Monday, December 31, 2007

Teenage Pain

The film, Get Real, paints a realistic, and bleak picture of growing up gay in high school. Steven knows he's gay, and he's bullied in his school because classmates perceive he is gay. No place is safe for him, at school or at home. The plot is predictable, but in its complications, Stephen eventually ends us in a sexual romance with one of his classmates, a popular athlete, John. The film has a great sense of the teenage experience, its angst, desperate love, fear of discovery, and violence.

More than that, the film feels realistic. It has the usual stock characters (the bully, the understanding Mom, and the flipped out Dad, the fat girl next door), but the two main characters are played for real. I remember being in the adolescent closet, navigating through a hostile time and place. I remember hiding behind a personality that wasn't really me. The film portrayed those feelings in a nuanced and truthful way.

Being a gay adolescent means being stigmatized. The film captures the (violent) closet, the ostracism, and the head-over-heels delight of teenage star-crossed love.

Looking Back

I suppose it's obligatory to look back over the year and say something grand. 2007 had it's surprises, like I'm not at work today. It's been a pretty good year, though. I don't have many complaints.

I suppose the biggest story in our household is that both of us retired, but close to that was a sailing trip in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and an International Association of Gay Square Dance Clubs convention in Denver. On the same trip, Tim, Grace, and I stayed at the Carr Manor in Cripple Creek. It's one of the best B&Bs I've stayed in, and you're 10,000 feet in the air (welcome to the Mile High Club, more comfortable than the toilet on a jetliner).

Other things: I finally joined a gym, and we'll see if I can keep to it. I'm tired of feeling like the Michelin Man. Ron got me over to Balleys, and I'm trying to get my money's worth. Ron's been working out forever. He's cute, happy, unassuming, and dramatically handsome. He attributes it all to his gym workouts. I'm hoping for the same results over the next 40 years.

Tonight, we're going to a New Years Eve party in Arlington. With any luck, we won't be slaughtered by a drunk driver on the Interstate. We've gone to this particular celebration for several years. It's a naked party of several dozen gay men. It's always full of good cheer, and lots of fun.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Charlie Wilson's War

Ron and I went to the movies this afternoon. You should see Charlie Wilson's War (if you aren't offended by the word, "fuck"). It's an interesting political thriller and war movie all rolled into one. Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman (no Truman Capote!) give great performances that move the film along at a crisp pace. The biggest criticism I have is that some of the dialogue is muffled or lost.

After seeing the movie, check out Joanne Herring's website. The rich live differently than you and I, and she has way too much money to spend on her pet causes, like U.S. foreign policy.

The First Afghan War

I'm listening to the radio, hearing news of unrest in Pakistan caused by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. It's an eerie counterpoint to the film, Charlie Wilson's War. The news also reported a new Bin Laden tape. The airwaves are full of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Ron and I went to see Charlie Wilson's War today. It's déjà vu all over again. The film is a fascinating tale of the life of the rich, the life of the hopeless, and the life of our elected officials. Many scenes in the movie are priceless, including the opening footage showing a naked Congressman in a hottub full of Las Vegas showgirls, and the grilling of the same Congressman by the President of Pakistan and two senior Pakistani officials.

Tom Hanks plays Congressman "Good Time" Charlie Wilson. Julia Roberts plays Texas socialite Joanne Herring. (Check out her web site!) Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays CIA operative Gust Avrakotos. The acting is believable, and the movie, for all of its serious themes, is more a comedy than a historical recounting. It ends up, though, a sobering reminder of how a determined small group of people can (and do) change history, people who are completely unbeholden to the rest of us.

Unintended consequences?

Sex Obsessed

I think it's probably a guy thing. And it doesn't get any better with age, at least it hasn't for me. I have whole weeks when it's nothing but sex on the brain, and this has been one of those weeks.

There's the excitement of expectation, the thrill of the physical moment, and the ecstacy of the little death that sends one to a magical dreamland. It's also the emotional and physical connection with the other guy.

