Monday, September 29, 2008

Me On Film

Well that was exhausting!

This weekend, I was off to Tucson, Arizona, to make my debut in the arena of downloadable erotica. We set off at 8:00 AM on Friday morning, and by "We" I mean me and Torren (his nom de porn), and Torren's Mister. On the way, we stopped off in Maricopa, an odd kind of city where all the houses seem to be painted the same shade of brown, where we had an early dinner with Torren's brother and his family. Then, it was a quick drive down the hill to the gracious home of Master Jack and his partner. After the introductions, we got right to work. Master Jack had told me that he wanted to capture for posterity shoot three scenes. For the first two, I suggested chain bondage and the Special Surprise scene that I do, but I was stumped for the third scene. This is the drawback of being the Two-Trick-Pony that I am: I either whip them or I chain them up. But I was open to suggestions, and Torren is nothing if not an old pro, so I was sure we'd come up with something.

So Friday night we tackled the Special Surprise scene. I blindfolded Torren with some vet wrap, and then restrained him to a ceiling hoist so that he was standing with his arms behind his back. Then, I circled him, waking up his skin with one of my favorite floggers, made of kangaroo skin with these thin, straw-like flays. Torren marks easily and beautifully, and pretty quickly he was red in all the right places. Then, as he moaned softly, I applied rows of clothespins to his pecs and his thighs. This was not easy, damn him and his 2% body fat! But with work, I managed to get them on. I played with them for a bit, flicking them around, and then came the Special Surprise!

"Take a deep breath," I told him.

And he did. And down I came with my really heavy (Takes Two Hands!) elk-skin flogger on the row of clothespins on his right pec. A flash of pain, and Torren howled mightily. It was beautiful.

"Three more to go!" I announced.

The playroom wasn't huge, so although the left pec went smoothly, I had trouble getting a good angle when it came to the thighs. So, I couldn't get them all in one fell swoop. It was more like five fell swoops. Torren was much too good of an actor to say, "Please let this end already!", but I bet he was thinking that.

Master Jack turned off the camera and said, "Yeah, okay, that was good. Now if you want to console him or whatever." Torren was flushed and pumped with endorphins, and didn't need much in the way of consoling or whatever. According to Master Jack, the consoling or whatever doesn't go over big with his audience.

Over the course of the weekend, we'd be hearing a lot about Master Jack's audience, and what they wanted to see and what they don't want to see. They don't want to see restraints, unless they're padlocked on. They want to see boots,and they want to see leather. And they definitely don't want to see consoling or whatever.

And my job, as I interpreted it, was to give the audience what they wanted.

After the scene, we jumped in the pool and got acquainted with Master Jack's dog. (I should, I guess, specify that he was the canine, rather than the human variety. The audience does not want to see puppy play, much to Torren's disappointment, as he likes that, and much to my relief, as I don't so much.) Master Jack's dog seems to have obsessive-compulsive disorder. He's focused all but exclusively on balls. He wants you to toss the ball to him, then take the ball from him, and toss it again. Over and over again until your arm falls off if need be. Other than his oddly-wired brain, he's a sweet dog, a huge shaggy German Shepherd. We had a nice supper (Master Jack is an excellent cook), and then it was off to bed.

I was up just about first the next morning. After the workout I gave him, Torren needed his rest, and Master Jack likes to sleep until about Noon. I relaxed on the patio out back and read through the New York Times, which Master Jack and his partner get delivered. Which was very nice. This budding porn star appreciates his New York Times.

Master Jack and his partner seem to have a power-imbalance relationship, although this wasn't explicit. They've been together for over two decades, so it could be that they've both settled into a comfortable routine and what were once barked orders have now become standing orders. I liked Master Jack's partner a lot, a very self-possessed man who was kind and thoughtful and made me a nice cup of tea that morning.

Once everybody was up and about, we got ready for the next scene. The chain bondage would go down in the garage, which wasn't air-conditioned, so doing it in the heat of the day wouldn't work so well. So the next scene would involve Torren in a neoprene sleep-sack and me edging him. We did a brief trial run with the sleep sack, as I didn't want to be figuring it all out with the camera rolling. It went off pretty well, although with Torren mummified in the sleep sack with only his dick and his balls popping out through their little slot, I couldn't resist tying them off and abusing them some. Torren, it turns out, has reeeeeally sensitive balls, and after not a lot of tapping, he broke into his "Sir... Stop! Please!" litany with a "Drew! Stop! Please!" Hearing my given name, I figured out what he was trying to get across (Drew, stop, please!) and that was enough of that. Cool. So I greased up his dick and jerked him off.

