Saturday, November 25, 2006
This building is the product of the prominent Italian architect, Mr. Renzo Piano, who has provided mid-town Manhattan with a building that is trapped in a trellis of tubular ceramic and steel, the effect of which is exquisitely and literally grating.
Italian design has certainly plummeted of late. Even Missoni, now in its second and third generations of ownership, is devoid of inspiration. Their zig-zag weaves are akin to Mr. Piano’s trellis and are to be considered good examples of what people do when they lack good ideas. Instead of producing something with integrity and good bones, they cover their mistakes with contrivances and gimmickry that they hope will distract the viewer from the basic weakness of their designs.
I wonder why I am so annoyed by this. Is it the colossally wasted opportunity to add something of beauty to the mid-town landscape? Is it the incredible stupidity of the design selection team assembled by the Times? Is it the obscene amount of money Mr. Piano undoubtedly received for this inferior product and the fact that it will bolster his resume and make other stupid design teams more susceptible to his snake oil?
At the gym earlier today, as I was flogging my needlessly sturdy thighs into submission with a punishing extra mile around the track, I had a bit of a revelation. I am descended from southern Italian peasant stock. We are not an aerodynamic people. We are short and thick. Our limbs are wide and we who have mirrors are chagrined to look as we do. What could have been the evolutionary purpose for thighs like a Maytag washer-drier set? Surely they did not help our ancestors ride broad backed mammals. That skill belongs to the bow-legged. They are not much good at running across the veldt while being pursued by a lioness whose den we might have accidentally disturbed. They don’t possess the simian spring that might have granted us the fruit of the highest branches of the mango tree or the snatching of the magenta flower of the lofty jacaranda for impressing a potential mate. We cannot even cross them comfortably as would a Nubian supermodel, hooking a foot behind an opposing ankle.
These are thighs that seem to be good at doing exactly one thing: sitting on chairs in village squares. Perhaps this trait anchored my people; teaching them the value of leisure over movement, the value of pruning the grape vine and the fig tree lest either grow beyond easy reach. But here in America, these thighs are unreasonable, and we who are forced to trudge among the spindly develop a heightened appreciation for smart furniture, for sleek cars, for elegant architecture, for good bones and for the long muscles that propel them. (Mercifully, there are whole cultures of men who find our little gypsy bodies very attractive, or we’d still be trying to hail cabs at Ellis Island.)
I began my thigh resentment in kindergarten. Our teacher gathered us into a wide circle and chose me to stand in the center to sing a song she had recently taught us. I was delighted for the opportunity to perform, and began a pert, almost saucy rendition.
“I’m a little teapot short and stout,
Here is my handle. Here is my spout.”
(I half considered changing the indication of my spout from left hand to crotch, but I decided to hold onto that blue bit for maybe twenty years and an encore at the Apollo.)
Suddenly my voice caught in my throat. The lyrics hit me like bricks and I realized that she had selected me for this song because I was indeed a little teapot by dint of genetic victimization. I looked at the smug faces of my classmates sitting comfortably cross-legged on the floor. Their little limbs already lithe and quivering with the greyhoundy promise of slender tubular growth, while the chafed inseams of my Osh Kosh By Gosh corduroys were already throwing sparks whenever I ran in the playground. I continued the song slowly, in the broken and haltering whisper of Nina Simone or the end-of-the-road Garland.
“When the water boils, hear me shout.
Tip me…over...Pour… me… out.”
My teacher put a hand to her throat, awed by the pathos of my delivery. I saw my future: today a teapot, tomorrow a Bunn-o-matic 75 cup coffee pot plugged in at PTA meetings and church socials next to that big tray-o-Danish. I’d grow up to be Nathan Lane, not Tommy Tune. Costanza, not Seinfeld. Oprah, not Gail. Cho, not Paltrow.
I said “Excuse me”, and walked through the silent circle with my chin held up, until I got to the little boys’ room where I slumped to the cold tile floor and wept. (All right, so that last part never really happened, but if I were shooting it today…)
Anyway, I’m really upset by this building, by its architect and by the company that chose its design. I’ve done the best I could with my thighs, and they’ve earned me a good amount of favorable attention (including that of a man who bit the insides of them relentlessly for an hour in a Montreal bath house some years back), but when one has the opportunity to build something from scratch, there really is no excuse for choosing the inelegant.
For a long time, I’ve been feeling restless and dissatisfied as a paying member of the American audience, wondering why the shows of recent years cannot seem to get out of the way of their own material. Why they seem contrived, wooden, unsure of themselves and vaguely not up to the business of delivering entertainment. Having attended a preview of "The Big Voice: God or Merman?" last night with C and Joe and Eddie, I can tell you why. Steve Schlachlin and Jim Brochu handily supply the ignition needed to start the blaze that consumes their firewood (God, Merman, boyhood and religion), transforming it into a fabulous show about love, romance, survival and hope.
