Our Vaudeville
A memoir of James Broughton
by Bryan R. Monte

Unlike the other writers I’ve mention in this memoir series, I do not remember the first time I met James Broughton. I do however, remember two of the last times I saw him. One was captured in a photo by Rink, the well-known LGBT photographer at the OutWrite! writers’ conference in March 1990 in San Francisco in the 4 April 1990 edition of Outweek. James and I are in a closeup profile, with the caption: “Dangling Part(iciple)—Poet Bryan Monte is embraced by poet/filmmaker James Broughton.” The second recorded on a receipt from a Different Light Bookstore dated 11 November 1991 for a copy of Broughton’s Androgyne Journal and a notice of his reading the same evening.

Compared to five other writers, with whom I corresponded during that period, my missives to James were the most frequent and voluminous. Between 25 September 1985 and 2 November 1992, James sent me 18 letters or cards and sometimes books, whilst I (according to the Kent State University Special Collections where James’ later correspondence is kept), sent James ten communications in the form of postcards, letters and a review of his tapes series, True and False Unicorn and other poems, Songs from a Long Undressing, Graffiti from the Johns of Heaven and Ecstacies.

I don’t know if I’d met James when I lived in San Francisco the first time between 1980-84. I had certainly heard about him through Steve Abbott who told me about a boat cruise with a select group out on the Bay to celebrate James’ and his partner, Joel Singer’s union. I’d certainly read James’ poetry while working at the Small Press Traffic and Walt Whitman bookshops September 1983 to June 1984, both of which stocked his books of unabashedly gay, Whitmanesque, naked, cosmic, hippie poetry.

As far as I can determine, the first piece of our correspondence was a plain white postcard he sent dated 24 Sept 1985. I was then in the second year of my Masters degree in creative writing at Brown’s Graduate Writing Program. On this card, James wrote that he was surprised that I had moved to Providence and that he got my new address from a copy of No Apologies #4 which he found at Small Press Traffic Bookshop in San Francisco. He was happy to see that I was still publishing “gaily,” and wanted to know what I was “interested in printing.”

James went on further to ask if I had an address for John Landry so he could contact him. (James had contributed a poem, as I had, to Landry’s Collision magazine/anthology). James signed his name with a extended bar on top of the “J” and stamp with his name and address and, just to the left, another stamp of a petal-flamed sun looking towards his Mill Valley address. It felt like a ray of California sunshine in the midst of a cold, rainy Rhode Island autumn.

At the bottom of the card, James asked: “Do you have a copy of Ecstacies?” Either in San Francisco or after I arrived in Providence in August 1984 to attend Brown’s Graduate Writing workshop, James had given or sent me a signed copy of that book. In my letter of 20 November I told James I had “a beautiful, autographed” copy. I also told him I was swamped with work (writing poetry and putting together my MA thesis, working at the John Carter Brown library cataloguing rare German books and preparing my paper on the “homosexual” discourse in Fassbinder’s Berlin Alexanderplatz for the MLA convention in Chicago that December.

I told him I was missing California. I wrote: “I hope the sun is warm, the air tingles with a mentholated fog, and that you sit reading this letter in a eucalyptus grove.” I also enclosed a birthday present—a signed copy of No Apologies #5. I wrote that I hadn’t been able to locate John Landry, but an acquaintance at Brown, Natalie Robitaille, said she thought he was working up at the Plymouth Plantation exhibit at the national park. I asked James further if he was inquiring about the Collision anthology that Landry was editing in which I had some poems also.

In addition, I mentioned that I’d been a T. A. that summer for a film course up at a boarding school in Massachusetts and that their textbook mentioned James and his “several experimental films.” I told James: “I’ll have to re-read your poems now with a different eye to see how you manipulate your images from scene to scene.” I also told him I had to sign off because it was past 11 PM and I had a grant writing workshop to attend the next morning to try to get an NEA grant to help fund my magazine, No Apologies.

