Archive for the ‘gay’ Category

I had a work trip to New Orleans last week, my first for this new job. They kept me busy, and the hotel was good but this traveling thing isn’t as easy as it used to be. I’ve noticed between backpacking and sleeping in tents, and hotel stays, that I just don’t sleep well outside my own bed anymore. I think next time I will look into some sleep aids or something.

I got the weekend free there and for some masochistic reason visited Mémère BrettCajun, who has aged considerably. I couldn’t find the box of Just For Men in her medicine cabinet, as it was either all used up or hidden well. Here I am about to throw up in her presence:
totally grossed out
We visited one of the old cemeteries, where I considered bricking her into one of these handy mausoleums:
When that didn’t work, I considered the dark arts, but she already had her own ideas and started twirling around like Stevie Nicks as soon as we got to the American Horror Story: Coven house:
thinks she's Stevie Nicks
Then at the Aquarium of the Americas I was going to feed her to the big albino alligator but the reptile didn’t bite (too squishy). And the pretty budgerigars didn’t attack her a la Tippi Hedren:
And she was tired and cranky the whole time, and always needed a nap, shower and costume change at every turn:
tired ol cow
We tried to perk her up at Cafe du Monde with some chicory brew, but all she did was wharf down 52 beignets in one sitting, which of course made her tired and cranky again.

On a brighter note, long-time blogger Sturtle came out to visit. We had not yet met in person despite knowing each others’ blogs for almost a decade.

It wasn’t too swampy when I got there but got more humid as the week progressed. It got me prepared for the humidity in DC, which appears to be back in force.

With same-sex marriage up for debate in the Supreme Court and Ireland, there’s been a lot of news and Facebook rants about the subject. We hope for the best, and it’s been an amazing change in public attitudes.

And yet there are those gays who vote against, remain silent, or otherwise host anti-gay presidential candidates in their homes. It’s always Schocking how they could support such candidates, or otherwise remain neutral on the issue.

Of course same-sex marriage is about equality, but I’ve always argued that finances and economics are at the core of the issue. The ability to build up (or legally divide) equity, protect your property in the event one spouse dies, and tax benefits for couples is centric to a civil arrangement.

Rich gays have the finances to make legal arrangements in the absence of same-sex marriage laws. They can hire a lawyer to protect their assets, but it still won’t help them with visitation rights in hospitals and other details. But in the end the legal aspects aren’t a big concern for power couples. They’ll just call their lawyer about it.

Gays with low- and middle-incomes don’t have this option, or it would be very expensive for them to get legal support. They’re essentially powerless in the eyes of the state if the relationship goes downhill or one partner dies. That’s why marriage equality is more important for the rest of us.

That’s about all I have to write about lately. Sorry I missed a whole month! I write a lot at work and when I get home my fingers have nothing to contribute to the keyboard. 4 months into the new job and when I get home I’m often drooling and staring at the wall.

So I just amicably ended a somewhat long (for me) relationship with someone who was “significantly younger.” It was working for me, but in the end he made another choice, which was not a surprise. Still, it was good while it lasted. We’d been seeing each other regularly since 4th of July. We got along well, which was a shock for my friends to hear. I don’t always say that about people I’ve dated, and it’s a big deal for me to say that. I actually wanted to spend more time with him, which is unusual for me to say. Maintaining the relationship while I was in job flux was nothing short of a miracle. And the fact that I not only survived – but enjoyed – a three-day wilderness camping trip with him was telling and a good sign. No regrets through, and it showed me there was still some capacity for intimacy in my cold, dead heart. We will still be friends.

I can now see the appeal of dating younger guys. They’re fearless, without so much history to make them cautious and bolt at the first sign of a flaw. But of course there’s a risk as they often don’t know what they want and are easily distracted. Especially in this age of apps that allow for instant selection of another partner.

I’ve been getting far more attention from 20somethings now than I did when I was actually 20. Part of it seems to be that “Daddies” are in fashion nowadays. Back in the 90s the reverse was the case, where everyone wanted to be, date or look like a hairless fetus. Now that I have some grey in my chin they’re all up in my kitchen. Which is funny because I certainly don’t feel “mature.”

