Wednesday, January 30, 2008

My Life On The F List

I am not really that famous. True, I host a radio show on SIRIUS Satellite Radio but so do about 700 other people. It is hard to feel special in that kind of environment. There is Howard Stern, and then there is everyone else, and then there is me. Romaine and I have been hosting this show since April 2003, almost five years now. It has been a lot of fun for us, and I hope the listeners too. There have been some high moments for me (dancing with Charo, meeting Olivia Newton-John, being called a “faggot” by my beloved Meredith Vieira) and some low moments (interviewing Amy Sedaris was worse than a root canal). But overall, I think it is a body of work that I can look back on with a certain amount of pride in accomplishment. After all, it is the second longest running talk show at SIRIUS (Mike is the longest) and it can’t be that bad if we are still around.

This doesn’t mean we haven’t received our fair share of criticism over the years. The former head of programming at SIRIUS famously predicted early on that our show would be the first one on the OutQ Channel to wash out (we didn’t). In the outside world, in particular has been filled with some genuine and for us even hilarious vitriol. I particularly enjoyed the gay face vs. carb face debate about me some years ago, and who among us can forget when they said of Romaine pictured in the Long Beach Pride Parade, “I didn’t know whales rode in convertibles.” More recently they have taken aim at my gay voice and my obnoxious laugh, two points that while I would probably not start a datalounge thread about, I am generally in agreement on (and if you want to know what I am packing, drop me an email). But the hatred really kicked up a notch when we announced this week that we would be co-hosting the GayVN Awards this year.

From the beginning of our show, we have had porn stars on with us. Our closest and longest running porn friendship has been with John Rutherford of Colt Studio, dating back to the summer of 2003. John’s boyfriend Tom is a long time SIRIUS subscriber and he encouraged John to take a listen and then to have Colt stars on our show. Colt even did an early ad buy on our show for Buckleroos, and the on-air interview about the film spurred listener phone calls that encouraged John to make Big Rig under his Buckshot Productions line. John even offered us both cameo roles in the film, of which mine, the lascivious motel manager who tries most unsuccessfully to bed Colby Taylor, earned me a GayVN nomination last year. I lost in a tie to industry favorites Paul Barresi and Savanna Samson.

This was not our first brush with the GayVNs though. We did a broadcast of the 2005 GayVNs on our show when it was hosted by Chi Chi La Rue. From that original recording, we captured Chi Chi’s desperate attempts to keep the drunken show moving with a wide variety of line readings on the word “alright!” which now populate our canned phrases database on the show. Since then, Chi Chi has also become a SIRIUS subscriber and frequent listener of the show (and as you have seen from my previous blog entries something of a delightful travel companion for me).

After several years as host, Chi Chi would appear to be done with the duties for the time being and offered to help the GayVN folks find another host. The bar was set insanely high last year with comedian Kathy Griffin, so almost anyone after that was bound to feel like a letdown. And that was the moment Romaine opened her big mouth. John Rutherford was a guest on the show and we got to talking about this year’s show and talk turned to the search for a host. Ever the egomaniac, Romaine naturally suggested us, which sparked John to call Chi Chi who called the GayVN folks. The next day I got a call from Chi Chi asking us if we would like to do it in the company of another host, ideally one in a dress. In a way, Romaine and I are perfect non-political hosts for the show, I thought. We are supportive of the industry but unlike other better known names inside the industry (Jason Sechrest, Tim and Roma, etc) we have no built in associations and allegiances. Even Michael Lucas likes us! Plus we have the added advantage of a national radio show to help promote the awards on. I knew we would be a disappointment after the Griffin, and as I could tell from my GayVN appearance last year, porn stars are not early adopters of satellite radio, but I wasn’t quite prepared for how rapidly we would be sent down the river.

During the show tonight, I got an IM from Jason Sechrest, who we have had a long and very mildly complicated relationship with. I first met him in 2003 in Chicago (which he won’t remember) when he and Chi Chi (who also wouldn’t remember it) were hanging out in a VIP room at some nightclub. I tried to introduce myself to him and to Chi Chi, but I never got past Jason. Our show was completely unknown and SIRIUS had fewer than 200,000 subscribers at the time, and his icy reception reflected our very low status on the media totem pole. Since then, as our subscriber base and profile have risen, so has Jason’s warmth toward us. It is a version of celebrity geometry I became quite familiar with when I lived in Hollywood and I don’t take it personally. Most recently, Jason facilitated booking Ben Andrews and Jonathan Vargas on the show, both of which were great additions to the show and I am much appreciative of him in his efforts.

His IM tonight during the show was one of quick apology. He wanted to assure me, as he already had posted online, that his video blog about us as the new hosts of the GayVNs was all in good fun. We don’t have sound in the studio so I had to wait until after the show to give it a good viewing. Romaine and I sat upstairs and watched it and frankly, he didn’t say anything I wouldn’t have said about it myself. He held his hands out over and over weighing the two shows. On the one hand Kathy Griffin. On the other, Derek and Romaine. No comparison! Even with the addition of Lady Bunny, the unconfirmed additional host (who I adore), still no comparison. Kathy Griffin is a gay icon (despite her recent awkward run-ins with the community)! Jason’s video blog was all in good fun and we got that (as he knew we would), but it was the posting on that he knew was going to piss us off.

