Tuesday, July 9, 2019

I Hate Everything

I hate reality TV. Now that we’re in the “golden age of television,” there’s no excuse to watch any Real Housewife ever again.
I hate “entertainment news,” which has become about the personal lives of “celebrities” (as opposed to entertainment). And everyone is hawking their own line of clothing (or something else that has nothing to do with entertainment).
I hate jukebox musicals and theatrical adaptations of movies. Doesn’t anybody write anything original anymore?
I hate the evening news, with its human interest stories and manipulative emotional uplift.
I hate social media. I hate the way it shows us people’s carefully curated, perfect lives and the way that makes us feel. I hate the way it spreads hatred and misinformation. And I hate that nothing is being done about it.
I hate iPhones. I hate the way we’ve become a society of iPhone zombies with nobody looking up or interacting with other actual human beings anymore. In my Travis Bickle moments, I think that a bomb could go off in one of these zombie's laps and they wouldn’t even notice.
I hate corporations for paying their workers nothing while they rake in record profits. For selling us expensive crap we don’t need. For claiming ownership over anything authentic and trying to sell it back to us at a profit.
I hate Republicans. I hate the way not a single one of them (except Justin Amash, who just left the party) has stood up to Trump or uttered one peep about any of his wrongdoing.
I hate Trump with a passion. Because, on a daily basis, he’s breaking the law and destroying the institutions of democracy. Not only that, but he seems to enjoy doing these things. It’s almost as if he’s saying, “I dare you to stop me.” And, so far at least, nobody’s stopping him.
I hate Mitch McConnell. Mainly for refusing to even hold a hearing on Merrick Garland’s appointment to the Supreme Court and ramrodding Kavanaugh’s appointment through the Senate, thus turning the Supreme Court into a partisan institution.
I also hate him for passing Trump’s tax cut for the rich (Trump’s only legislative achievement) and refusing to bring almost any Democratic bill before the Senate for a vote.
McConnell is another man who seems to take pleasure in cruelty.
I hate hating everything. Because I like to think that I’m basically a positive person (I can hear you laughing) and hating everything is increasing my stress levels and reducing my lifespan.
They say that a cynic is just a disillusioned romantic.
Your move, universe.





Sunday, June 23, 2019

Ode to Abercrombie & Fitch Cargo Shorts



When I first saw you, you were hanging, by chance,
Off the ass of a muscle queen on line for Pier Dance.
Precariously suspended by inside drawstring.
How I wanted have you! (The thought made me sing.)
The shorts, that is, silly! (OK, muscle queen, too.)
But not just any cargos. Old Navy would not do!
They had to be from Abercrombie & Fitch.
A perilous thought for this gay man (not rich).
So I trekked to the Seaport, the A&F store.
And bought myself two. (I couldn’t afford more.)
At last, I would be at fashionable heights.
And no longer feel scorned by fashion queen slights.
But somewhere in time, and against all odds,
These shorts came to stand for old men with dad bods.
Other styles came: dress shorts, gym shorts.
But still I stuck with you against other sorts.
Your pockets were hole-y, your legs they would bag.
I splashed myself peeing. I looked like a hag.
But still, I stuck with you, through thick and through thin.
And wondered when I could wear jean shorts again.
I saw said jean shorts on an old friend of mine.
And, wearing them, I thought he looked mighty fine.
Thoughts of Madonna and Sandra Bernhard.
Madame X wore them, and she’s no retard!
But jean shorts are older and even less stylish.
But I’m an outsider, so jean shorts I’ll buy-ish.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Not Proud (Again)


As the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots approaches, I’m filled with not pride but dread. Actually, I’ve been dreading this month for about a year. I read somewhere that the city was expecting six million rainbow-clad tourists to descend on the city for Gay Pride Month. As a claustrophobic loner, this doesn’t make me excited. It makes me terrified.
I suspect that more couples break up on Gay Pride Day than any other day of the year, just because there are so many hot men flooding the city, it forces one to reconsider one’s life choices. Ironically, it’s this same influx of hot new faces and bodies that makes it impossible to actually hook up with any of them.
If New Year’s Eve is a day that people are supposed to be happy and celebratory, Gay Pride Day is like gay New Year’s Eve on steroids. And this year is even worse because, everywhere you look, businesses are sporting rainbow flags and companies are making their corporate logos rainbow-hued. That doesn’t make me proud. It makes me feel like a failure for not measuring up to the popular image of gays as being financially successful. (The fact that I got “laid off” from my temp job three weeks ago isn’t helping, either.)
In fact, so great is a portion of the gay community’s disgust with the corporate takeover of Gay Pride, that this year there’s actually a counter-march to the official Gay Pride March, and it’s banning corporate sponsorship altogether.
The truth is, there’s not much to be proud of these days, whether you're gay or not. We currently have a president who, on a daily basis, is breaking the law and destroying the institutions of democracy in plain sight, and a Democratic Party that’s too spineless to do anything about it.
Right now, it looks like we’re set for a replay of the 2016 election. Joe Biden, the Democratic front-runner, is seen as the “safe” choice, but no one is actually excited about him. (Sound familiar?) Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are being labeled by Trump as “socialists,” as though “socialism” was a dirty word and we didn’t already have a number of socialist programs (Social Security, Medicare, etc.) that are wildly popular.
On his show last night, Bill Maher suggested (jokingly, I hope) that the Democrats nominate Oprah Winfrey, because America is now a nation of ignorant starfuckers.
So forgive me if I’m not in a celebratory mood this week, but right now I’m too worried about being able to pay my bills to celebrate.




