Oh, Daddy

Many years ago, when you could still make money writing gay erotica (PORN), I used to write erotic short stories and edit themed volumes of it. I had always thought the concept of “daddy”–while possibly viewed as slightly off and strange and problematic by the mainstream–would make a great theme for an erotica anthology, potentially called Oh Daddy! Alas, before I could get around to doing it, that market had begun drying out; the last erotica anthology I edited–which had a great theme, I might add–did not do very well in print, alas. So my plans for Oh Daddy! wound up being scrapped; a pity, because I was certain I’d get some great and interesting stories on this dynamic.

The concept of “daddy” in the gay community is, to say the least, a bit controversial, and it’s really not defined; it can mean any number of things to any number of different people. The most common, of course, is its usage regarding age differences; an older man with a significantly younger boyfriend is often referred to as a “daddy” or “his daddy”; the assumption is the age difference inevitably favors the older man in the power dynamic of the couple–and we also tend to always think that there is some sort of benefit to being the older man’s “boy” (although “boy/daddy” doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with age, either); whether it’s financial, emotional, both, or something else–we always assume the younger man is, at the very least, being paid for/taken care of financially by the older man…especially if the older man is, say, a celebrity or wealthy or successful; why else would the younger man tie himself to an older one?

But this is heteronormativity at its finest, really (although younger women with successful older men aren’t always necessarily gold diggers, either; I’m not sure why we automatically always look at these May/December romances with such judgement and askance); younger man can be attracted to older men both romantically and sexually; there are no set rules of attraction, after all…and youth isn’t always an indication of sexual or emotional immaturity. I am always struck by that photo of Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy from when they first became a couple, back when Isherwood was in his thirties or forties and Bachardy a teenager; they look like father and son in the picture, with Bachardy literally looking like he’s just walked off the set of The Mickey Mouse Club in T-shirt and dungarees, with a sling shot in his back pocket and a cowlick. Yet they stayed a loving, committed couple for the next thirty or so years, until Isherwood’s death; but how differently would such a relationship be viewed today? A seventeen year old and a man in his late thirties/early forties?

It’s interesting.

So when I heard about Jonathan Parks-Ramage’s debut novel, Yes Daddy, I was interested in reading it and seeing its take on the topic.

And I was not disappointed–although it was absolutely nothing like I was expecting.

You asked me to be a witness in the trial.

I owed you my life and so I said yes.

What does one wear to a rape testimony? Your lawyer and I debated this endlessly. Nothing too tight, nothing too baggy, nothing too ratty, nothing too expensive, something sexless yet attractive, a suit jacket perhaps, but nothing flashy, a light navy was best, black was too morbid, too dark. I wanted to seem serious but not angry, definitely not vengeful; maybe glasses were a good idea, but the frames had to be simple, nothing flamboyant, nothing too gay, nothing that might trigger juror prejudice. Something to wear while the world decided if I had been raped.

Something that said, believe me.

I dreaded out rehearsals for the witness stand. Your lawyer’s endless questions. What did the basement look like? How many men? What did they do to you? I never slept, barely ate. Walked through the world a husk, disconnected from my body. Pain was the only thing that cut the numbness. I picked the skin around my fingernails with my teeth, tasting the blood on my tongue, repeating the process until all my digits were crusted in scabs.

Finally, the day of the trial arrived.

I don’t even know where to start with this book, to be honest.

I guess I can start by saying it’s very well done; the writing is terrific, and the tension/suspense are such that you cannot stop turning the pages in order to find out what happens next. Jonah Keller, the main character, is a fugitive from the midwest with evangelical parents–his father was a preacher–and he’s also an “ex-gay therapy” refugee. He no longer has a relationship with his father, and his relationship with his mother–still fervently religious–is fraught. He’s moved to New York to start his life over again, and his ambition is to write, be a playwright…but like so many others who moved to the big city with dreams of fame and fortune, he’s stuck in a nowhere job waiting tables at a shitty bistro and subletting an apartment he really can’t afford. He spends his rent money on an outfit so he can attend an event where he might meet his idol, hugely successful (and handsome) gay playwright Richard Shriver…hoping to meet and perhaps even catch his eye. Jonah’s plan is successful, and they begin an affair, with Richard buying him clothes, taking him out to expensive meals, giving him cash to cover his bills…and even offers to read Jonah’s work, maybe even help him get it workshopped and produced on stage.

All of Jonah’s dreams are coming true–but there’s always a fly in the ointment, isn’t there?

Richard brings Jonah out to his compound–where three of his closest friends also have houses–out in the Hamptons, and this is where Jonah begins to realize something isn’t quite right; not only with his relationship but with this entire set-up. There are four sexy, hot waiters on the property, usually serving meals to the people living on the compound wearing only black bikinis…and the dynamics of everything; their relationship, the friends, their future–begins shifting and going in directions that make toxic look like a far-off, distant hope to work towards. Saying anymore would be a spoiler–the book changes directions with shocking twists (but every last one of them is set up before you get there, but you still don’t see them coming) and the book and story become something completely different from what you were expecting at the start…and it’s a compulsive thriller; you simply can’t put it down. I read it through in one sitting last week, and passed it on Paul who ALSO read it in one setting–and he’s a very slow reader.

