Sunday, May 31, 2009

Roosevelt Island of the Damned: Rookies versus the Dish

Updates: The issues detailed in this story about the interactions with members of the Roosevelt Island community have been referenced in a number of local media sources from Roosevelt Island: NYC 10044, Roosevelt Islander, and Roosevelt Island 360. This update is from 5 June 2009.

(Please note...there are no photos from the game this week as David was off playing Jets and Sharks with a friend of ours...we are going to have a rumble after I post this blog.

The journey to and from Roosevelt Island was somewhat of an adventure yesterday. I arrived at the subway station at 57th and 6th street to find that the F train was running in only one direction. Of course, being new, I was convinced that the island was down by Brooklyn...and when I saw there were no downtown trains I became dismayed. I approached the glass box habitat of the MTA workers, and I laid my anxiety at their feet.

“Hey, since there are no downtown trains, how do I get to Roosevelt Island.”

“Roosevelt Island is uptown.”

“Oh I am so new.”

At this point the Blatino behind the glass started cracking up and said, “Can you say that again, please.”

“I am so new.”

At that point he fist bumped me...our fists separated by about an inch of Plexiglas.

“How do I get to the island then?”

“Just go down those stairs right there. And, you know, there is a mental hospital on the may wanna check it out.”

I cracked up and went to find my train.

The station should have been a clue as to what I would find on the island. The stop was largely deserted. It was sort of like the opening salvos of a horror movie. The unwitting Manhattanites boarding the Hell Train populated by the souls of the damned.

I emerged onto Roosevelt Island to a magnificent view of the Manhattan East River skyline. The island itself was an idyllic massive public housing project. For an island that was first settled by Dutch settlers in 1659...the island had very little in the way of architecture that predated the 1960s. Notable exceptions were a couple of old disease sanitariums, a church, and a house from the 18th century.

The island was beautiful. It was a sunny day marred only by the intense number of amputees roaming the streets. For the first time I saw a wheelbed. Much like a wheel chair with two large wheels in front and two smaller wheels in the back, but it was wheeled by a gentleman that had nothing below his butt checks.

I surmised there must be a hospital that focused on amputees nearby. I later found out that I was indeed correct.

I arrived at the softball fields a good 15 minutes before any of my teammates. I spent my first ten minutes staring out at the East River, at an industrial site, chanting and sending good juju to the team.

Once some of the other boys arrived, we began chatting with some of the folks there from the other teams already on the field. Turns out Roosevelt Island is a little bit like the Village of the Damned.

The field on which we would be playing was beautiful. A stand of birch trees at one end. A natural outcropping of native rock to the side of the fields. And raging idiotic local residents screaming racial and homophobic epithets out of their apartment windows.

Turns out when the other teams first arrived the locals had decided that despite the fact that our league had purchased permits to play on the fields that we should bow to them and allow their little rug rats to play ball on the field. It got so rowdy that the police came and arrested one of the parents. The families scattered, but mid-way through the second game of the first set of teams playing, we were treated to a whole host of obscenities. The best part ever was that the man screaming these things was sitting in the window with his two little boys standing next to him. That's what I call good parenting.

I wanted to scale the building and bitch slap him.

It also didn't help that a guy from one of the other teams playing was a complete and total drama queen, and was advising the middle of the day...surrounded by amputees and old walk in groups and carry our bats in our hands. Responding to idiocy with barely veiled racism is not necessarily the way to go.

That was the bullshit of the day....

The good part of the day started when Clay showed up. He was wearing a few too many clothes for my taste. I would have preferred him to play the entire game in a pair of boxer briefs and a whistle. But, you know, that's just me. We were sitting and chatting and it came around to the...ummm....guess the ethnic mix game. Clay's guess was that I was a Hisblasian. After correcting him, telling him that I am actually a Blatinoindiwhite, he raised his hand in a very pontifical manner and declared “Hisblasian.”

It was great to see the ladies of the Rookies. Noah was crackin' the whip, including at one point when Bowman and I were having a nice chat in the outfield and the Dish had the nerve to smack a ball to Right Center. I mean. Really. Who does that.

My other gem play of the day was when I picked up the ball, the play was at second, and I threw the ball to first. I am so awesome.

We had a great game. I smacked the ball way oh way out to the edge of the field. Reggie, after threatening to pack us all up and ship us to work on a cotton field in Alabama if we didn't play aggressively, took the field to fill in for Jim who was off doing something or another. Bowman, Noah, Herrick, Scott, Clay, and everyone else treated that ball like it was the back of a Mormon missionary's head. Smack! Smack! Smack!

In the end we won 15-8.

I had to leave before the second game, so I am not sure how that one faired. If Clay did remove any more clothing, I am going to be deadly upset. But, the first game was a blast, even with the idiots in the windows and the unclean souls on the train ride over.

(Update...I found out that we lost the second game 12-4. Clay should definitely have taken his clothes off.)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Doggie Style

I have a step-son. He is ridiculously intelligent. Gorgeous. In great shape. At times, he is a big baby. At other times he is extremely playful and is a huge tease.

He also happens to be a ten year old Jack Russell Terrier.

Tildon aka The Boss of Us a character and a half.

In the mornings, Tildon...the moment he hears David and I start talking either emerges from beneath the covers or from his bed at the foot of our bed. He leaps onto us, showing no care or concern where his paws land...and more than once they have been planted firmly in mine or David's man bits. He then starts a ritual where he attempts to lick every trace of salt from our skin and hands...becoming increasingly more excited and increasingly more insistent as he nudges and prods and moves our body parts into positions best suited for salinity reduction.

Once we tire of his insistent tongue and order him to stop licking, the mind games begin. He will stop...pretending to look over or through us...and with his eyes firmly planted on ours will slowly lower his head and extend his tongue...thinking that we can't see him. When we finally impress upon him that the tongue bath is, indeed, over, he goes crazy. He begins flipping and flopping on the bed...rubbing his crazy into the bed sheets, twisting his body at odd angles, and throwing fine white hairs into the air.

Then he starts to talk.

This dog almost never barks. But he talks. His range of vocal utterings is extremely impressive. He talks only when he feels it is time for him to go outside, and I promise you, his internal clock is attuned to the Atomic Clock. At 9am, 12pm, 6pm, and 10pm...the dog starts by approaching the human most likely to succumb to his cuteness and acceed to his demands to go outside. Usually, that is me. I haven't yet built up enough spiritual armor to resist his liquid brown eyes. If his Jedi mind tricks don't work. He scoots closer to you...hoping that proximity will increase his efficaciousness. Then...if that doesn't work...up he paw on your leg.

At that point I usually buckle.

Once you stand up, all bets are off. All of a sudden it's “Go Go Gadget Tildon,” and the dog is bouncing three or four feet in the air and talking. It is clear that he is giving exact instructions as to how and what and when and where I should be going and doing. If you still resist, he gives you a scathing lecture in Doggonit (the language of the Canine Nation).

Once outside, if he is with me, he is generally obedient. But, I am convinced he believes he is walking me. He prances on his toes and every few feet looks up to make sure I am doing what I am supposed to be doing and not cruising some other dog or wandering off to sniff at random guys butts. He waits patiently while I pick up his poop, and he leads me to the nearest trash can so that I can dipose of it.

The dog is so the boss of me.

But the creepiest and most wonderful thing in the world is when David or I come home after being gone for a couple of hours. The dog actually smiles. Dog's are carnivores...their teeth are sharp. It would be as if Dracula saw you, dropped the fangs down, and let loose with a toothy grin. Not the most comforting sight in the world. But it is full of pure doggie love.

At night, as we go to sleep, Tildon nudges the covers and crawls beneath them. He generally wedges himself between David and me. One of us is honored by having his head wedged under his back...while the other gets Tildon's pointy claws diggin' into some fleshy part of our abdomen.

He's a good dog.

The Magic Show: The Story of the Barefoot Angels

Do yourself a favor...tonight is the last performance of this amazing show in the soloNova festival at the DR2 Theater on East 15th next door to Fuerza Bruta. I saw this show last night with soloNova artist Ryan Migge of Maddy Mann fame (who also had a tremendous show...and will...soon...have an interview published here about his performance and his character Maddy).

