First off, the loose end that needs tying has to do with the orgy I tried to attend the last week of August. As some of you may recall, I did not gain access to the orgy because I did not bring a woman with me. I tried in vain to pass off my friend who wears a prosthetic vagina as a substitute woman, but this was a doomed maneuver. But the column that recounted this defeat at the orgy's door (well, actually the vestibule) did end with a ray of hope?I reported that there would be another orgy on Sept. 18 and I implied that a second attempt would be made to storm that decadent fortress.
Well, the 18th came, and sure enough through the perverted channels through which such information is disseminated, I learned that the orgy was switching locations?to stay ahead of the vice squad??from its West Village setting to a Wall Street hotel. The precision information I received included the suite number one was to give the desk clerk and that entry to the orgy would only take place between 10 and 10:45 p.m.; also, the same rules were in effect as with the first orgy: $60 per couple, single women allowed (for $30), single men not allowed, bring your own towel, condoms provided.
I bring all this up because many people?friends, acquaintances and strangers (but no relatives, thankfully)?contacted me about the orgy; I received letters, e-mails and phone calls. This orgy issue really seemed to strike a nerve. Quite a few friends teased me?"I know where you'll be on the 18th" was a frequent remark. And all sorts of people?many of whom I wouldn't suspect of being fans of group sex?were asking me if I could get them into the orgy; if I would write them a letter of recommendation so to speak. These people I stalled. I don't like to be a bad influence. It's bad enough that I have influence over myself.
Then after the 18th came and went, everyone was asking: What happened? Did you go to the orgy?
Well, I have to report that I let a lot of people down: I did not make the slightest effort to attend this second gathering of group fornication. My new hobby and passion, boxing, which for the moment has replaced my lifelong fascination with all forms of sexual congress, took precedent on the night of the 18th?I watched the somewhat disappointing De La Hoya and Trinidad fight. And although the fight lacked excitement, it was instructive since I am currently a student of the sweet science of bruising in preparation for my own boxing match to be held on Nov. 10.
I do hope to keep boxing after my big fight, but I will also probably get back to my old studies: the sick science of cruising. And so if there's another orgy planned for late November or December, I'll make a valiant effort to attend, experience, survive and bear witness. I will then file a full report for all the people who count on me to provide firsthand handjob accounts of things that most decent people are sane enough not to attempt, though these same decent people are the ones hounding me for the lascivious details. But there's nothing new in that statement. Most people like to keep things at a safe distance, but, nonetheless, they are curious and voyeuristic, especially when it comes to sex. And then there are those of us?I'm referring to myself here?who are nearsighted, so to speak, and need to be right on top of things or on top of someone to fully appreciate them. So it all works out. The sexually sane people need a liaison to the sexually insane. And that's me, that's where I fit in. A man behind the lines. A kind of erotic war correspondent.
Pressing on with my column housecleaning, I need to forgo the current events of my humble life and keep dealing with the past and in so doing discuss my August trip to Martha's Vineyard. My vacation there happened to coincide with the President's, and an obvious conclusion can be drawn from our being in the same place at the same time: Libidinous men think alike. And naturally two such similar individuals were destined to cross paths.
When I arrived on the island I was met by my friends at the ferry and then taken to the house where we were staying, which was very generously being lent to us through a friend of a friend. The house was deep in the woods of the town of Chilmark, which is in the quieter, less developed and more exclusive part of the island. When I saw the place, it reminded me of a cabin I had stayed in 14 years before when I last visited Martha's Vineyard. At that time, I had lucked into the free use of a cabin for 10 days, and during that sojourn I had a very sweet love affair with a beautiful girl who lived nearby. Now the house I was staying in 14 years later was not a cabin, but it looked as if it could have been expanded upon.
Unfortunately, I was unable to remember the exact address of the cabin, but I knew it was in Chilmark, so I was in the right town. But I couldn't easily solve the mystery of my deja vu because the man who had lent me the cabin so many summers before had since died and the current owners of the house were not readily available. It was frustrating to feel like I had been there before but that I couldn't prove it.
