Hibiki and Happiness

Monday, November 15th, 2010 | Friends, Performance | No Comments

Dean Smith and I saw Sankai Juku at YBCA yesterday, performing Hibiki: Resonances From Far Away. Sankai Juku is a butoh performance group from Japan, their movements characterized by highly stylized articulated intensity, accompanied by music of such beautiful complexity and a cloud of powder as they move about the stage. They’re like Baroque Martians.

After, we strolled along the Embarcadero and settled down at Plant for organic veggie burgers and martinis, then onto the CocoPlex for Todd Solondz’ Happiness. Rape, pedophilia, suicide, dirty phone calls and a dead body in the freezer—ah, the perfect end to a perfect day.


Monday, March 30th, 2009 | Art, Performance, Travel | No Comments

BC and I are back in San Francisco, where, really, I look 10 years younger than I did in New York.  I think it’s the predominance of grays and blues in New York, which are just not part of the flattering side of my color chart, a deficiency of green and beige, the near absence of pastels.  Upon getting home, I immediately threw on a pink shirt and pulled out my neti pot and washed that city right out of my nose.

Our last day in NYC was spent visiting the galleries in Chelsea, where we didn’t see much to blog about, except for Lisa Yuskavage’s fabulous show at David Zwirner, where green was dominant, her bosomy babes nestled in verdant landscapes, legs spread, a pie in the face…  Her mastery over paint and technique forces an engagement with such disturbing imagery, well, disturbing to this homosexualist, and an inquisitiveness into unraveling the almost cinematically spurting content.

Having never been to the United Nations, we walked over from Chelsea.  They wouldn’t let us see much, as it was a weekend, and what a dump.  The walls were seeping, the grand side entry was completely covered up with security tents, no curatorial will exerted over the awful member nation “gifts” stuffed into every nook and cranny… Isn’t there a feng shui person on staff?  This is not the qi of international progress.

We continued our walk back to Times Square and bought tickets for one more show, Impressionism starring Jeremy Irons and Joan Allen.  The play seeks to create a theatrical and romantic equivalent of the impressions that the painters of the late 19th century sought to capture on canvas.  Unfortunately, the only impressions left on us were closer to those of branding irons.  Message after message was seared into the flesh of the helpless audience.  We didn’t find out until after that people had been walking out during intermission while the show was still in previews, so the producers cut the play and eliminated intermission.  We were trapped!  But Barbara Walters was in the audience! When she walked in, just a few seconds before the curtain went up, all heads turned her way and you could hear whispered “Barbara” “Babawa” “Baabaa” like little sheep.

Kippenberger, Cupcakes, Kings

Friday, March 27th, 2009 | Art, Performance, Travel | No Comments

BC and I checked out the Martin Kippenberger exhibition at MoMA today. It’s a really great show for people with limited attention spans, as he didn’t really stick to any one style or subject for too long, and the vastness of his output is quite entertaining, and he appeals to those who like to read wall labels and delve into the artist’s intent, as most of the work is saturated with meaning and references to art historical figures and movements. It seems very much like he was dealing with the last days of modernism as well as his own life. The last body of work on view at the museum is his reworking of the Raft of the Medusa, paintings and prints that convey a sense of an artist trying to come to terms with the past but unable to hang on, with little of the humor or irony of the earlier work—very powerful and moving.

Tonight we saw Eugene Ionesco’s fantastic Exit the King at the Barrymore Theatre, starring Susan Sarandon, Geoffrey Rush, and Lauren Ambrose. Susan Sarandon tells her husband, the king, “You are going to die in an hour and a half. You are going to die at the end of this play.” The comic absurdity of the narrative somehow manages also to be emotionally wrenching, the story basically about a man, the king, learning to die.

New York to me is the smell of creosote and cigarette smoke. And Magnolia cupcakes.

