Thursday, December 06, 2007

Aha Moment: 12/06/2007, 9:48 PM

Many who consider themselves invisible are often merely transparent.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

So Said . . . Mother Teresa

"We are all pencils in the hand of God." -- Mother Teresa
". . . not red pens." - he gay

Saturday, December 01, 2007

On this the first day of December

December 1st is a day when I stop, take a moment, and touch gratitude.

Forty-two years ago today, my best friend Brad was born in Dallas, Texas. Three years later, my cousin Kari was born in Manchester, New Hampshire, And, three years ago, the first "World AIDS Day" was observed after a campaign spearheaded by UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS/HIV). World AIDS Day is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection.

Brad, Kari and AIDS have been the greatest teachers that I have known; each has brought me closer to truth in the midst of both laughter and tears; each has treated me with complete acceptance and non-discrimination. I have been so blessed by each.

December 1st is a good day, indeed.

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Day Early and a Dollar Short

The Bush administration placed this red ribbon in the North Portico of the White House earlier today in recognition of World AIDS Day, which is tomorrow, December 1, 2008.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Project Runway 4: The Catwalk Fight Begins

Admit it: Project Runway ("PR") is the shit. The 4th season of Bravo's hugely successful reality show began tonight and I'm already hooked (again). The 15 designers hell-bent on making it to a tent in Bryant Park are as varied and talented as each of the prior seasons and this season has all the hallmarks of another successful season. PR's formula is genius: unknown raw talent, huge egos, impeccable style, throw-away trendiness, highly caffeinated genius under impossible deadlines, catty homosexuals, bitchy male & female judges, beautiful clothes, stunning models, celebrity cameos and a drop-dead Supermodel with an accent and "Voila," [or whatever the German word for "Voila" would be].

The first episode, "Sew Us What You Got" challenged the designers to sprint across Bryant Park to snatch up material ($50,000 worth from Mood Fabrics -- ooh, ahh, ooh) and create a garment that represents their design vision. My assessment follows:

Carmen - SCAD graduate, attractive, but annoying; seems to be over-compensating for something. 1st design: vest and balloon pant outfit, uninteresting 1970's knock-off. "Retro nightmare" is apparently her vision.

Chris* - Love this man. Already exhibits confidence in his abilities and that certain flair. 1st design: regal, very Adrian, very strong. He's the real deal.

Christian - HUH? Has already built a respectable resume (McQueen, Westwood, etc.) but how fucking annoying is one gay boy allowed to be. So cocky, so soon; but he does make great TV. This bastard gay offspring of last-season's Malan & Keith is high drama, but he'll eventually trip over his own veil.

Elisa - She's an artist, and don't you dare forget it. She should have been "Auf'd," but saved due to technical ability. Quirky, weird, subtle charm. No staying power as, I suspect, she will be uncompromising and will eventually refuse to sacrifice her Art.

Jack - This season's (surgically-altered) eye candy is a shoe-in for at least half the season on the basis of abs alone. Dress was adorable, but safe; vision reminiscent of Robert Best (last-season's "Barbie" designer). A+ for sincerity.

Jillian - She's utterly forgettable. Red "poppy" dress looked like a 80's prom dress gone bad. Nothing to hang onto with her.

Kevin - Wasted no time in telling the world he was straight. Newsflash to Kevin - that ridiculous beard / sideburn thing you have going told me before you did. He may be a victim of editing and I'm willing to withhold judgment at this point. Kinda liked the pinstriped babydoll thing he did; silver bullet-proof vest was overkill though.

Kit - She reminds me of last-season's Alison. Dress was basically a flowered breast bullseye. Not very flattering to my sensibilities. She's adorable, good for ratings, but don't really get her vision.

Marion - owns a florist shop in Dallas?? Yikes. I've done my time in Dallas and I feel for the boy. The dress? Over-the-knee goth prom. No Thanks. He seems sweet, though a bit lost. Lose the hat. Shave your head if you have to.

Rami - Won first challenge with beautifully done Grecian-inspired dress. This season's Uli. Beautiful, but there is this looming sense that he's a one-note queen. Time will tell.

Ricky - Former lingerie designer who remains kinda adorable despite an ever-present train conductor's hat. Dress was, uhm, boring. Undecided otherwise.

Simone - Adios Ms. LeBlanc. She was humorless (who can blame her), but her dress wasn't so bad she should be packing her bags.

Steven - I want to take him home to my mother, but I'm afraid he would spend all his time talking to her and make me wait while he whipped up a new set of curtains. He is adorable and the dress was sweet. As much as I like him, there doesn't seem to be much originality here.

Sweet P - The female version of Jeffrey, last-season's winner. Too edgy, too nuts. Adios by Week 3 or 4.

Victorya - Hate the name, loved the dress. Talented, but a little bitchy. Kinda would like to see more of her.

Not planning on writing every week, but only when the urge strikes.

* Full disclosure: I have a working relationship and friendship with Chris March. Although I will not benefit from any success he may garner as a result of this show, I have to admit that I have everything I possess crossed and re-crossed hoping that he takes the whole thing. You go, boy!!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dirty Little Secrets: Go RHS Eagles!

In 1984, I graduated from Richardson High School ("RHS") located in Richardson, Texas. Notable alums include Anne Rice (the novelist) and Jay Johnson (the creepy ventriloquist). RHS, however, is probably best known, without being really known, as the school where, in January 1991, Jeremy Delle (the inspiration for the Pearl Jam song Jeremy) blew his head off in front of his second period English class. One of my favorite English teachers, Faye Barnett, was teaching at the time; she deserved better.

Here's the secret: my senior class elected me as Mr. Spirit. That's right -- not Mr. RHS (that was Doug Miller), not Class Funniest (that was Ben Beckham) and not Most Likely To Succeed (that was Scott Miller). Mr. Spirit. As Captain of the Eagle Guard, which was the bell crew that rang the bell and ran the field each time the football team scored, I was a shoe-in. It was the closest thing to being a cheerleader without having to put your hands up some bitchy girl's skirt. I now realize that the title of Mr. Spirit was actually the de facto name for the title of Most Gay.

I'm not quite ready to discuss this any further, but there it is. There it is indeed.

Friday, October 05, 2007

So Said . . . Quentin Crisp

"The very purpose of existence is to reconcile the glowing opinion we have of ourselves with the appalling things that other people think about us." -- Quentin Crisp
". . . or vice-versa" - he gay

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Lennox Delivers Songs of Mass Depression

In 1981 The Eurythmics, consisting of the then-yet-undiscovered Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart respectively cast as a glamdrogynous Eve and an ambiguously-straight Adam, released its first album, "In the Garden." It took another two years and the release of their second album, "Sweet Dreams," for the duo to have their first bite of real success.

Dave and Annie left Eden 26 years ago and, to hear Annie tell it, the fruits since then have been bittersweet.

Lennox's eagerly awaited "Songs of Mass Destruction" was released today and I had it in my hands and on my iPod by Noon. While standing in line at the Union Square Virgin Records Megastore, that sinking feeling that on the album assured me it was, indeed, going to be classic Ms. Lennox. They include "Dark Road," "Love is Blind," "Smithereens," "Through the Glass Darkly" and "Lost." You get the idea, right?

And, to make sure you included, and expected, are two anthems for women. The first, "Womankind," is like every other song she's ever written before that I would have sworn I already heard it. The other, the much-hyped "Sing," is dedicated to stopping the mother-to-child transmission of AIDS in Africa -- worthy endeavor indeed, but again tirelessly familiar to the ear.

Although the album is less than what I'd hoped, at least it isn't a repackaged reunion record of re-cut Eurythmics tunes.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Aha Moment: 09/23/2007, 7:20 AM

The best revenge isn't looking good; it's looking elsewhere.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Had He Forgotten He Had a Lesbian Daughter?

Much has been made over the tearful announcement by Jerry Sanders, Republican Mayor of San Diego, regarding his last-minute (almost literally) decision to reverse his previously announced intention to veto a San Diego City Council resolution that had been passed by that body challenging California's gay marriage ban.

