Showing posts with label Ideas Backfired. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ideas Backfired. Show all posts

An Idiot's Guide To Surviving A Heart Attack

I run at 100 miles per hour.

One day it comes to a halt. My phone rings—which always freaks me out. I think my phone is only a camera or a way to demand a car. I look at the screen and the name seems kinda familiar…

Nude, Night, Illegal Bungee Jumping!

The best thing about having a best friend is having a best friend.

Whether imaginary, canine, spousal, or to thine own self be true, I highly recommend at least one. I treasure mine, Dale -- a live, in-the-flesh man that I met when we were boys on a school bus forty years ago.

Our friendship had the normal progression. We walked down the school halls talking about lunch, then sashayed down New Orleans' Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras with 15-year old Dale in most of a skimpy Aladdin costume, later enlisted together in the United States Marine Corps and jetted off to boot camp on Parris Island.

That one extra 'r" shape shifts Paris into an entirely different world.

Car: Bashing A Common Gorilla!

When I lived in NYC, I was driven everywhere in a taxi or on a bus. Or I walked. I knew I needed a car when I moved to Los Angeles, so I stopped by my Texas home and bought a racy red, vintage 1971 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia to drive out West.

You have to drive in LA. If you see someone walking, something is usually terribly wrong. They're either homeless, lost, recently convicted of a DUI, a hooker, or a Mormon missionary.

I bought the car mainly because the price was right; but also with the scheme of selling it in car-crazy, gold-rich California to some pot-smoking hippy Karmann Ghia collector that had cash and passion -- cashion. I'd make out like a bandit.


My Karmann Ghia had a new engine, the most important component for a cross country trip. The body wasn't in great shape; it had some rust, there were a few dents, the paint was faded, and my singing voice --was the radio.

Optimism and promise truly drive everything.

My friend, impossibly blue-eyed actor David Youse was moving from NYC to LA, too. So he and his hunk of a footballer brother Dougie drove to Texas, picked me up and we took off to California in a caravan. With iPhones still an Apple in Steve Jobs teenage eye, we planned to communicate with each other on the road by honking, rolling our windows down and waving frantically.
 
The stretch between Dallas and El Paso is twelve hours of open road -- flatter than a fritter, my Texan great-grandmother used to drawl. We passed passable towns. The only elevation change was the wavy degrees of heat rising up from the horizon. Stuckey's highway stores promise of clean bathrooms and pecan log rolls was our best excitement.

Around Abilene, movement caught my eye on the floorboard of the car. I lifted my sunglasses and squinted in the bright sun. (My cocky youth still allowed the corners of my eyes to wrinkle, confident the crows feet would fly away and not stick around.) The jagged, rusted cracks in the car's floorboard had opened like a can of Popeye's spinach as the car vibrated along; the car was dangerously separating from itself. The opening was large enough to let me see the road passing by at 65mph. Your own blood courses through your heart and you know it's happening but you aren't supposed to actually see it. The low bucket seat had felt snug and made me feel like I was driving a race car; but now I had to grab the steering wheel hard, past the intention of hanging on and into one of staying in.

Seeing the road flash before my eyes, I wondered if this would affect my sale price in California. I'd need to tape it up with that clear, strong tape old movie stars used to pull their faces back for a love scene.

I swear I did not pull a 'Tom Sawyer painting the fence' move on Dougie. He wanted to drive the Karmann Ghia from mile one. At the next bathroom break, I tossed him a Slim Jim from Stuckey's and the keys to my car. He took the bait and the movie montage began, under the imaginary groovy soundtrack from the hit TV show, The Courtship of Eddie's Father, People Let me Tell You About My Best Friend:

We repeatedly slowed, then sped up and passed each other on the highway. We'd swerve in and out of the lanes in a fun, care-free zig-zig way. We were young, incredibly good-looking, carefree. This open road was our world's oyster. Dougie slowed as he passed us, wearing a funny face or his hat backwards. I'd flip him off or moon him -- it was a wholesome hoot.

But when heavier-than-me Dougie pulled alongside and I saw the car seat coming out of the car, almost hitting the road, his blue-jeaned butt bouncing up and down out of the car like a biong boing boing spring, it wasn't cute. David saw sparks caused by the seat striking the road. Our caravan of dreams turned into a caravan of screams, so rather than ruin our road trip with a fiery explosion, we pulled over and I took my car back from Dougie. I weighed less, so the seat didn't drag the road. Yet.

Finally, El Paso sprawled on our horizon like a suburban hero. We would sleep there. My hands were tired from gripping the steering wheel as if that tight hold would keep my car together. As we pulled off the highway to a motel, my car brakes failed.

On the circular off-ramp, as I pushed down on the brake pedal, it just sunk down. It met no usual squishy resistance. Panicked, I pushed it down again, and it simply slammed to the raggeddy-ass floor. I feared I'd soon be Fred Flintstone stopping this car with my feet.

I knew how this went in the movies -- you push the pedal in again and cast a panicked look out the window to see that a high cliff is approaching. Your mind flashes back to the lover you scorned and you see them sneaking down to the garage as you peacefully slept with another's lipstick on your mind. They scorned cursed your betrayal as they use the long, silver-handled knife you had jointly used to cut your wedding cake, but now to slice your brake lines. I wanted to go back in time and make everything all right, but I just calmly downshifted, kept the car under control and coasted to a stop on the access road.

It was dusk when we got the car to a mechanic. I had to leave it there for him to evaluate the next day. The brothers Youse had a plane to catch in LA and needed to leave me in El Paso the next morning. I totally understood their need for speed; but as I waved goodbye, I felt like a lonely injured bird left in a nest while my stronger brothers flew to a new life. Had we been waving goodbye on a street in London, Florence or Boston it would have been less pathetic -- but it wasn't. If El Paso were a big smile, it'd be missing some teeth.

It was early evening by the time the mechanic put a band-aid on the problem. The entire brake line system was as shot as the floorboard and needed replacing once, and if, I hit LA. He showed me how to add fluid when needed to the line so that I could make the rest of the road trip.

I was now the car's nurse, adding insulin and checking life-lines to a feeble patient. It was going to be a long 825 miles. 

I joylessly resumed my trip. I pumped the brakes periodically, sort of like you repeatedly swallow when you have a sore throat to see if it's better. Repeated fast glances down to see if the floorboard had miraculously sealed up only proved it hadn't.

I floated the car over the center line in the road every now and then just to watch the yellow stripes flash up at me through the floorboard. I created a sound effect to go with the rhythm of the passing dashes. Bloooop, bloooop, bloooop. I was adjusting to my lame car, like a dog that loses a leg. We think it sad for them, but it quickly becomes their reality and they still excitedly hop to greet you, wagging their tail.

The desert had lulled me into a trance. Somewhere in New Mexico, all alone with my thoughts, dreaming of my new life in LA, carefully clutching the steering wheel of this fragile car, which was now an ironic manifestation of my uncertain future in a new town, I watched a tire gently roll away from the passenger side of my car and out into the desert. It bounced a bit as it floated away, and was kind of beautiful until my car dipped quickly, and sparks flew out like I was welding the road with my car. I heard a horrible screaming noise and as soon as I could, I immediately stopped screaming and took control. I smelled melting rubber.

If you know a glass is going to fall off a counter, the world goes into slo-mo; you can't stop it from breaking so you just jump your toes out of the way and hope you have shoes nearby. I pumped the car's brakes as if I had gone through this dozens of times, making sure I didn't jerk the car over too fast so the body wouldn't totally separate from the floor. I eased the beast to a stop.

I turned on the emergency flashers. I heard their click click click fade away and felt the mid day sun grow hotter and hotter on my stupid head as I walked back and into the desert to retrieve the wheel and ragged tire. I looked up and down the highway for Jesus, or my mom. But I had to fix this myself; figure it out. I took a moment, turned away from the highway, glanced over my shoulder, and had a good pee. A man's cry.

I didn't know enough when I bought the car to see that the floorboard was rusted out and I had no idea the brake lines were shot, so I sure as hell was totally surprised that there was no jack or spare tire in the trunk. Before my hope sank with the sun, a highway patrolman pulled up. I found out that highway patrolmen are nice, and might have no intention of pulling me into the sage brush and Deliverance-ing me. He radioed for help and soon a new tire was popped on my wheel.

Even though I'd never played baseball, I was meeting every curve ball thrown at me on this trip like an LA Dodger.

The deserted highway was eventually replaced with little shopping centers, loneliness gave way to lots of other cars, all going faster than me; but comforting nonetheless. Los Angeles is so spread out, and I was so anxious to get there and out of this crack house of a car that when I got to San Bernardino I thought it was LA. I still had sixty miles to go.

In the Marine Corps, I learned to save a little extra gas to fuel my legs to complete the last miles of a long forced march so I pulled from that same reserve to psych myself up for the last stretch of the road trip.

Out of deference to faster, non-collapsible cars, I drove in the slower far right lane. Any cockiness I might've felt as a former New Yorker was stripped away from me with the whoosh of each passing Porsche. New York is America's melting pot, and LA's highway system is a swirling whisk that beats everyone together. I was glad riding in the slowest lane in case my brakes failed or I had to respond to another emergency like a wheel rolling off, or the sudden, shockingly loud ping! that must have had something to do with the reflection cast by the metal rod I saw simultaneously fly out and away from my car.

I slowed my car and pulled over, now blase with my reactions to car catastrophes. Adrenaline can't be conjured up each time a fireman rushes into a burning building. It's been done.