Brücke, Bonnard, Becco, and Broadway with Balding BC

Thursday, March 26th, 2009 | Art, Food, Performance, Travel | No Comments

BC and I started the day at the Neue Galerie, to see an exhibition of works by the Brücke, an early 20th Century group of artists who ushered in German Expressionism with their utopian scribbly primary-colored green-peopled bridge between past and future post-impressionism.  Downstairs I spent most of my time oogling the Josef Hoffmann objects from the Wiener Werkstätte, and the beautiful Klimt and eerily beautiful Schiele paintings.  Across the street at the Met, we viewed an exhibition of late interiors by Pierre Bonnard, made over a 20 year period in which neither his palette, subject matter, nor style changed in the slightest.  They are dazzling works of color and form, and the compositions made me more aware of framing than any art in recent memory.  For instance, lines of painted surfaces are almost always parallel to the lines of the picture frame.  He even alters rules of perspective to bend this table or that window into proper alignment.  The compositions are also crammed into the picture space, creating a claustrophobic visual and sensual experience of light, fruit and french charcuterie.

For dinner we went to Lidia Bastianich’s Becco on W. 46th.  We shared a perfect Caesar salad and mixed appetizers including a squid salad, poached swordfish, marinated beans and miscellaneous vegetables.  For our primi piatti, we each had the presso fisso meal, which included 3 pastas each: an asparagus risotto; rigatoni with tomato and basil; and fettuccine with a bolognese meat sauce.  Desert for two was like desert for 10 in San Francisco and consisted of a ricotta cheesecake, bread pudding, passionfruit sorbet, vanilla panna cotta… and I’m sure some other fabulously tasty thing that I’m forgetting about.  There is so much pleasure in her cooking and so much flavor.  You can’t go there and not overeat.

The women sitting next to us at Becco were straight out of The Sopranos.  One sounded exactly like Rosalie Aprile.  The waiter even called her “Ro!”  I couldn’t tell if her name was given by her parents or non-ironic viewers of the show.  The two from New Jersey loudly discussed how lucky they were to be surviving in this economy with only two houses each.  “We are so lucky, Ro.”

Continuing with the Sopranos theme, we then went to see James Gandolfini, Marcia Gay Harden, Jeff Daniels and Hope Davis in Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage.  What a knockout play!  Two couples get together to discuss a fight that their kids had.  They try very sincerely to be nice to each other, but end up drunk, mercilessly tearing into each other, and nearly destroying the apartment.  And 50 tulips.

On to the theater

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009 | Performance, Travel | No Comments

Big Chrissy and I are in the Big Apple again. We arrived a few hours ago, dropped off our luggage and made our way to see Angela Lansbury, Rupert Everett, Christine Ebersole and Jayne Atkinson in the revival of Noël Coward’s Blithe Sprit at the Shubert. It was delightfully entertaining, with Angela Lansbury performing a pre-trance sort of egypto-jig that had the crowd roaring. Rupert Everett is still as intoxicatingly handsome as he was 30 years ago, and he looks exactly the same. At least from row “R.” The play’s queasy content—astral bigamy, murder, infidelity—are wittily folded into the farcical narrative and delivered for nothing but giggles.

New York stinks. It’s dirty and smelly and everybody wears black and smokes and I’m so happy to be here.

Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha a ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaa

Thursday, October 18th, 2007 | Friends, Performance | No Comments

Abearius treated me to The Magic Flute last night. Not his–Mozart’s. It was the first live opera that I attended, back when I was but a wee gay, in 1986 or so. I had so much fun revisiting it, but got a little too involved in the narrative, and wanted to know what was going to happen to the Queen of the Night and her daughter when they got together for dinner the next time. “Hey, Pamina, remember that guy I told you to stab–the one who finally brought you and your husband together??” I was chirpily singing my rendition of the Queen of the Night’s “The vengeance of hell boils in my heart” in the shower this morning. Love does indeed conquer all in this wonderful opera, even narrative and character inconsistencies. The rational and irrational boil down to enlightened male vs. hysterical female. I see a great neo-noir remake.

Thanks Jeff!

