Monday, August 30, 2004

Comfortable with responsibility

At a rally yesterday afternoon on Ellis Island, Vice President Dick Cheney recalled the president's visit to ground zero three days after the attack.

"They saw a man calm in crisis, comfortable with responsibility and determined to do everything to protect our people," he said.

The New York Times, August 30, 2004

Appropriate circumstances for describing someone as "comfortable with responsibility":

• Giving a reference for a teen-age babysitter.
• Awarding a promotion to shift manager at McDonald's.
• Filling out work-release papers for a convicted felon.
• Trying to reassure the citizens of the United States that their president is not, despite all appearances to the contrary, a drooling, retarded, semi-literate, wholly inarticulate puppet whose only significant accomplishment in life is that he was born into a wealthy, powerful family.

Sunday, August 29, 2004


To: Jake
Date; Mon, 16 Aug 2004 14:43:43 +0100

Dear Sir,

I am the confidant of the ex-president of iraq (Mr. Saddam Hussien) who was removed from power by the Americans as you may know.

He secretly in formed me before he was arrested to contact you and to liance with you to invest the sum of $21M (Twenty one million dollars) which he deposited in a bank in scotland during his tenure as president of Iraq.

Now the proceedures are that you will be given the contact of the bank in the scotland so that you will contact them to open an account online where the money will be transfered into from his account since we can not come out in the open to use this money. After you open this account I will order the bank in a written form to transfer the money into your own account afetr which you can then transfer it to some other account in your place for sharing.

Upon request by you I can send to you the certificate of deposit of this amount for your assurance. We are willing to conceed up to 5% of the total sum to you for all the anticipated help from you hoping that it will cover all your expenditures before and after the transaction.

However, we will desire that you will help us invest our share till we will be free to meet you up in any country of your choice for futher talks, Please if you are interested in helping me please write me back via this address so that we can move ahead.

Francis Kalou

NB: You should know by now that saddam is facing war crime charges which i dont think he is going to come out of Americans dragnet so lets use this opportunity to make this money our own.Though he said anybody that helps us i should give the person 5% of the total sum but considering the circustances and ready to concead up to 15% for the person.

* * * * *

From: Jake
Date; Tue, 17 Aug 2004 02:01:57 +0530

Oh my god! This sounds too good to be true! Please wire the money immediately to my bank! Account!

You're welcome!


* * * * *

To: Jake
Date; Wed, 18 Aug 2004 12:21:07 +0320




* * * * *

From: Jake
Date; Thu, 19 Aug 2004 15:07:41 +0224

What kind of moron do you think I am? Take your spam-sending, all-caps-using, retarded-third-grader-writing scam and stick it in your spider hole.


Weekend Adventures

My Weekend of New Cultural Adventures kicked off last night with my first Dance for Life, an annual evening of performances by every major Chicago dance company to raise money for HIV- and AIDS-related causes. Jim and Jeff and the boys and I got a huge block of tickets, and Jim even had authentic leis flown in from Hawaii for us so we could all be extra-fabulous at the pre-show see-and-be-seen reception in the very cool Crystal Garden on Navy Pier.

We also had a double celebrity sighting in the Crystal Garden! (Well, they're celebrities only among people who drool over the pictures in Atlantis cruise ads in gay publications.) In any case, the guys in this tiny picture were there:

Tonight Bob, David, Steve and I continue My Weekend of New Cultural Adventures with my first trip to Ravinia to hear Broadway diva Patti "The Original Evita" LuPone sing songs from shows she wished she'd done.

In other news, I hit a new milestone in my marathon training yesterday: 17 miles! Which means 1) I'm very confident I can get myself up to 26 miles in the next six weeks and 2) I don't have to run again until Tuesday. Woo-hoo! I'm surprisingly not very sore today, but my body seems to have started developing delayed-reaction pain as some sort of coping mechanism.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

My date with Julie Andrews

So I was at a party last night in a swanky highrise in Lincoln Park. I didn’t really know the hosts, and when I got there I realized I barely knew any of the guests. The Old Jake would panic in a situation like this, but the New Jake embraced it, forcing himself to make small talk with a whole bunch of new people.

I eventually found myself sitting with some of my newfound friends on an overstuffed morel-colored chenille sofa in a comfy library-like room—when suddenly a woman sat down next to me and said hello with a very familiar-sounding British accent. I turned to say hello back and found myself sitting face-to-face with Julie Andrews. As in Julie Freakin’ Andrews. As in Oh My God I’m Sitting On An Overstuffed Morel-Colored Chenille Sofa With Julie Freakin’ Andrews!

