Monday, July 26, 2004


By a freakin' REPUBLICAN.

First of all, I have to say I appreciate his straightforwardness and honesty. My biggest bitch about the men in this town is the way they say they'll call when they have no intention of calling and the way they say they just want to be friends when they're too weak to actually say they'd really rather keep the "friendship" on an only-if-we-bump-into-each-other level.

And second of all, it's not like we had this epic romance going. We had four really nice dates, which progressed steadily from intense connection to sweet romance to funeral luncheon. We had a fifth date lined up before I took off for Montréal, but he kept postponing it. And I never got the hint. (But then again, why would I? He was already talking about getting his dog used to me so she wouldn't get all excited and pee every time I came over. I defy anyone to find anything but an I'm-definitely-interested-in-you subetxt in THAT.)

That said, it's never really fun hearing "I'm not really ready for dating" followed by "I'd like to just focus on my tight little circle of friends for now." Especially over the phone. Especially when you're already friends with a lot of the guys in that tight little circle.

But we were adults about it. I told him I was disappointed but that I understood. I almost told him to call me when he was ready to maybe get a friendship going, but I'm glad I didn't. Because he was sending clear signals that that would probably never happen. And my well-honed self-preservation mechanism had already kicked in.

So I guess that's the end of Red Shirt. Also known as Dan.

And I guess I'm free to keep looking ... with a totally clean slate.


Sunday, July 25, 2004

Unbecoming behavior

I forgot to post something about my Montréal trip. Something not very nice.

Sunday night there was this dance, see, and it was at some brand-new über-trendy club high in some corporate skyscraper far from all the other GALA events. The club was so trendy-exclusive, in fact, that the invitation didn't even include a freakin' address. But that's a rant for a different posting.

Anyway, after a good hour of riding the subway and traipsing around a foreign neighborhood in the dark and IN THE RAIN and asking a long string of clueless locals for help, we finally found the club. And the line was at least a block long. And not moving.

I quickly lost interest, bid my fellow club hopefuls adieu and headed for Rue Saint-Catherine to find a cab home. On the way, I passed one of Montréal's billions of homeless people begging on the sidewalk. True to my indifferent Chicago roots, I kept my blinders on and kept walking.

A few steps later -- in what should be a different story altogether -- I felt what I thought was a tiny little fart knocking at my back door. Without disrupting my stride, I opened the valve just a bit to let it out.

And instead of the tiny little peep I expected to come forth, out came a LOUD wake-the-dead kind of fart, trumpeted with all the subtlety of Rush Limbaugh's personality on Don't Wipe Your Ass Day.

So not only did I callously ignore the poor homeless man slumped on the sidewalk in the rain, but I FARTED ON HIM AS I WALKED BY.

I am SO going to hell.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Bon hiver sur la Montréal avec boeuf! Voiture!*

* Greetings from Montréal! I hope you like this message I'm sending for you!**

** I was going to post something with this headline while I was actually in Montréal, but I had a bitch of a time finding 1) an Internet cafe and 2) the time to sit and write. So I'm posting it now, after I'm safe at home and able to poop in my own toilet once again.

So I'm back -- and I'm both exhausted and exhilarated. Everyone who's been to a GALA festival raves about how profoundly cool the experience is, but I was skeptical. I mean, come on -- it's a bunch of gay choruses singing back to back, hour after hour, day after day for seven freaking days. In two separate theaters. And gay men's choruses don't particularly attract the hunky, lusty, eye-candy-y demographic you find at other gay events. I'd half expected this week to be so dull that I'd sneak home a few days early and enjoy some unaccounted-for time in Chicago where nobody in the whole world could find me.

Fortunately, I was wrong in almost all of my assumptions and expectations.

The festival
We sang first, kicking off this week-long love fest. And I mean LOVE fest. We got the kind of cheering, screaming, throw-your-panties-on-the-stage reaction from the GALA audience that you'd normally expect only for people like Madonna or (grrr) Ricky Martin. (Can you feel the love? Can you FEEL the fucking love?) And it just fueled us to be even better. We ROCKED, actually. And we left the stage buzzing on a high that didn't go down for days.

