Friday, October 8, 2010

Talkin' 'bout Your Generation

Sigh, Baby Boomers and Baby Zoomers? I recall a commercial by Dennis Hopper quoting the tag line: "Dreams Don't Retire" about retirement. The Baby Boomers defined denial, now they can actually live it. As part of working in the medical field I have been forced to sit through several meetings on how this new generation of retirees are going to be more active, savvy, "hip". I recently had a customer buying software for his "B" career argue with me that paper files were more efficient. Yes, when you had an efficient secretary to file them and retrieve them for you. Boomers insist that they're going to keep on working till they're septuagenarians, then have an active and exciting "retirement" doing something "they always wanted to do" like gymnastics, wrestling and mountain climbing. A "second act" so to speak.

Well Dennis Hopper is dead, so I guess his dreams didn't exactly "retire." He did leave a messy estate that ended up suing his sweet. Not quite the "second act" he was going for. Most of the people in these symposiums are baby boomers themselves who in one breath are counting the days to retirement, but are excited to be able to keep their old jobs at the same time. So what it means that they are collecting their retirement at the same time drawing a salary. They are "consulting." they are doing their old jobs but just showing up at 10:30 and leaving after lunch.

The problem with this? Well, basically a younger person will have to wait till this "consultant" decides that even showing up for work at 10:30 is too much and would rather spend time on the golf course. I understand that many of these retirees might need to work a few years after 65 to "make up" for the loss in the value of retirement assets. But by that age they should be out of the market all together. Plus, retirees today are more likely to have pensions not just the crappy 401K plans that people under 50 get.

By refusing to retire boomers are being selfish and self-centered. Oh wait, isn't that why they are called the "me" generation? I continually hear from 60ish people that they're irreplaceable, that they're needed. In a few professions that could be the case. But it's greed and selfishness that keeps these people working, plain and simple. Think of all the people in their 40's that will have to make up for this dragged out "Great Recession". Those most productive years spent on unemployment. I nor my parents are Baby Boomers, they were born before the boom and couldn't wait to retire. My mother retired at 60, my father at 62. They couldn't wait! They had money in the bank, assets paid off and were debt free. Now they play golf, shop, garden and take a lot of cruises. In short, they are out of the way...helping economy like all members of the "Greatest Generation." If I could retire today, I would! BABY BOOMERS: there is no shame in retirement.

So all this self importance about the Baby Boomers from themselves. Yes I'm sure they're going to redefine retirement, I just hope they do it from the golf course, not the office cubicle.

P.S. 60 is not the new 40, 40 is the new 40. Life expectancy in America is 78 years and 4 months.

Monday, June 28, 2010

World Cup - how we rank our favorites.

Ah the exquisite pain and joy that the World Cup brings. There is a particular joy to watching the World Cup from Miami. Being Latin America's northernmost city it is a tremendous pleasure to watch the world cup here. Only in Miami can a native of Honduras have friends empathize with a loss at the worlds biggest sporting event. Better still they know where Honduras is.

Yet in Miami its easiest to understand the complexities of rooting for several teams and nations at the same time. We know that we can cheer with as much heart for Honduras on Monday as for Brazil and Argentina on Friday. Here is a way Miamians like to rank their teams:

1. Where you were born. It's easy because you have to root for your natural born team. It doesn't matter if you left when you were two, it's your home team forever.

2. Where your parents were born. Again, a "home" team.

3. Team U.S.A. its home now, it has earned our respect.

OK the rest of your choices are all subjective but here are some ways to help guide your choice of teams ask yourself some of the following questions:

1. Are they a winning team?
2. Are you living with someone with a team in the World Cup?
3. Who throws a better Word Cup party?
4. Did you have a good vacation there?
5. Did you date anyone from that country...and did it end well? or badly?
6. Is your boss from that country?

The final tier of questions help with any tie-breakers:

1. Do you like the uniform?(Green and Yellow)
2. Do you find their team, women, or men particularly attractive?(Where is Ronaldo from?)
3. Would you find that if their team won, would they become more arrogant than they are already? (A certain South American nation comes to that claims its "Europeaness")

In any case I will go with the Univision rule: "Que gane uno de nosotros"

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Great Expectations?

A conversation at a party the other night really got under my skin. A woman casually mentioned her son, so I asked how old he was. She said he was 22. I mentioned my own 21 year old and how proud I was of him. Before I knew it, I was blasted with the accomplishments of her 22 year old and at that tender age he had accomplished much more than me at 42 and probably most of the 300 people at the party...combined. She rattled off each college degree, scholarship and award with such a degree of smugness that she really just came off as a shrew. With a mother like that I would have worked my ass off to get as many scholarships get my ass out of the house as soon as possible. Not feeling the desire to try to match up my son's or my own accomplishments with that of her 22 year old prodigy, I excused myself. She stood there by herself with a very satisfied look on her face.

That conversation and the fact that Father's Day was last Sunday made me think about expectations, my own and as a father and as son. Unlike my adversary at the party, my parents were very vague about expectations. There was a lot of "as long as you're happy" comments about careers, colleges and life expectations. The only time expectations were clear when we clearly failed them: failing grades, wrecking new cars, arrests.... By the time I was a teenager my brothers and I had earned a whole new set of expectations from our parents.

So as I sit back and try to remember what my parents wanted from me I have some concrete ideas, as in things they wanted me to have...but not much in the way on how I was to get those "things." I remember I was supposed to be a "good person" and not "kill anyone." We went to church regularly. If I met a police officer I was supposed to say "yes sir" (this came in really handy having talked my way out several traffic tickets and arrests). My mother wanted me to have a "beautiful wife and live in the suburbs and own a Volvo". She said this to me tearfully after I told her I was gay. I managed the suburbs and a Swedish station wagon, although not the brand she wanted. My father wasn't so specific, he just wanted me to graduate college (check.) and consider "delayed gratification." which meant to him "save all your money and plan for a great retirement." It sounded okay, but my own personal circumstances indicated a more live for now approach.

