Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Haikupalooza Project

Sometimes New Year's resolutions are merely guideposts for what to accomplish in the year to come. Lose weight, be a better person, try not to kill anyone are all typical New Year's Resolutions. For me, these resolutions are kind of amorphous and don't really have any meaning.

This year, on a whim, I decided to write a haiku for each one of my Facebook "friends".  I really didn't think it through, nor did I think it would be that hard. I mean how hard would it be to write a short phrase of 17 syllables for the 365 people I had on my "friends" list. I mean, as someone pointed out, if you can't spare 17 syllables about someone how much of a friend could they really be?

I set up a few rules to make the project more interesting and keep the surprise factor going. First rule of Haiku: you can't ask for it. If anyone asked for Haiku they would be among the last to receive one. The hope was to keep it random and special for me and the person receiving the poem. 

The second rule was to keep it nice. That was my rule and the temptation to use the words bitch, whore, slut and moron was always there.  I admit some of my friends are whores and morons and it would probably be a badge of honor, but Facebook, like your name drawn in wet sidewalk cement, is forever. 

The third rule was, I could change the rules as I saw fit. So by the end of the project I ended up abandoning randomness in favor of alphabetical order. 

So I've written 322 poems for my friends. You might have noticed I started out with 365 friends.

What I learned:

1. Not everyone deserves a haiku.
2. There are people on your Facebook page who you don't like at all, they are are there for "political" reasons. They've been defriended.
3. There acquaintances on your Facebook who you have a lot of respect for and would like to count them as your friends.
4. It's as hard to write Haiku for someone you love as for someone you don't know.
5. You become very picky who you let "friend" you when you are committed to writing a Haiku for everyone. 
6. There are people who don't read your page and don't know why the fuck you sent them a Haiku.
7. There are people who can't say thank you.
8. Writing a haiku to someone you don't like at all is very uncomfortable but I did it anyway. Defriended.
9. Some people lie to get more haiku.
10. How many people actually get their own special unique personal poem? I know 322 people who have.

The best responses seem to have come from people who were having some kind of hard time that I was not aware of. They would say things like:
"you don't know how much I needed to hear that" 
"this came at the most perfect time, how did you know I needed this?"
"you made my day, it was such a hard one"

When I read those responses it reaffirms my belief in faith and destiny.  That somehow fate steps in works through someone to give them 17 little syllables to add a little wind to their sails. It was nice.  I doubt I will do it again.

Happy New year. 

Next year's resolution: lose five pounds. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas Tree Bitch

Until recently I was a December 23rd person.  Yes, I would actually buy a tree two days before Christmas. Which is strange because I am a "Christmas Person". I do get wrapped up in all the excitement of the holidays, I take out my other decorations, nativity scenes, candles and holiday doodads.  But the tree always seems so final and decadent. I mean even two days before Christmas a nice tree is still not cheap. I mean $50 is still expensive for something that I know I'm going to throw out in three days. The real reason might be that I have a deep seated fear of house fires. So fearful that I sleep in my nice underwear instead of in the nude. My Mother and Grandmother used to scold me: "don't sleep in the nude, there might be a fire....and then what?" It was the "and then what" that I always worried about. The idea that there's six feet of potential kindling in the middle of my living room leaves me uneasy. I want the tree in my home as short a period as possible. 

I still love the process of trimming and decorating and I do enjoy the pine scent wafting through the house. So this year I decided to take the plunge and buy a tree early.  So after a night of celebrating my birthday with too much booze and strippers, hungover, I decided to get a tree.  I realize a hazy state caused by  alcohol poisoning is never a good idea to do anything, but since I have a busy holiday schedule, Sunday seemed like the best time to do it.   I had been to church earlier in the day (I truly believe it's OK to be hungover in church) and I felt a tad bit "Christmassy".  Which when looking back was just the alcohol getting in a last jab.

I pulled up with the hubby in the fancy convertible and sent him home to get the station wagon. Parking was limited because of a large semi with a new shipment of tanenbaums from North Carolina. It was a hot dry day. Bored boys sat around the tent waiting to earn a few extra dollars trimming and bagging trees. A cardboard sign read "please tip the boys."  I put on my "happy mask" as I walked in to pick and purchase a tree.  I picked the tree easily and then she arrived: the Christmas Tree Bitch.

Christmas Tree Bitch was a true blond, of the Eva Braun variety.  She was driving a big black ugly Mercedes Benz that looked suspiciously like a Chrysler "sport wagon". She wore a pair of faded linen shorts that went mid thigh. A hint of spider veins and a small bruise were on her upper thigh. She had on a Rolex. She was tasteful.  Apparently she missed the whole charm school lesson about being "demure". A trail of three blond "tweenagers" followed in lockstep, goosestepping as she walked into the tent. She announced to no one and everyone that she needed three trees because "Carol had three."

Now in my mind, there were two Christmas Tree Bitches; this one and one named "Carol."  The irony of Carol's name was not lost on me.   Officiously the CTB ordered the workers to pull out the best trees for her. She went on and on about Carol's trees.  It was hot, I was hungover and my husband had still not returned with the wagon.  I looked at CTB and I then I truly saw her, she was one of the 1%. I finally had a face for all those nameless job creators out there who are so disconnected from the rest of us that bragging about trees, money, and access seems natural. The idea that the hoi polloi helped them achieve this status might seem ridiculous. 

It was at that point the whole meaning of Christmas and the Occupy Movement all came down on me. This idea that someone could be so disconnected from reality, that when surrounded by poor boys working for tips, transient Christmas tree workers, and other shoppers would act so grand and petty at the same time. I realize that she probably doesn't know what it means to go hungry, to go without and that charity is more than just writing a check, but respecting the struggles of others and feeling just a tad bit guilty about having so much. I realize that I have so much in my life, and that those boys working for some extra cash for Christmas on a very hot December Sunday are the ones that have it hard. 

I wanted to scream "shame on you, don't you know people are suffering in poverty?!" I wish I had.That might have been self-satisfying. But I do drive a BMW convertible. I have a cupboard full of food. I've been broke and grew up wealthy. I might very well be a member of the moneyed elite someday. I know the feeling of satisfaction of being able to provide excess to my children and friends. I even know the short-term satisfaction that snobbery provides.  At the end of the day I realize that through my life I've been those boys working for tips, the men running the tree tent and sometimes even the Christmas Tree Bitch.  

I just hope if I am the Christmas Tree Bitch.....somebody will call me on it.

Happy Holidays.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Queer Geography: from the Closet to the Biscayne Corridor

After a weekend of carousing I think I can say that the Gays have finally moved on, or off the beach that is. With the closing of 321 (which I still called Laundry Bar) it's official, there are more gay hangouts off the beach than on.  The fading 90's idea of Miami Gays as buff South Beach boys clubbing at night and tanning by day has given away to hip professionals driving BMW's to posh strip clubs and driving home to Donna Reed bliss in Miami Shores, Belle Meade and Morningside. 

It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that almost all of the neighborhoods along the Biscayne corridor from Downtown to Aventura have become areas where the gays are gentrifying, moving up and settling down. Affordable housing, good shopping, easy access to the airport and downtown make North Miami, El Portal and Miami's Mimo district all magnets for those gentrifying gays. As you move north the crowds get decidedly older and wealthier, as you move south they get decidedly younger and prettier. Those very gays who used to sashay down the aisles in daisy dukes at the Publix in South Beach can now be seen with their partners in khakis actually buying produce at the Publix in Miami Shores. 

It used to be that the gay bars would attract gay people to the neighborhood, in Miami the opposite is true. Now that the "gay area" is firmly established, new business are springing up to accommodate them. Moving south to north along Biscayne Blvd. there are several. Starting with Discotekka, which while fun, is decidedly young....caters to the 18 to 23 year old crowd and those who prey on them.  A hop up the street is Creative Male which sells underwear that should only be on guys aged 18 to 23. There's Midtown Mall with of course there is Target('nuff said) and then the design district. You can always substitute the word "Gay" wherever you see the word "design". Driving north there is Details in case you need "pretty things" for your house.At the 55th Street Station: Details, Soyka, Sushi Siam, Idol's Gym and Andiamo Pizza are all gay friendly and welcoming. There is even an unofficial Friday gay happy hour at Soyka's for GWM (guys with money).

