CUPID

I was having lunch today at the food court at the Century City mall, and some guy was there handing out flyers announcing auditions for “Cupid”, some new reality dating show. (They must be very desperate for contestants. They’ve also been advertising their upcoming casting call all over TV and the radio.)

I’m not sure exactly what the concept of this show is, but apparently, they’re going to try to fix up eligible single women with the kinds of guys who have nothing better to do than hang out at the mall in the middle of a Friday afternoon in a skater shirt and cargo shorts.

They’re not going to try to fix women up with guys like me. I didn’t get a flyer.

It could be worse. I could be the guy who was having lunch with the guy who got a flyer. He didn’t get a flyer either, and he was at the same table.

It’s not just bars or parties or the internet anymore — now you can even get rejected when you’re eating lunch!

The guy who got the flyer looked it over and smiled, amused. He said he was thinking of trying out.

So if you watch “Cupid” this summer, and you see a guy who’s tall, buff, good-looking and in his late 20’s-early 30’s, that’s him.

KISS

The last time Drew went out of town, I couldn’t kiss him goodbye.

He got picked up by a cab outside his apartment building, and the driver was watching. Even though we were in West Hollywood (probably the gayest city on Earth) and the driver was being paid by Drew to perform a service, not judge his sexual orientation, it didn’t seem safe, and we said goodbye with a wave.

This weekend at Drew’s friend’s wedding (these were straight friends), both of us got really drunk, and Drew was obviously feeling pretty bold. He kissed me at the reception in front of a room full of people. Granted, most of them were dancing, and we were off to the side where no one was paying attention to us. But one guy, an older, uptight-looking man straight out of Reaction Shot Central Casting, saw the whole thing, and he jeered at us with disapproval and gave a disgusted look.

We couldn’t stop laughing about it all night.

On Tuesday morning, Drew drove me to my car dealership, where I’d left my car over the holiday weekend for some repairs. We had spent three solid days together and now we were saying goodbye again. Once again, lots of people were around, but nobody was really looking.

We played it safe and waved.

Drew called me a few minutes later on my cell phone. He apologized for not being as bold as he’d been at the wedding and said, “Sometimes I hate being gay.”

Drew’s going away again this weekend, and I’ll be there when he leaves. But depending on the variables of the situation, I’m not sure how we’ll end up saying goodbye.

But I’ll have my cell phone on me just in case.

GOSSIP

I was very nervous about letting Drew read this blog. For a while, I didn’t even tell him it existed. But he found out, the stinker, and he bugged me about it until I finally caved and gave him the URL. And as soon as he had it, he did exactly what I expected.

He skimmed the archives for his name and read everything I’d written about him.

This was not only what I expected, but what I’d feared. I didn’t even remember all the things I’d written about Drew. I knew there wasn’t anything bad, but it’s like hearing somebody talking behind your back. Even if they’re not saying anything bad, you’re so afraid something bad is coming that you miss all the good stuff. And even the good stuff sounds bad if you haven’t heard it before, because it makes you wonder why they’d share it with someone else if they’ve never told you.

I knew I’d written some less-than-flattering stuff about Drew’s friends on this blog, as well as some completely unflattering stuff about Drew’s ex-boyfriend Gregg, but none of that seemed to bother Drew very much. The one thing he quoted back to me, with some disappointment in his voice, was the following observation from an entry about a party we’d gone to months earlier:

“Drew gossips a lot.” (Yes, I bolded it. I’m cruel.)

When I’ve hurt the feelings of someone I care about, I usually want to apologize as quickly and profusely as possible. The problem is that Drew does like to gossip. A lot.

A LOT.

A LOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This weekend, Drew and I went to his friend’s wedding in Santa Barbara. We met lots of Drew’s friends, including some people he hadn’t seen in a while. Here are some of the things Drew discussed with these friends:

- How skinny Jen was (“You could see the vertebrae in her back!”)

- How he couldn’t believe Zig and Brooke were dating. (He gave the relationship a couple months, at most.)

- How Brooke looks much older than she is. (At different times, he estimated the differential at either five or ten years.)

- How he once told Zig about how old Brooke looks (and how Zig reminded him of it at the bar after the rehearsal dnner).

- How one of the bride’s friends had warned her that the groom had been cheating on her. (Drew had his suspicions, too.)

- How the bride was no longer talking to that friend, who had not been invited to the wedding.

- How some people thought the groom was an alcoholic.

- How drunk the groom was at the bar the night before the wedding when he stood on a table and toasted the bride.

- How nobody was tipping the bartenders at the reception.

