Weekend in Duncans Mills and Silly Love Songs

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 | Friends, Stavros, Travel | No Comments

My friends Richard and Jim live in a glass house that overlooks the Russian River, framing a view of rolling grassy hills, the rear of the house nestled against a redwood forrest. Jim cooked one of Julia Child’s stews last weekend, accompanied by a deliciously crisp potato gratin and countless bottles of various Sonoma County wines. I made a pear upside-down cake. We drank until the wee hours of the night, which oddly turned out to be only 9:30pm, at which time we all passed out. I slept for 12 hours, returning to the city after a wonderfully relaxing weekend with my friends.

I hope they didn’t get bored with the constant subject of Stavros. I seemed to turn every discussion somehow back to him. Driving up there, through the vineyards and orchards and the colorful leaves and long shadows of autumn, I listened to a playlist of music that we listened to together over the summer. I howled mournfully and sincerely, tears flowing aerodynamically down my cheeks: There ain’t nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing impossible / Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing’s impossible / Oh no, nothing, nothing, for your love, your love, your love, your lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ove. Somehow, for me, connecting the most deeply with someone suddenly entails actually believing all those corny lyrics, to every corny song that was ever written. All those songs about love, they’re really acute observations of all this intense hormonal and chemical activity that has overtaken and overwhelmed most of my faculties and desires. I found a dream that I could speak to / A dream that I can call my own / I found a thrill to press my cheek to / A thrill that I’ve never known. I hear these songs and a little lightbulb goes off over my head. “Oh my god, he’s right! The moon does hit your eye like a big pizza pie!”

Tomorrow I’m off to the Big Apple with Big Chrissy. Stay tuned for details of our exciting adventures…

A Darker Shade of Pale

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012 | Food, Friends, Stavros | 1 Comment

I’m back in San Francisco. After an unforgettable month in Greece, Stavros broke up with me, again, about an hour after getting home. I frankly don’t know how to move away from him this time (did I ever? lol) as he’s breaking up with me not because he doesn’t care for me, but because of some partially explained fears, nothing that I can quite understand. When people love each other, don’t they try to figure that stuff out? Doesn’t love have priority? Aren’t these fears actually a reason to stay together? I don’t mean that in a (I loathe this word I’m about to type) codependent way, I mean that it doesn’t seem necessary to eliminate potential bliss in one of life’s departments just because there’s unrelated stuff to deal with in other departments. I’m a compartmentalizer and a sensualist, not a codependent. I can hear the groan from my Chorus of Therapists, but you guys keep it down over there! But seriously, what’s better than love? It’s like I’m waking up in Backwards Land: I love you so much that I’m breaking up with you?

He sent me a note the morning after, saying he just needed some time, so a glimmer of hope to cling to. I’m trying to give it to him, but man, is it hard when we’ve been so intimate and close. The silence is almost unbearable, his absence a profoundly palpable heaviness that I carry with me all day. And he’s a pretty big guy, remember? I’ve tried to hide my disappointment and distress from him, thinking I don’t want to manipulate him into being with me, that he shouldn’t stay with me just because he doesn’t want to see me hurt. This is why I’m crying on your shoulder, Internet.

My homies swept me away on Saturday, up the coast for barbecued oysters on Tomales Bay. We’re on very friendly terms with the staff, as we tend to pass by that way a lot, and they greeted us warmly with big hugs and even bigger smiles, which cheered me up somewhat. The oysters were monstrously large, vulgar really, and barbecued they were like…

Okay, stop the presses. I just FaceTimed with a drunken Stavros, and if I can’t tell a man in love then I’m a monkey’s uncle. Sheesh, I don’t even finish my breakup blogpost and we’re back together again. At least I think we are. I hope we are. He is tipsy, but it seems apparent that he’s struggling against some strong feelings for me. Turn the “no vacancy” sign back on and join me in a chorus of “A Wonderful Guy!” Hurray for love! But wait a sec—will he regret what he expressed when he wakes up? Until I have that ring on my finger, I’m going to be trepidatious. I wish this guy were in therapy. I can hear the therapist telling him to stop resisting and go with what he’s really feeling. (This is my blogpost and my imaginary therapist, so no corrective comments from the Chorus, okay?)

My tan in Greece just looks like a darker shade of pale, or a muddy tone of pink, when compared to the gorgeous golden olive brown skin of the Greeks, but here in San Francisco, where only tourists wear shorts in July, I’m actually tan. I’ve never been this color!

It’s a happy day. A happy happy day.

The Stavros Chronicles: Shirley Valentine The Sequel

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012 | Friends, Stavros, The Dating Game, Travel | 2 Comments

Well, here I am, back in Greece. I don’t know why the tourist season ends exactly when it’s the most pleasant time to be here, but I’m enjoying the empty beaches and not sweating. Stavros and I have been alternately at each other’s throats or adhered in liplocked bliss. Thankfully, mostly liplocked bliss.

