Friday, July 29, 2005

Dodging the Bullet

I mean that figuratively, of course. A little over a month ago, I received a jury summons in the mail. It was only the third time in the past 7 years that I'd been summoned, but the two previous times found me seated in that uncomfortable wooden box listening to testimony. The first trial involved domestic abuse and lasted all of two days. The second -- a double homicide -- lasted roughly 25 days throughout the month of November. (Fortunately, we had Thanksgiving off.)

Sitting as a juror is much different from what is portrayed on TV. No one ever really breaks down on the witness stand and confesses to sleeping with her doctor's son in order to blackmail him for the botched abortion from 17 years ago. That's all drama, tantalizingly packaged to catch the viewer's attention. TV edits out the long, boring question-and-answer sessions where much of the little details are worked out: who was seen where, what was he/she wearing, what did he she say during the three videotaped interviews with police, etc. They never show the actual deliberations, either, in which you finally get to meet the 11 others with whom you've been silently sharing the courtroom torture. Nothing like 12 Angry Men actually happens. Jurors want to do their job and get out quickly so that they may return to their normal lives. The hunky bailiffs are never on duty when I'm in the juror box, either. (Although, the DA at that last trial....)

So when I received that summons, my first thought was Shit!. I sent my paperwork back as instructed then waited for the day to make my first call to see if I needed to report. That day was last Friday, and a wave of relief swept over me as the recorded voice told my group to call on Monday after 5 PM. I've called back every evening for the past week until last night's message informed me that my service had been completed. Five days of "call back after 5 to see if you need to report the next day" screwed up any chance of setting concrete plans for the week. But that's all in the past. I'm free for another year. Hallelujah!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Belated

I was going to blog about the large number of movies I've been seeing lately (add Herbie: Fully Loaded and Happy Endings to the list). Then, I took a gander at my calendar and realized that I missed my cousin's birthday!! You know, the cousin mentioned in my last post? The one who lives in Spain? With a great boyfriend?

So Happy Birthday to you, Doug!!!!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Adventures in Dating: Excerpt from a Conversation with Dad

I lunched with Dad on Friday, and the topic turned to my cousin.....

Dad: Have you heard from your cousin lately?
Me: No, but I've seen him on-line.
Dad: Well, apparently, he and R [his partner] are planning on getting married.*
Me: Good for them! I hope they don't run into any problems.
Dad: So are you seeing anyone?

I choked on a tortilla chip, sending salsa down my windpipe. We rarely discussed my dating life, and when we did, we usually talked at my house or theirs, away from public ears. Usually because I felt uncomfortable talking to my parents about dating men. This outburst at the local El Torito caught me off-guard.

I gulped a few swigs of water.

Me: No. I haven't met anyone yet.
Dad: (after shoving a forkful of cheese enchilada into his mouth) You're too picky.

I wanted to tell him that in order to be picky, someone would need to show some kind of interest. And that just wasn't happening. No one returning email inquiries from Yahoo Personals. No winks (or whatever they're called) from others in my direction. I wanted to tell him that I felt like I didn't fit into what others were looking for: the rich, slim, athletic, toned outdoorsman who can build a house, run a marathon, and save a puppy from a burning building before heading out in the evening for a night of wine-tasting at The Club with the other muscled studs. I wanted to tell him that I wish I didn't feel this pressure to be with someone or that my life isn't complete unless I have a partner.

Instead, I shrugged and changed the subject.

* =
My cousin and his partner live in Madrid.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Celluloid

I made the right turn from Broadway onto Atlantic last night, en route to my book group in Long Beach. As I waited at the next stop light, I noticed a rather large flatbed truck waiting to go in the opposite direction. Nothing too unusual about it, except for the dozens of men standing in the bed arguing and the two men sitting on the hood, chatting away as if they'd been sitting there for hours. Directly in front of them idled a police car with two officers inside, ignoring the truck behind them, the passenger's arms flailing in animated conversation. What the Hell?, I thought. If I had been sitting on the hood of my car while someone else drove it down the street, you bet your ass I'd be thrown in jail. These guys were flaunting this in front of two police officers! And they sat in their car like a couple of morons!! Taxpayer dollars hard at work. And, for crying out loud, why weren't any of the other drivers making a big stink, trying to get the officers' attentions?

Then, the light changed to green.

The police car rolled through the intersection with the truck following closely behind, the two men seated on the hood operating a movie camera to film said police car.

