Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A Momentary Turn To The Right

In 1992, at the time of Hurricane Andrew, I was living in South Florida and working as the general manager of a large business that was an "anchor" tenant in a sprawling suburban mall. I have a Hurricane Andrew story or two that I'll blog about later when it's more appropriate.

But for now, let me say a couple of things about Hurricane Katrina.

As far as looting goes, I say let people have whatever they need to survive. How much of what's on the shelves in a supermarket would spoil after a day or two without electricity anyway? I have no problem with people stealing food or medicine or Pampers. Yeah, some bozos are gonna cart out the beer or something equally non-nutricious, but overall I don't begrudge hungry people trying to feed themselves and their kids.

However.

For those caught robbing stores of non-essentials? For those apprehended exiting businesses with hands full of sports jerseys or electronics or jewelry or anything they can't eat or put on their baby's rear end? For them: one bullet per customer, squarely between the eyes. There's no place to lock them up anyway. Society unravels pretty fucking fast in these situations, I've seen it firsthand. And nothing....nothing but a strong and authoritatively responding military/police presence will stop it. Without that command, in the hot sun, in those conditions, within a week or so, you can watch human culture devolve a thousand years.

As for those who refused the legal evacuation orders only to later plea for rescue, endangering their rescuers and draining what precious little resources the authorities still had? Sorry, but I'd have just written them off. Oh, you're flagging down a helicopter from the roof of the home you were ordered to leave? Here, let me lower you this copy of Origin Of Species, while this helicopter goes off and delivers a few sandbags. And don't feed me the bullshit line that the poor had "nowhere to go and no means to get there". The Superdome was walkable when the order went out, and I'm damn sure it holds more than the 10,000 people who showed up. There aren't any rich folks in the Superdome, so poor and stupid are not interchangeable. But in this case, stupid and dead, apparently are.


EDIT: OK, it's an hour after I posted, and I've calmed down a bit

Let me give you some backstory....

I lived in Florida for 25 years, during which I experienced dozens of hurricanes. Hurricane David ('80) cost me my first ever new vehicle. Hurricane Andrew nearly cost me my job, and caused me to be put in the middle of a situation that remains the closest I've ever come to being killed by somebody. I've evacuated, my family has evacuated, my friends have evacuated.

During Andrew, I lived east of U.S 1, which was predicted to suffer a storm surge of 18 feet. Our neighborhood, Victoria Park, being about 10 feet above sea level, was ordered to be evacuated. And we complied. Just yesterday, my mother worried out loud about being able to afford the home repairs she is STILL making from last year's Hurricane Charley, which devastated her little house and my hometown of Orlando (and during which she evacuated.)

I have tremendous respect for hurricanes and have, without exception complied with evacuation orders, and yes, a few times, we sheepishly returned down the unscathed streets.

However, in many situations, very difficult living situations were exacerbated by people who had ignored legal orders to evacuate. Downed power lines continued to flip around in darkened intersections because the Fire Dept. was off rescuing somebody in a houseboat. Roads remained blocked and no water or food got thru, because the authorities were still pulling people out of their beachfront condos. Over and over again, mine and my friends and family's personal situations were made worse and more unsafe, thanks to people who ignored evacuation orders.

Katrina was a Category 5 with 24 hours before landfall. That seems to be plenty of time to get just about anywhere, and yet during landfall itself, I watched news clips of people careening around Home Depot fighting for scraps of plywood.

I have been exhausted of a lifetime supply of compassion for people who endanger others thru their own inaction, and yes I do apologize for saying so. So do I really think we should have left those people on their roofs? No. That was 25 years of compressed hot gas. But boy, I'd give them a frowning they'd never forget.

SECOND EDIT: Folks, I'd said I regretted my words. I've said they were made in anger and don't reflect my true feelings, and I've explained about 25 years of bottled-up anger towards people who defy authority in these situations. So stop with all the hateration.

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Trick Talk With Mike And Joe

JOE: Is he still calling you?

MIKE: Yes, he's driving me crazy.

JOE: Too bad you can't put someone's phone number on "ignore."

MIKE: No shit. Oh, and get this...he's going around telling people he's my Ex! And we fucked, what, like 3 times?

JOE: Five.

MIKE: Whatever. Five. He's so not my Ex. I don't even know how to spell his last name!

JOE: Isn't it N-O-D-I-C-K?

MIKE: See? This is why you and me are best friends forever!

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Only In The East Village

On St. Mark's Place, Eddie and I saw this sign:

  • Tattoos!
  • Body Piercing!
  • Back To School Supplies!

Because nothing says "Back To School" like a Prince Albert.

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Monday, August 29, 2005

Wigstock 2005


Wigstock 2005, the 20th anniversary of the legendary show, was its usual riot of bad jokes, great drag and amazing dancing and singing. Attending with me were a plethora of pithy pornographic pundits. While we all remained shamefully drag-free for the afternoon, we enjoyed the company of 15,000 Wigstock devotees, all crammed into tiny Tompkins Square.

The best act, to all of our surprise, was the apparently eternal Lady Miss Kier, formerly of Deee-Lite, who performed with a troop of dancers which included burka clad women holding signs that said "I Don't Want This War", and a regiment of camoflauge wearing GIs, all of whom were machine-gunned to the music, as an eerie lone figure stood at the rear of the stage dressed exactly like that hooded Abu Ghraib torture victim. The Wigstock crowd was visibly shocked, and THAT is an accomplishment, trust me. Kudos to Lady Bunny for another memorable afternoon.

Pictured above, left to right: Philadelphia's Young James and E-Diddy, with Connecticut Chris doing something weird in the background. That's me on the far right, and all I can say about this photo is how obvious it is that I now have more hair on my chinny-chin-chin than I've got on my noggy-nog-noggin. Rats.


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File Under: Everyone's A Little Bit Racist

There's a great tune in the Broadway show Avenue Q called "Everyone's A Little Bit Racist". I haven't actually seen Avenue Q, I'm not a fan of musicals, but I've heard the song performed here and there, and I was reminded of it yesterday on the subway.

I was riding the 5 train, which I only resort to using when there's a problem on the 6, as the 5 train is an express train to the Bronx, meaning the closest stop to my apartment is 16 blocks away.

