Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I was stressed out tonight, so I made butternut-squash-and-spinach risotto and -- to satisfy a craving that came out of nowhere on the walk home from work -- golden cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting. I hardly ever make cupcakes (though I love them so) and never just for myself. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, but it was worth it.

Given that I also have those cookies from the next-door neighbors, some fudge D. gave me when I left the lunch he hosted on Saturday, and extra peanut-butter cookies from the batch I made to bring to D.'s on Saturday, it feels like the winter of 1994 (except for the weather, of course), when I lived in my cozy little Takoma Park apartment (the first place of my own, having previously lived for eight years with my brother, in a group house before that, and with my parents for a year and a half after college) and we had days upon days of ice and snow and the Winter Olympics were on and all there was to do while the wind howled and the trees cracked was bake and eat and bake and eat and watch figure skating and (appropriately enough) Northern Exposure, which I'd gotten hooked on that year. I remember one night in particular when I a made a semi-improvised bundt cake drenched in orange glaze, which I ate and ate while Tonya and Nancy had at it. Gilloolylicious!

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Secret Machine

I just finished a very good memoir: The Tricky Part: A Boy's Story of Sexual Trespass, a Man's Journey to Forgiveness by Martin Moran. I first heard of his story a couple of years ago when I read a New York Times review of a one-man show of the same name by Moran, who is also an actor; the play turned into this book.

It's the story of a gay 12-year-old boy (and, later, the man he grows up to be) just coming to awareness of his sexuality when a 30-year-old male camp counselor compounds his confusion by beginning a three-year sexual relationship with him.

One of the things Moran does so well is convey what it was like to be robbed of all volition to discover his sexuality on his own terms, at his own pace (complete with the inevitable bewilderment and denial he would have experienced even under the best of circumstances). He had absolutely no choice in how to handle this aspect of his being. Compounding all of that is the fact that he's a good Catholic boy.

Here's a passage I thought was particularly well drawn:

"Sometimes I felt scared and I liked it. All the concealment was a kind of strange power. An entire and buzzing inner life. A fourteen-year-old on a three-speed Raleigh, getting it every which way. I was getting away with murder, with pleasure, with crimes, and I was pulling As, I was pulling focus for all the right reasons. I got second place in the televised Rocky Mountain Spelling Bee (a joyous occasion, a prize TV!). I was spokesman for the class, top of the Catholic heap. I was oh so nice. Naughty and nice. My face was the frantic mask of a chipper boy. . . . Secrecy, my engine. A machine so loud it makes it nearly impossible to listen for what's in your soul, to hear what's authentic."

That paragraph, as much as I like it, doesn't really begin to get at the book's literary merits. Moran goes to some deep and delicate places, and he handles them extraordinarily well. The culmination is a moving yet uncomfortable confrontation between him and his abuser 30 years after the fact -- all the more powerful for its refusal to conform to the author's or our wishes that it be as neat or redemptive as a TV movie. The surprise is that it manages to be redemptive anyway, in its own way.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I Have Custody of My Neighbors' Cookies

At 10 p.m. tonight, the cute little couple who just moved in next door rang my doorbell and presented me with some freshly baked cookies by way of introducing themselves. Their names are Jason and Amy. (What else would they be?) That's the first time in my life that's ever happened. Everywhere else I've lived, I've met the neighbors in the course of going about my daily business. No one has ever rung the bell and introduced themselves with a handful of baked goods. Nor have I ever done it, as either the new neighbor or the welcoming one. It was sweet.

They're about to adopt a dog and are having a home visit from a rescue group tomorrow. When I told them I had two dogs who weren't here right now because I share custody of them with my ex, I got the reaction I usually get from straight people.

Tee hee.

And this is funny because . . . ? I always chuckle along and then kind of get mad myself for doing so. I know the arrangement is a little unusual, so I guess it may be nervous laughter or something on their part.

The typical reaction I get from gay people: "That's so gay!"

Why can't it just be . . . life? Without a titter track.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

YouTube Comes to the Mantelpiece!

