LIAMI final coverIs it really true that you wrote this book while living in a storage unit?

I wrote the monologue in the storage unit – Life in a Marital Institution (20 Years of Monogamy in One Terrifying Hour). The book I wrote in a couple of different houses and apartments, after the lease on my storage unit ran out.

 

How does one end up writing in a storage unit?

I was living in a very expensive coop apartment in New York City, when I finally accepted the material limitation that to pursue my dream of writing autobiographical stories, I needed more time, and to have more time I needed to lower my expenses.

LIAMI final coverI’m standing on the sidewalk in Blue Hill, a tiny town in upstate New York, hands cupped around my eyes, peering through the plate-glass window of a Victorian house that’s been converted into a café, like a thief, or a real estate agent, or—given the crazed reflection looking back at me from the plate glass— an ex-husband spying on his ex-wife. All of which I may become. But first, I need to eat. I’m insane with hunger, having driven around for three hours now, since shortly after breakfast, trying to find food my wife, Jane, will allow our two young boys to eat. So that I can eat.

Please explain what just happened.

I just followed instructions, hoping that obedience will be rewarded. (I’m still in the “Are You My Mother?” stage of emotional development. Plus, my father was a decorated bomber pilot who taught me, through terror and osmosis, the power of an “I was just following orders,” duty-driven life: it exonerates you of all emotional responsibility!)

When I was in Edinburgh one summer, performing my monologue in the Festival Fringe, there was a remarkable work of conceptual theater called The Smile Off Your Face. The stage manager for my show had texted me late one night, “I just saw the smile on your face and I loved it!” Me being a monologist i.e. perhaps self-absorbed, as well as a bit randy, I thought she had seen the smile on my face, and wanted to see more. But when I texted her back to continue the flirtation I made the somewhat embarrassing discovery that she loved The Smile Off Your Face (the correct name of the show), not the smile on my face, and that she was suggesting I see the show, not that we have illicit relations.

Here’s how the show worked: you sat in a wheelchair, blindfolded, and got rolled around some space whilst different people, male and female, asked you to feel their Adam’s Apple (awkward, if you are straight) or whispered lascivious double-entendres in your ear (awesome, if you are straight) or stood you up and pushed you backwards onto a bed and asked, “Are you in love?” (horrible, if you are married and your marriage is on the rocks). At the end of the show, back in the wheelchair, someone removed my blindfold, and I stared at a man who told me, “Please put a big smile on your face. Now, whatever you do, keep smiling.” As I am obedient (see above), I obliged. Then I was wheeled away from him, slowly, backwards. And he started crying, weeping really, tears streaming down his face. This raised the conundrum: Do I honor my word and keep smiling? Do I empathize and stop smiling? Or do I feel manipulated and tell him, Are you kidding?

It was very confusing. I kept smiling, thinking, Are you my mother?