The Magic Show will reach inside of you and take you from hysterical laughter to hysterical rage and mix it all together in a sorrow gumbo. With tremendous vocals and a range of stunning and diverse musical stylings, Abigail Nesson Bengson transforms from a mentally disabled boy to a cocolo from el Barrio en Santa Ana to an old black blues man in New Orleans. This story takes you from vulcanic slopes in El Salvador to a sloping roof in the midst of Katrina...and with the witticism of a east side Jewish matron and an uptown teen negrita in Juicy Couture...this play would bring tears to Charles Manson's eyes.

Do yourself a favor...see this show...tonight is the last's just over an hour long...and it is worth every fucking penny: 7pm at the DR2 Theater at Union Square.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Cut It Out

For those of you that know me well, you know that 2005 was a hell of a year for me. It was the year that I suffered through a massive paranoid episode brought on by an addiction to crystal methampethamine. Three years before, I had tested positive. For three years, I'd told no one. For three years, I increasingly used crystal meth as a way to avoid the shame, fear, rage, and personal loathing that I felt for myself. For a time, it worked. When it stopped working, my world came crashing down on a plane ride from Albuquerque to Minneapolis. That day, my life began changing for the better. I couldn't see it then...especially not when I was sitting in the emergency room and a dear and cherished friend tried to hand me a nutty bar, but the nutty bar was not the only nut in the room...and I refused it as I thought it had a listening device in it. I hit bottom so hard I bounced.

For a time I remained sober...but anyone that has walked the sober road knows that it is one that demands a lot, can be merciless, but has a great payout. I have had "slips." When I have slipped, I have had friends that showed me tough love but deep love and helped me along until I could help myself along again. People like David C., Pookie, Kandace, Coya, Quiana, Susan, Cathy, and others saw me struggle, let me struggle, and loved me as I struggled. Others, for reasons of their own, rendered judgment and made decisions accordingly. It comes with the territory.

I am now happily sober and have been for some time. Lord knows that living with Attila the Ex should have pushed me over the edge and into a drug induced coma...but I can happily say it hasn't. I feel spiritually and physically the healthiest I have ever been, which is a testimony to the love and care I have received, and I hope I have given.

Yet, from time to time, uncomfortable reminders of that past pop up. For a long time I have forced myself to sit with those reminders. To interact with people from that past that now are sober or trying to be. Or with folks that moved away or outright condemned me for my addiction or associated behaviors.

Unlike many recovering addicts, I sit in an interesting place. Some of the same people that wanted nothing to do with my recovery, have come to me with requests and demands for help in political organizing or other social capital needs. Out of guilt, shame, and a host of other negative emotions, I have responded. Other folks, with whom I started a recovery journey, turned to me for emotional support or dumping, and I listened and took it in. From these two groups of individuals, I have responded and given without any return out of a negative self sense.

I am cutting it and them out.

There are people in my life to whom I owe a great debt. People who, knowing the full ugliness of my addiction, still love me. Still actively love and support me. People who have asked nothing from me except that I do what is right and best and healthiest for me. People who turned to me in joy and peace and wanted nothing more from me than a smile and to be what the Creator put me on this earth to be. These are no softies. These are not people who coddled or cuddled me through it. They held up a bright mirror to me and reflected back all the best and beauty in me while allowing me to see the hurt and pain and understand that the pain is only shading to give the light great depth. If these people, who have asked nothing of me but to do my best to live life well and live with strength, to love myself, and to let myself be loved--want nothing more than that...then how should then I burden myself with the expectations and desires of those that are willing to take from me, demand from me, and give nothing in return.

Forgiving oneself for ones mistakes and the hurts one has caused is difficult. I have not yet found the grace with myself to forgive myself for the ways in which I have caused hurt to others. To sit in a circle and see the people you love the most in pain because you are in pain is devastating. To know that you have caused hurt to others that you can not take back or undo is back breaking. I write and talk and speak and share and hurt and love and cry and holler and rage and laugh through my writing, publicly, with great fear, but I do it so that maybe, someone somewhere that is carrying a heavy load can lay some of it down without walking in the places I have walked. My words are my way of airing out my wounds and letting them heal. It is a slow process. It aches deeply in a way that transcends physicality. But it is a pain of healing and of growth. I will sit with it, but I no longer will sit with those that have played no part in the healing process.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

New Orleans: A Labor of Love

I got this today from a friend of mine, Katina Parker, who is working to rebuild New Orleans. Please consider a gift to support her work. She has committed her life to helping New Orleans get back on its feet...let's show NOLA that we have not forgotten her and her people.

I have a dream and I hope that you will support it.

Last year, I took a huge leap of faith. I quit my job and trusted the Universe to support me in launching New Orleans: A Labor of Love - a non-profit social networking community committed to recruiting volunteers and resources to rebuild the Gulf Coast.

So far, so good, but, financially, times are skinny.

Today, we need your tax-deductible donation to continue our work.

For almost three years, I’ve been collaborating with a team of volunteers to research and develop the New Orleans: A Labor of Love social networking community:

The site relaunches in August 2009, in time for the 4-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina (so please excuse any hiccups while you browse).

We’ve created an on-line clearinghouse where members seek volunteer opportunities, share resources with other volunteers, post video and photo updates about what still remains to be done in the Gulf Coast, etc. In short, we’ve created a space where members can collaborate to rebuild New Orleans/surrounding areas while educating one another about social justice issues like environmental pollution, housing discrimination, gentrification, etc.

As the 4-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches, we’re working against the clock to get the site up.

For almost three years, I’ve run this organization off of my salary/consulting fees. I’m chock-full of hope and commitment, but financially, I’m tapped out.

If you believe in me, if you believe in this project, please make a tax-deductible donation today and I promise we’ll make you proud:

We’re working to raise $5K every week for the next 4 weeks. In the meantime our Advisory Board is pursuing corporate sponsorships and other funding to support our 2009 goals.

Our Advisory Board includes: Musician/Actor Saul Williams, Political Commentator Melissa Harris-Lacewell, ACE Media Corp President Andrea Holmes Thompkins, and Blogger Dr. Eban Walters, and California Superior Court Chief Attorney Jocelyn Burton.

Please spread the word: New Orleans needs you now.

Katina Parker
Executive Director
New Orleans: A Labor of Love (relaunch: Aug 2009)
818 692 3300

If You Live In Houston, You Are Probably A Bottom

Oh my god. I was sent this today by one of my teammates from the Rookies. I had to repost it on my blog. This is awesome. If you click on the title of the article below, it will take you to the originating site

If You Live In Houston, You're Probably a Bottom

By Richard Lawson

So say statistics, anyway! Gayblog TheSword recently compiled some Craigslist data, and figured out that when men are looking online to do sex with other men, certain cities trend heavily toward the receiving end. Chief among them is Houston—where 70% of folks are looking to fill the void.

Yes of the ten cities surveyed, only three, in fact, had a higher ratio of tops to bottoms, and even then the numbers were almost even. But Miami, Houston, Los Angeles, and (surprise surprise) San Francisco, all seem rife with untended bottoms all reaching out across the cyber tundra, hoping to find some fleeting relief.
New York, of course, had the highest percentage of tops seeking companionship, because it's just that kinda town, I guess.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sotomayor, Kim Jong Il, Prop 8, Oh My!

Yesterday was a hell of a day.

1) North Korea aka Kim Jong Il Amusement Park thumbs nose at the world after detonating a nuclear bomb and lobbin’ missiles into the sea of Japan
2) Pres. Obama keeps the history making going by nominating Judge Sotomayor for the Supreme Court
3) The California Supreme Court upholds Prop 8

Where to begin?

I am no foreign policy expert…and I am no advocate of violence, but, perhaps, the CIA should do what it does best and take out Mr. Kim. I get nervous when crazy dictators have the ability to take out whole cities if they should get their panties in a twist. This whole thing is starting to look like Team America. Where is Janeane Garofalo when you need her?