In a letter dated 12 December in response James said he had received the copy of No Apologies #5, which I had sent him and that he had “…enjoyed reading everything in it…” because it was “lively” and had a “fresh tone.” He also wrote that he “very much…would like to “send (me) …some material in January.” He continued: “I thought you knew had I been making films off and on most of life.” He sent a bio with a separate sheet of his films that were available through a distributor. He reported further that “Joel and I are doing fine…he is mostly making collages and I am working on my memoirs before I forget everything.” He ended the letter with “All my best wishes and tender regards,” wishing me a “Happy Christmas.”

In his next letter dated 17 Feb 1986, James apologized for being slow to respond to “your good letter.” (I don’t know if James is still referring to my letter of 20 November, or whether I wrote him another letter in between that date and his writing. His papers at KSU do not include a second letter from me). James had decided to submit some stories for consideration in the next issue of No Apologies. (That would have been issue #6. However, due to my financial situation as a working, sole-supporting graduate student, I wasn’t able to publish another issue of No Apologies). He sent “Two Tales for Fairies” and wrote “you can arrange them any way you wish.”

In the next stanza he mentioned he had “notes of all kinds for a chapter about the experience of my filmmaking.” Then he asked if I “would be interested…on how I made I made my first films in San Francisco in the late ’40s and ’50s?” Futhermore he wondered if my readers would know who “Maya Deren, Willard Maas and Parker Tyler” were because he had a piece “out at a cinema type magazine,” which if rejected, he would send to me.

I responded to James in a letter dated March 4, 1986 in which I thanked James for his submissions and accepted his poems, “Senior Scorpio’s Foxtrot” and “Off to the Lifelong Races,” and his film memoir, “Mother’s Day Goes Off to New York,” (which was currently under consideration by another magazine), for No Apologies #6.

I continued by asking James how his stay in Hawai’i had been. I mentioned I had been a newspaper intern there on Maui a few summers before. I also said that I liked his film memoir because of its metaphors which described a screening location for one of his films as having “the intimacy of a car barn in Siberia,” and in another place where he compared his film to “chamber music.” I told him: “Anyone who loves film should be interested in this piece.” I ended my letter by thanking him:

“for your invitation to keep in touch. It makes me feel good to know that people in the Bay Area miss me. I wish I could have been at your birthday party. It sounds like it was lots of fun. When I return to San Francisco, you’ll be the first person I’ll visit. Take care of yourself – and of Joel. Get back to me as soon as you can if the Mother’s Day piece is out of the running.

Around Christmas 1986 I sent James a card indicating I had a job teaching writing at a high school in semi-rural Massachusetts and that would be discontinuing publication of No Apologies. James responded with an undated card (probably from January 1987) the text of which read: “If it’s the last dance, dance backwards.” probably meaning to review what I’d done and look back on it with pride. In any rate, I felt supported and affirmed by James even though I wasn’t able to publish his pieces in my magazine. Inside he wrote: “Sad that we may lose No Apologies.” He hoped that things would improve for me and that I could start over again. He also asked if I would return his manuscripts.

The next piece of correspondence is my letter to James dated February 9, 1987. I told him I was able to locate his Mother’s Day manuscript in my correspondence binder, but not “the MSS of the two poems I accepted.” My happiness at receiving James’ card was also continued in the next paragraph when I told James I would visiting him the following week during one of the high school vacations. It was the first time I’d returned to San Francisco since I’d left in July 1984. (I’d also go through three blizzards in Massachusetts that winter before it was over). I told James that while in SF, I would be staying at Ed Mycue’s and Richard Steger’s apartment near City Hall and to give me a call. I added a handwritten P. S. and the bottom of my typed letter that read: “I’d really like to see you.”

