Monday, February 26, 2007

What I learned this weekend

People are self-centered boobs. We started our weekend with one of the boyfriend’s favorite cabaret acts: Justin Hayford singing overlooked Cole Porter songs. The setting is pretty simple: Justin, a piano, a microphone and an intimate room. With a two-drink minimum. We were seated in the back seats of one of the tables when a woman and her mother were seated at the two front seats. They expressed extreme concern that they’d block our view, which we assured them wouldn’t be a problem since we top out at 6'1" and 6'4". And I was thrilled to be seated behind people who expressed such concern over being possibly disruptive or rude. How delightfully rare, I thought. How not like my morning commute. Or any given movie theater. Or my naptime at work. But my thrill was quickly killed when the lights dimmed, the Cole Porter started getting under our skin … and the mother launched into a series of monologues about how much she loved each song. Fortunately, after a few songs her two drinks kicked in and she shut up before she got a kick out of us.

The boyfriend and I have artistic differences. As we’ve been picking out paint and tile and window treatments for our new condo, we’ve discovered what is becoming a vast discrepancy in matters of taste. See, I like things relatively plain. My wardrobe is 90% dark, solid colors. My walls have typically been bold, solid colors. My dishes and decorations and even flooring have been more or less plain ideas rendered in neutral colors. You get the picture. In glaring contrast, the boyfriend likes bright colors. He likes fancy detailing. He likes things I’ve traditionally described as “foo foo,” and not in a little-bunny-hopping-through-the-forest kind of way. After hours of discussions, we have yet to agree on a paint color for a single room in our condo. But after a couple hours at the tile store on Saturday, we did manage to pick something we both like for our new kitchen floor. It’s the exact same tile as the countertop, so we’ve hardly achieved a diplomatic victory. But we’ll take our signs of progress wherever we can get them. And we take the results of Saturday’s summit to be proof that the marriage will indeed last. Somehow.

Being married has little financial perks you never really think about. It was a few weeks after we agreed to move in together that it dawned on me that we’d be splitting our living expenses, thereby leaving more in our individual pockets at the end of each month. Then we got a family plan at our gym, which effectively cuts 30% off our individual membership rates. And on Saturday we got a family plan on our cell phones, which is cutting my personal phone bill almost in half. Now if we could only get marriage marriage. Or the chance to kick Dick Cheney in the balls once a day. Either option would bring even more value to my life.

Train wrecks aren’t always what you’d hope they’d be. We saw the Joan Collins/Linda Evans revival of Legends on Saturday night, hoping it would either be campy fun or a train wreck of horrifying proportions. Instead we just got wooden actresses hacking their way through a script that is at once clichéd, puerile, appalling and just plain bad. Nolan Miller’s costumes are pretty fabulous, but he didn’t take into account the fact that Joan and Linda are now shaped more like old ladies than screen sirens. His gowns for Joan are particularly ill-conceived, and the dress she wears for her curtain call pushes her boobs up to the point they look like oranges floating in bags of pudding. But we found free parking on the street, so the evening wasn’t as much an affront to our bank accounts as it was to our sensibilities. And since the show balances its racial slurs with gratuitous non sequiturs, Joan’s line about telling her black maid to “go pick some cotton” was balanced nicely with the random appearance of a male stripper. And they at least cast an actor for the role who didn’t look like he was made of oranges and pudding.

Macintosh is not always your friend. I have what are apparently first-generation Harman Kardon SoundSticks—terribly modern-looking computer speakers that import sound through a USB connection. I bought them at the Mac Store a couple years ago. They have worked perfectly fine with three different USB ports on three different Mac computers. The AirPort Express thingies I bought at the Mac Store last week so I could project sound to those speakers wirelessly has a USB port as well, along with an ethernet port and an eighth-inch audio port. I didn’t understand when I set up my AirPort Express thingie last week, though, that I didn’t get a choice—USB is for printers, ethernet is for … um … ethers and audio ports are now for music. PERIOD. Even though I have speakers that I bought at a Mac store with a USB connection. Which is the reason my AirPort Express thingies have seemed like they haven’t been working since I set them up. Frustrations like these are the reason my iPod has been sitting in a drawer for the last two years.

