Thursday, August 31, 2006

Why I look so tired today

My marathon training group runs together on Saturday mornings, and I try to run by myself (or with unsuspecting friends I manage to drag along with me) on Monday and Wednesday nights. My mom was visiting on Monday this week—and it was cold and rainy and blah and we wanted to have dinner anyway—so I totally blew off that run.

Which meant I had to make up for two runs last night so I could be all recovered for this Saturday’s 10-miler. Which was fine; last night was beautiful and breezy and the perfect temperature to chug along for as long as I needed to.

But any good run requires a good pre-emptive poop. And I was just warming up to sing the take-a-poop song last night when the phone rang. It was Romantic Date Guy, who you recall is on a four-week business trip in a city that was the eponymous setting for a long-running TV drama in the 1970s and 1980s—a detail I’m including in this sentence only so I can use the word eponymous.

By the time RDG and I had discussed our days and declared how much we missed each other and swooned at the sound of each other’s voices (you could very accurately describe our saccharine romance as swoon-fed), a good hour had gone by, and suddenly I was faced with the prospect of doing a long run in the dark without even taking my pre-emptive poop—a detail I’m including in this sentence only so I can use the word pre-emptive again. And maybe poop too.

But I did my run and it felt awesome and I was hungry enough when I got home that I was ready to eat everything in the house—which, fortunately, is my goal anyway so I don’t have to pack hundreds of cans of diced tomatoes and water-packed chicken and boxes of pasta when I move into my Two-Bathroomed Barbie Dream Condo next month.

Speaking of cans of diced tomatoes and water-packed chicken and boxes of pasta, I whipped up a delicious tomato-chicken-pasta-various-spices-I-found-in-the-cupboard dish last night. I’m that innovative in the kitchen.

Speaking of domestic innovation, I also watched Project Runway for the first time last night. I’d seen about five minutes of the first season, where some mincy little blond had a five-alarm nervous breakdown about … um … zippers … or something equally important in the grand scheme of life. Since I don’t find zipper-induced nervous breakdowns particularly entertaining or compelling or even worth sacrificing my valuable Internet-surfing time for, I’d never watched the show again.

But RDG loves the show, so I made a TiVo Season Pass for it a few weeks ago, and—since at this point I'd probably give the man both my kidneys if he asked nicely and maybe rubbed my feet again—I decided the least I could do was give the show a try late last night over homemade (ahem) tomato chicken pasta with various spices I found in the cupboard.

And I have to admit it was pretty interesting. So interesting, in fact, that at 1:00 this morning I decided to watch just one more episode. And now I’ve seen enough of the show that I have the dubious talent of being able to name a handful of the people on it right off the top of my head:

Jeffrey, whose designs seem very cool to these untrained and only barely interested eyes, but whose neck tattoos make his chin recede in an alarming way.
Laura, the self-proclaimed Keeper Of All Empirical Truth who was obviously cast as the resident bitch.
Vincent, the resident Eeyore who needs to STAND UP STRAIGHT ALREADY.
Kayne, whose cock-eyed optimism and sunny disposition have to work overtime to compensate for his Liberace taste.
Judge Michael, whose pedestrian sense of humor probably really challenges the editors who try to make him come off as clever.
Matriarch Tim, whose unfailingly precise consonants and the dire way he whispers the word zaftig no doubt kept him off his high-school football team.

But suddenly it was 2:00 in the morning, and I had to summon every ounce of my strength and fortitude to drag my bleary-eyed, pasta-bloated, run-weary, sweat-crusted self (with a newfound flair for fashion!) to bed.

And that, my friends, is why I look so tired today.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A whole year of queer!

The Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus is about to kick off our gala 25th season, and you need to bet there! And if you order your season subscription before October 1, 2006, you’ll save 20% off the single-ticket prices for our first two shows. Just visit to place your order and lock in the performances you want for our whole season.

Here’s all the fabulousness (we gays are contractually obligated to describe things as “fabulous”) you’ll get with your subscription:

Favorite Things
December 8-9, 2006
The Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport

What was your favorite CGMC holiday moment? Our big-band “Man with the Bag”? Our transcendent “Ave Maria”? Our delicate “Waltz of the Flowers” featuring prima ballerinas struggling under ever-growing headpieces? And who can forget our Little Brothers of the Left Hind Leg of the Lamb of God leading the audience in a “Hallelujah” chorus sing-along? We’re bringing everyone’s favorite holiday moments back this year—and adding a few new ones—for an unforgettable kickoff to our gala 25th season.

Sidetrack V: Sidetrack with a Twist
April 20-21, 2007
The Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport

They had it comin’! We brought your favorite Sidetrack show tunes to life with the respect they’re entitled to in our first four Sidetrack productions. Now we’re pulling out all the stops to create a Sidetrack show-tune tribute that’s so over the top and down from the shelf that you just might never leave us. We can’t stop the beat!

25th Anniversary Bash—Live!
One night only: June 16, 2007
The Park West, 322 W. Armitage

What does a gay chorus do when we turn 25? We throw a party! We’re capping off our gala 25th season with a massive one-night celebration featuring food, drinks and a series of live performances by CGMC. And we’re staging it at the fabulous Park West, where you can mingle and enjoy some of our favorite music with us. We can’t think of a better way to celebrate the end of 25 wonderful seasons than in the company of the friends who have helped us grow and flourish for so long.

Remember, order your season tickets at before October 1, 2006, and you’ll save 20% off single-ticket prices for our first two shows!

You can also save $15 per ticket when you reserve your place at Oscar and His Men, our annual Oscar-watching fund-raiser at Sidetrack. Order now and you won’t waste a minute worrying about not having a date for the Oscars.

So go on now! CLICK! Order! You’ll be glad you did!