Obama showed, again, just how brilliant he is by picking a Latina woman for the Supreme Court. This will solidify the Latin@ community behind his presidency, and, at the same stroke, push the Latin@ community solidly in the Democratic camp for a generation. It also makes it impossible for the GOP to even think about filibustering Sotomayor’s nomination. Latin@s from left to right are doing high kicks y dando vuletas over this nomination. The GOP can not afford to alienate anyone else and hope to inch back towards the White House. Obama's nomination of a Republican appointed federal judge was like kicking the GOP while its down. I almost feel sorry for them…not really…I am actually gloating inside…hell I am gloating right here in this blog. Once again, I take my hat (and my draws if you’d like) to you, Mr. Obama.

That just leaves us with California. Now, anyone that believed that the California Supreme Court was going to overturn Prop 8 was being foolish. I understand the feelings of frustration of queer folks in California. At the same time, I will repeat what I wrote months ago. This victory goes to the Right because they deserve it. The entire queer community paid scant attention to the Prop 8 battle until it was too late. We entered the organizing game late because we thought…gee…its Cali…they love the gays. While we were sucking on the tit of complacency, the Right was in black churches and Latin@ congregations, at town hall meetings, and in the streets organizing their asses off to get folks to vote for Prop 8. They had years of work behind the campaign, and the LGBT folks organizing around the issue failed to realize the impact of people of color voters, regressive faith communities, and the massive turn out because of Obama (how they missed the turn out factor is still, to use David’s favorite term, bewildering).

The real enemy in the Prop 8 battle is not the Right…nor is it the Supreme Court of California…it is the proposition system itself. Basically, the Supreme Court ruling, by failing to overturn Prop 8, has established mob rule in California with no system of checks and balances. It is, frankly, direct democracy at its very worst. It is democracy without real debate. It is the height of dollar democracy: those with the best and biggest and brightest budgets are the ones that carry the day on whatever issue is at hand. It is a system that burdens the legislature with mandated expenditures that has led California to a monumental budget crisis. It creates three strikes laws that have stuffed California prisons to the breaking point. To be sure a very few good propositions have been implemented, but, overwhelmingly, the Right has used the prop system to create a hellacious mess that is slowly eating away at the core of California political life. It is ridiculous. And, frankly, think of all the good that could come if the tens of millions of dollars spent on proposition battles were invested in the community.

California is teetering on the edge of ridiculous.

In the end, Tuesday was a reminder that there is so much work to be done. It was also a hard object lesson in the price of complacency. Justice is not a destination; it is a state of being that requires constant vigilance, effort, and engagement.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Excerpts from It Ain't Truth If It Doesn't Hurt

My publisher, Summerfolk Press, has a fantastic website where you can read excerpts from my upcoming book It' Aint Truth If It Doesn't Hurt (due out in February 2010).

On the site you can also find portions of Mark Haber's recently released collection of short stories, Death Bed Conversions.

And, also, there are several pieces from Maureen McDole's Exploring My Options.

Take a minute to check out the work of these authors and my work.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Road to Bristol Part Two: Word to Yo Memere

So this weekend, I met David's parents, brother, sister-in-law, and niece and nephew. Talk about shittin' bricks on the train ride to Bristol. I knew a few things about my man's fam:

1))His parents were from Northern Maine, which might as well be from a galaxy far far they speak French as a first language (but a dialect of French that sounds like Klingon), and they spoke English with a Vulcan accent;
2)David's Mom was an avid Scrabble player but eschewed Facebook because it was too personal;
3)David's Dad was a hard workin' factory man that was a bit rough around the edges
4)David and his brother, once upon a time, didn't get along the best but had smoothed things out;
5)David's sister-in-law was addicted to on-line sweepstakes and had won a flat screen TV recently;
6)His niece loved her big gay uncle and was a dancer;
7)His nephew loved his big gay uncle and was a ball player

All of those things proved to be true.

All of those things were the tip of the iceberg of these fantastic people.

and I arrived at the train station in Waterbury, where we were greeted by his parents. I am completely conversant in Parent, Old Parent, Grandparent, and Venerable Elder. His parents, especially his Mom, turned out to be WAY hipper than I had imagined. I was able to speak Parent most of the time with the occassional foray into Old Parent on certain occassions. At one point, I asked his Mother for a new garbage bag, as I had taken out the trash. She handed me a bag that smelled like a cross between crotch powder and Summer's Eve. Imagine my surprise when Nancy said that she hated the smell of the bags since they reminded her of the scent of feminine napkins.

I just about shat enough bricks to build them a new addition to their house.

I mentioned in a previous post, after dinner that evening, Don (aka Dad) turned red in the face and said how happy he was that I came to visit. I found out later that he told David that he liked me and that I was way better than the last one. Score one for Brandon...awwww yeah (please note...David was with the last one for a decade...I don't know if that says a lot about me or about the ex...probably both).

The first night, we went to watch David's niece Emily in a dance recital.That is where I met David's very straight brother who introduced himself by walking up to me in my seat and straight guy punching me in the arm. I seriously looked up like I was going to have to fight a white man in rural Connecticut. I was sure that this was it...the Good Lord had called my name, and I was going to punch this big man and get strung up on the stage. Luckily, he just laughed, I realized he must belong to David somehow, and I thanked the lord that no one would have to call my Mom and tell her that I had been the main dish at a good old fashioned lynching.

We also sat next to David's sister-in-laws two sisters, who, were frickin' hilarious. We got along so well that the sister-in-law's SISTER invited us over for a BBQ the next time we head to Connecticut. Sharon, the sister-in-law was a sweet but proper suburban Mom; her sisters were wasted on Bristol, CT.

dance recital was sooo...ummm...Drop Dead Gorgeous-esque that it will have its own blog...with pictures. Suffice it to say that shortly before the end of Act II (of four acts total) we buzzed out...after watching David's niece's dance troupe do a routine to Walk Like An Egyptian dressed in faux-Arabian I Dream of Jeannie gear. 'Nuff said...for now...

Saturday evening the family gathered, and we had a cook-out. I played frisbee with David, his brother, and nephew. I refrained from stealin' the spotlot from the 11 year old boy when he confidentally told his Grandparents that Einstein had invited the bi-focals (Benjamin Franklin invented them about 120 or so years before Einstein was a German Jew zygote in his Mader's uterus). I watched, happily, as the entire family beamed and smiled and heaped praise on the two youngest members of the Berube clan. In a word, it felt like home.

On Saturday, David, his Mom, and I went from a hike in Sessions Woods...where we saw all kinds of nature, including the Minnesota State Flower bloomin' as nice as you'd like right there in the middle of Connecticut. I think it was a sign from God.

I was also pleased to find out that when David popped over to visit his brother and his brother's family on Monday, I was missed (I was napping) and Emily made a point to tell David that I was cool.

In the end, I found a wonderful family, full of laughter and joy and love. It was a great gift to spend the weekend with them. I cooked dinner for the family on Sunday night, and I, in the words of Paula Dean, “Knocked their socks clean off and into the washing machine.”

It was a good weekend.

P.S. I did beat Nancy and David at back-to-back games of Scrabble. HOLLLA!

Ganymede Issue #4 Released

Hey folks...a selection of my poetry has been chosen to appear in Ganymede #6,the issue scheduled to be released in January 2010. Support this amazing queer literary journal by buying a copy.