A lot of our confrontation stems from his notion that a long-distance relationship, including this one that seems to be going so well, is impossible. I’ve told him that he doesn’t have to decide that it’s impossible and then so actively pursue not making it possible. If it’s impossible, it just won’t work out, he doesn’t have to do anything. But if something is possible, stop resisting and let it happen. I feel him holding back—words that aren’t spoken, thoughts not articulated—and I know it’s not because of some stupid macho cultural thing, or that he doesn’t care about me, it’s because of his fears and anxiety. He’s dealing with what all Greeks are dealing with, how to survive in the current economic climate, and let me tell you, the Greek people are being asked to sacrifice so much, you can almost see how some of them could be brainwashed by the right-wing extremist Golden Dawn fascists and their anti-austerity proposals, the closest they’ll get to “read my lips.” One United Nations official has already warned that the current austerity measures could represent a violation of human rights. Against this dire economic backdrop, he asks, how could romance be possible? Well, it is, and it’s blossoming, so sit back and let it flower. To paraphrase Auntie Mame, “Love! love! love!!”

We spent last weekend with two of his friends, Giorgos and Filios, guests in their home in Methana. They were delightful hosts, very well-read, each actively pursuing artistic endeavors, truly a pleasure to while away a weekend with. Methana is a sub-peninsula of the Peloponnesus, attached by a tiny sliver of land. It’s almost an island, entirely of volcanic origin, the smell of sulphur still in the air. The area is only sparsely populated, but with lush vegetation and dense forests, boulders everywhere, like the volcano just erupted. Giorgos and I hiked up to the peak of the highest volcano, enjoying beautiful views of the mainland and the islands of the Saronic Gulf.

Swimming in the sea, it felt like we were the only people in the entire Gulf. For a moment I thought of the housekeeper’s warning in the original The Haunting (not the stupid remake) “No one can hear you scream… in the dark… in the night…” but the water is so inviting, and so comforting. It doesn’t seem like you’re going to be sucked under by a giant sleeper wave or frozen to death like when swimming in the Pacific. Even when there’s a volcano above you and teetering boulders on the hillside ready to tumble down.

The Stuff That Dreams are Made of & Cute Puppy Paintings

Monday, June 18th, 2012 | Art, Friends | No Comments

This weekend Big Chris, Nemr, Dean and I went downtown to the Old Mint for an exhibition of miscellanea related to the subject of San Francisco in film. The show is called “The Stuff that Dreams are Made of,” after Humphrey Bogart’s description of the Maltese Falcon. There are several installations, including a reproduction of said falcon, encased in a plexiglass vitrine. Another room contains a reproduction of the great portrait of Carlotta Valedez that once hung in the Legion of Honor of Hitchcock’s Vertigo. In front of the portrait is the bench that Madeline sat on during her daily visits to contemplate the portrait, her bouquet resting on the bench, as if she had just left. And speaking of Madeline, Kim Novak’s paintings are also on display, luridly colorful pastels of cute little animals, dreamy verdant forest- and river-scapes rendered in a soft almost psychedelic palette. In one room, there are portraits of various celebutante visitors to the SF Film Festival, where you could also get your picture taken next to a wax effigy of Clint Eastwood on the Red Carpet. The show delves into the early years of silent film in the city, where Charlie Chaplin actually got his start, but film noir clearly dominates the show. One could look out the window and imagine Nick and Nora pulled tipsily down 5th Street by Asta.

Dean & Emily Shows

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012 | Art, Friends | No Comments

Dean Smith and Emily Wilson are two of my closest friends, and two of my favorite artists. They have concurrent shows on view now, across the street from each other, on Geary. Dean spends months making these meticulously hand drawn markings and squiggles on paper that eventually become something visually transcendent, topographies and landscapes beyond reference to anything specific. The expressive quality of his work is defined by an almost mechanical interaction with surface.

Dean’s show at Gallery Paule Anglim consists of three pieces, titled “three manifestations of anaglyphic space.” I know… but that’s Dean, be serious, he always has titles like this, he always makes us work. Each piece is reproduced from an original drawing that has been manipulated digitally to produce a three dimensional image when viewed with 3-D glasses, on hand in the gallery. One piece acts almost like a mirror, another zooms out in a rounded mound towards you, like a giant coconut but with a big “t” cut into it. You see fantastic geometric and biomorphic forms that seem convincingly of some other dimension, a dimension not only of sight, but of imagination… and at times even orifices.

Just seeing this work exhausted and disoriented me. All great work should make you sick like that. But get this, after Dean’s show, Big Chrissy and I made our way across the street to see the Adam Fuss show at Fraenkel, photograms made from animal intestines. And then a giant daguerreotype close-up of female gentle-talia! Ahhhh! Enough with the viscera! Get me to Emily’s soothing randomness!

