Summertime is Skinny Dipping Season

1Today is Summer Solstice and I don’t know about you, but summer always means skinny dipping to me. There’s something so deliciously pagan about getting naked and dipping into dark water under the warm night sky.

I grew up on islands: first Oahu, then Whidbey. On Oahu I was too young to understand that I was skinny dipping. I was simply swimming. But as a teen on Whidbey, I knew the score. When night fell, I’d sneak out of my bedroom window, hop into my pal Natasha’s vintage Dodge Dart (the one everyone recognized on unlit country roads because of the unique shape of the tail lights) and we’d head to Deer Lake.

En route I’d shuffle through a box of tapes to find just the right song. I don’t know which sound is more nostalgic: the rustling of those tapes or the music. The rustling of the tapes reminded me of grade school classmates searching for just the right crayon in their pencil boxes, when the teacher would give an assignment. No, not Burnt sienna. No, not Lavender. Yes, Aquamarine. As the class fell silent, full of ideas, that rustling sound was the song of expectation. And so it was with the box of tapes. No, not The Sugarcubes. No not The Pixies. Yes, Cocteau Twins.

Sometimes we’d manage to rustle up a bottle of wine or some weed. Most times though, it was just about the freedom of swimming naked, bathing in the light of the big moon. Possibilities were spelled out in the starry sky. Life was going to be spectacular. It was only a matter of time. It never once occurred to me that I’d be looking back at how spectacular it was just being there, in Deer Lake, skinny dipping with my friend.

After I graduated from high school and left Whidbey Island, I didn’t skinny dip for several years. But trust me, I knew damn well what I was missing. Then I moved to Atlanta to work for CNN. I worked an overnight shift, but still found time for a guy I’ll refer to as My English Bastard. I’d sneak out of my apartment, hop into his white Miata, which I hoped people would recognize by the rainbow sticker I’d secretly slapped on the back, since this was clearly a straight man driving a gay man’s car.

One night in particular there was no rustling of crayons or tapes. There were no options. Yes, Periwinkle. Yes, Roll With It by Oasis.

We went to several tacky bars in Buckhead. He drove me through Peachtree Hills, car top down, as I stood on the passenger seat, arms spread like Leo DiCaprio in Titanic. I rambled on about how nice it would be to go for a swim. It was crazy fucking hot. August in Atlanta is a month without pity. Even at two in the morning the heat is staggering, especially for a Whidbey Island transplant like me. Summer in Atlanta alternates between sexy and suffocating. Despite cherished Southern images of magnolia scented wind ruffling through the lovely locks of the preacher’s daughter, Atlanta often smells like hot tar and exhaust fumes. As for the preacher’s daughter, you’ll find her in the air conditioned comfort of Phipps Plaza, shopping for shoes and a husband.

Neither of us had a swimsuit, so I suggested that we shimmy down a 20-foot fence and go skinny dipping in some public pool that was closed for the evening.  I was thrilled to return to my teenage roots, and My English Bastard cheerfully stripped off all of his clothes too. He climbed up onto the diving board, jumped up and down repeatedly, his uncircumcised dick flapping around. I was amazed at how comfortable he was being naked and watched him as he dove into the water, his sleek body illuminated by the summer moon. I sat on the side of the pool, trying to position myself in an attractive way, wishing I could learn to like working out a little more, and hoping the moonlight made me look as sleek and sinuous as he did. (Though deep down I knew even the moon had its limits.)

He swam over and grabbed me, pulled me into the water, whispering,

“Saara, you’re so bad for me,” as he rammed his tongue in my mouth. I laughed. For one thing, he had a problem with the letter “r”, which meant he called me “Saawah”. But mostly it was the idea of me, with my chubby Mrs. Santa Claus thighs, being “bad” for him…or anyone. I thought of me at age six, dressed in a drug store Tweety Bird costume. It’s the same image that always pops into my head when the pages of women’s magazines ask, “How do you see yourself?”

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As the hazy morning sun began to rise, we knew it was time to go, mostly because we weren’t sure when the pool maintenance crew would get there. In the harsh light of sobriety, the 20-foot chain link fence we’d so cheerfully scampered down a couple of hours before seemed daunting now. As I climbed back up, I was acutely aware of the fact that my underwear were in my purse and not on my ass. My English Bastard peered up under my dress, climbing after me.

“Saawah, ” he said. “I never knew the curtains didn’t match the carpet.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Roger Moore: Baby You’re The Best

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Sir Roger Moore passed away on May 23rd. Not much was written about him. Perhaps it’s because we live in this exhausting 24-hour news cycle, which keeps churning out endless horrific stories, and a real life Bond villain who loves gold and runs shady deals out of his glittering golden tower occupies the White House now. Maybe The Death of an International Playboy seemed a bit too fluffy for these trying times.