Friday, June 7, 2019

My First Night as a Cater Waiter

Among the temporary jobs I’ve had between “real” jobs were two years working as a doorman at a co-op building in the West Village and delivering newspapers (fine when you’re a teenager, not when you’re middle-aged). My life seems to be on a downward trajectory, since the publishing industry I’ve worked in for most of my adult life has completely collapsed.
I’m trying to “think outside the box” and consider other professions/industries I wouldn’t normally consider.
The most recent among these was cater waiter (which I will refer to hereon as “CW”). How was it that I had spent my entire adult life pursuing a career as a writer/performer and had never worked as a waiter or bartender? I thought it would be glamorous and exciting, and that I would bond with my fellow writer/performers, like on that Starz TV series, Party Down. If nothing else, I might get a good blog post out of it.
There was just one problem: I didn’t have any waiting/bartending experience.
No matter. Thanks to Craigslist and a CW agency in desperate need of people, I was booked for a major party at the Museum of Modern Art. The dress code was all black which, as a New Yorker, shouldn’t have been a problem. Nevertheless, I needed to borrow (and the agency was kind enough to lend me) a black dress shirt and tie. My only black dress pants were too tight and their lining was falling apart. They would have to do.
On my way there, I saw a veritable United Nations of people in black shirts, pants and ties heading north on Sixth Avenue towards the Museum of Modern Art. Could they be my fellow CWs?
When I got to the museum, I was given my assigned area and was asked to help set up. I started talking to some of my fellow CWs, most of whom were about half my age. (I did see one middle-aged woman, with whom I exchanged knowing glances.)
I asked if any of them had seen the Woody Allen movie, Manhattan, part of which was filmed in the sculpture garden in which we were standing. They all shook their heads, “No.” I didn’t dare ask them if they knew who Bella Abzug was.
My job was to circulate throughout the party, carrying a tray of hors d’oeuvres, which seemed easy enough. With my natural people skills, I took to it like a duck to water. But those hors d’oeuvres trays were heavier than I expected. I had to alternate arms to keep from developing tendonitis!
During a break before the event officially started, the head CW told everyone to stay by their station. I took this opportunity to check my email on my cell phone. Suddenly, I realized I was the only CW in the garden. When I went inside the museum, all the other CWs were eating and all the food was gone!
CW Rule Number One: Always find out when your dinner break is scheduled.
The party went well and the extremely attractive and well-dressed guests were very polite. But I couldn’t help but think, there’s nothing like serving extremely attractive and well-dressed people to rub your nose in your how unattractive and poorly dressed you are by comparison (my all-black outfit, notwithstanding).
The other CWs were nice, too, and I gathered that a lot of them knew each other from previous gigs, as they fist-bumped each other throughout the evening.
I guess there’s a certain kind of camaraderie among CWs after a while. I wasn’t there yet but, perhaps with enough experience, I too could enter this secret society!