I also hadn't counted on being so moved and so inspired by the other choruses I saw. I heard gorgeous music, reflected on thoughtful programming, got swallowed up in tears and goosebumps and cheers, and actually found myself contemplating moving to a new city so I could sing with two of the choruses -- both of which were from LA ... and one of which was a women's ensemble. Which would involve a few logistical challenges.

Official Decree from the Kingdom of Jake: Songs about singing -- especially in the first person ("We're gay men and we're singing this song because we're out and we're proud and did we mention we're GAY?") -- are stupid and dull and tedious. So are Meaningful Commissioned Works About Gay Love And HIV. They've been done, and there's nothing left to explore on that planet. Even worse is original, amateur material -- which inevitably gives us unendurable crap like "Gaydar!" and "Flowers Have Agendas."*

*Actual song titles from a mini-musical about gay people turning blue. As in physically turning blue. I tried to rip my veins out with my teeth so I could bleed to death instead of having to sit through it in Montréal. But no such luck.

The men
Men in Montréal are hot, but not Stepford-fascist hot like they are in America. They tend to have great bodies with a little bit of extra flesh around their middles. Which is refreshingly sexy. And you'd be surprised how operating in that aesthetic can boost your self-esteem.

And let me tell you, there was not enough of my relatively-hot-with-a-little-flesh-around-my-middle self to go around in Montréal. I got more attention this week -- even as my muscles atrophied and my gut expanded from the lack of available exercise equipment and healthful, low-fat food -- than I get in a month in Chicago. Bring it ON!

Speaking of men, do you know that stereope that says gay men tend to be beautiful and cultured and rich and hunky and good dancers? It's just not true. We largely blew that one out of the water this week.

And do you know that stereotype that says lesbians tend to be obese and unattractive with unflattering hairstyles and wardrobes right out of the Shoney's Employee Manual? That one's pretty true. With the notable exceptions found in this chorus.

OK. Enough with my bitchy little insults.

The city obviously had a huge building boom in the 1970s (no doubt fueled by the 1976 Olympics). Unfortunately, it also seems to have encouraged its architects at the time to be unnaturally avant-garde in their work -- and as a result, the overriding effect is a boxy, beige-y, thoroughly dated aesthetic that calls to mind early personal computers and first-generation "brick" cell phones. And it's EVERYWHERE -- which is especially jarring next to all the beautiful Victorian buildings that seem to represent the only other architectural style in the city.

And speaking of dated cultural artifacts, we swear Montréal JUST discovered the '80s -- from music to clothes to hair. The whole city made me feel downright progressive in my sensible Gap and Old Navy wardrobe.

While Duval Airport is clean and airy and altogether beautiful, the rest of the city is dulled by a layer of grunge and neglect. Sidewalk cracks are choked with weeds, buildings are unpainted, landscaping ranges from anemic to overgrown ... and even the Olympic Village sits in an obvious state of disrepair. It's kind of depressing. (I will concede that the Place des Arts shopping and theater complex where the GALA took place was always clean and nice -- though it had all the aesthetic charm of a suburban Holiday Inn. Even when you factor in its bizarre fountain/wading pool with orange chickens and bulls standing around in disturbingly yellow water.)

Montréal does know how to have fun, though. The bars were always hopping, and there were tons of street fairs going on the whole week we were there. My favorite was Juste Pour Rire, the "just for laughs" festival in the Latin Quarter a block from our hotel. It even had a Euro-funky little green monster mascot that was plastered on everything from backpacks to beer bottles to window decorations to lamp posts.

The food
It's not very different from American cuisine. In fact, America's two biggest culinary exports to Canada seem to be Burger King and Subway. I'm so proud.

And if I could change one thing about the food in Montréal, it would be to introduce the concept of skim milk. The lowest fat content I could find for milk was 2%, which is like Elmer's Glue to my delicate, skim-milk-only palette. ACK!

Speaking French
I was surprised how functional I was in Montréal with only a single adult French class under my belt. It helped that the country is completely bilingual -- I'd just read something in English and then read it again in French when I already knew what it said. You'd be amazed how effective that can be for absorbing a language.

And speaking French is fun! My new favorite word to say: crêperie

I also got a little thrill each time a clerk or waiter approached me and chose to speak French instead of English. As though I passed for a native or something.

Question: If you live on Rue Saint-Denis, are you a Saint-Denista?

