On the Bus #6 – Adopting a Puppy or A Child? One Gay Man’s Dilemma

It was an extremely tough beginning to my bus ride today.

I was second in line to get on the bus and the only person who was ahead of me took my coveted seat in the very back. It’s the best seat because it can fit three people so even if a person sits there, you almost always still have an empty seat between you. I had to think fast as there were people behind me in the aisle, and made a rash decision to sit in a prime seat smack in the middle of the bus. It’s a risk because you are almost guaranteed to have someone sit next to you, but I couldn’t sit too close to that guy who took my seat in the back because he was pacing madly in front of me while we waited in line at Port Authority Bus Terminal like a lab rat on cocaine. Someone who paces in line is a wild card on a long bus ride. Avoid these people at all costs.

I lucked out today though. No one sat next to me. One guy almost did but then sat across the aisle from me instead. Now as I type this he is snoring very loudly and the poor girl in the window seat next to him is literally holding her head in distress. She looks like she wants to break the window and leap to her possible death on the busy New Jersey Interstate. If I were her, I would give him a quick, sharp smack across the face, and when he woke up, I would deny I did it.

But I’m a bit of a sourpuss today. I found out our landlords won’t let us get a puppy. Even though I really like our landlords and they are great in every other way, it’s challenging to not be mad at someone who says you can’t have a puppy.

The puppy issue started last week when my husband Saul and I were in LA. I am producing a show called Rescue Dog to Super Dog about rescuing dogs to be service dogs, and was getting a lot of pressure from the trainers I was working with to actually rescue a dog myself. People judge you harshly when you work at Animal Planet and don’t have a dog. Having two cats just doesn’t cut it. We lost our dog Sasha the day after Thanksgiving last year and wanted to take time to mourn before getting another dog.

Anyway, I decided last week I wanted a dog, and the very next day we happened to be at a Wolf Sanctuary (sometimes my job at Animal Planet is as cool as you might imagine—other days I’m filling out an expense report trying to justify to a computer program why potato chips are a valid breakfast when travelling). The man who ran the wolf sanctuary told Saul and me about Great Danes puppies that needed to be rescued from an awful situation. Believe it or not, Great Danes are good apartment dogs. They are big but docile and like to drape over you while you watch Gilmore Girls reruns on TV. (You don’t have to be watching Gilmore Girls while they are draped over you. This is my dog fantasy not yours.)

By the way, the Wolf Sanctuary was cool, but while I was there I heard a lot of awful things about how cruel people can be to animals. I won’t bum you out with the stories, but man I don’t understand it in the very slightest. I just don’t. I also don’t understand how nice people voted for Trump. Seriously it’s just a part of my brain that is no way developed.

So, Saul and I were considering this Great Dane puppy very seriously.

The next day we visited a bird sanctuary (thanks Animal Planet) on the grounds of the Veterans Hospital hidden right in the middle of Los Angeles. This place was possibly one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been. Parrots and macaws live to be 70 or 80, and their owners very often die or get sick or just get sick of the birds (those are bad people), and these sweet birds end up at this center taken care of by amazing volunteers who use them as therapy for veterans.

Animals are healing. It’s a fact. They should be honored. And these birds are like little 2-years-olds or like kittens that talk. They mourn, they get depressed, they get shy, they get close to some people and not others.  Like the vets they help heal, their souls sometimes get broken.

These birds broke both of our hearts, and we didn’t want to leave. I wanted to blow off dinner with friends I hadn’t seen in about a year (Sorry to Jill, Steve, Alexandra and Wulf if you are reading this blog). One bird was very sad and depressed after being surrendered by her owner and hadn’t spoken a word since she arrived at the sanctuary a few weeks earlier. But when she saw me–for whatever reason–she perked up and started talking. The volunteers were shocked! They said I looked nothing like her owner but something about her inspired her to jump on my shoulder and murmur HEY DADDY! WHO’S YOUR GOOFY GIRL? (Oddly enough this is not too dissimilar to how Saul first got my attention).

So many animals need love that it almost kills me. And I feel despondent today that we can’t rescue a puppy that needs to be rescued.

In an effort to ease my sadness, Saul asked if I wanted him to look into adopting a foster child.

Now I admit this is quite a leap, but it’s not out of the blue. Saul’s brother-in-law works with foster children and has often suggested we think about it.

It’s a humongous decision obviously, but not completely out of the question. Saul and I realize it’s probably a very good thing we can’t have a biological child with our combined DNA. Between our genetics and family histories, that poor kid would be OCD, alcoholic, addicted to several substances, and have to attend rehab before preschool.

Saul and I have also wondered what we would be like as parents. Which one of us would be stricter? If our kittens are any indication Saul would never, ever let our child out of the house. Ever. But he would give him or her lots of candy and teach them about Star Trek.

I would eventually convince him to let our child out of the house to attend Broadway plays.  They would be sure to understand proper bus etiquette and know some talking points about Angela Lansbury’s career so they would never be taken by surprise if the topic came up on the playground or baseball field.

I don’t know quite what is going to happen, but I do know we are both grateful for all the love in our life and feel a responsibility to spread it. (Except for the guy in the seat behind me now who is talking on his phone. I don’t love him. Several signs on the bus clearly say to keep your cell phone calls brief which he is not doing. I will not foster him even if he begs me.)

Saul and I love each other and our friends and our kittens and our families but our hearts seem to be clamoring for more. I suppose I have to be patient which is never my strong suit. Maybe this isn’t’the timing for a dog or a child (I’m pretty sure today I would resent this child for not being a Great Dane puppy), but I truly believe that if we keep our hearts open an opportunity will present itself from man or from beast.

Let me tell you the story of how I met Sasha the dog who died in November. I lived in the Silverlake area of Los Angeles and opened my door to discover a beat-up ragged pit bull standing there. I promptly screamed and shut the door. But the poor dog was so disheartened and desperate looking, I finally gave her a little food before leaving for work and then called my friend who I knew drove past my house every day and asked him if she was still on my porch. She was and I told him to let her inside.

Was I ready for a pit bull? I sure didn’t think so–not that morning. But she seemed to be ready for me and I made room.

Everyone told me my dog chose me. Later I found out from a neighbor she had gone to every single front porch on my block, but I was the only sucker to let her in.

So, I will make due with our little family of Saul and the kittens and trust our paths will cross with the others who are meant to join us when the time right.

All I know is there are a lot of broken souls in this world and if I live this life with the intent to find and help heal as many as possible before I die, I don’t think I will have too many regrets.


(Click below to hear Sophie loving on her daddy)



On the Bus #6 – My Fabulous Facebook Life

I’m back on the bus.

After an exotic trip to Greece for a writer’s workshop with the singers and memoirists, Judy Collins, Shawn Colvin and Patty Griffin–and then another trip to Europe—this time to London where my husband had his first international art opening and I got to attend a party at a castle (technically it was a party at a folly which is the term used for a small castle which was still bigger than most apartment buildings in New York), I am back on the bus.

I have quickly learned that sitting in the last seat typing one’s blog right next to the bus bathroom is a great equalizer.

I’ve had a lot of people who follow me on Facebook including some of my best friends for many years tell me how amazing my life looks and how jealous they are of me.

It’s an awkward thing to be told. I mean, yes, I know how blessed I am–not blessed in the religious sense like that I think Jesus wants this for me instead other people who kind of bug Him. (I never understand when actors thank God when they win a Tony or Grammy or Oscar. Did God enjoy their performance or song over the ones who lost? Did He like Bette Midler’s version of Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly more than Patti Lupone’s portrayal of Helena Rubinstein in the new Broadway musical War Paint? All I know is I’m asking St. Peter for tips for the best shows in Heaven when I die.)

So yes, I’m blessed and lucky too. But I don’t walk around thinking I am better than anyone else. Quite the contrary, I often stumble around under the weight of my inferiority complex.

The issue I think is Facebook.

On Facebook I tend to not take pictures of the less than fabulous moments in my life.

Like when the fire alarm is blaring repeatedly and endlessly in our hotel room in London and my husband is looking at me with rage because I’m not as upset about it as he is and I would prefer to pretend it is not happening hoping it will eventually stop on its own, and I’m looking at him like he is certifiably insane because he is overreacting over a stupid fire alarm—we don’t usually stop and post a selfie. On a side note–If there ever is a real fire in our hotel room, he and I will most likely be too annoyed with each other to really take any rational action so please divvy up our kittens between yourselves and perform a lot of eulogies at our joint funeral about how fabulous our lives were before they were cut short by the tragic fire where our bodies were later found either tenderly embracing or trying to strangle each other.

I did once take a phone video of my husband when he was angrily overreacting about a traffic jam and threatened to post it if he didn’t stop yelling, but I think that is technically referred to as a blackmail threat rather than a status update.

Facebook is confusing.

Do we post things because we secretly want people to be jealous? That is not a positive emotion to be focused in your direction so I don’t think that is why I do it. Okay, I will admit that I want the high school jock who called me a faggot to be a little jealous of how much better my life turned out than his so I’m not entirely innocent. Parents: Don’t let your children peak in high school. Let them struggle and flounder socially like I did and then peak in their 50’s. It leaves a lot less time for life to go downhill.