Not wanting to come off as one of the drooling, fawning fans she no doubt finds so ubiquitous and so annoying, I made casual small talk with her, slyly managing to work into the conversation the fact that I’d been a professional singer/dancer/actor as well. (I really wanted to talk about how hot Christpher Plummer was in "The Sound of Music" and maybe see if I could get her to confess to having a nose job after seeing how lumpy her nose looked when they sang "Something Good" in silhouetted profile out by that charming little gazebo. But I was a model of restraint.) She seemed suitably impressed by everything I had to say, and she kept making small talk back. And it became increasingly obvious that she liked me. Julie. Andrews. Liked. Me. And the whole time we sat there getting to know each other, my brain kept racing to one thing: I can’t wait to get home and write about this in my blog!

You read that right, dear readers: I was more excited about telling you that I was New Best Friends With Julie Andrews than I was about telling my family or my physically present friends that she and I had spent an evening having a lovely conversation on an overstuffed morel-colored chenille sofa.

Our friendly reverie was suddenly interrupted by a piercing alarm—and my first thought was that not only were we New Best Friends, but I was about to become The Hero Who Saved Julie Andrews From A Chicago Highrise Fire.

But nobody seemed to hear the alarm but me. And actually, instead of freaking out and running around screaming, everyone at the party started fading to a misty gray.

And suddenly, wave after wave of reality started washing over me:

1) I had not, in fact, been chatting with Julie Andrews on an overstuffed morel-colored chenille sofa at a party in a swanky highrise in Lincoln Park.

2) I don’t, in fact, have any friends who live in swanky Lincoln Park highrises who invite me to parties and who run in the same social circles as Julie Andrews. (This wave of reality hurt the most.)

3) I am 47 kinds of gay for dreaming that I’d become New Best Friends with Julie Andrews—and another 23 kinds of gay for being so freakin’ excited about it.

4) I had just had my first dream about blogging.

5) I really hate the sound of my alarm.

Monday, August 23, 2004

15 (kill me now) MILES!

Actually, tonight's run wasn't bad at all. It was a gorgeous, cool night, the trail was full of people, and I just kept running and running until I'd actually done a full 15 miles -- my longest training run yet! (I'm sure my traditional final-eighth-mile victory sprint was pathetic to watch, but at this point I'm feeling nothing but pride -- and what I'm sure will be a very loud pain in the morning.)

And I wasn't held back in the least by the three things I was worried about as I took off running: the toes I thought I broke four days ago, the sore throat I started developing yesterday and the greasy-burger combo meal I snarfed down five hours before I ran.

I also found a lakefront trail map on the Chicago Area Runner's Association Web site -- and apparently I've been running more than I've thought. According to the map, the trail winds around enough that I've been short-changing my accomplishments by using the linear distances I've been calculating. For instance, according to my calculations, the distance I ran tonight was only 12.5 miles, but the map clearly marks the Bryn Mawr-to-Navy-Pier round trip as 15 miles. Woo-hoo!

Check it out:

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Letter from Iowa

Ah, the joys of a bucolic weekend with the family. The weather has been perfect, the niece and nephew have been suitably adorable, and the parking has been -- and always will be -- plentiful.

I slept in on Saturday and eventually got my hair cut with NO WAITING. Then I headed to our friendly neighborhood Michael's -- where all the crap in your basement and attic gets born -- to buy stencils for my bathroom amid a sea of screaming children and puffy women in capri pants. Then Dad and I hauled out the ladder and hung new house numbers on the roof of the front porch and cut down a HUGE dead branch from a tree in the front yard. (Quel butch!) After a family dinner of pot roast and tapioca pudding (mmm!), Mom and I did some more shopping -- this time looking for a small shelfy thing to store all my piano music. We didn't find anything close to what I was looking for, but we did find a surprisingly sturdy, amazingly stylish dining room set for $199 at K mart (couldn't bring myself to buy it, though) and a friggin' WALL of Precious Moments and Precious Moments-knockoff figurines at K's Merchandise.

Why do Precious Moments make me so angry? Is it their faux-cute aesthetic that simultaneously offends the rational public and validates the dubious tastes of women who were into rainbows and unicorns in high school? Is it their empty promise of future value, which dupes hordes of feeble-minded rural consumers into "investing" in them with money they should be using for something practical like, say, running shoes and flattering haircuts? Is it the fact they represent the triumph of opinion over reason (as in "I think this girl-with-the-kittens figurine is soooooooo cuuuuuuute so I'll buy it even though I can't afford to bring my wardrobe up out of the stirrup-pants-and-oversize-T-shirts era")? Or is it just that they represent everything vile and unholy in the world -- but, unlike gay marriage and the Olsen twins, they also have to be dusted?