When I look back what did I want? It was probably close to what my Mom wanted for me, which was stability. Of course my natural tendencies tended engender chaos, so my hope was to find an anchor and keep me in one place. I wanted a full life, with lots of friends and lots of things to keep me busy. I wanted to be taken seriously and to have fun. I never wanted to be bored. I didn't want to be fat. I think I've achieved most of my expectations.

My therapist once told me that my son had not met my expectations for a long shot. I think of all the unmet expectations in my life, mine, my parents; those of your kids are the hardest to let go of. At the time, on some level that therapist was right, but he was 17 and had a lot of growing up to do. At 17 he hadn't killed anyone, he always said "yes sir" to the police and he hadn't been arrested so on some level he had met some expectations. Yet the dreams you have for your children far exceed any you had for yourself. Dreams that go far beyond a pretty wife and a SAAB station wagon. Your son is your chance to get it right, to play sports or be the bad boy rebel that you never could or would. I always taught him to be different, to be an individual and find his passion. I wanted him to question authority and fight the norms. On so many levels he has achieved this. He's proud, he's truly independent, he works harder that I ever have or ever will. He's a good person. He's only 21, he can still go to college, get a degree and earn his Nobel Prize. In the areas that count he has met and exceeded many of my expectations.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Remember our peak earning years?

In my 30's my income was significantly higher that it is today. So was my partner's and with exceptions, most of my colleagues and friends.

In our 30's we had pension plans and a 401K match. We had health and life insurance through our employers. We got raises and cost of living increases. Life was good.

Vacations increased with seniority. You could even accrue unlimited vacation and sick time. You could donate it to other employees who needed it.

My home was appreciating in value every year.

Layoffs were virtually unheard of.

Its weird, but somehow all that work on our careers isn't paying off, but all that work on our selves is. The less my job gives me, the more I realize that I'm free to structure my life around family, friends and hobbies and less around work.

I'm happier for it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I Need A praise of Sci Fi.

We all need heroes, real or imagined. We need to know that an ordinary person, caught up in extraordinary events, can rise to the challenge set before them. We need our heroes to be brave but also humble. We need to know that as the planet or the galaxy spin out of control, somebody smart and plucky is going to control the Force, break the Orgazmitron, or throw a gold ring into the volcano.

From our adolescent dreams spring Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins and Captain Kirk. Luke and Frodo share many common rubes forced into manhood by evil circumstances and a destiny beyond their control. Virginal, innocent they represent all the promise of manhood. For a gay boy like me they represented the promise of heroism, that if I just did my best, worked hard, saved the galaxy, nobody would question the fact that the only crush I've had in a decade was on my twin sister or that I spent an inordinate amount of time with my best friend Sam. Luke and Frodo tells us gay men that if we're extraordinary, our non-existent, secret personal lives won't matter.

Captain Kirk on the other hand tells us being extraordinary forgives personal weakness. Unlike other heroes, Kirk is a kinky son of a bitch. You know its not a big leap from sleeping with a green female alien to to sleeping with a male one. Kirk was a sexual rebel but a great captain...again telling sexual rebels your job well and you can sleep with whomever you please.

So as hopeful as Luke, Frodo, and Kirk each case the hero ends up alone. Again, the rewards of heroism are transitory and fade away. Do any of our heroes get a happy ever after? No! Frodo remains tortured and depressed and sails away, Kirk dies in one of the movies, childless and Luke is left staring winsomely at spirits of dead people. That's the other message: saving the world/galaxy/universe takes a huge toll on your personal life.

Monday, June 7, 2010

11 Questions You Don't ask Gay Men

I think as "the Gays" become more mainstream, non-gays are feeling emboldened to ask questions they might not otherwise ask. The Gays, who initially were pleased by this sudden curiosity in gay-subculture seemed happy to just "let it all hang out"(I'm just speaking metaphorically, of course). The usual culprits asking these questions are stylish women who want "a gay" to complete an image. Or it is a blossoming homosexual asking. Of course rules of disclosure have changed in our era of shake and bake friendships and faux intimacy. Women (and some straight men) find it titillating to know about the mechanics, quantity and quality of the personal lives of gay men.

In more innocent times (the 80's, say). The Gay held a slightly more elevated stature than a maid. The florist, fashion designer, interior decorator, hair stylist all knew their place as passive listeners, as society confessionals but never disclosed any personal details about their life whatsoever beyond making things pretty. They were mere conduits for society gossip. The previous century's equivalent of Facebook.

Now, many women (and some straight men) are now fascinated with the intimate details of gay lives. Gay men are being asked questions that they themselves only figure out about each other when their pants are down and negotiating about who's gonna wear the condom. So I thought I'd put down a list of questions that you shouldn't ask a gay man if you're a woman and ESPECIALLY if you're a straight guy. Lesbians sometimes can get a pass.

1. How big is it? I have been asked this question by women on three occasions. I wonder if its some kind of trick that might work with straight guys. If you're a woman I am not going to show you my junk...hard, soft, cold, hot. Forget it, its off limits to you woman.

2.A You mean you've never been with a woman.....ever? Some gay men have, my husband has a son to prove it. What difference does it make? If a man says he's gay, in the present tense, he likes men, with penises, in his bed...tonight.

2.B If you haven't tried it how do you know? Yeah, I don't think I'd like vagina....most gays feel this way...its innate, instinctual, we just KNOW. Leave it alone already, your vagina is not going to be the one to change me.