The Oscars are totally gay. We watched the awards at Sidetrack, along with every show-tune queen in the city. The place erupted like a televangelist at a hooker convention every time anything Dreamgirls appeared on the screen. And when Jennifer Hudson won for best supporting actress? Pande-freakin’-monium. I was part of the whooping and screaming, even though I find her to be weird. And now I kind of get all the whooping and screaming you see people doing when they watch sporting events on TV. But only kind of.

My boyfriend rocks. We spent our first whole weekend together in our condo, waking up in our bed, eating our food and making decisions about our crap. I'm 38 years old, and I've never been an "our" before—at least not in the sharing-a-house sense. It was one of the best weekends of my life.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

What to expect when you move:

You’ll lose things. We can’t find the phones. Or the Vonage modem that goes with them. What’s worse, we have a range of conflicting—albeit extremely vivid—memories of where we packed them: with the office stuff, with the kitchen stuff, with the bedroom stuff, with the important stuff that didn’t go into storage so we could access it immediately when we moved in. And because apparently I’m more packrat than organizer, we’ve found the BOXES the phones and the Vonage modem came in. Which means I actually took the time to pack the empty phone and modem boxes into a big moving box we could find right away, but I hid the actual hardware we would need in some other, never-to-be-seen-again box.

You’ll become a Luddite #1. We spent a great deal of time packing up my DVD/CD/ TiVo/surround sound system with labels and padding and shrink wrap to ensure it would stay wired the way it needed to be and we could essentially plug it into the wall when we got to the new place and it would work like nothing ever happened. But no so much. First of all, the speakers are making no noises, no matter what buttons I push. And the cable guy brought us a tiny little cable box that doesn’t have the same jacks as the old one I had. And he maliciously bypassed my TiVo when he hooked us up because I didn’t order DVR service from him. And I have no idea how to patch TiVo into such a tiny, jack-free little cable box, so I have another 2-hour hold on the TiVo help line to look forward to. Whee.

You’ll become a Luddite #2. Determined to make our house completely wireless, I bought three AirPort Express thingies for all our electronic toys: the computer speakers, the surround sound system that suddenly doesn’t work for shit anyway and the printer. I tried to set up the computer speakers first so we could listen to show tunes while we set up everything else, but Macintosh’s dirty little secret—its products aren’t as out-of-the-box functional as their marketing would have you believe—made itself instantly apparent … which means its dirty little secret works faster than its AirPort Express thingies. Which are all probably going even faster back to the store.

You’ll have to start wearing underpants. We both moved into our charming courtyard building from highrises with unobstructed views. And when there are no buildings obstructing your view, there are no buildings with people in them who can look in your windows. Which makes you a little indifferent to the importance of getting dressed with any sense of urgency—or modesty—in the morning. Which means for two mornings now I’ve spent time in front of our yet-to-be-curtained windows digging in boxes and suitcases and disorganized closets looking for clothes while I was completely naked. And since all our windows look across our courtyard, our new neighbors may have gotten to know us much better than we’d intended. Hi, new neighbors! On the plus side, maybe those neighbors are good with electronics and they see in our nakedness a metaphor for the helplessness we feel in the dismissive taunts of our hiding phones and our non-working speakers. And maybe they’ll bring Bundt cakes when they come over to offer their help.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

First, the important news:

My shoes are finally out of storage, and today I’m wearing a pair I haven’t seen since September. So break out the squirrels and champagne and let’s have a celebration!

If this post were an episode of CSI, the B storyline—the one where the dead person isn’t as interesting or telegenic as the person who died in the opening scene—would be the fact that we’re finally all moved in. And by “all” I mean “just barely kind of.”

The POD was delivered on time on Saturday, but it wouldn’t fit in the parking-lot space where the condo management company told us to put it. So we put it in the private alley next to our back door. On the plus side, it was incredibly more convenient having it next to our back door. On the minus side, the private alley is really a fire lane, so parking the POD there was highly illegal … and potentially expensive. And if worrying about that weren’t enough to deprive me of two nights' sleep, the place the POD people left it also made it difficult for four people in the neighboring building to get out of their parking spots. So between Saturday’s POD delivery and Monday’s POD pickup, I spent my should-be-sleeping time worrying that I’d be hauled off to fire-lane-violator’s prison AND I’d get to know my neighbors by pissing them off. And if we’ve learned anything from our dandruff shampoo commercials, it’s that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

(We stuck pre-emptive notes of apology under the windshield wipers of all the affected cars, and nobody seemed to be very upset with us. But this problem is the very reason PODs are more of a liability than a convenience in the city. They're a great idea if you live in the suburbs and you have a driveway or a yard. But after what we’ve been through I don’t recommend them for urbanites.)