Written anonymously, and clearly by someone who (like Jason) had never heard our show. They had done nothing but read our show one sheet and my latest blog entry and pronounced sentence on us. Romaine was a “steroidal puffin” and I am “Reichen-fawning”, and both of us are interchangeable houseplants. Wow. Bold choice calling a woman who had a baby six months ago fat in an anonymous web posting. But what they said about Matthew Shepard was really below grade. I know you are upset about not getting to host the porn awards (that must be the end of the world), but is it necessary to discount the work someone did on a global scale to combat homophobia? You know, to make the streets safe for a low life piece of shit like you. Oh and she had a fucking baby! What have you done with your life? Frosted your tips? Finally fit into a size 32 pair of jeans? Got out of bed this morning? Sorry she has been too busy to have an eating disorder or a meth habit, she is raising a baby and hosting a national radio show. And by the way, I know Romaine can be a pain in the ass, loud-mouthed bitch sometimes, but she came out as a lesbian at 13. In Wyoming. Still the only openly gay person in her high school's history. Then she got to endure the death of her brother, her father and her friend all within a matter of a couple of years. But you didn't get to host The Pornies, so I guess it's all even now.

Our little radio show is not for everyone. Hell, most days, I don’t think it’s even all that worth listening to. But we have been doing it for five years. And even if I don’t always think its great, do you know who did? Time Magazine. They said our show was “suggestive of radio’s party days, before big radio ate the AM/FM dial… and sucked the fun right out of the control booth.” Oh and the Washington Post. They said our show was “frisky, freewheeling… a distinctly different brand of radio.” The New York Times even called me “handsome” and my ego has been dining on that for five years now. What have they said about you? And what will we say about you when we get on stage at the GayVN Awards? I guess you will just have to come by on February 16th and find out. If you dare show your face. Tickets are still available!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sundance With Me

If you are gay, the first Sunday of the Sundance Film Festival is THE day to go. For my money, it is the only day to go. There is plenty of gay stuff that goes on at the festival, harkening back to the early 1990s when gay films won both best documentary and best feature in the same year. It was the birth of modern queer cinema and Sundance has had a healthy gay sheen to it ever since. But at this point, for the casual observer, the big gay parties on Sunday are the reason to come to town.

The fun started yesterday with the Queer Brunch. It is sponsored by HERE! TV so there is usually a nice smattering of HERE! stars there (this year Reichen!) mixed with current and past queer filmmakers, journalists and cute local Utah boys looking for a free meal and sex with an out-of-towner. For me it is a chance to see all the gay people I need to know, but never see because they live in Los Angeles or San Francisco. I dragged my Utah friend Jasey with me because I hate wandering through these things alone.

I saw Reichen of course. He was in good spirits and had even been skiing, so he was having a well-rounded adventure weekend in Park City. Honey Laborador was there, and I hadn't seen her since she filled in for Romaine one week this past summer. Harrison was there, competing with Reichen to be the most tan gay person in town (Harrison won,but Reichen pulls it off better). I ran into Jeremy, actor/indie producer and boyfriend of Chad Allen. The only downside of the big gay Sunday at Sundance is that it is a little bit like a gay cruise. You keep seeing the same people over and over again. So I assured Jeremy that I would see him nine times yesterday. And each time we spotted each other across a knot of homos, I would hold up a number of fingers representing how many times it had been at that point.

All my usual HERE! friends were at the brunch especially Chris and Josh (Ben Harvey is of course enroute to Borneo so he couldn't make it) who were working and spent most of the morning looking frazzled and irritated. Having worked this same party planning job at a movie studio, I know that everyone has fun at the party but you. And party guests take the whole thing WAAAAAAAY too seriously. It's just a room full of people, some free cocktails and a gift bag. No one but you cares that your free Ginch Gonch underwear isn't in your size or match your eye color.

From the Queer Brunch, Jasey and I had some time to kill so we met my dad for lunch at a szechwan place in Park City. Still missing Panda Express (always), I ordered the orange-flavored chicken. It was okay, but not the same. Like the bbq patty at Subway just isn't a McRib (which is back in Utah and I might have ordered two on Friday and will have another two today and, if my heart doesn't stop, two tomorrow on my way to the airport). Then it was off to the Queer Lounge for the GLAAD "And The Nominees Are..." party (thanks Ross for the shout out).

Romaine and I have an interesting relationship with GLAAD. She used to work there and when the Advocate went to town on them a couple of years ago, Romaine happily threw in her two cents on record. Last year, our show joined the folks at HERE! in condemning the old rules for getting a GLAAD award (The L Word, a show about gay people created by a gay person and appearing on a Viacom network was eligible, but Noah's Arc, a show about gay people created by a gay person and appearing on a Viacom network was ineligible). However, GLAAD has since changed the rules, for the better I might add, to reflect 21st century media and I am pleased with the change. But when I finally met the head of GLAAD Neil Giuliano (who is a lovely and handsome man, by the way) there was a sudden glimmer of recognition in his face as I was talking and all of our past transgressions as a show flashed before his eyes. That being said, Damon Romine, who works at GLAAD listens to and loves our show and he assured me I was on the list for the party this year.

Jasey and I waited patiently outside for the GLAAD party and when the doors opened up, it turns out I wasn't on the list after all. Fortunately, Damon Romine was within earshot and cascaded down the stairs in his best Hostest With The Mostest mode and whisked us past security right to the (much to my surprise) photo line! Last year no one took my photo at the event, but this year I was ushered into the press room like an actual celebrity and posed for a photo with Neil Giuliano! I felt like a star! What can I say? I am easily pleased and impressed and true to my previous assertion, Sundance is the place where a C list celebrity goes to be treated like an A list celebrity. Although in my case, it is a place where a nobody can be treated like a C list celebrity, which is good enough for me!