During that holiday, I visited with Ed and Richard and with Steve Abbott and Thom Gunn. (In between I also looked for jobs in San Francisco through contacts in the the Brown Alumni Association. I was warmly received by a prominent SF hotel, a newspaper and a publication relations company. Each of these company’s reps. told me I would get a job if I returned that summer. I had a memorable dinner with James and Joel and Steve Abbott and Dennis Green at the couple’s 21st and Church Street hilltop apartment overlooking the lights of San Francisco. Joel cooked a lovely Italian meal, which I mentioned in my review.

Broughton poured wine and reminisced about his years in Paris and the Beat scene in San Francisco. Present was also Joel Singer, Broughton’s partner and artistic collaborator, who created the cover photomontages for Broughton’s new poetry tapes. Singer cooked an exquisite dinner of cheese gnocchi in gorgonzola sauce, osso bucco alla Milanese, and orange slices mascerated in Grand Marnier.

The same evening, James gave me his new, audiocassette collection which including recordings from his True and False Unicorn and other poems, Songs from a Long Undressing, Graffiti from the Johns of Heaven and Ecstacies to review. Either that evening or when I returned to Massachusetts, I gave or sent James a copy of Neurotika, my MA poetry thesis at Brown, which is included in Broughton’s KSU papers. At the top of the Neurotika MS is a handwritten note: “2.20.87 To James Broughton and Joel Singer, Thank you for your gifts of laughter and joy. Good luck and good health to you both! Bryan.”

The pleasant memory I have of visiting James and Joel at their SF apartment is reinforced by James’ postcard of his face in close up by Rink, dated and postmarked 28 February 1987. James wrote that he “enjoyed” my poetry and my visit and he hoped my “listening (to his tapes) had been productive.”

I responded with a postcard dated 3.8.87. “Dear James, I just finished my second draft of my review of your tapes. I will do the final draft tomorrow and Tuesday…Steve (Abbott) should have my copy by the end of the week.” I also continued on a personal note writing that: “I hope I can see you again this summer. Depending on the job possibilities, I may move back to SF. The West Coast isn’t Lotus Land, it’s the Promised Land! If I hadn’t gone to Brown for my MA in creative writing, I probably would have never left. I hope I can continue to teach writing (in SF).”

On 1 April 1987, I sent a copy of the review to Rudy Kikel at Bay Windows in Boston, who had just typeset Steve Abbott’s chapbook, The Lives of the Poets. I also informed him that Steve had sent copies to the San Francisco Sentinel and Poetry Flash.

In my review I wrote that: “Broughton is to be applauded for his return of poetry to its rightful medium—oral transmission. I remarked to friend once that reading poetry on the page is like trying to understand a song’s melody by reading the lyrics sheet.” I continued my review by praising Broughton’s tapes for their versatility and musicality. I mentioned his “The Water Circle,” which was set to a Corelli gigue.

I played this selection for my high school freshman, who were not the least bit reluctant to join in with Broughton the second time around. I used this poem as a springboard for their own poems about the natural elements and the seasons of the year. Another poem I played was “Mama is Gone.” It’s soft consonants and vowels echo a child’s lament….Broughton’s other “Songs for Anxious Children,” such as “Papa is a Pig” and Mrs. Mother Has a Nose,”…are strictly for adults due to their subtlety and subject matter.

I concluded that: “These tapes will surely establish James Broughton as one of the greatest (and one of the most underrated contemporary (American) poets….they will provide many hours of good listening.”

I don’t remember hearing back from Kikel about the review. Steve Abbott was also unable to place it at the Sentinel and Poetry Flash. James got back to me about a month later with an Uffizi Galleries postcard of Cranach’s Adam saying that he had read and liked my review of his tapes and wanted to know if I knew where else it could be published. He suggested The James White Review or The Advocate. He also invited me to dinner another time.

A little more than a month later, James sent me a typewritten note dated 8 June 87 with the epigraph “Garlic cures every infirmity/ except death where there is no hope.” Inside he wrote that he hoped I’d had “success in placing” the review because he thought it was “valuable and essential reading.” And he added an invitation saying that if there was a “festschrift for my birthday next year,” it or “another piece by you,” would certainly be welcome.