There was a young black boy, perhaps 3 years old, running up and down the length of the car. He was screaming as he ran, with more volume and higher pitch than you'd ever expect could be produced by such a tiny human. This went on for several stops, during which the child's mother, sitting with a baby girl on her lap, stared disinterestedly into the floor. About every 2 minutes however, the mother did shout out her son's name, albeit without even looking in his direction.

"Play-Doh!"

Yes, Play-Doh. I looked around to see if anybody else was reacting to the child's name, but I could read nothing on the faces of the other riders. I've heard some really bad "ghetto" names, we all have, but for some reason "Play-Doh" just seemed to be the cruelest name I'd ever heard inflicted on a child. I watched the mother jiggle her baby girl on her lap, continuing to occasionally shout out, with exhausted futility, "Play-Doh!"

I started to loathe that woman, not so much for the annoyance of Play-Doh's shrieking, but for the social ills that would surely befall poor Play-Doh, once he got into pre-school. I even glared at Play-Doh's mother and thought to myself, "And what's that poor baby girl's name, Crayola?"

I exited the 5 train at 86th Street, and could still hear Play-Doh's screaming at the top of the stairs, before the train left the station. I fumed all the way home. When I got to my apartment, a friend of mine called me and before he started talking, I cut him off to tell him about Play-Doh.

My friend listened for a minute and said, "Um, Joe? Is there any chance that child's name was actually Plato? You know, after the Greek philosopher?"

I almost dropped the phone in embarassment. I said to my friend, "Oh, shit. I bet you're right. Oh my god, I'm am such a racist!"

"Why do you say that?"

"Because if that woman had been anything but black, I probably would never have thought I was hearing Play-Doh!"

"Do you think Plato is any better? The kids will still call him Play-Doh, you know."

I thought about that for a second, "Well, no. Maybe not. Plato is pretty lame too, I guess. But still...."

"Still what?"

"I still wish I hadn't been so ready to hate that woman for something I didn't even hear right."

That thought has been on my mind all morning. What it's telling me is that no matter how much progressive lip service and PC platitudes we urban liberals so proudly spout, inside of us, or inside of me, at least, there is always going to be an instinctual racist thought process. And I don't know how to feel about that. And worse, I don't know what to do about that.


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Friday, August 26, 2005

I Had A Dream Last Night

Last night I was puttering around in my kitchen, tossing together some leftovers before settling in for my usual marathon of Law & Order reruns, and I came across an old tin with some mescaline I'd forgotten about, surplus from that nude backpacking trip through La Paz back in '87 (but that's another story).

I decided to toss the mescaline into the simmering pot of 3-day old beef stew, and figured I may as well toss in the rest of those Mexican Insanity chili peppers, for which I'd traded my Joshua Tree CD , during an ill-advised mule-trip through the guerilla-held hills of Chiapas, as we vainly attempted to visit some Mayan ruins during a local civil war (but that's another story).

Anyway, I sat down with my Mex-Mesc-Meat stew and got caught up in a breaking news story about American televangelist Pat Robertson publicly advocating for the U.S. to assassinate the president of Venezuela, a place where I once had to trade my virtue to a sweaty paramilitary border guard, in order to secure safe passage to Cali (but that's another story).

I guess the combination of the old meat, potent mescaline and stale peppers caused me to fall unconscious, because I don't remember the opening to the 9pm Law & Order, an episode that held particular interest for me because I'd gone to a cattle-call for extras for that episode and had waited in line in a light snowstorm for almost 4 hours before not getting picked, because I'd rejected the guy doing the extras casting, during a sex party in the basement of a Murray Hill barbershop (but that's another story).

I lay there on the bed, helplessly drifting in and out of a dreamstate, with CNN intruding into my REM state, injecting into my head a non-stop feed of commentaries on Pat Robertson and the CIA and assassinations already committed by the U.S. government. From here, I drifted deeper, deeper into a lucid dream, a dream within a dream, a dream that knows it's a dream, and therefore gives you an exultant sense of power, just like the time that I got five guys at Blow Buddies to try to suck my dick at the same time (but that's another story).

In my dream, I too had the ability to call for assassinations. In my dream, I was assigned the task of coming up with ten names. I don't know who ordered me to come up with the names, I just knew that I had to come up with ten names of people who needed killing, as Pat Robertson might put it. In retrospect, it very much reminds me of the time that I had to give the corporate auditor of the national theatre company I worked for a list of the ten employees I thought were most likely to be stealing from the box office (but that's another story).

When I woke up at 4am, covered in sweat and curiously wearing my Spongebob Squarepants bathing suit, I found that I had written a list, in a delirious, shaky hand, of my ten names. The names were crossed out, then rewritten. They were ordered 1 thru 10, then reordered in the margins, several times over. The same name kept appearing at Number One, although the rest of the list seemed to have no consistency, very much like when I was a senior in high school and I would trade my Ten Hottest Studs At Colonial High School list with Alan Atkins, the only other queer I knew, until finally we were caught exchanging the lists during Health class, which was given by Coach DiFranco and he made me stay after school to explain myself (but that's another story).

Here's the list, as best as I could read my drugged-out handwriting, in what seems to be the final order I placed the names, before falling back into my dream state:

1. Pat Robertson
2. Fred Phelps*
3. Hello Kitty
4. Jerry Falwell
5. Ann Coulter
6. Harry Potter **
7. Rush Limbaugh
8. Star Jones
9. Pat O'Brien
10. P. Diddy

*This one might be Fred Durst, I can't be sure.
**This one might be Harry Connick, I can't be sure

Now, some of those names are a bit odd, I know. I mean what could anybody possibly have against Ann Coulter? Interestingly, even as I was tripping, I knew better than to list the names of any government figures, something that might cause me to actually be visited by the CIA. The entire experience very much reminds me of the time that I bought ecstasy from a drag queen in London's Love Muscle and it had so much acid it in that my friends found me at the bar trying to pick up the bartender by singing him every song I could think of that had the word "boogie" in the lyrics (but that's another story).


