7,300 Sunrises

Friday, February 3rd, 2012 | Family, Gay, The Dating Game | 2 Comments

20 years ago, around this time in the morning, Manny died. Manny was my first lover, my great obsession. We had been together for 8 years. Over the years, I’ve tended to recognize these markers on the day we met, or his birthday, rather than the day he died: Manny would have been X years old, Manny and I would have been together for X years, etc, etc… But this morning I can’t avoid observing the immense span of time that’s passed since his death, particularly since the pain associated with his loss seems, suddenly, so fresh. The whole time he was dying I comforted myself by saying that I’d forget this time, I wouldn’t remember him like this. I remember his beauty and vibrance, but I remember the horror of seeing his body covered in lesions, his legs swollen from edema, the indignity of dying so young.

Young is a relative term. He was 34 years older than me, so today he would have been 80. I can’t honestly say that I could imagine that sitcom, but I also can’t imagine loving him any less.

Every day I think of him, his voice is so alive in my head. I can still feel him and smell his hair. How can he not be here, when my sensory perception of him is so acute? Here comes the sun, just as it did after he died, just as it has every day since.

In the movies, when someone dies, it’s like the end. The music swells, the tears fall, and the screen goes black. Finis. But the theater lights come on, you dry your tears, and walk out of the theater into the blazing light of day.

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.

Armistead sighting!

Saturday, July 30th, 2011 | Friends, Gay | 3 Comments

Dean Smith came over tonight for dinner, dish, and Silent Film Night at the CocoPlex. We walked down to Molly Stone’s to pick up some pecorino for my fava bean and basil pasta, and turning the corner to pick up some fettucine I bumped into Armistead pushing a cart down the aisle. “Hey Armistead, it’s Chris!” I said, as if we were old friends. Realizing quickly that I had only been introduced to him once about 15 years ago, I quickly added “Bob Glück’s old boyfriend” and stuck out my ice cold hand, chilled through and through by the frigid pecorino. While shaking his hand, and thinking of Bob’s advice on finding something positive to emphasize in a critique, I told him how impressed I was with how efficiently his books had been scrunched into a 2-1/2 hour musical. He was generous and sweet, and just so adorable. Why didn’t I go after HIM when I had the chance instead of Bob? I thought… Back to Dean and the checkout line, I saw Armistead again on the other side of the store and ran across and blurted, “It was the pecorino.” “Huh?” he asked. “My cold hand, I was holding this pecorino, I’m not the walking dead.” It all didn’t come out quite right and through his befuddlement did I see him glance at my crotch?

The Dating Game: Florida and My Mister Roberts

Monday, July 18th, 2011 | Family, Friends, Gay, The Dating Game, Travel | No Comments

Last week I was in Florida, visiting my sisters with my brother and his family. My parents also drove down from Alabama, and we rented a beach house on Indian Shores. The trip this time was very mellow, just hanging out on the beach and with each other, eating grouper sandwiches, bitching about our siblings, building sand castles. And then along came this dreamy bipedal humanoid cryptid whom we shall call Mr. Roberts. Mr. Roberts and I had been conversing online for several months, but having seen only one picture of his fur-ensconced upper half, I had no reason to believe that such a creature could actually exist outside of a fetishist’s CGI enhanced imagination. He lives a few hours away from my sisters, and drove over to spend a day on the beach with me and my family. He was indeed real, and as hairy as his photo suggested, no CGI enhancement necessary. I couldn’t keep my hands off of him, for in addition to looking like something that should be petted, he was just so accessible and welcoming, a 6’2″ shaggy pooch. We drove to Fort deSoto, a beautiful undeveloped island near the mouth of Tampa Bay, and waded and bobbed around and got to know each other better, before heading back to the beach house and a yummy dinner with fish that my brother and brother-in-law snatched from the Gulf that morning. We watched the sun set, one of those spectacular pastel fiery blood orange Florida sunsets, as my family danced in the makeshift cabana/disco they set up behind us. Feigning tiredness, Mr. Roberts asked if it was okay if he could stay the night, so we pushed together the sofas and tried our dangdest to bridge the gap between the two couches, but my sister, brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew kept coming in and out of the room. Like, all night. An exasperated Mr. Roberts breathed “Is your family name Kockblocker??” Somehow we ended up falling asleep, various limbs noiselessly entwined, our interaction unfortunately more Hardy Boys than X-Tube, the next day coming way too soon.