Further north there is the ignominious Jamboree bar, a Miami staple for 30 years, if sleaze is your style(or mood) you are welcome here. A few more blocks and you reach Magnum, a very fun piano bar, where professional singers who work the cruise lines put on a great show for old Jewish ladies and middle aged gay men. A few blocks away is Sandals Club for drag shows and lots of guys from Hialeah in gold chains. Something for every taste I guess.

The two new additions are Eros, which is actually a very nice neighborhood bar located just north of Miami's "Mimo District" on 81st and an offshoot of the famed Atlanta strip club: Swinging Richards located across the street from Filene's Basement on 174th.  I went to Swinging Richards and it is unique in two ways: firstly the strippers have been recruited from all the local health clubs so if you ever wanted to see your personal trainer in the "full monty" Swinging Richard's is your place. On a side note: I saw Dennis Rodman there last Saturday giving male strippers dollar bills....whatever.

So there you are folks, whether you want to invest in real-estate, cater to a gay clientele or just be where the hipsters are: Any neighborhood along Miami's beautiful Biscayne Boulevard. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Movin' On Up in Miami to the Upper East Side(on the other side of the housing bubble)

The '70s show with the theme song Movin' On Up was about a family moving up the social ladder to a "condo in the sky".   Interestingly, the current housing crisis is allowing much of the same thing, except in an opposite way. Not in the way you might think, that the nouveau pauvres are moving into poor areas. Actually it's that condos are so cheap that poorer residents are filling up buildings that were intended for the well-to-do. That is exactly what is happening with my condo.

Don't get me wrong, I am a snob. I have upper-middle class standards and desires. I can be shallow. I live in a property that was intended for people exactly like me....pretentious jerks. Really folks, we can say what we want about race, class, status....but where you live is where the rubber meets the road. Where you live says more about you than the car you drive, the clothes you wear or even the friends you hang out with. Your home is the ultimate expression of "you". 

So is my "ultimate statetment of status" the condo now worth around $80K or the mortgage upwards of $300K?  Worse yet is the sense of despair of my well-to-do neighbors who paid as much or more than we did for our homes. We sit in middle-class horror as the units with single bedrooms fill up with young families with three or more kids. Where do they all sleep?  The parking lot show the clear signs of the have's and have nots as expensive BMWs and Mercedes park next to 15 year old Altimas and tricked out Dodge Challengers. This is not about race either, the yuppies are just as diverse as their poorer neighbors.

But the class divide is interesting. Initially some people move in and don't share the same values of order, respect, quiet, cleanliness as the existing neighbors.  However, making a statement that "this is a classy place, and you are welcome here if you live by our rules" really makes people wake up and try to fit in. I see those families that moved in start to fit in, better cars, clothes and manners. I truly believe this is a silver lining of the housing crisis, you never really can choose your neighbors, no matter how much you try. Our own middle-class entitlement of a nice place to live has become possible to those who are lucky enough to have work and have a dream. I know they don't have as much as I do, but as long as they try to be a good neighbor, you are welcome here. Besides, us snobby jerks can't leave without ruining our credit anyway.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Mr. Rubio, Oh, the Cubanity.

I had a discussion with my husband today after the Marco Rubio "exile" story broke.  Both of us are very aware of Cuban history having several books on the subject, having taken courses on the subject and one of us Cuban. Almost instantly we could recall the important events prior to the Castro takeover of the island. The attack on the Moncada Garrison in '53, Castro's return in Oriente in December of '56 and the several years hiding in the mountains.

The Rubio family left before Castro even returned from exile in Mexico. Now I don't want to get into a discussion about pre-Castro Cuba, or conditions on the island at that time. Needless to say they were poor, and probably similar to conditions throughout Latin America. Conditions that would warrant any young couple to want emigrate to America for a better life, similar to Mexicans and Italians. 

Post-revolutionary Cuba was another matter altogether different. The communist take-over of the island was based on the destruction of society and a conforming to an extreme totalitarian regime that controlled every aspect of life. Forcing children into state-run boarding schools, a complete control all forms of commerce, redistribution of resources and forcing city dwellers into the countryside to cut sugar-cane. Not mention the arrests, imprisonment, and murder of political dissidents.  These people are exiles, because they were forced to leave their country against their will.

I know it may be a small distinction for some people, immigrant, exile but it's not to me.  To claim exile, in the Cuban context is in some degree related to the suffering and degradation inflicted by Fidel Castro. It is a term earned from heartbreak, fear, struggle and loss. It's not the same as someone who is leaving for greener pastures.

I recently spent some time in Cuba traveling the island and meeting my in-laws. Everyday is a struggle for them. To get food, to get medicine, to keep the roof of their home from falling down on their heads. No, I will not blithely accept that Mario Rubio's departure from Cuba and the subsequent desire to return there an "exile." To give the Rubio family exile status is an insult to the thousands who have died trying to escape tyranny.

It's disingenuous at best, lying at its worst.  I'm sorry Mr. Rubio, but you don't deserve the "street cred" of calling yourself an exile.   

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mercy Hospital or Havana General?(or you can call me Papi)

If you really want to get a snapshot of life in pre-revolutionary Cuba, you really need to spend some time at Mercy Hospital.  Situated right on the water, adjacent to shrine of La Virgen de La Caridad del Cobre which is the patron saint of Cuba.  Here you can see all flourish of old Cuba in full display. 

As you walk into the hospital the first thing to hit you is the aroma of "cafecitos" emanating from the La Carreta restaurant  right in the lobby.  No fancy Starbuck's coffe here, you can have a cafecito, colada, cafe con leche, or a cafe Americano (which is regular american coffee).  Already you can smell the lechon which is being prepared for lunch. Garlic, onions, cumin fill the lobby with a distinctly Cuban (or is it Miami?) smell.

The second thing you notice is the sound. Working in healthcare, I have spent time in a few medical institutions.  Usually they are hushed places, like libraries, with hushed voices and the steady beep, beep, beep of the medical devices.  Usually, buttoned down staff walk around officiously, emotionally detached from their charges. They mutter inanities like "good morning Mr. Smith how are you feeling today?"

Not the case at Mercy. To my Anglo eye it seems like there is a lot of flirting going on.  It seems like there is a very fun party around each corner. I hear things like "Mi Cielo, please push eight for me," or "Mi amor, tu estas bella esta manana."  Lot's of chatter amongst the staff.  In one Doctor's office I can hear a young man singing boleros, beautifully. The patients to get into the banter as well. I saw two elderly Cuban gentlemen commenting on a particular nurse's "assets" in Spanish. The nurse instead of being offended, laughed. All around people are sharing coladas poured into thimble sized plastic cups as the day moves forward. 

Like my beloved Miami, Mercy Hospital just seems to have sex laden in the air.  Not like the "I'm bored let's have sex" feeling that goes on at most hospitals. But the" let's do something hot because we're in Miami" feeling you get on South Beach.  Hot pharmaceutical reps troll the halls in search of a doctor, and the unabashed way the men stare at them. The constant "checking out" that goes on among the hospital's denizens, both patients, visitors, and staff alike.  It's really a Miami thing or a Cuban thing or a Latino thng, I'm not sure, but a sudden round of flirting always seems to be just a moment away.   When they drew my blood today the phlebotomist said "Papi, just lay back and I'll do the work." I just love it when someone calls me Papi.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Yes Officer, I Want To Make A Report.

Every day I take a morning walk along Biscayne Boulevard in what is now called Miami's "Upper East Side."  As I go through my morning constitutional I am gladdened by the signs of gentrification that are showing in my area. I am also regretful that the area is steadily approaching the tipping point that will move the area out of the "up and coming" segment into the "quaint and established" designation.  Of course as the down and out move on, a few haven't got the memo that the neighborhood is no longer a "crack friendly" area. 