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I'm Holding Out For A Heros


This plaque is attached to the front wall of Grand Central Terminal, at the main entrance, just over the metal engraved plaque naming Grand Central Terminal as a national landmark.

Every day I walk past this "Tribute to the Heros" marker, and every day it drives me mad that no one has done anything about it. Are there no heros out there, righting these sorts of grievous wrongs?

I have been checking this plaque for about 3 years now. Why do I fixate on it so? Why do I check it almost every day to see if it's been corrected?

Are any of my readers in NYC government? Please, help me. I can't take it anymore.

(P.S. Sorry for the glare from the flash.)

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Drinking Bird

San Francisco, July 1998

Anybody remember the Drinking Bird? The perpetual motion toy that amazed kids with its incessant bobbing and "drinking" from a conveniently placed glass of water? They usually had a shock of red feathers for hair, and some sort of hat, like the one in this picture.

Back when my fuck buddy Doug and I were tearing up the bars and sex clubs in San Francisco, there was a guy that we named Drinking Bird. He was tall, perhaps 6'6", with wild red hair and bulging Marty Feldmanesque eyes. His chin rode up close under his nose and he had a spasmodic gait, not unlike watching a Sesame Street character move across the screen. Drinking Bird was a very, very odd, very eerie looking guy.

And he had a major thing for Doug.

We were always on alert for Drinking Bird. If he was in the same bar we were, within moments he'd manage to position himself very close to us, peering down at Doug with his huge bulging unblinking eyes. If Doug went to the can, Drinking Bird would try to follow him in. At first, it was an amusing game, positioning myself between poor Doug and Drinking Bird. Wherever Drinking Bird moved, I'd reposition myself with my back to him, with my body between Drinking Bird and Doug.

But over a few months, the amusement wore off and Drinking Bird got more aggressive. He'd get a few drinks in him and press up on Doug from behind. Or if I turned away to speak to somebody, he'd try to step into my spot and stand face to face with Doug, never speaking, just standing there, eyes-bulging down at him with his Drinking Bird beak pressed into an eager grimace.

More than a few times, we left the bar we were in because Drinking Bird was totally harshing on our mellow. We never did say anything to him, because that would have acknowledged his existence, and ignoring him was our way of dealing. Today, I think I would have just said "Get the FUCK away from us, you Drinking Bird freak!" Maybe I was sweeter back then. Yeah, that's it.

Things came to a boil one Sunday evening, when Doug and I found ourselves at a Folsom Street sex club called Mack. We rarely went to Mack, we preferred Blow Buddies, where if you found someone you were interested in, you could pull him into a booth and have a relatively private moment (or two) with the guy. At Mack, there were no private booths, just a maze of head-high plywood walls that occasionally dead-ended into an open stall here and there. We hated the lack of privacy at Mack, because if you've ever been to a sex club you know that if you reject someone's advances, he will sometimes punish you by intruding upon any action you may get involved in, for the rest of the night, just to make sure that since you don't want HIM, you're not gonna get ANYBODY. Fellas, you know what I'm talking about.

But there we were at Mack. We'd probably stayed too late at the beer bust at the Lone Star, and Blow Buddies inexplicably closed early on Sundays. We paid our $10 admission and headed up the stairs of the old Victorian to the second floor maze. And almost immediately, we spotted Drinking Bird. Fuck! Although the walls of the maze were high enough to hide most patrons, Drinking Bird was visible from throughout the second floor, his wild hair flopping in spastic rhythm to his weird bouncy walk.

We kept an eye on Drinking Bird, that much was easy, and made our way around the maze. And on the far side of the room, Doug nudged me hard in my ribs. Right in front of us, slowly moving around the maze in the shadows, was this handsome Latin bodybuilder. He and Doug had been eye-fucking each other at Gold's Gym for months, but we'd never seen him out at a bar, much less at a sex club. Doug went for it immediately. He moved over to the Latin guy, and ran his hand over his massive, chistled chest. The Hot Latin guy pulled Doug into one of the open cubicles, and they started to make out.

OK, now y'all know the drill where you've taken a straight girlfriend to a gay nightclub, and she has to use the bathroom, only none of the bathroom stalls have doors, so you stand there with your back to your girlfriend and "play door" for her? You with me? Well, that's what Doug and I would occasionally do for each other in situations in sex clubs where privacy was hard to come by. So while Doug and Hot Latin Guy were making out and getting busy behind me, I stood in the opening of the cubicle, my back to the action, and put both of my hands on the tops of the two cubicle walls, effectively forming an "X", and letting passers-by know that they were not to intrude.

And everybody "got it". Guys would pass by, they'd see the hot scene unfolding between my hottie Doug and Hot Latin Guy, and although they might have an impulse to move closer, to see about joining in, my presence made it quite clear that was not going to happen. I wasn't an asshole about it, if I saw somebody considering moving closer, I just gave them a big smile and shake of my head and they'd make a face that said "It's cool", and they'd move along.

And then Drinking Bird came by.

Drinking Bird spotted Doug and Hot Latin Guy from an aisle away, that's how tall he was. He almost sprinted around the aisle to reach our cubicle, only to find me guarding the entrance. He stood there for a moment, his bulging eyes staring past me at the now shirtless Doug and Hot Latin Guy. I stood there resolutely, with my arms blocking any entrance. And Drinking Bird tried to push by me. He didn't look me in the face, he just tried to lift up my arm and duck his huge Drinking Bird head under it and move in on my two protectees.

I quickly pulled my arm back down, moved back a step and thrust my arms back out, blocking his entrance. Drinking Bird stepped back, then tried a darting motion under my other arm. I was very pissed off and couldn't believe his nerve. I body-blocked him this time and put my hand flat on his chest and pushed him back with a loud "Fuck Off!" (By the way, for those uninitiated to the milieu, conversation is strictly bad form at sex clubs, and my "Fuck Off!" caused a few heads to turn and drew a few guys down our aisle to see what the trouble was.)

I turned my head back to see if Doug and Hot Latin Guy were aware of my situation, but they seemed to be quite too busy to have noticed. And it was as I was turning my head back to face Drinking Bird that he cold-cocked me. Yes, he hit me in the face, open-handed. In fact, as Doug would later describe it, Drinking Bird reached behind his back and came at me and gave me a Krystle Carrrington-Colby bitch slap.

