Sunday, October 31, 2004

Letter from Washington

I'm sitting at one of the free computers in the lobby of our hotel (VERY cool guest perk) and waiting to head out on one more family excursion before I wing my way home this afternoon. We've had a pretty spectacular week (detailed commentary and snide remarks to follow in a separate post), and Dad made it safely to the other side of 65. I didn't run into -- and get to slap -- Antonin "Scabby Little Butthole" Scalia or "Tiny" Dick "Scabby Little Butthole" Cheney while we were here, but my family and I did spend time in darn near every museum and monument we'd hoped to visit. And we stumbled on a few more that were equally as thrilling.

I'd packed my running gear in the hopes of making a few laps around the Mall under the watchful eye of my favorite DC landmarks, but my knee is still pretty banged up from the marathon. I did get to enjoy the next best thing, though: reveling in the palpable energy (and endless miles of hot, muscular legs) from the Marine Corps Marathon, which is freshly underway as I write this. The city -- our hotel especially -- has been PACKED with marathon runners (with those amazing legs) and Marines (with those sexy high-and-tight flattops) all weekend. And it's been extremely difficult to scope and flirt discreetly around my parents (not that any of those stupid Marines showed any interest in flirting back).

Enjoy your Halloween. And watch this space for more exciting news from Dad's Medicare Tour 2004.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Happy birthday, Dad!

It's hard to believe that my father -- the man who taught me to ride a bike and replace a faucet and throw a football without looking too much like a big girl -- is crossing over into the realm of the Medicare eligible this weekend.

But he's not aging wimpliy. Indeed, he and Mom have planned a rockin' birthday week in the cradle (or grave, depending on the outcome of next week's election) of modern civilization: Washington, D.C. We take off tomorrow for five days of museums, concerts, food, impromptu history lessons and probably more food. Definitely more food.

And here, in no particular order, are some of the things I'm looking forward to:

• Sitting on the top steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gazing down at the Mall and all the monuments both epic and modest that commemorate all the history that has made me (usually very) proud to be an American.
• Sitting in the sunken sculpture garden behind the Hirshhorn, contemplating one of the most dynamic scupltures of all time: Rodin's The Burghers of Calais.
• Gawking like a big fag at the display of first lady inaugural gowns.
• Catching the always-brilliant Capitol Steps just a few days before a hotly contested election.
• Spending time with my folks. As adults. As friends. I'm incredibly lucky my family is so close, and I cherish every moment we have together.
• Not being at WORK.

I have no idea if I'll have the time or computer access (or inclination) to make any posts until I get back on Sunday. Be good while I'm gone.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Circus train

When you're planning on taking three days of vacation -- how dare you! -- you end up working late, late, late on the nights before you actually escape.

And when you get on a late-night train home, you invariably share the ride with a menagerie of oddballs.

So tonight I get on a relatively empty car (one of the benefis of late-night train rides is you get a seat all to yourself) and take out my New Yorker for some nice light reading on the trip home. I'm enjoying yet another verbal evisceration of our butt-stupid president when out of the corner of my eye I spot The Conductor. And I'm not talking about the train conductor. This guy was just your garden-variety twitchy freak who needed to be kicked by an angry donkey weird person with a tic: He waved his hand. A lot. He was sitting across the aisle from me with his Jake-facing arm draped across the back of the empty seat next to him. And he was using it to conduct an imaginary symphony. Or punctuate an animated conversation in his head. Or swat a swarm of clumsy bees. Or dry his nails. In any case, his fucking hand would not. stop. waving. And it summoned in me the need. to. kill.

Fortunately for The Conductor, my attention was diverted at the Belmont stop by the arrival of The Hoodlum. This wannabe-badass who was so, so, so obviously gay slumped onto the train mumbling incoherently but loudly into a cell phone, and when he finished his conversation (and how did anyone involved in that conversation know it was finished? nothing was being said) he pulled on his earphones and blasted his Angry Disaffected Urban Kid Music so loud it actually interrupted The Conductor's symphony. Rotten kids.