This morning I sang a solo -- twice -- at my folks' church. (I know: Not only do I not have a religious bone in my body, but some might even call me religion-hostile. So file my willingness to sing a solo in a church under "gray areas.") This church, our family's church since before I was born, has an AMAZING music program, which is easily the foundation of the musical talents I enjoy today -- from singing to sight reading to understanding the baroque and classical musical forms. The musical director at the church found a gorgeous solo (Ralph Vaughan Williams' "The Call") that was perfectly in -- though a little on the high side of -- my range, and I apparently made legions of old church ladies happy this morning by singing for them. Besides, when you solo in this church -- especially in the summer -- you get to sit alone in the balcony like you're some rock star and sing hymns at the top of your lungs while ranks and ranks of organ pipes rumble and shake and shout around you. If you concentrate on the music and not the words, it's a pretty cool experience.

This afternoon, Mom and I plan to continue our quest to find my music shelfy thing. Then we're having my favorite pizza for dinner. Woo-hoo!

Then tomorrow we celebrate the entire reason for my trip home: My nephew's first day of kindergarten. Which will consist of: Putting him on the bus and watching my mom and sister cry.

Then I head back to Chicago, where I need to pound out a long run (like 15 miles or so -- oy). Then, if all goes according to plan, I'll organize my piano music on my new shelfy thing. Pray for me.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

A loaf of bread, a jug of wine
and an appalling hubris.

BRIELLE, New Jersey (AP) -- An 8-year-old girl who suffers from a rare digestive disorder and cannot eat wheat has had her first Holy Communion declared invalid because the wafer contained no wheat, violating Roman Catholic doctrine.

As if we need another reason to hate the Catholic church.

Church doctrine holds that Communion wafers, like the bread served at the Last Supper, must have at least some unleavened wheat. Church leaders are reluctant to change anything about the sacrament.

"This is not an issue to be determined at the diocesan or parish level, but has already been decided for the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world by Vatican authority," Trenton Bishop John M. Smith said in a statement last week.

What is more pathetic: a mythology more interested in preserving its pointless traditions than in protecting the well-being of its followers or the mindless, co-dependent followers who see this blatant disregard for their health as some validation that keeps bringing them back for more abuse and neglect?

Haley was diagnosed with celiac sprue disease when she was 5. The disorder occurs in people with a genetic intolerance of gluten, a food protein contained in wheat and other grains.

When consumed by celiac sufferers, gluten damages the lining of the small intestine, blocking nutrient absorption and leading to vitamin deficiencies, bone-thinning and sometimes gastrointestinal cancer.

Celiac sprue disease isn't as rare as this story implies. My sister has it. Two of my friends have it. One of my co-workers has it. It's so common in Scandinavian countries that there are entire bakeries devoted to preparing gluten-free breads. It's become common enough in America that the ingredients listings on many of our prepared foods now specifically state whether or not the foods contain wheat or wheat byproducts. It's a ubiquitous, well-understood and easy-to-work-around disorder. So why is the Catholic church so hell-bent on denying spiritual validation for -- and compromising the health of -- its gluten-intolerant followers?

The church has similar rules for Communion wine. For alcoholics, the church allows a substitute for wine under some circumstances, however the drink must still be fermented from grapes and contain some alcohol. Grape juice is not a valid substitute.

Need I remind you how alcoholism is far more common than gluten intolerance? And Jesus said, "Fuck you."

Haley, a shy, brown-haired tomboy who loves surfing and hates wearing dresses, realizes the consequences of taking a wheat wafer.

"I'm on a gluten-free diet because I can't have wheat. I could die," she said last week.

The church has a long, arrogant history of willful confusion between science and make-believe, so I guess we shouldn't be so surprised by all of this. But even when the cause-and-effect consequences of celiac disease are spelled out by a child in terms that even a child can understand, the church remains resolutely steadfast in its refusal to acknowledge and work around the proven biological threats to that child's health.

Last month, the diocese told the priest that the church would not validate Haley's sacrament because of the substitute wafer.

"I struggled with telling her that the sacrament did not happen," said her mother. "She lives in a world of rules. She says 'Mommy, do we want to break a rule? Are we breaking a rule?'"

"Validate the sacrament"? Who gives a shit if a light snack at the communion rail has been "validated"?

Pelly-Waldman -- who is still attending Mass every Sunday with her four children -- said she is not out to bash the church, just to change the policy that affects her daughter.