Monday, August 28, 2006

More from the Archives of Humiliation

Longtime reader (and very first boyfriend) Jeff, inspired by my Friday romp through my junior-high photos, has dug up (and helpfully scanned) a picture he thinks should be added to the shrine:

Things to notice:
The hair. I loved it when my hair did that stick-up-and-floop-down-over-my-eyes thing. It was actually pretty long, and it gave me something to swoop my hand through in a dramatic front-to-back motion. Although I’m pretty sure this fancy little ’do came with a weight line across the back, which made every ’90s homosexual and pre-metrosexal look like Dorothy Hamill. Or at least Lauren Tewes in her pixie-cut period.

The ring. Those of you who read even one gay rag in the 1990s probably didn’t escape the cultural hiccup dramatically called the Band of Infinity, where every homo with 30 (or so) bucks and a marked lack of judgment got a dentable stainless-steel ring individually numbered in a valiant attempt to unite us through the power of counting. But it totally worked; I feel closer to all of you for having worn it.

The watch. In the years before our mass entitlement to cell phones, people kept track of the time through little clocks they wore on their wrists. Crazy!

The shirt. Maybe it was a ’90s thing. Maybe it was an Iowa thing. But boy, was that minty green County Seat piqué polo shirt boxy and shapeless. With the sleeves held out like that, it looks as wide as it was tall.

The décor. No, I have never been in the habit of living in a Monet painting. Nor have I been in the habit of coordinating my minty green County Seat piqué polo shirts with my watercolory wallpaper. This picture was NOT taken in my home; it was taken in a Minneapolis hotel room on Jeff’s and my first vacation together. If I remember correctly, the cultural high point of our trip (after the Mall of America, of course) was Tony ’n’ Tina’s Wedding, a goofy and altogether hysterical participatory musical at which I developed the mother of all migraines. Poor Jeff had to drive me back to the hotel the moment the show was over and sit quietly with me while I lay in the dark hoping for a swift death. Most. Romantic. Trip. Ever.

The face. Oh, yeah. This is a picture of my patented Monkey Face™, which I have used to amuse children and alienate adults for decades. But it has saved me millions on hostess gifts.

Romantic Date Guy: The Update

You won’t be hearing much about him for a while; he left me this weekend. But not left left me—he just took off for a four-week business trip.

Four. Weeks.

Before he left, we logged some quality ice-cream-and-hand-holding time on my couch (note to self: it’s hard to eat ice cream with one hand) and strolling-and-hand-holding time in Boystown and socializing-and-hand-holding time at Dance for Life followed immediately by tearing-up-(a-little)-and-hand-holding time on a bench in Millennium Park—all in an attempt to reassure ourselves that 1) we are, in fact, overdramatic 12-year-old girls and 2) we’ll have a nice reserve of great memories to hold us over until he gets back.

Four. Weeks.

Dance for Life, for the uninitiated, is a one-of-a-kind sampler of works by every major dance company in Chicago, staged each year to raise money for AIDS organizations from here to Africa.

This year’s program featured Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s heartbreaking “Kiss” by Susan Marshall. I had seen “Kiss” a couple years ago and was profoundly moved by its story of love and separation and passionate infinity—not to mention Arvo Pärt’s haunting “Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten,” to which it is performed. The piece features a man and woman in jeans and white T-shirts, suspended on two ropes. They kiss, they push away, they orbit, they heave and collapse under the emotional weight of their symbiosis and whatever is driving them apart. And in the end, they embrace and spin as one into fading darkness:

The metaphor for me as I sat in the dark holding hands with RDG on Saturday night—only five weeks into whatever we have going but on the eve of him leaving for a month—was a little overwhelming. I cried. And I could hear him crying as well.

Which means … well, it means a lot of things. And all of them tell me that four weeks could very well end up being a tiny little blip in a very grand scheme.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Against my better judgment …

I’m gonna show you some pretty disturbing stuff. Before you move your eyes any farther down your screen, be aware that I’m not responsible for any waves of revulsion, pity or derisive laughter that may wash over you.

You’ve been warned.

And now you’re about to see what I looked like in junior-high school:

The Muppets called. They want their hair back. And their crooked-head smile. And their oversize nose and little stick arms. I’m pretty sure this shirt was 1) a hand-me-down from a cousin or neighbor and 2) a tiny little size that still hung on my bony shoulders the same way it hung on the hanger. The picture was taken in our IMC, which was eightiespeak for “library,” and it appeared in a yearbook collage that could arguably be called my first centerfold.

This picture was taken—if I remember correctly through the haze of cocaine and abortions that blurred my stint in junior high—at a holiday concert our orchestra performed at Westdale Mall. As the violins were sawing away at “Away in a Manger” or some related masterpiece, I was parked at the piano, emoting my way through the music with my eyes closed and my floofy hair swinging around and accenting every beat with the same raw, sweaty sexuality exuded by the hair bands I was too uncool to name when I saw them on television. Notice the coats piled in the corner between the wood paneling and the fake picket fence behind me—we were nothing if not showmen. And notice the Iowa Hawkeyes pin completely obliterating my left “pec.” I’d bet the Hawks were rehearsing (or whatever it is that football teams do) for the Rose Bowl at the time of our concert, and I was struggling under the weight of that button in an attempt to seem culturally aware.

I’m pretty sure I’ve posted this picture before, but it’s so hot it bears re-posting. And before you get all scandalized, I assure you it’s not a real Playgirl cover. You can tell because the freckles haven’t been airbrushed out. It is instead one of those fake covers (You hear that, DCFS? It’s fake!) you can have made at one of those clever theme-park kiosks. They take your picture, you pick among an endless selection of clever magazine cover art and presto! Something to carry around the rest of the day! The tacky shirt was from the wardrobe department, and the plastic leis—and let’s not think about where they’d been before they landed seductively in my mouth—came out of a well-pawed box of props. I supplied the poochy tummy and the clueless smoldering expression.

WHEW! That’s enough of that for one day, don’t you think? I’d better stop before you all come crashing through your screens in an attempt to mob me the way you all mob poor Lisa Whelchel at the Hasbro outlet.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Romantic Date Guy: The First Peek

I love this picture. It was taken mere hours after RDG and I had met. We were introduced at a pre-Gay Games closing ceremonies brunch. The sparks were copious and syrupy and nauseatingly obvious to everyone in the room. Within the first few minutes we’d bonded forever over our passion for Sondheim. And the way he laughed at every joke I told. Even the funny ones. I’ve had instant crushes before, but not like this. His reciprocal crush was just as strong—and even more obvious than mine.

