StreetLegalPlay by Kyle Thomas Smith

Graffiti Beater: “Therefore the Purest Form of Art.”

Posted in Uncategorized by streetlegalplay on January 18, 2010

Look, I’m not saying I live in the ‘hood.

For Chrissake, I live on Third Street and even my cats get manicures twice a month!

If anything, this is the nabe.

But this truck has been in front of my house since last week.

Now, I don’t mind it, mind you. I think it gives the neighborhood some much-needed character. I think I’ll even miss it when it’s either towed or moved by the gold-plated, chain-laden owner.

Just look at the Seventies Hindenburg-funk letters! It’s got a helluva lot more soul than the poodle-patrols, charging down these streets on rhinestone-studded leashes.

Reason I took the truck’s picture is that it reminds me of a most thought-provoking slogan that I saw scrawled in Magic marker on Tea Lounge’s red-brick bathroom wall after I packed up from a day of writing this afternoon. (Tea Lounge has the same laissez-faire policy toward its bathroom walls that the New York MTA did with its pre-Nineties subway cars.) This defacing moment of Zen reads as follows:

Bathroom graffiti is done neither for fame nor for profit

And is therefore the purest form of art. Discuss…

Now that’ll make for some serious cawwwfee-tawwwk right there, won’t it? I contemplated it the whole way home as I stepped over poodles and the many little legacies they leave behind them.

I’ll meditate on it still more as I give Giuseppe, the male Kate Moss of comfy kitties, his mani-pedi tonight.

85A (Bascom Hill Publishing, 2010)

Posted in Uncategorized by streetlegalplay on January 17, 2010

I’ve been off the blog for a while but thought I should get back on with some good news.

85A is being published by Bascom Hill Publishing in Minneapolis!

It will be released by May 2010.

This is the new cover (above)!

Bascom loved the original cover (below), which my ingenious friend Joe Flood illustrated with my novice art direction, but they feel that their version has better marketing potential in the current publishing climate.  Either way, Joe’s work will remain enshrined (mounted and framed) in my home office.  Seeing it pulled me through many a hard and hopeless querying day.

The book has gone through many incarnations since I began writing it in January 2008. Most notably, it went from an unwieldy 446 pages to a slim 243 pages.

Writing 85A, not to mention getting it published, has been one of the highlights of my life. Here’s hoping there are more highlights and more books to come from Kyle Thomas Smith (aka, Colin MacGowan and Ethel Moneymaker)!

In my acknowledgments, I thank the following people:

I’d like to thank my partner, Julius Leiman-Carbia, for his endless inspiration and support throughout the writing of this book; the Tea Lounge in Brooklyn for being infinitely patient with me as I sit writing for hours on its couches, almost every day, after ordering only one or two cups of coffee; Mike Levine for his friendship and unqualified backing in tough times; Mark Levine for helping me get published; Rachael Dean Scholes for her friendship, feedback and expertise on all things English; Joe Flood for his artistic excellence; New York Insight and Vajradhara Dharma Center for priceless instruction in meditation and the dharma; the great Geoff Herbach for offering to read 85A; Shell Fischer, Gail Martin, Randy Peyser, Sarah Getty and Rachel Fichter for pivotal editorial support; my illustrious cats, Marquez and Giuseppe, who always let me know I’m aces to them; and my mother, Maureen Ann Smith, for encouraging me to be a writer when it wasn’t even a thought in my mind.

Greenhorn of Africa (Part One)

Posted in Uncategorized by streetlegalplay on October 3, 2009

A New York Navel-Gazer Looks at Botswana, South Africa

and Mozambique by Way of London

By Kyle Thomas Smith

Part One


Today I heard on a podcast that Boyd Varty, son of the Varty family who owns the Londolozi Game Park in South Africa, is writing a memoir. I don’t know the book’s title. All I know is that the opening line is something like, “Come sit by my fire.”