- How he hoped Julia and Noel, his two dateless friends at the wedding, would hook up.

- How Julia didn’t hit it off with Noel.

- How Julia was hitting it off with Kevin.

- Whether Julia and Kevin hooked up on the wedding night.

- Whether Kevin was gay.

- How Sambo’s, the restaurant where we ate breakfast, was themed after the disgraced politically incorrect book Little Black Sambo.

- How he couldn’t stop staring at the scar of the little girl who’d had the heart transplant.

- How I had a blog, where I wrote for all the world to see that I think Drew gossips a lot.

Plus there was the usual talk about his family and friends back home (i.e., Georgian’s married boyfriend, his parents the “weirdies”, Mrs. Shoe’s estrangement from her kids). But I barely hear that anymore.

Yes, I know having a blog like this is the ultimate form of gossip (does Drew know that?), and I know Drew’s going to read every word of this entry, and maybe that makes me a big jerk. But remember: he asked for it.

And now that you’re checking the blog, Drew, you’re going to be reading things that I’m writing about you.

A lot.

BIRTHDAY

I told Drew exactly where I wanted to go for dinner on my birthday.

I wanted him to take me to my new favorite restaurant, Gyu-kaku, a fun Japanese place where you cook your own food on an open grill. We went there a month ago, on its opening night, and had a great time. While we were there, we were talking to a young couple on a date, and they surprised us when they asked us how long we’d been together. It was the first time we were officially recognized as a couple by complete strangers. And the food was great, too.

But Drew wanted to surprise me, so Gyu-kaku wasn’t going to work. I knew for sure that he’d chosen another restaurant when he told me he had to pick me up at 6:30 in order to get me there for our 7:00 reservation. Gyu-kaku is only five minutes away from my apartment. I was a little disappointed, but I was sure he’d picked somewhere equally fun to eat. There were lots of places I’d mentioned that I wanted to go, and I was having fun trying to call what restaurant names I’d dropped casually over the preceding weeks. Was it the Buggy Whip? Roscoe’s Chicken N’ Waffles? Hometown Buffet?

Drew was coming from a baby shower that ran late, so he didn’t arrive to pick me up until 6:45. I got into his car, and he blindfolded me so I couldn’t see where we were headed. I tried desperately to thwart his game, using my sense of direction and time to estimate where we were. “We’re crossing Santa Monica Boulevard… we just turned left on Gardner… traffic seems awfully light, we must be on a side street…” I immediately ruled out the Buggy Whip, which is south of us near the airport. We were clearly headed North, towards Hollywood, and possibly Burbank. Could it be the Outback Steakhouse? Well, it seemed unlikely, as earlier that day, I had heard the restaurant call Drew to confirm his reservation. Outback didn’t seem like the kind of place that would do that. … or was that all a trick???

About fifteen minutes went by, and we were now late for our reservation. Drew called Julie and Victoria, who were meeting us at the restaurant, to tell them we were about fifteen minutes away. Now I was convinced we were headed for Burbank. It was driving me crazy.

At 7:15, after half an hour in the car, Drew pulled into a parking lot and told me to take my blindfold off.

We were at Gyu-kaku. He had been driving around in circles for half an hour, wasting time and keeping my friends waiting, to take me exactly where I wanted to go.

I was surprised.

Drew’s birthday is two weeks from today. Now I know what I have to live up to.

CRAIG

Craig is my doubles partner in the gay tennis league.

In my league, doubles partners are assigned randomly when you register each season. I’ve played for five seasons now, and I’ve had a different doubles partner every time. Mostly, I’ve had pretty good luck. Alex, Karen, Sean and Joe were all really nice. Craig’s kind of a jerk.

This Wednesday, we played in the doubles finals for the season. Wednesday was the day I was so sick that I took an actual sick day (meaning a day when I was legitimately too sick to go in to work) for possibly the first time in my life. I hadn’t slept much the night before because of my persistent cough, and my throat was so sore, I could barely speak intelligibly, making me unable to perform my work duties. But I showed up for tennis because, well, I didn’t want to disappoint Craig.

Whenever we play, Craig insists on serving first for our team. I don’t have a great serve, but I don’t think I’m bragging when I say it’s a lot more consistent than Craig’s. We’ve lost entire games because his serve was shitty, but I’ve rarely double-faulted more than once or twice in a set. But the point isn’t who serves better. It’s who’s less of a jerk. The person on a team who’s more inclined to share the serving duties is less of a jerk. Again, I’m not bragging when I say that’s me.