As the noise, definitely NOT a sex noise, reverberated around the room, drawing even more patrons over to our dark corner, I stood there, my ears ringing, and stared at Drinking Bird in open-mouthed disbelief. Then I completely lost it. I screamed and leapt up at Drinking Bird's 11 inch neck and started choking him and banging his head on the plywood partition as we both fell to the bare concrete floor. Drinking Bird flailed his stick-like arms against my back and tried to scream but my hand were so tight around his neck that he only got out a single "Eeep!".

Time seemed to stop. I don't know how long I was on top of Drinking Bird, at some point I became aware that he'd had his cock out all along, which only enraged me further. Security, Mack's laughable "security", some 20 year old kid with tattoos on his face, came bounding up the stairs, demanding, "What's going on here? What's this all about?"

I stood over Drinking Bird, who was now playing "wronged patron" and lying on his side on the floor, and I said to the security guy "Look at this ugly freak on the floor! Now look at ME! What do YOU think this was all about?"

The security guard said, "Sir, if a patron won't leave you alone after you ask him to, that's MY job to deal with."

Drinking Bird, finally realizing that I'd just dissed him, screamed up "Fuck you! Fuck you! I wasn't trying to touch YOUR ugly ass! Fuck you!"

The security guard, now joined by the doorman and a manager, decided that both Drinking Bird and I were to be ejected from the sex club, which was fine by me, I certainly had lost my interest in being there. I just wanted to grab a cab and high-tail it home before anybody got ideas about calling the police. Although I could just see the cops rolling their eyes as they took the report of a queen-said/queen-said scuffle in a grimy Folsom sex club at 3am on a Monday morning.

Doug had driven us that night and he offered to leave with me. I said, "No fucking way did I just roll around on the ground with Drinking Bird for you to NOT finish with Hot Latin Guy! You two guys get back to business. I'll take a cab and you call me in the morning with the details."

Doug hugged me and whispered in my ear, "My knight in shining armour!"

A moment later, I was led down to the street and pushed out onto Folsom Street. With Drinking Bird. At 3am. In July, so you know the temperature was somewhere between freezing and 40 degrees. Drinking Bird and I stood about 50 feet away from each other, as we both scanned traffic, vainly hoping for a cab. Cabs are in short supply in San Francisco even on a busy weekend night, and it was now early Monday morning. My coat was in Doug's car and I was freezing my tits off.

Finally, a gypsy cab, probably from Daly City or somewhere outside of SF, pulled over. Drinking Bird rushed over and opened the door behind the driver, and bent over to negotiate. I raced around the back of the cab, slipped in the other rear door, leapt across the seat and yanked the door out of Drinking Bird's claw, and locked it. Drinking Bird started to shriek and I leaned over the seat and said to the driver, "That guy has a GUN! Let's get OUT of here!"

The driver stomped on the gas, and I turned to give my best princess wave to the receding Drinking Bird, as he stood angrily flailing his bird arms in the middle of Folsom Street. To this day, it's one of my most satisfying memories of my six years in San Francisco.


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Marriage: Is It A Dyke Thang?

Following up on Monday's post, which raised some very interesting and thought-provoking debate in the comments, I decided to do some regular reporter work and find out exactly what the numbers are, comparing lesbian marriages to gay male marriages, in the lovely state of Massachusetts.

I called and spoke to the city clerks, or their representatives, in the towns of Cambridge, Northhampton, Provincetown and Boston.

The very pleasant man who spoke to me from Provincetown was rightly proud when he revealed that more gay marriages took place in Provincetown than in any other municipality in the state of Massachusetts. However, he declined to reveal any stats about the sexes of the couples applying for licenses, saying that "we don't keep those sorts of records here", although he did say that they did keep track of overall same sex marriages versus hetero marriages.

According to their city website, in the first year of legalized gay marriage, 963 same-sex couples filed intent to marry forms, with over half of those couples being non-Massachusetts residents who "intend to reside in Massachusetts" in the future. Right.

From Northhampton, the famed lesbian enclave of enclaves, I spoke to their charming City Clerk, Wendy Mazza. Wendy was pleasant and efficient and provided me with the following stats for the city of Northhampton:

Notices of intent to marry filed for 2004: Lesbians: 295 - Gay Men: 43
Notices of intent to marry filed for 2005: Lesbians: 79 - Gay Men: 10

But then I hit the motherlode of gay marriage stats when I reached one Donna Rheume with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office Of Health And Human Services, Department Of Public Health, Registry of Vital Records and Statistics. Whew. She must have some fancy business card!

Ms. Rheume was very accomodating to my request and emailed me enough data regarding the first year of gay marriage in Massachusetts to bury any statistician. But for you, my gentle readers, I will sift out the important bits.

Preliminary number of marriage certificates issued and registered in Massachusetts from May 17 to December 31, 2004:

Male/Female: 27,045
Male/Male: 2,123
Female/Female: 3,871

Top Ten Massachusetts Cities For Gay Marriage (Lesbians/Gay Males)

1. Provincetown (483 /358)
2. Cambridge (341 / 212)
3. Boston (161 / 294)
4. Northhampton ( 275 / 41)
5. Brookline (113 / 62)
6. Newton (100 / 46)
7. Somerville (82 / 52)
8. Springfield (46 / 34)
9. Attleboro (43 / 17)
10. Arlington ( 39 / 15)

So what do you think, gentle readers? When all the best available data tells us that gay men outnumber lesbians in the general population by a ratio of at least 3 to 1, and yet lesbians weddings are outnumbering gay men's weddings by at least 2 to 1, what does that mean?

Is this the final punchline to the eternal lesbian/U-Haul joke? Or does it reveal something much much deeper about the differences between men and women, even more that it does about lesbians and gay men?

Since gay men clearly have the numerical advantage, and presumably have the financial advantage, what is holding us back? Could it be that YES, marriage IS a woman thing, and here's the proof staring us in the face? Or does it mean something entirely else?