Here's a clip of Johnny Cash and Glen Campbell singing "Tennessee Flat Top Box," the song I referred to the other day that Rosanne Cash remade. I don't know if this clip is from Johnny's TV show or Glen's. They each had one in the '60s. I clearly remember only Glen's. I found him a little bit hot back then.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Around the Table

. . . Baucis, her skirts tucked up, was setting the table
With trembling hands. One table-leg was wobbly;
A piece of shell fixed that. She scoured the table,
Made level now, with a handful of green mint,
Put on the olives, black or green, and cherries
Preserved in dregs of wine, endive and radish,
And cottage cheese, and eggs, turned over lightly
In the warm ash, with shells unbroken. The dishes,
Of course, were earthenware, and the mixing-bowl
For wine was the same silver, and the goblets
Were beech, the inside coated with yellow wax.
No time at all, and the warm food was ready,
And wine brought out, of no particular vintage,
And pretty soon they had to clear the table
For the second course: here there were nuts and figs
And dates and plums and apples in wide baskets --
Remember how apples smell? -- and purple grapes
Fresh from the vines, and a white honeycomb
As centerpiece, and all around the table
Shone kindly faces, nothing mean or poor
Or skimpy in good will. . . .
Thank you for reading, for your friendly and supportive messages, for providing motivation for me to put sentences together, no matter how brief or erratically presented. It's good for me. Strangers and friends.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hey, Isn't That . . . D'oh!

Okay, does this happen to anyone else? Are there songs that, when they come on the radio, you consistently think they're going be another, better song that has a very similar opening? It's like you never learn.

I know there's a long list of them for me, but right now I can think of only two:

Am I the only one who gets all excited thinking Peter Gabriel's "Biko" is having one of its rare airplay moments, only to find out it's actually . . . "In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins (the destitute man's Peter Gabriel)?

My other example will probably mean nothing to most, if not all, of my readers. But hope springs eternal that WMZQ is really playing Rosanne Cash's cover of her father's "Tennessee Flat Top Box," only to realize it's Lorrie Morgan's "Except for Monday," a catchy (and danceable) enough ditty but no match for Rosanne's great hit from 1987 (the year I started, secretly, listening to country radio, and long before Rosanne was dead to Nashville).

Let's hear some other examples of radio false alarms! I'll keep thinking, too.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Peter the Great

I don't know why people -- journalists no less -- keep telling me what a "great" movie Shattered Glass is. I finally rented it this weekend, and while it's not terrible . . . All the President's Men it ain't. The best thing about it -- and it's a very best thing indeed -- is Peter Sarsgaard. I've never seen him give a bad performance -- from Kinsey (another one I didn't love as much as everyone else) to the intense and bizarre The Dying Gaul (in which he sports a very fetching beard). In Shattered Glass -- about disgraced journalistic fabricator Stephen Glass -- he's practically the only actor whose performance is completely free of Hollywood mannerisms. As Glass's New Republic boss, he goes from reluctant suspicion to barely contained rage without any grandstanding.

I was also impressed with an actress I didn't think I'd ever heard of,
Melanie Lynskey. She has an almost-nothing role of an innocently insecure young colleague of the pathologically insecure Glass. I found her very natural and believable. And now I'm shocked to see on IMDb that she costarred with Kate Winslet in the fantastic 1994 film Heavenly Creatures. What the heck is she doing in a bit part in Shattered Glass? Apparently, she also is on the sitcom Two and a Half Men. Oh, dear. Well, I wish her bigger and better things.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Would Someone Please Give Dan Savage a Pulitzer Prize?

Darn, I guess free-alternative-weekly writers aren't eligible.

Below is an excerpt from Savage's brilliant post-Haggard debunking of the ex-gay movement. Click here to read the whole thing; the second Q&A, about Rick Santorum, is pretty great too.

"If you believe that Jesus Christ can change the sexual orientation of a believer, why on earth did he refuse to cure Haggard? He founded a church that has 14,000 members! Thousands were brought to Christ by Haggard's preaching. Mixed in with Ted's meth-fueled gay-sex romps and hypocritical gay-bashings were, without a doubt, thousands of good works.

"Did Jesus help Haggard out? No. Haggard struggled with temptation all his life. He tried to battle off his 'dark' desires, but nothing proved effective. There was no cure for Haggard, no miracle. No matter how long he struggled, no matter how much faith he had, Haggard's sexual orientation remained unchanged. Nothing helped. Not prayer, not Jesus H. Christ on his cross.


