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