FINDING MY BLISS

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It was the Eighties. It was “snowing” in our noses – especially mine, with a cocaine habit that was turning me into, “Willy Honka And The Nose Candy Factory.” As co-founder, Vice President and head writer of Asterix Productions, a company producing corporate entertainments, I was burnt out of what was left of my mind. For years, I had been writing three proposals a week, corporate shows, sketches, lyrics, speeches and award presentations while maintaining a career as a musical theater writer. Juggling more balls in the air than Cirque Du Soleil, I was often in meetings from 9AM-7PM and the only time I could actually sit down and write was between 9PM-3AM. So it was ‘coke’ that gave me the bump I needed to stay awake and keep on going.

I’d take a toot first thing in the morning just to get out the door and since the kick only lasted a couple of minutes I’d keep on snorting. Writing all those shows, I was making a good living that went up my nose and rationalized that the more I snorted, the more I could write, the more money I could make. My sinuses were clogged. I’m not a grumpy guy but my temper was growing short as I descended from the hamster wheel of artificial highs. I even took to stealing my mother’s sleeping pills to come down at night. Between weed and coke I was up and down like a toilet seat spinning out of control until I became the poster-guy for quitting.

Keeping all those creative plates spinning, the only way I could concentrate on writing my own labors of love was to disappear into the woods for a week or two. I had rented cabins up north for two years and this year, in 1983, I found a place up in the Haliburton Highlands where I rented a cabin in the woods for ten days.

My previous sojourns had been two-hour drives from Toronto, and Haliburton was almost four hours away. But to escape the eyesore of suburban sprawl you had to go that far to find those luxury items called, silence and fresh air. So, with nostrils worth a small fortune, I packed up my IBM Selectric typewriter and headed for the woods to quit coke cold turkey.

After a three and a half-hour drive, I came to a gated dirt road through the woods that lead to a cluster of cabins. The owner of the place greeted me at my car – Ditmar Arff, not a name you easily forget. He had a growling Doberman Pinscher with a spiked collar on a short leash. With a thick German accent, Mr. Arff pointed to my cabin and a homemade sauna with smoke sifting out of a chimney. A German accent, a Doberman on a short leash and a building with smoke curling out of the chimney was enough to make all my Nazi nightmares feel like they were coming true – and here I was to detox. Mein Herr handed me the key to my quaint little pine-paneled, linoleum-floor cabin a few yards away from a beautiful gushing waterfall.

I decided to embark on my rehabilitation while it was still light out. Walking deep into the woods, I stopped at a clearing. There, I put a curse on myself. I touched my nose and vowed out loud, “If you do one more snort of coke you are going to die.” “No! No! Weekends only!” protested the voice in my head. But I prevailed, “One more toot and I wish you death!” “No, no! How about Wednesdays from 6-11?” negotiated the addict voice. “No!” I commanded myself. “One more toot and you die!” It worked. The voice in my head shut the fuck up. My nose thanked my brain and I never touched cocaine again!

I don’t recall any particular withdrawal symptoms; maybe because I didn’t have enough discipline to also give up smoking marijuana that I brought along. But perhaps there was a side effect to my coke withdrawal after all – paranoia. The constant gurgling sound of the waterfall became white noise. But how could I hear branches crackle if someone was going to break in and stab me in my sleep? I decided that the only way to overcome such fear was to scare the shit out of myself, push myself to the limit and anything less than that, would not be scary. That night, I smoked a joint and happened to have the soundtrack of Psycho on my Walkman. (Who doesn’t?)

Stoned out of my mind, I put on my headset, grabbed a sharp kitchen knife and wandered out into the woods in the dead of night. Crazy? Uh-huh. But I thought it was actually a creative way to overcome fear. With Bernard Herrmann’s spooky score playing in my head, I stumbled through the pitch-black woods waving the knife in front of me in case I ran into a Nazi, bear or Sasquatch.

I made it back to the cabin alive and settled in to read at the kitchen table. Around 2AM I glanced over at the window, and there was a fat man with a red beard holding a flashlight under his third chin. But I didn’t jump. I didn’t scream. After walking through the woods, stoned, listening to Psycho, anything less than that, did turn out to warrant no more than a double-take. It so happened that the guy had driven on to the premises and couldn’t find his way in the dark. He saw my light on and wanted directions to his cabin.

I spent the week in exquisite solitude, reading, canoeing, swimming, barbecuing, hiking and writing an ambitious play called, “Kiss Me Goodnight, Eddie” – the history of America through the Ed Sullivan Show.

I’m a sunset fanatic and my cabin was facing east, so I couldn’t see my favorite end-of-day psychedelic spectacle. So every night, I would get into the car and drive to a clearing somewhere, in search of a spectacular sunset. Driving around the lake, I wondered how much a cottage cost. I’d been renting for three years and had no idea of the price of paradise.

Along a wooded country road, I passed a tree with a random For Sale sign on it and the name of the realtor, Dorothy Hewitt. I was inspired to write down the information and would call her tomorrow. As I scribbled down her number and name, a red pickup truck stopped. A skinny white-haired woman in her 60’s stepped out and said, “Hi. I’m Dorothy Hewitt. I was driving by and saw you writing down my name. Are you interested in a place?” I had always had a lot of synchronicity in my life, but this not only took the cake, it took the bakery! “What are you looking for?” Dorothy asked. Being a height and sunset freak I said, “I know it doesn’t exist. But I’m looking for a place on the top of a cliff in a pine forest on the lake facing west so I can watch the sun set.” Dorothy smiled, “Come with me, I want to show you something.” She lived down the road and led me into her living room. Pointing to a cliff across the lake, Dorothy said, “It’s the Rutherford Estate. It’s exactly what you just described. I’ll take you there tomorrow.”

The next evening, as the sun was setting, (she was no fool), Dorothy drove me to the other side of the lake. We rumbled down a mile-long bumpy, twisting, private road. At the very end, in the middle of a pine forest, was a dirt driveway. We passed two small guest cabins and at the end of the driveway, was a forest green structure that looked like Snow White could have lived there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut I didn’t want to see the building yet. Instead, I went straight to the cliff. As the sun was setting, the air still smelled like warm pine and the plaintive cry of a loon echoed across the pink-purple lake that reflected the farewell blaze of a sunny day. I had to hold back tears at the serene beauty of this magical spot.

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On a path of pine needles, we crunched our way toward the house. It was an historic large green building that had belonged to a wealthy logging family. This was their dining hall and they stayed in cabins, two of which remained on this property. The enormous room had twelve French windows, a cathedral ceiling, a huge stone fireplace and pine floors. There was a complete bathroom with tub and two sinks. The kitchen with a large pantry had the original stone floor from the 1930’s that had been laid right on the ground and had buckled over fifty winters.  The place would need a lot of work, but I had the imagination to know what could be.