"I'm hopeful. Do I think it will be a long road to change? Yes. But I'm raising an awareness and I'm taking it one step at a time," she said.

Of course she doesn't want to bash the church. She's co-dependent. She's ineffectively "raising an awareness" in an institution that is shamelessly hostile to the general awareness that the real world -- including many of its parishoners -- enjoys.

This is the same organization that won't ordain female priests even when its churches are closing and its parishes are dissolving specifically for lack of available male priests. This is the same organization that works so hard to ban gay men from the priesthood and then blames the gay men in the priesthood for the atrocities committed by the pedophiles it so obviously doesn't ban. This is the same organization that works so hard to legislate its belief that gay marriage is a threat to the so-called "sacred institution" of marriage but does nothing to legislate a ban on the real threats to marriage: divorce, annulment (a convoluted subset of divorce that only the Catholic church could invent), spouse abuse and adultery (which, by the way, is specifically banned in the Ten Commandments -- which, also by the way, have nothing to say about homosexuality on any level).

This is the same organization that gives me so much joy as I watch it collapse under the weight of its own arrogance ... though I hate seeing all its casualties -- all people it works so hard to hurt -- as it crumbles to the ground.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Sixth face from the left

Count again -- there's a partial face in there just to the left of mine.

The cover of the Windy City Times features this nice picture and a short article about the chorus singing the National Anthem at last Saturday's Cubs game. Notice how the sign behind us has our name wrong.

Life and death

My grandma died 20 years ago today. I hesitate to call her my favorite grandma, but she was definitely the grandparent I was closest to, both geographically and emotionally. Both my grandfathers had died when I was pretty young, and my other grandma (my dad's mom) lived way off in Colorado, and we saw her only once every three or four years. Two of her kids and their families lived near her, so they could take care of her as she got older.

One of the reasons I was so close to the grandma on my mom's side was because she lived only two hours away and was openly involved in our lives ... and she eventually lived right in our house the last few years of her life. My mom was an only child, so there was nobody else to care for this grandma—and there was simply no way we wouldn't take care of her as a family as long as we could before we'd put her in a home.

So before I even started high school, we partitioned off the family room with a huge curtain and moved in a bed for her. (I distinctly remember watching early MTV videos—like "Thriller"—sitting next to her on that bed.) There was a half bathroom on that floor for her to use for sponge baths, and as she got weaker and weaker, Dad and I would carry her up the stairs on a chair every other day so she could use a bathroom with a shower. Other than that, she had everything she needed on one floor ... and a busy social life delivered right to her curtained door.

Since the family room was right off the living room and our house was usually filled with visiting friends, Grandma was always a part of everything that went on in our lives. She'd sit in her housecoat with my friends and me when they came over to study or play games, she joined me every morning at 4:00 as I rubber-banded newspapers in our front hall, and she's smiling in every picture of every party or picnic or cozy night in front of the fire that we had in the early '80s.

As I recall, she got sick enough to move into a hospital only a short while before she died -- and while she was there she had a steady stream of visitors including her personal friends and all the friends of our family who'd gotten to know her.

As you can imagine, these events taught me VOLUMES about compassion and sacrifice and love and the importance of family—all invaluable lessons to imprint on the mind of a young teen-ager. That my parents would arrange their lives around the comfort and security of a sometimes cantankerous, sometimes terrified, sometimes exhausted old lady ... that my grandma would do her best not to be an imposition in our home and in our lives ... that our friends would welcome her with open arms and include her in their social plans ... these are the living examples I remember and try to follow to this day.

Obviously, Grandma's death devastated me. It was the first profound death-related loss in my young life. (So far, the only other deaths of that life-changing magnitude have been the stuff of Greek tragedy: four friends died in a plane crash Easter morning of 1988, another friend was murdered by the bomb that blew Pan Am flight 103 out of the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988, and a family friend's mother was brutally beaten in the basement of the apartment she managed in 1990—and I have never been as pro-death penalty as the day I helped clean up the murder scene.)

But you survive. You move on. You cherish the memories. You carry on the examples. You honor the lives. I was sad when my dad's mom died four years ago, but by then I had a greater understanding of death as a closing chapter in a long story, and I looked at Grandma's death as more of a celebration of her remarkable life.

But sometimes death touches you and leaves nothing.

In the last couple months I've been hit by a steady parade of deaths of people I knew only marginally, if at all. It started in June with the suicide of the young Chicago magazine editor who'd picked me to be profiled in the Top 20 Singles issue. I'd spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon with her only a month earlier at my photo shoot, and she was so fun that I left hoping to develop a friendship with her—even going so far as to keep a clever email correspondence going between us.