3. Are you the man or the woman in bed? I am always a man. Gay men are always men, that NEVER EVER CHANGES. We love our masculinity and we love it in our partners. I could be crude....but being penetrated is not the same as being emasculated.

4. Does this dress make me look fat? No, it makes you look FABULOUS. That's why I picked it out for you.

5. Do you wear women's clothes? Is it Halloween? Is this a costume party? Gay men wear women's clothes for the laughs....the same reason straight men wear women's clothes. Its not a daily habit. (next column: ten questions you don't ask transvestites.)

6. Do you hate women? Yes, except you, because you're not like those other bitches. Just men dislike women about as much as straight men and other women do.

7. What's the deal with Gay men and Lesbians? Don't ask that question...because gay men tend not to see Lesbians. Which kinda pisses them off.

8. How many partners have you slept with? Don't ask a gay man this question because he really doesn't know or care. Virginity, purity, chastity are rarely adjectives ascribed to men. Gay men generally don't like to deal with virgins....way too complicated, takes too long to get them to relax. Any answer to this question is generally a lie, which is a good thing.

9. Are all gay men sluts? If given the option all MEN would be sluts. Gayness just makes slutty a viable lifestyle choice.

10. Does gay sex hurt? Not if you do it right.

11. Aren't you scared of getting AIDS? Yes. But discussing my community's greatest fear is none of your business. However, being gay is so much a part of who I am, of my core being, not even the threat of death would make me want to stop and change. I'd rather live with the fear of illness than give up my ability love and be happy with another man.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Yes I read Gay Pulp Romance Fiction...what about it!?!

I am an avid reader. I read three or four books a week. I just have one general requirement in the books I read....that there is at least one gay character. I don't really care if the character is good or bad, smart or attractive, they just have to be there. Why? Because as a child I read just as much and there was nobody like me. There were no gay pirates, firemen, spacemen, spies, soldiers, superheroes, heroes, doctors, or scientists. No we were not reflected in popular literary culture.

There are contemporary gay "reads" on characters; like Biff Loman, or Frodo Baggins and see perhaps a hint of pink. But it is a stretch of the imagination to see these characters in any context but what they are. To apply a "gay" label is just wishful thinking.

My passion for reading came from my mother. As a pre-teen I would read her books. She only read two genres: romances and spy thrillers. So I read a lot of Harlequins novels, Barbara Cartland, the queen of romance, mixed in with Robert Ludlum and Clive Cussler. Barbara Cartland's books always had her dressed in fuzzy pink hats and with a white fuzzy toy dogs on her lap. My older brother read Doc Savage, about a scientist and his intrepid band of talented friends. There is a definite gay "read" on Doc Savage by the simple fact that the novels are completely devoid of females and that Doc Savage was a musclebound god....sorta like a buffer, more tan Mr. Clean, with platinum blond hair.

My first inkling of a gay character was in Susan Isaac's book: Almost Paradise. Which was one of her best...about an agoraphobic that marries a movie star...yeah you can see there's a challenge there, I'm sure its hard enough to marry an agoraphobic if you're not a movie star. In any case her devastatingly handsome brother was caught kissing a producer or something. It was too subtle for my 12 year old mind, but somehow "I got it." I didn't really know what gay people did until I read Judith Krantz' book Princess Daisy when her fashion designer boyfriend (really Princess Daisy had no idea? Fashion designer...come on!) goes back to his "assistant" and Princess Daisy catches them in flagrante-delicto. Ms. Krantz goes into a bit of detail about what gay men really do. Thanks Judith!

So one day I was wandering through the Barnes and Noble bookstore, not the big superstore ones they have now, but the dinky little ones they had in Malls in the 80's. It was like a Hallmark store with a newsstand attached. So there I am, a suburban bookworm, and I happened across a rather intriguing paperback with two beautiful men, reclining in the sun, unusually close, with a beach scene in the background. It was done in the style of my Mom's sappy was like Fabio and his boyfriend were at the beach. The cover was very a straight Harlequin romance kind of way. It was a series of gay romances by Gordon Merrick

The Gordon Merrick story-lines were weird, but then again they were written in the mid 50's so the sex scenes were written in classically euphemistic terms like " his manhood" or "reach ecstasy" and being "taken". I had no idea was ecstasy was but I know I sure wanted it and I was so ready to be taken. Only mushrooms grow well in the dark, so Merrick's romances were "mushroomy" in the sense that they blossomed inside the closeted world of the 50's. There were weird relationships of married men with "understandings" between wives and lovers. Young men yearning and having "furtive" gropings in rowboats. There were rapes of young men by Greek sailors(duh). None of the characters worked, they were all rich and angst ridden. It was as satisfying as muddy water would be in a very dry desert.

As the 80's drew to a close, better novels appeared by Edmund White, James Baldwin and a plethora of new voices arrived at the local Barnes and Noble. The internet was a long way away and the term "gay bookstore" had a different meaning entirely.

Still for many years, aside from a few "respected" gay authors which managed to come out or break out after they were established, there were still very few writers willing to populate their books with gay characters and even fewer willing to create gay characters that weren't tragic. and Google put gay literature literally just one click away. Today the gay romance genre is dominated by women.....strange but women seem get much of the longing that gay men have for acceptance, earning self esteem, and self respect yet at the same time create compelling plot lines and very erotic sex scenes....its as their gay best friend has given them all our secrets! The books are populated by extremely handsome men, who have interesting careers. The overcome the usual obstacles to love: class, low self-esteem, werewolves, vampires, jealous love interests, fallen angels, angry exes, murderous exes, disapproving parents, and being "out". Gay romance also has many sub genres: sci-fi, firemen, werewolves(WTF?), vampires, you name it. While I'm not sure where gay characters are in "straight" literature, but I'm sure they're there. Suggestions welcome.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Intersections, how a murder by the pool raises lots of questions.