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I hadn’t seen any other cottages to compare. So in the next few days, Dorothy showed me other places, small, dank, claustrophobic cottages slammed up against other similar cottages. They were cheaper, winterized and ready to move in. But none had the land, the view, the privacy, the history and the drama of what was to become Heen Acres! My heart, my soul, my romanticism and appreciation of solitude told me I must have this place. And so I returned for another visit to the enchanted six acres of forested paradise on the lake. I picked up a stone and etched into a rock on the cliff, “I’ll be back.”

As a realtor, of course Dorothy told me there were other people interested in the property and the owner, who lived in Chicago, would not take a penny less than the asking price – which was all the money I had in the bank. I was planning on using my savings to move to New York. But New York would always be there – this opportunity for a piece of peace would not. Amazingly, I didn’t need anybody’s approval except for my accountant who advised that I could not lose buying lakefront property. I took his advice and not wanting to lose my dream to another bidder, I offered cash. Being superstitious, I withheld my secret for weeks while the offer was considered. And then, in early September came Dorothy’s phone call, “Congratulations, you’re a cottage owner!”

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Wanting to surprise my mother and sister, a week later, I invited them to join me for an Autumn drive up north. They thought we were going for a little spin to see the Fall colors. Almost four hours later, I led them on to the property, saying I wanted to show them the beautiful view I discovered while on my trip there last month. The three of us walked the path through the woods to the cliff overlooking Haliburton Lake. My sister spotted a faded wooden sign warning, “Private Property.” She said, “We better go. The owner will kick is out.” “No, I won’t.” I said calmly. And then screamed, “I OWN IT!” Needless to say, they didn’t believe me. But after cracking a small bottle of champagne on the rocks and excitedly giving them a tour of the property, they believed me – although I could hardly believe it myself.

Three decades later, Heen Acres has become part of my life cycle. Having lived in major cities of Toronto, New York and now Los Angeles, I treasure every warble of a loon, every sun-drenched day, each breath of pine scented air and shooting stars that wink across the night sky. Every sunset, I’m perched on my cliff front row center for the best show in town.

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Dorothy Hewitt died recently. But I’m sure she can hear my sighs echo into the skies, grateful for the embrace of fate that stopped me at that tree to jot down her phone number – and thirty-four years of bliss.

 

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PSYCHO-HOTTIE (Pt. III)

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It had been three months since I tumbled down the rabbit hole with my March Hare. In fact, it was the month of March and caught up in a whirlwind of caring and co-dependence, I had unwillingly become the Mad Hatter. I knew my own sanity was at stake and this episode should have been the finale.

Easter. My fellow tenants were throwing their yearly Easter party for the building and friends; a drop-in affair of Easter eggs and champagne. Being Catholic, and estranged from his family, James wanted to spend this Easter Sunday with me. And so, I invited him to join me for the pastel festivities in my building. A few hours later, he pulled up in his Porsche convertible, tanned, handsome with a bouquet of flowers for the hosts.

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I proudly entered the party with my Cuban arm candy. Every head turned and as always, his charm sucked the energy out of the room – until he yanked me into the bathroom and closed the door with a worried look on his face. “Honey,” he purred, “I want to spend today with you but there’s this guy who’s been stalking me on a website and he wants to meet today.” Instead of looking for a toilet plunger to whack him across the head, I suggested he simply not reply to the guy. Due to the mercurial nature of whatever we were, and since our dynamic changed hourly, we weren’t “exclusive.” But James had wanted to spend the day with me and said, “Let’s leave the party and have a nice dinner, just you and me.” I told him, “It’s Easter Sunday and every restaurant will be booked.” But addicted to his smile, I left him alone at the party and went upstairs to phone around for a table for two. I spent a half hour on the phone and finally found a nice romantic restaurant in the neighborhood. When I returned to the party, James had invited 12 people to join us! It was easier to acquiesce than negotiate and so James and a dozen neighbors and strangers walked down the hill to an Italian restaurant in the neighborhood.

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Seated at a large outdoor table on the sidewalk, James ordered a $300 bottle of wine and handed me his American Express Gold Card whispering, “Honey, I’m paying for everybody. Here’s my card.” I refused to take his credit card telling him he was responsible for this latest turn of events. Then, he takes my hand and whispers that he had invited the online date he had never met to join us for dinner. At this point, I really didn’t care if Jesus, risen from the dead, joined us.

We all ordered and by the time my Tortellini arrived, so had James’ phantom date. The man’s eyes bulged at the sight of James with his arm around me and at what must have looked like the first and Last Supper. I actually felt sorry for the guy and removed James’ arm from around my neck. But when the man sat down and joined us, I stopped feeling sorry for him. If it was me, I would have left in a heartbeat. But who was I to judge being in a pseudo-relationship with a psycho-hottie whack-job? I had to pee, but knew if I left the table this guy would leap into my seat. I did. And he did. Next thing I knew, James asked me to step inside the restaurant.

James perched on a barstool and exclaimed, “What did you do? I wanted to be alone with you and you invited all these people to dinner?” My jaw hit the bar. “ME? YOU did this!” “Well get rid of them, I just want to be alone with you, hunnneee.” Then he stopped and said, “Oh. Wait. I like this song.” There wasn’t any music playing. Did Schizophrenia just get added to the list? Then he further charmed me with the words, “You know, I don’t know if this is going to work out. I could never introduce you to my family because you’re Jewish.” I wanted to order a drink just so I could splash it in his face. Instead, I ordered an end to the evening. When we returned to the sidewalk table, everybody was gone; except the tab that rivaled a month’s rent. James paid it with his American Express.

As we walked back up the hill to my apartment he said, “I don’t know how you put up with me.” I agreed and couldn’t wait to send him on his way. But then he said he would like to stay the night. He never stayed the night. And my co-dependent cuddle trigger went off with the chance to wake up with him in the morning. I said, “All right.” He responded, “Never mind. Think I’ll go home.”

As he climbed into his car, I asked, “Are you all right to drive? You’ve been drinking since noon.” “I’ll be fine,” and he hit the road. My exhaling rivaled the Santa Ana winds. But then it occurred to me that I shouldn’t have let him drive home after drinking all day. I phoned James in his car. He was almost home. I told him to call when he arrived. Never heard from him. Worry crept in, since suicide had been on his to-do list. I jumped into my car and drove to West Hollywood. I buzzed the intercom. No answer. Was he busy blow-drying his hair before sticking his head in the oven? I wouldn’t be surprised if he was in there with the phantom date. I drove home and went to bed, at least knowing I tried. The next morning brought more insanity….mine!

