Thursday, December 31, 2009

Decade

Onward
Ten years ago I was spun out, dancing wildly in patchwork pants and waiting for the sun to come up over the Everglades of Florida at Phish Millennium. I hadn't been with a guy yet, certainly no beard and clenched, as everyone else did, under the suspense of Y2K.

It's been ten years. Ten years and I feel like I've lived three life times by now. Ten years of life, adventure, experience, regrets, mistakes, men, sex, parties, dates, relationships, single life, bars, states, countries, cities, money, no money, gym, lift, fat, skinny, healthy, sick, angry, happy. So much can happen in ten years. Had you grabbed me by my hemp necklace then and told me all I'd experience by now, I'd have laughed in your face (and then probably offered you a brownie.)

I'll be 38 on December 31st 2019 and I have no ability to predict what will happen between now and then. I'll be a man. A full grown man. The point of no return so far from visibility. A distant memory of the days that were. A buoy in a fog so excruciatingly dense. The thought alone makes me eager and terrified. Life just keeps pushing forward. There's no stopping it - you just have to go along for the ride.

In ten years I went from young to younger to man. The full scale of my blind evolution so blatantly clear now in hindsight. My heart splits at the vision. I grasp at the ghosts of that child but as much as I may try, I will never hold that boy again. He's gone, now molded into what you have before you. Oh young man, from where have you come and where will you go? Forward, the only direction, the past, stones on which we walk.

Life is so fragile. So wretchedly fragile and in 100 years we'll all be dust. Is it not this fact alone that is this planet's greatest invitation for us to live our lives? To be the man we want to become? To live as freely or as wildly or as sane as we'd like? This Earth will keep turning, and turning, and turning, with or without us. We are a speck in a broad stroke of history. A tiny, worthless crumb on the table of time and when the time comes, and it will indeed come, we will be bones in the ground or ashes to the sky and yet this Earth will still turn and turn and turn. So live as you live and accept this next decade with an open chest. Allow light to beam through you offering whatever it may be. Be open, for anything else would be a simple, silly waste of time. These years are blurred at best. A flimsy, horse-haired bow of an arch between then and now, and now and then. The future so weighed down by tangibility yet light and translucent like the very air we breathe. We know it exists but we just can't see it!

So strong this younger self I shed, each passing day, each step erasing the previous. Five steps now, ten and I'm ancient.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Cars Drive so Fast Here


The Cars Drive so Fast Here

The cars drive so close to one another here you would think accidents happen more often than they already do. I forgot how much of a car city Los Angeles is and my friends drive wildly. Their swerving, speed and cursing at other drivers make me nervous and force me to slam the break that doesn’t exist on the floor by the passenger seat. Every driver has either a gadget or a wire dangling from their ear allowing them to talk to people on their way to work or the gym or while they’re stuck in traffic. I truly forgot how much one needs a car here. I’ve been out of LA for more than three years and part of me can’t believe that I used to live here for two. I too had done the same as everyone else; driving, talking, swerving. But by how I react to my friends’ driving you’d think I’ve never been here at all.

I sat at the Starbucks on the corner of Fairfax Avenue and Santa Monica Blvd., just a few blocks north of where I used to live and sipped an iced coffee while I watched the cars zoom by. Every time a car would fly through the intersection I would startle and tense up because they were just missing, by mere inches, the cars on the other side waiting their left turn. I couldn’t believe the speed of some of these drivers. Everyone seemed so busy, speeding terribly and half talking on their “no-hands” gadgets. I forgot too, how expensive and new looking so many cars were and that also left me puzzled about the drivers’ seemingly desperate need to speed. Wouldn’t they want to be more careful? Wouldn’t they want to slow down, just a bit, to ensure the safety and condition of their cars? After all, it’s just a matter of inches between safety and collision. Four inches making all the difference between smooth sailing or a body flying through the windshield. Inches. Just inches and seconds. Life and death. Everybody’s got to go somewhere, sometime, I guessed.