So when you see a police car on the big screen passing a green Honda waiting to make a left turn, that'll be me hunched down in the seat with only my hands visible on the steering wheel.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Flower Power

I noticed that my last few posts resemble essays more than they do blog postings. I'm not usually so "talkative," as my friends can attest. My life has taken a very active turn, lately, and I want to remember everything. Hence the epic sagas I've been typing. Now, though, it's time to relax, to give my fingers a break. And what can be more soothing than looking at pretty flowers?

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Big 5-0

Some friends from the DGPH Group booked rooms for the weekend at the Disneyland Hotel in order to celebrate the 50th Birthday of Disneyland. Rumor had it that the park would reach capacity -- about 65,000 people -- within a few hours of opening on the 17th, and I felt keenly aware of the massive numbers of people that would be squeezing shoulder to shoulder like sardines through the park that day. Visions of New Years Eves spent in the park, bodies pressed against bodies unable to move even a few inches, kept playing through my head. CS offered me the other bed in his suite, but the thought of so many people outwitted my desire to spend a weekend in the hotel. I declined, saying that I might join them sometime Sunday, after the initial festivities died down a bit.

In the early evening of Saturday, while the DGPH Group slept in their hotel rooms to prep for their 1 AM wake-up calls, RG and SK stopped by for dinner and a movie. We drove to Long Beach with poor SK stretched across the back seat with his right leg propped up due to a broken ankle. Poor guy, but he was a trooper, and I think the schooner of beer from the Lonestar Steak House comforted him to some extent. After dinner, we walked to the UA just behind the restaurant for the 9:40 showing of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We thoroughly enjoyed Tim Burton's visually stunning take on this children's classic. Johnny Depp came across as a quite dark and humorous Willy Wonka. I know comparisons will be made between his Willy Wonka and Gene Wilder's. Both are equally good in the role, but whereas Wilder's is an eccentric older man, Depp's is a neurotic adult who grew up without any parental guidance and doesn't know how to react to other people. Freddie Highmore and all the other children give fine performances, but Deep Roy -- who played all the Oomph-Loompahs -- stole the movie with each of his unique songs and dance routines. Danny Elfman's score, along with lyrics by Roald Dahl, enhanced Burton's slanted and colorful world inside the chocolate factory.

Driving home, I continued debating with myself about going to Disneyland and finally convinced myself to go, despite my trepidation. So at 7:30 the next morning, I showered, left a message for CS that I was on my way and sped up Beach Blvd. I thought traffic would be worse, especially as I approached the parking structure, but only a few cars turned to enter the structure and not many more waited at the ticket booths. They directed cars up to one of three different levels to get the "influx" of cars flowing smoothly. I'll be able to meet the group in no time!, I stupidly thought. Up the ramp, around the corner and my jaw dropped as each of the 11 rows were almost filled with cars (9 held two cars in each space with the remaining two rows consisting of single spaces). I pulled into a space, and rushed between the parked cars to the escalator leading to the tram loading area and almost gagged at the sight of 500 people jamming that little island of concrete. Dozens of us hurriedly maneuvered our way through the crowd to a crossing zone and followed it to Magic Way, across that street and along the sidewalk that parallels the Monorail behind the shops of Downtown Disney. We had almost reached the tram unloading area when I saw resort employees stopping the group. A few of us broke away, sneaking into a gate next to a set of bathroom's and on to Downtown Disney. I crossed a long line of people walking in an orderly fashion away from the theme parks and toward the hotels and later learned that those people rode the tram over from the structure and were following other riders to the far end of Downtown Disney and back to the security checkpoint. Many of us walkers had no idea what was going on and just merged into the line heading toward security without any complaints. I made it through that in good time as well as through the turnstiles, or the Main Gate, without any problems. A cheerful employee stamped my hand as I entered, saying that I would need to show that in order to get back in should the park close due to the number of people, and was handed a pair of golden Mickey Mouse ears with the date "July 17, 2005" embroidered in blue on the back. Parking structure to Town Square, Main Street U.S.A.: 20 minutes.

I donned my ears and snaked through the crowd to a bank of pay phones in order to tell CS that I made it. (No, I don't have a cell phone. I 'm one of the three people left in the United States without one.) I left a message then followed the herd of people up Main Street. Halfway up the street, traffic stopped so I cut into one of the shops and made my way to the end of the street. The hub was already packed with people waiting for the re-dedication ceremony at 10 AM. My watch showed 9 AM so, believing that lines would be short and that I would be able to make it back to the hub in time, I sped toward Space Mountain. A little over an hour later, I exited the attraction after having the prime front row seat in the car and started back to the hub. The ceremony had already begun, and foot traffic was at a standstill in that direction so I veered right instead, opting for the Autopia. (Actually, all exits out of Tomorrowland were blocked by hordes of people watching the ceremony, and I didn't want to stand on tiptoe trying to see over the sea of golden ears to catch a glimpse of what might possibly have been Governor Schwarzenegger on the stage.) By 10:45, the ceremony finished. I called CS from another payphone and arranged to meet them for lunch around 11:30 because they were still in line to buy special, dated merchandise -- had been in that line, in fact, since 7 AM so they missed the entire re-dedication.