A Wedding in the Midwest

Sunday, July 17th, 2011 | Art, Food, Friends, Gay, Travel | 2 Comments

I spent a week in Moline and Chicago recently to attend the wedding of BC’s niece. And to help with the flowers, table settings, and then emergency wilted flower resuscitation. Everything came off splendidly—except the chicken, which I’ll get to in a bit—the bride swaddled in white, the groom surrounded by sexy 20-somethings, everybody dancing. I adore BC’s family, and their extended network of ex-husbands, childhood friends, and very sexually active octogenarian neighbors. It’s like stepping into a sitcom, every moment so filled with jolly repartee, bright bubbly guests, and hushed musings on So-n-so’s investment in African gold, brother What’s-his-face’s wife who hasn’t spoken to her husband in years yet still shares a bed with him, What’s-his-name’s squandering of his wife’s inheritance on the riverboat casino, the love child, the father who’s now a woman, the son without a father…

The chicken at the wedding was without a doubt the most challenging thing I’ve ever encountered in edible form. Overcooked, sauceless, characterless, flavorless and cold, accompanied by… what, I can’t even remember. Please, let me forget, but not without giving thanks to the brave chickens who gave of their breasts to our festive group mastication.

BC and I went out a few days before to dinner at the local steakhouse, accompanied by the bride’s mother and her current beau. The midwest is where you should always order steak. Mine was impossibly tender, like butter. I didn’t even need a knife. I completely ignored my dinner companions and made love to my New York strip, right there on the table, the juicy object of my ravenous appetite, slicing it into tinier and tinier mouth-watering morsels, hoping it wouldn’t end, licking my plate and knife as it disappeared forever.

Everybody in this area either works for, or has worked for, or their children will soon work for John Deere. Including BC’s stepdad, now retired, who took us on a private tour of the combine factory. We got to climb into a giant combine and were then driven through the plant in a golf cart and through the process of the combine’s creation. Most of the workers calmly pushed buttons that controlled machines that did the work that I had imagined the workers would be doing. The John Deere Company, with headquarters and factories and facilities all over the area, is hardly noticed, except that every other business is “John Deere” something or other. They’ve minimized their visual presence by integrating their buildings seamlessly, sensitively, and beautifully into the urban and rural landscape, as much a part of the community as the community is of it.

We got to see a wonderful show of chairs at the Figge Museum, “The Art of Seating,” including some of my faves—the Lavernes’ Lily Chair, Herbert Von Thaden’s Adjustable Lounge Chair, George Nelson’s Medium Arm Fiberglass Chair… I got in trouble for taking pictures. An attendant ran up three flights of stairs—perhaps she viewed me on some monitor somewhere, or someone alerted her to my violation via walkie-talkie—to breathlessly request that I please stop photographing the chairs.

After the wedding, we drove to Chicago to visit BC’s dad, who lives right around the corner from where the big Gay Pride parade was going on. We walked on over just as the parade was ending, wading through the one-foot deep mound of bottles and cups, and bumping into the drunken stumbling hooting half-naked proud homosexualists. I have never felt so old, so consciously not naked, or so far removed from anything resembling pride.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Friday, May 27th, 2011 | Food, Friends, Gay, Travel | 2 Comments

Last week I visited my parents and childhood chums in Alabama. I spent one of my first nights with my high school buddy James, sipping cocktails and munching on really the best fried green tomatoes of my life at The Club, atop Red Mountain, a swanky private club where Frank and Sammy probably would have hung out if the Rat Pack ever swung through Dixie. Built in the early 1950s, the streamlined curvilinear architecture provides panoramic views of the city, and several dancing, drinking, and dining opportunities, depending on what you’re wearing. We were the guests of James’ friends Barbara and Anneta, two really fun midwestern transplants who share a home with 5 lady dogs. James and his boyfriend have 6 dogs of their own. They all share such a strong bond, I foresee some sort of Brady Bunch union in their future, the 11 dogs and 4 parents cohabitating in a zany suburban household and exploring contemporary issues of gender and cross-breeding.

My mom and Dad took me to the Birmingham Museum of Art the next day, for a stunning display of quilts, and another fantastic show of African pottery and iron work. We stopped by the Aldridge Botanical Gardens afterwards to see the snowflake hydrangeas, discovered and patented by the former owner of the estate, Eddie Aldridge. It’s not often that you get to see snow in Alabama, and these blooms were like an early summer blizzard. My junior high buddy Susan swept me away that night to the Irondale Cafe, the real-life inspiration for Fannie Flagg’s Whistle Stop Cafe. I don’t think I’ve ever so thoroughly enjoyed such thoroughly fattening fare. Susan drove me through the devastation caused by the recent tornadoes that swept through the area. A giant tree fell smack dab in the middle of her daughter’s trailer, who fortunately had earlier sought shelter elsewhere with her husband and newborn. Enormous trees, snapped like twigs.