The intersection of Santa Monica Blvd. and Fairfax Ave. is just on the edge of gay-town West Hollywood. That said, the fence sectioning off the outdoor patio of Starbucks where I was sitting was painted rainbow. A blue SUV with 3 men in their mid-twenties stopped at the light and snickered, pointing at the rainbow colored fence. Maybe it was the traffic, the sound of the cars driving by or maybe even because of the book I was reading but I drifted off into a terror-fantasy world, thinking that if these men wanted, they could pack their car full of explosives and detonate it right here at the edge of the fence. The impact would obliterate me in milliseconds and everything would be over. There would be nothing left. I would be dead. Finished. Gone. All of it happening before the smoke even had a chance to clear.

The fantasy reminded me of the time Eric-the-Roommate and I were driving down Beverly Blvd. and talking about terrorism.

“Really, the bombs are all for show,” he said driving west past the Beverly Center, a huge urban mega-plex of a mall. “Terrorism can exist in any form. The bombs are just sudden and impactful but really anyone can stick an Uzi in each hand and walk into a place like the Beverly Center and just mow people down.”

The light turned green outside of Starbucks and the blue SUV drove past pulling me out of my memories. I sat in the sun for a while, thumbing the pages of my book but not wanting to open it. It was too noisy, the sun just a little too hot and I was distracted.

An elderly woman walked across Santa Monica Blvd. and without ordering a drink or even stepping inside pulled up a chair at the table next to me. Earlier a homeless woman with stringy blond hair and pants falling below her waist had bummed a smoke from a seated customer so I assumed this was a frequent sit-and-rest for the wayward and destitute. The elderly woman took a few breaths and popped open an umbrella to shield herself from the sun. I studied her briefly. At first I thought she was a bag lady but after further scrutiny realized she was simply an old lady with an arsenal of shopping bags and a pushcart. The elderly were frequent in this neighborhood. This neighborhood is one of the rare walkable areas of LA and so it was littered with old age homes and retirement centers. She noticed me noticing her and smiled through decaying teeth to say hello. I said hello and turned my head back to the street. I felt her studying me.

“What book are you reading? Are you enjoying it,” she asked. I wasn’t really in the mood to talk with anyone, especially an off-the-street crazy, but I smiled and said, “I don’t know if enjoying would be the right word but yes it’s very good. It’s called Afterlife by Paul Monette.”

“Oh is that something you’re interested in – the afterlife?”

“I suppose, but the book isn’t about that after life. It’s more about the lives of people after someone close to them dies.” I just went for it. “The book is about the 1980’s, set right here in West Hollywood, actually and everyone is dying of AIDS.”

“Oh yes,” she replied quickly, “I remember those times. They were very tough. I remember asking, “how long is this going to last?” I was surprised at her response. How she had said everything so casually as if the time period and the subject matter of the book was something that was just yesterday for her. Maybe she too had lost a friend, read the newspapers or was in someway affected. Despite her verge of bag-lady appearance it was clear she had more of a mind than I assumed.

“I just lost my husband a few years ago and oh, the grief is so hard! It takes forever to get over. Sometimes you just don’t think it will end. I had no idea what I was going to do without him. But time goes by and slowly things get better. Life writes itself. But the loss, the loss is never filled. That’s the part that stays with you.”

I absorbed what she was saying. She closed her umbrella and began to get up to leave. “You just make sure you live every day to its fullest. You appreciate what you have.”

“I always do,” I said, “I have shoes on my feet and water when I want it and a roof over my head which is more than I can say for millions of people on this planet. I should only be so lucky to have a problem, right? Life’s too short so I appreciate it very much."

“That’s right, my dear.” She smiled and left.

