Friday, December 31, 2004

Lipo: An adventure in words and pictures

I'm not allowed to eat or drink anything after midnight, and I'm a thirsty bird who lives in the Condo of Dryness. ACK! So I chug glass after glass of water after I wash down my favorite meal (peanut butter and jelly) and some pre-surgery herbal drug that's supposed to prevent swelling and promote healing. I also realize I'll probably have bending-over issues for a while, so I pick up everything off the floor I think I'll need in the next few days. And before I go to bed, I scrub my fatty areas with special anti-bacterial soap. I'm so excited, though—I've been thinking about doing this for YEARS and it's finally happening—that I can barely sleep.

I wake up PARCHED. And there's not a damn thing I can do about it. I take a pre-emptive poop (thinking the first post-surgery one might not be the bowl-of-kittens kind of fun that poop usually is) and another anti-bacterial shower. Then I put on a doctor-recommended button-up shirt (in a dark color in case I ooze); pack an overnight bag with DVDs, stretchy-waisted pants and a dark towel (so as not to ooze on Matthew's 8-billion-thread-count sheets); and head downstairs to wait for Matthew to pick me up.

7:30 AM
We check in and I wait to be called in for surgery. And Matthew whips out his camera to begin recording every moment of the day.

Feeling fat. But not for long.

See that? Get a good look. Because that stubborn, unwelcome band of goo is now in some sewer or medical incinerator or fly-infested dumpster. Or maybe some thrifty indigenous peoples are using it to make soap. In any case, as you read this the stuff is gone from my life like a bad stalker who fell down an elevator shaft. Not that that's ever happened to me.

Stick-on underpants. As in Stick. On. Underpants. It took me awhile to figure out how they worked. And I hate to complain, but they were NOT flattering. But they made it easy for the doctor to draw all over me—just like they do on TV!

Cotton robes. Non-skid socks. Heated blankets. It's just like Spa Day. Except they cut you.

Waking up from anesthesia is NOT pretty. And I don't even remember going under. When I had my wisdom teeth out in high school, the anesthesiologist told me to count back from 100. By the time I got to 96 the surgery was over and I didn't remember a thing. On Lipo Day, I remember climbing on the operating table and being told to rest my arms on the little wings like they have on lethal injection tables—and the next thing I knew I was groggy and begirdled in the recovery bed. And my stick-on underpants were missing.

As soon as the anesthesia wore off, I remembered how freakin' THIRSTY I was—and I chugged water like it was, well, water. And when I got home, I peed like 10 times in the first few hours. The nurse said to expect that because my IV and all the fat-melting liquid they inject in the lipo spots would eventually turn into pee. How cool is THAT?

I don't think I've ever ridden in a wheelchair before. I don't think I ever want to again.

Ho! Ho! Ho! My girdle thing is packed with strategically placed foam to keep the loose skin pressed into the spaces where the fat used to be so it grows onto the muscle underneath. Which, ironically, makes me look even fatter than before. Tack on the surgery hair and the bloody IV band-aid—not to mention that matched set of shoulder zits—and I'm just a hunka burnin' man-meat.

Coming soon to a computer screen near you: A picture of Jake showing off his SHREDDED abs. I hope. (And yes, that's my underwear, looking like little more than an ill-fitting black diaper with a label-whore waistband. Sexy!)

I spent yesterday recuperating in Matthew's fabulous Gold Cost condo, eating like a king, pissing like a racehorse and bravely forgoing my as-needed pain meds. Until bedtime. Trying to lower myself from vertical to horizontal was more than my macho I-don't-need-no-stinkin'-drugs posturing could bear, and I quickly loaded up on the suckers. But I couldn't sleep very well—probably because I'm used to sleeping on my side, which was out of the question, and maybe because the anesthesia messed with my sleep patterns. And when morning came and Matthew had to physically lift me out of bed (which he admitted was not the Jake-and-Matthew-in-bed scenario he'd been picturing) I quickly chowed down on even more pain meds. Which promptly made me loopy and weird. And I hate being loopy and weird. Which is exactly why I don't drink or take party drugs.

Anyway, in between loopy weirdness, frequent trips to the bathroom and Matthew's fabulous cooking, we did 7-step chemical face peels (I had lipo and a chemical face peel in the same day—I'm that gay) and watched two DVDs:
Latter Days is much better than I'd expected, given that wide-release gay love stories tend to be awkwardly written, poorly acted and scrubbed clean of any homo verisimilitude that could frighten the wimmen and children. I have to say, though, that Jacqueline Bisset is looking like she's had too much work done on her face (people who get plastic surgery are so shallow) and her touching emotional outburst outside the hospital is anything but. And the two leads? Um ... WOOF.
Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There was a gift to me by my boss. It's quite fascaniting—if you're a shameless show-tune queen like I am—though it is a little more talking-heady than I'd hoped. (Bring on the dance numbers!) I love hearing actors talk in their own words, though, and while I find that movie actors tend to be a rather dull bunch, stage actors are usually articulate, well-read, passionate and fascinating to listen to. And this movie gave us almost two hours of that fabulous pleasure last night.

So that's it. A year that started on 1/23 with LASIK ended on 12/30 with lipo. (And how cosmic is that little number coincidence? Spooky!) Now it's a freakin' GORGEOUS day in Chicago—though I don't think I'd get very far if I went outside to enjoy it—and I'm facing New Year's Eve wih a stack of DVDs and a TiVo hard drive loaded with unseen South Park episodes. And the ever-present risk that I could just fall asleep and miss all the fun.

See you next year! (GOD—that joke never stops being funny!)

Thursday, December 30, 2004

All sucked!

The desperate attempt to somehow compensate for everything that's missing in my life lipo went smashingly well this morning! The pain's not too bad -- though it is a bit of a challenge to stand and sit -- and I'm having no issues with nausea or rotting flesh. But I'm in a girdle thingie that I'm not allowed to remove for almost two weeks, which means no showers, no manscaping (at least no wash-everything-effortlessly-down-the-drain manscaping) and no hope for achieving that walking-along-the-beach-in-soft-focus fresh feeling until the 10th. Is there NO end to my suffering?

I'm convalescing until tomorrow afternoon in dear, dear Matthew's fabulous Gold Cost condo -- and he's pampering me with home-cooked meals cuisine, spa facial treatments, thoroughly illegal custom CDs from his obsessive extensive music collection, and paparazzi-level photographic records of my adventure.

But the poor unfortunate soul doesn't have a decent computer in his house, and I'm forced to surf and post on his dainty little laptop. And Jake and his meaty paws HATE laptops. So I'm not even going to try to post pictures, embed links or spend another minute typing "anf" instead of "and" today. But I'll be home tomorrow with nothing to do but play on my mouse-enhanced computer, post pictures, and blather on and on about how my nutsack is supposed to fill with bruise blood and turn frightening -- albeit harmless -- shades of purple before this whole thing is over. Hey -- nobody said trying to be pretty actually IS pretty.

On another note, I am thoroughly humbled by -- and deeply thankful for -- my nomination and finalist status for the blog award I'm too laptop-tarded to add as a link here. So you have a gushing earful (eyeful?) on THAT topic to look forward to as well.

In the mean time, much love to all of you -- faithful readers, nomination elves and people who have found admirably diplomatic ways to tell me they thought I was hot as-was and I'm more or less a fool-and-his-money fool for having plastic surgery -- from Lipo Land! (Thank you for all your kind words. Sincerely. But for the record, I have no regrets about today, and I'm PSYCHED to see how it all looks. Once the nutsack thing resolves itself, of course.)


Wednesday, December 29, 2004

What are you doing tomorrow morning at 8:30?

I’ll be blissfully unconscious as a doctor pokes me full of holes and sucks out mound after jiggly mound of stubborn, unsightly fat from my lower back and abdomen. (Click here—if you dare—to see the hideous disfigurement man repellant mushy goo I’ve spent the last 20 years working very hard to hide from the rest of the world.)

That’s right: I’m having liposuction. Plastic surgery. Body image issues. A vanity crisis. “A little work done,” as they say in more polite circles.

And I’m fucking STOKED about it!

Everybody who makes the decision to fork over a sizeable chunk of money to undergo an invasive—and wholly unnecessary—surgical procedure like this has a litany of rationales for doing so. Here are mine:

• I have worked out with medium to heavy intensity five days a week since I graduated from college in 1990, pushing my once-skeletal 6'1" frame from 151 lbs to a peak of 203 five years ago. I’ve leveled off around 190 since then, and I don’t see myself ever getting any more muscular. Though I keep trying.

• My diet is, for the most part, exemplary. I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t eat crap like Twinkies and potato chips and candy, I barely drink pop, I indulge in fatty desserts only if they’re among my few favorites (like molten chocolate soufflés and Breyer’s vanilla ice cream)—and what I do eat falls into the vegetables/fruits/lean meats/skim milk/egg whites category.

• I’ve been running regularly for 10 years, and I enter three or four serious races every summer. I always take the stairs. If I’m going somewhere that’s under three train stops away, I walk. I ran a frickin’ marathon this year.

