Friday, April 30, 2004

ACK! The pressure!

My Chicago Magazine Top 20 Singles photo shoot is set for Tuesday afternoon -- and I've been busy gym-pumping, teeth-whitening and fake-tanning ever since it got scheduled. I also just got the information telling what to bring: clothing that I'd wear on "the biggest date of my life ... think sexy" and "something that is special to me."

As for the clothing: I think I can scrape together one or two (or 10 or 20) ensembles that make me feel sexy. (Hell, even the most shopping-addicted homo wouldn't dare waste money on pants that flattened his butt or shoes that made his feet look small.) I'm a little concerned about the "vibrant red background" we'll be shot on -- red is so NOT my color -- but I think I'll manage. Especially if the fake tan hides my naturally ghostly pallor.

As for the something special: ACK! I've been combing through my condo looking for something special that wouldn't have potential layers of creepy, unattractive subtext. Here's what goes through my head every time I think of something: my first Tempo Award (too showy, looks like my job is my life), the homemade lefse stick that's been in my family for generations (kinda tacky, though it shows a certain level of pride in my Norwegian heritage), the adorable picture of my niece and nephew kissing each other (look at the gay uncle of the little kids who make out!), a piece of Grandma's Blue Willow China (too faggy), a poster of me from "Forever Plaid" (looks like someone can't let go of his five-year-old glory days), my nose-hair trimmer (waaaaay too much information) ... you get the picture.

Anyway, Mom and Dad are here for the weekend, so maybe they can think of something. Fortunately, they'll be very cool about helping their son find a nice boyfriend and settle down.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Though my family isn't known for its genetically perfect vision, at least our eyesight hasn't started failing until we were around college age. Not so for my nephew, who is just a month past his fifth birthday. A sudden bout of heavy blinking and complaints of eye pain have produced a diagnosis of far-sightedness for the little guy ... and a prescription for new glasses.

My initial worry was that he'd be rendered a social dork by the whole thing, but my sister assures me that he's kind of excited about getting glasses because a bunch of his little friends have them too. Her biggest concern is that he'll now be forced to hide his most-commented-on asset: his beautiful eyelashes.

At least his failing eyesight won't hide my favorite part of him: his hearty belly laugh. Get the kid laughing hard enough, and there is no way you can have a bad day from that point on. His sense of humor is so genuine and so ready to bubble to the surface that he makes everyone around him happy. I just hope he keeps his spirits up when the mean kids (and kids can be such assholes) start calling him four-eyes.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

It comes in threes.

One.

Our office submitted 19 entries to the Chicago Association of Direct Marketing Tempo Awards earlier this spring. I had to miss the awards ceremony last week while I was in NYC, but we won in nine categories. I wrote six of the winning entries.

Two.
A control, as I think I explained in an earlier post, is a direct-mail package that always pulls the most response when it's mailed -- and always beats any other package that it's tested against. It's a Big Deal to have a control in extended circulation, and I used to have two out there raking in the bucks month after month for Citibank. Now I have three. We just found out that a package I wrote to sell Citi's co-branded American AAdvantage credit card to college students not only beat the current control, but -- in an world where a 2% response rate is the norm -- it pulled a whopping 40%.

Three.
We just had our monthly staff meeting where we hear news about the company, introduce new employees, showcase prominent creative (today it was the abovementioned control-buster) and bestow the crown for "Brann's Best," which is awarded to an employee nominated by his or her peers for personifying the company's core values, demonstrating leadership, and unofficially sacrificing the most personal life for the corporate bottom line (and apparently to help finance the president's new bass boat). Guess who won. Not only did I get a nice chunk of cash and this butt-ugly trophy that the Brann's Best winner is obligated to display for a whole month, but the president read these glowing emails about me written by my colleagues. (Apparently I've convinced everyone here that I have a "great attitude.") It's enough to make a guy tear up.
As if we needed another reason to loathe Dubya.

(link courtesy of Jocko)
Add another minor celebrity to my growing list of encounters.

I met up with a bunch of chorus guys tonight at Sidetrack for show tunes, and we're singing our little hearts out when suddenly Matthew Rush wanders by with a small army of unattractive hangers-on. He's just as hot in person as he is in his pix -- but WOW, people either love him or hate him. The guys around me were evenly divided, with no middle ground. I personally think he's amazing -- I'd kill for a body like his. The boy needs to smile, though; as moms have been saying to their kids for generations, nobody likes a scowly porn star.