Sanders' emotional announcement appears below and is worth watching if you haven't seen it yet.

While I ultimately applaud Sanders' decision, I have ask, "What took you so long, Jerry?"

As Sanders states in his speech, he is the father of an adult lesbian daughter who came out to him over two years ago. He was aware of her orientation when he campaigned against same-sex marriage, offering up "separate but equal" civil unions instead. At this stage of the national debate, I think this is unacceptable. Politicians with LGBT family members who continue to advocate against equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians need to be asked, point-blank, why.

As funny as the title of the "New York Blade" article announcing the birth of Mary Cheney's son was ["Mary Cheney Gives Birth to Human Boy"], it also strikes the truest, albeit saddest, note in this entire issue. Elected officials are campaigning on, advocating, drafting, pushing, lobbying for, and signing intolerance against their own flesh and blood into law.

As Larry Kramer would say, "Where is the outrage?"

My deep suspicion is that many relatives of gays and lesbians who actually voted for Bush/Cheney in the last election were voting their subconscious, allowing their internalized homophobia to pull the lever.

I intend to ask each person in my birth and chosen families whether or not they intend to vote for any candidate who does not support full marriage rights for gays and lesbians. The truth is I'm not even sure I ever want to get married, but I do want to know why anyone in my family thinks heterosexual love deserves privileges that love between homosexuals does not.

The stakes are too high. Too many LGBT teenagers die, become addicted or infected, or suffer unnecessarily because this culture of hate exists.

In this time of senseless war, inexcusable poverty and famine, and spiritual desolation, I'm done apologizing for demanding answers and explanations on what should be the biggest no-brainer, non-issue we collectively face.

If we can't come together on love, we are a society lost.

Don't bullshit yourself, it is that simple.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Dale Jr. Comes Out with Big Mo'

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., NASCAR poster party-boy and former winner of the Daytona 500 Race, launched a candy bar today. The Big Mo' chocolate bar, which will hit the shelves in January 2008, will come in two flavors -- caramel and peanut butter.

Earnhardt, Jr. reportedly said "[a]t one point or another everyone has had their own idea of making the perfect candy bar [uhm, they have?], and this was my chance to do it." The name supposedly relates to Earnhardt, Jr.'s hometown of Mooresville, N.C. and is a reference to the name of his group of friends, charmingly known as the "Dirty Mo' Posse." There is, however, a big difference to me between a "dirty mo" and a "big mo." Dale Jr. is 32 and I find it tough to believe he hasn't himself called or made reference to someone as a "big 'mo" in a derogatory manner and meaning a "big homo." In all fairness, the apostrophe is in the wrong place, but, the reference seems too blatant to be disregarded.

Is the name the result of some gay adman's pitch that miraculously slid under the radar all the way to production, or, is it Earnhardt & Company's tongue-in-cheek, fratboy humor poke at gays?

I know what I'd like to believe and I know what is likely true.

It will be interesting to see if there is any fall out from the LGBT community on this. I suspect it's inevitable.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Good News for Forty-Seven Percent of America

As I tried desperately to exorcise the demons from my day out of my body using the elliptical machine at the New York Sports Club on 14th Street I couldn't help looking at the 20 television screens facing my stationary vehicle of self flagellation. Half of the screens blared Drew Carey's new game show, "Power of 10." The premise of the show is that guests compete by estimating how Americans responded to various poll questions. Carey -- overweight, loud, crude -- seems the perfect host for "Power of 10," as he is clearly "Made in America." Who better to confront us with the truth about ourselves?

My iPod was delivering "The Pussycat Dolls," as I started to work up a sweat, so I could only read the screen, which flashed each poll question. The first question I saw grabbed everything -- my gut, head, heart, balls.

"What percentage of Americans would swim in a pool with a person they knew was infected with HIV?"

Again, I couldn't hear the banter between Carey and the two contestants as they prepared to enter their guesses. The contestants were two men, both as large as Carey, who appeared heterosexual and more ethnic than the host. They were literally and figuratively large slices of the American Pie. There was a great deal of laughing as they entered their respective estimates: one guessed 23% and the other thought it was in the low 30's percentage area.

My jaw dropped.

The poll results revealed that 53% of Americans polled indicated that they would swim in a pool; 47% apparently felt that they would not take that "risk."

My heart joined my jaw.

I'm not going to say anything more about this, other than it encouraged me to be more open about my HIV status and the fact that when I discovered my status I actually had an AIDS diagnosis. Ignorance on this issue is inexcusable in this country at this point. For that many Americans to think that any risk whatsoever exists for swimming in a chlorinated pool with someone who had HIV is shocking. Shocking, and deeply sad.

The good news for that 47% is that every single person I know who is HIV+ would refuse to swim in a pool with someone that ignorant or bigoted.

So, you're safe America.

Go have another Big Mac.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Six Years

I notice that I still only discuss September 11th with people that were here that day. I'm not sure why.

I know that I deal with anger, or whatever it's actually masking, when I see tourists taking pictures in front of the hole, or the vendors who are selling books with pictures of the destruction, or the protesters using the location as a "provocative" spot to bring their message.

September 11th sneaks into my consciousness whenever I see a sky as gloriously blue as the one that morning or pass the bus stop in front of St. Vincent's, remembering it covered with pictures of the missing, when I see the remains of a melted candle in the cracks of a city sidewalk., when I see a face in a crowd, moving forward, but numb.

I still won't watch footage of the impacts or the jumpers; I avert my eyes from images from the day.

What is gone is the smell that lingered from the first year -- smoky, burnt, electrical. What remains is me, getting up and trying to make a life here, in spite of . . .

Monday, September 10, 2007

I'm Behind You NYC: Gone Fishin'

Date & Time: September 11, 2007

Time: 8:00 p.m.

Location: 8th Ave., b/w 23rd & 24th Streets

Reason: In the age of subway metrocards, sightings like these have become rare. This is an image of a subway grate fisher using a pole he constructed himself and many other "implements" to reach through the grate to pull dropped things up including, but not limited to, money, jewelry, and cigarettes (seriously). A scene straight out of Henry Roth's "Call it Sleep."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

When Words Fail

I love words.

Words have romanced, enhanced, healed, inspired and empowered me.

I would like to believe that all problems eventually kneel before the intellect and soul as they are expressed in words, that their power, whether oral or written, is without limit.

I now know better; I now understand that words can fail.

I have come to know, in an undeniable way, the inabilty of any vocabulary, regardless of breadth or depth, to convey the unutterable.

Today, I sat with one of my dearest, most fiercely loyal friends as he struggled to absorb the news that his mom was suddenly, tragically killed in a plane crash.

Together we stared blankly at a computer screen as it showed video footage of the crash site, vainly straining to grasp the incoherency streaming from a reporter's mouth.

As my mind raced, heart wrenched, soul numbed and throat steeled, words betrayed me.

I did, in the midst of an exhale, humbly discover the power of silence, the comfort of complete presence, the fullness of peace, and quiet.

Perhaps the fact that we are born with two ears, and only one mouth, is meant as a reminder of their relative necessity.

I love words, but I know their limits.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Craig Cops to Conduct (and Clinton Crush?)

Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), the closet's latest casualty, denied that he was gay today, despite the fact that it was discovered he recently plead guilty to a reduced charge of "disorderly conduct," rather than face prosecution on charges of "public lewdness." Craig was arrested by a plainclothes officer he "met" in a Minneapolis airport bathroom.

My initial reaction when I heard this story was the same as it always is in these circumstances -- why don't they ever, ever let us know what the undercover cop looked like. Seriously. Was he hot? Should it have been obvious? Is he straight? It drives me nuts.

Once calmed though, I have to admit that what I then felt was a sadness for the fact that anyone -- even a pompous, finger-pointing hypocrite like the "distinguished gentleman from the fine State of Idaho" -- should choose, particularly at his age, to live the life of a closeted gay man. The closet is cruel, unnecessary -- so 70's, so "Merv."