As a happy resident of Miami, I am fully cognizant that the City of Miami Police goal is less about stopping crime, and more about containing it to a few crime ridden areas.  The police don't understand why someone would ever live in an area previously known for its hookers, crack addicts and homeless people.  To the police, gentrification forces them to do something they're not used to: make a report.  When I first moved into the area there were nightly drug deals on my street. I called the police and made a report. (The white guy in me called the city commissioner too). When my street was being used as a truck depot for semis because we paid for street security, I called the police and made a report.  When the homeless junkie banged on my door at 3AM asking for money, I called and made report. I encouraged all my neighbors to do the same thing.

Each and every time the police dispatcher, patrolman or other officer tried to discourage me from making a report. These were the questions I would get whenever I called the non-emergency police line:
 "Are you sure you want a unit to go there sir?" "What would you like the police to do sir?" at least they said sir. When my husband calls with his Spanish accent, they don't even bother with the "sir" designation. I mean, why do they think I'm calling the police? For my health? No, I'm calling the police because I want these things out of my neighborhood. I don't want to see the filthy crack whore passed out in front of Starbucks. I'm calling because of the passed out Asian (not Haitian, which I repeated, several times, until I gave up and said "Chinese") drunken woman sleeping on the sidewalk, with a pile of beer cans for a pillow. Arrest her for littering!

When three, THREE, hookers were taking shelter from the morning sun under the NET(Neighborhood Enhancement Team) office, I actually went in and complained and they said there was nothing they could do. I mean how ironic is it that prostitutes are turning tricks behind the NET office? The following week I saw  hookers hanging out at the bus stop, I approached two, very overweight police officers gossiping. When I complained they asked:
"Where they walking?"
"Yes." I replied.
"Then there's nothing we can do. As long as they're moving we can't arrest them." and they resumed their gossiping and doughnut eating. 
Really? Really!?! As long as they're moving?  

The last straw came two weeks ago when I was accosted by a drunken drug addict at 9AM in the morning right on Biscayne Blvd.. He  followed me for several blocks threatening to hit me, I walked away and called the police. I called 911. They asked me if I was sure I wanted an officer to come out to make a report. Jesus, I thought, of course I do, did I just call 911 because I need a drama fix? Why not just lie and say, "they're on their way" and never show up? At least I can get the illusion that they're working.

The officer showed 30 minutes later, I told him the story. "Are you sure you want to make a report?" was his reply. "Because there's nothing we can do, he's gone." Duh, I thought.

The police officer gave me this unsolicited advice: "Next time that happens to you, sir, you should hit him first and that will scare the criminals off." 

Yeah, and I'm sure you'd be happy to take that report. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Everyday is A Gift

My mother called me the other day to ask about my dog.  She has two dogs and is an animal lover. I was worried she may be hoarding animals, but two cats and two dogs do not make up a "hoard". Her question was easy to answer, Scruffy the Poodle is old and I answer anyone who asks: " every day with him is a gift."  You see, he is quite an old poodle. I don't know how old to be exact, but he's been with me for 13 years and he was already an adult when I found him wandering the streets of South Dade.  Scruffy was a feral poodle.

I often tell people that there are packs of feral poodles running behind Bloomingdales at the Falls Shopping Center, taking down unsuspecting South Dade matrons and mauling them. Scruffy the Poodle is not a particularly outstanding poodle. He's basically a piece of white cotton candy with three dots for a face. Two dark eyes and a small black nose that are not particularly expressive. Yet it's that simple lack of expressiveness that makes him see more toy-like and adorable. He has always walked on wobbly, unbending legs which makes him look like he's a wind-up toy. He's small, I never realize how small until I see him with other dogs, because to me he's seems to be the perfect dog for the city. He's not yappy or aggressive and never has been. He has the uncanny ability to dislike the same people I do, especially certain close relatives. (If he growls at you, rest assured I don't like you either.)

Recently the vet suggested "I prepare myself" for "the inevitable".  I've calculated that he has spent about 14,000 hours sitting in my lap or sleeping in my arms. In his lifetime we've easily walked 7,000 miles together and he's been a true friend every step of the way. Now , he's sleeping about 18 hours a day, right at my feet. His little legs twitch as he dreams. 

I recently read a book called "Old Dogs" by  Gene Weingarten and Michael S. Williamson. It was an homage to the dogs that have spent their lives as our faithful companions. It is quite a touching in it's simplicity, describing the animal in it's peak and then how it has earned it's spot on a front porch, lawn or corner of the den.  Soulful eyes and an occasional bark to remind us that, hey! I'm still here, still here for you. From the day I found him to our last day together, Scruffy.....every day is a gift. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Angry White Man

Despite being born to a Honduran mother in Honduras, and being a proud advocate for Latino culture and equality, there is a granite hard kernel of whiteness in my soul.  It is inextricably linked to my daily functioning, irritating everything like a poppy seed in an old person's dentures. It's a grinding kind of whiteness, the kind that leads to acid-reflux and cardiac arrest. The kind of whiteness that eats your soul and emerges in a blinding rage with the words;"GET OFF MY  LAWN,CAN'T YOU READ THE SIGN!?!"

Now those of you who know me may think I'm kind of a friendly jokester, but deep down there is a rage. A rage fed by my White Anglo Saxon Protestant genes that would put the Tea Party to shame. That small seed of whiteness is constantly chafing against 15 years of living in Latin America and living another 20 in Miami (Latin America by Proxy). Despite my Latino birth and Cuban husband, I cannot suppress it. My husband even says "you're acting like your uptight WASPy stepmother" when I get frustrated by people of Miami who don't seem to understand the basic tenet of white culture: Try not to annoy other people, or people in general. Also known as "not drawing attention to oneself" which is diametrically opposed to my Latino and Gay genes.

It is contradictory to life in Miami. Do not seems like such a simple rule. Like the Venezuelan 20 something that parked his SUV in the middle of the lot and blocked everyone in, went into the fast food joint, and refused to speak English. He kept asking for the "pollitos". The cashier kept saying chicken, and the guy refused to budge.

Really? You can't order chicken at a fast food joint? Then get angry at the guy who doesn't speak Spanish? My white rage emerged, and I politely said to another person in line, in English, "that guy should learn English".

Guess what....he said "fuck you".

I smiled with my mouth, not with my eyes. 

Try Not To Annoy Other People, It's really a very simple rule, like the Golden One, but just more important. It is a hard to rule to live by, especially if you're gay and fabulous (which can be annoying in and of itself....even to me).  But it is a good one.  Do you have enough labels? You can rock khaki and a polo shirt without a seven inch logo attached to your chest.

Simple white people rules: smile with your mouth not with your eyes(Forget it Tyra, smizing is gauche).  Everyone should at least try to speak English when in America. Say "please" and "thank you". Pick up your trash, whether it's your kids or that candy bar wrapper, pick it up.   Kids under 11 need to be in bed by 8:30, even on weekends.  Kids should never been seen outside the home, unless they're at a funeral, and then only kids over 13. Know the rules, break them only when they involve white collar crime or when nobody is looking. If your dog craps in somebody's woods and there's nobody to pick it up, the dog didn't really crap did it? Mayonnaise is the mortar that builds the wall of white solidarity.

Finally, fear the wrath of the white guy(before he get's his gun.) He will call the city, he will call the police, he will call the neighborhood association, he will be nice, and direct. He will send a letter to city commission, or might even show up. He will ask for your supervisor. He is the angry white man.....he will get his way. So stay off my lawn kid.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

10 Things I learned this summer. "A small square of capitalist heaven"

I dropped my neighbor's kid off at school today. So I guess that means it's time for a summer wrap-up. My summer was overstimulating. So here is what I've learned since June.

1. Socialism sucks. Yeah, from the weird Chinese/Cuban/NPR/Cable access programming on Cuban TV,  the ten phone calls it takes to find a decent meal in Havana, to the constant "I'm sorry we have to meet in a more discreet place because I don't want to have to explain why I'm talking to Americans." excuses. Don't even get me started about the red-tape.

