Thursday, June 30, 2005

Fantasy vs. My Reality

***WARNING!! Self-pity ahead!!!***

The One Year Anniversary of my split with the Ex quickly approaches, and in that time, I've gone on two, count 'em, TWO dates. And neither of those turned into anything worth pursuing further. I placed ads on both Yahoo! Personals and Match.com, emailed a few ice breakers to what seemed to be nice, down-to-earth guys, received a wink and responded back, but after two months, my inboxes remained empty. I'm active in the community, try as much as I can not to be a hermit by going out with friends to movies, to dinner, to plays, to Disneyland, have even started visiting some of the gay hang outs by myself. Everyone's either already coupled or not interested. I just don't seem to have the knack for dating.

But, at least I have my fantasy boyfriends. Always ready when I close my eyes to raise my spirits and to make me feel datable. They're handsome, rugged, square-jawed, hairy-chested, strong, muscled and waiting for me. They're willing to do anything I want, at a moment's notice, without hesitation, day or night (unless I'm at the office), no questions asked. They're always smiling, eager to please me and happy to take care of my every need. Gentle but with just the right amount of playfulness. They don't ask anything in return, never argue or disagree.

When I wake up, though, it's back to the real dating world.

sigh

God, I sound pathetic.

Maybe I should stand naked in front of the Boom Boom Room....

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Sticky Foot

I stood next to a table at the food court this afternoon waiting for my taco salad, out of the way of the myriad hungry workers trying to decide between the Japanese take-out or the little Greek place. Suddenly, I heard a crash on my left, followed by a loud "Oh shit!" I turned just in time to see the full cup of soda crash against my left foot, drenching my shoe, sock and lower pant leg in brown stickiness. The poor guy kept apologizing as he grabbed some napkins and started wiping my pant leg and shoe. I assured him that everything was fine. His co-workers were trying to hold bac the laughs as they stood by the entrance to the food court. I grabbed some napkins and told him that I would take care of the rest. He stood, not looking me in the face, and hurried to the door where his co-workers immediately began to taunt him. The lady behind the counter called my number. I grabbed the bag with my salad and quickly walked back to the office, my foot sloshing with every step and my shoe sticking to the walkways.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Quick Weekend Update

Friday night, I gathered with a few friends at the Claim Jumper for dinner before heading to the theater to see Falsettos again. I arrived late thanks to traffic but quickly found the table and joined in: 5 gay men seated around a gigantic table, munching stuffed potato skins, French onion soup, steaks, chugging glass after glass of iced tea, admiring the chandeliers made from too many deer antlers, and chatting loudly about work, Las Vegas, boyfriends past and present, and the cute waiters. Ahh, good times.

Saturday, CS and I saw the latest anime film from director Hiyao Miyazaki, Howl's Moving Castle, at The Block in Orange. Adapted from a novel by Diana Wynne Jones, this movie tells the story of a young milliner named Sophie who meets a mysterious stranger while traveling through the city. He saves her from the dark creatures that are pursuing him, but unknowingly puts her in danger with the Witch of the Waste. The Witch visits Sophie that night in her hat shop, and jealous of her, steals Sophie's youth and beauty then disappears. Determined to break the curse, Sophie sets out on a journey to find the Wizard Howl who lives in a magical castle that walks through the countryside and finds herself caught in the midst of a war.

This is a beautiful film from director Miyazaki, filled with lush and richly detailed landscapes, wondrous characters and an engrossing story. The voice work impressed me, as well, featuring the talents of Lauren Bacall as the Witch of the Waste, Christian Bale as the Wizard Howl, Blythe Danner as Madame Suliman, Billy Crystal as a neurotic Calcifer, Emily Mortimer as the Young Sophie and Jean Simmons as the Old Sophie, though I would still like to see it in the original Japanese with English subtitles, just to see if Disney (the distributor of the film) changed anything. One thing that really surprised me, though, was the audience. I saw Spirited Away when it was released in theaters a few years ago and remember being one of three people in the entire theater. For Howl's Moving Castle, most seats were filled just as the previews started with a mixed crowd of adults and children to see a traditionally animated film instead of the computerized stuff that's taking its place.

Sunday, I met CS at Disney's California Adventure for a few hours before heading to Equal Writes in Long Beach for the inaugural meeting of a new men's reading group. Four of us showed and decided to read Patricia Nell Warren's The Front Runner as our first book, to be discussed on July 20th at 7:30 PM. I ate afterwards at Hamburger Mary's, enjoying being at a gay restaurant by myself and not feeling self-conscious about it. Usually, I attach this stigma to going somewhere gay alone, feeling as if everyone were pitying me for being by myself, snubbing me because I don't have the right look or body, or thinking I was there for a quick hook-up or worse. Of course, this time I brought with me a new book that I'd purchased at the bookstore so I didn't pay that much attention to what was going on around me. Well, except for the DVD of Cher's Farewell Tour that was displayed on every available screen in the place -- it's a bit difficult to miss that. I enjoyed my gay night out and realize that I really should do that kind of thing more often. If only West Hollywood weren't so far away....