Gay men have long been targeted by undercover sting operations, selectively enforcing these out-dated, ill-conceived statutes. The only time these arrests seem fair is when the occasional politician, preacher, law enforcement officer, judge, reparative therapist, or the errant Exodus International employee gets stung; men who despite being in positions affording them opportunities to positively affect the way gay men are treated by the law, their families and their communities, fail to do so. The truth is, however, that the ones who suffer the most -- young boys grappling their evolving sexual selves in a society that says they are freaks, married men living tortured lives in the closet, self-hating men hellbent on self-destruction -- are the one's who need our understanding and compassion the most.

Every gay man has either dealt with this exact scenario or knows dozens of others who have; the implications of this public shaming of gay men are impossible to calculate, but easy to imagine. It needs to stop.

Thankfully, I have noticed a growing impatience with this law enforcement tactic, which actually bears an undeniable similarity to the raids of gay bars that sparked "Stonewall." Brave men are refusing to plead guilty and spending their own time, energy, public clout and a lot of money to challenge the laws and their selective enforcement. The gay community needs to recognize their efforts and vocally and financially support the same.

What follows is a clip from a "Meet the Press" show from 1999 of Sen. Craig publicly chastising then-President Bill Clinton over the Lewinsky debacle. Seen today, in light of the recent revelations, Craig's words take on an entirely new meaning, I think.

After viewing the video, I'm convinced that Senator Craig has it bad for Clinton and would love to run into him in a restroom somewhere.

You be the judge:

". . . nasty, bad, naughty boy"???

You can't make this shit up.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Aha Moment: 08/23/2007, 5:42 AM

The part of him that got me is the part of him that got me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Dirty Little Secrets: Little (Major) League

Since public humiliation seems to be a recurring theme this month (uhm, wink?), it seems fitting that this month's Dirty Little Secret be my earliest, un-fondest memory. The time frame is sketchy, but I believe I was about eight. I was whatever age one is when Little League first becomes an option. Rest assured, it wasn't my idea; I hadn't yet warmed up to the idea of balls flying at my face.

Regardless, I ended up on the team sponsored by Burger King. If you remember from last month's Dirty Little Secret, I was Sears-Husky chubby, in addition to having little innate athletic ability. I'm convinced to this day, I only agreed to play because I assumed free whoppers, french fries and milk shakes were inevitable, which, in fact, they were.

The memories surrounding my time in Little League are seriously impaired due to the strength and relentlessness of the repression impulse. Piecing the bits together is challenging. I have a vivid memory of going to a sporting goods store and purchasing a baseball mitt and athletic cup. My Dad made a rare weekend appearance for these purchases and it marks the one and only time that the fact that I was in possession of a pair of testicles actually came up between us; it's bittersweet to realize that he stepped up the the plate when their vulnerability and ability to pass on his DNA became an issue. I know for a fact he has never called his or anyone else's testicles "balls" or "nuts;" for him they were, and I assume remain, forever "testicles."

Thus equipped, Little League practices began.

My coach, Arthur Demers was about 4o, with shoulder length black hair that with beginning streaks of gray. He was one hairy Greek guy. Tufts poured out of whatever shirt he had on -- from the sleeves, from around the neck. He had one of those 70's Harley-Davidson mustaches that drooped all the way down to his jawline. If Tom of Finland were casting a 70's gay porn version of the "Bad News Bears," Coach Demers would have been a shoe-in for the Walter Matthau role. He exuded testosterone and could pitch, catch, and hit balls with his eyes closed. If you saw him at The Eagle, you'd be tempted, but a bit concerned about your wallet.

My recollection is that I spent a great deal of time in the outfield; it was either left or right; it was never center. I prayed (out loud and occasionally to the point of tears) that no one would hit it within 100 feet of me. When the inevitable ball did come me way during practice, I made awkward, slow movements in its general directions, secretly courting a spastic infielder or over-zealous center fielder to step in and steal the spotlight. This tactic frequently worked, but Coach Demers was not fooled.

The only moments more tormenting than those spent in the field were those at the plate, facing the pitcher. I could puke thinking about it right now. As my turn to bat would approach, I would beg God's forgiveness as I wished that each of my teammates would make an out. I didn't really have a batter's eye; I swung at balls that were thrown towards third plate and would let balls gently lobbed over home pass by, or swing after it was resting safe in the catcher's mitt. There was no predicting how my ineptness would manifest itself -- swing too soon, too fast, too high; one never knew.

Every practice was torture to be eclipsed only by the games. I suffered silently, sullenly chewing on burgers and soggy fries after the games. We were young enough that my lack of ability was tolerated by the other kids, but I only recall having one friend on the team. All I remember of him is that he had glasses, dark hair and was a skinnier version of me in every other respect.

Amazingly, and dare I say without any of my assistance, our team somehow landed in the finals for the Little League championship. And like a scene straight out of a movie, I ended up facing the pitcher for what would either be the last out or the last chance to get two guys who were on base home. I know for a fact that we were still in a position to win if I was able to get on base -- somehow, anyway.

Walt Disney didn't write the script for this game and I struck out. My parents and brother had come for the game and were in the stands. There was an audible groan as I moved to the plate; it was coming out of my mouth. I know that the ump called one of the pitches I didn't swing at a ball. But I know I swung like the Tasmanian Devil at the others -- too no avail.

The game ended. We lost. Members of my team were throwing their mitts on the dirt and cursing loudly (with parental supervision and permission). Others were crying, clearly devastated. I went to that place -- the shivering spot in your chest that echoes, while your face turns beet red. I didn't cry and my parents' ushered me and my brother, who remained unbelievably silent, to the car. In retrospect, I suspect they may have feared some sort of Yankee redneck lynching; who knows.

Regardless, as we driving home I was stunned right out of numbness to see my parents' pulling into the Burger King parking lot. I literally go blank at that point. Literally. I can't tell you what transpired at that place.

Postscript: I wasn't forced, or even asked, by my parents to play Little League the next year. In fact, we have never discussed it since. After my father left the next year, one of my mother's boyfriends of the week had my brother and I signed up for a basketball league on Saturdays. Bigger balls seemed a better idea, but coordination became even more crucial. My first complaints that I didn't think I was getting it were heard loud and clear and I was spared another harrowing season.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Leona Helmsley: Death and Taxes

The death of billionaire hotelier and real estate maven, Leona Helmsley, today, at the age of 87, serves as testament to the truths of two adages; first, that "the only certainties in life are death and taxes" (Benjamin Franklin), and second, that "only the good die young" (Billy Joel's rock-and-roll twist of Oliver Herford's lesser-known quotation "only the young die good."

The reported cause of death was heart failure, which no doubt comes as a surprise to those, including former employees, certain that she somehow lived her life without that particular organ.

The former model (huh?) and real-estate agent became Mrs. Helmsley in 1972 after convincing Harry Helmsley to divorce his wife. She quickly settled in as his full business partner, and together they built a hotel chain and real estate empire, which at its height included ownership of the Empire State and Flatiron Buildings. She once said that Harry loved having her as a business partner because "the board meeting was over as soon as they got out of bed in the morning." Go ahead and let that visual sink in.

Leona eventually became the face of the brand and centerpiece of a 1980's ad campaign touting the Helmsley Hotels as personally overseen by "the Queen" -- Leona herself. The campaign spotlighted Leona's insistence on having the "very best," indirectly referencing her indifference to and intolerance with the working class who were, to her way of thinking, there to serve her purposes. The campaign resonated with the new wave of high-spending, cold-hearted elitists spawned during the "Reagan years" -- an era for which Leona has attained iconic status. It seems somehow fitting that as she aged, she came to resemble Reagan himself, in very bad drag.