After lunch, most of the group retired to their hotel suites to rest up for fireworks, dinner, more shopping, etc. I tagged along just to check out the suites, having never been inside one at the Disneyland Hotel. Two of the men booked the end suite on the 14th floor of the Bonita Tower, with an incredible view of both theme parks, stretching on past Anaheim Stadium, the Pond, even Knott's Berry Farm to the mountains. CS ventured down to the pools to cool off, and I made plans to roam around California Adventure while everyone napped.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Mon week-end égyptien, pt. II

Lately, I've been spending quite a bit of time in Los Angeles. The gay scene in Orange County is sparse and spread out, hitting almost every end of the county but not close enough to really form a community. So we branch out, mostly heading north to Broadway in Long Beach or farther to West Hollywood, just to have the experience of being with others like ourselves.

After the surprise play of Thursday and the planned LACMA trip on Friday, CS and I furthered our LA adventures with a few hours acting as tourists in Hollywood and another play on Saturday evening in West Hollywood. We got on the I-5 a little after 12 noon and traveled fairly smoothly until hitting the interchange with the 101. The traffic morphed into a stop-and-go parking lot with cars merging from all directions. The short trip from the 101 connector to Silver Lake Blvd. (where we finally had enough of the freeway) lasted almost 1 hour. We used this as an opportunity to check out Silver Lake, which is rumored to be a very bear-ish community. Okay -- we were really searching for their outpost of Circus of Books. However, neither of us knew which street that shop was on so we toured the hills and curves of Silver Lake Blvd., winding our way past the Reservoir and all the beautiful homes surrounding it, many Craftsman styled with huge front yards hidden beneath thick, old trees. We eventually passed Circus of Books but declined to stop for a while.

We finally reached Hollywood close to 2:45 and once again hit traffic on Hollywood Blvd., due for the most part to pedestrian traffic. CS parked in a lot close to Hollywood and Highland (a huge shopping mall), and we walked through the oven-like heat onto the Walk of Fame. Our target -- the old Grauman's Egyptian -- sat just across the street, and we hurried over to buy tickets for their short film Forever Hollywood, a one-hour history of Hollywood and the world's fascination with the movies. The Egyptian was the first movie palace built in the little town of Hollywood, trying to capitalize of the glamour and mystique of the movie industry. You approached not a movie theater, but a temple, with Egyptian gods and goddesses painted on the sandstone-colored walls on either side, leading you forward past steps leading to a carved jackal-headed god and through the large columns up to the ticket window. When you saw a movie here, they wanted you to have an experience, and once inside, you walked past more giant black dogs, draped with golden headwear and jewels, into a wide movie theater. It actually resembled more of an old, Egyptian tomb that Howard Carter would have uncovered rather than a theater. A renovation project from a few years ago uncovered the original gilded ceiling with its centerpiece of a giant scarab with colorful sun rays surrouding it and spreading across to the walls. CS and I found our seats and sat back to enjoy the movie.

After the movie, CS needed to find a deck of circular playing cards so we traipsed up and down the Walk of Fame, in and out of the tacky tourist traps shops. I commented about some of the names we stepped on as we walked: Ruby Keeler, The Ritz Brothers, Bud Abbot and Lou Costello (who have separate stars set about 25 feet from one another) and Judy Garland (whose star rests in front of the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum). Names I'm so familiar with from the movies, TV even cartoons; so much history and celebrity on one little stretch of sidewalk. We wandered over to the Grauman's Chinese, too, just to see all the hand and footprints in cement.

From Hollywood, we stopped for dinner in West Hollywood -- yes, at Hamburger Mary's. My favorite waiter Jason -- tall, dark haired, dressed in a black muscle shirt and tight jeans with no visible signs of underwear; I tried not to drool too much -- served us. My dessert consisted of a single "Livin Longtini," as they called it: vodka, cranberry juice, pomegranate juice and sprite. It was like sipping candy, and I could have easily drunk three or four more before leaving for the theater.

