Thursday, July 31, 2008

long weekend

The good news is I am building up to my thousand and eighth birthday with a long weekend. Three whole days of glorious nothingness, to bask in the sun (or more accurately, marine layer) and hopefully become bored. That would be a luxury.

And how did I score this, after six months of six eleven hour a day shifts, pouring my heart into this little place to make it walk?

That's the bad news. The corporation that owns our little showroom decided to close it, even though we are on target and above projection. They're in tight cashflow and so we were rendered nonessential. We were told on July first. It has been interesting, like a patient who knows he has four weeks to live. It honestly seems like it's taken a thousand years for today to finally arrive.

I'm told I will be transferred to another of their showrooms after a couple weeks of winding this one down, so I'm okay. Possibly.

The above message has been brought to you by the Republican National Committee and paid for with their greedy, heartless rape of the economy.

We now return to regular programming.


From Towleroad:

"The Lambda Literary Awards celebrated its 20th anniversary in June, and screened a clip acknowledging the LGBT writers and literary figures who have passed in the two decades since its inception. Tony Valenzuela and Robert Ferrante produced and edited the memorial film. An impressive collection."

Particular notice to all those who died in the early 90's, in their prime.

All those voices. I'm speechless.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

we're fine

I was at my desk talking to a client on the telephone when the floor began to dance underneath my feet. There's always a momentary indecision in deciding whether we're having an earthquake, in this case it was a nanosecond. It was definate.

I dropped the phone (sorry, Ed) and yelled for everyone to evacuate the showroom. We were all outside in a few seconds- Californians know when to drop and run. No damage at work except cell phones are out.

I came home to have lunch with Serena. I gave her tuna and she ate hungrily. She's fine now, meowing contentedly on my desk. The news says it was a 5.4 from Chino Hills, and felt from here to Palm Springs. You can't get me by phone right now, but we're fine.

Thanks for thinking of us.

Monday, July 28, 2008

the way i am

Spent the day yesterday with my best friend Will, who is as crazy as a box of rocks. It helps. We hung out in his back yard, then headed over to the 'fish in Venice for some afternoon Cape Cod and ogling time.

Will is a treasure. We dated for about fifteen minutes and realized quickly that we had other roles to fulfill for each other. I'm his bulldog bouncer, tossing unworthy roommates head first into the gutter and chasing off unsuitable suitors. He's my amateur therapist, pulling me out of the trash can where Garth had left me to die.

It's been said that friends help you move, and real friends help you move bodies. We are those friends, We're Mame and Vera, Lucy and Viv. Batman and Robin. Spider Man and...never mind, he was a loner.

Internet sensation Ingrid Michaelson wrote this song about a relationship, but to me its about friendship. Boyfriends come and go, but your best friend accepts you the way you are.

For best friends. Where would we be without them?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

say hello

I fell madly, stupidly in love with Natalie Merchant in 1987. That was the year that 10,000 Maniacs, of which she was lead vocalist, released their stunning album "In My Tribe". To say I was blown away is an understatement. Besides loving her haunting voice, I was simply blown away by her lyrics. Songs about literacy, child abuse, the fall of the beat generation, sibling rivalry, war and aging, juxtaposed with an iconic cover version of Peace Train. Definitely my album of the year and started me on a love of Natalie Merchant and her songs which continues to this day.

I've found a very special video- Natalie and the Maniacs in 1990, performing "Hello In There" with Michael Stipe in Glasgow, Scotland on the banks of the river Clyde in 1990. A lovely version of the Joan Baez hit and a segway for me. My nifty little Feedjit thingy is telling me that I am getting visitors from all over the US and Europe. Some of you I recognize as my blog family, fellow writers whom I count as very valued friends who read regularly and inspire me to keep going. To you, and you know who you are, I am grateful and appreciative. To the rest of you, whom I don't know yet, why not drop me a line at and tell me what brought you here. I'd love to know. And I don't bite.