Non-festival adventures
I roomed with three friends whose obsessive planning and alpha-male personalities helped make this week even more spectacular than I could have hoped. Jeremy and Shawn coordinated side trips like whitewater rafting on the St. Lawrence River (which was more work than I'd expected but a blast nonetheless) and a road trip to Québec City (which is GORGEOUS -- almost as nice as the Canada you see at Epcot Center), and Arnie (bless his hyper-social heart) got us invited to tons of parties and helped us meet tons of people from all over the world. And I was perfectly content to just follow whatever they suggested and throw money at them to help pay for it.

So I'm home. It's late. I'm halfway unpacked. I'm fading in and out as I type this.

And I'm a better man for it all.

Friday, July 16, 2004

I almost forgot ...

I have two anniversaries to report:

• Today is the four-year anniversary of my move to Chicago. Woo-hoo! I'd planned to write a huge, dramatic, expertly crafted post about the whole story, but WORK and VACATION got in the way. What's a boy to do?

• Monday is the one-year anniversary of this very blog. Woo-hoo again -- though there's really no exciting story to post beyond what you can read here. So get clicking.

It's after 11 pm and I have to leave the house at 5:30 tomorrow morning. And guess who's still not completely packed...

My last day in Chicago

I spent it putting out fires at work (and breathing a that's-not-my-problem sigh of relief every time another fire flared up) and then riding home on a bus filled with fat, loud, obnoxious children who would all make great "before" models in an ad campaign promoting post-natal abortion.

Now I'm home with four objectives before I crawl into bed:

1) Run one last time.
2) Do a mountain of stinky-runner and painty-bathroom laundry.
3) Figure out what the hell I'm going to pack. And then squeeze it all into my handsome luggage set.
4) Get a key to Dan so he can water my plants and bring in my mail and beat off to my porn.

Then, at an ungodly early hour tomorrow, I climb onto a plane and wing my way off to a week-long vacation in Montreal.

The vacation is centered around the VIIe Festival International GALA Choruses, which is a very weird name for a week-long concert of gay men's choruses. My chorus is the first to perform -- we're on Sunday, and we kick off a whole week of singing and exploring Montreal and getting to know gay singers from all over the world just a little bit better.

And I've already packed a pile of work to bone up on during the flight home. I'm just lucky that way.

Anyway, I assume I'll find an Internet cafe somewhere in Montreal and make a few posts about my adventures this week.

Be good while I'm gone. And if you're not good, write to tell me all about it.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

There's no accounting for taste.
Or maturity.

So I subscribe to this email list thing that a friend runs. Each Monday he proposes a topic to a bunch of his friends. We all submit our funniest ideas for that topic by Wednesday. We vote on the submissions on Thursday. And on Friday (or in this case, late Thursday night) we see who wins. Like clockwork.

The topics range from the naughty to the political. (And I can't think of a single example of either to share with you at the moment. Sorry.) I don't know this guy's friends, but the vast majority of the submissions (and, not surprisingly, the weekly winners) are usually pretty lame. Painfully lame. My clever, thoughtfully phrased submissions never make it to the top 10, but the stupidest, most predictable ones often win. There's no justice.

But this week, the tables are turned. I submitted the dumbest entries I could think of. And I got three of the top nine! No wonder Bush is in office.

So here, for your reading pleasure, is this week's topic with the winning entries. I have modestly included a tiny symbol next to my submissions so you can see which ones I wrote.

* Lesbian Pick-Up Lines We Never Want To Hear *

1st: Has anyone ever told you how much you look like Ernest Borgnine?

2nd: Can I borrow your lipstick?

3rd: C'mon ladies -- three holes, no waiting!

4th: Lesbe friends. I'll give you a moment to mullet over. [MINE! I WROTE THIS ONE!]

5th: Do you have any D batteries I can borrow?

6th: Don't you sing baritone in the Fish 'n' Flannel Chorus? [I ALSO WROTE THIS ONE! ISN'T IT STUPID?]

7th: Your gash or mine?

8th: And you cleared that whole stand of trees in HOW many minutes? Grrrrrrr!!

9th: Is that a doughnut in your pants or are you just glad -- hey, it IS a doughnut! Can I have a bite? [MINE! MINE! MINE! AND ACTUALLY, I THINK THIS ONE IS PRETTY FUNNY!]