Regular readers of Joe.My.God. can probably guess what my opinion is, but for once, I'm keeping my big yap shut. I want to hear from you. Sociologists, armchair psychologists, those already married....please speak up.

Why do the dykes want to be married so much more than the fags do?


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Monday, August 22, 2005

Monogavangelism

Folks, I have to reveal something that might shock you. There's a dirty little secret I've been keeping from you all this time. Something that will be so repellent to some of you, that I wouldn't be surprised if you click away from this blog in just a few seconds. OK, ready?

....gulp.....

I don't believe in gay marriage.

(sound of thousands of angry mouse clicks)

When I say I don't "believe" in it, I don't mean that in the sense that I don't believe in Santa Claus. I mean that I don't view gay marriage as the Holy Grail of gay civil rights. I don't feel that way for a number of reasons, but mostly because I have no interest in ever getting married. It just doesn't appeal to me at all. It just feels wrong.

For me.

First of all, the religious aspects of marriage are meaningless to me. I am an unapologetic atheist who is often struck dumb by the fierce religious convictions of some gay people, which is good thing because I'd probably lose some friends if I spoke up.

I can remember going to confession when I was in middle school, and having to add extra lies to the number of lies I was confessing, in order to cover the lies of omission for not confessing about all the rotten, typical shit that boys my age did. Then, instead of sitting there saying my penance (which was always "Say 10 Hail Marys and 10 Our Fathers"), I'd sit there and hum "Up The Ladder To The Roof" by The Supremes, two times, which seemed to about the right amount of time it would take to say the penance. Even at that age, the ridiculous of it all annoyed the fuck out of me.

Sometime in high school, I got comfortable letting people know that I as "agnostic", which really bothered the good students that I ran with, because most of them were also in Campus Youth. In college, I morphed into saying "atheist", because I was no longer worried about staying friends with other students if they didn't like it. After college, I would dismissively tell people that I was "nonreligious" or "unreligious", because "atheism is a belief system unto itself, and I don't believe in anything."

Fast forward a few years and a few funerals into the age of AIDS. After those years of watching Christians smugly nod their head in agreement with God's wrathful judgment, that's where I came a lot more venomous in my opinions. No longer could I merely ignore the mystical hooey of religion. I was no longer "unreligious", I was "DISreligious", and that's pretty much where my views stand right now. When my sister invited me to my niece's christening, I told her, "The next time I enter a church, I will be carrying high explosives." Uncle Joe did not attend.

And as far as the civil aspects of gay marriage, I have a problem here too. Another blogger, The Malcontent, once coined the term "monogavangelism", meaning to actively promote monogamy as the best way to live ones life. This sort of moral relativism infuriates me, to say the least. If monogamy is the preferred way to live, then every step outside of momogamy must therefore be one rung down on the ladder to evil.

Monagavangelists, gay and straight, imply that a person's moral worth goes down as their number of sexual partners goes up. The assumption is that being coupled is the natural state of being, and something that we all should be working towards, and if we aren't interested in that, then there is something wrong with us.

Of course, politically, I do fully support the gay marriage movement, although I'll admit that at least part of my support is out of the satisfaction in seeing the Christians go into apoplectic fits over the issue. And it does satisfy me to see my earlier predictions being proven true, as gay marriage is being proven to be an almost overwhelmingly lesbian phenomenon. Although lesbians represent a mere fraction of the overall gay population, they represent the majority of all gay marriages...proving once and for all that marriage isn't so much a gay-straight issue, it's really more of a man-woman issue.

I do believe that gay marriage was the wedge issue that cost us the 2004 election. I do believe that Gavin Newsom may have been the witting or unwitting puppet of a campaign to thrust gay marriage onto the national stage, as Barney Frank warned us all at the time.

But basically, I'm in the camp that believes that marriage is an ultimately false social construct, invented to own property and persons, and perpetuated to maintain social status. It rings false to me, personally, on so many levels.

But don't let MY issues stop you from getting hitched, my marriage-minded brothers and sisters. Every gay marriage is a thorn in the side of the religious right, and I love me some thorns. But just don't start with the monogavangelizing when you're around, deal?


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Monday, August 15, 2005

The First Time I Got Mugged

San Francisco, July 1995

It was my first night out by myself since I'd moved to San Francisco to be with Mark, a month earlier. I bounced around the Castro a bit, dropping in at The Midnight Special, Badlands and Detour, before heading over to The Jackhammer, which was somewhat on the outer edge of the Castro, at 16th Street and Sanchez.

The Jackhammer was packed as usual, even on a Wednesday night. It was Mark's favorite bar, he was friends with most of the staff, and had taken me there several times already during my first month in The City. I sat at the bar for an hour or so, and chatted with the bartender until he gave last call at 1:30AM. San Francisco, for all its gay fame, is still an early town.

From Jackhammer, I headed south on Sanchez Street, intended to turn right on 18th and suffer up that hill to Corbett Street, where we lived. I had gotten about a block and half from the door of the bar, when I noticed two very large men cross over from the east side of Sanchez seemingly on an intercept course with me, on the west side.

The street was rather poorly lit, I could see the men in silhouette only. My first thought was to turn around and head back for the safety of the bar. My second thought was to walk out into the middle of the street, where the light was brighter. Unfortunately, I also had a third thought flash into my mind.

"This is THE CASTRO. I am safe. This faggot ain't gonna turn tail and run, not this time, not now that I'm finally on home turf."

I was just processing how satisfied my third thought made me feel, as the men passed me on the shadowy sidewalk, when that thought was literally knocked out of my head by the fist of the closest man.

"Give it up, nigger! Give it up! We will FUCK YOU UP, nigger!"

The man speaking was brandishing a shiny silver handgun, with an impossibly long barrel. Later, it would occur to me that his gun looked like the type a circus clown might use, the kind that shoots out a flag that says "Bang!" I was dizzy from the blow to my temple and I staggered a bit as I jammed my hands down into both my front pockets, from which I produced all their contents and held them out. I never carry a wallet when I go to bars, usually just a small cardholder for my ID, and ATM card and some cash.

