Michael Thomas joins me today to give us a taste of Todd Eisenbraun, the hero of Kiss Me Straight. Todd's an international kind of guy, a flight attendant with a wicked sense of humor, and he's agreed to answer a couple of questions.
My name is Todd Eisenbraun, and I’m a flight attendant for a big international airline, based in San Francisco. Actually my name is Walter Todd Eisenbraun, but only my dad calls me Walter. And I really wish he wouldn’t.
How old are you?
I’m starting to come to grips with the fact that I’m thirty. Which is probably a good thing, since I’ll be thirty-five on my next birthday.
How did you come by your current occupation?
I needed the hell out of Ogallala, Nebraska is how. I studied French and Spanish in college, and Globe Runner Airlines was hiring Spanish speakers for their flight attendant base in Buenos Aires.
Do you like your job? Why or why not?
It’s a living. I loved it when I started! We had a blast in Argentina, and the Hong Kong base was good fun for a couple years. I’m always down for a good time on my layovers—Sydney’s a blast!—but lately I’m starting to wonder if I really want to be so far away from my friends in San Francisco all the time, you know? But my rent won’t pay itself, and I love how much time off I get at Globe Runner. I can rock out the First Class galley like nobody’s business, and I’m still a great flight attendant. As long as you keep me away from the people.
Who is the person you dislike the most?
Bobby Dutta! Just kidding. He’s a great guy. Who needs to keep his hands to his damn self.
Who is the person you respect the most?
My little brother Bertie. I don’t always understand him, and our lives are very different, but he stands by his values, and he challenges me to stand by mine.
Is there anyone special in your life?
You know there’s a whole book about how nuts I am about this guy Josh, right?
What’s your favorite meal, and do you fix it yourself or have someone fix it for you?
Anything made by my friend Chris. He’s the chef at our friend’s café, and he’s a genius. And the boy can eat, too…
Football or baseball?
Definitely baseball. Way better butts on baseball players.
I ride my bike out to Ocean Beach every once in a while, just because I grew up in Nebraska and I think it’s pretty cool that I live close enough to the ocean to ride my bike to it. And hiking up to the Great Wall of China in the middle of the night on a Beijing layover turned out to be pretty rewarding.
My family makes a pretty big deal out of Christmas. It’s a good excuse for me to home, and time with my brothers is cheaper and more fun than therapy.
Chris has brought an awful lot of Judy Garland into my life. She sings, “The only bridge that’s a real gone bridge is the bridge across the Bay to San Francisco.” Pretty hard to argue with that.
“So,” I said, not beating around any bushes, “tell me about this new guy.”
“Oh, he’s wonderful!” she gushed. “He came into the café the other day, and we got to talking. He’s an incredible sweetheart, and I think he’s got some talent. So I offered him a job,” she told me, “I want for you to meet him. I think you and he just might hit it off, Todd.”
“Katie mentioned that you might have something like that up your sleeve,” I told her. She flashed the briefest cross expression at Katie for spoiling her big idea. “You’ve never had a man behind the counter that I wouldn’t willingly marry,” I went on, “and you know my taste, so I am sure I would be delighted to meet him.”
“Oh, Chris won’t be counter help,” she said. “He’s my new chef, and I have only the highest hopes.”
And he’s a chef. This keeps sounding better. “But whatever happened to your motto?”
Marzipan flashed another look at Katie, this one slightly guilty. “Which motto is that, darling?”
“‘Never trust a skinny chef,’” I reminded her.
“Todd, those are words to live by. Chris is no one’s vision of skinny. In fact, he’s rather … abundant.” It took her a second to land on the exactly right euphemism, I couldn’t help but notice.
“Abundant.” She sipped her tea, not meeting my eye.
“You mean he’s fat?”
“I mean he’s positively a treasure, and the more of him, the better,” she said, without contradicting me.
“But I’m into skinny guys,” I pointed out.
Groans from both Marzipan and Katie. “Todd,” Katie insisted on reminding me, “You’re into unattainable guys. You’re into torturing yourself over straight guys and men who live three continents away.”
It is a particularly prickly thorn in the side of many of my friends, including these two, that I spend much of my free time whining about being single, and yet I seem unable to break free of a counterproductive and irresistible attraction to straight men. I mean, I’ve been out of the closet for years, to all of my friends and my conservative small-town family, and I live in the city known throughout the world as the Center of the Gay Universe. I am more confident in my looks and comfortable in my skin than I was when I was a hunky twenty-two-year old new hire — in an industry, no less, where to even get close to a straight guy, I have to push three or four hot gay guys out of my way. And yet, surrounded by eligible gay men, I throw myself again and again at guys who invariably have to sit me down and explain how they’re flattered, but …
Ignoring Bobby Dutta’s taunts of internalized homophobia and Katie’s diagnosis of a Fear of Intimacy, I prefer to think I just like a challenge. After all, if a man’s worth loving, he must be worth some psychic torment, mustn’t he?
Marzipan arched an expertly-plucked eyebrow at me. “Do you suppose,” she asked, “you might be able to overlook something like your waist size preference if the otherwise-perfect man came along? I think you might really like this guy, Todd. He struck me. He’s handsome, sweet, funny, he’s an excellent cook.”
“And,” Katie chimed in, “unlike the last fifty guys you’ve chased around the world, he’s gay.”
Okay, she did have a point there. The idea of a lean, muscled straight guy renouncing women because he can no longer ignore his smoldering love for me has been my requisite for “Happily Ever After” since I set out after my first straight guy in high school. Traveling the world for a living, I have certainly had my share of one-night stands with straight (and “straight-acting”) guys, a couple of which were fantastically hot. And, at 34, I am decidedly still single. A guy could do a lot worse than the men who usually surround Marzipan.
“You don’t have to become life partners just because I want to introduce you,” Marzipan continued, after I had gone several beats without responding. “I just thought maybe you’d like to sample a new dish from the man buffet that is your life. You can always go back for something else if it doesn’t satisfy.”
A dyed-in-the-wool monogamist, Katie burst out laughing at this description of my dating style. “And it sounds like this Chris guy might be all you can eat!” she cracked, getting into the spirit.
**Michael has a couple of book signings in the Denver Metro area in November:
Michael will read from and sign copies of Kiss Me, Straight at Spark Theater, in the Santa Fe Art District at 985 Santa Fe Drive in Denver, on Saturday, November 24th, from noon to 3. There will be a drawing for prizes, including CDs, Pablo's coffee, and copies of the book!
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