Friday, August 25, 2006
The artillery boomed, the band played sweetly and dignitaries were piped to the front with a color guard and an escort of sailors in strict formation.
After the speeches, the outgoing Captain strode to the center of the platform, and faced his replacement. He actually said, “Sir, I am ready to be relieved”. The incoming Captain read his orders and said, “I am ready to relieve you, Sir.” What followed was not exactly what I was hoping for.
I brightened, however, during the reception, when a dashing officer in dress whites offered me a tour of the facilities, including the gymnasium and the barracks.
It would have been rude to decline.
At the opposite end of the room, the mayor of a small coastal city was delivering a rant about economic diversification. I leaned right and whispered to a member of the Governor’s staff, “If he’d legalize all the pot and prostitution in that town, they wouldn’t need to diversify.”
He touched my cufflink and asked, “Is that the state seal?”
“Yes. Rendered in 18 carat gold plate.”
He noticed the seven small pleats sewn into the cuff and said, “All my shirts are by Brooks Brothers.”
“Do you get the no-iron kind?”
“Yes, but I’m afraid to put them in the wash so I have them dry-cleaned anyway.”
“That is very wrong. You need to be punished.”
I make no reply, and we turn to face the podium pretending to give our attention to the mayor.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
I ducked out just before lunch to make some calls on my cell in front of the building. The fourth estate vultures were gathered together waiting for the arrival of the Governor, the AG, and various nervous incumbents.
A highly polished car pulled up, disgorging Senator Joe Lieberman who straightened his suit and tie, smiled at the cameras rushing toward him and decided to shake some hands on his way into the building. I was the first person in his path. He greeted me by name after a quick glance at the ID fastened to my lapel, and just as he shook my hand, I shouted into my cell “No! Last year you gave us too many cookies and not enough beverage.”
The Senator looked puzzled for a moment and then gave me the two-handed grip that exudes sincerity while leaning in closely to whisper “I’ll try to do better this year.”
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
I have stopped by his blog roughly a dozen times in the last couple of years. His writing always left me unsatisfied, but I returned perhaps because I am easily fascinated by men who are well educated but seem not to have fetched much truth or insight from their discipline.
I met him once, at a gathering of bloggers. We were introduced, and when he heard the words “farmboyz” and “Perge Modo”, he winced. He actually winced and grimaced, albeit briefly, and swiftly supplied a patronizing and pained smile in an attempt to cover his distaste for the introduction. It was the look I have seen on the faces of some archbishops when forced into contact with an unsifted and unwashed assemblage of laity.
I extended my hand, and he looked at it with horror as if I had just sneezed upon it all the contagious detritus of hell. To his credit, he did manage to shake my hand without fainting. He then avoided conversation by moving to another part of the room. Guess he had read a bit of my blog. Guess he didn’t much like it. Guess he had consigned me to hell.
I had never before had the experience of being judged in that way. Never had it since. It is not a good feeling. Throughout my entire life, I have never once felt judged in that way by God. Never once felt condemned or even disapproved of. There are church leaders who are swift to roll their eyes at what I write or do, but even they have never diminished their opinion of me an inch because of the choices I have made. They simply pray harder for me, but while praying, would never avoid visiting me, or calling me or consider cutting me out of their lives because of how I have lived my life.
Perhaps he would recall the moment of our introduction either differently or not at all. Perhaps the dissing was all in my head, imagined. It does not matter. In the New York Blade article, the excruciatingly odd thoughts he strings together about sex and disease and behavioral consequences seem to come from the provinces of childhood nightmares, or seem like lessons gleaned from a book of fairy tales intended for the small of mind.
It would be easy for me to list the possible reasons for his disliking anonymous sex, but I don’t know this man well enough to get it right. Were we to meet again, I would probably tell him that men who choose to spend their days perched on their sofas with their legs crossed tightly at the knees should not trash the Olympics just because they themselves choose to be unathletic.
I’ve been a runner all my life. I am sure this has done some damage to my knees and shins, but I am not about to start campaigning against marathons. I’ve tried not to run too much. To stay on forgiving paths. I don’t run drugged or drunk. These days, I keep to the right, letting the faster or younger have the inner track. But I would hate to think what life would be like without the exultation of the race, and I would never blame Nike for whatever aches and pains I’ve had along the way.
I could go on, but to what end? You can’t much reach men like that. They condemn the things they are afraid of. Things they might love too much. They cling to the safety of their convictions like mussels to rock in waves.
PS: - and perhaps a source of greater indignation – his characterization of the men of the ‘70’s as “unkempt” is simply ignorant. We spent most of our waking hours kempting ourselves into a look somewhere between Al Parker and Farrah Fawcett ( the opposite ends of the narrow bandwidth of beauty in those days). Would that we had had the luxury of the buzz cut, or clothes from the Gap and butch boots available at any mall. We might have had more time for sex.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
I guess they want more gay members. I guess they want more gay men and women to go to their facilities. Just a minute! My logic is off a bit there. Major and minor premises not matching. Bally’s wants money, and does not mind selling memberships to gay people in order to get it. That’s a safe conclusion.
This has implications.
If a potential member presents himself (or herself, and for the duration of this bit, let’s assume I am including lesbians in the gender-unbalanced mascu-speak of English), at a Bally’s gym and states that he is gay and is responding to the commercial on Logo, we will have to assume that a smiling and commission-driven salesman (Bally’s calls them personal trainers) will brightly say “No problem”, and usher the prospect through the usual tour of the facilities.
The prospect will soon find that Bally’s provides a total health and fitness experience at facilities designed for a good amount of same-sex group nakedness.