California highways are courteously dotted with colorful oleander bushes to please the eye and emergency telephones to ease the mind in case of emergency. I coasted the car to a stop, landing near one of the phone boxes. As I released the clutch, the car lurched forward and hit the metal guard rail. The car shuttered to a stop. I started the car again, and tried to take off, but it lurched again to a stop, hitting the guard rail again. The bitch wouldn't go into gear and drive. Lest I cause more body damage, I turned the engine off a final time and got out.

When you are in a moving vehicle, cars seem a little fast if they pass you. If you're stopped and outside of the car, they seem dangerous and able to knock you down just from their back draft or noise. As I walked to the call box, I flinched as each one passed as if I were being flogged savagely.

I checked the front of my car for fresh damage, saw a bit of a new dent, noted that it was tiny relative to the car's overall condition, rolled my eyes and opened the call box. I spoke to an operator that needed to hear about 0% of what I told her. She assured me a tow truck was on the way.

I sat in my car to be safe, my doors locked from baseless, new-city fear and my sensitivities heightened by embarrassment. This was my entrance to LA -- I might was well walk into town in ragged clothes, dragging a cross. Doubt about this move reverberated through my mind, amplified by loud cars passing by as an all-out assault.

While I waited, a tiny brilliant light went off in my dulled head. I started the car and released the clutch again, popping it and lurching the car forward. I hit the guard rail again -- but now on purpose. I did it again, even leaning in hard with my body to emphasize the strike. My head thrashed a bit. I hoped I'd get whiplash, too. 

I started the car over and over and over and bashed it in as much as I could with the inspired intent to do so much damage that my insurance company would fix everything wrong with my life, I mean car.

I popped the clutch so often I worried I'd run out of gas from the constant engine starting. By the time the tow truck came the front of the car looked like my scorned lover not only cut my brakes but used a sledge hammer to drive home one big point. The driver told me that I had thrown the accelerator rod. There was no need to search for it; he said I'd need a new one.

 I need more than that, I thought, as I climbed into the passenger seat, happy to be rumbling into LA in this truck. I had my Karmann Ghia only in my rear view mirror, a hopeful foreshadowing to its past presence in my life.

Thanks to heavy traffic the truck driver soon knew my life story. I made my journey as interesting as possible, hoping to remove some of the tarnish caused by my humble entrance. He was fairly silent -- either a great audience or hard of hearing.

After a bit, he commented on the massive amount of dents on my car, and I explained that I had trouble getting it stopped and kept hitting that poor pole. I needed to convincingly tell him my story in case the insurance company called him on the witness stand to testify against me. I got a little dramatic and raised my voice if I felt I was losing the room, or cab, in this case.

"You got full coverage, boy? the driver asked, suddenly sounding hickish and all Deliverance-y, making me cross my legs and myself.

"Yep," I replied, not sure what he meant. He went on and on about insurance.

"Cause lots of folks don't get full coverage on them old "common gorillas", just the minimum," he said.

"I got full coverage," I assured him, continuing "because this is a collectors item and I'm going to use the insurance money to restore her to glorious perfection and sell it for a fortune."

I sneakily pulled my wallet out and read my insurance card. My eyes scanned the coverage and I hid my shock by closing my gaping jaw when I discovered that I only had basic liability. The self-inflicted wounds I incurred were not covered by anyone but me, as it legally should be.

We rode in silence.

I sold the car, to a collector as intended, and for a profit -- though not as large as I had wanted. I was lucky to get anything. The car was to be used as parts to supplement his other Common Gorilla's, proving that one man's treasure is another man's junk.

A welcome to LA is a welcome to life's open road. And not that much different from New York --  technically I was chauffeured into town.

Sam The One Day Dog

To Bob... for Skippy.

As I grew up, my parents never sat me down and had the talk with me. Several times I'd think it was coming. I'd hear a whisper in a hall or see them huddled over a cup of Mormon-friendly Postum. I'd linger a bit in anticipation of getting the talk; but after a few minutes of me standing there not speaking it just got awkward, so I'd shuffle off, mumbling I'll just be in my room if you need me, or something equally hopeful. They'd have smelled my desperation if Jovan musk wasn't so cheap and sold in walking-distance malls.

Greg White holding a cavalir king charles puppy in Sherman,CT

In my mind, the speech goes like this: Son, owning a dog is a big responsibility. It's a huge metaphor for life. You have to feed it -- like it's your very soul. You're ultimately responsible for the happiness and well-being of another spirit. A Blithe Spirit -- to use a term you might find comfortable since you seem to like being in those drama productions at your school that we never come to -- a spirit of which you and you alone are totally in charge. They must be walked and you must pick up their shit on the lawn like you love it. If we ever step in the unpicked-up shit, though. we will beat you like a red-headed stepchild. If you think you are ready to own and care for a dog, we can form a little committee and once you and your three brothers have all decided on one type of dog, we will go buy one.

The same dog?! We couldn't decide on the same pizza, let alone a dog. I realized that I couldn't swap a poodle for a German Shepherd like it was Halloween candy, so I just kept relatively quiet. We never did that family outing where we walked up and down the aisles of the SPCA. I know how it goes -- everyone is looking for a puppy. There's a crowd around the pen with the mass of wiggling yellow fur, and tiny children are being licked by a young pup named I Want This One Daddy!

But I keep walking and notice a lone, older dog in a pen that no one cared to clean today. She has one ear sticking up. She shakes a little as I walk in, because she isn't used to visitors and doesn't want to get her hopes up -- again. Life doesn't throw a tennis ball at every dog. She creaks up with hesitation and early hip dysplasia like a girl at the very end of the prom who's finally asked to dance. There's something in this dogs eyes that look back into mine, and start telling me her story. I want to hear more, so I take sign the papers promising not to cook her and I take her home.

After months of slow bonding and endless trips to the vet to try to heal everything that probably got her abandoned in the first place -- we are in love. Our slow-mo montage is laid on top of a Maroon 5 ballad, where we romp through fields. We sit in front of the roaring fireplace in our mountain chalet, and I take a quick minute to look up from my novel and smile at the sight of her sleeping all curled up, wondering why that doesn't hurt her back and how I ever lived without her.

Yeah, I never had that.

Like many people, my Aunt Cathie loves her dogs. She has passed this love sweetly to my cousin Sean It's heartwarming to watch their hearts melt at even the thought of their animals. Cathie got this gift from her mother, who we called Baby. Baby once had a black lab, Joker, who was able to jump her six-foot fence and run away. His desire to fly to freedom made no sense to me, because Baby's home and loving care were what all people, not just dogs, should have wanted to jump into.
    
Her son-in-law, my Uncle Jim, was playing golf one day. His caddy, James, happened to live in Baby's detached guest house over the garage. In addition to shining golf shoes and recommending a three iron over a five, he helped Baby with stuff around the house. One day, as James handed Jim his driver, his hand lingered on the club, not letting go.

"Mr. Jim, there's a dog in your mother-in-law's yard dragging around a skillet tied to his neck," he said, worried.

Jim appreciated the nerve it took James to speak to him about this deep concern. Smiling, Jim explained it all as he swung, "That's just to keep him from jumping over the fence."

Yes, exhausted and frustrated from hunting and searching and dragging crazy Joker back into the compound, Baby grabbed a cast-iron skillet from the kitchen she never cooked in and tied it to a long chain attached to Joker's collar. He could walk around the yard, dragging the huge, heavy, chicken-frying skillet but he couldn't jump over the fence. He never figured out why he couldn't jump, he just accepted it and roamed the grounds semi-freely. Occasionally his chain would get caught up on a tree trunk or a car tire; but he'd sit, patiently waiting for someone to pass by and hear his eyes pleading, Be a lamb and untangle me.

My cousin Sean and I later used this idea to attach our monkey to a cable between two trees in our yard on Balboa Island. He could zip-zip back and forth, and was still hands-free to masturbate incessantly; but unable to run away.

I got the itch for a dog years ago in Los Angeles. I decided to scratch it on a Jack Russell terrier. I found a farm in Thousand Oaks that also bred champion thoroughbred horses. I drove out on a beautiful sunny Sunday to have a little look see.

Los Angeles is full of canyons and valleys with properties that even Will Rogers would still be discovering, so I was thrilled but not surprised to drive into this never-before-imagined farm property.

A Hallmark commercial (starring me) began rolling. As I parked and walked toward the huge, stereotypical red barn -- a dozen Jack Russell tiny, fat puppies bounded out and ran down the expansive, rolling green lawn. One particular puppy leaped right into my sucker-arms. I wrote the check, tucked the pup in the passenger seat and drove off onto the Sunset. Sunset Boulevard.

Once home, I fussed over him and played with him. I took Sam (his new name) to a dinner party that night with David Youse and Tai Babilonia, passing him around like an hors d'oeurve. Later, I pulled him into bed with me, now not alone for once in a very long time. We clung onto each other all night, both sniffing each other and asking ourselves what we'd gotten into.

Before I hesitantly went to work the next day, I left his food and water in my bedroom, near the bathroom floor thinking that would be the easiest place to clean up the inevitable pee. I spoke in a loving, hopeful, song-song voice as I showed all this to him, left a gay-crazy amount of toys piled up, and closed the door gently.

It was dark when I got home. I didn't know yet to leave a light on for him. I eased open the front door to prevent his excited little body from squirming out past the guy he barely knew and might not remember.

But he wasn't waiting. Panicked, I flipped on the lights and started searching the house, sure that he had escaped out a door I left open or had been robbed by a PETA rogue. I hadn't even had the chance to act non-repulsed by the saliva-covered tennis ball I hadn't even yet had the chance to throw over and over and over.

When I walked in my bedroom, there he was, huddled in the exact same spot I had placed him in near his untouched food. He hadn't even chewed the price tags off the toys, nor drank any water. In a second I realized that the bouncing puppy I had watched run down the huge, rolling lawn, and had fallen so quickly in love with, was in shock and missed that farm and the horses.