We decided to walk to the closing ceremonies together—which was at least two miles, but we were in that giggly, heady, just-met-and-can’t-bear-to-leave-each-other place, so we welcomed the time away from all those prying brunch eyes. Plus, we had a lot of Sondheim stuff to discuss.

RDG had competed in the Gay Games, so he went to sit with the athletes. I sat with my brunch friends, and as soon as I got seated I texted him a Sondheim lyric. Smart boy that he is, he texted a Sondheim lyric right back. And before I knew it, he’d come through the massive crowd to find us. And to sit with me.

I tried to play it cool as we sat next to each other for the next couple hours, giggling and smiling and stealing glances like drunken schoolgirls with Fresca in their panties. But I needed to make sure he knew I was interested, so eventually I did the arm-around-the-back-of-the-chair-so-I-could-lean-in-and-hear-better fakeout move.

I don’t think he was faked out. And neither were our friends behind us. Jim, who looks better in a dress than most of the Golden Girls (hi, Jim!), snapped this picture to record my clumsy wooing our first moments together.

And now you, dear readers, can finally picture what we look like on every romantic date we go on.

Monday, August 21, 2006

First of all …

The Rug Doctor is magic. Bordering on witchcraft.

Actually, I should start with pre-first-of-all (or ante-first-of-all for those of you who are so inclined): My carpet had gotten pretty dingy in the five years I’ve lived in Shoebox Manor, and I decided I needed to spruce it up if I wanted to sell my place at a decent price.

So I rented the Rug Doctor on Friday afternoon, and I quickly discovered I had been living in squalor. Gay Gardens squalor, apparently. Even the “clean” sections of my carpet produced appallingly black sludge when I emptied the dirty-water container from the Rug Doctor.

The worst section of my carpet had been by the front door. But not for long! The first Rug Doctor swipe created a stripe of such pristine khaki beauty I almost wept. But then I remembered that weeping is not very manly, so I soldiered on in stoic masculinity until my carpets were as clean and fancy as the day they were installed.

Of course, I picked a rainy day at the dawn of a particularly humid weekend to do this, so the carpet took its sweet time drying. And I rented my Rug Doctor from the most ghetto Dominicks in Chicago, complete with rock-dwelling customers and a defiantly unhelpful store manager. But it’s done, and I’m once again living in oatmeal-colored splendor.

After the rug doctoring, I picked up Romantic Date Guy for a carbo-loading dinner. For our appetizer, we stopped by Fleet Feet so I could upgrade my running shoes by a half size; my 11-wides were starting to pinch, and I had to run 20 miles the next morning. (And yes, running 20 miles in brand-new shoes is the kind of stupid that brought us Mel Gibson and Ann Coulter. But 20 miles in too-tight shoes is also a big kind of stupid—though since they’re broken in, it’s more on the order of Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson. Of course, all four of these mouth-breathers are making more money than I am, so what the hell do I know? Besides the fact that I can sleep at night, I mean.)

So after 5 kinds of bread and pasta followed by cookie-dough ice cream—and then a lovely (albeit short) evening of laughing and talking and show-tuning together—I went to bed at 10 and got up at 5 to run 20 miles. (Look! A whole sentence rendered in multiples of 5!) And those 20 miles were pretty glorious, thanks mostly to the muggy, cool weather we had. And to my new shoes, which performed flawlessly.

The AIDS Marathon organizers asked us all to wear red so we’d create an endless AIDS ribbon up and down the lakefront on Saturday—which was a beautiful mental image, but since people didn’t all remember to wear red and since we aren’t in the habit of skipping hand-in-hand on our training runs, we didn’t really create much of a ribbon. But here’s how some of my team looked in the pre-red-dawn hours:

And here’s how I looked, but I’m showing you this picture mostly because it includes my favorite morning eye candy—the dude in the red shirt with the black circles is quite a physical specimen, albeit a quiet one; I’ve gotten only one smile-hello out of him since we started running in May:

True story:
Fearless Leader Matthew keeps Olay body wipes in his car. Which makes him kinda gay. But after a long run, we’re always very glad he has them so we can freshen up before our post-run brunch. So Saturday morning we were rounding the soccer fields somewhere in mile 9 and we were already feeling kind of ripe. Someone mentioned the Olay wipes, and—almost as though we were a bunch of homos who frequently break into song—we all started singing Buster Poindexter’s “Hot Hot Hot”: ¡Olé, olé! ¡Olé, olé! So we’re running along—five white people and one Asian person belting out Spanish words to a fake Mexican song—when we come upon a soccer team waiting to start early-morning practice. A Hispanic soccer team waiting to start early-morning practice. They look at us. We look at them, kind of stunned by their sudden presence. We stop singing (again, fabulously on cue—the Moron Tab-and-Apple Choir has nothing on us). They look at us even harder, as though they were deciding if we were trying to get all Jets on them at the dance at the gym. We run harder until they’re safely behind us. We laugh. Trust me: It was funny.

We finished our run with nothing more problematic than a few pee stops, and then we took our traditional post-run picture. Except I thought this pic was a frowny one and everyone else understood it to be a smiley one. So I look like Cap’n AngryPants while everyone else looks like a Wal-Mart greeter:

Then we all piled into Fearless Leader Matthew’s car (which he’ll probably have to sell to the zoo for hauling animals now that we’ve permanently sweated it up) to head to brunch. Here’s what a backseat full of stinky, half-crippled queers looks like (why am I always the pink one?) when all we can think about is eating. And, in a few cases, mugging for the camera:

And here’s what our famed brunches—my favorite part of marathon training!—look like. Outdoor seating + beautiful weather + mountains of diner food + a shared sense of accomplishment with a fun group of people = a pretty spectacular way to eat. Even if the left side of our table looks sort of iffy:

Wow. This post is getting long. Which never happens.

