I have HAD It!

One of the recurring themes of my sad, sorry life is my inability to find that ideal sidekick who’s just the right combination of brainiac, goofball, sidekick, hipster, nerd, sexual dynamo, little kid, and muse. Granted, I’m pretty fussy, but I can’t be the only fag in the world whose criteria are so inconveniently eclectic, can I?

Are you wondering if you’re the kind of fella I might like? Browsing around
here in the RumpWeb will certainly give you some idea of the kinds of things
that capture my interest. Of course, you probably wouldn’t even be considering
all this nonsense if the things here didn’t strike a chord with you already.
As far as the looks and style issue is concerned, see if you fit the bill
by checking out the next page for some visual references.

NOTE TO THE OLD-FASHIONED: If you don’t want to think about this sort
of thing, DON’T GO LOOKING AT IT! I’m not saying there’s anything smutty
ahead — there’s definitely not — but there is some pretty strong imagery best left to the eyes of those who care for it, and I don’t want to hear any clucks of
disapproval because you’ve got a hopelessly fifties attitude about my penchant
for other guys.

Continue reading “I have HAD It!”

Shocking Personal Facts About Sparky

Hi boys and girls, I’m Sparky, known to my parents, relatives, co-workers, and many of my pals as Dan Rhatigan. (To my dismay, many of the kinfolk still refer to me as "Danny," the diminutive of my name that I seem destined never to shake.) I’m the egomaniac behind Rumpus Room, and your host for the evening. I am a professional graphic design nerd. I wear much nicer glasses now than the ones you see before you.

Born youngest of six (Irish Catholic — go figure) 1970 in Staten Island, New York, to Betty and George. Had overactive imagination as a child (was convinced for a long time that I really was a superhero, and also set up my room so my Star Wars figures could move around more easily while I slept). Went to St. Sylvester, Regis High School, and Boston University and turned into a real smart alec. Comfortably settling into a new pad in scenic Fort Greene (near Spike’s Joint, for those in the know). Ardent desire to leave the country before Congress really fucks things up here. Gay (and lonely as hell, but that’s another problem altogether), and convinced I came that way — no big deal for me. Listen to inordinate amounts of Ella Fitzgerald, Man or Astro-Man?, David Byrne, Elvis Costello, Brave Combo, Beastie Boys, Squirrel Nut Zippers, and mambo. I’ve got the funk, and I don’t mean I need to take a shower. Have always wanted to tap dance and play the accordion. Never
driven a car in my life.

For a sense of perspective on my life and work, check out the Rumpus Room Manifesto. A lot of my thinking about my life and my goals has changed since that was written a few years back, but the immediacy of it still tells a lot about how I’ve gotten to where I am today. That is to
say, I don’t feel a lot of the frustrations I mentioned quite as accutely as I once did (and I’m not as insufferably whiny), but they set the stage for a lot of growing that I have done since then. But enough of that wishy-washy "feelings" claptrap.

NOTE: I have selfishly refrained from including links to bands and things that interest me, since I’m trying to hold your attention right here for now.

The Rumpus Room Manifesto

Originally written in February 1994.

I tend to feel disenfranchised, outcast, eccentric. I’ve got feminist sensibilities that make me feel guilty because I’m a man. I feel like my manhood is skewed because I’m not a straight man, so I can’t buy into the whole straight, white male cultural elite mindset. I feel alienated from the gay community because I can’t fathom or play the social/power games I see all over it, I bristle at a lot of its affectations, and can’t understand its rituals and customs. I feel separated from my friends for being too weird or not weird enough. I have no lover, so I don’t feel like I belong to a cozy twosome. At work I feel too young or too powerless and impatient.

My vision of the Rumpus Room . . . is to define my place, my sensibilities, my ideas.
Ideally, others will respond, but this project is too personal for me to make concessions for the sake of popularity. I want to use Rumpus Room to explore my philosophy, my humor, my politics, my aesthetic, my abilities.

