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.