Torren shot torrents. It was really impressive. I'd put it at a quarter of a cup. I hope the audience appreciates that.

Later in the day, we did the chain bondage scene, which was sort of my whole purpose in being there. "That thing I do." Master Jack wanted me to chain Torren up in the cage. I had misgivings about that, since it would be a little awkward, and it would involve a lot of me crawling and scampering around on my hands and knees in a way that doesn't strike me as Fierce And Forbidding Chain Bondage Top. I suggested that I put lots of chain onto Torren while he was standing, and then order him into the cage to complete the job. And this went off pretty well. Pretty quickly, I had Torren loaded down with most of the lengths of heavier gauge chain, and he was sweating like a pig (*sigh*) from the weight of it. When I ordered him on his knees and into the cage, he had a little trouble complying because of all the work that suddenly involved. When Master Jack asked him to lift up his head and look at the camera, he let us know that he couldn't do that right now. (Sweet!) I finished off with the chain, padlocking it in place, and closed and locked the door of the cage. And that was a wrap.

But oh yeah, we'd have to unchain Torren and let him out of the cage. Details, details! Torren's Mister really liked the sight of his boy all chained up, and peppered me with questions about acquiring chain, so perhaps there will be more chain bondage in Torren's future, in an off-camera kind of way.

Because Master Jack and his partner had a function they had to attend that evening, dinner would be late, so Torren, Torren's Mister, and I repaired to a local Chili's for soups and salads to tide us over.

Back at Master Jack's, I put in a call to That Cowboy. Geez I missed him. So much. This guy that I didn't even know five months ago.

One of the questions that I've been wrestling with was what my screen name would be. On Saturday morning, before we began work, I came up with one: Smith. Not Master Smith, not even Mr. Smith, just Smith. Before it's pointed out to me that such a name Wouldn't Work because my fans won't be able to Google me unless I attain porn superstardom, let me just make it clear that I'm cool with that. I definitely don't have my sites set on porn superstardom. But That Cowboy liked Smith, so that was cool. That Cowboy's approval matters to me. Google can go hang fire.

After talking to That Cowboy, I put in a call to Naphtali. "So how are things in Palm Springs?" he asked. "Well," I answered, "I'm not in Palm Springs. This weekend I'm in Tucson, Arizona, the home state of that presidential candidate you admire."

A pause.

"Oh. I'm guessing that you're doing some construction work for That Cowboy or something?"

"No, although I am working. Man, am I ever working. I'm in an erotic video."

For once, I almost but not quite caught Naphtali off guard. Although he recovered pretty quickly, admitting that with me, you never quite knew what to expect.

When Master Jack and his partner got back, they fixed us a superb dinner, featuring really flavorful steak and a bearnaise sauce. Over dinner, I hit upon a new schtick. If you've ever visited Palm Springs or any of the desert cities that line the Coachella Valley, you could not but have been struck by the habit of the various town father's to name thoroughfares after notable personages. However, this being a getaway for Hollywood Stars, those notable personages include Gene Autry, Bob Hope, Dinah Shore, Frank Sinatra and the like. So, "head West on Dinah Shore and make a right onto Bob Hope" are driving directions it's possible to hear. So I think from now on, when people ask me where something is located, I'm going to use an algorithm involving a real street name here in the Valley, followed by the name of a not-so-well-known Hollywood Star. For example, "Yeah, that's at the corner of Ramon and Bonnie Franklin." Or, "You just head up Sunrise and make a right at Mason Reese." In fact, I may see about getting the name of the cul-de-sac street I call home changed to something like "Franklin Pangborn Place." Then, I'd be able to give directions by saying, "Turn off Sunrise onto North Riverside, and after the stop sign at Camino Real, make a right onto Franklin Pangborn." And it sure would be fun to give out my address.

So back to porn making.

Master Jack said that he was really happy with the material we had shot over the past two days, and he did not doubt that his audience would be pleased. (Yay!) But, there were just a couple of quick things he wanted to film tomorrow.

Which was cool. He's the boss. And after we shot a couple of quick scenes, we'd be able to get an early start and be back in Palm Springs in time for me to see Mad Men.

The next day started with a great breakfast of ham and eggs, toast and jam. And, of course, the Sunday New York Times. How perfect is that? The first scene that Master Jack wanted was an outdoors, full leather shot of Torren standing under a tree with a come-hither look on his face, and me coming hither. Great. Can we go now?


