Sunday, October 31, 2010

Randomless meanblings ram. Seattle version.

Ah, Seattle. So stately, calming, grounding, pretty. And potentially so depressing. Kindasorta remember why I hightailed it outta the Pacific Northwest after school 7 years ago, but for a weekend visit, it's hard to beat. Rained yesterday, but today, the sky actually had pretty layers of all shades of periwinkle, steel gray, deep blue, and white. And the simple, minimalist architecture just accentuated its beauty. Not your typical fall/winter day up here. I'm so used to the monochromatic, monolithic pea soup fog that permeates the sky, the soul, and the brain - and utterly etherizes you. But today was just gorge.

I was grateful to see that the typical naturopathic chic fashion was not in display at this conference - not like February. Green and purple Columbia sportswear fleece and scarves (at 50 degrees!?) ruled the place last time, and the place was filled with the stench of entitlement...the kind that gives liberalism and environmentalism a bad name. I could, if I put my mind to it and had nothing but time, write a satire about naturopathic culture...but the appeal would be WAAAY too narrow.

But I do feel more ready to attack autoimmune disease of all sorts and heal/cure it more effectively than my medical compadres. For my sake and for the sake of future patients, this is an unequivocally good thing. Do MDs really want to squash us out of existence? Fine. Let's see how well they handle autoimmune disease with their arsenal of steroids and...uh...yeah, that's about all they have, isn't it?

Now, how to get word out...


Don't bug me. Like the rest of America (or the part that actually cared), I was LIVID on Thursday night. But life goes on. As one charitable woman put it to Sir Tim of Gunn, Mondo's got his career. Gretchen needed the money to get out of debt. In a way, it worked out. Somewhat.

But Meana Garzilla and Duchess L'Orange got a LOT of 'splainin' to do otherwise. It's not just the title they're bestowing. They're fucking fashion experts. They're naming The Next Best Thing, and their peers are gonna hold 'em to it. (Or, to really vulgarize it, they've named America's Next Top Fashion Designer.) Heidi, you're acquitted. (Tangentially, Jessica Simpson has officially joined the ranks of those who look gorgeous with voluptuous curves. I say: Let her quaff milkshakes! See also: Carey, Mariah; Hendricks, Christina.)


Confidential to CDOT: It's nice that you've been cleaning up the I-70 Viaduct for these past few years. At a pace slightly faster than a snail on bennies would be nice, though. And does completed construction mean that there shouldn't be ANY sudden gravity-defying foot-deep dips in the asphalt, or am I wrong? Can I get a confirmation on this?


Sometimes shyness sucks. See a guy on the dance floor, mentally grope him for a half hour (combined time...I dance, wander and get drinks, see...), and finally see him in the men's room as we're washing hands. We stand next to each other...the sinks are a comfortable elbow-rubbing distance apart. He says hi, I say hi, we smile at each other, and...that's it. He soon leaves with his friends, none of whom are particularly hard on the eyes, by the way. But this one...rowr. (And yes, I do have free license to, *ahem*, window shop. And a bit more. We have our version of "the rules" written down. But as aforementioned, my shyness keeps me from moving any further, not "the rules.")*


*This last message brought to you by the Cuff Complex in Seattle, about 5 Cape Cods, Kylie's "Can't Get You Out Of My Head," "Blue Monday," (as if I need to say who's responsible for this slice of heaven), Daft Punk's "One More Time," and because it's 2010 and it's unavoidable, goddammit, "Bad Romance." ( I need to state the source?) Oh, and about half a pint (so far) of Ben & Jerry's Magic Brownies. Which, actually, aren't as magic as they purport to be. Just raspberry and chocolate. Tasty, but not so "magic."
Long live 2003. The longer, the 2004 can be squished out as much as possible.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bloodletting (20th Anniversary Edition) - Concrete Blonde

I've already referred to Concrete Blonde twice here, so it only makes sense that I should pay homage in full to their kick-ass 1990 album, Bloodletting. This has to be one of the best albums for this chilly, sinister, skittish time of year. Though only two songs show direct inspiration from Anne Rice's vampire books, Bloodletting is dark throughout. Still, as an invitation to don your broomstick dresses and black eyeliner and lipstick, it's the most accessible goth album ever made. (That honor might otherwise go to the Cure's dolorous Disintegration, but sometimes those 9-minute dirges are a bit tough to plow through.)

