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.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Monotony past. Suburbia departed.

So Matt calls me at 5:30 today to ask if I want to go see a national touring company of Evita tonight at 8:00. Fortunately, I have no life the evening free, and within an hour we're having a nasty-ass dinner at a pub-grub diner in the south Loop (WHY are there no decent restaurants in the theater district? It makes no sense.) and then meandering over to the glorious Auditorium Theatre to catch the show.

Now, normally, I'm extremely leery about national tours of long-dormant musicals. They tend to be long on ambition and short on talent. And big on disappointment. (And I know every word and every note of Evita, so I was especially worried. I'm that gay.) But tonight I was pleasantly surprised. Make that ecstatically surprised.

The production is a faithful re-creation of the original Broadway show with some notable improvements: 1) The orchestrations are more robust—almost to the point of being decadent—thanks to the miracles of computer enhancement and click-track vocals. Though the canned violins are a definite detraction. 2) The choreography is more ambitious, and—with a few exceptions—danced with expert, fiery abandon. 3) There is more emphasis placed on humanizing Evita, exploring the roots and manifestations of her class resentment and how it fueled her thirst for power and control. 4) The singing and acting are spectacular across the board:
Kathy Voytko morphs expertly from the innocently ambitous Eva Duarte to the commandeering Eva Peron and even collapses tragically into herself as the sickly, dying Evita. Best of all, she has a crystal-clear voice that can belt and soar with the best of them—with the exception of a few weak mid-range money notes like those at the end of her brief solo in "The Art of the Possible." (Even better still, she's NOT that vowel-chewing, diction-swallowing harridan Patti LuPone.)
Bradley Dean brings out the most fully realized Che I've ever seen. He ushers the character seamlessly between anger, condescention, bewilderment and admonition—with a powerhouse voice that's equally as versatile.
• Hunky Gabriel Burrafato is a sexy, smoldering Magaldi with a clear, pure Irish (Argentinian?) tenor that reverberates off every accoustically perfect wall in the Auditorium Theater.
Philip Hernandez brings the requisite gravity to Juan Peron, adding a dose of humanity that reveals more of the dictator's inner conflicts.
• And minuscule Kate Manning all but steals the show with her plaintive—and hauntingly clear—"Another Suitcase in Another Hall."

Matt, of course, didn't like it. We have exact opposite tastes in musical theater (and music and movies and art and men). It's a good thing he drives a nice car we're friends, or we'd never make it as friends.

The only downside to the evening—aside from the literally glaring incompetence of the spotlight operators—was the trio of dumpy suburban women sitting in front of us. Something about the opening of Act II set them off a-giggling, which evolved to not-so-hushed conversations, which evolved to digging through purses to find something—which brought them all this close to being bitch-slapped across the backs of their poorly coiffed, chubby little heads.

This production ranks among the best Evitas I've ever seen—and I've seen a lot of them. But it leaves Chicago on November 28, so get your tickets now (or better yet, stop by the Auditorium Theatre box office and buy them in person so you don't get punch fucked gouged by Ticketmaster charges).

Monday, November 15, 2004

Safety and health

I've always subscribed to a strict policy of safety first: I always wear my seatbelt, I always use a condom (I'm wearing one right now!), I shred my used financial documents, I don't allow myself to be thrown onto the tracks in front of oncoming trains, etc. But I've never been able to let go of the blindingly clever passwords (really! it's too bad I can't tell you what they are!) that I concocted years ago when I opened the two email accounts I still use to this day.

Last week, though, I decided it was just too scary to contemplate the thought of malicious strangers accessing my email and compromising the security of all those rehearsal schedules, fan letters and electronic Old Navy coupons.

So I did it. I changed my email password. (Just one, though. Baby steps.)

But—like the words to "Dancing Queen" and the proper way to fold a fitted sheet—that old password is hard-wired into my DNA. And I automatically type it every time I try to open that email account. Every. Fucking. Time.

The new password is blindingly clever, too. It's too bad I can't tell you what it is.

Last week, my adorable nephew told his teacher he had Virus One in an effort to get out of class and go sit with the school nurse. He's only five. When did he get to be such a creative hypochondriac? And where the hell did he come up with "Virus One"?

