Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Jeremy Show Interviews: Author Mike Albo

With all my favorite shows in reruns (except for Big Brother, The Fashion Show, Whale Wars, Deadliest Catch, Cake Boss, etc.) I've had the opportunity to read a little bit more. I came across a wonderful gay memoir in the Chicago Public Library called Hornito: My Lie Life. The author, Mike Albo, was named "the ultimate satirist of the downtown New York social landscape" by The New York Times. We had a wonderful conversation- I thought I'd share it with you.

You wrote your book Hornito: My Lie Life in 2000, pre-9/11, pre-Two Girls and One Cup. When you look back on writing it, getting it published, seeing it for the first time- what memory stands out to you the most?
Ha...I love that you put 9-11 and Two Girls and One Cup in the same sentence! Bravo! Hornito was not just a book of the moment before all that, it was very much a collection of images and emotions and stories from my brain since birth. That book is the most physical embodiment of my inner life...and I am always so so grateful when someone spends time reading it.

In the book, you describe Eric (the boy you long for throughout the book) as being “only an advertisement for himself, smiling and offering a lovely vacation package to a verdant land that doesn’t exist.” Do you feel like you exist in your work? Or are you offering a lovely vacation package?
Oh man I love your questions. Its least for me, writing is about trying to connect. I want to pour as much as possible of myself into a book. Its kind of a snag for me because I just cant simply tell a story like some major pro like Stephen King or Dean Koontz. Even the Underminer is emotional to me — that book was about my frustration with post 9-11 America...with Bush, Paris Hilton, and the whole “Lets Go Shopping” was my screed against what total mindless crap becomes successful in this country. But at the same time...I know that to actually write something and have people read it, you have to become an advertisement of yourself. Its interesting...this new book I am working on is all about people as advertisements...I don’t know if you and your readers have noticed, but now everyone is trying to be an ad these days...everyone has a profile...and if you go on Craigslist for a second (which of course I do for total research purposes :) ) you see people saying creepy shit like “I suck dick better!” or “The best bottom in the Upper East Side!” ...people have become half advertising now....

On the back of Hornito: My Lie Life the tagline describes your book as “David Sedaris and Sandra Bernhard rolled into one.” Are you a fan of Sandy? If so, do you think she rubs off in your work?
Ok, first of all, just so you know, we scrubby writers don’t have that much say over the copy that appears on our books. We only have so many battles we can fight for...and that blurb was something the PR people came up with. I think its diminishing...but whatever....but that said, I LOVE LOVE LOVE Sandra B. I think more than any other artist. Ms Berhnard has influenced me. She is such an incredible, subtle, lovely, secretly soulful performer. And a great writer.

I found it difficult to carry the paperback edition of the book through my office because of the cover. It sort of looks like porn- with the primary colors and bare chest. Whose chest is on the cover of the book? Did you get to pick that chest?
HA! So funny. As previously said, that cover was not my choice. We C-level writers don’t have much power over our representations. I suppose I could have put up a bitchfest but that’s not my style...the hardback cover was designed by a friend of mine, and I love it. The softcover is good a gross way. People pick up naked torso shots. It is so not me.

Your second book, The Underminer warns the reader against that person in your life that you’ve known forever, who you can’t get rid of and who is always sort of one upping you and picking at you until you are suicidal. Do you have any Underminers in your life or have you gotten rid of all of them? Do you think there is a purpose for an Underminer in our lives?
No one can ever get rid of their underminers. I truly believe that. I am still friends with mine, and he is a great person who I would never shun. People who say “Oh! Yea, I used to have an underminer rin my life but I don’t anymore”? Those people ARE underminers!!!

The design of your website, reminds me a little of the Heaven’s Gate website. It looks sort of like a website for a cult with you as the leader. Did you go about designing it with this sort of feel in mind?
YES!!!! That’s exactly what I am going for!!! I am trying to redesign it now (It takes forever! Do you know how to do it?? Is there anyone out there who can help me for a really crappy low pay???) And it will be getting even MORE cultish and psycho! I am a serious combo of urban-cynical and totally, totally new agey. My friend suzanne calls me a “critical hippie.”

