

Then he turned to me and said, "Can you stand it? If not, you can leave. I won't stop you. Everyone else has walked out that door."

I refused to concur and proceeded to tell him about my shows, our shows, his music, school, life, sex, my crush on him. I talked to him about everything, except AIDS, death and sickness. Those were obvious and impending. Why ponder on it? What would the point be? He told me about the Navy, when he was raped, his TV shows. He looted in the 1992 Los Angeles riot, got a week's worth of groceries -- he was proud of that. He didn't care about the laws he so followed all the time, then -- he figured, a great injustice had been done and he wanted a piece of the pie. It made sense when he put it like that. His last movie was to be in the carnival scene in Poetic Justice. He was so proud to be cast, but he was too sick to do it.

We reminisced about the show we worked on, Why Is That? and how much money we made for that organization. He explained why he moved to California: to escape his stepfather, who had molested him. He said he actually agreed to accept the step dad's advances to save his little brother from the same torment, but he wouldn't be able to save him now. He said he knew I wanted to have sex with him back then, but we never had the opportunity (he would have been my first experience).

Peculiar. He recalled us being alone in my room, but he was worried my father would come upstairs and catch us. He didn't want to disrespect my parents. He remembered being quite fond of my mother.

After an hour and a half, he couldn't eat, was irritated and messed the bed. He was like an eighty year old baby-man. Unbelievable. As I kissed his hand and looked at those humongous eyes of despair and exhaustion, I thought a body is just a body -- a loan from our creator.

Two days later, I went to my doctor for my yearly physical and got tested for HIV. I always get tested at my annual check-up and encourage my friends to do the same. But this time it was different. I've known HIV+ people. I've known people who had died from AIDS. The HIV+ people are still alive, healthy looking, but this time it was personal. This time was the first time, of too many times in my life, I have witnessed somebody dying or somebody affected by this global killer with no conscience.

Ten days later, on October 14, 1994, Kenneth died.

Ted called and told me.


A hush came over me.

I thought of nothing else.

When I got my negative results that following Monday, I cried tears of relief.

Sure, Kenneth was promiscuous.

He'd be the first to admit it, but only because he was abused and lonely.

I was angry!

Not at Kenneth, but at God.

So much hurt in his life -- misery.

What a way to die.

Ravaged! Skin and bones...

All because he made unwise decisions?

Not to hurt anyone, but to not be be loved.

I prayed to the very God I was angry with.

I argued with God.

I said, "Hey! I've been there. Lord, you know I have had my share of, SEX!"

"I have even paid for it!"
"I've done it on the railroad tracks, in the bed, in the alley, in a car, even in a church. What about me? Is this gonna be my way out of this f***ed up world YOU created? To wither down to nothing? A mere reflection of one's self. Kenneth's clock just had to stop now. He was only 25 years old. 25! Pissing and shitting all over himself. Dying and lonely...all alone."

Ted wanted me to go to the funeral, but I couldn't.

Ted said, "You're not the first one to walk out that door."

But that's not the way it was going down.

It was too much.

It was like I went from an overjoyed high to an ultimate low.

Little did I know that one year to the day after Kenneth died, my father would die and my insanely naive life as I knew it would change...



Opening the Naked Window is available for purchase at Amazon >>>CLICK HERE<<< and other fine online retailers.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ruffles Get Feathered (Excerpt 1 of 5 from 'Opening the Naked Window' Book 2 of the memoir)

As promised, this week I will be sharing 5 selections from book two of the memoir series. Remember, the premise of how I tell my life story is 'what if your life were a made-for-television drama series?' Or, in my case: made for cable! It is where the books are referred to as seasons and the chapters are episodes. This installment contains passages from season two, episode 5: Ruffles Get Feathered.


Well, well when did the dry well run? Where did I wrongly go? And how did my ruffles get feathered?


The answers to those questions would take a short while to come to me and while I was afraid that my so-called relationship with Tiger would come to an end, it was inevitable. We were lying to one another. He never acknowledged me as his lover, while I spoke as though we were living in wedded bliss. He was the cream in my coffee and the fact that it had very little to do with sex meant the world to me. I finally found a man I could love, but my sexual desires would creep up from time to time and there didn't seem to be anything I could do to control it.

I was vivacious back then, still kinda am, but then I steeped of sexuality and didn't care what anybody thought about it. I had a certain way of walking and a certain way of talking. I was a lot lighter in weight. I wasn't a smoker then. I seemed a lot healthier in my voluptuous physique. I would pass guys on the street and they would stop to talk to me to see "what was up?" Of course, these were men I would not usually approach, but they would come to me.

One spot I went to almost every Friday after work, while I waited for Tiger to get home from work, was Shopper's Lounge. This little bar was in the downtown theatre district and a few blocks away from work and a few blocks away from Tiger. So, it only made sense to stop through there to wait for Tiger. I became a regular at this long-standing gay bar that was quiet and relaxing by day and raunchy to the hilt by night.

