Thursday, June 7, 2007


Summer snuck in behind all those storms last week. I know because I walked to the post office today and by the time I got there my shirt was completely soaked. And the office building that the post office is in was air conditioned like a walk-in fridge. I'm not complaining, in fact, I lingered in the lobby for several minutes, got out my book and read for a while, it felt so good.

Hot weather makes me cranky. It makes me feel anxious and desperate. It makes me mad. (My friend M has the same response to the smell of fish.) But I live in Texas now, so I'm trying to make peace with it. It doesn't help that, when I bring it up to people who live here, they say, "You think this is hot?" It's not unbearable. It's barely poking up into the 90s the last few days. But knowing that from here on in it's only going to get worse, with no break until mid-October...

I don't want to turn on the air conditioner until I absolutely can't stand it any more, because once it's on it'll be hard to turn off. We have window units in our bedrooms, but nothing in the living room, kitchen, or bathroom. I was thinking I would try to live without it until it gets over 100. The forecast says 99 tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


I'm coming very late to the Holly Woodlawn fan club, but ... here I am. J and I watched Trash last night. Why am I 46 years old and seeing this film for the first time?

When I moved to New York in 1981, I lived for a few months in the Parsons dorm, on Union Square at 16th St., just across the street from Andy Warhol's original factory building, but he had already moved by then. I went through a short Velvet Underground phase. I still love that first record, the one with Nico. I saw all the John Waters films back then, but I missed the Andy Warhol/Paul Morrissey stuff. Maybe we considered it outre already. When I look back I find that I had so many strong opinions that had no basis in anything I can remember.

So, Trash. Obviously, the secret, maybe it's not so secret, is that if you put somebody as beautiful as Joe Dallesandro on screen, people will watch it for a very long time no matter what else is going on around him, especially if he's naked. (The sequence with Jane Forth as the psycho newlywed was nauseating, not because of how long it took him to stick that needle into his vein, but because of the sound of her voice. She was like a combination of Little Edie from Grey Gardens, the blond debutante in Auntie Mame, and bleach thrown in your eyes.)

But every time Holly Woodlawn was on screen, I found it hard to pay attention to anything else. She's luminous. And so funny and affecting, and always completely committed to the scene. I don't know if it was intentional, but one of the things that made the film interesting to me was the sense that everyone is playing make-believe. Putting on a show. Except for Holly. She lived there; everyone else was pretending to live in her world.

And not just the big stuff, like when she's masturbating with the beer bottle, but the smallest gestures and facial expressions. The scene with the welfare caseworker should be shown to everyone who wants to be an actor. In a scene that could hardly be more contrived, she's hilarious and heartbreaking and totally real.

New Idea, Old Story.

A story for a musical film has been tumbling around in my head the last week or so. I think it could be a very small film, something I could make myself with the help of friends. It makes me smile every time I think about it, so I'm assuming it's a good idea.

There was a guy in my hometown with a peculiar notoriety. He was sort of a hanger-on, I'm not sure what he did for a living, he was just always around. And he was, to put it bluntly, the town queer. In fact, for a while when I was in junior high school, his first name was used as a synonym for queer.

So, in some sense, everybody knew. But just what did they know? Did they know that there was practically a line of teenage boys in and out of his efficiency apartment on weekend nights? Did they know that he was showing them man/boy Super 8 stag films on his living room wall, having sex with them, and sending them home with porn magazines and a list of all the other gay kids in town?

This went on for many years. He was probably in his 30s when I knew him, in the late 70s. He was not what I would call an attractive man. But the knowledge he had, the access to a world of pleasure, was obviously a magnet for homosexual kids with no other role models. Call him a sexual predator, but he provided a service no one else was providing.

Some years after I grew up and left Indiana, I heard that he ran for mayor and lost, and then that he was arrested and put in jail. I don't know what he was charged with; the story I heard was that it had to do with his sex life, but I can't verify that. I can't find anything in the web archives of the local paper.

The fact that he ran for mayor is what most intrigues and inspires me -- and makes me laugh -- about the story, and it's also what makes me think: musical! If I can get an audience past its revulsion toward a character who takes advantage of sexually inexperienced, confused, and affection-starved teenagers, there's a lot of humor and small-town charm in the story. Shades of The Music Man.