Facebook is like Christmas letters where everyone posts the best things that happened to them and gingerly skip over the struggles with alcoholism that their wife went through, or the 8½ months of depression that kept them lying in bed every evening eating Hostess Cherry Pies and watching Frasier reruns. (I had a lousy Christmas Eve 5 years ago when I was stuck in the city by myself and read a Facebook post that said I should look to my right and then to my left and be thankful for the people surrounding me. I looked at the lamp to my left and the 17-year cat with matted fur to my right and burst into tears.)

To be perfectly honest, I have posted a lot more about my weight loss than I did about my years of slow weight gain so I suppose I am pretty much trying to brand myself to the Facebook audience as a success. You are lucky I didn’t post about me obsessively and compulsively counting every weight watchers point each bite I took. That was a special treat reserved for the poor folks who were lucky enough to share a meal with me.

So, is Social Media bad? Our country is currently run by someone who tweets his “Presidential” agenda impulsively in the middle of the night. That person seems to get high by throwing bombs into the ether and watching everyone react. Do we all get high by seeing how many likes we get on a picture? My friend Will often laments that hot guys can post a shirtless selfie with the update “I ate a banana today” and get 678 Likes while the rest of us have to labor over a well-crafted and witty update to get 12 Likes.

Is it unhealthy we tweet and update our lives without any shading or nuance? I don’t know the answer. I found an old TV guide with an article from the 60’s written right around when I was a 6-year-old glued to my TV roughly 8 or 9 hours a day watching reruns from The Brady Bunch to Green Acres to Gomer Pyle USMC to Petticoat Junction. The headline was “IS TV WATCHING RUINING OUR CHILDREN?” The article was sure kids like me would grow up to be antisocial and dumb but I think I turned out okay. At least it looks that way on Facebook.

I think we all want to be known and liked. And hopefully we all have people who know and like the authentic people we really are. I hope the people I hold closest to me know the me who is funny and generous and petty and controlling and loving and annoyed and sad and full of wonder.

As far as the Facebook me, I hope he is not too far off from the guy in real life.

On the Bus #5 – Bus Bandits and a Nauseous God

The only thing I really truly loathe about my bus commute with all my heart is the smell of disinfectant that wafts from the bathroom.

I don’t know who decided that this was a pleasant smell. Certainly, there are other ways to keep a bus bathroom fresh. We’ve learned to split atoms, let’s maybe refocus on bus bathrooms.

In order to not be the guy gagging for an hour and half on the bus, I have been trying something new. I bought assorted essential oils and a bunch of handkerchiefs that seem to have a western theme on Amazon Prime. Before getting on the bus, I unscrew one of the small bottles and discreetly dab droplets onto a handkerchief. Once I am board, I try to nonchalantly hold it up to my nose.

I’m pretty sure I look like a bandit with a popper addiction or a swooning old maid from a Jane Austin novel but at least I smell like calming lavender.

These are the moments when I am happy I am not single. At this point, I am fairly certain my prospects for finding a new mate would be dim. Luckily, my husband understands I would be petty, vindictive and litigious if he ever tried to divorce me so he tries really hard to find my quirks cute, appealing and sexy.

Meanwhile, my husband has other problems to worry about as he is going through his first midlife crisis. I realize now that if I was going to marry a younger man I should have gone way younger. An existential crisis can be a strain on any relationship that no amount of essential oils can help.

I did almost have a fling with a much younger man when I lived in LA before I was married. I somehow was convinced to let someone in his 20’s live with me rent free. When I told my sister about this, she was more than a little skeptical.

“You are a sugar daddy,”
“But we’re not having sex,” I protested.
“Then you are a dumb sugar daddy.”

She had a point.

It’s not that I can’t relate to my husband. My midlife crisis began in my early 30’s and is still going on with no end in sight. It’s another one of those cute sexy quirks I was telling you about.

Currently I am worrying about what I will do with myself if my job goes away.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my job. I would keep doing my job until I dropped dead if they would have me. But sometimes I worry that working in cable is like working as a bank teller in the 80’s or a Tower Record employee in 2005 or a streetwalker on the corner right before the internet. I recently spoke to a group of college students about my career and felt like I might as well be telling them about fax machines. I related to Joan Crawford and Bette Davis in Feud as they desperately tried to stay vital in their industry even when it meant giving up their dignity.

Now it’s possible I’m worrying about nothing. That is my favorite thing to worry about. If there is something unknown in the future (and what isn’t?), I will be sure to fill in the blanks with horrendous cataclysmic outcomes. If I do have to make a new resume one day, I will list CATOSTROPHIC THINKING as skill right under GOOD AT TYPING and COCKNEY ACCENT

I’ve recently considered becoming a grief counselor. I have had no formal training and would rather not spend the time or money getting formal training, but I’ve had a lot of sad things happen to me over the course of my life and am still standing so that should count for something. I do worry it would be kind of a depressing job though. Sad people can really be downers.

On a more serious note, a congressman was shot last week and everyone is going crazy about it on the internet. The last article I read blamed the liberals, Kathy Griffin and a play about Julius Caesar in New York.

I do wonder how this divisiveness on both sides is going to end. Now, I’m not naïve. I read a lot of history books and I realize that politics has always been dirty. People weren’t like “Lincoln is really awesome but I slightly disagree with his views on state rights.” I mean our country almost split in two for god’s sake.

Yesterday, someone form my high school wrote on Facebook that liberals are destroying and dividing the country and making God puke and the End of Days was coming. That stopped me in my tracks. With all the atrocious things that have happened in the course of our country’s history including that pesky slavery thing, is God really puking over me voting for Hillary Clinton, raising cats with my husband and not loving guns?

I mean, he is God. He seems a little sensitive sometimes. That is a tough job he took on– not for someone with a weak constitution.

Oh, and one other thing, I should NOT EVER be allowed to have a gun. I am highly volatile. I would be in prison for murder by the following week.

I wish I could help my husband get through the bumps of life and help God not take my left-leaning views so personally. The best I can offer the is some scintillating peppermint or relaxing eucalypts

You’d be surprised how a pleasant scent and silly bandana can make you a lot more forgiving of yourself and others.

Alright that’s it for now. Off to vacation. Try to enjoy summer! Do something creative! Don’t decide what God is thinking!

About the Author: Keith Hoffman is starting a business called GOOD GRIEF. Email him if you are sad but not depressingly sad.

On the Bus Vol. 4 – Yogurt, My Monkey Lamp and Writers Groups

I will try to write my blog today even though I am a bit frazzled.

I did my usual 15-minute mediation as we headed into Lincoln Tunnel.  When I finished, I serenely opened my eyes to discover the guy in front of me had his seat all the way back practically in my crotch and was devouring a huge tub of yogurt with granola

Naturally I wanted to hit him on the head with my laptop. My fifteen minutes of hard work to achieve inner peace were completely ruined by the heinous turn of events.

In spite of this major setback, I will do my best to write this week’s bus blog

I started a writers group in New Hope this week.

This is the third writers group I am currently involved in at the same time.  It may be becoming a bit of a problem like alcoholism or sex addiction but with less shame and a slightly reduced chance of contacting an STD

I started Writers Group #1 at work about five years ago.  Well, at least I think it was five years ago.   I am not very good with keeping track of years.   I thought my dog was five years old for several years until someone pointed out that couldn’t possibly be true and I realized she was 13 and near the end of her natural lifespan. That was a shock.

I also still think I am in my 20s

Anyway, after starting the group, I discovered that a lot of my coworkers had rich full lives and were more than the narrow roles they played in the office.   It was a mix of some very good writing combined with a little group therapy. A core group of us loyally stayed together all these 5 (maybe 13?) years. I always go in before the group starts and turn out the overhead fluorescent lights and set up a light blue lava lamp next to a table lamp that has a base made up of a gold monkey with his tail in the air. Creating a safe space is the most important thing I do.  It’s almost like a ring of fire protecting us for those few hours we meet.  Those who drink share a bottle of wine. Those who eat gluten share a pizza. And as the rest of the office heads home, we listen to each other’s stories

Writers Group #2 is a lot more serious.

It’s lead by an author of several successful published books and you actually have to pay to be in it.

This one meets weekly and you are asked to bring in no more than 7 double-spaced pages to read aloud.   If you are competitive like me, you wouldn’t be caught dead bringing in anything even slightly less than 7 double-spaced pages. It’s a lot of work to write 7 double-spaced pages a week. It is also a lot of work for me to figure out how to print 7 double-spaced pages every week and contend with jammed paper and toner cartridges running out of ink. Managing the printing is the hardest part of that group.

Our leader is funny, smart and tough and reminds us that no one reads anymore which is discouraging and probably true.

What can I do?  I have been writing my memoir for a couple years now and am in a serious push to the finish line. When I was in a car accident a few years ago (five years?), the first thought I had as a car headed towards me head-on was “but I need to finish my book”.

You need to take those moments seriously

And even in that tougher, more serious environment we are basically telling stories like we do around the lava and monkey lamp at work ,and like humans have done around the fire for ages.

