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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

State of Gayness in 2014

Based on personal experience, gay men execute weddings flawlessly. 
Well, it's time we look at the year in review and see what gayness 2014 looks like.  Pivotal changes that redefines gaydom as we know it. 

1. Gay Marriage: Well, many states, 25 to be exact, legalized gay marriage following the heels of the Supreme court decision. In total 35 states now allow for gays and lesbians the freedom to marry any person they choose.  Still there are 15 states to go. 
Yes, this is a "thing".
2. "Peak Beard" for straight men and gay men, 2014 was the year of "peak beard".  Facial hair has been exalted and hirsute men can rejoice.  A complete pendulum swing from shaven, boy look of the past and the future. 
"Excuse me, where is the restroom?"
3. Freedom to Gender Express yourself. Be a girl on the inside, be a boy on the outside or any combination thereof.  Gender Expression is now protected under the Miami-Dade Human Rights Ordinance. Despite the whole icky "bathroom rape" scenarios brought on by the religious right. I've used the ladies room plenty of times when the men's room was locked.

80's much?
4. "Shaven Pompadour" or the "reverse mullet" the new gay clone look for 2014.  The mullet is short on the sides, long on the top and back, The shaven pompadour is short on the sides and long on the top and in the front. Important to have one lock covering one's eye. Product is a must. 

5. Cross fit. Cult of fitness? I won't say too much about this, but it looks like a conspiracy between personal trainers, chiropractors and Lulu Lemon to make a LOT of money doing amazingly unsafe calisthenics. Not denying it works....especially if you believe that beauty is attained through pain and danger. Combined with power protein concoctions you're gonna look and feel great.

6. Ambiguously gay, gay ambiguity reigns in the millennial crowd. "Straight
Acting" to the front of the line please. No Fats, or Fems still a favorite GRNDR byline, especially among bottoms....self-hate much?

7. Truvada Whores.  Of course if you take a pill to prevent HIV.....you are a whore. If you wear a condom you are a.....saint?  Sex shamers demand to control your sex life, want to take away personal choices for preventing HIV.....for fear you might enjoy sex "guilt free".  What's wrong with a little condomless guilt free sex? Well, it could be like the 70's all over again....whores in bell bottoms? Well that would be bad, wouldn't it?

8. Gay Cruising....on the ship kind of cruising, not the Al Pacino "Cruising".   Whether you're doing the "SS Bathouse", "Loveboat" or with your aging mother
on Celebrity Cruises. Cruising(on ships) has taken the gays by storm. Even if you go on a "straight" cruise, there's always a "Friends of Dorothy" happy hour.  You can always find the gays at the martini bar or sauna if you don't know where to look. 
How romantic?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Coral Gables Congregational Church Restricts Internet for Members, "City of Coral Gables denies permit for a pillory in front of church" (Faith Less, Faith Lost Series, update)




Pastor Laurie at Gay Pride: A "good" witch? 
"No matter where you are in your spiritual journey, you are welcome here." is the tag line of United Church of Christ and the Coral Gables Congregational Church. The UCC is part of the original denomination that entertained the Salem Witch Trials. It's clear in 2014, it hasn't strayed too far from its roots.  Recent events, specifically a post written by this blogger, has forced the church to review the internet activities of its members and force leadership to sign a promise not to write anything negative about the church in blogs, Facebook or personal webpages.

Since approximately one third of its 600 members are on various boards and committees, they are now restricted from expressing themselves freely on the internet. The church leadership was quite swift in it's punishment of this author after writing a mild criticism of poor sermons by un-mentored new pastors and its blatant cultural insensitivity towards Latinos in it's alteration of it's long standing baptism policies. http://miamiafter40.blogspot.com/2014/09/faith-less-seven-year-itch-to-leave-my.html

Spouse! From now on please refrain from blogging about CGCC!

Apparently, barraging dissenting members with negative emails questioning their Christian faith, demanding spouses turn on each other "for the unity of the church" and forcing members to shun offenders is not enough.  One church leader demanded that the spouse of said blogger "take away his internet privileges." All through this the Senior Pastor, Laurinda Hafner sat in silence as leadership attacked both this blogger and his spouse.  The Senior Pastor decided to "break covenant" with our family, which according to sources, is some serious pastoral shit when it happens.

That being written, I can't express the pain that writing that blog has caused my family. My father and his family ,who are still members of the church, were upset with me for not expressing my opinions "tactfully".  The pain was especially acute for my husband, who was the "leader" of the church, who was forced to resign his leadership position over my blog post. Subsequently he was shunned by leadership and members. As recently as last week a few members asked him not to tell the church that they had wished him a happy birthday. Really, you have to hide birthday wishes to a person who you prayed next to for the last eight years? In my opinion don't even bother sending wishes at all.

Furthermore, I never realized the extent emotional entanglements that being part of a faith community entails. Family, friends, business colleagues can all be connected through church.  The subsequent awkwardness when you've chosen to leave, or they've chosen for you to leave is half pain and relief to see if they will retain the relationship or not. The hardest part are the ones who remained silent through our grief and are vaguely aware that "something is happening" but prefer not engage for fear of repercussions from church leadership.
Covenants break too.....

Finally, the holidays.  I can't express the sadness caused by loss of a faith community during the Holidays.  Thanksgiving dinner was peppered with questions about church. Lamenting losing the traditions of Candlelight services on Christmas Eve, which no church does better than Coral Gables Congregational. The fact I won't be sitting with my Dad after 20 Christmases together at that church is heartbreaking on so many levels.

 I do take responsibility for my actions. I couldn't in good faith go to an institution which showed it's true colors when I questioned the church, it's policies and it's pastor. A church that shuns, bullies and punishes members "who have stepped out of line".  Now it prevents dissent by censoring members, this confirms that the decision I made to leave was the right one.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Anger Management

From Here
At some point in your life you realize that you have issues. Hopefully not a whole lot of issues, but at least a few that might make you lose an hour or two of sleep here and there or might make you want to buy a gun and run around naked pointing it at people and asking the question "who's laughing now?"  However at this age your issues tend to be in the "losing sleep" category not in the "naked gun toting" category.  

