Wednesday, august 14, 2019

This is something I wrote on Facebook recently, about how my Saturday was going. (The fact that I call it “Shaturday” is a clue!)

I was working on my story for the Risk Live show in NYC (August 22) yesterday when Macy Gray Cat brought in a baby cardinal. At first I thought it was dead, but it turned out it wasn’t even hurt. So I took it outside, located the nest based on the mama bird’s frantic flight path. I got the ladder out of the garage, put it in place, opened it up — all while holding the baby bird safely in my shirt. Had it not been for that factor, when my feet got tangled turning around and the ladder tipped, I probably could’ve braced myself better.

Instead I went straight down onto my left foot. I let out an involuntary yelp then a flood of sweat overcame me.

My foot was bent at a comical 90-degree angle, and I guess because I was surging with endorphins, I grabbed it and popped it back into place. (This image keeps repeating in my head even now!)

I thought maybe I could hop 10 feet to the front door, but on the first hop, my ankle popped out of the socket again. And I put it back in place again! Then I slid on my butt into my apartment, into the kitchenette, happy that my refrigerator is small because I was able to reach up for the ice tray. Then I started calling people, and Laura Freeman came to my rescue (she just had to finish leading a parade of five-year-olds at the Thinkery).

My lack of medical background made me think that I’d only dislocated my ankle, but no. Fractured in three places. {interestingly, in my last big accident, three years ago, I fractured my jaw in three places.}

What really surprised me, though, was that I have to have orthopedic surgery! I spent the first half of my life pretty unscathed physically (all of my breaks and bruises were psychological I guess!), and now I seem to be making up for lost time.

Oh, well! That said, I’m fine. I did have to cancel my trip to NYC for the Risk Show (which I’m most bummed about — damn it, Macy!), but found out that Risk will be in Austin in December and they said they would consider me for that! (🤞🏻)

By the way, if anybody has one of those scooter things that you put your bum leg on and it has wheels and handle bars (do you know what I mean??), may I borrow it for the next six weeks or so? Crutches is for the birds!

Speaking of which, I’m not sure what happened to the baby bird. It was on the ground when I dragged myself away and mama bird was nearby. Macy Gray and the other cats were inside for the moment, but... Anyway, I tried!

Friday, august 02, 2019

It has been a busy week. I’m taking part in a staged reading of a play by Sarah Loucks, “Songs for Cowboys Who May Also Be Women.” I’m playing the part of a dog named Dolly Parton who turns into a real-life Dolly Parton — or, really, a white trash version of Dolly Parton (bless her heart). It was originally going to be a simple reading and fundraiser (I suppose for a bigger production), but it has turned into quite the spectacle called Dolly Fest. I’ll also be taking part in “Kill Jolene: A Karaoke Play,” which is 15 separate acts doing curious versions of Dolly Parton songs. The playwright will be doing “Touch Your Woman” (a DP song I’ve never heard of) while someone eats Frito pie off of her body! I’ll be sing a version of “Coat of Many Colors,” taking my cue from Sandy Sheets (choreographer Mark Dendy’s brilliant evangelist/prostitute drag queen alter-ego), who performed it in a variety show my partner Steven and I hosted as Y’all back in the 90s at Here Arts Center. We called the show Y’Here, and each show featured a musical guest, a “special guest” (which was often a drag queen or some other kind of performance artist). Sandy sang “Coat of Many Colors,” but instead of colors, she sang rubbers, and as she sang it the first time, she pulled out of a box a coat that she’d made out of condoms.

