Photo by Laura Relyea
In March 2016, I took part in a show called Transgression, which asks Atlanta writers to assume roles in a theatrical style event which reinterprets a piece of classic literature or pop culture. For this show, they put a cast of characters from all over the literary spectrum into an episode of The Dating Game. It included Christian Grey from “50 Shades of Grey,” Jane Eyre, Dorian Gray, and a bunch more. I played record-collecting, list-making curmudgeon Rob Gordon. A huge stretch for me, I know. I was being grilled by The Scarlet Letter’s Hester Prynne (her questions here written by the inimitable Lauren Traetto). Not all of my answers made the show. Here’s my entire list of responses.
- In my culture, the colonial Puritans, we have a lot of fun pastimes, like candlemaking, controlling young women’s sexual agency, and publicly hanging Quakers. What are your favorite pastimes?
A: First: most of that sounds like an amazing time–and I’m sensing just a touch of sarcasm that’s maybe unbecoming a straight up-and-down Puritan, so I’m gonna go out on a limb here and tell you my favorite past time is…music. Really anything having to do with it: listening to it, talking about it, shopping for it, and yes, dancing to it. Although: badly, but: not unenthusiastically, underlined. I dig the candlemaking thing, that sounds crafty and I like people who make things with their hands, so I hope the dancing thing’s not a dealbreaker.
- I allegedly dabbled in witchcraft a little, and was nearly hanged by the neck for it. What spell would you cast on my enemies to win me over?
A: Ah. See this is kind of a problem for me since I don’t really go in for the whole revenge thing–I’m more of a quietly-suffer-and-let-quietly-suffer kind of guy.
But I mean, even that’s a form of passive-aggression, right? Just stewing and hoping your enemy feels as much self-loathing as you do? I’m tired of doing that–I’m tired of being a character in a Leonard Cohen song.
You know what? Fuck a magic spell. Bring your enemies to me, I’ll drop a window unit on their heads.
- Society expects women quietly suffer, be strong and virtuous, and make up for everybody else’s weaknesses. How can you prove you are strong enough to be with me? Before you answer, drop and give me ten.
A: [Quite winded, because let’s be real: I’m pretty out of shape] I think I’m seeing dead kings…could you repeat the question?
Okay, yeah, so I’ll admit, I’m no superhero like these guys sitting next to me, but I think that emotional strength is important. Having a strong will and a good personality, those are important things, right?
It’s like when Glen Matlock either quit or was kicked out of the Sex Pistols because he liked the Beatles (depending on who you believe) and got replaced by arguably the worst bassist of all time Sid Vicious. Sid might not have been the strongest musician or have been able to play a note, but his force of personality made him immortal. I mean, he had to get onstage and stand next to Johnny Rotten every night, right? I mean, that’s no place to be a pushover.
So yeah, if you discount the heroin and the general cluelessness and the stabbing your girlfriend and dying young thing, yeah, emotionally I’m like the Sid Vicious of this group.
Sure. That’s what I mean to say. Sure. I’m sorry, I forget you’re Puritan. Have you even heard of the Sex Pistols?
I’ll make you a tape.
- Supporting community members against patriarchal power structures is so sexy to me. if you were the white supremacist patriarchy, how would you dismantle yourself? You can start with your shirt.
Yeah, how do you call it quits? I mean, I suppose I could keep believing every shitty thing any of my exes have ever said about me and just keep apologizing for who I am, but I don’t want to do that, I can’t live like that.
What I can do is just walk away. Like Frank Black did. The Pixies basically gave birth to indie rock, they put out a run of unimpeachably great albums–including Trompe Le Monde, don’t even get me started. They were touring with U2 and they were set to become huge. Maybe go mainstream. Maybe take on too much. Gain too much power. Sign to a major and start putting out concept albums. Four sides of filler with no ideas. Too many drugs. A David Lovering solo album. Ye-gods.
But Frank headed all this off at the pass by breaking up the band via fax. How early-90s is that? no fanfare. Just saw the monster he was creating and decided that he needed to be the asshole and put a stop to it. “Break my body, hold my bones.”
I don’t know if that really answers your question, but yeah, I’d do it like that.
- My husband was lost at sea for, like, forever, then came back to town and pretended to be a doctor in order to torture my secret lover for a while. Have you ever pretended to be somebody you aren’t? How do you feel about role-playing in bed?
A: I feel like in every relationship you’re in, you’re kind of playing a role. Turning up certain areas of your personality, attenuating others. Maybe this woman is kind of brassy and good with crowds, so you kind of hang back a little more, let her do the entertaining. I’ve dated women who were kind of shy and I found myself amping up my extroverted tendencies in public, and being a lot more chill with her behind closed doors.