Friday, June 24, 2005

"I use dancing to embellish, extend or enlarge upon an existing emotion." - Gower Champion

After work last night, I didn't feel like driving home so I called CS and asked if he wanted to see Mad Hot Ballroom. He hesitated a brief moment before saying "yes," and we agreed to meet beforehand for dinner at Red Robin directly behind the theaters. Documentaries tend to be a hard sell to moviegoers, usually relegated to the Art House theaters and PBS. People stigmatize them as boring, dry, snoozefests. That seems to be changing, especially if you look back in recent years at such films as Fahrenheit 9/11 (with a gross of $119M in the U.S.) and the buzz generated by Super Size Me and Spellbound. I doubt that they will ever reach "Blockbuster" status, though. C'mon, who would you rather see: Yoda bouncing around with his mini-light saber, or a man stuffing his face with fast food for an entire month?

I stopped for a quick haircut, then suffered through 25 minutes of traffic to go 4 miles on surface streets. (I hate Orange County sometimes.) CS already sat at the table and waved me back. We chitchatted through our burgers, iced teas and bottomless steak fries and quietly listened in as the gay couple seated behind us argued about their food which ended with one of them storming out the door. We quickly left after that, not wanting to stick around for the aftermath, and ambled next door to the theater.

We had no problem finding seats once inside. Four elderly ladies chatted away, taking an entire row about halfway down the aisle. We sat a few rows back, rocking and reclining in the comfy new seats. Just before the movie started, I glanced around and noted that more people had shuffled in, mostly elderly ladies. (The three men had apparently been dragged by their wives and did not look happy.)

The movie turned out to be rather pleasant. The New York Public School system offers a rudimentary ballroom dance class that 4th and 5th graders are required to take. The film followed three sets of children from different public schools as they learn about the dance, about interacting with the opposite sex, and about competition through the 10-week course. The payoff for these children is a citywide dance competition, during which classes can earn bronze, silver and gold stars, and a finals complete with a six-foot-tall trophy going to the winning school. I did get caught up in the competition, watching those kids who could dance circles around me, laughing at how they talked about the dancing and how they viewed each other, feeling their anxiety as they waited for the results. (Oh, and Rodney the dance instructor from the American Ballet Theater offered some nice eye candy.) However, I didn't learn much about the kids themselves; the movie never focused on any one child or group, trying to encompass more the lessons learned by ballroom dancing instead of seeing how the children truly benefit from the class. A fun movie, but I felt that the children should have been more of a focal point rather than the dancing.

We applauded during the credits and slowly made our way to the lobby. Everyone was all abuzz talking about how precocious the children were, marveling at their skill at dancing, reminiscing about taking dance classes as a child. CS and I wandered back to the restaurant parking lot, discussing the movie and some of the previews, said our goodbyes and each headed home. I rolled the windows down to allow the cool night air to expel the heat from the day. Life in a Northern Town gently played through my car speakers.

Quote from BrainyQuote
Image from Voir.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Book Whore Chronicles: Show Boat

My Ex used to drag me to a flea market almost every Saturday morning. The alarm would screech at 5 AM; the Ex would push my sleepy ass out of bed; I'd head for the shower while he screamed "No time!" then threw my jeans and a sweatshirt at me; I'd swish some mouthwash, and we'd hop into his car, hoping to make it to Goldenwest College by 5:30, just as all the other book mongers dealers did every weekend. We would hover at one particular spot, waiting for the woman in her van filled with boxes of books to arrive. Some of the other book dealers barely gave the poor woman any time to set up her space: when the first box of books hit the table, the pounced upon it like vultures on a dead horse. And they were mean bastards, too! They'd push each other out of the way, steal a possibly collectible book out of another's hands, exchange nasty words with one another. My Ex got such a kick out of this, but he'd be right in there, digging through the boxes just the same.