The follow morning after my arrival, I drove to the Chilmark general store to get some supplies. As I loaded up the car, I heard someone calling out with excitement, "Jon! Jon! Jon!" I went by Jon for most of my life until I tried quitting drinking for the first time 13 years ago at the tender age of 22, at which time I asked people to call me by my full name. I guess I was seeking a new temperance-beverage-drinking identity, and since then, whether actively dipsomaniacal or in tippling-remission, I have gone by Jonathan. So whoever was beckoning me was someone from my distant past, but because it had been so long since I was called by that shortened version of my name I didn't respond; I thought it must be for someone else. I got in my car and started it up, but then I heard again this insistent plea of "Jon! Jon! Jon!" and sensing that it was for me I got out of the car, and sprinting toward me, like in a dream, was the lovely girl of 14 years before. She was running because she thought I was about to drive off, and then when she saw me get out of the car an embarrassed smile came to her face and she slowed to a walk.
She had hardly changed at all. Perhaps the posture was more severe?she was maybe more conscious of her good figure and wanting to maintain it, and there were a few lines around her mouth, but she was remarkably well-preserved. She was looking closely at me as well and I was very aware of her gaze toward my bald spot at the front of my head; her eyes went there the way a man's eyes go to a woman's cleavage. Time had been less kind to me than to her; it had stolen my hair. "I'm surprised you recognized me," I said, sheepishly, self-loathingly.
"I couldn't forget those eyebrows," she said, referring to the albinish lines of hair above my eyes. And I felt flattered: she remembered my eyebrows: once long ago her face had been close to mine. We hesitated a moment and then kissed each other's cheeks in greeting. We were astonished, yet not too astonished to see each other, which seems to be the nature of coincidences: They are too much a part of the way things are; they always feel curiously right.
Immediately after our embrace, a tall, sturdy good-looking man approached with two small children, a boy and a girl. My old flame was very much a wife and mother. I shook hands with her husband, and then she and I rapidly exchanged information?our headlines. I then told her where I was staying, and being a longtime summer person on the island, she knew the house and informed me that in its previous life, before significant expansion, it had been the cabin (the scene of our youthful embraces...did the husband know? He seemed happy to shake my hand) where I had stayed 14 years before!
All this was deeply pleasing to me?the cabin, running into her?because I live for coincidences. They briefly give to me the illusion or the hope that there's a pattern to my life, and if there's a pattern then maybe I'm moving toward some kind of destiny where it's all explained.
At the moment, of course, there's no explanation for anything, but there is the desire to keep recording data. So I'll press on with jotting down the next interesting thing that happened?interesting to me at least?on Martha's Vineyard. A few days after seeing my old heartthrob, I was brought along by a lovely female friend to a cocktail party, and Spalding Gray was there, which for me, since he's one of my idols, was very exciting. He was on the island because he was premiering his fantastic new show Morning, Noon and Night, which I had just seen the previous evening.
I perform a fair amount myself, storytelling specifically, and Gray, in my opinion, is the master of this kind of theater. I've seen three different shows of his over the years and each time I've been delighted and amused and captivated. And ever since I first saw him (Swimming to Cambodia at Lincoln Center in 1986), I've wanted to find out if he memorizes his pieces or if he just knows his stories extremely well and tells them somewhat differently every show. This is the technique I use and it has its benefits and its drawbacks: there's room for spontaneity and improvisation, but there's often the dreadful feeling that you came up with something the previous performance that was really good but you couldn't quite recreate it.
Anyway, there he was at this cocktail party and I very much wanted to talk to him, but I was afraid that I would suffer personality withdrawal, which is the usual effect that people I admire have on me. Actually, if I think about it, in almost all social settings my personality disappears. I'm not too bad one-on-one and occasionally I do well at a dinner party, but for the most part if I'm in a large group setting like a cocktail party I bore the hell out of people, I bore the hell out of myself, and this problem of mine, I realize, doesn't bode well should I make it to that next orgy. No one will want to couple with me if I'm psychotically dull.