• Despite all of this, my love handles (the lipo doctor calls them “flanks”) have sat defiantly on my hips since high school, immovable (aside from their constant jiggling) and undeterred by all my healthy living and obsessive exercise.

So the biggest reason I’m getting the fuckers sucked out for good is that I’ve earned the right to parade around with ripped abs and a tiny waist.

Of course, there are other reasons as well:

• The love handles bother me so much that I almost never take my shirt off in public. I haven’t worn a swimsuit in three years.

• I’m not really keen on being naked in front of other guys. Despite what my reputation would have you believe.

• I’m clearly a victim of the ubiquitous body fascism that keeps gay men—and, apparently, straight men as well—filled with self-loathing and the unquenchable desire to have lipo and take steroids. (Though I am NOT in any danger of taking steroids. I don’t do any drugs, remember? Besides, I like my big balls and smooth skin and even temper just the way they are.)

• And I’m not kidding myself here: A smaller waist will attract hotter men. I hope. And though I’m fully aware these won’t necessarily be quality men, I plan on enjoying their attention to the fullest of my ability.

I have been surprised, though, at the almost white-hot anger this topic has inspired in some of my friends. I had no intention of keeping it a secret—I saw lipo as just another interesting adventure in my never-let-myself-get-bored life—but some of my friends have gotten seriously, voice-raisingly mad at me for even thinking about it. So now I bring it up only when I absolutely have to (as in “I can’t come in to work on our week off because I’m having surgery”) and, if pressed for details, I evasively refer to it as “back surgery.”

As I’ve stated here repeatedly, I don’t go into debt for anything beyond a mortgage—and maybe a car payment when my 10-year-old Neon finally goes to that shady Dodge dealer in the sky. And something as frivolous as lipo is no exception to that rule. I opened what I half-jokingly called my lipo fund four years ago, and I’ve auto-deposited a couple hundred bucks a month into it since then. I told myself that when it got past five grand—the point where I could actually write a check for the procedure—I’d see if I still really wanted to go through with it. Well, I hit five grand early this fall, and I realized I’d been thinking about it constantly all that time. So I researched doctors, made an appointment, got a quote and decided to pull the trigger a month ago. I even opened a credit card with a 0% APR for 16 months so I could pay it off in interest-free installments and keep my lipo fund liquid (so to speak) and interest-bearing as long as possible.

And the buyer’s remorse I thought I’d get when I made my non-refundable payment two weeks ago? Forget about it! I’ve had nothing but buyer’s giddy excitement! The little fuckers that have been fighting my every attempt at 30-inch-waistdom are going DOWN tomorrow. They’re going down HARD and they’re going down for GOOD.

And—if you can stomach it—I’ll give you all the gory details (with pictures!) of my surgery, recovery and re-emergence as Small Waist Man this summer. Just in time for thong season!

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Christmas port-mortem

Christmas itself
I got to Iowa around 2:00 on Christmas Eve day. We made our traditional Norwegian dinner (meatballs, lefse, fruit salad, boiled potatoes and rice pudding) and invited some work friends of my mom's to eat with us. (One more reason my parents are so cool: We've invited people who are separated from their families to eat Christmas Eve dinner with us for as long as I can remember.) Then we stopped by our cousins' for a brief visit (Hi, Eric!) and a little gift exchange. Then we headed to my folks' church, where I sang my favorite Christmas carol of all time: O Holy Night. The arrangement I had was a little on the high side (the money notes climbed all the way up to A flat) but the pianist transposed it down a third for me. Because she totally rocks. And even though I was fighting a bit of a gooey-throated cold, I made it through -- and I even made one of my old teachers cry because I sucked like a dime-store hooker she was so proud of me.

The new kitten
In her first week as a member of the family, Little Lena has proven herself to be the Kutest Kitty™ in the whole world. At least when she wasn't inadvertantly leaving gaping wounds in our flesh. She spent every night I was there sleeping in the crook of my arm or across my neck, and she often woke up just long enough to give me a few licks on my chin. You know: just to say hi. And her cutest trick so far is when she scales your body from floor to shoulder and sits there like a parrot. A cute widdle parrot with a fuzzy-wuzzy nose. Who sometimes sneezes in your ear.

The new living room
We got the bad boy spackled, caulked, primed and painted in three days -- which is pretty amazing, considering the fact that Dad isn't what the kids these days would call a "careful painter." And we replaced the Hoover-era electrical sockets with grounded plugs and matching plates. And it looks pretty freakin' cool, if you ask me. (And why didn't you ask me? Are you all rude or something? Did you grow up in a Courtney Love video?) All that's left is for Mom and Dad to fill a couple Dumpsters with the loads of sentimental knickknacks that ironically have prevented the "living" room from being warm and livable for the last 30 years.

The aftermath
Now I'm back at work -- even though we're technically closed for the week. It's one of the many benefits of having a new, responsibility-laden job. (It's amazing what a promotion and a raise can do for your attitude. Really.)

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post: Full disclosure about my mysterious new expensive purchase. With pictures!

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Me and my caulk

Christmas with the family has been extra special this year. Since my sister and her husband and kids are with their in-laws in California, the whole holiday at my parents' house has centered around ME. We've eaten the foods I like, we've listened to my favorite music -- and we've spent the weekend tackling a long-overdue project that I suggested: painting my folks' living room.

The living room hadn't been painted since we bought the house 30 years ago, and the old paint -- surprisingly -- was not only in pretty good shape, but it really hadn't dated itself. In fact, the prison bitch* "sandcastle" color we chose was only about half a shade darker than what was already up. Which theoretically could have let us get away with just one coat, but that cheap prison bitch* paint is too runny to go up in one coat.

*Martha Stewart

There were really only two reasons we needed to paint: There were some serious flakes and cracks in the old paint, and the crappy woodwork had pulled away from the walls in a bunch of places. (The house is almost 100 years old, and the original woodwork is still in excellent shape ... and it's still exactly where the original buiders left it. But the previous owners had "updated" some rooms in the 1970s with cheap materials; shoddy workmanship; and countertops, linoleum and carpets in an unnerving shade of yellow that can only be described as "morning piss." Thankfully, over the last 30 years we've repaired, improved or hidden the vast majority of their dubious improvements, and we've removed every last drop of morning piss except for the countertops.)

But back to the woodwork. I've discovered in myself a fabulous, obsessive new fetish that can be satisfied only in houses with buckling woodwork. My fetish: painter's caulk. This miracle product comes in tubes just like regular caulk, and you can squirt it with satisfying precision in any gaping hole in your home. Then all you need is a quick rub with your finger, a two-hour wait and a light sanding --
and you have a professional-grade surface ready for painting. I spent all day Saturday poking my caulk into every hole I could find in my folks' living room, rubbing it delicately with my fingers and smiling with manly satisfaction over the endless ropes of white goo I'd delivered deep in all the places that needed it. (Let the record show the maturity and restraint I'm exhibiting here by NOT making cheap sexual jokes about the fact that this caulk comes in long hard tubes that could be compared -- by more juvenile minds -- to penises.)

And let me tell you, there is no better way to de-ghetto a room than to make the woodwork look like it's actually attached to the walls. And, for some odd reason, there's no better way to give me the Christmas giggles than to let me make that magic happen in your house for you. As of this writing, all the woodwork's painted (though tomorrow's daylight will no doubt show us a few places that need touchups) and all the spackled and re-plastered walls have their first coat of paint. Tomorrow we get to finish painting, I get to replace the freakishly ancient outlets and light switches, and we'll be moving furniture back before sunset.

It's a Christmas miracle!

Saturday, December 25, 2004

All I got for Christmas:

* Socks! And they were exactly what I wanted. Because I bought them myself and gave them to my mom and said, "Here. These are what you're giving me for Christmas." What could be easier?

* A new frying pan! Now I can make egg-white omelets without ingesting huge quantities of scraped-off Teflon.

* A new cake pan! Now I can make treats that don't taste like the 50-year-old pan they were baked in.

* A spiffy new set of kitchen knives with one of those cool metal sticks to sharpen them! And the whole thing's in a handsome wooden block that looks smart in any kitchen. (I had forgotten that I'd off-handedly asked for this about four months ago. So it was a nice little surprise. Especially given the sorry-ass state my old knives are in. They're so bad that if I baked one into a cake and smuggled it to Martha, she'd be laughed out of the prison kitchen.)

* Gift certifactes at Old Navy and Gap!

* A fluffy new mattress pad! Mom helped me strip my bed and rotate my mattress when she was in Chicago a month ago, and apparently my threadbare old mattress pad horrified her straight to the bedding sale at Penney's.

* $5 worth of scratch-off lottery tickets! Total haul in lottery winnings: $1. There's a reason my old broker calls lotteries the idiot tax.

* And the most precious presents of all: some magnetic chip clips and a set of measuring cups and spoons. They were hand-picked especially for me at the dollar store by my uncommonly photogenic nephew and niece. My sister -- who engineered this brilliant shopping-for-the-family-in-the-cutest-way-possible plan -- even let them wrap their purchases. The whole thing was so adorable I almost peed.