41. It’s the new 40!

Thursday, November 16th, 2006 | Friends, Performance | No Comments

The birthday season opened last night with Sankai Juku at the Center for the Arts with Su-Chen-I-mean-Hong-Xi. I’ve yet to get used to her name change. I always wanted to change my name to Barabas. Or Bunny, like Sargeant Carter’s girlfriend. Anyway, Sankai Juku is this Japanese butoh group that I’ve been following for years, and it’s been five years since they were last in town. Butoh is a dance form that evoloved out of post-war Japan, involving sometimes dark and grotesque imagery and jerking contorted bodies dusted in rice flour. Sankai Juku is probably the best known practitioners of the form, and certainly the most elegant.

Their piece last night was called Kagemi, or “Mirror.” It opened with a single performer on a circle at the edge of a square platform. The platform was filled with giant lotus leaves, which rose to the ceiling, revealing more dancers, writhing around and mirroring each other’s actions, like a performance in some kind of lovely primordial soup. At one point a single dancer was left on the rectangle, in a very refined and almost sentimental dance, the music bringing tears to my eyes, and then suddenly, as if to blast the sentiment to kingdom come, out popped several dancers in post-apocalyptic tattered clothing, dipping their hands in their bloody sides and smearing little stripes on each other to the drone of a blaring cacophony of sounds. Their rice powder makeup forms a little cloud around them when they move around more aggressively. They remind me of the guy in Munch’s The Scream cross-pollinated with Charles Schultz’s Pigpen in the dream of Nijinski undergoing electro-convulsive therapy in a Japanese internment camp. What an incredible evening. Oh, when they come out to take a bow, they just stand there, in a sculptural row, one guy moving his hand a teeny bit, the choreographer in the center slowly curtsying (this takes about 5 minutes) while extending his arm outward in a circular gesture of touched affection. The bow alone is worth the price of admission.

More birthday adventures to follow…

The Dating Game: Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds

Saturday, September 16th, 2006 | Performance, The Dating Game | No Comments

I chopped down my “mi amor” rhododendron this week. I had neglected it over the past few years, letting it get leggy, and in an enthusiastic orgy of pruning, overtrimmed my beloved shrub the day before the big heat wave and the day after my neighbors chopped down the yew that had provided shelter for the past 10 years. Thus exposed, with so little greenery, it shriveled up and died. So I replaced it, my “mi amor.”

My love for #8 shrivels up and dies on a weekly basis, to be supplanted with new enthusiasm and hope in a manic cycle of betrayal and redemption. No, we are not right for each other. Yes, that makes him harder to let go of.

I’ll get back to that in a minute…

We saw Joe Orton’s What the Butler Saw the other night at Theater Rhino. The play’s a witty and surreal farce, maddeningly brilliant writing that’s acidic, nonsensical and hilarious. The previous week we saw Joan Rivers, who skewered everybody. It seemed at times like I was in an alternate San Francisco, with everyone laughing at these incredibly racist jokes. In a way, it was refreshing to see everyone laughing at themselves, no political correctness to distinguish us from each other or eliminate as subject matter. She’s really getting older, but her schtick is very well-suited to her declining memory. She does a lot of “Oh come on!”s and “What was I saying?”s just pointing and yelling at the audience, working us into a frothing frenzy, saying nothing really, while grasping for the lost narrative or punch line, which never slips too far away as she makes finding it such a complete hoot.

“Grab and take, grab and take!” she urged the audience, encouraging us to take opportunities presented to us like snuggling with Michael Jackson and then getting paid $35 million.

Back to #8–mi amor. I talked with him Thursday night, about his future, telling him that he was going to end up with a 28 year old boyfriend who was completely subservient to him and his simple needs happy to push him around in his wheelchair which he’d surely end up in if he continued with his current diet and complete lack of physical activity but that when that kid hit 40 he was going to start resenting the fact that all the energy had been directed towards #8 all these years and starving to feel loved to be touched instead of always touching he was going to abandon #8 in his wheelchair disgusted with himself that he had wasted all these years waiting for something that came so easy for him and that he couldn’t fathom being so absent from this man that he had taken such care of this man who only cared about being cared about but that he just had to accept but couldn’t live with for another second and he’d die alone alone in his wheelchair mooing pathetically like Sister George until he eventually keeled over and the curtain finally closed on his pathetic love life.