I also really want to write without judgment (I should say, without disproportionate judgment) about sexual relationships between adults and teenagers. The hysteria about the Mark Foley congressional page scandal rubbed me way the wrong way. I won't say there's not a lot of room for exploitation, harassment, and abuse when there's a big age difference, but it irks me when people make no distinction between sex with a 15-year-old and sex with an 8-year-old. This guy was not dragging boys to his apartment. They were going there because he had something they wanted, and they knew they possessed something he wanted in return. It was a simple transaction, a fair deal.

Here's the issue I need to resolve before I get too far along with this story. The guy's name, his real-life name, is so perfect I'm having a hard time contemplating changing it. I just can't come up with anything near as good. But of course it should be changed, not just because the guy is probably still around somewhere (not that I plan for this story to be unflattering) but also because there was a well-known baseball player with the same name. I want to have a name in my head as I work on the story, because it helps me imagine it, and it'll come in handy as I'm thinking of lyrics.

Monday, June 4, 2007


There's a lizard just outside my bedroom window. I think he must live nearby, because I see him frequently, always at night. I'll look up and there he'll be, stuck to the middle of the windowpane, waiting for who knows what. I don't know if he's aware that his glass-bottom boat is actually a window.

A few minutes ago, I was reading, sitting in a chair next to the window, and I stood up to go to the bathroom. The thought popped into my head, "I wonder if that lizard is still around," because I hadn't seen him in a few weeks. I looked out the window, which just then was about 6 inches from my nose, and he was peering around the edge of the window frame. Looking right at me. "Yeah, I'm still here. What do you want?" It was spooky and hilarious.

I thought I should move him out to the garden, so he can work on controlling the insect infestation. But then I realized that his little hangout is very near the spot where I've been relocating the big black bugs. He must think I'm bringing him takeout breakfast every morning when I show up with my plastic bag of bugs.

The picture isn't him, but he looks just like that.


We had a motherfucker of a thunderstorm last night. Knocked out the power for about half an hour, and tore up the garden pretty bad. Both tomato plants were nearly horizontal and several of the chile plants (which I thought were very sturdy) are at 45 degree angles. The watermelon and cucumber vines are all askew and covered with sand. You know, I always say that I love dogs but don't want to have one of my own because they're too needy. I'm starting to feel the same way about gardens.

Since this is the first time I've had a vegetable garden, I have to keep telling myself that each disaster is just a lesson for next year. Now I know when they tell you to stake your tomato plants, they're not kidding. Next year, I'm digging post holes and pouring concrete.

While the power was out, J. and I sat on the porch and watched the storm. Using the old trick of timing the interval between lightning and thunder, I'd say this one was pretty darn close.

It reminded me of a particular storm in Nashville in 2004. This was not the first time I lived in Nashville, when J. and I moved there from New York in 1998, but the year I spent there later editing Life in a Box. I rented two rooms from a lesbian couple in a big purple Victorian house with lots of gingerbread, a wraparound porch, picket fence, and a rainbow flag. I loved that house and my time there.

We had an investor and money in the budget for my living expenses while I made the film, and I was left to my own devices. I knew the task was gargantuan (300 hours of footage to be edited into a 90-minute film) so I had to be diligent and more disciplined than I had ever been in my life. I scheduled my days strictly. Not just the time I spent working, but everything, meals, meditating, barhopping. (For example, from 8 to 10 every morning, I sat on the porch with my coffee and rye toast with peanut butter, and I read the New York Times.)

Nearly every afternoon that summer, probably every summer in Tennessee, there would be a thunderstorm. The heat and humidity would build and build all day, then the sky would turn black and explode in a deluge of water and electricity for about 20 minutes. Then the rain would slow and the sun would come out. I would feel a giddy, yearning optimism that there would be a break in the heat and humidity, but it never happened. Right after the storm, it would go back to being just as miserable as before, or worse.

I always took a break from editing to go out on the porch and watch the storm. I always said it was because I didn't want to leave the computer on during an electrical storm, which is true, but it was mostly just because I love storms. One time the lightning was so close, the thunder so loud it made me yell out and the cat jumped 3 feet straight up, and I looked across the street and a tree was smoking.