My vision for the magazine (my marketing vision, my conceptual vision) is to give other people a chance to respond to what’s in Rumpus Room, not allow it to become so half-assed that it becomes accessible to the lowest common denominator.

The rumpus room is a place to gossip, to gab, to argue, to tell jokes, to watch TV, and to play cards and stuff. It’s the rec room, the family room, the living room.

Imagine you’re hearing a low wolf whistle

If you’ve come this far, you should know right off the bat that I’m not holding out for some unearthly hunk that’s so far out of my league that I may as well be playing another sport altogether. Attraction is a delicate balancing act of looks, personality, wit, style, and all that other junk. It’s too hard (and it would be too misleading) for a simple guy like me to try and come up with a bulleted list of stuff that makes me all hot and bothered and sappy and mushy. Of course, I also know what will make me lose track of what I’m thinking if I see it walking down the street. So to give you some idea of what sets my hormone’s a-raging (as far as purely external qualities go), here are a few quick things to look at.

This “Perfect Love” Business Is Horseshit!

I’m pretty convinced of it. I desperately want to believe
that such a thing exists, but I’m immediately suspicious whenever people
claim to have found it. I think they’re deluding themselves.

Don’t get me wrong. I think love is out there — I’ve gotten to play the
game myself a couple of times. I just don’t think love is perfect.
It’s not all goodness and light, chickadees and rainbows. Love at first
sight — the happy, Davey Jones eye-twinkle, babytalk love — is a crock.
It’s lust that somehow manages to make the successful transition to an actual
relationship without too much agony along the way. I think love is made
up of lots of compromise, patience, friction, and the reluctance to just
bag it when the going gets rough.

Even to me, my words sound a little harsh. Although a lot of the last paragraph
is paraphrased from the writings of love guru Leo Buscaglia, it nevertheless
has the stink of the charred hair of someone who’s been burned. I must be
frank — I have been.

I haven’t been burned by love. The couple of times I’ve really felt it,
it’s been good. It wasn’t easy, though — not instinctual, not always enough,
not meant to last forever. Instead, I’ve been burned by the desperate, incessant
search for the elusive perfect love. I’ve been burned by silly romantic
notions and the delusions they create. I’ve been burned by my powerful longing
to love someone, a longing which usually strips me of rational, critical
thought and puts my self-esteem out on the corner to be flattened by a passing
bus. I’ve been burned by people who thought we should just be friends (but
didn’t mean it); by people who just plain blew me off; and by myself all
those times when I saw in someone just the things I wanted to see, only
to be soon enough reminded that I filled in too many of the gaps with my
own imagination.

Like most Americans, I’ve been crippled by all the fodder that our culture
has spewed out on the subject of love. From Shakespeare (or, dare I say,
popular misinterpretations of his work) to Big Top Pee-Wee, with
stops just about everywhere along the way, we are trained to think that
love is easy, to think that conflict and loss are plot complications rather
than real dangers that can rip us apart from each other. We’re trained to
believe that Lois Lane can truly love a big lunk who rarely has a conversation
with her, and that Tony and Maria could love each other truly enough to
die together after one dirty dance and a date in a dress shop. How can images
like these, and every single notion perpetuated by pop music, possibly prepare
normal human beings — man or woman, gay or straight, young or old — for the very real emotional risks and hurdles presented by intimate, romantic
interaction? We are trained that love is both chaste and hot, that sex is
both our right and our shame, that relationships are both the final goal
and the eternal prison, that we should be true to ourselves yet sacrifice
our identities to win another’s affection. What are we to believe? How are
we supposed to muddle through all this fiction? No person has a team of
scriptwriters to identify the one perfect life mate, and that bites.

I’ve not had a lot of luck with dates and relationships and romance. I freely
admit that. I’ve had enough luck, though, to know what I keep missing. Who
can say whether it’s been the successes or the recurring snubs that keep
my foolish romantic optimism alive? I could see a case for either.