Easter Monday. I woke up still concerned about James. I phoned. He answered, mad at me for letting him drive home drunk, but he wanted to be held. I had a pitch meeting in the afternoon but offered to stop off at his place on the way. I believe it’s classic for a Borderline to twist things to make you think everything is your fault. It worked. I stopped off to buy an apologetic bouquet of flowers. I pulled up in front of James’ building – it was on fire!

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So there I was running into a burning building with a bouquet of flowers. Now who’s the mental case? Firemen with hoses and axes were appearing and disappearing in the smoke and although the alarm was still dinging, a fireman said it was over and all right to enter.

James’ door was ajar and I entered his apartment where he was puttering around looking more handsome than ever in a tight white tee shirt and grey sweatpants. He started to ramble about last night. I shoved the bouquet in his face and slammed my hand against his mouth insisting, “Don’t talk. Just don’t talk. Don’t talk!” We collapsed into a long clutching hug of caring and confusion. James broke the hug and asked if I wanted to make love. I looked at my watch. I had a pitch meeting in 90 minutes. But one flash of that 100 megawatt smile and  I melted faster than the furniture in the lobby. But with the clock ticking and the alarm bell clanging I had performance anxiety. I secretly popped a Viagra. Pretty soon, the only thing climaxing was anxiety punctuated with, ‘What am I doing?’ I told James I had to go and left. However, I had forgotten that it takes Viagra about an hour to kick in. An hour later, I’m at a pitch meeting standing in front of a couple of producers and…BOING!

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POST-SCRIPT:

A friend reminded me that I’m a dramatist and so I thrive on drama. True, I may be a nut magnet, but as I’ve grown older I’d rather pay to watch a drama than be embroiled in one. I had been aware of my self-inflicted spiral into nuttiness and learned that Borderline Personalities suck you into their drama, project and twist it to make you doubt your own sanity. I had willingly been caught up in the Hollywood fantasy that epitomized beauty and wealth on the outside and a steaming hot mess on the inside. After subsequent episodes of James’ crystal meth relapse, abandonment crises, tender poetry followed by insults and false accusations, plans and arrangements that always turned into chaos, I knew there was an expiry date to the insanity since I was soon leaving for my summer in Canada.

Being a dramatist, I wanted to bookend our “relationship” by taking James out for an expensive dinner. Instead, at the last minute, he changed our plans and our last date was an AA 12-step meeting. I was glad to accompany him and after the meeting I said, “James, I’m proud of you.” He replied, “I don’t need your support.” Taxi!

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(Excerpted from, “Nut Magnet – An Autobiographical Assortment of Fruits and Nuts”)

PSYCHO-HOTTIE (Pt.II)

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So this was James. About 5’8” Cuban, coal-black eyes and wavy hair, blinding white perfect teeth that launched a killer smile, half-dressed in a tuxedo and a little manic as he ran around, trying to get dressed. In the middle of this hottie hurricane, he stopped and asked me to do up his tie. I approached my date who could easily have been a soap star, and was glad to see he wasn’t that much taller than me. He even smelled good. As I clipped on his tuxedo bow tie, I hit the reverse button in my imagination, tearing off his tie and ripping open his white perfectly starched shirt. Instead, he whirled around his apartment getting ready, he stopped and said, “This is me relaxed.” Another red flag hoisted up the flagpole. But I quickly tucked it away and scanned his apartment for clues to his personality; minimalist, expensive taste, some classic books and a framed black and white photo of a younger stunning guy. “Who’s this?” To my surprise it was James. He tried to be an actor once-upon-a-time and apparently once-upon-a-new-nose-time too. I could see he’d had some “work done” and although he didn’t look exactly like the man in the photo he was still the best looking date I’d ever landed.

James was finally dressed. Handsome, Hollywood tanned and tuxed, he tossed me his car keys. “You drive. I may want to have a few drinks.” I responded, “Uh, James, I hardly know you but you were just in the hospital for mixing meds with alcohol and you’re going to drink tonight and go into a coma in front of Al Gore?” “I’ll be fine,” he chirped and out the door we flew. Behind the wheel of his BMW, I pulled up to the valet parking at the Century Plaza Hotel and we breezed through the lobby toward the event ballroom. There must have been a thousand handsome black-tie men and I couldn’t take my eyes off my own date. Someone pinch me.

dsc-6298We strolled the Silent Auction tables commenting on items and eventually carved out our own space where James indulged me in conversation about life, death, spirituality, politics, entertainment and advertising. Wow! I really scored. Most of my dates took on the tone of the Jewish Inquisition mumbling answers that never topped one syllable.

We meandered into the banquet hall toward our $500-a-plate plates. It was like a Bar Mitzvah, on a strange planet inhabited by men in formal wear. We were seated at a table with about ten other guys, many of whom were couples. James and I chatted up our fellow guests but mostly got lost in each other, picking at our arugula salads while onstage, Charo serenaded us on guitar.

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Before I could finish my breadstick, James had his hand on my knee and my linen napkin almost rose off my lap. The man next to me leaned over and whispered, “So how long have you two been together?” “An hour,” I replied with an, I-don’t-believe-this-is-happening-to-me-but-fuck-do-I-deserve-it” grin. Before the main course, James got up to go to the bathroom and as he returned, I watched him navigate his way back to our table and silently sighed, “This guy is my date,” and checked to see if my glass slippers needed Windexing.

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After dinner, Al Gore, speeches and dessert we decided to have a cocktail in the lobby while hundreds of guests lined up at the valet stand to wait for their cars. James had been drinking, but so far no red flags. We plopped on to a plush sofa. He picked up a cushion and clutched it to his chest. Pointing to a tall tuxedoed man across the lobby he whispered, “That’s my shrink. I don’t want him to see me.” His body language was that of fear and insecurity. But I empathized with him having once seen my New York shrink out of context which had brought back memories of the time I was in fifth grade and saw my teacher in the fresh produce section of the supermarket.