GANYMEDE #4 issue (June 2009, 240 pages) now available
Readable sample pages:
Purchase (print or download) at

Issue #4 Highlights:
--a rare reprint of OSCAR WILDE's most perfect prose story, LORD ARTHUR
SAVILE'S CRIME, the only fiction on par with his play "Earnest." If you were
turned off by the dank, phony moralism of "Dorian Gray," this little-known
work is the antidote. It fits perfectly with Wilde as insouciant wit and was
a strong influence on H.H. Munro (Saki), Wilde's heir in fiction. First in a
series of Wilde rarities.
--Filming porn with Matthew Rush, an on-the-scenes report of life among gay
--major portfolio on gay painter GEORGE TOOKER, whose luminous magic realism
languished for decades in the shadow of his one-time lover Paul
a hit traveling museum show, the first in 30 years, is bringing him back,
and Ganymede will help!
--BRUCE NUGENT, the last surviving member of the Harlem Renaissance and the
first African American to publish explicitly gay lit--30 years before James
Baldwin. We present three witty chapters from his 1933 novel about gay
twenties Harlem. An historic find and a great read!
--POETRY SLAM: Seven gay poets make their debuts in one special section!
--SEVEN striking portfolios of cutting-edge gay photographers from around
the world

ESSAYS: Down Under with Matthew Rush...Ian Duncan: From Gay Teen to Porn
POETRY: The Blood He Released by Jee Leong Koh...The Distance Between Coasts
by James Newborg...At the Feet of Your Stare by Matthew Stradling...The
Crust of Someone Else by Jon Rentler...Sung through Spittle by Dug
McDowell...A Storm in Our Kiss by Zhuang Yisa...Log On, Log Off by Matt
FICTION: Almost No Memory by Ryan Doyle May...Pablo, There and There by Adam
Jeffries Schwartz...As Is, I by B.R. Lyon...Last & Lost: Gay Son of the
Harlem Renaissance: Three stories by Bruce Nugent...Lord Arthur Savile¹s
Crime by Oscar Wilde
ART PORTFOLIO: George Tooker
PHOTO PORTFOLIOS: Fabio Panichi...Andrea Francesco Berni...Daniel
Schultz...René Becker...Pablo Moran...Costel Magopat...Davide Poggi

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Road to Bristol Part One: The Collegiate Fantasy

I am entirely unable to remember how I spent last year's Memorial Day weekend. I know that the year before I was playing in a softball tournament with the Slammers in the suburbs of Minneapolis. But, I have been sitting here, pounding my head into the suburban walls that surround me, and I keep getting one of those old DOS “Run Time Error” messages flashing in my long term memory.

It was bound to happen one of these days. It doesn't help that I also found two gray hairs in my chin pubes this morning.

Last weekend, David said to me that he thought we should visit his parents in Connecticut. I was immediately excited as in the world of relationships...meeting the parents is a big old deal. Meeting David's parents was an especially big deal as they are about a decade older than my own parents, completely supportive of David but most definitely without the fag hag tendencies of my own Mother, and David had mentioned before that he had other concerns about my comfortability with some older fashioned notions and experencies around racial issues that may or may not come up.

After an amazing job interview on Friday morning, one where I walked away feeling not only proud of myself but that the fit was simply right, David and I hopped on the Metro North train and headed towards Hartford. To say that the landscape was picturesque would be a disserve that reduced it to a two dimensional copy of life. This was the real deal. From old colonial homes to brick factories that had to date from the Industrial Revolution and textile manufacturing era of old Connecticut, we passed through enormous wealth, quaint towns, and poverty strewn micro-ghettos as we made our way to Waterbury, CT. As someone that is completely enamored with history and the creation of stories, I was in awe.

At one point, the train passed between a campus of old stone brick buildings. It was clear that at one point cargo and perhaps even passenger trains must have stopped at the abandoned factory. It was in the middle of a small set of woods, outside of one of a dozen small towns, along side a wide meandering river. It was beautiful. I turned to David and expressed that if I had the resources it would be just a place that I would buy and turn into an amazing college that focused on social justice education. I would have a College of Art and Justice, a College of Social Justice Sciences, and a College of the Science of Social Change.

The College of Art and Justice would focus on a variety of art forms paired with theories of social change and would graduate artists that understood that art is political and that art can be, has been, and should be use to express and push a framework of justice. The College of Social Justice Sciences would offering hard science programs, such as chemistry, genomics, biology, and other sciences that finally admitted that for all its talk of objectivity that Western science is extremely subjecetive, reflects societal biases to some extent, and is often used for means that have nothing to do with the fomentation of peace and justice. My College of Social Justice Sciences would focus on cutting edge science with an eye towards graduating scientists that understood the role that science can play for making society better and how it has been used and continues to be used to create massive inequities. And, finally, the College of the Science of Social Change would graduate language majors, literature majors, historians, and other social scientists that learned, used, framed, and re-framed the social sciences as tools for creating a just society rather than pathologizing history, the masses, and individuals.

Finally, my dream college would have two graduate programs: Justice Faith and Theology and a fine arts degree in Spoken Word Poetry and Hip Hop Theater. I believe that so much of our world and nation revolves around faith...whether organized religion or faith traditions. While there are many institutions that use a fundamentalist framework for understanding faith paths, I would have a school that carried on an ancient tradition of liberation theologies but paired with the use of modern communication forms and forums to transmit essential faith lessons and ways of being that intersect with, support, and expand social justice. As well, of course, I would provide advanced training to poets and hip hop theater artists that are already using these art forms to impact, widely, society. This would give space to talented and profound theater artists and poets to take out time for reflection, strategy, craft development, and performances that would expand the use, power, and scope of these essential justice based art forms.

David sat and listened as I explained much of my higher education dream. Inspired by the beauty and poverty outside of the train, I was able to articulate, orally, for the first time not only the dream but why I felt this type of institution was necessary. We need a place of higher education that, from its inception, is based on a clear, unapologetic, inquiry and expression of social justice values. We need a place that takes what has been started at many college campuses, ie the exploration of ideals and a fascination with issues of justice, and systemitize them and give young people with a bent for justice to strategize with other like minded folks as a systemic part of their education. It is something like Warren Wilson College, which is an institution with a social justice emphasis, but honing it and beginning from a place that grows from justice values instead of evolving into those values. Imagine starting with a core set of beliefs that say justice must be....and watching it grow, evolve, and change from there.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Al-Shabaab and the U.S. Military: Gangs of a Feather Flock Together

Listening to NPR this morning, I heard a story about my hometown of Minneapolis. Minneapolis has the largest Somali population in the United States. Since the mid-1990s, when I first left Minneapolis for college, the Somali community went from non-existent to more than 10,000 individuals. An area of the city once known as Seven Corners is more usually called, now, Little Somalia. In the last few years I have had a chance to know and even work with amazing Somali men and women that are looking to build a strong community and sense of home thousands of miles from war torn Somalia. As a former member of the board of directors of the Headwater Foundation for Justice, I was able to fund and support the work of the Somali Action Alliance—a social justice organization focused on building positive community strength in the Twin Cities Somali community.

Thus, I was totally caught off guard this morning when I heard that Somali youth in Minneapolis, many of them U.S. born Somalis, are being recruited by a Somali jihadist organization called Al-Shabaab...a fundamentalist group that is actively committing acts of violence against the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia. At least 27 Somali youth from Minneapolis have gone missing since March. They are thought to be in Al-Shabaab training camps. Their parents have no idea where they have gone and are terrified. And none of this is helped by the fact that last October, a 27 year old Minnesotan Somali by the name of Shirwa Ahmed killed himself in an Al Shabaab suicide bombing act killing more than 30 people.

In a report given to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Andrew Liepman, Deputy Director of Intelligence, of the National Counterterrorism Center shared seven pages of testimony. In that testimony Deputy Director Liepman stated that:

Compared to most Muslim immigrants to the US, many Somalis—seeking refuge from a war-torn country—received less language and cultural training and education prior to migration. Despite the efforts of Federal, State and local government and non-governmental organizations to facilitate their settlement into American communities, their relative linguistic isolation and the sudden adjustment to American society many refugees faced has reinforced, in some areas, their greater insularity compared to other, more integrated Muslim immigrant communities, and has aggravated the challenges of assimilation for their children.

According to data from the most recent census, the Somali-American population suffers the highest unemployment rate among East African diaspora communities in the United States, and experience significantly high poverty rates and the lowest rate of college graduation. These data also suggest that Somali-Americans are far more likely to be linguistically isolated than other East African immigrants.
(11 March 2009, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, page 4)

Basically, due to abject poverty and feelings of isolation, Somali youth are vulnerable to recruitment. Two other groups I can think of target the poor and the isolated for recruitment: Gangs and the U.S. Military.

