It’s been a helluva couple of years for me. And I mean that largely in a bad way. I can recall the accident on my Vespa on December 30, 2005, with a final (?) tally of 8 days in hospital, 3 fractured ribs—healed badly, deformed and “ununited”, 5 1/2 months out of work. Headaches pretty much constant since August or so—again away from work for months at at time. An extraordinarily painful history to a personally costly relationship. Loss—perhaps temporary—of the primary faculty which fuels my identity: an outsized intellect.
We of my family have been imbued with a resilience that only now I’m coming to understand can be as blinding as it is brilliant. The sense of abundance I had historically kept close to hearth and home, while not gone, has certainly left the larder emptier than it’s ever been. Not a time for panic, nor is the hunger in any way life-threatening, but it’s a new experience for sure.
Tactics and strategy. What do others do when there seems to be little left but dregs and crumbs? The Dutch make stroopwafels. Depend on cabbage: Kimchee if you’re Korean, Halushi if you’re a bunyak, cabbage soup if you’re just about anyone.
Maybe that’s why these are comfort foods: because they rescue you by creating something almost out of nothing, defying law and logic.
When presented with adversity, it’s been my way to add energy to the situation thus hopefully finding something new, get something productive. Again, that sense of abundance provided the luxury to give without thinking and, ominously, without negative consequence.
Only now, for now, I am in no condition to add to the overall good will around me. Maybe it’s a function of age (soon I will be “The Answer To the Universe” + 1) or it has to do with the trying, near-debilitating experience. Neither of these is a completely satisfying explanation. Experiencing something brand new—if you’re lucky enough to have avoided the jaded mindset of “Nothing New Under the Sun”—is like being lost in the desert: when you’re unsure of where you are, one direction is as good as any other. Intellectual caprice is a thing to which I’ve never been accustomed.
In other words, it may just be that meeting New with New is the right answer. Its symmetry and reflexivity have their appeal.
So instead of the facilitator or diplomat, I’ll be this time the Trickster and act solely for my own benefit and see how that goes: bring one world into another, let the chips fall where they may, and relegate body count to a mere statistical scrap of information.
In Frank Herbert’s seminal work, Dune, there is a scene where Paul Atreides is tested to discover whether he is human or just an animal. It involves, ironically, pain. The difference between an animal and a human in this scene is simply this: an animal in a trap will chew its own leg off to escape, whereas a human might remain in the trap for the chance to kill the trapper, thus removing a threat to his own kind.
In the so-called gay culture here in San Francisco (and I suspect, but cannot verify, in most other cities as well), there are far too few Herbert-esque humans and far, far, far too many animals. We know those who threaten the well-being of others—those who sell or feed drugs to addicts, those who prey on others’ insecurities, those whose irresponsibility and dissembling can literally rob someone of his life—quality-of or quantity-of.
But do we say anything? Mostly not.
And this is where I’d typically spend a considerable amount of time and energy—and research—in offering theories or explanations or even educated or wild-ass guesses about these failures to do the right thing.
I’m too exhausted and too impaired, though, to work that angle.
I’ll just do the right thing myself. No excuses and no apologies. I’ll be my own example. Don’t think, just do.
Sam knows what he has done and I know what he’d done. He’s come clean about plenty (I won’t assume all), but enough. He knows where he has failed me, us, and most importantly himself. Suffice it to say, peace has been made, apologies offered and accepted, and I have a certain confidence he’s out to do the right thing or at the least, avoid the wrongs of his past.
The same cannot be said of Wil Baker, a man who time and time again told me how glad he was that we were friends, and that there was no one he respected more in all of San Francisco. So I’m about to earn his respect, in that ironic sense. Wil is a British man here in this country by the charity of others, a man who so lacks a basic humanity that he revels in reducing others, sometimes nearly literally, to lesser species in order to control and self-delude and most of all, take from them. He has offered addicts plentiful access to drugs in order to own others, even to the point of requesting drug-use histories of his future-ex-“pups”, is a source of recreational drugs to others, all as a guest of this country. I have often considered contacting the appropriate authorities to have him deported in order to remove the danger from our midst, but I’d be as guilty as the Catholic Church merely transferring a real threat from one locale to the next, and as I have nothing against the Brits, I could not bring myself to simply make him their problem instead of my own. Wil’s ex-partner Steve, could not be bothered to stop ostriching himself in order to do the right thing. Inaction is as dangerous as malevolence, but more insidious and difficult to recognize.
