Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Killing Tennessee Williams

My friend David moved to Los Angeles from Manhattan. He and his partner, JD (really Jeff but too confusing for all of us) left the east coast behind, while still bringing as much of it with him as possible. Two moving vans and a car carrier departed the snow belt for his new California digs.

And what was his west coast domicile? An enormous faux Tudor mansion in the heart of Westlake Village. It looked as if it has been dismantled brick by brick from an older section of Greenwich and painstakingly reassembled amidst the palms. "A courageous house", was my observation. "One that exudes self confidence".

The theme continued on the interior. An enormous curved stairway, which seemed to anticipate the stylish descent of Dolly Levi at any moment. Enough carved oak trim to keep all of the woodcarvers of the Black Forest busy for months, were they not already steadily employed making veneer trim for Mercedes Benz. And just to the left of the entry, a very grand dining room.

Beautifully furnished, suede ceiling, table for twelve, and as Edwardian as the rest of the interior. Exquisite hand made lace tablecloth and fine linen napkins. Twin German silver candelabras which, even while lit, were tempting to look beneath for the silversmith's mark. An impressive setting indeed for an east-meets-west dinner party, one which would prove memorable for other reasons besides the decor.

David's parents, Doctor Raymond and Doctor Wilma, were visiting. He had been a fashionable Park Avenue opthomologist, now retired. She was a PHD psychologist who had made her mark in the world of pharma. They were accompanied by his aunt and uncle, an East Coast University professor and her husband. Upon receiving the invitation, I wondered if I should enroll for a quick Master's degree to be prepared. Instead, I studied E! online. Let the games begin...

It was a very witty and lively conversation at dinner. David's aunt Lillian told a story of how she got released from Jury duty on the excuse that she was just back from Africa and had to testify before Congress that week regarding the famine she had seen. And this was the truth. After the NPR topics has been thoroughly reviewed, the conversation steered a bit more toward the west and celebrity talk began to surface. I told my favorite Elaine Stritch joke (of course, everybody has an Elaine Stritch joke, and I'll publish it later. I'm certain you are all breathless with anticipation) and we all had various snippets to interject- JD manages a fashionable hotel and had a couple of amusing sightings to share regarding a former pop princess recently shorn of hair, but I am sworn to secrecy on her true identity. Other names got tossed about- Martinis with Barbara Mc Nair, Gwen Stefani at church, Linda Ramone in a black Cadillac convertible wearing a chartreuse maraboo. Chartreuse- it's not just a color, it's a lifestyle.

"You know", Dr. Raymond began. "Rex Harrison was a patient of mine. We became good friends". Our celebrity gossip was becoming bi-coastal. "And Tennessee Williams. I was very fond of him" he said. "I feel very badly that I killed him". At this moment, twelve people were nearly as silent as a jury about to sentence someone to the chair. Dr. Raymond explained how Tennessee Williams came to see him for a matter that could have been easily corrected with minor surgery. Tennessee was nervous about the idea of eye surgery, so Dr. Raymond gave him some eye drops as a temporary measure. Shortly after that, when the great playwright was in an inebriated state (which we were all rapidly approaching ourselves) Tennessee unscrewed the stopper from the bottle, held it between his teeth, inhaled and choked to death on it. Hence the good Doctor's claim of culpability. He broke into a hearty smile. A bottle of twenty year port got opened. The rest became a bit of a happy blur, but I found myself repeating in the car on the way home, "I feel very badly that I killed him".

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I Love LA

Okay, it's twenty four years old already, but it's one of the quintessential Los Angeles videos. It's upbeat and still somewhat ambivalent at the same time. I love the energy of Los Angeles, but it's not an easy place to live.

"Look at those mountains, look at those trees. Look at that bum, he's down on his knees". Los Angeles is a microcosm of America. It's a city of opposites, and it represents a society full of contradictions. Is that what Randy meant? Or was he noting that we somehow got along?

Still, it's the only place I think of as home. Must be the palm trees.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

magic word

I try and give myself an hour in the morning for blogs. There are quite a few that I like to read and I try and find some time to scratch out a few words myself. The bloggers I read tend to be both men and women, scattered all over the country but fairly close to me in age. Our adventures differ but our outlook often agrees.

A case in point is Dora, who writes the blog "What Would Jackie Wear". She was writing recently about how our definition of family can extend well beyond our birth family.

I've always had two, one by birth and the other assembled as I went along. I've always been aware of this, but I didn't have a name for it. I reasoned that I was doing it because gay men tend to be less accepted by their birth families, and so they build their own support network. Some people refer to it as their "gay family", but I don't really care for that as my network is not limited to gay people. So I had something that didn't have a name. I'm seeing now that this is not just a gay phenomenon but something much more universal- a family by birth, expanded by choice.