It made me think about relationships between older and younger guys. I never saw myself as that older guy dating younger guys. In fact, I usually try to shoot for guys my age. I’ve always been attracted to men in their late 30s or 40s. But it’s tough in DC which has a lot of 20 to 30 something gays. As you approach your 40s, I’ve noticed it’s harder to date guys your age. They’re either partnered up and disappear to Virginia and Maryland, or are prickly and rife with trigger warnings that make them risk-averse. And/or they’re just comfortable in their singlehood and don’t feel like reaching out. I see how you can get that way. Regardless, I’ll continue to consider the younger pups but am still focused on other Daddies like me.
>; )

In July of 2007 I went up to see Xanadu on Broadway with Aaron during the show’s preview period. The jukebox musical was clever and the music was great, as expected. It featured Cheyenne Jackson, who had been the understudy until the main male lead had a tragic rollerskating accident during rehearsals. 30 Rock’s other star Jane Krakowski was in the workshop productions in its early stages.

After the show a Bear in a trenchcoat approached me just outside the theater doors and asked, “So, what did you think of the show?” His question was so pointed it was clear he wasn’t hitting on me. This guy was looking for feedback. I wished I had a more eloquent response, but all I could say on the spot was, “It was a lot of fun, I liked it.” It turns out the Bear was a producer of the show and was surveying the crowd for feedback.

That encounter stuck with me years later. My only musical theater experience was in high school with time-tested scripts like Annie and Oklahoma. It seems obvious now, but I had no idea the production of a new show was an evolving thing. The script, musical numbers and blocking change over time. You long-time musical fans may say “well duh” but I thought the fact that a producer might change a show based on feedback on the street fascinated me.

Then came “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” on Broadway. Before it was even in production comic book nerds were hysterical with rage, including myself. Spider-Man doesn’t sing for one thing. He cracks jokes, but never exhibited any penchant for song in the comics. But the musical wasn’t for comic fans, it was designed to sell very expensive tickets.

It turned out to be the most expensive musical ever produced, with the longest running preview period due to excessive technical difficulties and numerous stunt-related injuries. There’s a fascinating book written by one of the co-writers of the show that is a page-turner and documents the hubris involved with the show. I didn’t see it, but learned that the writers created a new villainess that was never in the comics. Totally unnecessary in a universe rich with existing options. Plus it was just too ambitious. When the stunts worked, they were fantastic. But when they didn’t, it was awkward at best, but too often dangerous to for the cast.


Art by Chris A. Tsuda

Between Xanadu and Spider-Man, I was like, why didn’t they do a musical about Marvel’s answer to disco in the 1980s, the Dazzler? She is a some-time X-Man with the mutant ability to convert sound energy into light. She is still featured in comics today, and was one of the first to publicly come out as a mutant. Stories were one of the first to focus on the personal life of the hero, and the comics were also the first to be released exclusively in comic shops rather than on the magazine racks at the local convenience store. As you might imagine, the character has a gay fan base and is a popular subject for cosplay.

Dazzler wasn’t always a hero. Her first dream was to be a star, but villains and thugs kept interrupting her big breaks. Eventually she had to make a choice – one that we all face on a daily basis: am I a hero or a star?

Now isn’t that a compelling story? Wouldn’t theater gays go nuts over such a theme, that also involves disco and flashy lights? I think so.

So I did some research. One superfan recently did a Dazzler music video. Back in the 80s, Bo Derek was set to play her, with an insane script idea starring Cher as the Witch Queen, Donna Summer as the Queen of Fire, KISS, Robin Williams, Rodney Dangerfield, and The Village People. I applaud their creativity, but I think we gotta scale it back a bit.

