Drag Queens and Hookers and Goldfish, Oh My!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Ever wondered how drag queens get ready for a night on the town?  Or how sadomasochistic male escorts manage their professional lives?  Then do I have a book for you- I'm Not Myself These Days, by Josh-Kilmer Purcell.  This memoir (or at least, I assume it's a memoir, though it was reviewed by the infamous James Frey) tell the story of Josh's early days in New York as a hungover ad agency art designer by day and a drunken, 7'2" tall drag queen named Aqua by night.

Josh, a young man from Wisconsin, comes to New York after graduating from college, ostensibly to start a career in advertising, but really to hit the drag circuit.  Soon he is doing several shows a week in clubs all over town, and in the process becoming a raging alcoholic.  It is at one of these shows that he meets Jack, a handsome young man from California, who turns out to be a make escort specializing in bondage and humiliation.  Let the love story begin!

I know, it doesn't sound like the setting for a love story, but in fact it is.  The story of Josh and Jack is almost cliche in it's ordinariness...if you discount the setting.  They go to dinner, they spend days at the beach, they order in breakfast and read each other the paper-in between sex parties and drag shows.  By the time it starts to go so horribly wrong, you feel almost like their crazy lifestyle might not actually be a bad choice.  I suppose after a while even the craziest of circumstances comes to seem normal.  Eventually the drinking and drug use engaged in by both of them tears them apart.  While that may seem inevitable, the sadness that you feel for them as individuals and as a couple does not.

This is my favorite kind of memoir.  It is told in a very engaging, easy to follow narrative style that just tells the story like it is.  No sentimentality, no pages and pages of deep psychological discussion of why the author chose that particular shade of corset to wear with this fish boobs (yes, he put goldfish in his boobs)-just good ol' storytelling.  Plus Josh is that kind of sarcasti-gay that I adore, and he lays into himself more than anyone else.  At its core, this is the story of a fresh-from-the-closet gay man hanging all his hopes and dreams on New York City, and getting a slap-in-the-face dose of reality instead.  Josh may have felt to big for his small town in Wisconsin, but his brush with the dark side of sex and drugs ensures that the wide-eyed naivete that he arrived with is gone for good.


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