Sure, there were some tributes on Twitter and a few mentions in celebrity magazines. But the underlying sentiment seemed to be that while he was a charming, witty, handsome actor, he was no one’s favorite James Bond. He was at best a pale imitation, a diversion from the franchise. The movies were too silly, too absurd, too tacky, just not as cool as the Sean Connery days.

Well. I take exception to that. I say Roger Moore was the perfect Bond…for his era. Hear me out. If you think Bond took a downturn when Moore came on the scene, it may have had more to do with disdain for the 1970s than anything else. Bond reflects where we are in society, and sometimes we don’t particularly care for the reflection. For 55 years, James Bond has ridden the zeitgeist. If you didn’t like Roger Moore, it may have been because society took us into strange, uncharted territory during his time as 007. The 1970s was an embarrassing decade full of ugly furniture, corrupt politics, sartorial atrocities and narcissistic quests to find oneself. Who could possibly love such a decade? So who could love the Bond who embodied it?

But remember that Sean Connery’s brand of hyper masculinity and machismo was hopelessly dated by the early ’70s. This was an era when men wore bold silk shirts and  stacked Cuban heels. 4fc918dad62531500396f0e1000749bc

Hell, my own father carried an alligator skin “man purse”. Boundaries were shattering. Rules were changing. You couldn’t rely on traditional ideas anymore. This Bond had to navigate Feminism, Blaxploitation, Occult fascination and an over-abundance of polyester. Bond had to express his masculinity in a different way, ushering in an era that encouraged people to talk to their ferns, wear mood rings and stage revolutions from their bed–without a hint of irony! Think about that–even being in bed was politicized! For a bed-hopper like Bond, this was treacherous territory. So Roger Moore, who took over in 1973 but never took Bond very seriously, kept the franchise alive by injecting some sly humor into the role.

I ask you: which other Bond could have managed to look suave while a gang of ass-kicking schoolgirls rescued him?

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Who but Roger Moore could stuff Herve Villechaize in a suitcase? Or add an extra nipple to his chest while going undercover? This 1970s Bond was proof that no matter how the rules of society were changed, or who pulled the shag rug out from under him, he could somehow survive, arched eyebrow in tact.

You see how much easier it was for Sean Connery to look cool? Note how his final (official) Bond film in was in 1971. Maybe he saw the Hubba Bubba font on the wall. He played it safe until 1983, when Reagan and Thatcher had restored conservative politics, and businessmen reasserted traditional order, attire and style. His Bond was on the rise again. Roger Moore did not have this luxury. The man had to look cool holding a gun in a wicker Hawaiian Princess chair, for fuck’s sake. Can’t we give him credit for that?

Well, I do. Here’s to Roger Moore, who will always be my favorite James Bond of all time…but especially for his time.

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The Ghost of Leadership

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I’ve lived right around the corner from the United States Mission to the United Nations since I moved to New York in October of 2001. In those early days after 9/11, the city was awash in Xeroxed fliers pleading, “Have You Seen My Daddy?” alongside yellow caution tape. We were looking for answers. We were looking for strength and someone to convince us it was all going to be okay.

At the time, the US Mission to the UN showcased photos of President George W. Bush and his cabinet on the wall, facing the United Nations. George with his goofy frat boy grin, Dick Cheney with his evil operator sneer, no-nonsense Colin Powell.

I wasn’t a fan of “W”, didn’t vote for him either time. But there he was, professionally posed, hanging on the wall. Photographic proof that we had government in place, and they were accountable as we worked to put our country back together.

When Barack Obama was elected, I was elated. So was my neighborhood. On election night 2008, people literally threw open their windows and shouted, “WOOOOOOOO!!!!!! OBAAAAMMAAAA! “ It was the opposite of Network’s “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” It was “I’m so damn happy that this man is in charge.”

Within a few days, George W. Bush and company were replaced by Obama’s calm, “Don’t worry–I got this” face. Next to him was Joe Biden looking the same as he probably did in his 1st grade class photo: “Hi guys!” Then came Hillary Clinton, in all her pantsuited professionalism.

Now, the US Mission to the UN on First Ave is the street I take to get to the grocery store, the gym, and the little café in Dag Hammarskjold Park. It’s part of my daily routine, the backdrop of mundane activities.

So on election night 2016, I thought about that wall of photos. Yes, I was part of a liberal New Yorker cliché, at an Upper West Side election night party, surrounded by people expecting a celebration who went home drunk, depressed and bewildered when Donald Trump won.

