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July 18, 2005

This is Sparky, your nurse practitioner in the doctor’s absence:

I know you think I
Like it when you slap my ass.
You are mistaken.

Have you ever been fooling around with someone and suddenly realized that you weren’t much more than an elaborate masturbatory aid? Like you were just one of the accessories of his scene? It’s such a disappointing moment. It’s awkward to go through those sexual negotiations with someone, trying one way or another to let him know what you like, trying to figure out what he likes. Sometimes he won’t get your hints, or you can’t figure out when you’re pushing the right buttons, or one of you feels silly just coming out and saying what it is you’re into. Ideally, though, you’re both trying, and you’re both trying to reach a common ground where everyone has a good time, gets a little sticky, and goes home (or rolls over, or curls up to you) with a smile.

But. BUT! Some guys just aren’t into your opinion. You can nudge, hint, take his hand and move it, or even blurt out “Quit it!” and he doesn’t get the point. Or, more accurately, he doesn’t care about what you’re after. It’s selfish, yeah, but it’s also self-absorbed. If I’m going at it with a gentleman caller, I’m trying to see to it that he enjoys himself. I really am! But I want to be in on the fun, and I have a few requests of my own. I like to think that he’s there because he’s into me in some way, not because I’m just the right size or shape to fit into his ritual. I want to feel a little chemistry. I do not want to feel like an interchangeable character in someone else’s script. Hell, even if I like the script (and I am, shall we say, a fan of a variety of genres) I want to be able to collaborate and improv a little.

This problem can show up when you least expect it. I’ve been with guys and experienced a real connection on the basest levels, giving and taking and get a kick out of each other’s enjoyment, when neither of us had even exchanged names or were likely to see each other ever again. That’s a lot of fun, and one of the reasons why I think even the most casual sex can be very fulfilling if you luck out with the right person and have a good attitude about the whole thing. Conversely, I’ve also dated guys who had no ability whatsoever to adapt to having me there, which is infinitely worse than being ignored by a relative stranger.

So seriously guys: don’t just plow ahead assuming you’re both having fun. Pay a little attention, and then maybe you both will.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 7 Comments

July 17, 2005

This is Sparky, filling in for Faustus and working that gimmick:

It’s Dorian Gray
In reverse: you aged and yet
Your photo stayed young

It’s happened to most of us at one point or another, especially those of us who’ve chosen to embrace our inner slut during the Internet Age. We see a suggestive pseudonym, a few compelling statistics, perhaps a blurb of some kind or another, and a photo. (I hope you all at least insist on a photo these days. These aren’t the early nineties for god’s sake!) It always amazes me that there are men out there who think they can get away with fudging the basic parts of this kind of rudimentary advertising. I suppose what really amazes me is the thought that there might be other men who fall for this bait and switch, who might see that guy at the door and not feel swindled. Or at the very least, not call their bluff and withhold the nookie.

Granted, I think there’s room for a little flexibility depending on what you’re really after at any given moment. I’ve been willing to overlook a little fibbing or the use of slightly misleading imagery if a guy was still attractive in person. It’s the nature of the business to put your best face forward, and I imagine it’s a slippery slope once you tell that first fib. I have a friend, for example, who dated a guy for years without confessing he was ten years older than this guy, and not five years younger. But he had the good skin and the limber body to inhabit the lie. I have — more than once — encountered guys who thought they could show a ten-year-old photo of themselves and assume I wouldn’t mind getting pawed by the cryptkeeper hands I eventually saw. When faced with such blatant, artless dishonesty, I’m too annoyed to even stick around (or play host) for small talk.

I’m often attracted to older guys, so it’s not a matter of age discrimination. But I like honesty. And the confidence that honesty requires. After years of trying my luck with personal ads (of both the reputable and tawdry kinds), I’ve lost a lot of faith in men’s ability to be upfront about what they have to offer, so I’ve learned to read those many little photos much more critically. Getting a good photo is much easier now than it was when I was more of a catch myself, thanks to the availability of scanners and digital cameras, which makes it even easier to assume that you can make a few key judgements about books from their covers.

A few of the guidelines that I’ve learned (the hard way) to follow over the years:

  • Never trust a blurry photo. If he can’t find anything that shows the details, than he’s probably trying to hide them.

  • That gets a little harder if a guy thinks his crappy cameraphone photo is good enough, but if he thinks that than his standards may be low in other matters as well, and so he can’t be trusted.