I greatly enjoyed this debut, highly recommend it, and look forward to seeing more work from Parks-Ramage; this is one of the best gay thrillers I’ve ever read.

Kodachrome

Friday morning bliss.

It kind of feels like Saturday, which means I’m going to soon be completely disoriented, with no idea what day it is any day. Which is kind of lovely; I rather enjoy being a little off-kilter. It’s one of my many peculiarities; the vast number of weird idiosyncrasies housed inside my head. I didn’t sleep well at first last night, so I took something around two in the morning to help me sleep, so I wound up sleeping later than I usually do and am still a bit groggy this morning. While this is most definitely not a terrific start to my long weekend mini-vacation, I am going to roll with it. I am going to keep drinking my coffee, eat a little something (I forgot to eat yesterday, so my stomach is empty and deeply unhappy with me this morning), and perhaps retire to my easy chair a little later on to finish reading S. A. Cosby’s  My Darkest Prayer, which I am really enjoying.

I just hate that I have so little time to read during the week anymore. Books continue to pile up and the TBR pile grows like kudzu over a field in Alabama. But it’s okay; it’s always been that way around here; never enough time to read everything I want to read. That’s what it would say on my tombstone, were I to have one: NEVER ENOUGH TIME TO READ. (I do not intend to be buried or have any kind of tombstone/marker/any such thing; I want to be cremated and the ashes spread into the Mississippi River at Jackson Square–after all my organs are harvested)

I also suspect, given how groggy my body still feels (that first cup of coffee worked only on my brain thus far) that I most likely won’t be leaving the house today, other than taking recycling and/or garbage to the cans in the front of the house. I like those days, really; if I were given a choice I would probably never leave the house, which is one of the many reasons it’s probably best that I never have a work-at-home job ever again; I would never interact with people outside the artificiality of social media.

I do intend to write today–I have a couple of interviews I need to get done–and I’d like to maybe even get started on my next chapter of Bury Me in Shadows–and there are a ridiculous amount of emails that need to be answered or deleted in my various inboxes. A ridiculous amount–I’ve let them slide all week knowing I had a five-day weekend with which to deal with/answer them. I’m also going to launder the bed linens (it’s Friday, after all) and there’s also a load of laundry in the dryer that’s going to need to be folded and put away. The kitchen/office is messy–at least, it needs to be straightened up, and I of course need to move that stack of books off the counter, where I placed them in order to pose them for the obligatory stack of copies of the new book photos, which I took Thursday morning, methinks, or Wednesday night; I cannot be certain of when I precisely did take the pictures, as well as put together the stack of books to send to people to whom I owe copies of the book.

Which also means I need to go get envelopes to put them in–which means venturing out into the heat advisory to get them from the Office Depot on St. Charles. Heavy heaving sigh. I suppose there are worse things? I was also thinking it might be fun to get a pizza from That’s Amore this weekend (it IS my birthday weekend, after all), but that might need to wait until Saturday or Sunday.

Last night we watched Animal Kingdom, and after Paul retired upstairs to do his usual “night-before-work” prep, I watched a documentary about Bob Fosse on Youtube; Steam Heat, which was rather interesting. (As you might be thinking, my interest in Bob Fosse–and Gwen Verdon–came from watching Fosse Verdon, which was spectacular.) I find the Fosse choreographer/director aesthetic interesting; and I’ve also enjoyed watching old clips of Gwen Verdon performing live–there aren’t many, unfortunately; particularly when you consider she was one of the biggest Broadway stars of her time; she won more Tonys than any other major stage diva, including Ethel Merman and Mary Martin, but isn’t as well known as they are to modern audiences. Verdon’s virtuosity and charisma doesn’t come across as completely on film as it must have on stage, but you cannot help but admire the commitment and the dance ability she displayed. I was telling Paul how ubiquitous the music from Sweet Charity was at the time it was playing on Broadway. Everyone knew “If They Could See Me Now” and “Hey Big Spender”; it was interesting watching a clip of the latter from the film version and realizing that I knew all the words, every beat of the song, and every highlight–simply from watching variety shows on television in the late 1960’s.

And let’s face it–even the film version of Cabaret was right up Verdon’s alley had she been young enough; Sally Bowles is the kind of role she inhabited to perfection.

Which reminds me, I would like to watch Cabaret again. I watched it again a few years ago, for the first time since I was a teenager (when I didn’t get it at all; but was watching the disemboweled ‘cut-for-television’ version, where the bisexuality was completely erased from the film, which also removed the sense from the story), and was enthralled by its absolute brilliance. (I still think The Godfather is a far superior picture, but can see why Academy Awards voters went for it in so many categories at the time instead of voting for The Godfather.)

And maybe I should reread The Berlin Stories by Isherwood again. I did read most of the Isherwood oeuvre back in the day, but would probably appreciate his work more now than I did when I read them.

All right, I am going to go sit in my easy chair and read My Darkest Prayer for the rest of this morning.

Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader.

15939_103395293012190_100000251595958_88366_2559023_n