The Strange and Magnificent Story of A and B


When my boyfriend Peter and I find ourselves on the sofa, silently sitting side by side, scrolling through whatever demands to be scrolled, he will occasionally turn to me with an image on his screen and ask me to explain it, to tell its story. Recently, he showed me this evocative pic, and this is the story I told him. (Obviously, it is not the actual story of @theduponttwins, who are lovely people, I’m sure.)

Side note: pictures have appreciated in value, it seems. This one is currently worth 2,326 words.

Nicolae thought about the unruly mobs as he lay in bed with his eyes gently closed, pretending to sleep. He did not want to lie in bed and think about the mobs of course, but the one thing he wanted even less was to sit up for the next several hours, discussing the mobs with Elena. Her advice in such matters was usually pretty good, but even she acknowledged her tendency to err on the side of bloodlust.

Nicolae dreamt about the unruly mobs from 2:45am to 2:49am and again from 3:32am to 3:33am, but their second appearance was fleeting, so he didn’t recall it when scribbling in his dream journal. If he had, he might have seen the writing on the wall.

Nicolae awoke after seven hours and 59 minutes. Under normal circumstances, that would have enraged him, given his obsession with getting a perfect eight hours of sleep. (The seed of that obsession was planted by his mother, a poor, unlettered shepherdess who was  also one of the great undiscovered beauties of her time and correctly believed that sleep had a more powerful effect on one’s appearance than any cosmetic ointment, cream, or salve.) These, however, were not normal circumstances. Nicolae was awakened by a senior aide whispering in his ear.

When an aide awakens a callous, capricious, sleep-obsessed tyrant sixty seconds ahead of the tyrant’s well-established schedule, the aide rarely bring good news. After hearing the updates from overnight, Nicolae scowled at the aide and ordered coffee to be brought up. He gave no thought to sleep patterns ever again.

While this was happening, Elena lay on the other side of the bed with her eyes gently closed, pretending to be asleep. A lifelong morning person, she had been wide awake for the better part of an hour, but the last thing she wanted was to endure Nicolae’s early-morning wishy-washiness. He was much more decisive after lunch.

Sitting at a small table that the couple had received from a family friend after he was named president of the state council, Nicolae wrote down his dreams as best he could remember (which, as we have said, was not good enough) and considered his options vis a vis the aforementioned mobs. On the one hand, he thought, change was in the air. On the other, he thought, fuck change.

When the coffee arrived, it was bitter and cold.

By sundown that same day, eight days before Christmas, Nicolae had given The Word, and Romania’s streets ran red with blood, as they did in legends of old. The more things change, am I right?

Elena swooned at Nicolae’s bold choice, but her thrill was fleeting, because for the first time in his life–well, not the first, but the event was rare–the so-called “Genius of the Carpathians” had miscalculated. Historians can debate Nicolae’s deeply flawed decision until the sun envelops Mercury, Venus, Earth, and perhaps Mars in its suffocating embrace several billion years from next Wednesday, but what is indisputable is that five days later, three days before Christmas, Nicolae and Elena raced to the top of the Central Committee building and boarded a helicopter to avoid being slaughtered by protestors.

As he helped Elena into her seat, a magnificent silver ring slipped from Nicolae’s finger, a ring given to him by his grandfather, which he had received from his grandfather, and so on, and so on, no one knows how far back, but it is clear that the tradition began long before helicopters roamed the skies, and certainly long before a repressed Irish homosexual reduced a national hero to a pulp novel, blood-sucking bogeyman and a proud country’s name to a synonym for superstition, dysfunction, xenophobia, and corruption.

Nicolae’s great-great-great-et cetera-grandfather’s ring rolled out the door of the helicopter, onto the roof of the Central Committee building, and plummeted into the square below. A writhing mass of revolutionaries waited there, but their eyes were too full of hatred to see the ring, so they unknowingly stomped it into a gap between two cobblestones with their snow-covered boots.

The story of the cobblestones and the workers who quarried them is a tale for another time. It is an excellent story, but very, very sad.

Three days after the government helicopter bearing serial number R239EWER498 rushed Nicolae and Elena northward, then northwestward, then flew no more–three days after that, A picked up the ring.