Sunday was colder than Dick Cheney’s cold, black heart, but the movers I hired (three beefy fellas straight out of get-me-three-guys-with-streetwise-accents-who-actually-say-da-Bearss-on-purpose central casting) gamely showed up on time and unloaded the entire POD in 45 minutes. (I remind you it took six volunteer homosexuals* almost four hours to load the thing on a lovely Saturday last September. And we had an elevator.)

*By “volunteer homosexuals” I don’t mean Nick Lachey when he finally goes on a date with me. I mean homosexuals who volunteer to help a friend move. And by “volunteer” I mean “get a chance to examine all my stuff up close so they can make fun of it when they’re out of earshot—and get paid in free food.”

So everything’s in the house except a few random things that can be picked up in a few random car trips—and the boyfriend’s giant bed and even gianter dining room set, which will have to come in a separate truck some upcoming weekend. Once we clear the master bedroom and the dining room of boxes and other clutter crap.

So on Monday we celebrated the memories of revered presidents like Reagan and the Bushes (HA! I MAKE JOKE!) by unpacking and dusting and scrubbing and laundering and organizing and cable-guying (which, for the record, is not a verb in the adult-entertainment sense … at least not in this blog post) and installing lights above and below the kitchen cupboards and marveling at the convenience of wireless computer networking and doing that awkward negotiation dance where you try to tell your boyfriend that he has the decorating instincts of a televangelist in a whorehouse without making things awkward for the next 49 years and five months (we've given ourselves the option to re-evaluate the relationship at the 50-year mark) and installing an AirPort Express so you can wirelessly project your show tunes to your speakers from anywhere in the house even though your expensive new AirPort Express won’t show up on your speaker menu after an hour of installing and troubleshooting and also managing to cut a chunk out of your hand while trying to open a bag of assorted nuts and bolts.

And last night, we officially christened the place in the way gay boyfriends traditionally christen new homes: We scooped up giant bowls of ice cream and snuggled on the couch to watch an On-Demand episode of CSI (which was marred by some of the stupidest CSI dialogue ever written along with what were quite frankly uninteresting, non-telegenic victims in both the A and B storylines). And after that, we tumbled into the bed in the guest room and slept, free of concerns about parking violations and angry neighbors and doubts that the day would ever come when we’d actually fall asleep together under our own roof.

And we slept very, very well.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Thursday Things

My underwear is too small today. I’ve been too busy to eat most of the week, and though I’ve had time for only one workout since I got back from New York, I think in this case it really is the dryer’s fault.

I put my name in the New York Marathon lottery. I find out in June if I get picked to run it. Best-case scenario: I don’t hurt myself when I run Chicago on October 7 and then four weeks later I triumphantly finish New York. And Stephen Sondheim is there to watch and he’s so impressed that he kicks that Raúl fella out of Company and I spend the next year asking Amy to marry me a little.

We are finally moving into the new place this weekend! The POD comes Saturday, the movers come Sunday (along with a few friends) and by Monday we should be happily co-habitating with easy access to all our stuff. We got the floors refinished while we were in New York last weekend, and they look so awesome I don’t want to hide them under any furniture. So we’re investing in little jet packs so all our stuff hovers. Potential complications: PODs are illegal on the streets of Chicago (this I learned from the bitchy Chicago street-permit woman whose idea of being helpful was parroting “that’s illeeeeeegal” over and over when I tried to ask her what my options were) and the condo management company hasn’t responded to my three calls, two emails and one written request to park the POD in the private alley next to the building. The boyfriend finally—gently—told me to stop asking for permission and just park the damn thing where I wanted and ask forgiveness after the fact if I need to. So that’s the plan. Unless there’s too much snow in the alley, in which case they can’t deliver it. In which case I’ll have even bigger reasons for my underwear to be in a bunch.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Broadway overdose!