Did I go too far?

Following my prediction, he seemed enthused by a new desire to please. I told him that our desire to be in a relationship seemed to be blinding us to the facts that we have nothing in common and are sexually and intellectually incompatible. BC–well, BC, Dean and everybody else–thinks that I get stuck in fix-it mode, unable to leave an unfinished project. Here’s this guy that I’m attracted to who is closed down but wants to be open. Great. He wants something that I want, so, determined to open him up, I stick around and gently pry at the doors. Well, what I’m seeing is that if you’ve been an emotional and physical black hole all your life, sucking in everything around but not letting even light escape, you’re not going to open up very easily. Like, the laws of physics are constant, right? So we really bonded in a more complete way for the night, but by morning, he was back on his back pulling me this way and that across his vast furry landscape, while tumblin’ tumbleweeds bounced silently across my barren prospects.

Bob Reading

Friday, June 16th, 2006 | Friends, Performance | No Comments

After dinner last night at the über-homey east-German eatery Walzwerk, BC and I went to Bob (ex-BF Glück) and Amanda Davidson’s reading at New Langton Arts. Bob was suave and charming, focused, open, his work dynamite–stellar. He started his reading, characteristically, by taking his sweater off. He does this because Judy Grahn told him it’s a way of focusing the audience’s attention when you’re part of a big lineup. He usually has a beer in his hand, too, but has been less forthcoming about what I assume is a very specific reason for doing so. Bob’s reading of the first two chapters of a kitty story that he’s writing for Michelle Rollman’s pussy book was followed by a performance by the new BF, under-30 opera singer Anthony, who played on a miniature toy piano and delivered the third chapter of the work in his deep baritone voice. He playfully mimicked the sturm und drang of opera, but with Bob’s contemporary auto-biographical new narrative libretto. It was the best performance I’ve seen all year. The crowd stood and cheered afterwards. When’s the last time you went to a reading and the crowd stood and cheered?

Movie and a Reading

Saturday, April 8th, 2006 | Film, Food, Friends, Performance | No Comments

Emily came over earlier and we watched Cisco Pike, Kris Kristoferson’s film debut. He plays a has-been but still-struggling singer/drug dealer trying to leave the drug biz, drawn back in for one more deal by corrupt, jaded but dreamy police Sargeant Gene Hackman, who offers a light sentence on a previous drug charge if Cisco can raise $10,000 for him by the end of the weekend by selling his confiscated pot. Kristoferson is pre-beard, softer, and with what looks like the promise of a great career–he even wrote and performed several of the songs in the film. I think that Gene Hackman is one of the greatest actors of his generation, able to convey malice and dangerous potential with the twitch of an eyelash. Plus he’s just beautiful. Emily is the perfect person to watch 70’s film with–she understands the radical urgency of the fashions and the aesthetic significance of the pulled-back zoom.

I made some crab cakes and a salad, and then we took off for a reading of New Narrative writers at Artifact, a salon that happens once a month in the Mission. Laura Simms, a poet from Wisconsin read her poetry, and Dodie Bellamy read from an essay that she’s working on about her work. Dodie’s essay was brilliant, so completely entertaining. She read about being a student of Bob’s, who takes responsibility for unleashing the New Narrativers on us, and afterwards she came to me and said she felt strange reading about Bob and our house in front of me, but I told her we were talking now and that I was completey charmed by the piece. Her metaphors are so clever and witty. She spoke of being a Language Poet groupie, and learning to write from gay men, who showed her that pornography and group sex were okay subjects to write about. She was introduced by her husband, writer Kevin Killian, whose introduction could have earned an Academy Award nomination, so filled with sincerity and wit. We split before Rob Halpern could read, but I tend to drift with his writing, so it was for the best.

Tomorrow it’s time to meet Bachelor #5, and a second date with Bachelor #2!

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