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Archive for March, 2011

Before reality television, it was the television game show that turned the common man into an instant star, granting many their fifteen minutes of fame in front of a national audience. It was on a short-lived, less than twelve episode VH-1 television game show called “Rumor Has It” that I was confronted with a question about Elizabeth Taylor that caused me to lose the game and my hope at stardom–

“‘Men Liz Taylor has married’ is the topic for the final round,” the game show’s host announced as the three candidates stood, frying under hot lights, trying to think clearly as large cameras spun around the set, zooming in and out for close-ups, causing my sweaty hand to tremble.

In the early 1990’s, VH-1 was watched more than CNN. I shook in my good shoes as the host gave instructions for the final series of questions. I was in the lead by 15 points because I correctly identified an Annie Lennox video–

“If Liz Taylor has married the person named, sound in with ‘Yessiree’. If she has not married him, the correct response is ‘Not Yet’.”

Tryouts for the show took place in a studio in Chelsea where currently the Martha Stewart Show on the Hallmark Channel is filmed. A few friends decided to respond to a casting call listed on the back page of the “Village Voice.” The ad sought contestants knowledgeable in celebrity innuendo and gossip. It was a casting call for a new VH-1 game show. I tagged along with my friends to the casting call, but sat in a waiting room of the studio while thousands stood in long lines, attempting to get noticed–

“Who are you?” A rather plain looking gentleman asked as he walked through the dimly lit waiting area.

Thinking I was not permitted in simply sit on a sofa while tryouts went on, I excused myself by explaining I was waiting for three friends who were trying out for the show and it was too hot to wait outside.

“Why are you not trying out?” He asked. I looked at the thousands seeking fame and just blinked at him.

“I think you should try out and not sit here,” he suggested as he stormed away through a back stage door.

I sat next to my lover, his Jewish friend John and John’s girlfriend Linda and copied their answers for a paper test that was handed to all, prior to a pre-test camera screening.

I said my name and where I was from to the camera and was glad to exit the studio for dinner. We ate at the West Side Chef that evening.

The next day, a producer from Viacom called and scheduled an interview with me. I was told at the interview I would be on the show, and somehow, today, with Liz gone, it all seems like a dream because during my fifteen minutes of fame, all I could do was regret that I didn’t really know the tramp.

The episode of the show that I was on was run at least fifteen times in the summer of 1991. I watched on in horror of repeats of myself shifting nervously, back and forth, as the Liz Taylor category at the cliff-hanger end of the game came up. Like a twig in the wind, under a fool moon, I simply rocked from side to side, pressing that buzzer as quickly as possible, but never in the nick of time– pretending of course to know the answer, but was simply too slow. John and Linda giggled like little children in the studio audience. My lover was there too. It made all our day, when during a break to a commercial, they too were granted a few moments of fame as the cameras panned the tiny little audience filled with fans of contestants mostly.

“I feel like I’m on the dating game,” the host mentioned several times during the taping as I brushed shoulders with the girls standing on each side, fighting for space on that silver screen of which, Liz Taylor is the reigning queen.

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Waves of bitter reflection wash over an old, poor soul walking the concrete beaches of Manhattan along a great sea of invisible ruin. One step at a time, his old legs move like rubber, seemingly of their own free will. The old soul looks around in heaven, refraining from a trance caused by a long walk where his mind seemed to vanish from a busy reality all around. The hike of internal quietude has taken him from Brooklyn, across the Williamsburg Bridge into the very heart of the industrial world. He wonders momentarily where all the miles went because he does not remember them—just the solitude that can only be found way out in the open.

He thinks of recent earthquakes and floods in various places. 

The old city is gone, so are the Middle American corn-fed types with blonde hair who once thrived here as waitresses and bicycle delivery persons. What he wouldn’t give see a hung white man like the type once so common here.

White bread was replaced by rice on the plate of middle class New York. Many city citizens are from the Far East now. Eye candy is rare. It is nothing like it once was on the streets, so again he escapes within and shuns the thought. The town, all over, is like China Town of old. Even in Chelsea, many of the gay boys have slanted eyes in 2011– the lesbians are mostly Korean too.

In Soho, north of Wall Street and along Broadway, where on average, at every other street corner there is a Starbucks, the “New York Times” is still sold in print for more than a cup of the new Tribute Blend which brings him to life and back to the swing of reality where bitches in high heels ruin the quiet thump of his rubber shoes along 7th Street.

Many storefront buildings remain empty, despite the promise that injected recovery is strong. Real Estate is booming again, at least on paper. AIG has paid back nearly all that was borrowed to keep pensions strong and the Yellow man seems not to care.

Again, the earthquakes and floods in various places come to mind, but he doesn’t care.

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After three interviews and spending $9 for subway rides into the city, the Middle Collegiate Church failed to offer this unemployed saint a job as a minister’s assistant.

The interviews were challenging, the first being a phone interview with a comfortably gay office layperson named Russel Suggs. It seemed odd speaking with a queen from a Protestant Church, especially after learning the church is the oldest Protestant church in North America and was established before America gained Independence. King Henry granted a charter for the church to be established in the colonies. The place is an institution, but has changed to suit the needs of the East Village Community and is run more like a soup kitchen than a place of worship.

Mr. Suggs seemed impressed with my qualifications and referred me with an in-person meeting with Pastor Chad Tanaka Pack, a decaffeinated version of a senior pastor, but a man with the Christ close to his heart,who explained during a lengthy first interview, that he left his job at Goldman Sacs for the ministry following a ‘revelation’ where he discovered Christ.