It’s like, you put Bowie in the studio with Toni Visconti, you get “Heroes,” you put him in there with Nile Rogers, you get Black Tie, White Noise. Both good records.
I guess what I’m saying is I’d be pretty happy to see who we both are when we’re together. If. If we’re together. And I will say this: I’ve had fun in bed. I’ve had a good time.
- I run my own small business as HBIC of embroidering shit for my fellow Puritans. If your sexual style were an etsy shop, what would its cutsey pun name be?
My top 5, all time favorite sex puns… Nah, I’m just kidding, there’s just one:
A: Vinyl Fetish.
I guess that’s not really a pun unless you’ve seen my living room. Which…hey.
- Demi Moore was cast to play me in a shitty movie version of my life, on account of this handsome jaw we both have. What forgotten icon of ‘90s cinema would play you in the oversexualized, under-researched movie version of your life?
You know, I have some experience with this. I thought John Cusack did a fine job.
I mean, who doesn’t love “Better Off Dead?” That Van Halen song really rocks too.
- One of my biggest turn-ons is consensual freakfests in the woods with members of the clergy. Deliver your sexiest sermon for me. Don’t be afraid to really inspire me to see heaven.
It’s funny that you mention heaven–I mean, it’s not funny, but it’s…you know, it’s good that you mention heaven. I’m sure that my vision of what Heaven is and what your vision of what Heaven is–I’m sure those are two pretty different things. But….there’s this idea of perfection, and I think we put that up there, just out of reach, where we mortals can’t quite reach it. It’s Heaven. And the way people think about their ideal partner, the love of their life, their soul mate…those kind of things live right up there nextdoor to heaven. Like Heaven West.
And I kept my hopes and my dreams about love way up there for a long time. I kept hoping that maybe this next date, this next woman, this next relationship…would lead to that impossible place where everything is perfect and…it never did. And I used to get really disappointed about that. I wondered what was wrong with me and what was wrong with all these women, and why could I just not be happy?
But I’m pretty over thinking that way. I mean, I’ve got problems, you’ve probably got some issues, but I really dig how put together you seem and we’re both considered outcasts in our own way. I mean, I’m never going to get why people enjoy any of Coldplay’s catalog save for “Yellow,” that was a solid pop song for people who thought Radiohead got too weird after The Bends and I get that, but come on….
Relationships get close to heaven at two points…one is finding out you’re both really good in bed…but the other point is this. Right now. When it’s nothing but tense energy and potential.
Hester. I’d really like to tear down our notions about perfection together. That sounds like fun, right?
- I’m known for upsetting the typical roles prescribed by my society. Convince me that you share my interests. Tell me about the delicate toil of your needle.
My needle toils through all kinds of grooves. First pressings, reissues, some limited editions and occasionally a foreign import…those are nice.
If it skips, that’s not a problem, just turn it over and play the B side.
Oh Christ, what am I saying?
- A lot of people don’t know this, but the “A” I wear actually stands for “Able.” Tell me about your hidden talents.
Okay, My Top 5 Talents are:
- I’ve successfully run a small business for twenty years now with one guy who loves weird Japanese psychedelic stuff like Les Raliizes Denudes and another guy who loves…shitting on everyone’s tastes, so I’ve become a pretty good, if not a little passive aggressive diplomat.
- Any given area of the country, if we’re in the car, I can always manage to find some radio station that will at some point play some Muddy Waters. That’s helpful.
- My hands stay pretty warm. Like, my body temperature is generally pretty high. As a result, I’m an amazing blanket-on-the-sofa watching TV partner in the winter months.
- Not many people know this: but I can crochet.
- I’m good at keeping track of things around the apartment. cell phones, keys, that kind of thing.
I realize I probably should have put the body heat thing at the end. That was the good one.
- Nothing really gets me in the mood like a song. Sing me your best 17th-century church hymn about my eyes and/or my contributions to society.
I try to leave the singing to the experts, but alright, I’ll bite. This should be close enough to the 17th century:
She can fly through the air
She can live underwater
She can do she can do
Just what she wanna
And I won’t live as long
And I’m not as strong
She’s a town in France
She’s a town in France
High over the city lights
And I always feel this way
And then Franz Stahl does something brilliant on the guitar, but he couldn’t make it tonight.
- I really like to sneak into people’s houses when the shadow of death is upon them and nurse them back to health, then sneak back out before anyone knows I was there. How would you take care of me if I caught the flu?
There’s this great Chinese place near me that does an amazing hot and sour soup. That would be my first stop.