The second guy grabbed everything from both of my hands, then pulled something out his pocket and pointed it at me. Mace. Instinctively, I closed my eyes and jerked my head back and I felt the liquid hit the base of my neck, but none got in my eyes, mouth or nose. A moment later, I reopened my eyes and my two assailants were already retreating, back the way they came, not hurrying at all. I stood there for a minute and watched their murky figures turn east on 18th Street, towards the Mission District.

I turned and ran back to Jackhammer, but the door was locked. Already. But by luck, there was a payphone just to the right of the door. I dialed 911, and in 5 minutes an SFPD squad car arrived. Both cops, female. One black, one Latina. Gotta love SF.

The cops were all business, not very sympathetic. They asked me twice why I didn't turn around when I saw the guys coming. Then they asked me to describe my attackers.

"Um, they were both tall, about 6'2" or 6'3". And they were really heavy, like over 300 pounds each. And I think they were...um, Asian," I said, suddenly struck by the oddness of my description.

The cops however, didn't bat an eye. They shared a look and said "Samoan."

As it turned out, The Castro had been suffering from a series of muggings perpetrated by Samoan gang members. Later, I also learned that Samoans tend to be rather large people, a trait shared by many Pacific Islanders.

The cops were finishing up their report when an ambulance arrived, siren blaring. It being almost 3am, the noise brought dozens of residents to their doors, to my great embarrassment. Apparently, the blow to my head and my almost-macing meant that an ambulance had to be summoned, whether I requested one or not.

I sat in the back of the ambulance and the EMTs took all my vitals, as the black cop sat next to me finishing her report. I watched her tick a box that said "Assault, simple" and another one that said "Robbery, personal." I spotted another box further down on her form and pointed at it.

"Hey, I want you to report this as a "hate crime", too."

She shook her head, "Not unless he called you "faggot" or something like that. I'd have to show that the reason they targeted you was because you are gay."

"But he called me nigger, isn't that a hate crime?"

"Only if you are black."

"You're kidding!" I replied, dumbfounded.

She shook her head, "It's the way they all talk these days. I can't single you out."

She finished up her report by asking me some very detailed questions about the weapon. I know nothing about handguns, and I could tell that she was frustrated.

"Was it a revolver?"

"I don't know."

"Did it have a clip?"

I said, "Honey, all I can tell you is that it looked very big and very long."

She nodded, "Well, they always look big when they are pointing at your face."

I seized on the dick-joke opportunity, "Tell me something I don't know!"

She leaned into me and let out a whoop, "Well, it's a good thing you have a sense of humor about this!"

A few minutes later, the ambulance left, the cops left, and Mark arrived to take me home. The total take for the robbers? About $24 cash, my ATM card, my library card, and my Muni card. About six months later, I got an ambulance bill from the city, $125. Worse than the mugging.


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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Instant Disco History, Vol.4

Fort Lauderdale, 1986

Phone Rings......

"You don't own me you bastard! You fucking asshole! You wanna suck my pussy? Well let ME suck your dick! Suck your dick, bastard bitch! Ooh, I wanna get your weiner in my ass! Well, I got your fuckin' cock and it's in my twat, good!...."

Beeeeep......

Voice of my mother: "I am never calling your house AGAIN until you call me and tell me that you have taken that HORRIBLE DISGUSTING song OFF your machine! Goodbye. CALL ME."

Karen Finley - Tales Of Taboo (Pow Wow Records, 1986)

This is one of the most appallingly obscene and disgusting vocal recordings of all time.

And my friends and I knew it word-for-word. And would perform it, loudly, a cappella, in front of horrified strangers at the drop of a hat. OK, maybe I still do that. It was a fairly big club hit, in the gay clubs anyway, and one of the many hilarious things about Tales Of Taboo was watching as people tried to figure out the title, which never appears in the song. Most commonly, we heard it called My Granny's Snatch, or Belgian Waffles, or sometimes The Yam Song. Listen and you'll understand why.

Performance artist Karen Finley was one of the NEA Four, a group of four artists, whose work so offended certain members of Congress that they called for ending the National Endowment For The Arts. Ms. Finley's offense was that during her act, she smeared her nude body with chocolate, and then invited the audience to come onstage and lick it off of her. Skewering her critics on the Hill, she followed up Tales Of Taboo with Lick It, which contains the immortal lyrics: "Lick me good, like you should. Lick me clean, no Afro-Sheen!"

Tales Of Taboo went on to become one of the most sampled records in the history of house music, most successfully on S-Express' Theme From S-Express, which included Ms. Finley shouting, "You drop that ghetto-blaster!"

This is the first time I've wished I was pod-casting, because if I were, I'd gladly perform for you my own live rendition of Tales Of Taboo, which is still burned into my skull, 19 years after I bought the 12". Now somebody make me a tit sandwich.
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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Leading Voice Of District 4

The corner of 68th Street and Lexington Avenue, 8AM

This is one more in a long string of mornings in which I encounter a politician at the entrance to my subway stop. Sometimes they've been aspiring district attorneys or judges, but for the last several days they've been City Council candidates. Their lackeys work as an advance warning system, standing far down the sidewalk from the subway entrance, giving you a steady patter of announcements that you are about to encounter Mr. So & So and that he'd love to chat and shake your hand.

I usually nod and keep my head down, not exactly ignoring the candidates as I pass them, but certainly not allowing them to engage or delay me. I make a mental note of their appearance, and occasionally will accept a flyer, unless I can manage to avoid it.

There's a reason that my subway stop is so popular. Just look at this map. District 4 comprises some of the priciest real estate in the entire world. District 4 IS the Upper East Side, with more millionaires and billionaires that can be counted. And there's only one subway that services this side of town. Even the wealthy take the subway in NYC, it's the great equalizer. I wonder how much time these guys spend glad-handing and flyering down on the south end of District 4, down there around the projects, or around Stuyvesant Town.

A few times I've been charmed by a candidate. There's a young man named Dan Garodnick who is sometimes at the 68th Street station with his elderly father, who encourages passers-by to "Go meet my boy!" or "Vote for MY son!" But as is usual with my sort of electoral luck, even when I get moved by something gimmicky like that old man, it's for naught, because I don't live in District 4. I live just east of its border, in District 5.