You could stop through there on a hot July Friday night and smell the sex permeating from the bathroom stalls and the music would be loud as steel in what was no bigger than a shoebox setting. Yet, during a quiet afternoon on a get paid Friday, where a handful of us 'regulars' of the day would get together and drink the strongest cocktails in town. They were served up by Natasha, the coolest bartender I ever met to this day. We would sit and listen to music on the jukebox and talk about the day’s events or what was going on in our personal lives. A lot of them had friends who were dying or had died of AIDS. It was the first time I actually started to witness people grieving over such losses and it struck me hard.

I thought I was lucky when I got my first negative HIV test results, due to all the restroom romps, alley trysts and car dates. As I write this, I can think of dozens of other incidents I could tell you about when I had sex with a stranger or paid a hustler for their time. Time gets muddy, too. I know I cheated on Tiger a few times, but with whom exactly I couldn't tell you.
What I can tell you is after while, I saw less and less of Tiger.
We still had our Sundays, but they even were shorter in length.


I was excited with anticipation. The large capacity trash bag was filled with little trinkets, books, cards and what nots for Tiger's birthday. I was so excited. We had been together over a year and despite some shortcomings (what relationship doesn't have them), I was happy. He came to pick me up. My mother was even excited at all the little gifts I'd give Tiger and the cards. There was hardly a week that went by when we were together when I wouldn't send him a card. Hell, I had to show my affection for the man somehow. I was really trying, at that point, to not fool around. I figured I would clean my act up and devote my self entirely to him. After all, who's to say he didn't know I had stepped out on him with Allen and Lafayette - both of which were extenuating circumstances – and God knows who else.

We got back to his apartment, before going to dinner and he looked so awesome in his blue jean outfit - the jeans fitting him just right. He wore his cowboy boots, too. His sense of style drove me wild, especially at that time because we hadn't been intimate in a while. I wondered about this all the time, but I was going to be good and supportive to my man, nonetheless. That's what we're supposed to do when we are with our one and only. He was overwhelmed with my gifts. We shared some wine and then it was time to go out to dinner - his treat. See, that's the kind of man he is, treating me out on his birthday.

We stood by the doorway. I felt awkward because I wanted to kiss him, to hold him and make love right then and there. It felt like the right thing to do. He kissed me, looked into my eyes and asked what was on my mind. On my mind, I wanted to get on my knees and give him some oral pleasure right where we stood, but that's so not my style - believe it or not. Instead, I said nothing and we went out to dinner. See, and I was kicking myself for that all night long because I don't know if he would have tried to stop me or not. You're probably wondering why I would have even thought that. Well, you see that's the vibe I got from Tiger at that time, but I was blinded by my emotional attachment to him.


March 19, 1993

We were about to embark on our strategy for promoting The Ashley Correspondence. So, I set up a special meeting between Tiger, Arkadiy, Anatoliy and I. We met for about an hour, made sure we had our ducks in a row, had no idea how big this production would be and what standards it would set in the local theatre district - I was just a small little company with no name and most of what I learned, I learned from my dealings with Why Not Productions and they had upped and moved to New York. So, I was going about this practically blindfolded and a little gagged.

That's why the timing of Tiger's little "talk" with me was both a negative and a positive. Before we got to the meeting, he said there was something he wanted to talk to me about, but he would wait till after the meeting. Why was he being so serious?, I wondered. We went on with the meeting and I anticipated his "big news." The meeting happened and we no more than got into the car and I asked him about what he wanted to talk about. He nervously laughed, as he started driving, because I was an almost too eager beaver. It was like you really don't want to know that badly, do you kinda attitude.

I was excited about the meeting and how the production was going and he was finally ready to tell me what was on his mind. He said he hoped we would still be friends, but obviously I viewed "us" in a totally different light than he did and he just felt awful, but he thought I should know he was seeing somebody else. Brandy was a female impersonator who did shows and he was afraid some of my friends (most notably Diva Kingsley, who had seen them out), would tell me before he had a chance to. He had been seeing this Brandy a lot and thought we should move on and just be friends. He never wanted to hurt me; he knew how much he meant to me...

I thought I was going to vomit. I fell very silent and almost into an instant state of depression. He said since we would remain friends, he would still support me with and work on the play, but these new "developments" would probably change the outcome of the play's story. (Ya think?!) Wow! What a well-prepared statement, I thought. I wanted to cry, but didn't dare give him the satisfaction. I just remained completely silent the rest of the ride home. I didn't even say good night to him and as I got out of the car he just sighed.

What the hell?

Did he think I would be delighted at his "news?"

Did he think I would just go quietly into the night?

Did he think he could just cut me loose and be free of me?

Was I some kind of joke?

I would show him.

He would see.

And as far as the script changes because of new "developments" - YES!

There would be're got damn skippy there'd be changes.

Who the hell did he think he was?


Opening the Naked Window is available for purchase at AMAZON >>>CLICK HERE<<< and other fine online retailers.
Cover Photo by: C.A. McKenzie
Cover Design by Andi Galpern of idreamofdesign.