  • Even still, a crappy cameraphone picture has a very different quality of crappiness than a blurry scan of an old print or even an old digital photo. Learn to spot the differences if you want to give a guy that extra benefit of the doubt.

  • A young-looking guy doesn’t necessarily look like a young guy. He may look good, but it’s a different kind of good. If there’s any discrepancy between the photo and the age given, assume the worst. Either one could be a fib.

  • Look at where that arm is placed, or that unusual posture. There’s something flabby in Denmark.

  • And this is one you can only do if you’ve been around the block for a long time: if he’s still using the same picture for a couple of years, then chances are it’s been around for a couple more. At the very least, it’s probably not too accurate. If he’s still so damned handsome, then why can’t he ask someone with one of those fancy new little robot cameras to take another shot?

A little imagination, with a dash of loneliness and horniness, can make us see what we want to see, or read what we want to read. We fill in the details with what we hope to discover, and that’s where the trouble starts. We wouldn’t be silly romantic fools if we didn’t hope for the best, but we have to draw the line somewhere. I draw the line at that washed-out old wedding photo a guy shows when he’s trying to talk his way into my pants. Show a little effort, at least, before I waste the subway fare.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 9 Comments

July 17, 2005

Greetings, kids, this is Sparky, assuming control of the Faustus, M.D., Clinic for Neurotic Bloggers for the remainder of the good doctor’s absence. When we authors ad interim were given our assignments we were instructed in no uncertain terms to produce at least one substantial post a day during each of our stints. That’s a nice idea, but when you’ve been at this game as long as I have, that kind of inspiration is hard to come by. The musical theater, however, provided me with an answer to the dilemma, as it does in so many things: “You gotta have a gimmick.”

So, for the next week I’m going to take a few of those gay haiku you’ve heard so much about, and tell stories that will illustrate why I found a few of them so personally meaningful. Voilà! Instant content.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 5 Comments

July 16, 2005

Here, in place of the Doc one final time, I find I can no longer manage plurality — being in company — or even, for that matter, being. I carry on, naturally — what would I do except that? — but with nothing left to it other than to be alone. Alone and, well, virtual. Look, I’m not even here.

A terrible condition to be in, no doubt about it; that of unmitigated individuality, egocentric monomania, with only ever room for one. Bereft of the capacity for dialogue, for that vibration in the air between two (or more) people. No place here for community. No place for liking or loyalty or love.

How do we build anything, without each other? How am I meant to go on without you? You were my collaborator, my navigator, my colleague, my partner in crime. You were the love of my life. Without you, I became nothing.

Well.

It would appear I can go on, after all.

Hearing my empty voice echo around our recently-vacated hall, it might occur to you that I’m talking only to the brickwork, the floor, the air. You’re right, I am. What could I do differently? Where once you were, you are no more. What we were together turned into only you and me. We fragment; we all fragment like that. The gap can only get greater, the connection weaker, more forlorn, more lonely. The dwindling contact ever more faint.

Hello? Are you there?

Anyone?

Hello?

No. When we come down to it, in the final reckoning, no-one will pick up the phone. It can all only end one way.

A hum.

A click.

And maybe, too little, too late, unheard in the crackling fadeout: a goodbye.

Goodbye, cruel world.

Goodbye…

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 6 Comments

July 15, 2005

Our love-seeker is elsewhere, for a spell. I, Matt, am a temporary host while he’s away, to be vaguely glimpsed from time to time hereabouts, despite my camouflage of tortured prosody, before the duty roster rotates to its third victim.

So, it’s Friday. It’s a day for gratitude to deities or to sexual acts, for fish or calls to prayer. It’s Freya’s festival, or Frigga’s, or Aphrodite’s. It’s Crusoe’s sidekick. What shall we do today? Where shall we go?

I say: let’s take a tour boat to somewhere cheerful.

Picture a small isle midway from the south side of the Thames to its opposite. Just a little rocky outcrop, leftover from a rougher, readier time, before overseas trade took over the estuary. Boats sail by it daily still, despite its lack of reality: a mere chimera, it is, a fever dream of solidity amid the tidal flow of the river. But chimeræ are hazardous, as all steerspeople realise, so they give it a wide berth to this day.

The river is wide about this islet; to keep its folk at bay, perhaps. Atop the rock is a hamlet that’s quite a surprise if you compare it to the more usual grumpy pessimism of its locale.

The people who live there are famously agreeable. Whatever you ask of them, they will seldom refuse. Theirs is a microculture of almost ceaseless positivity. So dedicated are they to the affirmative that their peculiar argot lacks the most basic tools for its opposite. If they shake their heads, it is always to say “yes”.