Back in 2015, I had the costume designer, Glenda Wolfe, create for me a condom cape for Naked as a Gaybird, for my entrance impersonating JC Gaynor, who was the Diana Ross drag performer for the Cher Show in Las Vegas in the 80s, which I saw (listen to my first Risk! podcast story for more on that). I’m not sure if I was inspired by Sandy Sheets to create the cape. Perhaps it was subconsciously in my mind. I wanted an outfit that was reminiscent of Diana Ross, but was more about the queer aspect of it, the drag part of it. The dress JC wore in the Cher Show was modeled after the one from Diana Ross’ 1981 TV special. Glenda did an amazing job creating the cape, and used something like 1,000 condoms for it. Sadly, I’ve only had two distinct occasions to wear it so far, in 2015 for the Naked as a Gaybird run, and last month, at a tribute for my good friend and lesbian icon, Gretchen Phillips. Here’s a picture of me singing with Megan Tabaque and Diana Small (Gretchen’s in the foreground) at that performance at Cheer Up Charlie’s in Austin:


I was surprised when I pulled the cape out of the dress bag that’s been hanging in my closet for four years (and maybe for a year in the garage) that the condoms and the cape held up so well. And noticing that, I thought, I really should figure out more ways to wear this thing. Therefore, when Sarah asked me if I wanted to do something for “Kill Jolene,” I almost immediately said I would do “Coat of Many Rubbers.” I haven’t really considered exactly what I’m going to do. I think I’ll go to the thrift store and try to find something ugly and poor looking that I can make look like hillbilly clothes, and maybe an extra large purse for the cape?

So, anyway, I’ve been rehearsing for the reading, as well as finishing up the script of Scenes from Fumbling for the Knob to send to Jenny by August 1, and haven’t had time to prepare for my karaoke tune, much less for writing blog entries. But lookie there, I managed to knock one out!

Oh, and here’s some exciting news: I’ll soon have Fumbling for the Knob T-shirts to sell, as a fundraiser for the staged reading (and I suppose for a full production, if/when something like that happens. I want to get a lot of things for the reading that would also be used in the production, props related stuff, so besides giving all of the crew more money, it’ll also help me afford to have bigger/better tastes for the props I get.

My landlady left with her son and mother on a trip to South Africa, so I have her car in the meantime, which will make getting around a lot more convenient, since the weather has been consistently hitting triple digits for a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

At the beginning of March, I went to Indianapolis to perform in a live recording of the Risk! podcast. I get a weekly email from Submittable, which lists opportunities for writers and other types of artists to submit to different literary magazines and organizations around the globe. A lot of weeks, I delete the email either because there’s nothing of interest or I’m busy with other projects (there will always be another one next week!). Risk! had one of these listings, which seemed a little odd, but I used to listen to the podcast all the time, and consider myself a fan. Plus, I knew it would be a good way to get some platform for my writing, with the goal of getting a literary agent and/or getting Fumbling for the Knob published. At least, I think Submittable was where I heard about this opportunity, but I can’t find the submission or information on it to refer back to now, so maybe it was something else.

Anyway, the call was for a 200-word “pitch.” I decided to send them my Las Vegas/Diana Ross story (which was in my solo-show, Naked as a Gaybird, so I felt confident about it). Knowing it inside and out also made getting it down to 200 words manageable. The first response was a general “Thanks for submitting. What city are you in and/or what city are you pitching for?” I said I’m in Austin, but could perform in New York City, Florida, Indiana, Texas, Southern California— basically any place where I have someone I can stay with — because why not?!

They (actually she, Cyndi) responded that they’re currently booking Indy on March 2, and so she read my pitch and had this response:

There is a lot of fun adventure here! But I am not sure that your story is right for RISK! And a lot of that is because right now it’s an an anecdote not a full story. Right now all we know is you had a hot sexual experience in Vegas with a grown man who was part of Cher’s Entourage. But you don’t tell us how that experience changed or impacted you. Who were you before Vegas? Who were you after? I am not sure if it’s your first time? Or how this experience might have altered your perception of who you are. You leave us hanging as well in regard to your date, and as you are both under-age, it leaves me wondering if she is okay. I get the impression this was a great experience for you, one that you are happy to have as a memory, but it is also easy for the outside observer to see this man as a predator. So you need to be clearer as to why you might not feel that way about him. So flesh this out a bit in 2000 words or less. Tell us more?