Sunday, November 14, 2004

My clusterfuck adventure

So I go to my friendly neighborhood Jiffy Lube this afternoon to see why my Czech Engine light came on after they'd changed my oil and done something I'm too dumb to understand to my fuel injectors yesterday, and the guy tells me that sometimes when they do their magic fuel injector dance it sometimes sets off the check engine light. But they can't reset it at Jiffy Lube so I have to drive a couple miles west to AutoZone to have it reset.

Fine. I don't understand the logic and I kind of feel like I'm being dicked around like a trannie hooker at an insurance convention*, but I feel like I really have no choice but to do what the nice man tells me.

*I don't know what it means either. But if you don't think about it too hard, it sounds kind of funny.

The AutoZone isn't too terribly far, so I head over there and tell my story to the woman behind the counter, who promptly informs me that it's "illegal" for them to turn off check engine lights. After a few probing questions on my part, it turns out she is just retarded too lazy to explain the whole story to me: She can check and probably reset my light, but there are a few situations where she's not legally allowed to turn it off—though it sounds like mine is probably not one of those situations.

She grabs her sensor and rubs it furiously until she shoots her womanly juices all over the bed follows me out into the parking lot. It's only when we get to my car that she asks me what model year it is, and when it say 1995, she gravely informs me that her particular AutoZone can service only 1996 models or later, but there's another AutoZone "just two miles away" that can do earlier models.

Struggling mightily not to bitch-slap her and everyone else withing bitch-slapping distance at the moment, I thank her and continue my trek west waaaaaaaay fucking farther than "just two miles" to the next stop on my clusterfuck adventure.

This AutoZone has a nicer parking lot and is in a nicer neighborhood, so I feel a little less stressed when I finally get there. But just a little. After standing in an irritatingly long line behind a cute-ish biker boi and his functionally illiterate Japanese war bride (she keeps admiring the "pitty" slip-on seat covers in the aisle we are standing in, but she can never answer his weird pop-quiz challenge ("How much? How many?") about everything she picks up to look at), I get to the front of the line only to have the functionally illiterate Latino guy behind the counter tell me that he, too, can't service a car made before 1996. But he reaches behind the counter to grab his sensor and rubs it furiously until he shoots his manly juice all over the headboard above him and heads out to the parking lot. Not quite sure if he is walking away from me or intending to check out my car despite what he's just told me, I follow him, and in no time he has the sensor plugged in and whirring like a weird-people sex toy in an obscure fetish video.

He needs to have the car running to get a reading, though, so I start the engine—and immediately my stereo blares the chorus rehearsal CD I've been listening to: the baritone line from a jaunty little Spanish tune called Procesión jíbara. I get a little smile because I'm sure this will impress him to the point that we'll become best friends—you know, because I obviously speak Mexican and shit—but he motions for me to turn it off and he just keeps looking at the little sensor lying all flaccid and unimpressive in his lap.

Eventually he unpluggs it and—this is where I decide that every AutoZone employee in the universe really is retarded—starts to walk away. I call to him to see what he's found out and he turns to me, surprised, and mutters something about an oxygen sensor and then keeps walking. Honestly. The guy has just performed a diagnostic test on my car—with the sole purpose of diagnosing what is wrong with it so as to tell me the nature of the problem—and he completely doesn't grasp the importance of that last telling-me-what-is-wrong-with-it step. The mind BOGGLES.

Now frustrated to the point that I switch my radio to NPR in the hopes that Car Talk will be on so I can call Tom and Ray right there from my cell phone and tell them my sad tale of woe and single-handedly drive Jiffy Lube AND CarZone out of business (but it isn't so I can't), I head back to Jiffy Lube to give them a piece of my mind.

The guy who had originally sent me on this wild goose chase sees me pull up and comes right out to talk to me. I calmly and without a single bitch-slap tell him my story, and he seems genuinely concerned—and surprised that CarZone couldn't fix the light or give me a helpful diagnosis. I ask how often this happens and why Jiffy Lube can't fix the check engine lights it inadvertently turns on, and he says it's so rare it's not worth buying the expensive equipment needed to handle the problem. But he assures me the light is not something to worry about and that any mechanic with diagnostic tools can fix it and that whatever expense is incurred will be covered by my Jiffy Lube warranty. And unlike the Bush administration and its mindless minions he apologizes repeatedly.

And when I start my car and pull out of the Jiffy Lube parking lot, my check engine light is suddenly off.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Weekend adventures

After a lovely 13-hour workday on Friday, I headed straight to Crew for Brandon's birthday party. Crew is Chicago's first (?) gay sports bar, and it opened pretty recently in a neighborhood on the verge of mega-gentrification—which also happens to be a not-too-terribly-long walk from my house. Every time I've been there, it's been pretty packed, but it doesn't seem to attract the caliber of hotties one would expect at a gay sports bar. But we keep hoping.