I was surprised when I heard the report this morning on NPR. I was surprised that some of the students recruited were from Roosevelt High School, a school that was less than two miles from where I last lived in Minneapolis. ( anyone that heard the report this morning...the reporter referred to Roosevelt as being in the is not. It is in the heart of South Minneapolis). But, after reading the Senate testimony my surprise faded to dull anger.

Roosevelt High School, since I was a student in the Minneapolis Public Schools in the early to mid-90s, has been an economically depressed, highly segregated, and high violence school. While I love the Minneapolis Public Schools, I can not understand why Roosevelt has been allowed to continue down a road of under achievement and poverty and racial segregation while, for example, my own high school, Patrick Henry, has enjoyed a renaissance and is now one of the top public high schools in America. We know that gangs target these communities, so why are we surprised, in this growing global world...that an immigrant population with a homeland in turmoil would not be vulnerable to international recruitment.

When crazy white Americans convert to radical Islam and join Al-Qaeda, how can we suppose that our Muslim youth, trapped in isolation and feeling despondent, will not turn to whoever will give them hope and a sense of matter how ultimately destructive that acceptance turns out to be.

And when poor students of color and poor rural whites in the United States feel they have no other option than to join the U.S. military or are actively recruited by the military using the exact same media and Internet tactics that Somali militants are using to recruit Somali can I have been surprised.

In this moment, there is no moral high ground for us. We readily sacrifice our poor and brown/black/red/yellow young people on the altar of the Oil Wars. The difference between the recruitment of these Somali youth and the recruitment of poor black Americans into the U.S. military is only that the Somali youth are being recruited into an independent militia without state power behind it. Let me be clear...U.S. Military recruitment tactics are only differentiated from Islamic militant recruitment tactics because they are state sanctioned. Just like these Somali recruiters, who use the Internet, media, and real time recruiters to appeal to the Somali's sense of duty, honor, commitment, patriotism, and sense of self worth to get them to sign up for do the U.S. military recruiters use the Internet, media, commercials before movies, financial incentives, and patriotic and duty appeals to recruit those that also see themselves as isolated, without much of a future, and no ability to see a way forward.

Whether recruiting young American Somalis for Al-Shabaab or young black men for the Marines, both groups are recruiting what is fast becoming or already is cannon fodder. Both Al-Shabaab and the U.S. military are offering up our young as sacrifices to a set of ideals that have nothing to do with the prosperity and welfare of their people...they are sacrifices made on the altar of power in a quest for dominance.

I do not in any way blame those that sign up for either cause. I support my little brother and my sister. They did what they believed they had to do in this world that gave them few options. Their stories are their own to tell, but I can promise you that those stories would break your heart...that for both of them...they put themselves in harms way for reasons that had nothing to do with glory and power but realities and limited possibilities.

I lay blame on the recruiters, on Al-Shabaab, and on the U.S. military industrial complex and the government that benefits from it.

It is my fervent hope that the city of Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Public Schools, the state of Minnesota, and the U.S. government take this as a wake up call. Understand that the racism and economic disparity upon which our grand U.S. society is built is the reason that our youth continue to be shipped overseas or recruited overseas to die.

The Senate report stated that there is no proof that Somali youth are being recruited abroad with intentions to return back to the U.S. to execute acts of violence. If we act now to systemically address the fundamental justice and inequality issues that make recruitment possible, we will eliminate any possibility of Somali youth turning their anger and isolation back on the U.S.
In so doing, we will save our youth from needless wars that eat our young without sating our hunger for power, wealth, natural resources and world dominance.

(The report mentioned in this post can be read here.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

One Liner of the Week Award: Random Hell's Kitchen Girl

So, David and I were walkin' down the street a couple of days ago...on our way home from the gym...and these two young fashion girls (bio girls not femme boys) walked passed us deep in an intense conversation. One girl with a scooped up swirl do says to the other...with deep seriousness:

"I mean...there is a LIMIT to Gayness!" Her friend nodded enthusiastically.

I almost peed right there on 9th Avenue.

And that, my little chicken butts, is the One Liner of the Week Award.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Ex Files

In general, I am terrified of the police. In my life I have had a few occasions where I have had no choice but to engage with the law enforcement complex of the United States. The first time was during divorce proceedings for my Mother. The second time was in the 8th grade when I called the police because my best friend was on the phone with me, screaming, as her father hit her with a 2x4. The next time was when I joined the multitudes of Americans with a DWI (and I cried like a wee little baby the entire time). The last time was last night when I filed a police report documenting a sliver of the verbal harassment I have encountered from my roommate.

Almost a month ago to the day, I was attacked in my home. As I was preparing to lay down to sleep, David's ex, who is our roommate, entered the apartment with his current boyfriend Gary C. I said hello and let the guys know that I was going to lay down and take a nap. Frank, the roommate, began screaming at me about his right to play his music. I responded calmly, never raised my voice...then or as the conflict escalated. I asked him to keep it down, shut my bedroom door, and was followed into the studio. Over the course of the next 45 minutes I was screamed at for everything and anything that came into the man's head. I stayed calm. I asked them to leave the house. They both refused. Then, Gary, a man that I had met perhaps twice before...and had spent perhaps 10 minutes with total...began screaming at me calling me a slut and a whore. He told me I was a user and that he knew my type and kind. I remained calm. I responded to him with questions. I asked him what would make him think that I am a whore? How was I using David or anyone? He continued to reply accusing me of being a slut. Then suggesting that he would never sleep with me (I am sorry...but pot bellied gremlins are not my bag). Then, as he turned around and stomped out, he, a white Jewish man, accused me of being racist. At which point, I almost shit myself giggling.

Franklin I. continued to harangue me. And then, when he discovered Gary had left the apartment, his final response was to blame me for Gary's exit.

That is the abbreviated version of what happened a month ago. The details are much more gruesome. The result was that I calmly walked to the front room. I made sure the door was locked. David was out of town visiting his Mother. I finally got him on the phone, and I broke down. Never in my adult life had I ever been spoken to in such a manner let alone by two individuals that knew nothing about me. Academically I understood clearly that this was about Frank's jealousy. I understood that this was about Gary's anger that Frank was actually also fucking a man named Todd in North Carolina while lying and pretending that he was all about Gary. I knew that this was about Frank seeing David happy and doing things that David had always wanted to do with Frank but Frank would not allow or refused to participate. This was later confirmed during a period of calm when Frank came to me and admitted that he knew I made David happy and that he regrets not doing the things with David that David and I are now doing. A moment of clarity in his life. It did not last.

Several days ago, Frank had a very painful medical procedure. He is battling two potentially life threatening illnesses. The unfortunate truth is that the severity of this illnesses are a direct result of his ignoring medical advice. One illness has to do with with his liver. Years ago he was directed by his medical advisors to stop drinking. As late as December he was still drinking. I know. I saw him. Now, he is facing the failure of his liver and severe medical treatments to prevent that. I empathize with him and where he is.

The day he returned from his medical procedure David said to him that we would be as considerate as possible but that he needed to know that this is not a hospice. Frank sleeps on the couch next to the kitchen. David and I largely absented ourselves from the apartment into the late afternoon. We began preparing dinner...and, for the second time, were accused of chopping our vegetables too loudly. I was chopping mushrooms. I couldn't hear myself chopping let alone a human being on a couch on the other side of the room. But, I digress. Eventually Franklin got up, began slamming things around, and packed his backpack. At one point he was staring at me as if I had just slapped his Mama. I asked him if anything was wrong, and he said no. He then left the house.

He came back the next night. Immediately he began accusing us of being inconsiderate. Then he suggested that it was actually me who was the belligerent chopper and that he could discern from his Wolverine like hearing the difference between David and I chopping.