I made a mistake asking him to accept my life.

I called the farm and told the owner what I felt. She understood. I drove him back to the farm immediately. Even in the dark, he ran out of my car, up the giant lawn and into the dark barn.

I hope he has a wonderful life, and not thought for a moment of selfish me. All of the time I get is borrowed. 

Of all my travels, I have marveled at the fantastic, shockingly pristine beauty of Alaska, which is rivaled by nothing in the world except the love I saw bestowed on the Alaskan sled dogs by their owners. Seeing Alaska is as breathtaking as visiting Paris in love.

Ive helicopter as a U.S. Marine, and twice I've helicoptered up through a sharp, frozen-in-timeless-beauty ravine and gasped from the thrilling ride and the stunning vistas. Even though the chopper is crazy noisy, all you can hear is the serenity outside. Alaska must be what owning and truly loving a dog is like -- everywhere you look you want to hold it in your mind and caress it and you don't care who sees you because it actually is just you and it alone.

As I landed on a blindingly white glacier, I saw the sled dogs jumping around and even before I de-choppered I heard them yelping as they strained against their chains. They get as excited as Baby's dog Joker did (pre-skillet) but to pull sleds. Whether it's tourists full of cruise ship buffet food or for the grueling, eleven hundred-mile long Iditarod these dogs are barking.
 

Only if the time is right, I'd like to earn the privilege of sharing my life with a dog. I'd love to feel what my friends feel -- that unconditional, constantly-surprised love when I walk through the door for the one thousandth time.
  
"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable." - C.S. Lewis

Maintenance Takes a Holiday

I utilize my Marine Corps training daily just to walk. Besides the strut, thanks to them I can spit polish boots, shine brass, fire an M-16 to hit an epileptic squirrel half a mile away. Mid fit.  But I'm not a handyman. I learned to rely on legions of expertly trained men to accomplish household repair tasks.

That lesson took awhile.

My rent-controlled apartment in Santa Monica is exactly like Loretta Swit. It burst on the scene in the early 1970's. Both had a splashy run, then faded with time, lack of attention and a lot of use. I got the apartment when it was on the decline -- imagine me seeing my place for the first time as the exact place in Loretta's career when Circus of The Stars stopped calling.

When I walked in the place for the first time, like Loretta, I wanted to cry. The place needed to be stripped entirely, gutted and then dipped in magic years-erasing paint. In a rent-controlled situation, if a landlord improves your apartment, they can raise the rent. So I figured how hard could it be? I didn't want to step on a floor or touch a door knob or turn on a faucet or switch on a light in that dingy place. It smelled musty, dusty and crusty.

I rented the place anyway and then spent a month improving it every night after work.

It had one of those cottage cheese ceilings. There used to be a non-subliminal diet tip/trend to slap cottage cheese on the ceilings so the chubby resident would lie in bed, wishing for ice cream; but look up and think, I'll have the less-fattening cottage cheese instead and then maybe someone will love me. I had to get that stuff off.

My friend Barbara knew how to do it and agreed to meet me after work one night. She was late, so while waiting, I stood on a chair and started furiously scraping the bumps off the ceiling. After forty-five minutes, I'd cleared only about a foot of ceiling. The room was filled with a cloud of white dust.  Frustrated and little dizzy, I kept on scraping back and forth.

Barbara came in screaming that I was doing it all wrong, plus breathing in asbestos. She got a paint roller wet with water and rolled it lightly over the ceiling. We barely had to touch the roller to the cottage cheese and it all instantly fell to the ground. 

I coughed for a month. If I lose control of any of my faculties, I am blaming that asbestos exposure. 
look ma, no cottage cheese
New Year's Day soon came and I resolved to change out the faucets on my bathroom sinks. Replacing faucets took four humiliating trips to see a bitch named Busy Bee Hardware in Santa Monica. The store looks like a quaint old lady, but you're waited on all proper-like in this store -- no touchy-touchy self-service. I heard the clerks giggle as I left, betting on how long it would be before I returned.

I read the faucet instructions almost all the way through. I knew that I needed to turn off the water underneath the sink. Those rhyming sing-song tips about life's lessons get jumbled in my head. Doubt creeps in my foggy mind when I have a cold. Is it starve a cold or feed a cold? As I reached under the sink and began turning the spigot to shut the water off, I wondered if it was lefty loosey, righty tighty. Or tighty-whitey, since that was all I was wearing to do this plumbing work. It was early in the morning and I was alone -- men do a lot of things in just their underwear.

I'd never done this; however, and was just beginning to enjoy the mesmerizing turn turn turn of the faucet that fit so perfectly in my usual hand, relishing in the power of being handy enough to remove ceiling coating, change doorknobs and speak to hardware people as comfortably as if I were discussing foreign policy at the U.N. with Taylor Negron and the Ambassador from Rwanda -- when suddenly, the handle popped out of the wall and into my hand.

Water rushed out right at me with an amazingly strong force -- like a fire hydrant. It spewed out two feet straight,  like clear (thankfully cold) projectile vomit. It gushed onto the cabinet's floor and out at me, landing on the bathroom floor. I jumped up, stared wide-eyed at the handle in my hand, and the looked back to the water shooting out of the wall. I froze.

The rushing, painfully cold water hit me and reminded me that it was New Year's Day. As in no one is working on a holiday. I wasn't supposed to be changing faucets for a hundred reasons. I was supposed to be eating black-eyed peas for good luck with Tai Babilonia.

Plumbers go to school, pass their trade down from father to son (and sometimes curious daughters), hang out in bars. At lunch trucks they swap stories about guys like me that try to change their own faucets and end up standing in their underwear on New Year's Day in a bathroom that was recently and jaggedly tiled by the very faucet-changing idiot standing here dripping wet.

I grabbed my bathrobe from the hook I'd just installed. The hook came off in my hand. I didn't know to put a molly bolt in the wall to support a heavy object, I just knew I needed the cushiest, plushest bathrobe money could buy. Stick to what you know, leave the rest to experts. I threw the robe on the pool of water as if I were smothering feelings and ran out of the bathroom into the hall. An artist friend had made the cutest animal heads into door pulls, and as cute as they were, the pull came off in my hand as I yanked open the linen closet. I tossed it aside like 20th Century Fox did Loretta, reached in and grabbed all the towels.

The water was almost ankle deep as I piled the towels down on top. I was basically spitting on a forest fire, with less hope of it being effective. I was all the girls in the shower scene tossing tampons at Carrie.

I didn't want to be there. I didn't want to be me. I wondered how long I had before the weight of the water caused the bathroom floor to crumble into the dining room below. And I had just scraped the cottage cheese off that ceiling. I wondered if I would crash through the floor, too, and get crushed beneath the rubble, discovered days later by a neighbor who went looking for their lost cat and found it licking my decomposing face.

I was a Marine goddamn it -- I was trained to lead men through impossible situations. I'd eaten reconstituted eggs, I'd swum in mud -- I'd worn a not-great green. I took control and pushed the knob into the gushing water's source. Soon I made contact with the valve and started screwing it in. The threads caught and the knob closed the valve. The water slowed, then ceased.

Almost. Almost isn't good. The valve had a tiny drip. I was able to squeeze a small plastic cup underneath the valve and the pipe to catch the water.

I mopped up the water as penance. I hated it and enjoyed hating it as my punishment. I put on pants out of shame -- I didn't deserve to prance around in my underwear. As I finally soaked up the last puddle in the corner, I discovered a tiny, black rubber ring. My heart sank. I knew it was the washer to the valve and without it, I would never get a drip-less seal.

I wasn't about to open the water back out onto the floor again; I'm not smart but I'm not stupid. I did what anyone would do. I stayed in that bathroom, sitting on the floor, and emptied that little cup under the sink about every five minutes.

I waited until 3AM, when everyone in the building was hopefully asleep, and I crept into the basement, located the main water valve. I shut the water off to the entire building.

I raced back upstairs, praying that no neighbor was enjoying a post-coital shower, euphorically covered in memory-erasing, germ-killing suds when Bam! the water stopped. Imagine them all sudsy-eyed, reaching out for a towel or their lover's hand, and not finding either.

Within a minute I'd slipped the valve's washer back on the valve, run back to the basement and turned the water back on.

How to Break a Washing Machine

Years have passed; but not a day goes by that I don't regret removing the banisters that once lined the staircase hallway so it would look less cluttered. I'm sure it's not safe. But I can't call in a handyman at this point.

If I ever give this apartment up, I wonder if I get my deposit back.

How to Succeed in Getting a Rent Controlled Apartment in Santa Monica Without Really Crying

Rent control is a true thing of beauty, except rent control doesn't last forever.

Santa Monica abolished rent control years ago; but I'm still grandfathered in. Unless word of my monkey farm leaks out or I violate my rent agreement in any other way -- my rent only increases a small percentage each year.

During the reign of rent control in Santa Monica, Landlords held actual royal titles along with the titles to their precious buildings. They ruled the town, and the serfs/subjects/renters are, if still under the protection, beholden to them. We're a humble lot, aware that our very shelter can be ripped out from under us and we might be forced to live in some faraway Valley, or banished behind the Orange Curtain.

If some idiot left the village on their own accord, abandoning their apartment, no blatant For Rent sign appeared on the street advertising the vacancy. Instead, hushed whispers spread throughout the land between insiders and friends. Drugs and bodily fluids were exchanged in alleys and at cocktail parties for apartment tip-offs. If an available apartment surfaced, one had to act fast -- and stay on the good side of anyone you knew who knew anyone with apartments. This was the dark ages, there was no email, no Facebook or texting. There was no internet; begging then was old-school and manifested in the form of flowers being sent, and was not tweetable. Courting was not yet dead.