I spotted Jeremy for the seventh and last time at the GLAAD party. I was certain I would see him later at my fourth and last party of the night but I guess he got tired of my mug and called it quits. Rex Lee from Entourage was there to announce the nominees and I didn't get to say hi. He is a sweet guy and never misses an opportunity to harass Romaine on our show about her continued refusal to see his show. My old HERE! friends (plus new HERE! friends Billy and Ross) were happy to see that they had been nominated this year. Later, Damon wandered over to our group of three and said "congratulations on all of you being nominated this year" and then he turned to me. I pretended to burst into tears because of course everyone was nominated in the group but me. "We don't have a radio category," Damon offered, "but maybe next year." Whatever. Just getting into the party filled with free booze was award enough for me. Plus, there was a giftbag, and on our way out, they gave us each two of them!

After the GLAAD party, things started to get really weird. At the event, we met a couple of guys named Don and Mike. Mike was soooo cute and very flirty. They were both corporate lawyers which would normally mean lame, but they were actually really fun. So Jasey and I went with them to the Turning Leaf lounge, along with Josh from HERE, who had some time to kill before his dinner with Paris Hilton. Turning Leaf has the best scam in town. It is a party where you pay a dollar to get in and you get up to six free glasses of Turning Leaf wine or Stella Artois beer, as determined by hash marks on your wristband. But if you are a dedicated alcoholic, you can just rip off your wristband, pay another dollar, walk in off the street and start the process again. We all got good and boozed up at the event. Jasey met some rappers in super awesome fur coats who thought he was great and wanted him to fly with them to Vegas in their private jet for the night. I was sober enough to realize that this was a very bad idea. What if he accidentally got separated from them and was stranded in Vegas. It was all very shady but exhilarating.

Josh left us at the party and from there the four of us went off to a premiere party for a movie called Portland that was up in The Yurt, a tent-like structure up in the middle of nowhere that required a van ride and a Snowcat to get to. While waiting at the Yarrow for the vans to take us to the Snowcat, I winnowed down my four GLAAD giftbags that I had been carrying all night, down to one big gift bag filled with the stuff I cared about. The other three, I abandoned like orphans in the lobby of the hotel. We piled into the van and then from there climbed into a giant sixteen person Snowcat for a harrowing ride through the snowy wilderness. It was a night fraught with danger and excitement and our intense intoxication only made it more heightened.

Once at The Yurt we were greeted by a large empty room with a bartender, an open bar, and a chock-filled chocolate fondue station. The four of us chatted aimiably and flirted a bit with the other three homos (Craig, Craig and Craig) who had joined us on our journey to the middle of nowhere. All of us wanted to get to the final party of the night for Paris Hilton's new movie "Hottie Or Nottie" but the Snowcat only came once every 20 minutes so timing was everything. I traipsed out into the snow to find the heated portapotty and along the way was creeped out by a lone radio speaker near an abandoned ski lift playing music to an empty area. In my head I thought, "if this was a horror movie, this is the point where the deranged killer with the axe would come out of nowhere and hack me up just outside of earshot of my friends partying in The Yurt."

Instead of serial killers, we were instead greeted by more alcohol and a few other stragglers who came in on the Snowcat. Don and Mike joined Jasey and I out on the abandoned ski lift where we all took a series of outrageous drunken photos. Moments later, the Snowcat arrived and we all tried to make our escape. The three Craigs joined us in a van headed down the hill, but Mike and Don somehow got lost in the shuffle and were last seen boozing it up in the warmth of The Yurt. In the van on the way down the hill, while lamenting the loss of Mike and Don, I realized I also left my GLAAD giftbag behind as well. Three hours of lugging that crap around only to leave it in a yurt.

We arrived at the Paris Hilton party just before 11pm. Chris from HERE! had said the party would start between ten and ten-thirty, so eleven was the perfect time to get there. And then we waited. An hour! In the freezing cold and snow. My toes froze solid. But we waited patiently in the guest list line, all the while watching people who didn't wait patiently, get ushered into the party. Finally, we got up to the front and lo and behold for the third time that day (including the Queer Brunch), I wasn't on the list again. Finally I spotted Josh out on the balcony and begged him to come down and rescue us from the relative obscurity of the gutter we were told to wait in.

Once inside, we warmed up, but were still pretty cranky about the whole thing. The party was in full swing and Paris was still there. Jasey really wanted a photo with her but I had a feeling that was going to be pretty impossible. She was in a private area and only emerged briefly to leave. She strode out of the area into the heart of the party with her arms in the air, giant grin on her face, and a determined strut out of the party. I must say, it was a high quality exit. Jasey did get his photo with Reichen, which was a fair substitute. And by the time they threw us out at 1:30am, I was all partied out. After fourteen hours straight with the same gay people, I was really ready to go home.

Overall, it was a very successful day at Sundance. I met plenty of fun and cute people. Had a few drinks. And even though I was allowed to feel like a celebrity for a few fleeting moments. I was repeatedly reminded that I wasn't all that famous after all. In the end, I don't mind. I much prefer being an ordinary citizen to being famous. Paris may have had a good time at her own party, but she didn't get to meet anyone new or interesting or just hang out in a corner and have a conversation about why the gays prefer Hillary to Barack. But I suppose that is the difference between us. That and millions of dollars and hotness.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Fear of Flying

I flew back home to Utah today. It is easy to forget sometimes in the whirl of Manhattan life that I ever lived in such a place. Oh but I did, and happily too. It is probably the smiling simplicity of that suburban upbringing that lured me to my current 1950s home life away from the bright lights, big city. It is as friendly and mindless here as I remembered; a comforting slice of Americana in a post Invasion of the Body Snatchers world. Such a marked contrast from the gritty wonder of New York City.

