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I Am Not Myself These Days: A Memoir

I Am Not Myself These Days: A Memoir

4.3 110
by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

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The New York Times bestselling, darkly funny memoirof a young New Yorker's daring dual life—advertising art director by day,glitter-dripping drag queen and nightclub beauty-pageant hopeful by night—was asmash literary debut for Josh Kilmer-Purcell, now known for his popular PlanetGreen television series The Fabulous Beekman Boys.His story


The New York Times bestselling, darkly funny memoirof a young New Yorker's daring dual life—advertising art director by day,glitter-dripping drag queen and nightclub beauty-pageant hopeful by night—was asmash literary debut for Josh Kilmer-Purcell, now known for his popular PlanetGreen television series The Fabulous Beekman Boys.His story begins here—before the homemade goat milk soaps and hand-gatheredhoneys, before his memoir of the city mouse’s move to the country, TheBucolic Plague—in I Am Not Myself These Days,  with “plenty of dishy anecdotes and moments of tragi-camp delight” (WashingtonPost).

Editorial Reviews

By day, Josh Kilmer-Purcell was a successful advertising executive; by night, he was a seven-foot-tall drag queen named Aquadisiac who sashayed around Manhattan's gay clubs in wig and heels, sporting giant transparent bubble breasts containing live goldfish. At that point, Josh's flamboyant public life was still relatively normal; he hadn't yet hooked up with male escort Jack, his crackhead Very Significant Other. I Am Not Myself These Days recounts a downward spiral so extreme that it leaves you reeling.
Lily Burana
While I Am Not Myself These Days doesn't plumb the great queer-love depths or broaden to any kind of universal scope, it features plenty of dishy anecdotes and moments of tragi-camp delight. A favorite: "I don't care what Butterball.com says, the hardest part about cooking the perfect Thanksgiving dinner is avoiding the splinters of broken crack pipes that collect in the crevices of the kitchen floor." Not quite enough to bust the Me-bubble, but it keeps the pages turning.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In the go-go '90s, Kilmer-Purcell spent his days as an advertising grunt and his nights hopping around Manhattan's gay clubs as "Aquadisiac," over seven feet tall in a wig and heels with goldfish swimming in transparent bubbles covering "her" breasts. (Not that Kilmer-Purcell wanted to actually become a woman; as he explains to his mother, a drag queen is "a celebrity trapped in a normal person's body.") He meets a cute guy, and soon he's moved into Jack's penthouse apartment-which he pays for by working as a male escort. Kilmer-Purcell gives much of his story a Sex and the City-ish spin, finding comedy in the contrast between his and Jack's sweet, cuddly relationship and the sexual demimonde of drag queens, hookers and masochists they count among their friends. But there's always a dark undercurrent: before the two get serious, Kilmer-Purcell's alcohol-impaired judgment frequently puts him in dangerous situations, but things get worse when Jack starts smoking crack during sex parties and becomes addicted. The exact, unpitying detail with which Kilmer-Purcell depicts his downward spiral makes it impossible to look away, especially since it's not until the final scenes that he allows himself to succumb to sentimentality. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Advertising executive and former award-winning drag queen Kilmer-Purcell can now add one more accomplishment to his r sum : promising new memoirist. This is the story, told through a haze of vodka rocks and cocaine, of the Wisconsin native's early days in 1990s New York City, when he lived an exhausting double life working in advertising by day and as a drag queen ("Aquadisiac" or "Aqua" for short) by night to earn rent money, entertain bar-goers, and feed an insatiable drinking habit. Filled with witty dialog, confusing awakenings, and extraordinary situations, the narrative also chronicles the author's struggle to build a conventional relationship with Jack, his male-escort boyfriend, even as Jack slips into an abyss of crack addiction. Readers will find this tale of good-boy-turned-bad-drag-queen darkly hilarious and entertaining, even as they realize they are watching lives unravel in slow motion. Highly recommended for all public and college libraries.-Mark Alan Williams, Library of Congress Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The true adventures of a drag queen named Aqua: her loves, her trials, her goldfish. Real-life stories from the fringe seem to be the latest trend in memoirs, and Kilmer-Purcell makes a stellar debut in this genre. An art director by day (at an unnamed downtown Manhattan advertising firm that any New Yorker with a grain of sense can identify from geographical clues), by night he was a performer in drag with a distinctive specialty: water-filled fake breasts containing live goldfish. Being the fabulous creature named Aqua was actually work, the author reveals. S/he emceed at club after club, striving to be relentlessly shocking and to create a glittery, glorious, train-wreck persona that forced people to pay attention. Actually, the few hundred bucks in an envelope under the bar helped more than the attention did. Late of a typical Midwestern upbringing, Kilmer-Purcell was new to the city but couldn't imagine himself anywhere else, no matter how awful his East Village living situation. So it was good that he met Jack and moved into a sparkling white Upper East Side penthouse in the sky. Who would leave New York under those circumstances, even though Jack paid for the place by working as a high-priced hooker? (In the book, he's never more than one page away from having to head out the door with a backpack full of toys.) The author doesn't try to pretend that working during the day and spending evenings at the clubs, vodka permanently attached to hand, wasn't fun. The way he tells it, he also had a strangely perfect relationship with Jack, who didn't allow his profession-plus attendant addictions and erratic behavior-to keep him from being a near-to-perfect boyfriend. But everything thatgoes up must come down, and Kilmer-Purcell meticulously records the collapse in a delicate narrative that spares not an ounce of pain but never once aims for contrition. Effortlessly entertaining yet still heartfelt: the romance of life as an escape artist.