The shrink left and our cocktails arrived. We raised our glasses in a toast and James said, “Honey, if we’re going to have a relationship there’s some things you need to know about me.” ‘Honey?’ I was flattered this Adonis was already calling me ‘honey.’ He held my hand and confessed, “I’m very, very, very, very high maintenance.” I gazed into his fathomless eyes and replied, “Taxi!” Then, in a diatribe of vulnerability and honesty James told me he had severe A.D.D., he was Bi-Polar, a recovering Alcoholic, Crystal Meth Addict, Sex Addict, abandonment issues, low self esteem, agoraphobic with body dysmorphia and addicted to plastic surgery. My date had more issues than a subscription to National Geographic. My glass slippers were fogging up as my Cuban prince had turned into the index of the DSM Psychology Manual. If I knew then, what I know now, I would have waved his shrink over and gotten him drunk enough to tell me that James was also Borderline Personality Disorder. And yet, I still gave him the benefit of the doubt since it had so far, been an enchanting evening and more importantly…he was hot!

It was 2AM when we arrived back at James’ place. I was heading for my Honda when he asked if I wanted to come up to his apartment. Thank you Fairy Godmother. I didn’t want the night to end. And up I went. We weren’t inside more than a minute when he asked me to tear off his tie and I couldn’t believe that my earlier fantasy was coming true.

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James started to strip off his clothes. Had I wandered into Chippendales? Needless to say, he had the body of an Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue model and I felt like the “before” in an ad for Gold’s gym. But it wasn’t long before I felt like the “after” in a brochure for the Betty Ford Clinic. (Pt. III To be continued)

(Excerpted from, “Nut Magnet. An Autobiographical Assortment of Fruits and Nuts”)

PSYCHO-HOTTIE (Pt. I)

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L.A. has more flakes than a box of Raisin Bran. And once you launch into cyber-space looking for a date, a relationship or anything at all, you’re lucky to find a raisin. I had posted my ad on Match.com, proud to be one of the only ones in orbit who can spell, actually show up and the only one in North America to show up on time.

Being a writer, I give good profile and attracted a plethora of hits. The only lie I told was my age. In La-La Land, Darwin’s theory of evolution has been rewritten as, “Survival of the Youngest.” Luckily, living in L.A. you automatically deduct ten years and with the Canadian exchange I hoped to pass for an embryo. They say, “Love is like a bus. If you wait long enough another one will come along.” But mine always seem to be the Shortbus, attracting those who are either magnanimously boring or clinically insane. As it turned out, “James” fell into the second category…

crazy-d-red-word-insane-silly-wild-idea-craziness-letters-to-illustrate-person-different-unique-unusual-uncommon-58945922 I can’t recall who made first contact. But when someone offers the first dating volley, it gives you a bit of an edge. So let’s just say it was James who responded to my profile and contacted me. I rarely respond without seeing someone’s photo because there are enough surprises in life. But he was 43 and after swimming in uh, younger waters I was trying to up my age range where I didn’t have to censor myself from referencing Doris Day.

I recall that we quickly graduated from cyber-space to Defcon 2; a phone call. I’m not much of a phone person and yet our first conversation must have lasted an hour with no lack of anything to talk about; a good sign. James lived in West Hollywood on his own and he was a lawyer. Over the phone, he had charm, energy, insight, humor and opinions. And in West Hollywood, any one of those qualities will get you a membership to Mensa.

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We spoke on a Monday. We spoke again on Tuesday and wow – more easy conversation. I even liked the sound of his voice, engaging with a bit of a sexy rasp. It was during our second conversation he asked, “What are you doing Saturday night?” Yikes! That’s date night. After living in New York for fifteen years, I rarely went out on weekends due to the obnoxious hordes. And being freelance my whole life, I don’t do line-ups. It could have been embarrassing admitting that I had no plans for Saturday night but one of the perks of being “older” is that I give 79.4% less shits.

When I told James I was available he asked, “Do you have a tuxedo?” I said, “I have a black suit. Why?” He told me, “I have two tickets to the Human Rights Campaign Gala dinner at the Century Plaza Hotel with Al Gore as guest speaker. I was waiting for someone special to go with me and I think that’s you. If you have a tux I’ll pick you up in a limo.” A first date with a stranger is only supposed to be ‘coffee with room’ at Starbucks. And when I learned that each ticket was $500 I gulped, wondering if I was supposed to pay for my own ticket? I wouldn’t spend five hundred bucks on someone I never met. I wouldn’t spend five hundred bucks on someone I had met. Having been in therapy for ambivalence, and having spent too many years cyber-dating, I didn’t trust this to be real. And then I thought, ‘Fuck it! I deserve to be Cinderella for a night,’ and agreed to be his date. In L.A., black tie means ‘don’t wear jeans.’ So I told James I had the proper attire and he said he’d pick me up at seven. Date night, a limo and Al Gore.

Wednesday. I emailed James modal_type_tuxedoMW40_40DP_10_CALVIN_KLEIN_FORMAL_SETUnknownmy  address so he could pick me up in the limo with hopes my neighbors would happen to be looking out their windows. No reply. Thursday. I phoned him. Nothing. Friday, I debated whether or not to polish my black party shoes and iron my white shirt. I called again. Nothing. And here, I thought I’d landed a raisin.

Saturday morning James called filled with apologies, hoping we were still on for the evening. He explained that he couldn’t call because he was in the hospital. “Oh my God. Are you all right?” I asked. “Yes,” he replied, “I mistakenly mixed my Xanax with my anti-depressants.” A red flag unfurled in front of my ears. But then again, I’m the only one in L.A. who isn’t medicated. James continued, “And then I was drinking and I shouldn’t have.” Up popped another red flag. But I wanted to dine with a salad fork and Al Gore. “And so I couldn’t rent a limo,” he explained. “That’s okay,” I replied, glad he couldn’t see me mouth the word, “Shit!” James thought out loud, “We could take my Jaguar.” A smile curled my lip. “But it’s in the shop. I hit a tree while drinking and driving.” There was beginning to unfurl more red flags than a Chinese May Day Parade.

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I sighed, “Well, if you don’t mind being picked up in a Honda Accord that’s been keyed at Bally’s I can pick you up.” James agreed and I was fine. Big deal. So Cinderella has to drive her own pumpkin.

