How to do the wrong thing right

Oh, what a difference a year makes. This time last January, I was still portly, still single and half my parents still remained alive. None of the above are still true: I’ve entered 2019 healthily slim, happily married, but having neither of my former parental buffers standing between me and my newfound ascendency to the graveyard’s front lines. Surreal isn’t the word for it, and although my longtime partner (now spouse) and I were together fully 25 years prior to our ultimate decision of gettin’ to the church on time last August, any epiphany of feeling somehow different (considering I’ve now been made a decent man out of) has been, politely, glacial to crystalize into my anticipatedly giddy euphoria: We signed a piece of paper together, we admired new jewelry on our fingers, and we fed each other a hunk of delicious, buttercream-frosted cake in front of 150 beautifully decked-out people. Any given stroll through a wing of North Park Center grants one the exact same experience.

On the other hand, perhaps it’s the difference between getting married in one’s 50s versus one’s 20s. Even my friends snort, “Well, what did you expect after dawdling for 25 years? Fuck, you’re probably listed in Guinness as the longest engagement in gay history!” (Somehow, it just falls on deaf ears when I delicately point out that for, oh, just our first 23 years together, same-sex wedded bliss didn’t legally exist.) Happily, too, I’m kicking off things here at Ask Howard this year into more of the M-17 territory you dear sweet boys most adore, despite the enthusiastic reception of my recent experimentations in G-rated columns. Therein lies my 2019 conundrum: how to please those baptized from all sense of humor and my hell-bound perverted “core base.” I’m sure gonna give it my best shot.

Thus, first up, comes a question that originally arrived well over five years back, one that still holds the 14-year record of Lengthiest Question — in its original incarnation, fully 10 daunting, single-spaced/double-sided pages typed pages. It reminded me more of a tawdry novella than this torpidly screwball underworld lark I’ve so painstakingly whittled it down to. Formerly replete with penny-dreadful dialogue exchanges, corrupted colloquialisms, mixed metaphors, shorthand Millennial word-perversions (nonexistent periods, no capitalization anywhere, shoddy grammar all the way around) and a personally-lauded courageousness for possessing the unapologetic bravery to at least attempt raw, slang/ethnic syntax—always extremely risky a judgment call for any writer to tackle . . . so let’s get perversely right to it.

Dear Howard: I’m more a sociologist by nature, although apparently not by nurture; idiotically, I once again found myself on NYE in Vegas doing, naturally, what every man goes there to do: hire hookers. Nor does it bode well that I’m both a size-queen extraordinaire and just the biggest ol’ bottom ever to dump a diaper. Annny-hooo, once again I pressed the “loop” button on Groundhog Day, and what showed up was the greasiest gay-for-pay-per-view dirty weasel motherfucker yet — always turning suckers like me into repeat offenders, forever believing their slickster shit-hustlin’ pretty words: “Eleven rock-hard ‘real’ inches for all y’all clients’ satisfaction — no catfishin’ here!”

Bang that gong again, girl! I’ve spent way too many decades farcically “entertaining myself” now to the point where I long ago graduated to XL, exclusively, from my favorite sphincter-destroying toymaker, Tom of Finland: Anything short of colossal simply won’t fill the bill anymore (I now require the petite girth of any Brazilian pro-soccer player’s thighs).

Not only did “Mr. JaXXX” show up a solid hour late (red flag no. 1), but then, equally true to form, immediately scooped-up, and pocketed, his $300 outcall request (red flag no. 2) from the desktop soon as he minced through the door, and, Princessa JaXXX had the unmitigated nerve to then pull that hourglass-draining, tired old trick of “suggesting” I first fix us a bonding, get-to-know-you-better libation (red flag no. 3) and chat a bit beforehand. Uh huh, he really went there: “You know,” he primly scolded, all helium-wristed like, “I thought twice about even showing at all, baby, ‘cause you made me write down your address and go have to find me a pencil, instead of just doin’ the simple thing by texting it to me … I’m just sayin’ here.” (Already, I’d re-nicknamed Mr. JaXXX as Tab, for his one-calorie personality.) “I’m just sayin’,” repeated Tab, “I been stung by you white dudes in the past, but, damn, at least you’re easier on de eyes than most, ‘cause (crimson glory no. 4!) I left my dick pills at home. Any chance you can at least offer me a chaser with my drink? A Coke? You know, if you wanna party some, too, I knows a guy can swing us by some molly and real coke . . . I’m just sayin’.”