Dubbed the "Queen of Mean" [also the title of the 1990 made-for-TV biopic, which brilliantly cast Suzanne Pleshette in the main role], Helmsley was notorious for her ill treatment of employees, a wickedly short fuse, and insurmountable arrogance. In 1988, the Helmsleys were targeted by then-NYS Attorney General, Rudolph Guiliani, in a tax evasion scheme and were prosecuted. Mrs. Helmsley took it on the chin for her husband, who was declared mentally incompetent for trial, ultimately serving 18 months in a minimum-security prison. The highlight of the trial and the source of the quote most often associated with Leona came in the form of testimony from a former employee of the Helmsleys, a hotel maid, who testified that Leona once bragged that she and her husband "don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes." Charming lady, no?

Harry Helmsley died in 1997 and Leona slithered out of the spotlight saying "[m]y fairy tale is over." She was, however, mistaken. A new "fairy" tale with grimmer consequences brought her back into court in 2003. She was sued by the former manager of the Helmsley Park Lane Hotel, Charles Ball, who claimed he was terminated because he was gay. A jury awarded Ball $1.2 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages; the award was subsequently reduced to approximately $550,000. Testimony was clear that she created a hostile environment for Ball and was not a friend of the gays, but the underlying story is a bit more sordid than is often reported. Apparently, Helmsley was incensed that Ball had rented out so many of the rooms to attendees for New York's celebrated night of leather, The Black Party. What I would have given to have been a lady-in-waiting within earshot of Leona Helmsley when she was informed that the lobby of the Park Lane was littered with leather-clad and unclad circuit queens. The world hadn't seen a square-off between two queens this evenly matched since Elizabeth I and Mary Queens of Scots.

Some of those reporting on her life have made special efforts to highlight Leona's philanthropic and charitable deeds in some sort of twisted balancing act to offset the "mean, greedy, bitch" side most people know. For instance, CNN has reported that in her lifetime she likely donated approximately $50 million to hospitals, black churches in the South, and victims of September 11th and Katrina. My response: Yeah, and your point? Frankly, the amount is peanuts in comparison to her worth (estimated by Forbes at $2.5 billion in 2007). My assumption is that the donations were motivated more by tax consequences than any real concern for its beneficiaries.

Mrs. Helmsley will rot alongside her darling Harry, holding what is, I suppose, an eternal board meeting, inside a marble mausoleum worth $1.4 million at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery (ironically the same cemetery where Brooke Astor was recently buried). The mausoleum reportedly has a magnificent view, huge columns, and a breathtaking stained-glass window representation of the New York skyline, including the jewel of their earthly empire, The Empire State Building.

I hope to hell someone remembered to put a mint on her pillow before she arrived at the mausoleum or there's going to be hell to pay.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Every Pot's Got a Lid

The White House announced today that First Daughter Jenna (the chubbier, party twin) became engaged to Henry Hager (son of a Virginia Republican fundraiser) on August 15, 2007. I "image-googled" them and found this amazing photo on the left. Is there anything purer, more inspiring, than young love?

What I love about this particular photo is that it could have been taken anywhere: GOP picnic, NASCAR race, NRA Convention, KKK rally, WWF Friday Night Wrestling event. Or maybe Karl Rove, in a swan song act organizational brilliance brought all these interests together for one night of "white magic."

When I initially read the news, and then again when I saw the photo, I heard the unmistakable voice of my grandmother, Florence ("Flossie") Morin, in my head saying, "every pot's got a lid" -- it's sorta the working girl's version of Cinderella's glass slipper.

Coincidentally, while I was scanning the day's headlines, I came across this image on the right of Nathan and Kelly Devalos, another couple who beautifully illustrate the truth of Flossie's words. Nathan and Kelly were married on August 11, 2007 in the first ever wedding to be held simultaneously in real and virtual worlds. These two, die-hard players of the online game "Everquest," actually met while playing the game online; the rest is history. People all over the world were able to "attend" their wedding -- physically and virtually. Sounds great until you start thinking about 'thank you' cards.

[NOTE: From what I can gather, this online gaming thing is what kids who were playing D&D when I was in high school are doing now, as adults. I don't get it at all, but it gives me insight into what I think some straight people must feel when they consider "the gays" -- their interests, lives and even weddings, for that matter. When I see this, my gut says "Holy shit, are they fucking serious?" But, after a moment, I'm able to step back and recognize that they're not hurting anyone, no one is making me watch and they seem to be extremely happy. As a community, we just need to figure out how to convince straight people to step back for a second. I digress . . . ]

At 4'10" and 170, my grandmother, Flossie, was equal parts boobs, butt and unsolicited advice; her purse was full of pennies and she never hesitated to throw in her two cents. Although I'm not even sure if she finished high school, she was, and remains, the wisest woman I ever knew. Flossie's pithy comments could hardly be described as profound, but they cut to the heart of the matter and held incontrovertible truths.

Over the years, the idea that there is a lid somewhere out there for me has brought me comfort. Don't get me wrong; there have been times when I have ignored the implicit, equally true, flip side of the statement, which is, if the lid you've found doesn't fit your pot, put it down and move on. I have spent significant time and energy trying to make certain lids fit. I have attempted to force the lid to cover openings for which they were not designed. I have also banged numerous lids and even my own pot against walls, denting and distorting both, ultimately decreasing their effectiveness, in vain attempts to make a fit possible. In the short term, these efforts have had the appearance of working. But, once the heat is turned on and things start cooking, the forced fit fails and steam spews from the seams.

Flossie was always right, but without losing her sense of humor about things. I know that given the opportunity, she would have pulled both Jenna and Kelly aside and asked them if they had slept with their fiancés before agreeing to the engagement. If either had said "yes," she would have been admonished and told that she was lucky to have been asked because, as Flossie liked to say, "why would anyone buy the cow, if he's getting the milk for free." And if one of these young woman had replied "no," she would have been told she was a fool and encouraged to sleep with him as soon as possible, saying "you wouldn't buy a pair of shoes without trying them on, would you??"

Even though she's often in my head, I miss Flossie more today than ever.

I suspect that both of these pot/lid combinations are nice fits; each person seems made for the other. The only nagging question I have is what level of financial contribution did this Virginia RNC fundraiser have to make in order to receive the donor incentive of a Bush twin for his son? The entire thing has "Karl Rove" written all over it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I'm Behind You NYC: Chelsea Chicken Leg Syndrome

Date & Time: August 14, 2007

Time: 6:00 p.m.

Location: 6th Ave. & 22nd St., NYC

Reason: This is a rare example of a Chelsea boy who is not suffering from Chelsea Chicken Leg Syndrome (CCLS). CCLS is a mental disorder that causes its sufferers to believe that one only need weight train the upper half of his body. Advanced cases may obtain calf and/or buttock implants in an attempt to conceal the disorder; look for telltale scarring.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Brooke Astor: The Last of the Ladies Who Lunched

Brooke Astor died today at the age of 105. All New Yorkers, whether they realize it or not, have suffered a great loss in the passing of this great lady.

Mrs. Astor, who received the Presidential Medal of Honor from President Clinton in 1998, gave away over $200 million dollars in her lifetime and was largely responsible for saving many of what she called the city's "crown jewels" -- among them the New York Public Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Carnegie Hall, the Museum of Natural History, Central Park and the Bronx Zoo.

In addition to the "jewels," she spent considerable time and effort personally evaluating grant applications made to the Victor Astor Foundation, the philanthropic foundation established upon the death of her third husband in 1959 and for which she served as Chairwoman. Victor Astor inherited his fortune upon the death of father, John Jacob Astor, IV, who died in the sinking of the Titanic.

Shortly before his death, Victor reportedly said that Mrs. Astor would have a great time giving away all of his money once he was dead. She spent four decades doing just that, following his wishes that the money be spent on New York, where it had been made.

Soon after moving to NYC in May 1997, I read an article about Brooke Astor. The article described her as one of the "ladies who lunch," a phrase popularized by Steven Sondheim in a song of the same name from his Broadway show, 'Company.' These "ladies" -- stereotypified Upper East Side biddies, included the likes of Mrs. Astor, Kitty Carlisle Hart, Nan Kempner, and Pauline Trigere, among others. While Sondheim's lyrics celebrated their resilience, they also cast them as slightly out of touch with the rest of the world, "dinosaurs surviving the crunch."