District 5 comprises the decidedly less deluxe blocks of the Upper East Side, up into Spanish Harlem, as well as Roosevelt Island and its sprawling complex of nightmarish chronic care public hospitals. I haven't run into any politicians on my end of 70th Street, even though the Prada flagship store is on the other end. Don't get me wrong, it's a great, comfortable little nabe, but with each block you proceed toward Central Park you move up one tax bracket.

Today's sidewalk politician is a bland-looking young man named Patrick Murphy. As usual, one of his handlers tells me, 'Hey, that's Patrick Murphy! Go meet your next Councilman!" I nod at Mr. Murphy, but sidestep his outreached hand. In defeat however, I do accept his flyer from his nearby campaign drone. I take the flyer into the subway station and start to read it on the train.

Patrick is 100% pro-choice. He will fight any effort to erode women's hard-fought liberties.

OK, Patrick, with you so far.

Patrick will fight to protect key tenant protections. As a former rent-stablized tenant, he knows first-hand the critical importance of affordable housing for middle-class taxpayers, who are the backbone of this city.

Hmm, kinda cloying with that "backbone" part.

Patrick spent 15 years in the marketing services industry, advising companies such as AT&T, American Express and Quaker Oats.

Selling yourself as a politician is just a version of creating a brand-identity and selling it, I can see the fit.

BUT THEN:

Patrick is the past president of the NYC Log Cabin Republicans, the leading voice for tolerance and inclusion in American politics.

THUD

The leading voice? THE LEADING VOICE? Oh, Patrick! Oh, Miss Girl Honey Sweetcakes! You have GOT to be fucking KIDDING us! You have seriously got to be pulling our FUCKING leg! You are, aren't you, Patrick? AREN'T YOU???

In typical Log Cabin fashion, nowhere on Patrick Murphy's two page color flyer does the filthy shameful word "gay" make any appearance. And once again, I regret that my block doesn't fall into District 4, because holy JEEBUS would I enjoy voting against Patrick Murphy. Stupid District 5.



EDIT: The Gay And Lesbian Victory Fund has endorsed Patrick Murphy for District 4, over the 4 Democratic candidates.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Guy With The Bike

The 6 Train, Monday morning, 8AM

I board at 68th Street, as I always do. I board at the head of the train, as I always do. Even when the other cars are too jam packed to squeeze one more person on-board, the other passengers at my stop are usually too lazy to walk forward on the platform to get on at the front, meaning I can usually slip on without having to wait while several full trains pass me by.

The downside of boarding at the head of the train is that that's the car reserved for people with bicycles, and there are often grimy bike messengers carelessly yanking around their filthy, muddy bikes, which occasionally brush against the crisply ironed droidwear of the other passengers. I've never been bothered by this personally, my office attire is "extreme casual", but sometimes there are ugly moments between the bike messengers and other riders.

Today the first car has only one guy with a bike. He's sitting on the little handicapped bench by the driver's door, the bench that always snaps upward with startling *bang*, whenever the passengers forget about pushing it down when they sat down, and then spring up when they get to their stop. The noise that seat makes when it snaps closed never fails to elicit small startled cries from those nearby.

The first thing I notice about the guy with the bike is the odd manner is which he is holding it. Most bike messengers, if seated, will turn the front wheel to its maximum, thereby shortening the bike's length and hopefully reducing the dirt anxiety of the other riders. This guy today has got his bike upended, the handlebars pointed towards the roof, and he is clutching it to his chest. I think to myself that I wish all the other bikers were as courteous.

The second thing I notice is how much the guy with the bike looks like Ziggy Marley. He looks like he might be of mixed race, his skin is a mocha-cappucino (a term I purloined years ago from my San Francisco roommate). The guy with the bike has elaborately braided dreadlocks, which are a bit short compared to others I've seen. He's wearing headphones and while his head nods I catch a glimpse of the palest blue eyes I may have ever seen.

Seeing his eyes immediately sets me off to creating an elaborate back-story for this stranger, as I sometimes do while riding the train. I decide that he's obviously a model, waiting for his break, doing grunt work as a bike messenger, probably for one of the midtown delivery companies that service all the fashion mags over at Conde Nast.

The third thing I notice about the guy with the bike is that he has a spiral notebook jammed into the netting of his backpack. I can see that the front of the notebook is full of scribbled messages, all in French. OK, I think, this plays right into my backstory. This guy with the bike is the biracial son of a French citizen and one of their many North African immigrants. His parents begged him not to come to New York, Americans are beneath contempt after all, but he willfully has disobeyed them and come to the city to pursue his dream of global fame, and after achieving which, he will return to Paris and resume sneering at American tourists.

In the time that it takes us to move from 68th Street to 59th, I talk myself into loathing the guy with the bike. He, with his snotty Eurotrash condescending friends and their stupid way of holding their smelly cigarettes. As the train slows into the 59th Street station, I hear a tiny bit of his music leaking out from his headphones. Coldplay. My victory is complete.

When the doors open at 59th, a very pregnant woman is the first to disembark. As she passes the guy with the bike, he does an odd thing. He doesn't stop nodding his head to his stupid music, but he sort of barks out a word at the woman. It sounded like "Baby!" The woman gives him an odd look. The next passenger off the train passes the guy with the bike, and this time he says, a bit louder, "Tall!". And indeed the guy is quite tall. The next lady to pass him gets a shouted "Suitcase!", clearly because she is pulling one.

I'm really pleased right now. Apparently this pretentious Yank-hating model wannabe has some sort of bizarre version of Tourettes. Maybe wearing the headphones helps distract him from shouting all the time, I hypothesize. I share smiles of amusement with the passengers near me, horrible of us to take pleasure in the mentally ill, yes yes yes. I notice that the guy with the bike doesn't announce arrivals, only departures, which probably means something to those familiar with this sort of thing.

I eagerly anticipate 51st Street. The station announcement is made, we roll to a stop. When the doors open, the guy with the bike is momentarily overwhelmed by the number of passengers leaving the train. His eyes widen and his head snaps back and forth as he tries not to miss naming anybody. "Old! Hat! Green! Glasses!" I try to follow each person as they are named, to understand why he was choosing a particular characteristic. For the "Glasses!" guy, I would have gone with "Hairpiece!", so it's a good thing I don't have Tourettes.