I came to the realization that maybe I should see a therapist because I was pissed all the time. So pissed that I was physically tired, exhausted, even depressed a little. Don't get me wrong, I've go a lot reasons to be pissed off, they may be small and insignificant, but really they add up. For example yesterday I saw a Russian tourist opening all the jars at Costco.....which pissed me off because A. they were Russian and I watched Red Dawn last week (the original) and they invaded Ukraine. Ugh,,,,ruined my whole day. If fact, there are a lot of shenanigans that go on at Costco, like line cutters,  cart thieves (I actually had someone try to take my cart),  last sample food item grabbers (one per customer please)....I could go on and on. 

So even a simple visit to a big box warehouse store is fraught with minefields that can set me off. Last month I decided to go into therapy and stop being pissed.  So the first thing I learned is that I don't have an anger management issue. Why?: because the court did not order me to be there. Which is great, because I have a fascination with mug shots ( you can find them online and post comments on them) and I worry that mine might make me look bad. I do have a mugshot out there, but it was done in the 80's so fortunately it hasn't made it online. but if you find it....post it here. 

So I love my therapist, she's  this very cool lesbian, which was a deliberate choice. I have issues with women, straight men, and I'd try to hard too impress a gay man....so there's not a lot of baggage tied up with a lesbian therapist.  I like her because she yells affirmations at me like "you need to deal with your shit" and  "stop fooling yourself". Which is what I need, because affirmations are always best delivered by an tough lesbian than some milquetoast gay man who shuts down when I don't use "my indoor voice".  Kind of like affirmations from my favorite Facebook Page: Skeletor is Love. https://www.facebook.com/skeletorislove

So I've learned I only have two emotions: happiness and pissed off.  I'm not saying that I'm not happy", but apparently there are a whole bunch of emotions that I could be feeling other than "pissed off" I'm trying to put words to them other than murderous, histrionic, and "get the fuck away from me".  I'm looking for more subtle grades of emotions, so I can express "fuck you" in a calm and sensible "adult" manner.  

So change is in the air folks.  Soon all my interactions will be calm and measured. I will not give into anger. I'll breezily walk by the whiny New York hipster, complaining that Miami is not "New York with better weather." I'll ignore the brickbats thrown at me by family and strangers alike. I will breathe, release and smile.  I will get a prescription for Xanax.  No more anger. No more anger. rinse, repeat.

To here......





Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Miami after 40 (but I'm lying and saying I'm 50)

So I know the title of my blog is Miami After 40, but my birthday is coming soon and I realize I'll be just three years shy of the big FIVE - O.  So I've been testing the reactions of people when I say I'm 50. Which to this point has been great. Of course I don't really act 50, but I do strive to act at least 40 which out of my over 4 decades on this planet, the time after 40 has been the most fun. 

My most recent experiment was at Haulover Beach. Which in case you don't know is a "naturist" beach. The naked truth of the matter is that if you're naked, it is the small lies that can be told to help you keep a small shred of dignity.  Also, by 50 you should have dignity down pat.  So I'm hanging out waist deep in the ocean, excuse all the puns, and a very cute very 34 year old Colombian started chatting me up. He was from Medellin, some kind of government worker pretty in the way only Colombian men can be. We chatted about the weather, the surf, and he asked my age......

"50, cinquenta," I replied in Spanish. A broad grin crossed his face, he wore braces.
 No really, braces, I really felt dirty. 

"Ay Papi, mejor todavia". I know this is lost in translation, but "oh Daddy, that's even better" is just what an aging gay man wants to hear at the nudist beach, or the spa, or just about anywhere. Coming from a cute young man with braces, my flagging self-esteem was restored.

I'm going to comfort myself in the belief that in Latino culture, a "man of a certain age" is considered "sexy".

The next "50 bomb" I dropped was at a Critical Mass bike ride last month. It was a long ride and towards the end I split off to go home. A young guy came up to me and mentioned my bike and asked how often I worked out. He then asked my age.....I hesitated....then said 50 .  "Wow Dude, you look awesome."  I am glad he didn't finish that sentence with the demoralizing "....for fifty". So it's going well, 50 seems almost magical at this point.

It's good because most things are "baked in" by 50. I don't know if my ass will fall any farther in the next three years, or that crows feet will set-in if I don't start moisturizing. I am at the point where making big changes are starting to feel a bit "too late in the game" and truthfully I don't want to make them.  My favorite aspect of the backside of 40 is just the resiliency, stuff is going to happen, but I know I'll get through it. Saying "late 40s"seems kinda sad....it's like being a "tweener" too old for some stuff, but too young for other, better things.  I can hardly wait to start writing my "Miami after 50" blog. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Green is the new black, a visit to the Women's Prison Camp in Coleman

I figure at some time in your life someone you know or care about winds up in prison. If you're lucky it's not you.  So last weekend I hiked up to Coleman FL, to visit a relative who unfortunately got herself caught in a Medicare fraud dragnet and found herself doing a long stint in the pokey. 

Now she is family so I feel weird about her absence. Having someone close to you in the hoosegow is definitely weird.  It feels like they had a small death. I mean you go through all the usual grieving because they've gone away. However, they're still in your life through phone calls, internet and family gossip. Also, you're a bit angry that they got caught up in some kind of criminal activity. However you want to forgive, and give the benefit of the doubt as well. 

So I went up to the Federal Correctional Complex in Coleman Florida. Weirdly, I knew where it was because I have some clients in Leesburg and Bunnell. When I passed the complex the first time I was pretty sure I'd never drive by there again. It is one of the largest correctional facilities in the U.S. and it reminds me of a corporate park, with razor wire.  My relative is in the women's "camp" which is a minimum security prison. There are no guards, just a few rent-a-cop security types.  Prisoners can walk away if they want, but the cost would be double their sentence doing "hard time" in a state prison.  

So we arrived and I filled out the form and waited outside for an hour. The security guard was a jerk, barking orders at the visitors. No one wearing tight clothes or sandals were allowed in.  Why? No idea. The guard would come out every so often and wave people in to the complex. He was happy to scowl. We were searched and metal detected before we were allowed into the visiting room. Which was stupid, since I could have just walked around and gone in an unlocked side door.  


