Wednesday, May 30, 2012

He Shot Him Once, But Kept On Eating the Man's Face

I know there must be some kind of Miami metaphor there, man eats off another man's face.  As usual the concurrence of events, thoughts and national trends lead us right here to our own backyard.  I had to ask myself why does this story have such traction? Why has it caught national attention for more than just one news cycle? I gave it a lot thought and this is what I came up with:

1. The "South Beach Cannibal" story (BTW it happened quite far away from South Beach) of course associating cannibalism with a place where celebrities come to stay is a great way to catch a readers attention. As if another man chewing off a man's face wasn't enough....the media had to add some kind of geographic hyperbole.

2. The Zombie Zietgeist.  As the Twilight series fades, zombies are always just in the background waiting to emerge as the horror-du-jour.  Shows like Zombieland, Resident Evil and AMC's Walking Dead feed into our national paranoia about zombies.

3. Zombie Apocalypse.  Survivalists, the NRA and makers of axes and expensive kitchen knives are anxious for some kind of apocalypse, why not a zombie one? Hurricane supplies........nah apocalypse supplies!

4. National craze for plastic surgery! I recently went to a party with a group of "women of a certain age". I could swear that they could use someone to eat off all that excess junk placed in lips and cheeks. Don't know when the "monkey face" look became popular with aging Caucasian women, but it looked bad.  Why not get your insurance company to pay for that nose job.....lay down under a bridge, wake up with a new face.  

5. Nudity: Any crime committed in the nude, cannibal or otherwise will make national headlines. 

6. No fat people were involved in this story. 

7. What are those crazy kids sticking up their noses today?  Bath take me away.

So those are my theories why this story has "legs".   Hmmm, I'm feeling peckish..... 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations*

"Well son, don't even try. I'll always be better."
You know it doesn't matter how old, successful, rich or fabulous you become, a single well constructed phrase by a septuagenarian parent can make you revert to that frustrated little child who couldn't catch the ball when it was thrown at him.  It wasn't that I couldn't catch the ball, it's just that I didn't see the point of it. I was the kind of kid who liked to climb rocks and trees and wear his mother's make-up. While I still climb rocks and trees, make-up lost it's allure a long time ago.  

Yet on some level, I still seek my father's approval, or maybe his acceptance, or even praise.  My father is a very charismatic, interesting, fun individual: and therein lies the problem. He's all light and energy but still knows how to show you he's the dad.  While he charms you with his stories of his travels in Spain, or regales his life in the glamorous travel industry, he's waiting. He's  looking for a moment to make a turn of phrase intended as a casual aside. A short phrase that makes it clear that whatever you accomplish in life, he'll make sure that it doesn't equate to anything he's done. It will be a comment that is missed by the entire party, an offhand remark directed at you that says "I'll always be better than you".

This weeks phrase: "Oh, you work for a company? I thought you just went out and knocked on doors to sell your product. Like a an independent contractor." Basically, my successful run in software sales has just been reduced to a Kirby vacuum cleaner salesman or the Fuller Brush Man. 

When I realized I was gay, I felt I "opted out" of my parents expectations.  That I would be free to chose my own path because being gay erased all expectations that my parents might have had for me. Yet here I am at 44, just like when I was 14 torturing myself about what I had to do to meet his expectations. I realize now, he never really had any expectations of me, only that I do not eclipse him, in any way. 

Why when I leave any gathering with my parents that I have to remind myself that I am happy, successful,  have great friends, and a wonderful husband and family. I'm not defined by work, but I do a good job earn more money than I ever hoped to earn. I spend a week giving myself affirmations. I recall that my only real goal in life was not to be fat. 
44 years into this relationship with him, I realize that we could never be friends. I know this because I know him, I've been watching him for 44 years. Yet, we're family and family is about forgiveness and acceptance.  I'm sure I've got a few more years to work on that.....

*I chose the title from a phrase coined by Micheal Gerson used extensively by President George W. Bush. I chose this phrase because I think Bush is an asshole. You can extrapolate that into the current state of my paternal relationship. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Straight Men, I Salute You.

I never realized how hard it was to be a heterosexual male until this week. The burdens they carry, the patience they have, the strength they develop.  Don't get me wrong, as a Gay man I love women. However, as a gay man I can love women "in theory" or "in small doses". I don't live day in and day out with one.   So while I respect and adore the feminine sex, I can do it from a safe distance. 

That is until I decided to take my mother and aunt to Spain with me for a week. I'm not complaining, their company was extremely enjoyable and the two of them were quite content to "do their own thing" most of the time. Also, because they were "women of a certain age" they went to bed shortly after dinner(12AM by Spanish standards) which allowed my husband and me to enjoy Spain's nightlife without a Maggie Smith type nearby. 

So I started the week of my vacation in Sevilla, Spain. As we walked though the cathedrals and museums I began to notice a few things about the men around me, not the gay ones, but the straight ones. The first thing I noticed as the day progressed, is that at some point, the woman had handed over her purse, "so she could tie her shoe" or "adjust her skirt". The man, being a gentleman, initially held it like a smelly fish. As the day progressed, I would notice that the purse had found itself held snugly in his armpit while the wife/girlfriend would become unencumbered and begin to accumulate more.  At that point I was a proud gay man and thought, "geez, I'm glad I don't have to lug one of those around."(purse not wife)  The guys became completely indifferent to the purse. In fact, I almost expected guys to go up to each other and say something like "I love the bag, where did you get it?"