2. I thought it was a "good" break-up, wrong.  Found out that an ex that I thought was a friend, was spreading a rumor that I had "ballooned" up to 350lbs. Several people in the Safety  Harbor area were surprised at my "miraculous weight loss."  Asshole. 

3. Cheap peelers work best. Yes, when peeling mangoes, cheaper is better. I peeled over 150 mangoes for the handing of over of the secret family mango chutney recipe. "You want chutney? Start peeling".

4. High School reunions are best when you maintain a constant, blood alcohol level of 0.06–0.09.

5. Your in-laws won't notice you if you have their grandson with you.  With kids around, you become about as interesting as a spinster aunt at the family reunion.

6. People think you're an asshole if you show up in a red BMW convertible. I just have to learn to accept that. To quote my brother: "you're the only beemer owner I know who's not an asshole."

7. Take toilet paper on any visit to Cuba. It's like a little piece of America wiping away the contraband meat of communism. I took a big bag of baby-wipes....sigh, a little square of capitalist heaven.

8. Cuban airplanes have escape ropes. (WTF?)

9. Don't trust airlines that only take cash and have no tail markings.

10. America is pretty great place and I have new respect for "invisible hand" of capitalism.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Oh the Cubanity!!!!(Part 7) Havana Heartbreak

When you look at a map of the Americas, right smack in the middle are two large bodies of water, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. In the middle of those are Cuba.  Havana is as close to the center of the Americas as you can get.  When I saw Havana for the first time, I understood its significance.  500 hundred years as the center of the giant Spanish Empire in the Americas. The imposing structures, fortresses, government buildings dot the city. Havana is not just some third world capital, it's one of the great capital cities of the world. The heartbreak is that 500 years of architecture from Colonial, Victorian, Art Moderne, Art Deco and Mid-Century Modern is all slowly crumbling to ruin. 

History stops in Havana in 1959.  From that point on technology, architecture, and culture froze.  Tens of thousands of U.S. made vehicles from 1945 to 1959 dot the highways, its a time warp. The government acts like the 1959 revolution was last Thursday. You can see that after'59 Havana as a  center of trade, culture and influence loses relevance behind the Soviet Iron Curtain.  Coincidentally, a sleepy southern resort city a few hundred miles away begins it's ascent as a major shipping, banking and center of confluence for the Americas. Fidel Castro can take a lot of credit for making Miami a global powerhouse.

I'm sure each new generation of Cubans read the tea-leaves or "caracoles" and see the hope of a brighter, freer, more prosperous Miami.  People grasp at the smallest signs that things on the island will get better on a large scale. Small things like cell phones, a Democratic administration in the U.S., less travel restrictions all add to the hope that somehow the government will open up and give Cubans the dignity and freedom they crave.

There were several instances where family members couldn't meet us at their homes because they were afraid of "being seen with Americans."  When my spouse's brother found out he had to take us to the "American" terminal he had to find a car that did not have "ministry" plates on them for fear of being reported to his superiors. There is a special terminal for flights to the U.S. The shock registered on his face when he saw that there were over 20 flights a day to Miami and New York. More flights than arrive at the domestic or international terminals combined. 

Ahh, but the beauty of Havana. The restored areas are precious. Beautiful architecture from so many eras, elegant mansions, town houses, palaces are everywhere. The Malecon and the Prado are long pedestrian walkways that are the lifeblood of the city. The nearby beaches with powdery sand and crystal clear water. Cubans are the same as in Miami, loud and boisterous and the city is alive with loud music, shouted voices and the desire by all Cubans to win the conversation.  Shy people don't have a chance in Cuba. Are they friendly? Not particularly, but either are Miamians or New Yorkers. City life is hard work, no more so than in Havana with it's shortages, red tape, lines and crowds. 

So I guess am glad I went. I accomplished what I set out to do. I met my in-laws (a non-event, because I took the grandson to them they didn't even notice me.) and it went well. I saw Cuba and got a better understanding of it as a place, which helped me to better understand my many Cuban friends, colleagues, and family.  I am reassured that my distaste for Fidel Castro and communism is not just because my government told me its bad, but because it is truly a stupid exercise in suppressing human endeavor and spirit. Finally it made me truly appreciate what we have here in America, a land without fear, which allows us to be all and anything we want to be.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Oh the Cubanity!!! Part 6. Just a travelogue.

I guess I should tell you a bit more about my trip and some of the "highlights" once I arrived. I'll do it in chronological order so you can skip over the boring parts.

Day One: There was the whole nightmare scenario of dealing with Sky King Airlines, the four hours it to took them to check us in, weigh our bags, steal our cash (it's a cash only airline, no credit cards.) Hand out fake vouchers to top restaurants in Havana and Santiago. (Nobody in Cuba recognized the vouchers)  Maylady(pronounced my-LAD-ee) did take care of a lot, after forking out additional cash.   It was basically a training ground for dealings in Cuba.

There were several very fabulous male flight attendants who were quite shaken by the turbulent crossing. I was thinking I would die in an unmarked watery grave in an unmarked white 737. Yes, Sky King Airlines is just a white plane, no markings. It was probably bought on 36th street at one of the used car lots where "everyone drives out with a vehicle."

We arrive in Cuba only to be detained by immigration. As the only two passengers traveling on U.S. passports we were questioned why we (My son and I)were traveling on U.S. passports and not on our "real" nationalities. I was born in Central America, he in Russia. They tried to separate us, but I refused to leave him. We sat for about 45 minutes being interrogated by a very cute Cuban was the only thing that made our delay bearable.  The whole time I was thinking: this is my vacation?

We arrive at last.We were "released" to the family.  Hugs, kisses and sighs of relief that we were not sent back on the Sky King plane which had still not left for its return flight. Joy and songs and dancing that we had arrived. 

Day two: Sightseeing in Santiago. Santiago is a small Spanish colonial city on the Eastern side of Cuba. The weather is HOT. The men are HOTTER.  I would suggest to any woman who wants a man to go there. It seems there is a surplus of men, of all races (yes there is such a thing as Cuban-Chinese) who are buff, shirtless and eager to help tourists for a few CUCs (CUCs are Cuban Hard Pesos, because Soft Pesos don't get you anywhere). Lots of people dancing in the parks playing live Cuban music. Just about everywhere we went there was singing and dancing....because that's just what socialists do. 

Day three: Socialist Wedding. We went to a socialist wedding wearing our newly purchased Paul Smith shirts, not Guayaberas (See previous posts).  I liked the ceremony, it lasted all of five minutes, just a signature in a book and exchange of rings. Everyone was a cousin. Then rum, dancing, more dancing, more dancing. More rum, beer, dancing. Bad food.

Day four: Sightseeing in the Countryside. Lovely, green, green, mountains, shirtless men working in the fields being tilled with donkeys. This is the triumph of socialism?  Went to a Catholic Shrine, saw a little doll that supposedly washed up after a storm as spoke to three boys. The doll was like Barbie fabulous. It was a bit of a stretch for me. We ate at a restaurant on a lookout about 5,000 feet above a prison. You could hear the congas emanating from the prison.  

Day five: Cubana de Aviacion to Havana.  I have to mention the Cubana flight, It was a Soviet Tupolev 334. The weird thing about this flight was the fog. Apparently this model is famous in Cuba for producing fog....from the moment you board, there is a thick fog being pumped out of the air vents. At first it's just around your feet. As we headed along the taxiway the fog was at my waist. In mid flight the fog was at my neck. It was like a weird movie where all you could see were the disembodied heads of the passengers. The plane had an escape rope. (WTF?)

Tomorrow: Havana and the last installment of the Oh the Cubanity. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Oh the Cubanity !!!!(Part 5) Meat as Crime.

I've always suspected Cubans were always easily distracted. Anything turn the heads away from the task at hand, a phone call, a smell, or more commonly another Cuban yelling at them. Which of course is quite common because Cubans only travel in groups basically yelling at each other, quite passionately.  Your true power is your ability to modulate a certain tone that will draw attention to oneself. Loudness is helpful, but easy to tune out, there has to be a forceful assertiveness needed to get your way, accented by hand gestures, standing on ones toes and when all else fails a hug, handshake or kiss.  The point is to get noticed, hence get your message across and then ultimately get your way through force of will. Clearly this force of will has filled both houses of Congress with Cuban-Americans and undoubtedly the White House someday as well.