I got to La Guardia at 5:15am for my 6:30am flight. As I had expected, I sailed through checking my bag and airport security to arrive at my gate twenty minutes after I parked the car. In the interim, I got to spend a seemingly endless period of time behind a complete douche bag. He was all slick hair and too much carry-on luggage, a Gordon Gekko direct from a Central Casting wet dream. When the first security lady told him to throw away his bottle of sparkling water he insisted haughtily that he would finish it before he got through the line. This was the first moment I hated him.

I ended up behind him at the metal detector which he set off three times. Of course he hadn’t even bothered to remove his wallet from his pocket because he was too busy chugging his water and patting himself on the back for being so awesome. As the second security lady sent him over to be wanded and searched, I wryly announced to her that it was probably his flashy $15,000 watch he had refused to remove that set off the alarm. But by then, I was just content to put on my shoes and hope that a hand search of his bag revealed a mountain of cocaine he could ski down right into a Federal prison somewhere.

Once on the plane, I settled into 10F with a fifty-something gay in the Gil Chesterton mold in 10D and no one sitting in the seat between us. I threw myself on the mercy of the open space, donned my sleeping mask and ear plugs and sacked out for the entire four hour flight to Dallas. Behind me, two teen sisters held a talking contest through the entire flight that ended in a tie when as the plane taxied into the gate they both called their father on separate phones to announce that they had arrived. As someone who talks for a living, I cherish now the moments where I don’t have to say anything. I wish everyone felt the same.

Our flight was late arriving in Dallas and I was convinced that even if I made my connection to Salt Lake City, I was certain my checked bag would not. Normally I don’t check a bag but ski pants and sweaters are bulky and it is impossible on a long winter weekend trip like this to travel with my usual lightness. Once again, I sacked out in my seat (this time on the aisle) and awoke two hours later as we touched down in a fog drenched valley in the heart of the Utah desert.

“This is the place.” And Utah is. For most of America it is a mysterious place filled with people who look like Donny and Marie, and that is largely true. To me, it is a swirl of childhood memories. Familiar local fast food places like Taco Time and Arctic Circle blend with the chaotic suburban sprawl of name-brand America. After a few years in New York, it is easy to forget there are still places where you can get a fast food burger for 89 cents and gas for less than three bucks. Although, I went to see Cloverfield this afternoon, and even with the old tyme ticket price of $5, I still felt like I overpaid.

I always come to visit this time of year to attend the Sundance Film Festival and spend some time with family. My Dad is an alpine legend who can practically ski uphill. He forgets quickly that I ski once a year and I don't have his physical dexterity or sense of balance. A single easy run under our belts, Dad insists on leaping immediately to a sheer cliff. Two years ago, I fell, sliding down the hill on my back head first, refusing to stop so I could try to catch the cell phone that had fallen out of my pocket and was sliding just ahead of me, just out of the reach of my outstretched hand.

My Dad and his wife used to live up in Park City, right in the heart of the Sundance action. But just before Sundance last year, my Dad sold his house and they moved to another McMansion down in the less glamorous Utah Valley. Not knowing what to expect food-wise when I got there, I decided to drop by the store first on my way in. I picked up a few essentials at the local supermarket. I went to a nearby Smith's, the store of my childhood and was horrified by how carefully it was structured to make people fat. I walked almost immediately into the beer and candy section and sorted through aisle after aisle of sugary snacks and gooey baked goods to find a handful of items that could pass as healthy.

Tomorrow I will venture off into the heart of the Festival and see more of my "people." The Hollywood types will be in full force, skipping over snow banks in their Eddie Bauer winter togs with the tags still hanging off them. I observed last year to Dennis Hensley's delight that Sundance is the place for C list celebrities to be treated like A list celebrities. I will hang out in the Queer Lounge and hob nob with the near famous in this 19th century mining town turned Hollywood back lot. The whole time I will cast an askance glance at their latte demands and silly attitudes, but I will be torn. In my heart I will always exist with one foot in each of these two distinct worlds. So a weekend visit to Utah this time of year is the perfect way for me to satisfy both sides of my personality at the same time, as for ten shorts days each year they occupy the same spectacular space.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Gym Time

You know how I hate trying anything new. However, in an effort to keep myself from falling into three of my most beloved ruts, over and over and over again, I was convinced tonight to abandoned my well-worn path.

I saw a bit of Hottie Zach on Saturday at the Gay American Heroes benefit at Therapy, though most of my time was dedicated to Jonathan in the first of four increasingly adventurous adventures. I had told Zach at Therapy they we would undoubtedly end up at a bar later and he should try to meet up with us. Unfortunately for him, he got stuck fixing a shelf for his roommate and Jonathan and I stayed too long at his friend Danny's birthday party (aka adventure #4), so Zach had to be postponed to another night.