Two more suicides followed in quick succession: the brother of one of my family's oldest friends (though I'm not sure I'd ever met the guy) and a distant cousin I was only vaguely aware I had (though his mother—a crusty old broad in the best sense of the word—and I always enjoyed an easy rapport whenever we saw each other).

Then, in the last couple weeks, two members of the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus died. The first was a guy I'm sure I'd seen a hundred times in rehearsal, but I didn't recognize his name and I didn't recognize him in our photo directory. Apparently everyone else knew him, though; the email and blog tributes posted in his honor were quite touching. The second was a guy I'd talked to a number of times but never really befriended. I'd always thought he was just quiet, but I'm learning now he was always sick.

And I'm caught in a weird limbo. I'm obviously saddened by the pain that these people suffered and by the pain their deaths brought to their families and friends. But, on reflection, that sadness is mostly academic. I'm sure part of it stems from the fact I had no real emotional connection to any of them. But I worry that I may be becoming jaded. Am I numbed by the bombardment of death in the news and on TV? Have I become self-absorbed to the point that I don't care about other people—even in death? Is it too easy to distance myself from someone I had no real emotional connection to in the first place?

Or—perhaps—my concern over feeling nothing in the face of a loss that isn't even mine to feel is proof that I actually do have the compassion I was taught by my family so long ago when Grandma and I watched videos together from her bed in our family room.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

A confluence of bloggers

Hunky little Andy organized a small gay-bloggers get-together last night at Sidetrack. The others in attendance were my friend Rick from the chorus and Palochi, who looked vaguely familiar. After chatting a bit, we realized we not only work for the same company, but our offices are on the same floor. Who knew there was another homo blogging away on company time just on the other side of the bathrooms?

Sunday's 11-mile run was catching up with me by the time I got to Sidetrack, though, so I probably wasn't a lot of fun. I did manage to stay awake long enough to sing along with a bunch of show tunes (there's always room for show tunes), but I was home in bed and out cold by midnight.

Before I left for the bar, though, I hung my newly painted block shelves that Jeff made me, and I perched charming little votive candles on them to create a warm and inviting glow. They look just as cool as I'd hoped, but I'm not to wild about the color. I'll leave them up for a while, though, because I'm lazy and inert to see if maybe I'm just being too fussy. And if I get my act together, I'll post a pic. Because I know you're dying to see my poop-tastic new bathroom.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Oh, say can you seeeeee
I'm on your teeeee veeee!

We sang the National Anthem at yesterday's Cubs game -- and once again it was a pretty moving experience. The robust, 8-part men's arrangement our musical director put together for us is lush and gorgeous enough to stir even the most patriotism-jaded soul. And we were well-miked with monitors that sent a full-bodied sound back to us. So, in short, we pretty much ROCKED. Score one for the gay guys.

And, once again, I didn't hear a peep of anti-gay sentiment when we were introduced or when we walked triumphantly off the field. Score one for the mature fans.

Afterward, Jeff and I went shopping up and down the streets of Boystown. Then we headed home to change clothes, pump up my bike tires and get a little exercise -- 8 miles on the bike for him and 5 miles on foot for me.

After cleaning up, we headed back to Boystown for a nice dinner and then a party at Bill's, thrown to celebrate his new closets. (We fags can turn ANYTHING into a reason to throw a party. And this one was pretty fun. It's inspired me to throw a bathroom-warming party -- just as soon as I finish painting and hanging the cool cube shelves Jeff made for me.)

Jeff took off for home this morning, and since then I've sanded and put two coats of paint on the shelves and run 11 MILES -- a first in my pushing-the-distance training journey. Now everything hurts (and stinks) and I'm headed for a nice long date with a nice warm shower.

Friday, August 13, 2004

The weekend with the ex

Jeff got here last night, and we promptly headed out to boystown to 1) buy shoes 2) buy those little floor lights that cast Dramatic Shadows on walls and plants 3) eat at Nookie's and 4) get purple slushy drinks at Sidetrack.

Today he's buying everything in sight on Michigan Avenue while I toil away at work. Tonight we're watching the Olympics opening ceremonies with a few friends.

Tomorrow he gets to guard our stuff while the chorus sings the National Anthem at a Cubs game. (Tune in to Fox at 12:20 pm if you wanna hear us.) Then more shopping. Then a party at Bill's.

Sunday is breakfast. Then he leaves and I try to run 10 miles despite having had no time to run for more than a week. ACK!

