Monday, July 18, 2016

Why You Should Go To Your High School Reunion

Few things can be as anxiety ridden as attending your first High School reunion. I can remember attending my 10th high school reunion and the angst I felt on the drive there. I was 28 and was just  getting established in my career and had finished college but hadn't really made my mark in the world. I had outgrown any youthfull geekiness and was (and am) a very confident adult. I was also much hotter at 28 than at 18. High school was definitely not a high point in my life but it was tolerable enough and I decided to go.

So last weekend I went to my 30th reunion. I have attended others, not all of them, but they were fun. This one left me a bit more pensive than most. I realize that high school reunions are a great reference point to who you are now.  Although we may say it, life is nothing like high school.  At no other time in our lives are the decisions we make  as permanent and irrevocable like they are in high school. Fail out of college? Go back to Jr. College.  Fired from a job? Go get another one. Bad marriage? Remarry.  Life after high school is full of second chances. High school not so much.  You had four years to complete a set of tasks: physical, academic and social and then its over. No going back. Your regrets, will be your regrets and there's no do-overs like you have as an adult. 

What reunions do is take us back to the last day of high school. The last day you really were a "kid". The last day when gossip, cliques, animosities and friendships seemed to be the most important things in the world. Probably the last day you thought like a kid, and not realizing that all that stuff is going to be packed away like an old yearbook, left to collect dust.  The reunions allow you to go to that last day of school and forgive yourself for bad choices, forgive your classmates for real or imagined slights or just move on and see that all these people are just typical screwed up adults.

For just a few hours you can undo some of the damage that high school inflicted on us.  Those annoying insecurities that we "just did not measure up" to our peers in some way.  And for a few hours you can remember that some people were assholes in high school still seem kinda assholish today, so the kid in you might not have been wrong either.....which is healing as well.  Then there is kid the adult in you can't forgive because the transgression is too great or too humiliating.  So you both just avoid each other.

For me personally, I go back as the only openly gay man out of a class of over 600 people.  I find it somehow empowering to "represent" with my classmates.  Weirdly, many of my classmates go out of their way to make me feel welcome as a gay man and I love to play into the best of the gay stereotypes and some of the worst.  For instance, I am happy to flirt with the girls and even with the boys who at late middle age, can't come out of the closet. I prefer the company of the women over that of the guys, being gay, it's just a more natural fit. The (straight) guys talk about work and sports, the women talk about challenges of child rearing, careers as women, as parents.  Challenges that as a gay man I can relate to.  Also, as a many a gay man can attest to, being surrounded by a lot of women is a lot safer than trying to fake talk sports with a bunch of drunken straight men. 

So I do recommend going to a high school reunion. You can reconnect with people and feel some camaraderie in the fact that you a prolonged shared experience with them, even if you didn't know them then it can be the basis for new friendships. But throughout that night, for some brief moments, you can reunite with that kid you were, give him a hug and and reassure him a bit. Because you're not that kid anymore, you're so much more. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

RIP Prince, RIP my adolescence and more Crepe Hanging

So just to remind you, this is a blog about being over 40. So you should expect some crepe-hanging about aging.  Because despite my grandmother's admonishment : "don't get old", sometimes moments happen and you realize, wow, I'm not young anymore.

Prince's passage was a just one of those for me. Not that I was a particular fan of the "Artist" as a performer per se, but his music decorates my adolescence like ubiquitous purple wallpaper. Yes, "Let's Go Crazy" and "1999" are songs that are perennial New Year's Eve favorites, but so many of his songs color my youth. Memories that are actually framed with his songs in them. Not just the songs he sang, but also the songs he wrote.

"I guess I should of known
By the way you parked your car sideways
That it wouldn't last"
I mean I can remember sitting in Missy's Dark Green Ford El Camino, drinking wine coolers on our way back from seeing Purple Rain. I can remember the music, the vinyl seats and listening to "When Doves Cry" and knowing every word, but not really getting the lyrics.(still don't) I just remember it feeling "sexy" and wanting to make out with someone, anyone, including Missy, even though we both became really gay. (Well I did anyway, she's not as gay as me, being lesbian and all.)

His androgyny was unapologetic and he had the ability to define his manhood on his own terms. Purple cat suits, high heeled boots, and stylized hair he still gave off a sexual charisma when compared to other gender benders like Boy George and RuPaul.  They came across as asexual or as pretty eunuchs. Which gave hope to us "less than butch" types who struggled to compensate our masculinity with our gay inner selves and realize that in the end, what's sexy, is confidence.

My personal gay theme song: "Do you think I'm a nasty girl?"
And the coterie of women who translated the gift of his music, fierce, good girls gone bad, like Sheena Easton's "Sugar Walls" and Sheila E's "Glamourous Life".  He brought color into music, not just purple, but a parade of Lesbians, Latinas and African American artists who exuded his confidence, pride and sexiness without apology.

Finally, he gave a soundtrack to my first heartbreak.. Sinead O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U " written by Prince. Every line punctuated my 20 year old heart. The song actually made me want to wallow even more because it was just too good of a breakup song.  Listening to it again makes me realize, nothing compares to Prince.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

What's Miami's Favorite Dessert? Eye Candy.

"Why are they all staring at me" was one of the first questions my Mom asked me when she came to visit me in my small efficiency apartment on South Beach in 1990.  They were probably staring because my very fabulous and attractive mom was way out of place in the still grungy, un-gentrified neighborhood south of Fifth street. The other reason they were staring was because in Miami, that's what you do.

A human being is amazing in its ability to determine friend or foe, gender, age in a fraction of a glance at another. In milliseconds snap judgements about a person's status are processed. Miamians have taken that basic instinct and honed it to new levels. Miami is a city where showing status is important. By showing status I mean wearing cool and sometimes expensive things. Now I know someone would equate this as "shallow". Which is fine, Miamians are a fun loving bunch, shopping is a sport and looking your best is not such a bad thing. "Fabulous" is usually what Miamians are going for.  New Yorkers try to be "captivating", Washingtonians try to be "interesting" the first group being grossly opinionated the second group spouting their resumes at every opportunity.  I understand that being "captivating" and "interesting" costs a lot in student loans, However you can spend a lot of money being "fabulous" too. Just different values, that's all. 
Just a normal Miami family at the beach.....

So getting back to "eye candy",  nowhere in the world will you see a better selection of it. Miamian's highly developed senses are drawn to the beautiful men and women that populate our city. Not just young ones, Miamians continue to preen throughout their entire lives.  Rarely do you see women who just decide to "go frump" and just wear the latest beige offerings from Walmart. Colors and style to rival the tropical beauty that is Miami. I mean there's nothing wrong with a knock-off Chanel or Prada to add the perfect touch to an already bright outfit.  Miami's men are also style conscious and that style tends to lean toward the mechanical: watches and cars.
What does this outfit say about him?

Our highly developed taste for eye candy also informs a lot about who we're looking at.  For example, expensive watch, white guy, probably Russian. More than five designer labels in one outfit: undoubtedly Venezuelan. Halter top, tight white jeans, hoop earrings: Cuban Girl from Hialeah. Board shorts, pale skin: Midwestern tourist. Male, long hair, has the face as if someone farted : Argentinian. Brown eyes, scrubs, beard: Cuban MD.

So of course with the consumption of all this "eye candy", proper digestion of it requires an ongoing internal and external commentary.  I mean you can't just look a big butt and say "nice" you might want to say "hang on ass we're going to town."  Or you see someone attractive and think "hot", a proper riposte might be "he's so hot I want to slap his mother." In Miami you can say it out loud or not, it's all part of the sweetness of eye candy. 
Labels darling, LABELS

Monday, March 28, 2016

"Miami Snark" a new genre of journalism.

Wishful Thinking by New Yorkers?

So, the whole "I hate Miami" refrain is a very popular meme among the New York journalism establishment.  Dating as far back as Time Magazine's seminal 1981 article "Paradise Lost" there has been a steady hope from New York writers that Miami just "fail".  Amazingly the "Magic City" does just the opposite.

 I want to start by  giving credit to Pamela Druckerman and the New York Times for spawning an entire sub-genre of journalism. Her 2014 article  defines what I call "Miami Snark".  It works like this: basically a young reporter, almost exclusively female, comes to Miami Beach in the winter, drinks, sunbathes, drinks, shops and then gloriously proclaims that Miami and its 2.5 million residents as shallow pretenders. Writing that Miami doesn't deserve it's reputation for having great beaches, shopping and sunshine but should be more "cultural". They say they are looking for "depth", but not really.  I mean if they were looking for "depth" where are the interviews with at least one local leader. They could call Ruth Shack, Paul George, Edwina Danticat, the Estafans, Mitchell Kaplan just to name a few. If they wanted "depth" they would bring a Spanish translator and head on down to Domino Park or El Municipio de Santiago and chat with the old Cuban exiles. 

It is so wonderful for writers like New York Magazine's Jessica Pressler, to confuse all of Miami with what's happening a new millionaire's condo/resort on South Beach.  Or NYT's Brent Sokol's piece begrudging the gentrification of Little Haiti....A New Yorker criticizing gentrification......Didn't they invent and gentrify the whole concept of gentrification? He lives in New York, by writing in the NYT he takes a small local issue and elevates it to some kind of international crisis.  He didn't bother to mention that there are more Haitians in North Miami than in Little Haiti. 

I don't really understand the fascination and contempt people have for Miami.  No, it's not Boston and it's certainly not "New York with better weather".  As a 3rd generation Miamian I understand that. However, I don't read similar tropes about Kansas City, Atlanta or other cities of similar size.  I truly believe at it's core it has to do with envy, that there's a beautiful, glamorous city built and run by Latinos.  That its a city with an identity that doesn't compare itself to other places or feel intimidated by self important(albeit pasty) New Yorkers.   Most importantly, it is a city with deep cultural roots that can't be understood if you don't have an affinity for Latino culture or don't speak Spanish.  These aren't Margaret Mead types, they arrive here with preconceived notions, talk to some "local" on South Beach (apparently home to all our local intelligentsia) and make the determination its a cultural wasteland.  

A big part of me wants to say "just make an effort" to the Pamela Druckermans of the world. Figure the city out, get off the beach, talk to someone other than an out of town condo developer or South Beach waiter, or in Pamela's case: her mother.  Show some journalistic pride.  Because Miami Snark is really about willful ignorance and shallowness, things I'd least expect from people proclaiming to be "journalists." 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Deconstructing Political Correctness: Do we really want to go there?

I have a secret, when my best friend and I are together we say horrible things about other people. We use terrible language, we repeat bigoted jokes we made as kids. We giggle because as good liberals we know its wrong and bad....and that what makes it so us. If you overheard us you'd think we were assholes, which might be true, but we'd prefer not be such visible assholes.
Sigh, who needs PC if we did this?
So why being Politically Correct is important, especially if you're whitish, like me. I was actually born in Honduras, to a Honduran....but at first glance I'm a whitey.   Political Correctness is important because politeness is dead.  Chivalry in all its good intentions is seen as archaic and patronizing. Manners used to be the lubricant that smoothed over social interactions. So holding the door, or women and children first in the lifeboat, are sweet sentiments, but as George Costanza of Sienfeld taught us that's its okay to knock over an old lady when trying to escape a fire. Not only is it okay, but it's pretty damn funny.  PCness is a replacement for what used to go as good manners or some cases common sense.

The Donald's Trumpolution is working hard to destroy the whole political correctness built by minorities in academic and corporate settings so people can just be just like me and my best friend in our most drunken intimate moments.  So white people can just shout out "Nigger" in the workplace cafeteria and laugh at the expense of anyone who might be offended. Political Correctness is about not being an asshole to the brown, black, gay, female within listening range of your voice. When they are not offended, they tend to work, compete, study and produce more.  Because people who are not pissed off work better and steal less office supplies.

I understand that it might be hard to not say offensive things about people.  Believe me I do it all the time. And yes, you can be sent to the human resources department for making fun of white people, my Cuban husband was written up for being overheard at the office party for saying "he's sad, he dances the white man dance." 

On Sunday I was at the Oasis Cafe on tony Key Biscayne.  A very white middle aged woman stormed out of the packed establishment, disdainfully yelling to her husband in a nice Porsche "THEY WON'T HELP IF YOU DON'T SPEAK SPANISH". Obviously upset that nobody in the shop was actually speaking English and she really didn't want to wait in a long line, because the Porsche was sitting in the street with the engine idling.

What you have without Political Correctness and world without manners is just rudeness unchecked. I do believe that  Political Correctness can go too far and there are plenty of examples where it's used as tool to dampen discussion and free speech. However with the decline of strong social conventions known as manners what's the alternative?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Welcome to the word soup of the Trumpverse

I'm seeing the Trumpverse seeping in like Miami's  full moon king tide.  You can deny it, but soon you'll be 3 feet deep in it trying to get to spin class with your Lulu Lemons rolled up to your knees.  I was at a gay campground last month and I saw very butch jeep with a large TRUMP magnet proudly displayed on the bumper. If you can find Trump there, he's everywhere. 

My young hip Cuban neighbor extolls Trump's honesty. You can't lie with word soup. Trump is going to win. He will be the next Republican nominee. I didn't have the heart to tell my neighbor that to white people like Trump, "Mexican" is actually all people of Latino descent. So when he rounds up 11 million undocumented "Mexicans" everyone with a Hispanic last name is going to get caught up in the dragnet. 

So I listen and I fall into the vortex of the Trumpverse.  I try to comprehend a world with this man at its helm. I try to imagine a presidency similar to his candidacy: lots of free thought word association called in from his phone.  Him and Sarah Palin talking in fragmented sentences like some kind of Beat Generation poet. He's the post modern Allan Ginsberg:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
     madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at
     dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient
     heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the
     machinery of night . . .

We do know that Allen Ginsberg and company were all experimenting with LSD and hallucinogenics what do you think Sarah Palin and Trump's excuses will be? 
Sarah Palin's endorsement of Trump:

"And now though, to be lectured that, “Well, you guys are all sounding kind of angry,” is what we’re hearing from the establishment.
 Doggone right we’re angry! Justifiably so! Yes!
 You know, they stomp on our neck, and then they tell us, “Just chill, okay just relax.” Well, look, we are mad, and we’ve been had. 
They need to get used to it."
-Sarah Palin "Trump"

We liberal elites laugh, but this is the kind of prose that wins votes.  This is going to get Trump to the Republican Nomination. His word cloud honesty:

"And I like them. I hear their speeches. 
And they don’t talk jobs. 
They don’t talk China.
 When was the last time you heard ‘China’s killing us?’ 
They’re devaluing their currency to a level that you wouldn’t believe it makes it impossible for our companies to compete.
They’re killing us, but you don’t hear that from anyone else. You don’t hear that from anybody else.And I watch the speeches. I watch the speeches and they say ‘the sun will rise. The moon will set.
 All sorts of wonderful things will happen.’And the people are saying ‘What’s going on?
 I just want a job. 
I don’t need the rhetoric, 
I just want a job.'"

So Imagine these people, who listen to the "honesty" the way that marshmellow fluff is an honest food, I imagine that they have word magnets all over their refrigerators. Word magnets that have been there since they came out in the 90's.  They would leave cute little messages with haiku rythms and clever bon mots and cryptic phrasing. This is the Trumpverse, just fragments and half thoughts. 

Speech Writer tool at the Trumpverse

The Trumpverse has arrived

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Welcome Aboard, it's love, love love..........

So the term "cruising" can have many connotations, but in Miami its pretty well understood that the term refers to the to the ships, the cruise lines to be exact.  I just spent a week on one of them, Celebrity's Reflection.  I can say unequivocally that I had a fun time, However whenever I have cruised there is always an ambivalence about it. Here are some things that stood out:

The Frequent Cruisers: its hard not to miss the frequent cruisers. These are people who basically just given up and have decided that their leisure time and treasure will be entirely dedicated at sea. Like frequent flyers they achieve some kind of status points and have secret meetings on board with the captain and Isaac the Bartender.   If you're on your first cruise they will call you a "virgin" but in the most patronizing way.  The Frequent Cruisers basically stand around and complain how this cruise wasn't as good/long/expensive/exotic as their last cruise or the one before that.  They feel entitled to everything and refuse to leave the ship for shore excursions. Their whole existence revolves around staying on the ship and drinking. You tend not to see them during the day. They love "re-positioning" cruises.  Favorite hangout: Martini Bar. 

Condescension When You Ask About Connectivity:  Internet connectivity for us landlocked types is like our lifeblood.  Life is better with connectivity. Why? Because some key things occur when you're connected to the internet. 1. You can find people with ease. On a giant ship, you will not find who you are looking for by just "walking around". Complicated schedules have to kept in your head and meet up points and so on. 2. You can't truly win an argument without Wikipedia. 3. So much of our data is kept in the cloud, our music playlists, cameras and applications won't work well, rendering our devices almost useless.  However if you dare to complain, cruise personnel will act condescendingly and say "you can't even disconnect for a week?"  My response is "why should I?"  I mean the charges to connect are astronomical but as anybody knows there must be a cheaper solution.  Being connected is part of modern living....I can usually get connected in the most remote of places and minimal cost....but these floating cities feel that you are pitiable because you want to tell your friends on Facebook what a good time you're having. 

The Hordes: The ship is packed with people, there are hordes, it's like the Black Friday at the mall...everyday...all the time. The hordes are excited, the hordes are drunk, the hordes want your chair, your massage, your fitness bike. Prepare to deal with hordes. 

The cost. All things considered it's a bargain as far as vacations go. However there are a lot of hidden costs....drinks, excursions, exercise classes, specialty restaurants, spa treatments, etc. etc. all of these things add up considerably and  your wallet will lighten up to the point it becomes a flotation device. 

Finally, if you're from Miami you really don't need a tropical vacation.  

Cozumel? Jamaica? No, Miami