Saturday James and I took a drive down the Alabama Wine Trail. We visited only three wineries, but there seemed to be a consistent theme of sweetness running through the wines. Not cloying or subtle, but syrupy, lip-puckeringly sweet. The first place we stopped at, Vizzini Farms Winery, in North Calera, featured several “dry style” wines. I asked if the iron-rich southern soil and hot humid climate imparted any particular flavor into their wines. Asking each successive winemaker the same question, I received only blank stares. Terroir doesn’t seem to be much of a concern. Ozan Winery in Calera was the most beautiful, the tasting room atop a hill overlooking the vineyards, with grapes that are actually used in their wines, which we sampled in plastic cups. They make wines with not only the southeast native muscadine and scuppermong grapes, but also with local peaches and other fruit. By the time we got to Morgan Creek vineyards in Harpersville, I gave up on seeking out the essence of place and climate contained in the grapes, and slurped down their undated treacly concoctions, which seemed just the right thing in that hot Alabama sun.

While on the Wine Trail, we stopped for lunch at Pa Paw’s Restaurant, a meat-n-3 in Columbiana. I had the finger-lickingly delicious fried chicken with sides of field peas, mac-n-cheese, turnip greens and corn bread. After the wineries, we headed to deSoto Caverns. Outside, the cicadas chirped hysterically. The cicadas of the southeast materialize only every 13 years, emerging from the earth in the millions. After their 13 year adolescence underground, they shed their shells, and then enjoy six weeks of adulthood, screeching and mating and laying eggs. The cave had been a speakeasy briefly in the 20s, and a former indian burial site. After turning off the lights at one point, and leaving us in absolute and scary darkness, we were dazzled by a laser and spurting water display about the creation of the universe—the 7 day theory—ending with this broadway marquis style glittering crucifix glowing on the wall. A sacred indian burial chamber named after the destroyer of their culture, now a Christian propaganda theme park. Only in Alabama.

The Dating Game: HoHo, Heff, Pinky and JB

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011 | Gay, The Dating Game | No Comments

Since my most recent paramour and I have separated, I’ve been flirting up a small tempest. I’ve lined up a gaggle of eligible bachelors to appear on my Dating Game, and thus far have personally interviewed four: HoHo, Heff, Pinky, and JB.

HoHo is from the midwest and has a warm welcoming smile, a big furry body, and twinkling eyes, like something Hanna-Barbera would have created for me to snuggle up to. Tonight we met for drinks at Sens in the Embarcadero Center, with a spectacular view of the Bay Bridge. We spoke of blackberry jam, gin, stepdads and gardening in a mild-winter climate. He’s cautious about steamrolling into a new relationship, so it’s an unpressured delight to be with him as he slowly reveals more and more of himself. Little Heff is everything but little, with a bounteous reservoir of wit and intelligence. This weekend we Kabukulated* and noodled** in Japantown. He’s a great guy to talk to, and it’s always about something that no one else is talking about, or even thinking about, actually. Pinky I thought was going to be this sex-crazed pervert, but he’s a mellow former hippie type who is sensitive, politically and socially aware, easy-going, and just a complete pleasure to be around—someone your mom would love to smoke pot with.

JB is married, which in the San Francisco bear world means that his heart belongs to his husbear, but the rest of him is up for grabs. Well, he is so cute I couldn’t resist grabbing some myself, and spent the better part of yesterday afternoon and evening with him in a mostly non-vertical configuration. And what a lot to grab onto: milky white skin as soft as a baby’s butt peppered with downy black fur; a full black beard on a solidly square jaw; and those big dark eyebrows that absolutely drive me crazy. He was very anxious and self-conscious and at times I wanted to shake him and scream Don’t you realize you’re one of the most desirable men in this time zone, and quite possibly in this hemisphere? What on earth do you have to be anxious about? Just relax and let Dr. Coco treat this nervous tension with his magical elixir of love! but instead performed my thoughts in an arduous four-hour interpretive belly dance.

After the elation of our ecstatic encounter, and upon dropping him off at home, a deep sadness overwhelmed me. He had been very clear about the parameters of our encounter from the get-go, that he was in a serious relationship and nothing, not even regularly scheduled get togethers, was possible beyond our limited engagement. Of course, during our brief relationship we had talked for hours, sharing a depth of experience and ideas, aspirations… oh, and he did that porn talk, you know “Yeaaaah, uh huh… oh yeaaaaah…” but anyway, so there we were, with all these restrictions, but completely open and vulnerable, sharing everything there is to share. I could have easily told him I loved him. I could hear my heart splinter as he shut the door. Whoever coined the term “little death” got it right.