Dashed locker-room fantasies notwithstanding, we had a great night, and I finally got to meet Sven—who's even cuter than his pictures let on.

Tuesday's migraine has left me tired and out of sorts all week, but I had nothing terribly important to do today, so I climbed into bed when I got home Friday night intending to sleep as long as I could, and I ended up getting in a good 12 hours. Which makes me feel almost better.

My weekend to-do list included getting my oil changed and getting a start on my shopping for some of the crap thoughtful gifts I've already decided to get my family for Christmas. But by the time I got to my friendly neighborhood Jiffy Lube this afternoon, there was a long wait—so long that I got through a Newsweek AND a half-read New Yorker and ended up being forced to watch football to keep killing time in the waiting area (the horror!)—and one oil change and an unplanned fuel-injector flush later, I wasn't in the mood to do any shopping. So I headed home—only to discover my Czech Engine light had been on since Ieft Jiffy Lube. (Honestly, I don't know why they can't build decent, reliable engines in America, but that's a rant for a different post.) So I get to go back to Jiffy Lube tomorrow to see what the hell they did to fuck up my engine. Yay me.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Puppet porn

In our first act of civil disobedience to protest the second Dubya Reich presidency, Andy and I attended a public screening of lewd puppet porn last night.

Team America: World Police is filled—as expected—with Trey Parker and Matt Stone's brilliant social commentary, staggeringly (and yet somehow sweetly) inappropriate sexual humor, and garden-variety cinematic cliches like copious puppet vomit and all-out puppet fucking. And we laughed out loud at the appearance of the two ferocious tigers played by bored (and not even striped) housecats.

But, while we were thoroughly entertained, I was glad when it was over. Maybe I'm just politicked (politiced? politic-ed?) out. Maybe I'm a little upset with myself for not being clever enough to write songs like "Everyone Has AIDS" and "America, Fuck Yeah."

Maybe I was more than a little disturbed by my sexual attraction to all three puppets playing the Team America guys. (Hey—the fuckers are hot.)

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The inner sanctum

I promised you something less depressing after yesterday's post. I've promised you pictures of my domestic handiwork in tons of earlier posts. And I've blathered on and on about how cool my bedroom and bathroom look now that I've finally made some damn decisions about paint colors and wall decorations.

It's about time I pooped or got off the pot, ya think?

So here, without further ado, is a photo of the new arrangement of wall crap over my bed. As is the case with most of my home-improvement projects, it's still a work in progress; the knickknacks on the shelves still aren't finalized and that gaping hole in the bottom left of the arrangement is just waiting for me to discover the elusive pièce de résistance that will complete my vision of artistry and self-expression that nobody will see anyway because my bedroom is apparently sprayed with Man Repellant every day by a naked and slightly sweaty John Ashcroft.

Do note the cool candle shelves, though. They were made by my amazingly handy ex, Jeff, and creatively finished by yours truly with metallic stencil paint. Although an arrangement of candles over a bed does give off a certain reptilian sexual-predator vibe. Not that anyone will see it.

(And the bed frame, for those of you who are interested, is the Room & Board Parsons model. And I LOVE IT. It's sleek and elegant and well-built and it doesn't rock or creak or slam against the wall or make any noise whatsoever when you're hopped up on cocaine and airplane glue and banging hookers into next week on it.)

I'll stop typing now. Enjoy the picture:

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

More marathon photos!

I finally got my official marathon photos ordered and received and scanned.

The marathon hires these photographers, see, who take bajillions of pictures along the marathon route. Then some poor schmuck has to look at all the pictures and identify which bib numbers are showing in them. Then you can use your bib number to find your photos online and mortgage your house and sell your kidneys to buy your very own copies. I ordered four 5x7 prints for a whopping $80. It's information superhighway robbery, if you ask me.

And here are two of my expensive new pix: me crossing the finish line (looking surprisingly awake and alive and happy) and me smiling like the proud parent of two gifted quadriceps at the finishers' photo op. Enjoy!

Monday, November 08, 2004

One big day. Two minor celebrities.

