Throughout the next however many months I’ll be counting down my 100 favorite albums, because why not. I’m up to number eighty-three.
I was sitting in the waiting area of Shorty’s Barber Shop on Fairfax on a Saturday morning in 2009, a few minutes early for my haircut appointment with Gilbert. In walked a guy I recognized from 24 Hour Fitness – a guy I’d been crushing on for months. An Asian-American Adonis, around 6’2”, clean-shaven, and lean, with cheekbones like moguls on a sexy ski slope of a face. After checking in he took a seat on the couch right next to me in the Mortals section. Here’s my chance. I was always intimidated to speak to him at the gym, but now I see we have something else in common besides working out in Hollywood. We both like professional haircuts at relatively inexpensive prices, though why someone who looks like him should have to pay for any service strikes me as distasteful. He picked up a magazine from the coffee table while I mustered up the courage to speak. Finally, I tapped him on the shoulder and said “Excuse me. Don’t you work out at the 24 Hour Fitness in Hollywood?”
A long, awkward, excruciating, silent pause ensued, broken when I said “That’s all I have.” He went back to his magazine, without so much as a “Thank you for the captivating conversation.”
Dammit! Why am I so shy and awkward? I give myself props for saying something, but that didn’t get me anything. Either I can’t say hi to a man I find attractive, or I don’t know where to go from there.
It’s time to do what I always do when I want to improve myself – buy a How To book.
There are literally tens of billions of How To books available, from How To Change Your Mind, How To Navigate Life, and How To Be An Anti-Racist to How To Write A How To Book, How To Read A Book (which, ironically, is not available as an audiobook, so good luck!), and How To Poo At Work, which, at 235 pages, is the bible of bowel movements in the business environment, the fundamentals on fecal release at the factory, the employees’ encyclopedia of expelling excrement, the official guide to opening one’s orifice at the office, the definitive dossier on defecating at de workplace. Its customer reviews call it “insightful” and “absolutely fantastic,” saying it provides “lots of detail” and “makes going to the bathroom more exciting,” though one reviewer cautions it’s “slanted more towards men than women,” a detail that piques my interest and makes me realize there are many things I don’t know.
On my shelves I have a book from my days as a comedian called How To Be A Working Comic, Dale Carnegie’s classic How To Win Friends And Influence People, and a book gifted to me in the 1990s by a friend I won and later lost called How To Say Faaabulous! In 8 Different Languages, a phrasebook for the gay male traveler that teaches sentences every English-speaking ‘mo needs to know whilst in Europe, such as “Ho una smagliature nei collant” (Italian for “I have a run in my stocking”), “Ma chère, sit u veux faire du play-back, apprends au moins lay paroles” (French for “Doll, if you’re going to lip synch, the least you can do is learn the words”), and “Me chupa” (Portuguese for “Suck me”). Unfortunately, the book does not teach the reader how to say “Excuse me – there’s no smoking in the steam room” in Hungarian, which led me to an uncomfortable situation I’m not going to discuss right now. Suffice to say it’s better late than never to be able to use Google translate on your laptop, and you should always bring your laptop into Hungarian steam rooms.
To my shelves I added How To Flirt: The Fine Art Of Charming Anyone And Everyone.
To be fair to myself, I have several exes, all very attractive, so clearly I was able to get a conversation going with them. Most fall under one of two categories – service people or guys I met through on-line sites.
In the former category one would find Michael. I met him at the Union Square location of Nobody Beats The Wiz, a now defunct music/electronics chain. One afternoon in 1997 I went there to buy the CD single of “No Diggity” by BLACKstreet featuring Dr. Dre and Queen Pen. While flipping through the discs someone came up next to me. “Can I help you find something?” I turned my head and came face to face with the hottie I spotted working behind the cash register when I came in. Slender, with an inviting facial bone structure covered by skin the color of the crust on a banana cream pie, Michael worked there, so in a sense, he had to talk to me. We talked about “No Diggity” and the record company practice of not releasing singles to force consumers to buy the full length CD and other music and my point is I was able to engage in a normal back-and-forth conversation with a good-looking guy. It turned out the store hadn’t yet received stock on the BLACKstreet single, so I ended up leaving with the CD “Macarena Christmas” and Michael’s phone number. I still listen to “Macarena Christmas” every December and Michael and I are still in touch. Today he has a husband, a cat, and an Only Fans account.
Jesse worked at a gay bookshop in Greenwich Village, though he went by Allen then. The name change came about when he got an agent for his acting, who told him “Nobody wants to fuck an Allen. They want to fuck a Jesse.” Sorry, agent, but I can say with certainty that that isn’t 100% true. Whatever name he went by, there was no denying he was fetching, and became even more fetching after he developed an eating disorder. I’m not pro-eating disorder, for bulimia is not for everyone, but in Jesse/Allen’s case? Sweet Jesus!