On 10 June 1987, I sent James a postcard of View from the Pilgrim Monument, Provincetown, Massachusetts. I thanked James “for your card of 4/28” and confirmed “I did enjoy writing the review of your tapes” and that “I’ve sent the review to Phil Wilkie at The James White Review.” I also said that I hoped “Joel’s show” had gone “well.” I also confirmed I would “like to come back for dinner” that I’d be out on the West Coast again “on the 20th of July for about a month.”

The next communication I received from James was on the back of a Pitti Galleries postcard of St. Sebastian by Giovanni Antonio Bozzi detto ill Vercelli. James wrote that he was “delighted” to see my review of his tapes in the JWR. “Praise and thanks.” He also wished me well.

By January 1988 I was living in Silicon Valley and working for an insurance company in San Jose. In order to learn the trade practiced by poet Wallace Stevens and composer Charles Ives, I was required to spend one evening a week in insurance classes for the next year and a half and to study at home for at least two hours every night in order to pass the three, four-hour written exams (included calculations which could only be done by hand) for my general insurance certificate. As a result of all this work and living an hour’s drive from San Francisco, I had to drop out of the literary life up North. I received an invitation from James for the premier of his new film, Scattered Remains, made in collaboration with Joel, at the Castro Theater on 26 March 1988, but I doubt that I attended. On the back of the invitation, James wrote his “Good wishes.” Later that year, in October, James kept his promise of inviting me to his schriftfest when he sent me an invitation to read at his 75th and Joel’s 40th birthday celebration at the San Francisco Art Institute on November 10, 1988. For that evening, I wrote and read the poem below:

Birthday blessings for James Broughton and Joel Singer
by Bryan R. Monte

A white house on the side of a hill
high above San Francisco’s lights
holds the home of two lovers and friends
we gather here to honor tonight.

A house of Beauty, a house of Mirth
where Love’s books are reinvented
cook, write, film, fuck, sleep
two lovers by Zeus’ cup demented.

A man and a youth they once began
almost thirteen years to this night
the young pupil and the wise teacher interchangeable
twin novitiates of androgyne delight.

For three days they stayed in bed
two lusty monks on spiritual retreat
and fed Love’s thirst through sweat and tears
sweet nectars of their bodies’ meat.

They taught their hands to sing Hermes’ hymns
to fashion a world for lovers’ delights
and wrought in film, photo, word and deed
the lives we celebrate tonight.

May we be eternally as silly as they:
forever as blessed
forever as blissed
forever as full of life.

On the copy in the KSU archives, I wrote at the top: “by Bryan R. Monte 11/10/88” and a personal note: “Happy Birthday! James & Joel. I hope you enjoy your new home up North.” The audience howled with laughter and applauded my poem, which was good. Just a few minutes before, though, I had mounted the stage with knees knocking so badly I didn’t know if I would be able to stand up and deliver my poem properly to the audience of nearly 300. It was good training. I was able to keep my nerves under control and it gave me extra confidence for my Walt Whitman Bookshop reading a fortnight later.

I invited James and Joel to my reading at the Whitman on a Friday towards the end of November. In response to my birthday poem and my invitation, James sent a postcard dated 17 November 1988 with a painting of “Shelly composing Prometheus Unbound in the Baths of Caracalla,” from a posthumous portrait in oils by John Severn from the Keats-Shelly Memorial House, Rome. He said he “loved” my “tribute,” asked for a copy and thanked me for taking part in his birthday celebration at the Art Institute, which he referred to as “our little vaudeville.” He also said he couldn’t make it to my reading because he had another appointment.