So Emily’s markings are as expressive and seemingly random as Dean’s are calculated. She also creates abstractions, but with big sloppy dripping gestures. She finds inspiration in the cinematic expressions of Antonioni and Nicholas Roeg, and I think most apparently Godard, creating wordless narratives of emotional punch. But these guys rarely crack a smile, and Emily’s obviously having fun, with color, form, paper and canvas. Visiting her studio, you experience this work as it should be viewed, stapled to the wall or crumpled on the floor, stepped on, smushed, glued to the ceiling. Thankfully, Sweetow has resisted trying to contain this work in frames. Like following Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau around Milan in La Notte as their marriage crumbles, the viewer of her work stumbles through a sort of tapestry of graphic encounters, culminating in that final confrontation when Moreau reads Mastroianni the tender love letter he wrote to her before they got married. “Who wrote that?” he asks, not remembering. With Emily, though, we don’t forget who wrote it, or the sincerity behind the expression.

A Walk In the Park with Peter

Saturday, April 21st, 2012 | Friends | No Comments
Chris and Peter, May 1987

Thursday I went for a walk with Peter. Peter’s my oldest extant buddy in San Francisco. We were twinkies together, our friendship going back to 1985, when we shared the coolest apartment in town with his cool black cat Francesca, who’d occasionally fall off the ledge of our living room windows. “Reeeee-OOOWWWWwwwww” we’d hear as she took the two story plunge.

Peter’s been losing his eyesight for years now, slowly, and is adapting to a distorted, gradually disappearing world. But rather than withdraw from life, he’s developed the wisdom and compassion of a contemporary bodhisattva, although I’m sure he wouldn’t like me using that term, but that’s what he is to me, someone bound for enlightenment, parsing out advice and wisdom to all who cross his path.

He’s such a vibrant presence, a 21st century Oscar Wilde, as smart as he is silly, immediately accessible and immediately intimate. When we were in Paris a few years ago, walking down a street in the Marais that he and Luis, his partner, had been down a few times already on their own, seemingly every shopkeeper, barkeep and waiter leaned out of his doorway and shouted “Salut Pierre!” “Bonjour Pierre!” like in a Minnelli musical, every one of them already bonded with this bon vivant. In a taxi, Peter engaged our driver using a vocabulary of about 10 words, “Paris… ah! Quelle belle ville! l’architecture! les musées! les gens! C’est magnifique!” and on and on, exclamation point after exclamation point. Because he couldn’t see our husky-voiced female driver, he kept addressing her as “Monsieur,” while she kept unsuccessfully and comically correcting in her deep manly voice “Madam! Madam!”

Peter has what my friend Steve calls an “outdoor” voice. In museums, he is allowed to view sculptures with his hands, and since he’s often not aware of the volume of his voice, or the proximity of his fellow art enthusiasts, after he’s fondled a statue’s privates and when he thinks he’s whispering to me “Oh my, those Gauls were really hung!” he’s actually addressing an entire room of people who then all turn to look at my deeply red, but delighted face.

Having lost so many friends over the years, I’m so grateful to have him in my life, a life that flickers in Technicolor whenever I’m with him.

A Death in the Family

Friday, March 30th, 2012 | Friends | 2 Comments

My dear friend Robert Schatz died, of a heart attack. Robert was of a generation of gay men who experienced the first wave of sexual liberation, a generation that sadly has few remaining. In the 80s, when I first met him, Robert prepared to die. AIDS was considered a death sentence back then. I remember in the mid 90s when new medical cocktails became available and suddenly, after preparing to die, he had to prepare to live, and a different kind of struggle ensued. With Robert, as indeed with most of his generation, you could discuss a Bette Davis movie and a Maria Callas aria easily in the same sentence, and with many exact quotes and exaggerated swishy trills. He was one of the subjects of some seminal gay documentary in the 70s—was it Gay USA? I remember being so soothed by his calm voice, and looking up to him as a kind of role model. He was really one of the most pleasant people I’ve ever known, always so easy to be with, despite his habit of talking with his mouth full and spewing bits of food in your face. I’m so sad to think of him not around anymore, but considering that he didn’t expect to live to his 40th birthday, he had a hell of a run. Goodbye, Robert, I really loved you and am going to miss you so much.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 | Friends, The Dating Game | No Comments

Ricky & Toby & Eddie & Liz & Me

Sunday, January 15th, 2012 | Friends, Gay, The Dating Game | No Comments

Ricky, an old buddy from high school was in town last week. A few weeks before he sent me a cryptic note on Facebook, using a different first name and 28 years after I’d frankly thought about him, asking if I remembered him. I said I didn’t know Ricky Blah-blah, but I did go to school with another Blah-blah. He was indeed that other Blah-blah. There were only something like 30 people in my graduating class, so it’s not that difficult to remember any particular one of them. He was a sort of Totoro, hovering in the background with his big smile and jiggly belly, occasionally saying something really smart or witty. I remember entertaining a brief attraction to him, but then he had an eye operation and disappeared before graduation, and that was that.