And I guess that is what I am trying to do with my new Writers Group in New Hope in the back of the fabulous old Farley’s Bookstore with a big fat cat named Butter staring at us judgmentally the entire time (probably wondering if anyone of us will feed him),  I am doing my best to create a safe space so the people in my new town can tell stories to each other. I’m hoping that at least a little bit we can connect to our humanity. After all, that cat can judge us all he wants, but I don’t see him and his feline friends telling each other tales about their painful kittenhood in order to gain a better understanding of life.

And I believe that nowadays, it’s more important than ever that we connect.

The other night my husband and I watched fireworks from our balcony.
As I looked up at the sky and listened to loud booms, a shudder went through me. We convince ourselves we are safe and secure in our country, but what if one day we were facing a real war in our very homes and beloved communities? What if those loud noises were bringing terror instead of joy?   I am an optimistic person but the world feels so insane these days that I can get downhearted thinking about that real possibility.

There is so much I can’t control. So, I guess that’s why I am a little obsessed with encouraging people to put their lives on paper and to share it with the world—or at least with a few other people. I’m trying to do my little part to remind us that we are more alike than we are different. And we have to connect in order to survive and thrive. It feels so vital and important and, really what can it hurt? Well, except for that yogurt eating bus guy. He and I will never be on the same page.

So, I guess I’m trying to say is,   I’m Keith.  And I’m a Writer’s Group addict.   And I’m not looking for a cure any time soon.

That’s all for this week. Tell someone your story and don’t eat on mass transit! See you next week.  Or in five years….

On the Bus Vol. 3–Mother Theresa and Me

People often tell me I’m too nice.

This is not usually said as a compliment but more meant as a “nice” way of saying “You are weak, and according to Darwin must be culled from the pack”.

No one wants to be deemed unfit to survive so in order to prove that I’m in fact not too nice, I have decided to use today’s bus ride to bravely reveal to you all the hate I have in my heart.

Here is a list of things I hate in no particular order:


  • People who stand over one item for over 30 seconds at the salad bar attempting to pick out the most delicious Brussel sprout or square of watermelon. It’s a salad bar for Pity’s sake! You are never going to discover the ultimate sushi sitting underneath the sneeze guard.
  • Guys I overhear in my locker room who say, “Bro, that was a great sesh!” who are not being ironic.
  • Cocky people.
  • Guys who constantly post shirtless pics on Facebook or worse—pictures wearing tiny swimsuits. I get it. You spend a lot of time at the gym and are better than me as a result. (I admit I have been tempted to do the same since losing 25 pounds thanks to Weight Watchers, but you won’t see me leaping in the air on the beach in a tiny speedo any time soon. My coworkers and nieces don’t need to see that.) (Actually, you may see ONE candid shot on the beach this summer but I will be wearing proper swim trunks and won’t make it my profile picture unless I look really really great.)
  • People who pray for me because I’m gay. (Yes, there still are some out there!)
  • People who shove themselves into a packed subway making everyone scrunch uncomfortably close and mumble “Sorry.” They aren’t sorry, and saying it doesn’t make my face being smushed into a stranger’s armpit forgivable.
  • People who enjoy shooting animals.
  • People who use huge golf umbrellas on the overcrowded streets of New York. Extra hate points if they stop in the middle of the sidewalk to text while holding said umbrella.
  • People who don’t realize Trump is a really awful President
  • People who bully or admire bullies
  • People who are unkind.
  • Raccoons that try to cross a six- lane highway and don’t make it leaving carnage in their wake. Why did they think they could perform that clearly impossible task successfully?
  • People who ask me about my new commute and then try to convince me how terrible it must be.
  • People who think they would have been on the right side of history regarding topics such as slavery or segregation while being on the wrong side of current humanitarian topics.
  • Misogynists who don’t really think they are misogynistic.
  • Deer who lurk at the side of the road with the intent to cross in front of my car and severely traumatize me for the rest life. Learn from the raccoons, deer!
  • Litterbugs. I especially hate litterbugs.

Okay, This list is too depressing to continue. Maybe people are right. Maybe I am too nice. Who cares? I’ve already outsurvived Darwin anyway.

Here are some things I love.


  • Kittens
  • Old dogs
  • My husband who puts up with me even when I’m overtired and yell about all the things I hate and then hugs me until I quiet down (not because his hugs are so special but because I want my personal space back.)
  • Fellow writers who understand the blessing and curse of having a seemingly insatiable need to write.
  • Nieces and nephews who are good and kind and love their gay uncles and inspire me to be brave.
  • Friends with kids and kids on the way.
  • Tyne Daly
  • Broadway plays that make me cry
  • Stevie Nicks’ voice and survival skills.
  • People who knew and loved my sister.
  • Thunderstorms
  • Rivers
  • Bridges over rivers
  • People who pray for me because they truly love me.
  • Friends who look after me and who sometimes let me look after them.
  • People who knew and loved my mother.
  • Flirting with the elderly.

I guess what I’m wondering is, can a person really be too nice? Was Mother Theresa too nice? (I heard a rumor she was very impatient with people at salad bars)

My former boss Marjorie Kaplan often says, “Don’t confuse nice with weakness”. In my opinion, there are a lot of people confusing bullying with strength these days.

My husband and I begin and end each day by naming three things we are grateful for.  Then we hit SHUFFLE on my old IPod and dance to whatever random song comes up whether it’s Rhianna, Loretta Lynn or a song from Bea Arthur’s one woman show.

We do this to try not to feel so dire about this poor world and to attempt to shorten my hate list. (Litterbugs will NEVER be removed). Maybe that ritual is making me too nice–but if that is the side effect of getting to dance every night, I guess I will have to suffer the consequences.

I am almost at my stop. Have a NICE day everyone!

On the Bus Vol. 2 – Bathroom Lurkers and Bus Stop Pouncers

Greetings on the way home to New Hope for holiday weekend!

I gave helpful tips last week about how to get a seat by yourself on the bus and, as I’m sure you all remember, the tip I recommended most highly was sitting next to the bathroom in the back of the bus.

Since that blog posted, every single morning when I climb on board for my morning commute, there has been a large, somewhat menacing man sitting in the exact seat I recommended.   Could he have read my blog?  Should I have kept my helpful tips to myself?  Or is it possibly true what the great Buddhist teachers say?  Are we all really just one mind?  I may never know the answer to these questions, but more importantly I now realize that a person looks somewhat like a lurker when they plant themselves next to the bathroom door every day like those creepy old men I read about in Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask who perpetually  hung out in bowling alley restrooms looking for a deviant good time. (This was an unfortunate book for a confused gay adolescent to steal from his mom’s bookcase and secretly read at night—the guilt and shame it instilled in me has been the financial lifeblood of many a therapist over the years.)

Anyway, now I’m back to Square One and am typing this blog crammed next to a fellow commuter who keeps falling asleep on my shoulder.   Apparently, you don’t always need bowling alley bathrooms to find intimacy with strangers.

But this is the least of my bus issues.

Now every morning at the bus stop, there is a heavyset man with a voice like Fran Drecher who is waiting for me when I arrive at 6:30 AM. He has a crazy, anxious, clingy air of a person who doesn’t talk to a lot of people except when they are forced to wait with him for a bus.   In the old days, I would have intently read my latest paperback novel to subtly communicate that I was not interested in chatting, but now that all my books are downloaded on my phone, it looks like I am scrolling through Facebook and therefore available for conversation.

The talk can be slightly soul-numbing.

Him:  The bus was 2 minutes late yesterday.  I wonder if it will be on time today.

 Me:  I hope so. 

It’s not exactly the stuff of a Proustian novel but that doesn’t keep him from trying to go deeper.

Him:  Are you getting your daily potassium from that banana?

I wasn’t sure how to answer that one.  I wanted to say No, I could care less about my potassium intake but that just seemed rude.  So, instead I giggled and said yes which seemed to satisfy him for the moment.

(Update:  The man who fell asleep on my shoulder is now dreaming and twitching.  I’m starting to feel somewhat of a bond with him and wonder what his name is and what he does for a living).

Yesterday, my bus stop companion didn’t say hello to me right away and I instantly became concerned.   Had he grown tired of me?  Was I losing my spark because I wasn’t being attentive to my potassium levels?   Suddenly I wanted him to talk to me more than anything in the world.

Finally, he turned around and said hello.

“Oh geez…here we go again…” I thought to myself with annoyance.

In a nutshell that gives you a lot of insight as to what I’m like in a relationship.

Speaking of my husband.  Saul is about to have his last weekend of his May Art Show in New Hope Art Center.   Last week was gay Pride weekend and we were busy from Saturday morning until Saturday night with a gallery full of people.

Saul’s show is definitely geared towards Pride participants—well, at least the men.   He has many pictures of guys kissing or shirtless or in a few cases pant-less.  This took a while for me to adjust to, and I encouraged him to paint more kitties, puppies and birds, but his interest seems to be in scruffy men which is I suppose why I am wearing his wedding band today.

Since the show ran all month we also were open on Mother’s Day.   It became quite amusing to see adults stroll in to find gay-themed paintings and instantly become alarmed and scurry out in retreat.   Now mind you, these painting aren’t crude or portraying people caught in the act.   They are innocent kisses at best.

