Sunday, March 29, 2009

You wanna hear something kinda gay?

I got another tattoo yesterday! But that's not the gay part. (OK, it's totally gay for an almost-41-year-old man in a blissfully happy marriage to permanently mark himself in a way that calls attention to his body. But this post is about how I'm gay in a different way.)

The tattoo is on the back of my arm. And since a tattoo is essentially a massive flesh wound, it bleeds and oozes and scabs for quite a while before it heals into its final state of faux masculinity. (You should have seen the sheets this morning. It looked like I'd lost a baby in my sleep. Or at least like I was the victim in that Law & Order episode where the almost 41-year-old gay guy got sandpapered to death in his own bed.)

Anyway, until my new tat heals I have to keep it clean and slathered in some magic salve cryptically called A&D Ointment. And apparently it also needs air to heal, so I need to wear loose-sleeved short-sleeved shirts for the next few days.

And that's where we get to the gay part. Because while I have tons of short-sleeved shirts, apparently I don't have many loose-sleeved short-sleeved shirts. Big gay vain tight-shirted homo alert!

In any case, the tattoo looks pretty cool! It sits way lower on my arm than I'd hoped—I wanted it just to peek out of all my too-tight short-sleeved shirts—but the tattoo artist designed a custom Nordic-tribal shape that traces the thickest part of my triceps, which sits lower on my arm than all my tight little sleeves can reach. It's still red and oozy, but here's what my new ink looks like peeking out of one of the extremely rare and endangered baggy T-shirts in my Big Gay Vain Tight Shirt Collection:
And here's what it looks like all by itself. Notice how easily the baggy shirt sleeve rides up over my shoulder. What an amazing side benefit to this newfangled fashion invention!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Jake’s Kick-Ass Triceps Workout

I’ve been doing variations of this triceps workout for 20 years, and it never fails to give me a huge pump. If only I could find a similarly reliable workout for my stupid chest. In any case, since I don’t have anything terribly fascinating to report—my flu is gone except for a nagging couth-tickle, work is keeping me extremely busy, I’ve been having delicious raisin toast with cinnamon and honey for breakfast all week—I’m sharing a little bit of my vanity gospel with you-all today. So get ready to kick the living heck out of your triceps (which are really the biggest part of your arm and therefore the most important to pump up if you’re gonna impress the chicks):

Close-grip bench press: 3 sets of 10 reps
If possible, do these on a Smith Machine—a bench press bar on two vertical tracks—so you can focus on your triceps and not let too much of this exercise leak over to your chest. Keep your upper arms parallel to your torso and close to your sides and put your thumbs on the same side of the bar as your fingers. And use just enough weight that you can’t complete any more reps than 10 per set. This exercise isn’t meant to give you a pump; it’s pre-exhausting your entire triceps so you can max out individual heads of the muscle later in the workout. (For this workout, give yourself 45 to 60 seconds between sets so you recover your strength but your triceps are still engaged when you start your next set.)

Skull crushers: 3 sets of 10 reps
Since I hate to be a bother and ask other people to spot me, I like doing these on a decline bench so my head is near the floor and I could drop the weight bar without hurting (or embarrassing) myself if I needed to. Use the inside grips of a bent bar so your hands are close together at a 45º angle and make sure your elbows point straight up as you lower the weights toward the top of your head. Again, use just enough weight that you can get only 10 reps per set.

Rope pulldowns: 3 sets of 16 reps
This two-part exercise is where you really blast both heads (the horseshoe shape you see on the back of a really muscular arm) of your triceps. Set the pulley on a cable machine so it’s above your head and attach a two-headed rope to it. Stand with your feet together, grab the rope with both hands, lock your elbows at your sides and slowly pull the rope straight down the front of your body and then out to your sides for eight reps. You should feel it on the outside back of your arm. Use weights that you can control but that make the last few reps a bit of a challenge. When you finish the first eight reps, immediately spread your feet to shoulder width apart and do eight more reps straight down the front of your body without flaring them out to your sides. You should feel it on the inside back of your arm. After three sets, your triceps should be noticeably jacked. But you’re not done yet …

