Monday, December 5, 2011

"Tim Tebow is not a religious symbol."

...so don't write about him using religious imagery, alright?

Good sweet godforsaken Jeebus in a frozen pillbox, people. I am SICK of it.

I've already written about the phenomenon that is Tim Tebow before. I was repulsed before, and I am utterly sick to my stomach now. Because I live in Denver, I get to read headlines once a week about this boy. Sometimes more, because, well, now his very un-Christian way of showing his Christianity at the end of games or in the end zone has become something of a national phenomenon, no longer simply a local thang. But everyone loves him. A friend of mine (whom, yes, I have also written about before) actually has Tebow's name written backwards as his middle name on Facebook, so deep does his enthusiasm go. And I throw up in my mouth a little whenever I see it.

People, this is making me about as nauseated as it did to have to handle eight years of having to utter the phrase "President Bush." And that, my fellow Americans, was well-nigh intolerable. (Ohio, I hold you and your, uh, questionable voting/counting methods in '04 responsible. I don't care you voted Obama in '08...we didn't need you after all the votes were tallied. Send my regards to Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Virginia for that one.)

Now I've heard it all. Tebow is...oh, God, I can barely bring myself to type it. Suffice it to say that I got this from Fox Sports. (See? Why am I even reading this tripe? Fox Sports? That should be kryptonite to me. But there it was, and my addled mind chose to read the article. Effective headline, though: "Tebow might be a true revelation"; it sickened me and made me want to read more.)

Okay: here's the quote.
"Tebow’s birth — a product of his mother’s faith and refusal to listen to doctors advising her to abort — might very well have been a religious miracle."
Great. The last thing we need is for our ailing football franchise - because that's really the most important thing here, to support our local sports team, right? - is for the latest golden boy to be branded a religious miracle because his parents did not abort. Regarding this situation, Tebow is the product of some dedicated and stubborn parents who wanted to keep their child, damn what the doctors said. And that he turned out alright is certainly much to their credit. And from a Whitman/Emersonian standpoint, yes, life is a miraculous thing, no sarcasm intended. But c'mon, people. A religious miracle? That goes about 100 steps too far.

But that's not all. Let's go one sentence previous.

"He’s a shrine to the power of a strong, committed, passionate two-parent upbringing."
A shrine!? Someone stop me before I slap this sports columnist silly. The point here is that Tebow's success is because he had two parents (heterosexual, bien sûr). The comparison is to other QBs like Michael Vick (that paragon of perfection who should still be serving time, and someone whom I sincerely hope karma will address at some point). Apparently, Vick limped along in a single-parent home, and that's why he fails. Tebow was lucky (no, sorry, my fellow Christians. You're right. Luck doesn't exist. It's blessed) blessed enough to have two parents. But seriously? That's the reason for his success? Dude, let me take you aside. (I reserve my "Honey, honey, honey, what's all this?" Karen Walker routine for my fellow gay boys. "Dude" makes more sense here.) There are millions upon millions of people here who were fortunate enough to grow up in two-parent families. I'm sure lots of quarterbacks, too. And I'd imagine that the vast majority of those QBs aren't bringing football teams back from ignominy. The vast majority of children raised by two parents aren't making headlines because of their successes. So don't ascribe Tebow's success to that. And STOP with the religious imagery, and do NOT call him a shrine or a miracle. Because everytime you do that, even God spits up in His mouth a little.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"I'm not scared. I'm outta here."

(Part 3 in a series in honor of R.E.M.; here's part 1 and part 2.)

Up - Thanks to generally bad reviews (and to Monster, still), I don't have this one. And it sounds like I made the right choice. R.E.M. could write a whole album's worth of decent mid-tempo ballads in their sleep. But Bill Berry's understandable bowing-out crippled these guys. Still, they trudged on. And what do you do when you lack a drummer? You make ballads, of course! Well, it sounds like the post-Berry incarnation struggled at it. I will say that the few downloads I've made - the pensive "At My Most Beautiful" and the ethereal and pleasant "Daysleeper" - were not wastes of money. These are truly pretty, pretty songs. But the negative rumblings from around will probably keep me from purchasing Up as a whole.

Reveal - And the next album I never got, even though I did download some songs from it. Experimentation, pop-heavy and luscious. But it sounds like it wasn't entirely successful. These three guys faithfully channel the Beach Boys on "Beat a Drum" and "Beachball," both great songs. "Imitation of Life" hearkens back to Out of Time in its production and Fables of the Reconstruction in that the first four chords are an exact replica of "Driver 8." Apparently, Peter Buck didn't realize until a fan pointed it out to him; this might imply why the song doesn't stick after a few listens. I dunno. You'll have to look elsewhere for incisive critique on this album.

Around the Sun - The worst that things ever got. While I was in a Virgin Megastore lo these years ago, I listened to about 30 seconds of each of these songs, and stuck around "The Outsiders" long enough to hear Q-Tip do a terribly awkward and slow rap. And I was done. It sounded competent. It sounded tasteful. It sounded textureless. It sounded like Muzak. And it was awful...well, actually, it was worse than awful. It was mediocre. Do I need to say I never got this album either?

Accelerate - These guys needed to clear the air, and they knew it. They knew their career depended on it. So they went to work. And good goddamn, talk about your phoenician rebirth. An album ago, R.E.M. was content to merely exist in a corner, polite and unobtrusive. Now, they demand to be heard. Back are the buzzsaw guitars, the stadium-ready noise, the agitprop, and loads of great, great music. Michael Stipe yowls "wow!" on each of the first three songs - the best opening trio since at least Automatic for the People - and ends the whole album with a triumphant "yeaaah!" The whole album bristles with energy; even the one-and-a-half ballads are restless and uneasy, demanding and hoping for personal and political change. Far and away, this is R.E.M.'s best balls-to-the-wall rock album (Monster could only dream of being like this), and possibly their best latter-day album. Well, with the possible exception of...

Collapse Into Now - Their swan song. R.E.M. touches on all of the musical territory they've established since leaving I.R.S. Records - and does it masterfully, beautifully, with elegance, and perhaps just a bit of dust on the proceedings. The hard rock of Monster and Accelerate, the meandering, urgent buzz of New Adventures in Hi-Fi, the balladry of Automatic for the People, Up and Around the Sun, and the ethereal pop beauty of Out of Time and Reveal all have their moments here. (Heck, they even bring in Stipe's muse Patti Smith on his stream of consciousness ode "Blue.") And like many other R.E.M. albums, this one may not be easy to get into, but it slowly grows on you until it's warm as a comforter. Apparently, after the disaster of Around the Sun, these guys wanted to prove that they still could put out good music. With the last two albums, done and done.

Thanks, guys. It's been a great time.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"This decision is mine. I have lived a full life. And these are the eyes that I want you to remember."

(Part 2 in a series of 3 in honor of R.E.M. and a reaction to their decision to break up; here's part 1.)

Green - So R.E.M. jumps to the majors. And the handwringing amongst the loyal begins. Verdict: not really warranted. Green is not a sellout. It does announce that these boys are going for as big and stadium-ready a sound as possible, but they're staying true to their instincts; it's easy to hear Green as an extension of Document, albeit somewhat more personal and musically more varied. Unfortunately, the album is a bit scattershot. I can't really explain "Stand," and "I Remember California" and "The Wrong Child" are dreadful. Still, songs like the oblique and kinetic "Pop Song 89," the delicate "Hairshirt," and the melancholy Big Statement "World Leader Pretend" almost redeem it.

Out of Time - Turns out that R.E.M. maybe just had to get their water legs after suddenly being thrust into the spotlight. Or maybe they just needed a long break after their exhausting world tour. But whatever the explanation, they sound like a band rejuvenated here, and maybe this is officially where the second phase of their career should actually begin. This one has received perhaps the most mixed reviews of all their albums. I think it depends on whether you like the perfect production over most of the music here, or whether it's too cloying. Me? I think it's absolutely fantastic. Beautiful, sweet pop gem after pop gem. Of course, "Losing My Religion" is the crown jewel, but there really isn't a bad moment here...not even Stipe's bucolic improvisation "Country Feedback," which I personally don't care for much. Let's make it easy and say what other songs aren't exactly my favorites: "Low," "Shiny Happy People" (duh), and "Half A World Away." Everything else is golden.

Automatic for the People - Basically the darker twin of Out of Time. Not as consistent, it has higher highs and lower lows. But it's still as lovely, pop-heavy, and accessible...and produced as impeccably as Out of Time. Just don't expect a shiny happy time. Yet when the orchestral sadness hits, expect that...uh..."Sweetness Follows." On the best songs, the lyrics will bring you down, then in the next breath, they'll convince you not to slash your wrists after all. Or they'll have you pining for younger days, or steeling yourself for an uncertain future. Really, really worthy. (Solipsistic note: I devoted nearly half the songs to my favorite mix tape in high school (hey kids! remember those?), and probably should have included a few more for good measure. I also transcribed the gorgeous "Nightswimming" to sheet music (full score as well as individual parts), then gave it to some orchestra friends to perform with me for our high school spring concert.)

Monster -  Bill Berry apparently threatened to quit the band if they didn't put out an honest-to-Pete rock record after two unabashed pop albums. And here's the mess they came up with. To its credit, this album is certainly a bold maneuver, and I would argue it is one of the most important albums R.E.M. ever made; Monster laid the blueprint for many worthy songs afterward, and without it, latter-day R.E.M. would have been awfully monochromatic. But the album itself is just not that great. "What's the Frequency Kenneth?" boasts the least-inspired reverse guitar solo I've ever heard. And Michael Stipe sounds just wimpy and whiny on "Tongue" and "Strange Currencies." The rest of it just sounds like the band is trying too hard to rock, and if ever there was a doubt that R.E.M.'s strengths lie in midtempo ballads, Monster ended the argument once and for all. The only really worthy moments are "Crush With Eyeliner," a glamalicious number that just struts with attitude, and the first ten seconds of "Let Me In," which wash over you like a huge, cathartic, sonic tidal wave. It's a shame the rest of the song merely sounds masturbatory. (Actually, now that I hear it again, the urgent pulse behind "Bang and Blame" is pretty compelling, too.)