As I watched her leave I thought about grief. About how I dip into and out of it like a familiar friend I choose to hang with from time to time. I know this feeling. This comfortable sense of loss, of mourning. Holding the book in my hand and staring out at the cars I couldn’t decipher which I grieve more. The dent in our community caused by AIDS, the deaths of all those men and the havoc I wasn’t able to experience. Or is that indescribable black heavy pit of our community’s nonchalance toward those times that were, how we seemed to have learned nothing and in some ways are denying AIDS’ very existence.

I thought about the first sentence of the book: “If everyone hadn’t died at the same time, none of this would have happened” and, later on, “he knew they were laying in comas all over the city.” I swirled in my grief. Hello friend. How have you been? Is it that loss, that unforgettable unfilled crater or is it where we are now?

Just the other night at The Eagle’s wet underwear contest while the contestants were doing the Q&A portion of the show someone from the audience yelled out, “Bareback or condoms?” The MC ignored the catcall by casually giggling. But the man who had yelled the question was hoping that one, if not all four contestants, would say bareback as if in today’s world this revolution against the condom, against the very thing that protects our well being, should be celebrated as something cool or edgy or fringe. This is where we are now - our bright hopeful future.

I felt the buzz of my cell phone in my pocket. Bret was finished with the gym and he was ready to pick me up. He pulled up to the corner of the intersection and I climbed into the car. He flew through the intersection like the other cars I had seen and as we drove home I felt my fingernails digging into the rubber door handles.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Some Queens: David B. Feinberg

"Some Queens"
from David B. Feinberg's book, Eighty-Sixed:

"Drag queens, size queens, shrimp queens (toe-sucking), rice queens (Orientals), Potato queens (Occidentals), Fire Island Queens, circuit queens (Fire Island/gym/disco circuit), cha-cha queens (Latinos), rice-and-bean queens (Mexicans), Queens for a Day (married men from New Jersey who go to the baths), face-sitting queens, fist queens, dish queens, Astoria Queens, dinge queens, beanie-boy queens (Orthodox Jews), salami queens (Italians), salami-casing queens (uncut Italians), leather queens, opera queens, tearoom queens, smoke queens, popper queens, enema queens, personals queens (likes long walks on beaches), glory hole queens, tattoo queens, butthole queens, studio queens (Studio 54 similarly, Disco Dollies), snow queens (cocaine, or blacks who like whites), fag hag queens, hyphenate queens (actor-model-dancer-waiter), stress queens, roller derby queens (wheelchairs, etc.), alfalfa queens (macrobiotic), diesel queens (men who dress up like dykes), chicken queens, diva queens, screen queens, seafood queens (sailors), Souvlaki queens (Greek action), crepe Suzette queens (French action), Perils-of-Pauline queens (thrill seekers), blue jean queens (Calvin Klien, Gloria Vanderbilt), teddy bear queens, cherry queens (deflowering virgins), Crisco queen, smut queens, ice queens (diamond stud earrings), banana queens (curved dicks), Jimmy Dean queens (Levi's, Elizabeth Taylor and Rebels without a Cause), Lean Cuisine queens (perpetual dieters), mean queens (S & M), twisted queens (deranged), pee queens (watersports), team queens, unweaned queens (sucking on tits - - also known as dairy queens), magazine queens (addicted to glossies and press releases), railroad queens, locker room queens, mile high club queens (making it airplane johns), rubber queens, dildo queens, beet queens (future farmers of America back in High School - - see also: "yam queens"), dream queens (GQ types), scream queens ("faaabulous!!!!"), palace queens (Leona Helmsley), tuna queens (male lesbians), pesto queens (into garlic), egg cream queens, fashion victim/style-police queens (beyond therapy), hostage queens (fantasies of being taken hostage in a foreign American embassy and being brutalized by idealistic young university-student revolutionaries), vanilla queens (into vanilla sex: basic sucking and fucking, no fantasies allowed), matzoh meal queens (reformed Jews), Wuthering Heights queens (hopeless romantics), skin queens (uncircumcised), peeled queens (cut), designer queens, steroid queens, beach queens, smack queens, Ma Bell queens (phone sex), Tom Thumb queens (small dicks), Uniform queens, piano bar queens, salad queens (rimming), bottle queens (alcoholics), flea queens (sex in run down hotels), bull horn queens (politicos), flab queens (AKA chubby chasers), evil queens (approximately ninety percent of the above), therapy queens (electro shock queens, Bellvue queens, couch queens, Valium queens, etc...) condo and co-op queens (the landed gentry in Manhattan), and closet queens."