But the most notable gift of the holiday is my mom's new kitten! Little Lena (if you're Norwegian, you can probably guess my mom's name) has been with us all of two nights, and already everyone in the house is poked full of little kitten holes. Lena cost $175 at the animal shelter, and she woke up her first morning in the house with a bad case of feline conjunctivitis, which -- despite the one-eyed-drunken-kitty cuteness it provided -- necessitated a $75 visit to the vet, who reported that at 2.2 lbs Lena was a little small to be freshly adopted so he placed her on some expensive kitten-growth diet. Factor in that new expense and already our precious little bundle of holiday joy is costing us well over $100 a pound. We may rename her Beluga.

But Lena has quickly developed a friendly little personality and a devoted following among household humans ... and a penchant for scaling our bodies from floor to shoulders in mere seconds. She's also discovered that human faces offer the perfect all-purpose resource for everything from claw-sharpening to ass-wiping. Nonetheless, Mom loves her. But Dad (who officially hates cats) loves her even more, shamelessly buying tuna for her and making room in his lap whenever she tumbles in her hyperkitten little way toward him. And the rich, fatty Norwegian holiday diet I've been shocking my delicate system with has helped me take full advantage of the primary benefit of keeping animals in the house: someone to blame farts on.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

My Christmas wish list

I've been on a massive anti-housecrap crusade over the last few months, and as such, my Christmas dreams involve more space and less clutter. So my Christmas wish list is rather sparse this year. And it's VERY practical. To wit:

1) Socks. Really. My gym socks all have holes in the toes and droopy-ass elastic around the tops. And as my office gets less and less business casual and more and more plain-old casual, I find I need more dark cottony socks that look good with jeans and funky shoes. Aren't you glad you know this?

2) A new frying pan. I'm nobody's cook, but I make lots of egg-white omelets—and I've managed to scrape off the vast majority of the non-stick stuff in my only pan. So I need a new one.

3) A new cake pan. Not that I make cakes much at all, but the pan I have—a metal one that my grandmother had filled with baked goodness almost weekly from the 1950s until she died in the 1980s—is starting to leech off a metallic taste into everything baked in it. The thing is 50 years old. It's time.

4) A bigger condo with a washer and dryer and a second bedroom and a balcony. But I want to pick it out, so don't get me one.

5) A boyfriend. I'm partial to blonds, but that's not a requirement. Again, I'd rather pick mine out—if you don't mind—so don't get me one.

And that's about it. Except for one more thing. I want to make sure each and every one of you, my beloved readers, takes a moment to enjoy this:

Two-Page Fax

To: Crunch Gym
From: Jake, increasingly disgruntled member

Here we go again …

• I have been a member of Crunch since January 2001.

• My membership has been paid through a payroll deduction program using the same employer every January. As I understand it, my employer pays my membership fee in full at the beginning of each year and deducts portions of it from my paycheck throughout the year.

• Every year you at Crunch have managed to fuck up my membership renewal with exponential levels of incompetence. In 2002 I wasn’t in your system until April, and I was hounded about it by your desk staff—as though it were something I’d done wrong—every day when I tried to check in. The next year I wasn’t in your system until JUNE—despite repeated emails and phone calls and personal conversations asking you to get off your asses and process my paperwork. Last year my membership number changed, but nobody informed me or your desk staff about it, and your staff couldn’t find me in your system for four weeks. Again: More hounding at your desk when I tried to check in even though my membership was paid in full.

How do you people make it through the day? I mean really. Do you have to have job re-training when you get back from lunch? Do you often forget to wipe?

• And now we’re getting a head start on your unique brand of bullshit for 2005. I received the attached letter in the mail last week informing me for the first time—though it’s a “second notice”—that once again you've royally fucked up my renewal and I'm somehow "overdue" on my payments for a calendar year that hasn't even started.

Here's the deal: I renewed online on 10/26/04 at 8:30 pm. (I wrote it down in case you fucked up again and I'd need the information when I verbally bitch slap you. And—who'd've guessed?—I was right.) You will have this issue resolved by the first of the year and your desk staff will NOT treat me like some kind of membership thief when I go to work out in 2005. I’ve had more than my fair share of your staggering moronity over the last four years.

If you’d like to call to explain why this is a problem EVERY YEAR, you can reach me at the number on this letterhead.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.


ADDENDUM FOR MY CONCERNED READERS: I guess I should have indicated this somehow, but this is NOT the actual fax I sent to Crunch. I am not in the habit of swearing so profusely at irritatingly retarded companies—especially companies I hope wouldn't kick me off their member rosters for being justifiably rude and belligerent. The real fax, while quite similar to this one, contained no profanity, no insults and only a modicum of the anger. But it still captured the full spirit of my frustration. Think of the above text as my fax's inner fax.

Oh—and I'm kinda stuck at this Crunch because 1) it's in the basement of my office building, 2) I get a corporate discount, 3) the next nearest gym is a good four blocks away and 4) I work 60+ hours a week, and this ultra-convenient proximity to my office lets me squeeze in at least a tiny workout on even my most jam-packed workday. And if Jake doesn't get his workout, Jake feels fat and sluggish. And if Jake feels fat and sluggish, ain't nobody happy.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Holiday gym trash

The day before Thanksgiving, this almost impossibly cute muscleboy appeared in my gym. Built like a college wrestler, he had everything I find distracting in a man: V-shaped back, cantilevered bubble butt and slabs-o-beef pecs hovering over a wall of cobblestone abs. And his FACE. Cute and impish, he had a grin that could convince Rush Limbaugh himself to throw his self-righteous feet in the air. (Now there's a mental image that could keep a guy impotent for a good long time.)

Best of all, the dude was a total flirt. We exchanged about 10 goofy smiles during our workouts and in the locker room, where he took his sweet time drying off from his shower and searching for his underwear. (Silly boy! He couldn't find his underwear!)

Of course, I never went up and said hi. Because that would be what normal people do. (Of course, neither did he, but this post is about me and my shortcomings. At least for now.)

So Thanksgiving weekend came and went, and he was the first thing I looked for when I got back in the gym on Monday. But no luck. I kept looking for him every day after that, but he was never there. Then last Thursday—the week before Christmas—I had to miss my usual lunch workout, and I found myself in the after-work gym crowd for the first time in years. I half expected to see my muscledude there, but no luck.


Until I went to take a shower. As I headed to the only open shower stall, I noticed a beefy guy across from me soaping himself up with his curtain slightly open. I didn't think anything of it until after I finished my (long, relaxing) shower and opened my own curtain. And there he still was: My muscledude. Staring right at me through the (even wider?) opening in his curtain. Still soaping himself up. And playing with his winkie.

Now, if we were in a porno movie (AS IF), this would be totally hot. If I were fantasizing—in my head and only in my head—about finally meeting up with him and gettin' it on like naughty pokeweasels, this would be totally appropriate.

But this guy was beating off in a public shower in a public gym in full view of anyone—gay or straight—who happened to pad by in a towel. As though it were OK.

And nothing kills my interest in a guy faster than staggeringly bad judgment.

And it actually gets worse. I saw Winkie Boy again yesterday over lunch. And he was doing that thing that pathetic gay guys do where they physically turn away from you so they don't have to acknowledge you—to, you know, show that they're cooler than you are. AS IF.

But I won't play his reindeer games. Because nothing cements my loathing for pathetic gay men faster than attitude. And I didn't ask for holiday gym trash for Christmas this year. I asked for SOCKS.

Christmas is ruined

Yesterday, my boss gave me a very thoughtful gift, which told me on no uncertain terms that I'm the biggest homo she knows.

And it prompted me to run home last night and finally wrap the equally thoughtful (but in a completely different way) gift I'd bought for her a month earlier.

And when I gave it to her this morning—giddy with the promise of her endless amusement over my shopping prowess—I found out that some other scabby Grinch thoughtful employee already gave her the same gift.


ADDENDUM: My boss saw this post and requests that I state here, clearly and unequivocally, that she is not, in fact, a crazy cat lady. Even though she has multiple cats. And she talks about cats all the time. And she just admitted that she addressed her cats as "people" as recently as this morning. And she poops in a litterbox.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

16 years

On December 21, 1988, a terrorist bomb blew Pan Am Flight 103 out of the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland, 54 minutes after it took off from London's Heathrow Airport. The explosion sent 259 passengers and crew members tumbling 6 miles to their deaths, killed 11 people on the ground, and created waves of shock and grief that continue to reverberate across the globe. My friend Miriam Wolfe, one of 35 students returning from a semester in London under the auspices of Syracuse University, was on that flight. Her death was the final, jarring event in a traumatic year that had brought me the accidental deaths of four other friends in an Easter plane crash and the breast cancer that would force my mother to endure a mastectomy and painful years of chemotherapy and drug treatments. While it is tempting to canonize the victims of violent disaster, Miriam was different—and inarguably deserving of such hagiography. A tribute written for one of three memorial scholarships established in her honor calls her "a rare and gifted young woman who lived life to the fullest; actively worked to change the world for the better; and gave a great deal of love, joy and wisdom to all who knew her." Her death yanked me from the comfortable naiveté of my youth and forced me to confront the pain and confusion of the adult world. It destroyed my faith in the inherent good of mankind but showed me how disaster can bring out the best in people. It gave me a nihilistic view of life but forced me to make the most of every moment I have. It made me appreciate the people around me but gave me little tolerance for anyone who wastes my time. And it instilled in me a knee-jerk animus toward religion and nearly all things Middle Eastern. Ultimately, though, Miriam's life and death taught me how to live and love and survive in ways I never thought necessary—or possible.