Monday, April 26, 2004

So there was a friendly email from Steve waiting in my inbox when I got to work this morning. And it was coherent and well-spelled, so he passes the literacy test. But it was conspicuously non-committal, and he hasn't entered into a spirited email conversation with me since I responded, so he doesn't pass the show-some-unmistakable-excitement-in-the-first-24-hours test.

And when my phone rang this morning with a strange number on the Caller ID, he wasn't on the other end. But the mysterious voice WAS the photographer from Chicago magazine calling to set up my photo shoot for my Top 20 Singles profile. So my day hasn't been completely devoid of dating-news excitement.
Steve. His name is Steve.
And I finally got a chance to talk to him tonight!

But first, let me back up a bit: Brent -- aka Truly Scrumptious, the fabulous drag queen for whom I was a backup dancer in Who's That Girl? -- treated us dancers to dinner tonight at Ping Pong. After dinner, we decided to go see a late showing of Connie and Carla (drag motif! drag motif!), but we had some time to kill, so we headed to Sidetrack first for some show tune therapy.

So we're standing there, laughing and drinking and singing our little hearts out, when suddenly I hear "You're the Fendi guy!" The crowd parts, the room goes silent (at least in my head) and there he is, Mr. Oh My God, standing right in front of me with that same shit-eating grin that melted me the night before. (And he called me the Fendi guy because when we first (kind of) met I was wearing a tight black T-shirt with FENDI in huge white letters across the chest. And now I think I've found a new lucky shirt.)

So Steve and I finally chat. He's charming. He seems genuine. He's totally hot up close. He's totally into me. And I suddenly find myself blathering like a drunken schoolgirl. Fortunately, the bar is loud and he's actually on his way out to meet some friends, so I have limited time to give him the impression I'm a drooling moron. But before he leaves, he gets my card -- and he PROMISES he'll call me at work tomorrow.

Of course, he'd be the eighth guy this year alone who's promised to call me after getting my number -- without giving me his -- and my phone hasn't exactly been ringing off the hook, if you know what I mean.

But I'm willing to get my hopes up again, because he's THAT HOT. And maybe he's really cool as well. (Which would make him room temperature, no?)

So I'm walking on clouds the rest of the night, allowing myself to project a lifetime of happiness on a five-minute conversation yelled over blaring show tunes in a crowded bar. But what fun is life if you don't set yourself up for a little romantic disappointment now and then?

Ironically, when I was running today I saw Paul -- the only guy I've seriously dated since I moved to Chicago four years ago. (And come to think of it, we broke up exactly a year ago this weekend. How weird.) I haven't seen Paul since last fall, after he announced he wasn't over me and he didn't want to see me anymore because it was too painful. So maybe this anniversary meeting coincidentally timed to the day I finally connect with Steve is some cosmic sign ... a fate-based changing of the guard, if you will.

Or maybe I'm just a happily single gay guy with a serious case of the hots for a muscledude who smiled at me at a drag show. Time will tell.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Dude, this guy was almost perfect.

We dancer boys were watching from the balcony when the house opened last night for Who's That Girl? The crowd that comes to the show is pretty hot and trendy -- in fact, we were laughing at how pervasive the new gay clone uniform has become: dirty-washed jeans, funky shoes and those striped dress shirts that grip (untucked, of course) at the waist and hug under the pecs just so. The audience was quickly becoming a teeming mass of A-gay cliché, when suddenly in HE walked.

I could tell the guy was amazing, even from the balcony: He had dark hair, dark tan, well-muscled shoulders and arms, the confident stride of a successful, self-assured man who's well beyond the age of bullshit, and a tight blue T-shirt that hugged everything on him just right. We watched every head turn as he walked through the crowd and joined his friends, most of whom (thankfully) were also not dressed to assert their individuality by being just like everybody else.

I went downstairs and walked through the crowd myself -- you know, to make sure things were going well with everyone -- but every time I walked by him, he was deep in conversation and never looked up. I did notice, though, that I kind of know one of his friends through the Internet.