After my 2,000-word version, I got this:

Hey, this is still super fun, but it's still an anecdote vs a story. I need to know in detail, how that experience changed or impacted you. Who were you before Vegas? Who were you after? Your answers to these questions will show the team if this is a story that is right for RISK! or not.

I wrote to Donna, my writing mentor: “I've gotten past the first two(?) levels of getting to perform a story for a podcast (RISK!) which is heard by millions (they say) of people. This would be a great opportunity to create some platform for my memoir. I'm a little unsure as to what they want that I haven't given them. Do you have time to give my story a quick read-thru and tell me how to incorporate these answers into the story, or what I'm not doing, or whatever your thoughts are, to the questions they've asked. I know this is a HUGE favor, and understand if you don't have the time or inclination. The deadline is Jan. 26. (It's 9 pages, just under 2,000 words).

She wrote back “OF COURSE!!!” And from there, we worked together, going back and forth (over the course of two or three drafts); she made herself available at any hour by mobile phone; we even spoke once on the way into a niece’s softball game or recital or something. It was very intense, and Donna was right there with me, excited and focused, and I sent in a new draft and got this response:

I would like to hear a recorded version of this story with the Indianapolis show in mind. This is an audition recording that will be shared with the team that is casting for the show.

So, success, right? Well, sort of. More notes:

You do a great job in painting the adventure and bringing us into the scene of the fabulous night with "Diana Ross."

You have added some info that hints strongly as how you changed based on this experience and that is awesome! But, right now this is simply a fun fluffy story and as such it does not yet fit with the RISK! aesthetic. We would really need you to dig into the emotions - RISK! is about stories that change us, so where the encounter with the drag queen is clearly a big scene to explore and relive, to make this a story vs an anecdote, you would need to also tell us more about being closeted - and more about how you feel on the other side of this encounter. So certainly keep the fun and the joy, but give us enough so that we understand the impact.

In your story, you go from being the kind of person who _______ to, the kind of person who _______.

My difficulty all along was getting my head around what they were asking for. It’s really quite simple, but somehow it took me forever to figure it out. I have no idea why it took so long.

Who am I before the Event? Description of the Event. Who am I after the Event?

My initial email to them was on January 17, and now it was February 5, and they wanted a recording by February 9. So I got to it, introducing my brain to a whole new set of challenges (from the Risk! people). The email included several stories from Risk! as examples, videos for creating a recorded pitch to Risk! and a message from Kevin Allison, the creator and host.

In the meantime, I emailed M in Indy to make sure she would be in town the first weekend in March, so I’d have a place to stay, and would get to visit with her.

At the same time, I was in rehearsals for Antigonick, so I was stressing out. I stopped smoking pot around that time (for a while) because I was starting to feel panicky whenever I got high, which is stupid.

On February 13, I received an email from Cyndi introducing me to my story coach, David Crabb, and him to me. He hosts the monthly Risk! show in Los Angeles. Here was the rundown of how the Risk! coaching process works:

  • David has your recording. He will listen to it ASAP

  • David sends you notes.

  • The deadline for your next draft is is 2/20/19.

  • David reviews the new recording of your story.

  • If David has additional notes, he will send them to you, and he may ask for a third draft of your story.

  • Once he feels that the story is solid, he sends it to Kevin Allison for his thoughts.

  • Kevin reviews your story and sends final notes.

  • You tweak your story according to Kevin’s notes and rehearse for the show.

  • Show time!

Crazy, right? But at the same time, amazing. I mean, these people know how to get what they want!

On February 14, an email from David:

Hello from a fellow gay Texan who moved to New York to create solo theater! I am so excited to work with you on this story. It’s in a really good place and the performance of it is beautiful, even on this iPhone audio attachment.