I spent the afternoon grooming, spiffing and fantasizing with the occasional knot in my stomach anticipating a real live Saturday night first date with someone who may even have relationship potential. On my way over to James’ place I phoned him from the car to ask about parking. He suggested it would be easier if we took his other car, a BMW. I re-considered. If he wants to drive his BMW then I’m up for it. I agreed and drove into West Hollywood to meet my rich, handsome, tuxedoed Saturday night date. James opened the door to his apartment. I grabbed the door jamb to support my swoon and exhaled, “Holy fuck! You’re gorgeous!” (Pt. II To Be Continued)

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(Excerpted from, “Nut Magnet. An Autobiographical Assortment of Fruits and Nuts”)

TONGUE LASHINGS

You may want to file this under Too Much Information. But if you read about my going blind on magic mushrooms (See: Shroom With A View) then you won’t be surprised that I went deaf when someone sucked out my eardrum. Wait. I can explain. %d8%b2%d8%a8%d8%a7%d9%86_tongue

Years ago, I was in the heat of passion and tongues were flying. Now I’m assuming you’ve all had someone’s tongue in your ear and this one was going at it like a pneumatic drill. Needless to say, it was quite wonderful until I felt an explosive WHOOSH and a POP! All that passion pressure had built up and it was as if my ear was a Toyota and an airbag went off. My ears were ringing like Christmas at the Vatican and I could barely hear, “Are you all right?” I smiled and nodded. But when I stood up, my equilibrium didn’t. The room was spinning and the hardest part was pretending to be cool while I walked into a wall.

So, now I was deaf in my right ear and went to see an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. The doctor examined my ear and told me that I had a perforated eardrum.

ear-infection1He proceeded to clean the wax out of my ears; something I’d never had done. Using a technique not unlike candling, he removed a ball of wax that I could have used for bowling. I imagined tiny wax gondolas floating down my ear canals and couldn’t believe that waxy shmootz was in my head for thirty-one years. Now I know why it’s called, “candling.” He pulled one out of my head.

I thought the procedure was over until he took out a bellows, which I thought was strange since there was no fireplace in his office. Then he said, “This might hurt.” The bellows had two prongs that he stuck up nose, he squeezed – and blew my ears out through my nose! I know everything is connected in there, but I didn’t expect a 60mph gust to enter my nose and exit my ears. I may have been partially deaf when I walked into his office but after having my ears blown out through my nose I was now totally deaf. I couldn’t even hear the birdies chirping around my head.

Somehow I discerned the doctor’s instructions to go down the hall for a hearing test. Deaf and dizzy, I weaved down the hallway to a large pudgy vision in a white lab coat. This stern woman made Nurse Ratched look like Florence Nightingale. She ushered me into a soundproof booth and I felt like I was on a bad game show where the prize was a new eardrum. She explained that she was going to put a headset over my ears and when I heard a series of sounds and pitches I was to push the appropriate buttons on a console. I smiled and nodded, but didn’t hear a word she said.

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She placed the headset with heavy rubber earmuffs on my head. I  barely heard a series of faint muffled tones. Wanting to please my medical master, I randomly started hitting buttons on the console. I must have pushed her buttons too. She whipped open the door and yelled, “Are you fucking deaf?” That I heard.

The prognosis was that my eardrum would heal on its own. Not wanting to ever go through that again, I considered wearing a condom on my ear the next time I was in the throes of passion. Instead, I would just keep turning my head and settle for a case of whiplash.

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IN DEFENSE OF GRUMPINESS

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When my mother was 68 she had asked me to mail a letter. (Remember letters?) It was addressed to the telephone company and it wasn’t a bill. It was a request that they return her 25 cents swallowed by a payphone. (Remember payphones?) This was out of character for my mother because she had never been what you would consider a demanding woman. In fact she once took an Assertiveness Course. The course must have worked. She asserted herself and quit. And now she wanted her measly 25 cents back from the phone company. I thought it was rather petty at the time. But now I get it. It’s cumulative. Because when a payphone eats your quarter for 68 years, dammit you want your quarter back! I don’t know if she ever got her 25 cents because now she was dealing with the post office. Today, alas, many hairlines later, I’ve become the same way with N-O-I-S-E.

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When you’re nineteen, you’ve been exposed to nineteen years of honking horns, thumping car stereos, barking dogs, pneumatic drills and whining speed boats. But add up over fifty years of leaf blowers, helicopters, motors revving, Toyotathon commercials and Celine Dion and you just want the world to shut the fuck up!

The crunching of popcorn in a movie makes my teeth clench. 620x400xbigstock-woman-annoying-man-in-cinema-b-87828788-jpg-pagespeed-ic-t60bbfjuicWhy didn’t marshmallows become the movie snack of choice? The deafening roar of a passing motorcycle. Why would anybody want to ride around with 100 decibels between their legs? Even the sound of high heels clacking along the sidewalk behind me is like being stalked by castanets. And loud music in restaurants? A friend of mine recently did a radio documentary interviewing restaurant managers about how they feel when patrons of a certain age ask them to turn the music down so they can have a conversation. A manager responded, “We don’t want you people here. You have dinner at 6:00 and one glass of wine. We want the Millennials who eat and drink into the wee hours. They don’t know how to have a conversation and text across the table.” My response, “What time does the shuttle leave for another planet?”

I’m especially sensitive to noise having lived over Manhattan’s only scrap metal yard for fifteen years. Every morning my wake-up call was the sound of a crane dropping cars off a magnet. In the street, two forklifts beep-beep-beeped out of sync ten hours a day. Homeless people were paid to bang metal radiators apart and every ten minutes a truck dumped fifty tons of broken glass and aluminum into the street. It was like living to the soundtrack of a Road Runner cartoon. Add to this, the basic New York sounds of sirens, construction, car stereos and it’s no wonder I had to sequester myself in a closet to make a phone call. And living at the corner of Tenth and 27th nighttime brought club traffic. With four of New York’s most popular clubs on my street they might as well have hung a mirror ball at the intersection for the hundreds of horn-honking, bottle-smashing club-going revelers from 1-6AM. It’s no wonder my last nerve had been jammed into a Cuisinart on Puree. More noise!

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The day after Halloween, I was taking my dog out for her morning walk. As soon as I opened the door to the street a beeping forklift belched diesel exhaust into my face. Now, wearing politically incorrect “blackface” I decided to walk my dog a few blocks over to the Hudson River. It had been a heavy club night and three blocks of broken beer bottles left landmines of glass. I picked up my 60-pound shepherd/lab and carried her to the relative serenity of the river. They were building the Chelsea Piers and had re-located the Heliport. A dozen idling helicopters deafened me, blowing more soot into my face. I turned south for refuge just in time for workers to pry open a sewer and the stench of raw sewage blasted into my nose and filled my lungs. I had only been out on the streets for ten minutes and every one of my senses had been raped and pillaged.

With my ears between my legs, I took my dog home and went straight to the McBurney YMCA on 23rd street. I needed peace and quiet. Eureka – the steam room! I was grateful to seek solace in a misty tomb of silence. I sat there alone, naked, wrapped in a towel, eyes closed in blissful gratitude. Then, the steam valve clicked on and through the calming fog I heard a steady seeping, “SSSSsssssssss.” I burst into tears. I want my 25 cents back.