I usually waited until the commotion died down somewhat to casually examine the books. I found a few interesting items that the others passed on: an old picture book of Nevada casinos for 25¢ (that I later sold on eBay for $52); pieces of sheet music to add to my collection; a first edition -- complete with dustjacket -- of The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin. Mostly books and magazines that interested me. One such book was a 1929 edition of Show Boat by Edna Ferber. I found it close to the bottom of a box, beneath some old Harlequin romances. The yellow boards were a bit dirty, the dustjacket missing and a few pages had some rips and tears, but for $1, it seemed like a good deal. I've seen both movie versions numerous times as well as two different incarnations of the stage musical, but have never picked up a copy of the book to read. I added it to my short stack of books and then shelved it once back home.

Two years later, I finally decided to read it. I put on some mood music, stretched out on the couch and opened the covers. Two pages into it, and a small, rectangular piece of paper fell on my chest. It was an old black-and-white photograph of something, a boat of some kind taken from a dock. Two decks, a small smoke stack gushing greyish clouds into the air, possibly towing something -- or possibly a flaw with the picture. A large white spot, like a flash of light on the camera lens, obscured the bottom right of the picture. I flipped it over and discovered written on the back in pencil:

Show Boat
Passing clubhouse
West Port Island

1919
T.L. Patterson

West Port Island is 75 miles North
of St. Louis - in the Mississippi River


A photograph of an actual, working show boat. I don't know how long that little photograph had been stuck between the pages. Maybe the book once belonged to the photographer, this "T.L. Patterson," and he or she used the picture as a bookmark, forgetting about it once the book was finished. Maybe a former owner left the picture there as a reminder to future readers of what those times were like, when riverboats served as a major mode of tansportation. Maybe some young woman carried this with her on such a show boat, reveling in the romance of the story and characters. So many maybes, but I'll never know for sure.

Side Note Click on over to The Literacy Site. Every click today doubles the amount of books being donated to literacy programs in the U.S.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Welcome to Falsettoland

Last night, CS and I met at a Persian restaurant called the Orchid Bar and Grille. This nondescript little restaurant sits between a dentist's office and a Chinese take-out place in a little strip mall just south of South Coast Plaza. I drove right by it on my first try and almost missed it a second time after hanging a U-ie at the next light. CS sat reading in his car as I pulled into the space next to him, and soon we were inside the vast space of the restaurant.

The exterior is very deceiving as you only see a few tables along the windows while the rest of the place is hidden behind dark salmon-colored walls. The inside is cavernous, with a ceiling painted dark blue, dirty yellow walls with oil paintings tacked up here and there, rows and rows of dark wood tables and chairs, and darker carpeting. A mural painted behind the buffet area depicted some ancient Persian scene with women dancing and men playing various musical instruments. To the far right, after passing long, white-clothed banquet tables, was the bar area, complete with a glaring neon Budweiser™ sign. The very quiet maître d' sat us by one of the windows and promptly disappeared into the kitchen. I glanced over the menu, reading the descriptions and trying to pronounce the names. (And failing miserably at the latter.) CS chose the beef barg kabob which was marinated filet mignon served with a roasted tomato and basmati rice. Never having tried Persian food before, I took a chance and ordered the gheymeh bedjam (sp?), an incredibly delicious stew of fried eggplant, white corn, tomato sauce, fried potato strings and roasted veal shank served with a gigantic bowl of basmati rice. I only managed to finish three-quarters of the stew and half the rice, the portions were so huge!

After that satisfying meal, we dashed to the Costa Mesa Civic Playhouse to see a staging of the rarely-performed musical Falsettos, staged in conjunction with The Names Project. (Two panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt hung in the lobby, and it still amazes me how quiet and reverential everyone becomes once they see the Quilt. People take the time to read/view each of the panels carefully, sometimes quietly or, like me, with tears welling up.) If CS hadn't seen the ad in The Blade, we would have missed this little gem. Falsettos combines two one-act musicals -- March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland -- to tell the story of Marvin who discovers late in life that he is gay. This throws his Jewish family life into turmoil as Marvin tries desparately to keep his family intact and to learn to love someone during the first outbreak of the AIDS crisis in the early 1980s. This completely sung-through (i.e., no spoken dialogue) show won two 1992 Tony® Awards for Best Book of a Musical and Best Score, and it's very easy to understand why. The songs are sharp and witty, running the gamut from tear-jerker (What Would I Do?) to hilarious (Four Jews in a Room Bitching) and, like some Sondheim shows, employ a lot of fast, verbal trickery.

The cast of this local production performed together remarkably well, nailing the songs, the comedic timing and the choreography. Cathy Petz made Trina (Marvin's ex-wife) big and brassy and what a voice! Christopher Diehl's Whizzer (Marvin's lover) and Kyle Myers's Marvin were the perfect image of a gay couple struggling to deal with the fragments of a disjointed family and relationship. For me, Paul Pakler stole the show as Marvin's 11 year old son Jason -- equal parts charming, funny, nerdy and sad -- trying to deal with his Dad's new relationship and his own upcoming bar mitzvah. The cast worked incredibly well together and had me in tears during the finale, pouring their hearts and souls into this production. I just felt incredibly bad that only 6 people were in the audience.

