Sam Calls. About Adam.

Sam C. phones around 12:30 today, a talk we’d scheduled for the Adam P. bio. We really didn’t accomplish anything. After Adam died in 2018 Sam got in touch with me and I gave him extensive data-dumps in notes and memoirs and possible contacts and even a phone chat or two. My Adam-mine is pretty exhausted.

The central topic this time concerned a fellow named James Downer (?) who bylined one of the conspiratological essays in Apocalypse Culture. As I recall, this posited a Freemasonic angle to the JFK assassination. 33º North Latitude, thirty-three degrees of Masonry, whatever else. Sam suspects that the author was actually Adam himself. This is because he can’t find any information on Downer anywhere.

This prompts me now to i-srsch him, and I find the name is actually James Shelby Downard, and he’s all over the conspiro-net, linked in a Wiki article to Bill Grimstad. Part of the Apocalypse Culture article, now long out of print because it was dropped from the second edition of the book, is here.

So I was not very helpful to Sam in this. The one thing that occurred to me was that Whatsisname in Colorado might know. “You know, the one who that the album, Martinis and Misanthropy and whatever…?” I was groggy from Trazodone and vodka, and the old memory not up to its steel-spring traditions. But we came up with the name, Boyd Rice. I forget whether Sam said he’d asked him.

Otherwise, Sam talked about how the bio project is in a logjam right now, because Adam’s sister Jessica has taken over the publishing house and is making it very PC, and doesn’t want to be reminded that Adam built his career on consorting with neo-nazis, satanists, and other mongers of the outré and occult. Bit of a surprise here: I didn’t know Adam had a sister (two, actually) though I once met his brother on a trip to the desert. Anyway I told Sam to just plow ahead, because Adam was at least a semi-public figure, and his story needs to be told, warts and all.

I wonder if he has a publisher or agent at all? Possibly not. This book began as Adam’s own memoir, then turned into an oral history.

0 comments

Harry in Chicago (Reprise)

(A post from an old blog, dated March 6, 2005.)
Shortly before I go to swim and shower at the gym, Harry phones up from Chicago. He’s on his Sprint mobile phone. He barks through a tincan in a windtunnel for three minutes, then disappears, phones back. I tell him to phone me on the landline. He says he can’t because he’s outside, and he doesn’t have long-distance on his regular phone and it’s cheaper for him to call on the cell. I don’t quite follow. The connection fogs out again. Finally, third time around, I explain that I meant he should phone me on my landline.

Harry is one of those people who like to talk on the phone, and like most of that ilk, he likes to say the same thing over and over, which makes it doubly difficult for me because I don’t like to talk on the phone and I have a low boredom threshold. He keeps telling me how wonderful Chicago is and how glad he is he’s there, because he could find an affordable place to live, which he never could in New York. (Subtext: New York will not dote on me and I don’t have the money or connections to live there, so pooh on New York.)

Harry is now in his early 50s, but he got frozen into the mindset of a 20-something actor/waiter of the Nixon/Ford/Carter era. I could give you a laundry list of examples of this attitude, but then I’d be halfway into a novel. Suffice it to say that he sneers and carps at young people—I guess that would be anyone under 40—especially young gay men, who are far less cool and brilliant than Harry’s young peers were thirty years ago.

Harry’s been an offstage presence in my life since I was a kid. I first heard of him 32 years ago from a crazy girl from Chicago, daughter of a Sun-Times editor, who’d been in the nuthouse with him in Evanston, circa 1971. Harry’s story, in brief, was that he was very messed up. He and his younger sister went through a series of foster homes when small children, finally becoming adopted by a well-to-do childless couple in their forties. Harry worked as a child model and commercial actor, playing teenagers till he was about 25. Then he found he could earn oodles of money as a waiter and maitre d’, and that discovery shaped the next fifteen years of his life. Some people become accountants and lawyers, some turn to crime, others work in restaurants.

