Tuesday, October 02, 2012

You Got Power?

I rarely open the mail. Instead, I let it make a big pile of itself until it sloshes to one side or the other. Today we had a long purposeful rain to which I responded by scooping up the top third of a mound of envelopes and sitting down with it.  (If a check comes in the mail, I can feel it before I see it. That I’ll open like an addict. The rest? Why bother? Not like in the days of Jane Austin or Charles Dickens when revelations of inheritance or unforeseen cousins or declinations of affection came in the mail.)

I must have fallen asleep while opening these. My head jerked up and my eyes beheld a darker room. I heard the lady next door shouting in the hall, “You got power? You got power?” as she knocked on doors. She knocked on mine. “You got power in there?” I ignored her. She has no life.  The lights zapped themselves on. I saw the microwave and the alarm clock flashing in that eerie way that will continue after our race is extinct and no one is left to reset them. I had slept through an event. In my hand was a card from Starbucks offering me any drink for free because I have used my gold card so frequently. It is more than a month old but I know they will honor it. I need it now. Why wait? I put on clothes and go down the elevator mumbling to myself, “I got power. I got power. I got power.” I cross the lobby and burst through the door and onto the sidewalk where I come face to face with Olympia Dukakis who looks at me as if I were about to accost her. She holds onto her stylish shoulder bag with the wary reflex of a New Yorker. I draw in a startled breath and blurt, “I got power.” She looks at the card in my hands, and casts her eyes down with a slight smile as she steps around me and regains her stride.

I cross the street and push my way into Starbucks where I order a “grande bold no room black eye.” I take it home and the rain has stopped. I put the mound away and make plans to do the laundry tomorrow. I rarely do the laundry. Instead, I let it make a big pile of itself until it sloshes to one side or the other.

Monday, September 03, 2012


Brett Capone’s name popped into my head today and I lit up with smiles remembering our times together. How many years has it been? Wonder where he is. Still in Rhode Island? What an accent that man has. An inflection as tough as the waterfronts of New Bedford, Providence and Fall River combined, infused with just enough of his grandparents’ Italian to hold his own in an argument at table. 

Brett was hot. Hazel eyes alternating between mischief and kindness over a thick biker stash. A short lean build that never acquired the paunch that is everyone else’s destiny. I wondered if he’s still got the butch little body that drove the boys wild at that dive on Weybosset Street. I realized as I opened the Mac that I never had any idea of Brett’s age. Probably in his late 40s by now. Didn’t he stay with us more than once at our place in Montreal? Of course he did. How could I forget? As I tell Chris that I am about to google him, he reminds me of the time when Brett was our guest in Montreal and spent an entire morning sipping coffee while meticulously and ritualistically ironing his thickly ribbed wooly socks that comprised the keynote of the costume of that season. Black baseball cap. Dogtags over white wifebeater. Tight denim shorts rolled up to mid thigh, and hellishly heavy black work boots over those tall gray socks. We had never heard of anyone ironing his socks! Brett looked beyond us and blissfully ignored us while we laughed our heads off at the spectacle of the princess revealed at the ironing board obsessively preparing her gown for yet another crazed night out at K.O.X., the Aigle Noir or Le Stud and ending up in just a short white towel at the St. Marc’s with a bottle of Rush in his hand and sitting next to me in the sauna, where we whispered into each other’s ears the hilarious accounts of the fantastic men we had just encountered. I counted on Brett for those moments. We both shared a delight in the telling of the story that far surpassed the actual adventures in which we trespassed, often just to acquire new material and newer more lurid details. We were like little boys embellishing ghost stories by flashlight in the backyard tents of our childhood. Sometimes, in the discharge of our supporting roles in the course of a night’s revelry, we would tag team unsuspecting men. We’d pull a script out of thin air. Brett would do this. I would say that.  We’d pretend to be strangers. We’d work in someone named Sylvain or Serge or Stephan, and we’d always leave them laughing. That is, we’d leave laughing. Hyper-attuned to the sweaty slapstick of men in heat, Brett and I would sometimes break into giggles at inopportune moments. I suspect we derailed many an otherwise erotic passage of choreography just because neither of us could ignore the humor of what men do and say when inflamed with desire.