The play was being staged at the Hudson Backstage theater in what's known as Theater Row. It's such a tiny place that we would have missed it if we blinked. I left the car so CS could squeeze into the very narrow space as directed by the attendant. At least the lot was directly across the street from the theater so we didn't have far to walk; my legs were tired from all the walking and standing at the Tut exhibit and the trip down Hollywood Blvd. CS presented his on-line confirmation for the tickets at the box office, and we were directed to the front of the theater to wait with the others in the little coffee shop. Let me just say that the tiny room was jam-packed with wall to wall gay men. And a few straight couples.

The play that evening was Mommie Queerest, a parody of the movie based upon the book written by Christina Crawford. The premise for this: what if Joan Crawford had actually been a man in drag during her career, and everyone in Hollywood, save for Christina and the fans, knew? Before the play began, the audience watched a homemade movie clip of Joan preparing for yet another obsessive-compulsive day in the life of big movie star: scrubbing her hands with a hard-bristled brush, soaking her face in a bowl of ice (drenched with vodka), strutting onto Hollywood Blvd. in the wee hours of the morning to scrub her star on the Walk of Fame with Bon Ami. And then Joan -- played by Jamie Morris -- walks into the theater. Picture it: not a man in drag playing Joan Crawford, but a man in drag playing Faye Dunaway playing Joan Crawford. Lips, hair, make-up, dress, mannerisms: a definite parody, but once she started, the audience laughed and cried for a little over two hours. Brooks Braselman aimed for the comedy jugular with his portrayal of Chrsitina. All four actors gave knockout performances, spoofing almost every scene of the film Mommie Dearest within in an inch of its life. And when Christina complained during one scene that her stake is too raw, that it oozed when she pressed on it, she immediately pressed the steak and sprayed water into the audience -- numerous times! Never have I heard a crowd of gay men doubling over with so much laughter! Sitting in the audience, preparing to take over a part in the production was Danny Pintauro of Who's the Boss? fame. He wiped tears away after the performance, too.

I didn't realize that they were giving another show almost immediately after ours. How could they stand it?! I would be far too exhausted to tackle another show so soon. Yet, gay men filled the lobby as we left, eager to hear some mini-review of the show they were about to see. We didn't disappoint and told them they would love it.

CS and I hopped onto the freeway and decided on a little detour before heading home: a drink or two at The Ozz Supperclub. Caltrans invoked its right to eminent domain in order to expand the I-5, resulting in the impending closure of The Ozz, one of the few gay clubs in Orange County. Neither of us had been there in years so we stopped by, and I ordered two bottles of water. The hunky bartender -- short cut and peppered gray hair, trimmed goatee, toned body showing through his tight black tank top -- smiled and asked if I were sure I only wanted water. I smiled back, promising that we would be back later for something a bit stronger and took our bottles of water to the main dance area. Hundreds of Latin/Hispanic men and women danced across the floor to the ultra-thumping bass and Spanish lyrics, or toured the mirrored edges of the place. Some watched the dancers. Some scanned the crowd looking for a possible connection. Some turned their eyes upward to watch videos on the TV screens. All shapes and sizes and heights. All having a grand time, cutting loose and being themselves. We watched them for a while, then ambled back to the bar. "More water?" the bartender joked. I'm sure I blushed as I ordered a Newcastle for myself and an Adios Motherfucker for CS. (I don't know what's in it, but it's blue and tastes sugary and wonderful.) We lingered at that end of the bar, talking about what was to happen to The Ozz, where would people go; admiring many of the patrons as they strutted around the bar like peacocks; raving about our LA Weekend as the time ticked away.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Mon week-end égyptien, pt. I

I finally took a personal day from work last week, with CS and I driving up to Los Angeles to view the King Tut Exhibit at the LA County Museum of Art (LACMA). I was too young when the exhibit first arrived in LA back in the '70s, though in school we held Egypt Week, learned all about hieroglyphs and the Valley of the Kings, and even watched the old B-movies to feed our fascination with anything involving mummies. All the hype surrounding this new exhibit brought those golden rule days back and promised that we were in for quite an experience.

Our scheduled viewing time was 3 PM so we arrived in West Hollywood first for an early lunch at the Tango Grill. Argentinian cuisine served in a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant with tables pouring onto the sidewalk. I ordered the Milanesa Napolitana, a breaded flat steak smothered with tomato slices and provolone cheese then fried; CS chose the chicken version. And then we simply relaxed an enjoyed the meal, watching the men dressed in tank tops showing their tanned and muscled arms as they walked by. A dozen future ex-boyfriends strutting their stuff. After a while, though, it seemed as if the same men were passing by over and over: same khaki shorts with the cuffs just below the knee, same flip-flops or sandals, same sunglasses, same tank tops (only in varied colors), same builds. Kind of like the Stepford Homosexual. Or, I missed the latest memo on our uniforms.