Or just listen to Natalie and Michael. Whatever.

Monday, July 21, 2008

june in july

An overcast morning, hiding beneath a thick marine layer. Struggling with the realities of a Monday after a genuine, authentic weekend off, I need a little distraction. Like a three pack from the Misty Miss Christy.

From a 1965 appearance on "Not Only, But Also" starrring Peter Cook and a very young Dudley Moore, take a listen to June's versions of "You've Come a Long Way From Saint Louis", "Just In Time", and "My Shining Hour". Pete Rugolo arrangements, of course.

Jazzy Monday, Y'all.

blame lynette

It's all her fault.

Ever since reading Lynette's tantalizing post, I have been fantasizing about a Bacon and Tomato sandwich. Never mind the fact that tomatoes have demonized of late, or the whole low carb life I have been living these past three months. I have been leading a fantasy life with a sandwich.

And on Saturday, my first real Saturday off in months, I gave in. Fresh, relatively botulism free tomatoes from the Farmer's Market, thick bacon which I pan fried to perfection, Miracle Whip on trimmed sourdough toast, which incidentally was the debut performance of the new toaster purchased in....January. I guess I really don't eat much bread anymore.

And it was a superb indulgence. Every morsel was a holiday.

But not to become a habit. Don't worry, Janine.

And thanks, Lynette ;)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

sunday drive: madonna inn

Outrageous enough to be not only over the top, but halfway down the other side, the Madonna Inn is an iconic tribute to excess, pink flocking, and wonderfully bad taste. It has held court in San Luis Obispo since Christmas Eve, 1958, and has hosted more highly-floral pink themed weddings than anyplace I can name this side of Vegas. And probably a Drag Queen Funeral or two.

The history is amusing. Alex Madonna built the highway in this part of the state. One expects this was rather lucrative. It also allowed one to purchase land for a roadside motel with a fair degree of confidence that the highway would end up being located nearby.

The design theme is what one might call "Storybook Modern", although some contend that the word "Nightmare" should be inserted as well. Supposedly it was intended as a tax shelter, so he spent way too much money on woodcarvers, chandeliers, rock walls, and waterfall urinals. Imagine Black Forest Woodcarvers on acid. With a checkbook. And best of all, it's in remarkably original condition and painstakingly preserved.

Each room has its own theme, specific decor, and a name. Luck of the draw placed me in "Everything Nice". It featured think pink carpeting, pink sparkling flocked ceiling, floral Victorian settees and a rock wall. The bathroom featured pink marble and purple tile. A hand stenciled pink sink and built in wall mounted scale finished it off. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm. Nice.

My travelling companion stayed in the Buffalo suite, reportedly with an authentic bison head on the wall. I must make clear that I did not visit that myself. On Saturday night, we dined in the shocking pink lava rock and giant faux floral steakhouse. It looked as it it had been designed by Anna Nicole Smith. Post Mortem. We watched straight couples dancing to big band sounds and imagined we were on a cruise ship- the S. S. Pepto Bismol.

An astonishing sight and one not to be missed. Weary travellers, meet the Madonna Inn:

More photos here:

Saturday, July 19, 2008

second saturday

I spent last weekend in San Luis Obispo at the West Coast Meet. It's the largest gay and lesbian car show in the world, and happens to be the spot I have spent the second Saturday in July for fifteen of the last eighteen years.

The first two times I attended, I was still living in the Midwest. Now it's in my figurative back yard. This is a time marker for me- a chance to reconnect with longtime friends, check out the cars, and see just how over the top the Queens can be. After all, this is a show where the prizes for Best Display and Best Color are as coveted as Best of Show. And who understands display better than we? Merchandising is everything, and no where more so than here. I love to see what the boys come up with. It's also the one show where the awards banquet most resembles a Broadway opening. Having starred in the musical numbers years back, I offer no criticism.