As you may have suspected by now, a quick search of his name informed me that Brett died several years ago. A memorial post was embellished with great photos and mentioned a partner, a search of whose name led me to the fact that he died not long after Brett.

I wish I did not know this. I wish I had not searched for him. What is the point of knowing someone’s current status when you haven’t felt strongly enough about him to keep in touch? Is there some injury to thinking a man is still alive when he is not? Wouldn’t it be better to assume he was still in Rhode Island? Still bitching about some employer who wouldn’t approve enough time off? Still bubbling over about some amazing guy he encountered just yesterday? Still carefully ironing his socks for the thrilling night to come?

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Kevin Cathcart is All About The Future At Lambda Legal

From the 19th floor of 120 Wall Street, the waterfront view of New York City is spectacular and never taken for granted by the occupant of the corner office, Lambda Legal’s Executive Director Kevin Cathcart.

Lambda Legal is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights group working for the LGBTQ community. Under Cathcart’s direction, it has become powerful with significant increases in inquiries and impact in 2011.

According to Cathcart who grew up in New Jersey just 35 miles from his office, there are two types of people.

“There are those who say they can’t wait to move to New York City, and those who say they can’t wait to move out of Jersey. I was part of the latter group. I didn’t even dream of becoming a lawyer, no, I grew up in a working class world. I didn’t know what a lawyer was. I came of age at a time when civil rights law was a driving force, in the late 60s early 70s. I began thinking about law in college, because I was interested in politics and because that is when I had come out. Maybe I was in a lucky time slot. Stonewall had just happened. I had nothing to lose by coming out. No job or family. I settled in Boston where I was the Executive Director of GLAD [Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders] for eight years. I got a call from a friend who told me about the Lambda job. I thought ‘I could live in NYC for a couple of years’ That was 20 years ago.”

[Read the rest of my Kevin Cathcart profile at sfgn.com.]

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Gay Camp

I arrived a few minutes late for the final night’s performance of the popular, successful and sold-out  Gay Camp at HERE Mainstage Theater. The usher said “Ordinarily I would never seat anyone late, but there’s only one empty seat on the far side, front row. You’ll have to walk by the stage to get there.” Then he opened the door for me. In a small theater with only three feet separating the players from the knees in the front row, I didn’t dare trespass. Instead, I stood in the side aisle and began to absorb the rapid fire jokes thrown at the audience with an agility that far surpassed their merit.

Gay Camp is a cotton candy comedy about a summer camp designed to turn gay kids straight, but staffed by silly characters who are secretly gay.  It includes every one-liner and bit of queeny schtick that has escaped the mouths of the urban gay in the past few years and has already been processed into sandwich meat on Glee.

With its heavy reliance on Santorum as the frequent source of its humor, Gay Camp is seriously dated. I suspect that when it was new, there was need for the moment in which the closeted lesbian who wants to ascend to the top job at the camp makes the audience recite the Google definition of Santorum. Today, and for this audience, Santorum is either old news or forgotten. I kept wondering how the playwright could remedy this. Who might he substitute for Santorum? No name came to mind.

While the exuberant and skillful cast (uniformly skinny Williamsburg hipster types who seemed to be brothers?) brought forth a pink vibrator that wouldn’t shut off, a feather boa, an eroticized banana and some really bad wigs, I began to think that this play might work in fly-over country and for a very straight/suburban or rural audience with no gay friends who had already schooled them in modern gay humor. Also, I began to wonder what the venerable Charles Busch might have done with the topic.

I left before the end, and in the heat of the subway, I studied the weary faces of the unentertained. I think Gay Camp would be a hit in a subway car with its energetic cast delivering their lurching kaleidoscope of gaiety for the tired folks riding out the dirt and humidity of their passage home. In a theater, not so much.