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BRAIN DRAIN

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“With Shaklee!” – that’s the musical tag I had the cast shout out after every musical number when I was writing dozens of Shaklee shows for Asterix Productions, a company I founded with friends that produced corporate entertainments. Years after I sold off my shares and participation, I independently sought out writing jobs with Shaklee, a multi-level marketing company. Like Mary Kay, Amway, Herbal Life etc. these companies used to be called, Pyramid Sales but simply change the name and you can keep doing what you want.

I was at my cottage in Haliburton when, after months of pursuing Shaklee they called me to write comedy sketches introducing two new products in their vitamin line. For input, they flew me to their head office and I world-hopped from the Canadian woods of Ontario to Shaklee’s home office in Pleasanton, California. Within 24 hours I went from shorts, tee shirt and bare feet to being that guy in a jacket and tie at a Best Western surrounded by bland businessmen staring into their morning coffees.

The input meeting with the Shaklee marketing executives was relatively painless and almost interesting regarding their two new vitamin tablets; Mental Acuity and I forget the other one, oh yeah…Memory Optimizer. If I was going to write about these products it would be necessary to sample them and so they gave me a few bottles of each vitamin.
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I flew back to Toronto and drove back up to the cottage. It was the first week of August and summer should have been at its hottest. But it was fucking freezing. A cold wind was howling from the north and instead of shorts, tee shirt and bare feet I was in sweat pants, three sweaters and a scarf.

As a blazing fire roared and snapped away in my cavernous fireplace I settled down to write the sketch on Mental Acuity with its claims that it enhances mental clarity and decision making. Hmmm. Maybe it’s time to sample this wondrous brain medicine. So I popped a Mental Acuity tablet. Wanting to be Einstein-For-A-Day, I popped two. While researching the powerful effects of this magical thought pill, the fire needed to be stoked. Being a voracious fireplace it gobbled up wood like an inhaling dragon.

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I put down my pen, took off my reading glasses and approached the fire. Holding my glasses in my left hand, I grabbed a log in my right hand, bent into the fireplace – and threw my glasses into the fire! Whaaat? Stupidity froze my limbs. Incredulity furrowed my brow. I squinted into the fire at my $300 prescription glasses now a bubbling black blob and two scorched lenses. I glanced at my right hand still holding the log. How was this possible? I took two smart pills and did the stupidest thing ever! Maybe I should tell Shaklee that a side effect is questionable hand-eye co-ordination. I phoned my client and told them, “I took two of your Mental Acuity tablets and threw my glasses into the fire – and now I can’t see what I’m writing. I’m afraid I’m going to miss my deadline.”

The next morning, I drove into town and bought a pair of cheap reading glasses off the rack. It’s a good thing I hadn’t taken the Memory Optimizer pill or I might have forgotten how to get home. With Shaklee!

 (Excerpt from, “NUT MAGNET – An Autobiographical Assortment of Fruits and Nuts”)

NORTH NOT BY NORTHWEST

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August 7, 2007

Dear Northwest Airlines,

Air travel being what it is, I realize that you probably get thousands of complaints and that I am just one of many, many, many, many disgruntled passengers. However, my recent flight plight is one for the books so you may be interested in reading on. You may be familiar with the theme song from Gilligan’s Island – “Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip…five passengers set sail that day for a three hour tour, a three hour tour.”

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On Wednesday, June 13, 467 passengers and I hit the skies for what was supposed to be a five-hour trip from Los Angeles to Toronto – and I arrived THREE DAYS later on Friday afternoon!

WEDNESDAY

I left LAX, in Los Angeles the morning of Wednesday, June 13 on Northwest Flight #802 with three months of luggage on a flight to Minneapolis that connected to Toronto on NW Flight #604. It was supposed to be a two-hour layover. And then it began; one hour, two hours, three hours…five-hour delay. I went to the bathroom and came back 90 seconds later, to discover the flight had been cancelled because there was no crew. Excuse me, but I showed up! And this is your hub! 467 passengers scrambled to get on the next flight out. The good news: you have rows of re-booking kiosks. The bad news: you must have so many flights cancelled that you need rows of re-booking kiosks.

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My quick choice was to get into a kiosk line or the long winding line that led to an agent. I chose the kiosk, only to learn that there was nobody on the other end of the phone – and when someone finally answered, they had no clue what to do. I ran for the agent line that was now snaking along the corridor. By the time I got to the desk the frazzled agent told me there were no flights  to Toronto until the next morning and booked me on a 6:50AM Northwest Flight #744 to Toronto via Detroit! He gave us all a, “We sincerely regret any inconvenience” voucher guaranteeing the lowest room rate and then informed us that all airport hotels were booked. We would have to take a cab into the city. It was now midnight. I had to be back at the airport by 5AM. With hotel and cab fare it would cost me over a hundred dollars for four hours of sleep. I ended up sleeping on the floor of the airport with the Minneapolis Star Tribune for a blanket.

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THURSDAY

The next morning, I boarded NW Flight #1410 and arrived in Detroit with a one-hour stopover before connecting to Toronto. In Detroit, we waited and waited and waited and finally boarded – and waited and waited and waited. The pilot announced, “We have a technical problem regarding the emergency light strip along the floor. We are waiting for a replacement part. Should be about fifteen minutes.” Now we all know fifteen minutes in airport language means somewhere between three hours and never. So we waited and waited and waited. We were instructed to de-plane. In the departure lounge we waited and waited and waited. They finally made an announcement, “The replacement part works.” Yay! “Now we just have to refuel.” Boo. We waited and waited and waited. Out of lack of anything else to do, I adopted a hobby of logging Northwest apologies. I was up to number 34 since leaving Los Angeles that seemed like a year ago. Then came apology number 35 as they announced, “There’s a problem with the oxygen masks.” We waited and waited. Two hours later, they announced, “A Supervisor is coming to talk to you.” This did not bode well. But we never found out because after waiting another hour the Supervisor never showed up and the flight was…you guessed it, cancelled! flight-canceled-sign-copy

We were advised to re-book.I now knew your kiosks were useless so I joined the frenzied mob running the mile to the next booking agent at the far end of the terminal. Thankfully, I was fifth in line. The woman in front of me was going ballistic so I waited and waited and waited. I finally got up to the agent. It was survival of the fittest so I lied that I was having a liver transplant in the morning and had to get to Toronto tonight. Without looking up to see if I was yellow she informed me, “There’s an Air Canada flight at 8PM and another one even earlier if you rush over there.” “Will my luggage go through?” I asked skeptically? “Of course.” She replied. I assumed my luggage was probably in Buenos Aires but I raced over to Air Canada which took almost an hour due to the shuttle wait and distance of the terminal.