CS and I are trying to get a small group together to see the show next Friday. (Yes, it was good enough to see again!) If anyone's interested, the tickets are only $15!!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

"I Feel the Earth Move Under my Feet"

So I'm sitting at my desk, wondering what to post on my blog, when one of my Co-workers shouted "Can you feel it?" The building started to shake. Vertical blinds rattled against the windows. In the midst of walking to my desk, Co-worker sprinted to one of the doorways and I ducked beneath my desk as the shaking intensified. Just as quickly as it started, the jolts subsided until the building finally settled down to its old routine.

On the radio, they replayed a woman in Victorville telling the interviewer that she was experiencing an earthquake. I excitedly accessed the USGS's web page and input my report of the quake. Wow...two in one week! Hopefully, this is simply the Earth letting off small bits of pent up energy and nothing more. I don't relish the idea of something bigger on the horizon.

More details of this particular temblor can be found here.


music and lyrics to I Feel the Earth Move by Carole King

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Or, as it's more commonly known, Christopher Street West. Los Angeles held its annual Gay Pride festivities this past weekend. Loud music. Booths of vendors and community service groups. Scantily clad men. I was surprised to learn that CS had never attended so I made it my goal to show him the wonders of LA Pride.

I woke up to grey and drizzly clouds -- the typical June gloom which I hoped would burn off by early afternoon but I threw my jacket into the car just in case. I sped North on Beach Blvd. to CS's house, the soundtrack to Little Shop of Horrors blaring from my speakers. (I've noticed that other drivers tend to look at you funny when you have showtunes blasting from your car and are singing loudly along with the characters.) At 10 AM, I pulled into CS's complex, and we were soon on our way to West Hollywood.

Neither of us had eaten breakfast so The French Quarter Restaurant became our first stop. The owners decorated the interior to resemble a French streetside café in Paris, complete with umbrellas, a fountain with bright-colored koi swimming in the base, bricked walkways and white-painted iron railings surrounded by various shops and businesses. I devoured an omelet of turkey, bacon, Swiss cheese and avocado while CS ordered the French toast stuffed with cream cheese and orange marmalade. We still had time to kill before the festival opened so we spent a few minutes browsing through Dorothy's Surrender, a gay gift shop within the restaurant. Gay cards, gay wrapping paper, porn, CDs, books, candles -- and all I bought was a Father's Day card and packet of Gay Gum. (Yes, it was fruit flavored.)

We made our way to the festival grounds a little after Noon and spent the next four hours wandering from booth to booth. We spent quite a few dollars at the Aid for AIDS booth -- manned by shirtless, muscled hotties -- trying to win cum towels from their wheel of fortune; I walked away with two rubber duckies instead of a towel. The Project Angel Food booth also lured us in with its wheel and the attractive man running the show. That's him with me in the picture above. Their prizes ranged from bottles of water to temporary tattoos to surprise grab bags. I spent $3 for 3 spins and won two grab bags -- filled with calendars, signed books, CDs, hot sauce and other goodies -- and a t-shirt. Angel Food Guy was really sweet and talked me into buying another t-shirt, as well. I'm a sucker for a man with muscles and a great smile....

Most of the booths had something to do with the gay community, whether it was a church group, a teachers' group, the Human Rights Campaign, the Great American Yankee band or free HIV and syphillis testing. A few tables peddled t-shirts, hats and the like, but much less than at Long Beach Pride. Four different dance areas had been set throughout the festival grounds, also, but not a single person stepped onto the floor. Except for the country stage which was inside an air-conditioned building. Lots of hot young things -- both male and female -- line-stepped to such songs as Cledus T. Judd's More Beaver. Which sounds bad but is actually about the TV show Leave It to Beaver. The outside dance floors more than likely filled once the evening rolled around.

For dinner, CS and I left the festival, fighting the stop-and-go traffic up Robertson Ave. Hundreds of men lingered in and around The Abbey, spilling onto the sidewalk and up along Santa Monica Blvd. We managed to hang a left onto the Blvd., coasting past the crowds to Hamburger Mary's. I know, I know.... I eat at that particular chain of restaurants far too much, but if you had seen our waiter Jason and the Incredible Hulk of a bartender, you would have eaten there, too. I'm talking Tom of Finland-type of man meat. Speaking of which, we stopped at Circus of Books afterwards, and I was a good boy, not buying anything porn-related while in the shop. Though I did find a Father's Day gift. Also not porn-related. DEFINITELY not porn-related. I don't even want to go there. Ew!