That was the beginning of the inexorable slide to last night. For the last two days he had slammed every cabinet, door, and dish he possibly could. Neither David or I had bowed to his self pity, and this frustrated him. Finally, yesterday afternoon, shortly after he slammed a door behind me almost hitting me...we were all trying to figure out why about half the apartment had lost power. A chopping board fell out of the dish rack. I put it away. I guess I closed the door to the cabinet where the dish resided with a little bit too much force. Frank responded by slamming another cabinet as hard as he could.

I snapped.

I turned to him and asked him, and I quote, “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

He began screaming at me and telling me that I better not curse at him.

At that point I became a person I never wanted to see and had never seen before. He stepped into my face and I stepped forward. I told him exactly what I thought about him. I told him he was pathetic. I told him that he needed to leave and go where people wanted him. I told him to go and be with people who loved him. Mixed in with that were curse words. I was not proud, but I also was not sorry. I meant everything I said to the man.

I allowed myself to be pushed to a place where many of the hurtful and mean things that were said to me in my life were put back on this human being. I forgot that he was a human being and in so doing I lessened my own humanity.

That made me even angrier.

David was there. He saw it. He told Frank that Frank created the circumstance and situation where this was made possible. He did. But he didn't force my reaction. It was the reaction he wanted. I gave it to him. I will not apologize to him for it. But I will need to find a way to forgive myself for going to place that I know exists inside everyone but Jesus and maybe the Buddha...but I never thought to have to look at it directly in the face. The face was mine.

David and I left and went to the movies. We saw Star Trek which was FRICKIN' AWESOME! The special effects, the dialogue, the story, and the set up for a new franchise were great. They did Gene Roddenberry proud. I maintain that George Lucas should never write, produce, or create another space adventure ever. Leave it to the real master.

We got home to find Frank gone. The house was still without electricity in many parts. And Frank, in his infinite juvenile nature, had locked the channels on the tv and hidden the remote controls (did I mention that the man is 46...I am 31...GOOD FUCKING GOD).

David opened his email to find that Frank claimed that he had filed a police report and that he was not leaving this apartment without a court order.

He made a mistake. Lord he made a mistake.

My remorse at my behavior hardened into a razor point resolved. I put away my dinner, put on my shoes, jazzed up my hair and put on a sweater. I walked with David to the police station and filed a report myself. I filed a report that included the April 18th incident and last night. A man may elicit sympathy and pity when he shows regard for his own behavior and acknowledges his role in creating an untenable situation. But when a man maintains his victim status while perpetuating injustice, abuse and claims massive privilege...then...there is no mercy that is not found in justice. This man believes that threats and intimidation will work with me. The road I have walked in this world is one where struggle and roadblocks have been much more prevalent than escalators and sliding sidewalks.

I don't back down for shit.

The one ray of sunshine in all of this was actually the police. You heard me right: THE POLICE!

When we walked in last night to file the police report, Joe the Policeman was at the front desk. I swear I thought I was in an episode of NYPD Blue. I was waiting for Jimmy Smits to walk through with that perky butt of his. Instead we got Joe...who was awesome.

He leaned in and asked us what happened.

We told him. We told him what had gone down. We told him about our relationship. We told him about David's previous relationship with Frank. This is what Joe the Policeman said...

“Wait a minute. You are the current boyfriend...and the ex is living with you two? How the hell did you pull that one off, mister.” He said to David...a crooked smile on his face.

“I mean...that ain't a good situation...and now you two want him out.” I nodded and smiled.

Joe looked and David and shook his head.

“What wuz you thinkin?”

In the middle of the Midtown North police department, surrounded by the spirit of Amadou Diallo and Oscar Grant, I wanted to laugh...I mean laugh out loud and let out all the drama and all the pain and all the ugly.

“Listen guys...that is a no good situation. Go over there to the window. Those ladies will take your complaint. Sign the book. Good luck.”

Thanks Joe.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Unemployment is Good for Your Health

For the last seven weeks I have been one of the roughly 30 million (give or take a million) Americans that are unemployed. Being broke is a bitch. There was a report on CNN recently that there is a direct correlation between the newly unemployed and the development of new physical ailments from an increase of common infections to more serious life threatening diseases such as heart disease, hypertension, and arthritis! The potential for depression and anxiety increases exponentially. And being the only kid on the block that hasn't seen Wolverine, Star Trek, or Underworld 3 is totally sucky.

Seven or eight years ago I found myself in the same position I am in now. I was unemployed for almost seven months. That go round I sat on my couch, applied for jobs, and drank. A lot. I basically fell into a giant depressive hole. I vanished from society in general. Hell, my best friend lived across the hallway from me, and she barely saw me. I gained roughly 30 to 40 pounds topping out at 210 pounds. By the time I returned to work, I was depressed, fat, on medication, and my apartment looked as if Oscar the Grouch was my decorator. Nasty.

This go around I was determined not to repeat my personal history. I am going to let you in on a little secret: I am quickly approaching the best shape I have ever been in (my ass is gettin' so muscular that I did a squat today and blew out the seam in my boxer shorts), I am eating damnedly well, and though I have no money...I manage to even have a social life. There are some things you can do to make sure that your unemployment doesn't kill you. It is damned hard to pay off those students loans from Purgatory.

It's called the GOYA Philosophy (named after that delightful company that makes everything from spices to black beans). GOYA= GET OFF YOUR ASS!:

1. GOYA and Exercise: If you have a gym membership that you haven't had to ax should be the last thing you consider getting rid of after rent, food, and utility bills. I am dead serious. Now is the time to get into the shape that you have always wanted to get into. You have nothing but time...and no excuse not to make the time in your day to exercise. Committing one hour each day minimum that includes 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise and 30 minutes of lifting weights will change your world and your outlook. Extensive research shows that cardio exercise and weightlifting when done every day is as good as psychotropic drugs that control for depression and anxiety (DO NOT STOP TAKING YOUR MEDS IF YOU ARE ON THEM!), but, as a person that does take psych meds...I can tell you that psych meds plus exercise has changed my world and my outlook.

If you do not have a gym membership but can afford to get one. Do it.

If you can't afford a membership then contact your local YMCA or YWCA. Both organizations have fitness in their mission and provide subsidized memberships or nearly full scholarships for low income folks and students.

Also, at any gym you join the staff will give you a free orientation to the gym and most gym memberships come with group fitness classes where you can do fun workouts with other folks and meet more peeps in your community. Networking networking networking.

2. GOYA and Eat!: I love to eat. Now is the time to train yourself to cook for yourself. Explore new foods. Experiment in the kitchen. Vegetables are cheap and good for you. I am a meat eater...and I have had to cut down on my meat intake because of the cost. I have discovered, however, that I LOVE many more veggies than I thought I did. I have also had a chance to explore with different foods and food combinations...and guess what...I am eating cheaply, well, and in copious amounts...and loving it.

3. GOYA and Go to the Museum: One of my favorite pastimes with David is to check out the fantastic museums in New York...for free. I have lived all over this lovely nation of ours, I promise you that if you live in or near a major city said city has cultural institutions that have FREE nights. Find out when the free nights are at your local museums and check out some art. No matter who you will surprise yourself by what you find and what you find that you like...even I the grand hater of most modern art...has found artists whose work I adore. You never had time to check out that exhibit of Ancient Babylonian is the time to do it.

4. GOYA and Network: All over the U.S. folks are putting together speed networking events and other mixers where folks get together and exchange information. The best way to find a job is to find out from somebody who knows somebody. At a time when PhDs are fighting for manager positions at Taco Bell...who you know is just as important as the letters you may have after your name. Talk to anyone and everyone anywhere you are. That crazy lady sitting next to you talkin' to her reflection in the bus window might just be an eccentric crazy lady who owns an investment firm. Well...maybe not...but at social networking events you are guaranteed to meet folks that may have a connection to your area of expertise. Sitting at home watching Grey's Anatomy re-runs may keep you up to date with who has gone dyke this season but it probably won't help you get a job.