Sunday, June 2, 2019

Rocketman

I can remember my first Elton John album. It was Caribou and it was a Christmas present. A few Christmases later, I got Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. The first rock concert I saw was Elton John at Madison Square Garden. The first time I sang in public, it was Elton John’s Your Song. A few decades later, I did a one-man show comprised of Elton John songs.
Among my musical heroes, John is number one after The Beatles. So, given my feelings about him and my expectations for Rocketman, my reaction was somewhat mixed.
Rocketman is like Bohemian Rhapsody, the film to which it will most likely be compared, if Bohemian Rhapsody was directed by Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge); by which I mean, the characters burst into song even when they’re not actual singers performing onstage. I’m probably one of the only gay men who not only didn’t like Moulin Rouge, but thought it was ridiculous. (I don’t think I’ve actually seen the entire movie. If I wanted to see people do cover versions of famous songs, I’d go to a karaoke bar.)
But Rocketman takes more of an impressionistic look at John’s life. The songs are used to emphasize certain emotional beats, rather than to mark certain moments in John’s career. In fact, the songs are often used to illustrate events that took place before the songs were even written, which is kind of confusing.
Having said that, Rocketman’s producers hit the jackpot when they found Taron Egerton. Not only does he look like Elton John (down to his gap-toothed smile), but he can sing!
One of the things this movie does, aside from reminding us of the enormity and brilliance of John’s song catalogue, is to remind us that the young Elton was kind of hot! I don’t think Egerton is quite as chunky as Elton, but no matter.
The movie depicts, with welcome frankness, John’s sexual relationship with his emotionally abusive manager, John Reid (Richard Madden). The portrayal of John’s absent father (Steven Mackintosh) and withholding mother (Bryce Dallas Howard) also helps us understand what shaped John’s personality. So the familiar rock star trajectory of rise to fame, subsequent drug and alcohol abuse and eventual rehabilitation, doesn’t feel like a cliché.
There are certain moments—his Troubadour show, watching him write Your Song, his Dodger Stadium concert—when I actually got goose bumps.
The costumes (designed by Julian Day), which are based on of John’s actual stage costumes (many of which I remember), are also spot on.
At the end of the movie, we’re informed that John is retiring from performing, which is kind of a shock.
Good to know he hasn’t given up his shopping habits.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Hope and Dread

As we start a new year, I find myself dealing with a weird mix of emotions. New years are always a time for reflection, but usually they’re a time of hope. This year, I find myself dealing with a new emotion: dread.
I’ve just come off one of the worst years of my life (actually, the worst three years). At the same time, I performed my one-man show (three times this year and one time last year), I’ve gotten back into stand-up comedy, and I remain hopeful that my situation will improve with the start of a new year.
But I’ve been experiencing bouts of depression for the last two years, and I’m not alone. Several of my Facebook friends have talked openly about feeling depressed (and even suicidal).
Nevertheless, I tried to go about my life today as if everything was normal. I bought a new calendar at Stevdan Stationers (they recently relocated across the street from their old location and they seem to be the only place left where you can buy Week-at-a-Glance calendars) and bought some lox and bagels at Bagels on the Square (it was mobbed by people who were priced out of New Year’s Day brunches, I imagine).
On my way up Fifth Avenue, I overheard some guy talking loudly on his cell phone about some “black tie party” he had gone to at the Standard Hotel.
But the streets seemed curiously empty last night. Maybe it was because of the rain. Or maybe it was because even stupid people have figured out that New Year’s Eve is nothing more than an overpriced amateur hour.
Last night, I was watching Coyote Ugly, a Flashdance-like movie about a young singer in New York City. The movie has only the most tenuous relationship to reality (the real Coyote Ugly bar on which the movie is based is nothing like the bar portrayed in the movie, for one thing). But I was caught off guard by a scene where the young singer and her boyfriend go to Bereket, a Turkish fast-food restaurant on the Lower East Side. I was caught off guard because Bereket is no longer there. It was demolished, along with several of its neighbors. In its place is a new luxury building, with an Equinox gym on the second floor and a Marshall’s (!) on the first floor. (I think this is what’s known as a trade-off: give the poor original residents of the neighborhood a Marshall’s in exchange for an Equinox gym to serve the rich new residents who live in the building).
So I was watching a simulacrum of New York, which reminded me of the simulacrum that New York has become of itself.
Before that, I caught the end of When Harry Met Sally1, another one of those movies that could only be made in New York. But the thing that struck me was that two stars of the movie (Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby) as well as its writer (Nora Ephron) are dead. It’s bad enough that the New York depicted in the movie no longer exists (it was released in 2000, which doesn’t seem that long ago, but was 19 years ago); now the actual people in it no longer exist.
But that’s what it’s like to be a middle-aged person in New York. It’s constantly being reminded of people and places that no longer exist.
Earlier in the day I had gone to see the movie Vice. The movie is a bit of a mixed bag. It tries to fit a lot of serious history into a two-hour movie, but do it in a way that’s amusing. I found myself wondering, why wasn’t I more upset when George W. Bush stole the election in 2000? I think it’s because at that point, we didn’t know what was going to happen afterwards (9-11, the Iraq War, the stock market crash, etc.). It’s only in retrospect that we realize what a mistake that was.
I had always thought that Dick Cheney was the real mastermind behind Bush, but in this movie, Cheney is portrayed as a drunken loser who’s forced to clean up his act by his wife. The only qualification he has for being vice president is his ability to do horrible things and not feel any remorse about them.
Right now another person incapable of remorse, Donald Trump, is under 17 investigations and every day he’s acting more like a cornered animal. But Democrats are taking over the House on Thursday and, hopefully, they’ll start undoing the two years of damage that have been done under his administration. (It’ll probably take another two years just to get back to where we were two years ago.)
So I’m filled with hope.
And dread.
Happy New Year.