We usually end up sharing a drink or eating a meal, having a spirited conversation about Barack Obama (or John Edwards), then a kiss goodbye. The real problem for me, though, is that it makes me even more eager for next time. So I think about it, and then I have sex on the brain again.

Friday, December 28, 2007


Benazir Bhutto was assassinated yesterday. I heard about it while fixing my breakfast, when only scattered reports were available. By now, of course, it's all over the news.

The air is full of speculation. Some rioting has occurred in Pakistani cities. Partisans point fingers at the government, and the government points fingers at Al Qaeda in Pakistan. What's clear is that democracy is the victim, and many more people will die violent deaths before this is all over.

So why do I mention this on a gay blog? This has a lot to do with religious fundamentalism, social intolerance, extreme conservatism, grinding hopeless poverty, and a hopeless future. None of these forces bode well for our world.

I don't have any words to express my feelings for this event. I can't imagine living in a place where resorting to violence to settle political and religious differences is a daily occurrence.

Animal Attraction

I'm not sure what it is, but sometimes, I can't help myself. Well, actually, I can, and I do.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My Own Mystery of Christmas

I realize after the day is over how much a hold this holiday has over me (and everybody else). I'm sure that part of it is being born into a Christian tradition, and habitually celebrating it. Of course, the attention paid to Christmas for the last two months is relentless. You can't escape it.

But there is a deeper kind of meaning and yearing that I don't let go. Ron and I don't celebrate the holiday very much. He's Jewish. Neither of us are religious or traditional believers. Still, the holiday has an attraction and a comfort for me.

I enjoy being on the outside of the holiday. I don't have to be caught up in the gift-giving or the flurry of the holiday. Admittedly, I do send out my annual holiday letter, and I do prepare small gifts for people, but we don't get seized by the season. It magically creeps up on me. I love the lights and decorations, particularly on the dark, dreary nights. I enjoy the tastes and smells of seasonal foods, and I love to prepare those foods.

But it's the fellowship I really treasure. In the darkest days of the year, I gather with my family in drinking, eating, retelling stories, and fitting comfortably into a place and a state of mind that is nourishing, fruitful, and abundant. That's the gift-giving that delights me: the nourishing, life-giving smiles, hugs, and kisses of the people I love.

I am grateful for an opportunity to celebrate their affection and their love, and I hope that I reflect that out to the other people I touch during this season, a dark time of year, but so ripe with light and hope.

Swell Holidays!

I had a very happy Christmas holiday, celebrating with my boyz: Ron, Tim, Perry, and Brian. We got together on Christmas Eve at Tim's and started off with wine, cheese, and pate. We then migrated over to Greystone Grill for a very nice dinner. Brian joined us at the restaurant. Their bartender makes a decent sidecar.

After dinner we moseyed back to Tim's for some fruitcake, and an excellent dessert wine, all mixed in with some wonderful conversation, and Brian telling us about getting all tied up with a former work colleague just before Christmas. We then shared some frank appraisals about Craigs List.

Christmas Day I cooked Donald Duck! I had lots of fun working with Donald. I used Julia Child's recipe, Designer Duck, p. 178, The Way to Cook, Julia Child, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1989.

Basically, you half-roast the duck in a hot oven for a half hour. Skin the bird (reserving the skin), remove the breast meat and slice each breast into a half-dozen medallions, remove the wings, legs, and thighs.

You coat the wings, legs, and thighs with dijon mustard, then bread with dried crumbs, and bake in a hot oven until they are roasted.

You finish off the medallions, by placing them in a skillet, seasoning them, adding a chopped scallion, and a little broth and port and poaching just until the meat is pink.

Finally, you slice the skin into quarter-inch strips and bake in a hot oven until the skin is brown and the fat is rendered out.

I arranged the medallions on greens, added a leg or a thigh to the plate, then sprinkled with the duck skin cracklings. It was a lip-smacking experience. Ron made a red rice pilaf that really paired well with the duck, and we also had some cranberry relish. Perry joined us for Donald's last dinner.

After dinner, I phoned with my sister and my twin brother. Later Ron and I watched Lorenzo's Oil, a sad, but very interesting medical mystery. I ended the day talking with my older brother, and reminiscing about my father's sermons among other thing.