Force of will is required for survival in the island. Those who choose to remain in Cuba spend the greater part of each day trying to get simple things done: fix a tire, get gas, get basic food.  Life is a constant struggle of searching and red tape. Cubans rely on  huge networks of friends and acquaintances to make life bearable in the island. With few consumer goods, television, computers or diversions to hold an individual's attention all that's left is yelling at each other.  Which is funny because Cubans still prefer to yell into a house or building than just texting "hey I'm outside".  Cell phones are ubiquitous like everywhere else, but the preferred method of communication is still a raised voice.  You could put Cuba on the list of "loud countries" like Italy and the Middle East. 

An uncle of my spouse said "Cuba is best country in the world, if you're rich."  Actually, anyplace is better if you're rich. My mom's wealthy husband promised her a Blackglama mink coat if she moved to Logan, Utah. All that money didn't make Logan any warmer or greener in the winter.  Money can't buy you happiness in Cuba, nor can it buy you orange juice, fresh milk, fast internet connections, onions, and countless other staples that are not in short supply, they are in no supply. It is illegal to have beef. Meat as crime? I'd like to see the Cuba CSI investigate why cows in Cuba have so many "accidents".

There are countless stories of deprivation in Cuba. The giant ruin that has become of Havana. The weird propaganda, Fidel's face on every wall, billboard, book, pamphlet, flag, window. The chronic mismanagement of everything. Why should having beef be criminal? There is small hope in the changes that Raul Castro is proposing, however, Cuba has such a long road to take  to get to the 21st century.....because it hasn't even made it through the 1960's yet. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Oh the Cubanity !!!!(Part 4) Talk to Maylady

Any trip to Cuba by a Miamian is filled with anxiety and ambivalence. No other people have endured the amount of whacked out cold war propaganda that people of this city have. Only here does calling someone a Communist get a bigger rise than insulting someone's mother.  But I believe as a fourth generation Miamian, that you can't really know Miami, unless you go to Cuba.  You can't really understand the "lost dream" of the Cuban exile until you go there yourself.  How can I, as an Anglo, possibly understand the heartbreak,  Tia Nona's packed suitcases(for 25 years until her death), the dysthymia that affects the exile community unless I go there myself. Anyone who has spent any time here hears the stories of loss, the courage of escape and endless hope of someday returning to reclaim what might be one's birthright.  I'm going to meet my Cuban family, the one I married into, and by extension much of the pain and heartbreak that affects the exiles that live in my beloved Miami. 

But first, I need to get out of Miami.  I am traveling on Sky King Airways, which I remember as a child was some guy who flew around in a twin-engine Cessna herding cattle with Penny and Clipper. Yeah, he herded cattle in a plane, a very small one. I'm regretting remembering that show, and hoping I'm not the "cattle" that's going to be herded.  Prior to last Thursday, I had no idea that "Sky King" had grown into an international airline with daily flights herding cattle from Miami to Havana. When I get to the airport, I need to go to find Maylady, which I had to have the name repeated and spelled out several times to me. The Spanish pronunciation for Maylady is Mee-LAD-ee, which of course is obvious to anyone who speaks Cuban but not me. Maylady is a third cousin and will be handling everything. Everyone keeps saying "No preocupe Maylady cuidarĂ¡ de todo." So I won't worry because Maylady will take care of everything. 

There are very strict guidelines. The night before its recommended I take a Xanax "to take the edge off".  I  must show up to the airport at least four hours before the flight. I must weigh-in myself and my bags.  I must not exceed 60 pounds in weight. Last minute requests are still coming in: Baby bottles, a guitar stand, Yankees Caps and Rum. Rum? My husband has asked for an air conditioner too if possible....he hasn't felt any since last week. Friends recommend I take toilet paper and wet wipes, I asked why, "trust us" is the reply. Besides how much can toilet paper possible weigh? I am indulging a friend's recommendation to go to the "botanica" on 17th and do the following: " Chango loves rum, Obatala prefers white doves and Ochun will accept honey and borachitos. get thee to the Botanica and pay homage. 17 ave and 17 street has a great one...this consultation is free. "

Ok, so this local boy, is going there to pay homage to Chango, Obatala Ochun, and other deities, not for my fascination with Cuba, but for my love of Miami.  Wish me luck. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Oh the Cubanity!!! (Part 3 - Understated Sheets and Colgate)

Supposedly I am going to a "worker's paradise" a land free of commercialism, annoying ads and ubiquitous "Enjoy Coca-Cola" signs.  A pre-capitalist haven where "each gives according to his ability and receives according to his needs."  A true nanny-state which coddles the worker.  An Obamacare fantasy as imagined by Michael Moore. A place where the intrusive messages of commerce haven't created desires for styles and brands where we all know GENERIC is just as good. 

So, then why is my Cuba shopping list so brand specific?   I was told to buy no less 300 thread count sheets with an "understated design" because that's what they like in Cuba.  Don't get me started on thread count...because as a good capitalist I shoot for 600.  However what is an "understated design" and what do Cubans know about it? I mean really, what's more understated than a white sheet? Perhaps overstated means red hammer and sickles with a Che logo?  They can't buy them there so they should be happy if I give them a very nice Smurf pattern that I saw marked down at Target. Understated....really!?!

The second item on my list was Colgate toothpaste "because they don't have any toothpaste."  You know my Grandpappy brushed with baking soda during the depression and died with all his teeth.  I am not a brand loyalist when it comes to toothpaste, whatever is on sale is fine with me. I do like the smooth texture of Crest and Aqua-Fresh has a perky aftertaste.  I find the bouquet Arm & Hammer baking soda nice, but it has a granular quality.  Premium brands are nice, but a two-buck chuck is fine. The worst of course is airline toothpaste or Chinese toothpaste. So why Colgate?  I am not a fan of Colgate. Perhaps it's the red box, strong aroma or the bitter flavor....kinda like communism, so there is some logic there. 

What killed me is that they suggested I could find all these items at Valsan or Marshall's (capitalist much?). Never heard of Valsan? Well Valsan is a special wearhouse store for people going to Cuba (7 Miami locations to serve you). Stocked with all the items most in demand by those on the island.  Surveyed by the 250,000 Cuban exiles that travel to Cuba every year, Valsan stocks special suitcases, vacuum bags (for the pillows I'm taking), Colgate, brand name shoes, jewelry and every necessity for those on the island. A one stop shopping paradise for those who claim to be for the Cuban Embargo. 

The reason for this trip is for a Traditional Cuban Wedding. What do I usually wear to a Traditional Cuban wedding? A Guayabera shirt.  I was just informed that I could not wear a Guayabera to the wedding because I would be confused with a Communist Party Official.  Now my Grandfather used to shoot Communists in the banana fields of Honduras.....all he wore were Guayaberas. I was told to leave my Guayabera at home, which was purchased at La Casa De Las Guayaberas and is probably one of the most expensive shirts I own. I was also informed that Cubans don't wear shorts....fuck it...I'm not adhering to a dress code from a bunch of communists who tell me to shop at Marshall's....I'm sorry but I need to go to Nordstrom's for shopping therapy. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Oh The Cubanity!!!!! Part 2

Well the plans for my trip to Cuba are set. Or are they? What I am learning that this is a huge scam, run in a very suspicious way.  First, it's an all cash business. The Cuban visa, the airline tickets, the processing fees are done with a wink-wink.  Any misunderstandings are not the fault of the travel agency. Since the official announcement of this trip the plans have shifted like the sandbar on Haulover Beach.  My trip started out as a ten day excursion of the island from Havana to Santiago, to five days in Santiago, to seven days with a side trip to Havana, to a five day trip with a 12 hour all night bus trip from Havana to Santiago. I think that is the first rule about trips to Cuba....all plans are subject to change. Funny, this even before we've left the U.S.