5. GOYA and Write: Or draw, or paint, or sing, or dance, or clog, or drag out that old saxophone...whatever it is that you used to do or haven't done in a while that lets you express your creative IT! When you engage your creative self you get the hell up out of that part of your brain that keeps you fixated on what you don't have. Engage other parts of your brain that will help you think creatively and send out positive energy into the world or capture your negative energy and turn it into something positive. If you have ever wanted to learn how to do is the time to do it. Take a free community class or dance class. Who cares if you aren't a pro at it...if you feel good doing keeps your outlook positive, your energy up, and your thinking fresh and invigorated...all things that will help keep you on the right path to finding what the universe is trying to send you.

I am no guru. I don't pretend to have a magic answer for you. I have lots of love and support in my life right now (if only I could cash that shit in and pay rent)...but I do know that by taking advantage of the time I have both to look for work and to enjoy the free time I have by filling it with productive, fun, and exciting experiences...I am able to stay away from dwelling on the fact that my bank account is as empty as Rush Limbaugh's head. by it...and you will be aiight.

Credit: The painting above is by Francisco GOYA.
Credit Update: My friend Rookie Scott has informed me that he just viewed this painting in Madrid. He also says that the thought is that GOYA may not have done it. Thanks for GOYA and letting me know Scott!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Idjku: Russia Has Lost Its Mind So I Be Strokin'

News Update: Jackass head of the GOP says that gay marriage will HURT small businesses...what the fuck?

There are those songs in the world...that when you hear them...they just raise your spirits...they get your feet to tappin' and put a smile on your face.

This morning, as I thumbed through the news...and heard about the 40-80 queer activists in Russia arrested and treated brutally for daring to put on a pride march...I had to stop...take a moment...put in my earbuds...and find some musical joy. Right now, as I muse on the complacency that so many queer folks in the U.S. feel...I am finding joy in Clarence Carter's Strokin'..and A Brand New Day from The Wiz. At the heart of Clarence Carter's song is a celebration of sex and sexuality for the joy of sex and a Brand New Day...Michael Jackson and Diana Ross, Nipsey Russell and Ted Ross are celebrating triumph over Evilene...the Wicked Witch of West Harlem...and the joy that freedom promises.

The beaten and jailed activists in Moscow took to the streets last night against the Wicked Witch of the Kremlin for the right to love (and fuck) freely.

In the United States, in most (though not all) places, we take our right to freely assemble for granted. We take to the streets for Pride festivals as a matter of course. We know that if our festivals and demonstrations are denied, we have legal recourse that we can pursue. The road we walk isn't always easy but, in every major U.S. city, Pride parades and Pride festivals are generally found listed on city websites and generally raise few institutional eyebrows...though there are almost always pockets of religious fundamentalists on a couple of corners waving flags.

Nowhere in the United States in the last two decades have we had to worry about violent reactions from state authorities to our queer pride marches and rallies (the same can not be said for other more radical demonstrations addressing issues of racial and economic justice...America is better than some places but it also has a long ass way to go).

Each year, I endure the diatribes by people like Andrew Sullivan...that rail against the drag queens and leather daddies...the tit slinging dykes on bikes and the fetish queens as they march proudly down Mainstreet U.S.A putting sex in liberation and liberation in sex right out in public view and swirling all up in a gender stew. My blood boils when the regressivists and assimilationists get indignant and demand that we put our celebration and joy back in the closet.

(His Eye is on the Sparrow just came on....”why should I feel discouraged...” Truthfully...I don't).

It is in times like these, when I am reminded of how small our little blue planet really is..that I remember why...almost every year since 1995 I have marched in a queer pride parade no matter where I happened to find myself. While Minneapolis may be a welcoming place, and it might be chic to be a chick with a dick in NYC...there are plenty of places on this planet...where it is not.

When we fight for our own liberation and make ourselves visible...we are not just showing up for ourselves or our community...we are showing up for those that we have no idea are watching. We show up for those that are watching from behind the window shades or behind the old Iron Curtain. We are marching on a global stage to proclaim to a global family that no matter where you have a right to be who you were born to be...without out apology and without violent repression from your government.

We take up arms, internationally, against the Word Trade Organization and unchecked globalization. We cry out against Buddhist monks being jailed and beaten in Tibet. We screamed loudly and with one voice against apartheid in South Africa, and when Slobodan Milosevic decide genocide was an answer....we posed a new question and went to the aid of Kosovo. It is about damn time that we show the same solidarity with those struggling for the right to love and fuck whosoever they choose without regard to gender or sexual identity whether or not they are on the next block or on the next continent.

This week has seen signing of a bill by the President of Uruguay to allow queers to serve in that nation's military. The NY State Assembly passed a queer marriage bill. And Russia struck down with a great fury on rights demonstrators. These things are part of one grand justice tapestry. When the weave is beautiful, but one part of the tapestry snags, the beauty of the whole is reduced. My heart goes out the Russian queer community. But, as Russia turns more and more to partnership with the European Union, it is incumbent on the EU to hold Russia to the same standards it holds its member states...namely requiring the elimination of state sanctioned oppression of queer and genderqueer folks.

Europe can not enjoy the immense resources of Russia while ignoring the human rights abuses of the Russian government and maintain any standing as a human rights crusader in other areas of the world. When economic interests trump human interests the gates of Hell open wider and the Devil rolls out the red carpet to all those involved and Heaven shudders on its foundations.

We are one family...let's act like one.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Matt Titone and Danny O'Donnell Do It Up in Albany

While I do not believe that Barack Obama should take up the mantle of Captain Queer Marriage Crusader, I absolutely applaud those men and women, on the ground, that are fighting for the right of queer folks to marry if they so choose. Now, many of the queer folk I know would rather drill holes in their skulls and squeeze the juice of live jellyfish into them than join the marriage train, but I don't know anyone in our community (from the radical faeries to the Log Cabin Republicans **barf**) that doesn't get their thongs in a twist when Christian (and Jewish) fundamentalists make the choice FOR us that we shouldn't be able to marry.

Like my Mama used to say, “Tell me that I can't do something and that is the first thing I am going to go right on out and do.”

This week the New York State Assembly voted 89-52 to pass same-sex marriage legislation. The Assembly passed a similar bill back in 2007, and this bill passed with the support of some assemblypersons that voted against the 2007 bill.

Speaking eloquently from the Assembly floor was openly gay Assemblyman Danny O'Donnell, the bill's sponsor(and brother of comedienne Rosie O'Donnell). When confronted by Republican Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick about the bill being a vehicle to force religious based civic organizations to accept queer marriage, Mr. O'Donnell replied, "This is not about anybody's religion," O'Donnell continued. "I am entitled to the same paper you have, Michael, whether you want me to or not."

Score one for Assemblyman O'Donnell, who, incidentally, totally flirted with me at the Dugout several weeks ago just after a softball practice. A politician has to work whatever angle they got going. I was flattered. Though we did differ over a recent performance of “And I Am Tellin' You,” where Jennifer Hudson brought Jennifer Holiday onto the stage and Jennifer Holiday lost her damn mind and oversang the song. Mr. O'Donnell didn't agree. We will work out the final resolution in committee.

But, the other hero of the morning was Staten Island (really...who lives there?) Assemblyman Matt Titone—openly gay and the 16 year partner of my friend and co-Rookie (my softball team) Josh Pugliese. Assemblyman Titone spoke passionately about the death of his Mother. As his Mother lay dying, and the family gathered to say their goodbyes, his partner, Josh, had extreme difficulty being with the family in the hospital because of the lack of legal standing of Mr. Titones and his long-term relationship. That, ladies and gentleman, is what I call pure and utter bullshit. Love, not a piece of paper, makes a family. Unfortunately, in America, pieces of paper have more value and importance than a commitment between two people of the same gender.

Mr. Titone shared how his love and his relationship was, on the Assembly floor, compared to bestiality, incest, and pedophilia and other morally bankrupt behavior. That Assemblyman that made the reference, Dov Hikind, an orthodox Jew, said it would take an act of God for him to vote for this legislation. Assemblyman Titone then made a point that every religious wignut in this world needs to eat, chew, swallow and digest: EVERY PERSON ON THIS PLANET IS A GIFT FROM GOD.