New Adventures in Hi-Fi -  The first R.E.M. album (aside from Chronic Town and Dead Letter Office) I never got, thanks to Monster scaring me away. Until just a few weeks ago, at least. And my first thought on listening to this for the first time: "Oh, so this is what they were wanting to accomplish with Monster." But whereas that album had more than a few fun moments, New Adventures is the first in their catalog that actually feels like a bit of drudgery to sit through; not coincidentally, it's also their longest album. Bristling with electricity and dryness and movement, it's the sound of a band in the midst of crisis and transition, fighting with buzzsaw guitars and feedback to stay afloat against the powers that be. They do Neil Young and Crazy Horse proud in "Low Desert," tastefully cannibalize themselves with "Bittersweet Me," and somehow make an otherwise annoying siren seem essential to the urgent "Leave." Good road trip music, which makes sense, since it was more or less recorded on tour and has a similar feel to Jackson Browne's Running on Empty.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

National Coming Out Day, 2011

A short list of things (trivial and otherwise) I might have done in years past, were I not so infused with internalized homophobia:
  • Participated in a play or two in high school without fear of being termed a theater fag.
  • Hit the gym specifically to become more muscle-bound (since not only was I afraid of my attraction to bigger guys, I was afraid of what it might mean if I actively pursued becoming one of them myself).
  • And hence...been healthier and more self-confident.
  • Listened to the Smiths and Erasure more.
  • Felt more comfortable not entering into dead-end relationships with girls.
  • Broken fewer hearts.
  • Kissed a boy.
  • Been more open with a certain summer camp counselor - while I was a summer camp counselor, too! Nothing illegal here!
Then again, I might have also:
  • been beaten up more
  • been shunned by my family, possibly disowned
  • had very few people to relate to
  • had very few teachers I could rely on for help
  • been summarily fired for being more open with that summer camp counselor
  • been banned from Boy Scouts (oh...which might have rendered the summer camp scene moot)
But internalized homophobia did not keep me from:
  • looking at guys unendingly
  • having a crush on a high school girlfriend's linebacker brother (yes, you read right)
  • flaming out occasionally
  • listening to the Nylons and the occasional Broadway soundtrack
  • getting excited in 9th grade while reading Plato and discovering, quite graphically, that Socrates was at least bi, if not entirely homosexual. (the Charmides dialogue, if you are curious)
It's so weird, though, growing up with messages from friends, family, and society at large that do not jibe with what you're experiencing. Lots of grown-ups at the time told me that they would never want to live through being a teenager again, because my God all those hormones! For me, it wasn't so much about the uncontrollable sex urges, because in my case, they had to be controllable. Yet at the same time, so many of my friends were going girl crazy, and I thought I just had more restraint than they did. For me, the trials and travails of hormones manifested in some pretty profound anguish, and not in sex. Years later, I'm starting to see what the hormonal rush really was about, and I do feel like I lost out on a lot.

The act of coming out was the most important thing I ever accomplished. As I alluded to in a post a year ago, when I was finally out (halfway through college), it didn't matter that I had just failed a quiz, or that it was cold and rainy, or that I had just missed lunch and my stomach was rumbling, or whatever was conspiring to ruin my day. For the first time since those damned hormones began coursing through my body half a lifetime ago, I finally felt solid in who I was. I had a solid foundation upon which I could rest my identity. It was the most profoundly comforting feeling I'd ever had. And it was not sinful.

So what's done is done. I'm out, so are millions more of my brothers and sisters, and honestly, the world is becoming a better place because of it. People are pausing more when they say anti-gay things or voting against so-called "gay rights," knowing that oh yeah, there is that couple down the road from us, and they are actually kinda nice, and don't they seem "normal"? (Whatever that is.) And some parents are undoubtedly pausing as well, because, well, what if my son/daughter isn't straight? So they are having a harder time justifying those homophobic words and deeds. And it all started in huge part over 42 years ago because a handful of queer boys, butch lesbians, and drag queens revolted when police tried to arrest them and throw them in jail for the crime of peacefully gathering together and having a drink at a bar.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Whistle as the wind blows..."

R.I.P. R.E.M. One of two or three of the most formative bands in my life, and although I was sorely bummed to hear that they had decided to call it a day (to quote directly), after some thought, I was fine with it. Although they haven't put out dross lately, neither has their recent output been staggering.

Now, simply because I can, and I'm that kind of blogger (witness, oh, just about everything I've written here), here's my short takes on R.E.M.'s output, and what you should listen to at least once before you write it off.

Chronic Town - Never heard all the way through. But those short 30-second teasers sure sound fun. I may pick it up, just for the fun of it now. It certainly sounds like nothing else out there at the time...even amongst their fellow Athens comrades, R.E.M. sounds original, mature yet green behind the ears.

Murmur - I'm one of maybe two or three R.E.M. fans in the world who just doesn't get this album. "Perfect Circle" is, indeed, perfect and complete in its incompleteness...spidery and delicate, mysterious and soothing all at the same time. Bill Berry once said that to him, R.E.M. never felt like a band until they performed this song for the first time; for him, this is where it all coalesced. And I dig "Laughing," too...I mean, how many singers, no matter how literate, would ever write a song about Laocoon? But otherwise, I just don't get the adulation this album garners. "Talk About The Passion" is wimpy and boring. "Radio Free Europe" is also yawn-worthy. (The Hibtone recording is more kinetic and scads better, but still not awesome.) And don't get me started on "Moral Kiosk."Just like Big Star's Third/Sister Lovers, this one is easier to appreciate than love. And yes, it still sounds like nothing out there, existing in its own unverse. Mumbling and arpeggios never sounded so cryptic. But that's no reason to think it's the best album of 1983, or one of the top 10 of the 1980s (both inexplicably averred by Rolling Stone).

Reckoning - Son of Murmur. But perhaps a bit better. Sue me for being obvious, but "(Don't Go Back to) Rockville" and "So. Central Rain (I'm Sorry)" were two of my favorites from the early years. And "Harborcoat" was more exciting than anything on Murmur. (It did take like three decades to finally comprehend why "Seven Chinese Brothers" was so great, though, when I heard the Decemberists nearly duplicate it exactly with "Calamity Song.") The tone was still the same, though, and most of the songs remained inscrutable.

Fables of the Reconstruction - Very transitional. All of a sudden, the production became a lot cleaner, even as Michael Stipe's mumbles remained. But the excitement on Reckoning was suddenly suppressed and subdued and uncomfortable. I mean, any album that leads off with such a tense and unsettling song as "Feeling Gravitys Pull" can't be happy (even if that song is pretty excellent). And even the easier-going songs like "Green Grow the Rushes" have an undercurrent of unease. Best song: "Wendell Gee," a beautiful tearjerker about a misfit who somehow dies by entering a tree whose excavated middle he replaced with chicken wire. When the wire turned into lizard skin, the tree collapsed on him. Seriously. It doesn't get much weirder than that.

Lifes Rich Pageant - R.E.M. clears its throat, throws off all the murk, the overgrown kudzu, the mumbling, and the pristine mystery, and dives headlong into full-blown rock and roll. Thank GOD. This is one of their best two or three albums, and the best of their early years. Optimistic, passionate (not just "talking about the passion," but finally living fully in it), idealistic, loud, and messy, here is where I'd recommend anyone who hasn't gotten into early R.E.M. should start. Even if it's not particularly representative of anything earlier than that, it's better. Best songs: "Begin the Begin," "These Days," "Fall On Me," "Cuyahoga," "I Believe," "What If We Give It Away?", "Swan Swan H," "Superman."

Document - And R.E.M. remains bad-ass. Even clearer enunciation and production, more approachable songs, and the boldest, most political record yet. It's a shame that the second side kinda sucks (exceptions: "The One I Love," [yes, really], and the frenetic "Lightnin' Hopkins."), but the first side is damn near unimpeachable.

Eponymous and Dead Letter Office - The end of part 1 of R.E.M.'s career (basically, their contract with IRS Records). Eponymous is the greatest hits (with the aforementioned Hibtone recording of "Radio Free Europe," a cleaned-up "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville," and a cheesy version of "Finest Worksong" with unwelcome brass. Dead Letter Office is R.E.M. clearing out its back pages, B-sides, outtakes, and random paraphernalia. Instructive and often amusing, particularly when the band drunkenly slurs "King of the Road" or performs "Voice of Harold," which is really Michael Stipe singing the liner notes to some gospel perfomance, set to "Seven Chinese Brothers." Also discloses some of R.E.M.'s influences (Aerosmith, Velvet Underground). Even more worthy now that Chronic Town has been appended to it.

More to come later...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

At least no one spilled a drink on me, right?

How to feel like Martha Dumptruck:
  • Go out on the town to do karaoke.
  • Forget to tell friends you're going out.
  • Find out that the bar you went to suddenly has a vastly different crowd.
  • Don't drink. (Alcohol, that is.)
  • Pick one of the most middle-of-the-road, boring songs you can think of to sing.
  • Sing it...ah, okay-like. Not fabulous.
  • Get tired of the spot.
  • Leave and go to another karaoke spot...this one at a watering hole with an established clientele.
  • Order more non-alcoholic drinks, and get the eye (not the good kind) from the bartender.
  • Feel sheepish, and order what you think is the smallest dessert on the menu to ease your qualms.
  • Freak out when you get a behemoth of a dessert. (Yes, you do have to eat it all, says your inner Jewish mom.)
  • Sing "Miss Chatelaine" by k.d. lang. In her register.
  • Once you're done, have the drag queen who is hosting ask you where you tucked your balls. (Let me reiterate: a drag queen is asking you this.)
  • Walk off and finish eating your huge slice of cake.
  • Notice that only one other person there seems to be eating, and it's rabbit food.
  • Did I mention no friends around? At all.
At least I can take solace in the fact that eventually, Martha ended up spending a fun evening of movies and popcorn with Veronica. Self-effacement, sweetie darlings. I do it all for you.