At the next stop, Sullen Lady and her Pleading Boyfriend got up to leave. She'd been self-hugging and boyfriend-ignoring since the stop after I got on. But that didn't stop him from working to get on her good side if the drama queen even had one. And when he offered his hand to help her up from her seat at their final destination, she sat there defiantly in her baby-pink car coat, ignoring his hand and standing up All By Herself once the train came to a complete stop. Good girl!

As the train pulled us out of their station and away from their Epic Drama, the door on the front end of our car slammed open, and The Maverick appeared. (You see, there are tons of signs forbidding people from traveling from car to car while the train is moving -- except in extreme emergencies -- but those rules don't apply to everyone. At least once a week, someone in The Maverick family makes a big show of emerging from one end of my car and clomping down the aisle only to disappear through the door at the other end. In the mean time, those of us who have been so unfairly prevented from embarking on such adventures look on and hope that this time -- oh please oh please oh please -- The Maverick will slip and be crushed to a painful, bloody death as he travels between cars. But we never get our wish.) Tonight, the part of The Maverick was dramatically played by a limping lothario in a knee-length duster and jaunty fedora. But he didn't smell bad, so he literally lacked the required air of authenticity.

Mercifully, by the time The Maverick had disappeared into a bloody pulp beneath the wheels, my stop came into view. One whoosh of the door, and I left this chapter of the circus life behind me.

And then I raced home to blog about it.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Odds and ends

So Tucson was gross, boring and kind of depressing fun. The plane rides there and back were among the bumpiest I've ever experienced. There was a point on the trip home where we hit some kind of air pocket so hard that people actually shrieked and my complimentary beverage became airborne, making a wet mess of my tray table (which was not in the locked and upright position at the time). I turned to the dork guy next to me and made a lame joke about potholes, and he shot me a look that said -- in all seriousness -- Dude, there are no potholes in the air.

The focus groups we observed there were interesting as well. The participants in the first group were duly knowledgeable and thoughtful, but the second group was infested with conspiracy theorists -- one of whom went off on multiple tangents about how the government is willfully keeping the public sick by withholding funding for cloning technology. And the man was a retired pharmacist.

The focus group facility itself was in the middle of a depressing trailer-park neighborhood a couple miles down the road from our hotel, which was relatively nice -- and decorated very theatrically in a Mexican villa sort of way. It even had a courtyard with a huge fountain, and I spent a couple hours Friday morning reading in the sun next to it until it was time to head to the airport. Business travel can be so exhausting.

I'm choreographing the chorus' holiday show (if you loved me you'd get your tickets now), and Saturday was the first of our two dance auditions. I'm always so impressed by how hard people work at my auditions -- and I'm always amused when I see them struggling to perform combinations I put together dancing around the house in my underwear or even in the shower -- but I HATE the casting part of the process; people are guaranteed to be disappointed or get their feelings hurt and there's nothing I can do to make everyone happy. But I get a huge kick out of seeing my ideas take shape on stage and an even bigger kick out of seeing my dancers' confidence and skills grow. (Plus, it's my personal mission to teach the entire world to soft-shoe, and I'm almost done with the Homosexual Phase of the process. So if you're a breeder, start limbering up and practice dancing on the balls of your feet. You're next.)

Thursday, October 21, 2004

The Jet Age interrupts the Information Age

I'm winging off to Tucson on business in a few hours.

Here's some stuff you can look forward to seeing Right! Here! On! This! Site! when I get back:
• More marathon photos!
• Pictures of my new bathroom!
• Pictures of all the artfully arranged gay-ass stuff I hung over my bed!
• More pathetic rants about how I can't find a boyfriend!
• Random pictures of hunky men I found on the Internet!

Be good while I'm gone.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Performances and misconceptions

PERFORMANCE
Last night the chorus sang a short 10-minute set to kick off an evening of song and dance called Jubliate, a fund-raiser for Bonaventure House, which provides housing and assistance for people living with HIV and AIDS. What made the event different from our regular appearances is the fact that Bonaventure House is not your typical gay-run organization. In fact, it’s a Catholic thing—and the event purportedly draws its audience from the rich straight white see-and-be-seen Gold Coast socialite demographic instead of the rich gay white see-and-be-seen Attitude Queen demographic, which is what we’re used to singing for. So we got exposure in front of a whole new segment of the population. And, as usual, we rocked.

