Monday, April 23, 2007

Twenty-four Years and Counting

Ron and I had some friends over yesterday for a potluck. The occasion was, in part, to celebrate our 24th anniversary. Now, I know that there is lots of controversy in the gay community about what constitutes an "anniversary." We've settled on the first time we set eyes on each other, then went out to dance. We didn't even get into each other's pants that night.

Both of us think that the years have flown by. For that I'm grateful. The way the world is going to hell in a handbasket, faster is better than slower. The time has been well spent. Ron is a sweetheart, and I'm fortunate that he and I have a life together. We still surprise each other, and we're still finding out about each other. I guess you're never too old to be surprised.

So, I'm now looking forward to the next 24. We'll be very crotchety by then, but perhaps we'll still surprise each other. I'll only be 80, so I'll still be young. And I hope that he'll be at my side.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Unspeakable

What happened Monday at Virgina Tech begs understanding, begs some insight, and none is had. We don't expect death in this way to happen here. In this moment nothing can be said, nothing can be felt or thought that grasps the essential nature of the act. Instead, we all got slammed. We all wondered how could this happen? How could a kid walk through a couple of buildings and kill thirty-two people, wound eighteen more, and kill himself?

The news reports are full of stories about mental illness, alienation, a search for a motive. The killer wrote in a note that "you drove me to this:" a Glock, a .22, and a lot of ammunition, and unthinkable, unknowable thoughts, a totally unexpected day in a college town.

My heart goes out to the kids, the parents, the families, the teachers, the emergency responders, the survivors, those terrorized, those scared and scarred.

Monday, April 16, 2007

My Adventures with Portuguese Continue

I took Spanish and French in high school and German in college. I was dismal with it, all the way around. I didn't apply myself all that well in school, and I find myself in late middle age, as frankly mystified by Portuguese.

It is a great adventure, though. I've always wanted to learn a foreign language, and I want to visit Portugal, so the two aspirations come together in a pleasing way. It's been a lot of work. I spend about ten hours a week on it, and I feel like I'm making very little progress.

Some finds: I found two Wikipedia links to Portuguese verb conjugations and to Portuguese grammar. No doubt, these will come in handy for me. I've been using Rosetta Stone software, and for the most part, am pleased with it. It's a little kludgy, but works well enough for me to use it and recommend it to others. Just don't have any hopes for a miraculous way to learn a language. Stick to it, because it's a long grind.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was meeting with the husband of one of my co-workers. I'm helping him brush up on his English, and he's helping me with Portuguese. We got together for a study session, yesterday, and three hours went by very quickly. We drank some wine, and ate some pão de queijo, or something like that. Anything with cheese in it works for me!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Volver, See It!

Ron and I had another Netflix moment last night. We had just finished watching Almodóvar's Volver. The air was quiet; the credits were rolling on a black screen. "Quite a movie. What do think?" I said. He looked at me and said, "Quite a movie."

And it is. It's a compelling story of mothers and daughters, sisters, and aunts, and secrets, secrets, and secrets. It's also a story of desperation, friendship, abandonment, and family. I'm not going to give anything away to say that Penélope Cruz is completely believable as Raimunda, a working mother with a big secret. Lola Dueñas plays her sister Sole. The other leads are Blanca Portillo as Augustina, Raimunda's daughter, and Carmen Maura as Irene, Raimunda and Sole's mother.

The plot is over-the-top, but finally believable. The performances are all very strong. You should see this film.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Dave Boss

Sometimes a small town is rocked, and an ineffable sadness seeps into the early spring. Dave's friends wake up one morning, and a life is gone, a world is smaller than it was, and everything has changed.

Dave was a student, a history major, at the University of Idaho ready to graduate this spring. He was murdered in his apartment in Moscow Idaho around midnight on March 30. His alleged assailant, John Delling, evidently knew him, stalked him, then killed him with two gunshots to the head. A Boise State University student, Bradley Morse, was killed two days later, and evidence points to the same assailant, who has been arested.

I didn't know Dave. The only connection I have with him is that I attended the University of Idaho. I receive a weekly letter from the university, and it mentioned Dave's death. Although I don't know him, his death hit me in the gut. His murder was so senseless. I found a link to his MySpace page and read the comments of his friends, poignant, painful notes from the men and women who knew him and loved him. I hope they find rest and peace. I mourn for Dave.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Rate a Gay Date

Okay, I admit it, I go to those "men seeking men" Internet sites looking to get laid. I went today, made a "date" with a guy, and he was a total no show. I think the correct word for my mental state was "pissed," but it might have been "irritated." I'm not sure.