From WeHo, we sped to the LACMA. The entire grounds of the LACMA covers quite a large area: the old department store on the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax which shows the special exhibits, the main grouping of buildings a block away which house the permanent exhibits, and the La Brea Tarpits next door to that. (If any of you have seen that wonderful movie Volcano, all the volcanic action takes place at these tar pits.) We parked just behind the special exhibit building and made our way through the downtown heat to the semi-coolness of a huge white tent. The guard told us to follow the ropes leading the 3:00 PM queue area, and once stopped, a museum docent presented each of us with headphones and droned his speil on how they work, what to look for inside, and which number to press in order to hear the introduction by Omar Sheriff.

20 minutes later, we left the comfort of the tent for another line in order to enter the actual building. Another 10 minutes, and we filed to just in front of the main doors, where the security guards checked bags. Through the glass doors, I saw the long line of hundreds of people trailing past fake sandstone columns only to disappear around a huge, lit face of King Tut. The guard oepend the doors and shoved us all into the wonderful airconditioned space so that we could wait for another 15 mintues before reaching the introductory film. It began to feel more and more like Disneyland, with the seemingly endless line leading to god-knows-where. CS talked about the exhibit from the '70s, the golden sarcophagus and Tut's mask, how wonderous everything was. The more he talked, the more excited I became with anticiption of all the artifacts we were about to see. If we ever made it around that corner with Tut's lit-up face.

Eventually, we did make it around the bend and were ushered into a small, dark room with a movie screen near the ceiling. We watched the introduction, about the history of King Tut and the discovery of his tomb, and stared in awe as a pair of curtains opened to reveal a single wooden statue of Tut from his tomb standing in a lone spotlight against a black background. Everyone oohed and aahed, then crammed one another against the display case to read the small plaque with smaller print located near the bottom of the case. The next room contained five or six tall acrylic display cases, standing like columns lining the path to the next room. A few had numbers on top for those with headphones; some even had plaques higher up so a guest could stand back to read without trying to fight the throngs gathered around each case. The room filled with roughly 100 to 200 people, pushing and clawing their way through to see the cases, children screaming, strollers banging into my ankles. Just like Disneyland. And each room that followed was exactly the same: a few display cases vying for the attention of the enormous crowds. At one point, I lost CS somewhere in the morass of bodies. Most of the objects came from tombs other than Tut's such as his aunt or grandmother. We found a few items from his tomb, including the crook and flail his mummy held, but no golden mask as advertised. No sarcophagus. No chariots or canopic jars. But then, after seeing a display of how Tut's tomb was laid out, pictures of artwork and hieroglyphs displaying Tut's image and name hung from the wall and pointed to another room. Yes, I thought, we're getting to the good stuff! I turned the corner, and.... They asked for my headset and herded me into the narrow gift shop. That's it. Nothing more to see. Exhibit over. I felt cheated! Almost nothing had actually come from Tut's tomb. What they did have was poorly lit and poorly displayed. Too many people to make it enjoyable. And what's even worse, as we sat outside, taking a breather from standing for so long, other visitors also loudly sounded their dislike of the exhibit.

After our break, we walked to the larger part of the museum, commenting on the small pools of tar that had suddenly oozed up in the grass. (That's how close the museum is to the tar pits; little pools of the stuff appear all over the grounds of the musuem.) The tickets for King Tut also offered free admission to the rest of the musuem so we checked out the Japanese building which featured Japanese art from the World Exhibitions and then onto the Hammer Building to view woodcuts from Dürer and Rembrandt, beautiful baroque landscapes from Dutch painter van Ruisdael, and then a large section of the permanent exhibits. We walked and walked throughout those buildings which we both conceded were much better than the King Tut show. A few hours later and completely exhausted, we left the museum, cruising down Wilshire and stopping to eat burgers at one of the last remaining Bob's Big Boy restaurants.

That was Friday....

Sunday, July 10, 2005

"The Play's the Thing" - William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 2 scene 2

In early June, while wandering through the booths at LA Pride, I happened upon one for Reprise!, a theater group which revives classic Broadway musicals (Gershwin's Off Thee I Sing, Babes in Arms, The Boys from Syracuse, etc.). At Pride, they were touting their Gay Nights -- one Thursday night of each performance is set aside for a predominantly gay and lesbian audience -- so, being the stereotypical gay theater slut that I am, I added my name and email to their list, not really thinking much more than I would receive many fliers in the mail about subscribing and about upcoming shows.