In all fairness, many people laughed loudly and repeatedly throughout the play. From where I was standing in the aisle, I could clearly see the faces of the laughers. I don’t know those people and their tribe. I’m sure they are fine and smart folks, but I just do not know them. Therefore, my lack of amusement may be more my fault and less the quality of Gay Camp. Or maybe I just wanted to end this on a kind note, having myself written some lines that turned out not to be funny.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Countess Bedelia As I Recall Her

She is coming to the reading of my play. Four years ago, I said this:

O Les Faux Jours

I sat with the Countess beneath the pink and violet striped canopy of her cabana overlooking the dancers. With tarnished silver struzzi cadenti, I jabbed at cubes of American cheese floating in the murky absinth of a Deruta ware bowl as she worried her jewels. I remarked about the heat.

“Ah yes” she said. “It is a white hot day, like that one in Cabeza de Lobo. Who can live?” She produced a silk fan painted with the sweet Infant of Prague but rather than open it, she swatted a small dog that had been sniffing her ankle. It belonged to someone who owed her a favor, she imparted sotto voce. Fan or dog? Pointless to ask her.

A young and hairless man in a starved yellow Speedo was introduced to us. “I’m from Lenox!” he proclaimed. The Countess had been about to ignore him until his proclamation caused her to fill her lungs and empty them slowly with a litany of landmarks from that region of her home state.

I said to both of them “I once had a cabin in Becket not far from there. Do you know it?”

They spoke over each other with praise for that tiny mill town deserted by industry. I therefore continued.

“We summered there. Every Sunday morning, my mother insisted that the family drive into Becket proper to attend Mass at a shabby Catholic Church named non-specifically for one of the Saints Thomas. Can you name some?” They could. The Apostle, à Kempis, More.  “On Donner and Dancer , Aquinas and Vixen!” There was no holding their minds, so I continued to speak without regard for their attention.

“I didn’t want to go to Church. I wanted to swim and fish and find blueberries and murder snakes. And then one Sunday, I saw a boy in the pew behind me. He had crystal blue eyes and shiny true black hair that fell over his forehead. He was my age. We became lovers in our thirteenth year of age. In a metal row boat from Sears. Sometimes there is God, but not often in church.”

The Countess gathered herself up and stood. I walked with her to the balustrade where we looked down at the thousands of shirtless dancers making a wavy aura of flesh about the pool. They looked up at the Countess and cheered “Ave Imperatrix, we about to dance salute you.”

She spied a particularly muscular and deeply tanned Cuban who raised his powerful arms to her. She leaned over the balustrade, fingering her gas blue beads and crying out “My son! My son! He’s come back from the war!”

I handed her the last of the white roses. She tore it apart and flung its petals over the crowd. “Horrid children. Following Sebastian down every street.” She hissed.

“No where to run to, nowhere to hide” they chanted mercilessly.

“Flores para los muertos” muttered the Countess who seemed to wobble a bit. “Les fleurs de mal” I added. “Fleur de sel” she responded, returning to the bowl and splashing its liquid on her brow as she sat down and recited

“Oh fons Bandusiae,
Splendidior vitro,
Dulce digne mero
Non sine floribus
Cras donaberis haedo
Cui frons turgida cornibus.”

“That’s all very well today while the blossom still clings to the vine, Countess, but my daddy was a gambler down in Georgia. He wound up on the wrong end of a gun and I was born in the back seat of a….”

“Don’t speak!” she interrupted. She held my hand and said “S’ils sont des jours amers, il y ont de si doux. Helas, quel miel n’a jamais laisse de degouts?”

I pulled away from her grasp and said “Yeah, well nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. Nobody knows but Jesus.” But the Countess was lost in some happy thought and crowed “O les Beaux Jours”. She repeated this phrase louder and louder until I knew the moment had been reached, and I slapped her to make her stop. She closed her eyes and I suspect she slept briefly.

When she opened her eyes, she claimed to have lost her ability to see all colors except sepia.

Several feet away, the Lenocian salamander began to laugh even while nothing was said. He had been accepting drinks from suitors. The Countess and I became wary of his immediate future. I ventured “In the course of an afternoon, one should visit a bar exactly as many times as one would visit Cairo in one’s entire life.”

The Countess said “Hmph. Ved Napoli e mori.” And after a few seconds, she faux-spit at some spot a few feet away and added “They’ll steal the ring off your finger.”