Oh -- and remember last month when I asked you-all for suggestions for finding those cool cube-shaped shelves I saw on Queer Eye? After having no luck in the world of retail, I'd mentioned them to Jeff -- the consummate handyman -- and he actually MADE SOME for me. And they're PERFECT. But they need paint. So before the weekend's over, my bathroom renovation should be complete. And if you're lucky, I'll post pictures for you.

Thursday, August 12, 2004


I just registered online for the Bucktown 5K on September 12.

And the Chicago Half Marathon the week after that.

And the Chicago Marathon on October 10.

It's a good thing I just happened to think about visiting the Chicago Marathon site, too; registration closes at midnight tonight. So it forced me to make a decision RIGHT NOW.

And now there's no turning back.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

More cash back. More ways. More often.

So I'm on the plane to NYC this morning, contentedly reading my Newsweek and sipping my complimentary beverage, when I turn the page and think to myself, "Wow. That ad looks familiar."

And then I shout (still to myself), "Oh my god! I wrote that ad! And it's printed in ... (clutch the pearls) ... Newsweek!"

And then I look around and realize nobody around me would really give a shit that I wrote a friggin' credit card ad -- even if it's printed in a national newsmagazine. But I make a silent vow to fire up my cell phone the MOMENT we land and call my parents to tell them. Which I do. And they're duly impressed.

(OK. I know you're dying to look it up yourself. OK. I'm going to let myself fantasize that you're dying to look it up yourself. It's on page 9 of the August 16 issue (with the ominous headline "Target: America" on the cover). And, for the record, it was the least cool of the concepts we presented to Citi way back in like April. But they picked it and they ran it. And there it is: My headline. My ideas. My words (with a few "adjustments" by various legal and branding departments). In ... (clutch the pearls again) ... Newsweek.)

And that was just the beginning of the excitement for the day. Our client presentation went smashingly well, and we were showered with ebullient praise when we finished. The Citi folks ended up leaning toward some Chinese-menu hybrid of two of the three concepts we presented, one of which was mine. So I got to feel even prettier than I did on the airplane.

And then an impressive storm delayed us almost three hours at lovely LaGuardia -- though it looked mighty cool as we watched it roll in over Manhattan during our presentation from the Citi building in Long Island City.

And speaking of the Citi building in Long Island City, that Orange Alert stuff that you've been reading about in the news -- you know: that stuff about terrorists plotting to blow up the Citi building in Manhattan -- extended to the building where I was today. The place was crawling with cops who searched our bags before we entered the building and then X-rayed them before we got on the elevators. All of which did nothing to make me feel more (or less, for that matter) safe while I was there.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Erik Estrada SUCKS

at singing! This I learned the painful way when he led all of Wrigley Field on the most tuneless version of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in the entire history of bad tonality. He was so bad and so off that I couldn't even find the notes myself. And I've sung this shit professionally.

He was our choral leader tonight because apparently the Cubs have theme nights. And tonight's theme was washed-up TV stars with poochy tummies '70s Night. Which was actually kind of fun -- there were tons of people there in hideously authentic disco costumes. And there was even one little anachronism of a kid sitting next to us in a hysterical Austin Powers getup, complete with wig and glasses and frilly shirt sticking out of an elfin velvet coat.

The "us" in that last sentence was me and my very cool co-worker Andrew. We decided long ago that we needed a Cubs night together so 1) we could do something fun that didn't involve direct mail and 2) he could teach me everything there is to know about baseball. Because I used to know a little about it, but I forgot. And I feel like there's this whole world of "normal" (i.e., not gay) stuff to know out there and I've let it pass me by for the last 36 years. So I'm catching up.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

The loneliest little Single

The August issue of Chicago magazine is out, which officially signals the end of my July-long reign as one of Chicago’s Top 20 Singles. And while you’d probably think membership in this elite club would bring me a lifetime of untold love, happiness and shoes, you’d be wrong.

In fact, it has brought me nothing but disappointment, embarrassment and random little tufts of hair on my back that my workout partner takes great delight in pointing out (they may just be a result of my getting older, though). And here, for your reading pleasure, are my final ruminations on the exciting process and the dismal results of the whole adventure:

Could it BE any more obsessed with gay stereotypes? (We got the drag and the (yawn) French lessons squeezed in there, but where’s the mention of the marathon training and the sky diving and the career accomplishments?) Could it BE any more inaccurate and misleading? (Paris in the fall? Since when is March in the fall? Not interested in finding a “song and dance man”? What part of “I’d love to find someone who’s as into musical theater as I am” is so hard to understand?) Could it BE any less appealing to potential suitors? (Apparently not, as you’ll learn further down in this diatribe.) And to add insult to injury, the online version is truncated to focus on just the REALLY gay stuff. Go me.