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I got to Air Canada and was informed, number one: my luggage will NOT go through. I would have to return to Northwest, retrieve my luggage and return to Air Canada for check-in. Number two: it’s useless because the “I-don’t-give-a-shit-about-your-liver agent” had misinformed me. Air Canada would not accept my Northwest ticket because I was on free miles. Free? Those extra miles cost me five hundred dollars! Air Canada said to return to Northwest and get an IVOS stamp. I spent an hour getting back to the Northwest terminal. I was now logging apologies and taking names. I explained my Air Canada misadventure and requested an IVOS stamp. The agent asked me, “What’s an IVOS stamp?” Another agent had actually heard of it and stamped me. She told me I could now return to Air Canada. I explained, “They won’t accept my ticket.” She suddenly agreed and it now occurred to her that I need to stay within Northwest. “When is the next Northwest flight?” “You just missed two of them because you were at Air Canada.” She informed me that I was going to have to spend the night in Detroit and take a Northwest flight to Toronto in the morning.

flight-delay-passengerI asked to see the Supervisor and demanded a free hotel room for the night. The Supervisor did not even pay me the respect of talking to me. Instead, she mumbled something to the agent who handed me a free hotel and meal voucher for a burger and a bag of Fritos. I explained that I stink from two days of travel, “Can I access my luggage? “No problem,” she droned without looking up. She pointed me toward the bowels of the airport where, after two hours lost in a labyrinth of passageways they informed me there’s no way I could have access to my luggage.

Weary and smelly, I headed for the airport hotel. At this point I trusted nobody at any airport. So I attempted to get my Northwest boarding pass from the computer in the hotel lobby. I spent an hour entering my confirmation number. Didn’t work. I spent another hour on the phone with Northwest tech support. Didn’t work for the tech guy either. The hotel desk clerk whispered to me, “I used to work for Northwest. They do that on purpose because they’re overbooked and are going to try to bump you. So get there early.” I actually got to sleep in a real bed and rushed to the airport at 6AM for a 9AM flight to Toronto.

FRIDAY

At 8AM the agent opened the gate. I took her name and told her, “If for any incompetent reason this flight does not take off, I demand to be the first one re-booked on the next flight to Toronto.” She shrugged without looking up.

It appeared that we were actually leaving on time. Boarding the aircraft, I poked my head into the open door of the cockpit and asked the pilots, “Hey fellas! Are we actually taking off today?” The pilot responded, “Are you Witkin in 8A?” By now my three-day plight was legendary. We strapped in and waited and waited and waited and waited. The pilot announced, “Sorry folks, the delay is due to ground crew incompetency.”

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I finally arrived in Toronto on Friday, June 15th. Even though I was determined never to fly Northwest Airlines again, I was even more determined not to leave the terminal without some sort of compensation for my nightmare. I knew that if I wrote a letter such as this one, I would probably receive another apology and a voucher for a bag of Fritos. So I dragged my three months of luggage (a miracle that it arrived!) to the Northwest counter. I was still taking names, counting apologies and insisted on speaking to the Supervisor. A polite and understanding woman arrived. She gave me apology number 63 and explained that the lack of ground crew in Minneapolis was the trickle-down effect of wild storms that hit the east coast weeks earlier. She retrieved a 7-foot computer printout of my journey and explained they would only compensate me because they neglected to give me a free room in Minneapolis – not because it took me three days to fly across the country. She asked if I would like points or a free ticket. I asked, “Which way will you screw me less?” She didn’t deny they would try to screw me and suggested I take the points. And now I hope you take my point..

I realize that moving millions of people around the world is no easy feat and I have compassion for the poor agents who bear the brunt of passenger frustration. Perhaps this litany of misinformation, excuses, chaos, confusion, incompetency and disrespect that I experienced can help to make the travel of your passengers a more pleasant and shorter journey than mine. In the meantime, after spending three days with…

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I would rather be trapped on…

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Your Disgruntled Passenger,

Stephen Witkin

PREGNANT PAUSES (Pt. 2)

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The next step in the process to bringing a child into the world between a middle-aged straight woman and a gay man was a Sperm Antibody test. There was only one doctor in New York City who performed a Sperm Antibody test. His name, are you sitting down? Dr. Steven Witkin. Say what? Here I was, going for help in pro-creation and it was a doctor with my name! As it turned out, I never found out what a Sperm Antibody test was because Dr. Witkin had the worst stutter I had ever heard. Most stutterers I had encountered tripped over certain letters of the alphabet like R’s or L’s or M’s. This doctor stuttered on every letter of the alphabet. He had a French nurse who helped him finish a sentence but her Parisian accent was so thick I had no idea what she was saying either. My biggest mistake; Dr. Witkin asked what I did for a living. I told him that I wrote comedy. And he launched into, “Ddddiiiiiid yyoooou hhhhearrrr ttthhhhe onnnnne aaabbbooouuuutttt …” My mind went for a very long walk and I never did hear the end of the joke. For all I know he still hasn’t reached the punch line. A month later, I received a phone call from a limo service saying, “Dr. Witkin, the limo will pick you up for the AIDS conference at 9AM.” I told them, “You’re not going to believe this, but I actually know who you mean and I’m not him – but send a limo anyway.”

More months slipped by and fertile was becoming futile. The do-it-yourself procedure was heartbreaking for Connie. So she decided to go the Bergdorf’s route through a Fertilization Clinic on the Upper East Side.

maxresdefaultWith this expensive process I delivered my fresh sperm to the clinic and they performed a targeted fertilization of my sperm with her eggs. At the clinic they had a special donor room and I tried my best to provide a sample there. But having seen too many mystery movies I imagined there was a portrait on the wall and while I was pulling my pud the eyes would open from a peephole from the other side. Instant hard-off. So I preferred to work my magic at home and then hop on my bike with my sperm in my backpack and get it to the clinic within twenty minutes.

During this time, I was a writer/producer for a show on HBO and Cinemax called the Max Movie Show. It was a behind-the-scenes clip and interview show about the movies and my office was midtown. My mother was slowly dying in a palliative care hospice and so I flew to Toronto every two weeks to be with her. This meant that if Connie was ovulating I would have to have my sperm frozen at a bank. My sperm count was already low and freezing reduces motility by 30%. But every two weeks I made my deposit at the bank and took off for Toronto.

