Monday, June 28, 2010

Time Magazine didn't print my letter

Fortunately, I found a blogger who'd print it for me:
Dear Editor,

Your Gay Days coverage told the story of one family with kids against a background of (by my count) seven salacious details that painted the rest of the gay experience as little more than sex, drugs and disease. To be fair and balanced, your next article about a religious gathering should weave the story of one family with kids into a tapestry of snarky details about priests raping children, popes covering up scandals, preachers using meth with hookers, bigoted religious researchers hiring rent boys, terrorists flying planes into buildings and groups of fine young Christians fag-bashing people as they leave gay bars.


I saw Stanley Cup at the Chicago pride parade!

I think he’s the one holding the giant silver thing in this picture:

So another pride parade has come and gone, and I remain as ambivalent about the festivities as ever. But not for the usual reasons.

Despite a lot of people’s worries that the so-called freak-show aspect of the parade just feeds into negative gay stereotypes, I’m actually thrilled that the parade gives drag queens and leather queens and muscle queens and duct-tape-on-their-boobs queens a day to say To hell with what you think—this is who I am and I’m not going to apologize for it.


I’m not a fan of the sheer relentlessness of it all. The noise. The crowds. The mess. The drunks. The drunks who manage to spill their drinks all over me. And the fact that anyone who forks over whatever the entrance fee is seems to get a place in the parade … never mind that the damn thing goes on for four-plus hours. Or that a bunch of people walking in mismatched T-shirts—no matter how noble their organization or how fabulous their cause—does not really make visually interesting parade fodder.

And yet.

I feel compelled to go every year. Even though I find it to be only about 50% fun. And I have no idea why I keep going. Maybe because I might miss seeing some hot guy on a float. Because in this day and age it’s impossible to find pictures of hot guys on the Internet. Or maybe because if some remote friend doesn’t see me there it might not occur to him to invite me to his pride party the next year and I’ll feel like a loser.

Despite my determination to not let myself have any fun, though, I did have a lovely weekend. I went to a few parties, I finished the Proud to Run 10K in a respectable time, I spent all day Saturday with a bunch of fabulous friends, I got a parade-watching sunburn, I got tons of compliments on my tattoos, I fell off the no-diet-soda wagon, I got back on, I fell off the almost-no-alcohol wagon, I got back on (after five drinks in one day, which is more than I usually drink in five months), and I spent the post-parade hours singing show tunes at Sidetrack with the domestic partner and a steady parade of friends who bounced in and out of our evening.

Plus I went to what was perhaps the only pre-pride brunch in the city that had three straight pregnant women on the guest list. Unfortunately, only one picture has been uploaded to Facebook so far and nobody in it is pregnant. At least not to my knowledge:

But I did take two artistic portraits at the brunch with my iPhone that will undoubtedly sell for thousands of dollars at my photography retrospective auction in the years following my untimely artists’ death. I have titled them for your convenience so you can place your bids more easily from the catalogue:

Pride Brunch with Cat 1

Pride Brunch with Cat 2

Friday, June 25, 2010

What the hell do gay people have to be proud of?

We’re proud because despite relentless persecution everywhere we turn—when organized religion viciously attacks and censures and vilifies us in the name of selective morality, when our families disown us, when our elected officials bargain away our equality for hate votes, when entire states codify our families into second-class citizenship, when our employers fire us, when our landlords evict us, when our police harass us, when our neighbors and colleagues and fellow citizens openly insult and condemn and mock and berate and even beat and kill us—we continue to survive.

We’re proud because pride is the opposite of shame—and despite what the Christian hate industry works so hard to make the world believe, there is nothing shameful about being gay.

We’re proud because more and more, we are able to live our lives openly and joyfully without fear of losing our jobs, losing our housing, losing our families and losing our lives.

We’re proud because we are smart enough to overcome the self-loathing that our increasingly venomous, mindlessly theocratic society forces on us, and we have the power to stop its destructive cycle by fighting back and by making intelligent choices involving sex and drugs and money and relationships and the way we live our lives.

We’re proud because after all we’ve been through, the world is starting to notice and respect us and emulate the often fabulous culture we’ve assembled from the common struggles and glorious diversity of our disparate lives.

We’re proud because this weekend we’ll celebrate with drag queens, leather queens, muscle queens, attitude queens and you’d-never-know-they-were-queens queens, and together we can see through the “pride” in our parade and enjoy the underlying Pride in our parade.

Quite simply, we’re proud that we have so much to be proud of.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Internet is for Gary Coleman stories

For those of you not versed in the canon of high culture, there is a Tony-award-winning musical from times of yore that weaves stories of love, betrayal, understanding and redemption across socioeconomic and ethnic lines, all told against a backdrop of poverty and despair in a New York tenement. Much like Les Misérables, the show explores these themes through the characters caught in their mighty vortices, giving them both sympathy and dignity while taking groundbreaking liberties with the conventions of the musical theater genre.

The show is, of course, Avenue Q. And in its very early scenes, as its characters are introduced and defined through tales of their abject suffering, we meet the most pathetic, fragile creature of the entire dramatis personae: Gary Coleman

Yes, that Gary Coleman, whose first couplets are so full of pathos and heartbreak it almost pains me to quote them here for you. But I will anyway:
I’m Gary Coleman
From TV’s Diff’rent Strokes.
I made a lotta money
That got stolen by my folks.
Now I’m broke and I’m the butt
Of everyone’s jokes.
In the show, Gary Coleman is played by an actor who is obviously not the actual Gary Coleman. Probably because the Avenue Q creators knew the actual Gary Coleman would eventually die and actors are easier to replace than Gary Coleman.

Anyway, when the domestic partner and I started dating and we’d spend our days listening to Broadway cast albums together—as all gay couples do, so do not judge—the domestic partner eventually turned to me and asked me if Gary Coleman received royalties for being portrayed every night so realistically in a Tony-award-winning musical of love, betrayal, understanding and redemption told against a backdrop of poverty and despair in a New York tenement.

And I, the keeper of all empirical truth, was for once unable to answer his question. For once.

But suddenly the Gary Coleman question became our shorthand for all things unanswerable. Like How do you throw away a garbage can? Or Why is Rush Limbaugh allowed to marry four times while we’re not allowed to marry even once? Or Why is Sarah Palin allowed to live?

So when we bought our Two Bedroomed Two Bathroomed One Fireplaced Barbie® Dream Condo and started painting and repairing and upgrading it before we moved in, I posted a picture of Gary Coleman in our so-palatial-it-has-its-own-ZIP-code master bedroom closet after I finished painting it just to give the domestic partner a giggle the first time he saw my finished handiwork.

And it worked!

But eventually we installed elfa shelving and stuffed the closet with the billions of dollars’ worth of designer clothing our celebrity designer friends give us when they use our TBTBOFBDC for their couture photo shoots, and Gary Coleman got moved to the mirror over the sink in our ultra-plush, members-only-spa-like master bathroom. Where we quickly stopped even noticing he was there as he started to wither and curl from years of exposure to shower steam and high-end hair product. Which is kind of like a sad metaphor for his career, but we were too busy trying on couture to really care.

But then Gary Coleman actually died.

And now that we’ve started re-noticing the picture on our mirror, it seems cavalier bordering on cruel to take it down and throw it away. Though we probably eventually will, just as soon as we finally turn the paint chips you see in the background of this picture into actual paint that we actually put on the walls:

In the mean time, I leave you with a charming pastiche number from Act 1 of Avenue Q that’s not sung by the Gary Coleman character, but most of his songs are pretty lame and unquotable so who cares? Enjoy:
I’m not wearing underwear today.
No I’m not wearing underwear today.
Not that you probably care
Much about my underwear.
Still nonetheless I gotta say
That I’m not wearing underwear today.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

10,000 miles is a long way to run

Especially when it’s really only 205 miles. But 36 hours of living like circus people in a crowded van with occasional breaks to run lonely 10Ks through oppressive heat or inky blackness has a way of feeling as long and arduous as a swim from Maine to Hawaii. Or a walk from Hollywood to Argentina. Or an emotional trek from Palin to reality.

In any case, the 205-mile relay from Madison to Chicago last weekend was at once exhausting, sweaty, painful, smelly as a bucket of goat butts and quite possibly the second awesomist running experience of my life … right after crossing my first marathon finish line.

Our team of 12 runners was divided into two vans, and we hopscotched all over Wisconsin and Illinois through 36 transition points, dropping off runners, picking up runners, grabbing showers in college dorms, grabbing sleep in 40-minute shifts on the van floor, changing clothes in front of each other, checking cell phones for updates on runners’ pace times, posting pictures on Facebook through the magic of iPhone technology, chugging more Gatorade than can possibly be healthy for anyone … and generally having a freaking amazing time collectively running a whopping 205 miles from 7:00 am Friday to 7:00 pm Saturday.

Since my van held runners 7 through 12, we didn't have to be at the start line in Madison so early on Friday so we took our leisurely time Friday morning getting up to just somewhere near Madison. Here we are at transition point 6 waiting for runner number 6 from van number 1 (got all that?) to reach us so we could start our half of the adventure:

I was runner number 9, which put my first leg of the race at 2:00 in the afternoon on what ended up being a swelteringly hot day. Here I am waiting for the baton—which was really a slap strap that wraps around your wrist—before my little Gatorade-distended belly and I began our 8.5 miles through what you can see is a pretty shade-free section of oh-my-holy-crap-on-a-fart-colored-cracker-is-that-hot rural Wisconsin:

My team found me around my sixth mile to reload my no-I'm-not-in-my-third-trimester-of-gestating-triplets tummy with water and Gatorade before sending me back into the oppressive heat:
As I continued slogging through my little sun-drenched nightmare, I found myself wishing that a local hunter might mistake me for a deer trying desperately to masquerade as a human by wearing hunter-orange running shorts and shoot me in the head for my hubris. But I had no such luck.

By the time I passed my grotesquely sweaty slap strap to runner number 10, I was sunburned and delirious, but already enamored of the epic adventure I had embarked on:

Once we got through our 12th runner, we passed the baton (as it were) back to van number 1 and used our six hours of down time to scrub the stink off us in a college dormitory and grab some dinner at a local carb emporium. The rules for the relay clearly stated that all runners had to wear reflective vests when the sun was down with no exceptions so we dutifully wore them to wolf down our bowls of pasta and plates of pizza:

I have no photos of my 2:00 am 6.5-mile run in my reflective getup and my headlamp (which felt ridiculous but ended up being an awesome accessory for running down rural highways in pitch blackness) but the weather had turned blessedly cool and I was positively euphoric through my entire hour with my slap-strap baton wrapped securely around my midnight-blackened wrist.

My van finished our night shift at dawn and we used our down time to nap in whatever configurations we could manage in the van, near the van and perhaps even under the van. And by morning we found ourselves waiting to start up our third shift in a school parking lot with hundreds of other team vans (this one time ... at van camp ...) while storms rolled in and threatened to shut us down completely.

Which they did. And they did. Except we never really saw the storms. But we got tons of tweets from the race organizers telling us to stay in our vans until we got the go-ahead to resume the relay. So of course we used the down time to organize all the crap we had stashed in the back of our van:

The race came back to life after two hours, and my last 5.5-mile leg along a manicured suburban nature trail at 2:00 was another study in glorious weather and runner's euphoria. And by the time I passed off my final baton, I had thankfully burned off the Gatorade bloat in my poor little tummy:

And now all that's left is the memories. And the few pictures we took. And of course the blog post. But now I have a new hobby! And since the team I ran on this year was a corporate team of some friends who are moving to freaking Australia in a few months, I've already emailed all my fun runner friends to build our own team for next year. And we're going to have a cool team name ("Princess Sparklepony and the Li'l Glitterpickles" is currently my working title) and cool shirts and cool vans and even more Gatorade bloat and goatbutt stink and it's gonna be awesome and I'm so excited I can't wait for June so I can do it all over again!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

When to think of me as insane

7:00 am Friday
I pile into a rental van with a driver, two friends and three people I’ve never met to trek to our starting point in the 200-mile, 36-hour Milwaukee-to-Chicago relay. Our team has 12 runners, but our van holds runners 7 through 12 so we don’t have to be all the way to Milwaukee for the 7:30 am start. Which means I get to sleep in my own bed instead of a van with six strangers the night before I run.

2:00 pm Friday
I’m runner number 9, and this is roughly when I start my first leg of the race … give or take a couple hours depending on how fast runners 1 through 8 get through their first legs. I have to pound out 8.40 miles on this leg. And thanks to my mega-double-hella-wicked sinus infection—which after 15 days is finally 99% gone—I’ve done exactly two training runs—maxing out at 6.34 miles last night!—to build up to what promises to be a freaking painful hour-and-a-half-plus of running in what promises to be freaking endless rain. And since I have what we will politely call the sense of direction of Sarah Palin trying to find her own ass with a flashlight, there is a very good chance I could miss whatever directional signs are placed along the route and find myself frolicking among Adam and Eve and the dinosaurs in cerebral Kentucky’s venerated Creation Museum without much effort. For this, I am actually nervous about a run. Which hasn’t happened since I ran my first half marathon almost 10 years ago.

1:30 am Saturday
Eleven runners later—assuming Adam and Eve don’t run over me riding their dinosaur to church—this is roughly when I start my second leg of the race. After sleeping and stinking and politely trying not to fart in a van full of sweaty, rain-soaked runners I barely even know, I get to leave the safe confines of my pleather bucket seat and run 6.46 miles somewhere in the wee early hours of Saturday. In anywhere from a 30-50% chance of rain. But it’s 1.94 fewer miles I have to get lost and wander off to dance to Quisling John’s music at Rush Limbaugh’s fourth temporary wedding.

12:30 pm Saturday
And then I’m back to running in the hot afternoon sun, assuming all the predicted rain clears up. So I’ll either have heat stroke or wet-shoe blisters to complement my unrelenting swamp ass. The start time on my last leg actually has a massive give-or-take window on our runner spreadsheet to accommodate the giant time variables involved in propelling 12 people over 175 miles through 33 legs to get me to the start of my last 5.86 miles … which is the one number that’s fixed on our spreadsheet.

4:30 pm Saturday
This is our predicted finish time, in a Chicago lakefront park that’s literally stumbling distance from my house. Or a short plane ride from the BP Gulf Coast Aquatic Preserve. Depending on my state of mind—and level of hydration—I may actually drink some alcohol to celebrate what will be either my coolest or my most horrifying runner experience to date. But either way, I get two T-shirts out of the deal. (I need more T-shirts!) And maybe some new lifelong friends. Unless they accidentally breathe in the van after I run.

One week later
I start my hardcore training for the New York City Marathon. Can I get a WOOT?

Monday, June 07, 2010

There is so much going through my head right now

Most of which are the ingredients in crystal meth, apparently. I’ve been fighting the mother and father and pit bull and vindictive, murderous neighbor of all sinus infections for more than a week now. I finally broke down and admitted it was more than allergies late last week, and my doctor put me on four medications for it:

• Z-Pak to kill the sinus infection
• Flonase to shrink the polyp (which is such a pretty word) in my sinuses that is preventing things from draining properly
• Claritin D to start my own meth lab
• Ibuprofen to mask the pain that the other three meds are obviously incapable of overcoming

Have you tried to buy Claritin D lately? You have to go through a freaking background check—at least in Illinois—complete with a scan of your driver’s license, a series of questions and a signed statement that yes indeed you are suffering from horrifying head pain and not instead planning to blow up your toothless family in your cousin's dented trailer as you try to make enough meth to fund an afternoon at McDonald’s because all you are legally allowed to buy is 10 pills.

I’m happy to report that five days after firing up my own personal meth lab—ahem, combination drug therapy—I can finally function in polite society without hoping I stumble on an armed robbery so I can provoke the gunman into shooting me in the head.

I even ran 4.5 miles on Saturday, though the angry monkeys having a pickaxe fight in my skull were not happy with all the jostling and they banged their rusty implements of war on the side of my head right above my right ear every time my feet hit the ground. But I have to run this 200-mile relay on Friday so I had no choice but to soldier on and get some miles under my belt. Monkeys be damned!

I also haven’t missed a workout through any of this—vanity before comfort!—though there were a few days where the exertion of bench pressing 225 lbs (a number he worked modestly into his blog post) was enough to fill my throbbing head with images of brains and mucous and freakishly inflamed sinus tissue (and polyps! because you can never say that word too often!) splattered all over the gym walls. Polyps!

But! I’m happy to report that today I feel about 85% better, enough so that I’ve promised myself I won’t complain about the pain to my long-suffering colleagues today at work. You people, though? Different story. Please re-read this blog post 173 more times until your brain can approximate the pain mine has endured for the last 10 days.