Turns out the whole complex is like a large community college. Prisoners run the system mostly and there are a few administrative folks and a warden.  There is a factory that makes office furniture, inmates assemble, sell and deliver the merchandise all over the country. They are paid five dollars a day. With that money they buy internet, phone time and personal effects.  They wear smart olive green uniforms and scurry
across the campus with purpose. When they are not scurrying, they can work out, join a sport team, sew or watch TV.   The workout clothes are the grey shirts and shorts like we wore in gym class in high school
Like this, but not as hot....work boots, not heels.

My relative waited for us in the large visitor room. Children scampered in and out of the play room. Lots of hugs, some tears. Prisoners were busily chatting up their families for gossip and news.  Most of the ladies were young, under 40.  Many were very attractive. The majority were Hispanic and African American. Mostly from Miami.  

I did feel a lot of hopefulness. The prisoners, the families, the young lovers were all smiling holding hands. They talked about their work at the office furniture factory, the different activities at the camp. We were introduced to bunk mates. Then it was time to go. Which was fine, it's a long way from Miami. However, since most of the prisoners I saw and met were from here, it wasn't. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Faith, Less, Faith Lost: Fake People (Last in a series)

Who's the "real" Dad?
When my husband I were raising our son we often were referred to as the "gay" Dads.   Which is fine because I am proud to be both. What always amazed me was the curiosity that people had as for which one of us was the "real" parent.  Very often after we introduced ourselves people would make this remark.  Of course if there is a "real" parent, then by order of elimination there would have to be a "fake parent" as well. If there is a "fake" parent, does that mean they get a free pass from PTA? Does the "fake" parent just do the fun stuff regarding parenting like Christmas and Birthday cake? Are they exempt from having to sit at the pediatrician's office or worse, the principal?

I find this to be a recurring theme about gay "acceptance" as well. This idea of real and fake.  I mean in asking about relationships people commonly ask: "who is the woman in your relationship?"  Which of course implies that there needs to be some dynamic regarding penetration, dominance, and some other hetero-normative values. Of course gay culture doesn't diffuse these questions either because gay men (like some straight men) can take Halloween drag to extremes. Then of course are the gender-bending sensibilities that gay men embrace with gusto such as decorating, arts, fashion which until recently were strictly the domain of women and a few effete hetero men.

Those gay boys, so "plastic"
So that brings me to the idea that in general, society sees gay men to some degree as "fake" men. Too often gay men and their female allies address gay men as "boys" or "gay boys" regardless of age and accomplishment.  Too often people can't understand how homosexual men arrange their lives to suit their penises which is probably different for everyone else, I'm not sure.  What I am sure of is that outside of our professional endeavors we are often seen as a bit two dimensional, one of those dimensions being our sexuality the other being our "immaturity." I mean in America, work is work and you're usually judged on how much, or the quality of your work. I work in sales, I make quota, who cares who I sleep with, it's the one place where I'm not "fake". That is a huge advantage we have as Americans. If it's an issue for you, take it up with the Human Resources Dept.

I think where we are considered "fake" is in our new marriages. I remember when I was sixteen and got my new driver's license, my older brother said "what you think you can just take the car a drive around now?"  Yes, that's exactly what it meant. However in his eyes, I was still his little brother he had to drive around.  I think to some degree straight people might still have that attitude. "What, you've been legally married for six months and you think you know about marriage?" is an attitude I'm encountering. Granted we've been together for 19 years and raised a son but those years "in sin" don't count do they? I remember when my former church had a big "gay" wedding and a church member asked me when I would have a "real" wedding at the church? At that point I had been legally married for six years.

Earlier this month I decided to leave my "progressive" church, Coral Gables Congregational.  The Church Council decided the best course of action was to discuss with my husband, the church moderator, that he take away my internet privileges and take down my blog....without my consent. He was asked to "distance himself from me publicly but support me privately". Words like "proper contrition" and "denunciation"were suggested as possible measures. All this from a church that claims "An Extravagant Welcome." I have seen the emails. The senior pastor was copied on several days of emails, and even after my husband resigned as leader of the church, the demands continued.  At several points that week we asked ourselves if this would happen to a straight couple. I mean could a wife or husband in 21st century America really deny their spouse access to the internet or "distance themselves publicly, while supporting them privately". At this point I realized that to the heterosexual council members we were "fake" people.  That somehow we were not whole or real and our relationship and marriage were not real either. Or the council members who proposed this were just douche-bags which I feel is another, very real, possibility.

So, in conclusion. Gay men, don't sell yourselves short. Being called and calling each other "boy" is really demeaning on so many levels that if you think about it, should make you angry. It adds to our "fake" identity as men.  As for everyone else you might think what I have in terms of love and relationships as some kind of(fake) pale imitation of what you have. That gay men are somehow people with "special needs" who want coddling in some kind of "open and affirming" program.  May be, maybe not....but we're not fake. Our struggles are very real, and in a lot of ways, more "real" that what any straight relationships might go through.




Monday, September 22, 2014

A GAY MIAMI SWIM TEAM. Yes, Nadadores of South Florida, Celebrating 20 years of Chlorination.





In this era of gay rights successes, marriage equality and openly gay Olympians why would Miami, or any city for that matter, need a gay Masters swim team.  I mean the landscape for LGBT men and women has changed so much that anyone of any orientation should be able to walk on a pool deck or beach and jump in. Why do you need a Gay Swim Team?

As Team Captain I'd like to say "you are truly welcome here!" We invite people of all swimming abilities from former Olympians to doggie paddlers.  Our program accommodates everyone. We welcome all body types, which is important, because too often I hear people staying away from swimming, or life, because they feel they don't look good in a bathing suit.  We strive for friendliness and camaraderie. You will not be a stranger with us!  

Firstly I'd like to thank John Roe and John Olsen for setting up the team 20 years ago. Mr. Roe was really quite understated about the foundation of the team and really just started it because he wanted to make his job more interesting at the Scott Rakow Youth Center in Miami Beach.   He was dealing with kids all day and thought adding an adult masters team would make things a bit interesting. Knowing other swimmers was helpful, but at the time South Beach was at it's gay peak and he advertised for swimmers in the personal sections of local gay magazines such as Hotspots and Wire. 