Friday, December 4, 2009

Ugh: Lambert!

American Idle
I know I'm a little tardy for the party on this one but since two people were talking about it on the subway last night I assume, much like no-balloon-attic-boy, that this story hasn't completely flown away.

Let's make a few things clear: I don't watch American Idol. I don't know who Adam Lambert is. I don't care who Adam Lambert is. I don't listen to his music. I don't really care that he's gay and apparently neither does he. Several times Lambert has gone on the record to distance himself from representing or wanting to have anything to do with the gay community saying that he's his own person and his music and choices are his own and blah blah blah blah blah... From his Entertainment Weekly Interview:
"I can talk about relationships and personal experiences because as an artist those things involve writing lyrics and that part of my process. But I didn’t feel comfortable talking about the March on Washington. I didn’t feel comfortable, so I asked my publicist to ask the interviewer to stay away from the political questions. I take full responsibility for that. I think that the editor has his agenda and has his opinions, which I respect, but they’re not necessarily my opinions. And I wish there was a little respect for that. Not every gay man is the same gay man."

So Adam Lambert gets on stage on the night of the American Music Awards and in an unrehearsed move simulates oral sex with one of his male dancers and then kisses his male keyboard player. Ooooh shocking! Soon there's censoring and edits and blurs. The network is outraged. The gays are outraged. The Christians are outraged. Everybody is outraged! Please, get a grip, and if you need some proof that the the stunt was unrehearsed then go visit the Chicken Littles at GLAAD and lick it up baby, lick it up:
"Given the live nature of the American Music Awards, Adam Lambert’s performance, which differed greatly from his rehearsal, caught many, including the network, off guard. This is not a question of Lambert’s sexual orientation. As is evidenced by GLAAD’s media report card, ABC is at the forefront of positive gay and lesbian portrayal on television."

While everyone is freaking out the issue of double standards and the famous Britney/Christina/Madonna kiss is brought to the table.

Let's just make another thing clear: The American Music Awards are on the prime time national network ABC while the Madonna/Britney kiss was on the Video Music Awards on MTV. These are two totally separate networks with two totally separate standards and practices and two totally different demographics! MTV can get away with things like sudden or rehearsed lezbo kissing. ABC, well they have a little more red tape than that.

First, let's just admit overall, gay or straight, that Lambert's stunt was simply inappropriate. Ok? Whether it's Pink, Madonna, Britney, Adam Lambert, male on female, male on male or female on female, gay or straight, simulating oral sex on a nationally televised primetime broadcast just doesn't make any sense. It's just not appropriate. I know we Americans are desensitized to everything and our media has comfortably settled within a proud norm of mediocrity complete with low-level morals but there should be some standards for these obviously pointless, gratuitous actions. Yes, double standards exist. Boo-hoo. They always existed and despite how hard we fight, they will continue to exist. Double standards are a fact of life. But, if done appropriately or subtly, I do believe one has the ability to blur the lines of what we consider double standards. (See also: David Bowie, Boy George, Marylin Manson, Grace Jones, etc...) If Lambert's "dance" wasn't so off-the-cuff, aggressive and out of the blue I don't think we'd be having this conversation. I'm not saying he should have donned a tuxedo, took a man by the hand and pecked him on the cheek but he could have gone at this from a different angle.