Then, another quick scene. Master Jack has this amazing federal marshal's cell in his garage. I mean, it is so cool. I am quite envious. So now, he wanted to get some footage of me putting Torren in the cell, chaining him up, jerking off all over his prone and helpless body, then locking him in there for ever and ever and ever. (The "for ever and ever and ever" part is big with the audience. As are gags. So Torren was to be gagged with black electrical tape for this scene.)

Okay. So here we go. Getting Torren in the cell and chained up and helpless, but before I locked him in there forever and ever and ever, I had to jerk off on him.

Oh cheese-and-rice. If I had any doubts about my suitability for a career as a porn star, they were confirmed. That just took forever. I know I wouldn't be able to have sex like a real porn star in front of the camera. I'm way too self conscious and easily distracted for that. And there are limits, y'know? But jerking off... that's basic, right? I've pretty much done that once a day since I was seventeen years old. How hard could that be?

Plenty hard.

Or not hard. To start off with anyway.

First off, I wasn't lying down, which is my preferred position. And what's more, I found I had to block out Torren, naked and helpless and chained before me, and Master Jack circling with the camera, and the fact that it was really hot in the garage, and the mosquito bites I had gotten over the course of the weekend. And, of course, I had to deal with "Vista Chino and Karen Valentine" and "Arenas and Zazu Pitts" running through my head. But finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I was able to go to that Special Place, allowing my mind to finally circle back to the fact that there, right in front of me, was Torren naked and gagged and helpless and chained. So lesson learned: I'm not much good at Zen meditation, and I'm not much good at beating off in an erotica film.

Okay. So that's it, right? Time to say our goodbyes and hit the road?


One more scene.

This time, back up to the play room.

Master Jack has a mail bag and a wench for suspension, and he wanted Torren hooded, stuffed in the bag, and suspended.

Okie doke.

I have to admit, at this point, I was wondering how much money I would get by selling my leathers and my floggers and whips and such on eBay and buying a a new wardrobe consisting of natural linen jackets, straw boaters, ice cream pants, and saddle shoes.

Up to the play room, on with the hood. Then we stopped the camera and removed the hood and stuffed Torren in the mail bag. I secured the bag with chain and a padlock and hoisted him high. So then what? So I started using bagged Torren as a heavy bag and started punching him. This was sort of difficult, as he wasn't protected at all, and I couldn't tell exactly where I was punching him. Thankfully, only once did I connect with his head. As I wasn't wearing boxing gloves, this hurt me more than it did Torren, and my knuckles were pretty red and chafed.

"Now," said Master Jack, "why don't you finish up by doing that quick double punch thing that boxers do!"

Say wha...?

I have no idea what that quick double punch thing is that boxers do.

I did my best at approximating this, and apparently, I hit it because finally, Master Jack declared that we were Done.

O Angels and Saints be praised.

As though we were passengers on the Titanic who had just heard the news about what that loud noise was, we packed up and loaded up the car. The Ten to the Eight to Eighty-Five to the Ten to the Coachella Valley.

I only missed the first few minutes of Mad Men, and after it was over, I headed across the wash to where That Cowboy was waiting for me. "Welcome home, Smith," he said.

Oh man, I missed him so much.

Arms and legs intertwined, we curled up listening to the fountain he fashioned out on his patio gurgling away as we fell asleep.

Home at last.

Monday, September 22, 2008

That's Mr. Tollgate To You

So it seems that next weekend I'm off to Tucson to be filmed for a bondage video. While discussing this with a couple of buddies of mine this evening, the question came up, "Will you use your real name, or a nom de porn?"

It's my understanding that technically speaking, what I'll be doing won't be pornographic, but hopefully it will be erotic. (That is to say, it'll be a bondage scene, and not involving straight up sex.) So would it be appropriate in that context to use a porn name? And if I were to use a porn name, what name would I use?

According to the porn star name game--not to be confused with the drag queen name game--my porn name would be Chippy Tollgate. (Your first name is the name of the pet you had as a child and your last name is the name of the street you grew up on.) Actually, this gives me numerous options, now that I think about it. My childhood home was quite the menagerie. We had a horse, a pony, several dogs and cats, and at one point a duck whom we counted as pets.

So here is the roster of possibilities...