I gave the guy my phone number. He called me, and we made the necessary arrangements. Then he didn't show up, and he didn't call back, which I think is not only unmannerly, but cruel. I mean at my age, I'm grasping for any hope, and it gets dashed on a regular basis. I must have lost 50 self-esteem points today. So I guess I'm pissed rather than irritated.

So if he contacts me again, I'll make a date with him, and hope he shows up. He's half my age and very cute, so of course, I'll set myself up to be really pissed next time.


Happy at the Helm
Happy at the Helm

Okay, I know it's been weeks since I returned from the Caribbean, but today in a fit of frenzy, I tackled adding pretty pictures to the prose, and my Caribbean travelogue is much better for the effort.

The sailing was wonderful, and I shared the boat with eight other fabulous guys (although Jeff is admittedly more fabulous than some of the rest of us). The trip had style, adventure, drama, and unrequited love. What more could you ask for on a vacation? I love these guys, and I didn't even get into their pants.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Some More Movie Reviews

I've recently seen a couple of movies, both years old, but hey, I only saw them last week! Netflix is one of the neatest inventions of the Internet Era; boy, am I dating myself on that observation....

For a year or so, one of my friends kept telling me to see the movie, Big Eden (2001), starring Arye Gross as Henry Hart, Louise Fletcher as Grace Cornwell, and Eric Schweig as Pike Dexter. It's a story about gay city boy, Henry, coming back home to take care of his ailing grandfather in the small Montana town of Big Eden.

There are a couple of reasons to see this film: the scenery is gorgeous. Most of the movie was filmed around Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park. No place on earth looks quite like this. Second, the movie has some wonderful acting. Nan Martin as the Widow Thayer is just a hoot, and a lot wiser than she lets on. Tim Dekay as Dean Stewart, Henry's high school love interest takes off his shirt and looks pretty good in his tighty-whities. The story is about love, place, family, longing, and tolerance.

The place is Montana, home of right-wing militias and strange religious cults with guns who probably don't cotton to homosexuality. But there's no evidence of those prejudices in Big Eden. In fact, this film presents a realistic face of the emotional West: you mind your business, and I'll mind mine. It shows a small town where people know each other's business, but don't intrude, and really care about each other, characteristics that ring true with my own experience growing up in rural Idaho.

The movie also shows a West with some sophistication - a modern hospital, and a cappuccino machine on the counter at the general store. Really, folks, you'll find these things in towns in the West, honest! And the movie is also grounded in the West's myth of the rugged individualist in the character of Pike. He struggles with that myth.

The movie is very slow going for the first half. It's not the most realistic portrayal of Montana, or of people, except that this movie is about myth, heart, and family, all of which are present in abundance in Montana. Watch out for the Thanksgiving Dinner scene. It's a feel good movie, so don't expect anything more.

Of course, everything works out in the end, and it has a happy ending. So I hope that this review doesn't spoil it for you.

Yesterday, Ron and I watched As Good as It Gets (1997). Jack Nicholson won an Oscar for Best Actor in his role as Melvin Udall, a romantic novelist who has OCD.

I've had bad neighbors before, but nothing even approach Melvin. He's awful. His next door neighbor is Simon Bishop (Greg Kinnear) who is an artist. Simon has the world's cutest little dog: Verdell, and Melvin hates the dog. In an early scene, he shoves the dog down the apartment house's garbage chute.

In addition to Verdell, three other characters round out the cast: Carol Connelly, played by Helen Hunt who is a waitress at the cafe where Melvin always eats breakfast, Carol's mother, Beverly, played by Shirley Knight, and Frank Sachs played by Cuba Gooding, Jr. Frank is Simon's art dealer, and friend.

A couple of things I really enjoyed about this film. In a Hollywood way, it shows how crippling mental illness can be, how it severely limits the horizon of the world that the sufferer is in. The movie also shows how effectively Melvin coped with it, and indeed he is a very successful author, in spite of his awful, miserable, and pitiable private life. The other truly enjoyable performance is Greg Kinnear as Simon. He comes across as a real gay man. His situation in the film may be difficult, but he has real in-depth humanity that is a pleasure to watch.