Because I strongly hate reviewers who map out for you in detail the terrain of a show, like someone driving you to a party while previewing the foibles of the guests, the table setting and the menu, you won’t get much more about their show from me except the promise that the music is gorgeous in that leave-you-humming-and-gotta-have-the-CD way, and that you will laugh and maybe tear up a bit and definitely poke the ribs of whomever you are sitting with several times before the final curtain. The show also made me wish we had Steve and Jim as neighbors and friends here in New York, and left us in awe of their talent as writers and performers who sooo do not need the glitz of a big techno theater to deliver their goods. Here is a show that could have been produced in the proverbial barn with one piano, a bare bulb and just as much success. I hope you see it.
PS: I can’t resist this one disclosure. The Roman Catholic Church is in its current threadbare, misguided and hobbled condition because men like Jim Brochu chose not to become priests. None of the gut-twisting hand-wringing anguish of Andrew Sullivan comes close to expressing the truth of this matter as well as does any five minutes of “The Big Voice: God or Merman?”.
Monday, November 20, 2006
a) We all have pets that need to be improved with bandanas or spikes.
b) We will drink anything except tap water.
c) We constantly think about going to Buenos Aires.
d) We like being courted by wealth management consultants (whose cards we throw into the next trash can we pass). Not much left to manage, given what we all spend on bulldogs, booze and Buenos.
e) We will smile at leggy Angertwinks in Speedos who walk through the crowd applying stickers saying "Kiss me here" to the private regions of attendees.
f) We would have demanded a refund of our admission had we not spotted this man in the crowd. (Manny, we liked your body better when it was...more natural, but we'd be crazy to complain about how you've built it, and the sight of you always brightens our day or night.)
When we got home, I emptied onto the table my plastic bag of stuff gleaned from the booths, and tossed everything into the trash, except for the condoms and lube (including some puzzling "glow in the dark" condoms, designed perhaps for men who can't find their dicks when the lights are out).
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Thinking of these dynamics in the taxi forced me to remind myself why I was going to this event. Certainly I had no musical expectations. I, who cannot define or differentiate among house, trance, electro, disco, drum and bass, trip or hip hop, and was already resigned to the limited possibility that we might be granted the ravishingly reggaed Karen Carpenter remix I often hear in my dreams, shared none of my comrades’ enthusiasm for the Mould-Morel product. ( I had never heard their music, and arrived with the assumption that they’d serve up something loud, mildly irritating, nervous and finally forgettable. That, afterall, is how I would describe 99% of the dance music to which I have subjected myself over the last decade or two. I was way wrong.)
I was thinking back to a night in Montreal when I became transfixed by something Junior Vasquez did with Donna Summer’s Melody of Love and a drum roll that washed over the huge crowd like a gold rush, like Indians after a wagon train. I also remember that summer night at the A House (pre the new dance floor) when David LaSalle sent us all to heaven and we would not let him stop playing long long after he had leaned into the mic and said “OK. One more.” for the seventh time. The lights kept coming up and then down again to our screams of delight. I can also remember dancing one night in the Wretched Little City inside a tight group of very tall undulating black guys to Danny Tenaglia’s “Fired Up”. Other than that, it’s been a bit of a beige blur for me, musically.
I offer this attitudinal preface as a counterpoint to my surprise when we were finally released from a holding tank in the cellar of the club and took stairs up into the main hall which seemed to have once been a theater, now with all its seating yanked out, making the remaining balcony and low stage look like toothless gums, but a maw nonetheless with great acoustics.
Bob Mould was standing before a bank of switches on a slightly raised platform just below the front edge of the stage. He was facing the congregation (in proper post-Vatican II Mass style), and he was producing the most ethereal sounds. We were the first to enter the space, and the dreamy vocals washed over me like smoke from dry ice. I rarely inquire about what is being played, but that was the first of many moments to come in the course of the night when I asked Joe or C to identify something for me. As is always the case, I can’t hear what anyone is saying to me at events like this, and it wouldn’t much have mattered since I didn’t recognize any of the names in their responses. Now I have the play list, so I can retrace my steps to my favorites.
The pace changed rapidly, and when I turned around a minute later, I found the space entirely full. Things got only better as the night progressed. (I was particularly glad to find a pitcher of tap water on the bar, having grown tired of alcohol earlier in the weekend. I resent having to pay for water at a bar almost as much as I resent paying for street parking, buzz cuts and capital gains. Elect me and that last one will be history.)
Soon, small oases of shirtlessness erupted, and that tribal madness that generates the energy that we water-quaffers siphon from the crowd was in full throttle. From the balcony, I survey the assemblage. It’s a hot crowd. There’s the strong “bear” component (they were the ones who had been the original population of the earliest Blowoffs), plus newer waves of men with less hair and of wide variety, mostly of the downright handsome strain. I spotted exactly two drag queens and maybe a handful of biological women. There were also roughly two hundred active service men who had taken advantage of the Veterans Day free admission offer. This certainly boosted the butch factor. A short handsome local guy (who looked like Ed Norton in Fight Club) mentioned that he had been in line behind a group of “Anger Twinks”. I told him that the man who had coined that phrase was an acquaintance and that I would soon be telling him how far and fast his invention has spread. (You’d have had a good time here, Dagon).