And the hope is that after seeing and hearing just how much we rock, this new segment of the population will think we’re handsome and talented young men and will 1) adopt us in a benefactor sort of way and 2) tell its friends (and elected officials) that Those Gay People sure are nice—and handsome and talented!—and maybe everyone should stop discriminating against them.

What was even cooler was that the event took place in the brand-spanking-new Harris Theater for Music and Dance, conveniently located under (as in many stories deep in the earth below) Frank Gehry’s magnificent new Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago’s magnificent new Millennium Park. Though the new theater suffers from a bad case of Butt-Ugly Lobby, the performance space itself is spectacular, with amazing sightlines and acoustics that border on perfection. It was a total trip to sing on the stage—especially so soon after it opened.

I’m always interested in comparing the public spaces of great theaters—and this place is destined to become a great theater—with their backstage spaces. The backstage spaces at the Harris Theater are decorated in an efficient military-blah style, with floor after floor of spacious—though sparsely decorated—dressing rooms organized along endless corridors filled with exposed pipes (for easy access!), whitewashed to cheerless uniformity and stenciled with minimalist signage pointing you anywhere you want to go. It’s all very Titanic steerage, and I wouldn’t have been surprised to stumble on a poor Irish girl or two struggling into a life jacket or two as I walked the halls last night.

And there’s a rumor—just a rumor, mind you—that this theater will become the chorus’ new performance home as soon as next season. Which gives me a huge, all-singing, all-dancing boner.

MISCONCEPTION
As many of you more regular readers know because I pathetically won’t stop carping about it, I have been single for more than a regular human could be realistically expected to bear quite some time now.

And last night I might have figured out one of the obvious to everyone but me reasons why: It seems that there’s this misconception that I already have a boyfriend.

As we were changing clothes after the concert last night, hunky little Rick turned and asked me a question that I suddenly realized I’d heard in one form or another about ten times in the last month alone: “You have a boyfriend, right?”

AS IF. Would a man in the throes of romantic bliss have the time to write Pulitzer-worthy endlessly entertaining blog entries day in and day out? Would a man with a bottomless pit of sexual need boyfriend have time to run a marathon? Would a man who’s been validated by love spend his evenings killing hookers in the basement spend his evenings killing hookers in the basement?

In a word: No.

Once I realized there was a pattern here and explained it to Rick, he responded—without coaching of any sort—honest!—with a charming rationalization: The world thinks I’m such great husband material that everyone just assumes I have a husband.

Which pretty much floored me. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a sweeter compliment. Especially one that also managed to fill me with gut-wrenching despair concern that this find-a-boyfriend project is even more of an uphill battle than I’d feared.

And it didn’t do much to stop me from going to bed bitter and alone and reeking of smoke after yet another unsuccessful evening of husband-hunting at Sidetrack last night.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Post-marathon excitement

So since I posted all my marathon pix and stories, I've been waiting for something Just As Epic to happen to me so I could write about it.

Unfortunately, the marathon has pretty much been my life since I started training for it in April. And now that it's over, apparently so is my life.

To wit:
• I had a business trip this week. To Minnesota. Whee. (We were, however, presenting concepts for the upcoming Harley-Davidson Visa Sweet Ride Sweepstakes, so the creative that we were working on was definitely cool.)

• I ran out of my favorite peanut butter AND my favorite salad dressing. So I had to go to the store.

• I watched The Apprentice. They fired my favorite hunk of meat.

• I programmed my TiVo to record a six-hour PBS series about Broadway. Because, apparently, I'm gay.

• You get the picture.

But everything changed today, when I found myself with ACTUAL SOCIAL PLANS: I met Bob downtown at noon to have lunch and then to see The Forgotten, which I loved! Not only is the plot engaging and suitably thrilling, but it never gets bogged down by those annoying that-would-never-happen moments that drive me NUTS in most other movies. (Yes, the movie involves some weird supernatural/alien/government-cover-up storyline -- which requires a certain willingness to suspend disbelief -- but it never leaves you hanging with day-to-day unbelievabilities. And just when you think it does -- like the scene where two characters go to an office building in an airplane hanger and find every door mysteriously unlocked -- it explains away this seeming implausability with a very logical plot development. I totally dig when that happens.) It also stars the always-cool Julianne Moore, who is on my very short list of females I would fuck if I absolutely had to. (Hey, when I feel a compliment coming on, I share it. Even when it's this saccharine-sweet and potentially blush-inducing. And Julianne is very deserving of such effusive praise.) Best of all, the movie gives not one but THREE examples of smokin' hot men in (or at least approaching) their 40s:


Dominic West, best known (to me) as the doomed (but hunky) Fred Casely in Chicago


Linus Roache, best known (to me) as the scandalously gay Priest


Gary Sinise, best known (to me) as, well, Gary Sinise


But that's not all of today's excitement, my friends. Noooooo! After the movie, we went bag shopping! And after years of schlepping through business trips with my embarrassingly rural green-and-blue Lands' End carry-on, I'm now the proud owner of a stylish (though admirably understated) black leather shoulder bag with tons of compartments, ingenious zippered expandability, and a sleek aesthetic that says I'm Someone And I'm Going Somewhere.

And the first place I'm going with it is Tucson. This Thursday.

And heads will turn.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Many marathon musings
(Alliteration runs rampant!)

I ran my very first race—a 5K, which is 3.1 miles—on May 14, 1994. The company I worked for at the time was the principal sponsor, so I got a free entry. And I had a bit of a crush on a co-worker who was running it, so I thought this might be a good way to impress him so much that he’d abandon his wife and his well-established heterosexual lifestyle to spend the rest of his life with a barely athletic non-runner who entertained pointless fantasies about converting the non-convertible.

Of course, I hadn’t run a lick to train for the thing, and that short little run all but killed me. Needless to say, the co-worker is still happily married (and—as far as I know—still clueless about that fleeting little crush I harbored). But things have definitely changed for me.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think my pathetic entry into the world of running would grow to a passion and a dedication that would eventually see me running an entire marathon ten years later.

When I ran the half marathon three weeks ago, I gave you a mile-by-mile account of the adventure. The full marathon is a different beast, though—one that plays with your mind and completely redefines the space-time continuum. I have very few specific memories of the race—at least that I could tie to specific mile markers. So instead of a chronology, I offer you a few random impressions and news items:

THINGS THAT MADE ME SMILE
• The people. The miles and miles of volunteers lined up—sometimes five deep—along the course to cheer, hand out water and fruit, hold up signs, and navigate the trains and buses to race ahead and see loved ones more than once as they ran. The people ROCKED.

• The way everyone yelled GO JAKE GO at me. Just like my T-shirt told them to do.

• Rounding the corner from Addison to Broadway in Boystown. This was arguably the BEST crowd in the whole race, and I felt like a friggin’ rock star who’d just won the Nobel Prize and found some really cool shoes on sale as I ran godlike through the cheers and smiles and high-fives. The buzz stayed with me at least five or six miles.

• All the throwaway clothes. Chicago Marathon runners use the iffy October weather as an opportunity to get rid of their old running gear. They layer themselves with the stuff to ward off the morning cold and then just throw it in the road as they get warm. It’s funny in a way, but it’s also irritating for those of us at the back of the pack who have to dance through miles of crumpled sweatshirts. The funniest part was when the siren went off to start the race and the air over the crowd was suddenly filled with flying fashion. (Wow. The alliteration police are gonna bust me over this post.)

• Running by a DJ playing “Y.M.C.A.” and watching an entire streetful of marathoners pump their arms joyously together in those four letters.

• Stupid, goofy signs that people held up along the course. The only one I can remember today said something like Custom-fitted running shoes: Priceless. Moisture-wicking running shirt: Priceless. Water stations every mile. Priceless. This stupid sign that your brother made: Worthless.

• All the runners who came up from behind me to offer congratulations and encouragement after seeing MY FIRST MARATHON on my back. One poor guy, seconds after telling me how well I was doing, tripped over his own feet and made a violent face-plant in the asphalt. I helped him up and offered whatever meager assistance I could, feeling overwhelmingly guilty that I was in some part responsible for his accident. He insisted he was fine, but he grabbed a Gatorade out of his pocket and held it to his hand as a cold compress before he disappeared in the crowd.