My notes are attached in an MP3 below. Feel free to take notes as you listen, as I move through the story chronologically. These notes are very light, all things considered. Let me know if you have any questions at all. I’ve included my phone number below if you want to text me at any point. I’m looking forward to your next revision, due by next Wednesday. Of course, feel free to get it to me sooner if you have the time.

I sent him a follow-up recording a couple days later and he responded:

What else is there to say? A few little things, mostly “LOVES” in the attached 3-minute note below. But basically, it’s amazing!

I can’t wait to hear this in front of an audience. It was such a pleasure working with you. I wish the story was problematic so we could work together longer LOL. Best of luck and break legs!

David also told me that everybody all the way up the chain was excited to have me on the show… Somewhere along the way, Cyndi had written to make sure I understood that they don’t pay for travel; they give performers a $25 stipend but that’s it. I told her I just wanted to be on the show! Then, on February 17, she sent an email out of the blue telling me that her team notified her they could reimburse me $75 toward travel, which was an ego boost.

I’d been told at some point in the process that Kevin would give me notes a week or two before the show. On February 27, three days before the show, I got this email from Kevin:

You might be wondering where your notes are. The answer is I might not have any. The story was in such good shape, nothing occurred to me on the first listen through. I'll listen just once more and get you any thoughts tonight. But rest assured, you're already in good shape.

We had a quick back and forth. I told him about some final thoughts David and I had had, and he liked an updated ending idea, but that was it. I was on my way to Indy, head first into a cold-as-fuck winter storm to perform in front of a super warm crowd of two or three-hundred (the Athaneum was packed). M was super delighted by my performance, as was the rest of the audience. Great experience.

Then, at the end of March, I had some back and forth with Kevin as they worked on editing the podcast. He had questions about people’s names, wanted to know if I had a title for the story and a song that to accompany it. I suggested the obvious song, but let him come up with the title for the story, to see what he would use, and it turned out to be one that I’ve used before (there have been several): “Got to Let it Show,” which is a line from the song. And that’s what you can listen to right here right now.

All that to say that it’s been so much easier the second time. I’m being considered to perform in the live Risk! recording in New York City on August 22. I sent Cyndi the third recording this morning, not precipitated by a written submission, I didn’t work with a story coach (other than Cyndi — and Kevin also listened to version two and sent notes by way of Cyndi), so I guess I’ve attained a certain status in the World of Risk!

And just now, three minutes ago, I got this response from Cyndi:

Forwarding this to Kevin.

Stay tuned, y’all!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

In a previous life, I was part of a musical duo called Y’all. My partner, Steven, and I met in New York City, and almost immediately created an “act” that far outlived our passion for one another. We loved each other — I would say we still do — but we stayed together because, from early on, we were doing something interesting and special, people took to it, and it always seemed like we were on the verge of something huge, that we were going to become famous. Obviously, that didn’t happen, but it definitely made us Artists.

We moved from New York City to Nashville about seven years into our career, and then moved onto the road a year or so after that. We lived in a 20-foot travel trailer and traveled from performance to performance, which, at that time, had come to be mostly Unitarian churches and retirement communities, with a few folk venues thrown in along the way. I was an avid chronicler of our adventures, from the very beginning of Y’all, in New York City, when everything I wrote was kept in spiral notebooks. Then we got a computer, and I started blogging. At some point, Steven was blogging too. Our fan base was sizable, even though we hadn’t hit the big time.

A couple of times, though, our blogging got us in trouble. Once, after visiting a more famous friend in California — an actor we’d known in NYC who was on a TV show — Steven mentioned the name of the neighborhood she and her young child lived in, and somehow she heard about it, and freaked the fuck out. She sent us an email in all caps telling us we had put hers and her child’s life in danger. It was a completely innocent (and, honestly, I still think pretty harmless) mistake, but our relationship never healed after that.