The icing on this dysfunctional, poisonous Baker’s confection had to be when Sam spent the night in hospital in March 2005 after swallowing 180 pills in a moment of desperation. After an overnight in the ER with Sam until his vitals were stabilized, they transferred him to another area in the hospital and sent me home for a couple of hours. I would be contacted when they were ready for me to return. I got to the house and just let myself go. Composure is a thing for the benefit of those around you; when you are alone, composure is stifling and cowardly. After the worst of the hysterics, I picked up my cellphone and dialed Wil Baker—his phone number was in my addressbook, such good friends were we—and demanded he tell me what went on that led my partner to try to end his own life. “Jeff,” he said, stiffly and formally, “none of this is any of my business. This is between you and Sam. I have nothing to do with this.” If at first you don’t succeed, right, try again. Again I demanded, “I know you were involved in this. I need answers. You’ve said you’re my friend, even though fucking my boyfriend doesn’t usually fall into that category, but you will tell me what led to this happening!” “Jeff,” he said, a virtual replay of the first time said it, “I am not involved in this. This has nothing to do with me. Goodbye.”
Distraught “friend” gets hung up on by lying loser.
Justin Green is another of these dangerous ones. Obsessive in a boiled-pet-rabbit-in-a-soup-pot kind of way, he plays everyone. He fixates on a thing (usually a person who possesses some quality he lacks) and drains its life-blood. Only he’ll never notice when a victim’s tank is on Empty, because self-obsession prevents a view of the world outside himself. Not coincidentally, he’s yet another one with an ostriching partner so afraid of conflict and change that he’s rather remain with someone who’s always looking elsewhere. He didn’t flinch when his life-partner (Justin Green, remember) wanted to create a bona fide family with Sam and me, a cartoonish and warped and perverse family, replete with me as the cartoon dad in the cartoon world where sex with parents and brothers (and “dogs”) is a perfectly apt substitute for genuine familial bonds.
Then there’s Matt Rooney, who, while also professing to be my friend, someone whom I made effort after effort to welcome into my house and our lives simply because he was Sam’s friend, also hopped on the “pup” train, ignoring any sense of decency and having sex with his “friend’s” partner. When confronted, he replied, “you should have known this kind of stuff happening”, not only implying it was my fault he had no boundaries, but that I was clearly stupid on top if it.
Then there’s another Matt, Matt Consola. He’s another who called me stupid for not noticing substance abuse problems. Another one who promised me he “had my back” if I ever wanted to go after Wil Baker to bring some justice to the situation. One who professed he was in love with my partner, even though he failed to mention that to me ever. Spineless as they come—oh, and also partnered, by the way—he hopped on the now-infamous “pup” bandwagon because everyone else was doing so.
All of these animals (not one has yet to exhibit any signs of genuine humanity to my witness) have each and together accused me of being the cause of Sam’s attempt to end his own life. My fault because I didn’t turn the other cheek. My fault because I somehow had some control over his life (ironic, if you think about that one for a bit). My fault because I’m just plain stupid. Well, all except for Wil Baker. He never accused me of being at fault—at least not to my face—because if I were to have relied solely on Wil’s testimony, that overnight in the hospital never happened, the phone call to him for explanation was misguided, and there is no culpability.
I ask you, how many people have gotten away with hurting or damaging others because no one would speak up about it for fear of being ostracized or in pissing someone else off or, heaven forfend! lose out on the chance to sleep with the accused “because he’s so hot”?
There are so much better people out there, if you know how to spot them. There are just so many more spineless, damaged goods who lack the sense to either seek help or at least seek to minimize inflicting themselves onto others.
Justin? Wil? Matt? Matt? Steve? Nathan? You’re never going to find what you think you need by taking it from others. Find it in yourself, or learn to live with less.
Goddess knows you’ve all forced me to live with less, for all you’ve taken from me and my life.
I have very little hope that this may spur others to warn their friends or even just acquaintances about known dangers, but then this isn’t an act of altruism, it’s a personal catharsis and all about just me for a change.
And the rest of you. If you meet any of these people and they show even the slightest or most benign interest in you, run far away. You’ll thank me for it.
Remember kids, libel is only libel when it’s not true.
*for the record, no names needed to be changed after all