Excerpted from "Surviving the Bombing of Pan Am Fight 103: The Loss of Innocence and a Dear Friend in an International Tragedy." Journal of Personal & Interpersonal Loss, Vol. 3, No. 1, January–March 1998. Pages 117–134. Publisher: Taylor & Francis.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Weekend party count: 5

1) A small dinner on Friday night in honor of two friends' birthdays. It was at a great little Italian restaurant hidden in an otherwise residential neighborhood not too far from me, and it was LOVELY.

2) A balls-out holiday party at Rick's Friday night. I got there as it was winding down, but it was still packed with people, and I got to chat with some chorus boys I'd never talked to—including one adorable guy who (natch) already has a boyfriend.

3) A winter solstice cookie decorating party Saturday afternoon. We rolled dough. We cut out conspicuously non-denominational cookie shapes. We baked. We frosted. We ate the broken ones. ("Oh no! Another broken one!") We stumbled out of the house in desperate need of insulin.

4) A balls-out holiday party on Saturday night. This one also had a good mix of chorus boys, and—big gay sappy homos that we are—we eventually found ourselves singing carols in glorious harmony around the piano. (Could you just barf?) This time I dragged along my hunky Florida friends Andrew and Keith, who were in town to see a friend of theirs in the closing weekend of Diva Diaries, a cute little show with intelligently written music, fabulous costumes and larger-than-life talent. For all you Sondheim fans (and for those of you who aren't, that sting you feel on your cheek is from me reaching through the ether to SLAP you), the show is essentially a drag-queen Follies complete with a theater on the wrecking block, ancient unrequited love bubbling awkwardly to the surface, and the ghosts of long-forgotten glory days strutting around the stage in marabou and feathers. What's not to love?

5) A nice little get-together tonight in the Land Of Absolutely No Parking with a surprise ending: The host, who works for Sephora, gave us each nice gifts of skin-care products—with (scandal! intrigue!) the opportunity to steal the gifts we liked better from other party-goers. I came home with a dutifully stolen skin-cleansing kit that promises to "reduce the effects of aging." And as soon as I see any of these so-called "effects of aging," I'll be sure to let you know.

WHEW! I'm all partied out. For those of you who can still feel your toes, as of last night it's colder than FUCK in Chicago. And I'm ready to climb under 27 blankets for a long snuggly sleep. Good night!

Saturday, December 18, 2004


I finally got through the three-month hour finale of The Apprentice this weekend. Two words: superlative porn. WHY is Trump so obsessed with being the biggest and best at everything (except, of course, at maintaining financial solvency in his casinos)? If his buildings aren't the biggest and his offices the most luxurious and his real estate the most desirable and his show the most popular and his name the most famous and his girlfriend the most beautiful and his faucets the most gold-plated, will his world come crashing down around him? Is his grasp of reality empire that shaky? What is he working so hard to overcompensate for?

And WHY on earth was Regis Philbin involved in this bloated Trumpomercial? His blinding flashes of the obvious ("Wow. There was lots of conflict on your show!") could paralyze an entire city. His mere presence exponentially depletes the intellectual value of everything he touches. His voice makes my fillings ache. Please. Make. Him. Stop.

And you know what REALLY makes me uncomfortable? Pretend Friendship For The Sake Of The Viewers At Home. All the "fired" contestants sat there in the peanut gallery in that last hour and a half like best friends—after they'd spent so much time pummeling each other both face-to-face and face-to-back on TV for the last three months. I know we ignorant viewers see only what the editors want us to see for the sake of "drama" and "ratings" and "never letting us behold the beauty that is John answering the phone in his underwear even though we had to see all the flabby male contestants answer the phone in THEIR underwear"—and, for all we know, the contestants are all best friends who keep passing around the same kidney in a valiant effort to keep each other alive. But if they're gonna manufacture all this conflict and drama—and if Trump is going to keep reclassifying every minor disagreement between two people as "you two HATE each other"—why give the impression that they're all buddies at the end? Why, Santa? WHY?

Anyway, the nightmare is over. Another cute-enough straight white guy won. (Have there been NO gay people on this show? Or do the gay contestants all subscribe to the self-loathing myth about open homosexuality equaling corporate suicide? Or are the producers merely afraid to stand up to the destructively self-righteous Christian Hate Industry?) Anyway—thankfully—the clown-suit-wearing pussy-hound didn't win. And neither did the "I'll drop muh skirt!" bad-judgment queen. Or the pushy broad with the dykey hair.

And now we can all have a Very Trumpy Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 17, 2004


Then don't go here. (It's kinda boring at the beginning, but it is SO worth it at the end.)

Link courtesy of Dan.

You're the first one we're gonna kick out of here!

This was my heartfelt welcome to our company holiday party last night.

The party was at a nightclub called Crobar—which I thought was a great idea because the place is all hip and trendy so it promised to be a lot more fun than a sit-down dinner in a hotel ballroom.

So we get to the door and there's this bouncer who looks kind of hot from a distance but you realize he's not so hot when you get up close and discover that he just has a misleading distrubution of bodyfat and a buzzy haircut. He's putting these I'm-old-enough-to-drink wristbands on us without even checking our IDs and he has on this walkie-talkie headset that makes him look all important and shit. He seems friendly, and I'm in a good mood (having just gotten cheers and laughter and tons of compliments on my—I shit you not—company-wide sheet-folding demonstration), and as he's snapping my wristband on me I ask: "Do you sing with Britney?" And the dude gets PISSED. He finishes snapping on my wristband very roughly to indicate his displeasure and he tells me on no uncertain terms that no, he most certainly does NOT sing with Britney, despite the goofy headgear he's wearing. And then he threatens to kick me out of the bar with what turns out to be a great headline for a holiday blog post. Realizing it's probably pointless to pursue the matter any further with him, I craft a response in my head, which I am now posting here to exact my sweet revenge:

Dude. I'm gonna type this slowly so you can read it: I was making a stupid joke for the sake of lighthearted conversation. It was about nothing, so it meant nothing. It's what people who aren't assholes do. Just because you have no sense of humor and a worthless little penis that looks like a button on a fur coat doesn't mean you have to get all angry and up in my face. And I hate to play the arrogant classist jerk card (which is a metaphor, so don't get all excited thinking that your man-boobs are a pair of queens and you're gonna win something), but you're a bouncer with cheap shoes who works at a bar with a long and distinguished history of police raids, drug busts and court-ordered shutdowns. I'm a professional with a degree and a mortgage and a lifetime of friendly, lighthearted conversation under my belt. I have no interest in insulting you or belittling your job or starting a fight with you—or even being within 50 feet of you, for that matter. So chill. And go fuck yourself.

His weird little outburst actually puts a damper on my fun for a while, but as the party gets going I soon forget about him standing out there in the cold, lashing out at everyone's holiday cheer. (As you may recall, I have not been able to attend the last three company holiday parties because they were always scheduled the same weekend as my chorus shows. This year, I asked nicely if the company would consider scheduling the party around the show, and I was surprised—and more than a little touched—when they (enthusiastically) agreed. So I was especially motivated to have a great time last night. And I did.)

So the party's going and the food is good and people are having fun and we get to meet everyone's spouses and significant others—and the gay spouses are treated no different from the straight ones, but that's no surprise because my co-workers kick ass.

And the people with consistently bad judgment get wasted. And I get three very unequivocal sexual overtures (two girls and one guy), which I find completely flattering even though these people are so drunk they need help standing and I find people that out of control to be weak and beneath contempt.

And all this time, Crobar curiously won't let us on the dance floor, even though they're playing some great dance music. I'm moments away from quoting Bible verses to John Lithgow when they suddenly pull back the velvet ropes and let us kick off our Sunday shoes and everybody cuts footloose.

And despite some musical missteps (note to DJ: R&B is not appropriate for the dance floor, though it is appropriate for garbage cans and hard drives that are about to crash), we all cut a rug and shake our cleavage and two straight guys try to unbutton my shirt and suddenly it's 1:00 in the morning and I'm tired and I head home in a cab the company promises to pay for.

On the way out, I pass the pussy boy bouncer, who's shivering self-righteously at the front door. And I kick his ass blog about him the very next day.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Getting older is not pretty

I don't remember brushing my teeth this morning.

And judging from the rack of neatly folded angora sweaters in my mouth, I'd bet money that the reason I don't remember brushing my teeth is that I totally forgot to brush them.