We are now approaching my stop, 42nd Street. I'm tempted, terribly tempted, to depart from the far doors of our car, out of range of the guy with the bike, but my need to hear my own identifier overwhelms my fear of what it may be. I do a quick self-assessment. My crewcut is fairly recent, my hair is pretty thin anyway....will it be "Bald!"? Or maybe he will comment on my oversized short-sleeve orange bowling shirt? "Orange!" Or maybe, "Tacky!"? I have been favoring these style shirts for the last year as I battle my middle-age spread. Oh, please...don't let it be "Fat!" I'm wearing cargo shorts today, which sometimes causes my co-workers to comment on my over-developed calves, the last vestige of my body-building days. I would definitely be happy with "Shorts!"

The announcement is made "Grand Central Terminal, 42nd Street". We roll to a stop, the doors open, and people are actually holding back leaving the train, because they want to hear what the guy with the bike says about the others. Finally, fearful of the doors closing, I push past the guy with the bike.

"Muscles!"

Guy with the bike, I take it all back.


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I Had A Secret

For the record, and to satisfy the avalance of inquiring emails that I've received over the weekend....YES, that was me on Friday's edition of ABC's 20/20, in their "gaydar" segment.

The show originally aired in late October 2004. I'm planning on writing about the experience, of course, but so far I've put it off for reasons I'm not sure of. Maybe there will be an appropriately themed WYSIWYG.

I don't know why so many of you recognized me this time, because I hardly heard a peep when the show first aired. (Except from: my MOTHER, my BOSS, and 47% of the guys at beer bust.)

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Thursday, August 04, 2005

A.S.S.

It happened again last weekend. I met another gay New Yorker afflicted with A.S.S.

Asshole Saint Syndrome.

These are the New York gay men who rear back, hands to their chest, with an aghast expression, when they realize that despite my being of the right age, despite my having partied in almost every gay ghetto in the country, and despite my historical devotion to nightclubs, dance music and DJ culture, I never attended The Saint, easily the most storied and legendary gay nightclub in the history of the world.

I stand there and watch them become dumbstruck, because for them, I've just become some unreachable person. Because, since I never went to The Saint, I've never danced, I've never loved, I've never laughed, I've never heard music, I've never known joy.

And since The Saint closed all those years ago, apparently I never will.

Hence, A.S.S.

I watch them struggle to make it OK for me not to have gone, saying things like "Well, there were some good places in South Beach too....." And then their eyes glaze over. Once, a man told me that trying to describe The Saint to someone who never went, was like trying to describe the color red to a blind person. "There's just NO frame of reference!" Another man, an online suitor, attempted to close the deal by sending me a stock photo of the crowded Saint dancefloor, with an arrow pointing to one of the thousands of tiny heads, saying "Me!" Because by virtue of his having been a member, obviously he should be MUCH hotter, in my eyes.

The Saint's membership list was virtually decimated by AIDS, no doubt at least partially due to the rampant group sex going up in the balcony. The survivors hold onto their original membership cards or event posters as the gay historic relics they rightfully are. I even know someone who has a tiny piece of The Saint's famous dome, which he hangs reverently on his Christmas tree every year. But the A.S.S. guys also seem to take great satisfaction in having been part of something that YOU weren't, as they make pointed in-jokes to each other about certain moments in Saint history.

And I'm sorry, but if every queen who has told me that he was there, actually was, when DJ Robbie Leslie played "Hold On To My Love", the final song ever played, then that place must have held about a million people.

I'll be honest, I'm sensitive to A.S.S. because it DOES pain me, greviously, to have missed seeing, even once, something that has become bigger in legend than it perhaps was in real life. And I've done all I can to fill in the pieces, culturally. I've followed the careers of Saint DJs that are still performing, attending their sets when I can. I've bought Saint mix tapes, booted directly from its hallowed consoles. I've attended many of the Saint-At-Large parties, pale imitations that I'm told that they are. I even belong to an online discussion forum, where former Saint members routinely bring each other to tears with their shared memories.

But I swear, as Jeebus is my DJ, that the next A.S.S. queen who rolls his eyes at me and gives me that combined look of condescension and pity, when I reveal my non-Saintness, I'm gonna.....continue to feel crummy about it.



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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

What IS a husband?

Yesterday's post about the new gay nomenclature reminded me of something I've been wondering about for several months. When gay marriage finally becomes widespread, how quickly (if at all) will we act to correct each other when we identify someone's significant other?

"There goes David and his husband."

"Oh, they aren't married, just living together."

Will we do that? Will we give those who choose not to marry a verbal downgrade to "just living together", to "just boyfriends"? Gay people have traditionally operated fast and loose with the rules of defining and naming our relationships.

Will there be a sense of relief then, as we convert to straight society's heirarchy of relationships, and start identifying couples as: dating, living together, or married? I think that the implied legitimacy of a legal marriage will tempt many of our people to begin resorting relationships into those separate categories, and I don't know how I feel about that.

I am friends with several couples who have been together for than ten years. I have no idea what their opinions on marriage may be, but I do know that they will always be husbands, in my mind, regardless of what legal status they may assume.

Canada will be the first place we see this play out. I'm hoping that I'm wrong, but I have a strong feeling that a sense of triumphalism will lead our people to start the renaming, almost immediately.


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Monday, August 01, 2005

The Male Mistress

Last year, when New Jersey's governor was going through his "I am a gay American" disclosure, there was a lot of discussion in my office regarding how the press should identify the Israeli citizen with whom the governor had been having an affair.

Was the young man the governor's "lover"? His "paramour"? There were lots of fancy words tossed about, but ultimately our favorite came from our admininstrative assistant, a young girl from the Bed-Stuy area of Brooklyn, who'd been quietly listening from her position in the lobby.

"If the governor had cheated with a girl, she'd be his "mistress", right?" Melinda asked us.

We all nodded.

"Well, since he cheated with a man, I think they should call him the governor's "histress!"

By immediate acclaim, histress became the word. And with the increasing availablity of legalized gay marriage, it's a word that I fear we shall hear again.


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