Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Notes from a protest march

I don't know why yesterday's California Supreme Court decision on Proposition Hate made me so angry. But I was shaking when I read about it. I will never understand—even when I factor in the inherent irrationality of religion—why religious (and even non-religious) people work so hard and so passionately and so proudly to hurt gay people for no logical, compelling or even plausible reason.

But I took some deep breaths, dove into my workday and emerged at the end with my husband domestic partner husband at the Chicago rally protesting the decision last night. I've never been to a rally before, and I have to say it was kind of ... lame. The speakers said nothing new, the crowds incessantly chanted oversimplified little rhymes (which I guess is the best way to counter the gay haters' oversimplified arguments against marriage equality), we walked a good two miles down Halsted Street in baby Jesus' tears over the decision the rain, and by the time we got to wherever we were going the anger I'd felt in the first part of the day had been completely eclipsed by the hunger I felt after not eating for eight hours. But we were there, we lent our bodies to the impressive crowd of people, and we did feel solidarity in our shared indignance.

While we waited for the event to start, our friend Marc took a picture of the two of us. I have no idea what the FML on the sign behind us means, but I can assure it's not some transgender acronym that describes our relationship. Though if it had said SPF, I might have remembered to stand in the front as the shorter person when this picture was taken:

I took this picture with my camera phone at the end of the march, right around the time one of the speakers was yelling into a microphone that he was "the ancestor of oppression" (which was at least something new). The crowd had grown pretty big by this point, and I'm amazed my cheap little camera was able to capture its depth. I tried to get a picture of a sign that had a really clever pun making fun of DOMA, but the yellow sign kept getting in the way ... and I'll be damned if I can remember what the pun was. (UPDATE! I remembered: DOMAPHOBE)

We didn't stay for the end of the rally; our hunger got the best of us. And it was raining. And cold. And I hadn't left the house that morning dressed to play an angry activist defying the elements to demand equality. But we did shiver our way back up to Boystown to eat dinner at a restaurant that we knew supported us. Stupid straight California voters may choose their god or their hate or their pathological irrationality over our right to equal protection for our relationships and our homes, but we don't have to risk accidentally rewarding their Chicago bretheren financially for it. Not when we have choices. And merchants who see us as equal citizens. And my little marching-to-Boystown-in-the-rain-to-punish-unknown-oppressors protest felt the most satisfying of all last night.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sponsor my friends in the AIDS Marathon!

I’m running the Chicago Marathon again this year, but I’m not running it as part of the AIDS Marathon training program. After three years with the program, I wanted more control over my schedule and the way I trained. And so far I’m much happier running my own way, with my own team.

But it means I’m not raising money for the AIDS Foundation. And the AIDS Foundation needs money for the cool things it does. Like working to stop new HIV infections through prevention programs. And improving the lives of people living with HIV and AIDS by providing vital services like medical care, food and housing. And keeping people with HIV/AIDS alive until the day there’s a cure.

Fortunately, I have a lot of friends who are running the AIDS Marathon this year. And here’s your chance to sponsor them! You-all have helped me raise almost $10,000 in the three years I’ve run the AIDS Marathon, so it should be fun and easy for you to help my friends too.

Since you don’t know them and I don’t know you, I’ve made the whole process effortless for everyone; I’ve alphabetized my friends by first name and divided my readers by birth month and paired you-all up through my magical powers of organization.

If your birthday is January through April:
Sponsor Adam. It’s his first marathon ever. I know Adam from the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus (actually, I know all three guys here from the chorus) and Adam has such a beautiful voice that I couldn’t bring myself to hate him when he auditioned for the role I wanted in our last show. And when neither of us got the role, I forgave him anyway.

If your birthday is May through August:
Sponsor Dan. He ran the Honolulu Marathon last year with the AIDS Foundation, and this is his first Chicago Marathon. Dan and I are both tall basses, so we spend all our rehearsals sitting next to each other in the back row, making fun of all those stupid short basses who think they’re so cool because they’re always in front.