Tab was, even by my luckless standards, already the laudably-worst scam artist ever… and just two minutes in! “Tell your pharmacist to spot you a Viagra, too,” I said. “Nothing like job-preparedness, especially after showing up an hour late. I limit myself to four Vegas visits per year: New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s, Veteran’s Day and Columbus Day. I go totally black on the one holiday that would seem most fitting—Halloween. Yet I knew well what was coming next on Tab’s trick-or-treat playlist: I’d be fed some bullshit excuse for why he suddenly has to “dash out for just a minute,” rather than inviting his man up.

“Hell, baby!” howled Tab. “You don’t want the likes of him comin’ into this fine place anyways. I’ll just run down to de corner when he calls to say he’s pullin’ up. I texted him; he ain’t far, baby. ‘Sides, I gotta get me some jumbotron rubbers anyways. You know, baby, I love yo accent. Where you from?” Groaning, I flopped down in a chair. “Nutshell, I grew up in Southern Texas, lit out for La La Land the day after high school graduation to be discovered, then following a stint of slinging hash, got swept off my feet by the glittering opportunity to become another invisible petty drone robot within the breathtaking cogs inside our government’s bureaucratic cracked mirrors’ funhouse.” Tab stroked puzzlingly at his beardlet. “Hmmm, don‘t recall I ever smoked me no hash in a funhouse of glass robots,” and suddenly, Tab’s phone lit up right on cue: “He’s here pullin’ up.” I motioned Tab calm the hell down: “Wait now just a sec here, remind me again exactly why you need to pick up condoms? I’m a bit murky on that one. I recall specifically asking you over the phone if you do bareback, to which you replied, quote, ‘Anything for my client’s satisfaction, baby.’” Tab shook his dreads, grinning, “Bareback’s gonna cost you extra, though, baby, so you grew up one of dem racist white boys from South Carolina? South Texas, I mean—De Redneck Riviera.”

“Yeah, well, you caught me, all right — the South Texas racist. That’s me. That’s why I called you  — because I’m racist.” This was the point things just went Red Flag City: Tab’s phone suddenly buzzed even louder. “OK, he’s downstairs now, baby. So how much shit you want?” he commanded, holding out his hand.

“A hundred bucks’ worth,” I replied pleasantly, producing an extra Benjamin from beneath my Tito’s and Coke. “Here’s your reimbursement soon as you get back. You may substitute one of my Bennies in your pocket during the interim.” Just as scripted, the asswad bolted for the door, bestowing me a coyly forced grin, “I’m from Chicago. So, now, don’t you go locking me out, baby.” He winked, “Hell, we ain’t barely even got started yet.”

And, Howard, that was the end of that: Per usual, he went MIA with my money. Poof! Quicker than alcohol in sunshine. And coming up next trip—it’s Valentine’s! Howard, like, just what groundhog hell is this I’m in? — Ted Z. Rhodes

Dear Deserted Roads: A blessing-in-disguise here is staring right at you. Vegas is a mythical city, Ted. As with all mythical cities, it’s obligated to disappear, exactly like Atlantis, Czarist St. Petersburg and Detroit which preceded it… as well as Dubai and Miami, too, in short order. And disappear Vegas certainly will, far sooner than later. Its lifeblood of Lake Mead has but these strange days plummeted to a mere 32 percent of capacity (albeit “officially” hawked at a rosy bright 38 percent): Mead’s zebra-striped cliff banks starkly now dazzle a far wider white calcium-line than they do fathoms of drinking water beneath — the mighty Hoover’s lower-intake turbine funnels will, inevitably, become electron-stalled by sucking every bit as much solid air as its uppers already do. The one end-happy result is, Desert Blossom, that your exasperating escort travails shall all soon shortly evaporate of their own fortuitous volition. Whew! What kind of lucky break, indeed, is that, eh? After all, say I to Vegas, “Give me the guaranteed, skeletally-withering death of an entire city any day over the roulette-wheel-best, 50/50 odds of hoping to ever jackpot a Vegas dick-of-death rental cock — via ‘beating the house’ on a retiree’s fixed income.” Easy-mark though they’ve long now had you pegged for, Blossom, be damned: Mortally overdosing accidentally (even if not addictively) on ruinous, fleshly pipe-dream pleasures looms just way too bloody flags’ red.

— Howard Lewis Russell

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