Craig is about my height, but he’s very stocky. I’m not good at estimating people’s weight, but he’s probably about 80-100 pounds heavier than I am. He wears the same blue shirt and gym shorts every week. He’s kind of nerdy and apparently runs some sort of comic book website. There’s really no reason to point any of this out, but there’s no reason NOT to either. In case you haven’t noticed, this is the blog post where I rag on Craig.

On Wednesday, as sick as I was, I played possibly the best tennis of my life, and we lost the doubles championship because of Craig. He played poorly all night, double-faulted constantly, and hit error after error. Meanwhile, I hit more winners than ever before and got a lot of compliments from players who are much better than I am. Fine, this time I am bragging when I say I played great, but I feel safe doing that and knowing I’ll still come off better than Craig in this story.

Craig and I won two matches out of three (matches in my league are just one set long), and the one we lost, we lost 7-5. But that was enough to cost us the championship, and at the end of the night, even Craig had to admit that I carried the team. We would’ve won if not for him, he confided.

He said that, but he still didn’t let me serve first in any of the matches that night. He still hit balls that were clearly headed for my side of the court (and usually hit them out of bounds). He still behaved like a sore loser and a jerk.

But that’s okay. I didn’t want the trophy, and I didn’t want the gay tennis league Wednesday doubles title for Spring 2003.

I wanted to lose, and I wanted it to be Craig’s fault.

It was the best season ever.

CAKE

Let me eat cake!

I’m furious. I haven’t been this mad in a long time.

I’M FUCKING PISSED.

That’s right: FUCKING!

My office has cake once a month to celebrate the employee birthdays in that month. No one ever knows what day it will happen until the receptionist sends out an email saying, “Come to the main conference room at 3 o’clock for birthday cake!” Last year, in honor of my birthday, the receptionist ordered just the kind of cake I like: chocolate cake, chocolate frosting and as much other chocolate as they could shove in there. That’s my kinda cake, and if I’m gonna eat cake, especially for my own birthday, dammit, I’m gonna like it!

It was one of three cakes she ordered that month, and it was by far the most popular. Who doesn’t love chocolate cake?

Now we have a new receptionist, and I’ve been a little nervous about whether he’d know what kind of cake to order. But what am I gonna do? Be the guy who goes up to him and puts in a special request, because I think he’s a total moron who can’t order a decent birthday cake?

No, I didn’t want to be that guy.

I figured, if he didn’t order the BEST cake, he’d still order something pretty decent. They order three cakes a month. One of them has to be good. Right?

I give people too much credit.

Here’s how important cake day is to me. I’ve been out two days this month — once to take the Notary exam and once because I was sick. Both times, I cringed upon returning, afraid I might’ve missed my cake day while I was gone. Yes, I know it’s pathetic. But I have to soak up what little joy I can at this job, and thankfully, I didn’t miss cake day.

The email just came. Today is cake day.

Only it’s not cake day. Get this:

IT’S FUCKING PIE DAY!!!!!!

That’s right! The bonehead ordered PIES! You know what I hate? FUCKING PIES! You know who hates pies? FUCKING ME!

THIS IS THE BIGGEST FUCKING OUTRAGE OF MY ENTIRE FUCKING LIFE!

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be so upset, but it’s my birthday! It’s my cake! Only, it’s not cake, IT’S A FUCKING PIE!

FUCK THE RECEPTIONIST! FUCK THIS PLACE! FUCK THOSE FUCKING PIES!!!!!!!!!!

Happy birthday to me.

DOCTOR

I have a bad doctor.

When I started my job, I picked a doctor out of the provider directory supplied by my new insurance company. Having only two pieces of information to go on — names and addresses — I chose what looked like the most convenient choice: a doctor who had two offices, one near my office and one near my apartment.

It turned out to be a walk-in clinic. When I walked in, the waiting room was filled with Latino men who had injured themselves operating forklifts. Instead of seeing the doctor I had selected from the directory, I put my name on a list and was seen by whichever doctor happened to be available when my number came up, much the same way you would get someone to slice your meat or box your crumb cake at a deli counter. Maybe this is how most doctor’s offices work. I’m not sure. When I first went last summer, it was the first time I had been to a doctor in ten years.

A pudgy, balding man with a big smile picked up my chart. He must’ve been in his early 60’s. All of the doctors at this clinic, I’ve noticed, are pudgy, balding men in their early 60’s. This is where doctors come to die.

