In Crying Frodo #3.3, the reader is asked to assign a monetary value to 20 objects that are either worthless or priceless, and to consider their accompanying narratives when making those choices. This issue asks the questions: What is the worth of any object? Does an object with a personal history become more or less valuable? The reader is presented with a random selection of price stickers, which are impossibly limiting. The exercise is both honorific and destined to failure.
I have a new short story — “Your Heart Does for Me What Hope Does for You” — in the recent issue of The Outrider Review, a quarterly art and literary journal that features writers and artists exploring gender and identity, this one with cool cover art by J. Marcus Weekley. –>
“Shell and I climb out the window onto the fire escape when the apartment is so hot that we can’t sleep and we can no longer stand it. We put a bowl of ice in front of a fan, but that’s a joke. We eat pints of strawberry Häagen Dazs until our bellies are miserable, and the bodega thinks we are lunatics. Finally, we put the mattresses on the roof and cover ourselves with bed sheets soaked in cold water from the shower.”
Crying Frodo 3.2 delves into the rhythmic patterns of language observed during the bonus rounds of daily reruns of The $25,000 Pyramid, and then recreates and re-imagines the focused, intentional trains of thought that lead to a winning outcome. With emphatic concentration and unexpected links from one idea to another, a mental picture is observed and named. Using simple lists adhering to the rules of the original game show, this issue is a minimalist meditation, a reflection, a non-ironic reverie.
In 1997, I arrived in New York to begin my adult life, and the same week my would-be roommates had adopted two ten-week old kittens, siblings from Brooklyn. Bean was the shyer of the two, the more-strange, the most enigmatic. She liked tiny pieces of Brie. She chirped a tiny meow, a bless you, when anyone sneezed. And she was totally obsessed, for many years, with a catnip-infused crinkly frog toy which she knew I kept hidden in a kitchen drawer.
When I moved from Queens to Brooklyn, she was suddenly sharing the house with her brother and our other male cat. They ganged up on her — typical big brother bullies — and she spent a couple of years, very literally, hiding under a bed and coming out only to snuggle if the house was totally silent. The boys eventually passed away, and for the last fourteen months Bean has enjoyed, or rather flagrantly and luxuriously reveled in, finally being the Queen of her Queendom. We called her the Queen Bean from the beginning, actually. It is fitting, and I think not surprising, that she outlasted them all.
She was so reclusive and sensitive, anyone who she let pet her, well, they felt like they’d won a prize. (As many of you know, her presence in the house was sometimes mythological.) When I think of the 17 years spent with this peerless little lady, all tiny, barely five pounds of her, I know that my life has been richer and more meaningful thanks to her odd, delicate company. I am inconsolable and I am grateful.
I began working with Circus Amok in the late 1990s, volunteering whenever I could; setting up, passing out programs. Soon after I began appearing at every show, carrying, loading, fixing, making duck quack sound effects as needed.
Circus Amok eventually became the center of my entire queer weirdo community. I’d moved to New York City (a little, but totally unconsciously) to find a life filled with artists, doers and activists—and the electricity of those things overlapping.
A Circus Amok season—like the energy of each performance—is sometimes an overwhelming blur. We move our bodies and our props from very literally one end of the city to another, thirteen-hour days punctuated only by permit surprises, twisted ankles, embracing audiences, applause.
When I remember the details, I can only sometimes tell you if it was 2006 or 2012—but I can fix the images in my mind and then tell you that we were in Marcus Garvey Park, or Coney Island, Tompkins Square or Bedford Playground. In this way, my sense of home in this city has been extended. In fact, when I try to picture myself having not intersected with Amok so many years ago, there is no version of me that I can, or want to imagine.
I love the moment the show begins, the alertness, the tension as we countdown to go. I believe that the momentum that the performance creates is a physical, tangible thing. It washes out over the crowds, in waves of anger and joy, across the the concrete and bits of grass on which we’ve set up our made-just-for-you spectacle.
The show always opens with stilts, for practical and aesthetic reasons: The stilts take a longish time to put on and take off, and you need something big and explosive to start an outdoor show that will grab the attention of the audience. Then the show moves into a manufactured mayhem—the band plays jerking, crashing, sounds and everyone in the ring begins to flail about, as if some uncertain doom is imminent. I run a microphone out to Jennifer for her welcome speech, and we’ve taken to kissing each other at the moment of the hand off. It’s one of my favorite rituals, both personally, and for what it does theatrically. A tiny pause, a beat of love in the midst of the chaos.
Circus Amok has made me a better writer, a better artist. It has given me a welcoming, challenging space to push my imagination, to conceive possibilities, to work collaboratively. Every season, Circus Amok asks me to become a more genuine version of myself—it allows for that, and it also demands it. I appreciate the irony that in order to do this we first adorn ourselves with wigs and makeup, fabulous feathers and sumptuous sequins. We arm our acrobats with cardboard ice cream cones. We stuff clowns inside of giant papier mache elephants. We present exaggerated, towering, cartoonish versions of our beloved, complicated New York.
I love the after, too—the striking, the packing, the smeared make up. During the season I sleep soundly. Every morning I wake with my pillow covered in glitter.
There are two more weekends, showtimes and locations are here.