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A Pomposity of Collective Nouns for Immediate Use


I love a collective noun. It adds personality to something that would otherwise be generic, overlooked, invisible. Sure, you can call a bunch of ravens a “group” and still be invited to all the best parties, but it’s much more interesting to call that bunch an “unkindness”. A group is just a group, but an unkindness? That’s got oomph.

Other knockouts include:

  • A shewdness of apes
  • A cauldron of bats
  • A consortium of crabs
  • A murder of crows
  • A parade of elephants
  • A tower of giraffes
  • A richness of martens
  • A parliament of owls
  • A prickle of porcupines
  • A maelstrom of salamanders
  • An audience of squid

And my personal favorite:

  • A blessing of unicorns

Alas, collective nouns apply mostly to non-human animals. We have plenty of synonyms for groups of people–army, band, bevy, crew, crowd, gang, mob, throng, etc.–but they’re not applied consistently to particular collections of folks. A few phrases have entered our vocabulary like a “bevy of beauties” or a “gang of thieves”, but it’s mostly because we like the alliteration or the meter. You could just as easily say a “crush of beauties” of a “mob of thieves”, and no one would give you the stinkeye.

And so, I’d like to propose a few updates–a few collective nouns to give the English language more flair:

  • A benevolence of nurses
  • A menace of babydykes
  • An ululation of bachelorettes
  • A fetch of basic bitches
  • An imbroglio of bros
  • A besiegement of Beliebers
  • A token of Chaturbators
  • A scruff of circuit bears
  • A closet of evangelicals
  • A screech of debutantes
  • An ossification of deacons
  • A generosity of daddies
  • A tintinnabulation of Hare Krishnas
  • A kibble of furries
  • A soupçon of normies
  • A swoon of leather queens
  • A supersaturation of influencers
  • A snarl of DILFs
  • A yawp of GILFS
  • An abhorrence Log Cabin Republicans
  • A transmutation of muscle Marys
  • A slip of otters
  • A protuberance of strippers
  • A limpness of parTy queens
  • A jaundice of Proud Boys
  • A lacrymatory of theatre queens
  • A potluck of Radical Faeries
  • A hotpocket of stoned gamers
  • A flatulence of vegans
  • A spread of tarot card readers
  • An arrogance of trade

And of course:

  • A vanity of bloggers

Confessions of three haters


My name is Angela, and I am a hater.

Most of all, I hate mitochondria. “How can you hate the ‘mighty mitochondria’?” you ask. To which I say, “You’ve hit the nail on the head”.

That “mighty mitochondria” mnemonic device that we all learned in grade school is insidious. Earwormy. To this day, I can’t hear the word “mighty” without quietly muttering “mitochondria” afterward.

In documentaries: “On the savanna, female lions let the rest of their pride know about intruders with a mighty [mitochondria].”

At work: “Our little Archibald is quite mature for his age. For his sixth birthday party, he wants to have the Mighty [mitochondria] Power Rangers.”

During late-night marathons of justifiably forgotten cartoons: “Here I come to save the day! It’s Mighty [mitochondria]!”

Damn you, powerhouse of the cell.

My name is Steven, and I hate Rent. I’ve never been much of a musical theatre person anyway, but Rent is next-level dreadful.

Every theatre queen in the English-speaking world thinks it’s completely appropriate to burst into “Seasons of Love” on the subway, in a Lyft, in the middle of a budget meeting. Could you imagine if everyone did that with, say, “Who Let the Dogs Out”? Or “Baby Shark”? Civilization would come to a screeching halt, causing 99% of humanity to die of sudden whiplash. The world would be rebuilt by tribespeople from the Amazon, the Sahara, and the Great Rift Valley who’ve never been to Broadway, never heard a power ballad, never attended a junior high cast party and had to console a roomful of weepy teens bemoaning the unfairness of it all because they’ve spent a few weeks–“literally, my whole life!”–working on an audition piece to land a featured role in the spring musical, only to have that rare opportunity given to someone who “like, only got it because she has 5,000 followers on Instagram”.

Full disclosure, I’ve never actually seen Rent, so I don’t know what it’s about, but I assume it’s about people who rent an apartment or something? And that’s a terrible message. Why would anyone glorify rent payments? Home ownership is the most important means of building personal wealth in a capitalist economy. If we have to get excited about a musical, couldn’t it be called Fixed Rate or maybe I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Amortize?