THINGS THAT GOT ME CHOKED UP
• Crossing the starting line. I’m serious. I had worked so hard and given up so much time and energy (and social life) and survived so much pain—and I was finally here. I was actually about to run a marathon.

• The people. The miles and miles of volunteers lined up—sometimes five deep—along the course to cheer, hand out water and fruit, hold up signs, and navigate the trains and buses to race ahead and see loved ones more than once as they ran. Their dedication and enthusiasm brought my heart to my throat more than once.

• Watching runners encourage each other—sometimes by even holding their hands or stopping to help people who’d dropped by the side of the road. The constant selflessness I witnessed was at times overwhelming.

• All the runners in T-shirts emblazoned with words and pictures in memory of or in honor of friends and loved ones. Or the bald woman I saw running in a shirt promoting breast cancer awareness. Jesus—it made my goal just to prove to myself I could do it seem petty.

• Seeing my mom and sister at mile 8 and then again at mile 16. They’d gotten up at 3 in the morning to drive all the way to Chicago, navigate the subway and cheer me on amid an endless sea of happy strangers. And I looked forward to seeing them more than anything as I ran.

• Crossing the finish line. I didn’t sob like I’d expected, but I definitely got choked up.

• Writing this list and reliving these memories again. I actually did it. I ran a marathon. I can’t believe it.

THINGS THAT KIND OF SUCKED
• My bad knee more or less blew out at mile 13. I’d been carrying my knee brace in my hand, so I simply strapped it on and kept going. It didn’t make everything better, but it helped.

• The miles after 21. Especially the ones running south along the highway toward U.S. Cellular Field. Every time we approached a bridge, my heart kind of fell when I didn’t see the runners crossing it and heading back north to the finish line. But eventually I reached that bridge. At least I think I did.

• The last mile. It was a marathon in itself. I had to keep reminding myself to pay attention through the pain and savor the experience—especially the experience of running the last eighth mile between bleachers filled with people screaming their encouragement and shared joy over my accomplishment. How often do you get to do that in your life?

TWO FINAL THOUGHTS
• I couldn't find a running partner and I didn't join a marathon training group, so from April to October, I trained for and completed a full marathon all by myself. I'm quite proud of that.

• If you have even a tiny bit of desire to tackle a marathon, go for it. With the proper training (and shoes) it’s actually not so impossible to accomplish. And the feeling you get when you cross the finish line is absolutely incomparable. I highly recommend it. And there’s a good chance you’ll see me on the marathon course, because I WANT TO DO IT AGAIN.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

4:36:31!


Mile 16. Three miles into the bad pain.
The really bad pain didn't set in until mile 21.


Rule #1: Instruct the spectators how to cheer for you, and they won't let you down.


Rule #2: Promote yourself shamelessly and the other runners will encourage you in your hour(s) of need.


Post-race massage. I barely felt it through the pain.


One tired dog.


(sweat + evaporation) x 4 hours = salt
How cool is that? I made salt!

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Pain is temporary. Glory is forever.

I know. What cheesy-ass fake-macho T-shirt did I get that slogan from?

Actually, I did get it from a T-shirt. About 10 years ago. And though it's just dripping with stupidly absolutist macho bluster, the sentiment has gotten me through many walls in many runs. And you can bet I'll be summoning the T-shirt slogan gods repeatedly for inspiration tomorrow in the marathon.

(Though, come to think of it, most running pain lasts months and months while the glory lasts for just those few seconds when you cross the finish line. But why split hairs?)

I spent today with my disarmingly hot friend Sonelius, who's in town from NYC to run. This morning we went to the fitness expo at McCormick Place to pick up our race packets and marathon T-shirts and assorted free doodads (like a styrofoam car-antenna decoration shaped like a smiling airlpane!) and then headed to a T-shirt shop in Boystown so I could get GO JAKE GO on the front of the shirt I'm wearing tomorrow (and -- in a fit of shameless self-promotion -- I also put MY FIRST MARATHON on the back). Then we had a leisurely lunch at a fussy sidewalk cafe while the gay royalty paraded by in its Too Tight T-Shirt Collection. (I swear, the gay royalty in this town can barely afford clothes that fit. It's really a tragedy.)