So we do the show and it's fabulous and everyone cheers and screams after our number and I'm standing by the front door afterward talking to friends as everyone is filing out ... and suddenly there he is. And our eyes lock. And we grin like drunken fools. I notice he has a KILLER smile. Then we look away shyly. Then we rinse and repeat ... for what seemed like half an hour.

So I go in for the kill. But it takes a few moments to get to him because the crowd is pretty thick. And by the time I get near enough, his friends are all there with him. They're obviously talking about me 'cause they keep looking my way and smiling. But I'm trapped in that eternal conundrum: Do you walk up and hit on a guy in front of his friends or do you wait for them to leave so you can do your bidness in private? They never leave (and he never leaves them to make himself more available, for that matter). But they all continue looking my way and smiling, and I actually see him blush.

And suddenly, they're heading out the door, looking back at me and smiling all the way. And like the big feathered chicken I am, I don't follow. (But in hindsight, I'm glad I didn't; it would have looked awfully desperate.)

Now I can't stop thinking about him. And after obsessing about What Might Have Been during my 6-mile run this morning, I even broke down and sent an awkward email to his friend whom I kind of know asking him to forward my name and number. I'm not getting my hopes up, though.

Besides, I'm still contractually obligated to remain single until I'm featured in Chicago magazine as one of the city's top 20 singles in July. So it just wouldn't have worked.

But maybe this is my kick in the pants to stop being so damn wishy-washy around guys I like. So the next muscular, handsome, confident, independently dressed gay man with a killer smile who flashes his pearly whites at me had better watch out -- from now on I'm gonna take even longer to chicken out.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Who's That Girl? was a smashing success last night. Everyone who was anyone was there, and in addition to the standard thousands and thousands of dollars the event raises for gay-related non-profits, it even racked up an unprecedented $6,000 -- the figure rarely hits the $1,500 range -- in the drag-makeover auction. Our "Xanadu" number drew cheers and screams from the audience, and the little black muscle shirts our drag queen got for us dancer boys looked hot on all of us.

I've spent the day throwing crap out of my closets wholesale, and in a few hours I'll be back on stage for our second night of the show. Off to the showers ...

Thursday, April 22, 2004

New York was fun, but exhausting.

Tuesday was all focus groups, but we found ourselves with a 3-hour break in the afternoon. My colleague and I decided it would be fun to do some shopping, but we quickly realized that the only difference between shopping in midtown Manhattan and shopping on upper Michigan Avenue was the order of the high-end chain stores up and down the street. She wanted to look for girl things anyway, so we parted company -- and after almost an hour of exploring the retail generica you can find in any major city, I stumbled on a Jean Louis David that could take me immediately. And less than $100 later, I had fabulous new highlights and a much more under-control 'do.

After the workday was over, I cabbed to Arno's house to begin our action-packed 30-hour vacation. After showering and changing out of my monkey suit, we trekked over to Urge to make fun of the go-go boys. Urge is set up with a bar in the middle of the room, kind of like a race track. The go-go boys work laps around the bar, trolling for dollars and gingerly stepping around people's drinks. The trouble is, half the bar is a couple feet closer to the ceiling, so the boys have to either dance around all squatty or crawl around on their hands and knees when they get to that part. Either way, they look pretty ridiculous -- and the three dancers on Tuesday were pretty hot, so it's saying a lot that they came off as more dorky than sexy. To top it off, they threw fucking attitude at everyone there. Now, I'm not one to pay a buck to cop a feel of a guy no matter how amazing he looks -- and if he acts like I'm not even worthy to be in the same room as he is, he's not even going to get a hungry stare from me.

On Wednesday, Arno took me on an exhaustive tour of practically the entire southern third of Manhattan. We started at a diner on Eighth Avenue in Chelsea, where Arno explained that Chelsea boys are so superficial that they even have a cool side of the street to walk on (the east side -- make a note of it now so you don't embarrass yourself if you're ever in the neighborhood).

After exploring the neighborhood a bit, we hopped on the subway and came up at Ground Zero. The site is much bigger than I'd pictured, and though the destruction has largely been replaced with the appearance of a standard-issue construction site, I still found myself choking back tears as I contemplated the abject pain and unfathomable suffering that so many people have endured in and around the site since September 11, 2001. We silently headed south from there for a sunny walk along the riverfront, stopping for a photo op in front of the Statue of Liberty and then making our way down to the southern tip of the island.