In the past, I’ve been lucky enough to feel the flush of infatuation, the
tinglings of burgeoning romance, and the hills and valleys of real love.
("Real love" is a separate entity from "perfect love,"
but that’s a diatribe for another day.) I’ve gone into these episodes with
my head overflowing with all those visions of domestic bliss by which I’ve
been conditioned my whole life. It makes me feel as if I’ve come so close,
so why couldn’t there be the possibility that I just haven’t been lucky
enough yet? The myth might still exist.

At the same time, I know that I’ve been disappointed or hurt a lot in the
past (and certainly will be in the future). At those times, it’s been the
notion that something better must be lurking out there, just waiting to
finally make me happy again, that keeps me going despite the disappointments.
I can be as rational as I want, and keep telling myself that no Prince Charming
is really going to charge in on a white steed to whisk me away to dreamland;
but it’s a tempting enough fantasy to keep alive when there’s little to
keep you company except for the mindcud being churned out of the television
set. I’ve needed the myth to exist.

I could probably write a book about all the reasons I’m such a freakish
loser when it comes to dating. I could probably write a book about why I
think I’m so bad, when I’m probably no more awkward or clueless than anyone
else. What it boils down to, though, is mostly the realization that when
I’m dealing with another person — with his own feelings, scars, and hopes
— I lose control of the situation. In other areas of my life, I’m often
a wonder to behold — confident, intelligent, insightful, forward-thinking,
and efficient. Put me in the same room with someone, though, tell me it’s
a date, and I begin to babble and blather like a moron. I just have no instincts
with interpersonal relationships, and that forever puts me at square one
in that giant Candyland race for love. It can be hard enough to read other
people, but when you have a personal stake in the matter, all the possibilities
for disaster are magnified on an often overwhelming, paralyzing scale. I
never know whether or not someone finds me attractive, and my instincts
fly much further out the window if I’m attracted to that person. If you
throw the possibility of real love into the equation, it gets even worse.
Despite all the dates in all the situations I’ve had, I don’t know how to
act, how to present myself, how to be charming, how to be appropriately
frank or coy. If the whole process is a search, then I’m armed with welding
goggles and soundproof headphones, the map long since discovered to be a

I keep trying to find love, heaven knows. When you get right down to it,
I have entirely too much pluck to give up. As dejected as I get from time
to time, I keep looking, and I keep clinging to the notion that I’ll find
the right guy one day. Maybe not the perfect man, but that’s okay. Perfection
is for movies and television and the simps at American Top 40. I want reality — I
just want the good kind. I want to beat Michael Tolliver’s rule and have
the great job, the fabulous apartment, and the hot lover all at one time,
because I’m worth it, damnit!

Sparky Gets Dissed Again

Over and over, I keep thinking of that one thing you said: "You’re
the last person I want to . . . hurt . . . like this."

I’ve got a fucking news flash for you — TOO FUCKING LATE! You hurt me,
and you hurt me a helluva lot. You hurt me with your cowardice, you hurt
me with your self-absorption. You hurt me because you knew that I was falling
for you harder and harder, and you didn’t have the balls to tell me straight
out that you didn’t feel the same way. You let me continue to feel sorry
for the troubles you were having, and you kept neglecting to hint that maybe
I was one of them. You told me you liked me, and that you liked being with
me, and maybe you did. The fact remains that you didn’t say shit when
your feelings started to change,
even though you constantly dwell on
everything that bugs you.

It was like I had to pull fucking teeth to get you to even suggest that
things weren’t okay. I had to ask what was wrong, and then say the words
for you, only to have you numbly agree. That first time, I felt like I was
completely losing control because you couldn’t even get out a whole sentence.
I had to do all the work, and most of the talking, and you just gave up
and said you wanted to be with me. Couldn’t you just be honest enough to
come out and say it? Why did you have to make me say all those things about
how much I cared about you and about how scared I was about that? When I
told you that appeasing me — sticking around even though you didn’t feel
anything — would be far worse than simply telling the truth about whatever
you felt, why did you do it anyway? What kind of a chickenshit bastard
are you?