I got the call for my Santa Monica place in 1992 from my savvy friend Jerome Nash, who told me of a magical place opening up: Two-bedrooms, near the beach, with a pool and underground parking. He knew the owner and would put in a good word for me.

You can own, free and clear, a sprawling estate in Thousand Oaks, with horse facilities, three guest cottages and a twelve bedroom mansion, but if you hear of a rent-controlled anything in Santa Monica you jump on it like lions on a zebra kill. Mother Theresa would bless -- then step over -- the poor and drop Princess Diana's full name to get one of these apartments.

As I drove down the street to look at the prospective unit for the first time, I noticed most of the buildings looked suspiciously similar. I figured that on or about 1970, a group of real estate developers were all at the same dinner party hosted by a stoned architect, and everyone got very ill from blinky fish. As a result, they collectively threw up this entire block in one day.

I was excited as I pulled up to the well-kept, modern building to meet the manager. As I walked to the front I tried to look sexy and confident in case the manager I was meeting was peeking out a window, sizing me up as they smoked a joint. I tripped on the sidewalk, recovered, and slickly raised one arm to sniff for sweat, then deftly dropped that hand in front of my mouth to check my breath. My other hand discreetly passed over my crotch to fluff my package. I was in date mode, which included a tight shirt and the understanding that I am totally prepared to put out to get what I wanted. Whether it's a pizza or a palazzo -- both carry the same importance.

When I met the female manager, the tightness in my pants eased. The contact of our hands switched on my charm, as if I had an invisible joy buzzer concealed in my palm. I shook her hand firmly but gently and flashed my store-bought smile. Her middle-aged face didn't get out much anymore and I knew she was anxious to get back to her cats and tawdry novel. This was like a job I wanted, a deal I wanted to close, a romance. She had both the pussy and the prize and though I just wanted the apartment, I made her feel in the first five minutes that I might want her too. I might want that apartment.

She pulled her worn cardigan closed over her t-shirt, as if she were Scarlett O'Hara and I had glimpsed her in the altogether. Perhaps I brought a little water to her well as I let my hand accidentally on purpose touch hers as we entered the elevator. Nervous chatter ensued; I was being sized up. I wished my pants were still fluffed.

I entered the vacant unit, expecting to be excited, but I wasn't. I had a bad feeling -- the same disappointment the world would come to know when you meet someone in person who doesn't look like the photo they used online. One learns many things in life, but the rapid recovery of a public letdown is among the first. Lose or win, everyone needs a Pageant Grin.

The tan vinyl tile in the entry hall was now yellowed as if it had smoked unfiltered Camels. I kept walking, and even though the apartment was empty, I felt someone was still there, like I was going to turn a corner and a man who hadn't bathed in days would be huddled in a corner with crazy hair, whacked-out on chemicals and rocking himself into eventual oblivion.

The rust-colored carpet crunched beneath my feet as I walked in the living room. If this were Japan and I were asked to remove my shoes, I'd rather slip into the kitchen and commit hari-kari instead.  The once-white walls were now stained Joey Heatherton beige, from years of smoke and being hermetically sealed behind forgotten doors. Just like Joey.

A fly flew in my open mouth; probably how the manager sensed my concerns. She asked me if I wanted it. She had others coming as well; but my connection trumped theirs, so I had first dibs. It was like really, desperately wanting a hooker on Santa Monica Boulevard, and you're Hugh Grant and you suddenly find yourself blurting out to whatever limps down the street, Get in the car. 

"I'll take it," I said.

I know some people enter a relationship accepting faults in the other person because they see the potential, underneath the Gap shirts and second-hand shoes. We give our mates a makeover; if I were willing to touch a wall, I could have scratched them and seen that underneath the grime was an apartment that with a little work, would become a jewel. I could see that from where I was safely standing.

I spent the next thirty days renovating the apartment before I moved in. I did whatever work I could, and that is another story.

That first date turned into a 20-year relationship. Potential contains our true beauty, and that lasts forever, for potential means hope, and hope springs eternal.

Fred, the owner of my building is a good man, but most people assume building owners as ogres. When my darling friend and neighbor, Debra Fox, was diagnosed with the cancer that would eventually take her surfing on the giant final wave to heaven, I noticed her rent-controlled unit had dingy walls and bad carpet. I took a shot, called Fred and told him of Debra's illness. He painted and replaced the carpet the next day. He didn't raise her rent; but he did ask what more he could do.

I'm one of the few remaining in my building under the protection of rent control. Neighbors on either side of me pay twice what I do. About ten years ago, my friend Pieter moved to Santa Monica from NYC, and needed an apartment. I knew the building owner's sister -- even she lived in the building at one point -- and introduced Pieter to her one day, with no motive stronger than the introduction. Upon hearing his housing need, she bizarrely suggested that Pieter go to the owner's company picnic -- which was the next day -- and maybe chat someone up and be considered for an upcoming vacancy. Um, okay.

The next day, Pieter went to the picnic in a park he had never been to before, in this new city, alone. Soon he was flipping burgers in that park.  He suddenly found his left leg strapped to the right leg of some stranger. By the end of this picnic that stranger would be yelling, "Call me, Pieter." Soon he handed him the keys to his new apartment.

We might just grow old together, that apartment and I. Good thing it's roomy. I wrote my book, The Pink Marine, here. 

Dude, Where's Your Pants?

Part of the fun of staying in a hotel is ordering room service.

Room Service In Bed

In exchange for the money hotel guests pay for a room, everything that happens in there, stays there. If that weren't the case, black light wands would detect sunshine and happiness when passed over a Hilton bedspread, not remnants of a teenage hooker's life and DNA so perverted your eyes bruise, causing thoughts so foul you can smell them.

I worked in room service at Morgan's Hotel in NYC in the 80s. Break that sentence down, and add it was wild after every other word. Sprinkle the sentence with immoral and illegal. If a guest checked into the hotel with drugs and a bellman sneaked into their room and stole the drugs, who're they going to call?

The maids were the first on the scene to find evidence of foul play. Guests tended to abandon porn magazines like Red Hot Milky Mamas featuring lactating women, rather than take them back home to be discovered by their wives, mothers, or airport security personnel. I can see the young, clean cut businessman from Ohio, rushing to catch his flight home. His suitcase falls open, sending his filthy magazines scattering onto the airport floor, along with the doll he bought for his daughter.

Morgan's housekeepers were all recent Chinese immigrants, and these meek, quiet, giggling, women had not seen anything like this back in their country. It all makes sense now -- if they could clean up a U.S. hotel room, they can take over the world.

A rumor spread like gossip about a guest in Room 1103. He kept flashing his staff to the hotel staff who serviced his room. Both his bold act and rumored penis size were impressive. I heard.

He'd call the front desk and report trouble with his television. When the engineer arrived, he found the TV simply unplugged. The engineer plugged it in and when he turned to stand, the guest would be naked. The engineer left politely. Soon, the guest would order room service. When one of my team members arrived, the flasher would be in a complimentary hotel robe. Perfectly normal, they were cushy cotton robes, available for purchase upon checkout.  But when the waiter put the dinner tray down on the desk and turned around, he faced a tip. And the rest of the guest's penis. This went on for about two weeks. David Youse saw it at least six times. He became blase´ about it.

I had to see this penis. I missed so many opportunities and I was afraid he was going to check out or get beat up by that one mean Russian engineer.

One night, I got excited when an order came in for Room 1103. A coke. That was it. Who orders a Coke from room service? A pervert. That Coke probably cost ten times its street value, but he obviously didn't care. I tossed caution to the wind and braced myself as I rode up in the elevator, holding that huge tray with that little bottle of Coke and lone glass of ice to get flashed by a sicko. I was in NYC, living the big city dream.

I knocked on the door. He answered wearing just a towel, not the bathrobe I was expecting. That took me a back a bit. I walked in confidently, noticing that he was more handsome than I imagines. I'd figured him as the kind of guy who would be, but shouldn't be, nude on the beach. I pictured him all humpy, living in his mother's basement. All his friends were creepy too. But he looked like a regular guy. I crossed to the desk like the scene had been blocked by a skilled director and I knew the actor's next line.

I'd turn and his towel would drop, revealing his massive member. I'd gasp, slap the demented but hung man with my imaginary hand, telling him that I wasn't that kind of boy, and leave. You can open your own Coke! would be my stinger of an exit line.

I was glad my back was to him and that I had business to do, it hid the fact that I was a little nervous -- we all have a first time. Instead of fumbling with buttons or a bra closure, I shakily moved the Coke bottle off the tray. He spoke before I even turned around.

"Let me get my robe," he said.

And he did. He wrapped the belt tightly around his waist as he signed the bill. I left as if I'd just delivered eggs to a middle-American family. As I walked to the elevator, two room service cohorts surprised me by jumping from a hallway where they had been hiding while I got non-flashed. They wanted to see my reaction to the flasher.

I let those amazingly supportive guys down. And myself. I felt so dejected by the flasher's rejection. Sure, there would be other times, my pals assured me, as we rode down the elevator.

"You're too good for that small town perv," they told me. 

The general manager asked the guest to leave a couple of days later, claiming the housekeepers were freaking out.

What a way to honor the hotel room no-holds-barred attitude. God love him, I am sure the advent of the internet was his biggest blessing. He is now free to practice his beliefs in his mother's own home. He was my first pervert, but I was not his.

In a hotel, I am the guy who messes up both sides of the bed so the maid doesn't think I slept alone. I also remove any suspect garbage myself. And when I order room service, I am sensitive to the waiter and any trepidation they might feel about knocking on the door of a stranger's bedroom. I make sure there are plenty of lights on, and there is no evidence of a good, relaxed time in my room. We do our business, I sign the bill and escort them out.

