Thursday, November 30, 2006

Happiness is …

Working late, calling your boyfriend to have him meet you at a nearby restaurant, and—when you finally leave the office—finding him waiting outside to walk you there.

I don’t know what I did in my youth or childhood to deserve this, but I’ve snagged myself the most kind, considerate, loving man. And though both our work schedules are sucking at the moment, we’re spending every possible minute together—usually in a nauseating state of happiness.

Then again, he didn’t wear a pageboy wig and bring a backlit gazebo when he waited for me outside my office, so he didn’t exactly create a Sound of Music moment for us. Of course, I’ve never let him think that the crazy old beggar woman down the street is not, in fact, the wife he thought was long-dead just to try to win him for myself, so it’s not like we’re sharing the beautiful kind of love you find in Broadway musicals.

Speaking of things that aren’t exactly Broadway musicals, tonight I’m introducing the boyfriend to Chanticleer, my favorite choral group in the entire known universe. I’ve seen them in concert about ten times, which makes me a bit of a groupie. And since I moved to Chicago in 2000, I’ve never missed their holiday concert at the gloriously acoustic Fourth Presbyterian Church. I’ve already gotten the boyfriend successfully hooked on CSI, too, so it’s probably just a matter of time before we sell all our possessions and follow Chanticleer around the country in our turquoise VW bus.

But first, I just heard that Chicago is about to be buried under ten miles of snow tonight. And I’m parked on a snow route. So I need to figure out how to get home, move my car to a seldom-shoveled street and be back downtown in time for the concert—all without missing any work.

And if I successfully pull it off, you know DAMN well that the snow will bypass us and the snow gods will laugh self-indulgently at my $40 in wasted cab fare. But $40 in lost cab fare is probably good insurance against a $200 all-day adventure retrieving my car from a tow lot.

Even if the boyfriend meets me there to make sure the adventure is romantic.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A late night at work.

A cab ride home.

A cab driver wearing more cologne than an entire eighth-grade class at its first school dance.

A throbbing headache.

Friday, November 24, 2006

One year ago today

I was celebrating Thanksgiving weekend in London (Fun fact! Londoners don't celebrate Thanksgiving. They're un-American.) with my friends Matt and Rich. Here's a picture to prove it:
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Pay no attention to the ... um ... Leaning Tower of London in the background. They make it that shiny and sparkly to distract you, dear readers, from the real point of this blog post: my leather coat, which I wore on trips to London, Paris and Madrid last year, but the only real clear picture I have of me wearing it is the one above, which I think was taken in Albuquerque. Which is fun to spell.

In any case, I've always regretted buying that coat. First of all, the whole point of a leather coat -- especially one with a zip-in lining that offers an extra layer of insulation -- is to keep you warm. And for some reason this coat keeps me about as warm as a hug from Ann Coulter. Also, the damn thing doesn't fit very well -- it bunches up under my arms and it makes it challenging to gesture dramatically while I'm speaking. And it's too short to wear over a sportcoat, so it looks ridiculous when I try to wear it someplace semi-dressy. Like Tom and Katie's fake wedding.

So I bought a new coat on Wednesday. I had a massive client presentation at 1:30, see, and then I was going to work out and then meet the boyfriend downtown when he got back from a trip. But then I remembered flabby little muscles were the in thing this Thanksgiving season, so instead of working out I headed to Filene's Basement, where the first coat I saw was pretty much exactly what I was looking for: a cashmere topcoat-type thing that was short enough to wear with jeans, long enough to cover a sportcoat and casual-dressy enough to go from a Dick Cheney hunting date to a Mel Gibson movie premiere. Of course, you can't buy the first coat you try on -- which would be positively heterosexual -- so I tried on about 20 other coats, all the while keeping an eye on the first one so nobody would take it.