I am amused now, but was somewhat ashamed at first when I saw this reaction and felt as if we were doing something wrong.   Then I realized when I go to a museum such as the Met or the Louvre, I see people in all states of undress and feel warm and fuzzy when I see someone kissing in a painting.  I don’t recoil in shock  and wouldn’t have escorted my mother away from the Venus Di Milo or Statue of David because some genitalia was exposed.

I can only chalk this up to the assumption that there is still some uncomfortableness and phobia around  gay people when they aren’t   being simply funny and sex-neutral like  Will and Grace or Ellen  even from the nicest people and especially when they are taken by surprise.   And by my guilty reaction, there is apparently some uncomfortableness in me too (Thanks a lot Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex author). But instead of getting angry or feeling ashamed, I am trying to be amused and hope we all catch up to the maddeningly simple idea of accepting each other—even the gays who want to kiss  and even the  bus stop people who want to chat.

(The man is waking up next to me and starting to try to read this blog so I better wrap it up.)

Oh, and just to update you on last week’s blog…No I did NOT meet Sally Struthers and she has left the town of New Hope for good.    Like Hillary who I also wrote about last week, I am a bit humiliated for setting such a huge public goal and then falling short.

Perhaps some  walks in the woods and a few  Broadway plays will heal me.

Until then Happy Memorial Day!


Beware–Kissing Men Inside.


On the Bus Vol. 1- Sally, Hillary and Kiwis

Since my husband and I have moved from New York City to the small quaint river town of New Hope, PA and I now spend three hours a day almost every weekday on a bus, I have had to find ways to fill up my time other than judging all the other commuters. Hence, I am starting a blog  cleverly entitled On The Bus to let you know what is going on in my head during these long rides.  I just assume you are all curious.

First, I thought it would be nice to fill you in on some tips for riding a bus in case you decide you want to move to a more rural life one day, but don’t want to quit your job in the city and sell wildflowers on the local corner or become a small-town sex worker to make ends meet.

The main goal of any bus rider is to do all you can not to have someone sit next to you. Placing your backpack in the adjoining seat or sitting by the aisle rarely works. This is just looked at as a challenge by the more aggressive commuters who will simply climb over you or ask you to pick up your bag. Plus, you look like a blatant asshole.

Glaring at someone with your computer on your lap to communicate that you are trying to write an On The Bus blog and need plenty of elbow room to type doesn’t work either. Don’t ask me how I know this. I just know.

The only thing I’ve found that works is to sit at the very back of the bus right next to the restroom. There are three seats in the back row instead of two, and people instinctively don’t want to sit next to a bathroom. There are obvious reasons for this, but if you don’t mind the smell of deodorizer or knowing who on the bus is having stomach issues you can most likely get a seat with plenty of room.

If you must sit next to someone because the bus is full then make sure you scope out the busline ahead of time to know who to avoid. The important businessman who is going to mumble on his phone the entire ride is easy to spot. There are other annoying commuters to avoid as well  like the lady who was in line in front of me tonight who was noisily slurping and ravaging a kiwi in the middle of the filthy Port Authority Bus Terminal. She would stop every once in a while and glare at me like a rabid wolverine as if I was going to try to snatch it from her hand. I had to admit I wanted to only to end the carnage. She had a whole bag filled with kiwis so this behavior didn’t seem like it would be wrapping up soon. An entire bus ride to New Hope next to each other would end in her murder. I would then have to retitle this blog On Prison Row.

The other important thing in my life besides the bus is Sally Struthers. She is appearing in the local Bucks County playhouse production of Clue and I am absolutely obsessed with meeting her. That is one of the advantages of living in a small town. I am not likely to meet Bette Midler because I work in NYC and she is playing on Broadway. But in New Hope, you run into just about everyone if you walk down main street often enough. I have a new friend in New Hope who actually has run into Sally several times and even been invited by her to see the play. I feel about him like I do the kiwi lady. I hope he and Sally are happy together because our budding friendship is on shaky ground. (And if you are young and don’t know who Sally is, you should. All in the Family is one of the greatest and most important sitcoms EVER. Google it please!)

I have one more week to meet Sally before the play closes. I found out she is staying in an apartment above a tattoo parlor. I may have to cover my body entirely with tattoos in order to casually run into her. I’ve often said you don’t reach your goals without some pain.

Speaking of pain the other thing on my mind is Hillary Clinton. I just finished reading Shattered about her “doomed campaign”. I liked her even more than I have for the last 20 years after reading that book. A lot of people get mad at me because I like her. Republican friends get angry—yes I have Republican friends—they are all from my high school and I try really hard to see their side of things but voting for Trump still absolutely confounds me. Bernie supporters get mad at me. People who are mad at her for losing get mad at me.

But I think her heart was in the right place and she tried something really hard and she failed, but she gave it her all. (I realize it shouldn’t be hard to beat Trump but it seems it was for a lot of Republicans too). So I will keep admiring her and everyone who disagrees with me will survive. And I will hope with time and while she is still alive, history will treat her more kindly. I know this is making some of you mad but just try to breathe through it. I’m trying to breathe through these next four years.

Enough with politics. We are nearing my stop. Just one more thing.

Whenever I get on the bus, the internet page pops up on my computer. The box I have to click to get online contains some  wise words. It’s good advice whether you have lost the presidency to a reality star, are starring in a local play after having won two Emmys and and just might be being stalked by a middle-aged gay man, or taking several long bus rides a week so you can  live the life of your dreams. The words I read every morning and evening? I Accept These Conditions.

It’s good advice. And, now that I think about it, might possibly look good as a tattoo on my left clavicle.

Have a good weekend!  See you next week!

The Waiting Room

I imagine that the Good Samaritan Hospital decorating committee has collectively come up with a theme for the waiting room my family has found ourselves in on this afternoon of September 4th 2008.

“Let’s go for cold and sterile,” one of them probably said brightly.

“And uncomfortable!  No one does ‘uncomfortable’ anymore!  I know just the right annoyingly scratchy fabric for the chairs!  And with a little effort we can find a shade of blue that is actually unpleasant!”

“We could design couches that are too small to lie down on so if an anxious loved one tries to take a nap they’ll have to rest their head awkwardly on a wooden arm rest!”

I am pretty certain this last idea came from some young pimply-faced upstart trying to impress the more established members of this sadistic group of cruel interior designers.

Were they afraid people might enjoy themselves too much if they made anything in this unbearable room bearable?   Or that people would start hanging out and having fun as their loved ones suffered impossibly on the other side of the door?

(Okay, okay the rest of my family did manage to get way too drunk and have an overnight party in this very room only twelve hours earlier, but I would hardly consider them your typical hospital clientele.)

As I fantasize about decorating the room with big cushy couches draped with cashmere throws, plush rugs and some Stevie-Nicks-inspired fringed shawls tossed over the utilitarian lamps (possibly even some chimes in the window?), I am startled by my mother being pushed past me in her wheelchair by my oldest brother Dave.

Right…. I remind myself.  We are here on serious business.

The room is deadly quiet.  I can’t recall if any of the eight or so inhabitants have spoken in the last couple of hours.  They are either being quiet out of respect for the situation or still slightly hung over.

I walk over to my brother Greg, bend over and whisper in his ear.

“We have to sign it and we have to tell her.”

Greg is two years older than me and during our youth would have probably slugged me in the face for getting that close to him.

He loved to beat me up when we were kids and if I have to be honest, I kind of liked being beaten up.   In retrospect I’m pretty sure it was less about being a budding masochist than simply being fond of getting attention any way I could.    When you are the last of a large brood of kids, being young and cute just doesn’t elicit the same kind of excitement provoked by those who got there before you.   (Many years after those childhood days when my sister was helping our mother sort through boxes and boxes of old photos, I asked her to put a few aside of me as a little boy.    My sister hesitated for a moment.   “You have to remember you were the last of five…the novelty of taking pictures of kids had pretty much worn off by the time you were born.”

So in my mind it makes sense that when I was feeling needy I would often get in my big brother’s face and mutter repeatedly in an annoying voice, “do you wanna beat me up?  Do you wanna beat me up?  Do you wanna beat me up?” until he would finally indeed want to beat me up.  Then he would chase me around the house while I squealed at the top of my young lungs finally pinning me down on my back with his knees on my arms threatening to spit in my face while letting drool drip dangerously out of his mouth just inches from my horrified eyes before sucking it back in at the last minute.   Although my big brother had admirable timing, there was inevitably that one incident when he waited just a beat too long so that his disgusting saliva landed squarely into the target of my screaming mouth.  The shock actually shut me up for a moment until I started yelling even louder that I needed to be taken to the hospital immediately before the tuberculosis set in.

Sometimes I avoided these pin-downs by out-maneuvering my brother and deliberately slamming myself against our family room stucco wall and collapsing onto our shag carpeting from the impact.  This usually got him in trouble and got me the attention I craved from our often distracted and overwhelmed mother.  My proudest iteration of this technique occurred on a hot lazy summer day when I was balancing on our front porch’s thin metal railing pretending I was a tightrope walker carefully tiptoeing from one red brick porch post to the other.  My brother saw his irresistible opportunity as he sauntered out the front door and casually began shaking the railing under my feet.   I screamed for him to stop and pleaded desperately for help from our neighbors until I got the genius idea of dramatically hurtling myself off the railing and leaving a child-sized dent on top of  the prickly green shrubs below.  The red scratches covering my arms and legs were worth the victory of getting Greg in trouble.