I hate it. My family hates it. All my friends hate it. People have either said it looks nothing like me, or—if they were feeling charitable—they merely said it looks “OK.” I decided to let the anonymous masses vote impartially on its appeal, so I posted it on a month ago—along with a picture I took of myself as the control. Here’s a comparison of photo shoots and results:

Their photo shoot
• Professional studio
• Professional lighting
• Professional hair and makeup artist
• Professional stylist who picked my clothes, steamed them and even fussed over their drape every time I moved
• Professional lighting-level checker
• Professional photographer
• Assistant to professional photographer
• Lady who got me a refreshing beverage
• Multiple cameras
• Two rolls of film equaling about 50 pictures
• One hour on a beautiful May afternoon
• Final selection by a professional photo editor
The result: This monstrosity, which bears a greater likeness to Grandpa Munster than to me.
Hot Or Not rating as of this post: 6.8

My photo shoot
• Studio = my bedroom on a sunny June morning, soon after I woke up
• Wardrobe = my favorite T-shirt, still kind of wrinkly but relatively clean
• No makeup
• Total bedhead
• Cheap digital camera perched on a book on a chair on my bed
• About 10 shots using my automatic timer, many of which looked pretty good, IMHO
The result: This picture, which I had to crop because my bedhead was worse than I thought, and since I wasn’t able to look through the viewfinder I was barely in the picture anyway. But I think it looks a lot like the guy I see in the mirror every morning.
Hot Or Not rating as of this post: 9.4

Point spread between low-reality, piss-poor-quality professional picture and my modest attempts at self-portraiture: 2.8

I rest my case.

The magazine set up a special email address for each one of us—and the editors specifically instructed us to check it every day because they said the mailboxes tend to fill up with marriage proposals and then the magazine has to field angry calls from potential suitors who can’t get through. They also told us that they get lots of letters for the singles, which they regularly forward to us in large envelopes. Furthermore, we were told anecdotally that potential suitors historically have found many featured singles in the phone book and inundated them with phone calls and flowers. One editor described the whole experience as “the heavens opening up and raining down men” on me.

Here’s how it really played out:

• 1 from a drag queen who can’t spell
• 1 from a guy I hadn’t heard from since we did a theme-park show together in Buffalo in 1988—he saw the magazine in his doctor’s NY office
• 1 from a neighbor who also saw the magazine in his doctor’s office
• A handful from a bunch of friends back in Iowa who were told about it via an email from another friend
• A buttload of spam

Packages of letters in the mail:
• 1 free book about finding my soul mate with a cover letter from the author that began, “As one of Chicago magazine’s Top 20 Singles, I wanted you to have a copy of my book … .” (Note to those of you who for some unfathomable reason aren’t irritated to the point of justifiable homicide about misplaced modifiers: The author was NOT one of the Top 20 Singles, but the way he muddied up this sentence CLEARLY stated that he was. And he’s a fucking WRITER. Who should KNOW BETTER.)

Let’s just say the dust levels in my vase collection are higher than they were before the issue came out.

Phone calls:
Gay men are notoriously clumsy dialers. I’m sure the phone will start ringing any day now.

Marriage proposals:
Maybe the cousin-fuckers in Missouri who just voted gay-marriage discrimination into their constitution discouraged all the marriage-minded men from contacting me. Maybe.

Being recognized by strangers:
Actually, this has happened a couple of times. A friend of a friend met me at a crowded street fair one night and then recognized me the next day in the magazine. And this guy recognized me on Friendster. So that was kind of cool.

You know how Charlotte on Sex in the City dreamed for so long of having a beautiful engagement picture in the New York Times and was so disappointed when it was printed with a huge Hitler-mustache smudge across her face? That’s kind of how I feel about the whole thing. It's not like I'm deserving of any level of attention and admiration—or like the "honor" of being picked to be a Top 20 Single makes one whit of difference in the world. But I was sooooo excited about the prospect of being profiled in a glossy, high-end national publication (and who wouldn’t be?) and I even let myself fantasize that this—finally—would be the catalyst for sending me on celestial trajectories of social excitement (dare I say validation?), career satisfaction and—yes—even True Love.

And when I saw the goofy picture and read the profile that clearly cast me as the token faggot in the Rich Straight White People Magazine, I was almost sick with disappointment, embarrassment and the realization that once again my life wasn’t following the Boy of Destiny path I’d been hoping for.