WHEW! We saw five shows in three days. We toured the Met. We had drinks with old friends. We spent a fortune on cabs. We stayed in a rockin’ Westin just off Times Square. We stood in line and got even more rockin’ tickets to everything we wanted to see. We’ve been up since 2:30 Chicago time. We’re tired.

But here’s my bleary-eyed take on everything we saw this weekend:

Company. Until Friday, I’d seen every Sondheim show except Company, Assassins and Whistle Down the Wind. (HA! I MAKE APPALLING MUSICAL-THEATER JOKE!) Once I discovered Sondheim, I promised myself I’d never listen to the score of any of his shows until I’d seen it first so I could have pure first-timer enjoyment in the theater. But I’d cheated with Company, whose score is so full of perfection I’d memorized it completely without quite understanding the context of each song. And now that I’ve seen it I’m in love all over again. I was a little worried about John Doyle’s the-cast-is-also-the-orchestra staging, but I have to say I was thoroughly impressed with the musicianship of the actors and their collective sound—except for the saxophone riffs that totally screwed up the meter of “You Could Drive a Person Crazy.” But the show is lovely and Raúl Esparza is kind of sexy and I’d see this show over and over without ever getting tired of it.

Follies. This show was the whole point of our trip. There were only six performances in this City Center Encores! production, and the boyfriend got up at the crack of dawn on Saturday and waited in line for four hours to get us tickets while I slept blithely in our fabulous hotel room. But he got us some pretty sweet seats on the main floor—just a few rows behind Phyllis Newman and Cynthia Nixon, thankyouverymuch. The production was as stunning as we’d hoped, from Victoria Clark’s definitive Sally to Donna Murphy’s divinely wounded Phyllis to the delicious comic timing of JoAnne Worley, Mimi Hines and Christine Baranski. (And it really pains me to say this, but Ms. Baranski—who will probably never speak to me again—had neither the world-weary gravitas nor the Teflon pipes required to play Carlotta. And she looked at her feet when she tapped. But I would still totally switch for her.) Afterward, we stayed for two talkbacks: the one where the New Yorkers pushed and shoved and jostled and whined and insulted and fought over available seats, and the one where many of the actors and Stephen Sondheim himself came out on the stage and offered juicy tidbits about the making of Follies from the late 1960s to the present. And it was better than eating cookie-dough ice cream while watching Nick Lachey in a Speedo kicking the shit out of Dick Cheney. Loveland!

Grey Gardens. For the uninitiated, this quirky little show is a musical retelling of a disturbing 1970s documentary about Jackie Kennedy’s delusional cousin and aunt living in squalor in their once-fabulous 28-room East Hampton mansion. I never liked the movie because it made its point—these women were crazy and that is sad—in a few quick scenes … and then it dragged on for more and more scenes that really accomplished nothing further. So now it’s a musical—and it has a lot of excited buzz behind it. So we went. And we were disappointed. It’s hard to make a plot-y musical out of a plotless documentary, and though this version tries really hard—the entire first act is backstory and the second act weaves a weak narrative out of scenes from the movie—it’s ultimately pretty dull. Especially the forgettable score. We predict that once Christine Ebersole—who carries the show by sheer force of personality—leaves, the whole thing will collapse. And that is sad. On the other hand, the show features Matt Cavenaugh, who is so unbelievably handsome you hardly notice how unbelievably talented he is. So who really cares about a threadbare plot?

The Drowsy Chaperone. It’s a silly little musical that makes fun of silly little musicals! It’s dippy and pointless and stupid and thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyable! See it! See it! See it! (But try to see it when Sutton Foster is in it; she was out when we saw the show, and though her understudy was wonderful, she wasn’t Sutton Foster. And Georgia Engel has made an entire career playing the same character. But it works for her. And now she gets to do it in a silly dress.)

Spring Awakening. It’s Hair meets Rent meets The Scarlet Letter. It’s every Very Special Episode of Blossom rolled into one Lifetime Movie of the Week. And it’s told by microphone-wielding schoolchildren in 19th century rural Germany. The audiences are eating it up—no doubt for the extraordinary talents of its cast and Duncan Sheik’s indie-rock score. But it was not written to appeal to Midwestern gay men pushing 40. And while a friend of mine is one of the producers and one of the guys in the cast has really nice legs, that’s not enough. We didn’t hate it; you may love it. But we’d rather spend our time with Sondheim and silly little musicals about silly little musicals.