Chippy Tollgate
Moko Tollgate
Duke Tollgate
Gallahad Tollgate
Valentine Tollgate
Boots Tollgate
Moishe Tollgate
Quack-Quack Tollgate
Fuzzy Tollgate
Angus Tollgate
Sassy Tollgate

Omigod! It's so hard to choose! Gallahad Tollgate sure paints a picture. Valentine Tollgate would be a lot to live up to. But Quack-Quack Tollgate is pretty hard to resist. (Quack-Quack, of course, was my pet duck. Who ran away. And my sister went running through the woods looking for him calling, "Quack-Quack! Quack-Quack! Quack-Quack!")

Still, my first inclination would be to use my real name. That would mean, though, that I'd have to give up my political aspirations. Or maybe not. I don't know that making a bondage video would necessarily count someone out for running for office in California. In fact, I could use it in my campaign material: "It's true I'm a Sadist, but I'd never do anything to hurt California!"

Oh wait a minute... That's right. I don't have any political aspirations.

I guess my concern would be that my actual name doesn't sound very erotic. Or sadistic. And political aspirations or no, when I go out looking for a construction management job in two years, I might not want that showing up in Google.

Perhaps I could just go with "Dutch," my nickname at Wuperior Soodcraft.

I'll have to give this some thought.

Or maybe I'll just go with Quack-Quack Tollgate after all.


Oh, cool.. Be sure to click on the "See the exhibit" link.

[Creaky Old Man Voice] "Why I remember a time before the Wessel O'Connor Gallery moved to Brooklyn."

(I found this on jimbo's site.)

Sunday, September 21, 2008


I didn't plan on falling in love when I moved to the desert.

Quite the reverse: I planned on not falling in love when I moved to the desert. My focus during my initial two years here was first and foremost job skills education, followed by a time of healing and reflection. And that's it.

Avoid entanglements. Remain aloof. You've got homework to do. Always.

That's what I was thinking about in church this morning, with That Cowboy sitting next to me. He has mostly been a Mormon, a faith that I know little about other than their peculiar choices for underwear, the veneration of the seagull that graces the license plates of Utah, and some vague details about Joseph Smith and the revelations of the angelic messenger Moroni. And, I knew that they weren't very progressive when it comes to homosexuality.

A few dates ago, That Cowboy asked what I was doing tomorrow, and "tomorrow" being a Sunday, I said, "I'm going to church, followed by my other ritual, reading the New York Times, and after that, homework."

"Church?" he said.

And I talked some about my faith, inchoate and intuitive and undogmatic as it is, and the Episcopal Church, and why I feel at home there. There was interest in his eyes, and after all that time in the pews being exhorted to "invite someone to church!" by more priests than I can count, I said, "Would you like to come along?"

And so, my church-going since I've been here in the desert has involved That Cowboy. He asks questions, and I do my best to answer them and to put him at ease about the aerobic aspects ("there's no right thing or wrong thing to do really, and you'll notice that different people do different things; mostly it springs from personal beliefs and your response to those beliefs at different parts of the liturgy").

That Cowboy and I have gotten together a few nights a week. He'd make dinner for me, and a couple of times I've made dinner for him. (That Cowboy makes a great chicken soup with dumplings.) And we go out to eat. On one of our first dates, we made our way out to Whitewater Preserve and lied (uncomfortably) on the hood of my jeep and looked at the stars. That Cowboy works as a sort of home fix-up guy. There's a house in North Palm Springs he's been working on for a while, and one Friday, when we got together for lunch, he invited me up to take a look at the place. I was totally nervous about that. What if I didn't like it? I used to get paid at Wuperior Soodcraft for scrutinizing the handiwork of the guys in the shop--doing the QC--before it went on the truck for delivery.

That Cowboy's work is great. Really great. His craftsmanship is all but flawless, and he has a great eye for design.

And all during that little house tour, there he was, sweaty in his Wrangler's and boots.

He's kind and thoughtful, strong, honest, and hard-working, handsome and quick to laugh. When he talks about the places he's lived--Montana, Colorado, Algeria, Texas--he talks about the natural beauty of each place.

And he has this great dog. A rhodesian ridgeback, bred to hunt lions. I've told That Cowboy that the first thing I liked about him was his dog, since I believe you can tell all you need to know about a man by his dog. That Cowboy agrees that he has a really good dog.

So today, after church, I spilled the beans. Sitting in That Cowboy's living room, I swallowed hard and said, "Y'know what I was thinking about in church today? I was thinking about how I'm falling in love with you."

And things got pretty Molly Bloom's Soliloquy after that. Yes yes and I yes. Yes.