At the reading, I premiered some of the poems I’d written at Brown, including the long poem, Neurotika, about sexual longing, the AIDS crisis, and the probihitions against LGBT rights around the world with aural backing from Brian Eno’s Ambience. On November 28, I sent James and Joel a card with my best wishes. I told them I had had a good time at the Institute reading and his birthday party and I that enjoyed his films—especially Window Mobile, Shaman’s Psalm and the nude interview series, which I’d never seen before. I also told him that my reading “was quite a hit…there were about 25 to 30 people in the audience and my Neurotika piece caused quite a stir.” I also mentioned that: “I realize by now that you may be in Port Townsend. I hope your mail is being forwarded and that you receive this copy of the birthday poem, (and the picture of Joel I took last year at your house at the dinner party with my friend Dennis (Green) and Steve Abbott). Good luck up North and Happy Holidays.”

In response to my letter I received a card with two men on a bicycle, one doing a handstand on the handle bars, with the caption in the upper left “Please Stay in Touch with James & Joel” and their new address and postbox in Port Townsend in the lower left. On the reverse, James thanked me for my “delicious” poem and said he would put it “prominently” in in his “archive.” He also told me about his travel plans after Christmas which included stays in SF in April and June.

During 1989, James and I don’t seem to have corresponded. In September of that year I moved up from Silicon Valley back to San Francisco and into an apartment in the Mission at Valencia and 19th with a view of the apartment I shared with Harry Britt at 20th and Guerrero from April 1983 to July 1984. Here I wrote my weekly news stories and scripts and prepared questions for my bi-weekly interviews on KPFA’s weekly Wednesday night Lavender News on the Fruit Punch radio hour. From this base (and my day job as a computer technician in SF’s Financial District), I trawled the Castro for the LGBT news alone or with photojournalist Rink. I covered demonstrations, AIDS memorials, protests, school board meetings, baseball games, art exhibtions, etc.—anything of interest to the queer community. Every other week I interviewed gay writers, politicians or commentators such as Stan Leventhal or John S. James.

At this time that I also began attending poetry and prose readings in the Mission, the Castro and Berkeley. I started my own weekly writers workshop with regulars such as Donna Kreisle Louden, Edward Mycue, Ronald Linder, Richard Linker and Andrea Rubin. It was Ed in fact, who, according to my 11 November 1989 journal enry, told me about a reception for James on Green Street and said that my invitation had probably been sent to my old address in Silicon Valley.

My journal entry for that evening reveals clearly the happiness and beauty that surrounded James and Joel’s lives and their willingness to share that with me.

James greeted me wearing his ubiquitous pin-purple square oriental pill box hat, a light blue scarf tied around his neck and a darker, blue cordurouy shirt. He put out his arms immediately (to embrace me) . . . The first thing he said was: “It’s a been a year since I’ve seen you; a year exactly.” He was right. He told me I looked good. I told him him he was (as) full of life as ever and as always, happy. He told me he worked at being blissful every day

Joel asked me if I’d like to go to dinner later and I said yes. We ended up with about six people in our party: Hal Hershey, a Berkeley book designer, John Carr, critic for the BAR, Michael Hathaway who hosted the party for James that afternoon and, of course, James, Joel and myself…(at) a Japanese restaurant on Fillmore and Union. We sat upstairs around a low table and I was on James’s right hand. Joel described some Native American ornamentation he’d painted onto the side of their new house. (I also heard that Joel is working on a series of watercolours…He says they’re in the style of photomontages). I asked James the secret of his longevity, but he just smiled.

My training as a radio journalist gave me good training for my writing. From the press releases, books and reading and event announcements, I was aware of what was going on in the gay community. All this, of course, was happening whilst the AIDS crisis was decimating the LGBT community. At least once a month I announced the death of a prominent man or woman I had known personally who had died of AIDS. In addition, one quarter of my radio stories were about AIDS fundraisers and support groups. I felt useful providing this information weekly to the gay community. And it helped me hone my skills as a writer to go out and get stories, sift the facts from the gossip or outright lies, and shape it into the type of telegraphic language necessary for radio news. I soon discovered that for every minute on air, I needed to spend at least an hour preparing my script either at home or gathering information “on location.”