And then I realized I should try it on over a sportcoat -- you know: just to make sure it was roomy and long enough to cover my flabby body AND all that extra fabric. So I grabbed a particularly fancy midnight-blue velvet sportcoat (something I would normally never even consider wearing) off the nearest rack, and I'll be damned if the thing didn't look fabulous on me. And even though I'm contemplating buying a condo that's a third more expensive than the one I just sold, I threw it on my credit card and headed out the door to meet the boyfriend. All hail the power of irresponsible consumerism!

Wednesday was the four monthiversary of meeting the boyfriend, and we celebrated in high style: dinner in a diner (nothing could be finer) followed by snuggling up at his place with two pints of gourmet ice cream and a TiVo full of "Family Guy" (the Peterotica episode! with Betty White!) and "Desperate Housewives" and, lamentably, "Judge Judy." We did NOT watch any "Judge Judy" episodes, for the record. But I will happily mock him for years to come just for having it on his TiVo.

Now I'm in Iowa, and I may head out soon with my mom and sister to brave the Cedar Rapids "crowds" for some post-Thanksgiving retail therapy. And to model my new coat.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Dear Internet,

I’m not ignoring you. Honest. In fact, I’ve done so many interesting things these last few weeks that as I’ve been doing them I’ve been thinking Wow. The Internet would love to hear all about THIS. Unfortunately, the doing of these things has taken up so much time that I find I have no time for the telling.

For instance! We had an AIDS Marathon reunion party Friday night at Fearless Leader Matthew’s house. Fearless Leader Matthew is such a pull-out-all-the-stops host, he makes Sue Ann Nivens look like a grade-school lunch lady. Her Baked Pears Alicia have nothing on his perfectly roasted turkey and riced potatoes. And guess what I did at the party! Matthew asked me to carve the turkey—something I’d never done (or even watched) before in my life—and I didn’t ruin it. Better yet, I had a glass of port after dinner! Me! Drinking alcohol! Just like the big kids! (Oh yeah. It was nice to have our marathon training group back together again. We had a great time catching up and seeing each other for the very first time in real clothes. Did I mention I drank alcohol?)

Second example! The developers of my Two-Bathroomed Barbie Dream Condo have been so slow to build the damn building and so unresponsive when I ask them basic questions like how much are the upgrades you have on display in your showroom? and when you said you’d be done building the building by September 1, should I have been more proactive in getting you to specify a year? that I turned them over to my attorney, who is working to get me out of my contract so I can actually buy a condo I can actually live in. So on Saturday my trusty Realtor and I started the whole looking-for-a-condo process again. Only this time I brought along my uncommonly handsome boyfriend as well! And out of seven condos we looked at, I found two I absolutely love! On the first day of looking! And you know what? Since the last time I went condo hunting (in July) the housing bubble has burst, developers are desperate to unload their properties (especially around the holidays), I’m making more money in a fabulous new job, and I can suddenly get a whole lot more condo for my money! So once I pick the condo I like best, do my negotiating and get all moved in, you’re all invited to the housewarming. The condo I’m leaning toward is wired to hang a flat-screen TV, so please buy me one.

Speaking of my fabulous new job! The hours are kicking my ass, but I’m really, really loving it. My client base is interesting and delightfully varied (a wine club! a retail giant! a CD/MP3 juggernaut!), my staff is a bunch of advertising rock stars, and we have a kitchen with real dishes. I still hate our tiny little bathroom with the broken soap dispensers, but as a wise and beautiful-on-the-inside woman once said, a day without pee on your hands is a day without sunshine.

Other things I’ve done! The boyfriend and I saw Into the Woods and Happy Feet in the same day this weekend. Both were delightful, but the Into the Woods production we saw cut some of my favorite material (including “you may know what you need but to get what you want better see that you keep what you have”) and Happy Feet contains the clumsiest metaphor for religious intolerance since Anita Bryant.

Whew! That’s enough catching up for one day! I need to get back to work … and I want to spend some more time daydreaming about the fabulous bathroom tile in the condo I think I’m going to buy. Seriously.