Good thing I keep toothpaste and a toothbrush in my gym bag. And in my desk drawer.

It's also a good thing I'm in no danger of kissing anyone today.

* * * * *

In other news, I got the last of my 230 Christmas letters (which breezily cover the last 12 months of my life in four pages of single-spaced 10-point Garamond at 83% horizontal scale) folded, stuffed, stamped and mailed this morning. As I was cramming them in the mailbox, I apparently gave myself a nasty paper cut that my hands were too cold to feel. Once I got on the warm train, though, the spigots opened and I—with nary a kleenex in sight—bled all over everything.

And when I got to work, my boss (who'd received an advance copy of the letter) pointed out a typo on the last page. ACK! So I hereby decree that accouunts is now a real word. It's ... you know ... Dutch. Or something.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Holy sheet!

I have a special skill. It's apparently very rare—and very marketable. I don't talk about it much (mostly because the vast majority of conversations don't meander anywhere near the topic), and subsequently not many people know about it. But once in a while someone will bring it up, and people will come from miles around to acknowledge my talents and ask questions and basically bask in the glow of my supernova magnificence.

And, really, it's no big deal. REALLY. In fact, I'll tell you what it is right now: I can fold a fitted sheet.

Today at work has been one of the abovementioned once-in-a-while days. At some point this morning, word started spreading, people started stopping by and—I swear I am not making this next part up—I have been asked to demonstrate how to fold a fitted sheet at tomorrow's all-company staff meeting.

Which will make tomorrow a pretty eventful workday: I'm having lunch with the vice president to congratulate me on my recent promotion, we have our company holiday party (which the company actually scheduled around last weekend's chorus concert so I could attend it for the first time in four years) and I will demonstrate to 150 co-workers the proper way to fold a fitted sheet.

And you, my lucky, lucky, lucky readers, are about to learn how to fold a fitted sheet yourselves—before my colleagues will:

1) Make a fist.
2) Hang one corner of the sheet on your fist with the sleepy side up (and your fist on the mattress side).
3) Grab the corner at the end of the nearest LONG side of the sheet and hang it over the corner that's already on your fist. Make sure you keep the sleepy sides facing each other, so you'll essentially have the sheet inside-out from this point forward.
4) Grab the corner nearest to that top corner and hang it over your fist.
5) Grab the last corner and hang it over your fist.
6) Give the whole thing a few shakes and line up the loops of fabric on each side of your fist.
7) Lay it flat and fuss a little more with those loops until you have a nicely organized pile of fabric.
8) Fold it in halves or thirds just like a flat sheet until it's the proper size for storing it in your linen closet.

And you're done! This foolproof method is guaranteed* to give you professional results that will transform your linen closet into an oasis of Zen-like organization that you will proudly show your houseguests again and again. You can maybe even charge admission.

*Or double your money back. Not including tax, title or licensing fees. Restrictions apply. Do not use this method on sheets featuring animal prints or trendy cartoon characters. In fact, do not keep sheets featuring animal prints or trendy cartoon characters in your house, as they have been proven to cause horribly disfiguring diseases and/or inspire withering remarks of ridicule from homosexuals with fabulous taste. And you're lucky to have homosexuals with fabulous taste in your life, so don't fuck it up by buying crappy sheets. You've been warned.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Mary Christmas

A four-foot tree tastefully lit in white. A simple color scheme of gold and burgundy, played out in ribbons and echoed with garlands of petite gold stars. The admirable restraint of subtle accents—including a handful of antique holiday postcards and a star from Mother's holiday china collection. All on a round table covered in tree-colored damask to give the illusion of a full-size tree.

What could be more Mary?

Photo-posting and headline ideas stolen shamelessly from him.

Three standing ovations

How many did YOU get this weekend? :-)

The show went smashingly well. Our audiences cheered for the amazing stuff, laughed at the funny stuff, and applauded after all the cool solos and features. I got tons of compliments on my choreography, and I doled out tons of heartfelt compliments to our soloists and my dancers. The whole thing was a love fest. A big gay man-hugging love fest in honor of the birth of our lord and savior, Jesus H. Christ.

(Except for the one Jewish song. I'm not sure what IT was in honor of. Because I don't speak Jewish.)

But it gets better. Emboldened by the irresistable glow I got from my store-brand self-tanner (which is FAR preferable to stage makeup), I also violated my don't-sleep-with-fellow-chorus-members rule tonight at the cast party. I mean I TRIED to violate my don't-sleep-with-fellow-chorus-members rule tonight at the cast party. There's this hunky guy in the chorus, see, whom I've never talked to. (As you more experienced readers may remember, "guy I'm attracted to" = "guy I'm usually a bit shy about approaching.") Anyway, I quite randomly -- honest! -- found myself sharing one of our many dressing rooms with him last night. And then again tonight. And the guy looks GOOD in his underwear. Damn good. (As you more astute between-the-lines readers may note, he and I found ourselves side-by-side in our underwear twice in 24 hours -- and we also managed to sing three smash-hit shows in that time -- and we never once found a reason to strike up a conversation. I'm, like, totally retarded.)

Determined not to let him get away between now and our next rehearsal, which is a whole month away, I boldly walked up to him tonight at our party and said hello. And soon we were "accidentally" brushing hands and thighs and other body parts. And soon after that we had our arms around each other. And before we knew it, we were canoodling. Shamelessly canoodling. One might say we were perhaps even flirting.

And then he dropped the B-bomb. And after a LOT of probing questions, he reluctantly admitted he and the B were monogamous. And then I found out he's a top anyway. Sheesh!

And now I'm sitting home alone, blogging instead of doing whatever it is that people with better luck than mine do.

Just like always.

Friday, December 10, 2004


If you were trying to sell your condo and you wanted to impress a prospective buyer and give him the impression that your place was well taken care of and would make an excellent, worry-free purchase ... especially if you were given 24 hours' notice that he was coming to look at it ...


Thursday, December 09, 2004


I'm seeing other condos today. Lots of them. While I love my current condo—I really do—I feel it's time to move on. I want something with more long-term potential. I want to—as they say on all those reality dating shows—take it to the next level. I want my own washer and dryer.

I took today and tomorrow off so I could be fresh and ready for this weekend's show. (Got your tickets yet? You'd better. You wouldn't want to have an incomplete Christmas would you? WOULD YOU?) So Keith is meeting my mom and me at 10 for my first round of lookie-loos. On the docket today: two units in my building (and I'm all but giddy at the prospect of moving without having to rent a truck) and a handful of vintage rehabs (which theoretically have lower association fees because they don't have doormen, elevators and pools).

• The view Have I gushed about my view yet? It's specatacular! 24 stories up with an unobstructed panoramic look at the city that twinkles endlessly to the horizon at night.
• The location There's an express bus that gets on the drive a block from my front door and takes me almost directly to work. I'm half a block from the lake and the lakefront trail. I can walk to TWO grocery stores, TWO awesome pizza places, a cute little coffee shop, a haircut store and even a Payless (in case I need new shoes for Starr Jones' next wedding).
• The construction Yes, it's essentially a shoebox in a bland 1980s highrise—with all the character of a suburban Holiday Inn—but the building is solid, the rehab was done relatively well, and I feel very safe and cozy in it.
• The parking It's indoors. It's right next to the building. It cost me $20 grand, but I don't regret one penny of it.
• The utility bill I pay $18 a month in the spring and fall and never more than $40 in the summer and winter. ’Nuff said.

• My own washer and dryer I'm SO tired of scheduling my life around my dirty underwear. (Granted, I own enough underwear and (jeans) that I could go two months without doing laundry, but I'd really rather be able to do laundry when it's convenient for ME.)
• More room I want a second bedroom for the guests that seem to drop by at least one weekend a month. I want room to throw lavish parties and not feel like I have to exclude people because of space. I want an office where I can hide all the bills and crap that are trying to bury me alive. 750 square feet just isn't cutting it for me anymore.
• Outside space of some kind I want a porch. Or a courtyard. I want the fucking American Dream, and I want it right ouside my door, damnit!
• Sidewalk culture I'd love to open my front door and be instantly surrounded by people and excitement and cute little foo-foo shops and restaurants. Right now all I have is a lonely bus stop and a dry cleaner nobody seems to use.
• Real neighbors I thought living in a highrise would give me an instant community of friends. I was wrong. Nobody in this building makes conversation. Or even eye contact. I want fun people who drop by to borrow a cup of sugar and end up spending the day watching movie musicals on DVD with me. I want people who live down the hall who aren't afraid to ask me to help them paint a bathroom or install new plumbing. I want a building filled with supermodels who wander around in towels demanding that I kiss them.

One grave concern I have about moving—and I hate to even bring it up, but I feel I have to—is that there's a whole lot more city south of Foster than there is north of it. Which does not bode well for the NoFo thing. It's almost too much to bear.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Shameless groupie

I don't go to a lot of big-name (or even small-name) concerts. But I always make a point to see Chanticleer when it's in town—especially its annual so-amazing-it-should-be-illegal Christmas concert every December in Chicago's soaring Fourth Presbyterian Church.