Getting Back to My Roots

I don't have a full beard. A few years ago, I threw fashion to the wind and decided to grow a goatee. For those of you who can easily do so -- screw you. It's hard. As it grew, I resisted the urge to whack it off for about a month. But I was strong. I watched, worried and coaxed the little scraggly hairs out, trying use-the-force-Luke. I orchestrated a scruffy comb-over to encourage thicker areas to help hide completely bald spots.

In the 1700's, one of my ancestors floated over to the colonies from England, refused to ask directions and ended up in Missouri. Luck had his back and he fell in love with a one-named Indian woman, Ishopnarta. Their love story fascinates me.

I imagine that Ishopnarta led a happy, peaceful life in Missouri. She roamed the mountains, canoed rivers, wove papooses for her more traditional girlfriends that had settled for fellow tribesmen. Yet she wanted more. She stood on the edge of the cliffs at night. She prayed to some eagle or forefather, possibly the same spirit, and chanted for true love. Her fantasies were verboten; dreams to dare not but speak -- even in smoke signals. She dreamed of a White man who would take her away from her nirvana-esque yet woodsy existence and show her off at parties. 

When she met my ancestor, aptly named 'White', she assumed she was meeting the main white guy. The Original Sin as her father screamed from the hills as she left the village with her new husband. 

She traded in her teepee for a tiara, and within weeks was the toast of Kauffman, Missouri. Did the town's glitterati accept her after she used her new wealth and old skills to generously build wings for their museums, hospitals and injured birds? I want to think so.

You need at least one sixteenth native American blood to reap the benefits offered by the U.S. government as restitution for killing the majority or Indians. I mean they not only took their land and abused the innocent but also twisted the life-saving corn lessons we received when we were fucking starving at Plymouth Rock into hateful GMO practices.

I can trace sixteen different ancestral lines back to the 1600's in the U.S.; however, I face constant worry that the pure lines are diluted. Who knows who sneaked in?  I feel pretty safe – all of the census reports contain names that are easy to spell. But my Native American blood is so weak that I got no college scholarship benefits and the closest I can get to owning a gambling operation are the tiny cash payments I make to the Palm Springs casinos

What do you get when ye olde English blood is lovingly mixed with Choctaw? Smooth skin. I hardly have any facial hair. From merely a stern look in the mirror each morning, I'm pretty much shaved. 

One wants what one doesn't have. I've always wanted a string of polo ponies and one of those lush Village People mustaches. But while my damned fine breeding gets me onto any social register on three continents, it prevents me from growing a decent Van Dyke.

As my attempted scruff emerged, I looked less like Andre Agassi and more like Scooby Doo’s Shaggy. The shocker was that it was mostly grey! At my age, if I donate sperm officially (after years of self-guided donating), I shoot blanks. The same with my whiskers. I obviously wasted my dark beard years.

A friend advised me to simply cover the grey with a cheap hair dye kit. I’d seen the ads – in five minutes my life of shame and embarrassment gets rinsed away like a Christian’s sins in a quick moving stream.

I perused the color selections on the boxes in the hair color aisle of Walgreen’s. The women’s hair color offerings caused me to pause and marvel at the wild swirly up-dos on the boxes that the crazies at Clairol used to lure balding, white-haired women into believing the hair fantasy would be their exact result. 

I asked myself, "Is this truly what I've become? A beard dyer?" as I ran my finger along the Just for Men boxes, considering all of the different colors.

Even though I hadn’t killed anyone, I knew this is how it starts. Testing beard dye on lab animals is the first step in a serial killer’s journey. I remembered that they took that Menendez brother’s toupee away. He had to face 20/20 as a barely twenty-five year old, bald murderer. For those not following Nancy Grace he must have looked like he’d been scalped in a wicked prison initiation.

I stopped at the ash brown color selection. That seemed like my head hair. But then I saw black. Well, of course my beard was black -- who has a brown beard? Whitney Houston? I stashed the box of black in my cart, hidden among the yogurt, Snapple and dozens of other items I didn’t need. I went home to regain my youth.

The urgency to get this done on this exact day was driven by a black tie event that night. I'd bought a table to save something or wipe something off the planet with a check. I read the directions o the dye box almost all the way through, then heavily slathered the black goop on my face and neck. Oh -- since my beard was so skimpy, I hadn’t shaved my entire face and neck for that month so that I could take full advantage of whatever did grow.

I looked like a hillbilly who had won the lottery but only fixed his teeth.

I was concerned about the directions. It said five minutes; but my beard was as white as Ishopnarta’s bastard baby that probably led to my ancestor’s bow-and-arrow wedding. Five minutes?! This was no longer Just for Men – it was Just for ME. What could this company know about me? How much research was done to back up this bizarre, wild claim?!  I left it on for a good hour. Then I looked in the mirror as I ran the hot water in the sink. My plan was to shave off whatever I didn’t need from my neck and face (which was 90% of what I had working).

I should also let you know that no one taught me to shave; no one saw the need. I have no blade shaving game. By the time I'm finished I look like a murder victim. I don’t know whether to call a cop or the Red Cross.

I rinsed my face and looked in the mirror. My skin looked stained black under my scraggly facial hair, too. Not to worry.  I applied the shaving cream, braced myself as usual and shaved my neck. I carefully shaved the sides of my face, which was like licking whipped cream off a girl’s belly, the razor met no resistance since it was whisker free naturally. I was careful to not shave my chin, and carved the little Van Dyke goatee. I stiffened my upper lip for the first time ever for actual purpose, and shaved off the tiny hairs that dared to invade the “bow” so desirable in a man’s lip line, if that man is Goldie Hawn. I rinsed my face free of the remaining cream, and looked back in the mirror. My perfectly sculpted jaw, probably a gift from Ishopnarth herself, dropped.

I now looked like the love child of Shaggy and Bluto from Popeye. I had a black stained face. It looked like I was in blackface, not in a hilarious Ted Danson/Whoopi Goldberg way, more like I chickened out halfway through.

I scrubbed my face with soap. Nothing came off except my perma-smirk. I hopped in the shower, and stayed in the steam a long time. I clasped my pruny hands together and tried to pray the black away. I dried off with my towel, slowly rising to check my reflection in the mirror. Still Bluto. I ran around the house and grabbed Comet from under the kitchen sink. I rubbed it on my face furiously, knowing my skin would regenerate, and if it came back smoother then I could start an unprecedented three way bidding war on my patented treatment between Elizabeth Arden, Georgette Klinger and Burke Williams. 

Raw, panicked and black. This is what Michael Jackson must have felt like during sex.  My head jerked around as my eyes shot looks from my tickets for the charity ball, to my tux hanging on the back of the closet door, to my new Ferragamo tux slipper shoes with the little grosgrain bows that were anxious to make their debut, and back to my dyed face. 

I didn’t use the tickets, or go to the ball.  I stayed home that night and the three following. I sat in an uncomfortable chair and ate a frozen dinner not completely thawed just to drive the point home that I was a stupid dye box directions violator.  Although a fairy might have popped by later, no godmother swooped in and waved a wand to remove my temporary mark of Cain. 

The dye wore off in about three days, along with my desire to have a beard of any kind. I used that time to be grateful for the hair on my head and not covet that which my ancestors carefully bred out of me. If I cut myself, do I not bleed blue? Yes, with just a little red, thanks to Ishopnarth.




America's Got Talent

Doing hard time in prison for money laundering and tax evasion? In between (and during) the shower rapes, perhaps you dream about the day your sprung and what you'll do first. Maybe you want to devour a huge, juicy t-bone steak that sizzled on a grill, or buy condoms. I'm not a psychologist.

If you landed in the butt-pokey for money laundering and tax evasion crimes committed with your business partner back when you owned Studio 54, and you're in the big house together, you might dream of a big house.

That's exactly what future disco-tax-dodger-cum hotelier Ian Schrager dreamed of with his partner Steve Rubell (though Rubell might have been more focused on the prison sex) while they were locked up. Because as soon as they were sprung, they opened what is regarded as the first boutique hotel, Morgan's on Madison Avenue near 38th in NYC.

I moved to NY with an apartment and acting school in place. I needed a job. My roommate did some public relations work for Morgan's hotel and thought it would be a good fit, so I applied and was hired.

It was a good fit, we wore chic grey uniform suits designed by Calvin Klein. Calvin K himself kept what looked like hustlers in his apartment at Morgans. Maybe he wrote them off by using them as "fitting models".  I worked in room service. Bianca Jagger also lived there. She'd call me every night so we could spend ten minutes on the phone giggling.

She asked. "Greg, darling, I am so bored. What do I want for  dinner?"

I'd list the menu items, and she'd repeat my boring pronunciation of "chicken" with her luxuriously accented "ccchhhhhhhicchhyyen".  As soon as she made one sound sexy enough, that was her dinner.  If a cheetah could talk, it would sound like Bianca Jagger asking me what she should have for dinner. I can't believe Mick left that sexy but admittedly whiny purr for Jerry Hall's Texas twang. To a boy fascinated from afar with the glitterati cafe society of NYC, I 'd arrived and was all up in it.

Rubell and Schrager couldn't get a liquor license since they were felons, so we called a local liquor store. The store delivered when the guests needed booze. We always threw in a bottle for ourselves to share among the crew. We sat in the stairwell waiting for a guest to order dinner, knocking drinks back and entertaining each other.