A murder last week of a teenage boy happened on a basketball court less than 20 feet from the pool where my swim team, the Nadadores , practices. The shooting happened about 25 minutes before practice was about to begin. Two of my team mates were at the scene. One saw the shooter fleeing away while the other team mate was administering first-aid to the victim. I arrived about 15 minutes after the shooting.

The team-mate who was administering first aid is a young woman with a three year old boy who was taking swim lessons. At the time of the shooting a youth team was practicing at the pool. There were probably 50 kids and their parents there when the shooting occurred.

The young mother was understandably upset. I found out later that she was the one administering first aid. She was demanding that the team move to a a pool in a safer neighborhood.

I tried to explain to her that it was especially hard for our team to secure a pool, she looked at me in confusion.

So here I am trying to explain to a young, straight, middle class mom, who just witnessed a murder, why a group of very affluent, mostly male, swimmers can only secure pools in the most violent, poorest neighborhoods of Miami. Where individuals who had made the choice that swimming and camaraderie were worth going to a facility in an area stricken by high crime and poverty. At that point I realized she was at an intersection of so many events that had put her and her child in danger.

She was at the intersection of bigotry, where a team of gay swimmers were never deliberately asked to leave the city's better facilities but were plagued by mysterious "pool closings", outrageous pool fees or inconvenient practice times. After years of trying secure a regular practice site, the team was happy to find welcoming pools in areas with the highest murder rates in the city.

She was at the intersection of poverty. Our current pool is yards from "the projects". In Miami there are exits off of I95 that most middle class people would never considering taking. Our pool is on Martin Luther King Blvd. When you try to describe this part of Miami, even to long-time Miamians, they don't have a clue what you're talking about. Most whites and Latinos cannot make a distinction between Allapattah, Brownsville or Overtown. For the middle class these areas are blank pages, with no geographical or psychological reference points.

She was at the intersections of race, class, world view. For few painful moments trapped in a fenced pool facility with her small son. One second enjoying the proud and excited feeling of watching a child learn to swim. Another in fear of stray bullets. How many moms that neighborhood live in daily fear for their children? My team-mate has luxury of finding a pool in a better neighborhood.

For the team the question of moving to a new pool is not so cut and dry. Attitudes may have changed in the last 10 years, but many people are not comfortable with the idea of a group of gay men anywhere near children. There are moms who have walked into men's locker rooms to "check on their kids" if they find out there's a gay swim team on deck. Do we revisit past battles with the same pool managers and park administrators who are still running the city's pools? Also, does the team contribute to the community it's swimming in? We do help generate revenue for inner-city pools. We pay for lifeguards who live in the neighborhood. We help keep those facilities open and accessible. Is there benefit for the affluent, gay middle class swimmers to have a psychological and geographical reference point to Brownville, Allapattah and Overtown?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Kirk's rules for Social Media or the "Barf In Your Mouth Test"

As someone with a mild case of TMI Disorder (too much information) .I'm always surprised when somebody has it worse than I do. The way I judge that is when somebody I'm not close to tells me something and I taste a little bile in the back of my throat. I call it the "I threw up a little in my mouth test."

I try to apply this test to my social media experiences. Whether here on this blog, on Facebook or just relaying a personal message in an email, I ask myself....would this make the reader barf....even a little? Sadly, that cannot be said for the spoken word.

So I know the "I threw up a little in my mouth test" is generally one that allows a considerable amount of leeway in a lot of areas. I mean in politics, only Ann Coulter gets that kind of visceral reaction.(I just wrote her name.... yes....yes, I can taste a bit of lunch...perhaps a chunk). There are other topics I try to steer clear of...bowel movements, for example. I did a posting on a good one I had recently and the commentary was lively....albeit told in euphemisms....because how can you not get giggly about a BM?

Soooo, a few people have mentioned to me about the dangers of stream conscience postings on Facebook. I was told to keep it bland in case potential employers would check it. While I do keep what I would call an "above average" (120 is the average) number of friends(304 at last count), its not a ridiculous number....and I'm more than happy to let a few people go. It's not like I'm a friend "whore", I don't just friend people at random. I generally know them. I defriended someone once, and the next night I saw him at a party. It was not pretty. Now I have a few kids, family members and even my pastor as friends on Facebook.

So I know the whole "barf in mouth test" gives me a lot of leeway so I'm thinking of moving to a newer standard. I know that what people read and see on Facebook is really me. It reflects my political views, my hobbies, my friends, my short its the image of myself that I portray to the world. However, I am also aware that I friended a 12 year old that posts things on my page asking me what Twilight character am I and how I feel about Miley Cyrus. (Don't like her or her achy breaky Dad). At the same time how do I discuss the prostitution (shout out for Amaria on 69th and Biscayne!) in my neighborhood and the state of my very gay, very sexual relationship with my Husband who I love most in the world? At the same time still hope that people respect me, understand that I am an accomplished professional, proud parent and have a deep love for the community I live in.

So I guess I've narrowed it down to a few simple rules:

1. Restrict what minors who are my friends can see.
2. Deny all friend requests from coworkers or employers
3. Do the best to write from the heart without attacking....(except Ann Coulter....hate her).
4.Would it make me throw up a little in my mouth?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Naked Cynicism

I know it's incredibly rude to listen in on other people's conversations, but when you're sitting alone at the beach eaves dropping others' conversations can give you a window into what people are feeling. Especially at the nude beach where its best to keep your eyes closed and ears open.