As we sat holding each other, talking in whispers, kissing, an idea came into my mind. It's an antiquated idea, from the children's literature I read when I was a little boy. It's an Uncle Wiggly idea. I looked That Cowboy in the eye and said, "I want for us to have Adventures together."

He smiled, he laughed, his wise eyes again got moist. "Yes," he said. He told me that yesterday, when we were up at Whitewater, I was walking the trail down to the creek ahead of him, and he thought to himself, "I could really go places with that man."

And so it seems, like a circle in a circle like a whirl within a whirl, within this great adventure of mine, starting with a precipitous and premature cross-country jaunt (I got a traffic ticket in the mail the other day; apparently I ran a red light in St. Louis), another adventure begins. And there will, I hope, be adventures within this adventure.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Baby Lizard

Food poisoning.

That's right, food poisoning.

It all stems from The Problem I Can't Solve. Namely, what to do for lunch at College of the Desert. One great flaw of life here in the Coachella Valley is there aren't any pizza parlors. There are plenty of Pizza Huts and "italian ristorante" type places with table cloths and such, but no place with $1.75 slices.

What's an on-the-go college student to do?

Many of my fellow students make due with the food court at the Westfield Mall. Which isn't too bad. The hamburgers offered by the school cafeteria don't seem to be too popular, but I'll look into them eventually.

Anyway, while I was driving around looking for something or other last week, I thought I found just what I was looking for: a Quizno's right next to a Starbucks out in Palm Desert.


I love Quizno's, and right next to a Starbucks makes it one stop shopping for me.

Alas, yesterday after Technical Drafting (Drafting is HARD.), I headed down Monterey to where I had spotted the delectable duo. But alas, the Starbucks was still there, but the Quizno's was closed.

But there was a place called Chop Stix, a chain offering "Fresh Asian Flavors."

(My stomach heaves just typing that.)

And so in I went, and ordered a chicken spicy basil bowl or something. I noticed that despite the name, Chop Stix gives out plastic silverware with their food. But after a short wait, there was lunch. And I was starved.

I took a bite, and I thought, "Huh. That tastes kind of odd."

I thought it was odd in the way of being unfamiliar, but no, it was odd in the way of being someone left the chicken out overnight or the sesame oil was rancid.

And I ate the whole thing, not even concentrating on it because I had my first Spanish test yesterday.

After lunch, it was back to campus and off to the language lab, getting in a little last minute cramming for the test. Which went well. Although it occurred to me that this was the first time I sat for a test like this in over twenty years. Just that alone felt really strange. I remembered somehow (how?) all those testing strategies from high school: read the directions carefully, read over the entire test and do an easy section first as a warm up, and don't forget to put your name on the paper.

I think I got a decent grade on the test, although I took some chances with the essay section, in which we were writing to our new pen pal, Marta Valles. (¡Hola, Marta! ¿Qué tal? Me llamo Drew. Soy un hombre de cuarenta y tres años. La feche de me compleaños es el veintinueve de octubre.)

After I got done the Spanish test, I headed to the meeting of the College of the Desert Architecture Club. I'm liking the Architecture Club. Activities include doing fundraising of various sorts so that we can go on field trips. Every year in June, there's the Big Field trip, as in a week in NYC or Washington DC or somewhere. And, there are lots of local field trips, too. In a couple of months, the plan is for us to go to Frank Gehry's Disney Concert Hall in LA to hear a concert, in order to best appreciate the purpose for which the space was designed. Cool!

During the Architecture Club meeting, I was feeling vaguely queasy. At six o'clock was my California Building Codes class (the instructor is this totally woofy ex-Marine from Queens). By the time that was over at 8:30 (las ocho y media de la noche!), I was having sweats and chills.

And so it's been.

It was a beautiful day here in Palm Springs, a few clouds in the sky and at times a light breeze blowing. Or at least, during the three minutes when I staggered out of my darkened apartment to step outside onto my patio, that's the way it seems.

I did manage to get together with That Cowboy for lunch today. We went to Rick's and I had a cup of the cold cucumber soup and half a chicken salad sandwich. Portions at Rick's tend to be Man Sized, but the way I was feeling, my lunch could have been served up in a wheelbarrow or some kind of trough. But I did what I could.

After lunch, I went home and went back to bed. Over the past twenty-four hours, I think I've slept for about twenty of them. And y'know how when you're sick, it affects your emotional state? Well I totally have that. All bleak and pointless and doomed. Thoughts that I haven't had since I've been here in the desert, that's for sure. And they felt so unreal.