Lead singer Johnette Napolitano is one of the coolest women in all of post-punk rock. Her blood-stained voice cracks and trembles throughout; indeed, she seems incapable of not expressing emotion. Even on the Dead Can Dance-worthy "I Don't Need A Hero," she nearly whispers naked vulnerability, then shows occasional flashes of rebellion on the chorus.

Aside from the wild, punky "The Sky Is A Poisonous Garden" and "The Beast," it's evident that Concrete Blonde's strengths lie in midtempo rockers. The title song sashays through New Orleans with a singalong chorus that's as fun as it is sinister. And the two singles ("Joey," "Caroline") take their time, with guitars fading and notes being held out for effect and increased tension. Despite their obvious status as singles, neither is light and fun. "Caroline" mourns the broken dreams of a vagabond who has suddenly skipped town. "Joey" chronicles the pain of a woman in love with a self-destructive alcoholic (with the memorable line, "I know you've heard it all before, so I don't say it anymore/I just stand by and let you fight your secret war").

Bloodletting's emotional nadir is its last song, "Tomorrow, Wendy." An autobiographical account of a friend who was dying from AIDS, this one bleeds anguish, bitterness, and irreverent rage against the powers that be. ("I told the priest, 'Don't count on any second coming. God got His ass kicked the first time he came 'round here slumming.'") But the most devastating words cut any hope for a happy ending off at the knees with the force of a blunt axe. ("Underneath the chilly gray November sky/We can make believe that Kennedy is still alive and/We're shooting for the moon and smiling Jackie's driving by and/They say, "Good try. Tomorrow, Wendy, you're going to die.") Ouch.

So why the need for a remastered 20th anniversary edition? Well, this is Concrete Blonde's best album, and some cobwebs really needed to be swept away. The sound is noticeably crisper and louder. And more songs were added, mostly to the album's benefit. A few worthy B-sides appear at the end, including a gorgeous rendition of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" that would have fit perfectly in the Singles soundtrack. From a live show, "The Sky Is A Poisonous Garden" blasts past even the original's meteoric tempo, while Napolitano does a nifty call-and-response rap in "Roses Grow." The only unlistenable bummer is an unfortunate bilingual version of "Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)," wherein Napolitano sings the last chorus over and over in French while her bandmates sing it in English, producing incomprehensible cacophony. But really, in an album that now stretches over 16 songs, having only one clunker is pretty damned good. If you liked the original Bloodletting and are looking for a reason to pull it out, or if you just want to feel some sinister glee you haven't felt before, treat yourself for Halloween and get the new version. Very worthy.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Yes, it truly does get better.

Nowadays, it's the best of times and the worst of times for gay men in America. DADT was just deemed unconstitutional, and a federal judge barred the Pentagon from pursuing any action under the policy. Of course, with such a volatile issue, we can expect a lot of wrangling before the dust settles. (UPDATE: Yep, the "stay" was just stayed itself. No surprise, but still a major bummer.) In the meantime: the result? Utter pandemonium and dissent in the ranks? Decreased morale and resignations by those disgusted by their fellow gay and lesbian soldiers? It's still early, but you can be the judge.

In addition, although the run seems to have slowed down, 5 states and Washington D.C. now allow gay marriage, and 3 more legally recognize it. And on a lighter note, Denver reprazents on Project Fashion Week, and my money's on Mondo to take it all.

But on the other side of the coin, Logo is shilling the worst gay minstrel show on TV that should be avoided at all costs ("The A-List: New York"). Seriously, I never felt so good about being a suburban quasi-guppie in middle America after seeing this show. If that's the A-List, I want nothing to do with it. And if straight America wants to get their worst suspicions confirmed about gay men, then that's their show. Me, I cringe, and thank God that it's not being shown on a (slightly) more mainstream network like Bravo or Lifetime. Those guys certainly don't represent how I live on a daily basis...or how the vast majority of gay men in America live.