Wednesday around 4 PM, I received an email from them cordially inviting me to be their guest at the next evening's performance of I Am My Own Wife. No strings attached. No money down. No peddling of subscriptions. Just RSVP by 5 PM, and a pair of tickets was mine. I sat at my desk debating whether or not I should RSVP: the curtain call was at 7:30 at a theater near the UCLA campus and I would be leaving work in Orange County during the worst part of rush hour so I would be lucky to arrive by 7 if the traffic were good but the traffic is never good in LA and I probably woudn't make it in time and the drive would be all for nothing god how I hate living in southern California sometimes. So I RSVP'd.

I checked my email before dinner and found a confirmation from Reprise! I was on the guest list! And, I was invited to the after party at the W Hotel in Westwood for free martinis, a meet and greet with the cast, and a little goodie bag. I immediately called CS to invite him, and we arranged to meet at my office just as I was leaving work.

One of CS's appointments ran later than he expected so we changed the meeting time and location and didn't get on the freeway until close to 5:45. I sat in his passenger seat, worried that we would never make it on time. The Traffic Gods, however, must have smiled down upon us because we flew North on the 405 freeway, only hitting one patch of slow traffic as we approached Santa Monica Blvd. CS managed to merge into the exit lane at Wilshire, and by the time 6:45 rolled around, we were parked near the Wadsworth Theater on the Veterans Administration campus in Westwood.

The play turned out to be one of the best shows I've seen in years. Tony winner Jefferson Mays portrayed more than 40 characters in recounting author Doug Wright's interviews with Berlin's most famous tranny Granny, Charlotte von Mahlsdorf. Mays walked onto the bare stage dressed in pearls, a black smock, stocking, orthopedic shoes and scarf tied about his head, then proceeded to not just tell Charlotte's story of surviving both the Nazi Party and the Stazi regime, but to make you feel as though you were watching it first hand. At times, I forgot that Mays was the sole actor on stage, believing that I had just witnessed many characters at once during the actual event. Mays was simply astounding, as was the story itself. For 30 years, Charlotte (born Lothar Berfelde) realized she was gay, lived her entire life as a woman, and managed a gay bar from the basement of her mansion/museum, defying both the Nazis and the Stazi, even earning a Medal of Honor for her efforts at keeping such a piece of history intact. As the author said to Charlotte about his fascination with her, it's a part of my history that I didn't even know existed.

As we were standing outside admiring all the hottie gay men leaving for the after party, CS spied Jamie Lee Curtis and her husband Christopher Guest leaving the theater. Later, while sipping one of the worst martini's I'd ever had (free drink, cheap vodka), we noticed one of the actors from the production of Falsettos. We didn't recognize anyone else as it was mostly gay men and their fag hags trying to notice other important people. But we did have a great time, even walking drunkenly into Westwood for a late dinner/early breakfast at Jerry's Famous Deli.

Note to self: do not drink champagne on an empty stomach. And don't try to kid yourself that the one piece of sushi and the one curried chicken skewer you managed to snag from the catering trays count as a full meal!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Long, Hot Weekend: Sunday & Monday

I used Sunday to catch up on missed sleep because of Saturday. Stayed at home, finished Jeanette Winterson's Written on the Body as well as another 100 pages in the Genet book. But eventually, restlessness got the better of me, and I decided to go to a movie. Not one for crowds, I shied away from Batman Begins (although the idea of Christian Bale was rather tempting) and War of the Worlds featuring Tom Cruise staving off aliens through the power of Scientology. I chose instead the documentary March of the Penguins.

Morgan Freeman narrates this tale of the Emperor penguins who, each year at the beginning of March, make a 70-mile trek across the icy landscape of Antarctica to their breeding grounds. The film goes through their entire cycle, from finding a partner to the male nesting with the egg while the female marches back to the ocean -- by now more than 70 miles away thanks to new ice formations -- for food to protecting the young from predators and harsh weather. It's an amazing film, sometimes funny, sometimes harrowing -- which is quite a feat from a documentary. I had hoped that not many people would be at the theater, but the line trailed around the side of the building, mostly older folks but a few families thrown in for good measure. Everyone stayed through the credits and applauded loudly once the last name disappeared at the top of the screen.

Back at home, I pared down my book collection into those that I needed to read, those that I'd read and wanted to keep, and those to be listed on Amazon then spent the remainder of the evening reading, listening to music and watching the occasional TV show.

