The Me Boys.


Shortly after they got together, Clark and Tim decided to dedicate their lives to pleasure.

Fully embracing the lazy dictum that perception is reality, they began to see the world through rose-colored eyes. Everything good became great. Every meeting was phenomenal . Every new cocktail sensational, every bar heavenly, every workout mind-blowing, every friend the most precious, every party the most fun ever, every barbecue was blessed with the most perfect sunset. In fact, every day gave evidence they were the specific beneficiaries of a beneficent nature.

But there was a little planning too.

The charities they supported were all good causes but also had good fund-raisers. Doing good did not preclude a good time. Nothing enhanced the flavor of barbecued shrimp with cilantro sauce like helping Honduran immigrants find living accommodation.

An iPhone, quickly snapped, sent their experiences to Facebook.

They became Facebook Boswells, effusive chroniclers of themselves, one wonderful time after another. Bars, restaurants, cities, parties, now weddings, football games merged in one smiling photo op.

All this, of course, was dependent on income. These were not Ira Gershwin’s “Plenty of Nothin’” pleasures. You needed plenty of somethin’.

Those unbelievable watering holes, those fabulous restaurants, that stunningly thin veal scallopine, the theater weekends in New York tracking Stephen Sondheim productions and Neil Patrick Harris: cost-a-packet.

But Clark and Timmy were not alone. Their friends seemed to fly at the same altitude of fun and fundedness. No kids to support, and everyone had successful careers. But there was never mention of their jobs.

It was impossible to know what anyone actually did.

Work was a second, less important life. Being continually on the move (JFK to ORD 9:15, fabulous stewardess, great omelette) entertained and reporting it was their real vocation. They were Type Es, not Type As. And they didn’t need GQ or Vogue to feature them.  They had the internet and could bear witness to each other’s internet celebrity.

Andy Warhol may have promised that all Americans would be famous for 15 minutes. But the internet took that promise and extended it.

Clark and Tim and friends shared more than the same notion of the good life. They shared similar gym-trained bodies. No longer exactly young, but toned and tanned enough for pictures by the various pools they appeared in or around together. Men and women shared the same big smiles, as if a key light was trained on their camera-turned faces.

This was the good life without the dark bits. AIDS no longer casted a shadow. Drugs were not a big presence. Being and looking healthy, working out and being buff, wearing nice clothes and smiling for the camera—narcissism—that was their drug. The thing is, you could never rest. You always have to be on the lookout for the next event, the next unadulterated pleasure, the next photo op.

Living for pleasure, in public, is a life’s work.


Sonny Burns.


“I need ten thousand dollars.”

“How are you, Sonny?”

“In a week you will have $30,000, I swear on my mother’s tits”, said Sonny Burns. This was meant to express sincerity.

“Where are you, Sonny?” Bob asked. The phone answered. Crackle. Hiss. Bob shouted down it.


“I’m out of town,” said Sonny Burns, which meant he was out of touch: in Los Angeles, London, New York, Mexico, on Mars or around the corner. He was a ghost. He could be dead. You never knew where he was or when he would, suddenly, come back to life. It was always when he wanted something: in this case, investors.

As usual he was high on of his latest discovery.

“Forget Panama Red, Acapulco Gold—this stuff is better. It’s unbelievable, man. With your first toke you’ll be You’ll be three feet off the ground. I can get POUNDS. I’ve got a buyer for every oz I can get. It’s a no brainer. But I have to move fast or it’s gone.  I need the money yesterday.”

Two weeks and several empty bank accounts later we sat watching the silent phone.  And sat. Could our pal have forgotten? Was he having a party without us? Or was he really dead this time? Had someone found his sincerity insincere?

The days passed. We felt aggrieved, then worried and, finally, murderous.  If by any chance Mr Burns was living up to his name, old friend or not we wanted to kill him. Or at least frighten him into picking up the phone.

Bob was from a small town in Massachusettes. He was a tough boy but sounded like the Stage Manger from Our Town. I’m from the Bronx. I sound like it. It had to be me.

I practiced my De Niro, John Garfield and Paul Muni, I tried a little Broderick Crawford from Highway Patrol. I even tried Brando, the Brando from One-Eyed Jacks, but nobody can really do Brando without sounding like a parody of Brando except Marlon.

In the end I went for Muni. Muni was a short guy but had big intensity.

Muni’s voice could be a sneer: low and threatening, with a nicely foreign mittel-european edge to it. His whispers were like paper cuts. You didn’t know you were bleeding to death until you saw the blood. None of the histrionics of Pacino, no volume, but a more latent insanity. Or so I hoped.

And dialed the number.

I talked slowly, formally, deliberately, almost solicitously, with pauses to give him time to worry. “Is this Mr Sonny Burns?”

“Who’s this?”

“Mr Burns (PAUSE) a mutual friend has asked me to call you and suggest (PAUSE) suggest you get in touch with him soon. Very soon. (PAUSE) You understand what I am saying? You know to whom I refer? Of course you do. You are a very smart man, Mr Burns, and will undoubtedly do the (PAUSE) smart thing, won’t you? Then you won’t hear from me again. And that will be good. (PAUSE) You have a nice life, Mr Burns.”

A few hours later the silent phone rang.  Sonny’s voice wasn’t on edge, it was over it.

“What the fuck is going on? I was just about to call you. I got the money, just like I said. Everything was fine. Just a little hold up. Everything’s cool. You’ll have the cash tomorrow. There’s no problem. There is no problem, right?”

“How are you, Sonny? No, Sonny, there is no problem, now.”