In the interest of anonymity, I won’t give this doctor’s real name. I’ll just call him “Dr. Crazy”. I told Dr. Crazy I hadn’t been to a doctor in ten years. I was ready for a big lecture on how important regular checkups and physicals are, but instead, he just looked at me and said, “I’m sure you’re fine.” He asked me how much I exercised, and I feebly replied, “Not enough”, again expecting his wrath. He sneered, “People worry too much about exercise. You’re young. Just go for a walk once a week or something, and you’ll be fine.” He wasn’t too keen on health food either and advised me not to worry too much about my diet. “If your cholesterol’s high, we’ll give you some medication to bring it down.”

Dr. Crazy asked me if I used condoms, but before I could even answer, he cut me off, “Eh, you don’t really need to. The risk of HIV is zilch.” (That’s a direct quote.) He just warned me to stay away from “prostitutes and anything weird like that” and, again, I’d be “fine”.

I knew when I walked out that I shouldn’t go back to Dr. Crazy, but once all my tests came back negative, the need to look for a new doctor seemed less urgent. Maybe my once-every-ten-years plan was sufficient. I didn’t need to think about a new doctor for a long time.

And then I got sick.

I’ve had a painful, persistent sore throat for almost a week now. It’s made it hard to swallow and even harder to talk. When I speak I sound like a barking seal. All the over-the-counter medications say to see a doctor if your sore throat lasts more than two days, so I was well into the danger zone. I called out sick yesterday and decided to visit the doctor. But who? I still hadn’t done my research, and, well, I knew that Dr. Crazy took walk-ins…

So I decided to roll the dice again. But this time, I went to the office near my apartment, where I’d be able to steer clear of the Mad Doc himself. The office in my neighborhood seemed a lot like the other one. Same clientele, same balder, older, pudgier doctors. And after I waited for about forty-five minutes, I got to see my new physician.

I’ll call him Dr. Loony.

I told Dr. Loony I had a sore throat, and he immediately scribbled off a prescription. I asked him if he might actually, y’know, like to look at it, and so he took out his stethoscope and checked my breathing. Then, he looked inside my ears. And only then did he look in my throat. Then he handed me my prescription.

I stopped him as he was going out the door. “Are there any foods I should eat or not eat?”

“Nope.”

“Is it normal that it’s lasted this long?”

“It could be. If you still have it next week, give me a call.”

“Do you want to do a throat culture?”

“If you want me to.”

I asked for the throat culture. He left, and about fifteen minutes later a nurse came in to swab my throat. She dabbed the swab with chemicals, then asked me to time it with my watch and let her know when five minutes were up. Then she left. Twenty minutes went by.

While I waited for the doctor to come back to confirm the results, two different technicians came in to look at the test. “Yup, it’s negative,” the first one said. “Es negativo,” said the second one.

And then Dr. Loony finally arrived. “It’s negative,” he said. Then he advised me to tear up the prescription he gave me. “It won’t do any good,” he said.

So I went home and rested. I didn’t fill the prescription. I just dug into the care package Drew got me — two kinds of tea, four kinds of chicken noodle soup (who knew Campbell’s made so many?) and a chocolate chip muffin. And today I feel better.

It’s a big relief, because I’ve resolved to stick to my original plan: no more doctor visits for ten years.

SICK

My boss is sick. I am ill.

I came in this morning barely able to speak. I’m not exaggerating. My voice, when I can squeeze it out, is a raspy, barely intelligible squeal. When I try to say something, it sounds like a fax machine connecting. I have a very sore throat that burns with pain if I don’t sip water every five minutes or so. When my boss heard me speak, he asked what was wrong, and I tried my best to describe it to him. Though he looked and sounded fine, he said he wasn’t feeling so great either, and he probably had the same thing.

About two minutes later, I heard him on the phone, telling someone he was coming down with something that’s “been going around the office”. This was at about 9:15 a.m., just after he came in to work, and the most amazing part is he hadn’t been in the office for FIVE DAYS. That’s right, he’s been out since last Wednesday, but he’s blaming his “illness” on me.

A few hours later, he left for a meeting. He called me from his car early in the afternoon. He wanted to know what time I take my lunch. I said I go at 1:30 every day, just as I have since I started working here over a year ago. (I like taking a late lunch because when I get back, there’s less time left in the day; plus, I’m not really hungry until then.) He told me I needed to go earlier, to sync my lunch with his (he usually goes at noon).

There was little I could say to him. As frustrating as it was, it was actually a reasonable request, I guess. As much as I wanted to protest and hang on to what little authority I have left over how I plan my time, there was little I could argue about. And up against a guy like him, I knew I’d never win. Besides, it hurts to talk.

I am ill. My boss is sick.

SABINE

The funniest person in my standup comedy class, hands down, is Sabine.