From there, he launches into harrowing tales of walking away in one piece from multiple plane crashes, saving ingénues from crocodiles’ jaws in Brazil, and fending off starving lionesses on his treks through Africa, all before pursuing a career as a boxer in Thailand. At age 20, he fell into a deep depression but came across a sangoma, a witch doctor in an African village, who made some magical incantation that spurred Boyd’s dispirited soul on to a protracted vision quest that would later become the subject of his forthcoming autobiography.

2nd Image Ex-Oficio Clad White-colar

Let me say straight out that this blog post is bound to be less fascinating than the Varty boy’s life. First of all, I was only in Africa for two and a half weeks, most of which was spent in game parks where the chardonnay flowed in rivers every time our jeeps full of retirees and Ex-Officio-clad, white-collar warriors returned to camp from our two daily photographic safaris.

3rd Image Tea LoungeTea Lounge Union

Second, I’m writing this dispatch in the throes of jetlag from my Brooklyn watering hole, the Tea Lounge, which reeks more of Quattro Breves and Turkish Lattes than it does of wild savannah perils.

4th Image Malarone

I’ve also been popping Malarone for the past three weeks, so I can’t even recount fever dreams that I might have otherwise had during bouts of malaria. Besides, late August/early September is winter in the subequatorial regions of Africa and the mosquitoes were either dead or too flaccid to fly when I was out peering at pachyderms. This doesn’t mean it wasn’t hot. Holy shit, the sun could burn right through your binocular lenses, at least in mid-afternoon, but there too, I can’t even bring back field reports of sunburns since I shellacked my pasty Irish skin with enough 50+ SPF Sunblock to shield myself from the greenhouse effect for life.

Cheetahs Julius Kyle

(I’m hardly the danger-seeker Hemingway was. Rather than picking up muskets, Julius and I found ourselves paying a few hundred South African Rand—the equivalent of about 20 US dollars, each—to pet a trained cheetah cub at the southern tip of South Africa.

6th Image green_hills_africa_450h

Papa Hem would have boasted about staring that endangered creature down and laying it low with a single shot, but I have never, will never, and could never hunt a living thing—especially one so (deceptively) adorable. I mean, I can’t even bring myself to preorder flounder from a Long John Silver’s aquarium.

Leopard One

Unlike my fellow spectators at the lodge, I cheered when I watched an impala near Simbambili Lodge outfox a slow-witted leopard. I hope to God my tenderhearted disposition doesn’t ruin my writing career.)

8th Image Londolozi

But one thing I do have in common with the Londolozi author is that I was in the general vicinity of his family’s park when I was on the airstrip en route to Nelstruit and then Cape Town. By sheer coincidence, my hot minute near Londolozi coincided with my guru Martha Beck’s Starlight Safari at the game park, but, alas, she was nowhere to be seen before our four-seat propeller jet took off. (BTW, if you’re a Martha fan too, please note that her beloved beagle Cookie recently passed away, so you might want to send your sympathies to her website.) Anyway, this morning’s podcast inspired me to throw down some notes from our trip, which Julius has been bugging me to post. So here goes, warts and all (almost unabridged):

Kyle and Julius Capetown

****These are only notesraw notestaken straight from a travel notebook I kept. Please forgive the shorthand (e.g., @, &, tho, ~, thru), grammar lapses and paucity of possessive pronouns (e.g., “their,” “mine,” “his,” “hers”) and articles (e.g., “a,” “an,” & “the”).****

Kyle and Julius C. Good Hope

****Many photos are mine & Julius’ but at least as many are lifted from Flickr & other websites. Many images are filler for what we failed to capture as amateur/often inattentive photographers.****

Kyle and Julius Nelson MandelaLion Over Kill

August 21, 2009Soho & Trafalgar Square, London

11th Image Hazlitt's

Arrive @ Heathrow @ 9 am. Still sliding on last night’s Ambien. Mysteriously arrive @ Hazlitt’s—favorite hotel in all my years of slipping in & out of rented rooms. Can’t even recall passing through customs or taking taxi. Staff fixes me pot of Darjeeling tea, seats me in one of their many ground-floor libraries. I munch, red-eyed, on biscuits while gazing @ old, crumbling books on shelves. Too blitzed to get off ass & check if pages on The Voyage Out are authentically yellowing or just plain blank.