What I am learning about my trip is that there is a confluence of factors at play. First between my Husband and his brother, second between my brother-in-law and his mother-in-law and finally between the mother-in-law and a particular "viajes a Cuba" travel agency.  Apparently several conflicts have broken out between various branches of the family that "are taking care of this for us" so we could arrive in Cuba to relax, meet the family and see the sights. The woman at the travel agency told my very exasperated husband: "after this you will learn to have patience with your people again."

Word is that the family is preparing for our arrival in Santiago. The Spanish Colonial house in downtown Satiago is being fixed up, yet there are still several rooms without a roof. I am anxiously waiting for my shopping list which should weigh not one ounce over sixty pounds. I have been asked to take pillows, and I'm desperately hoping I don't have to take sixty pounds of them. Countless times I've seen the desperation at the Publix scale.  Nervous exiles with endless packed and repacked luggage get on and off the scale. Weighing their luggage, scowling that they have exceeded the limit, removing some basic item: rice cooker, heart medicine, tennis shoes, powdered milk.  One of their family will have to go without some basic necessity until the next exile goes back to the island.  I'm sure Santa goes through this every year....I mean there is only so much that goes in that sleigh or in the belly of Boeing 767. This time it will be me with sixty pounds of cotton pillows. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Weren't You That Guy in High School? No. I wasn't....I was the gay one.

So Friday I partake in that long American tradition of going to a High School Reunion. I really don't know why I've decided to go. I mean I went to a very large high school with a graduating class of over 600 students. I wasn't much of a standout. Due to the large anonymity of the school, teachers refused to call me by my middle name, which is the name I've always gone by, "Kirk". Instead they would only go by the name on the attendance sheet, Daniel, Danny, Dan, Danny Boy, which was not a name I particularly liked. So there was pretty much an identity crisis from the start.

As a student I was not particularly distinguished either. I wasn't popular, or athletic. I didn't achieve any of the benchmarks expected of a high school student. I was a solid "C" student, which meant I could achieve passing grades with minimal effort.  I was not athletic. I was pudgy, 36 inch waist at 15, devastating. Not particularly handsome, but not too pimply.  I was called "weird" but not "gay".  I had an anonymous style, shying away from brand names (very big in the 80's) but jeans, boat shoes and pullovers were standard. So all in all I just did my best to blend in and survive. 

I didn't really accomplish much socially either. I had some close friends, quite a few crushes, but we weren't particularly popular, but we were close.  I graduated virginal in a heterosexual sense, but I had one or two opportunities....ewwww.  I graduated semi-semi virginal in a homosexual sense, but that's a tale for another day. I mean we're all semi-semi virginal in some sense aren't we? 

I went to my 10th high school reunion and I was the only gay, out of several hundred people who actually went. Why? I mean I became aware of enough of them after high school, but not one came back. Just me.  Nobody cared and one of the guys on the baseball team invited me back to his room.....with his wife...for some "fun".  Still trying to maintain my heterosexual virginity, I politely declined....but I can't say I wasn't tempted. So I guess there was one gay and a bisexual, kinky swinger guy. 

So why do we go back? Why this nostalgia? It's not cheap either.  What unresolved issues can be solved in a high school reunion?  Will it be like Peggy Sue Got Married? I mean I never married the prom king, in fact I don't even remember his name. There was no girlfriend or boyfriend to speak of. I don't have any really great memories to relive, nor have I kept up with many people from that era of my life.  With a few exceptions, would I know them if I ran into them on the street? 

In any case, I like group activities (within limits, see paragraph 4), in a beachfront hotel.  It should be interesting, I mean that pudgy, pimply, indistinguishable boy has been gone for a long time. My life has taken many interesting twists and turns and I'll be there to represent for all of the gays who were too chicken to show up. 

Next week: Oh the Cubanity!!(part 2)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Yes, I talk to the TV? Doesn't Everybody?

The other day my husband came home and asked "who's there with you, I heard voices."  

"Nobody," I replied.

"Yes, but I heard you talking to someone, who is he?" (Cuban much?)

 "In my head maybe, but I wasn't talking to someone." and there lies the problem.  I don't really "talk" in my head, I talk out loud, out loud.  Yes, I scream at the television because I know they can hear me.  I can see Chris Mathews, flinch, look at me and give me the "settle down" look. I can see Rachael Maddow roll her eyes in a "there he goes again" look.  I can see Joe Scarborough give me that, "you kooky liberals" grin when I go off on a diatribe about Republican partisanship.

You should see the arguments I have with  President Obama.  I haven't stooped to calling him names yet, but I know he's always equivocating, hemming, hawing because he can't get a word in edgewise because I'm yelling at him to make a stand, shut up and stop talking.  I know he's thinking: "I can't get in a clear thought, because Kirk is yelling at his TV again."  President Bush would just get words wrong because I was calling him names, nasty ones, and I know they hurt. I can't even watch Fox, because I doubt they could broadcast from me actually hitting them in the face with whatever I have in my hand....which is a crime and I don't want to get arrested for physical attacks through my television.

I come from a long line of men who talk to the television.   My Grandfather would actually have conniptions watching Jimmy Carter.  His face would turn red, tears would come to his eyes and then he'd wish for Richard Nixon.  He would boast that when was in Honduras, they would take reporters out to the banana fields and "shoot them."  He felt that similar policies would help America too. You could imagine his dismay when he found out that his daughter was raising liberals.

I've learned that my brother also has some long running arguments with various TV artists. Living in an all-female household, I understand he's had some run-ins with the likes of Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and the entire E! news team.  He's also had some disagreements with some of the girls on Sixteen and Pregnant, which is a sure way he can tell his daughters about the dangers of boys.....but more importantly about the dangers of showing up that way in his home.

So to put my hubby's worries at rest, I'd just like to state that I'm not having a deep emotional conversation with a lover, I'm telling off Dr. House, because I think he's an ass.  As far as the American political establishement and the harpies we call pundits, you'd better listen to what I have to say.....because you'd rather have me ranting at the Television, than silent rage at the ballot box.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Oh the Cubanity!!! (Part 1)

Ah Miami, hot tropical city of Salsa, Santeria and all things Cuban. A city of Latino passion, exotic beauty and rabid anti-communism.  What was Miami before the Cubans?  A Cuban might ask: "what was the world before the Cubans?"  The Cuban would answer that question: "a very boring place."  As my great-grandfather was a Miamian, I may or may not disagree, however there is no denying that this town that I love so much would be quite a different place without "El sabor Cubano"(Cuban flavor).  So to better understand this city I adore so much I've agreed to go to the island of Cuba. I am also going to meet my in-laws who I've never met, despite being with my Cuban husband for the last 15 years.

I would like to say that this decision was not an easy one for many reasons.  The first time I mentioned visiting the island was about 20 years ago.  My Cuban friends simply said: "I will no longer be your friend if you go to Cuba because you will be supporting a murderous regime that took everything my family had and threatened to kill us."  It was very hard to argue with that logic. I also wanted to keep my friends. Another reason was that several stupid laws made traveling to Cuba difficult and in the Bush era legally risky, unless you were Cuban-American.  Why Cuban Americans get to go to Cuba and other Americans can't is strange to me, but some Americans get more rights than others and few in Miami seem to see any hypocrisy.  A Cuban would say: "If I go to Cuba I'm helping out my family by giving them dollars, but if you go to Cuba you're directly helping out a murderous regime that took everything from my family had  and threatened to kill us".  So I can see the distinction, however fine. I am allowed to visit China, Vietnam and Myannmar in case I really want to see "communism" close up, but not Cuba.  However, the new rules set-up by President Obama allows anyone "residing with a Cuban" to visit the island, so now I'm going with my husband, directly from Miami. 

I can't say that I'm exactly thrilled about the prospect.  Firstly, it's an expensive vacation for us because my husband is a naturalized U.S. citizen. However, the Cuban government doesn't recognize his citizenship and demands he return with a Cuban passport that costs $650. (Money that all Cubans who left after 1973 HAVE to pay to a murderous regime that took everything from their family and tried to kill them.)  It's basically a Fuck You Tax from Castro for leaving and trying to come back. Which we have paid. $650 would have bought a round trip ticket to New York and left me some cash for theater tickets or a pair of Bruno Magli slip on mocs. 