I love this holiday for the connections, the heart, the flavors and smells, the lightness of step, the reflection, and the family that is mine.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

What Gay Men Do on Sunday Mornings

We go to the Silver Diner, and we shop at Whole Foods. Yep, the boys were on the prowl on Rockville Pike. We are such a merry crew. I wore my Santa hat, figuring it fitted the occasion. It's a very grey day out with thick fog in Wheaton. But we went out anyway. Ron tried a new item at the Diner: peanut butter and banana stuffed French toast. The concept was great, but it had too much peanut butter. Perry and I stuck to our usual pork products.

The scene at Whole Foods was a little desperate. People clogged the aisles looking for that special something that will turn Christmas dinner into something memorable. I did my desperate shopping on Friday, so I could inwardly gloat at the discomfort of others today.

I finally hung Kat's watercolor of the Palouse Hills in the living room. It is a beautiful picture. The wall behind and around it really needs repainting. I guess that's another retirement project. This time, I measured very carefully before hanging the picture, and I think I did a pretty good job of it. Ron usually complains (with justification) about how badly I hang pictures, but he hasn't seen it yet. On the other hand, the picture always looks better on the wall than sitting on the floor looking very lonely.

Kat's Painting
Kat's Watercolor

Kat's one of my sisters. She's an artist who lives in Moscow, Idaho. I really enjoy her work. This watercolor captures just about everything I love about the Palouse Hills.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Hate in the U.S.A. -
I'm Feeling Like a Target

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) publishes a magazine, Intelligence Report. The Report is an unrelenting litany of hate across the United States. I'm amazed at the world views of the haters, bigots, and killers profiled in the Report. These are twisted people with dark minds, small hearts, and no charity. I read the magazine from cover to cover, and came away feeling profoundly depressed.

The SPLC shines a bright light into some very dark corners of America. After reading the publication, I feel like a target: I'm a gay atheist in a committed relationship with a secular Jewish gay man. Much of my family is African American.

The SPLC web site has a Hate Map of the United States. On the map, I clicked Maryland. My state (the "Free State") is home to ten hate groups: two Ku Klux Klan groups, four Neo-Nazi groups, two white nationalist groups, one racist skinhead group, and one black separatist group. I'm betting that every one of those groups hates me.

Donald, Duck!

So today, I went out a bought a dead duck. I've named the duck Donald, and I sure hope he (she?) isn't tough. I know he's dead, because he's frozen. I am always amazed how far removed a duck is from the farm when it's wrapped in plastic, and available in the freezer section of the super market. Donald is now sitting in the refrigerator, thawing out.

I haven't cooked a duck in 39 years. I'm looking forward to the adventure. The instructions on the packaging are straightforward, but I'm going to consult Julia and Craig before doing too much. I thought about Figgy Pudding, but I'm going to put that off to 2008.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Line of Beauty

Ron and I saw The Line of Beauty the other night. It's a three-part mini-series that had been offered on the BBC. We saw it through NetFlix, one of the greatest inventions in the world.

It's the story of Nick Guest, a gay grad student, who is befriended by (a very straight) Toby Fedden, the son of a rich family and the child of an ambitious father who's a member of Parliament. Nick is from the middle class, and is awed by the extravagance of the Fedden household. He quickly becomes part of the household.

So it sounds very much like some other British dramas, but the denouement here is painful to watch as Nick gets undone. It's the Icarus story. But it's a type of hubris that could easily be walked into. Were I Nick, I'm not sure that I would have done anything differently than he.

The most shocking part of the story is the absolute stigmatization of Nick's homosexuality. Throughout the drama, Nick has to account for the closetedness of others, and in fact as a gay man, I cut a lot of slack to other gay men who are closeted. But then, in the end, we're accused of being deceitful, dishonest because we either kept it a secret, or kept someone else's secret.