The “men only” locker rooms contain rows of lockers with no demure barriers or opportunities for the modest exchange of street clothes for work-out gear. In fact, street clothes and gym bags are not allowed on the actual gym floors. One could, of course, arrive in gym gear and avoid the locker room entirely, but that is not what Bally’s is selling, if the tour is to be believed. The locker room, the gang showers, the steam room, the sauna (in many clubs not co-ed) are pointed out as part of what you get for your membership.
Since Bally’s also targets the heterosexual market, it is safe to assume that the company intends for gay and straight men to be naked together as part of the total Bally’s experience.
This intention is admirable, sophisticated, curious and hilarious, all at once.
I, for one, deeply enjoy the fact that I am frequently naked with many naked straight men at my gym(s). This experience is really much more erotic than that provided by the many venues in which I am naked among other naked gay men. Those events can be such a yawn. No tension. No mystery. No plot to unfold. No surrendering to desire. No furtive glances. No darting eyes. No wondering if or how. Just the accessible mechanics of sex. I frequently fall asleep on my feet in such gatherings and have begun to wonder if I should continue my attendance. But, whether at a sex party or at a gym, I am effortlessly under control and will rarely sport wood unless very caffeinated or until coaxed by extreme talent.
I am obviously jaded.
But what about those gay men who have not had my life, and who join Bally’s and find themselves under warm water with a handful of moisturizing foamy soap in the company of several well-built naked men whose muscles are distended and whose skin is glowing from a completed work-out? Should it not be expected that that they will produce firm evidence of their appreciation? Do the Bally’s salesmen instruct new gay members not to soap their privates at such a moment? Certainly the straight men receive no such instruction. And, if a straight man takes offense at the sight of an erection pointing at him in the shower room, and reports the offense to the club’s management, can the gay member really be chastised or suspended or revoked of membership? Nope. It’s to be expected.
Obviously, Bally’s can and should invoke an over-arching policy of “No sex anywhere in our facilities”. Fair enough (even though this rule provokes considerable snickering among all and any who have ever spent any time at those facilities, but that is another story, and one not exclusive to Bally’s). The facilities they provide do not automatically usher in the having of sex among members, but they do facilitate the experience of men being naked among those they define as sex objects, and among those who view them as sex objects. That is the presumption of the design.
If straight men were to take this presumption to its logical conclusion, could they not request of Bally’s the right to be naked in the presence of those they define as sex objects (i.e., women, for those not following this)? After all, why should gay men be granted a privilege not afforded straight men? I’d really like to see a straight man surrounded by a dozen toned foxes stepping out of their lycra learn to exercise the level of self-control required of a gay man in a group shower at his gym.
Let’s all hope that straight men never make this request. Bally’s would probably be forced to resolve the issue by establishing a “gay only” locker room to be used jointly by gay men and lesbians.
That, my friends, is an unsavory thought. Forget I ever suggested it.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
CV is leaving us. Moving to Texas. To Dallas, and we are once more bowled over by the speed at which our lives fly, and by the pain of goodbyes.
CV is the easiest, most casual and naturally beautiful model a photographer could have, and one of the hottest men any of you should ever be lucky enough to find in your bed. More importantly, he is a friend of the highest quality.
A group of us took him out to dinner last night and had a rollicking good time reeling in our years.
We met him one summer evening at a gala fundraiser in the enclosed cortile of our local art museum (a stuffy place of pretense and nervous money). C and I noticed him as soon as we entered the event. He was wearing an enormous shimmering silvery headdress that fountained up three feet into the air. I said to C “Look. At. Him. We need to meet that man.”
Meet him we did. Several drinks and one conga line later, the three of us were asking a security guard for directions to the men’s room. We discarded his first suggestion, claiming that we knew the way to that one but that there was a line at the door. Could he point us in the direction of another men’s room? One further away from the event? He was helpful, and we made our way to an empty men’s room in another part of the museum.
I remember a lot of veiny grey marble and a cool white tile pre-war floor composed of small hexagons, but mostly I remember the wall-mounted “baby changing board”. I clearly remember being up on that board and holding onto the cloth straps that held it in the open position. I remember the crack of industrial plastic pulling screws from their anchors in the plaster and getting up off the floor, laughing to the point of tears and seeing that there was now another man in the room, standing at the urinal with his back to us,pretending that the three of us were simply invisible and not half undressed and not using the wall-mounted appliance for unholy purposes. He was wearing the dark suit of respectability. Perhaps a museum benefactor or the husband of one of the museum’s lunching auxiliary ladies. We left laughing and not wanting to know who he was.
Was it years later during a Christmas Eve party at our place when I got the notion to have CV pose as St. Sebastian? We rolled a tall maple pillar out into a hallway. With some thick twine from opened gifts we bound his hands. I had a huge heap of mosquito netting acquired at a state surplus store for no particular reason. I tore off a piece and fashioned a loin cloth. Gave him a dark and curly Italianate wig. Asked him to point a finger toward heaven.
Heavy into Photoshop in those days, I later substituted a different background, my favorite section of the dunes in Provincetown, at the crest of one of its busiest hills near Herring Cove beach. On the distant horizon I added a shrunken photo of a Boston church I had snapped. I created the arrows and the wounds on screen using only Photoshop effects for ingredients. The toughest part was to draw the sand up over his toes realistically. When CV first saw the finished composite, he said “Ouch!”
“St. Sebastian of the Dunes” was part of a few different photo exhibits I had in those days, and once, in the showers at the Y, I bumped into S who was CV’s lover at the time. He had had that photo copied and applied as a tattoo onto his calf.
So now CV’s in love, and going off to Dallas with a brand new career and boyfriend. Our Wretched Little City will be quite a bit more wretched and even smaller because of this. All day at the office I’ve been humming that Carole King song about nobody staying in one place any more. We’ll miss ya, Carissimo.