He suggested we go to Gym, a sports bar in Chelsea most notable for its high number of patrons who enjoy white wine by the glass while assiduously ignoring whatever ESPN show is playing on the many flat panel TVs. Gym is most notable to me as the place in town with some of the cheapest drinks around, which always has a place in my miserly alcoholic heart. Even though I had promised Zach some time alone, I got a last minute plea from my ex-boyfriend Curtis, who was spontaneously in town to join him out as well. Figuring the more the merrier, I invited Mike to come along too.

As I walked into the bar, the first person I spotted was not Zach, but Greg, the very straight Associate Producer of my radio show, whose own birthday party had been adventure #3 on Saturday (which culminated with Jonathan and I being thrown unceremoniously out of a notorious smoldering dump known as One Little West Twelfth). Apparently after the show, Greg, his girlfriend Dawn and their main gay Dominick were in the mood for a cheap drink. Two out of the three wanted to go to a gay bar, and one out of the three wanted to watch the game, so modern math being what it is, they ended up on bar stools at Gym.

Lately I have become obsessed with putting photos of myself on Facebook. There are only two reasons for me to go on there constantly: play Scrabulous (a dying art form) and tag/caption photos. Dawn put up a slew of photos from Greg's birthday party and I wasn't in any of them. So in an attempt to right that wrong, I asked the coat check guy to retrieve my camera from inside my already checked coat so I could make a nuisance of myself with my flash. I got some photos with Greg and company, both taken by a reasonably attractive gay guy who seemed intent on cutting everyone who wasn't me out of the group shot, reducing Dawn to a very evocative pair of bangs in the second photo. But he didn't even try to hit on me. I was no sooner done looking over the digital shots that he was out the door like a shot himself. No matter.

Hottie Zach and his sensational roommate Laurel (aka The Freak Magnet, more on that later) joined us, as did Mike and Curtis in quick succession. The gang in place, we set about doing what we do best: drinking! But first, some back story:

Curtis and I dated back in 1998-1999 when he was a fresh college grad who I had bravely bought a drink for and given my number to at Revolver. We had good times, including attending Kathy Griffin's 1998 Christmas Party (where I first absorbed the desire to make cupcakes) and harassing Carol Liefer at A' votre Sante where when she dismissed my tired line "I'm a big fan" I impressed her by repeating word for word her routine about sex with an opthomalogist. By the time I got to the punch line, "How do you like it better? Like this? Or like this?" she was beaming like a kid on Christmas morning.

Curtis lives in San Francisco now, and has made his way up through the ranks of television with impressive efficiency. I was devastated when, after only a few short months of dating, he informed me the week before Valentine's Day that he had taken a job as a News Producer in Toledo, Ohio and he was moving THAT WEEKEND. Leaving me for a job was one thing, but Toledo wasn't even a Top 50 market! I was offended. But Toledo lead to Houston which lead to San Francisco where less than a decade later, he is at the top of his game. For him, a vast improvement over his grubby apartment, cheap McDonald's hamburgers, and occasional sex with me. So much longer later, all is forgiven. He made the right choice.

While Curtis and I exchanged battle scars and quips covering the past year since we last drunkenly encountered each other at the sleazy GayVN after-party in San Francisco, Mike and Zach talked shop about military matters. All the while, several different men at the bar kept trying to nose into the conversations, mostly by practically sexually harassing Laurel. It wasn't until later that I remembered they were just trying to get to Hottie Zach through his female friend. Normally a solid move, but in this case, it just caused Laurel to instantly label them freaks, a moniker from which no sexiness can escape.

Zach and Laurel had to work in the morning, so we tried to make a reasonably early night of it. Greg and company had long since departed and the bar had thinned out like an Obama victory party in New Hampshire. It was time to go. Mike and Curtis and I left the bar, hailed a cab and headed for Grand Central Station. Once there we grabbed some food from a street vendor. Some weeks back, I had enjoyed a $4 lamb gyro there, so Mike and I decided to try to recapture the magic (it didn't) while Curtis who hadn't eaten all day, wolfed down two hot dogs.

I dashed down to the bathroom before we left and I saw someone on the floor inside one of the stalls. At first, I thought they had dropped something or that they were sick, but then I realized, no, it was just some guy getting fucked in the ass at one am in a stall at Grand Central Station. What a way to inaugurate the new East side bathrooms! I told Curtis the story on the train which lead him to tell more than one hair-raising tale of sexual adventure. I think he might have been a little disappointed by my inability to match him, story for story. What can I say? I lead an unadventurous life where I naively assume people only use bathrooms for releasing waste material, think a meal from a street vendor can be magical, and find the ruts in life a comforting sign that you are headed in the right direction.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

In Need Of Therapy

It was the end of a long week. It seems silly to complain about this amazing job of mine. Tonight we asked people to call in and tell us about disgusting things they saw at work, and for a solid hour we just sat there while strangers grossed us out. I couldn't believe sitting in our beautiful glass cage that we get paid to do a that as a job. But as entertaining as it was, it is still a job at the end of the day. And at the end of the week, we are just as tired and ready to pack it in as the next person.

Chip Arndt was on the show tonight. He is just as strapping and tall and wonderful as ever. I just love his chiseled marble Connecticut Yankee persona mixed with Yale rugby team exuberance. He came to talk about the Gay American Heroes Foundation. They are doing a benefit tomorrow at Therapy which Romaine and I are attending, and on his way out he suggested I join him and his friends at Therapy tonight for a drink after the show. I skipped going to Pop Rocks last night with Jonathan because I was really sick to my stomach and not in the mood to be the oldest person in a bar, which I certainly would have been there. But I was feeling much improved tonight and even though it's going to be a rock party weekend of seemingly non-stop activities, I figured "why not kick it off a night early?"