Love,
Jake

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

It’s finally happened

I reached to get my wallet this morning, and as my finger slid past the top of my jeans pocket, the denim ripped my cuticle away from my nail and I bled like a televangelist on a meth binge. (I don’t know first-hand that televangelists bleed when they smoke their man-hookers’ crack, but I wanted to work in a Ted Haggard joke while it was still somewhat timely.)

In any case, my first ripped cuticle heralds the end of moist summer air and signals the beginning of the winter bleeding season. Break out the Band-Aids and put away the white pants.

So much has happened in the last week that I don’t know where to begin. First of all, the new job is keeping me so busy I can barely squeeze in a workout and a dinner before I tumble into bed each night. It’s a good, productive kind of busy, but it’s drastically cutting into my blogging and snuggling-with-the-boyfriend time. So bear with me, dear blog readers (and dear boyfriend), while I find the equilibrium between my new job and my regularly scheduled life.

I went home to Iowa last weekend for my uncommonly photogenic niece’s fifth birthday. She’s in her Disney princess phase (which makes me so proud I could grow a tail) and she received enough Disney princess-themed presents that she could open her own Disney princess outlet mall. Not that any self-respecting Disney princess would be caught dead in an outlet mall, but scores of Disney princess wannabes need a place to find marabou-covered plastic shoes and breakable tiaras, so I think my niece could make some serious coin off such a venture should she choose to pursue it. In any case, my sister found her a gorgeous champagne-colored ball gown (on sale!) patterned after Belle’s final Beauty and the Beast ensemble, only this gown has a red velvet-like overlay that ups the glamour quotient exponentially. You’d think that wearing such a gown would infuse my niece with an air of patrician noblesse, but she still crawled around like a tomboy Saturday night when she put it on. Which totally slowed her down in her pursuit of fun, but she was NOT about to take it off. As a princess, she has people who need to adore her, so she was kind of obligated to keep the thing on all night.

While I was home, I also got to take my seven-year-old nephew to his tae kwon do class, where he impressed me with his mastery of the poomse sequences, but the poor little guy has miles to go mastering other body-awareness-requiring skills like staying on his little black X during warm-ups and not falling over doing his kicks. He’s already a yellow belt, though, and he has a hard time disguising his pride when he carries around his bag of “gear.” Which makes him so cute I could hug him, but I don’t know what he’s been learning in that class and he could probably kill me with his bare hands. So I keep a respectable distance.

The other notable weekend event in Iowa was Shadow’s funeral. After my nephew’s dog was killed by a hit-and-run driver last week, his folks had Shadow cremated, and my nephew and my dad built her a little cremation urn in my dad’s basement workshop. They fashioned a sturdy wooden cube out of scrap wood, and they labeled it with a jigsawed bone shape that my nephew wrote “Shadow” on in his shaky little handwriting. We had a simple burial (just close family) in my folks’ back yard on Saturday afternoon, where my nephew declared Shadow “a good dog” in his eulogy. I guess it’s never too soon to learn about the randomness of death and life—although the kids lost their aunt earlier this year, so I think the dog was taking it a bit too far—but I’m having a hard time shaking my anger at the truck driver who killed a pretty big dog and was either too stupid or too cowardly to stop and acknowledge what he did.

But I’m able to channel my anger at the developers of my Two-Bathroomed Barbie Dream Condo, who this week finally admitted that their ongoing construction delays will probably take them to March before people can start moving in. So my Realtor and my attorney and I are busy trying to get out of my contract and find me a new place I can move into before bleeding season is over—or at least before the Republicans officially (finally!) lose the House and Senate. Fortunately, the housing bubble has burst, people are looking to unload a glut of properties in Chicago, and I’m able to move immediately (during holiday season, no less)—assuming I get out of my contract and get my deposit back—so I should be able to get a pretty sweet deal on an even better Two-Bathroomed Barbie Dream Condo. The hunt starts again this Saturday.

I’ll definitely keep you posted—in another month when I find a moment to make my next blog post.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ticketmaster lies.