* To kabukulate: to partake of the communal baths and steam facilities at Kabuki Hot Springs
** To noodle: consume mass quantities of Japanese noodles in a sophisticated urban eatery

Makropulos, Clomiphene, and San Francisco’s Finest

Thursday, December 9th, 2010 | Art, Friends, Gay, Performance, The Dating Game | No Comments

Dean W and I saw Leoš Janáček’s The Makropulos Case last week at the SF Opera.  It’s a stunning opera—visually, conceptually and musically—about the meaninglessness of a life without end, without enduring love.

This weekend I went a-gallery-hopping with Emily and Big Chrissy.  Nothing really exciting, except for a fascinating show by Ishan Clemenco at NOMA Gallery of chalk drawings on light filters and film.  Ephemeral and delicate, their existence impossible to imagine outside of the show—just for us.  Oh, and Bruno Fazzolari’s show at Jancar Jones, a small grouping of paintings with colorful squiggly gestures and jiggly lines that almost coalesce into something recognizable, and a perfume that when sprayed at Emily, coalesced into too much association.  And stayed with us the rest of the afternoon.  Bravo, what a great show.

Earlier in the day, I was told by my then current paramour that he was feeling depressed.  I promised to return as soon as I could to check in on him, and that we would have the evening to spend together to get to what was going on.  After galleries, I ran up to his place to check in on him, and in his place found used condoms and condom wrappers scattered about.  Actually, they weren’t scattered about—not by him, anyway, and not to begin with—they were in the trash, which I had dumped out on the floor before tossing them onto his bed.  Then I called and left a message on his voicemail, an angry but concise admonition saying I looked forward to hearing about the DNA I had just encountered.  See you at 6, honey.

I went on to Chris J’s 70th birthday party, with Big Chrissy and my sister, June.  Chris lives in an environment that seems dreamed up by Armistead Maupin.  From a south-of-Market alley, you pass through a low-ceilinged walkway into a lush garden, with overgrown tropical plants and a giant redwood tree, a koi pond and bridge, antique asian garden ornamentation, lanterns, and oversized mirrors that extend the garden into impossible space.  Hovering over one side of the garden, above the entryway, is a quaint little Victorian cottage.  To the left is a showroom featuring asian and european antiques.  The showroom is a cavernous space, a giant fireplace on one side, flanked by 2nd floor balconies overlooking the main gallery, packed with polychromed crucifixes from 16th century Genoa, antique phalluses, masks, japanese pottery…  Chris lives in an apartment adjacent to the main gallery, stylishly decorated to match the asian sensibility on display next door.  A magical space.  I mingled with the glamoratti of the San Francisco landscaping world, as well as old buddies that I hadn’t seen in decades, all of us middle-aged and beyond, and looking it with our graying whiskers and expanding waistlines.  Except for Michael Brown, who looks exactly like he did when we tossed dough at Marcello’s Pizza 25 years ago.

When I got home, he was there, my depressed paramour, in my bed. He claimed that he didn’t know how the condoms got there. The used condoms in his studio apartment.  Where he lives alone. We’d been through this before, so I calmly, no, hysterically and yes, okay, histrionically, asked him to leave, that I’d finally had enough.  Get out. I left the bedroom to cool off and when I came back he was in the kitchen, trying to cut his wrists with the wrong side of the knife.  I rolled my eyes and asked for the knife.

“I took your Vicodin,” he said.

Where? How many? I had a prescription that my oral surgeon gave me last week following a wisdom tooth removal. I checked them, they seemed all there.

“Oh, is that your Vicodin? I took something from the cabinet.” I went to the cabinet and noticed the empty bottle.  You took my Clomiphene??  Do you know how expensive that is?  How many?

“7. What’s Clomiphene?”

I ignored the question.  I don’t know if that’s a lethal dose, I have to call 911.  I called.  “What’s Clomiphene?”  the operator asked.

It’s a fertility treatment for women.

“Do you have a roommate who wants to get pregnant?”

No, it’s mine.  I use it because my testosterone level was low.

“A fertility treatment for women?  What does this have to do with your testosterone level?”

It works this way in men, increasing their testosterone level.

“Oh, that’s great.  We’re sending someone out immediately.  Is he suicidal?”