Now we're regrouping at our separate abodes and we'll meet up for our final carbo-load dinner tonight. Then it's off to bed at some ungodly early hour.

And then the pain. And then the glory. And I can't wait!

Friday, October 08, 2004

My First Marathon!

It's finally here. After a long summer of running, eating like a shameless pig and ... um ... running some more (and then blogging endlessly about my training, my injuries, my frustrations and—ACK!—my shrinking muscles), I guess I’m as ready as I'll ever be.

The thing kicks off Sunday, October 10, at 8:00 am in Chicago’s scenic Grant Park near the beautiful Buckingham Fountain, and it runs up and down damn near every street in Chicago, six neighboring suburbs and three Midwestern swing states.

If you're in Chicago and you want to join the million spectators expected to show up and cheer us on (I'll be the one in the white and yellow running shoes), you can get a map of the course here.

If you can’t make it to watch but you’re so ecstatically passionate about following my progress that you want email/phone/pager alerts of my split times and my finish time, you can sign up (using bib number 42091) here.

And if you want to send flowers and get-well wishes after the race, I should be in one or two (but no more than three) of any number of Chicago hospitals for the next week.

Actually, I’m fairly confident about the race. As you more faithful readers may recall, I did my 20-mile training run four weeks ago and felt fine — except I got a pretty painful case of tendonitis in my hips a few days later. I ran the Chicago Half Marathon a week later (in 2:03!) and managed to do something bad to my right knee (probably overcompensating for the hips). And now that the hips are better, the knee is still giving me trouble. Stupid knee.

Long story short: I haven’t run in a week and a half, but my physical therapist and all my marathon-experienced friends promise me I should be fine. And even if it means I’ll be on crutches for a month after the run, I WILL cross the finish line.

And I’ll probably cry like a little schoolgirl when I do.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Tampa. Now with an E-Z Glide™ applicator.

WHAT I LEARNED ON MY BUSINESS TRIP TO TAMPA:
• By the first week in October, people from Chicago have completely forgotten how an oppressively hot, muggy day can knock you on your ass.

• For a city that recently survived assaults from multiple hurricanes, Tampa looks amazingly unharmed. We saw a couple little piles of debris here and there, but they could just as easily have come from construction projects or ritualized Democrat beheadings as from gale-force winds.

• Thanks to the cancerous growth of chain stores and the scourge of cheesy-ass “architecture,” every city in America is exactly the same. Only the local flora and fauna are different. Tampa, for instance, has funny-looking grass and cute little lizards flitting all over everything.

• Ted (the United Airlines offshoot) is also just the same as every other airline. The only differences are how staggeringly lame its marketing is (“Business as usual with Ted, isn’t”) and how new (and maybe even clean) its cabins look. But the seats are just as uncomfortable, the in-flight beverage service is just as stingy and the gate staff is just as unhelpful (I was told by the gate agent that I couldn’t even ask for an exit row seat until 20 minutes before the flight took off, but when I went back 21 minutes before the scheduled takeoff, the same woman told me all the exit row seats had been taken).

• When a hunky bodybuilder with piercing eyes and thick, kissable lips sits a row behind you on an airplane, it’s impossible—no matter how hard you struggle to act casual and without pretense—to turn around and accidentally scope him out.

• If you’re ever going to a warm, vacation-y city on business and you think you won’t have any time to lounge around in shorts by the hotel pool so you don’t pack anything but work clothes, you’ll be sorry.

• Flipping channels in your work clothes all alone in your hotel room can be boring, but then again it can also lead to the discovery of a show on the History Channel about extreme skydiving, featuring your hunky new boyfriend being all hot and butch for the camera in a body-hugging skydiving suit.

• It’s hard to fall asleep after you’ve watched a good hour of extreme skydiving footage and your mind is racing with the possibilities of love between you and your hunky new boyfriend.


WHAT I LEARNED IN SIX HOURS OF FOCUS GROUPS:
• Three focus groups of people 63 and older talking for two hours each about health care insurance isn’t as boring as it sounds. Really.

• If a portly old man with a twinkle in his eye and a well-maintained white beard enters your focus groups and you get the impression that he works as a mall Santa, you’re probably right.