But the boyfriend and I sailed effortlessly through our first vacation together, and we’re planning thousands more. Maybe in your town—as long as you have show tunes.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

I'm still here

I'm just doing the "here" thing in New York City until I wing my way back to Chicago at 6:00 am on Monday. And this vacation includes the boyfrined. It's our first trip together!

On our docket:
Grey Gardens
Spring Awakening
And some yet-to-be-determined show that should be longer than "Spring Awakening" just to complete the visual pattern.

Of course, we're totally playing box-office roulette here, so there are no guarantees of anything; the only tickets we've actually bought are for "Spring Awakening"—and only because the husband of an old friend of mine is one of the producers. Which means we have house seats, for those of you inclined to be all jealous of us.

The city of strangers is about to get two more show-tune queens. And we're coming to PLAY!

Explain to me the purpose of this:

So we spent a day in South Beach before we boarded our ship last week, and my peeps (I say this because I’m down with the kids, yo) and I divided our time among three activities: looking at men in swimsuits, eating and shopping.

My shopping adventure left me with three fabulous new purchases: some broken-in-looking flip-flops (which immediately bloodied my feet) and two pair of jeans. One pair comes directly from the school of painfully trendy fashion: they sit low on my hips, they give me a bit of a butt (which would be a great name for a jeans store), they have unintelligible words embroidered in large gothic letters on one hip, and they have bleachy crinkles that give these jeans the illusion of being my constant companion throughout a fascinating life of discos, high-class hookers and Hollywood premiers. Best of all, the saleslady gave me 25% off when I waffled over whether or not I should buy them. Lesson learned: Always waffle.

The other pair of jeans came from the Gap on Lincoln Road. They’re basic dark jeans with only a hint of bleachy crinkles. They sit low on my hips. They stay straight and true through the ankle. Just like I like them.

And when I walked out the door with them, I set off the alarm. Now, my policy on store alarms has always been this: I’m not a thief, so if you’re too stupid to remove the tag and too lazy to do anything about it when I set off your alarm, I’m not going to waste a moment pretending to care—unless the offending tag is the kind that forces me to return for a removal, at which time you will feel my inconvenienced non-thief consumer wrath.

And when we got to the hotel and I put on my new jeans to wear on a night out in Miami and there was no tag to be found, I totally forgot about the alarm. Until I started setting off alarms in every fucking store we poked through that evening.

Six hours later when I was finally back in the hotel room and out of my jeans, I turned them inside out to see what had been causing all those goddamn doors to beep. And there I found it: Sewn into a side seam was a fucking built-in alarm tag featuring embroidered words instructing me to cut out the tag before washing or wearing my new jeans.

Dear Gap,

The above story leaves me with a few questions:

1. Why are you sewing alarm tags in your jeans? The clippy ones seem to work just fine for everyone else.
2. Why aren’t your clerks deactivating these tags before they sell your jeans? Do you enjoy having your door alarms go off every time a customer leaves your store? Do you enjoy forcing your customers to trip alarms in every store they enter and exit after they leave you?
3. In the event your clerks can’t deactivate these tags, why aren’t they at least alerting your customers to their presence and instructing them to remove the tags when they get home? It’s not like consumers are in the habit of turning their new clothes inside out in search of boobie traps and hidden deactivation instructions.
4. Why the hell do you suck so much?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

First peek

Here’s a small sampling (read: one) of the many (read: billions of) photos taken on my Atlantis cruise last week:

It was taken before we boarded the ship in our matching C-MEN T-shirts. We were C-MEN, see, because we come from a city that starts with C (in my case, Cedar Rapids) and not because we were all from our mother’s wombs untimely ripp’d.

Here’s a closeup of the logo, which was designed by one of the guys in our traveling party and which is for some reason rendering on my screen in only cyan and yellow:

Unfortunately, not all of us made it to the check-in at the same time, so we never got a picture of our complete pile of C-MEN. Somehow, though, I think we all managed to have a good time on the cruise without it.

I, owner of a crappy camera, never took said camera out of its cheap travel bag the whole trip. But my friends who took pictures of everything they could find have promised to get me copies of their pictures, the most flattering of which I promise to post here for your viewing pleasure.