Friday, November 17, 2006

My Movie

Tonight I watched a superb documentary on DVD, My Architect, directed by Nathaniel Kahn, the son of the film's subject, the late architect Louis Kahn.

The movie is a mystery story on several levels, chief among them an investigation into who his father was, a man he knew only as a weekly visitor in his childhood, a man who was married with a daughter yet who had two mistresses who each also had a child by him, one of whom grew up to be the filmmaker. Louis Kahn died of a heart attack in the men's room of New York's Penn Station when Nathaniel was eleven, and there's also a mystery surrounding his intentions at the time of his death that I won't give away. It's a moving, informative, haunting documentary.*

There's a scene when Nathaniel Kahn enters the capitol building in Bangladesh, which his father designed, and looks around in silent wonder at this masterpiece of architecture. I got the sense that it must have felt as though he were entering his father's mind at that moment. It was both an intimate and grand sensation for me, the viewer; I can only imagine what Nathaniel thought because he doesn't directly comment on it, though he hardly needs to. It's a great visual moment.

* Yet another thing that I don't do nearly as much as I used to is watch movies, either in the theater or on DVD. I didn't put "watch more movies" on my list because it's a list of things I plan to do every day. (And I did all six today! Of course, it helped that I didn't go into work.) I have no desire to watch a movie every day even if I could. But this is another part of my identity -- i.e., that of a movie person -- that has fallen by the wayside in the last three years. (Those infamous last three years I allude to so often!) Perhaps because so many movies are bad or disappointing these days? That's certainly one reason, but not the whole story. Anyway, there's nothing like the excitement of a good movie.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Back to Basics

There will be no more profanity here for a while. Sorry about that little outburst.


For some time I've been aware that, for a variety of reasons, I've drifted away from some core loves and habits, those things that make me who I am, that give me pleasure, that keep me grounded. They're not absent by any means, but they're no longer regular parts of my daily life -- I've been easily distracted of late, prone to wasting time with empty activities at one extreme or getting buried by work and obligations at the other.

Tonight as I was driving to the class I teach, I started making a list of things that I want to try re-incorporating into my life every day. Knowing full well that the best way to jinx a new project is to trumpet it to the world, I'm going to let you in on my six-point daily plan. I'm starting it tomorrow.

1. Read something.
The Washington Post doesn't count. Nothing online counts, nor does anything work-related or anything read at the office, including magazines and newspapers (which I'm surrounded by at work). Magazine and newspaper articles outside of work (other than the Post) do count. But books get the most points.

2. Write something.
Nothing work-related counts. E-mails, even personal ones, don't count unless they're in the spirit of a real letter. Paper letters and postcards count. (These used to be a big part of my life; I'm not kidding myself that I'm going to start writing letters again with any regularity, though it could happen; I would, however, like to write more notes and postcards.) This blog counts. Essays or other independent writing projects, of course, count.

3. Make something.
Assembling the components of breakfast doesn't count; making homemade waffles does. Making a home-cooked dinner, which I do a fair amount anyway, counts. Zapping some insta-food doesn't. Baking counts big time. Baking is a big part of who I have always been, and I've been doing far too little of it. The other night I made peanut-butter cookies and butterscotch brownies for the office to thank everyone who had helped with a project I oversaw. It was fun, and everyone loved the brownies. They were the first things I've baked in a while. Notice I've said "make something" rather than "cook or bake something," since it doesn't have to be edible. But frankly it most likely will be, as I've never been too arts-and-craftsy.

4. Listen to music.
You might be thinking: This you have to put on a to-do list? But there are truly some days I don't make time for music. The car radio counts, especially for an NPR lover like me, who can go an entire day without listening to a music station. Even though I don't have any choice in the music beyond changing the station, so much of this item on the list is really about singing (yes, singing). So the radio counts. Background music I happen to hear doesn't. But music at R's, where I go to two-step, counts because I enjoy the music there as much as the dancing. This item grew out of the fact that I don't listen to my CD collection or buy music nearly as much as I used to, so I'll give myself extra points for doing that. (On the stereo right now: the Flatlanders, More a Legend Than a Band.)

5. Exercise something.
This will be a toughie, as exercise has always been an erratic part of my life. I decided that walking continuously for a mile or more counts (so walking to work will more than qualify; I've been taking the bus most days since I'm often running late). Push-ups or crunches at home count. Dancing counts. Running (again, a big part of my identity ever since I was a teenager) counts a lot.

