Wednesday, November 30, 2005

SOBA Alert

I'm back from London. Sorry for the stretch of quiet since my last post; I was exposed to Sudden Onset British Accent while I was there and I've been in quarantine since I got back.

A little-understood—but heartbreakingly familiar—affliction, SOBA can strike at any moment, leaving its victims and their traveling companions trapped in a nightmare of incorrectly lengthened vowels and revoltingly fey articulated consonants.

Even worse, it can transform an ordinary (in the most pejorative sense of the word) American into an insufferable boob.

Fortunately, there IS a cure. But if you get caught punching the living shit out of a freaky little queen just because he started talking extra-funny, you might end up in the hoosegow. Which can totally ruin your vacation.

Anyway, I survived quarantine, and they didn’t find any SOBA antibodies in my system, so I guess I’m clean. Now I’m going to grab my bumbershoot and catch the lift down to the Tube.


Sunday, November 27, 2005

My final London memories

Straight people here must feel some constitutional obligation to make out in the most public -- and the most vulgar -- ways possible. Especially if they aren't especially porntastic. (We saw one particularely egregious display tonight on a park bench. The man was sitting facing the river, like most people do. But the woman -- I kid you not -- was straddling his lap with her skirt hiked up and her lady business blowing in the breeze. The FREEZING breeze.)

Speaking of hiked-up skirts, there are two unfortunate fashion trends sweeping London at the moment. One is shorty-short skirts and towering heels. Which would be fine in, say, August -- but it's FREEZING here. Put on something warm already, ladies -- you're making my balls shrink up. The other is what can only be desribed as toreador chic: bolero jackets, knee leggings and ballet slippers. Again: not weather-appropriate. And also: rarely flattering.

One more self-righteous, Ameri-centric piece of judgment: "Shag" is never appropriate. Not on your floors (hard to vacuum), not in your sexual overtures (sounds REALLY gay) and ESPECIALLY not on your heads (looks like hell). Trust me on this.


I spent the day with my high-school friend Lucy, whom I haven't seen in over 10 years. She lives here now, and amid shopping and National Gallerying and eating and more eating, we got all caught up on long-lost friends and long-overdue gossip. Unfortunately, neither of us had anything particularly juicy to share about anyone.

We saw Mary Poppins (the new musical, not the mythical nanny) last night in what must have been just-returned seats in the front center of the dress circle. The seats could NOT have been better, and we got them just a few hours before curtain. Yay us! The show is delightful, packed to the brim with fabulous costumes and endless special effects and clever, tightly rehearsed choreography and a soaring, animated set that deserves a Pulitzer Prize. The old songs from the movie are almost all there, but they're dragged down by new material that's dark and kind of uninspired and clearly the product of a different (and slightly lesser) creative mind. One observation: There's a point near the end of the show that's nothing short of a technical landmark that's suddenly, conspicuously followed by no more special effects. From that point forward, the cast sings the last few songs on a bare stage with ultra-basic lighting effects, as though the technical budget took the directors only so far and all they had left for the ending were a few gobos left over from a high-school production of Man of La Mancha. The show is still a delight, but after all that buildup you're kind of expecting something a little bigger. I'm just sayin'.

Before the show, our friend Jim from Chicago, who was in town for business, met us for cocoa and then joined us for dinner afterward at the fabulous (and fabulously staffed) Balans. Come for the food, but stay for the waiters. And the other patrons. Woof.

Now it's off to bed and a long flight home tomorrow. Cheerio!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Today's London adventures

Pizza Hut! Which—I know —is tacky and American and grosser than gross, but we thought we should eat something vaguely representative of our culture over Thanksgiving weekend. (Besides, the place was packed.)

Pay toilets! Which—though I didn't personally use them—I was surprised to learn charge 50p for one pee. Which sounds like a pretty bad exchange rate.

Blogger delays! Apparently there's some weird European delay thing with blogger, and my earlier post appeared twice because I posted it again when it didn't appear the first time. The same thing happened in March when I was in Madrid and Paris. And, obviously, I didn't learn.

High tea at Harrods! Where I 1) discovered that scones and clotted cream are MUCH better than I remember and 2) reinforced my opinion that I am NOT a tea person.