So I started writing a script. Yeah I know I’m not a script writer. The most I do are these here blog posts and achingly dry press releases for the federal government. But I had two years of un- and under-employment and looking for jobs only takes up so much time. Plus I had this idea in my head, an idea that was like a pustulent zit that had to be popped desperately, or else it would just sit there and fester. And the idea wouldn’t go away.

The idea is based on the earliest Dazzler comics where the simple theme was her trying to make it big in spite of interruptions by supervillains. It’s about expectations, or the failure to reach them. It was a theme I was – and am – very familiar with. Perhaps this script is therapy. But I’d also like to see it work, if only on a small stage.

In the fall I learned about a theatrical reading of a Batman graphic novel. A reading is when you read from a script without a lot of props or blocking. They did a great job, and I got in touch with the director. Sadly we haven’t gotten together about it yet, but I think he’s one guy who could help me out, if only for suggestions.

I met with a producer friend of mine for some advice. His main tip was that unless this show is satire, I definitely had to get in touch with Marvel for permission, or it is all for nothing. His other advice was that NYC is filled with aspiring writers, and what was I thinking that I could also do such a thing? That was disappointing from a person I had initially introduced to showbiz. But I had asked for advice and for him to read my script, which I’m not sure he’s done yet. Not many have, although one theater critic and Dazzler fan has and gave me some constructive advice that I plan to implement.

I reached out to Marvel Comics’ licensing team, which was surprisingly easy to do. I got a swift response: “Hi Mr. B: We are not interested in licensing out our character for this musical. Thank you.” At least they got back to me quickly. Not sure what to do about that just yet. The show is definitely not satire, and is in fact is heavily based on the early Dazzler comics. Dazzler wouldn’t have it any other way.

Dazzler was an aspiring disco star, and a show without music wouldn’t be right. So I delved into the music from the year the comic was conceived. Much of that music was played at the roller rink where I spent a lot of time when I was nine years old, and I have an eidedic memory for lyrics, especially from when I was a kid. 1979 was a fantastic year for music, many of the songs having to do with light. Perfect for a musical about a person who can transform sound into light. Many cringe at the thought of a jukebox musical, but these songs are appropriately woven into the plot. I’ve even written one original song for The Eleven O’clock Number.

I’ve done a lot of research into script writing, and plan on taking a class once I get my finances back in order. DC has a remarkably thriving theater scene, and there are opportunities for small stage productions. I even have a local 80s cover band I’m in touch with to perform the music. “Glitterlust” seems an appropriate name for a house band doing music for Dazzler.

For the most part I’ve kept this idea to myself for many years. It’s a crazy idea, and putting it out there has been interesting. I’m mostly met with bewilderment and sometimes doubt even from close friends, which has been a little hurtful. But from what I understand rejection and roadblocks are part of the business and I’m going to keep trying. Is it a hobby or a dream? I’m not sure yet. But just like Dazzler it is yet to be determined whether I’m going to be a hero or a star.

Well the Miss Adams Morgan Pageant was a lot of fun. Much love to Miss Veronica Blake for doing up Charlene. Actually the process for getting made up was made efficient by an assembly line affair before the show. At one station the heavy foundation was plastered to my face. At the next station the fine details for a fine lady, and finally the wig was put on at the last station. Charlene was a hit, as the people expected and demanded. Don’t be jealous. In the photo to the left we see the lovely Jim Lande and Miss Charlene Hilton in all her smoky glory.

I must note that the production value for this pageant seems to get better every year. It’s quite a DC institution. DC doesn’t have a reputation for being a crazy town or particularly artsy, but when we do put on a show it’s well-organized. In a town full of Type-A personalities this is an inevitability. Like I always say, “Maryland is for crabs, Virginia is for lovers, and DC is for former class presidents.”

Now the beard will grow back again. My dry, featureless face hates me for shaving.

Oh I want to point out that our painfully cisgendered blogger friend BrettCajun is OBSESSED WITH CHARLENE. He was constantly asking questions about her, offering makeup advice, and lewd comments about what he wants to do with Charlene. Brett just do drag already and GET. OVER. IT.