1 https://thegaycurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2013/11/when-harry-met-sally-annie-hall.html

Monday, October 29, 2018

A Different World

In the last few weeks, we’ve witnessed the murder of a Saudi journalist who was living in the United States, a man who sent bombs to various critics of President Trump (including George Soros) and a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
I feel like all of these events have their roots in the culture of violence that has been promoted by President Trump and the Republican Party. Trump has frequently referred to the press as “the enemy of the people” and “fake news.” He has dehumanized Democrats like Hillary Clinton with chants of “lock her up” (even though she hasn’t committed any crimes). And Republicans were still showing a TV ad claiming that George Soros was behind the so-called “migrant caravan” on the same day that bombing suspect Cesar Sayoc was arrested. (The George Soros claim—which, like much of  Trump’s and Republicans’ claims, has no basis in fact—is an anti-Semitic dog whistle.)
But we no longer say, “Oh my God, there’s been a mass shooting!”, we say “Oh my God, there’s been another mass shooting” because it’s now a monthly event. Before we even have time to digest one tragedy, another tragedy knocks it off the front page. We’ve lost our capacity to be shocked. And the daily lies and degradations of the Trump administration have made us numb.
As I was riding a packed subway this morning, I thought, “the quality of life in the city has really deteriorated to Third World country levels and people just accept it as normal.” But everyone was hooked up to their electronic devices, so they’ve just chosen to anaesthetize themselves. People are numbing themselves with electronic devices, drugs, alcohol, sex, food, shopping, TV, social media—you name it.
And, while we’re on the subject of social media, can I just say that social media is bullshit? It creates the illusion that you’re doing something by pushing a button (although some people can’t even be bothered to push a button). It creates the illusion of social interaction but, when push comes to shove, in an actual crisis, would any of your Facebook friends actually be there for you?
No.
Social media is nothing more than an outrage machine. It makes people feel better, but it accomplishes nothing.
But I understand why people turn to social media. It’s because the institutions we depend upon to help us (i.e., the government) are no longer working. And the reason they’re no longer working is because they no longer represent us. The system really is rigged.
The Senate is rigged because small states get the same number of senators as large states. The electoral college means that whoever wins the popular vote doesn’t necessarily win the election. And the Citizens United decision means that political action committees can contribute an unlimited amount of money to candidates.
All three of these things need to be abolished.
I was so upset by events in my both personal life and in the country and world at large that on Sunday morning I called a mental health hotline. I told the woman who answered the phone that I don’t feel like the quality of my life is getting better and I don’t feel like the quality of life in this country and in the world are getting better. I feel like this country is a more dangerous and violent place since Trump took office. (There’s statistical information to back this up. The number of hate crimes has gone up since Trump took office. The number of mass shootings has also gone up since Trump took office, but has actually been increasing since 1994, when the assault weapons ban ended. Gee! I wonder why?)
I also mentioned that in the last few weeks, there have been a number of stories in the news about men my age who have either committed suicide or killed other people. Granted, each of them may have had mental health issues (one thing we can be proud of in this country is the lack of access to health care of any kind and mental health care in particular), and the easy availability of guns (and assault weapons in particular) is certainly a factor. But we never look at the social factors that cause someone who may already be at risk to “crack.”
In each of these cases, loss of a job or financial problems were a factor (two issues I tried to address in my recent one-man show, Take My Job, Please! Confessions of a Stand-up Doorman).
In the case of mass shooters, the tendency is for the shooters to scapegoat certain groups of people (Jews, immigrants, etc.) that they believe are the cause of their problems rather than the structural/economic issues (i.e., giving tax cuts to the rich while weakening the social safety net for the poor) that rig the system against them.
For these people, authoritarian figures like Donald Trump are often looked to as the answer to their problems. (Certainly that was the case with Mr. Sayoc.)
On Saturday, after performing my one-man show, I was speaking to two audience members. I said, “I feel like we’re living in a different world. It’s like there was Life Before Trump and Life After Trump.”
That’s why next Tuesday, we need to vote Democrat as if our lives and the future of our country and planet depended on it.
Because they do.