In the 80s Harry was a part-owner of a restaurant near South Street Seaport. Somehow his investment came to grief, so he parted ways with his partners and used his remaining capital to start a gay bookstore in Ft. Lauderdale. This failed and he went bankrupt. He then went to Vietnam and Bangkok to promote himself as a restaurant consultant. He was right in time for the economic downturn of ‘98-99. He wound up teaching English in Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City.

He’d come armed with a presentation binder filled with encomia from restaurant associates, as well as headshots of himself as a young man when he appeared in ads for Strawbridge & Clothier and Seven-Up. The headshots greatly impressed the boys in old Sai-Gon, who made the intended inference that Harry was a bigtime American movie actor. Thus Harry, who likes oriental boys, had a grand old time in the Far East. But then there were visa and legal problems, and he washed up again on American shores, where he begged his semi-wealthy parents for a small stipend that would enable him to reestablish himself as an expert in the wine and food trade.

It was around this time, the year 2000, that I finally encountered Harry in the flesh. He’d taken a share in a nasty hi-rise apartment in Flushing, living with a half-Jewish woman many years his senior. The flatmate tried to seduce him sexually, then turned on him, finally calling the cops and accusing him of having beaten her up. Harry got hauled off to the pokey and spent the next six months in a horrendous legal maze, dividing his time between attending court-ordered Anger Management classes and asking his parents for enough money to pay for two hair-weave pieces. (His signature blond thatch had started going thin after 35.)

That whole year, 2000, was a hellacious time for poor Harry. Fortune kept tossing him nuggets that turned into fools’ gold. Dorothy Sarnoff, the public-speaking guru, flattered him and encouraged him to write a book and set up a successor business to her own. But then it turned out Dorothy was senile and apparently was under the impression that Harry was her nephew. Suddenly she wouldn’t see him anymore, because (he said) either her mind briefly cleared and she realized the mistaken identity, or maybe she’d found out he’d been arrested for beating up an old woman. Other promising jobs and prospects would pop up, then suddenly be withdrawn. Still an undischarged bankrupt from his Florida days, Harry now decided he was unemployable because his arrest and bankruptcy kept showing up on his records. Toward the end of the year, when he was still attending Anger Management sessions, he got a few months’ work demonstrating recipes at an upscale grocery chain in Manhattan. He lived in a room in the Greenpoint YMCA.

Finally, in early 2001, he cadged enough money from his parents to move back to Vietnam.

Last time I saw him he was back in Manhattan for a few days, preparing for a move to Ecuador, again as a teacher of English. Oh boy, I thought.

Now he’s back in America because he never finished his BA, and he needs a minimal degree to continue in his TOEFL career.

He’s the only person who’s had a career as chequered and scary as mine. But my life has not been as bleak. I’d like to keep it that way.

0 comments

The Trough: It Feels Like Ten Years

About ten years ago my life went into a trough, a slough, a slew, a ditch. Grossed up, it’s been a time of unemployment, creeping poverty, and physical decline. I was pumping up the tires for a couple of bicycles earlier today, and you know, I cannot raise myself from a seated position on the ground without first bracing myself with both arms on the side. I’ve developed a gut which I really feel in that position. If I try to run or even jog, even a slow jog on an uphill treadmill, my abdomen wobbles like Jello.

The physical business I can fix; I’ve done it before. Everything else seems beyond me, because being in the trough means depression, and depression means you can’t climb out of the trough.

It has not been an unbroken wasteland of unemployment and desperation. I went for almost a full year without any paid work at all (save bitsy freelance assignments), but this was during the economic slump of 2008-2009. It was very easy for me to manage on the $1700 of unemployment benefits. When I got a few weeks of “contractual” (temp) work here and there, I often didn’t even bother to notify the Unemployment Insurance office. With paychecks and UI benefits, I had some periods when I was netting $6000 per month.

Then came a couple of years of solid work at a magazine publisher (Time Inc./Amex Pub). I told myself that the Trough of being jobless was well behind me. Superficially this was one of the best jobs I’d ever had, since it was in a broad technical field that I thought I wanted to work in. What I didn’t see, or couldn’t face up to directly, was that I was often miserable at this new job. My surroundings were a sty, and my coworkers were not the jolly, witty bunch I was used to working among. They were far younger than I, most of them, and quite stupid. I let my health go and dragged myself through the day, never once looking forward to going to the office. I stopped running and working out regularly, I came to work hung over and groggy with sleeping pills every morning.

