AJ: Hi Rick
Rick: Hey, man. Long time.
Sure is. How are you?
I’m…well, you’ve read the recent posts, I guess?
I have. I thought about contacting you after reading about how you’re feeling right now…and things…I was surprised but pleased when I got your email.
I do understand why you want to do this. But I have to ask, why me?
Well, I…I kind of thought you would…and, uh, of all the people who used to comment on my Prague blogs…and you read all of them right?
Yup, from the first one to the last one when you got deported. Ooops! Should I have said that? [laughs]
No, that’s all right. I…that blog was up for the longest time and I didn’t care who read it.
No, you never were very discreet.
Oh, I can be discreet. I knew and know a lot of stuff that I never talked about about a lot of different people. I’m just not very good at compartmentalizing and I’m kind of shameless.
Kind of? [laughs]
[chuckles] Yeah…so…I decided to email you because, as I started to say, of all the people who commented on my Prague blogs, you were the most, uh, balanced? Fair? You were supportive when people were mean, particularly that one guy…
Yes, what was his name?
Fuck, I’ve forgotten. I’d have to search through the blogs to find it.
I’m sure he hasn’t forgotten you, though.
No, he seemed obsessed with me. I think that was before the word, troll, became so overused. Anyway, I figured since you already knew a lot about me from before and since you seem familiar with the shit I’ve been going through the last 4 years as well — you put that in the message with your PayPal donation; thanks by the way, again…
…so I, uh, figured that you might be, if not the best, one of the best people to interview me and, uh, since you were also critical at times and called me on my shit on more than one occasion…
Did I? [laughs]
You did. [heh] I thought maybe you could help explain to other people what’s up with me…I have this feeling maybe you understand me…a little… I hope? And also I have felt such tremendous isolation for so long and feel like that, however weird I am and apparently unfathomable to people, I’ve told some interesting stories and…
I certainly think you have.
Thanks. Yeah, so I…there’s a feeling of failure I can’t shake. Not the \”not having a career,\” whatever that is, kind of failure, or not having a boyfriend, or a companion, although that’s painful, but just of, not even being able to connect with people whom I thought, at the very least, would find my stories, uh, mildly interesting? You know?
Oh, I don’t know. If I were to name names it would just seem pathetic or pretentious or…But I don’t really connect with anyone,really and never with other writers or artists who are interested in similar things. Right now, I don’t even have any gay friends. Not one.
Maybe, but… maybe this isn’t a good line of inquiry. It’s not even your question anyway.
Right. Well. As to all that, I can only say that I have read your work over the years with some interest and I think the best of your autobiographical writing stands up to the best autobiographical writing of gay men that I’ve ever read.
I think that’s particularly remarkable considering that it’s in blog form and not, uh, heavily edited or worked on.
Well, some posts were more worked on than others.
Right. But you also blogged while homeless, right?
Well, I can’t think of another blog by a gay homeless man who was also a pimp and a…
And a drunk.
[laughs] Yes, and a drunk. And educated. I mean, I’ve never read anything like it.
So, I think you have a right to be bewildered.
OK. Thanks. That’s some comfort.
You’re welcome. Have you read Isherwood’s Berlin Stories?
I have. A friend gave it to me when I was homeless. I read it mornings at IKEA.
IKEA! Free coffee right?
Yes! You remember that?
Rick, I’ve probably read all your posts twice, and have actually read them out loud to my partner. We laughed a lot, I must say. I hope that doesn’t offend you.
No, no. My god, if you don’t laugh when you read most of that, then I’ve failed. I mean, I didn’t set out for everything to be funny but everything kind of is.
Not everything…so, what did you think of Berlin Stories?
Well, it was too coy for my tastes.
[laughs] I’m not surprised you think that. But Isherwood was good at evoking that time and place, I think, and he writes about boys \”on the game\” as you did.
Right. Of course, I see the comparisons.
Well, I think you at your best are better than Isherwood, especially when you describe the boys and your interactions with them. Isherwood seemed to see them as only objects for him to wax lyrical about or to use as a way for him to figure out things about himself.
Well, I’m not a stylist, and not as big a narcissist as Isherwood, I guess.
No, and you were older when you wrote your blogs and it was a different time. But you made the lives of the boys you met come alive. They were real and people became very interested in them, and in you. I know I did.
Wow. Thanks. I…tried to do them justice without sentimentalizing them, which is what most of the rent-boy stuff I’ve read…and most of the films I’ve seen, like Mandragora, that’s how they depict them. They’re either monsters or victims and I saw them as, you know, sometimes desperate, but sometimes tender.
You saw yourself in them.
Exactly. I never thought I could become, you know, I couldn’t \”go native\” whatever that would mean in that context, but at least from what I learned by watching the interactions of other men with the boys, my relationships with them were unique.
They knew that, too, I think.
I hope so. I miss them terribly.