This is Brett PrejeanSeveral of my gay friends are getting or have recently gotten married. Some of them have been together for a long time, others for what you would compare to a heteronormative length of courtship before nuptials.

I am glad for them all. The typical media/TV stereotype of an extravagant, elegant gay wedding is already out there. Yet at least with my circle of friends, that has not been the case. Sometimes we had to beg them for a ceremony, otherwise they would have just gone to the Justice of the Peace and got done with it without telling anyone. They have been subdued affairs. Maybe all my friends are cheap. I don’t know.

As I get older and my marrying friends get older, the ceremonies or parties become more relaxed and less complicated. This is good. I’m starting to think we do not feel this pressure to be Bridezillas and put on an extravagant affair, because there are fewer expectations of us. I think it’s liberating that we don’t feel the need to put on an overpriced affair that will put a couple in debt for years. It seems to be we’ll do this our way, and we’re being chill about it.

Have we learned the lessons of the heterosexuals and know that expensive weddings aren’t worth it? Have you been to an over-the-top gay wedding? I haven’t yet.

What do you think? Come out of the woodwork, lurkers. It’s time to discuss.

I have a new roommate. The other one was great but he followed his girlfriend to NYC. Strangely, this new one was my roommate when I lived upstairs, so I know we get along. BUT he seems to have gathered a tremendous amount of stuff this time around. Either that or the first time he never intended to stay for long. He’s still unpacking and I don’t know where it’s all going to go. I hope he has a toaster because I left mine in Portland somewhere.

I went to the premiere of “Love Is Strange,” starring John Lithgow and Alfred Molina. I know a few of the producers and was contacted by the director for consulting regarding a very brief scene in which Cheyenne Jackson is playing Dungeons & Dragons. It’s a good movie and you should go see it.

I’ve been so busy on the job hunt and travelling, I didn’t realize I hadn’t been biking or going to the gym as much as I usually do. On Labor Day I got to the gym and a long bike ride, and it felt real good. I also got caught in a rainstorm, but there was a rainbow afterwards, even though congress does not deserve a rainbow:

I forgot to mention I’ve gotten back to rugby. Of course I first had to get health insurance, as it would be stupid to play rugby without it. I went through the DC health exchange (“Obamacare”) and I must say that process really sucked. It took about 2 1/2 days to process my application, and that was with a specialist trained in holding people’s hands through the process. That and the website sucked. I mean, I just finished a webmaster gig so I know a few things, and found out I had to log-in or log-out on this or that screen, or clear the browser cache before this screen worked. Extremely user unfriendly website. And what if I was a struggling mother working 3 part-time jobs? I wouldn’t have the time to navigate this system that takes almost three days to process.

Anyway, rugby has been good. I’m slower than I used to be, but my body is still intact. Getting back to rugby has given me a sense of normalcy and practices offer two hours where I’m not obsessing over my career recovery. And the guys are nice to look at, of course.

1990 was a scary time to come out. I gotta hand it to my younger self: Jimmy you had balls at 20 years of age. It was in the midst of time when people were still dying in droves, and you came out in a somewhat rural campus environment where people had hunting rifles in their dorm rooms. Now I understand a bit better why my mom and friends were freaking out so much after I came out.

I took a student study trip to Germany and Poland then, and went to the gay Pride festival in Cologne, Germany while I was there. I didn’t understand then why the gay Germans didn’t want to have anything to do with me, for it was predominantly an American plague at the time.

I’ve been catching parts of HBO’s “The Normal Heart” here and there and it’s been a good reminder of how scary things were back then. Today we know a lot more, with surviving gays of my age and older somewhat befuddled by the attitudes about HIV with younger gays. To them it seems like a manageable disease where you can just take some pills to deal with it. To us it was a death sentence at the time, and we have a hard time comprehending how some can be so relaxed about the disease.

That’s why it’s been so hard to get my head around the idea of PrEP and changing attitudes about prevention. This whole idea of discussing HIV status and whether or not one is on PrEP before you get down to business is a big change from the times when condom use was pounded into our heads from every angle for so long. I was a die-hard proponent of condom use no matter what, and even in my foggiest states I still stuck with that regimen.