Until then, lay on Macduff!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred readers

More or less. Much less, actually.

But the little counter thingy when you scroll way down on the right shows that the readership of this silly little blog hit the 300,000 mark sometime last night or early this morning. I still have no idea how that translates to individual hits or total readers, but a number like that sure gives a guy a sense of ... um ... something. A massive, validating, nebulous something. Woo-hoo!

In other news, Ted Haggard is now "completely heterosexual"! And he's pursuing a career in psychology! Presumably so he can produce other complete heterosexuals! Without having to resort to doing it the old-fashioned way!

Monday, February 05, 2007

How to go on a big gay cruise

The week before you travel, lay out all the clothes you think look good on you. Look at everything you have spread out before you, pick up one thing you think you could live without for a week … and then go borrow a bigger suitcase from your friend Jim. Put back one pair of socks, two T-shirts and a pair of foo-foo trendy shoes, though, just to show the world you are indeed mature enough not to overpack like a debutante at a cat show.

Discover when you check in at the airport that you can upgrade to first class for only $130. Splurge and enjoy your first-ever trip in the world of legroom, warm towels and rubberized chicken.

Spend a day in Miami before you board your ship. Buy more clothes while you’re there, including two pair of foo-foo trendy jeans with faux-Gothic embroidery and bleachy wrinkles built right in. Think how awesome your new jeans will look with your foo-foo trendy shoes—the ones you didn’t pack at the last minute.

Boarding the ship
Fight the gridlock caused by the Miami Marathon to get from your hotel to the ship. Curse the scheduling gods.

When you get on the ship, notice immediately how everyone else worked harder than you did to look amazing in a Speedo. (Seriously—out of 3,700 passengers, easily 1,000 of them on our ship had achieved physical perfection. A perfection that sends even the most well-adjusted man into a downward spiral of self-doubt and eating disorders. A perfection that makes you wonder if there were any beautiful people left on land anywhere on earth the week we were sailing.) Smile bravely and cease breathing for the rest of the week to avoid letting your stomach pooch out even for a second.

Emergency drills
Before the ship leaves the dock, you will be required to don your bulky orange life vest and congregate with herds of other bulky-orange-vested passengers in various parts of the ship. If this were a real emergency, you would be issued coordinating shoes and accessories since nothing in your wardrobe goes with bulky orange.

You can’t help but stare. So you don’t even try not to. And you will eventually see some semi-famous people: That Italian guy you think is named Oliver who was on the cover of Instinct magazine last summer. Adult-entertainment behemoth Matthew Rush, who is so big and cartoony-muscular he makes the ship tilt when he leans against the railing. And some scruffy cutie people keep stopping to take pictures of though you can’t for the life of you figure out who he is or why he’s famous, though you think you might have seen him on TV or in a movie somewhere.

You will also notice with amusement that everyone—from the feyest spa queens to the hairiest musclebears—will have gotten pedicures before the cruise. Everyone but you, that is.

Weigh the options of pigging out vs. eating responsibly to maintain your manly figure. Discover that while the meals are generally outstanding on the ship, the desserts tend to have a Little Debbie quality to them, so they’re easy to avoid.

Learn from a ship employee that for the gay cruises, the ship goes through infinitely more egg whites, skinless chicken breasts, skim milk, fruits and vegetables than they do for a general cruise. And they run out of vodka and Diet Coke faster than normal.

Spa services
Take a spa tour the day you board the ship, though you have no intention of ever forking over any money for such frivolity. Find yourself much poorer by the end of the day, though, after suffering through a microdermabrasion procedure that’s not unlike having your face resurfaced by angry sandpaper-wielding poodles.

In addition to the usual shipboard entertainment, your gay cruise organizers will also pack the ship with a range of gay lounge acts, gay stand-up comedians and foul-mouthed drag queens. And then they’ll bring in relatively big-name entertainers. For instance! Charo, who shakes her boobs and sings along shamelessly to her own recorded voice and swears like a Castilian longshoreman. Also! Alec Mapa, the guy who runs the modeling agency with Gabrielle on Desperate Housewives. One more! Joan Rivers, who is not afraid to make fun of everyone—and who is hysterically funnier on script than when she ad libs on the red-carpet shows, though she has a weird habit of pulling her microphone away too early so some of her jokes just disappear into a fog of missed words.

