Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Obama: Consciousness

Hope made real
Who would have ever thought that a liberal lefty cynic like me would ever stand in solidarity and applause of our nation's leader?  I certainly didn't think so but here I am today, elated after President Obama's State of the Nation Address, rooting for the country and truly feeling that over-used cliched word: hope.  Hope is out there.  Change exists!  This is exactly what lead Obama to win the presidency and exactly that which will lead our nation out of crisis.

There is no plan for hope and change, despite the naysayers and critics request for one, and I feel Obama made that very clear last night.  The only plan for hope and change is that we as Americans begin taking responsibility for ourselves.  

Nothing made me more proud of our President last night when he declared that dropping out of High School is "no longer an option" for American people.  My applause became louder when he declared that this issue is neither democratic nor republican but an American issue! Education is the root of life opportunity and progressive change and our country should not carry a nonchalant attitude regarding it.  We must become better parents, better educators, better eaters, better citizens and we should carry a consideration for our common man.  The responsibility to shape this nation is ours and Obama spread that consciousness last night.  He can only take us so far.  After that the repair of this nation is only up to us.  I applaud President Obama and congratulate him for talking to his citizens like actual people and not running us through bullet points, numbers and dry statistics.  Morale and personal motivation are the key ingredients for any sense of healthy esteem and those are the same ingredients which will be applied in rebuilding this nation.  I salute President Obama for spreading this message and I will work with him and my fellow citizens to ensure this nation reaches the high-set goals so absolutely attainable. 
  • "But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken, though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before."
  • "Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more."
  • "I've appointed a proven and aggressive inspector general to ferret out any and all cases of waste and fraud.And we have created a new Web site called so that every American can find out how and where their money is being spent."
  • "But credit has stopped flowing the way it should. Too many bad loans from the housing crisis have made their way onto the books of too many banks. And with so much debt and so little confidence, these banks are now fearful of lending out any more money to households, to businesses, or even to each other."
  • "Well, I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders, and I know you don't, either. It is time for America to lead again."
  • "So let there be no doubt: Health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year."
  • "It is...It is our responsibility as lawmakers and as educators to make this system work, but it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it.  So tonight I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be a community college or a four-year school, vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It's not just quitting on yourself; it's quitting on your country. And this country needs and values the talents of every American."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Monday, February 16, 2009

Stop the Arrests Footage

Footage from Saturday's Coalition to Stop the Arrests protest at Mayor Bloomberg's crib:

Friday, February 13, 2009

Farewell Oscar Wilde, What Becomes of Stonewall?

Farewell indeed. Another piece of gay history bites the dust.
From NY Magazine

One of the subtler pleasures of the movie Milk is its vivid portrayal of those small rooms where the conspirators of the gay liberation movement first came together. Sadly, one of those sanctums, the Oscar Wilde Bookshop, announced it was closing last week, after 42 years.

As it happens, the place has a direct link to the film: Its founder, Craig Rodwell, was an early boyfriend of Harvey Milk, at the time a closeted actuary in Brooks Brothers drag. They met cruising on Central Park West and parted after Rodwell, uninterested in monogamy, passed along a case of the clap. By far the more militant of the two, Rodwell had arrived as a teenager, from Chicago, to study ballet, but was distracted by sex and the dawn of “the homophile movement” in the early sixties. In 1967, two years before the Stonewall riots, when most gay activists still used fake names to avoid arrest, he took his savings from cleaning Fire Island hotel rooms and opened the nation’s first gay bookstore.

Not that there were many gay books then. The real action was in the cramped back room, where Craig and his staff—he hired men and women in equal numbers—plotted a better future. The city’s first gay-pride march was planned there. Strategies for getting the Mafia out of gay bars or confronting police brutality were discussed. When I found my way out of Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1979, as a teenager, I longed to be in that conversation and one day found the courage to ask Craig for a job. He let me run the register one Saturday a month. My sense of arrival was complete.

But my awe for the place never dimmed. I remember how it felt a few years later when copies of my first book lay in a pile on the floor there and Craig handed me a pen to sign them. Craig died in 1993 (cancer, of all things), a few months after selling the shop. It has gone through four owners since. Kim Brinster, the manager since 1996, bought it three years ago. Shoppers, who for years have consisted more of tourists than locals, disappeared in August. Last week, she told her staff, “I’ve never been the owner, I’m the caretaker. And unfortunately there’s nothing we can do now.” Oscar Wilde himself might have been more sanguine. As Lord Henry told Dorian Gray (in a slightly different context), “They spoil every romance by trying to make it last forever
I suppose this is a good opportunity to bring up a certain idea: Every year, whether rumor or fact, I hear that the famous and historic Stonewall Inn on Christopher St. faces an imminent closure at some point in the near future. My friend suggested that we should start rallying around wealthy gay people and gay organizations to raise money so when that time comes, we can buy out the building which the Stonewall Inn is located, clear it out and turn the space into the Official Gay and Lesbian Liberation Museum. This way, the West Village and more specifically, Christopher St., can go through as many changes and gentrifications as it will yet the gay community will always have that space on that street to call our own.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Checking In / Three Shelves


I'm not gone. I just took a new job and I'm busy busy busy. I'll have to figure out some sort of new blog-work balance but until then hang in there and enjoy the story below.