6. Connect with a family member or friend.
I'm not completely happy with the vague wording of this one. I thought of saying "speak to family or friends," but I don't think I necessarily need to speak to them -- although that would be preferable whenever possible. The thing is, the phone has always been my least favorite form of communication. It has its place in the world but . . . I really don't like talking on the phone. E-mail will count, as long as it's not just a brief exchange of information. I'm thinking of counting chatting with people I like at work (they kind of qualify as "friends") as long as we're discussing something personal, but the jury is still out on that one. I'm just going to leave this item as is for now.

So that's it. Revisions to the fine print no doubt to come. Wish me luck. My life needs this.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Be As You Are.* Dance With Cowboys. And Fuck 'Em.

Honestly, what do you expect from a genteel type like me after a front-page article like this? I'm literally shaking over my Cheerios.

Yes, I was raised Catholic, so this is no surprise. But it's no less depressing. I've got to say, I completely agree with Elton John's comments last week: "Organized religion doesn’t seem to work. It turns people into really hateful lemmings . . ."

3 Christian Groups Move To Condemn Gay Sex

BALTIMORE, Nov. 14 -- Faced with rising public acceptance of same-sex relationships, three U.S. Christian denominations** are taking strong measures this week to condemn homosexual acts as sinful.

The nation's Roman Catholic bishops, meeting in Baltimore, declared Tuesday that Catholics who minister to gays must firmly adhere to the church's teaching that same-sex attractions are "disordered." Catholics with "a homosexual inclination" should be encouraged to live in chastity and discouraged from making "general public announcements" about their sexual orientation, the bishops said. . . .

The impulse to restate traditional teachings against same-sex activity is complicated by the simultaneous desire to minister to gays. Thus, Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' committee on doctrine, stressed that the tone of the bishops' statement was intended to be "positive, pastoral and welcoming," even as it compared same-sex attractions to the temptations of "envy, malice or greed." . . .


* To Simon's parents: Where are those bracelets?

** The other two groups are the (North Carolina) Baptist State Convention and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Saturday, November 11, 2006


One of Isaac Mizrahi's "10 Rules of Style" in the November Details:*

"Plastic surgery never works. You automatically
become a drive-by. If anyone looks at you too closely, they will know that you've done it -- which makes you look about 70, no matter how old you are. . . ."**

I couldn't agree more.***


Can you tell I recently got a free subscription to Details?

** The rest of the quote: ". . . Use wrinkle creams and get facials. I didn't say it wasn't okay to be vain. Vanity is a virtue." I'm not sure I agree with the last sentence; that doesn't mean I'm not susceptible to vanity.

*** Someone I know quoted poet Anna Akhmatova on his blog today; I'm quoting Isaac Mizrahi. Does this mean my blogger friend is right that, as he said by phone last night, I'm "more gay" than he is? You be the judge. What I can say is that no one is gayer than Isaac Mizrahi.**** His TV show makes Queer Eye for the Straight Guy look like Monday Night Football.

**** Isaac was born 23 days after me.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

"I Am a Self-Loathing Gay American"


". . . In a letter that was read to the congregation of the New Life Church by another clergyman, [Rev. Ted] Haggard apologized for his acts and requested forgiveness. . . . 'The fact is I am guilty of sexual immorality. And I take responsibility for the entire problem. I am a deceiver and a liar. There's a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life. . . .' " (AP)


On a much brighter note, actor Neil Patrick Harris has come out to People magazine:

" '. . . I am happy to dispel any rumors or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest and feel most fortunate to be working with wonderful people in the business I love.' "

Way to go, Doogie!

Friday, November 03, 2006


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Nov. 3) - Evangelist Ted Haggard admitted Friday that he bought methamphetamine and received a massage from a gay prostitute who claims he was paid for drug-fueled trysts by the outspoken gay marriage opponent.

Haggard resigned Thursday as president of the National Association of Evangelicals and stepped down as leader of his Colorado megachurch while the two groups investigate the allegations.

Talking to reporters outside his house Friday, Haggard denied the sex allegations but said that he did buy meth from the man because he was curious. . . . (Associated Press)