I sent text messages to a slew of people. Roommate. Jonathan. The original Jonathan (why must all the gays have the same three names?). Hottie Zach. Cyd and Dan. And of course the ever elusive Ben Harvey, who went to visit his family in December and never seemed to come back. Come back to the five and dime, Ben Harvey, Ben Harvey! Last minute bar appeals are always hit and miss and last night proved to be no exception. Mike was stuck at work, Jonathan at a comedy show. Cyd and Dan who had been out, packed it in early. Missed communications led to missing Ben Harvey yet again. But the original Jonathan and hottie Zach both agreed to meet me out at Therapy with Chip and his friends. Unfortunately, moments after they both confirmed, Chip claimed old age and an early morning and skipped Therapy himself, thus ending the only reason I was going in the first place.

As it turns out, it was a good opportunity to spend some quality time with the original Jonathan. He moved to New York City two and a half years ago from Atlanta and I have only seen him sporadically since. My work schedule and hermit-like behavior coupled with his dating life have conspired to keep us apart. But after missing my housewarming BBQ and Thanksgiving, his holiday card was nothing less than a demand for an audience.

Likewise, Zach moved to the city this fall and while we have hung out a couple of times since then, it hasn't moved into what I would call a regular rhythm. The holidays really toss everyone into the air like ingredients in a Cobb Salad. People start out so orderly and geometrically aligned, but the one-two wintertime punch of Christmas and New Years leaves them swirled around and obscured by heavy dressing.

Despite both of them insisting that the gym is a distant memory, they both looked incredible as always. We chatted about work, and life and love. While I was in the bathroom, talk turned briefly to the world of professional ice skating, reminding me once again that I was in a gay bar after all. I had forgotten that the original Jonathan was an ice skater so now I know our next adventure will have to be a lunchtime skate in the new rink at Bryant Park on my new skates! We drank. We laughed. We cruised. It was a perfectly acceptable evening.

To kick off the night, I had a vodka with grapefruit juice. Earlier on the show during our gross out segment, a former bus cleaner told a story of finding a hooker stabbed to death in a tiny dirty bathroom on a Greyhound bus, just like the opening crawl of an episode of Law & Order. Reflecting back on the grisly scene on my way to the bar reminded me of my former favorite drink the greyhound and I endeavored to order one as soon as I arrived. But I only had one since after boarding the drunk train at 1:00am, I still needed to drive the rest of the way home.

However, being more sober at gay bars has caused me to be more keenly aware of the mating rituals of gay men. New Yorkers get a bum rap for not being friendly, which when you compare the chattiness to other gay bars in other parts of the country is reasonably true. However, once you start talking to a New Yorker, you will find that in general, they are very engaging and fun people. But breaking through that initial barrier is not easy at all. In NYC, I have started to notice that gay men do a lot of what I call proximity introduction. They want to talk to someone, but they don't want to make the first move, so they choose a position of close proximity, preferably in the eye line of the target and wait.

Sometimes, the guys just stand nearby very casual but expectantly, like they are waiting for an imaginary bus to arrive. Other times, they get very close in and wordlessly involve themselves in whatever is going on in the group near them. They smile at the jokes, nod their heads vigorously in agreement, and of course, make desperately welcoming eye contact. One guy last night during my breakdown of the differences between an Obama and a Hillary presidency, seemed as anxious to jump into the conversation as Eleanor Clift on the McLaughlin Group. He would have been more effective if like the table of guys we sat next to two years ago at Therapy, he had suggested some kind of impromptu contest to see who was the best kisser, leading to a memorable roundelay of mono and other fond memories.

Coincidentally or not, we did manage to position ourselves quite near to someone that Jonathan knew, who as it turns out was with someone from the Gay American Heroes Foundation. They were both hot, hunky guys, the one from Florida wearing an unseasonable tank top with a word search puzzle on it. I have to say that is one of the best shirts I have ever seen for simultaneously attracting as well as evaluating the intelligence of other men. Maybe I should start wearing Jeopardy answers or the New York Times crossword on my person and see what happens.

Then Mike sent me a text message to join him on the 1:00am train and I wrapped up our short but enjoyable evening. Jonathan ran off to get a slice of pizza he will no doubt regret in the morning. Zach who lives closer to Grand Central than to Therapy decided to walk and talk with me. As we went along however, the military man in him began to worry about me missing my train. Nothing makes you feel better about yourself at one in the morning than trying to keep up with a 29 year old Air Force academy graduate in perfect shape while you are lugging another decade and a full backpack.

As we neared the station, the burden inside the backpack gave away before I did and one of the straps on my beloved, tired old PlanetOut backpack snapped. Instantly, it was the end of an era for me. I made my train with plenty of time to spare while Zach stood by sweating it out in his clingy wool sweater. But maybe the bag was a good warning for me. Running with a younger crowd has a lot of perks, but the risks of breaking are so high, it may not be worth it in the end.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Make 08 Great!

People like to begin the New Year with a resolution. However, I ain’t people, as Lina Lamont so flatly and aptly stated in “Singin’ in the Rain”. It should be noted however that I am also not a bright shining star in the Hollywood firmament. But I do think it is a good idea to look upon the beginning of a new year as an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. So in that vein, I have come up with some things that we can all do together to make 2008 a great new year.