Also, it's the whole "meet the parents" scenario.  Yes, I'm finally going to meet my in-laws. I mean, I figured I dodged that bullet for a decade and a half.  In all honesty, I've never met the parents of any of my boyfriends, ever.(I'm just beginning to wonder, why? Was something wrong with me?)  I'm not even sure what the protocol might be.  Is it like "Hi Papi, nice to meet you!" or like  Hey, dude, it's cool, I've slept with your son and raised your grandson for the last 16 years."  OR do I pretend I don't speak a lick of Spanish an keep asking "donde esta la casa de Maria" and ask for chimichangas?  Not to mention my hubby hasn't had "the talk" with his parents about the whole, "I live with a guy" thing.   So can anyone say "awkward" in Spanish?  

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

State of the Art......or getting it in the Arsht.

The phone rings and this bubbly person starts talking. She had a nice voice, and was all excited for me because I went and saw the musical "Hair" last month.  "And since you saw Hair you must really be excited to see upcoming Broadway performances of Shrek, The Lion King and the Addams Family!" Excited, really? Shrek, The Lion King?  "I'm sure you'll want to buy season passes in the Arsht for just $168!" 

You know as a gay man, I should feel a moral obligation to go to the "theater".  I am fully aware that Julie Taymor's adaptation of the Disney musical is "art". But really, really, are we all 9 years old here?  That this  is the state of the $400 million dollar performing arts center?  Family friendly fare?  Come on, I loved Shrek....on cable, but do I want to pay $50 to go see it again on stage?  No, I'm a 43 year old gay man, I want to see beauty, originality, sexiness and something that may or may not address some of the relevance that is happening here in Miami, or America....not in the the land of Far Far Away. 

On a larger note, can't we as Americans, who perfected musical theater, do better than recycling animated movies?  Come on, now as automation slowly replaces people shouldn't we investing more in the arts and creating "content"?  Should I save my pennies see Shrek movies, see Shrek the play and go green again and see Shrek on Ice?  Thank you Disney, how many "platforms" does one franchise have? So lame. 

Miami is not a theater is tenuously a cultural one.  Yet it does have a healthy population of novela actors, writers, musicians, show biz types. Maybe they'd like to work in theater?  Yet our performing arts center(and those across America) bases its entire multi-million dollar season on rehashed "Broadway Across America" pablum.  Maybe if they took a few pennies from that budget to support something homegrown it might make theater that is relevant to a gay 43 year old man who might want to see something that isn't intended for nine-year-olds. 

On a side note: There is a new gay-stripper bar just one block away.  The Arsht or arses?  Truthfully for $50 I get a lot more value at the stripper bar.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

10 Pieces of Advice to Gay Dads

Happy Father's Day!

Ah, the joys of the newborn children and the craziness of inexperienced parents.  Alas the "gayby boom" is in full swing.  Gone are the days of the rare gay dad and undercover lesbian moms.  This Father's Day has caused me to reflect on my experience as a Gay Dad. After a 45 minute conversation with my son, I realize that all-in-all the last of my worries are through.  He will not starve. He will someday be upper-middle class or higher. He will someday, hopefully in the distant future, make me a grandpa.

That being said I wanted to share some knowledge based on the experience of being a full-time, out of the closet, gay dad. I wanted to share what I've learned. I made a list, because people seem to like my "lists".

1. People do not want to see your baby at an adult cocktail party or event. Especially other parents. There is an "adult sphere" and a "children sphere". There is a baby human sphere, and and human sphere and they shouldn't mix.  Your baby is not an accessory for others to admire. It's creepy, and I think it's disrespectful to the parents who just spent $50 - $100 so they could have a night away from kids. 

2. Create your support network. This includes family, friends, neighbors who can all take care of your child when you want to go to some "adult" event. (Did I mention that I don't want to see your kid?)

3. Keep a strict, no exception rule about bedtime. For us it was 8PM. It never deviated till he was 21.  Knowing that he was safely tucked away allowed us to relax, enjoy our evenings and even go to cocktail parties, sans child.

4. Get involved in all aspects of your kid's life. Baseball, PTA, extracurricular activities are all ways to help broaden your child's life and your own.

5. Don't EVER share any personal aspect of your life with a. another parent, b. teacher, c. coach within a 300 mile radius of your home.  You may casually mention something about your plantar warts to an acquaintance at the little league, next thing you know you're sitting alone at the PTA dinner.  The child rearing network is designed for child rearing. In such it is a major alert system for any perceived illness, weakness, or deviation from the norm.  Confess to a fellow parent that your husband is having affair....before you know it you're the object of pity at the baseball diamond, PTA meetings and Sunday school. Just keep your personal life separate from your child rearing life.

6. Other parents are NOT your friends. They are your rivals who are fighting to win the limited resources of time, energy and capital expended on children. Resources like teaching time, coaching time, field trips, awards....they want this for their kids....not for yours. Think of them more as coworkers who are fighting for that big promotion. Raising kids is not a zero sum game, there are winners and losers. 

7. Your kid does not stand out because you are gay. YOU DO!  In fact, you will be known as the "the gay dads".  Your kids' teachers may know who you are, Gay Dad, but may have no idea who your kid is. 

8. NEVER, never, never explain your relationship  to a school secretary, teacher, nurse, doctor. If they ask you who you are, you are the child's parent, end of story.  If you say something lame like "I'm Dad #2" or "the stepdad" or "I'm not the biological parent" you've just given away your power. The second you hesitate about your role in your child's life you've diminished yourself in the eyes of your child, your partner and society. If anybody asks you who you are, say confidently "I am his/her father." (in a don't fuck with me tone of voice).

9.Find the "Power Mom". This is the woman who has inherited the traits needed to herd all the other moms into action. You must appease her at all costs.  Unless you want the role of  "power mom" you will use all your gay powers of flattery, good taste, bawdy humor, cutting remarks and back stabbing to get in her favor.  She is the one who will be the one who protects your child when you are not there. She is the one who will keep the other parents from making comments. You goal is make her see your child as one of her own. Once that's accomplished, it's smooth sailing. Power moms are also known as "mother hens, lions protecting their cubs, she wolves".

10. Your kid doesn't care that you're gay. Just don't be too "gay" at sports events.

Next to convince yourself not to kill your teenager.

Monday, June 13, 2011

What Happend Miami, You Used to be So Seedy. (A trip down memory lane)

A recent Sunday drive from Coral Gables to NE 63rd street really got me, this place is kinda classy.  Starting out in Coral Gables we decided to take the scenic route from the Coral Gables Congregational Church to our home. We put the roof down on the convertible and we went down Bird Rd. through the Grove to S. Miami Avenue, Brickell Ave then up Biscayne Blvd. 

Let's just jump to the Coconut Grove side of Bird Road.  I remember the first time I drove through the grove with a boyfriend he pointed out to a big live oak near a park he had sex in.  I thought "wow!" this guy had sex in a tree. He was quite proud of his accomplishment, it made being part of the mile high club seem blah by comparison.  Yet whenever I'm in the Grove I think of that and how it's gone from funky little cabins tucked away in the middle of jungle-like hammocks to mini-mansions hidden among the foliage.  I remember the the Tigertail Lounge and the theater that played Rocky Horror Show till '83. As we made our way towards S. Miami Ave I glanced up to see if there were still any hot Cuban men fornicating in the branches.

South Miami Avenue in the Grove is to me the truest part of old Miami. Lush tree-lined streets, Stately Old Spanish and Art Deco Mansions line the street. When the poincianas bloom the red blossoms make the street look like its aflame. I lived on this street for a few years. Many of my neighbors were diplomats and cocaine dealers. On the corner of 15th and South Miami Ave a South American diplomat was shot in broad daylight. It was the 80's.  Good times.