At least Britney and Madonna's kiss had a certain class to it. A certain, mesh to it all. Their kiss was a simple, subtle, like a little exclamation point to the end of their performance. Lambert's was sloppy, awkward, tactless and seemingly came from nowhere. His music nor choreography lead up to any crescendo which would call for that type of action and suddenly he's trying to defend himself? Please. If the Britney/Madonna kiss never existed Lambert would have no defense to stand on - or - had the female pop kiss not happened, his actions might have served a greater purpose or at least pushed the envelope. But instead, it just stood as utterly pointless with low-rent shock value. A cutesy stunt that blew up in his face. I would be less critical of Lambert if his actions had anything to do with his song, performance or talent. If it worked together in any way. But really I believe we're just using this double standard nonsense as a means to defend him from his stupid, sloppy behavior.

I wonder how ABC would have reacted if Lambert came to them wanting to include some form of homoerotic element to his performance? Maybe it would have been a little watered down and safe but we certainly wouldn't have ended up with this tumbleweed of nonsense news and the backlash we "not represented by Lambert" gays receive.

When Politician Larry Craig was busted using "gay cruising techniques" in a public toilet, me, my friends, and the gay community's reputation were dragged through the dirt as though we as a whole use these public bathroom cruising tactics as a means to pick up men. I never cruised public bathrooms and neither have my friends but suddenly this desperate "straight" guy taints my community and lifestyle with his reckless actions. Unfair as it is, much like a double standard, people will feel as though this is something "we" do, something "we" support. Lambert's actions accumulate to much the same. Here we are on the brink of marriage equality and all the sudden, a gay guy who wants nothing to do with representing the gay community, represents us in the silliest way possible. In the end, many people of this nation don't see Lambert as an "artist," they see him as just another faggot wearing eyeliner. There are people in this country actually sitting on the fence about marriage equality. People just undecided enough that a stunt like Lambert's makes them get up and walk to the other side. "See! That's what I'm talking about - they want to shove it in our faces! This is what our world will be if marriage becomes equal! This is the side effect of the liberal homo agenda" (insert dramatic music.) If Lambert wants to break that double standard of not being just another faggot wearing eyeliner than simulating oral sex on stage, in front of America, while being completely uncalled for, is not going to help that.

Now I'm not looking for a place at the table. I'm not saying we all need to behave and act like gentlemen or dress nicely or act straight or anything like that. I'm not telling Lambert to pack it up and take off the make up but what I am saying is I'm not going to support him just because he's gay. After all, he's an "individual," right? He should just focus on his music and career and prove to America that he's actually talented and not try to be some Reality-made provocateur. As if!

The stunt was inappropriate, bottom line. To me this doesn't really have anything to do with gay or straight but since Madonna and Britney got away with it then everything has to be accepted, right? Right?! Come on, are we really going to throw this example and that example back and forth to defend this guy from yet another "wardrobe malfunction?"

Thursday, December 3, 2009

8,700 Miles

Life across America
I suppose the best place to begin is the very beginning itself. In late August I was hired for what would become the job and adventure of a lifetime. A job, which during two and a half months, would take me over 8,700 miles, 20 states and land in cities with names I've never heard of. Paducah, Arkadelphia, Corinth, Tuba City, Manchester...

I'm no stranger to the road. Before this trip I had driven across the country twelve times. I've seen the way the land changes from green to yellow to dry to sea all to come back to itself again. I have felt the surging rush of freedom upon realizing the control we have over our own lives and destinies. As long as we have the courage we can hit this open road which disparately calls our names, encouraging us to be whoever we want, wherever we want, whenever we want. But what I would learn on this trip would be something much more - something I never thought I was capable of experiencing. A compassion I never thought I had.

When driving across the country you don't see much: Applebee's, strip malls, Waffle Houses, cheap hotels, grease, fried, fat, obese, Jesus and Red, White and Blue. But, there is a cliche that rings true; that beauty is within the detail and it is only when you pull off the main roads that you'll find the little gems within this huge nation.