12th Image V Woolf

Rest ruddy cheek on palm as I wonder if V. Woolf ever stayed @ Hazlitt’s (est. 1718) but am awake enough to know it’s a stupid meditation. She was already living a couple neighborhoods over in Bloomsbury, tho it’s true she wasn’t known for her frugality & might have splurged on a Hazlitt’s room while up-cycling.


13th Image Hazlitt Room

Room ready. Can’t hit sack ’til nighttime, not unless I want jetlag locked in its infernal place.

14th Image Hazlitts Bathroom

Take shower, rubbing soap in zombielike slow-mo over body. Ablutions so automatic, eyes so heavy, am not even sure if I undressed before stepping into tub. Satisfied I’ve done so by time I step out, reach for towel & notice I’m in front of full-length window as lunchtime crowd marches by, taking time out of busy schedules to snicker. Close curtains, happy to have harvested at least some admiring glances.

1:00 pm

15th Image Cafe Boheme

Meet Rachael for lunch @ Café Boheme. Have long prided myself on moving beyond mainstream gay identity. Still, first thing I do is hand Rachael program to her all-time favorite musical, South Pacific, which I saw last week @ Lincoln Center. (In my defense, I only went to show b/c Julius promised to spring for pizza afterwards. Wasn’t moved by outdated depictions of race relations in Polynesia; thought blonde was being ridiculous – kind of like watching Giant in the 21st Century, but not as good). Order bottle of something red. R has salmon omelet; me, salade nicoise.

Rachael & I email 1 to 2 x/day but still find loads to catch up on in person. R tells me BBC laughs @ American wingnuts & evangelicals. UK & liberal Americans like me not amused now, tho. Furious over ignorance & ultra-partisan opposition to Obama’s healthcare plan. Am equally outraged @ WH for seeking consensus w/ right, bargaining over public option & letting right run debate. Conservatives say: “We don’t trust government.” Why the fuck weren’t they screaming that when Bush launched unholy war? & why didn’t media cover Iraq protests anywhere near as much as town-hall riots? & did Republicans deign to give us town halls before going ahead w/ Shock & Awe? That was Big Government at its baddest. And Dems were all too quick to capitulate, as usual; hope they don’t this time. (Mention to R that am glad to also have EU passport, thanks to Irish Grampa.)

17th Image Dog & Duck

~ 5:00 pm

Move on to drinks up road @ The Dog & Duck. Still chattering but look @ watch, see it’s already 7 pm. Am full to bursting with Fosters Lager but have only 15 minutes to claim ground-floor table for 7:30 show @ Playhouse Theatre near Trafalgar Square.

18th Image La Cage

The show: La Cage Aux Folles, another wrecking ball to non-cliché gay status. (Must admit: bought ticket just to hear “I Am What I Am.” Also smitten by antique, feather-boa camp.)

19th Image Playhouse Thea

7:20 pm

Arrive @ Playhouse Theatre late but still time before curtain call. Didn’t realize would be occupying 1 of few tables. Rest of audience in regular seats behind me. Am right up against stage.

20th Image Rent Boy

Sitting w/ 3 muscle boys who wink @ & flirt w/ me. Guy w/ them looks like Col. Sanders in an ascot. Must be rent boys. Play it off w/ them but am thankful they don’t later extend invitation to orgy that I’d have to spend awkward 20 mins or so turning down. (Heard all about London boys.) Couldn’t explain that one away to Julius, who is due to arrive @ ~ dawn, nor would want to besmirch unblemished record of fidelity.

8:12 pm

Sinuous can-can dancer from cast jumps on table, gropes me as stage lights flash. All above waist, tho, so = okay.

22nd Image Soho @ NightSoho at Night (ii)

10:30 pm

Soho erupting w/ nightlife. Even more jam-packed than Manhattan due to narrower streets. Unabashedly drunk mobs. Can’t justify going to bed.