The Life Straw. I know I am about two years behind since Time Magazine named it one of the best innovations of the year for 2006. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear about it until I was watching Bill Moyer’s Journal on PBS last week and one of his guests brought it up. Last summer I watched an amazing speech by Justice Anthony Kennedy from Hawaii where he talked about the issue of bringing safe, clean drinking water to people in Africa. Most of the great diseases of the 20th century, long since eradicated in the United States still persist in developing nations (like much of Africa) and this is primarily due to contaminated water. Building a water treatment plant is a daunting and often arduous process and that’s when you have the financial resources and a stable government to support it. However, for a few dollars each, the Life Straw can be distributed to people. It works like your Brita water filter, only it is inside a reusable straw. So it is easy to ship and carry and use. It makes almost any water source into pure drinking water when sipped through the straw. And this single invention could help combat death and disease on a massive scale, potentially saving millions of lives by providing something as simple as pure drinking water.

Mass Text Messages. I know you care. But when I get a generic “Happy New Year” text message at midnight, it just makes me feel like I am getting junk mail from a friend. Either we are close enough to warrant a personal message, or I hardly know you and you are just keeping your phone book up to date. Either way, the mass junk message sends the opposite message you were hoping to convey. Yes, I will have a happy new year if you stop sending me this crap. And maybe I am old fashioned. I personally write out holiday cards, upwards of 100 each year. But when someone gets a card from me with a personal message that I wrote uniquely to them, they know at my CPA’s office that I really do appreciate the work they do on my W-2s.

Bull in the China shop. About 13 years ago following the death of Sam Walton, Wal-Mart switched from a “Buy American” only policy to one that demands foreign goods production in order to meet strict price controls. Since then, China has become a huge source of goods sold in the United States. Coincidentally enough, our trade deficit with China is directly proportionate to the profit margin at Wal-Mart. Did I forget to mention the lead in toys? Not only did moving production decimate the manufacturing base in the United States, it also removed most of the consumer protections people take for granted. And the next thing you know, dog food is poisonous and your child has a toy made with toxins in its mouth. Meanwhile the country is in a froth about lost jobs and rampant illegal immigration. However, if the jobs that went to China had gone to Central America and Mexico instead, we would have not only been able to better control quality (i.e. no deadly products) but it also would have stabilized their economies and kept illegal immigration down to a dull roar. But since China holds vast qualities of our debt, we have very little sway over them. It is the same reason we can’t make any progress in Darfur. Darfur is a region in Sudan, which is a primary source of oil for China. And you may think genocide and toxic toys are good enough reasons to pressure a country to change their ways. However, if you owed say, $100,000 to VISA and were only making minimum payments, how much sway do you think you would have over them? Our best hope for the situation is to move our manufacturing to our hemisphere at the very least. And work on technology and alternatives to oil that we can turn around and sell to China, which would off-set our trade deficit, our debt, our lost manufacturing base, and remove the money flowing into the butchers of Sudan (not to mention the Middle East, which is a whole other oil-based mess).

Kids: Not seen, or heard. Enough with out of control children in public. As a society we need to stand up and tell parents to their faces that the out of control behavior of their children is not acceptable in polite society. I understand the desire to build a healthy self-esteem in a child. But giving everyone who can’t read a gold star and telling a child crashing carts into each other at the supermarket that they are being “creative” will only make a generation of illiterate monsters. And when you are in a nursing home, who the hell is going to wipe your ass and make your lunch? These kids can’t even make change when the register at McDonald's tells them what the correct answer is. Yes, Social Security will definitely run out of money when your nieces and nephews grow up and can’t get jobs, pay taxes or contribute in any meaningful way to society. However, they will know how to play Guitar Hero like a pro, even though they can’t actually play the guitar. Sure, they will think the world is flat, think ten dollars an hour is the best wage they can get, and just assume that at some point the scratch off lottery will pay them enough money to not have to worry anymore. Good luck! A re-emphasis on science, math and yes art (since the arts help developing brains learn better) at home and at school and well as a return to some good old-fashioned rules and boundaries will better prepare America’s youth to take over for the rest of us when we are too old to care. Which in my case, is right now.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

All About Eve

"Is this the most over-hyped night of the year or what?" Cyd Zeigler asked rhetorically at Henry's swank New Year's Eve party. For me, it is often the most dreaded night of the year. So much sweating and anticipation. Where to go. Who to go with. Forced to drink champagne against your will and then stumble through the virtually incomprehensible auld Scottish lyrics of Auld Lang Syne. And for what? To see how Dick Clark is fairing since his stroke? Note that Anderson Cooper and Ryan Seacrest seem to revel in working the holiday since they can assiduously avoid kissing anyone personal at midnight? It's all just a lot of show. No wonder the older I get, the more I just want to stay home in bed.

On Friday night, Mike and I met up with Cyd and his wonderful boyfriend Dan at Barracuda. Earlier in the evening, I had been roped into hours of joyous heterosexual mayhem by Elaine Miles, the best friend of my newly discovered half sister. I had sipped $600 a bottle red wine while I came to realize from their foreign party rituals that I don't spend much time in groups of straight people anymore. It was a bit like discovering a lost civilization. But moments later, a cab had whisked me down to homo town and I was back in my noisy, ass-grabby element.