Now they are recommending changed approaches to sexual encounters. It’s a new set of ideas and approaches, but I have reservations about the whole idea of being completely dependent on the pharmaceutical industry and my personal health. Open up any gay publication and you’ll see a four-page full-color advertisement for this or that drug, which essentially pays for that publication. Our lives are dependent on a set of drugs to maintain our lifestyles. Sponsorship from the pharmaceutical industry hovers around us like a pleasant specter. I don’t see a whole lot written on that angle so far.

I’m getting the feeling this huge push for PrEP is mainly targeted at 20somethings. The people pushing this program don’t seem to see that this is a big change for older gays and may require a little bit more than “you should take this drug now and change all your habits.”

Things change and our understanding of the disease is a lot better than it was then. But having experienced a string of un- and underemployment since 2012 I also have some perspective as a person without health insurance. Pharmaceuticals are available for low income patients, but I don’t and often can’t depend on regular doctor and pharmacy visits for a steady stream of drugs. And they are expensive. Condoms are still the cheaper and easier option for me for those I don’t know. I’ve hedged my bets with those I know and trust but that still seems like a big investment for me at this time. There seems to be a lot of hype and enthusiasm for PrEP but I suspect our discussions about it and the gay community’s growing dependence on prescription drug treatments isn’t and shouldn’t be over.

The recent ugly flurry of proposed laws that could allow businesses to deny service to gays (and many others) based on their religious convictions got me thinking of the time such a denial happened to me. It’s something I haven’t written about yet on this blog, but perhaps it’s time to share.

I think it was the summer of 1992 when I was notified I would work in an intern position as a park ranger with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Rock Island, Illinois. I was just finishing up a summer as a naturalist at a bible camp in southwest Wisconsin. One of the counselors was going to college in Rock Island, and had room in their house I could live in while I interned. There was another roommate who I would be sharing the house with as well, and would meet her the next summer.

The bible camp I worked at was primarily ELCA Lutheran, one of the more progressive “synods” within the Lutheran church. I was confirmed as ELCA Lutheran, and never heard a bad word spoken about gays then nor at the bible camp where I worked and also went as a camper when I was younger. The other synods – usually named after a state like Missouri or Wisconsin – aren’t so progressive. Maybe things have changed with those last two synods. I don’t know though, I haven’t been a practicing Lutheran in a long time. But saying you’re “Lutheran” could mean you’re progressive or quite the opposite. I would learn about these differences later.

I was out of the closet by 1992, and the fellow counselor knew I was gay. The other roommate – whose name was Bridget – did not know I was gay. I think I discussed the issue with my fellow counselor and we may have decided to keep it on the down-low at first. I can’t recall those details, but Bridget would eventually find out.

Park Ranger Jimbo

Lock and Dam #15 on the Mississippi River in Rock Island, IL. I worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers interpretive park ranger.

The next summer came around and I moved in the house and started the internship. I mostly worked at a visitor center that overlooked Lock & Dam #15 on the Mississippi River. I often sat at the front desk answering visitor’s questions, giving talks about why there are dams on the river, and led nature programs. In the winter bald eagles would gather around the base of the dam which made for good birdwatching. And things got pretty exciting there during the Flood of ’93 when I got deployed to Des Moines to ensure emergency sources of water were potable after their water treatment plant got flooded.

The roommate situation seemed to be going all right at first. Bridget was tidy, if not a bit icy. Back then we didn’t have the Internet or cell phones, and communicating with potential dates was done with the shared house phone. I think Bridget must have overheard a conversation I was having with a potential date or something, and talked to the other roommate about it. She brought it up and said that Bridget didn’t want to have me as a housemate because I was gay. As I recall the basis for her problem with me was her religion.