• If you firmly believe that “the Lord has been good to” you, you’ll feel perfectly comfortable working that idea into every conversation you have—even if that conversation is part of a focus group costing thousands of dollars to run and focusing on nothing related to you, the Lord or goodness in general. This is especially true if you’re a batty old broad who is completely oblivious to the repeated angry stares from a roomful of other focus group participants.

• If you are a Pause Queen, you will also be completely oblivious to the irritation you cause when you put a period after every. word. you. say.

• If you are a professional curmudgeon, you will also be completely oblivious to the fact that nobody wants to hear your opinions any more once you’ve established that you hate everything.

• Abovementioned weirdos notwithstanding, old people—at least the ones in our focus groups—are pretty cool. They’re engaged, active, aware of things they need to know, full of interesting life stories, willing to take responsibility for their own well-being—and they’re NOT victims. Which is probably the secret to their longevity.

• When you’re sitting in a darkened observation room and you’re starting to fade after watching old people talk about Medicare for hours and hours and you look down at the bottle of water you’ve been drinking, you notice that the last few letters of the wavy Zephyrhills® brand Natural Spring Water logo, when wrapped around a curved surface, makes it look like you’ve been nursing a bottle of colorfully labeled syphilis.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Weekend adventures

FRIDAY NIGHT
Goodbye party for Chris and Curtis, two of my favorite boys from the chorus. They're moving way out west, and I'll miss their talents, their relentlessly bubbly personalities, their summer get-togethers around their beautifully landscaped koi pond and their willingness to dress in butt-ugly drag at the drop of a hat. I was going to head to Sidetrack after their party, but I've lately started fading around 1 in the morning. So I headed straight home to bed. When did I become so damn geriatric?

SATURDAY NIGHT
Welcome party for new chorus members. I swear, the chorus is one of the coolest groups of people I know, and I'm always so excited to welcome new guys into our family and share the joy and camaraderie we're all so lucky to have. I know that saccharine sentiment puts some of you dangerously close to the brink of diabetic comas, but you'll just have to take your insulin and deal with it. The chorus makes me happy, and when Jake's happy, the world just has to watch its sugar intake.

SUNDAY AFTERNOON
Graceland Cemetery Tour with Bob and Dave. The Chicago Architecture Foundation offers fascinating, information-filled tours of everything from neighborhoods to buildings to districts to cemeteries, and you always leave these tours just thrilled to be living in such a historically rich city. The cemetery tour covers the architectural styles of the monuments, the historical and social contributions of the folks buried there, and some of the scandalous little tidbits of their lives. I highly recommend it. Especially on a day as beautiful as today was.

SUNDAY EVENING
Chorus rehearsal. (You know the drill: Chorus love. Chorus music. Chorus fellowship. Chorus! Chorus! Chorus!) Afterward, Matt and I celebrated his recent victory over the bar exam at IHOP and then headed to Sidetrack to flirt with boys. I even got a very friendly kiss on the lips from my favorite musclemonkey bouncer/bartender as I was leaving. Woof.

MONDAY AND TUESDAY
I'm winging off to (what's left of) Tampa early in the morning for two days of focus groups. Whee.

Be good while I'm gone.

I am the biggest gaywad you know.

Decorating for Halloween. It's how today's homosexual desperately struggles to overcome the creeping realization that he's doomed to die bitter and alone celebrates the coming of autumn and fills his home with crap displays his unique, personal flair.

Check out the ways I found to waste a perfectly good Saturday afternoon everything I accomplished yesterday:


Notice the skulls AND the serpent. Notice how the candles are at spooky angles. Notice how I actually have a pedestal in my home upon which I can display holiday decorations. Notice how I'm still single at 36.


No visit to the toilet is complete without a friendly smile or three from little skull candles that shoot flames out their noses.


Mickey. In a Dracula cape. Popping out of a smiling pumpkin. If that weren't gay enough, notice the toile tablecloth (matching throw pillows not shown). But you can almost see my spectacular 24th-floor view of the city twinkling off to the horizon. And that's pretty cool.


Remember these goofy ghosts from your third-grade classroom? They were stupid and tacky then, but thanks to my adult-homosexual understanding of kitch and irony -- not to mention an after-holiday clearance sale at Walgreen's a few years back -- I can relive their glow-in-the-dark childhood magic every Halloween in my own home!