I remember a time, not too long ago, when Americans were generally loathe to discuss politics, race or other controversial issues. That "hot button" issues were discussed in private amongst like minded individuals. That politics was something discussed once every four years, from September to the first Tuesday in November and then we would turn off NPR and a go back to pop radio and classic rock.

In April, I casually mentioned that I added my 21 year old son to my health insurance policy. I get attacked, yes attacked, for offering a "government entitlement" to my son. He's getting Obamacare. To be clear, the government, nor Obama, are not paying for my son's health care, I am. It's not free health insurance it cost upwards of $300 per month. The insurance company is making out like a bandit for someone who is not likely to get very sick.

So what happened? Here I am in May and two white, naked, gay men (OK, I'm at the nude beach, does that automatically make me a liberal?) are agreeing not to fill out the census because its a waste of time and they don't "want the government to track them". Yet it's okay for corporate America? Is it easier or harder to track nudists? They go on to discuss how Hispanics are filling out the census to "boost their numbers." Nearby I hear one Cuban man telling another how voting is rigged. Ironic, because no group has benefited as much from voter turn-out and registration as they have. Can you name another non-white group that has produced six congressmen and senator in a single generation? Sooooo, white men are worried about losing power and representation don't fill out their forms which will, in effect, cause them to lose power and representation. Cubans who don't believe in the power of the ballot box. Not sure about the logic there.....but naked, gay, tea partiers are more than welcome to their cynicism.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Call me old fashioned, but I like History the old way.

I remember Britney Spears being hauled off to the loony bin in the middle of the one of the most important presidential debates in history. It was a split screen on all the networks....Obama talking about the economy in financial free-fall on one side and a helicopter view of the drug addicted pop-star strapped to a gurney. Except for Chris "leave Britney alone" Crocker, it was hardly worth breaking into a Presidential debate for.

So yesterday, I sat rapt as Congress prepared to make history. I watched the votes were counted that would truly change my life in a very personal way. I held my breath waiting for our collective ADHD to kick in. I was waiting for the networks, the Democrats, the nation to be pulled away from this important business at hand and be drawn to the "shiny object" or distraction. Fortunately there was enough ADHD going on in the house to keep everyone in the House Chamber focused on the circus inside and not be distracted by any potential celebrity melt-down or outside distraction.

The crawl at the bottom of the screen informed about bananas stopping HIV and the death of Peter Graves. His most famous line from the movie Airplane! "do you like watching grown men in the shower?" was repeated over and over during the break. I'm sure he wants to remembered for a role as a pilot with pedophilic overtones. Titillating isn't it? Bananas and pedophilia....that's the liberal media for you.

After the "news break" we get back to history in the making: a Democratic congressman who is pro-life was called a "baby-killer" by a pro-life Republican. The minority whip promising "Armageddon" if this bill passed. At this writing its been 16 hours Mr. Boehner, and there have been no reports of the four horsemen in the news today....not on MSNBC, CNN or CBS, ok maybe there was something on the crawl on Fox. Calls that this would end the "American Experiment" and usher in "fascism and communism" (wtf?) . These tactics and tea-party antics did nothing to stop the Democrats from doing the right thing.

I guess I remember my history being uninterrupted and commercial free. It was boring and drawn out but I knew it was momentous and important. I guess that just how I like my history....without news breaks, celebrity tidbits and news crawl. Call me old fashioned.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Inner peace is not all its cracked up to be.

At last I have achieved inner peace. Just now, right after I had lunch. I figured I'd write about it now cause it probably won't last more than another 15 minutes. I'm totally in balance right now. It feels nice, I'm not fearing the future, not regretting the past. Its a cool sunny day. I am not taking any mood altering medications.

It important I mark this moment in my life because it took me a hell of a long time to get here. Wow, feels good.

Ok, now I'm bored.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Don't Really Do That So Well

There's a point in life where you know more or less what you're good at and what you suck at. By your 40's you know that you can say "I'll try, but I really don't do that so well." My problem is that I suck at something integral: I suck at work.

I'm not saying I don't like work, or that I don't work hard...but I'm just no good at it. I recently tried to count all the jobs I've ever had, whether it was working for one day at Burger King or several years at Children's Home Society, the number I came up with: 27. Considering that I've been working for 26 years I can only come to one conclusion: I suck at work.

Amazingly, I am extremely adept at getting work. That the longest time I've been unemployed was three months (even in this economy) shows that I have some mad interview skills. In fact, I love interviews. I love to dress up. I love to talk. I love to talk about myself. So, in an interview I can shine on about my skills at the BK broiler steamer or how I reduced asthma rates in inner-city San Diego while wearing my newest pair of Cole-Haans. Yes, I buy a new pair of shoes for each interview. Good investment? I've got 20 jobs on my resume to prove it.

So what to do? I mean in this society where you are defined so much by how you earn your living. Too bad success couldn't be redefined by how many friends you have on Facebook. I don't even have to steal Facebook friends, people "friend" me. I guess the job I most want to be paid for is "lovable loser." but it seems I'm not fat enough to get that job.

Worse yet, I don't give off loser vibes. I act competent, happy, accomplished; because I am. I shower every day and try to maintain a certain age appropriate style. I am an athlete. I am a generally happy guy. Just not too much into the work thing. Don't get me wrong, I don't feel like a failure. I've accomplished everything I've ever set out to achieve. I've got a successful marriage, a happy son, lots of friends, a well appointed home, a nice car and a caring family. I even have a job. By almost all measures I'm successful. Yet, I really don't do the career thing very well.

Somebody asked me what would my dream job look like. It might have been a parent, a guidance counselor, several therapists or a personal coach and I always reply the same way: "I want to be paid to be me."