And most seriously, the biggest news item lately: the teen suicides that are occurring as a result of homophobic bullying. Five of them within the past month, right? Although I don't want to minimize the suffering of these five teenagers and their devastated families and friends, it has to be said: Those are only five that have been publicized. There's plenty more casualties. I won't go deeply into statistics, but thousands of teenagers yearly take their lives, and queer youth are nearly 4 times more likely to commit suicide than their straight counterparts. You can do the math.

These suicides have spurred a lot of overdue action and publicity. First bit I saw was the Give a Damn organization, showing videos by all sorts of celebrities discussing the fears and agonies so commonplace to queer kids of all sorts. Pretty poignant, these. And they're a wonderful contribution.

Dan Savage - the outspoken sex advice columnist of Savage Love fame - started the It Gets Better channel on YouTube. Being a teenager really sucks, and it really, really fucking sucks if you're a gay teenager. And if you're gay, you can't easily look up to teachers who are out and proud and happy to be mentors and role models...because they're pretty few and far between. And schools won't bring in gay men and lesbians from the outside, lest parents accuse us of something absurd like recruiting or trying to inculcate moral depravity. So Dan did what he felt was the next best thing: He opened up a place for any LGBTers and straight allies who survived their adolescence and subsequently saw their lives get exponentially better to post videos about their experience, so gay teens could see gobs of living proof that people lived through that hell, and are now living wonderful lives. What an amazing idea. Hundreds and hundreds of videos have appeared, filled with fascinating and often heartbreaking stories.

God, have I been there. It started when I was 13. I woke up from a rather vivid dream and suddenly put two and two together...did this mean I was gay? Scared me to death, as you might imagine. And indeed, within the year, after moving schools, becoming a complete outcast and nerd, and being accused of being gay numerous times, I nearly took my life. I had my head in a noose a classmate had jokingly made and hung from a rafter. I had one foot off the chair, and felt the other one begin to lift off, but then decided not to follow through, for whatever reason.

Then came high school. While many of the popular kids were totally getting it on and following their instincts, I was struggling to simply plant a first kiss on my girlfriend - just one, after she had asked me, after months of being together! - and feeling deep down in my core that this was wrong, so wrong, no matter how cool and sweet and pretty and intelligent and understanding and just plain fucking awesome she was. While some friends were going to parties and making out (I'd imagine), I was staying home and taking a knife to my arms and legs because I felt so different and wrong and misunderstood and because...well, if there's something wrong with me, there's only one person to blame and punish, right? And while lots of classmates were excited about their futures and wondering what they would bring, I was morbidly predicting that I would not live past the age of 17...that in fact, it would be wrong for me to live longer than that.

That was over half a lifetime ago. Now, every day that I live is in large part in gratitude to my 13 and 16 year-old selves for not taking my life. Every day, I also try to prove to that boy and that young man how amazing my life has now become, and how much better it keeps getting every day. I keep coming closer to becoming who I was fully meant to be every day. I'm in a wonderful, tremendously loving relationship with a really amazing guy; we just celebrated our 9-year anniversary a few months ago. I have a multitude of friends who love, accept, and celebrate me just as I am...and the sentiment is definitely returned. My work is very fulfilling...I see people grapple with health issues every day, and I do my best to help them overcome these issues and become as healthy as they want to be. At the end of the day, I'm thrilled to just plain be alive.

Normally, I don't go in for being so forward...particularly when there's a lot in just this blog post that could defame my character, let alone the rest of my blog. (I long ago wrote off running for public office.) But maybe I could reach a kid who has lost all hope and is about to take a horribly drastic action, and prevent him or her from taking that action. Or even just help someone who needs some reassurance after a tough day. For that, I will step out from behind this blog.

And if you're that kid reading this, I'm glad you're here. Stop. Take a deep breath. You're not alone. And trust me, and the thousands of people beside me who have already posted videos: Yes, it truly does get better. Hang in there.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"I am bored, so I figured I'd write you a letter."