A follow-up interview was scheduled for this past Monday with two additional pastors for whom the minister’s assistant would serve as holy secretary. Biographies were available on-line regarding the two pastors with whom I would possibly work. One of the Assistant Pastors, Rev. Thorne, was once a dancer with the Dance Theater of Harlem. She introduced herself to me in the lobby and explained that she needed to “Go find Pat,” before the interview got started.

Suddenly, a black man, obviously a crack head, started pounding on the large glass doors that lead to the church offices. I sat, unmoved in a moment of relaxed contemplation, but then the man found the door buzzer. My resume was resting on a well-worn, stained cushion bench next to another young gay man who was obviously at the church for an interview as well. The man pounding on the door was frantic and for a moment, it seemed like there was really something terrible happening outside on the streets of New York. He screamed insanities as tears rolled down blood-shot eyes. A woman with the half-naked man shouted through the glass– “He wants someone to pray over him! Ain’t dis a church? He needs someone to pray over him.”

Pastor Thorne quickly ran to greet the demon possessed man and shouted, without opening the doors– “First put your shirt on. This is a church. You seem like you are on something.”

“Something is trying to kill me,” the skinny man explained. “It’s after me. You gotta pray over me,” The man cried.

Pastor Thorne quietly escorted the man away and took him to a secret place at the back of the church, behind the soup kitchen and food pantry.

Needless to say, the interview did not go in my favor despite a sincere effort on my part to explain that the real reason I wanted to work as a minister’s assistant is because in my view, a progressively liberal, openly gay Protestant Church is the only place in the world where one can go for an interview in a time when we are all so desperate, just for someone to pray over us. But that crazy man somehow stole my shine.

Mr. Suggs encouraged me in an e-mail to feel free to attend services at Middle Collegiate Church. Instead, I shook the dust from my mouse pad as a testimony against them and moved on in my search for stillness of heart and a way to pay the bills in a society where Protestantism is just another job.

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Copperhead

Dave Miller was bitten by a snake while camping in the woods. A stream next to which he and his wife Cassie had pitched a tent was damned with rocks. The swimming hole, although refreshing, attracted copperheads and rattlesnakes. During the four weeks the newlywed couple camped and skinny dipped, they had spotted at least two dozen venomous snakes in the weeds surrounding the campsite. They had heard from someone that snakes do not bite unless they threatened. Easy-going Dave and Cassie took extreme caution in avoiding the cold-blooded reptiles, but one latched onto Dave’s skinny, muscular calf muscle and would not let go until Dave ripped it off with his bare hands and crushed it with a rock taken from the dam.

The campsite was located in Pennsylvania wilderness between Altoona and Petersburg. Cassie drove as quickly as possible through miles of woodland and open pastures in which there were no real roads. She needed to make it to the hospital before Dave’s head swelled, because they had heard somewhere that snakebites cause heads to swell. Already, Dave’s calf was swollen the size of a soft ball. Windows were down in the truck and fresh, warm evening air scented with pine brushed through Cassie’s flowing red hair. Her hair whipped around, like that of a mad woman. Dave breathed deeply. He was in a panic over the possibility of pending death. He wondered how long it would be before for the poison ravaged his body to the brink where he would start seeing the light. Dave braced himself, holding onto a seat belt with his right hand. He glanced as his wife’s voluptuous breasts bouncing on the steering wheel. The trucked raced as she stepped on the gas in a clearing. Dave wondered if it had been worth the risk to camp so far from civilization. He had no regrets. She was a world of fun on the grass and in the water.

A physician in the hospital emergency room laughed while walking with a clipboard past the skinny but muscular country boy in shock. Dave’s thick brown hair fell over his blue eyes as he tried to make sense of the laughter. He was half naked. A pair of cut-off jeans was all he had on. They seemed too big for him, yet clung to Dave’s ass because it was like that of a bubble. Those in the emergency room who initially were appalled at the sight of the dirty couple soon noticed their striking physical beauty and Dave, although appearing somewhat savage-like, caused even the nurses to stop their rounds to take notice of man with a glow about him.

Dave was holding the snake he had killed. An old woman with arthritis waiting for relief of pain that would not subside, suddenly felt better as a wave of bliss passed over her as she took note of shirtless Dave. Cassie concluded that doctors could more quickly identify what type of anti-venom to use to treat a life-threatening bite from a gigantic copperhead, so Dave was ordered to bring the snake along. Even the old woman knew the dead snake was not a poisonous one.

“How long ago were you bit?” The doctor inquired without escorting the couple to an exam room. Blood dripped from the mouth of the snake onto highly polished tile floors.

“It’s been ‘bout two hours, right Cassie?”

“Yep. Scared the livin’ shit outta me knowing how long it was gonna take to git him here.”

“That’s not a copperhead, it’s a water snake,” the doctor calmly explained. “You would have been dead by now if that was a copperhead.”

The old woman laughed, despite her pain, and could not take her eyes off Dave..

“Can’t be just a water snake,” Dave objected, using his free hand to careful comb his bang away to a position on his forehead where he could see more clearly, “I could have sworn this was a copperhead. It’s the color of a penny, hain’t it?”

“No, they have the color of your wife’s hair,” the old, forgetful woman shouted from her wheel chair, licking her lips in lustful fashion at Dave.

Annoyingly, the arthritic pain returned to her legs the moment she spoke, as Cassie turned to glare at her like Medusa with a head full of copperheads.

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