I woke early Monday and readied things for the parade and my brother's BBQ. At 9 AM, we headed to an old high school friend's house, drank a mimosa or two, picked up their kids, then followed the crowd to Main St. to watch the parade. For two hours, we stood roasting in the sun as dozens of marching bands, floats, military units, churches, the NRA, and both the Democratic and Republican parties marched down the street all waving their red, white and blues. The military units commanded much respect and many standing ovations from the crowd, especially the Pearl Harbor survivors. But after two hours, the never-ending parade never ended so we finally broke away to prep the backyard for the upcoming onslaught of my brother's friends. (In truth, my brother prepped the yard while I napped and listed a few books on Amazon.)

People started arriving around 2 PM, and we barbecued chicken breasts, flank steaks, corn on the cob, munched on potato salad, fresh shrimp, potato chips, drank indecent amounts of mudslides and Coors and devoured an entire apple pie for dessert. We played darts and Name That Tune to the 80s music blasting from the stereo. I was even privy to watching drunken straight boys ripping off their shirts (if only my camera had been working, you would be seeing pics of my brother's friend B right now; very droolworthy) and pinching each others' butts. (It's amazing what 4 or 5 beers will do.) At 8:30 PM, we moved en masse to the Pier for the grand fireworks display. I heard later that almost 250,000 people were in Huntington Beach for the parade and fireworks. Sleep didn't come too easily as folks in the neighborhood continued shooting fireworks until just after midnight.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Book Whore Chronicles: The Meme

I normally don't post twice in one day, but someone tagged me with a meme so I felt it best to cooperate before anything bad happens. (Memes are like internet chain letters, I've heard.) So, Jef, this meme's for you....

1. How many books do you own?

Possibly a little over 200. It consists mostly of books that I have yet to read. I keep only a few books, usually the ones that mean a lot to me or that I simply enjoy reading over and over. I tend to give books away or to sell them once I've finished.

2. Last book read?

Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson. She has quickly become one of my favorite authors, though I've only read three of her novels. This one in particular stands out because the gender of the narrator is never revealed which greatly enhances the story.

3. Last book purchased?

Fatal Shadows by Josh Lanyon. I read the second novel in Lanyon's detective series before this one and was immediately hooked with the characters. So I had to find the first one just to learn a bit more background on Adrien English and his closeted detective pesudo-boyfriend who's into S&M.

4. Name five books that mean a lot to you.

Like People in History by Felice Picano. The first gay-centric novel that I read which made me feel good about being gay.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I recently finished this non-fiction novel. What impressed me was how Capote turned the true events into such a compelling novel, far better than many of the fictional detective novels around. At times, I forgot that I was reading a non-fiction book.

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. The only pre-college book on the list. We read this one for American Literature in high school, and after finishing it, I had to find every novel by Faulkner. This one stuck with me for a few reasons: the form, with each chapter belonging to a specific character, using his/her particular voice; the point of view from a dead character; and one chapter in particular, when Vardaman says "My mother is a fish." The impact and meaning of that little sentence is simply staggering.

Best Actress by John Kane. Just a campy, kitschy, all-out fun book to read. It never ceases to make me laugh.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. One of the all-time scary creepy eerie novels I've ever read and re-read. This is the novel that hooked my interest in haunted house and ghost stories.

5. Tag five more people.

Hmmm.... Five people? I know this meme has been making the rounds so I'm only going to tag one person: Joela.

The Long, Hot Weekend: Saturday

I had planned on dropping by to see my folks for a bite of lunch and to drop off my rent check, then maybe swing up PCH to cruise around Laguna before heading home to relax with soft music and a good book. Moments before I left my house, RG called wanting to know my plans for the day. We made plans to check out The Grove, a semi-new shopping center in Los Angeles, after my short visit with the folks. However, nothing goes quite as one would like so my "short" visit lasted much longer than expected. We stopped by my Grandma's after lunch because she had called that earlier to say that she couldn't see. As it turns out, she had her eyes closed while watching Wimbledon and "didn't see" the finals match between Venus Williams and Lindsey Davenport. My Mom and I made her bed for her, then Mom showed me how to dispense all Grandma's medications so that they will be able to take a few weeks off in September. She takes eight pills in the morning and only one at night, but requires help or she may take too many or forget to take them at all.