Here’s the rest of my weekend in a handy PowerPoint format:

Plant by front door
• Sad little thing.
• Nobody wants to buy a condo from someone who habitually kills plants.
• Or who at least doesn’t try to hide the bodies.
• Replaced it.
• Looks nice.
• Still alive.
• So far.

Romantic dinner Saturday night
• Commemorated Romantic Date Guy’s last day at his job.
• And the dawn of his jet-setting new career.
• I cooked.
• I also got him a thoughtful gift.
• Didn’t make him cry, though.
• Next time.
• Capped off the night with show tunes and ice cream.
• And appropriately dim lights.

My first showing
• Sunday morning.
• Got an almost immediate offer.
• Too low for my budget.
• Refused their counter to my counter.
• There’s another showing tonight anyway.
• HA!

Air and Water Show
• Sunday afternoon.
• Watched it from a fabulous rooftop deck on Lake Shore Drive.
• Not really into airplanes (or wasting fuel), but parts of it were pretty impressive.
• Endured some frighteningly vapid banter from the radio commentators.
• Especially when they got into warplanes-equals-god-bless-America territory.
• No shit.
• We were usually more fascinated by the LSD gridlock on the ground below us.
• And the bastard cops who ticketed everyone in sight.
• Discovered RDG has a fear of heights.
• And that I can use that to my advantage when I want more hugs and snuggles.
• We didn’t realize it would get so sunny.
• Very lobstery today.
• Or maybe it’s just a happy glow.
• You can commence barfing again.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

13.1 miles of fun!

The times are in, the blisters are scabbing nicely and Sunday’s Chicago Distance Classic half marathon is but a memory. All that’s left is the posting of the pictures on the blogs. And fortunately, Fearless Leader Matthew carried his camera with him last weekend to record our fun.

First of all, here’s what our view looked like before the race. See that tiny little START banner off in the distance? It proved to be six minutes and 34 seconds away from us. We were so far away, in fact, that we didn’t hear the Star Spangled Banner or the starting gun. We just waited for the sea of people in front of us to start slowly oozing their way forward, and we slowly joined them on what ended up being a beautiful run on a beautiful day:

Running with a camera doesn’t always produce the best pictures. Just ask the producers of What Women Want. But it can produce some interesting effects:

We all took turns posing under the different mile signs because we were the annoying, perky runners who refused to act like a half marathon actually kind of hurts. Mine turned out pretty OK. For a dork.

Sometimes I was so busy talking with other runners and taking in the scenery and lagging behind my team that I totally missed our team photo ops:

Sometimes we needed makeup and lighting people for our team photos:

There is a huge camaraderie in a crowd of runners. Thirteen miles that would suck if you were all alone are really quite enjoyable when you use that sucking action to pull energy off other runners. Just don’t grab their boobs when you do it, though; that sort of camaraderie is often frowned on. At least when there are homosexuals present.

Speaking of the scenery (three captions up), how beautiful is Chicago? And how awesome is it that the entire lakefront is public property so everyone can enjoy views like this:

Traditionally, when you run a race you get a bib with your number on it in huge black letters on a white background. On longer runs, the race organizers hire a photography company that takes billions of pictures of the runners at various places along the race route, matches each picture to the runners in it via the bib numbers, and makes it easy for the runners to order pictures of themselves online.

For this race, though, our bibs featured relatively small numbers on a two-tone green background. So the few pictures that were taken along the race route were impossible to identify, and when I searched for my number online, I got a page of pictures of random people crossing the finish line within a few minutes of my finish time.

There were only about six pictures of me in the bunch. And those were only parts of me; I somehow managed to keep another runner between me and every camera at the finish line, which is probably a defense mechanism I’ve built up from years of dodging the paparazzi.

In any case, here’s my triumphant finish. Remember those six minutes and 34 seconds from the start photo? That means the 2:15:15 you see here is not my finish time. My official time was 2:08:51, an important distinction that could mean the difference between a table by the window and a table by the kitchen at the Evanston Chili’s.

Here are some other interesting stats right off the Internet:
I finished 4,065th of 7,415 runners and 2,448th of 3,557 male runners. (Two! Four! Six! Eight! 4,065th is really … um … not terribly embarrassing!) And the average finish time was 2:09:26, which means I’m a whopping 35 seconds above average! In some circles, that makes me some sort of running GENIUS.

After each of our runs this summer, New Running Buddy, who is a hardcore yoga practitioner, has led us all in a lovely stretch. Here I am, pink as an Easter ham and alarmingly bloated for someone who just ran 13.1 miles, trying not to make whimpering sounds as I realign my IT bands and force dead grass in my crevices. Which is the way many ancient cultures punished the village idiots who spent two hours and nine-ish minutes running and running and running and never getting anywhere. Just like What Women Want.

Monday, August 14, 2006

How to have a quiet, relaxing weekend

Order in
I raced home from work on Friday night to whip up a dinner for six with a menu featuring macaroni and cheese out of a box spinach-raspberry salad; steamed carrots; garlic-feta-basil-stuffed chicken breasts; and my own take on peach melba with individual pudding-filled bundt cakes, fresh peaches and raspberries, vanilla-bean ice cream, and strawberry drizzle. And all I had to do was preheat the oven and peel back the foil to expose the tater tots!

Be a slug
I was up at the crack of dawn (or soon thereafter) on Saturday to begin Operation: Sell My Condo. In five years, I’ve managed to accumulate a lot of crap, which I neither want to haul to my new condo nor allow complete strangers to wander aimlessly through my house and see. So I instituted a strict Never Leave The House Without Something In My Hands To Throw In The Dumpster rule, and I started Saturday morning with a fingertips-to-armpits stack of old magazines—magazines I’d brought to Chicago from Iowa six years ago—that I used to think I’d get read. But they’re out of the house now, so I’ll thank you to keep your derisive laughter to yourselves.