The boyfriend had gotten exclusive early access to seats for last night’s Barbra concert through his AMEX, and the Ticketmaster operator told him our seats were in the “front row”—and given the price he paid for the damn things, he could have reasonably expected they might actually be in Barbra’s lap. Being a Disciple Of Barbra, he was positively giddy with excitement over the promise of at-her-feet proximity. But when we got in the United Center last night and the usher pointed us toward the end of the arena farthest from the stage, we quickly discovered we were merely in the front row of the built-in ring of seats along the arena floor—but thousands of people away from the actual stage. I could almost hear his hopes fall. And it broke my heart. Fuck you, Ticketmaster.

But the concert was fabulous and her voice sounded great and the orchestra was big and impressive and wonderful and Il Divo, who sang with her and on their own, was spectacular. Except for their espaƱol version of “Unbreak My Heart,” which has to be one of the most godawful pop songs ever written. Barbra’s costumes were a little iffy—she managed to channel both Liza with a Z and Cleopatra before the evening was over—and the roses all over her stage looked like they had been arranged by a frat boy. But otherwise, I have to say my first diva concert ever—unless you count not-quite-famous Whitney Houston circa 1987 in Iowa City—was thoroughly delightful.

My favorite moments were her powerful “Somewhere” from The Broadway Album and “Music of the Night” (which I’ve always secretly liked even though it’s by Andrew Lloyd Webber) from Back to Broadway—both backed up in wall-of-sound glory by Il Divo—and her more poignant “Children Will Listen” and “Smile (though your Heart is Aching),” which was her final encore.

And even though we sat in front of an ear-splitting whistler, our seats gave us a clear view of the stage—and of a guy a few seats down who jumped up and down like a schoolgirl with a spider in her panties when Barbra launched into what was obviously his favorite song in the entire known universe. And the boyfriend is going to divorce me when he reads this because even though I quizzed him on the name of the song this morning as we walked to the train, I’ve already forgotten what it’s called. It’s something about a rock. Or maybe Iraq.

Our transportation to and from the concert was equally memorable. We took a bus there, and as soon as we sat down, two warm, cuddly grandma-types sitting across from us saw our tickets and asked us where we were sitting in the concert. They swooned repeatedly and loudly when we told them we were in the front row. (Remember: Ticketmaster LIES, and at that point we still thought we were on our way to enjoy the concert in the actual front row.) Then they kept talking to us. One was a retired teacher from Arkansas. The other was one of her former students from Missouri. At one point our conversation turned to the other events that go on in the United Center, and the boyfriend and I found ourselves discussing sports on a bus with people from two different red states. Then they started swooning over how Barbra had stayed at Rosie’s house and how Rosie had reported she’d slept on Kelly’s side of the bed, so we figured our grandma-types weren’t red-state homo-haters after all. Then they swooned over Hillary and Bill and I started wondering if maybe they were red-state lesbians—which could be a pretty cool ornithological term, when you think about it—but then one mentioned her son and once again my gaydar had completely failed me.

After the concert, as we looked for the end of the mega-huge line to get on a bus back to the Loop, we ran into two women I’d done theater with in Iowa for the decade I lived there after college. So we rode in with them and met up with some other Iowa friends who’d come to Chicago with them but didn’t see the concert, and the boyfriend and I took them to the only 24-hour diner we know of in downtown Chicago, where we gorged ourselves on midnight goodness and high-fived over the sweeping defeat of the Republican House.

Note to Bush, Rove, Santorum, et al.: Now you know what a real moral referendum from voters feels like. And at this writing it looks like the Democrats are going to take the Senate as well, albeit by the slimmest of majorities—what you people have historically interpreted as a sweeping statement from the populace, even when you've reached your tipping point via the Supreme Court. But I’m hoping your long, dark, corrupt, self-serving, hateful reign is over. And when you go to sell tickets to your next blame-the-gays fundraiser, I’m hoping you use Ticketmaster.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I’m not voting today

And it’s not because I’m totally repulsed (once again) by this season’s bumper crop of grossly oversimplified, intellectually insulting political ads designed to appeal to the stupidest and most easily manipulated among us—although I have to admit that the ads from the Rob Blagojevich camp that use all the nodding-monkey footage of Judy Baar Topinka are a bit of a guilty pleasure.