Steve from Blue's Clues
I spent my last few hours in Iowa yesterday morning snuggled up on the couch with random combinations of my niece, my nephew, their favorite toys and their boneless, co-dependent cat, Lucy. At some point, my niece insisted we watch Blue's Clues, a show I'd heard about but had never seen. And in short order, I'd discovered the cuteness of Steve, the show's adorable, wide-eyed host. He was probably like 12 years old when the episode we watched was filmed, so I'm sure that just admitting I thought he was cute guarantees me a spot in the top bunk of Michael Jackson's prison cell. But, in my defense, I can point out that he looks much older (and still pretty cute) today.

Clinton from What Not To Wear
I got back to Chicago yesterday just in time to head to chorus rehearsal. Afterward, Matt and I had our ceremonial IHOP dinner (where I -- in an ill-advised fit of creative indulgence -- made the mistake of trying the stuffed french toast) and then I headed to Sidetrack to pick up guys spend the last few moments of my weekend among my people. I hadn't been there five minutes when I ran into Anders, who promptly spun me around and introduced me to his new best friend, Clinton Kelly (who seemed less than impressed with me and my Old Navy ribbed V-neck T-shirt that I got for $3 at the Brown Elephant, even though I helpfully pointed out a pre-famous Teri Garr shaking her coochie in the background of Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" video mere moments after we were introduced). I won't retaliate to his indifference with bitchy comments, but I will say the guy is really gay tall, and I definitely wouldn't wear the cheerleader-sweater-and-untucked-shirt ensemble he was sporting. But it worked for him. In that light.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

¿Cómo se llama tu llama?

4-H Llama Showmanship Rules

• You should dress neat and clean.
• Don't wear other logos or emblems, or a name tag.
• Don't wear flashy jewelry ... show your llama, not yourself.
• Be courteous and show good sportsmanship at all times.
• You may use soft voice commands with your llama.
You are not supposed to touch your llama at any time except to smooth messed up wool, or assist the judge during inspection.
• Don't be distracted by anything or anyone outside the show ring.
• Be confident and stay "up" all the time, even if you don't feel like it.
• Be alert to the judge, keep your eye on him/her and keep smiling!
Your llama should be clean and well groomed.
• Make sure your llama's toenails are trimmed.
• Halters and leads need to be clean, in good repair, and well fitting.
Respect your llama. You may be dismissed from the show if you jerk your llama, become angry, or otherwise mistreat him/her in the ring.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Something in me died last night.

A sense of hope. A trust in the relative intelligence of the electorate. The feeling that good, old-fashioned common sense always wins over religious extremism; transparent political cronyism; and a curiously proud legacy of policies that have undermined our economy, our environment, our social fabric and the respect we command in the world.

Something else died as well. Something even more important to me: A lifetime of unblinking patriotism.

Today I feel sucker-punched. Betrayed. Terrified.

By religious extremists who manufacture a threat to marriage where none exists and use it to inflame the passions of weak-minded voters and hijack an election.

By citizens who vote against their own economic self-interest to elect a man brazenly beholden to the wealthy few over the non-wealthy majority.

By a president who describes himself as a “uniter” but who presided over one of the most divisive elections in recent memory.

By a man who wouldn’t go to war with his contemporaries but who doesn’t hesitate to play war when he grows up to be president.

By a future securely in the hands irrational, venomous social conservatives and a horizon filled with Supreme Court turnover and long-overdue human-rights legislation.

I hung an American flag in my window the day after the September 11 terrorist attacks. It was a big flag, almost six feet tall. It filled the entire window. And since I live on the 24th floor, you could see my flag from almost anywhere in the neighborhood. I looked up at it every time I walked home from the grocery store or stood on the train platform four blocks away. I pointed it out to friends and family members. I was a proud American, and a hopeful believer in the inherent goodness of our country and the people who ran it.

I took my flag down this morning. And, as I write this, it lies in an unpatriotic, potentially unconstitutional crumple on my floor.

Right now I want to burn it.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

I did not vote today.

At least not yet. But I sure tried.

My polling place NEVER has a line, but this morning it had a pretty freakin' big one. I stood in it for 45 mintues and got as close as 10 people away from voting, but I had a client presentation this morning, see. And EVEN THOUGH I TOLD THE PEOPLE WHO SCHEDULE THESE THINGS TO SCHEDULE THE PRESENTATION FOR LATE IN THE DAY it was scheduled at 10 am. And it was already 8:30, and my commute can last up to an hour. Especially on a rainy day.

So I had no choice to ditch my line and head to work. As a very angry employee.