Triceps dips: 3 sets to failure
Whether you dip using your body weight or you use a machine that gives you a bit of an assist, it’s important that you keep your arms relatively close to your sides and you keep your body as upright as possible so you’re not using too much chest or shoulders. Dip slowly without pausing so you max out your triceps on each set, and quit only when you absolutely can’t push your body back to upright. Your triceps should be rock-hard when you’re done—especially if you’ve done this workout after a good chest workout. Be sure to stretch your triceps afterward by reaching over your head as though you were trying to scratch the middle of your back. And get huge responsibly; try not to break the door frame as you walk your freakishly huge new arms out of the gym after your workout.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Recipe for shredded abs:

102º fever + hacking cough + uncontrollable night sweats

I don't know why I wasted the last eight months lifting weights, doing cardio and denying myself delicious, delicious cookies when I could have achieved all my cruise goals with one well aged jar of sun-dried mayonnaise. My six-day battle with the flu has been hell on earth—well, the tiny percent of it I was actually awake for was—but I emerged looking more abtastic than my best day on the big gay cruise. So. Not. Fair.

But one benefit of this unplanned cruise-recap delay is the additional cruise photos I've received through the miracle of the Internets. And with the partial reconstitution of my bizarre sense of humor, I think I'm finally ready to show show you all the evidence of our Caribbean adventures.

First of all, the Celebrity Solstice is only a few months old, stunningly appointed and fabulously elegant on the outside …

… and even more so on the inside, as represented here by one of the ship's breathtaking atriums (atria?):

We sailed with 13 friends, and we wore a rainbow of Chicago Boystown shirts to make our boarding all the more festive. But getting us all in the same place at the same time was like herding big gay kittens. So here's more or less a quorum of us right before we got on the ship:

The first order of business when you get on a ship is the lifeboat drill. So we donned our custom couture and headed to what all those swarthy in-the-know sailor-types call "muster stations."

Unfortunately, we discovered that muster couture was anything but custom. Imagine our embarrassment when an entire ship showed up for the boat drill in the exact same outfits we were wearing:

A big gay cruise can be a blood sport—a friendly blood sport, at least in front of the children—right down to the way you decorate your door. And while our neighbors took the easy route—cheap rainbow decorations and tacky underwear photos—we decorated our doors in a customized and highly relevant Pirates of the Caribbean theme. So we totally won!

The Solstice is designed to maximize the rooms with balconies. I've never had a room with a balcony, and I have to say now that I've tasted the good life, I'm never going back to the windowless steerage I've barely tolerated on the handful of cruises I've taken before. We didn't realize that the cheapest balcony rooms in the Solstice had lifeboat-obstructed views of the ocean, but we've already booked next year's cruise on a higher floor (for only $40 more!) so we should never again have to endure such demeaning horrors as a view like this:

But! Being so low did give us a dramatic view up the side of the ship from our balcony:

Atlantis cruises are basically week-long themed dance parties with occasional breaks for costume changes. The first party of each cruise is called the Dog Tag Tea Dance (for those of you not completely familiar with gay terpsichorean nomenclature, "dog tag" indicates a military theme while "tea dance" means an afternoon party where you can search high and low but will probably never find any tea). Here's what the Dog Tag Tea Dance looks like from above:

I know! Fun! Before our Chicago quorum entered the fray, we met for our all-important photo op. All costume themes for the week are merely suggestions, and you can see from this photo that we Chicago boys took wide interpretational latitude outfitting ourselves for the Dog Tag Tea Dance:

We also took dramatic couple portraits against the side of the ship, and since we were on a higher floor for this photo shoot the domestic partner and I didn't have any pesky lifeboats ruining our shot:

Here's one more with our adorable friend Shane, who managed to eclipse eight months of our workouts with one $40 bathing attire purchase:

My favorite port of call on our Atlantis cruises is Labadee, a slice of Haiti purchased by Royal Caribbean/Celebrity, walled off from the poverty-stricken locals (we choose not to think about that part too much) and outfitted with inflatable beach toys for grownups. The blue thing on the left of this picture is a three-story waterslide … the same waterslide that cruise headliner Chita Rivera herself watched me go down. In the middle of the picture are smaller slides, teeter-totters and trampolines floating in a charming little bay. And on the right are huge inflatable icebergs you can climb up and slide down. It's all so much fun it will probably be declared illegal by the pope once he finishes ridding the world of gay breathing or whatever holy mission is currently taking up all his valuable, important, socially relevant time.