If your birthday is September through December:
Sponsor Nick. This is his first marathon as well. Nick has strikingly blue eyes and a beautiful, clear voice. But he never seems to audition for the solos I want so I could never hate him. He also goes to my gym (well, one of my gyms), and we often compare notes on the other gym members. I mean on our workout and marathon training strategies.

When you make your sponsorships, you’ll notice the AIDS Marathon site has undergone vast improvements since last year. So it’s totally way more fun this year to click-n-sponsor one of the guys above. Please do!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My weekend in pictures and song

Well, actually there is no song. So I just lied to you. And that's not my only lie. It looks like I'm running with my training group in the picture below. But that's a lie too! You can't trust me! The reality is my car wouldn't start Saturday morning so I had to run a mile and a half to our meeting place and then my shin splints started acting up so I was pre-tired and in pain and I ended up lagging behind my whole group for the whole six miles we ran together, except for this little part of our run where everyone stopped for water in mile 4 and I actually caught up with them long enough to have our picture taken as though I'd been running with them all along. But I hadn't. And they quickly left me in their dust after this photo was taken. So I'm not only a dirty liar, but I'm a dirty slow liar. The worst kind!

But they waited for me at our finish line so I got to pose with everyone as though I weren't a giant mussy. Which could also be a lie, but I did run our full six miles (plus my bonus one and a half miles) so I still get full credit for Saturday's run.

Now we move on to verse two of our not-song about the weekend—the verse where I whore myself down to my underpants for money. But the money isn't for me, so I'm totally somebody else's whore. Or something like that. The whoring happened at an event called The Big Package, which raised money for the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus in a live auction for some pretty impressive packages of goods, services and travel opportunities. Our hostesses for the evening were a glamorous but sturdy trio of ladies with surprisingly resonant voices:

As a whore, I represented one of the packages: the GQ makeover package, which included a Tiffany watch, which I am photographed modeling here with Bill, who is holding a not-untoiletlike porcelain receptacle for lottery tickets:

The idea was that I was a nerd plucked from the audience and stripped one article of clothing at a time while the bids for my impressive package climbed higher and higher. The trouble is, I'm naturally such a fashionplate that the premise was laughably unbelievable. So here I am using my superior acting skills to come off as a nerd while our sturdy hostesses and our auctioneer struggle to contain their awe:

As the bids climbed, the nerd clothes fell to the floor. And the stomach got sucked in tighter than an aging diva's forehead.

And by the time I was down to my noticeably red underpants, my package had grown to epic proportions. It netted $1,300 for the chorus. Woot!

In a side story that I mention here solely for journalistic balance, a straight personal trainer did the same thing to sell his training services for the chorus. But they let him keep his pants on:

We close our non-song with verse three: Sunday Funday with Matthew, Todd and Brad. We started with a lovely (albeit long, as in our-waitress-disappeared-for-a-good-half-an-hour long) brunch at Pierrot Gourmet, the deliciously foo-foo French-ish restaurant in the Peninsula Hotel. Then we sauntered down Michigan Avenue toward the so-new-it's-FREE-this-weekend Modern Wing of the Art Institute, stopping long enough to let the paparazzi photograph us artfully re-creating the freakishly huge American Gothic statue in the Tribune Tower plaza. Note the way Matthew is holding his imaginary pitchfork in the wrong hand. Also note the napping homeless person.

We entered the Modern Wing via the shiny (as in blindingly shiny, as in so blindingly shiny it's actually a shockingly unfortunate design flaw) pedestrian bridge (officially called the Nichols Bridgeway) that connects Millennium Park with the Modern Wing's top-floor restaurant (officially called Terzo Piano) and glass-enclosed terrace (officially called the Bluhm Family Terrace).

Renzo Piano's architecture for the Modern Wing is striking in its combined intricacy and simplicity. The spaces are open and airy, and they neatly strike a balance between defining spaces and accommodating vast quantities of people. Here's the pergola-like roof over the stately, possibly-ideal-for-Jake-and-Justin's-wedding courtyard (officially called Griffin Court) that bisects the two Modern Wing buildings:

I have a new favorite Matisse painting: his 1920 Interior at Nice, which captures a breezy patrician noblesse (the casual chic dècor! the studied ennui! the rich silvery palette!) with a strikingly vertical perspective. And it lives here, in my favorite new Modern Wing of my favorite local Art Institute!

Here I am contemplating a large Joan Miró painting of Terrence with a horse. Or maybe it's Phillip. I always get those two confused.

I didn't realize this dress was between me and the camera when Matthew took my picture. But it sure gives me a nice bust. And broad shoulders. And a freakishly tiny head.

Motif! After we left the Modern Wing, we ventured into the Art Institute proper to visit some of our favorite paintings, including my old friends from American Gothic. We weren't sure if we were allowed to take pictures of the painting, so we snapped this one without spending a lot of time finessing our balance or composition. But we were able to crop the napping homeless person out of the picture. And Matthew got his imaginary pitchfork in the correct hand.

We finished our day with some disappointingly greasy and expectedly overpriced food at Terzo Piano (the restaurant at the top of the Nichols Bridgeway, for those of you who aren't keeping track). But we figured we were paying for the atmosphere. And the view. And the beautiful Chicago afternoon with friends.

Actually, we finished our day at Angels & Demons, which I freaking LOVED. So I just lied to you again. But we took no pictures, so there is no real proof we were there, lusting after select members of the Swiss Guard. So you'll have to take my word for it. Unless I've given you any reason to think I'm a liar.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Ask me about my Big Package!

OK. This is the only notice you’re getting from me. I’ll be walking around half-naked as delusional designated beefcake on Saturday at The Big Package, the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus’ big new fundraiser. The magic happens Saturday, May 16, from 5pm to 8m at Sidetrack, 3349 N Halsted St, Chicago. And you can buy your tickets here.
$25 in advance or $30 at the door gets you all this:
• Three drink tickets
• A buffet by Limelight Catering
• A chance to win 2 tickets to the Ellen DeGeneres Comedy Show at the Chicago Theatre on June 17
• A sneak preview of the chorus’ upcoming pride show
• A drag hostess named D’Manda Donation
• Raffle ticket sales for some pretty impressive package prizes
• And about seven of us wandering around in tight T-shirts and often less

All proceeds will support the general operating fund of CGMC, which is celebrating its 27th season and has grown to become the largest volunteer LGBT arts organization in Illinois.

Here are just some of the auction packages:

Elton John Package
Tickets to his Wrigley Field concert and signed concert memorabilia

Explore Your Inner Diva Package
We'll get you and a group of your best girlfriends dressed and made-up for a night on the town as the DIVAS you always wanted to be

Travel Package
Two unrestricted round-trip tickets on Southwest Airlines and a voucher for a 2-night stay at any Kimpton Hotel property in North America

Fitness Packages
• Personal Training with Gay Chicago's Dan Chisholm
• Training and consultations from Equinox Fitness
• A two-month membership at Quads Gym including personal training with Chris Gagne

Chicago Staycation Packages
• Wit Hotel
• Palmer House Hilton
• Affinia Hotel

Behind the Scenes at ABC-7
A personalized studio tour and brunch with ABC 7's weekend anchor Kevin Roy

Get your tickets here!

He wasn’t there last night

The muscley ballet boy who did the clumsy flirting after last week’s tap class. He wasn’t there waiting for me in the hallway after last night’s class. Not that I took a moment to walk down the hallway where I’d last seen him or anything. Because that would just be tacky. And inappropriate. And creepy. So it’s a good thing I didn’t do it.

But! Last night was actually the last tap class of the semester, even though it was only my third class since I just discovered the class existed only two weeks ago. And while there was no tap final exam per se, we were all forced to go down the line and demonstrate our proficiency (ahem) in a number of the more challenging tap basics. Like paradiddles. Which I rock at. And pullbacks. Which, if we were being graded, I totally failed. It is my eternal shame: I’ve studied tap off and on for 20 years and I still can’t do pullbacks. Mostly because they’re a grotesque abomination before the lord. And also because my damn toes can’t seem to make contact with the floor when I’m jumping backward. Because doing so would be a grotesque abomination before the lord. Just like Carrie Prejean’s boobs. Or Mel Gibson’s divorce. Or bangs.

In news from the Department of I Like Your Husband Better Than Mine, one of the women in our class had just come back from New York, where she saw four Tony-nominated Broadway shows. Because her husband is a Tony judge. My husband, for all his charms and talents (military-precision laundry folder, encyclopedic knowledge of useless theater trivia including all the Follies Phyllis actresses in order, adorable text messenger), is very conspicuously not a Tony voter. So we do not wing our way to New York City every spring to see every nominated Broadway show completely free. Which, since I can’t do pullbacks for shit, leaves me with no social upper hand in the cutthroat world of Thursday night adult tap class. Which means I don’t dare audition for Real Tappers of Cook County. Because in the depths of my interior are fears I are inferior. Unless there are paradiddles on the test.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A run! A monk!

We ran nine miles on Saturday. It was cold. I had yet to run more than four miles this season without being crippled by shin splints. But I kept up with our group. And my shin splints never bothered me once. Though we all apparently had problems not looking goofy in our pictures:

At mile five, though, I really had to pee. I mean really. Like a racehorse. A racehorse that really had to pee. But nobody else did. So I ran ahead to a bathroom, peed as fast as my little bladder would let me, and raced to catch up with the group. But I never ... quite ... made it. So here I am being run in to the finish line a couple minutes after everyone else. But at least I got a keepsake picture out of it. So just try to tell me it's better to finish first:

But once I arrived we all assembled ourselves and we persuaded a stranger to stand 500 feet away from us to take our weekly team picture:

Then we went to brunch at Nookies, which is only the best restaurant in all of Chicago. If you want proof, consider how long we have to wait for a table every time we go there. And then look at all of us freezing outside as we do that waiting:

And then look at all of us as we all notice that we kind of stink:
(Our table of stinky guys is also our table of heavily-ish tattooed guys. Photographic proof to come as the temperatures rise.)

Changing subjects entirely, here are some pictures of me in a monk robe. But it's a fake monk robe, and since I'm being a fake monk, it's not like I'm going to catch on fire for wearing it. I hope. Especially because the robe is a highly flammable blend of polyester, flint and steel. The whole me-in-a-monk-robe thing was for Bad Habits, last month's monk-themed musical by the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus. Here are three of us running amonk (ahem) backstage:

Here I am violating some Levitical law against mixing calling and texting plans in the same cellular phone. Or something like that:

Our set was pretty cool. Unfortunately the only picture I have of it is blocked by one of those good-monk/bad-monk clichés:

I also got to be a fireman in the show. My audition consisted entirely of trying on the uniform. And since it fit me, I got to say two whole lines AND probably be the first man in recorded history to wear a fake monk robe under a real fireman's uniform while singing "What I Did for Love." Unless that bitch Pat Robertson beat me to it. So I guess I'm just the first to admit it publicly. And then not blame monk-fireman-showtune-singers for 9/11. In any case, here's the only picture anyone took of me in the uniform. Notice how much less flaming it makes me look:

Friday, May 08, 2009

Are there lilac trees in your part of town?

I’m one screw short of a tap shoe

Seriously! I lost a screw off one of my taps last night about halfway through class, and I spent the rest of the class looking all befuddled because I was so worried my tap would fly off and sever someone’s artery. My befuddlement had nothing to do with the fact that I was way out of practice and the class was more than a little bit over my head. Ahem.

But it was still a blast! The teacher comes from an urban/street tap tradition that’s all about percussiveness and unconventional rhythms—as opposed to the gay-ass tap tradition I’m used to that’s all about time steps and mugging for the audience. And like all awesome teachers, he hates symmetry. So all the combinations we learned last night went out of their way to avoid collapsing into predictable eight-beat phrases. Everybody wins!

Miraculously, I also found my screw after class. And I’m not talking about the muscley ballet boy I saw in the hallway who did an adorably indiscreet job of asking the receptionist what she knew about me. No—I literally found my tiny little tap-shoe screw in the giant room where we’d been paradiddling for 90 minutes, which will totally save me the headache of driving all over the city to find a replacement. And this weekend I’m gluing all the screws into my taps. Because this class is too fun for me to be screwing around with my hardware. (Get it? I said screwing! It’s funny because it’s … oh, never mind.)

In More Evidence I’m A Screw Short News, I’ve been bringing my little tube of Polysporin® to work with me so I can periodically disappear into the bathroom and re-dress the stab wound in the back of my head. So yesterday I discreetly excused myself from my desk, discreetly waited for everyone to leave the sink area in our shared bathroom, discreetly mopped up the dried blood flecks and old Polysporin® from my hair, discreetly reached into my pocket to grab my tube of Polysporin® (which is not a metaphor for anything) … and discovered I’d actually spent the day carrying around a little travel tube of toothpaste.

Now, minty fresh stab wounds are a noble goal in some medical practices, but at this point in my recovery I’m more worried about cleanliness and basic healing. Fortunately, there’s a drug store on every corner in the Loop, so I was still able to get my wound all cleaned up and slathered in a nourishing, protective layer of goo.

And—not that I was concerned—the lab results came back on the cyst they hacked out of me and it was benign. But as I understand it, analyzing a pilar cyst in a lab is more an exercise in CYA than a harbinger of potential medical catastrophe. The only time you should actually worry is when you lose the ability to tell the difference between Crest® and Polysporin®.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Scalpel Ball-Change!

Those of you who keep track of such things in your endless scrapbooks and shrines and erotic fan fiction no doubt remember my adventures last year having two lumps removed from my head. They were benign glops of flesh-like keratin commonly called pilar cysts—which would be a great name for a despotic South American boy band—and their removal entailed tolerable amounts of pain, gooey gobs of Polysprin® in my hair and a week of bloody spots on the towels I used to protect my pillows.

And while one of the lumps got the hint and quietly disappeared into that great biohazard incinerator in the parking lot, the other one got all creepy-ex-boyfriend on me and grew back even bigger and more painful than before.

So I had it hacked out again on Monday afternoon. And this time my dermatologist took a sizeable chunk of flesh with it (with bits of hair attached! and I got to see it!) to ensure it wouldn’t reroot for a third appearance. Because you just know Pilar Cyst III would be one of those embarrassing straight-to-DVD affairs, and my life is really better suited to grand openings, red carpets and legions of smiling tap-dancers.

Speaking of, four hours after my cystectomy I found myself flailing about in a tap studio for my first tap class in over three years. I’ve been trying to take tap classes all over Chicago since I moved here in 2000. But every class I’ve found has been prohibitively difficult to get to … and even harder to get home from late on a weeknight. So last week when I discovered that the brand-spanking-new Joffrey Academy of Dance offers common-people tap classes at reasonable evening times a mere four blocks from my office, I dusted off my tap shoes (literally—it’s disgusting how much filth can accumulate on a pair of shoes when they sit on a shelf for three years), cleared my Monday and Thursday evenings for the foreseeable future, and worked myself into a giggly lather of epic excitement. I was back on the tap scene! And I wasn’t going to let something stupid like head surgery keep me from an hour of rhythmic shuffle ball-changing!

The Monday class was a beginner class, and while it’s always good to brush up on your technique, the class was very beginner. Like Mel-Gibson-and-the-marriage-vows-dating-scene beginner. Like James-Dobson-and-the-truth beginner. Like Carrie-Prejean-and-the-alphabet beginner. And half an hour into class, the anesthetic in my scalp wore off. So while I was glad we weren’t doing any exertive tap combinations that would obligate me to flail my throbbing head to and fro, the endless droning of fa-lap fa-lap fa-lap fa-lap fa-lap fa-lap fa-lap ball-change did nothing to distract me from my sudden awareness that holy shit there’s an oozing stab wound in the back of my head.

But! I made it through class and got home without oozing Polysporin®-coated brain matter all over the (convenient! to me at least!) express bus (right outside the studio!). And now I’m giddily counting down the minutes until Thursday’s advanced class. And this time I’ll have cleaner shoes, dryer wounds, a smoother scalp and a pre-emptive dose of Ibuprofen coursing through my veins. Along with the faint hope that one hour of foggy-headed brush-up will be all I need to hold my own in my first serious tap class since February 2006.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Adventures in running

Here's a photo of our second marathon training run, coming at you a week late for reasons I'm too lazy to explain. Notice that we got a whopping 10 of the 17 people on our training roster to show up. If I were all mathy, I'd tell you that was like 66% of our group. But I'm not, so that number is a total guess.

We were supposed to run five miles last weekend. But this was my first run in my orthotics, and I got a serious case of shin splints by mile two and I ended up limping running only four very sad little miles. But I eventually met everyone back at our starting point, and we all toasted Matthew on his recent engagement. (Yay, Matthew!) I don't know why I'm sticking out my tongue in this picture, but it may have something to do with the fact that I'm not a huge fan of champagne. I also don't know why my shorts look like culottes in this picture. Needless to say, it's not my best look.

Motif! I must have been in a tonguey mood last Saturday because I did my sticky-outy trick again at our post-run brunch. But we were at a restaurant I'm not a huge fan of, so I may just be reacting to the miracle of sawdust-flavored omelets. Peter behind me doesn't seem to be making yummy-tummy gestures either.

Fast-forward to this weekend: We ran intended to run eight miles on what turned out to be a gloriously beautiful day. Here we are at our mile-three potty break, where four of us decided that our various injuries—which still, unfortunately, included my shin splints—were too much to bear so we cut our run to just five miles. Oh, the shame.

Ladies and gentlemen, the heartbreak of shin splints:

But brunch afterward was a much nicer affair. Funny how flavor can really make food taste good. You can't tell in this picture, but four of us have some serious tattooage. We may have to take a couple dedicated tat pix at our next run to document how marathon training is a great prison-rehab program for reformed gang members.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Swine flu! Chrysler! Susan Boyle!

You’d think from the above headline that this blog post would be super-topical. But you’d be wrong. Because it’s really about lotion. It’s just that every lotion headline I came up with was either boring or vulgar. Like I’m using a lot more lotion as I get older. Or I’ve been keeping myself pretty moist lately. Or My cupcakes are moist and delicious. Or even, simply, Moist!

In any case, it seems I’m solidly into my Lotion Phase.

It started innocently enough; I went to a dermatologist a few years ago to have some suspect moles excised, and she informed me gravely that I have problematically dry skin on my face … and that at my age I really should be slathering my mug in a protective layer of sunscreen anyway. Because I’ll never be a teen model if I have a dry, wrinkly face.

So I went to my friendly neighborhood H2O+ and stumbled out a few hundred dollars later with a complete Face Oasis™ collection of cleansers, moisturizers, eye creams and sunscreens. But I didn’t get the toner. That seemed a little too gay. And then I actually started using all the stuff I bought. Which is totally out of character for me; I’d always felt a bit superior to other homos because I could be in and out of the shower, dried and dressed in little more than five minutes. There was no foo-foo homo stuff slowing down my morning ablutions!

But these new lotions changed everything. First of all, they actually seemed to work. My face soon felt smoother and moister and I started looking less and less like I’d been beaten with a waffle iron at a prayer breakfast. Plus the Face Oasis™ line smells so damn good—it’s clean and fresh in a clinical, totally non-foo-foo way … like store-brand soap or swimming-pool chlorine or doctor’s office floor cleaner. And what man doesn’t want his eyes to smell like the room where he sometimes pees in a cup?

But it turns out that Face Oasis™ is a gateway lotion. Because once I became addicted to the slightly chlorinated smell of my own nose, I headed straight back to H2O+ to see what other lightly scented elixirs of moist youth I could buy. Like exfoliating sea marine body wash. And pumice foot scrub. And body butter. And clearwater drenching lotion.

And now it can take me a full 20 minutes just to shower … and that’s on the days I’m not exfoliating my feet.

So … uh … my name’s Jake. And I’m a lotion addict. (“Hi, Jake!”)

And my cupcakes are moist and delicious.