I never thought I belonged in the South - what's a born and bred East Coast gay Jew supposed to think? But now, after my travels I have an understanding, appreciation and respect for the land I thought had no desire for my kind. Here in NYC in our ivory bubble it's easy to cast stones. After all, it is we who live in an multi-cultural urban megaplex! It is we who are so attuned to art and culture and life but unfortunately, it is we who often believe our own assumptions as to what this nation is and who our neighbors are. The South really isn't that different. It is not as backwards and red neck as we assume it is and in the end we're all just Americans and none of us are really that far apart from one another. We all want the same thing. Money and happiness. Or, at least enough money to afford us happiness. That's it. Throw in a few close family members and friends, a hobby or two and what do you have? An American.

In this city I have been pushed and shoved and rushed and shushed. I have had eyes rolling at me, breaths exasperated at me and in turn I have done it all back to someone else. Just a few days ago I nearly karate chopped an elderly woman for going down the subway stairs too slowly causing me to miss my train. Did she have to walk right down the center of the stairs? Why is she even taking the subway anyway? I fumed these thoughts as I shuffled the little bits of trash off the platform and onto the tracks. Then I thought there is not this rush elsewhere in this nation, this is just a tax for living in this city.

In the South I was never pushed or rushed or shushed. Life moves at a slower more temperate pace there and thus the need for the "me first!" mentality is limited. Neighbors say hi, communities work together and the lady selling boiled peanuts on the side of the road genuinely wants to know how you're doing. Yes *some* Southerns have different views on race, religion and sexuality. Yes, many of them do not support what we call our liberal free lifestyle but in the end how accepting are we of them? How willing are we to be dismissive when we hear someone say that they're from Overland Park, Kansas or Lynchberg, Tennessee or that they go to Church every Sunday? Besides, isn't it this great big urban melting pot that denied me and my friends our right to marry just yesterday?

Throughout the Southern states I experienced a level of hospitality and compassion I never knew existed. At every turn I was offered a hot meal, a great handshake and there was always, always, an extra room at a house if I needed to stay. And trust me, they knew. In the end, I'm not that butch and really I'm only one quick google search away from total exposure. Some people in the south may say that they hate the sin but love the sinner and whatever the case may be they have the right to do so. But for the people I met and the eyes I looked into I felt we shared one common bond; that of being human. I didn't wave a flag, I didn't stamp my feet, I didn't scream at the top of my lungs. I was simply just myself and appreciated I was.

So after 8,700 miles, 20 states and now back to my home in NYC where does this leave me? Who am I now? I never considered myself a "blogger" or an "activist" rather, I just liked being someone who was interested in things I cared about. Sure I screamed, sure I was opinionated, sure I was a blind-talking anti-republican rantivist, and for sure, I've certainly made my stance on safe sex, HIV/AIDS and barebacking clear. But as I've said before, blogging is like a homework assignment that is always due and never done and what makes doing that assignment even more laborious is when you spend time fighting for a community so willing to tear you down. Throughout my posts I've been called "belligerent," "stuck on my high horse," "judgemental" a "hypocrite" and the list goes on. Mostly I've used that as fuel to extend my middle finger even higher but I've tried very hard to pander to everyone and I know that is just not possible. I'm sure right now the commenters on gay blogs or Joe.My.God are slaughtering one another with exclamation marks and bold face font about how stupid everyone is and how stupid the last protest was or how much conservatives should suffer or how ineffective the latest grass roots campaign was. Everyone's a fucking genius, right? Everyone is wrong - YOU have the correct answer, right? Sure, whatever. Eat each other alive, it seems to be what we do best.

So here's my plan: I'm just going to continue being human and being myself. I'll post when I want to and say what I want to. I am going to try to find that human compassion in all of us and continue walking down this road which keeps unraveling itself before me.