Now I don't know what that entitles but I know it means naps, the ability to be inappropriate at any time and to able to stop whatever I'm doing to post something on Facebook. Maybe be like Sarah Palin or something.

So maybe I'm not into work, but I think all the other things should count for something.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dirty Old Man

When I was 25 I promised myself I would give up dancing on a box in a nightclub by 30. I officially gave up dancing on a box at 32. To me the is just something so demoralizing to see somebody who is 35+ wriggling their tired middle aged ass for all to see. At some point you just got to get some pride and dignity and act your age. By that age I had become a dad, and I couldn't imagine explaining to my son what I did on a Saturday while he was at a sleep-over. So now that I'm 42, I'm finding myself becoming a dirty old man.

I see a future ogling at younger men, making extremely "off color" comments and just grossing them out. Don't get me wrong...I am not in the least, not at ALL interested in younger that way. I just have this sort of Tourett's syndrome where I just give out this low growl, and say things like: "damn boy, I'd like to slap that ass" or "what kind of snake do you have in that bathing suit." I can't help it. It gets out before I even realized I've said it.

I've always had a low brain to mouth filter. Its as if I need to take a thought out of my brain, put it out there for all to see, and let the public decide if it was inappropriate or not. The next day, I'll feel terrible. I once told a boss who had a weight issue, "you're a little more fat today" and another "what were you thinking when you put on those shoes"(it was her only pair). I once told a teacher, but I really was kidding ; "you have nice bone structure, but you're really not a very pretty girl." She never let me forget that remark.

So now as my brain ages, my witticisms are becoming reduced to dirty remarks about the male and female anatomy. Worst of all, I do it to people who hardly know me. Later on I feel so ashamed. What they must think? I've always believed that as you age, you must work on becoming dignified, respected. Churchgoer, board member, manager, husband , father...all these titles I've earned, and worked hard for all can be undone with a dirty leer and a comment like..."hey baby, if that ass was any higher, you could pull your wallet out over your shoulder..."

P.S. Lisa: I'm sorry I said your hands smelled like vagina last night. I sure its sweet just like you said.

Monday, February 8, 2010

A dirty world of cock-fighting, unpasteurized eggs, and chicks dyed pink at Easter.

This weekend my partner, being a good Cuban, was taking care of his 92 year old uncle in one of Miami's more distant suburbs. Even though we were close to the edge of the city (just a few miles east of the Everglades), we were still in what would pass as a typical suburb. Many rows of split ranch homes built in the very late 20th century style, double doors, split levels, kitchens with an "island". Yet lurking behind these bland facades is a world of illegal chickens. A dirty world of cock-fighting, unpasteurized eggs, and chicks dyed pink at Easter.

I once saw a movie where a bunch of chickens built a plane and escaped. I know for a fact that the plane landed at Opa-Locka Airport. Since then this city has been overrun with chickens. Normally, the sight of feral chickens doesn't bother me. Once I was eating at an expensive bistro on Brickell Avenue, Miami's international banking district. I was eating with a chic young executive from D.C. As we nibbled on our chicken wraps a bantam hen strolled through the crowd of bankers dressed in their Brooks Brothers suits and power ties. She came up to us and asked if we were almost finished, because she needed the table. I see chickens at the supermarket, not in the poultry section, but running free in the parking lot. I see them on the street. I see them at the gas station, Costco(they prefer to buy in bulk), and the library.(WTF?) In fact I've seen a cute chicken family move in just six blocks away.... and there goes the neighborhood. But after this weekend, I am OVER the frickin' chicken.

So as I slept uneasily in this suburban quiet, I was yanked from my alcohol enhanced slumber with the shrill cry of the early morning. 3AM to be exact. Cock-a-fuckin'-doodle-do. Mr. Rooster crowed on exactly the same timing as a snooze button on an alarm clock. Starting at 3:00AM, 3:23AM, 3:45 AM, 3:46 AM, 4:30 and on a seemingly random non-random interval. An interval designed to interrupt REM sleep just as it was beginning. Each call spaced far enough apart, so as soon as you drifted off, you'd be awoken once again.

You know, it could be very easy to target specific minority groups about the chickens. I know people use them for many purposes: as pets, for stews, making feather boas, ritualistic sacrifices...or all of the above. I used to think people kept them for food to save money. It was for poor people. My mother is a millionaire and keeps chickens. She gives them all Mexican names.(?) So there's really no rhyme or reason as to who might have an illegal coop in their back yard. In my opinion, its for people who hate their neighbors but can't afford a loud bass stereo system to piss them off with.

So I say: no more, NO MORE to the chickens. My 93 year old Grandma Fran doesn't eat chicken. When I asked her why, she replied; "they eat their own shit." 'nuff said.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Current Gay Events - my take

Ok Its February 2010 and gayness is all over the news. Don't ask Don't tell, gay bashers, and police brutality (against gays) on South Beach. That somehow the steady drumbeat of homophobia ebbs and flows, but never seems to go away. But I do find one common thread through all of these stories...young straight men.

I was listening to a reporter on NPR interviewing several young Marines in a town adjacent to Camp Lejuene. The reporter approached several and asked about their opinion on Don't Ask Don't Tell. While they all stated that they would follow the orders of their commander in chief, each and every one stated how it would "undermine unit cohesion" and that they couldn't trust trust an "openly gay soldier". Yet somehow they could trust a closeted one. So this raises two questions for me: First, I know from plenty of experience that nobody trusts a closeted gay man, period. Why? Because a. they are not fooling anyone; and b. nobody trusts a person who is hiding something. So its a catch-22 for a soldier, I can't trust you one way or another. My second observation from the interviews of the soldiers...who don't you trust? The gay man who you've trained with, served with and has put his life on the line for you or yourself alone with a gay man. Its bullshit, because they've been serving in the military along side each other all along.