Our second port of call was Alto de Chavon, Casa de Campo—a Tuscan-inspired village in the Dominican Republic that's so freakishly picturesque you have to wonder if you've accidentally wandered onto the set for Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean IV: Try Our Unlimited Breadsticks. Here's the castle that greets you when you get off the tour bus:

Walk a little farther and you stumble on costumed historical interpreters performing ballet-inspired folk dances in front of the rustic church in the middle of the cobblestoned town square:

Climb the steps to the bell tower and you start getting a nagging inferiority complex about the view from your 1920s vintage courtyard building back home:

But ask a hunky stranger to take your picture from the top of the bell tower and you at least get a custom souvenir:

Back on the ship, the parties keep coming. Here are a few Chicago boys rocking out at the ’80s dance party while a certain photographer finally admits to himself that even though they were the backdrop for his Extremely Awkward Phase, the ’80s did produce some fabulously fun dance music:

Our final port of call was Curaçao, which, like every Caribbean island, features British Colonial buildings and antebellum cannons you can be photographed riding in inappropriate poses:

Curaçao was our only rainy day the whole week. Here is less than our Chicago quorum dodging raindrops in the charming shopping district:

They must have known we were coming, because they put out a very welcoming sign for our friend Jim:

My sign wasn't nearly as fun, but at least it was in a nicer part of town:

The gays of Curaçao even gayed up one of the shopping districts for our arrival:

Though I did some gaying myself in front of a shuttered Art Deco theater. You know me and the stage; get us together and I just can't stop myself from being fabulous:

Our ship was docked in Curaçao in such a way that we got even more fabulousness in a photo op as we reboarded.

My favorite party on the ship is the ’70s Disco Tea Dance, where people are not afraid to make themselves look silly. For instance:

Unfortunately I didn't realize just how silly we looked in our sparkly round Brett Somers glasses until after the photos came back. But we did have shiny silver shorts and disco ball necklaces to distract people from that fact. And we also had all that fabulous disco music.

Every cruise has a surprise headliner. In the past we've had Charo, Wanda Sykes and Joan Rivers. This cruise we got to spend an evening with the fabulous Chita Rivera, who put on a killer show of songs from her long and storied career—she was the original Anita in West Side Story, the original Velma in Chicago and the original Aurora in Kiss of the Spider Woman, for you Philistines and heterosexuals who don't follow these things—and she even told stories about her auditions and her famous costars that reduced to puddles those of us who are inclined to swoon over such things.

The Atlantis White Party marks the culmination of a week of dance parties, and people come up with some pretty spectacular costumes. For instance:

We opted for something easier to wear on a crowded dance floor. The Chicago drag queen I choreograph for made our costumes for us this year. And I have to say we looked pretty fabulous:

The pants were kind of warm, though, so we parked ourselves on the pool edge of the dance floor to take advantage of all breezes that came our way. You can see us shaking our satyr booties just to the left of the center in this photo:

The day after the White Party is the final tea dance, which they call "Splash" or some such pool-related term. Here's a random picture of me I found while scrolling through random strangers' Flickr photos. Flickr can be both creepy and cool that way. Either way, notice the disco-ball necklace theme we managed to carry through the week:

Here's another less-than-quorum picture of us on our last night on the ship. We were all smiles, though we knew from experience the horrors that awaited us in the real world less than 12 hours later.

To mitigate those horrors, we stocked up on my favorite cookies ever back at home. And even in my flu-induced delirium, I managed to eat two entire packages of these delicious masterpieces within 36 hours of getting to Chicago.