The next piece of correspondence I sent to James and Joel is a letter dated January 6, 1990 from my Mission District apartment. I wrote “It was a pleasure to see both of you during your recent visit to San Francisco. I enjoyed having dinner with you at the Japanese restaurant and listening to James read at the Intersection. I hope both of you had a good holiday. (Did you throw a winter solstice party?) I had a great time on Christmas and New Years. On the first holiday, I went to the Fruit Punch party, and on the second, my roommate and I hosted an open house in our apartment.” I enquired further about their welfare and asked if “Joel is still painting Native American designs on your new house?” and “How is Special Deliveries coming along?” I asked James when his book came out to send me a review copy since “I’m doing 10-20 minutes of news, reviews and interviews on Fruit Punch.” I ended the letter saying that I was thinking of travelling North to Port Townsend with Rink to visit James and Joel.

James responded about three weeks later with a This is It Syzygy Press poetry postcard dated 26 January 1990. James wrote he had just returned for the Yucatan with Joel and that he was working on the final proofs for Special Deliveries.

The next time I saw James was at the OutWrite! Writers’ Conference in San Francisco in March 1990. I covered the conference, speaking with Allen Ginsberg in addition to James.

James Broughton and the author, OutWrite! Writers’ Conference, San Francisco (March 1990). Photo by Rink © 1990. All rights reserved.

James Broughton and the author, OutWrite! Writers’ Conference,
San Francisco (March 1990). Photo by Rink © 1990. All rights reserved.

In response to the above photo in the 4 April issue of OutWeek, James sent me another postcard of a 60+ man logging crew standing on top or next to an enormous tree trunk which it is strapped to a semi-wagon saying that he liked Rink’s photo of “beauty and the old beast.” He wrote would be sending a review copy of Special Deliveries and would be in town for Gay Pride at the end of June to read. He signed the postcard: “Big Log.”

Once again there is a gap of at least a year when James and I did not correspond. During this time, I moved from my flat in the Mission to one in the Outer Sunset from which I could hear and see the Pacific Ocean’s breakers. Here I had hoped to get away from the problems of the City, especially the AIDS crisis. A receipt from A Different Light Bookstore from 11 November 1991 indicates I purchased James’ Androgyne Journal the morning of his reading, and his signature in the book along with the message “for Beloved Bryan. Rejoice in Oneness with Love. James” indicates that I must have attended, but unfortunately I have no journal entry for this day, nor any memory of James’ reading.

Unfortunately, it was also at my oceanview apartment that my new boyfriend, who I’d met in April 1991 and moved in by July, coughed through Christmas with pneumocystis. During the holidays, my new, next-door neighbour abandoned his apartment to die in the arms of his family. By February, my boyfriend was in hospital. Then one Friday evening I came home from work and found he had moved out without giving notice or leaving a forwarding address. In addition, the things he’d left behind were scattered around the flat, including a plant whose soil he’d swirled over the white livingroom carpet.

After my ex-boyfriend left, I kept the AIDS crisis at bay by teaching four times a week after work—twice a week to Russian émigrés out in the Avenues and once a week each to technical writing students at the University of California Extension and to my own writers’ workshop in my living room. Previously this moonlighting had been contractually forbidden by my daytime employer, but once the company went from 17 to 12 to seven to five offices in four massive reorganizations in two and a half years, no one cared as everyone scrambled to find new jobs before they lost their old ones and their homes or apartments.

I remember driving home on night from the UC Extension’s Menlo Park campus at 11 PM along I-280 in thick fog. I was so tired I had rolled down the window and turned the radio up so that the cool air and loud music would keep me from falling asleep behind the wheel. I also remember coming home one night at 10 PM, surprised to feel I was choking as I ate my supper hot out of the oven only to discover I still had my tie on that I’d put on for work that morning at 7 AM. The death of my neighbour, the impending death of a second ex- and the loss my job, all of this was on my mind when I corresponded with James in 1992, one year before I was forced to leave S.F. because I couldn’t find a full-time job or combine two or three jobs that would pay the bills.