Guys showed up and a swim team was born. The name Nadadores was chosen because it reflected the diversity of South Florida and the team's slogan "Go Nads!" is a double entendre was not lost on anyone. Throughout the years the team has competed in international competition in Sydney, Copenhagen, Chicago, Paris, Reykjavik, Cologne and Cleveland.  Several members of the team compete nationally, Cory Welch  qualified for the past Olympic trials in breaststroke and is ranked 1 in the world in Masters breaststroke. 

Miami's bathing beauties....
What do we offer? We offer professional coaching, group and private swim lessons and a good time. Practices occur at an excellent swim facility or join us for our weekly ocean swim on Sundays. Please visit our website at http://www.nadadores.org/.

So how "gay" is our team. Well, is anything as gay as it used to be?  The team boasts a monthly roster of about 80 people. They hail from all over the world and the U.S.  Are they mostly gay? No, the days of us being exclusively gay are long gone. There are plenty of guys and gals on the team, but we don't ask, but if we find out we will tell. Couples have met on the team, and we have officially two marriages to our credit, one straight, one gay.

Having fun in this year's suits!
So getting back to the original premise of the "why" for a "gay" swim team.  Truthfully we could say it's about needing a safe space, or a comfort zone, or a "birds of a feather" experience.  However as LGBT community becomes more integrated, the need for such things is fading away.  What is needed however is a group of people can share a passion for something outside of themselves. To spend an hour submerged splashing around, burning an amazing amount of calories with really nice people. That's what the Nadadores of South Florida is about. It's about fun, fitness and competition. 

NO MATTER WHAT YOUR SWIMMING ABILITY, YOU ARE WELCOME TO JOIN US.

Come celebrate 20 years of fun with us a Noche Nadadores!  Thank you Miami for making us a success!



Monday, September 15, 2014

Faith, Less. Faith Lost. An apology to Coral Gables Congregational Church.


What my faith looks like today.


The Apology

I'd like state unequivocally that I am sorry. I do have a bad habit of trying to be truthful. It's hard and often I fail. I have to remember that my truth is not everyone's truth and that I am also a coward at times and hold back, until I just get so frustrated that I vent my truths like diarrhea all over the internet.  I'd like to apologize to all the "newly minted" pastors of Coral Gables Congregational Church.  I could have vented my frustration with each of you personally and instead of just sitting in the pew and smiling my fake smile, I could have shared my concern for you and for the church. At least you might have known you had at least one critic who felt that you had a bit to go before you "nailed it." Which I sincerely hope all of you do one day. I do want you to know that I tried to address this in committee and with church leaders but nobody really wanted to talk to me about it.

I apologize to my husband. Honey I'm sorry my actions caused you to suffer. If it had been different I would have taken  the heat for my actions. I deeply, deeply apologize for the pain that others inflicted on you on my behalf.  You are a gentleman and far more loving and Christian than those who claim to act in Christ's name. 

Losing My Faith on 9/11/2014

So I lost my faith last week. On Wednesday, September 11 to be exact.  It was on life support the week before, and thought my blogpost was a "cry for help" so to speak. http://miamiafter40.blogspot.com/2014/09/faith-less-seven-year-itch-to-leave-my.html I thought my church would say "hey, let's save his poor, scrawny faith, I mean he's on the internet, whining about it."  So the faith 911 went out and the associate pastors and senior pastor contacted me. One actually dropped everything a came and talked to me, let me vent, which was cool. I booked meetings with the other two pastors. This is where things started coming off the rails.  Well, I guess both of them were looking for contrition and a "take back". I didn't want to give a non-apology, apology, because I really do stand by my "truths." 

I promised that the conversations I had with them would remain confidential.  The talks I had with them were unproductive and I guess the hurt I caused blinded them to any explanation I had tried to put up. Which in all honesty was probably lame.  I'm saddened that being called "culturally insensitive" and "second rate" are accusations that warranted the ensuing sturm und drang.    At that point I seriously realized that pastors are really human and don't take criticism very well. My mistake, I had been blinded by my own weakening faith, and belief that these pastor people were something stronger, with god on their side and all. 
What fun, a conga line of unicorns!


A Faith Trampled to death to the tune of Miami Sound Machine's "Conga".

I look at the corpse of my faith and it smells. Tuesday night I had this nightmare that my faith was bound and being stomped on by a conga line of church council members. They were dancing to some stupid psuedo-latin tune played by that has-been band Miami Sound Machine. Since then I've actually gotten nauseous when I hear them on the radio.  I can't figure it out, but suddenly I absolutely hate that band with a passion.

Unicorns

So, yeah I'm leaving. I'm leaving on advice of friends and family. Every Sunday the pastors state the following: "No matter where you are in your faith journey, you are welcome here."  "You don't need to check your mind at the door."  "We are an Open and Affirming Church".   Sadly, those sentiments, god,  and  belief in unicorns are all about the same to me. 




Sunday, September 7, 2014

Faith, Less. A Seven Year Itch to Leave My Church.

For the first 18 years of Sundays of my life, I was yanked out of bed and told to I was going to church.  As I became a pre-teen and adolescent Sunday mornings were a time of strife, anger and punishment.  We were never allowed to stay home. Once we were there we sat in uncomfortable pews, listened to cryptic sermons,  and if all went well we would be home by noon and free to whatever we wanted for the rest of the day. I can't say I enjoyed the experience, nor did I hate it...too much. I just never really saw the point. 

Fast forward 20 years, on an assignment from work I was sent to Coral Gables Congregational Church to look for volunteers to fight an anti-gay initiative I was working to defeat. My father was a long-time member. I was instantly taken by this wonderful new pastor, Laurie Hafner.  I never realized what charisma meant until I met her. Sweet and soft spoken, a radiant smile, smart expensive pumps, I was sold. Before I left that first day, Laurie asked me if I could "find more gays for the church."   I ran home and told my husband what a great feeling I had at the Church and that he should come the following Sunday.  Already I had my first recruit. 

So almost eight years later I'm trying to figure out at what point that I started "losing my religion."  I've often extolled the power of collective action of organized religion to do good. Great art, music, architecture and ideas have been the product of organized religion. I think balanced against the dark downsides of organized faith (the Middle East and Catholic sex scandals can give some recent contemporary examples) I think its a wash. 

So why am I so disillusioned with a church that is so progressive in its thinking? A church that sees dignity in everyone regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. etc..  A church that says to a gay man "go find more of you, and make them feel welcome".  A church, that on its surface, seems as diverse as the community it serves. I guess these are my reasons.