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Box turtle: The new gerbil

"It does not affect your daily life very much if your neighbor marries a box turtle. But that does not mean it is right. ... Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife."
-- Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), advocating a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in a speech July 8, 2004, to the Heritage Foundation.

"In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be."
Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa), in an AP interview April 7, 2003.

OK. We get it, Republican Senators. You're obsessed with hatred for other human beings. You're obsessed with dividing the world into Us and Them. You're obsessed with animal fucking.

Well, guess what? You're looking more and more desperate as you try to justify your wholly unjustifiable opinions -- and you're actually making eloquent arguments for gay marriage in the process.

Where you sow hatred and division, gay marriage celebrates love and respect.

Where you paint mental pictures of man-on-animal sex, gay marriage celebrates the physical union between adult humans.

Do you REALLY see the whole box turtle argument as valid, Mr. Cornyn? Since box turtles can't declare vows or sign marriage licenses or stuff their little turtle friends in ugly bridesmaid dresses or even so much as demonstrate emotional or intellectual free will, this puerile little example you coughed up makes you look rather ignorant, don't you think? And it also kind of makes you look like a pervy little turtle fucker.

What's more, Mr. Cornyn, the current state of marriage mandates that "you must raise your children up in a world where the whimsical union of Britney Spears and some random childhood friend is on the same legal footing as man and wife." Which is more demeaning to the so-called sacred institution of marriage: ludicrously hypothetical man-and-box-turtle marriage or wholly legal and legitimate 55-hour heterosexual sham marriage?

And since -- deep in your cold, black heart -- you probably already know the answer to that question, where is the legislation you're writing that ensures impulsive marriages like Britney's don't continue to threaten and cheapen the already shaky institution of marriage? In fact, every real and measurable threat to the institution of marriage comes solely from heterosexuals, who are the only people currently allowed to marry. And these threats are both legion and caustically destructive: divorce, adultery, annulment, premarital sex, spouse abuse and the unquenchable demand for abortion that continues to polarize our nation.

Where is your legislation that criminalizes these actions as they relate to marriage?

Where is your sense of decency?

Where is your soul?

Monday, July 12, 2004

Weekend Adventures

The chorus show.
No fuckups. Two standing ovations. Some shameless backstage flirting with one of our adorable new members. It all adds up to a good time.

The expanding blogosphere.
Fellow chorus member Rick now has a blog. Give him a visit. Make him feel welcome. (But not like you're a horny chorus boy and he's a visiting German. It's been done.)

The bathroom.
Dear Kohler,

I recently installed a bathroom faucet made by your company. I'm a fairly competent plumber, with lots of successful DIY experience and two rolls of plumber's tape in my toolbox. So I know what I'm doing. And I know that replacing a simple faucet -- especially when you have all the right tools at hand -- should take 30 minutes. 45 tops.

I also therefore know you're a bunch of morons whose bad design decisions transformed a quick project into a full-weekend ordeal for me. Who ever heard of a faucet with female water-supply connectors? And how did you determine that the water-supply hoses you included would offer only 3/8" compression fittings? (What about those of us with 1/2" pipes in our walls? Don't we get a voice?) And why -- in a shallow gesture toward standard plumbing sizes -- did you include female-to-male adapters (a medical miracle!) that made the faucet too big to fit through standard holes in standard sinks? WHY DO YOU SUCK SO MUCH?

Even though I now loathe you and all your employees with every fiber of my being, the faucet looks quite handsome in my snappy new bathroom. But only because I had to lug the whole damn thing to my friendly neighborhood Ace Hardware Store -- TWICE -- and have the kindly old proprietor -- who was also quite stymied by your poor design choices -- help me jerry-rig the water-supply elements I needed to get your fucking faucet working properly.

You suck and I hate you.


Friday, July 09, 2004

Got your tickets yet?

Our Chicago Gay Men's Chorus show opens tonight -- and it closes tomorrow night after a grand total of three performances, so you have a very small window of opportunity to see us.

We had our final dress rehearsal last night, and I must say I'm pretty impressed with the whole thing.

It's not all about us, either; we usually invite a guest chorus to join us for our Pride show. And this year we've even thrown in a BONUS chorus -- giving you THREE choruses of singing homosexuals for the price of ONE!

The first group on our stage is our sister ensemble, the Windy City Gay Chorus. It's gotten smaller over the years, but it still packs a musical wallop. My favorite piece from the Windy City set is its closer, a rousing arrangement of "What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor?" Very fun.