I just stopped writing questions and got lost in your YouTube videos. Really funny. How did you get into performing characters? Did you start out in improv classes or did you just decide to do it…
I tried to take acting classes but I couldn’t handle it.... I learned how to perform by doing it. I wrote poetry in college and did reading and noticed that the more loose and performy I got the more the audience and I connected. Then I started performing in front of people and had to drink two bourbons before I went onstage. Slowly, slowly, I learned about breath, projection and and all that crap you learn.

Can you tell me the contents of your medicine cabinet? Please list every item.
Weird. Um. I have this little cup of random pills that people have given me and I have no idea what they do. I keep meaning to take them.

You say in your first book that you “hate the hairless-beauty youth culture.” You wear your hair slightly long with some facial hair. Is this an act of rebellion against the overly groomed gay culture or are you nature-y and outdoorsy?
Maybe? Not totally intentionally, but maybe?

I picked your book up at the library. I am going through a gay fiction phase- can’t get enough of it. Have you ever hooked up in a library? What are you reading right now?
I am reading The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq...I love him...
I hooked up in the stacks of Columbia University Library stacks. But I am kind of bad at ‘cruising’....

More importantly, what are you watching on TV right now?
I don’t have a TV (well I do but its not connected...) but I CAN WAIT for Project Runway!!! I was a total, complete Battlestar Galactica fan.

When you were little did you dream of being named the “ultimate satirist of the downtown New York social landscape” by The New York Times?
No...i have always dreamed of being a poet. But you know the same time I have always loved satirizing. In 6th grade I performed a satire of Pollyanna in front of the entire class. So I guess its always been in my blood.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Pennies from Heaven

Forget the global economy and just think about me for a second. The recession has hit me real hard. Actually, I venture to say that I was the first to feel the rumblings back in 2006 or 2007- whenever I graduated from college. That's the day I realized I wouldn't have sweet sweet college loan dollars lining my pockets and coming out of my ears. I flew to Los Angeles with an iPod, a new computer, sunglasses, cigarettes, bags of psychotropic medication and assorted snacks. I stayed in the Hollywood hills at the Oakwood Suites. Air conditioned with beige carpeting. I had the option of maid service and I took that option. She came every week and did my dishes and emptied my ashtrays.

After work on Thursday, I had no money to get to home from work. I needed my paycheck and the beautiful hipster accounting girls were not at there desks that day. Too afraid to track them down, to make a scene.

Broke, hot and in despair, I found myself somehow downtown by the two story McDonalds and the Hard Rock Cafe on Erie or Huron or one of those streets. I called my mother and asked her to put yet another twenty dollars in my account. She does, thankfully, and I immediately buy a pack of cigarettes and head straight to McDonalds for a Filet-O-Fish combo. While devouring the soft fishy goodness I realize that while I have obtained the essentials to survive another evening, I AGAIN have no way to get home.

I begin to dig in my backpack for change, confident that I can rattle up enough nickels, dimes and quarters to get on the CTA. Turns out that I have done this one too many times and I am only able to come up with about a dollar eighty five. Not enough to ride the shiny brown line back home.

I think about calling my mother and asking for another twenty dollars but I can't bring myself to do it. I have to get it together. I have to figure out how to do this grown up thing- get my OWN ride home, buy my OWN food and cigarettes. I fear that one day my mom isn't going to answer that phone call. Then who am I gonna call? Am I gonna call Kara in her New York comedy penthouse and ask her to Western Union me over some cigarette and bus money. It has to stop.

I have scads of pennies in my bag but the CTA isn't interested in my pennies. Outside the Brown line entrance, I pick through handfuls of stinky sticky pennies. While I am picking off pieces of candy and disintegrating mood stablilzers that have fallen out their bottles from my precious pennies a disheveled gentleman approaches me.

I can barely understand this man as I continue to count my pennies. Tangled sentences and phrases fall out of his mouth. "Excuse me sir...Elvis...Haha...Anything you can spare...I am trying to..." Then he wiggles his hands in front of me and laughs. He has no thumbs and seems very delighted by this.

I impatiently inform him that I have no money. "I am counting pennies, I'm sorry." He fades away.