I'm torn.

I'm allergic to sensitive chick music. (Is that harsh? Oh well.) Now, by this, I don't mean goddesses like Aretha. Nor powerhouses like PJ Harvey. Not even the gentler, and yes, sensitive but still kick-ass singer-songwriters like Carole King or Joni Mitchell. All of them RULE.

Heck, I could make this easy: Lilith Fair. Pretty much says it all, right? There is a LOT to be said about empowering women, and I'm all for it. But Lilith Fair was pretty soporific, no? One of the many reasons why the '90s sucked. The following are kryptonite to me (with a few scattered song exceptions here and there):

Natalie Imbruglia
Lisa Loeb
Sarah McLachlan
Paula Cole
Jewel
Sixpence None the Richer
The Cranberries
The Cardigans (yeah, even though they were college radio darlings)
Dido
Natalie Merchant (on her own...10,000 Maniacs had some good stuff)
Tori Amos

So there's the soundtrack to my personal hell. Here are the few exceptions from off the top of my head:

The Sundays - Reading, Writing and Arithmetic was a pretty good album. It made for a smooth, inoffensive transition to me to liking the Smiths (which I swore I would not, could not, should not like or even expose myself to back in high school, because only faggots and weirdos listened to the Smiths, right? UGGGH...). "Here's Where The Story Ends" was captivating; Harriet Wheeler's voice mesmerized me, the video was super cool, and I could gaze at David Gavurin for hours - and did. In private, of course. And yes, I know that these guys were largely responsible for the list I made above. But as Nirvana (and the Pixies before them) proved, the fount can be awesome, while everything else that follows sucks.

Frente! - I never got into their version of "Bizarre Love Triangle." But that's not a prerequisite to liking them, right? Marvin the Album was super fun. "Accidently Kelly Street" was a cute and bouncy kidlike ditty. Best line, from "Cuscutlan": "And I don't wanna die/I'm as innocent as anybody/I don't even know how to spell 'revolutionary'/Jesus in the sky." A long-lost...well, maybe not classic, but it sure is worthy. Those guys deserved a larger audience.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Get It While You Can - Janis Joplin

Ten years ago today, I had just finished the most amazing weekend with a guy who had suddenly entered my life just three weeks prior. He was wonderful, sweet, caring, generous, funny, a blast to be around, and what was really cool, he really really liked me! We met at a bar - pretty standard. But when we met, we both were celebrating being single, free, and fabulous!

Um. Oops. What they say about love hitting exactly when you're not looking for it? Yeah. Exactly.

Some drunk guy, whom we've never seen since, introduced us on the dance floor. He seemed happy to dance with anyone and everyone, and while he was elsewhere, I grabbed Mr. Man and started chatting with him off the dance floor. And a half hour later, I had a date set with him two days later!

Mr. Man (who was then working for the airlines) told me he was going to see Madonna in L.A. on September 14th, and wanted to offer me a second ticket. Oh...and then he offered to fly up to Portland (where I was living at the time), pick me up, and fly me down to L.A. first class for the weekend! Yeah. He had me.

Until September 11th hit. So much for flying. So instead, still determined to see Madonna and each other, we drove - him from Denver, me from Portland. And we met at the Ramada in West Hollywood and spent one fantastic weekend together. Madonna wasn't half bad, either...especially when she stopped in the middle of the concert to affirm our decision to go ahead with our lives and have fun, damn what those terrorists may have tried to do.

As I left, I had a whirlwind of emotions and uncertainty hit me. He's in Denver! You're in Portland! Long distance relationships don't last! You're in the middle of med school! Med school relationships don't last! What are you thinking? But finally, I just thought, "You know what? Fuck you. I've got a really good feeling about this guy, and I want to pursue things with him."

And right there, on I-5 headed north, came this amazing song on the radio by Our Lady of Southern Comfort. Needless to say, it fully affirmed exactly what I was thinking. And ten years later, Mr. Man and I are still going strong. God bless Janis Joplin. RIP.

Friday, August 19, 2011

On The Occasion Of A Most Impressive Breakfast.

Slow day down here at work. Colleagues have all left for the day, and my stomach commenced to grumbling for lunch. So I traipsed on down to Toast, one of my favorite comfort food joints in town. There's many blessings to working in the downtown district of one of the best towns/suburbs in Denver, and this here is one of 'em.
I walked in for lunch today, well after 1:00 (my yoozh nowadays), to a nearly-empty diner. The manager, a gruff bull with shaved head and a perpetual don't-fuck-with-me expression, still managed a natural smile and seated me. Then came my server...a beefy twentysomething guy with patchy three-day stubble and an adorable smile. Swoon. Friendly as anything, too.
In comes the requisite freshly squeezed orange juice before breakfast, in the classic textured plastic glass you associate with diners and cafeterias. I've had other great things there...the gargantuan sausage and gravy hotcakes, the chorizo breakfast burrito, the Nutella French toast...all fantastic. But today, I was basic...just chose the sausage and eggs with potatoes and a side of biscuits and gravy.
Well. Good GOD. I'm raving about a simple breakfast like this? That should tell you something.
Le Peep calls their eggs "pampered." Um, no. I don't want to be reminded of diapers while I'm eating eggs. Besides, that word (along with "gosh") just weirds me out like the word "moist" inexplicably weirds out the rest of the world. The eggs at Toast are the exact opposite of "pampered." (And for me to rave about eggs, that says a lot. Aside from scrambled and in omelettes, and with plenty of accoutrements, I won't even touch eggs.) In the back, they must have been whipped to within an inch of vaporization, and cooked with a cappuccino steamer. Not a single mucus-like strand of egg white anywhere. Perfectly fluffy...and with none of that icky, uh, liquid that you sometimes see on other egg dishes. Oh, and they say two eggs, but it looked like they served me four. Maybe they like me. I'm not quite a regular there, but I do go in a few times a month.
The sausage links were firm, thick, spicy, and luscious. I will avoid any double entendres from here on through.
Potatoes...pretty well cooked, sliced, and seasoned. No complaints here...as far as adding substance to a meal goes, these were pretty great.

But OHMYGOD...the biscuits and gravy. I have no idea why I have been here for over a year and have only today tried them. Best sausage gravy EVER. It tasted like it was made with black-label bacon drippings. Damn near perfection.
When I was done paying, the server handed me the receipt and gave me a wink. And again, set my heart all aflutter. Then flashed a peace sign when I left. As I walked out, I just thought...man...let me give him a few beers, and he might be up for some, uh, M2M fun!
I stopped back at the office right after...uh...breakfast? lunch? to pound this out. You're welcome. Now go patronize Toast when you're hungry for some excellent breakfast like a good kid. And tell 'em I sent ya when you're done.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The estimated blackboard pauses opposite his thesis.

Prefab Sprout - Jordan: The Comeback: Painful. Critics swoon over Prefab Sprout. And I demand that they justify themselves. This overlong album (by about 17 songs) grates horrendously. Twee and kaleidoscopic. It's so bad, I'm reduced to poor commentary with incomplete sentences made only of adjectives. The only song I really think is worthwhile is "Scarlet Nights," a touching yet rollicking farewell to a dying relative. (And if you can't tolerate even that, you're completely forgiven.)

The Iron Lady: I was too young to really get Margaret Thatcher. To me, Maggie was just a stern British headmistress on the news who was the last person you wanted as a babysitter. Oh, and the punks hated her. Normally, a movie about her would barely raise an eyebrow. But this has me itching to see more. And Meryl Streep could clinch an Oscar - or at least a nomination - on the basis of this trailer alone. Hell, she's not even onscreen for half her part!

Uh...um...this. This actually outdoes People of Wal-Mart. I mean, I kind of slightly enjoy POWM once every few years. But then I get to thinking...hmm. These people are genetically related to me. I could, theoretically, breed with one of these people and we could turn out a specimen that is not incompatible with life. All the DNA fits, we share the same number of chromosomes...it could happen. (Though, of course, the same could be said about a chihuahua and a Great Dane. Theoretically.) And it's at that point that I'm out.
See, with these two glass-eyed walking poster children for Ugly Anorexics of America, I don't even enjoy looking at them. There's no schadenfreude, no amusing rolling of the eyes. It's just disgust that paparazzi have deemed these genetic freaks somehow worthy of tabloids. I mean, they don't do anything interesting. They don't even move. They just stand, wear expensive, ugly...uh...clothes, and look homely. But combine this phenomenon with some of the most nauseating conspicuous consumption and saddest use for reptiles, and we have reached the level of obscenity. If this is what these twins are good for, then put 'em out of my misery. I have a garden to cultivate. Ship 'em off to Siberia. Or a cat farm. (I'm convinced they're gonna be the subject of the next Grey Gardens.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"With thy blast of thunder/O tear me asunder!"