Our path north took us through the rugged, pre-Revolutionary War Fort Clinton, past an all-but-destroyed sculpture rescued from the World Trade Center wreckage and up Wall Street, where we stopped in a small museum dedicated to George Washington and the first federal seat of government in New York.

By then we were way overdue for lunch, so we stopped for some mediocre dim sum and then headed to Rice to Riches, the coolest niche restaurant in existence, which serves nothing but flavored rice pudding in funky bowls and an even funkier decor. For our post-dessert dessert we hit Ciao Bella, where I had a succulent pear sorbet that was the closest thing to sex on a spoon I've ever experienced.

We stopped at a bunch more boutique shops on our way home, where I quickly collapsed into bed for a restorative nap, and then we got dressed for dinner at Republic Noodles and Johnny Guitar, a hysterical musical homage to Joan Crawford's cheesy 1954 cult movie -- and I was surprised to discover that the new lead is my friend Richard's oft-mentioned ex-boyfriend.

We capped off our day of exhaustive vacation fun at the Eagle, a leather bar (but then again, what bar called the Eagle isn't a leather bar?) waaaay out in the middle of nowhere. The place held the endless promise of raunchy leatherboy fun, but the raunchy leatherboy crowd just wasn't there -- which may have a lot to do with the floor show: An aging, thoroughly unattractive man wearing nothing but boots and cheap underwear standing on a pool table painting an abstract, monochromatic figure study on two huge pieces of dirty posterboard held together with duct tape. If this is some new leather sub-fetish, neither of us found any excitement in it -- or in the crowd standing around watching with the same level of interest you'd expect from a bunch of guys with nothing better to do in a half-deserted bar. We left after a couple hours to head back to Urge, which was hosting its much-hyped Ass Wednesday, which featured an inarticulate, unfunny drag queen hosting a bare-ass contest. The winner had an amazing little honey-baked ham tucked away in his pants -- and his first runner-up was pretty well-assed as well. But by that time the vacation was over and it was time to head home and get ready for this morning's flight back to Chicago.

We have more focus groups here tonight, and then I'm looking forward to a long slumber in my own bed.

Monday, April 19, 2004

I made it safely to the other side of 36!

My birthday weekend was just PACKED with fun, and I still have the groggy incoherence to prove it.

Friday night, Bill (whose birthday is the same as mine) rented a corner of Lizzie McNeil's and celebrated with tons of people from our office and his wife's office. The bar is right on the tourist-friendly riverfront in an area filled with fountains and brick walkways and gorgeous views of the city, and it was really cool to just hang out and chat (and bitch about work for a bit). Best of all, when your co-workers get drunk, you get to hear all sorts of things they usually work so hard to keep inside -- from office gossip to how much they really, really like you. It's good to feel the love -- even if it comes from lovelorn straight women and macho-bluster straight men, and takes a couple of pints of Guinness to get it all out.

Saturday was a gorgeous day in Chicago, and the perfect opportunity to take my new custom-fitted running shoes out for a spin. It was my first outside run since the Shamrock Shuffle a few weeks earlier, and I was excited to see what kind of a difference $95 shoes can make in the real world (instead of the boring old treadmill world where I'd been sweating off my advancing age for the last couple months). I'd planned on pounding out only three miles, but the day was so beautiful and the shirtless men on the running path were so plentiful -- and my shoes were so comfortable -- that I got in a full five miles.