So two undercover police officers beat the crap out of some gay man in Flamingo Park. Another man calls 911 to report the assault, they see him, beat the hell out of him, and arrest him for "breaking into 6 cars". Two men's lives are disrupted by two: yes that's right, two young, straight men in uniform. No investigations, no allegations, until a lawsuit by the ACLU finally takes the two young straight males, off the street.

A rash of attacks on gay men, by bullies and police on South Beach. Who knows why, but in each case no arrests, cursory investigations. Why, because straight young men hate "fags". Why? What is the root of this mistrust, hate? In contemporary culture we are cast as the "predators". We are the "molesters". (Of course child molestings only count, if that child is male, the 50,000 annual molestations of little girls don't really matter). That somehow, in a foxhole, with lives at stake, some gay soldier is going to "rape" another.

I think as Americans, since we don't have any borders with any potential enemy, we find the enemy within. The natural male inclination to"protect the tribe" doesn't really have an outlet so let's go "beat up some fags" because they're "molesting all those boys" and "trying to see my penis". Whatever, I do notice that women don't really hate gays as much as straight young men do. Oh well.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

South Beach Redux

When I was 20 I moved to South Beach. At the time it was a budding gay community that celebrated every new "gay" that moved into the neighborhood. South Beach was an interesting phenomenon because it kinda turned Miami's and the world's gay community on its head. Why? Well Miami's gay community lived dispersed throughout the city with its center of gravity located in the "funky and bohemian" community of Coconut Grove. Again an area of historical significance, unique historical properties, and a flavor all its own. "A Gays" lived along Tigertail Ave, Coral Gables and in South Miami. These "A Gays" earned that distinction primarily for two reasons: money and to a lesser agree...looks. However, money was the true source of their influence. These were professionals, old money and the like. They were mostly local boys and girls and Caucasian.

So what happened? How did South Beach change it all? Interestingly a series of unique events occurred that upended the old order. Those events happened nationwide, but were magnified on South Beach. First it was the fashion industry discovering "the male form". Second it was the AIDS epidemic.

Lets begin with the discovery of the male form by advertisers. Up until the late 70's sexualization of the male form in commerce was pretty rare. Men in ads were cowboys, businessmen or playboys. The idea that a young man, with six pack abs and a large endowment would be the image to encourage women to buy Calvin Klein underwear would not only shatter the taboo of male (semi)nudity but reinvent gay men's own self image. This is where South Beach turned the gay pecking order on its head. All of a sudden, the currency of power in the gay world was no longer based on money, it was purely physical. The beautiful boy with the six-pack abs was infinitely more "A Gay" than the attractive thirtysomething doctor with a manse on a canal in Coral Gables. The Coconut Grove and South Miami crowd were seen as dowdy and irrelevant in this new gay nirvana.

The AIDS epidemic. Countless articles describe South Beach as "heaven's waiting room" at the height of the epidemic. Young men from Northern cities with generous disability and unemployment benefits could live cheaply and well in a boyish twilight of beach during the day, partying in the evening. Again, in a world that is coming to an end, why would accomplishment be important? Nobody expected to live long enough to accomplish anything.

Well, the deaths abated. The boys grew up. The boys died. The boys moved on. What did the ghetto offer? Well on some level it did offer a level of security. To see gay people interacting with each other on a variety of levels: economic, social, politically was an important lesson. All these things were not reflected anywhere else in the culture. Despite all the partying there was all of the other stuff going on too. Group identity is empowering, ghettos give you that in huge doses. So its sad to see it change. But again, change is inevitable.

Gay Exodus from South Beach

Recently an article in the New Times described the exodus of Gay men and women from South Beach. While regrettable, its understandable. Gay ghettos, regardless of where they are, tend to be transient in nature. They are transient for a number of reasons. Firstly, unattached men are by nature, transient. Secondly, the economics of a Gay ghetto works against it remaining so, and finally South Beach, like the geography it sits on, is at the whims of winds and tides provided by nature.

Let me start with my first point; gay men are transient by nature. Sometimes, Gay men are a bell-weather of what is going to happen to the nation as a whole. Americans are a transient people, from the earliest settlers, to the population of the American West, the shifts from the Rustbelt to the Sunbelt. So it can't be hard to understand that gay men, with the fewest attachments will be the first to seek that newest fertile ground. These men and women who often feel a disconnect from their biological families either because of religion or culture being incompatible with homosexuality will find it easy to just "pick up and go."

My second point is that the economics of a "Gay Ghetto" will work against the actual "establishment" of a gay area for a long period of time. At most one and a half generations will be able to sustain a "gay identity." Why? Because Gay men are "gentrifiers". Gay men will enter a depressed community, usually an inner-city one, and fix it up. Why do they do this? Because Gay men, in general, are men, and as men, they don't really go around being too worried about being assaulted or raped. Another factor is that Gay men don't have children, so when they're choosing where to gentrify, they don't take crappy inner-city school districts into consideration. So they move in, beautify the neighborhood, push out the poor and raise the price of the real-estate. Straight yuppies move in. "New" Gays can no longer afford to live there and go find another area to gentrify. Former gay ghettos abound: The Village in New York, Coconut Grove in Miami, Victoria Park in Ft. Lauderdale, Midtown in Atlanta, etc, etc. Gay ghettos tend to be populated by single, beautiful young men. Young men who are told by society that their relationships have "no value" or are "not real". Many gay men internalize this attitude. The last thing you want is your 30-something boyfriend being hit-on by a hot 24year old, or worse a whole community of hot 24 year-olds. When you tell him "we're a couple" all he sees is a potential "threesome". Gay ghettos start relationships, they don't nurture them.