But every action has a reaction, and I'm gonna ditch work early today and head back to that line. And then watch the returns with Andy and his cat and his boyfriend. (In that order; the boyfriend will be arriving late.)

In the mean time, of you're so stupid you still haven't found a reason to vote against Dubya, this should push you over the edge.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Five days in DC

Random thoughts on a fabulous family trip to the cradle of American history:

Getting there
Thanks the miracle of the Internet, my folks and I were able to book our flights to DC in separate cities and still manage to sit by each other on the plane. How cool is that? But first, we had to survive …

A woman whose name was only barely pronounceable was NOT going to let me go through security because my ticket was issued to a man named Jake and my driver’s license had my real name on it, which has one different letter and one added letter. Summoning information from her vast knowledge base of Anglo nomenclature, she INSISTED these were two separate names and that I couldn’t possibly be the Jake on my ticket, even going so far as to suggest that I’d found the ticket on the ground and—seizing the vast opportunities afforded by the lucky coincidence that it contained my exact first and last name with the exception of two letters—hatched a nefarious plot to break through security and wreak a level of havoc never before seen in the world of aviation. I told her that I fly twice a month—often on this very airline—and nobody’s ever said a thing about my name before. I showed her a wallet full of credit cards and other documents with both names on them. (She countered—in all seriousness—that I could have stolen that wallet. Will magical coincidences never cease?) TWO of her supervisors told her she was nuts. Undaunted, she held her ground—and I was singled out for a thorough search of my person and my belongings … which, I must point out, produced nothing to clarify the whole Jake issue. But somehow a pawing-through of my toiletries and my car keys satisfied her that I was, in fact, Jake. Because nothing confirms your identity faster than your preferred brand of travel shampoo.

The Washington Monument
It’s perhaps my favorite monument in D.C.—and, judging from the way the other monuments and statues all face it, I’m not alone. The views from its tiny windows are breathtaking, and the accomplishment of reaching the top to take in those views is profoundly satisfying.

It’s been closed to the public the last three times I’ve been in D.C. The last. three. times. The gods hate me.

The National Museum of the American Indian
This soaring, month-old structure occupies the last available plot of museum-size land on the perimeter of the Mall. And, from the outside, it adds a refreshing twist to the visual menu of Victorian, Greek Revival and Terribly, Terribly Modern architecture that populates the rest of the Smithsonian complex. But the museum itself offers nothing but endless disappointment. We explored two floors of the place and came away with nothing more than questions and negative comments. The exhibits paint Native American history and culture in broad, meaningless strokes: images of old women sewing together panels of wet whale flesh, displays of unlabeled arrowheads arranged in funky geometric patterns, movies showing guys in football jerseys riding horses … you get the (incomplete) picture. The technological elements of the museum are at times pretty spectacular, which is a sadly ironic way to celebrate—and not educate anyone about—the lives of a simple people who lived simply off the land for generations.

The Library of Congress
I have a new fascination with the Declaration of Independence—which I remember was always housed in the National Archives, but we were told it was on display in the Library of Congress, which I’d never visited. So we headed to the Library of Congress to see it. But it wasn’t there. It was in the National Archives, just like it had always been. We decided to explore the building anyway, and we were rewarded with a tour of the Great Hall, one of the most stunning interior spaces in the history of American architecture.

The National Archives
Warning: Show tune reference ahead! I’d recently seen the musical 1776, which tells the stories of the epic struggles and sacrifices involved in declaring our independence from the British almost 230 years ago. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin et al. literally risked their lives to write—and then sign—the Declaration of Independence, and I wanted to see it again with a clearer understanding of what they’d gone through to create it. Tragically, the ink on the document has faded to almost nothing. But as I stood before that humble but magnificently historic parchment, I openly wept—over the unfathomable bravery those men displayed in the simple act of signing their names, over the uncanny prescience they had in crafting a document that would endure and remain relevant for so long, and over Thomas Jefferson’s soaring language, which continues to stir the hearts of Americans generations upon generations after it was crafted.

Ford’s Theater
We spent our entire vacation under the watchful eyes of the gods of good timing, and our tour of Ford’s Theater was no exception; we arrived minutes before the final presentation of the day was to start, and we were rewarded with front-row seats to a fascinating monologue about the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Southern fury that transformed popular actor John Wilkes Booth into a cold-blooded murderer, and the events both epic and mundane that led to Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. If you go, don’t miss the museum in the basement, which contains an exhaustive collection of sometimes gruesome artifacts from the murder.

The Lincoln Memorial
There is nothing like the view from the top of the steps of this venerable monument—especially at dusk. You can stare—with Lincoln himself looking right over your shoulder—out over the entire length of the Mall, past the Washington Monument to the majestic Capitol. Not even the most jaded, Bush-beleaguered American could sit there and not feel profound stirrings of history and patriotism.

The National World War II Memorial
This brand-new memorial has been criticized for being bland, lacking in educational content, and even misguidedly celebrating the austere architectural styles favored by Hitler and Mussolini. It is guilty of all three things, but it’s still a beautiful, moving and apt monument to everyone involved in the second world war. With its broad, people-friendly spaces, its magnificent fountains, and its majestic views of the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, it invites both congregation and contemplation. And while it offers very little in the way of education, it still helps you understand the separate battles fought on the Pacific and Atlantic fronts, and it helps you appreciate the supreme sacrifices made by the men and women who fought in the war.

The Korean War Memorial
See it at night. Be prepared to shiver.

The National Symphony Orchestra
Oh. My. Goodness. What a spectacular orchestra. What spectacular acoustics in the Kennedy Center—even in our nosebleed seats. And Beethoven’s 7th Symphony. It’s like a 20-minute orgasm.

Unfortunately, as I was packing in relative darkness for this trip, I found a dress shirt that decidedly did not go with my funky dress pants, which are a color that’s so hard to describe, I’ll just call them goldgrayblack. The shirt I packed, which was supposed to be black, turned out to be a rich midnight blue—the exact wrong shade no matter how hard I tried to rationalize the matchup in my head. Fortunately, the NSO attracts the cataracts-and-macular-degeneration crowd, so nobody noticed what a hideous excuse for a homosexual I was. I hope.

The Capitol Steps
Always funny. Always clever. Always up-to-the-minute topical. We celebrated Dad’s 65th birthday laughing our patriotic little butts off at skits and songs with names like “You’re so Vague,” “Duke of Oil” and “House of the Right-Wing Son.” Go here for info on tickets, tours and CDs.

The following are hereby considered acceptable grounds for being slapped repeatedly, locked in an overflowing porta-potty with a tribe of angry bees and/or sitting on the receiving end of a very messy execution: Wearing a T-shirt or sweatshirt bearing a stupid saying (e.g., “Age is a number, and mine is unlisted.”). Talking during a presentation on something Historically Important. Being involved as a participant or chaperone in a junior-high bus tour. Being in junior high school. Wearing shorts, sandals and pantyhose. Being a very sexy buzz-cut-coiffed participant in the Marine Corps Marathon and parading around with impossibly muscular legs sticking out of short running shorts and showing no sexual interest in me whatsoever.

Our secret little hideaway
For years (decades, even) my family has stayed at a completely overlooked but ridiculously convenient Holiday Inn just blocks away from the Capitol every time we’ve gone to DC. Well, guess what? It’s been discovered. And it’s undergone a fabulous transformation from frumpy 1970s housefrau to sleek 2004 sophisticate—with jacked-up prices to match. But it’s still amazingly close to everything, and it’s still a pretty good deal. Check it out on your next visit.

The National Cathedral
But Jake, you’re not religious. Why would you go to church when you were on an otherwise delightful vacation? Um, because it makes my mother happy. And because have you seen this place? It’s freakin’ amazing. If the grounds around the building don’t give you an inner peace, the soaring cathedral itself—with its radiant stained-glass windows and catacombs and statues and flying buttresses—is guaranteed to stir something in your soul. And the organ often achieves bone-rattling levels of gloriousness. We try to go to a service at the National Cathedral every time we’re in DC. You should too. Really.

The impending election
Just as I’d guessed, there was no real election hoo-ha in the DC area while we were there in the last few days of the campaign. But did you know that DC, not being a state, has no Senators and no Representatives … and therefore no Electoral College and NO voice in the election? It’s just one of the many, many reasons the Electoral College is a terrible, pointless, insulting, anachronistic load of crap—one of very few such anomalies in the otherwise thoughtful, historic and richly American legacy our Founding Fathers left us to enjoy centuries after the birth of our great nation.

So go out and vote. Educate yourselves on the candidates. Educate yourselves on the issues. Make your voice heard. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams didn’t risk their lives so you could sit on your butts and watch musicals all day.