Mom is also a fan, and since she was here during this year's concert, she gladly joined Matthew and me last night for yet another stunning kickoff to a joyous holiday season.

Named for the "clear-singing" rooster in Chaucer's impenetrable Canterbury Tales, Chanticleer is a 12-voice a cappella men's ensemble out of San Francisco that is equally comfortable (and virtuosic) singing early plainsong, Renaissance motets, jazz, gospel and even 20th century atonal compositions. Its singers have lush, gorgeous voices that can raise the roof on solos and then blend seamlessly with the ensemble to produce a hauntingly pure, clear choral sound.

In addition to being perhaps the best choral organization of its kind, Chanticleer also provides some fabulous eye candy, including this new guy, who's so handsome and well-groomed and who has such a gorgeous voice you just hope know he's gay popular at parties. There's also this guy, whose bio mentions Iowa and the Golden Gate Men's Chorus—which is code for gay accomplished singer—so I wrote him an endlessly clever fan email after last year's concert, but he never wrote back. Harumph. There's also this guy, but he's married, so who cares.

Matthew volunteered to provide "a little something" for dinner before the concert in his fabulous Gold Cost condo. But Matthew's the kind of guy who will gladly forgo the expected when he can careen wildly over the top—so, true to form, he prepared a sumptuous feast on a French theme, complete with wines, cheeses, salads, lemon chicken with beets and chunky croutons, and crème brûlée ... all homemade, all fabulous and all cataloged on individual menu cards propped up on our plates when we arrived. Showoff.

Let's just say the evening was perfect. And let's also just say that now I am finally in the Christmas spirit.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Pie party!

So since Mom is here for the week, and since she makes these amazing pies, we decided to have a small pie party last night so she could show off her pastry prowess and meet my friends.

The poor woman spent the entire day in my rarely used kitchen with my rarely used kitchen implements and my so stale they all had to be replaced at the last minute spices, but she whipped up 10 delicious pies in a range of pielicious flavors, and we had a lovely little reception.

But my stupid friends had this weird obsession with "calories" and "fat" and "trying not to be mistaken for mall Santas," so Mom and I had to be hard-core pie pushers to get each of them to eat their required four servings. Our efforts worked, though; we were left with less than one pie after everyone left.

I love throwing parties, but here's what I hate about it: My place is not so big—and, in the case last night, Mom is not a pie factory—so I couldn't invite everyone I wanted. In fact, my short guest list represented about a third of the people whose pie holes I wanted to stuff. So to speak. And I will spend the next 10 months stressing over the hypothetical hurt feelings of friends who for all I know couldn't have come anyway. (10 months. I'm that much of a mess.)

Fortunately—at least in the short term—I can drown those feelings of I-have-betrayed-my-friends despair in the yummy goodness of leftover pie.

Monday, December 06, 2004

I lost my job today

... when I traded it in for a FABULOUS NEW PROMOTION! WOO-HOO!

And what started on July 22, 1991, as a placeholder copywriter job to tide me over until I figured out what the hell I wanted to be when I grew up is now, 13 and a half years later, an associate creative director job with—ACK!—people who report to me.

I apologize in advance for all the careers I destroy as I struggle through this early learning curve.


I had another evening of fun with the girls on Saturday—this time at a foo-foo restaurant long on attitude and short on general yumminess. Except for the bread, which was positively orgasmic. It was so orgasmic, in fact, that we patrons were not trusted to be left alone with baskets of its leavened goodness on our tables. No! It was instead given to us intermittently by an international bread steward, who came around with a vast tray of the stuff, doling it out reverently with tongs only when he deemed we were ready for more.

To be honest, there wasn't much on the menu that I found appetizing, but I was in the minority. Our table ordered so much stuff, in fact, that the chef sent out a free pre-appetizer course that consisted of lumps of escargot on tiny beds of carmelized onions. I'd never eaten escargot before because, well, it never sounded very appealing. And my opinions were only reinforced as my little serving of it sat before me, looking like little more than what you'd find in your kleenex after a very productive blow.

But I'm a man of 2004! A boy of destiny! I take risks and try new things and grab the bull by the horns and fearlessly overcome my culinary revulsion inertia. So I tried it. And, to be honest, it wasn't bad. But it also wasn't terribly good. In fact, in a blind taste test, I don't think I'd be able to tell the difference between the poor little guy on my plate and a firm, hairy booger cooked in garlic butter.

For the life of me, I can't remember the name of the restaurant, but it was something like Kopa (Polka? Toga? Tapioca?). And if you ever go there, don't order the menu item simply called "pork." You'd expect to get a lovely pork roast crusted with rosemary and thyme, but you'd be wrong—because you'd instead get a greasy hamhock that's 80% bone and about 3% actual, edible meat. And you'd feel a little iffy for the next 24 hours.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Jake and the ladies

They've been coming to Chicago the first weekend in December for 10 years—to shop, to catch up, to gossip, to have fun. They're sisters and old friends, all Women of a Certain Age scattered between Iowa and Tennessee most of the year, and two of them have known my family for decades.

So when I moved to Chicago four years ago, I became an honorary member of their group, the recipient of countless dinners and drinks and small gifts in exchange for my slowly expanding skills as a native tour guide.

And during last year's visit, these religious, patrician Southern women decided it would be fun to come a day early this year and explore everything Boystown had to offer. It seemed like a fun idea at the time, though I didn't think anything would come of the plan. Fortunately, I was wrong.

They always stay at a fussy little boutique hotel near the Hancock Center, and when I met them yesterday morning in the lobby, I was greeted with rousing cheers and maternal hugs (including one from my mom, who joined us this year) and an urgent request that we get hoppin' so we wouldn't miss anything fun.

We started with a train ride—a first for many of them, which meant pictures. Lots of pictures. Even pictures taken by our fellow passengers. (So now there are at least 10 people in Chicago who think I'm a tourist. ACK!)

Then we had lunch at Nookie's, my favorite upscale people-watching diner in Boystown. Friday at noon is not prime people-watching time, but the food was excellent and the ladies were duly impressed.

Then we started our shopping loop. We headed up Halsted to Beatnix, a vintage clothing store with tons of funky attitude and cheap little doodads to buy—and even a huge room of fabulous drag. Unfortunately, I'd forgotten about the card rack just inside the door. The one with cards that say things like Suck my dick in big letters. Oops. Paragons of gentility all, the ladies laughed politely—and only one discreetly turned a few shades whiter. And one of them even bought a leather whip.

Next up: The Gay Mart, purveyor of all things dustable, kitchy and sometimes naughty. We spent great amounts of time browsing the penis cards, and some of the ladies bought foo-foo candle holders and superhero keychains. Then we paraded over to Broadway to explore Equnox, the granddaddy of all foo-foo Boystown stores, where we lost a good two hours (and a ton of cash) enjoying even more greeting cards, candles, ornaments and other assorted crap merchandise. Just down the block: Unabridged Books, where all we did was coo over the selection of adorable books for children. Our final stop: DSW, the Valhalla of shoe stores where, curiously, only one of us found a pair of shoes to buy.

Exhausted, we headed back to the hotel to regroup and wait to be joined by assorted children and stepchildren who happened to be in Chicago for various reasons. Then Mambo Grill, a trendy restaurant short on seating and big on noise—but able to fill our tummies with delicious South American cuisine.

The ladies decided to cap off their night at the nearby Redhead Piano Bar, but Mom and I were exhausted. I'd fulfilled my self-imposed duty to expose our red-state visitors to the human faces and experiences and communities of gay people, and we went home to bed.

Today: Mom and I share the day together. Tonight: We have a second dinner with the ladies. Tomorrow: Hell week starts for the chorus show.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

My favorite painting

Grant Wood, best known for his iconic American Gothic, lived and worked most of his life in and around my home town: Cedar Rapids, Iowa. His legacy in the area—in addition to an exhaustive collection of his work in the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art permanent collection—includes an annual art festival, a grade school (my alma mater!) and even the entire region’s public education agency—all in his name.

Of course, no Cedar Rapids student’s education is complete without thorough coverage of Wood’s stylized, iconoclastic, humorous and sometimes political oeuvre. And this Cedar Rapids student came away with a lifelong love of his work.

Grant Wood was a pioneer in a loosely coordinated artistic movement called Regionalism, which eschewed modernist, abstract trends like Impressionism and Cubism in favor of stylistic, romanticized views of everyday rural life in the 1930s. The Regionalists’ Weltanschauung was less concerned with promoting the leftist politics of 1930s Social Realists than with renouncing the hegemony of popular European culture and celebrating the honest work ethic and modest demeanor of the Midwest.

In 1928, Wood received a commission to create a giant stained-glass window for the American Legion in Cedar Rapids. In preparation, he traveled to Munich to study ancient stained-glass techniques under Germany’s famed master craftsmen. The window he created was a masterpiece of technique, form and color, but it drew fire from misguided patriots who criticized Wood for studying with the Germans—the enemy!—so soon after the first World War. One of the most vocal groups was the local chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution.