With the night still young, CS and I decided to venture over the hills to Studio City and a little bar we like called The Apache. We turned onto Laurel Canyon and followed it through the hills until reaching Ventura Blvd. It had been some time since we last visited The Apache so not knowing which way to go, only that the bar was near Universal Studios, we made a left. Nothing looked familiar, and when I looked at the Thomas Guide, I learned why. We were almost in another county. A quick swerve into a surrounding neighborhood, u-turn, and we were headed in the right direction. 30 minutes later and we still couldn't find the damned place. We pulled so many u-turns, pissed off so many other drivers, until finally, I thought I saw a building which resembled The Apache, only this place was called Fuel. We both wondered if our favorite little bar had gone out of business so we decided to check this one out. CS parked on a side street near Oil Can Harry's, and we hesitantly stepped inside Fuel. Turns out that it was The Apache up until a month ago. I couldn't hear most of the story because of the ultra-loud '80s music, but I think the new owner's felt the place could use a face lift. We chatted with the bartender, watched as the cute-but-goofy late shift bartender arrived completely wasted from a day spent at the Fesitval, played some pool, and compared the LA and Long Beach Festivals until we realized it was 11 PM. With that, we called it an eventful day and walked back to the car.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Backside of Pride

Backside of Pride

Still recovering from spending the entire day yesterday in West Hollywood: food, drinks, hot guys in little clothing. What more could you ask? I'll write more about LA Pride later. But, if you would like to see a few pics from LA Pride, click here.

P.S. As I am writing this, we're having a small earthquake. A soft rumbling like very distant thunder. A rolling waving motion, from left to right, coming from the Southeast. The pullstrings on my blinds are swaying as are the clothes hanging in my closet. Not strong enough to knock anything from the shelves. At least, not here. This link to the U.S. Geological Survey has updated information about this quake: 5.2 on the Richter scale in the Indio/Palm Springs area.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Book Whore Chronicles: A Glastonbury Romance

Nothing can be more daunting to a reader than a big, thick book. I'm talking well over 900 pages: Gone with the Wind from Margaret Mitchell - 1048 pages. It by Stephen King - 1104 pages. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy - 1472 pages. High school students faint in horror when the professor drops that book on their desks. Even the hearty college student would rather use such a book as a door stop instead of an assignment. I enjoy the challenge offered by these monstrous works of literature, though, even going so far as to spend an entire weekend during my Freshman year of college doing absolutely nothing but reading It and breaking for food and calls of nature. Then again, I am a size queen....

Last year, I finished a novel from Phil Rickman -- a favorite author of mine -- which referenced another novel quite liberally, almost reverentially. Being the book whore that I am, this other novel piqued my interest so I quickly popped over to Amazon.com, located a number of copies, read through the description and added it to my Wish List. I neglected, however, to check the number of pages. Fast forward to Chrsitmas, and my friend CS presented me with a copy of the novel A Glastonbury Romance by John Cowper Powys. And it was thick. And it was heavy. I opened the book to the last page to see: 1120 pages. That caught me off-guard for some unknown reason. My eyes must have opened incredibly wide as I thanked CS. "You said you wanted to read it," he said as I hefted the book in my hands.

I almost cracked it open that night, eager to learn the connection between this book and Rickman's, but I tend to read many books at once and was already well into four others. I shelved the book until about two months ago. As of the end of lunch today, I reached page 550, almost halfway through. The story concerns the residents of Glastonbury and the almost warring factions that divide the sentiment of the townsfolk: those who wish to keep the traditions of Glastonbury as a supposed resting place of the Holy Grail; and those trying to bring the town into modern times by building a new factory which will bring jobs and money into the community. Powys' writing is flowing and incredibly beautiful and filled with references to nature and everything mystical, making nature an affective force throughout the story.

Just to make it even more interesting, one of the characters turns out to be bisexual. This is hinted at within the first 20 pages but isn't confirmed until nearly 500 pages later.

I will eventually finish the novel. Until then, I sit in the office courtyard during lunch, munching my chicken teriyaki bowl and reading another 20 pages.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Crash. Walk. Burn.

Crash

I decided to hang around the house on Saturday in order to save my energy for the Walk the next day. That lasted for all of one hour. After reading about 10 pages in two different books, playing Russian roulette with the TV remote, and playing a few rounds of Weboggle, cabin fever finally forced me outside. I walked downtown, stopping at the Post Office to mail some bills, then wandered to the Mann Theatre on PCH. This particular theater has been around for as long as I can remember, for the longest time as an Edwards Cinema (and it still has the tacky rainbow sherbert carpet). A few years ago, Edwards abanded this location, and Mann Theatres stepped in to take control. I made my way to the box office on the second floor and purchased a ticket for the 11:40 AM showing of Crash.