My reason for not voting is a whole lot less politically motivated: Amid all my homelessness and temporary housing and layoffs and job hunts, it never occurred to me to change my voter registration. And now it’s too late.

Or not, according to a small handful of friends who assure me I can still vote in my old precinct, as long as I haven’t changed my driver’s license. But that sounds kind of shady and I don’t want to be an Ann Coulter, so for the first time since I turned 18, I’m missing an election.

But I’m kind-of voting tonight, because the boyfriend got us FRONT-ROW SEATS to Barbra “I’m so Jewish I recorded a Christmas album” Streisand, whose concert includes a Dubya impersonator. Her banter with him has kept this tour and her potty mouth and her audience’s thrown drinks in the news since it launched in New York a month ago, and our presence at her feet this evening is nothing short of a vote for economic collapse, anything-goes family values and a complete lack of respect for our troops abroad. Which, when you think about it, just as efficiently describes a vote for the Dubya administration.

As a card-carrying member of the velvet mafia (the ruthless gay cabal responsible, according to our esteemed Republican congress and its theocratic PAC, of destroying traditional marriage and keeping Mark Foley in office), I of course know the relevant songs from Yentl and 99% of the lyrics on The Broadway Album. But my familiarity with the Barbra oeuvre is monumentally eclipsed by the boyfriend’s encyclopedic knowledge of Barbra libretti and composers and films and concert recordings. So as we sit hand-in-hand in our seats of privilege this evening, he will be a true disciple and I will be a mere interloper barely worthy of the fact that Barbra and I could very well make frequent, prolonged, meaningful eye contact for hours on end. And she could easily call me up to join her for a duet of "Enough is Enough." And I could maybe look up her dress if she gets too close to the edge of the stage.

Until we launch into our Barbra reverie, though, I’m still aglow from last night’s mountaintop experience: Sibelius’ lush, full-bodied, triumphant Symphony No. 2 at the CSO.

The Sibelius Second is my favorite symphony of all time, and I’ve practically memorized Mariss Jansons’ definitive recording with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. Imagine my schoolgirl giddiness, then, when I discovered a few months ago that Jansons was conducting the Sibelius live at the CSO this season. Now multiply that by about a billion and try to imagine my giddiness last night as the boyfriend and I ate a fabulous dinner (and shared three desserts!) and then strolled to Orchestra Hall where I could share with him a work of music that has changed me on a cellular level as conducted by the man who introduced me to it in the first place.

And sitting there in the half-dark last night, holding hands with the boyfriend, awash in Sibelius’ sweeping, heroic, mighty lyricism … well, it was almost too much for my little heart to bear.

And now I face today with a cleansed soul. And the earnest hope that by the time the polls close tonight, last night’s beauty and purity will translate to sweeping, heroic, mighty changes in America. Even though I was too absent-minded to make sure I could help make it all happen.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Life's but a walking shadow

He’d wanted a dog. A yellow lab. And he was so sure he was going to get his dog that he picked out a name—Addison, after a girl he liked on his bus—and started telling stories to anyone who’d listen about all the fun he and his dog were going to have.

His parents resisted at first. His dad traveled and his mom, who wasn’t much of a dog person anyway but was home raising two kids, knew the training and the care and the feeding would fall completely on her.

But they talked it over, and they looked around at dogs, and when they found one they both loved they decided to surprise him on his fifth birthday.

And when he finally met his new dog—after a scavenger hunt that took him to his favorite places all over the city—he threw his arms around her neck and reveled in her kisses … and right there on the spot decided to name his new yellow lab Shadow.

Shadow was a lot of puppy, full of energy and constantly on the prowl for attention and love and a lap she could sit on during her brief—very brief—moments of rest. But the boy loved her and played with her and she loved him back, and even though she whined when she wasn’t getting attention and she left hair everywhere in the house, she became an important part of his family. The boy’s grandfather was especially fond of Shadow, and he found every excuse he could think of to come over and play with his granddog.