Flush with the pride of accomplishment, I hit the showers and then headed out for some pre-birthday errands: getting makeup and clearance-priced decorations for the evening's Easter-drag-mandatory birthday dinner at Pepper Lounge. The dress and hat I'd bought didn't exactly match, see, so I had to buy buttons or bunnies or flowers or something to sew on them to make them look more like an ensemble. And I found some little plastic eggs and stuffed bunnies and fake sprays of tiny flowers that really gave the outfit a certain flair once they were artfully arranged and secured with a few feet of sturdy darning thread. The dinner was a hoot, and all the girls looked fabulous in their Easter finery (including Jim and Jeff and Terry and Kent, who have repeatedly pointed out that I've neglected to mention them in my Christmas letter every year since I've known them, so they're getting a whole parenthetical mention in the blog until I can rectify the Christmas issue). I also got some fun presents, including a fabulous designer purse from Truly Scrumptious. The purse was adorned with a large H, which I assumed was the initial of some hot new designer I'd never heard of -- but Truly just laughed and laughed and laughed as she explained that the H was for Heidi Holes, my endlessly clever nom de drag. After dinner we all paraded through the Cubs game crowds (who never failed to smile and wave and whistle at us -- but who doesn't love a drag queen when she's all holiday-pretty?) over to Keith and Steve's house to admire the progress of their kitchen renovation and watch some TiVo, then I headed home to scrub up and de-drag so I could hit Sidetrack for some birthday fun as a boy.

Sunday -- the actual big day -- was comparatively low-key after the previous two nights of excitement. I slept late, got serenaded over the phone by my folks and my sister's family, read some of the paper, watched some TiVo, and then met Paul for a nice lunch at Nookie's. After lunch, we decided to walk "just a few blocks" to Abercrombie & Fitch so Paul could stock up on underwear (he's apparently started donating his underwear to guys he meets, but that's a story for another time). I couldn't picture where there was an A&F near Boystown, but I trusted Paul's description of its location -- and 437 miles later, in brand-new flip-flops that shredded my poor feet, we arrived there. Now, I've always maintained that there's nothing more pathetic than a grown gay man wearing A&F as though he were down with the kids, yo. So there is a profound irony in the fact that I ended up spending a bit of my 36th birthday clomping through one of its stores on the bloody stumps that used to be my feet. But Paul replenished his underwear stock and we headed back to Boystown, enjoying the beautiful day and talking about everything and nothing -- and then we stopped in a record store with a cute clerk who smiled back and forth with me for a good 20 minutes as he chatted with other customers. But I had to head home to get ready for rehearsal, so I took off -- and I hadn't gone half a block before Paul called to tell me that the clerk practically broke his neck watching me walk out the door and down the street.

An hour later I was riding with Truly Scrumptious and two other dancer boys to a dance studio to learn Truly's guaranteed-to-be-fabulous "Xanadu" number for Who's That Girl? The show is an over-the-top Vegas-style drag revue that raises TONS of money for some of the most visible gay-related non-profits in Chicago. This is my third year doing it, and this time I get to be a hot dancer boy in tight black clothes, doing lifts and shaking my honey-baked ham like the Solid Gold dancer I am. We had a blast choreographing the number last night, and I honestly can't think of a more fun way to celebrate my birthday than dancing around to "Xanadu" with a bunch of hot guys in a sweaty studio.

And now the weekend's over, and I'm sitting at work a little bit tired a little bit sore from all that running and dancing and high-heel wearing. But I take off early tomorrow for NYC for a day of business and then a day of vacation with Arno. Be good while I'm gone.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Estonian Week continues.

Richard, Bob and I got comp tickets last night to Slava's Snow Show, which was billed in its advertising as a Cirque du Soleil knockoff -- with images of flying people in bizarre costumes playing around fanciful set pieces.

But the advertising lied. The show was nothing but clowns. And mimes. Nobody flew, nobody exhibited feats of physical prowess ... and nobody showed any well-muscled body parts.

Once our initial disappointment wore off, though, we kind of liked the show. The sets and costumes were as fanciful and colorful and enchanting as those I remember from the opening ceremonies of the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. The clowning (though officially NOT my thing) was cute and engaging -- and the audience ate it up. (There was one boy in particular sitting in front of us with a belly laugh as hearty and joyful as my nephew's.) And the music they used covered everything from "Chariots of Fire" to "O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana.

The Carmina Burana section, in fact, was the coolest part of the show -- as the set walls disappeared, a bank of blinding lights glared out at the audience and a literal mountain of fog and confetti blew over us as Orff's magnificent score pumped louder and louder through the house. It was a pretty spectacular ending, topped only by the massive (as in 10 to 30 feet in diameter) air-filled balls that followed, rolling off the stage toward us and being bounced around by the audience.