It was the year after I met Michael that I met Jesse/Allen as he worked at the store’s only cash register, so he had to wait on me. One day I left the store with Dan Savage’s Savage Love: Straight Answers From America’s Most Popular Sex Columnist and Jesse/Allen’s phone number. Jesse never did make it big as an actor, though he did very well as a high end sex worker.
At home behind a computer keyboard I was able to cast my intimidation aside. I had no inhibitions starting up a conversation with a guy whose profile I saw on gaydar.com or guys4men.com, even when I was told they’re out of my league by that nasty little assbag voice inside me.
Once in the mid-aughts I sent an instant message to a guy who had a great profile photo – Black, beautiful and built. I typed “hello” to Muscle Mark and Muscle Mark wrote back.
“Hey. What’s up?”
“Looking at your profile. I see we like a lot of the same music. Stevie Wonder, Sly & the Family Stone, Marvin Gaye.”
“Yeah. I’m a big music fan.”
For the next twenty minutes we had a great conversation about music and movies and life. I’m actually vibing with this super hot guy! He’ll come over to my condo and peruse my record collection. I’ll put on some Marvin Gaye and then teach him the only phrase I know in Portuguese. The future looks bright! Tell me more, hot stuff!
“So how do you know my husband?”
“Pardon? Your husband?”
“This is Mark’s wife, Sheila, you’ve been chatting with. I found this site on his laptop browser’s history. How do you know my husband?”
“I don’t know your husband. I’d like to know your husband.”
Then she started asking me for advice as to what to do.
“Can my husband change back to straight?”
Oh, oh Sheila. Oh oh oh oh Sheila. “No.”
“I want to stay married but I want to have sex. What should I do?”
“Have an affair.”
“How should I deal with this disappointment?”
“You’re disappointed? How do you think I feel?”
I saw Eric’s profile on MySpace in 2008. So adorable! A clothing designer of Asian descent with his own line – interesting. Favorite musical artists – The Beatles, Prince, The White Stripes – yes! Yes! Yes! Hobbies – traveling, photography, dancing – YES! YES! YES! Religious Affiliation: “Church of Satan.” Why? Why? Why?
Then I thought, “so what?” I don’t believe in God and I’ve dated guys who do. God, Satan, puh·tay·tow, puh·tah·tow. I’ve read that Satanists have animal sacrifices, but that may not be true anymore. In 1978, the Mormon Church lifted its ban on Black people joining. Perhaps the Church of Satan has also evolved. It’s as conceivable as any religious doctrine that the devil him or herself telephoned their church’s elders and said “I’ve rethought the whole animal thing and we need to change that. Animals are great. It’s people who are problematic.” If I didn’t go on a date with Eric because of his religious beliefs that would make me a bigot. I’m not a Luciferphobe. I don’t discriminate against any ethnicity or economic class or age. I’m always been open to dating anyone. Anyone! Well, anyone except Republicans. One who worships the Prince of Darkness I’ll consider, but a Trump voter? A gay Trump voter? That’s beyond disturbing!
We corresponded for a few days and then he suggested we meet up for dinner at Buddha’s Belly. His apartment was between mine and the restaurant, so I met him at his place. He greeted me at his apartment door – even more attractive in person than on MySpace – along with his two beautiful dogs, who appeared to be happy and well taken care of and not suffering from any trauma related to witnessing the loss of their friends.
I entered his living space and immediately noticed a large sabre displayed on a shelf, a shelf on which a different resident might display framed photos or bowling trophies or an urn containing Grandma Nina’s ashes. “I collect knives,” he offered, and sure enough, as I looked around the living room I saw on each wall several shelves displaying knives of all sizes and designs. Yes, I was in the home of a knife-collecting Satan worshipper, but more importantly, I was in the home of an extremely attractive knife-collecting Satan worshipper, an extremely attractive knife-collecting Satan worshipper with a great smile who seemed to like my company thus far, which can be taken as a good thing or a bad thing for one in my position. As I struggle to meet attractive guys to go out with, I focused on the positive.
I got into his jeep and he drove us to the restaurant. I don’t recall ever being on a first date where the conversation flowed so easily. At the restaurant we bonded over music and movies. We talked about our interests and goals. I told him “I’d love to write an Oscar-nominated screenplay.”
He said “I’d love to design the costumes.”
“I want to write and perform a one-man show.”
“I want to launch a cutting-edge fashion magazine.”
“I want to conquer my fear of heights and jump out of a plane with a parachute.”
“I want to kill somebody.”