It's also a time to reflect on years past and those no longer able to join us with a physical presence. Speaking of presence, I was able to hook up with longtime friend Janine, the low carb evangelist herself, for a flourless and sugarless lunch. And truth be told. she ate most of my broccoli.

And speaking of reconnection, I ran into two old friends I did not expect to see- my good friend Phil from Indianapolis, whom I have known since the late eighties, and his Pioneere- a one-off custom 1956 Lincoln station wagon that I not only accidentally inspired him to build, but also drew the "dream car" fifties interior sketch that became design intent, complete with rear picnic tables. He even went with my Pearlescent White and Iridescent Copper color suggestion. So wonderful to see her in the flesh again after all those years, and still looking like new. Now if only I could cash in on my crazy ideas, but there's not much call for a fities dream car design consultant.

This years theme was the staple of middle class suburbia in the postwar decades, the station wagon. Enormous land yachts, often festooned with simulated yacht planking (made of genuine processite!), they pose as the backdrop to the events of our childhood. Each one a symphony of lacquer, chrome, and wood- accessorized with travel decals, vintage luggage, tiaras and furs, and even lesbian girl scouts.

I admired the sweep of the calligraphy proudly announcing the arrival of middle class respectability- Town and Country, Country Squire, Colony Park, Grand Safari-
each name bearing the promise of postwar prosperity.

How could life be anything less than perfect with such a handsome beast parked in the circular driveway of one's smart ranch home?

West coast meet, for your enjoyment:

More photos here

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

breakfast at tiffanys

I borrowed Matt's wife the other day to catch the opening of the Blake
Edwards series at my beloved little Aero theatre. The series opened with one of my all time favorite films, one in which fashion and New York architecture are inseparably comingled with the plotline itself. Julie commented recently that she had never seen the film and so I had to set things right.

I'm speaking, of course, about "Breakfast at Tiffany's", with Audrey
Hepburn at her most radiant, casually tossing on Givenchy originals without a second thought and demonstrating that true elegance involves understatement and not just ornamentation.

It features George Peppard in his devilishly handsome phase, when he had the torso of a Greek statue and his eyes were deep blue pools that we'd all like to dive into. Not to mention the scene where she climbs into his bedroom window while he sleeps. I think we were both envious.

Julie was simply overcome by the beauty of it all. I hear her literally gasp several times. A grand film deserves a grand presentation, and every frame was a treat. Besides, the finale searching for the nameless cat in the rain always makes me tear up. Cinematic perfection.

Here's a tribute by Deep Blue Something. Not the version I wanted, so please ignore the graphics and turn the volume up instead. For Holly, Fred Baby, and Cat:

Monday, July 14, 2008

bunny slippers

In the supermarket check out line on Friday morning, the lady in front of me turned to her left, revealing a heretofore unseen infant in a carrier strapped to her chest. No more than three months old, he was wearing a brown corduroy suit and a striped knit cap of brown, greens and red. He cooed softly. His eyes were everywhere- scrutinizing the many details of an Albertson's express lane, mesmerized by the wonder of it all.

On his tiny feet were baby blue bunny slippers with little sewn on faces and long floppy ears. They were as tiny and adorable as he was. Ahead of him yet lay a world of Mother Goose and Old Mac Donald's farm. Solid food is still a mystery. Teenage crushes and angst are eons away yet.

Life renews itself, doesn't it?

Friday, July 11, 2008

a thousand julys

Two years today.

Fewer tears this year. The shock has lessened and we have, collectively, pretty much dealt with things. Life is resilient, whether we expect it to be or not.

When you lose someone, there is a terrible shock.

But at least you are spared the anticipation and dread which becomes part of the anniversary.

Everyone says the first year is the hardest- it's a year full of firsts without him. Birthdays, holidays, important days to be gotten through somehow. We all got together on the first anniversary, I wrote about it last July as one year later. We knew we would all be thinking of him, so we had a bowling party in his memory. It was very theraputic all in all.

