My job sent me to L.A. for three days this week for a conference. I stayed at a hostel in Venice Beach and I could see the ocean from my window. Plus there were all these young international men getting shit-faced and walking around in their underwear.
I went to the beach, I wrote a good deal, I drank a lot of rum…and I actually went to the conference.
I met Michael Kirwan, the guy who’s illustrating my manuscript for Backwoods, and if I’d had expectations about him he would’ve exceeded every one. He was fucking hysterical. We talked about art and sex and how uncut cocks are like reversible jackets. We walked around Santa Monica and observed what Michael termed a “Whitman’s Sampler of humanity,” i.e. the hot yuppie with an ass so pert it sits halfway up his back and the guy right beside him without any hands. I told Michael I could watch people with him for hours, and I should be so lucky.
I saw depressing things in Los Angeles, like a man on the Santa Monica Pier making a dirty plush marionette dance to KROQ for donations. I saw t-shirts that cost $150. The lady sitting next to me on the inbound plane said this to somebody on the phone: “Don’t tell anybody about this but you know the barbecue on Saturday? Kevin Sorbo might be there.” In an outlet store I saw two towers of autographed copies of Perez Hilton’s book (!) – they must’ve gotten waylaid en route to his adoring public.
On my last night there I was bored and a little lonely, so I went out to the Venice gay bar The Roosterfish. I ended up having a pretty great conversation with my bartender, a singer named Gaetano Jones. We talked about his music (he just put out an album) and my writing. He’s a Nifty reader, which automatically makes him Number 1 in my book.
So we were talking and some other strangers at the bar joined in, and by then I didn’t feel lonely at all. Everyone was sharing openly, and I felt very free. So when the guy I’d been chatting with next to me told me he was a writer, I immediately blurted “Me too!” And when he asked what I write, I didn’t resort to the standard “I write fiction/I write erotica/I write gay buttfucking stories” seduction. I said “I write porn.”
This man looked at me. This man’s eyes narrowed and his lip curled up. “Porn?” he said. You would’ve thought I’d crouched on the bar and squeezed a turd into his mojito. “Yes, erotica,” I said, my heart starting to race.
“Why?” he said. No change of expression, no attempt to mitigate the fact that I was clearly offended.
“Because I’m good at it,” I said, “and I believe it’s worthwhile.” No response, so I asked “What do you write?” His smile returned: relief that I’d dropped such an apparently unsavory subject.
“Oh, I mostly write about travel, sometimes about food,” he said, and though I thought “whoop-de-fuckin-shit” I did not say it aloud.
Now even though I was fuming at this point, I almost feel sorry for the guy for what he said next. Because there was no way of him knowing how utterly wrong it was.
“How old are you?”
Here’s the thing: I take full responsibility for my hang-ups in regard to age. People always mistake me for being younger than I am and it drives me nuts. I know it’s all in my fucked-up head but I can’t help it – in my reactive brain, youth=naivety.
God only knows where he was going with that question, but I’d had it. I told him “I don’t want to talk about that right now,” and escaped to the bathroom. I was shaking. My teeth were chattering. I considered trying to level with the dude but figured, why bother. It was time to go home anyway. Before I left Gaetano gave me a copy of his album and a free beer, and remarked that porn was probably the first thing that guy was going to access when he got home.
Thing is, though I sneer from time to time, I would never do it without examining why, and never do it to somebody’s face. Does that make me a hypocrite? Personal connections are important to me – they usurp taste. Hell, they usurp morality. I’d befriend a murderer, a child molester, a serial rapist, or even Karl Rove. I’d rather listen than dismiss, cause maybe I’d gain some understanding. Turn away from what offends you and it’s still there.