For them, the world is all about the upside. Every day is a festival, every idle chit-chat a party, each word a gift. Their streets are paved with laughter. The little village hall is double-decked with the classical mask of comedy. They amuse each other with musical shows like Yes, yes, Yvette or Les Heureuses.

It’s so upbeat it could make you vomit.

Oh, yes, it’s a great place to visit. It’ll recharge your batteries, boost your morale, massage your ego. But by the time your little day trip is over, you’ll be desperate to catch the rickety ferry back to the real world; back to the luxury of shades of grey.

Who could take all that sugar from day to day? There’s a place for optimism, of course, but please. You’d have to be crazy to live there…

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 4 Comments

July 14, 2005

He’s away. He’ll be back. Meanwhile, in some hidden, sun-dappled glade of his blog, you chance upon me. You lucky, lucky people.

Carefree, smiling, dancing on sunbeams, we look around his garden and feel joy. Where should we wander, here, amid so many lovely leaves and flowers? Hearing a breeze ruffle blades of grass, seeing richly laden branches wave forward and back, we sigh in wonder; can we possibly decide upon a course which offers even more pleasure? Perhaps.

Moving on, our journey carries us by fields and groves and dense copses of woodland, all richly summery, warm and basking in sunshine. We exchange easy, playful hugs and kisses and skip along happily hand in hand, secure in our friendship and love.

Beside a bubbling brook, minuscule people garbed in blue hook huge golden fish, each one food for many weeks ahead. We decline several generous offers of a meal, and move on, laughing gaily, choosing a way ahead from many on offer, all equally alluring. Up? Down? Do we even care? So many choices, surely none will be bad?

Or maybe one.

When we’ve gone a mile or so down our chosen lane, we observe a growing darkness; colour leaches from blossoms overhead, dragonfly wings no longer iridesce, songs so long accompanying us we’d ceased even hearing drop away — and suddenly we hear once more. Hear an absence, an echoing loss.

Dismayed, we gaze on as a jewelled hummingbird hovers briefly before us, slows, and spirals groundward, dying before our eyes. Glancing up, we see leaves shrivelling on branches under a slender arc of moon, her dim radiance cold and cruel. Silence is everywhere. Somehow, we are alone.

Where did our happiness go?

A freezing wind rises and whips around us, pulling our hair and chilling our bones and dampening our eyes. Icicles caress our cheeks, now, and rime our lashes, and his absence burns so keenly in memory we fear we may never be warm again.

We hug ourselves grimly and — being all we can do — hope. If we can only survive his leaving, we may — some week, some year — rediscover sunshine. Spring will one day find us again, my friend. One day, surely.

We dig in for a long, sorrowful vigil.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 5 Comments

July 13, 2005

Okay, folks. Faustus here, dropping in momentarily from the wilds of Connecticut to ask that you refrain from criticizing my guest bloggers. You’re welcome to be as mean to me in this space as you like, but people I have invited into my electronic home are a different story. If you don’t enjoy what the Guest Bloggers I Wish I Could Sleep With write (I myself thought Lauren’s posts were hysterical and am finding Matt’s game exhilarating), by all means don’t read it, but I insist that you do them the courtesy of not complaining about it in this space.

Thanks. Now back to your regularly scheduled program. I have hours and hours of rewrites ahead of me this evening.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 6 Comments

July 13, 2005

A little moment of respite, here, in my ongoing fort-holding efforts for the itinerant Mephistophelian medico. Today’s escapee is, if only I steer clear of the second person and the letter Q, somewhat less of a challenge than its esteemed predecessors, or indeed the consonants to come. Not really a proper lipogram, this is more of an intermission; which is only reasonable in the context of eight perfs on the trot. The Doctor is a hard taskmaster: “Post every day!” he admonished. If only I managed to post so often to my own blog…

It isn’t as if I have nothing better to do; even if we ignore, as seems best, work, which can hardly be described as “better” — day after day grooming the sprinting dogs of imperialist capitalism — there’s a whole host of entertainments, spectacles, diversions, hobbies, pastimes, addictions, cravings, follies, scandals, disgraces and assorted depravities that I might be misspending my time on rather than this; and evidently plenty who wish I’d do exactly that. Or at least blog those things in every sordid detail, rather than playing silly word games.

Nevertheless, here I am, with silly word games in tow. Why?