Mommy Ghost is taking her baby ghosts for a walk among the liquor and knickknacks. (Notice how the baby ghosts have different mouths. That makes them unique and collectible.) It's this effortless intermingling of everyday objects and themed decorations that is the hallmark of every lonely, bitter old queen's decorating élan.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Sheesh.

ONE

I’d met J. at a bar soon after I moved to Chicago. He was short and sexy and naturally tan with one of those freak-of-nature perfect bodies. In fact, in our early conversations, he casually—and completely without pretense or self-aggrandizement—talked about strangers stopping him on the street to offer him modeling gigs and the invitations he’d gotten to appear half-naked on Pride floats and to participate in A-list sex parties.

He was hot, but he was also human—and he seemed perfectly unaware of the powers of his beauty. And—aside from the occasional long riffs about him, him, him—he was impish and goofy and fun to talk to.

Over the course of a couple dinners and even a chaste sleepover, he also told me about his abusive ex-boyfriend who had beat him repeatedly, waited until after months of sex before disclosing that he was HIV-positive and engaged in a whole raft of retrospectively obvious modes of psychological manipulation. But the boyfriend was in the past, he had told me—with a palpable sense of triumph in his voice.

We weren’t able to see each other much, but I had thoroughly enjoyed the few dates we’d had together. And I had been excited all day one Friday waiting to meet him that night for a movie and whatever other adventures the evening would bring us.

So imagine my surprise when he showed up at the theater with a friend in tow. A hot friend, which immediately kicked my insecurities and jealousies into high gear.

And imagine my surprise when this hot stranger turned out to be … the ex-boyfriend. Who brings along an abusive ex-boyfriend on a date? Who?

A man who was completely single again before the movie was over. That’s who.

Sheesh.


TWO

R. was a sometimes-gregarious, sometimes-workout-focused guy at my gym. His tall, lanky body and his boyish good looks first captured my attention, but he captured my imagination for good the day he wore a smallish sleeveless T-shirt that revealed little tendrils of what looked to be a HUGE tattoo covering his back from shoulder to shoulder and neck to waist. Woof. He was definitely a good little boy with an edge—and I liked it.

We started talking, and he also turned out to be an intelligent, fascinating guy: trader by day, artist by night and well-connected man-about-town no matter what time it was. He did admit to being obsessively closeted at work—never a good sign on the self-respect front, in my book—but he was definitely out in his real life. And he was so damn charming.

I finally worked up the nerve to ask him out, and he readily said yes. Yay! He proposed we meet that night at Sidetrack—only the most crowded bar in Boystown on what happened to be the immeasurably crowded night before the Pride parade … a giant red flag that I was waaaaay too excited to notice. Besides, he gave me his cell number, so we’d be connected no matter what the crowds threw at us that night.

So we met up at the bar—and aside from our friendly handshake, his eyes never met mine the rest of the night. And he was easily distracted by every cute twink boy that drifted through the crowd by us.

We eventually decided it was too crowded in the bar to do anything—even talk—and we headed out to people-watch on the street. A block north of Sidetrack we stumbled on two overstuffed chairs sitting improbably in the middle of the sidewalk. So we plopped our butts down to watch the parade of horny, half-dressed men prowling up and down Halstead. And more than once, I’d look over to find yet another twink boy sitting in R.’s lap. Classy.

I was just about to call the whole thing a dismal failure and head home when a fully pimped-out car rumbled by, thump-thumping up a storm and rattling the windows behind us.

“Who would ever niggerfy their car like that?”

It was out of his mouth a full minute before I believed I’d actually heard him say it.

First of all, people just don’t use the N word. Not the kind of people I hang out with. Not ever. Not. Ever.

Second of all, if you’re going to verb a noun in my presence, you’d better be clever about it. Niggerfy gets a D- for effort and an F for style. And I’m a licensed copywriter, so I know what I’m talking about. You lose, R. You lose big time.

As soon as he was distracted by another lap-sitting twink—which didn’t take long—I quietly got up from my chair and disappeared into the crowd without a word.

Sheesh.