Carol as waitress is a little too earnest. As a lover, she's not believable for a moment. As the star of a romantic comedy, Helen Hunt is a whole lot of sugar for Melvin's coffee. Speaking of sugar, or at least a taste treat, Frank is a wonderful, frenetic, wild man as Simon's art dealer. Cuba Gooding, Jr. gets the performance exactly right. Of course, Jill the dog is priceless as Verdell who steals Melvin's heart, and moves the romance along during the movie.

Portuguese and More!

One of my co-workers is from Brazil, and it just happens that she and her husband live nearby. Yesterday, the three of us went to breakfast at a Brazilian bakery. The rules were that I was to speak in Portuguese, as much as possible, and that her husband was to speak in English, as much as possible.

He is learning English and needs help with his vocabulary and verbs. I am learning Portuguese, and I just plain need help with everything. It's been challenging for me, and the going has been very slow, partly because of the time, and partly because it's daunting. It's something I want to do.

I've never (successfully) learned a foreign language. I know bits and pieces of Spanish, and managed okay in Spain, but I want a bigger experience than that when my sister and I go to Portugal. The pronunciation is the most difficult for me. It twists my mouth all out of shape. I can hear it, but speaking it is another thing altogether.

Going to the cafe was fun, because I hear useful things in context. Of course a sentence sounds like one long word all run together, and there was lots of noise in the background, but the language was grounded there in the life of a bakery. I could make out some of the conversation, and I really enjoyed it.

The problem with my language course, is that it is not tailored to traveling; it's tailored to learning a language. Before I have another "live" language lesson, I'm going to take out my phrasebook, and memorize some nouns and verbs that will help me in a travel situation. I think I'll pursue both ways (conversation and the formal lessons) to learn the language.

Portuguese is not a big language around here except among the Brazilian immigrants. Brazilian Portuguese is somewhat different from what's spoken in Portugal, but it's the only form of the language offered around here, so that's what I'm going with. One interesting factoid is that more people around the world speak Portuguese than speak Spanish. I think if Brazil instead of Mexico were on our southern border, more Americans would speak Portuguese.

So when we left the cafe, my co-worker and her husband gave me two small loaves of bread. I ate one last night with dinner, and this morning, I prepared some French toast with the other. It was wonderful French toast full of memorable conversation in a Brazilian cafe.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Dating Tips for Gay Guys

A friend came over last night for dinner. He had just come from a JO club (if you don't know, don't ask), so we were talking about sex and dating, and got around to his love life. He recounted the following tale.

It had been a while since he had carnally known a man, and he was ready for that kind of experience. This is where the Internet, and Craig's List are nifty resources, perhaps too nifty. So my friend puts up an ad, and quickly gets responses.

He said you quickly separate them into categories. First of all, there are the crazy insane guys. You don't want to date these guys. All of us have our own definition of insanity, but I, for example, probably wouldn't date guys who were into one of several specialized fetishes that featured objects larger than a fire hydrant.

In addition, you eliminate the poseurs. These are the guys who just get off on getting email from you, but aren't going to put out. They will not send you a picture. They will not get specific. They are a lot like dealing with Tehran or Pyongyang, if you accede to a demand, you can be sure that their next email will have an additional set of conditions. This is way too much work, and there will never be a payoff, trust me.

You can also eliminate any guy who doesn't post a picture, who cuts off his head (eeekkk!) in his picture, or who has noticeably altered his picture to substantially misrepresent his assets. This is called being AOLed.

My friend tossed out these categories, and winnowed through the (few) remaining. One guy, in particular, was interested in my friend. The guy was a nineteen year-old (at this point, alarm bells would go off in my head, but my penis would overrule them) who really wanted to hook up. He lived in the neighborhood, and hey, what the heck, nothing like young adult spunk, is there?

So my friend goes over to this guy's house (luckily he lived in the neighborhood, you wouldn't want to put yourself out too much for sex), they guy is cute, is nineteen, has accurately represented his assets. They rip off each other's clothes, jump into bed and have at it! For ten minutes. The young one erupts, and even before the spooge has cooled, is pulling on his pants, and pointing my friend to the door, saying, "We should do this again, sometime."

So here's another Gay Internet Dating Rule: help your buddy out! If you've already spray-painted his chest, have the human decency to give him a hand, too. It's not just about you. Good dating is a lot like being a Boy Scout (in fact, I've had a few "dates" with former Boy Scouts): Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent. You wouldn't want to apply all of these in equal measure, but for the most part, if you behaved like a Boy Scout on a date, it would be a very successful date!