Finally it turned out that a couple people in my department were sedulously plotting against me. It wasn’t necessarily personal. Through recent org changes, I now had a Jewish homosexual and a reed-thin negro as my bosses. There were two women in the department, and the gay boy and the black boy had set themselves the goal of getting rid of us. They forced my colleague out and then set to work on me. After six months of harassment, and various lies to the obese negress at HR, I was out. This was one of the only times I’ve ever been fired or exited from a job, and the unpleasantness sticks with me still.

Thanks to savings, and a small severance package, and unemployment insurance, I was pretty comfortable for the next year. I had a couple of temp jobs in there, and spent much of my life daydreaming about what my next career would be. I would finish one of my novels. I’d get myself back into competitive shape: perhaps work as a coach.

Then unemployment benefits stopped, the occasional temp jobs dried up entirely, and I slowly began to drain my bank accounts. I hooked up with some political bloggers who paid me pittances for writing book reviews and incendiary cultural criticism. Once or twice a week I went to job interviews. Once or twice a month I was absolutely certain that I had landed a plum position. But I always got shot down. Often it turned out that the hiring managers were just jerking themselves off, setting up all-day interviews to fill a position they had no real intention of filling. There was a Condé Nast company in Jersey City that recruited me repeatedly for one of these unfillable jobs. We’d have nice chats on the phone and then I’d let it slip out that we’d spoken six or eight months before. At this point they’d cancel the face-to-face interview, because they only wanted to waste the time of people whose time they hadn’t yet wasted.

Two or three years into this new trough of unemployment—we are now at 2015—I suddenly had a great developer position with a mighty large publishing house. The office was a short walk away, the coworkers were delightful, and I was again certain this job was going to spin off into a fine, long-term position. Alas, the temp job was just temp, maybe six weeks, and the publisher wasn’t interested in me for anything else. Temp agencies found me some new slots, but the folks in those places were not comfortable with me, and the jobs folded after a week or two.

Then Robert Half Technology signed a fat contract with me and hired me as a full-time employee in a consulting division. They sent me out on one mismatched job at a loathsome pharma ad company called Truveris. Truveris was building an “app” that provided coupons that gave you a pharmacy discount on your favorite prescription drugs. The Truveris app—called, I think, OneRx—was virtually identical to two or three other apps that were being launched about the same time. All were essentially useless scams, providing no added value to the customer or vendor; they earned their keep by wheedling money from the drugstores and pharma companies.

My work was very simple; I was replacing someone who had overstayed his vacation. Then this someone came back from holiday, and I was given the bum’s rush.

It turned out I was at Truveris merely “on approval.” Robert Half Technology was trying to hard-sell me to Truveris, but Truveris wasn’t interested. I think the head developer gave me a bad review so the RHT people would shut up and go away. RHT voided or suspended my contract. Meanwhile the folks who’d hired me at RHT also got the heave-ho. It seems RHT decided this new consulting division wasn’t such a great idea.

Meantime I got more bad news. For two years and more I had been pursuing an Arbitration case against that magazine publisher, or rather Amex, which was my employer of record. I had a pretty solid case; the stinkers in my department, and the HR flunkies, broke every rule in the book. They made up lies about me, failed to pay the amount of severance due, continued to build up a case against me even when I had left the firm. Much of this came out in discovery.

The Arbitration dragged on from late 2013 to the end of 2015. Then the Arbitrator Rosemary Townley, asked for an extra month to make her judgment, which I and the opposing attorneys were happy to give. A month later she said her clerical employee had the flu, and could she have another month? Well, a few weeks after this the American Arbitration Association slapped her down, saying in effect, “Miss Townley, you’ve dragged this thing out far longer than is excusable. Write up your decision now!”