The first missive is from James dated 23 January 1992 on James Broughton’s Port Townsend stationery and sent in a Holiday Inn Aeropuerto envelope. He welcomed my suggestion that Rink and I visit him and Joel up North, but he said he couldn’t host us at the moment because he had a family visiting for one month and “some brutal dental surgery” the next. He also reminded me that it was a two-day drive from San Francisco to Port Washington. He ended his letter with “I love you & send you my love & welcome too. Be sure to flourish. Joy from James.”

I must have sent James another letter talking about putting together my poetry collection because I received a postcard of a young man with a muscular torso and legs holding a mirror dated 2 March 1992. It announced a visit by James to San Francisco in “mid-May” and said he “hope(d) you are getting it (the poetry collection?) all together.”

Then about a month and a half later, I received a flyer from James in an envelope postmarked 16 April indicating his readings and screenings in May. On the 14th James had a reading at the Art Institute sponsored by the Cinematique and City Lights Books. The flyer also mentioned that besides the readings, signings and parties, two of Broughton’s films, Scattered Remains and Dreamwood would be shown. James wrote a personal note on the flyer indicating the precise dates he would be in San Francisco and a telephone number in town.

I don’t know if I saw James this time. I may have because I sent him an update of my poetry collection that I had first sent in 1988. This Neurotika, however, was twice as long as the first because it included my performance piece of the same name about the AIDS epidemic.

James responded on 2 Aug 1992. He wrote I had packed a lot into my book because he thought it was really “two different” books: the first poems and the second part the “prose paragraphs of the Neurotika section” which he felt “is almost of a book of its own…an impressive picaresque elegy.”

Broughton’s critique of the poetry (first) section was that it: “…often dropped words so the sense of the line is unclear…” He suggested I “not capitalize” (the beginning of my) lines so it would be easier to distinguish when a new sentence occurs.” He reassured me, however, that: “You have a genuine gift for nuance and impression, for phrasing and shaping.”

He also commented that he was “a hard-hearted reviser” of his own writing and that he was now on his third revision of his memoirs. He advised me: “when in doubt, cut.” Broughton’s letter ended on an encouraging note: “You have enormous potentiality….”

I responded to James’ letter on the 10th thanking him “for your suggestions, especially those concerning the (non)-capitalization of (the first word in) my lines” and for his encouraging words about the Neurotika section. I also asked if he would provide a book blurb.

On November 2, I received the following blurb from James: “Neurotika does not belie its title. On the contrary it pushes sexual neurosis to painful lengths…The neurotic fear of sex that pervades governments and communities around the world provides a concurrent theme. This is a sad, savage, sorry chronicle.”

By that time I had “finished” Neurotika, however, I had lost my job. I had to choose between staying in the City and living from my unemployment benefits and free-lance teaching (which, unfortunately, wouldn’t pay three-quarters of my expenses) and to self-publish Neurotika from my savings, or pursuing my vision of a new life in the Netherlands, which I had had since I was a graduate student.

I purchased an Apple PowerBook laptop and a journalist quality camera and applied for teaching jobs in the Netherlands. Luckily, just after my job ended in San Francisco, I got a job in the Netherlands as an Apple computer system administrator and a substitute English teacher, which is how I began my now 23-year stay.

From James I learned the ropes of writing business—both backstage and on stage. Through his correspondence and books, he taught me how to improve my visual communication as well as my word choice. He provided opportunities for me to create and present work, and, through his and Joel’s hospitality, I learned the value of good food, conversation and company. As a result of this, the time I spent with James and Joel were some of the happiest and most fulfilling I experienced as a writer in San Francisco in the 1980s and ’90s during a very dark period for the LGBT community.