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I Am Not Myself These Days

A Memoir
By Josh Kilmer-Purcell

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Josh Kilmer-Purcell
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060817321

Chapter One

I've just dropped my vodka glass and am having that perennial, silly internal debate about whether I should order another one -- since, let's face it, I have reached the state where I'm dropping full glasses of vodka. A silly debate because it's highly unlikely that I will be able to keep a firm clutch on the next one, and perennial because I'm going to order one regardless. And then one after that.

I deserve another one, really. I've just broken the record for number of weeks anyone has won the Amateur Drag Queen contest at Lucky Cheng's. True, I did reuse the same song and wore the same outfit as I did on the first winning Thursday, but, honestly, this is uncharted territory here. Six weeks running of being voted the most talented amateur drag queen in New York City. By the audience. Pour me another, the future is stunning.

Of course I'm not just in it for the accolades. There's the prize money to be considered. One hundred and fifty dollars plus whatever the audience tips. After setting aside a portion for retirement, I must decide whether to invest the rest in food or two months back rent. Or possibly to retire on the spot and use it all for shots of vodka. I've retired approximatelyeight rounds tonight alone, not including the one that just hit the floor.

Okay, okay, already. I'll have another.

My little secret from the audience is that I'm not really an amateur drag queen. I'm practically a veteran, having been through the boot camp of drag queen training -- Atlanta. Where men are men, and women are cartoon characters.

Not that I would be excluded from the Lucky Cheng's competition if my professional status were public knowledge. Quite frankly, the host of the contest I'd just won, Miss Understood, has enough difficulty rounding up three reasonably sober, mildly entertaining contestants every week. She's not going to become a stickler for rules and risk losing a weekly gig that pays her one hundred dollars and a free portion of sweet and sour pork. Besides, I've only been in New York for less than two months, so I guess I technically qualify as an amateur New York drag queen. Luckily, I've been able to find club work four nights a week, in addition to my day job as a junior art director at a Soho ad agency.

Miss Understood recognizes reliability, and for the moment, her name is "Aquadisiac." That's me. "Aqua" for short. Mostly just "Aqua," really. Because when I came up with the name I didn't realize that the average club-goer wouldn't catch the wordplay on "aphrodisiac." Or perhaps because it's extremely hard to pronounce with any degree of comprehension after two or three drinks. Or ten.

The name is derived from my gimmick. Every successful drag queen must have one or risk being lost in a sea of cliched wannabes wearing Halloween novelty wigs and overstuffed bras. My gimmick happens to be fish. Goldfish usually, since they survive longest in my clear plastic tits. Not that any of them ever die in the breasts themselves. They're lovingly transferred from aquarium to tit, and tit to aquarium before and after each performance. Unless of course I happen to wake up in an unfamiliar environment, say, on a bench in Bryant Park, in which case I find the nearest faucet and refresh the tits' water supply. My mother raised me right.

I'm 6' 1" when not slouching, 7' 2" in wig and heels. My wig is blond. I wear three wigs, actually, clipped together and styled like a cross between Pamela Anderson Lee and Barbarella. My outfits are on the skimpy side: thongs, clear plastic miniskirts, vinyl boots, 22-inch corset, and a tight top with two holes cut out where the breasts should be. Into these holes slip two clear plastic domes. I purchased dozens of these clear domes from a craft store years ago. For lesser creative types than I, they were intended to be filled with holiday paraphernalia and then two of them snapped together back-to-back to form some sort of tacky oversized Christmas tree ornament. I've reengineered them with flat, mirrored backs and small holes, each plugged with a rubber stopper. They are filled with water nightly, sometimes lightly colored in honor of a holiday (for instance, tonight one's red and one's blue for the Fourth of July). The fish are slipped in through the hole in the back and the stopper is replaced. Then the tits are slipped into the evening's outfit -- with small flashlights tucked underneath that shine off the mirrored backings causing the tits, and fish, to glow. All my costumes are very intricate and complicated. Marvels of modern-day engineering, really. Very often duct tape must be employed in order to keep things that mustn't be seen in places where one won't see them.

No fish has ever been harmed during an evening out. Sure, they die on a pretty regular schedule. Who doesn't? These are dime-store goldfish we're talking about. Even if I do unintentionally slash a few days off their already negligible lifespans, how many other fish can brag about meeting Leonardo DiCaprio at Limelight? Karmically, I think it's a wash.

A boy is tapping on my right breast. I tap him back on his forehead.

"If I were a petting zoo, you'd owe me five bucks. Or a drink," I say.

I have dozens of "buy me a drink" lines always on the tip of my tongue. It's imperative. I always seem to run out of retirement funds.