I picked a seat and waited -- alone in the theater -- for the previews. The movie's start time rolled past, and by 11:55, I mosied on over to the concession stand and asked if someone were going to turn on the projector in theater 5. (Apparently, they didn't realize anyone was in that particular theater.) The projector clicked on, and I sat through 15 minutes of blaring previews and commercials. Finally, the theater darkened, and one of the finest movies I've seen this year quietly started. The movie begins at night in Los Angeles, with two detectives (Don Cheadle and Jennifer Esposito) arrving at the scene of a homicide. Another car rear ended them, though, and Esposito's character begins exchanging racial epithets with the older Asian woman who drove the other car as Cheadle walks over to the crime scene. From there, the film flashes back to yesterday and the events leading up to the homicide. These two days are racially tense, violent, thought-provoking and, at times, incredibly sweet. Through chance meetings, each of the characters crosses the paths of the others, learning of each other's prejudices and dealing with their own. This large ensemble cast works incredible magic using an intelligent, racially charged script from writer/director Paul Haggis (who also wrote the script for Million Dollar Baby). And when I say large ensemble cast: Matt Dillon, Thandie Newton, Loretta Divine, Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Jennifer Esposito, Brendan Fraser, Marina Sirtis (for all you fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation), Ryan Phillippe, Larenz Tate, Ludacris, Daniel Dae Kim (for the fans of Lost), Tony Danza, and Terrence Dashon Howard. My favorite performances came from Michael Pena and Ashlyn Sanchez who played father and daughter who moved from the bad part of town to get away from the gangs. So many things were happening in the film, but I never felt lost for one moment. I felt right along with the characters and, at times, could even see myself having said some of the same things. Gritty, violent, racially-charged, thought-provoking. Amazing.

Walk

Before turning in for the night, CS called with another $100 donation for the AIDS Walk, bringing my total to $1600 $1625. Woo hoo! I quickly input the donation information and set my alarm for 6. Not that I would really need it; I still wake up at 5 every morning, no matter what. (I loathe getting older.)

I arrived at UC Irvine close to 7:15 the next morning. CS was to meet me at 7:30 with the last check so I could turn in everything when I registered. He arrived as promised, and I walked away from the registration area with lots of goodies: an ASICS jacket, an AIDS Walk baseball cap and t-shirt, and a one-day pass to Disneyland. We wandered through the staging area where different health organizations, food booths, radio stations, and community service centers were in the midst of setting up their booths for the fair.

The Walk officially began at 9:30, striding past the 3 protesters (down from last year's 5) and into the wildlife refuge. One man with a bullhorn kept repeating "Sodomy! Sodomy! Sodomy!" at us. Freak. At first, I clustered with my team members as we walked, but I'm a fast walker. Not marathon-fast, but I do like to keep a good pace so once we entered the refuge, I broke away from the group and enjoyed the day: listening to the other walkers joking singing laughing with one another, the cars rumbling by, the wind breezing through the brush along the San Diego Creek, the egrets and herons circling about the tall grass, the shouts of the cheerleaders pushing us on to the finish line. I found it very relaxing and peaceful. I didn't think about work, relationships, or the myriad other things troubling me lately, but cleared my mind and simply followed where my legs lead. Around 10:45, I passed through the finish line.

All told, over 2000 people walked, and I think -- though final numbers aren't in yet -- that we raised over $700,000.

Burn

CS, myself and our friends P&K met for dinner after the Walk at Hamburger Mary's in Long Beach. Just a stop en route to finally see Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith. Burgers were eaten, alcohol consumed. Even I had a Southern Comfort and cranberry juice. P&K flirted quite a bit with one of the owners as well as Ryan the 22-year-old blond blue-eyed bartender. We made it to the theater with 15 minutes to spare, but spent the time mostly at the end of a line with 20 people. P&K stopped at the concession stand, CS diverted to the restroom, and I grabbed us four seats just as the previews started. I don't normally comment on the previews (except to say how much of a time waster they are), but three of them stood out: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe which looks to be a fantastic beginning to the Narnia saga; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Rent based on the musical and featuring many of the actors from the original Broadway cast.

I won't go into detail about Episode III because I think most of us have seen it. I disliked the first two episodes, but this one brought all of the films together perfectly. Incredible aciton and special effects. Great story. And, let me just say that Yoda kicked ASS! And Ohmigod! what happened to Annikin....and Obi-Wan left him there!!!! I honestly can't wait for the entire set to come out on DVD along with the hours and hours of extra footage.