And I’ll tell you, I dreaded the new photos. On Inauguration Day, I looked outside my window at the American flags and they suddenly looked funereal. Flags that once brightened the grey winter sky made me sad now. Within a week after Jan 20th, one of them actually ripped. It felt like an omen.

I kept waiting for the Trump administration photos to go up. The Obama Administration photos had been removed immediately, but the walls remained empty. I waited for the photos so I could grimace at them, flex my middle finger, shake my head and look away.

And I waited.

And I waited.

And I waited.

At first I thought, “This is great! I don’t have to look at Orange Foolius.”

But on the 89th day of the Trump era, the walls still remained empty, and my curiosity got the best of me. I asked one of the security guards if this was unusual. I said I’d lived in the neighborhood for years, and I’d never seen the walls empty for so long. He looked up at the walls, back at me and shrugged.

“Well, I guess they’re taking their time,” he said.

“No complaints here!” I said.

But that’s a lie. The truth is, I want those faces. I want to know that someone is in charge. Even if it is someone I fundamentally disagree with. There is something disturbing about that blank space, reflecting a lack of leadership, a lack of concern for basic protocol. Of course this isn’t just about the photos. It’s another symbol of the fact that we are adrift now. It’s not just bad leadership. It’s no leadership.

As you can see, I tried to take a photo of what this wall looks like. But this is one situation where a photo is not worth a thousand words. People who have not lived in this neighborhood have no idea there used to be something on those walls. Reassuring photos of a working government. The walls remain empty as I post this. Now the only evidence of what used to be is a series of hooks on the wall, anchoring nothing.

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PODCAST: Daddy’s Girl

What’s it like to be Daddy’s Girl…when Daddy is President of the United States? I have no idea. I do not roam the corridors of power. But I do have a good imagination. So I came up with this…

10 Items Found In The Future Donald J. Trump Library

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All U.S. presidents eventually get a library, even those who admit they don’t read much.  So it is inevitable that there will be a Donald J. Trump Library some day. As I live in New York, I sincerely hope it will be in Florida, not here. After all, Florida is already home to The Magic Kingdom, where employees are paid to tell fanciful stories so that people can enjoy a world of fantasy, so it will fit right in.

Question is…what will be in the Donald J. Trump Library?

Here are a few ideas. And consider, he hasn’t even hit his 100 days yet. Imagine the treasures to come!

1. This flattering oil painting of Dear Leader looking sporty and fit, with normal-sized hands. The only reason I recognize that it is supposed to be a depiction of Orange Foolius is the realistic melted cheddar hue of his skin.

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2. A commemorative can of spray tan, dipped in gold-plate.

3. A freeze-dried slice (under protective glass) of “the most beautiful chocolate cake you’ve ever seen” that Trump and China’s President Xi enjoyed while 59 Tomahawk missiles were dropped on Syria.

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4. Trump’s personal copy of his Playboy issue. A couple of pages are stuck together, from furious masturbation over his own photos.

5. An extra long , dick-tickling tie. (Scotch tape included.)

6.  A clip of my mom turning to me, Chardonnay in hand, and saying, “You know, his mouth looks exactly like an asshole.”

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7. In the gift shop, a patented “Pussy Grabber” apparatus that comes with a free box of tic-tacs. Made of solid plastic, embossed with the TRUMP logo, “Grabbing ’em by the pussy has never been so easy!”

8. In the cafe, it’s ALWAYS Taco Bowl Tuesday!

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9. A copy of the check from Mexico to pay for The Wall. (Exhibit remains curiously empty.)

10. The Pee Pee tapes. Because damn it, if they really exist, they are a national fucking treasure and the only thing I’d pay to see in this horrid library.

 

 

LUNAR CONVENTION: One Week Away!

Calling out to all you Moonage Ravers and Intergalactic Gallivanters! We’re a week away from our convention on the moon, where New York’s top storytellers will take us on an out-of-this world journey! PLUS: You can win great prizes in our Sounds From Space Trivia Contest! Check it out at Parkside Lounge on Friday, March 24th, 8pm!

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Moment In The Sun

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I went on a road trip a couple weeks ago.

Okay.

That’s stretching it.

That conjures up images of driving under sunny skies, smiling with the roof top down and music blaring.

I had to travel to Ohio for a funeral. In February.

But-

The funeral was for a cool guy who truly loved music, and found a way to enjoy life no matter what life threw at him.

So as we headed back to New York, I snapped this photo at a gas station. Because I realized that odds are, at least one person managed to see the beauty in eating cheap food,  perched at this picnic table, by a highway, in a shithole town, in the shadow of a gas pump.

Or, maybe someone just changed a baby’s diaper on it.

Either way…here’s to the people who see beauty wherever it can be found…