I must admit the burden eased that day, the fact that we all survived a year together without him made it easier somehow. And I was very fortunate- I unknowingly got the chance to say goodbye. You can read about it here.

But he's never very far away from me. As his childhood friend Betty reflected, our summer will always have a thousand Julys.

For Betty, and for John, whom we miss today and always

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

con te partiro

It's a difficult week for all of us as we approach the second anniversary of John's passing. Our dear crazy friend- warm, gregarious, generous, fun loving, at times outrageous and over the top. But always very genuine and caring to me. The man I referred to as my own personal Auntie Mame. He shared La Vida Loca, albeit in a somewhat more soigne tone. The parties, the holidays, the dinner parties and the casual dinners, the cruises, the afternoons aboard ocean liners and the evenings watching old movies. It was an unforgettable journey.

Last year we all got together to mark the date, this year it seems that we are ready to face it on our own. Training wheels off, so to speak. So rather than a narration of the events of July 11, I'm going to repost below a fun story of a particularly good adventure we all shared. And dedicate one of his favorite songs, one which was played at every party I can recall. Sarah and Andrea say it much more eloquently than I can:

John, I miss you and think of you every day. A toast to you, until I see you again.

queens on the mary

In remembrance of John. Originally posted in March, 2007.

This week I received a mailer promoting the RSVP transcontinental gay cruise on the Queen Mary 2 and my mind immediately flashed back to my first RSVP travel experience.

A couple of Christmases back, my friends John and KJ (hereto known as the Ubercouple) created a very memorable Holiday- they invited six of their friends to accompany them on an RSVP Cruise of the Mexican Riviera.

We were all tremendously touched and excited, and eagerly planned what would be a most memorable voyage. As it would be my first cruise aboard this particular line, I had lunch with a friend who had more cruise experience. "It's a great trip, you'll love it", Blair reassured me over sushi. "Just too bad it's so hard to get a drink on that ship." I just about fell into my miso soup.

Okay, talk about a deal breaker. I immediately telephoned John and told him of my dire warning. Given how we collectively viewed Vodka as a food group, this would require a plan.

"I'll talk to KJ and call you back", he said, trying not to show too much concern. I imagined a Vodka ambulance meeting us at the docks. KJ thinks of everything. The next day, John called back very calm. "It'll be fine", he reassured." We'll just all bring two liters of Ketel One in our luggage. That way, we can have a relaxing drink before dinner". Or before breakfast, if needed.

Soon we were on board and sailing away with a Bon Voyage party. We immediately noticed that others had probably made the same observation as Blair, because the cruise line had apparently stopped off in Singapore and filled the ship with Asian love slaves, young girls positioned every thirty feet or so who were taught to say "drinky, drinky". While this was very reassuring, it soon occurred to us that we were awash in booze. That night over dinner, we hatched a plan. We decided to have a massive private cocktail party the last night at sea and use it all up. That would give us a week to see how many people we could meet and invite.

I was all in favor of the party, but I reasoned, that if we were going to have a private cocktail party with smuggled booze aboard an Ocean Liner, the only civilized way to serve drinks was in stemware stolen from the ship itself. So that evening, after our round of Martinis, John had us fill the stems with water so they would not be cleared away. We stepped smartly out of the dining room with our Martini stems in our hands, and this began to amass glassware. My cabin was deemed the official stemware repository, because I had the least luggage, and my roommate, a drag queen from San Francisco, spent the entire week stoned on hashish brownies and so was unlikely to notice.

Our plan worked smartly although it did probably increase our vodka consumption somewhat. "Have another Martini", KJ would say. "We need the glass". By midweek, my cabin clinked when people walked by in the hall. The nightclub chanteuse in the show lounge complained that all the big Martini stems had vanished. We looked sheepish in the front row and laughed about it later. We absolved our guilt by inviting her to the party.