Storms. Good god, I love 'em. Too often here in Denver, we get the huge clouds, the darkened skies, the thunder, a fair bit of wind, some lightning, and some big raindrops. But all too often, they just tease us with what sounds like it could be some rip-roarin' fun, then move on with nothing to show for it except further evidence that we're just an inch of rain or so from living in a full-on desert.
For some reason, while Texas and so much of the south is reeling from a gawdawful drought, we've been getting rain, rain, rain, for once. And last night was the wildest of it all. I wandered outside to skies that were lit up almost constantly from lightning behind the most frightening, forbidding squall line I've ever seen. (Cue "Ride of the Valkyries" or "Night on Bald Mountain.") Seriously, the sky was dark midnight purplish-blue, and the thunder, for quite a while, was ominously silent. Only the wind played with the trees, freakishly, tickling the leaves in preparation for an onslaught.
And man, did it come. I haven't seen a storm pummel the earth like this one did in years. Some people get frightened to death of thunderstorms. I have to be a part of it. I run outside and stand, flee, exult in the middle of it all, and am whipped around by the wind, stung by the rain, blinded by the lightning, and riven by the thunder deep in my bones. And I run back inside, my body flooded with water, shivering, and screaming, "I'M ALIIIVE!!!" It's my soul's all-too-swift escape from a beige, cubicled world.

Storms like that inspire a myriad of Facebook posts, of course. Unfortunately, I notice how many people were amazed by all the "lightening." And I die a little inside.

(Added: Not five minutes after I posted this, did another wild storm hit town. You know exactly what I did. Only this time, I had to wait until the hail passed. My revelries do know bounds, after all.)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

"The illegal cigarette waits for the formal airport."

Ambien - No long and heavily-researched rant here. But I've heard so many horror stories about this drug. One friend took Ambien before taking a flight to South America. The next thing he knew, he was being yanked off the plane forcibly by security, and was nearly arrested until he mentioned that he had taken Ambien. Other people have engaged in simple sleep-eating and sleep-driving, sleep-crashing, and coming to hours later with no recollection of said stupid actions. I'm sure you can Google to your heart's content and find more stories.

If the FDA had a conscience of any kind, it would yank this drug posthaste. As it is, I have NO trust and NO respect for the FDA. And for those people who claim that Ambien does such good for you? Go and get your insomnia treated safely and effectively...and ideally, naturally. You do not suffer from an Ambien deficiency. Figure out what's wrong. Then treat it appropriately.

Counting change the right way - I'm so gonna date myself for this...at least, I'm sure I will. But go purchase something for $17.36. Plunk down a yuppie food stamp. And the cashier will undoubtedly (assuming there's not an automatic change dispenser) look at the $2.64 change display, and haul out two ones, two quarters, a dime, and four pennies. In that order. It's the tiniest of pet peeves. But. It ain't right.

The next person I see saying "thirty-seven, thirty-eight, thirty-nine, forty, fifty, seventy-five, eighteen, nineteen, and twenty" while counting out the change in that order and handing it to me in that order, I will automatically tell to keep the change for themselves. Just because that's how it should be done, yo.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Transmissions from suburbia

Things that are making this morning one of the coolest in memory:

  • Completed landscaping. When Mr. Man and I moved out to bum-fuck Kansas two years ago, we inherited a HUGE house as part of a short sale, and got the deal of the century. And although the house was far from being a money pit or "rustic," it did need some desperate TLC, particularly if two self-respecting guppies were gonna take up residence. New carpet, a new back patio, MAJOR work on the front lawn, a new tree to replace a dead one, new fences...you get the picture. This year, the Backyard of Killer Weeds has been magically transformed, by the power of expert landscapers, into the Stepford Backyard. Neat new lawn, a coupla mature trees and some tastefully placed shrubs (especially lilacs...Mr. Man loves lilacs), rocks bordering it all, three garden plots...it's magically suburbalicious. Looking forward to the 1st annual back patio party in a few months, once the sod is all set. Gonna be epic. I'll be sure to wear my seersucker pants and make fresh Cape Cods for everyone.


  • Bob Mould/Sugar. Unfortunately, not Hüsker Dü. That shit is INTENSE. Anyone who can sit through New Day Rising the whole way through is better than me. Zen Arcade, as good as it is, puts me in a warped and bitter mood, the likes of which I nowadays try to avoid. But once Bob left for poppier pastures, he appealed a bit more. I scored Copper Blue a few months ago, and I've been hearing it a little at a time. What I hear, I like. Fits the day, too. (I also feel I should be listening to XTC and Robyn Hitchcock to make the day complete.)


  • Cooler weather. I'm not afraid of blazing weather. I just like to contrast it occasionally. Today, hovering around 80 degrees feels blissful. Perfect blue sky, not a cloud. Brilliant sun. Feels like the type of day you run through a sprinkler, or go to the local waterpark.


  • Green/mint tea. Boy, I'm really scraping the bottom here. Made green tea this morning and added in some freshly cut mint that our neighbors brought over from their garden last night. Some is going into a pot for our future benefit (Mr. Man now craves mojitos), and some is going into my green tea.


  • That white peach I just ate.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"...much too sleepy and self-centered to ever hurt another person."

I've enjoyed Tina Fey, sure. I won't claim outright crazy fandom...I've never watched an episode of 30 Rock, nor do I know much of her comic stylings beyond her spot-on Sarah Palin skits. But I do like what I've read from/about her thus far. She seems a good egg.

But THIS brought me to a whole new level. God bless Tina Fey. There's a special place in heaven for her.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Mr. Cellophane - Chicago

I never woulda guessed this one would have made it here. Then again, it's not always 2 in the morning, and I'm not always under the affluence of incohol. But for those of you who are dying for those "fly on the wall" moments, Chicago at 2 in the morning provides 'em. (Note, if you will, the time of this blog post.)

Chicago (the town) is my least favorite city of all time, but Chicago (the musical) may just be my favorite musical. Ah, irony. Get me nice and happy (vodka or rum only, please...I like to be at least semi-functional the next morning), pop Chicago in the DVD player, and watch me go to town. Seriously. I will vamp and lip-synch to most of the songs there. In the dark. With no one watching me. I will praise, then kvetch about that funny honey of mine. I will proclaim that when you're good to Mama, Mama's good to you. I will tango with the best and sassiest and angriest of the murderesses in the cellblock. And I will become Roxie Hart, just to say that the name on everybody's lips is gonna be - sing it! - Roxie.

Perhaps more than all other songs, "Mr. Cellophane" catches me at my most vulnerable, and I relate to it more than anything on Chicago. Irony, I know, for someone who has been more visible than about 95% of most Americans. But I have a terrible tendency to fall into self-pity and melancholia. Even more ironic is the fact that I often crave solitude; I don't bemoan it. I'm not quite Greta Garbo, mind you, but I do have my moments, and if given the choice, most times, I'd rather spend a quiet night either alone or with just a select friend or two or three. (Don't get me wrong...I do enjoy a wild night out on the town every once in a while.)

But when you look at Amos, pitiful character that he is, you can't help but feel for him. His wife double-crosses him, becomes pregnant with another man while behind bars, lies to him on the stand, and then abandons him after she's declared innocent. And that's his fate, end of story. Roxie goes on to stardom with her arch-nemesis, and ignores the only guy who offered her unconditional love? Ouch.

I dunno. Something about that abandonment and sorrow just strikes a really deep chord in me, and I'm not sure why. People do like me, for the most part. But I often come off as aloof, which is a shame. I've been blown off in social situations many times, probably no more than most anyone else, but I think I've let this hit me more than most. Still, I'm alternately exhilarated and frightened to death to perform this song on karaoke. It ain't no "Just a Gigolo," that's for sure. Very sobering and soul-baring, which ain't exactly the domain of karaoke. But again, I've emoted enough for a stage in the den of my home, singing and acting along with John C. Reilly. I ain't nowhere near good enough to be Amos on stage, but in my head, I can fully empathize and inhabit his character. Who knows? Maybe some night, I'll screw up the courage, down enough liquid courage, and see what happens on stage. Maybe in DC, where if I screw up, no one of consequence will care, and I can bring it back home all polished up.

(Fun Uncle Spike fact: in 2007, whilst celebrating my birthday, in the safety and comfort of my living room, I downed four appletinis. Maybe five. The last three were spiked with cinnamon schnapps. I totally bonded with Chicago. And spent the next two days recovering. PAAAAIN. To this day, I cannot tolerate appletinis.)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Seel-yeh Beer-ghee-teh?

(Prompted by a college classmate's recent posting about the birth of her first daughter.)

If you're announcing the girl's name, and then you immediately have to post a pronunciation guide for both the first and the middle name, you FAIL. When your daughter grows up, she will harbor resentment toward you in a special place in her heart. Go back to baby-naming 101.

(Incidentally, what does it mean that I, who most likely will not have kids, have such strong opinions about baby names?)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Also? "Don't tell your parents that Obama is dead when you meant Osama. Because it causes tears. Whoops."

In re: Osama bin Laden: A few FB thoughts from friends of all stripes (well, maybe not Republicans).

  • "Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, And let not thy heart be glad when he is overthrown"
    - Proverbs 24:17

  • "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction... The chain reaction of evil-hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars-must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation." - MLK, Jr.

  • I refuse to celebrate the killing of another human being, regardless of their past acts. It is good that he is gone, but the hive of evil has millions of insects.

  • Wow, finally. It's hard to be glad that someone is dead, but what a relief!

  • deep ambivalence on the death of Osama bin Laden...killing begets killing begets killing. where will it end?

  • Osama is dead! I, along with everyone else directly affected by 9/11 can finally begin to heal. The event changed my life and having the killer killed puts me at peace. Justice was FINALLY served. Go Obama, Go Military!

  • Death happens. So does life. Osama bin Laden's death will only bring to life another homicidal maniac lurking in the midst. Because unfortunately, someone is bound to fill his shoes. Rejoice if you must, but please remember life's brutal cycle. And NEVER forget those who perished as a result.