Another time, we were in Estes Park, Colorado. We had met a young man on the road (who lived in the travel trailer with us for the last year-and-a-half of our time together) who had lived there previously. We went with him to meet his friends, one of whom was a wild and wonderful free spirit named Nina, and we went back several times because it was a warm and beautiful community. During one of our visits, Nina was house-sitting for a wealthy woman there, and Nina invited us over for a dinner party. I wrote a blog entry about this amazing house, with its central vacuuming system and other amenities. Again, completely innocent.

Because Estes Park is a small town, someone in this woman’s neighborhood either saw us perform or heard about us, and happened upon our blog, then contacted the owner of the house, concerned by my aw-shucks report on her house. Nina got fired from her cushy house-sitting job (but didn’t hold it against us), and again, we found ourselves deleting a blog entry with our tails tucked between our legs.

Oh, yes, and one other time, after Y’all was no more, and while I was in the midst of my decade-long depression (which is to say I was kind of out of my mind), I was interested in a boy I’d met in Nashville the second time I lived there (that is, after Y’all). I was considering moving back to Nashville, particularly because this boy seemed interested in me, too. When I’d lived there previously, he had a boyfriend, and we had messed around (Steven and I were never monogamous), but I wasn’t looking for an open relationship anymore, so I didn’t think much of my attraction to the boy until after I learned that he and his boyfriend had broken up. At the same time, I also learned that he was HIV positive, and while that wasn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, it was something I hadn’t had to contemplate in my life up to that point, so I was doing a lot of processing about it in my blog.

I didn’t name him, but instead had this way of assigning people nicknames and keeping a key visible to help me remember who was who. It also didn’t take much imagination, if you knew one of those people, to figure out who I was talking about. And this is what happened with the Nashville Boy. I planned a weekend visit to Nashville, in which I was supposed to stay with him, and was nervously and excitedly writing about my hopes and fears, all things considered, which, come to find out (after the weekend, in a long, final email from him,), he was reading in real-time. He had told a friend about me — I’m assuming that it was about his interest in me — and she looked me up and found the blog and showed it to him.

I couldn’t seem to learn my lesson. When I landed in Austin, I was writing about a woman I’d had a flirtatious friendship with, also giving her a not-very-anonymizing nickname. In the key, the clue to the nickname was something along the lines of “The woman I’d fuck if I was gonna fuck women.” It sounds kind of crass when I write it now (and maybe it wasn’t those words exactly), but we had — and still have, I’ll add — a lovely relationship, I was again more blatant writing exactly what I was thinking than I probably should’ve been. I honestly didn’t think anyone read what I was writing, particularly not the object of my affections!

She told me we needed to talk, and she confessed that she’d been reading my blog. I say “confessed” because I think that’s what it felt like at the time. But, of course, it’s not like she was reading my private journal. I mean, it was out there for anyone and everyone to see.

I believe all of this goes back to being in college, coming out in writing to myself in a series of spiral notebooks that my roommate absconded from the dorm room and offered up to a reading group of other guys from our dorm room. It was at the time a horrible thing to have contended with, and at the same time, it was life changing. Since I started writing a novel that included a similar scene, and since I abandoned that novel to write the true story of those events, in order to better process the pain, it has served as great fodder for my creative life. Having been violated by those guys in college desensitized me to private writing, I think, particularly when I was struggling with my depression. And I think my time with Y’all, though technically prior to my depression, was fed by the experiences of my childhood that I’d yet to deal with, the issues which would form the genesis of my depression.

And now there’s this memoir I’m working on, and an expectation in the publishing industry of things called platform, blogging being one of them. So, I’m going to try to fulfill that expectation, but am also going to try to be as professional as possible about it, to not publish things willy-nilly, to not talk about my job or name people I’m dealing with professionally. I’m going to attempt to create something that supports my creative work that “my mother could read” — though I use that phrase somewhat ironically, since I’m actually not speaking to my mother right now!