The second group is visiting us all the way from Hamburg, Germany, Chicago's sister city. (Do you see a "sisters" theme here? While it would be fun to honor this coincidence by singing "Sisters" from White Christmas, we've opted simply to call our show Sisters: Hands Across the Water.)

Anyway, back to the second chorus: Schola Cantorosa. They're German. They're all vaguely attractive daddy-bear types. And their set is positively Lynchian ... if David Lynch directed a high-school pirate musical featuring a chorus of aging, hairy German guys. Parts of their performance are funny. Parts are really quite beautiful. And parts are positively bizarre. Let's just say you haven't experienced quality theater until you've seen a bunch of hairy German homos in pirate outfits singing "MacArthur Park." Barefoot. In French.

And then we get to our part of the show. The Chicago Gay Men's Chorus has long been known for silly, irreverent, energetic, clever performances. And lately, we've been working hard to add adjectives like musical, lyrical, cerebral and challenging to that list. And we're succeeding quite nicely.

We open with Aaron Copland's austere "Zion's Walls" and segue into a beautiful piece our endlessly talented musical director wrote to a sexually charged passage from Song of Songs. Two of my other favorite numbers are a demonically powerful, wickedly syncopated piece in Latin called "Daemon Irrepit Callidus" and a haunting arrangement of "Tenting Tonight" that offers a poignant commentary on our country's state of war. And we close our set with a hoppin' little dance segment (with gen-you-ine Appalachian clogging!) that I choreographed.

Then all three choruses join forces to close the show with a group number that's a little slice of hell for anyone on stage who considers himself any kind of musician. The Germans picked it out, and it's a freakishly stupid song with freakishly stupid lyrics ("Love iiiiiiiiiiiiis the answeeeeeeeer!") that a great many of us have already performed. IN JUNIOR-HIGH SWING CHOIR.

Embarrassing ensemble closer notwithstanding, this concert promises to be pretty amazing. So go! Get your tickets! Enjoy our musicianship! Applaud us! Loudly!

Here's all the info you need:

Friday, July 9, 8:00 pm
Saturday, July 10, 5:00 pm
Saturday, July 10, 8:30 pm
The Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, Chicago (at Lincoln and Wellington)

Tickets are available at:
The Athenaeum Theater Box Office: 773-935-6860
Ticketmaster: 312-902-1500 or

More information:

Thursday, July 08, 2004

A call for help from my readers

The bathroom re-do is almost complete:

• The painting and all subsequent touching up are finished. I hope. I may look for some funky gold and/or silver stenciling to decorate the tops of the walls, though, because they're looking rather plain. I just haven't decided if that's too gay. (I also have this weird decorating fantasy of stenciling all the Latin conjugations of "to wash" -- lavo, lavat, lavas, etc. -- around the wall above the shower. But I need to 1) make sure I have the conjugations right and 2) find a cool lettering stencil or 3) develop a steady hand and paint the words myself. So it will probably never happen.)

• Bob went with me to Expo Center on Tuesday after work to help pick out a shiny new faucet and space-agey new towel bars (one of which I had to exchange for a shorter one last night before rehearsal because apparently I suck at measuring). The towel bars are up and sporting towels already; the faucet will have to wait until this weekend when I have time to make the three trips to the hardware store that are required every time I replace plumbing.

• I bought new outlets and switches (to be installed this weekend when I have daylight to compensate for the power being off) and even a new doorstop (installed last night).

• I still can't find the right replacement bulbs for the vanity mirror. (Damn. Gotta keep shopping.)

• I also can't find a decent-looking metal soap holder to replace the worn-looking one installed in my shower wall. I may just try to polish it and keep the lights low to hide its abject shabbiness. But I bought new grout for it, and nothing spruces up a shabby shower like shiny new grout.

But here's where I need your help: On a recent episode of Queer Eye, Thom decorated a whole wall in someone's house with little three-ish-inch square blocks of wood that he put votives on. It looked totally cool, and I figured it would be a cinch to find those blocky little shelves in practically any store. I figured wrong. I can't find the fuckers anywhere. (Places I've looked so far: Crate & Barrel, Pier 1, Z Gallerie, Expo Center, Restoration Hardware, Bombay Company, Pottery Barn, Home Depot, and a range of google searches for every combination of the words shelf, small, square, votive, candle and curio that I can think of.)