Are you still in contact with Pavel was a straight, early-20s Czech rent boy who had a girlfriend and eventually a baby boy. He was the closest thing I had to...?
I was for a while but I deleted my old Facebook profile and started a new one and when I did I never searched for him to add him again.
Would you like to see him again?
Oh yeah, of course. He’s the first person I’d see. Then I’d go look for Mark.
Ah, Marek. I think about him so much, especially when I try to sleep. He would be 26 now, Jesus fucking Christ.
Time passes. How old are you now?
I have to stop and think sometimes. I think I’m 52. How old are you?
I’m 66, Rick.
And you’ve been back to Prague?
I have been back twice, I think, since you’ve been in Buenos Aires. It’s not the same, as I’m sure you know.
I’ve heard. I don’t miss the city, really, but I miss the boys.
I’m sure you do. I go to see friends there, men, more than I go to pick up boys. Club Temple is still going, believe it or not.
Oh, I believe it. I don’t miss that place. But back to books…Have you read Bruce Benderson’s The Romanian?
I haven’t, though I’ve heard of it.
Well, of all the rent-boy books, at least the ones taking place in Central or Eastern Europe, that one rings true for me in a way that most don’t. It’s about Benderson’s relationship with a Romanian boy, obvio, and it’s much more accomplished and ambitious than I could achieve. It’s kind of depressing in that way.
[laughs] I’ll have to check it out.
I think you’d like it. Anyway, Benderson couldn’t get it published in the US. American publishers weren’t interested or they didn’t know what to do with it. In fact, it was published in French first. So if someone who’s as good a writer as Benderson can’t get a book published, one that’s not only lyrical and truthful but also formally interesting as well…I don’t see what chance I have. Plus I just don’t think modern American homosexuals are interested in stories about rent boys, or about older faggots, for that matter.
I think you might be right about that.
Yeah. It’s all about marriage and still, \”coming out.\” And there doesn’t seem to be an underground at all, at least not how I would define it. There’s no, zero, risky writing, but a lot of poseurs.
[laughs] You like that word
It’s good word, especially when you pronounce it right. But I think you have to be in rehab for people to want to read about you. I’m just an unrepentant alcoholic. Or you have to be a [yawns] porn star. There’s some pretentious gay porn star who fancies himself a writer… I can’t remember his name but he’s also a [air quotes] sex therapist, or something. But that’s what counts as risky writing these days.
I also have to say I’m surprised that you didn’t turn your blog into a book. You… what happened there?
Well, it’s almost 500,000 words.
Yeah. Fuck me. I finally got around to extracting all the autobiographical stuff — the entire blog was longer — and then read it all and thought, well, a lot of this is good and a lot of it isn’t but there’s no structure, no arc, and fuck fuck fuck, this is a lot of work. And it just freaked me out and I put it aside. I need an editor, obviously, but it would have to be someone really invested in the material and how would I find this person and really, it can’t be published in blog form anyway, so….plus, I put tons of work into it, but really I don’t think anyone’s interested. I really don’t. I should get it translated into German. The German gays would eat it up, I think.
[laughs] I think you’re right about that, too.
You can’t tell American gays this or even American artists or whatever, but I’m continually shocked by how conservative and boring everyone is, even and maybe even especially the people who think they’re not. I read stuff on the Internet and I think I’m in Sunday school. It’s mind numbing. Everything is about becoming a better person, and coming out the other side, and it’s all so much nicey-nice bourgeois bullshit. Ugh. I mean, fuck that. The Internet has produced this awful preening consensus that disgusts me. I kind of long for the days of fucked-up elites.
[laughs] Now this is the Rick I know and love
You must be the only one. I mean, one of the reasons I don’t talk to people is because when I actually say what I think or tell anyone what’s actually happened in my life, the cancer, the homelessness, the SEX, I see this look of horror or discomfort or incomprehension come over their faces and I know everyone thinks I’m trying to shock them but I really I’m just trying to be honest but you can’t be, although everyone is always saying, Be honest, the self-help websites, which is all of them, but really no one wants you to be honest, cause then all the real shit would come out and…
You don’t scare me, Rick.
[laughs] Why not? What’s wrong with you? [laughs] Anyway, that’s enough for today. We really didn’t get very far. Next time shut me up and ask about what’s happening now?
You really don’t mind doing this?
Not at all. I took early retirement…
It is. So I have time. And as I said, I was pleased to reconnect with you after all this time.
Me, too. OK, let’s hook up again in a couple days. I’ll email you.
And you’re are looking much better than you were in some of those photos. My partner and I were worried.
Right, I put on some weight. But I’m going to lose some this week, I’m afraid I just ran out of food. Although I made some nice buttery biscuits with some cornmeal mixed in.
Nice. And I’ll see what I can do.
No, really, that’s OK. This means a lot to me. It’s a weird request I know.
Not at all.
OK, well nos vemos.
What’s that mean?
To be continued.