The second thing I noticed about hanging out for long stretches with women is this compulsion to shop. This excitement when one approaches a small shop full of bright things, don't get it. I don't understand the need to go into every single store. Worse, was the need to show the guy "the cute thing for aunt Mary" and his fake acknowledgement that it actually was cute. He doesn't really care does he? I mean I'm GAY and I don't care. 

The constant flow of information, judgments and critiques of every woman around them. "She's fat, look at that outfit, I love\hate her shoes, outfit, etc. etc.".  Men are invisible at this point. I mean, the straight guys are scoping out the women and the women are too. It's simply exhausting.  

Finally, the constant lugging. Women are incredibly adept at acquiring and then just asking "can you hold this for a minute" and two hours later you're carrying her purse, the shopping bags full of crap, leftovers whatever. You're loaded down, and you're expected to carry it, even over your objections. 

So at the end of the week I found myself carrying a purse, listening to the endless flow of communication of feelings, fashion sense, and physical complaints, looking at gewgaws, and lugging luggage that grew heavier by the purchase. I could only salute my heterosexual brethren in their duties to their women. Because, being a straight guy with a woman is a lot of work. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Military Eavesdropping in Miami

For five years I lived in San Diego, California.  San Diego is unique in that the entire area is dotted with military bases. Military life infuses the culture, the way of life, the soul of the city.  Anywhere you live in the city, it is very likely one or more of your neighbors is either active military or some kind of military contractor.  Hence the sensitivity you acquire for the challenges military families face and an appreciation of what they do and the service they offer to the country.

The military presence in Miami is small, with the exception of the Southern Command in Doral, you can sometimes see the soldiers jogging shirtless along 36th street during the lunch hour. Not a bad sight. Of course there's fleet week....but that's more of a Lauderdale thing.  

Anyway, I was having breakfast at La Carreta on 8th street this morning and as I was being seated I saw this extremely attractive young man sitting at the table behind me. He may have been in his mid to late twenties. He was with an older gentleman, father perhaps, and he was talking about is experiences since returning from Afghanistan.  I could only catch bits and pieces of his conversation but he became very emotional about his "homecoming".  The one thing that struck him, were his experiences in college since he returned. He said: "people don't thank me for my service, the first thing they ask me about my experiences in Afghanistan was how many people I killed." His handsome brow wrinkles in frustration. " I mean I can understand a 10 year old asking that kind of question, but adults?" His eyes mist, he excuses himself and goes to the restroom. 

At that point I teared up too. I could see this young man in pain, that he could be my son, or anyone's son. He  volunteered his life, freedom so that we could have ours.  How have we as a society, become so insensitive to the sacrifices that our veterans, which walk among us in our own tropical urban jungle, make for us.  I can't remember feeling such shame for my fellow Americans who have caused this guy so much pain. 

There is an etiquette for asking people about their military service.  It's simple: Thank you, thank you, thank you, for your service. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Hurray. Gentrification is here. Mid-Century Modern meets the next century.

Well, I guess it was just a matter of time before it got here. Like a warm breeze creeping up from downtown. sweeping away adult bookstores, prostitutes and dive motels, gentrification has finally arrived to the area between 50th to 79th streets on Biscayne Boulevard.  The vanguards of this movement Starbucks, UVA 69 and Starbucks all seem very established now, less hipster, more chic and middle age. 

The coolest part of the living here is the diversity. Haitians, Anglos, Argentinos and Jewish families all seem to dot the area. Brazilians, Europeans and New Yorkers are moving in at a rapid pace. The area is friendly by Miami standards.

I guess the first clue that the neighborhood was changing were the older white people. Not the usual homeless types, but spry ones, taking morning constitutionals and evening strolls to the cafes and restaurants up and down the street. Another sign were the chic young mothers with strollers, not waiting for the bus, but power walking to Baywood, Legion and Morningside Parks.  Then I knew it was just a matter of time. 

Of course with the gentrification there is construction and demolition. Slowly, old structures are coming down. A new bank is planned for 69th street and a new shopping plaza is going up on 62nd. (Rumor has it that Michelle Bernstein and Steven Perricone are opening up a new place there.)  Motels are renting spaces to restaurateurs such as Blue Collar in the Bayside Inn and Red Light in the Motel Bleu. Fancy food and rooms by the evening of fun.  Of course the gays want a say too, Eros is the new gay bar and so on.   

The usual suspects of gentrification are in play. Gay men who resurrected the neighborhoods of Morningside and Bellemeade from severe urban decay in the mid 80's have long since cashed out of those neighborhoods and have been replaced by very affluent couples who can afford private schools and want a short commute to downtown. In both neighborhoods old Miami mansions are sprouting wings as the wealthy vie for limited waterfront property that is just 10 minutes north of downtown. To accommodate the new bourgeoisie Cushman School has bought up several blocks adjacent to the school on 61st street and closed down the liquor store. 

Still there are some remnants of  the bad old days.  Hookers still ply their trade day and night and the motels still seem to be hotbeds of iniquity, which is usually a plus for any area that claims it's gentrifying. These are always going to be touchstones of what came before.  So when you see same old hookers working the street you remember the "bad old days" hanging out at the liquor store on 61st or picking up a porn at the adult video store that used to be on 71st.  It's good to keep a little of the old grit to remind us that we were once young and carefree. 

Despite all the change, the Mimo district still has quaint tree lined neighborhoods with Spanish and Mediterranean revival homes. Small bodegas still sell cafecitos and lottery tickets. There are still plenty of poor. Just remember if you move into the area, don't complain if a hooker is using your bushes for "business".