We ended the night at The Brit in Long Beach. P and I drove everyone in the bar crazy picking all the '80s songs on the jukebox. And then singing along loudly with them. The bartender Keith -- stocky, shaved head, long goatee, pierced nipples, nice arms and gorgeous dark eyes -- humored us quite a bit, and a few times, I caught him shaking his booty to the beat. We all talked and sang for a good two hours, reluctantly leaving at midnight.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Saturday Quickies

Grandma Chronicles

They hospital released her on Friday. Earlier in the week, she showed signs of dementia and refused to eat anything, scrunching her eyes and mouth like a finicky three-year-old. Her doctor finally went over her prescriptions and discovered that she was either taking too much of one, or one of the medicines didn't agree with her system. That, coupled with the stress of having to move two times in one week, caused her episodes. A simple change of dosage/medication, and the next day, she sat up in bed joking with my Mom, eating her meals. After a few days, her doctor released her, but she must use either a walker or a wheel chair to get around and someone from her retirement home will be checking with her once or twice a day. The doctor told my Mom that Grandma's going to have her good days and bad days, but hopefully, she won't suffer another severe episode.

AIDS Walk

I walk tomorrow with a total of $1500 raised. Thank you to everyone who donated! The money raised will help healthcare agencies that have been hit hard by budget and grant cuts. (And, you can still donate. Just click on this link.)

Best of 2005

Just saw the film Crash this morning. Intense. Angry. Surprising. One of the best films I've seen so far this year. I'll write a bit more about it later, but go see it!

Friday, June 03, 2005

Black Box Theater

CS and I caught a world premiere performance of the new play The Maltese Falcon, adapted by Martin Pope from Dashiell Hammett's gritty detective novel. The Long Beach Shakespeare Company produced this new work at their tiny hole-in-the-wall theater -- the Black Box Theater -- in the Bixby Knolls section of Long Beach. I kid you not when I say "hole-in-the-wall." We drove past the front of the theater three times before actually seeing it, crammed in between a law office and a furniture store along an old row of streetside offices stuck in a 1950's time warp. The lobby consisted of folding tables and chairs draped with black tablecloths and martini glasses in an attempt to resemble a swank speakeasy. The theater itself offered metal folding chairs for 31 guests on a small but sturdy set of risers.

I read about this production in Frontiers, one of the local gay magazines. The feature specifically discussed the character Joel Cairo, lecherously played by Peter Lorre in the movie. In Hammett's novel, Cairo is definitely homosexual, but with the advent of the Hays Commission, director John Huston was forbidden to portray Cairo as Hammett intended. This new play, written with the assistance and permission of Hammett's daughter and grand-daughter, promised to show Cairo as intended.

That aspect of the character wasn't quite pulled off in the production we saw. Phil Apoian's portrayal of Cairo as a homosexual, with a somewhat mincing gait and no mannerisms, never made me believe he was gay. A few comments from other characters scattered throughout the dialogue clued us in, but I was still a bit let down. John Brennan's Sam Diamond was gritty and sexy. (And he looked damned fine in his brown suit!) Stephen Wood seemed perfect for the role of Gutman. It took her a few moments to get into the role, but Michelle Coyle gave a fine performance as Bridget O'Shawnessy. The story did have some slow moments which hampered the pacing, but the actors performed admirably even if it did appear that they were trying to act like the characters in the movie instead of making the characters their own. Great fight scenes in the second act definitely flowed better than the first act. Not bad for local theater, though.

Much better than I could do.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Adventures in Dating

Being single is tough.

Being gay and single is tougher.

Being gay and single in Orange County, CA, is impossible.

Opportunities to meet other single gay men don't present themselves too often. Unlike cities such as Long Beach, West Hollywood or San Francisco, the gay community in OC is spread out, with pockets in Laguna Beach, a bar in Costa Mesa, a dinner club in Anaheim, The Center in Garden Grove. And, of course, Disneyland, but that's a whole other story. The OC shrouds itself in an über-Christian machismo cloud where simply saying hi to a good-looking man at the gym or walking down the street could end with a fist in the face or a number of untoward epithets.