The article that I read made it clear that while Mrs. Astor lived the rarefied life of one of these ladies -- heiress, doyenne, patroness, socialite -- she also retained a "common touch." I was intrigued. So, with the annoying vigor of a new-to-Gothamite, I decided to do some research. I was simultaneously shocked and thrilled to discover that Brooke Astore had been born "Roberta Brooke Russell" in New Hampshire -- my home state. Suddenly she made complete sense to me. 'No-nonsense' is in New Hampshire's water supply and earnest pragmatics are taught in pre-school.

This realization -- in those first crazy months in the City -- was supremely comforting to me. The fact that a skinny girl from Portsmouth could impact this great city in such a profound way made it seem conceivable that this chubby gay boy from Manchester might also have a shot.

Despite my best efforts, I haven't yet been able to land an Astor husband, which seems crucial to the successful implementation of the "Brooke Astor Masterplan." I thank each of you in advance for any leads in this regard.

Although they would not be my first choice, I will entertain inquiries from Rockefellers and Vanderbilts, as well.

I Just Saw: R2D2

. . . on the corner of 6th Avenue and 34th Street. Upon closer inspection. I realized that it was not, in fact, R2D2, but instead an United States Postal Service mailbox cleverly disguised as such. The mailbox was designed to commemorate the issuance of a new series of stamps based on the movie "Star Wars." As much as I love the mailbox, is it really necessary for the the USPS to "advertise?"

Note: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe R2D2 and C3P0 were the first gay robot couple to appear together on the big screen.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Minor Obsessions: BUTT

This is the first installment in a new series that will be devoted to discussing the many people, items, and/or ideas, about whom or which I have developed "minor obsessions." The distinction for me between major and minor obsessions is that, for the former, I will forego sleep, food, and common sense.

And for my debut "minor obsession" I'm thrilled to offer up BUTT -- the pocket-sized, quarterly magazine, always printed on pink paper, and unabashedly dedicated to "all things homosexual." BUTT began publishing in The Netherlands, in 2001 and it's latest edition (No. 20) for Summer 2007 (pictured left), the theme of which is the Los Angeles Boys of Summer, is currently available at a few local bookstores (including the St. Mark's Bookstore, Rainbows & Triangles), as well as all American Apparel clothing stores.

What's not to love about BUTT? It has consistently delivered provocative, intelligent content since its inception without sacrificing a bit of its gritty, underground feel. A treat for the eyes and mind, it is a page-turning, threesome: tongue-in-cheek raunch, balls-out candor and edgy charm.

The submission guidelines are non-existent; editors encourage contributions from all forms of "homosexual artistic expression," hoping to be surprised. The published results of the editor's pickiness are riveting -- amateur and professional shots of real boys and men from all walks, taunting interviews of underground gay heroes and daring virgin fiction. It's a visual and mental massage, with release.

BUTT recently published BUTT Book: Best of the First 5 Years of BUTT Magazine, a soft-bound publication (also in pink paper) with a self-explanatory title. It's a perfect compilation for those not interested in chasing down the 20 issues, which are rapidly becoming collectible. One of the reasons BUTT is a minor obsession is because I was introduced to the publication in its earliest days and, consequently, own all but a few of the back issues for which I do frequent eBay searches -- yes, astute 'he gay' reader, that is an example of a minor obsession riding piggy back on a major obsession. It's all good.

Go grab BUTT -- it's ready when you are, never disappoints, won't walk out the door after you've come, and you don't have to worry about its boyfriend suddenly appearing.

"Who is Merv Griffin?"

In the category "'Zsa Zsa's Closeted Companions," the answer for $1,000 is: "Talk show host and creator of "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune," who died today of prostate cancer at the age of 82."

While living in Derry, NH in the late 70's, I would arrive home from school each day, let myself in (we were called "latch-key kids" then), fix an obscenely large bowl of cereal, squeeze my chubby pre-teen ass into my mother's faux-fur black beanbag chair and watch "The Merv Griffin Show." I remember a distinct preference for Merv Griffin over Mike Douglas and Dinah Shore, who had similar shows at the time.

I now realize that my instinctive draw to Merv and his fascination with pop culture, his clever version of cattiness and his impeccable taste in ties was actually my pre-pubescent gay gene in action. I received some of my earliest training in the fine art of being a gay male without realizing it. [Note: Griffin self-identified as "bi," by which I have to assume he meant,"Oh, bi the way, I'm 100% gay" because he so clearly was just that].

As we aged, Merv and I grew further apart. He bloated as I thinned. He became a mogul as I became impoverished. He began rubbing elbows with the Republican woman, as I started rubbing other parts of Democratic men.

I was, however, genuinely saddened to hear of his passing and remain grateful for his subtle schooling on getting in a good dig without sounding like a complete bitch; he was the master.

And I will, undoubtedly, continue to think of him every time I polish off a box of Cap'n Crunch in one sitting, which, on rare occasions, still happens.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

YouTube: Making Insomnia Tolerable

Insomnia sucks. I'm usually able to fall asleep without difficulty, but wake up at least six times a night, finally resigning myself to being "awake" around 4ish.

Thank God for YouTube; it's been saving me.

My new favorite clip is:

The Gay Weatherman vs. The Cockroach

There would have been a time when the internalized homophobia would have absolutely recoiled at seeing this clip.

Today, I'm able to celebrate this man's unique [albeit incredibly high-pitched and shrill] voice.

Healing happens beautiful people.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

I Just Saw: Henry Rollins & Janeane Garofalo

. . . shopping together at the Borders Bookstore on Sixth Avenue at 22nd Street. They are my version of NYC chic -- sloppy designer threads, tattooed, smart as all fuck and fit. The kind of chic that hasn't sneaked out of NYC and moved to Berlin during this all-too-long season of cultural drought. They both have to be mid- to late-40's, which makes them contemporaries of mine, and I really respect each one's passion, compassion and commitment to finding the truth.

Are they dating? They should be.

And why aren't they (or at least one of them) running for office? What a hot-ass White House that would be.

UPDATE: I was informed that these two are, in fact, dating. They appeared together at the premiere of 'Ratatouille' (click for he gay's review), in which Garofalo voiced the role of "Collette."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Édith Piaf: Not So Pretty In Pink

". . . there were periods when I had an irresistible urge to destroy myself."
- Édith Piaf

I am not sure whether it's ultimately tragic or fitting that I chose to see La Vie en Rose a few days before deciding to take a medical leave from work and enter an out-patient rehabilitation program.

La Vie en Rose, directed by Olivier Dahan, is the life story of chanteuse Édith Piaf [France's version of Judy Garland]. Piaf, whose stage name means "sparrow" in French, has the distinction of being the only female singer from France to have become known in the United States.

I'm going to cut to the chase and recommend that you skip the film, or at least wait until it's available from Netflix.

The film's lack of balance leaves its audience dizzy. While purporting to cover her entire life, it, in fact, omits decades at a beat, exclusively focusing on the lowest notes sustained by this high-note warbler. There is little humor and no real triumph in this story -- only sadness, deep pain and isolating addiction.

In short, Dahan's slanted lens turns this biopic, myopic.

Marion Cotillard, the French actress portraying Piaf, has the unenviable task of stepping into the itsy-bitsy heels and huge voice of one of France's most beloved women. Physically, the resemblance is astonishing, right down to the creepy, drawn-in eyebrows (think Joan Crawford, Lana Turner, and that pre-op Latin tranny that's always sitting near the corner of Seventh Avenue and 15th Street). Cotillard is beyond compelling, but her efforts are undermined by a badly conceived script and inconsistent direction. I can't believe I'm going to suggest this, but it's a film that should have been done (and probably will) by an American. From a cultural perspective, it's my instinct that when the French revere something or someone, which is extraordinarily rare and is certainly the case with Piaf, they became incapable of distancing themselves enough to convey the truth of the matter.