And so, very hurriedly, Arbitrator Townley scribbled off a convoluted statement of findings and her decision. She denied my claim against Amex. (She also denied Amex’s counter-claim against me. Amex’s counsel was trying to say that I had “unjustly enriched” myself by accepting a severance package which I then voided.) She based her denial of my claim on a nonexistent document that she claims I received, but which is nowhere in the evidence book.

I went back to Townley, suggesting that this was an honest mistake. She was having none of it, just straight-out refused to revise her judgment. So, essentially, she was consciously lying, and knew she was lying. There was no question of a typo or misreading. Townley did not want to find against Amex, because (my guess) she wanted to preserve her viability as an AAA Arbitrator.

So in the end I lost the case that I had fretted over for two and a half years. i pretty much took to the bottle (I’d been at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for a while) and crawled into bed for two months.

Let me add, however, that the protracted arbitration was not a complete loss. I was in the dark about what had actually gone on with my coworkers and HR back in 2012. I could see I’d been mistreated and hard done by, but I had no real evidence. The plotting and misrepresentations against me were mainly in confidential communications that were never shared with me. And never would be shared with me, short of this legal action. So I did not get my big award, but I got peace of mind. And I got the goods on some very very wicked people.

0 comments

The Sin of White Idiocy

An old friend from the 1980s, Jim R, contacted me to tell me that there was an interesting talk going on at a church on East 96th St.

I said, “Sure,” as I usually do to these things.

The talk was by a crazy little woman who teaches at Fordham and has written what looks like a self-published book called The Sin of White Supremacy. Everything about the program looked hilarious.

For one thing, the title of the book is a double shibboleth: “sin” can be a good or bad thing, depending on your point of view. But let’s accept it’s a bad thing, a mortal sin or a venial sin, and figure the author is making a theological point.

Thus “white supremacy” is something like a moral sin. But what is this “white supremacy” anyway? It’s a cant phrase used largely by Jewish Communists in the 1940s and 50s, to describe segregationists of that era.

As a thing it never existed. There are race-realists, white nationalists, white separatists, civic nationalists, ethno-nationalists. “White supremacists” are just a Communist invention. Rather like “racist,” another concoction of these people.

Anyway, I went to this talk, part of a program called “Pop-Up Theology” in the basement of the St. Francis de Sales Church on East 96th St. Attendees were mostly old folks. Cat ladies, funny old men, some oddball youngsters. Mainly white, a few coloreds.

The little lady who supposedly teaches theology at Fordham was a lively, articulate sort, but her slide-talk was even worse than I could have hoped. Her thesis is that helping to improve the spiritual situation of nonwhite savages is somehow a “sin.” I don’t know if she is Catholic, but I doubt she is.

A few of my colleagues arrived, the usual gang of idiots. Besides me and Jim, we had old Rob in his funny coat and shuffle-shoes, and Basil O’Connor, our 40ish balding guy who’s a bland, generous supporter of all race-realist groups. Jim asked a long but concise question about how white people are being dispossessed in their country, and how little attention is being paid to this, along with such crises as the Sacklers’ promotion of opioid addiction.

Too much furious steam was coming out of my ears for me to raise my hand. But a nice old lady beside me queried me afterwards, having noted my anger. I told her the whole premise of the talk was sacrilegious. Leading the American people to race and national suicide is the truly huge, grave sin on the table.

The old lady’s head was full of cottage cheese. She corrected me repeatedly when I referred to illegal aliens. She wants to call them “undocumented.” I said documents are not the issue. She took issue when I told her the “indigenous people” (Red Indians) were not indigenous at all; they came over from Asia. This bit of anthropology was known to every 6-year-old when I was little 50 years ago, but apparently it was news to the Old Lady.

Afterwards I and my three confreres went next door to a tiny “Italian” pizza place run by Mexicans. I think we each had a slice and a few laughs.

0 comments

No Dead Poets’ Society Dinner

A week ago GJ proposed a dinner for a recently deceased dead poet. After a few days he hadn’t located a venue, so asked me to look around. I spent Tuesday and Wednesday making phone calls and visits. Dropped in on some excellent little bar/restaurants in Chelsea and the East Village on Wednesday, and rather enjoyed myself.