Really, what are we teaching today’s young people?

My name is Jonathan, and I’m a hater. I hate Meryl Streep.

I have nightmares about her.

I’m someplace far away in an open-air market. It looks exotic in a stereotypical way, with smoke wafting from incense sticks and brightly colored spices piled in rustic, handmade baskets. Maybe I’m in a souk, or maybe I’m in a souk-themed display at Pier One. Or maybe I’m in that episode of Ab Fab where they all go to Morocco, which I only remember because I’m an old gay.

Wherever it is, I’m there, and someone in a caftan sidles up to me and starts speaking in a foreign language. I can’t tell what they’re saying, I can’t even see their face, but they keep gesturing to me and then to my fanny pack. (Which, by the way: I’m wearing a fanny pack. Heavens. This is a nightmare.)

“What on goddess’ green earth do you want?”, I ask the creature at my side. More gesturing, more pointing. They put both hands together with upturned palms: the universal sign for begging.

I sigh, unzip my fanny pack, and take out what looks to be a reasonable sum of money. I can’t tell for sure because it’s foreign currency, so I guess I’m not at Pier One after all. (Unless they have Pier Ones in the Middle East, which makes me wonder: what would that even look like? Plastic, American flag-patterned storage bowls displayed like a Fourth of July picnic? Would that pass as exotic on the Arabian peninsula?)

I start to hand over the money, and suddenly, there’s a dagger in the mysterious stranger’s hand. The next thing I know, that dagger is jammed through my ribcage, and I’m on the ground wheezing for breath, and the stranger is standing over me with a bloody hand gripping the wad of cash I’d pulled out.

Then, they pull back the hood of their caftan.

You know who it is, right?

Surely you know.

Surely, queen.

Meryl. Fucking. Streep.


Screw her ability to disappear into a role. Screw her supernatural facility with languages and accents. That bitch cut me, and she took my money.

I’ll see her in hell.

Bible thumper has never heard of central heating


Hello, and welcome to the first day of spring.

Spring means many things. Animals awake from hibernation and hump everything in sight. High school seniors anxiously await their first taste of freedom, which they savor for about 30 seconds before the ice-cold mackerel of adulthood smacks them across the ass.

And by definition, spring also means that winter is over. Which means that this year, another Jesus-y fuckwit has been proven wrong with his End Times, rage fantasy bullshit. Unless you’ve all stopped watching porn, in which case: holy shit, the son of a bitch was right.

End Times broadcaster Rick Wiles is convinced that the earth is about to experience a new ice age that will last for hundreds of years and wipe out a large percentage of humanity … but, on the upside, it will also destroy Planned Parenthood.

“You can laugh, mock, ridicule all you want, but you’re going to end up freezing to death,” Wiles said on his “TruNews” program last night. “This thing is here, it’s arriving and it’s arriving quickly and it’s arriving this year. We’re going to see the onset of this ice age in the winter of 2018.”

After co-host Doc Burkhart explained that this coming ice age is “the result of man’s sin,” Wiles took solace in the idea that it will at least also “freeze out a lot of sin.”

“It will freeze out Planned Parenthood,” he said. “There won’t be very many abortions in America 15 or 20 years from now. There is not going to be a lot of pornography consumption. There is not going to be a lot of drug use. It’s going to freeze out a lot of sin, that’s for sure because a lot of people are going to be dead. That is just a fact. An ice age wipes out a substantial portion of the population.”

via Right Wing Watch

If I thought for one minute that Miss Wiles remembered what she said back in November, I’d laugh, mock, ridicule, and feel a warm, toasty sense of schadenfreude. Sadly, people that unhinged can barely remember to come in out of the rain, much less what they said to fill airtime five months ago.

Instead, I think I’ll celebrate by not freezing to death and by making my usual monthly gift to Planned Parenthood.

10 Opening Lines for Unwritten Novels


“On Sunday, Melanie awoke to sunlight streaming through the bedroom window, the smell of pancakes wafting up from the kitchen, and two giant moths where her hands used to be.”

“When the days grow short and trees shed their leaves, that is when they come, lurking in the deep autumn shadows to watch us.”

“My uncle was my first true love–unrequited, but true all the same.