  • May 1st Prayer...Now I lay me down to sleep...one less terrorist this world does keep...with all my heart I give my thanks...to those in uniform regardless of ranks...you serve our country and serve it well...with humble hearts your stories tell...so as I rest my weary eyes...while freedom rings our flag still flies...you give your all, do what you must...with God we live and God we trust....

  • Obama did in two years what "that other guy" couldn't do in seven. #justsaying

Where were you? I was at choir rehearsal with about 80 fellow men, and the guy standing next to me suddenly showed me a text from his, uh, current love/sex interest (I'm not sure how to term him). Then he got another text from his partner of 20 years saying the same. From that point, it was on. He and I were on our phones, hunting down news coverage that might have said something. Huff Post? Nope. CNN? Nah. The local TV station? Not that either. Their servers must have been overloaded. We did this for about 10 minutes, until I realized...duh! Facebook! And it was there that I saw ten consecutive posts from friends saying that bin Laden had finally been killed. Sign of the times, right? I'll give HP and the local networks a bye on this one, but CNN? Really? Get new servers or upgrade your old ones. That should NEVER have happened.


And my thoughts? I was pretty thrilled last night. I'll admit, the posts up above sobered me up a bit. My thoughts were more like this. Not all the way to yelling "U-S-A! U-S-A!" jingoistically while waving the flag and pounding some brewskis, but certainly less measured than my friends, for the most part. For the time being, this is a good thing, right? Just good to keep in mind that yes, someone is bound to take his place, and he's now a martyr for the cause. Always a gray lining.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

And then there was the Trekkie with a starfleet insignia on his chest...

Does anyone understand the appeal of tattoos, or why people get them? I don't have one, and I feel no compulsion to get one. But I'm so curious about why. I ask this with no judgment.

I hit the free weights at the gym, and many of the badass guys working out with me have tattoos all up and down their arms and legs (and I'd imagine, were they to remover their shirts, we'd see lots of 'em on their back and maybe their chest). And I just wonder. Again, I can't judge, really...if I don't understand why they do it, I can't say anything.

Even one of my clinicians back in chiropractic school had an insanely ornate and large tattoo that stretched across her lower back. It took multiple sessions to complete. Really, it was beautiful - far and away the most beautiful tattoo I've ever seen. I think it was a tattoo of a Hindu deity, and was not just designed with the typical black ink, but bright reds, yellows, and greens permeated it. But again, I don't understand why. And more to the point, why would one get a tattoo on a part of the body you wouldn't even be able to see or admire easily?

The most audacious tattoo I've ever seen was also one of the simplest ever: a single plus sign on the left deltoid region. This forever branded the guy as being HIV-positive (yes, he was gay, and displayed it on a profile on a social/sexual networking site). No comment, other than that I would never. For more reasons than one.

So there you have it. Fellow bloggers of the world wide webiverse, and random stumblers upon this screed, I ask you...whither tattoos?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Adventures in Puddletown, part 3

Ugh. Clusterfuck of a day today. Spent the first part of the day working with my blessed bookkeeper (which reminds me: send her flowers) who helped me deal with an absurd tax situation. Long story short, the state thinks I owe them a craptacular amount of sales tax. This might be true if the tax rate were about 50%. Ain’t no WAY.

Had a second issue about work. Won’t bore you about it, but it made me bust my ass home and pack in record time for my trip out to Puddletown. Got to the airport, and I was nearly pathologically harried. Like to the point where if I had really stopped to think about it, I would have thought the universe was sending me a sign.

As it turns out, it might have been. You see, this trip was for a business seminar. I signed up for it a few months ago. I thought it kind of weird that I had yet to receive materials for it. So once at the gate, I called the organizer up. She kinda hesitated, then said, “Um, we rescheduled the seminar, because we didn’t want to interfere with Easter.” Cue righteous rage on my part. Scandinavian rage, so you know it was subdued. Still, HOLY HELL. No one had told me about it. And some research on the part of the organizer revealed that she had indeed sent out an e-mail to that effect, but had neglected to put my e-mail address on it. FUUUCK.

So here I am in Portland, for no real reason anymore. Man, I feel like the proverbial fish out of water. I’ma try to make the best of it, though. And there are some things so far. Like the fact that when I landed, it was SUNNY. And once I got my car and drove around, I saw that there wasn’t a muthafuckin’ cloud in the sky. Nowhere. People have been saying today has been the nicest day all YEAR. And tomorrow’s gonna be even nicer, warmer.

Also, I got to indulge in the joy that is La Buca. This tiny trattoria was the site of my first meal the day I moved to Portland. I got the “abituale”: penne with vodka cream sauce and spicy Italian sausage. So damned simple, but so damned good. Actually, the first bite was kinda ennh, but the more I ate, the more I remembered just how heavenly it was. Food like that really could become habitual.

There was also Ben & Jerry’s. The ice cream shop. ‘Nuff said.

Back to the clusterfuck. Simply navigating Portland can be infuriating. Got lost on the way to DJ Jazzy D’s place, then finally found it 15 minutes after I shoulda been there. Then I began unpacking, and realized that with a phone with maybe 2% power remaining, I had forgotten to pack a phone charger. It was off to the local one-stop-shopping bazaar, and thank GOD they were open late. So now my phone is happily charging away.

I was hoping to head out on the town tonight, badly. But it’s been such a blast to my sanity today, I think it’s for the best I stay back and just sleep it off. Seriously…the concept of a totally free weekend that suddenly fell from the sky weirds me out. Maybe I’ll head to the coast or do some hiking, get back to nature. Karaoke is most assuredly in my future, too. I’d take a free weekend in Puerto Vallarta or Maui any day, but Portland is not on the short list. Well, I’ll just make do. A good big breakfast will do me well for starters, then I’ll go from there.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Play With Me - Thompson Twins

The Cool World soundtrack is one of the better-kept secrets of the 1990s. The movie kinda sucked (badly enough that I didn't even see it; I'm just going by what most people/critics tell me). But the soundtrack is something else. It's what Hard Harry would have played had he gotten out of jail early and become a club DJ. Dark, seductive, throbbing...it's tough to resist.

The best song on here is actually from the Thompson Twins. They trump everyone else here, including the likes of David Bowie, Ministry, Moby, Brian Eno, and My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult. That's pretty heady company just to be in.

When a song begins with a siren and a woman moaning seductively in the background, you know you're in for something pretty hot. And rarely has sex and violence sounded so enticing. Aside from this vixen repeatedly cooing "play with me," it's all instrumental, slightly industrial. You also hear occasional menacing laughter and a thug's brutal howling, all above a pounding dance beat that is eons removed from the G-rated pop most people associate with the Thompson Twins' earnest '80s ditties.

Listen to this one at full blast, preferably at night. Dance your ass off to it. Shadowbox those demons away. And afterward, you'll feel about as spent and released as the song's closing post-orgasmic sigh. (For some reason, the video won't load well, so here's the link.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Le roi est mort, vive le plutocratie."

Oog. Being sick sucks. I saw two patients this morning, both pretty involved and really cool cases. But toward the end of the second one, it quickly became apparent that I was running on fumes. I had to head home, and man, when you're sick, it really sucks to have a 45-minute commute. *ducks to avoid heavy metal objects thrown at head* I know lots of you out there have longer commutes, but for Denver, this is quite the big deal.

And now, the news...

Those of you in FB Land who have friends who tend to lean to the left and post their predilections for all to see have undoubtedly received this beauty over the past day or so:
Remember when teachers, public employees, libraries, Planned Parenthood, NPR and PBS crashed the stock market, wiped out half of our 401Ks, took trillions in TARP money, spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico, gave themselves billions in bonuses, and paid no taxes? Yeah, me neither. Pass it on!
Pretty stinging indictment, this. Well, at least on paper or on your screen. Pithy, accurate, brilliant. Sure, it'll make people think. But in the long run, will it make much difference?

I don't think many people would argue that our country is in awful shape. Bloggers EVERYWHERE are commenting about it. Hell, Roger Ebert recently penned a brilliant, if devastating, look at the inequality of wealth distribution in our plutocracy. And you thought (well, actually, I did think) that he mainly reviewed movies and such. (Oh, you hadn't heard? Democracy in America is dead, folks.) The thing that really makes this awful is the fact that it doesn't matter where you land on the political spectrum...most likely you think our country is going down the wrong path. I myself tend to lean left, and as such, get the humor when, say, The Onion marks the occasion of the death of the American Dream, or when Steven Colbert blasts Jon Kyl for saying that Planned Parenthood devotes 90% of its resources to abortions (margin of error: 87%.) But it's devastating to know the truth or the sentiment behind these stories. Also, folks on the right are just as pissed...witness the rise of the phenomenon that rhymes with "Me Farting." And I feel about like I did when I was reading the writings of Soviet era dissidents in college...just an inescapable sense of hopelessness, that nothing can change for the better.

In my mind, the last time we had such a volatile political landscape was in the 1960s. Speaking from the POV of someone who was never there, I still get the feeling that there was some really strong idealism there that tempered it somewhat. I may be wrong. But I sure don't see any evidence of idealism or hope from either side, aside from Obama's slogan. The Tea Party is primarily reactionary; I don't think they have thought through what they stand for as much as what they stand against. But they do seem to be accomplishing some things. As for the political left, all I seem to read about is how disorganized and weak the Democrats are, kowtowing to the Republicans and Teabaggers.

On a more personal level, over the past four years, I have borne close witness to five bills in our state legislature, all for great causes, being struck down by...well, by the Teabaggers (and their libertarian forebears). I've seen how a bill becomes a law (or doesn't), and it ain't NOTHING as appealing or fun as Schoolhouse Rock would have us believe. I really would rather watch sausage being made. And this is incredibly dispiriting. The days of Jimmy Stewart, ever the cockeyed optimist, going to Washington to stand up for the common man, are so far away they might as well be gone. If I'm thinking like this now, you KNOW I don't ever want to be involved in politics ever again.