Stay in bed all day
Then I ran a ton of errands. I got my every-three-week haircut. I took in my Sandals Of Pain to be resoled with something more cushy than the masonite they were made with. I picked up race packets for me and some friends for the half marathon the next day. I bought cool new sunglasses to replace the cool not-so-new ones I’d crushed to death in my backpack. And I returned a swimsuit. I had bought three saucy swimsuits last weekend for my January Atlantis cruise—I figured nobody would be selling them this winter so I should get them while they were actually available. The suits I already have are all $5 Target specials, which you do NOT want to wear on a gay cruise because everyone will talk. Besides, I wore them on the Atlantis cruise I took four years ago, and those bitchy queens keep track. Anyway, the clerk at the swimsuit emporium sold me one of my reject suits accidentally, so I had to take it back. And returning swimsuits is usually a no-no, but the clerk admitted screwing up, so the manager refunded my money, but only after quizzing me on whether I’d left any “funny business” in the suit. We looked in it together, and sure enough, I’d left Mary Cheney’s integrity in there. Which I see as more sad than funny, but this paragraph is getting long so I’m going to move on to the next topic.

Watch TV
A friend of mine from the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus has a daughter who got married on Saturday. He asked eight of us from the chorus to sing at her wedding on Saturday, and I’m so glad I agreed to do it. The wedding was on a huge boat docked permanently on the lakefront, and it provided a magical setting for what proved to be one of the most romantic, touching (and refreshingly casual) ceremonies I’ve ever attended. The groom was French, so the service was bilingual—so aside from a few French verbs I recognized here and there, I have no proof that the sisters and the cousins and the aunts who took to the microphone weren't reading the Antibes phone directory to us. But whatever they said was in French, so it was still delicious to listen to. And we got to sing some of our most beautiful songs for a very appreciative audience.

I met Romantic Date Guy for dinner afterward, and I told him the wedding had put me in an emotionally vulnerable state and he could probably take advantage of me and do something untoward like talking me into eloping that very night if he were of an unscrupulous nature. But he was a perfect gentleman, and the most decadent thing we did was share a slab of triple-chocolate cake for dessert. (OK, and we shared some impure thoughts involving our waiter’s very sexy tattoos. Which is one of the perks of being on a gay date: You can scope men together!) Then we took a walk in a nearby park and sat arm-in-arm on a bench where we enjoyed the evening with lots of smiles and contented sighing and other expressions of happiness. Please do not barf after reading this paragraph.

Sleep in
I got up at 5:00 to run the Chicago Distance Classic half marathon Sunday morning. Well, technically I set my alarm for 5:00. I was actually wide awake around 2:00 for no useful reason, and I lay there for three hours trying to fall back asleep. On the plus side, I wasn’t late for the race. On the minus side, I ran the damn thing on about four hours’ sleep.

But it was a glorious morning, and the half marathon was a breeze to run. I had my phone on me, so I called my folks in Iowa somewhere in mile 5 just to huff and puff and say hi, which gave them a thrill. RDG showed up to cheer us on, as did Fearless Leader Mattthew’s friend Todd, so the two of them didn’t have to cheer us on alone. Then we all went for a nice breakfast, and I headed home to crash HARD.

Interestingly, marathon training makes my feet a full size bigger every summer. Stupidly, I had worn my winter dress shoes—the ones that fit me from January until I start running in May—to the wedding. Painfully, they gave me blisters the size of quarters on the backs of my heels, which made their presence unquestionably clear for the whole two hours and nine minutes I ran the race. Blurilly, I took a picture of them for you:

Scratch your butt and go back to bed
After my nap, I picked up RDG and we headed out for our second romantic date in as many nights, this time at Ravinia where we had a sumptuous picnic on the lawn and then watched Patti LuPone (who didn’t chew on her vowels as much as she has in the past) in Gypsy (which hasn’t traditionally been one of my favorite musicals, but RDG loves it and I was thrilled to see it with him and he kept thanking me for coming as though spending a delightful evening with him and then watching a Broadway show filled with Broadway talent was some sort of horrible lap-dance-from-Karl-Rove nightmare, which was all really cute). I’d (gasp!) never been to Ravinia for a real summer picnic event, and I have to say a big part of me was really glad I’d saved it to experience for the first time with RDG. Seriously.

You may now commence barfing.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Adventures in moving

Phase one: clearing out the clutter

Holy shit, do I have a lot of crap in my house. And the thought of boxing it all up and hauling it to my new Two-Bathroomed Barbie Dream Palace is more than I care to wrap my brain around right now. Because Two-Bathroomed Barbie Dream Palaces are incompatible with clutter.

Besides, my Realtor informs me that less clutter = the illusion of more living space for prospective buyers. What crazy rules will those Realtors think up next? A ban on dead or dying hookers in the bathtub? A ban on dyeing hookers in the bathtub? What happened to my right to have hookers in a range of designer colors?

In any case, I've instituted a new rule: I cannot leave my house without having something in my hands to put in the trash chute or the dumpster behind my building. I get bonus points if I'm on my way to work and I have some old documents in my backpack to feed into the company shredder. Which is so fun to use it functions as its own motivation.

And the more bonus points I win, the more stuff I can buy at the House of Clutter!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I’ll have the tap water, please.
And can I see your dollar menu?

I am about to become very, very house-poor. And I can’t think of a better reason to live on toothpicks and water for the next year! I signed the contracts last night for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom, one-washer, one-dryer, one-balcony, 1,131-square-foot Barbie dream palace complete with heated indoor parking and (if I read the developer’s marketing documents correctly) armies of hunky supermodels wandering the halls in skimpy towels. Which means from now until I take possession (sometime in late September/early October) I’m going to spend every waking hour dreaming about bathroom tiles and cupboard handles and where I’m going to put the piano. (Sorry, Mr. Job. The celery-vs-thistle paint-color debate is far too complicated to risk spending my valuable thinking time on things like client projects. I’m sure you understand.)

I’d say I’m movin’ on up, but technically I’m dropping about 20 floors and 800 numbers on the Chicago grid system. Which also puts me south of Foster and in grave violation of the Truth In Blogging Act. But if I just say NoFo stands for Not North of Foster, everything should slide though on a technicality.