She used the word 'Ohana- a Hawaiian term to describe the phenomenon. Wikipedia describes it thusly: ’Ohana can actually mean much more than the dictionary definition of family. ’Ohana can describe a community, a circle of friends, who share common goals and values.

'Ohana- a magic word to describe the precious circle that has seen me through so much and still supports me in so many ways. What a lovely name.

Thanks, Dora.

I like Mike

Okay, this one is fun and energetic. Discovered in a colvoluted way via Joe.My.God. It's an LA musician named Jay Spears who wrote this song because of an unrequited crush he had on a member of his gay softball team. However, through the power of editing, we end up with a happier outcome. Makes me miss my gay sports league days.

For Mike. What's not to like?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

sourdough toast

The Santa Ana winds, hot and dry, have faded and been replaced by gentle fall breezes. It's chilly at night and there is heavy morning dew. Southern California is less like God's Barbecue Grill these days and more like home again. The days are mild. The turning leaves, never generous in a climate too temperate to begin with, are meager this year but otherwise fall is in full swing at last.

My friend Will spent the weekend in San Francisco with his long-distance 48 hour paramour. He earns the name by beginning to panic after about the two day mark of each visit, often accompanied by premature flights home. Some people struggle with orientation their entire lives, but I digress. This time, the reaction was much milder and they actually completed their itenerary as planned. Will returned in a much better mood than usual and brought a gift- a plump loaf of fresh sourdough bread.

This morning I put on the coffee as usual and fired up the computer for my blog hour. It's my quiet morning reading time, a chance to catch up with my favorite writers and hopefully post a few coherent sentences myself. I've been noticeably lacking lately thanks to recent 60 hour work weeks and haven't yet figured out how to blame my inactivity on the Writer's Guild.

The house is dark except for the glow from the monitor. Steam rises from the coffeemaker and contrasts prominently against the cooler, denser air in the kitchen. It is unmistakably autumn. I slice thick slices of fresh sourdough bread and place them in the toaster oven. I watch them darken under a red glow. I sit at my desk in the quiet house, savoring fresh coffee, good writing, and the taste and texture of fresh sourdough toast. It's heavenly. I don't have to be anyplace for hours.

soft umbrella

Even those living in a cave in the deepest of red states have heard the phenomenal hit song "Umbrella", which launched Rihanna to superstardom and at one point became the most listened to song on the planet. Without a doubt it will be remembered as the song of the year. I like it a lot, but listen what happens when Mandy Moore steps in and takes the tempo down a notch. Very sultry and evocative feeling.

Dedicated to someone for whom I keep the umbrella handy. I know you're reading.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

guppies from hell

It was a leather bar, but not what one would consider a serious leather bar. More like a leatherette bar, or possibly nauga. It had a notorious past, but the first wave of the plague had changed the clientele. Decimated it actually, and so to survive it was becoming more of a neighborhood pub. This did not particularly please the remainder of the old guard. It had one of those nondescript masculine names that leather bars are supposed to have, The Rawhide. With its less than serious attitude (not to mention the grand sing along piano inside), we referred to it as the Chew Toy. It was located just off Water Street, across the street from an antiques warehouse and a couple doors down from the M and M Club, which was Milwaukee's version of a gay Cheers.

The M, as we called it, was a hangout. On the Corner of first and water, it had large picture windows and a horseshoe bar inside. It was not one of those dark back alley gay bars I had been used to in small Midwestern town. It was OUT for all to see, and in that fall of 1987, I had decided to be out as well. I guess we synched.

There was a small restaurant attached to the back of the pub, which was known for its Friday fish fry. In a German Catholic city, this made for a very busy night. Often, we would meet at the M and then wander a couple doors down to the Chew Toy until the dinner crowd thinned out.

I'm sure the three of us were in Izod polos. We always were. We probably looked like rainbow Sherbet. Dan, Gary and I had become close friends hanging out at the M. Gary and I were both recent transplants attempting to get our arms around gay life in the city. Being winter, I'm sure we parked my Saab 900 SPG at the curb, the black one with the baseball glove leather seats. My Hartman attache' was probably on the back seat. We could not have been more 80's without Voguing.

Grizzled fiftyish Leather Dude in chaps listened as we discussed our news of the week, and finalized weekend plans. Finally he looked over at us and asked sarcastically, "What are you guys, the Guppies from Hell?"

Perfect! We had been racking our brains trying to come up with a name for our bowling team, and the season was about to start. We wore our badge proudly.