Are you suicidal?

“No, I just want to sleep.”

No, he says he was just trying to sleep, but earlier he was depressed and then I went to his house and found these used condoms and confronted him about them.  I think he’s been cheating on me.

“I’d say you’re probably right.  Well, the paramedics will be there any minute.  Stay with me, let know if he looks drowsy.”  There was a knock at the door.  6 police officers came up the stairs. 6 incredibly handsome burly pink-faced men in black.

“What’s the problem?”

I batted my eyes. He took an overdose of Clomiphene. I pointed at  him.

“What’s Clomiphene?”

It’s a fertility treatment for women, induces ovulation.

“Why did he take it?”

He thought it was Vicodin.

“Why do you have it?”

My testosterone level was low, it stimulates testosterone production in men, even though it wasn’t designed to do this.  My doctor is at the forefront of studying this drug’s effect on testosterone levels.

“How is that working for you?”

Fine, thanks.  I blushed.  The paramedics then arrived, 6 more guys in my little bedroom.  6 more handsome burly lifesavers. “What’s going on?  What did he take?” one of them asked.

He took 7 Clomiphene.

“What’s Clomiphene?”

“Evidently, it induces ovulation in women,” the first police officer replied.

“Who does it belong to?”

“Him.”  All 12 guys looked at me.  Before they opened their mouths to ask, I blurted, It also increases the production of testosterone in men.  My testosterone level was low.  It’s an alternative to taking testosterone shots, inducing the body to produce it naturally.  But could we really stop talking about my testosterone level?  Is he going to die?  Do you have to pump his stomach?

“That’s so interesting,” one paramedic said, “I haven’t heard of Clomiphene being used for low testosterone levels.”

“Yea,” said another.  A third cleared his throat, then turned to my suicidal bed guest.  “Are you suicidal?”

“No, I just want to sleep.”

Earlier he was depressed and then I went to his house and found these used condoms and confronted him about them.  I think he’s been cheating on me.

“I’d say that’s a good guess,” he snickered at me under his breath.  Turning to the furry little man who was supposed to love me and only me forever, he said “Okay, let’s get you to the hospital.”

And away they went.

Big Dave

Sunday, November 14th, 2010 | Friends, Gay | No Comments

My friend, Big Dave in Australia just died. He was very big. Big hearted, big jolly pink cheeks… Big Chrissy and I visited him and Little Dave a few years back. I remember driving around Sydney and Big Dave pointing out all the “famous beats,” or public places where he had had sex. “What’s the largest number of guys you’ve had sex with at any one time?” Stunned, I could only think of my tragic affair with D, of excitedly coupling with Bob a few hours after being so masterfully manipulated by D’s powers of arousal, of how I’d hurt Bob… “2,” I said with a tear in my eye. “I had 13 blokes in one night,” he said, “13.” He wore his excess weight like a tight little black dress, I was in awe of his sexual radiance and allure. When he and Little Dave came to town, it was like a carnal cyclone hit the city, everyone in their path devoured by the venereal tempest. Big Dave would take us to some fabulous old church, or an old Masonic temple hall and play Bach on their pipe organs, a private concert just for us. He loved the Queen and the idea of monarchy, and often referred to us (in the States) as turncoats. I loved him, and his big spirit. Bye bye Big Dave.

I Thought I Lived in a Secular State

Thursday, April 9th, 2009 | Gay | No Comments

So it’s important to realize that Proposition 8 isn’t against anyone; it’s for marriage. It’s for our children’s future.

How is preventing me from marrying my boyfriend not against me?  It seems that the opposition is set to continue their fight to prevent us from filing divorce papers and joint tax returns like everyone else.  Like, why?  All of the arguments against gay marriage are based on religious ideas about biological and cultural imperatives that not even straight people follow, and it’s been my impression since my first civics class that we live in a country that keeps religion and government separate.

I’m not sure how marrying my boyfriend will destroy this idea of family that people are trying so hard to protect.  Isn’t it about us embracing the same notion of family?  If we can’t marry, not much will change—I’ll have to do a little extra work with estate and medical planning, and I’ll have to refer to him, pathetically, as my husbear instead of my husband—but our love won’t be taken seriously.  This isn’t about saving marriage, it’s about preventing people who love each other from having that love acknowledged.

There are no rational or unbiased arguments for preventing us from getting married.  Nothing is being protected, or saved.  No matter how you slice it, it’s all baloney.  Not that I’m the type to tell them what to do, but imagine if the religious people decided to put all this money and energy into something beneficial to humanity.

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