So lets talk about South Beach. Miami Beach is an anomaly in South Florida. It is densely populated, in fact it has the second highest population density in the nation, after Manhattan. It is truly an urban island in a sea of sun kissed suburban Florida bliss. While many people love a truly "urban" existence, the vast majority of Americans are very happy in their "tiny boxes made of ticky tacky" to quote a popular song. So after years of a condo existence many can hear the siren song of lawn mowers, green grass and big-box suburban living. South Beach is crowded. It is full of tourists who, while greatly appreciated for their contributions to the local economy, tend to pee in the alleys, get drunk, ignore traffic laws and look down on the locals. Tourists are also a magnet for criminals who don't discriminate from the locals. So while its beaches are beautiful, its architecture enchanting and its nightlife exciting, expecting the gay ghetto to last was wishful thinking.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Today I Bear Witness

"May you live in interesting times" is as much as a Chinese curse as it is a blessing. Today on Martin Luther King's birthday I think about my own life and my own experiences as a gay man living in a time of rapid social change. That this battle for the full participation of African-Americans in the American experience continues as well for all minorities in their quest for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Today, I feel its important to bear witness to what gay men have endured in their own battles for equality. As reflect back on my own youth, my own "history", I can see how many of my experiences are vastly different from what young people may live today. Now, I can look back and see the systematic oppression perpetuated on gay people, gay men in particular. I can understand how hate crimes work, what bullying really is about and how legal codes were put in place to systematically intimidate and extract a price. Most importantly I can look back at age 42 and remember the death toll of the AIDS epidemic and the governmental apathy that lasted until the death toll reached of 50,000 men before the leader of ALL American's could even say the word AIDS.

I remember clearly in 9th grade at the "gay boys" who were systematically hazed and tortured. I saw a kid stuffed into his locker. Another beaten up every day after school. I don't know if these guys were gay or not, but they were different and it was made clear that they didn't meet the standard of "masculine". Nobody came to their defense, not the administrators, not the teachers, nobody. Slowly but surely they disappeared into the shadows of school life: sneaking out during lunch breaks. Working the school schedules so they could leave school early or wait till Senior year to take gym with the Freshmen, so they could avoid both physical and psychological torture. Or they just dropped out altogether. Today I want to bear witness to the lost potential of these boys. To the ones who dropped out or committed suicide. I want to bear witness to the years of pain they endured. This is part of my civil rights struggle.

When I was 20 I was arrested for "battery on a police officer" when I grabbed the ass of a undercover police officer wearing a red Speedo at a gay beach. He was muscular and male model handsome. He flirted with me. He invited me back to his place. We turned to leave and when we got to his car he arrested me and put me in a van with 20 other unfortunate individuals. Over the course of the day 50 men were arrested on various trumped up charges from battery to lewd activity. In each case the police officers entrapped the beach goers. We were offered a deal: $1000 fine or they would call the newspaper and print our names and the charges. For eight hours work, the police department made $49,000. I was the only one who fought the charges. Today I want to bear witness to unjust treatment of gay men by the authorities. This is part of my civil rights struggle.

Few outside the gay community care to remember the AIDS epidemic. Sadly, 300,000+ gay Americans perished in that epidemic. For men my age, the medical breakthroughs ended the previous decade of deaths. To this day, gay men in their late 40's and 50's are a very rare breed indeed. Today I want to bear witness to these men who died pointlessly because the larger society felt they were not worthy of one penny of additional funds for research and care. This is part of my civil rights struggle.

Of course its important to understand that much has improved in my lifetime. I just want to bear witness that the oppression was real. That many of my gay brothers never reached their potential for happiness and success because of it. That we as gay men, should never forget that we too have fought, sacrificed and died in the battle not just for equality, but for our very lives. That is part of my civil rights struggle.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I have fun there.

Recently I was having lunch with my colleagues and the topic of religion came up. Almost all of them had negative comments about organized religion. While I tried to explain my attachment to my church, which I love deeply, I was at a loss to defend my need for it. I couldn't express how I had found my church home, and that most of my interactions there brought me deep satisfaction. The best I could do was say "I have fun there."

Yes, I do have fun there. Now "fun" might be a bit trite for something as portentous as faith. Some might say you get "joy" or "deep satisfaction" or "peace" from church. I have fun.

Church fun? My church is about fun because for me there are some prerequisites for fun:
1. Safety, you can't feel fun if you don't feel safe. My church lets me be me, and trust me, that is a LOT of acceptance. My inappropriateness, my diarrhea of the mouth. My unfiltered comments, tight clothes and six inch heels. (sometimes I can't get home to change after the clubs - just kidding)

2. In the moment; you really have to be present to have fun. Yeah church is about being present: mentally and spiritually. Its working both your intellectual abilities and your spiritual self. You have permission not just think, but feel.

3. Connection, to have fun you're really connecting on a human level. You can have fun alone, but its like that tree in the woods, if there's no one to hear it, did it really make a a sound?

So yeah its fun. I enjoy the beautiful sermons while at the same time checking out my pastor's heels.....(there is a gay contingent at church that won't let her wear cheap ones). Losing control of the Sunday school with thirteen year old boys throwing Bibles, Bibles! at each other. Watching that stranger walk in on one Sunday and having a laugh with them, as a friend, a year later. Oh yeah, and the gossip, there's nothing so rich and satisfying as church gossip.

So organized religion, church, can be a good time. It can be fun. And that ain't a bad thing at all.

I am a member of Coral Gables Congregational Church.

Coral Gables Congregational Church

3010 De Soto Boulevard
Coral Gables, FL 33134-6317
(305) 448-7421