So do you, dear readers, have any idea where to find them? I don't care if they're wood or metal or some wholly unnatural man-made material (I can always paint them). But my bathroom renovation will be incomplete and all my future bowel movements will be slightly unsatisfying if I don't have a wall of votives on little blocks of wood to stare at as I perch on the throne.

Please. I'm on my knees. (And while I'm down here, I see another little spot that needs more paint. Shit.)

Wednesday, July 07, 2004


The Proud to Run race results are finally posted -- and I finally beat my personal best on a 10K!

Actually, I beat my personal best on pretty much anything I've ever run; I've been clocking in at 9-minute miles for years. But 54:40 minutes ÷ 6.2 miles (why they call it a 10K but still break down the pace by miles is beyond me) = 8.77-minute miles. Woo-hoo!

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Perfect Greige

Those of you who've been in my bathroom know that 1) it takes beige and white to new heights of dullness 2) there have been little paint-sample chips taped to the tiles next to my shower for almost three years and 3) clearly I'd much rather talk about getting rid of the beige than actually doing something about it.

In my defense, there are quite a few factors contributing to my inertia:

• The beige tiles, though boring, are in good shape, so I couldn't decide if it was worth the trouble to rip them out and start over.

• The vanity and mirror, though boring, are of a non-standard size, so I couldn't decide if it was worth the expense to replace them.

• I have only one bathroom, so any major overhaul would force me to poop in the kitchen sink for a couple weeks.

• Two different shades of beige tiles, a white vanity and a putty-gray sink make finding a color that ties everything together a bit of a challenge.

Well, those of you fascinated enough by this story to have read this far will be thrilled to know that I finally made a damn decision this weekend -- and I actually painted my bathroom.

I started on Sunday when I realized I hadn't been invited to any barbecues (sniff). I figured I'd focus my unused patriotic energies on ridding the country of ugly towel bars and mousy-blah color schemes. So I ripped down the hardware, spackled the holes and primed all the rough spots.

Then I went to buy the paint. It seems, though, that there was some national holiday on Sunday that required all the paint stores to be closed. So I woke up first thing Monday morning and headed out to stock up on paint and painting supplies. I was going to get new towel bars and a new faucet as well, but the Loewe's towel-bar-and-faucet aisle was a paragon of disorganization and poor selection. And I couldn't find the damn Home Depot. (How can you lose a Home Depot?) But I figured I'd need to paint before I could install hardware anyway, so I headed home and started burying the beige under two coats of a mossy, earthy brown called Perfect Greige, which tied the beige tiles, white Formica and putty-gray sink together nicely.

I had no idea what a Greige was, but I figured it was perhaps some rare stone indigenous to Northern Europe and used mainly to build 16th century English castles. Or maybe it was a region in the Sahara known for its pristine, sun-bleached sands. But when Paul called and I was describing it to him, he figured it was a portmanteau of gray and beige. ACK! Terrified of the bourgeois implications of covering my bathroom with such a pedestrian color name, I turned to my good friend, who informed me that greige is an adjective used to describe textiles that aren't bleached or dyed. Whew. My fussy, label-whore homosexual reputation was still intact. At least in my bathroom.

As usual, the color dried a little darker than I'd hoped. And the ceiling and door, which I painted one shade lighter -- in the extremely pedestrian-sounding Versatile Gray -- don't look any different from the walls. But it's done. The painting is done. The paint chips are gone. The ugly towel bars are gone. And -- most important of all -- the 1985 suburban Holiday Inn aesthetic has been completely eradicated from my loo. And if that's not a reason to set off fireworks, I don't know what is.

Monday, July 05, 2004

20 years ago today

It was cool and stormy in Iowa. I had just completed my first year of high school (which, in Iowa, was my sophomore year). My best friend at the time was a just-graduated senior named Lucy. She and I had been in tons of choirs and shows together that year and had become very close. So close, in fact, that I had come out to her earlier that spring as we huddled under a blanket together on a choir-tour bus with a broken heater. Which made her -- if you don't count the creepy old men at the dirty bookstore at the edge of town -- the first person I'd ever come out to.