But then, the healing happened.

Just now, there I was, deep asleep, when I felt something on me. Probably a fly, I thought. And swatted it. And there it was again, in the cup of my clavicle. So I brought my chin down to my shoulder, a move any fly could easily avoid, and this one didn't. I moved in with my hand and tried another swat. And this time, I felt it. And it didn't feel like a fly. It felt like a little gummi worm.

Okay. Freaking out now. Wide awake. On goes the light. What the hell is in bed with me?

And there it was: a little lizard. It looked new-born, it's skin translucent, so I could see it's little heart beating.

Hey buddy! Where did you come from?

And that's a question I haven't answered to my own satisfaction. Apparently, there's not a whole next of fingerling lizards in my bed, so where did this one hatch and how did it find its way into my bedroom?

No matter.

I deposited it on the floor and watched it skitter under the bed.

I'm saying "lizard," but in my fevered delirium, I was thinking salamander. In the Tarot, the salamander is associated with fire, and therefore with vitality and creativity.

I took the little guy for an emissary, sent by the Universe to bring me comfort and healing. Lizards, after all, are beneficial. They eat bugs. I totally don't mind having lizards in my house.

So far, the healing hasn't quite set in yet. I still feel pretty crappy. I think I'll give That Cowboy a call and see if he wants to hang out and watch television and stroke my fevered brow and apply cool washcloths to my burning forehead. (I know, right? Who wouldn't be up for that as a great way to spend a Friday night. I hope That Cowboy will recognize it for the test that it is.) Or maybe not. It's almost ten o'clock (las diez menos seis de la noche!), and he might already be out and about enjoying his Friday night after a week of working out in the hot sun, so perhaps I'd best just settle in for the night on my lonesome. But we'll see. Worth a shot anyway.

And Good Health is on the way. And the harbinger of that is now skittering around under my bed.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

In Dreams

Last night, I woke up at 4:30 A.M. from a deep sleep. I was having an anxiety dream.

A couple of weeks ago, while I was standing in line to register or filling up my arms at the bookstore, the thought actually crossed my mind, "What would be the content of my anxiety dreams now?"

I understand that commonly, most people's anxiety dreams look a lot like mine. There I am, back in school, the papers are being handed out for a final exam. I realize that back at the beginning of the semester, I misread my schedule and so I haven't actually attended any of the classes or heard any of the material on which I am now being tested. All these years later, and the anxieties that plagued me in high school and college are still with me.

And so it occurred to me that now that I'm back in college, going to classes and taking exams, what would I dream about when my sleeping mind got all anxious?

And last night, I got an answer to that idle question.

In my dream, it was election day, 2008. I was incredibly anxious because John McCain might win.

Back in 2000, I gave money to John McCain's Straight Talk Express. I liked the guy, and I liked what he had to say. (On the Democratic side, I was favoring Bill Bradley, for many of the same reasons.) Somewhere, in one of these many boxes I have yet to unpack, is a McCain 2000 button I got for my check.

But reading about the campaign over the past couple of weeks, I've grown more and more worried.

I think the first thing that caught my attention was Sarah Palin's statement in her acceptance speech that Barack Obama (spellcheck on Blogger still fails to recognize that name and it appears with a jagged red underline) found time to author two books but hasn't written one piece of legislation.

That's not true, I thought.

And, as the press and independent fact checker websites confirmed, that's not true.

And then came McCain's recent attack ad in which he claimed that Obama wrote and passed a law (uhhh... wait a minute...) that would teach sex education to kindergarten students.

It turns out that what the ad refers to was legislation passed by State Senator Obama to educate children about the threats posed by sexual predators. A "Bad Touch" kind of thing.

So John McCain was lying.

And I happened to be watching The View the other day when McCain was on and was asked by Joyce Behar (or whatever her name is) why he was lying about Barack Obama in his campaign ads. And he denied he was lying. Which in my book counts as lying again.

Here's why that bothers me so much: that's exactly why I've come to hate George W. Bush. George Bush looked me in the eye and told me a lie. And I believed him. I believed him when he said that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that posed a threat to us, and after a war that would be in-by-April-out-by-June, we'd eliminate that threat and establish a democratically elected government in the Middle East and that democracy would spill over into Iran and Saudi Arabia and Syria and everything would be hunky-dory. And I believed that.

George Bush lied to me.