As we got older and the differences in our temperaments became more pronounced our battles shifted from physical to philosophical.  Greg was convinced I liked Barbra Streisand just to make him angry and was almost apoplectic over the fact that Ringo Starr was my favorite Beatle.

“Ringo Starr is no one’s favorite Beatle!” he would hiss at me in disgust.

My stoic big brother who did all he could do keep his emotions in check just could not wrap his head around his hyperemotional, melodramatic kid brother prone to using sophisticated words I often didn’t understand.    For years I would dramatically proclaim loudly that I was famished thinking I was exclaiming my shock and surprise instead of erroneously announcing I was hungry.

“Uncle Maurice was in an accident this morning.”

“What?!  But we just saw him last night!  I am utterly famished!”

But now as we both hover near the half-century mark of our lives, residing in different cities and barely communicating with each other until this god-awful week, those things we fought over feel so vastly unimportant.

And the decision we are going to have to make feels so overwhelmingly important.

No one has discussed the DNR since the doctors talked to us this morning and I’m beginning to get even more anxious than I already have been.

I worry that our sister will have yet another medical crisis and the doctors will traumatize her even more than they already have because we didn’t take action in time and sign a form officially telling them do not resuscitate.

Julie had always been in charge of our family until she pulled a fast one and had this stupid aneurysm.  Since our mother’s decline she has become the de facto matriarch and the keeper and cataloguer of all our vast secrets and outright lies.  She is supposed to be the one sitting with us fashionably dressed making these challenging family decisions instead of lying in a coma next to a bunch of whirring and beeping machines in a thin cotton flowered hospital gown while her body slowly but determinedly shuts down.

Plus she is the main caretaker of our often-difficult mother.   (She would say this job was foisted upon her by the rest of us but I would often counter that she moved down the block from our increasingly needy mother while I moved across the country.  What was she thinking?)

How are the rest of us expected to make this decision and handle the fallout with our mother without her?

If Julie does wake up due to some last minute miracle after we’ve had to deal with all this I’m going to be plenty pissed.

My oldest brother Dave is up again and pushes our Mother’s chair into the bathroom.  Even in his 60’s he has the build of a football player and I still marvel how he and my next oldest brother Paul turned out so physically and temperamentally different from Julie, Greg and me.

But no matter these differences, we are all here for one purpose and need to come together and make a decision.  I’ve stood next to Julie’s hospital bed and quietly sang in her ear, rubbed her arm, held her hand and pleaded with her to wake up–and I often had to wait my turn for others who were trying to do or say anything to change the terrible direction this was heading—but my sister is being her stubborn self.

I repeat to Greg that I think we need to sign the DNR.

“I don’t want them hurting Julie.”

I’m still the youngest brother and still reluctant to take the lead in my family.  It doesn’t matter that I’m sometimes in charge of armies of people in my job in LA.     I’m back in Ohio now and the rules are different.

But Greg agrees without an argument and he also tiredly agrees we need to discuss this with our Mother right away.

“I’ll do it,” he announces.

I’m a bit surprised by this and almost have to refrain from gasping that I’m famished.

Greg’s relationship with Mother is strained to almost nonexistent.  Where Julie and I were easy prey to her guilt-inducing martyrdom, Greg kept her at arms-length and as a result our mother seemed to cherish his meagerly doled-out portions of love the most.  “Greg called me last night to give me his new address,” she would report to me beaming with maternal pride as if this once-every-six-month phone call had more value than me phoning here on my way to work every single morning.     Perhaps Greg is the best one to do this I think.  Since Mother is afraid of him withholding his love from her permanently, he is the only child she won’t argue with.

But as much as I want to keep Greg in the role as the non-participant in the family out of habit, I have to give him credit.  For someone who has barely interacted with his family even when he’s in the same room for the last few decades, he has dived headfirst into this medical quagmire and taken charge this week.  He surprised me with how aggressively he used his lawyerly brain with the often smug doctors to make sure they were doing the best things possible to pull our big sister out of this mess.

The minutes waiting for our mother to emerge from the bathroom begin to feel insufferable.

Mother was always a strong and proud woman.   Having survived a childhood where love seemed to be doled out stingily by her no-nonsense mom and where her father’s best accomplishment from what I could tell was dropping dead while gambling at a racetrack, she had become a fierce and loyal parent.  Even after my father died leaving her five children to raise on her own, she kept us together and kept us fed and made sure she looked good doing it.

But she also had a taste for emotional tantrums.    She once deeply alarmed a boyfriend I brought home to meet the family by lying prostrate on her back on the floor next to out dining room table weeping over a perceived slight she felt he had perpetrated.    My family and I had been playing a word game and had to name an “Object in the Room that Started with the Letter ‘G’”.   Thinking he was clever the boyfriend wrote down Grandma, which quickly sent my mother on her downward trajectory weepily and repeatedly proclaiming “I’m not an object. I’m not an object.”  I wasn’t sure if the poor guy was upset that he had been the source of this emotional outburst or by the fact that the rest of us kids only sighed and rolled our eyes while continuing the game.   “Don’t worry,” my sister whispered trying to reassure him. “She’s not upset you called her an object.  It’s that you called her a grandma.”   My sister was right.  My mother’s beauty was a source of tremendous pride and she couldn’t take the idea of some stranger seeing her as a grandmother.   Eventually she rejoined the game and he learned the first of many topics to avoid to keep family tensions beneath the surface.

Julie was my guide through our mother’s emotional landscape and this moment waiting for that bathroom door to open was when I needed my sister most.

Her house was always the first stop after she picked me up from the airport during my visits home and I counted on her to secure us some pot as reinforcement for dealing with family.  “It’s not easy for a 50-year-old woman to score weed in Cincinnati,” she would drolly remind me.  “Be grateful.”

Julie had recently separated from her husband after over twenty years together.  Although she was every single one of her nieces’ and nephews’ favorite aunt, she never had children of her own and now found her self somewhat unmoored and adrift in middle age.  The big dark fear she quite often texted and emailed me was that she was going to spend the rest of the New Years Eves of her life a lonely spinster watching Dick Clark with her ill  mother.

But I knew she was going to pull through this midlife crisis.  There was nothing “spinster “ about her and I had taken it upon myself to help my big sister through this difficult passage in her life.  As a result, we had become best friends and perfect travelling companions (our trip to New York was epic—strolling with her past the low buildings in the West Village on a cool autumn evening eating Pinkberry was as near to perfection as life.) We discovered much too late in our lives that we couldn’t get enough of each other’s company and had been doing our best to make up for lost time.

So the minute I was home in Cincinnati we would light up in her kitchen before I walked down to our mother’s home and Julie would catch me up on her latest dramas caretaking our frail but seeming indestructible 82-year-old mom making me less and less inclined to leave the comfort of our smoky cannabis haze.

“She called the other day to ask me if it was storming here at my place too,” she said exhaling.    “I reminded her I live five houses away.”

It wasn’t that our mother had lost her mind; she had just become more and more codependent on her children as her life became smaller and smaller.   This fact was evidenced that night by the several texts I had been getting from our mother asking when I was going to finish with Julie and come down to her place.

I loved her but just wanted a little brother/sister time before switching into the all-consuming dutiful son role.

“Let me just get a little more high before I go down,” I begged Julie.

“Honey,” she replied with a sad shake of her head.  “I don’t think it’s possible to get any more high.”

And now in this ugly hospital waiting room only a few weeks later but feeling more like a lifetime, the bathroom door begins to open and Dave jumps to pull our mom and her wheelchair out.

“Mother, we need to talk,” Greg announces forcefully.

Mother looks at the serious faces of her sons and immediately reacts like an animal that instinctively knows it is trapped.  Her vulnerability is only that much more pronounced by the wheelchair.

“Don’t push me up against the table so close.”  She snaps at poor Dave who immediately backs her away from the offending furniture.

Greg is standing next to me as Dave angles her wheelchair towards him.

“I don’t like this angle!” she practically spits at him.

Dave is becoming increasingly befuddled but gamely points Mother and her chair in another angle.

“Not here!” she says with sour impatience.

I see my big brother Paul who is always so strong standing off to the side looking down at his shoes.

I look up at Greg who is still standing and waiting to have this terrible conversation.

“It’s not starting out very well,” I jokingly whisper to him.

Finally our mother’s wheelchair is at the correct angle.

After a slight pause Greg says it.

“The doctors think it would hurt Julie if something went wrong and they tried to resuscitate her.  The want us to sign a DNR.”

The moment those words come out of his mouth I brace myself for the onslaught.

I wait for her to wail and scream at the gods above—to lash out at us and tell us we are cowards for giving up on our own sister. I expect her to rise from her wheelchair and lunge at Greg.

But none of that happens.

“Okay,” she says quietly.

And that’s it.

I sit in numb awe.

My mother just consented to signing a paper telling the doctors not to try to save her daughter’s life — the daughter who, in everyone’s opinion in this room, is the best human being in the entire world and the heart of the family my mother fought so hard to keep intact against what sometimes seemed insurmountable odds.

It would hurt Julie

That is all any of us need to hear.    There is not a cell in any of our bodies that wants to hurt Julie.