We've given ourselves one week to be pigs (and have the flu) and then we're back on our cruise diet and workout regimen; marathon training starts in four weeks and Matthew reportedly has a new camera to record every second of every training run. And I want to be bigger and even more self-absorbed for next year's cruise!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Blogging in sick

So we're back, we're unpacked, we're mostly laundered, and we're starting to sort through all the pictures and memories and unused bottles of SPF 45 we need to find a place to store. And in the middle of it all, I got the flu. The full-on shivers, night sweats, painful skin, dizziness, headache, abject-misery, kill-me-now flu. But at least this flu is letting me keep everything in my body, if you know what I mean. Though it's reduced me from an alpha guy who thrives best when he's juggling 15 projects at once to a shaky little blanket-covered mouse who gets lost in the first 15 minutes of a Law & Order rerun. Thankfully, the flu manifested itself the day after I got home from the cruise. So we got to enjoy every minute of what was easily my favorite vacation ever.

And I have billions of pictures to show you. I promise. But first, I need to chug another bottle of NyQuil, crawl back into bed and pray for death. Wish me luck.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sneak preview pic

I've downloaded (uploaded?) the vacation pictures from my camera, but my first day back at work was longer than I'd hoped and I'm pretty sure I'm coming down with a cold and I'm in no mood to write anything clever about our Atlantis adventures right now. Those of you who know me on Facebook can flip through the pictures I've uploaded there and cringe at my perfunctory captions for proof.

But in the interest of not losing the last four of you who actually read my blog, here's a picture of me, an ass and a random stranger (you decide who is whom) in a freakishly picturesque little village on Casa de Campo. For the record, the hat came with the ass. And I'm hoping it didn't come with any critters that jumped off the legions of picture-posing tourists who rode the ass before me. In any case, here for your consideration is proof that I either really did go on vacation or I forgot to make a few car payments. You decide:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Chita Rivera watched me slide down a waterslide!

We're back from the cruise, and we're just bursting with exhaustion. Atlantis knows how to turn a relaxing vacation into a seven-day megawatt explosion of fun, and I've gotten about four hours of sleep every night as I struggled valiantly to not miss a single stage show, dinner, shore excursion, comedian, karaoke performance, line dance, cabaret performer, social event and themed dance party. Oh, and I also spent some time lounging by the pool. And I took one very brief nap.

Here are some highlights:

• This was the best gay cruise I've ever been on. Gay cruises usually sail under a cloud of muscleboy attitude, and if you're not careful you can let it ruin your vacation. But everyone on this ship was so friendly that even the musclebitches relented and I actually saw one of them crack a strained smile. The passengers were on a mission to make as many friends as possible this week, and the crew was so excited to have friendly passengers who stay up past 10 and order lots of drinks and leave lots of tips and not complain about everything (apparently regular cruise passengers are career complainers) that the ship was just buzzing with happiness from start to finish.

• One thing that's so fabulous about a gay cruise is that for one week, we're the majority. We can hold hands over dinner and kiss goodnight under the moonlight and fall asleep snuggled together in our deck chairs and we don't have to worry about getting yelled at by unbalanced christofascists. We go a whole week without hearing some self-important godtard calling us abominations or campaigning to blame us for the decline and fall of all civilizations past, present and future on the national news. For seven glorious days, we don't hear a word of drivel out of Newt Gingrich, Focus on the Anus Family or Rush Limbaugh. And while their absence from our lives gives us a false sense of hope for the humanity waiting for us back on shore, it's still a lovely diversion.

• Atlantis always books a surprise entertainer or two for each cruise. We kicked off the week with a performance by Kimberly Locke, an American Idol contestant I'd never heard of. Probably because I've never watched the show. She gave a nice concert, but I've never been a fan of the "pop vocal stylings of" genre so I'm not one to offer thoughtful criticism either way. Our star performer was the incomparable Chita Rivera, who looks fabulous and still has masterful control of her gravelly alto. She was on the ship with us all week, and I kept running into her at every port. Though I hate to bother famous people, so I never went up to say hi or snap a picture. Big regret. At one point, though, I looked up to find her smiling at me after I rode down a giant waterslide. That one Speedo-clad descent must have shown her what she needed to see about my many talents, because she cast me on the spot as Slidey the forgotten Jet in the Broadway revival of West Side Story.