“Nobody in particular. I just want to see what it would be like to kill somebody.”
I’m not the type of person who can hold a stoic face. When I played Boggle with my family, I would burst out a beatific smile that made it obvious I found an eleven-point word like zoophile or quibbler. Similarly, when faced with something shocking, like a man in the steam room pulling a cigarette out of god knows where or a man confessing he wants to commit a murder on our first date, I can’t remain expressionless. Seeing this, Eric smiled and comforted me. “Definitely not you! You’re too cute! Sometimes when I’m walking my dogs someone driving down the street looks at me and I want to blow their brains out. Pow! Pow!”
He thinks I’m cute! This stunning specimen thinks I’m cute!
What to do? On the one hand, he’s a Satan-worshipping, knife-collecting, homicidal sociopath, but on the other hand, he’s VERY attractive and thinks I’m attractive as well. I felt like I was in those old cartoons or movies where the character has an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. You know which way the devil voted. But the angel said “Glenn – do you really want to risk your life and the lives of your friends and family just to be with a cute guy?”
I’m open to giving that a shot.
I thought about it more, and I discovered something about myself. I have the strength and self-esteem to say no to dating a cute Satan-worshipping, knife-collecting, homicidal sociopath, though to this day, I wonder, is he the one that got away? From me and the police?
Through conversations with guys on-line is how I met Bobi, the handsome Dutch soccer player I was dating in 2003 when I got the cushy job offer from Warner Music that involved a move to Los Angeles. By that time I wanted to break up with Bobi, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, so I avoided that uncomfortable conversation and moved across the country. Within weeks of arriving in L.A., on mygaydar.com, I met Carlo, the slender Mexican Banana Republic manager. We’d been dating for a few months when I asked him if he’d like to be boyfriends. He said yes. I haven’t seen him since. On that same site is where I met Vincent, who resembled Sam Cooke, the exquisite American soul singer, and Grigor, from Armenia, who never dated a Jew before but was shown a photo of one by Mr. Vardanyan, his fourth grade teacher. It was over gay.com that I started a conversation with an African-American bodybuilder attorney from San Francisco that led to dinner plans the next time he came down to L.A. The date went great and we’d probably be a couple if we lived in the same city. Would I have had the courage to say boo to any of those guys if I initially encountered them in person? Is grass sandwich?
In May of this 2022 I found my latest crush – the pharmacist where I get my prescriptions filled. The pharmacy is located in a supermarket with the unappetizing name Ralph’s. I can’t buy food in a place whose name is slang for vomits, but I go there to get my blood pressure and cholesterol medications and see Him – the hottest pill counter I’ve ever encountered – a tall, beefy Asian-American with a sweet face and thick tattooed arms that make you forget he has a face. I look at him and think “Why is someone so unbelievably handsome dispensing medications in the back of Puke’s grocery store when you could be doing runway modeling or gay porn?” Sadly, this pharmacy is well-staffed, so this pulchritudinous purveyor of pills isn’t the one ringing up my purchase. The cashier asks “Do you have any questions for the pharmacist?” Do I?! Are you single? Who did you vote for in the last presidential election? Do you have an OnlyFans? Me chupa?
“No. No questions.”
I went for my annual physical last July. As the doctor prepared to draw blood I shook and perspired a little. I’m not good with needles going in me. When asked if I’m going to be okay with the jab, I mumbled “Yes. Just put it in and please be quick.” I don’t remember if I’ve always had this fear, but I recall when I was ten years old I had to see Dr. Romano to get a shot to stave off some illness or another. He went into a long rambling story about the trip he recently took to somewhere overseas and how while on this trip he witnessed a man get beheaded in the city center. The man’s head fell into a bucket and his body spasmed. Dr. Romano was so engaged in regaling a child with his delightful vacation anecdote that he didn’t notice that the needle from the syringe broke off and remained in my arm while he was on the other side of the examination room tossing out the syringe’s barrel and plunger “…and his body fell to the ground with a thud, torrents of blood spraying out from his neck….”
At that physical last summer my doctor recommended I get a second COVID-19 booster. That didn’t fill me with dread and bring to mind the image of a body-less head in a bucket, for I knew just where I was going to go get this one – Ralph’s. The booster would be administered by the hunky pharmacist. Here was a chance to engage with him!