Wood’s elegant response: Daughters of Revolution, a satirical painting showing three dour spinstresses standing self-righteously—one, pinky extended in haughty indignation, holding a teacup in my grandmother’s china pattern—in front of Emmanuel Leutz’s famous Washington Crossing the Delaware.
Wood’s point, lost completely on the knee-jerk reactionaries the painting so elegantly mocked, lies in the fact that Washington Crossing the Delaware—that beloved icon of American patriotism—was painted by a German.

I loved this painting before I even knew its story. The smug women drew me in because their spiritual progeny hung just a few branches over on my family tree. The Blue Willow teacup fascinated me because its cousins served as my grandmother’s everyday dishes. (Have you ever eaten green Jell-O off a blue plate? NOT so appetizing.) And that shape—that relentless horizontalness—made the painting such a challenge to display in any setting.

But I accepted that challenge. Gladly. And my very own Daughters of Revolution print occupies the place of honor over my great-grandfather’s hand-built bookshelf in my dining room.

(HA! I see your Weltanschauung and raise you one oeuvre AND one hegemony.)

Liquor? I hardly even know her.

So after a drama-filled week for Greg that included endless schmoozing at his trade show and even an emergency hospital visit for one of the people he was traveling with, he and I were finally able to spend a quiet night together.

And it was very nice.

Except for the part where I offered him a drink. I'm not a drinker, you might recall, but I do have guest liquor in the house. Unfortunately, I never check up on the liquor. (And the thick layer of dust covering all of it should have been our first clue that this offering-Greg-a-drink thing wasn't going to work out very well.) So when Greg decided to make a gin and tonic, we discovered that 1) all the tonic was flat and 2) there was just a tiny splash of Tanqueray (I may not drink, but I'm still a brand whore) in the bottle anyway. So he opted for the Kahlúa Mudslide, which someone left here after my last party. Which was a year and a half ago. Let's just say the stuff doesn't keep very long.

Next up: the wine cellar. I have enough bottles of wine in the house that I actually bought an attractive wine rack to display it all. There were two open bottles, and when I reached through the cobwebs to pull them out, we discovered they were both filled with wine flakes. And apparently wine flakes are bad. But the third time's a charm, and the sole unopened bottle of red wine was drinkable. So the evening was saved. WHEW.

Greg had wanted authentic Chicago pizza, so I ordered my favorite deep-dish for us, and we collapsed together on my couch in a pile of arms, legs, hands and tomato-based goodness. And when he discovered I own Pirates of the Caribbean on DVD, he got very excited and we decided to watch it for our evening's entertainment.

You have to understand that Pirates of the Caribbean is one of my all-time favorie movies—mostly because it's based on my hands-down all-time-favorite amusement park ride. And also because the movie ROCKS. And maybe a little because I can spell Caribbean without looking it up. So when Greg 1) knew most of the dialogue by heart, 2) made intelligent, observant comments about the cinematography and 3) kept praising the gorgeous score, I knew ours was a match made in heaven—albeit a 10-hour match because he had to leave early this morning to catch his flight home.

In any case, we had a lovely evening, Greg's cabbing his way to O'Hare as we speak and I'm off to another glamorous day at the office. On today's docket: A chat with the company president about my oft-discussed promotion that never seems to materialize. Wish me strength.

Oh—and here's a grainy picture of the two of us the night we met in Montreal:

Monday, November 29, 2004

First music

Part of last night's conversation centered on the first 45s, LPs and CDs we each bought. The other guys all bought wacky 70s tunes like "The Night Chicago Died" to start their vinyl collections. I should mention that the four of us were 35 or 36 years old, so my first vinyl should have been something equally 70s rock/pop.

But noooo. I was a little gay boy hopelessly out of step with my peers. I was a shy little homebody perfectly content to dance around the living room all alone, listening to my parents' albums, especially Herb Alpert's Whipped Cream & Other Delights, the West Side Story movie soundtrack and the original Sound of Music Broadway cast recording.

(And yet somehow, my parents were surprised to find out I was gay.)

The first albums I bought were just as gay, and I got them from one of those school book-and-record order forms. They arrived together, so I don't really have a "first" album. And—quel surprise—they were the original cast recordings of Annie and A Chorus Line. I seem to recall I got them in sixth grade with my paper route money.

To be honest, I don't really remember the first 45 I bought. But I think it was either "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" or Miami Sound Machine's "Conga"—which, for those of you who are paying close attention, weren't even recorded until the 1980s. Which further underscores just how out of step I was with my peers.

I do remember my first CDs, which I also bought together: Carl Orff's mighty Carmina Burana and Meatloaf's operatic Bat Out of Hell. Neither of which earns me any butch points.

And while I'm on the topic, I do remember my first illegal Napster download as well: that dance-a-delic 80s remix of "Oh What A Night (December 1963)."

And in case I need to remind you: Yes, I am gay.

How was your night?

Mine turned out to be a lot cooler than I'd expected.

I had rehearsal from 3:30 to 8:30, and then I was going to meet up with my friend Greg for drinks. I'd first met Greg this summer at the gay chorus festival in Montreal. He's in the Los Angeles chorus, and we kinda had a three-day fling while we were there. Greg is, in a word, smokin' hot. (And Jake is, in a word, bad at counting words.) But once you get past his handsome mug, he's also sweet, charming, intelligent, talented, interesting, grounded ... basically everything I'd want in a boyfriend. Except for the living-half-a-continent-away part. And the fact that neither of us seemed to feel the kind of romantic spark that would let us entertain the thought of dating.

Anyway, Greg is in Chicago on business, and I'd somehow forgotten that he was actually going to stop by rehearsal for a while and hear us sing before we met for drinks. So when this stunning man appeared in the doorway and all 100+ heads in the room turned to stare, I had a brief moment of wow, that guy's hot before I had a more relevant moment of you moron, that's Greg and he's here to see YOU. And when I ran up to give him a big hug and say hello, I could feel my back being pounded relentlessly by legions sharp, angry daggers launched from the squinty eyes of 100+ bitter, jealous, wrinkly-eyed queens I was suddenly the most popular boy in the chorus.

He couldn't stay long because he had to head out to a business dinner, but he eventually met up with me at Sidetrack, where I was able to show him off introduce him to my friends Dan and Phil. So the four of us were standing around making small talk when Greg's phone rang. It was two friends of his who were also in town, and they were on their way to join us.

"You'll like my friend Christopher," Greg said after he hung up. "He was in that one TV sho..."

"Christopher Sieber?" I practically shouted, making an Olympic-caliber jump to conclusions. "Christopher Sieber from It's All Relative is coming here? To meet us? Tonight? Oh. My. God."

I'd had a little crush on Christopher (I call him Christopher) since It's All Relative came and went last fall. And when my hunky friend Keith told me he knew Christopher and that he's as hot and as nice as you'd hope he'd be, I'd ... well, it's not like there was much of a chance that our paths would ever cross, but I'd always thought it would be fun to meet him.

And tonight, I got to meet him! And he IS adorable. And he IS nice. And so his his boyfriend, Kevin.

I'd already met Kevin two or three years ago when he was in the spectacular national tour of Full Monty. I saw the show with a friend of mine who had done some theater with him, and we got to go backstage and meet the cast.

Anyway, Kevin is in town now with the national tour of Evita, Christopher is in town in rehearsal for Spamalot, they both know Greg—and the four of us just spent a totally cool two hours hanging out.

And obviously, we all went our separate ways, because I'm sitting here blogging instead of Gregging. But he's here until Thursday. Stay tuned for further developments ...

Sunday, November 28, 2004

36 pair of jeans

Who needs 36 pair of jeans?

What kind of weak-willed shopper would keep buying jeans until there were two shelf-to-ceiling stacks of them in his closet and another stack on the floor next to his closet because there was no more room for them in his closet?

What kind of ineffective penny-pincher would keep buying jeans he didn't really like because they were on sale for under $20 instead of just shelling out $60 or $70 for a couple pair he really did like?

What misguided fashionista would own 36 pair of jeans—which amounts to more than one pair a day for a month—but just keep wearing the same three pair in rotation?

My name's Jake, and I'm a jeanoholic.

(By the time 3:30 rolls around today, though, I'll be down to 24 pair—I spent the morning identifying 12 of the I-never-wear jeans as I-really-really-really-will-never-wear jeans, and they're currently in a giant bag to drop off at the Brown Elephant before my 3:30 rehearsal. That's a 33% reduction in inventory, and I still can't close my closet door. But it's a step in the right direction. A baby step, but a step nonetheless.)

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Giving thanks

The trip to Iowa is over, I'm back in Chicago and I had a great holiday. Some thoughts:

I wish I were a cow so I could have four stomachs—and four times the room for eating. (I know: That's not technically how cow stomachs work, but if you believe the public really needs to understand cow digestion in greater detail, is still available.) If our traditional Thanksgiving feast weren't delicious enough on Thursday, the next night we ordered my two favorite kinds of pizza, and if I'd been a cat (what IS it with this weird reverse-anthropomorphism I'm doing here?) I would have purred uncontrollably well into the night. To top it all off, Mom made a selection of her way-better-than-your-mom's pies, and we all but rubbed our faces in the pie plates after we gobbled them down.