Firstly and foremost is my difficulty in believing in all the "supernatural" occurrences that happen in the Bible. My church doesn't ask me to believe in it, but I feel a bit fake talking to Christians who actually believe in that stuff. I call myself a Christian, but do I believe he was resurrected? Or in the Virgin birth? Or the parting of the Red Sea? no I don't. I know it's fable and allegory meant to teach us a lesson. That I understand.  However do I need a lesson in Noah's Ark to understand global warming? No, I don't.  Don't even get me started on rainbows. 

Secondly, I see as the church becomes more successful, I see the institution changing for it's own efficiency as staff is wont to do.  For example, our church no longer baptizes children whose families are not members of our church.  When I first heard about this last year, I heard staff complaints that the groups of parents were "loud", "that they left the sanctuary a mess","Not serious about the sacrament." and my favorite: "just another excuse to have a party."  To me this says that the staff needs some cultural sensitivity training. It seems that those of us who grew up in Hispanic cultures understand that parties are a way to celebrate family and unity. Or you can do it the Presbyterian way: go home after the baptism and watch Sunday football, like we did after my brothers baptism.  

Sadly, the senior pastor made her argument that denying baptisms is best for the church because we have no clue what happens to those kids after they're baptized. Also that those baptisms ring hollow, because those parents aren't members and are having a party.  So the church's "extravagant welcome" really applies to "members only."

Thirdly, me being a loud insensitive being, I've collected a few "non-friends" over the years. There was the lady who I called fat, who got me back this year because my new belly (brought on by my diabetic medication) was showing, and she gleefully called me fat back. Years of church gossip, innuendo sometime small, sometimes more, bleed you like a thousand paper cuts. You stop wanting to extend yourself, because of laziness, fear or boredom. Also, with a congregation of 500, you just get tired of some people. 

Finally, I've just found other things that I find more interesting. Brunch with friends, riding my bike. Watching TV.  A parade of newly minted pastors giving second rate sermons is not a valuable use of my time. I understand that they need learn and grow, but why at my expense?  I mean once a pastor has done five or six bad sermons isn't it time to say, hey, maybe you might try something else? Sermons are not your thing. I go to hear charismatic Laurie Hafner, her brilliant sermons and excellent delivery. Nothing drains your energy like a poor public speaker...at first you feel sad for them, then you're just annoyed.  It's like I am an adolescent all over again, anxiously waiting to get out and have Sunday to myself again. 



Monday, August 25, 2014

Materialistic Miami

So recently I've become intrigued with connection between Miami and materialism.   A recent perusal of my own past blog posts do allude to a certain "shallowness" that epitomizes my hometown. So I decided to do some casual research, talk to friends, ask strangers, internet searches to shed some light on this opinion that people have about us. So here is what I found.

Firstly I asked people if they thought Miami was "materialistic" if they agreed, if yes then why. 

Most of my female friends said Miami was materialistic because the Latina girls look at you weird if you don't wear makeup and look nice. One anglo friend stated "it's like I have to wear shoes and lipstick just to go to work, I want to be judged by my mind" I didn't have the heart to tell her that her mind would be much more appreciated if she tried to make the case it came in look better. On the internet I read a few similar complaints by women as well. The pressure to "look nice" was considered "shallow." and "difficult."  

So here's my take. I just spent a week working in Indianapolis. I work in the medical field selling to nurses. I can say without a doubt the term "sexy nurse" has not reached Indianapolis yet. In offices where I went "business casual" gave up the "business" side of casual in 1987 and died there. I also saw the worst hair I've ever seen. I can say people in Indy were not "shallow" because, at first glance, they really didn't care much about their appearance, or perhaps they did and "disheveled" was the look.  Zoolander's "Derilicte" came to mind. However, if looking your best is "shallow" and looking like an extra from "Rosanne" is "not shallow" I think I prefer shallow.  Of course appearance should be accompanied by a nice purse, shoes and outfits.....so for women, Miami is a forcefully shallow place.

I often forget: looking your best often = shallow = bad person.   Being disheveled and plain = non-shallow = good person. Therefore Miami is full of bad, shallow people. Indianapolis is not shallow, because appearances don't matter as much? Hence it and its environs are full of deep, thoughtful people. 

For men Miami materialism is also linked to appearance and that giant extension of ones penis: your vehicle. Miami has a car culture for sure. According to Forbes magazine 14% of all vehicles purchased in Miami were considered "luxury" vehicles. By comparison, Los Angeles and New York had luxury purchase rates of 12% and 11% respectively. This is compounded by the fact that Miami's median income is about $5,000 less than either city.  So driving a nice car is a priority in Miami.  I have lot of theories for that, firstly a lot of young Latino professionals stay home till they're married, so buying the Beemer for $200 more a month is no big deal if you're not planning to pay rent until you're in your mid 30s.  This trend is not limited to men of course, but once you've driven a luxury car for awhile its hard to go back to a Corolla. (Full disclosure: I have two BMWs) I don't consider myself "shallow" I just love cars. However if my car preferences undo all the good things I've done, so be it.

I could ponder about our "materialism" wondering perhaps that a playground of the rich and famous might have something to do with it, or perhaps the deprivation of luxury vehicles in Latin America (too conspicuous, bad roads, extremely high import duties). Perhaps just a cultural norm to look your best in any occasion, maybe we just want to feel sexy(shallow?) all the time.  I am sure there a lot of factors related to class, culture, ethnic background that make Miamians want to strut like all the feral Peacocks that wander the metropolis. I can see how "looking your best, as much as possible" would intimidate people who feel that first impressions or optimal grooming aren't important.

Looking good might be shallow. Driving a nice car might be materialistic. However in hot climate like Miami's would you really want it any other way? Really, if you want to look ironically plain or unkempt go to Brooklyn or Portland. At least there you can cover it all with a coat and a scarf or something. But don't come here complaining that you "need to look good" to make it here, because yes, that is one of our social norms. You might call it shallow, we call it good grooming.







Monday, August 11, 2014

NYT Reporter Pamela Druckerman Spends Two Weeks in Miami Shopping and Swimming, then declares "it's just Semi-intellectual."