Honorable mention goes to the bathrooms in the historic Chicago Theatre. I'd never been downstairs of that lobby before, and the basement lounge area outside the bathrooms is filled with totally cool columns and flying buttresses and frescoes -- it makes me want to chug a TON of water before I see my next show there.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

It's shaping up to be an Arvo Pärt birthday. I became fascinated with Pärt's work when I first heard his ethereal "Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten" at an otherwise unremarkable Hubbard Street Dance Chicago performance a couple weeks ago. I mentioned him in my blog, and Arno -- ever the proud Estonian -- promptly sent me a bunch of information on Estonia's most famous composer.

My parents got me Pärt's Sanctuary last weekend for my birthday, and I came home one night this week to find a box with three other Pärt CDs waiting for me courtesy of Arno. Who knew I'd go from never having heard of this guy to owning what is most likely his entire oeuvre in less than a month? (And how fun is it to repeatedly type a word with an umlaut in it? I hope it's coming through OK for you poor unfortunate souls reduced to reading my blog on a PC.)

Other birthday weekend plans are shaping up well: Tomorrow night is a joint celebration with Bill. We've been working out together for almost a year, and we just discovered we have the same birthday, so Bill invited the whole office to a shindig tomorrow at some bar near here that he likes. Saturday night is an Easter-drag-mandatory celebration with 12 of my most not-afraid-to-wear-a-dress-in-public friends at Pepper Lounge. I found a $10 waffle-knit shift in '60s-mod shades of orange and yellow, and I'm going to try to find some fake daisies or huge buttons to sew on it and make it even more hideous. Top it off with a not-quite-the-same-shade-of-orange sun hat and a scarf I stole from my mom when I was home for Easter, and I should be the prettiest large-boned, gym-built birthday girl in the room. Then Sunday -- the day I actually bid my early 30s goodbye -- I have a Who's That Girl? rehearsal with Brent (aka Truly Scrumptious). I'm gonna be a backup dancer (as a boy this year) to his (aka her) big "Xanadu" number. And I can't think of a better way to turn 36 than shaking my honey-baked ham with Olivia Newton-John and ELO in a place where nobody dared to go, the love that we came to know. They call it Xanadu.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Easter weekend in Iowa: all the highlights you're dying to know

• I timed my drive perfectly on Friday afternoon -- I pulled out of the Chicago parking garage to the first strains of All Things Considered, I cruised across the Mississippi to Marketplace and I pulled into my sister's driveway as the credits rolled for This American Life.

• My niece and nephew RAN to greet me when I pulled up and gave me the most satisfying hugs an uncle could ever get. They spent the rest of the weekend being fun and well-behaved and polite and charming and funny and everything else they could think of to make me get all weepy every time I looked at them.

• The nephew wanted me to sleep on his bottom bunk, which apparently excited him to no end. So each night after he put on his pajamas, I got to read four books to him, tuck him into bed and then eventually crawl into the roomier-than-I-thought little bed underneath his after spending the evening hanging out kid-free with the family.

• The Easter egg hunt at Brucemore was cold, but far more fun than I expected. The kids were still young enough to buy into the magic, the grounds were immaculate and the mansion was as beautiful as I remember (though its endlessly rambling Queen Anne architecture has never been my cup of tea). I even ran into Jim and Peggy and Janelle and got to catch up with them while we were there. Jim was my high-school drama director, and Janelle and I have shared the stage in everything from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas to Starmites to Follies, and she's still every bit the diva (in the amazingly talented and force-to-be-reckoned-with-on-stage and respected-by-everyone-she-works-with sense of the word). She just released her first CD, which carried me well across Iowa on my drive home yesterday.

• We celebrated my birthday while I was home (a week early -- there's still time to buy me stuff before the actual celebration on the 18th), and I got socks and underwear, which I was in desperate need of, a ton of Gap gift certificates (because a man can never have enough opportunities to shop), and Arvo Pärt's Sanctuary, featuring his ethereal "Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten."

• I got to sit between the niece and the nephew at my birthday dinner. As I was cutting the niece's food for her, she leaned over and patted my arm with her little 2-year-old hand and said "Thank you." Bliss.

• I sang with the choir at my folks' church Easter morning, and I got to stand between a five-piece brass ensemble and the back ranks of the organ pipes as we belted out a stirring Vaughan Williams piece and Handel's glorious "Hallelujah" chorus. Best of all, I was right there among the pipes to experience the mighty "Toccata" from Charles-Marie Widor's Symphony No. 5 not once but twice as two congregations were dismissed.