The other night, after we spent the whole day together having fun, after
I made you dinner again, what were you thinking when you just picked up
and walked out without so much as a handshake? Were you thinking it would
be easier to just tell a little lie and see how long it would take for me
to put all the pieces together? Maybe it was easier for a coward like
you, but it was a pretty rotten thing to do
to someone who had invested
as much in the relationship as I had. It was pretty rotten to make me call
you and demand an apology and the truth.

The worst part of all this is that I would take you back in two shakes of
a rat’s ass if I thought I had a chance. Your moodiness is a problem I can
deal with — I have with lots of other people before — so that in itself
is not enough to scare me off. If I thought that you could love me anything
like the way I was starting to love, I would set myself up without hesitation.
Maybe you’re fucking screwy, but other than that (maybe because of that?),
you are incredible.

I think that’s what stings the most. I’ve had so much trouble finding all
these nebulous, rare qualities that I value in people, and you had so many
of them. You were offbeat and quietly funny and smart and unpretentious
and fucking beautiful in just the right way. You also had other qualities
that I hadn’t realized I needed so badly in a lover — you made me feel
calm, relaxed, like I could really pull it all together for once. You were
most everything I could have wanted, and now I can’t even think of who else
could pull it off, certainly not how I could even meet someone like that
again. You’re a bastard because you couldn’t feel for me, even though I
"did nothing that was ever wrong." You’re a bastard and a chickenshit
asshole and I want you and I need you and that pisses me off more than I
can really say.

The Painful Truth Is It Might Be Worth It

Written by Mark Scarola

"I merely stir, press, feel with my fingers, and am happy,
To touch my person to someone else’s < br />
is about as much as I can stand."

— Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself"

So, having been informed that the topic of this issue is the ever-elusive
"perfect love" (or, as Winnie-the-Pooh might say, "the emotional
Heffalump"), I sat down and took pen in hand. Oddly, I simply couldn’t
bring pen to paper. At first I thought it might be fear that my current
companion would take offense at something I wrote and abandon me, forcing
me to rewrite the entire essay. That certainly wasn’t the case, so I stared
at the paper for a few minutes, and then it struck me. The problem is that
"perfect love" does not exist.

You see, "perfect love" is an oxymoron. Anyone who has experienced
love can testify that it is awkward and clumsy, ill-timed and clammy, embarrassing
and demeaning, elevating and debasing, and yet there is no greater endeavor.
To expect love to be pure joy and elation is to miss exactly what makes
it so wonderful. Love allows one to experience the full range and scope
of human emotion. The highs give you nosebleeds, and the lows set you up
for the bends. Even the time in between is filled with interesting emotional
spasms. (Personally, I enjoy the moments following a phone conversation,
when I realize I’ve said something very inappropriate, and verbally thrash
myself out loud for the next few minutes.) If one experienced only the euphoria
and not the nagging doubts, then one is not truly in love but truly moronic.
If only the exaggerated moments of self-loathing are explored, then once
again, it is not love but phone sex.

True "lovers" are deaf, blind, and mute. They hear the intonations
of voice and carefully chosen words of their companion, but are unable to
register the meaning of these things, leading them to ask questions like
"What do you think he meant when he said he really likes me?"
and the inevitable follow-up: "Do you think he really likes me?"
One in love sees his lover’s face in microscopic detail, yet is completely
incapable of reading its countenance. "What in the world is she staring
at?" asks the man who cannot fathom that another might find him attractive.
The one in love presumes it is a physical deformity that is being assessed,
rather than the beauty he possesses.

Of course, the greatest disability of a person in love, and the one that
causes the most pain to those who surround him or her, is the inability
to semicoherently express feelings through the use of language. Some try
anyway, which is why we are tortured by such songs as "I Can’t Smile
Without You," "I Honestly Love You," and "Hey, Did You
Happen to See the Most Beautiful Girl in the World?" (not to mention
"Georgy Girl"). A lover who happens to possess a simulacrum of
taste chooses instead to say as little as humanly possible, for fear of
blurting out something like, "Hey, you know, Debbie, I just wanna let
you know that I got all these feelings and stuff that I got for you and
I wanted to let you know because sometimes I think you know but I really
don’t know if you do, so I figured I’d tell you."