And now, John McCain's lying to me.

And so is Sarah Palin.

And another aspect of my dream--I swear--was that before he could be innaugurated, McCain had a fatal heart attack and Sarah Palin was to be sworn in as the forty-fourth President of the United States of America. (I actually have no idea what would happen in that situation; to the best of my knowledge, it wasn't contemplated by the framers of the Constitution.)

And that really scared the shit out of me, that a woman who lies and keeps on lying (about her opposition to the Bridge to Nowhere) who before she was the governor of a state that has the overwhelming lion's share of it's revenue come from tax payers in the other forty-nine states, was the mayor of a town not quite as large as Doylestown, Pennsylvania. And because she made some Really Bad decisions about the building of a new recreation center, she left Wasilla with a deficit of several millions of dollars and no recreation center when she ascended to Governor.

Up until now, up until this dream I had last night, I've been leaning toward Obama, but not because I think he'll be a superdooperincredible President. But just because I want three things from the next President:

1. I want health insurance I can afford;
2. I want us to get the hell out of Iraq; and
3. I want the United States of America to stop torturing people.

And Obama seems to be slightly more likely than McCain to fulfill those objectives. Because Obama at least has talked about each of those, and all I've heard from McCain is how tough a McCain presidency would be on Pork Barrel Spending, an issue about which I care just about not at all.

But now, fuck John McCain. That man will say or do anything to get elected. Including looking me in the eye and lying to me. And I see no indication that if elected, he and his Vice President wouldn't lie and lie and lie and lie and lie.

And I don't want that from my President.

But, I'm worried that just like me back in 2003, at least 50.5% of the voting populace in a handful of swing states will believe the lies they're being told, and we could indeed be in for four more years of complete and unmitigated moral bankruptcy in this country.

God, I hope not.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


It almost rained today.

When I came out of Elementary Spanish (doce más cuarenta y tres son cincuenta y cinco), the wind was blowing all the palm fronds, coming from the Southeast at a good clip. The sky was dark off in that direction, storm clouds were threatening.

Aside from a few sprinkles on the windshield--just enough to make the dust stick--it didn't rain.

Of course.

This is the desert.

But I'm sort of surprised at how often it almost rains.

And when it does almost rain, it stirs something in all of us. Or at least, it stirs something in me.

I see myself drenched, arms outstretched, face upwards, eyes closed, mouth open, peels of thunder, flashes of lightning.

It's almost rained a few times since I've been here. But only almost.

I suppose I'll have to make due with Almost.

It almost rained today.

We almost had a real downpour.

Almost cats and dogs.

Almost coming down in buckets.

Almost ten inches in twenty minutes.

Almost flooding half the valley.


September 11, 2008

Brooklyn to Palm Springs in seven years. It's like the Seven League Boots, only chronological rather than geographic.

Seven years ago, there I was, dreaming of some different life, knowing that if I didn't change my life, it would kill me. Although those dreams were inchoate, Palm Springs is a pretty fair approximation of what I was dreaming of.

Here I am in the desert, where I belong.

I think if I were to be given a glimpse back then of where I would be in seven years, it would have made me very happy. Except for one thing: I bet I would bristle at the seven years in between.

"So do I have to wait that long? I'm not good with the patience thing."

But now, those seven years feel like an unfortunate weekend. A flat tire, distress, blurting out prayers, getting bad news.

Did that really all happen?

It's all starting to seem a little unreal.

And then there was that day seven years ago.

The national significance recedes at this point, subsumed by the individual significance I give it.

I wonder if it's that way for a lot of us? I knew of plenty of plenty of people who died on September 11, 2001, but although there were a few near misses, I didn't know who was on one of those planes or in one of those buildings. And statistically speaking, that's the case with most of us.

So if the events of that September day made all of us stop and get some perspective. I wonder if seven years on it's become "the day that I knew I had to quit that job," or "the day I decided to have children," or "the day I realized how much I really loved him and how empty my life would be without him in it"?

Maybe that's what today should be about. In part at least. If a plane were to come out of the sky right at you, who would you call? Where would you rather be than where you are now? What's the one thing you'd wish you'd had the chance to do? What would you say to the person next to you? If you're inclined to pray, what would your prayer be?

Because seven years ago today, we all learned that a plane really could come out of the sky.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Here in the desert, the weather has apparently broken for the year. Today, the temperatures were in the 90's, but not in the 100's. Being from "Back East," (as it's referred to here), I'm dubious. I've known too many beautiful days in May where you could break out the shorts only to have near freezing temperatures within a week.