We spent a while with two deaf guys one of whom had long curly black hair. He made it clear that his hair was making him feel out of place in this crowd. I tried to assure him that he looked just fine by using one of the two sign language gestures that Joe had taught me earlier in the day. Unfortunately, I chose the wrong one, signing “girl” rather than “pretty”. He was crestfallen beyond repair.
Rejoining our group, we come upon the most beautiful man of the evening. Young, lean, smooth and handsome in that torrid South American way that one often finds in southern Florida. We exchange names, and inexplicably, he volunteers that his boyfriend is in Mexico with a parasite. After five seconds of considering the possibilities, I choose to discard this information, and C and I find ourselves entangled with him in a fine grind of a dance. We introduce him to Joe whom he is delighted to meet. When he learns that we are the Farmboyz, he is even more engaged, confessing to reading Joe and us with frequency. He is obviously smitten with Joe and he mumbles something about the need to do some starfucking while still young. He slides away from us and leans back into Joe like a tomcat, displaying some instincts that I suspect will serve him well in the years to come. We leave them alone and head to the men’s room.
Here is a photo of us returning to the dance floor after powdering our noses and finding that Joe has gone to the bar, leaving the young lad alone and easy prey.
And here, we find C going in for the kill.
It was a great night, and I danced with, and kissed, my own husband more than once. We’ll be back.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
I was amazed at the neatness, the downright cleanliness, of DC. I wonder if the locals would agree.
We visited the new WWII Memorial first. Not offensive. Not brilliant. Oddly fascist/Italianate.
I was more impressed with the crowd. The true, unmitigated and un-Spielbergian sentiments of patriotism all around me were silent but deafening and surprisingly moving. Strangers looked into each other’s faces, wordlessly sharing memories, losses, angers, duty and pride. Old men were telling stories to children. We found ourselves standing in what might be one of the few places in the country that is neither blue nor red. For an hour or two, people seemed to check their opinions about this or that, and just be grateful for what has been provided and protected. On this level, the memorial accomplishes all that is required of it.
We also visited the Vietnam Memorial.
Joe took this picture of C in front of The Supreme Court, and has entitled it "Justice is Blind, and Hairy".
these pansies and their cousins were newly planted in beds all over the city. I suspect they'll rage clear through April of next year. (A temperate climate brings out the Vita Sackville-West in me, and I wanted to buy a small shovel while roaming DC.)
Monday, November 13, 2006
Aaron arrived at our door by noon, and we scooped up Joe at a downtown street corner. (I silently marveled at how lightly we had each packed, barely satisfying the Prius’ cubic appetite for luggage in the wayback. If not for our laptops, indispensable for hotel-ensconced intraroomular email such as
Aaron: “Is Eddie in there?”
Joe: “I’m hungry and anxious.”
Me: “There are rain-soaked black undies on the bedraggled Astroturf outside our window. I am drawn to them.”,
we could have arrived in DC carrying only backpacks.
The excursion began well, with a speedy shot through the Lincoln Tunnel and a breezy transgression of New Jersey. What could go wrong, armed as we were with a Rand McNally Road Atlas, Mapquest print-outs and many years of cumulative experience driving this route? We even got a series of bonus assists in the form of text messages from Jeff who was in a car about an hour ahead of us. These were filled with warnings about construction-related delays to be avoided: “Get off the highway right after the bridge!! Take Rt40!!”
You would think that sui juris men like us, able to negotiate whole decades of the treacherous and uncharted terrain of American gay manhood would be able to digest and follow clear instruction. You would think. I am retrospectively deciding to blame Joe for everything that went wrong on the road to DC. For example, our discussion of rest stop glory holes might have been shorter had he not wondered about the tools men probably bring into the stalls in order to create the perfectly rounded and smooth holes one finds therein. We might have been able to focus on the route, had Joe been less effervescent, less entertaining, less endearing, less enthralling (Flip side: six hours in a car with Joe, Aaron and C pass like six minutes, even when we had to loop Dupont Circle several times, in full view of our hotel, without being able to take the correct turn that would bring us to its entrance. We eventually began receiving petulant phone calls from Eddie who had taken the train from Philadelphia and was pacing the lobby of said hotel.
Within the last light of a warm evening, we are finally assembled and installed and walking to an event called Titans At Ramrod. Woohoo! Familiar faces greeted us through the all but forgotten and un-nostalgicized hista-mist of blue cigarette smoke. These included Bob and Carl and Tom whose warm and friendly greetings initiated a thoroughly enjoyable weekend. In short order, C and I were introduced to these four hot men and their associates. This made us conclude that Titan is like a “Burlington Coat Factory” of prime DC men. If, at that bar, you can’t find something that fits, well honey, you got the problem, not them. (I would advise any newcomer to DC to stand close to CopperRed in such a room. He knows everything about everyone you point out, and can even recite their Manhunt stats with an accuracy usually reserved for the minds of baseball card collectors. Also, he is fun, smart, handsome, and equipt with a recent and sexy scar that reacts to changes in barometric pressure. At his suggestion, we moved on to the next of three venues.)