Back at my folks' house, my Dad dragged out a snake that a neighbor loaned to him. Their front yard has been a soggy mess since the heavy rains of January and February, and the water doesn't seem to have anywhere to go. The city sent two engineers out to assess the problem and felt that one of the drains might be blocked by mud or a tree root. I heave the snake unit from the side of the house to the curb, don the nifty leather gloves and begin threading the snake up the supposedly clogged drain. It stopped about 12 feet up the drain, either because of a blockage or a turn in the pipe, and I asked my Dad what the next step was. He looked at me, shrugged his shoulders. I sighed dramatically and decided to try turning the crank on the snake. The long shaft swirled around and around, and I inched it farther up the drain while more muddy water spewed into the gutter. I must have done something right! My Dad turned on the garden hose and sprayed water into the other end of the drain. More murky, mucky water poured into the gutter, but the snake would go no further. I continued cranking until 15 minutes later, my arms aching, I pulled the snake from the drain and told my dad to call a professional.

Then, we washed my car. More like I soaped it up and scrubbed the hubcaps while my Dad rinsed away the suds. By now, my watch read 3 PM, and I was expecting RG at my house by 3:30. I quickly cleaned my hands and face, and called RG. Change of plans: he was at CS's in La Habra, and I should meet them there instead of my place. I kissed my folks goodbye, grabbed a bottle of water from their fridge and sped up the I-5 to the 57 to Imperial Highway in about 40 minutes. RG and CS were waiting for me in front of Borders as I found a parking spot, and soon we were on our way to Los Angeles.

The Grove turned out to be a fairly interesting open-air mall. Crowded with people. Live jazz music. Children throwing coins into a huge koi pond. A two-level, omnibus-like trolley carting people between the shops and the Farmers' Market. Dozens upon dozens of perfectly coiffed and dressed gay men. The entire shopping area resemebled a small European street, with tall, skinny shops sandwiched between other tall, skinny shops and with smaller sidestreets featuring cobblestoned walkways. And they weren't just any shops: Fabergé, Bodega Chocolates, Sur la Table, Anthropologie, Crate & Barrel, a three-story Barnes & Noble, etc. (We stopped in the Crate & Barrel where RG dropped about $80 for a heavy cornbread pan and two pillows.) We wandered through some of the shops, ogled many of the hotties wandering around in groups, then finally decided we'd had enough and headed to West Hollywood for dinner. Yes, at Hamburger Mary's. And yes, we stopped at Circus of Books afterwards, but I was a good boy and didn't buy any porn. We ended the night at Fuel in Studio City, playing quite a few games of pool and trying to tempt the bartender into removing his shirt so we could see his tattoo better. I've never seen a bartender blush so much in my life! He was a good sport, though, and put up with our antics.

We left Fuel around 11 PM and still managed to run into a long patch of stop-and-go traffic on the drive home. Only in LA will you have that much traffic at that time of the night! I finally made it back to my house close to 1 AM and fell asleep on the couch, fully dressed.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Book Whore Chronicles: Fly on the Wall

Just before the first meeting of the men's reading group began at Equal Writes, I grabbed a book from the shelves, quickly skimmed the notes on the back and bought it, relieved that I had something to accompany me to dinner that night. I planned on stopping at Hamburger Mary's after the group, but had forgotten to pick something from my own stacks at home before leaving that morning. (From past experience, I've found it much easier to dine alone at restaurants when I have something to occupy me, to focus my attention on so that I don't feel as though pitying glances are being directed at me. Some people grab a newspaper before heading inside. Others spread their office work on the table between plates. I bring a book.)

The meeting finished, I chitchatted for a bit with some of the other men in the group before hopping into my car. The restaurant was only a few blocks away, yet I still managed to make a wrong turn and become caught in the one-way flow of traffic. A few quick right turns got me back on track, and I soon pulled into the parking lot. I pulled the book from its bag and read the jacket notes a bit more carefully: "Fly on the Wall is a sharp comic satire on reality TV and its unerring knack for wrecking lives...." Interesting. Not too sure how it would fare as dinner reading, but I took it with me just the same.

It's amazing how the simple act of bringing a book boosts the self-confidence. Entering a restaurant alone automatically instills fear into the lone diner and most of the time pity from the waitstaff and other diners. Movies like to play up that aspect to make the audience sympathize with a character (i.e., Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail waiting for Tom Hanks). For a long time, that fear alone kept me from eating at many restaurants. Who wants to be singled out? Bring something with you, and it signals that you're there for a purpose, stifles the self-conscious feelings and allows you to enjoy yourself. I knew that this time, I wasn't going to be sitting at the table, stirring my iced tea and trying to look inconspicuous; that I had as much right to be at that table as anyone else did. My book would see to that, trusty old crutch that it was.

The place was almost empty so the host told me to sit wherever I liked; I chose a table by the doors leading to the patio so I could use the daylight to enhance the dim interior lighting. I ordered my burger and started the book.