Piaf's legacy is based as much rusted life as it is her gilded voice. And again, I can't believe I'm going to write this, but she's as much Judy Garland as she is Liza Minelli and Anna Nicole Smith. The entire lot were (and in Liza's case, still are) capable of delivering train wreck after train wreck.

The simultaneous rawness and clarity of Piaf's voice reaches into one's chest, grabs the beating heart and stops it for a second. She demands your full attention, if only for a tremulous note or tortured turn of a lyric. Her voice is the sound of defiance, kneeling for a moment -- equal parts Holliday, Simone and later-Garland. Tears come without any understanding of French; the universal communicability of her torment is neither helped nor hindered by mere language.

Piaf came from the Parisian slums, the daughter of a circus performer father and a street-musician mother. She was raised for a time in a brothel, eventually leaving as a small girl to join her father making money on the street. She was devastatingly poor all through childhood. She became an unwed mother, only to lose her daughter to meningitis at a young age.

She was discovered singing on the streets of Paris. Almost overnight, she was a sensation. She had actually done it; she had moved beyond her circumstances and could have lived a wonderful, content life doing what she loved.

Unfortunately she carried her demons everywhere. Alcohol, heroin and painkillers stopped the inner voice that tortured her. She suffered well and publicly, married poorly, and lost the one man she truly loved in a plane crash. Hers was a life of tragedy, of epic, Greek proportions.

She died a sparrow silenced, unable to sing or soar, at the age of 47.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Dirty Little Secrets: Sears Husky Jeans

Whenever I recall the particular fact of my existence that I am about to disclose, I reexperience the intense shame I felt the first time I realized it existed. The moment, which occurred in two feet of snow at a bus stop in Derry, New Hampshire when I was in the 6th grade, is so vivid, I can feel my cheeks burn the way they did that day. I have to trust the process at this point, but I have to admit I felt woozy even looking for an image to use for this piece.

The simple truth is that I wore Sears brand Husky jeans for boys from the time I was about seven all the way through sixth grade. For those of you that don't know, Husky jeans are what little fat boys wore. While everyone else was wearing Levi's, Lee Jeans, and even old-school Gap jeans, I was religiously sporting Huskys. My distinct recollection is that I was not at all aware that these jeans were, in fact, target marketed for young men of my proportions. It took some skinny-ass, future teen bride to point out that I was wearing jeans for "fatties." I can still see her standing there -- straight stringy hair, pink parka, hugging a green notebook, wearing mascara and smelling like fruity lip gloss; her name was either "Stacey" or "Tracey." Today, I would describe her as a "skank," but I'm fairly sure I didn't know that word then.

For some reason, she felt the need to point out in front of the everyone (okay, there were 4 of us, including her, me and my brother) that I was wearing the jeans that her brother had to wear because he was fat, just like me. What kills me is that there was absolutely nothing I could say to that. Nothing. Almost 30 years later, as I write this, I'm still dumbstruck. I still can't think of an adequate retort. Well that's not entirely accurate; I would probably say something along the lines "Well, one day I'll be a smoking hot gay lawyer living in NYC and you'll be trying to figure out if your sixth kid is your husband's, the mechanic's or your cousin's." But I didn't have the verbal wherewithall at the time that I command today.

Honestly though, there is precious little in this world that prepares one for the rough times that we all eventually face in this life like growing up fat -- especially in America, especially today. Back then, it was certainly less common than it is today. And (at the time) I could never figure out exactly why I was fat. No one around me was -- no one. I realize now it likely had a bit to do with the fact that I was particularly "sensitive" (their word) and smart as a whip. I started doing the math earlier than most and could see the trouble up ahead. I was a worried child and nothing calmed my nerves like food, lots of food. And sugar. And chocolate. And cake; I really liked cake. And fudge.

I gotta tell you, this secret-revealing stuff works. I feel great.

Monday, July 09, 2007

'Ratatouille' is Delicious! and Gay?

How could I resist movie night at a 12-screen movie theater in an authentic upstate strip-mall? The viewing options, as presented by Peter, who's an editor and frequent contributor to 'Filmaker' magazine and can be quite the cine-snob, absolutely shocked me; 'Knocked Up' or 'Ratatouille.' Although 'Knocked Up' seems to be garnering serious praise (huh?), we decided on 'Ratatouille,' which is latest offering from wicked talent at Pixar [the guys behind 'Toy Story,' 'Finding Nemo,' Monsters, Inc.', and 'The Incredibles']. Peter and I both laughed like 10-year-olds (with really deep voices).

Don't wait for Netflix; the stellar animation merits a trip to the big screen.

Peter and I disagreed on whether Remy, our rat-hero, is a metaphor for a young gay boy in the process of coming out. I think it's fairly obvious, while Peter (more Sontag than Kael) looks for the universal truth, seeing Remy as more symbolic of the misunderstood, "queer" individual, though not necessarily gay. I know I'm right, but I nodded as Peter postulated; that's the kind of guy I am. Patient with other's process. (wink)

Without giving away too much of the plot, I've listed those "hints" that, I believe, support my interpretation. They are:
  • Remy exhibits a refined "sensitivity" (smell), which makes him different from all the other rats in his colony;
  • When Remy's stereotypical macho brother sees Remy walking on two legs, he says, "If Dad sees you walking like that he's going to lose it.";
  • Remy is obsessed with the beauty and smells of gourmet food, while all the other rats are content to eat garbage;
  • Remy leads a double-life, hiding from everyone the fact that he sneaks into the human's home to watch the gourmet cooking show;
  • Remy feels conflicted about being what his family expects him to be and what he knows in his hear that he is; and finally
  • the transformation of our villain "Anton Ego" is clearly one of a gay male coming out of the closet later in life and the price he paid until that point. Watch the scene with his mother as he comes home from school crying because of the bullies. And then watch the last scene when he's in the restaurant. So, so gay.
And don't miss the reference to May Day's (Grace Jones) Parisian romp from "A View to A Kill." [Grace Jones!!?? -- Uhm, hellooooo!]

Gay or not the film is as good as slice of a gooey, stinky Epoisses.

As a kid, I was completely obsessed with Julia Child on PBS; suffice to say, Remy has become my new hero. And it's so wonderfully subversive that the folks at Disney (who own Pixar) have made a rat the dalmation or Nemo for 2007.

I love the idea of small kids all over middle America carrying around stuffed rats.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Celebrate America's Independence?

It seems a bit ridiculous, considering.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The He(Art) of Chris Schiffelbein

Chris Schiffelbein and I began exchanging e-mails in March, after meeting on the Queer Justice League listserve. Chris sent me kind note of support after I had responded to a posting of another. He was one of two people (randomly, the other was ex-NJ-guv McGreevey) to send me a private response. It was brief, but its simplicity and implicit sincerity made an impact; I felt heard, accepted.

So, of course, I googled "Chris Schiffelbein," followed the breadcrumb trail of internet links, and, within 10 minutes, I was reading his blog, Queer on Paper, and being introduced to his art. Surprise, surprise. Turns out, this gentle, thoughtful soul is also capable of creating some balls-out, in-your-face "queer" art. After 20 minutes of "click-enlarge," "click-enlarge," I dashed off an e-mail to Chris, which including my version of kind support; I insisted we meet and figure out a way to get a "Chris Shiffelbein" on my wall.

It actually took three months for Chris and I to coordinate schedules, but we finally met tonight for Indian food at Mitali's on Sixth Street. Chris is currently living that part of the NYC "art hipster" experience, which requires one to simultaneously juggle school, partner, art and a table waiting gig. That notwithstanding, he arrived early, in good spirits and appearing well rested.

We sat down, ordered an appetizer of mixed vegetable pakoras (Chris has the heart of a vegetarian, but admits a weakness for the occasional steak) and started talking about the Queer Justice League's baby steps, queer advocacy, and our backgrounds. Chris grew up in Topeka, obtained his bachelors degree in Fine Arts from KSU and is currently working towards his masters in Social Work at CUNY Hunter College. His commitment -- artistically, personally and professionally -- is to the queer community. He is adamant and consistent regarding his use of the word "queer," unapologetically reappropriating it for himself and his people.