"They're funny. High concept," he says, still tapping on the breasts. "What're their names?"

"Left and Right. And yours?"

"Jack," he says.

"I'd shake your hand, Jack, but I have an imaginary drink in mine."


Excerpted from I Am Not Myself These Days by Josh Kilmer-Purcell Copyright © 2006 by Josh Kilmer-Purcell. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Josh Kilmer-Purcell is the bestselling author of the memoir I Am Not Myself These Days and the novel Candy Everybody Wants, and the star of Planet Green's documentary television series The Fabulous Beekman Boys. He and his partner, Brent Ridge, divide their time between Manhattan and the Beekman Farm.

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I Am Not Myself These Days 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 110 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
...of all the memoirs i've read this year this one had the deepest impact. when i finished this book i was so emotionally broken that i had no choice but to really look deep within myself and realize that there are aspects of me that need to be thrown into the river...and then i was able to pick up the remaining pieces and put myself back together. so, i think it is safe to say that this book changed my life. i was surprised at how i responded to this book because i picked it up with judgement, not expecting to get anything out of it. how am i going to relate to a drag queen and what can i learn from a drag queen? i learned many lessons and i am so glad that josh kilmer-purcell shared his story because it moved me, helped me, changed me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Funny, sad, with lots of life. Hard to put down and when finished leaving you wanting more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fantastic! I really enjoyed this book. A great read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I can relate to you so much and not about being a drag queen but going through the things you did. I know i maybe younger than you when you went through it the the struggles are the same. The way the book was writen was awesome! It reslly draws you into your life. Thank you for showing us a piece of your life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Quickly has become one of my favorite books. Quirky, crazy, and in the end, beautiful. A highly unlikeky discovery of self.
VC31 More than 1 year ago
Kilmer-purcell gives an entertaining and provocative look inside his younger, former drag queen life. Engrossing and at times laugh out loud hilarious. A great read and an excellent precursor to "The Bucolic Plague." I plan on re-reading it soon!
charlieMP More than 1 year ago
If you want to read about every day life of a Drag Performer this is it. Really enjoyable. Josh Kilmer-Purcell ,writes from the heart.
Christopher Billingsley More than 1 year ago
such a fun read. addictive and genuine. i laughed out loud and cried. two thumbs up.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an interesting read with a heavy dose of harsh reality. Detailed lifestyle of a drag queen and the crazy scene that went with that. Alcohol and drug usage, harsh language, lots of reality. I found it intesting since my first read from this author of "The Bucolic Plague" is so very different. In the end, this was a very good read.
nycreaderAB More than 1 year ago
This was such a great book! I couldn't put it down!
Downunder-reader More than 1 year ago
My favourite quote from the book is something like Transexuals are a gender trapped in the wrong body, and Transvestites are celebrities trapped in the wrong body. It was an interesting read regarding the topics of modern addication - crack cocaine, and an insight into the world of the Drag Queen world. Are Drag Queens transvestites? Maybe I should have read more carefully. I am always interested in the life of the Other, and the author does take you into his world of Drag Queen personalities, club life, love and loss. The book promised to have great laughs, but I think that the tragic element is the most overriding, tragic in the sense of drug addiction and the loss of control.
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carlosmock More than 1 year ago
I am not myself these days by Josh Kilmer-Purcell This is the love story between Acquadisiac (Acqua), an alcoholic drag queen and Jack, a drug addicted, high end rent boy. The story is told from the first person point of view - Acqua's or Josh Kilmer-Purcell - and it spans seven months: from the day Joash/Acqua meets Jack one summer in New York City to New Year's eve when Jack purportedly leaves for the dessert to get clean from his crack addiction - never to return again. Acqua has moved to NYC to work in an advertising agency and further his career as drag queen. He's on a row, having won the Lucky Cherry's Amateur drag Queen contest seven times in a row. That night he meets Jack. Unfortunately Acqua drinks until she passes out, so next day at work he has no recollection of having met Jack, nor of having spent the night in his luxurious two bedroom apartment in the Upper East Side. Jack calls Acqua the next day and they start a rocky relationship. Josh lived in a studio with an unemployed roommate, Tempest; so when Jack gives him a key to the penthouse, it takes no time for them to move together. Jack is an S & M escort who makes ridiculous amounts of money by torturing his clients. He has $370k stored in his closet - unable to launder the money. But eventually the drug habit and alcoholism takes the relationship to an ugly place. Acqua moves out of the apartment and Jack vanishes from the planet. I really don't know who the intended audience for this book is. I certainly don't care much about escorts or drag queens, so to read details about how Acqua is created from Josh, or to read how Jack tortures his clients was not entertaining. I kept waiting for something funny to occur, but it never did. I bought book because Goodreads has it as one of the top 100 gay books to read. Sorry I followed their recommendation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hands down, the best memoir I've read to date.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
...but definitely for me. Perfect in every way and extremely well written. I'm already missing it.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
GREAT read. I would categorize this novel as Transgressive Fiction. It is gritty and dark, with a spunky sarcastic humor.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the read Totally an escape from my life yet feelings expressed by characters are universal and easily related to.