I need a holiday, frankly, and bizarre as it may seem, this is it. Sorry folks, this is all simply an expression of my own escapism, a fleeing from my life. Instead of lazing on a beach or trekking in sodden rainforest I’m twiddling letters on some foreign website. Perverse, no? What kind of vacation is that?

Well, a change is as good as a rest. And it’s hard to be oneself when alienated from one’s own lingo. Like Stencil, I get to do eight impersonations.

Hey ho. That’s it for the vowels, anyway. The road ahead is looking awkward indeed. Three more days in ill-fitting drag; ach, that’s not so many.

Take ‘em or leave ‘em.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 5 Comments

July 12, 2005

Dr F isn’t in; hence my recurring presence as substitute. Never fear, he’ll be back. Betweentimes, a third guest is scheduled, starting at the weekend; Sunday, I believe. My presence here is transience itself — ephemera, pure and simple. I’m just a fleeting shade; but aren’t we all?

Need I identify this entry’s absent friend, Faustus aside? Hardly. It is, indeed, utterly predictable, as Pascale has already declared. Still, we might speculate: what awkward textual backwaters must we brave in this arbitrary cause, what twisty little passages all alike? And what verbal infelicities will, with grim inevitability, result? Read ‘em and weep, ladies and germs. Read ‘em and weep.

Is there anything justifying such an excruciating exercise? Can I perhaps hide my embarrassing writerly deficiencies behind this little game, applying tricksy linguistic legerdemain in a distracting spectacle all furnished in mist and silvered glass? Will I instead fumble the cards with amateurish hands, let slip the silk handkerchiefs, saw my beautiful assistant in halves I can’t then reattach?

Alternatively, is there a chance these limits might lay bare and circumvent a laziness in the way I — and by inference we — build sentences, a mechanical selectivity relentlessly preferring the familiar and clichéd? In struggling against stringent rules, can we find and awaken a slumbering creativity? That, at any rate, is what Perec, Queneau, Mathews and their experimental writing crew attempted; with admittedly variable results.

In any case, while this entry sequence is hardly breaking new turf, I’m finding it rather illuminating. The strictures within which I’m willingly writing here impart a surprisingly different lilt every time, each quite unlike my usual undisciplined style. Which is interesting in itself, and as well, inter alia, means this place remains distinct, during my fleeting stewardship, rather than merely transplanting Walky Talky. In truth, whatever it may appear, these paragraphs aren’t me at all.

Besides, it seems fitting. I became friends with Faustus, at least in part, via writing daft verses burdened with unnecessary rules. As much as anything else, this guest shift at The Search celebrates that humble beginning.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 6 Comments

July 11, 2005

Everyone’s fave pseudonymous M.D. sends regrets; has stuff to do elsewhere. Before he returns you’ve got, on second watch, to keep you busy, me. A sorry surrogate, confessedly. A patsy. A scapegoat. Back for more, Matt? Golly, some people are such gluttons for… oh, whatever.

You know the story by now, surely? Random banter coloured by some melancholy absence, an unspoken sorrow, the tug of a subject we can’t talk about, the long shadow cast by what’s out of bounds.

All just a parlour game, of course, a playful endeavour, a jest, a jape, a lark. No real loss lurks below the surface, no secret groundswell of heartbreak you should be aware of. The joy hasn’t gone out of the world, the sparkle hasn’t been sapped, honest. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, remember? So who could blue? Not me, that’s for sure. No way, José!

We must choose our path through the maze of glyphs, take baby steps along each sentence, maybe somehow reach the end, maybe get lost en route. That’s what the whole “blog” endeavour demands. Words, only words. Don’t take the matter to heart, for God’s sake. That road leads to madness.

So, what won’t we say today? Where’s the room’s elephant? Where shall we all cast sneaky glances that we hope no-one can see, and then pretend we haven’t? Ach, that game’s dull; let’s play another.

How about poker? Seven-card stud, twos and one-eyed jacks unfettered. No? Perhaps Monopoly? Chess? Dungeons and Dragons? Boot up the old Dreamcast and dance along to Ulala’s on-the-spot reportage for Space Channel 5?

Or maybe not. Maybe there’s just a trace of sadness after all. Let’s make the most of that. Let’s all wallow. Let’s weep and rend garments, plumb the furthest depths of doom and gloom, fret and worry and gnash our teeth and mourn and sleep no more. Let’s cry all the way to the bank.

My, aren’t we random today? Even more than usual. Well, no matter. Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow…

…but you’ve heard all that before.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 3 Comments