I manage to change my pennies into train fare and while I am riding home I remember the words of our Nation's poet Cher:

When the money's gone
No more caviar
Will you eat fast food in a beat up car
Live life modestly, lost in lotto dreams
Will you find your way though it all with me
Through it all with me

Saturday, June 13, 2009

If you could see me the way you see yourself...

Hey Kids, so sorry it's been so long. I've been so busy watching and re-watching Madonna's new video that I've neglected you. I've been getting on and off airplanes in bathrobes and playing my guitar with pink ribbons around my neck. I'm exhausted!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

3 Important Images

Eminem checking into rehab. Like a tragic version of a kid's first day of school.
I have been a fan of Marshall Mathers for awhile. He's blond and sexy and forbidden, allegedly homophobic- yes. But his lyrics are so raw they have brought me to tears on numerous occasions. I take pills that stop me from crying but Slim's lyrics break open the Lexapro dam and the floodwaters come rushing down.

The album cover for "Yes" by the Pet Shop Boys. Very positive, Obama-esque. I love the colors and the sentiment. The group is known for being a bit dreary. I like when they have an upbeat moment.

By Gerhard Richter. At The Art Institute of Chicago. Woman descending a staircase. This is what my life is about. This is it. This is everything. Uh, I have to lay down.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Grey Gardens with Kara

Today Kara and had fun paying tribute to Grey Gardens. Can't wait to see the movie!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


It's time for me to create a healthy network of coworkers, friends, contacts, ex-lovers, sponsors, supervisors, high school and college alumni. I'm not talking about any facebookery, tweetering or linked-in-ing. I'm talking actual phone numbers on a cell phone and meetups for brunch. I want my schedule to be full of dinners, theatre goings and creative jam sessions.

Soon, I'll be rushing into a Starbucks meeting Steve, a former co-worker who has moved on happily to running his own web-based pottery exchange. I'll lend an ear to his brainstorms and he'll help me out with "NUDE JAM!"- the nude poetry jam I'm organizing for charity. We'll talk over each other and pretend to listen to each other's ideas and one of us will have to get going and the other of us will say that's fine because we really have to get going too.

I'll be one of those people who is always talking on public transportation about some upcoming event in the future- going over the details, looking in my datebook, holding a pen. I'll laugh REAL loud at things that aren't really funny and the person on the other line will say they have to go and I'll say that's fine because I'm on the bus or the train and I should go too. I'll wait a few seconds and call someone else and leave a message about the last phone call I just made, slightly insulting the person I just previously talked to.

I'll have to change at work from my work clothes to my evening clothes because I'll always have something and somewhere I have to be. I will NOT be exhausted and lethargic and only want to come home and watch Roseanne reruns. I will be spending most of my time Downtown now, the best place, really, for all of us to connect. The key word- connect. I'll eat very little and become one of those very skinny skinny fashionable gay boys who has a lot going on and likes to let everyone know it. I'll tell you about my improv classes and business trips and how I've quit smoking as I step outside for a cigarette with you.

I'll come home late and drunk but I'll wake up feeling refreshed and healthy. The next morning I'll slide easily into my seasonally appropriate menswear- a crisp pressed shirt and slacks and form fitting jacket/coat. I'll go global before 8 am- connected to all my Ipod-Touches and Bluetooths and Palm Pilot and Kindels. I'll walk confidently down the street with a credit card that actually works in my wallet. I'll buy my morning coffee with lots of sugar and lots of cream. I'll deposit a healthy tip in the plexiglass tip jar for the twenty something bisexual barista behind the counter.

I'll work on working out the details. I'll consider touching base or reconnecting with that one that seemed like a possibility. The one with the good job and shaved head and good shoes. I'll talk it over confidentially with my twelve closest friends. We'll analyze him and try to understand his motivations and intentions in phone calls made from my bed. I'll drift off in an Ambien haze and wake up and start all over again.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Tour of my Apartment

It's fucking snowing outside and it's April and this hasn't been the best winter for me so I'd like to forget winter but it's haunting me, every time I turn around it's there. I thought I'd give you a tour of my home.

This is mission control. You'd think I was super busy. You'd think I could create something real special with the cup of markers and the cellphone and the laptop at my disposal. You'd think with all the cigarettes and caffeine I could get something going.

Dishes. These are what I have to do tonight if I can summon the strength of Hercules and the mental stability of Barack Obama.