Someone brought a boom box to the dirty old basement kitchen at Morgan's. I had a raggedy cassette tape of Patsy Cline hits. I draped a dishtowel over my head, grab a wooden spoon and lip sync along to Crazy. I'd like to tell you that this took a little hooch in me to do; but that would be dishonest. My audience each night were my fellow waiters, the chefs and a Rastafarian dishwasher, Clyde. They didn't make a hairnet big enough to contain his giant dreadlocks, so he just wrapped his huge "do" with a plastic garbage bag and worked away, stoned as a rich hippie. Clyde was thrilled to be in America "mon" operating an automatic dishwasher.

Rubell was cheap -- hence the tax evasion conviction. He didn't see the need to waste money on a night manager for the hotel that catered to the world's elite; he trusted us minimum wage 20 year-olds to cater to the needs of Cher and Liza. The bellmen got to know which guests checked in with cocaine, then used their pass key to steal it. Shockingly, no guest ever called the front desk to report that their drugs had been stolen.

The place was wild. With no night manager on duty and this being the city that never sleeps, the staff was left to run the staff. We should have fired us, and charged us crimes. Instead we got tipped.

During one of my Patsy Cline tribute sets, the day manager, Terry, walked through the kitchen/stage.  She paused, took the whole scene in, processing it in her Hyatt School of Hotel Management-trained mind. Instead of seeing us as staff on-the-clock drinkers that stuffed our faces with stolen shrimp, she saw the chance to showcase the talents of an all actor/model hotel staff.

The hotel had a swanky, elaborately gorgeous restaurant designed by chicsters Philippe Stark and Andre Putnam, but no one used it because Rubell and Schrager were one liquor license short of a good time.

News of the event spread like gossip does. My friend David Youse conceived our act: David, Henry Hodges and I  would perform a medley of Ellie Greenwich numbers. In drag. Ellie wrote the hits Da Doo Ron Ron, Leader of the Pack, and a Marine Corps favorite, Do Wah Diddy Diddy. Not only had David seen every Broadway show since about 1980, but he also owned the soundtracks. Plus basically every show ever recorded. He fascinated me by putting on obscure Chita Rivera show in his Hell's Kitchen apartment. He had a wall of sound and video equipment like no one else in town. I was constantly amazed that he was never was robbed; he was constantly amazed that I walked down his block eating macaroni and cheese doused with Red Devil, bought at Smiler's deli. (I evaded hookers and stepped over a steaming mass of passed-out homelessness to get in that market and their really good mac 'n cheese.)

David mixed the medley of Ellie's hits. We each had a spotlight number and in between our solos, he spliced in the wedding bells from "Going to the Chapel and We're Gonna Get Married". We changed positions during that segue with some simple footwork. The three of us rehearsed a few times, and we felt pretty good about our choreography. Fashion designer Victor Costa and my mother sent up a couple of his ball gowns and one red Halston from her closet. Henry Hodges was muscled, so he donned the red number. Fitting since Halston loved muscles. David had wigs left over from a caveman skit he had done in another show. We struggled a brush through it to remove the bones that were rolled up in them.

The three of us found white pumps for ten dollars on 42nd Street. For three pairs. We ducked in to Duane Reade Drugs, shelled out the same amount for Lee Press-On Nails and some light blue eye-shadow. There was no chance of us looking like anything but trash. Dolly Parton once said, It takes a lot of money to look this cheap. For us, not so much money. Henry bravely decided to shave his armpits, but that only puzzled David and I because Henry's dress wasn't strapless. We knew we wouldn't be beautiful, but we were hoping for somewhere in between Tootsie and The Crying Game. Look, first prize was a VCR, and that was incredibly motivating.

But who were we to judge?

Showtime! Clyde the dishwasher, baked out of his mind on dishwashing detergent and ganja, helped us zip up our dresses and press on our nails. The three of us waited for our turn, watching truly talented co-workers get up and present amazing acts for the judges.

We looked at each other nervously. Sure we were ready and knew our act; but this whole night had gotten out of control. What had been meant as light-hearted fun born from a dishtowel and a dream, had turned into Shakespearean monologues from Juliard students and self-written songs played on guitars shipped in from Brooklyn. How would our act, which was basically three hideous trollops mouthing the words to My Boyfriend's Back and You're Gonna Be in Trouble -- not be offensive?

We didn't actually care -- I wanted that VCR. None of us had one; they were pretty new. Warren Buffet was rich, but he hadn't bought one yet. He was still having his original wife and kids re-enact famous movie scenes for him while he ate his signature popcorn.

As we walked out and onto the stage, I brushed my wig out of my face and left three of my press on nails in the nylon, straggly hair. My boyish figure couldn't keep my dress up;  it slid down a bit and I slipped a nip. The crowd loved it. While that reaction is fun; I was horrified. My coworkers were baring their soul and all I was baring was my balls, and those only metaphorically.

Maybe the serious talent figured the celebrity judges would help them get acting jobs, I don't know. We were there to have fun and committed to do that. But I felt a little guilty, like I was up there making a mockery of the process. I didn't even know who the judges were until later. The restaurant was dark, and Rubell had all kinds of hangers-on and did a lot of drugs, so for all I knew the judges were his mom and his childhood imaginary friend. Turns out it was Rubell, Liza and Bianca.

We made it though our number perfectly, bolstered up by rehearsal and vodka. We did our little jigs between each other's solos. We had to hold for laughs a couple of times. We did our job as entertainers and our act killed. And we won.

Jenny Robertson, a young actress who had just started working at the hotel, ran off the stage crying. I thought, "You better toughen up sweetie, this is a tough town and a Hamlet soliloquy can't beat boys dressed like girls." David and I wanted to believe that her hopes and dreams were crushed forever; however, she soon quit to star in Bull Durham and went on to star in dozens more films and married well.  Superhunk Bradley Cooper wasn't onstage that night -- he would work at Morgan's later. If he had been there, he could have just ripped off his shirt and beaten us with one bicep tied behind his back.

We were aware of the reputation that being Morgan's and Paramount workers had. It was fun and we didn't usually have to wait in nightclub lines. We totally took advantage of it. If we needed a good suit to wear to a personal event, we snuck our uniform out of the building and wore it. It was a pretty tight group, some of us were fired and rehired many times. Richie Notar went on to own Nobu and that is one hard-to-get reservation connection that keeps on giving.

Rubell had a good time at the talent show, too. He had declared that only one VCR would be awarded. Liza lept up, and shoved him back into his chair.

"You cheap sonfoabitch --I couldn't save my mother from those bastards who run Hollywood; but I'll be damned if you're gonna cheat these boys out of electronics!" Her hip popped out of place and she had to sit.

I guess Rubell felt bad, because we all got one.

We found Rubell later that night, passed out on the floor near his hotel room door. He wasn't dead, just asleep, his keys still in the lock of his door. In an incredibly cliche´ maneuver, his hustler of the night had relieved him of his wallet, coke, shoes and pride.

I know the clock on that VCR is flashing in a landfill somewhere.

It's Only Monkey

I'm sure rich moneybags leaving their dough to relatives in a trust fund do so in order to protect the inheritor from running out and spending their money foolishly. Or else they end up buying a monkey.

See, my cousin Sean came into the principal of his trust when he turned twenty one. Some cruel estates make heirs wait until they are twenty-five or thirty, or in the most horrible reach-from-the-grave I ever heard of --my friend Peter Porteous from Dallas wasn't given control until he was forty. Poor Peter could reach for his dreams but never a check.

Long Island Lockjaw The Hard Way

So you’ve moved to NYC! There’s no parade, no welcome wagon, no committee formed that's led by a Prozac-laced housewife with brochures. No directions about how to live in the big shitty, and definitely no food safety tips. 

 My first day living in NYC, I was excited to try all the amazing foods I'd never even seen. I sat in my apartment wondering if hunger would make me brave enough to venture out. 

I spied a grocery store across the street from my apartment on Columbus Avenue. As I entered, the ceiling felt low; but I'm sure I was comparing it to the vast supermarkets of Texas. I cheerfully grabbed a basket and jauntily headed down the aisle. I picked up a can of something and the top was dusty.

"Hmmm," I thought, as I returned it to the shelf and grabbed another can. Also dusty. We had a situation on our hands. I looked around as if to find the manager and tell him that whoever he was paying big-city wages to wipe these cans was screwing him over.  I picked up a steak from the meat case. The meat was brown on the edges, as if it were old or not artificially dyed the way I was used to. 

“Be calm,” I said to myself, hyperventilating but trying not to breathe in too much of this filthy air. I wanted to grab that steak, like Mary Tyler Moore in the opening credits of her TV show, and fling it into my basket with sticker-shock. But once I saw this dirty, brown meat, and since I was still reeling from the filthy can incident two aisles away, I dropped the meat back in the case like a hot rock. 

I left the building. I didn't toss my beanie in the air with reckless abandon like MTM. This grungy city didn’t deserve my new hat. I ate take-out that night, and many nights, which was great because I was exposed to some of the best cuisine in the world. Whatever little war-torn country everyone in NYC had floated over from, was now represented here by amazing food. 

I loved deli food and often grabbed a bite to eat from a street vendor or a fabulous hot dog from Gray’s Papaya. It gave me something to do when I walked countless blocks. (As you might have heard I was unable to take the subway.)

One night about 2AM I woke up and felt ill. My roommate went to our nearby Korean grocery and picked up Sprite and Pepto Bismol. I think he picked up a trick, too; the two-block trip took over an hour and I heard the all-too-familiar sound of belt buckles hitting ankles in the hall. The remedies didn’t help; I kept throwing up. Turns out I caught my first case of food poisoning. Technically I was due. I was so excited to try all of the food in the city that I tried all of the food in the city. I had to roll with it -- this case of food poisoning was like a cold a kid brings home from school: I couldn’t pinpoint exactly who had given it to me so I couldn’t beat anyone up. 