Let me continue my descent into the void. We're in the land of bread and circuses, and have been for decades now; I defy anyone to prove otherwise. But it's particularly tough when the circuses take the form of some hilarious but stinging satire, broadcast to millions, with at least part of the goal being to rile up the masses...and nothing happens...at least to my eye.

One last thing: Teabaggers are all up in arms about how Obama is trying to turn our country socialist. It hasn't happened, folks, and it probably won't. But I'll repeat what I said up above: while our economy is still functioning, we have lost all semblance of democracy. THAT is what I think is the true tragedy. If we did have a democracy, the asshole bankers of Wall Street (to point a finger at a salient target) would be brought to justice and punished severely for their actions. Nope. They're protected by their millions and millions. I would SO love to run across one of 'em by happenstance at some point and go all Steven Slater on their sorry ass.

And in the meantime, Thomas Jefferson is turning in his grave something awful.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Oh, and thank you very much for introducing us to the Gayken.

I swear on a stack of reel-to-reels, I have never, ever, seen a whole episode of American Idol. Many of my fellow chorines in our local gay men's chorus (some of whom have, yes, tried out for AI) would gasp and clutch their pearls at the mere thought. Why?

Simon bores me, for one, even more than he grates on my nerves. And if he bores me, you know the other judges don't have a chance. (Don't even talk to me about the hostess, Ryan Seacrest.) Second, I'm not a fan of most pop music nowadays. Glee has had to somehow introduce me to the 21st century version of (teen) pop, and even then, meh. Third, the whole show reeks of product. It doesn't exist to make a young singer's dream come true. It exists to throw an unassuming winner (or 2nd or 3rd or 4th place winner) into the music machine and produce sound units, the likes of which will (assumedly) sell well and ensure profits to the recording company. Cynical? Yeah...but the stuff AI turns out doesn't sound one iota different from the rest of the blather you hear on the radio nowadays. Which is why I don't listen. Hell, aside from one fun song, I don't even care for Kelly Clarkson. (And no, it isn't "Since U Been Gone.")

The most annoying bit is the invention-slash-popularization of the melisma. A fatwa on the heads of Mariah Carey and especially Christina Aguilera for that. Yes, they have great voices with impressive ranges. Which means they don't need to rely on all those swoops up and down and everywhere. You at point A, gurl? You need to get to point B? Fuckin' get there. Don't go through points Q, L, 13, turd, ζ, Þ, Ж, פ, and syzygy to get there. You'll get lost and sound like a noob along the way. But because these two are apparently among the most admired singers of...uh...the generation beneath me, the AIers think that the more melismas, the better.

Now, having bitched, I'll say that I was present and accounted for, sir, for the crowning of Miss Clarkson as the first AI winner. How evil was it, then, that she, immediately upon winning, had to try and sing "A Moment Like This"? She's trying to, uh, enjoy and live in this moment, accept congratulations from her fans and hold back tears, not sing about it, fucktards! GAWD.

The one...I hate to say redeeming quality, but the one thing that I can thank AI for is for Jennifer Hudson. Seen her in Showgirls? Damn, she deserved that Oscar. Outsang and outperformed everyone, including Beyonce and Eddie Murphy. Although I suspect you could just see her singing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" and be done with the rest of the movie. And it shows you how stupid America is that they voted her off so early.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

An enabling troop misdirects a psychologist jail.

Bethenny Frankel - Some people just inspire a particular brand of unadulterated, illogical HAAATE. Vomitous hatred. Witness Bethenny Frankel. Of all the obnoxious Housewives of Bravo, she's the most repugnant. I'd rather spend 24 hours trapped in a bell jar with Snookie than an hour with Bethenny. She of the most insincere smile EVER started grating on my nerves when she worked her way up to 2nd place in Martha Stewart's criminally underrated version of The Apprentice, and I hoped that was the last we'd see of her. But a few years later, I saw her infiltrate "The Real Housewives of New York City." I threw my fan across the room, shook my fingernails, and pranced out of the room, all "I can't. I just can't." But that wasn't enough. After that, she had TWO companion series. I know there's a lesson to learn from her about self-promotion and marketing, but dear GOD put this woman out of my misery!

Wayne Brady - Fell in love with him pretty much at first sight on "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" Damn, but those tight sweaters did wonders for his chest and arms. Not to mention those hyperkinetic impromptu pushups...the best ones seen publicly since Jack Palance. Haven't seen Wayne for awhile, but then noticed tonight that he was gonna be on next week's Drag Race. SWOON.

Frank Neuhauser - Frank who? That's what most people would say. But for spelling bee aficionados like myself, Monday was a sad day. Frank Neuhauser died, aged 97. He was the winner of the first National Spelling Bee, back in 1925. It was a tiny bee...only 9 contestants at the time, with words like "catch" and "black" in the first round. His winning word, the comparably difficult "gladiolus," would be an easy word at nationals nowadays - even in the first round. He's been a guest at some of the most recent national competitions, and I'm bummed that I never got a chance to meet him. Perhaps, instead, I'll plant a gladiolus or two in his honor in the yard this year as we do our landscaping. (And incidentally, isn't that picture of him in that article signing autographs sweet? He looks so happy. And even cooler, how great is it that kids are crowding around him and paying him such respect? You don't see that sort of thing much anymore.)

Claire Danes - What in the world has happened to her? Where have you gone, Angela Chase? God. One of my favorite snarkmeisters of all time, clad in flannel and tights and angst and one of the coolest haircuts of the '90s. Excellent hair color, too. Man, she wore the weight of the world on her shoulders, and I felt it, too. Misery loved company. But have you seen her recently? All that attitude has dried up and blown away. She's become a faceless Hollywood modelesque starlet, the likes of which I almost wouldn't have recognized, were it not pointed out to me that it really was Claire Danes. I guess it would be unfair to demand that she stay the same Angela Chase through the years, but I hoped she would have retained some of that angst. (See also: Ryder, Winona, though to a lesser extent.)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Adventures in Puddletown, part 2

So, a minor update on yours truly before we get to the subject matter you all came to enjoy. Woke up bright and early to a crisp, sunny morning. Running out the door, spilled coffee on my tie, so I had to run back upstairs. Showed up at Bally to get in a workout before work, but it was closed and wouldn't open until 8, damn it all. Then I show up at work, and the computer we all rely on to print out schedules is exhibiting the black screen of death and constantly rebooting. It's gonna be one of those mornings. At least I have Avenue Q to look forward to this afternoon. And perhaps a switch of my club membership over to 24 Hour Fitness. I've heard they're better, anyhow.

Anyhoo...back up to Portland...

Blue Moon - There's a chain of pub-style restaurants in Portland called McMenamins, with basically the same menu. Some variation here and there, but if you want good, reliable pub grub, this is the place. Blue Moon is my favorite, if only because it was the closest one to the blessed studio I inhabited at 2151 NW Johnson for six months. A good dark interior, lots of pool tables, floor-to-ceiling windows, and of course, the place smells like beer, like a good pub should. Since it's Portland, you know there's gonna be tons of microbrews on the menu. Oh, and the bonus this time? Tater tots with my burger.

3 Friends - The bohemian coffeehouse (oh, wait...this is Portland, right? All coffeehouses are bohemian here, even the Starbucks...es) where us gay boys would meet before a night on the town, or at least dinner. We'd spend the first half hour just hanging out, then spend the next fracking half hour trying to decide where to eat dinner. Did I say bohemian? Yeah. Barely-running toilets, lots of wacky artwork, couches unafraid to show their inner parts to the world, and a front doorknob that rattled and jiggled like crazy, like it was about to fall off. That was the early 2000s. When I returned, apparently nothing had changed...except for the doorknob, which was now wired onto the rest of the door. I considered contributing some of my well-earned to the "get this damned door a new handle!" fund...and maybe I should have. Oh, and much less gay during the day. Oh well.

Marco's - I didn't go to this umbrella-ceilinged breakfast nook this time, but back in the day, Marco's had THE most awesome omelettes and coffee. And by coffee, I mean espresso-strength. I would have loved to drink more than one cup, but I would have been zooming all day and all of the night if I dared. And by omelettes, I mean gobs of molten cheese and thick black-label bacon with just enough egg to cover the whole thing.

Coffee Time - A personal anecdote: the night before I was to move away from my studio in NW Portland, I spent ALL night packing. So at 7:00 the next morning, I decided I owed it to myself to get some coffee and coffeecake at this place a block away. Very bohemian here...dreads, lip piercings, appropriate '90s noise blasting through the speakers, that sort of thing. Got my goods, downed them, then decided to get just a half hour nap before finishing up packing. I didn't even get that. Only 15 minutes later, I got a call from Mr. Man.
Three weeks prior, we had met for the first time, and he offered me a ticket to see Madonna in LA. He also offered to fly to Portland from Denver, pick me up, and then fly down first class.

But over the phone, with panic in his voice, he told me that we were not going to be flying anywhere anytime soon. Terrorists had just flown two planes into the World Trade Center.

(Incidentally, if you like the bumper sticker up top, pick it up here! Because keeping Portland weird simply isn't enough.)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Adventures in Puddletown, part 1

I'm sitting here in PDX, waiting on a flight back to Denver that's now delayed 2.5 or 3.5 hours, depending on whether I believe the Orbitz updates sent to my Android or the flight departure boards. Either way, I'm now afforded some downtime before the phantom flight arrives from Denver.

I can't believe it's been almost 5 years since I was last in Puddletown, and almost 8 since I last drove here. As such, my rented transportation appliance enabled me to indulge in some pretty cool nostalgia. I mean, I spent a good 4 years here, possibly the most life-changing years of all. But although it was a good place to live for four years, I probably could not live here.