Brickell Ave, the heart of the financial district, here is where we really begin to see the new, 21st century Miami emerging.  I remember it being just a collection of banks in a row. One block away in what is now known as "Mary Brickell Village" there was a chicken farm and an old plant nursery. Old tenements filled with the poorest of the poor hung clothes out the windows.  Even in the smartest sidewalk cafe, a feral chicken could be likely to steal your food or eyeball you into intimidation. Today the tenements are gone, fancy high rise condos intertwine with spectacular office towers like the Espiritu Santo bank building.(I used to tell people that it was the bank of the Vatican).  What was once a ghost town on the weekends was bustling with walkers, runners, bikers on an early Sunday Morning. No chickens were to be seen.

Finally, Biscayne Blvd. No street has changed as much as this one.  Running through the heart of downtown to destinations north, this was once the seediest, most dangerous, outrageous street in the city. Lined with bars and adult bookstores for about five miles the street had a terrible reputation. As kid I used to play a game called "punch buggy" each time you saw a VW bug I'd punch my brother. As a teen we played "punch slutty" each time we saw a hooker....well, let's just say we were very bruised up. Today, it's on it's way to it's initial glory as Miami's "front door".  A basketball arena, Opera House, Performing Arts Center, Museum Park, new foliage and tree plantings.  Hookers still roam the Boulevard, but they are few and far between, a game of "punch slutty" would be quite boring.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Been There Done That, But I Was Prettier.

Recently I was my favorite trendy Mexican/Venezuelan (Mexizuelan?) restaurant with my hubby ordering dinner. It was funny because I was completing his we seem to be doing more and more after 15 years together.  I said out loud to the obviously gay waiter, "see this is what happens when you spend so much time together, you complete each others' sentences."

The smart ass waiter replied, "I hope I die before I'm 40, if I don't I've got a gun and I'll kill myself."  Which was an amazingly odd comment coming from a. the help and b. somebody who seemingly could only improve with age.  Needless to say I was shocked and offended.  Firstly, because you just don't say shit like that to customers who are, obviously over 40 and secondly, in a position to leave a good tip. 

Of course this got me thinking about age, youth, masculinity and power.  I thought to myself, as I am sure many of us have, would we go back? Would we go back to who we were at 20? Even if we could retain our current knowledge, would we want to be that age again?  Would I want to go through college again, start a career, start a family.....retrain a husband? Granted some of these things were wonderful when I did them, but would I do them again?

It also got me thinking about all the gay men who never made it to 40, in this 30th anniversary of the first AIDS case.  500,000 gay men died in the 80's and 90's all of them would have gladly told that little boy that life only gets better and that its a privilege and a joy to reach this age.  There were very few men my age in my 20's just like there are very few gay men in their 50's and 60's today.  I never believed I'd live to 40, let alone be spinning around in a new BMW convertible.  

Most importantly would I trade all the accrued power of money, good credit, and experience for the power of youth and beauty?  In the worlds of gay men and  straight women, beauty is a very valuable currency. Would I trade his life for mine? (but he was skinny and pimply so maybe just a younger version of myself.)  Would I kill myself at 40?

Of course the purpose of this blog is to really to say that there is life after 40, after kids, after wrinkles and grey hair. The power of maturity surprises and shocks me .  That life gets better and richer as you know yourself.  If I see that boy again, I would say: "I've been your age, (but I was much prettier) and it sucked."

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Does it hurt to smile or did I sleep with you last night?

Once I worked in an office where if I didn't say "Good Morning" when I walked in, the sassy Cuban secretary would scold me by saying in Spanish: "I didn't sleep with you last night, so say good morning."

One of the great mysteries about living in this absolutely stunning city is the indifference that people have for each other.  I want to go as far as saying "unfriendly" but I find in general if I ask for help, directions, or consideration I usually get the assistance I Spanish.  Which is fine with me, but I would imagine a non-Spanish speaker might find it demoralizing. This morning I walked through Peacock Park and greeted 5 people, not one said good morning in return. Only one half smiled and even acknowledged they had been spoken to.

So why is it so hard for Miamians to crack a smile and say good morning to a stranger?  What is it in our local character that when a smiling, happy, morning person like myself makes people want to turn away?  Is it an excessive case of "stranger danger" permeating the metropolis? Could Miamians be so self-obsessed that anyone requires a "proper introduction" before deigning acknowledgement? Or are we just a bunch of assholes? I asked several Miami "experts" about the I Can't Smile Or Say Good Morning phenomenon.

Expert #1. Jon A., Born in Miami in 1936. Resident off and on for 75 years. My Dad. Fidel Castro Theory

My Dad's theory is that because  Fidel is still alive hundreds of thousands of Miamians cannot fully reconcile themselves to living here.  Many believed and raised their children to believe that someday they would return to a paradise idealized in memory and song.  A paradise long since lost.  From his perch in Cuba, he taunts Miamians with alternating threats of Armageddon and inundation with another Mariel. The unresolved status of "exile" or "immigrant" makes people depressed and generally pissy. (similar to the Hugo Chavez syndrome in Venezuelans)

Expert #2. Alfredo . Miami resident for 15years.  I Can't Speak English Theory. My Spouse.
Alfredo's theory is based on the idea that people arrive here not being able to speak English, therefore there is a bit of shame when approached by someone who apparently does.  This embarrassment goes away, but the avoidance becomes habit forming for the rest of their lives, they're conditioned to avoid "good morning" type of people.

Expert #3. Me. Third Generation Miami  Native. Miamians Are Extremely Self-Absorbed Theory.

I feel that the people of Miami are extremely attractive and suffer from the delusion that everybody wants to sleep with them.  I feel that years of social conditioning and competition requires each person to occupy a vast amount of personal space.  People should only enter that space after extended eye contact from ten feet away. Eye contact requires a stare, a glare and a complete scan of that person's outfit, labels and all status symbols.  If, by chance, that person is worthy of acknowledgement a brief smile and a painfully mumbled "good morning" can be extracted.   Should that "good morning" be returned, you are obligated to have sex with that person. Then you never have to say Good Morning to them again.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

10 Pieces of Advice to a Young Gay Man

As I venture deeper into my 40's, surprisingly I'm finding myself befriending people of all ages, both young and old. Yet in my soul there are things that I want to say to my friends who are under 29 who are really just starting out on life's wonderful journey.  I find that at this point of life they ask me for sage advice, but more often than not I am just willing to blurt it out.  Whether it's fashion tips, life lessons or just  a quick reality check I want to impart some of the things that have helped me along the way. 

1. The best piece of advice my Mother ever gave me:  buy (and pay a little extra) for classic looks.   Penny loafers, khakis, white dress shirts, a blue blazer, and a pair of Levis will go a lot farther, and get you into more interesting places than any of the latest fashions.  Remember to wear undershirts too!

2. Stop dating the person who you want to be.  If all of your boyfriends are of a similar "type", ask yourself why.  Is it because you find those qualities attractive, or because you find them lacking in yourself? 

3. Create your "real" family. Whether it's your parents, siblings, or friends(old or new) now is the time to redefine those relationships as an adult. These are the people who you will probably be sharing the rest of your life with. Tell them how you feel and set the rules on how you want to be treated. 

4. Don't forget the you're only young once, remind yourself that you will never be handsomer, healthier and more carefree than you are right now.

5. Sleep around, have fun and practice safe sex.

6. Remember there are no "official" rules for gay relationships....yet.  Feel free to test the boundaries of your relationships with love and lot's of communication.  Two men together doesn't have to look the same as a man and a woman together. 

7. As a gay man all options are open to you now, you can be a father, a stay at home parent, a CEO of a Fortune 500 company or all three.  There's no need to feel limited anymore, you can have it all......but probably not all at the same time.

8. Learn about the gay struggle.  Learn that we were once prosecuted, imprisoned, hospitalized, murdered, blackmailed, and marginalized for who we are. In many places we still are. 

9. Live in a gay ghetto for at least six months or your life, it can be very affirming, then not so much. 

10. Try to nurture friendships with non-gay people. It can be hard. When gay people meet each other, there's so much that just doesn't need to be explained, an instant comfort.  It's not always the same with people unlike ourselves, give them a chance, they will surprise you. 

Oh yeah, to the young man who asked for advice that got me thinking about all of this: relax and use a lot of lube.