I worked at Morgan’s Hotel on Madison. Owned by Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, of Studio 54 infamy. They only employed actors – I guess they loved putting up a good front. They knew about putting up a front (and back in Rubell’s case) because they were newly sprung from prison for hiding cash from the IRS when they owned the legendary disco. Gifted NYC chef and restaurateur Larry Forgione (American Place) sent a chef to work at the hotel. I worked as a waiter in room service, but I unnecessarily befriended that chef, Mark. He taught me useful cooking things, like how to make stock.  In return, I put a dishtowel on my head and lip-synched Patsy Cline songs into a spoon. Chef Mark and I became tight. He even shared with me that he was walking funny one day because he was recovering from an adult circumcision. 

One day, in some clever Freudian homage to his former foreskin, Mark was painstakingly removing every suggestion of fat from chicken parts. He used surgeon-esque precise swipes of his chef’s knife. Maybe he was about to interpret a classic French chicken dish. Perhaps create an all-new chicken masterpiece, reviewed in the Times and named for him, allowing him to finally emerge from Forgione’s shadow to open his own bistro.  


This was a great chance for me to witness this perhaps epic event. It was also a great chance for comedy. With one swoop of my hand, I scooped the chicken fat off of his board and shoved it in my mouth.  
I ran upstairs to the front desk. It was staffed with the most beautiful girls in New York. Freakishly gorgeous, young, natural blond debutantes who weren’t born, they were bred,  kept in a lab under tight security until the hotel needed them. These girls were a most cruel welcome to the guests. They carried a message from NYC itself to visitors: “Welcome to NY. We, like this city, are too good for you, so don’t get comfy. Just give us your money and leave.” 


I crept in the back door of the front desk, getting the girls attention by making “Lookout, I’m gonna hurl!” sounds and motions. I wretched and grabbed my stomach, working it as long as I could.  
After I had a captive, and stunning audience, I let the chicken fat fly from my mouth onto the floor. 
That was the whole gag. I “fake” threw up in front of beautiful girls. One yawned, one re-applied her lipstick, one almost made eye-contact, but they all ignored me. What I didn’t think through was that this didn’t faze them – they probably threw up as sport in front of each other, to trade tips on hair-holding and noise control.  

I cleaned up the mess and returned to room service, appropriately one floor below. Pain woke me up the next day at 5AM. My jaw throbbed from a horrible toothache. I took some Tylenol. I wished my mother would magically appear and take the pain away. She’s not a dentist but she’s terribly influential.

Being Saturday morning, my roommate wasn’t yet home from Friday night. I knew few people. I broke open the phone book and began calling dentists in my neighborhood. (I was in too much pain to travel out of my residential comfort zone.) By 8AM I was sitting in a dentist chair a few blocks away.

“You have great teeth,” he excitedly reported.  “But have you been exposed to salmonella lately?” he asked.  


Due to the pain,  it was hard to think. I knew I'd been exposed to disease, filth, and a rare combo of all of those when I recently encountered Steve Rubell passed out in his hotel with his pants down.

"You have lockjaw," he diagnosed. "Caused from salmonella. It's present in raw poultry," he went on. 

My eyes lit up. Through a jaw clenched shut by poison, I regaled him with the tale of my chicken fat bit. Lockjaw is only glamorous when it is an accent spoken by the population of a teensy part of Long Island, passed down from generation to generation, like a silver service or pouty lips. 

For five days I lived on anti-biotics, McDonald’s shakes and potato chips.  My Aunt Cathie washes her uncooked chickens with soap.

When Rachel Ray tells you to wash your hands after handling raw chicken, just fucking do it.

Don't Ride the Subway Nor Eat BBQ In NYC

When I moved from Texas to NYC, my family hosted a send-off in Dallas. My mother pointed her finger at my chest, sliding my body across the room into a corner like I was on a track. With a foreboding witch-like look on her face, her eyes got all wild and Barbara Bush-the-1st crazy. The room grew darker, from the corner of my eye I think I saw lightning. Her finger poked me rather hard and her voice suddenly went from sweet to raspy. I thought she was going to tell me I was adopted, or that my VISA card had a limit.

"Beware of BBQ in New York!she hissed.

Others in the room concurred, like a coven casting a vote. "BBQ?" I chortled. "How the hell can a bunch of Yankees not know how to slow-roast meat? It's fool proof - slap it on the heat, slather it with sauce and forget it for a while."

On old man got up from the corner and spoke; I don't even think he was invited. He was a huge presence that just suddenly appeared, like China.

"Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens. Stay away from B-B-Q," he warned. "And don't take the subway; that's how you end up in those places," he said.

I was familiar with the city as a tourist; however, my family was concerned that living there was going to terrify me. I reminded them that I had just finished six years in the Marine Corps. If I could wear nothing but olive green for all those years, I could do anything.

My apartment was on the 2nd floor of a pre-war building on Columbus and 70th -- a terrific neighborhood. Right above a Chinese restaurant, but I didn't trust the food, it was too close. You entered the apartment through the kitchen, which served as our foyer. As you continued into the living room, the ceiling grew to fourteen feet. At the end was a floor-to-ceiling window that opened onto a fire escape. I called it our terrace.

The first time my little brother Clay came to visit, I let him in and rushed back to the bathroom to finish blow drying my huge 1980's hair.

"Should I wait in the living room?" he asked.

"You're in the living room," I sighed.

I felt lucky to have this apartment. I particularly enjoyed the parquet hardwood floors that were inlaid with a darker outline in different wood, laid very carefully and with only the skill brought over by a teen via a ship in 1885 from Hamburg. I imagine the German immigrant that lived in the apartment, tired from a long day of cobbling or making schnitzel, coming home, thinking, "Boy, could this parquet use some inlay! I'm going to lay here on the floor and with every ounce of strength I can muster I will inlay this floor, improving my mood and the hip-factor of the Upper West Side in the 1980's." I appreciated his effort.

For my entire tenure in the city, I never became familiar with the NYC subway system. I had the impression that once you entered the subway, the doors locked shut and it sped off into a dark tunnel and didn't stop until it was good and deep in Brooklyn. Then the door opened, spitting me out into the dirty street and announcing to the awaiting horrible cast-offs forced to live there, "Fresh meat, Brooklyn. Have at it!"

Unmentionable ravage would occur, like lions on a zebra kill. Like the unseen scene hinted at in Suddenly Last Summer.

So I walked a lot in NYC. I rode the pokey buses, pretending I was a tourist. I took cabs when I could; but didn't ride the subway unless I was with friends. After acting class one day, starlet Chelsea Noble (before her role as Mrs. Kirk Cameron) convinced me to ride the subway with her. She thought me crazy not to take advantage of this rapid transport system. I thought her crazy for being young, beautiful, and inviting throngs of men to attack her and steal her innocence and morals. Turns out the right-wing did that just a few years later.

Then I got cast to play a doctor delivering Nina's baby on the soap Another World. This is great news to an actor, unless your agent tells you that they tape in fucking Brooklyn. She might as well have told me they filmed in Hell, because Brooklyn is in the forbidden BBQ triangle. Why couldn't a rich soap opera character come into the city and deliver her baby?!

My agent casually gave me my call time. In fucking Brooklyn. She told me what trains to take. "Are you writing this down?" she asked.

No. I was looking out my rear window to see which building was the highest, and if my body would disturb anyone as it fell to the ground.

"I'll take a taxi," I said.

"It will cost you every cent you'll make on this shoot! You'll take the subway." I'd signed with the agency Writer's and Artists and didn't want to anger them. I braced myself for the subway trip.

Deep breaths and baby steps got me onto the train to Grand Central at 6:30AM. I emerged into the vast terminal and looked for my train. The letters on the sign swirled, looking more like gibberish in my panic. But I found my train. It was jam-packed, like a compilation of Bee Gee hits sold on TV.

I stood, hanging onto a straps. I tried to stay calm as the train emerged from the tunnel, into the daylight, and along the top of some famous-looking bridge. I could see that I was leaving Manhattan behind. The unease I was feeling must be why Woody Allen never comes to LA for the Oscar's.

I got off the train at my appointed stop. I was the only person that did so. I stood there for a second, looking around at the warehouse-like buildings. I had no idea where I was headed and had no sense of direction. Though that might be a tremendous metaphor for my life, I couldn't grasp that and look out for bad guys at the same time. And check my hair in the reflection from a broken but taped-up window.

I walked a bit in one direction, then another. I wasn't feeling it. I'm a former Marine. I've shot azimuths hundreds of times, with a compass in vast woods, mapping out grid co-ordinates to lead my squad to an objective. This concrete jungle should be cake. The motivation that I should be on time for one of my first professional acting jobs should have prodded me enough to find the huge television studio.

But it didn't feel right. Perhaps I had gotten off at the wrong stop. No one else was around; weird when I was used to crowded Manhattan. It was as if my train ride and decision to enter Brooklyn had confirmed my family's belief that Brooklyn was evil and had caused the Apocalypse. I stood there, literally at a crossroads.

I walked across the tracks, back onto the train platform and took the next train back into the city.  Sure, I felt defeated; but I was alive. My murder and subsequent dismemberment was not going to be the lead story on the news that night. Whitney Houston and the entire casts of Cats and  Dreamgirls were not going to have to sing all of the songs at the memorial led by Elton John and Maya Angelou as previously planned.

I called my agent from a payphone in Grand Central Station. She wasn't pissed, she was in shock.