There will be dance parties on the ship on most afternoons and every night. There will often be multiple dance parties on some nights, because the gays like their dancing. These dance parties will all have specific, costume-requiring themes, including under the sea, military, Mardi Gras, disco and white. These parties will also take place on the top pool deck under a starry sky and a shimmering moon. Then the sun will come up, and the parties will be moved to an indoor nightclub area so they can go sometimes as late as noon. And if you close your eyes and click your heels three times, you might actually convince yourself that the people who can dance from midnight to noon get all their energy from Diet Coke.

Speaking of chemicals, the people on your cruise will be at their friendliest on the dance floor for some unnamed reason. At the very least, they will insist on knowing your name and where you’re from. And they will request this information while you’re dancing in front of a bank of speakers larger than an industrial refrigerator and louder than a televangelist declaring his heterosexuality.

Making friends
You will hang out with the friends you came with for the first couple days, and then you’ll all scatter to the winds as you meet more and more people on the ship. If you’re lucky like me, you’ll meet up with some really cool guys from some new country called “Canada” who will become your new best friends for life—or at least for the duration of the cruise.

You will also be stopped on the beach in Haiti one day by a blog reader from Manchester, England, who will totally make your day just by recognizing you and saying hello.

Keeping in touch
Before you start your cruise, you will have printed little business cards with your picture, your room number and your phone number/email address contact information, which you will hand to people as you meet them at dinner, the pool, on the dance floor, etc. You will worry that printing only 30 cards will have been a big mistake, though you will honestly distribute only about 10 cards, mostly to the people you came with so they can find your cabin. And you will usually forget to bring your cards with you when you leave your cabin anyway.

The ship employs photographers who will take pictures of you doing everything you don’t want photographed: chewing food, letting your belly pooch out when you’re in a bathing suit, dancing in a costume that in retrospect makes you look more silly than creative, etc. These photographs will be available for purchase for $10 each in the ship’s photo store. Or you can have them destroyed completely free.

You can also bring your own camera on the cruise, but it will never once occur to you to actually pull it out of your suitcase and use it. This is why it’s good to travel with friends who like to take pictures with their personal cameras that are much better than yours and then post those pictures for you to buy on various photo-sharing sites. Please wait a few days for examples.

You will scrupulously slather yourself with SPF 45 every time you go out in the sun all week, except for the last day when you forget to bring it with you and you borrow your friend’s SPF 8. Then you will burn yourself on your upper thighs right where your new foo-foo trendy jeans crease at their pre-bleached crinkles and rub against your skin like an angry poodle wielding a microdermabrasion gun.

Coming home
As if the Miami Marathon didn’t provide enough gridlock when you boarded the ship, some local cultural event called the “Super Bowl” (I think it’s a plumbing fair) will again clog (HA! CLOG!) the streets when you’re fighting your way back to the airport after you leave the ship. In the rain.

You will also wait at the airport with people coming home from other, less fun, cruises—the kinds of cruises where children romp untethered outside their cages and grown women think it’s perfectly acceptable to line their heads with crooked, beaded cornrows to commemorate their afternoon visits to rocky, tourist-infested Caribbean beaches.

You will wear white when you get back to work the next day, simply because you find white to be the best color to go with your office décor. Even though the only white things you own are really quite summery and it’s 900 degrees below zero in Chicago.

Re-entry into polite society
It’s impossible. You will resent lines at the lunch counter. You will silently mock people with no visible sunburn. You will realize at a 1:00 meeting that that’s the hour you usually rolled out of bed for the last whole week. You will question the necessity of females—unless they have unnaturally high hair and suspiciously low voices.

But you will be glad to be home. And you will have already booked the same cruise for next January because you saved a couple hundred bucks by booking it on the ship. Which about pays for your microdermabrasion, which for some reason I keep spelling with an -ian as though it were a new breed of angry Oriental poodle.

And in one year when you take off on your next gay cruise adventure, you’ll have your damn boyfriend with you so you two can share the fun and the excitement and the relaxation and the bleary-eyed exhaustion and the unhealthy body-image issues together. And it will be even better than this year!