I scheduled my booster for a Monday afternoon. That morning I shaved, spent extra time primping my hair, and chose a cute outfit (the blue and white nautical shirt with “cheers” in cursive where my left pec should be paired with dark denim slim-but-not-skinny jeans). How To Flirt recommends saying something playful or clever to start a conversation. As I walked to the grocery store, I thought about what to say. In this context, what I said to my doctor in reference to my fear of needles – “Just stick it in me, and do it quickly!” – sounds like a cheesy line from the kind of video I’d cast the pharmacist in (working title: Lust In The Supermarket). If he asks if I had side effects from the previous COVID-19 vaccinations, I’ll tell him about my two weeks of heavy night sweats, adding “…though if I get sweaty this time, I won’t know if it’s the side effects from the booster or from the heat you give off.” Aargh! Save it for the script, Glenn! (working title: The Superspreader.)
I arrived at the supermarket, pulled a mask on over my freshly-shaven face, and headed to the back. So excited was needle-fearing I to get this shot. So despondent was I to find hunka hunka took the day off and my vaccination would be administered by a female ladyperson with average-size biceps. “Just put it in and please be quick.”
That night, as I lay in a pool of my sweat, I thought about the pharmacist. No, not about him starring in my video (working title: Clean-Up In Aisle 69.) What does he do on his days off, after the gym? Does he have dogs? Where does he stand on movie musicals – that if the songs are good a musical is great escapist entertainment or because nobody busts out in songs in real life musicals are unrealistic (unlike, say, The Matrix or Up) and therefore a waste of time and go to hell if that’s what you think. I love me some good, old-fashioned show tunes, like the songs from the musical How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. The musical, with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, who also composed Guys & Dolls, tells the story of J. Pierrepont Finch, portrayed by the late Robert Morse, who, guided by the titular Hot To book, uses deceit, duplicity and disingenuousness to, in just a few days, work his way up from window washer to chairman of the board of the World Wide Wicket Company, where all of the executives are men, all of the secretaries are women, and there’s nary a brown face to be seen. The book advises Finch to steal ideas from associates and blame others for his mistakes. This is not How To Poo At Work; it’s How To Shit On Your Co-Workers.
The musical’s songs match the script in conveying just how screwed up a company The World Wide Wicket Company is. “A Secretary Is Not a Toy” opens with the company’s personnel manager, Bert Bratt, admonishing some executives to not treat female employees as sex objects. The song contains my second favorite double entendre from an old school musical: “a secretary is not a pet or an erector set.” (My favorite double entendre from an old school musical comes from Cole Porter’s classic song “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall In Love” – “Moths in your rug, they do it; what’s the use of moth balls?”) I love how the recording uses the pressing of typewriter keys as percussion. In the movie, the choreography during this song, based on the choreography of Bob Fosse in the original Broadway show, is visually stunning, and if you look very very very carefully, you’ll see the company’s only employee of color.
In the song “Been a Long Day,” secretary Rosemary Pilkington and Finch sing what’s on their minds while waiting for the elevator at the end of work day. Among Rosemary’s thoughts are “I wish that he were more of a flirt” (I have a book I could lend) and “what female kind of trap could I spring?” A schemer plotting a scheme to land a schemer. I should take notes.
Other crowd pleasers on the soundtrack include “The Company Way,” “Rosemary,” and “I Believe In You.” The musical’s best-known song may be “Brotherhood of Man,” wherein bamboozler Finch describes one fellow executive as incompetent, another as incoherent, and another as a waste of a salary, and within seconds, those execs and the rest of this room of white men join him in a song extolling the virtues of brotherhood, Finch clapping like he’s at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church hearing “Go Tell It On The Mountain” and feeling the spirit inside him. Praise and glory to corporate America!
I repeatedly watch the movie clip of “Brotherhood of Man” on YouTube, as well as the song’s performance on the 2011 Tony Awards led by Daniel Radcliffe as part of the show’s Broadway revival. I also enjoy the song’s use in a 2012 Super Bowl ad for NBC’s new season of programming, led by the cast of 30 Rock. The promo includes a handful of network stars later accused of sexual misconduct, including one bamboozler who wound up President of the United States. NBC: Nasty Behavior Condoned. Paging Mr. Bratt!
I was in the waiting area by the pharmacy at Ralph’s. “You’re here for your flu shot?”
“Yes,” I replied to pharmacist McDreamy as he sat in the seat next to me. “Please be gentle with me.”
He smiled. “I shall.”
“I don’t care for needles in my arm.” Looking at his arm of tattoos I said “I see you don’t share that fear.”
He laughed. “It hurt a little while I was getting them done, but I quickly got over it.”
“I’ll try to be as brave as you.”
He laughed again. “I think you can handle it.” My How To Flirt book, with its advice on saying something playful, appeared to be working as well as J. Pierrepont Finch’s How To Succeed book.
“So, who did you vote for in the last presidential election?”
“You don’t want to kill someone, do you?
“Nevermind. Do you know all the words to ‘Grand Old Ivy’ from the musical How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying?”
Blah blah blah
Blah blah blah
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To be continued?
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