• On the way home last night, I got to drive in almost 30 miles of stop-and-go traffic outside of Chicago. In a stick shift.

Friday, April 09, 2004

My anemic list of not-so-impressive celebrity sightings continues to grow.

Before I get to yesterday's celebrity surprise, though, here's a partial list of the kinda-famous folks I've encountered in my almost 36 years on earth:

Emo Philips doing pushups in a powder-blue tuxedo at O'Hare, April or May 1991
Jackie Mason, looking one french fry away from a coronary, Carnegie Deli, NYC, April or May 1991
Whoopi Goldberg at a press conference where she gave a big check to some kids' home, LA, April 1993 or 1994
Matt Gunther disinterestedly stripping at a depressing gay bar, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, December 1995
Teri Farrel modeling with me in a runway show at Westdale Mall, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, fall 1996
Jason Branch, Blake Harper and some sexy bald guy whose name escapes me flirting with me on an elevator at the Congress Hotel, Chicago, Memorial Day weekend 2000
Scott Weiland, looking skinny and pale and extremely nervous -- and every bit the epitome of crack-whore glamour -- on a treadmill next to me at Crunch, Chicago, fall 2002
Jason Priestly in the audience at the Chicago premiere of a movie he was in, fall 2003
Megan Mullally singing at a concert and then at a reception afterward, Skokie, IL, fall 2003
R. Kelly hogging all the equipment with his obnoxious posse, Crunch, Chicago, off and on since January 2004
Bruce Villanch grabbing my crotch instead of shaking my hand in his dressing room at the Oriental Theatre after a performance of "Hairspray," Chicago, January 2004

Which brings us to yesterday. I had just left work to meet Matthew for dinner, and I was walking up Dearborn to his place in the Gold Coast. About half a block from Ohio Street, I noticed cops appearing and clearing that street of all cars and pedestrians. By the time I got there, the street was completely empty, and the sidewalks were lined with curious pedestrians. Suddenly a massive parade of cop cars, black town cars and buses started whizzing by -- and there, clear as day in the back of a black SUV, was John Kerry with his Andrew Jackson hair, Hapsburg jaw and yellow windbreaker. And as soon as the motorcade shot by, the cops opened up the street and life went on as though nothing had just happened. (Except I whipped out my cell phone to call my mom and tell her about it.)

What struck me most was the complete nonchalance about the whole episode. I grew up in Iowa, where even the merest wisp of celebrity in our midst made the front page of the paper for weeks. And here in Chicago, where a co-worker recently ran into Bill Murray on the street and a friend works out next to Oprah every morning, celebrity sightings are so commonplace they're just not newsworthy. (Though apparently they're not commonplace enough that I've been able to rub elbows with A-list famous people EVEN ONCE in 36 (almost) years.)

Thursday, April 08, 2004

So Bob and I finally nailed down our dates for Paris and London on Monday night. And we tried to buy our tickets on Orbitz, but the site kept doing weird things. So we decided we'd keep trying throughout the week until we got our reservations booked. And somewhere in the conversation -- I think it was when I complained about how professionally unfulfilling my work life has been lately -- Bob made a comment about how people work only because they know that if they lose their jobs they're just months away from financial desperation.

And the next day, Bob lost his job.

It wasn't anything personal; his department's raison d'être wasn't producing any revenue, so the company just eliminated the raison and canned the whole department.

So I guess we should thank the make-believe god on our money and in our pledge that we didn't book our tickets the night before.

And I have to either:
1) contemplate doing London and Paris alone this fall
2) think of somewhere else fun to go on vacation this year

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Scenes from a gay man's day at the office.

One.
S., the attractive blond who doesn't always dress to flatter her figure, is wearing a blouse that looks great on her boobs today. I tell her. She beams with pleasure.

Two.
K., who is planning a wedding in another state, complains about a legal double standard: Women have to undergo a battery of blood tests to get a license in that state while men don't have to do anything but ask for one. "Don't even get me started on the patriarchal double standards that legislate discrimination in marriage," I tell her. D., who has been here only a week and who has yet to voice any sociopolitical opinions, looks decidedly uncomfortable that there's a goddamn homosexual in the room -- and that he's unafraid to speak his mind.