So far my only complaint about my new condo is the trashy-cheap tub (built-in Lucite handles!) in the master bathroom. Unfortunately, the developer installed the tubs before the walls went up, so the damn thing is probably in for good. Let the record show, though, that I’m not a fan. Lucite is for Lusers.

But! To get to that tub, you have to walk through a roomy master bedroom and then a WALK-THROUGH CLOSET. Which is the architectural equivalent of Nick Lachey in a Speedo singing the Sweeney Todd libretto while beating the shit out of Mel Gibson. There really is no higher form of earthly paradise than a WALK-THROUGH CLOSET. Which is why we always render it in caps. And there’s a weird little vertical panhandle between the master bedroom and the WALK-THROUGH CLOSET that could easily hold a desk and a filing cabinet and a cushy chair. Presto! I just added an office to my unit, raising the value by at least $7 and some change. Check it out:

(Oh—and see that thing at the top left that says "BEDROOM" without an "M" in front of it? That means people can come visit and not have to sleep on my couch like itinerant bar mitzvah clowns. See that thing to the right of the bedroom that says "BATH" without an "M" in front of it? That means people can come visit and we don't have to be all up in each other's business when we're doing our business. Everybody wins!)

And while I love my current place and I will miss its coziness and spectacular view and (ahem) world-class decorating scheme, I’m ready for more space and more places to poop. And my own washer and dryer in case that pooping doesn’t happen quite where it should. But only in case.

Speaking of my current place (not my poop), if you want a fabulous one-bedroom with a spectacular view in a well-maintained highrise (with a pool and a weight room and a sundeck and tennis courts) only a block from the lake, drop me a line. I promise to clean up the poop before I show it to you.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A loaf of bread, a jug of wine and a can of hairspray

So Romantic Date Guy* and I saw American Graffiti last night in Grant Park as part of the Chicago Outdoor Film Festival.

* It looks like I’ll be having more and more adventures with this fella, so he’s officially getting a nom de blog. And everything we do together ends up being bodice-rippingly romantic—even if that wasn’t our intention. We’ve already enjoyed concerts and walks and gardens and fireworks in Millennium Park, dinners at romantic restaurants, fireworks along the lakefront, breathtaking views of the city from the top of his highrise, long talks with endless giggles, millions of dollars’ worth of text messages that are mostly our favorite Sondheim quotes, hours of public hand-holding—really all that’s missing is soft-focus footage of us walking into the sunset in linen pants and maybe a heartfelt theme song. Preferably by Sondheim. So I’m grabbing Romantic Date Guy as a nickname before Lifetime trademarks it for some movie of the week. But! It’s been a whopping 18 days (not that anyone’s counting) since we were fixed up by some friends, and I really don’t want to be the guy who always seems to have a different boyfriend of the month (especially after my last false alarm), so currently we are two officially single men who happen to spend every free moment together. And we have the exact same initials so we’d never have to change our monogrammed towels if we got married. Not that either of us has entertained that thought.

Where was I? Oh, yes: movies in the park. Which are a great idea in theory, but they’re really kind of a pain in the ass in reality; since they’re outside, you have to sit on the ground, which always makes my butt hurt, and the 10,000 other people around you have no qualms about talking and walking around and making noise and blocking your view, and the screen is so low that anyone in any kind of chair in front of you totally obstructs the movie. But last night was more about the romantic date (which was awesome) than American Graffiti (which neither of us really thought was that interesting anyway, except for the women’s hair, which was fabulous). And we sat with a bunch of my co-workers I didn’t really know, so that was kind of awkward since we were kind of on a date. But one of them took a picture of us and sent it to me this morning, so photographic proof now exists that we are the reigning poster boys for romantic nausea. Not that any of you are going to see any pictures of us until we have a few more weeks of romantic dates under our belts. It just seems more prudent that way.

But back to last night: We held hands under the stars and brought cookies and other picnic-y stuff and rented little chairs to protect my delicate bottom and rested our bare feet on a beach towel I’d brought as a sorry excuse for a blanket, and once again Romantic Date Guy totally lived up to his name.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The oracle said nothing about syndication

My friend Beth and I were the Lunt-Fontaines of my junior high and high school. Except we never got a theater named after us. Or made it to Broadway. And at our age it would have been kind of gross if we got married. And while I was never the leading-man type, Beth certainly had the looks and the talent to play any role that came her way. In any case, we did a lot of theater together, and we eventually did get married. Kind of.

Our debut in junior high (as I’m sure you all remember from the national coverage) involved the two of us acting out some Shel Silverstein poems in a speech contest. We were apparently entertaining enough that we made it all the way to the state competition, where we were pitted against people doing monologues about death and divorce and abortion while we skipped into the room with ”I cannot go to school today,” said little Peggy Ann McKay…

I don’t recall if we won or not, but since it’s my blog I’ll just say we both got the Tony that year. And it was handed to us by Liza.

Against my better judgment, I’m showing you what we looked like back then, at the dawn of the 1980s. Notice how stylish and put-together Beth looked. Then notice me with my Sears Braggin’ Dragon® shirt, my pencil-thin arms, my shoulder bones that could cut glass, my basketball head, my adult-size nose and my overall homeliness. Then weep for me and for all humanity that had to look at me.

Fast-forward to our junior year in high school, where we were in the chorus of West Side Story together. Once again, Beth looked stylish and sassy in her silver satin (alliteration runs rampant!) and I looked like an anorexic Ralph Macchio with a finger wave and a drop-shoulder jean jacket right out of a Pointer Sisters video. The Jets are looking kinda gaaaaay toniiiiiiight!

The next year, we were the leads in—of all things—Oedipus Rex. Because high-school kids + Greek tragedy = theater magic! I have to say I do look kind of majestic in my glue-on beard and my poly-blend robes, even though I’m a foot taller than my 16-year-old wife and mother. And the crown totally offsets my nose. Fortunately, this scan from a yearbook photo that spans the fold between the pages blurs out a lot of my skinny armness and dubious husband-and-fatherliness and what had to be frighteningly clueless acting. Tragedy indeed!