For one, people here drive WAAAY too slowly. (Oregon is the only western state with a speed limit of 65 - slowest of 'em all.) When I first moved here, I was thrilled that Portland drivers seemed to be so polite, allowing me to cross multiple lanes when I realized that I had to turn right, not left. They drove slowly and allowed me in without hesitation if I needed to cut in front of them unexpectedly. And it stayed that way for three weeks. But then I learned how to navigate Puddletown, and by then, I realized that this driving-slightly-under-the-speed-limit thing was not politesse, but the MO. Well, I like to drive, I like to be in control, and I am positively thrilled to be moving at a glacial pace on the road. Especially if I have a flame thrower or a bazooka handy with which to obliterate mealymouthed drivers in front of me.

From a weather perspective, I love four well-defined seasons, and Portland only has two: rain and sun. And even with that, the rain isn't all that wild. More like annoying drizzle that falls from pea soup skies - no texture to the clouds at all. If you hear more than three thunderclaps in a year, that's pretty severe. And if more than 1/4 inch of snow falls, the whole city shuts down. For those of you in warmer climes, you may commiserate, but guess what: this Colorado boy scoffs unapologetically at this sort of thing. So there. But on the other hand, summer in the Pacific Northwest is one awesome secret. Gorgeous, warm, comfortable, very little rain (!), and sun for weeks on end. Even can get amazingly hot, with heat waves above 100, the likes of which even Denver rarely sees.

A traipse down nostalgia lane here:

Russellville - The apartment complex where Mr. Man and I first lived together. We drove together from Denver and arrived in Portland in time for a very uneventful New Year's Day, 2002. Thus continued my stint in medical school, and thus began possibly the worst phase of Mr. Man's life: being unemployed in a town he'd never been in, with no friends, arriving from the land of 300 days of sunshine a year and landing smack-dab in the middle of a typical gray, miserable, sunless winter. You never realize how much you depend on the sun for sustenance until you're forcibly deprived of it for months on end. And man, it made him depressed. Going back "home" to the place we first started forging our relationship under some pretty difficult circumstances was really poignant.

NCNM - The reason I moved to Portland for 4 years. Kick-ass school. It was great to return, and everything brought me back: the smells, the staircases, the stories of the water that somehow had magical powers of fertility (in our class of 100, we had 10 births). But man, sitting for hours in this weekend seminar also brought back the drudgery and annoyance of being ground under by schoolwork. Don't miss it one bit. And I have to admit...the more I see the typical naturopathic student, the more it makes me cringe. It's the (almost always) woman that looks entitled to being upwardly mobile, driving a Prius, doing yoga multiple times a week, shopping almost exclusively at Whole Foods or the like (because even for these students, shopping at co-ops is a bit beneath them), wearing the latest Columbia gear...oh, heck, you see them in magazines like Real Simple or Martha Stewart Living. You kinda wonder if they've ever been mediocre at any point in their lives, or had to deal with any sort of poverty or even middle-class status.

CC Slaughters - The gay club I used to go to all the time, very neighborhood bar-ish. Loved it. It used to have gay porn playing on the monitors to scare away the straight boys. I cultivated my first bartender there...at least until Mr. Man happened on the scene, and the bartender suddenly grew jealous and my drinks suddenly grew more opaque. I came back on Mardi Gras weekend, filled with guys I once would have considered more or less my peers, but who now are anklebiters to me. Damn, I'm getting old. (Incidentally, I also happened to see a guy who I once dated a few times and unwittingly screwed over. Also also, saw the guy I had my first LTR with. Last I saw him was actually at Slaughters, the night before I drove away from Portland in 2003. Being a particularly furry cub, he was being tossed around and groped by horny bears, and just lapping up the attention. Kinda disturbing to see that...not to mention that it also made me jealous as hell. Oh well.)

Delta Cafe - Good Southern cooking just doesn't exist in Denver, so I got my fix here. It was the second restaurant I went to when I first moved to Puddletown. If you don't mind a really bohemian vibe and Sonic Youth blasting from the speakers, it's all good. Man, is it good. Collards practically soaking in bacon drippings. Some hellaciously decadent mac 'n' cheese. Fiied chicken that puts KFC to shame. Jambalaya, gumbo, etouffee, red beans and rice, andouille sausage...the whole thing just gets me hungry...and I just had lunch not even an hour ago.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Only The Strong - Midnight Oil

Let's go back to 1994. I'd completed my hellacious first year of college. I was reeling from my first sexual experiences with a man, subsequently falling HARD for him, and freaking out about what it all meant. (Of course, I was in no space to talk to anyone about it.) I was in the midst of a terrible existential (no, really) crisis. The conclusion I came to from not knowing the purpose of education, and knowing that I had devoted my entire life to education scared me to death. Add in an uplifting class on the resistance to Nazism, with special emphasis on the Warsaw ghetto. Add in a class on Russian literature, heavy on the gulag experience. Also add in a severely mind-warping tutorial on Nietzsche. I was so fucked in the brain by the time my first year was done.

The only thing that saved me was my weekly radio shows, wherein I'd escape and play music only for me, me, me, and scream at the powers that be for two hours, 1984-style. So at summer camp that year, where I rocked the pool and the lake as the aquatics director, I began plotting my second year. It would be, again, all about me, me, me, but this time, it'd be 100% of the time, and not just those two hours a week. I'd live life exactly as I wanted, and if anyone got hurt in the process, fuck 'em. (As it turns out, I'm generally restrained enough that this particular mindset ended up hurting only one person, and it was in the service of ending a relationship that shoulda never begun in the first place.) I needed some major inspiration, so I went wild on the music.

My malaise that fall was blown away in a testosteronic gale of noise and punk: the Ramones, Wire, the Sex Pistols, the Descendents, Minor Threat, Sonic Youth, and the Dead Kennedys, to name a few. (SO shoulda gotten Helmet, too...alas, that was not to be for a good 13 more years.) And the following spring, I picked up the long-overdue 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 from Midnight Oil.

Midnight Oil has always been one of my favorite bands. I can't think of another band that's so forthright, intelligent, consistent, and filled with warlike righteous rage. And on this album, packed with powerful calls to action and personal statements, "Only The Strong" is one of their fieriest.

The lead singer, Peter Garrett, is a wild, menacing presence, a nearly 7 foot tall behemoth of a man, with a shiny bald pate, intense eagle eyes, and some of the most spastic dance moves ever attempted onstage. The entire album is worth it just to hear Garrett snarl, "Speak to me, speak to me. I'm at the edge of myself...I'm DYYYING to talk." And on each chorus, his singing goes from righteous declamation to furious anger to shredded, bloody vocal cords. Truly awesome and somewhat frightening; singing this wild and unhinged is seldom heard outside of Minor Threat or the Pixies. And likewise, the guitars swoop and careen barely in tune, sounding like metal being warped out of shape. Drums hammer out a martial beat with pinpoint accuracy, interspersed with machine-gun breaks and breathless moments of silence.

It's weird to say this, but the album version is the most intense version I've yet heard...the live versions aren't quite up there. Regardless, to say this song is an adrenaline rush doesn't go nearly far enough. Put on your headphones and listen to "Only The Strong" at full volume. If you don't feel punch-drunk and cleansed by the end of this one, you must be on some sort of narcotic. You want to live at the edge of life, at the edge of yourself, push boundaries, rebel against powers that be, and take what is rightfully yours? Here's the beginning of your soundtrack.



Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The pin sighs into the eye!

Random thoughts, just 'cause I can...

  • First, from the Glee department. Of course. Mr. Man wanted to watch it tonight. He told me he knew I wanted to watch it, so I should just give in. (I was planning on watching the Onion News and Portlandia instead.) Well, I heard it was the Bieber episode, so my enthusiasm was suitably anemic. And my disinterest, tinged with disgust, at the phenomenon of Bieber is unchanged. Give 'im about eight years. Then check in with me.
    Otherwise, I have two lovers, and I'm ashamed. First up: Lauren. Good God, she is a force of all that is good and snarky and standoffish in this world. Holding Puck (sexiest guy on there, by FAR...oh, wait, check that...there's Karofsky...and we're taking his shitty attitude out of the equation) at arm's length, teasing and toying with him and blueballing him is just priceless. But the best part? She actually sang "I Know What Boys Like" as her "anthem." God bless her. She's now my favorite.
    Second? Santana. Bitch is on a rampage. Evil incarnate. Sue should either be proud or afraid Santana's gonna take over. And considering how fucking sappy Sue got tonight...well, meh.
  • Favorite new word: noob. Just realized today it stood for "newbie," but really, the greatness of this word just transcends. I mean, just say it. Noob. It's so absurd. Nothing can touch it...not nerd, dork, geek, dweeb, Zappa, nothing. Well, except maybe SNUH (for all you Simpsons fans).
  • My credit card company just offered me 5 songs on iTunes for free. And I didn't really think it was all that big a deal. But let's break this down. Even back in the day, CDs that were as little as 5 songs (and I'm thinking Pink Floyd and their epics that could stretch for over 20 minutes sometimes) went for $13-$15. Factor in inflation, and yeah...that's one hella good deal. I'd be stupid to pass it up.
  • Travels over the first 3 months of the year: Tucson, Portland, and Dallas. Not bad. And it had BETTER not snow in Dallas like it did last year! (Yeah. Welcome to Dallas. First day of spring, and 3 inches on the ground.)
  • Angry Birds. Stay away. Stay the FUCK away if you value your life. It sucks the free time out of your life more effectively than any Hindu god could.

Monday, February 14, 2011

"Heaven is a place...a place where nothing...nothing ever happens."

Yeah. In so many ways, heaven = nothing.