Of course, the people who accuse Nick of this dishonesty don't want to know he is gay or if they do, they don't want it to be known. Nick, and gay people generally, are forced to collude in this ugly secret, ugly only because straight people persist in stigmatizing homosexuality as degrading, unnatural, perverted, whatever - and because straight people are held captive to this belief, a belief not supported by fact, a belief that is false on its face.

So in the tale, Wani dies of AIDS and to the very end cannot tell his Lebanese Gazillionaire father that he is gay. Leo dies of AIDS and cannot tell his religious mother that he is gay. Gerald accuses Nick (and all homosexuals) of insinuating himself into his family just so he can destroy the family that he cannot have. This story sounds absurd, unreal. Except that it isn't. I know from my own experience that my straight friends don't quite "get" me because of my homosexuality. And I know that they do not value my relationships and my family in the same way that they expect me to value theirs. And I know that they think AIDS is a gay disease. And I know that they think I'm a fucking pervert.

And every gay man and every lesbian and every transgendered person and every bisexual need to get very, very angry. I flout my life so that if "they" (and here I'm being paranoid, but not really) ever come to get me, they'll have plenty of reason to.

Now that I'm Retired

I'm not quite sure what to do with myself.... Today I finished up the Christmas cards. I also need to go to Target and get a pair of jeans. I ripped out my crotch (really!) while square dancing last night. This was potentially far worse than Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction. I wasn't wearing any underwear, and I was quite concerned about my equipment. We're talking about a rip that starts directly at my crotch, and proceeds six inches down my right leg. Very scary dancing.

While seeing Tim on Saturday, he and I made reservations at a steakhouse for Christmas Eve for the four of us (+Perry and Ron). We figured all of us could find something on the menu. Perry vetoed a tapas restaurant, and I'm betting that Ron probably had a sigh of relief over that. In any case, I'm sure we'll have lots of fun. You'll undoubtedly read more about it here.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

It's Over!

At 11:23 a.m. on December 14, 2007, I walked out the front door of Fannie Mae. I am retired! To celebrate, Ron and I went to the American Chemical Society Holiday party. It was nice of them to throw one for me.

We had a good time. Because I've been eating so much the last few days (four different retirement meals), I ate sparingly at the party, but Ron sampled some of the other stuff I missed. I live vicariously through him. We saw some of his unretired, former co-workers. I had a grand conversation with Mary who is the wife of Ron's former boss. She's a choreographer, and immediately I began to see how central she is to my ambitions for exhibition square dancing!

We also ran into Cheryl and Paul who are contra dancers at Glen Echo. I think I can talk Tim into a Glen Echo adventure some Friday evening. My retirement is off to a great start!

Monday, December 10, 2007

To Kill a Mockingbird

Ron and I have recently seen a whole slew of movie classics. It's been quite a cinematic education for us. Last night, we watch To Kill a Mockingbird. Gregory Peck is larger than life in this film. I've heard of his performance most of my life. It is one of Hollywood's best. I was surprised how atmospheric the movie is, and how big a role the three children play. It neatly frames the trial.

As a statement about racial prejudice and the miscarriage of Southern justice, the film could not have been a better propaganda piece. I think it's effective because it never overplays the scenes. The story is always seen from Scout's perspective, which leaves us a dispassionate observer watching passionate (hateful) people, then asking her father the important questions.

Christmas Cards

I've been manufacturing holiday cards today. I've been printing out lots of notecards, too. I ran through my color ink cartridge in less than a week. Oh well. It's that time of year, and I'm semi-organized. All I need to do is get the necessary packaging and some postage, then I'll be set.

Not much to report on the gay front. We had a square dance on Saturday, and I looked gay, at least festive. I wish more were happening on the gay front, but it's been pretty quiet, mainly because Ron pulled out his back on Thursday. I should not complain. So, less sex, more cooking. I guess that's okay. We did see To Kill a Mockingbird last night. It was the first time for both of us.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Beginning of My Personal Creed

I believe in a singular beginning before which nothing existed and for which no cause is posited.

I believe in a universe that through its chaos spawned the conditions necessary for life, consciousness, awareness, and autonomy.