“Mama died in my arms that night, her blood running over me the same way it had nearly 30 years before, when I slid from her womb into the arms of a half-drunk taxi driver.”

“The North Atlantic was cold, deep, and dark except for occasional flashes of gray below the spot where we were forced to tread water.”

“She was still there when I awoke, curled up beside me, snoring softly into my shoulder.”

“As it turns out, time-travel isn’t as complicated as everyone thought: it’s cheap, easy, and no, you don’t die if you meet your younger self, though touching them does leave a funny taste in your mouth.”

“The one thing in life that Ron hated — truly hated — was his name: three letters with no edge.”

“My suicide was the most magnificent that New York had ever seen.”

“Mark my words, honey: if a man ever gives you roses, run the other way and never, ever look back.”

“Famous”, by Naomi Shihab Nye


The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,   
which knew it would inherit the earth   
before anybody said so.   

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds   
watching him from the birdhouse.   

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.   

The idea you carry close to your bosom   
is famous to your bosom.   

The boot is famous to the earth,   
more famous than the dress shoe,   
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it   
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.   

I want to be famous to shuffling men   
who smile while crossing streets,   
sticky children in grocery lines,   
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,   
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,   
but because it never forgot what it could do.

Naomi Shihab Nye 
(because of this)

i’m sorry my love


I say “I’m sorry” a lot.

Most of the time, I don’t need to say it because I haven’t done anything wrong. Most of the time, I don’t even know the one I’m saying it to. 

Most of the time, it’s not an apology. It is something else.

* * * * *

“I’m sorry” is the most powerful phrase in the English language.

Not that “I love you” is anything to sneeze at. But “I love you” underlines and affirms. It makes you and the one you’re addressing more real. (Here is where it gets a little philosophical.)

Example: back in high school and college, I was obsessed with a few bands that seemed a little off the radar. (To be fair, I lived in Mississippi, where “off the radar” basically meant “not Whitney Houston or Garth Brooks”.) I collected albums, CDs, singles, posters, anything I could get my hands on, anything to prove to myself and others that these people and their music really existed, that something so profound–profound to me, at least–was present in the universe. I liked the thought of folks finding my stash of goods a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand years down the road and knowing that long ago, gods roamed the earth. Or if not gods, at least guitarists with interesting haircuts.

The memorabilia I collected was my way of making the music I loved more real, more permanent. Saying “I love you” does the same thing. When you tell someone that you love them, it’s like putting your two names in boldface. It says, “I’m here, and you’re here, and I’m happy that we’re here together at this moment in time.” It makes both of you more solid. It proves you exist.

Saying “I’m sorry” has the opposite effect. “I’m sorry” prioritizes, affirms, builds up one person at the expense of the other: the listener is strengthened, the speaker weakened. When you say “I’m sorry”, you’re saying “You feel hurt or angry or some other awful emotion, and I offer these words as salve, as balm, so that you can feel better. The world will have a little less me so that there can be a little more you.”

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Our holiday show, Grenadine McGunkle’s Double-Wide Christmas, returns (Well, kinda)


Once upon a time in New Orleans, I worked with a theatre company called Running With Scissors. For 15 years, we put on shows at any venue that would have us–bars, legit theaters, other bars, and occasionally, a death trap of a nearly abandoned warehouse. We imagined ourselves edgy but cute: edgycute.

Some of the shows that Running With Scissors performed were written by other people (Camille, Hedwig, and a number of plays by Ryan Landry), but most of them we wrote ourselves. We had a very specific group of actors at our disposal, and we created shows to suit their very particular set of skills. Most importantly, writing our own stuff meant that we didn’t have to pay royalties.

One of Running With Scissors’ most successful shows was Grenadine McGunkle’s Double-Wide Christmas, an always-trashy, sometimes-flashy holiday musical set at a trailer park called the Everlasting Arms. We mounted our first performance in December 2001 and the last in 2014, rewriting the show each fall to suit the performers who were available.

A few years ago, our theatre company fell apart. There was no big dust-up, no fussing or fighting. It just fell apart. I didn’t mind, to be honest–we’d started doing shows in our 20s and 30s, but by 2015, most of us had hit middle age. We had other priorities, other gigs: mortgages and yoga and kids.