Sabine is probably in her 30’s, and she’s from Belgium. I don’t know how long she’s been in America, but I would bet all her suitcases haven’t arrived yet. She’s very European, from her accent (strong) to her attire (fashionable) to her hygiene (stinky). Culturally specific jokes often go over Sabine’s head, and we have to explain them to her. So do idioms like “cock and bull”. We had fun explaining that one to Sabine.

Sabine is a nice woman, very soft-spoken and polite and — and I add this only because it is relevant to the story — Sabine is white.

This week’s assignment was to write material in the voice of a standup comic we admire. Sabine chose her favorite comic, Chris Rock. And not only did Sabine write jokes in Chris Rock’s voice, she PERFORMED them in Chris Rock’s stage manner. If you can’t already picture how funny Sabine’s Chris Rock impression was, I haven’t done my job in setting up what Sabine is like.

“How come nobody ever goes right for the porno section in a video store?” (Yes, her routine was about renting pornography.) “I go into the video store, and all these muthafuckas are staring at ‘The Enligsh Patient’ box. Shit, you know as soon as no one’s looking, they heading for the fuckin’ over 21 section.”

I can’t ever hope to fully recapture the magic of that moment — and I know I will spend the rest of my life trying — but we were treated to TWO WHOLE MINUTES of this. And Sabine, I must say, knew a surprising amount about the process of porn shopping.

It’s a supportive class. When most people do their material, everyone laughs politely. When Sabine did her Chris Rock routine, we roared.

Chris Rock himself would kill for that kind of reaction.

HORROR

This may sound like something out of a horror movie, but it’s not. It happened to me on Saturday night.

This weekend, Drew and I were babysitting. We were staying at his friends’ house, a rustic-looking ranch in Beverly Hills and taking care of their four-year-old daughter, Chloe. About half an hour after we put Chloe to bed, while Drew and I were watching TV, Chloe began to scream. It was no ordinary scream, either. It was the kind of heart-stopping upper-register scream which every parent fears and which sends every babysitter to the edge of panic.

By the time Drew got up to check on her, the screaming had stopped. He peeked into her room, and she was still asleep, safe and sound.

There was a simple explanation. Chloe suffers from night terrors. Throughout the night, every half hour or so, Chloe would scream, probably in the middle of some horrific nightmare. Her parents had warned Drew about the condition ahead of time, so we were prepared. The first few times, we checked on her. After that, we learned to ignore her. By the end of the night, we were even sleeping through the screams.

Then, sometime after 4AM, I woke up completely paralyzed. I was lying on my side, staring toward the dark hallway, and I couldn’t move my arms and legs. I tried to say something to Drew, but I couldn’t open my mouth. I couldn’t even make a sound. I struggled and struggled, but it was no use. My heart was racing. I was completely panicked and utterly helpless. Then, I heard footsteps coming down the hallway. I assumed it was Chloe, but despite the fact that it was a very short hallway, the footsteps kept going and going, getting closer and closer, but no one ever arrived.

And when the footsteps stopped, I heard a voice.

It was a low, bellowing voice. Hushed and angry. “Get out of here!” it moaned.

And then it was over. I regained my mobility and my ability to speak, and I knew that whatever had just happened had passed.

There was a simple explanation for this, too. I have sleep paralysis. Once every few months or so, I wake up in the middle of the night completely petrified and panicked. It lasts a few minutes, and by now I’ve learned that when it happens, I just need to wait it out, then things will go back to normal and I can go back to sleep.

Apparently, the condition is often accompanied by terrifying hallucinations, although I can only remember two times in the past that I’ve hallucinated in conjunction with an attack. Once, I thought an earthquake was taking place. I wanted to run for cover, but I couldn’t move. It was so vivid that I checked the paper the next day to see if there were any reports of tremors (there weren’t). The other time, back in college, I thought I had been abducted by aliens. They told me I had a great destiny awaiting me, and that the secret to life was contained in the music of Duran Duran. (No, that’s not a joke.) I have a feeling my neighbor had been playing some loud music while pulling an all-nighter. (It was during the band’s brief early-90’s comeback.)

I usually don’t panic much during my paralysis. I’ve done some research, and it turns out it’s a perfectly normal and harmless condition. Experience has taught me that the best thing to do is wait it out, and everything will go back to normal. The hallucinations, when they happen, aren’t real.

But then again, I can’t help thinking that one time they WILL be real, that I’ll be lying there paralyzed in the middle of a real earthquake or as an unwelcome visitor creeps down my hallway, telling myself just to wait it out. Everything will be fine…