In the intervening 28 years, he’s sung with opera companies, unknowingly lived two blocks away from me for a few years, bought a house in Atlanta, was a steer-wrestling gay rodeo star, plays countless instruments, sustained an intimate encounter with Eddie Fisher, and is now a systems engineer doing one of those jobs where my eyes glaze over and I start thinking of the laundry I have to do when being told what it is. So what he does, despite his generously dumbed-down layman’s explanation, remains a slight mystery, although it is now taking him practically around the world, a world he’s never explored despite his extensive and interesting life experiences.

When he told me his Eddie Fisher story I nearly had a heart attack. “You had intimate relations with someone who had intimate relations with Elisabeth Taylor??” (I’m paraphrasing here.) He seemed so blasé about it, yet I fired question after question about the details and mechanics, about Carrie and Debbie, if Eddie was gay or just impaired… “I met him at a dinner party at Armistead’s.” Armistead again. Again, my mouth dropped to the floor. “???” “I don’t kiss and tell.” Well, it was a little too late for that, I was already blogging in my mind. His list of celebrity encounters was impressive, the closest I’ve come to intimacy with the stars.

So then he tells me that he had a crush on me in high school and, get this, lived alone! The clouds parted and the sun’s rays beamed me back to those sexually frustrated years and I imagined having sex every day, like, every day, with a real person and not just the imagined someone of the better part of my youth. Maybe we’d be married by now and I’d be a gay rodeo star, too.

Maybe I’d have left him for Eddie Fisher.

We spent a few days together munching and touristing around the bay area, and I developed such an instant and deep fondness for him. He’s from a part of my life that’s supposed to be over, how cool to have it resuscitated. He’s still a big teddy bear, only now he carries one around with him, a real one, named Toby, who’s accompanying him on his travels. Toby is a posturpedic, or is it orthopedic?, something -pedic teddy bear designed to be both furry companion and pillow. Sort of like a mini-Ricky.

The Chilly Apple

Monday, January 9th, 2012 | Art, Food, Friends, Travel | No Comments

Chrissy and I went to New York last week, for legitimate theater and really super-crowded art shows. We saw Samuel Jackson and Angela Bassett in The Mountaintop, a fantasy about Dr. King’s last night in the Lorraine Motel. Jackson played MLK doing a Samuel Jackson impression, and Angela Bassett a foxy maid at the motel sent to tempt and comfort him on his last night. The next night we saw Relatively Speaking—three one-act plays by Ethan Coen, Elaine May and Woody Allen—a rollicking delight, Woody Allen’s farce snowballing to epically outrageous hilariousness; then we saw the powerful family drama Other Desert Cities with Rachel Griffiths, whom I can’t believe isn’t from southern California, Stockard Channing, Stacy Keach, and a radiantly burned-out Judith Light; and our final play, Seminar, with a crusty Alan Rickman sexually and verbally amusing and abusing himself and his students.

MoMA is like a zoo, with kids snapping photos of their buddies next to Starry Night and Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. I spent much of the afternoon arguing with my dear old buddy Michelle about whether de Kooning was misogynist or not. As someone who slices up photos of hairy butts and makes flowers out of them, I thought the notion preposterous. He adored women, and that’s why they’re all exploded, slashed and fragmented, the center of the canvas, like he wanted to dive into them and be surrounded by those big balloon boobs. It’s the way that someone engaged with paint and expressionism would inhabit and represent beauty and desire. Where she saw rape, I saw love.

And I just love Michelle.

Brancusi dust

Nemr Poochie and Inna joined us for a foot-fatiguing day-long march through the Met. We saw a fabulous Renaissance portrait show, with countless Boticellis, well okay, like 5, and delightful portraits by Bellini, Dontello, Masaccio(!), and a portrait bust of baggy-eyed and full-chinned sex bomb Niccolò di Leonardo Strozzi by Mino da Fiesole.

The Guggenheim has a retrospective of just about all of the work ever made by Maurizio Cattelan, called “All.” The pieces are hung from the central rotunda of the museum by ropes, a dizzy assemblage of witty fabulosity experienced as your spiral up and down the ramp. He says he’s not going to be making sculpture anymore, and I am going to really miss this guy.

Nemr’s living in Brooklyn, in Williamsburg, right across the street from Thighs ‘n Pies. Or Pies ‘n Thighs. It’s classic southern food the way you rarely get it in the south, fresh, inventively prepared, not cooked to death. I snarfed everything that came close to the table.

Big Chrissy warming himself by the fire

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