I believe in awareness and autonomy that give human beings purpose, and from that purpose human beings are capable of moral acts that preserve life, foster awareness, and temper autonomy. We are impelled in our autonomy to be isolated and alone. We are engaged in our awareness to overcome isolation and find relationships with others.

I believe in love, those physical, chemical, and psychological processes that breach our personal autonomies, and forge our separate lives into shared relationships. I believe this communal love moves us as aware and autonomous beings toward our highest, noblest purposes.

We celebrate each other in our shared consciousness, and when our autonomous, conscious existence ends, our literal existence shall continue until the last proton decays.

Reflexively, He Wrote

I wrote this response to the interrogatory, "Who is answering this question?"

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Dancin' with Reindeer
Dancing' with Reindeer
Photo Credit: Tim

Dancing with Rudolph

We're having a square dance tonight. There's a prize for wearing the most red - so I'm dressing as a very gay, red elf. We'll see what Rudolph thinks.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Less Intrigue, Less Mystery

See my entry for October 15. This story in the Washington Post is just sad. It's also depressing. I know Steven Saleh. I know his apartment on the second floor of the Envoy. I've seen Steve's medicine cabinet. I can picture in my mind where the police found each body. The police found no evidence of foul play. Both men probably died from alcohol-related drug interactions.

I read the article. It rattled my head. I'm doing some emotional rubbernecking. I feel sorry for all three of the men, but I don't want to slow down and examine the wreckage. I don't want to see this accident up close. More than drugs are toxic here. What a pointless way for a life to end, twice.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

I'm Behind

Happy, Looking Sage

I have exactly four days of work, then I retire. This is a very strange place for my head. Speaking of which, here is a picture of my head. That shirt is my party shirt, only because of it's holiday colors and its alcoholic theme.

We had a luncheon and party at work today, and it was very nice. I participated in the activities, displaying an amazing ability to gauge, incorrectly, just about any poll on Family Feud. But our team won, anyway. I like being on the winning team. I also took a prize for my presence on the dance floor. I'm not sure whether it was because I was the best dancer or the most improved dancer.

I still have work to do, but I am really over it. I mean, I actually do work, but my mind is no longer focused on the world within my cubicle.

I came home from work today, and Ron was preparing dinner. It was such a domestic scene - it could have been right out of Leave It to Beaver, although he doesn't especially look like June, and I'm no Ward. But it was one of those domestic moments that just hit me.

Finally, for several years, I headed up my work group's adopt-a-family activity. It was a lot of work, but really very touching. We really were helping families that needed help. This year, I bowed out of it. An email came around today from this year's head elf, asking for help with the project. I responded with an email of my own stories about how it had touched me over the last three years. That was one of the things we did at work that really took me beyond work.

Monday, December 3, 2007

An Analysis of All About Eve

Okay, I admit that I'm not much of a gay guy. Until last night, I had never seen All About Eve. One can enjoy this classic in several delicious ways. In a feminist reading, it's a story of two strong-willed women who are put in their place by an implacable patriarchy. Margo Channing (Bette Davis) and Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) will always be at each other's throats. Men set up women to undermine each other. Men want the newer, faster, sleeker models. An aging (badly) Margo knows this, and Eve uses it as her trump card, ultimately to be trumped herself by Addison DeWitt's (George Sanders) own privileged duplicity.

An interesting character is Karen Richards (Celeste Holm). She plays the dutiful wife who is supportive of the other women. She believes in good manners. She's portrayed in the film as being either naive or duplicitous when she plays her "joke" on Margo. At the end, she's dumped by her husband for Eve, the newer model - although it's unclear how Karen's relationship with her husband is finally resolved. In any feminist analysis, though, men ultimately are the actors, and women their objects to be moved about, paraded, discarded, or, in Margo's case, married off and removed from the action.

If Karl Marx viewed this film, he might see it in a different way. I think the telling scene is where Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe), the playwright, challenges Margo with the line, "I shall never understand the weird process by which a body with a voice suddenly fancies itself as a mind. Just when exactly does an actress decide they're HER words she's speaking and HER thoughts she's expressing?" Margo replies, "Usually at the point where she has to rewrite and rethink them, to keep the audience from leaving the theatre!".