I saw dolphins frolicking in Biscayne Bay this mornng off Baywood Park. I was thinking how I could reply to Pamela Druckerman's diss by the New York Times about Miami.  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/10/opinion/sunday/miami-grows-up-a-little-.html . They were happy to run the piece because the NYT has never seen an anti-Miami screed that it didn't publish.  Let's be clear, Druckerman hasn't lived here since High School.  She apparently wrote down some childhood memories, did a Google search about the arrival of Cuban exiles and shopped and swam a lot. She apparently didn't have any interesting conversations with anyone, spoke to a professor of urban studies named Richard Florida, from....Toronto....about Miami, who has decided that Miami hasn't found it's space "of ideas and brains."

Druckerman, who lives in Paris and has great concern for wealth inequality was quick to maintain that Miami is "materialistic" unlike wherever she currently resides. She didn't give examples of what she meant, but I assume she means hard work, rewarded by money and nice things is a bad thing. She was quick to point out our wealth inequality (a resort town that caters to the wealthy generally has that effect) and how Miamians just blithely "drive by the poor" unlike the French who exile them to suburbs named Banilieue. Ms Druckerman apparently cares about the poor and occasionally tries to talk to her Miami friends about it. (It's not mentioned anywhere else in her body of work.)

So I imagine Pamela came to Miami, probably South Miami, hung out with some suburban friends who went shopping with her at Dadeland and Merrick Place.  She made her South Miami friends drive her north of Flagler Street (which few suburbanites ever do, unless they live in Doral) to Wynwood, saw the cool murals, walked into a gallery which was new and "hip". New Yorkers never go to Coral Gables galleries because A. they're too expensive and sell "established" artists that show in New York and Paris. B. They can see all those artists in New York and Paris anyway.

Then Pamela perused the New Times or Miami Magazine and noticed that there were a lot of ads for personal trainers and plastic surgery. Nothing against either occupation, but it's work and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, unless you're Pamela Druckerman. FYI Pamela: New York and LA have a lot of personal trainers and plastic surgeons too.  She swam laps in her parent's pool, or at the South Miami JCC and returned to Paris. 

She spoke to no intellectuals based here, because they're "scattered around town" and didn't take the effort to drive 20 minutes to go see any of them.(Non rush hour traffic in Miami, everything is 20 minutes away....true).  I could go on about our local schools and their growth, but it wouldn't matter really, Pamela came here looking for vapid and she found it. She's Reece Witherspoon in the movie Sweet Home Alabama, finding that Miami is just a hick town full of shallow, albeit attractive, Cubans.   Be honest, Pamela Druckerman, you didn't find "intellectuals" because you really didn't look. I mean there are more than a few New York "intellectuals" "scattered around town" that you could have looked up, but you didn't bother. 

Pamela, perhaps you should check out all the new factories that the "materialistic" Venezuelans have put in all those warehouses west of the airport. All those Venezuelan engineers have brought a lot of manufacturing expertise from the now decrepit Venezuelan oil industry. But you wouldn't know that, because you didn't make the effort. In typical New York and Parisian style you came here to look down on us and were upset that Miamians don't care about New York or Paris except what comes off their fashion runways. She knocks the growth of new condos here, last I checked New York was chock-a-block with new luxury condos too.

Miami is what it is, a new global city. Vibrant, beautiful and exciting. A "Magic City" that turned a swamp, a beach and an airport into something amazingly cool. A hub of Latino moxie, energy and promise. All bathed in sunshine and fun. It's a shame you didn't see any of that. You never moved passed the Miami Vice version of Miami and you didn't even want to. 

Pamela, I never saw dolphins in Seine (or in the East River for that matter) and I never went looking for a beach in New York. You said you came to Miami hoping it wasn't "vapid", I can say if vapid were a true Miami trait, you are truly a Miamian. 






Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Defense of Gay Promiscuity in the Age of Marriage Equality and Truvada (a rant)

American style puritanism bubbles up in all kinds places. Who would've thought that the gay community is anguishing over a new tool to prevent HIV infection.  For those of you who don't know, a new drug named Truvada, if taken according to a doctor's orders, will reduce the rate of HIV infection by 95%.  The regimen, known as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PreP), is a once daily pill.  The idea of PreP is angering AIDS activists, public health officials and busybodies everywhere.  All three groups believe that gay men will become whores and sluts if they take this pill. 

AIDS activists tend to be angry by nature, so to see them upset at any new pharmaceutical breakthrough in the HIV epidemic is to be understood. They tend to meet pharmaceutical "wonder drugs" with a healthy dose of skepticism. Big Government dragged its feet in the early part of the epidemic, Big Pharma cashed in with wonder drugs that saved millions of lives. While wiping out plenty of (gay) guinea pigs in the process.  The high price of those drugs were mostly subsidized by Americans in the form of the Ryam White Care act and high costs to insurers for HIV meds.  Big pharmaceutical companies did very well during this epidemic, and I'm sure they'll do well in the next one.  In my opinion AIDS activists always fear that a preemptive cure, like a vaccine, will leave them to rot on the vine, like polio victims after a vaccine was invented. 

Public Health Officials bemoan the failures of behavior modification programs, to help gay men reduce their risk......by giving up sex altogether.  I was once approached by a group of CDC researchers who asked me "what can we do to get gay men to stop having sex?"  It was a serious question, brought up by serious men, who thought there could be a cure through some magic behavior change therapy.  Sadly, 500,000 deaths show that not even the threat of death can make people give up that intrinsically human activity of sex. I totally get why the public health establishment is worried. Once more the "medical model" has trumped the failure of public health in the late 20th century. Behavior modification attempts around issues such as diabetes, and HIV have been dismal failures with 1 in 11 Americans with diabetes and over two million estimated infected with HIV.  In my opinion the enitre Public Health Establishment should do some serious soul searching on its giant failures in keeping this nation healthy. 

Finally the busybodies, who really piss me off.   First I'd like to say "fuck you" to any busybody who bemoans "a return to promiscuity" by gay men who take Truvada.  I'd like to say "fuck you" to anyone who thinks that insurance companies should not cover it. A prevention pill a day, is still cheaper than an HIV infection.  This idea that gay men can use a pill to control a fear, to make sex healthier, more enjoyable and less anxiety ridden is anathema to them. This is the exact same argument used against women who take birth control.   This idea to bemoan a hedonistic orgy for those on Truvada is sad and counter productive. Firstly, sex never went away despite declining condom use and increasing HIV infections. Sorry busybodies, there were gay orgies before, during and probably after the HIV epidemic. I remember the busybodies upset that ads for HIV regimens made people look too "healthy" and "active" and carefree and not portray HIV positive men as sickly victims.  These are the sex shamers, who feel the purpose of sex should be to make your long-term monogamous relationship better or whatever.  The ones who are ashamed to use the term anal sex and admit in same sentence that it feels awesomely good for all involved. So against promiscuity? then shut down GRNDR, bathhouses and sex clubs. Start some kind of sex police. The busybody's idea that "promiscuity" in gay men is so wrong, because gay men should be like our daughters? What is the actually number of sexual partners that define promiscuous?  More than one or less than 1000?  

To wrap it all up. I think Truvada is just one more tool that gay men can use to prevent HIV. It's advantages are as follows:
1. It forces gay men to have a conversation with a Doctor or Medical practitioner about HIV risk.
2. It encourages testing for HIV, because no doctor or Medical practitioner would prescribe Truvada without an HIV test first.
3. If a person is tested for HIV and is positive, they can get into treatment and hopefully reduce the spread if they are responsible, or if they're undetectable the likelihood of transmission is reduced if they continue unsafe behaviors. 
4. Finally any extra tool in the prevention arsenal is a good thing. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Bad Gays vs. Good Gays. The New Gay Fundamentalism



There was a time in the recent past when a "Bad Gay" was someone who perhaps didn't know who Cher was, or perhaps wore white pants two weeks after Labor Day.  Someone who was oblivious of the difference between a Mid-Century Modern, eclectic and just plain tacky.  Perhaps a gay that might wear last season's fashions, but without being ironic.

Today's "Bad Gay" is the gay that refuses to accept the new "Gay Fundamentalism". What is gay fundamentalism?  It's a combination of failed public health policy, sex shaming, body shaming bundled up with traditional gay marriage and practiced with the religious fervor of a Talibani.  It's about ensuring that if one person is not happy with the state of the gay world, nobody should be happy. It's about limiting personal choices about sex, protection, relationships and who should get good sex and who shouldn't.  You can see how the new morality plays out on episodes of HBO's "Looking" and in the incoherent rants in the comment sections on articles about Truvada.  http://www.out.com/news-opinion/2013/07/24/michael-lucas-comes-out-hiv-negative-sexually-active-man-prep


First let's encapsulate the new "gay fundies" commandments:

1. Your sole goal as a gay man should be to find a husband and get married, legally.  
2. You must be monogamous for life, because it works so well for straight people. 
3.Condoms every time you have sex for the rest of your life, even if you hate them.
4. Dating not hook-ups.  (at least say you're dating and then don't put a face pic on GRNDR).
5. Don't ever consider any new breakthroughs in HIV prevention, like Truvada (more effective than condoms in preventing HIV) because that means you're having sex for fun, not for the purpose of securing a relationship.(see #2)
6. Sex for fun is BAD! Sex should only be for the purpose of commandment #1.
7. "Bottom Shame" Never, ever admit you're a bottom.  If you are, always say it hurts...so much...and  say "ouch take it out."
8. If you're in a relationship and have a threesome, it means the relationship is fundamentally flawed and loveless. 
9. You are now a "person of size" and that's OK....but thin and muscular guys have to respect that and have sex with you or you'll whine that gym rats are only into each other. 
10. "Straight Acting only" Shun and deny any "feminine" qualities in yourself and other men. Refuse to be seen with a man with "feminine" qualities and say things like: "gurrrrl, she is such a nelly, not a butch top like me."
11. Thou shalt not be a gay Republican.
12. Say things like "I'm not THAT kind of gay, I'd never go to a Gay Pride Parade."

Obviously "Bad Gays" break these rules and are open to ridicule.  Shunning, cyber bullying, sex shaming occur to men who don't talk the talk or sashay the walk. There is a way to be gay and of course anyone who wants something other than a healthy happy long term relationship with a dog and two children is just wrong.  How dare you concentrate on career and fun before marriage? How dare you enjoy your body for yourself before giving it over, forever to that one perfect man for life.  How dare you be single and 40 and happy? How dare you enjoy being the receptive partner in anal sex, and do it with Truvada and not a condom? How dare a married gay couples go on a gay cruise and "play around" consensually with other adults?  You are all bad gays.

All those "bad gays" make the "good gays" look bad in the eyes of straight people, who don't want to be reminded that gay men are really a lot different than straight men, lesbians and women.

White, thin, "straight acting", top...




Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Old Miami vs. New Miami vs. Newer Miami

It's so nice that Miami has such a sweet short history. I mean a city that barely cracks 118 years old is like an adolescent to a city like, say Boston which will be 400 in a few years, or London which is close 2000 years of habitation.  Basically Miami is an embryo.  Which is a good thing, because with a city so new, you're actually living history, and you can see, in your own lifetime giant changes, and glimpses of the past that remain. Another cool thing is that our cultural institutions are living up to the promise of what great cities should have.  Things like the Miami City Ballet, the Grand Opera are world class. Our panapoly of professional sports teams should be the envy of any city striving for excellence.  So not to bore you any more here a few things that have changed since my family arrived back in the 19th Century.

Locals:
Old Miami:  "I was born in Dr. Jackson's medical shack on Brickell Ave." My Grandma.
New Miami: " I was born in Jackson Memorial Hospital" My dad.
Newer Miami "I was born in Cuba" everyone I hang out with.

Language:
Old Miami: pronounced "Miamah"
New Miami: pronounced "Miami"
Newer Miami: "MeeAmee"

Travel:
Old Miami: Pan American Airlines
New Miami: Eastern Airlines, National Airlines
Newer Miami: American Airlines

Power brokers:
Old Miami: Henry Flagler
New Miami: Jorge Mas-Canosa
Newer Miami: Jorge Perez

Entertainment Areas:
Old Miami: Coconut Grove
New Miami: South Beach
Newer Miami: Mary Brickell Village

Shopping:
Old Miami: Flagler St.
New Miami: Dadeland Mall
Newer Miami: Dolfin Mall, Aventura Mall

High end shopping:
Old Miami: Lincoln Road
New Miami: Bal Harbor
Newer Miami: Merrick Place

Cruiselines:
Old Miami: Dolphin Cruises
New Miami: Carnival Cruise Lines
Newer Miami: MSC Divina

Crooks:
Old Miami: Al Capone
New Miami: Miami River Cops
Newer Miami: where to begin?