Now fast-forward 20 more years to our class reunion last month. Even though we hadn’t seen each other since our 10-year reunion, Beth and I made it through the whole weekend without one poem or explosive dance move or destructive marriage. That’s our friend Jen on the right, and if Beth and I wrote and starred in our own sitcom (Oedipus Simplex, Thursdays on NBC), Jen could be Aristophanes, the wacky neighbor who always drops by in a silly hat or something and then says a funny catchphrase like “You guys are for the birds!” and steals our thunder. It’s the least we could do to thank her for having the presence of mind to bring her camera to the reunion so we could have this picture in the first place.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

18 miles!

Our longest training run to date couldn’t have had more beautiful weather, though it was touch and go all week whether we’d be frolicking like bunnies in a cool, refreshing stream this morning or stumbling like overheated, drunken cows on our way to slaughter. (My blog, my tortured metaphors. If you don’t think bunnies can frolic in a stream, that’s your problem.) Of course, by about mile 16 the weather was totally trumped by the HOLY SHIT THIS HURTS factor, so we were all actually kind of looking forward to that slaughter. Unfortunately, it never came.

Here we are (OK, here I am) before the run, looking as though I’m contemplating the Zen beauty of what I’m about to experience. But don’t be fooled; this picture was taken at 5:45 am and I’m really just thinking about the perfectly good pillow on the perfectly good bed I left half an hour earlier for what is in some circles a perfectly ridiculous reason:

Our first walk break. Still not very engaged:

Fearless Leader Matthew seems to take a lot of pictures of us during our walk breaks. In reality, he takes a lot of pictures of us period. It’s just that the walk-break pictures tend to be more flattering cleaner. Here we are at another early walk break, looking every bit as though we could burst into song at any minute and make those Sharks very sorry they invaded our turf:

For having just run 12 miles, I’m looking awfully thick around the middle. Do notice my running shorts’ built-in butt pockets for running gel and energy bars, though. It’s a very cool feature. Plus they give me the illusion of having a butt:

Our official we-just-ran-18-miles-and-it-hurts-like-hell faces:

Our official we-just-ran-18-miles-and-now-we-get-to-eat-the-equivalent-of-a-small-child faces:

Friday, August 04, 2006


Normally I’m not a fan of people who cheat on their loved ones. It’s selfish and more than a little narcissistic. And no matter what happens, someone always ends up alone and feeling empty.

But I’ve been doing it myself lately. More than lately, in fact; it’s been going on indiscriminately for a few years now. Sometimes I just look. Sometimes I engage in long, earnest conversations about what I want and how I like it and what I think I’ll find that is going to be better than what I have. Sometimes I go all the way in, and in those instances I’m all hands, exploring crevices, feeling surfaces, poking into places that don’t normally ever see the light of day.

And it feels good. It fills me with excitement and promise and a sense of purpose and even a little validation when I see what I, as a 38-year-old who’s been around the block a few times, can actually get.

And this weekend I think I’m gonna take it to the next level. Lives will change. Things will move. Checks will be written.

This weekend I’m going to make one last visit and decide once and for all if I’m going to stay with the one I’ve loved for more than five years or move on to the one I barely even know.

But with two bedrooms and two bathrooms and a balcony and a washer and dryer and central heat and air and 1,200 square feet of living space for just $250,000 all in a neighborhood that’s poised to explode in the next year—if not the next few months—you’d leave your beloved shoebox in the sky behind too.

If I buy this place, I’ll have storage I’ve never even allowed myself to dream about and restaurants right outside my door and room to entertain groups larger than six and space for guests to spend the night and two different rooms to poop in. And I’ll be house-poor for a while until the numbers shake out and I get my raise at the end of the year but I probably won’t even care.

And while this blog will still claim to be north of Foster, it will be living a dirty, ugly lie. But I’ll have two rooms to poop in, so watch me not even care.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Things I’m totally digging right now

Ripe peaches
Is there anything more satisfying than biting into a perfectly ripe peach, cold from the fridge? I have a whole drawer full of them, and they’re thick and fleshy and they pull neatly away from the pits and they drip copious amounts of juice down my chin and arms and they are, quite frankly, more delicious than Nick Lachey in a Speedo singing the Sweeney Todd libretto as he beats the living shit out of Mel Gibson.

Running in the rain
Warm, rainy nights are few and far between in Chicago, but whenever they make their dramatic appearances, I always lace up my shoes and head out to enjoy them if I can. Last night, after an almost week-long heat wave, the clouds appeared, the rain fell and the temperature dropped to the level of perfection. And I was out in it, pounding out six miles with my hair plastered to my face and my shorts sticking to my butt and my shoes squishing like Mary Cheney’s integrity. I had intended to run nine miles, but I got an offer I couldn’t refuse from

A smart, funny, distractingly handsome guy
Last Wednesday we enjoyed a concert in the park and a romantic walk among the gardens afterward. Last night he told me if I ran to his place downtown instead of looping back home for my full nine miles we could hang out and enjoy his view and talk about show tunes and he’d drive me home afterward. I’m no fool, and when I showed up dripping wet he wrapped me in two huge towels and we sat and laughed and talked about our lives and I drooled over his marble countertops. Which is not a metaphor for anything.

Lemon soap
I don’t have anything particularly interesting to say on this topic; I just like lemon-scented soap. I started a new bar this morning in the shower. Come smell me!