Cyd and Dan are a sensational couple with a romantic love story straight out of 1940s MGM. Like Enchanted Cottage with homosexuality but without the disfigurement. Unfortunately, our work schedules are so dramatically different, it is rare that we get to spend much time together. So when they suggested Mike and I join them at a party on New Year's Eve, we jumped at the chance. As it was, we had headed to the bars on Friday night to pick up copies of HX for some ideas of what to do on the big night. Going to a house party with Cyd and Dan was the perfect solution. A room full of strangers but also a couple of built-in reliable conversationalists too. Even Mike, who hates meeting new people and going to parties, seemed to approve of the idea. And, we figured, if the party sucked, we could always wander down to Therapy and have a few drinks in public. As if to make our plans even more fateful, on New Year Eve, the drunk trains run well past their usual killjoy time of 1:50am, guaranteeing us an easy way home no matter when we wanted to call it all quits.

So, Mike and I headed off into the city with a bottle of champagne and a bottle of vodka in a brown paper bag. Mike thought we should have put it in more discreet packaging, but it's December 31st, I think everyone knew exactly what we were carrying. Plus Mike brought along mini bottles of rum to warm us up along the way. He chugged his as a shot before boarding the train, but I kept mine in my pocket. By the time we got to the city, my short nap on the Metro North Train made me hungry. Unfortunately, everything in Harlem was closed except for our tried and true Popeye's Chicken. I ordered a chicken strip combo, and poured my mini bottle of rum into my medium Coke and drank it on our way down to the party near Columbia University.

We got to the party and it was in a very glamorous new building with fresh wood paneling in the elevator that Mike insisted on sniffing like he was a junkie and the elevator car was made of modeling glue. We hung up our coats and wandered into the sea of cute guys. We struck gold! It was just the right party to be at. Tons of food and booze and cuteness. We set about immediately to get smashed off our asses.

It turns out that Henry, our party host, wasn't a stranger since I met (and lusted after him) at a karaoke night with Cyd some months earlier. Mike knew instantly that I liked him because he was completely my type, although he wasn't the only one. There was a cute guy named Justin acting as one of the party hosts and he was also adorably blondie pie, though in a different way from Henry. Henry looks more like Daniel Craig as James Bond minus 20 years of rough living, while Justin looks like Torrance's unsupportive college boyfriend in "Bring It On". Justin was very solicitous to everyone in the room, so it was impossible to feel special when he would get kissy and grabby. It was still welcome though. Turns out he was 28, not 22 as I first suicidally suspected, and he had an equally adorable boyfriend hosting with him named Dan, who didn't seem to mind how flirty he was with everyone.

The party was in full swing for hours after the ball dropped, but Cyd and Dan were ready to drop before 1am. Once they left, Mike and I kept drinking and tried to meet a few of the other drunk strangers at the party. I got into a deep discussion about developing nations and how clean water programs, the Life Straw (perhaps the innovation of the early 21st century) and Heifer International lay the groundwork for economic development with a guy who specialized in such things but probably preferred to make out than explain the complexities of emerging economies in Africa to a drunk college dropout. I was just trying to show an interest in his work, which did not interest him in me at all. Later, we ran into a friend of Cyd's named Sergio, who had initially been driven away by our feverish discussion of the pending Iowa caucus. We do like our deep discussions at shallow gay parties, don't we?

Much drunker and later, Sergio took a second crack at us and found a much lighter conversation going on. The discussion evaporated entirely when we decided to make out instead of chat. And let me tell you, it was just what the doctor ordered. I didn't get his number. I didn't want to go home with him. I just wanted to spend a few moments at a party talking about nothing (his favorite color is red) and kissing intermittently. After all, it is New Year's Eve. The night of the year designed for making out with a stranger. And so much better than the year I randomly made out with Paul's friend Manfred after he had thrown up in the gutter outside Revolver. However, all good things must come to an end. Mike and I left to take one of the drunk trains home and I gave Sergio one last good kiss good bye. And that was the end of the that.

Now boozed up but good and happy after an hour of canoodling, I sailed into Grand Central Station and fell in love once again with its simple grandeur and the thrill of the crowd. No one told me but it turns out that Grand Central is THE place to be on New Year's Eve after midnight. In lieu of striking clocks and abandoned glass slippers, it is a sea of hot young drunk straight guys, smiling and having a blast. Everyone is infused with the joy of the night, boisterous and friendly, waiting for their respective trains home.

The party continued on our train, although it quieted somewhat as one by one, the passengers passed out in their seats. We did get caught at one station while the police were called aboard to deal with some belligerent passengers. Later, an attractive red-headed woman ran into her old friends who were sitting around us. The boys had given her the charming moniker "butt lice" and it was "butt lice" herself who explained that her friends had been the rowdy boys who had been pulled off the train. Another local mystery solved, although the origin of her nickname remains purposefully unknown.

A little after six AM, the train pulled into the station and Mike and I made our drunken way up the hill. Dawn was just starting to break and the town was covered in a slight foggy haze, blurred considerably at the edges by my drunkenness. By the time we walked up the hill and turned into the driveway, the dawn's early light was making its way slowly through the clouds, dramatically lighting the night sky above the bare tree branches and filling the yard with an eerie blue glow. It was all so beautiful to come home to. My home.

Eight is my lucky number, I thought as I tumbled into bed. And this year is 2008. So maybe this will be the year it will all fall together. This will be the year my luck returns in force, and all the pieces fit together the way they should. I already got a little lucky at the party, so there is no reason to think that kind of luck won't last all year long. I pulled the covers up to my head, nestled into my sea of pillows and drifted off to sleep with visions of my happy new year to come. Just the perfect ending to a perfect New Year's Eve.