The DNR form is signed telling the doctors to let our sister die if need be.   I wonder over how life has changed so much in one week that signing this form gives me relief.

And how could this family that went through so much together from hidden marriages to secret sex changes to surprise siblings seem to be finally giving up the fight.



by Keith Hoffman

The greatest source of friction between my fiancé Saul and me is Hope.

I’m not trying to be all esoteric. I really mean that literally.

Before I met Saul I hired a cleaning lady and her name is Hope.

Now it was a big deal for me to get a cleaning lady.   When I moved to the higher rents of New York City from Los Angeles, I decided to forego having one even though I was obsessively worried about my house smelling like old dog and cat since I indeed had both of those creatures at the time.

I am pretty sure this obsession came from when I was a kid and perpetually embarrassed to invite people inside the walls of my home.   You could never predict when one of my older hippy siblings would be smoking pot while singing along to Mott the Hoople’s All the Young Dudes in our faux-paneled music room, or my mother would be weeding in the backyard in an age-inappropriate bikini, or one of our 19 cats would be giving birth or peeing on the bean bag chair.

After my father died, my mom decided to throw all convention aside when it came to child-rearing which was quite disturbing to this conventional 7-year-old living in a conventional subdivision.

So Hope made me feel safe.   Hope made me feel like I was home. (Yes, I’m still talking about the cleaning lady. )

The only problem with Hope was that she loved to move things.

I don’t mean mixing the butter knife with the forks or putting my t-shirts in my pants drawer. Hope would put the butter knife in the pants drawer and my t-shirts in an old plastic bag behind the couch.   The 2-day period after she cleaned was like a scavenger hunt for my own possessions.

But it didn’t stop there. Hope also liked to rearrange my furniture. She would move the kitchen table to a different angle or switch the end tables to opposite sides of the couch. The first week I liked what she did telling myself the Feng Shui of the room was flowing much better. But then I was surprised to see that she moved all my furniture yet again the next time she cleaned–some of it back to its original place and some to a completely new location.

Every single time the apartment she cleaned she would rearrange the furniture.

This was clearly some type of obsessive-compulsive acting out on her part.

And for some reason after Saul moved in, this quirk of hers made him crazy.

What I found amusing, Saul found insanity-inducing. Every time he discovered a freshly washed juice glass lined up next to our potted spider plant or his mail placed neatly in a box next to my birth certificate he became unhinged.

“Can’t you see the humor in it?”   I would ask sounding what I believed to be extremely evolved.

But he couldn’t.

I attributed this inability to rise to the occasion to his own unresolved childhood issues but he can write about this in his own blog.

Every time something went missing in the house things got tense.

“Where is the cat? “

“Uh…I think she’s in the back yard!” I would answer afraid Hope had placed her in the the closet with cleaning supplies.

But for some reason I wouldn’t budge even though we bickered over and over about it.   I refused to let go of Hope.

It wasn’t just that she cooked us menudo–a delicious Filipino dish from her native country (the first time she told us she was bringing menudo I thought she might be referring to the famous boy band that spawned Ricky Martin–naturally I was quite intrigued).  And it wasn’t just that she baked cupcakes for my birthday.

It felt like letting go of Hope was on some level of letting go of the security of my home.   Yes, Saul and I were creating our own home but you give up a lot when you decide to share your life. Sometimes you are giving up lonely Saturday nights and sometimes you are giving up the freedom to pay a cleaning lady to lose all your stuff.

Hope did not help her cause on the morning she asked us about our dog walker who she had run into during her previous visit. (Yes, life is quite challenging when you are managing a household staff).

“Sir,” she asked Saul and me very sweetly. “Is your dog walker a faggot?”


“Is he a faggot?” she asked if she were questioning whether he had blue eyes.

“Hope, that is not a nice thing to say about someone.” Saul replied patiently.

Saul taught English as a second language so he was a bit more used to these cultural clashes.

“It’s not?” Hope replied innocently. “My husband says it all the time. When we are on the subway he will say, ‘Look at those faggots,’” she continued before concluding, “I like them. ”

Saul and I walked out of the apartment a bit shell-shocked.

I had a lot of questions running through my head…

  1. Can you keep a cleaning lady who calls people faggots no matter how innocently?
  2. Did she really not know we were gay?
  3. What was she thinking when she made up our only bed and dusted the Tyne Daly Gypsy poster?


A few months later Saul finally convinced me to let go of Hope—at least for one week.

He was putting together an art show for a gallery space in charming and quaint New Hope Pennsylvania, which is one of our favorite towns and where we most likely will end up living.

Yes, I get it. No Hope…New Hope….the universe is trying to teach me something here but it is still being too subtle for my taste.

Anyway this art show was a big deal.

Saul had only begun seriously painting less than a year ago.   It began as a way to get out of his head, which he will be the first to tell you can be a very dangerous place to dwell.      And the passion that started with a simple paint-by-number set grew into what has to be almost a hundred paintings that now cover our bedroom, living room, kitchen and backyard.

hhouse4 hhouse3 hhouse5 hhouse6 hhouse2

our apartment
Our Apartment

“Can you guarantee she won’t move or mess up one of my paintings?”

This was a trick question.   It’s a little like asking if I can promise a small child won’t touch a pile of Reese’s Pieces or a junkie will refuse cocaine and a prostitute. The temptation for Hope to move things was bigger than the three of us.

“Okay, okay this one time we will cancel Hope. But don’t blame me if people accuse our bookshelves of being dusty,” I concluded ominously.

it was hard to give up this last piece of my freedom (or at least that is how it felt).  My identity was taking a bit of a hit lately.

I had always been the star. Well, at least in my own mind.

I mean c’mon…I hosted a show about Bigfoot.   I would do anything to get attention.


But now suddenly I was the just good wife. The man behind the man. Saul was stepping to center stage and this was his time to shine.

Meanwhile I am in the middle of trying to figure out my own life. Do I want to stay in New York the rest of my life?   Do I really want to move to a small town?   Would I like one more career before I kick the bucket or am too old to care?   And if the answer is yes to any of these questions when do I make these changes? What will this next chapter look like? And how exactly do I turn the page?

Just like both Saul’s and my identities changed a little when we went from being single to being a couple—I was discovering that when one person in the relationship changes significantly, both of you change—and you better figure out how to do it for the mutual benefit of both.

That’s what I didn’t understand for so many years. I thought once you became a couple that was it.   You were done. Your goal had been accomplished.

And now Saul was changing big time and he was doing it at a rapid pace. His art had gone from unique and colorful flowers, to fashionable women, to religious icons, to faces (his father had looked at his earlier work and pronounced that Saul didn’t know how to draw faces—boy did he show him—nothing like a little parental doubt to get the creative juices flowing).


Now his art was becoming decidedly gay.   His show was going to be up during New Hope’s Gay Pride Weekend so he was expressly doing some pieces for that audience.

But when he showed me his portrait of two bearded men kissing I have to admit I was a little squeamish.


Does it have to be so gay I asked?

I thought of old high school friends who were more conservative than me who would see pictures on Facebook. I thought of people I had met through my job in the deep south who knew I was gay but in an innocuous Paul Lynde/Richard Simmons/Lance Bass kind of way not in-your-face HBO Looking kind of way.

But this was Saul’s show and I was the good wife (I loved that series by the way even if I didn’t understand the finale).

I would support my partner’s art show no matter how much internal homophobia it stirred up in me and I would hope for the best.

hposter hopen hgallery2

It’s the third weekend of the four-week run of Saul’s show and by every standard it’s going amazingly well.

Not only have we made good friends in the New Hope community but also he has sold several paintings which is not really something you expect to do when you are starting out as an artist.   He has sold to people he knows and to total strangers.   Every time someone wants to buy a piece of art he asks me if I really want to get rid of it and I remind him he is making art to share with others not to hoard in our tiny apartment like Vivien Maier. (If you haven’t seen the documentary about this odd nanny who took thousands and thousands of beautiful photographs only to lock them in boxes in her room I highly recommend it)

But tonight Saul’s luck may have run out and hoarding the rest of his art might be our only option.

It’s what is supposed to be the biggest night of his run at the gallery. It’s the night of the Artist’s Reception and it’s the Saturday evening of Gay Pride Weekend—the evening when Saul was told he would sell most of his paintings.

And it is pouring down steady torrential rain.

I was in charge of the reception and had spent much of the day buying flavored popcorn from a local shop and and tons of cheese and wine and candy from the only big grocery store in town–all the while praying the rain would hold out.

But at 6pm sharp as the reception begins, this unwelcome intruder thundered into town and looked like it was going nowhere any time soon.

New Hope is a town that is run by the weather. When it’s good the town is vibrant and when its bad people disappear like cockroaches after a light is turned on (although to be perfectly clear the people of New Hope are nothing like cockroaches).

Saul and I had been having anxious and apocalyptic visions all day that we will be disgraced and mortified while sitting dejectedly in an empty echoing room full of his art with a card table spread full of rotting, uneaten food. To up the anxiety level one more notch my brother Paul, his partner Donna and my cousin Vicky have driven almost an entire day from the Midwest to help us out so we will have actual witnesses to our abject humiliation. “Maybe for Facebook we can Photoshop the two us in the middle of some Bernie rally and say it’s the reception,” I almost suggest but think better of it.