Before the pakoras hit the table, I insisted Chris open his portfolio. Several series emerged during my first look through. The first two draw from the same inspirational roots: the homosexualization and subversion of traditional religious imagery. This inspirational launching pad, though not uncommon among gay artists, can teeter towards triteness or careen into caricature when not carefully considered. Take for instance, Delmas Howe 's, recent show "Stations: A Gay Passion," which was at the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation earlier this Spring. The paintings in "Stations" bordered on garish. The subject matter (the Twelve Stations of the Cross) begged for intimacy, which would have balanced beautifully with the depictions he chose. It was as though he drew a sledgehammer, when a meat tenderizer would have sufficed.

Despite his relatively young age, Chris ably ambles this line, creating compelling pieces that retain a provocative quality without sacrificing subtlety. In a sub-series, which I'll call "Haloed Holies" (Chris tends to "untitle" his work), he gives us solo and partnered men, in various states of undress, but always halo and a hard-on; the gay male equivalent, perhaps, of the heterosexual male (or lesbian, I suppose) ideal of a "lady on the arm, whore in bed." The males, as depicted, are certainly do-able, but aren't those unattainable, over-idealized creatures dominating much of gay art. The pieces are, in a word, delightful.

The next sub-series, "Sacred Texts" (again, my name), includes collages of gay male sex created from pages torn from religious texts, including the Bible and Koran. [click right image]. They are studies in stealth genius; one is drawn in by the simplicity of shapes and deft use of line, and then repelled (or, for some, repulsed) as the words rise and the pages reveal themselves. They are equally engaging in both small and large sizes, in which he's executed them. One of the larger pieces was part of a recent silent charity auction, attracting a lot of interest and raising some nice coin for GLAAD. They are deliciously illicit.

The more I saw, the more determined I became to support this guy and his art; both of which I grew to consider wonderful and necessary additions to my life and this community. But how to choose? I finally decided on piece from a series I'm calling "Dukes of Bio-Hazard," [click left image] which is a title I think Chris would hate, thereby encouraging him to, perhaps, name them himself (wink, wink). The series evolved when Chris, who frequently uses discovered materials in his collages, "came upon" some medical lab test bags [it's pure coincidence that at the time he was working at a clinic as part of a Social Work related to his masters' work]. He felt drawn (bada bing) to them and was determined to incorporate them into his work. And incoroporate them, he did. The small (9" x 6") blue and yellow ink and acrylic paintings are inserted inside the clear bags, with the red bio-hazard box, which adorns each bag, cleverly marking the area of greatest hazard, in the the primary color scheme. So smart.

Besides the aesthetic appeal, I chose this for what it says, or actually for what it doesn't say that I thought it did. I'll explain.

At 30 and 41 respectively, Chris and I exist on opposite edges of the "AIDS gap" - that gap, in time and perspective, separating adults into two groups: those who were sexually active prior to the onset of AIDS and those who became sexually active later. While I was having my first sexual experiences in the late 70's and early 80's largely unaware of the virus, Chris came up and out with the virus as a known entity. Obviously, the gap affects all people, but in this context, I exclusively refer to its impact on the gay males.

This gap, I think, was responsible in large part for my first (gut, default, automatic) reaction to the bio-hazard bag works; I initially assumed they were another artistic response to the epidemic. For such a long time, too long actually, any medical reference in gay art, for me, has conjured the virus. And then I stopped and looked closer. I smiled when I realized I had presumed incorrectly. I asked Chris to confirm the same, which he did. I was completely humbled and felt myself move one more step forward on my journey, with my load lightened.

That voice in my head that often complains about my HIV status, the pills, the doctor appointments, the stigma, blah, blah, blah, was stifled for a moment. The pieces reminded me of the truth that love and sex is a risk for everyone -- not just me. It reminded me that the Universe hasn't singled me out for a tougher slice of love. That I share the reality of this risk with the world, and that reminder brought me back into relation with the rest of humanity.

And that, beautiful people, is what Art can do.

Thank you Chris. Thank you so much.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

h[eBay]: 1950's Male Nude Drawing

As I've expressed, I'm a bit of an eBay aficianado [read: whore]. One of my saved searches on eBay is "vintage male nude." I'm not quite addicted to pre-Stonewall, homo-erotic art, but I am as close as one can get without needing 12 steps.

I saw this drawing the first day it listed, which a blessing and a curse. While it meant that I would have plenty of time to consider the purchase (maybe investigate market value), it also meant I would have to suffer through six days of internal debate. I'm a wicked debater, so this aspect of the purchase is not to be considered lightly.

To be honest, though, this was one of those items that I knew I'd own the second I set my eyes (er, cursor) on it, which is another blessing/curse. That little voice that tells you it's already yours and is deciding where it's going to be hung, is the same one that will overbid when it comes down to the last minutes of the auction.

The solution? eSnipe it!

eSnipe is an online service that places your highest bid on an eBay item in the last seconds of the auction. You pay a nominal amount for "points" and each time eSnipe is used in a winning auction, some of these points are deducted from your balance. eSnipe allows you to set a maximum price that you're willing to pay and enters that final seconds before anyone can "respond" to the highest bid you're willing to make. Obviously, if you're highest bid is not higher than the existing bid when eSnipe places it, you lose.

Also, no one who is bidding on your item during the six days it's posted has a clue that you have an eSnipe bid in the wings. You are able to swoop in and snag it before anyone knows. If you have ethical problems with this, read eBay's and eSnipe's policies on it. They don't mind and neither should you.

So, back to my new drawing [click to see image in larger size].

It was not done by a "listed" artist, but the quality is excellent and it's rare because of it's size, which is "huge," measuring in at 40" x 18", without the frame. I asked the seller to ship the drawing without the frame, significantly reducing shipping costs.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I Am Proud Of You

One of the only things I actually remember from junior high school, I heard from Mary Beth Benham, my Speech teacher. For those of you who don't know, Speech class is the pre-requisite for, among other things, high school Drama class, so it is typically filled with debate geeks, gay boys, and chubby girls (hags-in-training).

Ms. Benham began her lesson one day by asking the class whether we knew what the the five nicest words you could say to someone in the English language were. After several minutes of unsuccessful guessing (I ventured "How much do you need?"), we admitted defeat. Her answer surprised me.

"I am proud of you," she said.

My intitial reaction, after making sure that there were exactly five words, was "That's it?!" And now, over 25 years later, that information is still holding space in my consciousness. Why? I believe the main reason is that what is expressed in those words resonates with me on some base, core level -- that there is some psychic itch scratched, some metaphysical discomfort soothed, by those words.

Try it yourself: sit back, shut your eyes and hear the words in the voice of a loved one.

I am proud of you.

Kind of amazing, right?

The last few months have been a time of increased awareness and recognition of the immense power behind, and energy within, words. Science may tell us that words are merely sounds, created from impulses from our brain communicated to our vocal chords, which tremble and dance, sending vibrations through space, which are funneled into our ears, bounced of our eardrums, signaling new impulses to the receiver's brain. And while I accept the science (quite unlike the current administration), I do think there's more to it. I believe that words come to us, irrevocably laden with the energy of their source and the essence of the emotion behind them. I'm convinced that words have potent power to heal and a daunting ability to destroy.

So on this last Sunday in June, the day we set aside each year to celebrate Gay Pride in New York City, I want to send these words from the best part of myself to every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender person of this tremendous city -- I am proud of you!