• The Celebrity Solstice is a staggeringly beautiful ship. And it's only a few months old. So it still sparkles. Actually, it sparkles a lot more than it did a week ago; we gays sure wear a lot of body glitter and shiny fabrics to our themed dance parties. I'm sure future Solstice passengers will be stumbling over stray sequins and frayed strings of lamé for months to come.

• After spending a week stepping over piles of muscleboys lounging around the pool deck in Speedos, it's kind of a shock to your system to see grumpy parents and screaming children back it the real world. Getting to the airport after a cruise is always a timing crapshoot, and we ended up here four hours early this morning. So I'm getting the full heterosexual pride parade as I sit at terminal B5 waiting for my flight. But there's free wireless and I found a comfy seat near an outlet, so I can't complain too much.

• I didn't buy any souvenirs from the trip. But I did get a manicure and a pedicure (gay!) in Ft. Lauderdale before we boarded the ship. And I got my teeth whitened (gay! gay! gay!) in the ship's spa. And I got a tattoo. I think tats that go straight down the back of a guy's triceps are totally hot, but the ones I see are usually Asian characters of some sort. And how ridiculous would a Norwegian-German-American look with kanji running down his arm? But I found a cool vertical dragon shape at a Ft. Lauderdale tattoo parlor and got it painted on in henna for only $40. And it looks so awesome, I may replicate it in real blood and ink once the henna finally wears off:

• I took a ton more pictures with my fabulous new camera, but the cable to connect it to my computer is in my checked luggage. So you'll just have to wait. In the mean time, I have 427 emails to attend to. And some sumburny areas to scratch. And some sleep to catch up on. And now that Speedo Week is finally behind me, some damn cookies to eat.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

See you in a week!

We're boarding the ship for our fabulous Caribbean cruise. I'm all packed and ready (I think) with a fresh haircut, a pedicure (gay!), a fake tan and a gallon of SPF 45.

While we're gone, please make daily purchases from my sister's gluten-safe baking mix web site. Just click here:

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

I’m having a dialogue!

You may remember Richard Mouw, the evangelical who is not a religious fundamentalist who recently wrote a Newsweek “My Turn” column expressing his shock and sadness—and tears!—over gay people’s angry reaction to his vote for California’s Proposition Hate.

I wrote a response to Newsweek that never got printed. So I posted it here because hey! free blog post!

Mouw is the president of Fuller Theological Seminary, and a google search of his name brings up thousands of links that are everything but my humble little blog. And yet he found it. And he actually wrote a response on his own blog.

Well, kind of a response.

I called him a solipsist in my post. And an asshole. And while anyone who’s ever read this blog knows I tend to use more swear words than a clumsy porn director, I really do regret saying things like that about people. I’m a 40-year-old professional writer with a prodigious vocabulary. Words like asshole are beneath me … and they’re a devastatingly efficient way to undermine anything I’m trying to say.

Did I mention I tend to wander off topic when I write too?

In any case, my post challenged Mouw on a range of logical flaws, implausible conjectures and the ugly realities his actions force gay people to face every day. Mouw’s response focused on … the solipsism. And the asshole. So to speak. Plus he totally lied about me in his description of my post.

And though I really don’t care to have an ongoing dialogue with the man, I posted this response on his blog:

Considering the ostensible premise of your “My Turn” column, my use of profanity in my response was an unfortunate choice. But I swear all the time. It’s probably my worst habit, right after drinking too much diet soda and ignoring the dishwasher when it needs to be emptied. So don’t interpret a swear word from me as the first horseman of the civility apocalypse.

And before I comment on the rest of your post here, Richard, I have to say I’m concerned how cavalierly you turned “Newsweek didn’t print my letter” and “I wrote this response to Newsweek” into “[Jake] expresses his rage over the fact that Newsweek failed to print his letter” … especially given the fact that your god’s celebrated Ten Commandments expressly forbid the bearing of false witness.