“Imagine” she brightened, “If lightening should strike that pool, on a clear day, when you can see for miles, nel blu depinto di blu.” She summoned a tall Mexican in a white suit who fetched a pen and cocktail napkin, and when he stooped to hand her these things, he pulled open his shirt for my benefit and flashed me the wide smile of a dentist who has done time. The Countess scribbled a few words in Russian, which, when read by the DJ, Roland Belmares, stationed fifty feet away, elicited an obedient nod and a spontaneous remix of Lou Christie.

The Countess rocked back and forth, singing “Again and again and again”.

The boyfriend of the Mexican asked if I would be at Jackhammer later in the evening for WHIP: A Leather Fantasy. I said that it was indeed my fullest intention and that I had planned nothing else for my life beyond that point. He said that he had once dressed as Jackie in leather and that his boyfriend had loved it. I responded that the owner of a guest house in Provincetown once dressed me as Jackie and put me in the back seat of his limo, circling Commercial Street and stopping to proposition young men with me as bait. I had no idea what to do with the ones who got in. Stay in character? Remove the gloves? Show them the ketchup stains on the dress?

As we spoke of hats and men and places gone to seed, we did not notice that the Countess, reaching for the only cloud in the brilliant sky, a small confection shaped like Belize, had leaned too far over the balustrade. The roar of the men below reached us too late as we turned to see the red-lacquered undersides of her tiny sandals follow her over the ledge. We ran to it, and looking down twenty feet, saw that she had landed squarely on the Bacardi logo of the tent over the bar below. Claiming comfort, she waved away our clamoring, and rested there with her kaftan splayed like the webery of a flying squirrel. The sun went down. The boys ran into the night, and her dismount was not recorded.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

When Your Lover Comes Back As A Bird

Sy (Seymour) Lemler, who lives in Hollywood, Florida, loves the nearby nude beach at Haulover where he has been a regular for many years. In 2008, when Bobby, his partner, died, Sy, who is now 80 years old, forced himself to return to that beach alone, continuing the almost daily ritual he had shared with Bobby during their years together. On that day, Bobby came back to Sy. At the nude beach. As a pigeon.  With rare exception, Bobby has perched on Sy’s knee every day at Haulover for almost four years.

Read the rest of the story on sfgn.com

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April 10, 1977

From the diary, April 10, 1977: " The city is freezing cold but we had a great outdoor Papal Easter Mass on the piazza. We kept everything molto semplice. I did the second reading and then the English intentions. The goddam bells started chiming during my reading. I considered stopping until they were done, but that would have been a bit troppo and even the pope wouldn't stop if the bells went off during his sermon, besides, the sound system when we do televised, is really sensitive. When I looked at the crowd, I thought about the fact that this will be my last Easter in Rome for who knows how long. Later, Steve knocked on my door. His friend in SF sent him some weed which we smoked and then went to the Ukrainian minor seminary where they were showing The Shoes of The Fisherman which we had to leave because we were laughing our heads off. Then we drank Vermouth in Mark's room and played cards on the roof till 3AM and no one knew that I was looking at their faces and wondering where we all would end up and if we would ever have these days in Rome again. I don't think anyone is allowed a second go around of a life this wonderful."

Friday, February 17, 2012

What They Don't Tell You

I assumed from the moment I first saw him, that he and I would grow old together. I figured we’d lose our looks apace, and that affection in our hearts would supplant inspection by our eyes once we became old.

I assumed that physical attraction was like those fuel barrels that boost a rocket through the heat of the atmosphere and then are detached and are cast off to orbit the earth. Like debris. Like memories.

Why didn’t anyone tell me 28 years ago, that when the man I mustered the courage to approach and talk to at that dismal bar in that wretched little city would turn 50, I would see only the man I first saw on the night we met.

That is what no one tells you.  That your lover doesn’t age in your eyes!  When I look at him on this, his 50th, I see exactly the same face I saw then. Why didn’t anyone tell me this amazing truth? My guess is that this truth is economically inconvenient.  If we assume that the passage of time will render us as undesirable as an old dishtowel, we will lay out cash to fight the imagined enemy.  We will be anxious about the future of our faces.

I always knew they say that love is blind, but I thought they meant to youthful details. I didn’t think I’d be blinded by the sight of my beautiful husband forever, but I am. That’s what they don’t tell you.