23rd Image Bertorelli

Opt for Margherita pizza half a block away @ chi-chi restaurant called Bertorelli. Fashionista waiter acts like my table’s not worth his time. Won’t even get me another Peroni. Have to wave down his buddy for a check. Leave no tip. Tips are To Insure Proper Service, & where the hell was that?

24th Image Hazlitts

11:20 pm

Back @ Hazlitt’s. Log on to Bertorelli website. Tell them to tell their waiters to get over themselves. Say I come from city where restaurants are 2x as full & wait staff at least as gorgeous & infinitely politer; say, in NYC, servers know it’s to their financial & karmic benefit to be nice to customers. Website has extensive Comments & Suggestion protocol, tho. Have to go thru ~ 12 screens; takes 1/2 hour to rifle off complaint. Worth it, tho. Plus, am automatically registered for raffle for all-expenses-paid trip to Italy. Prob’ly be disqualified once they read my Comments & Suggestions.

Soho Morning (ii)

August 22, 2009London: Soho, Belgravia, Picadilly Circus, & Islington


Can’t sleep; wake up @ 4: 25. Write, meditate, shower. Hope to see J by time I’m done but no sign of him. Roma Espresso only place open on Greek Street. Order espresso and Peligrino. Woman in layers of raggedy 80s clothes sits outside; egg yolk dripping from hair (don’t know how that happened); manila file folder on lap,

26th Image Woman Escapes Jack the Ripper

mumbling to herself in cockney flourishes like strumpet from Jack The Ripper movie; making random scribbles on corners of papers in file. Besides Roma Espresso owner, she & I = only ones out this early. No call from J. By 10:30, checking world news & American Airlines websites for plane crashes.


J turns up @ Hazlitt’s @ ~ noon. Both his bags weigh ~ 500 lbs. Concierge helps carry. Hope she’s eligible for worker’s comp. J says had to sit on JFK runway in rain for 4 hrs. Surprised plane could take off w/ his bags in back.

27th Image Pimlico

Go to Pimlico, Belgravia to look @ houses. Both locales sterile & dead cf. Soho. Has Buddhist Center, tho, w/ Theravada & Mahayana teachers. Closed for next month, tho. How will people keep in practice? Also, band of Cambridge-looking elite on white-pillared balcony drinking champagne & listening to Gnarls Barkley’s St. Elsewhere. What street cred! (I know, I’m a fine one to talk!)

28th Image Picadilly Circus

Julius realizes he didn’t bring Malarone. No Malarone, no Africa. Need Rx. Call everyone we know in London. All say go to Public Health Dept. We go, waiting room’s full. Boots Pharmacy @ Picadilly Circus (equiv., Duane Reade, NYC) doesn’t offer help on where to find self-pay physician on Saturday. Tough bollocks, they all but say.

29th Image Harvie & Hudson

Before having nervous breakdown, we decide to buy socks at Harvie & Hudson. Salesman overhears us discussing dilemma.


Suggests we go to London Clinic, a self-pay physicians office near Mayfair. We hail cab, walk out w/ Malarone Rx 20 mins later. Boots of Picadilly has to fill it – more egg on their faces now than in schizophrenic woman’s hair.

31st Image IslingtonIslington


Meet friends Matthew & Neil for dinner @ gastro-pub called The Draper’s Arms in Islington. Rachael joining us. Matthew & Neil want to meet her, vastly intrigued by specter of oft-referenced penpal. Thank God, instant rapport b/t all parties once R arrives. (R & husband Adam had trouble finding babysitter for Mimi, so Adam had to stay home.) Turns out, Neil = good friends w/ R’s society journalist sister Emily. Conversation steers itself now. J & I both enchanted by Islington houses. Might move into one if/when we relocate. Lucky to have ready group of friends if/when we do.

(Continues w/ Part Two)

Coming Up

56th Image Tubu Tree GroundsTubu Tree Camp, Botswana