The next time a Bible, Torah, or K'oran toting hate monger vomits their self-loathing into a space where I am standing, I am going to snatch up their holy book and beat them in the face with it until they meet their God. And when they get to the other side, I hope He smacks the Hell out of him or her and sends them back to Earth with a clear understanding that the Abrahamic faiths, which command Love, are incompatible with hate. I also hope they wake up with a big old imprint of God's hand on their ass and SHUT THE HELL UP tatooed on their foreheads...oh yeah and missing their tongues.

It's not a hate crime if God does it.

Sorry...I took a turn onto Tangent Road and got off at the Pissed Off Exit. Breathe...1...2....3.... the end the legislation passed with more support than it had in the past. With most of New England on the bandwagon, it is obvious that the Clam Chowder States are going to be chock full of married's just a matter of time (for New York and the rest of the country). The bill now goes to the Senate where passage is in now is the time for you kiddies out there in the Empire State to put in those phone calls to your Senators. While it is hella strategic for Obama to keep his mouth shut on this is not helpful for you to do the same. Get off the couch, grab that iPhone and give your legislator a ring. I will even help you out, you can find your Senator's contact information right here.

(Some of the information in this article was garnered from an article from the Politicker)

(P.S. New York has four openly queer Assembly Members. In addition to Matt and Danny are Deborah Glick and openly bi-sexual member Micah Kellner).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Interview with a Clown: Charlie Vázquez/Spittles the Clown

A few months ago, my partner, artist David Berube, was wandering through the blogosphere and came across queer Latino writer and performer Charlie Vázquez's blog. David found Charlie on Facebook and told me that I should hit Charlie up. Since then, I have come to respect Charlie as a writer, performer, and fellow progressive queer lookin' to bust open this here world at the seams...look at the ugliness...and plant flowers in the mess.

When Charlie announced he would be doing a show at Dixon Place as Spittles the Clown, I was tickled. After a Facebook exchange, I decided that I would love to do an interview with Charlie/Spittles. And here it is:

So Charlie....Spittles the Clown....born shortly after 9/11....what is the connection between Spittles and that tragic day?

You know, I didn’t give it conscious attention at the time, but around the time of 9/11, I was babysitting my best friend’s toddler son and caught myself acting like a moron to entertain him many, many times. I’m the oldest of five kids, so I have a natural way of clowning and making them laugh. In terms of that horrific morning, Spittles became a symbolic “phoenix” if you will, a satircal survivor of horrors—thus his fascination with gore and all of the stuff people who are afraid of clowns associate clowns with. He definitely helped me laugh during a time when I didn’t laugh very much.

How does Spittles (a “straight” clown—whatever) intersect with your own sexual identity?

Well, the “straight” part about Spittles’ sexual identity is part of the comedy. He likes to remind people he’s “straight”, especially after he catches himself doing something really sissy, like putting his hands over his mouth and screaming like a cheerleader. But this is just a statement on the complexity of sexuality and how homophobia extends beyond same-sex preference. Spittles will often mention his ex-girlfriends (he never has one “right now”), but he knows who to go to when he needs to make a quick “buck”—if you know what I mean. That aspect of him I borrowed from closet bisexual friends I had in the past—hustlers. I really felt bad for them—bisexuals get unfair coverage and I can even admit that I endured a very short bisexual phase myself, as I made the transition to male queerdom from failed heterosexuality. I been there, mm-kay?

In a time that is, I hope, just re-emerging from a decade of sexual do you see Spittles, an openly fetish-focused character, pushing against the last ten years?

Oh honey—I could write a book on this one and don’t have the time, as I’m working on two—but—I’m very suspicious of sexual puritanism, on all levels. It’s just not natural—worse things are the result. Sex is a natural pleasure that we ought to be combigning with our intelligence (tall order, I know) to forge a healing tradition that reduces tension in our society. Looks what happens when people suppress their sexual curiosities—torture, murder, crime, etc. The Bush administration condemned queers and championed torture! What the f**k? This has to turn around—and as an unapologetic queer Latino pagan, I’ll even go as far as to say that churches need to start being “audited”, if you will, for encouraging negative treatment toward anyone. This is complicity, plain and simple. These ministers in question, and that horrible witch (The Pope) inspire violence and murderous behavior against queers. This era of patriarchal Christian hegemony must end and I will do whatever it takes to topple the church. If you want to get a driver’s licesnse, you have to take a test right? I think that all Christians should have to read the Bible (after they learn to read, if they can’t) for their own perspective on the scriptures. They ruin it for the nice, peaceful Christians, the real ones. The level of hypocrisy that sexual conservatism brews is devastating. People need to be educated sexually—this should reflect in less unwanted pregnancies and STDs. It needs to be discussed, not swept under the rug.

Spittles started off as a children's clown...and then transitioned into the leather/fetish did that come about?

Well, my first children’s party was a bomb, a disaster, and after the kids decided they hated me, I entertained their parents in the lounge. It’s also part of the show, so I can’t say too much about it. When two martini-swilling babes hit on me, I decided that my market was a more mature one. Then my “very gay” friend Mark suggested I seek out men with strange fetishes who were willing to pay top dollar for their fantasies. I was sent to a BDSM “master” and was trained. The rest I can’t say right now…(smiles)

You will be doing your show at Dixon Place...tell me why Dixon Place is an important venue to the queer community and to you as an artist.

You know, I just went for the first time last week, for a production meeting. It’s important for a lot of reasons—it’s a high-fi environment dedicated to the fringe, to queers. There are lots of divisions in the queer community—where we live, work and play. But I dare say that we have many things in common we hate to admit—I’ve always been a punk/subcultural-identified artist and writer and discovered underground music and crazy queers in the East Village during the 1980s when I was very young. Thus, where I spend my social time. The downtown performace scene needs an audience, plain and simple. We have become so accustomed to sitting in front of monitors that bring information and entertainment to us, that planning and going to an event can seem almost inconvenient. Dixon Place hosts a lot of burgeoning queer performance productions: movie screenings, photography exhibit slideshows, live music acts, spoken word culture—it’s important for people to support these things because we artists are writing our—and YOUR—history. No one else will do that for us. Attending a performance is participation in that event, it’s participating in queer history.

I mentioned before that I have an “alter-clown-ego” named Bubbles, who seems to be Spittles’ saintly twin brother. What role does Spittles play in opening up personal space for you to say and do, that you can't/won't/maybe would do as Charlie Vázquez?

I look at performing as Spittles as being “mounted” by a spirit if you will. It’s been a while since this has happened, but I know the chick is about to hatch soon. As Charlie I don’t call people “ugly” or sit in strangers’ laps! Spittles has been, and I hope will become again, a detour away from me—I’m a very regimented, driven person, so it’s nice to get into a freeform space and negotiate ideas and impulses differently. As an artist it’s different as well—I’m a manic perfectionsist when it comes to editing fiction and I try not to stray from my “tightrope” act in prose: I like to write things that are precarious and precise. As Spittles though, I compose a summary sequence of acts, bullets, if you will, which I have the liberty to stray from for improvising, which a live audience catches in “real time”.

How can the peoples see Spittles in person? And should Spittles arouse their can they see Charlie Vázquez the performer?

Spittles will be performing for the first time, in like a year, at Dixon Place, Lower East Side, Saturday May 30th. I’m part of a show called “Lips Like My Sugar Walls”, which has a very overt queer and sexual feel to it. There will be live music and multimedia entertainment. I’m one of two spoken word acts—the other is my hermana en palabras Karen Jaime. As for what Spittles will do for the audience—may that be a surprise! I hope he makes them laugh, though. It’s the best thing for the soul ever. Now Charlie is more visible these days—my PANIC! reading, which features queer fiction and poetry, falls on the last Wednesday of the month, at Nowhere. Wednesday May 27th will feature queer Latino/a readers and I’m hosting a queer writers of color reading, DOUBLE PRIDE PANIC!, which will be featuring you Brandon! I’m very excited about things right now. Interested parties can go to my blog and register to receive it to their email. I use it for reading annoucements and book review postings.

Info and tix: Dixon Place

Charlie’s blog:

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