Sometimes, fate steps in to place you in just the right place at just the right time and, all of a sudden, you find yourself with another guy's phone number. Like what happened to me roughly two Tuesdays ago. I drove to The Center after work to meet with CS and to do a little volunteer work. He and I were chatting away when one of the employees -- heretofore known as LifeGuard Boy -- emerged from his office and asked if I would step inside for a moment. I followed him to his office, and he asked me a few questions. A bit shorter than me, Hispanic, nice eyes, tattoo on his left tricep, a few years older than me -- a handsome man, but the idea of dating him was nowhere near the front of my mind; I thought he needed some help with a project. Forty-five minutes later, and we exchanged phone numbers and e-mail addresses. CS teased me a bit for being behind closed doors with LifeGuard Boy for such a long time.

We IM'd and talked with each other the next day, talking about family, movies, TV, little things like that. At one point, he sai, "I hesitated talking to you because I didn't want you to think I was a player." I didn't think anything of it and brushed the comment aside. He didn't strike me as a player -- too sweet and nice for that moniker. We made a date for Sunday, with him coming down to my house to show him around downtown Huntington, and he said that he would call the next night after he returned home from work.

Thursday evening, I arrived home around 7:30 after driving down to visit my Grandmother. I opened the door and didn't see a blinking light on my answering machine. No call yet, but that was fine. If it had been a few years ago after I'd first come out, this would have thrown me for a loop, and terrible thoughts of self-doubt would have poured through my head. A few years later, and I'm a bit wiser so I didn't worry about it. I finished laundry, checked emails, read the last 70 pages of a book and went to sleep. The next morning, he caught me on the IM and apologized for not calling the night before. He said that after work, some friends dragged him to a bar for a kind of farewell tribute because he was leaving his job at The Center at the end of the next week for a better job at another Community Service Agency in OC. I told him not to worry about it. We chatted a bit more before he had to leave to meet his brother to see Star Wars: Episode III. He promised to call me that night.

He did as promised, and we talked. Well, he talked -- mostly about his job, working with a former lover at the job, and on and on. I listened, occasionally throwing in a comment here and there. He never asked much about my life. We did get around to setting up a time for Sunday, though, and I emailed directions to him before turning in for the night.

I finished cleaning house just as he arrived Sunday afternoon. I showed him around my little place, which took all of 5 minutes, then we proceeded to downtown for a bite to eat. Not sure what he was in the mood for foodwise, I began naming all the restaurants withing walking distance, and he suggested the Inka Grill on Main St. Most of the tables and the bar remained empty while we ate which was a bit surprising for a Sunday afternoon. We both ordered saltados -- his with chicken; mine with top sirloin -- and talked for a good hour about family, growing up, travel, languages. Afterwards, we wandered down to the Pier and around the tip. LifeGuard Boy continually stared at the semi-clad young bucks playing beach volleyball or the surfers, mentioning that he would find it very difficult to live so close to the beach. I laughed and said that after a while you just get used to it, though, the occasional surfer changing his clothes beside his car can still make you forget what you're doing. On the way back to my house, we stopped for ice cream and finally settled on the couch to watch Exorcist: The Beginning. Yes, an interesting choice for a date movie. However, it scared me enough so that I kept inching closer and closer to LifeGuard Boy until I was holidng his hand and burying my face in his shoulder. Which lead to making out on the couch while the credits rolled. Which lead to the bedroom and two hours of fun.

LifeGuard Boy left around 8 PM, and we decided that we would both like to see each other again. This is where the story goes awry. Monday, we decided to see Star Wars: Episode III on Friday. He'd already seen it twice, but told me how much of a fan he is that he would probably see it many more times before it left the theaters. I received the okay for a personal day from my boss, and LifeGuard Boy and I arranged to see the movie. We talked and IM'd throughout the week. Then, Thursday rolled around. He called to cancel Friday because it was his last day at work -- we'd already discussed this, and he was under the impression that no one would be doing anything for him on that day. As it turned out, his supervisor arranged for a special luncheon so he could not miss that. Would I mind if we rescheduled? I told him that it wouldn't be a problem and suggested Sunday or Monday (Memorial Day). He remembered that he needed to check and see what his friends were doing those days first and said he would call again once he found out anything.

I didn't hear from LifeGuard Boy until Sunday after returning from yet another day at Disneyland with friends. I returned the call Monday morning, but he'd already made plans with his family. We talked for a bit longer. Or rather, he talked for a bit longer, going over the drama of his last day, complaining about his ex who still works there. He never showed any interest in how I was, even after I mentioned what happened with my Grandmother. From his voice, I could tell he shrugged it off and wanted to move onto other things. We left things hanging, not setting up a time to see the movie or for getting together. I decided on Tuesday to give him a call to see how his first day at the new job was going. He was very curt with me and sounded unpleasantly surprised that I'd called. We ended the call quickly, with him saying that he would call later.

Yeah. That was Tuesday. Somehow, I don't get the impression that we'll be seeing each other anytime soon.