But apparently, that's not the way it works here. It's summer, and then it isn't. And from now until June, it's nothing but beautiful weather: warm in the day time and cool at night.

That Cowboy I've been seeing a lot of reports that pretty quickly you develop thin blood and need a jacket when it gets below 70. Apparently, my blood has always been thin.

You could sense a change in everyone's mood though. All smiles and "isn't it beautiful?" and riding around in the convertible with the top down.

I'm happy for the change. Just more beautiful things that the desert has to show me.

Friday, September 05, 2008

In The Desert

It had to happen.

Things have been going so well since I arrived here in Palm Springs. Finally, disaster struck. I'm still shaken by the experience.

There I was, sitting out behind Koffi on a perfect hot August day, peaceably enjoying my mocha freeze, when I drank my mocha freeze too quickly and got one of those sharp pains in my forehead. So you see, living here in Palm Springs is not without its challenges.

And even though you find a great apartment on your first day of looking and within five days you've signed a lease and moved in, and even though you're coming off a great first week of classes at College of the Desert--my California Building Code instructor is way hot, and even though you discover that there's a Starbucks within walking distance of your apartment, and even though ditto for one of the two leather bars in town, and even though you take these great day trips to Disney and up the mountains to Idylwild, life is full of surprises and it can just rise right up like a rattler and bite you in the form of an unexpected brain freeze from your drink out behind Koffi.

Seriously though, things have just been going great. The list goes on and on, and would probably be tedious to read. Among significant developments is the discovery that I can get to the aforementioned leather bar, the Tool Shed, by going out the back gate of my complex, down this really seedy back alley that has all kinds of potential, and be there in about three minutes.

And, because it's walking distance, for the first time in over a decade, I got totally drunk the other night. I rarely have more than a beer when I'm driving, and usually stick to Red Bull or water, but since I can walk to a leather bar, I decided to kick back and gratefully accept the shots that were bought for me when I was there. And I even had a second beer. Lightweight that I am, I was totally buzzing after that. But then, as Shot Number Three was being poured, I heard a little alarm bell go off in my head, one I don't think I've heard since I was in college (the last time), that tells me that if I have one more sip of alcohol, things are going to get really unpleasant. That night almost resulted in an episode of Drogging While Blunk, but it didn't. When I got home I opted for bed instead.

And I'm anxiously looking forward to next Friday, when the North American Van Lines truck pulls up outside the front gates and disgorges all my worldly goods into my new apartment. Or "bungalow," as I prefer to think of it. After that, there will be no prying me out of my desert home.

And, I think I got full credit on my first Spanish quiz. ¡Buenos Dias! Me llama Drew. ¿Cómo se llama usted? Totally got that down.

I'm excited about my other classes, too, which include Technical Drafting I ("the pencil is a tool of communication, and I hope to teach you how to express yourself fully with it"), the California Building Code, Intro. to Construction Management, and on Monday I'll get a taste of History of Architecture and Intro. to the Architectural Professions. And I've also signed up with the Architecture Club. Mostly it involves visiting local architecturally significant buildings such as the Kaplan House, Disney Concert Hall, and the Getty Villa and such. And, they spend the year raising money and after classes end in June, go spend a week doing archi-tourism somewhere with all the money raised.

And gosh, I've been spending time with this guy whom we'll call Cowboy. He does home remodeling here in the Coachella Valley and might have some work for me. And oh man, does he look good in his boots and Wranglers.

And I've had some fascinating conversations with some of the men I've met here. I spoke tentatively about the feeling I had of being called here, how strange it is that I feel so at home in the desert, to a couple of guys I was talking to at the Tool Shed. They did their best to conceal the looks that crept across their faces which told me that they had heard that before. Then that means you belong here, one of them offered. One of them said that there were two kinds of people who come to Palm Springs. During the season, they come from all over to enjoy our mild weather. The bars are packed. It's like the circus is in town every weekend. But many confuse the circus for the town itself and move here expecting it to be a party that never ends. But they don't stay. But there are others who come here because something calls to them, and after they hear the call, there's no other place that they can be.

It's a mystical place. In the middle of the desert, and oasis. We sit on top of an enormous aquifer. The Coachella Valley is the only place in the entire state of California that doesn't have to bring in water from somewhere else. Surrounded by the San Jacinto mountains to the South and West and by the San Bernardino mountains to the North and East. An incredible place.

And it's my home.