Tube riding! Which is fast and efficient and comfortable and convenient no matter where you are or where you're going. Exactly like public transportation is NOT in Chicago.

High Society! Which is at times hard to believe is a professional theatre production. The costumes and wigs are lavish (though a bit threadbare), the voices are pretty darn good, this guy easily steals every scene he's in (once just by taking off his shirt), and the megawatt star power is supplied by ... Jerry Hall's understudy (at least tonight, by a woman who was quite good). But the book is laughable, the staging is worse, the orchestra is grossly electronic, and the choreography is insulting and unrehearsed (except where it's fabulous and over the top (again: this guy) and altogether inappropriate for the characters and time period). We got our tickets half-price at TKTS, though, and the show is playing at the same theatre where I saw Follies 17 years ago with my friend Miriam. So that was a blast from the past.

Tomorrow's adventures: Um ... we don't know yet. Probably more touristy things. And more shopping. Stay tuned ...

Snapshots from London

We made it here safely and without incident. Except when I got £200 out of the ATM at the airport, I promptly dropped all my bills on the ground like a tacky tourist.

Some natives called us "mates" on our elevator lift last night.

The term water closet isn't just an adorable English euphemism. The room with the toilet -- at least in our hotel -- is barely large enough for me and my feet when I try to close the door. My shoes back in Chicago enjoy more closet. (And, presumably, less water.)

Speaking of water, the toilet in our water closet is designed for maximum splashage -- sort of a poor man's bidet. Now with a resonant kerplunking sound!

"Our" water closet is actually a misnomer here; we're staying in a hotel with sinks in the rooms and private toilets/showers in public bathrooms scattered randomly down the halls. You have to call the front desk for a towel and someone to unlock the showers, but the beds are cozy, the room is warm and you can hear construction (or maybe banging pipes) all night long.

Then again, we're paying £56 each—TOTAL—for four nights in a hotel that's mere steps from a Tube stop right in the heart of the theatre district ... which, for those of us still mastering the exchange rate, is roughly 100 dollars. (For some reason, this keyboard doesn't have a dollar sign. Someone notify the queen.)

Only a moron would forget to pack shampoo and deodorant when he went on vacation. Only a moron.

We went to G-A-Y last night, the famed nightclub where Madonna gave a doubtfully live performance off her new album last week. The place is big and smoky (actually, EVERYTHING in London is smoky), and if you look around carefully you can see telltale signs of its former life, which I assume was a lavish, Egyptian-themed theatre.

Either the gay boys in London are frightfully skinny or Americans are big fat louts. Or some combination of the two. Or I'm just making sweeping judgments based on one unrepresentative experience. Which NEVER happens.

On the plus side, the gay aesthetic in London isn't the hyper-worked-out, eating-disorder-inducing look that can ruin any given night out in the States. I feel pretty here!

I love the sexual freedom in the London—there are "licensed sex shops" (which I assume are houses of prostitution) in neon-splashed clusters around the neighborhood, and the gay rags feature endlessly clever (and memorably explicit) ads filled with information and warnings about STIs (which I assume are sexually transmittd infections). And—as far as I can tell—there is none of the retardedly panicked sexual repression the religious wrong spreads like self-righteous butter on the croissants of American discourse. (Pardon the forced metaphor—it's almost noon here and I haven't eaten yet. Blogging is THAT important to me.)

I really hate my leather jacket. It's shapeless and only mildly warm. And it bunches up in the most uncomfortable places. I bought it six years ago for a couple hundred bucks, and now I think I'm ready to sink another hundred bucks into a casual-dressy coat that actually fits. And actually keeps me warm.

I've been to London twice—both over Thanksgiving—so my perceptions may be a bit skewed (see: unrepresentative experience above), but to me this place is nothing but cold and overcast. Which makes all the "fully air-conditioned" restaurant-window signs a little alarming. (What does it say about the food if that's the most important marketing angle a restaurant can find?)

Snarky comments aside, we ate our traditional Thanksgiving dinner last night at a Thai place that was quite delicious. And so were the waiters.

On the docket today: Shopping! And finding theatre tickets! And breakfast!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Away up until now
The new job has been a MASSIVE drain on my free time for the last month—I've billed 75-hour weeks three weeks in a row (except for two vacation days I somehow managed to score), and there doesn't seem to be much letup on the horizon. So that's my excuse for not blogging so much lately.

My other excuse is the obvious corollary: If all I do is work, all I really have to write about is work. And, as glamtastic as advertising can be (see: Bewitched, Melrose Place, Desperate Housewives), I sincerely doubt you want to read about my endless adventures in office scandals, pen-stealing and corporate bloodlust scheduling, proofreading and filing expense reports.


I did have one newsworthy work-related adventure last week. See, I'd been rescheduling this dentist appointment over and over because of VITAL client meetings, and I finally found a date and time with no conflicts. So of course the company scheduled a mandatory staff meeting at the same time. I decided my teeth took priority, though, and I traipsed off to the land of tartar scrapers and those sharp-pointed X-ray shields that dig into your soft spots while your're being shot full of radiation—all while the rest of my company assembled on furniture without spit sinks for updates and announcements.

I survived the visit, and—ecstatic over the news that I have no new cavities (though I have three fillings scheduled for replacement in early January)—my mind barely registered the thumbs-up that a colleague gave me through the revolving-door glass as I headed back to the office and he headed out into the night. And I was starting to think my dentist was awfully unprofessional for sharing my dental report with the whole office when three people shouted Congratulations! at me as I got off the elevator.

And then, when I got to my office, there it was: The trophy. The traveling trophy that said I had just won the Buzzie Award.*

*Named after a landmark employee who just retired, the Buzzie is akin to employee of the month. Only it's more like employee of the quarter because it's awarded only 4-6 times a year. And it's peer-generated; you are nominated by a certain number of your colleagues and approved by a peer review board whose recommendations are finalized by the company president. So it's actually pretty cool—the president reads your nominations in front of the whole office and hands you a sizeable little check (which totally paid for my new dishes!) while you get to choke out an unprepared speech about how you couldn't possibly do your job without all the cool people you work with (which is the complete, heartfelt truth). Then again, the award is called a Buzzie and the trophy is this hideous three-foot monstrosity festooned with equally hideous knickknacks and doodads from previous winners. So it totally helps keep everything real, yo.

Away even more
This paucity of posts will extend into the near future as well, only this time it's for a more exciting reason: I leave for a five-day trip to London tomorrow with some friends from the chorus! I'm sure I'll find an Internets cafe or two as I explore the City of Dentists (I think that's what people call it), but I could find myself too busy munching crumpets with the queen to even be bothered. (And that's not a metaphor for anything.)

So be good while I'm gone, always remember to brush and please don't stop visiting here just because I'm not making any damn posts. I'll find more blogging time once this pre-holiday rush is behind me. Promise.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Keeping up appearances

"And the suggestion that’s been made by some U.S. senators that the President of the United States or any member of this Administration purposely misled the American people on pre-war intelligence is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city."
— Vice President Dick Cheney

"It is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began. … These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will."
— "President" George W. Bush

Dear Dick and Dubya,
Considering the context, I don't think that putting the words "dishonest," "reprehensible" and "irresponsible" in the public's mind is a very good idea. At least not for you.

Dear America,
See what happens when you think the "threat" of gay marriage and the "science" of a mythology that's had to be repositioned as "intelligent design" so it doesn't alienate every clear-headed thinker in America are legitimate factors in deciding a presidential election? Happy now?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Homos on the range!

The holidays are all about traditions: food, presents, family … and sweaty cowboys.

And the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus holiday show is all about cowboys. Sweaty, singing cowboys. And we’re cleverly calling it A Cowboy Christmas.

Our holiday show has become a required first stop for everyone who wants to get into the holiday spirit, and this year promises to be extra fun because we’ll be yodeling. And wearing hats. And singing songs about elves.

In addition to our general goofiness, we’ll also be singing some powerhouse arrangements of Christmas favorites, including a mighty gospel medley and Dolly Parton’s joyous “With Bells On.”

I’m choreographing and dancing in the opening number (so the painful part will be over before you know it) and, as the new marketing director for the chorus, I’ve also managed all the advertising—from the posters to the programs. And I’m exhausted.

Tickets went on sale this week, so click on the pretty picture below to order yours and make sure you get the best seats.

Hope to see your blog-reading faces in the audience!

Friday, December 9, 8:00 pm
Saturday, December 10, 5:00 pm
Saturday, December 10, 8:30 pm
The Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport
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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Snapshots from Iowa

Getting Wood
My folks and I spent a glorious couple hours exploring Grant Wood at 5 Turner Alley at the always impressive Cedar Rapids Museum of Art on Thursday. This retrospective of works by American Gothic painter and Cedar Rapids native son Grant Wood is (I believe) the first ever collection of so much of his oeuvre in one place at one time. A Cedar Rapids native son myself, I grew up steeped in knowledge and lore about Grant Wood, I attended the grade school named after him and the junior high school where he taught art, I met his sister (who is immortalized in American Gothic (she's the one on the left)) before she died, and I've even been collecting prints of my favorite Grant Wood paintings over the years. And I added to my collection this weekend -- to the tune of almost $200 (including SWEET custom framing).

Not getting wood
My sister and her husband still don't have a headboard on their bed, so we all stopped by a furniture shop this afternoon to browse through some options. My sister found a nice wooden one she really liked, but my brother-in-law told her he "did not want to get wood in (our) bedroom."

Finishing my Christmas shopping
(At least for my parents.) I bought my mom a Grant Wood print and paid to have it framed this weekend. I was still behind on what to get my dad for his October birthday -- much less Christmas -- when their 20+-year-old garbage disposal crashed last night. So I bought them a new one and helped install it today. Which earned me tons of cash back on my credit card, tons of macho points on my gay card and a bad case of frightfully slimy dishpan hands.

The Princess Party
Hot on the heels of being más macho que su mama, I attended my niece's princess party at a local gymnastics emporium. (You know: because princesses use balance beams. And stuff.) The best part: Lots of cake and ice cream. The worst part: LOTS of pink. And screaming children (albeit screaming-because-of-exuberant-happiness children, but screaming children nonetheless).

Pretty, Pretty Princess
This is the name of a game. A game my niece got for her birthday. A game we all played when we got home from the princess party. A game that involves moving a little jewel-toned game piece around a board and slowly donning a matching necklace, bracelet, earrings, ring and even a tiara. A game my niece miraculously won! On her birthday! Leaving her hapless uncle wearing only one earring and his necklace.

What a pretty, pretty loser.

Friday, November 11, 2005

How to entertain yourself in Iowa

I'm home with the family in Iowa for a well-deserved four-day vacation. And I've already packed a lifetime of adventure in the last 48 hours. Here's some of what I've done:

Play with the kids
Yesterday I had lunch with my nephew at his kindergarten, which is in my old grade school. As we walked the halls from his classroom to his cafeteria, I had more flashbacks than Rush Limbaugh discovering a box of OxiClean under his sink. After that I was a mommy helper (OK, assistant mommy helper) with my sister at my niece's preschool. It, too, was in the same building where I had gone to preschool many, many facelifts ago. But the building had undergone so many renovations since then (and I was only four at the time, so what the hell do you people want from me?) that I really had no recollection of being there.

Laugh at the kids
Example! My niece is turning four on Saturday (which is the reason I'm here) and there's a princess party in the works for her and a bunch of her friends. And her gay uncle. But my niece is in a mood. A mood that sometimes prompts her to discipline the adults around her with grave threats of retribution. Today, for instance, she was so upset that she didn't get any candy at the drug store that she declared she was canceling her party. Never one to deny my niece the right to make important decisions, my sister calmly reached for her cell phone and started calling all the guests to tell them not to come. And the frantic panic in my niece's voice -- "I changed my mind! I changed my mind!" -- as the enormity of her hasty threat started to dawn on her would have been funny if it hadn't been so damn hilarious. The more my niece pleaded for her very princess-themed life, the more my sister and I laughed and shook and could NOT look at each other. (The party, you'll be pleased to know, did not get canceled. Fortunately, nobody my sister called was home.)

Example! The day I arrived, my niece and a friend were playing superheroes. My niece had a towel wrapped around her neck and a vast array of superpowers at her fingertips, and she was enjoying to the fullest all the exciting corporate benefits of being Woman Woman! (I have no idea what the Woman Woman! costume looked like in my niece's fertile imagination, but I would hazard a guess it involved something with ruffles, a Bob the Builder hat and perhaps a set of Barbie earrings. And definitely some sparkly lip gloss.)

Notice the gays
The gays, they're a-teachin' our kids, they are. I counted at least one gay at each school I visited yesterday. Unfortunately, neither had much of a sense of style, so my niece and nephew are being deprived of a positive sartorial influence at their respective places of education. Which is both a damn shame and a national tragedy. Why hasn't Pat Robertson spoken out about this? Oh, yeah. Maybe he's too busy kickin' godless, monkey-shaped Pennsylvania butt.

Two words: Ample parking! Two more words: Manageable crowds!

We hit the pre-holiday sales with a bunch of storewide coupons in hand, and I must say we've made a killing. In addition to getting a bunch of holiday shopping crossed off my list, I've also bought myself an entire new set of Big Boy Dishes at almost 75% off (I'll post before-and-after pix when I get home so you can see how profoundly sad juvenile my old dishes looked), a ton of foo-foo gay knickknacks to replace the ghetto gay knickknacks that are currently taking up valuable display space at Shoebox Manor (also at 75% off), some of my favorite Old Navy ringer tees on sale for 50% off and a warm, delicious dinner at Taco Bell. God BLESS Taco Bell. (Just don't stand behind me for a couple more weeks. I haven't eaten at Taco Bell in at least a couple years, and my plumbing is still getting used to its beany goodness.)

And more!
I have much more to tell you, but I have to go throw some children in the air. Stay tuned ...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

My weird little obsession

There's this thing I do. Almost compulsively. Fortunately, it costs nothing (well, there are no incremental costs over my initial investment) and the mess it makes is no bigger than a few square inches. It doesn't hurt anybody except all those hookers I've killed in the basement and it's actually proven to be pretty educational.

But it's hard to describe in one sentence. Here goes, though: I visit my four favorite cartoon web sites every day (see sidebar to your right) and save my favorite cartoons in a folder on my computer. If a cartoon isn't funny all the way through but one of the little panels (or even a part of one of the little panels) is, I chop it up in my Photoshop and save the good parts in a separate sub-folder. (Two sentences. See?)

And do I ever look at these little cartoonlets again once I've filed them away? Yes, but only if I get a little browsy when I'm adding new clippings to the folder. Do I have a purpose for them? Theoretically, I plan to use them as clever little sign-offs to my clever little emails. Theoretically.

But there really is an educational part: It's helped me become quite the little Photoshop autodidact—especially when the tiny little funny part of a cartoon needs to be surgically removed from its non-funny surroundings and I have to fill in the resulting holes so as not to confuse the women and children.

And since my fabulous new job (technically, it's the same job I already had but now with an awesome new team and a cool new client base and exciting new challenges) has sucked away all my blogging time over the last few weeks (I billed 72 hours last week!) I'll just leave you with some of the disjointed evidence of my goofy little obsession:
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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Look what I did!

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It's true. Jake + rudimentary Photoshop skills = very plain-looking banner ads on the chorus web site.

But I'm learning a ton as I go. And I designed the Lipstick & Lyrics logo ALL. BY. MYSELF.

And now it's your turn to have some fun. Click on the banner ads above and you'll open up a world of magical surprises. (Please have your credit cards handy.)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

I’m having trouble peeing.

It’s only Tuesday, and there have already been four times this week that I’ve had a hard time taking a simple leak.

I’m drinking plenty of fluids. I’m trying to get up from my desk to slosh my innards around at least once an hour. I know where the bathrooms are. So the problem can’t be with my plumbing.

But it might stem from this video game I’m living in. Every time I get up to head to the bathroom, people come careening down the hallways and darting out from between the cubes at me with papers they want me to look at. Or they stand three deep outside my door with endless rounds of questions.

If I weren’t at work with a very clear list of job responsibilities hanging over my head, I might look at all this attention as proof that I’m wildly popular.

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I might interpret all this as a guerilla marketing tactic staged by the Buy New Underwear Foundation.

And if I could just squeeze through the throngs and be able to take a freakin’ piss once in a while, I might be able to focus long enough to write a blog post that was perhaps a wee (HA! WEE!) bit more clever.