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On one occasion, Connie phoned me in Toronto and said she needed my sperm at Park and 78th at 2:00 Wednesday for her injection. I wasn’t booked to return home until Friday. I started flipping through the Yellow Pages for ways to cryogenically freeze my sperm and ship it to New York by Wednesday. It was the last place I ever thought my fingers would do the walking. As it turned out, Connie’s ovules must have been doing their own walking because Friday was fine as long as I had my sperm at Park and 78th by 2:00 PM.

I had been gone from HBO and so had to return from the airport directly to the office. I was going to have to do my business at the office and then run it up to the clinic. I was a freelancer and so had always been assigned to a windowless cubicle. But while I was away, they re-assigned everybody and I was given an office. I was too shy to jerk off in the bathroom so yay! my own office with privacy – but it had a floor to ceiling window in midtown Manhattan!

5383135340_af3860ac6c_bAs a test, I randomly waved out my window. About 7,000 people in the next skyscraper waved back! So I built a little fort under my desk, choked the chicken, jumped on my bike and delivered the goods to the Upper East Side. But alas, the goods were not so good. My swimming sperm were now treading water.

It had been almost two years of expense and disappointment for Connie. I was proud to have given it my best shots. I was disappointed for Connie and yet a little relieved that my life and lifestyle could continue as before. And yet, not quite. As a consolation prize we adopted a puppy.

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Connie had always wanted a female dog named, Blanche. I only liked big dogs. We ventured out to the North Shore Animal League on Long Island and adopted the cutest Shepherd/Lab/Australian Cattle Dog mix and named her, Blanche.

In the many years to follow, if ever I were as loving, nurturing, protective and obsessive of a child as I was of this beloved dog, I imagine I would have made a fantastic father, indeed.

 

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Postscript: Connie adopted a child. I moved to Los Angeles with custody of Blanche.

PREGNANT PAUSES (Pt. 1)

Fatherhood. It never occurred to me. I knew I was gay since I had a crush on Cubby the cute drummer on the Mickey Mouse Club when I was seven. So when my New York roommate, Connie asked me to be a sperm donor I was confused as hell. It was the late eighties and gay fathers were not as ubiquitous as they are today. Of all the parades of thoughts to march across my mind Fatherhood was never one of them.

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At first, I was flattered that I made the top of her donor list because of my qualities. But one of my qualities is that I take responsibility seriously and although Connie insisted I would have no parental, financial or legal responsibility I had no tapes to run past my mind, had no experience in thinking something like this through. I didn’t know me in the context of helping to bring a life into the world – and then possibly have nothing to do with the child. On the other hand, if I did choose to be involved, it was a huge emotional commitment, not one of my stronger qualities since I had been doing the fifty-yard dash from relationships for most of my life.

My mother was dying of cancer at the time and my coming out experience with her was like a tragic sitcom. On one hand, I knew that making her a grandmother she could leave this world a happier woman. On the other hand, telling a dying Jewish mother that her gay son was going to be a father through artificial insemination would have sent her mind spinning into upping her morphine. On the other hand, there were so many “on-the-other-hands,” I ran out of hands. So I thought it best to tell her only if I decided to become a donor and then only if Connie became pregnant. My mother’s clock was ticking – and so was Connie’s.

She had been in a brief bad marriage and was a workaholic to sustain financial independence, qualities that I admired. Connie was a woman who always went after what she wanted – and now she wanted my sperm. She was in her late 40’s, only had one ovary due to a prior illness and while I was hemming and hawing over this momentous decision her eggs were drying up. I had problems deciding between buying blue jeans with a straight leg or a cuff and now I had to decide to help bring a life into this world? I put the decision on the back burner and every few months Connie would ask me what I decided. Being a man and new to all this, I wasn’t aware of the impending expiration date on her eggs. And so I started to take the momentous decision more seriously.

It was during this time I had the opportunity to participate in an Off-Broadway One-Act Comedy play-reading festival at the Manhattan Punch Line. I wrote a one-act play called, Mind Games. Premise – Charles walks into a restaurant alone, tortured by having to make a huge decision. He sits down at a table and is soon joined by Chas, Charlie, Charlene and Chuck – all manifestations of his mind and they battle out whether or not he should be a sperm donor for his friend. As his id, ego, libido and female side battle out the dilemma I was able to cathartically work out my decision. By the time I finished writing the play, I had decided to go for it, to help impregnate Connie through artificial insemination. I had always lived a self-centered life; not a selfish one, but being single for most of my adult life I was responsible to no one but myself and this was a chance to do something for someone about whom I cared deeply. Besides, fathering a child is supposed to be the ultimate human experience and as for responsibility and attachment I would see how I felt at the time should it happen. The play reading was well received and so was my announcement to Connie that I decided to share my sperm with her eggs that by now had become as precious as Faberge ones. Now that I had made the commitment my sperm was in the swim. Now, if only they could swim fast and strong enough to make it to the deep end of Connie’s gene pool.

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There are many ways to proceed with artificial insemination ranging in methods from Walmart to Bergdorf’s. Money being an issue, we began in what could only be described as, “Do-It-Yourself at Homo Depot.” The pressure was on. Connie was in her late 40’s popping eggs out of only one ovary and once a month I literally had to give it my best shot. I don’t know about other people, but I always felt that orgasms came in different flavors from an ultra-sweet intense intergalactic big bang explosion of marshmallow fluff to “meh.” So once a month when it was ovulation time, I locked myself in the bathroom of our Manhattan loft with a pile of magazines hoping for marshmallow fluff. As if there wasn’t enough performance pressure my mind would taunt me with a sudden flip from hot porn to, “LAUNDRY!” I’d do the best I could into a little plastic cup and hand off the precious goods to Connie. She went into the bathroom and loaded up a turkey baster with my deposit. (Thanksgiving would never be the same)

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She would lie on the floor, spring her legs back over her head and inject herself with my gift of life. Then, we would go out for a Chinese food whereI would stare at her across my Chicken Chow Mein, incredulous that my sperm was inside her. We hoped my sperm were marathon swimmers doing the breaststroke for her eggs. But as it turned out they were doing the dog paddle.

Oh, the things I was learning. Apparently, conditions that lower a sperm count are: 1) living in an overcrowded, polluted environment. Can you say, Manhattan? 2) Stress. My mother was dying in Toronto 3) Excessive pot-smoking. Pass the Sarah Lee cheesecake. 4) Excessive masturbation. I could have populated a small country by now. 5) Tight underwear. I was 5 out of 5 so switched to boxers, cut way back on smoking pot and tried tying my hands behind my back. Add to this, Connie was stressed taking nursing exams. We continued this challenging process for months. And if I thought things were strange now they were about to get even more bizarre. (To be continued)