Three.
J., the new (ostensibly heterosexual) copywriter and arguably the hottest guy in the office (which isn't saying much), always sneaks a peek in my office when he walks by. Nobody else ever sneaks a peek, and hundreds of people walk by my door each day. It kind of turns me on.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

I dragged poor Paul on all my errands yesterday. First we hit Fleet Feet so I could get custom fitted for running shoes. I figure most of my running injuries have come from buying shoes off the rack, so I went in for an evaluation that included watching me run in various shoes to find the ones that kept my stride the most true and straight. $90 later, I now have the most comfortable running shoes I've ever worn. And possibly the most injury-free running season ahead of me.

After that we hit Home Depot so I could look at ceiling lights. I found nothing, but Paul walked out with new blinds and three new plants. Then we headed up to Boystown so I could buy an Easter dress. More on THAT later.

Afterward, we spent the evening with pizza and ice cream and Sleepy Hollow and Celebrity Teabag. Tonight on Celebrity Teabag, our mystery guests are Karl Malden and Gene Shalit!

Friday, April 02, 2004

One of the benefits of TiVo was that I could set it to record stuff like Playing it Straight and then not get so stressed when I had to work late on Fridays as I always seem to do.

So I crawl home tonight from another long day and head right to the TV for some good trashy hot-gay-boys-pretending-to-be-straight TiVo therapy, when -- ACK! -- it's not there!

Much fretting and cursing later, I turn to my good friend Google, who informs me that the show has been pulled for low ratings. Thankfully, it should re-appear "sometime this summer." Whew!
Arno is quite the world traveler -- he's been everywhere from South Beach to Estonia. So when he recommended I check out Molvania, of course I booked my tickets immediately.
So R. and I finally had our date last night -- and we had a blast! He brought over his DVD of the ultra-cheesy, poorly choreographed (and even more poorly danced) but nonetheless fabulous Les Demoiselles de Rochefort.

The biggest source of fun for me was the casting of a very clumsy Catherine Deneuve as a dance instructor struggling to look graceful with no dance training and a 500 lb. wig throwing off her center of gravity. Then there's the whole Gene-Kelly-watching-his-glorious-dance-career-slide-down-the-toilet factor -- a whole decade before the final Xanadu flush. But the costumes and candy-colored cinematography are fabulous. And George Chakiris' ass looks great in his tight 1967 pants.

Best of all, it's in French with English subtitles -- which helped me immeasurably in my budding command of the language. (It also helped that R. was right there next to me to help me with my conjugations -- if you know what I mean.)

Thursday, April 01, 2004

I can not believe I got all choked up last night watching the special wedding episode of Extreme Makeover. See, these two schlubby people not only got free extreme makeovers, but they got a free dream wedding at Disney World too -- the only catch being that they had to endure the endless pain of not seeing each other from the first pokes of their surgeries until their wedding day seven weeks later.

It helped that they seemed like fun, happy, grounded, drama-free people -- and that they both had a sense of humor and decidedly realistic expectations from the whole thing.

But I've recently become wholly and unapologetically anti-wedding (as in anti-ALL-wedding) in the wake of all the anti-gay-wedding sentiment now flowing so copiously and unapologetically from every compassionate-conservative corner of humanity. I won't sing at weddings, I won't buy Lenox gravy boats for my friends who register at foo-foo houses of expensive finery, I won't waste time and money and entire weekends wearing starchy shirts and sitting in goddamned churches watching people get married ... I'm just over the whole fucking thing.

But then I crawled home last night from another long-ass workday and another too-short workout and I plopped down slack-jawed in front of the goddess TiVo, and before I knew it -- even though the show quickly subjected me to waaay too much coverage of cake tasting and flower arrangements and other inane wedding-planning rituals -- I found myself tearing up as these two people discovered an outer beauty to match the inner beauty they'd already found (and the guy turned out kind of hot) and pledged their love for each other in front of family, friends, Mickey Mouse and all those carefully picked flower arrangements.

OK. So if you ask nicely and fork over the right amount of cash, I may be persuaded to sing at your wedding (breeder or otherwise). But you will NOT get me to sing that godawful "There is Love" song.