I just caught wind that The Oscar Wilde Bookstore on Christopher St. is closing its doors. The story below was inspired by my visit there last year. This was originally posted on: Feb 7th 2008.

Three Shelves
I got out of work earlier than expected and Wayne wasn't available for another hour and a half. I headed out of my office, got on the subway and eventually jumped off at West 4th St. figuring I'll slum around the West Village for awhile. The weather was unusually warm and a light drizzle came and went as if Mother Nature could not decide upon her mood. The city is out. People are getting home, going to dinner and music plays from the restaurants out onto the streets. I sucked the city in deeply through my nostrils and headed in an aimless direction toward the West Village.

Call it instinct or a natural gravitational pull but I always find myself at some end of Christopher St. The street is narrow and the boutiques are hip and artistic. Rainbow flags fly and neon signs blip and buzz. As Manhattan changes again and again it always seems as though this one part of the city, is and always will be, quaint and unique. The streets are narrow and tree lined with old and gorgeous brownstones and a feeling of vibrant history rattling beneath the pavement.

In the distance I notice The Oscar Wilde Bookshop. Actually, I don't notice the little independent bookstore as much as I notice the giant rainbow flag waving outside. Having been there before I know that's the calling card of the bookstore, letting everyone know that despite it's size, it's there. Colorful, loud and proud. It's the only queer focused bookstore in the city and one of the only few surviving independent bookstores that has yet to be gobbled up by the corporate book and music malls.

The inside is quiet and clean and one can expect to hear some nostalgic acoustic music playing. Dylan, Cat Stevens, Indigo Girls, Ani DiFranco... A smooth green carpet matches well to the light brown bookshelves filled with paper back and hard cover books. Posted on many of the shelves are yellow tags alerting customers to "staff picks" and critic's choices. There are never more than 5 customers in the store at any time. Today there is only one. I'm happy I saw the store in the distance, it reminded me to pick up a copy of James Baldwin's "Giovanni's Room" for the first meeting of a book club I recently joined.

I wasn't able to grab the book right away because the section of fiction I needed to pull it from was being occupied by a seemingly frantic and excited young lady pulling out books left and right, top shelf, bottom shelf, flipping through the pages, reading backs, studying the price, compiling piles. I didn't mind waiting and looking at the new arrivals but I couldn't help but wonder what this girl needed or why her interest in so many books. I watched her for awhile. She was nearly out of breath. She would take a pick from the pile she created, study the cover, flip to the back and judge whether or not to put it back on the shelf. "What is she doing," I thought to myself. Judging from her level of stress I could only suppose that whatever it was she needed carried a great importance. "A research paper? A thesis?" I shrugged and continued to browse the selections.

Holding a book in the air and showing it to the cashier the young woman asked in a hard accent and broken English, "What about dis vone? Will I like dis vone?" The store clerk advised her there are others she would like better and left the counter to assist her search. As the store clerk approached the young woman said, "There's just so much! Where I am from there are only three shelves...Just three..."

Upon hearing this my breath caught itself in my throat and my arm goosebumped. "Just three shelves," I repeated to myself. I understood immediately the girl's frantic search and how important it was to her. I waited until the store clerk escorted the girl to another section and grabbed my book off the wall of fiction. I looked around the room. This whole book store: for me. Everything from fiction to non-fiction, biography to auto-biography, gay to lesbian, bisexual to trans, fantasy and reality, porn to prude- everything is here and it's an entire store. Maybe it is just one store with this specific focus but any store in this city has more than just three shelves!

I hung around the bookstore checking out other sections keeping an eye and ear on the girl and the store clerk. I wanted to know where she was from, what country or place she was visiting from that only allowed her three shelves. I wasn't granted any of that information but hearing what I already heard was enough for me to wish her the best of possible searches. She stood in front of me paying for her books. Almost 100 dollars in total. A pile that would keep her busy for months, if not a year, and will be with her for a lifetime. Having a few extra dollars left over she asked the store clerk, "What rainbow things you have else?" "Well," the store clerk responded, "we don't have too much this time of year, more in the summer, but here take this bracelet." The young girl took a rainbow colored bracelet and slipped it over her hand, securing it on her wrist. "Oh tank you," she said overjoyed, placing her hand over the bracelet and smiling.

After she left I said to the store clerk, "Wow. Only three shelves, and here we have this entire bookstore. It just goes to show- despite the amount of work we still have have ahead of us, how much we already take for granted." "Yes," the store clerk responded, frowning, "And I'm not even sure you can find more than three shelves in other places in this very country. I'm not sure if Montana, Idaho, Kansas or North Dakota offers much of a difference..."I shook my head, realizing the impact of what the store clerk was saying. I thanked her for the books and headed out of the store onto Christopher St., the very same street where 39 years ago a group of people demanded they weren't going to take it any more and have allowed the rainbow flags to fly, without apology, ever since.