I am so lucky it's almost obscene. My family is totally cool. We're all best friends. We talk and laugh and joke whenever we're together. Even with our bellies disdended with Thanksgiving goodness, we (most of the time, at least) jump up to help cook, clean up and hold back each other's hair as we purge at the toilet. And we have a long history of sharing the love at the holidays. From as far back as I can remember until I was well out of college, my family forwent (is that a word?) a "traditional" Thanksgiving dinner and spent each year managing the city's soup kitchen instead—and we recruited a lot of our friends to help cook, clean, decorate, serve, and just sit and visit to make our guests' meals meaningful. (In fact, it's where my sister met her husband. And no, he wasn't one of our customers.) Now that we've passed the serving fork (as it were) to a younger, more energetic family, we usually just invite people to eat with us at Thanksgiving, and this year we included my mom's only cousin, his wife, their daughter and her new husband AND a family friend who's all but become my niece and nephew's third grandmother. It was a great group, but there was NO elbow room at the table.

This uncle stuff rocks. I mean it REALLY rocks. My niece and nephew are happy, content, amicable little kids who are smothered in love—and aware that not every kid has what they have, thanks to my sister and her husband's thoughtful parenting. From the moment I walked in the door on Thursday until I left this afternoon, the kids were all over me with hugs and stories and things to show me and endless requests for being thrown in the air and swung around like monkeys (which, apparently, is solely the job of the uncle, who needed the exercise anyway).

Have I made you throw up yet? Sorry about that. It's just that I truly am lucky and I'm aware that I'm lucky and I'm thankful for both of those things. Even if I can't find a damn boyfriend.

But now I'm home and the house is already decorated for Christmas and I'm gonna take a long hot shower.

Happy holidays.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

A letter to the president

I've received this via email a couple times this week and I've seen it posted on a few other blogs as well. And a variation of it aimed at "Dr." Laura was making the rounds a couple years ago.

I don't know its provenance—so I can't properly attribute it—but it quite eloquently illustrates the foundation of my seething hatred toward frustration with people who blindly embrace deliberate and/or selective misinterpretations of Christian mythology's most hateful elements for no real purpose but to somehow justify their own irrational hatred ... and who cling only to those hateful elements that will get them in the least social trouble (e.g., they'll lash out at homos, who are clearly acceptable targets in today's Zeitgeist, but they won't attack more populous or socially powerful groups like Jews, women or the disciples of "the other white meat"—all of whom are condemned far more frequently (and explicitly) in the Bible).

Whew. That was one long-ass sentence.

In any case, here it is again for those of you who haven't seen it 14 times already since the election:

Dear President Bush,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s law. I have learned a great deal from you and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them:

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not to Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev. 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev. 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states that he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that, even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev. 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there “degrees” of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them (Lev. 24:10-16)? Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws (Lev. 20:14)?

As God's own chosen President, you obviously enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Ungrateful bastard

Look what I got for Christmas. Last year.

Guess what I finally took out of the box last night.

(In my defense, the box made a great little table for recharging my iPod. Now there's nothing by the floor outlet in my kitchen for me to set it on when it's charging. Thank you for understanding my pain.)

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Got your tickets yet?

Here are just a few of the reasons you won't want to miss our show:
• A 4-part raise-the-roof arrangement of Handel's magnificent "Hallelujah" chorus
• A 12-part stir-your-soul arrangement of "O Magnum Mysterium," sung in Latin
• "Winter Song," a rousing chorus in the best glee-club tradition with old-school lyrics like "And the ice gnomes are marching through their Norways ..."
• Toy teddy bears and wooden soldiers having a dance-off to impress a little kid (brilliantly choreographed by the always-humble me)
• Colin Farrell having a shirtless Crisco fight with Brad Pitt*

*Pending legal approval and contract negotiations

True to form, Ticketmaster has made it weirdly difficult to find our concert on its site, but here is the link.

Insider tip: You can usually get the best seats at the 5:00 Saturday show. You can thank me later.

Our holiday show always sells out, so get your tickets soon! Act now! Go! What are you waiting for? Get clicking! Shoo!

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Culture Vulture

Bob and I saw a bizarre little play at a bizarre little theatre. Bertolt Brecht's Puntila and his Man Matti is—and I'm just guessing here—an absurdist look at class divisions and the plight of laborers in 1930s Finland. Or it's an absurdist look at the fluidity of social stratifications in the presence of alcohol in 1930s Finland. Or it's an absurdist story about a wealthy alcoholic landowner, his wily but long-suffering chauffeur and the impending marriage of his never-satisfied daughter in 1930s Finland. Or it's just absurd. In any case, after getting over my initial discomfort at the prospect of watching a loud actor play a loud drunk for two hours, I enjoyed the play—at least to the extent I was able to understand it. My favorite part was the ending—and not just because it was the ending, but because the entire cast came out with half-filled beer bottles, began blowing over the openings and created a gorgeous calliope accompaniment to the closing song.

Bob and I continued our weekend of culture at the Art Institute with a viewing of Unbuilt Chicago, an exhibit of architectural models and drawings of Chicago buildings that never made it from the page to the real world. Some of the proposed buildings were spectacular—many of them disappointingly so in comparison to photos of the buildings that currently stand in their place today. The exhibit isn't very big, though, so while we were there we also visited some of our favorite pieces from the museum's permanent collection:
A Sunday on la Grande Jatte, a favorite of mine if not for the brilliant Sondheim musical it inspired then for its simple defiance against artistic conventions that sent modern art even further down the path of exploration.
Paris Street; Rainy Day, a sumptuous visual feast of energy, mathematics, perspective, atmosphere and social observation.
American Gothic, Grant Wood's wryly humorous, oft-parodied homage to enduring Midwestern virtues. I'm especially drawn to Grant Wood's paintings because he lived and worked most of his life in and around my home town. He even taught art at the high school that eventually became my junior high school. I also have a print of his brilliantly satirical Daughters of Revolution hanging in my dining room.

I sang with about 20 chorus members live on WGN radio to promote our holiday show. WGN broadcasts from a sidewalk-level booth (scroll down to see it) in the magnificent Tribune Tower on Michigan Avenue. Passers-by often stand at the windows and gawk in at the broadcasts—and since we were clearly and repeatedly identified as the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus, we were essentially specimens of homosexuality in a glass display box. So we spent most of our time in the studio demonstrating various group-sex configurations.

I'm choreographing the abovementioned show, and I'm pleased to report that as of today's rehearsal, all the choreography is taught. It's far from audience-ready, but at least it's all taught. WHEW.

Saturday, November 20, 2004


What do you say when you're making small talk with a guy at a bar and you really don't want it to go any further than that and he asks for your number?

On the flip side, why would you set yourself up for awkwardness and rejection by asking for a number from a guy you've been talking to for all of 10 minutes?

And when that guy -- no matter how skillfully or clumsily -- says he doesn't want to give you his number, why would you keep asking him for it?

OK, that was three questions.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Shameless Plug Public Service Announcement

Do you invest in mutual funds? Have a 401(k)? An IRA? A Roth IRA? CDs? Money-market holdings?

Did your eyes glaze over when you read that first paragraph?

At the bare minimum, you really should have retirement investments like IRAs and/or a 401(k) in place—and the sooner the better—because odds are my generation won't have Social Security to fall back on when we finally start to wrinkle. And it's not a bad idea to be making other investments to round out your portfolio. But if you don't even have the foggiest idea where to start, I have shameless plug to pass along to you.

I have a financial advisor named David Fain, and I'm impressed with him enough that I'm taking a break from my usual self-indulgent posts and brazen solicitations for praise to give him a little plug* right here on NoFo.

Since I met David last year, he's combed through my entire investment portfolio, recommended adjustments to my strategy, patiently explained things I didn't quite understand and taken care of new investments I'd been wanting to make. What really impressed me, though, is the fact that I gave him carte blanche to transfer my current investments to his name so he could get my commissions, and he didn't do it—saying it wasn't worth the cost to me.

What impressed me even more was that he took the time to get to know me personally and understand my needs and goals. He even took notes. And he calls me periodically to go over my portfolio, find out what's going on in my life and help me refine my strategies. No other investment advisor has done that for me.

He's also an experienced marathon runner, so right there you know he's good people. And though I try to keep my business in the family, hopelessly heterosexual David is much cooler (i.e., more stable, more reliable, more competent) than any of the gay financial people I've tried to work with in the past.

So give him a call at 847-663-7758. Even if you're not in the Chicago area.

Tell him Jake sent you.

* Full disclosure: I get nothing from any referrals I make here beyond the satisfaction of spreading the gospel of financial responsibility (and maybe a free dinner the next time I meet with David). David simply asked me this week if I knew anyone he could call to drum up new business, and I figured NoFo was the best way to reach a wide range of people. And that's the miracle of the blogosphere: it brings us networking opportunities in the name of financial harmony.