Trying to deduce the feelings of your possible mate is perhaps the most
anxiety-provoking part of this enigma we call love. And for those of you
who need a bit of assistance, I offer an ancient piece of wisdom that I
have just recently concocted. My theorem states, "The strength of one’s
feelings towards another is directly related to the number of segues used
in normal conversation with that significant other." One who has been
smitten by another is often over-cautious when approaching a conversation,
especially if the conversation is of no interest to the listener. Rather
than directly stating what needs to be said, the conversation is characterized
by the use of particularly awkward segues. For example:

Woman: I was thinking that we might see a movie tonight.

Man: That sounds good . . . which reminds me that I just saw a preview
for that new John Waters film, Serial Mom, and I got to thinking
that I’d call my Mom because I haven’t talked to her in a while, so I did,
and then I started to feel bad because she hasn’t gone out much since Dad
got his goiter, so I invited her along with us tonight, if you don’t mind.

Here we clearly hear the nervousness and hesitance in the man’s words, because
I would have rewritten it if we couldn’t. His verbal constipation is demonstrative
of his desire to please his companion. Compare this with the speech of a
man who has little concern for his prospective mate’s feelings:

Woman: I was thinking that we might see a movie tonight.

Man: Quit yapping, I’m scratching myself.

My theorem is correct! Just as I would have hoped!

Love is buoyant and unsinkable. No, that was the Titanic. Love, in
fact, is fragile and easily corrupted. Into each relationship we carry the
weight of all our past relationships. We expect love to raise our disenchanted
and world-weary spirits and we simultaneously expect it to heal old wounds.
What it really does is create new and more painful wounds — so painful that
we simply forget about our old scabs, which eventually fall off, leaving
us with only the new ones to tend to. Much like a good parachute jump, love
must be approached with great fear and determination. (Note: the elderly,
those with heart problems, and pregnant women please be warned.) In fact,
love is like falling into a bottomless pit with Astroturf walls: one simultaneously
feels the euphoria of freefall combined with the intense pain of rug burn
when one accidentally brushes the sides.

Despite my obvious wisdom and level-headedness, I would hereby like to let
you know that you should discount all that you have read so far. I’m an
idiot. I know nothing. I’m in love.

It Just Don’t Come Easy

Welcome, humans, to the second fab-u-luxe trip into the depths of the rumpus
room. As promised, this issue is devoted to "The Search for the Elusive
Perfect Love," a topic near and dear to all of our hearts, presumably.
The chat this time has pretty much come to the consensus that love may be
out there, and even be worth the painful efforts to find it, but . . .


All in all, this was one hell of a gripe session to put together. Lots of
folks bagged on their initial promises to write stories, but that’s okay.
Illustrations required hours of thumbing through the books and magazines
littering my overstuffed apartment. Without going into the messy details
(other than the ones you’ll read about in twenty-one pages), I ran the full-scale
of emotions connected with an unsuccessful bid at romance, only to be left
with a good story to vent in the rumpus room. Also, I have found myself
dirt-poor after putting out issue 1.1, which was slower to catch on than
I might have hoped. I don’t even want to get into everything that’s gone
down since my family read the last issue . . .

Bitch, bitch, bitch. I’ll stop wallowing in self-pity now (cut me some slack
— I just woke up to a rainy Saturday morning in a messy apartment) and
get on to the glories of the hot little number you’re holding in your hands.
This time around, I’ve invited a few friends, and even a stranger, to spout
off on the topic at hand. The results are a nice mix of laughs, fun, and
pathos. Like I said last time, this is not for the squeamish or the faint-of-heart:
the personal commentary can get pretty raw. On a lighter note, though, we
have free stickers in every issue! Seven in all! Paste ’em to your
cat, paste ’em on a friend, collect and trade with friends!

Welcome, and remember to wipe your feet at the top of the stairs. There
are some snacks and Cokes on the mini-bar, so help yourselves.