The only thing I had trouble leaving behind was Grenadine. Maybe that’s because it was such a fun show to produce. (I laughed as much in rehearsals as our audiences did during performances.) Maybe it’s because our fans loved, loved, loved Grenadine, and it felt great to create something that people identified with so strongly.

Or maybe it’s because I knew the characters so well. Even now, four years after we faced that final curtain, I still hear the voices of Gladys, Loretta, Tater, Sally Ann, Crystal, and China in my head. (Sometimes, they even drown out the other voices, which is nice.) Grenadine herself is the loudest, though–which isn’t surprising, since she’s based on my adoptive mom.

So, because the characters keep shouting at me and because our audiences keep asking, “When are y’all doing Grenadine again?”, I wrote a book. It’s a small book–more of a booklet, really–but I hope it makes everyone happy. The characters can have their say, the fans can hear them out, and I can finally get a little peace and quiet.

From today through Christmas day, the electronic version of Grenadine McGunkle’s Double-Wide Christmas will be free. (I’d make it free forever, but five days is all Amazon allows, dangit.) The paperback costs moolah because, as anyone who works in journalism will tell you, printing is outrageously expensive.

If you’re inclined to give it a go, I hope you enjoy it. And whether you are or not, I hope you have a very happy holiday season.

Mind games


I outgrew Jesus pretty quickly.

I tried to believe in him, convinced myself that I did, but faith has to be heartfelt. I confused the superstitions of Christianity with sincerity. “If I don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t have impure thoughts about other boys, it proves that I believe in god and Jesus, which means I’m a good person.” That kind of thing. Ironically, the superstitions were harder to leave behind than the belief would’ve been.

Anyway, while I was at it–while I was trying to fit in with the masses of Southern Baptists in my hometown who all claimed to believe in god and Jesus and the literal truth of the bible but conveniently overlooked Old Testament prohibitions on shellfish, pork, and poly-cotton blends–during the 18 years I did all that, I prayed. I prayed for my family, I prayed for world peace, but mostly, I prayed for god to make me straight.

I played this game with god–well, not a game, more of a variation on the “give me a sign” theme. You know: “Lord, give me a sign whether I should take this job!” “Lord, give me a sign for the answer to question #37 on the math section of the ACT!” “Lord, give me a sign whether the center on the varsity football team would beat me to a pulp if I tried to kiss him!” Et cetera.

I played the game whenever mom or dad drove us around town. In the backseat I’d whisper, “Dear god, let the next person I see be the sort of person I want to love for the rest of my life.” I wasn’t asking to fall in love with the next person who crossed my path, just a sign of where love would lead me, a sign of whether I was straight or gay. Basically, I hoped that the next person I saw would be a woman, which meant that I’d live an ordinary, heterosexual, biblically approved life. 

Naturally, the game yielded mixed results, since I had only a 50/50 chance of getting the answer I wanted. When the next person I saw was a woman, I’d breathe a sigh of relief, as though god had just promised me–in writing, thank you–that I’d eventually settle down with a woman. When the next person I saw was a man, I’d demand a do-over, because clearly I’d been distracted. Because I hadn’t focused intently on god. Because my request hadn’t been sincere.

I played that game for a long time–long after I’d stopped believing in god. It had become more than a superstition, it had become a habit. Kind of like the way I cross myself when I see a dead animal on the side of the road or a funeral procession or an ambulance with its sirens blaring. (Not that I was ever Catholic, of course. I’ve just lived in New Orleans a long time.)

In fact, sometimes I still play it. I don’t know why. My sexual orientation is pretty obvious by now. Maybe I do it to see if I’m truly comfortable with the results.

Am I?

Things Grace Jones would give as Secret Santa

  • A grin of possums
  • Nipple clamps forged from the finest Nepalese meteorites
  • Possum-shaped pasties (set of three)
  • His and hers menstrual cups
  • Baby monitor lizards with custom Balenciaga booties
  • Starbucks gift cards in increments of $19.48
  • Sexy IOUs
  • Shrubbery
  • The $25,000 Pyramid home game
  • One heaping handful of Peruvian cocaine (no baggie due to eco concerns)
  • Monogrammed washcloths
  • Cocaine-scented washcloths
  • Rear bumpers stolen from double-parked Lincoln Town Cars
  • Coal
  • Jamaican pie