So back to July 5. Lucy and I had braved the storms to drive clear across town to the movie theaters at Westdale Mall to get our second fix of that dreamy Kevin Bacon in "Footloose." I don't remember being terribly restless or upset about anything by the time she dropped me off at home that night, but I guess I became that way when I walked in the door and found my parents in some stupid little disagreement over some stupid little something. I don't remember the topic. I don't remember whether or not it involved me. I don't remember whether or not I was even a part of the conversation. But at some point I blurted out this inelegant verbal provocation: "Well, at least you can talk about your problems."

On the surface, it was an innocuous little pointless-fight-starter not unlike any other slightly charged statement that could come out of any other moody 16-year-old's mouth. But it was definitely fueled by my frustration over being gay in a world that hated gay people -- especially my lonely little world, which consisted of a Reagan Republican household in a smallish Midwestern town.

I don't remember where the conversation went from there, but I vaguely remember storming up the stairs and throwing myself angrily (wearily? fearfully?) into bed. And soon after, my mom came up and sat down next to me to see what my problem was.

Again, the details are fuzzy, but I do remember there was some hemming and hawing. And that the topic came first from her mouth -- as undramatically and inelegantly as I'd started it: "Are you not interested in girls?"

I fearfully (defiantly? timidly?) nodded my head. And I was officially out to my family. The family that, on the rare occasion it even talked about homosexuality, did so disparagingly. Sometimes in the same sentence as the word "disown." And I still had two more years of high school ahead of me.

Mom's first reaction was to advise me not to tell a soul -- specifically my father. Which I had no intention of doing anyway, thank you very much. Unbeknownst to me, though, Mom promptly told Dad and a bunch of their friends.

So things around the house got pretty ugly. But not in the beat-and/or-disown-your-kid way I'd feared. Everything was just ... tense.

And when my grandma on my mom's side died the next month, Mom -- who was an only child and now an adult orphan -- even uttered the phrase "I've lost my mother and I've lost my son" in one of the (finally) more dramatic moments of the whole coming-out-to-my-parents process.

After learning that Dad knew my little secret, the three of us started the Therapy Tour, which included stops at the family counselor's, the psychotherapist's and the offices of a range of religious leaders. Mercifully, they all gave my parents the same feedback: There's nothing wrong with homosexuality, your son is remarkably well-adjusted about it and the problem lies with you.

It took my folks a couple years of Not Talking About It to unlearn the lifetime of stupid prejudices that had been imprinted on their DNA by societal ignorance and the Christian hate industry, but they (relatively quickly) became the coolest, most well-adjusted parents a little gay boy could ask for.

And, 20 years and one long-term boyfriend (who still wasn't out to his folks by the time he was 30) later, I'm especially glad I got the coming-out-to-the-family drama over and done with at such an early age.

So happy coming-out anniversary, Mom and Dad. (Not that you'll ever see this.) I love you.

Friday, July 02, 2004

¿Vamos a cardiar?

Bill is another copywriter at my agency. He's about my size, and our work schedules are roughly in synch, so we've become regular lifting partners every day at lunch.

We've also started discussing our workouts in a secret made-up language. You know, to stay ahead of the competition. It's extremely funny to us, but then so is our ongoing discussion of the guest contestants we'd cast on Celebrity Teabag once we find a network progressive enough to buy into the idea. (We also find poop jokes funny. Invite us to your next party at your own risk.)

So if you're curious, here's our weekly workout schedule, in our ultra-secret language. See if you can crack the code:

Lunes: Abdominamos. We do a whole killer ab/oblique/lower back workout to start the week. It's a great way to help keep our pants hanging nice and low around our boyish hips, and it prevents any embarrassing flabbiness from happening during the week.

Martes: Cardiomos. We also sometimes tack on some quadando and hamstrando.

Miércoles: Chestamos. A whole day devoted to the chest. Because one of us is gay. And still single.

Jueves: Cardiomos una vez mas. I like doing the stairmaster on this day because it offers a good calf and ass workout. And lord knows I need all the ass I can grow.

Viernes: Armamos y shouldemos. It's almost the weekend on Fridays -- and that means we have to pump up the guns if we're going to attract guys. Bill, being heterosexual and married, really doesn't follow my logic. But he's never had to compete for (and with) other gymbunnies in a crowded bar.

Sábado y domingo: Jodemos. If we're lucky.