I am proud of you for getting up & walking out of your house each day.
I am proud of you for allowing yourself to love the person you love.
I am proud of you for holding hands when you walk down the street.
I am proud of you for getting married.
I am proud of you for registering at Bloomingdale's.
I am proud of you for taking care of yourself when no one else will.
I am proud of you for opening your mouth when it's easier to stay quiet.
I am proud of you for walking through fear to do what you know is right.
I am proud of you for taking care of your brothers and sisters.
I am proud of you for choosing to live.
I am proud of you for looking beyond the obstacles.
I am proud of you for having and raising children.
I am proud of you for taking your medication every day.
I am proud of you for going to therapy.
I am proud of you for taking an active interest in healing yourself.
I am proud of you for loving yourself.
I am proud of you for honoring those who went before you.
I am proud of you for dropping bread crumbs along the way.
I am proud of you for reaching out.
I am proud of you for being financially responsible.
I am proud of you for never forgetting how to laugh.
I am proud of you for learning how to cry.
I am proud of you for continuing to be teachable.
I am proud of you for voting.
I am proud of you for telling your story.
I am proud of you for continuing to be part of your biological family.
I am proud of you for refusing to hate.
I am proud of your willingness to share your talents.
I am proud of you for trying to learn a better way.
I am proud of you for getting up when you fall.
I am proud of you for not knocking someone down.
I am proud of you for living as honestly and honorably as possible.
I am proud of you for making this world a more beautiful place.
I am proud of you for making this world a more livable place.
I am proud of you for defining "fabulous."
I am proud of you for never, never, never giving in, or giving up.
I am so proud of you.

The following is a list of GLBT men and women who have been, in small and large ways, instrumental on my journey as a gay man. They have made me proud of who I am and have given me direction, inspiration and hope, directly and indirectly, by their words and example.
* Brad * Casey * John * Kevin * Peter * Billy * Michael * Dave * Jim * Mark * Colly * Luigi *Frank * Tom * Dan * Todd * Frédéric * Bob * Ryan * Victor * Salvatore * Barbara * King * James * Antoine * Frédéric * Jean * Mark * Aldo * Achilles * Karl * Fabian * Randy * Deirdre * Graydon * David * Frank * Jeffrey * Jonah * Keith * Mirch * Eliam * Steven * Nicholas * Arthur * Ricardo * Jean-Michel * Jerome * Toby * John * Bob * Reggie * Todd * Bill * Shawn * Daniel * Tom * David * Melissa * Chloe * Daniel * Michael * Kevin * Skip * Artie * Dairmid * Robson * Kata * Christopher * Bill * Thad * Adam * Frank * Chris * Christopher * Charlie * Matthew * Alex * Ricardo * Bo * Kevin * Van * Anthony * Sammy * Terry * John * Kevin * Michael * Rob * Chris * McKenzie * Craig * Andy * Grant * Eric * Harvey * Rob * Charles * Fritz * Read * Michael * John * Steve * Bob * Henry * Sven * Michael * Ricardo * Kevin * Chris * Nelson * Mark * Rob * Fred * Matt * Gary * Thomas * Bernard * Bob * William * Jim*
Thank you so much for sharing yourselves with me.

Happy Gay Pride 2007!

Romeo & Beverly

As I strolled into Central Park tonight, the sun was beginning its descent. A gently breeze carried the unmistakable smell of summer grass (both kinds). In my bag, the perfect picnic -- duck liver pate, French ham, Swiss cheese, a crusty baguette, jars of cornichons and Maille mustard, a quart of fresh strawberries with a container of freshly whipped cream. [Okay, so I did learn a few things from my Ex, the Frog.]

All the elements of a perfect date were in place. I had the entire evening planned. We'd start with a romantic picnic in Central Park, just the two of us, before taking in "Romeo & Juliet" at the Delacorte Theatre, which was being presented tonight as part of the Public's annual "Shakespeare in the Park" series. The only thing missing was my date. I strolled deeper into the park, keeping a lookout and then, "Voila!" I saw her. Yes, "her."

Beverly and I have been friends for over three years, and for all intents and purposes and for lack of a better name, she has assumed the role of my "fag hag." Though she's not in love with the moniker, she often refers to herself in that way. A native New Yorker who will be 80 in September, Beverly lived in the West Village during the 50's, 60's, and early 70's; she's had a long list of boys before me, but is quite certain I'll be her last.

Beverly, who gets around in a motorized wheelchair, is what my grandmother would call a "big girl." She constantly mentions how "tall and sexy" she used to be, bemoaning the fact that, as she puts it, she's nothing but an "old fat lady in a wheelchair" now. I've learned how to roll my eyes convincingly and, although I never contradict her, I am able to insist she "stop it" because she's "boring me." That ends it immediately; Beverly "loathes the boring and stupid."

Despite her numerous physical ailments, she still manages to live alone in her Tribeca apartment with a home health aide assisting only a couple of hours a week. She leads a largely independent existence and I find her both courageous and remarkable. Don't get me wrong; she also tortures me, as only an old lady is capable, but I love her to death.

We actually take in a fair amount of opera and Broadway. And as a former actress [her high water mark being a bit part in a national tour of "Desire Under the Elms" with George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst], she has an appreciation for and an encyclopedic knowledge of every opera and show that's been presented in New York City in the last 60 years. She's forgotten more than I know, but is patient and generous in sharing her memories.

And a date, after all, by any other name, is still a date. So, during this low-interest-in-dating period of mine [Note: I didn't say sex; please don't think I meant sex.], we're spending a lot of time together. The pricing for handicap seating (and tickets for those accompanying them) is incredible and she often reminds me that I'm only getting in for cheap because of her.

This season's production of "Romeo & Juliet," directed by Michael Greif, and featuring Lauren Ambrose from "Six Feet Under" (Juliet) , Oscar Isaac (Romeo), Camryn Manheim from "The Practice" (Nurse) and Austin Pendleton (Friar Laurence) was a mixed bag.

There must be a lot of pressure when mounting a production as known and loved as "Romeo & Juliet." Pressure to stay true to the text, to push the envelope, to make it relevant today, to respect the context in which it was written, blah, blah, blah. And pressure is often the catalyst for both the dreadful and delightful.

The dreadful in this production, takes the form of a huge puddle. By "huge," I mean the entire size of the circular stage, less the three-foot plank walkway that surrounds it. In addition to the circular walkway, the only place to stand that ain't wet is on the black metal pipe, stairlike structure, that morphs, as needed, and traverses what must be called "Lake Verona." Try as I might, I just didn't get it. Not even for a second. It was so distracting (i.e., "Are those actors freezing?", "Is she wearing shoes?", "How deep is it there?"). Beverly "was not amused." And while we're discussing the dreadful, the costuming was inconsistent and confusing. Sometimes I thought it was the 1920's, sometimes the 1940's, sometimes I had no idea at all.

The delightful presents in heart-stopping moments of superb acting. Michael Cristofer gives us a complex, multi-layered "Lord Capulet" from the moment he first hits the stage. Midway through the second act, he crescendoes, almost literally reaching out, grabbing the entire audience, squeezing them into a tiny ball and shoving them in his pocket as storms off the stage. The scene begins as Lord Capulet is informed by his wife and daughter that Juliet doesn't want to marry Paris three days hence. The snarling rage of his response, and the reactions of the women, leaves you certain that he has beat both women in the past. No words or actual physical contacts allude to it, but you know. I was left with goosebumps.

Ms. Ambrose does an above-average Juliet, altough she comes across as a bit too sexually savvy (and dare I say, hungry) for a 14 year old girl. If it were staged in modern times, it would seem more believable. And our Romeo, Mr. Isaac, gets high marks overall. As Nurse, Manheim, chews the scenery with too much gusto, too often for my taste. But her scenes with Mercutio [brilliantly played in every scene by Christopher Evan Welch (when can we move beyond these three-named actors?)] are priceless. Finally, Austin Pendleton, as always, shines. He is one of our little New York treasures and I could watch him read the back of a cereal box and be delighted.

I was most proud of the restraint I showed during Juliet's balcony scene as she was lamenting, "Oh Romeo, Romeo. Wherefore art thou, Romeo?" I so wanted to scream, "He ain't out there honey. Believe me, I've looked and he ain't out there."