But Shadow was still a puppy who chased after squirrels and ran into the street and took off on adventures to explore the neighborhood. The boy and his little sister were too distracted by swings and bugs and Jedi knights and Disney princesses to keep much of an eye on her, and their mom was too distracted by laundry and dinner and driving and paying the bills to give her the constant supervision she needed.

So the summer he turned seven, the boy watched his father dig a trench around the yard and install an invisible fence. And overnight Shadow went from the dog everyone worried about to the dog everyone could finally enjoy. Even the boy’s mom and grandmother—who had never been big fans of dogs—grew to love her.

That fall, the day after Halloween, the boy's mom let Shadow out to play in the yard while she worked in the house. Just like she had done a thousand times.

When the phone rang 15 minutes later and she saw her neighbor’s name on her caller ID, she debated for a moment whether to pick up or to finish the projects she was working on.

But she answered the phone. A moment later she was bolting out the door to find a group of people hovering over Shadow in the street.

And then she remembered she’d forgotten to put on Shadow’s invisible-fence collar.

Shadow had quickly discovered that the end of the yard wasn’t the end of her world anymore, and she’d darted into the street—right into the path of a red pickup truck, who hit her and drove away. Two high-school girls who had been behind the truck stopped and cared for Shadow, and the neighbor had come out to see what had happened.

Among the three of them, they’d had the presence of mind to call the number on Shadow’s collar, and when the boy’s mother got to them, she found Shadow lying near death—in shock and hopefully not in pain—with one leg tucked awkwardly under her broken body.

The boy’s grandmother soon arrived, and the group carefully brought Shadow to the side of the street, where she quietly died under the watch of an impromptu mix of family, friends and strangers.

While the boy’s grandparents grimly took Shadow to the veterinarian to be cremated, the boy’s mother went to his school to bring him home and explain what had happened. The boy’s beloved aunt had died last February after struggling for a lifetime with a debilitating illness, so for the second time in less than a year, the boy found himself sobbing over the complete randomness of death and loss and anguish. He was only seven.

His sister, who will turn five in a week, still hasn’t wrapped her little brain around the concept, but both kids seem to appreciate the idea that Shadow is now able to run with Aunt Dana along some bucolic beach in some undefined location.

And when the kids’ uncle comes to visit next weekend for his niece's birthday, he is going to give them big hugs and lots of love and he’s going to tell them jokes and throw them in the air and make them giggle.

And I am going to try very hard not to think about the fact that it could just as easily have been one of them who ran in front of that truck.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Stock up on dollar bills ...

I'm dancing in another drag show this weekend.

It’s been two years since I’ve been in a drag show, so I guess that sentence is a little misleading. Just like Tony Snow! And I won’t actually be in drag this time, so the sentence is misleading and potentially inflammatory. Just like Rush Limbaugh!

In any case, I’m still technically in the show, though I’ll be a backup dancer in a tight little tank top this time. There will be two of us shaking our honey-baked hams behind a Madonna impersonator singing a Peggy Lee cover. And our number is gonna be HOT. So hot it gives you fever. In the morning. And fever all through the night.

The show is this Saturday, November 4. at Hydrate, 3458 N. Halsted. Fifteen bucks gets you an hour and a half of open bar (assuming you get there at 8:00) and then a fabulous show (starting at 9:30, for those of you struggling with the math) featuring drag queens singing live (none of this lip-synching crap that the lesser drag queens try to get away with).

The show is called Lipstick & Lyrics, and it’s the third annual live-drag fundraiser for the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus, so you can count on it being pretty fabulous. And if the thought of watching me dancing around on stage, caught up in the delusion that a 38-year-old man can pass for ham-shaking beefcake isn’t enough to get you to there, then you just don’t have a sense of humor.

[I wanted to upload our logo here to lend legitimacy to this little advertisement, but blogger is being a stubborn, ineffective pain in the ass right now. Just like Dubya!]