We saw a Paul Cadmus exhibition.

But I came up snake-eyes because every venue with an event room was already booked. Saturday night (that is, tonight) is a big March Madness playoff-fest. I had no idea of this, neither did Greg. Neither did my husband.

So I told Greg and, sounding disconsolate, he told me he was calling the whole thing off because there weren’t that many respondents.

During the day I dropped in at the Zwirner Gallery on W 19th and saw the Paul Cadmus and Robert Crumb shows. Will have to write something about those.

 

0 comments

Chatham Ghost

Bobo calls on one of the landlines. Inevitably about the Chatham Ghost. Some terrible story that a retired friend he knows from Cape Cod and New Canaan, made up.

I wasn’t inspired by the “poem” there, although I could do some drawings, a la Ditties for the Nursery. Really need to see a few shekels.

Bobo’s had other health crises, down at NYU Langone for a week. Had a benign brain tumor a while back, but latterly another brain malfunction that is not a tumor or a stroke.

0 comments

Curious, this.

They had me openly listed as an old Staff person, but this has since been deleted so that I scarcely exist. Only a few of my articles are searchable.

https://www.sandiegoreader.com/staff/margot-sheehan/

0 comments

Three Trips to the Amazon Locker Is Enough

I’ve been experimenting with certain Amazon features, and wanted to test the new Amazon Locker service in my neighborhood.

This is a new and very complicated add-on that has come to Whole Foods since the company was acquired by Amazon. Basically, you order something at Amazon, and instead of sending it to your home or office, you send it to an Amazon Locker at Whole Foods. That way, it may come quicker, and you don’t have to be around to sign for the package when it arrives (a big issue for some people).

As a test I ordered an Oxford University pocket diary. It was remarkably cheap, and I need a new pocket diary for the coming year. I was to pick it up at the Amazon Locker in the Whole Foods on East 57th Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. I wanted to pick it up at the Whole Foods at Columbus Circle, but I find that is always full, and not available to me.

Amazon sent me an email a few days later, saying shipment was delayed. A few days after that, I got a notification that it had arrived.

I went over to the Whole Foods at 227 East 57th Street. I found I had to enter a code number into the touch-screen panel on the locker-machine. I didn’t have the code.

I went home (maybe a 12-minute walk) and got a printout of the Amazon description of the purchase. It had a big long number at the top.

In the drizzle I trudged back to the locker. The touch-screen wanted a six-digit code, and I didn’t see one on the Amazon printout. A friendly negro who works for Amazon/Whole Foods told me I should have an email with it on my phone (mobile phone). I said I don’t do email on my mobile phone.

I walked back home and sorted through recent emails. There it was, a reminder from Amazon to pick up my item. It had a six-digit code and a bar code as well! I printed this out.

I stopped at the spirits shop for a handle of cheap vodka, and moved on to East 57th.

This time the friendly negro was eager to help me out. He had some trouble entering the six-digit code, so I suggested scanning the bar code. This worked like a charm. A little locker door swung open, and there was my Jiffy Bag with an Amazon smile logo.

Back home, I opened the package, and there was my handsome Oxford pocket diary. It ends in December 2018. I had bought the 2017-2018 version, not the 2018-2019 one. That’s why it was so cheap. I should keep it mint, and resell it in a few years. Or use it as a code/password book.

I’m going to pick the cheapest non-American pocket diary I can find.

 

 

0 comments

Anaesthetized

Flat on my back for much of the last few days. Not much different from the past few weeks. My energy began to decline (stress) around 2009, and it’s been a gradual straight-line depreciation since then.

Tomorrow is the gawdawful NYC Marathon, the weekend joggers’ festival, and I am glad I am not a part of it. I heard the pre-mara 5k going on outside my window this morning, but didn’t have the interest or energy to follow the progress.