The last night at sea, all was in readiness. I had spent the entire afternoon washing stemware, which was the price one pays for glamour. The party had grown way too large for John and KJ's suite, so KJ booked one of the lounges. For a private party. On board a gay cruise. And found a passenger whom he hired to play piano. Throw in a few trays of appetizers, a topless girl from Scotland, and a hundred newfound friends, and our little use-up-the-booze party probably ended up costing about the same as a base Hyundai. But everybody we knew in LA already had a car anyway.

We abandoned the stems at the party, along with the remaining vodka. All that was borrowed was returned, which was of course the plan all along. When people asked about the cruise, we told them what a wonderful time we all had. Most of all, John loved telling the story of the Martini Party. "Wasn't it the most fun?", he would reflect.

Yes, John. It was.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

biff and puff

I blame Joe for this one. On today's Open Thread Thursday, commenters were asked to describe their first car. For me, it's a vivid memory.

Here was my response:

"My first car was a brand new triple yellow 1977 Chevette Sandpiper with a high output 1.6 engine, four speed trans, yellow gold and cream striped "Reef" cloth interior, and gold birds on the quarter panels. His name was Biff.

Dad and I were looking at new cars at the Chevy dealer when the transport truck drove up and deposited the lonely yellow Chevette before our eyes.

Many years later I was featured on CNN with his near twin, Puff.

Long live the Nerd Car!"

To elaborate:

In early 1977, Dad promised me a car if I ran errands for Mom. We disagreed strongly on what car it would be. He suggested Chevy Vega, the car with the molten aluminum blob passing for an engine. I suggested the brilliant but pricey Volkswagen Rabbit. He countered with the Vega-based Buick Skyhawk, with a godawful odd-firing engine and hostile shift linkage. I made a last minute play for Chevette Sandpiper.

I figured we would land on Chevette, an ordinary little car but at least it ran without unexpected explosions. I upped the ante for the designer Sandpiper edition, in Reef Gold (yellow) with an awesome yellow interior- yellow dash, carpets, door panels, headliner, seat backs- and a tri-tone cloth seat of yellow, gold, and cream (pattern repeating on door) Add distinctive rear fender flock-of-birds decals and the package was complete.

Now to find one in stock. Despite being in a major Chevy market, I couldn't find even one on a dealer's lot. And I called them all. Weekly.

By May, 1977, we had just about given up and were at Al Serra Chevy looking at a used, base engine, automatic Sandpiper. It was a slug, but it was a "Piper. I was just about to acquiesce when a car transporter pulled up to drop off a car. It was pretty unusual for a transporter to make an evening delivery on a Friday night. The cargo was a lone Chevette Sandpiper.

We inspected the solitary little lemon drop and found it to have a high output engine, four speed stick, AM/FM, raised white letter radials, deluxe molding packages, and many more options. In short, it was a virtually loaded Sandpiper. Our salesperson quickly checked and verified that it was available.

Jeff, meet Biff.

Below, Jeff and Biff. Grand Blanc, MI. May, 1977. Photo taken by Polaroid SX-70:

Fast forward 25 years. My boyfriend Chris, the car crazy Texan with the deepest blue eyes I had ever seen, was out to lunch and saw a very clean early Chevette on the street. He came back to work and typed "Chevette" into Autotrader. Up popped a one-owner Sandpiper from an elderly lady's estate.

Jeff, Meet Puff.

Puff was all but identical to Biff, except more loaded with air and automatic. I bought him sight unseen and dialed him in to show quality. We never attended a show together without him receiving some type of award. Puff's proudest hour came on Good Friday, 2002, when he and I were featured in USA Today together for a Nerd Car story.

The following week we were on CNN.

From USA Today, Good Friday 2002, Burbank, CA: Jeff and Puff:

A better shot of Puff. He won a handsome plaque at this show which I still have:

Look at those crazy striped seats:

Thanks, Joe, for the reminder. Weren't those wild seventies colors fabulous?

disaster area

Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency