The main reason I organized my trip this year the way I did was so that I could be in Paris for the 50th birthday party of a good friend, Dominique. We met in 1991 when I was living here, and have been friends every since. Last night, with a group of about 50, we celebrated and ate and danced and shared a bunch of stories and laughs and love for Dominique. It was especially interesting to me to see his friends and his family come together in the way they did. His family is a large, Morrocan Jewish one that spans several continents, yet they remain incredibly close knit. They also run the gamut from totally secular to highly religious, and it was fascinating to see them all come out for Domi’s birthday and mix with his (largely gay) friends and ex-boyfriends. I would guess the crowd was about half friends and half family, and I was really touched by how much love was in that room. And Dominique’s partner Anthony seamlessly planned the affair and navigated the huge variety of guests with surprising grace. I was also impressed by how all of the family and friends took turns dancing with Domi, including his parents who are well into their 80s. It was quite a trip down memory lane for me, as Domi and I share many friends from that time who were there as well, most notably Arnaud, Sonia and Bruno (but also others I had not seen in many years).
I have recently been trying out Facebook’s new Graph Search and perusing the various websites and articles talking about the privacy and abuse concerns. After playing around with it by searching various things (“my conservative friends” – 0 hits, “my republican friends” – 1 hit, “my liberal friends” – 91 hits, “my friends that like ice cream” – 9 hits) I started wondering what my ratio of gay to straight friends was. I have long felt that we all naturally gravitate towards people more like us or away from those not like ourselves (see “my republican friends” search above for an exclusionary example), but I always hope to have a greater balance of different influences in my life that I actually have, so it is interesting to try to take stock in various ways.
I began searching “my female friends interested in men” which yielded 18 results, then “my female friends interested in women” which yielded 3 results (all three were included in the prior search, so one assumes bisexual perhaps – more on this later). “My female friends” yielded 118 total.
On to the men, I started with “my gay male friends” which Facebook changed to “my male friends interested in men” and that yielded 85 results, followed by “my male friends” which yielded 147 results.
What is interesting is that if I add up my female and male friends (as identifiable in Facebook search) I get a total of 265, far short of the 593 friends I have on Facebook What this means is that the rest of the people have either declined to state their sex, are intersexed (a subsequent check shows that Facebook does not even allow setting this), or set their privacy controls to prevent searching this information.
When I put in “my straight male friends interested in women” which Facebook changed to “my male friends interested in women” I got a total of 40 results, but only 14 of those were from guys I know as straight. The rest were from guys that I identify as gay (from various social interactions with them). Each of them listed “interested in males and females”, which I suppose has several possible ways to interpret:
1. Although “interested in” nominally means for romantic/sexual purposes, it can also be construed to mean friendship and general interest. So perhaps the guys putting this in were using these other meanings.
2. It could be that with the continued existence of homophobia in several parts of the world (and self loathing around the exclusively gay label), some of these people felt it was a little more safe to claim to be interested romantically in women, though they are not.
3. Some of these people are truly self-identified as bisexual (whether they act on it or not).
On the flip side, it was interesting to note that of the 14 men I have always identified as straight, I was surprised that three of them listed “interested in males and females” (for reasons 1 or 3 above, or in the inverse of 2, to seem more hip and cool than they actually are).
Obviously, even within the subset of my friends who can be identified by gender, many decline to state their interest in either sex. Although a number of them may truly be asexual, the majority probably see this as something private they need not share. Or I suppose they could be married or otherwise coupled and not looking for any romantic attachment, thus declining to state for that reason.
I have some ambivalence about Facebook’s new search, even as I think it is technologically cool. Time will tell if these tools open us up to still more misuse and abuse of our information, and what “privacy” means in an increasingly interconnected world.
My wonderful friend Jonathan (who, between his sojourns in Italy and busy work schedule I don’t get to see nearly as often as I would like) has accepted a teaching position at Dartmouth for the next few months. Never having been to New Hampshire, and always loving a road trip, I readily agreed to help him with his move to take up residence there (Hanover). We head out in a couple of hours, and I will spend the weekend in the frigid temperatures, hanging out with my friend and helping him get settled in. Since this is obviously barren wilderness, I assume we will be chopping our own wood and skinning and eating whatever small animals we find in the forest. I doubt they will have internet or running water or indoor toilets, but I remain hopeful. (My point being: don’t expect blog updates, treat them as the luxury item they are should they arrive.)
Should I survive, I will return via opulent, Wifi equipped bus on Monday evening.
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.
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…
Last night Emre took Olaf and me to an absolutely amazing restaurant called “Meze“. The restaurant takes its name from the selection of small appetizer dishes served before many traditional meals here, and they have a new selection every night. Just before ordering the mains, we were led up to the counter to be shown the night’s meze and ordered the most delicious collection of them I have had yet here in Turkey. We had baba ganoush, a red pepper and tahini dish, stuffed clams, stuffed peppers, lemon seaweed, marinated mackerel, and potato pancakes, among other items. All of them were out of this world. We then moved on to the mains, which were also incredible (I had the pan roasted beef with yoghurt), finishing with dessert (banana, clotted cream, honey and almond thing) and Turkish coffee. My only regret was being so stuffed by the end of the meal, but I could not say no to anything, it was that good. Highly recommended if you should come to Istanbul.
Some five years ago, during my travels, in Malaysia, I met a very nice couple and shared a few laughs. And through the magic of facebook, I found out just before coming to Istanbul that they now live here. This morning I met up with one of them (the lovely Elif) and we had breakfast and walk around an area called Yenıköy (which means “new city”). It was a treat after all these years to reconnect and chat and stroll through the neighborhood. We will all try to meet up again for a dinner next week when her husband Harry will also hopefully be free.
So I am up in Ithaca for the first time visiting my friend Jonathan who is part of a summer program for pointy headed grad students (It is called “Queer Technics”, whatever that means). His friends are all very nice and we had a fun evening last night with cocktails and ribaldry which resulted in Jonathan and I being a bit slow to get started today. But then we walked to the center of town to get lunch, and then took a totally lovely and meditative walk in an area called Taughannock Falls. It was all rustling trees, falling rocks, small waterfalls and eerie peace. We came back completely blissed out. Check out the photo album below…
March always seems to be a busy month for me with regard to visitors. Today my good friends Blake and Danny arrive from Indianapolis, and we will spend the next 4 days hanging out, seeing the city, eating, drinking and catching up. I actually met Blake way back in 1994 when I was living in San Francisco, and never miss a chance to see him and Danny when I go to visit my family in Indy. They are kind of my only close friends there outside of my family, so it will be nice to host them on my home turf for a change.