A fun post by guest reviewer Leslie
It all began innocently enough. Several weeks ago (or maybe months) K.Z. Snow mentioned—either here or on Goodreads, not sure which–that she was reading I Am Not Myself These Days by Josh Kilmer-Purcell and said it was a “very unusual” memoir. That was enough to pique my curiosity so I downloaded the sample to my Kindle and then promptly forgot about it. Then, two weeks ago, on my birthday, my friend Geoffrey recommended the same book to me. Since it was my birthday, I decided to treat myself to a day of leisure reading so I bought the book and dived in.
“Very unusual” is putting it mildly. IANMTD covers about eight months in Josh’s life when he was 26 and first living in New York City. He was a mild mannered advertising executive by day and at night he was drag queen name Aquadisiac—Aqua for short—who was known for her towering hair, heels, and live goldfish in her breasts. Josh was madly in love with a sex worker named Jack and despite a rather bizarre lifestyle (and even more bizarre schedule), they made it work.
They made it work, that is, until things started to fall apart. A relationship can only survive so long on zero hours sleep (day in and day out), cocaine, vodka, and squeezing a 30 inch waist into a 23 inch corset—laced so tight that Josh needed to be half-drunk to put it on and even then, he could feel his internal organs throb.
At about this point in the story, I started to worry about Josh. He seemed like a really nice guy despite his addictions and excesses and I hoped he wouldn’t end up in a coma—or worse—by the end of the book. I guessed he was still alive as the book was written in 2006 and the story he narrates took place in the mid-nineties but still, I was concerned.
I stopped reading for a minute and Googled his name and found out that in fact he is alive and well and living on a farm in upstate New York. Phew! In fact, he has a second memoir, published in 2010, that tells the story of this latest chapter in his life: The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers. The minute I finished IANMTD (which took me about five hours to read), I downloaded his new book and dived right in.
What a difference a decade makes! Aqua has been retired and Josh is in a long-term relationship with a guy named Brent. When the book opens, it is the fall of 2006 and they are on their annual apple picking expedition in upstate New York. They stumble upon the adorable little town of Sharon Springs and The American Hotel which is run by two good looking guys, one of whom wears a kilt. The next day, after a great dinner and a good night’s sleep, they set forth and discover The Beekman—a two-hundred year old farm that has been on the market for four years.
Naturally, they have to buy it. And that is how an ad exec (Josh) and VP for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (Brent) become gentleman farmers.
Similar to IANMTD, The Bucolic Plague has lots of funny parts, but there is an undercurrent of seriousness—even sadness. Running a farm is hard work and trying to do it two days a week (they commute between Manhattan and The Beekman) would put a strain on anyone’s relationship. Brent and Josh work hard to make a go of it but when Josh’s 39th birthday rolls around and he spends it alone, on the farm, while Brent is in New York—well, I had to stop reading and once more reassure myself that everything was okay for these two.
Google is my friend again and this time I discovered their website, Beekman1802.com. I started clicking here and there and then I found a blog post written by Josh for Brent’s birthday, wherein he says:
The day you were born is still the best day of my life. I may have only been three years old, and I certainly had no idea that my future best friend was coming into the world a thousand miles away. But I’m pretty sure it must have been a perfectly sunny day and that I couldn’t stop smiling.
This is about the moment I became obsessed. I start clicking through the website, thinking about buying goat’s milk soap, Blaak Cheese (made from goat’s millk), and goat milk caramel for ice cream…I click some more and discover that they have opened a store to sell their stuff. Oh, boy! Road trip!
I decide to look at a map and see exactly where Sharon Springs is. It’s in Schoharie County, not far from Cooperstown and not far from where my son was living—until the day before. Seriously, my timing sucks! I am reading this book on July 2nd (my birthday) and my son moved home to Maine from New York literally the day before—July 1st. If I had discovered this book one week earlier I could have sent him off to buy me a jar of Beekman 1802 Cajeta. One week earlier and he could have gone and surreptitiously snapped some photos of the farm. One week earlier…but alas, an opportunity is lost.
Now I am obsessed with actually hearing and seeing Josh and Brent. Photos are good but I need more live action. Once again, I am in luck. In The Bucolic Plague they actually make a demo for a potential TV show. They thought they did a terrible job but obviously a TV exec didn’t agree because they landed a reality show (or maybe docu-drama is a better descriptor) on Planet Green called The Fabulous Beekman Boys. Season 1 is available on DVD and once again, Amazon is my friend. I one-clicked and the DVD is in my mailbox 48 hours later. (Someone tell me, please, how we lived without the instant gratification of the Internet. I don’t remember…LOL.)
The TV show is a nice accompaniment to The Bucolic Plague. All the things in the book: the goats, the 7500 sq. ft. heirloom garden, the beautiful home with 14 ft. hallways, all come to life. So do Brent and Josh and I have to say, after watching the show, I am as obsessed with Brent as I am with Josh. (Although to be honest, I don’t think Brent would be too pleased to learn of my obsession; Josh, on the other hand, I suspect would be thrilled!)
I’ve been savoring the show. My favorite episode (so far) is one in which they’ve made the farm available for a wedding. Brent has arranged to have a large tent set up (in case of rain, which did happen). Josh is not too happy about this because the wedding weekend coincides with his 40th birthday and he had always dreamed that the first wedding held at the farm would be his and Brent’s. It is a little bittersweet to see them standing on their porch, watching the bride and groom take their vows in the formal flower garden in front of them; when the bride and groom share a first kiss, so do Brent and Josh. Now that same-sex marriage has been legalized in New York, I am hoping they are busy planning their own nuptials. No mention of it on their blog, yet, but I keep checking.
Once my obsession simmered to a manageable level (I read both IANMTD and The Bucolic Plague in one day), I lined up a few treats that I can enjoy in the coming weeks. First off is Josh’s first fiction novel, Candy Everybody Wants, published in 2008. It has mixed reviews on Goodreads so I am a little tentative to read it—but I know I will. Then in October, they have a cookbook coming out: The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook which of course I have pre-ordered. (Maybe I’ll give it to my husband for Christmas…hmm….). Last but not least, seasons 2 and 3 of The Fabulous Beekman Boys are available on insta-watch on Amazon ($1.99/episode). Not the most cost-effective way to watch, but when you are obsessed, money is no object, right?
For those who want to dive into the wonderful world of Josh and Brent, here are some links. As for rating…I’d give the whole shebang five stars across the board.
I Am Not Myself These Days...Buy LinkAmazon:
The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers…Buy LinkAmazon:
The Fabulous Beekman Boys (DVD)…Buy LinkAmazon:
Candy Everybody Wants…Buy LinkAmazon: (haven’t read yet so not rated)
The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook…Buy LinkAmazon Preorder link (haven’t read yet so not rated)
As for the road trip…I keep eyeing my calendar for the Harvest Festival…September 24th and 25th, at the farm. 😉