"You fucking idiot! The entire production is waiting on you to deliver Nina's fucking baby!! She is contractually unable to reach up and pull her own baby out of her own fucking uterus and shoot a pretty look into Camera B at the same fucking time!! Now you have to get in one of your precious fucking cabs and get your idiotic ass out to Brooklyn, where I live by the goddamn way! I hope it costs you every cent you have!!" She was a skoch angry.

I jumped in a cab, feel gin both stupid and comfortable. I had a great time on the show. Nina had a beautiful, healthy, plastic baby.

I've never been back to Brooklyn. And I've never eaten BBQ in New York.

When I'm in NYC now, I take great relish in riding subways. I seek out chances to ride them. I have ridden the subways on trips back to NYC, and in New Jersey, Philadelphia, Boston, London, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, and Montreal. But I drew the line in Istanbul. I know for a fact that those trains do indeed lead to white slavery, and after all of these years, I'm not falling for that.

My Kidney Stone: The Wildest Ride At Epcot Center

You can eat for free at Denny's on your birthday. I never remember this offer in time.

Usually on my birthday, about 11:30PM, I'm strolling along the Seine after a rooftop dinner somewhere in Paris, holding hands and looking at the same moon as you, and it suddenly hits me -- Merde! I missed a free Grand Slam!

In 2009, you could get into Disney World for free on your birthday. I was born mid-July, so even free entry would not get me to go into central Florida at that time. So we went in April for a 3-day weekend, willing to pay full price.

We drove from Fort Lauderdale to Orlando. It's boring. Pulling into Orlando is like pulling out after sex, you're exhausted, limp, and glad the entire ordeal is over.

Our hotel was a condo/hotel combo, a virtual timeshare if you will, seemingly owned by Radisson. In the lobby a booth offered 1/2 price admission tickets to the park. What was the value I received in exchange for this huge savings? I just had to listen to a "one hour" timeshare presentation. I figured that we would hear the pitch at 9AM then be screaming our heads off, hurtling through space on a ride operated by a teenage mother with a neck tattoo by10:30AM, tops.

If you have endured a time-share sales pitch, you know what happens. If you haven't, it's horrible. As painful as a kidney stone, for instance.

Once at the pitch office, our attempt at resistance started with Bob tearing apart their entire business model, proving (on a cocktail napkin) to the salesman that the only winner was the timeshare property. That only excited them, and they sent rep after rep in, each more aggressive and powerful than the previous.

They played us like a fish on a line out in the deep sea, and we fought back, yanking their line, refusing to be landed and end up being served in a red Lobster as the high-interest, long-term special you only use once a year for two weeks. In Florida. In the Summer.

We were finally promised our tickets after four different salespeople had their hooks in us. When they brought in the Asian dragon lady, I lost it. This five feet tall woman, dressed in what she probably called a suit, slid over to us like a vertical serpent. In her mind she was a sexy Bond girl, with poison fingernails and a past. To me, she was small enough to pick up by the scruff of her accent, slam against the wall, hold her by the neck until her eyes bled and her tiny body stopped wiggling, and rip my 1/2 price admission tickets from her cold dead hands. As I walked away a little Western flute music played me out.

Of course, in real life, I calmly headed for the exit, grabbed the park admission tickets and my ID from the pregnant teen with the neck tattoo and kept walking. Our 10:30AM goal was now 1PM, and I was hangry.

A friend suggested that once in Epcot, I eat something from every "country" and actually challenged me to do so. I thought it a splendid and ingenious idea.

First stop, England! We sat at an outside table at their idea of a "pub", which featured a small lake replete with swans, just like the pub I love in Knightsbridge. We split fish and chips, pacing ourselves. By ourselves, I mean myself. I eat about three meals to Bob's one. He's a good sport but he does judge.

Next on our path was Japan! Oh the joys of wandering about ancient Japan, right in the middle of America's backyard. Gone were the wondrous temples and the Tokyo traffic, replaced with silk cherry blossom trees and a sushi bar. I know the rule is "eat no seafood in the desert", but since the advent of Fedex I feel more confident in eating theme-park sushi.

Around the bend, Italy! That land of exotic lore and legendary food. They offered a wide range of Italian specialties, conveniently packaged and served in these cute little aluminum tins. A quick zot in the microwave and soon I was burning my tongue on semi-authentic lasagna. All this walking around the world kept my appetite up.
In front of a world's greatest treasure replica
I will say I think the bratwurst in Germany was not the smartest choice; but there was a screaming kid in there, so -- sort of like the naughty, all male after-Polo party I went to in Wellington, Florida last weekend, I panicked, grabbed a weenie and ran.

In hindsight, I didn't drink enough water. Sometimes beverages and pre-meal free bread take up valuable space that I need to ingest more interesting and flavorful things.

The food I ate in Norway was only memorable because I saw one of an off-duty Disney dwarf's pair of lingonberries. He should have asked a smaller buddy if his lederhosen were too short.

I wolfed down a kabob in Morocco. I washed it back with a hot dog from Africa. Not sure how that represented Africa but I am always so happy to grab a dog. We ended up in Mexico where Bob noticed it was cocktail hour, so I slipped him a Disney Mickey -- aka a seven-layer margarita. I ate nachos. I made a quick and necessary backtrack to France so I could inhale a crepe and a chocolate croissant.

Now I was fully sated. I sat back on a bench, undid my pants, remembered where I was, fastened up my pants, and looked at the map of Epcot and turned my thoughts to the fantastic rides of which heretofore I had only dreamed.

It was now 6PM, and I was ready to be thrilled by the rides. Our first "ride" was some sort of movie experience. We ran in place and jumped up and down. I was tempted to break a sweat, in honor of Florida's humidity, but I resisted. I felt ill though. I asked Bob to locate the nearest bathroom. Before he could return, I discretely threw up in a tiny bag that held a gift I bought in Japan-land (a spoon made in China).

Bob was amazed and relieved that I had taken care of business so efficiently and alone but he scolded me for eating so much. Every country?!

I felt progressively worse, quickly, and when I doubled over we decided to leave immediately. Although we had been together over a year, we had never seen each other ill. It was very sweet, Bob heroically almost carried me out of the park, towards the car.

But I was paralyzed by pain. I could only lay in the parking lot and scream. Bob called 911 from my cell phone, but my California number confused the emergency person. But a Disney ambulance swooped in within 3 minutes.

My day at Epcot was over, and the only ride I took was that ambulance. I grabbed the EMT hottie by the collar, drawing him close to my face, Give me the strongest stuff you got. He shot me up with morphine. I would have let Miss Scarlett hit me with the candlestick in the Library if it alleviated the pain.

At the hospital, the admitting nurse had to ask Bob for my info, as I was only able to scream. She asked if we were brothers, which at first I found funny, naive and idiotic. Brothers?

I was aware enough to fear that the hospital personnel might not let him make medical decisions for me, being a same sex couple in a state that just let women vote a few years ago; but that one nurse's action kept us together.

Bob told the nurse about my eating something from every country. She looked at me and shook her head, with that unmistakable, "People are crazy and dangerous, take this boy's money" disdain. She slid an IV into my arm.

She left our room and I continued to scream. The EMT hottie popped his head in, he might have been shirtless now (I was delirious) and asked why I was still screaming after all the morphine he had shot in me. I threw up on his boots and he ran away.

The pain was intense and would not pass. Bob grew weary of my screaming (it had been about ten minutes). He left my room to tell the nurse to come order me to shut up.

He came back in with her, both all smug and pain-free. She carried a tiny baby in a body cast that made his arm stick straight out. If you put a little cup in his hand and left him on a corner, he'd haul in a fortune. She examined my IV line and noticed it was twisted. I knew something was wrong.

Nurse Wretched handed the baby to Bob. He looked at her with a very serious and mean, "Don't hand that plastered-ass baby to me you crazy bitch nurse," but she did anyway, with an equally threatening look at him that said, "Drop or injure this baby and I will snap your curly head like a twig you Canadian, Disney-loving, freak."

You learn a lot from someone you love in moments like this, although I'd not wish this experience on anyone. But through my pain, I saw Bob walking that tiny baby out in the hallway, pointing at pictures and asking the baby if that thing he was pointing at was cute, or funny. I made a mental note not to change my passwords but marry that man whenever Prop 8 was sorted out and Tiffany's increased their Registry inventory.

My pain eased a bit, I moaned instead of screamed Bob sat by my bed and distracted me by asking me about things I liked, like making lists. We made a list about making lists. Soon an attendant barged in and wheeled me to a cat scan machine as I shamelessly moaned and screamed down the hallway, kicking at ashtrays.

It took all my might (and I'm incredibly strong) to lay down flat on the cat scan table. As I slid into the tube, I felt weirdly better.

The scan completed, once I got out of the machine, I stood up. No pain. At all. It was like I was at a revival and the ride on that cat scan healed me! Hallelujah!

In a bit, a doctor came in and told me I had passed a kidney stone. He droned on and on about the process, to which I nodded and appeared interested. He gave me a little strainer and asked that I pee through it until I "caught" the stone.

I took the strainer, thanked the hospital staff like we had just wrapped a movie --and tossed that little strainer in the trash can. I had no interest in that stone. What was I going to do with it, have a ring run up?

We very unceremoniously drove back to Epcot, and when your car is the only one parked in the Disney lot - it's extremely easy to find. We left Orlando the next morning.

I chose not to alter my diet to avoid forming more stones. Avoiding chocolate, spinach and soda held no interest to me. Last summer, I did have another one. How quickly we forget even the "male childbirth" pain of passing a kidney stone.  I thought I had food poisoning.

But I passed the stone a day later, during orgasm. While that is a new thrill to an old game, I hope never to repeat it. I learned to hydrate, and often.

I won't listen to a time-share sale again and I won't eat something from every country all at once, but I do hope to taste everything. Twice.