Here’s a link to what I wrote. Please note the complete absence of the rage you describe:

But you are correct in assuming I’m quite angry with you. And more than a little exasperated. My anger comes directly from the actions of people like you who work so tirelessly to deny gay citizens equal protection under the law. People like you who go on to defend their actions—and absurdly try to play the victim—in national newsmagazines.

While your musings here on solipsism are lighthearted and entertaining, they pretty efficiently reinforce one of the arguments in my rage-infested blog post: When faced with the challenge of providing concrete, measurable, plausible justifications for denying marriage equality to gay citizens, you people just trot out irrelevant, misleading distractions. The fifth sentence of your “My Turn” column implies that changing the definition of a word is too burdensome a price for equality. The definition of a word! Really! By the time you finish your article, you’ve raised the specters of three-way relationships, Hollywood’s portrayal of religious folk and the transubstantiation of church talk into “hate speech.” You even trot out the time-honored horrors of having to talk to your kids about gay people.

And yet you still don’t explain why my husband and I are forced to invest thousands of dollars to approximate the legal protections heterosexual couples take for granted when they get married. And why—according to our attorney—there are still uncloseable loopholes in everything we’ve done to protect our home, our relationship and the developmentally disabled adult we’re raising. Here’s a little bit more about him: He was abandoned by his father years ago and savagely beaten and emotionally abused (she repeatedly told him he should commit suicide) by his mother for more than 10 years before we rescued him. In addition to the horrors they inflicted in their own disabled child, these two heterosexuals have also racked up four marriages and at least two affairs between them. And yet you used your moment in Newsweek as a platform to complain about how stripping us of marriage equality made you cry instead of grabbing the opportunity to lash out at the heterosexuals who daily make a mockery of marriage by repeatedly cheating, divorcing each other and destroying their families.

I cover a lot more than diversionary tactics in my blog post. In between all that rage, that is. Here are the rest of my points that you ignored—or tacitly agreed to?—in favor of your folksy stories about solipsism:

• The malicious denial of marriage equality has real consequences for real families like mine.

• People like you have no right to be shocked, saddened or surprised by gay people’s angry reaction after you stripped us of our equality.

• Reducing our highly justifiable anger over Proposition 8 to mere “worry” and “anxiety” is patronizing oversimplification bordering on calumny.

• Your slippery-slope arguments are intellectually lazy and logically desperate … and easily trumped: If we follow biblical mandates on marriage, then we’ll have to follow biblical mandates on adultery, divorce, reproduction and the subjugation of wives.

• Your selective interpretation of your chosen mythology has nothing to do with my right to equal legal protection in the real world.

• Your baffling assertion that “gays and lesbians have a right to ask me what my sincerely held convictions mean for how they pursue their way of lives” undermines every plea you make for “dialogue” and a “flourishing pluralistic society.”

• You can’t vote away my equality, defend yourself in a national newsmagazine, dodge your accountability with transparent diversions, falsely accuse me of emotional instability on your blog and then rationally expect me to sit down and have a friendly chat with you about it.
UPDATE: As I figured, Mouw wasn't deleting comments on his blog post. It looks like he'd just set his commenting software to let him approve comments before they went live. I do the same thing. It took three days, but it looks like all your comments have now been approved and posted.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

We're back from my nephew's birthday! With pictures!

But not of the birthday. On this trip, I took pictures only of the pets. I'm not sure why. I just did. Maybe because I spent a couple hours with a roomful of screaming 10-year-0lds and then I got my tubes tied and I just didn't have the fortitude to record any of it for posterity. Anyway, here's my niece and nephew's preternaturally adorable new dog:

Here she is begging for attention (and scraps of food, if they happen to come with/lead to/follow the attention) in the kitchen:

And here's her only coloring — two little spots on her back and one giant one on her butt:

Here's my folks' cat warming her nose (we think) under a lamp:

Here was my first attempt at taking the above picture, when she deigned to take time out of her busy nose-warming schedule to look over and see what I was doing:

Since the paparazzi were out—and her hair and makeup looked so good—she also decided to give her fans a more glamorous layout: