Monday, January 18, 2010

Singing Reading Drinking Mocking

I’ve been invited to sing in a brand new all-male a cappella ensemble called Voices 12. It’s the pet project of a friend of a friend, and yesterday he hosted an open rehearsal/audition, which was a great way to test people for sight-reading and blending skills on some pretty challenging music. We didn’t quite have a quorum of singers—at least not if we’re shooting for 12 total—but the guys who were there were all outstanding musicians, except for one who kind of freaked after the first page of the first song and packed up his stuff and left before we could hear what he could do. But the rest of us proved our mettle enough that we were all invited to be in the group. Woot! I’d gone to the rehearsal actually hoping I wouldn’t enjoy the group because I’ve pretty much given myself emotional permission to leave the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus after six years and I was just starting to enjoy a life free of weekend obligations. And now it looks like I’ll be spending my Sunday afternoons singing barbershop and early music and ’60s guy-group staples and (I hope!) all the fun stuff from the Chanticleer and Straight No Chaser catalogs … only this time I’ll be in a tiny ensemble, which means I can’t be lazy and assume that the 23 basses standing around me know their music and I can just coast along because I decided to watch Law & Order reruns all week instead of learning my music. Not that I would ever do such a thing.

Our Big Gay Book Club meets on Thursday. It’s been six weeks since our last meeting, so of course by yesterday I was a whopping three chapters into our book. Instead of going home to read the book where I could easily be distracted by a DVR full of Bones (my new obsession!) reruns and an Internet full of … um … articles, I headed right from rehearsal to my friendly gayborhood Caribou Coffee, ordered a chi tea latte and a chocolate-chip cookie, settled into the leather club chair by the fireplace (location score!) and finished reading my book. The moment I sat down, though, two guys who were what I’m going to go out on a limb and describe as clearly on an Internet first date sat at a table in front of me and started their awkward look-as-impressive-in-person-as-they-did-online dance. But! They kept discreetly looking over at me. Like 25 times each. And one kept smiling when he’d catch my eye. It didn’t help that my book (The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World) was not really holding my attention and the Coffee and Impossible-to-Maintain Eye Contact Date was. Eventually, the boys ended their date, stole a couple last glances at me and at least one other dude in room and left out separate doors, I managed to dribble tepid tea down the front of my shirt, the girl sitting opposite me who was equally not engrossed in The Lovely Bones gave me her napkin … and that’s pretty much the end of my story.

Until! I went right from Caribou to meet the domestic partner at a fabulous little couples’ cocktail party at some friends’ house. They’re selling their place, and once they purged and staged to optimize their showings they realized they had way more room than they’d thought … which of course brought them to one conclusion: cocktail party! So we spent a lovely couple hours chatting and hors d’oeuvre-ing and making catty comments about how fat all the women looked on the Golden Globes until we realized the aspect ratio on the TV had been set to slightly widen the images to fit the screen.

Speaking of mocking people, a series of bus-stop ads has popped up all over Chicago that appears as though it’s trying to humanize the probably-perceived-to-be-impersonal online University of Phoenix. The campaign uses giant pictures of what I assume are real students over the service-marked tagline “I am a Phoenix.” But the dude (I think it’s a dude) in the ad on the bus stop by our condo seems to be a weird choice if the goal of the campaign is to make people say Hey! That person is just like me! I should totally enroll at the University of Phoenix! The dude (I think it’s a dude) is markedly androgynous with kind of a football guy’s build and kind of dykey lesbian hair … and what appears to be some serious drag-queen lipstick, which looks exponentially lipstickier when it’s backlit in a six-foot ad. (It's so lipsticky, in fact, that it shows up pretty clearly in the camera phone photo I took at 6:00 on a dark January morning. Click on the picture below to embiggen!) I stare at the ad every morning when I wait for my bus and I still can’t decide if the problem is really bad makeup at the photo shoot or really bad color correction in post production. Either way, by my reckoning neither a football guy nor a dykey lesbian would wear even a hit of lipstick—especially in such a ruby shade of coral—so every morning when I see this ad I think Hey! I’m neither an androgynous football guy who buys his makeup in the clearance bin at Walgreens nor an androgynous dykey lesbian who failed lipstick training! That person is nothing like me! I will totally not enroll at the University of Phoenix!

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