I was 23 at the time, didn’t know my rights, or whether or not I even had any. Plus the icy silence in the house was becoming uncomfortable. I think I tried to talk to Bridget about it, and she started crying. So I moved out, mostly to keep good relations with my original counselor friend. And I didn’t want to live where I wasn’t liked. The first place I moved to was a stark and lonely apartment complex with noisy neighbors where I didn’t get a lot of sleep. Then I moved to a somewhat better shared housing situation with a friend of the (nicer) roommate until the end of my internship.

Throughout my time in Rock Island I didn’t meet many other people and I think it was an overall lonely time in my life. And the experience of getting iced out of my first housing situation for being gay gave me some lasting anxiety about living where there are few other gays. It’s probably a basis of my initial evaluation for moving to DC – a larger city with a sizable gay population where people are more tolerant of gays. My experience wasn’t unique, which is a big reason why most gays flock to larger cities. Things are changing fast, but in some parts of the country attitudes haven’t changed much.

Getting kicked out of a house, losing a job, or being denied any kind of service for who you are is a shitty feeling. There are all kinds of religions, and even more types of convictions depending on what branch of religion you’re involved with. So these laws being proposed in several states open the door for legally denying many kinds of people for many reasons. I’m aware that they probably won’t be successful, but for those who could be turned away in these states I know from experience that it’s an unpleasant feeling at best.

Since I’m suffering from blogger’s block lately I decided to dig back into the archives to find some of my better posts. In the spirit of the season of giving, here’s one reposted from November 19, 2002:

SupermodelTokien pointed to the cassette case with a long, polished fingernail. “Who is that?” he asked in Russian, referring to the androgyne with the massive jheri curls on the tape cover.

“That’s RuPaul. He is a man,” I answered. Tokien’s almond-shaped eyes widened in surprise. Transvestites were unheard of in Kazakstan, although I suspected Tokien had more than enough potential for dragdom. He was a lithe and graceful classical dance instructor in the small mill town, famed to have been the Soviet Union’s largest metallurgical production facility. Today the factories are obsolete and empty. There’s nothing much to do there anymore, and teens fill their time shooting up cheap local heroin with shared family needles and ogling the new Daewoo stereos they will never afford but could some day steal. Widowed babuska pensioners stuggled to get by, often only with the potatoes grown at their summer dachas.

My RuPaul cassette was one of the few things that kept me in Peace Corps for as long as I was. On particularly cold and grey days, I would liven things up by putting in the Supermodel of the World album, especially the title track, Supermodel. The phrase “You better WORK, bitch!” had special meaning to me, and often was the only thing goading me to work in the morning. I didn’t want to be there, I needed to be living elsewhere at that time. So the music took me where I needed to be, if only for a few minutes.

Every so often I would travel by bus from my coal mining city to the nearby metallurgical town to visit other volunteers. Most of them were English teachers in the public school system. Fellow volunteers Joel and Petra had met Tokien in their school. He was a refreshing change from the usual dour Kazak student or faculty member. Creative, and good in his craft, he was best described as fey. His swish was so wide that even Joel and Petra’s gaydar shot to red alert status. They knew I had few companions or other gays to relate to, so they made a point of inviting him to their party.

With the advance notice I packed my gay disco compilations and favorite RuPaul album for the trip, thinking Tokien would relate to the music. I should have known that he had received no exposure to such things. The RuPaul tape was a total shock to him.

“This man is famous in America?” he asked in surprise.

“Yes, fairly so,” I replied in Russian. “He’s had two hits so far.” I could see Tokien was about to ask for the cassette. In Kazakstan, loaning something to a friend meant that you basically gave it up. Nothing ever came back to you. However, I could always get another Supermodel of the World cassette, or even upgrade to CD. Tokien may never have another opportunity to find the album.

“Do you want to borrow it?” I asked Token. Speechless and glowing with glee, he accepted my sole source of sanity with graciousness. I never saw the cassette again, but I’m sure it went to a good cause. Perhaps today there’s a drag cabaret in some small Kazak mill town where an almond-eyed drag queen with massive Jheri curls encourages the metalworkers with the shout out, “You better WORK!”