Random sentences (or two) from letters from friends, acquaintances, and loved ones, circa 1988-1993. (Man, in this day of quick, disposable e-mails, actual handwritten letters are like gold leaf to me. SO glad I saved so many of 'em.)

"It's such a pleasure to ask myself in the summer: What should I do now?"

"I love you."

"Well, chemistry (aka the deepest, darkest, foulest-smelling pit in hell) beckons, and as always, I heed its call." (Written on the back of recycled old chemistry papers, no less.)

"Have fun writing advice letters, luv. (I can just hear you laughing at those letters!)"

"I feel the need for speed - rollerblade style, that is."

"I think I'll go to Spain. Beautiful country, they speak Spanish, FABULOUS food, and a beautiful way of life - no hurry, no worry, no timekeeping, no problems."

"The kids are a blast to be with. Want to hear about them? You don't have much of a choice, do you?"

"I love the Scorpions (did you know they sold out 10 shows in Leningrad, Russia??!!)."

"I don't care though, because I like it, and it's my ear!"

"So after being significantly incoherent this evening, we are leaving at 12:00 noon tomorrow to go to a keg party with the social group that I want to pledge - the Sponges."

"AEROBICS FROM HELL calls me - my muscles already hurt, but Holy Moses, I'm gonna be able to wear a size seven COMFORTABLY."

"What I'd really like to know is how you're going to kill me when I live 2000 miles away!"

"My birthday is Wednesday - the big one-nine. God, I'm old."

"Sorry I can't share this one with you. But what will be will be. Smile."

"The reason I go along with the great Santa Claus 'lie' to my kids is because I truly believe and it is because of this article and what it says. Sometimes we all need to believe in 'lies.'"

"I'm sorry you hate your YTC school." (YTC = "yuppie training camp")

"To make a long story short, the fuckers arrested all twelve of us."

"Mom just came in and handed me a feeler from Northwestern! Awesome! Let's see what it here is hell, write if you're interested. Am I ever!"

"Hey, right back soon. (Boy, it's nice to not have to worry about spelling things correctly anymore!)"

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fat Boys w/ Beach Boys - Wipeout

Ah, memories of the summer of 1987...the best of times, the worst of times. The worst being the 5 weeks I spent at a military summer camp just outside Phila...Look. You can stop laughing. It really did happen. I think. Yep, it happened. You can't manufacture memories that for kids could be so traumatic.

Tragically, the same thing happened precisely four years prior. I remember that first night at camp in 1983 so well: my brother and I getting our stuff packed in the barracks, other kids much rowdier and wilder than us going apeshit all over the place, and the two of us kinda cowering in our bunks, immediately regretting signing on to this military camp thing because...why? Because our grandfather was the head honcho of the entire place, and he could get us in for free (and my brother in despite the fact that he was two years younger than the minimum accepted age). Not a good reason, folks, if you're looking to make friends. The morning after, we both wandered around the front of the barracks, all bleary-eyed, like it was some really fucked-up dream, all washed out like The Day After.

And military camp ain't a whole buncha fun. Counselors are hired for their sadistic tendencies. They love to make miscreants chew and swallow cigarettes while putting them through lots of physical training. And they're really pissed - probably because they didn't make the cut to become drill sergeants, so they have to deal with kids instead. The cool kids are the really gung-ho militaristic kids...the ones who can't wait to get into the army or whatnot. Then you have the kids who are so fucked in the head, the parents don't know what else to do with them, so they send them to military camp, hoping that'll teach them some discipline. (Note: This runs the gamut from spineless bedwetters to deranged psychotics whose parents dropped them on their head as a kid. And believe me...these two together do not make good bunkmates, as I witnessed across the hall from me: Faust and Nemkov.) Anyhoo, my brother and I survived those five looong weeks, swearing never to return. Oops.

Anyhoo, 1987 was a bit more tolerable. You get older, you get more laid back, things are cooler. The counselors seem to tolerate a lot more attitude. And the tunes get more fun and wacky. They didn't get any more stoopid than this, though. Enjoy.