The lives we lead

My favorite kind of read is a good memoir and I just finished two that I wanted to share.  Although they have the same witty writing style, the lives described are so far apart it is hard to imagine they are from the same person, Josh Kilmer-Purcell of the reality television show, The Fabulous Beekman Boys, aka Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge.

In his first memoir, “I am Not Myself These Days,” Kilmer-Purcell outlines his early life in New York City when he was just getting started in advertising and supplemented his income with a night job as a drag queen… a very successful drag queen!  He spares no details in his descriptions. I learned a little too much about how being a successful drag queen comes hand in hand with hazards like alcohol and hard drug use, free spirited sexual encounters and many other risky behaviors. The author also shares stories from his partner’s life as a male prostitute and crack addict. It is not pretty and while most of the stories are dark and hard to read sometimes, Kilmer-Purcell’s sharp approach and descriptions of the situations make them all seem almost normal. I had to keep reminding myself that I know he survives it all because he wrote a book about it.  Not that I lived anywhere near the edge that they were on, but I found myself wondering if I ever passed Josh or his partner, Jack on the streets during my tenure of living in NYC in the 90’s. I do remember seeing a passed out drag queen or two on the subway on my way to work…

In his memoir (co-written with the other half of The Beekman Boys, Brent Ridge), “The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers: An Unconventional Memoir,” Kilmer-Purcell is an established advertising executive and in a stable relationship with Ridge, a perfectionist who works with the media giant Martha Stewart.  On an annual apple picking trip to upstate New York, the boys fall in love with an old farmstead.  They buy the place and embark on a renovation adventure. Not only do they manage to renovate a second home, they build second (and in Kilmer-Purcell’s case, third or fourth) lives… NYC lives during the week and small town farm lives by weekend.  They also start a small business producing and selling goat milk products.  These stories are much lighter and easier to hear than the ones in his first memoir. This life is very different from the author’s earlier life and even though Aqua (his drag queen persona) has been gone for years, it was fun to think of him as a drag queen working on the farm.

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