My client base
I’ve been writing advertising copy for 16 years, in which time I have filled the nation’s mailboxes and magazines and newspapers (and, presumably but I just don’t want to think about it, wastebaskets) with brilliant (he said modestly), sometimes award-winning (he mentioned also in complete modesty) ads for credit cards, software, magazines, non-profits, home-equity lines of credit, gym memberships, leasing agencies, school and auto loans, home-buying clubs, financial services … all things I understood as a consumer and could sell with some semblance of authority. And this week, since I’ve apparently grown a uterus and started squirting out children, I have suddenly found myself on projects selling strollers (technically “travel systems”) and DOUCHES. My job is like the weather in the Midwest; if I get bored with it I just have to wait a bit and something interesting will come along. Not that I find doucheworthy vaginas personally interesting—my interest in them is purely professional—but people keep booking Ann Coulter on talk shows, so they obviously hold some appeal.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

My weekend in Iowa: by the numbers

Number of miles I was supposed to run on Saturday with my AIDS Marathon group in Chicago: 8
Number of miles my folks’ neighbor in Iowa, who is training for a different marathon, was planning on running: 11
Number of miles I ran with her instead: 11
Average temperature in Iowa when we started running at 6:15 on Saturday morning: hot, but not horrible for running

Number of hills in Chicago: 0
Number of hills in Iowa: How high can you count?

Height of the biggest hill in our run on Saturday, which was downhill in mile two but cruelly uphill in mile 10: approximately eight stories over the length of two city blocks

Percent of said hill I ran without stopping: 100

Volume of my whining about said hill, in decibels: How high can you count?

Number of people in my graduating class: 434
Number who showed up at our 20th reunion on Saturday: about 125 plus spouses and random children
Percent of those people I was able to visit with: I’d say a good 75

Total number of official reunion events: 2, a picnic on Saturday from 11 to 1 and a dinner on Saturday from 5 to 10, both in a spacious lodge in a well-manicured state park

Total percent of that lodge that had air conditioning: 0
Average temperature in Iowa on Saturday: How high can you count? (Can you go any higher?)

Total homo count at the reunion, at least among the people I talked to: 4 (me, a guy I already knew was gay, one woman I’d heard was gay a few weeks ago, and one woman I didn’t really know that well in high school but who recognized a fellow queer the moment our eyes met this weekend and we became best friends)

Percent of people I recognized instantly: about 50
Number of people I felt stupid that I didn’t recognize instantly: about 5
Number of times I said “holy shit!” or something similarly vulgar when I recognized someone I had totally forgotten about but was very glad to see anyway: about 30
Number of guys I recognized because they looked like their dads did when we were in high school: 2

Number of guys I had impure thoughts about at the reunion: 2
Number of those guys I don’t really remember from high school even though they were apparently hot back then too: 2

Number of people who turned out better than probably anyone expected: many
Number of people who apparently never evolved past their drunken-high-school-student phase: 2

Number of women who commented on my looks and/or felt me up: 7
Number of guys who commented on my looks but didn’t feel me up but that was actually pretty OK: 4
Number of people who commented on my looks with a backhanded compliment about how unattractive I was in high school: 2
Percent of this attention I found offensive, insulting or somehow unwanted: 0

Number of people who talked to me as though we were old friends though I am almost 100% certain we never exchanged more than 10 words in all of high school: about 10
Number of those people who insisted that I look them up so we can hang out some more and get caught up if I ever find myself in their current city: 2

Number of shirts I tried on before I decided I was ready to go to my reunion: 1
Number of shirts my mom and sister made me change into before they decided I was ready to go to my reunion: 3

Number of people who were clearly trying to impress everyone: a couple women who were waaaaaay overdressed for the oven we were in, and one guy who let it slide that he was wearing $500 sunglasses
Number of times I was able to work marathon training into my conversations: not nearly enough
Number of times I was able to show off my trashy new tattoo: once, but it was a total non sequitur

Number of awkward pauses after we got the what-do-you-do-where-do-you-live stuff out of the way: not nearly as many as I’d feared
Number of minutes I found myself standing alone with nobody to talk to the way I kind worried I might: maybe 1

Number of panic attacks and/or paranoid everyone-hates-me-just-like-back-in-high-school episodes I had: 0
Number of panic attacks and/or paranoid everyone-hates-me-just-like-back-in-high-school episodes I worried I might have: I was hoping for 0 but I wasn’t making any bets
Number of other people I saw who looked like they were having just such attacks and/or episodes: 6
Number of them I tried to talk to: 3
Number of those three who showed any interest or gratitude: 0

Number of people who out-and-out snubbed me: 1 (but I was just saying hi to him to see if he was still the asshole he’d been since fifth grade, and he’d grown to look like a basset hound anyway)
Number of people I intentionally snubbed: none, but I certainly didn’t go out of my way to say hi to any of the guys who were bullies to me in school

Number of people I wanted to talk to but actually ran out of time before our paths could cross: too many
Number of people I wanted to talk to more but we never got more than a few minutes together: too many

Number of weird high-school-drama-coming-back-to-life confrontations I witnessed: 2
Number of conversations reminiscing about high-school sexual encounters I was privy to: 2
Total number of my slutty classmates implicated in those two conversations: about 10

My rating of the reunion experience from 1 to 10 (10 being “it was awesome and I really enjoyed every minute of it, even though we were sweating like pigs and I didn’t get to chat with everyone I wanted to and none of my high-school crushes turned out gay”): 10

Approximate year the family farm was built in northeast Iowa: 1865
Number of generations who have farmed the land and lived in the charming old house there: 3
Number of years since a family member who lived in the house actually farmed the land: approximately 30 (family members still live there, but the farmland is rented out to other farmers now)

Frequency of family reunions on the farm today: about every other year

Average temperature in Iowa on Sunday for our reunion: How high can you count?
Average temperature under the shade trees where we all sat in a circle and ate watermelon and drank beer and pop (they say “pop” in northeast Iowa) and watched the kids play in the sprinkler: I don’t have a number, but with the breezes it was quite lovely

Average level of education and world travel and accomplishment in this branch of the family tree: How high can you count?
Average level of fear about covering topics like politics and religion among these people: none
Average level of enjoyment I get out of the lively conversations I always have with these relatives: How high can you count?

Average drive from my folks’ house to the farm: two-plus hours each way
Number of mammals in our van: five adults, two kids and one dog
Primary benefit of traveling with a dog in a crowded van: someone to blame farts on

Average height of the corn on the farm this weekend: I’m 6'1", so you do the math: