NYE Eve

31
Dec
2012

Yesterday was a whirlwind of activity. It started with brunch in the West Village, following by a late afternoon movie in Midtown (Life of Pi – it was beautiful I thought) and ended with a Sandra Bernhard performance at Joe’s Pub in the East Village. While for the most part I felt she was just phoning it in, there were a few funny stories and good song numbers. The most interesting part of the night for me though, was when Sandra was telling some story about the strangeness of the orthodox Jews she had encountered on a trip to Israel. There was nothing political about this story at all, and nothing pro Israel nor anti Arab or Palestinian. But a woman in the crowd was moved to yell out “THE PALESTINIANS, DON’T FORGET THEM.” To which Sandra replied “I don’t honey, I pray for them every day.” And then, clearly a little pissed at this woman’s self-righteous non sequitur, launched into a little diatribe about having washed her hands of the entire region since they are all crazy.

It made me think. I have to admit to a little of the same. Despite my personal desire for a “one state” solution that would involve a boundary encompassing Israel proper, Gaza and the West Bank with a secular constitution guaranteeing equal rights for all who live there, I realize this is a pipe dream given the current situation. I look at the hatred on all sides, and the reprehensible violence of all involved, and like Sandra throw up my hands. My pacifist self truly believes that violence just begets more violence, no matter who is doing it. I get truly disgusted by anyone excusing any form of violence or killing, yet I watch people do it all the time. People have  a strong need to see things in black and white, good guys versus bad, but I am unable to. I see people suffering and dying. And after countless years of no progress, it just looks hopeless. I don’t like admitting that, because in the abstract I don’t believe in hopeless causes. I tend to think there is always a solution to any problem. But sometimes we have to admit to being powerless, and while continuing to support fair outcomes for all and speaking up whenever we see injustice, accept that we may never see them.

Quick quick, slow, slow…

30
Dec
2012

Last night I went with some friends to The Big Apple Ranch for two stepping and line dancing. Unlike the first time, I was determined to be more participatory this go round, so we arrived early to take two lessons in how to dance. I have to be the most uncoordinated dancer on the planet, but I gave it a go, and actually had a great bit of fun. I did get some help from a lovely young lesbian named Meredith, who volunteered to be my partner during the two stepping training. Since I was so new to this, I let her lead and she was really great at helping me learn the steps and not being self-conscious. The whole place was pretty mixed with all kinds of people, even while being predominantly gay, and the environment was really welcoming and non-judgmental. When the classes were over, they dimmed the lighting and upped the music and the crowd arrived for the night of dancing. We took turns leading and following among the group of us who were there, and I even agreed to a dance with a stranger who asked me. It is much more a part of this culture to ask people to dance, and I kind of like the old school charm of it all. I mean, in a big gay dance club no one really asks anyone to dance as a couple, people just hit the floor and move near each other. But dancing in this way, matching the steps of a partner and holding their hands, is much more intimate, and kind of sweet.

A gay time had by all

26
Dec
2012

So Xmas eve was, in fact, a dinner party. And it was mostly, but not exclusively gay. And everyone was dressed as lumberjacks. And Spanish was the main language, although there were hearty doses of English and lesser portions of French thrown in. Most of the people there worked at the UN, and most were interpreters for a living. And in one of the funnier twists to the evening, one of the other guests arrived and started talking to me with a kind of secret complicity, like he knew me, but I could not figure it out. He looked vaguely familiar, but I was sure we had not met before. Finally, he let on that we had been chatting online earlier in the day. Christ, sometimes I can be really dense.

And yesterday, Xmas proper, I met my friend Sian for our traditional Jewish Xmas lunch of Chinese food at Grand Sichuan in Chelsea. Following that, Craig and I had planned to cook dinner and had a few friends over to share the Xmas meal. As the food and most especially wine flowed, our conversation naturally turned (as it seems to among gay men) to bad/funny dating stories.

All in all, a pretty nice Xmas.

Pablo Bunyan

24
Dec
2012

I am friends with a wonderful Spanish couple here in New York (Jose and Andres), and they invited me along with them this evening to a Xmas eve dinner at friends’ of theirs in Brooklyn. I am not entirely clear on the details, I don’t know exactly how many people will be there. And I think (I could be mistaken) they told me their friends are also Spanish, so I will probably get to practice some of my Spanish this evening. I am not sure if their friends are gay or straight or mixed or other. I am not sure if they have kids or pets. I am not sure what part of Brooklyn it is in. I am not sure what we will be eating. All of this adds to the sense of adventure, and as everyone knows, I love a sense of adventure.

One thing I do know, however, is the theme of the dinner party. Theme, you ask? Yes, I was as surprised as you when I received the following text from my friend Jose last night:

“The theme of the party is lumberjack”

Um, ok. Two thoughts crossed my mind simultaneously. One, his reference to “party” makes me wonder if this is not in fact a dinner, but rather a party. Or is it a dinner party? And two: What on earth am I going to wear? I guess I have a plaid shirt and jeans I can dig out, but certainly no large belt buckle, no suspenders, and no ax nor ox (blue or otherwise).

Stay tuned for the write-up tomorrow…

Mugged.

22
Dec
2012

Today I found out (via a facebook status update) that a friend of mine had been mugged in London. Apparently, they roughed him up a bit, broke his glasses and took off with his bike and money. He is thankfully ok, just a little shaken up. As I chatted with him a little, I couldn’t help but remember the time, many years ago, when I was mugged and the effect it had on me for many years following.

I was a college student in Cincinnati, and I was on my way to a bar in the downtown area around 11pm on a Sunday night. The bar I was going to was a gay bar called The Metro. The whole trip down was a bit furtive, as I was not yet out at the time. I parked my car in the area and was walking toward the street where the bar was located when I noticed a group of about six or seven young men (all in their late teens) walking towards me on the same side of the street. For whatever reason, I had a sense of impending danger. I briefly considered crossing the street to avoid them, but I was too close by this point and didn’t want to arouse any suspicion. I walked past them, and just as I was about to breathe a sigh of relief, WHAM! I got hit on the side of my head with a metal rod. I stumbled up and started to run, when I got hit again, this time in the shins, and knocked to the ground. I stumbled up and managed to run away after a few more hits, and was bleeding and disoriented. I made my way towards the bar, where I noticed a police officer out front. I stumbled over to him and told him I had just been mugged, and he asked me where. I pointed back the way I had come and he looked at me (with blood running down the side of my face) and looked at the bar that I was heading to and said “Well, it is too late to do anything now.” (It didn’t occur to me at the time, but his inaction was probably the result of homophobia.)

I fortunately got some help at the bar and was taken to a nearby hospital, where they cleaned me up and determined that my eardrum had been perforated. They asked me if I had filed a police report and I told them no. They insisted this was necessary and called the police. And damn if it wasn’t the same exact cop who showed up, the one who refused to help me on the street. He said he thought I was kidding him before about being attacked. Right, the blood streaming down my face was totally made up too, I thought.

The mugging itself really wasn’t that big a deal. After all, I was relatively unharmed, they had taken my wallet but it only had 20 bucks and my driver’s license in it. I had a few scratches and cuts, but physically it really could have been much worse.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but the worst part of the mugging was the freedom it was to rob me of over the next few years. For several months after the mugging, I avoided going out at night alone. Whereas before I was blissfully unaware of danger and walked where I wanted, after the mugging I stayed inside. If I had to go anywhere, I would call friends to see if they would go with me. And daytime or nighttime, for a very long time I couldn’t stand the sound of footsteps behind me at all. If I sensed there was anyone behind me, I would stop and wait for them to pass. I was paralyzed with fear of being attacked.

Over the years, these fears went away. First, the going out alone became easier and easier. Then, little by little, I stopped caring if people were walking behind me. But it really took a long time, and a lot of effort. I would say the effects of that attack lasted about ten years. And while I feel really free in the present and not constrained, every so often, late at night, on a semi-deserted street I get a chill and remember what happened, and pick up my pace.

My friend’s attack is quite new, having just happened a few hours ago. I dearly hope he is somehow able to avoid the post attack trauma I went through, or that he knows to seek help if he should have these feelings. We fortunately live in a different time and place then when I was attacked, with greater counseling and treatment resources available.

Sincerest form of flattery?

19
Dec
2012

This morning I received a message from my friend Rafael in Paris that some guy was using my pictures to represent himself on a gay dating site there.  The two photos in question are 6 and 3 years old, respectively. One in a swimsuit on a boat (and publicly on the internet anyway in my vacation photo albums) and the other shirtless but otherwise quite tame as well. While this can be a little upsetting to some people, I am not sure I care all that much. I mean, I feel bad for the people that agree to meet up with him, because they are in for a rude surprise, but I am not sure how it affects me all that much unless he starts doing horrible things and trying to pin the blame on me. I do wonder what motivates someone on such a site to use other people’s pictures. What are they hoping to gain? Are they just there to flirt (and collect other guys’ pictures), never planning to actually meet? Are they so closeted or insecure in some way that they fear being truthful on the internet? Are they just playing a game?

My friend Boris was actually the victim of a much more vicious case of someone using his pics, they were actively trying to defame him. They created twisted profile descriptions using his pics and then harassed people and misrepresented Boris in a direct attack on him, and in the same city to boot. So it was inevitable that people would see him out and think that he was some twisted angry internet whore. And really, what can one do about such things on the internet? Not much. Even if you get a particular site operator to shut down one false ad or profile, it is ridiculously easy for it to pop back up again. Everything is suspect, nothing is authentic until verified repeatedly and in several different ways. And while this is true with almost all internet content, people tend to believe their first impression, and not bother to verify most things. This is the danger of the age we live in, where information (and forgery) is cheap indeed. It is always why I think the best thing we can teach young people is to be critical of all information they receive, and to question sources and authority in many ways. We can only really have a working theory of what is true at any given time, anyway. And while a constant questioning of our data, sources, and facts can be tiring, it also results in a clearer picture of the world.

Leave the bags here.

18
Dec
2012

I was with some woman who was sort of a mother figure, but not in any way like my mother. It was more like she was someone else’s mother, but I was travelling with her.  (Visually, she kinda looked like a cross between a run down Tina Turner and the mom from the Partridge family). We were staying in a very shabby, poor, house (or motel even), waiting for something. This place was really rundown and smelled bad, it was not very well kept up at all. At a certain point we learned from someone we could fly, and we went outside to test the whole thing out. After some trial and error, we got it working for a few minutes and were exhilarated, even thought I had a backpack and a big white plastic bag with me filled with something that I had to carry while flying. Then we wanted to really take off on a long test flight, but I had these two bags I had to leave somewhere as it was impractical to keep flying with them. As I was looking for the key to the cupboard in our shabby room to lock them into, my companion had to go to the local school to tell her daughter that she was leaving. She was really hesitant to do so, because she remembered how much pain it had caused her daughter the last time they had a talk at the school, when she had gone with her ex-husband to announce that they were getting a divorce. While she was explaining her dread to me and preparing to go, a strange sad woman from across the street was staring at us through the windows. My companion then switched to talking about the woman, and how she had noticed her several times before, following us. I told her that this woman was harmless, just a neighborhood kook. I was trying to be understanding, but the truth was I was a bit impatient to get going with the flying thing. And then I woke up.