As you can see I take fashion very seriously as any gay man does and should. Every garment is given the utmost attention and respect. These are high quality fabrics and I am proud to wear them everyday. Each morning, I have a hard time choosing what to wear. They are all so beautiful.

QVC on the tv. This is a really soothing photo for me. I really can't get enough of it right now. I won't go on anymore. This is my POV of life right now.

I really like that bright pink towel. It's caked with toothpaste spit but I really like the color.

One bookshelf. The top half contains my cookbooks. I really like my Martha cookbooks a lot- gifts from Erik and my parents. A year of Martha Stewart and Domino magazines.

This is the shelf by bed. The obligatory can of Pepsi for late night refreshment. Kleenex box with some sort of Tuscan harvest theme. I don't blow my nose so the top tissue probably has some dust on it. Blowing my nose just creates more of a problem I have been told. On the second shelf to the right is my stack of Playbills I have collected over the years. Erik is very blase about playbills.

I've always said your bed should be a luxurious oasis.

DVD collection for the curious.

My garbage for the curious or the bi-curious.

A sampling of some art (or pictures framed) from my home.

Geoffrey Todd Smith's rollercoaster. I love it. Such a metaphor for life, really, wouldn't you say. Erik wants there to be some trees.

A blurry Mapplethorpe.

Painting I found in the garbage of my apartment building.

Keith Haring in a bathtub, also in my bathroom. I like this picture a lot.

A great picture of Bette Midler.

A great picture from SEX by Madonna. It reminds me of all my dear lady friends.

Picture of me and Kara in Villains frame, an Oscar from Heather's Mom and a Lucy present from my sweet boyfriend. I will not take them out of the boxes anymore. I promise. I won't.

Except for this one. She needs to get out and dance!

Well that's it. Thanks for coming over and thanks for sticking through until the end. Excuse me while I sit back and relax and listen to some music on my cheap $20 Mp3 player I bought at Walgreens. See you next time.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Taking some time to enjoy The View

"I can remember lying frozen in bed, crying because I was too frightened to take a shower, and at the same time knowing that showers are not scary."
-Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon

The quote above pretty much sums up where I have been the last couple months. Living in a dark place. But now I'm back from outer space. I knew I was back when I started watching QVC. For the last couple months I haven't been able to watch tv. Literally, could not watch television. Too much stimulation. Too scary. But I knew I was back when I could watch QVC- Bob Mackie's wonderful embroidered shirts! frozen steaks delivered right to your door! Kitchenaid appliances! I can watch it all day. So soothing to me. Consumer therapy as I try to enter the real world again.

After September 11th, during another breakdown it was the only thing I would watch. I was freaked out, really freaked out about terrorism and dirty bombs and anthrax. Totally overreacting. QVC was the only network that would not mention 9/11. There would be the occasional American flag pin for sale, with a soft mention of the "tough times" our country was going through. But I knew that they wouldn't cut away to a shot of the towers falling. Safe.

I still wasn't ready for The View. Erik mentioned that maybe I had moved beyond the view. Perhaps I was on to better, deeper and more meaningful televisions. FAT CHANCE! It took awhile. I am happy to say I am back watching the ladies around the table discussing "Hot Topics." By the way, something is going on with Whoppi. She has been calling in sick an awful lot. I am very suspicious. Is she terribly ill or is she playing hardball renegotiating her contract. That's really why Rosie left. I'll keep an eye on it for you.

I don't what details to share about my meltdown. I am so happy to have such a patient and caring support system. I was in a LOT of therapy for a long time. I am properly medicated now. This wasn't something that could be solved by exercising or eating a balanced diet. It was not good. It was really bad. I was in a state of anedonia. Nothing made me feel better, nothing made me happy, nothing helped, nothing, nothing, nothing.

One day I was lying in bed under my covers forcing myself to read and I felt ok. Just ok. I don't know if my medication finally kicked or what but I felt ok. I didn't want to jinx it. Didn't want to get out of the bed or turn on the light or stop reading. I felt safe again, the world wasn't so distant. I repeated this again the next day. Staying in bed, underneath the blanket my mother made me. Reading. I have kept taking baby steps since then. Still unsteady, doubting my ok feelings, but pushing through.