But somehow–against all odds–people begin trailing in. They are waterlogged and soaked but happy to be in a safe space. It may not be jam-packed busy but it is never embarrassing.


And best of all people are actually buying art.

I again play the good wife making sure wine cups are full and Saul is directed to speak with interested art buyers. “Avoid the crazy man putting free cheese in his pocket at 7 o’clock and chat up the wealthy cultured lesbians at 12:o’clock I would mutter as I gently shoved him in the right direction.

Towards the end of the night I notice a woman and her college-age son coming in for the second time. They were in the gallery earlier with the father but now he is nowhere to be seen.

I quickly alert Saul to their arrival.   If they made their way back in this tragic weather they must be on a mission.

As I nervously chomp on Gourmet Buffalo Wing-flavored popcorn, I watch Saul, the mother and her son intensely debate between two paintings.     Finally Saul calls me over to help.

I am told the two are trying to decide between Saul’s painting of a man alone looking down at a party or two men sharing an intimate kiss.

hparty hkiss

The first one is sad and lonely. The second is much more joyful. And it is also the exact same one that gave me a self-loathing homophobic jolt when Saul showed it to me.

The three of them ask my opinion and it seems clear the kid is almost longing for the second painting.

“I’m not trying to make a sale” I say.   “But you should buy the painting you really love.”

I can’t help but notice the somewhat pained expression in the mother’s eyes as her lips purse tensely.   I step away with Saul and we tell them to take their time.

The moment we are out of earshot Saul tells me what just happened.

As Saul approached them a few minutes earlier the 19-year-old was telling his mom he wanted the painting of the two men kissing.

“But what will the guys think at the frat?” his mom asked worriedly.

“I’ll keep it in my room,” he replied but his mother was not reassured.

“But what if you have a girl over?” she pressed on. “She might not understand. She might not think you are straight.”

“Maybe I’m not straight?” he replied. “Is it okay if I tell you I I’m bi?”

This last question is not asked in defiance or anger. It is an honest plaintive question from a boy to his mother.

And now that Saul tells me this I understood the expression on his mother’s face.

It was not a look of horror.

It was a look of wow this really happening right here and right now.

Her hopes for her son’s future were changing right before her eyes.

As the rain continued the two kept deliberating. I could see the mother wanted her son to take something anything but that overtly intimate painting. It was all happening just too fast for her.

“What about this one?” she asks trying to get me on her side.


“Um…I think that one will really confuse people,” I tell her honestly.

Finally, they leave with their choice carefully wrapped in several layers to protect it from the weather and maybe from a few other things.

“Your father doesn’t have to know what’s inside” she whispers to her son conspiratorially.

And they leave a blank space on the wall where two men joyfully kissing used to be.


Hope: (n): a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

What we hope for constantly changes.

I thought a cleaning lady would bring me my longed for sense of home but instead it came from a fiance  with a beard and a brave talent who liked household items to stay in their right and proper place.

Saul hoped for an artist reception full of successful art buyers with lots of money but instead he got a rainy night where his art inspired a boy to tell his truth to his mother.

The mother hoped for happiness for her son and may have helped him take a step towards it but not in the way she hoped for.

And her son hoped to find intimacy and found it–but probably not quite the way he imagined.

In the end hope is an illusion no more real than that paint and canvas is flesh and blood. And whenever our hopes are realized we discover they are more fluid and elusive than we thought and only seem to give birth to more hope.

So maybe instead of spending so much precious energy desiring those “certain thing to happen”, maybe we could spend just a little more time wallowing in what we already have…

A son’s courageous truth

A mother’s achingly honest relationship

Saul’s evocative talent.

And my loving home.


Because  in the end….what we have is so very precious and so very fragile.

About the author: Keith Hoffman writes a blog and is looking for someone to clean his home twice a month…or not.  





My apartment has been invaded on several fronts.

In the past few months I’ve been plagued with mosquitoes, mice and a fiancé—all wanting to share my space.

Let’s start with the mice….

Saul (the aforementioned fiancé) and I thought it was just an adorable little mouse.

He would slyly pop his head out from behind the bookcase or joyfully sprint along the baseboard leaving a trail of whimsy (and a few mouse droppings) along the way.

Jerry-mouse“I Love Our Apartment!” 

“I don’t mind him do you?” Saul asked as we watched him giddily scamper into the closet. “He’s kind of cute.”

“I agree,” I replied feeling a bit smug that my fiancé and I valued ALL life. We were the power couple of rodent lovers.

We didn’t make the connection at the time the crazy women from Grey Gardens also valued all life and the result was raccoons living in their guest rooms.

72946452Saul and Me circa 2022

We soon learned that there is no such thing as “a mouse”. I’m not sure why there is a word for just one of these furry fiends. Where there is one mouse there are several mice. Those things apparently mate like hippies at a Woodstock concert.

I think we all know what these two are going to end up doing tonight….

I began by catching and releasing them—I actually caught two who seemed to be good buddies and walked several blocks to release them to a life of frolicking in a field. It wasn’t one of those moving moments you see in YouTube video where the monkeys or elephants cry as they see sunlight for the first time…I clumsily pried open the metal box and screamed as the mice scrambled away in terror and ingratitude without a single look over their shoulders thanking me for saving their lives. .

And to make matters worse—the other mice caught on that the trap was actually….well … a trap. No amount of cajoling them that an endless supply of peanut butter and cheese was awaiting them inside would convince the stubborn little buggers to enter the one way maze . They mocked me as they ran across my floor at just the perfect moment to frighten the wits out of me or peeped their head out of my shoe as if to say, “I’m so cute and indestructible aren’t I?”


I soon became like Hemingway—not because of my writing skills but my desire to hunt and kill. I bought supposedly humane electric traps that the Amazon description said felt like a warm hug as they electrocuted the life out of the wily pests . My house became an insane asylum for rodents who went in for shock therapy but never came out.

ZAP!  squeak…..

I actually think I saw a tear run down the face of the St Francis of Assisi statue perched on my kitchen shelf.

st francisTears of Heaven

Saul went on the murderous rampage ride along with me but was probably the only person I knew who would pray for their tiny mouse souls before we tossed their bodies in the trash.

The mosquitos were another story.

Saul HATES mosquitoes.

I mean nobody likes mosquitos but Saul HATES mosquitoes. Every bite is taken as a personal affront. And I’ve detected in his tone more than once the ever so slight accusation that I am personally responsible for all the mosquitos in Brooklyn—not the infamously stagnant Gowanus Canal that runs through the heart of my neighborhood, but my tiny bird bath and one-gallon watering  can (that he earnestly  dumps out every time I carelessly turn my back).  He has repeatedly  informed me that the thimble full of water in my backyard rain collector can  be a potential breeding ground for several thousand larva.

bearGround Zero

“This one got me right between my shoulder blades where I can’t  even reach to put on Benedryl.  I know it did it on purpose!” has been the sound I’ve awoken to so many mornings that I now crave a cup of coffee when I hear it.

Each wound on Saul felt like an attack on me and I became defensive every time I heard that familiar pesky buzz near my ear in the middle of a hot summer night.

Luckily my friend Sara helped me with this divisive issue. She is sensitive to mosquito bites too. She informed me that these following responses to mosquito bites are not acceptable:

  • Toughen up! They  are part of life!
  • Wherever we move there will be mosquitos.
  • You are not the only person in the world who has been bit by a mosquito.
  • Again I have to hear about this??

I thought I was helping Saul get stronger but Sara informed I was only helping him get angry at me. She suggested a simple “I’m sorry.  Let’s go find that mosquito and kill it!”

It seemed kind of dumb and simplistic to me but by god it worked!

The amazing thing was I didn’t even really have to mean it! I just said the words and pretended to look around a bit and it seemed to sooth Saul.

You are welcome to steal that tip for your own use.

Do not try this droll remark at home

Which leads me to the largest, most talkative and beardiest of these invasive creatures…


It’s not that Saul is such a horrible awful person. It’s just I’ve lived by myself for 18 years and have become a little set in my ways.

I mean there are certain things I like to do every single morning such as read 1 page from 12 different books in a personally specified order. These books range from the Bible (if people are going to use it against me I want to know what it says—we Catholics were always told to leave it to the nuns and priest to read), to Shakespeare to books on the Civil War and Presidents and of course a few Broadway books thrown in for fun

A little light reading (unless you  carry them in your luggage on vacation)

Oh and after I’m done reading I like to straighten the apartment by going from room to room using an elaborate counting system that determines what gets cleaned first and taking a sip of coffee for a reward after each room is straightened.

As you can see s there is nothing odd about my life—it’s just an ordinary OCD existence.

But I am finding that when you let someone in intimately , they seem to have opinions about these normal everyday things.

Saul doesn’t mind the book-reading—it’s one of the few things in the world that keeps me quiet and it gives him time to have his morning coffee in peace.

He did once ask me what would happen if I didn’t read my 12 pages from 12 different books in the morning.

“Why would I ever miss a reading??” I answered in what I thought was a rather calm voice to the outrageous question but apparently my loud shrill laugh that followed unnerved him enough not to suggest such a scenario again.