So I was very aware of Spalding Gray's movements around the room and I was wondering if I'd have the courage to engage him in conversation and selfishly pose to him the question I had been pondering for 13 years or if I would just chicken out because I was afraid that my lack of personality would be too humiliating. Then somehow in the choreography of the cocktail party?people escaping from one mindless conversation to move on to the next or better yet to the bar or cheese table?I ended up alongside the object of my admiration.
"I saw your show the other night," I said. "It was very good." It was a classically dull opening, but not beyond the pale.
"Thank you," he said sincerely, and then he finished a cheese and cracker he was eating.
"I'm sorry to be a nuisance," I then said, plowing bravely forward, "but I do a bit of performing, at PS 122," I said this knowing full well that he workshops his pieces there, "and I sort of do what you do. I had a one-man show there this winter called Oedipussy." He laughed. I had purposely said the title of my show so that at least one non-boring thing would come out of my mouth. "Well, anyway," I said, "I've always wondered, if you don't mind me asking, do you memorize your shows or do you tell them differently each performance?"
There. I had gotten it out. And what happened next was great. I finally got my answer: He told me that he doesn't memorize his pieces, and we ended up having a brief but very good talk about his technique and I didn't bore him too badly. Eventually, of course, which is the nature of any cocktail party conversation, we ran out of steam and he politely excused himself so that he could make another visitation to the cheese table.
I was thrilled. I hadn't chickened out and I had spoken to the Mickey Mantle of storytelling. I then asked my friend, who had brought me to the party, if we could go. I didn't want to risk reencountering Spalding Gray and wreck things by numbing him with a second dose of Ames-dull.
So we left the party and I was behind the wheel of our car, guiding us along the dark country roads. Then we came to the four-way intersection by the Chilmark store, called Beetlebung Corner, and there a motorcycle policeman suddenly pulled in front of us and ordered me to stop. I did so, thinking I had committed some sort of violation. But the policeman simply dismounted his bike and stood in the middle of the road with a large orange flashlight, forbidding me to continue. Then a car from the opposite direction approached and it too was stopped, and the beams of its headlights flooded into our car.
"The Clinton motorcade must be coming," I said to my friend and she agreed, and I was very excited. I love Clinton. Whenever I get into trouble, I think of him and it gives me strength. The problems he makes for himself with his sexual behavior are much worse than mine, but he survives and this gives me courage to face my small (by comparison) crises.
So we sat in our car at Beetlebung Corner and then about half a dozen motorcycle policemen passed us with great drama and flair at about 30 mph. They came from my left, from the third fork of the intersection. Like an English citizen awaiting the Queen, I rolled down my window and without thinking about it just started waving in anticipation.
Clinton then cruised by in a black SUV. He was in the backseat, on the right-hand side, and he looked out his window and he saw me. I was illuminated by the car from the opposite direction and he was also lit up by those headlights. His hair was like a silver halo, his glasses were on the tip of his nose and his head was handsome and enormous. He looked right at me, there was maybe 10 feet separating us, and in that brief instant he seemed nice and a little bit lonely in that backseat, like a kid being driven by his parents somewhere. I kept waving and he waved back at me sweetly. And there was no one else he was waving to. My friend sitting beside me was blocked by me and she wasn't waving anyway, and no other cars were stopped on our side of the dark road.
Then he was gone. The whole encounter had been maybe three seconds long. But it was like three seconds of very good, high-quality electric shock therapy. I began to scream hysterically, happily, madly.
"Clinton waved at ME! Looked at ME! Saw ME!" I almost had an epileptic fit. I was banging the steering wheel, jumping in my seat. I probably almost activated the air bag. "CLINTON SAW ME! THE MOST FAMOUS AND POWERFUL AND FLAWED MAN IN THE WORLD WAVED AT ME!"
When we got back home, I called all the Democrats I know and only got answering machines. So I left messages all over the country, telling people that I had met my storytelling role model, Spalding Gray, and then had been waved at by my sexually-troubled-but-survives-after-all role model, the President. My numerous hyperbolic messages were probably very annoying to listen to, but I couldn't help it. I was all full of life and energy. For me, seeing Clinton, I have to say, was not at all fatiguing.