Stores:
Old Miami: Jordan Marsh
New Miami: Burdines
Newer Miami: Macy's

Hotels:
Old Miami: Biltmore Hotel
New Miami: Intercontinental Miami
Newer Miami: Peninsula Hotel, Four Seasons, Ritz Carleton, Setai

Restaurants:
Old Miami: Joe's Stone Crab
New Miami: Versailles
Newer Miami: Juvia

Obnoxious Visitors:
Old Miami: New Yorkers
New Miami: Porte├▒os
Newer Miami: Paulistas

Local Shows:
Old Miami: Jackie Gleason Show
New Miami: Miami Vice
Newer Miami: Burn Notice

Suburbs:
Old Miami: Coral Gables
New Miami: Kendall
Newer Miami: Doral, Weston

Hispanic Enclaves:
Old Miami: Little Havana
New Miami: Westchester, Hialeah
Newer Miami: Key Biscayne

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Miami Like a Local or Five Things To Do In Miami in April

Ok, I'm going to pull the old "fourth generation Miamian" cred to mention some cool stuff that you can do in April when Miami's weather is at its most glorious.  Here are some great things you can do which can be off the beaten track but well worth the effort. 
And it exceeds expectations....except maybe for the art. 
1. Visit the new Art Museum: controversies aside, and that Miami only gets second billing in the name, it's still pretty great.  Whatever you think about its art collection, there is no doubt that the building built by Herzog & de Meuron is fantastic. It is truly Miami's new front porch. Chillax on the best and biggest veranda in town. Not since Schuckers collapsed have we had a nice sit down view of our beautiful Biscayne Bay. 


2. Ride your bike out to the old secret Aerojet military base in the Everglades.  A testing ground for rockets to be launched to moon, it's amazingly, eerily cool. Old bunkers and hangers abound festooned with some the best graffiti murals south of Wynwood.  It's a five mile hike in and out and it's perfect for a casual bike ride. The road in is in very good shape. Very little shade, get out there now before the bugs take over in the summer. Check out Robert Is Here fruitstand  on your way home.

Tastes like chicken

3. Shark Valley is always a fun bike ride. Yeah, it's not exactly "seeing Miami like a local" but there are a lot fewer tourists at this North entrance of the Everglades than down in Flamingo.  A great 15 mile loop with a tower at the half-way mark.  Great views of gators, glades and birds.  Get there early on your own bike and take the loop to see the amazing varieties of birds. Locals know not to get too close to gators resting on the roadway. 

4. Kayak Biscayne bay, whether its a quick nature jaunt through Oleta State Park's mangroves or gawk at the Venetian Islands' mansions. A full moon kayak will let you watch how the 1% wander through their waterfront homes unbeknownst that voyeurs are drifting just yards away. Check out the spill islands along the channels and paddle up to the sandbars around Haulover to see boat to boat hi-jinks.

5. Go to South Point Park different times a day. There's a terrific dog park at one end that's always busy. The beaches, watching the cruise ships come in, and there seems to be plenty of parking. The light columns at night are mesmerizing as they change colors. Truly one of America's great urban waterfront parks. It's everything Miami's Bayfront Park should be but isn't. 

So there you go.....enjoy your Miami "Spring". Which means good weather and fewer bugs. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Anchor Babies, Kiev, Dog Parks, Caracas, Learn Spanish

So it's been an interesting few weeks in global affairs. Apparently the cold-war restarted, and Venezuela is in some kind of melt-down.  It's in this now interconnected world it plays out in my personal life and even at my local dog park.

Let's take, for example, the problems in Ukraine.  You would think that an uprising so far away would have small ripples in balmy South Florida.   My hubby works for a company based behind the Iron Curtain. (I'm going to just use Cold War terms from here on out.)  His boss makes a mysterious trip to "check out" the South Florida office. An office with just six employees.  A very small branch office of a large multinational company.  Every one is in a fuss....nobody knows why he's coming.  They invite him and his wife out to dinner......she shows up with her 10 day old baby.....her ten day old "anchor" baby.  They are proud parents of an American citizen.  She proceeds to tell us how all her friends back home use a large network of hospitals and doctors that cater well-to-do Eastern Europeans who want their babies born in the U.S.  I was wondering if recent events might alter her very sunny maternity in Sunny Isles along with all her well-to-do Soviet moms that are busily hatching new ties to the west everyday. What surprised me more was the matter-of-fact way it was presented. It is as if she was saying: "Of course my baby will be born in the West, really, do you think I want  to live my life out in that gulag we call a country?"

So yesterday I'm at the lovely Legion Park on Biscayne Bay.  The nice winter weather and my new puppy are what draws me there. I'm chatting with some fellow native English speakers. My neighborhood is very eclectic but weirdly, it's not dominated by Spanish speakers like many other parts of Miami are.  We are having a pleasant conversation, playing fetch with our dogs and enjoying the nice weather as they romp across an open field. A family of Venezuelans greet us everyday and play with the dogs. They don't speak any English. I chat with her in Spanish and ask a few questions about the situation in Caracas and how things are. "Your friends should learn Spanish, she said to me."

"How long have you lived here?" I asked in Spanish.

"Three months, but your friends should rally learn Spanish so they can communicate." She replied.

"So you're not going back?" I asked. 

"No, I've got my immigration status settled here and the kids are in school, we've left our lives back in Venezuela and are starting over here. Besides all my friends are here now and most of my family are on the way.Your friends should learn to speak Spanish." she insisted. 

I can't help but feel a little used as an American. I'm not sure how middle-class immigrants view the American dream when they are arriving to luxury waterfront condos and paying for expensive maternity care out of pocket. I can't wonder how invested anyone can be in a place when they "made it" somewhere else and just picked up and plopped down and started demanding that everyone learn their customs and language as the bourgeoisie are wont to do. Really, do you demand that a bunch of people in a park learn to speak to you, in a foreign tongue when you've only been here three months?