This is a case of the means of production trying to control labor, and labor revolts. It's Margo's finest moment in the film - a moment when she is truly herself. In some sense, it's the film's climax. Margo clearly understands the power relationship here, even if Lloyd doesn't.

Perhaps the character who sees it all is Birdie (Thelma Ritter), Margo's maid. She understands from the beginning that Eve is nothing but trouble. Margo ignores her advice because of the chasm of class. Birdie knows all about labor, because she is labor. If this film were in color, her uniform would be pink.

Of course, if you're a gay man, you'll enjoy this film for other reasons. Bette Davis is divine. This is camp at its best. Marilyn Monroe in her Claudia Caswell character exudes sexiness, blondness, and the means to control the patriarchy. One glance, one sultry, "All I want is a drink," and men are falling all over her. Margo and Eve should take a lesson. And that dumb blond is dumb like a sly fox.

So fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy night!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Small Town Gay Bar

Ron and I watched Small Town Gay Bar last night. It's a documentary about small town gay bars in Mississippi, mostly about Rumors in Shannon MI, but also about Crossroads in Meridian, and the Sugar Shack in another town. Crossroads has since reopened as Different Seasons. The story is not a new story at all, but it pictures the isolation and fear and loathing of lesbians, gay men, and transgendered people is small Southern towns.

It's no joy growing up gay in rural Mississippi.

A couple of themes caught my attention. The first is the fascination with drag. Drag is a big deal in these places. Perhaps one of the most touching lines in the movie was Alicia, one of the drag queens saying, "My partner and I can't have children, but we have five beautiful dogs." That remark is so full of innocence and hope.

The second theme is the context of judgmental religious belief. Even those who don't believe couch their lives in the judgmental terms of "I'm just like everyone else, except...." One of the bar owners interviewed in the film actually did not see life this way, and he gets taken down a notch or two in the film by a lesbian who doesn't want gay people to act that way, and he gets taken down in life, by the small town police force that is out to close a gay bar.

This segment of the film is the only part of the film that explores the desires that gay men have in the midst of an oppressive, invisible existence. The bar owner opened a bar where people could be themselves, and he's clear that meant desire, lust, sex, and fantasy. In Mississippi. He tried to keep his bar open, but ultimately was arrested, jailed, fined, and his property seized.

Fred Phelps dispenses some of his wisdom throughout the film. Fred's theology is so ugly, and even older than the Old Testament. He's captured by the camera so that he looks like a skull talking, spewing. It's eerie watching and listening to him, because it sets off all the little voices in the back of your head.

The film shows the Westboro Baptist Church picketing the funeral of a gay teenager who was brutally murdered in rural Mississippi. The action is such a breach of civility and terrible in taste. This is ugliness of the first order. I wonder why Fred hates this much.

Gay people really are at the bottom of the social order in Mississippi (and most other places, too, although we try not to admit that to ourselves). These small town gay bars provide a community and a lifeline to lesbian and gay people who live in the rural parts of our country. Those of us who live in the city are fortunate, indeed. This film is quite a reminder of where our community has been, and how far it has to go.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

What's up with my Penis?

I post this with some trepidation. I know that guys don't talk too much about their plumbing, which is probably a good thing. So I'm discussing this little event because I'm morbidly curious.

Yesterday, another person and I were having oral sex. As we were proceeding to other types of recreation, I noticed that blood was dripping from my urethral meatus. I certainly didn't feel that much suction down there and no pain, but I wonder if the other person didn't cause me to break a blood vessel or something. We took care of the bleeding, cleaned up a bit, finished the sex, then ended up going out to a Thai restaurant for lunch.

Whenever I urinated throughout the day, I would expel a clot, then the bleeding would start again. By the end of the day, it looked like an axe murder had been committed in my underpants.

Today, it's not bleeding anymore, and the plumbing seems to be back to normal.

So I have this question, do other guys occasionally have bleeding dicks after a blow job? This has happened to me twice before, and I'm just wondering whether I should talk to my doctor or to the Guiness Book of World Records.