The only positive thing I’ve gotten out of the whole thing is the occasional praise from gay people who note that I’m the first Top 20 Single (apparently in the history of the magazine) who’s totally, shamelessly out. (Not like I had any control over the content of the profile, but I did tell the writer that I’m totally out in life and that I’m not afraid of bigots, so there was no reason to reduce my sexuality to mere innuendo. And for once, she listened.) And—on a side note—that deafening silence in response to the profile includes a welcome silence from the goat-ball lickers in the Christian hate industry who have been so quick to send me anonymous save-the-gerbils postcards when I've had gay stuff published in Time and Newsweek and other national newsmagazines. So either they’re threatened by publications with three-syllable titles or they know better than to fuck with me. Because since I’m still totally dateless (sigh) I have plenty of time—and unfocused frustration—to fuck with them back. And Christians vs. Faggots is one arena where I'm used to winning.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Au revoir, l'enfant terrible!

I finally changed cell phone carriers yesterday. After four relatively happy years with Cingular, I'm now a T-Mobile customer.

I had no real beef with my Cingular service -- except for lots of dropped calls and a chronic inability to use my phone in my house or in my office. But I live on the 24th floor and work in a concrete-reinforced bunker, so deep down I know I'd have the same reception problems with any cellular carrier. Deep down.

But Cingular was always just short of helpful every time I had a question or problem. For instance, this one time when my phone was on the fritz (doesn't that sound like German porn?) I took it to a Cingular store and the guy behind the counter snippily told me I had to take it to the store where I first got it. NOT helpful. And when I tried to renew my contract two years ago, the guy at the store gave me all kinds of attitude because he KNEW I wasn't quite out of my old contract just yet. Turns out he was wrong. Turns out he had no intention of apologizing for being such a scabby little butthole. Turns out two years later his little bitchfest cost his company a customer.

There was also that issue with the orange. I hate orange. I hated getting orange bills in the mail. I hated the orange logo on my phone. I hate orange. (Not that T-Mobile's electro-'80s pink is much of an improvement, but I hate orange more.)

And then there's the issue of Cingular's corporate parent company. When I moved to Chicago four years ago, Ameritech was the local phone carrier. At the time, Ameritech was in the middle of a long, painful fit of baaaaaaad customer service. As in the whole city wasn't getting phones hooked up for months and months. As in Ameritech would NEVER show up when they promised. As in every time they did show up there was suddenly some need for some extra $100 charge. As in the whole city -- present blogger included -- was PISSED.

As in things got so bad Ameritech eventually changed its name to SBC to try to distance itself from its well-earned reputation.

As in to this day, I refuse to do business with Ameritech/SBC/whatever it changes its name to next. So when the SBC logo suddenly started appearing on my Cingular bill, I vowed to change carriers as soon as my contract expired. Which happened Saturday.

And just as I was starting to wonder which carrier to switch to, a secret-shopper opening came up at work for T-Mobile. See, Sprint PCS is one of our clients, so we have various employees doing business with Sprint's competitors to monitor what's going on in the non-Sprint marketplace. And when I found out the company would pay my cell phone bill, I jumped at the chance to jump on the pink-logoed bandwagon.

And I'm already impressed. The people at the T-Mobile store were totally cool and totally helpful last night. I've discovered I can update my phone address book OVER THE INTERNET. And my new phone seems to work pretty well at home and at work. Woo-hoo!

Wow. I've blathered on and on and on and on about fucking phone service. And you've read about it. How sad are we?

To reward you for your tenacity, I'll tell you I had a nice date with an adorable guy last night. But he seemed awfully jumpy and distracted. Witness-protection-program jitters, adult-onset ADHD or alphabet drugs? The jury is still out.

To further reward you, I direct you to The Infinite Cat Project. Which is exactly the kind of Web site the Internet was invented for.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Well, I'll be!

Apparently I'm on the Blogshares blog market index.

And for once, I didn't have to do anything to get my blog listed like the attention-starved whore shrewd blog marketer I am.


I was just putting the finishing touches on a long-ass post about all my weekend adventures:

- Two awesome plays
- One horrible movie
- A magnificent dinner cooked by Bob
- A magnificent dinner cooked by Bill (and I swear I didn't mention how you burned the beans, Bill -- I SWEAR)
- A 10-mile training run interrupted by a bout of heat stroke that left me 4 miles from home with no other option but to walk
- And a glowing description of Chicago's magnificent new Millennium Park

when my iTunes suddently coughed, my Safai browser stopped responding and my whole computer FROZE.


And now it won't even boot up with the diagnostic disks that came with it.