Life's pretty damned good when you can escape somewhere to do nothing at all. Sleep. Eat. Read. Hike. (Some...not too much.) Play the pee-ya-nuh to your heart's content. And ruminate on life.

Only issue with this one was the weather. Left Denver when it was -17. All thrilled and such to be leaving and heading down to the warmth of Tucson. Except I landed in Tucson and it was 25. Yeah. Record low temperatures for three days, people. Sunny, to be sure...I mean, it is Tucson, right? But lows of 18 do not compute in the land of saguaros, prickly pears and agave. It is February, after all, so I don't expect it to be shorts weather all the time. Still...gaaah.

Otherwise, food was great, company was great, it was wonderful to sleep and take naps whenever the hell I wanted, and eventually it did get above 70 for a few days. Oh, and did I mention the silence? 23 hours a day of it. Enough to drive many people crazy, but to me, that's just balm to the soul. Actually, silence = no talking. It didn't keep me from hooking up the tunes or yes, playing the piano (which I hadn't done any of since...well, since last time I was there, lo these 4 years ago.) Both with headphones, so as not to disturb anyone else.

While I was there, I got to decompress for a few days, then take a look at my life, see where I needed to go next, then make plans for the future. Exciting stuff. Really. It's just when you get back home and are sideswiped regularly by...well, real life, you realize how difficult it is to stick to said plans. But worth it.

Friday, January 28, 2011

"The sun always shines on TV..."

"Twenty-five years ago today..." begin the major headlines today. Between JFK being assassinated and 9/11, this was the most salient and terrible tragedy for which an entire generation could ask, "Where were you when...?"

Everyone was glued to their TVs to see history in the making. A large crew, one of the largest in space shuttle history. Included in it were the first Japanese-American, the first African-American, and two women. Sally Ride was the first woman on a space shuttle, having flown years before, but even more to the point, this flight included the first civilian (who also happened to be a woman). An ebullient, wide-eyed schoolteacher from Concord, New Hampshire, Christa McAuliffe symbolized and galvanized the excitement that Americans had for the space shuttle program. (Remember her picture in Life magazine, where she was frozen in a Toyota-like pose, leaping for joy? She was chosen from among thousands of schoolteachers who applied to fly on the space shuttle. Including my own 5th grade teacher.)

You can say, "what's especially tragic about this is..." and come up with any number of things. But for me, two things stand out. First, since a schoolteacher was on that flight, it was a guarantee that more children would be watching this particular launch than any other in history. And more children would see the most tragic and painful error that NASA had to endure. Those children, so excited about the space shuttle program - and about space exploration itself - would suddenly witness the program's potential for fatal flaws, for the fact that sometimes people die in the service of exploration, of advancement. Children start off thinking that adults are powerful, that they don't make mistakes, and ideally, it's just gradually that they realize that they are just as fallible as anyone. But for that realization to hit with the force of a sledgehammer is excruciating. With that comes some painful growing up. Suddenly, a bit of innocence and idealism is gone forever. And that's why it was such a "where were you when" moment for everyone.

The second thing was something I only read about today. Surely, I figured, no one could have survived such a huge explosion. I mean, thousands of pounds of hydrogen gas suddenly exploded, subjecting the crew on board to a walloping shock wave, insanely searing temperatures, and shrapnel flying at tornado-like velocity. No one could have survived that, right? Well, read this, taken from today's MSN.com slideshow: "Investigators suggested that some of Challenger's crew members may have survived the explosion itself but died in the fall down to earth." Horrific. That may qualify as the worst sentence I read all year.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Extravaganza Eleganza!

I do love me some drag queens. I mean, they got honest-to-god bravery, the likes of which 95% of men do not have. In such a male-centric world, these beautiful creatures dare to upend gender norms and not only dress as women, but dress as the wildest, most extreme women imaginable. They press buttons, they instigate, infuriate, provoke, and create. And they contribute far more to popular culture than most people imagine. If nothing else, they were an essential, crucial part of the group of gay men and lesbians who rebelled at Stonewall. With their fabulous high heels, they kicked the asses of those cops and began a revolution the likes of which have reverberated around the world and will continue to for years and years to come. If you know and love a gay man, lesbian, bisexual man or woman, transgendered man or woman, anyone questioning, or a nongendered person (yes, these people do exist, rare though they are), you owe a debt of gratitude to your local drag queen.

So it's no surprise that I also love me some RuPaul, and the wild creation that is RuPaul's Drag Race. I've been a fervent believer from the beginning. Even when I didn't have Logo on cable, I watched all the episodes online. From the first season, I saw Denver reprazent with the inimitable, insane Nina Flowers, who landed second place. (I still think she was robbed, but just barely; Bebe Zahara Benet is an astonishingly beautiful woman.) That gurl, more than any queen I've ever seen, transcends traditional drag (if there really is such a thing), and transforms herself into a creature that is beyond gender. And let me tell you - Nina's makeup skills are SICK. No one can touch her. (Incidentally, I had the excellent fortune one summer day at the local waterpark to meet up with Jorge Flores - Nina out of drag - and I can tell you, at least at this juncture, he was as gracious and friendly a guy as you could ever meet. Hugs, smiles, and genuine greetings for everyone, new and old friends alike.)

Saw tonight's premiere episode of the third season, and, well, here's my take. Bullet-pointed, natch. (You know me too well.)
  • Raja - THE one to beat. Attitude for days, confidence that won't quit. She ain't the prettiest, but she has thrown down, and on this first episode, she was unstoppable.

  • Big girls - Three of 'em? YEAH! If there's any place in gay culture where big girls can really thrive, drag is it. And what's even better, on their debut, none of 'em were lip synching for their lives. The one with the best name - Mimi Imfurst - was even in the top three! HALLELU! Fabulous spin on a Christmas theme, being an overgrown Virgin Mary. Having said that...

  • Mimi Imfurst - She needs to watch it. Breakdowns like hers, even backstage, are not becoming of a queen. When she admitted to the judges that she was surprised that she was not in the bottom three, she served notice that her self-esteem left a lot to be desired. And low confidence gets you nowhere quick.

  • Shangela - Ouch. Second time back, and she still is lip synching for her life the first time around. Glad she made it through, but again, the judges have their sights on her.

  • Phoenix - Unlike her sassy sister from last season who soared to 2nd place, this one is feeling awfully thin. She ain't long for this competition.

  • The pit crew - Duh-ROOL. Only complaint: Far too few of 'em.

  • Mike Ruiz - Ditto. Only complaint: Did he HAVE to be in The A-List: New York? He's FAR better than that. That show just about ruined him for me.

  • Best quote of the night - "Do you know how many Muppets I had to kill to make this thing?" Said about a green boa by a queen who, unfortunately, did not make it to the show.

Little known fact: I have done drag twice in my life. First time was at a queer ball at a college just across the river from ours. FUN, FUN, FUN. Had my friends doll me up, and my best friend loaned me a slinky black dress and her heels. Somehow, I fit them. I thought I looked hideous, but apparently I looked good enough that - I swear on all that is true and right in this world - lesbians at this ball were hitting on me. Weirded me out, and also: do you know how self-defeating that is? Talk about your genderfuck. On the plus side, I performed onstage that night. I did "Respect" by the queen of all queens herself, Aretha Franklin. Didn't have it choreographed at all, but went up there with nothing but attitude. And amongst some really tough competition, I landed my first dollar tip, but even wilder, I won the tiara. (Well, one of 'em. To be fair, I shared the title with a guy who performed a perfect "Respect Yourself" by Madonna that was honestly choreographed to within an inch of its life. Goes to show you that in drag, either way will take you far.)

The second time, I was performing at our med school's no-talent show. ("What? You have no talent? Not an excuse. Get up there and strut your stuff!") In a black dress, lavender hair, and a BRIGHT red boa, and dubbed Lady Belladonna, I performed Peggy Lee's "I'm A Woman" with as much sass as I could muster. Brought the house DOWN. Pictures and even a video of my performance still exist...somewhere. I ain't telling.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Retreats

Around this time each year, I start to go a bit batty. The holidays are over, but days are still short. Work piles up. The levity that comes with warmer breezes and more daylight is just out of reach. Pagans and wiccans (of which I am not one) acknowledge this in their holiday Imbolc, which welcomes the spring hopefully just around the corner. Groundhog Day is the more popular version of Imbolc, depleted of any sort of pagan (read: threatening to Christianity) meaning.

Part of me digs the high pomp and circumstance of ritual that accompanies some holidays. But at this time of year, I'm just DONE with that sort of thing. The simpler, the better. And I yearn for the introversion that eluded me over Christmas - literally, the darkest time of the year.

The February after I graduated college, I still found myself living in the town of cows, colleges, and contentment. And really hating life for the above reasons. So, on the friendly advice of one of my professors, I took a long weekend and holed up in a monastery in the middle of nowhere, just to ground myself. Did next to nothing except read some, write some, sleep a lot, and exist in warm, comfortable silence, with all my most basic needs provided for. It was heaven. And I returned, rejuvenated (even just a little bit) and ready to live life again.

Since then, retreats have been an essential contribution to my sanity. I haven't done them every year, but I miss them when I choose to forego them. And the last one I did was in 2008. So I'm heading out again this year - aptly enough, on Imbolc itself - to a small place in Arizona to indulge myself again. The place is awfully spartan - few creature comforts, simple food, and enforced silence for all times except dinner. Austere and forbidding landscape, too, full of cacti and pungent chaparral. But the place did offer a nice library, with lots of religious and philosophical writings. Physically, it might seem horrible. But the last time I was here, in 2007, I described my experience there as drinking a big triple thick rich dark chocolate-and-Bailey's milkshake for the soul. Unbelievably wonderful, but also so deep and intoxicating, it was almost too much for me to take. I can't wait to go back and drink deeply again.