I enjoyed my everyday PERFECTLY NORMAL rituals and I also enjoyed the lived-in look of my home. Sure my drawers were messy to the outsider but I knew exactly where everything was (most of the time—say 8 out of 10 times). I enjoyed leaving my clothes to land where they may when I tossed them off after a long day of work and was always sure to pick them up and put them away (or at least hang them at the foot of the bed) the next morning (under the guidelines of the counting system SEE ABOVE)). I liked playing my Broadway show tunes loudly and watching Good Morning America (I never forgave Matt Lauer for how he treated Ann Curry and switched over from my 30-year allegiance to the Today Show) and I liked falling asleep on the couch if I wanted to without someone in my bed wondering why I was being aloof.

81dc8262ce9fb6481e3b7402146dc1dbNever Forget

But there was something missing in my life that I couldn’t deny—it’s what I call The Light Bulb Moment. This moment is nothing like Oprah’s Aha Moment although I wouldn’t mind if it caught on and became as poplar as that as long as I was credited.

My Light Bulb Moment happened in my 20’s when I moved out from my wonderful cousin Melissa’s apartment in New York where she had so graciously let me live with her throughout my formative first years in the city. It was a tough move but one I had to do. I was moving into a teeny rundown one-room apartment with rats in the hall (not nearly as cute as the aforementioned now deceased mice), and it was my first place that I lived in all by myself.

My first week there, I walked into my bathroom and turned on the light switch only to find that nothing happened. The light bulb was burned out.

And that was the moment I realized there was no one to tell. There was no one to whom I could casually say, “The light bulb in the bathroom’s burned out.”

I didn’t need someone to fix it but I was used to sharing the trivialities of being alive with another person. I had been used to having a witness to even the most minor details of my life but now they were my experience alone. It was not important enough news to share at work or anywhere else in my social world —at least if I wanted to be thought of as an interesting person.

And now these many years later Saul was about to become my new Light Bulb Buddy.

We had been spending about five out of the seven nights each week together already so this wasn’t going to be that much of a change.

At least that’s what everybody said.

But there was a difference and it felt like a big one. Now if, (God forbid,) it didn’t work out, it wouldn’t simply be, “It’s not you. It’s me. I think we need to take a little break.” It would be “I need you to  find somewhere else to live by the end of the month. If not, everything is going on the curb.” It was hard to say those words in a kind nurturing way and I was starting to feel the pressure of these increased consequences.

And it didn’t help that smack dab in the middle of that week before Saul moved in I decided to kill my cat.

Let me explain.

Her paw had become infected and she was twenty-years-old which in human years is well…dead really. She didn’t clean herself anymore and wore her matted smelly fur like she was a decrepit old lady in a tattered bathrobe that just didn’t give a fuck how she looked anymore. And although she tried her hardest to pee within the boundaries of the cat box, she usually ended up completely and utterly missing her mark. It was sad and maddening to watch her best intentions go awry as she good-naturedly sprayed all over the tiles of the floor two or three times a day. ‘

But I swear that wasn’t why I decided it was time to put her to sleep.

She was listless and seemed to forget she had eaten immediately after she had eaten. And now the infected paw seemed to be the last straw so I got my fiancé and my dog/cat sitter Jaminson and carted all three to the vet’s office for one final visit.

As Greta lay on the metal exam table in the too-brightly lit room like an old stuffed animal that had been left in the rain and was waiting for the trash heap, it seemed clear as to what the next steps should be. Saul and I looked at each other with a resigned determination to do the right thing.

Then Jaminson who up until then had been standing silently in the corner, suddenly began visibly sobbing before blurting out, “PLEASE DON’T DO IT! PLEASE GIVE HER MORE TIME. I’M NOT READY FOR THIS YET!”

I literally had to have him escorted out of the exam room by Saul so I could reevaluate my options.

Did I let my cat live that afternoon out of compassion and intuitive wisdom or was it crippling codependence so Jamison would stop begging while smoking (and I think drinking wine from his sippy cup) in front of the vet’s office?

I’m not sure I’ll ever really know.


Saul Petting Greta Who is Living To See One Or Two More Days

The next day as Greta meowed hungrily food and slept contentedly on her favorite chair and even begin cleaning herself again (had she realized that was no ordinary visit to the vet and she better step up her game?), I felt a sharp stab of anxious guilt.

And more than anything I was exhausted.

The responsibility of making a life and death decision for this little creature that I have loved and protected for 20 years of was hitting me hard.

“Purr. Purr Purr. Isn’t it a beautiful day?” She seemed to be saying. “I wouldn’t have missed this for anything!”

Living life not in a vacuum was a bitch.

But now that vacuum was about to be filled with yet another tender life.

And he had drawn a floor-plan-for-two of my tiny bachelor apartment.

Here is a bit of advice to any of you who may be contemplating moving in with someone.

When one of you lives in New Jersey on one side of Manhattan and the other lives in Brooklyn on the other side of Manhattan, DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT plan on moving the day Manhattan is pretty much closed off to traffic because every major leader of every country is at some meeting at the United Nations.

Saul and I have had a history in the car and it wasn’t always pretty.

We love road trips but took issue with our competing apps.

“Why does yours say to go that way? Mine says to go through the Lincoln Tunnel!”

“Well mine says to take the FDR Drive and maybe she knows something yours doesn’t”

We speak as if they are real people giving us directions and believe the other one’s “person” is a either sadistic bully or really bad at giving directions. If I would venture to say Saul hates anyone on this earth it would be the “lady” on my phone.

It’s not like either of us researched for years or even minutes before downloading the perfect driving app—they were chosen by chance and maintained by habit but by god we were sticking to our guns.

I will spare everyone the details of our misguided maze into the Nine Circles of Hell otherwise known as midtown Manhattan on a Saturday afternoon but will leave you with the image of being mired at 57th and 8th Avenue with a large menacing bulldozer continuously circling our tiny car as we fumed inside–each mentally blaming the other for the mess we had somehow gotten ourselves into.

“I think if we had gone the way I said….”

Luckily it’s uncomfortable and claustrophobic to commit murder in a Mini Cooper so both of us survived.

That night I was somewhat relieved to have gotten through the first day and secretly looking forward to eight hours of shuteye without having to deal or communicate with another person.

Then I woke up in the middle of our first official night together to find Saul rummaging through the bedroom frantically looking for his iPod touch.

He had woken up suddenly realizing he didn’t know where it was and couldn’t wait until morning to search for it. And he somehow didn’t think rustling through a stack of papers a mere inches from my right ear would in any way disrupt my sleep.

“YOU ARE ACTING CRAZY!!” I screamed at him thoughtfully.

Oh and FYI—anther tip…yelling at someone that they are acting crazy does not seem to calm them down.

Let’s just say the peace and relief of the first night disintegrated quickly much like a tissue in a rainstorm

We found the IPod touch a few days later. Someone (allegedly me) had thrown it in a bag of stuff they (me) were planning on going through at a later date (never). I pretended I was the hero in finding it and Saul gamely went along with the ruse.

But that second day when Saul finally was moved in—that Sunday evening—the apartment looked surprisingly cozy and not cramped at all. Sure we had no actual doors except to the outside and the bathroom, but we used our collective Suspension of Disbelief to convince ourselves that curtains were almost the same thing.

We cooked our first meal together as cohabitants. Then we did the 7-Minute Workout together (I did it twice in a row but who’s counting?) and watched Cagney and Lacey (my choice) before reading aloud to each other from some inspirational and spiritual books.

It was pretty much my dream couples night.

Every Couple Needs Other Couple Friends

Then Saul happened to see online that the first night of the Blood Moon started in ten minutes.

Now up to that point I didn’t’ even really know what a Blood Moon even was but it suddenly felt essential and urgent to see it. I mean at my age one’s rare sighting opportunities start to have more meaning.

Saul and I ran outside to the front of the brownstone where my…or rather our usually quiet Brooklyn block was full of people standing in pairs or with their children looking up at the night sky in silent awe.

As the moon began to disappear as if by some master illusionist’s slight of hand, we were all literally and collectively moonstruck.

Blood-Moon-350143That’s Amore

There is something quite bonding when a group of people who are usually so disconnected and scattered come together for one purpose—especially when the purpose is as mysterious and enchanting as the moon.

And was that what Saul and I were doing?

Were we coming together as we looked into the mystery of building a life together—battling mosquitos and giving old cats a little while longer to enjoy this life…figuring out the best path to take and dealing with the detours sometimes with grace but more often not…setting traps for mice while gingerly trying to negotiate the emotional snares of living with someone you love?

I don’t know why it so much easier to hurt and be hurt by the person you love most dearly. What I am beginning to learn is that as we create this new life together, we both need to be aware of each other’s wounds—those wounds that were festering long before we ever met—and to avoid at all possible costs picking at those wounds even if it if it means “losing” the argument.

But tonight it was all about the moon and appreciating the unexpected magic that comes our way.

One by one people returned back to their homes .

And Saul and I took each other’s hand and returned to ours.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Keith Hoffman and his partner Saul now use the mutually agreed upon Waze driving app. Their cat Greta is still alive (at least at the moment he is typing this).

bl greta end



third wheel