I am now like those people I knew in Paris, who were wondering or supercilious about my doing marathons in Paris and elsewhere. They tried to ignore the whole thing, regarded distance running as a passion for autistes and eccentrics. Of course this might simply have been a dismissal of enthusiasms they did not hold. Which is okay.

Had lunch with Bobo and his friend Frank the other day, at Pershing Sq (my suggestion). Bobo has a compulsion to manage and product, and he seems to think that this Chatham Ghost story has great publication possibilities. Yes, it does, if I get my drawing-board set up, and I really do work on it.

Bobo had a brain tumor a couple of years ago but it hasn’t affected him. He looks the same as always. Oh, he says, he has trouble with memory, with reaching for the right word.

I must revise my CV, shop it around through him and all the online sites, bother the temp agencies every day. Pretty much skint these days. Would be hopelessly enfeebled by desperation if I weren’t usually stewed.

M and I went through yet another bout of Breaking Bad in the past week, now are dipping into Beirut and The Romanoffs.

I have a lot of half-written pieces for ST and CC. These things pay so little, and I end up spending a day or two earning pin money, when if I had a real job I’d make more than that in an hour, forty hours a week.

0 comments

Adam Madness

Ever make a 180-degree turn in your opinion on someone or something, then after a bit come back to where you were to begin with?

For me, this happened with the recent death of Adam Parfrey. I spoke to him several times and exchanged messages in the weeks before he died. We hadn’t interacted much in years. I rather gathered I was on his shit list, as many old acquaintances tended to be. At one point he blocked me on Facebook. But now he said he was trying to do a memoir, and was contacting old connections in order to fill in the holes in his memory.

A few weeks later he was dead—suddenly, unexpectedly—and I learned that responsibility for the memoir had been passed on to someone else. The memoir was to be an oral biography, like the 1980 Edie Sedgwick book (Edie), or the Ed Wood bio (Nightmare of Ecstasy) that Adam himself published in 1991.

Our Modern Boswell had been helping to collect Adam stories for a year or two. He told me, frankly, that Adam had a habit of making up lurid and scurrilous stories about people he’d known. I’d detected this tendency during our last phone conversations, but I put it down to memory lapses and his innate need to find a sensationalistic tale wherever he looked.

I learned he’d had a couple of bad accidents over the years, and suffered some brain damage. Not so much that he couldn’t function well; superficially the difference was that he was no longer the manic, mischievous youngster he’d been when I first knew him (we were both then in our early 30s). Now he was slower, calmer. I met him after the first accident, as he was sliding into middle age. He seemed fine.

When I learned about the “accidents” excuse, I let it cover a multitude of sins. It explained everything. It wasn’t just that Adam was forgetful, his brain wasn’t wired correctly. He was just imagining things that never happened. I’ve seen people die of AIDS. Some of them, in their final months with cytomegalovirus or whatever other opportunistic infections attack the brain, begin to say crazy things about family and friends. Surely, this is close to what was going on with Adam.

There my opinion lay until in the passing weeks I took account of the sheer number of people Adam had betrayed or lied about over the years. Slander was his habit. I realized that he was retailing gossip about me and others long before any accidents and brain damage offered an excuse.

Many years before, we’d both been employed at a weekly paper where someone was bad-mouthing and pranking me, repeatedly. I could see Adam was involved, at least peripherally, but it just never occurred to me that he was the actual source. I blamed everyone else, but left Adam out because I considered him a friend. Now I realized I was wrong.

Of course I was furious with this realization. Here I was now making excuses for Adam because of his infirmity—had in fact been making excuses for him long before the infirmity—and I had to face the fact that he was a first-class shit. I’ve known a few other gossip-mongers and slander-retailers among family and friends, and they all had a nice front of being witty and charming in your presence, and then making nonsense about you when your back was turned. Adam was just one of these.

So that was my first 180 turn, around June 2018, a month or so after Adam’s death. Then another month rolled past and I just didn’t care so much. Yes, he was a shit in many ways, but his late-life fantasies, around which he was structuring his proposed memoir, were just the product of brain damage.

Maybe I’ll change my opinion again. I don’t expect to see the memoir for another year.

0 comments